The rainy season begins two days after the Aburame leave, having arranged to return in three months’ time for proper treaty negotiations –which will take place in more permanent lodgings suited to the changing seasons, which Uchiha and Senju will have to arrange between them– and the cooler air and steady susurrus wake Tobirama early. If he had the chakra, the liberty or the inclination, it would be a good day to train or else to teach younger kinsmen the finer nuances of water manipulation.
Instead he shuffles further under the sheets, huddling closer to Izuna who is as warm as ever; he will have to get another blanket out, to stave off the chill that the rains bring with them, and possibly also go back to lined kimono for a bit depending on how much warmer the weather becomes once the sun is high in the sky.
But that’s for later; one very nice thing about being Izuna’s concubine is not having to get up early in the morning. Closing his eyes again and basking in the heat of his wife’s body and chakra, Tobirama subsides back into sleep.
Tōnari shows up just after breakfast, no doubt to enjoy the significantly cooler weather and make the most of it before the rains stop; once summer begins in earnest she and the other snow leopards will stop visiting, returning only after autumn has turned the leaves and the days are less sultry. Kiso instantly dashes across the room to hug her, but Tobirama speaks up before the toddler can be corralled for storytime:
“Tōnari-ba, I have a few questions about the contract.”
“Of course, Tobira-cub,” she says comfortably. “Kiso-kit, I’ll join you once your keifu and I have talked.”
“Hn.” Kiso pouts, but nods grudgingly.
“Would you like me to tell you the story of the Heiress of Cats while Tōnari-san is busy, Kiso-kun?” Izuna asks, smiling over the pot of water she is heating for tea. “Or would you rather the tale of the Strong-Armed Princess? Or the Bespelled Toad?”
Tobirama’s never heard of any of these, but Kiso evidently has: “Toad!” the toddler says brightly.
“The Bespelled Toad it is then,” Izuna says warmly, pouring the hot water into the teapot and getting up with the tray. “Shall we sit on the engawa together?”
Kiso nods eagerly and dashes off, chanting “toad, toad, toad!” as he vanishes through the kitchen and around the side of the house; Izuna follows, leaving Tobirama to confront his leopard auntie without an audience.
“So what is it you’d like me to clarify, cub?”
Tobirama eyes her flatly. “Tōnari-ba, when were you going to tell me that the side-effects of signing onto the contract include purring?” He’s somewhat resigned to it now, but a warning would have been nice! If he’d known this was a possibility he wouldn’t have been so startled by it!
The leopard flicks an ear at him, perfectly sedate. “Given your mother purred, I would have thought you would have known to expect that, Tobira-cub.”
Tobirama falters. “I… that was her, not you and the others?” He was eight when she died, and while he has tried to keep those memories sharp, he knows he’s lost things. He could hardly avoid losing things.
“Oh cub.” Tōnari pads over and curls around him. “Yes, Kikuno-chan could purr. The teeth are hereditary –all Hatake have adult teeth like yours, more or less– but the purring is just summoners and occasionally those who are born to second-generation summoners. As a summoner your hearing and sense of smell are also sharper than the average Hatake, and as the child of a leopard summoner your body is also more flexible, which being signed onto the contract yourself increases further.”
“Teeth like mine, more or less?” Tobirama asks, digging his hands into her fur. His future children might also be able to purr?
“Teeth reflect the most recent summoning contract in a Hatake’s family line,” Tōnari replies promptly, rubbing her head against his chest; “mostly just the canine teeth on feline and canine contracts, because a summoner needs the other teeth to be human for dietary reasons; humans are not carnivores. But bear and boar summoning Hatake can have rather more varied dentition.” She makes a thoughtful sound in her chest. “Vocalisations are also much easier and more natural for children of summoners.”
Tobirama flinches slightly from the memories of how he’d had to deliberately silence the inquiring whines and playful chirps of childhood in the face of his father’s scorn and demands that he ‘speak respectfully or be silent.’
“I found out which Hatake line my wife, Kiso and Keigetsu-chan are descended from,” he says eventually.
“You finally asked Izuna-bi, did you?” Tōnari sounds approving. “Very amusing to hear that story from the other side, I can tell you.”
