Night fell, and somewhere between Rin's laughs and Minato's bad jokes and Kushina's overly loud sneezes, Kakashi found himself forgetting that he was dining with ghosts.
It was easy, really; pushing his worries away until they were merely a flicker at the edge of his mind. Part of him protested—the cold, logical part of him that knew this wasn't really his world, and that he had a duty to return and save his own world from ruin. But the rest of him was flawed and emotional and only human, and here was Minato and Kushina and Rin and Obito, making this night one of the happiest he had ever had in years, ever since his own Team Seven had shattered into brittle glass shards.
Here, he wasn't Kakashi of the Sharingan, or Kakashi-sensei of Team Seven, or the Third Division Commander Hatake Kakashi of the Allied Shinobi Forces. He was just… Kakashi.
And it was nice.
They were Team Minato again. Happy and whole, alive and well. Here, their words and responses and reactions—it was all genuine. This wasn't Kakashi's desperate imagination masquerading as their faces in some delirious fever dream, or a hallucination cooked up by bits and pieces of his own psyche. This was real.
More than a few times, he was sure he must have let a small smile slip through, but he couldn't find it in himself to truly be concerned. This was his team. What did he really have to hide?
"What, that weirdo with the eyebrows? I could beat him, easy!"
And it was so, so easy to forget that Obito was the enemy, when all Kakashi could see was the thirteen-year-old boy from his memories. Obito's act was damn near impeccable. Sitting there, listening to Obito prattle on about hypothetical wins and "cool" moves, it was almost impossible to believe that this was the same person who was hell-bent on enslaving the entire world under a massive genjutsu.
(Obito seemed happy; his smiles reached his eyes, his grins were wide, and his voice was bright. Was it possible that it wasn't completely a lie? Surely seeing Rin alive again had to be just as miraculous for Obito as it was for Kakashi.
But Kakashi couldn't tell anymore.)
"Ooh, the green jumpsuit kid? Think I've seen him around, too," Kushina was saying. "He's a hoot. Bet he'll be ripped once puberty hits." A snicker. "Hey, Minato, he any good in a spar? You think our brat Obito can take him on?"
Kakashi wished he had the Sharingan—not to return to his own world, but only so he could properly burn this memory, and this night, into his mind. Because this would all be gone, soon. He would have to be gone.
Part of him didn't want to be.
That was the part of him that whispered fix your mistakes, a bold little voice in the back of his head that reminded him of all the grief-torn nights when he used to fantasize about changing the past and righting his wrongs. A part that weighed killing Rin and returning to his own dimension, and found the costs to outweigh the benefits. A part that was—
Selfish. He was being selfish.
Guilt crashed over him again. What was he thinking?
This wasn't his world. It wasn't the Third Shinobi War. It was the Fourth Shinobi War, and Kakashi knew that. He knew that, dammit. Wanting to stay here when the lives of an entire world were hanging in the balance was not acceptable, not by any stretch of the imagination. There was a fine distinction between enjoying what he was given and blatant attachment, and Kakashi was treading that line far too closely.
How could he think, even for a second, to abandon his comrades?
His eyes tightened as he stared down at his empty bowl.
It was approaching eleven o'clock, and Rin had already left due to her curfew.
And here Obito was, still sitting and smiling with a room full of people he had killed and tried to kill.
Certainly, it could have been easy to let himself forget that little fact. It could have been easy—nice, even—to forget that Kakashi wanted to kill him, that the counterparts to this Minato and this Kushina had died because of his reckless teenage idiocy.
But he had a duty.
The Eye of the Moon Plan.
That was something he couldn't let himself forget, not under any circumstances. He had a duty to return and save his own world from ruin. He couldn't afford to wallow in memories, or nostalgia, with these foreign counterparts in a foreign world. Yes, he had to laugh and make conversation and act the lovable buffoon—but that was because right now he was Uchiha Obito the fool of a thirteen-year-old, and to be otherwise would be to needlessly jeopardize his return.
His companion, on the other hand, was a completely different story. Kakashi looked as though he was having more than a little difficulty leaving his emotions behind him. By turns, he looked happy, pained, and mesmerized, slight twitches and flickers in his expression that were plainly evident to any competent shinobi. And it was ironic, wasn't it, that the boy once always so concerned with being the perfect shinobi would now be the one having trouble remembering mission first?
In the middle of Kushina's spiel on wind chakra being the subjectively most useful chakra nature, Kakashi stood up.
"Sorry, Kushina, Sensei. It's getting late. I'll be leaving now."
"Hmm?" Kushina glanced at the clock on the wall. "Oh, damn, eleven already?" she asked, surprised.
"Ah, yes, it's rather dark out now, isn't it?" Minato said, standing up and accompanying Kakashi down the hallway alongside Kushina.
