There were days Madara desperately wished he could muster enough apathy to foist the Clan Head position on Izuna and fuck off into the wilderness, far, far away from humanity’s collective bullshit. Listen, listen, he’d been prepared for a lot of things when he became Clan Head, the blood, the death, the screaming, that was all old hat as far as he was concerned. An average weekday even.
What he was distinctly not prepared for was the fucking Sage of Six Paths himself ripping open a portal in his front yard to monologue cryptically. Wasn’t this geezer supposed to have died, like, a thousand years ago? What gives, why couldn’t he have pulled this shit on the Senju? If anyone deserved the shock of their lives it was Hashirama; that eternal cheer was fucking creepy.
“—you, who are the son of the son of my son, who’s hatred would sunder the heavens—”
“What the fuck is he going on about?” Izuna, who lost his sense of reverence within the first five minutes, which is five minutes longer than he’d ever been reverent in his entire life, didn’t even bother to lower his volume.
Madara shrugged helplessly.
“—if Indra and Ashura will not break the Cycle in time to salvage the Heart of the World—”
Oh gods, he could actually hear the capitalization. What a pretentious asshole, for real. And Madara has met some pretentious assholes in his time, okay, he’s met Senju Tobirama. Like, from a distance. But it was close enough.
“—then what needs be done must be done—Urk!”
Madara startled as someone buried a tonfa in the Sage’s gut; the Sage curled around it, wheezing alarmingly. He weakly collapsed out of sight as a young, dark-haired man stepped into view, a cool, disdainful expression that was strangely familiar etched onto his regal features.
“You’re too noisy, Old Herbivore,” the young man said, hopping out of the portal and landing in a neat crouch in the grass. And okay, Madara was nipping this in the bud here. The Sage you can’t reasonably expect him to do anything about, strange intruders he could.
“Whoa, hey, you get right back in that portal, brat, you’re not welcome here.” Madara stepped forward, knuckles flexing, Izuna just a step behind, the reassuring, hushed rasp of a sword loosening in its sheath.
The little shit had the gall to smirk at him, one foot sliding back into a stance as his tonfas rose at the ready—
“Oh my fuck, Kyouya! Can you not restrain yourself for two seconds?!”
Another young man appeared in the portal, this one with shoulder-length brown hair, the top and sides pulled back into a short tail. His amber eyes seemed to be literally alight with the force of his aggravation. Behind him the Sage staggered to his feet, clutching his stomach, only to be knocked in the head by a carelessly twirled trident and down he went again.
“Oya, Kyo-san is such a brute,” a third young man leaned into view, or should he say leered into view, blue hair oddly shaped like a pineapple, and heterochromatic eyes, a blue left eye and a red right eye. “You can’t ask a wild animal to change his behavior, Tsunayoshi.”
Kyouya sniffed dismissively and relaxed his stance while Tsunayoshi bristled.
“Don’t act like you aren’t just as bad, Mukuro,” Tsunayoshi snapped. “You pick just as many fights as he does, and you’re not even subtle about it. ”
“Oi,” Madara grunted. Were they just going to ignore how inconvenient this was for everyone? Hello, portal, wheezing Sage? Ring any bells?
“He’s a flamboyant bastard. He doesn’t do subtle,” Kyouya bared his teeth at the strange looking man, insolently disregarding the Uchiha whose lawn he invaded.
“Oi,” Madara said louder. Izuna pulled his sword from his sheath when Mukuro also hopped through the portal, twirling his trident.
Madara took a deep breath. This needed to be done delicately.
“SHUT UP AND EXPLAIN YOURSELVES.”
The sudden silence in the aftermath was intensely satisfying, it seemed to reverberate like struck crystal. Everyone froze in place, startled deer one and all. Even the Sage stopped wheezing. Madara was pretty proud of his lungs; years of katons had honed their force and projection into something eardrum-shattering that came in real handy for situations like this.
“Right in my ear why don’t you.” Izuna broke the atmosphere, rubbing his ear irritably.
The Sage levered himself up to his feet, dragging himself up using Tsunayoshi as a support, much to Tsunayoshi’s squawking indignation. He gave the old man a gimlet glare and hopped out of the portal too. “The two of you are not to interfere! It is Tsunayoshi’s task to fix what he broke and his task alone! It is not a proper punishment if he has help.”
“And what do we have to do with it?” Izuna demanded. “We’ve never seen this kid in our lives.”
Mukuro smirked, amused and condescending. “He means us.” He waved with a cheeky smirk, “Hi, I’m your next life. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t die as lamely as last time.”
Izuna gaped, then snapped his mouth shut with a snarl. “Like hell I’d believe that bullshit!”
“Believe what you like. It doesn’t change the truth,” Mukuro scoffed.
“Still your tongue!” the Sage barked, silencing everyone with the force of his gathering chakra. “You have interfered enough! I will not have you—”
A tonfa bounced off his face, cutting off his building tirade with a crunch and a spurt of blood.
Tsunayoshi took the opportunity to grip the edges of the portal with flaming— flaming? What the everloving shit —hands and force it closed with a concussive snap. It had a lot in common with closing curtains for a move that defied space and time and otherworldly chakra.
Tsunayoshi turned around with a bland look on his face. “Oh no,” he deadpanned. “We appear to have lost our only way home. What ever shall we do.” Then he proceed to flail about in the most sarcastic manner Madara had ever witnessed in his life. Well, maybe not, Izuna could be—no, no it definitely surpassed that.
“You could start by getting off my lawn,” Madara said flatly. “We can negotiate your continued ability to breathe after that.”
“Excuse you!?” Tsunayoshi said, voice strangled, a vein pulsing in his forehead. Mukuro looked inappropriately fascinated, like he’d never been threatened before. Madara frankly found that a little hard to believe if that was the case; he looked the type everyone wanted to punch in the face.
Kyouya just, looked excited, rolling onto the balls of his feet and ready to spring on the next person to move.
“You heard him,” Izuna narrowed his eyes, flipping his sword into a more comfortable grip. Kyoya’s gaze zeroed in on him with predatory focus and Madara glared warningly at him.