“You knew?” Knew and didn’t tell him? What else does she know that she deliberately hasn’t told him, and what has she omitted because she thought he knew already?
“I met a very charming half-Hatake clan elder on my wanderings around the compound,” the leopard tells him reproachfully; “I did tell you to get to know your new kin better, did I not?”
“You did.” She’s always encouraged him to find things out for himself; not doing so and then complaining that she didn’t tell him what he was missing out on is pure foolishness. The leopards are not human, but his summons have been around humanity for long enough to understand the generalities.
“Umeno-san is a delightful lady,” Tōnari continues haughtily, “and I first heard about the Tiger summoners’ cabbage-thief in-laws well before your mother was born; I didn’t realise they were Uchiha, but the story was very popular at Hatake clan gatherings once upon a time. Less so after Ishino-san died –pulling her tail was half the fun– but no doubt it’s a story they tell still.”
“I don’t think Umeno-san will want to see me,” Tobirama confesses quietly. He has after all murdered her son, granddaughters and most of her great-grandchildren.
“You are raising cubs of her line; of course she will want to see you,” Tōnari contradicts him firmly, whacking the back of his head with her lashing tail. “And Izuna-bi has already rubbed your face in the mud, so I don’t think her grandmother will see the need to do so again. Kiso-kun is doing very well in your care, and that is what matters, Tobira-cub.”
“If you say so, Tōnari-ba.”
“I do say so, Tobira-cub.”
Tobirama feels his lips twitch. “Well that’s me told.”
His leopard-aunt huffs smugly. “Any more questions, Tobira-cub?”
“Can you ask Kyōnari to visit? She doesn’t have to come when Kiso’s in the house; I’ve missed her.”
She rubs her jaw against his neck. “I’ll let her know, cub. Now you have fun with your wife while I go play with Kiso-kit.” With that she swiftly disentangles herself from him and trots outside around the engawa.
Getting to his feet, Tobirama instead cuts across his wife’s bedroom to where he can feel hers and Kiso’s chakra.
“… said the daimyo’s wife, I could have managed as a toad or a rabbit or even a racing yacht; at least I could have stayed in the palace. But as a tonkatsu! Terrible! Here one day, gobbled up the next! I was quite terrified; I was shaking in my breadcrumbs.”
Kiso is rocking and giggling, hands pressed against his mouth as Tobirama quietly opens the shōji. A cool wash of damp air flows over him, the edge of the engawa shiny with rain and the garden beyond it veiled and sodden.
“The princess gasped,” Izuna gasps theatrically, hand covering her mouth, “oh no, Kaa-san! Imagine if the sorcerer had failed and we had eaten you for dinner!” Her voice for the dialogue is a piping girlish soprano, quite unlike her usual speaking voice.
Kiso’s giggles intensify.
“Well we didn’t, the daimyo said,” Izuna goes on cheerfully, voice switching to gruff masculine tones, “so stop crying Tetsuko-hime. Then he took his wife’s hand, kissed her and said: I am glad you’re back, Shinjuko-san. And the daimyo’s wife said: I am never going to leave ever again! But I had a lot of fun while I was racing.”
“An’ they had a banquet!” Kiso exclaimes.
“Yes! A banquet to celebrate the daimyo’s wife’s safe return home. And Tetsuko-hime did not have to get married young at all,” Izuna continues. “In fact she became a cartographer and travelled the world!”
Kiso cheers, claps and then throws himself at Izuna for a hug. “Tank for ‘tory,” he mumbles into her neck.
Izuna kisses his forehead. “You are very welcome, Kiso-kun. Now look, Tōnari-san’s here to tell you more stories!”
Kiso releases Izuna and hurries over to flop on Tōnari instead. “’Tory?”
“Of course, Kiso-kit,” the leopard says warmly as Izuna takes the tea-tray and gets to her feet, catches Tobirama’s eye and steps through the shōji to join him in her bedroom. Tobirama closes the panels, then follows her back to the iori.
“So, what do Uchiha do at home during the rainy season?” He asks.
His wife smirks at him. “Read books, play music, tell stories, gamble,” the smirk widens into a grin, “conceive another child; you know, the usual.”
