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My marks (on you)

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*

Never in his short life has Izuna felt so bad before. He's seven and his brain can't comprehend all the emotions he's passing through. Surely it's too much for a child but he's been told that this is the life of a shinobi, that it will happen again and Izuna doesn't want it.

Oh, he's been trained. He has trained ever since he knows how to walk, like every other Uchiha child. It is his destiny and his fate to become a shinobi and he's accepted it now. Even when it hurts, even when it's too hard, Izuna knows it's important, he knows there's nothing else he can do and he might be the youngest of his siblings, he's also the most disciplined, or so his father keeps saying.

Tajima is proud of him. Of what he is to become, of how scared other children are of him. He says it's a good sign. That he'll become the strongest of them all, that he'll become clan leader someday, when he'll prove them all his strength and Izuna can't disappoint his father, can he ? He's a seven years old child with an already steel heart.

But it doesn't take away the pain, as he stands next to his siblings. He shakes, he's not sure it's from the anger or the grief, he's not sure if it's just his body itching for revenge or if he only is holding tears back. It feels like it's a mix of all this and Izuna does his best to keep it all at bay, to hide everything.

He can't hide from his favorite brother, though. Madara … he's always been so different with him. Tenka, Kintaro and Hakuba, they never acted like this with him. Or with Madara anyways. They're Tajima's sons from his first marriage after all, they're older and they're proper shinobis already. Together, the three of them make their own team, one that is feared on the battlefield or so Izuna heard the other boys say.

There always was that fracture between them and he and Madara. For they're half siblings only, they only share Tajima's blood. His first wife died during childbirth when Hakuba came to the world. Tajima remarried. Then came Madara and, lastly, Izuna.

That'll change now, Izuna thinks as he watches the Elders pray and Kintaro's casket being taken to the pyre.

Madara, though, sees it all. As much as he tried, Izuna can never hide anything from him, he can never fool him. The two of them never were as close with their older brothers as they are together but they were brothers anyways. And Madara grabs his hand, for comfort. He entwines their fingers and holds tight and for just a second, Izuna feels better. As if Madara takes all of it away from him. As if he's a regular seven years old kid that doesn't think of revenge with all he has.

The Senjus must pay, he decides, that night. And he'll make them pay.

____

Tracking down the Senju bastard isn't an easy task. Izuna's heard about sensors during his lessons, he's been trained to conceal his chakra but the bastard is sensitive and it's a difficult task to fool him.

Tobirama Senju is to be said being the one to have killed Kintaro. Which Izuna has a hard time believing at first because they're the same age and Tobirama is a bastard, Butsuma's son with some prostitute or so the rumors say. He shouldn't be as strong as he is, is also said but fact is, he's gifted. More than that, for a kid his age, he's more deadly than a dozen of trained, adult, shinobis.

Izuna is scared. Of course he is, because if the rumors are true, Tobirama can kill him before he can even react. He's said to be quick, and he must be, to be able to kill Kintaro. Kintaro's speed was acclaimed among the clan, after all, adults stating his sharingan was stronger than any other before.

And yet, he died. He was taken down by the child Izuna is after and Izuna, well .. his own sharingan hasn't developed yet, it wasn't triggered for now and Tajima said it would need something quite important to trigger it. Surely, the death of one of his siblings should have been enough but it wasn't. Madara's own eye technique hasn't been triggered either yet, though. So Izuna thinks it's not too bad for now.

But to face the Senju without it ? A stupid idea. Not that Izuna cares. His brain has focused on one, precise thing ever since Kintaro's funeral and it is to make the Senju pay for what they did. To kill Tobirama by all means. And he'll do just that.

They're far from either their lands, when Tobirama finally seems to come to a halt. Deep into the forest, near the mountains and Izuna realizes why when he hears the sound of a stream nearby. Tobirama must have stopped to refresh himself, drink the pure water and Izuna is thirsty as well, he only packed what was necessary for his self imposed mission but he doesn't dare outing himself for now. It's too dangerous. One misstep and he's dead.

“The water is fresh and good,” comes Tobirama's voice, eventually and it startles him almost enough to fall down his branch. “You must be thirsty after following me for all that time.”

Izuna slides down to a lower branch, still out of sight from Tobirama, he knows that much but at least, he can see him now and he sees the Senju sitting near the spring, as he takes his sandals off and dips his toes in the water.

“I've known you've been following me since I left the Senju compound.”

Izuna refrains his need to huff in disdain but just barely. It's almost too easy to provoke him, he knows he's too hot-headed even if not as much as Madara is. It brought him problems before. Not this time.

This isn't training anymore after all, this is the most dangerous situation he's ever found himself in.

“Suit yourself.”

From where he is, Izuna doesn't understand what makes Tobirama a better shinobi. He's a child, obviously, just like him. Sure, he already has a bigger frame but Izuna always was on the slender side, the way Tajima is. White hair, which makes it obvious his mother isn't a Senju, used clothes. No apparent weapon but Izuna knows better but to trust his eyes when it comes to that, he, at the moment, wears half a dozen hidden blades.

Surely, this child can't have killed Kintaro. His info about him are wrong, he thinks or it's what the adults say to build up the new generations’ hatred against the Senjus. To tell the younger ones that their siblings or their friends were killed by the other clan would work just well. Madara said that, one evening they couldn't sleep and talked instead. He's intelligent like that, Madara.

But if Tobirama isn't the one who killed Kintaro, then Izuna can just go back. His anger won't be appeased if he doesn't take down the right person, he knows and he wants revenge. He wants them to pay !

He's distracted with his thoughts for a second too long and when Izuna looks up, Tobirama isn't there anymore. It's like he's disappeared out of thin air and Izuna can't feel his presence anymore. His sandals are still there, where he took them off, but no more Tobirama. How ?

The patch of grass where Tobirama had been sitting is warmer than the surprising grass, Izuna asserts when he carefully moves to the spring. Which means Tobirama wasn't using a clone, he indeed sat there before and then.. just disappeared. He isn't aware of any jutsu that would make a person disappear like that, but Izuna is aware that he doesn't know everything just yet. It's why he has a kunai in his hand, just in case he needs to defend himself.

