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Like Wishing on a Star

Chapter Text

He got the house back, all for this.

Danzo kneels, bows his head over the deceptively peaceful face of his sensei. The red lines are stark against bloodless skin, and he reaches out with a shaking hand. Tobirama’s eyes are already closed, his lips curled in a faint smile, as though his last thoughts were... kind.

The thought that Tobirama had tried to come back home makes his chest ache. That he had tried to come here, to the home Danzo, Kagami and Ea had made together. Ea would have been pregnant with Kisuke at the time. She would have been here, waiting for them to return home.

Danzo has so many regrets, and the man laying before him is only one of his earliest. This house encompasses the rest. Kagami, never to return home. Ea, killed when one of the bodies brought to the morgue wasn’t as dead as it seemed - brought in by an Uchiha team. Their kids... Hitomi lost to a coma, and they never found the cause. Her husband lost to his own mind. Obito...

Danzo swears, rubbing his eye. He still has Kisuke and Shisui. His son is a mere shadow of himself, and his grandson... His only remaining grandchild distances himself more and more every day.

And now. This. To find this out now, with Obito’s name freshly chiseled into the memorial stone...

With a shaky breath, he stands. He needs to let the others know.

At least they’ll be able to give him a proper burial.

Years later, he finds that Obito wasn’t dead after all.

Izanagi. Arguably, it’s the most powerful sharingan technique, able to turn a deadly attack into a mere illusion. Fueled by fear and rage and regret, and the strange, mutated chakra from the Hashirama cells, it does the unthinkable.

I want.

It’s a childish thought, his mind reaching back for things long lost.

Such a childish thing. Like wishing on a star or dreaming of what might have been. But belief has power. Faith holds strength. Desire, linked with chakra and focused with such great pain... It can lead to something truly phenomenal.

Danzo has over a dozen sharingan eyes. Together, they can rewrite an awful lot of time.

He jerks out of bed, mind and body still lit up with the instincts of combat, and lands hard on the floor. For a moment he’s baffled by what he doesn’t feel - the aches of age, in particular - and by the fact that it’s quite suddenly dark.

A soft voice, feminine and dear, which he hasn’t heard in many years - but his heart still knows her - groans, opposite of where he must have been laying. “Danzo. If you’re going to have nightmares, you’re supposed to do it quietly. Remember? We had this talk before. It’s inconsiderate to wake each other up.”

He knows of genjutsu that could use his memories against him. And he had been fighting an Uchiha - gods, why did it have to turn out to be Obito? Couldn’t it have been anyone else? The only thing that could have made that worse was if it was Hitomi, or Kagami, and now...

He can’t believe that that’s Ea. Even when he sits up and sees the faint shine of her auburn hair in the dark. “Danzo?”

Danzo is too experienced to need hand signs, or to speak the technique out loud. He disrupts his chakra, desperate to prove that this is or isn’t real. Nothing changes. Ea is still half sitting up in bed, gazing at him in concern.

“You’re making me feel inconsiderate,” she grumbles, awkwardly crab walking across the bed towards him. He doesn’t think that’s something his mind would make up. If this was a genjutsu, surely she would be more graceful? “Saying things like that when you actually did have a nightmare..."

“It wasn’t a nightmare,” he says, taking her hand - graceful, but callused, and would he remember her calluses so clearly, if this was a genjutsu? - and allowing her to tug him back into bed. “It was. It was real. I just..."

She grunts, scooting back again, the yukata she wore to bed getting skewed in the process. As she untangles herself, she says, “I’m awake now, so you might as well tell me.”

“I was... old,” Danzo pauses, not certain how to explain his experience. “And everyone was dead. You and Kagami, Hitomi and Kisuke, and their children. All that was left was me, and... one of our grandchildren, who I thought was dead. But he. He turned on Konoha, and I had to fight him...” The more he says, the less real it sounds, but in his mind, it’s still crystal clear.

Ea is still and silent for a moment, staring up at the darkened ceiling. “Hmm. There are ways to prove or disprove what you experienced. If it was a dream, it should be easy to disprove.”

Another thing he had forgotten about Ea, was how practical she could be. He always remembered her bright moments first, and at some point had forgotten that that wasn’t all she was. Is. Her sensible words help him calm, help him think. “I. I’m not even sure what year it is.”

“Year Thirty Three of Daimyo Hakuoh’s Reign,” Ea answers promptly. And while Danzo boggles over how young they are - and fuck, didn’t Kagami die this year? And where is Hitomi? - she continues, “Ox, third day. Well. Fourth now. It’s getting late enough...”

Danzo has to force his breathing to slow. He has a week to get ready. Kagami will be on tour of the Seiryuu Garrison soon. The battle of Uzu starts later this month, if he remembers correctly. He has time, if not much. He can probably prevent a lot of tragedy if he acts correctly on it. First, however, comes proof. “How do I prove it?”

Ea rolls over, snuggling close, and... Ah, he’d missed that. The comfort of another body pressed warmly against his. “Surely you learned something in this dream of yours that you shouldn’t know now? If it turns out not to be true...”

Right. “Sensei is in our basement.”

“Danzo.” Ea’s tone is flat, and when he looks, her expression is disapproving. “If Senju Tobirama was in my basement, I would know.”

Danzo rubs his face, organizing his thoughts. “Sensei’s last act seems to have been losing himself in seal space, in our basement.”

“That does sound like him,” she agrees, no longer grudging, and instead cheerful. She stretches out next to him, and sits back up. “I suppose we better go look. Wanna grab one of your people before we start fishing?”

That seems sensible enough. There’s no need to rush, so they take their time getting dressed, and he describes the condition he found Tobirama’s body in. Which, in spite of the smile he remembers, had been so very damaged, and strangely fresh, like he died only minutes prior. In spite of her soft appearance, Ea works in the morgue, and is unbothered by the vivid description he gives.

“I’ll get my kit, since we have time.” The subject is more sensitive for Danzo than it is for Ea, and it shows. She has never seen death the same way as other people, and for once, Danzo wishes he had the same disconnect. Then perhaps he too would be humming as he got ready to deal with his sensei’s body for the second time.

Speaking to a ROOT agent, Danzo again finds himself thrown by the sudden changes he’s dealing with. In this time, ROOT is still a legitimate agency, and it shows. The ROOT member is one that Danzo only vaguely remembers, but there’s more personality in the swift acknowledgement that he’s given than in any of ROOTs later recruits.

That... Danzo finds himself regretting that too, as he sends the agent along with his orders. The depersonalization had crippled them, he realizes. There’s nothing he can do about it now, other than not tread the same path again.

Ea is already waiting for him when he reaches the basement, wearing an apron and elbow length gloves. She’s just finishing tying her hair back when he starts the jutsu that should pull Tobirama from where he’s stashed himself. Chakra strings are formed and sent into the ether with a flick of his wrist.

They catch and pull - and he doesn’t want to see his sensei like this again, but he can’t just leave him there, either - and Tobirama spills forth. This time, Danzo catches him. He freezes in shock, mid motion, because Tobirama is warm, and taking a gurgling breath against his shoulder.


He’s alive, he’s alive, how the hell is he alive?

Ea helps Danzo to lower Tobirama gently to the floor, and then she’s the one screaming. “I’m a mortician, Danzo! Not a healer! Half of my healing techniques aren’t designed for living bodies!”

Tobirama makes a wet sound that tries to be a word, red eyes dim, but locking on Danzo. “...made it...”

“That better not be your last words!” Danzo surprises himself by bellowing. “Now that you’ve proven to be alive, you aren’t allowed to die!”

“Fuck this, gods, why? Danzo, you said he was dead! I can handle dead!” Ea works anyway, hands glowing green, even as she shouts at him. “Dead people are not time sensitive!”

“...not dead...”

“Stop talking! Your lungs are damaged! That can’t be helping! Fuck you Danzo!” Her wild expression somehow conveys that if she had an extra hand she would be showing him a particular gesture right now.

One of Tobirama’s hands catches hers, pulling it to his chest. “...start here... priority..."

“I don’t do priorities! I’m a mortician!” Then, suddenly, her voice drops. “Oh right, I should start with the heart and lungs... You, be quiet. Danzo. Try and fix the neck. He’s gushing fluid.”

Danzo isn’t much of a healer himself, but at least in his head, he’s old, and he’s been through wars. He’s picked up some healing over the years. It’s easy to shift his hold, to focus on the arterial injury - “His right femoral artery is hemorrhaging too.” He remembers some of the injuries with enough clarity to be certain of that.

“Fuck... That might be more important than the lungs. They aren’t collapsing, or full of blood, so..." Ea swears again. “You got his neck?” Danzo gives her an affirmative, and she nods sharply. “Alright, I’m going to lift my knee, and you better not bleed out. Oh, yay, pants. Gods, you have a lot of blood. I’m not used to seeing this much outside of a live body... Danzo, can you make him more blood?”

“That’s above my skill level,” Danzo replies. He’s got a single artery under control, and even that is a bit shaky. He can make a clone, however, and send it for a proper healer, which he does. While the clone vacates the room, Danzo swears and renews his focus on the artery - which seems to think that a lack of focus from him means that it should start spurting again. He is not a healer, and never has he regretted that more.

Another voice, beloved and not heard in far too long, calls down to them - “Daddy? Mom? I heard yelling...”

He loses focus again, because that’s his daughter, and gods, he misses her. Thankfully, the arterial wall is repaired enough that it doesn’t immediately start spurting again. And Hitomi’s presence reminds him... “Hitomi? Get Mamoru! Tell him we have a patient!”

Hitomi is fast, and so is Mamoru - face pale and drawn, and too late, Danzo realizes that this is probably going to be difficult for his son-in-law. But Mamoru is already pushing him aside, muttering about how morticians are closer to butchers, and that they’re lucky he has experience healing dying people in basements. Or at least, in forcing them to cling to life.

Ea breathes a heavy sigh of relief, and it’s telling that she doesn’t argue Mamoru’s point, and just lets him redirect her to where her efforts will be most useful. “Whoever was at his neck, would have done better to just use pressure. This is the most shoddy work I’ve seen this year!”

“I’m not a healer,” Danzo protests, weakly. Mamoru is probably right, which makes it embarrassing that he even tried. (But of course he tried. It’s his sensei and he’s here, alive. And that’s more than Danzo has any right to expect.)

Soon, there are proper medics taking care of things - a loud and enthusiastic young Tsunade is one of them, and Danzo is relieved by that, knowing just how good she became - and they are left to their own devices. Ea and Mamoru sit with him at the kitchen table while Hitomi, the only one of them not covered in blood, makes tea.

Other than the fading whistle of the kettle, when Hitomi removes it from the heat, the kitchen is silent. Ea looks baffled and tired, and Mamoru... His expression is utterly blank, and the shine of his glasses prevent Danzo from extrapolating further. He could be tired, or he could be freaking out, and but for the curl of his chakra, wound tight within, Danzo has no clue which it is.

“So,” says Hitomi, and they all are too good of ninjas to twitch, but it feels like the entire room flinches from the sound of her voice. “Would anyone like to explain to me why the Nidaime was dying in our basement?”

“Your dad’s a dirty old man,” Ea says brightly, and Danzo slowly turns to look at her. He has no idea what she even means by that.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Mamoru protests, frowning. “He’s not even forty!” Which. No, that actually explains what Ea’s strange comment is getting at.

Hitomi hands him his cup, then sits down between him and Mamoru. “I think Daddy should explain. Because he usually makes sense.”

Ea gives him a little smirk when Mamoru and Hitomi turn questioning eyes on him. And while he is good at making people see his way, he doesn't think that's the same as making sense. “I was... proving that my memories are... accurate. One of the things... is that I found sensei there, when I was already old, and all of you were already..." Gone, he can’t make himself say.

“You weren’t supposed to take that as a challenge,” Hitomi pouts, and spends a moment trying to figure out where to put her arms. She eventually rests her hands and her cup on her belly, which... Fourth of Ox. Obito will be born soon, and Danzo won’t be able to be here this time. Not if he’s going to help Kagami.

“We have stories of things like that happening,” says Ea. “Usually, of space/time techniques so powerful that they distort the weave of time. Such things were not uncommon before the Founding. Although, you’re going to have to explain to me how you managed to do something like that.”

He grimaces, because explaining what happened to the Uchiha... Not again, he decides. It’s possible that the Uchiha as a whole didn’t deserve what he caused them. He’s not going to explain that, because he doesn’t want them to see how far he fell. However, he can still blame the sharingan. “It was an unrecorded sharingan technique, boosted by... other factors.”

Ea clearly can tell that there’s plenty that he isn’t saying, but she proves to be exactly like he remembers in this, and doesn’t push when it’s clear that he’s uncomfortable with the subject. “And why now?”


Chapter Text

Tobirama is the proof he needs, but Danzo isn’t so sure about explaining their situation to Sarutobi - not since the incident with Kusa and the Hatake left Sarutobi having diplomatic fits. It was the start of a downward spiral, in regards to his old friend’s spine. While the incident was a political coup, for their side, the fact of the matter is, it showcased just how easy it can be to bully Sarutobi.

Not that Danzo would like to get between a Hatake and their pack. That was the mistake Kusa made - the mistake Sarutobi started to make, before changing track so rapidly Danzo could practically see him get whiplash. And around this time, Kusa is still paying that debt. Hatake Sakumo will be a name to watch, and if it weren’t for the man’s current tasks, he would be on top of the list of those that Danzo would ask to come with him to Uzu.

There are plenty of others to approach. He can trust Sarutobi and their old team with this, at least. Uzu is their ally; Kagami, their friend. They can’t afford to lose either. Oh, they might recover, eventually, but it’s a loss that will haunt the world.

There are also a number of things he needs to take care of before they can leave, plans to set in motion should he be unable to return - an all too likely outcome, because they never did find out exactly how Uzu fell. So many things, that he’s afraid that he’ll have to leave a thorough explanation in writing for his old sensei. He wants to be able to tell Tobirama himself - of his intentions, of things that may come to pass if the village isn’t guided well enough.

