Shinobi didn't discuss soulmates, not when everything a soulmate stood for was considered a weakness, and weaknesses existed for exploitation. But Obito had never been like other shinobi. Even in his darkest hours, he thought about Rin. He'd spent over half of his life chasing a dream that wasn't really his, a dream thrust upon him at his weakest, when he was no longer the predator but the prey. His soulmate made him weak, but she also made him strong. He was invincible. He was indestructible. And he was alone, always alone. He played parts so well that he sometimes forgot himself. He was Tobi when he needed to blend in. He was Madara when he elicited fear and hatred. Obito had died; Obito had passed on. Whatever existed of Obito had burst into flames, the remains just ashes, gone on the evening breeze. He thought that hell was a life without Rin, and some higher power had gifted him more of the same. Soulmates shared an afterlife, and there was no one there. Even in death, he couldn't have her.
His afterlife consisted of a home and a beautiful garden. There was a path that led to the road, but he decided not to follow it; although he didn't have Rin, he had no desire to leave. He explored the lush garden first. He brushed his fingers over the red and green leaves, then he plucked a few pink petals from a blossoming dogwood, tossing them, one by one, into the water. The home was built for the garden; the garden was built for the stream. There was a small wooden bridge connecting a centerpiece of land to the rest of the garden, but Obito took the stepping stones. He didn't deserve the home, the stream, or the garden, but he thought he deserved something. He thought he deserved someone. He sat down beneath the red maple tree and stared out across the land he considered his own. Much later, when the colorful sky turned dark, Obito finally accepted that Rin wasn't his soulmate. He'd dreamt of a world where no one else would ever have to face their hardships, and he'd wasted years of his life. He accepted that she would never join him, and he told himself that someone, somewhere, was his soulmate. He only needed patience, after a lifetime of patience.
Time existed without existing. He quickly lost track of the days and nights. He woke up with the sun and went to sleep with the moon. Eventually, he began to care for the garden. He found seeds and planted flowers that grew and grew until they bloomed. His afterlife could have been a reality, but he'd wasted his years. He could have built a life for himself; he could have gone back to Konoha at any time and resumed some kind of life there. Kakashi would have accepted him. Instead, Obito spent his afterlife going through his numerous regrets.
He remembered visiting Konoha just to check on Kakashi. He'd had no angle, no secret mission, just a desire to see Kakashi, to hear his voice. He visited too much. Eventually Zetsu found out, and his visits to Konoha became shorter and shorter, until they finally stopped. He had a borrowed dream and the false cry of destiny, so he'd left Kakashi behind, just like he had left Kakashi behind the night Rin died. He made the decision for both of them. He removed himself from the equation. He ran away from everyone and everything, but he was never able to stop looking back. No one had judged him for such subtle glances. He'd told himself that someone alive still cared for him, even if he wasn't Obito anymore. He'd worn masks for so long that sometimes he forgot what he even looked like. And in the afterlife, with nothing but time, Obito spent his moments staring at his reflection in the water. His skin was smooth and all one color. No scars. No white flesh. It was him, just him.
At some point, Obito acknowledged that a great deal of time had passed. Thoughts of time had been brief, fleeting things. He worried sometimes that his soulmate was Orochimaru, since the man liked cheating death so much. The possibility left Obito disgusted for days. Even still, the thought disgusted him. It was a rainy morning when someone finally knocked on his door. At first, he sat on the couch, thumb marking his spot in his book, listening for another knock. When the person knocked a second time, he bent the corner of his page and placed the book aside. Socks making his steps quiet, he left the living room for the front hall. Again, the person knocked. Obito frowned to himself. He'd spent so long anticipating the arrival of someone else that he'd never truly considered his life with someone new. There had been rumors that soulmates were destined to meet at least once. Obito closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and opened the door.
"I'm sorry I took so long."
