This was not how Izuna imagined death would feel. He had thought, at some point, that he would drift off, fade into some measure of painless oblivion before the end, but no. It was agony. Endless, it felt like. Everything burned, radiating out from his side. He felt the burn of the healers hands, utterly ineffectual in the face of the acids of his intestinal track leaking everywhere, the massive trauma Senju Tobirama had left. The fever had begun to rage the night before, so high it made his brain feel like it was melting.
This was it. Everything was burning.
Madara was next to him. Izuna knew. He wanted to hold him, tell him it would be okay, but it wouldn’t. It was all ruined.
Izuna didn’t know what he was saying, if he was speaking or crying or begging. It was all a blur.
Suddenly, his eyes throbbed. Worse than even the wound. He felt the black fire leak from them, made them open one last time. He wanted to tell his brother, wanted to give Madara his eyes, if only so that they might, in some small way, see the future together. Wanted to save him, tell him not to trust their enemy, not to fall into an early grave beside them. To lead their family to victory over all others. But for the burn.
He would only get a few words. He chose them carefully.
“I love you, brother. Farewel-”
But the black fire burning from his eyes took him before he could finish. The last thing he heard was Madara’s scream of agony before he burned away.
At the edge of the Senju lands, atop of a pine that was lonely in its towering height, Tobirama stood sentry against the chaos he had unleashed. His brother had left no doubt as to on whose head all the future blood would lie.
“You have ruined forever any chance at peace!”
Considering how unlikely peace had been in the first place, Tobirama thought his brother’s accusation at least a little unfair.
Izuna was not like Madara. Whatever friendship Hashirama claimed with the Uchiha clan head did not filter to his younger brother. Izuna fought tooth and nail to kill Tobirama and any Senju in the way of his family’s victory. It was all Tobirama could do sometimes to keep up with the furious Uchiha, to keep him from slaying any more of his family.
Sometimes it wasn’t enough, and every Senju dead at Izuna’s hand haunted him.
It made him ill that his brother, the man who led them into battle in the first place, refused to decisively end the conflict. Shouted instead at their enemy for terms of peace.
As though peace could somehow become a reality after so much blood had been shed between the Senju and the Uchiha. Peace was a childish dream that his brother clung to while his family bled and died around him. While he reasoned with the man who slaughtered their kin, the family who had hunted down and murdered their younger brothers.
The anger he felt, ever unvoiced in his own bid for peace, choked him.
“What peace? This is war, Hashirama, not some game between you and Madara. There were lives at stake, our family’s lives!”
Without even looking at him, Hashirama continued to wail and rant. As though Izuna were his brother instead of Madara’s, the grief was so palpable. The weight of it grated on Tobirama’s already powerful senses, making the conversation that much more unbearable. As though Izuna being wounded was the end of everything he’d ever wanted, instead of a victory that had been hard won by his younger brother.
“With Izuna dead, Madara will never agree to terms! You have doomed us all to an endless war that will not stop until the Senju are eradicated.”
Did Hashirama have to make it plain how little he regarded Tobirama’s efforts?
“Madara was never going to agree to peace!” Tobirama tried to reason with his brother, to make him see what had always been obvious to everyone else. Izuna had said as much himself, that he was never going to agree to peace with the Senju. It was his voice in Madara’s ear keeping the war from flagging, keeping the Uchiha from coming to terms despite their obvious disadvantage. Maybe without Izuna, Madara would finally come around to a compromise.
But Hashirama wasn’t listening, couldn’t hear what he was trying to say. “It is a dream we share, Tobirama. I don’t expect you to understand.”
Hashirama always did this, always spoke like Tobirama didn’t desire an end to the fighting that had dominated most of his life. Like Hashirama and Madara were the only two in the world who had lost enough people to force them to do anything to protect the few they had left. As though Hashirama’s losses weren’t shared by his younger brother.
“Without Izuna to protect, Madara’s reason for peace will disappear completely.” Tears streamed down Hashirama’s cheeks. His brother’s agony hurt him, but it had always been thus, with Hashirama’s volatile emotions to sharp and potent for Tobirama’s delicate senses. “He will never forgive me.”
Tobirama hated this. He hated arguing with his brother. Hashirama, for all the love and respect Tobirama bore him, could be unflinching in his wrath. He was half certain, though he’d never asked, that his brother’s emotions were sharp deliberately so they could hurt him as much as Hashirama was hurting.
