1. There is no crying in aggressive gardening
“What is that,” Obito says flatly.
“It is a cactus,” Gaara says, like that’s the only question here. Deftly, with an air of ceremony, he sets the pot in Obito's hands, and then tells him, “It reminded me of you.”
Obito honestly almost throws it back in his face. He’s never seen an uglier plant, even among cacti—it’s short and kind of lumpy, with lopsided spines on one side and a truly ridiculous-looking off-green flower perched on top like a badly disguised bug.
“…Of me,” he repeats, just in case he heard that wrong.
Gaara meets his eyes, and it’s probably a bad sign that Obito can't tell if that expression is sincerity or this is payback for having me killed. “Of course,” Gaara tells him, like the resemblance is self-evident. “Naruto provided me with a plant when I left Konoha the first time. I thought to make it a custom with defeated enemies.”
Obito is willing to bet that plant is under glass somewhere, probably with an armed guard. Gaara's baseline level of devotion is a little scary, and this is Obito saying that.
“Thanks,” he says dryly, lifting the little plant to eye-level. At least the planter is pretty, blown glass with streaks of copper and red and blue.
Gaara inclines his head. “I had assumed your Mokuton would do better with a plant not native to the desert, but this is one I started myself.”
Obito still can't tell if Gaara is screwing with him or not, but he doesn’t want to squint at Naruto's boyfriend and accidentally offend him by asking. Better to suffer in silence, really. “I didn’t realize Naruto liked plants,” he says.
It’s subtle, but Gaara lights up a little. Kind of. It’s around the eyes, buried under the stoicism. “Naruto loves plants. His garden is impressive. I believe he is the source of Kakashi’s Mister Ukki as well.”
Suddenly Kakashi’s fondness for the sad, wilting plant Obito has been keeping alive through spite and contrariness makes a lot more sense. Obito glances back into the house, at where Mister Ukki sits on the windowsill, and then looks down at the cactus again. “I haven’t tried my Mokuton on anything since the war,” he says, half to himself; the memories of Zetsu and that betrayal are hard to shake, and Obito's been avoiding anything that might spark them.
The set of Gaara's mouth eases, and he reaches out, touches the sandy soil around the base of the plant. “Gifts should be used for good,” he says quietly. “Naruto was the one to teach me that.”
Obito snorts, because that’s so very much a Naruto kind of lesson. “To protect your precious people?” he asks. Tries to make it ironic, but falls short, because it feels like his heart is somewhere up in his throat.
“Yes,” Gaara confirms, and meets his eyes. “You have rediscovered what is precious to you, haven’t you?”
Obito is not going to cry into the ugly little cactus. He isn't. “Get lost already. Go find your boyfriend and be sappy at him, not me. I have a cactus to kill.”
Gaara smiles, just a little.
(The cactus ends up next to Mister Ukki. Obito still hates it, and he’s definitely going to knock it off the sill the first chance he gets. The pot is pretty, though. It would be a shame to break it.)
2. Don’t be afraid to start small
It sparks a thought, really. That’s all. Just a curiosity. Obito's reserved his Mokuton for fighting, for the barest, harshest attacks, all stabbing branches and strangling roots. So maybe it’s natural that he’d be interested in…exploring other avenues with it, so to speak.
“Obito,” Kakashi says mildly, but he’s watching Obito hawk-like over the top of his book.
“Bakashi,” Obito returns without looking up. The yuzu tree, all of three inches tall, doesn’t react when he pokes at it, and Obito frowns.
“Did you steal that from the Yamanaka?” Kakashi wants to know.
“Don’t be an idiot,” Obito tells him. “I wouldn’t steal from the Yamanaka Clan Head. Ino gave it to me.” He tugs gently on a leaf, and the plant shivers but doesn’t otherwise change.
“Because it’s dying,” Kakashi says dryly.
“It’s not dying,” Obito says crankily, because he wouldn’t waste his time on it if it was. “It’s just…not growing.”
“You mean dying,” Kakashi concludes, since he always has to be a jerk.
Obito flips him off without looking up. “She’s fine,” he says aggressively. “She just needs something.”
Kakashi raises one pointed brow. “The sweet release of death?” he suggests, and then, “She?”
