A/N: Here it is at last! A full chapter for you to enjoy. And, warning, it's a big one that I'm sure will leave you with a mix of emotions that you won't know how to deal with.
Thank you all for the continued support and all of the messages.
I hope this is enough thanks!
What is true emptiness,
But to not even have a past?
This very moment is all I have.
I will shed this mask.
- Tsuki No Ookisa (English Version) by aliangmusic (original by Nogizaka)
I Will Shed This Mask
"What are you doing in my office?" Obito asked, strolling through the door with one eyebrow cocked at the two men casually seated on his couch. It was early and he'd only just gotten to work, so he wasn't looking forward to whatever time-consuming mess was headed his way.
"Erm, the daily briefing?" Aoba offered, as a question rather than an answer, glancing up in confusion. "Every day, the Senior and Junior Manager get together with the Senior's assistant for a briefing before we go on the clock."
"I know that's what all the other floors do," Obito said, sliding into his chair, "but did you really think that's how we do things here?"
"Tried to tell him, Tobi." Zetsu chimed in happily.
"You did not!" Aoba hissed.
"Well, I may have been a little subtle." The assistant mumbled thoughtfully. "Your fault for not being able to pick it up, really."
"Alright, you two. Play nice." Obito warned, glancing between the two of them with a sigh. He should have known Zetsu would try and wind Aoba up at every turn. It was just like him. After all, he probably felt he was being replaced now that Obito had a Junior. It was petty, really. Like siblings struggling for dad's attention.
"We don't have briefings." Zetsu admitted dutifully. "We don't need them. I handle everything on Tobi's schedule and fill him in on everything that's need-to-know as and when it becomes relevant. It saves time and means he doesn't need to be in so early."
"That's breaking company policy."
"Welcome to how we do things on Floor 37." Obito retorted, logging onto his computer to get his day started. That should have been enough, but out of the corner of his eye, Obito could tell that Aoba wasn't happy.
"Obito, Human Resources are really cracking down on us." Aoba started, almost pleading in his tone. "They've been harassing me ever since my promotion because you ignore them. We need to start following procedure. Starting with the little things- like morning briefings."
"Fine, we'll do the little mother meetings." The older man conceded with a sigh and a roll of his eyes. "But the time I come into work will not change in accordance to the demands of my Junior."
"Aoba and I can do the briefing and I can fill you in on anything you've missed." Zetsu offered, receiving a unanimous sound of agreement from the others.
One problem sorted.
"Now that's out the way," Aoba went on, sounding so professional and grown up now that he had a new suit and a better job title, "we have a little problem."
"Of course we do." Obito sighed.
"Hebi's been hijacking our clients."
"Uchiha Enterprises' in general, but there's a definite focus on Floor 37's list." Obito looked up from his computer, considering it carefully. He knew something was coming from the moment the three reps from Hebi invaded his office, but now that it was actually happening, it was just one more problem he really didn't need.
"None of your personal clients have been affected, Tobi." Zetsu spoke up, glancing down at the file in his hand. "A couple have been approached but they're all too dependent on you to consider any other deals. After realizing the pattern, it seems that Hebi just stopped bothering."
"So we're talking about clients that the sales agents are dealing with?"
"Yeah." Aoba cut in. "But it's not a case of clients we've already signed being stolen. By the time our sales agents get to them, they've already got a contract with Hebi."
"They have access to our client lists." Zetsu said, like it was a mild inconvenience rather than a major catastrophe. It was amusing, as always, and managed to get a little smirk from his boss. Aoba looked exasperated- yet to adjust to the little rhythm Obito and Zetsu had been moving to for years. "So, it's not completely stupid to assume that someone from within the company is feeding them those lists."
"Let's not start on the conspiracy theories." Obito shot back. "It's probably some unfulfilled button-pusher jumping at the chance to earn some extra, tax-free cash. Hebi made an offer, said button-pusher takes it. It happens all the time."
"We need to report this." Aoba declared, out of step as usual.
"No." Obito said with a sigh. It was going to take some getting used to, having Aoba stumbling around behind him. "I don't want to end up back in court for something so trivial."
"But surely they're operating in bad faith!"
"Try proving it in a court of law." Zetsu teased. "It isn't worth the hassle or the expenses. The court will shrug it off as two companies competing with one another like children on the playground."
"So, what do we do?" Aoba asked, brow furrowed in frustration. "We can't just ignore it- we're missing out on clients."
"Let me handle it." Obito shrugged. "This kind of stuff happens all the time. We just hide it from the common employees. It's all new to you because you're only just entering the big dog's ring, but it's a regular occurrence."
