REALLY HOW DARE YOU
“No,” Obito says, flat and cold.
It’s testament to how much she’s hardened over the last year that Hinata doesn’t even blink. She certainly doesn’t waver, feet planted firmly on the other side of the bed and eyes fixed on him.
“Do you really think I would come to you if there was any other option?” she asks quietly.
“Do you really think I care?” Obito retorts, and he doesn’t look away from Sakura’s gaunt, wasted face, pale against the hospital sheets.
There’s a long pause, and then a soft pad of steps interrupted by the click of a crutch. Hinata limps forward until she’s hovering over the bed as well, looking down at her friend, and her mouth pulls into an unhappy slant, her pale eyes full of grief.
“The Clan Heads agreed,” she tells him. “Unanimously. I don’t think that’s ever happened before.”
Obito snorts before he can help it, both at the flicker of tired humor and the thought of calling the ragged assortment of shinobi Clan Heads. They’re children, or just barely beyond it. The children he fought in the last war, dragged into seats of power they’re not ready for, and Obito isn’t going to be among them.
“Give it to Gai,” he says instead, because Gai probably would have been Kakashi’s choice, if he’d survived to take the hat back.
“I admire Gai greatly,” Hinata says quietly, “but he’s not Hokage material. There are some decisions he won’t be able to make, and they’re the ones we need right now.”
It’s true, though Obito doesn’t want it to be. Gai is strategic, but only when immediately involved in things, and he doesn’t have that streak of darkness in him that most shinobi do. It’s admirable, but it means that he makes decisions based on the right thing to do and sentiment and good choices. That will kill them all more quickly than the enemy could, right now.
A breath, and Hinata leans forward, bracing a hand on the railing of the bed to meet Obito’s eyes. She holds them steadily, sharp and intent, and there’s exhaustion in the lines of her face but also a determination that echoes with painful familiarity.
“Naruto would have wanted it,” she says, a killing blow.
Obito takes a breath, closing his eyes. Naruto, who they found on the battlefield far too late to save. Naruto, who Hinata screamed and wept over, even as Ino tried to drag her back. Naruto, whose death drove Sasuke to recklessness that killed him within a week, and left the burden of the Hokage’s position on Sakura, where it might as well have killed her.
“Please,” Hinata whispers, loud in the silence of the room. She’s not crying, but Obito would feel better if she were—the grief in her should be too much for any one body to contain. “You’re a strategist, and you’re stronger than anyone left. You’re smart, calculating, ruthless—you’re everything we need in a Hokage right now. I wouldn’t ask, I wouldn’t want this, but Obito—you’re our only choice.”
The ache is overwhelming. Obito lets himself fold forward, pressing his hands over his face. He doesn’t want this, either. It was a dream, once, but.
Obito is three decades and a thousand worlds away from the little boy who wanted acknowledgement, who would have done anything to be Hokage and be seen. Like this, with enemies at the gate and poison in the water, with all of the Hidden Villages beset and their numbers dwindling, with no way to win and the only goal being to hold out as long as possible until someone can figure out who and what these creatures are—
This isn’t what Obito meant, when he once said he wanted to be Hokage.
A sharp, shuddering breath, and Obito scrubs his hands over his face. Damn Kakashi to hell and back, leaving him alone like this. Damn him for dying at the start of all this, damn Naruto for getting himself killed saving their forces, damn Sasuke for following him, and damn Sakura for sacrificing herself to put up a barrier around Konoha. There are only a handful of Konoha’s best remaining, and all of them are scarred and tired and worn down. They’re dying, as a village.
But Obito—well. If there’s one thing he’s good at, it’s surviving against all odds.
“Unanimously?” he asks, because he’s spent the last five years a near-prisoner, and understandably so. Too valuable to kill, repentant as he was, but too dangerous to let go free, with too many sins on his head regardless. Kakashi had overseen his confinement, right up until the battles started getting fiercer. Right up until Konoha started losing, which isn’t a thing that has ever happened before. Konoha is the strongest of the villages, by far, and the attacks on them are proportionately merciless.
“Unanimously,” Hinata confirms, and Obito looks up at her. She isn’t wearing her hitai-ate, and the faded mark of the Caged Bird Seal stands out against her skin, the short bob of her dark hair. Hanabi had gotten Sakura to alter the seals, tie them to the Clan Head so that her death would remove the seal entirely, and Obito wonders if Hinata has forgiven her sister for that yet. For making plans for her death, rather than just fighting to survive.
Hinata, he thinks sometimes, has become a little too much like Naruto, after all these years. All his best parts, and all his worst. It’s…comforting, even when it shouldn’t be.