He even means to share his failures, which, in writing, look far more damning than when they were only in his head. Danzo has only ever wanted what is best for the village, for his family, and it’s only when it’s on paper that he sees how far he slipped from that path.

(That isn’t to say that any of his old team came up squeaky clean over the decades. Even Torifu, who retired to care for his clan as an elder, became all too set in his ways, in the end. Danzo loves his friends, but... Torifu was one of the many who called for young Uzumaki Naruto’s head, without knowing the truth of the situation. All Danzo had wanted was for the jinchuriki to be under control.)

The Uchiha were and are part of the village. Like it or not, they are family of his family. He cannot retread that same path, assuming he gets the opportunity. And if he cannot retread that path, that means he needs to do something to prevent both coup and massacre. But what?

They’re just sending off the advance - an older Senju clansman, that Danzo had admired in his youth, but who had never changed in the entire time Danzo knew him - when the answer comes to him.

Fugaku. As clan head to succeed Hikaku, Fugaku - young, perhaps under fifteen, at current - will be key to this particular problem. All he needs is to recruit Fugaku into ROOT, and if he frames it as training to Hikaku, there’s a chance that the older man will listen.

Hikaku is an unusual man - one of the few high combat shinobi of the Warring Clans Era that still lives. Mito is older, but she isn’t a front line fighter, for all that even without the Kyuubi, she would be the most powerful shinobi in Konoha. She looks older than she should, for an Uzumaki nearing sixty, and Danzo... that’s another concern that he only has a couple of days to address. If she can hold back on passing on her burden for just a little bit longer...

Hikaku agrees to the emergency meeting - only an emergency because this is the only time Danzo will have for it - and Danzo notes anew the tension Hikaku has always carried around him. There was a time when he assumed that Hikaku was hiding something, and that was the source of said tension. But with decades of experience behind him, now he thinks that he recognizes it for what it is. Hikaku has anxiety.

‘There’s someone I wrote off prematurely,’ he muses, as they settle into place. Danzo trained himself to be suspicious, and he succeeded early in that. His later decades were spent learning how to manipulate, and to be successful in that, one needs to know their target. He had never truly gotten to know Hikaku, and now... that’s another regret.

“If I had more time, I wouldn’t be bothering with this now,” Danzo starts, once they are comfortably settled in with tea and some simple snacks. He’s also begun to realize that there are some things to be said for the bluntness he prefered in his youth. “Nor would I be so blunt. However, I’m here because I’m concerned about your son’s training.”

Hikaku’s eyes are sharp, and his tension doesn’t waver. “And you’ve decided to bring your concerns directly to me?”

“As his father and clan head, you’re the only one I can bring it up to.” Danzo sighs, taking a sip of tea from a cup of indeterminate quality - intriguing that, as he can’t use its quality to judge Hikaku’s attitude toward him, whether it be ass-kissing or derisive. The tea is a pleasant but unfamiliar blend, which only adds to his questions on that score. “I don’t have time to be anything but straightforward, right now. Fugaku is, as a fighter, one of the best of his age group. As a ninja... His lack of social skills does him no favors. The son of a clan head, the heir of a major clan, can’t ignore the effects of this kind of oversight. He has no suspicion of those around him, and I have reasons to believe that this will be a problem for the Uchiha in the future.”

Hikaku is silent, examining the contents of his cup before taking a sip as well. He savors it for longer than necessary before waving Danzo to continue.

Danzo quells a surge of irritation. He has a great admiration of people that he cannot read. At the same time, he finds them particularly annoying when they don’t even speak to give him insight into their thoughts. “I’m not certain who is behind it,” he continues, frowning, “but there is someone - likely multiple someones - in your clan inciting distrust and dissatisfaction with the village. Taken to its logical extremes, should this voice of dissent gain the right ears..." He stops when Hikaku raises his hand.

“I know what you speak of,” the man says, expression impressively impassive. “I also have my concerns. I have trained Fugaku as best I can, but in the areas you speak of, my lessons will be too harsh. Those voices..." Hikaku falls back into silence, again gazing into his tea cup. After a long pause, he sighs, then confides, “That’s what drove Madara-sama away. It was difficult to watch a man I called friend shunned by his own people, when he was ostensibly in charge. I don’t want to see that happen to my son, but the moment I started ignoring the clan dogma...“

The implication behind that... Is it already too late to prevent that tragedy? Yet, more gears begin to turn in Danzo’s head. “Send some of your young men and women - the ones who are on the edge of falling into this dogma you speak of - into ANBU and ROOT, and see if you can get members of other clans into the Police. Having jurisdiction over it doesn’t mean that only your clan should be involved. It’s a power imbalance, and both sides will demonize the other for it. If you make an effort to make things equal, however..."

“Indeed,” Hikaku says, slowly beginning to smile. “Shimura-san. I will take your words into account. As for my son’s training... Do you have any suggestions?”

“I would like to see him in ROOT.”

Some of the people Danzo wants to take with him, he won’t be able to. No White Fang (not with the incident with Kusa still in progress), no Sannin - though they haven’t quite yet earned that name, and if the changes he’s already started change things too much, they may earn another name - but there are others.

Maito Dai is excited to be tapped for the mission - it was only an offer, because Danzo doesn’t intend to drag off a new father unwillingly for a potential suicide mission - even when he’s told that the chances of success are low. Mizu took out all of Uzushio originally. Chances are that it doesn’t matter who he brings with him.

If they’re lucky, they can evacuate some of the people, but Danzo, at this point, half expects that this time, he’ll just have the chance to die at Kagami’s side. And Ea, because Ea won’t let him go alone, not after what he was able to tell her.

Between meetings and preparations, Danzo writes his letter to Tobirama. It’s a rambling, awful thing, full of too much truth. His only excuses are that he did what he thought was right at the time. He did what he thought he had to, because no one else was stepping up and taking care of his village, his people, his family... what little was left of it.

(Eventually nothing. And without that to root him, to guide him, he did what he could to protect what was left. The village. His sensei’s legacy.)

Tobirama is in a special, heavily guarded part of the hospital when Danzo goes to see him. His eyes, though open, are bleary, and not quite able to focus as Danzo sits next to his bed. For the moment, it’s just the two of them. “What happened to your eye?” Tobirama asks, slurred from whatever drugs they have given him.

Danzo gives in to his first instinct, trained by the first years of living with a grandchild - “I ran with scissors,” he says, placing his letter on the nearest table. No one else will be able to read it. The seal to activate it will require Tobirama’s blood and chakra and his active concentration. “I’m leaving this for you, because I don’t know if I’m coming back. Knowing what I know, I hate to leave you like this but... I have mistakes that I don’t want to repeat, and of all people, I trust you to understand.”

Tobirama’s eyebrows scrunch together, like he can’t quite process Danzo’s words. “Oh,” he says, soft and hollow, brain too slow, too drugged, to keep up with what Danzo says. “I’m... here. Can I go?”

He doesn’t know if Tobirama’s asking to leave the room or hospital, or if he’s asking to go along with Danzo. “I’m sorry,” he tells him. “You’re going to have to stay here until you get better. Perhaps when we get back, you and Ea can compare techniques..." With that hopeful thought, Danzo takes Tobirama’s hand, squeezing it. “We missed you so much, sensei. I hope you can fix the things I never could.”

His sensei’s eyes are flickering open and closed, but Tobirama still manages to say, “Ok...”

He gives the hand in his grip another squeeze. “Sleep well, and get better soon.”

Danzo spends longer than he means to, sitting at Tobirama’s side, when Tobirama isn’t even conscious to enjoy it. He’s still swimming in regrets, but. There’s something about being here, with Tobirama alive. It’s a balm to his soul, strangely rejuvenating.

He’s thinking about the Uzu situation all wrong, he realizes. He needs confidence, and hope. This isn’t just a chance to die at Kagami’s side. (He thought all along that he wanted to save Kagami, didn't he?) It’s a chance to help Kagami succeed in saving Uzu. Danzo started this with hope - once he got over the shock of the situation - and he’s going to continue in that manner.

When he leaves the hospital, he’s full of a determination he long thought lost. He can’t expect anything to go well, but damn can he stack the deck.

In addition to personnel, Danzo starts instructing everyone to pack heavy ordinance. Don’t worry about weight. Ea hears that, and immediately goes into the morgue and doesn’t come out for most of the day. Danzo looks forward to finding out what she’s preparing.

Heavy ordinance includes large, unwieldy summons like his own. The boars are highly intelligent, but they’re anything but subtle. Using them for transport is perhaps beneath them, but nothing overpowers obstacles like giant boars. And once they get going, they’re fast. Perhaps not Tobirama fast, and especially not Namikaze fast, but ordinary shinobi wouldn’t be able to keep up with the bigger ones.

Kagami’s mother shows up for a short time, instructing shinobi how to pack explosives so that they don’t go off in transport. The woman isn’t a frontline fighter, but over the years, Danzo learned more and more about her. She’s all about information and distribution of resources, and he has a great respect for her.

“Kukaku-sama,” he greets, casually dodging the prosthetic arm she swings at him. “I have a request.”

“Drop the ‘sama,’ brat,” she retorts, slinging the loose arm over her own shoulder. Thankfully, she altered her mode of dress over the years, or else he would be getting more of an eyeful than he ever wanted. (Even as a young teen, that had made him uncomfortable, and she had been what many men called eye pleasing back then.) Instead, she wears a knee length yukata, with short sleeves, and an apron that looks much like the one she wore when he was a child.

“Ma’am,” he replies, rolling his eye. Speaking the way she wants doesn’t come naturally to him, but he’s game to try. “While I go dig your son out of the trouble he’s about to find, I want you to look after ROOT for me, especially any new recruits we pick up. If you’re not willing, tell me now, because I don’t have much time to find a replacement.”

“ROOT, huh?” she asks, lips twisting into a sneer. “Yeah, I know enough about how you run that lot that I should be able to manage. Stupid of you to pass it on to an old lady, but that’s hardly my problem. You expect Kagami to be involved in the mess you’re getting into?”

“Why else would I be pulling something so foolish?” he ask, sneering right back. “Ea will be coming along as well, and you know how she feels about combat.”

Kukaku’s eyes flare wide. Apparently she wasn’t yet privy to that information. Her voice drops to a hushed whisper. “Fuck. Does that monkey brat know that you’re taking the Undertaker with you? Or should I slip that to him in an anonymous report?”

Danzo smirks. “Given that he gave me permission to take volunteers, no, I don’t think he knows. There are a few more Named that are coming along, but she’s probably the most notable.” There are also a few who will eventually be Named, if they survive this. He made the choices he did based on what everyone is capable of. “The Three Fangs volunteered.”

Kukaku snorted. “The Inuzuka won’t be pleased if you get San killed, you know.”

“She’s hardly a young whelp anymore,” Danzo replied, rolling his eye again. “They’ll need a new matriarch eventually, and she claims that she and her brothers are bored.” The two giant wolfdogs that Inuzuka San calls her brothers - Ichi and Ni, which Danzo always suspected was some horrible parental joke - will be able to keep up with the boars, even if San rides one. The three of them together earned their name in the last war.

They picked up a surprising number of people because of boredom, or because they have family and friends in Uzu. Such as the Haruno sisters. Shinju and Shimizuaki are... less human than most shinobi. Shimizuaki is more obvious than her older sister, with her pale purple skin. Shinju has almost human coloring, the rosy shade of her hair notwithstanding. Her eyes, wide and pale green and oddly birdlike, are what give her away.

Danzo has no idea how they will be in battle. Neither of them had illustrious careers, and it was highly suspected that Shimizuaki died of food poisoning. He remembers that investigation, and there was no evidence proving otherwise. It looked suspicious, but...

He actually doesn't look forward to traveling with them. Given their connection with Uzu, he couldn’t deny them, when they asked to come along, but even for a short while, being in close quarters with them? It sounds unpleasant.

As time to leave closes on them, preparations grow even more frantic. Danzo spends the entire time wracking his brain for anything that he might be forgetting - which, conceivably, could be so many things. It’s an added stressor in an already stressful situation.

Getting Kukaku set up with his people, making sure she knows of things he thinks are important to address soon - such as the situation with Fugaku - and other such details take up his spare minutes.

The very last thing is to summon the boars, and to get everything they’re bringing along - he told them to plan for war of the most unsubtle kind - secured onto the gigantic beasts. Thankfully, due to their intelligence, they understand their place in this, and aren’t insulted to be used as pack creatures. Daiaku, the boss boar, even seems pleased. Transport and supplies are important for war, and being told that they are the only creatures strong and fast enough to be considered for the deed flatters him.

The boars are very susceptible to flattery, Danzo’s found.

There’s a moment of humor, just before they leave. A lone voice, high over the din of preparation, shocked at the sight before them. “I think I packed a little too conservatively!”

Chapter Text

It’s so exciting! Dai has listened in enough to have a good idea of what’s going on, and he was tapped for this! Him! Specifically! Someone in power looked at him, and thought he was worthy of coming along on such a high profile mission!

Doubts only start creeping in when he sees the other people who were tapped. The Inuzuka matriarch, with her proud canine companions. Utatane Koharu, with her seal wrapped cannon, who bullies her way into the team. Dai caught Shimura-sama arguing with her off and on for hours - she was just back from the western front, by the sounds of it, and wants to be part of the rescue mission, regardless. Something about seeing Uchiha Kagami’s face, when he realizes just who is there to rescue him.

Shimura-sama has to point out that it isn’t a rescue. Not for Kagami. They’re backup, and Uzushio is what they’re heading out to save.

