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took a turn, for better or for worse

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Tobirama awakes suddenly one night.

There’s no immediately apparent reason for it, but he knows there must be a reason. He’s not quite sure what’s off, but he knows something must be.

It’s common for sensors, especially sensitive ones, to be awakened at odd times due to their gifted ability. All life has chakra, although animals’ signatures are much rougher and more untamed than trained shinobi.

Still, a squirrel could fluctuate enough to cause a sudden awakening. A rabbit running too fast could disrupt a night’s sleep.

His own heightened sensitivity has awoken him many, many times. He’s the best sensor out there, so it’s really only natural.

The difference is that his sudden nighttime awakenings have never been wrong. The squirrel might be running, but so are shinobi in an attempt to ambush. The rabbit’s flight is a sign of predators unseen.  

The only thing that is up in the air is the exact severity of the event in question. It’s been everything from him waking up just barely in time to stop one of his experiments from exploding to Hashirama trying to sneak into his room to play a prank on him when he was younger.

He reaches out with his finely honed chakra and senses someone coming towards his house, and it’s... Madara?

What?

Madara had left the village just over a month ago, under the cover of darkness and in a storm of anger. It was turbulent for a time, and everything felt on edge...until Hashirama returned one day, robes bloodied and torn from a good fight but no apparent injuries on himself (of course there wouldn’t be - he was always a proficient medic) and a calmness to him that had been lost since his friend turned his back on the village.

Hashirama never specifically spoke about what happened, never provided an answer that Tobirama craved, but did make sure to emphasize that Madara was not a traitor to the village.

“He’ll be continuing to serve our dream,” Hashirama had said, his eyes focused on something far beyond the horizon. He then turned to look at Tobirama, a knowing smile on his face. “Just... at a distance.

Tobirama was skeptical exactly what that meant, but his brother was uncharacteristically tight-lipped about it. He’d press and press, but nothing substantial would ever come of it. Madara had left the village but remained an ally of it, and that is apparently all he was to ever know of the matter.

Tobirama was forced to accept that, so he did. He swallowed down any personal feelings on the matter, any personal feelings he had held for the man. Madara was gone and that was that. He was foolish to think he could ever pin down a man who burned as brightly as Madara. It was stupid to think that he could ever tame that flame, or even had the right to bask in its warmth.

But…now Madara is here. Not just back in Konoha, but here, as in Tobirama’s very doorstep.

There’s a knock on his door, multiple frantic knocks that seem uncharacteristic for Madara, but that’s undoubtedly who it is. He rises, quickly checks and ensures he has the weapons he keeps on him at night - a kunai strapped to his leg and senbon strapped to the other - before moving smoothly towards his front door.

He disables his nighttime traps with flicks of chakra as easy as breathing. He then opens the door, not bothering to keep the frustration out of his face. He’s used to a lifetime of waking suddenly and minimal sleep, but that does not mean he enjoys it by any means.

(He does keep out any other emotions, such as hope or even worse, worry. He should not be feeling such things in the first place. Madara and he were never friends, no matter what feelings Tobirama might have.)

Still, he does try to not appear overly hostile. Madara’s obviously not here to kill him - he’s not stupid enough to walk up to his house and knock on his door in an attempt on his life - but that does not mean that things are completely unable to escalate to that level if prompted. He really does not want to fight here and now. Madara has been gone for so long for reasons lost to him.

He wants answers , not a fight.

(He wants to keep him close, not drive him further away.)

Madara’s in battle attire, but that’s hardly a surprise. Tobirama’s barely ever seen him out of it. His gunbai is strapped to his back, another thing that is far from atypical.

The surprising part is the state of his attire. It’s dirtied and covered in dried blood as if it has seen conflict but only before a long journey. Why would Madara fight, then travel all the way to Konoha to Tobirama’s doorstep before anything else? It made no sense for him to be in such a rush that he would not even clean off his face.

