Obito stared at the ceiling. He had stayed like that since Kakashi left, unmoving. His mind was a mess. It oscillated between being numbly blank and recalling nothing, to a jumbled, scrambled mess of thoughts that collided and crumbled and went nowhere at all.
Finally, between the physical and mental strain, Obito had given up and let himself be dragged into the darkness.
It was an uneasy sleep. He found himself running desperately, sweat pouring down his back. It felt like something was preying on him, waiting for that one stumble before it would open its jaws and crunch down, swallowing him whole. Exhaustion reached his bones. Despair and terror gripped his heart. The thought of giving up wrapped its tendrils around his mind, lurking. But there was a hand behind him pushing him forward. A voice by his ear, murmuring soft words of encouragement and reassurance.
Despite not being able to make out the words, the voice miraculously gave Obito the strength to keep going.
Forward, forward without stopping. Finally, a ray of light illuminated the unending darkness that surrounded him. Crazed joy rushed through Obito and he sprinted, bolting headfirst into that light. But when he looked up, it was his worst nightmare that greeted him—
Kakashi's chidori, running through Rin's chest.
The hand extracted itself. Rin's body tilted back and thudded to the ground. Kakashi turned towards him and in the next heartbeat, morphed into his adult form.
Adult Kakashi walked towards Obito. He wore the white Hokage robes, but his right hand, his entire right forearm was soaked with fresh blood – Rin's blood.
"Kill me." Obito heard Kakashi say. It was the same gentle voice that had soothed him as he raced through the darkness. "For Rin."
It all happened in a flash. Obito watched in horror as his right hand lifted without his consent, Mokuton spike sprouting into existence on his palm and reaching towards Kakashi — towards the silver haired man's heart — slowly, so slowly. And Kakashi had stopped moving – why did you stop moving – and stood perfectly still and waited and– he smiled.
NO! Obito roared madly in his mind, No! I don't want to kill him, don't want to, don't want- NO…!
"…!" He jerked awake with a gasp. Obito was drenched in sweat. Staring at the ceiling, it was a long time before the boy could discern what was real, and what was a dream.
Obito turned towards the window. There was no Kakashi. Outside, the sun was already tilting west, engulfing the entire village in the orange halo of dusk. Peaceful and quiet. He had slept an entire day.
Belatedly, he realised that there was another person in the room. Obito turned his gaze to the other side of his bed. It was Kushina; she sat in silence on the chair beside his bed, head lowered, fingers scrunching the hem of her shirt so tight they trembled.
Noticing Obito's gaze, the red haired kunoichi lifted her head and awkwardly wiped at the tears. She managed to give him a strained smile, "Hungry? I brought you ramen."
"I… did I have a nightmare?" Obito murmured.
Kushina stopped smiling.
"You kept… calling for Kakashi and Rin."
A brief silence. A hand pressed lovingly onto his head, sifting through Obito's over grown, Madara-like hair.
"Don't worry," She shifted towards him. Her eyes were still rimmed with red, but the grey orbs exuded tenderness and determination, just like her voice. "We'll find Kakashi. Everything will be alright."
Obito stared back at her. Finally, he nodded, "Yeah."
Smiling again, Kushina helped Obito sit upright on the hospital bed. She cushioned the pillow behind him and hauled up an extra-large cooler. The entire room was flooded with the delicious aroma of ramen as Kushina pulled out the still steaming bowl.
"How about that?" She wiggled her eyebrows proudly, "This smell, haven't you missed it?"
Obito couldn't deny it – his grumbling stomach was the best answer. Kushina's eyes crinkled as she laughed and stuffed the bowl and chopsticks into Obito's hands. "Dig in!"
Heat from the bowl flowed from the centre of his palms and into his veins, rising steam swirling and sweeping his thoughts towards the past, the old days when nothing had happened. Every weekend, whenever circumstances allowed, the couple would always invite him, Kakashi and Rin for dinner. It was usually Minato who cooked – the only thing Kushina could do justice to was ramen.
