The first time he woke up, he realized something was wrong.
The fact that he woke up was exactly the problem.
There wasn't supposed to be a "waking up" for him, he wasn't supposed to feel anything or be able to see. Why? Well, that's because he died. He was supposed to be dead, a gone, without so much as a lifeless corpse left on the battlefield. He had been engulfed by the brilliant white light, being led to an eternal slumber and was promised freedom from the world and his past sins. Or, maybe, he was supposed to be sent to hell to atone for all that he had done, all the innocent people he had killed or had a hand in the deaths of.
Regardless, "waking up" was not on his rather short to-do list, and for whatever reason, he had woken up and was alive. He was breathing. And the problem was that he wasn't supposed to be.
Trembling hands made their way to his face and he realized that something else was wrong. His skin felt smooth and young, he felt no creases—be they the frown lines he had developed over the years of shouldering his past pains or the scars resulting from the skin infused with Senju cells.
He glanced around the room he was in, absently noting he was in a room he had long forgotten before dashing over to the full-body mirror by the cabinet.
His eyes widened.
He was in familiar blue pajamas that were (rather distastefully) riddled with the gaudy Uchiha fans that he had so cherished at a younger age. He was about a foot shorter than he remembered being, the last time he checked. As he thought, he was lacking the scars that he had gained after the events in Kusagakure, and his face—
He grimaced. Not only did he have two eyes, both of which were onyx in color instead of mismatched black and rippled amaranthine, but his face was noticeably younger. It was rounder, his cheeks were fuller giving him a cherub-like face(had he always looked so feminine?) and over all he looked rather… innocent. If one ignored the looming darkness in the twin black holes that were his eyes, that is.
There Uchiha Obito stood, a man of 31 years who had lived a life of sin, a man who had incurred the Fourth Shinobi World War, a man who had battled against the Child of Prophecy and lost, a man who, by all rights, was meant to be dead. He had been saved by Naruto, and in turn, had sacrificed his life for the young boy who carried the world on his shoulders.
Yes, he was supposed to be dead, and it was a certain level of pride knowing that he died for a good cause. Sacrificing one's life to protect an old friend and the Child of Prophecy? Surely that could be considered a virtuous act. When the one who made the sacrifice actually died.
And yet, he found himself not only alive, but in the body of his 12-year-old self.
With a powerful sigh, Obito ran a hand down his face to smooth the creases that his familiar near-permanent scowl was inducing.
How had he ended up in this situation? The first thought that occurred to him was that all of it was a Genjutsu. But only the Mugen Tsukuyomi could create a world so like the original, replicate the real world so perfectly. There was no way that a "normal" Genjutsu—even Tsukuyomi—would have the ability to remain undetected by him, so that was the only logical explanation. But if that was the case, if Obito truly was in the Mugen Tsukuyomi…
Did Naruto fail?
He felt a powerful sense of guilt, sadness, and anger overwhelm him. Was Kaguya too powerful for Naruto and Sasuke to overcome, after all? He had thought it was okay to leave everything up to Naruto. He thought the boy would've been able to find a way to defeat Kaguya, to lead the Shinobi world into a world of peace instead of the strife and pain it almost always resulted in.
Despite the fact that he had placed his hopes on the blonde-haired Child of Prophecy, he did not feel disappointment.
No, he didn't feel an ounce of disappointment towards the blonde. In fact, he was certain that, even if Naruto did fail, the boy fought to the very end to protect his precious people. The boy always fought to protect those precious to him, from birth where he became the Jinchūriki of the Kyūbi, to death, where he fought against Kaguya to save the world.
Even if Naruto failed, he could say that he never wavered. Say that he tried his very best, and was free of all sins.
Obito couldn't say the same.
It was his fault. Everything, it was his fault. And he had realized this too late, it seemed.
Obito looked over at the bookshelf, feeling a small wave of relief when he saw the familiar picture frame. He went over to grab the oak frame and examined the picture held within. Rin in the middle, smiling brightly with her two hands held in "peace" signs on either side of her face. Kakashi and Obito on the sides, the former with a look of bleak reticence and the latter looking rather moody. Minato-sensei, his two hands on each of his less-than-amicable male students, an exasperated yet loving smile in place on his own features.
