Obito is only back in Konoha to visit Rin's grave.
That’s what he tells himself, even as he slips deeper into the village, avoiding the flicker of Minato's chakra to the west and Kakashi’s slumped-shoulder stumble as he leaves the Memorial. Zetsu didn’t want him coming in the first place, full of plans for manipulating Akatsuki now that Madara's turned them and pushing the villages towards a deeper rivalry.
Obito hurts, though, and all he wants to do is give in and curl into a ball, let the world march on without him.
He slips into the trees, presses his hand against the smooth bark of an old beech, and feels the whisper of life inside of it, twice as loud as before.
He hadn’t told Madara, who treated his Mokuton as a miracle, a breakthrough, that he’d always been able to feel something in the plants, hadn’t told Madara his tiny vegetable garden grew twice as well as the best gardener’s. Not something he could use in a fight, because it was just having a green thumb, except now it has a name. Mokuton, Obito thinks, pressing his scarred fingers against the bark, and—Hashirama had it. The Shodaime Hokage had this ability, and used it to defeat Madara and build Konoha. Maybe…
Other things he hadn’t told Madara: the word Mokuton is familiar from more than just history textbooks; Madara's isn’t the first lab Obito has woken up in; Rin wasn’t his only friend.
The graveyard is ten blocks south, but even so, Obito finds himself changing direction, turning towards the Hokage Mountain. Zetsu had been crowing about Root’s power growing, about Danzō and his soldiers and his army, but—
Wide dark eyes in the shadows, a flash of a smile. “Do you have a name yet?” whispered into the hush when they were supposed to be in their rooms, sleeping, entertaining themselves. Wouldn’t do to have two experiments running around loose while Orochimaru slept.
“Not yet,” whispered back, but he’d reached out, tugged until the other boy stumbled to his feet. “You're the first who’s wanted me to have one.”
Fingers tight around his, long brown hair swinging forward, and—
“I'm really glad I'm not alone anymore.”
He shakes off the fragments, crushes down the memories. Too much and too little all at once, a burst of something that could be anger or grief because he woke up one day and the other boy was gone.
Rin had always wondered why the other Uchiha hated him so much. Experiment, they whispered, and Obito knew. Orochimaru had done something, found something, created him. Uchiha DNA and something else, and they’d never wanted to know exactly what.
At this point, knowing exactly what to call the whisper in his blood when he stands in the middle of a forest, Obito thinks he has a pretty good idea.
In the trees behind him, there's a crack, and Obito pauses. A body hitting wood, he thinks, turning towards it, and lets the whirl of Kamui pull him closer, reappearing up in the branches of a towering oak. There's a figure below, Root uniform and blank mask and shaggy brown hair, body slumped as he pants for breath. There's a curl of wood around him, roughly shaped into something that’s probably meant to be a dragon, and Obito recognizes him.
Zetsu would kill him for this, but there's a Rin-shaped hole in Obito's heart, his best friend is dead, and this one—
This one is still alive, and Obito wants him to remember more than anything.
He takes a breath, and even that sound is enough; the other boy whirls, looking up, hands rising to form the Snake Seal. Obito could use Kamui, could counter with intangibility, but instead he finds himself mirroring the motion. The branch beneath him comes alive, twisting to shield him from a burst of needle-tipped limbs before it slides back into stillness.
There's no sound at all from the other side of the barrier.
Deciding that’s a good sign, Obito slips right through the wood, drops to the ground in a crouch, and pulls his mask off as he straightens. Zetsu will end him for this, but Obito doesn’t give a damn, because the burning pulse of anger that’s been eating away at him for weeks now is finally subsiding. Not disappearing, not entirely, but for the first time since he held Rin's bloodstained body in the darkness Obito feels like he can breathe.
“Do you have a name yet?” he asks, and the words tangle in his throat, but there's a sharp, swift breath from the other boy and suddenly the blank mask is flying off, clattering across the ground. Obito's arms are full of ten-year-old, all but knocking him off his feet as he staggers, but there are fingers in his cloak and arms around his neck, and he sits down hard but doesn’t care in the least.
“They said you had died,” the other boy cries. “Danzō-sama reported your mission as a success, but he said you were the casualty, that—” A choking breath, and he pulls back, wide, dark eyes holding Obito's. “I didn’t even get to tell you my name,” he says quietly. “Or hear you tell me yours.”
“Obito,” Obito says, and Zetsu has been telling him he’s Madara now, that that’s the only thing he should be from now on, but—but this isn’t the same. “I'm Uchiha Obito.”
