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At night the dead come down to dance

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Obito hasn’t been back to Konoha in years, but the city hasn’t changed at all. He doesn’t know whether to find it heartening or depressing.

Still, the sun is warm, and Konoha lacks Kiri’s creeping, pervasive mist that chills to the bone, leaves everything soggy and dim and never lifts. Here the sun is out, and a trace of a warm breeze rustles the flowering cherry trees around the square. Obito breathes it in slowly, carefully, committing himself to enjoy it for however long they manage to stay here. Both he and Rin have ties to Kiri, after all, and those can't be broken so easily. They're lucky that Mei Terumi is an honorable woman; anyone else might try to take advantage of their debt.

It’s automatic, after so many years, to cast a glance back at the shop behind him. Rin is hovering a few steps from the counter, still in line, with her eyes trained on the menu above the till. He takes a second to assess, but her aura is calm, tinged with excitement—because Rin always loves food, and they’ve been eating Kiri's excess of seafood for so long that Obito isn’t sure either of them can ever look at fish again—and her shoulders are relaxed. Her light coat is closed, to hide the service weapon she’s carrying, but the weather is still cool enough that no one is giving her a second glance. The purple witch-marks on her cheeks are drawing more attention, but still not much.

Maybe Konoha has changed in the time he was gone.

Seeming to feel his eyes on her, Rin turns and catches his gaze, then smiles brightly and waves. She points at the menu—mostly burgers and sandwiches—and gives a theatrical excited wiggle, grinning. Obito laughs despite himself, flashing her a thumbs-up in response, and goes back to studying the square.

It’s peaceful, watching the cherry blossoms sway above the heads of a few scattered passersby. The air is clear of any malevolence, and Obito can feel a few sparks of purifying magic trapped in the stones around the square’s edge to keep negative emotion from building. Breathing is easy, and it feels like each breath is worth two taken anywhere else, clean and cool as it slides into his lungs.

He didn’t quite miss Konoha, but maybe there really is something to be said for coming home. If he ever says as much out loud, Rin will tease him mercilessly, but just to himself, Obito can admit it.

He turns, intending to check on Rin again—not that she needs it, not that he thinks she’s going to get mauled by a sandwich or something, but because the habit of so many years is hard to break—when movement on the western side of the square catches his eye. Automatically, he looks, body already shifting slightly, and—

His breath catches in his throat.

A pair of teenaged girls, passing by a corner filled with seething shadows, eyes on each other and attention scattered. Darkness rising like a cresting wave, then retreating, falling back to leave a twisted tangle of limbs and rotting flesh. A miasma of noxious hate, of death, slipping across the pale and sun-warmed stones, reaching out with intangible fingers even as the revenant scrambles after the girls.

No one notices. No one ever notices until the first victim dies.

There's no time to wait for Rin, or even to yell for her. Obito lunges from his bench and throws himself across the square, orange light already blooming around his hands. “Down!” he shouts, but this isn’t Kiri; no one understands, no one listens. The two girls keep walking, and even as people scatter out of his path, dead-grey fingers lash out and latch onto living flesh.

The blonde girl screams in terror, high and sharp, as the revenant rises up, wrenching her back towards it. Its mouth opens, unhinged jaw gaping grotesquely, and—

Orange light erupts like a supernova right between the two as Obito forces himself between them, heart racing. He grabs the girl’s shoulder even as he turns, his lightshow condensing into a barrier that slices right through the revenant’s rotting arm. It comes free with a splatter of congealing black blood and bounces to the ground, fingers still grasping for human warmth. The creature hardly notices, though, staring at Obito with empty sockets. It moans, low and rattling, raising the hairs on the back of Obito's neck, and takes a staggering step towards him.

“Run,” Obito orders the girl, shoving her in the direction of her friend. She goes without hesitation, bolting towards the safety of the surrounding streets, and Obito fully shifts his attention to the creature. It moans again, empty and haunting, and reaches for him with its one remaining hand. Another flare of orange light blocks it, but as he is right now Obito can't hold a shield for more than an instant and has to retreat. There are screams around them as people finally realize what's happening, a rush of people fleeing the square, but Obito can't spare any attention for them.

This at least is familiar. This isn’t an unlooked-for homecoming, this isn’t a family that’s never understood him. This isn’t familiar places made unfamiliar by time and wear, by the fact that Obito himself has changed so much as to be unrecognizable. It’s a fight, a confrontation, and if Obito's ever been good at anything it’s getting himself in over his head and charging in with his magic leading.

He takes a breath, the formerly clear air now heavy with a furious hunger and greedy anger, clogged with the scent of rot and grave dirt, and demands, “Who raised you? What is your task? Name your master!”

The revenant falters, then stops, and the patchy head tips to the side. It keeps tipping, going almost horizontal, and the creature lets out a low, plaintive whine. Its hand darts out, deceptively fast, but Obito summons another split-second barrier and blocks it.

“Name your master!” he repeats as the orange light shatters. “Who raised you? What is your task?”

This time he gets a gurgling cough, but before he can even try to decipher it, the revenant moves. It lunges, impossibly fast, and Obito has no time to summon another shield. With a curse he throws himself to the side, summersaulting and coming back to his feet only to dart away again as the revenant grabs for his throat. Unnaturally long nails scrape his skin, drawing blood, and the thing screams, high and wavering and hungry. It hurls itself at him, but this time Obito manages a shield, and uses the half-second of cover it provides to stumble back, reaching for any extra scrap of power that’s not tied to his life force.

“Obito!” Rin shouts. “Duck!”

Obito trusts Rin with everything, right down to his darkest secrets—they're secrets the two of them share, after all. Obeying her doesn’t even require conscious thought. He drops to the ground as her gun barks once, and a dart of violet light slams into the revenant’s chest. It staggers, not quite falling even as the light worms across its flesh, devouring the magic that keeps it animated. Not quickly enough, though, because it still has the same terrifying speed as it lunges again, nails tearing into Obito's shoulder before he can roll away.

“A little help would be nice, Rin!” he shouts, scrambling to his feet and darting backwards.

In a smooth movement he’s seen more times than he can count, Rin holsters her gun, then raises her hands. Violet light sparks again, dancing across her skin like bright static and gathering in the air between her palms. It writes itself into an intricate rune, then blazes, and Rin cries, “Unseal!”

Points of heat flare to life on Obito's skin, curled around each wrist and the base of his throat. The sudden surge of magic brings the seals on his power to the surface—intricate, interconnected purple runes, wrapped around his wrists and neck like invisible manacles. They burn as if set alight, and Obito can feel the moment they register Rin's magic and go dormant. His own power rushes in, filling him like an incoming tide, and he grins, bloody and ruthless.

“No property damage, Obito!” Rin shouts. “We just got here! I don’t want to spend all my free time doing paperwork, okay?”

Obito huffs, even as he ducks under another wide swipe and takes another three steps back. “Shut up, Rin, I know what I'm doing!”

For both their sakes, he pretends not to hear her loud scoff.

Over the last twelve years, magic has been simple, far simpler than anything else. Obito steps back again, but this time when the revenant moves to follow, it slams into a high, broad wall, and can go no further. Obito sets his feet, calling up a trickle of power that quickly turns into a flood, shading the air around him with its color and flickering like flames. It consumes the miasma around the revenant, eating away at it until orange is all that’s left. As his magic closes around the creature, trapping it in a razor-edged web, Obito smirks, victorious.

“Thrice asked,” he says sharply, “and I command you answer: what is your task? Who raised you? Name your master!”

The revenant struggles, rotting limbs thrashing against the light that holds them, head whipping side to side in a motion that would break a living human’s neck. It moans, sharp and pitiful, but Obito doesn’t let his magic waver. He doesn’t say anything, because any other words will destroy the compulsion, and waits, doubling down on his barrier to be sure it won’t break.

With another low whine, the revenant slumps forward, body going limp. Its wide jaw opens, and in an eerie, hissing whisper, finally answers, “No master…prey.”

It takes effort not to curse. To resist a compulsion bound by the number three, either the revenant really doesn’t know who called it back, or whoever raised it is strong enough seal its words even from a distance. Obito doesn’t like either option; it would take a ridiculously strong witch to summon a revenant across so much of the city, maybe even more powerful than would be required for blocking a compulsion.

In a sudden rush of movement, the revenant hurls itself against the spell holding it and screams again, startling enough that Obito's grip on his barrier slips. The undead creature lunges for him, jaw gaping and claws outstretched, and Obito's magic surges forward on its own, unconscious self-defense. Fire sparks, blue-white even in the sunlight, and then bursts like a bomb going off. Obito yelps, throwing himself back and away from the heat with his arms raised to shield his face, and nearly collides with Rin as she grabs his shoulders and drags him away. As quickly as it sparked, though, the fire dies away, vanishing completely, and a trickle of ash disperses on the breeze.

“Well,” Rin says after a moment of silence, sitting up on the flagstones where she landed in a sprawl. “I suppose that’s one way to purify it.”

“…Oops?” Obito offers, slightly sheepish, and pushes to his feet before he offers her a hand up. She takes it, and he hauls her upright. “I didn’t destroy anything, though.”

Rin laughs at that, stretching up on her toes to pat him on the head. “Yes, yes, congratulations, now we won't have to start our careers here explaining massive amounts of collateral damage.”

Obito rolls his eyes at her, though he can't quite fight the smile pulling at his lips. “Ready?”