He doesn't have the time to use it, when a foot connects with the side of his head and he spins as he's projected to the side, kicked by one terribly strong Tobirama, he realizes as he falls. The kunai flies away from his hand into the water, and he's soon pinned to the grass, Tobirama sitting on his abdomen with all his weight, one hand holding his wrists together above his head and the other, a blade at his throat.

Tobirama's face is .. emotionless. The face of a true shinobi, Izuna thinks for a split second. A strong, deadly one, the complete opposite of him as his breathing comes out in harsh pants and he's frantically searching for an escape. He doesn't want to die but he was reckless. It had been a trap, a very obvious one and he fell right into it ! How stupid can he get !?

“Here you are,” Tobirama breaths out and his tone holds no animosity. “Why have you been following me, Uchiha? Do they send untrained kids on assassination missions now ?”

“I am …” Izuna begins but he interrupts himself as he's not sure what he's supposed to say. It's one terribly dangerous position he's in, after all and he swallows hard against the blade at his throat.

“Are you aware of how much noise you even make ?” Tobirama leveled him with a judging glance. “Of how easy it was to pick your chakra signature even when you tried concealing it ?”

Izuna wheezes lightly, breathing so hard isn't exactly helping him calm down and his brain feels a bit fuzzy now. He's scared. Gods he is. Terrified of dying. Of disappointing his father. He can't and won't die here. He won't allow it. He's destined to so much better than dying there, near some random spring against a kid his age.

“You’ve never been on the battlefield before, have you ?”

That does it, Izuna's self control snaps at the condescending tone in Tobirama's voice and his body just acts. Without thinking, and surprising the Senju at the same time, if his widening eyes are any hint of it, Izuna frees his right hand from his hold, he twists his wrist in a trained way. He grabs the kunai from the inside of his sleeve, where he always keeps one and he slashes.

The blood that lands on his face forces Izuna to close his eyes for a couple of second. It's everywhere, he can feel it and it's warm and it starts to drip almost immediately. Tobirama's hold on him loosens, Izuna opens his eyes.

Tobirama's face his cut. There's a deep gash on his left cheek now, where the kunai cut him and it's bleeding a lot. The pain must be terrible as well, Izuna thinks and Tobirama wobbles, his eyes rolling at the back of his head, losing consciousness as he does, landing heavily on top of Izuna's body. Izuna pushes him away, he frees himself and he stands.

His knees shake under his weight, he doesn't know if it comes from what's left of his fear, or if it's the adrenaline but he watches Tobirama's unconscious form, he stares down at him and he sniffs in disdain.

He can't kill him now, he thinks. He won't kill him if he's not conscious of it, it's unfair and it's detestable. Izuna wants revenge, not an easy kill.

“That's for Kintaro,” he says and he leaves.

Tajima welcomes him back to the household with the tilt of his head and a crooked smile. He's not disappointed Izuna didn't kill Tobirama Senju. He's too proud his favorite son survived his first true encounter with a Senju.

**

Thirteen. Izuna is thirteen when Hakuba is brought back lifeless from the mission he was sent to the day before and he doesn't even blink at his corpse. He's seen his fair share of them now, he's been on the battlefield long enough for it and he's as used to the sight as any other shinobi. He doesn't feel as much as he did, back when when Kintaro was killed.

All he can think of is that he's happy it's not Madara lying on that tatami.

With time, Tenka and Hakuba grew to become almost strangers. It's not that there's no love between them, there will always be a bond, only if of blood but they cut most ties with them when Tajima declared Madara and Izuna his heirs. Oh he didn't disowned Tenka and Hakuba but it just is as if he did and they made it clear enough in their behavior. Izuna understands, of course, he understands so much more now, and he's become good at listening. But he wished things would have been different, at least for a tiny bit.

He can't go back in the past, though and he does share nods with his half brothers when they walk past each other in the compound and it's enough now.

Hakuba's body isn't too damaged, Izuna thinks as he stares down at it. One clean slice across the belly, cutting so precisely where his armor should have been but Hakuba had, with the years, become one arrogant bastard and started not wearing it anymore. Here's the result of it.

“Tajima-sama,” says one of the medics who failed to save Hakuba. “Shall we put up the pyre ?”

“Would you rather wait for the maggots to eat him up ?” Is Tajima's cutting answer.

Izuna snorts, Madara elbows his ribs. Tajima doesn't even spare them a glance, his eyes fixed on his deceased son. Izuna isn't sure Tajima will mourn him, not after everything he said about Hakuba bringing shame to their name because of his behavior but still. It's a terrible cost for a clan leader to pay, even if Tajima made Madara and Izuna his heirs.

“Shouldn't you two be training ?”

There's venom in Tajima's tone when he addresses them and Izuna wants to snap back at him, the way he's started to do lately. It's not that he doesn't respect Tajima anymore, he really does. But. He sees more and more of his flaws and Izuna has a hard time accepting them now.

Madara shuts him down before he has the chance, though. He bows his head, grabbing his hand. “Right away.”

Their favorite training ground is empty when they reach it. It's the furthest away from the houses, where they can properly train without having to hold back and Izuna wonders if it's what Madara wants now. For them to express their feelings by fighting, the way they always do. Madara has such a temper, after all. But Madara sits before he has the chance to ask and he sighs, leaning back on his hand.

“What are you playing at with him ?” He asks, and there's a frown on his brow. “It's not because he favors you that he will hold back if you're being a shit.”

“As if I'm scared of Father,” Izuna rolls his eyes and he settles on the grass with Madara. “That’d be you.”

Madara eyes him critically, one brow arched in a question, his lips pinched.

“Right away,” Izuna mimics in a fake, mannered way, that makes Madara's eyes widen just a little. “Bootlicker.”

“I happen to have a sense of self preservation,” Madara replies and he rolls his eyes. “Unlike you.”

“Whatever.”

They don't talk again. Izuna isn't sure he's interested in whatever Madara wants to tell him anyways, he thinks of Hakuba, of his body lying there on the tatami, of the ceremony that will happen at sunset, the pyre, the prayers. As Tajima's heir, he's supposed to stand there among others for each one of these. It's a future clan head's duty, Tajima keeps saying and sometimes, Izuna thinks that it's not what he wants. It seemed to be one appealing position, years ago. Now ? It's too much attention. It's not what he's comfortable with. He likes laying low in the shadows and wait for his opportunity. Unlike Madara, who is a warrior and made for the battlefield, Izuna prefers to not be noticed and listen and watch. Gather info. Know things people might never imagine.