Dai is only one man, and a mere martial artist at that. He doesn’t have large jutsus, summons, or heavy weaponry. He’s baffled when Shimura-sama partners him with Utatane - a feeling that she seems to share, by the look on her face. Then she slowly lights up when Shimura-sama explains what he wants them to do, and Dai finds out exactly why he is wanted.

Utatane has chakra suppressing armaments. Dai doesn’t use chakra. They’re a perfect match.

The boss boar is one of the most massive creatures Inuzuka San has ever met. She’s not certain that she’s even as big as one of Daiaku’s pupils. Thankfully, he’s a reasonable beast, and he consents, after a long discussion, to her and her brothers scouting up and down the train, keeping an eye out for things that will be out of the boars’ view.

If they trust her, they won’t have to worry about it, and she and her brothers can easily leap from boar to boar, checking to make sure everything is as it should be.

The war party is already loud, and as much as it irritates her, Ichi and Ni are having more difficulty. Their ears are far more sensitive. It will be easier, once they start moving. Action will soothe them, as will the rush of wind.

For a moment, her hand touches her pack, and she’s distracted, thinking of its contents. Soldier pills are as close as the Inuzuka come to heavy ordinance, and she is carrying more than she has ever seen given to one person. It’s enough to show just how serious the situation is. And it pleases her, to see her chosen home pull out all the stops to help an ally in need.

She’s not the sort to think politically, but if she were... This is an action that will show the world how loyal Konoha is.

“My son...” The voice sounds soft and disappointed.

Kisuke freezes in the middle of helping Hizashi up onto one of the boars. That was his mom’s voice. Hizashi immediately starts to wobble, and Hiashi cringes away from the voice. Kisuke has a brief moment of hope that it’s just someone faking her voice, but when he turns his head - slowly, because he doesn’t actually want to see - there she is, giving him her most disappointed look.

He lets go of Hizashi’s foot, so that he can point fingers. “It was his idea!” Unsurprisingly, Hizashi falls, with an accusatory yelp.

“I don’t believe that for a second,” Ea says, sighing. Her fingers drum thoughtfully on one of the large scrolls she carries. “I don’t have time for this, and honestly, I expected better of you, Kisuke.” The tired frustration in her voice makes shame curl in his stomach. The twins both cringe - even Hizashi, who seems torn between glaring at Kisuke and cringing properly - when she rounds on them. “And you two! Don’t think that being cute means I won’t call your father on you!”

The other boys grumble at the insult. They aren’t cute. They’re fully capable shinobi! Kisuke rolls his eyes at the grouchy theatrics. One, Hizashi fell, proving himself to be less than capable. Two, they are cute, whether or not they are willing to admit it. Three, who says you can’t be cute and still be capable as a shinobi? Kisuke’s cute, and he’s perfectly capable!

Except when he gets caught out by his mother. But he supposes every ninja has weak points.

If three brats tried sneaking into the convoy, Ea’s absolutely certain that there are more. She grabs an Aburame - a gawker, though no Aburame would actually look like they’re gawking - and asks them to sweep the train for children. They aren’t taking anyone under the age of fifteen with them.

She catches a glimpse of a face deep within a hood, and is vaguely surprised to find that the Aburame is a woman. Not that it matters. It’s just so hard to tell, with the way that clan covers themselves. Ea suspects that the clan might have some kind of gender culture, but... they all dress the same, so it doesn’t show in that.

Seeing a beetle crawl out of a tiny hole in the woman’s face while she gives her instructions might sicken some, but such things have never bothered Ea. It’s more fascinating than anything else, and she’s autopsied plenty of Aburame. The kikaichū always die with their host, which seems like a waste...

Although that reminds her that there are several Aburame involved with the mission. “Does your clan need any special considerations? Food perhaps? If so, please alert the quartermaster. We have plenty of room for supplies, so there’s no sense in anyone going without!”

The woman mutters something unintelligible, and Ea waves her off on her assigned tasks.

Now she needs to figure out where she’s going to stow her scrolls. She knows from experience that she needs them close to her, just in case anything happens, but she isn’t certain where she’s going to be on the transport. Probably with Danzo. She doubts that he would have it any other way.

But this is the first time she’s being deployed in such a manner. Every other time, it’s been as a late arrival to battles already days long, when there are already so many bodies that she can pick apart and use at her leisure. This will be her first time as part of the initial deployment.

When Ea catches up to Danzo, she catches the tail end of another argument with Utatane. While she’s aware that she doesn’t have the time, she still takes a moment to admire him. At thirty six, he’s still as fit as he was when she married him and Kagami. There are a few more lines in his face, the eyepatch that she still hasn’t gotten used to... but he’s still a handsome man.

It’s really too bad that he’s usually disinterested when it comes to sex. Thinking too long on the way his muscles bunch up under his shirt is enough to make her a little randy, and if they weren’t very much in the open right now, she would be pleased to cop a feel.

Amusingly, even now, Ea can see the way Koharu eyes her old teammate. When they were much younger, she and Koharu hadn’t gotten along - Koharu saw Ea to be an outsider, stealing away her teammates - but now... Ea doesn’t actually mind that Koharu watches Danzo too. The other woman watches him much the same way she watches any man who she thinks is fit and attractive.

It doesn’t hurt to know that Danzo will never think to look back. Danzo - and Kagami and her - is unusual, in that he set his sights on who he wanted while he was still quite young, and his eyes never wavered. It’s flattering, even if he doesn’t look at them the same as they do him. They know how much he loves them, and that’s all that matters.

She’s shaken from her reverie when Danzo uses his considerable lungs, bellowing for “Maito!

Ea blinks. That’s. A lot of green. Well chiseled shoulders and chest and abs and... ass... but... A lot of green. And the ugliest mustache she’s had the misfortune to see.

The man also has less chakra than the average civilian, making Ea’s eyebrows arch in surprise once she notices. Why in the world did Danzo bring in someone like that? She cocks her head, listening in on his instructions to both Utatane and the green man, and...

She has to admit it. If Maito survives the coming engagement, Danzo’s plan to use him will be brilliant. Not that she doubts him. Danzo has always been rather... blunt. The boars suit him well. But like the boars, one can be both blunt and cunning, especially given time to plan ahead.

Utatane is eyeing Maito’s back, with more interest than she started with - Koharu managed to show, on her face, the exact same feelings that Ea had felt upon seeing the man, much to Ea’s entertainment - as they head off to discuss their plans.

“Hey Spot!” Danzo actually looks up when she calls out, a weird, incredulous little smile on his face. Perhaps the nickname stuck, in that time of his that hasn’t happened, but she knows that this is only maybe the third time she’s said it. His stance shifts welcomingly, and she bumps up against him when she gets there. “Where are we putting our stuff?”

“Within reach,” he replies dryly, eyeing her scrolls - the two on her back, and the one cradled in her arms. He seems more than satisfied with what he sees, and much to her pleasure, he drops the professional façade for long enough to lean against her. “I’m glad you’re coming,” he tells her, voice low and serious.

She would have come along regardless. Kagami is important to her, too, but... She’s happy that Danzo wants her there too, even if he worries about what they’re going to go up against.

Aburame Subachi is not pleased. She hadn’t realized that she was being tapped for this mission until the last moment. Supposedly, they would be ready to leave some time early tomorrow, but as far as she’s aware, others knew days in advance that they were part of this. She’s not pleased.

No, everyone always assumes that the Aburame are always ready, always packed. Ready to move at any moment! That isn’t a good reason not to give them as much warning as everyone else!

Why does her clan have to be renowned for their efficiency? Just think of the things she could prepare if she was given time, like everyone else.

She grumbles out loud about it, even as she gets her clansmen involved in searching for stowaways. Her time would be better put to actually getting ready, and getting things from the Aburame stores for her clansmen.

It would have been nice to know further in advance. The sun is too bright, for so early in the year, and it makes her eyes ache and tear up behind the dark lenses that protect them. If she had more time, she could do this in the dark, and not worry about the brightness of the sun. It’s all so annoying, having to do this in the day... Couldn’t it at least have been an overcast day?

Thankfully, she has time to stop in and let her family know that she’ll be gone, or else she would be in a really crappy mood. Remembering that heavy ordinance is the name of the day, however, improves her mood greatly. The Aburame do heavy ordinance like no other.

‘Plague or blight ordinance?’ she wonders, going through what she personally has access to. Which is a lot. She’s the current head of the clan, and if she dies, it passes to her husband, then their eldest child. They have so many specialized bugs, and she has access to most of them.

Some of the insects are stored away, preserved carefully in stasis, far too destructive for ordinary use. If she introduces herself to them now, the pain just might fade by the time they reach Uzu. Very rarely does someone attempt to integrate the desert queen, but those who are successful... It would be a permanent change, but... Subachi always wanted to be like one of ancient Aburame warrior queens.

It’s impulsive, and Subachi isn’t usually the impulsive sort, but. No one can be a warrior queen if they control themselves too tightly. She takes the jar. Opens the seal, and sticks her hand inside before she can convince herself not to.

There’s sluggish movement in the jar, around her fingers. Tapping feelers against her skin, testing, and she would be lying if she said that she wasn’t scared. This is the only excuse that she would ever give herself to do something like this. Only a mission like this - and she knows what the mission is, to protect their sister village, and that those in power believe that such things are needed - would be worthy of a desert queen.

If there were no grand mission, she wouldn’t be doing this. Waiting. The gentle touches slow, then she can feel it wiggle in preparation. Then there’s fire in her hand, as the desert queen enters passageways that were only big enough for the common kikaichū that Subachi hosts. It hurts, but it’ll be worth it, she swears.

She’ll prove why it’s good to have Aburame on your side.

Hitomi thought she would be screaming.Though, admittedly, she’s close to it.

If they won’t let her finish washing the dishes, she’ll scream. It doesn’t matter that her water has broken. She cleaned that up too, and the baby isn’t coming out yet. She knows this, deep down, like instinct. She just. Wants to finish up the dishes so that her stupid little brother would know that it’s his turn to clean them next. The baby isn’t coming that fast.

Then it is, and everything is happening faster than she expected. Much to her relief, Daddy and Mom haven’t left yet - and Daddy makes a comment that sounds surprised about how fast the baby is coming. But they’re there for her, even though Daddy thought they’d be gone before her baby came.

It takes hours - and she hears Kisuke leave to throw up once, swearing that he’s glad not to have a uterus - but eventually Obito is born, looking like an ugly little wrinkly red potato. Danzo laughs, when she says that, and she gets the feeling that he remembers her saying the exact same thing. “He’s beautiful, Hitomi. He’s going to be a strong boy. I’m... lucky that we were delayed.”

“Obito,” Ea murmurs, off to the side. “What a lovely grandson you’ve given us. You’re going to be good for your mother. And we’ll all be together again soon."

“Give me my ugly potato,” Hitomi says. When her husband wakes up from his impromptu nap, she hopes that he’ll be able to see the beauty her parents seem to. But it doesn’t matter, she supposes, if Obito looks like an ugly potato. He’s hers, and that’s enough for her.

She can’t wait to introduce him to his other grandparents - her papa, and Mamoru’s mother, who will be here soon. She just knows that Kagami will call Obito’s wrinkly little face beautiful too.

Chapter Text

The delay has mostly been logistics, but Danzo is grateful for it. Getting to see Obito born - having hope that whatever led Obito to his later choices won’t happen this time - was more than worth the delay. Although he’s certain that Obito came earlier this time, by several hours. Because last time, he didn’t leave the room - though he was in no hurry - until nearly sunset, and now, it’s barely noon.

He doesn't know what, if anything, that means. Perhaps Hitomi was stressed, though she hardly seemed it. If anyone was stressed, it was poor Mamoru, who, it seems, finally realized that he is going to be a father now. That was no different than last time. His son-in-law bemoaned Obito’s tiny, defenseless form, and how are they to keep that safe?

Danzo knows they’ll manage, with or without him. Although, he would rather not have it be without him. He doesn’t want to rob little Obito (or his own children) of his family so soon, but this is something he needs to do. Ea agrees.

They rejoin the boars right as they’re getting ready to move. Daiaku’s first steps are slow and clumsy, once he stands. He gains momentum with each step, however, until his massive hooves are tearing up the ground beneath them. Behind them, other boars, armored like Daiaku, are also picking up momentum.

The ride is surprisingly smooth, considering. They need to stay behind special shields to protect them from any debris the boars pick up - especially the ones trailing behind - or decide to run through, but the movement itself is almost steady. Much steadier than last time he had done this, though those were smaller boars.

He thinks that he should be able to get in some last minute reading, before he needs to angle off to collect Kagami and his people.

He also has instructions to give, and he thanks whatever gods decided that he should have big lungs for his ability to bellow and organize troops. It gets people like Inuzuka San actually listening. Ea, however sighs from her puddle of blankets, but turns to listen anyway. (Ea decided that if they’re going to be traveling like this for three days, she may as well be comfortable, and Danzo envies her, a little, for how shamelessly she does these things.)

Thankfully, even Koharu behaves herself while he briefs the various team leaders on what he expects to find - one of the Aburame is clutching her arm, though her face is impassive, and he notes that he needs to check on that later.

The biggest concern, he warns, is the time dilation field. He doesn’t know what they’re going to find beyond it, so anyone that plans on using summons had better summon them before they reach the field. Which will be miles out to sea. The water shouldn’t slow the boars - he ran through calculations with Daiaku two nights ago, and the boss boar is certain that despite the depth and current, and the distance, that they should be able to reach Uzu without any trouble - so he wants everyone to be aware of how long they have once they reach the shore.

He hates that he can’t give them much information. He knows something of some of the Kiri-nin they may run into - many of whom were long dead when Danzo was old, but they’re a problem now - including the Sandaime Mizukage, who later would take credit for the sacking of Uzu. Momogane Kyōten - a particularly cold and vicious bastard - was renowned not only as a Kage, but as the head of Kiri’s Seven Swordsmen in his time.

