He wakes up.
He sits up in bed and looks around the room.
There isn't a single thing he recognizes, nothing he has ever seen before.
He looks down at his hands – they must be his because they're clearly attached to his body – but the calloused palms don't bring anything to mind either.
Outside, a bird calls- a sudden rift in the oppressive silence. He wonders if it woke him up. He wonders if he should panic or if he is already panicking without even realizing it.
He gets up. Carefully, setting one foot down onto the floor first, the other only after he has assured himself that there really is a floor and not just empty space.
The floor is wooden and cool beneath his bare feet. He looks down at his toes, ten perfectly normal toes that wiggle when he wills them to, and takes a few seconds to examine his attire. Pale blue, non-descript cotton t-shirt and sweat pants. He pulls the fabric of the shirt away from his body with both hands. It's soft but not very stretchy, which he minds for some reason.
Between pulled up shirt and waistband, his stomach is tanned and surprisingly muscular. Incredulously, he touches his own skin, tracing the definition of his impressive six-pack. That realization, knowing that he is strong, should make him feel less scared, he thinks.
He lets the hem of his shirt fall and does a full turn, looking for… something.
Tasteful wooden furniture, a wall scroll displaying the characters for "endurance" in elegant calligraphy, a closed sliding door, a window looking out to a sunny garden and, finally, a framed picture on the nightstand next to the bed.
He picks it up and stares.
A grinning man is standing behind a row of three children, a boy dressed in green like the man, a girl in a pink sleeveless top and… He frowns. He cannot tell for sure whether the third kid is male or female. The long brown hair, delicate features and pale eyes give nothing away.
He narrows his eyes at the picture and catches a glimpse of his own troubled-looking reflection overshadowing the happy scene. He almost drops the picture in shock. The man in the photo… He brings it closer to his face to make sure.
The sliding door opens with a whisper, making him whip around, framed picture raised over his head to serve as a projectile to be launched at the intruder –
Who looks sad enough to make him hesitate, showing him the palms of his empty hands and saying, in a gentle voice, "Good morning, I'm Kakashi." The newcomer doesn't seem the least bit bothered by the prospect of being attacked with a framed picture, which makes him feel rather foolish, so he drops it on the bed.
"Your name is Guy, in case you were wondering."
That last part sounds almost cheerful mock-mockingly and might have been accompanied by a wink if the other man's left eye wasn't already shut – permanently, if the scar across the eyelid and down his cheek was anything to go by.
He doesn't know what to say, except for the painfully obvious, so he opens his mouth to say just that, but the man, Kakashi, anticipates him.
"You're in my house, my father's house, that is, in Konohagakure, Fire country, but that doesn't really tell you anything, does it?" While he shakes his head, Kakashi takes a moment to look down and breathe in deeply. When he meets his eye again, his expression is intense. "You're safe here, that's what matters, understood?"
He wonders what exactly he is safe from, but he nods without asking, there is another question that has been tormenting him all this time.
"What is wrong with me?" he blurts out. It's the first time he has spoken and the sound of his own voice surprises him immensely. It is a full, melodious voice that has a reassuring quality, the voice of a beloved teacher, a father maybe. Even terrified, he sounds like a good person, he thinks.
Kakashi does not look reassured. He seems to ponder the question for a moment as if hearing it for the first time. A contrast to his previous explanation that had such a routine ring to it, like a veteran tour guide's explanation of ancient ruins.
"Where to begin?" he asks himself more than his listener.
It shouldn't be this hard for Kakashi, he thinks, even he, whose mind is a blank slate, knows how explanations for situations like this usually go. A terrible accident, a tragic illness. Something like that.
"Well, you did something incredibly dumb," Kakashi says instead.
As the first moment of slack-jawed shock passes, he has to admit that, to be honest, he is a little offended by the casual manner in which Kakashi has given his – he suspects, quite unfair – verdict. Not to mention that the statement itself is ridiculously vague and doesn't really explain anything at all.
"I told you not to, but you didn't listen," Kakashi continues without paying him any attention.
"I…" he stammers, eager to defend himself, but lacking the faintest idea how.
