Obito is born in darkness, sculpted from ashes wet with blood, given vague form by clumsy hands unused to creation. His first breath rattles in his lungs like it should be his last, the sound hollow and gasping, and above him the darkness laughs.
It takes the form of a man with pale fingers and shadows for hair, eyes as red as fires. The man cups Obito's face between his hands and smiles as if he’s been given a gift.
“Who better,” he asks, even though there's no one else to answer him. “Who better to oppose the king of the heavens than the lord of death himself?”
Cold fingers stroke Obito's short hair back from his face, and he flinches without quite knowing why. Madara simply laughs, and it echoes from the gloom as he lays a hand that seethes with shadows over the space where Obito's heart should be.
The touch burns, and Obito lurches with a gasp as he realizes that it aches. He’s empty and hollow and there's nothing here to fill him.
Ice-cold lips brush his forehead, a mockery of a kiss.
“My child, you have great things ahead of you,” Madara tells, him, cruelly glad, and pulls him to his feet.
There is no light here. The gloom is ever-present and eternal, as thick as mist across dull spires of rock and flat plains that stretch as far as the eye can see. The palace where Madara leaves him is black marble traced with gold, and the throne is wrought of iron with gemstones caught in the gaps.
Beautiful but unwelcoming, Obito thinks, and tries not to think of the cold weight of the crown upon his head. Obsidian molded into form, with edges sharp enough to kill, and Madara had smiled that cold smile as he placed it on Obito's brow. It had drawn blood, crimson running in thin lines across his skin, but Madara had paid it no mind. The wounds are healed, and the heavy black robes Madara dressed him in show no sign of the scattered drops that fell across them.
There is a sword at his side, black like everything else in this lightless place. A blade that burns with darkness in time with the pulse of his empty chest, and Obito closes his hand around the hilt and breathes.
Great things ahead of you, Madara's voice whispers in his ear, but Obito can't quite bring himself to care.
Who am I, he thinks, sinking down onto the throne.
Misty and formless, entirely indistinct, a soul reaches for him. Its fingers tangle in the hem of his robe, and there's a murmur far vaster than one throat could make.
King, the shade tells him.
God, its brethren echo across the open, endless plain.
Madara had looked at him in his crown, with his sword in hand, and laughed as if he’d won a game he’d been playing for a long time. “You will rattle the heavens, little god,” he’d said, and it had sounded, Obito thought, like a taunt.
Perhaps, Obito thinks now, it is something to fill the emptiness inside of him, to stop the ache in his chest where something should be.
He reaches out to touch the shade, catches one of its wisps and wills it into form. There's a breathless cry, a wail as if something is being dragged up from the core of its being, and the shade convulses. Grey mist falls away, settling as robes, and indistinct features settle, harden. Brown hair tumbles around a pretty face marked with sweeps of purple, and she gasps for breath, one hand coming up to press against her chest.
“Sire,” she whispers, but Obito shakes his head and rises, offering her a hand.
“Obito, to you,” he tells her, and some of the mist lingers in her eyes as she stares up at him, wide and startled, but she slides her fingers into his. “My general.”
A spark kindles, catches. The grey in her gaze slides away, replaced with smoky brown, and her hand grips his as he pulls her to her feet. “Rin,” she tells him, steady and strong. “I'm Rin again. Thank you.”
Obito doesn’t manage a smile, but he wants to. There's power thrumming through her now, but instead of feeling drained, Obito feels…energized. As if something inside of him just came awake. Maybe it doesn’t stop the aching, but it makes it easier to ignore.
“Madara wants to me awaken all of them,” he says, looking out across the empty world, and there's a whisper running across it, a sense of watchful anticipation. It’s been a very long time for all of them, Obito realizes, since they were individuals, since they were anything more than a collective.
A touch of his power and the mist surrounding the palace shatters into shards and pieces, and in its wake human figures pull themselves upright.
Rin smiles, lips as red as pomegranates, and her grey robes cover the armor underneath. “An army,” she says. “Loyal to you alone.”