Kakashi was completely drenched, water droplets falling from his hair and his clothing. Obito stared at him for a long few minutes, then stepped back and allowed Kakashi entrance into the home.
"So it's you." Obito didn't have anything else to say. He'd short-circuited the moment he heard Kakashi's voice.
"I'm a little surprised too." Kakashi looked around, as if trying to summon dry clothes. He finally met Obito's eyes and the two both noted that they had their own eyes again. Obito was a little disappointed, as if Kakashi keeping the eye meant keeping a part of him. "I'm dripping water all over the floor," Kakashi noted, hinting at Obito.
"Yeah. Sorry. Take off your cloak." Obito froze when he saw the writing on the back, his expressions ranging from shock to anger. Kakashi looked a little sheepish. "So you became Hokage. What the hell happened to 'I don't want to be the stupid Hokage'? You made fun of me for years and you turn around and steal my dream!"
"You abandoned the village and tried to kill everyone."
"I didn't try to kill everyone! I was trying to, trying to, make it better, I guess. It made a lot more sense when I was brainwashed."
"It makes absolutely no sense. You should have come home."
"You know what I mean."
Obito turned and headed toward the stairs, silently motioning for Kakashi to follow him. They didn't talk, neither of them knowing what to say about their situation. Obito felt some relief that his soulmate wasn't Orochimaru, but he'd never thought Kakashi would show up on his doorstep. What kind of fucked up higher power decided on Kakashi? Obito didn't know how to answer that question, so he let the thought go. Upstairs, Obito went to his bedroom to root through the closet for clothes. Oddly enough, there were more clothes than he remembered. He picked out pants and shirts he hadn't possessed hours earlier, and he definitely hadn't owned masks. Frowning, Obito grabbed some of the new clothing and handed it off to Kakashi, who promptly dropped his soaked cloak to the floor with a sickening plop. Kakashi put the clothes on the end of the bed and started undressing, so Obito turned around.
"So we're stuck together."
"It looks like it."
"I haven't spent time with you since I was twelve."
"We can start with why you sacrificed your life to save me. Again."
Obito had avoided the truth for long enough. He could have easily used kamui on himself and let Kakashi die. His decision hadn't been a split-second decision, not like it seemed -- he'd known the entire time. Becoming Obito again, acknowledging himself in a way he hadn't done since he was a preteen, made him realize exactly what it meant to have friends and comrades. It wasn't like a switch flipping, though others might have interpreted it that way. He'd spent a lot of time in the afterlife going over why he did what he did. He'd seen something in Kakashi that had inspired him, Kakashi's willingness to give his own life to save that of his comrade. He'd been that way, once upon a time. He'd decided he wanted to go out on his own terms. And if he still cared about stupid Kakashi, he ignored those feelings.
"A mistake on my part."
Obito decided to joke about it, though he used a serious tone. He didn't want to say that he'd wanted to become a better person, that he'd wanted to be there for Kakashi in a way that he hadn't been all those years ago. Of course he was going to save Naruto; Naruto had saved him. But Kakashi was different, had always been different. The afterlife suddenly seemed a little bigger, a little better, even if Obito didn't know why or how that happened. As he stared out the window, he heard clothing hitting the floor. The last time he'd had to share a living space with someone, he'd been with Deidara, and the man had been an absolute dick the entire time, which might have had something to do with Tobi "accidentally" breaking Deidara's things. Sometimes he enjoyed being Tobi a little too much.
"You can turn around," Kakashi said, just raising the mask up over the lower portion of his face. Obito turned around and saw two eyes staring back at him. It was different with both eyes. "So this is where we live now?"
"It's weird," Obito began, a thoughtful expression in the downward turn of his lips. "I don't see my eye staring back at me."
"Do you still have the sharingan?"
"No. There's no chakra here."
