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Team Disaster: Origins Of Infamy

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Senju Butsuma nearly jumped out of his own skin when his eldest son all but broke the door down upon his entry in his excitement, dragging a vaguely familiar boy of an age with him behind him. A five year old, overly excited Senju Hashirama was a force not to be reckoned with if one wants to spare oneself a splitting headache.

"Tou-san! Tou-san! I made a new friend!"

"Oi! This is inappropriate! Let go of me, Hashirama!" Said new friend protested, seeming embarrassed to have barged in like this with his sandals still on his hands. He must have just managed to take them off at the door before the other boy had dragged him into the living room of the home of the Senju Head family. Whoever he was, Butsuma already approved. At least he had some manners.

"His name is Madara and we're the bestest best friends in the whole world!" Hashirama, not to be deterred, came to a stop only when he was a few feet away from where his father and Clan Head was sitting reading the day's newspapers, beaming like he had been given something more precious than anything else in the world. Since Butsuma knew his eldest was often bullied for his hairstyle and his fashion choices by the other kids on the playground no matter how nice and friendly he was, the father figured the new boy might be just that in Hashirama's eyes.

"O-oi! Don't just go and decide that by yourself, baka!" The other boy, black of hair and with pale skin, snapped scoldingly and Butsuma sweatdropped when his son immediately drooped into a sulk. It was testament that these two were platonic soulmates or something despite just meeting each other that the boy, Madara, seemed completely used and even less bothered by the antics of the little brunet with the bowl-cut.

"Madara? Hm, you are Tajima's eldest son, yes? How is my old friend?"

The boy snapped to attention and gave a hasty but well mannered bow to the man of the house. "Tou-san is healthy and doing well, Senju-sama. Thank you for asking."

'This is how a proper Clan Heir should act, Hashirama, I hope you are watching attentively. Maybe you might learn something from your new friend.' Butsuma smiled in amusement at his own thoughts. "And how is that fearsome mother of yours? Is she well? I haven't seen her in a while. Kira's been pouting." Only a fool would not ask about the Dragoness of the Uchiha Clan. Now that he had placed the boy's parentage, he could easily see that he was a male spitting image of his mother even if the exact shade of his hair resembled more his father's side of the family.

"I do not pout, husband," said wife, a Hatake by birth and with the coloring to prove it, protested playfully as she entered the room, a warm smile in place for her best friend's eldest. "Hello, Madara-chan. I trust you and your family are all well?"

"Izuna has a fever but everyone else is fine. Kaa-chan's fighting tou-san about whether she should be allowed to look after him in her fifth month."

His wife laughed delightedly while Butsuma couldn't help the swell of pity for his old friend and school rival. The Uchiha had it coming, marrying to fiercest woman he could find, an Uchiha herself but with the temperament of a dragon. Butsuma swore Kira's own more fiery temperament as opposed to the usual cool Hatake one came from being best friends with Uchiha Ryukyu. "Sounds like Ryukyu-chan, alright! Be sure to send my best regards. I'll visit her once Izuna-kun gets better. Would you like some tea?"

"That would be lovely, thank you." Butsuma took note the ease in which Madara interacted with his wife and the different forms of address between the Heir and his younger sibling on Kira's own part. Then again, she was this boy's godmother and had been the first outsider to hold him. Butsuma would know. He had been there, congratulating Tajima on his first son.

Hashirama broke the peaceful, almost normal atmosphere by whining at his new friend. "Come on, Madara~! Let's go climb the cliff of the Hokage Mountain! The last one there is a rotten egg!" The parents watched in amusement as their son started dragging the Uchiha Clan Heir behind him with Madara trying to dig in his feet halfheartedly and yelling something about proper conduct. Butsuma expected nothing else. Tajima was a loving but strict father and given where the other half of Ryukyu's genes came from in the Daimyo's own court, he was not at all surprised that she was raising Madara to be a second coming of herself, a terror in the battlefield as well as in a meeting room. Butsuma pitied Tajima. One Ryukyu was scary enough and now their son was taking after her ...

Hashirama's momentum was stopped, however, before they could reach the long hallway that would lead them through the big house and straight to the bottom of the mountain, for there stood Butsuma's other son. Like Madara, Senju Tobirama took completely after his mother in all things and so he held his breath, as this is sure to be an epic, groundbreaking meeting. Kira and Ryukyu had taken a single look at each other and had decided they were to be friends for life. Lighting and fire was a deadly combination.

"Eh? Tobi? Do you wanna come play, too?" Hashirama, the always adoring - sometimes suffocatingly so - elder brother crouched in front of his three year old baby brother and smiled invitingly, looking ready to pinch his chubby cheeks like the little Hatake-look-alike hated. But the toddler's red eyes were unerringly, unnervingly focused on their guest, not even looking up to greet the father whose approval he always sought or the mother in whom's affection he liked to soak in. He even downright ignored Hashirama's existence and side stepped his beloved older sibling - a shocker, given his first spoken word had been Anija - so he could come to stare up at the wild-haired Uchiha.

Madara arched an eyebrow while Hashirama fell into his trademark sulk, tilting his head to better regard the little boy studying him. "So you're like me, huh? That's impressive, given your age. Your name is Tobi?"

"Tobirama," the littler Senju replied before boldly wrapping his arms around the older boy, seemingly snuggling into his lower chest that he could reach of the five year old. "So warm."

The purr from his youngest son finally had Butsuma snapping out of his surprise at Tobirama's uncharacteristic behavior. "How did you mean, when you said he was like you?"

Madara looked at him funny even as he ran his fingers through Tobirama's shaggy white hair. "He's a sensor, and a powerful one, at that. Didn't you know?" All three Senjus shook their heads no and Madara snorted and didn't even try to apologize. "That explains it, I guess. The clinginess," he explains at their Kira's arched eyebrow. "And the attraction, I guess. His chakra is suiton oriented, so he's naturally attracted to my katon. I'm surprised he hasn't wandered over to the Uchiha Compound."

"Why would he go to your Compound?" Hashirama asked, sounding confused and Butsuma had to agree that he, was, too.

"Because fire users usually run hotter while water shinobi usually run colder than other people. Especially if they're particularly strong shinobi. A sensor would appreciate their exact opposite in the developing stages of their abilities."

"Hence why he's so infatuated with you." Butsuma was of the opinion that his wife was far too amused by this turn of events. At least Madara didn't seem to mind.

"You don't seem as affected," he felt the need to point out, a bit questioningly, to the boy and the Uchiha Heir just shrugged.

"I've already started developing my chakra coils and I train regularly. My own chakra blankets me. Though you might want to find a way to make sure he doesn't get overwhelmed with all the different chakra signatures in the village. If he can sense chakra like this at this age, it will only get stronger as he gets older." He then turned to his new shadow, a gentle but teasing grin on his face. "You want to sit by the koi pond and watch the clouds while your brother makes a fool of himself?"

"So mean~!" Hashirama complained but followed after the two when Tobirama nodded and started leading the way, little hand never leaving Madara's. "Wait for me!"

When they were out of sight and Butsuma looked to his wife, he felt it was his right and not shameful at all to be intimidated by the grin on her face.

He wondered if he should give Tajima, a fellow exasperated father and soon to be terrified husband, a heads up.

Tobirama was too much like his mother, after all.

00000

'I wish I had never left home,' Uzumaki Mito thought, close to tears, as she sat on the small, lone - lonely - swing in front of the Academy on her very first day since moving into Konoha. She had arrived from Uzushio just that morning and since they had yet to officially set up any arrangements for her, they had figured it to be a good idea to dump her off at the Academy to start with class one day earlier. The teacher, an old man named Shino-sensei - an Aburame, her oversensitive senses informed her - had been surprised she would be joining them today but had made an effort not to show it. His chakra gave him away.

The other kids, though, had been downright nasty.

Stupid step-mother. Stupid chichiue for giving in. Yes, her auntie Kushina lived in Konoha and yes, she was her closest blood relative from her okaa-chan's side, but she had wanted to stay with chichiue! He needed her with that new harpy he had taken for a wife under the pressure of the elders! That woman was trouble and terrible. How dare she suggest Mito was not her chichiue's daughter!? Mito had never wanted to leave home. The woman had just been eager to send her away.

Though chichiue might have been trying to spare Mito the woman's stupidity. Anyone who thought sensory abilities were inherent like a Kekkei Genkai was an idiot. The woman would have been laughed right out of Konoha if she ever said something so stupid here.

Though that didn't mean Mito liked her new 'home' any better.

Auntie Kushina was out on a mission and won't be back for another week or so, which left Mito truly at the mercy of the Academy for the day. Usually that wouldn't have been a problem. Even though she was only seven years old, Mito loved studying. It was the right mind set and necessary characteristic of anyone who wishes to one day become a seal master to rival her parents' status and that had always been Mito's goal. She wanted her parents to be proud of her and she had started working hard as soon as she had learned how to read and write. The stuff they taught at the Academy wasn't hard. That wasn't the problem.

The kids were.

They teased her about her hair, about her accent or downright bullied her when they caught her 'doodling' in a particularly boring chakra theory class that any decent seal master had to know even before they enrolled in Uzushio's Academy. Konoha was slacking. As the day went on, the bullying got worse. So what if her hair was red? It was a thing of pride in Uzushio! The redder the hair, the better and the Uzumaki had always had red hair! With the exception of the Shodaime Hokage, who was from their bloodline but had somehow ended up a blond. So what if her interest in seals was 'boring' to the kids here? Back home, they would have been the boring ones! And where did they come off of insinuating that just because she was called 'hime' that she was a weakling airhead!? Just because she had decorum didn't mean her head was filled only with flowers and shiny hair clips!

'I want to go home.' She was at least respected there. She might not have had any friends, but she had had her cousins and other Uzumaki to keep her company and teach her new things. At least there Mito had a place and a way to block out all of those different chakra signatures! Konoha was going to drive her mad! The apartment they'll no doubt give her won't have enough free space for the big seal she'll need to write in it just so she could block out all of the chakra signatures around her! She won't have a safe haven to return to after a long, tiring day and she knew that will just frazzle her senses even more. She won't be able to sleep.

Konoha will become her glided, glittering cage and no one will even notice.

Her head snapped up when her senses zeroed in on a fiery, overwhelming chakra signature heading straight towards her, surprising her into stillness. She was familiar with it, of course. The Uchiha boy from her class, the Clan Heir and a prodigy from what all the other kids always gossiped about. He wasn't all that social, though nice, other than with that other boy with equally overwhelming reserves but he only felt like trees and wood and that didn't help Mito block out the rest of the world in the least. He only made it worse. The Uchiha boy ...

"Come," he told her, not a command but an invitation, extending a hand for her to take if she so chose. "You're a sensor. I can tell by the way you flinch away from certain people. You must be exhausted. Take my hand to take the edge off." The redhead hesitated but the Uchiha stayed perfectly still and patient. He was a loud boy when he was playing with his friend but he had an incredibly calming presence around him at all other times. His chakra was like a flaming beacon and Mito wondered if this is how moths felt when they flew closer to the flames despite knowing they will be burned. Only the Uchiha didn't burn her. He only took her hand gently and drew her to her feet, leading her away from the swing and from the Academy, away from the whispers. His chakra blanketed her from the rest of the world better than any seal made of her own chakra ever could. "You're Mito-hime, right? My name is Madara. I'm sorry about all of the idiots and I'm especially sorry about Hashirama. He means well but he's an idiot."

Mito kind of envied the bowl-cut boy for the fondness she heard in Madara's voice when he spoke of him. "Thank you for offering your help, Madara-san. I truly was overwhelmed. I feel so ashamed."

"Madara's fine," the boy assured her, waving her shame off. "There's nothing to be ashamed about. You're in a new environment and your senses are going haywire in an attempt to not only find the signatures you're used to but to get used to all the new sensations around. The forest itself will take you a long time to adjust to. You just need time."

"You're a sensor too, aren't you." It wasn't a question. Only a sensor will understand how another sensor feels. His nod was utterly unnecessary but she appreciated it. "How do you never get overwhelmed?" She could only guess it was his chakra. Fire chakra was always unpredictable. Fire seals always had to be made with extra care.

"My own chakra blankets me. Even beyond my reach, there is residual heat that acts like a buffer between me and everyone else. I feel everyone just fine but I never get overwhelmed. Tobirama kind of envies me for it." At her curious look, he smiled at her and ducked into a side street. "I'll introduce you two tomorrow. He's a sensor, too, though I can only guess that he'll overshadow us both. He's only five and his reach is already over half of Fire Country." That is very impressive. Mito needed to concentrate extra hard to extend her senses that far. She'd like to meet a sensor like that. "He'll probably get angry at me for not coming to see him today but he can wait a day for once."

"Why not go to him now?" She could only guess - and she had a feeling it would be a right guess - as to why Madara needed to visit this Tobirama-kun every day. The boy no doubt found as much comfort in Madara's chakra as she did.

"Because you need me right now and we can go see him together tomorrow when we pick up Hashirama for school. They're brothers and I want to see the new baby."

"T-there's no need for you to cancel your plans for my sake!" She immediately protested but the raven haired boy only snorted.

"You were nearing a breakdown. Of course you need me now more than Tobirama. He probably won't even notice I didn't come until Kira-sama asks him where I am as I usually come by. He'll pout and he'll try following me to class but he'll get over it once he meets you. He's a curious little thing and seals are his recent interest. I'm sure you'll get along like a house on fire."

"He's interested in seals?" She asked, chewing her lower lip. Mito still felt guilty for interrupting Madara's plans but she also felt extremely hesitant to let him out of her immediate sensory range. Focusing on him was easy and it drowned out the rest of the world in the roar of his flaming inferno. She hasn't felt this calm since she left Uzushio.

"He's a bit of a genius, from what we can tell so far, and his interests are all over the place I think he'll enroll into the Academy next year but that remains to be seen. And don't worry, he's not at all like his brother. You'll like him."

"And where are we going now?" She asked as she noticed more and more fire chakra signatures around them the further along Madara led her. None as strong as him though not that far away, there were four that must be in some way related to him. Two adults, one truly similar to Madara in the fire of her chakra, and two children, the elder of which rivaled Madara in reserves. His family.

"You'll stay with me tonight so you can settle a little and we'll see about a more permanent arrangement once they decide where you'll be staying in the village. Though, if you want, I'm sure my parents won't mind you moving in permanently. Kaa-chan always wanted a daughter to pass on all of her favorite kimonos on to and I've been dreading for a year now that it might fall on to me."

"Y-you want me to move in!?" She all but shrieked, very unladylike and most likely to cause her poor chichiue a heart attack if he were to hear such an uncharacteristic sound from her, surprised, incredulous and awed most of all at the generous and thoughtful offer.

"Sure. I already have two younger brothers. I wouldn't mind having a sister, too."

And Mito flushed and just let herself be led, thankful Madara didn't seem to be expecting an answer from her right away.

(The next morning, their respected Hokage seemed to be dealing with a headache in the shape of two stubborn kids and an all too eager Uchiha mother demanding that the new little redhead be allowed to stay in the Uchiha Compound, all but adopting her into their clan folds.)

(A month later, Uzumaki Ashina, Clan Head of the Uzumaki and the leader of Uzushiogakure and father of Uzumaki Mito, was left to ungracefully gawk at a miniature Hatake-Senju and a small boy copy of the Uchiha Dragoness that shielded his daughter from view and threatened to drown/burn him.)

(Tajima just signed whatever papers Ryukyu gave him without question or protest.)

00000

And that was how Team Disaster met.

Chapter Text

Namikaze Minato was unsure of what to make of the first genin team he got as a jonin sensei since he enrolled in the position after all the wars and conflicts finally ended. The Third Shinobi War had left many people jaded and the application for jonin sensei was now harder to pass than applications for ANBU. The right kind of temperament was required for one to teach young minds, after all.

For the team before him especially.

"You've summoned me, Hokage-sama?" Minato had asked as he popped his head in cautiously into Senju Tsunade's office just a week ago. The busty blonde Sandaime Hokage was a woman to be feared, for her temper and for her monster strength, as much as she was to be revered for her incredible healing talents, the best medic nin any of them had seen so far. Perhaps even better than Haruno Sakura-sama, but that is to be left for future historians to decide. Distant descendant from the Shodaime through unknown bloodlines, Lady Tsunade was a just and fair Hokage, even if she had some quirks that should not be displayed so openly around impressionable children like her godsons.

"Ah, Minato. Yes, I did. I think I have found a perfect team to put under your care. Here are their files." The blond man entered fully into the office, now very much intrigued, though when he saw who his new genin were, he was a bit confused.

"May I know why all three of them have been put under my care?" He asked, looking down at the picture of the older of the two boys. Black hair, black eyes, pale skin. Characteristic Uchiha features. Clan Hair and shares second best grades in the Academy with the very redhead, an Uzumaki princess, that was also on his new potential team. The third team member was younger than them both by two years and yet was the best of their class, a genius, white of hair and with rare red eyes, Hatake and Senju blood. All three incredibly intelligent, enough so to challenge the Nara in their own way. All three incredibly talented. All three sensors. All three graduated early.

"Uchiha Madara, I could have put in any team. He's activated the Sharingan, has exceptional taijutsu and ninjutsu mastery and knows how to play defense, offense, short and long range. I'm still not sure how well off he is with genjutsu when not using his eyes, as there hadn't been much of an opportunity to test that, but overall, he's suited for any of his other classmates. He could have been paired up with two of the worst students and yet he would have been able to pull their weight on his own," the woman huffed as she leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms.

"Sounds impressive."

"The other two are just as impressive, but there's one big problem with them."

Minato didn't even need much to guess. "Hm, the sensor thing can be a bit tricky. Madara-kun isn't affected by it?"

"Not in the least," the Sandaime confirmed. "Many speculate why but those three themselves know the most likely answer. You can ask them if you're interested. The reason, or one of them, that I paired them off together is because Madara's chakra seems to calm the other two. Tobirama's known him since he was a toddler and he was Mito's first friend since she moved here. All three of their sensory abilities are still only getting stronger by the day and Mito and Tobirama get overwhelmed from time to time. Butsuma tells me that Madara's chakra is like a blanket. Leaving two sensors vulnerable to their abilities in teams that don't know how to deal with it is a risk to those teams. At least with you, they'll all learn how best to control their abilities and Madara will be a buffer from the rest of the world if they get overwhelmed. It's the best solution."

"You said it was one of the reasons why you've put them together, though?"

Minato wondered if he should have run the second his Hokage had grinned at him like that. "I'll leave the other reasons for you to find out on your own. If those damned brats have been raising my blood pressure for years, you can deal with it for one afternoon."

Madara was sat in between his two teammates, all three of them perfectly comfortable with their proximity and uncaring of what any passerby - outsider, a part of Minato's brain supplied - might think of them for it. The little redhead was somehow still as poised as though she were sitting in front of the Daimyo himself despite leaning on the Uchiha and the youngest member of his new team had a perpetual scowl about his features even if his face was blank. The introductions had been quick and straight to the point-

"My name is Uchiha Madara. I like sparing, fire, weapons, my brothers, my stupid best friend, Mito, Tobirama, my family and my clan. I like inarizushi, cats and falconry. I hate idiots and idiocy in all of its forms. My dream is to become strong enough to protect all of my precious people."

"I am Uzumaki Mito from Uzushiogakure no Sato. I like seals, books, my friends, especially Madara and Tobirama. I like ramen-" (which hadn't been a surprise, as that appeared to be the de facto favorite meal of the Uzumaki) "- and I don't like idiots or bullies. My dream is to become a seal master to surpass all of my predecessors before me so I can protect all those I care for."

"Senju Tobirama. I like my family, my clan, research, books, experiments, fish and my friends. I don't like fried things and loud people or idiots. My dream is to better the village that protects my loved ones so they can be even safer."

- and they had asked a lot of interesting questions about the test he was going to give them tomorrow to see whether they can truly graduate from the Academy or if they will have to go back for another year. They were already a year younger - three, in Tobirama's case - than their fellow graduates but they didn't look like they might fall behind. What he found the most interesting was the easy way they seemed to have distributed who would ask which questions, easily filling in any gap the other left behind. They were in seemingly perfect harmony and that made the Namikaze all the more interested in how their very first training session might go. This might be the first team he got to train but he knew the requirements for a team to be allowed to fully graduate from the Academy.

The Sandaime seemed rather confident in their abilities and their records are rather impressive.

The training session will prove their worth in the end.

"Please don't be late," he said with a smile before using Hiraishin to leave.

Minato was planning to arrive before the kids the next morning, early before the sun even rose over the tall treetops of Konoha's surrounding forests, but the trio surprised him once again. He had wanted to watch them interact upon their arrival to the meeting spot, though perhaps they had already met on the way. Mito-chan lived with Madara-kun, after all, and rumors he'd overheard in the week he had to study his team before officially meeting them suggested these three were never apart all that long once they left their family Compounds. The two older genin probably picked up Tobirama-kun before coming here. A missed opportunity, but he could still watch them for a few minutes before he was required to meet with them.

A misconception and mistake on his part. Even with his chakra completely suppressed, Tobirama-kun was a strong enough sensor to pick up his presence and call out to him. Madara-kun looked rather displeased with his trying to play peeping Tom and Mito-chan was not amused. Tobirama-kun was unimpressed.

"Right," the blond said with a slightly nervous laugh. "Well, for today, I thought we might do a little test." When only silence met him, he remembered he had told them this already yesterday and flushed. Kushina would laugh at him to know he got flustered by his first genin team so easily when he was known wide and far as the dangerous, deadly Yellow Flash of Konoha. With that in mind, he cleared his throat and brought out the two bells on a red string, the same bells his own sensei used. Kakashi-sensei had had his own particularities but he had thought Minato and his team many important life lessons. Even if Minato eventually went on a training trip with Ero-Sennin, Minato will never forget all that Kakashi-sensei and Obito-sensei - who had really needed to stop acting like such a dork around Dr Nohara, it was embarrassing - have done for him. "Welcome to the bell test."

Madara was watching the silver bells with particular interest. He had no doubt seen them before. Obito was some sort of second-knee granduncle to him or something. He must have seen them at some point. "What's the test about? You said we needed to pass it to graduate from the Academy and become official genin so we can go on missions."

"Yes, that's right. Only twelve genin can graduate. The others return to the Academy for another year. As for the test, as you can see, there are two bells in my hand." Minato gave them his best imitation of Kakashi-sensei's most infuriating smile, going as far as to smile with his eyes even though he never wore a mask like sensei had all of his life. "If you want to pass, you need to get them before that little alarm clock rings for lunch at noon." The three suddenly went very still, eyes sliding to each other before frowns marred their young features. The blond watched and wondered if this was the end of their friendly interactions. He knew how competitive young ninja tend to be, always so eager to prove themselves, but these three hadn't struck him as particularly ambitious. Their dreams were to protect people. Namely their own precious people. The village that kept said loved ones safe. Perhaps this will be the deal breaker. 'I wonder what they'll do, these three.' His smile dropped as he became serious. "You have until noon. Find a hiding spot and try to strategize how you want this done. 3, 2, 1, break!"

The preteens were gone in instant Shunshin, fast for their age. Minato gave them a few minutes to hide before his eyes started sweeping the training ground he had chosen. 'Good. So they know how to find decent hiding spots. Let's see how well they can keep them.' He crouched, putting two fingers on the ground and extended his senses. He barely bolted out of the way when Madara-kun lunged at him. He internally gulped when the earth crumbled underneath the Uchiha's foot where he had been. 'Damn, he's fast. I didn't even get the chance to properly sweep the area.' He didn't get much of a chance to lament the lost opportunity as the raven haired boy turned to him, an excited grin on his face. 'Well, he did say he enjoyed fighting.' And he was damn good at it, too. Still no sign of the Sharingan, though. Minato just barely managed to throw the kid back. 'That's one tough genin.'

He couldn't help it when his eyes widened as a familiar set of hand seals was all but blurred through. "Katon: Gokakyo no Jutsu!" The fireball the eleven year old spat out was huge. Minato actually had to resort to Hiraishin to get out of the blast zone! He appeared behind Madara's back, only to suddenly find himself dodging a slippery, unfairly fast little Senju seemingly out of nowhere. Madara retreated a few steps as Tobirama engaged him, the snow haired boy far too good with a katana for his young age. The youngest person Minato knew of to train with a katana in this day and age was a sixteen year old. He had to focus entirely on the boy to avoid getting stabbed, almost completely missing it when the Uchiha weaved a genjutsu over him. 'Are they ... Working together?'

He dismissed the thought as he broke through it only to see a really impressive water dragon heading at him from one side and an even bigger fireball from the other. He used a doton to sink into the earth and winced at the hissing and the steam from the colliding jutsu. Even underground, he could feel the stifling heat, the newly formed hot mist laden with enough chakra to power several steam boats. Or to demolish at least five chuunin. The Namikaze pushed such thoughts out of his head and recalled what he knew of the boys. Out of the two of them, Madara was a lesser sensor than Tobirama, cloaked by his own intense chakra. Minato had sensed it up close for only a second with fully blown senses and had nearly been burned. So he suppressed his own chakra and traveled through the earth where he felt that intense heat. He surged forward, intent on grabbing the boy's ankle and dragging him underground until only Madara's head was over the dirt, but Madara jumped at the last second, out of his reach and spat several smaller but no less scorching fireballs at the earth surrounding the jonin. It was like being stuck in a furnace and Minato had no choice but to get out or be cooked alive.

'Clever,' he thought to himself, looking around through the fog in an attempt to see where either of the boys were. Mito has yet to make an appearance, which unsettled him. She was an Uzumaki, a seal expert, even if not yet fully trained. Giving her time to potentially create a devastating seal was not a good idea.

The fog was too thick for him to see through. He didn't have any doujutsu to see chakra move through obstacles but he did have his senses. The earth technique is a big no-no. Madara-kun will see him and the boy strikes as fast as a viper. Crouching down to focus his senses would leave him vulnerable. When he tried without it, though, he found it near impossible to 'see' through the fog. It really was so laden with chakra that it was suffocating. Both the Uchiha and the Senju had rather large chakra reserves and they had not held back in those jutsu. Their chakra cloaked the area so heavily that he could not discern them from it at all. 'Very clever.' But was it team work or coincidence? Either way, it was still impressive.

That didn't mean the mist is impossible to dissolve. Thinking quickly, Minato focused and created the largest Rasengan he could. He had no reason to hide when an Uchiha with a fully matured, three tomoe Sharingan in play. His swirling and spinning chakra immediately started stirring the steam and the visibility field widened but it was too late.

A familiar flash, brighter as it seemed less controlled, two presences appearing at his feet, a seal lit up underneath him and Minato found himself trapped, chakra restrained and a bit winded from the experience. A gentle gust of wind followed as Mito casually dispelled the fog and she and Tobirama stood before him. A hand casually drifted from behind, grazing his hips as Madara-kun took the bells. The Uchiha came to stand on the other side of the redhead, all three of them radiating smugness with a grin, a deceptively polite smile and a barely there smirk respectively.

"You do realize there are only two bells, right?" He reminded, wondering if the three will now duke it out between them.

Madara-kun's snort was easily matched by his teammates. He took off each bell from the red string and handed them to his teammates, dangling the string in front of Minato's nose. "And there is one string holding them together. A team."

"You can't have seriously thought us so naive or - and this better not be the case or I will be insulted - that stupid as to fall for such an empty threat," Tobirama-kun scoffed, sounding offended. "Genin teams are made up of three members and a jonin sensei. You can't pass two of us without a third. You'd just be failing us. The point of a genin team is for young ninja to work together so they can survive."

"Anyone who doesn't respect their teammates is worse than trash," Madara added with a nod, sounding disgusted by the mere notion of it being otherwise.

"Just so," Mito spoke up, the first words she said since this whole thing started. The three of them smiled oh so innocently at him and Minato felt a shiver go up and down his spine. An Uchiha, an Uzumaki and a half Hatake? What was Tsunade-sama thinking!?

'This is going to be a disaster,' Minato thought, all of his survival instincts and his common sense telling him to run the other way. 'But ...'

"You pass! Congratulations, Team 4!"

'I want in.'

Chapter Text

Madara cursed viciously when Minato-sensei finally toppled over. He and Mito had been anticipating it for the last hour or so but the man had chosen the worst possible moment to pass out. Not that it was his fault. They had been poisoned in their client's house by the client's own spouse, no less. The man was dead almost instantly but they were shinobi and they, unfortunately, had training to gain immunity to most of the common poisons. But even they were human and not even they can last against their body failing the for all too long.

Tobirama had fallen first, thankfully still only unconscious but unfortunately also feverish. He was the youngest and the most susceptible to it due to the nature of his chakra. Water was, unfortunately, a great conductor for poison. The only reason he was still breathing was because sensei had given him a general antidote and some pills to slow down the spread.

The next to fall to it, unfortunately, is Minato-sensei. Lightning did nothing to slow down poison and could actually end up making it more painful in the long run. Lightning was electricity and every impulse from the brain that made the body function as it should was electricity. Minato-sensei's pain receptors must be screaming in anguish. This had been their first mission out of the village - a simple errand run, deliver a message and wait for the response - and Minato-sensei had been overprotective. When they and their client had been betrayed and then ambushed by Kiri nin, the man had taken the responsibility of fighting them all onto himself. Madara resolved to kick his ass when he gets better as he and Mito were now left running from the reinforcements while lugging him and Tobirama.

The only reason he and Mito were still standing and protecting their teammates was because of their chakra natures. Wind users like Mito tend to air out most of the poison, making it evaporate before the symptoms set in or simply slowing them down. Between that and her Uzumami healing, she'll probably remain fine for several more hours before she at least succumbs to a fever - it is a really strong poison. Madara was even luckier in his chakra nature. Fire burned through any foreign substance that might prove to be harmful to his body. With his reserves and control, he should have burned through most of it already, before they even started to run from the reinforcements. They were still half a day away from Konoha, even at full speed, so he was unsure if they'll actually make it to the village itself before he collapses.

'That doesn't matter,' he thought viciously to himself as he carefully shrugged Tobirama off of his back. 'All that matters is getting these idiots within patrol reaching distance and sending out a flare. Surely those brutes wouldn't dare come so close to the village itself!' It was a gamble but it was also their best shot. Sad, yes, but true. "Here," he told Mito as he handed off Tobirama. The boy was light and Mito was stronger than she looked. There was also, unfortunately, a slowly developing sheen of sweat on her forehead. "You take Tobirama. I'll take Minato-sensei."

"They're coming in fast," Mito said even as she put their youngest member onto his back. "From the East and the North. If we run over the lake, they'll see us."

"We can't stay here, either," he grumbled, taking Minato's weight on his shoulders. The blond will have to live with having been carried like a sack of potatoes over an eleven year old's shoulders like he weighs nothing. That's what he gets for not letting at least Madara help him fight those Kiri nin off. If the fool hadn't let the poison spread so much that he could no longer safely use Hiraishin since he couldn't properly focus on a single marker, they could have been back in Konoha by now, getting their stomachs and blood streams properly purged. Vomiting had not helped much. The poison had already started taking effect by the time they had realized. "Can you still knead chakra properly?"

"You have a plan?" Mito asked, which was as good as a confirmation.

Madara nodded. "Follow my lead."

Minutes later, seven Kirigakure shinobi ran overhead on the top of the surface of the lake, unaware of the air bubble traveling at a much slower speed several feet bellow them. "This was a good idea," Mito muttered as she concentrated on keeping her wind chakra focused around them, a thing channel allowing fresh air in while she kept the water out. Madara was behind her, keeping Tobirama stead on her back as both hands were held in front of her to better focus her chakra on where she wanted it as well as feeding her his own chakra so it will be easier on her. It was quite a strain and Madara knew she won't be able to keep it up for long but they need it for just long enough for the enemy ninja to leave Mito's fraying sensory range. After that, it will probably be up to Madara to look out for approaching enemy ninja.

This whole air bubble idea would have been infinitely easier had Tobirama been in any state to assist. He was as natural with water as Madara was with fire. He would have kept the water out and Mito would have given them air. Now, Mito had to do both and with her chakra focused elsewhere, the poison will spread faster. They were running against the clock and Madara cursed yet again their rotten luck.

Still, this was definitely better than babysitting some noble's brat. He will never do another D rank mission again. Mark his words. He may love children but he will not put up with arrogant little brats who think just because he's there as their bodyguard that he was going to be at their beck and call. Such behavior just begged for an introduction to the koi pond. Or any body of water, as the brat had learned soon enough.

It took a good fifteen minutes before they surfaced when they deemed it safe enough. Mito was definitely a bit more rumpled and a lot more affected by the poison now than she had been before. The Uchiha actually had to steady her lest she fall over. "I can take Tobirama as well."

The redhead shot him a look that clearly stated she doubted that. Madara would have been offended but not even he knew how long he'll be able to resist the poison before it drags him down into its clutches, too. At least Mito still didn't have a fever. "Let's just hurry. The closer we are to Konoha, the better." He agreed with that and thus they continued. Madara fished out a couple of food pills some two hours later and gave two to Mito, eating one himself. Usually, food pills were best avoided when so young, as the way they affected chakra might influence further chakra development and they usually left the body rather drained after their effects wore off, but this time it might as well be necessary. Besides, Uzumaki are made of sturdier stuff. A food pill here or there will have little to no effect on Mito in the long run.

About an hour later, they were grateful for the food pills. "Those fuckers are persistent, I'll give them that," he commented with grudging respect as they hid their unconscious teammates into the hollow of one of the bigger trees. They were officially in the woods surrounding Konoha but they still had a long way to go. At least they were on their turf, now.

"They are rather bold to follow us all the way here," Mito agreed, though she sounded a bit faint. A good look at her informed Madara she was about to join their fair haired companions. She saw the way he was assassin her and scowled. She nearly slapped him when he reached for the seal painted with invisible ink on his inner wrist where he kept his weapons. "No."

"Wind will help my fire attacks in case I start having problems controlling my chakra," he argued. His friend only shot him a look that suggested she thought him stupid.

"No."

"We need one of us to be fully coherent and mobile after dealing with them, your harpy!" He hissed, but Mito only gave him a deadly look in return.

"And we will, you." He tried to protest but she bulldozed right over him. "Fighting on your own will tire you out, Madara, and I am already at the ends of my limits. I will lend you my power now so you can take us home later. Swinging around that gunbai of yours will only leave you weary and you still have a long way to go. Let me be your wind."

He wanted to protest - two of his precious people were already down for the count and he considered Mito the sister he never had - but he knew she was right. Even after this fight, Madara will probably still have enough strength to haul them all back home or at least as close to it as they can call safe. These Kiri pricks will pay, but at a later date. Right now, they are the hunters and Team 4 is the prey. Perhaps if their sensei had not been the infamous Yellow Flash or if an Uchiha with an active, mature Sharingan had not been on the team, they would have given up on them already and just contented themselves on a successful mission. As it was, between Madara, Minato and an Uzumaki seal master in training - which was already way better than some fully trained and experienced seal masters in other countries - they were a far too irresistible target. Add to that the fact that Tobirama was the Hokage's nephew or something and, well ...

It would be quite an achievement to steal a Sharingan, kill the Yellow Flash, trap an Uzumaki seal master for themselves and their village and acquire such a bargaining chip. Madara would be persistent, too.

Except they were fucking children, Sage damn it! Child hunters disgusted him.

In the end, both Madara and Mito met half of the squad pursuing them head on. They were suiton users, as any Kiri nin generally would be, so Madara definitely needed a futon boost if he didn't want to be overwhelmed from all sides. Only one was jonin level in this group, which meant that once they fail to regroup, the other half will be all jonin and Madara will be by himself to look after his teammates. Not the most ideal of situations. He and Mito were vicious, swift and effective. Mito proved why she was better than most other fully trained seal masters with the ease with which she made seals left and right. She couldn't concentrate on anything bigger or more complex than just blowing things up or trapping their opponents temporarily - something which would usually be a long lasting jutsu but she was tiring herself out - but she was still incredible as it only took a brief bush against the ground to set them up. She could do a series of flips and every place her hands landed, there would be a finished seal ready to blow up in their attackers' faces. Other than that, she'd either stick to taijutsu or would channel some raw chakra into Madara when he spat katon around.

When the squad was sufficiently dead, though, Mito lasted only long enough to remove the protective seals hiding Minato-sensei and Tobirama before she, too, succumbed to the poison. Madara reacted only barely in time to catch her before she hit the ground and cursed again. His mother, had she been around to hear him, would have washed his mouth out with soap.

Ultimately, the only way Madara could carry his teammates home was to make Kage Bunshin and have one carry each of them while he himself focused on being protection. They still needed a few hours until they reach the safe zone and they still had at least four shinobi on their tail, three of which are jonin. Madara made sure to keep a steady pace as he and his clones traveled through the forest, senses blown wide and Sharingan active.

He felt them before he saw them and he saw them before they even felt him, which gave him the perfect opportunity to hide his teammates, dispel the clones and take out the great gunbai. It was his clan's Head family's heirloom. Supposedly, it was hidden from one of his ancestors that had went mad after the death of his older brother and had only been rediscovered a few years back when he had snuck the ever curious Tobirama into the clan's library, sealed away in a scroll neither of the boys could resist opening and unsealing what was inside. His father would have his head if he learned Madara had taken it with him but fuck that. It was probably going to end up saving his and his team's lives and no one else was using the damned thing! It might as well be his now.

The best thing about it was that he didn't need to channel his own chakra into it to get futon attacks that he could easily combine with his katon. The Kiri nin never saw him coming when he descended upon them like an avenging angel with a not so angelic weapon in hand. He may be young but Madara enjoyed fighting and he took great delight in training, be it taijutsu, kenjutsu, ninjutsu or genjutsu. Hell, Mito had even drilled basics of fuinjutsu into his head, in case he needs it, but his preferred method was to get up close and personal with the enemy and show them that despite his size and age, he was not to be underestimated.

His initial attack immediately fell the only chuunin of the group, but he didn't stop there. He engaged with the closest jonin, obviously surprising the tall woman with his speed and aptitude with a weapon larger than his own body. Her colleagues tried to trap him in water prisons or take him down with water dragons that were seriously lacking compared to what he was used to sparring with Tobirama. A gust of wind from his gunbai was usually more than enough to dispel any such attempts and the idiot who tried to use shuriken against him learned his folly just as quickly when the weapons practically shattered against the war fan. Even with the poison still coursing through his veins, he was a formidable opponent. His Sharingan saw everything and when one of them tried to silent killing technique their village was famous for, his senses were more than enough to warn him about it.

They didn't even try to make a mist and hide in it. They obviously understood it would be wasted chakra. Madara may be only a genin but lack of a proper rank did not mean lack of ability and skill. Besides, no one can enter the Chuunin Exams without at least being a genin for one whole year. Team 4 has existed for only three months so far.

Despite being quite skilled and having rather large chakra reserves for his age, the poison eventually started taking effect after more than half an hour of fighting his opponents. He'd managed to incapacitate one with a genjutsu and the only woman in the squad had a big gash in her left side from where she got daring and careless to attempt to come in close to him. From the back. Madara always had a rather severe reaction when someone stands behind his back. It was only luck and years of experience and skill that had saved the kuniochi from being cleaved in half. She was still fighting, though, which Madara grudgingly respected her for. The other remaining shinobi was mostly unharmed and at least there were no more reinforcements coming.

