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The child is born with red eyes.

It’s an omen, the clan whispers, never quite careful enough to do it only when Butsuma isn’t in earshot. They’ve been fighting the Uchiha for generations, and now a babe appears sporting eyes the same shade as their hated dojutsu? An ill portent of what's to come, certainly.

They don’t quite dare impugn the lord’s wife, because she’s one of their own, a Senju with the blood of many enemies on her hands, as fierce and deadly as her husband in her own right. There's no horror on her face when she looks at her second son, no disgust when red eyes stare back at her instead of the usual Senju brown. She touches the white hair fondly, kisses the babe’s fair brow and coos to him like every mother, but the rest of the clan holds back.

They’ll wait. Wait and see what comes of this, this child whose eyes are Sharingan-red, who looks like a pale wraith in the light even though most Senju are born already sun-brown and glowing with the earth’s own light.

Butsuma holds himself back as well, but that’s simply his way. His wife looks at him and smiles, holds the babe out for him to take, but he shakes his head and steps away, and her smile fades. She bows her head, because theirs was a political marriage, done for the good of the clan, and neither of them have ever been entirely able to forget it.

And then small hands grab her elbow, nearly jostling little Tobirama right out of her arms, and she jerks as she tries to resettle him without letting him fall before finally shifting an exasperated look to her first child.

“Careful, Hashirama!” she scolds, but can't quite fight a smile when the three-year-old hauls himself up onto the bed beside her.

“Mama!” he cries with a beaming grin, as excitable as always, and leans over to see his new sibling. “Otouto?”

“Yes, Hashi,” she answers, and shifts the babe in her arms until Hashirama can see him clearly. “This is your little brother. His name is Tobirama. Isn’t he lovely?”

Hashirama stares at the child with wide, wondering eyes, and she smiles to herself, reaching out to smooth down wild black hair, knotted with twigs and leaves and bits of grass, because Hashirama is forever ducking his nurse and sneaking outside. He’s a good child, but irrepressible, and she worries sometimes about what will become of him when he’s older. Because Hashirama is a dreamer, and the times they live in have no room at all for dreams. She is aware enough to know that her husband will have no patience for such things, and that she will likely not live long enough to be a buffer between them. These times are hard on all of them, but she is a kunoichi used to the frontlines, and if she manages to bear even one more son for Butsuma it will be with all the odds against her.

But for now, there's only a child’s bright wonder in Hashirama’s face, and he reaches out to touch downy white hair with a beaming smile that nearly takes in his ears. “My little brother,” he crows, looking up at his mother with his heart in his eyes, and she laughs softly and leans over until Tobirama is cradled between them.

“Yes,” she agrees. “You’ll be a very good brother, Hashi. So love him. Love him with everything you are, because these are dark times, and even the smallest bit of love can change the world.”

His eyes are dark and serious when he looks back up at her, too serious for the child he should be. But then, there are no children left these days, only small warriors, and for all that it’s her world she mourns this fact. War is all she’s ever known, and she has only rarely let herself dream of peace. It’s incomprehensible when she does, but she thinks that she now understands the sad smile her own mother wore the day she started shinobi training.

“I will,” Hashirama promises her, with all the earnestness that’s in him. A fair amount, even at three years old, and it makes her laugh softly. He looks back down at his brother, eyes wide with solemnity, and touches Tobirama’s white hair again. “I promise, otouto.”

It’s then that sharp eyes open, not childishly round even though her son is but a few days old. They focus, too, even though she’s been told they shouldn’t at this age, and Hashirama’s dark eyes meet red as he grins, entirely unconcerned with the damning color.

Tobirama, only a handful of days old and already a quiet, solemn little boy, meets Hashirama’s gaze squarely and reaches out for his brother. Hashirama reaches back, letting tiny fingers grip his thumb, and laughs delightedly.

Their mother smiles at both of them, curled close together behind the curtain of her long fair hair, and it feels a bit like the world is resettling around them, stabilizing itself with these two little boys as its axis.

