Fingers with black-painted nails trace Kakashi’s cheek, and Obito sighs softly, eye flickering up under long lashes to hold Kakashi’s gaze. “You know, I'm really sorry I have to do this,” he says wistfully. “You’ve always been my exception to everything, haven’t you, Kakashi?”
Kakashi very carefully doesn’t look away, even though he can see three familiar shadows slipping around the edges of the cavern, sticking close to the wall and moving in darts and furtive lunges. “If you were sorry you wouldn’t be trying to feed me to a giant statue.”
“Don’t say it like that.” Obito rolls his eye ever so slightly, but his glance flickers back towards the darkness of the corridor where the dancing firelight can't reach. There's no movement there, but Obito still tips his fedora down faintly, shadowing the scars on his face. The hollow of his throat, bared by the open collar of his deep blue shirt, is pale and vulnerable, and Kakashi can see the faintest hint of a bruise there from their last encounter with Madara, just the size and shape of a fingerprint. It’s more entrancing than it should be, even knowing that Obito has a pistol hidden beneath the close-cut lines of his sleek suit. Even knowing that that last kiss they shared was quite literally poisoned, and that judging by the bloody-ruby shade of Obito's mouth he’s still wearing that same lipstick.
“You can still turn this around,” Kakashi says, even though he knows it’s just a little too late. “Things don’t have to end this way.”
Obito's smile is pretty but crooked, reflecting wryly in his good eye. “Trying to save me, Kakashi? For what? So I can risk my life to watch you and your new boy toy run off into the sunset? I think I’d rather keep what dignity I have left.”
Worry curls into an anxious knot in Kakashi’s stomach, traced through with anger from watching Tenzō be dragged away, unable to do anything to help him. “Tenzō has nothing to do with this,” he bites out, and can't help but test the handcuffs, pulling until the edge of the metal bites into his skin.
“Then you should have left him in Konoha,” Obito retorts, and only the faint bite to his voice gives away that it means more than he’s letting on.
“You’d know all about leaving people, wouldn’t you?” Kakashi drawls, and sees the barb hit home as Obito turns his face away.
“We all do what we have to in order to get by.” Obito doesn’t turn back, and at this angle all Kakashi can see of him is the striking profile, the velvet patch covering his missing eye. Obito's never stopped being beautiful, unfortunately for Kakashi’s peace of mind.
Still, the words make Kakashi hum, dry as dust. “Right. Because joining the mob was your only option.”
Obito tips a hand, smile twisting. “Akatsuki’s not a mob, more of an…operation,” he corrects, and reaches out to trace his fingers down the buttons of Kakashi’s shirt and across the lines of his suspenders. “Madara's done right by me, you know?”
Kakashi lets his eyes fall to the bruise on his throat, lingers there meaningfully. “Of course. Done right. That was my first thought, too.”
The indignation that flares is edged with a fear Kakashi can see all too clearly, but Obito steps back. “Better than you ever did,” he says coolly, though he tugs at his collar just enough to hide the mark. A tip of his head has the goon Madara left stepping forward, grinning meanly, and Kakashi braces himself for the first punch.
But instead of ordering the huge man to start swinging, Obito turns away. “Time to leave, Kisame,” he says, and casts a brief glance back at Kakashi that’s traced through with regret. “I am sorry, Kakashi. And I did love you, more than you ever loved me back. But I've got to take care of myself now.”
“I'm sure the treasure in the temple doesn’t hurt,” Kakashi retorts, leaning back into the post behind him. “Just like all those diamonds Madara offered you didn’t hurt five years ago.”
There's a flash of a smirk that crosses Obito's face, sly and seductive and far more attractive than it should be, meant to mock. “You wouldn’t even buy me a ring, Kakashi. Don’t get mad I went looking for a better offer.” Chin tipping up, he stalks out of the cavern, the shadows swallowing him whole.
Kisame chuckles, low and amused, and gives Kakashi a grin full of pointed teeth. “Can't tell what you were thinking, letting a moll like that go,” he says cheerfully. “Worked out in our favor, though, so I have to say thanks.” He tips the brim of his homburg hat, then follows Obito, obscenely and rather terrifyingly large gun slung casually over one shoulder.