But he was running out of time and his strength was leaving him as the poison took effect. The only reason his vision wasn't swimming after all of this extortion and the poison was because of the Sharingan keeping everything sharp. It won't be long, though, before he won't be able to keep his doujutsu up. He needed to end this. He could barely move his arms anymore to swing his gunbai and any smaller weapons wouldn't do him any good against people so much bigger than him. The gunbai had been his trump card, as no one in his clan has used it in decades so no one knew how to counter it, how much maneuverability it granted the user and the strength behind its steel, the sharpness of its edge. Smaller weapons won't work here.

He was gratified to see his opponents as winded as him. It said a lot about his stamina that he could fight for so long even with poison coursing through his body but he can't rely on his stamina to outlast them. Not when his strength was already leaving him.

"You're a stubborn little bastard, I'll give you that," the one that had been under a genjutsu commented when he finally came to and saw that the fight was still on. Madara was of the opinion that the man was far too arrogant for someone who had spent the majority of the fight in a kid's genjutsu. He scowled, which his opponents apparently found adorable. Fuck them. "But we're done playing now, brat."

'Done playing!?' Is this guy delusional!? Madara only had one cut on his left arm and a bruised rib on his right side and he was an eleven year old fighting people three times his age after being poisoned and running half way across the country while all but lugging his three teammates half the time! 'For that, I am done playing. It's time these assholes burned.' Besides, he couldn't go on fighting for much longer so of course he has to end it now. Otherwise, they'll kill him and find his teammates and kill them, too, or worse and Madara was not going to allow that.

He didn't have the time nor the strength to do much, but his chakra reserves were still mostly full, even after battling the poison for so long. He needed to pull all of his remaining accessible chakra into as big of a fireball as he could to attack all three of them at once. Hopefully, it will be hot enough to burn through whatever water jutsu they might throw up in defense but he had already observed that their suiton was lacking in comparison to Tobirama's and Madara could overwhelm him in sheer volume of chakra. It was risky, as he will no doubt be truly exhausted after this stunt, but he had no choice.

He can only hope such a surge of chakra from one place will draw someone's attention to their location and find them before the poison does them in for good. He hadn't survived through all of this crap just to die from a coward's poison.

So he took a wide stance, steadied himself and tried to concentrate through his spinning lightheartedness to form the necessary hand seals. He cursed when he noticed that lethargy was making it near impossible to make his fingers take the right, more complex signs. The Kiri nin were laughing at him. He grits his teeth and he thinks that he manages a proper horse hand seal, though he's not sure as his head is all fuzzy.

But he feels a surge in his chakra and he figures he might as well go with it. He needs something or else they'd all die. And damn it, he wanted to see his baby brothers again! He needed to protect his teammates!

So he drew in a big, long breath, kneaded his chakra and felt that it was all but boiling, scorching, hotter than anything he had breathed before so he attempted to coat his mouth and tongue and lips with as much chakra as he could manage in order not to burn himself before he let it rip.

The Kiri nin were not laughing anymore when a literal sea of flames came out from the little Uchiha's mouth. He thinks he felt them trying to outrun in before it became obvious that that was virtually impossible. A surge in their chakras suggested they were trying a technique to counter him and he did hear the hissing of water evaporating upon hitting his jutsu but nothing made its way through. The fire just surged further forward before he heard screaming. He held up the jutsu just long enough until there was only the crackling of a healthy fire before he finally let it go and collapsed.

Madara was sure he heard shouting at some point and he felt a hand rolling him over but beyond that, the world was numb and darkness swallowed him.

The Uchiha heir found himself waking up in a hospital, apparently two days later, if the nurse that was there upon him waking up is to be believed. She gave him some water for his perched throat before scuttling away before he could ask her about his teammates. There were suppression seals on his wrists and on his chest to stop him from kneading chakra while he recovered so he couldn't even extend his senses to try and find them.

Tsunade-sama surprised him by being his doctor. "You're a right miracle and a headache I really don't need, Uchiha brat."

"Hokage-baa-chan," he greeted as sarcastically as he could manage and was surprised when the busty woman didn't scowl or snap at him for his attitude as was their norm. Cold fear gripped him, panic nearly blanketing his mind. "My teammates-"

"Are fine and probably breaking my curfew to come visit you right now even though they should be resting in their own rooms," the blonde reassured with a roll of her eyes and some of his tension eased. She gentled when she saw that and sighed, coming to stand by his hospital bed as she ran a check of his body with her chakra. "Minato told us what happened up until he passed out and Mito filled in as much as she can of the rest. Which seems to be not nearly enough as the last thing she remembers was you two fighting a bunch of chuunin miles away from where we found you. There's a big blank spot in the report that only you can fill in, starting from the battle after the lake and ending two miles away from Konoha, where you started a sizable forest fire all on your own."

"The other half of the reinforcements were too close." He couldn't believe that he had actually made it into the supposedly safe zone and yet the Kiri nin had still followed. It was clear that it wasn't their client using them for something but the other way around. An excuse to hunt Namikaze Minato's team. "I had no choice but to engage. Three jonin and a chuunin. I cut the chuunin down immediately but the other three were tricky. I remember feeling too tired to fight much longer and just thinking I needed fire, a huge fire but not being able to concentrate on a proper giant fireball. I think it came in an uncontrolled wave and ... That's all I remember. If anything else happened, it's all fuzzy to me."

The Sandaime just regarded him for a long moment before tsking and rubbing her forehead. "You're an idiot for attempting a jutsu in such a state at all and truly a miracle for making a new one on the spot despite it." He opened his mouth to ask her what she meant but she turned away and exited his room in the next second. "Rest, brat. And reign in those friends of yours. They're driving the hospital staff up the wall and your sensei's not helping matters."

And then she was gone, but Madara wasn't alone for long before Minato-sensei popped his head in, cautious as if he was expecting Madara to shoot a fireball at him. He would have, if he hadn't been so heavily sealed. But then Tobirama, who knew him longest, brazenly strutted into the room and climbed into his hospital bed, snuggling against him in a familiar way. Only this time, Madara could tell it was more in search of reassurance that he was alright than need to block out the world. Mito just as boldly walked past their sensei and took up her perch on his other side while the blond sat at his feet. Madara was just relieved to see that they were all fine.

"You gave us quite the scare, Madara-kun," the jonin said, a hand resting on his shin. "Tsunade-sama said you burned through a lot of your chakra when you no longer had proper control and that the way you were purging your body could have seriously harmed you. It's apparently a miracle you haven't damaged your chakra coils and tenketsu points. Please be more careful in the future."

"I just needed to make sure you guys were safe," he half-protested, wondering how he was even alive. No wonder Tsunade-sama kept calling him a miracle.

Tobirama raised his head, a scientifically curious and determined look on his face. "I hope you remember what you did because people keep saying they had never seen so much fire before. I want to test the boundaries of what you did."

"Yeah, sure," he agreed easily, perhaps a bit too much so but he knew it would be pointless to argue with Tobirama about anything that got that look in his eyes. And it's not like he himself wasn't curious about it. The Hokage had called it a 'new one' and it sounded like a powerful fire jutsu. He, too, wanted to know its limitations. He wasn't usually one for creating jutsu - that was more Tobirama's forte - but he had somehow did it and he was just glad that he had had the Sharingan active to immortalize the moment in his memory. And speaking of great memory ... "But only after two conditions are met. For all of Team 4."

Minato cocked his head to the side curiously when he realized the Uchiha was looking at him. "What is it?"

"One, I want all of us to learn at least the most basic of iryo-jutsu, preferably taught by Tsunade-sama." All three of them looked at him as though he had gone mad. After all, Tsunade was known far and wide for being a very tough teacher, even if any medical ninja trained by her personally was not to be matched.

"You're serious," Mito was the first to realize and Madara nodded.

"A iryo-nin would have been able to prevent us from going catatonic due to poisoning, if nothing else. We would have had more time to rest and I wouldn't be practically tied to a hospital bed because I had no choice but to go over my own limits."

"It's a useful skill to have," Tobirama, predictably, agreed. The boy loved hoarding knowledge. "And if every one of us knows at least a little healing, it won't matter who gets hurt, there will always be someone there to help out."

"And Tsunade-sama won't turn us away, since we all have rather iron clad chakra control despite the volume of our reserves," Mito mused as well and Madara knew he had won this round even before it had started.

"I'll see what I can do about it," Minato-sensei, too, conceded, obviously seeing the merits in such a request. "And the other condition?"

Madara grinned. "Teach us all Hiraishin."

Chapter Text

Ever since he had first met Uchiha Madara, a part of Tobirama's hind brain that was distinctively Hatake had claimed 'Mine!' and that was it. No matter the age, no matter the situation, no matter the years of Madara choosing his company over almost anyone else's, the claim still reared its ugly self every once in a while.

His first problem had been, of course, his own Anija. Hashirama was the one to bring Madara home, after all, and the two claimed to be each other's best friends. Being the same age and going to the Academy together when they were seven brought them closer together, especially when it became no one else in their year could match them, be it ninjutsu or taijutsu, though they trumped each other in different other fields. Hashirama had slightly bigger chakra reserves and more stamina, while Madara was faster, more agile and had a better proficiency with various weaponry. They had many little contests over the years and no matter the outcome, they were still the best of friends.

It took Tobirama a while to realize that while Hashirama monopolized a large portion of Madara's time, the Uchiha would never brush Tobirama off if the younger boy were to approach him at any point. He and Madara shared a special type of connection by being sensors, a rare classification in shinobi all around, and especially for two strong sensors like them. They understood each other in ways other people just couldn't and that reassured Tobirama of his place in Madara's life.

When Mito came, he had been rather intimidated that such status would now befall the Uzumaki. She was Madara's age and she was in his class, automatically spending more time with his friend than Tobirama. On top of that, the young kunoichi actually lived with Madara and was rather pretty to boot. For a long, irrational moment, the younger Senju had feared she would replace him, as she was also a strong sensor. Instead, Madara had introduced her to him as he drew him in for their customary cuddles since he hadn't come over the night before and Tobirama settled, realizing he won't be so easily replaced. And he settled even more when he got to know the redhead and their thirst for knowledge allowed them to bond further until the three sensors were inseparable.

Madara's younger brothers weren't a threat to Tobirama's place in Madara's life, so he never really bothered with them beyond scowling at the youngest - twins Asama and Hiroto - when they did everything in their power to trip him up when he visited the Uchiha Compound and at times trash-talking Izuna when Madara's eldest younger brother became unbearable and too annoying in his attempts to drive Tobirama away from his Aniki. Madara always found them entertaining, even if he did scold all of his younger brothers if they misbehaved. Keichiro was at least a good boy and mostly ignored the albino when he visited as the only sign of his displeasure of how much of Madara's time he monopolized. Tajima-sama and Ryukyu-sama did nothing to discipline their younger sons, as it all ultimately fell on deaf ears. The boys all but worshiped the ground their eldest brother walked on and only reprimands from him had any impact. It would be cute if Tobirama just didn't have to watch his steps as though he were on an enemy minefield whenever he enters the Uchiha main house.

His own younger brothers also liked Madara, awed by his strength - much to Hashirama's wailing protests, since they were pretty much equal in power; "It's fire, Anija!" Itama had once exclaimed when Madara was showing off the Hosenka no Jutsu after having learned it. "Way cooler than trees!" Kawarama had agreed, sending Hashirama into one of his usual sulking fits - and entertained by his hot temper, but they, too, were no threat to his place in Madara's life. Besides, they were his little brothers.

His cousin, Touka, had been a different story, as she was interested in Madara's proficiency with weapons. Older than Madara and Hashirama by four years, she was the first actual 'threat' after Mito was established as a friend, right up until the point Madara had put a scythe at the then genin's throat after a won spar and the kunoichi deemed him 'worthy' of hanging out with her younger cousins. They sparred from time to time but Touka seemed to become preoccupied with Izuna after the boy became old enough to visit with Madara. Mostly, at first, because they argued all the time. Later, because she had no idea Izuna had a huge crush on her.

All in all, Tobirama had eliminated 'threats' to his position in Madara's life one by one right up until the moment he entered the Academy with Izuna and it became obvious that everyone and their mother had a crush on the Uchiha heir. And because they were different years, they weren't even on the same floor and Tobirama didn't get to see Madara at all except during lunch break, which would just not do. Fortunately, he was smart and learned fast and he ended up skipping until he was in class with Madara, Mito and Hashirama. His first day with the older students still made his eye twitch years later.

He walked into his assigned room to loud noise and even more annoying chakra signatures, making his nose twitch in discomfort and distaste. No matter, he could feel that always welcoming fire chakra at the other side of the room, in the first row beside the window. Madara seemed to be staring out at the world beyond and Tobirama knew his friend must be thinking about his falcons. They were still eyasses but they will soon be learning to fly and he knew the Uchiha was excited about it. He'd promised to show off any new tricks he teaches them.

Mito, predictably, sat in one of the three seats at the big work desk by the window, content to just read a scroll on fuinjutsu her father had sent from Uzushio. She'd promised to show it to him after she was done and he couldn't wait to read it. On the other side of Madara, closer to the door, was an empty seat and in front of it there was a riot. Anija was there, bawling and brawling with a horde of girls and some boys about who got to sit with Madara. Tobirama felt his left eye twitch.

Like hell was anyone taking the last empty seat besides his friend.

Using his impressive speed for how short his legs were, Tobirama crossed the room before anyone could notice him and stood in front of the seat, waited to see if anyone would take note of him being there before putting his bag on the table and sitting down when the others proved to be too occupied with their childish squabble.

As if a switch had been flipped, all eyes were on him.

"Hey, kid. I think you wandered into the wrong classroom," an Inuzuka boy, who had been watching the proceedings with amusement, said when he saw the younger boy there.

"Yeah. Kindergartner is two stories down," a girl from the Kurama clan sneered. "Run along, little baby, before you get hurt with real ninja around."

"Hey! Don't talk to my baby brother like that! Tobi is right where he is supposed to be! He's really smart so he's joining out class!" Hashirama defended, but Tobirama wanted to bash his brother's head in for the 'baby' brother comment. Kawarama was the baby brother in the Senju family!

"So Hokage-sama is playing favorites again for her clan?" A Hyuuga sneered, glaring at the two Senju. He had been trying to sit next to Madara, too, though Tobirama had felt no admiration or friendly intentions from him. He probably wanted to sit next to the Uchiha to aggravate or distract him during classes or something. Tobirama resolved to keep an eye on him.

"Of course not! Tobi is really, really smart!" Hashirama defended and the two got into a new squabbling match, several others joining in. The younger Senju would have ignored them if not for a Sarutobi girl whining about him just coming in here and sitting next to 'Madara-sama' when he was nothing but a nobody newbie. Hashirama would have protested on his behalf more but Madara himself finally spoke up.

"The hell are you talking about?" The Uchiha had asked, looking confused and angry, a bad combination if Tobirama ever saw one in his friend. It meant someone was liable to be set on fire. Usually Hashirama, because his Anija had a special talent to annoy Madara with bear-hugs and shouting his joy into his friend's ear until the Uchiha started screaming at him. Potentially anyone else who ever dared to dis those he considered his. They were similar in that way. "Tobirama is one of my closest friends for years now. If anyone's going to sit next to me, of course it's going to be him."

The arrival of Shino-sensei had saved them from further squabbling that time, but it had been an uphill battle from that day to their graduation of who gets to sit next to Madara. The older kids had always assumed that they could bully him out of his seat without Madara or Mito - Hashirama was busy sulking half the time when Madara would snap at him that of course Tobirama was going to sit with him, he was a sensor and only Madara's signature helped him drown out the rest of the world and why are you like this!? - there to defend him, right up until the day Tobirama got sick of all the pathetic attempts at intimidating him and washed the entire class out of the classroom. He had stood in front of Tsunade-sama without flinching when his teacher scolded him in her office at the Tower and he had felt her amusement through her chakra even as he mostly concentrated on Madara's waiting for him outside with Mito and a panicking Hashirama. He got detention but no one dared try bullying him again.

At least no one was hurt. That time.

(What happened outside of the Academy was no one's business but Tobirama's own and the idiots who tried teaming up on him to get revenge. They should know better than to attack a Hatake they knew had a contract with an animal summon already. He is of the opinion that empirical experience is best for learning such lessons.)

(Kaa-san approved.)

Needless to say, Tobirama had been eager to graduate and leave all of that nonsense behind, as well as all of Madara's fangirls. Mito found it amusing but she didn't tease him as much as Touka did. Madara overall didn't seem to mind his slight possessiveness. The boy himself was possessive of his loved ones like a cat is of their favorite human, so he seemed to understand that it was practically instinct for Tobirama and never begrudged him for his - less reasonable - Hatake side. Though that might be because Otou-san said Kaa-san used to be the same with Ryukyu-sama so Ryukyu-sama might have warned Madara to expect such behavior.

Either way, he had been eager to leave the Academy and hopefully never come back.

Which was why he had been having a perpetual scowl on his face for the past month or so.

Tsunade-sama had, of course, ended up agreeing to their request to teach them. They had had reasonable arguments for why she should accept and they were all willing to earn. Their chakra control was practically legendary and as sensors, they even had a better chance at detecting injuries than normal iryo-nin. The problem came in the form that they needed practice after they managed to revive a recently dead fish during the first stages of their training - it had taken them about two weeks each to figure it out, first Tobirama, a day later Mito and two days later Madara, who was really built more for destruction than healing; Uchihas, am I right? - and she was not going to let them practice in her hospital. Minor injuries at best, she had insisted, and had instead assigned them to be fucking Academy nurses for two months before she would accept to teach them anything else.

He would have honestly preferred to massage old people at the onsen than be back here.

Because in the half year that they had been genin, a shrine was built in one of the empty supply closets in Madara's name. A honest to chakra shrine. With candles and incense and everything. Tobirama was honestly disturbed by some of the pictures that the followers and worshipers of the shrine had gotten their hands on. There were hearts all over the cramped room and Tobirama had felt his entire body twitch when he had seen some lip gloss all over a disturbingly intimate photo of Madara relaxing in the onsen with Izuna and their cousin Hikaku. He had to commend them on being so sneaky, up until he realized it was a recent picture; judging from the dark circles under Madara's eyes, it must have been taken right after the Uchiha had left the hospital and was still prohibited to use chakra for another few days, so that made sense how they went undetected.

Tobirama had been temped to tear the whole thing down.

Luckily, Mito stopped him, or else there would have been trouble. With Tsunade.

Also luckily, Madara had no idea there was a shrine built in his name. He was too busy shooing off Hashirama - who was supposed to graduate after he finishes this year; Tobirama still wondered how his brother, so gifted for the ninja arts, could be such a dolt and such a lazy idiot as to not study a bit more so he could graduate early. Madara and Mito had done it and Tobirama had done it twice-fold. His Anija really was a lost cause - when the brunet tries to stick around in the infirmary when he wasn't even injured and was just trying to get out of class.

Or stare adoringly at Mito. (Definitely a lost cause. Madara agreed.)

Also, even more luckily is that Izuna didn't know about it - that would have been a disaster, what with Izuna's, thankfully not romantic, brother complex - despite also still being in the Academy. In his proper year, too, much to Tobirama's petty amusement and the younger Uchiha's frustration that he couldn't skip years like his 'rival' or graduate early like his brother, but Izuna had always been far more interested in pretty girls and had his own set of admirers. (Uchiha were just pretty that way.) Tobirama still knew, though, that his former classmate still held a torch for Touka. But he was also like a magpie and he liked pretty things.

Tobirama despaired at his everyday company outside of Madara and Mito.

He also despaired for his usual composure and self control and his previously nerves of steel, the longer this dragged on. Because three quarters of the injuries they had to deal with on a daily basis was an 'accident' that happened in hopes of being closer to Madara. And that one time, Mito, despite the Maito being a genin for two years already and having no place whatsoever in the Academy. Dai really should have expected for Madara to take out his gunbai and play target practice with him. It was a mighty impressive swing and an even more impressive aim, when Dai was later pulled out of the Sandaime's nose on the Hokage Mountain.

Tsunade had been amused, impressed and annoyed. Madara had not been seen for five days. When he returned, he was tired, his chakra nearly depleted and he had an interesting rhombus shaped seal inked in dark violet into his forehead that was all too familiar and far too easily hidden by his massive hair and the hitai-ate he wore. (Apparently, Tsunade had big plans for all three of them and was just waiting to see if they could live up to her expectations. Madara's ability to strengthen his blows with chakra had impressed her enough to pull him aside and start training him for the Byakugo.)

Tobirama and Mito seriously needed to up their game. They might be the ones more attuned for healing due to their ancestry, but Madara was no slouch and trained twice as hard to keep pace. It would seem he had gone slightly ahead.

That only earned him more admirers and even more idiots who kept hurting themselves just to have the Uchiha's hands on them for a moment. It was driving both Tobirama and Mito crazy as, despite the much better control they now had over their senses, so many chakra signatures prancing about was starting to fray on their control and Madara was not readily available as they would have liked.

Month two had, at least, started with a rather memorable outburst from Mito. People seem used to forgetting that just because she acted like the lady she was brought up to be that she was still an Uzumaki. She still had their temperament and could be just as loud and just as scary as her aunt Kushina. And you do not piss off Uzumaki Kushina.

People also learned that day that you do not piss off Uzumaki Mito. Especially not when you managed to cause a huge explosion during target practice. With practice kunai. Outside. With nothing flammable in sight or reaching distance. Inside protection seals. And managed to nearly blow yourself up. And then had the gall to come into the Academy infirmary instead of going to the hospital for more serious treatment. And then for Mito to learn it was because the idiot had wanted to have a longer treatment by Madara.

Tobirama would have snapped, too, but Mito was doing a pretty wonderful impression of Kushina-sama, holding her idiot patient down with Kongo Fusa - a new thing, apparently - while she healed half of the suicidal moron's burned skin, twenty broken ribs, broken left arm and shattered right hip and a concussion. She had been exhausted and almost done when Tsunade-sama had heard of the incident and came to see what was going on. Tobirama and Madara had offered her their help but Mito had insisted that they heal the other minor scraps, bruises and burns. Mito had remained standing only because she was so stubborn even as her chakra levels dropped to dangerously low levels. She didn't stop until the idiot was good to go, even if she had ended up requiring aid to finish it.

Mito had also disappeared for five days and had only today returned from her own individual training with Tsunade. She came back and just fell asleep on one of the berths, as despite being strong and an Uzumaki, she did not have Madara's reserves. The success of her training could be seen in the lighter violet rhombus than Madara's on her forehead that she proudly displayed. Tobirama knew she will use it to intimidate any other idiots who think getting hurt and making their little internship here all the harder for it just so they could ogle the pretty people that were Tobirama's friends. At least neither of the boys worried that Mito will be up and about by lunch. Some ramen will have her rejuvenated better than any Byakugo seal. Uzumaki were strange like that.

"Not this shit again," Madara groaned as another boom shook the building not even a week after the last one.

"This one is at least coming from the laboratories," Tobirama tried to console his friend even as a scowl etched onto his face. He was not looking forward to more people ogling Madara. How was the Uchiha even oblivious to all of this?!

Only this time, it was at least an actual accident. A Yamanaka boy had been experimenting with poisons, as was in the class curriculum, but had not been careful and had caused a violent explosion. The boy was unlucky enough to have managed to get most of the glass shards from the poison's container stuck in his chest and was now not only bleeding heavily, but also quite seriously poisoned. With deadly snake poison mixed in with some other ingredients that he was lucky his lab partner had memorized.

"We need to remove that," Madara pointed out, more to the boy than Tobirama himself, who was in charge of the Yamanaka while Madara treated burns from the explosion. Thankfully, only a handful of people had gotten hurt enough to require medical attention beyond a bandage or a band-aid.

"I'll open him up, you use your Sharingan to remove the shards, as you're the most likely to see them and remove them without nicking any blood vessels. I'll deal with the poison." The Uchiha nodded and finished up his own work while Tobirama created a chakra scalpel over the tips of his fingers and carefully widened the entry wounds that he'll need to mend back together later. "Don't whine," he scolded the idiot and snapped at him again when he tried to fidget away. The Yamanaka stilled, intimidated by his temper. "What even possessed you to put a regular jar on the fire?" He asked incredulously, more to himself than his patient. "Or to mix the poison with magnesium if you planned to heat it!? That's just asking for an explosion!"

"I wanted to see what would happen. To experiment. Like you, Tobirama-kun." Tobirama actually stopped to gape at the boy even as Madara moved in, Sharingan active and a pair of tweezers in his hands as he swiftly but carefully removed the poisoned glass, putting it away where no one could get hurt by it. He didn't get his bearings together until Madara reached over the idiot to lightly tap him on the face twice. He blinked, took a deep breath ...

And started scolding the Yamanaka at the top of his lungs, so loud was he that he was heard outside on the streets, even as he used Saikan Chushutsu no Jutsu that Madara had insisted Tsunade teach them first given what had even caused him to ask they be taught iryo-jutsu to extract the poison. He was pretty sure everyone was staring at him as though he had grown another head, including Madara and Mito, but he didn't care. Of all the stupid and reckless things to do!

Even after the last of the poison was dragged out of the boy's body and Tobirama had patched him up, he still carted the idiot Yamanaka to the hospital, scolding him all the while as he left the infirmary to Mito's more than capable hands as Madara was their and a couple of the other's who'd needed the same treatment escort. Tsunade had taken one look at him and had told him a time and place and he disappeared for five days, like his teammates before him. When he returned to Madara's and Mito's side on the last day of their 'residency', it was with a pale red rhombus on his forehead, hidden behind his happuri. Both of his teammates looked thrilled for him and they all happily displayed the Byakugo for their first patient that morning.

Their sharp smiles nearly made their newest idiot patient faint.

Word got out fast, though, and the last day of their residency was spent speculating about what a success Madara's idea was. Tobirama had the best chakra control and was especially good at dealing with poisons, Mito was best at regenerative healing, especially for larger wounds while Madara was practically built to be the surgeon in their little group, given his eye sight, and was basically a generator for them if they ever ran out of chakra. They covered all the fields and between their own strength and slowly charging the Byakugo seals on their forehead, no idiot would dare tell them to keep away from the front lines.

As they sat there, Mito and him leaning on Madara and letting their senses properly settle for the first time in two months, Tobirama figured perhaps being back in the Academy hadn't been all that bad after all.

Even if he was going to flood that little shrine room, no matter what Mito said.

(In her office at the Hokage Tower, Tsunade was cackling like a mad woman as she listed all three of the Team 4 genin as adequately trained iryo-nin. More than one of her advisers or the general people who worked at the Tower shivered with dread and fear. Those who knew of her newer students, namely her assistant Shizune, gulped at the thought of three second comings of Senju Tsunade, on top of them already being the second comings of Uchiha Ryukyu, Hatake Kira and Uzumaki Kushina.

Minato watched her as he was handed the new files and wondered if he should start praying for his life.)

Chapter Text

Hashirama sighed like a lovesick school girl - or so his best friend Madara liked to say when he caught him doing it - for the hundredth time since he had come to visit said best friend at the Uchiha's house. Madara was actually ignoring him right now in favor of one of his birds of prey, but Hashirama didn't mind the wait. He knew this was usually the time Madara spent training his birds and yet he had came over anyway. He can wait.

Besides, it's not as if he was bored or anything. Far from it. He currently had a front row seat to watch beautiful, elegant Mito practicing with a war fan that had apparently been a gift from Ryukyu-sama as soon as it became clear that the redhead was a fuiton user. The thing was not as huge as some of the fans that had been used in the warring states era, like Temari no Suna's giant fan or like Madara's own gunbai - and yes, his best friend had claimed his clan's heirloom for himself and no one was willing to challenge him for it - but was rather fitted for Mito herself, a custom job. Furthermore, Mito herself had etched hundreds upon hundreds of small seals all over the thing, adding to it properties that Hashirama has yet to see her use.

Given Tobirama's praise of the weapon and the work put into it whenever his brother was tired enough to start rambling at random about things his genin team got up to, it had to be quite powerful.

"You know, if you really like her that much, you should just tell her." Hashirama couldn't help the startled yelp that left him and how he leapt into the air like a startled cat. Whirling around, he found an extremely unimpressed Tobirama staring at him judgmentally and a gently smiling Namikaze Minato, Tobirama's, Madara's and Mito's jonin sensei.

"I- That is- I don't know what you're talking about!"

His protests only earned him an amused chuckle while Tobirama wrinkled his nose at him in distaste at such behavior. Up overhead, Madara's falcon gave a protesting cry at the loud noise and the owner of said bird was looking over to glare death at him for disturbing his falcon. Hashirama sent him an apologetic, sheepish smile and wondered if Madara will still throw meat at his head and have his falcons pluck it from his hair like the last time. Okaa-san had not been pleased when she had to get his hair out of all of the knots that the birds had created even though she had seemed rather amused by Madara's petty revenge. Tobirama had had no sympathy for him but at least otou-san had patted his shoulder to comfort him.

Itama and Kawarama had just scolded him for scaring the pretty birds because it meant Madara won't let them see them for a while until they settle after the scare.

"I'm talking about your crush on Mito-chan, of course," the blond man replied and Hashirama almost yelped again but caught himself in time. His precious little brother snorted and just wandered over to where Madara was calling his birds back, all three falcons circling overhead, waiting their turn to swoop down and get a treat. "It's rather obvious."

The Senju felt himself go beat red.

"Don't worry, I don't think she's noticed yet. You're going about it all awkwardly and all very wrong, you know." The man just kept smiling at him, so Hashirama relaxed, despite himself. From what he knew of Minato-sensei, he was a perpetually kind man, despite his infamous reputation, and he held much respect in the village. Even both otou-san and Tajima-sama respected him, despite him being many years younger than the Senju and Uchiha Clan Heads.

"I'm not sure I want her to know just yet," he admitted, but Minato-sensei just waved him off. Hashirama wondered what his own sensei will be like and if he can get someone as nice as him.

"Nonsense. Young love must grow, ne?" For some reason, Hashirama felt some foreboding in there but he wasn't sure if it was just his own nervousness - not even okaa-san knew about his crush (or so he thinks) on Mito, after all, and he has never talked about it with anyone other than Madara, who just teases him about it - so he thought nothing of it. "The one thing you must know about courting an Uzumaki - you are planning on courting my niece, ne?"

Hashirama gulped. Perhaps he shouldn't have dismissed his own instincts after all. There was actually some killing intent seeping into Minato-sensei's friendly aura and that only made it all the scarier. 'I can't believe I forgot Minato-sensei is married to Kushina-sama and waiting for their first baby! He's Mito's in-law uncle!'

Team 4 had stopped what they were doing when they felt the spike of killing intent coming from their sensei, the sensors that they were, and were now just standing there and watching the show. Not liking that they were suddenly being ignored, Madara's falcons came to rest on each of the genins' right shoulder and just started preening themselves until their master would tell them what else to do.

"O-of course, sir! She's a-a lady and deserves to be treated as such!"

"Good!" The way the man returned to cheery and nice should be illegal, as it was that terrifying. Hashirama was actually surprised to find himself shaking all over, cold sweat clinging to his skin. If he looked in a mirror, he would see that he was a few shades paler than his usual sun-kissed tan. "Now, the one thing you must know about courting an Uzumaki, perhaps the most important thing, is that you have to be blunt with them. Not only will they appreciate the balls it takes to approach one of them - especially their kunoichi; they're scary - so boldly, but they are also a little ... ignorant to someone wooing them. Unless you plan to strip naked and dance for her with a neon sign proclaiming your love to her, that is."

The Academy student let out a mortified squawk, which was actually echoed by a passing Izuna, who had overheard that last bit. Somewhere behind him, Madara snarled and Minato-sensei blenched when he saw the horrified expression on Izuna's face behind himself, blue eyes hesitantly going over to where Tobirama and Mito had Madara tackled to the ground to prevent him from killing their sensei for defiling poor Izuna's innocent ears and mind with such words and images.

"Damn you, Kakashi-sensei, Ero-Sennin," Hashirama just barely heard before the man was gone in a flash and Madara hurled past his best friend to hunt his sensei down, gunbai appearing seemingly out of nowhere with a sickle in his other hand. Hashirama couldn't help but morbidly wonder if his best friend really was going to kill Minato-sensei, or if he was going to skin him alive.

"He'll take one of his kidneys, that's for sure," Ryukyu-sama's amused voice said and Hashirama realized he had spoken out loud. However, whatever terror he had felt when Minato-sensei reminded him of his relation to Mito was intensified tenfold when he looked up and saw Ryukyu-sama's all too serene smile. He'd heard rumors about that smile. He'd also heard rumors about what Ryukyu-sama's killing intent did to a man. "Treat my daughter well, Hashirama-kun. Ne?"

He gulped and nodded frantically. Ryukyu-sama's smile turned normal and the air around them returned to the incredible heat that was always present in the Uchiha Compound. She bid him a pleasant day before returning to whatever it was she had been doing when she passed by. Izuna trailed after her, still looking mortified. He'll probably stay like that until Madara came back.

"I am personally of the opinion that Mito doesn't need such dramatics and to be protected by others," his little brother said as he came to pass by Hashirama on his way to stop Madara from killing their sensei. "But I agree with them that you shouldn't hurt her. More so because I don't think you'll like how Mito will take it. She is related to both Tsunade-sama and Kushina-sama, after all. And is both of their disciples." With that horrifying reminder, Tobirama extended his senses, sighed and used Hiraishin to go to his sensei's rescue.

(Hours later, when a relatively calm Madara allows himself to be led back home by Tobirama, Namikaze Minato still alive somewhere else in the village, Hashirama will wonder if he should perhaps give Madara the same treatment, judging by the way his brother kept looking at his best friend. Those thoughts flew right out of his head when Tobirama's red eyes met his with a deadpan stare that clearly told him 'Don't be stupid'.)

Mito came to stand beside him, now that they were alone, and gave him a pleasant, pretty smile that made Hashirama want to gift her the moon and the stars and he returned it with an utterly besotted grin of his own. "Would you let me treat you to some ramen?"

(A few hours later, he will be silently crying at the emptiness of his wallet.

He got over it when Mito gave him a kiss to his cheek when he escorted her back to Madara's house.)

(Years later, his best friend would lead Mito down the aisle towards him with a too polite, too serene smile even as purple eyes promised a slow and painful death if he hurt this man's adopted sister. Given what the man has managed to do, Hashirama wondered if he was a masochist if he was picking these people for in-laws. He found he couldn't quite regret it. Not when his own eldest younger brother was promising him a zombie apocalypse if he messes this up.)

Mito smiled with a light blush. "I would love that very much."

Chapter Text

It was a disaster, a tragedy, something straight out of a horror story and perhaps even worse as Konoha burned in flames and people died, civilian and shinobi both, running and fighting for their lives as the night was filled with a thunderous roar in the light of a full moon.

Tonight, on the 10th of Ocotober, the Kyuubi no Yoko was unexpectedly released into the world, Uzumaki Kushina's Jinchuriki seal having weakened during childbirth. Any good seal master, though, would know that that alone wouldn't be enough to simply break such an intricate seal, created by the best Uzushio seal masters, which only left one option for this whole mess that no one would want to think about: sabotage.

Team 4 would rather not think about it, when they had so much else to focus on at this time. Namely, getting to their sensei and his family.

Being sensors at this moment was both a blessing and a curse. The biju's oppressing, overwhelming chakra nearly had their knees buckling if they were not using each other to ground themselves. They didn't dare let go of each other's hands as they rand through the village in synchrony, creating a loop between them so they would not falter. Any other sensors, no matter their strength or proficiency with their abilities, must be crippled elsewhere under the weight of the Kyuubi's chakra and killing intent. It was a downside, this time, to be such strong sensors. Weaker sensors would have taken their own lives, let alone them. Thankfully, they were so in tune with each other that a loop was enough.

The good thing about being such strong sensors was that, even under the weight of the chakra and the killing intent drowning their village, they could still perfectly make out their sensei's chakra signature, as well as Kushina-sama's. Seeing as her's felt incredibly weak, they made the joint decision to go to her first. Minto-sensei felt strong and he was moving fast, meaning he was probably in battle against someone, possibly the one responsible for this tragedy. Their sensei knew how to take care of himself.

Meanwhile, his wife needed a medic.

Team 4 was fast, they had asked their sensei to train them to be so, to teach them Hiraishin so that the poisoning incident couldn't happen again and leave them in such a dangerous situation and so vulnerable again. Tobirama took to it with the most ease, Mito second behind him but she preferred not to experiment as much with her own Hiraishin marker the way Tobirama did and Madara almost didn't even use his at all. They didn't have their own markers anywhere near where Kushina-sama was but while they had their own markers, they were also intoned to their sensei's. They had locked into the one placed closest to their target and let themselves flicker away, landing just meters from Kushina-sama.

Neither of the three liked the state of her. She was just out of labor, tired and drained and there was blood from where her seal had snapped under the strain of whatever had wrung the Kyuubi out of her. They were by her side immediately, Mito already pushing her chakra into her aunt's to help her regain some strength while Tobirama started working on relieving her of her pain from childbirth and of the ripped seal. Madara stood back for the moment, keeping watch and staying close should either of his teammates need and extra chakra boost.

"You will be alright, auntie," Mito reassured when the older redhead came to and saw them.

"Menma ... That masked man, he took my little Menma." Tears were trailing down her cheeks. Madara nearly took his own sensei's head off when the man appeared with a flash, a little boy held in his arms, exposed to the elements.

"I have him, Kushina, he's alright," the Yellow Flash assured only to have his son yanked - gently - out of his arms by a scowling Madara. As someone who had had a very active hand in raising his little brothers, he was quite skilled in doing so, rearranging the baby as he should be and letting out small amounts of his chakra to seep into the baby's dangerously cold skin.

"You idiot! He could die from the cold! What were you thinking!? Mito, give me your haori!"

"Here," Tobirama said as he took off his favorite white fur collar from around his own shoulders - it was a cold night - and handed it to his older teammate. "This will work better. Is he alright?"

A cursory scan with medical chakra had Madara relaxing just slightly. "He'll be fine after a little of his mother's milk and some rest. A child this young shouldn't be exposed to these elements or this much stress. I'm surprised how calm he is with all of this killing intent in the air."

"He grew up next to it in my womb, Madara-kun," Kushina said weakly, eyes now locked on the boy who held her son with expert ease. She made no move to take him until Madara deemed him warm and wrapped well enough, putting the baby down right next to Kushina's head, where she tried to curl against him.

"Rest, auntie. You will be fine."

"The Kyuubi ... "

"The masked man ... He said he summoned it and that he's controlling it," Minato offered, fretting over his wife and child but thorn between staying and his duty to his village to fight the creature. "I don't know how, but he's powerful enough that he might just be able to do it. I should go look for him-"

"You," Madara yanked him by the collar of his jonin vest when he made a move to leave. "Should stay with your wife and child. I'll go find the fucker. He won't be able t o outrun me that easily." Despite not even being a teenager yet, Madara was the most skilled Uchiha with his Sharingan as of yet. Usually, Minato wouldn't hesitate to let his student go after an enemy and within the walls of their own village, but that masked man ... Minato feared he might be too much for someone as young as Madara. He had turned invincible, like a ghost through which Minato had sailed right through and had he been anyone else, the chains the man used to trail behind him would have killed him. Hiraishin had been the only thing to save him. Before he could argue with Madara, though, Mito spoke up.