“If I hadn’t struck him down, Izuna would have killed me.” He tried once more. Surely, Hashirama could see the truth of that? Surely, his desire for peace didn’t come at the cost of his last brother. Surely his reasons for peace were the same as Madara’s? To protect his family?
“You and Izuna have fought for years! He has always left it at the draw, but you-!” Hashirama stopped himself from saying it, but Tobirama could hear the condemnation regardless, the age old adage that he was just like their father, war hungry and cruel. “Could you not lay aside your hatred for one-”
“Not all of our enemies are as obliging as you and Madara, endlessly sparing-” he spat, angry himself now, “while your family dies around you!”
“And they will continue to die because of you!”
Silence. Hashirama’s chest heaved, and Tobiama refused to let his flinch at his brother’s judgement show. His oldest brother, the one person in the world Tobirama could honestly admit to looking up to, glared at him through the tears before forcefully turning away. Tobirama wondered if the garden his brother was glaring at had the answers, if it offered his brother peace. By the simmering anger still needling at him, he didn’t think so.
Summarily dismissed, Tobirama went to the door, feeling his heart crack. Looking back, he tried one last time to justify himself.
“He would have killed me, Anija.”
Hashirama didn’t even turn. Tobirama left the room before he made his reply, if he even made one at all.
So here Tobirama waited for the coming storm, turning the conversation over and over in his mind and wondering what he could do, what he should do in light of everything.
The light filtering through the branches above danced with shadows across his face as he looked towards the horizon. Towards the Uchiha lands. All of his focus was on the Uchiha compound where Izuna’s dwindling signature flickered as it gradually sank into the oblivion of death. It wouldn’t be long now before the Uchiha’s signature disappeared completely.
He had always subscribed to the philosophy that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. Perhaps it was time that he live up to that philosophy. If he offered his own life to assuage Madara's wrath, how many of his family could he save? Could there be a more glorious death then to die in service of one's family? And if so, did it really make a difference if he died on the battlefield, as he had always imagined, or kneeling before an enemy in the name of peace?
Tobirama sighed, angry with himself for his hesitation, for his fear of what offering himself to Madara might entail. Torture was not outside the Uchiha’s means, he knew. There was no chance of a warrior’s death. The best he could hope for was to die on his knees, like a coward in the dirt. Who knows what horrors Madara Uchiha would enact in the name of revenge for his last beloved brother.
Besides, even if he did give himself over to Madara, there was no guarantee that the Uchiha would halt the war in exchange for it. As a prisoner, he would have no way of holding them to their word, and even less power after he’d died.
Though Madara would undoubtedly enact some kind of revenge for Izuna, Tobirama had no illusions that Hashirama would ever do the same. Hashirama would never stop pursuing peace, and Madara would never allow it.
The only future he could see was the neverending war marching onwards until both families were utterly spent. It was not a future he wanted.
But perhaps, a future where children would not have to know war as he did, where they could go into the forest without weapons and armor and come back out alive and whole rather than hunted like animals, would be worth any cost. If that was peace, then one life would be a shallow price.
He was not made for the peace Hashirama dreamed of anyway, growing old surrounded by family and a village. He could never imagine such a perfect world would tolerate someone like himself, a honed weapon. His brother was right about that at least. His whole life had been war. He knew nothing else.
But Hashirama deserved it, deserved to live that happy peaceful life that he’d been dreaming of for so long.
And Tobirama was willing to do anything to make that dream a reality. If dying was the cost, he would do so without regret.
But it wasn’t that simple. If he died, who would help his brother achieve the peace he desired? Tobirama was not vain, but he knew his continued presence might serve as the fist that drove Hashirama's peace. The stick to his brother’s carrot. The quickest pathway to peace, in the wake of Izuna’s death and the Uchiha’s revenge could only be a peace bought through the threat of violence, and held with such.
And with no one left among the Uchiha who could match him, perhaps baring Madara himself, Tobirama was essential.
He knew, though, that Hashirama’s ideal peace was that of two equals coming together, and born of the love and respect they held for both each other and the dead. The peace Tobirama could make was not Hashirama's dream, so neither could it be Tobirama's.
Perhaps his brother was, as usual, right. There would never be peace with the Uchiha so long as Izuna's killer was to take part in it.
Nevermind Kawarama. Or Itama. Or all the other children the Uchiha had slaughtered. No. Peace could be bought through but one more death. Hashirama thought so. Was it not, therefore, Tobirama's duty to believe it as well?
Very well, then. It was settled. The benefits outweighed the cost.