If Obito truly was in the Mugen Tsukuyomi, why was he a child? It was something that he had wondered as soon as he saw his childish features. The Mugen Tsukuyomi worked around the desires of the user, the person held within the Genjutsu. The last thing Obito wanted was to relive his childhood, to relive the scorn he received from the village, and to relive the moments where he died in the eyes of his team. Relive the moment where Rin died.
No, his dream was supposed to be an alternate reality, placing him in a world parallel to the real one. It was supposed to put him in the same time period, but with Minato-sensei alive, Rin alive, and everyone he cared for alive and happy. The Uchiha clan would either be absent or more amicable towards him, too.
A quick scan of the chakra signatures in the area told him that the Uchiha were most likely still in existence (he couldn't confirm it, but he certainly sensed familiar chakra signatures that he hadn't felt for years), and a glance around his run-down apartment verified that, no, he was not being housed by the Uchiha. That meant that he was most likely still known as the hated black sheep of the clan and treated like an outcast by the very people he shared blood with, as the only reason why he had his own apartment outside of the Uchiha compound in the first place was because he had been ousted as a child.
So, why was his dream more like a re-telling of the past? Why was he in the past, instead of his alternate reality that he truly wanted? Was this some form of punishment for his past sins, punishment for giving everyone a premature death?
It was a possibility that the Genjutsu was some sick joke of fate. It was a possibility that it was what Kaguya wanted; to leave the world in a nightmare instead of a happy dream.
But Obito wouldn't have that. Like hell he would allow this imposed dream to force him to relive his mistakes, force him to bear witness to the deaths of his loved ones again. He wasn't going to stay in this illusion, in this damned Genjutsu. He was going to free himself from the Mugen Tsukuyomi, because he was Uchiha Obito, and he was not going to let that Kaguya woman dictate how he repented for his sins.
He narrowed his eyes as he walked over to the middle of the room, the picture frame gripped tightly in his hands.
The only way to free oneself from the Mugen Tsukuyomi was to die. To die in the Genjutsu.
Of course, it would result in his real body dying, as well, but killing himself would only result in what was supposed to be. He would only be rectifying what his fate truly was, and it certainly wasn't to live a lie in a dead world full of shadows of people he once knew.
He placed the picture frame on the ground and held his hand in the Tiger symbol (he had long since mastered the technique and the hand seal alone was enough) before calling out, "Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!"
Obito watched as the large fireball engulfed the room, destroying everything and leaving a searing heat in the air while the flames grew. It would be a painful way to die, either through asphyxiation or being incinerated into charred remains.
He didn't care. He curled up on the floor, the picture frame held safely in his grasp as the flames licked at his hair and feet. He closed his eyes and breathed his last few breaths of clean air.
If he was going to live in a hell to purge his sins, he was at least going to choose his punishment.
Living in the darkness of death was much less agonizing than seeing the faces of those you betrayed and failed.
The second time he woke up, he found himself in the hospital.
Once again, his eyes had opened. Something that shouldn't have happened.
Once again, he reached for his face, only to find it missing the scars he had once been repulsed by.
Once again, he realized he was still in his 12-year-old body, and alive. The searing pain he felt all across his skin, all the way down to his very bones, could attest to that.
The only difference was that this time, he was not alone. There were three other chakra signatures in the room. Three that he recognized, three that he had yearned to see alive and well at one point. Three that he did not want to see right now, that he did not want to have to face in a damned Genjutsu.
"Obito!" A girl yelled out in glee. The chakra signature neared him and he sat up, not daring to look to his side. His conviction might very well break if he did so. "What happened!? You were rushed into the hospital because of the fire, and you were right in the middle of it! Did someone attack you? Was there an accident? Who—"
"Rin, perhaps you should let him have some time to himself," an older, male voice called out. His tone was calm and relaxed, though not without a hint of worry. Obito grit his teeth as the man leaned over from his chair by the bed and tried to look at Obito in the eyes. "Do you remember what happened, Obito?"
