They had a plan, a last desperate measure, last foolish hope, last chance; hastily strung together from wish and hope than any realistic hope of success. Of course it went wrong.
But it was all they had.
Everyone was dead. Whether it had been Kaguya's plan or not, whether that had been the end goal or not, it didn't even matter in the end. The God Tree had consumed everything without restraint– it had roiled over the land and demolished forests and mountains, consuming people and animals, destroying cities and nations until there was nothing left but the Tree – even the dead had been consumed, not a whisper of them left. Kaguya herself went the same way, along with Madara, along with everything else.
The only reason Naruto hadn't died was because he'd flown out of the way as fast as he'd been able to, and only reason Kakashi and Obito hadn't done the same was because they'd managed to teleport to him just in time. Everything else… was gone.
"There… there is no way we can reverse this, is there?" Naruto asked, his voice choked, because he had the Six Path's chakra now and he could feel it. There was nothing left. The Bijuu were gone, even Kurama just wasn't there anymore. And neither were the people. There was nothing there, there were no familiar signatures, no familiar flames of chakra, not a whisper of something living.
And there were no bodies – nothing to resurrect.
There was only the God Tree, and nothing else.
Kakashi cursed where hung to Naruto's shadow clone with very little dignity or care. Obito was doing the same, his expression twisted in something like horror, something like anger.
Naruto opened his mouth to say something and then swallowed, saying nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing. There was nothing left. Even Sasuke in all his power and all his smarts… The God Tree consumed all chakra. Genjutsu and all potential defences against it, all shields and techniques, it just swallowed them up. Even the fire of Amaterasu was nothing but energy for the God Tree.
Naruto looked at Kakashi, and then at Obito, still not sure whether he was enemy or friend or what, but… what the hell did that even matter anymore.
Kakashi said nothing, gritting his teeth judging by the twitch of his mask, his eyes hard, bloodshot. Obito scowled, his expression twisting further, the scars deepening. Neither said nothing, just stared at the twisting branches of the God Tree.
In time, the tree would bear fruit and maybe if one of them ate it, like Kaguya… but would they even survive that long? How long did it for the thing to bear fruit – thousand years? None of them would be alive at that point. Nothing would be alive.
"If we land, we die," Kakashi said finally. "Naruto, how can you stay up?"
"Not that long, anymore," Naruto admitted. "The Bijuu are gone. And nature chakra… it's running out." Because below them, the God Tree was draining plant life the same as it was draining animals. Already there was a expanding area of death below them, and every second it expanded by miles. "I'm gonna run out soon."
"Then, if we're going to do something, it has to be now," Kakashi said and looked past Naruto. "Obito."
The last Uchiha said nothing for a moment, just glared at the God Tree. Then he closed his eyes for a moment and cursed low and hard under his breath. "Right," he then said and opened his eyes, Sharingan and Rinnegan both. "Right. Damn it. Kakashi, do you have enough chakra left for Kamui?"
"Barely," Kakashi said and scowled at him. "You've thought about it too, then?"
"All the damn time, never dared to try," Obito said and looked at him. "Not with just the one eye. With two, and the Rinnegan… it might work."
"What might work?" Naruto asked, looking from one to the other.
"It's not called space-time jutsu for no reason," Obito said darkly. "It's damn stupid, chances of survival are pretty much non-existent but… doesn't seem like there's anything else we can do."
"It'll kill us," Kakashi agreed just as darkly. "Or probably worse. People have tried it before, using space-time jutsu to travel though time. The results… are never pretty. The universe doesn't like paradoxes."
Naruto looked between them and then down to the God Tree. It had left them in peace for now because there were still other things left to consume. But soon he'd run out of energy and they'd fall – and die, same as everything else. And then…
"The universe can suck it," Naruto said. "How do we do it?"
They had a plan, a desperate, stupid plan no sane person would've ever tried. Naruto knew enough about seals, knew enough about kinjutsu, to know that it was stupid – he'd learned that much from Jiraiya at least, what not to do. And this was one of the things not to do, not ever. It wasn't just about killing your self either. With space-time paradox… well you could risk not just yourself, but everyone and everything around you while you were at it.
But it was all they had, a last desperate measure, last foolish hope, last chance; hastily strung together from wish and hope than any realistic hope of success. Of course it went wrong.
There was an explosion or a fire or some sort of splash of acid, all of it and none of it all at once, and it hurt. He hurt – they hurt – he hurt. It was hard to say which. Everything hurt, an ache that started at his bones and curled around his shoulders and concentrated on his head, and he was blind under it.