The way Kakashi accepted the fact had Obito questioning the man's sanity. They'd gone from a world full of chakra to a land with no chakra at all. The only hint of "life" beyond him was in the greenery. Obito thought about pointing out Kakashi's willingness to accept what should have been impossible, but he heard a growling noise coming from Kakashi's direction. The man smiled and rested a hand over his stomach.
"I didn't realize I would get hungry in the afterlife or I might have packed a snack." Obito tried not to laugh, but he couldn't help it. He burst into laughter, the simple joke refreshing after all his time spent in hell, then in a world built of loneliness. "I'll cook us something, if you show me where the kitchen is," Kakashi offered.
"You can't cook worth shit. Don't pretend that you can."
"I can cook."
"Cooking fish and eggs really isn't that hard."
Obito knew he outed himself as a stalker, but he was beyond caring. He'd been depressed and desperate for some connection with someone other than Zetsu. Given the chance, he would have done the same thing again. Kakashi had helped his sanity. Kakashi had survived and moved on, and it motivated Obito to do the same, even though it took him too long. Kakashi tried to respond to the words, but Obito walked by, lightly bumping Kakashi's arm, and led the man downstairs to the kitchen.
The kitchen had more appliances than Obito had ever had in any of his apartments, but he'd adapted quite well. Kakashi stood and stared at the full stove, brows drawn in silent question. Obito stood next Kakashi, hands in the pockets of his sweats, eyes on the oven. Ovens weren't exactly commonplace in Konoha. They didn't really need ovens. Obito had survived with a two-burner and a rice cooker. In the afterlife, he had everything. Obito walked over to the stove and hit a button and the front lit up to reveal the interior of the oven. Kakashi arched a brow.
"I know. It's different. It took me a while to get used to it."
"To be clear, we're going to skip over the part where you admitted to stalking me?"
"It wasn't stalking! I just checked in every now and then."
"Uh huh. How often is 'every now and then'?"
"Look, do you want food or not? I'll let you starve," Obito said, shrugging his shoulders. Kakashi seemed to contemplate something before he decided on smiling.
"Such a good housewife." Kakashi kept that annoying smile on his face until Obito hit him in the face with an oven mitt. "Is this how we're going to spend the rest of eternity?" Kakashi collected the oven mitt from the floor and tossed it to Obito.
"Well, I'm not a housewife, for one, and I don't know. I guess we adapt? We're just roommates now." Obito didn't know what to say, so he rubbed the back of his head, messing up his already messy hair. Kakashi nodded.
"I only saw one bedroom."
"And it's mine. I died first, so I get first dibs."
"So you're punishing me for living a full life?" Obito stared at him for a few moments, while he seemed content to poke around the kitchen. When Obito's silence stretched on, Kakashi turned and caught Obito staring. "What's wrong?"
"You lived a long life then?"
"It's thanks to you," Kakashi said, finding something interesting outside the kitchen windows. The pair of small windows were above the sink. Obito turned so he could watch the rain fall. "I appreciate what you did for me and for Naruto."
"That doesn't make up for a lifetime of bad decisions," Obito frowned. He tipped his head back and stared up at the ceiling. "I thought it was worth it -- I still think it was worth it. Did Naruto make Hokage?"
"Ah, Naruto," Kakashi said, suddenly seeming uncomfortable. Obito rounded on him, prepared to give the man a verbal lashing, but Kakashi smiled. "He's Hokage. He actually married Sasuke."
"I didn't think homosexual relationships were legal."
"He made it legal."
"So men just marry now?"
"Mhm. Women too. It shouldn't surprise you. You are my soulmate."
"Don't say it like that," Obito huffed, eyes cutting away from Kakashi. He heard the man chuckle and purposely turned his attention to preparing lunch. Halfway through the preparation of the soba dish, Obito cleared his throat. "So you love me or something?" Kakashi peered around him to see the water boiling.
"This isn't a first date topic," Kakashi casually said, mouth closer to Obito's ear.
