Tobirama wakes up and immediately realizes - this is wrong. He remembers Edo Tensei being released and knows, he should be dead, or maybe in the Pure lands with his siblings, but no. He can feel the wind, smell it and can tell, that this was, without a question, the Land of Fire, can feel the dirt under him and knows that something unexpected happened. He opens his eyes and does a double-take. Then he sees red and tries to suppress the urge to hit something. His new orange appendages behind him don’t get the memo, and people in the vicinity of the chaos are running, because the Nine-Tailed Fox obliviously didn’t have a good morning.
Getting used to the new structure of his body is… difficult. He could get used to the four paws, unlimited chakra, and senses that can reach to the end of the wind country, but the tails behind him are just too much for him. Not to mention his new height, his body leveling down the forest as if it was nothing, and drying the lake that one time he decided to jump into it.
But he wouldn’t let that stop him. He was the second hokage, made numerous forbidden jutsus, and fought against monsters which almost noone could even imagine. He could do this!
He ignored the cold all around him.
And as if the situation wasn’t ridiculous enough, shortly after that, Tobirama also found out he was back to the warring clans era. What was even worse was that he realized it only thanks to his younger brother’s chakra, still fresh enough in his memory from the day he saw him die, running from unknown chakra signatures at his full speed, and Tobirama’s heart almost stopped when he realized what was happening. Child hunters.
Before his eyes, he could see his sweet, younger brother, smiling at him and made his decision without thinking. He growled, loudly, and broke into a run.
He could sense the exact moment when the child hunters realized that the huge chakra source was aiming right at them, but by then, it was too late, and with one swing of his tail, five adult humans were thrown to the opposite direction from the boy with two-toned hair leaning against a rock. Itama looked him with horror in his eyes and Tobirama wanted to cry because this was his brother, a child he raised and the one their father send out on the suicide mission, only for Tobirama to lover his dead body into the ground, and he was alive and breathing, and-
Tobirama stoped. Itama didn’t know him, and that wasn’t going to change just like that. He felt cold. His brother, who didn’t know him, stilled even more, as the demon fox’s face turned blank, and then, the fox was talking to him.
“And you are?” Itama was surprised. He remembered stories talking about the demon fox, who would eat anyone who got even close to their territory, but to him, the fox almost sounded… kind? He still didn’t dare to hope he would be getting away alive.
“I-Itama.” he choked out and could almost see the lines on the fox’s face getting deeper. Did he say something wrong?! Was the demon gonna eat him now!?
“Clan?” the fox said, calm, like a sea before the storm, and Itama gulped.
“Senju.” his voice was trembling, he knew but could do nothing, as the big, red eyes looked right through him. Then, to his surprise, the fox nodded, looked away and turned back to the direction it came from.
“Noone else is coming. Hurry home, your family must be worried.” and the fox ran away. Itama slid down the rock he was leaning on, and let out a breath of relief. The demon didn’t eat him. For now, at least, he was safe.
Hashirama cried when he returned and hugged him for hours, as expected. He was his last brother after all.
His father and elders demanded an explanation because they saw him being followed by an Uchihas, adults, and way more experienced than him, but here he was, almost unharmed. Their faces were white by the end of his report, and one of them even fainted.
“He’s cursed! How else could he attract the Nine-Tailed Fox and get away without a single scratch?!” one of them yelled as Hashirama pulled Itama behind him as if to shield him. Itama hugged him from behind and refused to listen to the argument.
In the end, he was pulled from the missions, battlefields, and was placed into the care of the priests of the clan they had peace with, into the shrine, far away from anybody. To his surprise, their welcome was warm.
“The Nine-Tailed Fox, before he was a demon, was said to be a holy spirit, a protector of those pure and helpless, in need of protection. Maybe this is a sign, a sign that the things are changing for better in this world,” they told him, and as much as he hated being called helpless and pure, Itama couldn’t help but hope they were right.
Soon enough, Senju clan couldn’t help but agree with the priests, as more and more people were pulled from the battlefield, saved from their deaths by none other but the demon they were so scared of. But the mercy from the fox was only granted to the children, never to the adults. Itama thought it made sense. There was nobody more pure and helpless than children in the war, after all.
Tobirama was learning more and more about his new body every day, but the day he learned Kyuubi could shape-shift was probably the best one yet. It should have been oblivious, he realized later, because Kyuubi, as much as he was a demon, was also a Kitsune. And Kitsune were known for shape-shifting, mostly for seducing men and women, but still. The ability to create clothing was also a plus, but even then, the coldness seeping through him never stopped.
With some apprehension, he also had to admit he wasn’t able to shape-shift completely. Maybe it was because of the demon chakra, or maybe just because there was so much chakra, or even just because his body was literally a chakra generator, but no matter what, his human body still retained at least some fox features, and he could never get rid of the nine appendages growing from his back. Sometimes it was ears, sometimes patches of fur on his neck, or maybe a way too sharp teeth and claws.
Still, it was better than he expected and with that, he was satisfied.
For a long time, Tobirama didn’t even think about the other clans, but even that changed suddenly. Too suddenly for his liking.