“I think we’d struggle to conceive another child,” Tobirama says dryly –she’s already over two months pregnant– “but I’m willing to give it my best effort.”
Izuna laughs. “This afternoon maybe, when Kiso’s out,” she suggests wickedly. “In the meantime, how about we do a little craft-work and talk about embarrassing things our siblings and cousins have done?”
Tobirama grins; maybe he can find out about the time Hikaku ran away from goats, now that the man himself is not here to stop Izuna from telling that story. “That sounds excellent.”
It turns out that most of what Uchiha do at home when it rains is socialising. But not the loud chatty socialising Tobirama knows –and honestly dreads– from home; instead people drift into the Amaterasu Residence with books, craft projects, mending jobs or even basic weapons and armour maintenance, settling around the iori and accepting tea and snacks. By the end of the first week he works out that the clan has some kind of visual signalling for when a house is ‘open’ for hosting such impromptu events, and two days later determines that –for the Amaterasu Residence and neighbouring properties at least– it involves a dull white rock in the stone lantern closest the front gate.
He suspects there are colours involved he cannot actually see, given the difficulty he had in distinguishing the rock from its surroundings; passing clansmen seem to not have that problem at all. However now the mystery is solved he can let the means lie for a little.
It’s not just people visiting the Amaterasu Residence; Izuna invites him along when she visits other people, which Tobirama accepts as much for the opportunity to wear one of his new painted kimono as to get to see the homes of clansmen she trusts.
So far he has visited her mentor Takao, who lives with his brother’s widow and her children; Hikaku and Yori, a few houses along from the Amaterasu Residence in the Yatagarasu Residence; and Midori’s parents, of whom one is a wire-smith and the other the clan’s maker of their patchwork-lined coats.
That visit to Minami-san –who is currently heavily pregnant– had involved Tobirama getting very caught up in learning about coat patterns and designs and hearing slightly different versions of the kami stories that Izuna had told him.
He’d actually really enjoyed that visit, particularly the part where Izuna spent the better part of an hour drawing and re-drawing his design idea with illusions until he decided he liked it, then properly drawn it out on washi with a fine brush and taken over the discussion of colours and shading with Minami-san. Tobirama had already specified which colours he wanted to be most evident in the design by that point, so the minutiae of the background and embroidery did not actually interest him.
What had been interesting is that the conversation had clarified that Uchiha called people who lacked their unusual perception of colour ‘bright-blind,’ which is apparently a reference to how the majority of those ‘extra’ colours were most easily perceptible in sunlight, both direct or diffuse. The shades are invisible in lamplight or firelight, although Izuna’s sun-lanterns are apparently the exception there.
Something about Minami-san’s scent bothered him though. He’s not sure what it was –his nose is sadly deadened without chakra– but the longer the afternoon had carried on the more unsettled he’d found himself and the more short-tempered he had wanted to be with their very gracious hostess. He’d managed to keep himself in check, but there’s still something about the woman that bothers him when he thinks back. He can’t work out what it could be; she’s delightfully sly, devoted to her craft and not remotely bothered about arguing with him despite his well-earned reputation as a murderer of Uchiha and her being both entirely civilian and at least seven months pregnant.
Considering she is making him a beautiful patchwork-lined coat no less fine than Izuna’s, he should really try to get to the bottom of that; yes, he is paying for the work out of his gratifyingly-restored savings, but that does not give him leave to be rude to the craftswoman.
In this time he also finishes reading ‘The Great Sage Of Evil’ –he really has to wonder where Izuna got the book from and why she owns it at all, all things considered– and also gets through ‘General Stands Above Me,’ which makes him question very strongly what the geisha who bought his fans for him thought of Izuna, given the themes involved. He’s mostly sure the geisha doesn’t know that Izuna is actually a woman, but with that in mind Izuna is cast as the prince of the story and well–
–Tobirama does his best to abandon that line of thought entirely, but it haunts him at odd moments. The book is entertainingly subversive and manages to be both uncomfortably relevant and entirely escapist on the same page, somehow. He’s probably going to end up reading it again.
