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Ages Turn (You Were Always Perfect)

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12--

Obito’s surgery was going well and it looked like there was a large chance of a full recovery – or as full a recovery as was possible when half of one leg and a portion of the same arm were missing. Kakashi knew this only because he overheard the nurses gossiping with the assistants popping in and out of his own surgery.

It was strange being awake for this and Kakashi rather wished they would just knock him out or something. The light was too bright on his retinas, his body was nearing chakra exhaustion, and they had discovered he was unable to deactivate the Sharingan currently under inspection. He understood, however, that the medi-nin needed him to stay awake so that he could answer their questions. Not to mention they probably also needed him to stay awake to deal with the seething mass of sulky protectiveness lurking in one corner of the surgical theater.

Kakashi was still barely able to wrap his head around the fact that he’d found his soulmate. It was incredibly hard to continue staring at the people examining his eye and not let his gaze drift continually over to where Madara stood, ragged and wild, like a savage beast contained within a human shape. He was tall and even his chakra itself was loud and heavy yet Kakashi had seen a layer of gentleness in him when he’d been pulled in to the man’s embrace for the first time. Right now there was little of that gentleness as he hovered menacingly, giving the impression of a pacing cat even while staying perfectly still. His eyes followed the movement of every person near Kakashi in a silent warning that one single twitch in the wrong direction and he would act. Violently.

He appeared to be making the medical staff nervous, which Kakashi thought was rather unprofessional of them. Really, if they didn’t do anything wrong then they had nothing to worry about. Did they think themselves so incompetent?

It took another hour before he was declared as patched up as possible. Rin distracted herself from worrying about Obito during that time by basking in the praise for her field transplant, lapping it up like a purring kitten. Kakashi supposed it must be nice to have the focus on herself for once. Usually she allowed either of her teammates to stand in the spotlight and it wasn’t until today that he’d thought to wonder if she had ever minded. The moment his head was free Kakashi turned his own attention at last to the man waiting impatiently in the corner. As soon as their eyes connected Madara was moving, seeming to float across the floor as though he were a part of the gathering evening shadows. When he reached Kakashi’s side he lifted one hand, gently tracing the edge of soft white bandages.

“Are you still in pain?” he asked. Kakashi shook his head.

“I’m fine.” Madara narrowed his eyes and Kakashi huffed with as much attitude as he still had the energy for. “Fine. I have a headache but it’s not bad. It’s just because I’m so tired.”

“You should rest, Precious One.”

Kakashi’s face threatened to burst in to flames, red spilling over top of his mask. “I’m not precious!”

“You are to me,” Madara said, unrepentant even as Kakashi blushed harder.

“Well…that’s…anyway I can’t rest. I have to make sure everything goes fine with Obito.”

Madara hummed in a way that said he wasn’t particularly interested in Obito’s fate himself but that he would happily wait for anything that was important to Kakashi. The younger looked down at his fidgeting hands, baffled. They had only just met. Sure they were soulmates and even he could feel the instant connection. But to be called precious? He couldn’t imagine being precious to anyone. Even kind Minato-sensei surely saw him as a bother more often than not, or so he assumed. He’d spent enough time pushing everyone away from himself he was honestly surprised to still find himself with any friends at all.

Kakashi tried not to think about it too hard, concentrating instead on the wonderful feeling of freedom when he was finally allowed to escape the surgical theatre. Madara trailed after him as he wound through the hallways and settled down beside him when he plopped inelegantly on to one of the benches in the waiting area outside the room where Obito was being tended to. His body was tired and clambering for rest but Kakashi had only just confirmed that Obito was his friend. He wasn’t about to abandon the other boy now. Maybe leaving wouldn’t have been quite the same as abandoning him but it would have felt the same and so he stayed.

Still, it only took ten minutes for the events he had gone through to finally catch up to him all at once. Before he even had time to realize what was happening Kakashi was slipping down in to blank unconsciousness, falling sideways against Madara’s shoulder as he gave in to exhaustion at last. Madara smiled down on him more gently than most would believe him capable of. Not wishing to disturb the lad, he wrapped one arm around his tired soulmate and simply held him tightly, reaching over with his other hand to close the jaw which had fallen comically open when he slumped over without warning.