It was only a few months after saving Itama when he came face to face with another familiar face, one that almost shocked him even more, because he was sure that Izuma Uchiha was supposed to die by Tobirama’s own hand. But now, as the boy was bleeding on the ground in front of him, taking in shallow breaths as he was trying to stay conscious and his wide eyes looking, unfocused, at the giant fox in front of him, he wasn’t so sure anymore.
He tried to feel around for Uchiha chakra signatures, but as soon as realized he came out empty, he sighed and tried to ignore the shiver of the body in front of him. Tobirama shivered with him.
He really tried, he told himself a moment later as his body started to shape-shift, and Tobirama took the wide-eyed boy he killed in the past, into his arms and started to heal him. He could never thank the pink-haired girl, who showed him the basics of healing even in the middle of the war, enough.
After doing as much as he could, he realized that Izuna already fainted, and somewhere inside his stomach, he felt relieved. As much as he hated to say this, it was partially his fault that Madara went crazy, because Izuna, Madara’s last life-line to sanity was cut off by him, and he wasn’t going to be responsible for it again.
With another sigh, because what else was he supposed to do with those Uchihas, he took Izuna into his arms and carried him away, leaving behind enough evidence that anyone with any basic ninja training, would be able to follow.
Izuna woke up in the middle of a cave, confused. He remembered the fight with a Hyuuga clan, him against the three adults, remembers getting hit, and then stabbed, as those bastards left him to bleed out on the forest floor. Remembers feeling helpless as he tried to move, but his body wouldn’t listen, remembers trying to call out, but his mouth didn’t move- and then the Kyuubi was there, and he could see those red eyes looking at him through the lashes. And then a person with the same eyes leaning over him, as the green glow on the person’s hands made his wound less and less painful.
He shot up into a sitting position when he finally realized what was going on, the blanket he was tucked in, falling down to his lap. The Nine-Tailed Fox saved his life. The demon everyone was so afraid of, who could take down mountains on his good days, healed his wounds and probably took him into the cave to shield him.
“Drink.” someone said to him, no, ordered him, he would never mistake that tone of voice, from his right and Izuna’s head turned so quickly he thought he would break his neck.
The first things he registered were the blood-red eyes and markings of the same color, on their almost snow-white face. Then the long, white hair, and a dark kimono. And then the tails wawing behind the person (was it a man? Izuna wasn’t sure), and the cup of something too dark to be water, in the hands with, too sharp to be human, nails.
Izuna gulped, loudly, and the person, demon, in front of him, raised an eyebrow.
“You’ve lost too much blood to be moving around. Drink, or I’ll force it down your throat myself,” they said and forcibly shoved the cup into his hands. Izuna followed the cup with his eyes and his head started spinning. It almost looked like blood, he realized and forced himself to remain still, despite the urge to throw the cup somewhere far away, and next to him, he could hear a quick, quiet chuckle. He froze again. Could demons read minds?! He wasn’t sure, never paid the priestess too much attention when explaining, because how could he know that the demon wouldn’t just eat him like they always did to everyone?!
“It’s tea.” was added, and Izuna blinked and turned to look at the demon, only to find the blood-red iris’ with a slit pupil’s looking straight at him. He felt his body turning cold and downed the cup in front of him, trying to look at anything other than a kitsune next to him.
The liquid didn’t taste like tea, he realized seconds later, but didn’t dare to spit it out. The taste was sweet, too sweet, but he could taste a hint of iron underneath, and Izuna silently prayed it really wasn’t blood.
“It wasn’t.” the demon said and Izuna almost hit himself from the shock. He said it out loud?! Or did they really read minds?! Oh god, he was so dead!
“Don’t worry, it won’t kill you. It’s to replenish your blood quicker,” they said, and Izuna took it as a victory because the demon l didn’t eat him yet, and desperately tried to search for any informations on demons in his head. Everything he remembered from the priestess was that demons would just eat anyone, unless they were shown a good reason to let them live, but that just didn’t make sense! How could Izuna show the demon anything, he was dying on the ground when the demon decided to help!
Then he recalled some of the reports on his father’s desk, and his thinking stopped completely. Because wasn’t the Nine-Tailed Fox the one saving all the Senjus?! Uchiha’s were literally the opposite, they looked different, their chakras were different and Izuna could bet that they even smelled different, so what. the. hell?!
“Not Senjus, just the children.” said the demon, as if it explained everything. And maybe it did, in their own head. What should Izuna know, he wasn’t a centuries-old chakra demon!
The wind outside the cave was howling and Izuna shivered. The sun was already setting and in the part of his mind, he knew that Madara would be worried sick, but didn’t dwell on it too much, because it was his brother, and if demons really could read minds, he would rather the demon just eat him and leave his brother out of it. Another, particularly strong, gust of wind could be heard outside, and Izuna shivered again, as he realized that his clothes were ripped, his armor probably stollen by Hyuugas, and the pieces that were barely worth anything. The only thing that was actually protecting him from the cold, was the blanked in his lap. He wrapped it around himself again, as much as he could, and beside him, the demon sighed once again.