He and Madara were not enemies by any means, but Tobirama’s extremely hesitant to call them friends. He had struck down Izuna, yes, but he had also pushed through with his brother right into the heart of the Uchiha compound to get him healing. He had looked Madara in the eyes and swallowed his pride and bowed his head and apologized for what he had nearly done, for what he had nearly taken from the man.

Tobirama knew that one good deed could not erase an upbringing of being at odds, that one good act could not stop the flow of hate. He is not his brother. He knows that humans cannot forgive and forget that easily. He knows that things are just not that simple.

...And yet, Madara is here. Standing before him in the dead of night, long before sunrise will kiss the morning sky, and is staring at him with tired eyes and worn clothes and a faint hint of desperation in his eyes.

He moves forward right when he sees Tobirama open the door, inviting himself in without fanfare or pleasantries. Tobirama moves to allow him entry, more out of curiosity than courtesy, and his red eyes carefully analyze and record everything he can about the previously missing man.

He opens his mouth to make a remark, but Madara, who closes the door behind him quickly and quietly and does not take a step further into his house, immediately turns to him. “I need your help.” He hisses, his voice quiet as if there were listeners in the very next room.

Tobirama quirks an eyebrow. There’s certainly desperation and sincerity in his voice, that’s unmistakable, but the urgency is not one threatened with death or destruction. This is an important matter, certainly, but it’s almost as if…

He scoffs, and moves into the kitchen, swallowing any personal feelings he might have with the ease of practice. “I do not recall our relationship being one where you can show up at my house in the dead of night for problems unrelated to the village.” He states, his voice neutral despite the storm of emotions swirling in his chest.

“This is important, Senju.” Madara hisses somewhere back by the door, and Tobirama can see him kicking off his mud-covered sandals as he starts to prepare some tea. Whatever the matter is will certainly require a long story, and Tobirama is not going to do this without anything to aid his tired mind.

And if a few splashes of sake get in there, then so what? The circumstances certainly are dire enough that no one could judge if they discover it.

He gestures for the man to sit, as the ghost of his mother will certainly plague him if he does not show any of the usual courtesies one is to show to a guest. He sits down at the table, and Madara sits down across from him with the exhaustion of a man who’s been traveling for days. He removes his gunbai and sets it next to the table casually, and Tobirama notices with surprise that Madara hadn’t even cleaned the blade since last time he fought with it. This is incredibly peculiar because Tobirama knows that Madara cares for the weapon as if it were kin.

He furrows his eyebrows slightly, trying to think of causes that could have led them here, but ultimately coming up blank. Any scenario or situation he can think of that could result in anything even similar to this would have Hashirama or Izuna sitting with Madara, not himself. Madara certainly cares for them much more.

“Now,” He says, rubbing his temples tiredly. He’s definitely done more than just talking with fewer hours of sleep, but he knows that nothing has ever been simple or easy with Uchiha Madara.

This is certain to be a disaster if he’s honest with himself.

“I may have...done something by accident.” Madara starts off carefully. “Something that neither of our brothers can ever find out about.”

Tobirama raises his brows, “And you thought it best to come to me? How do you know I am not going to tell Anija the moment you leave?” He asks carefully, testing the waters.

“Because,” Madara hesitates severely, and a look comes over his face. It’s like he’s swallowing his pride, and Tobirama involuntarily leans in slightly with unabashed interest. The former Uchiha clan head is notorious for his pride, whether it be in himself or his clan. For him to compromise such a thing, and in front of Tobirama no less…

Perhaps there are some things he needs to re-analyze.

“Because?” He prompts when it becomes clear Madara will not on his own.

“Because I’m hoping…” Madara swallows and does not meet Tobirama’s eyes. “That you will leave with me.”

Tobirama blinks.

Tobirama is not one to surprise easily. He grew up in war and devoted his childhood to new jutsus and strategies and weaponry. He is known for his innovation, his creativity. He excels in suiton jutsus, but the element of surprise is where his real mastery lies.

