“Are you sure you know what you're doing?” Tōka asks, with an edge of judgement that Tobirama finds mildly insulting.
“Far more so than Hashirama,” he counters, and Tōka hesitates, like she’s torn between the need to call him an absolute idiot and the knowledge that Hashirama is always at least an order of magnitude worse. After several seconds, she surrenders with a sigh, raising a hand, and Tobirama makes a sound of satisfaction at another argument won and goes back to divesting himself of his knives.
“Don’t make that smug face at me,” Tōka warns, crossing her arms over her chest. “If you really think this is a good idea, I need to switch your faceplate out for a helmet, because you’ve been hit over the head too many times.”
Tobirama rolls his eyes. “I could hardly stop now,” he says waspishly. “The note has already been delivered.”
Tōka makes a sound of disbelief, raising her eyes towards the branches above them like there's going to be some answer there. “You mean the Uchiha have already found the body you left on their doorstep.”
“I left a note pinned to the missing-nin’s clothes. It was the most efficient method of getting a message to Madara,” Tobirama tells her. “You're prepared to distract Izuna?”
“You’d better hope I am.” Tōka raises a brow at him. “Otherwise you're going to find yourself married to Izuna instead of Madara, little cousin. He’s not just going to take you challenging his brother to a marriage hunt lying down.”
Tobirama curls his lip, entirely disgusted by the thought. “I,” he says with all of his remaining dignity, “am not about to marry a plucked chicken.”
“The only reason he looks like a plucked chicken is because you make it a point to pull out his feathers every time you two fight,” Tōka reminds him dryly, then turns halfway around, cocking her head. Her eyes narrow, but Tobirama sets the last of his kunai down on the stump and doesn’t bother to look up. He knows Madara is approaching; it’s hard to miss the bonfire-bright presence crossing the river, even when Madara tries to hide himself.
He isn't trying right now. That’s likely a good sign.
“I am doing the Uchiha a favor and keeping Izuna's ego in check,” Tobirama says, unrepentant, and hesitates over his shirt. Taking it off feels…presumptuous, but it’s also one of his favorites, and he doesn’t want it to be ruined.
“Heavens protect me,” Tōka mutters, and bats his hands away from his obi. “Leave that on. If you didn’t want it covered in mud, you shouldn’t have worn it when you challenged Uchiha Madara to a marriage hunt.”
“There is no need for that kind of tone,” Tobirama says, offended. “This was the most logical way to create a lasting bond between our clans—”
“You’ve just wanted to bang Madara since you hit puberty,” Tōka says without mercy, “because you have terrible taste in men. And this is your ridiculous, convoluted version of a courtship ritual, because you're an idiot.”
Tobirama scowls at her. “I could have had Mito distract Izuna,” he says. “She wouldn’t be this rude.”
Tōka laughs in his face. It is, Tobirama allows reluctantly, probably deserved. “Mito would eat Izuna alive,” she says, and then pauses, something amused and interested flickering across her face. It’s the same sort of expression Tobirama has seen cats wear when standing over some small, oblivious animal that’s shortly going to become a meal. “Well, there's a thought—”
For the sake of Tobirama’s sanity, it’s almost a blessing when there's a hard thump on one of the branches above them, a twist. Madara hits the ground right in front of Tobirama, Sharingan spinning. Tobirama jerks back on instinct, heart in his throat, and just for a moment the feeling of being prey is vivid, thrilling. Madara is dressed for war, gunbai strapped to his back, hair loose and wild and chakra burning.
Looking right at the Sharingan is like willingly baring his throat to a blade, but that’s half of the appeal in doing it.
“Madara,” Tobirama says, a breath, and Madara straightens to his full height. He’s shorter than Tobirama, just barely, but he still manages to loom over him, a shadow, a demon in the forest’s green gloom. Tobirama can see feathers in his hair, a half-second flicker of vast black crow wings that spread out, making him seem even larger and more threatening still.
“Tobirama,” Madara says, low, and it’s a velvet dare, but he doesn’t advance, doesn’t reach out to touch. His hands curl into fists, and he breathes in, ignoring Tōka completely as those deadly eyes fix on Tobirama. “That man was mine to kill.”
Tobirama tips his chin up, a smirk pulling at his mouth as he takes a half-step back. “Then you should have gotten to him first,” he says, and Madara makes a sound that could be anger or amusement, advancing. Tobirama matches him, shifting back to keep the space between them the same until Madara gets the hint and stops.
“I was planning to,” Madara snaps. “Keep your nose out of Uchiha matters, Tobirama.”
Madara's always said his name like that. Too familiar, too full of meaning. Tobirama’s seen the way his eyes linger across the battlefield, remembers all too clearly the way Tobirama has always ended up pinned up against something every time they’ve fought, only to have Hashirama rescue him at the last moment each time. Tobirama’s never been sure if he should be grateful or resent those rescues.
“Is that your answer to my challenge?” he asks, dares, and Madara's nostrils flare, the wash of his chakra almost blistering-hot as it curls around them.
“No,” Madara says lowly, and the gunbai hits the ground with a thump as he burns the cord holding it between his fingers. Without turning his head, he says, “Senju. Distract my brother. Harm him and I’ll have your head.”