“Oh, I suppose,” she sighs, and tightens her grip on his hand as she closes her eyes. Her aura shades to lavender, brightening until it’s almost painful, and she traces another rune in the air with her free hand. “Seal,” she commands, and the runes around Obito's wrists and neck flare, then settle, and his power washes away. Instead of a river in flood, all he’s left with is a bare trickle, and he grimaces as he flexes his fingers. It feels like being drained dry, like someone sucking all the energy right out of him, and Obito's had enough experience with the feeling that even Rin's comparatively gentle sealing makes him uneasy.

“Okay, Obito?” Rin asks, watching him with concern in her smoky-brown eyes, because she always knows. She’s the only person he’s never instinctively tried to kill for locking his powers away, after all.

“Fine,” he says, giving her his best approximation of a reassuring smile. “Did someone call—?”

As if in answer, agents in dark blue and black uniforms stream into the square, several of them with witch-marks. A tall woman with wavy dark hair is near the center, clearly giving orders, and her team fans out across the square.

“Of course I did,” Rin chides. “What do you think took me so long? It’s not like I was sitting inside finishing my burger.”

“You say that like it’s not totally something you would do,” Obito retorts. “If you had already ordered you would definitely have left me out here to get my ass kicked, don’t lie.”

Rin giggles like she’s not actually evil and wicked and the best thing that’s ever happened to Obito. “Well, those burgers looked really good,” she says lightly. “Besides, we beat it. Stop complaining.” Her gaze darts past Obito's shoulders and she straightens slightly, lifting her chin, and offers her polite work smile. “Ma’am. Thank you for coming.”

The dark-haired woman smiles back as she approaches, red eyes flickering from Rin to Obito and back again. “Miss Nohara?” she asks.

Rin nods. “I'm Rin Nohara, and this is my partner Obito Uchiha.”

His last name gets him a second, sharper glance, but the woman’s smile doesn’t waver. “Kurenai Yuuhi, Captain of the Paranormal Investigations Team, specifically scouting and first contact. You reported an undead?”

“A revenant,” Rin confirms. “I was in the shop over there, but Obito saw it and intervened before it could cause any damage. Once I saw the altercation, I joined him, and unsealed his magic so he could purify it.”

The woman’s shoulders tense, and though she doesn’t quite take a step back, the thought is there. “You're a Chain and Blade pair?” she asks sharply. “Miss Nohara, the law requires that Chains remain within five hundred feet of their Blades at all times—”

“I did, Captain.” Rin's smile takes on the certain shade of sweetness that means she’s starting to get truly angry. Obito takes a prudent step back to get out of the line of fire. “And I’ll freely admit I left Obito on his own for a moment. However, the law also requires that Chains look out for the mental and physical wellbeing of their Blades, especially in regards to public safety. Obito doesn’t do well with cramped or crowded spaces, so I went to get our lunch by myself, while he stayed on the bench beside the window. As for him moving to intervene with the revenant, that’s also covered under the mortal danger clause in the law—he saw a threat and stopped it, and was well within his rights to do so, even if it meant separating from me. Also, Obito is standing right here, and can actually hear you. You might want to address him with your questions about the fight, ma’am.”

It’s cute that Rin thinks he’s offended. Obito arches a brow at his fierce partner, who’s trying her best to seem unruffled but instead just looks like she’s fuming. They’ve had this conversation multiple times in the ten years they’ve been working together, and it never gets any less amusing. A lot of people treat Blades as something less than human, but Rin at least has never stood for it.

“It was a newly raised revenant,” he says to break the faintly sour silence. Yuuhi glances at him, still frowning, and Obito clarifies, “I saw it rise in that corner, and it immediately started hunting. There was a girl, about seventeen, blonde, with a long ponytail, and it latched onto her. I separated them and distracted it, but it was still weak and relatively slow. It wouldn’t answer my questions, even when I laid a compulsion on it.”

That makes her frown deepen, going from wary offense to intent concern. “You didn’t see another witch in the area? No other workings being done?”

Obito shakes his head, then glances at his partner and raises a brow. She hesitates, but finally says, “Nothing. I'm rather sensitive, but I didn’t feel anything until after it rose.”

Yuuhi sighs at that, running a hand through her hair and glancing back at her team. “Hagane, check over there,” she calls, gesturing to the corner Obito indicated before she turns back. “Are you willing to come down and give a statement? The Paranormal Research Agency is on the east side of the city, in the 5th District—”

Rin laughs a little, grinning. “We know,” she answers. “Obito and I are starting there tomorrow. It won't be that much of a hardship to go in a few hours early.”

The woman looks surprised. “Which division? Where are you transferring from?”

“Kiri,” Obito says when Rin looks at him, silently warning him to participate in the conversation or else. He rolls his eyes at his partner, who just gives him her cheeriest smile. “Into the Rapid Response Division.”

Dark brows wing upwards, and Yuuhi inclines her head. “Impressive. You're a combat pair, then?”

Rin turns that sunny smile on the other woman. “Our specialty is the undead and middle-tier demonic entities. Kiri had us as their primary assault team for bad situations.”

Very impressive,” Yuuhi corrects herself, her smile shading to wry. “Well, I'm glad you were on the scene. A revenant, even a new one, loose in this part of the city—I don’t even want to think how many people it could have killed before we managed to contain it. Thank you, Nohara, Uchiha.”

“Captain,” Rin returns politely. “We look forward to working with you.”

“As do I.” Yuuhi nods, then steps back. “I’ll get an officer the take you to the station. Excuse me.”

Rin watches her go, and once she’s safely out of earshot makes a sound of pure despair. “Ugh. Why are the hot ones always bigoted assholes?”

Obito laughs. “Like that’s ever stopped you before,” he teases.

Crossing her arms with a huff, Rin fixes him with her darkest glare. “Obito! I do not specifically pick—”

“Are we forgetting about Zabuza? Are we forgetting about Ameyuri? What about Karui? What about—”

Hecate, Obito, I am not that bad!”

Obito snorts, grinning at her indignant expression. “That fact that I have five other examples waiting to be listed would suggest otherwise.”

Rin sighs, lips twisting into something that she would definitely deny is a pout. “I like attractive people,” she defends. “If I could find someone hot and nice, I would jump their bones in a heartbeat. Besides, I need to make up for you, don’t I? Last time you deigned to so much as get coffee with someone—”

“No!” Obito yelps, attempting to head off this train wreck of a conversation. “No, no, no! We are talking about your inability to date, not mine. If we get on this subject you will never let it go, and I don’t want to be drummed up on charges of murder because—”

“I’d like to see you try,” Rin says sweetly, and bats her eyelashes at him for effect.

Obito is too smart to take her up on that. Thankfully, before he has to come up with another argument, someone behind them clears his throat, and they both turn to find a brown-haired man in a blue beanie waiting patiently. He gives them a cheerful smile and a wave, and says, “Hello! I'm Izumo Kamizuki. The captain asked me to give you a lift to the station.”

“Nice to meet you,” Rin answers, catching Obito's wrist and dragging him forward. “I'm Rin, and this is Obito. We’re ready when you are.”

“This way, then. We parked on the street.” Izumo leads them across the square and down a side-street to the main road, waving at a man with spiky black hair and witch-marks as they leave. The witch waves back, crouched down where the revenant rose with his hands glowing teal. Obito glances between them, judging power levels, and can't help but think that if the witch were twice as powerful, they’d be a Chain and Blade pair. Izumo feels like subtle misdirection, while the other—Hagane, Yuuhi called him—has an edge of catch-and-hold all wrapped up with the sensation of travel. Well-matched, the two of them, but even so Obito can't help but feel a flicker of gladness that they're not that strong, that there's no chance of Hagane going out of control if he’s not sealed.

Rin is the best thing that could have happened to a lost, angry young witch, at war with the world, but even so, Obito sometimes wishes it hadn’t been necessary.

As if sensing his thoughts—and maybe she is, because they’ve been friends since they were children and bound together since they were nineteen—Rin curls her arm around his and leans into his side a little. “Eyes on the horizon and keep walking,” she whispers, smiling gently at him, and Obito can't do anything except smile back.

“Always,” he agrees, and it’s their mantra, has been for so long that he can barely remember the first time she said it, but it still means just as much. It’s still one of the things that gets them both through nightmares and horrors and a decade fighting evil in its purest form. He squeezes her arm gently, and then lets go so she can slide into the passenger seat of Izumo's squad car, “Paranormal Research and Defense Agency” sketched out in neat, unobtrusive black lettering on the side. He takes the backseat, settling in as Izumo starts the car and eases away from the curb. Rather than watch the traffic, he closes his eyes, trying to remember all the details about the revenant that he might have skipped over during the fight.

The simple matter of its location is confusing; normally, witches summon revenants from the graveyards where the bodies are laid to rest. It’s easier that way, requires less power, and a revenant with a task will never waver from it, so they're easy to send elsewhere. Dark witches in Kiri had a tendency to camp out in the sewers and move their revenants that way, which was disgusting, but admittedly rather clever. Summoning a revenant through earth it wasn’t buried in, at a distance, with no line of sight—that’s not so clever, and a good way to court magical exhaustion as well. Obito can't understand why someone would do it.

