Don't Mention It
Sakura sighed and leant against the bridge that was Team Seven's meeting place. She knew, from the previous meetings, that their Sensei, Hatake Kakashi, would most likely be several hours (or at least, one) late from the time he gave, but in the hopes he would actually arrive on time, and in the hopes she'd get to spend some 'alone time' with her Sasuke-kun, she came promptly at six AM. Briefly, she spared a thought to her other, much louder team mate, Uzumaki Naruto, who was normally here either before or shortly after her. Today, he wasn't. Soon enough, though, that thought had vanished and she returned to thinking about Sasuke-kun and her rival, Ino-pig.
Uchiha Sasuke was late, but only by a few minutes, as was fashionable for someone so important as himself, or so his rabid fan girls would say. Truthfully, he'd simply gotten carried away with training, and hadn't noticed the time. Now, however, he arrived at Team Seven's meeting place, only to find Sakura there alone. Not that he cared, but the dobe, Uzumaki Naruto, was normally there before him, and so when he wasn't, and didn't greet him with that absurd habit of yelling he had, Sasuke noticed.
Not that he cared though. No, it was simply an observation.
Hatake Kakashi was silently giggling whilst reading his latest edition of Icha Icha Paradise as he walked towards the bridge where he was due to meet his team, oh, a good hour and a half after the designated time. He continued walking until he hit their line of sight, visible eye upturned into a half 'u', evidence of his smile.
"Yo!" he greeted, knowing what was coming.
"You're LATE!" Sakura screamed. Wait, just Sakura?
"Where's Naruto?" Kakashi asked, baffled. He knew Naruto wouldn't skip training- not with his 'ambition' of becoming Hokage, or, for that matter, his rivalry with Sasuke and affection for Sakura. Plus, it wasn't like there was anything better for him to do.
Just then, the orange-clad ninja came into sight and walked up to the team on the bridge.
"BAKA! YOU'RE EVEN LATER THAN KAKASHI SENSEI!"
In recognition of the explosion that was Sakura, Naruto attempted to raise his hand and scratch at the back of his neck and laugh weakly in his usual apologetic-come-nervous gesture, but all it resulted in was him falling into a vicious coughing fit.
Naruto quickly forced it to stop, and stood straighter from his bent over position he'd found himself in when he started coughing and grinned apologetically.
"Gomen, minnasan. So, what mission do we have today? Or is it some awesome new technique? Huh?" Naruto said, in a rather obvious attempt to distract everyone from what just occurred.
Thankfully, for Naruto, at least, it seemed to work as Sakura showed enthusiasm for the day ahead as well, distracting their sensei from him with her badgering.
"No missions today, they'd all be assigned by now, so we're up for training. You'll be sparing in pairs, Sasuke and Naruto first, Sakura next, rotating until you've all sparred each other at least once. The person sitting out can either choose to observe the others match or practice techniques themselves, or simply study. Hajime" Kakashi stated, turning his attention to his favourite piece of literature, Icha Icha Paradise.
Naruto and Sasuke hadn't been sparring for more than half an hour before Sasuke landed a serious hit on the blonde, knocking him over. It wasn't so much, really, normally, he'd have bounced back up screaming curses at his rival/friend but today he barely found the energy to get back up and into fighting stance again.
"Defeated already, dobe?" Sasuke asked mockingly, raising a brow at his sparring partner, who appeared to be breathing harshly from the hit, something between a gasp and a pant, but rougher.
"No ... way ... teme" The blonde wheezed, trying to maintain his usual vigour. "Bring it ... on"
Sasuke simply smirked and attacked again.
Again and again the blonde was knocked down, over and into things, and each time he found it harder and harder until finally, with one last hit from his dark haired rival, he collapsed.
Moments passed by and eventually Sasuke started walking towards him, calling out. "Hey dobe! Dobe? Naruto?" After receiving no answer, Sasuke sped up and reached the blonde's side.
"Kakashi Sensei!!" The dark haired youth called out to his teacher, who'd been helping Sakura in the clearing over. "Sensei!"
