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Surrender your burdens, it's safe now

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Uchiha Madara wanted things. Many things even.

Simple things, like another serving of dango, or to throw his brother into the koi pond after a particularly annoying remark, to never have to look into another child's eyes as they lay dying in his arms, to end this damn war in a way that leaves his clan with some bare scrap of pride.But what he really wanted? In this moment? Is to make his damn soulmate not draw dicks on his forehead.

The complicated mass of seals and… were those notes on new jutus? Stamped up and down his arms he could handle. He didn't even mind the absent drawings of trees or flowers, or the splatters when a brush was handled too roughly and retaliated with blotchy stains across his pale forearms. It was like his soulmate had completely forgotten that he-- Madara wasn't blind yet, he knew his tastes and that handwriting could only be described as masculine, scrawling and confident-- shared skin with Madara. Anything that appeared on the upper layers of his skin would also appear on Madara's. Bruises, tattoos, lines from sleeping pressed against an unyielding surface, scars… everything would transfer, everything would show.

Madara had been keeping track, had a scroll that carefully detailed each word, each wound that did not hurt him, each mark doubled on pale Uchiha skin. He was… fond of the marks, if he wasn't lying. They kept him steady, calm. There was proof his soul didn't burn alone, that there was a flare waiting just to match his light. When the words, diagrams, on his skin threatened to be discovered, and then Madara would never be allowed out to fight, when so few were blessed with a soulmate, he merely covered his arms or explained away the oddities. Easy, simple solutions he’d always been able to handle.

Of course, all that was before his soulmate drew a penis on his forehead. Even with Madara's unruly mass of hair, the thick black lines were utterly evident. There was no disguising it, nor was there time to scrawl a demand of his own for the mark to be erased now. The Senju were converging, a border patrol had seen the group heading towards the Uchiha compound and Madara had to be there, to protect his home on the front lines. If he wasn't, then Hashirama would tear through the Uchiha force like wet rice paper. His clan was strong, and proud, but few could stand against the Senju and hope to keep their lives, much less keep him occupied enough to rein in that destructive life force.

He would...he would have to go into battle like this, would hope to blind Hashirama with enough katon jutsu that the idiot wouldn't be able to see him clearly. It stings his pride, a snarl growing low in his throat with no way to appease it, as he buckles armor and weapons on his person with all the haste he could spare.

When he met his soulmate, his submissive, the man was going to pay.

...

...

Tobirama was not a man to take pleasure in petty blood shed, not one to allow his emotions to stir him from a forcibly calm, logical, position. He was a man of science, of logic and cold knowledge, aloof even in the midst of battle. The Senju's white demon, though he privately scoffs at the name. Acknowledging this, accepting this as fact, still was not going to change the future, the future where he was going to eviscerate his older cousin. Kill her and take great pleasure in it, covering the soft tamati floors with her bloody penance. His face is kept icy, bland, only due to his vast practice at keeping it so, despite his growing fury.

At least no one would be able to guess the sight under his happauri, male genitalia inked darkly across the too pale expanse when Touka had found him, trapped inside a wall as his harishan failed yet again…

Mostly failed, he'd tolerate the vague statement only in interest of offering a more accurate picture of what had happened. Because the seal had worked, technically. It had delivered him to the precise location of the seal once activated. However, seeing as the seal was inconveniently on a wall, meant Tobirama was trapped, unable to move as his jutsu had removed the precise amount of wooden wall that his body currently occupied. It was a curiosity where the wood had been displaced to, but one he would have to satisfy later. Because currently, he had a demented older cousin grinning as she turns the corner, chakra bright with the expected mirth as she draws near, eyes glancing at just how his body is trapped.

More thoroughly than a struggling bug in amber, he thinks dourly, knowing the glare leveled at Touka would change exactly nothing, but indulging the urge anyway.

"Little cousin." She's practically purring, smug mischief glinting kunai bright in her eyes. "Just what have you managed to get yourself into this time?"

Tobirama merely glares more fiercely, unaware he looked more like his own summons than he would ever admit, at the unholy glee crossing Touka's features. As much as it makes shame coil shockingly hot in his chest to admit, there is no honor in ignoring the icy stab of unease that settles low in his gut. Enemy shinobi? He doesn't flinch, won't allow himself to flinch. But faced with his older cousin? One of the most well respected kunoichi and open submissive? Touka had been the first to teach him his kata, tricks with the kunai he still uses. She was only second to his Anija in terms of his affection. A Senju to her marrow, who wields her orientation, a weapon to rival her ningata and loyalty like steel cables securing her to the clan. He respected her, trusted her.

None of that, however, took away the fact she takes great pleasure in causing him embarrassment. The higher his embarrassment, the more joy she took in it. And this? This was years of blackmail. Seasons unending of torture he'd have no respite from, and every moment trapped is another kunai in her pouch.

"Touka-san," He starts, warning as sternly as his voice can muster. It wasn't going to work, an experiment doomed before the first tests, but he's still too foolish to neglect the impossible hope entirely. Even expecting it, Tobirama released a wordless snarl as his warning failed spectacularly, Touka slipping into one of the small rooms that worked as offices in the main building and returning with a brush, heavy with ink. The off white bristles are almost dripping with the blackened pigment, and Touka's slash of teeth and lips dripping with false concern as she nears.

The first touch of the brush, so cold, makes him shiver reflexively, only just suppressing the urge to jolt away. At best, it's a useless gesture. At worst…

He is trapped. Well and truly, with echoes of his brother's chakra on every side, in every breath. With Touka's familiar, steely chakra mixing with the living-growing green energy of his brothers. He was safe, he knew it on a level that surpassed even his honed instincts. Being trapped and yet safe…? His body rebels, shivers refusing to be repressed, instead racing up his spine, a mind of their own whispering traitorous thoughts.

'Safe…?' They ask, the wood warm with his brother's chakra. 'Trust…?' They implore, when Touka's fingers brush his jaw, face twisted in concentration. 'Let go…?' The last is closer to the whimper he strangles when Touka pulls back, skin chilled as she carefully blows on the design she inked onto his forehead.

He knows. It's a chemical reaction, nothing more than his beakers and flasks in his lab. It's all in his mind, the organ malfunctioning since birth to turn against him. Nothing more than a lack of neurons able to properly transfer and store the proper electrical currents, a problem that was only one if he was unfocused enough to allow his biology to get the better of him. Butsuma knew the proper way to resist, harsh training and harsher consequences if either of his sons showed even the smallest tendency to be submissive. He clings to that knowledge, uses it to keep the smallest semblance of awareness, to know his surroundings instead of fading into the warm hazy ignorance that's so close.

Barely, just barely, he knows what she drew, the lines familiar enough from his own form. Another chuckle, the warm callouses of her fingers withdrawing, and Tobirama forces his eyes open, to stare at his cousin through a haze he can't quite banish, how the edges are a little more fuzzy than he's used to. Unless, of course, he skipped sleeping and eating in favor of his experiments. It strips him of nearly everything, his intellect sliding through his fingers like cupped smoke, in favor of trying to rest his head in her hands, to soak in the energy all around him, so much stronger when he's not so focused on posturing, on dulling his sensing abilities when home, secure, safe. It'd be too easy, if he didnt. If he allowed himself to fully feel the oak strong thrum that was the Senju clan, protective and strong with roots that ran deep. It's a struggle to not slip into, to keep his face impassive, but he does… or nearly does.

"Tobi--?" Touka is concerned suddenly, even as she lowers his happuri back to his forehead, covering the phallus now adorning his person, frowning and head tilting to better regard the flush he can feel painted over his cheekbones.

The Gods must be watching over him, however, because at that moment a small white fox races down the hallway, tail barely flicking as she stares up at Tobirama, intelligent bright eyes flicking over his trapped form.

"Tobirama-san, Mito-sama requests your presence at Hishirama-san's side. The Uchiha have found a border patrol, reinforcements on both sides are converging on the eastern front." Message delivered, the fox summons gives a brief head tilt before darting further down the hall, pausing at every occupied room to give the message to those inside.

Touka pauses, frowning. She would never endanger the Clan by refusing her aid, by keeping him trapped in the wall until the curiosity, the worry, in her eyes is appeased. She wouldn't. But she wants to. It's clear that the decision to assist him from the wooden prison is a reluctant one, and while she doesn't touch him further, her eyes are unnervingly sharp as they stare, when the wall will need replacing yet again and his haori hangs just a little too loosely on his already slender frame.

He adjusts it, fussy as the cats she compares him to, and Touka can't ignore that something is wrong.

The feeling sits heavy in her stomach, a stone made of unease and the look Tobirama just gave her. Red eyes that most of the clan still avoided heavy lidded and glazed over, the intelligence sharp as her ningata dulled to a mere sparkle instead of the radiance she was more used to. He looked… he looked like a submissive, reaching the first bittersweet reach of subspace after far, far too long. There was nothing to quite compare it to, not for a Dom who tended to smother when missing a sub, and something told her nothing in her younger cousin's experiments could cause quite that level of personality shift…

She hates mysteries. Particularly those she cannot resolve with bared teeth and slashing steel, and gives her cousin a pointed look, stepping sharply both to keep up with him and see the way his eye twitches with every too loud crack as her geta meets the wooden walkway.

"We will be talking about this later, Tobirama." Both a warning, and a promise, and hissed only when they're close enough to Hirashima's office that a reply is impossible. Her cousin glares, icy and cold, and still half a heartbeat too slow, not… not the Tobirama she knows.

But then they're in front of Hashirama, and she needs to pay attention, carefully tucking away her familial concern for a more immediate, bloodier frame of mind.

...

...

He's too slow.

Tobirama knows it, gaining more scrapes from Izuna than he'd care to admit, barely able to breathe as he takes another hit to his chest, sword skimming past Izuna's guard to sink into his thigh. Armor breaks most of the blow, but a line of blood follows the arc of his sword.

"Getting slow there, Senju!" The man mocks, fire sparking along his fingertips as he presses them to the shallow wound, cauterizing it. It clearly causes pain, droplets of sweat gathering along his upper lip, but it stems the bleeding and the leg allows his weight. The words aren't worth a reply, and even if they were… Tobirama wasn't quite up to a battle of words along with the battle of their swords.

Make no mistake, he'd still win easily, but the effort would leave him even more wrong footed than he currently was. And with Touka's parting words? He needed every iota of strength in his body.

"For a white demon, Senju, you're even chillier than usual! What, your sub break up with you when they found you too cold for passion?" He mocks, like the brave words could disguise how his hands shake, or how his breath is catching on each exhale.

The Uchiha is close to losing it, close to a mistake which meant Tobirama could finally strike a debilitating blow, leaving the Uchiha reeling for the few weeks it would take for the man to recover enough to fight again. With the end in sight, he gets… over confident.

One wrong step. He swings, just as Izuna does so. Izuna was supposed to duck. The blow that should have caught the back of the Uchiha's head on the flat of Tobirama's blade goes wide, there's a burn across his ribs, where his armor is light for added mobility, and his arm is still moving, aiming to return to his sheath but… Izuna is in the way, the force is too large, the sword too large to tolerate redirection, and… And.

Across the battlefield, a roar of pain, twice over. Madara, seeing his baby brother fall. Hashirama, scoring a deep hit on his one time friend, panicked agony matching panicked agony. Fire laced smoke appears in front of Tobirama, a fist to the throat putting him on his knees, Madara picking up the younger and using another shusin to clear the battlefield.

It… it was over.

...

...

"TOBIRAMA!" Flinching was never an option, no matter if Hashirama would see or not. And now…? It was definite that he would not. The man had his back turned, long brown hair clenched in both his fists as he stalked across the floor. In a tight circle, the clan head paces across the room, plants growing and wilting in time with his fury-quickened steps. "Why would you do that? Izuna is Madara's brother, what do you think he's going to do!?"

It's more than the anger, thrumming under in time with his chakra, it's the disappointment coating every word like a particularly potent poison. It cuts, burns. After earlier? Trapped and safe and dangerously close to subspace?

Tobirama is dropping. Hard.

He can feel it, the despair irrational for the severity of the current scolding. It's happened before, dropping when he disappointed Butsuma, or when he failed. It had… it had always been hard, destroying what walls he had to protect his most vulnerable self. But he had survived before. And he will this time too. It's just… it's just. Hard.

"Nii-sama, I… apologize." It doesn't matter. He already knows this, but he has to try anyway, forcing his voice to remain firm, remain unyielding.

"You apologize!?" And there it is again. The absolute unending fury, how Hashirama refuses to meet his eyes, even as his chakra crests, crashing around Tobirama with all the oppressive force of a forest, too bright, too full of life, too much green glowing growth to for him to handle all brought to bare against him. "Good for you! I'm so glad you're apologizing. Surely Madara, my friend since childhood, will understand why you murdered his little brother if you apologize!"

It's too hard to breathe. Every instinct in him says to cower, to tilt his head back, crash to his knees and beg for a chance at redemption. But there would be none from that corner, he already knows.

"Nii-chan, I--"

"No! You do not get to call me that. You took my dream away from me. Madara will never stop until every last Senju is dead because of your actions, Tobirama. What were you thinking?" It's a demand, an order with all the force of the clan head and the strongest Dom the Senju had produced in generations.

"I wasn't, I… Izuna was supposed to du--"

"You weren't thinking!? You destroy the single chance of peace this world knows because you weren't thinking!? What kind of stupid, useless reasoning is that?"