To Obito who had no parents, was shunned by his own clan and lived on the far edge of the Uchiha compound by himself, the ramen had represented home.
He buried himself in the bowl, slurping in big bites.
Two knocks on the door later, Minato walked in. He was wearing freshly changed clothes and though his face still betrayed weariness, it was much better than in the morning.
"Obito, you woke up?" He smiled, giving the small container he held up a little shake. "Look what I got you."
Cheeks blissfully stuffed with ramen, Obito blinked up at his sensei. He immediately recognised the packaging. It was dessert from Amaguriama – probably his favourite red bean cake.
"Double sugar, plus a scoop of honey." Minato blinked playfully, "Right?"
Minato-sensei… he still remembers my preference.
Warmth surged through his chest, threatening to overflow from his eyes. The burst of emotion, however, was cut short by a figure, hopping down from the window sill and landing lightly in the room.
From the open window, a light breeze ruffled the silver haired man's clothes and carried with it the faint, sugary smell of sweets. He had went with Minato to the dangoya*, Obito guessed. His lips quirked up at the thought of his sensei – renowned for his sharp senses – being entirely oblivious of a living person following him around. Obito nearly smiled, until-
Until he registered it.
Kakashi was the Rokudaime Hokage, while now, the leader of Konoha was the Sandaime Hokage Sarutobi Hiruzen. In the span of twenty odd years, three people had came and went from the position.
What happened to the Sandaime? Who were the Yondaime and Godaime? Where did they go?
In a daze, Obito recalled the flying rumours during the Third Shinobi War. Rumours that whispered Minato-sensei would be the next Hokage when the conflict ended. But if Minato-sensei became Hokage then twenty years later he would have been only be forty or so, still in his prime. There was no way he would have retired.
Unless… Namikaze Minato had already died.
Obito's smile froze on his face. The thought turned his blood to ice. He recalled the scene that morning when Kakashi had gazed at Minato's back with an expression filled with yearning and sorrow.
That wasn't a gaze meant for someone you saw often.
"Obito?" Minato's voice dragged Obito back to the present. A pair of cerulean blue eyes watched him worriedly. "Did something happen?"
"Uh… no, I'm alright. Just daydreaming." Obito ducked his head. His face was deathly pale. "Thank you, Minato-sensei."
Minato didn't look convinced, but the man remained silent as he strode over, placing the box of red bean cake down on the table and settling himself on the empty bed.
Obito continued slurping up ramen. The Namikaze couple sat on either side of him, chattering idly about what had happened in the village during the past six months, about the grandmas and grandpas Obito had helped… only never touching the subject that was Kakashi and Rin.
Obito spent most of the time in a brooding silence, occasionally grunting out a syllable or two in reply. He heard Kakashi move across the room, settling at the foot of his bed and slouching against the wall. Obito dared to sneak a fleeting glance at the silver haired man. He was staring at Kushina. Staring at Kushina with that look.
Is it possible… that Kushina died too?
In his mouth, the ramen turned into wax. He set down his chopsticks.
"Seiko-baasan says the peach trees you helped her plant in spring had already produced fruit. When you're discharged from the hospital, we could go visit her. Give her a surprise. She would be so happy…" Kushina paused as she noticed Obito's strangeness. "…Obito?"
On the other side, Minato laid a concerned hand on his shoulder.
"…I'm fine, really." Swallowing last of the ramen, Obito managed to force out a smile –though he knew, it probably looked worse than crying. "I'm just… full."
Another stretch of slience.
"Alright," It was Minato that broke it. He took the bowl and chopsticks from Obito, passing them to Kushina who accepted without a word and placed it back into the cooler. "The red bean cake is right here in case you want supper."
"Kushina and I still have some matters to attend to," The Yellow Flash stood up, "but we'll be back tomorrow morning."
