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Stomping on Butterflies

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It was a stupid way to die, it wasn't meaningful in anyway. Maybe it was my fault for being such an idiot, maybe it was just fate.

I had been on a cliff with some friends, drinking around a fire pit. We laughed, joking around like the drunken teenagers we were. "Clay, you fucking asshole!" My friend, Bobby laughed. His laughter was a high and long cackle, so annoying. I rolled my eyes, honestly they got so annoying when they got drunk.

"Oh my god, who got the hyena going?" I groaned, allowing my tone drip with playfulness. It might seem mean to outsiders but that's how my friend group was, we were mean in a teasing way. Instead of shooting an insult back like I expected, Bobby turned and glared at me. 

"Shut the hell up! Who the fuck invited this twerp?" He stepped up to my face, spittle flying onto my face. The reek of alcohol on his breath made me flinch back a few steps, Bobby was the worst drunk, always trying to fight people.

"Did you just say twerp? I swear… Bobby, you are so fucking stupid." Aria giggled, sprawled out on the ground, her hair fanned out.

"Yeah, chill man." Another friend piped up, joint hanging lazily from lips. "Jay's just messin'."

"No! He wanna sound tough, so be tough." Bobby pressed, shoving me back a few inches. I swallowed, briefly looking back to see the cliff edge was too close to my liking. It was a long fall with a rocky shore and that was before the water even reached it.

"Ay, Bobby, you really gotta chill." I began, trying not to show my fear of falling to my death. "I was just joking." If he hadn't been drunk, he would have tease me back instead of acting so violent. This was going too far, Bobby's dark, almost void-like eyes stared me down, never relenting.

"What? You a bitch now?" Bobby snapped, closing in on me. A couple friends got up from their places on the ground, concern in their eyes.

"Bob, he's-"

With one last shove, my feet were no longer planted on the ground. The wind whipped around me and nearly drowned out the sound of the horrified screams.

Nearly.

A sob ripped itself out of my throat, my hair smacked me in the face as it felt like an entirety. 

Sorry, Mom, Dad.

I don't remember hitting the rocky shore.


The next breath I took was in someone's arms, cold and so small. My limbs flailed out wildly, was I still falling? No, I wasn't. My newly small body was being tucked onto a bare chest, a heartbeat in my ears and soft crooning.

Was I doing my life over? I had thought I was either going to heaven or hell but this is completely different. This wasn't talked about back home.

I slipped into unconsciousness.

The next time I woke, my small body was still on the body. There was a soft gibberish, rhythmic like a song but my ears didn't recognize it. It was a foreign language, so… this wasn't my life in a do over. Kinda disappointing, I was looking forward to slumping when I met him again.

Bobby.

He killed me. He fucking murdered me. He was the reason I'm not home. He's the reason I'm a baby. A small hand rested on my head, my eyes flickered open to see a small child staring at me. A wide grin on his face as he leaned in further, my vision got less fuzzy and sharpened as he got closer. The short brown bowl cut made me wince, who did that to the child? It was totally dorky but kinda cute on a small child.

He spoke in the same language as the woman, he smiled brightly at me. His equally brown eyes sparkling, his hand repeatedly coming down to pat my head. This wasn't my family.

 

Boredom took hold of me and refused to let go. Mundane routines that numbed my brain. Eat, sleep, diaper change, eat, sleep, and it only went on and on. The woman wasn't my mom, she never had spiky white hair that reaches her shoulders. (Long light brown threads, flowing like silk through my fingers)

Red eyes that were clear of any emotions shown, her movements robotic. (Warm brown eyes, like hot chocolate on a winter day. Happily dancing around the house, eyes sparkling all the while)

It was horrifying to have such an empty caretaker after such a loving mom. I wasn't ashamed of my own mourning of losing my family.

The sound of a stampede of small children pulled me away from my mourning. The woman, or This-Body's Mother, had three other kids in her care. The father didn't seem present, or at least, he hasn't been around when I have. The sound of young voices chattering slightly comforted me, it was almost like home (all that's missing is the yelling)

Little Bowl-cut was the first to reach my crib, crooning while smiling wildly. His round face pressed against the wooden bars, big, doe-like eyes gleaming with happiness. Little White lightly grabbed the bars, tilting his head at me while talking softly. Little White was a small boy clone of This-Body’s Mother, the same spiky white hair and red eyes, he was by far the quietest of the bunch. The last one was Brownie, his hair was a spiky light brown, meaning only Little Bowl-cut was cursed with straight hair. Brownie also had red eyes but his was darker, more brown, like blood exposed too long to oxygen.

They talk for awhile, at me and to each other until their Mother noticed. She frowned at them, her tone disapproving, most likely assuming they woke me from a nap. The brothers shuffled their feet, sometimes speaking up with offended tones. They hadn’t woken me up though, so it was kind of unfair.

It’s been a few months since being reborn (fuck you, Bobby), how do I know? My weak, little body gets stronger. My neck, my limb control, my hand to eye coordination all got better and improved. It was relieving, it made me feel stronger, more empowered.

This-Body’s Mother handed me off to Little Bowl-cut (I should really learn their names), the other two instantly encircle us. Little Bowl-cut plopped onto the floor while Brownie handed him a stuffed dog. It wasn't the best stuffed animal I've seen, it was made out of some brown fabric, no fluff to fake fur, it's left eye was a big red button while the left was a small black one.

Bowl-cut attempted to play with me using the dog, he bounced it on the ground to mimic walking. "Woof woof!" Bowl-cut giggled, pushing the dog into my face. Having been forced to play with my past siblings, it was easy to force a laugh. Brownie giggled, his grin stretched across his face. Bowl-cut began talking but one thing was consistent, 'Inu', which to my best assumption was the dog. So, dog equals inu? This language thing is going to be harder than I thought.

"Hashirama!" A voice cut through suddenly. Both me and Bowl-cut flinched, facing some man I've never seen before. He stood in the doorway with a stern expression, his dark eyes hard. Wait… Hashirama?

Goddamn you, Bobby!!

This was Naruto! A fucking Anime that I barely finished. My previous assumption that I had been born to some foreign family on the other side of the Earth but instead I was a Senju! Wait… Hashirama, Tobirama, then two irrelevant dead kids, that's how the birth order went. Did the universe truly hate me enough to kill me off young again? Was it so bad for me to want to live to see twenty this time?!

During the next few weeks, I was inconsolable. If anyone living in the house hated me during that time period, it’d be completely fair. Sobbing enough for my throat to become raw and sore, temporarily losing my voice. It was unfair, my new Mother tried everything to calm me, rocking me into the wee hours in morning. It didn’t help my sleep, only falling unconscious due to exhaustion.

Imagine my surprise when some lady with blonde hair walks into the nursery. Despite being in this new life for months, I hadn’t been outside the house ever. The surprise of a stranger honestly let my wails peter out. Mother slumped instantly, tension leaving her. She then kissed my forehead, moving my hair out the way, as she whispered to me. They talked, about me. How did I know? They kept gesturing and looking at me, it was a dead giveaway.

The blonde lady got close to us, lightly resting her hand on my stomach. Her hand glowed green, it took everything in me not to start screaming. The lady then moved back, smiling at me.

Right.

Naruto Universe.

 

M̷̼̬̠̙̰̓y̴͕͈̟͗͌̕ ̶̩̪̯̮͇̈ņ̸̫͒̉ä̵͚̰́̉͗͊̕m̷͖͖͇͋̕e̵̝͊̓͊̓̏ ̵̡͓̈́͜i̴̢̖͓̺̭͋͐͛͘͝s̵͉̪̐́̄̇̅ͅ ̶̞̖̻͐̆̕J̴̰̍ā̴̝͖̻̘̓y̵̠͉͎͊͂̈́́̉ ̸̞̿͐̾̚͘T̷̳͙̉̿̾̆ą̸͇̙̿̌̎͑̎y̷̝̝̹̋͘l̵̺̫̩̋͛o̸̦̒̓̅ͅr̶̞̺̫͉͑̚͝

 

My name is Itama Senju. The youngest brother of Hashirama, Tobirama, and Kawarama. This time, I won’t die young.