That gets him a smile, small and wan, and the boy slumps forward, resting their foreheads together the way they used to when the nightmares were bad. The nightmares were always bad, trapped in that lab with its wash of eerie green light, the whispers of terrified prisoners, the cold, detached way Orochimaru watched them, like they were experiments he could discard at any moment.
“Kinoe,” the boy whispers back, and he’s warm, warm in a way Obito hasn’t felt since Madara found him. “Danzō-sama gave me a name, and it’s Kinoe.”
“Kinoe,” Obito repeats, committing it to memory. And…Zetsu will notice he’s gone soon, will come looking for him, and he’s so against any form of distraction from their plan that Obito is certain seeing Kinoe, realizing Kinoe has seen Obito's face and knows he’s alive—
“Come with me,” he tells Kinoe urgently, pulling back to meet his started stare. “We can—we can go anywhere! Somewhere without Danzō, and without Orochimaru, and without Zetsu.”
Kinoe’s eyes are wide, and he looks around them like he’s scared Danzō is going to leap out of the trees and have him dragged away just for contemplating it. But he’s not pulling away, and if anything there's understanding sliding into his features.
“Someone took you, too,” he says quietly, and his fingers close tightly around Obito's.
“I don’t want him to kill you,” Obito whispers, and he’s afraid of that happening, so afraid, because Madara was so cold and Zetsu is his will given form. Madara might tell Obito it was for the best, that they couldn’t risk anyone stopping them, but he would have killed Kinoe for having seen Obito's face, and Obito realizes with sudden, chilling certainty that he believes Zetsu would do the same.
(Rin, something in him whispers, but that’s a thought for a later time. Obito can't even begin to contemplate it right now.)
“Danzō would make me kill you,” Kinoe says, something like an agreement, and grips Obito's hands even more tightly, lacing their fingers and swallowing hard. “Where would we go?”
“Anywhere,” Obito says, and can't fight something like a smile as he raises their twined hands. In the earth, something stirs, and a green shoot breaks through the soil and rises, curling around their arms as it puts out branches and leaves. It only takes a moment of concentration, half a heartbeat of thought, and yet they managed to create a living thing. They made something beautiful.
Kinoe looks at the little maple for a long, long moment, but his eyes are soft, and there's a smile pulling at the corner of his mouth. Gently, he brushes his fingers over the leaves, then looks up, and his smile is growing, deepening.
“All right,” he says, squeezing Obito's hand. “Anywhere sounds…good.”
It does, Obito thinks, and his heart is pounding. The rage is still there, but—
Rin is dead, and Obito hates the world that would have taken someone as beautiful and good as her away, but Kinoe remembers him. Kinoe is still his friend, still knows him from quiet nights in green darkness and dreams of the outside world. And if they run, if he tries to make the world better, that’s not really betraying Madara, is it? He’s just…trying another way, now that he’s been reminded there's more to this reality than a waking hell.
Maybe it’s still a waking hell, but at least now Obito has company.
Kinoe pulls him into the trees, almost running, and Obito runs with him as they make for the border of Konoha, never looking back.
“We’re really going to do this?” Obito mutters, mostly unhappy, as he weighs whether or not to take both of his backup swords.
Tenzō fits his faceplate on as he rolls his eyes. “You're the best one to face Madara,” he reminds him.
Obito makes a face, because it might be true but he doesn’t have to like it. If Madara really is revitalized and young in body again, though, he’s probably not going to be content just kicking around in the Mountains’ Graveyard. To say nothing of the fact that there's an entire Shinobi Alliance assembled against him.
“I'm not going to face him alone,” he tells his partner. “Don’t think you're getting out of helping me just because your Mokuton is synthetic.”
It’s an old argument, but Tenzō’s splutter is still just as amusing as it was the first time. “You don’t even know which Senju you get yours from! For all we know, maybe yours is synthetic too!”
“It is not!” Obito protests. “Orochimaru said I was a hybrid, not a Mokuton experiment!”
“Well, my flowers grow better than yours!”
“You mean they grow faster, but mine are more elegant!”
“My tomatoes did better last year!”
“You cheated, using fertilizer when we were competing with Mokuton was cheating!”
Tenzō harrumphs like the stuffy old man he is deep inside, then says, “Take the red one, you’ll whine about not having it if your main sword breaks. Can we go now?”