June also brings the first of the visible changes to his wife’s body, as it reshapes itself to support her pregnancy. These initial changes are subtle, but Tobirama sees his wife naked daily and so has no difficulty tracking them. Three weeks of rain and mostly staying indoors –though on a few mornings when it is merely damp and misty he cajoles Izuna into sparring with shinai in the garden again– stretch surprisingly long, yet also strangely comfortable.
Watching his wife interacting comfortably with her kin is endlessly fascinating. She is bright and sociable yes –more so than he could ever achieve without feeling drained– but it is a very different kind of socialising to what he is used to. Some guests she simply sits with, working on that odd looping silk project or oiling her armour; for others she gets out her shamisen and tells stories, embellishing the narrative with rippling notes and strategic pauses. Other guests are met with paper games or packs of cards, complete with cheerful conversation about nothing in particular.
Twice there are evening drinking parties, which get loud and rowdy with laughter and very dubious singing. Tobirama probably would have minded those more if he hadn’t been tipsy himself for both of them.
He appreciates that Izuna does not expect him to be hospitable to her guests; her exact words were, ‘you are free to join in, or leave the shōji to your living room open and watch, or close them and ignore us entirely; whatever you are most comfortable with.’ Tobirama has therefore ignored some of the gatherings, eavesdropped on others while pretending to read and joined in with about half of them, settling in when he wants to and leaving when he decides he’s had enough.
Not once has anybody commented on a late arrival or early withdrawal, beyond that one time when his request to Izuna that they turn in early prompted her to kick out her dozen young warrior guests; the various teenagers’ departure was willing, but accompanied by much wolf-whistling and many cheerfully crude suggestions.
Her doing so had not been what Tobirama expected, but it would be untrue to say he had not appreciated it. Or to suggest that he had not very much enjoyed the rest of his evening.
He meets a lot of clansmen –including a lot of women and variously-aged children– most of whom are visiting because they don’t mind being in his general vicinity, or are curious about him personally or Senju generally. A lot of the warriors have questions about his uncle Tokonoma –what is his temperament? Does Tobirama think he is committed to the treaty process? All manner of very reasonable questions given the circumstances– and in answering those he learns more of the epithets the Uchiha have assigned to his kin.
Tokonoma-ji is referred to as ‘Jiyōfu,’ Earthshaker. Tobirama’s father is –was– ‘Ishigaki,’ the Stone Rampart. Or at least that’s the interpretation these warriors offer; it’s very likely that the mean-spirited pun is entirely deliberate, likening his father to a bratty child or an ever-hungry ghoul.
On a more amusing note, of his own former battlefield squad Chigi is ‘Steady-feet,’ Shurō is ‘Hammer-blade’ –he would like that– Koenma is ‘Three Ways’ –a reference to his varied range of elemental affinities no doubt– and Maki is, hilariously, ‘Hare’. He has no idea what kind of interaction could have led to his teenage ninjutsu all-rounder getting named for a leggy field-rabbit and rather desperately wants to know, because it’s bound to be a story worth re-telling.
Especially since it was Madara who identified Maki as such; if he does get to see his former subordinate sometime soon he will tease her over being known to the Conflagration as ‘Yato-chan’. If only because her reaction to hearing her nickname will doubtless be emphatic and entertaining.
It’s all startlingly amicable and unexpectedly enjoyable. He should have known it wouldn’t last.
“Izuna he murdered them and you went and fucking married him?!”
Tobirama is just grateful he was able to press Kiso on Shizuki to be hustled off to visit Umeno-baa-san –whom he has not even met yet– when he sensed the agitated, grieving chakra signatures blazing down the garden path. It means the toddler isn’t hearing this, isn’t being distressed by likely-beloved family members screaming in Izuna’s face.
Didn’t have to see this man lunge at and try to stab Tobirama with a sleeve-knife before Izuna disarmed him, calmly wrestled him to the floor and sat on him, the other Uchiha accompanying him all clumped in and near the genkan, watching with expressions and chakra ranging from flat blankness to angry betrayal.
“He killed Tou-san, killed my sisters –your cousins Izuna!– Katami and Kayami are dead and he murdered their children too and you’re fucking him?!”
