Mizuno Sei woke up tied to a chair in an unfamiliar room. It was a cabin of some sorts. He could see a thick line of trees through the windows. There was a bed and a wash basin and a small bookshelf full of ordinary-looking novels.
In the short span of time it took him to survey the room, he also came to two quick conclusions. First, whoever tied the ropes around his hand was excellent. There was no way Sei was getting out of them without assistance. Second, he had no access to his chakra. It was still there. He could feel it, but it was like there was an invisible wall between him and it.
There were a number of things that could cause such a condition, poison or jutsu being top among them. He could recall each and every option that might have made him this way, but he couldn't remember why or how. His memories before being here, in this cabin, were vague.
He knew his name. He knew his rank – special jounin – and his village – Mist. His schooling was a blur. His family was dead. His memories of the hidden village were hazy, like a story from a book, but he had a strange sense of certainty that this was his life. He'd been on a mission, something important.
The door opened and a man in a red and white mask walked in. Sei froze in his chair. This was an ANBU, the highest ranking ninja from the Leaf village. It seemed strange how readily available that information was, when he couldn't even remember what his apartment looked like.
The ANBU stopped just out of kicking distance and squatted down to Sei's height. "Tell me your name."
Sei licked his lips. He'd been trained for this. He knew all the counter-interrogation techniques. He wouldn't let his village down. "Mizuno Sei. Registration number..."
The man sighed and Sei trailed off. That wasn't the response he was expecting. "Do you know who I am?"
He started to shake his head and then stopped. There was something strange about the man's eyes, something familiar. One of his eyes was red. Not both, like an Uchiha, just one. He bit back a gasp. "Sharingan Kakashi, the Copy-nin."
This was his mission. This was the man he'd been sent to kill. He never stood a chance.
Kakashi stood and removed his mask. His face was bare, and that seemed wrong somehow. Hadn't he heard somewhere that Kakashi never revealed his face in public? Why, then, would the infamous Kakashi show his face to Sei?
Maybe it didn't matter. Kakashi was going to kill him anyways. Sei had tried to kill him. He remembered making the attempt, waiting for Kakashi in the woods and then jumping out. He hadn't even landed a single blow before he'd been knocked out.
He was lucky to be alive. He shouldn't be alive. Kakashi should have killed him, and yet here he was tied up in a cabin in the woods.
Kakashi stepped around the chair, moving behind Sei. He tensed, waiting for Kakashi to pull his head back and slit Sei's throat. Instead Kakashi's knife cut through the bonds around Sei's wrists.
He bolted for the door. It was a long-shot, but it was his only hope of escaping alive. He didn't stand a chance against Kakashi. He had a suspicious feeling that was the point of his mission – to die by Kakashi's hand.
He flung open the door and ran forward, only to bounce back as if he'd hit an elastic wall. He skid across the floor, coming to a halt at Kakashi's feet. He stared up in surprise.
"You can't leave here," Kakashi said. "Not until you remember the password."
"What?" The word was out before he even realized it. He expected Kakashi to glare at him, but the look he directed down at Sei was full of pity and regret.
"The password is your name."
Kakashi stepped around him, not even watching Sei for an attack. He was wide open but Sei had no weapons, no chakra, nothing.
The door shut, and Sei was left alone in the cabin.
Sei paced the cabin. It was small, but he supposed it was better than a prison cell, or at least it would be if he had any idea why Kakashi was keeping him here. It was insane, well beyond the quirky level of insanity that the Copy-nin was known for.
He knew he was captive, but why? Why hadn't Kakashi killed him outright? Why hadn't Kakashi turned him over to Leaf's Torture and Interrogation team? Their leader, Ibiki, had quite a disturbing reputation.
He felt like there were holes in his memory. He could recall technical facts without a problem, probably even give a full lecture on how chakra accumulated in the body with ease. He knew the Leaf ninja like he'd spent years studying their dossiers but he could barely remember the names of his own teammates.
Maybe it was a side-effect of whatever was blocking his chakra. Maybe they were trying to make him doubt his allegiances. He wouldn't. He was trained better than that. Why else would they have sent him after one of the most deadly jounin alive?
There was little food in the cabin. A few dried rations and bottles of water. He waited a whole day before eating anything, too worried about it being poisoned until hunger twisted his belly in knots. Then, he would have taken poison just to relieve the pain. If the rations were poisoned, he didn't taste it.