 

“Red eyes. I see,” Uchiha Tajima says thoughtfully, turning a shogi piece over in his fingers as he contemplates the news.

His spy among the Senju is one of the Lady Senju’s maids, his father’s bastard daughter trying to earn her place in the Uchiha Clan through service. She is cunning and sly, is flawless at playing quiet and insipidly dull, and his most valuable spy yet. Those with selfish desires and an excess of pride are always easiest to manipulate.

She nods, eyes cast down politely where she kneels, and confirms, “And white hair as well, my lord. People whisper his birth is an omen that they will soon fall to the Uchiha.”

Tajima laughs, dropping the gold general into position. A winning move, he thinks with satisfaction, and rises to his feet. The woman before him startles when he offers her a hand, but she recovers quickly and accepts gracefully, letting him draw her up. He leans in, bestows a kiss upon her brow in recognition of what she’s done, and then says, “Little sister.”

Her breath catches, and she trembles under his touch.

“Bring me the boy,” he orders, and she breathes out fear, hope, and determination. “If the Senju believe so strongly that he will be their end, let us make it so.”

 

Senju Hisano screams when she finds the cradle empty and stained with blood, screams with all the grief and rage that boils up within her, and turns with fury on the first man through the door. She is strong, even just come from childbirth, and he flies back out into the hall. A maid is next, pale with the weight of her lady’s wrath, and when she sees the empty bassinet she goes paler still and gasps, one hand flying to her mouth before she turns and runs for the Clan Head.

Hisano watches her go, and it’s as though all the rage departs with her, because she is left empty and aching when she turns back. The blood in the cradle is fresh, just going cold when she gathers the blankets in her arms and sinks to her knees on the nursery floor. It smells of copper and death and battlefields, everything she has never wished for her children, and she weeps because her youngest child is already a casualty of the times, dead because of a conflict no one can remember the reason for. They fight for the previous generations now, for those that are dead, the same way that the next generations will fight to avenge their deaths. It is a cycle they cannot escape, a wheel that pulls them down until they come to this, blood in a nursery and a mother’s grief.

Butsuma has no words of comfort for her, when he comes. There is fury in his eyes, because there is no room in him for the softer emotions, and he leaves as suddenly as he arrived, snapping out orders and calling for shinobi, for fighters. He means to go to war for this.

But no matter how many Uchiha he slays, it will not bring her youngest son back to life. No matter how much Uchiha blood is spilled, it will not replace what some craven assassin stole from her child’s veins when they ended his life. Hisano clutches the bloodied blankets closer to her chest and sobs, shakes apart because this will never be undone. She bore him, birthed him, and now he is gone, a handful of days lived and then lost forever.

“Mama?” a young voice whispers, and she feels it like poison through her veins, the knowledge that her little Tobirama will never speak that word. But she is a mother still, despite her loss, and opens her arms to her remaining son. He flings himself against her, heedless of the red-stained blankets she still holds, and wraps small arms around her neck as he presses kisses to her cheek. “Mama, don’t cry, please.”

Because she is a kunoichi, because war and loss are all she has ever known, she swallows down her tears, her sobs, and lays her cheek on tangled black hair. “I'm sorry,” she whispers. “I'm so sorry, Hashirama. I'm sorry.”

Her hands already itch for a sword, for the battlefield. Her lost son will always be a hole carved through her, bleeding and bare, and no amount of killing will make it heal over. But she knows fighting, knows what it is to deliver death, and she thinks that if she can inflict this same wound on even one Uchiha woman, that will be revenge enough.

There is no room for dreams, in times like these, and even less for pity.

Hashirama looks up at her with wise dark eyes, looks down at the blanket she’s clutching close, and whispers, “Otouto’s gone?”

She shakes with new sobs, with the ire that burns like lightning in her veins, and doesn’t answer.