The creature was hunting; that’s undeniable. That’s what revenants do, what they're summoned for. Each kill they make funnels life-energy back to the witch who raised them. The only reason it let Obito distract it from its task was because he had more energy than anyone else in the area. Had it been sent after someone specific, Obito would have had to contain it before he could destroy it. But…surely an older revenant, one adjusted to its new senses, would have been a better choice. The distance from whatever graveyard it was harvested from to a more populated are of Konoha would be more than enough to settle the magic of its creation, so why not do that? Why waste power on an ineffectual revenant? It’s stupid.

Granted, a lot of witches who go bad aren’t exactly playing with a full deck, but still. They tend to hoard their power, and that was the opposite of hoarding. Obito just doesn’t understand it, and not understanding makes him twitchy.

Ingrained instinct makes him open his eyes and check on Rin, even though there's nothing nearby that could conceivably want to hurt her. She’s fine, chattering excitedly with Izumo about the best places in the city to eat, but she feels his attention and casts a quick smile over her shoulder before going back to her conversation. Satisfied with that, Obito turns his attention to the city, studying landmarks that were once familiar but have now faded to a hazy memory.

Last time he left Konoha was in a flurry of hurt and horror and vicious, destructive anger, and honestly, if he didn’t have Rin, he wouldn’t be too far from that seventeen-year-old idiot. Her finding him, coming to look for him when he dropped out of contact, literally dragging him from that hellhole Madara kept him in—it saved him. His life, his sanity, any shred of decency left inside him—all of it is due to Rin.

They're back in Konoha because of her, too, and Obito can't even begin to feel any resentment for that fact. After all, Rin was unhappy in Kiri, hated the perpetual fog and the grim-grey city and the moss that grew everywhere, the undead infestation that never seemed to get any better no matter how much they fought. So he’d mentioned, carelessly, casually, that he really fucking missed the sun, and that they should put in for a transfer to somewhere sunny immediately, and hey, guess what city has the best climate?

So Konoha it is, even though Obito can't summon up more than a bare handful of happy memories about the place right now. Even those that were happy have been tainted, twisted by the way he left, and it’s Obito's fault, but…he was a kid. He was a kid, and Madara was an adult, a relative, so fucking sympathetic

Fingers brush the back of his hand, warm and familiar, and Obito jerks his head up, startled out of his dark thoughts. Rin casts him a soft smile over the back of her seat, sunlight catching in her brown hair and bringing out hints of red and gold. It’s second nature to smile back, the shadows slipping away, and suddenly the air in the car feels easier to breathe.

He was always weirded out by the idea of Chains, back when he was a magicless kid who was sure he knew everything. The thought of tying yourself to one person in a way so much more permanent and important than marriage, of never going more than five hundred feet from them, of giving them full permission and liberty to bind and control you—he couldn’t have imagined it. Most people can't.

Now, ten years after Rin set her seals into his skin for the first and last time, Obito honestly and literally can't imagine being without his Chain for even a moment.

He’s not in love with her, not anymore. That passed back when he was fourteen, because Rin is his best friend and his sister and their souls are tied together so tightly that it’s sometimes hard to tell that they're separate people at all. But he loves her more than he does anything in the entire world, knows that if he ever lost her and their bond didn’t drag him straight down into death after her, he’d unmake the world in order to forget her loss, if he didn’t just eat a gun immediately.

It scares him, sometimes, to think how far he’d go, so he tries not to contemplate it.

“Here we are,” Izumo says cheerfully, parking right in front of a flight of wide marble steps and shutting off the engine. “PRDA. Come on, I’ll get you started on your statements and then have someone show you around. Your desks might even be ready.”

“Thanks,” Rin says warmly, sliding out and stepping up onto the curb. “I hope we’re not inconveniencing anyone, coming in early like this.”

Inconveniencing them? We’re the ones that got rid of the damned revenant,” Obito mutters, following a step behind. Izumo shoots him a startled look, like he’s surprised to hear Obito speak, and Obito rolls his eyes. Really, the man had better get used to it; Obito isn’t one of those Blades who believes he should be seen and not heard. Rin doesn’t speak for him, even if he lets her when he’d rather not deal with idiots.

“Obito,” Rin huffs, though there's a faint smile pulling at her mouth that she’s trying to hide. “We just happened to be there. Get off your high horse, or I’ll knock you off it. Remember, I know where you sleep.”

“Ooh, scary,” Obito teases, just to see her scowl at him—though, if he’s perfectly honest, it kind of is. Rin puts bulldogs to shame where tenacity is concerned. “Going to short-sheet my bed? Put dye in my shampoo?”

Rin laughs. “I'm not twelve,” she retorts, grinning. “But you know, our new apartment is supposed to have a television, and I've just been dying to watch those soap operas you love so much twenty-four hours a day—”

“Aargh.” Obito grimaces and raises his hands in surrender. “All right, you win, no holding it over their heads. We are very, very grateful to them for putting up with the inconvenience of us saving lives and doing their jobs for them—”

“Obito!” But Rin is laughing again, so Obito counts that as his win. With a small grin in return, he tucks his hands into the pockets of his jacket and trails her as they head up the wide grey steps. She beams at him, turning to look over her shoulder just before they reach the door. “See? There you go, you look more cheerful already! That frown was about to start scaring small—ooph!”

Obito leaps forward, catching Rin before she can fall as she tumbles away from the asshole who knocked her down. “Watch it!” he snaps, bristling. “Who the hell just barges through a door without looking?”

“Maa, maa, I'm sorry, miss,” an impossibly, achingly familiar voice drawls. “Didn’t see you there.”

Obito freezes, fingers clamping down on Rin's arms, and he knows he should let go, ease the pressure, but he can't. It’s been twelve years since he heard that voice, painfully raised in their final fight, since he felt the ozone-sharpness of that presence, and—

Rin's fingers curl around his wrist, tight and grounding, and she breathes out carefully, deliberately. Automatically, Obito matches her, wrestling his emotions under control before he helps her back to her feet and pointedly steps away. Rin doesn’t need his help to keep her feet. She never has.

“Hello, Kakashi,” Rin says, looking up into the man’s face with one of her brightest smiles. “It’s been a long time.”

Obito tells himself that he’s not watching, but he still sees ash-grey eyes go wide. They sweep down, then flick back up, catch on Rin's face and hold there with a desperation that’s a little surprising. “Rin,” he says quietly, like he’s in shock. “You’re…here? Are you okay?”

At that Rin's smile turns a little cheeky. “Lieutenant Rin Nohara, reporting for duty,” she says cheerfully. “We just got into Konoha a few hours ago.”

“We?” Kakashi repeats, and his eyes flicker over to Obito's shoes. Slowly, slowly, they rise, and it takes far more effort than it should for Obito to hold them without flinching.

Chapter Text

There's a scar on Kakashi's face, tracing over his left eye in a vicious slash that goes halfway down his cheek—Obito's fault, the way a lot of things are.

It’s more jarring than it should be, to see it. Obito hadn’t quite forgotten that his magic did that, the first time it manifested, but…he hadn’t tried to remember all that often, either.

“Kakashi,” he says, and despite his desperate grasping for control it comes out rougher than he means it to. Then he immediately feels awkward, because the boy who left would have called him Bakashi, and then he feels awkward about feeling awkward, because why does it matter, and—

Thankfully, Rin saves him before he can make a fool out of himself yet again. She loops her arm through his and says with cheer that only Obito can recognize as false, “Yep! Obito is a sergeant now, but only because he kept pissing Ao off and getting skipped over for promotion.”

There's a long pause as Kakashi's sharp gaze flickers back and forth between them. Then he shifts, tucking his hands into his pockets and saying with studied indifference, “Oh? So Obito finally won you over? How long have you been together?”

Anger sparks, a fire-bright flare of wounded indignation, and Obito opens his mouth to say ten years, because that is the literal truth and Kakashi has always managed to bring out the petulant child in him. Before he can, though, Rin delivers a vicious pinch to the inside of his forearm and answers brightly, “We’re not dating, Kakashi. I'm his Chain.”

Obito tries to hide a wince, because apparently Rin is not about to let them get away with any dignity intact in this situation. “Shouldn’t we go give our statements?” he asks a little desperately, glancing at Izumo for support.

Unfortunately, the younger man just gives him a fairly weak smile and says, “It can wait, no worries. Captain Yuuhi won't be back for a while, and if Detective Hatake has the time, he can show you around better than I could.”

“Sure,” Kakashi says mildly, eyes still on Obito, who pointedly avoids looking back at him. “I’d be happy to.”

“Thanks, sir! I have to go find some information for the captain. If you’ll excuse me…” He waves, then ducks through the door, clearly relieved to get away from the tense meeting. Obito doesn’t blame him. If he could swing it, he’d go with Izumo, but if his Chain doesn’t move he can't, either.

Smile unwavering, Rin loops her free arm through Kakashi's and determinedly steers the two men into the building. Obito doesn’t even need to take a single glance at her to know she’s got her scheming face on, and that never ends well for him. “What department are you in, Kakashi?” she asks. “Have you been here long?”

“Six years,” Kakashi answers easily, but he’s always been good at controlling his voice. Even though he can't hear it, Obito can see the nearly painful mix of emotions lurking in his eyes as Kakashi glances at him sidelong. “I'm part of the Rapid Response Division. Rin, I know you're Obito's Chain, but is there any chance I could talk to him alone?”

“I,” Obito spits out through gritted teeth, “am right here. If you want to talk to me, Kakashi, fucking ask.”

“But you’ll just say no,” Kakashi points out, all unflappable, amused calm and impeccable logic.