Obito turned his head away towards the wall and remained silent. He heard a scoff from the other side of the room. "The idiot was probably experimenting with his clan's Jutsu and set fire to the place," a derisive voice called out. "It's not like he hasn't done it before."
"Kakashi!" The older male voice hissed. "This is a serious situation! There were traces of chakra in the remaining flames, but we couldn't identify who. It could've been Obito, but what if it wasn't? What if he's in danger?" The underlying meaning of "sabotage" was not missed by Obito. It wasn't as if it hadn't happened before, after all.
The girl reached out grasp Obito’s sleeve as she watched the exchange, but he slapped her arm away, not daring to look at the face that would break through his inhibitions and destroy his resolve to move on. The motion caused the other two to cease their conversation, as though it was speared and killed. A tense silence pervaded as Obito felt three pairs of eyes fall on him—eyes that he refused to meet.
"… Obito," the girl finally called out. "I need to check your injuries, since they aren't fully healed yet. Not only did you have second and some third degree burn wounds, but the lacerations from the glass of the frame you were holding are als—"
Obito's eyes widened at the mention of the picture frame. After quickly noting that he didn't have it in his hands, his head whipped around, startling the other occupants in the room. "Where!?" He yelled at them, no longer caring to avoid eye contact. "Where is it!? What did you do with the picture!?"
The girl hesitantly reached into her bag and withdrew the picture. "I-I have it, h-here—"
He snatched it away and inspected it for damage. Some of the edges were dog-eared and burnt, and the picture overall was covered in a layer of soot. But the people in the picture were still visible, and most importantly, it was intact. Obito hugged the picture to himself, ignoring the confused reactions of the other people in the room.
"Well," the older man began. "I'm sad to inform you that that picture is the only thing to have survived the fire. Everything else was burnt to a crisp…"
Obito blocked out the man's voice. Listening to an illusion wasn't something he needed to do. It was all too easy to simply block out the sounds once he made that revelation: everything was fake, everyone was a copy, and the world wasn't real. The only small comfort he had was the charred picture, taken from his memories and given form. It was the only thing in the illusion he allowed himself to cling to, as he had clung to it when the Jūbi threatened to take hold of him. If he didn't have it, his one anchor as a reminder of his past and the truth, surrendering to the second chance he yearned for would've been as natural as breathing.
His grip on the picture tightened, but in a careful manner that prevented further damage to the delicate parchment. He had failed to kill himself the first time, so he would obviously need to try again, and with a more permanent method. The picture he held in his grasp was his only pillar of strength, and without it he wouldn't be able to attempt the daunting task once again.
"… And you'll be living with me for the time being."
Obito blinked. '… What?'
The raven-haired boy snapped out of his thoughts and whirled around to face the older man. The man simply beamed at Obito with a smile far too similar to his late sensei's. "…. What did you say?" His question's bitterness was masked by the incredulity he felt.
"I said, you'll be living with me—" The fake-blonde was interrupted.
"NO!" Obito shouted, raw fury present in his tone and radiating from his trembling form. The other figures in the room tensed as their eyes widened. Obito hissed at the man and the girl who approached him, offering fake comfort and reassurance. "I'm not going to be living with anyone! I'm not even supposed to be here! Stop LYING!"
The man blinked and looked to his other two students who were equally confused. "Obito? What do you mean by that?" The Uchiha blinked a few times before narrowing his eyes.
"Don't act so familiar with me," Obito seethed. He vaguely registered his eyes bleeding into red, and the copies all gasped in surprise. "You don't know a thing, and I don't need to explain shit to you imposters. I don't belong here."
"Obito, wha—" He cut the girl off.
"Shut up and leave. There is nothing for me here, nothing." A bitter grin stretched across his face and he glared up at the ceiling. "You expect me to believe this shit, Kaguya!? You really think that you can trick me, Uchiha Obito," he gestured angrily around the room with his hand, "with this?" A bitter laugh escaped his lips as he finished his statement, his voice oddly high-pitched with grief and exasperation.