Kakashi watches the broad back—just barely covered by a blue suit with white shadow stripes that does nothing to disguise the muscle underneath, and god is he glad that getting roughed up wasn’t on the table for whatever reason—disappear as well, and gives it a count of ninety before he says, “Dare I hope one of you managed to get the key?”
There's a faint scuffle, of which Sakura is clearly the winner, since she ducks out from behind a cracked column to give Kakashi a winning smile, still perfectly put together in her plus fours, cardigan, and cloche hat. Her tie isn’t even crooked. “I got it, Professor! Does this mean I get the extra credit?”
Kakashi never should have styled his need for grunt work as an opportunity for his students to better their grades. Then again, he hadn’t thought a simple expedition in Ame would end with them facing off against a bunch of mobsters with an unfortunate taste for archaeology, mystical artifacts, and ominous old legends.
“Hey!” Naruto protests, sliding down in inclined pillar that Kakashi has no idea how he managed to scale in the first place. He, unlike Sakura, looks exactly like one would expect him to after spending the last twenty-four bolting through a jungle, crawling around in the bowels of a forgotten temple, and facing off with various goons. His pale green shirt is more grey than anything, his vest is missing most of its buttons, and his newsboy cap is askew. That grin is undimmed, though, and Kakashi kind of feels tired just looking at it.
“Did you lose Sasuke?” he asks, mostly resigned to whatever answer they provide. Fugaku will kill him for losing his youngest son in the jungle. And Mikoto will probably do worse than that.
Thankfully for his anatomy, there's a quiet scoff from near the entrance, and Sasuke—just as rumpled as Naruto, which probably means they ended up wrestling in the dirt at some point, knowing them—shifts just out of the shadow, though he keeps one eye trained in the direction Obito and Kisame disappeared. “You're popular,” he says, very close to snide, and a dark brow arches smugly.
Kakashi hates all three of his brats. So much. They’re all getting Fs as soon as he’s back in his office. “Exes,” he explains breezily. “You would know how it is if you’d ever dated.” Just because he can, he shoots a pointed look at Naruto.
Sasuke flushes dull red, drags his derby hat down over his ears, and stares decisively in the other direction.
A jingle draws Kakashi’s attention back to Sakura, who’s standing in front of him with a ring of keys dangling from one finger. Slowly, Kakashi drags his gaze from the promise of freedom up to bright green eyes, and feels a trickle of foreboding slide down his spine.
“I think the lock’s on this side,” he says in a vain attempt to prove himself wrong, waving his left elbow a little.
Of course, Sakura is far too smart for his good. She glances at the keys, at the handcuffs, and then back at a suddenly attentive Sasuke and Naruto. “I think not,” she answers, smile as sweet as poison. “At least, not until you agree that we all earned As on this trip, Professor.”
Kakashi hates that smile, and the matching grin on Naruto's face. Even Sasuke is smirking, arms crossed over his chest as he watches his friend and rival threaten their history professor. “That’s blackmail,” he informs the three of them, narrowing his eyes.
“Oh,” Sakura says in the fluttery, breathy dame voice she absolutely learned from Ino. “It was so tragic, Professor Sarutobi, we lost sight of Professor Hatake when the gun moll’s goons dragged him away. There was nothing we could do, and the tunnels were so confusing—”
Naruto nods in sage agreement. “Nothing we could do but get ourselves out and call for help,” he agrees, grin far too enthusiastic for discussing Kakashi’s actual murder. “If only they hadn’t been too late.”
Sasuke, who likes to think himself above such drama even when Kakashi knows he’s really not, simply studies his nails casually, but he’s still smirking. No help is coming from that quarter, clearly.
Kakashi will never tell them, but he’s reluctantly impressed with their moxie, being willing to go this far. He’s also absolutely certain that after two semesters of having to hunt him down practically every day to get him to show up for lectures, they won't even hesitate to do it, either.
Sometimes, Kakashi thinks, resigned, he’s his own worst enemy.
“…Fine,” he agrees after a long moment. “Nineties for all of you.”