Tobirama stays silent, bowing his head. It's a show of submission he'd normally refuse, but tolerated as a lesser clan member in front of their head. It doesn't protect him from the ire, but he doesn't expect it to, falling towards the numb despair with something that almost feels like relief. It'll be worse later, but for now. He can survive. He can.

"I always argued against otousan, when he accused you of being a sub. You are too smart, too strong Tobirama, but maybe I was wrong. I can't see any Dom making such a mistake. Should I leave you behind, the next time there's a battle? Leave you with the rest of the subs? A liability to the clan? A waste of our time and resources? You… you disgust me, Tobirama. Never just thinking things through. Never considering anyone else's feelings. You're a selfish brat, and just single handedly brought ruin and death to our clan."

He was wrong. He… he can't survive this.

Logically, between his knees folding and his forehead thumping hard against the wooden floor, he knows that Hashirama is just angry. He is wounded and afraid. None of the words crossing his lips are in the slightest way true, and if Tobirama excuses himself from the room, Hashirama will come to his senses, come and apologize.

But it's still a certain kind of agony when Hashirama still refuses to look at him, a sigh like a tempest in the sudden silence.

His voice, when he next speaks, is soft. Soft, and broken, the jagged edges brokenl enough to nearly draw blood.

"Just. Go. I have nothing left to say to you."

He has nothing left to give to Tobirama. No more tolerance, or those fleeting smiles that felt like the sun's rays warming his too-cold bones. No more acceptance of his… quirks. No more warm hands over his shoulders. Hashirama has turned his back on Tobirama, and now he has nothing.

Nothing, except…

It's a suicide mission.

But… It's also a chance to regain his brother's favor.

If he were to fix his mistake… Maybe Hashirama could remember him fondly, in a few years when the pain of the betrayal fades.

The hope, as slight as it is, pulls away the gloom of his drop. A torch, burning in cold winter fog. It forces the pain away, lifts his chin as he staggers down the hall. His vision, never exactly good, wavers. He's far too deep in the drop, he should be barricadicating himself in his room, waiting the drop out. Instead, he hangs up his armor, too loud and too bulky for this mission, and roughly wraps the wound on his side. There are more important matters to attend to, no matter how it stings when he breathes. Black clothing, blending in with the darkness of his room, and tight. It's… a comfort he normally does not dare give himself, the fabric constricting like a thousand hands holding him down, but… good. It feels good, now.

He leaps out his window. Behind, he leaves the normally tidy room in utter disarray, small drops of his blood and weapons scattered where they fell in his rush to divest himself of anything that vaguely hinted at 'threat'.

The way to the Uchiha is quiet, the few guards easily circumnavigated and unaware of the ghostly presence that passes them.

Izuna's presence is still strong, the roaring fire of his chakra a flame amidst others. If he hadn't spent so long fighting it, learning it, Tobirama may not have known which to run to. But, he had. And finding the Uchiha heir was as easy as reaching out, finding his chakra and easing his way into the darkened room.

He's alone, labored breathing unnaturally loud, and the sheen of sweat that covers his brow is worrisome.

The bonfire of other chakra, all the others still healthy from the battle, is a conflagration too bright to look at, somewhere near the middle of the compound. He… he has time. To fix his mistakes. To make Hashirama proud of him, maybe even offer his younger brother one of those hugs, warm and safe and so, so dangerous.

Only thinking about those hugs, the rare glimmer of approval, or his Father's steady rough hand in his hair, allows his chakra to glow green around his hands. He shouldn't be able to do this, not this deep in drop, not with how delicate this procedure would be, but… he was a sub. A sub sorely neglected by his own will. The idea of earning some kind of approval is heady. Theres a reason that forcing subs to drop is an easy way to both torture and an easy way to gain their loyalty. Starved subs- starved of affection, starved of subspace, starved of food, any one of the three will bring on the other two easily enough-- are weak, easily manipulated, pathetic things, who no longer acknowledge human limits in their quest to gain even the slightest scrap of what they need.

Tobirama's body is on the verge of giving up. It's… he hadn't truly meant to neglect himself. Just. Everything felt so… empty. Worthless. Meaningless. It was far easier to spend hours in the lab, creating things to be useful, than it was to force food down his uncooperative throat.

It was a benign neglect, but neglect all the same.

Whatever the reason, though, he's grateful. His energy rises easily to his fingertips, cool green and so familiar. The jutsu, in fact the entire way to use chakra in order to heal instead of hurt, was of his own making. He still needs to see the wound, though, unwrapping the pungent bandages, packed with healing salves and herbs. The wound is short, but deep, and he can't merely heal the top layer of skin. Izuna would bleed out within the hour.

Instead, he has to use his chakra in an even more precise manner, diving into his rival's body on a microscopic level and forcing the cells division to speed. The cells, numerous now, far past what Izuna would normally have, follow his prodding. Some to the torn and ragged muscles, sealing them together and closing the gap. Others replenish his blood supply, the color in his rivals' cheeks brightening.

It's… not easy. Not by a long shot. The chakra produced cells keep attempting to continuously divide, to form a mass which would take the man's life just as easily as the wound. Each time the cells went rogue, he had to destroy them, or redirect their energy. Every moment his concentration waned, more of the dangerous cells tried to escape his control. But, used to the time consuming task, Tobirama perseveres, the skin slowly closing over new, healthy tissue.

"Senju!?" No… not. Not yet. The furious tone from the door, he'd been too focused on healing his rival, hadn't noticed Madara's chakra nearing. Izuna was nearly healed, just a thin slice. It would barely bleed, if he used the last flickers of his chakra to run away from the room.

But No.

His penance was to completely heal Izuna. Anything less, and Hashirama would never forgive him for wounding the Uchiha in the first place. So he doesn't waver, does not allow himself to even look up. Healing is his task, and… if he's dropping a little further every moment? It's his own business.

"Uchiha-San, I ask that you allow me to finish. Your brother will be waking soon." That's… that sounds more or less normal, right? It was as good as he's getting. Even if it's… not quite steady, or if the edges are ragged in time with his panting. An effect of dropping or exhaustion, he couldn't say.

"What are you doing!?" Is he flailing? It sounds like he's flailing. Hashirama did it enough, it's not as hard as it should be to picture the Uchiha clan head doing the same. But, as a bonus, the sound is starting to make the younger Uchiha stir on the futon, a crease of confused discomfort on his brow. Not ideal, healing with chakra was anywhere from mildly to wildly unpleasant, but he wasn't about to stop in order to soothe the man he wounded. Especially not with his older brother stalking across the room, stopping above Tobirama's shoulder and staring down.

Madara was never anything more than an enemy, and having him so close? Only the sight of Izuna's skin finally closing, and his eyes fluttering open, allow Tobirama to resist the need to turn, run, flee.

It's…

He's tired.

Tired, stressed, unhappy. His brother, his clan, he destroyed it all in one move. Coming here, healing Izuna, was supposed to ease the drop. It was meant to help. But… it didn't. He was still drowning, his failure like a leaden collar, dragging him under to a world he doesn't know. Cold, dark, unfriendly. He's alone, terrified, uncertain in a way he hasn't been since he was ten and his brother was freshly buried.

"-ju. Senju!" Oh. There's a sound through the haze, a call for him to pay attention, and quickly. Does he have to?

On one hand, heeding that voice-- strange, not Hashirama, not Touka-- would mean he's not utterly alone, but it also means lifting his head, attempting to focus his dry eyes on something other than the soothing wooden floor.

"Nii-San? What…? Tobirama!?" Another? There's movement from close, far too close.

Instinct-- foot to face, hurts, hurts, hurts, get away, get away! Not safe, hide away, hands meant to hold, hurting-- forces his limbs to work. There is nothing graceful in his scramble to his feet, nothing he normally would ever tolerate being seen, the desperate, uncoordinated jerkiness of a scared animal. He gains his feet, bracing his hands on his knees and attempting to keep the swaying just in his skull.

"Nii-san?" And… oh. Oh. Oh.

There's a hand. So warm. So fucking warm. All across the back of his neck. Squeezing. Firm. Controlled. Safe.

"Down, Senju." A maelstrom of emotion. Tobirama can hear it, over the crack of his knees meeting the floor, he just can't be bothered to untangle it. Because there's a hand on his neck, another carding through his hair, and maybe, just maybe, he hasn't been a bad, useless sub after all. Maybe, he did something good enough that he's being allowed a few minutes respite, for all he'd never deserve it.

When that voice orders him, and he doesn't need to fight for once, he can just obey, to go to sleep? It's no effort, the last of resistance sliding from his shoulders, to lean against strong, warm legs.

This person. They're warm, and they haven't hurt him. He can rest. Just for a little while.

...
...

This… was not something Madara was expecting. He figured it was excusable, though.

The White Demon of the Senju was sleeping. Deep inside the Uchiha compound, after breaking in to… heal the man he had damn near killed? And his reactions, from the moment Madara entered, none of it was adding up. Tobirama was acting like a sub. Like a sub in severe distress. The Senju was hyperventilating, gaze unfocused and so off balance Madara's hand nearly pushed him over. It had been instinct, more or less, that had his hand closing over that exposed neck, and then ordering the man to his knees. Instinct and the same sickening twisting sensation low in his gut, the reaction of a Dom to a submissive in a bad drop.

"What the fuck? Can I ask that? I feel like I should be asking that."

Madara hadn't forgotten his brother, not even slightly, but he had been… occupied, with how the Senju's brow remained furrowed even in his sleep, how one hand clenched reflexively onto Madara's leg, like he was afraid he would wake alone.

"I'd ask the same." Too many emotions to remain utterly calm, Madara was still pleased his voice was more or less steady, though that could be an effect from the man-- sub?-- clinging to his leg.

"Is he… is he a submissive?" Madara couldn't say, couldn't even tease Izuna for his wide eyes, because he's fairly sure his own are wider. Too many mysteries, too soon. Like why Izuna, instead of fighting for his life, was sitting up, smoothly with little more than a wince. The skin of his stomach was almost smooth, just a scar, a shade darker than his skin. His little brother, the last.

Seeing him attempting to move finally stirs Madara, forcing himself to ignore the heartbroken sound his movement punches from Tobirama's throat to go over to Izuna, staring wide eyed at his brother's side. It's perfect, he's safe. His brother is safe. Thanks to the man, crimson eyes slowly opening, the effort of even that simple act making him sway a little.

"Because… He's acting a lot like a sub." Izuna continues, hand rubbing lightly at where he was just bleeding from. It's… it's going to be awhile before he stops doing that… "A really, really poorly treated sub."

And there's anger there, just under the surface. Never far, not from an Uchiha. Even a calm, level headed Uchiha like Izuna.

Well, at least Madara wasn't the only one, a spark already burning in his chest. Tobirama was a worthy opponent, a brilliant mind both on and off the battlefield. He had, in some ways, gained Madara's true respect, something only a few rare shinobi could boast. To see him this… broken? Twists something vital inside of Madara, makes the ever present fire of his chakra grow and rage against his control. Izuna was a switch, both able to submit and dominate his chosen partner, but Madara is a Dom with all the irrepressible instincts that follow. Teeth bared, silent and impotent and confused in equal measure, he doesn't bother stopping Izuna from squatting in front of his rival's form, gaze serious as he stares.

Tobirama, for his part, visibly swallows a whimper, throat working wildly for a moment before looking away. Looking down, cowering. Avoiding Izuna's eyes, like he'd be punished for even making that small amount of eye contact. The rage in Madara's chest burns brighter, hotter, and the sub cowers away from him too, eyes widening and fingers flexing hard against the wooden floor and what caused the reaction this time? Izuna frowns, considering, and glances up for the barest of seconds, mouthing something at Madara.

It takes a moment to click, because…? Really? He knew, of course, Tobirama was a sensor. But most had to concentrate to feel chakra, and sensing more than the most basic of emotions was far outside their skillset. To be in such a state? And still able to not only feel, but react to Madara's anger? That was. That was something else.

Something too close to pity smothers the flame of his anger, stifling the red hot desire to find who hurt this man and make them pay. It's… uncomfortable, but has the benefit of easing some of the tension in too thin shoulders, slows the rapid breathing. It's… good. It's good, better than Madara could ever dream about.

"Hey, hey there." And Madara is crouching now, carefully just out of touching range, though if this was a ruse, if Tobirama was faking it, he could easily lunge and dismember both the Uchiha head and the heir. Madara doesnt think he will though, with how cloudy that gaze is and the desperate way Tobirama is fisting his own pants now, like he needs something to hang onto, or else he'll float away entirely. "Hey, you did good. You did a good job, Tobirama."

<>As far as praise goes, it's awkward. Stilted. Izuna, if he needed to be brought down and his usual partners were missing, would laugh in his face at it. Most subs would, all but the newest of Doms could do better. But… without knowing the man's triggers, his likes and dislikes, it really wasn't safer to do more than the most basic of praise, to say nothing but the gentlest of names. And even that was treading on dangerous water, with a sub that's been so clearly neglected, if not down right abused. There was little difference, after all, in Madara's eyes, and he carefully watches, expecting everything from the man attempting to kill him and Izuna both to him getting up and walking out, disgusted with Madara's clumsy attempts.