Tobirama has not moved from where he is standing on the far side of the iori from the front hall, as still and as close to battle-calm as he can be without chakra. That wary readiness to dodge or flee is the only reason he does not flinch at the reminder of his having murdered children.
“How fucking dare you Izuna?!” The grieving man spits in her face, but Izuna barely blinks and does not flinch at all. “Why is he not dead?! He fucking murdered my sisters and their children! He murdered Kumami-ba and her kids too, and Taimi-ba and Tento-ji and their kids! The fuck?! He drowns my baby nephews and you doll him up in silks and decide you want him to stick his dick in you?!”
One of the Uchiha in the genkan winces.
“Is that what gets you hot cousin? Child-killers? Couldn’t you just have dragged home a Water pirate if you wanted a cold-blooded murderer on a leash?”
Izuna has not relented in her steady eye-contact with her loudly furious cousin. “I miss them all too, Katsuma-nii,” she says quietly as the man finally pauses to pant harshly for breath; “it’s not fair that I’m still here and they aren’t.”
Katsuma’s fury cracks down the middle, leaving only grief and hurt behind. “Why did you have to marry him Izuna,” he wails, tears welling up and streaking from the corners of his eyes as he clutches at his hair, “just why?”
“He is just one man, Katsuma-nii,” Izuna says simply after a pause, taking one of his hands in hers, saliva still dribbling down her face. “How would killing him ever make up for all those deaths? He is not worth all of them; one of them perhaps, but which loss would you choose to avenge, knowing it meant leaving the others with their deaths unanswered for?”
Katsuma screams, dragging his hands free to cover his face and twisting sideways, trying to curl up into a ball despite Izuna sitting firmly on his midsection. “But, but how?!”
“How what, Nii-san?” Izuna asks patiently once the first flurry of sobs has fully subsided, rubbing her cousin’s back.
“How can you let him touch you, knowing–” Katsuma gestures wildly, chokes, groans and flops back to the tatami, still shaking and weeping.
“How else am I going to extract the eight children he owes me?” Izuna asks, chakra steady and tone almost light. “Nobody will ever replace Kamitaki, Rutori, Kannin, Kenashi, Tadashi, Teshio, Rusha or Aso. But I am allowed to want to soothe the wounds to my heart their losses have caused.”
Katsuma laughs painfully, covering his face with his hands again. “Fucking ruthless, Izuna-bi.”
Tobirama rather has to concur. He felt his wife slide into the place she uses to talk to her father about mid-way through her cousin’s torrent of abuse, but he had not been expecting that.
Is that something she has said to her father?
“I took him because he was necessary to his clan’s function,” Izuna goes on calmly, “and I knew that without him they would soon be forced to come to terms. I refused to kill him because I wanted the moral high-ground, and made him my concubine because it was expedient for achieving my goals.”
“You love him, cousin,” Katsuma says bitterly, glaring venomously at her.
“Do you really think I planned to?”
His wife’s cousin sighs, going limp on the tatami. “No, I don’t,” he admits tiredly as he stares blindly at the ceiling, “but your taste in men is fucking deplorable, Izuna.”
“In this my brother and I regrettably take after our mother,” Izuna says blandly, making every Uchiha present cough or snort into hands or sleeves, incredulous horror briefly the most prominent emotion in the room. Tobirama can sympathise; though the loss of his wife and younger children has doubtless played a part in shaping Tajima into the man he is today, it will not have changed him that much. If Izuna’s parents’ marriage was a love-match, then her mother must truly have been blind to his less pleasant qualities.
“Dear kami why must you put that into my head?” Katsuma groans, covering his eyes.
“You barged into my home without even taking your sandals off, Katsuma-nii,” Izuna says, still deathly mild, “and tried to stab my concubine. My saving you from both the fuuinjutsu I put on him and the legal repercussions of such an assault, then being insulted for my pains, is not appreciated.”
“Fuck. I’m sorry, Izuna-bi; I won’t come back.”
Izuna rises to her feet, stepping back so one of the other Uchiha can give Katsuma a hand up. “Grieve and come to terms and I will let you visit Kiso-kun, but not before,” she says coolly, handing over the knife hilt-first. “He was here when you arrived; Tobirama-san bundled him out the back door before your anger could distress him.”