Chapter Text

It began to get easier to understand the rest of my family, with my expanding vocabulary, my motor skills also improved. Apparently due to my hysterical fit, my new family assumed I was sickly? It was kind of obvious to figure out, the no going outside, lack of visitors, and wasn’t really subtle. Also the boys got protective. It was unsettling.

“Ita!” A belated call came from the front door. Kawarama grinned from ear to ear, his dark eyes sparked with eagerness. His hands were suspiciously behind his back, if I learned anything from my past siblings, this would be trouble. Though to be fair, all it’d take is a whine from me to bring Mother into the room. “Look!” A kunai was shoved towards me, the shock of it made me flinch back. The kunai was clean, it also looked well maintained, maybe one of our brothers’ kunai?

Crazily enough, training began at four years old, sometimes five years old if the boy is born sickly. Yeah, boy, the most girls and women become is healers which is incredibly unfair. Even becoming a healer is uncommon, most women just settled with a husband to have children with.

Kawarama was sliced the air with exaggerated motions, practically throwing himself with each slice. Who he was pretending to fight became obvious during the middle of it. “Die, Uchiha!” My limited vocabulary sadly included die, fight, kill, blood, stuff like that.

"Fight." My agreement wasn’t ruined by my damn baby lisp, the word slipping out more like ‘fieye’ than an actual word. My thoughts were mainly on when mother would walk in to see her toddlers with a kunai. Kawarama giggled at me, heading closer and holding out the kunai towards me. We just stared at each other, mainly because I wasn’t really processing what he wanted.

"Here!" He insisted after a few seconds of my confused staring. My hands wrapped around the handle, it felt heavy in my chubby hands. The blade was clean enough to see a young toddler with wide brown eyes staring back. Slowly and carefully, I moved one hand from the handle to the blade, my chubby index finger gliding to the point. I wanted to test how sharp it was. The pain startled me as the kunai easily sliced from my nail to my finger mark. The blood started instantly, ruby red drops slowly sliding down my finger.

Tobirama was just about to flop on his bed, his whole body aching from training. Father was ruthless and made sure Tobirama kept pace with Hashirama, completely ignoring the age gap between them. He only briefly noted neither of his little brothers were in the shared bedroom."Tobi, can you do me a favor?" Okaasan asked, poking her head into his room. He felt like groaning into his bed, but it was Kaachan so he turned to face her.

"Yes, Okaasan?" Tobirama said, trying to straighten out to his normal, apathetic pose. Mother gave him a pitying look and smiled softly.

"I don't want to take away from your free time but I'm about to head out, can you keep an eye out for your little brothers?" Okaasan practically pleaded. Tobirama nodded without considering it, sure, Kawarama was a handful but Itama was usually quiet. "Thank you, Tobi!" With that, he watched her almost run out of the house. He sighed and walked to the living room, his body screamed at him for it but there were couches in the living room where he could relax.

Tobirama walked through the doorway, his little brothers were crouched by one of the said couches. He internally shrugged and approached silently, getting close enough to notice th vivid red sliding down Itama’s palm. "What happened?" He demanded, rushing to his brother's side to examine the wound. It was small and mostly superficial, nail to his first flexion crease. Itama whined and tried pulling away, Kawarama guiltily kicked away a stray, stained kunai. "What happened?" He couldn’t tell how deep it was from just eyeballing it.

"It was an accident…" Kawarama shrugged.

"Yea! Ack-dent!" Itama chirped, Tobirama rolled his eyes. Itama mostly repeated what people said, it was kind of odd hearing a one year old talking about fighting Uchiha.

"Kawarama, go get the wraps and alcohol." He ordered his brown haired brother, the boy pouted but left to go find it. Tobirama had no problems ordering around Kawarama, once he turned a year older he'd begin training with them. "Wr-aps?" Itama inquired, mouth butchering the word. "Ka, wraps?" Tobirama blinked, his younger brother a mix of strange and intelligent.

"Yes, Kawarama is going to get the wraps." He confirmed, deciding to humor his brother. Speaking of the little devil, Kawarama came running in with the wraps and alcohol. Tobirama opened the bottle and poured it on the wound, screams erupted from Itama as the toddler fought against his grasp. It was far from the most painful thing Itama would go through, Tobirama was probably doing him a favor building his tolerance to pain this early.

Kawarama hovered, his eyes flickered between them, hands out like he wanted to intervene. Tobirama began wrapping the finger up, Itama trembled, his brown eyes still leaking. "Consider this your first step to becoming a shinobi, Itama, all the blood you shed will be for our Clan." He said lowly, ripping the bandage from the roll. "The only tears you give will be for our fallen clan-mates." Tobirama continued, quoting their own father. "This is your will as a Senju." Kawarama's gaze burned into him, obviously recognizing an abridged version Father's words.

 

The Senju's will.

 

As soon as Okaasan returned, Itama curled up at her side, shaking and maybe a little traumatized. Tobirama endured the disappointed glare head-on, while Kawarama ducked behind him.

“He’s only a baby.” Okaasan scolded. That was wrong, Itama was a year old now since he was born in the fall, but Tobirama held his tongue. “You’re supposed to protect him.” Itama wasn’t a girl, in three short years he’d be a shinobi in training, then what? For a second, Tobirama toyed with the idea of saying ‘Itama isn’t a girl, he’s not a toy to coddle” to repeat his Otousama but he decided not to. Because for all Okaasan hoped Itama had been a girl, he hadn’t been one.

Chapter Text

The first time I left the house, wasn’t for a happy reason. It started when Father came home, his face closed off even more than ever, it didn’t take much prodding from Mother to find out that Father’s father, Ryouma died. How did us, children, learn about this? Eavesdropping, duh.

“Ojiisama is dead?” Hashirama yelped quietly, with all the tact of an eight year old. Tobirama stood at his side, eyebrows furrowed in confusion and concern. Kawarama looked between with just as much confusion.

“Who’s Ojiisama?” Kawarama asked, for once being ignored.

“Shouldn’t we gather the shinobi and hide the women and children?” Tobirama asked, confusion audible in his tone. His red eyes fixed on Hashirama, who scratched his neck.

“Why would we do that?”

“Because Ojiisama is dead, the ninja that killed him could still be in our compound!” Tobirama responded harshly, his arms crossed. Hashirama blinked before grinned widely.

“Tobi! Ojiisama didn’t get murdered, like Haruto, he got sick.” Hashirama then turned to Kawarama while Tobirama seemed to take in the information. “Remember, Ojiisama looked like Otousama but bigger-er and grayer.”

“Bigger-er isn’t a word, you need another tutor, Aniue.” Tobirama sniffed primly, as if to save face.

 

The funeral was the same day. Mother took the time to absolutely overdo my outfit, my ‘kimono’, I think that’s the word, was light blue with pink flowers, not really masculine but oh well. Tobirama walked out into the living room, his bottoms was white yet his sleeve-thingy was light blue with a soft spiral design. That.. wasn’t fair. My pout must’ve been obvious because Tobirama grabbed my hands in his, kneeling down to my level.

“You look great, otouto.” Despite being the youngest, the boys avoided the use of ‘otouto’, maybe they liked my name? “Okaasan picked a great kimono for you.” Mother smiled before rising to her feet.

“I’ll go check on your brothers, see if they need any help.” With that, she was out the room. Tobirama released my hands, settling back to rest on his heels.

