There was an oddly pensive look on Hikaku’s face as he stood on stage, looking out over the entirety of the Uchiha clan packed into their meeting hall. People were pressed into the pews and others stood along the back walls, while others still sat on the ground in front of the seating.
Madara himself sat on a cushion on the opposite side of the stage as the elders, unsure of why he was there instead of on the ground floor. Something about a ‘seat of honor’ or some other such silliness. He didn’t know why they thought he needed it; he wasn’t an elder, even if every Uchiha child he ran into had taken to calling him an uncle or older brother.
He watched Kotori, Hikaku’s other aid, speak with him in low tones as Naori organized the pages attached to a clipboard behind them; although, according to Naori, she did so much work she practically ran the clan with him, so aid was perhaps not the most accurate term.
Where’s Izuna? he thought as he glanced around; the seat beside him was empty. Surely his brother wasn’t going to be late to the first clan meeting after he’d been revived.
Then again, he’d once burst into a meeting, half an hour late, frazzled and covered in chicken feathers as Madara was in the middle of reiterating why meddling with the Yamanaka’s mind jutsu with the Sharingan was a spectacularly bad idea, so Madara wouldn’t put anything past him.
A flash of blue darted out of the corner of his eye as Izuna appeared in his seat. Madara raised a judgmental eyebrow at him and gained a cheeky smile in return. “I was busy.”
“I don’t want to know what with.”
Izuna snickered at him. Madara ignored him in favor of Hikaku and Kotori, who’d crossed to the center of the stage to gather everyone’s attention.
“Quiet down, please,” Hikaku called out, looking mildly amused as he raised a hand. Once the Uchiha had stopped murmuring to each other he raised his voice again. “I’m sure you’re all wondering why we called you here tonight.”
A suspicious grin appeared on Izuna’s face. Madara eyed him warily for a moment.
“We want to discuss a topic that’s weighed on each of our minds before, but hasn’t been spoken of in daylight,” Kotori continued where he’d left off, and an inkling of understanding began to worm its way into Madara’s mind. He- like many others in the room- had grown up with her, and had never seen a reason not to treat her as she was, but he remembered the disapproving looks his father had given her mother at her ‘behavior.’ It had been an open, unspoken of secret.
“We all remember the words of our parents, of an older generation that held to old ideals- but the point of the creation of this village is moving forward into a new age, and it occurred to me that the Uchiha should be an example of what this new age should look like,” Hikaku said, conveying nothing but confidence. It was perhaps the most charismatic Madara had ever seen him. “Our children, and the generation that will come after us, deserve better than what our predecessors gave to us. No child should feel ashamed because of who they are. Not because they like men…” Izuna raised his hand unprompted, making a few snicker in the audience. “Women-” Kotori turned and nudged Naori, who turned pink as a few women in the audience giggled under their breath. “Both,” Hikaku suggested, placing a hand against his chest. “Not because people perceive them as something they’re not.”
“The older Uchiha in this room remember when I was born,” Kotori said with a challenging look on her face, tilting her chin up. “I remember how you used to speak of me. Not all of you, but there were those who said how shameful it was that my mother let me run around ‘like a girl.’ You were convinced it was something to look away from and that I would grow out of it. I never did, obviously, because this is who I am, and it became something that others in the clan just put in the back of their minds and didn’t address.”
“My own mother was more secretive about me,” Hikaku picked up, drawing a few surprised glances. “I was born, as some of you might think, ‘as a girl,’ but I assure you I’ve always known that I am a man. My mother was forced to seek out resources in secret under the cover of night, spending much of her time worrying over what my life would look like- is that the way these things should be? Not in the society we’re trying to create. The Uchiha have always valued the spirit above all else and I truly believe this is an ideal we should share with the other citizens of Konoha.”
“Some of us were told we were trying to be men,” Kotori said, her lips twitching as if in remembrance of an old anger as she glanced behind her at Naori. “Or perhaps that it was a shame on our family to become like a woman. Our struggles weren’t always the same, but we have been intertwined.” A soft look came over Naori’s face as she gingerly took one of the other woman’s hands, sharing a long look with her. “The clan has become ever more accepting as we’ve settled into peace. That acceptance should encompass everyone.”