Loyalty is a formless concept. He follows Madara because Madara created him, because he hopes the ache will stop if he does. Loyalty from the souls of the dead, simply because he was created to gain it, is very much the same.
Madara comes for them when the moon is dark, laughter in his face and shadows dancing in his long hair. There is a gateway behind the palace, sealed tightly and locked from the outside, but Madara shatters the lock and throws the doors wide as he stalks in, and a wave of darkness washes like a tide around him.
“The moon god turned his face away to search for his lover,” he says, gleeful enough that Obito can't help but wonder if that lover is now among the ranks of his dead. He doesn’t ask, simply stays still as Madara leans in, cupping his chin in pale fingers and tipping his face up to meet his eyes.
“Go,” Madara tells him, low like it’s a secret. “Go, cover the world with death and I shall bring the darkness behind you. Challenge the fool upon his throne, and show him that no heavenly seat and silver crown can make him master of creation.”
The fool upon his throne, Obito thinks, and can't help a curl of dark amusement. Don’t you mean me?
He’s silent, though, as he nods to Madara—no bow, no kneeling, and the indignation that flares in Madara's expression makes it worthwhile—and steps past him. Rin is waiting by the palace’s front steps, the reins of two lean horses in her hands. One is as black as Madara's shadows, the other as silver as Rin's armor, and when she sees him coming she settles her helmet over her head. The face is open, and her eyes burn like amber through smoke as she hands him his mount.
“We ride?” she asks, and she’s small but fiercer than anyone, his warrior goddess of valor.
“We ride,” Obito agrees, swinging onto the mare’s back. She dances in place beneath him as Rin mounts as well, settling her shield at her side as the grey gelding waits patiently.
Behind them, the host rises, clad in black and gleaming silver, and somewhere a horn sounds.
Madara is laughing, but Obito draws his sword without looking back, and leads the charge through the open gates and into the world of the living.
The emptiness doesn’t go away.
Armies stand before them, and armies fall, and each dead soldier becomes another to swell Obito's ranks. The land is being consumed by darkness and death, but each day the ache in Obito's chest gets stronger and the emptiness inside of him greater, until he thinks that it may very well swallow the world.
Rin walks by his side, and only Obito can see the worry in her eyes when she looks at him. People call her a goddess of victory, of valor, of war. They whisper that war is death’s right hand, and their words hold no lie. Because she’s there, Obito doesn’t waver.
And then, one day, he does.
There is one way to reach the gods in their high palace, one path to take the war right to their gates, and Madara has no greater goal. He drives them onward, a host that needs no food or rest, but even the ancient god of darkness can't predict the other gods will meet them.
At the foot of the mountain that pierces the clouds, a handful of scattered figures are waiting. One stands out in the middle of the field, and it’s only the faint glow of silver and the settled hum of power around him that marks him as any kind of king.
Slowly, uncertainly, Obito pulls his mare to a halt, eyes on the white-haired man. Darkness seethes beneath their feet, Madara driven into the clinging shadows by the sun overhead, and there's no way for him to interfere.
“Obito?” Rin asks quietly, but her eyes are wide, locked on the slim figure of another goddess across the field, a woman with hair as blue as rainclouds in the distance, wearing a flower tucked behind her ear. No armor or weapons, and after days of battle it seems so strange.
Obito doesn’t answer; he’s too busy watching the king of the heavens approach, languid and unafraid. His eyes are sharp, though, clever, and they slide from Rin to the swirling shadows and then slowly, slowly rise to meet Obito's gaze.
It feels like the lightning Kakashi controls, like an electric shock coursing through him. Like something pouring into him, sealing up the cracks, filling up the empty places, and Obito sucks in a startled breath. He slides off his mare before he can think better of it, can't even bring himself to glance back as he starts across the field with one hand on his sword hilt. Behind Kakashi's shoulder he can see the god of wind step forward, blue eyes narrowing warily, but Minato holds none of his attention right now. Only Kakashi, subtly shining, as vivid in his eyes as lightning in the darkness.
A handful of feet from each other, they halt, and Obito takes a breath. “Madara wants to take your crown,” he says, meeting grey eyes squarely. Slowly, deliberately, he lets his hand fall away from his sword.