"That makes me feel a little better." Aoba said, with genuine relief on his all-too-young face.
"Anything else on the agenda, or can I get on with my work?"
Aoba's eyes narrowed into a glare, lips curling into a pout, as Obito teased him mercilessly.
He was such an asshole.
But a cool one.
"I feel Zetsu's next bonus should be cut." Aoba announced, shooting the assistant a childish scowl. Obito chuckled. Zetsu looked completely appalled.
It turned out, over the next few weeks, that having Aoba around was actually rather useful after all. Once he got into the swing of things, he was efficient enough to take the reins and hold them in place whilst Obito started working behind the scenes with Itachi. With his Junior covering his back, it was a lot easier for Obito to get everything in motion.
The trouble with takeover attempts is just how fast they happen. Everything has to be moved forward as soon as it's set up. So many lives altered in an instant. No time to wonder if what you're doing is for the best.
Obito wasn't worried for himself, but Itachi.
Itachi was going against his own father, sneaking around in the dark to stab the man who had raised him in the back. By anyone's account, that was bound to stir up some inner conflict and there was concern that once it was done and dusted, Itachi would be consumed with guilt.
"You worry too much." Itachi kept repeating, again and again. "It's not like I'm taking my father's life. Just his job."
"Which is his life." Obito would always point out, as much as the younger Uchiha liked to protest.
"I'm fine, Obito." Was always the generic retort. "Stop pondering my emotional wellbeing and help me figure this out."
"Already bossing me around, huh? You definitely have CEO potential."
Really, Sasuke was the main problem.
From the moment he found out about Itachi and Obito's plan, he'd avoided them entirely. Yes, he still turned up on Floor 49 every day to act as Itachi's Junior Manager, but the spark between them had gone. Every bit of interaction was stone-cold professionalism and nothing more. No more bets, no jokes, no teasing or competitiveness. Nothing.
And as for Obito, he hadn't heard from Sasuke at all.
There was, of course, the niggling thought that Sasuke had gone to Fugaku and warned him- but they'd expected that. Fugaku was going to find out one way or another. Takeover attempts happened very quickly but, not only that, any competent CEO recognized the signs of an approaching threat. Even if Sasuke had kept quiet, it was obvious that Fugaku still knew.
It had become far rarer to see him about during the day and impossible to book a meeting with him. He locked himself up in his office whenever he wasn't with a client and Itachi's mother had said he hadn't been home for a while. Not just that, but other Senior Managers had been gossiping about Fugaku's sudden interest in them- the same kind he gave them when he bought out their votes.
Fugaku knew what was coming and he was preparing for it.
The moment Obito and Itachi realized it, the pressure was on.
Things became far more real at that moment.
The race was on…
"Fugaku has a habit of using bonuses to buy the result he wants." Kakuzu grumbled lowly, leaning against his desk in the Treasury Department with a frown on his face. When he was working, he hated to be interrupted. From the moment he stepped into the office until the moment he left, he wanted nothing more than to sit at his desk and slave away over the financials. It's what he lived for. He often skipped over his lunch breaks.
It was bad enough that he had to put up with Hidan's constant badgering but having Obito stroll into his office as well was more than enough to put him in a sour mood.
"The Senior Managers are fucking minted as it is!" Hidan retorted. "You telling me that they all jump at the chance of some extra cash? There's gotta be some who just stick with what they've already got."
"Money talks." Kakuzu shot back. "It isn't just the monetary worth. It's a message to everyone that Fugaku has the resources and authority to get what he wants with ease."
"It makes everyone think that he can solve any problem by throwing money at it." Obito concurred, nodding in acknowledgement. Kakuzu certainly knew his stuff. He'd be an asset to the Akatsuki. "It makes anyone planning on going against him doubt themselves. After all, no one has more money, influence or power than the CEO."
"So why the fuck would anyone bother trying?" Hidan spat in frustration. He hated when the 'stuck up bastards' acted all smart and cool while leaving him in the lurch.
"Because, although there's no one more respected than the CEO, there's also no one more hated." Obito explained. "The CEO is a figurehead who takes the credit for all the success of his employees. Any decisions which affect the common employee will be interpreted as coming from him, regardless of whether or not that's true. He's a sign of oppression. The 'man' putting everyone else down while he lives a cushy life."
"I get that." Hidan nodded, empathising with every word. And Kakuzu couldn't help but be impressed with the patience and grace Obito displayed while having to reword something so that a person with an inferior mind could understand. He'd be a good CEO.