“Ojiisama was an interesting person.” Tobirama began. “It’s a shame you never got a chance to meet him.” I wasn’t really disappointed, meeting the man who raised Father into that, no thanks. It was just, I’d never hear about the real Ryouma, people are only going to tell me embellished stories of him. Someone- my family might be telling embellished stories of me, about how I loved school, what I wanted to be, how I treated everyone. People love lying about dead folks.

“Is it though?” Hashirama appeared in light green kimono, little flowers decorating his sleeve-thingy. “He’d be throwing a fit if he heard Kawarama or Itama call me ‘Hashi’.” Hashirama smiled at me, then he cleared his throat. “Oh Hashirama, don’t let your otoutos refer to you as ‘Hashi’, they’ll never respect you. Anija is a sign of respect, and they must follow that.” My bowl-cut brother mocked our dead grandfather.

“Anija...” Tobirama sighed, eyes scanning the room as if to find an adult listening in. “It isn’t wise to speak ill of the dead. Never-mind, that’ll never stick in your thick head.” Hashirama gasped, offended.

“Maybe Ojiisama was wrong, I got called anija and was disrespected in the same sentence!”

“I was just telling Ita-chan that his kimono looks great.” Tobirama said blandly, using my horrible nickname. Hashirama’s eyes lit up, he hugged me tightly.

“It’s amazing, Ita-chan! Everyone is going to be so jealous because I have the cutest, littlest otouto in the world!” If my speaking was advanced enough, I’d point out he had two other brothers, one that was also in the room. It was useless to try and escape his hold, it was easier to just go limp and hope he thought he killed me.

“Hashi, don’t suffocate Ita.” Mother chided softly as she walked in, Kawarama held onto her hand. Instantly, I was released and was scampering to her side. Kawarama was wearing a bold red kimono, stripes of red on his sleeve-thingy (I really need to learn its name).

“Sorry, Itama.” Hashirama grinned. Then it was time to go.

Okay, turns out, being the fourth youngest son of the Clan Head and not being seen ever due to being sickly meant everyone was interested in me. The boys took it as a sign to run around before the funeral, leaving me to the sharks.

“Aw, for a second, Azumi-sama, I thought we’d never see your latest.” A man with dirty wheat colored hair crouched down in front of me. I stared up from where I clutched Mother’s kimono. “Cute little guy, perfect mix of hair.” The man smiled, offering his hand to me. We were at a standstill, him holding out his hand, me refusing to take it. “He looks more like you than Butsuma.” His eyes were colored like honey, light brown with flecks of yellow or gold.

“Yes, Itama does look quite a bit like me.”

“Too bad he wasn’t the little hime you wanted, could’ve married my son.” The man looked up to Mother from where he was crouched. “Then the branches would’ve finally been combined.” My eyebrows furrowed, what did branches have to do anything with a failed arranged marriage. “You should have a daughter, so there isn’t a big gap between Daiki and his hime.” Mother laughed, it sounded empty and hollow.

“Maybe you should have a daughter, she’d have any pick to my sons if you requested it.”

“Quite the charmer.” The man looked back at me, his hair framing his face, once again offering his hand. Were they flirting? Or were people this weird in conversations here? Mother rested her hand on the back of my head, nudging me slightly forward. Our hands touched and he gently closed his fingers around my hand. “Hey, Itama-sama, I’m Ritsuji.”

“Hello.” Ritsuji smiled wider, released my hand and stood straight up.

“May your ancestors guide your path.”

Father was with woman with a young child on her hip. Mother didn’t seem concerned and even waved at the lady. Were my parents in an open relationship? “That’s your Obachan, Kishi.” Obachan? That meant… Kishi was my Aunt.

Funnily enough, that wasn’t my last funeral.

Though Ritsuji seemed to take that as a sign to visit often, allegedly, he was Aunt Kishi’s boyfriend. Not husband. Boyfriend.

He liked Mother, I could tell. Not that anyone else with a brain noticed, that stupid dopey smile he got whenever she spoke. His resolve to help me or my brothers with anything, he loved her. I don’t know if she loved him though, she often let him babysit me and Kawarama which she never let anyone else. Her eyes got so soft when she watched him play or interact with us.

It was uncomfortable. Mainly because no one else saw it.

I often heard complaints from Aunt Kishi that he rarely took care of Daiki. But when it was just Mother and Ritsuji, he’d jump at the chance to take care of us.

 

I laid on the wooden floor of my room, my face pressed hard into it. It was mind numbingly boring to be in the house all day, I was the only one that was in all day. Hashirama and Tobirama trained for hours on end and went out into battles, Kawarama often went to run around the compound, Mother sometimes went to hang out with friends (leaving me in the care of Ritsuji), and Father didn't even pay attention to me.

It was kind of disheartening to see my new family didn't really bother with me once I became self sufficient. According to Kawarama, my training would begin when I physically turned four.

"Do you want to go outside, Ita-chan?" Hashirama inquired, my head shot up from off the floor. My bowl-cut brother had been completely silent and I hadn't heard him approach. "Please?" I begged, Hashirama laughed. He bent down to ruffle my hair, laughing more at my scowl. It was still odd to see, my brother was an anime character, everyone that I knew wasn't really real.

They were real but only in the sense that I could see, hear, feel, and smell them, everything about them was made by just one man. Hashirama was only goofy because Kishimoto made him like that, Tobirama was apathetic and standoffish because he was made to be, Kawarama was wild because that's how he was made.

"Hey!" I jolted back as Hashirama poked my face, his grin was wide.

"Sorry, you're just so cute!" Hashirama crooned, pinching my cheeks. I fought against his hands, why was the world so cruel to make me this weak?

"Cut it out!" I finally to pry his hands off my face, scooting back on my butt with my hands. The amusement sparkling in Hashirama's eyes made me question if he just allowed me to get away. "Can we go now?”

"Go where?" We whipped around to see Mother, she smiled disarmingly.

"Outside." He said, his dark eyes still sparkling. "I wanted to show Itama the compound." Mother walked further into the room, kneeling in front of me to straighten my hair, fingers softly caressing my cheeks. Surprise bubbled in me, Mother hadn’t been really affectionate since I had been sickly.

"Your hair is getting long, I can cut it." She said absently, something lit up in her eyes. "Or if you want, you can grow it out." Her hands mussed over my hair, I blinked up at her.

"I'll cut it." I quickly replied, my hair was too odd to be long. It was horrible, one side was spiky, the other straight, how would I ever style long hair? The light in her eyes vanished and her smile became brittle, she ruffled my hair before moving back. My eyes lingered on her, Mother faced Hashirama.

"I'll have lunch ready around noon." It was useless information because that's when lunch is ready every day, Hashirama nodded though.

"Okay!"


There were no roads or streets, just dirt paths, natural paths made from people trampling the area. Houses lined the dirt paths, all made in the same traditional way, out of the same type of wood.

"Hey, Hashirama!" A woman with brown hair that reached her shoulders shouted. Her dark eyes were bright as she pulled Hashirama into a hug.

"Hi, Kishi-oba." Hashirama greeted warmly, hugging her back.

"Oh, is that little Itama-chan?" Kishi reached for me, probably to bring me into the hug but I hurried out of reach. Her eyes softened and she released Hashirama, she sat on her haunches. "Hello, Itama, I am Kishi, your obachan." Kishi greeted me, her voice much softer than before.

"Hi, obachan." My voice came out like a whisper, Hashirama's hand landed on my head. He smiled reassuringly down at me, it made indignation coil deep inside of me. I wasn't weak, I didn't need anyone to pity me. There was a pause, my eyes focused on the ground, was she just staring at me? Or was she expecting more out of me? My stomach coiled uncomfortably, I never met her face to face and now I suspected her being cheated on.

Hashirama finally seemed to pick up on the tension.

"Well, Kishi-oba, I wanted to show Ita around…" He began.