After calling for help, Sasuke grasped Naruto's shoulders, feeling the heat radiating off his friend, and turned him over, placing one palm onto the boy's forehead and one on his own. He was burning up.
He also seemed to be breathing wrong, like it was hard, and getting harder.
Kakashi arrived, Sakura hot on his heels and knelt down opposite Sasuke, Naruto now sandwiched between them.
Quickly assessing his student, he came to the conclusion that Naruto was indeed very sick, something he hadn't thought likely at all, even after seeing the off milk incident.
Gathering his student gently into his arms, he instructed Sasuke and Sakura to follow him.
"Are we going to the hospital, Sensei?"
"Why not? He's sick! He should see a doctor!" exclaimed Sakura, worry lines creasing her brow.
"Hai, in most circumstances that would be the best thing. But surely you have noticed how most people in the village treat Naruto?"
Sakura thought while they continued on their journey, slowed by the fact Kakashi wanted to cause as little disturbance to his feverish charge as possible.
She realised what Kakashi had referred to. Almost everyone- save maybe Iruka, at least disliked, at most hated, Naruto. Horror crossed her features as she came to another realisation. "Y-you mean they wouldn't treat him?"
"Hai. That's at best. At worst they'd try to make him worse."
A hand found itself to the pink haired girl's mouth, shock marring her features. Even Sasuke raised a brow and frowned at this news. The dobe might be annoying, but it was no reason to try to kill him, which was exactly what Kakashi Sensei had been hinting at.
Suddenly they'd arrived at Naruto's apartment, Sasuke opening the door for their teacher, who was carrying Naruto bridal-style for his student's comfort.
Quickly, the trio (and Naruto, who was unconscious and mumbling incoherently at times due to his rapidly spiked fever) entered the apartment and closed the door.
"Sakura, find some cool water and a washcloth, his fever needs to come down, Sasuke with me" Kakashi ordered brusquely.
"Hai" the pair answered, each obeying the orders.
Soon Kakashi had found Naruto's bed, which was bare except for the bottom sheet, the covers and top sheet having landed in a pile at the end of the bed, pillows on either side. Other than that, however, the room was somewhere between spartan and clean, with only a few shuriken and kunai littered along the floor near the wall, and another jumpsuit flung into the corner.
Kakashi went to lay the blonde bundle down on the bed, but Naruto's hand clutched at his vest weakly as he whimpered at the loss of warmth and comfort.
Sighing, Kakashi changed his approach and rest his back against the wall, legs outstretched, Naruto cocooned in his arms, hand still clutching his vest, forehead crease in pain and whatever burdened his fevered mind.
"N-no, please" came the almost non-existent whimper, barely loud enough to be heard, but both Kakashi and Sasuke heard and noted the cry.
"Sensei?" Sasuke asked quietly.
"Huh? Oh, could you see if Naruto has any medicine in his bathroom cabinet? If he doesn't would you get something for his fever?"
Sasuke looked at the sick blonde, who was now shivering more violently and moaning gently and whispered 'hai' and left the room. Moments later, Sakura walked in with a washcloth and pitcher of water. "Here you go Sensei"
"Arigatou, Sakura-chan" Kakashi murmured, taking the cloth from her hand and dampening it before wiping it gently across Naruto's forehead. The blonde shifted, seemingly uncomfortable with the cool sensation, leaning further into his teacher's warmth, his body hot and cold at the same time.
"Is he going to be ok, Sensei?" Sakura asked hesitantly. He may be the most annoying, loudmouth ninja she'd ever met (Inner Sakura aside), but he was also her team mate, and, though she was loathe to admit it in public (especially in front of Ino-pig) her friend. So she was worried.
"Hai, I'm sure he'll be fine in no time, Sakura-chan" the jonin replied as he continued to brush the cloth over the blonde's fevered face.
A few minutes later, Sasuke returned (having raided both Naruto's medicine cabinet and the closest pharmacist) with a bundle of medicine in his arms, setting it down where Kakashi indicated.
The two standing Genin looked enquiringly at their teacher, clearly asking what else they could do.
'I'm afraid there'll be no more training to day, Sasuke, Sakura, you're free to go"
"What about you?"