"So, if you can convince people that there's a chance of putting him in his place, they'll jump at it with all the hope of the common, unfulfilled crowd."
"As long as they have a figurehead of their own to rely on." Kakuzu added thoughtfully. "If it came to speaking out themselves and putting their own necks on the line, no one would even consider it. But having someone else to rely on, someone else to bear the consequences, gives them a burst of courage. As far as they're concerned, they have nothing to lose."
"Sweet." Hidan grinned. "So they'll vote the big guy out then!"
"Not quite." Obito sighed. "We're talking about people, so it's difficult to assume anything. When dealing with such a large group of people- such as the Senior Managers- there's little chance of controlling the outcome without appealing to something all people desire."
"Like money." Kakuzu chimed in. "And we can't offer more money than Fugaku. Whoever extends the larger check always conquers."
"Oh, shut up, Kakuzu!" Hidan snapped, hating whenever his friend found a way to prove his stupid theories right.
"So, what are you going to do?" The older man asked, ignoring the security guard coldly. "Fugaku doesn't just have the money needed to fend you off, but the intellect as well."
"He's human, just like the rest of us." Obito shrugged. "Meaning there are flaws in his thinking which can be exploited. Itachi and I have a solid plan. Now that you've confirmed that Fugaku's up to his old tricks, I'm pretty sure we can pull this off."
"And how are you going to do that without the money needed?"
"That's easy." Obito smirked, heading for the door of the office. "Money is indeed important. But there are things far more important."
Kakuzu and Hidan watched him go- exuding confidence and power as he went.
"He totally owned you, buddy."
"Shut up, Hidan."
"Using the bonuses again, huh?" Itachi sighed. "He's as conceited as ever- buying people's votes like it was nothing."
"He's already expecting us to try and get the backing of the Senior Managers," Obito hummed thoughtfully, "and he's beaten us to it. You've got to give your old man some credit- he's not an idiot."
"Was that a compliment?" Itachi deadpanned. "From you?"
Obito rolled his eyes.
"The most effective strategy in a takeover attempt is to gain the support of the majority and hold an impromptu vote to cast out the CEO before they can suspect a thing." The older Uchiha explained, leaning against his desk as he thought it through. "Obviously, we can't do that anymore. Fugaku anticipated it and put a stop to that plan before we could even start."
"Statistically speaking, a takeover attempt is absolutely impossible without majority support." Itachi added. "Unless the CEO has committed a crime severe enough to be dismissed once outed. Father has done some questionable things but nothing of the magnitude we're talking."
"So, if we look at things objectively, we're screwed." Obito summed up, chuckling under his breath. Itachi just scowled at him, eyes narrowing into a glare. "But looking at things objectively means accepting them the way they are and adapting to them. I don't adapt to things. I make them adapt to me."
"I think there's a word for that…" Itachi mused.
"And, if you know what's good for you, you'll keep that word to yourself." Obito warned, cocking an eyebrow. It had the intended effect.
"Alright, Mr Almighty, how do we make things adapt to us?" Itachi muttered, humoring his cousin for a while. Obito was probably onto something but Itachi was almost certain that he was already catching on to it as well.
"If someone thinks you're shooting from the left, where are they looking?"
Itachi glowered- refusing to dignify such a simple question with an answer. However, he was willing to contribute by finishing his cousin's line of thought.
"And if they think you're shooting from the left, where aren't they looking?" He added, exchanging smirks with Obito. "Find the blind spot- run the bullet home."
"And secure the company's future."
"All in time for dinner."
They shook hands.
"Too much is going on at once!" Naruto groaned, crossing his arms across his chest and slumping down into Obito's desk chair. His boss was off god-knows-where doing fuck-knows-what so he wasn't fussed about the rules of not getting too comfortable. He was tired, confused and grumpy so, if he wanted to sit in the fucking chair, he was sitting in the fucking chair…at least until Obito got back…
"You make it sound complicated." Zetsu retorted, rolling his eyes as he closed the door behind him. "Look, it's all very simple. Tobi blackmailed Orochimaru into signing a deal, which led to Tayuya losing her job under Orochimaru, which led her to come here and blackmail Tobi into giving her a job with us. Now that the court case is over and done with, Hebi- Orochimaru's company- is hijacking our clients, ones they couldn't possibly know about without an inside source.
Meanwhile, Tobi and Itachi are trying to figure out a way to get rid of Fugaku without gaining the votes of the Senior Managers because they can't out-buy Fugaku. So, while they're off implementing their master plan, it's up to me to try and figure out who's leaking our client lists to Hebi. Also, I have a feeling that I'm slightly allergic to an ingredient in my new moisturiser- hence why my hands are slightly dried out and irritated today."
