Batsuma had been agitated and short tempered lately. Of course these days their father was always angry and short tempered, quick to anger, and even quicker to discipline, but rarely was it focused on a single target.
Tobirama had never had so much of his Father's attention in his life, and never had he been the sole focus of Batsuma's anger. Lately however, lately Batsuma seemed to get angrier and angrier, the fury stewing and bubbling darkly just under the surface of his Father's stone cold facade.
He tried to be good. He tried to be better he really did, but nothing he did seemed to be good enough. His father simply got shorter and shorter with him, the training becoming harsher, dragging on longer, until he collapsed into unconsciousness and his Daemon had to drag him back to his room. Still Batsuma could not be satisfied.
Tobirama hugged his Daemon close, clinging to long shaggy fur as Chika groomed his fluffy white hair with a long tongue. His Daemon had taken the form a large dog this time with thick white fur and a curled tail. His eyes burned but the tears wouldn't come. They hadn't for a long time.
He wished Anija was here to comfort him, wished he could curl up in warm tan arms like when they were children. (but weren't they still children?), missed the days when his brothers Wolf Daemon Hana would hum their mothers old lullaby when Tobirama was exhausted but in to much pain from training to sleep. He missed his younger brothers, Kawarama had just settled when he was killed, his Damon Mami taking on the permanent form of a bobcat. Itama, who had died before he had settled at all, but Tobirama was sure that Asuka would have taken on an avian form, her and Itama had always loved the shape of small birds.
Tobirama had yet to settle himself, every other kid his age settled a while ago but Chika just couldn't find a form that fit them. Tobirama was so busy being what everybody else needed of him. What everybody else wanted, that he just, he couldn't settle into who he was. Tobirama was eleven now when most kids, at least in ninja clans, settled by the age of ten at the latest.
Still he, he could have never expected how far his father would go to "fix" the issue.
Not until his father sent him to spy on where exactly Hashirama was sneaking off to. The incident that set it all into motion.
Tobirama had known of course. How could he not? Even at eleven his range was eight times that of anyone else in the compound and he could easily sense to the Nakano, could easily sense his brothers new friend, and could easily sense said new friends undeniable UCHIHA chakra signature. Tobirama had know since the beginning, but he couldn't bring himself to report it to Batsuma. Couldn't bare the thought of hurting his Anija in that way. Couldn't bare the thought of the betrayal, the disappointment, in Hashirama's eyes if Tobirama ratted him out to their father.
So Tobirama had kept quiet. Even as loneliness gnawed at his insides and his heart twisted in his chest at the constant feeling of bubbling joy and affection and camaraderie his brother felt to the uchiha. Even as tears pricked his eyes at night, when even his bone deep exhaustion wasn't enough to overcome the pain of training or missions, and his Anija hadn't even glanced at him when he returned home in time for dinner before turning in early.
Tobirama kept quiet as resentment for the Uchiha his brother had befriended grew in his chest before Tobirama snuffed it out. Guilty and shamed that he would resent anyone who made his brother so happy these days, because Tobirama. Tobirama didn't. Couldn't. Not anymore. And Hashirama, his brother with his warm sunbright chakra with the feel of new life, and growth, and steady earth, he deserved so much more than Tobirama offered. So much more than Tobirama could possibly give. So no matter how he felt, or how it hurt, he couldn't let himself resent the boy his Anija saw as a surrogate brother.
But he could not deny a direct order either, no matter how much he desperately wished to. Especially not with his Father's mood of late. Tobirama could not risk his Father's wrath. At least if he was the one to go, he could hopefully minimize the damage, maybe, maybe even cover for Hashirama. Say his brother was simply training his mokuton somewhere no one was likely to bother him.
It was not to be. Another child, undoubtedly sent to spy on Hashirama's friend just as Tobirama had been sent to spy on his brother, disappeared into the underbrush just as Tobirama arrived. Their chakra heavy with anger, and resentment, and dark writhing jealousy. Tobirama knew then and there he had no other choice. There was only one thing he could do.
And so he reported to their father. And the next day, when they arrived to confront the Uchiha Patriarch and his children across the Nakano Hashirama looked at him in the very way Tobirama had feared for so long. With betrayal. With disappointment. Maybe, maybe even with a little resentment.