Katsuma sags, shamefaced and chakra aching as he sheathes the blade back into his sleeve. “Fuck.” He rubs his eyes with one hand, smearing the tears that are still dripping down his cheeks. “Fuck. Yeah. I’m going.” He turns towards the genkan; the Uchiha there press themselves against the walls so he can stumble past them and out into the garden.
Izuna turns to the rest of her audience. “Is there anybody else who has anything to say?”
Tobirama feels the collective flinch and takes several steps forward. “Lord-Wife.”
“Yes, Treasure?” She does not turn as he comes up behind her and presses a handkerchief into her hand.
“Remember to step back,” he reminds her gently.
His wife tilts her face towards the ceiling, closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, then breaths out again, shoulders softening. “Thank you, Treasure,” she says quietly, tone warmer and chakra less sharp as she wipes her face.
The chakra of the others present slide in various disparate directions, but the general mood is of incredulity and hurt.
“Please, go and grieve,” Izuna says softly, turning back to her kin. “We cannot carry the past with us into the future we are trying to build; a future where we will not be targeted because of the mon we wear on our coats or the chakra we carry in our coils.”
“You deny us rightful vengeance?” Somebody at the back of the group asks.
Izuna looks their way; there is another general flinch. “I also deny the Senju their rightful vengeance,” she says quietly. “If you desire vengeance be sure to prepare your pyre first, so that we can lay you on it when the kin of the one you kill claim your life in turn.”
There is an uneasy pause, then two Uchiha at the back of the clump bow politely in tandem and see themselves out. This prompts a general exodus, and barely a minute later Tobirama is alone in the house with his wife.
She turns to him. “Tobirama.”
“Did you tell your father I owe you eight children?”
“No,” she shakes her head, then sighs; “it was an argument I considered. But it isn’t true, Tobirama. You owe me nothing.”
He swallows. “Really eight?” That’s twice as many as he’d been aware of. Yes, he had ambushed another trading group in February –that one in Tea Country– but, eight children?
“You would likely not consider Kamitaki-chan to be a child; she was almost fifteen, if not warrior-trained,” Izuna says quietly, “but Rutori-kun was twelve, Teshio-kun was eight and Rusha-kun was five.”
Seven is not exactly better than eight, and murdering civilians is still murdering civilians.
“Thank you,” he says quietly.
“For what, Treasure?”
“For wanting the moral high ground. For being expedient.” For her mercy, and her grace.
For loving me enough to stand firm in the face of angry, grieving kinsmen and defending me despite recognising my misdeeds.
“I just wanted the deaths to stop,” his wife says, hurt finally seeping into her chakra. “I, why do so many people miss that for that to happen, we have to stop killing as well?”
Tobirama reaches out and carefully draws her into a hug; she wraps her arms around his ribcage and buries her face in the side of his neck.
“Thank you for getting Kiso out,” she mumbles against his throat. Tobirama tugs her collar down so he can kiss the scars on the back of her neck.
“I had Shizuki take him to Umeno-san.”
“Good; that’s good.” She breathes, heart gradually settling out of battle-readiness. “Katsuma-nii won’t go to Umeno-baa while he’s like this; she’d wash his mouth out with soap for swearing all over the place.”
That is a very satisfying mental image; Tobirama takes a moment to linger on it.
“We could bathe,” he offers. It would properly wash the remains of the spit off his wife’s face –and he is going to remember Katsuma did that– and also be restful.
“I would like that, Treasure; it will give Kiso time to settle in and have fun with Umeno-baa too, so neither feels deprived when I go to fetch him back.”
The day after that unpleasantly personal encounter with Izuna’s cousin Katsuma, Izuna’s squad turn up on her doorstep with a mission. Not a serious mission, they hasten to assure him as they all pile into the genkan to get out of the rain, but still a mission and still important. Izuna needs to go over the border into Rain Country, having been invited to the wedding of the Rain Daimyo’s son, so will be away for this afternoon and most of tomorrow as well.
“Why isn’t Madara-nii going? He’s Outguard Heir and this is diplomatic,” Izuna asks upon emerging from the bath-house in her butterfly yukata. It’s her prayer day, making the timing of this mission doubly inconsiderate.