Zetsu stopped, looking at Naruto expectantly, as though waiting for confirmation that everything he'd listed off had been heard and understand adequately.
Naruto just gaped.
"Did you get all that?" Zetsu pressed on encouragingly.
"Something about…moisturiser…?" Naruto mumbled, cocking his head to one side.
Zetsu rolled his eyes.
"Look, all you need to understand is that, by the end of today, Itachi will either be CEO or out of the job. One or the other, for sure."
Naruto nodded, starting to understand a little better.
"So, what am I doing?" Naruto asked, still a little unsure. And, of course, the look he received was one of pure annoyance. "What? I'm not like you- I can't keep up with thousands of things at once!"
"Men shouldn't compare themselves to God." Zetsu shrugged. "Poor things. Anyway, you can either help me trail through paperwork or…"
"The other option!" Naruto cut in immediately, smiling nervously when the assistant shot him a cold glare. He should have bitten his tongue- he knew that- but he really didn't want to deal with any paperwork. He'd had enough. He was sick to death of it. So, suffering the look was well worth it when Zetsu finally sighed in defeat.
"Then you can go and help Tobi."
"For real?" Naruto grinned triumphantly. "I get to be with Obito?"
"I hate you." Zetsu muttered bitterly. "If we were screwing around then I bet you'd wanna spend all your time with me."
"Can you even imagine that?"
"Us- screwing around." Zetsu hummed thoughtfully, getting this creepy, faraway look on his face.
"What are you doing…?" Naruto whispered, scared of the answer but unable to stop himself asking. The chesire grin shot his way was like an ice cold knife through his rapidly beating heart. He wanted to run…
"What's your stamina like?"
"I'm leaving!" Naruto snapped, jumping onto his feet like he'd been burned by the hottest sun in the solar system. He was out of that office quicker than ever before. Because nothing was more threatening- not even Obito's scowl- than a curious Zetsu feasting his eyes on a sex prize. Naruto wanted to keep himself innocent…or as innocent as he could with Obito…
"Erm, Zetsu is coming onto me." Naruto announced in a whisper as he caught up to Obito in the hallway, falling into a brisk pace beside him. His boss shot him a sideways glance, cocking an eyebrow, before shaking his head.
"I really don't want to know what 'coming onto' you consists of." Obito muttered- a joke spoken in a voice he saved for serious moments. It threw Naruto off for a moment.
"Aren't you gonna rush in and do your possessive thing?" The blonde asked.
"Well, why not?" Naruto whined pitifully. He didn't like it when Obito wasn't being himself. It was probably his own fault for picking his moments poorly, but still.
He did, however, shut up the instant Obito stopped in his tracks and pressed a firm, warning hand to Naruto's chest. It was warm- and any contact with Obito was cool- but there was a heavy weight behind it. Naruto gulped.
"We're in the middle of a massive takeover." Obito whispered sharply. "You need to learn how to prioritize and focus on what's important. If we slip up and this thing goes under, we're done. So quit joking around and get your ass in gear. Got it?"
The empty feeling enveloped Naruto again- the one he always got when Obito snapped at him.
But he wasn't a kid. He wasn't about to start sulking. Instead, he took a steadying breath before nodding.
"What do you need me to do?" He asked, dropping his tone to show how seriously he was taking it. Obito looked relieved, patting him once on the chest, before gesturing for Naruto to follow him as he started walking again.
"The Senior Managers are a lost cause." Obito admitted. "Chasing after their votes is a complete waste of time. Instead, I want to make sure the issue never even gets to a vote."
"How're you gonna do that?"
"By charging head on." Obito shot back confidently. "I need you to track down Kagami Uchiha and get him in this building in the next three hours."
"Three hours?" Naruto gaped, slight panic setting in. He wasn't going to bother questioning what Kagami had to do with anything- he trusted Obito enough to leave the questions for later. But finding a guy who wouldn't want to be found and dragging him to the last place he wanted to be in three hours was too much not to question it.
"When you find him, tell him that I can get him his job back." Obito said calmly. "I need Zetsu here, so you're my only option. I can trust you with this, right, Naruto?"
And wasn't that quite the contrast from when they'd first met.
Back then, Obito didn't trust Naruto enough to even show his true self.
And now look at where they were.
Naruto couldn't help but smile.
"Of course you can." He promised. "I'll get right on it!"
And, as he rushed down the hallway to do what Obito needed him to do, he just managed to hear the faint murmur of 'good boy' that made his heart soar. And he knew that there was no way he was going to let Obito down. Never again.