Waiting was something Madara was more than familiar with. He had done his fair share of it over the past several decades and yet he found that he had just enough patience to wait a little more. Finding his soulmate was a blessing he had long given up on and he was happy just for the chance to sit here and observe the lad.

To his eyes, Kakashi was the most perfect creature he had ever laid eyes on. Silver hair the color of the moon, skin so pale he feared it might turn translucent if it got wet, and the beginning of what would surely be a jawline to kill for once he grew in to it. From the short time they’d had together he had already seen enough hints that the boy’s personality would keep him delightfully on his toes as well. He could already tell that he would never be bored. All in all, even after only one day Madara was already confident that the wait, long as it had been, was entirely worth it.

He would need to find a way to make Kakashi understand that. The poor lad didn’t seem to have a very high opinion of himself, something Madara intended to rectify as soon as possible.

Perhaps five hours had passed by before anything significant happened. Energy sang through his veins and Madara was tingling with the need to move yet he remained as still as possible, not wanting to disturb the precious gift still dozing against his shoulder. Despite the demands of his own body he was still just a little disappointed when Kakashi was awoken by the opening of the surgery doors.

Kakashi was upright and wide awake in an instant when he spotted the doctors coming through the door. It took Madara gripping his arms to keep him upright, however, since his knees threatened to buckle with sheer relief once he heard that everything had gone well. The doctors gave them the number of Obito’s recovery room, side-eyeing Madara in a worried manner as they did so, and Kakashi took off down the hall the moment they had finished speaking. Perhaps a hundred years ago Madara might have remembered his manners and thanked the doctors for their service. At the moment, though, the only thing which mattered to him was the boy rapidly disappearing down the hallway.

 

13--

Life in this future world was confusing. Madara might have been alive and well for the past several decades but he hadn’t bothered to peek in on the rest of humanity in any significant way for most of them – and he certainly hadn’t bothered to examine how day to day life might have changed.

There were so many new gadgets to play with that his soulmate merely took for granted. It took more than a week before Madara caved and asked what the white box was that seemed to prepare food in mere minutes. Kakashi called it a ‘microwave’ and started explaining something about radiation and energy transfer but Madara stopped him when he was uncomfortably reminded of his best friend’s little brother. It hadn’t helped that Kakashi sort of looked like Tobirama, his hair just a few shades darker.

Some of the other new inventions were incredibly useful, however. Madara particularly enjoyed the television box in the living room. Not so much for himself but mostly because it kept Kakashi entertained and perfectly still for hours at a time, leaving him easy pray for fingers that wanted to play with his hair or idly sketch the profile he made against the sickly artificial glow of the screen. Sometimes if he was very lucky Kakashi would fall asleep watching some terrible show and Madara would be treated with an opportunity to curl up beside him on the couch and sleep with that soothing chakra right next to his own where he could reach out when the nightmares woke him in the night.

One piece of what Kakashi called ‘technology’ that Madara absolutely did not like was the doorbell. Loud and clangoring, Madara hated the sound of it but he hated even more the horrors that always followed. Rin he didn’t mind, a calm and respectful young lady who seemed to understand how much he detested having their time together interrupted. Obito was annoying yet survivable, his brash nature offset by the periodic waves of gratitude that still popped up even now a year after Madara saved his life.

But the green one. It was the boy in green that had Madara shuddering every time his voice sounded over the incessant ringing of that hated hidden bell. For the third day in a row Madara clapped both hands over his eyes to block out the noise and glared balefully at the entrance to the apartment they shared. As a registered citizen of Konoha once again he would be within his right to make a noise complaint. It would be against his own apartment and Kakashi would be the one to get in trouble as the only name on the lease but surely he could bribe someone in to letting that infernal beast of a child suffer whatever punishment was due.  