Takao-san sighs. “Because you’re more politic than he is,” he says bluntly, “and you’ve not actually retired from the Outguard yet.”
Ah, so this is once again Tajima making their lives difficult; Tobirama resolves more firmly to make the man very uncomfortable as soon as he can achieve it. He needs to give the matter more serious thought.
Izuna sighs. “He’s not going to get more politic unless he practices,” she grumbles. “Shikii-san, would you object to my gushing over how I and my concubine are now expecting? It gives me an excuse to be less visible in future months.”
“You cannot gush over how your sister is expecting?”
“That would be untrue,” Izuna says with surprising candour, “and also it’s not generally considered appropriate to talk about noble pregnancies until they actually come to fruition, or not. But the rules are more relaxed with concubines.”
“Won’t that create difficulties when you are later presenting your children as your brother’s heirs?”
“No,” Izuna replies easily, “because as my Nii-san is not married, then any of the children of his siblings are eligible to inherit the leadership of the Outguard after him; it is a matter of aptitude, not primogeniture, although the oldest child naturally gets the first shot at proving themselves and will not be set aside unless they genuinely lack aptitude.”
“So if you do have twins like Yori-san is threatening you with, you could pass one off as the child of the Uchiha Heiress and Senju Tobirama, and the other as Izuna and ‘his’ concubine’s.”
His wife grins. “Not that I would ever specify which child was which,” she says wickedly, “but such conclusions could easily be drawn.”
Tobirama sighs. “You have promised me a summer tea kimono and a light coat,” he reminds her, “as well as books I don’t already own.” He’s seen her casting a sharingan eye over his new shelves loaded with all the books he’d thought lost forever, sent to him by Anija in a moment of likely-never-to-be-repeated thoughtfulness.
Izuna leans in to kiss him. “As you wish, Treasure; and what would you like Kiso-kun? Sweets?”
Kiso considers this, chewing on his fingers from his perch on Tobirama’s hip. “Hn.”
“I will endeavour to find you a nice surprise gift then, darling boy.” She leans in to kiss the toddler’s hair. “I know you will behave yourself for your keifu, so I don’t need to ask, do I?”
“Hn!” Kiso’s chakra feels faintly pleased, but mostly he feels anxious; Tobirama is reminded that Izuna hasn’t taken any missions since becoming the toddler’s full-time guardian, and realises belatedly that it may actually have been on purpose. Possibly even arranged by Tajima himself, seeing as Kiso is one of his wife’s great-nephews. But whatever grace period they had been granted has ended, and so Izuna –having not actually retired as yet despite her pregnancy– is being called once more into service.
Izuna kisses Kiso again, this time on the tip of his nose. “How about I retire on Tanabata, Kiso-kun,” she offers warmly, “so that after that we can all be together and get ready for Keigetsu-chan coming to live with us.”
“Hn.” Tobirama can tell the toddler likes that idea.
“And you’ll keep my treasure company while I’m away, won’t you darling boy?”
Kiso nods firmly, then presses his face back into Tobirama’s shoulder.
“Then I shall dress and pack for attending a wedding,” Izuna says, leaning in to kiss Tobirama this time. He catches her under the chin with her free hand to draw the moment out, then releases her.
“Try not to flirt too hard with your fellow guests, Lord-Wife.”
She grins at him. “Do I therefore have permission to extol your many virtues and talents, concubine mine?”
Tobirama eyeballs her flatly; her grin remains firmly in place, smugly unrepentant. “Can I have my sword while you’re away?” He does not like the idea of being unarmed after Katsuma’s intrusion; without chakra he cannot hope to defend himself against a warrior, but against a regular clansman he has half a chance.
Izuna’s expression shifts into pained thoughtfulness. “I think a sword might be a provocation, Treasure,” she says apologetically, “especially in my absence. But I can lay hands on a sleeve-knife for you, at least.”
“I would very much appreciate it.” A knife is much better than nothing at all, and he can ask the leopards to stay close. Kyōnari has been visiting more lately, and she is by far the most stealthy of his summons.
“Is there anybody you would like to visit during the day?”