Obito knew that in peacetime, Minato wasn't so busy that he needed to work extra hours in the evening and neither did Kushina. They just knew he needed some time alone, and Obito gratefully accepted the considerate offer.
Minato-sensei, Kushina-nee. Thank you. The door shut with a soft click, barring his sight of the couple.
Then he turned.
"Kakashi… I need to talk to you. Somewhere we can't be interrupted."
Under Kakashi's guidance, Obito cast a genjutsu in the hospital room. Anyone who came in would be caught and assumed that Obito was still sleeping in his bed.
For Minato and Kushina, who Obito knew would see through the illusion, he left a small piece of paper telling them he was just going for a walk and would be back in no time.
Finishing up the arrangement, under another genjutsu, Kakashi jumped out the window with Obito on his back. They headed for the top of the Hokage Mountain.
The sky was already dark and a gentle night breeze ruffled Obito's hair. He lay quietly on Kakashi's back, watching familiar streets sweep past beneath them. His mind considered something he had already knew, but hadn't paid any close attention to.
Thirty-three-year-old Kakashi was totally different from his thirteen-year-old counterpart.
What had happened in those twenty years that could change a person so much?
He already had an answer— his 'death', Rin's death, the very possible deaths of Minato and Kushina, meeting with the him who followed Madara's plan of upending the world. Perhaps, there were other things that had happened too, things Obito didn't know about. Though he did know, just the things he was aware of were enough to rake deep wounds into Kakashi's heart and form scars that could never be healed.
Just those things were enough to clench Obito's heart and make him fight for air.
They had stopped atop the mountain. Sliding off Kakashi's back, Obito took in the brightly lit village below them, bustling with night life.
"Did Minato-sensei become Hokage?" He asked suddenly.
"Yeah." Voice soft, the man behind him replied, "He was the Yondaime."
"Who was the Godaime?"
"It was Tsunade-sama." Kakashi said, then tensed in realisation, "Obito, you…"
"What happened in those twenty years? Why did you become the Rokudaime?" Obito turned. He stared into Kakashi's eyes, "Sandaime, Minato-sensei and Tsunade-sama. Where did they go?"
Kakashi fell silent. He struggled to wrestle his expression into blankness, except his eyes betrayed him with its endless well of grief.
"Before, you were looking at Minato-sensei and Kushina-nee like that." He tightened his fists. "You won't be able to trick me."
"They all died, right?"
Kakashi was still for a long time. Then he nodded stiffly.
"…A year from now."
It was such brief gap that it caught Obito by surprise, even more brutal than the worst scenarios he had imagined. His mind reeled from the blow, body rendered stock still like a statue.
He had never expected Minato and Kushina to die so soon. He never expected Kakashi to be aloneso soon.
"…How?" He croaked, finally recovering from the shock.
Kakashi turned away. Obito felt his heart plummet from a cliff. A tendril of ice rose from the soles of his feet, snaking around his limbs and spine and seeped into his veins, chilling him to the bone.
"…Me." Obito stumbled back, choking as the unimaginable yet so very possible truth tumbled from his own tongue in a trembling voice. "I killed them, didn't I?"
Kakashi turned back towards him, agony burning in his eyes. "Obito, you…"
Clear night air whisked the anguished howl into the sky, dissipating in the wind. Obito stepped back and then half his foot balanced on nothing. Kakashi's eyes widened in horror as his arms reached forward to catch him.
"Stay back!" Obito demanded. Kakashi froze. "Tell me everything! What the hell happened to you in those twenty years, and what the hell I did– everything! Everything single thing! Tell me!"
The raven-haired teen lifted his hand and jerked it behind himself. A blood red sharingan blazed to life, half-crazed and wild. "Or I'll jump down from here!"
Threatening suicide. He knew how childish it was, but he had no choice. He didn't know how else to make Kakashi talk.
He just knew that the man in front of him would no doubt cave under his despicable action.
Obito took a deep breath.
