The rebuilding of Konoha was slow. The Sandaime took over pretty much immediately and organized all the chuunin and genin into rescue and repairs, and sent out all the available jounin on missions to keep up appearances, but even months after the attack, it seemed like Obito was tripping over rubble every other step. At least Ichiraku was back in business.
Even if it wasn’t the same without Kushina trying to steal his toppings all the time.
Nothing was the same now.
He almost never saw Rin, these days. She was always busy at the hospital, helping Tsunade and Dan in whatever way she could and leading a group of civilians who had volunteered at the hospital.
It was the same with Sakumo. The village needed money, so the jounin were pretty much always gone unless they worked at the hospital—and now that most people were out of the hospital, for better or for worse, more and more medic-nin were being sent out as well. Sakumo, as one of the most high profile shinobi in the village, was guarding lords and ladies and making nice with rich clients.
The Hokage had decided that Kakashi was now skilled enough with his new limbs to be sent out on high-profile missions, the kind of missions that generated gossip about how strong the next generation of Konoha shinobi was. When he wasn’t accompanying Sakumo on the Hokage’s doomed attempts to make Kakashi network with the upper-crust of society, Kakashi was usually teamed up with Obito for missions. These days, Obito and Kakashi spent their days hunting down all the S-ranked bounties they hadn’t had to worry about when the village had been in top shape.
It was, in all honesty, one of the worst jobs he’d ever been given, second only to the Kanabi Bridge mission. Somehow, when he imagined becoming a jounin, he thought he’d be getting all the nice missions to exciting locations, not missions that sent him hiking through a swamp in the ass-end of nowhere, getting devoured by bugs and lugging an unconscious bounty back to where he’d left Kakashi.
“Heeeey, Bakashi!” Obito called. “Get your lazy ass over here! Noodles, can you smell him?”
Noodles sniffed and then scrunched up her nose. “I think a bug flew up my nose!”
Obito sighed and adjusted his grip on the bounty. Next time, he was going to go after the short guy, and Kakashi could take down the burly woman. “Bakashi!”
“There’sssss no need to sssssshout.”
Obito shrieked as something flicked his ear, and resisted the urge to swat at his shoulder. “Please don’t do that,” he said.
The snake perched on his shoulder hissed; Obito got the feeling it was laughing at him. “I will stop doing that when your reactions stop being so amusing. My master issss right over there.”
Obito followed in the direction the snake pointed with its outstretched head. “Bakashi! Your snake is bullying me again!”
“She wouldn’t bully you if you didn’t make yourself such an easy target,” Kakashi said, from his seat on top of a bound body. He looked up, his single eye roving over Obito. He nodded and snapped shut the book he’d been reading, the ever-updating Uzushio bingo book that Narumi Uzumaki had given him. Obito had taken a look at it once, while Kakashi had been studying his Konoha bingo book. It was filled with shinobi from Kiri and missing-nin from Uzushio, and was dotted with cheerful little notes from Narumi. Sometimes instead of bingo book pages, he even added little doodles of Naruto and updates on how he was doing. Obito had taken to ripping them out of the bingo book and saving them, along with the baby pictures Narumi sent them from time to time. He had quite a few pictures he saved up now. When he next had some free time, he planned on getting a scrapbook to officially collect them, instead of just keeping them in a shoebox in his closet.
Kakashi stood and hauled his bounty over his shoulder. “Let’s get them back to Konoha.”
“One of these times I’m going to persuade you to take a break before rushing right back to the village,” Obito muttered as he activated his Mangekyo Sharingan. The two of them stepped through the portal that appeared, and emerged in the forest just outside the village gates. Five minutes later, they approached the gate.
“Fast as usual, huh,” one of the chuunin at the gates said, as he checked over their mission scroll and identification. “How long was it this time? Three days?”
Kakashi shrugged and walked through the gate, leading the way to the bounty drop-off point. Obito knew that the bounties went to T&I, but beyond that, he had no idea what happened to them once they handed them off to the scarred jounin behind the counter. He was pretty sure he was better off not knowing.
Obito stretched out his sore muscles as they left the building and abandoned the bounties to their fates. “So, what now? Another mission? Or are you actually going to let us stop for lunch this time?”
In response, Kakashi turned and silently trudged down the street, hands in his pockets. Obito followed behind him, letting Kakashi take the lead past newly-repaired shops and houses, all the way to the graveyard.