“Maybe because I don’t want to talk to you,” Obito hisses, because in times of emotional turmoil his default response is either verbal aggression or kill it with fire. Often both.

Kakashi, the bastard, just gives him a bullshit smile that makes his eyes crinkle above his mask.

From between them, Rin makes a sound of amused despair. “You two never change,” she sighs, though she’s smiling. “Yes, Kakashi, you can talk. I’ll be a good girl and put my headphones in and everything. Obito.” Her warning glance has him snapping his mouth shut on the complaint that wants to come out. Rin is tiny and sweet and amazing, but she is also capable of fucking his shit up and he knows that intimately. In response, she pats his arm fondly. “Good. Now I mean this in the best way possible, but you need to grow some balls and take it like a man. You’ve been pining for ten years, and I am sick of it.”

Obito splutters, deeply offended by the implication—even though he knows she’s right. “Come on, Rin!” he says—it is not a whine, no matter what Rin's raised brow may imply. “We already had to toast a spontaneously-appearing revenant and missed lunch, and now you want to talk about feelings?”

Before Rin can answer, though, Kakashi comes to a sudden halt, dark eyes focusing on Obito. It makes the breath catch in his chest, because Kakashi is still an unfairly handsome bastard even twelve years later, and it’s not fair. “Spontaneous?” he asks, and the tone is just slightly less than lazy, but for Kakashi that’s the same as intense interest. “Did you see it rise?”

“Yeah,” Obito answers, a little startled by the attention. “South side, Cherry Tree Plaza. It came out of the shadows on the eastern edge of the square. There was no caster that Rin or I could sense, and it said ‘no master’ under a Compulsion of Three.” The pieces add up in his head, between Kakashi's rank, his interest, and the lack of any sort of surprise on his face. “This has happened before?”

Rin makes a startled noise, untangling herself from Kakashi to turn and stare at him.

“My current case,” Kakashi confirms. He strides towards a wide spiral of stairs, and Rin and Obito exchange a look before following quickly. “There have been six so far, and every one of the revenants has killed four people before it could be stopped. None of the witches on the force have been able to destroy them once they kill the first victim.”

“We’re good with undead,” Rin says without hubris, “but I hit it with one of my leech bullets and it didn’t even slow it down. That’s never happened before.”

“It did work,” Obito corrects, remembering the unfaltering crawl of violet magic over the revenant’s grey skin. “But something was renewing the magic as fast as your power ate it.”

In a move that’s so casual it hurts, Kakashi snags Obito's elbow and steers him towards a long room off to the left. There are desks set up bullpen-style, several occupied, and Kakashi leads them to a pair set beside a wide window. Files are stacked high across it, and a map of the city has been tacked up on a corkboard standing close by. It’s only then that Kakashi lets go, and he still lets his fingers linger on Obito's arm just a little longer than a simple friend would.

Obito pretends he doesn’t notice it, but—

But he’s not a stupid little kid anymore. He’s not so blind to emotion. He’s not seventeen, shaken by the sudden appearance of an impossibly, dangerously strong magic, crushed by his very first boyfriend’s lack of understanding, swayed by his relative to believe that everything could be fixed with a bit more power.

He’s twenty-nine, tired and battered and more than a little broken, and…he’s missed Kakashi. Even twelve years later, when all logic says that bit of the past should be over and done with, that Obito most thoroughly burned those bridges a long time ago, he still remembers them as one of the few bright points about Konoha.

With his gaze, Obito follows the path of Kakashi's hand as he pulls it away, and when he looks up grey eyes are watching him again.

Still, Kakashi doesn’t address the slip. He glances at Rin before his eyes shift back to Obito, and says, “We’ve noticed the same thing. No matter what spells we throw at these things, they shake it off. How did you manage to kill it?”

“We’re a Chain and Blade,” Obito huffs. “How do you think we killed it?”

Rin sighs, rolls her eyes, and pokes him in the side. “With fire,” she clarifies. “Obito's magic reacted unconsciously when he left an opening and defended him. There were only ashes left. Completely purified.”

Kakashi makes a thoughtful sound. “I don’t think there are any fire-workers on the force who are strong enough to do that. Not without a lot of gasoline. Could you do it consciously?”

“Of course,” Obito snaps, bristling. “I'm not—”

“Obito,” Rin cuts in sharply, and he takes a breath and looks away, getting his temper back under control.

“Yes. Easily,” he confirms when it is. “But if whoever is raising these things is making sure to kill a certain number before they release them, there's a reason behind it. Given that they're taking four lives each time, you don’t want to let it happen again.”

“Four is significant?” Kakashi asks, flipping through a pile of folders and pulling out ID files. “These are the victims. Can you see a connection that we would have missed?”

Rin takes them, even as she shakes her head. “There won't be one, not beyond a revenant’s normal hunting pattern of aiming for those with the strongest presence. The victims are random.”

“It’s the number that isn’t,” Obito adds, leaning over her shoulder. She waves him away in annoyance, and he retaliates by tugging on her hair. “Four means death. Most other numbers have multiple meanings, but that one’s pretty cut and dried. If you go back a few hundred years, you’ll get other interpretations, but in modern numerology that’s the only one that really matters. Whatever witch is commanding the revenants, I’d bet they're building power, storing the energy gained for something big.”

“Fantastic,” Kakashi says dryly. “Consider yourselves drafted, you're now on the team trying to solve this. I’ll clear it with the captain, but for now, pull up a chair. You’ve got a lot to catch up on, and the revenants appear every three days, so we’re on a time limit.”

Obito wants to protest. They haven’t even been to their new apartment yet, have no idea whether the moving company actually managed to drop off their boxes in the right building. He’s hungry, tired from six hours on a train, aching where the revenant scratched him, but…

This is the job. After he and Rin dragged each other out of the hell that was Madara's Academy, they swore they would never become what he wanted them to be. They’d only do good, would hunt down everyone they could find who did evil and bring them to justice.

This is the reason for their magic, and Obito can never let himself forget that.

“Right,” he sighs, and snags chairs from the nearest empty desks as Rin starts digging through the files. She flashes him a weary smile, opening her mouth, but before she can say anything Obito leans in and kisses her on the forehead. “I know, I know. Eyes on the horizon, keep walking. We’ll make it, Rin-rin.”

She swats at him halfheartedly, clearly trying not to smile. “Don’t call me that, I'm not a bell, you jerk.”

Because he is a mature and capable adult, Obito sticks his tongue out at her, making her laugh. When he looks up, Kakashi is watching, an unreadable emotion in his eyes.

(Maybe Obito could read it if he tried, but…he thinks he might be better off without knowing. Losing Kakashi once almost broke him, way back before everything.

Now, with all the scars on face reflecting the ones on his soul and the demons whispering in his head, Obito knows losing him would be much, much worse. For his own sake, for Rin's, he just…can't risk it.)

Taking a breath and tearing his gaze away, he turns back to the files and buries himself in the work.

 

 

Kakashi is a genius workaholic perfectionist, and Obito is sure all three of those traits have served him admirably in his chosen profession. However, they also make for piles upon piles of information, everything that could possibly be relevant or related or tangentially coincidental. The stacks drowning his desk are only the beginning; there are boxes more, reports going back a full century about similar incidents, full profiles on all victims, and whole novels worth of paper with intricately detailed readings, both scientific and magical, on every inch of the six crime scenes.

An hour in, Obito is just about ready to scream.

It is, granted, a distraction from any thoughts beyond bloody, gruesome deaths and possible mystical alignments with particular planets, but Obito rather wishes there was a middle ground somewhere. The level of concentration required to build full pictures of each attack leaves little room for thoughts of his ex-boyfriend, and even less time for Kakashi to try and corner him somewhere out of the way. To his credit, Kakashi doesn’t seem to be trying, not that Obito really expected differently; for all the personality flaws Kakashi plays up so well, he’s dutiful, devoted.

There's food, at some point. One of Kakashi's friends—a tall, dark-haired detective with slanted brown eyes—brings it in, though Obito is so involved in a report on the different psychometric readings a consultant witch did that he doesn’t even taste it, let alone remember the contents of his take-out container five minutes later.

Sometime after midnight, while Obito is dragging himself inch by dry inch through a mind-numbing history of each city landmark where the attacks happened, Rin—who despite Madara's best efforts lacks the enhanced stamina that comes naturally to Blades—taps him three times on the arm, then curls up in her chair, drops her head into his lap, and goes to sleep in an instant. Obito smiles but keeps reading, absently carding his fingers through her short hair as he does.

The sharp gaze that’s lingered on him periodically throughout the night return, curious and thoughtful, and Obito doesn’t bother looking up as he rolls his eyes. “We’re not sleeping together,” he says flatly, though he keeps his voice low. Rin doesn’t stir, but then, he didn’t expect her to. This is their usual way of sleeping on the job—Obito takes the first shift, letting Rin sleep, and in three hours he’ll wake her and they’ll trade off. It’s a habit from the Academy, and neither of them has seen fit to change it yet.

There's a long moment of silence, so long that Obito is almost lulled into a false sense of security thinking the matter is dropped, but then Kakashi says equally quietly, “You never told me you were a Blade.”

It takes effort, but Obito doesn’t spit out the sharp retort that wants to be spoken. He shuffles through his options—you never asked; given what we screamed at each other I got the distinct impression that you never actually wanted to know; must have slipped my mind; turns out hell doesn’t let you send postcards, and they really hate it when you call collect—and reluctantly dismisses all of them in favor of a wordless shrug.