“Ninety-fives,” Sakura bargains, because of course she does. When Kakashi hesitates once more—because he has a reputation, and actually passing three students with As will ruin it forever—she jingles the keys again, one pink brow rising. “Oh dear, Professor, if you don’t get out who’s going to rescue Professor Yamato from becoming a virgin sacrifice—”
“Ninety-fives, I swear,” Kakashi agrees through gritted teeth. “Keys, now.”
Sakura beams like she isn’t actually made of incarnated evil and crouches down to free his hands. Behind her, Naruto makes a sound that’s somewhere between confusion and disbelief and asks, “Professor Yamato? A virgin? With the way he and Professor Hatake have been stuck on each other since we left Konoha? I thought these trouble boys were supposed to be paying attention.”
Kakashi will never, ever admit that he and Tenzō haven’t done anything more than trade a few kisses. Judging by the speculative and unfairly judging silence leveled at him from three directions, though, he doesn’t have to. They can guess.
“Apparently they were,” Sakura says dryly, and the cuffs click open. “Or that ex of yours knows you better than I thought.”
“Well, I almost married him,” Kakashi returns, equally dry as he brings his hands forward to rub his wrists. “I’d say Obito knows me fairly well.”
“I thought that was what the ring crack was about.” Naruto tips his head, watching Kakashi carefully, and it’s moments like this Kakashi is starkly reminded that Naruto is nowhere near as dense as he usually acts. “I don’t think almost counts in marriage, though.”
Sasuke makes a noise of droll agreement. “If it did, he wouldn’t be working for Madara and trying to kill you in the process.”
Kakashi feels it’s very virtuous that he doesn’t point out that Obito was trying to kill all of them, or that if Obito had actually been trying, he wouldn’t have fed Kakashi the antidote to that poisoned kiss before dragging him down here. “We should go before this thing wakes up and eats us,” he says instead, taking a wary step away from the statue looming at the rear of the cavern.
Instantly, the humor is wiped clean from all three students’ faces. Naruto casts a nervous glance at the statue and takes a careful step back. “You really think it will do that?”
“I've seen weirder.” Which is an understatement, really, but they don’t have time for even a brief summary of all the things that have cropped up during Kakashi’s adventures. “Do you know where they took Tenzō?”
“Towards the temple,” Sasuke offers, and tips his head down the tunnel he’s watching. “We marked a path.”
There is a very slight possibility—just maybe—that Kakashi’s students aren’t just walking headaches. “Good. Get out and find Gai—”
Sakura snorts. Loudly. “Professor, we’re coming with you. Don’t try to argue.”
If he had time and the luxury of a cavern without a possibly animated statue, Kakashi would tie all three of them up and leave them here. As it is, he meets three stubborn stares, sighs, and laments, “I bet you don’t put Asuma through this ridiculousness.”
“Yeah, well, Professor Asuma's classes are enjoyable,” Naruto informs him cheekily, heading for the tunnel. He hip-checks Sasuke as he passes, and calls back, “And we never get shot at in them.”
“How rude.” Kakashi eyes his student’s retreating back, but Naruto is too far away to hear him, Sasuke is busy trying not to blush while he snaps at the blond, and Sakura ignores him.
No respect. And they wonder why Kakashi is failing them.
Thankfully, Naruto makes a sign for quiet, leading them past a series of short tunnels that open out onto the mountainside, all of which are guarded by yet more goons with guns. These ones aren’t as attentive as the higher-ups Madara surrounds himself with, though, and with a bit of stealth Naruto leads them around the back of the half-ruined temple complex and through a side door into the temple proper.
Kakashi hears Madara before he sees him, his sharp voice carrying clearly. Waving Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura back a bit, he slips around the row of statues lining the walls, ducking cobwebs and trailing vines, and crouches to take a careful look at the interior.