(He also grew up with Hashirama, and that speaks for himself considering experience with the unexpected.)

But, for the first time in many years, Tobirama is well and truly surprised, and they haven’t even made it to the meat of the story yet.

“And why would I do that?” He asks carefully, keeping his voice neutral and his face expressionless even as surprise trickles through him, along with something idiotic and stupid that he should nip in the bud while he can but he doesn’t have the heart to.

Madara draws a breath and meets Tobirama’s eyes once more, resolve in them. “Because I don’t know how to run a village,” Madara says slowly, as if working himself up to it. “And I may have accidentally started one.”

What.

“What?” He asks, his mind reeling. “What do you- How do you accidentally start a village?”

“I didn’t mean to!” He retorts defensively, his hands gesturing vaguely. “It just kind of…happened!”

The tea is ready, he can hear it. He gives Madara one last look, before standing and swiftly moving over to the tea kettle. He prepares the tea wordlessly and is thankful for once that his back is to the Uchiha. He is reeling, and cannot comprehend the magnitude of the man’s words while hiding his emotions.

He places the tea tray on the table and sharply says, “Explain.”

Madara practically trips over himself to do so. “I was traveling. For the village. I needed to leave but Hashirama and I talked - it’s a long story, okay? But I’ve basically been information gathering for the village.”

Okay, already more information than he’s been able to get out of Hashirama over these last few weeks. Adequate start.

“I found myself north of here - where the clans are still at war. I don’t know exactly what transpired, but I found myself in the middle of combat. I fought them, and then this third clan joined the fray, and suddenly I’m leading those two clans into combat against the third!” He exclaims, waving his hands in wide, dramatic gestures the whole time.

Tobirama takes a sip of his tea. “So you’re telling me,” He starts out carefully. “That two clans you were just fighting suddenly united behind you?”

Madara winces slightly, “Well, I may have...said some things.”

Oh Kami. “And what did you say?”

“I might have...taunted them.” He says, not looking at Tobirama, his voice unashamed but clearly hiding details.

“What did you say?” He grits out, a headache already coming on. He severely regrets not putting more sake in his cup.

“That their foolish minds could not comprehend Hashirama and I’s dream, and that their savagery would only lead to their destruction,” Madara says slowly. “And then I...I think their clan heads had a heart to heart after dealing fatal blows to each other, and I heard one of them saying that I was destined to lead their clans to victory, and then the next thing I know I’m leading them against this other clan from the west!”

Tobirama puts his cup down on the table harshly. “You’re telling me that you, Uchiha Madara, managed to convince two warring clans to come to peace like Hashirama?”

“I don’t know! It was an accident!” He says, panicked, and his flying hands nearly knock over his own cup of tea. He takes a drink of it, as if just noticing it’s existence by almost ending it, before adding, “And then the next thing I know they’re talking about making their own village and a new era of peace and how they want me to lead the way and - Kami, damn it, do you have any sake?”

Tobirama puts a hand up in a familiar sign. “Kai.”

He’s an expert against fighting genjutsu masters - he had to be, with the Uchiha as his clan’s previous sworn enemy. He’s fought against countless sharingan users and broken their hold over him with carefully controlled lashes of his chakra. If there was a genjutsu over him, he’d know it through an intrinsic six sense at this point.

But...this cannot possibly be real.

“This isn’t a damn genjutsu, Senju, I’m serious!” Madara says, slamming his cup into the table. “I don’t fucking know how to run a village and then I was suddenly elected Kage of one!”

Tobirama just stares at him, and his hand slowly drops back to his lap. He then stands silently, goes to his cabinets, and takes out the largest bottle of the strongest alcohol he has. He moves back to the table, puts it down, sits, and takes a deep breath.

He’s an incredible thinker, an unbelievable inventor. He’s always known on some level that his mind moves faster than most would believe. New ideas pop into his head constantly, and he’s filled countless scrolls with scribbles of ideas and concepts that would take lifetimes to work out all the way.