“Don’t project your own issues onto an innocent plant, Bakashi,” Obito warns, then scowls down at the yuzu. “Damn it, just grow.”
“I don’t think shouting at the plant will help, Obito,” Kakashi says, dust-dry, and pats the couch beside him. “Why don’t you come sulk over here for a while and try again later?”
“Why don’t you take a walk through the Forest of Death naked?” Obito retorts spitefully.
Kakashi fans himself with his stupid book. “Why, Obito. I think you’d enjoy that too much. And do you really want to share my dashing good looks with the whole village? I thought we were exclusive.”
Obito is going to kill him. Obito is going to murder him and not even bother to make it look like an accident, because no one on earth will blame him. with a growl, he straightens, shoving to his feet, and snarls, “Bakashi—”
In a crackling surge of branches twisting, the little yuzu seedling surges to furious life, exploding out of its pot and practically lunging for Kakashi. There’s just enough time for Obito to see Kakashi’s eyes go saucer-wide and then he’s gone in an explosion of smoke, one of the pillows from their bedroom dropping onto the sofa in his place. A moment later there’s a burst of flying feathers as the pillow is torn to shreds by the shrubby tree.
Silence. Obito watches the feathers drift down over his head and shoulders, then drops his gaze to the surprisingly scrappy yuzu as it retreats with a sad, nearly apologetic creak.
“I guess you’re not dying,” Obito finally says, glancing up. The top branches are brushing the ceiling of their house, already spotted with blossoms, and the roots trailing through the sad remains of the pot and their coffee table are as thick around as his wrist.
The yuzu groans cheerfully, straightening up in the middle of the mess of glass and wood that used to be a table, and it seems perfectly content to stay right there.
“…I’ll get you some dirt,” Obito tells it, then pitches his voice low enough that Kakashi won't hear him. He might get the absolutely wrong impression that Obito likes him or something. “Leave Kakashi alone, okay? I’m attached to certain pieces of him.”
With a mournful rustle, the yuzu settles and goes motionless. Obito's willing to take that as reluctant agreement, and with a roll of his eyes he goes to coax Kakashi out of the bedroom.
3. Practice makes perfect
“Gaara said you were starting a garden!” Naruto says brightly, the moment Obito opens the door.
Obito stares at him for several long moments, then groans and rubs a hand over his eyes. “Naruto,” he rasps. “It’s two in the morning.”
“There's never a bad time for plants,” Naruto huffs, and comes in without waiting to be invited, catching Obito's elbow and dragging him along. Obito goes along with it, mostly because he doesn’t have Zetsu to grow him a new arm if he resists.
“Where’s Gaara?” he demands, because if he has to suffer through Naruto's enthusiasm in the middle of the night he wants Naruto's boyfriend to suffer the same thing.
“He’s sleeping,” Naruto says cheerfully. “I wasn’t going to wake him, don’t be dumb.”
“I was sleeping!” Obito protests, and ignores the fact that that’s rather overstating matters. He was having a nightmare, but—Kakashi’s dealing with the remnants of Root, and Obito doesn’t sleep well alone since the end of the war.
“You're not actually an old man, even if your hair is white,” Naruto tells him, and then stops, eyes widening. “It that—?”
“It was three inches tall,” Obito admits grudgingly, but when he reaches out to pat the yuzu tree it’s light and fond. “And then it tried to eat Kakashi.”
Naruto pokes at one of the long thorns sprouting from the trunk. “Who hasn’t, at some point,” he says sagely, and rounds on Obito with a grin. “Okay! We’re gonna make your garden the best garden in Konoha, believe it! Well, not as good as mine, but second best!”
Obito snorts, but he takes the basket Naruto shoves into his arms. When he pulls back the cover, he raise a brow and asks, “Mulch?”
“Plants,” Naruto insists, wounded, and grabs it back, cradling it to his chest like he’s going to protect the clippings from Obito's disregard. “I bet with Mokuton you can make them root right away!”
“Maybe,” Obito says doubtfully, but he takes another look at the tree filling their living room and sighs. “Okay, fine. But we’re doing this outside. Kakashi will kill me if I grow another plant in here.”
Naruto makes a face. “Kakashi-sensei’s such an old man,” he complains. “And his sense of humor’s so bad.”