His father had been so unspeakably angry when they returned home that for a brief moment he had feared Batsuma would actually try to KILL Hashirama. He didn't of course. Not when Hashirama possessed their kekki genki. Not when Hashirama had the Mokuton to ensure his protection, to ensure their father would only (could only) go so far when disciplining him. Tobirama however, well he wasn't so fortunate. But that was fine. He was fine. He could handle it, as long as Anija could stay the same bright beacon of light, as long as Hashirama could keep smiling, keep dreaming, Tobirama would do ANYTHING to safeguard the only sibling he had left. So Hashirama could keep smiling, could keep looking ahead to a future Tobirama struggled more and more to see everyday.
Still their father was furious beyond anything Tobirama had seen before, and just when he let his guard down three months later, just when he thought their father's ire had finally cooled after three months of torturous training and being locked in their rooms, of a heavy hand eager and all to ready to meet out punishment at even the slightest perceived disobedience. That is when he was called into Batsuma's study.
Hashirama was already there. From the angry flush to his face and the overdramatic scowl Anija sported, and the bulging veins of his Father's neck, Tobirama knew they had been arguing. Again.
"Tobirama," Batsuma said, heavy gaze pining the youngest son in place, "sit."
His father gestured to the area in front of the desk and obediently Tobirama folded his legs neatly beneath himself and sat. Sparing a quick glance to his Anija but... Hashirama wouldn't look at him. Hadn't looked at him since that disastrous day by the river.
Batsuma sat back in his chair at steepled his fingers. Watching both of his children critically. Hashirama standing defiantly, arms crossed, and face set in a rebellious scowl, to Tobirama, kneeling straight backed on the tattami may floor, eyes respectfully downcast and hands folded in his lap.
Batsuma let out a sigh and sat back up straight, placing his elbows on his desk.
"I really didn't want to have to do this but you have left me no choice." He sighed in faux regret. Tobirama was instantly alarmed, but before either he or Anija could do anything two of their fathers guards appeared from hiding. They were quick to seal both boys chakra. Hashirama shouted in surprise as his arms were yanked behind him, eyes going wide. Tobirama similarly tensed as he was yanked up and similarly restrained. His brothers Daemon was pinned by their Fathers Tiger Takoko.
Chika was torn from Tobirama's shoulder, the Damon let out a startled shriek from her current vulpine form. "Father! What is the meaning of this!" Hashirama demanded as Tobirama cried out at having his Daemon, his soul, torn away from him. The feeling of human hands, harsh and unwanted, touching her sending a bolt of pain through his being. Growing worse as the handling continued. His Damon was shoved in a sack to prevent shifting and taken from the room.
Tobirama whimpered and struggled, tried to tear away to where his Daemon was being taken away. He could hear his Anija's screams and shouts, his Father's gaze cool and unfeeling even in the face of both boys growing hysteria, but it all seemed to grow distant as he could only focus on his Daemon being taken farther and farther away. He felt as Chika was tossed onto hard wood through their bond, "A cage," Cika told him through their bond, ",they've thrown me in a cage! It's large, and there's seals, I can't get out! No matter what form I take! They're taking me away! Tobirama!"
After that, all there was was pain. Whimpers turned to cries, turned to heaving pleading sobs, and still he could feel their bond continue to stretch. After the second hour the screaming started and they had stopped bothering to restrain him. He couldn't do anything to them in this state after all. Tobirama couldn't see through the tears in his eyes, couldn't hear past the blood thumping through his veins and his and China's screams through the bond.
After the third he was being restrained again, but this time to stop him from doing permanent damage as he clawed at his own flesh, writhing on the floor. He had lost his voice by then, nothing but faint reedy gasps and cries able to slip past his lips, blood flecking them from screaming his throat raw. He was blind and deaf, and completely insensitive to anything beyond the burning agony ripping through every fibre, every atom, the very core of his being.
By the fourth hour they were exiting his sensory range and the bond was stretched so taught, it was fraying, stretched to far beyond it's limits. He wasn't moving anymore. Wasn't making a noise, or struggling. He just played there, eyes blank and hazy, even as his chest rose and fell rapidly.
Not soon after...it snapped, and Tobirama seized so violently the force of it dislocated one of his shoulders even as his back arched and his head slammed against the floor. One last scream, blood chilling and unlike anything any in the room, in the whole compound, had ever heard was ripped from his abused throat.
