Warnings: Bits of bad language, blood, light goriness, AU, possible pre-slash if you want to see it that way.
Word Count: ~2600 (complete)
Pairings: pre-Kakashi/Obito, though it can also be read as gen.
Summary: Left or right, there's always a choice. Obito chooses to return, and the world rearranges itself from there.
Disclaimer: I don’t hold the copyrights, I didn’t create them, and I make no profit from this.
Notes: Fuck I love Obito. This is ridiculous because he’s totally not the type of hero I tend to go for, anti-villain or not, but I just…geh. This is me, rereading all of the Obito-centric chapters and forgoing sleep because they just tear my damned heart out and play with it.
Hell, now I'm freaking terrified that Kishimoto’s going to kill him off permanently. Survive, Obito, damn you!
(Title is from Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas, because I’d like to think it fits the change in mentality Obito suffers after the cave.)
The blood lies in pools and runs in rivers, black in the moonlight. Obito grips Rin’s corpse just a little tighter, bows his head with a vain wish that he’ll wake up.
In a dream you can do anything you want, Madara’s voice whispers in his memory, and nothing on this earth has ever, ever been more tempting. Even bring the dead back to life.
He considers it, just for a moment. A world of peace and happiness with no death and only joy. It sounds perfect, ideal, but Obito has been an orphan for as long as he can remember, the outcast Uchiha who can barely do jutsus and is forever late to everything, too cheerful and too loud and too bright, pariah even in the midst of family. He knows by now that anything that sounds so good is most certainly not so straightforward.
There's one other body in the clearing that’s still whole, and Obito raises his head, looks over at it. Kakashi is pale and his breathing is unsteady. He just killed Rin, but—
But Obito remembers Kakashi's back in front of him, lean body and a shock of white hair, blood splattering and one eye lost forever in defending a teammate. And the Kiri nin around them—there's certainly more going on here than there seems, and Obito can't force himself to lose hope, to believe that Kakashi would do this without reason.
He came back for them, after all, that day. He came back and saved Obito at cost to himself, and Obito can't bear to think that he put his trust in someone who would kill a teammate—his last teammate—without a reason.
The Uchiha have always loved too strongly, to the point of insanity—and past it. It’s one of the reasons emotion is discouraged, that they looked down on Obito when he wore his heart on his sleeve. But Obito has always been a poor Uchiha, in everything. Rin is everything to him, all of the world’s kindness given human form, but…
But she’s not the only one he’s been living for.
Minato and Kakashi are a part of his heart, too. Minato is also kind, and when he looks at Obito his eyes don’t look through him like everyone else’s. He’s taught Obito everything, helped wherever he can, and he’s the brilliant, blinding, innately good jounin that Obito wants nothing more than to emulate. And Kakashi…Kakashi is a rival, a goal, a friend when Obito's never had one before. Kakashi claims not to care, to only be with them because of rules, but Obito thinks of him as he last saw him, that last brief glimpse before Rin removed his eye. Kakashi hadn’t been crying, not quite, but the devastation on his face was more poignant than any tears could be.
Obito chose to give his life for Kakashi. That he’s still alive doesn’t make the gesture worthless. Indeed, what would cheapen it would be Obito's refusal to live at all.
Closing his eye, Obito leans down and whispers to Rin what he never managed to say while she was alive. It’s a blessing, a prayer more than anything else, a brief thought and half a hope that wherever she’s gone, it’s to a better world. One where children don’t have to fight wars started by greedy old men without care for the future.
Maybe she’ll never hear him, but maybe she will. Maybe it will be a comfort to her, wherever she is.
There will be reinforcements coming from Konoha soon, Obito is sure. They’ll take care of Rin’s body. Right now, he has to focus on the living.
Kakashi is still breathing, thankfully, and Obito kneels down next to him, weary to the bone. He rests his fingers over the fluttering pulse in Kakashi's throat and says softly, “Sorry, Zetsu. I think we’ll have to say goodbye here.”