"Besides, Tobirama and I will need your help to create an adequate Jinchuriki seal for the Kyuubi if we wish to contain it. I may be an Uzumaki, but ever Jinchuriki seal must be customized to the host and auntie Kushina and I are wastly different."

"Mito, no," Kushina immediately protested but the girl was having none of it.

"I am the only other Uzumaki in the village. I am the best equipped to carry the seal and house the Kyuubi's power."

"I can take it back," the older redhead insisted but Madara's snorted, making her glare at him.

"As the senior medic here-"

"Senior?" Tobirama repeated in amusement, to which Madara only scowled.

"Yes, senior, as in I am older than you."

"And I am older than you," Mito drawled but her friend was ready for this.

"So you would disagree that after birth, fatigue that came with it, chakra exhaustion from a broken seal and having the Kyuubi forcefully extracted from her she is in no condition to survive a resealing?" When Mito didn't refute him, he huffed. "Didn't think so. So while I try to find the bastard who did this, you three will make a new Jinchuriki seal, hopefully before the Kyuubi destroys the entire village."

"Madara-kun, I can't just let you go out there alone when-"

"Incoming!" Tobirama screamed just as the rampaging giant fox turned towards them, a huge Rasengan-looking attack of dark energy aimed their way. Minato didn't even think as he gathered all of his students and his family and transported them to the top of the Hokage mountain in a flash, seconds before the above mentioned attack utterly decimated the place they had been seconds before. The blast shook the earth as though there was an earthquake, but the biju no longer seemed to be aware of where they were.

"The guy you fought earlier," Madara asked as he stared grimly at the orange beast, his red eyes all but glowing in the dark. It would be eerie if the sight was not so familiar to the team by now. "Did he wear a tattered cloak and a swirly orange mask?"

"Y-yes, how did you know?" Minato asked, surprised. Madara just pointed to the biju's head.

"Because I see him." He turned to look at the group behind him before seeming to make up his mind. Taking the gunbai off of his back, he faced forwards again, his back saying how much arguing he will accept to his next words. "Take care of that seal. I'll deal with that man and the Kyuubi."

"The Kyu- Are you insane!?" Never before had they heard Mito reach that pitch, making to stand and grab her friend back. Only Tobirama grabbed her wrist and held her in place. "Tobirama, you can't be seriously thinking of letting him go fight that thing on his own!?"

"Uchiha Sasuke was rumored to have been able to control the biju," the Senju said calmly, even though the way his jaw worked between sentences bespoke of how much he approved of the course of action they had no choice but to take. "This may very well be the only way we can stop the Kyuubi before it kills even more people. I don't like it, but we'll have to risk it. But this means we need to start making the seal now, Mito. He's only buying us time."

"You can't be serious, right?" Minato asked, feeling faint.

"You can't risk his life on a rumor!" Kushina protested, as fond of her husband's students as the man himself was. Despite Menma being their first born child, he already had two older brothers and a sister, as far as they were concerned. "Stop playing a hero, brat, and-"

"Do you trust me?" Madara cut in. The new mother could not refute. "Then trust me when I say that I will come back."

"Go," Mito said, voice strangled, when no one else seemed capable of speech. Madara nodded, stole one last glance at them, before he used Shunshin to disappear. Judging from the by now familiar sea of fire that nearly swallowed the biju seconds later, the masked man was not much of a sensor. Madara had managed to sneak up on him and deliver the first effective enough attack on the beast, diverting all of his and the Kyuubi's attention to himself. Which was good, as the attacks that would have been rained down on the village were now rained down on Madara and that ridiculous gunbai of his seemed to be holding up under it, not to mention the barriers he himself made of both fire and his own pure chakra. The four watched for a moment, just to make sure their Uchiha was still alive and fighting before they all focused their attention on the seal.

Minato, even as they all worked on the seal, carefully inking every character into the ground where Mito will stand when she is ready to take the Kyuubi in, couldn't help but admire his young team. They have been together for barely eight months now and he could tell that the already scarily competent kids that had existed the Academy and were put into his care had gotten even better, stronger. Their brief stint training under Tsunade-sama had done them much good and their continued training, both individual and as a team, continued to make them stronger. For a twelve year old, an eleven year old and a ten year old, Mito, Madara and Tobirama were already chuunin level shinobi, if not higher. He's never seen someone graduate from Tsunade-sama's tutelage so fast, even though they still got specified lessons from her from time to time.

Tobirama and Mito were exceptionally good with seals, as it became more and more obvious the further they got into creating the seal that will keep the biju in place. Kushina mourned the fate her little niece was making for herself. Jinchuriki were rarely accepted by others, feared for the biju they housed in their bodies and the power that grants them. Kushina herself had been extremely lucky to have found Minato, who loved her unconditionally, and friends in Uchiha Mikoto and Uchiha Fugaku, the grump. They had been her support through the roughest moments in her life and she was just glad that Madara and Tobirama will always be there for Mito. But the strain of being a Jinchuriki was a hard burden to bear. If all goes well, though, she resolved to teach these kids more about fuinjutsu.

It was hard work and it took them much too long for their liking. Their only comfort was the continuous fires and explosions that belied their final teammate's other villagers were, of course, helping, but evacuation was currently the priority while more elite shinobi, including the Hokage herself, were trying to hold the fox back. It was not hard to see Tsunade's big slug helping her fight, though it was also more focused on healing immediate injuries. Tsunade, for all that she was a powerful ninja, was also a iryo-nin first.

Minto left the seal work to his genin for a second, just to summon Gamabunta to give his fellow Konoha shinobi more of a chance, before he went back to the seal. It was now to the stage where it was up to him and Tobirama to finish the last symbols while Kushina coached Mito on how to battle the Kyuubi into submission with her Kongo Fusa, an upcoming, taxing battle of wills she must prepare for, as her opponent was a creature centuries older than her.

They were already slowly charging the seal with chakra to prepare it for when Mito might need the extra boost where there was a sudden flare in Madara's chakra, blazing hot to their senses, a deafening roar-

And then utter silence.

No explosions, no fires, no crumbling buildings. The shouting stopped even as dread, cold and laden, laced Team 4's stomach, all of their heads snapping in the direction of where the Kyuubi was holding still. Perfectly, all too still, like a statue. But they could not identify Madara's stark chakra signature anywhere, as though he was-

There!

All three remaining members of Team 4 sagged in relief as suddenly, Madara's chakra signature jumped away from the Kyuubi, just as the beast seemed to snap out of whatever had caused it to stop so suddenly in the first place. A tale sent their Uchiha flying, but their senses assured them that he was fine. He had probably blocked with his gunbai, though his landing had probably cracked a few ribs. Good thing that he's an iryo-nin in his own right, so he can heal himself. The Kyuubi continued its rampage through the village, tumbling houses and swatting away boss summons like they were nothing more than flies. No one had a powerful enough boss summon to properly fight the Kyuubi. Gamabunta was strong but he wasn't equipped, let's say, to fight a fox. A frog will never be able to wrestle with a being with sharp claws, teeth and tails that can level mountains, which they were just lucky that the biju hadn't done as of yet.

As soon as Madara teleported to their location, Tobirama had him by the shoulders and was all but shaking him. "What were you thinking!? Don't ever do something that stupid ever again! You nearly gave us all a heart attack!" He had never not been able to sense Madara before and it had shaken him beyond even having to deal with the Kyuubi's oppressive chakra antagonizing his senses.

"Be grateful I still can't get up, punk, or else I would have slapped you," Kushina grumbled, even as the relief was heavy in her voice. Minato just sighed in relief while Mito took the time to hug her friend and draw the still too close to a breakdown Tobirama. The centered all three of them.

"We couldn't feel you," she whispered in his ear and Madara just melted into them. He was tired, more tired than he had ever been before in his life. Yes, even more tired than he had been during and after the whole poisoning incident.

"Sorry. I got too close. Had to." He let himself linger there for a moment longer before drawing back, looking the four seal masters (in training) in the eye, seriousness oozing out of him. "You need to reconfigure the seal."

"What?" Tobirama asked in a deadpan, not believing they were being asked to make any changes at the last second.

"No, listen!" Madara urged, sounding almost distressed. "I did it, Tobirama. I did it." The Senju's eyes widened a fraction. "I managed to break that bastard's control and gain it for myself for a short moment before he overwhelmed me! That bastard is an Uchiha!"

"Do you know who?" Minato asked, shocked by these news, both of Madara's incredible feat and of the partial identity of the attacker. But the boy only shook his head.

"I don't recognize his chakra. It's no one I'm familiar with. It could be a nukenin from long before I was born But that's not the point! I spoke with the Kyuubi!" At their incredulous expressions, he was quick to explain. "I met him in some sort of mind space or something, I don't know what it was but I met him and he said that he doesn't want to attack the village, that he's being controlled and that he wouldn't be opposed to being sealed away in another Jinchuriki if it meant getting away from the person controlling him! He only asked for a seal which would allow him to be summoned out into the real world that wouldn't be at the cause of his Jinchuriki's death! Apparently, being in a Jinchuriki mostly protects him from being controlled, so Kurama made a suggestion to the seal-"

"Kurama?" Mito questioned and Madara waved her off.

"The Kyuubi, his name is Kurama but we can focus on that later! You need to reconfigure the seal like this," he quickly took out a kunai and drew a few designs in the earth which he obviously expected them to apply to the seal in progress. It wasn't even anything overly complicated to do, all four seal masters (in training) thought as they studied the designs. "He says it will not only keep you from dying if he's extracted from you or even weaken you all that much and give him a little freedom, but it will also allow you to have better control over his power,if you ask politely, anyway."

"How can you be sure he's not lying to you, though?" Minato asked, sharing a look with Kushina. They had always been under the impression that the Kyuubi hated its hosts, so it made no sense that it would not want to harm the village that had first imprisoned it to begin with, even if the people responsible were long since dead.

"Because the Kyuubi's first Jinchuriki was Uzumaki Naruto," the half Hatake of their group replied. "And there are many written documents stating that, while rocky at first, the Kyuubi had a stellar relationship with the Shodaime. It had declared itself a protector of Konohagakure. People, mostly adults, just tend to be stupid and forget that in wake of its power."

"So if we make these adjustments, the Kyuubi will come willingly?" Mito asked, already trying to figure out how to incorporate the changes without having to redraw the whole thing from the beginning.

"He won't fight you for dominance once he's in," Madara replied, sounding unhappy. "We still need to bind him or severe the control that unknown Uchiha has on him. That's my job."

"Tobirama-kun and I will feed the seal with the power it needs to seal it away," Minato quickly decided, taking charge of the situation as the kid's leader. "Mito-chan, Kushina will help you wrestle it under control before you start absorbing it, but it's all up to you from there."

"No," the younger redhead denied, scowling. "I will do it myself. Auntie Kushina has to rest. Tsunade-sama still might need to check her over in case we missed something in our haste to stabilize her. Get auntie away from here while Tobirama and I finalize the seal." When Kushina made to argue, Mito cut her off. "Think of your son. I think he'd rather appreciate a living mother than a heroic one."

"You've already done more than enough. You can rest now," Tobirama added, already crouching down to implement the final changes to the seal. "Madara, buy us some more time, but don't take too long. You'll need to lead it here. Hopefully, we won't wreck the monument."

"It's ugly, anyways," the Uchiha said with a wild grin before he once again returned to help in fighting the Kyuubi and, hopefully, leading it back to where it needs to go once everything is in order. Minato eventually quelled under the dual scowls his remaining genin were giving him, picking up Kushina and Menma carefully and taking them away to the shelters. Uchiha Mikoto nearly gutted him when he appeared seemingly out of nowhere but stopped her hand at the last second.

"Look after them for me, please," he said before using Hiraishin to get back to his students. 'I really hope this works,' he thought when it was all ready and he and Tobirama flared their chakra to get Madara's attention while Mito focused on the seal she was kneeling in and the rattling of her Kongo Fusa. "Here he comes," he warned, Tobirama and him jumping out of the way when Madara, tauntingly, guided the Kyuubi and its master right into their trap. Mito's chakra chains caught the biju with alarming speed, immobilizing it and already dragging it towards her, making it shrink inch by inch, as the seal beneath her lit up like a Christmas light. The Kyuubi fought back, lashing out and trying to kill the Uzumaki, but then Madara was there and there was once again that strange flare of his chakra and his eyes flashed brighter and redder in the dark than ever before and the beast came to a screeching halt, seemingly enraptured by Madara's gaze alone.

"Genjutsu?" He overheard Tobirama questioning to himself but the Yellow Flash found that he could not focus on such inquiries when he saw the man from before lunge from the Kyuubi's head straight at Madara. He was instantly in front of his student, making sure not to block his staring contest with the Kyuubi but deflecting the masked man's attack. The immaterial thing was becoming bothersome, to steal a Nara's saying but this time he wasn't fighting it alone.

There were two Hiraishin users now to keep the man more than occupied as Madara kept the Kyuubi docile under his control instead of the strangers and Mito dragged the beast into herself. The seal only got brighter and brighter until the ink started dancing across the Uzumaki's skin, centering at her belly, and then the chakra chains fave a warning groan, straining, before the Kyuubi was seemingly effortlessly dragged into its new young host. Mito felt its struggle cease the second it was inside of her, the control over it slipping, both Madara's and the strangers, and she quickly closed it all off, tucking her new resident away until it was safe to open the door the Kyuubi had requested.

Distracted by his loss of control of the biju, the masked stranger missed the moment when Tobirama Hiraishined out of his path and Minato appeared over him with a ready Big Rasengan to hit him into the earth. Tobirama bound him with an interesting chakra-enhanced rope he had been experimenting on before slapping a suppression seal on him while he was still dazed.

It was finally over.

"You two alright?" Minato called when the man stopped moving, looking over to where Madara and Mito were gasping in near exhaustion. Madara's eyes were crying tears of blood, which was not good, and Mito herself had some blood seeping out of her fresh seal, staining her white haori red. But the seal held and Mito wasn't dying. "Remind me to check later if those two are even human," he grumbled to Tobirama, who only nodded in agreement. Then the two impossible children collapsed and the two light haired males rushed to their side, Tobirama checking over Madara while Minato made sure the seal was actually secure before checking Mito herself.

"Chakra exhaustion," Tobirama concluded for the older boy, looking up to his sensei. "We should deliver the masked man to T&I and then take them- where did he go?!" Alarmed, Minato also looked in the direction the white haired Senju was only to find the ropes empty. "Seems they can't hold down people who can turn insubstantial. I'll have to work on that."

"Later," Minato concluded, picking up his niece after he fixed her haori. "For now, we need to take these two to Tsunade-sama for monitoring, inform their families and report on what we know."

"Should we disclose the information that the masked man was an Uchiha?" Tobirama asked, even as he pumped his own limbs with chakra to more easily pick up Madara without jostling him too much if he had some injuries from the whole ordeal. "Wouldn't that breed some suspicion and hostility towards them?"

"Madara said it was someone he didn't recognize and every Uchiha will be asked to be accounted for their whereabouts before and during the attack. You're right that something like this could ruin the Uchiha as a whole, but we won't allow our reports to bring any misunderstandings or misconceptions about the whole affair. Besides, the whole village has just watched Madara-kun fight in our name and he's only a genin. This is admirable is what it is." The blond sighed and looked down at their charges. "But for now, we should worry about getting these two to some hospital beds before Tsunade-sama has our heads."

Tobirama just nodded and they Hiraishined away.

00000

As morning dawned in the hospital room, Senju Tsunade looked out over the remains of her village and the rebuilding efforts that were already in place. Her nephew, Hashirama, came in real handy with his unique Mokuton as he rebuilt houses or reshaped and remodeled fallen wood that could still be used for the rebuilding effort. She was rather proud of him. Goofy he might be, but he will make a fine shinobi one day.

He has competition for the title of strongest and greatest, though, she muses in amusement and bemusement both as her eyes shift to watch the three genin curled up on the biggest berth they could find. These three will never cease to amaze her, it would seem, and they were all so young. What they did last night and how they have handled the entire situation was more than admirable. Most people twice or thrice their age would not have made their way through all that's happened to them last night with the same grace.

Madara's exhausted himself again and will no doubt grumble about not being allowed to use chakra again.

Mito will need to relearn her control and her power centers.

Her younger nephew seemed mostly fine, but she has no idea of what that genius brain of his might be thinking up now. The rope he had made was brilliant and yet it had failed to hold their target. He'll probably experiment more but she has a feeling he won't be getting all that far from his friends any time soon. A sensor like him, much stronger than even his friends and possibly Minato as well, should have been a babbling, drooling mess after being exposed to the Kyuubi's chakra and in such proximity, for as long as he had been. Tobirama won't be going anywhere, just like his friends, for a long while. He might get restless from the lack of any missions in the future for Team 4.

Minato's report was troubling, especially when all Uchiha were indeed accounted for and no suspicious activities could be found within the clan. And yet Madara had been certain, had proven it himself, that the attacker had been an Uchiha.

'Something bigger is at hand, a game I cannot see.'

She didn't like it.

Chapter Text

A year into the formation of Team 4, the village learned, the very hard way, that they should never be separated.

Or rather, the lesson was: don't send Madara away on separate missions.

00000

Tsunade stared down Uchiha Tajima, contemplating the request the man had made regarding a mission he himself was supposed to be undertaking and the presence of his son on said mission instead. Madara had been a bit too eager to return to the field after the Kyuubi incident but had stayed in the village both for himself and for Mito, in case the Kyuubi had indeed lied and tricked them. Now, months later, after Team 4 had practically adopted the biju in as one of their own - their mascot, much to the ancient fox's indignation at the title - and everyone had finally settled back into life as normal after such a traumatic event, Madara was ready and eager to leave the village as he was going stir-crazy.

Going to Sora-Ku, the Uchiha's centuries old allies and weapons providers, may not be his preferred mission after not getting to punch stuff for months but he obviously just wanted out. Tsunade contemplated letting one of her strangest genin out of her sight in the current political climate - a few more months and it will be time for the Chuunin Exams; Team 4 ought to prepare. She would absolutely love to see how they will fare - but figured if there was anyone who would be safe on such a mission all on their own, it would be one of the Team 4, especially Madara. Between his skills, his chakra, his Sharingan and the fact that he was a qualified iryo-nin, a was a complete unit all on his own.

And it would be best not to let him go truly stir-crazy. If he asks Hashirama to spar again, they might no longer have any training fields left.

So it was with all of that in mind that Tsunade signed the mission scroll and put her stamp before handing it over to the excited Uchiha boy, watching Tajima's proud smile as Madara all but whooped and ran off to get ready.

As she sipped her sake when the Uchiha left, Tsunade did not realize she had just signed up her village for a shit-load of craziness.

She will learn.

00000

The first two days since Madara left were not too bad. Mito had her fuinjutsu scrolls to keep her occupied as well as still learning her knew limitations with the Kyuubi - Kurama - now sealed inside her and contributing to her chakra. It was not in any way her's, Kurama-san would just lend it to her if she needed it. They had a nice agreement on how they will coexist, the old Kitsune more than happy to sleep his days away inside the protections of the seal.

On the third day, however, she found herself faced with a restlessness she was not used to, a restlessness she usually solved with a single brush of skin against skin with Madara, but the boy was not there. None of his family had the chakra reserves nearly big enough to help her drown out the rest of the world, even if for only a second, but Mito refused to break after only three days. She's lived in Konoha for years by now, the village felt familiar to her senses. She figured she could handle it.

By the fourth day, however, when they had a scheduled training session with Minato-sensei and she finally saw her other teammate again - Tobirama had a tendency to get himself lost in his experiments so it wasn't unusual for him to forget the rest of the world existed until he became twitchy and needed to drown himself in Madara's fiery signature - did she see how much Madara's absence was not only affecting her, but Tobirama as well. He looked like he hadn't slept at all last night, which was worrying. Minato-sensei had asked if he needed to go back home but Tobirama had just said that it wouldn't help. He was restless and sleep would not come.

The went through the regular exercises, Minato-sensei showed them some new useful jutsu, they had lunch and went home.

Day five dawned with Mito not having slept a wink the entire night. She kept tossing and turning, feeling far too cold under her many blankets even as she needed to change her pajamas twice with how much she sweated throughout the night. Ryukyu-sama asked her if she was sick but Mito felt fine. She was just ... restless. She spent the day training on her own and found herself unusually snappish towards Izuna when he accidentally broke her concentration when walking by. She apologized and asked him to spar. They did, for two whole hours, until they were both drenched in sweat and hungry. Ryukyu-sama called them in for dinner, they ate and Mito spent half an hour in the bath, just enjoying the warmth. She found herself exhausted when she lay down in her bed.

The sixth day dawned that she hadn't slept a wink once again.

The seventh day found Tobirama dragging her out to the little cabin that had been transformed into his own lab, huge dark circles under his eyes, almost like bruises but the only people who could punch Tobirama in the face either wouldn't - Hashirama - or weren't there - Madara. For everyone else that Tobirama might spar with, he was too fast. When he presented her with what he was working on, though, she forgot all about asking him when was the last time he had slept, for it was an interesting project, one that required a seal master to put seals into metal even before it was folded into a katana. The multiple layers of seals were supposed to allow it to channel raiton chakra through the blade with little input from the user and no matter what their natural chakra affinity was. He figured out the materials and the method with which he'd like to put in the seals but he didn't know which ones would be best, so he'd called in Mito.

Seeing as she was bored and restless and sleep would not come to her at all, she figured an interesting project might allow her to eventually fall asleep or just forget about the lacking warmth she usually relied on to ground herself when it all became too much.

Tobirama had obviously had similar plans, anyway, so it's not like she's imposing or anything. And he had invited her.

Day eight, they were supposed to have another training session but Minato found himself stood up, neither of his two remaining students having shown up. The Namikaze wondered if he had even told them about it and figured he'd probably forgotten. He went back home without another thought spared on it, eager to spend more time with his baby boy.

On the tenth day, they had their regular training in the morning, one that is never rescheduled unless there is an emergency. Now Minato knew something was amiss, so he went about finding out what. Asking for Mito-chan in the Uchiha main household revealed that she had been staying over with Tobirama at the Senju Compound for the last couple of days. Thanking the matriarch and wishing her a good day, the blond jonin had knocked on the doors of the main house and was greeted with Tobirama's youngest brother, Itama, who let him in and then later led him to the cabin designated as Tobirama's lab. He got worried when he saw strange flashing lights from within and sent Itama back into the house lest something dangerous was going on that might seriously hurt him. Hatake born women were scary mothers and he'd rather not face Kira-sama's wrath.

What he found upon entering the lab, though, was so fascinating that he, too, forgot all about the training session, too lost in Tobirama's brilliant new invention and he immediately started giving theories and suggestions to make it better.

Uzumaki Kushina, wife of Namikaze Minato, found herself wondering where her husband could be that night as she mercilessly ate his dinner, too. (Hey, if he's not gonna respect the time she spent in cooking it by showing up on time, then he's not going to eat it.) She got worried when he didn't come back by morning and started feeling her temper spiking when he still wasn't there by noon.

Just as she was about go looking for him to shave his head for making her wait and worry, there was a huge explosion coming from the Senju Compound. Knowing how prone to dangerous experiments Minato's Senju genin was, Kushina sighed as worry made her make her way over there to check if no one was hurt.

There were people hurt after she found her husband there with two nearly crazed with sleep deprivation genin.

00000

Note to self: Raijin no Ken does not react well to biju chakra. Further testing required.

(I wonder when Madara's coming back?)

00000

Note #2: Raijin no Ken does not react well when futon chakra is forced into the blade. Explosion inevitable.

(I haven't slept for more than three hours the past seven days. When that porcupine comes back, I'm using him as a pillow!)

00000

Note #3: Raijin no Ken can cause stormy weather.

(Sora-Ku is full of cats, right? If Madara doesn't come back soon, I will go there myself and attract the biggest storm in Hi no Kuni! Let's see how he likes that!)

00000

Note #14: Raijin no Ken ran out of lightning chakra. Minato-sensei suggested pure electricity. The seals absorbed it all and the metal exploded. Raijin no Ken is now made literally of electricity.

(Would this make Madara's hair stand up even more on end? Mito seems intrigued, too. She looks like sensei right now, after all.)

00000

Note #15: Raijin no Ken taken away by Kushina-sama. Tsunade-sama confined me, Mito and Minato-sensei to the hospital. We're still sparking from lightning.

(I'm bored. Still can't sleep. So cold.)

00000

Note #20: Raijin no Ken retrieved by way of Hiraishin (How did I forget about that?) Chakra suppression seals don't work on Raijin no Ken. Causes explosion and massive power outrage.

(Mito got knocked out, lucky harpy. Maybe I can hit myself?)

00000

Note #21: Tsunade-sama asked what it would take for me to stop experimenting when sleep deprived. I said I was cold.

(They sent a bird to Sora-Ku. I think Madara's coming back.)

(Maybe then I can get some sleep.)

00000

Note #whatever: Raijin no Ken feels solid but is not. Not recommended to touch in any way, shape or form. Commencing conductivity test with water jutsu-

I think Madara's back!

00000

Madara could do nothing but shake his head as he was used as a full body pillow by his best friend's younger brother in the hospital bed, Tsunade-sama's thunderous scowl warning him that he better not wake up her nephew. The Uchiha only rolled his eyes at her and better tucked in the albino so he was also comfortable.

This was not how he was expecting his first ever solo mission to go. Yes, he had been eager to get out of the village and yes, it had helped to feel the wind in his hair as he jumped from tree to tree and exercised his muscles with some training during his travels, but he had not expected to be called back halfway through the mission because his teammates were 'walking human disasters'. He hadn't even known what that was supposed to mean! Thankfully, Nekobaa-sama didn't mind that he couldn't finish all of the chores she had needed around the city since he had done the most difficult ones already and she gave him the half of the pay that he really shouldn't have gotten since, technically, his mission wasn't complete. She wouldn't hear any of that and even sent him off with some moon cakes! Which was nice but moon cakes had always made Madara feel weird, so he figured he'd give them to his little brothers when he got home.

Only he didn't even get to go home. A frazzled Shizune had quite literally picked him up like a rucksack and carted him off to the hospital, not answering any of his questions until he found himself in Tobirama's and Mito's hospital room, the later out like a light and the former having these huge bags under his eyes. Had he not felt how unsettled and exhausted Tobirama felt, he would have gone out on a warpath to find the bastard who had dared hurt his teammate. But Tobirama had then quite literally pounced on him, purring about warmth and pillows and sleep before passing out.

Mito, too, seemed to be sleeping more peacefully since he stepped into the room and he found himself feeling guilty for forgetting how much these two still relied on him to keep their senses from overwhelming themselves. That's one of the reasons they had even been put together on the team!

So he'd settled himself and Tobirama on the younger boy's bed and gotten as comfortable as he can and let his chakra swarm the room so Mito can drown in it, too.

He'll have to take care never to stay away so long for a mission.

Chapter Text

Uzumaki Mito, in one Maito Dai's eyes, was the most beautiful princess in the world, of ethereal beauty, infinite charm and a regal composure that any Daimyo's daughter would envy her for. She was as beautiful as a blooming spring flower and as powerful as a hurtling boulder, a force of nature to be reckoned with.

She was his lady love and he just knew that they were meant to be.

Too bad she seemed to be infatuated with that brutish Uchiha Madara, the boy jealous of Dai's amazing looks, incredible skill and, most of all, his spirit of youth! Why else would he always use that gunbai of his to swat him away instead of facing Dai like a man in a pure taijutsu battle? Alas, Dai cannot stand up to the force of the futon within that ancient weapon, but he will not allow such a rude boy to stand in the way of true love!

Youth will prevail over Uchiha Madara's jealousy and envy!

And the spring festival was the perfect time for Dai to prove this fact of the world.

The entirety of Konoha was blooming with youthful cherry blossoms and many other pretty flowers that Dai could not name. He saw many that reminded him of his lady love's fiery hair and made him want to buy them as a gift for her, a token of his affection. But Mito-hime was a warrior! She was a lady and a kunoichi! Such weak sentiments would not win her heart! Only the victory over her current love interest will make her notice Dai and Dai will give it his all! Today is the day he defeats Uchiha Madara! And if he cannot, he will run fifty laps around Konoha's outer protective walls!

The problem with his goal, he knows, is finding Mito-hime and her brutish, unyouthful love interest. The brute loves spending time with the ever cheery and very youthful Hashirama and his somewhat youthful younger brother Tobirama and Mito-hime is always with him. Perhaps the vile Uchiha has her under his magical eye's super secret special spell? Why else would a creature of such elegance spend so much time with those loud, uncouth boys? But aside from that, Dai does not actually know where Uchiha Madara might spend a day at the festival celebrating the most youthful of seasons, spring! Perhaps burning things like all his unyouthful clansmen do every year?

"Away, Senju-oni, away!" A youthful voice shouted, attracting the wandering and searching Dai's attention to one of the side streets, where a youthful boy was youthfully throwing soy seeds at the only somewhat youthful Senju brother, who was scowling at the black haired child. How unyouthful!

"Hiroto!" A familiar voice snapped and Dai watched as the boy, apparently youthful Hiroto, quelled as Uchiha Madara stormed towards the two boys with, ah, the every beautiful Mito-hime and the youthful Hashirama following behind. There were some other energetic youths with them, though Dai did not personally recognize them other than the scary but also somewhat youthful Senju Touka. They must be the other Uchiha and Senju siblings. "What did I tell you about behaving in public?"

"To be polite?" The child answered in askance, looking guilty. How vile of Uchiha Madara, to stop such youthful play!

"They why were you throwing soy seeds at Tobirama and calling him an oni!? That is not polite or nice! What if you hurt his feelings? Would you like for people to call you a demon?" How dare he! Such a cruel man, Uchiha Madara is, to call a child a demon! Dai will not stand for this! This is his chance to prove to Mito-hime that he is the better man for her! And he will save this child from this merciless brute!

"No, Anija."

Uchiha Madara crossed his arms and looked expectantly at youthful Hiroto, who was now sad. "Apologize to Tobirama. Now."

"It's fine, Madara. He's just a kid-"

"It is not fine!" Uchiha Madara the brute brutishly and rudely interrupted the somewhat youthful Senju with a fierce scowl, who only rolled his eyes. "He can't keep acting like this, he's already five! What if he'd thrown rocks at you? What if he does it to someone else?! He needs to be taught what is right and wrong or else he won't grow up to be a nice person. And you don't want to make Anija sad by not being a nice person, right, Hiroto?" He directed the question at the child and Dai was horrified to see the little youthful boy's eyes fill up with tears.

"No! No, I'm sorry, Anija. Please don't be sad!"

"Then be a good boy and apologize to Tobirama." Such manipulation! Such cruelty!

The boy sniffed and bowed his head. "I'm sorry, Tobirama. I promise I won't do it again." And to make his own brother submit to another!? To make him submit to himself!?

Uchiha Madara is a tyrant!

"Apology accepted," the somewhat youthful Tobirama valiantly accepted the apology and forgave like a true man. Perhaps Dai was wrong about him and he truly is youthful!

"Good, now that that's over with, I want to get that inarizushi you owe me, Tobirama." And treating others as servants?! Making them be in debt to him!? This would not stand! Dai has seen enough!

"Stop, foul fiend!" The entire group jumped rather youthfully when Dai called out to them, laughing youthfully in his own greeting.

"Hey, who are you calling a fiend!?" Uchiha Izuna, fiery and youthful, growled, stomping forwards when he noticed that Dai had a mighty finger pointed at the baffled vile Uchiha Madara. "How dare you talk to my Anija like that!?"

"In the name of youth, I challenge you, Uchiha Madara!"

The brutish boy looked confused. "What on earth for?"

"For the right of youths to have their fun! For the freedom of somewhat youths from your clutches and your debts! And for the beautiful Mito-hime, who you have hypnotized so with your vile eyes! I challenge you, Uchiha Madara, to a taijutsu duel!"

"Is he insane?" A youth of half white and half brown head of hair asked, sounding scared, peeking from behind mighty Touka's back.

Mighty Touka nodded sagely. "Yes."

Being rude and ignoring them, the horrendous Uchiha Madara scowled. "One, you don't get a say in how I raise my baby brothers. Two, it's none of your damn business why Tobirama or anyone else owes me inarizushi. And three, the fuck are you talking about?"

"Such crude language will not dishearten me, Uchiha Madara! Prepare yourself, for here I come!"

"Listen, you imbecile, I don't want to figh- Hey!" Uchiha Madara exclaimed, grabbing the youthful Hiroto as a human shield as he jumped out of the way of Dai's mighty kick. "Watch it, you amoeba! You could have hurt my bro- Stop that!" Still hiding behind the youth as a coward, Uchiha Madara evaded and continued evading, proving surely to Mito-hime that he was not right for her.

Then, he growled like a beast and so carelessly threw youthful Hiroto at somewhat youthful Tobirama before he crossed his wrists and blocked Dai's downwards hit. Dai was impressed by the force with which his rival in love then pushed him away, nearly sending him flying. He landed a good several meters away, deftly as a cat, to see Uchiha Madara shifting into a fighting stance Dai was honestly not familiar with. Not that it mattered. Dai quickly took up his own signature stance, back proud and straight, body to the side to make himself a smaller target while keeping a weather eye on his opponent.

Uchiha Madara's eyes narrowed, but no red came from them. "So you want to dance with me, is that it?"

"I do not know how to dance, as I have two left feet. I asked for a duel, Uchiha Madara. Or are you too much of a coward to accept?" Uchiha Madara scowled at the rightful insult to his honor. Dai did not wait for the coward to gather the guts to attack him, instead going in himself, to show Mito-hime his courage.

A roundhouse kick, a punch to the gut, a headbutt ...

All blocked.

Uchiha Madara then shifted his weight and Dai evaded being kneed in the chin at the last second, but he could not do much against the elbow to the chest other than take the pain of it. He let himself slide a few feet before, relying on his speed, he appeared suddenly underneath Uchiha Madara, leg poised to hit him in the chin and send him flying upwards, where he would be vulnerable. But the fiend jumped out of the way so Dia's leg became a jumping board for him. He jumped, did a flip and cracked the concrete where Dai's head had been but a second earlier.

But Uchiha Madara's back was now turned to him, a foolish mistake, and Dai made to take advantage of it, only to have the field whirl around and punch him straight between the eyes. Dai felt lightheaded, unsteady on his feet, his head hurt. Then there were two hands karate-chopping him just above the ears and Dai found all balance lost, falling on is rear on the hard concrete. There was blood coming out of his ears and his nose, he noted distantly, his vision blurry as he tried to make out to surely gloating arrogant fiend but he could see nothing but spots of color and light.

Then there was a soothing sensation running through his whole head and Dai leaned into the warmth, for surely this must be his beloved Mito-hime seeing what the fiend had done to him and choosing instead Dai, the better man, for her rightful youthful beloved! "You are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen, my beloved! Neither the sun nor the moon nor the stars can rival your radiance! Merry me, fierce warrior, for my love already all belongs to you and my heart yarns for yours!"

The hand did not jerk away until all of the pain went away and the blood stopped running. When Dai could see, it was to a deadpan look on Uchiha Madara's face with a scowling somewhat youthful Tobirama looking down at him over the fiend's shoulder. "Did I actually hit you hard enough to scramble your brain?"

"What?" Dai asked (yelled; his ears were still ringing). The fiend, Uchiha Madara, leaned away from him.

"Also, I won." Then he brazenly, arrogantly, turned his back on Dai - so disrespectful! - and started walking away. Scowling, Dai surged to his feet and reached out to grab Uchiha Madara's shoulder-

Only to have his hand snatched away in a bruising grip by none other than the somewhat youthful Senju Tobirama. Who currently had quite a scowl on his young face. "Think through your actions very carefully, or else you will find yourself with a few broken bones."

"Our match is not over!" Dai protested, looking around for perhaps some assistance. None of the bystanders were willing to support his youthful quest! How unyouthful! "Where is Mito-hime?"

"It is. You lost. You're not the first nor the last. Move on. And Mito went off with Anija, hopefully to get confessed to because Anija's pinning is driving me up the walls. Now stop making a scene and go away." With that, the decidedly unyouthful Senju Tobirama marched after the vile Uchiha Madara, the fiend, reaching for his wallet as the brute ordered the food that he did not earn himself. The brute dared smile at the younger boy he was taking advantage of!

And the unyouthful Senju Tobirama looked away and ... blushed? In shame, surely! Uchiha Madara knew no bounds in his vile ways! He, Maito Dai, was not blind to his ways! He will get stronger and stronger until he defeats-

And then it registered to him what the unyouthful Tobirama Senju had said about his beloved Mito-hime and Dai took off down the streets, hollering her name in hopes that his voice may reach her. For it would seem that Uchiha Madara was not his only rival in love! He shall deal with the youthful Senju Hashirama first, before smiting that fiend once and for all!

00000

Tobirama watched the misguided, foolhardy idiot go and shook his head. He pitied Mito. His Anija was bad enough, but Maito Dai might just be worse.

At least his interest in Madara was not something for him to worry about.

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Inside a just created, blooming garden, Mito smiled into the bouquet of flowers Hashirama had made for her and kept changing with every new flower he could find whose meaning he thought fits Mito.

He may be a strange boy but he was sweet.

Now, if only he'd get her some ramen.

Chapter Text

Team 4 was on a mission. A simple retrieval and recovery mission. Infiltrate Iwagakure, sneak into the dungeons, free the chuunin team the opposing village had captured and take back the vital scroll they had been carrying before Iwa's shinobi could decipher the secret code and get the information inside.

Simple, for a team like Team 4.

Minato already had plenty Hiraishin markers all over Iwa's territory from their last war with the village, so he simply grabbed his three students and they teleported nearly into the village itself, where they did recon and devised a plan to execute this in the most efficient manner without accidentally restarting a war that, while Konoha could probably win like last time, would cost too many innocent lives thrown away needlessly. None of the four wanted to be responsible for the reopening of hostilities, even if Iwa was technically the first to be blamed. The miraculously still alive Nidaime wasn't exactly a forgiving sort, the old cot.

So stealth it was.

Getting in was startlingly easy. A chakra scrambling seal from Mito and a strong Sharingan genjutsu to subtly but distinctively alter their far too recognizable features was enough for them to sneak in as a group of traveling merchants. They didn't need to stay for long to properly infiltrate and slowly gather the information they needed about where the Konoha shinobi were being hidden. Madara used his Sharingan to extract whatever information they needed and then all but erased the encounter with whatever unlucky shinobi Mito, Tobirama or Minato caught and brought before him before the poor idiot was knocked out by whoever had caught him and set up to look like he was suffering from a hangover or, that one particular time when Tobirama had had to pretend to hit on in order to lure him into a trap, from a severe case of fever because Tobirama had no regrets in cooling his core temperature until he was suffering from hypothermia.

Served the pedophile right.

All in all, they were in Iwa for barely two days before they found out everything they needed and their senses were more than enough to keep them aware of their target's whereabouts and the number of guards around them at all times, so they could never be caught off guard.

The only problem they had was that Iwa seems to be collaborating with Suna, Konoha's supposed ally, and the scroll had been sent to them in hopes of the other village knowing the code needed to get the message. They collectively agreed to intercept the message to the best of their abilities as soon as their fellow Konoha shinobi were on their way back to the village.

Springing them free was easy.

Getting them out of the prison was even easier.

But by then the alarms were blaring and they had an entire shinobi village out on the hunt for them. Thank the heavens for the Hiraishin. It got them out to the closest marker - they couldn't transfer further with so many people to carry - with ease and bought them enough time for the three iryo-nin to check over the former prisoners before the Iwa nin were on them.