“KAKASHI MY RIVAL! LET US TEST OUR STRENGTH ON THIS GOOD DAY!”

“If he shouts any louder I’m getting him a muzzle,” Madara grumbled, arms folding more and more tightly to his chest as his body sank lower on the sofa. Beside him, Kakashi only smiled.

“He’d probably take that as a challenge to yell just as loud with it on.”

“Ugh.”

On the other side of the door Gai banged his fist again and cried, “I HAVE THE MOST YOUTHFUL CHALLENGE FOR YOU!”

“I should get this over with,” Kakashi said.

“No.”

Looking over at him in amusement, the boy actually had the gall to smirk. “Aww, what’s the matter?” You gonna miss me while I’m out slinging boulders or whatever dumb thing he wants us to do?”

“Yes,” Madara admitted simply. “I always miss you when you are not here with me.”

“O-oh, um, okay. Well. I’ll try not to be away too long, I guess.” Kakashi flushed and practically leapt off the couch as though if he moved fast enough he could outrun his own emotional responses. Madara let him go without any further protests despite the fact that all he wanted to do was call the other back and spend the day alone together.

In general that was the only thing he ever wanted to do.

He could hardly be blamed, though. Kakashi was his soulmate and in the year since they had finally met he’d come to the conclusion that the universe really did have a good reason for making him wait so long. He would have waited another hundred years if he needed to if Kakashi was the prize at the end – although he would eviscerate anyone who dared call the boy something so demeaning as a mere prize. The point was that they were well matched in his opinion and they would only become more so as more years passed them by.

Still only thirteen years old, Kakashi held no sexual or romantic attraction for him. Madara was more than aware that many adults in the village had worried about that but the very idea was laughable. He was a child! What draw could there be for a man finally allowed to grow to twenty-one years old in a child who hadn’t seen even a quarter of the years that he had? No, the only attraction Madara felt was a bone-deep pull that told him Kakashi was precious.

Watching his soulmate leave to spend time with someone else was as hard today as it was every day but it had already been more than twelve months since they found each other and Madara was long used to the necessity of that pain. Kakashi was a young thing and desperately in need of socialization. As much as Madara wished he could, he knew he couldn’t make up for an entire social circle and so he watched with sad eyes as the boy slipped out the door to spend time with that green beast of a stretchy human. If he were so inclined he knew he could have gone along but Madara had seen quite enough of the outside world already, most of it filled with darkness and disappointment.

He was much happier to while away the lonely hours here in the place his beloved soulmate called home, watching shows on the television box that he didn’t understand and waiting patiently until the missing piece of himself came home again. Kakashi always came home again.

 

16--

Three years was more than enough time to find a job and what better employment for a man of Madara's skill than to rejoin the shinobi ranks he had once commanded. So thought the walking sunshine known as Namikaze Minato, at least.

Lifting one eyebrow in blatant disinterest, Madara considered throwing the contents of his teacup in the man’s face for the sheer pleasure of watching him scream. All that stopped him was knowing this over-bright perpetual smile was somehow precious to his soulmate and that Kakashi would give him a lecture to end all lectures if he hurt this man. For as many times as he had courted with danger in his life Madara had no intentions of angering his soulmate again.

The last time he’d gone without any hugs for a solid week, not an experience he wanted to repeat.

“I am content with my place,” Madara stated firmly, knuckles white to retain their grip on the cup he was very carefully not throwing at anyone.

“You could be so much more than content,” Minato insisted. “You could serve your village again. If the history books are right then the village was your idea in the first place, an idea no one had ever dared to entertain before. Wouldn’t you like to protect it?”

“Did he really say that?”

“I’m sorry?”

Madara's grip loosened and his eyes grew distant, cup lowering to rest gently on the table. “I’m surprised Hashirama would have told anyone that. He was always fond of forgetting that an idea was not originally his. How odd…to be the subject of a history book. Suddenly I feel very old.”

“You are old,” Kakashi chipped in as he entered the room, heading straight for the fridge without bothering to greet either of them.