(Hashirama, all of three, stares at the crimson splashed across snowy white and thinks of his brother’s eyes, his hair. Thinks of gone and what he has learned it means, over the years. There has been far too much learning, with the war.

I want it to stop, he thinks. Stop, enough. Bring him back.

But his mother is crying again, sharp sobs and furious snarls so tightly bound together that he can barely tell them apart, and he doesn’t speak the words aloud.

He keeps his silence for ten years, and by that time he can no longer bring himself to care what she, six years dead, would think of his demands for peace.

No matter what, he never forgets his little brother, or the chance that Tobirama is still alive.)

 

He is two years old and nameless when she comes to him, his caretaker, and presses his first kunai into his hands. He holds it like it was made for his hand, and she hides the triumphant curl of her lips in his pale hair.

“For the clan,” she whispers into his ear, and he’s heard the same every day that he can remember. “For the Uchiha. Everything you are and will be, it is for the good of the clan.”

They call her Katsu, ‘victorious’, though it isn’t the name she was born with. They call him nothing, barely look at him unless they must, but when they do there is something like triumph in their eyes. My little weapon, Katsu calls him, but he has no name at all. None unless the Clan Head grants him one, and he has never even seen the man.

(Tobirama, someone says once, their eyes on him, but they're quickly hushed and it’s never said again. But he stores it away in his memory, a secret for himself alone, and never tells anyone that he heard.)

“One day,” Katsu tells him, when his gaze lingers too long on the door to the Head’s house. “When you are truly a weapon for the Uchiha, the lord will wield you. And you will be the most beautiful weapon in his collection, little one.”

Functionality is a part of beauty, the most important part to a weapon. Katsu walks him past swords hung on the wall, proudly and lovingly displayed, and he cannot help but compare himself to them. Silver and pale and edged with red, kept in sheathes until they're needed to kill.

At five years old he takes a needle and inks red into his own skin, sharp slashes like the cut of a knife on each cheek, and it’s the first time Uchiha Tajima ever looks at him and smiles.

“You are the son of the Uchiha Clan,” Tajima tells him, leaning in to brush a trickle of blood from his cheeks. “You are the son of every man and woman who bears our blood. You are our sword in the darkness, a ghost to guard our homes.”

He has never felt pride before in his five years of life, not like this. It is a fierceness, a burning deep within him. He bows his head, and Tajima rests a hand upon it before he walks away.

In his wake, a boy with black eyes studies him, careful and thoughtful, a little boy the nameless one’s own age clinging to his hand.

“I'm Madara,” the older one says, and it’s somewhere between rude and considering. “Who are you?”

The boy falters, because he is no one. A half-forged weapon and that is all, and weapons only earn names when the forging is done. So he says nothing, keeps his silence, and Madara stares at him for a moment longer, eyes his white hair and the paleness of his skin, remarkable even among the Uchiha, and then says, “Yūrei. You look like a ghost, and Father called you one, so—Yūrei.”

A name. Yūrei’s breath catches in his throat, and he ducks his head and clenches his fists to hide the trembling in his hands. He is five years old, a weapon still in the forge, a blade which has yet to be honed, and never before in his existence has he felt loyalty. Never before has he felt devotion. But staring into warm, dark eyes, he thinks he finally understands what it means when Katsu whispers ‘Everything you are and will be, it is for the good of the clan’ in his ear.

But this…this is not for the hundreds of faceless Uchiha who watch him as if he is their victory to come.

This is for the boy who named him, who looked at him and saw. Who has a little brother clinging wide-eyed to his hand, but still spared a moment for a sword that has yet to gain an edge.

This is loyalty. This is devotion. This is looking Uchiha Madara in the face and thinking, wield me, when before the idea has brought nothing more than a vague unease.

 

He is the blade, and Madara is the hand on the hilt that guides him, that draws him and directs him. He is five years old, seven, ten, and all he knows is blood and war and the fit of a weapon in his hand. Out in the darkness he is what Madara named him, that fateful day: a ghost, and a hungry one, painted with blood like the cut of a knife on each cheek and down his chin, and no one sees him and lives to speak of it.