"Come on," Kakashi says and pulls him out of the room into the hall. "I'll show you where you can get cleaned up and then I'll make breakfast."
And that, it seems, is all the explanation he is going to get for now.
Unceremoniously, Kakashi deposits him in the bathroom and, after handing him a stack of fresh clothes – of the same blue cotton variety as the ones he's already wearing - vanishes down the hall.
He takes a shower, marveling a little at his body, which seems to be in perfect shape, the complete opposite of his feeble, broken mind.
Afterwards he stares into the mirror for what might pass as an eternity. There is no doubt now, the man in the picture was him. Of course, that makes him wonder where the children are and what happened to them. Although he can't remember who they are, he worries about them and hopes they're alright. They had looked so young, innocent and happy. He'll have to ask Kakashi and hope that he'll be in a mood to answer. Already, he can tell that his care-taker – or jailor – is not the most straight-forward of men.
He wonders if – if he had to – he could overpower Kakashi. Looking in the mirror, he sees a broad shouldered man with an excellent physique, he's all muscle, really, who can't be older than 35. Kakashi seems, while not exactly weak, still frailer somehow. With that strange hair of his, that unwieldy mess of silver. And features that are… Not manly like his, but actually rather more… pretty… one might say.
Kakashi also only has one eye, which means that he is probably weak to attacks on his blind side. And yet, Kakashi hadn't shown any sign of fear or even the slightest hint of apprehension towards him. Not even when he had been about to throw that picture at him. Kakashi had raised his hands then, but not to shield himself, no, only to calm him down.
At the moment he has no need to pursue this line of thought any further. Kakashi hasn't threatened him and, if he really wanted to harm him, has already had enough opportunities to do so. After all, how could he possibly make himself more vulnerable than he already is? And if he wanted to escape, where would he go?
At a loss, he focuses on the task at hand, getting ready for breakfast. In front of him, on the sink, there's a mug containing two toothbrushes. A blue one and a green one. He grabs the green one, which has a little white label stuck on it. "Guy," he reads aloud.
That name… It's the one Kakashi told him. His name. In his confusion it hadn't sunk in at all. He'd forgotten all about it within seconds. But now that he sees it spelled out, it comes back to him. Guy.
He is Guy.
Guy leaves the bathroom and follows the smell of food into the kitchen where Kakashi already occupies one of the two chairs at the table, stirring his tea lazily. It's obviously a nice day outside, sunlight leaking in through every window Guy has passed so far. The one in the kitchen is no exception. It illuminates the whole rather spartan room.
Guy longs to go outside, but Kakashi gestures towards the chair and pushes a bowl of cereal in his general direction. So he sits and begins to shovel his food into his mouth rather passive-aggressively.
Opposite him, Kakashi sighs softly, turning his head towards the window on his left. In the sunlight, his skin looks almost white. So bright, that looking directly at it hurts Guy's eyes.
Yet he feels his gaze drawn to Kakashi's slim, elegant lips for some reason. It's impossible to look away.
Kakashi catches his eye, almost making him blush. As if Guy had been caught doing something indecent. "I used to wear a mask," Kakashi says. "But what would be the point now?" He really looks at Guy as if he expects an answer, and Guy feels hard pressed to come up with something. Not being able to think of a point seems like letting Kakashi down and, although he doesn't know why, he really doesn't want to do that.
But Guy has no answers, so he has to resort to questions instead. In the bathroom he'd thought about demanding answers, maybe even forcing them out of Kakashi, but now he is back to feeling plaintive, helpless, realizing that he needs Kakashi because, for all he knows, there is no one else.
"What happened to me?" he tries. "Who am I?"
"You're a Konoha ninja; you were injured in the last war," Kakashi speaks slowly and clearly, but he's still looking at something outside, although Guy can't make out anything particularly interesting in the garden. The brightness doesn't seem to hurt Kakashi's eye the way it does Guy's either.
In and of itself, the explanation is sound, not longer or more detailed than Kakashi's previous cryptic accusation, but less abstract, this makes the kind of sense Guy has expected. He knows about ninja, vaguely like one knows about something one has read about in a book, and it's not completely impossible for him to see himself as one. He certainly has the right physique. So, on second thought, has Kakashi.
