Remembering to be Real

He is deathly still. The only movements he makes are small breaths that barely make his chest rise and the constant jerking of his eyes as he stares into the darkness. It is crushing him, the empty feeling in his chest, it makes him want to gasp for breath but he keeps painfully still ignoring the slight twitches in his legs and hands as his body tries to force him to move. The darkness doesn't matter, for all he knows the room could be flooded with light but he would still see nothing.

His vision is narrowed to a pinpoint on one thought. One single thought he desperately tries to grasp. But it keeps slipping away, trickling out of his mind before he can finish it. He has to keep trying, the thought is important, somehow it will save him. There is white and red and scars and pain. There is skin and teeth and lips and a name. He knows it is important, it means everything but he can't remember, he can't catch it.

His eyes look everywhere but at himself. He doesn't want to see himself. If he does he'll have to see his faults, his weaknesses, his mistakes. He'll see everything. He doesn't want that so he doesn't look and he keeps pretending he isn't real, that he is part of a dream or even a nightmare. He's hurting but he can't feel any pain. He just knows that he is in agony.

He can't speak, if he does all will be lost. He doesn't know how or why or even what will be lost, but he does know he will never be able to get it back. Stillness clenches him, yet it is comforting. If he stays still everything will be fine. He won't have to wake up. He'll be able to stay like this forever. Somewhere in nowhere. It hurts this agonizing nothingness but he stays there willingly staring into the dark.

He can hear something now, a voice, then footsteps. Then hands are touching him, burning him, forcing him to move even though he tries to resist. They turn him and his eyes sting from light though his mind still blocks his vision. The voice keeps going but he can't make out what it means and he feels his thought trickling away faster and faster. He tries to fight it, he can't let them take it away he needs that thought to live. Suddenly a word breaks through.

"Iruka."

His hands clench and he gasps for air. It feels like he's been splashed with ice water and suddenly he's awake. There are grating sounds and he can hear people running and screaming and his eyes are full of light and color. He can smell sweat and blood and death and he can feel pain. Not like before, not just because his mind is telling him to hurt. He feels it though his body , rippling like waves.

His eyes drop down and he can see his dirty bruised feet and a small gasp escapes him as he returns to his body and he starts to exist again. He can't breath, he doesn't want this. He needs the darkness the stillness or he'll break. He needs the emptiness to hold him together.

Then hands grip his face forcing him to look up to meet mismatched eyes forcing him to understand words that stream from thin pale lips.

"I'm here love, I'm taking you home."

He can feel it, tears gather in his eyes cool and wet. His mouth opens but he's afraid to make a sound, afraid that if he does all that will come out is a scream and then he'll never be able to stop screaming.

Then the hands move to his back and pull him forward into a warm embrace and he can't hold it back. Tears spill from his eyes and run cold trails down his face as a soft word spills brokenly from his bruised and bloody lips.

"Kakashi."

Then he feels it, he is free. He can remember now. He remembers Kakashi and in turn himself and the fact that he does and did exist.

Kakashi turned away from the observation window. It was hard and he could barely fight the impulse to look back to make sure the smaller man was still there safe in bed surrounded by tubes and machines.

"It's alright Kakashi," Tsunada said softly placing a gentle hand on his shoulder as if she was afraid he would shatter.

"Three months," he whispered. "He was in that place for three months."

"I know, but you found him and he's safe now."

"You didn't see Tsunada. You didn't see his eyes when I opened that door. It was like looking into nothing, like he had died and his body hadn't realized it yet. It was like . . ."

"I know Kakashi, I know, but you have to understand that he didn't die. It was all a tactic to keep himself from breaking, he will be okay. He grounded himself to you Kakashi and right now without you he can't exist. It will take time, months even, but he will be okay. He will be Iruka again. You just have to stay close and help him remember what it was like to be real."