“I’m not here to apologize for not telling you,” Hikaku said as he moved forward, gesturing with the hand that held his clipboard. “Nor am I going to ask that you still follow me despite what I just told you. There should be no place for shame in the Uchiha any longer. I am who I am. I realize it won’t transpire overnight, but I ask that you all help Kotori and I walk forward as an example to the rest of Konoha.”
Kotori closed her eyes with something like satisfaction on her face. She had never tried to hide any part of who she was, but it still felt freeing to have pride in front of the entirety of her clan. Hikaku himself gazed out across the sea of faces before him- some wide-eyed, some smiling, some confused, some few of them disapproving- and knew the clan was not perfect, nor would everyone there be accepting, but if he reached even one person, he would be satisfied.
This had been his decision. He hadn’t been quite ready to tell someone, at the point in time when he ran into Madara in the hot springs, mostly because he’d been startled by the other man’s sudden appearance, but a sense of calm overshadowed any of his doubts; it had been his choice, and Kotori’s choice, and no one else’s.
Madara’s gaze settled on Miki, eyes shining with unshed tears as she stood beside one of her friends he vaguely recognized, a girl with her hair cut short who always went about in trousers and vests. They both looked like they were trying to contain themselves and their emotions. He was reminded, again, that he was untouchable, yet others in his clan weren’t. it was unnervingly humbling.
He and Izuna raised their hands simultaneously and began clapping, Izuna wearing a bright smile that looked a bit unsettling in its intensity. He leaned over to whisper in Madara’s ear. “He told me he’d be dancing at the bonfire this week. We all have some special decorations to wear.”
Madara raised an eyebrow. “Bonfire?”
“Been a while since we cut loose at one, hasn’t it?” Izuna beamed. Madara smirked slightly as he watched teenagers near the front of the room start to stand up and applaud, looking excited among themselves. Others in their twenties, some of whom were Kotori’s friends, followed suit. Not everyone in the room did, some of them whispering to each other, but he noted the occasional person who stood up when they realized just how many of their clan members were. The Uchiha valued, above all else, community, the concept of the clan itself, and even if there ended up being a select few malcontents Madara suspected any prejudice would meet opposition.
Personally, he could see no reason for that prejudice to exist; Hikaku was…Hikaku, and there was no logic in ignoring who Hikaku was.
“Our second topic of the evening,” Hikaku called out, turning and looking towards them, “we’ve regained a lost member through miraculous means. Izuna.”
Izuna stood from the floor and walked over to him with a faintly sheepish smile. “Sorry for dying,” he joked, making a titter spread through the rows closest to the stage. He glanced down at the rest of his clan and felt a wave of uncertainty flow through him. Countless faces looked at him with wonder, in awe, and some with a curiosity sparkling in their eyes.
It reminded him a bit of how it felt to walk through the village and feel others staring at him, wondering about his existence, but at least the Uchiha didn’t look disgusted. Even an escape from death meant nothing to them if it meant receiving a member of their family back.
“I thought Izzy-san was dead,” a small voice from the front said, riddled with confusion. The boy’s mother quickly hushed him.
“It’s all right,” Izuna told her, smile growing even more sheepish. At least, with everyone crammed into the building, he didn’t feel as though he was addressing as big a crowd as he actually was. “I was dead, and through an…accident, T- Senju Tobirama revived me through use of a separate jutsu. By accident. It wasn’t on purpose,” he emphasized, hoping no one would misinterpret, and paused when he realized he was rambling. “Which, he later corrected by reviving me in full through use of a classified dojutsu. Which is…gone now. That’s the end of it.”
“Eloquent,” Kotori whispered. Izuna did his best to glare at her out of the corner of his eye without letting his expression change as she smirked at him.
“Does that mean we’re having a celebration?” Futoshi yelled from one of the center rows, sounding excited.