He was good with poisons. He was good with traps and snares and tricks. He was good at teaching, and that seemed like such an odd thing for a killer to be good at. Maybe he had kids back in Mist. Maybe he taught them how to be deadly, just like him. That thought didn't sit right, like a puzzle piece whose edges were too jagged to belong.
Days passed in silence. He waited. He paced. He slept. The bed was strangely soft but it felt empty and too small. It was cold in a way that had nothing to do with temperature.
On the third day alone, he read. The selection of books was odd. He recognized the bright covers of the Icha Icha series, lined up neatly on the top shelf. The row below had a hodge-podge mix of mystery and romance. He chose one at random. It was a well-loved novel, its pages yellowed from age. He apparently chose well, because the light was faded before he even realized and he reluctantly put the book away to sleep.
There were no lights or flame in the cabin, not even a single candle or a match. Sei rose with the sun and slept with the stars.
Despite being captive, he felt strangely at peace.
On the fifth day, Kakashi returned, carrying a basket of food and a fresh supply of water. Sei held himself carefully still where he sat on the bed, book forgotten on his lap. Kakashi tucked the supplies away in the pantry before glancing over at him. His eyes fell to the book on Sei's lap and a tiny smile graced his face.
If Kakashi weren't the enemy, he would have thought the smile made him even more handsome.
"That was always your favorite."
Sei frowned. How did Kakashi know what his favorite book was? Sei hadn't even realized how much he enjoyed the book until he'd started reading. He was on his second pass through.
"I brought you something." Kakashi reached into one of the many pockets in his vest and held out a wrapped package.
Sei made no move to take it. Kakashi shrugged and tossed the package onto the foot of the bed. Sei shrank away, like it was going to explode.
Kakashi sighed again. There was something about the sound that pierced through him. It made him want to do better, even though he didn't know what better was.
"Do you remember your name?"
The way Kakashi frowned suggested Sei'd given the wrong answer. He didn't know what other name Kakashi expected.
"I'll be back when I can. Three days, four at the most." Kakashi paused and stared at Sei for a long time. "You're safe here. I promise I'll keep you safe."
Sei's mouth dropped open, but before he could put his thoughts in order and formulate a question, Kakashi was gone.
Sei had no idea what was going on, but there had to be more to it than an insane jounin holding him hostage. All he needed to do was figure out why.
The answer came two days later, when he finally worked up the nerve to open the package Kakashi had left. He expected a bomb or poison-laced paper, instead it was pictures. There must have been a whole album's worth. Some were pristine, with barely a smudge on them. Others were torn and faded, like they'd seen better days, like there was a story in their very existence.
The first picture showed a man with long brown hair and a scar across his nose, surrounded by at least a dozen smiling children. The man looked almost exactly like Sei, or at least Sei looked like this man, enough that they could have been twins.
He flipped through the pictures slowly, memorizing each one in turn. They felt familiar. The school yard looked familiar. The wizened old man with his arm around a young Sei-like boy looked familiar. There were people and places that he felt he should know, but it was like their names were stuck on the tip of his tongue.
Then he came to the last of the photos, all new, all crisp and pristine. They showed the imposter Sei with Kakashi. They were smiling, touching, holding hands, kissing. They were in love, Kakashi and this man he assumed Sei to be.
Now it made sense. Now he knew why Kakashi kept asking his name. He thought Sei was someone else. He thought Sei was a different man.
His head hurt after looking at the pictures and he hid them away between two volumes of Icha Icha on the bookcase. Even though there was still light out, he curled up in the bed, gathering the blankets close around him.
He didn't sleep for a long, long time.
Sei had time to plan what he was going to say when Kakashi came back, but the words stuck in his throat. He stood slowly and handed the wrapped package back to Kakashi. "I'm not who you think I am."
He hesitated, and that was his mistake. He shook his head but he felt like he was denying his own words instead of Kakashi's.
Kakashi's hand curled around Sei's. It was warm and gentle. He should have pulled away but his arm wouldn't move. It was like his limbs were frozen. Kakashi placed the wrapped package of pictures back in Sei's hand and curled his fingers around it. Kakashi's hand felt like it belonged on his. It felt safe.
Sei jerked backwards. The package of pictures fell to the floor between them, scattering across the floor as the string came loose mid-fall. His hands bracketed his head and he grit his teeth to keep from screaming. His head hurt, worse than before, like it was trying to split open.
He fell to his knees, though he barely felt the impact. Kakashi's hands were on him, comforting in a way that should not be.
This wasn't right. Nothing was right anymore.
He passed out in Kakashi's arms.
