AN: Necessary information: 1) This story is posted on Archive of Our Own and my LJ page as the "Friendship by Numbers" series. If there's ever a chapter in this story that is relentlessly pornographic, it will be posted on those sites, but not here. 2) This will eventually be Sakura/Kakashi, if I can ever write a romantic relationship instead of oddly intense friendships or PWPs. 3) There is no three. I just hate numbered lists with only two items.


"Can you keep it out of my file?" He didn't look at her, but she was used to that. The lack of a book was new, though.

Sakura set down the file in question. "Why?" Her shift was almost over and she wanted nothing more than to go home. She nudged the door shut with her foot.

Kakashi didn't answer. The fluorescent lights buzzed fitfully. One flickered. He was looking at the door, Sakura realized with weary frustration. This was the second time he'd come to her. The first time, at noon, she'd barely seen him. He'd teleported out when she closed the door.

"Why?" Sakura repeated herself, trying and failing to rein in her irritation. She used the last of her sympathy hours ago and was having a hard time giving a damn. She wanted to go home and go to sleep.

Kakashi looked away from the door and stared at his knees instead. "No reason," he murmured softly. His leg twitched, knocking against the base of the examination table. It made a dull, hollow thud. Kakashi shivered.

Sakura sighed and dropped gracelessly into the patient's chair. "How about I promise to keep it out of your folder, but I can talk to Tsunade if it's necessary?" She closed her eyes and wondered if he'd notice if she fell asleep. Probably. Kakashi was pretty perceptive for a half-blind guy.

Kakashi didn't answer.

The scent of chakra smoke stung her nose, and Sakura sighed again. He was gone. She tried to care, but failed miserably. Sakura eased back onto her aching feet and grabbed Kakashi's folder. It was ten. She could go home.

He was lurking in the dingy grey hallway beside her door. Still no book and Sakura managed to work up enough energy to be slightly worried. "Kakashi," she greeted him. "Are you going to stay this time?"

He waved.

Sakura left her door open when she went in. It was invitation enough, in her opinion.

Kakashi slipped in behind her and closed the door. He was slouching so aggressively that his shoulders were nearly pinned to his ears. Sakura smiled, suddenly a little nostalgic for the days when it wouldn't have been weird to see him.

"Why don't you sit on the couch?" she suggested, heading toward her kitchen—toward her fridge. It wasn't big enough to be called a kitchen.

The couch creaked behind her and Sakura felt a wave of relief that she wouldn't have to fight him over that too. "Do you want something to eat?" she asked, dropping her bag by the microwave.


Sakura shrugged and grabbed a juice box. She jammed the straw through the foil circle and sucked up half of the juice in a single gulp. "So why are you here?" She sat on her milk crate coffee table because she didn't own any chairs.

Kakashi glanced up and met her eyes for a second. He didn't speak.

Sakura yawned and stared at her bed longingly. "Can you tell me where it hurts?" she asked, figuring that if it worked with three year olds...

"My stomach," Kakashi answered immediately. He paled and looked at the door, like he'd just revealed something awful.

Sakura slurped up the last few drops in her juice box. Kakashi glared at her, and suddenly she felt twelve again. She stuck out her tongue. Kakashi snorted and rolled his eye. She could almost hear Naruto and Sasuke squabbling in the distance.

"So, illness or injury?" Sakura asked, pushing the memories to the back of her mind.

Kakashi tensed up again, she noted with absent-minded regret. "Injury."

"Okay," Sakura said. "Bleeding?"

Kakashi hesitated, then shrugged. "I don't know," he said.

Sakura tilted her head. That was a strange response. "How long ago where you injured?"

"A couple of days ago." His hands flexed, like he was trying to grab on to something.

"On a mission?"

Kakashi curled in on himself. Mostly metaphorically, only his shoulders hunched down, but it was a remarkably clear withdrawal for a man whose smile was a half-closed eye.

Sakura frowned. "...not on a mission?" The hair on the back of her neck rose up in response to a crawling sense of unease.

Kakashi nodded mutely, staring at her door again.

