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Lay me down in the sands of time

Chapter Text

“No,” Obito says, flat and cold.

It’s testament to how much she’s hardened over the last year that Hinata doesn’t even blink. She certainly doesn’t waver, feet planted firmly on the other side of the bed and eyes fixed on him.

“Do you really think I would come to you if there was any other option?” she asks quietly.

“Do you really think I care?” Obito retorts, and he doesn’t look away from Sakura's gaunt, wasted face, pale against the hospital sheets.

There's a long pause, and then a soft pad of steps interrupted by the click of a crutch. Hinata limps forward until she’s hovering over the bed as well, looking down at her friend, and her mouth pulls into an unhappy slant, her pale eyes full of grief.

“The Clan Heads agreed,” she tells him. “Unanimously. I don’t think that’s ever happened before.”

Obito snorts before he can help it, both at the flicker of tired humor and the thought of calling the ragged assortment of shinobi Clan Heads. They're children, or just barely beyond it. The children he fought in the last war, dragged into seats of power they're not ready for, and Obito isn’t going to be among them.

“Give it to Gai,” he says instead, because Gai probably would have been Kakashi’s choice, if he’d survived to take the hat back.

“I admire Gai greatly,” Hinata says quietly, “but he’s not Hokage material. There are some decisions he won't be able to make, and they're the ones we need right now.”

It’s true, though Obito doesn’t want it to be. Gai is strategic, but only when immediately involved in things, and he doesn’t have that streak of darkness in him that most shinobi do. It’s admirable, but it means that he makes decisions based on the right thing to do and sentiment and good choices. That will kill them all more quickly than the enemy could, right now.

A breath, and Hinata leans forward, bracing a hand on the railing of the bed to meet Obito's eyes. She holds them steadily, sharp and intent, and there's exhaustion in the lines of her face but also a determination that echoes with painful familiarity.

“Naruto would have wanted it,” she says, a killing blow.

Obito takes a breath, closing his eyes. Naruto, who they found on the battlefield far too late to save. Naruto, who Hinata screamed and wept over, even as Ino tried to drag her back. Naruto, whose death drove Sasuke to recklessness that killed him within a week, and left the burden of the Hokage's position on Sakura, where it might as well have killed her.

“Please,” Hinata whispers, loud in the silence of the room. She’s not crying, but Obito would feel better if she were—the grief in her should be too much for any one body to contain. “You're a strategist, and you're stronger than anyone left. You're smart, calculating, ruthless—you're everything we need in a Hokage right now. I wouldn’t ask, I wouldn’t want this, but Obito—you're our only choice.”

The ache is overwhelming. Obito lets himself fold forward, pressing his hands over his face. He doesn’t want this, either. It was a dream, once, but.

But.

Obito is three decades and a thousand worlds away from the little boy who wanted acknowledgement, who would have done anything to be Hokage and be seen. Like this, with enemies at the gate and poison in the water, with all of the Hidden Villages beset and their numbers dwindling, with no way to win and the only goal being to hold out as long as possible until someone can figure out who and what these creatures are—

This isn’t what Obito meant, when he once said he wanted to be Hokage.

A sharp, shuddering breath, and Obito scrubs his hands over his face. Damn Kakashi to hell and back, leaving him alone like this. Damn him for dying at the start of all this, damn Naruto for getting himself killed saving their forces, damn Sasuke for following him, and damn Sakura for sacrificing herself to put up a barrier around Konoha. There are only a handful of Konoha's best remaining, and all of them are scarred and tired and worn down. They're dying, as a village.

But Obito—well. If there's one thing he’s good at, it’s surviving against all odds.

“Unanimously?” he asks, because he’s spent the last five years a near-prisoner, and understandably so. Too valuable to kill, repentant as he was, but too dangerous to let go free, with too many sins on his head regardless. Kakashi had overseen his confinement, right up until the battles started getting fiercer. Right up until Konoha started losing, which isn’t a thing that has ever happened before. Konoha is the strongest of the villages, by far, and the attacks on them are proportionately merciless.

“Unanimously,” Hinata confirms, and Obito looks up at her. She isn’t wearing her hitai-ate, and the faded mark of the Caged Bird Seal stands out against her skin, the short bob of her dark hair. Hanabi had gotten Sakura to alter the seals, tie them to the Clan Head so that her death would remove the seal entirely, and Obito wonders if Hinata has forgiven her sister for that yet. For making plans for her death, rather than just fighting to survive.