The grave for Kushina and Minato was still piled high with flowers from the regular visitors that dropped by. Someone had even left a bowl of ramen as an offering. Kakashi silently knelt down and lit a stick of incense. Obito sat at his side and watched the smoke drift through the air.
The Hokage Mountain watched over them.
“I wonder who they’re gonna get to be the Godaime,” he said. “I mean, the Sandaime is super old, right? He already retired once.”
“Probably one of the Senjus. Dan or Tsunade,” Kakashi said. “Shishou was complaining about it to me.”
Obito shivered. “Imagine Orochimaru as Hokage.”
“I don’t think he actually wants the hat,” Kakashi said. “He’s too busy with research for that. He only cares if the Hokage will interfere with his work and funding.”
Kakashi sat back on his heels and stared up at the mountain as well. He was silent for a long time, long enough that Obito started feeling antsy and had to resist the urge to jiggle his leg.
“They’ve already started talking about the next Hokage. My father told me,” Kakashi said. He got to his feet, and then offered Obito a hand up. “Let’s get a mission.”
Kakashi turned, making to pull his hand away. Obito tightened his grip and pulled back, forcing Kakashi to stop and look at him, his single eye narrowed in irritation. “Let’s do something fun,” Obito blurted. “Outside the village.”
The more he thought about it, the more the idea appealed to him. Obito took off towards the mission center, thoughts wheeling around in his head. That place with the hot springs, maybe, if he could swing it—although it was getting colder now, so that was likely to be a pretty popular location.
No, Obito had a better idea.
He burst into the mission center; the chuunin at the desk looked up with an exasperated expression on his face. “You again?”
“I’m here for another mission! Somewhere cold. Like, super cold.”
The chuunin’s eyebrows rose. “Somewhere cold? At this time of year?” He shuffled through some scrolls, and eventually dropped a small pile of them on the desk. “Take your pick. We’ve got a couple bounties in the Land of Snow—”
Obito waved his hand. “No, no bounties.”
The chuunin muttered something about “picky jounin” under his breath. “Fine. We have a bodyguard mission for some minor noble. Nothing fancy, but he’s paying big bucks. And then we have a priority delivery to the daimyo of Yuki no Kuni. The faster you can get it there, the better.”
Obito smacked his hand against the desk. “The second one! We’ll take it.”
The chuunin handed over the scroll. “You have three weeks.”
Obito grinned; three weeks was more than enough time. “Sounds great! Let’s go, Kakashi. Grab your stuff and meet me at the gate.”
“You have to let go of me first.”
Obito looked down and saw he was indeed still holding Kakashi's hand. He snatched his hand away and scratched at the back of his head with awkward laugh. “Eheheh. Sorry about that. Anyways, uh, meet back here in an hour?”
Kakashi looked at him. “I'll give you three.”
Obito puffed out his cheeks irritably. “Jeez, Bakashi, I’m not that bad anymore! Just for that, I’m going to beat you here.”
Of course, as always, the universe conspired against him. First, when he went to the Uchiha compound to restock his gear, he ran into Mikoto and ended up getting drawn into a long conversation about whether or not he was eating properly. He finally managed to escape, only to find an old woman returning home with several massive grocery bags just as he was leaving the compound. He couldn’t just leave her to it, of course, so he offered his assistance and helped her home, and then ended up putting away her groceries for her as well.
In the end, he managed to get to the gate two hours later to find Kakashi waiting for him.
Kakashi raised his one visible eyebrow. “Thought you were going to beat me here.”
“Shut up,” Obito said.
The chuunin looked over their mission scroll briefly before waving them on. Obito waited until they were out of site of the village before opening up a portal. They paused in the in-between world to put on their winter gear, and good thing, too, since they emerged in the middle of a snowstorm.
“Shit!” Obito quickly yanked down his snow-goggles and tugged his scarf up higher. “C’mon, Bakashi, the city should be just up ahead.”
Thankfully, he’d positioned the portal close enough to the city that they only had to run through the snow for half an hour. They were quickly escorted to the daimyo’s palace and given a chance to rest and regain their energy after delivering their message.
“A three week mission, done in an hour,” Obito sighed as they relaxed in the bedroom they had been given for the night; Obito could have gotten them out of the country in an instant, but Kakashi had said it would be rude to refuse the hospitality.
“I take it you have a plan for the remainder of our time,” Kakashi said.