But Tobirama melts. It wouldn't be visible, if Madara had not been watching every breath, every heartbeat in the too pale neck. It's just the slightest softening, the loosening of fear and tight tension. It still feels like a victory, almost as much as the way Tobirama leans into Izuna's careful hand in his hair, getting a grip that's firm, but not painful.

"Good, you did such a good job." He repeats Madara's words, cautious, treading the waters of what's acceptable and gently tugging on the white hair in his grasp, just enough to encourage that red gaze to lift, to focus on them for just a heartbeat. Still worryingly cloudy, exhausted and in a bad drop but… Better. A little. More than should be able to be explained with such simple words, the bare minimum anyone should hear on a semi regular basis, much less a submissive. "We're proud of you, Tobirama, you did so well. You were so brave."

Just guessing at this point, really. Words that could be innocuous enough, basic. Things Madara has said to any number of scared children, or haunted clanmates after particularly rough missions or battles. Comfort, yes. But unspecified, a wrapping of bandages when the wound isn't visible, meant to steady and hold more than heal.

A stifled sob, choked out like it's too painful to keep in, but ripping all the way out, makes Madara's heart stutter. Because the man is shaking, worse than before, and his head is twisting side to side. Like he's in pain, or trying to throw something off his head. Izuna had released his hair at the first motion, too wary of causing further harm, but Tobirama didn't stop, gasping out another razor edged sob.

"N-no!" He manages at first, curling in, shoulders hunching, like a blow caught him full force in the sternum, like his ribs have been crushed and all that's left is to fall into himself. "No! B-Bad."

Because he was. Tobirama knows that much, at least, though the simple, childish word irks. He has a better vocabulary, he can find more fitting terms, more accurate statements. It's just the aching, gaping hole in his chest won’t let him. The horrid, addicting murmur of praise is drugging his mind, pushing it down further into bliss. He struggles against it, the silk soft bonds inescapable as iron chains, manacles pulling him into a state of hazy unaware, mindless comforting joy. But he doesn't deserve it. He can't have it. He was bad. He hurt Hashirama, the one hand he accepted as his guide. The head of his clan, and his clan was the one thing Tobirama could have, could be useful for, could submit all his intelligence and strength to better his home.

He hurt Hashirama, his brother. He hurt his home. He wasn't strong enough, wasn't smart enough, was too bratty and selfish and bad. The word is a reverberation, striking hard and true, echoing inside his skull with the heavy weight of truth, despite the horrified denials from the two voices that are only vaguely familiar. And, oh. He's hurting them too. The two with the soft, warm chakra, and the gentle hands, and the kind voices. They're so, so nice to him, when he doesnt deserve it. And the least Tobirama can do is tell them they're wrong, that he's bad, and to keep them from wasting their energy on trying to fix or comfort him.

But there's arms around him, two sets. Strong and iron lined and immobile, pinning his own arms to his side. It's so warm, and he marvels at it, internally. How they can keep him still, keep him pinned in-between them, two faces pressed to his hair, two breaths stirring the strands there, smelling like ash and cloves and iron and something he can't identify, but feels like home. Like sitting at a low wooden table while flour and yeast sit, rise in the heat of a small kitchen. Good, soft and warm, and calms the otherwise warlike smell of the two men. Too far gone to care about things like dignity or grace, Tobirama latches onto them, fingers digging hard into the soft cotton that the men are wearing. They don't scold, gripping him back just as tightly, tighter, tight enough the tremors in every limb don't seem to even exist, though he can feel the strain in his muscles.

"Easy, easy now." Izuna croons, pressing his face a little closer to the distressed sub, overriding the small protests he's still giving. Because if he listens, if he accepts the words falling from those lips, he's going to get up, get dressed in his armor and set off to kill. If he keeps anything but the tightest lid on his anger, Tobirama gets more upset and he's not going to tolerate that, not if he has any say in the matter. So it's better, to keep the man wedged between his body and his brothers, wrap Tobirama between their limbs, shield him from whatever caused a drop this bad. "You're doing so well, so good for us. Thank you, Tobirama-kun, thank you for being so good."

Another shiver, like Tobirama's body is attempting to tear itself apart, and Izuna hugs him tighter, running one hand over a wiry back, tracing the knobs of his spine under the fine fabric he's wearing, ignoring it for now so he doesn't get too angry. Not now, at least. Tobirama is going to come first. And once he's okay, then Izuna can plot, can plan, can bring retribution down on whoever dared hurt any sub. So focused on tamping down his incompetent rage, Izuna doesn't fully notice how Tobirama stiffens, the sound in his throat more pained than denial, until Madara grabs his wrist.

"Tobirama?" He asks, gaze sharingan red, looking down. "Tobirama, are you… are you hurt?"

A pause, no one dares to move. Madara and Izuna for fear of further injuring their unexpected companion, and Tobirama in the sudden awareness of the protective ire in Madara's voice. His clan head voice, strong and demanding utter obedience. Even among their clan, he doesn't use it often, and Izuna stiffens, automatically coming to attention under the whip crack sharpness of it. Then, slowly, the white haired head dips. It's just a shallow nod, but scared, terrified into obedience. A small price to pay, for honesty, and despite knowing this, Izuna glares at the elder Uchiha for furthering Tobirama's distress.

"How badly?" Madara demands, loosening his hold until it's a mere shadow of the crushing embrace it had been. "Where?"

Tobirama tries to pull away, to flinch. And No, no that's not going to happen. Madara captures the angular chin, just barely applying pressure, just enough to keep the man right where he was.

"I need you to tell me, tell us, Tobirama. I'm only asking so we can get you healed, okay? We need to make sure you're okay, we don't want to hurt you, okay?" Not gentle, not by a long shot. Madara can't quite manage gentle, not with the anger he can feel boiling under his control, but as near as he can. It ends up brisk, but not unkind. He hopes. It's going to be enough. It has to be, he will not accept any other outcome.

And it is.

"Side." Tobirama finally says. Soft. Hazy. Still too deep in drop to probably be aware of what he's saying or where he is. Madara's an awful person, he's going to claim that right now, but he's not above using this state. He'll use it, if only to take care of the man, but it's still an abuse of the power Tobirama never would want him to have.

"Good, thank you for telling us." Madara chokes back the 'Good boy' that wants to escape, strangling the urge before he can even start to voice it. That way lies madness. "Can we look?"

They're going to. Even if Tobirama says no, Madara can't in good conscience allow him to remain injured. And his consent is… dubious, at best. Even if he agrees, anything Madara could do is taking advantage, abusing the trust Tobirama wasn't able to give. He has no illusions, even keeping himself utterly chaste-- not an issue, with the sick fury gripping his gut with dagger tipped claws-- undressing the man enough to treat him, to check for further injuries, is giving himself far too many liberties.

But Tobirama is nodding, leaning back towards Izuna's warmth, tension easing as Izuna slowly strokes over his shoulders, carefully avoiding the indicated side.

Perhaps it's better that Tobirama falls asleep, when they have to stitch his side back together, black twine thick and ugly against his pretty, pale skin. There's surprisingly few scars, though the ones that are there look old, untreated, left alone to heal in long knotty stripes. It rekindles the anger in Madara's chest, and when he glances up, hands slick with Senju blood, though his goal was toheal instead of hurt for once, Izuna matches him. Gaze steely and mouth flat, firmly uncompromising.

"We aren't giving him back." Is all he will say, daring Madara to even attempt a denial.

Madara doesn't.

...

...

He's… comfortable.

It's a rather novel feeling, of late. Tobirama doesn't even have the low level migraine his waking hours are haunted by, and his chakra reserves are deeper than they have been in longer than he can remember, thrumming happily just under his skin. His skin, feeling soft and smooth, the near constant ache removed from his bones, and he feels warm. Warm, because the bed covers he's sleeping on are warm. Are they new? Maybe someone lit the fire in his room, kindled and used far more wood than he normally allows himself. Maybe… maybe he should allow it more often, a treat when he masters a new jutsu. It could trade off, with his other rare reward of an after supper sweet, or a day in the river for more than a brisk, cold wash. Swim days are his rarest reward, only allowed when he saves at least ten of their clan, and his chakra is too exhausted to do more than the most basic experiments.

Yeah… this is nice.

He stretches, the slow waking as much of a treat as the warmth in the room, spinning lazily from the soft oblivion of sleep into reality. Reality which is suddenly a lot colder.

Because there's other chakra in this room, chakra both familiar and utterly forgien. He knows it, of course, but like this…? Lazy and content, more a home fire than a raging wildfire, it's… different. Uchiha.

Memories come, with a sharp mental prod. Dropping. Healing Izuna. Crying.

Shame colors his cheeks, but it's of little use attempting to feign sleep for longer, and the Senju turns, gaze fixed firmly to the upper walls. Part of him, louder than it has been in years, wants him to look at the floor, demure to the Dominant aura in the room with him. The one with kind hands and gentle voices. He was spoiled last night, glutted on soft touches and crooning words. It's a shame. Years of effort and fierce mental training wasted.

"Uchiha-sama." He greets, stiffly bowing. And his voice is more or less steady. Good. That's… that's good. "I apologize for my intrusion, it was not my intention to stay the night nor cause any inconvenience with my erratic behavior, merely the result of a new jutsu I've been developing."

Another bow, to utter silence. Disbelieving silence, but if they aren't going to say anything, Tobirama isn't about to either, turning sharply towards the door and attempting to walk out of it. Attempting. Because Izuna is there, frowning and staring at Tobirama like the answers he seeks are written in broad brush strokes across his face.

"A new jutsu…" Izuna starts, clearly disbelieving, one neat eyebrow raised to further show his lack of trust in his statement.

Tobirama nods. It had been an excuse, after all, that worked in that past. When his family pried a little too closely after a bad night. A fabricated jutsu, a misleading explanation, and most of them merely accepted his word, so long as it didn't happen too often.

"To reduce the need for interrogation. Subspace is merely a heightened amount of certain chemicals in the brain, after all. My jutsu artificially raises those same chemicals so even those outside the submissive orientation will gain a feeling of euphoria, and be much more cooperative. Unfortunately, the sudden decrease in the chemicals, when the jutsu is released, often causes what would be considered a drop in subs. While I appreciate your care and discretion in regards to my visit here, I must get home. My brother will be waiting to hear my report." Or, rather he would be waiting for Tobirama to come find him. Outside the drop, and he hasn't experienced one that bad since his brothers died, the crushing sense of failure that came with it, he knows exactly what would happen next. Hashirama would have regretted his harsh words by now, but would wait until Tobirama sought him out, to wail and apologize and make every flower within a mile radius wilt with his utter dejection until Tobirama forgave the oaf. The thought, predictable and comfortingly annoying how only siblings manage to be, almost makes him want to smile. He doesn't, of course, can't in the current company, but the urge is there.

"You expect us to believe that?" Madara raises one eyebrow, arms crossed firmly over his chest. But Tobirama isn't paying any attention to the man's unimpressed glower, gaze drawn instead to the thick ink marked across his forehead. It's familiar. Too familiar, because across his head is the same exact marking.

Touka's strong hand, ink cold against his forehead, and Tobirama knows.

This man? Standing in front of him, dark eyes snapping with an inner fire? Was his Soulmate, was the Dominant made just for him. Soulmates were rare, just having one made the person jump several rungs on any social ladder, and even if they never met, the two bound souls were closer than any living beings could dream to be. He hesitates, knows he's being far too obvious, but unable to help it, brain whirling, bringing up theories and plans and discarding them just as quickly. He just… he has to get rid of the mark. Erase it, hide it, keep Madara from knowing.

Tobirama is needed in the Senju compound. He always knew he could never allow himself a soulmate, that it would irreparably harm his cover story, that if he ever had the misfortune to come face to face with the other half of his soul he would need to hide, to reject.

Knowing the man's face? Knowing his chakra when it's the low, steady burn of a hearth fire, calm and steady, when it feels safe? His reasons seem so trite, so far away and near senseless. Because Madara Uchiha was his soulmate, and that had to count for something… right?

Red flashes over Madara's eyes, matching the dull flush on his cheeks. It's an… interesting reaction, one Tobirama catalogues quickly, before it can fade.

"A younger Uchiha drew this, as a dare. In waterproof ink. I've merely not had the time to wash it off, Senju, so stop your staring." It takes effort, not to reach his hand up, to touch the mark mirrored on his own skin, but Tobirama manages it. Just barely, and only because the bile in Madara's voice when he spits out Tobirama's family name, bitter and angry.

He grunts, tearing his eyes away and trying to remember the conversation beforehand. It seems like an age ago, instead of merely a revelation ago.

"You don't have to believe anything. It is the truth, and I shall be leaving to return to my brother and my clan. Should we meet again in battle, Uchiha, do not expect me to spare your life again." And he stands, tries to walk to the door, thankful his clothing remains more or less intact, before Madara is in front of him, a storm cloud of a scowl darkening his features.

"You." He points, finger stabbing into Tobirama's chest. "Will do no such thing."

<>A short, sharp gesture, to the room he woke up in. Tobirama isn't impressed, lifting one eyebrow in question.

"This, until further notice, is your home. If your words are true, and Hashirama knows where you are, he will send word when you don't return. If," and the word all but drips his disbelief, matching the coal black eyes, glinting with smug triumph. "He does so, we will bring you to the border and release you to his care. If he does not, then you have been lying. And if you lied about your brother knowing your whereabouts, then you likely lied about that jutsu as well. Which, of course, would mean that it wasn't an artificial drop."