"Of course, sorry for keeping you." Kishi apologized, rising to her feet. Hashirama took my hand and began guiding us away.

"It's okay!" He replied cheerfully, throwing her a smile over his shoulder.

"You're a lot like Butsuma, Itama." That made me pause, turning my head back to see her smile. It was a few heartbeats of silence, then I looked up to Hashirama.

“She’s odd.”

“She’s Otousama’s imouto.” Hashirama corrected absently, my eyes narrowed. “She’s a little odd.” He conceded.

Various other people stopped us to say hello to Hashirama, the brown haired boy merely smiled and politely made conversation with them. It was odd, Hashirama wasn't that old yet the Senju seemed eager to get familiar with the boy.

"Why does everyone like you?" I voiced hesitantly, Hashirama looked down at me.

"Like me? Ita-chan, you're so silly, I'm the heir to the clan. They just keep up with my progress." My brother explained, his eyes momentarily losing their light. That caused a frown on my face, of course, they didn't care about Hashirama, they cared about the future of the clan.

"Oh…" How was I supposed to respond? I came to a stop at a small pond, fish swam just beneath the surface. They were completely vulnerable and unaware, just living their lives. But is it really living when you're ignorant to your surroundings? He plopped on the floor, dragging me along with him.

"Anyway, the Fire Daimyo has requested us so, I'll be gone for a few days." Hashirama said, that was an honest surprise.

"Huh?" I squeaked out, he merely smiled back.

"There's gonna be a big battle, the Wind Daimyo hired the Uchiha." He continued, horror bubbled in my chest. Was this the battle where Kawarama…?

"Who's going?" My fear must have been audible because Hashirama sent me a worried look. He wrapped his arm around me, pulling me closer into his side. For a moment, I feared he'd give me the 'stop being so obvious with your emotions' talk that Tobirama liked to spew.

"A lot of Senju, Father's going, so is Tobi." Hashirama offered. "Ra-chan's been begging to go, but he's barely four so Father isn't letting him." Good, Kawarama was only four, but my other brothers were still children as well.

"You're too young." My voice came out with more intention than I had intended. "No kids should have to fight!" Hashirama stared down at me, his eyes more thoughtful before he blinked and his face was blank. I loathed when my brothers did that, apparently it was a common shinobi tactic to go expressionless when handling a sensitive situation.

"I'm nine, Itama, I am a proud shinobi to the Senju Clan." His tone was carefully blank, I gritted my teeth. Fine, if Hashirama thought he was so big and strong, then I'll use his big brother complex.

"And Oniisan is seven, he could be killed out there!" I argued. "There could be kids out there Niichan’s age!" Hashirama sighed, looking out at the pond with tired eyes. He ran his hands over his face and he turned to face me.

"I don't know why you're disagreeing with me, Ita-chan, I'm not Clan Head, I can't change anything." He finally spoke, his tone suddenly hurt. My heart ached, still I resisted the urge to apologize. "I know that there are kids on the battlefield, I know Tobi could be killed. I'm terrified every second when I'm fighting because I don't want to realize after the fight that one of my little brothers died." His dark orbs were open and vulnerable, he smiled bitterly. "Tobi and Ra-chan were both so eager and proud they began training that I barely have to worry." Wait, hadn't he just said…?

"What do you-"

"I worry about you a lot too, even if you aren't training yet." Hashirama admitted. Indignation rose in my chest, a burning heat that my face grow hot. How could he worry if I wasn't fighting yet? Why was I even on his mind when our other brothers have an actual chance of dying. "I've seen death, I've killed, I've seen clan-mates slaughtered. I know that Tobirama and Kawarama can handle it, but you wear your emotions on your sleeve." I wanted to tell him that in a few years, Kawarama might die at a tender age.

But my mouth wasn't cooperating, my tongue felt heavy as if it was full of lead, frustration filled me at my cowardice. The only reason I couldn't tell anyone was because it'd out me as someone who didn't belong in this world, not even to save my own family. Hashirama looked back up towards home before facing me again, he smiled softly. "Sorry, you probably can't understand yet." He practically whispered. Is that what he assumed? But it was probably a smart assumption seeing as my body not physically two yet. "Just remember, your Anija always help you out, alright?"

"Okay." Hashirama got off the ground, dusting his pants as he offered a hand to help me up.

 

Lunch was tense that afternoon, not because of me surprisingly. Father actually joined lunch, he usually opted to wait until dinner and get reports of how training was going. He never gave me a spare glance though, I was useless to him until I turn four.

"Where were you this morning, Hashirama?" Father asked, his tone level, it still made my heart pound rapidly in my chest. For my oldest brother's credit, he didn't even flinch and met our Father's gaze evenly.

"I was showing Itama our compound." Hashirama said, only dropping his gaze when Father looked away. My heart was now pounding loudly in my ears as Father laid his gaze on me, I hunched over to seem smaller. Kawarama lightly nudged his shoulder into mine, I sat back up though I couldn't meet his eyes.

"How was that, Itama?" Surprise overcame me and my eyes met his, this was a rare time that I was actually being addressed by Father.

"It - uh - was nice, I- I um saw obachan." My voice shook pitifully, though Father didn't even blink.

"Tobirama, how is training?" He turned to my white haired brother.

"It is going well, I have moved on to learning ninjutsu." Tobirama explained, his red eyes only momentarily darting from Father to glance at Hashirama. Hashirama didn't say a word but he eyed Tobirama with surprise.

"Tatsuya informed me of that, have you mastered chakra control yet?"

"Almost, I've been practicing running on water." Here Tobirama looked a little disgruntled, a giggle snuck past my lips as I imagined Tobirama falling into the water. Though luckily I wasn't the only one because Kawarama was shaking with silent laughter, head bowed as he tried to stay quiet.

"Kawarama, how is your training going?" Father questioned, it sounded more like a challenge. Kawarama lifted his head off the table and grinned at Father.

"Real good! Settan-sensei taught me some katas, I can throw kunai too!" He boasted, he threw a smug look over to me. It was odd, maybe because we were a good gap behind Hashirama and Tobirama, Kawarama decided that he had to compete with me but he still ended up trying to be responsible for me. "I should be able to join the fight! I can beat a bunch of losers!" He jumped up, slamming his palms down on the table, this time I nudged him.

"No, Kawarama." Father sighed.

"But-"

"Listen to your Otousama, Kawarama." Mother cut in, her gaze swept across everyone but Father. "You aren't ready for a real battle yet." Kawarama's face went red from embarrassment or shame, he rose from the table with a glare aimed at Mother.

"You're just a woman, what do you know?" He walked away, it hit me like a shock of lightning when I realized his footsteps made no sound.

"Kawarama!" Father called out his retreating form. There was only the telltale sound of our bedroom door slamming to alert me that he didn't leave the house.

"He didn't mean it, Okaasan." Hashirama spoke softly, turning my attention to Mother. She didn't seem affected except for her tightly clasped hands. Just when I was about to go over to comfort her, her red eyes froze me in place, and I settled back down at my spot.

It seemed like forever before Father dismissed us from the table, surprisingly Tobirama was the first one up, headed for Kawarama. The atmosphere was ruined, the beginning of lunch made us look like an almost normal family. Heading back to my and Kawarama's shared bedroom, lagging behind my quicker brothers. Tobirama yanked the door open and stormed in, Hashirama close on his tail. They hadn't noticed me as I lingered in the doorway, merely watching. Kawarama sat on his bed, ignoring them by stubbornly watching a wall.

"What the hell was that?" Tobirama hissed, his back to me. "Where do you get off by talking to them like that?"

"Tobi, calm down." Hashirama attempted to placate.

"I'm trying to help the clan!" Kawarama shouted back, turning to face Tobirama, jutting his chin out. "The more shinobi we have, the better!"

"Ra-chan, don't shout." Hashirama interjected again.