Madara walks in front of him, bold and bright and the heir to the clan, and Yūrei follows behind him like his namesake, like a shadow. He takes a blade for Madara, a poisoned needle, a kunai to the gut, and each time Madara rages and Izuna thanks him desperately, and Tajima watches them with considering, calculating eyes.

Every time, always, when Tajima orders him to strike he looks to Madara before he moves.

(They punished him for it, the first time. And the second, and the third, but he kept doing it because he was a weapon that cut the hand that wielded him. A sword with two edges and only one hand he would allow to guide him, and despite all of their attempts he’d picked his master and wouldn’t be swayed. Eventually, they had stopped punishing him, and it had sat in his heart like a very quiet victory, like pride.)

He sits in the corner of Madara's room at night, propped up against the wall to keep watch, and though the other Uchiha give him odd looks for it Madara himself has never said anything. He just smiles at Yūrei, and always leaves his window unlocked.

Yūrei is a genius, when it comes to death. He is smart and clever and cunning, ruthless because he doesn’t know any other way to be. He is fast and powerful and strikes without hesitation, and even among a clan of killers there are those who hesitate to touch him because of it. But Madara doesn’t bother flinching. Madara reaches out instead, curls a hand around Yūrei’s wrist after bad missions and tugs him down onto the futon beside him, heedless of the splattered blood. His arms are warm when he wraps them around Yūrei and holds him close, and Yūrei is aware that he is not supposed to want this, contact and closeness and caring, but some part of him looks at Madara and thinks mine regardless.

It’s greedy. It’s greedy and wrong, but there is only one choice Yūrei has ever made for himself, and he chose Madara.

“We shouldn’t have to fight,” Madara whispers in his ear, like Katsu used to do before he gained his edge, but a thousand times more welcome. Yūrei is a sword, a knife in the shadows, but he is also a ten-year-old boy and sometimes he wonders what else he could be, were he allowed to try.

“I don’t want to be a weapon,” he confesses, barely a breath between them in the darkness, and maybe he’s shaking. Maybe there's a tremble in his limbs, but he doesn’t care to recognize it. He doesn’t care about the killing, because he’s been trained not to. He doesn’t care about the blood, but…he looks at it sometimes, looks at bodies on the ground and thinks of each one as Madara, or maybe Izuna, and it makes something sick and horrified twist through his stomach.

Madara's arms close tight around him, pulling him in until Yūrei can bury his face in his chest and close his eyes to the darkness. Madara is the moon to his night, a light where he never hoped for one, and all he wants is to stay like this forever, to never have to leave and return to his darkened, bloody world.

Fingers stroke through his ghost-white hair, trace across the red marks on his cheeks, and then curl around the back of his neck to hold him gently, tightly. “Someday,” Madara says, like it’s a certainty, “I'm going to change the Uchiha, and then kids like us won't have to fight anymore. Someday we can have peace, and then you won't have to follow anyone’s orders ever again.”

Yūrei believes him. He always believes Madara, who named him, who doesn’t see him as a weapon to be aimed even though he’s the only one who can aim him. “But I’ll still follow yours,” he tells Madara, though surely he understands this by now.

There's a twist to Madara's mouth that can't decide whether it’s happy or regretful, and he rolls onto his back and lets Yūrei curl into his side, one of Madara's arms still wrapped around him. He doesn’t answer, but then, Yūrei doesn’t need one. He’s made his choice, and it’s his. No one can take it away from him, not even Madara.

Peace, he thinks, as his breathing evens out and sleep begins to pull him down. It’s an unfamiliar word, for all that Madara clings to it. Yūrei has no concept of what it means, but…he thinks that perhaps he’d like to.