He would return to the Senju compound and put his affairs in order this evening, and head for the Uchiha compound at first light.
He felt certain his brother would support his decision. Anija had made that much clear. What was his own little brother in the wake of Madara’s?
Still, he thought he might stay just a little while longer. See one last sunset. One last indulgence in a life that had been mostly bereft of them.
Of course, even this was interrupted.
The chakra flickering in the distance flared and then disappeared.
Tobirama was about to jump down from his perch, heart feeling cold as he understood there was no going back now that the Uchiha heir was dead, when the signature reappeared in a brightly burning, but quickly fading light.
There, by the river where so much trouble had been wrought, flared a chakra signature he never thought he'd feel again.
Izuna? What was he doing all the way out here?
The blow had been a fatal one, he was certain. Izuna was dying, had died! His signature had disappeared.
Was this some desire to enact one last shot of rage at the Senju? Tobirama was running towards the signature at the thought.
Whatever Izuna wanted, with his chakra burning so blackly, he would not find the Senju lands undefended.
He was surprised to find the black fire he had sensed was manifested in reality. They were undoubtedly flames, so hot he could feel them from the other side of the river, absorbing light rather than emitting it, but they were stuttering, failing, snuffing out.
Tobirama cleared the river, leaping from the treetop to land beside the prone Uchiha. It was definitely Izuna, and he was definitely dying.
Mind racing, he ignored the intense heat to kneel next to the unconscious man and felt himself at a crossroads. Everything slowed as he watched Izuna’s chest raise once, twice. Each one was one closer to the end.
If he did nothing, he would be in the same position as before. Did he regret felling Izuna? No. Not with the amount of Senju blood the other man had spilled.
(He remembered their names, their faces, the terrified looks they’d sent him as they died, the curse of a perfect memory and being just a hair too slow).
But did he regret the ending of Hashirama’s dream, his own role in it? Perhaps. Enough to try and fix it? Thinking back to the look on his Anija’s face, the crushing disappointment there, the way that he’d so clearly let him know that he had failed, he thought yes. He could try.
His hands glowed green, his chakra flowing past the inadequate bandage and into the still gaping wound, flooding his chakra into the cells, carefully pulling the ends of the ruined flesh and organs together. Pinpointedly flooding those ends with his chakra, he forced the cells to split, regrow, fuse, and heal. Starting deep, the trauma started to heal.
But then, the weak and fluttering breath stopped entirely. The heart stopped beating. Tobirama had his hand laid on a dead man.
So. That was it. He pulled back the hand, let the healing jutsu fade.
He could still hear the echo of his brother’s voice. Could see him standing, silhouetted in the doorway, horror in his eyes.
He didn’t know what had gone wrong, his attempt to recall the dead a failure. He had theorized, based on the karmic virtue on which the universe balanced, that a sacrifice was required. Rats hadn’t worked, nor rabbits, nor lambs. And standing over the body of another victim of the child hunters, a cousin he barely knew, draining the blood out of the dying animal as he pounded through the hand seals, he realized how far he’d gone. How close he’d come to considering spending the relative cost.
The rational side of him said, ‘Let it go. Let him die.’
But… this could be it. The road to bringing them back could begin right here.
“Kuchiyose: Edo Tensei!” he shouted, felt the chakra drain as he pushed a huge amount of energy to his right hand. The world cracked like broken glass beneath the body of Izuna Uchiha as he slammed his right hand to chest.
Nothing. Silence. Had he failed, yet again?
His hands glowed green as he placed one on Izuna’s center mass, just over his heart, the other resting over the open, bleeding, red eyes. The brain, barely there, fired tiny neurons, to no avail. They were unanswered. Unbidden, Tobirama reached his chakra deep down towards the heart, and found it utterly still. He pushed his chakra in, but found no response. The heart wouldn’t beat.
He had to get in there. Had to know what was stopping the heart from continuing to beat.
His right hand flared bright blue-white as he formed a chakra scalpel. Slicing, cauterizing as he went, he cut through the skin, the fourth and fifth ribs, straight through the left lung to reach the heart.
He gripped it on instinct, squeezed, forced the blood to move. His mind raced as every study in anatomy he had ever seen flooded, searching for something. Anything.
The whole body moved due to electrical impulses from the brain, electrons passing along unseen pathways, compelling the body to move, the lungs to breathe, the heart to beat. They were not making it. A reverse in polarity of the heart driven by cessation of function, a lack of oxygen to the cells. A hard reset. Repolarize. Flood electricity into the system, and like a magnet the polarity should equalize, allowing the natural rhythm to reconstitute.
