There are tears on the back of Izuna's hand, underneath the heat of Madara's cheek. Izuna can't sleep because of the pain, and the regret burns.
He should have been faster, should have been smarter. Should have expected what Tobirama did, or at least that Tobirama would have a new jutsu, because he always does. But he didn’t, got overconfident, and now he’s dying for it. Soon Madara will be the last of their direct family, and Izuna hates it with a passion that aches deep in his bones. Madara's pigheaded, stubborn, and too naïve at the same time; he needs someone to protect him from the Senju and their treachery. Izuna will have to leave that to the rest of the clan, though. He can feel himself fading, getting dizzier, the lamp at the side of the bed going dark even as the flame keeps burning.
Take my eyes, he’ll say when Madara wakes up. Their eyesight has been fading with every use of the Mangekyō, but Madara's faster than Izuna's, given how early he awakened it. If Izuna can give him even a few more years of sight—
There's a mumble against the skin of his hand, a shift. Another trickle of tears, hot against his skin, and Izuna has to swallow, breathe through the ache of I'm sorry I swear I don’t want to leave you that rises in his throat. He curls his fingers, feeling thick hair beneath his touch, and tries to ignore the pain in his side enough that he can focus on his brother.
“Please,” Madara whispers into the darkness, still asleep, and Izuna wants to curse, wants to cry, wants to rage because it’s not fair.
And then, in the still room, there's a step.
No sound of the door or window, no movement beforehand. Just a sudden footfall in the dark, and Izuna jerks, wants to roll up onto his feet with a weapon in hand, but a radiating wash of agony makes his vision grey out, makes him gasp for a soundless breath that emerges as a wheeze. He can't move, can't defend Madara, and Madara isn't stirring even though he should be, isn't waking up. Tobirama’s new jutsu would probably let him appear without warning, and Izuna thinks of that sword flashing down, taking off his brother’s head while he lies helpless beside him, and—
“Shh,” a gentle voice says, and careful hands settle on Izuna's shoulders, ease him back. Not Tobirama, is Izuna's first thought, even before he can make his eyes focus. Wearing white, with magatama stitched around the neck, his brown hair wrapped into locks that fall to frame his face. His eyes are dark, but soft, and when he sees Izuna gaping at him he smiles, quick and gentle.
“There,” he says, and places a warm palm over Izuna's forehead. Concern flickers over his features, and he lets out a breath. “You're lucky your brother called on me when he did. But—you’ll be all right, I think.”
It should be the furthest thing from comforting, should irk Izuna to be spoken to like that, but before he can even start to form a protest there's a flicker. Not the pale green of healing chakra, clinically cool, but darker, heavier. Izuna's never felt anything similar, but it slips into his veins like roots setting under his skin, and he loses his breath on a sharp gasp, free hand scrabbling for a hold as he fights the swimming haze of power in his head.
Long, deft fingers catch his, pull his hand up. “Easy,” the man says, concern rising. “Don’t fight it, I'm just trying to heal you.”
“Easy for you to say,” Izuna hisses, because it feels like his veins are being turned inside out, like there's something rooting in his chest and growing with every second that dark green chakra lingers in his system. His own chakra rises like it’s going to throw off the other power, lashes out against it—
With a low, desperate sound, the man ducks down, seals his mouth to Izuna's, and kisses him hard.
The shock is enough to stop Izuna mid-twist, to blot out any thought but the heat of the stranger’s mouth, the taste of him, sweet and a little sharp. He kisses Izuna carefully, hand sliding back into his hair, and Izuna kisses back before he can help himself, opens his mouth and tips his head to deepen it. The man makes a soft sound, intriguing, appealing, and suddenly that green-dark power is gentler, easier to bear. Izuna groans, feels the stranger’s breath hitch, and thinks I'm go to die kissing a handsome man. It’s quite a bit better than I'm going to die giving my brother my eyes, but still doesn’t feel quite right. Izuna can't quite focus as that chakra curls through him, as the kiss softens, deepens.
And then, from about six inches to Izuna's left, Madara shrieks, “What the hell?”
Izuna startles, but the stranger doesn’t move, just eases the kiss back, gentles it. The chakra in Izuna's veins ebbs but doesn’t disappear, even when the man lifts his head, removes his hand. It stays there, curled around his soul, and—
There's no pain. There isn't even a trace of pain.
“What?” Izuna asks breathlessly, getting an arm beneath himself. He pushes up, and Madara makes a sound of alarm but Izuna is completely fine. Sitting all the way up, he jerks his yukata open, lets it slide down his arms and then pulls the red-soaked bandages away, and Madara cries out, tries to catch his hands, but there's no need. All that’s under the bandages is smooth skin, without even a scar to show where the wound was.