Hikaku raised his hands and clapped. “A bonfire!” Almost every voice in the room cried out, prompting a series of hushed mutterings to erupt. “An event open to the public. Invite whoever you like- our gates will be open.”
“And we’re all going to dance,” Izuna said with a sweet and fake smile at Madara, who narrowed his eyes back. He knew that smile. That was a conniving smile.
He looked around the room and found several people smirking. Not all of them were looking at him, but they felt like they were smirking his direction. He twitched.
Madara was having a pleasant morning, both due to the exceptionally warm atmosphere outside during the cold season and the fact that he had a surprise for his brother. He was sure that Izuna was the most suited for Kagami’s genin team; their sensei needed to be someone who would suffer no harassment due to Kagami being younger than the other students. The younger man also just really needed a distraction so he would stop eyeing Madara’s personal life so closely.
He sat on the corner of his desk, one leg folded under him with the other dangling over the edge, turned towards the window where warm sunlight was streaming in as he went over their finalized reports in his lap and Hashirama worked at his own desk.
There were only five teams in their first batch of graduates, and one had been given to Tobirama while the rest were placed with a Yamanaka, a Hyuuga, and, surprisingly, another Uchiha- it seemed that another Senju had been a candidate, but Hashirama had chosen Naori over him.
“Do you approve?” Hashirama’s amused voice said from behind him, making him jump and scramble to keep the reports from falling from his lap. He turned and cast a mild glare over his shoulder as Hashirama beamed at him.
“You know I don’t like people standing behind me,” Madara grumbled, but let him step closer and peer over his shoulder. He looked back to the form in his grasp that had a greyscale photo of Naori at the top and three more beneath her, each of a kunoichi around the age of twelve. The merchant who owned the photo studio was more than happy to donate some of their older experiments to take shinobi identification photos with and promised that soon they would be in color. “What made you choose Naori over the other candidate?”
“Ah…Kenichi can just be a bit…stern,” Hashirama said with a sheepish-looking smile, rubbing his cheek. “He’s a good shinobi, but I think he’s still a bit stuck in old mindsets.”
“Hn.” Madara could have sworn he’d heard the name before, but he didn’t put much thought into it. His eyes roved over the three girls’ photos and the text below each one. One of them was a Nara, staring into the camera with a bored expression and a piece of wheat stuck in her mouth; one was an Uchiha with half her hair shaved off; the last was a member of the Kurama clan who was smiling at the camera and sitting ramrod straight as if about to be critiqued on every aspect of her posture. “They’re all genjutsu types anyway. Naori’s a better choice for that.”
“You’re right there.” A chuckle was his only warning before Hashirama was suddenly closer, a grin in his voice as he set a hand on Madara’s arm. “By the way, I noticed recently- it’s not that apparent from far away, but your hair’s become so curly.”
Madara opened his mouth to retort and nearly swallowed his own tongue when a hand carded through his hair. Hashirama swept a hand through it from his scalp to the end, immediately going back for another stroke. “It’s so soft,” he said, sounding surprised. He let his hand linger near Madara’s nape and curled his fingers in it, staring at the tiny coils and ringlets in the details of Madara’s mane.
Madara tried to speak but found he couldn’t. He could feel Hashirama’s hand near his neck, brushing against it even, and the room felt uncomfortably warm. The Uchiha kept such high-collared mantles for a reason; they went to great lengths to protect their vital areas, and he couldn’t remember the last time anyone but Izuna had touched him there. Had Hashirama done it when he’d first broken down in his house? He’d been distracted, then, but now all he could focus on was the sound of the man breathing behind him.
“Yes,” he managed to get out, feeling a bit disconnected from his own words. “I put…oil through it every week.”
“It shows,” Hashirama replied cheekily, moving to his side and grinning when he saw his reddening face. Feeling ornery, he lifted a hand and ran his fingers through Madara’s bangs, pulling them aside so he could see all of the man’s face. He stared at Hashirama with wide, startled eyes, but he didn’t look displeased, and the Hokage mentally preened in victory. “Does this mean you’re getting soft?”