Obito padded slowly after them. "Finally, Bakashi can be gone," he said loudly, just to be contrary. Kakashi turned around to shoot a glare at him.
Kushina grabbed his arm and pulled him along. "Play nice for a few seconds here, would you?" she scolded. They came to a stop in front of the doorway.
"Get home safely," Minato said, sounding needlessly worried. "Don't run across the rooftops in the dark."
"Yes, I'll be slow," Kakashi said dryly. He knelt down to put on his sandals. "I'll go down the center street." His eyes flickered towards Obito, who gave a small nod of acknowledgement from behind Minato and Kushina.
Kakashi rose to his feet. "Thank you for the dinner," he said formally. "I'll see you tomorrow at my exams, Sensei."
"I'll be rooting for you," Minato said with a smile.
"And don't forget about our bet," Kushina added, grinning.
Kakashi inclined his head. "Of course not," he said. He held up one hand in a lazy wave, and set off.
Once he was out of view, Kushina closed the door. "Just the three of us now." She leaned down, throwing an arm around Obito's shoulder and giving him a conspiratorial grin. "Hey, Obito, can you try and snap some pictures of Kakashi's face if I lend you my camera for your next mission?"
"Seriously, Kushina, it's just a stupid face," Obito said, wrinkling his nose.
"Yeah, but still—"
Minato cleared his throat. "How about we go to the living room?"
For the next five minutes, Obito kept up his act. A discussion on the colour of rug that would be most befitting the living room, which lead into a conversation on the new movie theatre opening on the other side of town, which became a debate on the superiority of the Uzumaki versus the Uchiha.
But exactly five minutes later, Obito jumped up from the couch.
"Sorry, I should probably go now." He rubbed the back of his head in a gesture of sheepishness.
From the slightly confused looks on Minato and Kushina's faces, Obito wondered if he should have perhaps refrained, unusual as it was for him to leave this early—relatively speaking. But there was no point deliberating over it now.
He made his way to the front door, waved away Minato and Kushina's questions of "Are you sure you wouldn't like to stay longer?", quickly slipped his sandals on, and jogged out. He shouted a final "Bye!" at them from halfway down the street.
As soon as he saw their door shut to a close, Obito shifted his stance from a bowlegged saunter to a much more rigid, clipped, fast-paced walk.
So. The center street, was it? A bit busier and more visible than he would have liked, with a handful of civilians dotting the path, but at least it was on the way to his own apartment. It was also a long, fairly straight road, which made it easy for Obito to spot the small figure by the mouth of an alleyway, silver hair caught in the light of a nearby street lamp.
He flickered over in a quick, measured burst of chakra.
Kakashi was leaning against the cracked plaster of some trinket store, his arms crossed.
"Kannabi Bridge is in two days," he said without preamble, his eyes trained on Obito.
"As you've realized." Obito formed three hand seals in quick succession, cloaking them in an fairly simple but reliable genjutsu that made the background noise and motion fade away, shielding them in a bubble of quiet. To his credit, Kakashi only barely tensed this time. "I will admit I hadn't realized the date until this morning. But now is as good a time as any to plan a course of action."
"And what do you propose?"
Blunt and to the point, something which Obito could grudgingly appreciate.
"We repeat events as closely as possible," he said. "As soon as I awaken my Sharingan, you immediately summon Minato with one of his Hiraishin kunai. We return to Konoha uninjured, and I'll give you my left eye."
Obito paused, taking in Kakashi's heavy stare. "The rest I will take care of in due time," he added slightly stiffly.
"And what is this 'rest', exactly?" Under the faintly flickering light of the lamp two shops down, Kakashi's eyes were dark and barely discernible.
Obito frowned. The atmosphere had been much more relaxed during training and during dinner, when there had been Minato, Rin, and Kushina to act as buffers. But now it was just him and Kakashi, and the heavy cloak of tension—weighted with over a decade's worth of differences and painted with the sheen of war and warring philosophies—was back.
"You know I need the Mangekyō," he said, eyes tightening. "You know what I need to do to awaken it."
"No," Kakashi shot back, quick and sharp. "No, I don't know what it is you 'need to do'. Tell me, Obito. What exactly is it that you think you're going to do?"
Obito gritted his teeth. He had to—he needed her to—
Kakashi tilted his head back. "You can't say it," he said slowly. "You can't even say 'I'll kill Rin'."
Ice shot through Obito's veins. Kakashi continued to stare, baiting attitude gone, a new cautiousness in his eyes.
Obito clenched his fists. "I'll kill Rin," he hissed out.
Something in him cracked. A heavy feeling coiled its way around his heart, something like—
This was ridiculous. She wasn't the real Rin.
He suppressed the feeling as quickly as it came.