It is with all of this knowledge, as well as the eloquence of someone raised in the main branch of an incredibly large and powerful clan, that he draws his next words.

“What the fuck , Uchiha?”

Madara blinks, looking from the bottle to him. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you swear before.”

Tobirama just stares at him, before opening the bottle and swiftly dumping it into his cup. He fills it with abandon not typically associated with him and doesn’t even mind the few drops that get on the table.

Maintaining eye contact with the man across from him - a Kage, as the hells would have it - he drinks the entire thing.

“You,” He says carefully, his voice not even wavering him as the flood of alcohol fills his system. “Have been operating as a spy for Konoha for the last month, and fought two clans in the north, where you somehow talked them into unifying against a common enemy with you as their leader, and are now going to be the Kage of a village that consists of them and doubtlessly other nearby clans, and now you are sitting across from me, commenting on my vocabulary?”

Madara immediately shushes him. “Hashirama can’t find out!” Madara suddenly insists, and Tobirama realizes his voice had raised without his knowledge during his tirade. “He would freak out, the peace-loving fool. He’d start hugging me and embracing me and crush me with all that love and bonds and peace talk!” He pours himself a fair share of sake as he continues. “And Izuna can’t know either. Bastard’ll never let me live it down, ever.”

“Hashirama’s Shodaime and Izuna’s primed to be Nidaime,” Tobirama shoots back carelessly. “If you really go through with this, they’ll both find out at some point.”

“In the very distant future where I’m in another country.” Madara agrees, before greedily drinking from his own cup. “But that’s where you come in.”

Tobirama squints at him. “Explain.” He demands simply, his hand creeping closer to the bottle.

“I don’t fucking know how to work a village,” Madara tells him as if this is somehow new information. He had been a great clan head, Tobirama had to concede, but when the village was first being put together he had ultimately been useless. He didn’t know how to suddenly deal with the new traditions and cultures and the peace of all the different peoples now intermixing. Tobirama couldn’t really fault him for that - they had all been floundering for a bit, at a loss how to handle peace after it seemed like the world could only hold war.

He suspected it was Madara’s own inability to adapt that led him to have to leave the village in the first place. It just seemed like fate wanted him to face this situation whether he wanted to or not.

“But you do.” Madara continues, “You spent so much time with Hashirama in the office, and you did all the paperwork, and you know things.” He says as if it’s a general fact of the universe.

“I’m not defecting .” He says.

“Why not!” Madara shoots back as if Tobirama gave an answer that was entirely unexpected. “I mean, you said it, Izuna’s gonna be Nidaime. No doubt about it. If you come with me we can like co-Kage, or something like that, and then all of our problems are solved. It’s not like we’re betraying Konoha or anything. Hashirama’s been letting me run around already, and he’s not going to suddenly declare you a missing-nin for joining me.”

“I don’t have any problems with not being a Kage.” He says defensively, too defensively. His cup is empty. Why does it keep doing that? Damn defective cups.

Madara brushes aside his protests with a drunken wave of the hand, and Tobirama realizes that the rather impressively large sake bottle is empty and the moon is significantly farther in the sky.

There may be some slight gaps in his memory.

(Oh well. Nothing he can do about that now.)

“Listen,” Madara slurs slightly. “We co-Kage, which means that we both get to run a village and you don’t, I don’t know, die in a lab alone somewhere. Hashirama and Izuna have Konoha under control, and people can just use diplomacy as excuses to visit. And then we’ll have the strongest alliance because we’re family. K in does not betray kin.”

His voice gets sad at the end, and also holds an enormous depth to it. It’s noticeable enough that it hits Tobirama how much he doesn’t want to deal with a depressed and drunk Madara.

He’s not entirely sure what to do to avoid that - social tact was never quite his thing - so he decides to succumb to his drunken instincts.