“You Uchihas are just too much,” the kitsune muttered under his breath and Izuna was quite sure he wasn’t supposed to hear it, before his sharp inhale filled the air, as Kyuubi’s hands settled on his hips, and pulled him closer, until Izuna was seated right on the demon’s thighs, one of their arms around his back, holding him close to their chest, and the other hiding his bare feet under their kimono sleeve. And suddenly, all Izuna could feel was overwhelming warmth.
“Sleep.” they voice in his ear said, and soon, Izuna knew no more.
In the morning, Izuna woke up to his brother’s distressed calls, and arms, barely bigger than his own around him, in the almost empty cave. The only evidence of the demon was the blanket around his shoulders with patches of orange fur.
Their elders were livid and excited at the same time.
Livid at Hyuugas, because they were allies until now, and good allies at that.
And excited, because somehow, from his tale about the Nine-Tailed Fox, the elders somehow decided he was the child blessed by their goddess, and the demon took him as his own. Somehow.
Both Izuna and Madara didn’t share their excitement in the slightest.
“Like hell is some demon going to take you away. I will protect you from it.” said his older brother after dinner that day, looking with a thoughtful expression at the kitchen knife. Their father just shook his head, and Izuna wondered how could he explain to his brother that the fox was probably too strong even for him.
Tobirama really wanted to curse himself out, right about now. With his sensory abilities and the memories from his first life, he, of course, knew about Hashirama and Madara’s meeting spot by the river, but even he couldn’t predict the exact day when the clan heads finally decided that it was enough.
He remembered the day when he, Hashirama and their father faced of against the Uchihas, yes, but with so many things to take care of in such a short time, he might have forgotten that that day was just so close.
And that was how Tobirama ended up staring at his past family and Uchiha trio from the tree near the river, trying to think of the plan. It would be best if he could stop his brother’s falling out with Madara completely, but he didn’t have much faith in that. Maybe soften the blow a bit? Would that help? Could he somehow push them on the right path? Probably not, but he had to try at least something.
Someone yelled something and suddenly, Tobirama got a great idea. Well, maybe not great, but passable at least. And so, he jumped down from his tree and with his best stoic face, let his demonic chakra wash through the riverbank. Six heads turned to him as one, all of them almost as pale as his own, and Tobirama prepared himself for his performance as a demonic fox, as his face twisted to form an ugly grin. And yes, he was practicing it daily.
“You’ve interrupted my nap,” he said simply, ice leaking from his voice as cold as he felt, and almost laughed when the last color in his late father’s face drained away. Almost, because as much as he hated his father, laughing would probably make his siblings worry even more, not to mention Izuna who looked like he would faint into his brother’s arms any second.
“We- I-” started the oldest Uchiha and for the life of him, Tobirama just couldn’t remember his name. He shook his head and held out one hand as a sign to be quiet and the Uchiha shut up in a second. His grin still in its place, he stepped closer to the two clans, and his eyes searched through the still forms of the two adults. They were shaking, he realized with a somewhat sick fascination, he was sure he didn’t have in his last life, as his eyes started shining madly, and his tails started twitching behind him, leaking a blood-red chakra into the air.
“I wonder… what did you intend to do to those children? And in my territory, no less?” and with that, he really started to worry about Izuna and Itama, because Itama looked like he was close to turning around and running away, but his legs were frozen in place, and Izuna took two steps back, white as a paper, and would probably fall into the river, if Madara didn’t hold him in place.
To their credit, Madara and Hashirama looked like their siblings were the only thing that actually mattered in this encounter and were only as white as their parents. Tobirama didn’t know if he should be proud of his older brother or be disappointed in his own performance.
“We are very sorry, Kyuubi-sama! We didn’t know this was your-!” with a vave of his hand, Hashirama stopped talking as well, but, yup, Tobirama was definitely proud of his brother, the first one to actually open his mouth to give a proper explanation, but couldn’t help but feel disappointed as well. He didn’t really know what happened to his human form in this world, but he could guess nothing good, if he was born at all, that is. He remembered teaching Hashirama how to talk with important people quite early in his life, and okay, maybe demons didn’t really fall under that category, but he was sure if his human self was alive, he wouldn’t let Hashirama talk to anyone like that. And that would also explain why Itama was there instead of him.
“You and your friends are welcome to stay, but I won’t tolerate anyone, and especially adults fighting for their own selfishness, causing harm to children in my presence. You two, leave. You are not welcome here, and neither are the remnants of your clans.” with Tobirama’s gaze upon then, the two adults had no other choice than to turn around and flee, leaving behind the four shaken children. Four pairs of eyes were still focused on him, when the grin left his face and instead, he tried to show them a kind smile. Unfortunately, he was never really good with facial expressions and stopped right after he realized it wouldn’t work. And so, he just sighed and turned around, walking to the tree he jumped from and laid under its shadow, so the four children could see him even from afar, losing his eyes.
For a long time, nobody moved, and Tobirama might have been a bit disappointed because as much as he was a demon fox, he still never did anything to those children, and they should know that if he wanted them dead, the would have been dead.
After another moment of tense silence, Tobirama almost rolled his eyes, because Hashirama really didn’t know how to move without making a sound, did he? He refused to look at his past family, but with his senses, he could feel Hashirama comming closer to the Uchiha’s side of the river, Itama slowly following behind like a puppy, but his eyes never leaving Tobirama’s form.