Using that info at the most opportune moment.

But Izuna knows he can't tell his father that. Not even Madara. Madara wouldn't understand, surely. Tajima ? He'd get mad. That's his idea of self preservation.

Madara can say whatever he wants about him. He can think he's protecting his little brother all he wants but the truth is, Izuna holds the knowledge of his big brother's protection against his heart. He's never told anyone that he knows Madara has been seeing Hashirama Senju in secret for the past years after all. And he doesn't plan on ever talking about it.

The ceremony is uneventful. One among so many others and the war is far from being over. Tajima barely shows anything, one wouldn't even think one of his sons is being turned to ashes at the moment and Izuna watches him closely, from his spot next to Madara and he wonders. Would Tajima appear so emotionless, would it be one of them two on the pyre ? Would he stand there and wait for it to be over with ? Izuna doesn't expect him to cry, of course not. But show something. Anything, at least.

It's a frustrating thing to think about so Izuna focuses on the flames instead. He can feel their warmth, even from that distance and it's a soothing sensation, almost. It's familiar.

As the crowd begins to scatter, Izuna wonders how Tenka is feeling, for an instant, he looks for him and finds him standing close with Hakuba's ex-soon-to-be-bride. An Uchiha woman, one that is said to be powerful, or so Izuna heard. She's crying.

“We should ..” Madara hesitates and he shrugs when Izuna glances at him. “Maybe we should go talk to her.”

Izuna ponders his words, he's not sure himself, they never interacted before. That's until Tenka looks up and shakes his head in the most imperceptible way. Izuna grabs his brother's wrists the moment Madara seems to make up his mind.

“They don't want us.”

The village is dark and mostly silent, when they leave the pyres. Madara is lost in thoughts, it seems, his eyes unfocused and following automatically and he only startles out of his state when they reach their place. They wish each other a good night, join their respective bedroom but Izuna can't sleep. He's not tired. So he leaves the house again.

He's learned, with time, that people feel the most comfortable with gossiping after the sun has set. It's a stupid thing to do, considering that it's the best moment for a skilled shinobi to hide in the shadows and listen to their talking but they just can't help it. Izuna can't complain, seeing as these moments are his best source of info and it also taught him to move around the village without being discovered. Oh, he's good. He's very good and he's quick to join his favorite spot, on the roof of the south watchtower.

There's no major clan out in the south. Sure, others could be smart and attack from that direction but they usually don't. Meaning that the guards posted there are usually distracted and more inclined to drink. Which usually means some heated and/or interesting conversations.

Nothing of importance is said for the longest time and Izuna is rethinking his tiredness when it finally happens. The gossiping.

“I hate the ceremonies,” one of the man states in a yawn. “They're boring.”

“Tajima-sama says we have to attend so we do. That's how it works,” says another.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I just .. I don't understand how they died. They were supposed to stop some Senju recon team. Recon teams usually aren't armed as much as they seemed to be.”

“You didn't hear, do you ?” A third guy whispers and Izuna can picture the two others shake their head. “Butsuma's bastard was with them. He's the one who took down the entire team. On his own .”

____

Tobirama, as Izuna learned the first time he trailed him, is a skilled sensor. It shows, in the way his head will tilt one side or the other just slightly when Izuna has to use just a tiny bit more chakra to push his speed a little so he's not distanced. He's trained, ever since the day he and Tobirama first met. The way Tobirama talked to him, the way he laughed at his poor skills .. Izuna promised himself to become better after that and better he became. He's the best spy his clan ever had, even if they're absolutely not aware of it and following Tobirama for so long without Tobirama to stop and take him down is proof of his skills.

Tobirama won't stop because, for as long as he moves, he's safe. He's alone but he doesn't know if Izuna is on his own, which gives Izuna the upper hand in this situation. One he could never have had before and it gives him the confidence he needs. He'll reach his goal, this time. He'll take Tobirama down.

If Izuna had to be honest about it, he wouldn't know what to say if one asked why he went after Tobirama. It's not as if he and Hakuba were any close lately, they didn't speak at all for the last year, they didn't interact more than the nods they addressed each other in the streets. And yet, here he is, chasing after Tobirama with only “Revenge” in mind. Maybe it's because of the blood they shared, maybe it doesn't even have anything to do with Hakuba and Izuna only has been waiting for an excuse to get revenge from the other time. He isn't sure. He doesn't care.

The chase lasts for days. Longer than Izuna is comfortable with and he's exhausted when Tobirama finally stops but he can't rest just yet. A fight will happen, one way or another and Izuna can't stop thinking about it. He's fought shinobis stronger than Tobirama, he thinks. He's seen the battlefield now after all, he’s seen what being at war truly means and he knows he's good. He tries not to think of what the guard said, how Tobirama took the entire team down on his own. Surely, the bastard can't be that strong. But he's certain it's Tobirama who killed Hakuba. He doesn't know why and he knows better but to ask.

They're far deep in the country when Tobirama finally stops in the middle of a clearing. Which is a trap, it's obvious enough. There's nowhere to hide, nothing to take cover behind. A large patch of grass in the middle of the woods and Izuna stays hidden in the tree's branch he's on, behind the thick foliage. He watches and he's reminded of that previous encounter when he first chased Tobirama and managed to cut his cheek. It's a similar situation he's in, after all and Izuna sure won't make the same mistake.

Tobirama isn't moving anymore. He's catching his breath, his chest heaving slowly as he does and a hand on his hip. He wears no weapon but neither does Izuna. Not in appearance anyways.

“Why are you after me ?” Tobirama questions and Izuna can't hold his huffing back. A mistake, as Tobirama's head turns immediately toward him and he spots him. Izuna insults himself, as he heaves himself down the branch but remains in the shadows of the forest.

“I'm starting to think your clan underestimate me,” Tobirama says and he turns fully to him. He's grown quite a lot, Izuna realizes, taking Tobirama's full appearance in a glance. It's hard to believe they're the same age, when Tobirama looks so tall and broad already but the Senjus always were like that after all. They're built for raw strength. Uchihas are more about speed, hence their lithe form. That's Madara's theory anyways.

“Do your people truly think a single kid can take me down ?”