The 'and you're really a sub', goes unsaid for a long moment.

"And we do not return submissives to an environment that's hazardous to their health, through neglect or otherwise." Izuna, of course, just has to slam another nail into Tobirama's coffin. And he knows it, going by the smirk playing around his lips. Everyone knows the Uchiha clan's ferocious defence of subs, both within their clan and outside it, protective as an angered mother bear. But, oddly enough, that defense only extends to the subs off a battlefield. On it, all the orientations are welcome, and expected to battle just the same as the others. They're protected, yes, but allowed to protect as well. It had always fascinated Tobirama, though now he hates the vigor that they apply to it.

Because, no. Tobirama will not receive word from his brother, unless a patrol saw him leave in this direction. Which was… dubious at best. He scowls, glaring at the brothers and crossing his arms.

"The Senju do not harm their subs, and even if that were the case, the two issues you mentioned are utterly unrelated." He says flatly, arms crossing over his chest to better match the withering scowl he levels in the Uchiha's direction.

"But they are." Izuna says, cheerful, like his energy isn't crackling merrily just under his skin, smugly dancing in mesmerizing flickers.

"Lying about one would, more or less, indicate you would lie about any number of things, Senju." Madara confirms, cat smug and mirroring Tobirama's crossed arms, though he comes off as superior while Tobirama is afraid his reads as stubborn petulance.

"And how, exactly, do you intend to keep me here, quiet?" Tobirama asks archly, a trickle of chakra along his fingers, a steady pulse he can trust, lean into. His chakra was all cool, swift movement, lapping against the dam of his control and barely hiding the turbulence deep inside his core. There's water sources, close by, he can feel them. Wet and cool, rising to his will without need of sign or word, twirling around his shoulders like an overly affectionate cat, tendrils brushing against his cheeks. And. Huh. Interesting.

He'd never given much thought if his soulmate would gain the blood red slashes that mark his face, but it didn't appear they did, Madara's pale face unadorned. Which… was likely a good thing. The markings from his sage mode were… distinctive at the very least. Maybe because the markings were created by chakra, an intangible substance, rather than a trauma to the skin, no matter how minor. Or maybe, without being the one to draw up the natural chakra and use it, Madara wasn't honored with the tattoo-like lines.

It is, of course, of little importance. Tobirama was merely curious, allowing the water to swirl even more tightly around his body, an impenetrable wall, should an attack occur.

But none comes, not truly, and not as he would ever suspect.

One moment, his chakra is at his fingertips, obeying his every will, and the next…

Gone.

Tobirama has felt this before, a variation if not the exact seal, and has to work to swallow the instinctive snarl that rises thick and cloying in his chest. Bastards. Stripping him of the energy so uniquely his, trapping it and locking it far away from his grasping, reaching probe; his sensing rendered mute and the world is all the darker for it, wrapped in thick cotton and pushed away, taken from him. Only the seals, ones to counter even the strongest Uzushio could create, allows his happori to retain the minuscule amount of chakra it took to sharpen his vision, a crutch for the lack of sharp vision his albinism caused.

"You cripple yourselves as much as you do me." Forcibly calm, Tobirama barely resists the urge to snarl the words, to draw back his lips and hiss like his snow leopards would, always bonded far closer than a normal summons.

Izuna lifts his brow, making a face as the water, no longer held against gravity by Tobirama's will, splashes to the floor, rebounding against the sanded wood to soak them all.

"If you really want to try it, Senju, feel free. Against one of us, unarmed, you might have a chance to escape. Against both of us? Where we have the home advantage? You wouldn't make it to the door." He shrugs, gesturing to the door, a mere handful of steps away. "Feel free, though. I told Madara that we should keep you in the cells, but he wanted to give you the chance to cooperate first."

Madara shrugs, like his brother's words mean nothing to him, at ease without his chakra and locked in a room with an incensed Senju. The blush, however, burning at his high cheekbones, says otherwise however, as does the way he reaches out, sharply smacks the back of his brother's head.

"Shut up, Zuna. Unless you want a trip to the koi pond again?"

Izuna shuts up, the threat apparently not one Madara makes lightly, but he smiles, smug despite the threat.

Tobirama regrets healing him. Regrets this entire situation.

Madara is… not malcontent with how the day's turning out. His brother, of course, is even happier. Because Tobirama is actually responding to the taunts Izuna loves so much, deep red eyes flashing and face twisted near continuously in a snarl that does absolutely nothing to deter the younger Uchiha. In fact, the switch seems to find great pleasure in annoying the Senju, casually reaching out and tugging on a lock of silver hair.

They're arguing about something else now, low words and narrow glares.

It's. Good.

Tobirama is good, here.

Madara doesn't believe the Senju for a minute, the lie about the 'experimental jutsu'. Last night, when he was exhausted and clinging and so clearly in a bad drop, there was no mistaking it. No mistaking Madara's and Izuna's reaction either, the fierce flare of protective need, the red hot anger as the man flinched. Even how he slept, stitches newly applied and sore, but still curling legs and arms around the Uchiha, dragging them back to his side when they attempted to leave. It was pathetic, but.. adorable. He fit so nicely in Madara's arms, pressed his pale face into Madara's neck, slept next to his greatest enemy and woke with the dark circles under his eyes at least slightly lessened. Beautiful, in a sharp way, like a sword laid against giving flesh, ethereal and deadly both. He looks better, like this, bright and aware and less lost than the shell he came across last night, though that creature isn't buried deep. It's there, in the man's eyes,, and his hesitancy to fully engage, responding to Izuna, but slower than Madara expects, dulled.

Across the room voices rise sharply when Tobirama's temper finally snaps and he lunges, hands futilely forming the tiger hand seal as he goes.

A sigh.

A step.

A hand, carefully modulated to keep it light, as gentle as he can, gripping the back of the Senju's shirt. It's not universal, not quite, but most subs have a bit of a soft spot, a weakness, there. If a Dom grips them, and speaks sternly enough, it's easy to force a neglected sub down. To force them into subspace, and take advantage of them when they're vulnerable. Just going by how Tobirama freezes, body stiffening for a split second before he forces it to relax, he knows it too.

Not a sub, his ass. Madara snorts, squeezing the back of the man's neck, gently but unrelenting. He doesn't lean back into Madara's leather covered hand, not quite, but he doesn't immediately attempt to murder the Uchiha and that's speaking enough. The Senju is slipping, probably still affected from the night before, not in subspace but not fully out either.

"Are you hungry, Tobirama?" He's careful to ensure it's a question. Tobirama is not a threat to anyone but himself right now. Madara has time, he can push the man a little at a time, can gather the threads of his story until it makes up the tapestry of why he showed up, deep in a drop, and exhausted himself healing Izuna. Because it doesn't make sense, no matter how Madara attempts to decipher the mystery. They were at war, in the middle of a battle. Unless Hashirama specifically ordered Tobirama not to kill Izuna, there was no reason for Tonirama to react so extremely, going on what would have been a suicide mission, had both the Uchiha missed the signs. And if Hashirama ordered Tobirama to spare Izuna, but allowed them to fight anyway? Tolerated the two fighting when Izuna was free to destroy Tobirama however he could, and Tobirama was hobbled by his clan head's orders? Madara was going to strangle the Senju. With glee.

"If you truly think I will eat anything while in enemy territory and denied access to my chakra, you--" he starts hotly, red eyes glaring over his shoulder into Madara's own. Madara, who just gently shakes him, hand still on the nape of his neck. While good enough to temporarily silence the Senju, it won't for long and Madara takes the opportunity.

"My mistake." He murmurs. "I meant to ask what your preference was. I will not allow Hashirama the slimmest chance to accuse us of not treating his baby brother properly."

The body under his hand twists, fury in the ruby red eyes, and the snarl on thin pale lips. Madara doesn't give him a chance to act on that anger, or for those pale hands to actually get anywhere close to his face, releasing the Senju. Tobirama turns, his back to Izuna and fully faces Madara. It likely isn't meant to look like he's trying to protect the weakness Madara already exposed, but with how his shoulders rise, protective around his ears, it's painfully obvious. He's… vulnerable, and it's almost painful to watch, the fearful wariness in his eyes and how his fists clench at his sides, the only reaction he allows himself.

"Senju." Nothing in Madara's tone gives clue to how his chest is twisting, or how badly he wants to grip the man again, bring him to his knees, and praise him. It wouldn't be well received, no matter how badly off he was. So, no. Madara wont let himself soften. "You are going to eat, or I am going to force it down your throat."

"He will." Izuna confirms, smirk clear in his voice. "He's done it to me before."

"Because you're a brat, and decided that you weren't going to eat until I was sorry for being friends with Hashirama." He snorts back, rolling his eyes. It's a familiar argument, well worn and affectionate after the years of similar battles, of bitter medicines and times when Izuna was honestly just being a brat.

"He never ended up saying sorry." Izuna informs Tobirama, leaning back on his hands, posture open, easy. It's… good. Tobirama's shoulders loosening as he sees the posture shift, relaxing in what Madara is willing to assume is an instinctual reaction to a threat so clearly standing down. Smart, on Izuna's part, leaving himself open to an attack to make the other relax in turn. Madara himself has never been what he would call good with others. Never had the simple ability to talk easily with his fellows, or to ease a troubled mind with a few off hand words. That would be Izuna, social touch deft while Madara's own attempts were rough and often overwhelming. He always claimed his skill came from watching Madara and how not to do things, and subsequently cleaning up Madara's messes. Madara, in turn, would toss Izuna into the koi pond, claiming to be making another mess to help hone his skills further.

They banter, warm and heavy like winter bedding in front of the hearth, and all done without needing thought or attention, leaving all the more for them to subtly watch Tobirama's reaction. And it's… telling.

His eyes, red as an activated sharingan and sharp as an unsheathed sword, linger. On Madara, and on Izuna, confusion and… longing? Izuna sees it too, if the frown he sends Madara is any indication, only daring to spare the briefest moment before looking away once more. They don't have to guess what the Senju was longing for, it's clear enough when Madara moves around him, gripping Izuna's wrist in a well practiced move.

All it takes is a squeeze, a silent request to allow the outsider just a little of Izuna's weakness, and a smile. Just a small one, more a twitch of his lips than actual humor, but Izuna still allows Madara to push at his shoulder, to send him sprawling across the soft tatami.

"Listen here, you absolute brat." There's no malice in his voice. Tobirama can't quite understand that. Uchiha, even ones safe within their compound, had chakra that burned. Even across the miles between their homes, if Tobirama wasn't careful, if he allowed his sensing to stretch too far, the rippling flames of their energy scorched him. Scalded his very soul with destruction. How could people with chakra like that, people commonly referred to as fire demons, be so playful? So gentle with each other? So comfortable, and freely touching? Madara is even straddling his younger brother, knees on either side of his hips, and reaching down to scrub his knuckles across his younger brother's skull, making the already messy hair even more so. "You will show me respect, and if you don't, I'll gladly toss you in the dungeons until you learn how."

"You haven't done that since I presented as a switch, because you know I'd enjoy it too much." Izuna retorts, scoffing and reaching up, clever fingers jabbing hard into Madara's armpit and sticking there, fluttering despite the frantic flail his actions gain. And… huh. Madara is ticklish. Izuna is a switch. This is…

This has to be a genjustu.

Tobirama dropped, came here to heal Madara's brother, and when he exhausted himself, he was put under this genjustu.

Madara is not his soulmate.

Izuna is not a switch.

They don't find their enemies' greatest fighter and take care of him in his weakest moment.

This entire day is an unwelcome and strange genjutsu. Meant to unsettle him, to… to gain an advantage against his clan.

"You two can stop the genjutsu now, I see through it, suppressed chakra or not." Two sets of black eyes snap to his form, and Tobirama refuses to avert his own. He's already in a genjutsu, they can't make it worse. "Whatever you're attempting to discover, this act will get you no closer."

"A genjutsu, against a sensor as strong as you? Do we look like idiots?" Madara's eyebrow quirks when he's skeptical, Tobirama hadn't known that, and the information is…

The information is useless, because Madara was not his soulmate and this entire thing was a genjutsu in any case. If he remembered that, kept that his sole focus, maybe… He's replying before he can think better of it, narrowing his eyes.

"That only applies if I was awake when you cast it. If I were asleep when the genjutsu was activated, there would be no way to know if one was in place or not." It makes sense. Or, it makes more sense than the sight in front of him, of the hazy memories of soft hands and softer words, of small, simple commands and outlandish praise when he completed the simple requests.

That was a dream world. An indulgence he may look back to, when his life resumes it's normal course. A comfort.

Or, rather, it will be once he can forget Izina's rough laughter, how he steps forward suddenly. A hand, pale even among the Uchiha, almost nearing Tobirama's own milky tone, reaches forward, settling fingers against his arm. Another moment, and… pain, sharp but minor and easily ignorable, Tobirama's skin raised and flushed where the Uchiha gripped a tiny section of skin, but already fading, already gone when he asks in insulted incredulousness.

"Did you just pinch me, Uchiha!?" He demands, drawing back, Izuna's fingers slipping off his arm easily.

"Pain dispels genjutsu." He says, shrug clear in his voice. Like that makes any sense. Tobirama doesn't stop the scoff that comes up throat, gaze locking on Madara's arm, the faint red mark blooming across it. Tobirama's injuries copied perfectly onto Madara's skin. A perfect copy, instant and fading as quickly as Tobirama's own.