Her lamp cast too much light when Sakura snapped it on. Kakashi flinched. He was pale. "Can you lie down on the couch?" Sakura paused, then corrected herself, "Actually, the couch is too short for me, much less for you. Let's move you to my bed."

Kakashi raised his eyebrow and Sakura shrugged. "I just got off a double shift. I'm not taking responsibility for anything I say."

She thought she saw him smile under his mask, but he didn't move.

"Do you need help to stand?"

Kakashi held out his hands in response. He wasn't wearing his gloves. Sakura grabbed his wrists and hauled him to his feet. She pulled away quickly, because his hands were cold and clammy.

Her bed was only a couple of feet away, but he fell on it like he was exhausted. Sakura winced and wished that she had washed her sheets last week when her mother had told her to. Her unmade bed smelled like sweat and shampoo, and she knew that he could smell it. "I'm going to use a diagnostic jutsu," she told him.

Kakashi nodded, his hair rustling against her sheets. The lines at the corner of his eye looked deeper than usual and Sakura realized that she was worried about him. Strange.

Sakura performed the hand signs slowly, her aching muscles reminding her that she didn't have much chakra left. The final seal completed and a net of her chakra dropped over Kakashi, covering him from his chest to his knees. It sank into him, then wavered.

Sakura's control broke and her chakra dissipated. "In the village?" she whispered, horrified at the implications. There was no way in hell that his injures were accidental.

"You can't tell," Kakashi said,. "You promised, you can't tell." He grabbed her wrist and held it too tightly. She would be bruised tomorrow.

"Actually, I didn't promise anything," she said quietly, fighting back tears. Kakashi didn't need her crying over him. Crying doesn't fix anything.

"Please, just don't tell," Kakashi begged, looking at her with quiet desperation. "No one needs to know."

Sakura swallowed hard. "Is there a danger to the village?" Her voice cracked, because that wasn't quite what she needed to ask.

"No," Kakashi said. "No. It won't—it can't happen again." He let go of her wrist abruptly, and stared at her. "Please Sakura, don't tell anyone."

Sakura breathed out, then in, taking in the smoky, dusty scent of her shithole apartment. "Okay," she agreed. "Okay."

Kakashi closed his eye and sagged against her bed. "Okay," he echoed her.

"You're dehydrated. There's an infection in one of the cuts. And if you leave it unattended you'll probably die. I can't believe you were walking around, you twit." Sakura thought about the glimpse she'd caught before she'd lost control. "I don't have the chakra to heal you tonight. I'm exhausted. But you won't die overnight, so, if you stay, I'll heal you when I wake up."

Kakashi eyed her warily. "Is that a good idea?"

Sakura squashed a good dozen scathing rebuttals. "No. Going to the hospital and getting treatment from a medic-nin with more than two years of training is a good idea. But I don't think you're going to do that."

Kakashi flinched. "No, I'd prefer not to." He looked away, hiding his uncovered eye with her pillow. "...You can heal me?"

"Yeah." Sakura grabbed her favourite blanket from the tangled mess of laundry in the corner and crawled onto her too short, too old couch. "Go to sleep."

Later Sakura blamed the silent sense of Kakashi's chakra, buzzing in the dark like one third of what she wanted most, forcing her to care. "Why?" she whispered, when she thought he was asleep.

"There was nothing to look forward to," Kakashi whispered back.

Sakura hugged a throw pillow to her chest and felt her age for the first time in months. She wondered if that felt like losing your compassion, one patient at a time. "Do you like cake?"

"Not really."

"What do you like?"

Kakashi was quiet for a long time. "Eggplant, I guess."

Sakura sighed. "Eggplant is gross," she muttered, resigned to taking one for the team. Something inside her thrilled at the thought of 'team' and for once she didn't bother to squash it.

"You don't have to eat it," Kakashi pointed out.

"Actually, I do," Sakura said. "It's my fifteenth birthday next week and I'm going to have a party and you're the only one invited, so if you don't show up then no one will, and I'll have a party with no guests and I'll be sad." Sakura licked her lips nervously, then continued. "And there will be eggplant."

Kakashi laughed and maybe it sounded a bit like he was crying. "Something to look forward to?"

"Yeah. Now go to sleep and don't die before my party."