Kakashi gave a short, humourless laugh. "Well, now, Obito. I don't believe you." He straightened, pushing himself off the wall and uncrossing his arms. "You're still Uchiha Obito," he said, slightly quieter, with a muted sort of relief that implied all sorts of assumptions that Obito wanted to shred into pieces.
He ignored Kakashi's maddeningly certain tone and presumptuous words. They meant nothing. Instead Obito lifted his goggles, pushing them up onto his hitai-ate—a hindrance to his eyesight that he didn't need right now.
"I will do what it takes to complete the Eye of the Moon Plan." His words were steel. As they should have been before.
"You would kill Rin," Kakashi said. "The only girl you ever loved."
This time, Obito refused to falter. "Rin, the real Rin, will be alive under Infinite Tsukuyomi," he said, the tone of his voice brooking no arguments.
"Again with the—" Kakashi let out a heavy breath. "I've already told you once," he stated finally. "I'm not letting Rin die again. We'll find another way."
"Do you know of someone else besides me with Kamui?" Obito said, his voice scathing. "Consider yourself lucky to not be in my place. Were our positions reversed, it would be your best friend you would be forced to watch die in order to return."
Kakashi's eyes dropped away.
"I've already watched you die once," he said.
For a brief moment, Obito froze, caught off guard. Then a bitter smile twisted his face. "Even now? You're a fool, Kakashi. I'm your enemy."
Kakashi choked out a humourless laugh. "I know." His back fell against the cracked wall again with a dull thud.
"And yet you had no reservations about trying to kill me." Obito could have laughed, too, at the convoluted, hypocritical logic Kakashi was spouting. "What makes Rin any different?"
There was a beat of silence, and Kakashi's eyes grew distant. "Friend or not, killing you is what the past Obito would have wanted," he said, his words low but firm. He focused back on Obito. "But I promised the past you that I would protect Rin, no matter what."
Idealistic. Absurdly, laughably idealistic.
"You of all people should know that promises can't always be kept," Obito said scornfully. "This is reality. We can't all have a happy ending, and sometimes there are no easy choices." He swept his hands out. "Tell me, Kakashi," he said, throwing Kakashi's own words back at him. "What exactly do you want to do, then? How do you intend for us to return?"
The memory of Kakashi's faint smiles from their dinner flashed through his mind, and his eyes narrowed. "Or do you not intend to return at all?" he asked, his voice dangerously low.
Kakashi bristled. "I don't abandon my comrades."
Obito sneered. Funny, as that was exactly what Kakashi was doing right now.
Kakashi continued. "There may not be an easy choice, but the least I can do is try to make the right one."
"And what would that be?" asked Obito bitingly.
Kakashi set his jaw. "We could do research first. You mentioned scrolls. Kamui has a precedent. There could be an alternative way for us to return." He saw the disbelieving look on Obito's face. "It's the least you can try before killing Rin."
Obito glared at him.
He needed Kakashi's cooperation to return. That was the only reason he was humouring these desperate grasps at straws.
"Fine," he forced out.
"And if there is no alternative way?" he asked, scathing.
There was a beat of silence. Then Kakashi set his shoulders, and the steady, determined look in his eyes told Obito all he needed to know about the utter, obstinate idiot.
"I can't let you kill Rin."
Obito threw his head back, and laughed. He turned and strode a few paces away, before spinning around and giving Kakashi a look of seething disgust. "Surely you must be aware of the incredible levels of denial and delusion that you've armoured yourself in," he spat out.
"And what about you, Obito?" Kakashi threw back. "You're just as deluded as I am if you think you can bring yourself to kill Rin."
"Don't speak as though you know me," Obito sneered. He paced across the rough ground, fingers aching to grab a kunai, if only so his nails wouldn't start drawing blood from his palms.
"It would haunt you endlessly," Kakashi said tightly. "Look what her death did to you the first time around."
"It taught me the hard truth of reality." Obito curled his hands into fists. "And I'm better off for it."
Kakashi looked at him, something approaching sadness on his shadowed face. "No. No, you're not."
Of all the people to lecture him on the merits of his choices. Kakashi, who had been the one to use the jutsu—the jutsu Obito had helped him complete—to kill Rin. Kakashi should have known better than anyone why Obito couldn't stand to live in a world of lies, why Obito had to do this.
Obito stopped pacing. He turned to face Kakashi, still standing silent against the side of the wall.
"You can't stop me."
Kakashi looked at him evenly. "I don't need to. You'll stop yourself, Obito." He stared at him, as though daring Obito to deny it.
Obito gritted his teeth. "You know, Kakashi, I noticed how you were acting earlier. Or, rather, how you weren't acting at all. In light of your little smiles and joking banter, your vow to never 'abandon your comrades' is ringing rather hollow."
Kakashi tensed. "And is that so wrong? Can't I be happy, for once? Rin is dead. Minato is dead. Kushina is dead. But here, they're not." He hesitated. "And you weren't completely acting either, Obito," he said with conviction.