Soon enough, there were whispers, and Tobirama couldn’t help a small smile that appeared on his face. The warmth spread through him and he really wanted to thank heavens that Hashirama was so goddamn stubborn in trying to make peace, and that Madara was actually a decent kid and was able to listen to his brother’s rambling. And it looked like even Itama and Izuna would get along quite nicely, which was a plus since he didn’t have much hope for their new village with just those two idiots.
Tobirama could still sense them shotting him worried glances every few seconds, but somehow they decided on a time to meet again, in the same place, since their families were actually kind of banned from here by an actual demon. A warmth spread through his chest when he sensed even Izuna nodding along, because maybe this time, even he could long for peace with his brother.
With their goodbyes, the four of them turned back and went to their actual families, while Tobirama refused to move for another hour. All of a sudden, he felt cold again.
Senjus and Uchihas were, understandably, mad, but as it goes, they couldn’t do anything about it. Well, they could, but if the clan heirs were invited to the river by the Fox demon themselves, no one was willing to try angering the demon by refusing to let them go.
As such, Madara, Izuna, Hashirama and Itama were never stopped when leaving for their meeting spot, and under the watch of the almost always sleeping demon, their dreams of peace grew.
That night, Tobirama dreamt about the tailed beasts, about the past he didn’t live through, about his siblings, who weren’t his siblings, but somewhere deep inside, he knew they were. And then he dreamt about an old man, who he called father, and-
He woke up.
The next night, the dreams continued, and Tobirama remembered.
He was still so cold.
It took Izuna almost full two months to even take a few steps to the demon’s direction, and that was the time when Madara decided he had had enough. Because both of them knew that the demon was responsible for saving Izuna’s life and being an Uchiha, they knew that letting a demon get away with a life debt, was just plain stupid.
As such, Madara refused to see that helpless expression on his brother’s face any longer, and with a new wave of determination and stupidity, he walked right up to the demon, despite his brother’s wide-eyed expression, and Hashirama’s surprised yells.
Of course, his confidence shattered as soon as the demon’s red iris’ focused on his face, and he forced his body to remain still while trying to hold eye contact. He could see it in their face, they knew exactly what Madara was feeling, but outwardly, Madara refused to show weakness.
“What do you want from us?” he asked, not letting his voice shake, and from somewhere behind him, he could hear someone whine. He was quite sure it was Izuna. The demon raised an eyebrow and Madara couldn’t help a shiver.
“You saved Izuna, right? What do you want for it?” the demon in front of him chuckled and Madara felt as if it froze him in place. It wasn’t bad, the opposite actually, he could see that the demon was amused, but even with that, every nerve in his body was screaming at him to run, run far away, because this was a predator, and Madara was nothing more than his pray.
“What gave you the idea I want something for saving your brother? Your human customs don’t matter to me in the slightest, so I wouldn’t know if something like that is supposed to be paid back.” and that made Madara pause. Because it was right. Why would the demon do something according to human traditions? Or logic for that matter? Demons had to have their own set of rules, right? And then he remembered the elder’s words and his eyes narrowed.
“I won’t let you have Izuna.” he said resolutely, and the demon raised their eyebrow once more.
“ ‘Have ’ him? Where did you get that idea?” to his surprise, the demon’s voice was actually serious.
“The elders said it. That you saving him means he is yours now. Or something like that.” the demon’s eyes narrowed as well, and Madara felt chills running down his back. And then the demon snorted.
“What stupidity. If I took him as mine, you can bet you wouldn’t find him again. No, I saved your brother for the same reason I saved hundreds of others. This is a stupid battle, started from two siblings manipulated by someone else, and taken too far by their descendants. And now, it’s nothing more than a meaningless war used to satisfy those who want power and don’t care for losses,” by then, the demon was growling, but to his own surprise, Madara wasn’t scared, he knew that the rage in their voice wasn’t meant for him. But the demon wasn’t done.
“A dream of peace and village… you aren’t the first ones to have it, but you are the first ones to believe you can achieve it. And I want to believe in it too, in the world where people understand each other and don’t care for clans or bloodlines. Because first and foremost, you are people, and there is nothing more to it.”
Madara didn’t know if he wanted to cry or laugh. The first person other than his best friend to even think about peace as reality was a demon. A demon so powerful even adults have nightmares from him, actually wanted peace more than anyone. And if that wasn’t messed up, Madara wasn’t sure what it was.
And suddenly, he fell into something soft, and with a bit of horror, he realized that the demons tails has caught him, because Madara didn’t even realize he was falling before he was safely settled next to the nine-tailed fox.
“One day, I want to see it again. World of peace, where I and people dear to me can live without the fear of being a pray. If you truly want to pay me back for saving your brother, you can show it to me, someday.” and to Madara’s surprise, the fox smiled at him. It was warm, like a sun on a summer day, but refreshing, just like rain after a long day of training.
And for the first time in a long time, his heart started beating just a little quicker.
Tobirama couldn’t help himself but blink at the child in front of him. It wasn’t even a month after none of them dared to step close to him, and even Tobirama could say that any normal human being would never get over their fear of demons so soon. But Madara, as he should have known, was anything but normal.