Such arrogance, Izuna thinks, as he steps out of the shadows and walks toward Tobirama. It reminds him of Madara and it makes him wonder if Tobirama isn't one of these geniuses adults whisper about sometimes. Talented, almost God gifted kids that are to become legends and write History. Izuna knows his brother is one of these, he's surpassing all and every expectations their father ever had before.

Is it Tobirama's case as well ?

Izuna is not scared, though, as he looks up at the other kid. Unlike the previous time, his knees don't wobble, his heart doesn't rush. If anything, he's calm. Izuna knows why. He's seen so many people die around him, by now. Friends, kids his age, as well as mentors and teachers. He's numbed. He doesn't fear Death anymore.

“I do not have the time to chat,” Tobirama eventually sighs and he rubs his forehead. “Let's get over with it.”

Izuna lands the first hit and he knows it's a good thing. He sees the way Tobirama's eyes widen the moment his foot connects with his side, he sees his balance shift and the split second it takes him to regain his composure. It's not much but it's enough and Izuna takes advantage of it right away.

The fight that follows is quite unequal. It's obvious how good Tobirama is. Be it with Taijutsu, or his water techniques, Izuna is overwhelmed and it doesn't take him long to realize that he's made a mistake to engage in a fight against Tobirama Senju. Maybe what the guard said was the truth, after all. Maybe Tobirama did kill the whole squad his half brother was part of.

His breathing is laborious and his lips painted red with blood when Tobirama pins him down to the ground, a dozen of minutes later. Izuna struggles, with all he has and he wants to yell his frustration but he doesn't. Instead, he uses his strength to trash around, hoping for the slightest opportunity to reverse the situation.

“Why are you so fixated on me ?”

Izuna can't help huffing, he rolls his eyes. “You're such a cretin, it's surprising people even fear you.”

That seem at least to take Tobirama aback. Not enough for Izuna to free himself, though.

“They fear me because I'm a good shinobi,” Tobirama states as if he's explaining the world to him. That makes Izuna's anger rise. Who does he think he is ? He's not here for a lesson, he's here for vengeance over his brother's death. Well. It's what Izuna thinks anyways.

Izuna's eyes eventually settle on Tobirama's face and he sees it. It's a wonder he didn't notice it before but it's right there. The scar from their first encounter, the slash he landed on him. It's completely healed after all these years, of course but the mark is obvious, now he sees it and Izuna can't help smirking. Tobirama can boast all he wants about being good. That's his. That's the proof he's not perfect. And Tobirama seems disconcerted for a split second, when Izuna starts to laugh.

He throws himself back, looking away when Izuna finally uses his hidden assets and activates his sharingan.

It's been a couple of years now, since Izuna has them. His first time on the battlefield, really and the memory is still so clear in his head, so raw. He remembers seeing his best friend being slashed from one side to the other right before him. He remembers the intense pain and the terrible urge to yell and cry and the sharingan appeared in his eyes and Madara came protecting him from the enemy, then taking him home.

He doesn't use them often, because Madara always says he should keep them as a last resort. He was right it seems, seeing Tobirama's reaction.

Soon, he's the one pinning Tobirama down and he knows his weight can't be enough to successfully do so for a long time, Tobirama is stronger than he is but he doesn't need much time. All he needs, really, is for a couple of minutes. Because seeing the scar on Tobirama's cheek gave him an idea, one that certainly is more shameful for Tobirama than death and he pulls a kunai from the inside of his sleeve, he approaches it from Tobirama's right cheek.

Tobirama's eyes widen when he seems to understand what's going to happen. His lips part, his breathing hitches in his throat and Izuna smiles because oh yes. He was right, wasn't he ? Tobirama is aware that he was beaten that day, he's aware that this mark will always accompany him, for the rest of his life, the proof of his flaws and he doesn't even know why Izuna's been after him. And now, Izuna wants to mark him again. Killing him wouldn't feel as satisfying as leaving that mark on his face, after all.

“I can make it perfectly symmetrical if you don't move,” Izuna breaths out. His hand doesn't shake but he can't hold the excitement back. He has the upper hand at the moment and Tobirama doesn't even fight back. He's lying there, frozen in… what is it ? Fear ? No, certainly not.

Understanding of what's going to happen ? Not just the mark but everything else. How he'll go back to his clan with a mirroring mark that will scar on his face. How it'll show that he was beaten, in a way. And the shame he will have to carry .. yes, this is perfect, Izuna thinks. This is better than killing him.

Tobirama gives him the slightest nod, before he goes completely still yet. A surprising acceptance and Izuna is taken aback with it, but not for long.

Now, he can see it, he understands what's passing through Tobirama head, why he is so pliant for the moment. Tobirama fears him indeed. Or, more exactly, he fears the sharingan and their power. He won't look at him in the eyes after all, he's paralyzed and Izuna can't help smiling. This is better than he thought. Way better.

Izuna's smile widens, and satisfaction overwhelms him when he approached the kunai to Tobirama's cheek, when he sees Tobirama's eyes go wide, when he hears his breathing hitch.

There's no cry of pain, even if Tobirama wants to, seeing the way he bites his lips and clenches his fists. He does spasm a little, he does close his eyes tightly but he doesn't give him the satisfaction to voice his pain. Izuna shrugs it off, he's too happy with the turn of events.

Izuna leans back slightly when he’s finished with his work and he’s satisfied. The bleeding mark on Tobirama's cheek is perfect in many ways. It's the same length, the same shape. A mirror of the first one and Izuna watches it, smiling. Oh, it doesn't give him his lost brother back. But it's good enough.

Izuna doesn't have the time to react, distracted by the moment, when Tobirama kicks him away and reverse their situation once again. The kunai flies from his hand, his head hits the ground hard enough to make him wince. The world is a blur around him now and he's barely conscious and he focuses on the droplets falling on his face. Is it raining now ?

“You bastard,” Tobirama spits and a hand soon is squeezing his throat and Izuna chokes. “Why ?”

Izuna huffes in a smirk, forcing his eyes to open and it's hard because he's injured now, the back of his head must have hit a stone and split. It's Tobirama's blood from the slash on his cheek that is bleeding on him, it's not raining. Izuna can't help laughing.

“You've taken down two of my brothers yourself,” Izuna wheezes between Tobirama's fingers around his throat. “And now, you bear the marks of their death.”

Tobirama blinks and Izuna understands. He had no idea, did he ? No idea that he had killed his brothers. To him, they were only faceless Uchihas.