Pulling his left hand from Izuna’s eyes, he brought it to a half ram sign. Lightning was not his best element, but he could push enough for this.
He held Izuna’s heart in his right hand and cried, “Raiton!”
The whole body seized around his forearm, jolted as the muscles contracted. The heart fluttered in his hand, sputtered, stopped again.
Another convolution. The half healed wound in Izuna’s side flexed, threatened to tear, but there!
And then another.
Tobirama didn’t wait. Ignoring the way his hands shook and his own muscles ached, his chakra draining quickly, he jammed his other hand, glowing green once more, onto the wound, shoring up the damage he’d made as rapidly as possible.
As soon as he was satisfied Izuna wasn’t going to perish from the new wound he’d made to get at the man’s heart, Tobirama turned his focus to sending inflated amounts of erythropoietin to the bone marrow, force speeding the process of blood cell regeneration as he slowly removed his hand in Izuna’s chest, fresh new, healthy tissue and bone left behind.
Once free, he laid it back on Izuna’s center mass, still slick, stained with Izuna’s dark and sticky blood. Tobirama was too much a warrior to gag at the sharp tang of copper on his tongue as he monitored that Izuna’s heart was still beating, the lungs still breathing as he bathed them in soothing chakra.
Finally, the tremor and strain on his chakra became too much to ignore any longer. Tobirama had to stop or risk over exhausting himself. In the wake of the battle this morning and this extensive healing, he was nearly spent.
He pulled back, let the green fade, and watched.
But for the absolute need to take huge, gasps of air into his lungs, part of the cost of the exertion of extended healing for the last who knows how long, Tobirama would have held his breath. He watched, looking for any sign.
Izuna breathed. And then did so again.
Tobirama took a shuddering breath himself and let his eyes close, sweat dripping down over his eyelids, all the way to fall off his chin and nose. He had never been so exhausted before.
But it had worked. For better or worse, he had brought Izuna back from the dead.
Leaning over, Tobirama promptly threw up.
It took him two hours of meditation and one quick splash to the face of frigid river water for Tobirama to stop shaking.
It was no longer just Hashirama’s voice pounding in his temples, but his father’s as well.
”My own son. Defiling corpses,” he’d hissed after Hashirama had told him.
He could still feel the slap that had gone with those words, flaring brightly on his cheek.
It didn’t matter now. He’d done it. He’d brought a dead man back to life, ultimate sacrilege or not. It was too late now.
He looked to the man next to him. Izuna hadn’t moved at all since Tobirama had healed him.
‘Healed him,’ Tobirama thought derisively. More like torn him apart and put him back together with all the finesse of an ill-trained apprentice. Who knew if the soul still remained? Had it left with his breath as the monks preached, faded with the beat of his heart? Was there even anything left of Izuna, or a hollow shell? Was this a coma like those brought on through head wounds? Would he wake up tonight? Tomorrow? Never?
All Tobirama could do was wait.
But not here. Looking up at the night sky, quickly filling with stars with the fading light, Tobirama knew this was not the place for someone in Izuna’s weakened condition, even if he were in a coma. The rapid healing would impede his body’s natural defenses for a while, leaving him wide open to infection. As soon as Tobirama’s strength recovered, he would have to move him.
But to where? To Madara, who would surely strike him down without mercy, who would assume the worst and take Izuna before he knew for certain what had caused the man to live once more? Or should he take Izuna to Hashirama, likely already asleep, who would look at Tobirama with renewed horror as he tried desperately to explain? What if Izuna didn’t wake, or woke a mindless monster, soulless and obedient? What if he became a being without a soul or its mercy, a being of pure malice and hate that the Uchiha would wield against the Senju with prejudice? These were unlikely possibilities, but…
Tobirama honestly didn’t know what had been successful. Had it been the Edo Tensai? If so, the possibility of the latter type of waking was more probable. Reanimation. But of what kind remained uncertain.
There was a part of him, one he tried to never allow overrule his forbearance, that wanted to just wait and see. Wanted to know.
He held that part back and forced himself to think rationally beyond the opportunity that his already irrational actions had created. He should have just let Izuna die. Now that he hadn’t, he was somewhat at a loss. He supposed he could leave him here. Hope that the Uchiha found him. Hoped that they would never understand his interference in the natural passing of their kin.
