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Why we build the wall

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Kakashi awoke to pitch darkness and pain and the cold knowledge that no-one was coming for him. The air smelt of sea salt and iron and he knew that meant blood, probably his. Stupid, stupid, stupid, why had he let himself get so close? The Konoha nin had been fighting the Iwa nin  in a cave, he should have known to keep his distance. Iwa nin in caves were lethal. But he’d been on an information gathering mission, and the fight had seemed relevant, and he’d always been too bloody curious for his own good.

So he’d gotten in close, tried to keep track of which jutsus both sides were using, tried to work out what their mission objectives might have been. He’d gotten in too close, he realised far too late, the dying Iwa nin had brought the cave down on all their heads in a final act of desperate spite, and Kakashi had gotten caught up in the crossfire.

He was going to die here, alone in the dark, and his death would mean absolutely nothing. It was a sharp cold shock to realise he didn’t want that. He didn’t want to die here. He almost wanted to laugh, years of numb resignation and apathy and it was only now, too late far too late, that something managed to break through. He’d been careless of his own life since his father’s suicide and it was only now, dying alone in the dark, that he found he wanted to keep it.

He let out a ragged breath. It was too dark to see, but the screaming pain from his left eye socket, the slightly deeper flavour of the darkness on that side, made him suspect that last stray kunai might have hit after all. He tried to move and found that he couldn’t, his left leg was trapped under a rock, and he dared not try and move it, for fear of it bringing the whole roof down on him. Kakashi wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or concerned that he couldn’t feel it.

A broken wet coughing sound jerked Kakashi out of his thoughts and he tensed. He was not alone. As though reading his thoughts the other spoke.

“Don’t worry. I’m in no state to pose a threat to you.” The voice was young, no older than Kakashi himself, and there was a sick rasp to it that spoke of pain and irreparable damage. “I’ll be dead before you are.”

“Who are you?” Kakashi demanded, still suspicious. His companion gave a wheezing laugh.

“I could ask the same of you. I don’t seem to recall any Kiri nin in that fight I just had.” He chuckled darkly, “then again I did just suffer a blow to the head, who knows what I’m remembering.”

“How do you know I’m a Kiri nin?” Kakashi panicked.

“I can see your headband. Sharingan. As far as I’m concerned it’s clear as day in here. For all the good it does me.” His black humour gave way to another coughing fit, and the iron and sea salt smell of blood in the air thickened with every spasm. Kakashi relaxed slightly even as he winced in pity. An injured enemy was safer to be around but all the same that was an ugly way to die. Kakashi refused to consider the still uglier slow death by starvation that he was facing. He spoke up, hoping to distract them both.

“So I assume you’re a Konoha nin then.”

“Yep, born and bred. I’m gonna be Hokage one day you know. Or I was, I guess.” The gallows humour of his tone trailed off into a kind of shocked despair. Kakashi didn’t want that. This place was dark enough on its own, he wanted the Konoha nin to go back to making casual jokes about their impending deaths. Somehow, it made the whole thing easier to bear.

“Some Kage. Making nice with an enemy nin like this. That what they teach at your academy Konoha?” Kakashi needled at him, hoping to jolt him out of his misery. It worked.

“I’ll have you know I’d have been the best Kage. I’d end the war, and put more money into education, and make peace between the villages so that no-one would ever have to go to war again.” The humour was gone, but so was the despair, replaced by a bright unshakeable conviction that tore at Kakashi’s heart. He thought of years of blood and war, or so much lost and so little gained, and closed the eye he had left in grief for a future neither of them would have.

“Aaa maybe you would” he sighed. “It sounds nice.” They were both silent for a while after that.

Another bout of wet, blood scented coughing, broke the moment. After he’d finished gasping the Konoha nin spoke again, looking for something, anything to distract him from death’s hand on his chest.

“So, Kiri,” he gasped, “You never did tell me what you were doing here.” And now it was Kakashi’s turn to find the dark humour in the situation.

“Reconnaissance mission. I was supposed to observe what was going on in the area and then report back. I got too close. I guess it was just wrong place wrong time.” He let out a bleak snort of laughter. “After everything I’ve done and survived I end up dying as collateral damage. There's a sort of irony in that I suppose.” He wanted to laugh more but he suspected that if he started he wouldn’t stop, and that would probably  freak out his companion. He couldn’t quite pin down when that started mattering to him.

“So what’s your name Konoha? Seems stupid to sit here in the dark talking without knowing what to call each other.”

“Obito. Uchiha Obito.”

“Nice to meet you Obito. I’m Hatake Kakashi.” And Kakashi smiled with his eyes but not his mouth as he said it. It would probably have looked creepier if his mouth hadn’t been hidden behind his mask, then again, Obito had Sharingan, maybe he could see it anyway. They were silent again for a moment before Obito spoke up again.

“You should move that rock off your leg. The longer you leave it like that the worse the damage will get.”

“I know that, but it’s pitch dark and I didn’t want to risk the structural integrity of our air pocket.”