"Tell me, Kakashi." He whispered, staring at the struggle dancing across the silver haired Hokage's face. "I can take it. Those things won't happen again," he vowed. "Not in this timeline, so it wouldn't matter if you told me."
"I want to know everything."
And so, he got it— everything. Everything that was so much crueller than he could have imagined.
He released the Kyuubi, killing Minato and Kushina, orphaning their child Naruto who then suffered because of the monster sealed within him. He sowed dissent between his own clan and Konoha, helping the clan heir in a brutal massacre of the Uchiha. The only survivor later became Kakashi's student, Sasuke, who walked down the road of revenge. He manipulated Nagato that had Madara's Rinnegan implant, using him to turn the peace-advocating Akatsuki into a S-class criminal organisation. He murdered jinchuuriki for the bijuu, declaring war with the Five Great Shinobi Nations and instigated the Fourth Shinobi World War.
Oh also, when his subordinate Pein attacked Konoha, the man standing beside him had once been killed.
Kakashi had breezed through the recount, talking lightly about what transpired in his world. Despite that, it was easy for Obito to paint an accurate picture on how deep and dark those sins were. So many people had died, so much blood had soaked through the earth and so many people's lives were changed forever into a painful struggle— all the while he stood on countless bones and corpses, hands stained with blood and bound by ghosts just to achieve an illusion, a dream. A total lie.
He felt shocked, shocked that in another timeline he could have strayed to such an insane path of no return. He felt terrified, terrified that if this Kakashi hadn't appeared and took him back to Konoha, he would have done the same.
It was Kakashi that saved Obito.
For that, Obito felt his heart clench. Not for himself, but for the man who had saved him.
This person had lost everything. He lost everything and recovered, standing back up from the despair. He held onto his belief for eighteen years, only for it to be smashed into pieces on the battlefield. But even after that crippling blow, he tried to piece himself together and knowing he could die, fought with the adult Obito.
And now, now Obito knew how Kakashi had lost his sharingan. Madara — the man Obito regarded as his saviour, his light in creating the perfect world — had gouged it from Kakashi's face.
Drawing his knees up, Obito hugged his legs. Wind blew across the mountain top. Paper-thin hospital robes fluttering in the air, he began shaking uncontrollably. Obito didn't know whether it was from the cold or the fear bubbling in his heart. It wasn't until he sneezed heavily and sniffled with a thoroughly blocked nose that he touched his face and felt cold wetness.
A hand circled his shoulders, slowly turning him towards the left. Another hand slowly caressed his scarred face, fingertips wiping away the tracks left by tears.
"I didn't want to see you grieve and guilt over the things you didn't do. That's why I didn't want to tell you." Kakashi gazed at him, eyes gentle and sad, "Like you said, those things won't happen anymore. Minato-sensei will live, he'll be Hokage for a long time; Naruto will grow up surrounded by his parents love, and have a happy childhood. And you will become Hokage, taking the position from sensei."
"You'll both be splendid Hokage. Much, much better Hokage than me."
He was describing the perfect future that didn't belong to him, a future he never saw and will never see.
It was no use no matter how hard Obito blinked, the next second his vision would still be blurred by tears. He gave up on that.
"You… shouldn't you hate me?" He sobbed, "To this world, to Konoha, to you… I destroyed so much…"
"Then shouldn't you hate me?" Kakashi shot back with a quiet sigh, "If it wasn't for me, who killed Rin, why would you have walked down that path?"
Obito choked up.
"And," He heard Kakashi continue, "even in my timeline, being able to see you return to who you were, being able to say goodbye like that– I'm satisfied."
"Like I said, whatever you do, whoever you become... In my heart, you're always a hero."
Hero. After hearing that winding story from the other timeline, after hearing about his unjustifiable crimes, that title sounded so ironic.
"I'm not…" Shaking his head, Obito retorted in a voice laced with unending bitterness. "I'm not as good as you think I am… I don't deserve it. I'm the trash that abandoned his comrades, and you… you are the hero."
