One moment it's the end. He accepted that he fucked up. He's dying again, apologizing for the first time, the last time, and he could see it - Hashirama always cared. He always meant what he said. Hashirama truly did love Madara, and in the end, that was too much. Madara broke.
The next moment, there's a gut wrenching feeling, something like using Obito's Kamui, only much, much worse. A tickle in his mind, of a rage not his own - he's done with the anger, it only drew him down the wrong path in the end, then left him broken, bleeding, dying, at Hashirama's feet again - and that horrible ripping, spinning sensation.
Then he was standing, wavering, on the edge of what would become a battlefield, Izuna at his shoulder - and he wanted to be glad, but all he can muster is some sort of bewilderment - facing a young Hashirama who was begging for him not to fight this time. Beside him, Tobirama looks weary - weary of the pleas, or weary of the battles, Madara can't help but wonder (even his rage at Tobirama is a muted, empty thing) - one hand on his blade, preparing for the moment that Madara one again chooses to fight. He seemed to see something different in Madara. He didn't relax, exactly, but something in his stance changed. His anticipation had a different feel to it, suddenly.
Izuna tensed, his mouth opening to say again what he always said at these times, but stopped when Madara raised his hand. The other Uchiha with him watched warily, but all he did was meet Hashirama's eyes, and say, feeling empty and drained, "I'm tired."
There was a long silence during which Madara closed his eyes, and tilted his face toward the sun, leaning against the battle fan he often had carried with him. On either side, no one moved, with the exception of turning toward him. The eyes of the Senju and Uchiha alike pricked at him, though there was something hopeful in Hashirama's look, something cool and contemplative in Tobirama's. Izuna's stare was warm and worried, whereas everyone else just felt like they were waiting for something. For what, he neither knew nor cared.
Izuna gently nudged his elbow, breaking him out of his thoughts about how strange and soothing the sun felt on his skin. "And?" he asked quietly. A hush seemed to follow, and the feeling that everyone was waiting for something intensified.
"I'm just tired," he replied, opening his eyes to gaze at the cloudless sky. "I'm sick of fighting. I've been doing it all my life. I'm standing here, trying to remember why we're doing this, and for the life of me, I can't. It's always the same, and I don't want to fight anymore." There was shock in the gazes on his back, shock from most of the Senju. Then there was Hashirama, an approving smile growing on his face, and Tobirama, with something like relief and acceptance. With an air of finality, he added, "So, I'm going home."
"But what about the client?" asked Izuna, his voice reasonable, but his eyes were still worried. Madara didn't want him to worry, but he also didn't want him to die. He was certain that this was, would have been, that battle, the one where the Senju started to truly win, the battle where Izuna would fatally injured.
"Did they pay us already?" Madara asked, knowing full well that they wouldn't have. "No? Then we don't have to continue." There was a murmur among the other Uchiha, but as of yet, none stood forward in protest. "I don't even remember what this was about, but I can say with utter certainty where it's going. If we fight, we'll continue until someone is critically injured or killed. Then one or the other of us will be forced to retreat..." He cocked his head, meeting a pair of red eyes on the other side of the drawn line. "What are we fighting about this time, anyway? Some noble wants another dead, I'm assuming."
"Inheritance issues," replied Tobirama, with a slow blink. His expression remained thoughtful, even as he continued, somehow knowing that Madara was understating how little he knew of what was going on, "We're guarding."
Meaning that Madara was leading a brute force assassination squad. Lovely. He ran the entire battle through his head thousands of times, but he had rarely thought about the origin of the battle. In his and Hashirama's hands, their clans rarely sought each other out - it was their clients that did that. Madara couldn't spare a thought to care for whatever nobles would supposedly benefit from this. Instead, he thought about repercussions.
He glanced about the field in which they stood, letting out a long-suffering sigh. If they fought, the field - someone's livelihood - would be churned beyond recognition, probably far beyond only one civilian's property. There would be famine, even with just the few of them on either side, because just between Madara and Hashirama, the damage would be immense. The farmers wouldn't be able to pay their taxes, the nobles would bleed them harder, the farmers would blame the shinobi, whereas... the Senju and the Uchiha would blame each other.
"Fighting wouldn't be worth the consequences," he said, after another drawn out silence. It wouldn't be worth Izuna's death. It wouldn't be worth the civilian lives ruined. It wouldn't be worth it to continue bowing to nobles whose main goals seemed to consist of setting the Uchiha and the Senju against each other. To Hashirama, he said, "You and I both know how to end this, but for the moment, there is little to do for it. Contact me in a week's time, and I'll see what can be done on my side." With a sharp gesture behind himself, indicating that Izuna and the rest of his squad had better follow him or else, he left.
Perhaps he could change history. Some things would remain the same, he knew - after all, he was but one man - but others... The mere fact that Izuna was alive and breathing at his side, even radiating confusion and concern, was enough to make him have to force back tears.