"Get them to the next marker, Minato-sensei," Tobirama instructed as he took out his Raijin no Ken and Madara his gunbai. "Mito, watch them between the trips."

"Tobirama and I will hold them back," Madara finished for him, sharing a look with the younger boy. "Between us, they won't make it far."

"Neither of your elements alone are strong enough to counter that many Iwa jonin, Madara-kun," the blond man protested logically, knowing his students were well aware of this fact and both worried and curious as to what they had cooked up. "And even when combining your elements with your weapons', the attacks won't be strong enough. Let Mito and I help."

"Then perhaps we should combine each other's elements instead of ours and our weapons'," Tobirama mused, sending a lightning attack to the left side of the approaching enemy unit as Madara did the same with a gust of wind from his gunbai to the right, knocking most of the approaching shinobi down or back if they weren't quick enough to get out of the way. "What do you say, Madara?"

"Sounds crazy but I trust you," the Uchiha replied before the two nodded at each other and sped off in a sudden sprint away from their allies, huge water and fire attacks making the Iwa nin pull up earth and rock walls and other defenses.

"What are they doing?" One of the formerly Iwagakure prisoner shinobi asked, incredulous and insulted by the boys' attempt at a 'combo' attack. "That won't work!"

"I don't know but I would be a fool not to trust them," Namikaze said easily, already grabbing two shinobi and transporting them with a single yellow flash safely behind Konoha's borders, where another team was waiting for them to receive the imprisoned ninja. He was back to the battlefield in time to see that Madara and Tobirama had landed themselves straight into the middle of the Iwa shinobi and wondered if he should get in there and help them.

Mito caught his eye and shook her head. "Watch," was all she said and he frowned, turning blue eyes to watch as the Iwa shinobi 'toyed' with their 'prey'.

"Ready?" Madara asked Tobirama, the two reaching for each other's hand in unity without ever taking their eyes off of their enemies. the surge of chakra from the both of them was almost staggering, especially the almost sizzling feeling in the air as two completely opposites clashed together, water on fire and fire on water. Minato and pretty much everyone else expected the clash to result in steam and fog, like during their first training exercise when they had created a chakra rich mist to hide from his senses in which only Madara could see.

Instead, a spiral of water came from Tobirama and an equal spiral identical to it came from Madara, twirling around in the air, hissing as they collided the first time, the second time ... And then they merged, almost effortlessly, changing,shifting, the chakra gaining an entirely new feeling to it. The Konoha shinobi watched, entranced, completely forgetting that Minato was supposed to be getting them to safety, as actual fucking liquid fire sprung from the meeting of Madara's and Tobirama's chakra.

"That's ... not natural!" One of the former prisoners exclaimed in awe and some fear.

The Iwa shinobi were trying to get their shields up but none were strong enough. Water naturally defeated earth and fire had to be extremely hot to do earth any real damage, but liquid fire seeps into all the crevices in the earth and burns it out grain by grain. Their walls crumbled around them and Madara and Tobirama didn't move an inch as their attack chased them, taking on the form of a dragon.

A flare of chakra from them that didn't in any way affect their combined attack had Mito in motion and she took out the fan Madara's mother had gifted her with and was finishing the Iwa shinobi off in seconds just as their attack finally spurted out like a flame with no fuel left to feed it and a hiss of boiling water.

The Iwa shinobi were running before five minutes were up. Madara and Tobirama returned leaning heavily against each other while Mito silently fretted over them, almost stoically to an outsider, the feat having exhausted the two boys beyond anything their usual techniques could manage. "You'll need to work on that," the kunoichi admonished and stated in the same sentence and the two boys nodded. "I'll take these two back, sensei. Grab the others so we can return home and these two can rest."

"Right, Mito-chan," he conceded easily, wondering if he'll get to witness the two boys perfecting their new combo attack because nothing even similar to what he'd just witnessed had ever been done before and he was curious. Water and fire did not create liquid fire when combined, not even when it was a kekkei genkai like boil release, and especially not when two different people tried to do it. This was something to be looked into. "We'll set off to Suna as soon as they're rested enough."

The Konoha shinobi gave the three a wide berth in the camp when they passed them by.

00000

"They are aware that you're quite possibly the greatest katon user your clan, famous for its katon, has ever seen, right?" Mito asked as she and Madara stood before the walls of Suna, a distraction so that Minato and Tobirama could get inside and find the scroll. Tobirama was still fairly exhausted from what they'd done at Iwa not half a day ago but time was of the essence and none of them was willing to give up on the mission.

"Bah, let them underestimate us," Madara brushed it off, gunbai in hand so he can utilize wind as well as fire if the idiots tried to come at them. The biggest concern would be, perhaps, old Kankuro-sama's prized apprentice, Chiyo, the puppet mistress. Thankfully, Madara had recovered enough to be perfectly capable of using his Sharingan nonstop and seeing the chakra strings that controlled the puppets, thus allowing him to follow and predict their movements. Mito will have to take cues from him if the puppets are sent their way. "It will be easier to deal with them."

"True," the redhead agreed, spreading her war fan just as they both felt the signal Tobirama sent them. "That's Tobirama. They're in and they need all of the attention directed at us."

"Want to start out with a big fire or a big hurricane, Mito-hime?" The Uchiha asked with a teasing grin and the Uzumaki princess smiled.

"You do not wish to dance?"

"Perhaps when we do not need to make an explosive statement of strength in order to help the other half of our team to sneak into the Kazekage's own home and steal the scroll we're here for."

Mito pretended to think about it before the petty side of her that Madara - and the rest of his family, but mostly Madara - had been cultivating ever since she moved into the Uchiha Compound reared its ugly, scary little head. "We're on their home turf, in front of the walls of their village. Let's hurt their pride."

The wild haired boy smiled, not minding the hot weather, the sand on the wind or the utterly unnecessary amount of chakra they'll waste just to stick it to the Suna nin. "We'll make an Uchiha out of you yet. Mark my words, Mito. My mother will fight Ashina for custody."

"I think he'll run the other way when the Uchiha dragoness comes at him," Mito chuckled, all ladylike, as they moved to stand back to back so the arms holding their fans were turned with their backs towards each other's. "How strong should we make it?"

"It's not a sea of fire so let's go all out."

"Sounds reasonable." Then, in unison, they moved and slammed their fans together, causing a truly horrible whirlwind to come from the contact point, both of their chakras clashing and wrapping together at the same time as it hurtled towards their opponents. The move seems to have surprised the Suna ninjas as they gawked for a long moment before they realized what was going on and scrambled for cover or to return fire, but it was far too late. The wave of hot air - because Madara's chakra will always be fire first - hit them at full force, come being nearly cut in half from being hit at a bad angle.

They had to give it to Chiyo. She was collected enough, despite the powerful attack, to put up her puppets in front of her fellow Suna shinobi to protect them from most of the danger. Not that it was enough. They were still sent flying towards the imposing rock formation within which Sunogakure no Sato was built.

And then, just as they were recovering, the Suna shinobi got a surprise from behind their backs in the form of a tidal wave - more of a tsunami, but eh, semantics, right? - rushing through the narrow opening that led into the village outwards, flooding the desert around them. Madara and Mito had to retreat to the closest dune tall enough to get away from the force of the water that was sure to kill them if they stand in its way.

"Ah, it seems someone managed to annoy Tobirama enough to go a bit overkill," Mito observed as they watched more and more water gush out. The problem with a desert was that when, once in a few years, huge amounts of rain fall, there's nowhere for the water to go because the ground is so dry. Suna will be dealing with their 'sea' for a while.

Serves them right for annoying their teammate, both members of Team 4 thought.

"The bastards already extracted the information and sent it to Mizu no Kuni's tycoon, drug dealer and smuggling businessman, Gato, who payed a hefty fee for it," Tobirama revealed when he and Minato returned, as pissed as they had suspected him to be.

"The real problem is that Gato had hired Kumo's ninja to get the deciphered message for a smaller price if he shared the information," the blond man added, sighing. "This is a huge security breach. We'll need to go to both. And it's quite possible that Kiri's ninja are also involved."

"Let Gato have his message. He's too greed to share it with anyone else for now," Madara said with disgust and Mito nodded in agreement.

"Our priority should be Kumo. They'll definitely utilize the information if given the chance."

"Kumo it is," Minato decided and they huddled together as he teleptorted them to their destination.

00000

They got a full two days of rest before they had to engage the messengers. It's a good thing they ended up sending a message back to Konoha and another team had been sent to the Land of the Waves in Mizu no Kuni since there really was a rather great risk of Gato selling the information to Kirigakure, no matter how poor that village was compared to others. Kiri still had a bone to pick with Konoha after Madara had killed off their squad on their last major mission. They'd ignore their finances in order to get a chance at revenge. Kiri's shinobi were merciless for a reason.

The messengers they were fighting were an elite group of five, but the numbers would usually mean very little, all things considered, where Team 4 was concerned. The problem was that there were two menaces that were Kage level and they seemed obsessed with both Mito and Tobirama. As a result, Madara and Minato took on the rest of the squad, one of which happened to have a rather impressive boss summon. Minato had summoned Gamabunta in turn but toad against lizard, especially a giant chameleon that could not only cast an illusion over itself but became intangible, was a problem. Even with Gamabunta spitting out explosive mud balls to combine with Madara's fire attacks, the lizard kept out of their reach simply because it could vanish into thin air. Madara could track him, both senses-wise and with the Sharingan, but it didn't matter when the attacks won't hit the target.

Mito and Tobirama, on the other hand, were dealing with the two menaces called Kinkaku and Ginkaku. They were strong, they were fast and they wanted to steal Kurama's chakra from within Mito's Jinchuriki seal. Neither of the two wanted to ponder what for, as it didn't matter, in the end. The only thing that mattered was that the two won't be getting it. Kurama was prickly enough around humans and seemed to only want to talk with Madara. Those two had a pact or something, which allowed Madara to call the biju into the world without breaking Mito's seal and killing her. The Kyuubi will not be pleased if his power is once again used as a weapon, especially if it was against his new BFF.

"Tobirama, I'll give you a boost," Mito called and Tobirama was there in an instant, standing in front of the Uzumaki and creating a huge Topodama which she only reinforced with her futon. The combined attack managed to knock one of the Kumo brothers back but the other had evaded and was fast inbound for them. Too bad for him both Mito and Tobirama had taken their two days of respite to mark the whole area with enough of their Hiraishin markers that they could choose. Madara had only chosen strategic places and their sensei already had enough markers in the area to be sufficient in any fight that might break out. "Those two are persistent."

Tobirama grunted in agreement, hating that fact right now very much. It's been a tiring week so far and they all wanted to go back home. Especially him. He was in the mood for a good nap with his favorite pillow/chakra blanket. "I've got an idea," he said after a moment and took out a paper bomb with a slightly different seal than the usual. Mito eyed it warily. "Field testing is always going to be needed," he reasoned and the redhead nodded, having to concede a point. Still, they'd both have preferred if Tobirama had actually ran at least some proper tests before using them here. Or had a way to actually stop the ensuing massive mess that will no doubt follow.

"I'll signal Madara," the kunoichi said by way of permission and Tobirama grabbed a few more paper tags. Five ought to do the trick, really. It's not like there will be a lack of explosions or anything. Just as he was ready, Madara and Minato appeared at their marker, the older teen scowling as he regarded the albino.

"What the hell did I say about 'testing' your new jutsu in the field, Senju?"

Minato just blinked at them in confusion, having followed Madara's lead when the Uchiha had said Mito was calling them back. The teen had seemed angry and antsy. Not a good combination when the other half of the team was involved. Or any half that didn't immediately contain Madara. "What's going on, Tobirama-kun, Mito-chan?"

"Remember those consecutive explosions a couple of weeks ago?" The white haired boy asked, eyeing their confused and angry opponents as the searched the area. As though any sensor other than the four of them could ever get past Mito's scrambling wards.

"The ones that happened during Madara-kun's last mission to the Land of Hot Springs?"

"I was gone for eight days!" The teen in question groused, seemingly recalling how people had actually ran out to greet him with servings of inarizushi and all of his favorite sweets. Tobirama had grown thoroughly restless yet again, unable to sleep without Madara in the village and resorting to his experiments, but at least he hadn't gotten crazed like with the Raijin no Ken incident. Still, all Madara had learned about why he got such a greeting was that there had been explosions. Plenty of 'em.

"It was supposed to be four, so it was all your fault, anyway," the youngest of their group dismissed the now fuming Uchiha before turning back to his sensei. "Anyway, I was working with finding a more efficient way to blow more things up with just one tag. I succeeded."

"We think he succeeded. We didn't exactly get the chance to properly test the thing," Mito corrected. "We only got to do two tests before ANBU rounded us up thinking we were enemies attacking the village."

"You're a terrible sensei, I hope you know that," Madara said crossly to a baffled Minato.

"I took a few days off! I'm a father now, Madara-kun. My team wasn't all there and I had a chance to spend time with my wife and son. I can't possibly miss my little Menma's first words!"

"The kid's barely four months old! Babies start talking only around twelve, thirteen months and that's if they're prodigious!"

"Not the point," Mito reminded and the two fell silent when they saw the very Kushina look she was sporting with that overly polite smile. "Is there anything you need us to do, Tobirama?"

"I need a little bit of wind to spread the tags and preferably someone to set them off. Madara or Minato-sensei can do the second part."

"How wide of a damage radius should we expect?" The blond in the group asked, already planning for contingencies. "And how likely is it to work? Should I call back Gamabunta? I need this data to know whether I'll need to promptly Hiraishin us away from here, Tobirama-kun."

"Success rate is between 70 and 90%, range is ... debatable. The border crossroads would be the safest place nearby to go to. Call back Gamabunta unless you want him to be angry with you for leaving him in the line of fire when things start going boom."

"Sounds like we won't get a second chance at this," Madara observed, forgetting his earlier annoyance in the face of the mission at hand. "Let's get it right the first time."

Tobirama nodded, exploding tags ready. Mito focused her chakra and prepared the gale of wind while Madara took out shuriken and kunai and Minato reached out for the marker at the border crossroads.

"Ready?"

"Hai."

Chapter Text

The Gojo Kibaku Fuda worked like a dream, really, or so Madara thought as he surveyed the aftermath. The Uchiha had been sent back to the battlefield to make sure that, if not outright terminated, their foes will forget the contents of the message and that any copy of said message was burned to ashes, never to be recovered again.

'Tobirama really outdid himself with this one,' he thought fondly, even if a part of him was extremely exasperated by the panic and the chaos that the testing of this jutsu had created in their home village. Though given that they were a shinobi village, people really ought to have grown used to weird shit happening at the most random times of day, no matter how peaceful a day may appear at first sight. And while he didn't blame them for their panic, he silently judged them for it but let it all go in favor of focusing on the last dredges of the current mission.

There was very little left of what had once been a battlefield, thanks to Tobirama's insane new jutsu. The exploding tags had been multiplying for two hours and exploding for just as long. Tobirama apparently still had no idea of how to stop the jutsu at will but given that he's only ran two tests so far with this being the third, it was amazing work. As expected of the little genius, but still impressive.

Counting the bodies, including the giant chameleon, left him both befuddled and uneasy, because he could instantly tell that those two freaks that had been after Tobirama and Mito were still out and about. There was no sign of them anywhere despite their other teammates' bodies perfectly accounted for and those guys had been smaller and skinnier. Knowing he might not be alone, Madara instantly extended his senses and scanned the area with both eyes and senses, searching out for any threat.

He jumped out of the way of the first lightning attack just in time, his hands already going to form the hand seal for Katon: Goka Mekkyaku before he even zeroed in on one of the brothers. He had to commend him on using a doton jutsu to sink into the ground before the scorching fire could burn him to a crisp but he had no respect for any fool who thought they could sneak up on a sensor, especially the other brother who was trying to come at him from his 'blind'angle. Madara whirled around while still breathing fire and nearly caught the older shinobi in the face. The guy had just barely escaped but the fire had caught his left side. Those burns ought to be painful.

They were hiding again, obviously thinking that they actually can hide from him. The Uchiha tried not to give into his annoyance at being underestimated like that and instead focused on his senses. 'Well, there was no recovering this field,' he thought wryly as he found his two targets. They were just beyond the wall of fire, doing something with their chakras that he wasn't sure he liked but he knew it involved a technique that needed two shinobi with compatible chakra. Those were always shit moves and he didn't want to face against one of those on his own.

He let his hands fly through another hand seal, letting his chakra swell and then breathing out a bunch of dragon-headed fireballs with Katon: Ryuen Hoka no Jutsu. Those ought to keep the bastards occupied while Madara did one last sweep of the former battlefield and checked over the charred and once again burning bodies of his fallen enemies. It never hurt to be safe rather than sorry. The information was important and letting it fall into enemy hands could be fatal for Konoha in the long run. Thankfully, there was no copy lying around, which meant he just needed to deal with the two freaks.

Sighing and still keeping his senses extended, Madara started flaring his chakra in a rhythmic manner. -Go ahead without me. Held up. Freaks survived. Need to deal with them. Get to Gato. Meet you before midnight.-

He waited for a moment, two and then there were answering flares of water chakra a great distance away and he had to hold back a grin. -Roger that. Going now. Keep safe.- It was a new thing they had discovered. Or rather, Tobirama had thought up. Since he, Mito and Madara were already the best sensors along with their sensei in the Five Nations, why not utilize it in a manner no one else would understand or hope to achieve? Tobirama had thought up an entire encoded language based on the Morse code, only with flares in chakra and only the three of them knew the secrets to it. They hadn't even taught Minato-sensei, since they sort of sometimes used it to gossip about the blond's doting father syndrome when the man started talking about little Menma.

Sure, the kid was cute and they all liked him, but there was a limit to how much they wanted to hear about him while they were practicing shurikenjutsu or sparring. It got dull and distracting when their sensei started pulling out pictures and shoving it into their faces. Madara had once accidentally burned one of Mito's buns and she had nearly shaved Tobirama bald with a futon jutsu gone wrong when the man had put one of the baby's pictures in her face. Tobirama had once even spat out a handful of water formed senbon into all of their hides, despite his immaculate control, during one such session.

They deserved a way to tease him.

Besides, it was also for their own peace of mind. While never away on longer missions with anyone else but their own team, they still left the village without each other from time to time. With this skill, they were able to communicate at long distances and would be the first to know if any of their teammates were in trouble. And given they all carried at least one of each other's marked kunai, it would be easy to go to help.

He grunted when he just barely brought his guard up to stop an overhead downward strike to his head, having apparently lost concentration on the battle at hand as he searched for his teammates' response to his message. Madara cursed himself for his won stupidity as he soon found himself dodging more attacks, from two opponents and he had started off their little dance wrong-footed. It took him a few turns, a flip and three jumps out of the way before he could leap back headfirst into the rhythm of the fight and start dancing around the two brutes.

Jutsu were thrown about. Taijutus moves had them moving all across the flaming battle ground. Madara could feel reinforcements start approaching, though they appeared hesitant to come anywhere near to something that had caused all those explosions and now this fire, too. Madara preferred it that way but he didn't like how long this was taking. He knew nothing about his opponents, so he didn't know how long they can last in a fight like this while he himself had to go and possibly help his teammates at some point. Gato was obviously not above stringing three different shinobi villages along and there was no way to tell if he had hired nukenin as well and whether Kiri, too, would get involved since Gato operated on their territory.

A sudden, alarmed flare in Mito's chakra had him staggering right in time for the silver twin's fist to connect painfully with his stomach, sending him flying several dozen feet back and landing harshly on the ground. His only saving grace was that he had landed on the other side of his own fire wall, otherwise the two Kumo nin would have been on him in seconds. Say what you will about Uchihas and their fiery tempers and other unflattering attributes they were given because of their inborn katon affinity, but one good thing that came from it was that a skilled Uchiha will never get burned by their own fire. Or almost any fire. It takes skill and hard training but after a while, Uchiha can learn how to match the temperature of the fire with their own fire cores and thus protect themselves from burns and the such. Bless chakra and all that.

Also bless his clan's foresight to make their clothes fire resistant with seals. He would have died several times over from fire if that hadn't been the case.

He sat up, winded as he might be, breathing harshly as his eyes tracked the movements of his opponents through the flames - the Sharingan couldn't see tenketsu points like the Byakugan, nor to the distance it could, but it saw chakra in general and thus made it possible for him to track them - while he let his senses expand in the general area of where his teammates should be. He found Minato-sensei and Mito fighting a group of water natured shinobi of jonin to ANBU level - Kiri, no doubt - while a smaller group of five was escorting a much more familiar and much larger suiton chakra signature - unconscious, almost undetectable under scrambling and suppression seals but Madara grew up with that signature as an everyday constant and would find it if it was half a world away - away, towards the general direction of Kirigakure.

Shit! Tobirama's been kidnapped!

Kiri was rather poor right now. They needed the money, thus working with Gato. But the best possible money they could get was from Konoha as ransom for Tobirama, since he was one of the Hokage's nephews. Shit.

'Tsunade's gonna have kittens if she finds out.' Madara had no time to waste, not when Mito and Minato were still fighting. -I'm on my way,- he answered the kunoichi and focused back on the fight. He needed to end it, fast, before the reinforcements reached them and he had to waste even more chakra. He knew just the thing to do it with, too, hands coming up to fly through the necessary hand seals and flaring his chakra one last time in warning for Mito before he called out through the fire. "It seems that I am needed elsewhere so I will deal with you in a second."

"Did you hear that, brother?"

"I did, brother! The brat thinks he can take us out in a second!"

"Let's show him how foolish he is, brother."

Madara would have rolled his eyes but they weren't worth the risk of getting them stuck that way because of how hard an eye roll these two deserved. Instead, he just crouched down and placed his palm against the ground. "Kyuchiose no Jutsu."

A huge puff of smoke and a wave of killing intent intense enough to bring just about anyone to their knees followed and seconds later, out of the smoke and above the walls of raging fire appeared none other than the Kyuubi no Kitsune of Konohagakure with Uchiha Madara standing on its head, looking down with crossed arms at his enemies, who were gawking.

"You've summoned me, Madara?" Kurama mock asked, more to let his voice rumble through the earth and knock everyone who had not fallen to their knees from his presence alone onto their asses because he was an asshole like that and Madara could appreciate that kind of sense of humor.

"Hn, they did want to meet you. I thought I might grant them their wish while also ending this farce of a fight as fast as I can. Tobirama's in trouble."

The giant fox harrumphed. "I'll chew them up and spit them out in a second."

Madara grinned. "Take your time. I don't want to give you indigestion."

It was great having a biju as a friend.

00000

The group that had originally been sent by Tsunade to deal with the Gato/Kiri problem two days ago, when Team 4 hadn't been sure that they'll manage to intercept the leak on both sides startled in surprise when Uchiha Madara appeared seemingly out of nowhere behind them. They had unknowingly hidden themselves right next to one of Namikaze Minato's old Hiraishin markers and Madara had used it to get here as soon as he could since he could sense Tobirama within Kiri's walls.

He had been under a suppression seal for the last three hours or so. It's bound to happen any moment now, Madara mused as he greeted his fellow shinobi.

Fugaku nodded at him when he came to crouch down beside one of his third-knee uncles. "Madara. We were expecting all of Team Death. Is Minato not coming?"

Madara paused at the moniker and figured it was, at the very least, logical since they were Dai-Shi-Han, so he brushed it off. Their reputation mostly preceded them, anyways, so it's no surprise. "He got a sword through the stomach so Mito's stuck healing him. They're waiting for us on the way back. Is the message intercepted or do we have to worry about that as well as saving the Senju?"

"We managed to get the original and the decoded message from Gato. I took care of any memories they might have had of either document," the older Uchiha reassured. "We thought we'd meet up with you guys and do a sweep for any Kirigakure shinobi close enough to have been in any way involved. You can see by yourself how well that went."

"Why the hell weren't you with them?" Madara looked over to the Inuzuka woman that had spoken and arched an eyebrow at her.

"I was busy setting Kumo's territory on fire." He loved the shock he always saw when he referred to his ability to create huge seas of fire all by himself. Not even a year since he'd discovered the ability and yet people were still in awe and couldn't believe a kid like him could do it.

"So, what's the plan?" Hyuuga Hizashi asked, his Byakugan activated and staring into the distance, no doubt tracking everyone's movements. Madara allowed his own senses to extend and immediately found his friend ... In what appeared to be some sort of dungeon. With not nearly enough suppression seals to hold the place locked down and with far too few guards for the mood Tobirama will be in when he wakes up, takes off the seals and gets sensory overload.

Madara took off the scrambling seal from Mito and instead let his signature be loud and clear. A beacon for Tobirama. "We wait."

"Excuse me?" Came the expected reaction but Madara only grinned with a casual shrug.

"We wait. It shouldn't be long now. Tobirama's not usually one for naps. Well, not unless there's a secured perimeter and he can convince me to cuddle." The wild haired Uchiha did his best not to snicker when he saw how close his companions were to gawking. Of course, between his prickly personality, how poised Mito was and how downright serious Tobirama was all the time with that standoffish scowl of his, people would never imagine how tactile all three of them were. Fugaku knew, somewhat, since Madara's teammates were often over at their Compound, but not even he had actually seen them in cuddly action. Being powerful sensors has its side effects.

"What?" The Hyuuga asked weakly and Madara made a thoughtful expression for a second.

"Hm. Give it about a minute or so." There was a flare in that familiar chakra signature, a moment of calm before the first explosion shook the place as Tobirama overloaded the suppression seals. "Ah. I'm not going to be able to leave Konoha for a month, aren't I?"

"What makes you say that?" Fugaku asked, sounding bemused, even thought he actually knew how clingy Madara's teammates could be. The bastard was getting his kicks out of this!

Well, then again, while not as aggravating as his brother, Hizashi was still a punishment in Fugaku's eyes. Something from their own younger days that Madara never asked about. Scary stories about his mother's friendship with Kira-sama were already enough. Besides, he could always ask Minato-sensei and Kushina-sama. They had been in the same class, the lot of them. Wasn't Minato-sensei Fugaku's best friend or something?

Talk about a disaster.

Another explosion shook the ground underneath their feet and panicked shouting was carried by the wind to their position. Madara just arched an eyebrow as his answer, especially when the air became considerably lighter as all the water particles from the air were sucked away, dispersing the fog and then a tidal wave started rising. Kirigakure was, perhaps for the first time, completely visible without the need of any sort of doujutsu. And all of her shinobi were, also perhaps for the first time, panicking instead of acting like the cool, cold-hearted weapons that they trained them to be in life as in battle.

Because while they were a nation that prided itself on their suiton jutsus, there was no one capable of doing what Tobirama was doing now. It was an insult to their pride.

"Ah, there he is," he murmured to himself when he saw someone riding a wave that was coming dangerously close to a tsunami. He didn't need neither his sensor abilities nor his Sharingan to know who it was. Not with the cold control the person was displaying despite their small stature and then there was the shot of white hair. And white fur collar, never forget that. It was a gift from Kira-sama and Tobirama would kill for it. Through he might kill right now, indiscriminately, in an attempt to get to Madara. It's never a good idea to suppress a sensor's power, especially while they're unconscious, because the sensory overload upon awakening is about the same as suddenly giving a born blind man Sharingan or Byakugan sight. A sensor as gifted as Tobirama had it extra bad. He already needed moments of respite almost daily with hiding inside Madara's signature's field. To take away his senses and then for him to instinctively go around the suppressants and get the sensory overload was cruel. Madara was surprised his reaction wasn't more severe.

Then again, he was probably just trying to get to the most familiar chakra signature around to calm himself before he accidentally exhausted himself while trying to block out the world on his own. Suiton and futon sensors had it the worst, because their nature was practically everywhere.

Madara was waiting with open arms when a bleary eyed Tobirama finally focused in on him, dropped the water under his control and let it crash down onto Kirigakure and its shinobi, and just used Hiraishin to appear in front of him. The younger genin immediately snuggled into the Uchiha and just seconds later, his erratic chakra calmed.

"You ready to go home?" He asked, ignoring the gawking jonin behind him.

"'Bout time," the Senju groused and Madara chuckled, holding his friend like that for a moment, just letting the other soak up the comfort of touch.

"Should we use Hiraishin or do you think that would bee too much right now?"

"I'm about to pass out so probably not the best idea." It said quite a bit about Tobirama's current state that he had not even tried to snap at him for 'babying' him. Madara discretely ran a iryo scan on his friend and tried not to scowl when he detected signs of a mild concussion, poorly treated but nothing to worry about if Madara kept a steady pace.

"By foot it is, then." He looked over his shoulder to the still gawking adults. "You coming?"

They had no place dragging their feet. They hadn't just been dragged all over the Five Elemental Nations over the past week, invading four of the five great shinobi villages by themselves.

00000

Kushina threw the newest copy of the ANBU Black Book down on the table in front of Uchiha Ryukyu and (Hatake) Senju Kira as they were having tea, all the while bouncing little Menma on her free hip and arm. The two scary women she had looked up to as a child looked up from their game of Go and the Uzumaki grinned in excitement and second and firsthand pride as she opened a page and pointed to one of the newest additions on the page.

The other two mothers looked down and their lips quirked in proud and downright diabolically scary smirks.

"Flee on sight, you say?"

Chapter Text

Minato sighed as he saw all the other jonin senseis gathered in the meeting room at the Hokage Tower, as well as all the other jonin and chuunin and specialist jonin that will be part of the event that will be taking place in less than a month. He sighed even more in resignation when he saw that most of the other jonin were excited by this. As though they didn't run the risk of their teams getting maimed or killed.

Not that he worried about that happening to his genin during the Chuunin Exams.

Rather, he feared what Madara-kun, Mito-chan and Tobirama-kun might do to the other genin. Those kids were far too scarily efficient. Take after their mothers, those three.

Metal Lee seemed confident his team will do fine. Sarutobi Hiruzen, Homura and Koharu were good, though Lee-san had held them back three years by now. Once because they were too young, once because of injury and last year because they had gotten stuck on a mission that had lasted longer than had been anticipated. They were eager this time around.

Hatake Sakumo's team was also good and would be joining the Exams. Maito Dai, Hyuuga Boruto and Aburame Tenton had many successful missions under their belt and have been waiting for this opportunity for two years. Dai in particular was probably delighted to have a potentially good reason to pick a fight with Madara-kun, if what he'd heard was right, for the hand of the fair young Uzumaki princess. Minato sort of pitied the boy. Mito-chan was very much enamored with Hashirama-kun.

Speaking of Hashirama-kun, he and his teammates Inuzuka Kaito and Hyuuga Himawari under Uchiha Mikoto would also be joining the Exams despite the usual 'rule' of young shinobi being at least genin for a year first before they're allowed to participate. There were whispers of the Hokage playing favorites but Minato knew if that was true, Team 4 would have participated last year instead of him being summoned for this only now. As it was, the reason they were allowed to participate was probably Hashirama-kun's Mokuton. He was only the second person in memory to possess the Kekkei Genkai since the end of the warring era. People were eager to put such skills to use.

Sarutobi Sasuke had also applied his genin for the Exams. Uchiha Kagami, Akimichi Torifu and Shimura Danzo had attempted it last year, as had been the agreement between Sasuke-san and Lee-san, and they had went through with it even after the other team didn't show up. From what Minato heard, Morino Ibiki-san had so thoroughly terrified one of them that they hadn't even passed the first round. They seem to be better prepared this year around, judging from Sasuke-san's confidence.

It will be an interesting year, this one.

There were many others also applying their teams but many also chose not to do so this year. They all had good reasons and Minato ... Well, he wasn't sure. He was sure Kushina would bash his head in if she heard he messed it up for his team, but he just didn't know what to do. Would they even want to join? They'd returned from that hell of a mission with the hot potato game all across the Five Nations only last month. And while yes, they all were well rested by this point, they all seemed rather content to spend time with their families. And Minato himself had rather missed some down time with his wife and son. He'd rather not worry about the other three kids in his life while relaxing at home with Kushina and baby Menma.

"Hey, Minato, whatcha gonna do?" The ever casual, ever relaxed Genma-kun asked as he leaned over to whisper in his ear. Minato did his best not to get stabbed in the ear or cheek or eye by the man's ever present senbon that he liked to chew on. "I saw those brats of yours the other day. They look good. You gonna sign them up?"

"Uh-"

"Team Disaster is not signing up for the Chuunin Exams," Tsunade-sama's voice cut through the air like a whip and they all flinched, looking towards the woman like scared rabbits.

"Eh? Why not?" Elder Kurenai asked, sounding perplexed, and Tsunade-sama took out several missives from her pile of papers, spreading them out on the table. The Namikaze flinched when he caught sight of the village symbols at the top of every one of them. He has a feeling he's not really gonna like the answer.

"Is that ... Is that signed by the Kazekage?" Sakumo-san asked as he reached out for the missive from Suna. "He's not letting his genin anywhere near the Chuunin Exams if Team Disaster is participating?"

"Who's 'Team Disaster'?" Lee-san asked, staring down at the almost identical message from Kirigakure. "And what do all these people have against them?"

"Well," Tsunade-sama started, perhaps a bit too gleefully. "I do believe Senju Tobirama flooded Suna while Uchiha Madara and Uzumaki Mito had nearly destroyed the village with a hurricane between them. Iwa has a grudge against Tobirama and Madara after they nearly caused a massacre with liquid fire and they don't want that anywhere near their genin. Tobirama pretty much demolished Kiri from within and Madara had went out of his way to set fire to half of Kumo's outer territories and then summon the Kyuubi on them to get his point across. And that's not accounting for the things they did before that, like that mission with the client's betrayal and poison and a sea of fire and all that. Not to mention that all three of them are scarily good sensors, know Hiraishin, are the strongest shinobi of their chakra natures on record and are all iryo-nin trained by me personally." Minato tried not to squirm under the gawking going on around him. "They've been entered into every foreign Black Book last month with a flee on sight order. None of the other Kage want that faced against their genin, pride be damned."

The cackling wasn't audible but it was obvious in their Hokage's smirk.

"So Minato's team will wait until next year?" Sasuke-san asked, sounding confused. Mikoto-chan beat Tsunade-sama to the answer.

"If you honestly think those kids won't get even stronger by next year, you're delusional."

"So, what? They never enter the Exams? How are they going to become real shinobi?" Lee-san questioned, sounding confused. "Field promotions aren't exactly looked to highly upon. Most people think of them as a shortcut due to lack of skill and using a convenient situation to skip the Exams."

"The kids already have experience and knowledge the likes of which no child their age should have," Tsunade-sama replied, elbows on the table, fingers steeling in front of her at eye level. "You can each test them if you think it inadequate to just give them a promotion and you can do it as you please, just take into account that surprise attacks won't work on them and that you should never try to suppress Tobirama's chakra, unless you want Konoha to get the same treatment as Kiri. Other than death and permanent maiming, I leave it to you."

"It won't be the same if they don't take the written exam with everyone else, Tsunade-sama," Ibiki-san argued but the Hokage waved him off.

"They're the top of their year and they graduated early. Madara's the heir to his clan and Mito's the only daughter and princess for the Uzumaki main family so far and Tobirama is my nephew and one of the Senju main family sons and Minato's student, so they're all well acquainted with the knowledge of how to resist torture and how to keep important secrets to themselves. They also all skipped years in the Academy and they've just ran one of the most politically, physically and geographically taxing and dangerous missions last month. They held up under the Kyuubi's attack and were the reason it is now safely sealed away within Mito. They are young and rash but also incredibly strong willed and stubborn and intelligent. If you think you can ever intimidate them, then go ahead, Ibiki. My only advice to you would be not to do it around Uchiha Ryukyu or Senju Kira. Or around each other. I'm not sure which one of them would tear you limb from limb first. And remember they are medic nins, Ibiki. They can far too easily turn the torture session on you."

'And that's not even mentioning Mito-chan's Kongo Fusa, Madara-kun's Sharingan or Tobirama-kun's far too detailed knowledge of anatomy. Or Kurama-sama. Kurama-sama would gladly eat someone if one of them, especially Madara-kun, asked. And then there's Tobirama-kun's summons. Kaida-sama would also gladly tear apart anyone if Tobirama-kun asked. Never aggravate a Hatake. They are predators.' Somehow, Minato pitied Ibiki-san. His students weren't ones to intimidate, like, at all. The first day they met, they'd been as cool as a cucumber.

And now they seemed to have some chakra Morse code to communicate long and short distance without anyone else being the wiser. Minato could sense the flares in their chakra but they meant nothing to him without the code behind them. He wondered if he should mention that.

"But surely the children will be upset if they cannot advance in accordance to their skills!" Lee-san protested but Tsunade-sama only shrugged.

"Lack of a proper title or rank does not imply a lack of skill. I know what they're capable of. They've already been on numerous B and A and two S rank missions so far. None of them care. They know they're good. They don't need me or anyone else to confirm it for them."

"Are you sure you're not just playing favorites again, Tsunade?" Asked Elder Asuma, even though it was in a joking manner. The blonde leveled him with a deadpan look.

"When you tame a biju, you can talk. Besides, whoever said 'Team Disaster' are my favorites?"

'But they are,' a near hysterical part of Minato's mind whispered, recalling Tsunade-sama's glee as she listed his students as fully trained iryo-nin months ago. 'They are and you can't fool anyone into thinking otherwise.' "Why does everyone keep calling my team that? It was bad enough when they'd declared us 'Team Death' when Madara-kun met up with Fu at Kiri."

He was not whining. He wasn't. Mito-chan would have his head for such unseemly behavior.

"Because all of you are disasters," Tsunade-sama replied in a deadpan voice. "Honestly, Madara is sort of a disaster all on his own but that's more of a human disaster. You three, on the other hand, are utter disasters. If not for Uchiha, the three of you would level Konoha to the ground for Science."

That, Minato did not try to refute, as it was the truth.

"Better pray to the eternal flames that Madara-kun won't get pissed at you and decide to leave on a long term mission, Tsunade-sama. I don't think Tobirama-kun will appreciate it."

He's not sure whether Tsunade-sama was horrified, amused or annoyed by the truth of his statement.

00000

When he got home, he was greeted by the sight of his son being held in Tobirama-kun's arms while Mito-chan helped his wife prepare lunch and Madara-kun was setting the table, his three students bickering among themselves over something he had no hopes of understanding, at least not without a preview to what had brought on the conversation. Still, it was a thoroughly heartwarming sight, especially when Kushina turned around to smile lovingly at him. He wished his students would spare more than a distracted nod in his direction, but he knew how they got when a debate got intense and all three of them were involved.

"Look, I'm just saying that it's obvious who is Menma-kun's favorite. That's all," Madara-kun was saying with an amused huff, rolling his eyes at the exasperated glare Tobirama-kun spared him.

"What are you kids talking about?" Minato asked as he took off his jonin vest and tried not to think about the long meeting he had finally left behind or the news that he would have to break to his genin. It's not like he can actually hide it from them. Unlike other kids their age, they are perfectly well informed about the shinobi hierarchy and operating system and are rather well acquainted with the concepts of the Chuunin Exams.

Besides, he was a scarily good sensor himself. He knew lying or hiding would be utterly useless. And if Tobirama-kun catches him trying to lie ... Minato shuddered. The two boys on his team were almost unreasonably and unhealthily paranoid for their age. He would rather not think about what the two of them would think up as a suitable punishment.