“Now, now, that wasn’t very nice.” Long used to his role as father-figure, Minato shook one finger in reprimand. Kakashi blithely ignored him and continued pouring himself a glass of juice.

With a deep breath Madara shook away the ghosts of his own past. “Whatever I am, I am no longer a shinobi.”

“Once a shinobi, always a shinobi,” Minato countered. “It’s in our blood.”

“Not mine; not any longer. I served my time already, Yondaime-san. When the first buildings were raised I pledged my allegiance to the first Hokage and I did my duty protecting this dream we crafted together. So many years later I should think you would be thrilled by my decision to take a seat on the council instead of insinuating that it isn’t enough.”

“You input is invaluable, there’s no one who would disagree–”

Madara cut the man off before he could go in to anything else with a sharp, “Excellent. Then it’s settled, I will continue to enjoy my retirement and a life that is finally not reliant upon any sort of conflict. You will go back to the office that was built for a bigger man than you and bother me no more about this.”

Across the room, Kakashi sighed.

“Bigger man than I?” Minato asked in a quiet, serious sort of voice. Madara was the opposite of scared.

“Hashirama was much taller,” he replied airily.

Clearly he hadn’t fooled the other man but to call him out for such a petty insult would only make Minato look even pettier. He made the very smart decision to drop it instead and turn to catch Kakashi’s attention for the real reason he’d come, something he needed clarified from the last mission his protégé had come back from.

After he had what he needed Minato declined any offers of staying for tea. He left boisterous goodbyes, his usual humor returned, and Madara made sure to stick his tongue out at the man’s back as he went out the door. Then he jerked as a pale hand swatted him upset the hand even as another one set a glass of juice down in front of him. Kakashi was rolling his eyes when Madara looked up at him with a baleful expression.

“What?” he demanded.

“Can you be a little nicer?”

“No. I don’t like him so I don’t have to be nice to him.”

“He’s the Hokage,” Kakashi pointed out. “And he’s my sensei – well, before you started teaching me he was.”

Madara looked away. “He steals attention from you that could have been mine. And time. And affection. I don’t like any of them. You should spend all of your time with me, obviously.”

He didn’t really mean that – well, not entirely. It would be nice to have Kakashi all to himself at all times but he understood that wasn’t healthy. And he could tell Kakashi knew that he didn’t mean it when the only reaction he got was a roll of one gray eye and a bony hand reaching up to tangle in his hair.

“Possessive bastard,” his soulmate accused him.

“Of you? Yes. You’re clearly the superior being above all others, can you blame me for wanting to keep you all to myself?”

Kakashi laughed and the sound cracked high and low unevenly. Neither of them commented. He was getting so big, taller than Madara already which truly wasn’t fair.  Watching him grow in to the man he was always meant to be was a bittersweet sort of honor that Madara usually chose to reminisce on when he was alone. But in moments like this when an unexpected touch left him relaxed enough to lower the very last of his guard he couldn’t help but let his mind return to the one thing that had been on his mind ever since a few months before when Kakashi had finally found it necessary to learn how to shave.

What would it be like when he grew in to adulthood and wanted his independence? How many years did Madara have left before the only precious person in his life discovered the draw of romance and sex, before he fell in love and wanted a place of his own to nurture a new kind of bond? The very thought was as terrifying as it was thrilling. Of course he would want nothing more than for Kakashi to be happy.

But what of the bond he had spent nearly a hundred years waiting for? Madara looked up at the young man who it seemed only yesterday had been a child and wondered. He wondered how much it would hurt when he was no longer the most important thing in Kakashi’s life.

And he wondered if he should start keeping his declarations to himself that Kakashi would always and forever be the most important part in his own life, that he had been years before they ever met.

 

19--

Madara had a problem. Generally in the case of social issues he tended to sneak out of the house when Kakashi left on a mission and find a moment to shamefully demand that the young Rin explain to him what he should do in certain situations. Neither he nor Kakashi were very good at people things and they were both lucky to have someone patient enough to deal with the two of them, though both had sworn her to secrecy.