When he woke, he was tucked in bed with a warm weight behind him. Sei sighed and turned his face back into the pillow. His head hurt, but the ache wasn't so bad as long as he didn't try to think. He didn't need to think. Thinking was complicated and contradictory and all he wanted to do was stay in bed, safe in Kakashi's arms.
Sei bolted upright and pressed himself into the corner where the headboard met the wall. Kakashi shifted on the other side of the bed, propping his head up on one arm and staring at Sei with intense scrutiny.
"What... what are you doing?"
"Sleeping," Kakashi answered. The corners of his lips curled up, just a tiny bit.
Sei shook his head. It was an obvious lie but it felt like a joke he was missing out on, like something well-rehearsed in the early morning hours. "Why?" The question encompassed more than just this, more than just the bed with the two of them in it that felt safer than it should.
"Because you were hurting."
Those were the words that made him doubt. Kakashi was so convinced that Sei was this other man that he would stay beside him, close enough to be vulnerable. Kakashi had let his guard down.
Now would be the most optimal time to strike. He could smother Kakashi with a pillow. Try to choke Kakashi before Kakashi blew a hole through him. Sei didn't move. He'd had a thousand opportunities to try and attack Kakashi and he'd never taken them. Even when they'd first met, when he'd first tried to kill Kakashi, it had been an attack doomed to failure.
He wanted to fail this mission, and he didn't understand why.
"Are you alright?"
Sei glanced up to meet Kakashi's eyes. There was concern there, and that ever-present pity.
He was trembling and he didn't even realize it until Kakashi reached up slowly and wiped a tear from his cheek.
"I don't know what they did to you," Kakashi said, his voice soft, "but I promise I will fix you."
He couldn't take it. He couldn't let Kakashi believe a lie, not when that other man meant so much to Kakashi. He wanted to mean that much to someone. Someone like Kakashi.
"I'm not him." Tears rolled down his cheeks as he shook his head. "I'm not. I can't be."
"I don't remember. I'm from Mist. I remember being in Mist."
Kakashi sat up and leaned against the headboard. Their knees touched. "Do you remember your parents?"
He nodded. Of course he remembered his parents. They'd died, a long time ago, but he knew he'd been born to them, Mist ninja for generations.
"What are their names?"
He opened his mouth to answer but nothing came out. What were their names? He should know their names.
"Who did you team with when you were training for the exams?"
His head hurt. Blurry images came to mind and the half-forgotten memory of their names. No matter how hard he tried or how far back he reached, he couldn't remember.
"Does the name Naruto mean anything to you?"
Sei's head shot up. He knew that name. The name of a famous Leaf ninja who had the nine-tailed fox inside of him. The name should bring hatred and fear but all he could feel was love, deep paternal love.
He winced and hissed in pain as his headache blossomed into blazing agony. He curled in on himself, bringing his knees to his chest and hiding his head in his hands.
"What about Hiruzen?"
He screamed. He couldn't help himself. His head hurt. It was going to split apart. He could feel it. Something inside of him was tearing, trying to break away, and it hurt worse than anything he'd felt before. It was like there were hot iron inside his brain.
"Stop!" Sei gasped for air. He was sobbing with pain, sobbing with memories that were trying to come back. He could feel his insides rearranging. He was losing himself. He was dying. "Please stop."
"I know it hurts." Kakashi's voice was too close. He felt like it was surrounding him, giving him nowhere to run. "It hurts, but you have to fight through it. You have to remember."
He screamed again and Kakashi was there, holding him, giving him something to hold onto. He felt like he was coming apart, burning from the inside out. Pain filled him, would have overwhelmed him except for the hold he had on Kakashi. Kakashi was his anchor, his rock, his safe harbor. He always had been.
How could he have forgotten? How could he even think of killing Kakashi, who was sweet and sometimes stupid, brilliant but naïve, loving and gentle as much as he was a killer. Kakashi was home.
His body stilled. His tears dried. When he looked up at Kakashi's unmasked face, Kakashi was smiling.
Kakashi pulled away, stood, and backed out the door. For a moment, he thought Kakashi was leaving him but then Kakashi stopped just on the other side of the threshold. He held out his hand.
"What's your name?"
He knew the answer this time, the right answer. He untangled himself from the twisted sheets of the bed and followed, stopping just inside the door.
"My name is Iruka."
When he took Kakashi's hand, there was nothing stopping him. The barrier was broken. He stepped across the threshold and into Kakashi's arms.
He was home.