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Go find your heart (take it back)

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Obito wakes to rough voices, ropes around his wrists, dead leaf litter below him, and a sharp rock digging into his kidneys.

As his last memory is of following Rin towards (hopefully) Paradise or the Great Beyond, this is more than a little disconcerting.

He lies still for a moment, sleep-limp and eyes closed to keep whoever tied him up—and really, at this point that could be anyone; both sides probably hate him equally—from realizing that he’s conscious. There's no pause in the conversation, and it doesn’t get any closer, so he assumes he’s safe for the moment. A careful test of his bonds reveals that, yes, they really are rope, rough enough that they’ve already torn his skin and drawn blood. It’s a touch of sloppiness that makes Obito frown inwardly, because he honestly can't imagine anyone moronic enough to think that such simple knots would hold him. He still has his chakra, he still has his Sharingan—both of them, even, which is also odd, since he’d swear before any and all deities that he passed them on to Kakashi—and he can feel his mokuton coiled beneath his skin like a living thing, vibrant in the presence of a true forest.

There's not even some sort of barrier around him. It’s like they just tied him up with a couple of pieces of string and then left him.

Obito considers this for a moment, and then decides it’s probably safe to open his eyes.

The sight that greets him is…not what he was expecting.

It’s dark, and the little clearing is made even darker by the vast Fire Country trees leaning over it. There's a campfire casting faint, shifting light over its surroundings and the faces of the four men hunched over it. They're all arguing, unkempt, sharp-voiced men in rough civilian clothing with equally rough weapons close at hand. Not one of them holds himself like a shinobi, and there's no way any shinobi worth anything would allow his weapons to reach such a state—Obito can see the rust and nicks in the blades from here.

Bandits, then, and not even missing-nin.

It’s almost insulting.

Just to give them the benefit of a doubt—since it’s possible they're simply acting, or possibly under a henge, though Obito likes to think he would be observant enough to notice something like that—Obito stays perfectly still and tries to catch what they're saying. It’s made easier by the fact that he’s only about five yards from them, at the edge of the tree line.

“—doesn’t matter!” the largest of the bunch is saying. He’s brawny in a manner that’s just starting to go to seed, if the beginnings of his potbelly are anything to go by. “Even if he’s not, they don’t know that!”

“But they’ll check,” the scrawny beanpole of a man across from Potbelly hisses. “Isn’t that what these shinobi are famous for? You torture ‘em for hours and all they’ll spit out is their ninja registration number. If we make something up, they’ll check it and realize we’re bluffing out our damn asses.”

010886, Obito thinks automatically, and is almost startled that he still remembers his registration. It’s been…a very long time since he was issued it, or since he had any cause to use it. But if that’s the sum of what these men know about ninja protocol, they're clearly not shinobi themselves. He almost wants to laugh. The scourge of the ninja world, brought low (however temporarily) by bandits. Not even very thorough ones at that.

The third man huffs out a garbled laugh, short and nasty, and fingers the long scar that slants clear across his face. “Konoha is just full of bleeding hearts, though,” he says lazily. “Maybe we wouldn’t have any luck in Taki, or Kiri, but Konoha? All we have to say is that we’ve got one of their precious shinobi and they’ll be eating out of our hands. Easy enough to arrange to do the trade directly with that Hokage of theirs—for safety reasons, like.”

That gets a quick giggle from the last bandit. “And when the one-eyed bastard comes slinking out the gate to get his ninja back, slice! Our bounty!”

“Knock it off,” Beanpole growls. “You think this is a joke? Some kind of pleasure stroll in the moonlight? We’re going to kill Copy-Nin Kakashi.”

Of course you are, Obito thinks, resigned. At this point he would be more surprised to meet someone who doesn’t want to kill Kakashi, who still excels at pissing people off in the most creative of ways, if in a somewhat different manner than when he was thirteen. Obito has been living off rumors and plots for the last two decades—he’s kept track. Especially of Kakashi.

Some habits are harder than others to break, after all. Some not even Zetsu or Madara could touch.

“Settle down,” Potbelly snaps in return. “Both of you. Our esteemed guest will pass as a Konoha shinobi just fine—they're not going to be looking any closer than we want them to. All they need is a glimpse and the bastard’s weapon. Who else but a shinobi’d use something like that? And even if they don’t buy it, Motoki’s right. Konoha is full of bleeding hearts, and if they’ve got a chance to save a shinobi captured in the war, even if he’s not one of theirs, they’ll take it. This’ll work. So quit your yapping before my ears start bleeding.”