This time there would be none of that and without that avenue of clarity Madara found himself at an utter loss for what to do. He couldn’t bring such a sensitive issue to anyone else – didn’t even have anyone else to bring it to – but that left him with only the horrible option of figuring this mess out himself and thus he was brought back to the same conclusion every time he tried.

He had a problem. A big one.

With each year Kakashi grew older and taller, smarter and stronger. All of this he had noticed since the first day and had no problems with. It wasn’t until late in the year after Kakashi turned nineteen that Madara's traitorous mind thought to notice that his soulmate had also grown rather handsome with the years gone by. Considering that he had started aging again once they met that would make him exactly eight years older than Kakashi. Governments and courts the world over had been ruling since his own era that the time spent without aging did not make one older, only more experienced, but it wasn’t something he had thought to look in to in all the time he’d been living here in the current age. Would those around them find it wrong of him to grow attracted to Kakashi now as he grew in to adulthood?

More importantly, would Kakashi think him wrong? The idea that his own beloved, the other half of himself, the better part of his soul, could ever find something in him truly disgusting was not something he wanted to dwell on for long. Yet it seemed that he could think of little else these days.

The attraction hadn’t really started as an attraction. It had started as a comment overheard from a stranger passing them by, a young woman with little enough shame that she felt the need to comment loudly on the curve of Kakashi’s rump. Madara had glared at her until she fled and thought to himself absently that the shape of Kakashi’s rump was nowhere near as important as the shape of his beautiful heart – although he did have quite a pert little bottom. Just an innocent thought, a mere observation, but after he had noticed once he couldn’t help but notice again and again until he was forced to crawl out of his bed one night and spend a few hours sitting on the cold tile of the bathroom floor, stolidly refusing to touch the problem that had risen in his pajamas.

Sitting awake that night had been the first time he realized he was developing what some might call a crush. A ridiculous term – what he felt for Kakashi could never be reduced to something so simple – and yet it was painfully apt as well. He was sure that if Kakashi ever found out about these new feelings he would balk and Madara would indeed be crushed.

Obviously there was no point in twisting himself in to knots over whether or not Kakashi might feel the same but oddly that was not the most difficult part of the whole situation. Rather it was the feeling that he was lying somehow by keeping this information to himself. Since they met he had been entirely honest in all facets, answering any questions Kakashi had about himself, sparing no detail even when it probably would have been healthier to do so. Now his secret burned under the bones of his ribcage. Worst were the quiet nights like tonight when Kakashi suspected nothing, leaning in to him for a bit of contact and playing absently with the tips of his fingers while they both watched television.

Madara wanted to take his hand back. He wanted to weave their hands together. He wanted to blurt out everything that was on his mind. He wanted to stay silent, bury the feelings down where even he could forget them. Inside his head was such a muddle he almost missed it when Kakashi spoke.

“What was that?”

“It’s just so obvious,” Kakashi repeated. “I don’t know why no one else can see they’re in love!”

“Who?”

“Them!” As he gestured the television screen focused in on two characters caught in a moment of ephemeral almost before someone else blindly interrupted them.

Madara cleared his throat. “You think they’re in love?”

“Duh! I mean, are we even watching the same show? They belong together!”

“Maybe they do,” Madara whispered. He determinedly kept his eyes focused on the screen to watch one of the characters get pulled away with the man she had agreed to marry several episodes ago. “But maybe it just isn’t right.”

Kakashi immediately went off on a rant about how love was always right but Madara tuned him out. It was too painful to listen to when he had no idea if Kakashi would hold to that value if he ever had it tested by discovering Madara's secret. Something things were better left to the land of make-believe. And some secrets were better dealt with by simply letting them be, he decided.

He was falling in love with his soulmate. Whether that love was ever returned was in another’s hands now and Madara would have to be grateful for what he had even if he never had more. A hard fate but, as he had ever believed, Kakashi would always be worth it.