Or interrogating method.

Minato was personally of the opinion that Ibiki-san had a lot to potentially learn from his three genin.

He smiled down at his son as he approached Tobirama-kun, reaching for his cute little Menma with a happy, adoring smile. The Senju easily gave up the baby he had been almost expertly lulling into sleep. Little Menma, though ...

Minato would have dropped him if not for his reflexes of steel when the baby let out a piercing, deafening wail as soon as Tobirama-kun let go entirely. "W-what's wrong?" Tha panicked father asked. Madara-kun just started laughing himself silly and even the two Uzumakis were giggling, Kushina more gleefully than her niece. Tobirama-kun just sighed and took Menma back into his arms.

The waterworks stopped like a switch was flipped and the little blond gurgled happily, clapping his chubby little hands.

When Minato tried to take him again, the baby started wailing all over again.

The Namikaze felt himself fall into a sulk in one of the corners like he'd seen Hashirama-kun do plenty of times. "My own son doesn't want me to hold him."

"To be fair," Mito-chan took mercy on him to pat his head in judgement and condescending sympathy even as amusement rolled off of her in waves. Kushina was having too much fun cackling along with Madara-kun to even try. "He's only like that because it's Tobirama-time. He'll greet you happily once he's had his fill."

"I told you that you were his favorite, snowflake," the Uchiha said through his chortles.

Tobirama-kun glared at him for a moment before a smirk spread across his face. "If he grows up to be a sensor, you will be his favorite, porcupine."

Minato let out a pitiful whine while Madara-kun looked horrified at the prospect of another clingy sensor type latching onto him. Kushina laughed harder. That, though, served to break Madara-kun out of his stupor and he in turn smiled a very pleasant, very teasing grin that couldn't possibly mean anything good at the youngest genin. "Well, I guess that means I just won't have much time left for you, between Mito's and Menma's cuddles, right Tobirama?"

Red eyes narrowed. "Don't even think that you can make me jealous of a baby, Uchiha."

"Well, it's good that you finally admit you're jealous of everyone else, at least," the younger Uzumaki remarked in good humor, obviously enjoying herself. The older redhead was already howling with laughter.

Madara-kun just shrugged. "Who knows? He might become my new favorite, too."

Minato was blind and deaf to the results of such teasing - the blushing, the bickering, the snickering, the growling - much too preoccupied with the realization that he will never be his son's favorite person because one of is students will probably always hold that title.

Kushina just kept laughing.

Chapter Text

Team 4 were casually walking through the streets, intent on going to Ichiraku's Ramen stand as Mito had requested, when a pair of far too familiar voices called out in a rather rude manner to them. All three genin were already on high alert and were seconds away from taking out their weapons and possibly skewering anyone who dares try and approach them. Especially the owners of those voices.

"Stop there, you bastard, and face us like a man!" Kinkaku and Ginkaku of Kumogakure, the two brothers that had shown a deep and unsettling obsession with Tobirama and Mito, snarled as they pointed their big, meaty pointer fingers rudely at Madara.

What unsettled all three of them were the three whisker marks on each cheek, almost identical to Menma's, that the brothers were now sporting. Menma's came from being exposed to the Kyuubi's chakra while in Kushina's womb and had practically made him a pseudo Jinchuriki for it. Madara didn't want to contemplate how these two got identical markings.

"I see Kumogakure figured out how to collect and seal away all of the residual energy from when you summoned Kurama-san to the fight," Mito observed in a cold voice, hand hovering over her kunai pouch. Tobirama was ready to unsheathe his katana while Madara had a finger over the seal Mito had tattooed into his skin to contain his gunbai.

Madara grit his teeth. He could just guess how the ancient fox will take that. "Didn't you two idiots get enough the last time? Or should we introduce you to the business end of another of Tobirama's inventions?"

"You guys don't look like much," another new voice, this one unrecognizable to the Konoha genin, commented and they saw an older teen with some strange little mustache over his lips and a funny haircut gazing down at them with lazy curiosity from where he was sitting on the roof of the nearby clothing stall. His eyes lingered on Tobirama, which made sense. Hozuki were rather proud of their 'ultimate' control over water and Tobirama sort of outshone any Kiri born ninja in that regard. "So you're the little Senju that made such a fuss in our village? I thought you'd be ... more." Tobirama only arched an eyebrow him, completely and utterly unimpressed. The other hummed, gaze flicking over to the long haired boy. "And you must be Uchiha Madara. I heard quite a bit about you. The name's Gengetsu. I look forward to testing the skill of one lauded to have such control over fire as you. My village's ninja still spread rumors about the ashes Konoha sent back."

Not Madara's fault that his Majestic Destroyer Flame left little behind in terms of bodies. Or bones.

"You can get in line, Hozuki," casually informed yet another new voice and Team 4 fell into formation when they realized they had potential enemies all around them. The newcomer was a weird person, covered from head to toe in bandages but he felt powerful and very peculiar to their senses. "Iwa has a bone to pick with them."

-Mu of Iwa.- Madara sent in flares of his chakra to his teammates, recognizing him on sight after having set out to remember the Black Book after they themselves made an appearance in it. -Jinton.-

"Iwa can also wait," another recognizable voice said and Chiyo came into view with a couple of fellow Suna shinobi. "They flooded Suna. We get first dibs. The Chuunin Exams will be the perfect opportunity to get them taken care of."

Mito blinked at them, face unflinching and pretty much deadpan. "We're not participating in the Exams."

"What!?" Came the predictable cries, though from even more voices than the people around them, but at least the other voices were familiar and welcome. Mostly. None of them wanted to deal with Dai at the moment.

"Anija, how can you not be participating in the Chuunin Exams?" Izuna, pushing past the much bigger twins with a burst of chakra, easily got to his brother and demanded, looking upset and indignant on Madara's behalf. "It's the Chuunin Exams! You guys are unstoppable!"

Madara shrugged. "We're not allowed to."

"But surely you can convince Minato-sensei to change his mind, right?" Hashirama asked as he looked between his brother, his best friend and his crush, obviously distressed. He'd been hoping that they could compete against each other and maybe even help each other through the Exams. "I'm sure you guys are more than ready to take the tests. If he's worried, you can just prove him wrong with-"

"No, we're literally not allowed to participate, Anija," Tobirama cut in, sounding exasperated. "If we had singed up, it's quite possible that the other villages would have withdrawn their own genin. Tsunade-sama got missives from all of the major villages that they refuse to send their genin if we are a part of the Exams, so we're stuck with patrol duty until this is all over."

"But isn't that ... rather dramatic?" Touka, who had been hanging out with the two boys, asked, ignoring Maito Dai's crying at cruel fate not allowing him to prove himself as a better man for Mito-hime than her other suitor and her insufferable brutish unyouthful love interest.

Madara spared a moment to stare at him judgmentally before shrugging. "As far as I'm concerned, this is better. I get to do missions and not worry about political repercussions for every broken bone."

"As for it being dramatic," Mito cut in with a very scary grin as she oh so casually adjusted her hitai-ate enough for their friends to see the hidden rhombus seal inked into her forehead and they were reminded that all three of Team 4 had the same seal. It made the two Senju and one Uchiha shudder. They'd seen these three when they went all on each other during training. Rare few would survive standing up against that. "We did cause a lot of trouble as of late. It's not all that dramatic at all. Not if people fear us for a good reason."

"You guys are rather scary," the elder Senju brother agreed, probably thinking of all the reasons they were scary to him, like how Madara threatened to not be best friends anymore if Hashirama didn't stop ambushing him with hugs every five minutes or how Tobirama gave him the cold shoulder whenever he embarrassed him in public - or, worse yet, in front of Madara - or even how much of his allowance he spends on one date with Mito as opposed to the three of them being literal menaces for enemies and allies alike, depending on the way their mood strikes. Hashirama pouted when he realized something very important. "I was hoping to fight you so we can show off and become chuunin together."

Madara reluctantly smiled at his silly best friend. "Sorry, but it's out of my hands. Though we can still train together. It will do you some good to keep your skills sharp before the final exam. You know how easily distracted you get, even during a fight."

"Really?!" Completely ignoring the critique to his attention span - which was overall dangerously short for someone hoping to become an elite ninja - Hashirama beamed at the Uchiha heir and snatched him up into one of his bone-crushing hugs. "Thank you, Madara! You truly are kind! Oh, we're going to have so much fun! You guys will come watch, right?"

"We'll be there for every match," Mito promised with a smile and the brunet looked close to tears. Madara rolled his eyes and pushed the dork away.

"If you will be sparring, then I demand a rematch for your unyouthful behavior from our last one! I will not let you hide behind innocent youths like a coward this time and I will prove my worthiness as Mito-hime's ideal partner!" Dai's yell startled them all and Madara turned to scowl at the annoyance, only to stare with wide, fascinated Sharingan eyes when chakra chains, glowing faintly and rattling with every move, appeared seemingly out of nowhere to snatch the green menace up and shake him for good measure before bringing the older boy to their redheaded wielder's eye level.

"Stop harassing my friend and stop claiming me as yours. I'm not an object. If I hear you talking like that ever again, either about me or Uchiha Madara, I will seal your mouth shut with an unbreakable fuinjutsu."

"Well, at least she's not as violent or as descriptive as Tsunade-sama and Kushina-sama," Tobirama remarked as he, too, looked on in admiration and pride for their friend and teammate. "I still pity Anija."

"Why? He's obviously a masochist." Uchiha Izuna, who has grown up around Uzumaki Mito without the rose-tinted glasses his older brother wore for his two sensor friends, knew just how much of a masochist Hashirama had to be in order to have such a serious crush on Mito. He had his own father as a prime example, after all. Tajima obviously had a few screws loose when he decided to propose a blood-soaked Uchiha Ryukyu in the middle of a blood bath of a battlefield during the Third Shinobi War. Mito had been thoroughly adopted into their household as if she were their blood sister and not one of Madara's closest friends.

Then again, maybe he had inherited that trait from his father, too. He had a crush on Touka, after all.

And then there was the Senju brand of masochism. Izuna would have to be blind not to see that his own Academy rival had the hoots for his older brother and Madara took after Ryukyu in all things. Then again, so did Tobirama after the ever scary Kira-sama. And the two scary women were best friends.

It sounded like a match made in heaven from one of Hashirama's disgusting love novels that he always left lying all around Madara's room if he came to sleep over.

It was disturbing.

"Mito, let him go. Weren't we going out for ramen for lunch?" Madara, taking pity on Dai - it wasn't his fault he'd obviously been dropped on the head as a baby - called out to the kunoichi, and in predictable Uzumaki manner, she forgot all about Dai and turned around to lead the way to Ichiraku's Ramen stand. The Uchiha just shook his head and followed after with Tobirama falling in step with him. Izuna and Hashirama paused for a moment before shrugging and inviting themselves to lunch. It's not like the three were hurting for money with the missions they got sent to.

The street cleared up pretty fast, leaving a bunch of confused and enraged shinobi in Team Disaster's wake.

"Did they just forget about us!?"

Chapter Text

The Chuunin Exams finally started, and with them, Konoha fell under the scrutiny of foreign shinobi from all over the continent. Security was so tightly knit that presumably not even a fly could get in.

Madara, who often felt a stranger's eyes on himself these days, didn't agree. There was obviously a breach somewhere but he could not yet discern what gave him this bad feeling and how anyone would have managed to sneak past four sensors the likes of himself and his teammates and their sensei when they were put on patrol duty for that exact reason. Or how anyone would manage to skulk around him often enough for him to become a bit paranoid when he always had at least one of his teammates with him at all times. If Tobirama didn't detect anything, then maybe he had become paranoid.

Only his eyes always caught something almost completely out of his field of vision, somewhere in the corner of his eye.

And the Sharingan never missed anything.

He often found himself wondering if it was Mu of Iwa, but the guy was detectable to sensors, especially ones as talented as Tobirama, Mito and Madara were. If it had been the bandaged annoyance, Tobirama at least would have sensed him, since his skill and talent in that regard was unparalleled. But not even Minato-sensei seemed to detect anyone there and was always calm and off guard as much as a shinobi could ever be.

It made the Uchiha uneasy. What did the presence want? Why were they following him? What were their intentions? He grit his teeth at the mere thought that they might be bloodline thieves. He won't allow them to come anywhere near his eyes or his family and clan.

Still, the presence managed to skulk around him for the duration of the entire first part of the Exam, eyes not following him only while the Exam was actually taking place which made him even more suspicious of the visiting shinobi, and then he didn't feel those eyes on him for the first two days of the second stage of the Chuunin Exams. Then, he, Mito and Tobirama were running into the forest because they had felt distress in Hashirama's chakra signature and they knew, without a doubt, that something was wrong. Hashirama, while usually goofy and easily distracted and loud and overly emotional, was actually an outstanding ninja and rarely allowed his cheery personality to interfere with his missions and life as a ninja. This would be the first time that they'd felt him so distressed before and they knew something serious had to be at hand for him to react so strongly.

Only when they got to where Hashirama's chakra signature was burning brightly, they found a rather ominous scene before them. Hashirama and his team were fighting what appeared to be two Otogakure teams. Or rather, they were fighting an Otogakure team and a rather 'old' genin from another team. And to be more precise, Hashirama alone was fighting them, his teammates unconscious on the ground behind them, the trembles in their bodies suggesting they must have been petrified, probably through released killing intent.

What was perhaps the most worrying thing was the giant ass snake that the older 'genin' was commanding and how it appeared strong enough to wrap around Hashirama's mokuton golem like a python and was slowly crushing it to defeat. Hashirama was sweating, obviously trying to concentrate and maintain his jutsu while also doing his best to fight off the other three Oto genin.

This was planned and while it wouldn't be against rules for teams from the same village to help each other, the older 'genin' sent bad vibes racing down Madara's spine.

"Something isn't right with his chakra," Tobirama said not a second later, red eyes trained on the snake-controlling male and Madara was glad that it wasn't really just his imagination but that it was real. "That one's no genin. His chakra levels alone would suggest at least jonin but that summon ... "

It was at exactly that moment that the male looked up at them and Madara felt a whole new shiver race up and down his spine, his Sharingan practically slamming into place as survival instincts all but begged him to either flee or activate Byakugo to demolish the clearing with one swift brutal punch. But he didn't. Tobirama and Mito each placed a hand on his person out of everyone's sight, obviously catching onto the distress of the one person they were almost constantly tuned in to. Madara was glad for the support.

"Oh ho ho. If it isn't the lovely Team Disaster," purred-hissed the snake summoner, unsettling said genin to the point that Tobirama's hand was already twitching for his Raijin no Ken and Mito's chakra was practically audible like clicking and clanging chains. Madara himself had to refrain from taking out his gunbai. They weren't supposed to be here. They weren't supposed to in any way interfere with the Exam. They could get seriously punished for it if anyone ever found out they had been here at all. "The young academic genius Senju Tobirama-kun, the new Kyuubi Jinchuriki Uzumaki Mito-san and, of course, the little marvel of a firespitter, Uchiha Madara-kun. Your Sharingan seems quite impressive."

The almost physical caress in those words made Madara recoil in disgust, Mito glare in warning and killing intent and Tobirama bare his teeth in a snarl like one of his snow leopard summons in a protective rage only his family and his teammates can ignite. Hashirama, who had been watching this sine the fight stopped the second the creep caught sight of them, calmed in his own cold rage because those were his precious people and that was his best friend on the receiving end of such unwanted attention.

"Are you a bloodline hunter?" The older Senju asked sternly, Exam and fighting forgotten. It would make sense if he was. Hashirama was the only one who had inherited the mokuton, after all. And Madara indeed did have quite impressive eyes for a child of his age. His father had always made a point to point out how proud he was and especially that Madara's success and stubbornness in training seemed to be rubbing off on Izuna and maybe a bit on his other brothers. But those thoughts only steeled Madara more, making him suppress his emotions almost completely for no other reason than so he can focus on the man - possibly a bloodline hunter, he has yet to refute that - who might be a threat not only to his best friend but to his family and clan as well. And as Clan Hear of the Uchiha, Madara won't let anything happen to his clansmen.

"Hm, not so much a hunter, Hashirama-kun, as a collector." No one liked the way the man sounded like a snake as he talked. "You see, I have this goal. I want to learn all the jutsu in the world, but there are limitations that I need to get past if I want to achieve that. Namely, time. Reading a jutsu and learning about it is all good and well but I would still need time to master it so I can use it. Not to mention that the human brain can accept only so much new information before it starts purging the old data, which is counterproductive for my goal. This is where Madara-kun comes in."

"Even if you were to get my eyes, that wouldn't give you immortal memory. That's solely an Uchiha thing. The Sharingan may copy and forever preserve memories but not everyone can access the amount of information it stores," Madara replied in hopes of deterring the man from attempting to, apparently, take his eyes. "Nine out of ten people who ever managed to get their hands on the Sharingan went mad and that one percent I mentioned before died from chakra exhaustion. Only Uchiha minds and Uchiha bodies can handle the full scale of a Sharingan." 'Especially if it's forcefully taken away, but you don't need to know that. Better keep that from everyone so no one ever attempts to blackmail any Uchiha in an attempt to get a willing set of eyes.'

THe man chuckled and this time Madara didn't resist channeling chakra into the storage seal on his arm to take out his gunbai. "I guess it is good I don't plan on simply using your eyes, isn't it, Madara-kun. After all, after a certain amount of time, each snake must shed its old skin to continue living a healthier life."

"You have a jutsu to take his body?" Tobirama, as always, figured it out first and the disgust in his voice was almost surprising as usually it was inquiry in a new discovery. The Uchiha reminded himself to treat Tobirama to some sushi and blueberries later. Rarely ever does the white haired preteen abandon a line of questioning and a quest for new knowledge. It felt nice to know he was more important to the Senju than some new jutsu. Though this one made him sick to his stomach.

"Are you sure you don't want to become my student? I'm sure there would be plenty I could teach you," the man offered, eyeing Tobirama up and down now as well and Mito released a growl that reminded both boys a bit too much of Kurama for their comfort and peace of mind. It was never a good idea to piss of the Kyuubi's Jinchuriki, especially if it was an Uzumaki. (All three so far have been.) "With a sharp mind like yours and my experience and gathered knowledge, just think of all the jutsu we could discover, that we could create. Immortality would be but the first step towards infinite knowledge."

"You're the Snake Sannin, aren't you. Orochimaru of the old Hebi Clan." Mito and Madara turned to regard their youngest teammate, stunned by this observation. Evidently, so was the man, one of the Legendary Sannin, apparently. "Don't look at me like that. It wasn't hard, though i am ashamed it took me that long to recognize your clan chakra signature. And the snake summon was a dead giveaway. You're Mitarashi Anko's runaway student."

"That would explain how he got into Konoha without anyone noticing," Mito murmured to herself and Madara had to grunt in agreement. Orochimaru may have been registered as a nuke-nin but that didn't mean he suddenly didn't know how to get around the protective barrier around Konoha without disturbing it. In fact, even if it had been changed, the signs required to get past it, it wouldn't be impossible to get the required knowledge if one was strong enough and knew how to capture a stray ANBU on a mission. As a former Konoha nin of high enough status to have gone on missions with ANBU teams before his defection, Orochimaru would know all the procedures, the hide spots and the ambush points, the rest stops and the most likely routes any ANBU unit or singular agent might take. Very little was needed to gather enough information about the patrol schedule, capturing an ANBU at Orochimaru's level would be like a game and then all that's left was to find the right disguise and enter Konoha unnoticed even if he was one of the most notorious and infamous names in the Black Book.

"He's already wearing someone else's skin," Madara realized as his Sharingan detected no genjutsu or Henge but caught on to the fraying chakra that seemed to leak out here and there. The Sharingan can't see the tenketsu points like the Byakugan but he could sure as hell see the tears that normally wouldn't be there on a normal human body housing the soul and chakra it should be. The implications make him sick. "There's no way you're here only for an ultimate makeover. State your purpose." At the same time, he flared his chakra to signal his teammates. -Tobirama, Hiraishin, Raijin no Ken, shatter the mask. Mito. You. Me. Distraction. Flaming hurricane.-

-Acknowledged.-

"You're right. I was hoping to take Hashirama-kun with me as well. He's got quite the healing factor that I would like to study." Tobirama snarled at the threat to his brother and Madara had to put a hand on his shoulder to hold him back from attacking before they were all ready. Besides, he and Mito also wanted to rip Orochimaru apart, too.

(Maybe they should be afraid to be facing one of the Legendary Sannin with no adult help, but fuck that. If they could stand up to a raging - controlled or not - Kyuubi, they can stand up to this snake.)

"Cut the bullshit and just say why you're here. What do you want from Konoha?"

"Now, that would be telling, wouldn't it," the Sannin chuckled, gesturing for his ninja - it was sort of obvious - to prepare for a fight. Mito leveled them with a deadpan look.

"He exhausts me. Let's kill him." No sooner than those words were out of her mouth, she and Madara both started making hand seals and a fireball and a sphere of wind collided, making the flames burn brighter and larger and they sent it at the Oto group in general. Tobirama vanished from their side, but not that the trying to escape 'genin' noticed. Orochimaru just melted into the tree behind him and left his snake to die in the scorching heat. Unfortunately for him, he was facing sensors, one of whom rivaled Minato-sensei despite his young age, a group of sensors who knew how to silently communicate with each other and the second Tobirama revealed where he could sense the Snake Sannin, Madara threw his gunbai to cut off the tree limb, Mito following up with her Kungo Fusa, the chakra chains wrapping around Orochimaru at least just long enough for Tobirama to Hiraishin in front of him from the marker on Madara's gunabi, Raijin no Ken at the ready and slashing through the man's middle as easily as a well sharpened katana did through butter.

Only it was creepy as fuck to see snakes sprout from Orochimaru's head, slither away from where a shocked Tobirama was staring and looking a little green in the face - as expected; Madara wanted to hurl his lunch and breakfast out and even Mito was making a face of disgust - only to pile up and then somehow grow back into a human. Creepy as fuck or not, it was one hell of a useful jutsu.

The only thing creepier than that was the fact that Orochimaru now looked like himself and was using the freakishly long snake-like tongue he was infamous for to lick his lips as golden, snake-like eyes roved over all three members of Team Disaster. "You've all looked impressive when I'd observed you from afar, but I see that your magnificence is even greater up close. Now I really want to have you."

Madara may have vomited a bit in his own mouth. "You're the one that's been stalking me all over the village!"

"What!? Why is this the first time we're hearing about this!?" Demanded Tobirama immediately, obviously disturbed by this information. Madara understood. Given how they are practically inseparable if given the choice, if any one of them is being stalked, so are the other two.

"And how didn't we notice?" Mito asked seconds later.

"You noticed me?" The Sannin asked as well, sounding incredulous at this.

Madara's eyebrow twitched at all the answers he needed to give. "He was somehow managing to mask his signature. I didn't sense him, I saw him. From the corner of my eye or as just a glimpse, but that's more than enough for the Sharingan. And I didn't say anything because I wasn't sure. I had started thinking I was becoming paranoid due to the patrolling during the exams! How I wish now that that was the case."

"Did he follow us to the onsen?" A very deadly sounding Mito asked and was met by silence from all parties involved. Red chakra enveloped her body. "Oh, that bitch is going to die."

"Seconded," Tobirama ascertained, already pulling out those accursed multiplying exploding tags of his, a glint in his eyes that almost made Madara pity the peeper creeper. Only almost. Instead, he let his Sharingan spin as he made the horse hand seal, letting his chakra build.

Hashirama was already erecting a new wooden dome to protect him and his teammates.

Before they could give Orochimaru his just deserts, though, a flash of yellow that brought with it the smell of ozone appeared before them, Minato-sensei obviously using one of the markers all of his students had at hand in case they needed assistance. The blond immediately turned to them, checking them over for potential injuries. "Kids, I felt some serious spikes in your chakras. I came to see if you're in trouble. What are you even doing here? Your patrol route is on the opposite side of the village!"

Madara cursed up a storm when he saw the Snake Sannin use the momentary distraction to sink into the ground and disappear. "Damn it, Minto-sensei! The creep got away!"

"Way to ruin our fun, sensei," Mito added her own two scents, her voice lower and gravely with Kurama's undertones. Clearly, the Kyuubi had been looking forward to disciplining Orochimaru as well.

"Great. How are we supposed to find him now?" Tobirama grumped and Minato just looked from one of them to the other, clearly puzzled by their reactions to being 'rescued' or 'assisted'. It was not exactly a normal reaction to being saved. Then again, not everyone was Team Disaster. Uchiha were practically bred and born for war and battle, Tobirama's second mother was an actual snow leopard who had taught him to hunt large herbivores with his bare hands before he reached two digits and Mito had an actual 'fox demon' sharing her body and her mind space and Kurama wasn't exactly a pacifistic individual.

"Is it safe to come out now?" Hashirama's voice cut off whatever questions Minato-sensei was about to ask, bringing everyone's attention to where he was doing that freaky thing where he projects his face on any wooden surface to communicate with people. Or just eavesdrop on his three precious people if he feels like he can get away with it.

Madara sighed, exasperated. "Yeah, yeah. The fucker's gone. You can come out now."

If anything, the Namikaze only looked more and more confused by the situation. "What's going on? Why are you guys here? Are you actually helping Hashirama-kun!? That's against the rules-"

"We have a breach, possibly a mole," Mito easily cut in, the red chakra fading back into her body.

"Correction," the Uchiha couldn't help himself. "We have a pedophile peeper creeper."

"We need to talk with Tsunade-sama," Tobirama concluded and started leading the way back, leaving Hashirama to deal with his fallen teammates.

Minato-sensei, clearly confused as fuck, had no choice but to follow.

Chapter Text

Tsunade wasn't even surprised at this point. In fact, nothing could really surprise her right now. Not after dealing with the most brilliant and quite possibly the most terrifying genin team any Hokage could have put together for over a year and a half now. What's an attempted invasion consisting of Suna, nukenin that make up Otogakure and with Orochimaru at the head of it all, raising zombies after a couple of eleven year olds and a ten year old report that they sealed the Kyuubi for you? Or hearing ANBU reports about those same genin terrifying the other Kage into refusing to send their own genin for the Chuunin Exams if they participate after a single week long mission?

Really, Tsunade was so done with this shit that she didn't even feel it in her to rage when Uzumaki Naruto and Hatake Kakashi were raised from the dead, though she did feel a twinge of worry about the failure of the third Edo Tensei. She can only hope it's because the DNA sample was contaminated.

She didn't want to think about a reality where a still alive Uchiha Sasuke might be running around the world unsupervised.

"Why is this my goddamned life?" Tsunade found herself, for the lack of a better word, bitching, rubbing at her forehead with her fingers to alleviate a headache.

In true Hatake Kakashi fashion, the masked Nidaime Hokage smiled with just his eyes. "Maa, maa. That's because you have Uzumaki, Namikaze and Senju blood all running through your veins, Tsunade-hime. That's a cocktail for disaster. Really, the only thing missing is a bit of Uchiha blood to make it final."

"Konoha looks so great," beside him, the Shodaime had streams of tears running down his face as he looked at the modern version of the village he had dreamed of and built with his best friend's brother turned somewhat friend turned rival turned enemy.

Behind them, Orochimaru looked mighty pleased with himself. Then again, he and his cronies had managed to mascaraed as the Sunagakure delegation while the Sandaime Kazekage seems to have been rotting in some ditch for a while. Suna has been tricked into attacking her allies and now Konoha was being invaded and during the Chuunin Exams, of all times. No one would have thought anyone suicidal enough to attack any hidden village during such an important event, especially not the single winner of all three Shinobi Wars, since security was at its maximum. Then again, it was Orochimaru, who had once had too high a clearance to not know how to evade Konoha's usual means of protection.

The attack would have probably come off as a complete surprise if not for Team Disaster and Hashirama. Konoha, once again, owed those kids. A lot.

And while they might have prepared for a confrontation, they still couldn't exactly predict what Orochimaru, that bastard, would do. To time his attack on the moment Hashirama injures the Ichibi Jinchuriki and cause Rasa to lose control and practically unleash the beast as the starting point was rather risky but utterly brilliant. After all, no one wants Shukaku of the Sand rampaging around in their village. To have a group of shinobi summon Manda of all snakes as well as other war serpents just outside or within Konoha's walls had their defenses scrambling. Good thing Tsunade had called Jiraiya back to the village so he and his toads can deal with those. The nukenin army was not appreciated, nor was the sleeping genjutsu in the Arena.

All put together, it would have been a wonderful and very successful strategy.

If only Orochimaru hadn't gotten arrogant and underestimated the team the other nations refused to pit their poor, unsuspecting genin against.

As it was, the surprise was minimal and the genjutsu rendered all but useless in light of their foreknowledge that something will go amiss. The Konoha Military Police had been on high alert since Madara revealed Orochimaru had a way to avoid sensory detection and was after Kekkei Genkai for his 'collection'. Every single Uchiha who was a part of the Military Police Force had been patrolling the village and all of their other clansmen had spread throughout the village to be of assistance. They led squads and went undercover, searching for that something in the corner of your eye that makes you uneasy as hell.

And, as fate would have it, Senju were helping them.

And, as luck would have it, Uchiha Tajima was now fighting back to back with Senju Butsuma, both competing how many enemy nin they could take down while Uchiha Ryukyu and Senju (Hatake) Kira set the world ablaze in fire and lightning, right here in the arena, protecting genin and children and civilians and clients alike.

And, as both luck and destiny would have it, Team Disaster hasn't left the village since the Forest of Death incident, therefore Konoha had its best defense against any rampaging biju right in the village.

So, all things considered, Tsunade wasn't all that impressed with her former teammate, though she despised him for reviving her family like this, to use them as weapons against everything they loved. Uzumaki Naruto and Hatake Kakashi were devastatingly dangerous and powerful, shinobi geniuses (and an intellectual genius as well, in Kakashi-sensei's case) and the strongest shinobi of their generation. With one being the first Kyuubi Jinchuriki and the other mastering over a thousand jutsus, they were too much even for Tsunade to handle, at least all by herself.

And it would have to be all by herself. The one thing Orochimaru ensured besides having two of Konoha's Hokage's fight for him as immortals with limitless chakra was to have his four cronies seal them off from the rest of the fight. Tsunade honestly doubted even Kakashi-sensei's Chidori would be able to cut through this barrier, which meant it was three on one if Orochimaru decided to fight as well and she didn't even have more than a single rooftop to fight.

"Are you impressed, Tsunade-hime?" The Snake Sannin asked with that infuriating half smile of his that meant he was unbearably smug about his achievement. "Kakashi-sensei, do you see your mistake in choosing your successor? She has made Konoha so weak. It must be such a disappointment. Ne, Shodaime-sama?"

"I think Tsuna did a great job, dattebayo!" The Uzumaki protested and Tsunade tried not to think all that much how much that praise meant to her. She'd been fearing that the only good thing she had done as Hokage was put Team 4 together. "Look at how well off Konoha is! Look how many people there are, all those children, so many nobles coming to see how strong we are! All the nations coming together to celebrate the skill of our youths!"

("YOUTH!" Rock Lee and Maito Dai yelled together from somewhere, as if sensing Youth was being talked about somewhere. The nukenin and Suna's shinobi looked rightfully flabbergasted and frightened by the two weirdos.)

Tsunade saw Orochimaru frown and prepared herself, knowing her once friend won't be happy about that. "Perhaps you are just too biased and blind to see where you are mistaken. Fear not, for I will show you. Now, if you would please, Shodaime-sama, Nidaime-sama."

"I'm sorry, Tsunade-hime," Kakashi-sensei said with a slightly strangled voice as the controlling tag made him move a step forwards. "But we don't have much choice."

"We have to do something!" Sakumo, who was standing just outside of the barrier with an equally worried Minato, exclaimed as the blond Hokage then took a step forward as well, hands already coming up as though to form a jutsu. Tsunade was just grateful that it was Kushina who was in charge of keeping the children and civilians safe since she had to keep Menma safe as well. She wasn't sure how her distant cousin would take seeing her grandfather being manipulated like nothing more than an undead puppet on invisible, unbreakable strings.

Tsunade resigned herself to activating her Byakugo, her only way to stay alive against these two, even if she had no way to win-

"Hn. Are those the Shodaime and Nidaime Hokage? They don't look all that impressive." The two undead Hokage, the alive Hokage, the two jonin, the nukenin Sannin and his four cronies all whirled around to see Madara standing on the opposite side of Minato and Sakumo, arms crossed, gunbai on his back, a truly unimpressed scowl on his lips. His Sharingan was spinning slowly as he leisurely inspected the barrier, no doubt looking for a weakness to be exploited.

When his words registered, Tsunade's granduncle reacted just as she remembered him always doing. "Hey! What did you say, brat!? I'll show you impressive!"

The Uchiha snorted. "I doubt it."

"Ah, Madara-kun. I wasn't sure if you'd be joining us," Orochimaru said as a greeting, obviously pleased. Madara turned his head just enough to look down his nose at the Snake Sannin and arch an eyebrow. The way Orochimaru's eye ticked at that had Tsunade repressing a snort. Madara was rather talented at being obnoxious and angering/annoying people when he felt like it.

"Yeah, unfortunately, you're all just a pit-stop before I need to go get shit done."

"Pit-stop? You consider your previous two Hokage, two of the strongest shinobi in history, to be mere pit-stops?"

A blue flash from the corner of her eye was the only warning Tsunade or anyone else had of Tobirama's appearance. "Unfortunately, that's how our lives are," he said casually, face blank, voice almost entirely a deadpan, though there was a curiosity in his eyes while regarding the two Edo Tensei that Tsunade would rather not think about. She knew these boys since they were babies and had learned early on how dangerous Tobirama's curiosity could be. Especially since she knew he had done research on the fucking Edo Tensei. "Verdict?"

"It'll do." Their heads all snapped from Tobirama to Madara, confusion clear on all of their faces because what were these two talking about!? Then, Madara took off the gunbai from his back and Tobirama drew his Raijin no Ken from seemingly out of nowhere and Tsunade had to good sense to not trust that the barrier will be enough to keep her safe if these two tried anything so she jumped the fuck backwards so she'll be mostly out of direct range of whatever shit was about to go down. Better keep Byakugo for later if she can help it.

"Why are their chakras pulsing that way?" A curious Naruto asked, head still snapping between the two boys as if that would somehow answer his questions.

Minato, though, seemed to know what was going on as he advised Sakumo to get back. "I have no idea what their plan is but they're definitely planning something and it would be for the best for us to not get in the way."

And as soon as their sensei was safe enough away, there was a pulse of chakra from both boys before they suddenly lunged for the barrier, weapons first. Now, Tsunade didn't know much about either the great Uchiha gunbai or the Raijin no Ken. All she knew about them was that the gunbai supposedly absorbed attacks and turned them into wind counterattacks while the Raijin no Ken was a sword made of literal lightning. They were deadly and Madara and Tobirama used them regularly since they got them.

What she had never thought they could be used for was breaking the barrier.

Well, not on their own. A new flash overhead was the only warning they had before some of the Kyuubi's chakra swept over them and then there was a rattling of chakra chains before there were five places of impact at the exact same time. Tobirama and Madara each had the center of the longest sides of the rectangular barrier while Mito was using her Kongo Fusa for the two shorter sides and was actually punching the top of the barrier with a two tailed chakra cloak covering her body. The entire barrier wavered and the tiles of the roof shattered under the pressure. The shock-wave threatened to knock them all off their feet from the second the attacks all connected.

"What the fuck is going on!?" The only kunoichi in Orochimaru's group yelled over the noise of the collision.

Then, with a sound that was somehow as deafening as it was actually pretty quiet, cracks started appearing on the barrier and the purple energy field shattered. The four shinobi who had been acting as the grounding corners of the thing collapsed to their knees, gasping for breath, their hands burned and smoking from the backlash. Minato had grabbed Sakumo at some point and Hiraishined them away. Tobirama had used his own Hiraishin to join Madara behind the broad protection of the gunbai while Mito seemed unruffled beneath the Kyuubi's chakra cloak when she landed besides her teammates. Tsunade had hunkered down as close to the roof as she could and clung with chakra with all of her might and Orochimaru seems to have ordered the two Edo Tensei to shield him when the barrier had reached its limit.

"Well, that worked out just how we thought it would," Mito commented idly as she surveyed the devastated rooftop, eyes only flicking over to the two reanimated Hokage in disinterest when she was apparently counting heads.

"The opposing forces of our weapons' natures when colliding through a barrier meant to absorb or repel outside attacks are devastating to the barrier in question, especially since neither the gunbai nor the Raijin no Ken are the type of weapons to receive attacks, but rather turn them in to energy for counterattacks from our weapons," Tobirama seemed to comment more to himself than anyone else, looking curiously over what the indications of where the barrier had been, following the lines with his eyes and grunting in thought.

"I thought only attacks with any chakra nature were picked up by the gunbai and turned into futon?" Mito asked and the white haired Senju shook his head.

"No. Any chakra-induced attack is repelled as a futon. The second that Madara hit the barrier, his gunbai and the barrier created a perpetual loop that circulated the energy, making it grow with each cycle until one gave in. Given we have no idea what the gunbai is made of and that it had come out as the victor in this clash, we should really look into the smith who made it."

"The gunbai is centuries old, Tobirama," Madara said with a deadpan tone. "Good plan, by the way. Anyway, you guys need me here or should I go get Shukaku?"

"Wait!" Minato called, appearing by his students with a slightly gawking Sakumo. "How did the Kongo Fusa and the Kyuubi's chakra factor in? I mean, the Kyuubi's chakra should have been a wild card, all things considered, and what about the chains?"

"Kongo Fusa have no chakra nature and are a natural Uzumaki fuinjutsu," the redhead said casually. "Seeing as the barrier is actually also a form of a seal, Kongo Fusa would destabilize it, making it easier to break the barrier."

"As for the Kyuubi's chakra, it was more for the purpose of inducing the barrier with a type of chakra it could do nothing about. At least not with these weaklings as its grounding points."

"You bastard! Take that back!" One of the teen boys yelled and Tobirama only arched an eyebrow.

"No." Then, he turned from the fuming quartet back to Madara and nodded to him. "We can take it from here."

"You sure?"

"We'll either seal them away or break the Edo Tensei by the time you calm the Ichibi down," the Senju reassured and Madara nodded before he disappeared in a flash. Sakumo was staring at Minto in utter shock and incredulity.

"You're going to let one of your students to go and face the damned Ichibi all on his own!?"

"Of course he is," Mito said airily, eyes flicking over to them in boredom. "He is needed there. Minato-sensei is needed here to protect Hokage-sama."

"It's not like he can't handle it," Minato mumbled to himself.

"I can protect myself just fine," Tsunade finally groused as she stood up, surveying what was all happening in her village for a moment before turning to the remaining members of Team Disaster. "Good work, brats. You can leave the rest to us."

She hated the eyebrow arch that her nephew gave her. "Of course. If you know how to take over an Edo Tensei contract. Or release the control tags on the reanimated bodies. Or effectively seal the reanimations." He was met with silence and Tobirama nodded. "As I thought. Now," he said as he and Mito casually turned to an uneasy looking Orochimaru. "I think it's time we finally dealt with the one that got away."

"Hm. Quite." A third tail appeared behind Mito and Kakashi-sensei took an instinctive step back, having seen Naruto in such a state plenty of times to know how devastating the Kyuubi's chakra cloak can be.

