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turn_a_blindeye wrote in adstrngndumlog
Characters: Hatake Kakashi turn_a_blindeye & Youth (ES! Maito Gai) spandexisyouth and Stoneface (ES! Samuel Vimes) stonyfaced
When: June 6th, during the first day of the ES/AD crossover
Where: By the lake in Adstringendum.
Rating: PG-13 for Youth thinking Kakashi is Bell.
Summary: It was an easy mistake! When Youth jumps Kakashi, thinking he is Bell, he ends up finding out more than intended. For a member of the Sphere, too much information can be lethal. Stoneface will not be happy.
Warning: Character 'death,' hints of male/male sexual relationship, and a sexy old man.

Porn: In the interest of separating out the porn (aka Kakashi almost actually gets some action again) from the plot significant threads (aka spoiler alert: Youth dies), the porn can be found here for Adstringendum members and here for Edensphere members. Both entries are friends-locked to their communities (and are exactly the same content) and should not be read by minors. The "porn" precedes the log below, so the post beginning this log starts in the middle of things.

Gai's confidence could be annoying, arrogant, something that made Kakashi want to punch him in the nose. Coupled with that kiss and telling Kakashi that he knew what he was doing and what he was going to do to him, it was intoxicating. He had fought Gai so many times in the time they had been Rivals. Kakashi knew Gai well, knew his quirks and weaknesses, everything in battle. But he didn't know this Gai and could still be pushed about and caught off guard and--

It was like cold water doused him. There was that word--that name?--that he had missed the first time. Bell. He didn't understand. ...It wasn't like Gai was so far gone at this point that he couldn't care beyond desire if Kakashi was Iruka, or Asuma, or some nameless ninja he met in a bar. Gai was still very much in the moment enough to banter; Gai had approached him with the intent to do this. It wasn't like they were drunk. At least, he was pretty sure Gai wasn't under the influence of something. Maybe he should have been more sure before this got under way.

Kakashi couldn't fully shake the desire coursing through his body--this was still Gai, and every instinct said so--but he took on a cautious edge, stiffening, slowing, withdrawing from Gai as much as he could from where he was pinned beneath him. His voice was hard, masking the alarm and concern that was ringing in the back of his head. "...Gai, who is Bell?"

[[ooc: This is an example of a crossover-log that has been originally posted in Adstringendum and has been linked to Edensphere's log community.]]

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He felt Bell stiffening in a way that wasn't supposed to happen, but before he could finally ask what was bothering Bell a worse question was asked, and Youth was left staring. Youth wasn't sure which question he had was the hardest - why Bell was suddenly just calling him a guy, or how he couldn't know who Bell was.

Horrified, he wondered if something had happened, if Bell had forgotten him. But that made no sense. Bell had been into what they were doing. Surely he wouldn't just-- Oh. He might. Youth was no longer panting from arousal; fear had him shaky. And something about guy... or was it Gai? That was bugging him. Like he should know it. Youth pulled back, unpinning Bell. The array of emotions played over his face as he struggled to respond.

"Who is... who... you? You are Bell. You... we..." He shook his head, trying to get some control here. What had happened? "Gai?" But saying that made the familiarity hit home. "Gai. I am... That is my name. I am Gai! But how..." A memory crystal. That was the only answer. Could one give information and take other parts away? Youth hadn't figured out what a mango was. What if that's what it did? Or maybe there were other fruit types.

"But that is not worth this price." His voice was soft; he was still shaken. There was pain in his eyes as he resisted the desire to gently touch Bell's face, to make sure that this was actually Bell. It had to be Bell. Every detail was right, from the sense of him to the scars Youth knew. Youth fought back the fear that was eating at him. They'd written letters to themselves, and Bell had to have his journal. This would work out. He would not lose Bell because the Tree decided to mess with them.

He gave a determined nod. He was not giving up this easily. That was when he took in their mutual state of undress again and, for once, did not blush. There was nothing exciting here. Youth quickly closed his pants and moved to grab Bell's shirt. He couldn't do things with someone who didn't know him. As he held out the shirt, though, his brow furrowed. No. Bell knew him. Bell knew his name. How did that work? Bell had attached his name to him, responded like that, without pushing him away or being aloof. There had been the comment about getting warm, too. Were there just holes? What if Bell had only lost his chosen name?

There was an easy way to remind Bell of who he was. "You are Bell. And if you are not Bell, then what would your name be?" There. The lack of a name would bring Bell back around, Youth was sure. His grip was a little tight on the shirt now as he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to relinquish it. Hope that this would be easily dealt with was coming back in spades.

Kakashi watched Gai skeptically, concerned and uncertain, but masking the expression. Gai didn't even know who he was, let alone who Kakashi was. This had to be an event. There were too many event possibilities and not enough information yet. But he knew this was too good to be true; it was just disappointing to be right all the time.

As Gai rounded up clothing, Kakashi pulled his mask and own pants into place. It was over before it began. He kicked himself for being unwilling to just respond to the name Bell and go with it. ...What was a little role-playing between friends? Especially when Gai's eyes could go from passionate to soft and tender just for him. Or for this Bell. Lucky bastard.