He turned, twisted, and almost poked his eye out against some fallen tree branches. Wincing he twisted away from it, covering his forehead with his hand and he thought he was bleeding – no, he was definitely bleeding from every damn orifice, a smear of blood and gore more than a human being.
Space-time jutsu, you gotta love it.
Turning and curling in on himself, he tried to heal – he could heal, he knew, he had – what did he have again, chakra, yes, but also cells, the clone cells from the First Hokage? Of course. And all the rest too and also – no, he didn't have Kurama, did he, but he used to – no he didn't, that was Naruto – except he was Naruto – wasn't he?
Shuddering, he tried to stop bleeding somehow. Hashirama's cells and senjutsu and chakra – he should have Jinchuuriki's healing factor still there somewhere, shouldn't he? It had still been there when he'd lost Kurama – except he'd never had Kurama – he'd always had Kurama – no. He should have something – he'd always healed – except no he hadn't, damn it all, healing was slow and awkward and he hated it – that was Kakashi, Kakashi had no healing factor – except – except.
He might've moaned, the voice deeper and lighter than he was used to, and he was dying – no he wasn't – would've been, if it was Kakashi, Kakashi couldn't have survived this. Obito couldn't have either, without the cloned cells. Naruto…
Naruto forced himself to concentrate, to push through it, to draw on something because he could feel nature around him - after the endless death of the God Tree it felt like he was smothered under it and even with his mind twisting in three different directions, he knew this, he could do this, he was sage and he had this in his blood now. So he pulled on the nature chakra and let it course through him, let it move and flow. He'd not gotten enough time to really understand how it worked, but that didn't matter – he didn't need to understand. He knew.
He healed his bleeding eyes and ears and torso, knitting his own skin back together – twisting his bones back into places. It was easy because it was all there – genes, some part of him thought, human genes are written in of their cells and they guided everything. Naruto wasn't as much healing himself – them – as he was forcing his body to repair itself, and the body knew how, it knew where everything went. Nature chakra was just fuel to power natural growth.
Unnatural – without it the body couldn't have done anything – and god how jealous was Obito of how damn fast Minato's kid had figured it out. Mid battle the kid had just became this otherworldly thing of power and it burned against the grain Madara had so meticulously carved into Obito's psyche, that this dead last could just become so much more so easily.
He was dead last too, remember, Kakashi thought, and he was so proud, Naruto was his student, and damn good one too, and it had all gone to hell now and they might still die but damn it, he was still proud.
Naruto gasped for breath and coughed blood and it still hurt so damn much, his head wouldn't stop aching and he still couldn't see – but he wasn't bleeding anymore, he's sure about that, the body isn't dying anymore. His body, their body.
"Shit," he said, they said, together.
Naruto slumped down on the moss – he could feel it under it, alive, and for a moment he just appreciated the hell out of it. It was wet and cold and probably soaked with his, their, blood, but it was alive. There were trees and brushes and other plants around them too, he could feel them all – a squirrel up in that tree, birds on another, silent and wary of him. There were mice and moles in the ground and further from them a rabbit and further still a badger in her den with few new born cups – further still some deer, a wolf, a bear. The forest was alive around them, and blind and pained he just basked in it.
"It didn't," Obito disagreed through his lips, their lips.
"It kind of did, actually," Kakashi answered and his mind turned inside them, turned and sent out his senses, honed out in battle field and long career as jounin and ANBU, automatically looking for threats, looking for chakra signatures.
"Stop that," Naruto grumbled and then sent out his senses – they reached out much farther, boosted by Sage's chakra and knowledge, not just what he'd learned from the Sage of Six Paths, but from the toads too. He thought his eyes probably changed. It made no difference to his vision – they could still see nothing. But they felt.
"So, that's Sage mode," Kakashi said, a little faint. "Damn."
"Fucking Uzumaki chakra sensors," Obito grumbled, jealous with all of Madara's installed resentment.
"If you want to try, be my damn guest," Naruto answered and slumped down, eyes shut, lying on his, their, side on the moss. It was nice and cool and smelled like earth. He dug his fingers into it. "Everything hurts."
"No kidding," Obito muttered, but didn't take control, and neither did Kakashi.
For a long time, they just lay there, waiting for the pain and the blindness to pass, Naruto drawing on the Nature Chakra in hope of speeding the recovery. It didn't help much.
"So, how far do you suppose we came back?" Kakashi wondered. "Did any of us actually think where we'd land, if this worked?"
"Before none of us was born," Obito said. "At least I tried – it might mitigate the paradox. Not that it would be an issue now."
"What?" Naruto asked, swallowing, and rubbing two hands over his – their, damnit – forehead.