“You're my favorite,” Obito says in amusement, and turns on the outdoor lights before he ushers Naruto back out the door. “So what sad bits of plant did you bring me?”
“They're good plants!” Naruto makes a face at him, but he hops off the porch and crouches down, pulling things out of his basket. “I've got eggplant and cucumber and tomatoes and an apple tree start and a rose Gaara gave me and a magnolia and some daikon seeds—”
“Why do you have vegetables?” Obito asks, bewildered. “You don’t even like vegetables.”
“I like to grow them!” Naruto protests, like that makes any sense at all. He shoves a bit of vine into Obito's hands and says, “Here! It’s a cucumber!”
Obito handles it gingerly, tipping it up to the light and squinting at it a little. Nothing particularly speaks to him about it, but he’s willing to try.
“I have no idea how to get it to grow,” he admits.
Naruto's face scrunches up, and he looks from the piece of vine to Obito and back again. “You got that tree thing to grow,” he points out.
“I was irritated,” Obito says. “Isn’t gardening supposed to be…I don’t know. Soothing? Supporting even temperament? How far can I get out of spite and annoyance?”
Naruto wrinkles his nose, looking Obito over again, and then says logically, “Well, how far have you gotten out of spite and annoyance?”
That’s…actually a really good point. Obito frowns at the cucumber for a moment, then cups it in his hands, closing his eyes. He just…thinks, for a moment. Thinks about the dream that woke him, drowning-dark water and Rin's hand through his chest. Thinks of Kakashi’s blithe I thought we were exclusive like he’d ever actually told Obito that and Obito hadn’t spent the last three months desperately, disgustingly terrified that this was just stress relief, the post-war version of mission sex, and—
With a loud yelp, Naruto flings himself into Obito's lap with a cry of, “Don’t eat me, I sprouted you!” The force of it knocks Obito clear over, and he squawks, flails, feels a hand grab his wrist—
Not a hand. A vine, lightly prickly but gentle against Obito's skin, and it pulls him up, curls around him like a very friendly snake. Obito touches it on instinct, and there's chakra running through it, heavy and warm, eager and rising like sap in the spring.
Squished up against Obito's chest where he’s clinging like a monkey, Naruto cracks one eye open, then the other. “Oh, cool!” he says enthusiastically, and scrambles upright. “It’s like a jungle!”
It’s like Kakashi is going to murder him, Obito reflects, eying the way the cucumber vine, which now has roughly the same virility as kudzu, is curling up over the roof and down the side of the porch like a curtain. He pushes the vines holding him away, then groans.
“Why do you respond to anger,” he demands.
The cucumber waves as if in a breeze, and the vines fall over his shoulders like a cloak.
Naruto is beaming at him, and Obito presses a hand over his eyes. It is far, far too early for this.
4. Dream big
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Kakashi tells Obito as he leaves, with that certain wry edge that means I don’t expect you to listen to me but I'm saying it anyway so I can act like a martyr when you make a mess.
It’s ever so slightly possible that Obito is projecting, but it annoys the hell out of him, imagined or not.
Still. Still. He promised Rin, when she booted him back into life to make up for his crimes, that he’d try to make the world a better place, and if Tsunade won't even listen to him—
He stalks down a narrow alley, crashes out into one of the main streets, and in the evening, in the cover of an approaching storm, it’s practically deserted. There's no one to see Obito throw a punch at the closest wall, only remembering at the last moment what Sakura will do to him if he tries to use the I couldn’t control my strength excuse for breaking another building. He pulls his punch, takes the explosion of pain through his knuckles with a furious curse, and then slaps the stone with a snarl and leans forward, pressing his forehead to the wall.
And then, soft and light, something tickles his cheek.
For an instant, Obito thinks it’s rain. Then he thinks it’s a feather. And then—
Wisteria, massive, trailing loops of it suddenly cascading down the side of the building. The main trunk is leaning over the edge of the roof, where it definitely wasn’t a moment ago, and Obito is completely cocooned by lavender blossoms and the sweet scent of the flowers. A tendril curls down his arm as he stands there stunned, twists across the back of his hand and just skirts the edges of the closing skin, and it’s a surprisingly gentle touch.