“What?” Izuna repeats dazedly, looking up at the stranger. He’s smiling, smiling like he would be laughing at Izuna in any other situation, and Izuna's eyes flicker down to his mouth before he can stop himself.
“You’re all right?” the stranger asks gently. “I'm sorry for the fright, it’s been a long time since I healed a human, and you’ve changed greatly over the years. Your chakra especially.”
A human, implying that he isn't one. Izuna swallows, licks his lips, and wonders what the hell it means that he was just in a liplock with a god.
“Who exactly were you praying to?” he asks Madara, who’s still staring at his healed side.
Madara breathes out, rough and shaky, and finally turns to look at the stranger. “A name that was on the old shrine,” he says. “I—I tried all of them.”
Instead of getting offended, the stranger—the god just laughs. He sits back on his heels, watching Izuna appraisingly, and says, “I'm Ashura. It’s been almost a thousand years since anyone called on me, and I thought people had forgotten. But you sounded like you needed me, so I came.”
“Thank you,” Madara says fiercely, and it breaks in his mouth. He reaches out, and Izuna reaches back, lets Madara drag him into a bruisingly tight hug. He buries his face in Madara's hair, breathing out, and the idea that he’s going to live, that there's no more pain, no more wound, is somehow utterly bewildering.
With a quiet smile, Ashura rises, flickers of that deep green sparking across his robe. He looks at them for a moment, something old and sad in his eyes, and turns—
“Wait,” Izuna says without even thinking about it. He pulls away from Madara, reaches out, and when Ashura glances back Izuna catches his hand. “Wait, please.”
“Izuna—” Madara starts, with that note of alarm back in his voice, but Izuna ignores him. he gets his feet underneath himself, pushing up, and takes a step towards Ashura.
“Are you leaving?” he asks.
Ashura blinks, glaze flickering from Izuna to Madara and back again. “You’ve been healed,” he says, like he can't quite understand the question. “There isn't any reason for me to linger.”
Izuna takes a breath, and there's something green-dark and growing rooted in hic chest. His lips are tingling, lightning-edge and green-sharp taste on his tongue. It seems like the most natural thing in the world to draw Ashura in, to step closer until their bodies are practically touching.
“The war isn't going to end,” he says. “Even if I survive. Please, if you're one of our gods—”
Ashura’s mouth firms, and he reaches up, touched Izuna's cheek. “That isn't how it works,” he says. “The Senju are mine as well. And this war—it’s vaster than you can comprehend.”
Izuna meets his eyes, dark and sweet, leans in. “Gods marry humans,” he says. “Gods can hide in plain sight. Stay here. You saved my life. Let me help you. If this war is so much bigger—”
Ashura’s eyes slide closed, his expression twisting into something like grief. On Izuna's cheek, his hand shifts, and he slides it back, cups Izuna's nape and pulls him in to rest their foreheads together.
“You don’t know what you're asking,” he says softly.
“I'm asking you to let me repay you,” Izuna tells him. “I'm asking you to help my clan. I'm asking you to help us end this war so no one else has to die.”
Ashura’s eyes open, and this close it feels like staring into the heart of a galaxy, makes the power washing through Izuna's blood hum with some ancient sort of recognition. “Even if the end of the war is peace?” he asks.
Izuna swallows, tries to think. “The Senju won't betray us if a god is keeping them in check,” he says, and it’s almost a surprise to find he believes it.
“Izuna,” Madara starts sharply, taking a step towards them, but Ashura is already pulling back.
“Make the offer,” he says, and his gaze doesn’t waver from Izuna's. “I have rules I have to follow as well. Without an offer, I can't stay.”
Relief is like a firework going off in his chest, and Izuna laughs. He pulls his arms the rest of the way free from the top of his yukata, slides to his knees at Ashura’s feet, and says, “A life in payment for a life. I offer myself to you, Ashura, in recompense.”
“Izuna, don’t—” Madara hisses.
“Madara, it’s the best way,” Izuna says, without raising his head. “You want peace with Hashirama? I want a guarantee. There's no better guarantee than a god tied to our clan.”
That stops Madara short, and there's a quiet sound of amusement. Ashura drops to one knee in front of Izuna, takes Izuna’s hands in his. “I accept,” he says softly, and Izuna lifts his head, looks up into dark eyes full of that old, aching power, and smiles. It’s a victory, but it’s also something that feels just a little bit sweeter.
“Husband?” he asks, testing the word, and Madara makes a sound like a choking cat.
Ashura laughs, bright and warm, and Izuna can't even think about resisting. He steals the sound from Ashura’s pretty mouth, feels the chakra in his veins rise like a tide under the full moon. Ashura’s eyes flutter shut, a soft sound breaking from his throat, and Izuna pulls him in, kisses him deeper, tastes that age-old strength as heady and sweet as candy on his tongue.