"...Bell?" Bell was typically a girl's name. Kakashi could not think of a single instance in which he could have ever gone by that name for a mission, either. Kakashi shook off the confusion and responded to the question. "I'm Kakashi. Hatake Kakashi."

Gai really didn't remember, did he? They hadn't spent a great deal of time together here, but he hated to think he lost everything they had ever said and done together as Rivals back home--even if it was replaced by some scenario where Kakashi was named Bell and Gai jumped him. Lee had once said Kakashi treated Gai like a stranger--was Kakashi now actually a stranger to Gai? ...Kakashi didn't have a plan for what to do if Gai forgot him. It seemed near inconceivable. But...if this was just an event, it would be back to normal in a couple weeks, they could go out drinking again, and forget all of this ever happened. Maybe Gai would forget entirely, and Kakashi wouldn't have to deal with the repercussions of being unaffected by the event, and still very affected by Gai.

"You know, your Eternal Rival?" He eyed the shirt in Gai's hands, but let that go. They were decent now. At least there wasn't that awkwardness between them. He didn't need a shirt. "...Though it sounds like the challenges with this Bell person are a bit more interesting than rock-paper-scissors." There, something teasing to make light of a heavy situation.

That was the right name too. Something inside Youth, Gai, confirmed it. Bell's name, his real name. It had replaced his memories as Bell? Others had their name, Snap, Simon. They still knew who they had been. This was neither right nor fair. But nothing was easy. He lived for challenges, and it was time to face this one. "Do you remember your dream?" They could start there, with the basics. And Bell, Kakashi, had to remember that.

Eternal Rival? Another thing that was right. Youth froze, looking around at the city. This wasn't home. This couldn't be home. Nothing looked familiar, and there was the elevator shaft, in the distance. Plus Youth's memories weren't back. He'd had a tiny hope that returning home would mean everything would be fixed, and he was still going to hold on to it. This wasn't home, and this wasn't Bell at home. He and Bell were in the Wilderness and something strange was going on.

"Yes! That makes sense! Of course you would be my Eternal Rival. You said you would be my never-ending challenge and then that is just a different wording!" So some things lingered. There were things to build from. Not everything was forgotten and lost. "We have not done rock-paper-scissors. I think it was suggested once. But we spar, and you are my challenge. You remember this, right? You are my challenge, and I am yours." Wait! He had proof of this! "Your journal! It will be in your journal. Along with your na-- Bell. Along with Bell. As your name."

Youth grabbed his own, flipping it open, looking for Bell's first entry. "September 28th. There." The journals were clearly more useful than he'd thought. He would remind Bell gently and.. Kakashi. He needed to keep that straight. It was a nice name. Maybe he would ha-- No. He would have reason to say that name later. Together he and Be-Kakashi could defeat the Tree. He had no doubts that he would have help, too. Lotus, Derrick, Genius, Fred, Bastet, Gene. They would want to be remembered; they would care to assist.

A focused, determined light was in Youth's eyes as he waited for B-Kakashi to check the journal.

"What dream?" Kakashi had a lot of dreams and nightmares. Was there one in particular he had discussed with Gai? Or was that somehow a clue to the event? Gai wasn't making any sense.

And he apparently just now realized they were in Adstringendum. The way Gai looked around was as if he had never seen this place before. Granted, Gai had never had the best memory, and could be a little slow sometimes, but he had been around this place long enough that the world shouldn't warrant a second glance.

...Never-ending challenge? When had he promised that? Gai was romanticizing rivalries again. Kakashi nodded slowly. 'You are my challenge, and I am yours' seemed far more weighty than just being rivals, almost possessive but without the usual 'You are my rival and no one else's, Kakashi' fire that Gai usually used. It came off sounding kind of...sentimental. Like agreeing to be best friends. ...Shame the reality of all of this was sketchy at best.

He raised a brow and looked with interest as Gai produced a journal, and, moving near to glance over Gai's shoulder, Kakashi could see his own writing on the page as if he was talking to people. Itachi's writing was there in the responses. And there was Gai's writing. Kakashi had never kept a journal, though. They were too dangerous and Kakashi too paranoid. And he never would have shared it with people to write in it. That was something children do: pass a book around to write notes in class. But...It was his own writing. He picked at a corner of the pages, flipping through until he saw his own writing again...and again. It was an entire alternate life. Like his marriage to Anko, it was written out and dropped in his lap now. Maybe it was that event again, just slightly different. It was odd to be on the outside looking in. Kakashi was curious about Bell's life now.

"...You call yourself 'Youth'?" he asked, still looking in the journal entries. There were people here he was fairly sure were not alternate versions of known Adstringendum residents. "And...we're married or sleeping together or what? Or do you just go around jumping all your challengers?"

What dream? How was that even a question? "Your dream. The one you had on getting here, Edensphere. When you were greeted. The dream that matters." How else could it be explained? Maybe he could make Bell think about it. "How else did you arrive here? What happened when you got here?" That should start something, at least.

At least Bell... Youth would take time to get used to calling him Kakashi... was nodding about the challenges. That was one thing confirmed, one bit of memory jogged. Youth could build from there. All he needed was an opening and a possibility.