Unfortunately, Danzo never got his fingers as deep into Kiri as he wanted. He tells them what he can, and knows it isn’t enough. Kiri was never their ally, rarely their direct enemy. Chances to learn about them were far too few.

Their location didn’t help.

It won’t help them now, if Danzo has anything to say about it. He’s not going to let Sarutobi ignore this atrocity again, whether or not they succeed. Patches on their uniforms to claim that the Uzumaki were close to them, then he turns around and does nothing to prove it!

Danzo resists the urge to crumple the list in his hand, forces himself to focus on the instructions he’s giving out. He has to be as clear as possible, leave less room for mistakes. It’s important that his subordinates know as much as he can give them.

Detailing the weapons of the Seven Swordsmen is one of the things he can give them - though he has a hard time calling them swords. There are a couple that don’t make his sensibilities cringe - such as the Mizukage’s Kiba, the lightning blades - but most of them don’t resemble swords even vaguely.

When he runs out of important information to share, and directions that they need to follow, he dismisses most of them - except the Aburame. He doesn’t want to send anyone willing home, but if she’s injured, she shouldn’t be along on this mission anyway.

Up close, he’s surprised to recognize her as Shibi’s mother, Subachi. Moreso, because Subachi isn’t supposed to be on this mission at all. Aburame, as a rule, don’t volunteer, and he tapped each of the Aburame that came along personally.

It doesn’t take long to clear up the mix up, and Danzo is let rubbing his temples while Ea and Subachi shuffle like embarrassed children. “There’s no sense going back now,” Subachi grumbles. “I used my rank to access special ordinance for this, and assuming that the integration is successful, I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.”

Danzo doesn’t want to know, he really doesn’t. If there’s one thing that he finds deeply disturbing, perhaps even on a phobic level, it’s the idea of not being alone in his own body. The Aburame exemplify that. And yet. He needs to know. ‘The banes of being in charge,’ he muses. He’d rather just trust that they have their hives in order, but now he has to ask. “I’m going to have to need to know what this ordinance is capable of,” he sighs.

It’s nice to find out that the desert queen only burrows into a potential host. A bit frightening to consider that the first thing she does upon reaching her host’s core is to lay eggs, but Danzo stays impassive, well aware that the desert queen has her host, and it isn’t going to be him.

What the desert queen’s children can do to a battlefield... Horror and awe, he decides. And he can respect that Subachi made a choice that her clan will revere, even if he will probably be gagging the moment he lets his control slip.

That her clansmen will seal her body if she fails to integrate it... He’s not going to think about that. It’s bad enough, knowing that it’s working its way up her arm through the kikaichū’s tunnels, eating any kikaichū that happen to get in its way. If she fails, it will be a loss for Konoha. If she succeeds... He looks forward to seeing the desert queen in action.

He’s going to trust that Subachi knows what she’s doing, and do his job as commander and check on everyone else as well. Everyone on the boars should be on his list - other than Subachi, but he expects to find others that aren’t.

The Harunos, he sees, are exactly as he expects: Shimizuaki laying face down in her sister’s baggage while Shinju reads a book with a suspicious looking lear. He doesn’t want to confront that. That’s nothing new for either of them. Unfortunately, due to their particular talents, they’re going to be with him in the command center, once it’s set up, but as of yet, that’s not something he needs to deal with.

He marks them down on his list, along with Inuzuka San, who he can see riding one of her brothers, which leaps to a more distant boar, while the other leaps alongside them. He finds the first - besides Subachi - unexpected presence on the third boar. She’s one of the Inuzuka, and she snarls at him when he stops her for questioning.

“Inuzuka Retsuha. What do you think you’re doing here?” The girl is maybe sixteen, and he knows her as well as he knows any of the shinobi who have ever been temporarily under his command. While she’s old enough to be here, she isn’t here officially, which is Danzo’s main concern.

“I go where Hihane goes,” she says, jaw jutting out stubbornly, and. Danzo supposes he should have expected as much. Hihane, the young man she speaks of, is supposed to be here. Retsuha is not.

“Hihane has a job,” Danzo begins, then sighs. There’s really no point in sending her back. She isn’t useless, and once she and Umino Hihane got over their differences, they made an excellent team. “And you are now part of the squad charged with keeping him out of trouble, assuming that that will keep you out of trouble.”

She reddens, angry and embarrassed, but snarls out an affirmative response.

“And you will be reporting to your clan head, when she gets here,” he adds, glancing down at her dog, who manages to look utterly doleful, despite the situation. It takes a moment to remember the dog’s name, but it’s easier, given that it doesn’t run along the usual lines the Inuzuka choose. “Meimei. I’m trusting you to keep your human out of trouble.”

Meimei’s ears perk up, and she casts an incredulous look between him and Retsuha, while the Inuzuka girl squawks indignantly. She then cocks her head and wuffs at Danzo, as if to say, “I’ll try, but I think you’re giving me too much credit.”

“Do your best,” he replies, and gives her a pat before moving on.

He doesn’t get far before he runs into what looks like Retsuha again, only the dog beside her is paler, and more cheery than long-suffering. Retsuha, he remembers now, had a twin, who married a Hagane. Her name is... “Inuzuka Eikōha. I already saw your sister. What’s your explanation?”

The girl gives him a sheepish smile. “I go where my sister goes,” she says, and her dog wuffs. “I mean to keep her out of trouble.”

Danzo finds himself rubbing at his empty eye socket, which aches like it hasn’t in years... except that was before he came back to now. The injury is still new, and of course having his blood pressure rise would make it ache. “I’m sorry to disappoint, but you and Meirō are getting assignments from your clan head. If she decides to assign you with your sister, then that’s that. For now, go make sure your sister presents herself to San.”

Eikōha and her dog give him no trouble, just salute and make their way towards where he left Retsuha, while he stands in place trying to fight back a forming headache. The sound of the boars tearing through the countryside isn’t quiet, but somehow it’s distant to the pounding in his skull. It’s strange to realize that even young, he had pains like this.

He adds the two young Inuzuka and their dogs to his list, with a notation to check with San about them later.

He doesn’t immediately recognize the Nara with the motion sick deer that he finds with the next section, but there are only a few Nara with him, so he’s quick to narrow down which one it is. Seion, the only person on board the boars who came with a deer. There’s even a little note next to the man’s name, telling him that the deer is called Heizen. Which. Typical Nara names, he supposes. Either wishing for tranquility or cursing their children with it.

Seion is rubbing the deer’s shoulder, and it groans unhappily. When Danzo checks, however, Seion waves him off. “He’ll be fine once we stop moving. He doesn’t like boats, either.”

The rest of the personnel check goes quickly, thankfully, and he only finds one more stowaway. This one, he’s pleased to see. Gekkou Jun, who was, in a time that hasn’t yet occured, his secretary. They were a hunter-nin before that, and if the timing is right... They just lost that part of their career.

Jun isn’t on the personnel list, but Danzo has made use of their talents in the past, would be future. He’s more than willing to do so again. “Gekkou Jun,” he says, hiding a smile, as Jun cringes. “As you aren’t here officially, you are going where you’re told. I can use someone of your skills, so you’ll be coming with me.”

Jun stands, slumped in place. “How much trouble am I in, sir?”

“Not as much as you could be,” Danzo replies. “Considering that you aren’t the only extra that we’ve acquired.” His first task for Jun involves handing them the personnel list and the supplies checklist. “We’re making certain that everything is in order. Mark things off as we go. If we find things that aren’t supposed to be there, make note. Notations to check with who may have brought unsanctioned supplies.”

A short time later, they find that the entire Aburame contingent had brought along unsanctioned supplies. Danzo suspects Subachi, given the wording of their much earlier conversation.

The excessive number of mines they find is worrying, as is the fact that Danzo has no idea who to blame for this one. “Start reading the names on the personnel list off to me,” he says, and has to snap his fingers before Jun starts. None of the names are popping out at him, until they get to the contingent that the Umino is in. Whoever is to blame is in that section. “Make note. We’re going to have to check up on that later.”

Later, he finds that the mines are there because the maker is there - one of their volunteers, whose work is highly sought after. If he dies in Uzushio... It will be a loss for Konoha. Danzo will need to make sure that Mihogane Keika - among other important assets - makes it back to Konoha.

Once everything is as sorted out as it can be, he and Jun make their way back to Daiaku’s head. On the way, Danzo orders Jun to rustle up a meal for the group that will be awaiting them - and for themselves as well. “Including tea, if you can,” he adds, speaking to Jun’s retreating backside.

Jun probably heard him. Whether or not there will be tea, however, is questionable.

Ea drags him down to sit next to her blanket nest when he gets to where she is, and he allows it, hopeful that maybe sitting with her will ease his tension, just a little. To his amusement, she flips part of the blanket around him and... She’s warm.

It’s only been a few days, and he’s already so tired. Just for a moment, it’s... almost everything he wanted later. Just having her here with him. They’re only missing...


Danzo falls asleep like that, his head resting against Ea’s shoulder. He doesn’t see her smile. Doesn’t see her take over for him, reigning from her warm little nest.

(If he did, his heart would ache for all the time with her that he missed. He missed Kagami fiercely, like a lost limb, but Ea had always been a quieter ache. An ache that only his family could soothe, until they too were gone. But for now, he’s warmer than he’s been in these past, busy days, and he sleeps.)

Chapter Text

Danzo hasn’t forgotten the baku.

What he forgot was the reason he initially sought it out. The first nightmare he’s had in years is more of a memory. Seeing his own hand, reaching for his eye. Seeing a coldly furious expression on his own face, and pain.

He wakes up silently clawing at his own face, Ea’s hands on his wrists, trying to stop him from hurting himself. Her voice sounding in his ears only sounds like a potential continuation of the nightmare, but it shocks him into stillness, and he stops fighting her hold, stops trying to claw at the eye that isn’t there.

Why did he think it was a good idea to use Shisui’s eye like that? The Sharingan never forgets, and because of that, neither could he. For all he doesn’t have it anymore, that memory was burned into his mind in nightmares for weeks after getting it implanted.

And he knows it wasn’t him that Shisui was actually seeing, but a body double, but... It feels as though it was him, and... It’s uniquely horrifying.

It finally hits him that it actually is Ea that he’s hearing, and that the deep, roaring vibration that he feels is also familiar. From yesterday, or whenever he was last awake. The boars are loud, yet... It’s good to know where he is. When he is. “Ea..?” His voice cracks, and her fingers touch where he clawed himself. It stings, which means he managed to actually damage his face.

Her lips firm, and he can see her fingers lighting up with green chakra... mostly on his blind side, but the light of it, he can see. “Have you slept at all, since we started getting ready?” she asks. There’s no accusation in her, just calm sympathy. “I think I would have noticed if you had a nightmare like that next to me.”

He hasn’t been sleeping much, if at all. Just moments of dozing that were quickly interrupted. “I read once you were asleep,” he admits, and slowly begins paying more attention to the world around them. The others who were nearby are doing their best to not observe his and Ea’s interaction - with one notable exception. Jun probably watched as Danzo clawed himself, too. Curious to find that someone so high in rank is still human, Danzo expects.

Ea sighs, finishing with what she can heal. “I’m not much of a healer,” she reminds him, “but it shouldn’t keep bleeding. Try to refrain from sticking your fingers in your eye socket again. Just because it was healing well doesn’t mean that you can’t still get a bad infection.”

Danzo nearly protests, but remembers, again, that the injury to his eye was recent. With luck, the damage isn’t too bad inside the socket, because he certainly hadn’t been careful when he was clawing at it. Somewhere behind him, Maito Dai starts counting - likely doing some kind of exercise to distract himself - and Danzo hears Koharu ask if she can sit on his back.

Ea gives him a questioning look, and Danzo smiles, finally distracted from his dream. “Why yes, she does become a dirty old woman. She never stopped pulling that kind of thing.” There’s a flair of annoyed chakra behind him, and he doesn’t even look. His hand snaps up and back, catching the kunai Koharu throws at the back of his head - blunt end first, he notes, like she’s going easy on him. The thought rankles, just a little.

“Is that the kind of thing you should just be throwing around?” Koharu snaps. “Not everyone here knows what’s going on!”

How is he going to word how much he doesn’t care? Not bothering to look back at her, he makes an expansive gesture, that encompasses their surroundings as best as he can. “How is any of this discreet? I’m not going to worry about anyone’s sensibilities now. Eventually Saru is going to realize that there were no missives telling me about what’s happening.”

If it weren’t for the sound of the boars, there would be absolute silence. Danzo is pretty sure that Jun is gawping at him. Then Koharu lets out a disturbing giggle. “You didn’t tell him?”

“I told someone,” Danzo says, defending himself.


“...sensei,” he admits. And Ea starts laughing, too.

“You left him a note, didn’t you?” Koharu asks.

“...more like a really thick letter.” Danzo finally turns to look at Koharu. “I actually trust sensei to know what to do about what I’ve told him, which is much more than I can say about Saru.”

“Now what can Hiruzen have done to earn that?” Kaharu asks, the love of gossip lighting her eyes.

Not that Danzo means to tell her anything. “And here is where my discretion kicks in. Sensei knows everything that I could remember to write about. Or he soon will. I’m not going to sow dissention. Any issues I have with Saru will remain otherwise private until I have a chance to talk to Saru about it.”

Koharu pouts, crossing her legs into a more stable position - on Dai’s back, because even her extra weight would make Dai’s exercise that much more efficient. For all of Danzo’s mixed feelings about the Maitos, he greatly respects their self-discipline. Koharu, on the other hand... “Fine. If you won’t tell me about Hiruzen, tell me about myself. Did I ever get married?”

“No. You stayed a dirty old woman,” he replies, giving her his best saccharine smile. Which he’s fully aware doesn’t look nearly as friendly as he used to mean for it to. He gave up on trying to make it that way, and instead takes some pride in the fact that it’s creepy.