It’s the reason he recognizes the light in her eyes right now, the relief and buried joy. Hinata might present the perfect appearance of a Hyuuga Clan Head to those around her, but they both loved Naruto with the same ferocity, the same blind devotion. It leaves them open to each other, and Obito should probably hate it, but he can’t bring himself to.
They’re both of them broken and dimmed and fading, but Naruto was their sun even if his eyes were focused elsewhere. Maybe it’s not a comfortable connection, but it’s what they have.
“What did you find?” he asks, and knows it’s something. Something that’s given Hinata hope.
She takes a breath, doesn’t look away from Obito’s mismatched eyes, Rinnegan and Sharingan both. “Sasuke had a theory,” she says, and her mouth curls with faint pain at the name. “I found his notes. He thought—the shadows. They could be remnants of Kaguya, working on instinct.”
It makes a horrific kind of sense, and Obito swallows, feeling his stomach turn. Kaguya and her influence, targeting chakra, devouring life. It fits, even though he doesn’t want it to. “And?”
Hinata smiles, bare and tired, and shifts her crutch out of the way as she carefully settles into the chair across from him, with Sakura’s painful, rasping breaths between them. “I was looking through the library,” she confesses, looking down at her folded hands, and in the middle of a war as fierce as this one, it is a confession. They’re supposed to be sleeping, or training, or fighting, with no time left for other things. “There were…references. To kinjutsus. Kinjutsus that only the Hokage can access.”
Obito contemplates her for a moment, considering. Konoha’s forbidden jutsus are by and large Tobirama’s creations, requiring massive amounts of chakra but also pinpoint control, and of the shinobi left in the village, Obito is probably the only one who can manage both. “Specific kinjutsus, I assume,” he prompts.
Hinata’s smile gains an edge, and she’s beautiful, worn but still fighting, grieving from the loss of so very many people but still forging ahead. Obito’s seen her with Karin, wrapped together with all the desperation of love in wartime, and he hopes it’s made her happy even as he knows it will never be enough for anyone.
“Did you know another Uchiha had Kamui?” she asks.
Obito blinks, taken aback. He hadn’t, but then, Zetsu and Madara hadn’t been inclined to tell him much of anything, and he hadn’t spent time in the Uchiha records whenever he managed to sneak into Konoha. He eyes Hinata, raising a brow, and she actually laughs.
“The Nidaime recorded his encounters with an Uchiha kunoichi who he thought could bend time when she teleported,” she says. “And then he tried to recreate the ability. The Flying Thunder God was the result, when he realized she was bending space, but before that…”
Before that the Nidaime had been experimenting with altering time, and if anyone could manage it, it would be a mad genius like Tobirama.
Obito breathes in, shaky and uncertain, and shakes himself. He thinks of it, of the applications and logistics, of when and how and where they could step in to create the greatest number of ripples, and then thinks about kicking Zetsu in the teeth.
“I’m in,” he says, and the smile that twists his face is all teeth. “As long as you’re coming with me.”
“And Karin,” Hinata says, determined, and when Obito casts her a glance—because Hinata is a viciously selfish creature, and it’s one of the things he likes best about her, but he’d like an explanation for this particular idea—she tips her chin up and says, “She’s an Uzumaki.”
And really, that’s all the justification anyone could need, Obito thinks, wry. With those chakra levels and that brain, not to mention that will—
“She knows?” he asks.
Hinata smiles, just a little. “It was her idea in the first place,” she says.
Yeah, looking for a time-travel jutsu sounds like an Uzumaki solution, without a doubt. But Obito just snorts, shaking his head, and pushes to his feet. One last glance at Sakura, a friend and an ally and someone he’d never thought to like, but who had managed to earn his admiration anyway, and then he steps around the bed and offers Hinata his hand. She takes it, delicate pale fingers sliding into his scarred ones, and he pulls her to her feet.
“I’ll take the hat,” he tells her. “But only long enough to raid the vaults. And next time? Lead with that.”
Hinata laughs, short but warm with pure relief, and grips his hand tightly. “Where?” she asks. “Or—when?”
Obito considers it. Three options, depending on whether he and Karin together can gather enough chakra, but the best… “Back to the beginning,” he says. “The Warring Clans era. We find Zetsu and destroy him, and then Kaguya isn’t a problem anymore.”
She smiles, full of sharp edges and blades in the dark, fractured pieces she’s only barely holding together. It’s beautiful, like a red sun over a killing field. Obito thinks of stepping onto the battlefield of the Warring Clans time with her, and grins right back, all vicious humor and the promise of blood.
Maybe they can’t save their world, not the way they want to, but this is might be the next best thing.