There's a sharp inhale, and when Kakashi speaks again, the perfectly even tone is gone, edged with a bite. “Obito, I thought both of you were dead.

That makes Obito jerk his head up, truly surprised. From a distance it might look as if Kakashi were still hanging on to his composure, but Obito can see the sudden wildness in his steady stare, the flicker of grief that says he isn’t exaggerating. And…Obito hesitates, just for a moment as he thinks about it. At seventeen he’d stormed out of their apartment, no longer shared, and Madara had taken him away to the middle of nowhere with eight other witch-children. There was no contact with the outside world, just work, just Madara's brutal and horrifying training, honing their skills and proving themselves or suffering for it.

Two years later, shaken, soaked, and shivering, Rin had shown up on the doorstep of the Academy, demanding to see Obito, and Madara had recognized her value. He’d taken her in, a Chain for a particularly troublesome and valuable Blade, completely disposable if Obito accidentally killed her the way he had his last Chain. But he hadn’t, and then they’d both been stuck.

They’d huddled together in the darkness, scared children facing down a merciless monster, but it hadn’t been forever. The Academy collapsed a bare year later, taking Madara with it, and he and Rin had been rescued by one of Kiri's border patrols. Until now, they’ve only rarely left the island chain, and they certainly never sent out notices of their location.

(What if, they always thought. What if he survived? What if he finds us again? What if he takes us back?)

Obito supposes that to anyone else, it really would look like they died, vanished right off the face of the earth and were gone forever.

“We never meant for you to think that,” he says, quiet, rough. “I—we got into a bad situation. It took us a while to recover. Sorry.”

It’s stupid to apologize—the words will never heal the hurt, undo the trauma. There's only moving forward, only forging ahead.

Eyes on the horizon and keep walking.

There's a soft huff of what could almost, almost be laughter from Kakashi. “I didn’t even know Rin was looking for you, before she left. She found you?”

“She did.” Obito smiles down at his partner, remembering his first glimpse of her. Soaking wet, eyes full of fire, with her violet magic sparking around her as she staggered across the small room and threw herself into his arms. After two years with Madara it was entirely unexpected and foreign for touch not to cause pain. Strange, to have someone cry for him so freely. Another thing that saved him, in the end. “I—she’s the only reason I survived. We should have said something afterwards, let people know, but—I couldn’t. We couldn’t. I never expected to be a Blade, Kakashi, and Rin sure as hell never expected to be a Chain. It took…adjusting.”

The silence stretches out, fraught but somehow not uncomfortable, and then Kakashi says very quietly, “I missed you.”

Obito's breath catches. With a sigh he puts down the papers he was holding and rubs his hands over his face, fingers scraping over the twisted scars on the right side. He doesn’t say anything, can't, and in the dim light of the lamps beside the desk it feels like they're the only two people awake in the entire world.

Kakashi seems to take his silence as an invitation to go on. “Do you have any idea what it was like, Obito? I've spent the last twelve years thinking that the last thing I ever said to you was that we would be fine as long as you just pretended nothing had changed. I asked you to deny who you were, to push your magic down because I didn’t want my freedom taken away like that, because I was so caught up in hating what we both were, and—then you were gone.”

Obito doesn’t cry as easily as he used to, not after everything, but his eyes are stinging right now, and there's a suspicious heat behind them. He swallows, hands still pressed over his face, and breathes out slowly. “It wasn’t fair of me,” he says roughly. “It—I can see that now. I shouldn’t have asked you. We were just kids, and we both overreacted. It’s no one’s fault, and I've never blamed you.”

Long, callused fingers catch Obito's, tugging them away from his face, and he looks up to find Kakashi right in front of him, crouched on the ground. With a small smile that’s obvious even through the mask, Kakashi pulls his hands forward, placing a gentle kiss on each of the knuckles.

“That’s not fair,” Obito tells him sharply. “Kakashi—”

“I've spent twelve years thinking you were dead,” Kakashi murmurs. “Twelve years thinking every damned day about what I should have done differently, or what I’d do if I ever somehow managed to find you again.” He rises to his feet, bracing one hand on the back of Obito's chair as he leans forward. “I loved you then, Obito, even if I was an idiot about it, and I still love you now. What you do with that is up to you.” Carefully, he tugs his mask down and dips his head, slanting an impossibly, maddeningly light kiss over Obito's lips before he pulls away again, straightening and stepping past him with a murmured excuse about getting more coffee.

Obito watches him go, heart in his throat and butterflies in his stomach, mind curiously blank. After a long moment he swallows, then presses his fingers over his lips.

In his lap, Rin opens one eye. “Can I stop pretending to be asleep now?” she asks cheekily.

It startles a huff of laughter out of him, and Obito swats her lightly on the shoulder. “You're terrible,” he informs her. “The absolute worst.

Rin beams at him, sitting up and stretching. “I try,” she demurs, then fixes him with her most gutting stare and adds, “Don’t think I'm not fully aware of what’s going on in that ridiculous head of yours, Obito. If you don’t want to be with Kakashi again, then don’t, but whatever you choose don’t base it on me. I want you to be happy, and if he makes you happy, that’s all I need.”

“It’s not that simple, Rin,” Obito protests. “We’re nothing like the people we used to be. I'm a Blade, there's no way anyone can deal with that—”

She harrumphs, crossing her arms over her chest. “What about me?” she retorts tartly. “Obito, you are still a knuckle-headed idiot who tries to help too many people and gets in over his head. That hasn’t changed, just the wrapping. I'm sure it’s the same for Kakashi, given the way you two still flirt violently.” She pauses, then sighs, and reaches out to cup Obito's cheek in her palm. A little wistfully, she says, “I remember how much you loved him, Obito. After everything we’ve seen, after everything we’ve done, even if it’s unforgivably selfish, don’t you think you should try to hold on to that?”

Obito smiles helplessly, leaning into her touch. “How come you’re so smart?” he jokes. “It’s not fair that you get the looks and the brains, Rin-rin.”

Gently, Rin flicks him in the forehead, then pulls away. “Back to work,” she sighs, rolling her shoulders.

“If you want to sleep longer—” Obito starts, but she shakes her head.

“No, I'm up now,” Rin says cheerfully. “Though I think I would actually murder someone for a cup of coffee right now.”

“Since this is technically a police station, maybe keep your voice down when you’re plotting homicide,” Kakashi says, dry as dust, as he sets three paper cups down on the desk. Obito snatches the closest one with a sound of triumph, and when Rin makes grabby hands at it he glares.

“Get your own,” he protests. “It’s right there, you harpy.”

Rin pouts at him, using her puppy dog eyes to full and devastating effect. “But yours always tastes better, Obito,” she counters, and puts a deliberate tremble in her lower lip. “Please?”

With a groan of disgusted defeat, Obito passes his cup over to a victorious Rin and takes a different one. “Not a word,” he warns Kakashi, who looks far too amused for his peace of mind.

Kakashi hums quietly in a way that says he is one hundred percent judging Obito for sure, but keeps his mouth shut. “Any ideas so far?” he asks.

Rin sets her half-empty cup on the desk, looking thoughtful. “Well, obviously this witch is working with numerology. So if we extrapolate that out from the number of victims…”

“Three days between attacks is also significant,” Obito finishes, catching the direction of her thoughts. “Maybe even the number of attacks. Six could either be two sets of three, and the one revenant we stopped was the start of the next set, or—”

“He’s aiming for seven.” Rin blows out a breath and grimaces, rubbing her palms across her thighs. “And if that’s the case, we interrupted him right before he reached his goal.”

“We don’t know that,” Obito counters. “He could be aiming for nine, or thirteen. It depends on the intent of the ritual.”

Settling into the chair on the other side of the desk, Kakashi glances back and forth between them. “You're sure that it’s a ritual?”

Faintly offended, Obito waves a hand. “Well, what else could it be?” he demands. “A certain number of kills, random attacks, weird circumstances…I can't think of anything else that fits the profile. Besides, it’s relatively easy to create a new ritual if you know what you’re doing, and this bastard obviously does.”

“Let’s assume it’s the worst case scenario, and they're aiming for seven sets of four deaths,” Kakashi says, grabbing a pen and starting to write. “You interrupted them, so what happens now?”

Rin starts outlining the significance of various numbers and how the witch could possibly compensate for a broken series. Obito leaves her to it, because she’s always been better at numerology, and instead pushes to his feet, wandering over to study the city map. The six attacks are indicated with different colors of pins, smaller pins in the same shade marking where each victim was killed. There's no pattern that Obito can see right off, but he studies it with a frown, because something has been gnawing away at the back of his brain since they got here.

One attack in the middle of a busy intersection. Another in a quiet residential neighborhood. A third next to a bus stop. A fourth on a college campus. A fifth beside the river, in a popular picnic spot. A sixth just outside City Hall. And the seventh in a quiet plaza a few blocks from the train station. There's no connection, not between any of them, not in the modern day and not in history. Just…

 Obito blinks and takes a step back.

Before he can lose the thought, he snatches up a red marker from Kakashi's desk and uncaps it, then draws an X over each of the attacks. A moment to dredge up the memory of a dull grey cement room, maps with heavy red lines covering the walls, Madara looming in the background, and Obito leans forward, dragging the pen across the city. Without hesitating, he moves on to the next line, the next, the next.

Every single one of the attacks falls on a point where two lines cross.