“And as far as I know, you're the bastard.”

That seems to do it. Tobirama's nerves snap, his face twists in deep, untamed rage and he punches him hard.

Izuna loses consciousness.

Going back to the Uchiha compound, after he wakes up, is a terribly hard task. Izuna has lost blood, he's famished and in no shape to hunt. His head throb with each step he takes, even after he bandaged it, his body is sore from his encounter with Tobirama and he wants to sleep for three days straight. But there's the little voice at the back of his head whispering how good he did, telling him that now Tobirama knows the meaning behind the marks, one Izuna himself hadn't even plan on giving before. It's a satisfying thing. And to see him snap like that ? It was fun.

Madara meets him halfway the walk back and Izuna is happy to see his brother. Madara seems relieved he's alive at least and he won't stop talking, questioning him about the injuries and how the fuck did this happen and he forces him to sit so he can change the bandages and he forces food into him. He's being himself, one attentive brother and it makes Izuna feel warm. Wanted and loved and for a second, he wonders how he'd mark Tobirama, were he to ever kill Madara.

The idea doesn't stay long. He wouldn't mark him, this time. He'd take him down once and for all.

Tajima is waiting for them, when they arrive home. He wasn’t worried, it'd be surprising if he were and he only asks one question.

“Is he dead ?”

Izuna doesn't need to answer. Tajima knows already. And he's disappointed with him.

***

The battlefield never is a pretty sight. Battered bodies, broken limbs, cries of pain and rage. Anyone who isn't trained would throw up at the sight, that's obvious enough but Izuna, who is sixteen now, is used to it. If anything, being sent to face armies has become a habit.

It wasn't difficult to understand that Tajima was disappointed with him, when he came back injured from his self-given mission after Hakuba was killed, when he left for days to track Tobirama down and make him pay for the loss of his brother. It had showed, on his father's face, that he wasn't happy with the fact that Izuna let the enemy live, this time. He had come back covered in blood, Tobirama's and his own, and he had been injured but. It hadn't been enough.

Not killing someone at seven was forgivable. Not killing an enemy at thirteen ? A disgrace.

What Izuna had failed to understand, in this moment, was the extent of Tajima's discontentment.

Izuna isn't the favorite son anymore. He isn't in Tajima's grace anymore and he has to pay the price for it now.

That means being sent to every battlefield imaginable. Cannon fodder he is now, like any other, lesser shinobi of the clan and Izuna knows it's a life sentence. Not on his life, obviously, he's not planning to die. Tajima's life. For as long as Tajima lives, as long as he is the clan leader, this will last. But Izuna knows it won't last too long anymore now.

Because he's the best spy the clan ever had. And when he's not sent to the battlefield to cut enemies in half, when he's not treated like some lower Uchiha and not the noble he is, Izuna listens. Not just among his clan. He hides in the shadows and listens and he knows what's coming. An assassination mission against Tajima. And Izuna almost can't wait.

Madara will make such a greater clan leader, after all.

Now, though ? For now, Izuna is forced to listen to orders and go to the battlefield if he doesn't want to be put aside or accused of being a traitor of some sort. And he does and he gains such strength with each passing day. He's starting to see something change, in his enemies’ eyes. They don't look at him with indifference anymore the way they used to, they don't consider him like yet another faceless Uchiha shinobi.

No, they know his name now and they fear it. They cower away when he approaches, the way they do when they merely feel Madara's powerful chakra and it is a feeling Izuna basks in. Gods does he love it. It makes his heart race and his brain work so fast and his fingers tickle and twitch in anticipation. He is high on the feeling and Izuna always wants more.

Today's mission will provide, surely. For this isn't just some little, petty mission. No, they have been hired by the master of these lands to settle some kind of stupid argument the man has with his neighbor, over the limits of their respective lands. And the neighbor has decided to hire the Senjus to face them. Well, it might be petty, in the end, to fight because of a border but it's not their problem. Izuna knows why his father accepted this mission.

Facing the Senjus brings them respect and fame. No matter the outcome.

Fighting against the Senjus always has a specific taste to it. It's like facing an arch enemy, like in old fairy tales the elder women used to tell them when they were kids, too young to start with their training. And maybe these fairy tales were based on History indeed. Izuna doesn't know, Madara is the one who is interested in the past after all, he's the bookworm spending all his free time reading. Maybe he should ask, someday.

The Senjus, though, have their own assets. One of them being Hashirama himself. With his Wood release and his almost infinite chakra and he'd probably be able to take them all down in one technique, would he want to, but he doesn't. He and Madara usually get into a heated fight that lead them away and they only come back when the fight is over. When one of the leaders is about to call their men back and retreat and accept defeat. Izuna sometimes can't help laughing at their behavior and it's a wonder none other than him is able to understand what's up between them. They're such good friends, there's a pure, brotherly form of love between them and they merely pretend fighting. No, really, it's a training, and they're so good at pretending indeed. Izuna knows. He's seen them do so often enough when he trails after Madara, hides on a tree and watches them for hours.

Madara never knows he's there. Izuna won't tell him just yet. It's better this way.

Hashirama is never around without Tobirama by his side, though.

Izuna can't describe the way he feels when he spots Tobirama on the battlefield. It's a confusing mix of emotions, some he's not sure he should be feeling but there's happiness in it. Happiness and eagerness and it bursts into ecstasy when they end up fighting against each other. Because each time Izuna sees Tobirama, he doesn't think of surviving now, of what he's supposed to do, how he's supposed to stay alive. He thinks of these two meetings from the past, of the marks he left on Tobirama's cheeks and he can never not look at the scars. He wants to touch them, to trail fingers along them and see what Tobirama's reaction would be. He wants to leave others, as well but he can't, can he?

These are like memories, untainted ones, that he left when Kintaro, then Hakuba died. When Tobirama struck them down. It wouldn't be fair to add more just for the pleasure of it.

Tobirama has been engaged in a fight against three Uchihas the moment he steps into the battlefield though and Izuna regrets he wasn't quick enough to go after himself but he knows it's just a matter of time. A couple of hours, maybe. He knows the capacity of these precise shinobis and Tobirama will end them quickly enough.

And so he bears with it for now. He does what he has to do and he remains as patient as he can get. Which isn't an easy task, when he feels Tobirama's chakra spike and rise and it's all he can focus on.