Hinata, he thinks sometimes, has become a little too much like Naruto, after all these years. All his best parts, and all his worst. It’s…comforting, even when it shouldn’t be.

It’s the reason he recognizes the light in her eyes right now, the relief and buried joy. Hinata might present the perfect appearance of a Hyuuga Clan Head to those around her, but they both loved Naruto with the same ferocity, the same blind devotion. It leaves them open to each other, and Obito should probably hate it, but he can't bring himself to.

They're both of them broken and dimmed and fading, but Naruto was their sun even if his eyes were focused elsewhere. Maybe it’s not a comfortable connection, but it’s what they have.

“What did you find?” he asks, and knows it’s something. Something that’s given Hinata hope.

She takes a breath, doesn’t look away from Obito's mismatched eyes, Rinnegan and Sharingan both. “Sasuke had a theory,” she says, and her mouth curls with faint pain at the name. “I found his notes. He thought—the shadows. They could be remnants of Kaguya, working on instinct.”

It makes a horrific kind of sense, and Obito swallows, feeling his stomach turn. Kaguya and her influence, targeting chakra, devouring life. It fits, even though he doesn’t want it to. “And?”

Hinata smiles, bare and tired, and shifts her crutch out of the way as she carefully settles into the chair across from him, with Sakura's painful, rasping breaths between them. “I was looking through the library,” she confesses, looking down at her folded hands, and in the middle of a war as fierce as this one, it is a confession. They're supposed to be sleeping, or training, or fighting, with no time left for other things. “There were…references. To kinjutsus. Kinjutsus that only the Hokage can access.”

Obito contemplates her for a moment, considering. Konoha's forbidden jutsus are by and large Tobirama’s creations, requiring massive amounts of chakra but also pinpoint control, and of the shinobi left in the village, Obito is probably the only one who can manage both. “Specific kinjutsus, I assume,” he prompts.

Hinata's smile gains an edge, and she’s beautiful, worn but still fighting, grieving from the loss of so very many people but still forging ahead. Obito's seen her with Karin, wrapped together with all the desperation of love in wartime, and he hopes it’s made her happy even as he knows it will never be enough for anyone.

“Did you know another Uchiha had Kamui?” she asks.

Obito blinks, taken aback. He hadn’t, but then, Zetsu and Madara hadn’t been inclined to tell him much of anything, and he hadn’t spent time in the Uchiha records whenever he managed to sneak into Konoha. He eyes Hinata, raising a brow, and she actually laughs.

“The Nidaime recorded his encounters with an Uchiha kunoichi who he thought could bend time when she teleported,” she says. “And then he tried to recreate the ability. The Flying Thunder God was the result, when he realized she was bending space, but before that…”

Before that the Nidaime had been experimenting with altering time, and if anyone could manage it, it would be a mad genius like Tobirama.

Obito breathes in, shaky and uncertain, and shakes himself. He thinks of it, of the applications and logistics, of when and how and where they could step in to create the greatest number of ripples, and then thinks about kicking Zetsu in the teeth.

“I'm in,” he says, and the smile that twists his face is all teeth. “As long as you're coming with me.”

“And Karin,” Hinata says, determined, and when Obito casts her a glance—because Hinata is a viciously selfish creature, and it’s one of the things he likes best about her, but he’d like an explanation for this particular idea—she tips her chin up and says, “She’s an Uzumaki.”

And really, that’s all the justification anyone could need, Obito thinks, wry. With those chakra levels and that brain, not to mention that will—

“She knows?” he asks.

Hinata smiles, just a little. “It was her idea in the first place,” she says.

Yeah, looking for a time-travel jutsu sounds like an Uzumaki solution, without a doubt. But Obito just snorts, shaking his head, and pushes to his feet. One last glance at Sakura, a friend and an ally and someone he’d never thought to like, but who had managed to earn his admiration anyway, and then he steps around the bed and offers Hinata his hand. She takes it, delicate pale fingers sliding into his scarred ones, and he pulls her to her feet.

“I’ll take the hat,” he tells her. “But only long enough to raid the vaults. And next time? Lead with that.”

Hinata laughs, short but warm with pure relief, and grips his hand tightly. “Where?” she asks. “Or—when?”

Obito considers it. Three options, depending on whether he and Karin together can gather enough chakra, but the best… “Back to the beginning,” he says. “The Warring Clans era. We find Zetsu and destroy him, and then Kaguya isn’t a problem anymore.”