“What.” he said with a voice devoided of any emotion, but Madara obviously didn’t get the hint.
“Train us! You want to see peace one day, right? I will show you peace, but we have to be strong for that! And you are, like, the strongest person there is! So, train us!” Madara, as a proper Uchiha, ignored the looks of his friends and brother behind his back, and just continued to stare at the fox demon in front of him. Tobirama sighed. Was this a punishment for something?
“I’m strong because I’m a literal chakra generator, not because I know how to fight. You should find a human teacher for that.” well, Tobirama definitely wasn’t going to tell them that he actually is, kind of, human.
“Then teach us how to use chakra!” and yes, right about now, Tobirama was sure this was some kind of punishment from heavens. From his life as Tobirama Senju, or maybe from this one, he didn’t have a clue, but this was definitely a punishment for something he has done. If he had to guess, inventing Edo Tensei could have done it.
He exhaled. Inhaled. Exhaled.
This was fine, he told himself and sighed again.
“Just this once,” he said, as the unfamiliar warmth spread through his body.
It wasn’t just a one-time thing, not by a long shot.
And in the meantime, Tobirama tried to contact his, less than human siblings. He wasn’t too surprised that none of them answered. It was he who started to ignore them in the first place, after all.
He would be happy if they answered by the next decade
Tobirama told himself that he wouldn’t have anything to do with the home lives of the children he was training. And that was precisely why he definitely wouldn’t turn around and run for the head of the Senju clan’s head.
He wouldn’t, he told himself again, as he continued healing Itama’s red cheek and purple eye, while Hashirama was destroying parts of the forest in the background, and Madara and Izuna were fuming from anger.
“How dare he?!” growled Izuna, as another tree went down in flames. He looked so livid, Tobirama almost thought he would activate his Mangekyo just from that, and wouldn’t that be impressive. Madara’s eye was twitching, as he held his brother, to make sure he wouldn’t run to the middle of the Senju clan just to take revenge for his best friend. Tobirama wouldn’t blame him.
But that wasn’t what would happen, he knew. He remembered a familiar situation in his previous life, remembered himself getting beaten bloody by their own father, remembers Hashirama losing control and destroying forest all around him, and then he remembers-
“I’ll kill him.” it came so suddenly that even Tobirama couldn’t stop himself but look at Hashirama, shaking from anger. He didn’t doubt his words. He knew it would happen. It already happened once, after all.
Cold seeped through his clothing right to his bones.
Butsuma Senju’s body was found in the middle of the forest. Or at least, what remained from it. Some said it was Hatake clan and their wolfs, some Inuzuka’s with their dogs. The clans that knew wild animals in the forest like the back of their hand told them it was neither. Because they knew, nobody who hurt a fox kit would get away unharmed.
The day Tajima Uchiha died, Tobirama spent his day with Madara and Izuna, now 17 and 15 years old, trying to calm them down. He didn’t know their father, meet him maybe once or twice in his previous life, but from what the boys in his arms told him, he wasn’t a bad father. Strict, yes, but never a bad one. Never once did he raised a hand on neither of them and generally tried to make the best out of a bad situation. He even tried to start a peace talk with Hashirama, all because his sons told him to!
And he was poisoned. All of them knew someone from the Uchiha clan was against peace and was taking it to their own hands.
Izuna suspected elders, and Madara suspected… everyone.
Neither of them was completely wrong, and Tobirama felt cold again.
He hated Mangekyo long before the Edo Tensai was used on him for the first time, and now, with memories of a millennia-old Bijuu, it was hard not to flinch every time Tobirama thought he saw the black and red pattern in one of the Uchiha eyes.
He knew Madara and Izuna had it, how could they not, after stopping the rebellion in their clan, and killing so many, and knew they would never use it on him, but his natural reflexes told him to run as far as he could anytime he was near them.
All four of them noticed sooner than Tobirama would have liked, saw Izuna switching off his Sharingan anytime he was near them, and Madara always standing with his back facing Tobirama when he spared with Hashirama, just to make sure he wouldn’t see it.
And for some time, it was all right, and everyone tried to ignore the air of wrong , but they knew someone would cave in eventually. To nobody’s surprise, it was Madara.
He knew Madara was clever and cunning, but even he couldn’t stop the fox demon when he tried to run the first few times, but on the sixth try, he finally succeeded.
It was a sunny day. and Tobirama really didn’t want to have this conversation, but the only things that would make Madara let him go would probably harm the 18 years old more than Tobirama was willing to. So, he let himself be dragged by his hand to the grass under his favorite tree and hopes Madara would just let it go. Then he weakly chuckles.
This was Madara. Of course he wouldn’t let it be.
“Will you explain, or should I guess?” and for better or worse, Tobirama chooses to play dumb.
“Explain? Explain what?” Madara frowns at him before the red of the Sharingan takes over his eyes, and Tobirama tries to suppress the flinch. He doesn’t quite manage it in time, and Madara’s eyes are already back to their usual black.
“That. Explain it.”
And Tobirama doesn’t want to, because that is a weakness, weakness that could get him to lose it, to go crazy and be used and-
And then he is being hugged and everything around him is so warm. He chokes on the tears he didn’t know were there, and in a choked voice, he tells him, because Madara is there, and is willing to listen to him, just like he always was. He knows he doesn’t deserve it, this warmth, but he is selfish enough to bask in it just a little bit longer.