Izuna doesn't know for how long they are fighting. They aren't even shinobis at this point, not by the definition he has of them, they're warriors and he doesn't like it. Open wars are tiring after all and he has to leave the battlefield so he can rest. Oh, of course he sees Tajima's disapproving eyes, he sees them follow his retreat back to the campement they made behind the hills where medics and food awaits these who need it before throwing themselves back into the fight but Izuna ignores him. He doesn't care what Tajima thinks of him anymore, he just wants to see him die by now.

Izuna is given food at the campement as well as a soldier pill that helps his chakra regenerate at a higher speed. He isn't exactly the average shinobi, his reserves are big, even if not as much as Madara's but he's been using devastating techniques. Ones he learned recently, that he doesn't exactly master just yet and it costs him more chakra than it should because of it. It's fine, though. He's seen Tobirama glance at him several times and it's worth the effort behind it.

The medics check his slight injuries and treat them while he eats. There's nothing too bad, a slice on the shoulder that he didn't have the time to dodge and a bruise on his belly when he got punched. The sharingan allows him to avoid most injuries after all but it gets overwhelmed sometimes and Izuna has to focus more and while he does, some hits land on him. It's alright, he thinks, as long as it remains that way. He doesn't care for scars on his body.

The moments he's back in the fight, Izuna sees Tobirama's sword pierce through Tenka's abdomen from one side to the other. There's a harsh expression on his face, blood splattered on his pale skin where Tenka spat because of the blow, his hair a sticky mess. Izuna can't look away, not caring there are enemies all around him, he can only stare as Tobirama retreats his blade and Tenka falls, dying. No one can survive such an injury after all, he's losing blood at an alarming rate and he spasms on the mud. Izuna doesn't even look at him, at his last half brother dying because he's too focused on Tobirama. It's like he's all there is around and Izuna's breathing hitches in his throat.

Tenka dies before his eyes but it's not his name Izuna eventually yells from across the battlefield.

“Tobirama!”

No one but Tobirama seems to hear him. Both clans around them continue to fight, unaffected. But Tobirama looks up at him, dead in the eyes, holding his bloodied sword in a light grip and relaxed as he does. Then he looks down at Tenka's body, a slight frown on the brow. And realization hits him, his eyes widening a little.

When Tobirama looks up again, Izuna knows that he understands what he just did. That he just killed yet another of his brothers.

Tobirama has become quick, Izuna realizes as he chases after him. Quicker than he thought was possible and it's a wonder he's able to keep up with him, dashing from one branch to the other at his own top speed and following the strong trail of chakra Tobirama leaves behind. Tobirama left the battlefield with no hesitation, after he seemed to realize what happened and of course Izuna went after him.

It's tradition now after all, isn't it ?

They're getting farther and farther away from the battlefield. Away from his now dead brother, from his cruel father and his weak clanmates. Away from all that insignificance that makes Izuna sneer when he spends too much time thinking about it. They are but cannon fodder to these who hire them after all. Lower human beings at their disposal to die for their petty quarrels. They're fighting over a border today, after all and even if it's against the Senjus, where's the glory in that ? Izuna would rather fight for their survival. It'd make so much more sense. But he can't defy his father's orders yet, as much as he wants to. Tajima still has too many people who are loyal to him and Izuna is not strong enough yet. Soon, though. Soon.

Tobirama stops, eventually and Izuna remains hidden from sight at first, to observe. They're near a river, today, not too far from where Hashirama and Madara usually meet in secret and it's funny Tobirama decided to choose this spot for their own meeting but Izuna doesn't overthink it. Instead, he focuses on Tobirama, he watches him take his armor off and kneel by the river, in order to splash water on his face and wash away the blood speckled on his skin.

“Aren't we past that ? You hiding in the trees ?” Tobirama eventually calls out and he sounds strangely tired. “He was your brother, wasn't he ?”

Izuna huffes. But he doesn't answer yet, as he jumps from his branch, into the sunlight, as he walks to Tobirama and waits for him to stand again, to face him.

Tobirama has grown so much taller than he is now, that he's forced the look up. It's not comfortable, not really but he sure won't miss the opportunity to look at Tobirama in this eyes. Not when he now can see the scars on his cheeks so clearly, so close to touch them but he doesn't. Not yet, he thinks. It's not the right time.

“They only ever were half brothers,” Izuna admits, shrugging. “Only Madara is my real brother.”

“Ah,” is Tobirama's short admittance and he frowns. “Does it mean you two are bastards as well ?”

“You wished,” Izuna snorts, he shakes his head. “My father's first wife died while giving birth, he remarried. Then made Madara and I his chosen heirs.”

Tobirama remains silent and Izuna takes the time to look at him properly. He seems so relaxed at the moment, he doesn't fear him at all, which would be a mistake, for any other shinobi. But Tobirama isn't any shinobi, even now he could take him down, he'd only need one blow to kill him, Izuna is well aware of it but he won't. This isn't the way they work. This isn't how they do it.

Izuna steps closer, close enough to feel the heat radiating from Tobirama's body, to feel his skin shiver at the extreme proximity of what his brain considers an enemy and he slightly tilts his head to the side, as he looks at the scars on Tobirama's face. His sharingan activates, Tobirama seems to tense a little but he doesn't look away. Izuna only uses it to look at the scars more closely, to save their tracing in his brain. They're so completely symmetrical on the Senju's cheeks, so entirely perfect and he can't help smiling.

“Do they know ?” Izuna asks and Tobirama flinches just a little. “They do know, don't they ? That they come from an Uchiha. Only the sharingan could allow both marks to look so perfect.”

“Father asked,” Tobirama admitted in a rough tone. But Izuna knows it's not the right nuance. Butsuma didn't ask his son. He interrogated him. “I said I did it myself. When he asked why, I said it was my own business.”

There's venom in Tobirama's tone. Not toward him, that's obvious enough. Toward his father. And of the rumors are true, Butsuma's idea of discipline includes violence and correcting his people physically. It wouldn't be surprising he hit his own sons the same way.

“Why didn't you tell him it was me ?” Izuna questions and he can't resist a snort. “Or would he have been disappointed you didn't kill me ? My father was, the last time I came back. He was so angry I was injured. I have a scar too now, you know ?”