Well, that’s more than clear enough. Obito rolls his eyes, sits up, and easily unknots the ropes. They fall away, pathetically simple, and it’s all Obito can do not to roll his eyes again. Really, a genin could have gotten out of those. A brain-damaged genin, at that.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he says, rising to his feet and watching with dark amusement as all four men jump and flail for their weapons. “Konoha is a bit more unpredictable than you're thinking. A bit more ruthless, too. You seem to be forgetting that they're shinobi.”

“What—but—you—you were tied up!” Scar splutters.

Obito snorts and tosses the ropes at his feet. “You guys aren’t even worth killing,” he says, disgusted. “And you're trying to go after Kakashi? I should let you, just to see how fast he wipes the floor with your pathetic asses. I’d give you five seconds. Tops.”

His brain is already going, far beyond the need to pay any sort of attention to the group in front of him. So the war is over, and since they're all still in existence, Obito is going to assume Naruto won. It’s also probably safe to presume that Madara didn’t pull a miraculous reappearance, as Obito halfway expected him to, and use the opening Kaguya made to wipe out the Alliance. Konoha is still standing, and apparently they’ve made Kakashi their Rokudaime. It’s…not entirely unexpected, but still surprising. Mostly in that Kakashi accepted the post, but then, he’s always been one to do his duty, regardless of personal feelings.

Almost absently, Obito catches a knife aimed for his throat between two fingers and lets it drop, then moves in a blur too fast to see. Mokuton could take them all out in one blow, but they're not worth the chakra expenditure. Obito breaks Beanpole’s neck, cracks Scar and Giggles’ heads together hard enough to put them down permanently, and then rounds on Potbelly with a smile that is most definitely not nice.

“Normally,” he says conversationally, as though simply continuing his earlier train of thought, “I really would leave you up to Kakashi, but I'm sure he’s short on time to read his porn as it is. Far be it from me to infringe on that any further, right?”

Potbelly howls in fear, chucks his sword blindly at Obito, and turns to run. Obito allows himself one more eye-roll, darts forward, and crushes his windpipe with a knife-hand blow. The bandit goes down, choking for breath, and Obito stares at him for a moment before turning on his heel and walking away. A familiar black shakujo with six rings is leaning against a tree beyond the fire, and he pauses briefly to contemplate it before shrugging, shouldering it, and setting off into the darkness.

He’s alive, somehow, and the world has continued on without him. It’s probably not the same, but somehow Obito suspects that it’s not all that different, either.

And if someone’s trying to kill Kakashi, kill the Rokudaime, that means trouble.

Obito likes trouble. It tends to be…interesting.


“Damn it, Rin,” Obito mutters, sinking back against the bole of a particularly large tree and rubbing a hand over his face. He thinks he hears a giggle somewhere far off, soft and sweet and familiar enough to make his chest ache, but otherwise there's no answer. Not as to why he’s still alive (alive again?) when he distinctly remembers the feeling of his body crumbling to ash. Not as to why Kakashi's ascension has brought his enemies crawling out of the woodwork in goddamn droves—though Obito guesses that’s a combination of Kakashi's winning personality, his thirty-year career as a high-ranking shinobi, and his sudden visibility—all of them out for blood. And certainly not as to why he’s been dumped in the middle of this whole mess. Penance, maybe? That could be it. Rin was always a supporter of people paying their dues, and god knows Obito has quite the karmic debt to work off.

He knows this is Rin’s doing, the same way he knows the sky is blue and the sun will rise in the morning. He just can't say how he knows.

Two days of traveling, and in the course of it Obito has encountered three more groups clearly on their way to Konoha to bag its Hokage. Not counting the incompetent assholes he woke up with, of course, because Obito is fairly certain they don’t even register as an aggravation in the grand scheme of things. No, these were missing-nin or freelance shinobi, trained and hardened and slightly more difficult to dispatch, though Obito had done so regardless.

He’s practical, after so long. These groups are after Kakashi, and as amusing as it would be to let them go and then watch Kakashi pound all of them into the ground without breaking a sweat, someone only has to get lucky once. If Obito lets these teams go, one of the teams he hasn’t encountered—and there are more, of course; that’s just basic logic—will have that much more of a chance to strike. And Kakashi has lived through the war, used Obito's eyes to achieve some sort of victory, survived the aftermath, and reached the position Obito always aimed for. Obito is hardly about to let him die now.