There's a long pause, and then with a whirl of white and black, the android separates from him. Instantly, all of Obito's muscles seem to turn to water, and he only just manages to catch himself before he collapses over Kakashi's supine form. As he levers himself back upright with all the strength he can muster, a hand scrubs through his unruly hair. “Thought that might be your choice,” Zetsu says, and there's a note in his voice that Obito can't quite translate. “I’ll leave you here, then. Nice knowing you, kid.”
It was, even if Obito never really had a choice in getting to know the android. But he keeps his eyes on Kakashi and doesn’t watch Zetsu walk away. The Mangekyo in his right eye is warm-hot, like tears, and he can feel the barest bit of resonance from Kakashi's.
He killed Rin, a part of his mind whispers, deathly quiet and subversive. Obito grits his teeth and forces it down. He’s not the type to abandon a comrade, nor is he too stupid to see that there are other factors at work here.
(Maybe, maybe, in another world he’d be so blinded by grief that he would take Madara at his word, but Obito knows Rin, knows how she felt about Kakashi, knows how he feels about his team. They're his family, the only one he’s ever known, and he’s not about to let that slip through his fingers. Not now. Not ever.)
And for all Rin’s devotion to Kakashi, Kakashi always looked at Obito. He gave up his eye for Obito, came back for Obito. Obito isn't the type of person who can ignore such loyalty, and certainly not in a friend.
That’s the reason he reaches out and wraps a hand around Kakashi's shoulder with the last remnants of his strength. That other dimension opens again, swallows them back up, and it’s pure instinct to use it, to step in through one side of the dimension and out through the other, dragging Kakashi along with him.
Home, he thinks, and it’s a cry, a lament for a world of dreams that will never, can never be. For a dying old man who’s lived as a nuke-nin trapped by an idea of paradise that will destroy the world rather than save it. Home, he thinks, and it’s a relief, because home is where Minato-sensei and Kakashi are, where they’ll mourn Rin and celebrate her life, miss her every day of their lives but become strong shinobi that she can be proud of. Home, and that’s where everything will never be the same again, but where it won't matter because it’s home.
Konoha, he thinks, Minato-sensei, help, and the dimension whirls away and he falls, Kakashi at his side, to land on the hard floor in front of the Hokage's desk. He cries out, body jarred by the impact and entire right side becoming one huge, throbbing ache, and then clamps his teeth on the sound and wills away the tears of pain as his ears ring with it.
When the world resettles, there are hands on him, big and gentle, supporting him even as a sharp, familiar voice calls orders. Obito opens his eye, vision blurry with exhaustion and tears, and can just make out a shock of sunshine-yellow hair.
“Minato…sensei?” he manages.
“Obito.” The name is a whisper, but the hands, so careful and gentle, clutch him just a little bit closer. “Obito, Obito. You're alive.”
That brings the tears back, and Obito's breath catches in his throat. “Rin,” he tells his teacher. “Rin—she—Kakashi stabbed her, don’t know why, just saw the—” He breaks off when his throat grows too tight for words, but there's a hand in his hair and the feel of Minato's chakra all around him, and that’s a little bit better, no matter how dark the world is right now.
“Shh,” Minato murmurs, fingers ghosting over the deep scars on his right cheek. “We’ll figure out what happened, Obito, don’t worry. Let’s get you to the hospital, all right?”
Obito doesn’t want to go to the hospital; he wants to know what happened to Rin, wants to make sure Kakashi is still alive, wants to tell Minato about Uchiha Madara living under a mountain somewhere near the border. But he’s tired—Mokuton and then Mangekyo, all in one day, is apparently too much for a body that’s still healing.
Despite his wants, his eye closes as exhaustion washes over him, too dark for even dreams.
That’s a blessing, probably. Obito doesn’t want to think of dreams right now.
It’s a surprise to wake up back in Konoha's hospital, because a very large part of Kakashi wasn’t expecting to wake up at all. His chidori took far too much chakra, and his own shock likely contributed to his passing out as well.