“I heard someone begging for my foot up his ass, is what I heard,” Tsunayoshi brandished a flaming fist, the tendons standing out from how tightly he was clenching his hand.
“Excuse you!?” Madara said, voice strangled.
Mukuro sighed at them all, despondent and perfectly theatrical. “As fun as a brawl might be we do have something to do here.”
“It’s a stupid thing,” Kyouya huffed disgustedly.
“Didn’t you say this was a waste of time too, Mukuro?” Tsunayoshi narrowed his eyes at his companion who attempted a dignified sniff.
“Yes, but Kyouya agreed with me so now it’s the best idea I’ve heard all week,” Mukuro said like it should have been obvious. Madara was glad he wasn’t riding herd on that circus.
“And you’re bored,” Tsunayoshi said knowingly, exasperatedly.
“And I’m bored,” Mukuro agreed, leering shamelessly.
“Ugh, fine,” Tsunayoshi rolled his eyes heavenward, clearly begging for patience because strength would just see Mukuro getting punted. “Kyoya stop calculating attacks. We have to take this seriously.”
“Take yourself seriously first and I’ll think about it,” Kyoya said, but he obligingly put away his weapons.
Tsunayoshi dragged a hand down his face. “Okay. I guess we’ll start over.”
“How about no?” Izuna suggested with a derisive smile. “You’ve already made a terrible first impression, and it isn’t getting any better.”
“The closest thing to a god you people acknowledge showed up on your doorstep to deliver strangers bearing a noble purpose and you think that was a terrible impression?” Tsunayoshi asked incredulously. “That was textbook fairytale!”
Izuna leveled a droll look at him. “Gods were meant to be defied.”
Madara slapped a hand to his face because that was Izuna all over; arrogant and unimpressed and highly uninterested in anyone but Madara ever having any kind of authority over him. If he even allowed that much. Madara reminds himself that he loves his precious little brother, even when he also wants to strangle him with his own ponytail.
“He does have a point,” Mukuro said, leaning on his trident.
Tsunayoshi gave him a dark look. “Don’t you start,” he warned.
“And anyway, we don’t have any guarantee your intentions are noble,” Izuna continued, still dry and dangerously calm. “One man’s nobility is another man’s bad day and all that.”
Oh, well, Madara would give him that. He’d been on the end of civilian lords’ ‘nobility’ enough that he was fairly sick of it and he knew most shinobi felt the same. Come to think of it, some shinobi’s ideas of nobility drove him up the wall too. (The prime example starting with H and ending with ashirama. Really, how was the man real?)
He dragged a hand down his face. It was noon and it still felt too early for this shit. Could he get away with just crawling back into bed and hoping all his problems will disappear? He sighed. Probably not.
Time for Plan B; Plan Fuck It All. Which didn’t start with B but what the fuck ever, he was lazy.
“You are all coming in for tea or I swear to the gods I’m killing every single last one of you,” Madara growled.
“So let me get this straight,” Madara said, ignoring Mukuro’s disturbing giggle. “You,” he pointed at Tsunayoshi, “are my next -next life. You,” he pointed to Mukuro, “are Izuna’s next life. And you,” he pointed to Kyouya, “are their tagalong of indeterminate incarnation?”
Kyouya bared his teeth. Madara bared his teeth right back and set about pouring tea in the most grudging manner he could muster. Just because he was obligated to uphold guest-right doesn’t mean he had to be gracious about it or anything. Perish the thought.
“No,” Tsunayoshi sighed, massaging his temples. “We know who he was, we just don’t want him to remember, like, ever if we can help it.”
“Why, was it traumatic?” Izuna arched a perfectly disbelieving brow. Since when did they show that much consideration for other people’s feelings? Madara would declare them frauds based on that alone.
“No, we just don’t fancy the idea of dredging up our emotions to resolve our issues with his past life,” Mukuro said nonchalantly, apathetically examining his nails.
Okay, Madara would give him that. He too would go to obscene means if it meant not having to talk about his feelings. And the less said about Izuna’s avoidance of all things touchy-feely, the better. That way lay nightmares that were still unresolved.
“And...you’re here because Madara fucked something up so badly hindsight said it needed to be fixed before it broke?” Izuna asked skeptically. “I mean, I believe it. But why the Sage?”
“Hey!” Madara glared at his little brother in stunned betrayal. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Tsunayoshi mirrored him, “Why would you believe it?! You grew up with me—him!”
Kyouya snorted and hid his smirk behind his cup. “Do you want to tell him or shall I?” He slanted his gaze to Mukuro.
“No, no,” Mukuro flapped a hand dismissively. “I’ve got this.” He cleared his throat. “Tsuna. You’re an idiot.”
Tsunayoshi spluttered indignantly, waving a hand about when words failed him.
“That was bland,” Kyouya murmured into his tea. “Couldn’t you put some imagination into it?”
Mukuro sniffed imperiously, “Bluntness has its merits. Did you want him confused as to what I meant?”
“I am right here,” Tsunayoshi said through gritted teeth. “Sitting right between you, as a matter of fact.”
“They know,” Izuna said, mocking smile in place. “They just don’t care.”
Madara sighed at them all. Again. At this rate he was sighing so often he could kawarimi a bellows into his spot and no one would notice as long as someone pushed on it every once in a while. Being a Clan Head was so trying. Surrounded by fools he wasn’t allowed to smack every time they opened their mouths.
Hold that thought.
Madara reached out and cuffed Izuna upside the head, reveling in his stunned squawk. All was right with the world again.
Tsunayoshi was eying Mukuro like he wanted to emulate, but also wanted to have fingers afterwards. Notably, he scooched away from Kyouya rather than threaten discipline. After a brief mental struggle he seemed to give it up as a bad job and returned to the actual matter at hand.
“Look,” He said with forced patience, “we just need a place to stay while we sort this out. I know where and when to find this bastard so we should be in and out of your hair in no time.”
Kyouya snorted, “With those tangles? I doubt it.”