He tells him about his siblings, Sage, and his sons, and about the evolved Sharingan, capable of controlling even a bijuu, and Mangekyo, first awakened by Indra and carrying the curse of blindness ever since.
Madara is silent for a long time.
“Why now? Me and Izuna had a fully evolved Sharingan even before, and you were alright, so why is Mangekyo the problem?” and when Tobirama pulls back from Madara’s arms and looks back into his eyes, they are still black, and for that, he is thankful.
And still, Tobirama can’t tell him about how the barely adult man in front of him almost destroyed the world thanks to those eyes. Can’t tell him that the end of the world was almost their fault, because, as much as it was Madara who went crazy, it was Tobirama who pushed him over the edge.
“...because of my own fault, the world was almost destroyed with the same eyes. It seems I never got quite over it.” then, a weak laugh escapes him, and he freezes. Because that’s just it. It was his fault, but nobody ever told him, blamed him, but deep inside, he knew it. Only Madara, already crazy from grief, and himself never let him forget it.
The warmth around him is back, stronger than before, and even though Tobirama is now a Bijuu, a chakra beast, unable to feel hunger and rarely ever feel pain, he wonders if he ever felt safer.
“It won’t happen again, Kyuubi. It will be different this time.” and that feels wrong, Tobirama knows, and his tails twitch. Because that isn’t right. It isn’t him. His mouth move on its own, and he doesn’t even try to stop them.
“...Tobira… Tobira is my name. Tobira Otsutsuki.” he sais and Madara pulls him even closer.
“It will be alright, Tobira.” and Tobirama smiles, because, yes, this is the name sage of the six paths gave him. It isn’t it, it’s not everything he ever was, but it’s close. It’s as close as he could ever be to being himself.
This time, even when Madara lets him go, the warmth around him doesn’t fade.
“What happened?” asks a voice in their shared mindscape, and Tobirama turns around to look at one of his brothers.
“What do you mean?” he asks back and isn’t in the least surprised that it was Saiken who talked to him first.
“You seem better. Happier. You were so closed off for a long time.” the six-tailed sais with a sad voice and Tobirama tries to smile at him.
“Yes, I’m sorry. It must have been hard after I left, and I-” he took a deep breath and tried to find the right words, “I regret it, not being with you all when you needed me, when it wasn’t only me who needed closure. But I was selfish, I still am, and I understand if you don’t want to see me ever again, but-... I just needed to apologize, to you and to the others as well.”
Saiken doesn’t say anything for a long time, and Tobirama doesn’t even try to defend himself from whatever will his brother throw at him, because he knows he deserves it. He was the first one to start ignoring them after the Sage died, and only now, after being human, he realizes how it, he, must have hurt them.
The silence stretches and Tobirama is prepared to be thrown out from the mind space, only for Saiken to subvert all his expectations, when a hand lands on his head in what seems to be a chop. It hurts, but Tobirama knows that even Saiken is stronger than this.
“That’s what humans do, right? I saw them do it once when one of the small ones did something stupid.” he sais and Tobirama can tell he is smiling, “You are the oldest, but that doesn’t mean you are the smartest as well. Next time something bad happens, let me help, alright?”
By the time he realizes what is happening, the tears are halfway down his face and he can’t do more then, in the chocked voice answer a simple: “Yes.”
Peace talks between Uchihas and Senjus didn’t take more than three months, because most of the things were already decided by Madara and Hashirama beforehand. The biggest problem so far was Izuna, and his demands for Uchiha shopping district (From Uchiha, by Uchiha, For Uchiha(TM)), and even that was promptly solved by Itama.
Actually building the village takes about a year, and even that is only thanks to Hashirama and his Mokuton.
And then comes the moving in part, and Tobirama doesn’t know what to think when he is dragged by Izuna and Madara to their new house. Somehow, the thought of living in the village never even crossed his mind until then, and by the time he decides that, yes, this is where he wants to be, he is already seated next to Madara and Hashirama, while Itama is trying to save Izuna’s horrible cooking accident.
People come and go from their house, congratulating them, thanking them and even though most of them try not to stare at Tobirama and just bow to him, Tobirama doesn’t feel… it’s not so bad, he decides for himself and smiles at the small girl staring at him. She smiles right back and even waves at him.
The problem is, it’s not good either. He knows he wants to be there, beside his brother and his friends, but… something is missing Something is wrong, he forgot about something. He doesn’t know what, nor why, but somewhere deep inside his stomach, there is a rock weighing him down, a feeling he just can’t get rid of.
Soon after, he excuses himself and leaves. From his human life, he knows he stayed just long enough, not to be considered rude, and hopes nobody will notice, as he climbs a steep cliff. Someday, there will be Hokage faces, first, already decided Hashirama, then, maybe Madara, Izuna or even Itama, and at least that makes Tobirama smile.
They will be alright, he knows, they are adults already, after all. Even Itama is 18 this year, and Madara and Hashirama are both over 21…
That is where it hits him, on top of future Hokage monument, and he feels like crying.