Without thinking, Izuna reached for the back of his head, where it split open all these years ago after Tobirama knocked it against that rock. It's rough, the medics did their best to patch him up but it doesn't mean they did a good work. His hair grew back crooked because of the scar. Izuna hates it.

He doesn't hate the scar itself, though.

There's a silence, next and Izuna looks into Tobirama's eyes again. It's so difficult not to reach out, not to touch now they're so close and it's all he wants but he won't. Not yet, he keeps telling himself. Then again, when if not now ? And he's about to do just that when Tobirama pinches his lips, when he moved. Retrieves a kunai from the pouch at his belt and hands it out for him.

“Have you decided where you want this one ?” He asks and his tone is accepting. He knows it'll happen and he won't fight it back. “I've wondered, and thought of a second one on each cheek. Parallel to the first. One for today, the other for Madara.”

Izuna stares for a moment. Then he laughs. “You can't be serious, can you ?” He asks, shaking his head. “Madara ? As if you could ever kill him. As if your brother would ever let you kill him.”

Tobirama's eyebrows shoot up, his lips turn into a sneer. “So you know as well.”

It's not a question. It's a statement.

“It hurts that you'd doubt my skills, Tobirama,” Izuna sighs and he smiles. Then he takes the kunai from Tobirama's hand, spins it several times around his index finger. “I thought we were past that, by now.”

“My mistake, I guess.”

Izuna shrugs. It's not important. What is, is what is to come. Where he's going to mark Tobirama for Tenka's death and he looks at that pretty face for a longer time, then he nods to himself. “You're becoming too tall.”

With that, he reaches out. His fingers touch Tobirama's face, cups his cheek and it sends shivers up his spine and he can see that Tobirama is affected with it as well. He saw the way he flinched, just before he touched him and Izuna can't bear to see such a reaction, it makes him sick to the core. Because as bad a father Tajima has become, he never hit him nor Madara. He never rose his hand at them, ever. Butsuma deserves to die for what it did to his sons.

“Don't move,” Izuna breaths out, and instinctively, his thumb traces the line of the scar on that cheek and Tobirama closes his eyes. “Do you trust me ?”

His only answer is a curt nod, almost impossible to notice, if it wasn't for his active sharingan but it's enough. Izuna approaches the kunai to Tobirama's face and he cuts. He goes for his chin, this time. From under his lower lip to almost his throat, the sensitive skin there cutting so easily under the sharp tool and it bleeds, the liquid following the curves of his throat and Tobirama looks at him again, his lips quivering under the pain.

“All done now,” Izuna smiles and he steps back, registering well the way Tobirama half stumbles forward, as if he didn't want the hand to leave his cheek.

He gets a hold on himself quickly enough though, grabbing a clean piece of cloth from his medic kit and pushing it against the new wound. It smells strongly of disinfectant and Izuna wonders, for a time, if Tobirama shouldn't hurt under the alcohol burning his raw flesh but he doesn't. He merely looks at him. Waiting.

“I am keeping this,” Izuna states, tucking the kunai under his belt and he smiles. “As a memory.”

Then Izuna turns away. They're done here, he's done what he came for and Tobirama doesn't seem to want to chat more. And, if he does, he doesn't say a word so Izuna thinks it's better if he leaves. He only has one more thing to add.

“Don’t miss his heart, when you come kill my father,” he says and he smiles at Tobirama over his shoulder. “I'll make sure to make Butsuma pay for what he did to you, when I come for him.”

Tobirama doesn't talk, he doesn't move. He merely stares from where he is and Izuna eventually shrugs, he's never imagined he'd render Tobirama so silent. Things have changed it seems and maybe they're for the best as they are now.

Tajima knows he met with Tobirama, when he's back at the compound, Izuna is well aware of it. His father doesn't address him anymore. He doesn't even look at him anymore, treats him like yet another lower Uchiha but Izuna doesn't care. He knows it's not going to last, he knows things are about to change for the better now. Madara's almost ready to become clan leader and the moment when he is, he'll strike. He has to, if it secures Madara's dream. Not that he feels bad about it.

Butsuma does have to pay for what he did to Tobirama. And Tobirama will pay back by killing Tajima.

It is exactly what happens a year later.

****

The snow falls hard on Konoha tonight. It's February, around the fifteenth, maybe later but Izuna has stopped counting the days. All he knows, is that it was his birthday, not so long ago. Madara wished him. Madara always does and he never forgets the date, does he ?

If there is one thing Izuna never expected in life, before, was to reach twenty four years old. Not because he expected to die early, if anything he always fought to remain alive. But the life of a shinobi usually is a short one and the most talented ones never reach twenty five. Cannon fodder aren't they ? Sent to war, to fight to death.

Things have changed, though. So many things have changed and it started right after Tajima was assassinated. Izuna remembers that day well and he knows what happened. He felt Tobirama's familiar chakra slip into the camp and he pictured him strike Tajima down. He didn't react, he didn't go after the Senju. Not this time. It wasn't part of their deal after all. It was only Tobirama repaying him after Izuna took Butsuma down two months earlier. Tobirama didn't miss his heart. He did a great job.

It took time for Hashirama and Madara to construct Konoha. From the unbreakable alliance between their clans, to the building of the village but it's thriving now. Many clans have joined since, it gets bigger by the month and civilians abandon the nearby villages to settle among their walls, stating they'll be safe there. And they will. It is what every shinobi in Konoha promises when they join, after all. To keep the citizens safe and defend them to their last breath.

A good thing to die for, Izuna thinks. So far away from everything he was forced to fight for before.

The night is a cold one. It's freezing and his clothes aren't nearly enough to protect him but he's merely coming home from his meeting with Madara, he only has a couple of streets to cross and wearing a coat felt stupid. He won't get sick, he knows, he's more resistant than that.

His house is warm and comfortable when he finally reaches it. It's a small little thing, with a kitchen that doubles as a sitting room and the bedroom. It is tiny indeed but it's enough for him alone. Madara has tried convincing him to ask for something bigger but he doesn't feel the need for it. He's alone most of the time, after all and he doesn't spend much time there. Why would he need something bigger ?

Adding wood to the stove that doubles as the cooking place and the main heating of the house, Izuna puts some tea to re-heat. It's late already and he has trainings in the morning but sleeping doesn't feel obligatory at the moment. If anything, he's too restless to even close his eyes. How could he ? His mind is racing. Madara asked him to join the Anbu, the newly created elite force under the Hokage's direct orders, and Izuna has no idea if it's a good idea.