“Hey! I brush!” Madara exclaimed, feeling his face flush with temper and, just a smidgen of embarrassment. Not because it was true! Just because it was an embarrassing thing to say to someone! Izuna was giving him a very judgmental side-eye. Screw him, he was just as bad. It just wasn’t as obvious because he had finer hair.
“When?” Kyouya retorted, ignoring Tsunayoshi hissing at him. “Last week?”
Technically, if finger combing counted, then it was this morning. If it didn’t then...two weeks ago? Oh, Madara felt his flush deepen and told himself it was merely increasing ire. Nobody needed to know he was planning to dig his hairbrush out of whichever crevice he shoved it into this time.
“I can tell you—”
Tsunayoshi hastily slapped a hand over Mukuro’s mouth.
“So do we have a deal?” He asked, smile strained to the point of twitching.
Madara and Izuna shared a look of perfect understanding.
“Tell me everything you know about the future,” Madara demanded, leaning forward.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
For Rinrin, who needs cheering up.
~14 years ago
Tsuna was hiding in the park, and he did so without shame. Much.
Anyone would in the face of Iemitsu! That was his hill and he would die on it! He was a patronizing, romanticizing buffoon; who would even subject themselves to that willingly?
Save, perhaps, his darling new mother of surprisingly poor taste, and the man’s boss, also of poor taste, though Tsuna felt could be forgiven for not knowing if that was a surprise too.
He regrets ever telling his mother that he only wanted a little sibling for his birthday if this was the result. He’ll just have to go back to molding minions.
Tsuna shivered when the wind blew and rustled his leaf cover out of place, the price you paid trying to hide in these inferior trees. He missed real trees, Fire country trees, not these paltry things that were good for nothing but a slightly better view. He missed a lot of things he never used to think twice about.
Tsuna doesn’t remember a time he didn’t remember himself as Uchiha Madara, madman and Sage and would-be conqueror. There are no strange night terrors to haunt an ignorant next life into anxious meekness, no out of place half-recalled instincts to war with his actions, not even a sudden realization of identity. He is Tsuna, and he is Madara, and the one blends seamlessly into the other.
For the most part this is fine. Being a civilian is fine, being a helpless child is fine. It’s all fine. He can remember all too well the years spent in darkness, alone, growing frailer by the day until he couldn’t live untethered from the Tree. At least now he can walk and run if he wants to; hell, he could turn cartwheels until he threw up if he really wanted to! And eat solid foods without wincing around his teeth! Truly, that last one was a blessing.
Tsuna has decades of patience behind him now; none of these are insurmountable problems. Strength will be rebuilt, age will be regained, he could do that even when he was a real brat the first time around. It doesn’t even take effort, just daily routine.
And it wasn’t like this was the Warring Clans Era. Everything about that time of his life was behind him now. He was learning to move on, be a better person after everything that—
“Herbivore, this is my tree.”
And that? That was hell no.
Tsuna looked down, preparing to snap something vicious and send the brat crying when the face abruptly registered.
On the surface there were no similarities to speak of; black hair instead of white, grey eyes instead of red, finer features, thinner shoulders, the promise of a willowy build rather than broad. But Tsuna knew that imperious attitude. Madara knew the feel of that chakra. Every inch of this arrogant, presumptuous brat set off warning bells deep in the recesses of his soul where he never forgot, and certainly never forgave.
Screw moving on and being a better person. Screw it sideways. Vengeance will be his at long last.
A bored look shading to annoyance around the edges greeted him. “Do I know you?”
"Yes!” Tsuna spat, then blinked because actually...that chakra was still dormant. “I mean, no! Not really… It doesn’t matter! I’m gonna kill you for killing my brother in our past life!”
The damnable brat looked excited by that prospect, as if his imminent messy death was actually an unexpected present. What the hell was wrong with him?! Nevermind, it was about to be the Shinigami’s problem and out of Tsuna’s hair.
Tsuna gathered his chakra, and pounced. If the brat wanted to die so much that was no skin off his nose. He hadn’t planned to start his career as a shinobi this early in life but perhaps some things were meant to be—
Tsuna hit the trunk, bleeding from his nose and feeling a little confused, possibly concussed. The brat lowered his training tonfa, a full on pout spreading across his face. It had a remarkable similarity to the naive idiot boy of his fonder memories for all there wasn’t a bit of familial resemblance anymore.
“Boring,” the brat declared, moving to climb the tree.
Boring? Boring?! He’d show that brat boring!
Tsuna scrambled up, glaring fit to kill. The brat gazed down at him from the branches, silently mocking in that oh-so apathetic way that characterized his life. Tsuna didn’t think twice, he ran up the tree, reveling in the wide-eyed surprise as he tackled the brat—
Tsuna wheezed for breath, the brat having twisted so Tsuna took the brunt of the fall with his pitiful five year-old body.
“Wao. Teach me to do that.”
Oh fuck no. Over his dead body.
That wasn’t the end of it, not by a long shot. Now that Tsuna was aware of his existence he couldn’t rest until he ended it once and for all, as he never got to last time. That might be one his few regrets actually, never stabbing Tobirama while he had the chance. He was already leaving the village, why didn’t he have a bit of last minute fun while he was at it?
Damn his tunnel vision.
Oh well. He’s making up for lost opportunities now.
Every single day he prowled the streets, on the lookout for the brat to put him down once and for all with the knife he hid in the packed lunches his darling mother made for him. And every single time he managed to track him down the brat retaliated with those fucking tonfas of his and Tsuna had to beat a hasty retreat eventually. Seriously, what was with the tonfas; Tobirama had never been much interested in branching out from swords and kunai so what gives?
Unless you counted the seals. And the zombies. And the multiplying bomb tags. And the fucking lightsaber—
On second thought maybe he should be grateful for small mercies and leave it at that. Don’t want to tempt fate more than he absolutely has to.
It would also be less irritating if the brat would stop looking like his birthday came early every time Tsuna tried to kill him. It was disturbing. These weren’t friendship overtures yet somehow a wire had gotten crossed because now the brat was seeking him out for deathmatches. Oh gods, had he always been this insane? Had he been under some impression that fights to the death were how you made friends?