“You're so pushy,” Obito complains, but the sword vanishes into Kamui as he reaches out, and Tenzō takes his hand. All around the house they built, the trees are creaking gently, and Obito can feel the warmth deep in the earth, the wild growth of the fields just beyond. No one looks twice at an impassible forest in Fire Country, and they’ve ringed their house with a wood wild and tangled enough that it probably belongs in a fairy tale.
“No going back,” he warns quietly.
Tenzō scoffs, but his smile is rueful agreement. “Like anyone could get to us if we wanted to keep them out.”
“I'm sure you’ve forgotten how stubborn and pigheaded Kakashi is,” Obito retorts. “Not that I blame you, since you only trained with him for a few weeks. He can't have pushed himself to exhaustion more than—”
“Five times,” Tenzō finishes, and his smile is a little ghoulish. “Are we going, or are we just going to stand here talking?”
“Pushy,” Obito laments, pulling him closer.
“You like it,” Tenzō says, perfectly sweet, and Obito laughs as they step out into the darkness of Kamui.
“You know I do,” he agrees, and promptly trips over a spear. “Ow, god damnit, stupid Bakashi just tossing his damned trash around in here without any control or finesse, does he think he can just make it a pigsty like that shoebox he calls an apartment—”
Tenzō’s aggrieved sigh is worth the stubbed toe, and Obito grins. He takes a breath, focusing on where they're going to come out on the battlefield, and asks, “Up high?”
There's a spark of chakra that leaps and catches, turning to a bright and steady bonfire as Tenzō gathers his strength. He debates for a moment, then nods, and his hand tightens around Obito's. “Let’s kill him quickly,” he says. “Those eggplants aren’t going to pick themselves.”
Obito rolls his eye. “Your priorities,” he mutters, but he thinks of Madara, thinks of Rin's horrifyingly convenient death, thinks of Zetsu and his whispered manipulations of a grieving boy. They're both going to die today, the same way Tenzō and Obito took out Danzō years ago, back when Tenzō still called himself Kinoe. But Danzō authorized the experiment that created Tenzō, and he wasn’t about to keep the name after learning that.
As far as Obito is concerned, Tenzō suits him much better, anyway.
A touch of bloodthirstiness is sliding into Obito's grin now, and he can feel the uptick in his pulse, the flare of his chakra. Madara's out there, and he won't be expecting them—they both made sure of that. The Shinobi Alliance is fighting, but they won't be able to win unless they can take out Madara, and Obito's been training himself to do just that since he first realized just how deep Madara's plots ran.
He looks at Tenzō, sees the same determination in his eyes, and lets Kamui grab them again. A warp of air, a rush of wind as they fall out of the sky, and Tenzō brings his hands together with a shout. Wood erupts far below them, scattering white Zetsu clones, and a twisting ramp of wood rises. Tenzō hits it, catches his balance with a twist, and slides down the spiral even as more Mokuton erupts, spearing through the clones. There are shouts of panic and confusion rising, and Obito laughs.
He gives himself another moment to fall, judging positions and who exactly is on the battlefield—Minato, Kakashi, and the Nidaime in the thick of things, the Shodaime trying to contain several of the bijuu, the Sandaime fending off another, with Minato's son and Mikoto's youngest trying to reach Madara as he forces Minato back.
“Good luck, and please don’t die!” Tenzō calls, and Obito tosses him a salute and lets space warp around him. He snatches up a naginata as he passes through Kamui, brings the weapon to bear even as he leaps out into reality, and gets one glorious second of Madara's complete and utter astonishment before he drives all fourteen inches of the blade through Madara's chest.
There's absolute silence behind him.
“You,” Madara snarls, and Obito smirks at him, dodges the fireball Madara spits at him with a twist, then flips over and kicks Madara in the face as he leaps backwards, landing lightly on the ground between Minato and his son.
“Awesome!” the boy crows, and Obito spares half a second to toss him a smile before he flings a hand up, and wood whirls around them to block Madara's wave of flame.
“Obito?” Minato squeaks, but Obito doesn’t have time to explain. He drops the wall even as he leaps over it, drops low to sweep Madara's feet out from under him. Madara slams a devastating blow at his chest, enough force behind it to shatter bone, but Obito phases through it, slams a knife-hand blow into his side, and curses when he doesn’t even feel ribs break. Another punch, and he grabs Madara's arm, uses it as leverage as he flips over the man’s head to drive a kunai at his spine.