He tears his eyes away before he draws attention to it. But if it was a genjutsu, they already knew. No. It's foolhardy to try and draw conclusions when he didn't have all the facts available.

If only his head would clear fully. Chakra exhaustion and dropping were enough to leave an unpleasant fuzziness that only a very strong tea would help at this point, if anything could, if he could trust enough to even drink if it was offered. If he could just think.

"Not pain anyone gives. You could just add it to the genjutsu." The implied 'duh, you idiot' is very loud. Even if he doesn't actually say it… yet.

Izuna plans to respond, even has his lips open to offer a scathing retort, baiting his rival was always fun but this goes above the satisfaction, sweeter and warmer without blood and sword and chakra sparking in deadly water, but…

There's a flash of light, bright metal reflecting in the sunshine spilling from the small window and Izuna doesn't understand, not at first, and when he does, he has to swallow a yelp of shock, falling into a defensive stance, body moving before he can think, frowning sharply as he pulls, but his chakra doesn't answer and there's copper in the air, red on the floor and...

That's blood.

That's blood and the flash of a kunai, one of the ones with scribbles on the handle that Tobirama has been carrying around lately.

Tobirama, who makes a small, pained grunt, withdrawing the blade from his upper arm. Tobirama, who just stabbed himself apparently. It's deep, certainly but not. Not worryingly so. Well, besides the worry Izuna has because where the hell did he get that!? He didn't have anything on him last night, both he and Madara had checked over his weapon pouch, and carefully felt for any weapons hiding in his clothing. That, him pulling that from nowhere, should not be something that happened! Not to mention he just stabbed himself to get rid of what he thought was a genjutsu. Even chakra bound, Izuna could have thought of four different ways to throw off another's chakra, none of which included stabbing himself!

"What the hell are you doing!?" It's Madara's hand on him, this time, and Tobirama glares at the offending appendage, jerking his arm away again, fingers sure on the handle of his lone kunai, the last resort he had hidden in all his clothes.

"Pain dispels genjutsu. It stands to reason that if I'm stuck in one with no access to my chakra, then I'd do anything in my power to remove it from my person." He scowls, just barely glancing at the elder Uchiha, readjusting his hold. "This must be a powerful one, I'll need to--"

"Do nothing of the sort! By the eternal flame!" This grabbing thing was getting really old really quickly. Madara's grip doesn't let him free though, almost harsh as the other rips the kunai away. "Stop that! This isn't a genjutsu Tobirama!"

"Like I'd believe you!"

"You don't have to! What would be the point of a genjutsu like this!?"

Tobirama… Tobirama has no answer for that, falling silent and dropping his gaze down to the floor.

It's not a win. Not even close. But Madara will take it, slowly removing his hand from the other's arm and taking a step back. That… that got out of control, very quickly. His heart is still beating double time, adrenaline thick in his uncooperative veins. That was. Tobirama's stab with the kunai was dangerously too close to that pale neck, and the bright beads of blood falling to the floor was… disconcerting. He shouldn't have worried, Tobirama was a dangerous opponent, and had nearly killed Izuna. Anything that ended in the white demon's death should have been a blessing. He shouldn't still be so anxious, reluctant to remove himself from Tobirama's space, from the proximity that would let him stop Tobirama if he did something so incredibly foolish again.

But the Senju heir had also healed Izuna, and cried when he thought they would pull away from him. He was soft, vulnerable and yielding to Madara's will. He even fit, between Madara's arms, comfortable and skin blessedly cool against Madara's own often overheated form. And all those things made his breath catch at how carelessly the man handled his own body. Even his younger brother is uneasy, hands reflexively clenching in his soft cotton yukawa, and eyes that-- if they had access to their chakra-- would be sharingan bright were narrowed in deep concern, watching the man's hands. For once, it's not to guard himself against danger and Madara isn't jaded enough to ignore the irony, taking a deep breath and continuing desperately, demandingly, trying and failing to rein in his sudden need to take care of the man. Food. He needs food, and then Madara can coddle him again. Food first, though. He's far too skinny, too pale. Weren't the Senju known for their bronze skin? Burnished tans? Where were those genes, in this moon pale maneck? Was he just that unwell? Or was it a genetic disorder that gave him such off coloring?

<>"What… what will you eat, Senju Tobirama?" He finally manages to get out, gaze focused on the too tense back, the anger bright eyes boring into his.

Nothing. The man just glares, arms crossing over his chest in silent denial. Haughty as a stray tomcat, soaked in the rain and refusing the offered hearth warmth of a home. Too proud by half, and just as ferally wary.

Madara doesn't bother warning the man again, breathing out an explosive sigh, and making towards the door.

"Izuna, watch him. I'm going to go get some food, try and get his head out of his ass, will you?" He gets a snort. A short, sharp breath, before Izuna nods. "Senju. If you even try to hurt either my brother or yourself, I'll have you restrained until such a time your brother comes for you. Understand?"

He doesn't even wait for a response, half afraid of his own response if Tobirama continues talking, out the door and sliding it shut behind him in one smooth movement.

There's silence, heavy and near suffocating in the wake of Madara's exit, weighted with lies and unease both. It's… uncomfortable, enough Izuna doesn't resist the urge to break it, cheerful and bright, just to be aggravating.

"Sooo… Senju." The younger Uchiha starts, drawing the words out to become even more annoying than his voice normally was. "What is a demon like yourself doing? Suddenly turning around and helping the innocent Uchiha?"

Innocent Uchiha? Sure. He believes that. Tobirama snorts, but doesnt bother responding, moving back to the futon and sitting gracefully. Izuna's focus doesn't waver, and he doesn't expect it to, well aware he's a threat even without his chakra. Its… satisfying that the Uchiha acknowledge that, even if it's annoying that he cannot use their underestimation against them. The silence is short lived, sadly, before Izuna is talking again, black eyes bright where they're boring into Tobirama's skin.

"Are you actually going to make Niisan force feed you?" He questions, voice almost bird-like as he chirps. How did Tobirama miss it? On the field, Izuna was… well, not reserved. He jabbed verbally as well as physically, taunted and insulted with every sword stroke. But there was always an edge of malice then, and now, without that humor that bit, he was… approachable. Almost nice. Curious and open, still resting most of his weight on his arms behind him, Izuna was so far from the shinobi Tobirama faced on the battlefield field that the two couldn't be counted as the same being.

"What your brother does is his own prerogative." Is all he says, one shoulder shrugging in an easy dismissal. Madara's actions are his and his alone, Tobirama refuses to adjust his behavior to please the older Uchiha. Soulmate or not. And… he's not convinced this entire thing isn't a genjutsu, illogical or not.

"But are you going to eat?" The younger Uchiha presses, head slowly tilting to the other side, curious and willing to press his luck, since the Senju had yet to react as violently as he well could, despite the lack of weapons. And Izuna isn't completely assured of that. He had been, right up until the Senju stabbed himself in the fucking shoulder. Clearly that entire clan was crazy, from that bloody, savage kunoichi to the tree man to the white demon in front of him.

"I dislike repeating myself, Uchiha. It would be nothing but base foolishness to accept a meal in enemy territory while lacking my chakra." And, yeah. Izuna expected that, taking his weight off his hands and leaning forward, pretending to not notice the sudden tension in the man as he did so.

"But you're going to end up doing so anyway. You have to admit that much. Madara and I aren't going to let you skip meals, and we can easily overpower you." He starts, factually, though a small part of him is positively gleeful at the chance to make the stubborn Senju bow to their will, and if this had been any other circumstances, he'd take even more pleasure in it. But now…

Now there would be no real joy in it. It's far too close to taking advantage. Too close to the darker aspects of a shinobi's work that are truly dishonorable. All of them do it, of course, ninja's morals are bought and sold on a dime, but very few ever truly enjoy the missions that involve such things. Izuna would never say he had an abundance of respect for the younger Senju, or that he wanted to see the man thriving, but the thought of his rival, helpless, is… unsettling. Disturbing. Acceptable if necessary but… he would really rather it not be necessary. And seeing Tobirama's utter stillness that was a ninja's flinch just underlined that. The Senju knew exactly what he was threatening, and that they would end up doing so if it came to that. It wouldn't soften the blow, not really, but Izuna let's his voice gentle in any case, lowering his volume just slightly.

"So tell me how we can avoid that, huh? What would it take for you to just eat what niisan brings?" Tobirama stares, flatly unimpressed. If he had his way… no, he wouldn't. A hard no. But, Izuna wasn't being… as objectionable as he could be, and Tobirama really needed to wash off the "artwork" Touka had bestowed upon his forehead. To do that, to avoid even the suspicion he was Madara's soulmate, he would have to tolerate dealing with the Uchiha.

"A bath. Preferably before I eat." He gestures to his clothing, sweat stiff and uncomfortable, as well as being still bloody where Izuna had wounded him in turn. Though the wound had been cared for, the cloth was still rust red with dried blood that flaked when he moved. He was, Tobirama was sure, a disaster. And the fresh wound in his shoulder wasn't helping, a new coating of blood down his arm.

"A… bath?" Izuna asks, disbelief clear in his voice, but not unwilling. He even, when Tobirama nods, looks like he's considering Tobirama's request. And then, abruptly, his eyes turn calculating, narrowing as he rakes his gaze over Tobirama.

"You'll eat whatever niisan brings and let me take care of your shoulder wound, as well as look at your side." Izuna offers.

"I'll eat whatever Uchiha Madara brings, within reason, in exchange for a bath beforehand." This, at least, is familiar ground. Hashirama was never any good at political matters, too honest by far, and so Tobirama learned to be better, to cover Hashirama's shortcomings. A battle of words, of favors and agreements, was no different than a crossing of steel and jutsu. Both required strength of mind and an agile awareness of the field, if one wanted to avoid being caught unawares. "One thing in exchange for another, Uchiha."

Izuna does not appear to be bothered by his retort, smiling slightly. Just enough that it's clear Tobirama misstepped, still too dazed from his drop to be as sharp as he should be.

"One for one?" He asks, lifting one brow. "Alright. You can have your bath, but Madara or I will be there to supervise. For good reason, we can't exactly trust you on your own, can we?"

One pale hand lifts, gesturing at his shoulder. Anger rises hard in his chest and Tobirama scowls, barely able to resist snarling at the smug bastard.

"If you would just allow me my chakra, I could heal both wounds in a matter of minutes!" He snaps, voice brittle with his ire.

"And allow a tsunami to wipe our compound the moment you do? You don't think much of our intellect, do you, Senju?" Despite knowing, and reminding himself several times that Izuna was likely just winding him up to ensure a better outcome for the Uchiha, Tobirama does not have the self control necessary to stop himself from slamming his hands down on the tatami, leaning closer to the other man with a snarl.

"Of course I don't think much of anything your clan does, Uchiha! But even the most short sighted fool would know that tending to an enemy is far more trouble than it's worth, particularly one that nearly killed you!"

"And yet that enemy is the same one that dropped while healing me." Izuna retorts easily, relaxing further as Tobirama's rage grows. He's practically sprawled next to the low table, smirk playing around his lips. "And the same one that almost cried when Madara tried to leave just long enough to get you water. Tell me, Senju. When your clan finds a sub abused into a drop serious enough to be unable to recognize who's around them, do they allow them to wander right back into the same situation they came out of?"

"That is completely beside the point, Uchiha!" Snapping is not for his benefit, he knows it, can rationalize it, but he still cannot stop the angry bite to his words.

"What is the point, then?"

"To negotiate for my cooperation!"

"We really don't have to. That is, after all, for your benefit. I am merely trying to ensure we don't put more wounds on you than needed." It's not fair, for Izuna to be acting this way. The switch knows it, can see the casual cruelty in the manipulation, how he's backing Tobirama into a corner there was no escape from. However, if he managed to extract a promise, Tobirama would be honor bound to see it through. No matter what a cold bastard the Senju was, he kept his word when he gave it, as much as any shinobi could. And it was for his benefit, the simple fact was. The more Tobirama cooperated, however they could ensure that, the less he would wind up being hurt. The more… the more he and Madara would be able to get to the bottom of what made the man change his actions so completely and so quickly. A little manipulation in the short term could save him so much difficulty in the long term. It doesn't help the sinking distress in his chest when Tobirama flinches minutely, his reactions slowly coming more pronounced as Izuna refuses to give him time to regroup. "So. Come back at me with an offer, Tobirama."

Another flinch. But, the white hair man does as prompted, clenching his hands into the soft futon and scowling down at his knees, trapped and hating it, reluctantly giving ground.

"I shower, alone. You can rebandage my side, I'll take care of my shoulder." He offers, after a too long moment of near silence, the only sounds distant and from the kitchen.

Izuna considers that, considers the man in front of him and…

"Sure. But let me do it, and I'll get you some new clothes and send those for washing." He's tempted, clearly, and only hesitates another moment before sighing explosively and nodding. "Great! We agreed. Come on, Madara is going to be done soon, so let's get you cleaned up."

It's surreal, to allow the white demon his back, to have even the slightest trust the man won't take the opportunity to murder Izuna in cold blood. It's… strange. And a little uncomfortable still, but… but not exactly bad. Izuna is honestly surprised when the Senju seems content to quietly follow him, steps completely silent as they walk down the hallway to the bathroom.