"With Infinite Tsukuyomi, you can have all of this, and more," Obito repeated, angry. "And it would be exactly the same, but better. Happier." He ran a hand through his hair, frustration mixing with a rapidly souring temper as he paced around. Kakashi, more than anyone else, Obito wanted to make understand. "As long as I'm trapped here in this useless child's body, I can't regain my Rinnegan. I can't complete the Eye of the Moon Plan. Madara can't complete the Eye of the Moon Plan. Everything, everything, will have been for nothing."
He spun around to glare Kakashi down, expecting stubbornly set shoulders and hard eyes.
Instead, Kakashi was frozen and wide-eyed.
Obito paused, wary.
Kakashi stood up straighter.
"Maybe… maybe we shouldn't return, after all," he breathed.
As long as I'm trapped here in this useless child's body, I can't regain my Rinnegan. I can't complete the Eye of the Moon Plan.
No. No, Kakashi could not possibly be thinking of—he wouldn't dare—
"What are you trying to say?" Obito hissed.
"I can't believe I forgot." Kakashi let out a short, broken laugh. "I can't believe I forgot that you don't have the Rinnegan."
Obito stalked forwards, coldness tightening in his chest. "And your so-called 'comrades'? You would leave them behind, to fight your war for you?"
"What war?" Kakashi said, a slow realization dawning across his features. "There's no one to bring Madara back to life. He'll be sealed. The Jūbi will be sealed. Without you—without your Rinnegan—the war is as good as over."
Obito snarled. "No—"
"I'm sorry, Obito. I can't help you return."
"You bastard," Obito spat, furious. "I'm stranded across space-time because of you, yet you don't even have the decency to fix this wreckage."
"We're enemies," Kakashi said, dark irony lacing his voice as he repeated Obito's earlier words. "Although…" He hesitated. "We don't have to be. Not anymore."
Obito's face twisted in hatred.
Kakashi watched him, carefully. "We can make this world better. Change things. Fix things." His eyes tightened at the corners. "We can save Rin."
Obito stalked forwards until he was face-to-face with Kakashi, mere inches between them. Kakashi didn't back down. "This world is just as much of a hell as the one we came from," Obito bit out, "and nothing will change that."
"But weren't you happy back there?" Kakashi asked softly, his eyes dark and steady.
Obito took a deep breath. "Fuck you," he snarled. "I'll find a way back without your help."
Before Obito could even close his mouth, Kakashi was gone in a blur of motion that he could hardly track. Then an arm hooked around Obito's neck from behind, sending him lurching backwards, trapped between a warm chest at his back and the cold steel of a kunai at his throat.
Obito's thoughts came to a screeching halt.
"You won't be doing that," Kakashi said evenly.
Obito saw red, and it wasn't because of the Sharingan. Fury crashed over him. So for all of Kakashi's pleasant words, all his entreaties and peace-making, he had only ever wanted to catch Obito off guard. This had been his goal, his goal all along, hadn't it? And to think that Obito had almost believed him, had almost—
Obito shoved the thought away, instead cursing his lack of Sharingan—without it, he was blind, blind and slow and helpless. If this had been their original world, he could have—would have—killed Kakashi in ten different ways by now.
But with Kakashi's razor-sharp kunai pressing against his throat, a flick of the wrist away from easily slicing his carotid, Obito could hardly even breathe.
His mind raced through possible ways to remove himself from Kakashi's hold. It should have been easy, so, so easy. A phase through Kakashi's arms, as effortless as breathing; a Mokuton pike through the heart; a push of the Deva Path. Except Obito was currently a useless thirteen-year-old chūnin who didn't even have a one-tomoe Sharingan to his name. The frustration was suffocating.
"You won't kill me," he gritted out. "Kill me, and you'll forfeit your chance to live here in your perfect little world."
"If it means everyone else can be happy, maybe I should," Kakashi said from behind him. His voice cracked. Obito could feel the shuddering rise and fall of Kakashi's chest.
The chokehold around Obito's neck tightened.
A glimpse of yellow and a barely-there breeze was all Obito registered before Kakashi's arm was gone, leaving him to gasp in air and stagger to find his balance in the sudden vacuum of space.
He heard the sound of a kunai clattering against the pavement, and Kakashi's sharp intake of breath from somewhere behind him. He whirled around.
Then Obito fell back against the wall as the cool, sharp edge of another kunai pressed against the side of his neck.
This one was tri-pronged.
Obito closed his eyes. So much, he thought bitterly, for trying to maintain an act.
"Congratulations on having played me for a fool," came the icy voice of the Yellow Flash. "You two put on quite the convincing performance. But I know my students better than that."
Minato's voice was just as cold as the last time Obito had faced him, on that autumn night sixteen years ago.
The kunai pressed in harder.
"Who are you?"