“Don’t worry, it’s not holding anything else up, you can move it.” Kakashi didn’t move it. “Did you hear me I said…”

“I heard what you said. It’s just…” Kakashi bit his lip.

“It’s just what Bakakashi? You’re going to lose your leg if you don’t get that rock off it.” Obito’s voice was suddenly irritating.

“It’s just that right now that leg is numb and seeing as I’m going to die anyway I’m debating the merits of spending my last hours in the extreme agony that I’m going to start feeling as soon as I move that rock.” Kakashi snapped.

“Oh. Yeah, ok, I can kinda see your point there.” He burst into another coughing fit, before continuing. “Move it anyway.”

“Why?” Kakashi asked baffled.

“Because if you move the bloody rock, you can move over closer to me.” Kakashi tensed at the thought of willingly moving closer to an enemy. Obito sighed, “For fucks sake Kakashi, we’re both dying, what exactly do you think I’m going to do to you.” His voice dropped to almost a whisper, “what harm does it do to die in the company of another human being.” Then a plea, “Please Kakashi. I don’t want to die alone.” Kakashi moved the rock.

It hurt. Fuck it hurt. Like all the pain he should have been feeling with his leg being crushed had been saved up for that one moment when he removed it. He barely remembered to circulate his chakra to filter out the toxins from his newly released limb before they could poison the rest of his body. He didn’t scream, didn’t dare, not when the balance of the rocks that surrounded them was so fragile, but he knew Obito saw the tear escape from his eye. It was a few minutes panting in the darkness before he could drag himself over in the direction of Obito’s voice.

They held hands in the dark, and though Kakashi would never admit it out loud he was grateful for the human contact. They were quiet then, save for the odd murmur of empty reassurance, talking took its toll on Obito and Kakashi couldn’t think of anything more to say. At least they were quiet until Obito spoke up again through the pain. Kakashi was starting to think that silence didn’t come naturally to Obito. He couldn’t bring himself to comment on it though, not when he found it so comforting.

“Say Kakashi.”

“What is it Obito?” Obito's voice was pained but steady as he asked.

“Do you think maybe, if we’d been born in the same village. If I’d been born in Kiri, or you’d been born in Konoha we might have been friends?” Are we friends now? He didn't ask.

“Well if you’d been born in Kiri one of us would have have to kill the other to graduate, so… probably not.” It shouldn’t have been funny but his lips twitched up at the corners anyway, Kakashi suspected that his sense of humour might be getting a bit twisted in his dying moments.

“Seriously. Wow that’s fucked up.” Was all Obito seemed to be able to say on the subject.

“There’s a reason they call us the Bloody Mist.”

“Ok, so not Kiri then. What if we’d both been born in Konoha? Do you think we could have been friends?” And there was a heavy question.

“Nah, I bet we’d have hated each others guts.” But his voice and his words were at odds, and Kakashi knew Obito could hear his real answer behind the banter. I like to think so. He was never so grateful as when Obito rose to his challenge because some things were too hard to say outright.

“Yeah, I bet we’d have been bitter rivals to the end, constantly fighting and making everyone around us duck for cover whenever we were in the same room.” Kakashi huffed with laughter.

“Yeah and you’d always lose our epic battles.”

“Hah, in your dreams. Remember, in that world I’d be Hokage. You’d totally lose all the time.” Their verbal spar was cut short when the worst coughing fit yet, hit Obito. There was too much blood in the air and Kakashi could tell Obito didn’t have long. His heart rebelled at the thought. If Obito died he’d be alone again.

Suddenly they heard an ominous rumble as the rocks above them shifted, and Kakashi clung tight to Obito’s hand as they waited dead still to see if the ceiling would collapse on them. It didn’t. Five minutes later and Kakashi could smell something other than blood and rock dust. Obito felt Kakashi tense.

“What is it?” He whispered, wary of making too much noise.

“I smell fresh air.” Kakashi’s voice was utterly bleak. “I can smell freedom but we can’t get to it. We’re going to die here with escape just out of our reach. I can smell a way out and we're going to die here anyway.” And Kakashi really didn’t want to think about just when they’d become a we, but they had, and he wanted both him and Obito to get out of this alive but neither of them was going to and it was so unfair, they were both still so young.

“We can’t get to it, but you can.” Obito’s voice was steady. “If you can get out of here you should. I’m done for either way, my insides are too fucked up to fix, but if you leave me you might be able to find a way out.” Kakashi just sighed and shook his head.

“Even if I left you behind, there’s no way I’d make it out without crashing into something and bringing the mountain down on our heads. I’m blind in here Obito, and my leg is not in a good way. I can’t make it.” And I don't want to make it alone. He didn't add, although he was sure Obito could see it written all over his face.

“So what, you’re just going to give up.” The anger in Obito’s tone was surprising. “I thought you didn’t want to die. What happened to all that anger at the life you weren’t going to get to live. You're dead either way, staying here will just take a little longer. If you’re given a choice between the risk of death and the certainty of death why not take the risk?”