Obito grinned and put a finger to his lips. “It’s a secret! But keep your winter gear on.”
They left in the morning, after eating a hot breakfast and giving their farewells to the daimyo. In the in-between world, Obito removed anything that might mark him as a shinobi, from his headband to his weapon pouches, and Kakashi did the same. Once they were done, they looked almost like civilians, although the bandage they’d wrapped over Kakashi’s empty eye socket made him stand out.
With that taken care of, Obito took them to another snowfield. Here, however, the skies were clear and cloudless, and he could clearly see towering mountains in the distance.
Kakashi looked around as he tugged his scarf tighter. “Where are we?”
“You’ll see!” Obito declared.
They managed to find their way to something resembling a path. Obito wasn’t sure they were going in the right direction—he hadn’t been able to find much information on their destination—but they did eventually see a city rising in the distance.
Obito’s breath caught in his throat as they neared the entrance. There, swords at his side, stood a man dressed all in plate armor, complete with a mask covering his face.
“Obito, you didn’t,” Kakashi said. “We’re now allowed to be here.”
“Live a little, Kakashi! Relax and don’t say anything incriminating, and they’ll never know.”
Kakashi sighed, but allowed Obito to pull him up to the entrance. A sword, still in its sheath, dropped in front of him as he approached.
“Halt. Name yourselves,” the samurai ordered.
Obito grinned at him. “I’m Tobi, and this is my, uh, boyfriend, Ba—shi.”
The samurai stared down at him. Obito really wanted to know what expression he was making.
“We’re on a trip!” Obito added, when the samurai said nothing.
“Present your identification,” the samurai said.
The only identification Obito had was his shinobi ID card, and that would definitely give the game away. “Uh. Should I have identification?”
“If you are a shinobi,” the samurai said.
Obito laughed nervously. “Uh, nope, not a shinobi.”
The samurai stared at him.
Obito tried not to look away.
The sword in his path lifted. “If you are lying, the consequences will be severe,” the samurai said.
“Great!” Obito said, grabbing Kakashi’s hand. “Come on, let’s go. I bet there’s an inn somewhere around here.”
The capital of Tetsu was smaller than the capital back home, but Obito still managed to find an inn with only a little bit of aimlessly wandering around the snowy streets. There weren’t many options, but this one looked warm and comfortable and not too pricey, not that he was too worried about expenses considering how much his missions paid these days.
“Bashi?” Kakashi hissed as soon as the innkeeper had bustled out of view, leaving them alone in the main room.
“I was trying to think quickly!” Obito protested. “Be grateful I didn’t introduce you as Bakashi.”
Kakashi crossed his arms over his chest. “Boyfriend?”
“Uh.” Obito had to admit he hadn’t really thought that one over; it had just been the first thing to come to mind.
Kakashi looked away. “. . . Nevermind. It’s fine. We should take a look around before they figure out we’re shinobi and kick us out.”
“Uh, I think they might arrest us actually,” Obito said. “I can get us away if they try that, but we should probably stick together just in case.”
Kakashi shrugged. “That’s fine. We should stay together anyways. Since we’re boyfriends .”
Obito tried to ignore the heat in his cheeks. “Uh, yeah. Sure! Sounds good. So, where do you want to go?”
Obito’s stomach growled loudly before Kakashi could answer.
Kakashi raised an eyebrow.
Obito sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. “Uh, maybe we should grab some lunch first.”
The main room had a few tables for the people staying there to sit at and take meals. There was no menu and no staff, but the innkeeper quickly came by their table with the lunch offering for the day.
“So, what’s the plan?” Obito asked as they dug into their food.
Kakashi shrugged. “I don’t actually know what there is to do here. I just wanted to see the samurai.”
Obito grinned. “Then samurai it is! Don’t worry. I’m gonna make this the best vacation ever.”
Kakashi was going to die.
His heart was pounding in his chest, his stomach was sick with nerves, and the flush in his cheeks had nothing to do with the freezing air. No, it was entirely to blame on Obito, pressed up against Kakashi’s side in a vain attempt to escape the cold, his hand still holding onto Kakashi’s from when he’d dragged him over to their current spot, watching some boys around their age train.
“Oh, man,” Obito said, as their teacher launched into yet another demonstration. “I totally wish I could use the Sharingan right now, you have no idea.”