"Two exact same entities can't exists in same timeline," Kakashi explained. "At least that's the theory."
"My shadow clones beg to differ."
"Shadow clones are still part of you – they're just you, split apart," Obito answers and rolls their eyes under their lids. "Same with any other clones – they're duplicates, a different thing entirely. But if you take a future you and put it in the same time as past you, then there's two identical individuals. Same cells, genes, chakra, soul. It just doesn't work, like that."
Naruto rubbed at his aching shoulder. It felt weird under his hand, misshapen. "Okay," he said. "I guess? So it's not an issue now?"
"Obviously not," Obito muttered.
"Naruto," Kakashi said and thought. Thought of their hands over their forehead – hands covering eyes in hopes of pushing the headache back. And then he thought of the third hand at their shoulder, rubbing at it. And the fourth, lying at their side, fingers digging into the moss.
Naruto paused at that, and then, slowly, lifted the hands from his forehead. "Oh," he muttered and then touched his, their, face. Smooth and then marked – scarred, the whisker marks over Obito's scars. Kakashi's scar wasn't there though, their eyelids was unbroken.
It was there. Above the other one.
"Well," Naruto said, running his – their, he'd never get used to that – fingers over their forehead. It was misshapen, like the shoulder, but nothing like it. There were protrusions where before there'd been just smooth skin. Another set of eyes, all of them closed. And above them one more, right in the middle.
"Well," Naruto said again and then nothing else. Four arms, five eyes, and three minds in one body – yeah. Okay.
"Space-time jutsu," Obito said.
"You gotta love it," Kakashi sighed.
It took a while for the blindness to fade. Despite all the nature chakra Naruto pushed at the injury, it refused to budge until it was well and ready to stop making them suffer and in the end, all they could wait it out. It was late into the evening before they could see anything at all, anything other than flickering blur of lights anyway, and near middle of the night before they could say with some certainty that their vision was back.
And it came back with a vengeance.
Seeing through five eyes was… different, for Naruto, for Kakashi, even for Obito. As used to as some of them were to the Sharingan and one to the Rinnegan, it was still a whole different thing, to have all of it layered on top of each other – normal vision, Sharingan vision, Rinnegan vision. They could all see the base-line normal, but they could see more – Rinnegan the most – and all of it compiled on top of another into what was at first a multi coloured cacophony.
Then Naruto pushed some more nature chakra into their eyes, trying to help it along, and it got even worse.
"… this is going to take a while," Kakashi muttered, as the headache spiked ferociously and their vision, strange and over lapping and all too wide, quivered.
"Yeah, let me… let's take Sharingan out of the equation," Obito said and lifted two of their hands, to cover all their eyes. "Kakashi."
Until that time Naruto had been mainly in control, so that he could keep supplying them with nature chakra unimpeded by the others, and it was so strange to be pushed aside by the others – stranger still to feel them doing things with their body. The hands were strange enough, to have the others move their eyes on their own was strange enough, but to feel chakra moving through them, going where he didn't mean to go…
"Huh," he muttered, through their mouth. "I never realised that Sharingan was like… a physical thing you could feel."
"Shut up – concentrating," Obito muttered, almost right over him.
"This is nothing," Kakashi answered, dry and unamused. "Imagine having this, with body that didn't like giving chakra to it's eyes."
A memory curled between them, of constant head aches not that different from the one they now had, but hollow, needless – the pulsing of the Sharingan, constantly draining chakra, the long, painful process of learning to keep it at bay. For a while Kakashi had to use seals to keep the Sharingan from draining all of his chakra at inopportune moment and killing him.
It was like having a sink hole in your head, and every time he opened his Sharingan eye, Obito's eye, he teetered on the brink of falling into it.
"Bakashi," Obito growled. "Concentrate."
"It's hilarious, you telling me that, it really is," Kakashi muttered, but they concentrated. They concentrated and their chakra curled, Obito's over the right and Kakashi's over the left Sharingan, teasing at it.
And Obito thought, they had enough of his genes, the blend probably wasn't perfect, but this body had enough of him in it, it was natural in it's own twisted way, they should be able to do this. This body, strange and over taxed with all three of them there, was as natural an amalgamation of three people as they could get – they hadn't died after all, and with nature chakra, they'd become natural. They should be able to do this.
It took altogether too much effort though. And it didn't help that the others were almost out of chakra altogether after – well, everything.
"Here, let me just –" Naruto said and reached, for more nature chakra, for the Bijuu chakra, for all those resources he always had. A chakra cloak enveloped them, bursting from their chest, and it was small, pathetically small in comparison what Kurama had been able to give him in their time of need. But it was still something, and that something he divided between them three, boosting them up.
