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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

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As Tobirama watched his brother and Madara make peace with each other decades after their deaths, a small frown made itself home on his face.

In front of his eyes, he could see both of their forms, his brother’s captured via his Edo Tensei and Madara’s new flesh one, fade and flicker and fall in favor of their bright spirit forms. Their souls lifted from their mortal and faux-mortal coils by the Shinigami to return – or just to go – to the Pure Land.

His form did not flicker, not freed from the regrets and Regrets he’d carried into death, that had kept him from the Pure Land after his death and made him so easy to summon to a faux-life once more with Edo Tensei.

(He’d had many regrets.

Not freeing his mother from the oath she’d taken for peace against the child-killing Senju for the Hatake in being wed to his father, once he’d become aware of the oath after the birth of Itama.

Not keeping his brothers from the battlefield.

The death of Kawarama.

The death of Itama.

Not noting the other spy on the clandestine meetings of Hashirama and Madara as anything other than a worried brother.

Not keeping that secret.

Not focusing on Tajima instead of Izuna for his attack.

Not seeing to the death of Butsuma earlier in their renewed war between Senju and Uchiha.

Not advocating for peace alongside his brother with anything more than subtle support in his attempt to protect them in his belief for its inevitable failure.)

His greatest Regret rested in the death of Izuna, and all that had happened because of how he’d destroyed Madara’s last stable support with how he’d known Hashirama wouldn’t have been able to be enough.

(He’d had so many regrets that had built up on top of each other, because without Izuna, Madara hadn’t been able to be there, and their strength in the village had been lessened. Without Madara, they’d been weakened, and they’d created their biggest enemy.

So many of the enemies that had come for Konoha had stemmed from Madara and the madness he’d stoked and sowed.

So many problems had come from the source of Madara’s madness, with him no longer shielded with the love of and his love for, Izuna, and thus vulnerable to thus machinations of the enemy of all shinobi. Vulnerable to the minion of the plans of a mad Goddess, targeted for the fact that he’d been not just the descendant, but the reincarnation, of Indra, her original target, and her grandson.)

His Regret tethered him to this mortal realm, unable to fade even as he’d told his brother that they should leave this world and their hopes and dreams to the next generation.

If his brother saw that he’d stayed firmly rooted, he hadn’t had the chance to say anything as his spirit ascended with Madara’s – with Saru – with that young upstart of a Fourth, Namikaze, after his talk with his son and the current reincarnation of Ashura.

With their ascent, the last of those trapped by his Edo Tensei were gone from the battlefield, other than him.

The Sage turned towards him, away from the current reincarnations of his sons, when he noted he was still present, “Child, why do you remain?”

At his shoulder, a familiar spirit appeared, and the Shinigami settled a hand on the Sage’s shoulder as he removed the mask that was his face, “Brother, you may have finally gotten your peace between your children, but at the expense of so many others. He is from the generation of their last reincarnation, the brother of Ashura-reborn, and lived through their near-reconciliation and ultimately the madness again caused by our mother to Indra-reborn. You have, personally by your insistence on having your sons reborn until they reconciled, ruined his life with their fighting.”

Tobirama looked at the face of the Shinigami, Hamura Ōtsutsuki, and watched as his grip tightened on his brother Hagoromo’s shoulder as he frowned, “You have had your reconciliation of the sons you should have pushed for centuries ago while they were alive, but now it is time that another got their chance to fix the mistake they regret most.”

Hagoromo winced under the grip, “But to do that is to undo my sons’ reconciliation-!”

Hamura’s face hardened, “No. It will hasten it. If he fails, then we simply tighten up the timestream back to this moment and we leave it as this, and he’ll reconcile in the Pure Land with his regrets. If he succeeds, I will watch over far less death hastened because of our mother. And my nephews can rest without a third lifetime of strife.”

Tobirama, if the face he was looking at was any but the Sage of Six Paths, would have called his expression a pout.

When that expression lingered, and he tilted his head just a little, overlaying the face in a darker shade, he found it looked exactly like his brother.

His eye twitched at seeing the origin of one of his brother’s defining expressions.

(Hamura’s eye twitched with him, his long-suffering coming from centuries instead of decades with that expression.

Particularly as his brother still didn’t believe him when he said that his son’s puppy-dog pout was because of him, not his wife.)

Hamura turned away from his idiot elder brother, choosing to ignore him in favor of the intelligent descendant of one of his nephews, “Child, do you wish to come to peace with your greatest regret?”

Tobirama met his gaze, unafraid of meeting Death head-on, “If you make peace this way, and choose not to reconcile in the Pure Land, this reality will no longer be available to you. If you fail, I can revert time to this point, but I cannot bring you from your death once more even by your unnatural jutsu – you will go to the Pure Land with no choice when you die again. If it comes to this again, you will not be able to help in this battle in your other reality. Do you still choose to do this?”

He nodded.

Hamura nodded, then stepped forward, cupping the face of the child that suffered so much for his brother’s foolish wish, and knelt until their foreheads touched, “Then go with my blessing, and my hope that you succeed.”