"It's good to see Kurama is still working with the villagers," the blond Uzumaki mused as he gazed at one of his distant descendants. They all paused when Mito tilted her head and then there was a large poof in the distance and the Kyuubi's orange form appeared where Shukaku could be seen over the high treetops. Naruto looked between it and Mito and his eyes rounded.

"Uzumaki seal mistresses working together," Mito casually offered. "Plus Kyuubi-sama's cooperation and Tobirama's and Minato-sensei's input and assistance. Madara was very helpful in keeping it occupied and holding it still long enough for us to make and apply the seal. It had been a rough night."

"Meet my Team Disaster," Tsunade said a bit smugly when her predecessors gaped. Even Orochimaru was off no better. "I believe they'll be dealing with you, Uncle, sensei. Brats, leave Orochimaru to me."

"I guess that means I'll be taking on these four, then," Sakumo hummed to himself, already turning towards Orochimaru's cronies. They flinched upon getting the White Fang's full attention. Not so cocky now, were they. Tsunade loved surrounding herself with competent people. It made life so much easier. Well, usually. Team Disaster were just a disaster on most days, no matter how competent.

Tobirama and Mito both tilted their heads all of a sudden before flaring their chakras in that weird way for a moment before nodding as if in confirmation. "Madara has the Ichibi under control. They're coming back now."

Tsunade was sure she'd never seen Orochimaru pale like that.

"Wait, are you telling me that kid," Kakashi-sensei asked incredulously, voice kind of bordering on hysterical as he jabbed a finger in the direction they could see the two biju making their way back towards Konoha at a calm pace as if to not cause more panic within the village. "Managed to control biju in less than ten minutes? He's twelve!"

"So? He was eleven when he wrestled control over the Kyuubi from a more experienced Uchiha," Tobirama pointed out with a sniff, offended on his teammate's behalf. "Now, if we're done playing twenty questions, I have an experiment to return to. If you wouldn't mind, I would like to end this right now. Before Madara gets impatient and gets involved with the biju on his side."

Tsunade has never seen anyone, much less Orochimaru, haul ass like that in her entire life, even as he released the Edo Tensei for fear that Konoha's strongest sensor team might be able to track him through the connection to the jutsu or that, once freed, the two deceased Hokage might go after him in revenge.

The blond Senju cackled at the stunned last expressions of her predecessors as they wondered what the younger generations have done to their Konoha.

(Team Disaster had to be talked down from going on a hunt after the Snake Sannin since he ran away again before the fight could really begin. Jiraiya thought his old student's students were terrifying and pitied the future of Konoha and the Five Elemental Nations.)

(At least Tobirama's experiment didn't explode. This time.)

Chapter Text

Mito cursed under her breath as she surveyed the fortress before her. She cursed the timing, she cursed Madara for standing out so much and she cursed Tobirama for deciding now was a good time to try and get over his near addiction to Madara's chakra so they can be functional shinobi on their own just as they were as a unit.

Honestly, of all the times that Ame could decide to kidnap the Uchiha wunderkind, it had to be when Tobirama was off to the animal summons dimension with his snow leopards, trying to keep to himself for a month so his composure and normal functioning such as proper sleep and rest and relaxation wouldn't be dependent of Madara. And it just so happened to be at a time when Aunt Kushina and Minato-sensei were both needed for an extremely important missions that only they could be assigned to, leaving Mito to be literally the only one to feel and see it when Madara was quite literally snatched up by a strange, gigantic bird while she had been looking after Menma and he had been exercising his hawks.

Mito had quite literally only dumped Menma into a startled Izuna's hands, picked up her always packed mission bag and tried to reach for her Hiraishin marker on Madara, only to land outside of a strong barrier that she just couldn't get past. And though all of Team Disaster carried each other's markers so any one of them could reach anyone and everyone, they all usually fell back on Minato-sensei's marker if something was interfering with their own. This time, no matter which marker she tried to use - she even tried to reverse summon Madara's own marker - she was not getting the desired results. She just couldn't get to him.

And that was bad. That was extremely bad. A kidnapped shinobi was always bad but Madara was an Uchiha and their Heir. But, perhaps the most important bit in his family name was that he had activated their Kekkei Genkai and was, quite possibly, one of their best at using the doujutsu. His eyes were definitely some of the strongest she's seen since she moved in with the Uchiha. The biggest problem with all of that was that she didn't know whether this was a ransom, revenge, blackmail or if it was, in the worst possible case scenario, bloodline theft.

The barrier was not only a strong deterrent to intruders but also an effective cloaking device against sensors. Even a sensitive sensor like her couldn't feel much through the barrier, not even when she tried to focus only on Madara's all too familiar and far too noticeable burning chakra signature. The only reason she could find him at all was because his reserves were monstrous and she was so familiar with his signature that she could recognize it even in a coma.

He was in the strange, ugly building in the center of the small shinobi village - well, small by Konoha's standards, at least - somewhere near the very top, which Mito did not appreciate. Not when she would either have to climb up there or fly and unlike Madara, her clan didn't have a contract with various birds nor was she all that good with them. Not to mention that the weird bird was probably still around and Mito knew if she got caught, she'll just be used against her teammate. And the only ones who could find and save them - Tobirama and Minato-sensei - would learn of their disappearance perhaps too late.

Mito, as an Uzumaki seal master, was more useful alive than dead.

Madara, though, depending on whether it's bloodline hunters or bloodline thieves ... Well, neither fate was pleasant and Mito wasn't sure which she would choose for the boy she considers her brother if his fate ended up being in her hands. Death seemed kinder but she was selfish and she knew she would hesitate.

So she can't get caught. She had to be careful about this and the only blessing in this whole situation was that despite being physically alone Mito was not alone.

"Are you sure you can imitate a civilian beggar well enough to sneak in?" The Kyuubi's voice asked in her head as she contemplated the best time for her to literally walk into the village through the main gates. It was only on the great fox's reminder about sensors that Mito had broken out of her light panic at seeing her teammate literally plucked out of their home village and his backyard and wrote seals on herself to reduce her chakra reserves to civilian levels while not actually impending her access to it.

'I do not have a choice in the matter. We've wasted enough time already. I need to get Madara out of here.'

She and Tobirama always fell back on default formality when speaking with the Kyuubi while Madara seemed to be much more relaxed with the fox. It might be because Kurama-san seemed much more relaxed with Madara as well, though the reason behind why he would be comfortable around the one person in their team that can control him escapes the rest of Team Disaster. They figured it might be a sense of security in the knowledge that Madara can control him so he will break anyone else's control should they try it. Either way, it was a good thing the Kyuubi had grown fond of their little team in general and had apparently come to some sort of agreement with aunt Kushina as well and considered Menma his kit, of all things. It meant that if any of them were ever hurt or in danger, the Kyuubi will be more than willing to help.

Like now.

Usually, maybe Mito wouldn't even need it. As a kunoichi, she was much more skilled at subterfuge than her teammates, simply because she wasn't nearly as recognizable. Yes, she had fiery red hair like any Uzumaki, but the Uzumaki were hardly the only redheads in the Five Elemental Nations, while Madara's wild hair and Tobirama's white hair and pale skin combined with his facial tattoos were rather obvious. Not to mention that, had she not sealed the Kyuubi within herself, they would have significantly larger reserves than her. And no matter what Tobirama may claim, he wasn't nearly as patient as he might think. Madara, at least, accepted that with himself but Tobirama seems to like to think that he was exceptionally patient but Mito was usually the one who helped him in his experiments when the two of them get bored. She can't count on all of Team Disaster's hands the number of times she had had to make him slow down before he does something that might ruin a seal.

So, yes, usually her spy and subterfuge skills would be more than enough for her to get in and get out, probably completely unnoticed.

Given that she will have to not use any chakra at all and possibly have to actually suppress it so she can get close enough to Madara, Kyuubi will probably have to supply her with an extraordinary amount of chakra in an instance if they were to run into trouble. And no, that wasn't exaggerating or overkill.

Whoever this was, they had managed to kidnap Madara. And not just kidnap him, but also contain him this long. And given that one of the first things Uchiha are taught how to do was escape at a moment's notice should they ever be caught by bloodline hunters, it was saying quite a bit about this person's skills.

"They might just be keeping him unconscious until they have what they want," Kurama-san was kind enough to suggest, though Mito found no comfort in that. Between the Sharingan's natural resistance to genjutsu, an Uchiha's practically inborn ability to detect and evade it, Madara's sensor abilities and their collective iryo-nin training that should have helped him fight any sedatives, Mito didn't exactly like to contemplate the amount of blunt force someone of Madara's caliber would need to be knocked out and kept knocked out.

'That just means we have no time to waste.'

Without further ado, Mito applied the seal she had prepared for this occasion, waited for the next patrol to pass by before she headed straight for the gates of the village, affecting a strong genjutsu Madara had made sure to train her, Tobirama and Hashirama to be able to do with barely a thought and started swaying a little to go with the story that she was a starving beggar and not Uzushio's princess.

'This is terrible,' Mito observed as she looked around the streets, finding that her disguise fit in a bit far too well into this environment.

"This place looks like the war ended only yesterday," the biju agreed with her, observing through her eyes for extra vigilance. Mito had to admit that the great fox had hit the nail head on with that description. There were so many people in dirty or ripped clothing, too thin, too pale, too dirty to have spent their days anywhere else but on a battlefield after the fighting had ended, looting and scavenging what they can find on the fallen bodies. The buildings were half destroyed, half standing as though untouched but it didn't looks as though they had been rebuilt. Just as if they were somehow not caught in the fire of whatever had happened in this village. "With the state of things as it is, could it be that they simply want to ransom Madara? Seems like a bit too much effort, even if the Uchiha would be more than willing to pay whatever amount they ask for for his return."

Mito almost snorted. No one went out of their way to kidnap an Uchiha for something as silly as money. Not when the Sharingan was far more precious and people who kidnapped Uchiha were all greedy or power-hungry - or suicidal, but that's besides the point at this moment. There was no way anyone would kidnap an Uchiha - Uchiha Madara, at that - for money.

Because as likely as it was for the kidnapper to get their money, it was also quite possible that the only thing they will end up getting was a devastating war on their hands.

And given this was the Uchiha Heir, well ... It wouldn't be pretty.

Not with the Senju and the Hatake enthusiastically supporting their friends in their search for their son. Mito tried not to shiver at the thought of what an enraged Uchiha Ryukyu might do to get to her darling eldest son. Or how enthusiastic Lady Kira might be to assist her. And she never wanted to find out whether Tajima-sama and Butsuma-sama lived up to their reputations on the battlefield.

"It's actually rather surprising, even with this state of affairs, that no one so much as cast us a second glance," Kurama-san mused, bringing Mito's attention to this - rather suspicious - fact.

'We should not dally, then, and instead hasten our pace. I would rather not be the cause of war between Ame and Konoha.' With that, the disguised redhead started walking just a little faster, looking around as though she was searching for a place to spend the night while actually checking for any other patrolling shinobi and steadily making her way straight for the strange, towering building in the center. Whoever designed that thing was probably deranged. It was just so ugly.

And surprisingly understaffed where security was concerned. Mito frowned to herself, not liking this at all but figuring it was for the best. She'd didn't trust how easy this was turning out to be but she wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth, not without the proper tools for it. Instead, she just made sure to be extra vigilant as she made her way to the outer wall of the tower, changed the genjutsu to what was essentially invisibility - or rather a neat trick Madara's older cousin Kagami once showed them that made people not pay attention to the caster of the illusion - before she started climbing. Climbing like a civilian rock climber was not fun but it needed less chakra to stick to the building and meant less chance of discovery, which was her ultimate goal here.

The climb was long and honestly tiring - the Uzumaki made a note to request Minato-sensei train them more in non-chakra stamina and durability once they all get back home - and a bit frustrating, but at least she got a bit of insight in some things. Or rather, she got new things to look into upon returning to Konoha. Like those ninja with long black cloaks with red clouds on them. Those guys looks particularly suspicious. She'd seen a sixteen year old looking person - she couldn't tell if they were male or female from one of the windows, not when their hairdo and build didn't really sway one way or the other - that had goddamn mouths on his hands, a chakra puppeteer like Chiyo of Sunagakure and she'd overheard two men fighting about something worse than she'd ever heard Madara and Tobirama bicker with each other, even when the Uchiha was exasperated with the Senju's tendency to make the whole village cry with his experiments every time Madara goes out on longer individual missions, though that might have something to do with the vocabulary they were using. Mito was certain even sailors and Kiri nin would blush like maidens if they were to here some of the curses and cusses going around here. And all of them wore those same black cloaks with red clouds.

If not for the slashed hitai-ate of various villages on their foreheads, Mito would have thought them to be some special unit in Amegakure. As it was, she knew they had to be a criminal organization because those were obviously nukenin.

She really didn't like the situation Madara had gotten himself into this time.

When she finally reached where she could feel her friend's chakra signature burning mutely at the last floor, she paused just below the 'balcony' overlooking the poor village when she heard a door open and voices speaking.

"Leader-sama, I didn't expect to see you still here. Is something the matter? Had the prisoner tried escaping?" A gentle-sounding, soft female voice asked as the door closed behind the newcomer.

"No, Angel. Nothing is the matter. It's just ... " The male voice that answered was deep and didn't exactly sound natural. Mito was hesitant to extend her senses to properly feel these kidnappers of Madara's. "I guess I am guilty of an indulgence with the boy's presence. Focusing on his chakra is much easier and much more pleasant than just not kneading chakra to avoid sensory overload. I'd heard of rumors that say katon users are a sensor's best friend but I've never imagined they could be true. Being in here is ... strangely calming."

(Of course any foreign sensor, enemy or not, would indulge in feeling Madara's deliciously warm and delightfully overwhelming chakra.)

Mito did not like the implications behind that, because that meant she was dealing with a powerful sensor and because she was one herself and on a team of incredible sensors, she knew just how dangerous of a sort they can be.

"I do not begrudge you," the so called 'Angel' replied. Their voices sounded almost bland but Mito could detect just the barest undertones of familiarity and perhaps affection in them. She only knew how to detect such things in such tones because Tobirama had been extremely reserved around her the first time Madara had introduced her to his usual social circle. "However, He has come and insists on inspecting the boy."

"And let me guess, He also expects God to welcome him and escort him to the prisoner He asked us to deliver." It was not a question and each word in that sentence was somehow both packed with disgust and impassiveness. Mito was tempted, like really tempted to peek over the edge of the balcony to see just what kinds of resting bitch faces these people had. If they hadn't kidnapped her friend, she would have been impressed. As it was, if anything had happened to Madara, Mito will not leave a single brick in this place standing when she is done.

"These people are awfully pretentious to compare themselves with gods and their messengers," an unamused Kurama-san scoffed in the back of her head and the redhead had to agree. Still, if they were up here, it means they were probably the ones running the village but that put into question who He was. Was it the leader of the nukenin downstairs? Or was there so much more going on here than Mito can perceive at this moment in time.

Saving Madara was important but these people sounded like dangerous enemies. The last time someone had managed to gather this many nukenin into a cohesive force, Konoha had been under attack. Stupid Orochimaru.

"Unfortunately, that is indeed the case," the 'Angel' answered her 'God', sounding just as he had and the male sighed before there was rustling of cloth and some shuffling.

"I guess we have no choice but to do as he says. He's been providing us with valuable information so far and more powerful members for the Akatsuki. I don't know what he wants with the Uchiha boy, but it is not our place to meddle in Uchiha business."

'A traitor? Among the Uchiha?' That was practically unheard of. Not since Uchiha Sasuke, one of Konoha's founders, went mad a hundred years ago. Since then, the Uchiha had only become more loyal to Konoha and a much stronger and infinitely more united force that in the beginning of Konohagakure's history.

"We need to get Madara back to Konoha ASAP."

'You don't have to tell me twice.' She waited until the pair left the room, felling protective seals and barriers fall into place as soon as they were out of hearing range. Mito scoffed and allowed herself to channel just a bit more chakra in her feet so she can use her hands to start inspecting, dissecting and dismantling the seals that were the last obstacle she had to her friend.

As soon as she was inside, she was glad to find Madara in clear sight, which was dumb but she didn't take the time to either berate her enemies or to thank them for their overconfidence. Their big boss was obviously impatient to get to Madara and she'd rather not test her skills against three potentially incredibly strong opponents while having to protect an unconscious teammate.

The black rods sticking through Madara's hands and thighs were almost enough to make her queasy when she first saw them.

The Kyuubi's obvious distress upon seeing them were not helping matters. "Fuck, we need to get those things out of him, now! They're disrupting his chakra! No, don't just grab them with your hands! You'll be no better off than he is!"

'Then how do I get them out?' Mito asked the fox, even as she allowed her senses to extend now so that she could watch out for anyone who might enter the room before she extracts her teammate. She nearly jolted when she felt a familiar chakra signature clan matrix. 'What would an Uzumaki be doing here!? And is that ... That is definitely an Uchiha!' That did not bode well for her mission report.

"Use your Kongo Fusa and I will coat them with my chakra for protection. Neither of us will be able to maintain it for long, so we need to be quick. Not to mention that Madara's chakra is bound to snap outwards the second he's released. Any sensor worth their fucking salt will be able to feel him in a hundred miles radius."

'Then we better get going,' Mito thought, taking off all seals from herself and already honing in on the closest safe Hiraishin marked spot she was confident to be able to keep in her focus despite doing something that required great effort and concentration elsewhere. The second she let the seals fade away she could feel a spike of awareness from downstairs and knew that there were indeed sensors in the building and they had all picked up on her presence, so she swiftly formed the chakra chains of her very soul and watched them get covered in red chakra, just like the rest of her body, before she directed them at the black rods protruding through Madara's body.

The second she touched them, she felt like all of her chakra was trying to be shut away beyond her awareness and Mito grit her teeth against the sensation. It was only thanks to Kurama-san's coaxing and insistent voice in her head that she was able to keep her focus and yank the first rod out. Madara jolted and grunted in pain but she could see his eyes twitch. Seeing it as a good sign, Mito quickly moved on to the rod sticking out of her other hand and yanked that one as well, hoping beyond hope that at least one of them will be able to manage the chakra control necessary for iryo-jutsu. This promised to be an extremely unpleasant experience for the both of them.

There were people running up the final staircase when Mito got the third rod out, leaving only the one in Madara's left thigh, but at least her teammate was awake now, blinking wearily up at her as though his eyesight was muddled. "Mito?"

"Hush, I'm focusing. I'll get you out of here in no time at all." The Uchiha only nodded and didn't even flinch when she finally managed to yank out the last rod just as the doors opened. Mito nearly collapsed from the effort it had taken to remove the rods but she couldn't faint not. She took a shuddering breath, tried to get her chakra under control again and searched out that Hiraishin marker again as she attempted to focus on it.

"Stop them!" A vaguely familiar voice yelled - from a horrific, unbelievable, painful, frightening night from many months ago, when there was smoke and fire in the air and artificial earthquakes causing destruction left and right - before she could focus quite right but then there was the familiar flare of impossibly hot chakra soothing her senses and then the actual fire Madara tended to spew, making the group that had come to stop them dive and dodge out of the way of the uncontrolled fireball hurtling their way. Mito was a bit surprised by the drain it had on Madara's chakra but she guessed it was because he had not yet regained control over his chakra after those black rods had been messing with it for so long.

The distraction was sufficient enough for Mito to finally properly lock in on the marker she had chosen and she was quick to grab Madara by the hand and Hiraishin them the fuck out of there, leaving their enemies to cry in outraged dismay to have lost their prisoner. They landed harder than ever before due to both of their lack of control and just breathed hard for a long, long while. Mito made as if to stand up, to go over to where her friend was far too still for her liking and where his chakra was fluctuating in very dangerous ways that she did not like, but her hands shook under her. Whatever those black things were, they had seriously messed up her chakra from just briefly holding them. She shuddered at the thought of how messed up Madara must be feeling.

She had to get over to him, to check him over for injuries, invasive or intrusive seals, for tracking seals or scents or bugs or ... whatever. She needed to make sure he was safe.

But she was just ... so tired. Surely a nap will not harm anyone, yes?

But why was Madara so still?

"Help ... Please, help ... Somebody please help us ... "

The world went black.

00000

Five days later, Mito woke up in Sora-Ku, Madara resting in the bed next to her's with a bunch of cats meowing at him as he ate some soup. She blinked blearily up at the fluffy cat ears hairband on his head and tried to make sense of what he was saying to the cats but her ears were ringing a little.

Black eyes turned to meet hers when their owner felt her gaze on him and Mito nearly sobbed in relief when a hot wave of achingly familiar chakra washed over her.

She was instantly lulled into sleep.

Madara was safe and sound.

She had done it.

Chapter Text

Senju Tobirama had signed his first - and probably only; snow leopards were apparently a possessive bunch - summoning contract with one of his mother's clan's predators/hunters/trackers before he entered the ninja Academy in Konohagakure no Sato. Hatake Kira might have married into the Senju Clan but she had never been anything else other than Hatake and she had tried to instill her birth clan's traditions on the children she noted were more Hatake than Senju. Tobirama was the most prominent in this, having picked up almost everything from his mother, with Itama as a close second while Hashirama and Kawarama were distinctly very much Senju.

And since Hatake believed in their children creating strong bonds with their kyuchiyose since a very young age, his mother had let Tobirama chose an animal and then sign a blood contract with them.

Young Tobirama had found himself incredibly fascinated by the prowling, cool and predatorily composed snow leopards since the first time he had seen them. Even if he hadn't been quite so taken with the large cats, the second Kaida, the matriarch of the biggest snow leopard clan in the animals dimension, had set her ice blue eyes on him, she had decided she was adopting him and there was no turning back.

As it was, it had worked out quite splendidly for all parties involved and both Tobirama and the snow leopards were extremely happy with their contract.

That did not stop Kaida from trying to discourage Tobirama now, at almost twelve, in his quest to master Sage Mode in the two months he had decided to stay with his summons as a way to train himself to be away from Madara's delightful chakra for longer periods of time. It was delicate business and involved a lot of training and concentration lest the natural energy of the world should sweep him away and turn him to stone due to his own carelessness and lack of focus. Kaida was decidedly against his idea to attempt this at the same time he was trying to stay away from the chakra he had always relied on to remain calm since he was a child but Tobirama needed to do something other than cuddle and sleep with his summons or go on Hunts.

He knows if he indulges his Hatake side a bit too much, he won't be able to stay in the village for prolonged periods of time before he grows restless again and while he may be trying to create a new sort of independence from Madara's chakra signature, it was not out of suddenly not wanting to spend any time at all with his friend. If he constantly feels the pull of the Hunt, that just won't be possible.

Besides, the Hunt awakens ... other urges as well, ones he'd rather never have to fight against. It would make him feel like a mindless, instinct-driven animal like not even real animals were.

And he might end up tearing out someone's throat with his bare teeth, which was also a big no-no.

So, yes, he needed to be doing something or else his mind will kill him from being so bored. He was not used to so much inactivity and such a relatively calm, dull lifestyle. Ever since Team 4 was formed (and even more since it was renamed into Team Disaster), there was always something happening and he was always right there with his friends, being the disastrous center of it. Hell, he almost wanted Orochimaru to attack again so Tobirama could show him his improved jutsu that takes over an enemy's Edo Tensei contract or even the improved version of Edo Tensei with all the tweaks he himself had added. It would be fun at least, even if Madara and Anija and Konoha don't think so.

Learning how to become a sage sounded like a good way to pass the time.

Only it turned out to be more challenging than he had been expecting it and now he was leaving without even having completed his training despite having stayed weeks longer than he had originally planned. But he had missed home. He missed the feel of a busy Konoha that usually had a headache developing before he can even make it to the training grounds if he wasn't walking with Madara. He missed how loud Hashirama was in the morning or how hard Itama was to rouse. He missed Kawarama asking him question after question about his latest assignments from the Academy and he longed to curl up next to his mother after a long day. He missed the occasional hair ruffle he'd get from his father in passing just because Butsuma could. He missed training with Minato-sensei, having Kushina-sama drag him to the ramen stand and picking up little Menma whenever the kid saw him as he was his favorite person. He missed reading with Mito or occasionally sparring with Izuna when he saw his former classmate. He even missed how annoying the other Uchiha brothers can be when they didn't like him spending too much time with their precious eldest brother.

And he missed Madara. He missed just feeling his oldest friend around, even if they were miles upon miles separated from each other.

And while these two months had been good for him to get used to being separated from the one person he had never spent all that much time away from, he would rather it not happen often. Since he was just a kid, he could always remember Madara being there, soothing him in ways none of his family understood how. Even if it wasn't just for his sensor side, he wanted to soak up Madara's presence again just to familiarize himself with the feeling of home again.

"Are you ready to go back, cub?" Kaida, who had come to see him off, asked as she brushed herself against his side, nearly toppling him over. He held strong because he knew he will not be getting up for half an hour if she manages to knock him down. Kaida, despite being so fearsome and cool towards others, loved cuddling him. She, at least, had made sure he didn't miss his mother overly much.

"I guess. I'll be coming here once a month to continue my sage training, though, so you'll be seeing me again sooner than you think."

The snow leopard matriarch rolled her eyes at him in exasperated fondness. "You are still far too young to be worrying about becoming a sage, Tobirama. You have your whole life ahead of you to master the sage arts. Your drive and curiosity are admirable, but that won't help you become a sage faster. It might just end up leading you to a world of hurt. Besides, no one mastered the sage arts so young before. Even that great first Hokage of yours was a few years older before he mastered his Toad Sage Mode."

Tobirama gave a noncommittal hum and didn't tell Kaida that someone had mastered Sage Mode this young before. Namely, his Anija first entered Sage Mode a few months after the Chuunin Exams, after he had felt useless for being of little help to Madara in fighting the Ichibi despite Rasa having been his opponent. Hashirama had trained and trained and trained until one day, when he had been near exhausted from the amount of chakra he had been using up, his mokuton seemed to finally answer his call, reached into the Earth itself and drew on the natural energy there and allowed Hashirama to properly process it and activate a Sage Mode the likes of which no one had seen before. After all, Anija's Sage Mode didn't come from an animal contract - Hashirama couldn't sign one anymore, not after that - but from his mokuton itself, from the trees and the other plants. Madara had started training him in using it, not so much the sage arts as letting Hashirama go all out as only Madara seems to be able to take the full brunt of it. Minato-sensei, as one of the rare few sages around, tried to assist but the Sage Modes they used were so completely different that he could be of no help at all, so training with Madara it was.

Not that anyone in the ANBU appreciated how much changes that caused in the Forest of Death, the only training grounds within the village which were safe enough for experimenting such powerful techniques. The Forest had gained new craters and new trees - some of which were almost a bit too alive for anyone's taste, thank you for that horrifying image, Anija - and the topography of the place kept changing for months until both of the best friends felt Hashirama had tested and found out every new power he had.

Then Madara had taken him far out of the village with Minato-sensei, Tobirama and Mito following after them in their usual scientific, morbid curiosity, just to watch the two overpowered idiots clash Kurama against huge wooden living constructs.

So, no, Kiada was not right that no one had mastered Sage Mode at an age younger than Shodaime Hokage but Tobirama wasn't going to say anything about that. Not yet, anyway. The news about that little tidbit was bound to reach the animal summons circle soon enough, anyway, so he won't even have to tell her himself.

"I wish you a safe return, cub," was the last thing his favorite - and boss - summon said before he reverse summoned himself to the human world, though instead of going straight home, he redirected his path so that he landed on the Hiraishin marker he had left with Madara. He did not, however, expect to land in the older boy's lap and then nearly have his head shaved off by huge, impossibly sharp claws of an equally big, demonic-looking white cat.

"Tobirama, what the fuck!?" His teammate yelped, even as he pushed them out of the way of the attacking cat and then proceeded to scruff the Senju when he went to return fire before he could. "No! Stop that, the both of you! No one here is an enemy! Nekomata, stop right now. If you skewer my teammate, I will drown you in catnip."

"You know this Hatake cub that reeks of snow leopards?" The huge, white cat, Nekomata presumable, surprised Tobirama when it spoke, squinting down at him suspiciously.

"Yes. Nekomata, this is my other teammate, Senju Tobirama. Tobirama, this is Nekomata, the boss of Sura-Ku and the Cat Castle. Now the both of you put away your swords and claws before I get my gunbai and we make it a dance party." Tobirama and Nekomata both reluctantly put away said weapons but not without glaring at each other.

A moment later, Mito's head appeared around the corner, her eyes scanning the room - no doubt for damage - before they easily landed on Tobirama and she smiled. "I see that everyone is alive and well. Good to have you back, Tobirama. I trust your trip was safe and pleasing?"

"Yes, it was a delight. I started learning Sage Mode but didn't get to finish my training. Have things been alright in the time I was away?" He didn't like the loaded look Mito and Madara exchanged at that. "What happened? And for that matter, why aren't the two of you in Konoha? Does anyone even know you're here?"

"Nekobaa sent a message to my father that we'll be staying here for a while, so to answer the easiest question you asked, yes, someone does know where we are. As for the other questions, their answers are sort of related."

"But that can wait," their kunoichi teammate informed him as she walked into the room and took him by hand, all but dragging him out of the big room that was big enough to house Nekomata. "First we need to get some proper food in you instead of whatever purely meet diet your summons must have been feeding you. At least we know why you stayed so long when it was supposed to be a short trip. We can tell you as you eat."

Though, by the time they had finished, he would have rather that Mito had insisted that they wait until he finished. The simple onigiri he had been handed sat like led in his stomach as he listened to the story Mito told with little to no input from Madara because he had been thoroughly knocked out by whatever they had done to him, to his chakra. Madara, whose chakra while not as large as Hashirama's, was as lively and fierce as the fire he breathed. Madara, who was practically fire incarnate. Madara, whose chakra should never be so still, so barely there that not even a flicker was the correct description to his state. Mito had only been able to find him because she and Kurama-sama had known what to look for. Mito and Kurama-sama had only been able to save him because she was an Uzumaki and the Kyuubi was the strongest biju and was able to help her. Had anyone else been assigned to rescue the Uchiha,it would have failed, they would be either dead or imprisoned and who knew what would have happened to Madara in the end.

"It was That Man. From the night of the Kyuubi's attack. The one who had been controlling Kurama."

"The Uchiha!?"

"Are you certain?" Mito and Tobirama asked at the same time, staring at their friend incredulously. Mito had not been able to properly sense or identify anything and anyone besides her own Hiraishin marker deep within Hi no Kuni's dense forests after coming in contact with those black rods both of his teammates kept referencing. Given how long Madara had been trapped and restrained by them, the thirteen year old Uchiha should have been in a much worse state when even Kurama-sama was still reeling from suffering contact with them. There was no way Madara could have regained enough finesse to properly extend his senses-

"I saw him. He even wore that same abomination of a mask." Madara's eyes blazed red with the Sharingan and his meaning was clear. Of course. The Sharingan, once awakened, came as naturally as breathing to the Uchiha with barely any chakra spent on activating or maintaining it. In fact, young first-timers usually had trouble deactivating it until either too exhausted to remain conscious or maintain it or if they get help in managing it. Tobirama had no clear memory of when, exactly, Madara had activated his clan's doujutsu, only that he was considered a prodigy for it. He had certainly left the Academy with it already fully matured.

So seeing as Madara had enough bearing about himself to manage a - poorly executed or not - Katon: Gokakyu no Jutsu, the Sharingan would have been easy even in his state. And the Sharingan didn't miss anything, didn't perceive falsely, didn't distort memory with time. There was less that 0.01% chance that Madara was mistaken.

"What could he possibly want from you?" Revenge was not off the table, of course, given that it was ultimately Madara who had stopped the Kyuubi's rampage on Konoha since it was only thanks to Madara that Tobirama, Mito, Minato-sensei and Kushina-sama had the time needed to create a proper, stable seal to adequately house the Kyuubi while also not quite imprisoning it and instead reestablishing an old protector of the village. The Kyuubi was feared, yes, but everyone knew by now that Mito and Madara could reign it in should it ever break loose again. And since its former Jinchuriki was also still around, they even had the extra insurance in Kushina-sama bringing it to heel once more if it turned on them.

Not that the great fox would. It was rather fond of its practically publicly acknowledged place on Team Disaster. There was a reason the name persisted and it was only partially due to how the opposing villages viewed them.

Madara could only shake his head. "I wouldn't know. No one talked to me. As soon as I was delivered to that hideous tower, they used the rods on me. I didn't even properly see anyone's face before the sudden blockage of my chakra knocked me out."

"The man who had been in that room with you when I found you had some Uzumaki chakra. I didn't dare try and peek so I don't know and I didn't extend my senses either, since he seems to be a sensor. He spoke of your chakra having as much a calming effect on him as it does on us before the woman led him away. Somehow, though," Mito said with a displeased downturn to her lips. "I rather doubt that was the same reason That Man wanted you for."

"What he wants with me is irrelevant." Tobirama had a feeling both he and Mito would disagree on that notion rather vehemently, but Madara continued before either of them could say anything, probably just as aware of that fact. "We need to focus on all the nukenin Amegakure seems to be collecting. Had we had anyone from that village in the Chunnin Exams last year?"

"Aren't you the one who was tasked with memorizing the lists given your Sharingan?"

And further discussion, though, was interrupted when Nekomata calmly walked into the room the three genin had been using for an impromptu lunch, those eere yellow eyes zeroing in on Tobirama even as the large feline elegantly dropped itself behind Madara's back - Tobirama tried not to stare; Madara let rare few stand behind him. Only his family and Tobirama's family, Hikaku and Touka, Minato-sensei, Kushina-sama and Menma-kun were allowed that privilege as far as the albino knew - and drew the Uchiha to lean against his hide. "You're an imperfect sage, aren't you, Hatake cub?"

"My name is Senju Tobirama and I am no cub, Nekomata-sama." With a bit of time to consider the name, it was easy to recall the few times Kaida had mentioned him. Despite Kaida being one of the oldest feline summons among kyuchiyose, Nekomata was still somehow the 'big cat', even with lions and leopards and cheetahs and panthers and tigers in the running. Out of all the boss summons of the feline district, despite being a cat, he was older by Torora, the tiger boss summon, by two hundred years and Torora was at least a thousand years old. What's more, Kaida said that once, a long time ago when the biju had still been roaming free on these lands, before the first generations of the hidden villages captured them, sealed them away and distributed them 'equally' among them, the Nibi, a cat made of blue flames with two tails and one green and one yellow eye, had been Nekomata's consort of sorts. No one knew quite the extent of whatever relationship those two shared but Nekomata had definitely once housed the Nibi in Sora-Ku and they had definitely been doing something that resembled courting. That had, ultimately, made Nekomata indeed he big cat among the feline summons. As such, Tobirama figured he should be polite. He will not sully Kaida's name by making her summon seem unseemly and ill mannered.

"You are a Hatake, no matter what name you carry and you are a cub to me. Now answer my question. Are the snow leopards the ones training you? You seem to share some of Lady Kaida's mountains' scent on you. Or just her scent altogether."

Tobirama wanted to glare but managed to remain mostly polite. No use pissing one of the boss summons off. That was just stupid. Especially as it would seem Madara is rather familiar with this particular boss summon. Tobirama didn't really know all that much about Nekomata. He'd rather not risk it end up being that Nekomata was one of those summons that held a grudge against a ninja's companions enough that they ignored a summons when they could be needed the most.

(Then again, he could feel no connection whatsoever between Madara and Nekomata, not like he could feel between himself and his snow leopards or even Mito and her rarely summoned platypuses. Something to look into at a later date. Perhaps Nekomata was Madara's ninja partner the way Inuzuka took dogs for their's? The cats were affiliated with the Uchiha for centuries now and the Uchiha in general do seem to have some sort of affinity towards them ... )

"Kaida is my main kyuchiyose. She's always the first to answer my call unless she is otherwise preoccupied. And no, the snow leopards are not training me to become a sage."

"Don't lie to me, cub, I can practically smell it on you-"

"I am training myself. It's been going okay-ish so far." The silence that follows his declaration is two parts stunned and one part exasperated. The disbelief on that rugged looking cat's face was a delight to behold.

"Excuse me?" Madara's voice, though, had a rather dangerous hint to it. "Did you just insinuate that you are practicing something as dangerous as the sage arts all by yourself while your snow leopards sit around on their fat asses and noming on their tails?"

The Senju frowned, insulted on behalf of his icy feline companions. "Don't be ridiculous. Kaida started watching over my training when it became clear I wasn't going to give in just because I lack a mentor. The snow leopard elders are still being obtuse about it but I will wear them down soon enough." He waved it all off as though it was not that much of a concern. Even though it very well could be. Sage Mode needed precision when dealing with natural energy unless one wanted to end up as a stone statue. The elders would have been supremely helpful if they weren't being so difficult. Sure, Kaida had at first agreed with them but now she was as frustrated with their hesitance to offer that knowledge to Tobirama as her summoner was.

"And they say cats and Uchiha are crazy," Nekomata snorted, making Tobirama finally properly glare at him. The big cat didn't seem bothered. "Do you need me to have a word with your elders if they are so stubborn? Madara spoke of you and I would rather not suffer an Uchiha's grief should you be returned to your family as little more than a garden or fountain decoration."

And while Madara flailed and screeched at his ninneko(?) partner, Tobirama considered the offer. He needed help, undoubtedly, to figure out what he was doing wrong that he can be only a partial sage, preferably before he accidentally turns himself to stone. He knows how protective the snow leopards as a whole were of him, as rare few signed contracts with them, even among the Hatake who were known for loving all hunters or hunter assistants with sharp claws and sharper fangs. In the decades since the clan warring clans era, though, the preference towards hunting dogs had started winning out with only the occasional Hatake here and there taking a wilder natural hunter as their contracted animal summons. The snow leopards didn't want to lose him, especially since he had become theirs when he had been so young they had considered him their cub.

And besides, no Hatake before him had really attempted becoming a sage, or so Kaida told him. Perhaps some outside assistance would be appreciated.

"Yes, please," Tobirama finally replied, causing Mito to whirl around to stare at him with wide eyes while Madara gawked, apparently both of them having expected him to ask Nekomata not to get involved. Tobirama wasn't sure why they had expected him to turn away perfectly reasonable help. Sage training was not something to be taken lightly. Tobirama was curious and stubborn and never left things unfinished if he could help it.

(And if he wanted to learn so that he can help ensure what happened to Madara while he had been absent can never happen again, so that neither of his friends would ever have to hide in the one place in Hi no Kuni known for its fierce loyalty to the Uchiha and for having wards strong enough to hide even people with Madara's signature and the chakra make-up Mito had in her system as the Kyuubi's Jinchuriki while they recovered from chakra exhaustion brought on by the theft of their chakra control, then that was only a coincidence and none of anyone's business but Tobirama's.)

Nekomata, he hated to note, seems to have seen right through him.

"Then come, cub. These two still need time to properly recover and you can use that time well."

"Lead the way, kitty."

Nekomata's annoyed growl was music to his ears.

00000

"Well," Kaida said over his shoulder as they both gazed at the new - temporary, natural energy induced - markings that were drawn on the skin of his face in the reflective surface of the aptly and completely unoriginally named Mirror Lake in the snow leopards' domain. "I'd say they suit you."