But no. Izuna was his responsibility now, for better or worse. He supposed he could send word to the Uchiha, inform them of Izuna’s presence here on this godforsaken riverbank. But what if word never made them, or made it too late, or they burned the message without reading it. Izuna would die a slow death of starvation or, more likely, exposure.
And what if he was alive? What if Tobirama had been successful? With Izuna alive, and a hostage of the Senju, perhaps he could serve as the leverage Hashirama needed to bring the Uchiha to the table for a rapprochement.
It could mean the realizing of Hashirama’s dream. Could Tobirama be the cause of that twice in one day?
No. He couldn’t.
Standing on shaky legs, he approached the prone Uchiha. Grabbing one arm, Tobirama hauled Izuna bodily over his shoulder. Spreading his senses and mustering his reserves, he pinpointed the hiraishin point he’d set into the wood of his doorway back in the Senju compound. Sensing no one around it, he closed his eyes to focus. And stepped.
Ensuring that no one saw him and his burden, who even Tobirama couldn’t sense (was he dead? Were chakra pathways linked to the soul rather than the nervous system? Something else entirely? There were so many questions, none of which he had the energy to either dwell on or work out), Tobirama brought him inside and closed the door. He hauled the other man up the stairs. His house was quaint, small and plain, bought mostly out of deference when Hashirama inherited the main house. Him continuing to live there would have been inappropriate as the marriage negotiations with Uzushio were underway. So now he had a small home on the edge of the compound, with nothing but a kitchen and living space on the main floor, a bathroom and two small bedrooms above, one of which Tobirama had furnished as a matter of course, but never used.
Until now. The room was stale, but the futon, tucked and folded in the corner should still be serviceable. Leaning Izuna against the wall, he opened and laid it out, changing the dusty pillowcase with a fresh one. He then moved Izuna to lay on it, and perfunctorily covered him with a spare duvet.
The Uchiha settled, Tobirama went to work warding the room with the perimeter seals he never went anywhere without. Any shift in the occupants chakra would be unnoticed by the outside, but would alert Tobirama to such changes, as it was his chakra that fed and activated them.
That done, feeling exhaustion clawing at him, he went to his own room to rest.
The problem of what to do with Izuna would have to wait for another day. He’d pushed himself too far as it was. He was asleep before he hit the pillow.
Tobirama didn’t know how long he’d slept, but the shadows on the wall across from him implied it was late afternoon. His head felt like it was splitting, and his whole body hurt, broken in ways he couldn’t remember outside of his training sessions with his father, but he ignored it and hauled himself up regardless. Walking the four feet across the landing, he opened the door to his guest room. Izuna laid exactly where Tobirama had left him.
Crossing his aching arms, he leaned against the doorway, and contemplated what to do.
There appeared to be no change. Tobirama’s sensing showed that the other man’s chakra was dormant, save for the miniscule amount that powered his still beating heart. It looked like a dormouse’s in brightness rather than the raging inferno Izuna usually let off. But he was breathing, and his complexion, still holding its Uchiha paleness, was nonetheless much improved.
Still, he hadn’t woken. Tobirama didn’t know if that was normal or not.
He weighed his options, and decided that more information was necessary. Kneeling by Izuna, he bought his hands to the quiet chest and forced them to glow a faint, diagnostic green.
Nervous system felt normal. Neurons were flowing, blitzing along. Izuna’s wounds, both to the abdomen and the incision in his chest, were both holding their reconstructions well. There was hunger, understandable as the glucose and nutrient levels were beginning to drop after hours of no food. Nothing wrong with the musculature, organs, everything looked sound. Save for the chakra pathways. Excepting the flickering at center mass, the chakra coils laid worryingly dormant.
That, and that he wouldn’t wake.
Tobirama pulled his hands away. He did as usual and thought over the problem. He always tried to lean away from theology when engaging in scientific thought, but the monks said that chakra was tied to the soul. Not only in an actionable way, for certainly the ability to access and mould chakra required training, but that chakra was, at its core, a life force. What that meant in reality was less clear, even to Tobirama, who could rightly consider himself an expert.
So much of chakra usage was will based. There were foundational building blocks, unchanging, such as the ways chakra could be molded and manipulated through stringing together hand seals and paper ones, which eased the casting of jutsus by formatting precise amounts of chakra through already pre established patterns for a pre established result, but Tobirama had seen shinobi who should be lacking the skill or aptitude to perform high level jutsus through brute force instead.