Tobirama welcomed the encroaching darkness. Distantly he almost thought he heard the sound of his brothers sobbing. That wasn't right. Why was he sad? Anija was crying, and Tobirama didn't know why. (it couldn't be for him, never him. Not anymore. Not after what he did.) Despite the void overtaking his sight he tried to turn his head to his elder sibling. Desperate to find him. He was fine. He had to be fine. Anija needed him to be fine. Weakly he tried to reach out, tried to comfort his brother. But he was to weak. To empty, to cold, to much pain. He wasn't strong enough. He was never strong enough. The darkness didn't feel comforting anymore.
Tobirama woke to screams. He struggled to open his eyes, his vision hazy as he blinked the pain and exhaustion out of his eyes. There was a roar outside his room and the ground trembled with the force of it, the very air electrified with raw wild force. Tobirama felt a familiar signature (not his brother but who? Who else was so familiar, so comforting to him?) , he felt hazy and muddled and all he knew was that he had to find it.
Desperation clawed at him, and he tried to call out for someone, he couldn't think who, couldn't think at all really, but his voice wouldn't come. Everything felt like shattered glass, broken and painful, every though and feeling tearing at his mind painfully. Broken and fractured and he couldn't seem to put any of the pieces together. Tobirama struggled to sit up, arms week and shaking but he ignored it. Pushed past it. He was fine. He had to be fine. He had to find his brother. Had to find that achingly familiar signature. Had to help his clan.
When he tried to get up he tumbled out of the bed to fall to the floor. Darkness took him once more as he made impact. To weak. He was to weak.
The next time Tobirama woke he was surrounded by warmth and softness, the feeling of something massive and wet leaving across his face, and most of his upper torso. Soft fur and deep rumbling purrs drew him back into full awareness. He opened his eyes and the first thing he saw were two massive eyes the color of warm orange sun stones.
He should have been alarmed, but he knew these eyes, no matter the the shape, or form, or color he would always recognize her. "Chika." He whispered painfully, weak and trembling. He reached out, tired to feel her, to speak to her, but the bond, wasn't there. Gone. Torn. Ripped away.
"Tobira!" Tobirama turned startled eyes to his Anija as Hashirama flew into the room. Tobirama was to shocked to move or react as his brother wrapped him in his arms. Gentle. So very gentle. As if Tobirama was something fragile. Something precious. As if Tobirama was something valuable and worth protection. "I'm sorry Otuoto, I'm so so so sorry."
When was the last time his brother had used that nickname? When was the last time his brother had called him Otuoto. Not since the river. Not since Itama's death. Tobirama sat there, blank, unable to process what was happening. What had happened. He felt so numb, and cold, and empty, and for once even the feel of his Anija's chakra was enough to assuage the void.
Eight of their clan died he would find out days later. Eight of their clan had been slaughtered when the bond had snapped and his Daemon had been forced into a permanent form. She had warped and twisted into a monster, had broken the seals and shattered the bars of her cage and in a fit of pain induced insanity had ripped them apart. Then. Then she had set her sights on the clan compound. Had set her sights on finding her human half. And she had been inconsolable until she had found him. Many had been injured. The damages were extensive. Only the children and the infirm had escaped her wrath.
Now though, now he could only sit there as his Daemon curled her new, massive form around him and his brother. As Hashirama sobbed and hugged him close. Once he was able to gather his wits he turned in his brothers arms, looking into dark watery brown eyes. "I'm sorry Anija." Tobirama managed in a broken whisper. He needed to apologize. Had to apologize. Hashirama needed to know he was sorry, so so so very sorry.
Hashirama's eyes widened and filled with pain and Tobirama tried to curl away in shame. He had messed it up again. But Hashirama pulled him closer, curling over and around him, as if trying to hide him away under his bulk. "It's not your fault Tobira. It's not. I should be sorry. I am sorry. I'm so so so sorry." Anija cradled him, rocked him. He felt Hana squeeze in with them, felt the soft familiar fur and the cool wet nose as it nuzzled his hair in comfort, and apology, and love.
Hashirama sobbed into his hair. Tobirama could only curl further into the comfort of his Anija's arms. He did this. He failed. He angered father. He wasn't enough to protect his Anija. He was weak. Hashirama whispered apologies, over and over as he cried and sobbed. As both their Damon's curled around the two brothers in an offer of safety and comfort. His eyes burned, but the tears wouldn't fall. (They couldn't. Not anymore.)