 

Madara watches him, this boy his father created and he named. Yūrei is a sword without a sheath, a starving lion on a chain, and it’s wrong. It’s far more wrong than simply training children to fight, because fighting is all Yūrei knows, and it’s everything else they have to train him in.

The first time Madara put a hand on his arm, he reacted as though Madara had touched a knife to his throat and had hurled himself away.

But there are flashes, sometimes. Little hints that he is not only a weapon, regardless of what Madara's father wants him to be. Yūrei loves books, when he’s allowed them, and he’s always gentle with Izuna, who treats him with the careless regard of one who has grown up with a lion that has only ever rolled around playfully with him, its claws carefully sheathed. Yūrei likes to create, too, and that’s perhaps the most amazing thing about him. He is not solely for destruction, no matter his training. There are jutsus that he uses only in secret, little things created with seals and chakra and the genius of a mind even Madara, a genius in his own right, is startled by.

There is a cat that comes around, sometimes, and often Madara has caught Yūrei on his knees beside it, features as coolly calm as ever, but Sharingan-red eyes alight with something close to wonder as the ragged stray slides lithely under his hand. Yūrei is nine, three years younger than Madara, but in that moment he simply looks like a child with a pet, and Madara can't help but smile.

(The cat dies. Yūrei is the one to find its body, mangled by one of the clan dogs, and for an endless moment Madara thinks he might finally see this finely honed weapon break. It tears at his chest, this thought, and he goes to his knees beside the younger boy, reaching out to catch one pale wrist.

“We can bury her,” he offers quietly, watching the way Yūrei’s thin fingers stroke blood-matted black fur. “I’ll help you.”

Yūrei looks at the cat for a long moment, and then shakes his head, though it’s not a refusal. “Is this…” he starts, but doesn’t finish.

“Loss,” Madara provides for him, because for all his kills Yūrei has never known it before. After all, Madara and Izuna are the only ones he’s attached himself to. Aunt Katsu, to a lesser degree, but Madara can tell that whatever Yūrei feels for her it’s tainted with something very close to hatred. He thinks he can understand why. “She was yours, and you lost her, and it hurts.”

Yūrei stares for another moment more, and then turns his head away, leans into Madara's side and buries his face in Madara's shoulder. Madara sighs softly and closes his eyes, reaching up to stroke the younger boy’s hair. There is grief in Yūrei, a deep, quiet sort of grief, because for all that he’s been trained to kill he doesn’t want to. He’ll whisper to Madara in the darkness, sometimes, tell him about old laws that forbade murder, kept people from fighting no matter the reason.

If only we had those, he said once, and Madara's breath had caught at the helpless sort of fury in his voice. It had been after a mission, one where he had to wipe out a small clan that was going to turn on the Uchiha, and he’d slipped into Madara's room shaken and utterly silent. If we had those then everything would be better. But the grownups are idiots and never keep their word.

It’s a full year later that Yūrei first whispers to him about his newest jutsu, something like a summoning but also very much not. I can bring them back, he says, and Madara fights the urge to shiver as he hold him close in the darkness. Because Yūrei is a weapon, and everything he creates has the potential to be used as a weapon, but some things shouldn’t. There are lines that can't be crossed, and this is one of them.

He rarely gives Yūrei orders outside of missions, outside of those times his father demands it because such things are wrong and Yūrei is a person no matter how the rest of the clan treats him, but he does it now. “Don’t use that again,” he says, and sharp red eyes lock with his, narrowing in faint confusion and silent protest. But Madara doesn’t relent, curls a hand around the back of Yūrei’s head and insists, “Never again, okay, Yūrei? Not for anyone. It’s too dangerous.”

Yūrei nods, but there's a look on his face like the one he gets when Madara says he won't have to listen to orders anymore, once there's peace. It’s refusal, spirit that has yet to be so much as dented, and for all that he hates what it means Madara loves that look, glories in it, because it would have been so easy for Yūrei just to break, given what he is. But he hasn’t, he won't, and Madara laughs before he can help himself and ruffles the other boy’s hair.