“Rin,” he says sharply.

Instantly, she turns, already halfway to her feet by the time he finishes speaking. Her eyes catch on the map, going wide, and she takes a hurried step closer, expression settling into something fierce. With a laugh, she punches him lightly in the shoulder and orders, “Never tell me I've got all the brains again, Obito. You're a genius!”

Kakashi makes a sound that’s somewhere between annoyed and amused as he rises as well. “Would someone without a mental connection care to tell me why you just defaced my map?” he asks mildly.

Obito leans in, laying a fingertip over Cherry Blossom Plaza. “Leylines,” he says with some disbelief. “The bastard is using leylines. That’s how they can summon revenants at such a distance, and why the revenants don’t think they have a master. The one I questioned wasn’t unable to answer because someone was blocking it, but because as far as it knew it came directly from a leyline, not a witch.”

“I thought leylines were theoretical,” Kakashi points out. “No one has managed to tap into them before.”

Smiling wryly, Obito exchanges a glance with Rin. The expression is mirrored on her face, in her eyes, and he…regrets it. “Two hundred years ago, witchcraft was theoretical too. But our magical education was a lot more thorough than most people’s,” he says. “Trust me, it’s possible. And if Madara found out how to do it, I'm sure someone else managed it, too.”

“Madara?” Kakashi asks sharply, latching onto that like a dog onto a bone. “Madara Uchiha? The one your family disowned for being insane?”

“He also had some interesting thoughts on the creation and training of Chain and Blade pairs,” Rin says, and her smile is so forced that it hurts to see. “And our purposes.”

It looks like Kakashi is adding all the pieces up in his head, but before he can say anything, there's a commotion outside the room. Half an instant later a familiar blond man leans around the doorway, and waves.

“Rin, Obito,” Minato Namikaze says warmly, though his eyes are still serious above his smile. “Sorry to interrupt the reunion, but we’ve got a situation. There are reports of multiple revenants and servants rising in the west district. I want all RRD members down there helping contain them. Kakashi, can you take them?”

“Yes, sir,” Kakashi says simply.

“Where did the risings start?” Obito asks before Minato can leave again. “Do you know?”

Minato looks slightly surprised, but nods. “Where Broadway and Tanzaku Avenue meet,” he answers. From the hall, someone calls his name, and he ducks away with an apologetic smile.

Obito wastes no time turning and drawing an X on the map in the correct spot. It’s another place where leylines cross, but this time three meet instead of just two.

The witch setting up at an intersection would be foreboding enough. At a nexus like this? He doesn’t even want to think what they could do with that kind of power.

“This is bad,” he mutters, staring at the spot. “Rin, you have enough clips?”

Rin checks her pockets and nods. “Four primed, and another two ready,” she confirms. “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

Kakashi leads them out of the bullpen, down the stairs at a fast clip, and then down another flight of steps to the parking garage. There's a younger man with a high ponytail and a scar across his nose waiting with car keys, and he tosses one set to Kakashi as the grey-haired detective passes.

“Dispatch wants you to start at 5th Street and work your way in towards the center, Kakashi,” he calls to the man’s retreating back. Kakashi waves to show he heard and ducks into the car, starting the engine. Obito throws himself into the passenger seat as Rin ducks into the back, and Kakashi barely waits for them to get the doors closed before he’s pulling out.

“Do you two have a system for things like this?” he asks, taking a sharp right onto the street, then switching on the lights and flooring it.

Given that Zabuza’s driving is roughly a thousand times worse and they suffered it practically every day in Kiri, Obito doesn’t even flinch, and instead turns his attention to fishing charms and amulets out of his pockets. One of the shielding charms he tosses back to Rin, recognizing it as hers, and gets a misdirection pendant thrown at his head in return. “Kill everything that looks like an undead?” he suggests, stripping off his coat and button-up shirt, since they're just about the only nice clothes he owns. It’s a little cold for a tank top, but Obito will likely be throwing around enough fire magic that he won't notice.

“Eyes on the road, Kakashi!” Rin orders, and Kakashi jerks the wheel straight again with a slightly guilty flush. She snorts, ejecting the clip from her handgun, pocketing it, and sliding another into place. “I know Obito is sexy, but if we could get to the outbreak of undead without joining their ranks, I’d appreciate it.”

At that, Obito flushes too. “Rin,” he protests, but she just laughs, and the violet glow of her magic fills the backseat as she tests her strength. “All right?” he asks, faintly concerned, because she got maybe half an hour of sleep at the most, and they’ve had a long day.

He can see her smiling at him in the rearview mirror. “I'm fine, Obito, stop fretting. Kakashi, what are you best with?”

“Still electricity,” Kakashi answers, double-parking and shutting the engine off, though he leaves the police lights on. In their shifting flashes of red and blue, Obito can see dark forms scattered across the street. There are no pedestrians, and he hopes that they all managed to run, given the alternative. “And a minor talent for earth. You two?”

At that, Obito has to laugh. “We’re a Chain and Blade,” he reminds the other man as he opens the door and steps out. “We’re good with pretty much everything. Cover our backs. We’ve got the front. Rin?”

She joins him, violet light already crackling around her fingertips. “Right,” she says determinedly. “Unseal!”

The runes on his skin flare, then fade, and Obito takes a full breath. His magic dances along his skin, bloody-orange and getting brighter, and he glances at his partner. Rin nods, bringing up her gun, and Obito darts forward with her at his shoulder. The first group of revenants lunges from the shadows of an overturned stand, and Obito leaps for them, fire sparking. It explodes in a billow of blue-white, lashing out, and Obito twists around charred corpses as they drop. On his right, Rin spins and plants her feet, firing twice. Tight knots of silver light whirl into the dark, striking a skeletal, red-skinned servant squarely in the chest, and it screams, bursting like a smoke bomb going off.

Even as it dies, Rin twists back to the front, purple magic blooming into a bubble with a flick of her fingers, and a second low-level demon bounces off it. Obito sweeps between them, lashing out with one foot to drive it back. In the wake of his high kick rose vines burst from the cement, wrapping around the servant and dragging it down. Another bullet from Rin finishes the job.

“Such a romantic!” she calls, laughing, and Obito grins, throwing himself forward. He summersaults right underneath a revenant’s grabbing hands and comes up with a surge of fire following. Rin shouts a word that echoes with power, and an instant later wind howls down the street, making the fire burst into a sheet of flame that catches wherever it touches dead flesh.

Behind them, a loud crackle of electricity and the smell of ozone announces that Kakashi is keeping up. Obito risks a quick glance back to see a trio of revenants falling without heads, and flicks a handful of flames at them to be sure they won't rise again. Kakashi offers him a crinkle-eyed smile, then flexes a hand, sparks of yellow-white light still dancing around it. “Forward?” he suggests.

“Always,” Rin agrees. “Obito, up ahead—get behind them, and we’ll catch them between us.”

Obito doesn’t pause to acknowledge, but calls up a surge of blaze-bright power and wraps himself in it, focusing on the far end of the street where several uniformed agents are struggling to hold back a flood of revenants. “Be careful,” he tells her and Kakashi equally, and closes his eyes and jumps.

Even among Blades, teleportation is a rare skill. Blades are unusual to begin with, witches with magic stronger than their bodies can contain without a Chain’s help, able to do without thought things that other witches need rituals and days of preparation for, and none of the others Obito has met can match him and Rin. He wonders, sometimes, how much if it is Madara's doing, and how much of it is just them, but it doesn’t matter.

In a blaze of red-orange light, he appears right in front of a struggling witch who’s trying to fight even with a revenant’s hand around his throat, and charges.

Magic is easy. Fighting like this—no holding back, no mercy, just targets and clear purpose and an undeniable reason—is even easier.

He passes right through the startled witch like a ghost, wrenching dead fingers from living skin and sending fire crawling across reanimated limbs. The creature wails, low and eerie, as it staggers back, but Obito ducks around it, dismissing the heat and stench of burning meat. A servant has another agent pinned, ignoring the bullets that are peppering its skin as it leans over her, ready to steal her soul, and Obito lashes out, orange light coalescing into a razor-edged curve as it leaves his fingertips. The magic tears through leathery skin and the demon disappears in a whirl of smoke.

Darts of violet light miss Obito by inches, headed for another pair of revenants harrying a bleeding witch, and Obito raises his voice to shout above the clamor, “Their regeneration?”

“Not working!” Rin shouts back, even as another pinpoint shot hits a servant in its third eye. The creature screams as Rin's magic greedily devours it, leaving only the faint smell of brimstone behind. “I think there are too many!”

There really are. Obito can see the fighting ranging across the streets around them as the summoned creatures push out towards the inhabited areas. This isn’t an attack like the others—this is the final sally, buying time for whatever working is being done. They need to find the witch behind this before things spread further. Only witches can kill revenants, and while Obito knows that witches are as common as baseline humans now that the Purges have stopped, he doesn’t want to take the risk of setting the undead creatures on the general population.

Taking a breath, he focuses and reaches out, spreading his fingers. All around the street, revenants burst into white-hot flame that flares skyward and then goes out in an instant. It’s a feat of precise control and massive strength that no one but a Blade could manage, but Obito still staggers as he releases the spell, vision wavering and breath suddenly short. Instantly, there's an arm around his waist, hauling him back upright, and a familiar voice in his ear.

“Steady, steady,” Kakashi murmurs, flicking his fingers. Lightning leaps away, striking a servant and making it screech and disappear into smoke. “Are you all right?”