"You're barely a shinobi, all you'd be is a liability in real combat." Tobirama snarled back, a finger jabbing into Kawarama's shoulder. "You'll just end up just throwing your life away!"

"Tobirama, that's a little uncalled-"

"At least people will miss me, nobody even likes you!"

"Kawarama! Cut it out!"

This is what arguing was, words so scathing they make you hurt. Families fight underhanded because for some reason they don't like pulling punches, they know where to stab deeply to make you cry. In my past life, arguments in my family were just like this, screaming matches until voices ran hoarse and then later everyone felt upset. Nobody's points got through and nobody learned, just unhappiness being buried and fake apologies.

The yelling washed over me, until it was like I was underwater with muffled voices of my brothers. Maybe this is what being a shinobi did, my brothers kept their emotions buried so when they did release the negative, it was an explosion that couldn't be contained any longer. And long after the blast ended, the fire came to ruin what was left.

My feet stayed glued to the floor, sticking me in place to endure this screaming match. Oddly, it reminded me of home, and I hated it. Eventually it ended with a shrill screech from Kawarama, demanding them to leave the room, as if we all didn’t share it. The door slamming in Hashirama and Tobirama's face sealed it. Hashirama stood, looking at the door for a few moments before huffing and turning away. His eyes landed on me and his arms uncrossed almost immediately, a smile replaced his frown.

"Hey, Itama!" Hashirama greeted, arms draping around my shoulder. Tobirama whirled around, his hands unclenched instantly, his eyes flickered between me and Hashirama. "Ra-chan's in a bad mood, so I probably wouldn't go in there." Sometimes I doubt Hashirama, but the boy was very obviously hoping I hadn't been here long. Still, against my will, my wrist rubbed my eyes quickly. When my eyes opened again, both the boys had stilled and were staring at each other, probably talking telepathically or something.

"Hey, hey! No tears, just a disagreement, no reason to cry." Hashirama cooed, bringing me closer into his side.

"'M not." It felt like my throat was trying to choke me, embarrassment burned my face as Tobirama and Hashirama shared another look. Before they could scold me for openly crying, I bolted. Almost out the front door when I collided with some legs.

“Whoa, okay, hey, little prince.” Ritsuji’s tone hinted at surprise, he helped me to my feet. “Oh, what happened?” He asked, noticing my tears.

“Not’ing.” I sniffed. Then I really looked and narrowed my eyes. “Otousama is here.” Ritsuji shrugged as if he wasn’t here to visit his secret lover while his girlfriend’s brother was here (and who is actually married to said secret lover).

“I don’t know what you’re insinuating.” Ritsuji grinned, winking at me. That was an odd thing, maybe he thought I was too young to get their little emotional love affair or something but he was wrong.

The only reason Father wasn’t going to hear it from me was because they were happy, and maybe Mother couldn’t leave him legally.

“C’mon, little prince, I’ll show you how to throw.”

 

That's how I found myself being led by hand to a training field, Ritsuji rambled mindlessly about kunai while I tuned him out. A row of trees only about ten feet away had targets with holes littering them, the holes mostly centered around the bullseye.

"They're kinda far." My statement earns a snicker from Ritsuji, who merely shoves a kunai in my hand. It's not as heavy as it was the first time, it's not as shiny and intimidating though.

"It’s dulled kunai." Ritsuji ignores my comment, adjusting the kunai in my hand. He pulls back before giving me a small smile, just barely a quirk of his lips. "Try throwing." My throwing in my past life was never something I was proud of, so maybe my new ninja genes will help. My arm pulled back and threw the kunai, it sailed through the air and past the target.

"A little more to the left." He advised, nodding his head as he passed me another one. The kunai soared through the air, it hit the tree and bounced off. Ritsuji cheered, clapping loudly with a wide grin.

"Close! A little higher!" A smile made its way onto my face, that definitely was an improvement. This time, when he handed me another kunai, I grinned also. This time the kunai sailed smoothly, barely hit the target and it bounced off but it hit the target. This time when Ritsuji cheered, he jumped up, wrapping his arms tightly around me.

"Good job! You'll be hitting the center in no time!" He exclaimed loudly in my ear.

"You should be a teacher." I responded softly, Ritsuji released me and ruffled my hair.

“Not a chance in hell.” Then he furrowed his brows. “Don’t repeat that.” Saved to my 'please don't tell Azumi I taught you that' list.



The send off was nearly an hour later, women, children, and the injured gathered around, all wishing luck to the shinobi. Kawarama stood next to me, my hand in his as we stared at Hashirama and Tobirama, armored up for battle. "Be good for Okaasan, okay?" Hashirama urged. My gaze turned to Mother to see her chatting with Father, the pair not even looking fazed. Was she not even worried that he might not return? Then again. My eyes drifted to Ritsuji, who wasn’t dressed in battle armor, one of the few men opting to stay in the compound in case of an invasion. His arm was around Aunt Kishi, who was holding a little child, most likely Daiki, my cousin.

"Okay." I agreed anyway, turning back to my brothers. Tobirama shifted his eyes on Kawarama, they didn't say a word. "Be careful." Hashirama and Tobirama both nodded, determined gleams in both their eyes. Kawarama fidgeted, his bottom lip between his teeth.

"Shinobi, let's move!" Father called out, leading the group into the deeper forest. Hashirama and Tobirama turned to leave when Kawarama let go of my hand.

"Come back safe, alright?!" He shouted, Hashirama turned his head giving him a thumbs up, Tobirama's eyes softened and he nodded. The group of shinobi disappeared in the trees, leaving the crowd of us standing around. The mood was oddly somber, my clan members whispered among each other, shifting as even the kids stayed silent. Eventually Mother walked up to us, her eyes still on the treeline.

"I'll be staying here until they return, you can stay or head home." Mother explained. She walked away immediately after, meeting up with Aunt Kishi and Ritsuji. Then dread settled in my stomach, curling and churning around. I had possibly watched men and children march into their deaths, I just watched Hashirama and Tobirama run towards the battle. What kind of sibling was I? A hand slipped into mine and Kawarama smiled at me, an attempt at comfort.

"Hashi and Tobi are tough, they'll come back." Kawarama bumped shoulders with me.

"But what about the others?" There were children older than Kawarama but younger than Hashirama, how was that fair? How many kids got picked off during battle so they didn't have time to grow stronger?

Hours had passed, the stirring crowd never calmed. The later it got, the more group of Senju began to panic. It was silent, besides a few whispers or the occasional crying baby. Kawarama stayed the calmest I've ever seen him, his gaze was fixed on the horizon, the setting sun's rays landed on his face, making his dark red eyes glow. His knees were at his chest, his chin resting on them. "When are they coming back?" My voice trembled, Kawarama shrugged lightly.

"I don't know." My brother finally spoke, his eyes cautiously darted to mine and he plastered a smile on his face. It was odd, obviously fake and my eyes turned to where the shinobi had left. Kawarama never hesitated, he was abrasive and headstrong because that's who he was. But now, he was a scared kid, waiting to see if his father and brothers would come home alive. 

Silence swallowed us back up. Eventually a woman approached us with a few children in tow, her dark eyes ran over us and eventually the nearby women. Her hair was basically exotic, dark strands that rivaled the night. With a clan full of brown, white, and blonde haired people, she was a minority. "Excuse me, Kawarama-sama, Itama-sama, my name is Mizuki, me and a few others are preparing dinner for the children, would you like to come?" It sounded nice enough, the moon had begun to rise and we hadn't eaten since lunch. Kawarama narrowed his eyes at her, almost baring his teeth before he glanced at me and sighed.

"Sure." He agreed. We both rose to our feet, the other children smiled at us.

"We're having sukiyaki!" A girl, almost as tall as Kawarama giggled. Her own brown eyes sparkling.

