January, Sandaime Year 29
The guttering embers of Obito’s funeral pyre die around dawn. Rin helps Minato-sensei gather the ashes and break camp, a hollow feeling in her chest where grief should be. Kannabi Bridge lies in ruins miles behind them; Kakashi hasn’t said a word since Minato-sensei rescued them yesterday. She finds Kakashi out in the meadow, staring up at the sky. The bandage wrapped around his head makes her eyes burn.
“Kakashi,” she says, and touches his shoulder. He doesn’t shrug her off. “Kakashi, we have to go.”
After a moment, he turns to look at her and nods. She’s known him long enough to read the tightly controlled fragility in the set of his spine, the shape of his mouth underneath the ever-present mask. He looks one step away from falling apart.
“Come on,” she says gently, and takes his hand.
He lets her lead him out of the meadow.
Minato-sensei clasps their shoulders and hands them their packs. There are lines at the corners of his mouth and eyes that hadn’t been there two days ago.
Kakashi stays close to Rin the rest of the way home, leaning into her touch whenever she stops to check his eye. It doesn’t give her the giddy feeling it would have before Kannabi, but she’s grateful. She, too, is fragile. The empty space at her side where Obito should be leaves her cold. Without him, everything is too quiet and no one knows what to say.
Obito and Kakashi: her team, her friends, her stupid, darling boys—and now all that’s left of Obito are ashes in a jar and the spinning Sharingan eye he’d given Kakashi.
She does not think about the in-field surgery, about Obito’s blood warm on her hands and the ruins of Kakashi’s left eye staring up at her. Transplanting a Sharingan between two conscious subjects in battlefield conditions, relying on nothing but chakra control and her surgeon’s kit— only a jounin-level medic should have been able to handle an operation like that. The victory tastes like dust in her mouth.
Chaos swallows them as soon as they pass through Konoha’s gates. Rin inserts herself in amongst the medics as they ferry Kakashi to the hospital; she’s bombarded with questions, which she answers as precisely and quickly as possible. Her voice feels distant, not her own; she hasn’t slept since Kannabi, and now is not the time to let herself break.
Minato-sensei’s presence is warm at her back. He leaves eventually to report to the Council, but he calls up a clone to keep her company while she waits. It runs interference for her when the Uchiha descend; she is a patient person, but listening to Obito’s family quarreling about his Sharingan like stolen property makes her want to scream.
Kakashi is relinquished to her after hours of poking and prodding by the hospital’s medics. They wheel him into a private room and bring her a chair. His head is swathed in a new change of bandages, his wiry frame enveloped by a hospital gown; they let him keep his mask. The rigid set of his shoulders does not relax until he sees her, standing quietly next to Minato-sensei’s clone. Rin sits by Kakashi’s bedside and holds his hand until he falls into exhausted sleep.
Her dreams that night are of Obito, smiling as the darkness swallows him whole. She sits, frozen, and watches Kakashi face down the Iwa-nin with a pit of shadow where his left eye should be. She watches him fight, bright as lightning, and she watches as he falls.
“Rin,” Kakashi says. She blinks awake between one breath and the next, startled by the morning light streaming in through the windows. Kakashi’s fingers are blanched white from her grip. Rin sits up, head swimming.
‘Are you alright?’ is the first thing that comes to mind, but she discards it immediately. “When did you wake up?” she asks instead, voice thick and clumsy.
“A while ago.” Kakashi shifts. Rin lets his hand go, surprised when he reaches out to touch her shoulder instead. “Are you— Minato-sensei is going to be back soon. He said all of us can go visit.”
Kakashi looks away. The bandages around his head make the gesture peculiarly asymmetrical. “Obito. They buried him at dawn.”
The numbness of yesterday is gone; Obito’s name hits her like a fist in the gut. Realization strikes: Team Minato is down to three.
Rin doesn’t realize she’s crying until she buries her face in her hands; wet runs down her palms, leaks salt into the corners of her mouth. She feels Kakashi’s arms go around her, lets him draw her close. The two of them cling to each other like children. Kakashi is shaking, unable to let himself cry. Rin sheds tears for both of them, for Obito, for everything they’ve lost, and knows nothing will be the same again.