That’s enough for both of them, even if no agreement has been reached.)

 

Yūrei is ten when Madara starts disappearing for hours on end. He vanishes from the compound and returns smelling of fresh air and cold water and trees, but even though it goes against his father’s orders to stay close Yūrei says nothing, because Madara comes back happier than he left. He smiles more, and trains harder, advances more quickly than ever before. By the time a year has passed, Izuna notices too, and he comes to Yūrei’s room one day while Madara is gone and sprawls out on the neatly made bed.

Seated on the windowsill with a book, Yūrei glances up and raises a brow in silent question.

“Father wants me to follow Madara the next time he goes out,” the younger boy says without hesitation, because the only secrets between the three of them are where Madara goes each day and the nearly-forgotten name Tobirama.

Yūrei blinks, because Izuna is good at stealth but not the best. As a sensor, Yūrei is the obvious choice if Tajima thinks his son in in danger.

But…if it isn’t danger Tajima thinks Madara is in, then the next best guess is treason, and Yūrei knows the punishment for that very well. He slides a marker into his book and closes it carefully. “I’ll go.”

Izuna sighs and sits up, wrapping his arms around his knees. “You know, you're like my brother, even if we’re not related by blood,” he says suddenly, meeting Yūrei’s red eyes firmly. “You saved my life, and you’ve saved Aniki's life, and that makes you family. I know Aniki is the one who named you, but you're my big brother just like he is.”

He’s never had someone say such a thing to him, and it makes him smile, makes him slide off the windowsill and come to sprawl next to Izuna on the futon, shoulder to shoulder and elbows brushing. “You're my brother, too,” he answers, and then, because neither of them can stand to be even remotely sentimental for very long, he steals Izuna’s favorite kunai and makes the younger boy chase him clear around the compound three times to get it back.

 

He makes no secret as to his actions, because Tajima only ordered him to follow Madara and never said he had to conceal himself from him, and it’s a very aggravated sigh that greets him when he finally emerges from the bushes on the riverbank, to find Madara waiting for him with his hands propped on his hips and a glare on his face.

“Yūrei,” Madara says with exasperation. “I told you I was fine.”

Yūrei just arches a brow at him and turns his attention to the other boy present, who has a bowl-cut and is wearing pinstripes. It’s an odd combination.

When he realizes that Yūrei is ignoring him, Madara huffs dramatically, mutters something that sounds very much like why do I even bother, and stalks back towards his new friend. As always, Yūrei shadows him, one step behind to guard his back. Madara fixes him with a sharp look that says he isn’t getting out of this so easily, and then waves a hand between Yūrei and the stranger. “Hashirama, this is my friend Yūrei. Yūrei, this is Hashirama.”

Hashirama is staring at him, quiet and wide-eyed. It isn’t a reaction Yūrei usually gets from strangers, since he’s small and skinny and entirely unimpressive for his age, so he eyes the other boy suspiciously and takes a half-step between him and Madara.

With a low growl, Madara grabs his shoulder, shoves him down to sit on the bank, and hisses, “I'm fine. Honestly, he’s an idiot, not a threat.”

Most people would protest. Hashirama just grins, something like impossibly deep relief spreading just beneath the surface, and says, “You're brothers?”

Madara blinks at Hashirama, then closes his eyes and firmly pinches the bridge of his nose, aggravation clear. “Do we look related to you?” he asks waspishly, and it earns him a laugh as Hashirama bounces over to sit next to Yūrei.

“You know,” he says, and his gaze never shifts from the younger boy, “I used to have a brother with red eyes and white hair. His name was Tobirama.”

Yūrei freezes, breath locking up in his chest, and even Madara goes still.