"Yeah! It's gonna be good!" A boy, only a few inches taller than me, grinned, revealing a missing front tooth.

The house we were guided to was warm, tt was very well lit and very cozy. Kawarama held onto my hand tightly because the other children huddled close around us, eyes taking in everything. "Come get settled at the table." A brown haired woman said softly. Even from the living room, the smell of the sukiyaki drifted in, making my mouth water and made more than a few stomachs growl. There was a rush of kids running into the dining room, all eager to finally eat. I followed at a slower pace, Kawarama at my side as we sat at open spots at the table. The few women began sitting bowls in front of the kids, various shouts of 'thank you' rang out loudly.

"My name's Daiki." The boy with the missing tooth offered, his light brown eyes widened as a bowl was placed in front of him. It took me a second to realize he was talking to me and not Kawarama. Daiki, my cousin. He had the same eyes as Ritsuji.

"Oh, um… I'm Itama." Daiki was tearing through the food already, slurping up the noodles to look at me. His eyes narrowed as if considering me before he broke out into a smile.

"Your tousan is Butsuma?" At my hesitant nod, Daiki's smile grew. "He's my ojisama, my mama is Kishi."

"Knew you looked familiar, we're cousins." Kawarama injected. A bowl was finally placed in front of me, the steam wafting off of it and it was calling my name. Shoveling the food into my mouth was a little harder with chopsticks but it didn't stop me. The searing heat of the food burned my tongue and the roof of my mouth, yet I didn't stop.

"Slow down! You all will get sick!" The oldest girl, maybe thirteen, scolded. No one paid her any mind, she huffed which was oddly audible over the slurping and smacking.

Eventually, my bowl was empty and my stomach felt like it was going to explode. Kawarama sighed and sat back, patting his stomach with his eyes closed. Daiki licked his lips to get rid of the excess sauce, his eyes half lidded.

"We set up cots so you could all sleep." Mizuki offered, as some women began taking empty bowls from tables and into the kitchen. Unbidden, a yawn forced itself past my lips.

"What about our ninja?" A blond girl asked, Mizuki bit her lip. That made me pause, once again, it slipped my mind that my brothers were quite possibly fighting for their lives while I was enjoying dinner. Kawarama went rigid, his previously content mood switched like a light-switch. A few more children's faces obviously shone their previous distraught mood had returned, Mizuki gazed at all of us.

"We'll wake you when they return." She promised.

Chapter Text

Hashirama felt dead on his feet, his armor wasn't helping as he ran alongside his clansmen. Tobirama matched his stride, face dreadfully blank and yet Hashirama could read him like a book. "Do you think they'll be awake?" Hashirama asked, not needing to clarify who 'they' were. His brother didn't look over to him but answered anyway.

"No, it's late." The moonlight was a plus, lighting their path back home.

"Can you sense them?" Hashirama asked, wishing to confirm that all his brothers were okay. It was pure paranoia, there were capable shinobi back at the compound.

"Yes." Tobirama confirmed patiently, Hashirama felt his shoulders drop. While Tobirama had an incredible sensor range, it meant that they were at the most twenty miles away from the compound. A muffled sob was audible, Hashirama looked back to see Naoki carrying the limp body of his younger brother.

The brown haired teen had been insistent to carry little Ren back home, the little boy was six. Various other clansmen were carrying bodies that hadn't made it, luckily all the fallen in the battle would be able to meet their ancestors since all the bodies had been recovered. Another quiet sob shook Hashirama to the core, that could've been him carrying the dead body of Tobirama, but it wasn't.

"I'll see if Noaki needs help." Hashirama informed Tobirama, his white haired brother gave him a nod. Hashirama fell back, enough to match strides with Noaki. He could see Ren's young face was blank, his eyes probably closed by Noaki. "I can-"

"No!" Noaki snapped back, tears sliding down his face and onto Ren. "I was supposed to protect him!" Many clansmen briefly turned to look, still keeping their footing and pace. "If I can't protect then I'll bring him home." He finished softer. "I owe it to Kaasan." Hashirama felt his heart stop for a second before it began again, harder and louder.

"I'm sorry." He really was, why were children being slaughtered? Why couldn't the daimyos fix their own problems without ninja?



They arrived home, greeted by tears and no children. Hashirama stood on his tiptoes to try and spot his little brothers, the sea of women and a few injured men surrounded them, searching for family members. "Hashirama." Okaasan breathed, reaching him and lightly caressing his cheek. He smiled as she moved on to greet Tobirama, his brother's eyes warmed as she caressed his cheek. Ritsuji was next, fist bumping them each.

“Welcome back.” He grinned. “Held down the fort for you.”

“Thank you.” Tobirama bowed his head.

"Where's Kawarama and Itama?" Hashirama asked, Okaasan blinked and looked around.

"Oh, Mizuki and a few others rounded up the kids, they're at Haruka's house." Hashirama headed to the house, Tobirama followed closely, and they slipped off their sandals, taking in the sheer amount of small sandals at the door. Haruka smiled at them, Hashirama opened his mouth to ask where his brothers were when she spoke.

"The children are sleeping, follow me." He followed Haruka eagerly, wanting to make sure his brothers were safe. In the bedroom, it was almost full with cots lined up in neat rows, Hashirama and Tobirama walked through them and saw the white/brown hair of Itama. The two youngest were curled up together, the paranoia in Hashirama's chest faded at the sight.

"Told you." Tobirama commented quietly.



I stood dead on my feet, swaying as a yawn ripped itself from my throat. The sun hadn't even begun to rise but the whole clan was up ready to perform a mass funeral. Father stood on a little stage, the sea of Senju stood behind us. "Today, our clansmen will walk among on ancestors." Father began, his voice booming and yet bland. "First, a moment of silence." It wasn't really necessary as the clan was fully silent, babies probably sleeping in their mothers arms.

Yet my eyes closed, trying to focus on respect on my fallen clan members, majority of them not living to see their eighteenth birthday. My knees buckled underneath me, making my snap my eyes open. I could feel Tobirama's gaze on me, his disapproval heavy. Father had began speaking again, meaning that I must've dozed off during the silence. Guilt swirled heavily in my stomach, funerals were meant to give respect and say goodbye, not sleep.

"Our clansmen gave the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives for the clan." It seemed odd to say clansmen when some were just boys, boys that didn't know of any life outside of this; outside of warring and fighting. "Today, all the fallen are fully fledged shinobi." There was a harsh intake of breath, like someone sucking air through their teeth. Looking over, Hashirama had his fists balled and eyes narrowed, not even looking at Father but rather straight ahead into the distance. Was his brother finally questioning the life they lived? Was it even supposed to happen this early? Father began reciting the names of the fallen, his monotonous voice seemed cruel to the families that choked back sobs at the sound of the names.

The bodies were buried in the forest, near the compound under trees. The sun had risen and my feet just shuffled to my home.

"I'm gonna change stuff." Hashirama hissed to me, quietly as not to be overheard. His hand clutched mine tightly like a lifeline, his dark eyes steeled with determination. "I promise."

"I know." My response was meant to be comforting because something happened. Something that fueled Hashirama and put a fire under him, maybe it was a good thing.

Unusually, we all piled into Hashirama's bed, even Tobirama. Sleep claimed me quickly and I was out.

 

It was awkward sitting on the couch in the Clan Head’s house, even odder when your every movement was being watched. Touka tried not to steal a glance at the small figure crouched in the doorway to the bedrooms. Light brown orbs obviously focused on her, she attempted to keep still. Hashirama needed to grab his ninja wire and said it was okay for her to wait inside his house, mentioning that Butsuma-sama wasn’t home yet. What he forgot to mention (apparently) was that his youngest brother was home. Small and pudgy hands balled into tight fists while his eyes shone with hesitance.

“Hey.” Touka finally spoke, beginning to wave awkwardly before aborting the motion. The boy, Itama was the youngest heir’s name, stared with wider eyes.