She smiles, full of sharp edges and blades in the dark, fractured pieces she’s only barely holding together. It’s beautiful, like a red sun over a killing field. Obito thinks of stepping onto the battlefield of the Warring Clans time with her, and grins right back, all vicious humor and the promise of blood.

Maybe they can't save their world, not the way they want to, but this might be the next best thing.

Chapter Text

What?” Madara demands.

Hikaku winces, though whether at Madara's tone or the head wound a medic is currently wrapping is up for debate. “There wasn’t a winner. There wasn’t even a fight. Before we could even engage the Senju another squad showed up. They knocked everyone out, and when we woke up we were back on clan lands.”

Madara scowls, because somehow, some way, this is Hashirama’s fault. It has to be. “Hatake?” He’s heard they’ve been contemplating an alliance with the Senju, and they always poke their noses into things that don’t concern them. Though they tend to work alone, rather than in squads.

Hikaku shakes his head, even though the medic smacks his shoulder for it. His grimace deepens, and he says, “I didn’t get a good look—I don’t think anyone did—but one of the kunoichi was probably a Hyuuga.”

That’s enough to make Madara bristle, because the Hyuuga are all pretention assholes on the very best days, and Madara loathes them almost as much as he does the Senju. But…if only one of them was Hyuuga, who the hell were the others? The Hyuuga don’t work with other people; it would upset their belief in their innate superiority, maybe rattle loose one of many sticks wedged up their collective ass.

“Nothing else?” he asks, feeling a headache starting at his temples. He reaches up to rub it, trying not to sigh.

With an apologetic shrug at the Clan Head, Hikaku waves the medic away before the woman can check him over any further, pushing to his feet despite her glare. “I think we were collateral,” he says, with just a trace of humor.

That is just about the last thing Madara wants to hear. Hikaku’s squad was ten strong, some of the Uchiha Clan’s best, and that they were flattened is terrible to begin with. If the strangers weren’t even trying

“They were chasing someone,” Hikaku offers. “Some sort of Doton user. He vanished into the ground, as far as I could see. We were in the way, and the three of them—”

“Three,” Madara repeats, pained but at this point unsurprised. Of course.

(This is definitely Hashirama’s fault somehow. No one else could be behind something so ridiculous.)

Hikaku just shrugs, like seeing ten Uchiha shinobi taken out by three strangers isn’t the weirdest thing that’s happened to him today. It might not be. “Two kunoichi and a man. The man had black hair and a staff of some kind, the other woman was a redhead with a couple of chains. I didn’t get a good look at either of them, but the first kunoichi was using a variation of the Gentle Fist style, I'm pretty sure.”

Seeing as Hikaku is mainly a taijutsu user, Madara's willing to take his word for it. Not that it helps, because his day has just gotten entirely overturned. Enemies like this can't be allowed to run around the country, especially so close to the Uchiha.

“Show me where you woke up, and where you faced the Senju,” he orders, and Hikaku straightens. “I won't have a Hyuuga making things hard for us.”

 

 

In retrospect, maybe charging in before they had a clear idea of what they were up against wasn’t the best idea.

The Hyuuga is definitely a problem, and the fact that half of Madara's shinobi are groaning on the ground with their chakra blocked is testament to that. She’s fast, blindingly fast, more so than any Hyuuga that Madara has encountered before, but the man with her makes her look like she’s standing still.

Bad enough to have twenty Uchiha and the Uchiha Clan Head himself humiliated like this. Worse to have it happen in front of Hashirama and Tobirama, since Hashirama is on some ridiculous peace-making mission (predictable) and Tobirama apparently came along to babysit his brother (also predictable) while that cousin of theirs came along to babysit him (even more predictable). And infuriating to be humiliated on accident while the Hyuuga, the redhead, and the man all go after someone else entirely.

Whatever poor bastard they're aiming at doesn’t even have a chance.

In the fading glow of golden chains that shatter into chakra and receding Mokuton (proof that this is somehow Hashirama’s fault, Madara was right) and flickering blue lion-fists, the scarred redhead—who looks suspiciously familiar—huff with clear satisfaction and dusts off her hands. She tugs a jian out of the ground and tosses it carelessly back to the man, who snatches it out of the air without even looking and somehow makes it disappear completely.