“Because if I try this and fail then both of us will die alone, and I don’t want that.” Kakashi was aiming for anger but ended up with fear. “I don’t want to die alone. Not when there’s another choice.” Obito fell silent for a moment at that. When he spoke again there was a deep and terrifying resolve in his voice.

“Take my eye.” Kakashi reeled in shock.

“What?”

“Take my eye, use it. It’ll let you see in the dark, maybe find a way out.” Obito’s voice was dead calm, a sharp contrast to the panicked beating of Kakashi’s heart.

“You’re giving me your Sharingan. You’re giving an enemy nin a Sharingan, so that he can escape and continue to pose a threat to your village. Are you insane? What the hell? That’s treason.”

“I’m giving a sharingan to my friend.” Obito said softly. “Besides” he pointed out, “What are they going to do, execute me?”

“But…” Kakashi felt lost.

“Listen Kakashi. If both of us die here I will have died for nothing. Just another casualty in the war, there will be nothing left of me but a name on the memorial stone. Nothing to say that Uchiha Obito lived, that he made a difference. If you take my eye, and you manage to get out, then anything you do from that point on, I will have a part in. I’ll be dead but I’ll still have a part in the future. Do you understand me?” The worst thing was Kakashi could understand. This was Obito’s last chance to have an effect on the world, of course he didn’t want to lose it.

“But what if I fail? What if I die on the way out?”

“Well then, you’ll have my eye, so I suppose, technically, we’d still be dying together.” Kakashi was sure Obito was smirking and this was so fucked up but he found himself agreeing despite himself because fuck he still wanted to live, and if Obito would rather he kept a part of him alive than stayed with him when he was dying then that was Obito’s choice to make.

“Ok. I’ll do it.”

It took a moment to sterilise the area as much as he could. No sense courting infection along with everything else. It took a little longer to remove the remains of his own left eye from its socket, and if his pain sensors hadn’t already been overloaded by the agony in his leg he doubted he could have stood it. As it was he bit through his lip, he could feel the blood slowly soaking through his mask, as he tossed the mangled bits of eyeball away. Now for the difficult bit. Obito had lit a fire in his free hand to provide them with light, but the way it flickered and danced made it hard to focus on what he was doing and in any case Kakashi was no medic nin. He knew enough medical jutsu to make the transplant possible, but there was a world of difference between theoretical possibility and practical success. Still, Obito was right, all they could do try.

“Are you sure about this.” He checked. “If I do this, you won’t be able to see any more. You’ll die in the dark.”

“It will be worth it. You’ll have to see the future for both of us.”

“Ok.” Kakashi moved the knife towards Obito’s eye.

“Wait.” Kakashi stopped. “Before you do it. I want to see your face. I want to know what my enemy/friend looks like.” Kakashi hesitated, then lowered his mask. Soon enough it wouldn’t make a difference, and a part of him wanted Obito to see.

The surgery was… messy, but at the end of it Kakashi had Obito’s eye and it at least worked  well enough that he could see, so he was counting it as a success. Neither of them had dared scream, but if the pain hadn’t been enough the sight of Obito’s mangled eye socket would have been enough to make Kakashi want to.

“I’ll wait with you.” He promised. “I’ll wait until you die before I leave.” Obito just hissed at him.

“Don’t be an idiot. This ceiling could come down at any moment. Go now while you still can.”

“But…” Kakashi tried to object but Obito wouldn’t let him.

“Go.”

“Ok. Is there anything…” Kakashi trailed off.

“No. Well actually. Yeah. There kind of is.” Obito was uncharacteristically hesitant and that was enough to tell Kakashi it was important.

“Name it.”

“It’s just, Rin. Nohara Rin. My teammate, the brown haired girl who was with me. She’s all alone now. Our other teammate died on his first mission and Sensei’s been really busy with the war so…” Obito said teammate but his tone said friend, partner, beloved and Kakashi kept his voice gentle and sympathetic as he asked.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Look. I know you’re a Kiri nin, and you don’t know Rin and you’ll probably never see her again. Just… if you do. If you have a chance to help her, do what you can for her. Do what you can to help her, she’s… kind. She deserves more than this war will give her and I can’t protect her anymore. Please, promise me you’ll protect her, if it ever comes to that.” Kakashi knew he shouldn’t promise, he knew exactly what that promise meant and he knew he shouldn’t make it.

“I swear. On the honour of the Hatake name. If I am ever in a position to help Nohara Rin, I swear I will do so.” And the relieved sigh that Obito made as Kakashi said it made it impossible for him to regret his promise.

“Thank you. Now go, get out of here. Don’t look back.” Kakashi went. He didn’t look back. Not until he reached Kiri, and relative safety. Not until after he’d been to the hospital to get his shoddy transplant and damaged leg fixed. Not until he was safely locked in his apartment and no one could see him break. His tears tasted of sea salt and iron.