"Well… I hate to disappoint," he turned to the others in the room, a sneer in place. "I'm not going to conform to your fucking illusion." He ignored the slight feeling of guilt that welled up at the crushed looks the imposters sent him. 'They're not real,' he thought silently. 'They're not real, they only look like them. That's not Kakashi. That's not Minato-sensei. That's not Rin. This world is fake.'
The Kakashi-lookalike's eyes narrowed as he walked over to Obito's bedside, his hand reaching inconspicuously—at least, Obito assumed that it was supposed to be—for a kunai. "… Obito, just what the hell is going on—"
"Shut up," Obito interrupted, his voice cracked from pain and fell just above a whisper. "Just leave me alone already. Let me die. Just let me fucking-die." As his eyes swirled into the blood-red pinwheels he had grown accustomed to, he gave a grim smile at the horrified looks his team sent him. "Is that really so much to ask?"
He felt the searing black flames engulf his form, and let out a strangled cry as darkness once again claimed him.
His final thought was a traitor amongst his wishes.
'I don't really want to die.'
The third time he woke up, he found himself in an unfamiliar bedroom.
His first thought was, 'fuck.'
His first word, muttered under his breath, was, "fuck."
Obito sat up in the bed he was lying in and fisted his hands in the soft fabric. 'Why am I alive?' He thought petulantly. 'Why the fuck can't I die?' He knew that he saw the black flames, and no one except a user of the Mangekyō could douse the otherwise inextinguishable fire.
So why the hell was he alive? Why was he still left in this hell to suffer?
The door to the room opened and he watched as two figures walked in—the copy of his late teacher and…
His eyes flared to life. An Uchiha.
Truth be told, Obito didn't know where this immense hatred for his own clan came from. Sure, he had felt betrayed by them; he had felt they were a clan with outdated ideals that deserved death. But he had played a hand in their extermination, and that had been enough to douse whatever anger he held towards them.
That's what he believed anyway. But something felt irrevocably wrong that the damnable clan was still alive, functioning, and in Konoha. To him, the only Uchiha that were alive… Madara, Itachi, Sasuke, and himself. Even then, he wanted Madara dead, Itachi was dead, and Sasuke was most likely dead as well. And now, he wanted to die, entering that eternal reprieve—or eternal purgatory—that his oh-so beloved relatives were currently experiencing.
Perhaps it stemmed from his self-loathing. The belief that, aside from very, very few, all Uchiha were destined to be consumed by hatred. Cursed to make the lives of others utterly miserable, including those who they loved and cared for. It was a horribly convoluted cycle, one that very few managed to escape from. And it was all centered around the clan. The clan, the clan, always the clan. The curse was ever present in the clan, along with false pride and self-entitlement. Years and years of festering, growing with power but also growing with hatred, only tightening the metaphorical noose around their necks. The only thing the Uchiha clan was entitled to was destruction, and that was a dish best served cold and with their precious eyes on a silver platter. Considering the fact that their dōjutsu was one well known for seeing the future, descendants with Uchiha blood were awfully blind in everything unrelated to power and revenge. With a path like that, it should've been obvious that self-destruction was all that awaited them at the end.
And yes, everything was about the clan. Everything that was done was for the clan. Everything pointed towards the clan. Maybe, in some manner, Obito truly did believe that, despite how much he had loathed the concept as a child. It certainly made it a hell of a lot easier to hate the clan; shoving his own mistakes and sins as a responsibility of the clan as a whole. His mistakes were the mistakes of the Uchiha. The lives he ended were at the hands of the Uchiha. And most of all, the destruction of the world was at the hands of the damned Uchiha.
… Yes, that was the reason. Obito believed, deep, deep down in his heart of hearts, that the Uchiha clan should be eradicated. That the world would be a better place if the power-hungry bastards were wiped from the face of the earth. There were some, a select few, who truly had good intentions. Those that would martyr themselves to save and protect that which was truly important. Those, like Uchiha Itachi and Uchiha Shisui. But people like them were far and few between, especially in a clan such as the Uchiha.
In conclusion, yes. Yes, Obito hated the Uchiha clan. He hated their dōjutsu. Their pride. Their inability to conform to change. He hated it all with a burning passion.