If that didn’t put a disturbing twist on his rivalry with Izuna…
Wait, wait, no, Tsuna yanked at his hair in frustration then winced as he pulled too hard on his scalp, this was much less hazardous with long hair but so far no amount of pouting had convinced his darling mother to let him grow it out. But anyway, if Tobirama had thought that way he wouldn’t have protested so hard against Madara’s friendship with Hashirama, so.
The madness was new.
Maybe that was why he was being stared down by what was clearly the brat’s highly unimpressed mother, said brat all but vibrating by her side, looking absolutely pleased with himself. Tsuna felt a faint sting of betrayal; did the brat just snitch on him? Him? How dare he.
“You’ve claimed vendetta against my child.” The woman said, arms folded, fingers tapping on what was clearly a battle worthy tessen in one hand or Tsuna would willingly hug Iemitsu. Maybe. If the drunken oaf was unconscious first.
Tsuna straightened his back and lifted his chin, looking her square in the eye. He used to be a Clan Head, he knows how this dance goes. Even if his five year old body is kind of pitiful. “And if I have?”
She hummed, eyeing him with a raptor’s keen interest, right before it made up its mind about whether you were food or not. Tsuna knew the look. “You claim the grievance precedes this life? My little hunter assures me he remembers only the one.” Interesting that she didn’t dismiss the claim as outlandish then. Yet.
“Forgetting you did something doesn’t erase that it was done,” Tsuna snapped, all squeaky miniscule fury and self-assurance in his own vengeful cause.
Not that anyone using his logic to seek vendetta against him for his own actions would get much traction with him. They’d go six feet under before they finished monologuing their sob story and Tsuna would get on with his life. Still not entirely sure which specific asshole move of his inspired that kind of reaction.
You just couldn’t sweat the small things like that.
The brat was looking between them curiously now, one hand fisted in his mother’s smart suit pants and it was such a childish gesture that it genuinely took Tsuna aback. He’d been so caught up in the hunt and having to push himself against an opponent that he… forgot this wasn’t his first childhood. The brat wasn’t a shinobi child, he was just, a child. Tsuna was the one aiming to kill, who wasn’t treating it like a —slightly bloodthirsty— game, who thought child killing child was, well, the norm.
It wasn’t. Not for the brat, not for his mother, not even for this society he’d been born into.
For the first time, Tsuna felt other in his own skin.
“You believe my claim then?” Tsuna asked, less sharp after the spike of guilt that lodged itself in his brain. Not a very big one! Just a small one! Vengeance will still be had!
“It’s not outside the purview of mist flames to pull memories out of the subconscious previously thought long lost,” She said, and what? Mist flames? The hell were those? “Moreover it is not, in all actuality, the most outlandish claim I’ve ever heard. Almost tame, even.”
Okay, that was— weird, but not his problem.
“What are mist flames and why are they relevant?” Tsuna demanded. Because if the validity of his claim was riding on mystical hoohah he wanted to have all the relevant details yesterday.
This wasn’t going to be ‘take Tsuna’s body for a joyride as soon as his goals were in sight 2.0’ here. Not on his watch.
“Oh? You don’t know what flames are? How curious. My little hunter told me stories about the things you can do.” She said and, okay, Tsuna did not like the unholy gleam in her eyes. Not one bit.
“I know what fire is! I’m five not stupid!” Tsuna said hotly. “And I’d remember if I blew any at him, which I didn’t. Those were all just chakra tricks.”
All of a sudden the woman crouched down, still tall enough to loom over him, intense in a way that put her previous lazy interest before to shame. Tsuna tried to gulp discreetly. He was distinctly reminded of the first time he met Mito and she treated him to a strangely cryptic, overtly threatening conversation warning him away from even thinking of inserting himself into her marriage. Which, ew. Not with Hashirama involved.
“You are versed in chakric arts?” She demanded, hand going white-knuckled on her tessen. Tsuna swore it started to bend in her grip.
“Yes?” Maybe, just maybe, it was time to start mapping escape routes.
The woman neatly cut him off by grabbing his collar. “Have you any idea how much of a lost art that is these days?”
Oh no. Oh no. She was getting way too excited for Tsuna’s continued sanity.
“Is it…?” Tsuna said weakly. Were these the consequences he was always getting warned about? If so, he could see why people were always trying to avoid them. It was unpleasant.
Then she smiled, perfectly genial and not at all spine-chilling. “Tell you what, Vendetta-chan, if you teach the Hibari clan how to use chakra not only will I not chop your fingers off for daring to lay a hand on my Kyo-chan, I’ll even let you keep playing with him.”
Kyo-chan made a noise of protest, lower lip jutting out in a pout.
Hibari instantly turned to coo at him, attitude doing a complete one-eighty. “I know, Kyo-chan, you made a new friend all on your own and I’m so proud of you. But if he won’t play nice than he isn’t good to play with at all.”
What happened to chopping his fingers off? They weren’t friends! They were—nemeses! Truly, Tsuna should have just stayed in bed today. Been the bigger person and stuck his resolution about moving on no matter how boring that sounded.
“So what do you say, Vendetta-chan?” Hibari asked, right back to being scary.
“That’s not my name!” Tsuna sputtered, thoroughly off balance. “And, and if I teach your clan then you’re just gonna teach him and make killing him harder!”
“Why yes, that was the plan,” Hibari nodded, then tilted her head with a mocking smiling. “Are you saying he’s too strong for you to beat, Vendetta-chan? Do you prefer weaker opponents?”
Tsuna went still. She did not just do that. She did not just imply he needed an advantage to fight a child. Within him slept the power of a Sage! A power that summoned meteors! He could kick the ass of any child, his wimpy five year old body be damned!
“Of course not! I’ll take your damn deal, lady!” Tsuna stuck out his hand and Hibari shook it, looking thoroughly satisfied with herself.
She pulled her brat son close and nuzzled his hair, expertly overpowering his cranky squirming. “There you go, my sweet. A nice rival to measure yourself against. Oh, you’re growing up so fast!”
Tsuna had the sudden premonition that he’d just been had.
Bit dialogue heavy, this one.