The young Uchiha looked up from his laptop screen, eyes locking onto the figure in the doorway. And, despite everything, his heart still seized in fear and dread. He wasn't an emotional kind of person- or, rather, he didn't let those emotions affect him when there were more important things to focus on- but seeing his father stood there with a disappointed frown on his face still brought on all those same feelings as when he was a child.
Fugaku had always pushed him hard, driving him to succeed. Whenever Itachi slacked off to try and be a normal kid- choosing to play instead of study- the disappointment on his father's face always shook him to the very core. And he'd spend the next few weeks making up for it with nothing but hard work and focus. And, due to how much Fugaku had pushed him, he'd come a long way.
His father had been hard on him, but he was still the primary cause of Itachi's success.
He was the reason Itachi even had a chance at being CEO.
"Father." Itachi acknowledged simply, giving a curt nod.
"I haven't seen you at home much lately." Fugaku pointed out, stepping into his son's office quietly, gazing around curiously.
"I've been busy."
"With Obito." And it wasn't a question. It was stated as fact. It was Fugaku's way of indirectly saying that he knew and that he wanted Itachi to know that he knew. The bluntness of it was enough to silence, even a genius like Itachi. It threw him off. "I don't think I'll ever understand what you see in him."
"You don't have to." Itachi murmured back. "All you have to understand is that I only want what's best for the company."
"And you'll put that above everything else?" Fugaku asked, cocking an eyebrow.
Itachi paused, staring into his father's stern face.
"You're a true genius, Itachi." The older man admitted, a small smile playing on his lips. "With a business mind even sharper than my own. You could have been running this company years ago. Putting the good of the company before even oneself is ideal for a CEO. I'm proud of you."
"Father…" Itachi trailed off, face softening at the acknowledgement. Fugaku had always pushed him and driven him to be his best. He knew his father was impressed by him but he'd still never received such blatant praise before. It touched him.
"But, promise me one thing. Take care of Sasuke."
Itachi froze, lips parting, eyes widening. Fugaku gave him a warm smile.
"He needs his big brother. Try not to push him away. I could never find the balance between work and family life. I always prioritized business above simple things- like watching you boys grow up and being a part of that. But, if there is a way to balance it out, I'm sure a kind-hearted genius like you can figure it out."
"Why bother telling me this now?" Itachi asked, feeling a lump growing in his throat. Was Fugaku just trying to manipulate him into giving up? Was it just a ploy? Or a genuine display of fatherly affection? When had the business world twisted Itachi into such a suspicious, untrusting individual?
"It seemed like the most fitting moment." Fugaku shrugged. "I wanted to offer the sentiment now, rather than as pity-comfort after the fact."
"Pity?" Itachi repeated lowly. "You're that confident?"
"I'll do whatever it takes to win, Itachi." His father shot back, staring him down. "After all, I've never been as kind-hearted and gentle as you."
They parted ways then.
A family torn apart by the very company that brought them together.
With a little help from Zetsu, Naruto managed to track down Kagami pretty damn fast. In fact, he was a little impressed with himself and he hoped Obito would feel the same. But, instead of focusing on recognition and praise, he forced himself to focus on the moment at hand and what he needed to do. After all, finding Kagami was the easiest part. It's what came after that really posed a problem.
"No." Kagami hissed, the moment Naruto approached him- the blond didn't even get a chance to open his mouth before he was pushed aside roughly.
"Wait- Kagami!" Naruto called after him, chasing him down the street, voice strained and pleading. "Just hear me out!"
"Absolutely not." The Uchiha barked over his shoulder. "I don't want anything to do with you or your asshole of a boss!"
"Obito had nothing to do with you getting fired!"
"Bullshit!" Kagami shouted, turning on the spot to glare right into Naruto's face. "Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit! He went to Fugaku and set up the Seniors' vote all by himself."
"To get rid of Shisui, not you." Naruto countered. "Obito knew you were just being used. He didn't wanna ruin your life!"
"Yeah, well, he fucking did."
"You know any companies willing to hire an Uchiha wash-up?" Kagami spat angrily. "Newsflash, Naruto, there aren't any! No one's willing to take me. I was a Senior Manager, for fuck's sake, and now no one will even touch me! So if you've come here expecting me to hear you out, just forget it. I don't owe you, your boss or anyone any favors!" With that, he turned away and began storming off, red in the face and at his boiling point.