Honestly, Obito has absolutely no intention of “returning to life”, as it were. He’s done enough, harmed enough people, destroyed enough lives, and placed himself firmly at the top of probably every single sentient creature’s shit-list. Death is nice, safe, anonymous, and gives him the freedom to move however he wants. And if he’s going to be cleaning house for Kakashi, he needs all the maneuverability he can get. At some point, someone’s going to realize that Copy-Nin Kakashi, Hero of the Sharingan, won't be taken out by cannon fodder, and they're actually going to send someone competent.

Obito will be there to stop them when they do. It’s one debt he can repay, one little bit of red washed off his hands every time he keeps Kakashi alive.

Maybe that’s what Rin sent him back for. Maybe that’s why she dumped him in this place. She always did have a rather blinding soft spot for the bastard.

Right now, though, all Obito can think about is that he’s cold and hungry and tired, with a headache building behind his eyes. Fire Country is generally warm, but the nights still get chilly, and judging by the touch of ice in the air they're closing in on winter. Somehow, he’s wearing the uniform of the Alliance, more or less in one piece, and Obito honestly doesn’t want to contemplate that too closely, doesn’t want to wonder if he’s wearing someone else’s body. It feels like his, bears all the same scars and defects and imperfections, but Obito knows better than anyone except Tobirama himself how Edo Tensei works, and it’s possible.

Except for the hunger. Except for the headache. Except for the weariness pulling at his very bones.

Obito isn’t sure a zombie would feel all of that.

Letting out a soft breath, Obito wraps his arms a little more tightly around himself and curls back into the slight depression in the trunk, hoping to conserve at least a little bit of body heat. He could call up a Katon jutsu, or start a campfire, but he’s been operating covertly for too long to break the habits of stealth now. Especially when he doesn’t know who exactly is out in the forest, or who will find him if he lights up a beacon like that. He has a vague approximation of his location—northern Fire Country, heading east along the border with Rice Paddy Country—but little beyond that, since he’s stayed about as far from signs of human habitation as possible. And without more information, he’s not going to risk a fire. It’s not so cold that he’ll freeze to death, just…uncomfortable.

Obito is used to uncomfortable, by now.

Of their own volition, his fingers come up to trace the deep, harsh scars carved into the right side of his face. They are…grotesque, and Obito wonders, now that his eyes aren’t clouded with hate, now that he’s stopped lying to himself at every turn, if they aren’t a very large part of his reason for always wearing a mask. For secrecy, yes, and for misdirection, but…how long has it been since he actually looked in a mirror? How long since he’s actually seen himself?

Years, he thinks a little bleakly. Maybe a full decade. Maybe two.

He hates them, these scars. He always has. They're a mark of failure, of how he attempted to save a teammate and couldn’t even do that right. Because of that, he wasn’t there for anything that followed. Hell, he was the cause of most of the tragedy afterwards. But—maybe if he’d been a little faster, maybe if he’d managed to jump clear of the rocks along with Kakashi, he could have saved Rin. Maybe he could have become Hokage, stopped the massacre of the Uchiha clan, halted Madara’s plans for Sasuke before they even started.

So much horror, the majority of it by his own hand, and if he’d just been faster, been better

But it’s too late for regrets. Twenty years too late. Too late the second he killed in the name of some twisted dream, since he buried his Will of Fire beneath whispers of a perfect world bought with blood. Since he allowed himself to be twisted and used, since he didn’t open his eyes enough to see Madara’s manipulation for what it was. Since he got Rin killed, just by existing.

That hurts the most. Madara arranged her death because of him, and if he hadn’t been such a good, valuable little tool

Shh, Rin’s voice whispers in his ear, soft and sad, and he’s missed her, missed her so damned much. She was always his friend, regardless of his feelings for her. He loved her, loves her, but more than that she was always there for him, even when no one else was. She smiled at him and bandaged his wounds and was always ready with a cheerful grin and a kind word, and that more than anything is what Obito has mourned these last lonely, barren years. Kakashi was never really a friend, no matter how Obito wanted him to be—rival in shinobi work, rival for Rin’s affections, rival for Minato’s attention, rival because he was actually someone even at the age of twelve, and Obito, from one of the most powerful and feared clans in existence, directly related to Uchiha Madara himself, was absolutely no one.