After a few minutes, Youth took the journal back from Bell. "You have your own," was all he said. He wasn't sure if he wanted Bell to see some of the more personal exchanges yet, not if Bell couldn't remember. "I do. We all have a dream of our past when we arrive, and we pick a name from it. And then we work to find out more about who we were. Youth is the name I picked. Bell is what you picked. And... And now you have found out both of our names."

He looked down. That question was a little sensitive. If he let Bell know how important he was to Youth, would Youth be pushed away? "You and I. We are... together. I do not just jump people! Chapel has offered to marry us but it seems like it is very fast and I am not always sure that..." He broke off. There really was no need to introduce his own insecurities to this. Not yet. Not when Bell had enough to remember.

"Some of this must be familiar. Gene? Derrick? Genius? Fred? Crow? ...Lotus?" Maybe Bell had learned something of his son, too! That excited Youth at the same time as worrying him just a little. Did Bell know who his wife was, now?

Kakashi had no idea what dream Gai was talking about. There was no dream in which he was Bell or Gai was Youth or whatever else Gai was so certain this dream should have. He could tell him about the dream he had where they were screwing, sure, but he didn't think that was the basis of this Bell and Youth issue. "I woke up here, in a street somewhere over there." He made a wave of his hand towards somewhere in the distance. "Neji and Itachi were there too, and we radioed for assistance." A pause. "That was over a year and a half ago, Gai. You've only been here for a few months."

Gai's behavior only made Kakashi more curious as to the contents of that journal. What had 'Bell' and 'Youth' been up to? He released the journal as Gai took it back, putting his own hands into his pockets. "Why did I pick Bell?" Youth was obvious.

"Ah, of course. Together." In Gai terms did that mean more than fuck buddies, less that boyfriends? Kakashi didn't know enough about Gai and romantic relationships to know for certain, but the way the insecurity leaked through behind the words, Kakashi suspected Gai maybe wanted it to lean a little closer to boyfriends than it was. Gai really deserved a better boyfriend or whatever than Kakashi probably was to him. He was a nice guy. He didn't deserve to be stuck with an aloof pervert like Kakashi.

As Gai tried to jog his memory, Kakashi listened to the words. He took it those were all people's names. Crow or Genius might be Itachi, since Kakashi had seen his writing briefly on the journal, but Lotus' name, with that pause before Gai--er, Youth--spoke it, had some significance. "Lotus is the name of one of your techniques. It's the one you use in combination with the gates. The death-dive grab." That was the best way Kakashi could explain it, and pretty much his own first impression of it. "What is Lotus to you?"

Neji and Itachi. He knew those names too, though he couldn't say how. This was all wrong and didn't make any sense. He and Bell hadn't been here for a year and a half, they'd been in Edensphere for many months. Close to a year, now. "That does not fit. Your journal. Where is it?" That was the key point. If Bell just got his journal out, things could be made clear.

Strange, though. Youth hadn't seen one when undressing Bell. Maybe it was in a vest pocket. Youth glanced over at the vest before reaching over and grabbing it. There, something heavy. He wasn't surprised by the presence of a book in one pocket, nor that its back cover was rather suggestive. What was surprising was the device. Youth stared at it before holding it out to Bell with a puzzled look. "What is this?" Something was off here. Very off. There was no journal in the vest. He'd felt Bell's pants, it hadn't been there, and the shirt definitely didn't hide it. Youth was starting to feel a bit sick and headachey, but he dismissed that as confusion and stress.

"Your dream. Though I saw them in Seven's dream. A pair of bells, dangling from strings. They must have meant something to you." The casual way Bell said 'together' made Youth want to correct him and clarify, but he wasn't sure how much he actually could. "Partners. We are partners." And he didn't want to lose that. He wasn't going to lose that, if he could help it. Sure, sometimes the aloofness was exhausting. But he really did care deeply for Bell. It would hurt to lose him, so very much.

"My technique? That makes some sense. He is my son! So him using that as a name would fit!" Though that bit of information made the question all the more confusing. Bell knew one of Youth's fighting moves, but didn't know his son? How did that work? Unless Lotus was from Bell's future too. That added up, actually. All the same, he was feeling funny, and not haha funny. Flu funny.

"I don't--" have a journal. But he watched as Gai rummaged through the pockets of the vest looking for something he would not find. "The PCD. It's like a two-way radio. We talk to people through it. ...It does video, too, so put it back just in case it decides to turn on." The PCDs made Kakashi nervous, especially when having what should be a private conversation. At least this journal Gai had could probably only be written in when you wanted to write on it, and therefore only said as much as you were willing to write.

"The Bell Test. It's a test of teamwork." The choice of the name suddenly made more sense. While Kakashi wanted to believe this Seven was Sasuke, and that his Uchiha could somehow override his vengeance and remain loyal to the team, Kakashi knew that wasn't the case. Seven was Sakura or Naruto...someone who had devoted their heart to the team. He smiled at Gai's clarification. Partners. Like Rivals or Teammates...borderline exclusive. "Partners is kind of cute, Gai. You didn't like the title of Rivals anymore?"

"...Oh. Your son." Although Kakashi wanted to say this was just an event and the Animus were just screwing with their heads, hearing Gai say he had a son was still surreal. It was possible, of course, that Gai's son came from sometime after what Kakashi and the other ninja here could remember. Naruto and sensei co-existed, after all. So...Gai 'grew up' and had a kid. Maybe it was an accident--that was cruel to think but Kakashi didn't care for this feeling he got thinking about Gai just up and leaving him ninja work to retire to raise a family. "Who's his mother?"