Kakashi quickly glanced around to make sure no one had heard him. The area around them was abandoned, thankfully. Tetsu was not exactly a popular tourist destination, especially in the middle of winter. “I don’t think they would take kindly to that.”
Obito elbowed him. “I’m not actually gonna do it! I’m not that stupid.”
“Could have fooled me.” Kakashi kept his eyes fixed on the samurai-in-training. If he looked at Obito, he would spontaneously combust.
“Whoa! Look at that!”
Obito’s arm slipped around his waist and tugged Kakashi around to look at a different part of the training area. It didn’t mean anything, Kakashi was certain—it was just the easiest place for Obito to grab him, given how close they were standing together—but he still felt like he was on fire.
“Amazing,” Obito gasped.
Kakashi blinked, and took in the two samurai facing off in the training field, their blades flying through the air so quickly he could hardly see them. Obito’s mouth was wide open as he watched them—and, Kakashi realized, his eyes were bright red.
“Obito!” Kakashi hissed, squeezing Obito’s arm.
Obito turned to him and blinked, his eyes fading back to natural black. “Ah—shit, sorry. I got excited.”
A quick glance around showed that no one had seemed to notice, at least. “Save your excitement for other things.”
Obito stared at him blankly for a moment before grinning mischievously. “Other things, huh?”
Kakashi rolled his eyes. “Mature. Be more careful. Come on, we should go.”
Momentarily disappointed at the thought of leaving the training area, Obito soon perked up once again. “Yeah! I’m curious about Tetsu. I mean, they can’t only have samurai. Let’s go!”
Obito didn’t let go of Kakashi as they returned to the main streets of the city. He probably wasn’t even thinking about it; he was probably just cold. Unfortunately, knowing that didn’t do anything to stop the heat under Kakashi’s skin or the butterflies in his stomach.
Obito dragged them all over the city, stopping in every store that caught his eye. They bought roasted sweet potatoes from a street vendor, which warmed their hands while they ate them. Once they had finished those, the familiar, fishy scent of oden drew them to yet another vendor, who chatted with them about various sites in the city while he served them their skewers.
After that, tired from their day of walking, they returned to the inn.
“D’you think our room is ready?” Obito asked as he opened the door.
The inn was more crowded, now, almost every table in the room filled with customers. There wasn’t a seat to be had at the bar, and Kakashi and Obito had to squeeze in to get to the counter.
“Hi, ma’am!” Obito called cheerfully. Out of the corner of his eye, Kakashi noticed the man next to them glance over at them.
“Oh, the boyfriends ,” he said. “Enjoying the town?”
Obito stared at him. Kakashi tried, in vain, to place where they might have met the man; Obito hadn’t mentioned that stupid cover story since the gate.
That left only one person who the man could be, Kakashi concluded. “The samurai from the gate.”
Obito smacked his fist against the palm of his hand. “Oh! I didn’t recognize you without all the stuff.”
The man nodded. “Takamura.”
The same name as the inn, Kakashi realized with a sinking feeling in his stomach.
His fears were realized as the man said, “I live here. My mother runs the inn. But, as I was asking you, are you enjoying the town?”
The man stared at them levelly. Obito, ever oblivious, grinned at him. “Yeah! We went to see the samurai. They’re amazing—oh, but, uh, you probably already knew that.”
The man looked away from Kakashi, focusing on Obito. “It’s always a pleasure to meet someone who appreciates the samurai arts. However, I am surprised . . . I thought you would be more of a fan of shinobi.”
Obito blinked at him. “Eh? Why would I be a fan of shinobi?”
The man looked at Kakashi again, his gaze unblinking. “It was just an impression I had. Forgive me, I have to join my friends. Enjoy Tetsu.”
Finally, the man left, taking two pitchers of beer with him to a table. The innkeeper appeared, a broad smile on her face. “Enjoy your stay, boys!” she declared as she placed a key in Kakashi’s outstretched hand.
Kakashi grabbed Obito’s hand and dragged him upstairs before anyone else could ask them weird questions.
“Kakashi—hey, wait, I wanted to see what was for dinner! Kakashi!”
Kakashi shoved him into the room and shut the door behind him. He pressed his ear to the door and listened, but no one was following them.
“Geez, what’s up with you?” Obito asked.
Kakashi remained pressed to the door. “That man is onto us. Takamura.”
“Eh? You think so?” Obito scratched at the back of his head and wrinkled up his nose, trying to think. Kakashi stared, unable to look away for some strange reason. “I thought he was just being friendly.”