Tobirama stared at the four whisker-like stripes of a deep indigo color on each of his cheeks, two practically hugging the red tattoos on his face and two set wider apart, almost reaching towards his eyes, which now had a blue slit pupil where there had used to appear to be none. He had exactly three leopard dots on the backs of his hands arranged with fuinjutsu precision in a triangle and one on each of the soles of his feet. All things considered, a much better form than some perfect sages got when they mastered their art, like the snake sages, for instance. That, at least, was a relief, and that he could turn it off at will, as well.

As he gazed at the results of four months of hard work, determination and sheer stubbornness (and some spite; Madara had insisted he should have spite on his side, as that usually worked for the Uchiha, apparently), all Tobirama could think was only one thing and one thing only.

(He will protect his friends so Madara could never be taken like that, never again.)

He couldn't wait to test out all of his new abilities.

Chapter Text

Uchiha Ryukyu liked to think of herself as a good mother. Not just decent, but good, as she strives to provide for her children all the love and the care in the world that she could manage, so that they are never lacking in some way. She provided them with the needed support as they grew up, she cheered them in on their dreams and goals, she encouraged them to make friends and grow and become better with each day and she showered them with love and a stern hand as they needed and deserved. She didn't spoil or baby them, but she wasn't cold or distant, either, a difficult balance most parents tend to mess up despite their best intentions.

So, while at times difficult and complicated, Ryukyu was of the opinion that she was doing a fine job. Asama and Hiroto, her youngest, were happily starting their Academy days and first steps in becoming respectable ninja and they had little to complain about. Keichiro, too, for that matter, though he was only halfway through the Academy himself and Izuna seemed happy enough despite some of his more moody grumblings about his would-be rival in Tobirama-kun for leaving him behind.

Honestly, though, at times Ryukyu thinks that the best thing she had done for those four was give birth to their big brother before them. Who needs to be jealous of their father for loving their mother the most as most boys do at one point in their toddler-hood or the approval of their father later on when they have Uchiha Madara as their beloved Aniki? The four boys all but worshiped the ground their eldest brother walked on. Only Madara could get them to stop being naughty if the mood ever took them. They hated to bother or disappoint him. Even Izuna, who should have outgrown a stage like that, could still be found going way out of his way to earn himself some praise or approval from his older brother and he was the eldest of the younger four. You can just imagine to what mischief the twins and Keichiro got up to to get Madara's attention and make it stay on them.

(Especially when Tobirama-kun was around. They sure were jealous of him, even when Hashirama-kun never garnered such a reaction when he visited or got too close to Madara. Maybe it's because the elder Senju brother was so obviously infatuated with Mito? She found the implications towards Tobirma-kun in that situation rather amusing and she resolved to inform Kira of this thought at some point so her best friend could share the amusement.)

And speaking of her eldest son, the little sun and moon of her long, weary shinobi life that had given her hope the second she had held his small body in her arms for the very first time thirteen years and some months ago, Ryukyu found him sitting in his room when she was passing by after a training session with her younger brother - Hikaku's father - and was on her way to clean her weapons. It would be nothing noteworthy had there not been two dozen scrolls - summoning contracts, a single glance at the closest one revealed - opened all around him with scribbled notes on each one. Madara was scowling darkly at the chaos of paper and ink, seemingly annoyed and growing increasingly frustrated by the second.

'How cute,' Ryukyu mused to herself, quickly deposited her weapons outside of his room and knocked on his open door before walking in. "What are you up to, my little flame?" Of course, it's not like Madara is actually a little flame - more like a raging inferno trapped in a body too small to contain all of his passion and fire and emotion, but he will probably partially grow into that one day - but it is something she had been calling him since he was born and he had never complained.

"Looking for a summoning contract that I would want to sign."

She'd figured as much but Madara had never said anything about wanting a contract before. "And what brought on this new development? And where did you even get all of these contracts from?" She recognized some of them - Tajima's eagles, Kagami's ravens, Izuna's magpies, Hikaku's hawks, her brother's cats, an elder's old wolf, someone's fox contract and many more - but there were even some from outside of the Uchiha, too. It may not be the big contract scroll Jiraiya of the Legendary Sannin totted about but the smaller toad contract Namikaze Minato had on hand was still recognizable, as was the Hatake wolf contract Kira must have given Madara to consider or even the bear one she knew must be Butsuma's. She wondered who else gave her son their summoning contracts to consider and tried not to feel honestly offended. "Why didn't you ask me for mine?"

Madara finally looked up from his glaring match with the scrolls to blink at her in confusion. "I didn't even know you had one. Anyway, I started looking into signing a proper contract when I realized I was the only one in our team that didn't have any. I thought my partnership with Nekomata and any cats from Sora-Ku would be enough, but we are not tethered well enough for them to come to my aid even without me needing to summon them, like apparently Kaida can now do for Tobirama and Peri-kun can do for Mito. I talked it through with Kurama and he doesn't have a problem with me having a summoning contract besides with him so I thought it might be a good idea to look into one. See if I'll find any that suits me enough to sign. But I can't seem to decide."

"Which ones have caught your eye?" The Uchiha matriarch asked as she sat down next to her son and reviewed quickly each of the contracts for references. She resolved to hunt down Matarashi later for daring to slip in one of her snake contracts given how Orochimaru had insinuated that he wished to take over her son's body but brushed it off to deal with it later. She also vowed to kill the Nara Clan Head for daring to give the Uchiha Heir his traditional Nara deer contract. Whatever his intentions behind it, it felt like a claim and that man had never quite liked her. She'll deal with him, too, later.

"The fox one, the hawk one and the cat one." Yes, well, Madara would be the most familiar with those, wouldn't he? "I just don't know how to decide."

"Well, what do you expect from your kyuchiyose partner?That's an important deciding factor."

"Speed, agility, strength, but I would also love it if Team 4 could have some aria support." Which was why the hawk one was in the mix aside from her son's love of birds of prey. Madar frowned deep in thought for a moment before shaking himself clear of it and looking up at her with curious eyes. Ryukyu wanted to coo at her cute son, but he was a growing boy and she knew that after a certain age, boy's tend not to like being described as cute aside from by their crush. "What kind of summons do you have, Kaa-chan?"

This, though, made her want to cackle in such a way that even that creep Orochimaru would shudder. "Hm, how would I describe him?"

"Him? Only one?" Madara asked, surprised, and Ryukyu chuckled. Ever since Madara and that cute team of his had made a name for themselves - Team Disaster, how delightful - she rarely got to see all that much of her eldest as they were often out on missions. But Minato-san was out of the village still, leaving them with about a month more, maybe, of rest and relaxation before they were once again released upon the world after their sensei returns and spends some time with his little son. (Young Menma was adorable.)

"Oh, yes. There might have once been more of his kind but there is now only one left. Such a pity, that, but that is how people react to things they do not understand or simply fear. Or can't control. Depends from person to person, really. I am the only person on this entire planet that he has ever created a contract with."

The way Madara's eyes were becoming so wide and interested and hopeful and excited had the Uchiha kunoichi barely hiding a smirk. She knew Izuna will want to eat his own magpie contract when he finds out about Madara's, but it was far too late. One of her sons may have made a foolish mistake but no way was another signing a bird contract if she had a say in it.

"Kaa-chan, what is your summon? Can I meet him? Can I sign a contract with him? Do you think he'd want me?"

Ryukyu loved that, unlike how Izuna and Keichiro at times reacted, Madara never resisted when she tried to cuddle him. He always seemed happy to indulge her. Then again, he always indulged his brothers, his teammate, his sensei, even the younger Senju and even Hashirama-kun, no matter how overbearing it could be. Was it a sensor thing? Or just a Madara thing? Either way, Ryukyu hoped it never quite changed. "Of course he'd want you, honey." And he would. Oh, he wouldOf course he would. Madara's chakra was a star burning in a child's body. Her loyal summon would be delighted to be so close to a star after millennia trapped on this Earth. He'd said more than once that he missed passing stars in the cosmos and bating in their stardust after one of them flickered out so it could form a new star. "But if you want to meet him, we need to go out of the village. He is rather large."

"Surely he can't be bigger than Gamabunta or Kurama?!"

"Oh, my beautiful little flame," Ryukyu felt her smile stretch into a feral-looking grin of delight that she knew Madara was inheriting from her, much to her delight. "You have no idea."

00000

Tajima blinked bleary eyes - he'd been staring at his clan's mission reports for the month that every clan head gets from the Hokage afterwards for hours now and hadn't even noticed when the lighting got bad for his eyes - down at his visitors standing in the doorway of his house as if they don't have a standing invitation for years now. Well, as much as a girl that's been living for years now in his house could be counted as a visitor, but Hashirama was there with Tobirama, too, so he guessed plural was okay, even if these kids were around often enough they might as well be his own, even if second hand.

Well, not Menma. He was a rather recent addition, all things considered, but he'd be going back to his parents soon enough so he definitely didn't count. Or he did count. You know, as a visitor. Tajima resisted the urge to bang his head. He was tired and wanted a nap, as cat-like as that might make him sound. People do always compare the Uchiha to cats once they get to know them.

He raised an eyebrow at his eldest son's teammates and, bless them, they knew him well enough at this point to take that as their cue to talk. "Tajima-sama, do you happen to know where Madara might be?"

The eyebrow only arched higher. "Aren't two of you unparalleled sensors save for him and your sunny sensei?"

The littler Senju scowled. "Mito and I were testing out chakra suppression seals." At that, Tajima took the time to look down Madara's teammates bodies and sighed when he saw irritated looking skin around a flaring seal. They probably even needed Madara's help, somehow, to take them off.

"Honestly, you two," he sighed, massaging the bridge of his nose. "No, I don't know where my son is. Have you asked any of his brothers? Izuna in particular has a bit of an obsessive stalkerish attitude towards him ever since you guys came back from Sora-Ku. He should know."

"We asked," Mito said patiently and Tajima cursed before signaling the children to wait for a moment before he went back into the house. He came back barely a minute later when he could not find his wife.

"It would seem he might be off somewhere with Ryukyu. Have you asked your mother?"

"She doesn't know," Hashirama said this time and Tajima felt worry stir in his chest. He knew it was irrational to jump to conclusions but the fear never quite went away after hearing that the deserter Sannin had wanted to take his son's body for his own nefarious reasons. Orochimaru was not an enemy to be taken lightly and Madara can't always be around his friends and teammates. Had Madara been alone somewhere and the snake had taken the opportunity to strike? Had Ryukyu seen and was now chasing after them to save their Madara? Or was she overwhelmed and lying in some ditch somewhere, her beautiful eyes gauged out-?

There was a sudden burst of lightning and thunder out of literal nowhere before thick, dark clouds suddenly gathered over the village, thunder rolling over and over again as a slight wind picked up. Looking up, Tajima wanted to curse when he thought he saw a dark shadow sailing overhead just above the clouds.

'Damn it, Ryukyu!'

"What the heck!?" Hashirama could be heard yelping even as another roll of thunder pierced their ears. The triumphant roar that followed was both a relief and made his knees want to knock together as it was still terrifying to hear, no matter how used to it he may grow. Still, if it didn't sound enraged and had traveled such an insignificant distance as to be heard so clearly here, then maybe his family wasn't in danger. But why then-

He cursed again, massaging his temples with both hands as he felt a migraine building underneath his skin. Of course. Of course Ryukyu had found out that Madara was looking for a summoning contract. Of fucking course. There was a reason Tajima had directed Izuna away from asking his mother. Ryukyu's summon was terrifying and utterly loyal to her but he was uncommon and not something even the bravest of shinobi would dare face. How his beloved wife had ever managed to make a contract with a creature like that ... And what was worse, he knew Madara will probably be just to the beast's tastes, too. As if his eldest son wasn't already the second coming of Uchiha Ryukyu, the Uchiha Dragoness.

"You know something." He opened his eyes to meet accusing red - not of the Sharingan, but close in color and intensity of the glare both, which was impressive - ones boring into him from the twelve year old boy. "What's going on?"

But before the Uchiha Clan Head could say anything, a familiar huge form came into view from the horizon, speeding towards them rather impressively. The children all followed his gaze and gawked. To be expected, really. The black, gold and red dragon nearly dwarfed the Kyuubi in size and he was at least twice as ancient. Dark purple eyes gazed down at them even as Ryujin-sama made sure to carefully lower his head for his passengers - his summoners, Tajima corrected himself when he saw Madara bearing the same tattooed seal on his left hip (Why did it have to be there!? He didn't want his son to be going around and flaunting his muscled but still developing torso! He didn't want his wife to be strutting about in nothing but her trousers and some modesty wrappings! Men were staring. And drooling! It's not like they could have made their return subtle with the dragon's size.) as his wife, just peaking from underneath their waistbands, as shimmering as liquid gold on their pale skin - to safely get off while at the same time not knocking down any buildings or anything.

Ryukyu seemed rather pleased with herself when she saw how adoringly Madara was staring at Ryujin-sama and how taken with the boy the dragon was in turn.

"This is a nightmare," Tajima whispered to himself even as he and the rest of the village watched Ryujin-sama convulse and maneuver in the sky before he disappeared off into the clouds and the day became as clear and as sunny as it had been despite it already being practically dusk.

"Now, now, don't be melodramatic, husband," Ryukyu admonished even as she stepped out of the way for Tobirama and Hashirama to practically lunch themselves on the half dressed Madara with instant questions and exclamations, Mito only stopping herself because she was still holding her baby cousin. "Madara needs a strong kyuchiyose contract and we all know who has the best one."

"An utter, total nightmare," Tajima insisted in a deadpan.

Ryukyu huffed but accepted his robe when he took it off and draped it over her shoulders. The two adults looked at their son as his friends all but interrogated him about his new summon. Tajima was of the opinion that maybe it was okay for Madara to have a contract with Ryujin-sama after all. Just maybe. Ryujin-sama would, in the end, always be there for his son and he was by far one of the most powerful creatures to have landed on this planet. Of course, only Ryukyu had been told the full story of the dragon's origins but Uchiha hid very little from their loved ones. And besides that, with the life and reputation Madara now had, backup the likes of Ryujin-sama was just perfect.

"But a preferred nightmare," he conceded to his wife and that earned him a peck to the lips. He sighed, wondering if he should finally admit out loud to Butsuma that his old friend was right and that the woman had him completely wrapped around all of her fingers.

"Come, husband mine, I do believe we should prepare ourselves. I doubt our esteemed Hokage will take long before she arrives to curse me to hell and back for contributing to even more chaos in her village."

Tajima snorted and followed Ryukyu back inside with only a snap at Madara to put on a shirt before he catches a cold.

He wondered idly if the drug store would sell him enough pain killers for the headache that will be the result of dealing with their enraged Hokage.

00000

In her office, a half tipsy Tsunade was still staring almost blankly at the slowly clearing sky just as the sun finally set after the dragon's departure. Behind her in her Tower office, somewhere near the desk, poor Shizune lay in a dead faint after having caught glimpse of the terrifying beast that was larger even than the Kyuubi that was now housed within Tsunade's distant niece. Tonton was nosing at her assistant's face in an attempt to wake her up but Shizune gave no sign of getting up.

Tsunade took a large gulp of sake, breathed in deeply ...

"CURSE YOU, UCHIHA RYUKYU!"

00000

On the other side of the village, while serving her family and their friends dinner, deep within the Uchiha district, Uchiha Ryukyu cackled.

Of course Madara would have her contract.

He was her second coming.

(Pity the world.)

Chapter Text

Honestly, Minato was not home even two days after his very, very long mission with Kushina when they both felt the startling, almost suffocating spikes in two familiar chakra that had the Namikaze quickly appearing in the Senju compound, expecting to have to clean up some dead bodies, only to find himself in a rather peculiar situation he rather hated and really didn't want to deal with.

For one, Mito-chan had went to visit her relatives back in Uzushiogakure after she heard she got a step-sibling. (She had been terrifying when she first learned of it and had taken out her rage on her sparring partners because her father hadn't told her his new wife was pregnant for no other reason than because 'they didn't like each other'. Never mind that whatever child was born from that woman would still share blood with Mito-chan and would be family. Never mind that Mito-chan was still Ashina-sama's daughter and deserved to know. Ashina-sama was probably pissing his pants off since Ryukyu-sama had refused to let anyone else escort the Uzumaki kunoichi to her home country. Ryukyu-sama was terrifying.) She wasn't going to be back for at least two months.

Second, Madara-kun was helping Tajima-sama with Izuna-kun to run the Military Police Force this week and was as such unavailable for missions or pretty much anything else that wasn't life and death while also standing in as the default cook and mother hen in their family since Ryukyu-sama was absent, which included sorting out his siblings and taking up some of Ryukyu-sama's responsibilities until she comes back. He'll probably come back to training by next week, at which point Minato will have to actually hold said training sessions, but until then, Madara-kun was practically absent from the village.

And three, perhaps his least favorite part of all with this situation, Itama-kun had gotten hurt on a genin D-rank mission recently and the tensions in the main Senju household were high and thick enough to drown people or to be cut with a kunai. Especially around Tobirama-kun and Hashirama-kun, though what could have possibly set them off like this and at each other was beyond the blond jonin. All he knew was that he should probably ask Tsunade-sama for a raise.

The situation before him wasn't one you'd see often around brothers as close as any of the Uchiha or the Senju from the main house. The Uchiha as a whole, while temperamental, never bottled their problems up or let them stew to the point they might feel the need to gauge each other's eyes out while the Senju had a tendency to do just that. In this, the Uchiha had a much healthier coping mechanism and that was coming from a guy who had been warned about peculiar Uchiha behaviors, especially in the face of overwhelming loss, before he got one on his genin team. As far as he knew, Madara-kun and Izuna-kun resolved any arguments between them in spars or prank wars or Madara-kun simply throwing his younger brother into their koi pond or any other body of water nearby.

Tobirama-kun was, in general, a lot more reserved around pretty much everyone except his family and his teammates, but if he got in an argument with one of them, he bottled it up or simply let it go, depending on the severity of the offense. Fighting with Hashirama-kun was always the worst but he had never seen it at this level.

No wonder he had felt their chakra spikes nearly half a village away. It was practically visible, for heaven's sake! The two boys were livid, standing against each other with severe glares on their young faces, both of them having even gone as far as to activate Sage Mode - when had Tobirama-kun gotten that!? How much had Minato missed while on this long mission!? - which only made their expressions scarier. The floor boards beneath them were cracked and they had sank a bit beneath the weight of their own chakra. Wind was whipping every which way under the force of the collision of those two signatures and even some furniture was overturned.

Butsuma-sama was standing in one corner of the room shielding young Kawarama-kun while Kira-sama and Itama-kun were nowhere in sight, probably at a doctor's appointment about the boy's injury. Minato instantly made his way over to the father, erecting an earth shield in front of them but he could already feel the colliding chakras chipping away at it, making it crumble at a disheartening rate. That at least explained it why the elder man hadn't tried doing this on his own by now despite being proficient in doton.

"What the hell happened, Butsuma-sama?" Minato asked, needing to know what had caused this if he wanted to help. Best if he dealt with it rather than have ANBU come and knock the boys out. Hashirama-kun was a highly respected chuunin and the Senju Heir and Tobirama-kun was a art of his infamous Team Disaster as well as the second heir. It would be bad for their reputation and the reputation of their clan. Especially since they were already considered to be a part of the rather 'troublesome' bunch.

"I don't know! One second, they were talking about something while I was explaining to Kawarama about something relating to his homework and then the next, those two were in each other's faces and their chakra was through the roof! I tried getting them to settle down, but the longer they argued, the harder the chakra started pressing in on us and they didn't even hear me!" The Senju Clan Head had to shout to be heard over all of the noise despite how closely pressed the two adults were. "In the end, I decided to just grab Kawarama and tried to stay out of the way! It only got worse, as you can see! I'm going to strangle those little brats if I have to rebuild the entire house!"

Minato swore inwardly because none of that revealed what could have caused the brothers to start fighting in the first place. Yes, Tobirama-kun could snap and yes, Hashirama-kun wasn't simply a happy go lucky guy despite that being his default mode, but they both still could lose their tempers if the right trigger is stepped on. Whatever had caused them to explode like this needed to be put on the taboo list if the village ever wanted to survive. Repeats of something like this, especially in public, would be catastrophic. "I'll see what I can do!"

With that, the blond erected two more walls in front of the two cowering Senju - though is it truly cowering if it's common sense? - before using Hiraishin to appear right next to Tobirama-kun, trying to get the two brothers' attention politely, calling both of their names before resorting to a commanding, authoritative tone when it became obvious that the two weren't even paying him any heed, which was rude. He was the Yellow Flash, damn it. A couple of prepubescent boys shouldn't ignore him when he demands their attention. Seeing no other option and silently apologizing to the entire village and especially Butsuma-sama and Kawarama-kun for this, Minato let his own chakra spike to the same levels as Tobirama-kun's and Hashirama-kun's, surprised to find it so difficult. Then again, they had some seriously phenomenal chakra resources, especially for kids their age. They haven't even reached their full potential yet!

The addition of his own chakra to the chaos only made things even worse for the already trashed living room but he had no choice in the matter since the Senju brothers had started radiating some serious killing intent that was bound to be felt throughout the whole Senju Compound and probably even beyond. Minato debated adding his own into the mix to hopefully snap at least Tobirama-kun out of it, given his sensory abilities were bound to react to that at least - though he wasn't exactly looking forward to a water dragon the size of the Kyuubi's fist slamming him through the wall, but sacrifices must be made for the good of the village and all that - when someone else seems to have beat him to it.

It was not exactly pleasant.

Waves of overwhelming killing intent rolled throughout the whole of Konoha in waves upon waves as scorching chakra seemed to lash out at anyone stupid enough not to immediately be petrified by it. It sure as hell was enough to make Minato and the two boys freeze up like rabbits almost the exact same second that it registered and their instincts practically had them cowering down in deference to the predator that came prowling into the living room. The tomoe spun in livid, slow circles in the sea of blood red irises that ominously promised death and nightmares to all those who do not bow down before the pissed off Uchiha.

Distantly, Minato thought he heard Butsuma-sama whimper. "Please spare us, Ryukyu-sama! Please forgive us for bothering you!" But that didn't make any sense because Ryukyu-sama was out of the village, escorting Mito-chan to Uzushio so she can meet her new step-sibling. But there was also no one else who could have possibly produced a killing intent that was sure to drown out the sound of a live battlefield, a killing intent so potent that it practically had an entire shinobi village (especially one the size of Konoha) on their knees as they tried to weather through it without outright losing consciousness. Minato still remembered, when he had been younger, how he would nearly fall over nearly every day when the waves would hit, coming from the Uchiha Compound. Back then, during Ryukyu-sama's first pregnancy, no one had known how volatile her temper might be under all of the hormones and easily set it off. The whole village sagged in relief and threw celebrations the day Madara-kun was born-

Minato gulped as the boy in question stormed over to where he and the two eldest Senju brothers were standing, glowing with even more chakra than Hashirama-kun and Tobirama-kun had and their had been a visible dark purple and bright blue respectively. Madara-kun's was a very deep blue, rivaling sapphires in color, which only offset the red of his eyes more. There was a scary grin on his face that made Minato think of Kushina when she lost her temper.

Even Madara-kun's hair was whipping about almost in mimicry of the way Kushina's hair seemed to gain sentience when she was pissed off!

"M-Madara," Hashirama-kun somehow managed to get out despite his voice breaking under the pressure of the Uchiha's killing intent threatening to drown them. "We were just-"

"Do I care?" Minato gulped in tandem with the two boys this time. That tone they all recognized, be it from their mother or his wife but mostly, it was a near perfect match for Ryukyu-sama's 'don't sell me bullshit if you want to live' voice that usually preludes some serious ass whooping.

"Probably not." Minato didn't know if he wanted to strangle or applaud Hashirama-kun for managing to speak at a time like this. The blond seriously regretted his life choices that have ultimately led him to this exact moment in time.

'Have I offended the gods in my past life somehow to deserve this punishment?' He couldn't help but wonder. Surely he had desecrated some sacred temple and now he was sentenced to suffer for it. It sure as hell felt like that. Madara-kun's chakra, usually a pleasant getaway from the rest of the world, a safe haven to rest his sensory abilities against, was now oppressive and threatened to either give him a headache or to tear his head apart. Tobirama-kun must have felt like he was burning up from the inside or that he was being disemboweled.

"Then why am I here, fixing your shit? No, don't answer that, you brainless tree stump. Get up. I just had to sacrifice my lunch break for you nincompoops, which means you owe me inarizushi. My shift ends at six. This means you have four hours to get your shit together, fix this mess and wait for me outside of the police department building. If you don't clean up this mess until then or try to run, I will hunt you down and set you on fire. If I end up having to summon Ryujin (Minato whimpered at that; why hadn't he heard anything about that!? He was their sensei! He should be made aware of the fact that his genin were becoming insanely stronger while he was away on one measly mission!) or use Byakugo to adequately punish you, you may as well save your prayers because no one will hear you. Have I made myself clear?" The three of them nodded frantically, not willing to test the Uchiha's infamous temper, not when he had obviously been denied his lunch break. Madara-kun easily got cranky but now that he had taken on some extra duties until his mother returns, it was more likely to describe him as downright explosive. "Hn."

And with that, the Uchiha whirled around in his heal and stormed out of the house.

"I want to be him when I grow up," Kawarama-kun, sweet, innocent Kawarama-kun, breathed out in an awed whisper as the first sound he made since Minato arrived and it was that which broke the long minute of tense silence.

"Gods above and bellow, did this world truly need the second coming of Uchiha Ryukyu?" Butsuma-sama asked as though in prayer for strength and patience. The blue eyed Namikaze wholeheartedly agreed.

One Uchiha Dragoness was more than enough.

"We should probably start cleaning this whole mess up before Madara-kun makes good on his promise," he suggested when no one said or moved to do anything else, snapping everyone back to attention and surveying the damage. It was not pretty. Did it make him a coward that Minato wanted out of here before Kira-sama might come back home to see the destruction wrought upon her living room?

"What," a voice hissed and he decided that, no, he was not a coward, just an extremely smart individual who wanted to live to see his son grow up. "Happened. Here?" Still, Hatake Kira-sama's anger didn't manage to stand up to Madara-kun's temper. Didn't make it any less scary, though.

"Kira, love of my life, my most precious and respected wife-"

"Butsuma~!" Said man gulped. His sons had been wise enough to stay quiet, though a look at their faces showed that Hashirama-kun was as white as a ghost while Tobirama-kun had an almost reverent expression on his face with a faint blush, if Minato was not mistaken, and his eyes were distant, as though he wasn't even registering his mother's anger. From the way Butsuma-sama's panicked expression turned to despair when he turned to look at his son's for support upon seeing it, Minato had the urge to laugh hysterically at their shared realization.

"Mi-na-to~." The Yellow Flash flinched when Kushina's voice came from just a few steps behind Kira-sama and he knew he was screwed. It had been his turn to cook, after all.

'Sayonara, cruel world. Pure Lands, here we come.'

00000

"Madara's quite stunning when he's angry," Tobirama-kun said hours later, when they were all on their knees and polishing the new wooden floors Hashirama-kun had grown for the living room so it would be spotless and no one would have any need to mete out punishment. The two adults and one other boy sharing the current punishment with him froze, turning incredulous eyes on the white haired Senju that took after his Hatake mother way too much for anyone's comfort.

Butsuma-sama looked like he was done with the world. "He takes after his mother, that one. And it seems that the Uchiha madness has rubbed off on you, too, from how much time you spend at Tajima's place. Only Tajima was mad enough to pursue the Uchiha Dragoness. Why did my son have to pick up such tastes as well?"

"To be fair, Butsuma-sama, you're not all that better yourself." Speaking hurt. Kushina, his beloved wife, the Red Hot Habanero, had done quite a number on his face. Minato was sure fighting A and B during the Third War hadn't hurt this much. Hell, he was sure fighting the Kyuubi wouldn't have hurt this much. "I myself have been wondering at my life choices all day. I think we should make offerings at a shrine. Surely having even a little bit of the gods' favor will improve our life standings."

"It's a curse of shinobi to find deadly people attractive," Butsuma-sama said with a long suffering sigh. Still, Minato was pretty sure he would never trade his wife for anything in the world. Minato himself loved Kushina more than the air in his lungs and the blood in his heart. "Tobirama, you better marry that boy or I am disowning you."

"What?" The little albino deadpanned, probably having spaced out and not having caught much of their conversation, if any of it at all. His earlier comment hadn't exactly sounded like a conversation starter, more like a musing to himself. Minato wished him all the luck in the world with that pursuit.

"At least Mito is a mild-mannered, calm, elegant lady," Hashirama-kun said with what sounded like utter relief. The two adults shared a look at that while Tobirama-kun just snorted, moving away from them to not get involved in the upcoming conversation and wailing to spare his eardrums, polishing another part of the floor on the other side of the room.

"Hashirama-kun, you are aware that most Uzumaki are exactly like Kushina, right? In various degrees, I will admit, but not all that different. And Mito-chan is Kushina's second knee niece. They're rather closely related."

"Not to mention that Mito is being raised by Ryukyu," Butsuma-sama added. "I think I saw your little sweetheart turn a boulder into dust once, when training with Tsunade-sama."

"Oh, Mito and Madara are a lot more alike in temper than you could believe," Tobirama-kun tossed in casually, not even turning around to look at them. Minato could only nod in agreement to that and watch Hashirama-kun pale as realization slowly set in like the cold up in the Land of Snow or Land of Iron.

Butsuma-sama just shook his head, got up to fetch a bottle of sake and continued polishing the floor with them while getting drunk for his sons' sake.

It's not easy to accept that both of your potential future in-laws were raised by the Uchiha Dragoness.

Minato pitied the village.

Chapter Text

It's been a long time since Izuna had this much time to spend with his older brother. Madara was often out of the village or too busy with missions within the village that they usually only had the early mornings and late afternoons to themselves to just spend some time together and usually, they weren't even alone. Mito lived with them and the Snowflake was an everyday presence for almost as long as Izuna can remember, as well as Hashirama, that tree-huger loudmouth.

Now, it's not that Izuna overly minded their presence, because usually their cousin Touka came along since she was older than them and usually played the role of supervisor (babysitter, though none of the Senju would ever call it as such) and Izuna rather liked her - he even had a crush on her, not that he would ever admit that out loud where Madara might hear him - so it was okay. But it still bothered him when he and their younger brothers only got to see Madara for a few hours a day while the Snowflake and Mito got to spend sometimes days in their eldest brother's company. It wasn't fair but Izuna knew that life by default wasn't and instead focused on becoming stronger so he can go on missions with his Aniki as well.

Minato-sensei's long mission, though, came with the benefit of Team 4 staying within Konoha's walls until he not only got back but had sufficient rest time as well, which mad it nearly nine months of Team Disaster unleashing all of its disastrous tendencies and energy on the poor citizens and buildings of Konoha. The Sandaime was cursing the day she had taken the hat from her sensei but Izuna didn't mind all the chaos happening around the village.

As long as it wasn't Madara being kidnapped again or the Senju brothers fighting over stupid shit, he was fine. Hell, he even got more time to spar with good old Tobi again! They hadn't sparred since the special Snowflake skipped years and ended up graduating with Madara and Mito before even Hashirama. Though Izuna would have liked it if Madara had told him his old school rival had mastered Sage Mode sooner rather than leave Izuna to figure it out on his own a few days after his brother signed that contract with Ryujin-sama. (And no, Izuna did not give his father the cold shoulder because Tajima had purposefully stirred him far away from his mother when he had been looking for his own kyuchiyose contract. He wasn't that childish, damn it, no matter what Keichiro might say.)

So, he had nothing against Team Disaster being 'grounded', since it finally gave all five Uchiha brothers a chance to go to the onsen together since before last year's Chuunin Exams. Madara had been hesitant to go, saying he would much rather stay at the one in the Uchiha Compound but there was nothing Izuna, Keichiro, Asama and Hiroto can't get their eldest brother to do, especially if they even hint at an attempt to guilt trip him because of his absence. Madara never got angry about said attempts and was instead proud of them for being so sneaky, like proper ninjas. Asama and Hiroto were always insufferable afterwards while Keichiro always got a bit flustered about the praise. All it did for Izuna was make him want to train more and become even better.

"This is great, Aniki! We haven't done something like this in ages! You'll let me wash your back for you, right?" Izuna couldn't exactly contain his excitement as they stripped in the changing room Madara had rented for them, smiling at his older brother as the teen took off his shirt. It's been a long time since Madara had dressed in anything other than those long robes from the olden times that he liked so much for some reason. Izuna was never going to tell him that he thinks it's for the flair and the dramatics, mostly because it would reveal the reason why he usually likes to wear them, too, though not nearly as much as Madara.

"No way! We want to wash Aniki's back!" The twins immediately protested, pouting at the two eldest, by which Izuna was not moved at all. He was just as cute so he was immune to their baby brothers' evil ways!

"Yeah, well, too bad. Aniki has only one back and you two pipsqueaks are far too short to reach most of it." If he only just barely refrained from poking his tongue out at them, well, no one had to know about that.

"Aniki, Izu-nii is being mean~!" And said Uchiha gawked at the audacity of he brats for daring to tattletale on him! Right in front of him!

Madara, the traitor, only chuckled. "Izuna, don't be mean to Asama and Hiroto. Asama, Hiroto," he interjected before the little devils could celebrate their victory and Izuna could pout. "Don't bully your Nii-san. As much as you are all my little brothers, Izuna was there first." Izuna puffed up at that, enjoying perhaps a bit too much when Madara ruffled his hair despite it meaning that he now had to rearrange it before he could even pull it into a bun. Again. "Besides, Keichiro is my favorite so he gets to wash my back."

"Aniki~!" And Madara, the bastard, just laughed at them as he took a towel and all but ran out of the changing room and into the showers, ignoring his whining brothers that rushed to follow. Still, despite their pouting and prodding and teasing, there were huge smiles on all of their faces by the time they got out of the showers with only towels wrapped around their waists, Izuna's and Madara's long hair pulled up into messy but efficient buns.

The smiles fell from the two eldest's faces when they stepped into the public bath and found that bastard that dared call Aniki a fiend and that Hyuuga jerk already enjoying themselves in the same pool as they had chosen. "Oh, look! It is the despicable Uchiha Madara and his youthful brothers! Welcome! Please join us, our fellow Konoha shinobi comrades!"

"Is it too late to change our pool?" Izuna couldn't help but ask and hated that he knew the answer even before he looked at Madara's grim set of lips. He didn't stop it this time. He pouted. Great. This was the absolute best way to irritate Madara into silence and make the air tense. Way to ruin their day together.

"What's wrong, Uchiha? Afraid of a little water?" Hyuuga - Izuna thought his name was Hitoni or something; he used to go to the same class as Madara and Hashirama before Madara, Mito and Tobirama skipped a year, two in Tobirama's case, and graduated early - said condescendingly, only for his question to be answered with a snort coming from another doorway.

"You are aware of how often I near drown him on the training field, yes? Even if he was, it would be a perfectly reasonable reaction at this point." The Snowflake himself says even as he and an excitedly waving Hashirama usher their own younger brothers into the outside pool. Izuna noted that Itama still seemed to be recovering from that accident during that stupid D-rank mission. Whoever thought that hunting down a ninneko that came from Sora-Ku of all places was a good mission for the first few months as a genin? They should be arrested for stupidity. Izuna hadn't met many ninneko, only the ones that hung around the Uchiha Compound, but he knew they were fierce and tricky little rascals. He'd had to hunt one down as one of his own genin missions, after all, but at least he'd known not to underestimate them and he'd already awakened one of the earlier stages of the Sharingan. There was no way Itama's team could have been ready for that, not if their sensei had nearly been blown up by the temperamental tabby.

You just don't piss ninja cats off.

"If we were going by that logic, you should have a near phobia of fire by now, Senju, and yet you find your way to the Uchiha bonfires all on your own just fine," Madara said with a snort and finally moved to get into the pool, Izuna hurrying after him so he could steal a space by Madara's side as the other one was already being fought over by Asama and Hiroto, both of them glaring death at the Snowflake. Izuna will never understand their rivalry with his former rival over Madara but it was damn funny to watch. Of course, then the Senju Ghost cheated and used that Hiraishin Team 4 as a whole seemed to enjoy using and ended up sitting right next to Aniki, ignoring the pouting and complaining of the two youngest Uchiha while Keichiro just made his way over to Itama and Kawarama, the three boys already in deep conversation about one thing or the other.

Bushy eyebrows frowned at Tobirama even as Madara settled their youngest brothers and gave them something to entertain themselves. "That was not very youthful."

"I didn't know you guys were coming here today," Izuna was quick to interject lest this idiot try to attack Aniki again. Damn it, Izuna had planned this outing with the specific idea in mind to get Madara to destress already! Kaa-san and Mito had returned just a few days ago and were catching up on everything that has happened in their absence but the Uchiha matriarch was slowly taking her duties back from her eldest son, meaning Madara was still rather busy. This was their day to relax. Not entertain stupid Maito Dai.

"Oh! Otou-san all but threw us out of the house after the fifth explosion this morning so Itama decided we should spend the day pampering ourselves at the onsen!" Hashirama explained excitedly and Izuna tried not to smirk at the explosion part or how his older brother was already puffing up to lecture his younger teammate.

"Seriously, Tobirama? What did you do now?"

The white haired boy scoffed, crossing his arms even as he automatically started relaxing in the water. Izuna wondered what that felt like, being so in tune with your chakra affinity that mere contact with it made you relax. His primary affinity, like in every Uchiha, was fire, but nowhere near on the same level as was with Madara, and his secondary affinity was lightning, so that couldn't possibly be so pleasant.

"I will have you know that I have managed to make an almost exact same copy of the special green food pill the Akimichi make only for their clan members, only with far less devastating aftereffects on the user's chakra."

Izuna whistled. "Okay, damn, that's something to be impressed by. But why did that cause explosions?"

"I'm experimenting with only a list of chemicals Torifu-san indulged me. I had to figure out the proportions myself and then figure out how to prevent the ingredients from causing harm to the body after their effect wears off. None of those special pills even remotely resembles the food pills we get for missions. I was on the verge of a breakthrough when Otou-sama grew sick of the ground shaking under his feet. I'll just have to continue testing tomorrow."

"If you manage to figure that out, I'm pretty sure Torifu will try to marry you to his niece, the clan head's daughter, Choko was it, so the Akimichi could add you to their family," Madara joked and Izuna had a first row seat to watching the second eldest Senju's face scrunch up in distaste. "Still, that's really something to be proud of. Though you might want to interest Tsunade-sama in your experiments so she wouldn't throw a fit every single time something went boom in the Senju district."

"I think she's currently too busy trying to turn Touka into an alcoholic over at the woman side of the onsen to worry about my explosions." There was a long, telling pause as the teens and preteens all stared at the Senju. "What? Tsunade-sama, besides being the Hokage, is not only human, too, but is our aunt or some such relative and she likes Touka. Though I think she dragged Kushina-sama, Kaa-san, Mito and even Ryukyu-sama with her and Shizune-san. A girl's day out or something."

"Eyes up front, Hyuuga," Madara and Izuna hissed immediately and the Hyuuga glared at them, supposedly offended. "And better keep those eyes just like that or there will be trouble," Madara added, his own eyes whirling into the red of the Sharingan, Izuna quick to follow suit so he may protect Touka's and their mother's and practically sister's virtue.