Gai didn't look so well. Maybe this had been too much for him. "Are you feeling ok? Sit down."

"You are here, you arrived here, you know our names, there is no journal, and you have... this?" This wasn't adding up. He couldn't make it make sense. Beyond everything, the lack of a journal bothered him. If Be... If Kakashi didn't have a journal, and was dressed the same way as the toy Youth had gotten from the Mall... Did this mean he wasn't Bell? Or that he was Bell but something had happened to Bell? What happened when someone disappeared from Edensphere? Did they land in this destroyed place, with some of them forgetting and others--

Wait. This was the Wilderness. What if the Wilderness had turned into the next place in some sort of cycle? What if Bell was gone from Edensphere and was here, and this was Youth's last chance to say goodbye? That didn't sound very much like the Sphere, though. What was more likely? That, or that this wasn't Bell? Considering what Kakashi knew... That was too much to find out this quickly, except by a conversation like this. This might not be Bell. That might mean... That might mean that Youth had just cheated on Bell. The very thing he dreaded Bell doing to him. No wonder he felt sick.

"I did not remember the term rivals." His voice was a little leaden. Either option was awful: that he was going to return to Edensphere to find Bell vanished and here, or that he'd just betrayed Bell. Youth didn't like this Wilderness change. "You said Partners first. To explain what we were to Lotus, when he arrived. I was having trouble finding a word for it. He. He said Partners first. Bell. You..." Youth looked at Kakashi. "You are not Bell. Are you."

At least Lotus was a better topic. Youth could focus on his pride for his son instead of guilt over all of this. "Yes! I have a son. He looks just like me! We do not know who his mother is. We do not have a lot of memories. But Crow talked about him, he looks like me and acts like me, he remembered me, and I have one memory of saving him from a wave of sand. There is no doubt what emotion was there!"

Nodding, Youth sat down. As an afterthought, he stuck the PCD back in Bell's vest and passed those, as well as Bell's... Kakashi's... shirt over. He grabbed his own shirt, putting his arms back in the sleeves but leaving it open. The day was already getting a little warm. Very warm, actually. And his body ached. If he was getting sick again he would be very frustrated with his body.

He could only nod. What was he going to say? Kakashi didn't know anything about journals and alternate memories or whatever Youth was dealing with. He could only tell Gai about the reality he himself knew, and piece together from what what Youth said with what Kakashi knew.

Maybe more than the failed sexual encounter, it hurt that Gai--any Gai--didn't remember them as Rivals. It was one of the closest things to a friend Kakashi had after Obito died, one of the few loyal and consistent relationships in his life. He didn't know how Youth and Bell came to know each other, or sleep together, or be partners, but he wished Youth had suggested the title, not Bell. Gai always knew what they were: Rivals. He was always sure when Kakashi was not. "I'm sorry. I have no memory of being Bell."

Gai saved Lee from the sand. Lee could easily be mistaken for Gai's son, and he could see how without memories of their normal lives, Gai would think Lee was his son. After disappointing Gai...Youth that Kakashi was not Bell, Kakashi wasn't sure he wanted to tell Youth that Lotus wasn't actually his son. That sounded so special to him. Kakashi wasn't going to destory that when he had probably already damaged the relationship between Bell and Youth. "No doubt about it. I'm sure you're a wonderful ...father."

Kakashi took a seat a short way from Youth, trying to give the other man some room. He slid the shirt back on over his head and looked out over the lake.

"I'm sure Bell will forgive you," he said. When the event was over, Youth would be Gai again and they wouldn't have to worry about any of this. Kakashi...didn't care. Youth thought he was jumping his partner. It was fine. "You thought you were getting him."

It wasn't as if the reply really answered anything. Though maybe if Youth hadn't been fixated he would have noticed earlier, seen the differences between how Bell responded to him and how Kakashi apparently did. Youth was probably reading his own disappointment in himself into Kakashi's response. "It is not your fault. You did not make the mistake."

There was a hesitation there, as if Kakashi didn't actually think Youth would make a good father. "Of course I am! Lotus is very happy. So am I! And I like to think that Bell is." His gaze flickered over to Kakashi, sitting a bit away. He didn't want to talk much about whether or not Bell would forgive him. Likely Bell would. But he worried about the injured trust. The topic should be easy enough to bring up. Just blurt it out like he did everything else. He would just have to hope that Bell didn't decide this meant Youth was unrelliable.

This meant they needed a safer topic, especially since Youth wasn't going anywhere any time soon. Not with how sick this was making him feel. And he fully intended to blame this for how he felt; the flu could go away. Was talking about home safe? Whatever Kakashi remembered or knew? Youth looked over at the elevator again. Right, they were in the Wilderness. That meant it had to be safe. Crow had said so.

"Tell me... Tell me about home? You do not sound like you know Lotus, but you mentioned others whose names sounded familiar! Itachi and Neji. If you did not mind. I would like to know some of what I have forgotten." His head was pounding now, echoed by pain down his spine. He really didn't feel good.