The reality of what exactly chakra was, what it could and could not do, was a mystery that would likely prove unsolvable in Tobirama’s lifetime.
But the question of Izuna’s dormant coils remained, and seemed to be purely physiological rather than theoretical. Were chakra coils tied to the nervous system or did it function independently? Tobirama tapped Izuna’s chest, monitoring closely. The neurons sent a signal to the brain, registering the sensasion, but the chakra center didn’t react. Unlikely then that the two were linked, but Tobirama was not ready to call one test a firm result.
It was not currently relevant to reach an understanding of the intricacy of the human body when it clearly wouldn’t bring about his desired outcome: waking Izuna. He decided and moved on.
First, he examined the evidence, and what he knew. He had forced immense amounts of chakra into Izuna’s system yesterday. Was what he felt in Izuna just an echo of his own chakra that still lingered? It didn’t feel like it, burned like fire rather than crashed with the tides. But, perhaps Izuna’s system had captured and converted it with the absorption? Tobirama had never heard of anything like that but he couldn’t rule it out as a possibility.
Studying Izuna’s face, Tobirama scowled at the lack of change.
He had hoped not to confront his brother about his… captive until the other man was conscious. As it was, Hashirama would likely not react well.
How could he explain his possession of another body, halfway between living and dead? Particularly after his brother vehemence that he halt all experimentation with Edo Tensai. If only Izuna would wake, Tobirama would be in a much better position to explain.
Keeping it from his brother felt more and more disloyal with every passing second, but Hashirama’s judgement was always swift where Tobirama was concerned.
Would it be better to wait? Or would it only do more damage?
Tobirama could, as always, feel his brother. Considering how long he had spent as a presence in the back of Tobirama’s mind, it was no surprise then that Tobirama could make out his brother’s mood even at this distance.
Hashirama was no more pleased than when Tobirama had left him the day before.
Sighing, determined to set aside his brothers displeasure the way he always did, Tobirama stood. Regardless of what he decided, he could at least solve the glucose problem.
Retreating to his own room, he looked through the bag he had brought to the battle the day before and pulled out a sealing scroll. Releasing it, he withdrew an impressive first aid kit. It was more like a trunk then a small field kit, full of anything and everything he might need to set up a triage on the battlefield (as he had done in the past and been wanting for proper supplies), including an intravenous kit and stand, which he took back to his room.
Sterilizing his hands with a quick jutsu, he turned Izuna’s arm to expose the veins of his inner elbow, bright blue against the pale skin. After tying a tourniquet to help dilate the veins by adding pressure, he didn’t let himself pause as he pushed in the sterile needle. He was disheartened when Izuna still showed no movement even on the reception of pain.
Tapping down the needle to prevent it from slipping out of the vein, he raised the bag and hung it on the collapsible metal tripod stand. That should take care of both nourishing the Uchiha and providing hydration for at least the next few hours.
Vaguely, he realized that the room still felt stale. He stood and crossed to the window, and slid it open to allow in the breeze before turning back to Izuna.
Nothing. No change.
He scowled, but decided to wait.
Tomorrow, if Izuna didn’t wake, he would go to Hashirama and tell him.
The next morning, there was no change in his patient.
Apart from the urine soaking his bed and the empty IV bag.
With a sigh, frustrated at his oversight, Tobirama unhooked the IV drop from the port to
drag Izuna to his bathroom to wash off the urine and sweat.
He wondered how the medics dealt with this, because Tobirama found it impossible not to become soaked as he tried to ensure that Izuna was properly cleaned with water and soap. He took the opportunity to examine Izuna’s wounds, pleased to see that the surface skin matched the healed tissue beneath, whatever had remained of the wounds had disappeared completely.
He put Izuna into one of his own spare under-uniforms, placing what Izuna had been wearing in his laundry pile. He hadn’t noticed when healing the Uchiha that he’d been without his armor, clad in something not dissimilar to what Tobirama had on hand for him. They were even of a similar size.
Satisfied that his patient was hygienic, he took the Uchiha back to his room. He laid the man on the spare futon that Tobirama had used for the moment while he threw the soiled linen into his washing machine.
He wished suddenly that he’d had time to finish his experiments with henges that had physical mass. This would be far easier with another set of hands.
After connecting a fresh IV bag, and setting up a catheter so he didn’t have to clean up his rivals piss ever again, Tobirama stood over Izuna’s unresponsive body and scowled. Typical for the Uchiha to find a way to annoy him when he wasn’t even conscious.