They are aging. They are aging, while he is the same as the day he first met them. Soon, Hashirama will mary Mito, and they will have children, they will get older and older and in the end, they will die, leave him by himself again, and Tobirama knows himself well enough to know that losing more people he cares about, will break him.
He collapses on the ground and doesn’t even feel it as all the warmth leaves him and is replaced by the freezing cold, his eyes looking at the barely visible moon in the sky, and whispers: “Why me?”
Madara has no idea what to do anymore. It’s been three days since anyone saw Tobira, and Madara is slowly but surely, losing it.
He looked everywhere in the village, Hashirama searched everywhere he could reach with his mokuton, Izuna even asked one of the Inuzukas to help, and yet, nothing. He isn’t sure what Itama is doing but by the black circles under his eyes, even he is having a hard time.
What was even worse, was that even him, a sensor, couldn’t find him which meant one of two things. Either, Tobira was already so far away from his reach that he couldn’t find him, and that would be quite hard to do it two days with a giant chakra generator, or Tobira was purposefully hiding. To be honest, Madara didn’t know which one was the better option.
The first and only lead he got, was a day later, from Itama. As it turned out, Itama somehow got a Hatake to work with them. The Hatake clan was still their enemies, he knew, and could be just using them to break the village from inside, but Itama said that they were trustworthy, and so he decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. The women heard them out, and to Madara’s annoyance and already short nerves, she laughed at them. Izuna, thank god for him, stopped him from lunging at the woman’s throat.
“You are looking for the nine-tailed fox, but you ask humans? Where is the logic in that?” she said after she stopped laughing and Madara felt like an idiot. She was right, of course, just as she proved, when she summoned one of her wolfs and send him to catch a kitsune.
The wolf returned shortly, and in his jaws, a small fox with three tails was trying to bite him. Hatake woman interrogated the fox for the good part of an hour, and even Madara could say that the fox was good. They changed the conversation anytime they were getting closer, lead them one way, only to take a U-turn, and suddenly they were talking about the weather. If Madara wasn’t so mad and worried, he would have been impressed.
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” he shouted finally and all the eyes in the room turned to him, “I’VE HAD ENOUGH! Listen here, and listen well! Right now, I’m mad with worry about someone I care about, and I don’t really care about your well being, and the only thing holding me back right now is knowledge that Tobira will be mad if I kill you, so unless you tell me what you know right now, or I SWEAR TO GODDESS I WILL DO SOMETHING BOTH OF US WILL REGRET!”
The fox just looked at him, but this time, he could see the surprise and admiration in it’s eyes, and for a moment, not even Madara knew what changed. Then he realized that everyone was staring at him.
“Master told you his name? That’s quite the accomplishment, as the last person who knew his name was his own father. You did not lie then, you must be really close to him. Very well, I will tell you. But only you, understood?” Madara nodded. He would have to apologize to Tobira later, but that could wait until he found him.
It took him another three days for him to find the fox demon. It was a peaceful place, a big lake near the land of whirlpools, surrounded by the tall trees and a mountain from one side.
Even from the side of the lake, Madara could see Tobira almost instantly, as his white hair floated to the water’s surface, while the fox himself laid on the lake’s floor, without the need for air, his eyes closed, as if nothing could have been more peaceful. But to Madara, it only looked pityful, as a pupet whose strings has been torn, just laing there, without a purpose. He couldn’t take it. He jumped to the depths of the cold water.
It was oblivious that Tobira knew he was coming, the demon was a sensor as well, and as soon as Madara was close enough, he looked at him through the lashes. Madara’s heart almost stopped.
They were still as red as the first time he saw them, but they were different, blank, as if all the light has been lost, no, torn from them, and for a moment he couldn’t help himself but think, ‘Who was horrible enough to be able to do this to him?’ But no answer came, only a blank stare. Madara took his hand and pulled him up, as the demon let him do as he pleased.
It took him too long for his liking, to sat Tobira in front of the fire he created to warm them up a bit. Tobira, a chakra demon, probably didn’t even notice, but the water in the lake has been freezing, and Madara was still shivering from it, but that didn’t matter. He needed answers, and soon, otherwise, he would explode.
And so, he did what he always did, and charged right through.
“Why?” but Tobira didn’t answer, didn't even move, not even blink to acknowledge he was listening, but Madara knew better.
“You left without telling anyone?” nothing, “not even a piece of paper, no explanation?” nothing, “did you have to do something without us?” nothing, “did something happened?” one of the tails twitched. Madara nodded to himself.
“Did we do something?” nothing, “someone else?” nothing, “You?” a blink.
“...was it so bad you couldn’t tell?” Tobira turned his head away from him to look at the fire. Madara didn’t let his eyes wander, the cogs in his head turning quicker than before.
“Did you do something bad?” nothing, and for the first time in a while, relief washed over him, but then- “you realized something, then.”
It wasn’t a question, but Tobira nodded nonetheless.
“Did you want to think it through? Or did you never planning to come back?” there was no answer but Madara didn’t need one.
“If you just wanted to be alone, you could have just-”
His voice was weak, but the tone in which he said it was stronger than Madara ever heard from him. He sat there, and watched, as the demon in front of him fell apart once again.