“THE FUTURE IS BULLSHIT!”
“Izuna, please, I know you’re mad—” Madara tried to sooth, only to be completely ignored.
“I’M PRACTICALLY A FOOTNOTE!” Izuna screeched in outrage, picking up a teacup and throwing it at the wall. “If this were a book then I’m that one character who only exists to further a main characters ridiculous manpain! I’LL FUCKING KILL TOBIRAMA FOR THIS!”
“Merciful Guan Yin strike me down now,” Madara muttered, rubbing his forehead. This was the third damn tantrum since yesterday and counting.
Izuna threw himself down on the kotatsu cushions and smothered his face in a pillow, screaming. Madara patiently sipped his tea until his overly melodramatic little brother wore himself out. Again.
“Feeling better?” Madara asked, more for the sake of asking than actually curious. If he didn’t make a token of being concerned Izuna would only be encouraged to get louder and more extravagant until Madara had no choice but to take notice. You would think he would have outgrown such behavior when he, you know, stopped being a toddler but Madara supposes there’s no point dropping behaviors that still work for you.
“Madara,” Izuna said blankly, staring at the ceiling now that he was done with the pillow. “If you ever, fucking ever , try to take over the world again—”
“Yeah, yeah, you’ll kill me. I got it,” Madara interrupted. He didn’t need to hear this, thank you. He already heard enough in his head when he was trying to sleep. Madara buried his face in his tea cup so Izuna wouldn’t see the nascent horror on it, only for a pillow to strike him out of nowhere and spill both cup and tea all over his lap.
“Why would I kill you?” Izuna demanded, mouth twisted petulantly. “I want in on that operation. I better be both right hand man and beloved minion who can do no wrong. I want to be raking in the dividends of world domination, preferably without killing everyone because then I’d have to do my own laundry.” His eyes went wide and his voice dropped with momentary horror. “Worse. I might have to do your laundry.” Then the horror went as quickly as it came. “Actually, you know what, you can do your own laundry for as long as you live.”
Madara’s mouth was as dry as his lap was wet. “Even if we have minions?”
“Especially if we have minions,” Izuna nodded decisively, propping up on his elbow. “It’ll keep you humble, Aniki. You know you have an ego problem.”
I have an ego problem? Madara thought incredulously. The mental dissonance of Izuna telling him that he had an ego problem was such that Madara needed a moment to check out of reality and scream into the void for moment. At least it was never a mystery why he himself had poor impulse control; he was too busy being ninety percent of Izuna’s.
“Putting that aside, we are not taking over the world.” Madara said firmly. “No one is taking over the world.” He said sharply when Izuna opened his mouth.
Izuna subsided with a grumbled, “You’re only saying that ‘cause you were awful at it…” that Madara graciously pretended not to hear. One of his many finely honed skills as a venerable Clan Head.
An Uchiha unceremoniously crashed through the window onto the dining table. Under the brothers’ stunned gazes the table let out an ominous creak and collapsed in the middle. The Uchiha in the center of the heap moaned piteously.
“Oh, is that Ryuo?” Izuna relaxed back onto the cushions from where he’d sat bolt upright at the crash. “Strange, he’s not usually that aerodynamic.”
“You would know,” Madara heard himself say faintly, more concerned with why Ryuo would be flying through their window. He twisted to look at the window with appalled anticipation, strangling a whine at the glass all over the floor. Shit, that’s… the third one this month? Cousin Shion was going to be pissed at having to replace his window, again. “Cousin, what the fuck.”
Ryuo made a weak attempt to move, really more of a full body twitch for all the moving he actually did, subsiding with a sigh that was far too dreamy for Madara’s sanity. “Madara-sama, can we keep him?”
“Oh gods, I’m going to regret asking,” Madara muttered, already cradling his forehead. “Who are you talking about?”
Ryuo sort of flopped an arm about. “The Hibari one, of course! He threw me halfway across the compound!” Another dreamy sigh. “He made it look easy too. I want to be his friend.”
Okay, Madara refused to put up with this in his own house. Bad enough he lived with Izuna and all that entailed, he categorically refused to put up with the insanity of anyone further from him than first cousin. He grabbed Ryuo by the scruff and hauled him back out the window posthaste. There. Sanctity restored.
“Brother,” Izuna frowned disapprovingly, “you can’t just throw people out the window, especially not Clan.” Madara flushed, mouth opening to apologize only for Izuna to cut right over him. “You have to haul them out to the curb like a responsible person, that way we aren’t disturbed by their moaning.”
Nevermind, it was Izuna. Apology retracted.
Firmly putting aside Izuna’s Izuna-ness Madara tried to bring the conversation back to relevant matters. Like, oh, the mess landed on their laps from the fucking future. He didn’t give two whits what Izuna said about it being Madara’s mess, his future incarnation chose to get involved, that made it both their mess. Even if it was technically his fault. Sorta.
“You do realize this means we have to seek an accord with the Senju.”
Izuna sighed, bitter and bone-deep exhausted. “No, it doesn’t,” he said firmly, a dangerously sharp undercurrent to his tone, ready to bite if pushed. “We don’t have to do anything about them.”
“You died, Izuna” he snapped. “You will die, do you understand? And I can’t handle that. I can’t handle this Clan without you. I can’t handle life without you. And I don’t want to. I know you think dying in battle is some kind of glorious, but I don’t! I’d rather you live, and if seeking an accord with the Senju is how I ensure it then so be it.”
“You’re the one who doesn’t understand!” Izuna retorted sharply, sitting up to glare better. “This Zetsu creature needs to die, agreed, but then what? It’s just one less unknown agenda encouraging divisiveness for their own ends. False circumstances doesn’t erase the very real blood that was spilled and the pain caused on both sides. What, you wanna just walk up to our enemies and say, hey, you know all those awful things we accused you of and killed your kin for? Just kidding! Yeah, that’ll fly over real well.”
“So you want to just stay trapped in a cycle of endless bloodshed forever?” Madara demanded furiously, fists clenched at his side. “Just keep killing and dying and avenging the ones who die in front of us until you die of it? The way you will die of it? Newsflash; the only way to break a vicious cycle is to refuse to participate! Someone has to take the first step and I refuse to be left behind!”