There are a handful more goons—Kakashi can spot Sasori looking bored by the main entrance and Hidan slouched against a decorative pillar, a few lower-ranking men around them—but all of his attention shifts to the golden altar at the head of the room, where Madara is standing. Tenzō is next to him, one of Madara's hands locked around his upper arm, and he’s missing his white suit jacket and tie. His pink shirt is rumpled, and there's a bruise spreading across one sharp cheekbone, though he clearly hasn’t stopped spitting invectives at Madara. Obito is lounging on a low wall nearby, coolly ignoring his boss’s tirade against a cowering goon, and Kisame is a few paces away, gun at the ready.
Kakashi’s encountered better odds, honestly.
Thank god for students that don’t listen.
There's a ringing crash, a yelp, a boom, and Sasuke and Naruto come spilling out from behind a falling statue, yelling incomprehensibly at each other. They slam into the largest knot of goons, sending mobsters spilling everywhere, and Hidan crows in excitement and lunges to get in on the fray, apparently uncaring who he actually gets his hands on when there’s a fight to be had. Sasori makes it three steps towards them before he goes down, a large rock bouncing off his skull, and Sakura whoops with victory, scoops up another, and takes aim again.
Well. Kakashi supposes he could have gotten stuck with worse students.
Not hesitating, he darts out from behind the statues, grabs for one of the throwing knives in his ankle holster, and flips it through the air to slam squarely into Madara's hand as he raises it to gesture.
A scream tears from Madara's throat, and he jerks away from Tenzō, sending the younger man staggering. One of Tenzō’s feet hits the edge of the stairs and he totters dangerously for half a second, but then Kakashi is there, snatching him up with an arm around the waist, grabbing one of the trailing vines, and leaping across the wide, deep river that flows behind the altar.
They land on a ledge of stone, and Kakashi wastes no time dragging Tenzō down behind it as bullets pepper the spot they were just standing. He tugs the knotted rope around Tenzō’s hands free, and the moment it’s loose Tenzō catches Kakashi’s hands in his own.
“Thank you for saving me,” he says, and that smile, warm and fond, makes something soft curl in Kakashi’s chest.
“Maa, what kind of senior professor would I be if I didn’t rescue my cutest former student?” he asks, mostly for the flush that spreads across Tenzō’s cheeks when he does.
“I knew you’d make it,” Tenzō says with a smile, and all Kakashi wants is to lean in and kiss him hard, to finally drown out the fear that’s been building since he was taken.
Before he can, though, Madara snarls, “Hatake!” like it’s a foul curse. He stomps past the altar to glare, and Kakashi pokes his head up enough to give him a cheerful wave.
“Madara,” he returns, just managing to catch sight of Naruto and Sasuke ducking back into the tunnels. Sakura is nowhere to be seen, which likely means no one has a hope of catching her—she’s crafty when she has to be. “I don’t suppose we can talk this out?”
“The moon goddess’s favor is mine! I won't let you rob me of this moment, you washed-up academic!”
That would be a no, then. Kakashi rolls his eyes, feels Tenzō’s hand slide into his, and grips his fingers in return. “I get the feeling he doesn’t like scholars.”
“They’ve probably been telling him he’s crazy his whole life,” Tenzō offers, looking like he’s judging whether or not he can peg Madara in the head with a rock from this distance.
“I wonder why,” Kakashi says mildly, and leans up again to give Madara a skeptical look. “The moon goddess,” he repeats. “The one you're going to summon with a sacrifice of virgin blood on the altar at moonrise. That moon goddess?”
Tenzō muffles a snicker, ducking back behind the rock so Madara won't see the way his face screws up. It doesn’t help; Madara's face is already shading towards puce, and he looks like steam is about to come pouring out of his ears.
“YES!” he screeches. “It will work, damn you!”
“Not without a sacrifice,” Kakashi points out, and Tenzō obligingly sticks a hand up and waves a mocking hello.
Sadly, Kakashi doesn’t quite get to watch Madara's head explode, though it’s clearly a near thing. He snarls and wheels around, stabbing a finger back at their hiding spot with a loud, “GET THEM! We have THREE MINUTES, you fools!”
With a rustle of cloth, a blue-haired woman in a man’s suit drops out of the darkness above and lunges. Kakashi curses, but even as he turns to intercept, Tenzō meets her with a shoulder to the gut, flipping her over his hip. She lands on her feet, sweeps his legs out from under him, and throws her jacket into his face as he goes down. An instant later, she has an arm around his throat and a knife at his jugular, cool amber eyes boring into Kakashi as he comes to an abrupt halt.