Speechless, Madara stared at him for several moments before snapping his mouth shut and turning his face away. He couldn’t believe how easily Hashirama could destroy all of his composure with an innocent joke. “Tch. As if. You’re the soft one,” he muttered.
Hashirama’s grin took on a strange light. “Nothing about me is soft, Madara.”
Madara’s scrutiny jolted over to him again, even more startled, and he blinked a few times as he wondered at what that could have meant. Surely it wasn’t- well, what it sounded like. Had Hashirama even ever made an innuendo in his life? He was overthinking it; his fool brain was just overthinking it.
“Oh.” He cleared his throat and looked down, at the reports, trying to quell the dizzy feeling in his gut. It felt like two butterflies were having a fight in his abdomen. Just ignore it and act normally. “I, ah…” He swore inwardly. “I should…”
He’s flustered, Hashirama thought, leaning forward and placing a hand on the corner of the desk behind the other man and the other on the rim just ahead of his knee, under the guise of looking further at the forms sitting on his thighs. It was a bit fun, really, to make him lose his famous composure so messily.
“Tell the sensei their teams have been chosen,” Madara finished in a mumble, clearly trying to avoid looking at him.
“Are you all right? You seem lightheaded,” Hashirama said, eyeing him. He hadn’t leaned away, only seeming to shrink slightly on reflex, but he was ready to pull away if he was making the man uncomfortable. “Do you want me to go get you some water?”
“No, I… I’m fine.” Even with his stubborn crush making it difficult for him, Madara couldn’t bear to turn Hashirama away in any capacity or make it seem as if he didn’t want him near. “You can stay,” he mumbled, only half aware of what he was saying, unintentionally answering an unspoken question.
Hashirama smiled again, seeing the way Madara’s eyes drifted towards his hands and the crimson color of his cheekbones for what they were. The Uchiha probably thought he was just being friendly, he suspected, but he liked the closeness. He liked men, he found Hashirama attractive, and he liked him being near.
His gaze drifted to the desk Madara sat upon. He’d thought about it more than once; pouring Madara over one of them and making him grasp at the edges as he gasped for air. He’d thought about the desk in the Hokage’s office, such a large thing with so much room to work with. Hashirama wanted to lay Madara out on that desk, on his own robes, and watch him tangle his fingers in the Hokage’s attire beneath him as he arched his back.
It was utterly distracting to have the man so close yet so out of reach. “We should go out for lunch today,” he said, bringing his eyes back to Madara’s face. “Just you and me. A new restaurant opened down the street. Toka’s told me they have fantastic sukiyaki.”
“Right,” Madara murmured. “Won’t your brother be hungry?”
“He’s busy today,” Hashirama said with a smile. He had no idea what Tobirama was doing today.
Their voices had drifted into the hall; Tobirama stepped in through the open door with a dull expression, glancing at the way his brother had Madara boxed in on a desk and mentally sighing. Hashirama didn’t even have the decency to look even slightly abashed. “You two should go on and leave,” he said, and Hashirama didn’t even move as he looked over at him. Utterly shameless. “You’ll just be distracting here.”
He noted the way Madara’s hands were trembling slightly as they clutched the papers he had in hand and felt a bit pitying. Hashirama could be…a lot to deal with, and Tobirama was his brother. He couldn’t, and didn’t want, to imagine what being the subject of his…affections would be like. He grimaced to himself.
Hashirama drew up and Tobirama could see the small sigh of relief Madara took in. It was painful to see how much he liked the attention yet thought he couldn’t have it.
They were both absolutely ridiculous, and he was going to have an aneurism from being subjected to his brother’s flirting attempts if he kept this up.
“On a desk,” Tobirama said with a scowl, rubbing his temples. “He probably has some fetish about it. He cannot physically keep either of his hands off Madara for longer than ten minutes. I know he’s a physical person, but it’s ridiculous even by his standards. He was clearly hitting on him, yet Madara still has somehow not picked up on it. I don’t understand how either of them are the level of shinobi they are.”