Sighing, he returned to his own room and dressed for the day. He thought about wearing his armor, felt like he could use the familiarity of it, but decided against it. It wouldn’t help him with his brother regardless. He did let himself slip on his happuri. Leaving it would have left him more… exposed than necessary.
Then he felt his head turn towards the main house. There was a sudden flurry of activity, Hashirama moving from breakfast to his office rapidly, Suzaku and Mitari, two clansmen who served as his secretaries flying from the house. Suzaku was heading towards Touka’s home at a dead run, and Mitari was heading towards his own at the same break neck speed.
Something had happened. Uchiha retaliation? Had they slipped past his senses while he’d been preoccupied with Izuna?
Tobirama grabbed his sword from where it rested on the wall and met the man before he could make it to the door.
“What’s happened?” he asked.
Mitari was out of breath as he answered, “Hashirama-sama has summoned you.”
He gave no further explanation. Likely, he didn’t know anymore. It didn’t matter anyways. Tobirama’s speed was, in a word, impressive, and he reached the main house in seconds, Touka only moments behind him.
Hashirama met them at the door, still holding the message that had prompted their rushed summons. Before he could even ask, Hashirama announced, “Madara has agreed to a cease-fire. We are to meet the Uchiha contingent at dawn. Ready our shinobi!”
Touka nodded. “Right away, Hashirama-sama.”
“Tobirama,” said his brother before Tobirama could go to prepare himself. “You will do nothing that will jeopardize this peace, am I understood?”
Tobirama met his brother’s eyes, saw the anger there that he could feel in his brother’s emotions and nodded.
“Madara will not lightly forgive you for injuring Izuna. Don’t push him. Understood?”
Tobirama nodded once more, feeling cold.
Tobirama body-flickered back to his home.
It took almost no time to dress once more for war.
As he left, he spared a moment to think on his patient and hesitated. What should he do about Izuna?
In their final fight, it was Izuna who had stopped Madara from accepting peace between the Senju and the Uchiha. Tobirama had seen how close Madara had come to stepping forward, to accepting his Anija’s offer for a cessation of all violence. Izuna was unable to look beyond the dead on the battlefield for a future of peace.
And Madara had listened to him.
So, he should kill the Uchiha and have done with it. If Izuna stood between the Senju and the Uchiha coming to peace, then he should be removed.
But wasn’t he removed as he was, lying comatose in Tobirama’s bed?
As a shinobi, there was little that Tobirama would not do for the sake of a mission. He’d killed hundreds both on the battlefield and off it, but this was different. The thought of slaying Izuna while the man was defenseless in his own bed churned uneasily in Tobirama’s gut. Especially after he’d gone to such lengths to keep the Uchiha alive.
Still, there was a risk of keeping him on Senju lands. If Madara caught wind of it, he would undoubtedly lay siege to the Senju compound in order to get him back.
And that would be the end of any chance of peace.
In some ways, Hashirama was right. The war with the Uchiha had been… halfhearted, at least where the clan head was concerned. Tobirama had never seen Madara’s true strength, doubted anyone ever had. If he brought his full strength down on them…
They would meet him in the field. They had no choice.
Tobirama would have to decide what to do with Izuna later.
Later, he had Madara under his sword. Thought about the brother lying in his home, about the brothers he’d buried and realized that this was it. They could end it here.
But Hashirama would not have it so, would rather sacrifice his own life than see Madara dead, then see their family safe.
Tobirama didn’t understand, couldn’t, but then, he hadn’t been born and raised to understand. Not the decisions of his father, decisions that had killed his little brothers, put them both in the ground. Not the decisions of his brother. It wasn’t his place to question the will of his elder brother, who would rather bend to an enemy’s demand than Tobirama’s logic. No. His place was to question once, advise, and then obey.
He knew his duty. Especially as his brother proved wise. The Uchiha were defecting, surrendering. Even if Madara went back on his word, without Izuna, they would not long be able to resist. Peace was finally achieved, although clearly not in the way his Anija had wanted. Even if they had months of peace talks ahead of them, treaties to be written and signed, a hundred years worth of dead to bury with paperwork and promises to forgive and forget, to leave vengeance to the dead, even with all of that still sounding both inevitable and impossible, Hashirama, it was clear now, would drag peace down from the stars themselves if need be.
Even if it cost them all. Dearly. It was a risk Hashirama was willing to take, and so the Senju were bound to follow.
To their death if need be.