“Tenzō?” Kakashi asks warily.
Tenzō makes a sound of utter mortification and says, “Sorry, Kakashi, I thought I had her this time.”
Since Konan is the one who captured him the first time, Kakashi doesn’t begrudge him the attempt to one-up her. He doesn’t particularly like the fact that she’s about to drag him back to Madara to use as an offering in some sort of insane ritual, though, and he carefully weighs distances, debating whether he can move fast enough to grab Konan’s wrist before she can do any damage.
“Don’t even think about it, rube,” she warns. “Grab a little air.”
Obediently, Kakashi puts his hands up, though he follows when she starts dragging Tenzō back towards the bridge over the river. “I hope you don’t think I'm just going to let this happen,” he says, and meets Tenzō’s eyes as the coat slides away. He’s pale, but there's a flicker of anger in his face that makes Kakashi a little more confident. Tenzō’s smart. He’ll give Kakashi an opening.
“Neither am I.”
The words ring out, and Sakura steps up onto the other end of the bridge, pistol in hand and leveled at Konan's head. If Kakashi didn’t know for a fact that she’d never shot one before this morning, he’d be convinced by the steadiness of her hands, the sharpness of her expression. Konan clearly is, because she pauses, eyes narrowing, and her gaze flickers from Kakashi back to Sakura, and then over to Madara.
Something dark and hateful crosses Madara's face and he whirls, snatching Obito by the throat and hauling him close. Obito yelps, struggling, but Madara drags him back towards the altar.
“Clearly I have to do everything myself!” Madara spits. “Konan! Kill that one! Hopefully Kaguya will be appeased even if the blood is far from virginial.”
Obito makes a sound of terror, fighting harder, and this time it isn’t faked, the way it was when he led them into this trap. Kakashi’s body moves towards him automatically, the habit of five years ago not fully forgotten as his heart turns over in his chest, but before he can take more than a single step Tenzō hisses, blood beading his throat as Konan's knife presses closer.
With a thud, Madara topples Obito onto the altar, pinning him there with one hand as he pulls a knife of his own, and through the opening in the ceiling above them the first rays of the full moon slant across the temple. But Konan's eyes dart down to her victim for half a second, and—
You wouldn’t even buy me a ring, Kakashi.
He hadn’t. Pushing people away was easy. But—
I'm sorry, Obito.
Sakura's gun barks, the shot going wide, but Konan ducks anyway. Kakashi meets her, catching the knife before it can slip across Tenzō’s throat and throwing a punch at her face. She ducks it, leaping back, and Kakashi grabs Tenzō and hauls the coughing man behind him as Konan retreats.
Tenzō was the first one who wouldn’t let Kakashi push him away, who forced Kakashi to chase after him, to reconnect. Obito and Kakashi both made their choices, and Tenzō is Kakashi’s.
One hand pressed to his bleeding neck, Tenzō slumps slightly against Kakashi’s side, trying to pull air through his abused throat. “Kakashi,” he rasps, and—
There's a roar of pure fury.
Kakashi and Tenzō both spin back towards the altar, just in time to see a massive fist hit Madara square in the face. The man goes reeling back, almost toppling over, and tumbles over the low wall with a screech. Kisame grabs Obito, hauling him up off the altar with the knife still embedded in his shoulder, and scoops him up into his arms.
There's a moment of absolute stillness where no one can quite figure out what to do about this.
“Kill them!” Madara shrieks, staggering upright with his long hair tangled around him, grey with cobwebs and dust. “Shoot them! Fill them with daylight, you idiots!” He trips on a stone and crashes sideways, just managing to catching himself on one of the jeweled golden bowls set around the altar.
The bowl topples off its pedestal with a crash, and something clicks. Kakashi feels his heart sink down in his chest.
Damn it. Why are there always booby traps?
Apparently Konan recognizes the danger just as well as Kakashi. “Get out!” she calls, and wastes no time bolting past Sakura and towards the entrance. Even as she moves, the ceiling starts to rumble, and dust pours down on their heads.
