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I Could Have Been

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One by one Kakashi placed the dishes onto the rack, the flicker of the drops of water reflecting the waning afternoon sun. He’d gotten used to doing this quietly in the daytime while Obito slept, curled up on the left side of their bed. He’d never admitted it, but Kakashi knew it was a block for his scars, his prosthetics and eye. He’d spent so much of his life beneath a guise, wrapped in the facade of something else. Now he was bare faced, and free.

Kakashi tugged his mask down beneath his chin, wiping damp fingers against the soft cloth.

It was hard to let go of the masks.

Palms to edge, Kakashi leaned against the sink, staring out beyond the window, silence his company more than anything these days. He listened, letting it shroud the room until eventually all he could hear was the gentle breaths of Obito from the room behind, his sleep light and disturbed. Sometimes Kakashi joined him, but not often sleeping. He’d just lie there, drawing his hands over Obito’s body, through his hair, counting his fingers - just to make sure he was real.

Sometimes he’d do it and remember all he’d done to get here.

Crouching beside Obito, Kakashi feathered his fingers along his face, pushing aside the tips of his unwashed hair.

For now, he was just thankful he was here.

“Time to get up,” said Kakashi, thumbing beneath Obito’s left eye.

“You get up,” murmured Obito, shoving his hand away and pulling the covers closer.

“Way ahead of you by about ten hours if you remember this morning,” he said pulling at the covers and throwing them completely off. Obito liked to either sleep in the nude or wearing one of Kakashi’s tops, the mask scrunched comfy around his neck. This time it was the top, and he pulled the mask over his face with a noise of disgust at his sudden departure of warmth.

“Fuck you,” he muffled through the bunched up material as he glowered over the mask, the glare of red as threatening as he could make it.

Kakashi just arched a brow. “You know that’d be much more threatening if your dick wasn’t hanging out and you didn’t smell like ass.”

“You smell like ass.”

“Your morning comebacks are sharp as ever.”

Obito pushed past Kakashi and got to his feet, pulling off Kakashi’s top and throwing it at him. “It isn’t even morning anyway,” said Obito through a yawn as he grabbed his day robe, averting the gaze of the mirror, and pulling it quickly on. Obito frowned and peered out the kitchen window. “Is it?”

Kakashi threw his top in the wash basket. “It’s about five.”

“Oh.” Obito pushed aside the curtain, trying to remember the last time he’d simply seen daylight. It was already sunset.

Kakashi sat back onto their bed, watching him potter needlessly around the room, moving a piece of clothing from the floor to chair, shifting a box of half eaten macaroons from one edge to the other, placing one glove on top of the other. There was no purpose in what he did. But was that any surprise? He could barely find one to wake up.

Kakashi turned over his right hand, ungloved, bared. The stretch of scars and marks left by his Chidori and Raikiri over the years had blackened his skin, spreading out from an ashy fork at the centre of his palm, along his forearm in threads of jagged lines all the way to the curve of his shoulder, the tips gracing his chin like purple feathers. The scars were as thick and ridged as bark. He hated how they felt. Gloves had become his second skin, the mask his second face.

At least the marks hadn’t stretched beyond his chin. Yet. He was still young and there was still time. And what did he have to complain about? All of his body was still his own.

Patches of white peeked beneath the short day robe that Obito lived in, stained at the front with instant ramen sauce. Kakashi had forgotten to wash it today while he slept. He should just buy him another one.

“How was your day, almighty Hokage?” said Obito as he passed the mirror again, his eyes quickly avoiding the reflection.

“I didn’t ask for it,” said Kakashi, pressing a thumb into the black fork on his palm. It throbbed when he was stressed. It hadn’t stopped for days.

“Still took it though.” Obito left the bedroom, pausing at the doorway to stretch, hands reaching far past the frame. The tip of his white hair brushed the rim. Kakashi wondered if his height was what he was always going to be, or was it thanks to the cells and prosthetics that helped him survive.

He watched him lean across the kitchen table, pushing aside an empty cup, flick through a newspaper, peek into a bag of crisps with a small “Oooh.” and then sit on the edge of the table and eat the remains of the crisps, while he stared blankly at the wall.

Was this what he was always going to be?

“It doesn’t feel right.” A quick hand grabbed a kunai from the table. He was wide eyed and willful. And angry. Kakashi stood up, his book dropping to the table.

“Obito - what-”

He clenched his left hand around the kunai and sunk it into his right. Blade sliced flesh, deeply. Then he pulled it up, up, and along, tearing and wearing, blood dripping to the floor and over Obito’s hand. He shook, the pain trembling his body. He dragged the kunai up to his elbow, splitting flesh and form, then threw the bloodied metal to the floor with a clink.

Kakashi just stared, unable to move, to talk, and barely to breathe.

“It’s me. It’s still me. But I don’t want it to be me. And it won’t let me take it away. Look. It - it just heals.” The cuts visibly sewed together, the deeper ones taking a little longer than the others, but the wounds healed as if on command. Blood still dripped. It stained his skin, patches of stark white against his flesh, it stained his robe, the floor, his hands, it stained Kakashi’s arms as he caught him falling to the floor, legs smearing the pool of crimson blood. He still hadn’t managed to fully scrub the last patch of blood from the grout.