He’s always wondered, in the back of his mind, just where he came from originally. It’s one thing for Tajima to call him a child of the Uchiha Clan as a whole, but it’s another entirely to look at all the other families in the compound, children with mothers or fathers or even both, and to know that he has neither. He has no one except for Madara and Izuna, who he chose for himself, and that is…different. Not like anyone else, and though Yūrei has never been like anyone else, he’s always wondered why.

Hashirama tells him, and it’s everything he’s ever wanted to know, and everything he didn’t.

 

(“How can you love me, with what I've done?” he challenges, sharp and angry and full of grief, because he is an Uchiha, but he is also a Senju, in the same way he is neither and both at once. He’s killed his own clan, even if he didn’t know they were his, and how? How can Hashirama still look him in the eye and say, I missed you, otouto, I love you?

Hashirama smiles back at him, warm and wise despite his cheerfully energetic personality. “Our mother told me, once,” he says, and it’s so odd to hear that he had a mother, even though he knows he must have. “She said ‘You’ll be a very good brother. So love him. Love him with everything you are, because these are dark times, and even the smallest bit of love can change the world.’” The smile turns beaming, and he reaches out to catch Yūrei’s [Tobirama’s?] hands between his own. “And look at us now. Madara is an Uchiha, and I'm a Senju, and because the two of us are brothers we can sit here without having to fight. Because I love you, and I know that someday you’ll love me, I want to change the world for you. Don’t you think that’s incredible? Doesn’t that give you hope?”

Yūrei—Tobirama—takes a breath that shakes, then turns his head away determinedly, and ignores Hashirama’s petulant wail at being disregarded after saying something that is, in his own opinion, so impossibly cool.)

 

That night, when Yūrei returns from giving Tajima his (technically true) report that Madara spent his entire time training on the riverbank, his usually empty room is occupied. Yūrei pauses in the doorway, brows rising, because he’s generally the one to seek out Madara, rather than the other way around. But tonight there's a strange tightness around Madara's mouth, his eyes, and his shoulders are stiff as he crosses his arms over his chest.

“Are you going to leave?” he bites out, when the silence stretches too long. It’s an accusation, even if it’s framed as a question, and Yūrei rocks back on his heels in surprise.

“Leave?” he asks, brows furrowing, because it had honestly never even occurred to him.

Apparently reading that on his face, Madara breathes out long and slow, and rubs a hand over his eyes. “You…have a brother,” he says, like it’s an explanation. “Two brothers. You have a name. Tobirama. You could—you could go back to that, if you wanted.”

Even after six years, Madara still doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know why Yūrei (Tobirama, now, he supposes, because he can read in the stubborn lines around Madara's eyes that he isn’t going to call him Yūrei anymore) follows him everywhere, guards his back, steps between him and danger. He doesn’t realize what it means, that Tobirama—always a morning person, by nature rather than training—wakes him up in the mornings, prods him into his clothes while he’s still half-conscious and makes sure he’s presentable. Doesn’t comprehend that he’s the only one Tobirama ever seeks out after missions or nightmares, and that’s...that’s okay. Tobirama doesn’t really expect him to. Madara is always single-minded, entirely focused on his dreams of peace, and once they’ve been achieved, maybe then.

Yūrei, who is Tobirama, who is Madara's shadow—he can wait.

“No,” he says simply, “I'm staying,” and watches the remainder of the tension bleed right out of Madara's shoulders.

“But—” Madara starts, and Tobirama just rolls his eyes, crosses the room in three quick strides, and knocks the other boy onto the futon.

“I can't be Tobirama right now,” he points out logically, ignoring Madara's attempts to wriggle free as he sits on him. “Tobirama is a Senju. Unless we have peace, I can never be him. You have to lead us there first.”

Madara looks at him wide-eyed, struggles ceasing, and Tobirama looks back at him, one brow lifted. When he sees that Madara understands what he’s saying, Tobirama nods in faint satisfaction and rolls off his friend, stretching out on his back with a quiet smile.

There's a long moment of silence, and then Madara huffs. He reaches over and jabs Tobirama in the ribs, then says archly, “I’d go after my dream either way, you know. You have nothing to do with it.”