“I found it! Come on Touka!” Hashirama strolled past the crouched boy without a second glance. Touka pulled her eyes away and tried to match the future clan head’s smile. He was about to walk outside when-

“Is he going to say something?” She felt the need to ask, nodding towards the silent boy. Hashirama turned and made a sound of surprise. If it got to Butsuma-sama that she was training- if it got to her tousan it’d be big trouble.

“Oh, Ita-chan!” Hashirama said, briefly turning his head to her to grin. “Come here, Touka’s a friend.” Itama slowly rose to his full height, overall not impressive, barely at Hashirama’s waist. The toddler toddled towards them, immediately gripping onto Hashirama’s pants.

“She is a girl.” Itama stated quietly, each word spoken carefully, purposefully, like someone reading a book to a child learning to read. Touka’s eyebrow twitched, what did being a girl have to do with anything. “She is a girl ninja.” He continued, staring up at her like she was a puzzle. Touka found herself relaxing, which was ridiculous because when did a three year old’s opinion matter to her?

“Yeah, yeah I am.” Touka agreed.

“And you can’t tell anyone, Otousama would be angry.” Hashirama added, carefully ruffling his little brother’s hair. Itama frowned. “Mad.” Hashirama offered at Itama’s confusion.

“Oh… okay.” Itama said, reluctantly releasing Hashirama’s pants. Touka could see how the boy stepped back, doe-like eyes longingly staying on the kunai and the ninja wire. She felt a pang of understanding, she remembered being completely crushed when she realized she couldn’t train to become a ninja like her cousins. Then Hashirama offered to train her in complete secrecy.

“Do you want to come with?” Touka asked. She smothered an amused giggle when he perked up. Then she paused, was it her place to invite the sickly son of the main branch to watch them train? “Can he?” Both Touka and Itama turned to Hashirama, the heir looked immensely surprised then pleased.

“Of course!” Hashirama beamed.

 

“I was nervous.” Hashirama admitted sheepishly as Itama ran ahead, Touka blinked in confusion. “Itama’s kinda shy and not everyone will be kind to him. The youngest son, the sickly son, that kind of stuff will follow him.” Itama climbed over a fallen tree, grinning back at them while straddling the log.

“He’s cool, a little creepy at first.” Touka said with a shrug. “But he’s cool.” She never really bothered with the younger clan kids, the girls were more fixated on learning to sow while the boys couldn’t fathom a girl wanting to throw kunai with them.

“He’s my youngest brother, my baby brother, and I can’t spend time with him as much as I’d like.” Hashirama was obviously hinting at something, she knew him well. She shot him an unimpressed glare before sighing.

“You want me to hang out with him when you’re busy?” Hashirama’s smile became sheepish.

“I’d appreciate it.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“Thanks, Touka!” Hashirama laughed before running to catch up with Itama.

Chapter Text

Touka was four when she realizes how unfair the clan was.

“I wanna be a ninja!” She exclaims happily, knees scrapped, elbows scabbed over. Her smile doesn’t drop until her tousan makes a sound not unlike a bird trapped in a cage. He grabs her by the shoulders, hard enough that it hurts and examines the rest of her visible body. “Tousan!” She complains.

“Touka,” Her tousan begins, voice shaking with something. “You’re a girl.” Touka frowns.

 

She is forced to learn to sew, to cook, to clean. She scowls while doing it all. “What’s so wrong with me being a ninja?” She asks her tousan when she turns five, watching a group of boys spar. “I bet I can be a better ninja than some of those boys!”

“Because Butsuma-sama would never let you.” Her tousan says, fingers resting on her head. “Even if he did, I wouldn’t either.”

 

Touka is never shy. “Teach me.” She demands at eight years old. The heir of her clan stares at her, obvious in the ways he shows emotion.

“Teach you what?” The heir asks, almost amused. “To become a ninja?”

“Yes.” She snarls. And he does.

Hashirama is a bad teacher, praises too much, corrects too little, but she loves it. He smiles with so much earnest it scares her because every adult in the clan seems to wear a mask. It never bothers her that a kid a year younger then her is teaching.

 

A year later it occurs to them what it looks like. When they walk into her house and see Butsuma-sama and her tousan talking across their table.

“Hello, Butsuma-sama.” She bows before turning to her tousan in complete confusion. “What’s going on, tousan?” Her tousan smiles like he does when she tells a joke.

“We were discussing your future with my eldest.” For a second her heart catches in her throat when her clan head speaks, fearing that they had been figured out. Hashirama stills at her side, adopting a very guilty look. “Hashirama, I raised you better.” The clan head frowns at the heir and she gulps. “You must go to the girl’s father if you want to court her.” Then the wind is cut from their sails. Touka chokes, Hashirama flails, eyes wide with panic.

“It’s not like that!” They cry out simultaneously.



Touka shook her head out of the clouds. She must’ve drifted off into the past while walking around, avoiding her etiquette classes in the mean time. “Aneki! I thought you were busy today!” Itama grinned up at her, pulling Tobirama along by the hand. She smiled while the white haired boy stared with guarded eyes.

“As if I was going to practice plating all day.” She scoffed. Touka tried not to be offended when Tobirama stepped ahead of Itama, placing the younger boy behind him, putting himself closer to her. Tried. “What’s the big deal?” His eyes briefly darted down then back up, as if he was sizing her up.

“Who are you?” The white haired boy asked, red eyes narrowed into a suspicious glare. Touka was offended, she was the boy’s clanmate, an ally no matter what, yet he was treating her like the enemy. Now Itama frowned at his brother, brows furrowed together.

“Touka.” She finally spat. “Senju Touka.” She added, making sure to let the venom drip into her voice. Tobirama’s shoulder’s stayed tensed. “What? Do you need my parents’ names too?”

“Tobi-nii,” The nickname finally drew the red glower from her to Itama, the little boy looked a little stressed from the tension. His round brown eyes quickly flickered between them. “We’re going fishing, right?” Tobirama nodded stiffly, his body relaxed while his eyes stayed hard. “See you around, Touka-nee!” She blinked as they walked past, sighing in relief when they disappeared into the trees.



Tobirama could feel his fists begin to ache, he forced them to relax and unclenched his jaw. He pulled his knees to his jaw, burying his head onto them. Hashirama had to leave on a surveying mission with Otousama, he had promised his elder brother that he’d keep his brothers safe. He would do so, even if their compound was considered safe. His eyes focused on the two figures readying for a race with laughs and giggles.

So what if that girl had no visible ill intentions? Who even was she? The way she carried herself was… nerve-racking. He had even caught sight of a kunai on her waist, the blade gleaming due to the sun hitting it. Too well taken care of to just be something she happened to carry.

He couldn’t shake the image of Ren being carried by Noaki.

He doesn’t sleep. His elder brother had assigned him his own personal mission, a promise, he would see it through. Always. Kawarama and Itama slept in Hashirama’s futon, clinging onto the scent of their eldest brother for comfort. Tobirama stood in the corner of their bedroom, the best corner with a good view of the window and door. If he blinked for too long, for a second he’d been convinced there was a ninja in the room, a red and white fan boldly displayed on their clothes. Then he blinked again and the ninja was gone.

Exhaustion clung to him by the second day, Okaasan noticed with a pretty smile. She guided him out of the bedroom by the hand, with a promise;

“Your otoutos will be safe in bed.” His heart raced as she made tea, Ritsuji shot him a pitying look from the couch.

“I promised Anija I’d keep them safe.” He said while his fingers refused to let go off the cup.

“They are.” Ritsuji spoke softly. “They’re sleeping, safe in our compound.” Tobirama still used his sensing to check in on them periodically, his shoulder’s refused to relax.