"Well, I could have not led you on." There were inklings of guilt there. Kakashi knew, really, Gai wasn't going to jump him. He suspected it from the start, but he had wanted Gai to be the one jumping him, so he had ignored it. If he had said something at the start, Youth wouldn't feel bad now.

"I'm sure you're all happy." It almost sounded like a family. Kakashi hadn't had a family in...forver, and his little family of Team Seven was in pieces. He never considered playing house with anyone, never intended to get married or retire, but it could be nice to have a family-like set-up. Someone to be around when you didn't feel like being alone, or couldn't be alone with your own thoughts. He wished he had been Bell for this event. Being a kid was nice...being Bell would have also been nice.

He was glad for the change in topic. Dwelling on not being Bell, or Youth being so unlike Gai, was a little disappointing at the moment.

"Home is...nothing like this. The village is bright, cheerful." Kakashi missed Konoha. Things made so much more sense there. "Neji is one of your students," Kakashi said, trying to keep his own recent opinions on the Hyuuga out of the explanation. "He's a genius, but a bit difficult to get along with. He's always given you a hard time, since you two are so different."

He watched Youth carefully, since the other man seemed to be taking the whole incident rather hard. "...Youth?" Kakashi scooted closer to him. Maybe it was that Youth was, but wasn't, Gai, but Kakashi felt he could be somewhat more open with his alternate-memory Rival. Maybe Gai wouldn't remember it later. "If you're ill, maybe we should do this another time. I can take you to your house here."

Youth looked at Bell. Kakashi. He needed to remember that, now more than ever. That wasn't his partner sitting over there. "Gai... he is not... interested?" That was all he could think of to explain the other man's statement. Kakashi could only have 'lead Youth on' if he hadn't expected something like this from Gai. Though it wasn't like Kakashi had been the one that stopped. Youth had pulled away, which probably meant he'd led on too.

Since Bell didn't seem all that interested in hearing about the ninja house, and Youth was very curious for any details he could get of his life before, Youth dropped the one topic.

At the mention of bright and cheerful all Youth could see was a bright white. He realized after a moment that he was actually seeing pain, a searing migraine that was getting in the way of hearing some of what Bell was saying. This couldn't all be guilt and stress. He had to have caught something. Youth wondered how long he could avoid getting tied up this time.

Neji. A student. Youth caught that much, and tried to wave off Kakashi's concern. "I have some students as well. Night, Sailormoon, Fred, Kagerou, and others! Though the names would likely not mean much to you. Since Youth and Bell did not." The world went very fuzzy for a moment, like it was flickering out of focus, and Youth wound up leaning toward Kakashi half-blindly. His head landed on Kakashi's shoulder, and he almost pulled away before he realized that this bug was hitting him hard. He needed the stability, if just for a moment.

"I will be... fine. It is nothing. I will be all right." Difficult to get along with? That rang a bit of a bell, no pun intended. "If he was an animal, would he be an owl?" Okay. Now it hurt to breathe. Youth put a hand down, stabilizing himself with the ground. This was very wrong; his strength was completely gone. The arm holding him up was shaky, and Youth wondered at how quickly and how rough this was striking. At this rate Bell would have no trouble at all keeping him home.

"Gai's...not interested in much of anything along those lines," he smiled thinly. "Youthful doesn't mean just mean you behave like a child, you know." Kakashi wasn't sure Youth would understand. Maybe he and Bell got off to a great start. Without memories, who knew? Maybe Kakashi would be a lot less reserved and hesitant. He wouldn't need to worry about ruining a non-existent rivalry.

He would have loved to hear about the household, but he would have regretted it too, knowing he wouldn't have ever had that. Being unaffected by this event was a pain.

"I bet they're good students. Do you make them wear spandex, too?" Kakashi blinked and put an arm around Youth awkwardly. It was usually him leaning on Gai for support, but if Gai needed him...if Youth needed him, Kakashi was here. He was growing increasingly worried about Gai's health. His Rival never looked this in pain over anything, even when taking a beating in the field. Gai was fearless and healthy and something was definitely wrong.

"I guess he could be an owl? He's somewhat birdlike and caged." He had never ascribed creatures to any of the students aside from whatever anyone summoned, so to be honest, he hadn't thought of Neji as an animal much. "But I think he's maybe more of a prissy housecat."

"Lay back." He couldn't hide the fear and worry in his voice now as he shifted to ease Youth onto his back on the grass. "Lay back and just don't argue, Gai. I'm going to call a medic." Kakashi reached for the vest and began to search through the pocket for the PCD. While he trusted Tsunade and Unohana in all their wisdom, Kakashi trusted Sakura most of all when it came to his teammates. She hadn't failed him for Obito, and he knew she wouldn't fail him now.

"I was not either, at first." He couldn't pinpoint the moment it had changed, but he had a guess for the timeframe. "It was just Bell teasing every chance he got, and then things changed." The second comment wasn't the nicest ever. "I do not behave like a child. I simply embrace life. That is a good thing." Now if he could just convince Bell of this, things would be a lot simpler. Then again, he liked the way he got to encourage Bell, to talk about viewpoints. So maybe Bell should keep not fully understanding, and Youth would keep cheerfully talking. Though Bell could do with just a bit less aloofness.