“Well aren’t you as aggressive as a weed,” Obito tells it, but he can't manage to put any sort of bite in his voice, and the wisteria doesn’t seem to take offense. A spray of flowers spills over his shoulder instead, and Obito carefully tangles his fingers in them, breathing out.
He feels better, he realizes with a start. Punching things has never actually worked before, and he’s suspicious about it’s effectiveness this time, but…the Mokuton. The plants. He had put his change in mood down to the surprise of the sudden growth before, but…
What if it’s the plants themselves making the difference?
Turning, Obito puts his back to the wall, closes his eyes, and reaches out. the wisteria answers him, slides right into his hand, and he curls his fingers around the woody trunk. Thinks of what drove him out of the Hokage's office, the stupidity, the fact that Tsunade refused to change the rules around Academy graduation and genin participation in open warfare even with him and Kakashi, the fucking poster children for not sending children into war, standing right in front of her. He’s so angry, and it’s a familiar sensation but he hates it—
The scent of wisteria is suddenly everywhere, so thick in the air it’s like Obito stepped into a perfume shop. He opens his eyes, looking out, and smiles, tightening his grip on the vine’s trunk.
The whole street is strung with wisteria. It stretches from rooftop to rooftop, trails down into the street, spills across windows and over power lines and covers lampposts completely. The street might as well be a tunnel now, with filtering flashes of evening sunlight breaking through, but it’s a green-and-lavender sort of gloom, filled with the scent of summer, and Obito smiles. He tips his head back, rubbing his thumb over the wisteria’s trunk where it rests under his hand, and then laughs.
His head is clear. He could make an argument now without losing his temper, he’s sure, and if he did—
Well. There's a lot of Konoha left, and a lot of plants that would happily take some of his frustration.
Before, Obito had never really considered whether or not he liked plants—well, besides Zetsu, and that was a whole other matter entirely—but he’s pretty sure now that he can safely say he does.
“No,” Kakashi tells him, and the hand on the back of his shirt tightens.
Obito rolls his eyes at him. “I'm not doing anything,” he protests.
Kakashi eyes him with pure suspicion and a healthy dose of wariness. “It’s a bonsai, it’s supposed to be small,” he says.
The weeping willow shifts its branches just a little, and Obito makes a face. “He doesn’t want to be small,” he says. “Some bonsai like it, but that one doesn’t.”
“It’s a tree,” Kakashi says blandly, and hooks a hand around Obito's hip, pulling him along.
Obito subsides with a mutter, but he glances back at the shop again. “None of those ones want to be bonsai,” he says, frowning. “Their roots keep getting pruned too harshly.”
“They're trees,” Kakashi repeats. “You can file a complaint with the Hokage on their behalf, but later. We’re going to dinner.”
Obito harrumphs, but he leans into Kakashi’s grip a little, feels Kakashi’s arm tighten around him. Kakashi has his Icha Icha in his other hand, but—it’s bearable, Obito supposes. It’s fine. It might even be nice.
Obito's never actually gone on a date before. Thirty years old and Kakashi taking him out to eat ramen is his first date. It should probably be pathetic, but Obito's willing to murder anyone who interrupts them, without pause and without mercy.
And then they turn down a street that’s full to bursting with azaleas.
Kakashi stops dead, blinking slowly, and raises his head from his book. His gaze sweeps from one end of the street to the other, taking in the bushes that are now more like towering trees, a hundred different colors of flowers blooming at once as they stretch up past the tops of thee roofs.
“Oh,” Kakashi says slowly, and his gaze slides over to Obito, one brow rising pointedly.
Obito refuses to meet his gaze. Someone said something about white hair being obnoxious, and Naruto gets disappointed when Obito attacks other Konoha shinobi, so he had to get rid of his irritation somehow. He didn’t break anyone’s nose, so Kakashi should be grateful. Besides, the azaleas wanted to be able to reach the breeze, and it never reaches this street.
Kakashi looks from Obito to the carpet of flowers covering the street, and then he snickers. “How romantic,” he says breezily, and keeps walking, tugging Obito along with him. “The whole world wants to make our night perfect, Obito.”