“That’s rough,” Hikaku muttered from where he was half slumped onto the table, expression downcast. “I got a headache just from watching them in that restaurant we were in. What was it?”
“Something new, I’m not sure,” Naori mumbled. “Just popped up a few days ago.”
“That’s where they went for lunch,” Tobirama grumbled quietly. “At least they were out of the office.”
Naori grimaced. “They honest to god looked like a couple. I don’t understand how Hashirama can place his hand over Madara’s for almost ten minutes and he still doesn’t understand.”
“It’s so frustrating,” Hikaku sighed. “I need to unwind.”
“If unwind means what I think it means, count me in,” Izuna said from behind them as he approached the table, a smile on his face. He glanced over at Tobirama and nodded, feeling a bit uncertain. “Tobirama.”
Tobirama straightened in his seat- when had he started becoming so comfortable in the Uchiha bar?- and returned the nod. “Izuna,” he greeted as the man sat down between himself and Hikaku. It was odd seeing him in such a relaxed setting.
Izuna wasn’t sure what to say next, but he knew he didn’t want an awkward silence. “Has he asked for the strong stuff yet? I would think so, with how hard I hit you earlier,” he teased with a smirk.
Tobirama folded his arms on the tabletop and narrowed his eyes at him, fighting the corner of his mouth that wanted to curve upwards. “I got in a few strikes that were just as debilitating. You’ve no room to talk.”
Izuna’s smirk widened. “I think I have plenty of room to talk, seeing as I made you break one of the rules.” He was referring to Tobirama’s use of his Hiraishin to escape a rather large fire technique he’d unleashed, something he’d agreed not to use if Izuna didn’t use his Sharingan. Izuna was never letting him live it down.
Tobirama gave him a dry stare. Izuna turned away to hide the grin on his face. “Did you bring the good stuff, Naori?”
A tiny, self-satisfied smile appeared on the woman’s lips. She withdrew something from somewhere on her person and set it on the table. “I already prepared them.”
Tobirama raised an eyebrow. “Tobacco isn’t healthy on the lungs,” he said, taking the cigar she passed to him and examining it.
“Oh, this isn’t tobacco,” Hikaku chuckled. “It’s much better.”
He lit the end of his with a flick of his fingers and watched as it started to produce smoke. He took a short drag and breathed out serenely, closing his eyes. “If that doesn’t hit the spot.”
A crease formed in Tobirama’s brow as Naori and Izuna followed suit in sync. “It’s a…special… plant the Uchiha cultivate,” Naori told him, seeing his confusion, and sounding more relaxed than before as she smiled. “I ensure you it’s entirely harmless. I’ve never heard of anyone overdosing just smoking it. Most have rather tame reactions, but we know how to curb it if it doesn’t agree with you. It’s rather nice.”
One silver eyebrow raised. Izuna reached over with his cigar and used it to light Tobirama’s. “Try it out, Senju,” he said with a teasing sparkle in his eyes. “You really need to relax.”
Tobirama refrained from rolling his eyes at the man before raising the cigar to his lips. He had smoked before, but he hadn’t made a habit of it. A sense of calm spread over him. “Potent, isn’t it?”
However, like they’d told him, it was rather nice. But he wondered why they seemed hesitant to tell him what its name was.
“The potentest,” Hikaku said with a smile, eyes still closed, and the word sounded downright ridiculous passing his usually serious lips.
Izuna took a deck of cards from up his sleeves. Tobirama wondered just where Uchiha kept all these belongings when they seemed to have no pockets on their mantles. “Who wants to play a game?” he asked, a mischievous glint in his eyes as he shuffled the deck.
“I’m going to regret it later,” Naori murmured, looking like she already did, “but deal me in.”
The foundation of the bar felt as if it was rocking as its patrons shrieked in the dead of night. They were squished against the walls, waving their arms and cheering, some of them standing on tables and others on chairs. A few crouched behind the bar peering over it for a closer view.
A dolphin made of fire flexed in the air, batting at a narwhal made of water as it tried to spear it with its tusk. It dodged and slammed into the narwhal’s side, somehow keeping both their forms steady and nearly pushing it into the wall where several Uchiha screamed in terrified delight and ducked down.