Kakashi could have been a friend, if he’d unbent a little more and Obito had held himself back just a bit. They could have been great, he and Kakashi and Rin together, could have changed the world and made it better if only they hadn’t been…

If only they hadn’t been children, lost in themselves except when circumstances forced them to be otherwise. They all sacrificed, all gave up so much for each other and for their village, but they were children no matter their training. They fought and died because of it, metaphorically or literally, because they were part of a war between old men kept safe behind stone walls.

Obito hates the world for that, for what it did to them, and regardless of new goals and a new outlook on life, he suspects he always will. He’s spent too long filled with hatred, and now he can't not hate. Maybe, were he like Naruto, strong and unyielding, he could let it go, but he’s not. He doesn’t think he ever was, or ever will be.

“Rin,” he whispers, loud in the dark stillness of a silent midnight. “Rin, I miss you. Why am I here? Why did you leave me alone?”

Never alone, silly, she whispers to him, gentle against his ear. You think I’d leave you on your own again? Impossible.

Obito curls his arms around his knees, fighting off the shivers that rack his body, and tucks his head down into the curve of his elbow. The headache is still there, still lurking, and his stomach churns from lack of food, but he stays still. Penance, maybe, though the thought makes Obito huff out a wry breath. As if there's anything he can do to even begin to make amends.

“What am I here for?” he asks again, and to his horror his voice breaks halfway through.

Oh, Obito. She sounds sad, so sad, and that’s not right. Rin should never be sad. Back when he was a kid, he’d almost been prepared to let her go, to let her be happy with Kakashi because that’s what she wanted, except Kakashi only ever saw her as a medic-nin, as assistance in the field and a weak link to compensate for, and Obito couldn’t stand that. He loved her and she loved Kakashi, and Kakashi looked right through her as if she wasn’t the kindest person in the entire world, as though she wasn’t perfect in pretty much every way, flaws and all. So he hadn’t given up, because Kakashi obviously wasn’t good enough, and…

And the world went to hell because of it. Because of him.

It’s especially ironic given that Obito always prided himself on being different from the rest of his clan. He helped people, he was cheerful, he tried never to let things get him down, he had friends outside the clan, and he tried to treat everyone with respect. He wasn’t some utterly arrogant douchebag back then, but he became one. He became the very worst sort of Uchiha, the kind he had always fought so hard against as a kid, and that burns. It’s disgusting, what depths he allowed himself to sink to.

But not anymore. Never again.

Obito takes a breath, holds it for a count of five, and lets it out. Rin’s trick, for whenever he was upset or on the verge of losing his temper. He does it again, a third time, and then raises his head to stare out into the darkness.

“So,” he says after a moment. “I guess we’re saving Kakashi, then. Bet he’s got his hands full with all of these people trying to kill him. Just like old times, huh?”

Rin laughs at him, high and sweet, and Obito smiles despite himself, remembering that day in the training grounds, Rin bandaging his wounds and telling him that she believed in him, believed that he could be Hokage if he just tried hard enough.

He loves her. He loves her so much, whether as a friend or something else, and if he can't have the latter, he’s more than happy to accept the former.

Go to sleep, Obito, she tells him warmly. I’ll keep watch.

There's chakra around him, as familiar as his own even after so many years, and Obito lets out a soft sigh, tucks himself back a little more against the tree, and closes his eyes. His mokuton stirs like a living thing, tempered and augmented by the forests around it, but Obito doesn’t try to rein it in. There's a whisper, a rustle, and warm darkness closes in around him. The tree surrounds him, a cocoon of wood imbued with the heat of the Fire Country sun, and Obito finally allows himself to relax and give in to the weariness pulling him down.

He can't remember the last time he slept so well.


Konoha is still much the same as the last time he saw it as Tobi, a short while after Pein’s failed invasion. The only real difference is the sixth face on the Mountain, and Obito stares at it for a long moment, disproportionately amused by the fact that Kakashi's carved head, his legacy that will remain for as many years as Konoha exists, is still sporting a mask. Honestly, that’s just…

So very, very like Kakashi.

(Maybe, just maybe, he’s missed Kakashi too. But only kind of.)

There are guards at the gate, and ANBU covertly patrolling the wall, so Obito pauses just within the tree-line to weigh his options. He has absolutely no intention of letting anyone know he’s back, even if he is slightly curious as to how everything turned out and how everyone is doing, and to stay completely hidden in a ninja village takes a fair amount of work, even for him. The best way to go about this is probably to hide in plain sight, as it were, and the sight of the ANBU team gives him an idea. Turning away from the gate, Obito slides back into the shadows of the forest and heads for the Hokage Mountain.