Koharu throws another kunai at him, which he catches. There’s no reason to let her waste them. It’s quite possible that they’ll need every weapon that they’re bringing. The thought reminds him of their current situation, however, and he asks, “How long was I asleep?”

“Not nearly long enough,” Ea replies, then goes on to detail where they currently are, which was why he asked. He needs to know when to split off to meet up with Kagami, and load up Kagami’s people with the warband.

Danzo glances up at Jun, giving them a pointed look, because now that he’s awake, he wants that damned tea and something to eat... assuming Jun actually got the tea. It takes a moment - Jun’s eyebrows beetling over their eyes as they try to parse what that look means - and Danzo almost swears, because of all the mistakes he didn’t expect to make, here he is assuming that Jun would be able to read him.

Then, hesitantly, Jun does. Not only that, Jun does exactly what Danzo was hoping, bringing him fresh tea and a bento full of cold snacks. Somehow, they successfully read the order in Danzo’s look, in spite of never having interacted with him before. It’s interesting, and unfortunately, not important at the moment.

What’s important is that he eats quickly and gets ready to take a smaller, faster boar to meet up with Kagami, who should be leaving the Seiryuu Garrison soon. He debates taking Jun with him, and decides that there’s really no reason why not. He’s going to need a soldier pill before long, though. If only so that he can summon more boars once he gets to Kagami - so that Kagami’s people can join them without incident.

He needs to make an announcement shortly. Tell everyone what needs to be done before they reach the ocean. What should be done once they do. To prepare for the ships that Daiaku will inevitably head towards.

The ships certainly won’t be prepared for them - who would prepare for giant boars when at sea? But shinobi often think quickest on their feet, and will likely retaliate as soon as they realize what is happening. Then, if it’s already up, there will be the time dilation field.

He uses a jutsu common to commanders across the elemental countries, to broadcast his voice to everyone, and gives them last minute instructions. He might not be able to rejoin them before they hit the water. If he’s lucky, they’ll be in time, but he knows better than to rely on luck.

Ea isn’t pleased that he’s leaving the train, even temporarily, but she understands the reasoning behind it. If he separates from them, then they won’t have to convince the boars to stop and start back up again. This way, he can just start a smaller train and have it rejoin the larger one when they catch up.

Koharu, on the other hand, is pleased, because he’s reluctantly leaving command of the operation in her hands. Not that her hands aren’t capable. She’s one of Konoha’s generals for a reason. She’s just snide about it. The only reasons he would have to leave someone else in charge are petty, and he won’t fall to that level. Not now.

If she starts getting rude with Kagami when they meet up again, that will be a different matter. Because then, he will be in charge. Neither Koharu nor Kagami will pull the same shit with him as they will with Hiruzen, though their reasons are different. (Hiruzen learned years ago not to interfere in their rivalry. His attempts at peacekeeping were rarely appreciated.)

Jun is clearly uncomfortable to learn that they’re coming with him. For all that Danzo knows them, he doesn’t know them well enough to know why they decided to come along on this particular mission. He’s certain that they’ll get used to working with him, though it may take a couple of weeks. Jun had always been nicely adaptive.

The downside of taking a smaller, faster boar, Danzo thinks, is that there is nowhere that’s truly comfortable to sit on the small boars. Even with a saddle.

The smaller boar - Kanraku, which is not the stupidest name a boar has introduced itself to him as - is still massive. Taller than the Nara’s deer at the shoulder, and much too wide to sit comfortably astride. She’s long enough of body to comfortably hold Danzo, Jun, and a decent amount of supplies, even if they didn’t have scrolls to keep them in.

She also needs a much different kind of armor than the larger boars wear, but Danzo doesn’t need to provide it. Kanraku is already prepared when he summons her.

For a boar, Kanraku is remarkably long of leg, though she’s just as muscular as the others of her kind. She’s built for both speed and power. Admittedly, the sow looks a little ridiculous, but Danzo didn’t choose her for how she looks.

She’s also utterly fearless, which he wouldn’t have thought was a problem until she leapt from Daiaku’s shoulder into the brush on the side of the mountain that they’re passing. Not a comfortable landing. It jars his teeth, and he and Jun both have to duck close to her body to keep from being snagged by the brush and unceremoniously yanked from her back.

Jun swears caustically behind him - and Danzo would find that funny if he didn’t want to join them. “Why pigs, Shimura-sama? They go through things!”

He grits his teeth and replies, “Only death can stop a determined boar!”

Danzo never liked using soldier pills, but if he doesn’t, he’s going to end up falling on his face when they reach the Seiryuu Garrison. He’s currently supporting a number of large summons, which is difficult enough when fresh. The consequences of abusing soldier pills isn’t high on his mind, given the circumstances.

He’d really rather not sleep anyway.

Hopefully, the scout did his job correctly, and Kagami is expecting him. He made certain that Senju Ganju was perfectly aware of the price of failure before he sent him off. Knowing Kagami, he would expect that his uncle was running from his mother, but at the same time, Ganju is someone that Kagami would recognize and trust.

It’s a relief when Kagami comes out to meet them, and Danzo suddenly can’t remember what he meant to say to him. He stumbles, unloading Kanraku, and once Jun is clear, he dismisses her. He needs a moment to clear his thoughts, but he can’t.

Once Kagami is close enough that it isn’t too awkward, Danzo closes the distance between them and hugs him. Whatever Kagami meant to say is cut off as Danzo squeezes the air from his husband’s lungs. Kagami’s arms awkwardly come up to return the embrace, even half pinned as they are.

“We don’t have time for this,” Danzo mutters, but can’t make himself let go, or even move. He relaxes his hold just enough to let Kagami breathe, because it would be stupid to asphyxiate him when he came all this way to help him, and hopefully make sure he lives.

“This is nice, though,” Kagami replies, sounding pleased. “You’re not usually like this, so..." He trails off, shrugging. It’s a long moment before he continues speaking, and - Danzo is shaking, which isn’t good, but Kagami pretends not to notice. The only acknowledgement of it is in the way his hands stroke Danzo’s back. “I am looking forward to a better explanation than Ganju-ji left me with. He just told me that you knew, and that it would be faster if we waited here for you.”

“Why is it always surprising when that man does his job?” Danzo wonders, shaking his head. He’s finally able to make himself let go, and he steps back. He can’t let himself get too distracted. Not yet. “We’re a day out from Uzushio by boar. We should have just enough time to catch up with the others before they hit the ocean.”

Kagami gawps. “Okay. What? We aren’t..? Ganju-ji is one thing. Even you arriving on that disturbingly long legged boar. But... I really hope you’re just using some really strange form of measurement right now. Because boars are... They’re..."

“Indiscrete?” Danzo asks, and Kagami blinks at him.

“Yeah. That too. I was thinking more, ‘destructive,’ actually.” Kagami gives him a consternated look when all he does is make an agreeing sound. “Dare I ask what happened to your face?”

“I got into a fight with myself in my sleep,” Danzo replies, pacing to find an acceptable place to summon a boar much larger than Kanraku. Only one, because Kagami’s party, from what he can see, and what he remembers, is small.

“Did you win?”

“I lost an eye,” he says, then does what he must to summon the boar as Kagami sputters.

“But you already..! Holy fuck, that’s a big one!” Kagami leans back as the boar snorts down at them.

“Her name is Wata,” Danzo tells Kagami’s team, thoughtlessly taking command. They react well to it, even as Kagami grumbles. “She’ll wait until everyone is on her before moving, but that’s no reason to tarry. I want everyone on, along with any supplies we’re taking, in ten minutes. I have a schedule to keep!”

Chapter Text

Kagami felt the way Danzo trembled against him, and he’s worried. He’s doing his best to hide it, but... Danzo looks rougher than usual, sleepless bruising visible under his eye, and partly healed scratch marks on the opposite cheek, disappearing underneath the eyepatch that’s still too new.

Danzo shouldn’t be in the field, not until he’s had time to get used to having only one eye. When Kagami left for his tour, Danzo was still clipping door frames with his right shoulder, and misjudging the distance with his steps. He was so clumsy that he nearly missed Kagami’s face when he tried to kiss him goodbye.

There’s no sign of that now. Danzo leaps to the boar’s shoulders without hesitation, perhaps even more gracefully than he had before the loss. It’s utterly disturbing, but Kagami has no doubt that it’s him. Everyone who’s ever tried to pretend to be Danzo to him has always made the same mistakes.

They listen too much to rumor. Just because Danzo is in a committed triad doesn’t mean he’s a pervert. He’s a romantic, but even in private, he’s usually quite reserved. Kagami doesn’t understand why. It’s just how Danzo is.

Being hugged like that is highly unusual, but the emotions behind it...

Kagami’s worried. For all his flippant words, he can tell that Danzo is beyond stressed, and that some of it is centered on him.

Also, he wants to know who the hell approved of using boars to traverse the country. Kagami is imagining the damage, and it’s... Distressing. They don’t use their summons like this, and Danzo, for all that he’s bull headed and occasionally stupid - Kagami may love him, but he’s well aware that Danzo has faults - has never used them this way.

He keeps his concerns to himself until everyone and everything is loaded - though he does complain to Dan, in brief, that he’s been usurped, by his own husband, no less - “He’s an investigator! I’m the general!”. Hopefully they will be able to talk in private soon...

Then there’s the assistant that Danzo brought with him. If Kagami was any less aware of Danzo’s inclinations, he might be jealous. He can’t tell if Jun is a man or a woman, but they’re pretty, and has slinky smooth hair, blacker than his own. They are also following Danzo closely, with an air of suffering that Kagami is curious about the cause of.

There is more room than they need on the boar, and once it gets started moving, the noise is perfectly horrendous, which means he just might be able to have that conversation in something like privacy.

The assistant doesn’t listen to Kagami when Kagami tries to tell them to beat it, but a glance from Danzo has them huffing in disgust and leaving them be. Kagami wonders when Danzo trained them, because he still has no idea who they are.

“So. Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” he asks, and feels a touch of guilt at the way Danzo’s shoulders pull together. “Because I only found out right before Ganju-ni showed up, what Kiri is up to, and it sounds like you’ve known longer. Also..." Kagami reaches up, touching Danzo’s cheek, just under the eyepatch. There are livid marks beneath it, scratches healed just enough not to be open wounds. “You really shouldn’t be in the field so soon.”

Danzo relaxes at the touch, and ends up leaning on him. “You don’t actually believe that. You want an explanation as to how I found out first?” Kagami nods, and knows that Danzo can feel it, even if he isn’t looking at him. “I had. A terrible vision. And. It turns out that Sensei was in our basement.”

“What.” Kagami taps his fingers on the top of Danzo’s head, frowning. “I think I would have known, or at the very least, Ea would have known, if Sensei was in our basement.”

“Yeah, well. We need to clean our basement more often.” Danzo snorts when Kagami thumps a little harder with his fingers. “He tried to come home,” he clarifies. “He just. Didn’t quite make it there. I wouldn’t have found him until oh, thirteen years from now. And his injuries were..." Danzo sighs. “Thirteen years, however, makes a lot of difference. Because he made it.”

Kagami scowls, slinking down against Danzo. That didn’t make any sense at all. “You could at least try to make sense.”

“When I left Konoha, Sensei was resting in drugged comfort in the restricted section of the hospital,” Danzo says. He sounds tired in a way that Kagami has never heard from him. “Alive. And since he was there. That. Proved everything else. And you, and Uzu... I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing.”

Danzo is here because... Because he knows what would happen. And because Kagami would fail somehow. Probably die. “You came back in time.”

“Not physically.” Danzo shrugs. “But yes. Essentially that seems to be what I did.”

“Uzu... Damn. Is it because I die, or is it because I fail, too?” Dying sounds like it would suck, but Kagami thinks it would be even worse if he would have failed Uzu as well.

“Uzushio falls. There are three Uzumaki left that I knew of...” For a moment, Danzo’s silent, then he sighs deeply. “I’m a selfish man. I only wanted to save you, but I’m aware that you wouldn’t appreciate that. So. Instead. I’m going to help you, and. We’ll save as much of Uzushio as we can.”

What does he say to that? Other than, “You said that we’re to meet up with the others. What kind of squad did you bring along?”

Silence, but for the sounds of trampled trees. It takes Danzo all too long to respond. “I was very motivated.”

“I don’t like the sound of that. You didn’t bring Hiruzen, did you? That seems like overkill, bringing the Hokage.” Not that he thinks that Hiruzen is any better than the others of their old team. Which... “Or Koharu?”

“Why would I bring Hiruzen? That useless..." Danzo audibly chokes down whatever he was going to say. “Yes to Koharu though. And Ea. And the Aubrame head. The Inuzuka head. As many of our heavy ordinance specialists that I could get a hold of on short notice.”

Kagami forces himself to keep breathing. That’s the kind of line up that hasn’t been seen since the clan wars. But... “Why Ea!?”

Danzo rounds on him, scowling. “I’d like to see you tell her no! As soon as I realized when I was, I was telling her, and just. Making her stay wasn’t something that I could do after that!”

They fall so easily into the familiar pattern of bickering that Kagami can hardly believe that Danzo could have missed him for too long. “No way. She would lock me in the morgue,” Kagami complains, shuddering. Dead bodies are one thing. Dead bodies that have had who knows what done to them are entirely another. “You should have told her! She couldn’t do anything horrible to you! You’d just sit in there and read a book!”

Danzo makes a face at him, never having been sympathetic to that particular discomfort of Kagami’s. “You’re a ninja. Dead bodies happen. I’ve never understood what your problem is with them.”

“At least I’m not afraid of bugs,” Kagami says, and watches, fascinated, as Danzo rolls his eye. It just isn’t the same as when there were two eyes. “Dead people should be in the ground, or burned to ashes. Besides. It’s the fact that they’ve been cut up that bothers me. Not that they’re dead.”

“And it isn’t bugs that bother me. It’s things that get under your skin and inhabit your body with you.” Put that way, Danzo’s thing with bugs does make more sense, even if Kagami isn’t willing to concede the point.