“To visit me, here?” Tobirama clarifies. He has no intention whatsoever of going visiting, not after yesterday.
He considers it. “If Madara-san is free, I would very much appreciate his presence.” He is not Izuna, but Tobirama doubts very much that any Uchiha will barge in and make a fuss with Madara present. And if they do, they will be very swiftly and firmly evicted.
“He will likely be free some of the time; our Lord-Father is focusing on his leadership training now we have the assurance of the ceasefire.”
Tobirama nods; that is more reassuring than his brother-in-law also being out of the compound. “I do not mind your talking about the generalities,” he decides, “but please withhold specifics.” A thought crosses his mind and he grins, “Unless you decide to reveal your enjoyment of wearing my lip-paint, Lord-Wife.”
Izuna theatrically fans herself with one hand. “Oh my, Treasure, so bold! How could I possibly resist?”
Tobirama lets his grin darken into a smirk, conscious of the toddler on his hip but not willing to let her challenge pass entirely unanswered.
“Well I shall dress, pack and pray, and then we’ll see if there’s time for you to give me a send-off,” his wife suggests brightly, leaning in for a quick, teasing brush of lips. “Kiso-kun, will you be staying with your keifu or would you like Takao-san to tell you a story while he’s here?”
“I know lots of stories about Izuna-bi,” the greying warrior says instantly, offering the toddler a smile as he peeks out at Izuna’s Squad. “They’re all true and some of them are very funny.”
“’Tory?” Kiso asks hopefully, taking his fingers out of his mouth.
“Well, let me take my sandals off and come in,” Takao says warmly, starting to do just that, “and then I can tell you all about the time Izuna-bi stole our client’s dinner.”
Kiso wriggles in Tobirama’s grip, prompting him to set the toddler down on the tatami; he’s tempted to stick around to hear this story for himself, but if his wife will be away for the next few days he does wish to give her a suitably stimulating send-off, so taking advantage of Kiso’s distraction is a wise choice.
Who knows, maybe if he offers to pack for her while she prays, Izuna will consent to being intimately kissed with lip-paint again, all the better to scandalise her fellow guests at the wedding she is attending with lurid and misleading admissions.
Izuna’s absence is quiet but tense; Kyōnari settles on the roof of the Amaterasu Residence, out of sight and reach of sticky toddler fingers but poised to fall upon anybody trespassing with malice in mind. Madara visits twice, for the afternoon of the first day while Kiso is out, then for part of the following morning to play with the toddler. Tobirama appreciates the company; Naka-Dragon and Hayami-chan’s presence is also steadying, reminding him he has witnesses if not necessarily backup.
Not that he strictly needs backup, given Izuna’s seal on him, but he would much prefer it not come to that. Yes it works, but he does not wish to test it against jutsu or multiple attackers.
It does not come to that; nobody at all enters the garden other than Madara, the two housekeepers and Kiso’s various babysitters either collecting him or dropping him off. Evening arrives on the second day without Izuna having returned, so Tobirama tucks Kiso up in bed, takes a few hours to read in the late evening sunshine –going over his fuuinjutsu notes in light of what little he has learned of sealing from Izuna, as she is providing him with many new ideas to theorise over– and then also goes to bed.
He wakes to near-darkness and his wife’s chakra presence beyond the fusuma.
“Treasure? Did I wake you?” drifts quietly through the carved transom panels.
It’s actually a rather comfortable temperature, so Tobirama gets up and crosses the room to open the fusuma. Izuna is sat by the iori in near-total darkness, just her sharingan visible; he can only tell she had made herself barley tea by the warm scent of it in the air.
“How was your mission, wife?”
“Long,” Izuna sighs; “tedious. I made my own fun, of course, but I would have much preferred to be at home. Those guests I am somewhat acquainted with teased me over being smitten, which I did not deny.” She slurps her tea.
“Come to bed, Izuna.”
He smiles fondly, knowing she can see it. “Yes wife, just to sleep; you need the rest.” Hopefully she will lie in tomorrow, or at least nap in the afternoon; being pregnant means she needs to rest regularly and well.
She finishes the tea and gets to her feet. “I’m coming.”