The two struck out and switched positions, somehow getting completely turned around before rushing at each other rather recklessly. They slammed together and combusted, filling the room with scalding steam.
The bystanders yelled to each other in warning and streaked for the doors, holding their billowing sleeves over their heads and coughing as they made their way outside. Keeping ahold of each other, Hikaku and Naori stopped once they reached fresh air and wheezed, turning and looking for Tobirama and Izuna as they came stumbling towards them.
“See?” Izuna shrilled triumphantly, flapping one hand about.
“See what?” Tobirama demanded. “It was a tie!”
“All right, maybe so, but I won cards.”
Stopping to vomit into a bush, a drunk Uchiha nearly took his friend down with him. “That was fucking awesome,” he whispered. Several people around him murmured in agreement.
“All right, fine,” Tobirama gave in, folding his arms and scowling. “What would you have me do?”
Everything felt light and airy and a little bit hazy. It was a pleasant feeling.
Snickering, Izuna reached into his sleeve and pulled out a storage scroll- again, where were they keeping these things?- rolling it out and taking out a kabuki mask. “I know. You have to streak wearing this.”
“I am not streaking.”
“Fine. You can keep…” Izuna looked him up and down and grimaced. “Your pants. I’m being generous. You made a bet!” he insisted, waving the mask back and forth a little closer to Tobirama’s face than necessary.
Tobirama glared at him for a moment before unfolding his arms. “Fine,” he muttered, reaching for the sash on his yukata. Hikaku and Naori gasped as if shocked he’d agreed. They were both looking a bit unsteady, and a little bit too happy about basically everything anyone around them said or did.
Izuna looked giddy. “Yay!” he shrieked, then seemed to remember himself and clamped his mouth shut as red spread over his cheeks. The sensation disappeared as soon as it had appeared, and he held out the mask, taking Tobirama’s clothing for him.
A low chuckle rumbled in Hikaku’s throat. “You’re a wonderful specimen, Tobirama,” he teased, and Izuna and Naori joined his giggling when Tobirama flushed.
“Silence, degenerates,” he muttered, putting the mask on. “This is ridiculous.”
“I bet I can run faster,” Izuna goaded him.
Izuna took off. Tobirama burst into a sprint and quickly overtook him, listening to the sound of the Uchiha laughing behind him as he streaked away into the night. Trees and shrubbery passed him by and gave way to streets and buildings, and a few startled faces caught glances of him as he flew by, in mild disbelief.
He stopped when he realized he was on the road to his home, being suddenly reminded of his brother’s annoying existence. He traipsed towards the house and stalked its walls, not thinking to just enter, scowling when he found his brother’s window. The Hokage sat within at his desk, going over something with a pleasant expression on his face; Tobirama decided to stand there and wait until he noticed him, looming in the window with the moonlight casting an eerie glow over him.
Hashirama paused when he felt someone watching him and frowned. He turned and caught sight of Tobirama standing about an inch from his window and shrieked, flying out of his chair and making a small shrub burst from the ground from sheer surprise. “Tobirama! What are you-”
“Listen, Hashirama,” Tobirama snapped, tapping one finger against the window. “Do you know how I suffer? Do you know I have to share an office with you two?”
“What? I-” A furrow in his brow, Hashirama walked over to the window and tried to open it. Tobirama slammed it shut, radiating a scowl.
“No,” he said sternly, making Hashirama stare at him. “No.”
“You- just bend him over a desk, already, for Rikudou’s sake. Everyone can clearly see your…your…” He waved one hand to encompass Hashirama’s person and wrinkled his nose. “Sorry state.”
“My sorry s-”
“About Madara, you fool,” Tobirama yelled, making him cringe at his volume. “You love him, don’t you?”
“Of course you do. Just…fuck him already, and put yourself out of your misery.”
Hashirama stared helplessly at him. “I’m trying,” he said with a pout. He squinted at Tobirama and wished he wasn’t wearing such an unsettling mask. It was creepy to look at, especially on his brother. “Are, are you drunk?”