When Konoha was first built, the Shodaime himself carved out huge caverns and tunnels, to be used by civilians if Konoha was ever invaded. They’ve been expanded over the years, by enterprising or bored shinobi and officially sanctioned craftsmen alike, creating a veritable maze of passages winding through the mountain. Obito has mapped them all, explored each one in a fit of boredom while waiting for several plans to bear fruit, and he still remembers the passages well enough to navigate without misstep. The ANBU passages are smaller, more twisting and treacherous than the rest, with many more places to get turned around and hopelessly lost, and even more sharp corners to come upon someone unawares, but Obito moves through them like a ghost, alert for any sounds. Only once does he encounter another shinobi, and it’s easy enough to use Kamui and duck into the wall for the handful of seconds it takes for them to pass.

The ANBU building can't really be termed such, as it’s more a set of tunnels with rooms opening off of them. Obito keeps to the shadows, but it’s a bit before midday with no current threats to the village, so the area is mostly empty, with a mere handful of jounin grouped in one of the meeting rooms. Obito slides past them, and ducks into a room down the passage without bothering to open the door. Kamui is solid gold for breaking and entering, truly.

From there, it’s easy enough to find a uniform and a mask. Obito picks one styled after a dog, because it amuses him and because there are more of those hanging on the wall than any other. He abandons unnecessary plans and forms new ones, and decides to pick up a few more masks with different images, just in case he needs to switch between them. For a moment, he contemplates discarding his shakujo in favor of the standard tantō, but decides not to at the last moment. He’s been trained to use a good number of weapons, but his skill with a sword is just about average, and with staffs and pole arms he’s just shy of brilliant. If he needs something with range, he still has shuriken within his Kamui dimension, and beyond that he’s more than dangerous enough without a weapon, given his abilities.

Teleportation comes simply, faster than ever thanks to having both of his eyes rather than just one, and Obito pauses within his dimension for a moment to wonder if Kakashi still has his. Probably, if the face on the mountain is anything to go by, but maybe someone took artistic license with that. It makes something in Obito's chest twist a little unpleasantly, to think that his return to life has taken away Kakashi's greatest weapon. Obito has done that enough.

(He will never, ever forget Madara approaching him with his original eye, the brief bolt of fear that raced through him, because what if that meant Kakashi was dead? What if he’d failed yet again to save a teammate? Because it was his doing, his fault, and what if—)

He expects the mask to feel familiar, comforting, because he’s spent the majority of his life hiding behind one, but instead it just feels…stifling. Like a regression, a return of regrets, strong and overwhelming. But Obito shakes it off, dresses in the ANBU uniform and settles the dog mask into place. It cuts off his peripheral vision, narrows his line of sight, but that’s fine. It’s necessary for this to work.

After all, no one will look twice at an ANBU saving the life of the Hokage. That’s what they're supposed to do, one of the things they're meant for. And by the time someone realizes that the man in the dog mask isn’t an ANBU at all, he’ll be back in hiding and capable of switching to another mask to keep below the radar.

The tattoo is easy enough to fake, given the scars on his arm. Obito carries a bit of red ink, just in case he needs to create seals on the fly, and he applies it carefully, giving himself the appearance of a basic ANBU mark that’s been ruined by an injury—common enough circumstances, in a shinobi’s line of work.

“Well?” he murmurs, once he’s done, capping the bottle and stowing it away. “How do I look?”

Rin giggles at him. Handsome, she says warmly.

Only with my face covered, Obito thinks, mouth twisting unhappily, but he’s been a shinobi too long for vanity and shuts that thought away. He doesn’t bother to say it out loud, because he knows what Rin’s reaction to self-deprecation is, especially coming from him. She’s always been gentle, but she’s fierce as hell, too, with a will unlike any Obito has ever known.

“Finally you see the light,” is his response, wry and joking because even now that’s his fallback, his retreat whenever anything hits too close to home. Joke and flail and draw the attention somewhere else, anywhere else, even if you have to act like an idiot to do so. It’s always worked for him in the past.

Oh, Obito, she says again, but this time it’s more amused than sad. Always, always handsome. Not quite a lady-killer like Kakashi, but—

“Oi,” Obito protests, feeling heat creeping up his cheeks. Of course Rin would be able to make him feel like a twelve-year-old again, awkward and half a size too big for his skin. “I spent two-thirds of my life in a cave. I’d like to see Bakashi do any better under those circumstances, thank you.”