"And you?" Guy asks.
"I take care of you." Obviously. Guy bites his tongue, which takes some effort. He wants to shout at Kakashi, but he doesn't really know this man, and he doesn't know what kind of power Kakashi has over him or what he would do if he felt threatened.
"In what way?"
"In whatever way necessary."
"Why?" It's the big question, but Guy feels stupid asking it. It's not like anything good can come from it. He expects a blank and impersonal answer like "because someone has to", but Kakashi is full of surprises. This is something he'd do well to remember.
"Because I want to," Kakashi says in his bored deadpan tone, but when he turns back to Guy there's a flicker of emotion in his eye that appears so briefly Guy isn't sure if he just imagined it. It makes him recall that first moment, though, as Kakashi stood in the doorway, the expression on his face that gave him pause. Hope.
And then despair.
Like a child, he wants to follow up with another "why?" and then probably another and another until he gets to the bottom of this – if there is such a thing in this case.
Kakashi, however, gets up suddenly. His chair scrapes loudly across the floor. "Do you want to go outside to spar?" he asks completely out of the blue.
Guy doesn't trust his ears at first; it had never even occurred to him that they could just go outside. For some reason, he'd assumed that he was considered a delicate, maybe even volatile patient who had to be kept inside at all cost. He also hadn't completely ruled out the possibility that he was being held prisoner. And "to spar"? Could that really mean what he thinks it means?
Kakashi looks at him expectantly, so Guy says yes without asking any more questions. He will see soon enough.
As it turns out, Kakashi really means sparring when he says sparring. As in fighting. Outside in the garden the two of them stand facing each other while Kakashi lays down the rules. No weapons, good because Guy doesn't have any, no jutsu, also good because he doesn't know how to use any and is vaguely worried about not knowing what Kakashi can do, the fight stops as soon as one of them falls down. When Kakashi asks "okay?" Guy nods his consent, but feels butterflies in his stomach like he's falling in love.
Guy stands around awkwardly with his fists raised and no real clue about what he is planning to do until Kakashi gives the starting sign and within the blink of an eye goes right over to attacking Guy.
And then they fight and it's like he is a different man. He knows how and when to move by instinct alone and, although he cannot for the life of him remember Kakashi or anything about his past, he knows him. He knows how Kakashi fights and he knows his reach and his rhythm and he knows that they must have done this a million times.
He remembers and forgets everything at the same time as the wind rushes past and he's running so fast that his surroundings blur. He's so happy he could cry and at some point he is sure he does. Guy wishes they could do this forever, and he curses his constricting clothes, tearing off the t-shirt when he can't bear it anymore.
Kakashi is good, but Guy has the very distinct feeling that he's even better, so he isn't all that surprised that, when Kakashi's punches and kicks begin to lose their edge a little, he can still keep going effortlessly.
And when he does get tired, he feels that there is still some sort of hidden reserve of power just resting inside of him, waiting to be called upon, and all he has to do is focus a little harder. All he has to do is turn that valve and release all that pent up energy in one glorious rush.
So he closes his eyes and –
And Kakashi yells his name breathlessly and slams into his side and they both fall into the grass. When he opens his eyes, Kakashi is on top of him, his elbow painfully digging into Guy's throat, his left eye open and blood red.
Guy stares at it, mesmerized, wondering if he is about to die.
"Don't, " Kakashi says. His voice is razor sharp. "Don't you ever do that. Do you understand?"
Guy doesn't, not really, but he nods anyway, as well as he can manage with Kakashi's arm still practically cutting off his oxygen supply.
To his surprise, Kakashi lets go immediately after that and even offers him a hand to help him up.
He doesn't take it.
"The children in the picture…?"
"Your students. They're currently on a mission. Usually they visit you every single day," Kakashi doesn't exactly sound thrilled about that fact, Guy on the other hand is touched. They must be wonderful young people, he thinks. When he says so to Kakashi, though, he just shrugs without looking up from his book ("I'm a great lover of fiction," Kakashi had said and snatched a book from one of the shelves about an hour before and had proceeded to ignore most of what Guy'd said since then.)