“You know,” he says, reeling Danzo into a hug, “you’re kind of an idiot.” When Danzo shifts to glare at him, Kagami adds, “But you’re a hot idiot, so you know. I love you anyway.” He hides a grin, because Danzo is still glaring.

“Why are you like this? Why did I forget that you’re like this?” The glare morphs into an aggrieved pout. Danzo hates it when Kagami says things like that, but Kagami can’t help but prod for a reaction. “Why is everything about sex with you?”

That makes Kagami feel a little guilty. Something he would never have expected, back when he declared that he was going to marry both Danzo and Ea, was that sometimes he would want his partners in ways that they can’t return. At the same time... For once, he feels like that question needs a serious response. “You know that no matter how much I want you an Ea both, I don’t want anything you can’t freely give, right?”

Danzo huffs in a decidedly offended way. “Of course I know that. I just. Forgot how you get.” He relaxes again, no longer looking at Kagami - which leaves Kagami free to observe him. “After everything. When we get back home. Bring it up again.”

The wording is a bit odd, and Kagami wants to know what Danzo means before agreeing. He nudges him, and asks, “What do you mean?”

“I missed you both,” Danzo replies, voice almost too quiet to hear over the sound around them. He’s sagging against Kagami like he’s falling asleep. “I’d do anything. I just. Want to be there with you. All you have to do is ask...”

There’s something about the way Danzo says it that pains his heart, but at the same time... “And you act like I make things hard,” he grumbles. No, he’s not meaning the pun, but he kind of is. “Something like that is so damned tempting, you know.”

Danzo doesn’t answer, just breathes softly against his shoulder.

“You shouldn’t make open ended promises like that.” Kagami worries that he’ll take advantage. It’s hard enough not to take advantage normally, but after saying something like that... Danzo doesn’t take back the things he says. Ever. And he’s left Kagami dwelling on it, while he sleeps. However many hours between now and catching up with the others, it’s going to feel like forever, with Danzo’s hair tickling his nose like this.

Kagami is standing toward the front of their boar’s head, watching with horror as they approach the train of boars, when Danzo flails awake. Kagami glances back at him, incredulously. Danzo hasn’t done such a thing since they were teens. Coincidentally, around the same time Danzo finally learned better than to give enemies that silly little grin when in battle.

(That had been a bloody mess, and Danzo still has a faint scar from it on his lip. On the downside, Kagami never saw Danzo’s teeth on his lip ever again. Which is too bad, because it always gave Kagami dirty thoughts.)

“Nice habits you’ve formed in the non-existent future,” he says, and Danzo makes a rude gesture in his direction. Kagami watches him as he sits up, the expression on his face is... Kagami doesn’t regret pointing out that flailing when waking up is a shitty habit for a shinobi. It’s depressing to know that it’s because of a nightmare, but Danzo never appreciated it when they worried over him. “We’re about to catch up with the train.”

Hilariously, Danzo moves like an old man when he comes over to join Kagami, carefully stretching muscles that locked while he slept in an inadvisable position. He makes a satisfied sound in his throat that Kagami can barely hear but... It brings Kagami’s brain right back to what he was saying before he fell asleep.

He has to take a moment to get his mind out of the gutter and actually focus on what is at hand. He’s a grown man. He can be mature. Danzo shouldn’t be making those kinds of sounds, it’s distracting. Noises like that belong in bed. “So. How is this going to go?” he asks, licking his lips and forcing himself to look at the cloud of dust and other things that they’re fast approaching.

“Wata will come in from the side,” Danzo says. “Like any other animal joining a stampede.” He makes a sharp gesture, and to Kagami’s surprise, the assistant from before is right there. “Then we are going to jump off and join the head boar.”

Kagami is torn between outrage at having not noticed their approach and a ringing sensation of “what the actual fuck.” He does not want to jump between boars. It doesn’t matter how good he is, if he makes the slightest mistake, ending up under those hooves will, at best, suck. Horrifically. “Just. Jump off. Like fleas in the middle of a stampede of giant boars. Are you insane?”

Danzo rolls his eye at him. “Be glad that they haven’t reached the ocean yet. It would be much harder to go between them then, especially if they had gotten as far as Kiri’s fleet.”

“There’s a fleet?” Kagami feels like he’s finding out things too fast and too late, all at once.

“Yes..." Danzo gives him a considering look. “I hope I have time to brief you fully. You... shouldn’t have let me sleep.”

The assistant coughs. “Shimura-sama, having witnessed the end of the last two times you slept, I find myself wondering when the last time you slept properly was.”

“Right before I pulled Sensei out of the basement,” Danzo replies, too honest.

Then they’re reaching the train, and the sheer volume drowns out even Kagami’s own thoughts.

Chapter Text

His nap can’t have lasted more than a few hours, but in spite of having had another nightmare, Danzo feels better for it. Briefing Kagami and his team is, by necessity, shorter than he’d like, but he gives them the most important parts before departing Wata.

Daiaku’s head is where Danzo needs to be, for his own effectiveness to maximized. Kagami’s strengths will be most effective on one of the sides of the caravan, where his katon can be aimed straight outward. In the front, with Danzo, it won’t be nearly as effective.

He grits his teeth when they hit the water, and hopes that everyone was prepared. It isn’t mere spray, coming up to greet them. It’s thick, churning water, because the boars don’t think to run along the top of the water like sensible chakra using beings. They’ll only do that once the drag of the water starts annoying them.

Behind him, Kagami sputters and swears. And he’s hardly the only one doing so.

Danzo isn’t all that fond of the taste of salt water himself, but the boars won’t do this for long, and everything is protected as best as it can be. He forges ahead, and reaches the command center on Daiaku’s head with only a little difficulty. He can’t check with Daiaku that everything is going smoothly for his summons. That’s something that he’s going to have to trust Daiaku to handle, if it’s not the case.

For the humans, it’s all they can do to just hang on until the boars start angling upward, toward the water’s surface. It’s a relief when they can breathe again, and Danzo is no exception to that. That’s when he can finally observe the changes to his crew. Aside from being drenched, they’re all battle ready.

Aburame Subachi has forgone the usual heavy coat, hair hanging in wet tangles down her shoulders. Danzo’s glad to see her standing, looking so determined. Inuzuka San is still spitting out salt water, but is practically vibrating with readiness. Danzo expects Kagami to take over the few Uchiha that have come along, as well as his own team. Koharu will lead another group, which includes Ea and Dai, among others.

They will be the leaders under him - though Kagami seems a bit thrown to be deferring to him.

Hurry up and wait. The last of his orders given, and they’re still far enough from the fleet that Daiaku is assuredly heading towards, and all there is left to do is wait.

Kagami swears he’ll head down the line once they spot the ships, and takes to tossing one of their sensei’s old hiraishin kunai - a habit that Danzo remembers well enough to find annoying, as much as he’s relieved to have Kagami by his side. When they look down the train, Danzo sees that some of the Aburame have summoned giant beetles of some sort, and Kagami snickers about it.

Danzo frowns, because the beetles are unfamiliar. He’s seen the giant dung beetles that the Aburame occasionally use for transport, but these are longer of body, and leg. “Those are fucking cockroaches!” exclaims Jun, and Danzo blinks, because they’re right. The beetles that are being loaded down with the clay mines Danzo found before meeting up with Kagami are giant cockroaches...

Of course Jun would recognize that. He eyes his secretary - there’s no way Jun is getting out of that job - silently judging. Their apartment is probably cockroach ridden at this very moment. “Perhaps it will disturb the enemy,” Danzo shrugs, then whips around just in time to see a sudden culmination of a chakra build up.

Kagami yelps as the kunai he was playing with glows yellow, and then there’s Sensei, and two others - a vaguely familiar white haired woman with a side braid and a far more familiar woman with an angry tilt to her mouth. “What the everloving fuck!?”

Danzo agrees. Sometimes, that’s all one can say. “Sensei! You should be in the hospital still!” Or one can scold the person who really, really shouldn’t be here. Danzo is not ready for this, especially if Tobirama is coherent.

Tobirama wobbles slightly, and Danzo swears. This is not the best time for Tobirama to show up. There’s no way he can be healed enough for this, but Danzo doesn’t know how to send him back. “You’re not doing this without me,” Tobirama slurs, and Danzo suddenly wants to scream, because this is even worse. Not only is Tobirama nowhere near physically ready to be here. He’s still heavily drugged!

The white haired woman looks apologetic, but the other looks vindictive, gleeful even. Mitakado Ganko is quite likely here as some kind of bizarre punishment to her husband. Danzo is nearly at a loss for what to say to any of the three. “We are less than an hour out from probable battle,” he manages, voice strained. “I hardly have time to brief any of you, and you don’t even look like you’ve prepared for this!”

“I’ll take on Ganko,” Koharu says. “Kiyomi-san and Tobirama-sensei can wait with you, because you had better not be doing anything other than giving orders.”

His eye socket aches, and Danzo finally knows what’s causing that pain. It’s his blood pressure spiking. “I have more sense than you give me credit for. I’m fully aware that if something happens to me, we’ll all go tumbling into the sea. I’m far older and more experienced than I look.” Not that he likes the idea of doing nothing. He’s aware of the need, however.

The white haired woman is probably a healer, thought Danzo still can’t place her, even now that he knows her name. “I’ll keep anija well,” she says, with a faint smile - and that’s when he realizes who she is. Tobirama’s youngest sibling, on his mother’s side. Danzo hasn’t seen her in so long that he would have thought she was a Hatake. (And who knows? Maybe she is!)

Danzo still wants to scream, can feel the way his lips are trying to pull back into a snarl. He manages to control it. Barely. Iryo-nin or no, Tobirama was bleeding out on him hardly more than a week ago. If he could, he would send him back, but he can’t. “Sensei. You’re sitting up front with me, and doing absolutely nothing!”

“I can do things,” Tobirama grumbles, but he allows Kiyomi to direct him to a seat. “The ocean is my friend.”

“If you do anything that involves moving, you’ll be grounded,” Danzo concedes. Whatever Tobirama means by what he said, it’s either the drugs or disturbing honesty, and if it’s the latter, it could be useful.

When they reach the fleet, Danzo watches from three different angles, using one of Tobirama’s infamous techniques. Kage Bunshin.

His original self focuses on what is ahead of them, and he trusts his people to watch his back, while the two clones each take to the opposite sides of the boars. This kind of battle is always noisy. And it doesn’t take long for this one to get there.

There’s a wash of light and heat from the right, and someone screaming encouragement - Kagami’s specialty, as the only man since Madara to master Katon: Gōka Mekkyaku - and screams from the ships on that side. On the left, there’s a deep, droning buzz, and Danzo doesn’t look, the clones can see what’s happening, followed by the deep boom of mines going off.

Several different enemy shinobi manage to reach him, but they look exactly the same as each other, which is the first sign that Danzo has that there’s something highly unusual about all of this. He doesn’t even have to move - Shimizuaki’s stout form leaps over him, lashing out with a whip and knocking two into the sea at once before roaring with glee and charging the other two headlong.

Kagami doesn’t think to form Kage Bunshin right away, not until he sees one of Danzo’s helping his team. It’s a stark reminder of how unprepared he is. He thinks well on his feet though, and there’s enough fire in his blood that it doesn’t matter.

“Fire away!” Koharu bellows, and she and several others with similar ordinance - though no one has a cannon quite like Koharu’s - fire their weapons. It’s deafening, and Kagami can barely hear the cry of “Reload!” that comes after.

The Kiri-nin were able to partly block his Gōka Mekkyaku, but the shells fired are a shock, especially when Kagami follows them with another Gōka Mekkyaku. His clone sucks up the burning ash in the air, only to breathe it out thicker and darker and suffocating.

A scythe blade comes out of nowhere, only to be blocked by a naginata wielded by a tiny woman who spits water senbon into the ash cloud. Kagami has no idea why the Haruno is here, but feels like Danzo could probably tell him. She seems to know what she’s doing though, so he’ll let her do her thing while he does his.

An exploding clone, he thinks. Or a Kage Bunshin that separates into them. Just one could probably take out a ship, and the more ships they take out the better.

He sends five.

Subachi calms her mind, ignoring San’s sharp bark of “We have an air fleet?” The deep buzz of the flying cockroaches heading out to bomb the fleet is soothing, compared to the other sounds.

The desert queen is anxious, surrounded by so much water, and insists that Subachi sends out drones to protect the hive. Nymphs, really. Fast growing nymphs that will bore into flesh and eat a man from the inside out. It’s cruel, but after some consideration, Subachi agrees. The drones will die, but that’s the point of them.

If the stories are accurate, just one can kill a man in minutes with its voracity, and they love nerve tissue. It’s so very cruel to unleash them, but at least their victims will die quickly.

The drones only listen to the queen, and the queen only listens because Subachi is her ride. She’s earned her respect with her determination, but she’s still made of meat. It’s an act of will to make certain that the nymphs won’t go for her allies.

The nymphs fly free, searching for enemies who aren’t yet looking for something so small. Foreign shinobi never know what to expect of the Aburame. Subachi is looking forward to giving them something to fear.

“Bring me that body!” Ea shouts. Her lungs aren’t quite Danzo’s match, but she’s sharper. Her voice carries exactly as far as she needs it to. “That was a Kaguya! I want them! As intact as possible, please!”

The body lands next to her with a wet thunk that’s audible even over the sounds of battle. It’ll obviously be a little broken, but she can still use it. Two of her meat puppets are unsealed - she didn’t want to lose any of her best work outside of the time dilation field that she was warned about, so she didn’t unseal more - and they protect her as she cuts into the new body, harvesting anything that has the potential to be useful later, as well as taking out the organs which will both make the body rot faster and be less efficient to use. If possible, she would like to keep it longer, but as it is, quick and dirty is all she has time for.