Obito rolls his eyes, but the romantic idiot inside him, who will always be thirteen and convinced that flowers are the utmost expression of feelings, is getting…gooey. “Just keep walking, Kakashi.”
Kakashi chuckles, and doesn’t say anything else.
(Obito excuses himself to find a bathroom halfway through dinner, and when he and Kakashi leave the restaurant he makes sure they don’t pass anywhere within ten blocks of the bonsai shop on their way home. Not that there is a bonsai shop anymore. Or much of a street around it. the trees are a lot happier being big, though, and they're really big now, so it all works out.)
6. As long as there’s no proof, you're golden
“You,” Tsunade says aggressively.
Obito very carefully doesn’t think about the bag of seeds hanging next to his weapons pouch. “Me?” he asks, but can't quite make it innocent, so it comes out closer to smug.
Tsunade's eyes narrow, and she stalks closer to stab a finger at his chest. “You,” she repeats, and she’s supposed to be a tiny woman, but she seems massive and looming and deadly. Obito swallows and takes a prudent step back. “What the hell are you doing to my village?”
“I'm not doing anything,” Obito protests, and takes another step back when her scowl deepens.
“Half of my village is now a garden,” Tsunade growls. “I have ten people in the hospital from trying to cut back some of the damned plants that are taking over—”
“They shouldn’t have tried to hurt the plants, then!” Obito snaps, realizes that that’s a little too close to a confession for his comfort, and adds, “From a tactical standpoint, I mean!”
Tsunade gives him a disgusted look. “It’s not Yamato,” she says, like a warning. “And Naruto's new arm doesn’t give him any kind of Mokuton, I checked.”
Obito offers up a brief, silent apology to Naruto. That was probably not a fun meeting with Tsunade, in any way. At the same time, though, he raises his hands, firmly keeps his chakra in check so that the elm tree behind Tsunade doesn’t keep reaching for them, and says, “Maybe part of Root?”
“That’s exactly what Kakashi said,” Tsunade says suspiciously, and Obito's breath catches. It is?
“He’d know, right?” he says, and if it’s a little choked he can probably be forgiven. “Top jounin, Hokage candidate—”
“Profession master of bullshit,” Tsunade finishes dryly. She gives Obito a long look, then steps back. “Get out of my sight, Uchiha. And leave my office and my house the hell alone, or our next conversation won't be nearly so polite.”
Obito winces, but says determinedly, “I have no idea what you're talking about.”
Tsunade snorts. “You’d better be grateful that the council is too busy running in circles and screaming about Mokuton attacks right now to bother me,” she tells him, then turns on her heel and stalks away.
Obito lets out a slow, careful breath, then gives the suspiciously swaying elm a look and mutters, “Grow the other way, damn it.”
The tree obligingly leans in the other direction, away from the bakery it’s encroaching on and towards the entrance of an already overgrown alley instead, and Obito lets it. Kakashi is waiting for him at the far end of the street, reading his book, and Obito makes for him without pause, a whirl of Kamui carrying him across the distance in a moment.
Kakashi smiles at him as he emerges, eyes crinkling, and lowers his book. “Done already?” he asks lightly, and Obito reaches out, grabs him by that stupid shaggy hair, yanks his mask down, and drags him into a kiss.
It’s a little too close to desperate, a little awed, a little too deep for standing in the middle of the street, but Obito doesn’t give a single damn about that. He wraps himself around Kakashi, kisses him like he never wants to come up for air, and Kakashi curls his arms around him, hauls him in to kiss him deeper.
“What was that for?” he breathes, right against Obito's lips, and slants another kiss across the corner of his mouth.
Obito laughs, breathless and ragged, and twists his fingers into Kakashi’s hair, pushes him back against the wall. He fits himself up against Kakashi and kisses him again, then breathes, “Guess.”
Above them, a weeping willow that used to be a bonsai shivers, shifts. Long branches trail down around them, suddenly long enough to touch the street, and it’s like a curtain of silvery-green closing them off from the rest of the world. Obito can feel it rising like sunlight at dawn, a spreading warmth to every inch of his body, and he swallows, takes a breath.
Spite and anger are one thing, but this—
Well. He hopes Tsunade doesn’t mind Konoha getting just a little bit greener, because he’s too busy kissing Kakashi to care about self-control.