Izuna does as he said, leaving Senju Tobirama in privacy to cleanse himself, while he fetches a pair of soft, clean clothing. Casual, and…

It's just easier, isn't it? To grab the first well worn shirt and pants, the cotton indulgent soft from years of wash and wearing. Just because Izuna had grabbed one of his shirts, and stumbled across one of Madara's pants, both emblazoned with the Uchiha crest standing out against deep navy, it didn't mean anything. Didn't mean a single thing when something in his chest warms at the idea, the picture of Tobirama clearly claimed. It was merely an extension of his own dominance, pleased to have such a visible claim on a sub that had just been so deeply distressed.

Finding anything not marked with their clan's crest was difficult anyway.

That's it.

...

...

Tobirama makes the best of the chance he is given. It's quick work to scrub the offending ink from his forehead, removing the most noticeable link to his soulmate. The rest… his scars and other marks are more or less indistinguishable from any other shinobi's, particularly those around his injured shoulder and the side Izuna would bandage. Hopefully, the Uchiha aren't like him and his brother, so that the younger one wouldn't notice the suspicious symmetry. That they aren't close enough to care for each wound, knowing each discoloration or raised, puckered line.

Still, it's the best option he has, and there's nothing he can do about that, and he takes a brief, scalding bath.

Nothing long, because no matter how disturbingly gentle the Uchiha brothers have been, they're still his enemies, but through. Dirt and sweat turn the water grey, scummy, but he's clean by the time he steps out, drying himself briskly with the offered towel and hesitating for only a moment before rapping on the closed bathroom door.

Unfortunately, while bathing, he tried and failed to remove the genjutsu, using every trick he knew. Fortunate or not… this was reality. The simple truth of it nearly sends him into shock, but he manages to keep it from his face and voice as he calls through the door.

"Uchiha?" He calls, fairly certain the man would stay close to an enemy, no matter how defenseless he seemed.

"You do realize you're in the center of the Uchiha clan right now, right?" Comes Izuna's voice, light and amused from just outside the door, before it is pushed slightly open, a bundle of loose dark fabrics in the revealed space. "Here, I have the shirt out here, it doesn't make sense to get your blood on it."

Tobirama grunts, taking the clothing with another low sound. It could, with some imagination, be considered thankful. The clothes fit, thankfully, and while there's nothing he can do about the large clan marking… they'll serve their purpose well enough.

So he walks out, bare chested with his happauri face guard tucked loosely into the borrowed pants. He's unhappy, and doesn't even try to hide it, crossing his arms over his chest and scowling as the younger Uchiha just grins, annoyingly smug and bright.

"They fit, good." And he's gone, walking back down the smooth wooden floors to the room he awoke in the room Madara claimed would 'be his home' until Hashirama sends word. Which…

Unlikely.

Tobirama tries not to grimace, as Izuna tends to his shoulder, and checks the already stitched wound in his side. The stitches have pulled, slightly, red and irritated around the stark black threads. It's unpleasant, but not unduly so, and over with mercifully quickly. Not quickly enough, however, because Madara comes into the room as Izuna declares the shoulder wound 'passable,' and 'not in need of stitches'. Which Tobirama knew, he was good at his job, knew the angles and the force required for pain but not true damage and how to apply both of those principles to his own form. Small mercies, however, blessed him to have one wrap of clean white bandages swathing across his skin, hiding any distinguishing marks his mate may recognize. Before Madara opens the door, mouth tugging into an unhappy line at the sight of Tobirama already redressing, wounds seen to.

That… was far too close. Shared skin, Tobirama is beginning to realize, is a massive pain in his ass.

"You got him to agree to let you treat his wounds?" It's directed to his little brother, but Madara's arresting eyes are solely focused on Tobirama, bright with disbelieving interest, as the Senju finishes adjusting the borrowed clothing, a decent fit for being scavenged from the two in front of him.

"We came to an understanding." And there is no reason for Izuna to sound so smug, smirking up at his brother and making no move to take the heavily laden tray. The tray Madara sets down with an irritated huff, setting out a simple meal. But the proportions are… Tobirama eyes the plate set in front of him dubiously. That's… a lot. A lot. More than he normally could force himself to eat in three meals. And this was just breakfast…?

But he had given his word, to eat whatever Madara deemed necessary to dish for him. Within reason. This… this would be within reason… right?

So. He ate.

Slowly, attempting to allow his stomach to accept the food without rebelling, he got a quarter of the plate eaten. Then a half. Then three quarters. Discomfort, always an old friend for any shinobi past their first mission, gnaws at his overfill gut and…

"-obirama. Tobirama!" It takes over three times before hazy red eyes raise. Fuck. Madara had… he hadn't forgotten that the man was still dropping, and would continue to drop between a few days and two weeks, depending on how long it had been since he last went into subspace and how well he was taken care of in the throes of his drop. Madara had planned to ensure he was taken very good care of. Including getting him fed, because there was a difference between a shinobi's natural leanness and the skeletal waif that had been bared to his gaze last night. Tobirama was still muscled, still very clearly strong in his own right but… but there was no fat, no cushion. His muscles were stringy, hard, without the slight give that he should have. Getting anything into him should have been a good idea, and he'd tell them when he was full, when he was pushing into discomfort…

Except he didn't.

Too focused on the mystery of the man, too absorbed in attempting to unravel the questions plaguing his mind, too certain of the man's cooperation, too relaxed in his own home to be ever-watchful and Madara had allowed himself to slip. Wasn't watching, as Tobirama's face contorted, discomfort twisting sharp features, or when small beads of sweat began to pepper his forehead, a clear effort to finish what Madara set in front of him. Stupid, foolish mistake. A rookie's misstep, to allow his attention to drift with a sub so far in drop. Even with Tobirama's seemingly swift recovery, with his sparkling wit and dry biting anger, Madara has to remember that he's a sub, and one that was in severe distress less than twenty four hours ago. An abused, neglected sub. One now in Madara's care. Of course he'd try to finish everything on his plate, both honor bound to and subconsciously attempting to please Madara, if he knew what he was doing or not.

Now was not the time to give himself a richly deserved kick in the ass, however, and the Uchiha clan head softens his voice, gentles it further when Tobirama's gaze proves to be glassy, hazy with distress or discomfort or just unhappiness and drop.

"Are you full?" Its difficult, incredibly so, to resist adding a pet name, something soft and sweet, an endearment. Madara only doesn't because the man probably wouldn't appreciate it, in his regular state. But… he likely wouldn't appreciate any of this. Still, as much of his dignity that Madaea can preserve, he will.

Slowly, Tobirama nods, gaze unfocused and slipping off to the side, away from Madara's black gaze. But still up, not focused on the floor like the previous night. Improvement. He's willing to take it.

"I thought so. It's alright, you did good for me, Tobirama. I didn't expect you to eat so much, and you did so without complaining at all. That was so good." It's a little enough balm to his stinging pride as a Dominant, how could he have been so blind!?, that Tobirama seems to ease slightly at the praise, shoulders relaxing from their rigid hold. "Does your stomach hurt, dear one?"

Dammit. That wasn't meant to slip out. Izuna's smirk says very clearly that the younger Uchiha is judging him, but… whatever. Tobiramam deserves that, and a whole hell of a lot more, for saving his brother and for whatever hell brought the Senju to them in such a state, wounded and contact starved. Moonbeam hair dips, slowly nodding an answer to Madara's question, and he tilts his head, pressing into the hand Madaea gently presses to his cheek.

"Do you think ginger tea would help…?" Izuna asks softly, keeping his voice low to avoid startling Tobirama. Madara considers it, but shakes his head.

"We don't know anything about him, his likes or dislikes. This will pass, and we can hold him until it does." Tobirama tenses, goes still and waiting. Not… not in a negative way Madara thinks-- hopes, because if the man is so traumatized that he has negative associations with just being held, he will not be responsible for the damage he wreaks-- but… "Would you like that, Tobira-"

The Senju flinches, just enough Madara catches it and changes his words, cursing himself for accidentally stepping on yet another landmine.

"Bright star," Because surely, surely, nothing about that could bring up harmful memories, no matter how Izuna frowns. The name was one their mother called them, often when their mischievous behavior made her want to sigh and laugh both. "Would you like to be held? By myself, or by Izuna, or both. Nothing that happens here is going to hurt you. If I can help it, you won't even experience any discomfort, but I need to know if you're alright with us touching you."

Again, it's not consent. No one could ever mistake it for such, but… it's the best Tobirama would likely be able to give, and even if Madara wanted to take advantage, Izuna would skin him slowly for daring. And so, when the man nods, Madara eases himself closer, watching carefully for the smallest sign of distress, and pulls the slender body against his side.

The result is breathtaking.

Tobirama melts. Goes lax and easy and trusting in a way that warms Madara's soul, even if he knows the trust isn't his, hasn't been earned or willingly given. But he'll take it, especially with how the man is puddled against him, loose limbed and easy. With Izuna on his other side, he's even more relaxed, face startling young when so much at ease, tension and thin lines smoothed away and leaving a man that still looks like he has some growing to do. Not very much, there was no mistaking the man as anything but an adult, but… young. Youthful, carefree with the Uchiha brothers taking his weight and taking care of him.

...

...

Time has gone fuzzy on him, again. But he can determine it has been some time since he dropped into unawareness. Time, and some movement. He was… on his side, now, curled tightly around a warm body, another pressed firmly to his back. It was… what was…?

Tobirama frowns, considering the dark tangle of hair centimeters from his nose, oddly choppy and pulled into a messy ponytail, though half the strands are flying free.

It takes a few more moments to understand who he's looking at, and he can't even tense. Because Izuna is sleeping, soft rhythmic exhales letting one stubborn lock of hair flutter into the air before it falls back. Izuna is sleeping. While an enemy is curled against his back, Tobirama never expected this. Never thought to consider what the Uchiha heir would look like, would sound like, peacefully sleeping, warm and content in knowing he's safe.

It's…

Oddly cute.

On the battlefield, Izuna was a trapped hurricane. All biting comments and gale force jutsu, a forest fire set alight on the earth, the crackle of intelligence and lightning. His face was set in a scowl, or a snarl, or bitter, mocking smiles, ones that cut as swiftly as his kunai; but now… here… He almost looks like Itama. Tobirama's baby brother, darling and adored and killed before he could even find his orientation. Tobirama rises, one elbow propped under his body, to better study the sleeping ninja, who just groans a quiet protest, disquieted as the warmth he was enjoying moved.

Yeah…

Izuna's features are a bit sharper, finer in the way all Uchiha are more delicate than the rougher stock the Senju favor, but he can see it. Maybe it's the fact he's a younger brother, the hint of a pouty frown that never goes away, or how he grumbles unhappily at Tobirama's continued distance, blindly scooting backward to press his body back against Tobirama's, a soft sigh escaping his lips as he drifts back deeper to sleep.

"You're the reason I still have him." Madara's voice shouldn't be a surprise, there was only one person that could be the source of liquid heat against his spine after all, but Tobirama still freezes, very carefully tilting his head to meet the unfathomable coal dark eyes, pale skin nearly glowing in the darkness of the room, more shadows than light, the sun likely setting even now.

"I wasn't going to hurt him." But Madara's face isn't angry, isn't much of anything, a quiet kind of watchful as he stares down at his younger brother. Fond, maybe, in awe?

Is this the look of a man, whose whole world was nearly destroyed, only to be rescued from that dark future? Is this… would Hashirama ever look at him like this? Like a miracle, a wonder? Tobirama doesn't dare think so. He… he knows who he is. How his presence is tolerated, in exchange for what little he can contribute to the clan. He was a tool, and no one would look at a tool like Madara looks at Izuna. Madara would never look at Tobirama like that, like a star in the sky coming to earth, and Madara reaches out, pulls the lock of hair falling half into his brother's open mouth.

"I didn't think you would. If you half killed yourself to save him, you wouldn't murder him in cold blood." He says simply, keeping his hand on Izuna's cheek and smiling when the younger sighs and turns into it, nuzzling like a kitten against this litter mate. "It's just… Thank you, Tobirama. Thank you, Izuna is my. He's my last little brother. I… He's my little brother."

He says little brother like most people say 'sun' or 'center of my universe'.

Maybe it was the dark, maybe it was the soft hush of sleep easy breathing, but Tobirama hears the effort the sentence takes, and… no matter what the Senju thought, what Hashirama thought, he is not an unfeeling machine. He isn't a machine, and his heart isn't hardened against such earnest truth.

"Hashirama is… Itama." That doesn't make sense, but Tobirama does not correct himself, taking a breath and continuing. Madaea doesn't interrupt, doesn't say anything. But his eyes are soft, pained in a way Tobirama knows too well, and he has to look away. It's easier to look at Izuna's sleeping face, breathing heavily. "I was just thinking. He looks like Itama, when he was sleeping. He was… a healer, once I started teaching him the techniques. I'm fairly certain he was going to be a sub, but he was… During a run for medical herbs, cut down only three miles from the compound."

He doesn't say that he felt his brother die, that he was there as the boy's blood soaked the earth, that he tried and failed to keep his brother's chakra alive, nearly killing himself even as Butsuma pulled him away from the still, cooling body. There are some words that won't come, and some wounds that won't heal no matter how much time passes. Based on Madara's shuddering breath, he understands anyway, and kindly does not mention the tears falling down Tobirama's face, or how he shakes far into the night, attempting to placate the painful want in his chest. Seeing two brothers, acting like family should, easy and comfortable in the other's presence; shouldn't be this painful. But it is, and when darkness rears its head again, Tobirama takes it, praying he won't be woken. One surreal conversation about dead brothers with one of the clan responsible for their death is more than enough.