He reaches across the table and grabs a fistful of Madara’s robes, rising as he pulls the man close so that their faces are barely apart. The empty bottle gets knocked over in the process and rolls off the table before landing with a crash.

He looks into Madara’s dark eyes, a fearlessness in him mixing with a recklessness that he has not ever felt before. He’s always been careful, too careful. Careful to not look at the Hatake boy that caught his eye in his youth because he was to be focusing on his training. Careful to push down his feelings of love during a time of war because those emotions are not meant for shinobi.

He finds himself lost in carelessness now, lost in the endless darkness that is Madara’s eyes. He’s being brash and reckless and not the careful son Butsuma raised. He’s barely touching Madara but he’s still burning in the fire of the man that could only be matched by the power of nature itself.

He’s lost and drowning and burning and he feels more alive than he has in a long time.

“Let’s go start a village.” He says, a fiery determination in his voice. Deep down, he knows this decision is a foolish one. He should not just up and leave Konoha. He should think more, study the situation further, get more facts. He should wait until he’s sober and not completely at the mercy of some stupid crush he has over a stupid, foolish, idiotic Uchiha-

Madara stares at him wordlessly for a moment, before suddenly grabbing both sides of his head and crashing their lips together.

Tobirama forgets how to think.

It’s messy and awkward and full of teeth hitting against each other and both of them struggling to kiss over a just-too-large table, but it ultimately doesn’t matter since the majority of the memory is lost in a haze of alcohol.

He forgets how to think cautiously, but he also remembers how to feel without restraint, and it’s the best damn trade he’s ever made.

They sleep, he knows. He wakes up with a headache on the couch and Madara’s lying on the floor next to him, his giant mass of hair behaving similarly to a pillow. His head is pounding, and it’s still hard to think. A quick glance out the window tells him they haven’t been out for long, and he knows he never made a true and binding decision last night. It wasn’t a promise or an oath. He didn’t have to stand by that stupid, drunken declaration.

He could go back on it without ever truly compromising his honor, without going back on his word. He could change his mind and lose no high ground. He could lock his heart back away and have no harm come to it.

He could stay in the village, but…

But their fingers are intertwined when he awakes, and he cannot make himself separate them.

He uses his own less-known healing ability to heal his own headache and is just standing when Madara awakes. He seems stiff and awkward as he sits up from his spot on the floor, and Tobirama is nowhere near foolish enough to think it’s from sleeping in such an unfavorable position.

He rolls his eyes, presses a kiss to the man’s lips, and lets his medical chakra seep through his hands as he presses them on the sides of the man’s head, healing his hangover. When Madara has the mind to return the kiss, however, he disengages to leave the room and smirks as he hears spluttering behind him.

His tired state does not hinder his ability to prepare to leave at a moment’s notice to any significant degree. He has his happuri and traveling clothes on before the sun is too high above the horizon. It would have been favorable to leave last night, but that cannot be changed now.

He can still taste sake on his lips, and on the lips of the man next to him. Madara reaches for his hand, and their fingers once more intertwine.

Many things about last night cannot be changed. Tobirama finds that he doesn’t mind it as much as he once thought he would.

“Let’s go start a village,” Madara whispers, looking back at Konoha as the sun rises over it. Tobirama knows that they are not saying goodbye to the village, not by a long shot. But it’s still a goodbye by some definition of the words. It’s a farewell to the loneliness they both felt there, to how out-of-place they were among their families. It’s a goodbye to long days spent in laboratories to avoid stares and darting through shadows to try and escape whispers.

This is probably a stupid, thoughtless decision. The note he left for Hashirama was brief and undetailed. The plan he has in his mind to create a new village is rough and not ready for action.

This is a deviation from his usual character. A sharp turn off of the path he’s carefully set up in front of him.

He squeezes Madara’s hand in his own and takes a step off of the path.

He’s taking this turn, for better or for worse.

It’s better than walking the path alone.