“I don’t want to be left alone.” his voice was getting louder, and Madara wasn’t even surprised when he started screaming, “But that doesn’t matter! It never mattered in the first place! I will always be alone!”
And then there were sobs, masked by the pure rage and a cloud of red chakra, but sobs nonetheless. Madara’s mind was turning over the new pieces of information as quickly as possible, analyzing anything and everything, and suddenly, everything stopped.
Of course. Madara should have seen it from the start, should have connected it to their conversation in the forest from the beginning. His father left him by dying, Sage’s sons followed soon after, all the while the chakra demons were stuck in time, unchanging.
And Tobira was too scared to lose them again.
Madara threw himself forward, pulling the struggling demon closer to him, and forcing him into the eye contact.
“If you want to get rid of me, kill me now because, after this, I won’t give you another chance,” Tobira stopped moving for a moment and looked at him with wide eyes, but Madara couldn’t care less. Never moving his eyes away from the demons, he kissed him on the forehead.
It was only a small peck, but time around them froze. Tobira looked like someone had just shattered his entire world into pieces, but Madara wasn’t done yet and held the eye contact.
“The first time I met you, I was terrified. You were the demon everyone was scared of, so it made sense, right? But you didn’t do anything, quite the opposite, you gave me an opportunity to be with my best friend, and make our dream of peace a reality.
“Then, I talked to you for the first time, remember? I was sure you would kill me on the spot the second I offended you, but instead, you told me you believed in my, our, dream, and I couldn’t have been happier.
“You trained us. Made sure we wouldn’t die in battle like all the others, taught me how to be a better sensor, how to dodge attacks, and for that, I never asked how did you learn to fight like a shinobi.
“I believed you when you told me about the Sharingan and your past, your regrets and fears, and for that, I want you to listen to me now.
Madara took a deep breath and then smiled at the demon with a confused expression.
“I don’t remember how I fell in love with you. By the time I realized, you were already a constant in my life, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I never told you before, because first, I wanted to show you the peace we achieved, but I guess now is the best time, right?
“I love you, and I understand if you don’t feel the same, but I do plan to spend the rest of my life with you, even if just as a friend. And maybe, if you’ll allow me, the rest of your life as well.”
Tobirama was quite sure his heart stopped. Madara Uchiha, the man who had the power to end the world, and who, in another time, hated him, just told him he loved him and would like to be with him forever.
And, maybe if Tobirama wasn’t already on the edge of mental breakdown, this would bring him there.
But in the state he was in, only thing that was going through his head was the confession. Because Uchiha Madara loved him, basically told him he was in love with Tobirama for years, and only thing Tobirama could do was stare at him.
Was he even worthy of that emotion? He was a literal demon! There was nothing lovable about him, maybe his looks if you lovered the bar enough.
But Madara said it, and he sounded so… sure. As if nothing made more sense than that, and Tobirama couldn’t comprehend it in the slightest, because what was he supposed to say?
Did he love Madara? He never really thought about that, but somewhere deep, his heart was enveloped in warmth. Yes, it whispered and suddenly, Tobirama could see it.
His smile, laugh when Hashirama fell into the river, expressions that could make his heart beat faster, and his voice, a firepit, full of warmth, and Tobirama just knew.
Yes. Somehow, the man in front of him made him fall for him.
Tobirama didn’t dare to speak; couldn’t, as he looked at the face full of warmth in front of him, and tears threaten to spill from his eyes again.
He threw himself at the man in front of him and didn’t let go
“What did you mean by that?”
“You said you’ll stay with me for the rest of my life. I’m immortal. How?”
“Don’t worry, I have a plan.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Mito, tell him he is crazy!”
“He is, but the logic in his madness is undeniable. Very well, I will do my best.”
“Sorry, I already promised I would help!”
“You all are crazy, it will never work!”
To the surprise of everyone but Madara, the seal was in the experimental stages not even a year later.
“It will split your life-time between the two of you equally for as long as there will be your chakra in that seal. And since you are supposedly immortal, well, you can’t really split immortality now, can you?
“Of course, there will be a way to break the seal, just in case. You’ll just have to take all your chakra back.”
“Just do it already.”
“Alright, here we go. This will hurt. A lot.”
It did hurt.
It also worked.
It was a sunny day, he could sense it, but Tobirama refused to move. The body next to his was too warm for him to even consider, and yet, he knew he had to.
After nearly twenty years in Konoha, today was the day, they were leaving for good.
Not that anyone wanted them to, but Tobirama could tell they needed to go, not just for himself, but for Madara and their family as well.
Konoha was constantly moving, constantly changing, and they… They were too still for that.
Neither he, nor Madara changed anymore, Tobirama stuck in his shape-shifted body, and Madara stuck in his, looking the same as the day Mito decided that the seal was as perfect as it could be, just a month after Izuna’s twenty-second birthday.
Their families were happy for them, he knew, but Tobirama couldn’t help his constant fear.
Because there were too many things that could go wrong, too many that could break them both and-
The body next to him moved and Tobirama looked at the smiling face of his husband and felt the corners of his own mouth lifting up as well.
A new wave of warmth spread through him, and suddenly he knew.
They could do this. They already had everything they needed.