"I'll be here, don't worry. Meet up at the bridge again tomorrow, I'm sure we'll be there" Kakashi said quietly, indicating Naruto and himself, mentally nudging the pair out the door.
Sasuke nodded silently, and, giving one last 'hn', pulled Sakura (who, surprisingly was so distracted by Naruto, didn't notice) out and left, parting ways at the entrance to the building.
Soon enough, Kakashi had pulled out his beloved book and was reading, intermittently wiping his charge's brow. Roughly three hours after his team mates had left, Naruto woke up briefly.
" 'kashi 'ensei?" came the broken whisper. Kakashi nodded, holding a half full glass of water to the blonde boy's lips, allowing him to sip from it before adjusting the boy to a better position.
" 'here 'm I?" he whispered hoarsely, eyes dull but bright from the fever, showing confusion.
"You're home, Naruto-kun," Kakashi murmured back, stroking the boy's hair comfortingly.
"I need you to take some medicine, Naruto, can you do that?" Kakashi asked the only semi-awake and coherent boy.
"Hai" the blonde whispered, and dutifully swallowed most of the proffered medicine before slumping back down, falling into an unsettled sleep once more.
Kakashi settled down again too, putting his Icha Icha Paradise novel down before slumping into a more relaxed position, falling into a light doze himself as the sun set.
Naruto awoke some time later to find Kakashi relaxed beside him, asleep with his treasured 'Icha Icha Paradise' book laying in his lap, one hand loosely grasping the book. The other had found its way to Naruto, his arm almost protectively looped around the small boy's frame. The slight shift in movement caused Kakashi to awaken also, his one visible eye crinkling in pleasure when he saw Naruto awake and apparently coherent.
The jounin glanced over to the dented alarm clock (evidence of its rather frequent meetings with one of the room's walls) and noticed the time. It would be dawn soon, and even now the faint beginnings of light could be determined if one were to look out the windows and into the world.
"How are you feeling?" The older man asked the boy, eyeing him with a concern rarely seen gracing his normally apathetic features.
Naruto looked up at Kakashi's face, still surprised to see him there. He had vague recollections of a voice and warmth, but the most he could coherently remember was being at training and feeling like crap. He registered his teacher's question and conducted a brief self-assessment. His head felt like someone though setting explosive tags off in it was a good idea, but he could at least think. He kind of ached all over, but it wasn't as bad as before, and though he felt sick- oh, crap. Suddenly (as all things seem to happen) he lunged off the bed and half stumbled, half staggered to the bathroom, only just making it in time to pay tribute to the porcelain god.
Kakashi raised a brow at the blonde's sudden actions, lifting himself off the bed and cursing his back for the position it had been in for all those hours. He might've been a professional ninja, but damnit, it didn't mean he liked to be uncomfortable and rigid.
"Naruto? Are you being sick?" the jounin called, making his way (at a more sedate pace than his sunshine haired charge) to the bathroom, reaching it in time to see Naruto leaning over the toilet, disposing of anything that could've possibly been in his stomach before continuing to dry heave.
Finally the boy managed to stop, and Kakashi grabbed a damp washcloth and wiped him off, rinsing it thoroughly before he placed it on his face once more, this time on the boy's forehead, where beads of perspiration were gathering from his exertion.
Eventually the boy spoke in a hoarse whisper, answering his teacher's questions, which was all but forgotten by then. "Hai, Sensei."
Kakashi laughed. Even sick as a dog (sorry, Akamaru), Naruto was still a wise guy.
"How about we get you back to bed? Or would you like to try eating something already?" Kakashi asked, not unkindly, but receiving a firm (and vertigo inducing) shake of the head. "O-Kay, bed it is."
The pair slowly returned to the blonde's room, and Kakashi settled Naruto once more into bed, pulling the covers up over the boy's chest after making him take more medicine. He was about to leave when he noticed Naruto's discomfort. A mix of curious and concerned, Kakashi spoke out.
"Is something wrong, Naruto?" his sensei asked, concerned.
The blonde took in the question, and gave a weak shake of the head (he learnt from the last time) in answer. "Iie" the boy whispered.