“Time to go,” Tenzō says, grabbing Kakashi’s hand. Kakashi doesn’t try to resist, following him at a run as the ceiling starts to give way.
In a handful of steps Sakura catches up, and she points ahead of them, towards an opening in the stone. “There! Fastest way back to camp!”
Behind them, there’s frantic shouting, a desperate rush for the doors. Kakashi risks one glance back, and is just in time to see Madara's horrified face as the temple wall collapses on top of him. Kisame is still carrying Obito, but he’s all the way across the room, just ducking out into the jungle with the rest of Akatsuki.
“Kakashi!” Tenzō says, and Kakashi twists back around and keeps running, following the pale light that’s spilling into the corridor. He can hear it giving way behind the, ton upon ton of stone crashing down, and god it hurts that a ruin like this is being destroyed because of one man’s idiocy, but he grits his teeth and grabs Tenzō around the waist, finds his footing and leaps as hard as he can just as the exit comes into view.
With a deafening crash, the tunnel collapses in a spray of rock and dust, and they hit the jungle floor and roll, practically colliding with Sakura as she staggers to a stop. A tree breaks her fall and spends their momentum, and Kakashi grunts at the impact of his back against the trunk, but doesn’t let go of Tenzō as the last visible remains of the temple shudder and collapse.
“All right,” Kakashi says into the ringing silence that follows. “Next time my cute little students want extra credit, I'm making them do filing. And whoever wants to hire me to investigate the next sketchy old temple can kindly go to hell.”
“No argument,” Tenzō mutters, carefully pushing to sit up with one hand braced on Kakashi’s chest. He eyes the now very ruined ruins, hesitates, and says, “That was certainly more exciting than I thought an academic assessment would be.”
Sakura snorts, peeling herself away from the bark and carefully straightening her hat. She still looks like she’s spent the last two days on a golf course, rather than in the jungle. Kakashi desperately wants to know her secrets. “Karma must hate you,” she tells Kakashi, then raises her voice. “Sasuke? Naruto?”
There's just long enough a pause to give Kakashi an actual heart attack before a cheerful voice calls, “Here, Sakura!” A flicker of motion draws their eyes to where Naruto is waving, Sasuke beside him, and Gai just emerging from the trees behind them with his machete.
Which means their jeep is likely still intact. Kakashi will never disavow miracles ever again.
“Come on,” he says, rising to his feet and offering Tenzō his hand. “I'm ready to go home.”
Tenzō takes it with a relieved smile, letting Kakashi pull him up. “So am I. If our next date is anything like this, though, I may have to reconsider some things.”
Kakashi snorts. “If it wasn’t at least this exciting, you’d get bored,” he retorts. “But if we’re looking for interesting, I have a few ideas.”
“Did you pull any of them out of those rags you read?”
“Icha Icha is legitimate literature and I won't have you maligning it—”
“It’s erotica and also ridiculous, just because I lost a fight—”
“—doesn’t mean I lost my taste.” Tenzō takes one look at what’s probably a very besotted smile on Kakashi’s face and flushes. “You—just—stop that? Please?”
Kakashi chuckles, leaning in to kiss him gently. It’s better than talking, at the very least.
(Three weeks after they get back, reports of bodies start filling the paper. Kakashi eyes the photo of police on the front page, checks the three names that turned up this time, and then closes the newspaper and drops it onto his desk. Obito's cleaning house, it seems, and Kakashi isn’t entirely sure how he feels about him taking over Madara's operation.
There's an announcement in the society pages, though, a good third of the page devoted to a banner congratulating one of the city’s wealthiest bachelors on finally finding a match, and that one, at least, Kakashi doesn’t skip over quite so quickly.
The photo is discrete, tasteful, but Kisame is holding Obito's hand, grinning widely, and there are matching bands around their fingers.
Obito finally found someone ready and willing to buy him a ring, it seems.
Kakashi smiles a little, shakes his head, and heads out to find Tenzō. He’s ready for lunch, and feeling generous enough that he probably won't stick his boyfriend with the bill. Just this once.)