You never needed to compete with him, Obito. You're perfect as you are.

He wishes he could believe that.

With a soft sigh, Obito pushes to his feet and makes sure everything is in place. The shakujo is a bit out of the ordinary, but he’s not quite the only shinobi to use one, and as long as he sticks to the more basic jutsus and refrains from using mokuton, his identity should be safe. Uchiha Obito is most emphatically dead, after all.

He heads straight for the wall, barely even earning a second glance from the shinobi there. ANBU are a common enough sight, and they don’t answer to the gate guards in the name of staying completely covert. It’s how Danzo got away with his Root ANBU for so long; people see the mask and simply stop asking questions. Obito even gets a brief wave from a brown-haired tokujo in the street, one of his Academy classmates.

It’s…eerie. Even more so than fighting a war against them, and just for a moment Obito allows himself to wonder if this is how it would be, had Madara and Zetsu never found him. Would he be an ANBU, respected and well-regarded? Would he return to the village, go to deliver his report to the Hokage, and find Kakashi lounging behind the desk, waiting to greet him?

Obito pushes those thoughts away as well. There's no meaning in them, not here. Not now.

Once he’s in the village proper, he decides not to take unnecessary risks, and slips back into the shadows, keeping a close eye on his surroundings. The people look happy enough, calm and cheerful as they go about their business, and the shinobi he sees are relaxed, at ease. Clearly, things are going well, even with the war only recently passed. Within the last year or two, Obito suspects, given the attitudes, though he hasn’t had a chance to check the date yet.

Loud laughter draws his attention, making him pause in the shadow of a stack of crates as he glances up the street. Bright blond hair all but glows in the sun, and Naruto slings his arm around the shoulder of the dark-haired boy walking beside him. Obito's cousin doesn’t even attempt to throw him off, just rolls his eyes and looks away to hide his faint smile. On Naruto's other side, Sakura waves a stack of papers at the two of them, clearly annoyed, and then amusedly resigned when Naruto grins at her and says something with a grin.

He and Sasuke are both sporting prosthetic right arms, Obito notes with a faint pang of regret. Another tragedy to be laid at his door? More than likely. Most of the tragedies in the last twenty years can be firmly placed in the category of his fault.

“Sai knows where we’re meeting?” Sakura asks as they make their way past. “Naruto, you didn’t forget to tell him again, did you?”

“I didn’t!” Naruto protests. “That was one time—”

Sasuke snorts, but half a second later his head whips up, and he half turns to stare at the spot Obito had been occupying a moment before.

Safe on the edge of a fire escape across the street, Obito allows himself one slow breath out. Too close.

“Teme?” Naruto asks, following his friend’s gaze. “Is something wrong?” He’s a little bit tenser than he was a moment ago, ready for anything, and Sakura has her hands curled into fists. No matter how long this stretch of peace has been, they clearly haven’t lost their edge.

Sasuke pauses for just another moment, dark eyes narrow and wary, and then slowly turns away. “…Nothing,” he says after a second. “Just…shadows. I thought I saw something.”

“Because you're a paranoid bastard,” is Naruto's good-natured complaint as he drops his arm back over Sasuke's shoulders and pulls him along, though he casts another look at the crates as well. “Come on, if we don’t get there on time Sai and Captain Yamato will never let us forget it.”

“If they even try comparing us to Kakashi-sensei again, I’ll punch them both,” Sakura declares, shaking a threatening fist. It’s truly amusing to see just how many people suddenly dive out of the street in front of her and take cover. Even more so given how she doesn’t appear to notice.

“Hn.” Sasuke takes one more look around the street, eyes skipping right over Obito's hiding place, before he allows himself to be dragged away.

Obito decides that he’s taken enough risks for one day and turns to the Administrative Building. He doesn’t quite dare use Kamui with Team 7—all of whom are very familiar with it—so close, so he picks a shunshin instead, vanishing in a whirl of leaves the way he hasn’t in years and reappearing in the trees behind the Academy. The jutsu is unfamiliar, closer to something his Sharingan has copied rather than something he’s learned himself even though Minato did teach it to them, and nowhere near as smooth as Kamui, but decent enough.