Kakashi gave a mental shrug and sat beside his charge and young friend for a few moments before excusing himself, saying he was hungry. Naruto nodded in understanding, drifting into a somewhat peaceful but light sleep, grateful for the rest.
Kakashi wandered out into the kitchen and sighed as he was greeted with a choice of some weird cereal type thing or ramen of various flavours. He'd temporarily forgotten about Naruto and ramen's ... relationship. He knew at least part of the reason was that instant ramen was normally all the boy could afford, living on his own on a Genin's pay with a small supplement given to all orphans, but another part was also the kindness shown to him by the owner of Ichiraku's ramen stall. The old man and his daughter, Ayame, were some of the very few Naruto trusted and received kindness from, and if nothing else, the boy was unwaveringly loyal to his 'precious people' something Kakashi wished almost everyday he'd had at that age.
Resigning himself to his fate, Kakashi whipped up his breakfast of ramen, finding a surprise stash of different teas behind a mountain of the instant noodle soup cups, and mixing two large mugs of that as well (one for Naruto, with a dash of honey in it) before settling down at the table.
A short while later, the silver haired man had finished his meal and carried the two mugs into the blonde's room, setting them down beside the bed before stirring Naruto awake.
"Hnn" Kakashi softly chuckled at how much the little blondes sounded like Sasuke when he did that. It really was funny.
"I've got some tea, if you can take it? It's just warm, not too hot. If you can keep that down, and get a little more rest, I'll let you go out today?" The Jounin offered as a treaty.
Naruto struggled to sit up, obviously still sick, but decidedly improved from the disastrous state he was in last night and yesterday. His fever was almost non-existent and there was colour back in his face. He was on the mend, something for which Kakashi was very grateful.
Giving a small smile, somehow even brighter than his normal shit-eating grin, Naruto managed to sit up and take the proffered mug from his teacher, who then took his own in hand. Sitting in comfortable silence (something he'd often doubted Naruto was capable of), the pair nursed their mugs, sipping the comforting warmth of the tea.
Naruto furrowed his brow as he tasted the drink, recognising his teacher had used his special tea and added honey to it for sweetness.
"I never knew you could make tea," the genin commented to his mentor, looking to the older man's face, small smile returning briefly.
Kakashi smiled softly back, but you could only tell from the slight raise of his mask where his mouth was hidden.
"Glad I can still surprise you."
The pair grinned and finished off their drinks in silence, sitting there just nursing their mugs.
Kakashi gathered the pair and returned them to the kitchen, rinsing them off before laying them upside down on the sink. He walked back to his charge's room, sitting back down next to Naruto, turning to face him front on. He eyed his student seriously before speaking. "How did you get so sick?"
Naruto looked down, not meeting his sensei's eyes and was silent for so long Kakashi almost thought he wouldn't answer.
"I-," Naruto started, stumbling on the words, "I was running," he whispered, eyes still down, reluctant to say anything, but knowing he had to, had to say something.
"From what?" Kakashi asked, confused and worried about where this was going. He'd thought, hoped, that it was simple- that he'd just been out training and slept outside in the cold one too many times. He'd hoped. Because the other answer, was far worse.
Naruto seemed to have an argument with himself, the conflict showing in his face as he debated whether to tell his sensei the truth or not. Finally, he seemed to have made a decision.
"The - the pe-people," the boy hoarsely whispered, trying to hold back the fear, the pain from his voice.
Kakashi sighed. Before him was Naruto Uzumaki- chief prankster and most unpredictable ninja of Konoha, container and jinchuuriki of Kyuubi, the nine-tailed fox. A boy. Someone who had, if possible, seen more, felt more, experienced more pain, misery and loneliness than any other Kakashi had ever known, himself included. He'd grown up alone, unwanted, unloved, resorting to pranks and trouble-making to gain attention of any kind, to gain acknowledgement of his existence- something no one should have to work for, something that should be given by family and friends from day one.