Kagami seemed so young and vulnerable in that moment- having shed the expensive suits for jeans and a hoodie- all the fake confidence now shattered and ruined. Naruto was struggling to stay focused on what Obito had sent him to do. Instead, he found himself compelled to make things right for Kagami's sake…
"You're right!" Naruto shouted, jogging to catch up with him. "I came here to ask you for a favor and I have no right to."
"Just get lost."
"No, I won't!" Naruto protested, reaching out to grasp Kagami's hand, pulling him to a stop. "Fugaku used you! He used you and then threw you away. And Obito sent me here to get you to help us, but I don't wanna use you like Fugaku did!"
"I could stand here and offer you your job back, or threaten you into helping me, but the fact is- if you don't help us, then Fugaku will go on using people again and again." Naruto pleaded. "I can't fix what happened to you or make any of it better and I know Obito's the last guy you wanna help right now, but I'm begging you- as a friend- please help us get rid of Fugaku before he can ruin anyone else's life!"
"What, so he can be replaced by Obito?" Kagami scoffed. "C'mon, Naruto. Don't lie to me."
"I'm not!" Naruto protested. "Obito doesn't want to be CEO. Itachi's going to take over the company."
"That's right! He's gonna set everything right and start doing things in the right way- and he's gonna give you your job back!"
"And what about Shisui?" Kagami hissed, remembering how kind and comforting the man had been on the day they'd been fired. It wasn't fair on him either. It wasn't fair if Kagami got his job back just because he did Obito a favor.
"Itachi's going to fix it." Naruto said, eyes bright and honest. "But we need you. Please."
By late afternoon, Obito was utterly exhausted. It didn't show on the outside. His perfectly fitting suit and unshakable composure kept it hidden, but he was both mentally and emotionally drained. Trying to keep up with Fugaku's keen business strategy was the greatest challenge he'd faced since the trial. Every time he and Itachi took a step, they found that Fugaku had beaten them to it. Their various options had been dwindled down to just one. The strategy Obito was left with was risky and laughable, but one he was willing to go with.
So, when he stepped into Fugaku's office, just as the sun began to set outside the glass, he didn't know what to think or feel. He wasn't sure if he was even capable of thinking or feeling anymore. He had nothing left to offer. He just wanted the day to be over.
He went alone.
Itachi had wanted to tag along, but Obito turned him down.
Stabbing your father in the back was one thing, but looking into his face as you did it was entirely different. Obito decided to bear the weight of such a burden instead. Not that Fugaku's smug expression upon seeing the younger man made it feel like much of a burden.
"I didn't expect you so soon, Obito." Fugaku greeted, climbing to his feet to regard the other. "Ready to stop moving in the night?"
"We both know what I've been doing, old man." Obito admitted, being the first to outwardly acknowledge it. "And, deep down, we both know why."
"I'm not angry with you, Obito." Fugaku said, shaking his head with a smile. "The kid I first met in that mailroom could hardly tie his own shoes. Now, here you are, staging a full-force takeover of the company. It's nice to see how much you've grown."
"But, it's not enough." Fugaku shrugged. "I won."
"Yeah." Obito muttered. "You bought out the Senior Managers. Those whose votes you couldn't buy, you successfully threatened into siding with you. You secured the support of every one of them, with the exception of Itachi and I. You even managed to freeze my assets and funds, making it impossible for me to possibly compete with you. You covered all your bases, like the genius you truly are, Fugaku."
"Sorry, Obito." Fugaku said, staring at the younger man with slight fondness and pity. "You were impressive but not good enough."
"Perhaps." Obito hummed. "Or, perhaps, you were so focussed on the Senior Managers that you limited your line of sight."
"What?" Fugaku demanded, brow furrowing instantly. Now it was Obito's turn to take pity.
"Itachi and I knew from the very beginning that going after the Senior Managers was a waste of time." The scarred Uchiha explained, shrugging it off. "We could never match you, financially, and our influence in the company is tiny compared to yours. But, we let you believe we were trying anyway, in order to distract you."
"Stop toying with me." Fugaku warned darkly. "I bought out all the votes. You've lost, Obito."
"This was never about votes, you pathetic, old man." Obito bit back. "After the way you rigged the last vote, did you really think I'd take that chance again? Unlike you, I learn from my mistakes. I bypassed the Seniors and went straight to the Board Of Directors."
"They don't like me much." Obito conceded. "But still, they were very interested to learn just how you've been running this company, while hypocritically dragging my name through the mud. I don't think they quite believed me at first, but once they got in a room with Kagami Uchiha, they were all ears."
"You…?" Fugaku's face was a picture then. The way his calculating face twisted into a horrified sneer. The way he went from denial to fear to anger. The way all of his dignity went out the window.