After blurting that out, Obito found Kakashi staring at him with incredulity brimming in his eyes. Then he realised—
Kakashi had never, ever dared to think he would hear that from Obito.
The realisation was like a dull, rusted knife dragging itself across Obito's heart over and over until the pain cut off his breath.
All these years, what had Kakashi gone through to become so mature, patiently enduring and gentle? Had he been hanging onto his guilt towards me all this time? Did he think he owed me all this time?
He reached out and grabbed Kakashi's waist, pulling him into a crushing hug and buried his face into the other's shoulder. The scent of fresh blood mixed with salve wafted into his nose, making his eyes water again.
Some moments later Obito felt Kakashi's arms circle him carefully, one hand rubbing soothing circles into his back while the other ran through his long hair.
"I'm also… not as strong as you imagine, Obito." The silver haired man murmured into the top of his head, voice tinged with a barely noticeable sob. "I'm also human, I also fall prey to weakness, hate, despair. Once I thought the world was hell and living was meaningless. Happiness always too fleeting while pain was what lasted forever."
"I thought about giving up and abandoning everything to meet with you again in the other world. But every time I had those thoughts I would think of you; you gave your life to save mine, you gave your eye to me, you said you would watch the future with me. It's the sharingan you gave me, and those words you gave me that supported me through my darkest times."
"For the hell I was in, you were my only light."
"Kakashi…" Obito whimpered. He didn't know what he should say, what he could say except repeat the other's name again and again. "Kakashi…"
"It's all over," was Kakashi's reply. He loosened his arms and the two separated just a little. "In my timeline, those things have become the past. In this timeline, being able to see you come back to Konoha, walk the path that you should have walked… it makes me happier than anything else in the world."
"I… I promise you." Obito wiped away his tears furiously and took a deep breath, trying to calm his own voice. "I will watch Minato-sensei become Hokage. He would be safe and sound – him and Kushina both – Naruto would have a perfect family. The Sandaime won't die, the Uchiha won't be segregated from Konoha, Orochimaru and Danzo's treachery wouldn't succeed. Itachi and Sasuke would grow up peacefully."
"And then one day, I would become Minato-sensei's successor, protecting Konoha and the world." And the you in this world.
He lifted his right hand and held out the pinky. A heartbeat later, Kakashi mirrored his actions, his own pinky hooked tightly with Obito's.
"And that's all I ask for." The silver haired man crinkled his eyes in a smile, "With this… I can leave resting easy."
As if to prove his words, blinding white light flared as soon as a he finished speaking. Bit by bit his body faded, becoming half translucent. Even the finger still intertwined with Obito's grew intangible.
"Kakashi—!" Obito's eyes widened, hands grasping wildly and touching nothing but cold air.
"Just enough time, huh. I've said everything I should." Comparably, Kakashi's reaction was much calmer. Yearning and reluctance battled in his eyes, but there was more acceptance. Acceptance of what fate had offered. "I don't belong in this timeline… I have to leave eventually."
Obito's lips tightened into a white line. "Is there…" He began quietly, "Is there anything you want me to pass on to thirteen-year-old you?"
Kakashi looked surprised. He lowered his lashes in contemplation. "Yes… I guess, pass this sentence to him, then."
"Hopefully in this altered future, he wouldn't be like me– trash whose life was filled with failure."
Without waiting for Obito's reply, he leant forward to press a kiss on the raven-haired boy's forehead.
"I guess it's goodbye forever… Obito."
The sudden gust of wind nearly swept Obito off his feet. Blinding light flashed even brighter and, in that moment, swallowed the silver haired man's smile. The next heartbeat, his figure dissipated into countless fragments of light and dispersed, scattered by the wind and whirling into the dark night.