“Done, then?” she asks decisively, shoving her glasses up her nose.

The Hyuuga straightens up, flexing her fingers for a moment, and casts her gaze towards the ground, prominent veins showing her Byakugan. “No shadows,” she reports, and smiles brilliantly, looking up at the redhead. “He’s gone.”

The redhead takes four long strides, grabs the Hyuuga woman, and hugs her desperately. Then, before the brunette can do more than make a sound, the redhead whirls her around in a few gleefully graceless dance steps, then dips her and kisses her fiercely. The Hyuuga squeaks, but when they part for air she’s laughing, and she pulls the other woman down again without bothering to straighten.

Madara can practically feel his jaw dropping.

The heavily scarred shinobi with them laughs a little, reaching up to rub at one eye. He turns, sunlight catching on short dark hair and then those strange, twisted scars, and he sweeps a look over the battlefield, mouth twitching a little at the sea of helpless Uchiha. Madara bristles entirely ready to take offense, and—

Hashirama, of course, takes that moment to barge in. “Mokuton!” he cries, as gleeful as a child in a sweetshop as he comes bouncing towards them. “You have Mokuton! I thought I was the only one!”

The words twinge faintly, because Madara remembers days by the river, Hashirama complaining about a bloodline that set him apart and made him feel like a freak, and Madara certainly hasn’t forgotten that, in the face of the man’s power, but…maybe he hasn’t recalled it in a very long time. Easy enough not to think about Hashirama being the sole person with Mokuton when he was wielding it against the Uchiha.

“Brother—” Tobirama starts, exasperated, but the strange shinobi is already turning towards Hashirama, eyes a little wide—

They land on Madara, and he freezes, features contorting. Madara blinks, because that wasn’t the expression he was expecting, but—

The ring of a shakujo slams into the side of his head with enough force to make Madara's vision go white, and he’s suddenly tumbling ass over teakettle with his ears ringing, absolutely no memory of having seen the bastard even start to move. He slides to a stop against a tree trunk, nose mashed into the dirt, and half a second later a sandaled foot slams into the back of his skull, pinning him against the bark. The stranger snarls.

Out of the corner of his eye, Madara can just see the two kunoichi come up for air again, look over, and dive right back into another kiss, clearly deciding that whatever is happening, it’s unimportant.

What,” Madara squawks, trying to peel his face off the tree only to have the man grind it right back in. “What the fuck, get off me, you bastard!”

“How about I just slit your throat instead,” the stranger retorts, unimpressed.

Madara feels a chill chase down his spine, because gods, he’s not joking. As a shinobi, as an Uchiha, of course Madara has faced down people trying to kill him before, but this is vicious in a way that’s horrifying. This man will absolutely kill him, and likely enjoy every second of the time it takes to do so, which will be far longer than Madara would prefer. He swallows hard, wonders if he can manage to get the man with a genjutsu if he turns his head fast enough, and—

With a gasp, the Hyuuga surfaces from the depths of her liplock, gives her girlfriend a dazed smile, and without so much as glancing over wraps her arms around the other woman’s neck and says, vaguely chiding, “Obito.”

“Hinata,” Obito snaps in return. “He’s going to—”

“Without Zetsu?” the redhead scoffs. She gives Madara a narrow, assessing look, then says, “Even if he does, I think we can take him.”

“You could not!” Madara shrieks, though the effect is mostly lost since his face is still being mashed into the bark.

That, at least, makes Obito snort with clear amusement, and he extracts his foot from the back of Madara's head and steps away, carefully out of range. Though, if the look on his face is anything to go by, he’d welcome Madara taking a swing at him as an excuse to go again.

Madara's been knocked around enough for one afternoon, so he stomps the urge down and thoroughly buries it.

The Senju witch with the topknot starts laughing, vaguely hyena-like and far too amused. Madara thinks uncharitably that Izuna wouldn’t be nearly so enamored of her muscles if he could hear her right now. Grinning wickedly, she plants the butt of her naginata in the earth, gives Obito a once-over, and declares, “All right. You I like.”

Obito blinks in surprise, then glances over at the two kunoichi like he’s waiting for them to save him.

The Hyuuga woman muffles a laugh behind one hand, while the redhead makes a noise of exasperation. She rolls her eyes, steps back to cross her arms over her chest, and offers, “If we all beat him up, does that mean you’ll like us, too? Because I would kill for a bath. Kill him, specifically.” A toss of her long red hair indicates Madara more contemptuously than anyone but Tobirama has ever managed, and Madara might be impressed if he weren’t so incandescent with rage.