Madara is fast, though, and Obito only just manages to catch the flash of a kick in time to slip halfway into Kamui. It passes through his head, and he slides back into reality—
A black chakra rod drives through his stomach, and Obito gags on blood as he’s slammed into the ground, pinned there like a butterfly on a card.
“You little rat!” Madara snarls, looming over him, and the fury in his eyes is a mad thing. “After I saved you, you’d betray me like this?”
Obito tries to get the breath to retort, the chakra to slide back into Kamui and away from the pain, but the chakra rod is pinning him in place. He can't get away, and Madara has another forming, ready to drive it through his heart.
“No!” Tenzō shouts, and wood erupts around Obito, a dragon’s jaws catching the man and sending him flying back. An instant later Tenzō slides to a stop in front of him, grabs the chakra rod and tears it out in one harsh motion, and Obito can't quite strangle a scream. He curls around the wound even as it heals, feels Tenzō’s fingers in his hair and the comforting whispers against his ear, and drags in a ragged breath.
“Ow,” he manages, and Tenzō laughs, breathless and shaky.
“Idiot,” he retorts. “I know how fast you can move. Try harder.”
“Sorry,” Obito says, weary agreement, but catches a flash of movement and lunges hard. He slams into Tenzō, sends them both rolling as Madara lands where they just were. Moving aches, but he keeps going, rolls to his feet and lets a flurry of shuriken fly, propelled by Kamui. Madara knocks them out of the way, steps through the barrage without a care, and his smile is vicious as he summons another chakra rod from the palm of his hand.
“You have been far more trouble than you were ever worth,” he taunts, and Obito braces himself. Tenzō is behind him, only just now scrambling to his feet, and if Obito moves he’ll be in the line of fire. That fine, because Obito can heal from almost anything, and—
“Madara!” Tobirama snaps, as sharp as the crack of a whip. “Don’t you dare hurt our son!”
Madara almost falls over. “WHAT?!” he shrieks.
Obito relates. “Son,” he repeats, a little faintly, and looks from Madara to the furious Nidaime, who’s approaching like a thunderstorm. “Son. As in—you two?”
Tobirama looks him over, expression sharp but eyes close to wondering, and he steps around Madara and grabs Obito by the elbow, pulling him gently to his feet. “It was science,” he huffs, turning his glare on Madara. “You left your DNA all over me, Uchiha. I was hardly about to pass up the opportunity.”
Obito debates clamping his hands over his ears and humming loudly. He did not need to know that in any shape or form, oh god.
From somewhere behind him, Hashirama chokes and makes a high-pitched whining noise, so clearly Obito isn’t the only one who feels that way, either.
“Pass up the opportunity?” Madara splutters, rounding on the other man. “That was hate-sex, not an invitation to create a child together, Senju! And—and you didn’t tell me! If he’s mine, why the hell would you keep it a secret?”
Tobirama rolls his eyes, like Madara is the one being illogical here. “Because I didn’t finish the experiment. After you died I was otherwise occupied with my duties, and I closed down the lab. Someone else must have found it and finished. I am impressed with their abilities.”
“Orochimaru,” Tenzō says quietly, pressing up against Obito's other side and taking his hand again. They share a look, and as Madara and Tobirama’s discussion devolves into a shouting match about ethics and stupidity and how much hate-sex they can have before they're technically dating, Tenzō pulls him several meters away, worried eyes studying him.
Obito still feels a little like he just got hit over the head with a brick, so he doesn’t exactly mind the space to breathe.
Of course, it doesn’t last long, because a second later there's a crunch of footsteps over stone, and Obito looks up to see Kakashi staring at him, wide-eyed and pale, and just barely manages to muster up something like a smile for his former teammate.
“Bakashi,” he says tiredly. “You need to stop dumping all the crap you don’t want into Kamui and expecting other people to clean up after you, jerk. I keep tripping on things.”
Kakashi makes a quiet, choked noise, reaching out, but he stops like he’s afraid to touch. “Obito,” he rasps. “You're—you were alive? All this time?”
“We were hiding,” Tenzō says softly, gripping Obito's hand. “From Zetsu. We weren’t sure we’d be able to kill him, since he’s Madara's will.”
“Fugaku took care of him,” Kakashi says, taking another step closer, and Obito straightens with a wince and steps forward, reaching out with the hand Tenzō isn’t hanging on to. relief flashes across Kakashi’s face, gutting in its depth, and an instant later he’s hugging Obito tightly, face buried in his hair.