Something like a smile crinkles Kakashi's eyes, lends warmth to his smile. “Is it safe to assume that you don’t?” he asks.
Obito hesitates, but he still can't look away. The ache in his chest is still there, but there's something like anticipation stirring all around him, bleeding into the very air. “That’s not what I want,” he agrees, because it costs him nothing.
The small smile fades, and Kakashi looks down. His eyes settle on the shadowy glow that surrounds Obito's heart, the exact shape of Madara's handprint. One step forward, another, and Kakashi is close enough now that Obito has to tip his head back and look up just slightly to meet his eyes. Careful and deliberate, Kakashi lifts a hand, and lays it right on top of Madara's mark.
“You’ve been looking for something that’s already yours,” he says gently, and his other hand rises as well, cupping Obito's cheek where incautious hands left deep scars when they created him.
The words make no sense, and Obito scowls at him, opens his mouth to berate the idiot for speaking in riddles, but—
A tug, a step, and there are fingers in his hair. There's a mouth on his, warm lips and the smell of ozone and a heat he’s never felt before, and Obito gasps, undone, unmade. That strange heat rushes to fill the emptiness inside him, and with desperate hands he clutches Kakashi's arms, pulls him closer and tighter. Kakashi makes a low, heady noise of approval, and white-blue sparks crawl across his fingers to sink into Obito's chest. He cries out, pulling back, but he feels it.
Wide-eyed, he looks up into Kakashi's smile.
“Even Madara couldn’t create someone entirely without a heart,” he says. “He simply hid it well. You just needed a reminder that it was there.”
With a strangled cry that’s equal parts relief and rage, Obito collapses forward, into Kakashi's arms, and curls into the other god’s hold, pressing his forehead to the curve of one strong shoulder. Arms curl around him, holding him close, and Obito has to close his eyes.
“It’s over,” he says, and it’s barely above a whisper, but it still carries across the field.
There's a cry of pure rage that shakes the air, but it’s already too late. The dead soldiers are vanishing, swallowed back into the ground, back into Obito's kingdom, until only Rin remains.
“Two new gods in the space of a year.” Kakashi sounds amused more than anything. “How unusual.”
The whisper of Rin's armor sounds loud in the new hush as she crosses the field to them. “Goddess of war,” she tells him, unflinching. “And the valor of soldiers. If you hurt Obito, I will destroy you.”
Kakashi chuckles, though Obito can see the respect on his face. “Her name is Konan, the goddess of renewal,” he offers mildly, and when Rin narrows her eyes at him, he raises one hand in surrender. “You were staring. It was hard not to notice.”
Rin huffs, pulls her helmet off, and strides determinedly towards the blue-haired goddess she was watching earlier. Still half-supported by Kakashi, Obito watches her go, and can't help a faint smile. His heart is…warm. Full.
More so than ever when Kakashi runs a hand through his hair, skimming over the sharp points of the obsidian crown.
“I think,” he says, almost absently, “that Madara forgot that opposite sometimes simply means equal.”
Obito has to laugh at that, because it’s true. Madara made him a king and expected him to bow; he made Obito in opposition to another force and didn’t expect that other to complete him.
“He said he kidnapped the lover of the moon god,” he remembers. “Should I look—?”
“No.” This time the humor in Kakashi's voice is even clearer. “Kagami managed to find Tobirama within a few days and then warned me what was happening. Neither of them are overly pleased with Madara at the moment.”
Obito very much hopes that Madara crosses paths with them sometimes soon.
One step back, and then Kakashi stops, looking Obito over. His expression is a little mischievous, a touch wicked, as he curls his fingers around Obito's. “I know you have a kingdom of your own, but can I convince you to come to mine for a while? There are so many things you should see.”
The warmth in his eyes makes Obito's breath catch a little, makes him want to step forward and take another kiss. But there's time for that later. For now, Obito just nods, letting Kakashi lace their fingers together. “I’d like that,” he says quietly. “Thank you.”
Kakashi smiles at him, and Obito's heart doesn’t ache at all.