Guy'd wandered around the house for a while, checking every room for something to trigger some kind of reaction, but to no avail. So he went back into the living room and sat down on the couch next to Kakashi, who kept acting like Guy was just someone he happened to share a waiting room with.
"They are ninja?"
"Yup." Kakashi flips a page.
"Are you a ninja?" After their fight the answer to this is fairly obvious, but Guy still wants to hear it from Kakashi himself.
"Used to be. I'm retired."
Guy does a little double-take at that, but once again Kakashi anticipates his question.
"32. That's plenty old for a shinobi," he turns another page. Guy wonders briefly if he is just pretending to read, but why ever would he be? "Especially during peace times."
"How long have I been here?"
"How long is that exactly?"
"It's longer than a moment and shorter than a long time," Kakashi shoots him a look over his book to check, maybe, if Guy's head is about to explode yet. It certainly feels like it can't be long now.
"WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS?" Guy does his best to calm down, but it is hopeless, everything is just hopeless. He takes a very deep breath and grinds his teeth in frustration. He will leave. He will simply leave this house because whatever is out there cannot be worse than this apathetic, annoying man.
"You don't have to shout," Kakashi observes. "I may be retired but I'm not deaf yet." He does close his book, though. "I think it's time for dinner," he adds rather cheerfully, and gets up to head to the kitchen. Defeated, Guy has no choice but to trot after him like a kicked puppy.
Without much enthusiasm Guy sips his miso soup with eggplant. He finds it a far too bland and boring a meal, but criticizing Kakashi's cooking would be too rude to even consider. After everything he's done for Guy…
He still feels relieved when he can set down his empty bowl for good and blurt out a quick "thank you for the meal".
Which Kakashi, who has been eyeing him warily throughout the whole meal, takes as his cue to speak up in a peevish tone that's completely new to Guy, "We can't have super-spicy curry every day; it gives me indigestion, you know."
Guy has no idea what they had the day before, whether they had anything at all. He almost says so, but then realizes that he has far more important points to make and that he doesn't want to pick an unnecessary fight with Kakashi. In fact, he has – ever since he first met him – been feeling the inexplicable urge to impress and please the other man. It's slightly disturbing.
He takes in the scene playing out in front of him. Kakashi is clearing away their bowls, putting them into the sink and turning on the water. The light filtering through the window has turned orange, giving the whole kitchen a nostalgic glow.
Guy watches Kakashi's back as he works with quick and precise movements, and wonders whether he shouldn't have offered to help with the dishes, but Kakashi is all done before he can make up his scattered mind.
And they're stuck with each other and their mutual silence again. Kakashi doesn't have a book at hand, so he simply sits down opposite Guy and looks out of the window. It drives home something that Guy has almost noticed throughout the day. Apart from the all too brief hours they were sparring in the garden, Kakashi never looks at him. At least not for any length of time.
But before he'd said that he was taking care of Guy because he wanted to. It makes no sense.
Guy has a sneaking suspicion, more like a gut-feeling, really, that unfurls inside of him, gradually.
They aren't related by blood. They can't possibly be.
Kakashi doesn't seem like hired help, either. Also, he'd said that this was his house.
Because I want to, he'd said, even though he can't bear to look Guy in the eye.
They are both men; Guy has to be wrong about his suspicion because this isn't normal. Even someone like him knows that.
He's embarrassed for no reason now, blushing like a schoolgirl while Kakashi still looks out onto the garden. At nothing in particular.
Guy should just ask him, what's the worst that can happen after all? That he offends Kakashi? That would only be fair, considering how often Kakashi has already offended him in the course of this one day.
"Are you…" he starts, but there seems to be no end to the question. Or maybe too many to decide. Kakashi's single black pupil darts in his direction briefly.
"Am I…what?" he drawls.
"I mean… were we… what were we… to each other?" The question hangs in the room now, and as Guy should have expected, Kakashi leaves it hanging there for a while.
"Hmmm," he begins after a moment that Guy spent sitting on hot coals. "What do you think?"
Any second now, Guy is going to grab Kakashi by the shoulders and shake him. "I don't know, that's why I asked you!" He shouts at a volume that makes the window pane tremble.