But what of Izuna?
Uchiha Izuna, who had never, would never, under any circumstances, agree to peace. What should Tobirama do with him?
Hours later, as stood over Izuna Uchiha’s silent, unsuspecting body with a kunai in hand, he clearly saw the path before him. He should just kill the other man.
Tobirama remembered the last word he had heard Izuna say, begging his brother to never trust the Senju. So soon after the younger man, Tobirama’s equal, was removed from the equation, peace had been achieved. Was he the obstacle between Madara’s dream, ever wary of their enemy as Tobirama had so often been the staying hand for Hashirama? Was Izuna responsible for dragging out the war through the years after Madara’s accession as clan head?
Would the Uchiha Clan change their minds again if he was returned to them, become as intransigent as before?
If so, could he, Tobirama, fist of the Senju, in good conscious let him live?
More, if Izuna survived, and the war restarted as a result of his survival, any subsequent Senju deaths were on Tobirama’s hands. Could he live with himself in that case?
It was the same question that drove him into Izuna’s path time and time again on the battlefield. This knowledge that if he didn’t stand between Izuna and his clan that those who died did so because of Tobirama’s inaction, had forced him to the battlefield injured and exhausted more times than he could count. It was a necessary evil of being the rival of an otherwise peerless shinobi.
To that end, he could not regret striking Izuna down on that battlefield the moment the opportunity had presented itself.
He had been right to strike him down. Hashirama’s ire regardless. Tobirama could live with it, could do what was necessary. His brother already forever found fault in him, in his ruthlessness. Surely if there was ever a time to live up to that reputation, it was now.
But staring at the man, helpless and prone in his bed, Tobirama couldn’t do it.
They were shinobi. They were not samurai or civilians with the luxury of honor. Shinobi did what was required. They killed without question.
Why was he hesitating? The weapon was in his hand. It would take no more effort to kill his defenseless foe than breathing. It was necessary. Logic demanded it.
Because defenseless or not, Izuna was dangerous. His very survival was dangerous. Tobirama should have let him die. Should just kill him. No one would ever know the difference.
But he couldn’t do it.
He had laid his hands on this man, healed him, brought him into his home. Tobirama might be a shinobi, but he had never thought himself a bad person. Surely Hashirama, so blindingly good he was an unreachable idea for most of them, looked at Tobirama and found him morally lacking. Maybe he even had good reason for it, but Tobirama had held onto his identity as an honorable man. His honor was his own to look after. It was what drove him to protect his family, his stuipd self-sacrificing idiot of a brother. He did what was necessary.
But could he be a murderer?
And this would be murder. Plain and simple. Killing a guest in his home, one he had fed and cared for...
He couldn’t do it.
He wanted to scream in frustration. His hand squeezed the kunai’s handle so hard he thought it would bend. He flung the weapon away in fury. It buried itself to the hilt in the door frame with a loud thunk. Taking a deep breath, he stormed out of the room.
Down the stairs of his small, empty house, through the barren kitchen, into his living room.
In the corner was the shrine he had set up for Kawarama and Itama. The incense he had lit that morning had burned down entirely, leaving to ashen, half crumbled remains, hollowed sticks just tall enough to seem like shadowed cracks across the picture behind them. Pictures of his brothers.
He remembered once, just after Kawarama died, Itama asked him about vengeance. If the living had a duty to the dead to kill for them and bring them peace, but Tobirama was always a philosopher, ancient wise men and emperors guided his steps. Reality was perception. Death was the lack of perception. The dead did not care one way or another.
They were dead.
Still, as Tobirama knelt before their shrine, and picked up the picture on it, he wondered if he was betraying them as well.
And then a different thought struck him.
From the moment he had saved Izuna, he had intended to tell Hashirama everything, but…
Resurrection had been a failure as long as he could remember. He had tried, but…
What if Izuna could hold the key?
If Tobirama had actually succeeded, had brought him back from the brink, then perhaps whatever success had caused that was the key to future, more vital successes? He was no good to Tobirama now, comatose as he was, but later, if he could wake him, could he convince (or perhaps, more likely, force) Izuna to tell him what he had seen? Tell him what he had perceived? What had worked?
It could be the break Tobirama had waited for for years. He looked at the faces in the picture in his hand. It could mean bringing them-
… It could be worth it. Just to see them again. Just for a moment.
Hashirama would stop him. Tobirama should stop himself, but what if this was his only chance?
He put the picture back on the shrine and went back upstairs.