There are orders that were given to everyone aboard. Strap down the dead for later use. In the meantime, Ea will make do with what is nearby. And occasionally find interesting things for the alchemists when going through the various organs. “I have a rapunzel bezoar! Anyone need that?”

The slimy wad is yanked out of her hand by one of her assistants, secreted away into a jar of alchemical ingredients. Ea has already all but forgotten about it, scrambling the corpse’s brains with chakra then carefully drawing them out through the sinuses. She pays no heed to the mess surrounding her, lets the blood drain with a little extra push to make it flow faster.

Once she has the corpse fully prepared, she can put it on guard detail, and use one of her original guard puppets as an extra set of hands, to quickly prepare another corpse.

Her nephew is nearby, and she considers throwing him another offer to teach him her techniques, but he’s a squeamish boy. It’s too bad that Kisuke had never shown much interest in working with bodies. She has so much to teach, and she has yet to find a capable apprentice...

Tobirama meant what he said, when he claimed the ocean as his friend. Admittedly, it’s a bit more complicated than that. The ocean is deep, ineffable. If he reaches into it, deeply enough, like the abyss it is, it reaches back.

It feels good, in a way he’s never been able to explain. Cool and crushing and absolute. It’s easy to fall too far, to allow too much of it into his body, into his mind. Even if he weren’t a sensor, through the ocean, he’s aware of all the ships in their vicinity, of the pounding hooves of the boars, the explosions that sear its uppermost layer.

The whirlpools that lend Uzushio its name. The ships avoid them, helmed by men and women who know the ocean well. They don’t know it as well as Tobirama. They don’t know it well enough to ask the ocean to move for them.

The way ahead of the boars is clear, though it wasn’t before. The whirlpools turn at his behest, faster than the ships can account for, and he feels wood splintering as he breathes. Thousands of mouths open voraciously, to swallow everything into their depths. The Kiri-nin stand no chance.

There’s a sudden jolt of change, that shocks him back into his own body, and somewhere overhead, he can hear Danzo’s satisfied growl. “We’re through.”

Chapter Text

The sky is growing overcast, but the sun hasn’t moved in the hours since the boars made landfall. Few Kiri-nin made it so deeply into Uzu as his people, but Danzo doesn’t think for a moment that that means that this will go smoothly. Uzushio has been under attack long enough that the first village they reached is already abandoned.

Abandoned or not, it’s the perfect place to set up a command center. Possibly more so because it is abandoned. Infrastructure is already present, and there’s no one to protest their use of it. His people are under orders to strip the place of anything of value, personal or otherwise - perhaps these things will be able to be returned to their owners at a later date, assuming they succeed at their main objective.

If the building moisture in the air is any indication, they won’t be able to use the sun for much longer to keep track of time “outside” the field. It’s already been high noon for what felt like several hours, and it’s nearly unbearably warm and humid. Danzo isn’t looking forward to how much worse it’s likely to get.

He never did learn how long Uzushio was in time dilation. He only knew that from the outside, it had only been three days. Inside the field, it could have been weeks. Months, if he wants to be pessimistic. The only thing he’s certain of is that it wasn’t years.

That, and that in the original battle, the Mizukage didn’t enter the time dilation field. He commanded his forces from without.

While they’re setting up an appropriate command center, Tobirama alerts him to this change. Fifteen hours after they reached the village. The fancy, bloodthirsty bastard almost certainly had been outside of the field when it went up, but for whatever reason, he didn’t stay that way.

It’s possible, Danzo muses, that the man was on one of the ships they destroyed. He takes an unprofessional amount of glee in that thought. So does Koharu, when she hears of it. Koharu claims that it was one of her shots that got his ship. “Well, more like a volley of them,” she admits. “If he hadn’t cut one of my shells, I probably wouldn’t have fired that many at him. He could have dodged, but noooo. Had to prove that he’s one of Kiri’s ‘famed’ Swordsmen. Cut it in half. The bastard.”

Of all his old teammates, Danzo wonders why he always liked her best - with the exception of Kagami. Who he married. She couldn’t exactly beat that.

Kagami is currently off with Subachi, supervising doton specialists - including many of the Aburame - in fortifying the village. Aburame are a force to be reckoned with on many levels. From their flying bombers, which Danzo is annoyed that he hadn’t known about, to their skills in fortifying via doton ninjutsu, they constantly prove themselves useful.

Danzo is well aware that they’re only so effective because he gave them free range in choosing who and what to send with them. All he had requested was their “best heavy ordinance specialists,” and damned if that isn’t exactly what he had gotten. “Why aren’t the Aburame more well used?” he asks, rhetorically.

Jun answers, “They’re too self effacing. That and they don’t volunteer. For anything.” Then they jerk back, eyes wide, and stare at Danzo like Danzo did something particularly shocking. What, he doesn’t know. He was just listening to their answer. And it was a good point.

In another part of the village, set up specifically for her purposes, Ea is doing what Ea does best - with the help of her unsealed meat puppets - preparing all the Kiri corpses for use. Their own dead are handled more respectfully, sealed away to be returned to Konoha, to be dealt with how their families see fit.

Ea’s probably the busiest of them, given how many bodies they managed to recover. Danzo wishes he could be a fly on the wall when the Mizukage gets word that they brought the Undertaker. Even a bastard like that would shit themselves.

Jun has no idea how this happened. Two weeks ago, Jun was made to resign as a hunter-nin. It was only a few days later, when trying to figure out where life is taking them next, that they learned about the operation being sent to Uzushio.

The initial sweep for stowaways missed them. They’d be proud, but that same sweep missed the Inuzuka twins as well. And their dogs. Jun has no idea how those two managed to avoid detection by the Aburame, but decides to consider it commendable, however they did it.

If anything, Jun expected punishment, should they get caught, rather than what feels distinctly like a promotion. Shimura Danzo is too efficient, even as rattled as he allows Jun to see - which is strange, strange, strange, to be trusted enough to see something like that, when Jun has never actually worked with Danzo, or any of his contemporaries - to actually need Jun picking up after him. But he handed Jun more responsibilities in one sitting than Jun had realized that they were capable of handling.

Jun always did do best under pressure, but they’re pretty sure that this isn’t what they meant, the last time they said that. They never were an assistant. They never worked directly with other people.

The work of a hunter-nin is... classified, generally. Before being retired from the position, there were three people, perhaps, that knew about Jun’s job. Their handler, their commander, and their... evaluator. They get the feeling that Danzo knew about it longer, has known them longer. It’s unsettling, but intriguing.

They also can admit to themselves that they take some pleasure in getting to scold people on their comings and goings. As Danzo’s assistant, they get to keep track of everyone’s business and say it’s for Danzo’s sake. Jun’s always been a bit of a gossip at heart. They may not share the things they know, but they want to know all the things.

It’s also interesting, figuring out how to organize the information they collect for their commander’s consumption. It isn’t a skill Jun has previously bothered with, and they’re surprised by how enjoyable it is. They would have thought it would be similar to mission reports, but it really isn’t. And beyond a few pointers, Danzo trusts them to get things done.

It isn’t long before even Danzo’s commanders come to them first, if the information they have doesn’t need to get to Danzo immediately. Kagami often bypasses Jun, but Jun suspects the man is hoping for a snog. Jun wishes him luck. Danzo seems exasperated every time Kagami goes for more than a quick kiss. That’s one part of Jun’s current entertainment.

The other is... harder to wrap their brain around. Senju Tobirama. Not Dead. And apparently grounded. Currently sitting upright in a throne of bedding... because no one trusts him to sit still unless he’s under constant surveillance. And one doesn’t get more constant surveillance than in the middle of the command setup.

Senju Tobirama, as it turns out, has a personality. Said personality is, as the Nara like to say, “troublesome.” Jun is finding that everyone in high command has similarly interesting personalities. Tobirama in specific doesn’t like being left out of anything, and will pester people into giving him things to do.

Danzo asked Jun to find an appropriate task for a seal master that isn’t allowed to get up. It’s one of Jun’s many tasks, finding ways to keep Tobirama occupied. A large sheaf of sealing papers and a request for more explosive seals is the best Jun has at the moment.

Tobirama takes one look at the sheaf of papers and sighs. “How dreadfully boring,” he says, pouting - and good gods, he’s a pretty man, and Jun has a weakness for pretty pouts - and takes the papers with another, longsuffering sigh. Then there’s a hissing sound, and Jun’s eyes widen as a perfect seal curls out from beneath Tobirama’s thumb. Then he hands the sheaf back to Jun. “At least they could have more interesting requests. I mastered explosive seals by the time I was eight.”

Jun blinks. Because they can’t not check, they flip through, and every single page has a perfect seal to match the first. That kind of precision is... It’s amazing. Also a bit of a turn on, which isn’t exactly helpful right now. “You... have impressive control.” An understatement. If Jun tried something like that, not only would the seals be questionable, they would have missed a large percentage of the pages. But Tobirama seems to have gotten every single one.

Tobirama makes a noncommittal noise, those pretty red eyes of his slipping closed. “Control, yes, but the activity is relatively mindless. Even with the drugs in my system interfering with my ability to think, it’s too easy. Bring me a challenge, next time.”

Jun... needs to actually think about what a challenge might entail, before making the mistake of flirting with someone so... important. Probably a superior. It’s never a good idea to flirt with one’s superiors. Probably. “What constitutes a challenge?” they ask.

“Something I have to think about,” Tobirama says. Jun gets to watch as he tries to make himself comfortable - even in the unflattering yukata, Tobirama makes squirming into a more comfortable position look good. “Development is more interesting than repeating something I know well.”

It’s an disappointing fact that Jun is realizing that they probably have absolutely nothing in common with Tobirama. They could flirt anyway - sex hardly requires having anything in common but kinks - and it isn’t like Jun is thinking about a relationship, anyway...

A deep bellow interrupts their thoughts, and the very sound of it has Tobirama’s eyes flaring wide, his whole frame practically singing with tension. “I’m drunk, not a cripple!”

Jun’s eyes are on the unfamiliar person immediately, flickering to Kagami, whose expression is drawn... yet somehow exasperated. He must know the strange man. Jun’s first assessment is ‘drunk,’ which... the man announced, but Jun is certain that ‘habitual drunk’ is more accurate. The man was probably a shinobi once, and in spite of the streaks of grey in his hair, it’s still thick and mostly dark, and... He’s a good looking man. He’s obviously seen better days, and can use a good scrub. But Jun wouldn’t mind getting their hands on that, once he’s cleaned up a little.

Tobirama lets out an indescribable hiss, and struggles to his feet, only for his healer to force him to sit back down. “Madara..."

Jun looks again. They aren’t sure they ever knew what Uchiha Madara looked like, but... surely not? Kagami’s voice, full of glorious sarcasm, washes over the room. “You just kissed a wall. I’m aware that you’re drunk!”

“I didn’t kiss it!” the man, surely not Uchiha Madara, growls. “I winged it!”

“With your face!” Kagami laughs, and Tobirama settles back down, though he continues to stare intently in the direction of Kagami’s stranger. “Just let me guide you. Or else you’ll turn yourself into a cripple!”

It’s Jun’s duty to intercept them. If Tobirama is right, and that is, somehow, Uchiha Madara, Jun does not like this. They set the explosive seals next to Tobirama, not wanting a possible weapon so close to an unknown. “Kagami-sama..."

“It’s alright,” Kagami interrupts. “I know what I’m doing, and I’m taking him directly to Danzo.”

“Do you?” Jun asks dryly, before they can help themself. They keep putting their foot in it, and soon enough that’s going to end badly for them. But if that’s who Tobirama thinks it is...

The man who might be Madara blinks at Jun. “Ch. Kids at war. This is exactly the kind of bullshit that stupid bastard said he was against to begin with. I hoped something would change, but it never fucking did.”

...Jun suspects that they’ve just been called a kid. Which they most definitely are not. “Excuse me. I’m twenty years old. I don’t know any place where that’s not considered an adult.”

They get blinked at for that. And Madara - Jun is starting to suspect that he’s the real deal, because no one pretending to be Uchiha Madara would act like this - reaches out and pokes them in the cheek, as though making sure they’re real. “No. You’re like, eight. Something stupid young.”

Kagami snorts. “Okay, I can almost see fifteen, but eight? Jiji? How old do you think I am?”

Madara turns and squints at him. “Old enough to drink? That seems right. You should give me some shōchū, and..."

“Yeah, I don’t think you need any more of what you’ve been drinking. Come with me, now...”

Jun is, once again, left blinking. They should probably stop Kagami. This... probably won’t be good for Danzo. Instead of stopping Kagami, they go around the pair. If nothing else, a warning would be in order.

Danzo had known that Madara’s name was in use, in his time. There were hints of it, in the deepest darkest corners of the world, the furthest his network could reach. In spite of this, Jun’s warning was deeply appreciated. He had never expected to ever see the man himself again.

Madara... doesn’t look like himself. He does, but he doesn’t. It isn’t even that he’s older than he once was. He’s... There’s something broken, in the set of his shoulders. Something in his eyes that’s beyond weariness. The man he once hated and feared - respected, a tiny voice interjects, wanted to be like - looks every inch the worn out drunkard.

“Explain, again, how you found him.”

Danzo rubs his temples through Kagami’s repetition of his story. He listens just as much to Madara’s interruptions, and the things the drunk isn’t saying. It’s difficult to listen to. Even more so when Madara seems to recognize him and start querying him about all sorts of things. Like his eye.

“I lost a bet with Homura,” he replied to the last one, deciding to fuck with them a little (stress makes his sense of humor take a decidedly twisted turn). Technically, it’s not a lie. He’s lost several bets with Homura, and it’s Madara’s own fault if he takes it as an answer to his question. “I was drunk enough to agree to the terms, and so ate it.” Again, what isn’t specified. He remembers once being drunkenly bet that he wouldn’t eat Ganko’s savory mint custard. And he did. And it was a mistake, that left him sick for several days. “Didn’t sober up until it was too late to have my stomach pumped.”