The arm, even if it wasn't Bell's, was comforting. His body was failing him and he didn't know why. Nothing new had been going around. He clung to the distraction of the conversation; there was no way he was going to be able to figure out what was wrong. Had he eaten something bad? It wasn't even as if he'd cooked the last few nights. Youth had been busy taking care of medics who needed breaks and snacks and food, so his meals had been cooked at home by Lotus and Bell or at the Bazaar by whatever shop he visited.

"Some like spandex. I do not..." He paused to catch his breath. "I do not make them wear anything they do not want to. But the spandex is the best for movement." He would beat this. This would not beat him; he did everything in a healthy manner.

"Ah. I thought possibly, if he did not approve of me, he would fit something we had, once." The owl's disapproving voice and the way he looked down on Youth was still a strong memory. "Prissy housecat? Always... Always grooming?" His fingers were tingling. Was it loss of circulation? Or was it the pain causing the nerves in his body to report wrong? Maybe he pulled something earlier, and sitting had jarred it. Sitting and stressing.

Hearing Kakashi's instructions, Youth cooperated. Laying down was a good idea, especially when it was hard to hold himself up. He strained to breathe. There was no way to calm the worry he heard in Kakashi's voice, not when everything was going white and black and pain. Fading in and out, flickering oddly: this was the worst Youth could remember ever feeling.

Bell was lucky. Kakashi didn't think that kind of luck would be his, even with all the teasing in the world. He wouldn't push, not at the risk of pushing Gai away. There was too much to lose unless Gai showed he was interested in being pushed. And so far, he didn't seem that interested. Gai was immune to Kakashi's advances, and that worked for them. At least he had a Rival.

"Uh huh, sure." Embrace life in a bear-hug, maybe, but Gai was still a child.

At least Gai--Youth--had the spandex wherever he went. Kakashi couldn't imagine Gai without it--or he could imagine Gai without it (very vividly now), but just not that way. And if Youth wasn't so in pain, Kakashi would have asked about those students, interested in finding out if any were Tentens or Nejis. "Mm hm. Especially his hair."

Once Gai looked like he was going to stay where put, Kakashi could afford to take his eye off his Rival. He had the PCD in his hand and was encoding a message to send to Sakura when he saw the flicker out of the corner of his eye. Gai...Youth...whichever he was, was flickering like a bad projection in a movie theater. It was too early for an event to end. ...Was this what happened when someone disappeared? They felt sick, forgot who they were, and faded-out of existence? That would explain why so often people completely faded off the network and were barely heard from long before they actually disappeared from Adstringendum.

PCD forgotten, his hand closed over Gai's arm, trying to anchor him to stay. But even so, he felt Gai disappear under his hand like a dissipating clone without the cloud of chakra. There, and gone, all in an instant.

He had just lost another friend. He had lost Gai again.

Staring at the empty space where Gai had just been laying, Kakashi tried to shake off the numb sadness. He didn't know how, but he was sure this was his fault. If "Youth" had been interested in "Dango" this wouldn't have happened, but because he was interested in his Rival...

...How was he going to tell Lee?

Stoneface couldn't sleep. Which wasn't too surprising--he kept on expecting to see blood stains over the journal, accompanied by sounds of alarm about either Zombie or Alive or some other maniac, and... well, it just wasn't that great for sleeping. Even the dreaded paperwork didn't send him off like it usually did, so he went out for a peaceful walk and a quiet smoke, just as he liked it. That was, it was quiet until he ran into one of the guards he could work with, a loud, boisterous woman who had suggested going to the Wilderness where there were games going on, or something like that. Seeing as he wasn't going to get his wish of a nice quiet night with that woman around, he reluctantly agreed.

Then, once he arrived, everything changed. It put him off balance for a moment, and he gripped onto the hilt of his sword, squinting at the change and the sudden lack of the person next to him. "Oh, great," he muttered, looking around at what appeared to be some sort of city. Well, nothing left to do but go find her, he supposed. He certainly couldn't go back to the elevator on his own.

And then he saw the all-too familiar sight of green clothing and an unmistakable shiny black bowl cut, on the... ground. What the hell could take somebody like Youth down? He wondered, and immediately began running over. "Youth?"

He was... flickering. And suddenly, he was gone. He stared at the empty space in bewilderment, unable to completely process what he'd just seen. The Tree had taken Youth. He disappeared. But no--nobody flickered once they disappeared, so that meant something different happened.

He fixed his gaze on Kakashi, his expression stony and his shoulders squared. "Bell?" He demanded. "What the hell is going on?"

Kakashi's attention was pulled from the space where Gai--Youth--had been by Stoneface's sudden arrival. He took in the man's appearance in an instant, measuring him up and deciding that Stoneface was no one Kakashi had ever seen in Adstringendum before, on the network or otherwise. Yet this man knew Kakashi--or at least he knew Bell. That in itself was disconcerting. He would remember someone like Stoneface. So this man was either a new arrival or...

...What kind of event was this?

Still unable to make sense of it himself, Kakashi climbed to his feet, giving one more look at the empty space and then back up to Stoneface, his gaze fixed on the other man.