“Idiot,” Kakashi said, shaking himself free of his strange, Obito-induced trance. “Did you not notice all his weird, pointed comments about shinobi? And about us being boyfriends ?”
Obito tilted his head to the side. “Uh, yeah, I guess? I didn’t think it was that weird . . . you think it was weird?”
“Yes, it was weird,” Kakashi sighed as he stepped away from the door. “I don’t think anyone followed us up here, so he must not be too suspicious, but we should be careful.”
Obito shrugged. “I don’t think we have to worry that much. I mean, he’s one guy, and he’s on gate duty. We’re probably never going to see him.”
“Did you miss him saying that he lives here?” Kakashi sighed.
“So? I live at the Uchiha compound, and I’m never there,” Obito said.
Kakashi rolled his eyes. “Yeah, because you never buy groceries so you always come running to my house.”
“What’s the use in buying groceries when we’re out on missions all the time?”
“Buy things that don’t go bad easily. Canned food. Dry goods.”
“When I could have your dad’s home-cooked meals? No thanks!” Obito threw himself down on the bed, tossing down his bag, and then looked around. “Aw, man!”
Kakashi looked around the room, but didn’t see anything out of place. “What is it?”
“There’s only one bed! They gave us a single,” Obito groaned and hauled himself up. “C’mon, let’s go see if she has a room free with two beds.”
Kakashi grabbed his arm. “Wait! We can’t do that. That samurai is still down there. He’ll definitely be suspicious if two people who are supposedly dating raise a fuss about having to share a bed.”
Obito scratched the side of his nose. “We’ll tell him we’re, uh . . . waiting until marriage?”
Kakashi stared at him flatly. “He’s never going to believe that.”
Obito threw his hands up in the air. “What, so we’re just going to share that one little bed? Because one guy might be a tiny bit suspicious of us?”
Kakashi looked around Obito, to the bed. It was small, he had to admit, roughly the size of Kakashi’s bed at home. Kakashi’s bed had fit Kakashi and Obito comfortably when they were both smaller, but that was a few years and a few growth spurts ago. If they shared, the two of them would have to squeeze together to fit, a thought that brought a warm flush to Kakashi’s cheeks.
He shook his head. “He might be one guy, but he has friends. All it takes is one little comment to his friends, and then the word spreads, and the next thing you know every samurai in town has an eye on us. We’ll have to make do. You can have the bed. I’ll take the floor.”
Obito rolled his eyes and punched Kakashi’s arm. “Don’t be dumb. You’re not going to catch Obito Disease from sleeping next to me. I bet it gets freezing here at night, you’re gonna die if you sleep on the floor. Besides, I know it’s hard on your body when you don’t sleep in a bed.”
That much was true—ever since the Kannabi Bridge mission, Kakashi often woke up stiff and sore when he slept on anything other than a bed. He dealt with it, because it was an inevitability on missions, and he never complained about it. He certainly hadn’t mentioned it to Obito. “What makes you say that?”
Obito wrinkled his nose, a sure sign he was thinking. “Well, whenever we have long missions and can’t stop at an inn or something and have to sleep outside, you always move a little bit slower and more carefully, and sometimes you make painful faces. I mean, you wear a mask and all that, but I noticed the corner of your eye kind of scrunches up when you’re in pain.” He laughed sheepishly and rubbed at the back of his head. “I guess I just pay attention to you!”
Kakashi reiterated: he was going to die. This vacation was a doomed plan. He should tell Obito to back up his things, turn in their key, and take them back to Konoha before things could go even further downhill.
But then Obito turned a blinding grin on him and said, “C’mon, let’s go grab something to eat and talk about our plans. Tomorrow’s gonna be great! That vendor gave me a bunch of great ideas about things to do together,” and Kakashi’s legs and willpower turned to jelly.
For better or for worse, they would stay for the rest of their vacation. If they were caught, Kakashi would let it be known that it was all because of Obito’s stupid smile.
“Kakashi, is it just me, or is someone following us?”
Kakashi breathed out slowly and tried to ignore Obito’s arm, curled around his as Obito pulled him down the snowy streets of Tetsu. “So it’s not just me. I think it’s Takamura. I don’t think we’ll be able to shake him; he knows these streets better than us, and if we try too hard it will just look suspicious. I think we’re stuck with him.”
Obito nodded thoughtfully. “I think I’ve got an idea.”