Obito lifted his head, staring at the light fading into obscurity in that small patchwork of sky. He never shifted his gaze, even as muscles screamed in stiffened protest and his eyes threatened to burst with tears.
Until a hesitant voice from behind knocked him out of his trance.
He flinched and whirled around.
Kakashi— thirteen-year-old Kakashi, his Kakashi, had appeared in the clearing from an unknown moment. He still wore his clothes from the day before, though the blood and grim had been washed and the wounds he sported were treated, bandaged carefully.
Two identical sharingan stared at each other, bloody red orbs spinning with a tornado of complicated emotions in a long, long stretch of silence.
"…I'm sorry." He didn't know how long had passed when Kakashi broke the silence. The silver haired teen averted his gaze and lowered his head. "I couldn't… protect Rin. I wasn't… wasn't strong enough, couldn't keep Kiri from taking her and it… it forced her to make that kind of choice…"
The right hand bare of armguards clenched into a fist, his voice and body starting to tremble uncontrollably.
But Obito's focus was elsewhere.
"…What did you say?" He stared at Kakashi, incredulous, "What do you mean… 'forced her to make that kind of choice'?"
Adult Kakashi never explained why he killed Rin; and Obito had decided he wouldn't look into it – even if Kakashi had killed her for the sake of the village, he would try to forgive and understand Kakashi.
Apparently, it wasn't that simple.
"Obviously I meant…" Kakashi lifted his gaze, totally lost as he looked at Obito, "the choice to protect Konoha from Kiri, and suiciding by leaping into the Chidori." When he voiced it shakily, the teen's eyes flashed in obvious agony. Suddenly he perked up like he realised something. "Could it be you didn't kno-!"
Obito leapt on him before the boy could finish, crushing him under his weight. Kakashi grunted as hard rocks crashed into his back, but didn't push the raven away. "…Obito?"
Obito didn't reply. A hand fisted impossibly tight in Kakashi's clothes as he latched onto the slight, thin body beneath him.
So it's like that. His said to himself. I get it, I get it now.
Why adult Kakashi wouldn't explain Rin's death, why he wanted Obito to kill him. Because he wanted to make sure that this Kakashi couldn't come back and remained forever in the peaceful future of the timeline twenty years ahead with his students; he wanted the truth to be forever buried, wanted Obito to kill him as his enemy, to vent his hate and walk out from the shadow of Rin's death, to live a normal life.
In the entire world… How can there be someone so stupid?
Kakashi, really, for your entire life, you're an incurable idiot.
"It's nothing." He sniffled, "You went to the world twenty years in the future? How was it there?"
As if not quite expecting the subject change, Kakashi was silent for a moment before he answered quietly.
"Good." He replied, "The war had ended, the Five Great Shinobi Nations were at an unprecedented peace, everyone was happy. But… you weren't there."
"I will be this time." Obito moved his head, rubbing his messy, overgrown hair against the other teen's cheeks, "Us twenty years later will be so much happier than them."
The pair of hands that hang in the air finally, hesitantly, circled his back.
Obito lifted his head. In the gathering darkness, a shooting star streaked across the sky, disappearing into the distance.
He wouldn't pass that sentence to Kakashi after all, Obito thought.
Because in his hell, this person had also lit a light for him.
A/N： *Dangoya （団子屋）– Japanese for sweets shop. Um, I'm not actually sure if Amaguriama is a dangoya or okashiya, since I wasn't sure if okashi (sweets in Japanese) included stuff like daifuku, dango and stuff like that, or was just candy i.e. chocolates and gummy bears. I went with dangoya because well, I like dango? Sorry :P
That's it! Regarding young!Kakashi's experiences in the future, and what happened after the Rokudaime returned to his own timeline… those will be explained in the next works of this series – 'Shadow of the Light'. However before that, there is going to be an interlude called 'The Day Obito Became Hokage' which directly follows what happened in 'Light in the Hell', and kanoven is working on it now. Hopefully it will be updated soon!
Thanks for R&R!