"We had a private vote of our own." Obito murmured softly, eyes studying the way Fugaku's throat subtly moved as he gulped. "Starting tomorrow, Itachi Uchiha is the new CEO. And you, after all this time, are finally being cast out of Uchiha Enterprises."
"You…" Fugaku stopped himself, eyes wide in disbelief, "...you beat me?"
"You said something once." Obito announced firmly. "You called me family. You were wrong. I have a family and I understand my feelings for them and their feelings for me. You and I don't share that bond. You tried to make me think we did in order to subdue me and keep me on your leash. Manipulating people is quite the sensation, isn't it? To guide them along a path you've chosen for them? Without them even knowing it. I used to think like that. But now. Now I don't believe in using people like tools."
"And this is better?" Fugaku muttered. "This is how the business world works and you know it. We use people, betray the ones we work with, pay off the ones we claim to trust and push away those we care about. None of us like to admit it, Obito, but Madara was right all along!"
"…" Obito froze, eyes locked onto the desperate face of a man who had just had everything taken from him.
"He was right." Fugaku sighed. "And you'll end up no different."
"You're probably right."
"In fact, I already started heading down the same path as Madara." Obito mused, remembering the way he'd been acting. The blackmail. The trial. How he'd treated those close to him. "But, there's a reason I don't need to listen to you. I know someone who would never travel that path- someone who would never end up like Madara. As long as I can see his light, I don't need to consider you or your words."
"You don't need to know." Obito said dismissively, watching Fugaku's face fall in defeat.
They parted with a handshake- Fugaku whispering his congratulations.
But, in that moment, Obito didn't really care about Fugaku or the CEO position.
He didn't even care about Madara or the Akatsuki.
The only thing he cared about was his light…
"You did great." Naruto beamed, clapping Kagami on the shoulder happily. "There was no way the Board was gonna side with Fugaku after your speech!"
"You really think I was that good?" Kagami asked, grinning slightly. "Rehearsed speeches are my forte, but right on the spot? I was worried I was gonna choke."
"You gotta be kidding! You were awesome, dude!"
"Well, thanks for everything, Naruto." They high-fived, like old friends. "I best get going, but I'll see you around, I guess."
Obito watched the entire exchange pensively, eyes focused on the warmth that seemed to light up Naruto's entire face. It still baffled him how someone could be so happy and bright. How such a person could survive in the world without being destroyed. But Obito had once been like that and Naruto was younger than him. So, maybe it was still possible that the kid might…
Obito shook that thought off. He didn't understand it all, but he knew for certain that he had to find a way to preserve that light. For the sake of the world, if not for himself.
"Hey, Obito!" Naruto called, running up to him with that grin. "We did it, huh?"
"Yeah." Obito murmured. "Starting tomorrow, Itachi is the CEO. Fugaku's gone. And that Kagami brat has his job back- replacing Shisui as Senior of Floor 63. There wasn't a lot I could do for Shisui himself- his case will have to be reviewed independently by the Board themselves."
"Thank you." Naruto said, voice so full of love. Obito glanced at him- unable to believe that those eyes carried so much affection for him.
"Don't waste your thanks on someone like me." He murmured simply, but Naruto's eyes never left his face, and his smile never once faded.
"You don't have a mask anymore." He whispered softly, stunning Obito into momentary silence.
"Let's go celebrate."
They went out to dinner- nowhere fancy or worthy of the suit Obito was dressed in- just a local burger joint. It made a change from ramen for Naruto and it was a break from ridiculously expensive bills for Obito. Just a simple meal whilst enjoying each other's company.
Sure, Obito had to take off his jacket, roll up his sleeves and practically wrap himself in serviettes in fear of getting any burger grease on his tailored clothes, but Naruto was happy to see him relaxed.
And as for Naruto, Obito couldn't take his eyes off of him. The kid was astounding. Every smile. Every sparkle in his eyes. The excitement in his voice. Obito was entirely mesmerized.
And, as he watched, he was overcome with a fierce affection that he hadn't felt before- or, at least, not as strongly. It wasn't lust or desire, not this time. It wasn't even the usual possessiveness. Instead, it was the need to be close and to bathe in that light.
Obito Uchiha, of all people, was craving something so sentimental and meaningless.
It made him feel sick and wonderful all at once.
They chatted together about pointless shit that didn't meant anything and laughed over jokes that should have made them cringe. It was so mundane and pointless, but so damn perfect.