Kakashi glanced at him doubtfully. “What are you planning?”
Obito grinned. “Just trust me.”
For five minutes, Obito made a show of touring the street, his arm tucked around Kakashi’s waist and driving Kakashi slowly insane, until he turned back as if to point out something Kakashi had missed and said, “Oh, hey, it’s Takamura! Takamura, over here!”
Faced with Obito’s enthusiastic waving, there was nothing Takamura could do but join them from where he had been lingering, several paces behind them. Obito beamed at him as if he wasn’t aware Takamura had been following them ever since they had left the inn. “Is it your day off?”
Takamura’s face was disguised by a thick scarf; all Kakashi could see of his face were his dark eyes. “It is.”
“Are you running errands for your mom?” Obito chattered; Kakashi admired his ability to maintain his cheerful demeanor in the face of Takamura’s blank stare. “I get sent out to do that all the time at home! But if you’re not busy, I was wondering if you could show Kakashi and I around?”
If it weren’t for Takamura, Kakashi would have shaken Obito until he coughed up exactly what he was thinking.
Takamura dipped his head. “I would be glad.”
“Great! Because some of these street vendors gave us advice on where to go, but I keep getting turned around and distracted,” Obito said with an easy laugh. “I don’t know where to go, so lead the way, tour guide!”
Takamura was undoubtedly the worst tour guide ever, speaking maybe a sentence, if that, on each place he brought them. Obito didn’t seem to care, filling the air with cheerful chatter. Kakashi, for his part, attempted to ignore Obito’s arm around his waist and kept an eye on Takamura, just in case he pulled anything. At the moment he didn’t seem inclined to do anything, but that could change in a heartbeat.
Takamura escorted them to various popular locations, and then, when Obito’s stomach growled, took them to a small restaurant that Kakashi suspected was run by people Takamura knew personally, since they greeted him familiarly. They took their seats around a booth, Takamura on one side and Obito and Kakashi on the other, and in moments a steaming hotpot was placed in front of them.
“Nabe!” Obito cheered. “That’s perfect for the weather. Thanks for the food!”
Obito devoured three bowls in short order, bottomless pit that he was, while Kakashi picked his way through his first bowl. He didn’t start his second bowl until Obito was on his fourth. Takamura’s eyes flickered between them, watching, as he scooped steaming slices of meat into his mouth.
He watched them throughout the meal, but didn’t say anything until Obito had excused himself for the bathroom.
“So,” he said, as Kakashi paid for the meal. “Is he also a shinobi, or just you?”
Kakashi continued counting coins for the bill. “What makes you think I’m a shinobi?”
Takamura held up a small book, not unlike Kakashi’s bingo book, open to a certain page. Kakashi was wearing a hat over his hair and wasn’t wearing any of his ninja gear, but it was still easy to recognize that the person in the picture was him.
“Kakashi Hatake” was printed at the top of the page. In a cramped, messy scrawl, someone had written “The White Fang’s son!”
Kakashi finished counting money and returned the remainder to his bag. “So?”
“This is obviously you,” Takamura said.
“Maybe I have a twin,” Kakashi said. Takamura stared him down. Kakashi nodded towards the page. “You’re a fan of the White Fang?”
Takamura blinked and then did a double-take at the page. “Ah. That. I heard that he channeled chakra through a blade, a feat remarkably similar to samurai techniques.”
Kakashi nodded. “He’s a fan too,” he said, nodding towards the bathroom door just as it opened.
Obito, grinning, bounded back over to their table as Takamura slipped the book away. “Sorry, I’m ready to go now. What next?”
Takamura looked at the clock. “If you’re interested, I believe we have time for a visit to a picturesque location, although it is a bit of a hike.”
Obito nudged Kakashi. “Hear that? Picturesque . Sounds right up your alley, old man.”
“Enjoying calming nature scenery does not make you old,” Kakashi said. “When you slip and fall in the snow, I’m going to laugh at you.”
Obito stuck out his tongue, and just to be contrary started running around as soon as they got outside. “C’mon, slowpokes! Stop wasting daylight!”
Kakashi sighed as he followed him. “Do you even know where we’re going?”
Obito turned around so that he was walking backwards. “Uh, nope! Where are we going, Takamura?”
“Continue straight. I will inform you when we reach the trail we need to take.”
“Great!” Obito darted off without a care, plunging into the snowbanks to the side of the street with a gleeful laugh. “There’s so much snow here!”