"I'd be more inclined to answer that question if I knew who you were," he said firmly, shoving aside the emotional pain in favor of a heavy wall of protective caution. "And I'm not Bell." It was best to get that squared away before more confusion started. "Who are you?"

At any other time, Stoneface would have stopped in his tracks, questioned whether or not Bell had died and had been reborn in the same time without knowing it, something like that. But here, in the Wilderness? With Youth? With Youth gone, unbeatable, consistent, constant Youth, willing to jump headfirst into danger even when he had a family waiting at home, training twenty hours of the day? No, he wouldn't put up with it. Not now.

"There are times I will put up with you mucking about, Bell," he growled. "And now is not one of them. If you had died and been reborn, I think I would have heard about it."

His eyes flicked to the spot where Youth was, then back to Bell. Emotion welled in him, but decades of poker faces and squashing it down prevailed. "What happened to Youth?"

Kakashi didn't know who this man thought he was, but he was not in a mood to be pushed around when he had just lost his Rival. He had one friend to go back home to, and that friend seemed impossible to keep in this world. Even though he was sure it was the fault of Adstringendum itself, Kakashi felt responsible, like he should be able to anchor Gai to this world himself, should be able to protect his Rival as one was supposed to protect their teammates.

"I'm not mucking with you." Kakashi was all out of humor. Gai was gone. He was tiring of this stupid event and it's farcical game of identities. "I don't know who you are, but my name is Kakashi. Not Bell. The man you call Youth disappeared." Maybe this man, who identified him as Bell, would have more of an idea of what was going on than Kakashi did.

"Now," he said, measuring his words carefully, "I expect you to tell me who you are and what part you play in all this, before I tell you anything else."

Stoneface's stomach sank at Bell's words--Bell would never simply stand there and demand his identity when his partner had disappeared, when a father had disappeared. So this Kakashi wanted to mess hm about and play Silly Buggers? Fine. He'd go along.

"The man who is Youth," he corrected.

"I'm Stoneface, and the leader of the Watch. Youth is one of my men, a father and a friend to many. And I have no part in making--making whatever happened happen," he said grimly. "And now that I've fulfilled your expectations, I expect you to fulfill mine, and that is to tell me what happened here."

He didn't ask who Kakashi was, or if he was Bell's twin, or where he was or if he was safe. Frankly, he didn't give a damn.

At this point, without Gai--Youth--here to verify for him, Kakashi had to choose whether to take Stoneface's word at face value, or continue to question him. At least it was consistent with the story Youth told. Unsure how far this event, if it was still just an event, had spread, Kakashi decided it was best to play under Stoneface's conditions for now. Obviously, this memory loss and confusion wasn't an isolated event, nor did it seem to be just a preamble to disappearing.

Being unaffected by an event, it turned out, was more frustrating than being affected. It was enough to make one question their own sanity.

"Youth isn't the name I know him as," Kakashi explained. "It's not the name he has in my world. But he...approached me," 'propositioned' seemed inappropriate to say right now, in front of this stern man, "believing I was his partner, Bell. Youth and I spoke, and then he became ill. He disappeared before I could call a medic."

He paused. The best way to get answers was to ask questions, even if it meant admitting that the other possibly had more information than Kakashi himself did. "I didn't intend for him to disappear. Do you know what caused it?"

"No," said Stoneface shortly. "I don't know why."

"You said 'in your world'. You have memories? You know his real name?" He wouldn't believe it, but Kakashi didn't sound like the sort of name that you picked for yourself. Besides, the man didn't seem to have the faintest idea of who he was, and that wasn't right. Everybody knew who Stoneface, Captain of the Watch was.

He couldn't concentrate on the fact that Youth had vanished. Right now, he had to be a copper, so he let that part of his brain rumble into action, noting the details, picking at things that didn't seem right, being a nosy bastard. You did the job that was in front of you first and foremost. The rest would come later.

Once upon a time, this would have made him bewildered and miserable, but he was no longer the man he was when he arrived. This was commonplace. Now, all it did was make him angry, a cool, insidious anger that crept up his insides and helped him think, helped him question.

"He became ill," he repeated. "He was flickering when I saw him, lying down. How long did that flickering go on for?"

It had to be the work of the Tree. It was the only thing with powerful enough magic to make things just disappear like that. But why? Youth wasn't built to process the deeper mysteries of the Sphere, and why would it wait till he was in the Wilderness? Why not in the tree, where he could get stabbed easily?

Well, it had been worth a try. Kakashi had hoped for some answers, instead of being left wondering.

"Yes, I have memories." Was everyone memory-less with fake names and odd dreams? Apparently so. So Stoneface was not the man's real name, despite the fact that the moniker fit, and he was basing himself off a dream, the same as Bell and Youth had. "And yes, I know his real name, as well as the real name of the boy called Lotus. ...And maybe the real names of a few others." Like Itachi, whose writing was on that journal page Youth showed him, and possibly others who Kakashi knew only because of Adstringendum, but whose writing he did not know by heart. "I don't know you, though."

He nodded somberly. "Not long. I had enough time to reach for the communication device." Saying PCD meant nothing to Stoneface. It had meant nothing to Youth. "But that was it." He didn't even have a chance to say much of anything to Gai. No goodbye.