"I love the moon- it's so cool." Naruto murmured thoughtfully, as they walked down the street together. His eyes were cast upward, reflecting the majestic light of the very thing he was admiring. Obito regarded him for a moment.
"Strange." He mused. "I always took you for a 'sun' kinda guy."
"Oh, trust me, I love the sun!" Naruto declared boldly, grinning at the very thought of it. "But the moon's awesome too, don't ya think? It's like, it does its best to shine but it's not always appreciated for it, ya know?"
"You're insane." Obito shook his head.
Still, Naruto smiled, and forcefully took Obito's hand in his own.
And it felt…warm…
"I meant what I said." Naruto whispered. "You don't have a mask anymore. When I look at you, I can see you properly. The real you. It's nice."
"I…" Obito paused, finally tightening his hold on Naruto's own hand, to feel more of that warmth. "I was Rin's partner, Kakashi's friend, Izuna's protégé, a Senior Manager of Uchiha Enterprises and a kid with a dream."
"…" Naruto listened, comfortable to have Obito speaking his mind for once.
"I'm not the same." The scarred man admitted solemnly. "I've left all that in the past. But, regardless of everything I've lost, I'm still Obito Uchiha. That's not something I plan on losing- not anymore."
The smile Naruto gave him- it wasn't his usual goofy grin- it was something closer to the light of the moon than the sun. Subdued but still warm. And with light just as valuable.
In the end, though, Naruto was still the sun.
And Obito was the moon.
Because, it was only with Naruto's light, that Obito was able to shine.
Obito dropped Naruto off at his crappy apartment- which he really needed to move out of soon- and headed straight home. He couldn't explain the feeling in his heart then. Not quite joy or happiness, but something so content and peaceful that it reminded him of the Buddhist teachings Izuna had been obsessed with at some time.
When he got it, he stripped out of his suit and settled down on his couch to seriously consider things.
It was all done.
They'd beaten Fugaku.
Obito would be leaving soon.
But he still wanted Naruto at his side.
He glanced around his apartment, imagining it as Naruto's permanent home. The shoes carelessly left around, clothes strewn across the furniture, towels on the floor- but feeling more like home than ever before. It brought the smallest of smiles to his face.
He wanted Naruto with him.
Just as he was about to come to some great realization, his phone rang. Groaning, he suddenly remembered that he'd left Zetsu at the office the try and dig up some dirt on Hebi. In all the excitement and mess, Obito had completely forgotten to relieve his assistant and send him home. He was officially the worst boss in the world. Zetsu was going to tear him a new one.
"Look, I forgot, alri-?"
Obito froze. Zetsu sounded…panicked…?
"What is it?"
"This is completely crazy, and I might just be coming up with insane theories 'cause I haven't had much sleep, but you need to hear me out." Zetsu said hurriedly, his usual airy, composure completely gone.
"Is this to do with Hebi?" Obito asked, trying to help Zetsu organize his thoughts.
"I've gone through all the records I could get hold and kept an eye out for anything strange." Zetsu explained, steadying himself as best as he could. "My checks included their financials and I didn't expect to find anything really, but I noticed an unusually large deposit into their accounts by an untraceable account."
"So we're either looking at a case of blackmail or shady business deals." Obito said, confused as to why Zetsu would react so much to something so simple.
"The date of the transaction was made the day Rin died."
Obito's jaw clenched.
"So, what?" He muttered darkly.
"I didn't think anything of it at first, but I started to look into it more, just to make sure." Zetsu explained shakily. "I managed to access phone records of the main offices, as well as all booked meetings around the time of the transaction. There were several calls made to the same, untraceable number that day- one just after the time of the f-fire. And Orochimaru…he met with M-Madara Uchiha the next day."
"It's Madara who's been leaking our client lists to Hebi. He's been working with them from the start. And…I can't be entirely sure but…I-I think Madara may have been the one who planted the evidence against you. One of his associates had access to the Treasury offices. He also liaised with the Hyῡga Company during the trial."
"Tobi, Madara's been behind it from the very start!" Zetsu blurted out. "And, I think he…I think he k-killed…"
"Stop it." Obito muttered darkly, fingers grasping his phone dangerously tight.
~ 'The longer you live, the more you realize that reality is just made of pain, suffering and emptiness' ~
"Stop it." Obito hissed. "Don't…don't tell me…"
~ 'In this world, wherever there is light, there is also darkness. As long as the concept of 'winner' exists, there will also be 'losers' ~
~ 'Look at reality' ~
Obito dropped the phone, burying his scarred face in his palms.
A/N: Dun, dun, dunnnn!
So, not a lot for me to say here. Let me know what you all thought!