“Fine,” Obito huffs, though he doesn’t try to stand on his own quite yet. A controlled burst of gunshots heralds Rin's arrival a moment later, and she skids to a halt beside them, ejecting her empty clip and slamming a new one home with practiced ease.

“Smart,” she tells Obito, sounding faintly breathless as well. “Anyone with blessed steel can kill a servant, so that bought us some breathing room. Now we need to find the caster. Any ideas?”

“Where exactly do the leylines cross?” Kakashi asks, shifting Obito's arm over his shoulder so they can walk more easily. “Would the witch need proximity?”

Rin and Obito trade glances. “Yes,” Rin confirms. “For something this big, they’ll have to have set up right on top of the nexus. Obito, do you need a boost before we go?”

“I'm fine,” Obito insists, pulling away from Kakashi to stand on his own. His head only spins a little, so he gives Rin a faint smile and nods. They’ve both fought in worse condition. “Come on, the nexus was this way, in an old theater.”

“The Historical Society is going to love that,” Kakashi says dryly, but he keeps to Obito's left as they hurry down the street. “Rin, where did you get those bullets? I want some.”

Rin laughs, pausing for half a second to dispatch another demon. “That’s my main talent,” she explains. “I can bind magic to inanimate objects. The leech bullets are mine, from my secondary talent, and the rest I have Obito fill with different attributes. They only work for me, though.”

Kakashi's face pulls into a childish expression of disappointment. “Ah, how disappointing. You're like a superhero with those.”

“Ignoring the fact that I'm the Blade in this relationship?” Obito mutters, peeved. “Because teleportation isn’t cool at all.”

Because she’s undeniably evil, Rin beams sunnily at him, then veers right. “Over here,” she calls, rounding the theater. “There has to be a back door somewhere.”

There is one, and it’s even standing open, the heavy padlock snapped and discarded on the ground. Obito eyes it before running a glowing hand over the threshold, checking for traps or alarms. There's only one, a hex with enough force behind it to kill if triggered, and he shatters it with a scowl. “Clear. Should we split up and look for them?”

“Split up?” Rin asks dubiously. “In a dark, creepy theater, with an evil witch on the loose? I'm aware that horror movies scare you, Obito, but I know I've made you watch at least a few with me—at the bare minimum enough for you to realize what a terrible idea that is.”

“They do not!” Obito protests. “Just because I like comedies—”

“Romantic comedies,” Kakashi puts in helpfully.

“—doesn’t mean your stupid horror movies scare me!” Obito finishes, ignoring the other man pointedly.

“Fine,” Rin says sweetly, her expression perfectly innocent. “Let’s have a horror movie marathon as soon as we get the TV set up. When you admit you're scared, I win, and we can stop watching.”

“Fine,” Obito spits back, then realizes what he just agreed to and swallows a loud groan of mixed self-disgust and deep despair.

Rin just smiles triumphantly. “You're invited too, Kakashi,” she informs their friend. “I'm sure Obito could use someone to cling to when the terror gets too much for him, after all.”

Kakashi looks about three shades more cheerful at the mere thought of it. “You're too kind,” he says, crinkling his eyes at her in a hidden smile.

“I hate you,” Obito hisses, even as he summons a veil around the three of them. “You’re a terrible, awful, wicked person and I can't believe I'm friends with you.”

Of course, Rin just laughs, leaning in to kiss his cheek. “I love you too, Obito,” she says cheerfully. “Now, the witch?”

Stretching out his senses, Obito concentrates for a moment. Leylines aren’t something even a Blade can sense, not without an excess of preparations and rituals. Even so, there's a brief instant when the leylines’ magic shifts into something more recognizable, just before it’s funneled out into the city to raise more revenants.

“Got you,” Obito mutters, viciously satisfied, and stalks forward into the darkness. Wisps of magic slips across his skin, the veil concealing them from whatever technological or magical security might be watching, but beyond the gossamer feel of his own power is a darker, harsher presence, heavy and watchful. Behind him, both Rin and Kakashi feel wary. Rin has her gun out and ready, finger hovering near the trigger, and there are sparks leaping over the backs of Kakashi's hands, blinding-bright in the gloom.

And then—

A chant, soft but eerie enough to raise Obito's hackles, and he freezes. Half a second to be certain it’s what he thinks it is and his gaze darts back to Rin, who looks paler than she did a moment ago. Her lips part, shaping a name, and Obito nods grimly. He sends more power into the veil, shielding sound as well as sight, and says, “It’s Hidan.”

“You know him?” Kakashi asks, and Obito nods.

“He was…another student,” he manages. “Follows the Cult of Jashin, which worships death. I thought this was a distraction from his real goal, but since it’s him, this must have been the plan all along. He’s going to flood the city with revenants, and every time they kill another person he gets a new body to raise. But if he’s here…”

“So is his Chain,” Rin finishes quietly, and Kakashi's brows rise sharply. She meets Obito's gaze a little helplessly, then looks at Kakashi. “They won't fight together, even though they have to stay close—they hate each other, and they're only bound because Madara forced them to be.” She pauses, biting her lower lip, and asks, “Obito, with this much power—do you think…?”

She doesn’t have to finish. It takes massive amounts of energy to break the bond between a Chain and a Blade without one of them dying in the process. Madara was thorough, as much as Obito hates to think anything even vaguely complimentary about the bastard. He wouldn’t have made it easy for any of his students to wiggle out of their seals.

“A leyline nexus would be just about the only thing that could, I think,” he admits, rubbing a hand over his eyes. “Damn it. Fucking fantastic. And I can't even blame the bastards for trying.”

“I feel like I've been saying this a lot,” Kakashi says mildly, “but the translation for those of us not sharing brain-space?”

Obito breathes out sharply. “When I left, Madara took me to a…a school,” he manages. “Or a training camp, maybe. He just called it the Academy. There were eight other witches there, and four of them were like me, Blades who had just come in to their power. All the others were paired up with Chains, whether they wanted to be or not. I got lucky—at first Madara wanted a Blade who could function on their own. By the time he’d given up on that, Rin found me.”

“Part of being a functioning Blade and Chain pair is trust,” Rin adds softly, sadly. “Some of the matches Madara made were good. The others…well. Hidan and Kakuzu could never stand each other, and Madara made their bonds stronger than most. If they want to break the connection, this is probably the only way to do it, since they both specialize in the undead. With a whole city’s worth of revenants and servants reflecting and amplifying their power, they might be able to escape.”

Kakashi looks between them for a moment, expression grimly blank, and says, “We can't let them finish. Even if you understand their reasons, it doesn’t excuse thousands of innocent people dying.”

“I know that,” Obito answers, looking away in frustration. “It’s just—hard to think about.” He shakes himself and turns back towards the source of the energy. “Leave them to us, Kakashi. You need to deconstruct whatever ritual they're using and see if you can send the undead back to their graves.”

“Just what I've always wanted to do with my life,” Kakashi says dryly, stepping forward. Taking a breath to steel himself, Obito moves with him, Rin sliding smoothly into place on his other side. The chanting is echoing from up ahead, through an open doorway, and Obito snorts when he sees the plaque outside.

“Of course the showy bastards would set up on the literal main stage,” he mutters, and Rin chuckles, Kakashi huffing out a soft laugh. Obito casts them both a quick smile, motions Kakashi back a step, and slips into the room.

There are candles everywhere, tall and thin and black, and the sheer amount of negative energy being put out makes Obito grimace. He follows the lines down to the center, where a familiar silver-haired figure is seated cross-legged inside a circle of runes. Kakuzu is prowling around the edges like a starving wolf, eyes on his Blade and expression impatient. He keeps fingering the long knife at his belt, as though itching to use it, but Obito remembers when they were first bound and knows that wouldn’t do any good. Kakuzu’s magic makes him like a revenant, able to replace whatever limbs or organs get damaged, and Hidan is practically immortal unless his body is destroyed completely.

A hand touches his elbow, and Obito glances down to see Rin watching him. She touches her chest and then gestures at Kakuzu, and it’s easy to read the meaning in the knife-sharp intent written across her face. Hidan is almost impossible to kill, but if Obito distracts him and stops him coming to Kakuzu’s aid, Rin can take out the other Chain and kill them both in one blow. She’s a strong witch in her own right, and with their bond to bounce power back and forth between them, endlessly amplifying it, Obito is more than willing to put his money on Rin. He nods, and she gives a tigress’s smile and flips the safety off on her gun.

With a glance back to check that Kakashi is still out of sight, maintaining his advantage of surprise, Obito takes a breath and banishes his veil. Instantly, Rin brings her gun up, squeezing the trigger, and pale blue light explodes from the muzzle—not aimed for Kakuzu, who’s already spun to face them, but Hidan. The bullet hits him squarely, a perfect headshot that hurls him back and sends him sprawling half in and half out of the circle.

Not wasting a moment of their advantage, Obito throws himself forward, vanishing in a flare of orange light. He comes out right in front of Hidan as the Jashinist is staggering to his feet, and hurls as big a handful of fire as he can grasp directly into the other man’s face. Hidan cries out, staggering back, and before he can recover Obito sweeps his legs out from underneath him, dodges the swipe of a trench knife as Hidan goes down again, and snatches the other Blade’s ankle. Teleporting two people is harder than just managing himself, but Obito does it anyway. Letting Hidan stay near a ritual like this, one powered by and attuned to death, is only asking for trouble.