“It snows at home, too,” Kakashi said.
“Yeah, but it always melts quickly, or gets swept away, or is all gross and icy,” Obito said. “Not fluffy and soft like this!”
“It is still icy,” Takamura warned. “You should be careful.”
At Takamura’s direction, they turned off the main road onto a small trail, still covered in snow. Obito gleefully stomped along the trail, allowing his feet to sink deep into the snow, while Kakashi and Takamura followed behind him. Eventually, the trail ended at a rocky cliff, which had a series of rocks and outcroppings leading up to the top of the cliff. It looked climbable, but calling it a path would be too generous. A frozen waterfall poured over the top of the cliff, icicles dangling over the iced-over pond below.
“Oh, man, I bet this place is great in the summer!” Obito said.
“The summer is not particularly warm here,” Takamura said. “However, the fall is larger due to the melting snow.”
Obito ran over to the cliff. “Hang on, I’m gonna take a look!”
“Be careful,” Kakashi warned. The last thing they needed was Obito using chakra to climb the cliff and making Takamura suspicious of him, too.
Obito rolled his eyes. “Yes, Mom .”
As Obito began to carefully climb the cliff—using only his hands and feet, and no chakra, to Kakashi’s relief—Kakashi wandered closer to the pond and brushed away the snow over the ice to see if he could see through it.
“Are there fish?” he asked.
Takamura nodded once. “Asleep at the bottom of the pond. Ice-fishing is popular this time of year, but this isn’t the best spot for it. There is a larger lake further outside of the city that people prefer to go to, but it is not a trip an ordinary person could make in a day. Unless you think the two of you could manage it.”
As if on cue, Obito yelped, only to quickly call out, “I’m okay! Don’t worry!”
“Probably for the best we don’t go,” Kakashi said. “That idiot over there would probably manage to fall in somehow.”
“Hey! I heard that!”
“Just focus on not killing yourself.”
Obito blew a raspberry in response. “Mature,” Kakash sighed.
“I reached the top! You should come take a look at this. It’s beautiful up here!”
Kakashi stood and turned to find Obito had indeed reached the top of the cliff, although he hadn’t climbed on top of it yet, instead holding onto the ledge with his hands as he stared into the distance. He looked down and, spotting Kakashi watching him, grinned. “C’mon! It’s not a hard climb at all. I can help you, if you’re too much of a wuss.”
Kakashi sighed and stepped closer. “I’m coming, I’m coming.”
“Yeah, hang on, let me just finish climbing up—whoa!”
Kakashi saw the moment Obito’s foot slipped off the outcropping just as he was about to climb up. His arms pinwheeled uselessly as he fell back. Kakashi surged forward, careless of how his unnatural speed would give Takamura additional evidence—there was no telling what dangers lurked under the snow. Obito might land on snow, or he might hit a hidden rock. Kakashi wasn’t about to take that chance, not when the mere sight of Obito falling sent his heart leaping into his throat.
He reached the cliff just in time to catch Obito. They hit the snow, Kakashi underneath Obito, and lay there for a moment, breathing hard.
“Thanks,” Obito gasped, as he sat up enough for Kakashi to wriggle out from underneath him.
“I told you you were going to slip and fall,” Kakashi said. He got to his feet and brushed himself off, and then offered Obito a hand. Obito grasped his hand and let Kakashi pull him up, only to wince and sink back down to the ground.
Kakashi knelt beside him. “What hurts?”
“Ankle,” Obito groaned.
Kakashi nodded and looked at Takamura. “Is there a clinic or a hospital nearby?”
“I can take you to the doctor,” Takamura said.
Kakashi gave Obito, still prodding at his ankle through his boot, a stern look. “You aren’t walking on that until we know it isn’t serious.”
“What? But how am I supposed to walk? You aren’t just gonna leave me here, right?”
“Don’t be stupid,” Kakashi said, and, without another word, put one arm under Obito’s knees and another around his back and hoisted him into the air.
Obito’s hands scrabbled at Kakashi’s shoulders. “Whoa! Warn a guy!”
Kakashi adjusted his grip on Obito and made his way back to the trail, carefully picking his way through the snow. Takamura led the way, escorting them down the trail and back to the city.
After a moment, Obito relaxed, one arm loosely wrapped around Kakashi’s shoulders so that it rested on top of his backpack. “I could get used to this,” he said.