...

...

Tobirama sleeps, and when he wakes, it's to an empty bed. Not exactly what he expected, not when both Uchiha have made it more than clear that they had no desire to leave the Senju on his own. Combined with the surreal conversation he and the Uchiha clan head shared and… he is uncertain. Far from an unique sensation, he still loathes it.

What can he do?

What should his next move be?

What clues has he already given, and what would give them more, endangering his secret further?

Are the Uchiha brothers his enemies… or reluctant allies?

The path he's set his feet on is unsteady, unclear and there is no easy solution that presents itself, no matter how he lies there and considers. There's no clear cut logic to brighten the haze of unease. It'd be easy, to surrender to his instincts, to find a Dominant, his Dominant, and allow them access to his chaotic thoughts, to allow guidance. To seek the peace he felt, with gentle hands in his hair, quiet voices and addictive praise. To allow everything else to fade, to allow… Be allowed….

No.

No.

Tobirama is above all that. He is. This is Subdrop. He doesn't need this. Doesn't want, doesn't ache to his very core for more of the incredible kindness he has received the past two nights.

It's a lie, one he doesn't want to admit it is, and turns his mind from that frankly dangerous line of thinking, studying the small room he's in; devoid of dark haired shinobi and their irritating habits of making him question his ingrained resistance to his orientation. It's just… they were so different from the Senju, open and expressive, and even though Izuna was a switch, he was the heir and respected and honored and… and everything Tobirama was not, back at the Senju-- at home. Back where he was honor-bound to return to. The Senju compound was home, no matter how cold and empty that word feels, after being cradled in hearth warmth, saw how the Uchiha brothers interacted with such an easy love, clear regard in every gesture and affection always in their tone. Here… Here, Home is surely a warm word, warm like "Bright Star" and softer than the clothes he was given, clearly well loved. Worn and washed to a decadent soft cling, smelling of iron smoke and soft, closed spiced yeast, baking bread. Good.

So good.

Dangerously so, he cannot tolerate it. Cannot let this gentle noose slip over his head, be caught round his throat and choke out any intention he had of going home. He was a tool. A weapon and a shield, tolerated only as long as he was useful. He could not be useful to his clan trapped here, no matter how gilded the cage. By keeping him, the Uchiha already strikes an unacceptable blow against the Senju. Before was… Before was different, even with his clouded judgment, he knew that Hashirama- his clan head, his brother and the only one Tobirama could openly show even the slightest amount of submission to- was the hand he could tolerate wielding him. He knew Madara, and he knew the path with the fewest casualties. Hashirama guided the Senju, he guided Tobirama, and that was enough. For that, Tobirama could and would honor the man's wishes, explicitly stated or merely implied. He would return home, Madara's anger sated and Izuna returned to health and it'd… it'd be okay. The war wasn't ending, and well. They weren't the dreamers, here. Him and Izuna, they were the fighters, and if Tobirama couldn't kill Izuna, if he wasn't allowed, then. There was only one ending. But he wouldn't make it easy, he'd go home to his rare reward and punishing training, he'd make it, and maybe.

Maybe in the time between the inevitable end and his return, Hashirama would look at him like he used to. With gentle love and true fondness in warm brown eyes. No matter how long it's been since Tobirama saw them directed at him, the chance was worth it. It had to be.

"What are the chances Madara would throw a fit if he knew what you were thinking right now?" Izuna. Tobirama jolts at the unexpected voice interrupting his thoughts, blinking rapidly as his gaze refocuses on the younger of his guards, vaguely noting the new bandages tucked under his arm and the wry half smile on thin lips.

"That bad, huh?" He asks, slightly amused as he enters, sitting down at the small table with a long sigh and a half hearted run at his side.

"No, I was just--." How much was safe to reveal here? Tobirama considers it, keeping his face carefully bland as he debates a moment longer before answering. "I didn't notice your arrival. You startled me."

As expected, that made Izuna's smile grow, but… it was softer, kinder, than Tobirama expected, gentled with something like understanding. Or sympathy. Or something like it, nothing he ever expected his opponent to direct at him, much less continue in a voice that matches the softness of that look, gently pitched.

"It's because your system is finally getting what it needs, and it feels safe here." You feel safe here, Izuna doesn't say. Not so much out of care for the Senju's feelings, but because Madara called him "Bright star", had held the man like something precious and delicate, something to be protected no matter the cost. Izuna can understand the urge, Tobirama wasn't a man one could look at and think "fragile" but the past day has shown what a lie that was. This man, small and silver like a moon rabbit come to earth, was broken, had gaping cracks leaking his true emotions, and was currently looking like the clans kids, when some held a puppy just out of reach: longing and desperation and completely disbelief that the softness Izuna infused his voice with could be meant for him.

"It'll fade. I've been there before, I know how disorienting it can be, to be basically helpless because your body finally thinks it can relax and doesn't hold anything back." Yet more things left unsaid. How unheard of it was, to be so lax at the enemy's compound, that Tobirama's reactions thus far have been far more unsettling than they are reassuring. Izuna doesn't let himself linger on those thoughts, because if he does, if he considers this for more than a moment he will get angry and even if he can't feel it like he used to, can't feel Izuna's roiling chakra, he picks up subtext and facial expressions astonishingly well even for a Shinobi. Instead, he continues, laying out the bandages carefully, just to busy his hands and keep his eyes down. "Its a sub thing. Don't worry about it, only Madara or myself will be in this wing, so it won't matter if you aren't on high alert."

Maybe he should be pleased, either because this particular dangerous enemy was so defenseless against anything he wanted to do, or because this incredibly beautiful sub was so trusting as to put aside shinobi paranoia, however unwillingly, but instead Izuna just feels vaguely nauseous. Every turn only brought further proof of Tobirama's poor treatment. What would it take, to register a place so far from home "safe", to make him lower even his most basic masks? How could the deadliest of Tobirama's enemies get to see what even the Uchiha's most deeply rooted spies could find no evidence of? Tobirama couldn't have gone under, not without someone knowing and… he pauses, shaking his head at Tobirama's automatic protest, raising one hand to stop any further words.

"You can't fool me. Try all you want with Madara, but I've dropped, hard. I know what it looks like, what it feels like and what you want, what you need. I know, Tobi, and nothing you say will convince me I don't. Save your act." It's not… harsh. Not exactly, but it's not far off either. Izuna was too angry to be anything but harsh, both dreading and longing to know what caused the others desire to hide who and what he was. Cool red eyes bore into his, gauging how truthful Izuna was, weighing the odds of lies against truth, incentives and repercussions, dangers and safety. His drop must still be affecting him, because no more words come, just silent watching and… Alright. Izuna can work with that, forcibly pushing down his anger and lifting one corner of his mouth in a crooked smile, a peace offering of sorts.

"So… ready to switch out those bandages?"

It was… strange.

Outside a battle, outside blade and pain and chakra like a neon flame, Izuna is… not objectionable. He was gentle, in fact, when he was removing the bloody dressings, and when he cleaned the dried blood off his side, carefully inspecting the wounds for any sign of infection and openly pleased when there was none, rewrapping his side with fresh gauze.

"I'm not medic," Izuna admits, pressing another line of bandages in place, to keep pressure against the worst of the wounds. "But you shouldn't bleed out before Madara gets home."

He's been chattering since he came in, and Tobirama had mostly resigned himself to the monolog but… that catches his attention.

“When Madara gets home…?” Unease curls thick and heavy in his chest, making the question come out sharper than he intended, especially paired with Izuna’s shark sharp smiling growing. This, this cannot be good. But Izuna’s smile only gets bigger, darkly pleased by whatever is running through his mind.

“The Uchiha, as I’m sure you already know, are notoriously protective of the submissives in our care. It wouldn’t be too strange for us to wreak vengeance on behalf of one, if we know who to blame. And seeing as Madara himself has taken a… personal interest in your case…” It only takes Tobirama a moment before it clicks, and his breath catches. He couldn’t mean what Tobirama thinks he does… Can he? Because if he does, if Madara is going after his brother, then…

“Hashirama?” Tobirama starts, his tongue thick and uncooperative behind his oddly numb lips. But the sentence is interrupted before it can go any further, Izuna smirking a little more as he starts talking. In that moment, Tobirama hates, the damn Uchiha and his own damn biology that forced him into coming down this path.

“Is about to get a richly deserved ass kicking.” Izuna confirms, tying the last of the snowy white bandages off and smiles smugly. Tobirama wouldn't appreciate it at least not yet, but Izuna and Madara would fix that. They’d show him in time, how his life should have been, how it could be now. And even if Tobirama would deny it, something flared in dark red eyes, shocked and cautiously pleased. Some part of him, probably deeply buried and starved for any kind of positive affirmation, liked that. Likes the thought of Izuna and Madara fighting to defend his honor, of being held safe and apart from the world. Uchiha protect their own, and those that cannot protect themselves. It was written into their very genes, into their eyes, how they got their greatest strength. The sharingan only manifested when an Uchiha wanted, no, when they needed power. Not for themselves, but to protect those precious to them, to shield their loved ones from pain. Tobirama may not fully fit that bill, not yet. But… he needed them, needed to be protected and held close and that was close enough. It’s not like Izuna is blind yet, he can see the way Madara is already looking at the moon pale man, possessive and gentle no matter how he blusters. Madara may not have taken many lovers in the time he’s been Clan Head, but he’s taken enough Izuna can see where the long, slow looks are going. He’s not an idiot. He can see attraction when it’s shoved in his face, after all.

“He does deserve it, you know.” Quiet, for once, but Izuna’s eyes are still a little too vicious to be believable, too savagely self satisfied to allow the lie any kind of integrity. “Your brother, and the entire Senju as well. Anyone who makes anyone feel like they have to hide away their orientation.”

He means it, it’s easy to see that, with the simple certainty in his voice, smugness slowly draining until nothing but sincerity remains, soloem.

"That." Tobirama's voice shakes, tightly controlled fury leaking through even his iron control. No matter his thoughts earlier, no matter how he liked the softness of the past few days, he had a duty. A responsibility passed down in his very blood. "Is none of your business, Uchiha."

Chakra or no chakra, Tobirama is a Senju. Loyal to Hashirama as his mother's blood was to their pack. He would return. He was Senju, a well blooded ninja by the time he was four. He was considered a fully righted adult by the time most were just tapping their chakra. He'd been chakra-bound before, trained mercilessly during those times by his father and missions both. Izuna may be one of the strongest Taijutsu users in the Uchiha, but Tobirama was his equal and the man isn't expecting it now. It only takes a few, brutally sharp movements, and the Uchiha is unconscious. Peaceful, like this, like the night before. With slow, even breaths, pushing and pulling at his long, silky hair where it drapes across his face, casual clothing in disarray from their brief but heated scuffle. Izuna is no slouch, and Tobirama is breathing hard when he's done.

But he won.

He won and Izuna is alive, is peaceful and unknowing of the chaos that he will awake to. Tobirama takes one more, nearly desperate breath of the iron-yeast scent of the home and runs.

...

...

He returns home, to Hashirama's absent minded apology for his harsh words days ago, overshadowed and overlooked in his near-scolding about where Tobirama had been, the squirmish had been minimally damaging on both sides, but their retreat had been harried without Tobirama's usual defense.

Madara, Hashirama said, while Tobirama carefully bound scraped skin and shiney burns, had been particularly upset this go round. Yelling and screeching at him for daring to abuse something, but Hashirama couldn't figure out what the man had been talking about, Hashirama didn't abuse anyone, even the few prisoners the Senju obtained were well fed and as comfortably situated as they could be, healed and brought to health as eventual bargaining chips.

Tobirama didn't technically need to heal his brother. Not with Mokuton already mending what damage there was, and not like this: clean white bandages and salves when his chakra was his own again but… but there was something soothing in it. In taking a more difficult road, to properly see and care for his elder brother, to allow the Clan Head a moment of peace and safety. Hashirama didn't question it, not even when Butsuma first started sneering at the habit. And now Hashirama just… did it. Found Tobirama and sat, brought the salve and bandages and talked. Allowed. Was close and allowed Tobirama to watch over his most precious person.

That night, the one that chased Tobirama from their home, was the first. The first time Hashirama rejected his offer of healing, the first time such harsh words were exchanged.

Life quickly returned to normal, to his precious existence except…

Except something was wrong.

Or, he now could name what was wrong. Could name it and trace the bitter edges of the pain it causes. The glorious few moments of peace and easily given submission at his soulmate's feet… they only set him up for this: for staring wide awake at his ceiling, gaze unfocused and chakra pinpointed to miles away. To hearth fires, sparking with agitation. Anger and worry. Maybe Madara was worried about his brother's life, now that his greatest threat was away from their careful watch. Maybe at Hashirama or the clan or…

He wants to know. Wants to sink deeper into the warmth of their chakra, the ticklish electricity under Izuna's flame, and the roaring blaze of Madara's, wants to feel them when they're peaceful, like those first few minutes before their chakra was sealed from the room.