The third day, late noon, Hashirama came back, exhaustion clung to him. Light bags had formed under his eyes, his exaggerated movements are slow as he recounts the vast forest around their home, about the animals. Itama and Kawarama listened patiently, before running off to help Okaasan cook. Hashirama looked at him.

“Tobi?” His elder brother called.

“I kept them safe.” He said tiredly. Hashirama pulled him close, tight into his arms. “I completed your mission.”

“I knew you would, otouto. Now, we’re both tired so we’ll both sleep.” Hashirama commanded gently, pulling away just enough to caress the light bags under Tobirama’s eyes.

He awoke to Kawarama under his arm, Itama under Hashirama’s arm. Tobirama took a breath, burying his face into the spiky light brown hair. He laid there, listening to the soft breathing of his brothers and thought, never.

He never wanted to lose them.

He never wanted to say goodbye forever.

He never broke a promise.

Chapter Text

"Looks like Tsubasa won't make it." Kento sighed, Butsuma nodded heavily. He wished that Tsubasa's death was war related, it was easier to announce the fallen names in a mass funeral. Instead of privately telling a family that their nine year old ate poisonous plants and couldn't be saved. "One less shinobi out on the fields." Kento continued bitterly, his gray hair limply in his face. Butsuma wasn't surprised, Kento also had brothers that died young, he was the only surviving male of his immediate family.

"It's a shame." He agreed.

"When's your youngest starting training?" Kento asked him, nodding towards Itama who was attempting to climb a tree. His short arms reached high, desperately grasping at a branch above his head.

"He'll turn four in one more season, he was born in the fall." Butsuma felt the need to clarify. Kento hummed, eyes still focused on Itama.

"You're not going to wait for five years? He was a fall baby, wasn’t he also sickly?" Kento asked surprised. Butsuma fought the urge to snort, children born in the cold months were perceived as weaker, which was amusing seeing as Tobirama was born late winter, his second son was already proving to be strong. Itama had managed to pull himself onto the branch, straddling the branch and already looking up at the next one.

"Are you insinuating that my son is weak?" He challenged, narrowing his eyes at his clan-mate. Kento finally looked at Butsuma, eyes wide with surprise while he carefully began to explain.

"Well no, but Itama-sama tends to be a little softer than your other children." Kento coughed, his eyes now focused at Butsuma's feet. It would be considered direct disrespect to insult a father about his son, to call them more sensitive or weaker than average. "Not that is a bad thing!" Kento hurried to add, becoming panicked under Butsuma's stare and silence.

"Itama!" Butsuma called instead, his youngest startled, flinching and nearly falling from the tree. "Come here." His bi-colored haired son was only a few feet off the ground, hardly impressive, in a year he'll be climbing it in seconds. Itama hesitated before slowly scaling down, each movement painfully slow and cautious. Finally he reached the ground and sprinted across the distance, still embarrassingly slow compared to the average Senju boy.

"Yes, Otousama?" Itama asked, body unnaturally stiff and tone carefully blank. Kento snickered quietly, Butsuma knew the other man had noticed his son's attempt at respect. Itama's eyes flickered between them both, visibly confused. Despite Itama's attempt, his body and tone still broadcasted his emotions to the most rookie shinobi.

"What were you doing on that tree?" Butsuma questioned, Itama blinked, unsure.

"I was… training." He spoke quietly, almost inaudible to Butsuma.

Kento interjected, kneeling down to Itama's level. "Training? Why don't you go play?" Itama's face looked stricken, eyes wide and frightened like a rabbit. Butsuma fought a disapproving growl, no son of his should cower at his clan-members.

"Well- um… I'm kinda good at kunai already. So I thought-"

"Who taught you to throw kunai?" Butsuma interrupted his son's stammering. His son flinched, as if Butsuma would ever lay a hand on his children outside of sparring.

"Ritsuji." Itama whispered, hands over his mouth, muffling his words.

"Hm, very well." Butsuma looked over to Kento, who had risen back to his full height. "When Itama turns four, you'll be his sensei." Kento's eyes widened comically, and Itama squeaked in disbelief. It wasn't usual protocol to inform a mentor and the child before the child turned four, but it wasn't much of a concern. It also helped the fact everyone assumed that he was making Ritsuji, Itama’s mentor, because for some reason, Ritsuji was surprisingly good with kids, as long as the kid wasn’t his own. If Kento happened to give Itama pointers before he turned four, then it happened. Maybe his soft son would have a better chance to not come home dead.


“Ritsuji! Ritsuji!” Only a few people turned at my loud call, usually the stares would make me quieter but this was important. The tall man stopped walking and instantly crouched down to my level.

“Yes, little prince?” He inquired. He patiently waited for my huffing for air to end.

“Otousama made Kento my mentor, not you!” It wasn’t really fair that my eyes welled with tears. It was frustrating, Ritsuji had his own plans for teaching me when I turned five, he knew where I was at and we knew each other. Kento was just some weird adviser!

“Oh, he did?” Ritsuji asked softly, barely over a whisper, eyes hardening. There was something carrying under Ritsuji’s tone, something that made me blink. “Did he say why?”

“No, but I don’t want some random advisor to be my mentor!” At my statement, Ritsuji’s eyes softened and he smiled.

“Well, we don’t always get what we want, little prince. Sometimes we have to make do with the best we have.” Ritsuji explained, as if I was an actual child and didn’t know better. It took everything inside of me not to retort ‘you got Mother’. “You’ll be a good little prince for Kento, right?”

“I’m not little… or a prince.” I huffed at him, this time more exasperated than tired. “You’re no help.” Ignoring his yelp of ‘hey’, I marched off.



Kento was exhausted, he was supposed to be casually training Itama, but it’s like he could never catch the boy. Whenever the illusive Itama was out of his house, he was always being swept up by Ritsuji who suddenly had urgent family matters that included Itama. If he brought it to Butsuma or Azumi, he got told ‘it’s not an official mentor-ship, don’t try too hard’, then he gets promised they’ll talk to Ritsuji about stealing his student.

Kento caught sight of Ritsuji with two boys at his side, one was Itama, the other was Ritsuji’s son, Dashi or something.

“Itama-sama, I’ve been looking for you.” Kento appeared in front of them, ignoring the flinches from the children.

“Oh sorry, Kento-san, you see, we’re on our way to go visit Ryouma-sama.” Ritsuji gave his infuriatingly fake apologetic smile.

“Ryouma-sama has been dead for two years.” Kento crossed his arms, not impressed by the lie. His arms uncrossed immediately when both boys burst into tears.

“Ojiisama!” They wailed, fat tears rolling down their faces. Ritsuji crouched down, putting a hand on each of their shoulders, pulling them into his chest, all while glaring at him.

“Thanks, the wound is still fresh.” Kento winced.

 

“Kishi-sama, I’d like to apologize.” Kento ran up to the woman, the only person of the main branch he could seem to find. Kishi blinked, her dark eyes sparkled with surprise.

“Drop the -sama, also what’d you do?” Kishi asked impatiently. Kento blinked, a little surprised but he took a breath. Kishi was always the odd one seeing as she had a child with her boyfriend without a wedding in sight.

“Well I accidentally reminded your child and youngest nephew of their loss of Ryouma-sama, for that I humbly apologize.” Kento bowed as far as he could reach, waiting for a response. What he wasn’t expecting was a snicker of laughter.

“Oh Kami, Kento, I’m sorry to say that Daiki only met my touchan once or twice when he was less than a year old and Itama never met him. I imagine Ritsuji decided to fool you.” Kento lifted from his bow, mouth agape in disbelief.

“I...huh?” He said dumbly.

“That stupid man, roping kids into his little schemes.” The insult was said fondly. “I’ll get him and the boys to apologize.” Kishi smiled and began to walk away. He… had been fooled. He had always been told that the youngest son was the least trouble, but it seems like everyone had been wrong.