It's a good choice, though. Madara is well aware of his web of spies and his own skills and used them often enough before. He'd be an asset as an Anbu.

Izuna doesn't startle when someone enters his house without knocking. Not physically, at least, his thoughts merely focus on his uninvited visitor and he can't help the smirk on his lips when he hears steps coming his way. A habit Tobirama developed since Konoha was created. To show up at his place at random hours. Usually after he locked himself up in his lab for a long period of time. Often for a chat. Sometimes to share a cup of tea in silence before he leaves again.

Tobirama looks drained tonight. There's a hunch in his shoulders and his back seems to hurt and Izuna pities him, almost. He knows so many things about his current life accomodations. Tobirama lives with Hashirama for now, they share a big house, with separate bedrooms of course. But Hashirama has been bedding his soon to be bride for almost a week now. Which is highly improper, but he's learned with time that Hashirama is nothing proper. He doesn't care for most traditions, and he has a velvet tongue when he puts his brain into it.

But it also means Tobirama has been half living in his lab for all that time and, for having been there a couple of times, Izuna is aware that this isn't a place to sleep in. There's no couch, no futon. Nowhere for Tobirama to rest.

It doesn't take long for Tobirama to sit with the cup Izuna pushed between his hands. And Izuna watches him.

“When will you ask ?”

Tobirama remains silent, at first, his eyes unfocused, as if he's sleeping with his eyes opened.

“Ask ?” He repeats, eventually.

“Don’t play dumb with me, Tobirama, we both know you're smarter than that. Stay here for the night. You need to rest and you won't be disturbed here. I'll make sure of it.”

Tobirama doesn't answer. He doesn't look up, he doesn't move. At first at least. Then he puts his cup down, leaves the sitting room.

The next thing Izuna hears, is the light snoring of Tobirama in the nearby bedroom and he keeps watch all night. He won't let anything nor anyone bother Tobirama's rest indeed.

____

They've been awake for some time now. Izuna had decided not to sleep, to keep watch over Tobirama all night, make sure no one would bother his rest but he soon realized that it wouldn't be happening. No one would dare enter his place uninvited expect the precise man sleeping in his bed. Which meant it was safe for him to sleep as well.

And Tobirama slept for a long time, lying in his futon undisturbed, lips parted as he snored and his body slack in unconsciousness. One great sight if Izuna ever saw one, before he too passed out. Tobirama has grown to become one beautiful man, hasn't he?

Izuna woke up before Tobirama did but he stayed in bed by his side. He waited, almost impatiently, to watch Tobirama's reaction when he'd realize they spent the night in the same bed. And he's mostly disappointed because he doesn't see surprise nor confusion in Tobirama's eyes when he opens them. Only acceptance. The same kind of acceptance he showed when Izuna last marked his face, when he pushed a kunai in his flesh and carved that last mark on him.

“Stay here.”

The order isn't necessary, Izuna is aware of it but he has to voice it anyways. He's not gone for long though, he merely searches his cabinets for a while and returns with a brush and a bottle of ink. Tobirama watches mutedly.

“These are mine, and only mine to see,” Izuna states. It's something he's thought about a lot before but never had the chance to voice. Today is a special occasion, though. Tobirama never spent the night in his bed before, after all and it only shows the trust the Senju feels toward him. “My marks on you.”

Tobirama blinks when Izuna dips his brush in the bright red ink and paints his face but he remains unmoving. Izuna's hand is slow, he doesn't want to fuck it up but he revels in the way the ink stands out against Tobirama's pale skin. The scars underneath are all but concealed with it, people wouldn't know they're here indeed and sure, many people saw them before but Izuna can't help feeling like they shouldn't have. They're intimate. They're proofs of their common past. He doesn't even think of his lost brothers, when he sees them. He thinks of these meetings with Tobirama, all of them leading them where they are now.

“Will you paint them every day ?”

“If you want me to.”

Izuna puts the brush down, laughing to himself. Yes, he thinks. This is perfect.

Tobirama sits up, the tip of his fingers following the ink in a curious way. It's not dry yet so it smudges but it's alright Izuna thinks because it's only the two of them, in his home and no one else to see.

“I’ve never said you did them,” Tobirama whispers after a moment, his hand dropping from his face and his eyes focused on his. “Not even to my brothers.”

“I never spoke of it either,” Izuna shrugs. No, he didn't. It always was between he and Tobirama. No one else has to know.

Izuna wonders if this is Tobirama's way to thank him for allowing him here for the night, to accept yet another one of his designs. If this is his way to say that he'll be leaving now but Tobirama doesn't move. He lingers there, a hand resting near Izuna's hip as he's sitting on his knees. Too close to be considered appropriate but Izuna can't care less. His relationship with Tobirama never was a normal one after all. There always was something else, something he never shared with anyone else and, looking up at the marks and the now smudged ink, Izuna wonders if Tobirama is aware of it.

He is, Izuna realizes, when Tobirama closes the distance between them and leads him into a deep kiss.

It takes a moment for Izuna to realize that the cold sensation at the side of his neck is real. That Tobirama has pickpocketed a kunai from him and is now holding it against his skin. Not any kunai, of course, the one Izuna kept as a memory and always kept on him for good luck ever since that last mark he put on Tobirama's face and he pulls back slowly, eyes fixated on Tobirama's, lips parted as he pants.

And he nods, when he understands.

It hurts, as Tobirama carves a mark on the side of his neck. The skin is thin there, sensitive, and it's so close to his artery. One bad movement and he could die, empty himself from his blood on top of his futon, Izuna is fully aware of it. But he doesn't move and he waits. Sharingan active, staring at Tobirama's focused air, burning these memories into his brain forever.

Gods, does Tobirama look gorgeous as he puts his mark on him. His focused air, his beautiful eyes, his lips swollen from their kiss and Izuna wants to kiss them again, and even more. But it is a promise, Izuna knows, as the blood starts to tickle down his neck, soaking his shirt without any care in the world and nothing could make him happier than this moment.

Tobirama is his and has been ever since Izuna carved that last mark on his face. And he is Tobirama's, now.

He is Tobirama's. And he will always be.