“As if,” Tobirama muttered darkly at him, turning and stalking away. Hashirama stared after him and slowly reached out to open the window, halfway expecting the younger man to appear in a swath of darkness and screech at him not to again, but he was already gone before Hashirama could say anything.
By now the three Uchiha following him had hidden in a bush and their laughter had reached loud enough levels to wake Madara, who’d fallen asleep on his couch in the middle of knitting the monstrosity for Izuna and came awake with a jolt. Grimacing, he ran a hand over his face and glanced at the clock, noting the late hour before going to his door and opening it a fraction. He squinted into the darkness and slipped out, looking around for the source of the noise.
I swear, if they’re all drunk again, he thought with a twitch, zeroing in on the bush he could see shaking.
Still shaking the tendrils of sleep off, he didn’t notice the presence behind him until it had grasped his arm and spun him around. He shrieked at the sight of Tobirama in a downright disturbing mask and- no shirt?
“Madara,” the younger man said, a note of warning in his tone, “what are you wearing?”
Madara stared at him, puzzled, for a moment before going stock still. He’d fallen asleep in Hashirama’s haori. “Ah…I, uh…forgot to give it back?”
Tobirama gave him a long, unimpressed look that made him cringe. “You’re literally wearing his clothes,” he insisted, grasping the reddening Madara by the shoulders as his tone bordered on desperate. “What, do you think I don’t approve?” Madara stared at him in silent, speechless confusion. “You’re the only one who can handle how stupid he is. And vice versa. How can you be so blind-”
“I think that’s enough nip for the evening,” Izuna interrupted with a snicker, grabbing Tobirama’s arm out of nowhere and pulling him away as the Senju continued to rave.
Madara stared after them as they went plodding back down the road, retrieving a giggling Hikaku and Naori from the bushes, and shook his head. They were a walking disaster. He pulled Hashirama’s haori more tightly around him and retreated to his house to escape the cold, making a note to start something just as hideous as the sweater he was knitting for Izuna for all three of the others.
Tobirama closed his eyes and forgot to open them again sometime between when they were walking down the road to the Uchiha compound and when he realized he was laid out on a cushiony material, buried beneath a layer of warmth. He opened his eyes a fraction, some part of his mind still caught in a weary haze.
He was on a couch in an unfamiliar room while a fire crackled in the fire place, and someone had draped a thick navy-blue blanket over him and tucked it into the gaps between his legs and the cushions. A shape moved in his field of vision and he blinked, squinting as he made out Izuna standing over the other couch, where Hikaku and Naori had curled up together like a single mass of curly black hair.
Izuna looked at them with a smile that made the skin around his eyes crinkle. He draped the blanket over Hikaku, who had laid down partially on Naori with his head resting on her chest, and gently lifted Naori’s head to put a pillow in between it and the headrest.
Humming softly under his breath, the only awake Uchiha turned and walked over to the fireplace. He drew a small screen across the front that dimmed the light in the room and grabbed a candle holder on one of the end tables by the sofa. He used it to light his way towards a door in the room, most likely his own bedroom. He stopped by the couch on his way and leaned down to press a kiss against Naori’s forehead.
Tobirama let his eyes slide shut, feigning sleep, until he heard Izuna’s footsteps enter the other room. It was a small house, and he could hear the man shuffling around getting ready to sleep. He could hear the squeak of his mattress as he sank his weight onto it.
He thought of the kindness and fondness in the man’s expression as he made sure they would all be warm for the night; of how nimble fingers had worked to take care instead of kill. Even Tobirama, who occupied an odd space as his acquaintance.
He heard Izuna let out a sigh that sounded weary and murmur under his breath. “Goddammit.”
He was trying. He deserved peace of mind.
Tobirama remembered how his brother used to be the only one looking out for Madara; how he had almost slipped away on his own and ended his life when no one had been watching.
Izuna wasn’t alone like Madara had been, but the least Tobirama could do was watch. He would see this time.