“YOU—I'm the Uchiha Clan Head!” he snaps. “Have some respect, you harpy! And stop butting in on other people’s fights—the Uchiha would have decimated the Senju if you hadn’t interfered!”

Obito's dark eyes narrow, and he lifts his head, turning sharply to face Madara. Not quite putting himself between Madara and the women, but he’s certainly bristling.

“Call her that again,” he growls, low and dangerous enough to make Madara take an aborted step back. “I dare you.”

Madara blinks, but he’s not one to back down, ever, and he glares right back. “Or what? You’ll make me shut my mouth? I’d like to see you try.”

For a moment he thinks the stranger is going to fly into a rage. But then, all of a sudden, the tension slides out of Obito’s body. He takes a step back, no longer braced to lunge, and gives Madara a wicked smirk. “I did a pretty good job of it a second ago, didn’t I? But no, keep talking and I won't stop Karin from kicking your ass.”

“I—I think we should start over,” Hinata says, vaguely exasperated even as her girlfriend smirks. She tugs Karin back with her, just a step, and turns to bow politely to Hashirama. “I'm sorry that we ended up knocking out your shinobi. It wasn’t our intention.”

Hashirama still can't quite manage to tear his eyes away from Obito for longer than a handful of seconds, but he still finds a moment to beam at her. “No harm done,” he says cheerfully. “The medics didn’t find anything wrong with them, so we assumed you weren’t hostile.”

Tobirama’s quiet scoff says very clearly that it was Hashirama who assumed that, not him, but he’s an ass and his ruff is stupid, so Madara isn’t surprised no one ever listens to him.

“Not to you,” Obito promises, still eyeing Madara like he wants to do him bodily harm.

The Senju witch—Tōka, Madara dredges up from the depths of his memory, since he’s mostly learned to tune out the poetry Izuna writes to her biceps—hums lightly, leaning on her weapons and eyeing the bastard with interest. “That’s an odd thing for an Uchiha to say,” she offers.

Madara almost trips over his own feet. “WHAT?” he screeches, whirling to face the other man, and it’s dark in the shadows beneath the trees, but the shifting curve of a Mangekyo Sharingan is clearly visible upon a second look, paired with—

“What the hell is that?” he demands, leveling an accusing finger at the interlocking rings of lavender in Obito's other eye. “What did you do to it? Did you corrupt your Sharingan? How.

From the expression on his face, Madara would think he’d just hit Obito in the face with a brick. There's a moment of utter silence as the two kunoichi trade startled glances, and then—

Karin starts laughing. Loud, buoyant, brilliant laughter that leaves her hanging onto Hinata as she wheezes, shoulders shaking. Hinata is laughing too, quieter and more restrained, but her pale eyes are bright and warm and happy as she sinks to the ground, pulling Karin up against her. She whispers something in the other woman’s ear, and Karin nods, pressing her forehead against Hinata's shoulder as she giggles.

Obito snorts, but there's a wry curve to his mouth. “The Rinnegan,” he says, raising a brow at Madara.

Madara's brain shorts out.

“I'm not really an Uchiha,” Obito continues, looking at Tōka ever so casually, like he hadn’t just dropped the bombshell of the century on Madara's poor, unprepared head. “And if you’ve got space for us, we’re happy to fight for you.” A glance at Hashirama, and he hesitates before he adds, “I…only know about my Mokuton through using it. If you’d be willing to teach me…”

Hashirama lights up like someone just announced that every day was going to be Christmas. “Yes!” he says excitedly, grabbing Obito's hands between his own, and Madara kind of wants to scream abort, abort because the man just flattened him for a look, but—

But Obito lets Hashirama grab him and pull him close, unresisting and clearly surprised but nonviolent when Hashirama grabs his face and beams at him.

So it’s just Madara that makes him homicidal, then. Good to know.

With a low groan, Madara splays a hand over his face and tries not to think what the elders are going to say. Three shinobi as powerful as these ones joining the Senju, and at least one of them with a strong, obvious grudge against the Uchiha—well. Maybe if Madara spins it right they can start inching towards a peace treaty, or at least a ceasefire.

Gods, his head hurts.

And he’s pretty sure there’s a footprint on the back of his head, damn it.

Getting out of bed this morning wasn’t worth it.