Hunger claws at his gut, clashing with the anxious inability to even consider eating. Hashirama may have apologized for his wording but he never said he was wrong. That he didn't believe that Tobirama was anything more than a bloodthirsty blade, bared and hanging ominously over his dreams of peace. Tobirama didn't…

He knew it was illogical. That Hashirama was a dreamer and didn't know, but… he still couldn't handle it. The thought of eating his fill, even of plain solid food, when his brother was so disappointed in him. Was so distrustful of him. So, he didn't eat, kept to himself, kept quiet, for one… two… three… four days, quietly waiting until…

Another battle. Madara, at least, was there. A flaming pillar of anger the moment Hashirama takes to the field. Anger and power and…

Oh.

Hashirama is angry. Furious, the bass rumble of his sharp retort even above the clang of metal on metal, jutsu and fire and earth. Even as Tobirama startles, head jerking around from where he squats, at the edge of the treeline, waiting for any Senju to need discrete back up- the only kind he can offer when the Uchiha Clan Head and his Heir know his secret- there's another screeching accusation, maybe a question. And Tobirama wants to know, wants to know more than almost anything, curiosity as always his biggest weakness, so he creeps closer. He can see, when sharp tipped branches stab out for Madara.

Madara, who held him so gently. Madara, whose hands were on his neck and it only felt safe.

Madara, who shares his skin, and his soul, and who never, ever mistreated him while Tobirama was in his care. Maybe… maybe two days wasn't enough to actually trust the man, or even consider the idea, but… Madara was warm, and gentle, and had been so incredibly kind.

He'd like to blame instincts, the shuddering feeling of terror and surrender buried deep in his chest, but… no. That's not it.

He is a shinobi first and foremost. He knows his own mind, and where his impulses come from, knows his motivations and drives better than he knows anything else.

>p>His mind, when it finally catches up to his body, isn't on Dominance and Submission. It's not even on gentle hands and a prickly bright humor.

It's on a brother's face, quietly deavestated, even when their brother is whole and healthy under their gaze. It's on the quiet pain in the man's voice as he thanks Tobirama. It's on brothers, caring for each other and being cared for in equal terms. On the man who could have seen his weakness and detested him for it, berated and destroyed him for displaying it, but instead… caged it. Gentled himself in the face of it. Defended Tobirama when he didn't know he wanted to be defended. And it was on pain.

Pain lancing up his side, across his face, against his palms and bloodied fingertips. He had blocked the worst of his brother's Mokuton, kept his body angled so the most vulnerable pieces of himself were kept safe, but that left…

That left a wide eyed Uchiha man, holding Tobirama in his arms, braced with red armored back to Hashirama, and a long reddened slice across his cheek. Not bleeding, because it wasn't Madara's skin that was sliced. But, marking the spot mirroring Tobirama's own injury.

His hand moves, against his control and…

Madara's cheek is soft, wondrously so, soft against his fingertips and cool, for all that his body normally runs hot. Tobirama knew that, and could remember the liquid warmth that had pressed itself against him that night. Or maybe that's his own blood, wet and hot over his knuckles. Madara starts to reach up, pauses when his eyes catch on bloody red, though the fight could account for it, and freezes.

The moment when everything connects, when he realizes just who is in his arms, is visible. How his pale cheeks heat, reddening under Tobirama's questioning fingers, eyes widening and mouth dropping open.

The words he says, however, are nothing close to what Tobirama half expects. Not disgust, or derision or even shock.

No, what Madara Uchiha says, as his soulmate is bleeding out in his lap, is very, very simple.

"You lying little shit!" Loudly. Tobirama recoils, drawing back from his soulmate with an annoyed little grunt. But Madara isn't letting him go, arms tight around his chest, holding him carefully close. "You little shit! Izuna isn't going to let me hear the rest of this, fucking being my submissive right under my nose--"

He's interrupted before he can bluster more, though, Hashirama's branches forcibly separating the pair, horror in his face, followed quickly by confusion when Madara protests violently.

"Madara? What are you talking about? Tobirama may not show it, but he's a Dom, and Izuna… I saw the blow, it was a mortal one--" He's cut off. By a gout of flame, red hot and snake-like, striking back at Hashirama's Mokuton, forcing the Senju to retreat and drop Tobirama to protect himself before he was roasted.

Tobirama's body, already protesting the treatment he’d been giving it since returning home, wavers. The battleground, with both the Uchiha and the Senju alike pausing their battle to watch the small knot of people, spins. There’s just enough time for Tobirama to feel the sharp burn of embarrassment before he’s falling, vision cutting out.

...

...

He wakes, to the feel of hands glancing over his skin, bandages wound tight around his ribs and sharp smelling salve and--

“You’re going to have some explaining to do, Bright Star.” That name… Said once, or twice, when he was dropping and distressed. Of course Izuna would be the one wrapping his wounds, a parody of what got them into this mess, voice quietly serious. And his hands are gentle, as he keeps wrapping the bandages, despite the fact Tobirama is already pressing a green glowing hand to the wound and grimacing. "You're Madara's soulmate? And we already knew you were a sub, but what did Hashirama do to put you in such a state?"

"None of that is your business, Uchiha." But his voice lacks the bite he wants it to, and Izuna just snorts and rolls his eyes, glancing up sharply as the voices Tobirama has been ignoring rise in pitch and ferocity, seeing him stir.

"You've said that. Thank you for putting me on the futon, by the way, less uncomfortable than the floor." While there is a note of wry amusement under the casual words, the thanks is far too sincere for it to be anything but blithely honest. Tobirama… isn't sure how to react to that, not really, so he shrugs and looks away sharply, wincing as a new voice joins in the argument. Feminine, but sharp as her prized naginata, brought to bear against Hashirama and Madara both.

"You showed me surprising respect and kindness while I was in your care, I couldn't repay that by causing you unneeded discomfort." Izuna's chakra, which had been fairly calm, inquisitive but placid, flares in short, sharp anger before he wrestles it under control again, breathing deeply through his nose.

Only once his chakra flows smooth and unbothered did Izuna dare to look up, dark eyes still furious for a long moment before he blinks, long eyelashes brushing his cheek. Another breath and what is he even doing? Helping Tobirama like this, being so exquisitely kind, even being careful to control the most volatile of his emotions, muffling them as much as he can when Tobirama’s chakra sensing is strong enough to fell him each tiny shift in mood, when he’s this tuned into it.

“You deserve it, Tobirama.” He finally speaks, refusing to look at Tobirama, gaze focused on where Madara seems to be actually fighting Hashirama again, the Senju getting too close to those he was protecting. “I wish you could realize that. Not that I've known it for very long, I honestly kind of hated you when we were fighting, but you’re…”

Here he has to pause, to take a few more deep breaths and calm himself again.

“I’m not going to say this often, because you're already egotistical enough out of your headspace, but you’re so good Tobirama. Strong and sweet. Anyone else would have let me die, would have curled up and died themselves in such a bad drop. But you came to heal me, came to… To try and make up a mistake that wasn’t even a mistake. You expected to be punished, but you still let Madara and myself hold you. You didn’t resist when we were touching you, but you wouldn't let us praise you. You were everything anyone Dom could want but you still thought you were bad. Someone told you you were bad and didn’t deserve the most basic of care and compassion anyone should receive, no matter their orientation. Someone close to you, and there’s only a few people that could be.” His eyes are hard now, and the roar of his chakra is unrestrained, lightning and fire too bright for his eyes, too intense, too… Why would the man feel like this? For him, of all people. His rival, his near murderer, his… Before he can continue thinking in his confusion, Izuna continues. “You deserve everything Madara is going to give you, Tobirama. You deserve it and you better not question it, because he will only end up trying to do more, to prove to you exactly what you’re worth.”

“But, I just--” He was going to protest, to say he merely did what anyone would do, when faced with Hashirama’s cutting disapproval but. Izuna shakes his head, interrupting him.

“You didn't just do anything. I know my brother, Senju. He values family more than anyone I’ve ever met, and you saved his family. You saved me, when you thought it would end up killing you, when you had no reason to. That alone would make you someone worth saving in Madara’s eyes. But you trusted us. You trusted him, when you had nothing left to protect yourself. You turned to us, Tobirama. When you were at your lowest. Being his soulmate has a little to do with it, he’s always been a bit of a romantic dreamer, but most of it… Most of it is just you being you.”

Just him… being himself?

It made sense in the same moment it didn’t. Tobirama knew he was cold and sharp as a sword, curious and cutting in equal measure. He was a tool, a good one, for the betterment of the Senju . But, was that all he was? Was he just…

“I told you, you don't get to touch him, not after what you've done!” It's Madara, furious and protective and physically blocking Hashirama from coming any closer, scowling darkly. “If you were so concerned about him before, he wouldn’t have come to us in the middle of a drop. Keep your paws off, Senju!”

No.

Tobirama may be a tool, may be a bloody blade, only waiting for the next battle, but he could think. He was capable, and smart and this… this could be a start, a possibility. He was a tool for Hashirama's wishes, and if Hashirama wished for peace…

It only takes the briefest flare of Chakra, a touch of his energy to the seal he carved ever so carefully to Hashirama's armor and…

Improvement.

He doesn't get stuck this time. Does not get trapped between the atoms of the armor. Tobirama chooses to ignore how he lands on top of his brother, rather than beside him as he'd been hopeful for. It was getting closer to completion, and with enough warning he was able to turn in midair, landing lightly in front of the Uchiha with a scowl on his face.

"I am Senju, Uchiha." He snaps, arms crossed firmly across his chest as Hashirama scrambles up behind him, and it only takes one hard look for the elder to back off from his attempts to physically inspect Tobirama. "I will not tolerate my removal from them."

Madara scowls, crossing his own arms. It was probably meant to be a mockery of his own actions, but Madara clearly had more to learn if he thought such a thing could shame Tobirama.

"And you're also the nearly suicidal fool who almost killed himself with chakra exhaustion on top of the worst drop I've ever seen. I'm not letting you go back to the place that nearly killed you. Not now, not when it would only happen again." He goes on, but Tobirama interrupts him, shaking his head sharply once.

"Then don't. You fear for me so much? Stop the war. Make peace. Accept what Hashirama has been offering since the day he met you. Build a village and then you may see me every day. But I am a Senju and I will remain with them."

Silence.

Blissful, shocked silence. Madara is frozen, mouth half open and blinking slowly.

"You'd… the Village?" Barely more than a whisper, the Uchiha clan head looks like he'd just gotten slapped across the face, like every festival was declared in his honor, and presents piled in front of him. Everything he'd ever wanted, and more.

"The village." Tobirama confirms, echoed by his older brother, who was…

Who wasn't even looking at Tobirama. Who was staring, hopeful and wary, at Madara. Well. Tobirama knew he was never first in his brother's regard, the reminder shouldn't sting nearly as much as it does.

Maybe… Maybe he likes it a little, when Madara looks at him, instead of Hashirama, as the elder moves past Tobirama. Focused, carefully closing his mouth and considering.

"You'll live with the Uchiha, until the village is built, and the peace treaty is agreed upon. Or I'm not doing it." It's not a threat. A promise, and a warning. And… a test, he realizes, when ink black eyes snap back to Hashirama. Watching his reaction, feeling out how the Senju Clan Head would fall. If Tobirama's presence was more important than the peace he always dreamed of with his closest friend, or if he'd easily turn his brother over, despite only just seeing the Uchiha don't want him dead.

It warms him, somehow, that Hashirama hesitates for a long moment, glancing between the two.

"As the Senju clan head, I accept on his behalf." In his clear, serious voice. "Senju! Put your weapons down! We will have peace!"

More goes on, Madara and Hashirama conversing in low tones, but Tobirama is ambushed by his favorite cousin and is dragged away for a 'friendly conversation' that ends with nearly as many fresh bruises as it does hugs and tears. In the end? The battle ends with him leaving with the Uchiha, willingly entrusted to their care.

,,,

...

Building a village takes months, takes almost a year in the end.

Tobirama won't say it's easy, not on either side, but it gets done. And, if Hashirama doesn't look at him anymore, if his gaze skitters away from Tobirama, or if his voice is carefully cool and patronizing, if every fear Tobirama had about letting his brother know his orientation has come true…

Well. There's a hearth warm home for him at the end of the night.

There is soft sweet leather around his neck, a hand warm and safe, chakra like flame and scent like baking bread and iron. There's a pad for his knees, a lab built just for him, his favorite treats and as many hugs as he can stand. There's loving words and whispered praise, "bright star" and "lovely one" and "good boy, my good boy. I'm so proud of you Tobirama'' waiting when he's home.

For every ounce of scalding dismissal, of being thrown out like yesterday's waste, there's three of gentle hands and gentler words. For every inch of home he lost, he has found four more.

Hashirama may no longer claim him as a brother, may have quietly disowned him and removed his status as heir, but Madara loves him. Izuna is a better friend than he could have known, and his word is trusted. Madara consults with him, considers his opinion before taking the next step, talks politics with clear love in every line of his face.

So no, his life is not perfect, not when he's lost his guiding star. But Tobirama smiles, kneeling at his soulmate's feet, head resting on the man's knee as they look at their finished home, the last completed in the Uchiha complex. He's warm, and safe. Given permission to just be, whoever he is, however he chooses to be. His soulmate is a good man, and a better Dom, and there is no one else he will follow.

Never again.

He has a home, and has use. He can trust and rest.

In the end that's all he'd ever wanted. And it was good.