Obito almost let the water boil over, so he gritted his teeth and put the noodles into the water. "It isn't a date. It's two roommates having lunch." He looked over at Kakashi and the man held up both hands in mock surrender. "I wouldn't make soba for a first date anyway. I would make beef."
For lunch, they took their bowls of noodles and ate on the engawa, careful to sit away from the edge and avoid the rain. There was something soothing about the rain, something that reminded Obito that he had a couch, a blanket, and a book waiting for him. His afterlife was a place for relaxation, and he'd earned it, every bit of it, after everything he'd gone through over the years. Beside him, Kakashi seemed just as relaxed. When they'd been younger, same-sex relationships had been forbidden, but times had clearly changed. Obito used to think old laws were stupid; at the time, he only thought about challenging the system. He decided that Naruto was right to change the laws, to make it easier for soulmates to be with soulmates. At that thought, he looked over at Kakashi, who insisted on sneaking food rather than lowering the mask. The man was handsome, to a point that it almost became unfair. He'd always looked good, even before puberty, which he'd hated, growing up. Girls fought to get Kakashi's attention. Obito did everything under the sun and the only two people to pay attention to him were Rin and Kakashi.
"I used to resent you," Obito sighed, pausing to stuff noodles into his mouth. He chewed and swallowed and took extra time to think of his next words. "It makes sense that we're soulmates. I should have expected this. I can't help but think," he paused and sighed again, "think what my life would have been like if I'd gone back, at any time. I knew you would welcome me back. I knew it. I really fucked up."
"You've really changed," Kakashi said, placing his empty bowl aside. He stretched out his legs and leaned back against the wall. "I would have welcomed you back -- you're right. You did fuck up, but what does it matter now? We don't have to be those broken people anymore."
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything I said and everything I didn't say. I'm sorry for not going back with you. I'm sorry for the war. I'm so sorry I hurt you," Obito began, apologies raining from his lips. Kakashi reached out and took one of his hands. "What can I do to make it up to you?"
"You don't have to apologize for those things, Obito. I forgave you a long time ago."
"Why are you so damn good? Isn't there something inside of you that hates? Aren't you angry? Why don't you feel the way I feel?"
"You're you, and that's who you are. I worked through my feelings. You didn't. I've been through the stages of grief on repeat for years. I'm tired of that. I don't want that anymore. I want you and this afterlife."
As if on cue, lightning cut across the sky, reminding Obito of lightning chakra and Rin's final moments. Kakashi seemed to get something from the lightning too, if the squeeze of Obito's hand meant anything. They'd exhausted themselves and night hadn't fallen. Kakashi had surprised him, but Kakashi always managed to surprise him. They had eternity before them, and Obito didn't want his past anymore. He wanted to cast off those days in favor of the days he would spend with Kakashi. What did their pasts matter? They were dead. They'd entrusted the next generation, who would go on to trust the next generation, forming an endless cycle of growth.
"You want me? What do you mean by that?"
"Whatever you want it to mean."
"How do we just move on? How can you, how can you want me at all? What happens when you get tired of me?"
"I'm not going to get tired of you. I spent years wishing you were with me. I have a chance here. So yes, I want you. I'll always want you."
"This isn't a first-date topic either," Obito mumbled, reaching up with his right hand to massage his temple. Kakashi didn't laugh at him, so he looked down into his bowl of cold soba. He toyed around with his chopsticks.
"We don't have to be anything more than friends, if you're uncomfortable." Kakashi shrugged, but Obito saw beneath the air of indifference and he found himself wincing. Kakashi clearly cared about him and he wondered if he had the ability to feel the same way about a person who wasn't Rin.
"I want you too," Obito decided, throwing caution to the wind. They were soulmates, and that meant everything. Kakashi had knocked on that door. And Obito had waited so long for him. "How many dates is it going to take for you to take off that mask?"
"I don't put out on the first date, Obito."
"You're a massive pervert, you know that?"
The answer was five.