"What can people be to each other?" Kakashi muses without looking at Guy. "Family, friends, comrades, lovers... rivals? What do you think we are?"
Guy's ears have grown a little hot at "lovers", but annoyed and embarrassed or not, he is starting to see this for what it is. A game, or a challenge, rather. Kakashi is testing him, and he will not fail. He will prove that he is more than just the empty shell of a man.
"We're not related," Guy ventures. "We aren't anything alike."
"That doesn't necessarily have to mean anything."
"I still don't think we're family…" Guy thinks for a moment, there is something… something that supports his theory. Yes! He remembers! "You said this was your father's house, not our father, just yours!" It's only a small triumph, but it makes Guy feel disproportionately proud nonetheless.
Kakashi just shrugs. "So, we could still be half-brothers… or kissing cousins." The last part is spoken with an ironic little half-smile.
"Why can't you ever give me a straight answer? Why do you always have to tease me? What's the point of making me angry?" Guy slams his hand down on the rickety table hard enough to make the whole thing jump, to make his hand hurt. Without waiting for an answer from Kakashi, he jumps up himself, ready to storm out of the kitchen and… somewhere.
He makes it into the hallway and halfway to his room – the one he woke up in – before Kakashi catches up to him, and catches his wrist a split second quicker than Guy can yank it away.
"You should be angry at me," Kakashi says gently. And that's enough to make Guy's fury evaporate then and there. "I failed you."
Guy doesn't turn around, he thinks, if he looked at Kakashi's face now, he would not be able to hold back the tears that are burning in his eyes.
"You don't have to do this," he says as calmly as he can manage. "You don't owe me anything, and even if you did, I cannot remember, that means it doesn't matter anymore. You can go. I will be fine on my own from here on out. "
"No you won't," Kakashi says sadly. "Even though you wouldn't be on your own. But you're my responsibility, do you hear?" His fingers loosen on Guy's wrist, then slide down until Kakashi is squeezing Guy's hand. "You're mine."
And with that he's gone, leaving Guy behind in the rubble of his shattered life.
Guy slinks into the living-room. It's dark outside now, and he is incredibly exhausted, but he has made a decision and he needs to share it with Kakashi before he goes to bed.
Kakashi sits on the couch again, nose buried in his book. He doesn't look up when Guy wanders in, so Guy clears his throat to get his attention. It doesn't really have the effect he had aimed for, but at least Kakashi looks up for a moment.
"I can remember everything you told me today," Guy begins, making sure to make his voice ring out loudly and brimming with a confidence he desperately wants to feel. "That means I'm getting better… right?" This shouldn't have come out a question, but Kakashi's carefully guarded expression unnerves him to no end.
"Yes," Kakashi says and he closes his eye when he smiles, which makes him look genuinely happy, but there's a strange little twitch at the corner of his mouth when he adds, "of course it does."
"Tomorrow you can tell me more about my past and I will do my best to remember," Guy continues, though he feels somewhat shaky.
"I won't forget again, Kakashi!" And he remembers the pose he'd seen himself strike in the framed picture – the grin and thumbs up, it had looked so reassuring–so he does his best to mirror it now for Kakashi. "I promise," he says with all his heart, meaning it more than anything.
Kakashi's book has sunk onto his lap; Guy finally has his full attention, but he looks incredibly tense, almost pained. "Thank you, Guy," he says stiffly, swallowing thickly. "You look exhausted. Why don't you go to bed?" Kakashi makes a vague shooing gesture and whips the book back up, blocking Guy's views of his face completely this time.
Confused and a little hurt, he goes to the bathroom to get ready for bed. He means every word of what he said and he will prove it to Kakashi too. He is getting better, he has to be. Otherwise, there would be no hope left. Tomorrow he will show Kakashi that he remembers and then they can talk about their past. They can become whatever they had been to each other again. Because he wants to get to know Kakashi, he wants to meet his students; he wants to be that man in the photo again.
He knows that that's what Kakashi wants as well.
He won't let him down.
That's what he clings to as he crawls into bed and he fades into sleep.
He wakes up.
He sits up in bed and looks around the room.