Because he’s used to Madara's bluster by now, Tobirama just rolls his eyes and jabs him right back. He doesn’t say anything, but lets his smug silence speak for itself, and Madara growls at him again, snatching up the pillow and slapping it down over his face.

Tobirama just laughs, and thinks that someday can't come soon enough.

 

And someday, someday, Uchiha Tajima looks across the ranks of his soldiers, out at the gathered Senju who stand with their weapons lowered, and says, “Kill them.”

And Madara looks him dead in the eye and answers, “No.”

None of the Uchiha move.

Tajima looks to Tobirama then, furious and raging at this one defiance atop so many others, and orders, “Boy! Bring me my son’s head!”

Tobirama is a sword that cuts whatever hand attempts to wield him, who will only be drawn by one man. He is what he was created to be, but he is also so much more.

Tajima never did bother to name him, no matter what he promised.

He looks to Madara before he moves, the way he always does, but Madara just grins at him, more teeth than humor and a world of bloody amusement in his eyes. His feelings in this are clear, and Tobirama rests one hand against the hilt of his own sword, meets Izuna’s eyes, looks across the battlefield to where his brothers by blood stand locked in similar battle against their own father. Then he takes a breath and answers coldly, “Never.”

He will not kill again, not unless he thinks he must, and even if this is not the peace Madara and Hashirama speak of, Tobirama thinks it might well be the first step towards it.

 

(They build a village in the end, Madara and Hashirama together, when their fathers are both dead at each other’s hands and the whole world is tired of war. It’s a beautiful place, Senju and Uchiha entirely equal there, and when Hashirama and Madara shake hands as the leaders of two clans at peace, Tobirama stands with Itama at Hashirama’s shoulder for the first time.

It’s different now than it was. He is no longer an omen, or a child out of place, brought up only to be a weapon. He is a Senju raised as an Uchiha, with Hashirama’s love and Madara's trust. He is a child of two worlds, bound to both, and maybe his birth truly was a portent, but for the first time the Senju whisper that perhaps it was not an ill one.

“Don’t stand so far away,” Madara grumbles at him, when the ceremony is finished and the festivities are beginning at last. He crosses his arms over his chest, watching with narrowed eyes as Izuna escorts a Senju woman with a high, dark topknot out to dance. They're joined a moment later by Hashirama and his fiancée, a kunoichi from Uzushio, who smiles indulgently at her husband-to-be even as he bounces and sways like a drunken rooster.

Tobirama—and he is truly Tobirama now, with no other name, regardless of how he keeps the one Madara gave him close to his heart—shifts closer, stands one step behind Madara the way he always has and always will. Madara looks back at him, though, expression caught somewhere between amused and exasperated, and reaches out. A hand catches Tobirama’s, strong and sure, and Madara pulls him forward until they're shoulder-to-shoulder, standing side by side as the sun starts to set.

Normally, Tobirama is wary of darkness. It’s a time to kill, a time of fear, and sometimes not even the moon casts enough light to break through the shadows.

This time, though, there are lanterns strung throughout the village, casting colorful, cheerful rays across the revelers. The stars are out, bright and clear, and above them the moon is full and so very bright that Tobirama can hardly bear to look away from it. There's no reason to fear the dark tonight, and it makes him smile, the freedom that lack of fear brings.

“Come on,” Madara says, as impatient as ever, and drags Tobirama forward into the press of bodies. “Come on, Tobirama, this is for all of us. You can play the wallflower later—right now we’re celebrating home.”

Tobirama’s home is and always has been a hundred and eighty centimeters of cranky, confident, melodramatic Uchiha, the very first to give him a name and a purpose beyond killing. But if Madara hasn’t figured that out by now, well.

Tobirama isn’t going to spoil the mystery just yet.

He simply smiles and lets Madara pull him into the whirl of festivities until they're carried away by the crowd.)