“How are you taller, bastard?” Obito grumbles halfheartedly, and feels the shake of a laugh through Kakashi’s chest.
“You’re doomed to shortness,” Tenzō says, and Kakashi looks up.
“You're…Kinoe,” he offers after a moment. “I remember you.”
Tenzō smiles back. “It’s Tenzō,” he says. “Kinoe was the name Danzō gaze me. I was another of Orochimaru’s experiments, and Obito and I—we were together there. And we left together.”
As Obito pulls back, he can see Kakashi’s gaze lingering on their connected hands, but there’s no time to mention it before Minato is approaching. He looks old, Obito thinks, a little startled by the crow’s feet around his eyes, the lines around his mouth. But he’s smiling, joy in his eyes, and that presence is still the same as the one Obito remembers.
“The Nidaime’s son, huh?” he asks, mirth in the slant of his mouth.
Obito rolls his eye, very carefully not looking back at where Tobirama and Madara are still haranguing each other, Madara strident and Tobirama icy. “Apparently. I’d be fine with Tobirama, but can I trade Madara in for someone else?”
Minato laughs, and he hugs Obito too, then beckons his son over. “Obito, this is Naruto. Naruto—”
“Hi!” the boy says, delighted. “That thing where you go through stuff is awesome, can you teach me?”
“Only if I give you my eye, and I'm kind of attached to it,” Obito says dryly, and when Naruto makes a sad face he snorts.
With an easy smile, Naruto turns, already looking for Mikoto's son. “Then you’ll just have to teach me that flip you did!” he says over his shoulder, and leaps over to the other boy’s side as he tries to wrap a cut on his arm.
“I WANT A DIVORCE!” Madara screeches somewhere in the background, and Obito winces.
Tenzō snickers quietly, stepping closer. “I see the resemblance,” he murmurs.
Obito levels a glare at him. “In my defense, you after a week-long bout of insomnia would be enough to terrify anyone.”
With a skeptical hum, Tenzō leans into him. The battlefield is slowly quieting now that Madara's attention isn’t on controlling the bijuu, and the last of the Zetsu clones are being rounded up and destroyed without the bijuu to distract the shinobi forces. Obito expects Madara and Tobirama’s match will devolve into hair-pulling soon, and he definitely doesn’t want to think what it might become after that, so that’s probably dealt with. It’s not quite the way he meant to derail the fight, but hell, he’ll take it.
“Where have you been?” Kakashi asks quietly, and there's pain in his eyes, pain Obito put there. Before, he wasn’t able to go back to Konoha without thinking of Rin, and then he was occupied plotting Madara's downfall and toppling whatever pawns he and Danzō tried to line up. He’s hardly had a thought to spare for Kakashi in a long time, and…he regrets it.
“Want to see?” he asks, and manages a smile at Kakashi’s surprise. One of Tenzō’s brows rises, because their home is their sanctuary, and Obito looks back at him, trying to convey what he’s feeling. It’s Kakashi, and he managed to touch both of their lives.
It must work, because Tenzō’s eyes soften, and he nods in agreement. “When we’re done here,” he promises, and they both pretend not to see the relief that fills Kakashi’s expression for half an instant before it’s buried.
“I could use a vacations,” Kakashi says lightly, and tips his hitai-ate down over his eye as he turns to look back at Madara and Tobirama. Hashirama has apparently joined the fray, looking one part overjoyed and three parts overbearing brother. Obito just makes out the you knocked up my little brother? and Madara's returning shriek of that is the exact opposite of what happened, you idiot! before he determinedly stops listening.
Tenzō leans into him, warm and steady, and Obito says quietly, “Thank you.”
With a hum, Tenzō tips his head, watching Kakashi for a moment and then letting his eyes slide over to Obito. “You know I share well,” he says lightly, and Obito's breath catches, because yes, he vividly remembers that night in Kiri. But Tenzō is implying—
He swallows, glances over at Kakashi and then back at Tenzō, and gets a perfectly innocent smile in return.
Okay. So that’s a possibility he hadn’t considered. But, uh, wow.
Tenzō chuckles at whatever look he’s wearing, then nudges him forward. “You should go stop your parents from fighting,” he prods. “Before they restart the Fourth War.”
Obito makes a face, even as he lets himself be pushed forward. “How about I don’t and say I did? I think I liked being a test tube baby of unknown origin much better than being related to Madara.”
“Pushy,” Obito complains, but he goes.
And if he drags Tenzō and Kakashi along with him, well. That’s just karma.