 

22--

After so many decades it felt strange to bleed again. Of all the many times he had contemplated what it be like to join the battlefields once more Madara had always assumed that it would be just like picking up an old habit, that the burn of pain would be just as easy to ignore as it had been in his prime.

It was not.

Having a sword pushed through one’s chest was never a pleasant experience but although he could say this was not the first time he had suffered such grievous wounds he could say it was the first time he had screamed. Pain flood his senses until all he could think were two singular, overwhelming thoughts. ‘I am going to die’ and ‘but Kakashi cannot’. Despite the conviction in that second thought it was harder to bring his rusty skills to bear than he imagined it would be. His arms were lead and his legs were shaking. Vision tunneled and ears hearing the ring of battle as though from underwater, it took only one more blade sinking in to the flesh of his shoulder for Madara to go down.

What a titan of history, he couldn’t help but scold himself, to fall in the first battle he joins since the fifth decade of his twentieth year. All those years spent locked away in a cave by himself had taken more of a toll than he thought. Sparring and exercise were no substitute for the true chaos of a real fight. He should have stayed with the other council members when the alarm sounded to warn of an attack on their western gate; his pride and his body would have both been spared a wound.

Nothing could have prepared him for the sound of Kakashi’s own scream as he leapt down from a nearby rooftop only to see his soulmate slumping to the ground with silver shining amongst the blood pouring from his body. And it was a lot of blood. Madara understood that his thoughts were beginning to scatter due to the loss of it all but he couldn’t help wondering if the last time he had taken a similar injury produced this much blood or if it only looked like so much because he was already covered in the lives he had taken today.

Strong hands lifted his head, soft lips against his forehead, and Madara opened his eyes to discover that he had drifted for an undetermined amount of time. The men who overwhelmed him lay in pieces to one side and Kakashi knelt on the ground with him, both eyes wide open with tears gathering in the corners.

“There you go,” his soulmate murmured in broken, choking syllables. “Hey, no, keep your eyes open. Don’t you dare. You can’t die the day before my birthday. That’s just the height of rude.”

“Always been rude,” Madara managed to get out with blood bubbling his words. A quiet sob escaped Kakashi’s lips before he wrestled himself back under control.

“Not to me. Never to me. Stay awake, come on. You’re not allowed to die.”

Madara found it in him to smile. In the arms of a loved one had never been the way he thought he would go but it was definitely much better than most of the other ways he’d pictured. Through the confusing mixture of burning and numbness he could feel Kakashi’s hands holding pressure on his wounds and pulsing chakra in to him with the brute force of someone who knows only rudimentary healing.

“You just have to hold on for a little bit more. Rin is coming this way, she’ll save you. Rin can save anyone. She has to. She has to save you.” Kakashi paused to swallow and Madara wanted to close his eyes but he didn’t want to look away from the beauty above him. “You can’t…you can’t go. I didn’t have enough time.”

When he opened his mouth Madara found there was too much blood to speak loudly enough for the other man to hear him from so far away. He gestured with one dripping hand and Kakashi bent immediately. Mentally apologizing for the stain, Madara pressed a kiss against that pale cheek he could trace the shape of with his very soul.

“Every day,” he whispered, “was a gift, my Precious One”

“Then stay awake and let me give you more gifts, damn it! No no no no no! Hey! Wake up! Hey!”

When the last of his strength gave out Madara did not fall unconscious immediately. His body slumped, his eyes closed, and no matter how he screamed at himself in his own mind he had no fight left in him to tell Kakashi that he was alright, that this was the best death he could have asked for. Instead he was forced to lie still and listen to his soulmate scream for a help he seemed to think was coming. Madara wished he could close his ears to the sound even as he cherished what he thought were the last words he thought he would ever hear his soulmate say.

 

23--

“I hate you.”

Despite the venom in those words it was hard to believe in them when Kakashi voice came muffled against his chest, the length of that wiry body pressed against his own in what Madara assumed to be one of the rickety hospital beds. That certainly looked like a hospital room ceiling above him when he opened his eyes.