Edited at 2010-06-06 07:39 am (UTC)

Stoneface nodded absently, mind working behind his blank slate of a face. You disappeared if you did something wrong, if you knew too much. The only reason why Youth would disappear was if he learned too much here, where the Tree could not touch him.

"Don't tell me their real names," he said quickly. "Instead, tell me what you told Youth. Not the details, just the basics. How many names? How long did you talk for? How long were you talking before he looked ill?"

He stared at a point above Kakashi's head - one meter above, half a meter to the left to be exact - as he tried to figure it out, tried to remember if anybody had ever reported pain before their disappearance.

The scare was the information, then, if Stoneface didn't want to know their names. Was that alone capable of killing Youth? ...Did Kakashi kill him by telling him too much? He tried to focus past that and concentrated on reviewing the conversation, looking for the information Stoneface had asked for.

"I think I mentioned...two names, maybe...other than our own, and vaguely described home," he said. "We didn't talk ...all that long. I told him his real name, and mine, and discussed the orgin of Bell's and Lotus' names, and how we knew each other in our world. He told me about Lotus, about people named Genius and Fred and Crow, and about him and Bell. As partners." How long had they been talking before he noticed Youth looked ill? It seemed almost instantaneous, as soon as Youth realized that Kakashi was not Bell. "He looked sick right after I asked him who Bell was and called him by name. But, I thought it was because he had nearly accidentally cheated on his boyfriend with me." It was an easy mistake.

Kakashi silently watched Stoneface, looking into the man's poker-face for answers and finding few, if any, clear explanations of what had happened.

He wasn't sure he could trust Stoneface, nor was he sure he wanted to know the answer, but Kakashi ventured to ask anyway. He was fairly sure Stoneface was a blunt man, and wouldn't hold back on this. "I...killed him, didn't I?"

Stoneface stood silently when Kakashi asked the final question, searching for some different conclusion, but found no other evidence. He could be wrong--it was a distinct possibility. But if Youth started to look ill the first time he heard Bell's real name... Gods, there wasn't anything else, was there? Killed by talking, talking to the closest person he knew.

The Sphere was cruel. Irrationally, he wanted to grab Kakashi by the lapels and scream at him for his mistake, rage at him for not stopping the flow of information while he had the chance, bash his brains out. But that wouldn't bring Youth back, nor would it accomplish anything--apparently this man knew nothing of how Edensphere worked, so how would he know?

"Yeah," he said, finally. "You killed him. There are more of you out there, aren't there? Other people with memories? You pass the message down in that communication device you've got, and tell them not to tell any of those from Edensphere about their past lives. Everybody needs to know. If they don't, people will die. Do it now."

He nodded, faintly, having figured as much. So Gai--or Youth--was gone, then, and either this was just an event and Gai was gone, or ...or Edensphere was a real place, and their memoryless doubles where here, either as residents, or as visitors. Youth would not be going home to his "son" and his "partner," then, and it was all Kakashi's fault. He had robbed himself of one of his only friends, and in this other life, his lover.

It would have been nice if Stoneface had hit him and saved Kakashi the trouble of beating himself up over it later.

He was not going to argue. Had he been in Stoneface's position, Kakashi would have demanded the same of the man who killed his comrade, and perhaps not nearly as nicely. Kakashi knelt down and pulled the PCD from his vest pocket. A voice post was about all he needed. He wasn't sure he was in the mood to put on a show.

"People of Adstringendum." Kakashi's voice was plain, dull, but authoritative. "We are experiencing another event. You may meet people without memories, some identical to those you know, some even identical to those currently here." His voice stressed some emphasis. "Exercise caution in speaking to them, as learning too much about their own lives or the lives of those closest to them may result in their death. Even names can be dangerous."

He glanced down. "They will become extremely ill and then flicker out of existence. It does not even have to be much information. careful. Do not take this lightly."

Turning off the PCD, Kakashi took a moment before pocketing it. "I know it means little, now, but I'm sorry." Gai was the person who least deserved sometime like that happening to him.

Stoneface nodded curtly when Kakashi transmitted the message. It sounded as full as it could be. Gods, it was times like this that he really needed a drink. Things would look so much clearer. He could tell Lotus and Bell, and look through the world from the bottom of a bottle and figure it all out, and for a while everything would make sense. It wasn't as if he would make a habit out of it.

But it would become a hobby. One drink was one too many. You could forget your home, your family, your entire life, but somehow he never managed to forget the taste of whiskey on his tongue. Automatically, he patted his pockets and lit one of his thin cigars and gave it a brief puff.

It didn't make anything better, but it took the edge off, for now. When Kakashi finished and apologized, he extracted it from his mouth, and regarded the other man, mouth a jagged line across his scarred face.

"No," he said coldly. "It doesn't mean much. But you were ignorant."

In Stoneface's books, ignorance counted as a separate crime. I didn't know you weren't supposed to feed it that, I didn't know that it would kill him, I didn't know the alarm would go off, I didn't know I was foolish, I didn't know, didn't know, didn't know...

"I'll let my people know what's going on after I inform his son and partner. Make sure everybody is aware at your end." He paused. With this opportunity, how many people would allow danger of death to stop them from finding out about their pasts?

"Do your best," he said, bitterly. "I expect more deaths."

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