Three gunshots in quick succession and a pained roar from Kakuzu greet them as they spill back into realty, now at the far end of the room. Obito tumbles away from Hidan’s furious surge of grey magic, and the undirected blast strikes the chairs behind him. In an instant they age, visibly crumbling until only fine powder is left, and Obito skirts the pile warily, keeping his eyes on Hidan.

“You’ve gotten better,” he says coolly.

“I could say the same, bitch,” Hidan returns, wiping blood from Rin's bullet out of his eyes. “So you made it out alive after all. That’s fucking disappointing.”

“Likewise,” Obito growls, lashing out. Orange light follows the path of his hand, razor-thin and equally sharp, and Hidan only just manages to duck out of the way in time. He comes up with a snarl, another explosion of ash-grey magic hurled right at Obito's head.

They’ve fought before—everyone did, at the Academy, because that was what they were being trained for. But even if Hidan has improved since then, Obito has had nine years in Kiri dealing with everything from sprites to demon lords, and he’s not about to let the bastard take him by surprise. He goes low, rolling right underneath the attack, and presses a hand to the threadbare carpet. It flares, catching fire easily, and the tongues of flame sweep towards Hidan’s feet.

Hidan leaps back with a curse, stomping hard, and then snarls. With a grimace he sprints forward, right through the flames, and swings the knife hard at Obito as the other witch comes to his feet. Obito twists into another roll, surrendering ground in favor of not getting stabbed, and then flings himself into the cover of the rows of seats.

“Fuck you! Stand still and let me kill your ass!” Hidan rages, kicking hard at a chair before he shoves his way into the narrow aisle.

Obito smirks back, then lifts his hands. Orange light sparks, and he narrows his eyes in concentration. The seats are made of wood, but it’s old, has almost forgotten what it once was. He feeds its faint memories of life and sap and seasons, fresh air and sunlight on new leaves, and then pours his magic into every dusty cell, urging it to grow.

With a groaning, creaking surge, it does.

Hidan yelps and stumbles as new trees shoot up all around him, twisting and merging and gaining momentum as they go. Roots tangle his arms and legs on their way downward, magic giving them strength and drive to bore through concrete and tile and continue down into the earth, and branches catch his body as they shoot upwards, tearing through the roof and out into the clear sky. Hidan’s magic lashes out, concentrated entropy trying to eat away at the wood, but Obito grits his teeth and slams even more power into his creations, buffering them, pushing Hidan’s energy back before it can even start to get a foothold.

“Fucking bastard!” Hidan screams. “You goddamned hypocrite! If that fucker had done to you what he did to me, you’d try the exact same thing!”

For half a heartbeat, Obito can't help but imagine it. He thinks of being bound to Deidara, or Kakuzu, or even Konan. Thinks of not having Rin for all the horrors Madara put them through, for the near-torture and the days without food or water and the punishments for failing.

And just for a moment, he falters.

Hidan screams in victory, his magic racing forward like a tide with teeth. It’s too late for Obito to do anything, too late to stop it, and he throws himself back even though he knows it’s too slow, not enough. He raises his arms, covering his face, and cries out as the skin is stripped from his bare arms, as magic eats its way into muscle. Somewhere he can hear Hidan laughing, loud and cruel, and then—

A choking gasp. A gurgling cry, and the sound of a body dropping lifelessly to the ground. The hungry magic vanishes, and with a sound almost like a human wail wind sweeps through the theater, snuffing out every last candle in a rush.

There's a long moment of silence, then a handful of cautious footsteps. A second later the lights hum to life, bringing the room into sharp relief and making Obito blink away spots. He pushes painfully to his feet, clutching his heavily bleeding arms to his chest, and looks around.

The ritual has been dismantled, every other rune scorched out of existence, the bowls of offering knocked over, the candles at each compass point lying on their sides. Rin is standing over Kakuzu’s body, chest heaving and expression somewhere between grim and relieved, and the other Chain is clearly dead, a hole with singed edges punched through his chest and three neat, tightly clustered bullet holes in his forehead. Hidan is dead too, staring blindly up at the canopy of green that used to be the ceiling. Obito doesn’t bother checking him for a pulse; apparently Madara made doubly sure his Chain and Blade couldn’t escape him, even with the death of one. It’s something that Obito has suspected for a while, since the very first time he drummed up the courage to study the runes that bind his power to Rin's.

Her death would be the end of him in more than just the figurative sense.

He glances up, eyes flickering to Rin and then over to Kakashi, who’s standing beside the light switch. There’s no blood on his hands, but Obito can see that the hole in Kakuzu’s chest is the same size as a fist, and assumes that Kakashi's lightning must have cauterized the edges even as it destroyed the bastard’s heart.

“Everyone still breathing?” he asks wearily, sending magic down his arms to at least slow the bleeding. He’ll need Rin's attention, but it’s nothing he’s going to die from immediately, as painful as it feels.

“More or less,” Rin answers with a tired smile, glancing up. Her eyes catch on his arms and she blanches, holstering her gun and bolting up the steps to get to him. “Obito!”

Kakashi is just a beat behind her, and he pushes past to duck through the tightly-packed trees and carefully grab Obito's elbow, helping him around the trunks. “That looks terrible,” he says gently. “What did you do, let him skin you?”

Obito rolls his eyes, but leans his weight against the other man regardless. “Like hell,” he retorts. “Hidan was good at entropy magic. I'm lucky he wasn’t aiming too well; if that last shot had hit my face, I’d be even more hideous than I already am.”

Strong, callused fingers brush over the scars on his right side as he sinks down to sit on the stairs, and he glances up at Kakashi a little warily. The other man just smiles a bit, then brushes his thumb over the corner of Obito's lips. “You shouldn’t fish for compliments,” he says, but he looks closer to fond than rebuking. “If you do I’ll be forced to make a fool of myself writing sonnets to your beauty.”

“Do you even know what a sonnet is?” Obito asks critically, arching a brow at the ridiculous idiot he still can't seem to get over.

Kakashi clears his throat pointedly, eyes crinkling with mischief. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May—”

“All right, all right, you do! Now shut up before you embarrass yourself any further,” Obito huffs, letting Rin stretch his arms out straight. Violet light washes over the raw flesh and he sighs in sharp relief, tension easing out of his muscles as the pain fades. “Hecate, Rin, you're amazing.”

“And I'm not?” Kakashi complains lightly, settling next to Obito. A hand snakes around Obito's waist, and he leans in to press his lips to Obito's cheek. “Hearing you scream like that—I thought I had lost you again,” he murmurs.

Obito breathes out, carefully controlled, and then lists sideways to tap his temple against Kakashi's. He’s…tired. Tired of fighting, of running, of pretending he has nothing to do with his past. Tired of holding himself apart from the one good thing he had before, and could have now. They're not the same people they were twelve years ago, both of them older and broken and scarred in different ways.

When that thought crosses his mind, Obito gently tugs one hand out of Rin's hold and reaches up, leaning back to run his thumb over the scar that nearly cost Kakashi his eyes.

“I already hurt you,” he says quietly. “It’s more than likely I’ll do it again.”

Kakashi smiles, catching his wrist in a loose grip and laying a kiss on the back of his hand. “It’s a good thing I'm a bit of a masochist, then,” he answers, eyes crinkling with warm humor. “Besides, I hurt you, too. All you wanted was someone to help you control our magic, and I rejected you.” He sees Obito open his mouth and shakes his head. “My father was killed in the Purges, and I blamed the fact that he was a witch for his death,” he says quietly. “I just…was set in my ways, and never wanted anything to do with magic, even my own. You leaving—it made me get my head on straight. I'm not going to do that again, Obito. I won't lose you a second time.”

Obito breathes out. He gathers up his fears, his uncertainties, all the lingering bits of hurt, and sets them aside. “Then it’s a good thing I'm not planning on going anywhere, isn’t it?” he says, keeping his tone light, and pretends that Kakashi's answering smile doesn’t make his heart flutter. When Kakashi leans forward, tugging his mask down, Obito meets him, tasting blood on his lips and the ozone-edge of lightning on his tongue. He kisses Kakashi desperately, hungrily, trying to make up for twelve years without, and Kakashi answers him just as eagerly, his arm tightening around Obito's back and all but dragging him into his lap.

When they finally break to breathe, Obito is all but panting, and he laughs, leaning forward to rest his forehead against Kakashi's. “Damn,” he whispers, and maybe he’s smiling like an idiot, but he can't bring himself to care.

“Very much so,” Kakashi agrees, and kisses him once more, brief and hard, before he leans back.

“Can I look now?” Rin asks plaintively, and Obito takes one glance at her, sitting with her hands pressed over her eyes, and snorts.

“You were the one who told me to go for it,” he reminds her without mercy. “Therefore this is technically your fault.”

Rin huffs, trying for offended, but her smile ruins the picture. “I didn’t mean right in front of me,” she complains, then pushes to her feet. “Come on, we should check that breaking the ritual sent all the revenants and servants back to where they're supposed to be. If you two can stop sucking face long enough to actually do your jobs, I’d be grateful.”

“Killjoy,” Kakashi accuses, but he stands as well, pulling Obito upright with him. “Onward?”

With a laugh, Rin hooks an arm through each of theirs. “Eyes on the horizon,” she starts.

“And keep walking,” Obito finishes, and means it with every inch of his soul.

It’s good to be home.