And damned if knowing how little the boy ever got didn't make Kakashi feel worthless and low. How did he do it? How did he, Naruto, his own student and charge, live and smile and be kind and happy, do it? Everyday the young genin was seen, smiling and happy for all appearances ignorant of the scathing looks and hateful words directed his way every public moment.
Well, Kami be damned if he was going to sit by any longer. He'd been told by his own sensei that your genin team was your family - second family for most, but important and family all the same, and so far he'd failed miserably. Sure, they worked as team, they had each other's backs, and understood the importance, but they'd neglected the bonds. He'd neglected the bonds. No more.
Kakashi grabbed his student, curling his arms protectively over him, encasing the small blonde in warmth, friendship, love, all the things he'd had so little of.
"Never again, Naruto. This ends. Now. I swear, on my honour as a ninja" Kakashi whispered fiercely, holding his youngest student tightly.
Naruto wasn't sure what Kakashi was saying, and couldn't understand what he'd promised, but he did feel the warmth of his sensei's arms, the emotion in his voice when he spoke, and somehow, he got the drift.
For a moment, both males were completely silent, before Naruto whispered "Hai sensei" and hugged Kakashi back just as tightly.
Kakashi returned the grasp, tightening it a little before letting go and speaking, once again his normal carefree (read: careless, apathetic) self. "So, we're supposed to be meeting Sasuke and Sakura today, you feel up to it?"
Naruto nodded, and the pair rose form the bed. Guiding the boy into the bathroom (which was, like the rest of the place, surprisingly clean and tidy), Kakashi turned on the shower, checking the water temperature before telling Naruto to get in whilst he left to gather clothes for the boy if he wanted to go out.
Kakashi left Naruto in the bathroom, happy that he'd resolved his issues as team leader of Team Seven, and walked back to the closet in the boy's room. Opening it he saw several replicas of the infamous orange jumpsuit his blonde student wore, but also spotted several darker shirts and pants. Sniffing the items of clothing somewhat cautiously, Kakashi chose a darker orange shirt and black ninja pants (similar to civilian cargo pants, only the pockets were different) and quickly grabbed some underwear and a jacket before returning to the bathroom.
Knocking, he called out to the boy that he was leaving clothes on the basin and that he'd better put them on and hurry up already. With a grin, the jounin then ducked out to the kitchen to prepare some ramen for Naruto, hoping his stomach would hold. Even though the boy was a lot better, he was still sick, and Kakashi didn't really want to take many chances on making it all worse.
They'd avoided the hospital and doctors successfully so far, after all.
A while later the pair had finished getting ready, with Kakashi dashing off to his own home for a quick change of clothes and shower while Naruto ate breakfast (ramen) and finished getting ready. Once Kakashi returned, they left the apartment and ambled off to meet the other members of Team Seven.
The team spent most of the day sitting around, Sakura and Sasuke (surprisingly with very little fan girl action for once) lightly sparring while Naruto and Kakashi sat leaning against a tree watching. Mostly, though, they simply hung out, as a team, for once.
Kakashi watched as the three children talked amongst themselves, trading insults (Sasuke and Naruto) and threats (Sakura to the boys) and mucking around, and was pleased to see a unique friendship forming between the three.
All in all, it was a pleasant day, and by the end, though tired, Naruto was a lot better, both physically and mentally.
Late in the afternoon, after a lazy lunch that Sakura had thoughtfully arranged, the team parted; Sasuke and Sakura each going their separate ways with murmurings of "I'm glad you're better" and "You better not do that again, dobe" before they vanished while Kakashi walked back to Naruto's apartment, the tired blonde at his side.
They were silent for almost half of their journey before Naruto spoke up, eyes averted from his teacher, which caused a spark of concern for the jounin.
"Aa, Kakashi sensei?" The boy asked, uncertainty marring his normally cheerful features,
"Hai, Naruto-kun," Kakashi answered curiously. Where was this going? And why did Naruto look so ... nervous?
"A-Arigatou" the boy said, the feeling evident in his voice. Aah. So that was it. Kakashi chuckled.
"Dou itashimashite, Naruto-kun, Dou itashimashite."
And with those words, Kakashi slung his arm around the blonde's slight shoulders and kept walking. After all, what were friends for?
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