He pauses under the cover of the leaves, concentrating, and feels the faint, impossibly familiar flicker of chakra coming from the Hokage's office. It takes effort not to let the bleed-through happen, overlapping his and Kakashi’s sight even though they each have their own set of eyes now, rather than a single shared pair. But it’s a relief, too, to know that Kakashi is still in possession of Kamui, that he has at least that much defense against assassins beyond what skills he gained on his own.

With a soundless sigh, Obito settles back against the tree trunk, high enough up to be invisible to even a canny observer, and closes his eyes. With his mokuton twisting beneath his skin, he can feel the area around him, the trees and plants right down to the blades of grass, and he sets to sorting through the excess of information, searching for threats.

If he’s going to do this, if he’s going to try, he might as well give it his all. Maybe it won't be for life, but maybe it will.

There are worse ways to work off his debt, honestly.


This first attack comes barely five hours later, just as Obito is starting to get stiff. He feels the sudden flurry of footsteps across the branches and bolts to his feet, even as four dark shapes go flying past in formation. Three men and a woman, dressed entirely in dark colors and sporting scratched hitai-ate, Obito takes in in a rush, and they're headed straight for the Hokage's window. A brute force approach, then. Unless…

Obito hurls his shakujo like a spear, and it catches the rearmost man right in the spine, punching through both cloth and skin to impale him completely. He shrieks as he goes down, making one of the others spin, but Obito is already on them, lashing out with fists and feet. The Sharingan registers even the tiniest movements, catalogues and analyzes them, and in the space of three blows Obito can see through the woman’s style. He ducks around her, blocks, and lunges, and then takes the opening she leaves when she goes in for a low block. One hard roundhouse kick to the head puts her down, and Obito bounds upwards after the other two who are already at the window.

It’s open, of course, because nothing in Obito's life can ever be easy.

But the other ANBU, the guards from inside the office, are suddenly there, blocking the opening, and Obito latches on to the trailing one, grabs the windowsill with one hand, and uses his free arm to get a grip on the missing-nin’s head and break his neck.

He lets the man drop, channels just a touch of chakra into his feet, and gets a grip on the wall. Pitching his voice a bit higher than is natural, Obito tells the closest ANBU, a woman with long purple hair, “I’ll check for any stragglers. You’ve got the Hokage?”

The woman nods sharply. “We were alerted when we heard the first one scream,” she says. “Thank you for the warning.”

In shinobi-speak, that means “thanks for not letting us get caught with our pants around our ankles, we appreciate it”. Obito just barely restrains a snort, inclines his head to her, and uses a shunshin to put him in the main lobby of the building just as a pair of women—both very pretty and very well-endowed—are making their way towards the stairs. They both startle and gasp, exactly as Obito would expect tow civilian women—merchants, by their dress—to act, but the one on the right is carrying a small bag that smells just a little too herbal to be perfume.

Doubtless Kakashi, with his nose, would catch it before anyone else, but Obito isn’t willing to let them get that far. He lunges, slow enough that they both have time to react, and is proved right when the blonde on the left goes for a kunai and the other one, a redhead, jerks a canister out of her bag. Obito dives between them, comes up at their backs, and hits them both at the base of the skull with enough force to knock them out, though he takes care to leave these ones alive. Maybe Ibiki can find out who they're from. Obito doesn’t have the patience.

There's a whisper of movement, just quiet enough that most people would miss it, and Obito glances up to see a pair of ANBU leaping down the steps. He salutes them just shy of mockingly and darts back outside, circling the building to snatch up his shakujo and then flinging himself back into the trees, letting his mokuton pull him into the trunk of the largest one nearby. If he heard Naruto right earlier, Konoha's mokuton-user is currently off duty, and it’s not exactly a type of jutsu that’s commonly checked for, so Obito assumes that he’s safe enough for the moment.

Leaning back against the far wall of his little bolt-hole, Obito lets out a careful breath. It…worked. Not exactly subtly, but that’s not really the point here. He’s officially dead—he doesn’t have to be subtle as far as his presence goes. Just about his identity, and that’s easy enough to keep under wraps.

Totally beside the point, it’s going to be exceedingly amusing to watch all of Konoha's ANBU run around like headless chickens trying to locate one of their own and failing miserably.

Rin giggles, soft and light beside his ear, and Obito closes his eyes with a soft chuckle of his own.

After all, reformed doesn’t particularly have to mean nice, and repentant is in no way equivalent with perfect. Obito wouldn’t particularly want it to be, either.

This? This is going to be fun.