"Do we have different chakra coils?" Kakashi wondered, as the chakra sloshed about inside them, not actually going anywhere and yet still spreading somehow.
"I think we have multiple sets, layered on top of each other," Obito said, tight. "Only one of us knows how to do that."
"Can we use multiple techniques all at once, I wonder…"
"Lets just deal with the eyes."
Naruto sat back and resisted the urge to shudder and blink as the chakra welled on their head and then, slowly… the Sharingan closed.
"This should be easier," Obito grumbled.
"It's weird body we got," Kakashi said, and then slowly lifted their hands from their forehead.
Their vision was still strange – there was no easy way of turning off the Rinnegan, they were all aware of that, even with Hashirama Senju's cells, it was natural to none of them. They could close it, but that didn't do much more than mute the eye a little – the damn thing could see right through eyelids. Still, without Sharingan… they could see, properly and almost without hindrances.
They could see in the middle of the night as easily as if it was the day.
"You dojutsu assholes," Naruto grumbled. Was it like this for Sasuke and Neji and the rest too – could they just… see no matter how little light there was? He couldn't see in darkness even with senjutsu – he could sense sure, but couldn't see a damn thing. And Senjutsu had it's weaknesses, he knew that much, there were things that emitted no chakra – and sure, he'd figured out how to counter that, looking for what wasn't there, but just to see, just like that, no trouble at all.
"Don't look at me," Kakashi said, almost defensive. "Besides, you can see now, can't you."
"Yeah, but you're still cheating, all of you."
Obito harrumphed. "And who's the Sage of Six Paths, again, brat?"
"You got no room to talk you Rinnegan using bastard."
Kakashi coughed. "Well, vision is still limited to a field," he pointed out, actually pointed out, one hand haphazardly aimed skywards. "And ours is, well, limited. Naruto, can you tell where we are?"
"It's not Mountains Graveyard," Obito said. "Even I can tell that much."
Naruto concentrated, closing their eyes just to be contrary and turning senses first inwards and then letting them expand outward again. Inhale, exhale. A kilometre radius of awareness, ten – fifty was stretching it without Kurama, but he could just about do it. And he did know the place even with most of the forest had been destroyed, he'd felt it enough many times, during the war. He knew the soil and the rocks and the valleys and rivers.
"We're about couple hundred miles off the it," he said. "Not far from the border to Grass. It's… different. But the land's same. Mountains Graveyard is thataway direction," he said, and let their outstretched arm flop down, pointing.
"Tch," Obito said, and they all thought it, for one brilliant vicious moment, they all shared a thought.
"No way," Kakashi said flatly. "Not like we are now. We can't even get up."
"Can too, just watch me," Naruto said and pushed himself to the fore front, to full control of their arms and legs. The other sat back, the bastards, and watched him fail and flail and fall down on the moss again, every bone aching, head spinning.
The headache was still there, just as bad as before, and it did not agree with movements one bit.
"Okay, never mind them," Naruto grumbled, wincing and drawing more nature chakra into their extremities because ouch.
"We can't rush into battle with Madara, if he's even there, if this is even the right time," Kakashi said, pushing that thought like shield against Obito's bitter anger. "We don't know anything, we don't know the time, or our own capabilities. Right now we're worse than helpless."
Obito almost growled at that and even Naruto winced. Helpless. Helpless to do, to help, to fight. Helpless. Helpless.
Gods, but they hated that word.
"We need rest – we're still teetering on the edge of chakra exhaustion," Kakashi said, mostly at Obito, trying to reason. "Our body is healing, but slowly. Do you want to fight, like this? Do you want to fight someone like Madara, like this?"
Obito scoffed – using their face to do it. Then, slowly, bitterly, he relented. "No," he said. "No I don't."
Not from such disadvantage, not without plan, not without making damn certain he could win and kill that son of a bitch. Kill him, and Zetsu, and tear that damn statue apart.
"That would be nice," Naruto murmured and yawned.
"Yes," Obito muttered, vicious. "It will be."
Kakashi winced at the feel of it, the nastiness of it, wincing away from Obito – and he couldn't hide it anymore, how strange he was, how wrong, everything about him was just – wrong.
Obito lashed back at him furiously, how dare he act high and mighty and good, so angry and bitter and full of failed hopes and ideals that burned and ached – he'd wanted so many things, his plans and goals, they had been beautiful – and Kakashi – Kakashi had killed Rin!
Kakashi recoiled, the accusation like a slap. "She was – Obito, she was –" in pain and crying and begging him. They'd sealed the Third Tails in her, and it had been killing her – and they'd timed it perfect, tagged her with trigger – she'd been a human time bomb poised to destroy Konoha. The moment she would've entered the village –
"Then you shouldn't have tried to take her back!"