“Somehow I doubt that,” Madara said, filled with wonder that he was able to say anything at all when the last thing he remembered was steel through his chest. When, he wondered, had he agreed to reverse their roles? Always it had been him fretting over the day he would lose Kakashi. It had never occurred to him as a possibility that Kakashi might lose him first. The entire idea of death itself has stopped occurring to him altogether, likely a symptom of such a long life and probably something he should talk to a professional about.

He wouldn’t. But he probably should.

“No, I really do hate you. You’re a jerk.”

“What else is new?”

“I almost watched you die.” Kakashi’s voice warbled and it awoke something feral in him that wanted to fight whatever it was that had hurt this man. Except it was him. He had done that. “You owe Rin such a big thank you. I’m sending her a fruit basket every day for the rest of her life. She saved yours.”

Madara blinked at the ceiling, still a little fuzzy. “My fruit basket?”

“No! She saved your life you idiot!” Kakashi’s face was tear streaked when he came in to view, Sharingan covered but both eyes sporting deep circles underneath. He was frowning. Madara's concentration slid away from whatever they were talking about to concentrate entirely on the tragedy that was the fact of Kakashi frowning.

“You should smile,” he mumbled. Contrary to what he was hoping for, Kakashi frowned deeper.

“What part of ‘you almost died’ should I be smiling about?”

“Dunno. Like your smile. You’re very pretty.” When Kakashi’s eyes widened Madara's did too. “Oh I didn’t mean to say that. Don’t tell Kakashi I said that!”

Silence hung deep and heavy between them for a few moments.

“Alright. I won’t tell me. You must be incredibly high right now; I suppose they do have you on the good stuff. Rin said you might be a little funny when you woke up.” His soulmate sighed and ran a hand through his hair, greasy in a state he only ever reached after several days without a shower.

“It’s a secret,” Madara insisted.

Kakashi dropped his hand and cocked his head to one side. “What, that I’m pretty? I would have said handsome but…”

“No, everybody knows that!” Madara declared vehemently. “It’s a secret that I think so too. Don’t tell. I don’t want you to know because that’s…is it bad?” Were he sober he would have been utterly mortified of the small hesitance in his voice, the lack of surety that had haunted him in the first few months after they met each other when he questioned every so often if Kakashi truly wanted him there.

His question was met with a bewildered gaze. “Why would it be bad if you think I’m attractive?”

“Because then you would know.” 

“Know what?”

“That I love you.”

“Of course you love me. We’re soulmates. I love you too, obviously.”

Madara's heart leapt inside his chest with such vigor the heart monitor beside him went wild. “You love me too?” he asked breathlessly.

Before answering Kakashi narrowed his one visible eye with what looked like a great deal of concentration. As he waited Madara couldn’t help but be very nervous. Why was he not answering? Finally he sat back with a curious little hum and shook his head but before Madara could experience heart failure he muttered under his breath.

“Something tells me we’re not having the same conversation at all but I can’t say how. All you said was that y-…oh. Oh you said…Madara…you love me.”

“Yes but you can’t tell!”

“No I mean you really love me. Like you’re in love with me!”

“Obviously!” Drugs clouding his mind, the loneliness of the caves barely more than a decade behind him, Madara let slip what was probably the most pathetic sound he had ever made as the isolation and the yearning came back to him in a terrible rush. “Of course I’m in love with you! I waited so long for you and then you were there and you were perfect and I already loved you like a part of me but then you grew older and you got tall and handsome and it’s not fair! You shouldn’t get to be everything I ever wanted if I can’t keep you!”

Kakashi gaped at him.

“W-why won’t you get to keep me!?” he cried.

“Because you’re going to fall in love with someone else and make me go away!”

After nearly a solid minute of more flabbergasted staring Kakashi closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then he let it out and drew in another one. Madara recognized the technique he had taught his partner a long time ago for keeping himself calm when his emotions threatened to overwhelm. Only once Kakashi deemed himself calm enough to talk again did he open his eyes again and pull his face in to a semblance of a serious expression.