There were never any scars left behind as reminder when he did things like this. Kakashi supposed that was some kindness at least. Obito didn’t need anymore scars, inside or out.

Kakashi began to make their bed, always asking himself the same question. Why bother? Obito usually crawled back into it after a few hours with a book, some snacks, sometimes Kakashi. Drawing a hand over the sheets, he knew exactly why each time. Even if Obito made this bed his grave, he wanted to make it comfortable for him - he wanted Obito to remember that he’d never, ever give up on him and forget. He didn’t let a day go by where he didn’t tuck in the sheets at each side and fluff his pillows, turning them over every day. It had become a ritual for Kakashi to wash their bedsheets. He did them all on one day. His small washer wasn’t big enough so he took them to the launderette a street down from Ichiraku.

At first, he’d done it alone, Obito refusing to come. He’d sat on the bedroom floor, throwing empty pistachio shells across the room.

On his fourth visit, he’d bodily hauled Obito with him, the promise that he’d take the next day off and stay in bed with him. It worked. Obito clung to his hand tightly, almost twisting it off as they walked. But he ended the night punching a mouthy jounin in the face at the launderette who decided to ask why he’d decided to stick around instead of jumping off the nearest cliff, when he thought Kakashi wasn’t listening. But that’s where he went wrong. Kakashi was always listening.

Kakashi ended the night breaking his arm.

They didn’t make it home before Kakashi fulfilled his other promise.

Pausing, one knee on the edge of the bed he thought about stripping the bed now and bringing laundry day forward. The launderette was open 24 hours and they always went together now. It had become a comfy routine - something Obito even liked. If the day was good, they went for food or a drink afterwards too, somewhere quiet. But at the thought of food, he remembered that Sakura and Ino had invited them both to dinner tonight. Kakashi saw through their gentle nudge at trying to get Kakashi away from his stagnant routine and simply to get Obito out of bed. Sakura had grown fond of him, often ‘bumping into them’ at the launderette. A few weeks into her visits, she’d brought along Ino, who hovered a step behind Sakura, hand in hand, waiting patiently for Obito’s acceptance.

“Is this some sort of intervention? I know Kashi’s got one planned,” he said, a faux, bright smile stretching his scars as he leaned over the back of one of the chairs, looking up at the girls.

Kakashi rolled his eyes and flicked the page of Konoha’s paper, waving away a young chunin who approached him quickly, seeing an opening. “Hoka-”

“I’m off duty for the next two hours and thirty nine minutes. Set a timer if it’s that important.” The chunin backed away, warily avoiding Obito’s gaze.

Obito, held up a hand. “It took becoming Hokage for you to learn the concept of time?”

He looked up, then away. “Not just Hokage.”

Sakura, breaking the moment, pulled Ino forward who extended an awkward hand. “Ino Yamanaka. Nice to meet you, Obito. I mean - properly. I saw you on the-” Sakura stepped on Ino’s foot and she laughed, her tight, toothy smile odd.

Obito stared at her hand, but reached out for her other, his left hand taking hers. Ino frowned as her eyes switched from hand to hand, wondering why. But seeing the white patches at his neck, peeking out beneath his t-shirt, she remembered why.

“Pleasure, Ino. Please give Kashi some tips on how to wear crop tops. He has the body, sure, but sadly lacks the style,” he said with a long, drawn out sigh. Kakashi rolled his eyes. Again.

Ino laughed, and laughed, taking the seat next to Obito.

“Laundry day tomorrow?” said Obito as he undid his robe, scratching at the ramen stain at the front and pulled it off, throwing it to the floor. “We should wash that too.” Striding across the floor, his toes curled into the plush rug as he searched for something to wear. Kakashi just watched. Was he actually getting dressed without purpose, without being asked?

“Where’s the top. You know the one with the thing,” he said, gesturing to his bare chest, the stark white cells stretching out across his chest like broken branches; cracked, listless, weathering to a tip beneath his neck. Kakashi loved to touch that part of his body just as much as the one he was born with, to remind him he loved both, he accepted both, and he wanted, both.

“The thing.” Kakashi pushed off the bed and approached Obito, drawing his bare hands over his chest, slow and smooth, his thumbs cresting over the jut of his collarbones.

“Yeah - the cute birds on it.”

“Birds.”

Obito blinked, his black eyes fading as his Sharingan whirled around, the three tomoe forming in each eye as Kakashi leaned forward, a kiss gracing his neck. And as soon as the Sharingan had come, it went. Obito shook his head, shrugging off Kakashi as he pushed past with a shoulder and away, resuming his search for the bird top.

“Not now,” he mumbled in a small apology far after his rejection had already done it's worth.

Kakashi just walked past, brushing a warm hand against his back. “It’s hanging in the wardrobe. Sakura and Ino asked us out for dinner. I’m going. Be ready in half an hour if you’re coming.”

Turning, Obito opened his mouth to speak but just watched the back door click shut