Both Madara and Kagami blanch, staring at him with wide eyes. Madara even looks a bit green. “You sick fuck,” Kagami says, almost admiring. “Why would you say something so awful? Like, I know you’re lying. But at the same time, I almost believed you.”

“Oh come on,” Danzo grumbles, rolling his eye. “You think Homura wouldn’t make me eat an eye? Sure, I didn’t eat my own, but can you swear that you haven’t eaten an eye?” Madara makes a quiet gagging sound, and Danzo flashes a suspicious look his way. “You better not throw up in here.”

“The problem,” Kagami says, “is that I don’t know what to do with him. I couldn’t just leave him there. If the enemy got a hold of him, even in his current state..."

“You could have killed me,” Madara points out. “I wouldn’t have fought back.”

Danzo does not feel sorry for him. He doesn’t have any pity in him. But... he has pettiness. If Madara wants to die, that’s not what Madara’s getting. “Shut up. Responsible people are talking.” Oh gods, Tobirama’s bad enough. Danzo doesn’t want to be responsible for Madara as well. “On that note. Kagami. As the one who brought him here, you’re responsible for him.”

Kagami makes a vaguely protesting sound, but Madara throws in his thoughts on the matter. “I suppose it would be nice, spending time with my last remaining sibling.” Which. What? When Danzo looks at him, Madara isn’t even looking their way. He has his head tipped back, a bottle at his lips, and is licking into it, as though that will get him more alcohol.

Kagami shrugs. “I let him keep the empty.”

“Fuck. Just. Get him out of here. Order someone to bathe him or something.” Danzo has a small war to worry about running. “Unless he causes trouble, I don’t need to know what the sodden ghost of Uchiha Madara is doing.”

Chapter Text

Kagami trusts his fellow Konoha shinobi - in spite of Danzo’s repeated warnings over the years to not do so - but... He doesn’t think it’s a good idea for anyone else to handle Madara while he’s like this. Not even for something as simple as a bath.

“I didn’t know you knew,” he says, voice low. Kukaku had waited until he was a teen, old enough to understand how controversial it was, to tell him who his father was.

“Hmm?” Madara pushes his wet hair out of his face, hands automatically starting to wring out the water. “Knew what?”

“About... my relation to you. We just assumed that you didn’t know.”

Madara’s quiet for a long while, absently scrubbing when Kagami reminds him to. When he speaks, his tone is soft and hazy, but so very pained. “We didn’t. We would have killed him ourselves. They didn’t care about rape so much back then. Not if it was done outside of the clan. But... she would have been so damn young. Kaachan would have slit his throat. Probably after cutting off his dick.”

“Heh. Yeah. That’s. That’s why we assumed you didn’t know.”

“She told me once,” Madara says, squinting when Kagami upends a bucket of water over his head. Several seconds are spent sputtering unhappily before Madara thinks to continue. “She said Tobirama killed your father. I wouldn’t thank that icy bastard for anything, but... I’m glad someone did it for the right reasons.”

“I’m going out on a limb here,” Kagami says, checking to see if the soap is actually out of Madara’s messy messy hair - the grey streaks are... it’s strange, seeing Madara now. Madara never got older in Kagami’s mind, for all he was always a nebulous, ‘older than me.’ Now he’s old in a way that is obvious, even to someone so oblivious as Kagami.


“I’m going to assume you didn’t see Tobirama-jiji scowling at you before I took you to Danzo.”

There’s that worrying silence again, as Madara ponderously focuses on washing. Like last time, once Kagami gives him enough time, he answers. “I don’t care.”

“What do you mean?” That doesn’t sound anything like the Madara Kagami once knew. That Madara had been sullen silences whenever Tobirama came up. That or explosive bellowing. Then again... It had been over twenty years. That’s more than enough time for even Madara to change.

“I use to blame him, you know? For everything,” Madara says, tone musing. Then he upends another bucket of water on himself, shuddering like the water is repulsive. “But then. Then I learned the truth, and..." He lets out a broken little laugh, dropping the bucket. “Now I’m here.”

“The truth?” he asks.

“It’s a cycle,” Madara giggles, starting to sound hysterical at the edges. “And I’m the culmination of it! How much further does it have to go!?” He lunges upright, bellowing at nothing, and the bucket clatters away from them. “Well fuck that! I want no part in it!”

Too many things demand Danzo’s attention, and shadow clones are one of the few things that make it bearable. Unfortunately, he and his clones have certain worries in common. Some of them are completely useless, such as Madara calling Kagami his brother. Last brother. At another time, perhaps the information will prove useful, but right now, it’s only a nagging concern.

Kagami looked surprised when he said it, too. Though not at the claim itself, Danzo doesn’t think... The line of thought is pointless. They apparently have Uchiha Madara now. That doesn’t change anything, really, other than how they’ll have to feed him and keep an eye on him. That, and probably keep him and Tobirama-sensei separate from each other, for the sake of everyone else.

There was always a possibility of rescuing people who need similar considerations, so he tries to put it out of his mind.

He’s talking with the Nara, Seion, and his deer, which... seems to have developed a bit of a... shine... since he last saw it, when Kagami returns with Madara in tow. Aside from the fact that his eyes are still glazed, he looks almost respectable. Almost. Because he still looks like Uchiha Madara.

Beside him, Jun makes a noise that would be more appropriate from a starving person anticipating food. And... while Danzo knows what that’s about, he can’t say he understands it. At the moment, he can’t even call Madara objectively attractive. “Stop drooling. He’s over thirty years your senior.”

“Has it occurred to you how competent a shinobi has to be to survive that long?” Jun asks, with a tiny smirk. “And with no backup, no one knowing that he’s alive? That’s amazing, and I know you know it.”

Danzo blinks, frowns. While that’s true, he turns to Jun with an automatic rebuttal on his lips. “I know you well enough to know that it’s purely physical. Ignoring Madara’s potential prowess, you are probably thinking how that would translate to a bed.”

Jun blinks right back at him, and shrugs. “Guilty.”

Danzo returns to the Nara’s report, and the man places colored pins where he encountered enemies. Two colors. One where they fortified, like the Konoha-nin, and another where they gave chase. “That group wasn’t with the other. And... it was strange,” Seion says. “But experience tells me that I ought to say something about it. I’ve been seeing... quite a few of the same faces. Over and over again. It’s kind of... disturbing. Their dialogue doesn’t change much either, from group to group.”

Danzo sighs, not surprised. “Doppelgangers.” The only surprising thing is the sheer quantity they’re dealing with, and the fact that they actually seem to be working with Mizu’s forces.

“That’s what I thought,” Seion agrees, “except, you know. I’ve never heard of there being so many of them with the same faces.”

It is highly unusual, and Seion is right to bring it up. “The more reports we have confirming this... perhaps we may find out what’s happening. This is the first time since they started appearing that they seem to be taking a political stance... Although I think it’s just as possible, perhaps even more likely, that they’re only being used by Mizu. They have never shown much signs of intelligence in the past... I’ll need to know if that changes.” With that, he dismisses the man and his... glowing deer, to get some food and rest.

When the Nara leaves, Danzo turns to find that Madara is still there, seemingly having a staring match with Tobirama. Kagami tries to direct him away, with a nervous smile - most wouldn’t be able to tell, but Danzo knows him quite well - but Madara is having none of it. He’s immovable, despite Kagami’s efforts.

Then he does the strangest thing. While Tobirama’s face blanks in surprise, Madara climbs up onto the edge of the bedding... and promptly plants his face into it. And stays there, not reacting when Tobirama tries to kick him away.

Kagami, damn him, laughs, because he’s realized what Danzo recognized almost right off. Madara is unresponsive because he’s unconscious.

Danzo groans, already feeling the ache in his eye socket rising. Next to him, Jun lets out a sound that’s probably a repressed snicker. Raising his voice to carry as far as his incapacitated sensei, Danzo says, “I hope you’ll keep the drama to minimal levels.” Tobirama is the one he’s most concerned about causing a scene, strangely enough.

(He catches Tobirama, out of the corner of his eye, reaching out to scan Madara with iryo-chakra, as soon as it looks like Danzo won’t see. He doesn’t care, as long as Tobirama doesn’t actually cause Madara to go berserk, or whatever, in the command center. There are more important things for him to focus on.)

Later, Kagami reports, tersely, on what he’s learned from Madara.

Danzo doesn’t like mysteries, and there is definitely a mystery surrounding Madara. Hopefully, it’s a mystery that can wait. The most important thing is that Madara won’t - probably won’t - start shit with Tobirama unless provoked.

There’s another disturbance, and he can hear it heading his way. He dismisses Kagami with an apologetic sigh, notes Kagami’s amusement at his own automatic deference, and goes to meet said disturbance.

At first glance, it looks as though one of the patrols caught a gremlin. She’s small, green, and Danzo can see where she bit her captors several times. She’s also kicking, repeatedly, even though it gains her no ground. A high pitched growl, punctuated by chittering, emits from her. She could, perhaps, be a cousin to the Harunos, if the unnatural skin tone is any indicator.

“Intruders!” shrieks the gremlin, finally getting her vocal cords under control. “Defilers! Assaulters! How dare you intrude! These are our lands! We’ll kick you out and use your bones for flutes!”

“Creative threat,” says Jun. “But logically unsound.”

Danzo smooths his hand over his face, hiding the beginnings of a smile. He really shouldn’t find the idea of his bones being used as flutes amusing, but... “Is it?” asks the gremlin, and then she curses. “Oh, fine. We’ll cut off your legs, so we can make our flutes, and then kick you out!”

He raises his hand, and feels the moment that he has Jun’s attention. “Would you go collect whichever Haruno is easiest to find? I suspect that will clear things up.”

It’s just his luck that the one they find is Shimizuaki, and she and the gremlin light up, seeing each other, before going into a pointless round of small talk. For all that it clears up that they know each other, Danzo doesn’t have the patience to listen for long. “So, they arrested you?” Shimizuaki asks, voice so inane that Danzo nearly missed the topic shift.

“Yeah, you know. Usual kinda thing. Breaking and entering, a little mild assault. I mean, I have a good case. After all, I thought they were, you know, the ones invading. So it isn’t like I didn’t have a good reason, right?”

This is something best left in the hands of subordinates, Danzo suspects. “Someone report to me once this is resolved,” he says, rubbing under his eyepatch - a shitty habit, and Ea would scold him if she saw, but the pressure seems to help stave off a deeper ache.

(He probably needs to take a break, as much as he doesn’t want to. Sleep, right now, is his enemy. One he can’t fight off, and one he can’t afford to succumb to. Worse, it’s also a necessity.)

The humidity reaches its peak with a crash, and suddenly, everything around is drenched. Subachi is at once grateful and annoyed that she left her coat in their makeshift barracks. The sudden rain certainly wouldn’t help it to dry after its oceanic soaking. On the other hand, she is getting drenched again.

This significantly lowers her effectiveness. Thankfully fortification doesn’t require her to be at her highest combat effectiveness. It only requires her mind and her muscles to work alongside her clansmen, and the others that work with them.

The ground quickly turns into a muddy slurry, and the desert queen gives Subachi strange images of a past from before the Aburame. Drones making mud balls to lay eggs into - She has to remind the queen that she has a partner now, that the eggs are laid within her. She is one with the Aburame, and as long as they can cooperate, she’ll never be so limited as to require rain and mud balls to pass on her genes.

The queen subsides, mulling that over.

Surely Subachi can’t be the first to explain their partnership in such a way? Surely someone else understood what the desert queen would want most? She hopes that she isn’t giving too much credit to her people. The Aburame are supposed to understand insects, and if this was their failure..!

Subachi puts it out of her mind for the moment, shoving her rain soaked hair back over her shoulders. It’s time for her to return to their temporary nest for replenishment, and to allow another to take her place. She’s a mess, and would like an opportunity to bathe, if possible. Between the mud and the humidity that isn’t letting up in spite of the rain, soon it will be difficult to live with herself.

She gives her report on the state of the fortifications to Danzo’s new helper, amused at the way they watch her while she talks. She’s flattered. Outside of the clan, there aren’t many who would look at an Aburame with such frank admiration. But while she can appreciate the interest, she’s comfortably married, and tells Jun as much.

“I would love to be a sandwich,” is Jun’s absent reply. Their eyes trace the muscles of her arms.

Subachi can’t help but laugh. As much as she’s not interested, she’s noticed the way Jun watches people. If it was just her, and the fact that she has bare skin for once, it would be insulting. But Jun watches nearly everyone with a hormonal intensity that’s impossible to fake. (It’s not obvious in a way most people would catch, but she’s an Aburame, and the hormones are very, very clear to her.)

“You’d be better off asking someone else,” she tells them, and leaves to find a towel to use to wring rainwater out of her hair, if she can’t have a proper bath.

The desert queen seems curious about the concept of “bath,” so Subachi shares images of warm water and cleanliness and a comforting soak. She gets back a distinct feeling of baffled outrage. The queen doesn’t like what she was shown, but Subachi suspects that actually being in a proper bath will be different. After all, where the queen lies, it will only be warmth and relaxation that reaches her.

She reasures the queen that the kikaichū tunnels will swell closed when she soaks, and no water will actually reach her. The queen doesn’t trust, not quite, but accepts that Subachi probably knows her body. There’s a feeling of reservation, like the queen wants to be able to opt out if the “bath” doesn’t turn out well.

In the end, she gets her bath, and the desert queen reluctantly agrees that it isn’t all that bad.

(Later, she’s called out to rebuff some of Kiri’s forces - and it’s still raining, of course it is - and can thank the bath for the clarity of mind to realize that they have hostages - Uzushio civilians, from the look of things. The drones are easier to direct, this time around, as the queen is more comfortable with Subachi, and the Kiri-nin go down without a chance to scream.)