Rin, he thinks, and can't bear to open his eyes. Because what he’ll see when he does is a world where he’s alone except for Minato-sensei, where Rin is dead and he failed to honor Obito's last request. Rin is gone, killed by his own hand, and Obito—
“You’re awake. That’s good,” Minato says, off to the side. Kakashi hesitates a moment longer, but finally opens his eyes and looks over at his teacher, who’s sitting backwards in a chair beside his bed. Minato's eyes are serious, regardless of the faint smile on his face as he looks at Kakashi, and there's no humor in his voice when he asks, “What happened?”
Kakashi tells him, flat facts without an ounce of inflection. He doesn’t try to soften the blow of each sentence, keeps it short and simple, and hates himself more as each syllable drips from his tongue.
Obito, he wants to say. Obito, I'm so sorry. You gave everything for me and I couldn’t even keep the girl you loved so much alive.
Minato listens without moving, eyes faintly narrowed. When Kakashi's voice finally subsides to a weary murmur, he nods just once and sits back. “I see,” he says with a sigh, dragging his fingers through his blond hair, and then is silent.
Kakashi takes a moment to look around the room, and is surprised to see another bed on his left. It’s shrouded with curtains, but Kakashi can just make out the dark shadow of another body, and he frowns. Usually jounin get rooms to themselves—a side effect of generally being ‘unique’ and ‘quirky’ enough to drive everyone else insane. He hadn’t thought there were so many casualties that they’d started doubling up rooms.
“Ah,” Minato murmurs, noticing the direction of Kakashi's gaze. Kakashi looks back just in time to see what looks startlingly like a smile cross the man’s tired features, and his brain but stutters to a halt, wondering how Minato can bear to make such an expression when their four-man cell has been reduced to a mere two. Then the older man rises to his feet and says, “That’s the one who brought you back. He exhausted himself doing it, though.” The tone is fond, familiar, and—
And then Minato pulls back the curtain, throws it open and Kakashi is left staring at an achingly, horrifyingly familiar face, scarred and strained and deeply unconscious but still utterly, undeniably Obito.
He finds that he can't even begin to recall how to breathe.
Minato retakes his seat with that smile still on his face, and now Kakashi understands, wants to echo it, grin madly and shout and weep—would, if he weren’t entirely frozen with shock. “He hasn’t woken up yet,” Minato says. “I don’t know what happened to him, but the doctors say half his body’s been replaced with something that’s halfway between plant matter and the Shodaime Hokage. Whoever did it was a genius, but they can't identify who it was. Not someone Konoha is familiar with, at least.”
Kakashi understands maybe one word out of seven, a bare handful of syllables, because he can't tear his senses away from that still body long enough for anything. Obito smells of earth and stone, of green and growing things, when before he always carried the scent of candy and overly bright, fizzy cheer. The scars Kakashi can see are deep and dangerously severe, twisting Obito's face, but that’s easy enough to overlook.
Anything is easy enough to overlook, with Obito alive and breathing next to him.
Kakashi glances at Minato, sees the relief shining in blue eyes, and then turns back to his…friend? They could be friends now, he supposes. They’ve sacrificed for each other, worked together. It’s been mostly sacrifices on Obito's end, but Kakashi's hardly about to let it stay that way.
The team of two is back to being a team of three, and even if they’ve lost one, even if Rin is never coming back—even if she died, forced Kakashi to kill her with his own hand—three is still a good number.
They can build from there.
Obito wakes to light and bright and a slim, strong hand tucked around his, a weight dipping the mattress beneath him. He blinks his eye open to see the whiteness of Konoha's hospital, and turns his head to see a shock of equally white hair spread out on the bedspread beside him. Kakashi is slumped over the side of the bed, hand more clutching than holding Obito's, but his grip is…warm.
Closing his eye again, Obito thinks of blood and bodies and a fallen friend, the girl he loved almost to the point of insanity dead by that same friend’s hand. He thinks of the heat of Kakashi's touch, the expression of bone-deep relief he wears even in sleep, and knows that whatever happened, whatever reason Kakashi had for his actions, it will be ironclad.
They’ve all been served harsh fates, but here and now…
Perhaps that’s easing, if only just a bit.
Obito turns his hand over, lets his fingers grip Kakashi's in return, and for once doesn’t try to excuse or hide the wet-hot tears that slide down