Izuna took a slow, careful breath, a dangerous sign where his temper was concerned. “I hear and understand you, Elder mine, but I cannot, will not, let circumstances be allowed to gloss over everything the Senju did do of their own volition.” He held up a hand to stave Madara off when he opened his mouth. “I understand your concerns about my death. I do. But Tobirama won’t have a battleworthy Hiraishin for another eight months according to our timeline. Plenty of time to train for it. And we will need to assume we will still be warring with them by that time, we don’t know how long finding and killing the creature will take.”
“And if you’d let me speak you’d know I didn’t intend to allow that either,” Madara said dryly, bristling subsiding in favor of something cooler, moving slowly enough to not count as ‘threat’ back to the kotatsu. “In that timeline my—Tsunayoshi spoke of, the Uchiha didn’t get a choice, in the village, in our participation, not even in the peace. We were subjugated. I won’t allow that here. I’ll throw Hashirama enough of a bone he’ll hold back in favor of pursuing it, which should get us breathing room. I won’t let him bowl the Clan over this time. I will force him to approach us as equals and we will have equal say on every matter in the treaty or I will die trying. I know you’ll do what’s best if it comes to that.”
The angry tension drained from Izuna at that, leaving just the tiredness behind. He nodded at Madara’s words. Wordless agreement and promise both.
“Now, these ‘Dying Will Flames’...” Madara decided to take mercy on his brother’s nerves and change the subject. Izuna groaned in response. “Ugh! They’re such bullshit. Logical bullshit, admittedly but it throws everything I know about chakra theory into question!”
Madara blinked, a little thrown, asking, “You think they’re logical?” He was of the opinion they were anything but.
Izuna absently waved a hand, “‘Course I do. The body produces Yang energy, the mind produces Yin. So why wouldn’t the soul produce a usable energy of its own? It’s not like we can’t wield Yang and Yin as separate energies. I think the real question is, what does mixing this soul fire with Yang or Yin or chakra do?”
“That might be a question to ask your incarnation,” Madara pointed out thoughtfully.
“Maybe,” Izuna said, mouth pursed doubtfully. “Speaking of, where is he?”
“I— That’s a good question.” Madara scowled. “The Hibari is at the training fields for whatever reason; hell if I know where the other two scampered. Actually… why the hell is Hibari at the training fields?” He went back to window and stuck his head out, mindful of the broken glass. Wonder of wonders, Ryuo was still crumpled on the ground.
“Hey, paper airplane,” he barked, “the hell’s the Hibari one doing at the training grounds?”
Ryuo made a weak, pained noise and rolled onto his side. “He’s mad the other two left him behind and taking it out on anyone willing to throw down.”
His eyebrow twitched.
Ryuo gave him a wide-eyed, reproachful look. “You didn’t know?” He gingerly propped himself on his elbow with a thoughtful grimace, ignoring his Clan Head on the verge of breathing fire. “Rokudo said something about hitching a ride on a fox? Whatever that means. Sawada said they’d be back soonish, and in the meantime Hibari will establish a safe base of operations and assist us in punting away anyone who comes sniffing.”
Gee, this would have been wonderful to know sooner, maybe even, oh, from the get go?! Madara strangled the urge to yank on his hair, pulling his head back in and yanking the curtains closed with petty satisfaction.
“Bad news?” Izuna inquired warily, gaze skittering tellingly to his sword hanging on the wall.
“Those little bastards left without so much as a by your leave,” Madara gritted. Oh, he could just throttle them. For a moment he lost himself in a happy fantasy of doing just that.
“—late to bring them back by now,” Izuna was saying grimly and Madara forcibly redirected his focus away from violent daydreams.
“So much for keeping us in the loop. Argh!” Madara scrubbed his face with and hand, taking a deep breath in an attempt to calm down. “And now we’ve got a pissy rearguard to deal with who oh so conveniently just happens not to know anything except what he’s been told by the other two!”
“Does he?” Izuna interrupted the rant. He shifted to sit properly, elbows braced on the table, expression intent.
“What?” Madara blinked, derailed.
“Know nothing,” Izuna clarified, eyes sharp. “Does he actually know nothing we don’t know?”
“We haven’t bothered to ask…” Madara blinked again, turning that over in his mind.
“And,” Izuna continued with an edge of rising glee, “who’s to say he can’t remember his past like the other two?”
A grin tugged at his mouth unbidden. “We only have our incarnation’s word for that,” Madara breathed.
“We don’t associate with idiots of our own volition, Brother,” Izuna grinned back, “I bet he knows more about what they’re up to than they think he does. I bet he knows more than they think he does period. And,” he frowned, “something about his chakra is… really familiar. Like I should know it somehow.”
“They did say they had unresolved issues with his past life,” Madara pointed out. “And if you died in eight months like Rokudo it would have to be someone you’ve already met.”
“Someone I’ve met repeatedly if I remember their chakra, someone we both have massive unresolved issues with, and yet, someone who’s also too useful to ignore…” Izuna trailed off, eyes going wide and disbelieving. “Holy shit!”
“What?” Madara started.
“I think I know who it is,” Izuna said incredulously. “ I—I have to go talk to him.”
“What? Who is it?” Madara demanded.
“I don’t know!” Izuna exclaimed, gesticulating rather incoherently back.
“But you just said—!”
“I only said I think I do, there’s a difference!”
“Speak plainly then!” Madara snarled, rather short on patience and swiftly losing the rest.
“I have to go talk to him,” Izuna repeated, staring at something beyond Madara now, staring through him. Saying such, Izuna leapt from the kotatsu, going for his sword and shoving it, scabbard and all, through his sash.
Madara cursed and scrambled to his feet as well. “Wait for me, don’t go haring off you idiot!”
Izuna glanced back from wearing he was pulling on his sandals and snorted, “Maybe change your pants first, honored elder brother, you look like you wet yourself.”