“That is the absolute stupidest thing you have ever said. And you once tried to convince me that wearing anything other than a fundoshi as underwear was a dishonor against my ancestors. Madara I love you too. Of course I love you too.”

“But you don’t–”

“Yes. I do. I don’t just love you, I am in love with you the same way you are in love with me. I would very much like it if you stopped sleeping in your own bed and slept in mine. I would love it if you could be sober so we could make out and be gross right here in a hospital room. Get the picture?”

Madara furrowed his brow and gave that some thought. If Kakashi was in love with him too that would solve every problem he had. For the first time in his life he would be completely happy. His smile may have been a little lopsided when it spread across his face but he was still a bit too loopy with sedatives to care very much. All that mattered to him was that Kakashi was smiling back and that Kakashi loved him.

“I like that picture,” he murmured. “You know something? You…were worth waiting for.”

“Was I?” Kakashi asked teasingly and sounding strangely out of breath.

He nodded enthusiastically to make sure his point was not refuted, not understanding that he was being teased. It felt very important that Kakashi know how grateful he was that he hadn’t given up and taken his own life. Sure he’d gone a little crazy and it had taken a while to smooth out some of his more feral edges, reintegrating him back in to society had been an adventure for every poor soul he came in to contact with for the first half a year, but in the end he’d had Kakashi and it was more than everything he had ever dreamed of.

Chuckling a little, Kakashi pulled himself a little farther up the bed so that their faces were close enough for him to count all the barely there freckles that danced along the line where his soulmate usually wore a mask. Madara liked the mask. He liked that such a beautiful face belonged only to him. The freckles were so distracting he didn’t think to question why they were getting closer and closer until-

They were kissing. Already foggy and muddled, Madara's drugged up mind emptied even further until all that was left was the perfect silence – the perfect moment of completion – of their first kiss. He whined shamelessly when Kakashi pulled away, not ready for the moment to end, and was immediately pulled in by the sound of happy laughter filling the room around them. He could live without another kiss for a few moments just to listen to that laughter. Such an incredible moment felt as though it should be marked with some kind of grand words but as he wracked his brain Madara could think of only one thing to say amidst the empty joy.

“Happy birthday,” he said. And then he was confused when Kakashi’s laughter only grew louder.

“Maa, my birthday was three days ago. You’ve been asleep for quite some time.”

“Oh. But I like your birthday. You always get older and you’ll never know what it is to wait. That’s…I’m glad that you don’t have to know that.”

At last the laughter quieted as Kakashi subsided to gift him with a very soft look. “So am I.”

“I’m very tired. Do all injuries feel like this in the future?” Madara tried to squirm but it felt as though his body were made of lead, heavy and sinking down in to the mattress. “I can understand why you don’t like hospitals.”

“You should go back to sleep. We can talk about this again when you’re not high and you actually have a chance of remembering the conversation.”

Madara nodded obediently even as his hands reached out to pull Kakashi down for another lingering kiss that made both of them give matching purrs, though his was slightly more feral. Some habits were hard to break even after eleven years of being properly socialized again. He didn’t really notice how hard the drugs were hitting again until a snort of amusement broke through and he realized that they were no longer kissing but his eyes were still closed. Trying to open them again felt like a battle when he tried and for the first time in his life he decided that he could surrender without a fight.

Something soft brushed against his forehead, a kiss of benediction, and then Kakashi’s voice whispered in the space above him, soothing him down in to the dreams that called so enticingly.

“I love you,” his soulmate whispered. “Sleep now and I will still love you when you wake again – and every day after that too.”

He couldn’t be sure if it was the sedatives or his own imagination but Madara almost thought he could feel Kakashi curling in to him once more to rest there with him. The nurses would be angry to find them like that. He didn’t care. With Kakashi watching over him it was even nicer to let go of reality for a little while, safe in the knowledge that no dream could possibly be as beautiful as what he would find when he woke again.

A future with Kakashi growing older and building a life together. For a man who had lived the same day again and again and again year after year growing old sounded like a grand adventure; he couldn’t wait to experience it with his soulmate at his side.