“Enjoy it while you can,” Kakashi grunted. “You’re heavy.”
“Rude,” Obito laughed.
Kakashi didn’t respond, too focussed on not tripping and falling to respond to Obito. Takamura wasn’t much for conversation, and even Obito didn’t seem to be in the mood to talk, so they passed the rest of the trip to the clinic in silence.
“A sprain,” was the doctor’s verdict, after poking and prodding at Obito’s bruised and swollen ankle while he complained enthusiastically. “Stay off it for six weeks.”
He went on to give more detailed instructions, which Kakashi absorbed while Obito wilted with each word. Obito was silent and sullen when they left the clinic, Obito moving on his own with the aid of a pair of crutches, and didn’t speak until he’d flopped down on their bed in the inn.
“Six weeks!” he whined. “What a way to ruin our vacation!”
Leaving Obito to mope, Kakashi fetched a pillow to elevate Obito’s ankle and went to get some ice from the innkeeper. When he returned, Obito had resorted to flipping through some awful-looking bodice ripper from the bookshelves.
What Happened in Tanzaku-Gai, read the title. The author, according to the blurb, had also written the bestselling The Shinobi Lover’s Code. A quick glance to the bookshelf revealed that they also had access to that book.
Obito snickered and turned the page, only to yelp as Kakashi placed the ice pack on his ankle. “Jeez, Bakashi! That’s cold!”
“Then don’t be an idiot and sprain your ankle,” Kakashi said. Obito subsided, grumbling under his breath.
They spent the rest of the day like that, Kakashi alternately putting the ice on Obito’s ankle and removing it while Obito skimmed the romance novel and read Kakashi the funny or dirty parts. The author’s true skill lay in having a very poor sense of both male and female anatomy.
The innkeeper was nice enough to bring them dinner, so that Obito wouldn’t have to traverse the stairs on his crutches again, and Takamura appeared to take their plates down and give them painkillers he’d purchased from the local drug store, a surprisingly nice gesture coming from their personal samurai babysitter.
Kakashi settled down on the bed next to Obito and let his eyes slip closed. He hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, too distracted by Obito’s presence next to him to manage anything more than a light doze. Obito’s reading wasn’t particularly soothing—he kept giggling and going off on distracting tangents instead of reading—but somehow Kakashi still found it relaxing to listen to him talk.
“Kakashi. Hey, Kakashi, wake up.”
Kakashi jolted awake, fighting against the blankets tangled around his legs. “Gah!”
“Sorry,” Obito whispered. “You looked like you were having a nightmare. You okay?”
Kakashi managed to straighten out the blankets. “I’m fine.”
Obito gnawed on his lip—a bad habit to cultivate. If you did it in the middle of the battle, you’d end up biting through your lip. “You’re going to bite through your lip in the middle of a fight if you keep doing that,” Kakashi said.
“Want to talk about it?” Obito said.
“Not really,” Kakashi said. Reliving the cave and Madara in his dreams was bad enough; he didn’t want to relive it in the waking world as well. He looked around the room for a distraction. “Why is the lamp on?”
“Oh,” Obito said sheepishly. “I couldn’t sleep, so I turned the light on to read.”
Kakashi settled back down and shut his eyes, determined to get at least a little more sleep. “That Tanzaku-Gai book again? Read it to me, then.”
“Uhhh, it’s not that book,” Obito said.
“The shinobi lovers one? That’s fine too.”
“It’s not that one either. I, uh, decided to try out a different author.”
“Good. Maybe this one will be better,” Kakashi said. “Read.”
“Uh, okay. If you insist.” Pages ruffled as Obito picked up the book. “I’m going to start at the beginning, though. Or else you’ll be confused.”
“So there’s enough of a plot for it be confusing if I miss the beginning? What is it called?”
“The Gates of Konoha ,” Obito said.
At least the title sounded better than the other two, Kakashi told himself. “Okay. Go ahead.”
Obito cleared his throat. “The Sharingan was far more vivid than Kai had ever imagined. Red as freshly spilled blood, with a black pinwheel where a pupil should have been. The Uchiha loomed over him, pinning Kai against the wall of the Uchiha compound. Kai’s breath caught in his throat as the Uchiha stared down at him mercilessly, not even blinking. Had his mind been more present, he would have wondered if he was already caught in a genjutsu, but as it was he couldn’t look away from those brilliantly red eyes . . .”