What? Madara glanced down and, sure enough, the front of his pants were still soaked from tea. It even still smelled like tea, not that anyone looking from a distance would be able to tell. Madara cursed again, with significantly more feeling, and stomped out of the room to the sound of Izuna laughing at him, as usual.
“This is your fault, damn it!”
“Always blaming me for your shortcomings is bad for your growth as a person,” Izuna called back gleefully.
Madara screamed in frustration.
~5 years ago
Tsuna likes to think by now he’s entirely adjusted to this civilian life, slow and staid as it was, sneaking around to train like the elder he used to be so he didn’t worry the young ones over his health. Really, it’s the nice, quiet retirement he deserves after all that brouhaha before. Sure, there are some irritants leftover but nothing’s perfect, karma has to balance things out somehow so no one takes their lot for granted.
Tsuna has a lot to be grateful for.
He is grateful for this quiet life where so much old pain cannot follow. Where childhood isn’t a liability that got you killed but a standard of happiness. Where knives were something you took out of children’s hands instead of giving it to them.
Where toddlers tried their hands at scams like Tsuna wouldn’t see through that shit in a heartbeat.
The toddler (who actually felt not so toddler-ish on second thought) lowered his hand from where he’d been about to knock on the door before Tsuna opened it, already prepared to go off to school. “Ciaossu,” he said blandly, a chameleon padding around on the brim of his jaunty hat. “You should have received my flyer.”
If by received he meant the obvious scam slipped into their mail not ten minutes ago that Tsuna had taken one look at and tossed in the burn bin? Then sure, they received it.
“We’re not interested in buying,” Tsuna said automatically, because that’s what you say to people selling scams, right? Polite but firm refusal, making sure not to look them in the eye lest they take it as an invitation to fight— wait, that was pokemon, nevermind. And damn it, he was going to have the theme stuck in his head all day.
Then the toddler pointed the chameleon at him and it turned into a fucking gun, taking with it all of Tsuna’s hopes and dreams of not dealing with bullshit before eight in the morning. And no, the Hibari brat didn’t count. Tsuna was bothering him and he bothered back. It was a fine distinction. Automatically, he checked for an illusion but—no, nope, that was an actual gun. Figures.
“Don’t be dame, Tsuna,” the toddler smirked. Like that was a thing toddlers did. “I’m your new home tutor.”
“Pardon?” Oh, dealing with this was going to kill his garden of fucks to give, Tsuna could just tell, he had that special tingle. Withered fucks as far as the (inner) eye could see. “No one called you.”
“Your father hired me,” the toddler said blandly, cocking the gun.
And that’s when Tsuna knew for certain, with the kind of visceral confidence in Iemitsu’s stupidity that only exposure can cause, that this was complete bullshit. Well, more than he already did. His awful father, who in no way deserved Nana’s devotion, didn’t give two shits about Tsuna’s life as long as Tsuna didn’t directly rub his face in his delusions. They had an understanding. So he slammed the door in the baby’s face.
The doorknob was shot out not even a second later, followed by the door being kicked in with definitely not baby strength.
Tsuna sidestepped the door before it could brain him, feeling dead inside. “You’re paying to fix that,” he deadpanned, not an ounce of shame for demanding reparation from a child to be found in him. If the not-toddler could afford tailored suits, he could afford to fix one door, and Tsuna wouldn’t hear otherwise.
“How rude,” the not-toddler tutted, “expecting a guest to clean up a mess. We’re going to have to work on your manners, Tsuna, they’re appalling.”
Tsuna was mentally over a century old and no longer emotionally inconvenienced by social conventions unless of his own volition, he reveled in being appalling. That was the whole point. Besides, he’s pretty sure it’s more rude to invite yourself to someone’s house and kick their door in. He made sure to give the not-toddler an appropriately apathetic expression to hopefully convey the merest sliver of how much he didn’t give a shit. In fact, while he was busy not giving a shit he checked his watch and found he was now two minutes late to school.
Well, shit. There went his plan of being precisely one second late just to watch the Hibari brat seethe in thwarted fury. Guess he was going to have to deal with the temper tantrum early today. Oh, well, at least he’d get to punt him about a bit, that was always fun.
Tsuna conveniently glossed over the fact the Hibari brat always gave as good as he got, if not better.
Stepping around the not-toddler he reluctantly began to jog to school, still lamenting his ruined morning. It could have been so good! He could have taunted the brat by being just barely not late, and then taunted the teachers by showing up in the doorway of class before deliberately turning around and leaving, and then taunted the brat again by hiding in various places around the school.
The whole place was riddled with secret passages, he couldn’t not take advantage of it. He’s a shinobi, for crying out loud!
“Rude-Tsuna,” a squeaky voice popped up from the garden wall on his left, the not-toddler skipping along the top. “A mafia boss should not be so inconsiderate of others. I see I have my work cut out for me.”
“When did the mafia become relevant to this conversation?” Tsuna asked idly, more for the sake of asking than actually curious. “And since when were manners relevant to criminals?’
“Idiot student,” the not-toddler chided. “My true purpose is to groom you to be a mafia boss.”
Tsuna halted mid-step.
Slowly, jerkily, Tsuna turned to actually give the not-toddler his full and undivided attention. “What.”
The not-toddler smirked. “I am Reborn; the World’s Greatest Hitman. I have been hired to groom you as the next leader of the Vongola.”
Tsuna...picked the not-toddler up and reversed direction back to his house. Screw school, this sounded interesting!
Once sequestered back in the sanctity of his bedroom he demanded an explanation. Reborn provided pictures.
“So, this Vongola Famiglia, they’re the oldest and strongest mafia family in Italy?” Tsuna asked incredulously, thumbing through the pictures of the now dead previous heirs.
“Yes,” Reborn said blandly. “They’re the hub around which the Underworld turns.”
“And by a trick of fate and genetics, I’m now the heir?” This was starting to tickle a notion in the back of Tsuna’s mind, deep in the parts where Madara still nursed old, broken hopes and still smoldering embers of grudges.
“Yes, the only left.”