So why, why was this man, the leader of the Uchiha clan, standing before him in his dream? Why was the Uchiha clan still standing, why did it still exist?
If he truly were in the Mugen Tsukuyomi, as he reasoned before, the Uchiha clan would not exist. It would be gone, dead, eradicated. It simply would be a forgotten element to Konoha that was left ignored. The fact that the Uchiha clan still existed here only pointed to one thing: he was not in the Mugen Tsukuyomi. None of this was a Genjutsu. But then, if he wasn't in a Genjutsu, where was he? What did all of this mean? Why was he put in a situation that was very much like he had been sent to the past?
It was a hypothesis he hadn't wanted to entertain when he first woke up. Hence, his immediate assumption about everything being a Genjutsu, the Mugen Tsukuyomi.
But it wasn't. He wasn't in the Mugen Tsukuyomi, and there was still a chance that Naruto had actually succeeded. Obito found that, despite the circumstances, he liked that idea better.
So where did that leave him? A misplaced soul, one of a 31-year-old war-hardened man who had once lost everything, in the body of his 12-year-old self? The idea was laughable. But the glaring facts kept him from doing so, kept him from brushing off the idea as a simple hope. As a dream. Because it wasn't. No, this was the truth, and the truth left Obito speechless.
Somehow, in some way, he had ended up almost twenty years in the past. And he was trapped in his own, considerably younger body.
'Why me?' He thought with no small amount of spite. 'Why not Naruto?' Naruto was the child of prophecy. He was a glowing ball of sunshine, lighting up the darkness of friend and foe alike. He would've been the best candidate to send into the past, and kami knew the boy deserved to see his parents more than Obito deserved to see his team. Had fate been on his side, it would've been so. Obito would've been left to his peaceful death, while Naruto would've been given the chance of a lifetime. Perhaps the boy could've liberated even more people, righted Obito before he started down the path of self-destruction.
Obito was not suited to this. He was not the type of person that was needed to correct the past, to change everything for the better. Of course he liked the idea, of course he wanted to see his precious people again, but he was not the one to be tasked with the monumental goal of rewriting history. Perhaps, in some long-forgotten past, he had once been the perfect one for the task. But that young boy died long ago, and no longer was Obito the type of person to happily charge headfirst into problems that he saw no end to. To blindly fight with only the goal to protect those precious to him was not a path Obito would take, not now. He shouldn't have been the one shot years into the past, not Uchiha Obito, the man scarred by past grievances and deaths of loved ones. A ruined man would be the brewing storm of an already dreary day, not the ray of sunshine that the past needed.
But fate had a way of playing with him. It always did. Always teasing him, forcing him to submit, forcing him to live a life of hell. Of course he would be the one sent into the past.
What was he to do, though? He wasn't Uzumaki Naruto, the praised Child of Prophecy. Was there anything he could do? Was it really worth it to even try? He was not partial to the idea of having to relive the moment of his death, the moment of Rin's death, and the moment he became an S-Class missing-nin that wanted the essential destruction of the world. Should he try and change things for the better? Could he? It was already obvious that, whatever higher power existed if any at all, was not partial to him. He was not favored by any God or demon, and clearly not by the Shinigami, either.
A curt cough withdrew the broken time-traveler from his thoughts, and he slowly turned to face the other two figures in the room. He stared blankly at no particular man, deciding to rest his eyes on the empty space between them. He didn't want to meet the cold, hard gaze of Uchiha Fugaku, but he was even more hesitant and afraid to meet the worried gaze of Namikaze Minato. His sensei. And the man he had technically killed, failed, stepped on the grave of, and failed again by possibly letting his son die.
Obito could do little more than stare at the spot that he had decided to focus on, waiting for whatever judgment awaited him. He was in the middle of a war. He was saved by Uzumaki Naruto. He sacrificed his life for Naruto. And then, he woke up to find that he wasn't nearly as dead as he had assumed, and had somehow landed himself in the past. He didn't know what to do.
Because Uchiha Obito, while on his way to the nulling embrace of death, found himself lost on the road of life instead.
… And he simply didn't know what to do.