"She was dying either way – there was nothing anyone could do – she was dying and in pain, I couldn't -"
"You didn't try!"
Naruto winced between them, caught in the waves of their emotion. "Oi," he said, mild. Their head was pounding again, it was almost unbearable. "Obito - it was Madara."
"Madara orchestrated the whole thing – Isobu told me," Naruto said. "They told me lot of things, the Bijuu. And Isobu remembered her, remembered Madara, with her. Madara knew who she was to you, and he wanted you on his side, completely, no reservations. So..."
The memory curled in his head, of the Bijuu standing around him, telling him their names and their stories in that infinite second that had expanded so vastly, that had made him a Sage of Six Paths – and Isobu had been so sweet and so shy and so sorry…
He'd remembered her. He hadn't been able to do anything, but he remembered her. He remembered joining her. He remembered her dying.
"Madara got rid of what might bring you back," Kakashi said to Obito, quiet, choked. "…and he made you hate what might sympathise with you, in one stroke."
It was brilliant, in how terrible it was. It had lost Obito his distant light, it had soured Kakashi for him, and it had made the Bijuu themselves something to revile. In single stroke, Obito had been taught to hate so many things and so powerfully, and he'd never suspected a thing. Rin had died not even for nothing – she'd died for something far worse than nothing.
For Obito's complete, irreversible ruin.
Obito panted for breath and didn't even try to swallow his rage – he screamed it out at the dark-bright heaven above them.
And they let him.
"We should probably get up," Naruto murmured, as the sky started to lighten above them. The forest was stirring, birds were starting to cautiously sing around them. The pain ebbed and flowed, decreasing by infinitesimal increments. It didn't seem like waiting and lying around on cold wet forest floor was about to make it go away any faster. With their current luck, they'd just end up getting sick.
It hurt, moving, but not a single one of them ever accomplished anything by lying down doing nothing.
"Aright," Kakashi said, and almost bodily dragged Obito out of the hateful gloom he'd fallen into. "One two three… go."
They sat up and it felt like colossal accomplishment, to command all their muscles and jostle their bones and to bring the disjointed being that was their body into bear. Like so they saw themselves for the first time – their legs anyway – and it was bit of a relief that they only had two.
Walking with four or more would've been… interesting but ultimately too difficult.
"I think I'm taller," Naruto said, eying his toes.
"I'm shorter, definitely shorter," Kakashi sighed and then their head tilted curiously – their brain jostled in their head and damn, it ached. But they were pushing past it now. "I wonder, just how many…" Kakashi mused, eyes trailing up their legs, to their lap.
"Don't you even start," Naruto grumbled and dragged their eyes out of the gutter.
Obito, for the lack of better word, perked at that. "…So, it really is true," he said, in sort of vicious delight. "Hatake Kakashi really is a pervert. I got to say, I didn't believe the rumours, the bingo book, but damn…"
"Ahem," Kakashi said, something like embarrassment curling around him – and history, so much history, and beliefs and mannerisms build on mirage and – no he was not thinking about that, not with Obito here, inside his head this was too damn – no. "How about standing up?" he said quickly, out loud.
Obito, for the lack of better word, leered. "Not thinking about what, Bakashi?" he asked. "What are you trying to not think about?"
"Okay!" Naruto loudly cut in between Obito's vicious urge to make Kakashi squirm and Kakashi's mortification. "Standing up, that's the plan and its the only plan we're going to concentrate onto now. Giddy up, boys, because we're standing up."
"…what?" Obito asked flatly.
"…" Kakashi answered, sort of answering and yet not – something about Jiraiya and bad influences which he almost voiced and then hastily drew back because he wasn't cruel enough to actually throw that in Naruto's face and – damnit.
"Standing up," Naruto gritted and no he was not thinking about that right now, nope, not at all, god damnit. "Right now. Come on."
So, they stood up – almost fell over, had to take support from a near by tree, every limb shaking like leaf in the wind. They were top heavy and their balance was all over the place, and not one of them knew their legs. They were too long and too short and too thick and too thin all at once. Almost perfect amalgamation of three different sets, and completely alien because of it.
"If we need to learn how to walk…" Obito growled, sounding and feeling frustrated and disturbed.
"Between the three of us we should be able to manage this," Kakashi said, just as uneasy. "We all got plenty of experience with walking, this should be easy."
They stared at their legs with varying levels of dubiousness. And then made to take a step – each of them trying for a different direction.
It seemed falling flat on their face was becoming a thing with them.