Oldest and strongest. First of its kind. Only heir left—
“I get to be the Hokage?” Tsuna asked, breathlessly excited. Who said dreams couldn’t come true? Whoever Up There decided Tsuna got to resolve all his unfinished business in this life was getting the most heartfelt prayer ever later, and a lit candle at the nearest opportunity.
“Vongola Decimo,” Reborn corrected sharply. “The term you’re looking for is Vongola Decimo.”
“I get to be the Hokage.”
“I get the feeling you aren’t listening to me, Rude-Tsuna.” Reborn frowned, the chameleon morphing into a gun again. When Tsuna continued to ignore him in favor of long forgotten fantasies, he aimed a warning shot at Tsuna’s head that he dodged without even pausing. Extremely rude of him. “Pay attention.”
Tsuna refused to pay attention; something momentous had just occurred to him.
He had to rub this in Kyouya’s face immediately!
The Hibari brat had this weird thing about asserting his authority and forming creepily efficient, devoted militias out of whatever poor group of bastards caught his eye; he’d be so mad if Tsuna upstaged him like this. And oh, oh Tsuna was going to upstage him on such a grand level his children — no! His grandchildren! — will still be reeling from the blow. Tsuna was practically giddy just imagining his face!
Rolling out of the way of three more bullets, Tsuna practically skipped downstairs and out the door, breaking out into a jog, then a full on run towards the school. He had to share the news. Right. Now. The resulting temper tantrum would be absolutely glorious.
Another bullet tried to lodge itself in his knee so he somersaulted up onto the low wall and kept going without breaking stride. Really, couldn’t the not-toddler wait five minutes for Tsuna to run his very important errand without picking at things in boredom? He’d known shinobi children more patient this; hell, he’d been that shinobi child!
“Do you mind?” Tsuna snapped at the not-toddler coming up to keep pace on a tiny green motorcycle.
“I don’t appreciate being run out on, Rude-Tsuna,” Reborn said blandly. “Now hold still, this will only hurt a lot.” Then he aimed another shot at his knees like a little bastard.
“Screw you!” Tsuna leapt off the low wall and skidded past the school gates, making a rude gesture at Reborn as he went. “I don’t have to take this! You don’t have my mother’s approval!”
So occupied was he by screaming and waving angrily at the vicious, demanding little bastard trying to blow out his kneecaps that he completely missed the tonfa flying at his head until it was far, far too late. He hit the ground face first, and as if to add insult to injury the tonfa that bounced off the back of his skull proceeded to repeat the feat, aided solely by gravity this time rather than thwarted middle-schooler rage.
It didn’t make it hurt less. Quite the opposite actually, with the bruise still fresh.
From behind came the demonic aura of displeasure that preceded Kyouya in a temper everywhere. Normally, Tsuna considered it something of a personal victory when it appeared, the bigger the better, but also, normally Tsuna doesn’t allow himself to be so distracted the Aura of Doom takes him off guard.
Kyouya’s been learning some subtlety. Damn. Tsuna’s gonna have to annoy him out of it quick or it could get really annoying having to put some effort into dodging him.
No one needs a Hibari Kyouya with any measure of stealth; Namimori literally would not survive intact and/or sane. Tsuna wasn’t cruel enough to just unleash that on people without warning! ...Anymore.
“Herbivore. You’re late.”
Ah, he’s lost verbosity. He must be really mad. Tsuna peels himself off the ground and gives his ‘friend’ a slightly bloody demented grin. “Kyouya!” He coos, taking mean delight in the immediate cranky face that nets him. “I’ve just received the best news of my life and I just had to share it with you.” He adds, just to watch the cranky furrows deepen. “Best friend.”
“I don’t care,” came the immediate blunt reply, as expected. Tsuna could cackle. Whatever patience the Hibari brat used to have for his antics had long been worn away to threads. So worth it.
Tsuna bounces closer, still grinning. He’s not stupid enough to make a grab for the loose jacket to haul him closer but the urge is there.
“But it’s such good news, Kyouya! For me.” He clarifies. “Several of my extended family members all recently suffered horrible, gruesome deaths and left me on the hook for their inheritance. Isn’t that great?”
“There are people who admit to being related to you?” Kyouya squinted.
There was a squeaky snort from atop the school gates. Tsuna magnanimously ignored it.
“Wow, harsh,” Tsuna pouted theatrically, knowing it got on the Hibari brat’s nerves, cackling inwardly all the while. “One would think you didn’t want to be invited to my being crowned Ho— Vongola Decimo. It’s a once in a lifetime occasion, Kyouya, the event of the season even!”
The Hibari brat stiffened, face going void of expression. Tsuna strained not to let his cackling become outward. One shoulder twitched, fingers reflexively tightening around a tonfa. Then a brow spasmed, a vein in the Hibari brat’s forehead beginning to throb. Tsuna grinned wide enough to show off all his teeth.
“You —” Kyouya growled. “As Vongola Decimo!? That’s—” Hibari seemed to be at a total loss for words, free hand rising, clenching into a claw as if envisioning a soft throat clutched in it, spitting the occasional incensed word. “What are the Vongola thinking.”
“That clearly I’m the best candidate left for the job?” Tsuna responded brightly, omitting that he’s the only candidate left for the job. Who sweated small details, right?
“Over my dead body.”
Tsuna yelped and threw himself away from a sudden jab of tonfa to the head, rolling to his feet and stick a leg out to foul the Hibari brat’s stance. “Honestly, I’ll never understand your sense of humor. It’s almost like you’re not happy for my good fortune.”
“ ’ll bite you to death, you insolent moron."
Wow, he’s taking it way better than expected, Tsuna thought gleefully, leaping over the prefect to dodge his furious lunge, this was a great idea.
Apparently, the not-toddler didn’t seem to share his opinion and threw several smoke bombs into their midst, and, well, who was Tsuna to ignore the message? He grabbed the not-toddler on the way out the gates and made good on his escape.
“You know,” Reborn drawled dryly, “it’s not the most advisable, courting a Cloud before any other element.”
“Screw the rules, I’m the Ho— Vongola Decimo now,” Tsuna responded, uncharacteristically cheery.
Reborn pulled his hat down to hide his frown. “And they said you wouldn’t be like this.”