Tōka snorts, but she takes a few long steps back. “That’s no way to talk to your future in-laws, Uchiha,” she retorts, but Madara isn't paying attention. All of his focus is on Tobirama, and Tobirama can feel it prickle hot across his skin, a tangle of want and challenge rising through his veins.
“You assume you can catch me,” Tobirama says, smirking, and Madara's laugh is a rough thing.
“You assume I can't,” he counters, and Tobirama’s Hiraishin kunai are behind Madara, sitting on the stump with the rest of his weapons, but—Tobirama doesn’t need them. He grabs for chakra, triggers a shunshin, and feels the snap of Madara's chakra cracking into the same lines, an instantaneous copy of the same jutsu following him as Tobirama hurtles up into the trees. He hits a wide branch and leaps, another shunshin snatching him out of the air and blurring him across a stretch of treetops with breathtaking speed as the land falls away below. There’s a shadow on his heels, a flare of wings he half-catches out of the corner of his eye before he’s dropping through the leaves, redirecting off a tangle of branches and slinging himself around a wide trunk to hit the forest floor in a roll that brings him right back to his feet.
Heavy, deliberate, Madara hits the ground in front of him, crow feathers shining blue-black in the light. Tobirama can feel him, somewhere deep inside his bones that’s like a resonant hum, creeping out through his blood. He isn't Hashirama, so in tune with the yōkai part of his soul that there might as well not be any difference between him and it, but—he still feels the stir, the weight. Madara is fire, burning up all the available air as he advances, but the thrum of deep water is in his veins, raging cold. Tobirama ducks Madara's lunge, flips over his swept-wide wings and darts sideways into the trees, careful of the shared border where Uchiha and Senju lands meet. The Nara don’t mind marriage hunts across the edges of their lands, and staying in neutral territory keeps either Tobirama or Madara from gaining an upper hand.
There's a snarl behind him, a shunshin, and Tobirama redirects off the trunk of a tree, leaps back the way he came, and sees the swirl of black hair just in time. Almost twists to avoid, but—
Madara is right in front of him, eyes burning, and Tobirama meets that red-and-black gaze and deliberately doesn’t shift out of his path. It’s the outcome he’s wanted from the start, after all. All of this is the thinnest possible smokescreen over his goal, and he’s not even trying to hide it.
Whether that goal is peace with the Uchiha or finally fucking Madara quiet, Tobirama hasn’t quite decided yet, but—he can multitask.
With a sound of victory, Madara hits him full-on, shoves him right up against the trunk of a huge oak hard enough to jar all the breath from Tobirama’s lungs. His wings fold away, all but invisible against his hair, but Tobirama gets his fingers into satiny tengu feathers and hauls him close, pulling Madara right up against him.
“You’re easy,” Madara accuses, but he’s breathless in a way he wouldn’t be from a few shunshin and a short run.
Tobirama snorts, and when hands close hard around his thighs, lift, he wraps his legs around Madara's waist, digs his fingers into hair and feathers where they tangle together. “Who came running the moment he got my note?” he taunts, and Madara snarls, shoves forward, and kisses him hard.
It’s hot, bruising, as much of a win as Tobirama has ever wanted, and he opens to the demand of Madara's mouth, presses up against the weight of Madara's body just to feel Madara shove him back hard against the tree. It makes him want to laugh, all vicious victory, and he groans, feels Madara's moan shudder up through his chest. The hands on his thighs slide, shoving his shirt up, and the stroke of soft leather gloves over his bare skin makes Tobirama’s breath shudder out of his chest. He tears his mouth away from Madara's brutal kiss, tips his head back against the trunk, but Madara just kisses his throat, digs his fingers into Tobirama’s ribs, and sets his teeth against Tobirama’s skin.
“Do it,” Tobirama gets out, and he presses Madara's face to his throat, tightens the grip of his legs around his waist. “Do it if you plan to, unless you just plan to tease again—”
Madara nips him, just the barest graze of teeth to make Tobirama shiver, to tangle the words up on his tongue. “Is your brother going to interrupt this time?” Madara asks, heady amusement and an edge of danger, like Hashirama had best not.
“Distracted,” Tobirama manages, breathless with the idea that they could have had this before, any of the times Madara beat him, had him pinned on the battlefield. Serious fights, always, but—what came after could have been something else entirely. “Madara—”
Madara's breath rasps out of his throat, and he kisses Tobirama again, teeth and fury and want, boiling hot on his tongue, in the lick of his chakra like tongues of flame. Tobirama tightens his grip on him, shoves forward hard, and Madara overbalances with a sound of pure indignation, landing on flat on his back on the grass with Tobirama sprawled out on top of him, hands still knotted in his hair. This time Tobirama takes control of the kiss, takes Madara's mouth like he’s imagined so many times, and Madara's arm wraps around his back and pulls him down like Madara can't get enough either.
“We’re doing this properly,” Madara says against his lips, half a second before he kisses Tobirama again. “Later.”
Tobirama huffs, but he’s not committed to arguing, or not enough so to stop kissing Madara. He drags Madara over, rolls them, and lets Madara settle heavy and hot on top of him. Hooks a leg over his hip, feels Madara's fingers scrape across the blue scales on the back of his neck, and hides a smirk in their next breathless kiss.
“Caught you,” Madara hisses, victory and elation and something hungry.
Tobirama laughs against his mouth, and doesn’t say that he was hardly the only one caught.