"Come now, Uchiha. Surely you understand the want to take a peek? You are a man under that towel, yes? Or is the rhombus on your forehead telling us all something?" Izuna had actually completely forgotten about the violet rhombus seal tattooed into the skin just above the bridge of Madara's nose. It was usually covered either by his hitai-ate or by his fringe, seeing as it shielded almost an entire half of his face. It was rare to see it so openly on display as it was now, with Madara's hair pulled back in the bun.

"Your point?" Tobirama asked with a deadly pointed tone, arching a snow white eyebrow and drawing the attention to the red rhombus on his own forehead. The Hyuuga ignored him, eyes focused on Madara, faint veins starting to bulge around them. Izuna snarled but was also ignored in favor of his brother. The tension was suddenly so thick that it was suffocating.

"I mean, we know only Hokage-sama has that mark and no one else. Are you trying to tell us something, Ma-da-ra?"

The two had an intense stare off, Byakugan against Sharingan, neither backing off and Izuna wondered if they'd get banned from the onsen when the fight inevitably destroys this pool and forces both the Uchiha and the Hyuuga to pay the debt for the repairs. Then Madara smiled the Kaa-san smile and Izuna got shivers down his spine. From the corner of his eye, he saw Asama, Hiroto and Keichiro shudder just the same and the four brothers subtly moved the slightest bit away or out of their brother's way should he lounge. It was testament to how well they knew each other both privately and as teammates that Tobirama already looked ready to jump to Madara's aid should he need it. Izuna liked his teammates, don't get him wrong, but he's not sure if they'd ever achieve the level of trust and understanding Team Disaster has between them.

They all watched in some sort of stunned incredulity when the eldest Uchiha present slowly stood up, seemingly inch by inch in slow motion like it was some sort of striptease and Izuna wanted to cover his eyes and murder everyone for staring ... Only Madara ended up being his bastard self and used a signless futon jutsu to gather the steam from their bath around his waist until he could fetch his towel. Not a true deterrent against the Hyuuga doujutsu but Hitoni or whatever his name was seemed to stunned by the mocking to even try seeing past it as he had been silently threatening.

His Aniki casually walked - more like strutted, since he knew everyone was watching - over to one of the large boulders that were a part of the wooden fence - gotta be economic. Besides, the rock was there first and it was a landmark on how far the property was the onsen's and what belonged to the village - that was facing the far east side of the cliff of the Hokage Mountain and where there was nothing else but rocks and some less healthy pools of hot water that were no good for bathing. Madara turned around to keep eye contact with the Hyuuga with still that same scary smile on his lips as he casually placed his fingers as though to flick someone on the forehead for being silly. Except when he flicked his fingers against the boulder, numerous cracks started appearing on its surface until it was completely covered in them and one third of the stone turned to fine powder, the rest crumbling into a pile of miniature pebbles.

"Is my message clear, Hi-to-ni? Or must I speak louder?"

"So cool!" Gushed the younger Uchiha and Senju brothers while Izuna went pale as a sheet.

"Uh, Aniki?" He pointed a finger behind Madara and everyone turned their focus on a completely distracted old man with long,shaggy white hair, dressed in some red clothes and with a huge scroll slung on his lower back, sitting on some rock with a notebook on one of his knees, a pen in one hand and binoculars in the other, a flush to his cheeks that was decidedly not from the steam coming from any of the hot pools and a perverted grin on his lips as he gazed in the direction of none other than the female side of the onsen.

He only looked up when he felt the intense spikes of killer intent from nine protective sons/brothers/cousins (two of whom had a crush). "Uh-" Before he could even start making excuses, Tobirama was by Madara's side and there was a stream of liquid fire hurtling towards the pervert. Izuna and the younger Uchiha were not far behind their brother in breathing fire and firing lightning on the man and not even the pacifist Hashirama held back when he made wooden spikes grow out of the ground in an attempt to skewer the pervert.

"What's going on he-!? Jiraiya!?" Tsunade-sama had hauled herself up over the female side's fence to check on the ruckus, only to pull up short when she, apparently, recognized her former teammate. Izuna couldn't help but gawk along with everyone else. That was the third member of the Legendary Sannin? One of the strongest shinobi of the Second and Third Wars?!

"Hey, no time no peep- I mean see, Tsunade-hime!" The man said rather jovially given where he'd been caught and what he'd been doing when he'd been caught.

"Were you spying on us?" The blonde asked in a very deadly whisper, her eyebrow ticking. Izuna gulped, backing away just in case he was somehow in the danger zone, especially when the Sandaime's companions all joined her in glaring over the fence. With his Sharingan he had the moment preserved in perfect clarity when Jiraiya of the Sannin realized how grave his situation was and paled to match his hair. He also was blessed to now have a perfect memory of Touka's naked, wet biceps flexing in preparation to kick ass. He may as well be in heaven. If he died right at this instant, he'd die happy.

"N-no, of course not! I'd never disrespect ladies such as yourselves! I-"

"Team Disaster," Tsunade said in an authoritative, deadly voice that had them all shutting up and the three members of said team stiffening, preparing for action. "I want him begging for mercy before sundown."

"Yes, Hokage-sama," Mito - who had, by the way, used some very useful futon jutsu that Izuna was sure everyone would ask her later to teach them to dress herself into her usual battle garb - Madara and Tobirama all said perhaps a bit too eagerly, the two boys using Hiraishin to disappear into the changing rooms and reappear already in their pants and tying kimono shirts at the waist. Jiraiya looked from Mito with chakra chains forming around her to Madara with his gunbai to Tobirama with his Raijin no Ken and kissed his dignity goodbye as he fled from the scene.

The three gave chase far too eagerly.

"Kushina!" Not a second later, Madara's sensei arrived in one of his yellow flashes, looking a bit frazzled, dragging a disgruntled Hatake Sakumo along. "My pervy senses are tingling! Did Ero-sensei come back to the village?"

"That's still creepy as fuck, Minato," the man's wife said honestly and Izuna had to agree.

"Oh, dear," Sakumo-sensei said as he frowned in the distance. "Is that your team, Minato? It looks like- Ah, never mind, there's the Kyuubi."

Minato-sensei went pale and Tsunade-sama cackled as he disappeared to attempt to save his former mentor's life.

"So, um," a hesitant Itama spoke up, drawing everyone's eyes to the skunk-haired Senju. "Lunch?"

"Sure. My treat, even," the Hokage said and Izuna lit up, forgetting all about his brother chasing down a Legendary Sannin when he saw Touka agreeing to tag along. Sure spending time with his often absent older brother was nice and all but this was lunch with Touka! Score!

Maybe he'll even get to see her flex her muscles more!

Chapter Text

To return from Sunagakure after a month long mission of helping their tentative allies fix up a better watering and sewage system to a village that's on complete lock-down due to a break-in and terrorist attack is one thing, but to return from Sunagakure after a month long mission and to learn that not only were his two younger brother's and his father dead, but that one of his teammates was missing was a completely other beast and Tobirama wasn't even sure if what he was doing was smart or not. All he knew was what Mito told him at the gates of the village, awaiting his return with no Madara at her side or anywhere within Konoha's walls, the entire village weeping inside them.

"There was an attack. A large group of ninja managed to sneak in. We still don't know how. We managed to capture one alive - well, Madara caught him and he is alive only thanks to Hiruzen-san, Danzo-san and Kagami-san made it in time to wrench Madara away before he could tear him apart like the others that hadn't managed to escape. They bombed the Academy and the orphanage. They attacked several clans' main houses, assassinating Clan Heads and Heirs. I'm sorry, Tobirama, but Butsuma-sama, Kawarama and Itama didn't make it-"

"The Uchiha?" He had interrupted Mito, not able to think about those deaths at the moment because he would break under the weight of the loss and who would go after Madara then? There was a reason why Mito had stopped him from entering through the gates. If he goes in, they won't let him go out and Madara was definitely out.

Mito had bit her lip, stopping herself from crying for the boys that may as well have been her own brothers and Tobirama had felt another wave of grief trying to consume him. Oh, gods, please don't. How was Madara supposed to- "Uchiha Keichiro, Uchiha Asama and Uchiha Hiroto are dead. They had a swift clean death."

'Fuck, Madara had sensed that!'

"Uchiha Tajima-" Tobirama felt all blood drain from his face. No, no that just can't be. Not the both of them! "Nearly had his eyes gauged out while he was still alive but Ryukyu-sama arrived to help before they could take them. He was swiftly killed before they turned to Ryukyu-sama." The Senju thought his knees would give out under him but he took comfort in the way Mito wasn't using the woman's full name. "She woke up from a coma five hours ago and took over from Madara as Clan Head of the Uchiha."

"How did they take it?" A question he dreaded asking and dreaded even more having answered. Everyone has heard of rumors about how such a loss affected an Uchiha. Tobirama wasn't sure what he expected at this point. Was there anything left of their friends?

"Madara, unfortunately, felt it happen." Of fucking course. The curse of all sensors. The only reason Tobirama hadn't felt anything was because he hadn't been extending his senses to his full capacity while he had to concentrate on other tasks and on keeping his temporary squad safe. "He activated the advanced form of the Sharingan-"

"The Mangekyo? Fuck!"

Mito nodded. Very little was actually known of the evolved form of the doujutsu, only that it eventually led to blindness unless an eye transplant can be made between two related closely by blood. If they also activated it as well, that is.

"He stormed immediately to where they were fighting Ryukyu-sama and then helped Kira-sama deal with her own clutch before moving on to the stragglers that were running away. The whole village felt it as he tore them apart. I think I heard one of the ANBU threw up upon seeing the aftermath after he was removed from the scene. Ryukyu-sama's been ... cold, for the lack of a better word, since she woke up. As for Izuna, he returned home when he felt his brother's killing intent spike, only to find the mangled bodies of Asama and Hiroto. I ... It was awful, Tobirama! I couldn't make out what belonged to whom and Izuna ... He has it too, you know. The Mangekyo ... Sakumo-sensei and Lee-sensei had to knock him out lest he exhaust himself since he didn't know how to control the Mangekyo. He's in the hospital, recovering. Hashirama was put in charge of the tracking units that went after the ones that managed to escape but there are doubts that they'll manage to catch any of them. Not after they saw Madara going through their comrades like that ... "

"And someone actually let him leave the village? In that state?"

Mito had a bitter smile on her lips. "Of course not. Except he gave himself a clan mission and permission to leave the village while he was Acting Clan Head and he snuck out before Konoha was put on lock-down. Tsunade-sama knows, of course, but she didn't send out anyone after him ... Said I was needed here to keep an eye on Ryukyu-sama until he comes back or Izuna wakes up. And since he's using one of our chakra scrambling seals, no one but Minato-sensei or you can track him down."

"But she can't make it an official mission in a time like this so she sent you out here to get me to go after him unofficially and bring him back before anyone finds out," Tobirama finished, frowning but pushing his grief away as he focused on that familiar signature in the distance and resolved to himself to find his teammate before anything could happen to him. "We'll be back by dawn-break."

"Of course you will." Eve without being a sensor, it would have been obvious to him that Mito was trying to reassure herself as well as assert her confidence in him.

Now, not half a night after he had set off from Konoha in search of his friend, heart still aching for the loss but forbidding himself to allow it to cloud his judgement, he finally found Madara. It would have been unsafe to attempt a Hiraishin with how fast Madara was moving and with his signature being scrambled, so Tobirama had employed the speed that he was getting more and more renowned for until he finally caught up to his wayward teammate.

Of course, the scene he came to wasn't exactly pretty. He imagined it was probably a miniaturized scene from any of the three shinobi wars with blood and limbs and weapons and fire and destruction everywhere, only in the center of it all stood a mere kid not yet of fourteen years of age, mercilessly and scarily efficiently ripping the arm off of one of the ninja, a man three times his size and four times his weight by the looks of him. And because Madara had both been cursed and blessed by fate as a strong sensor, even when his attention was completely turned to something else, he felt Tobirama approach from behind him and turned his head just enough that he could look at Tobirama over his left shoulder.

The Senju shivered a little when he was met not with three spinning tomoe, but rather a wheel of sorts formed by the new pattern of the Mangekyo Sharingan shinning like blood in Madara's eyes. There was something eerie about that gaze. The Sharingan could always see more than people gave it the credit for, but Tobirama for the first time felt as though those eyes were seeing completely through him.

"Madara."

"Tobirama." The younger boy winced at the cold tone coloring Madara's voice. It was truly chilling and he hated, absolutely hated the way the usually dancing inferno was still and frozen, none of that scorching heat anywhere in sight. If not for the teen's signature being recognizable even despite that, Tobirama would have thought Madara dead, gone from this world, forever beyond their reach. In a way, if he didn't break him out of this stupor, he will be. The Senju resists swallowing nervously.

He'd never had need to be nervous of Madara before. Not even when they first met. He'd just come to the older boy and had clung to him without remorse or shame.

But the Madara before him was a completely different person right now. Older, stronger, far less naive and grieving as of the second his three younger brothers' chakra signatures flickered out of his awareness once and for all. This Madara was splattered with blood and had the advanced form of his clan's kekkei genkai and was probably stronger than he had ever been before and yet, at the same time, Tobirama knew he had never been so fragile before as he was now. Tobirama feared a single gust of wind would break him to pieces, push him over the edge, lead him straight to insanity.

He'd heard about the Uchiha Curse of Hatred. He feared his friend may fall to that madness, may be lost to it.

Tobirama wasn't going to let him, not when he was still needed. By Ryukyu-sama. By Izuna. By Mito. By the village.

By Tobirama.

"You shouldn't be out here," he settled on opening with. "There was an attack on the village and your clan has been targeted. They need you now, Madara. You need to come back with me."

"They were hired by that organization down in Ame, you know," Madara said almost causally, if his tone wasn't sharp and unforgiving, a hint of his growing insanity showing through. The white haired genin did swallow this time, because he could feel it in Madara's chakra, the rising fury, the hatred. It was suffocating. Did all Uchiha mourn like this? "I interrogated them. Mangekyo sure has some useful tricks to offer. I've never realized how delightfully easy it is to torture someone in mind alone and have them begging for death in seconds. Well, seconds for me, days for them. Tsukuyomi is such a delightful technique."

"Madara-"

"I wish I had these eyes back then. I would have burned that whole place down to its foundations and then some so not even ashes remained." It was hissed out and Tobirama feared that was what Madara was out here doing. He wouldn't make it to Amegakure with the way his new eyes were draining his chakra. He'll collapse or die of chakra exhaustion long before he reaches the border.

"Madara, it wasn't your fault." That was, perhaps, the most important thing Tobirama had to say about the whole matter. Because Madara certainly looked like he didn't agree and was ready to argue about it. Well, too bad. Tobirama had lost his siblings, too, and he just wanted to hold the precious people remaining as close to him as he possibly could and Madara being out here was putting wrenches into his plans. Besides, Madara may need it even more than he did. Madara had been there to feel his brothers dying. And not just Asama, Hiroto and Keichiro. No, Madara had felt his father die, had felt his godfather die, had felt his pseudo younger brothers die when Tajima, Butsuma, Kawarama and Itama followed his three youngest brothers to the Pure Lands. Madara had been alone to feel it and then he had nearly lost his mother, too. Madara definitely needed cuddles the most here. Which was why Tobirama didn't bother to be diplomatic in his speech. He just needed to get Madara back to the village as soon as possible, to get him safe, to remind him that he wasn't alone in this world quite yet, despite the tragedy that had happened. "No, shut up. It wasn't. You had no way of knowing those bastards would attack Konoha or kill so many people. And you can't be expected to do everything. You're still just a kid."

"I was their older brother!" The Uchiha snapped and ... And that was a good thing. That was unbearably a good thing, even if his chakra lashed out at Tobirama and made him feel lightheaded. Gods, such fire bright chakra should never feel so dark. "They were mine to protect! They trusted me to protect them and I failed!"

"There was nothing you could have done." Not judging by what Mito had told him. Madara needed to face that or else he really will go mad. "You're not god, Madara. No one expects you to do everything. No one expects you to be strong for everyone. You did what you could and this time it turned out to be not enough, but it wasn't your fault." He hated the way his friend's breathing hitched. He'd never heard Madara cry before. When he had been younger, he had actually foolishly believed the Uchiha incapable of it because he was so great. As much as he didn't want to see it now ... Well, Madara needed to grieve. Properly grieve, not go hunting down the enemies that had dared resort to things that had not even been done during the Three Great Wars. Attacking children had not been a tactic used since ... Gods, since before Uchiha Itachi and Uzumaki Naruto first started talking about peace. They had made it clear what would happen to those despicable enough to harm children, especially those within clan compounds back in the warring clans era.

No one had ever attempted to slaughter kids within village walls since Konohagakure was first built and set a precedent to the other nations. This was going to shake a lot of things up, spectacularly. No wonder no one even noticed a living furnace like Madara had left the village.

"I should have been there," Madara seemed to insist, more so to himself than Tobirama, and the Senju sighed, stepping closer to his teammate. The strange new pattern in Madara's eyes gave an almost threatening spin but the Uchiha himself seemed desperate for some human contact.

In mimicry of their first ever meeting, Tobirama boldly stepped up to the older boy and drew him into his arms, guiding the slightly taller boy's face to hide inside his white fur collar, tangling his own fingers in dark, lush hair as he tried to impart at least a little bit of comfort on to his friend. "I wish I was. I wish I had been there, for them. For you." It was probably going to star in his nightmares for years to come, the 'what if's and 'could have been's. He held on tighter, selfishly relishing in the way this display of emotions seems to be calming Madara's chakra, stoking the flames, warming it up. He took his own comfort in their embrace, too, especially when he was held back equally as strongly.

"Not your fault, idiot Senju."

"Not anymore than your's, Uchiha moron." They stayed silent for a long while, Tobirama closing his eyes against his own tears when Madara started shaking with sobs, muttering his brother's names and curses at the gods, the Sage, the world. Madara needed this, far more than Tobirama did. Tobirama will get his comfort later, when he allows himself to properly break down, when they are both safe within Konoha's walls and their mothers' embraces. "Please don't do anything stupid. You are needed, by a lot of people. If nothing else, please think of Izuna. He can't lose you, too."

Actually, he was pretty sure Ryukyu-sama would destroy Konoha if anything happened to either of her remaining sons. And that's not even mentioning Ryujin-sama. Otou-san - mother of chakra, Otou-san - had told Tobirama about just how different the contract with the dragon was than with other kyuchiyose. He didn't want to think about what Madara's death could cause, not now.

"I'm too tired to go home," the Uchiha said after several more sobs and Tobirama closed his eyes all over again, this time in relief. Madara ... Madara felt almost like his usual self, only there was a slight taint to his fire. Grief left nasty scars, after all, but the boy was holding himself together. The reminder of Izuna seems to have stabilized him. The half Hatake feared what might happen if any harm were ever to befall the younger Uchiha brother. Youngest, now. Like Tobirama himself, when he had been an older brother just this morning-

'No, stop. Don't think about that right now.' He still needed to get them back to the village. He still needed to face his mother's and brother's grief. There were still funerals to be planned-

"You're allowed to cry too, you know," Madara, who always had the uncanny ability to read Tobirama even when he didn't want to be read at all, said, tugging him closer. "You don't have to bear it all alone. I can hold your weight."

'As if I'd add my own grief to yours,' he wanted to say but didn't. "You can barely stand on your own feet. Stop using the Mangekyo before you faint."

"Sorry." The word was slurred. Yep, Madara was definitely unbearably close to chakra exhaustion. The only reason he had lasted this long was because he naturally had better control than Izuna and had scary chakra reserves. Which may or may not have grown a notch or twelve. A side effect of awakening an advanced form of his doujutsu that required more chakra to activate and maintain, maybe?

At least he deactivated his eyes and slumped a bit more heavily on Tobirama in relief. The younger took the brunt of his weight and looked around the clearing for any and all weaponry that he will need to pick up before they leave. The gunbai, of course, caught his eye first and he had to use his senses to find any possible Hiraishin marked kunai or other weapons around. Luckily, Madara had used only two, obviously not having indulged his more strategic part in his rush to get revenge and information.

Speaking of which ... "When all of this settles, we need to test out the limitations of your Mangekyo Sharingan, what new things you can do with it. I want to hear all about this ... Tsukuyomi and how that helped you gather information. It will be a pleasant distraction for the both of us." He trailed off in that last sentence when he noticed Madara was out like a light, apparently too exhausted to stay awake or dream of anything. Despite it all, the younger teen found it in himself to smile gently, if considerably sadly, down at his friend's resting form. Madara definitely needed that. "Let's get you home, you ridiculous Uchiha." And if he was extra careful and gentle in his landing with the Hiraishin, well, there was no one there to call him out on it.

Of course, the next few days were ... Well, nightmare was too mild a word, all things considered, really. The village was in mourning, none quite as much as the Uchiha. Not even the Senju could get hit that hard. Yes, they were all shinobi, really excellent and competent shinobi, but the Uchiha ... Well, everyone always knew that the Uchiha felt things differently. Their sorrow and rage and helplessness at the funeral nearly suffocated Tobirama and probably Mito and Minato-sensei as well. The worst part was that they couldn't even rely on their usual comfort in Madara because he, Izuna and Ryukyu-sama were the worst off. People had been watching the sky as if waiting for something to fall on their heads and Tobirama knew they were actually expecting Ryujin-sama to descend from the heavens and take his humans away, possibly their entire clan, too. Instead, only light rain fell on grieving faces as the deceased were honored in a large funeral. Dozens of coffins, far too many far too small for anyone's comfort, either with o without any specific clan symbols, were lined up and lowered into the ground or burned depending on which tradition which clan followed more.

It was painful watching Madara, Izuna and Ryukyu-sama force themselves through the movements when they started the large pyre for their fallen family and then the smaller ones for any other Uchiha that had been an unfortunate victim of the attempted invasion.

So far, only Madara knows the motives behind what had happened and the Uchiha was tight-lipped. Tsunade-sama was letting it pass for now as it was a trying time for them all and pissing off the first person who had awakened the Mangekyo Sharingan in a hundred years was not advisable. Not when Madara had no real control of it beyond it reacting to his intense emotions. (Izuna, too, was greatly admired and pitied for having awakened that power as well, but he seemed to be having general problems with even activating the advanced form of the Sharingan at this time. A relief to many, as it meant one less insanely powerful teenager to worry about.) There was little doubt in anyone's mind that the Uchiha will be thoroughly questioned when his emotions settle a little. It's not exactly as if he will forget anything. (The cruelty of the Sharingan's immortal memory in this particular case.)

The Senju still mourned their own losses, even if not so overwhelmingly as the Uchiha did. Tobirama had never seen his mother this withdrawn and cold, in particular, but she seems to have a support system in Ryukyu-sama, drawing back on a decades long friendship to keep the both of their heads above the currents of loss and grief. Touka, who had also been outside of the village when this shit went down, had decimated half of a training field before falling into an exhausted near coma when she heard. Her jaw and fists remained tightly clenched throughout the funeral.

Hashirama ... Hashirama had to be taken to the Forest of Death, the only training ground that could withstand his outbursts of emotion, even if the terrain changed significantly after that. It had been the only alternative to him seeking out Madara and the two of them going all out until the pain they inflict on each other's bodies could overwhelm the pain of losing their younger brothers. No one doubted that the two of them will eventually seek each other out, but they had been needed in the funeral preparations and the general aftermath of the tragedy to really indulge.

Mito kept her composure as best as she could and seemed surprised when the Uchiha invited her to properly mourn with them, declaring her family even if not in blood. That had perhaps made the loss even more intense and real but she stood by them as the pyres burned, a silent support to Madara on one side and to Hashirama on her other side as his Anija fought back tears. Their father wouldn't have wanted them to cry over him, would have thought that the highest form of respect his sons could possibly give him would be dry cheeks at his funeral for he was a seasoned shinobi and death was as much a part of their life as breathing. They'd already cried over Itama and Kawarama enough to have no tears left, anyway. Senju Butsuma would understand those tears. He would have shed them himself had he lived to see his two youngest buried.

Tobirama stood at his Anija's side as a silent comfort as well, just like Izuna was on Madara's, all but leaning on the older Uchiha brother. Tobirama kept to himself, though. He knew he would be at his breaking point soon and he hated losing control of his emotional reactions in public. It was unnecessary, he knew, as the rain would hide his tears and everyone else was crying, anyway, so it wouldn't even matter or catch anyone's attention. He still resisted, he resisted even when the last of the flames flickered out and the last shovel of dirt was put over the fresh graves. He refused to shed tears even as people washed their hands with salt and indulged in whatever other purifying post-funerary rituals they had. He refused even as the village gathered in the big tent set up to host the feast in the fallen's honor.

He didn't cry even as Kira had to hold a wailing Ryukyu-sama in one corner of the room, even as Kushina-sama held Mito tight against her side, even as Touka put a hand on Izuna's shoulder, even as Hashirama let more tears slide down his face that neither of them had thought he had left, as he clutched desperately at his mother's free hand so that they cried together.

But then red eyes met black and Tobirama broke. Like an unforgiving current, the grief tried to drown him, repeatedly, again and again ducking his head under its waves and he sobbed brokenly even as he was guided into a familiar chest, even as he focused all of his senses on that inferno that seemed perfectly capable of turning all of that watery grief into steam that will never quite evaporate, but instead linger in a much lighter form. He cried even as he felt tears slide into his own silver hair as Madara joined him in their mourning for the brothers they had lost, of blood or not, of the father that had left them. They cried and clung to each other even as the rest of their remaining family all gathered around them, even Hikaku, who had been keeping a respectful distance so as not to intrude, and they all collapsed and cried together, leaning on each other.

00000

By the next day's dawn-break, the only one still standing was and eerily still Madara, supporting two families that had always felt as extensions of a bigger one, broken and grieving and utterly exhausted. Red eyes glittered in the rising sun as the moon went to bed on the opposite sides of the horizon, their new pattern spinning and spinning and spinning ...

No one was awake to see the bloody tears slide down pale cheeks as a behemoth of chakra raised from a child to shield the two families as he finally slipped into tired sleep.

Chapter Text

"Just concentrate damn it! You've done it once before, surely you can do it again when you're actually thinking about it!"

"I can't you insufferable Senju! The reason I did it in the first place was because I acted on instinct! Without thought! It just happened! Besides, who's to say Tsukuyomi isn't the only thing I can do?"

"The records may be obscure but we've both read them, Madara. We both know that the two basic techniques anyone who awakens the Mangekyo Sharingan can use are Tsukuyomi and Amaterasu. If you can do one, you should be able to do the other."

"One, we can't know that because those lovely records you mentioned are incomplete. Two, they are based on the only two Mangekyo users before Izuna and I and surely Uchiha Itachi and Uchiha Sasuke can't be an example of how every Uchiha functions after they get the Mangekyo! And three, you're an asshole!"

"I don't see how the last one is relevant to our experiment and the reason we are doing it at all is to discover just how accurate the records are. So less whining and more setting things ablaze with an eternal, all consuming black fire that doesn't leave even ashes in its wake."

" ... You only want to test if there is a way to extinguish it, don't you."

"I can neither confirm nor deny that."

"Get. Out!"

00000

"What if I scared you?" A single shriek followed that sudden question.

"By the mother of chakra, I will kill you, I swear!" Came the answer from somewhere near the ceiling.

00000

"What if-"

"No!" The villagers watched in faint amusement as a white haired thirteen year old trailed after the black haired fourteen year old as he stomped down the streets in frustration and fury, trying to outpace the younger boy despite him slowly living up to challenge their sensei for the title of the fastest shinobi of their time.

"But think about it! Just imagine if I-"

"Not happening!"

"But-"

"If you want to run your little tests, go bother Izuna, damn it!"

"He told me no."

"And what on this blasted, accursed Earth made you think I would say yes?!"

" ... I won't blow anything up in my other experiments for the rest of the month if you'd just-"

"Urgh!"

00000

"WHAT IN SAGE'S NAME DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING!? GET THAT THING OUT OF MY FACE!" Ryukyu by this point wasn't at all surprised to have her early morning tea interrupted in such a way. It's been going on for weeks, after all, and what kind of kunoichi would she be if she didn't adapt. Though the first time, she will admit to being scared and panicking - she had recently experienced a near crippling loss, after all, and only her two remaining children kept her afloat - and she had been severely annoyed by the seventh time for disrupting her morning peace.

"NO! FUCK OFF ALREADY, YOU CRAZY HATAKE-SENJU! GET OUT BEFORE I SET YOU ON FUCKING FIRE!"

" ... Would it happen to be black fire?"

"GET! OUT!"

Now, she was just glad to see that her eldest seems to have gone back to his old self. Tobirama-kun, too, by the sounds of it.

Ryukyu calmly sipped her tea as her house started filling up with heavy steam as fire and water incarnate collided.

It's good to know some things never changed.

00000

"Amaterasu help me, Tobirama, I am seriously going to punch all of your perfect teeth out if you don't stop pestering me!" Tsunade poked her head out of her office window when she heard the pissed off threat, only to find Madara and Tobirama storming down the street, a mission scroll in Minato's hand as he and Mito followed them at a much more sedate pace. Well, only Madara was storming about. Tobirama was just keeping pace with him, no doubt still on his case about training his new Mangekyo abilities.

"Actually, that's what we're hoping for. Maybe you should go to the shrine? Don't you Uchiha usually hold more to the old gods? Actually, why are your Mangekyo techniques named after Shinto gods? Do they actually give you power? What about-"

"Aaaaarh!"

The Hokage calmly returned to her work, enjoying the symphony that was Team Disaster's everyday interactions that many had thought would be lost to them in the wake of their losses.

Perhaps it was okay and not masochistic at all to welcome the chaos back, if just this once.

00000

"Okay, so Izuna told me that he sees even better with the Mangekyo than the ordinary Sharingan but he also says that it soaks up much more chakra and that his eyes sting if he focuses too hard. He also told me that there was some sort of tablet in that clan shrine of yours that supposedly reveals secrets of your doujutsu and I've been thinking that we should go check it out."

At this point, Madara was too sleep deprived to even argue anymore. They'd just returned from their first mission together since Minato-sensei went on that long term mission with Kushina-sama and they were all exhausted. Well, everyone except Tobirama, who usually operated on much less sleep than a normal human being because he was Senju like that. Not that Hashirama was even remotely like that. The big lug loved sleeping in whenever he can,especially in winter. Mokuton made him a lot more like a plant than most people realized.

The Uchiha glared down at the three different mission reports they each had to write because Team Disaster only ever got utter bullshit missions that would be practically suicidal for anyone not special jonin or ANBU level. Yes, the recognition and reputation it earned them was flattering, but all they really got for their exemplary work was some jonin vests for 'protection' and more paperwork. Madara was starting to think that the founders of Konoha and any other hidden village had been masochists and sadists rather than pacifists and visionaries, as people liked to portray them. No sane man would create a system that swamped everyone in blasted paperwork, especially not the kind that had to be fulfilled the instance you returned to the village when you were dead tired on your feet and one of your precious people was nagging at you about a doujutsu almost no one knew almost nothing about for centuries now, even the last people who had used it a hundred years ago.

"I was under the impression that only the Clan Head can view the Naka Stone Tablet," Mito, because she indulged Tobirama far too much in the past two or so months, especially when he roped her into pestering Madara during the mission about the possible abilities the Mangekyo might bring him, half asked and Madara glared harder. He could get away from this insanity and their questioning if only all of that useless paperwork was gone-

The three teens and their sensei all yelped and jumped back in fright as black flames suddenly erupted on their reports and started merrily dancing as it consumed it with a cheer that such an ominous fire should not mimic, no matter what. Madara didn't need to look in a mirror to see that he had, at some point, not only activated his Sharingan but had went straight for the Mangeko, just judging from the blood he felt sliding down his cheek, the slight sting he felt in his eyes and how impossibly sharper the world seemed. The tug at his chakra was definitely considerably larger than during any other jutsu he might use, so it was no wonder Izuna found it so hard to properly even activate it most of the time. While his reserves matched Tobirama's and maybe even outclassed him by a bit, Madara was a monster second only to Hashirama in that regard and even that was by their definition of by a little. It would definitely be a bit problematic for his younger brother.

"Seriously!?" The younger Senju brother had the gal to sound offended. He even dared glare at Madara. Minato-sensei just cried silent streams of tears as he realized that even their completed paperwork had gone ablaze and they would have to start all over again.

" ... We need to get a look at that tablet."

00000

"So you said the Tablet mentioned the ultimate Sharingan doujutsu if both Amaterasu and Tsukyuomi are activated and mastered? Can we te-"

"No, Tobirama."

"But-"

"Urgh!"

00000

"Should we interfere?" Touka asked one day as she and Mito watched Madara and Tobirama using Izuna and Hashirama as a barrier between themselves. Well, Madara was using their brothers to keep a distance between himself and the curious scientist inside of Tobirama. Tobirama was just trying to evade them so he might snatch Madara up so he can continue trying to convince the older Uchiha to continue the experiment Tobirama had started when he was still trying to get Madara to use Amaterasu and master consciously using Tsukuyomi before the Uchiha grew tired of him.

The sight before them was nothing short of comical and both kunoichi were getting much amusement from the idiocy of their male friends.

"I tried, a few days ago. Tobirama-san nearly chewed my head off." Hikaku, who rarely had the time to hang out with them all, shuddered at the apparent memory of Tobirama dealing with whatever stood as an obstacle in his way to scientific discovery and sating his own curiosity.

"We might want to do something before it occurs to Madara that he can just summon Ryujin-sama and flee to the animal dimension. I don't think the summons would take their shenanigans as lightly as the villagers do," Mito hummed as she sipped her tea, watching and enjoying Hashirama's returned boisterous laughter. The pain of loss had not faded and never will, fully, but it was nice to see that everyone was learning to live despite its weight on their hearts.

Even if that meant letting Tobirama terrorize Madara until the Uchiha snapped and discovered whatever other new powers he may have under emotional duress.

He was certainly dealing better with the Mangekyo than Izuna was.

Perhaps there was a method to Tobirama's madness after all.

00000

Tobirama cursed inwardly as he found himself kidnapped for the second time in his life, this time by Kusagakure, the unlucky idiots. Unlucky but unfortunately considerably smarter idiots because they apparently used to have an Uzumaki family in their village and had proper chakra suppressing and restraining seals and they used both as well as some herbal concoctions to make sure Tobirama was in no state to use his chakra. It was making him woozy but not unaware of his surroundings, so at least that was a plus.

Though he had no idea what they could possibly want from him and he didn't honestly care, if anyone cared to ask him. He just wanted these seals off. Fuck, he had just relatively recently learned how not to seek out Madara's chakra signature every time he felt overwhelmed but he had been stuck like this for days. He fears that when his team eventually comes for him, he might need to revert to old habits until he gets control of himself again. And he fears Madara might not be so inclined to indulge him given how much he had been bothering the Uchiha recently.

He tries not to wince as he realized he must have been extremely annoying. Tobirama had always thought Maito Dai to be particularly distasteful in the way he sought out his friend and annoyed him with pointless yelling and endless challenges that Madara always turned down. He didn't like the idea that he had possibly reached that level when he knew how stressed Madara was these past few months. The Uchiha of Team Disaster was far too young, just like his Anija, to slowly be taking on more and more Clan Head responsibilities so that they can learn how to lead clans as big as the Uchiha and the Senju. Izuna and Tobirama did their best to help, as did Hikaku and Touka and even Mito, but it ultimately fell onto the shoulders of two fourteen year old boys to carry their clans through such hard times. Ryukyu-sama and Okaa-san might be acting Clan Heads until their sons are ready to take the full brunt of their duties, but Madara and Hashirama had a lot to learn.

But Tobirama was also just a little bit selfish and childish, despite how well he understood the pressure his friend was under. The tragedy hadn't been easy on anyone and he himself had lost younger brothers and got extra duties to his clan. Almost nearly as much as Madara because Hashirama had a long way to go before he learned proper clan politics as that had never been something that had interested him before. He had no problem dealing with the people aspect, but everything else couldn't hold his attention properly for longer than a handful of minutes before his attention started wandering elsewhere, hence Tobirama had to all but share his brother's duties as well as his own. He knew how Madara felt, knew the duties were barely enough to keep his mind from straying to those dark places filled with grief and the need to avenge his brothers. He thought experimenting with the Mangekyo could potentially distract them both from their loss. Not the healthiest way to deal with such matters but definitely better than to indulge in the need to hunt down everyone involved with their brothers' deaths and decimate everything that stood even remotely in their path. Though it would seem he had gone overboard.

'Perhaps this is my punishment for stressing Madara so much at a trying time like this. Karma sure is a bitch, though, no matter what.' His senses will be more than frazzled by this. He already felt starved of stimulus given that he was so used to feeling the world much more intensely than just through his basic senses. Not being able to sense chakra was to a sensor the same as leaving a human for years in a white room with nothing else there, no sound or smell or any other company. It could very well lead to madness if it were left like that for longer periods of time and Tobirama had lost track after day five, when what little food they gave him stopped coming at a consistent rate and seemed to be delivered sporadically.

If he comes sane out of this, he might actually have to beg Madara to let him stick around like he used to be privileged to do since they had first met. He wasn't below that but just the thought of his friend being that annoyed or angry with him-

Tobirama found his train of thought derailed when, suddenly and completely out of nowhere, there was a loud noise, the ground and the room shaking all around him before something seemed to give under an immense pressure before things were falling and hitting the ground and air was whipping his face and what bare skin was on display in an overwhelming rush to his touch starved flesh. Then there was even more noise everywhere and his eyes struggled to adjust to the sudden brightness so he can see Madara and what appeared to be Touka and Hikaku tearing into whatever poor, misguided sods rushed to attack them through the big hole in the wall of his cell. In the distance, he could hear what sounded like rapid tree growth so that meant Hashirama was around and the rattling of chains and many bright flashes of yellow indicated the other members of Team Disaster were there, too.

Madara was by his side in minutes, eyes ablaze and already starting the process of ridding Tobirama of his seals. Izuna came into the room soon after, watching his brother's back while helping the two older cousins from a distance with shuriken and kunai or some fireballs. The older Uchiha brother was muttering curses and uncomplimentary comments at whoever had bound the missing Team Disaster member before looking over his shoulder to speak to Izuna.

"Go find his things. We can't leave anything for these bastards to steal, copy or make use of." Izuna just nodded and with one last fireball was off, leaving the two teammates alone.

Tobirama swallowed hard when the first seal came undone and some feeling returned to his senses. It was an unbearable relief to have Madara so close. "I'm sorry-"

"You damn well should be, you idiot. You had us all worried sick when you were two weeks late from a simple courier missions. The old hag didn't get any ransom notes and I had to go through Nekomata to speak with Kaida to see if something happened to you, so now I owe the giant fuzzball a giant taiyaki, which is going to be hell to find-"

"No, I meant," he hissed when another seal was all but ripped apart - Madara did not have the finesse he and Mito had honed in fuinjutsu but was still incredibly good at it under Mito's and Kushina-sama's relentless training so they were all equally skilled in things they can be equally skilled so no one was ever at more risk than someone else, a way of thinking that earned them their name and reputation in the first place - and even more of his sensitivity returned, only it was starting to feel like torture. His control was shot and his senses were reaching out everywhere and Madara couldn't very well flare his own chakra to blanket him when that would be practically a beacon for someone to come find them and make things even more difficult. "I meant about pestering you about your Mangekyo. I should have backed off at some point before it became annoying-"

"Don't be ridiculous, Tobirama," Madara was the one to interrupt the incoming rant with an aborted roll of his eyes that he needed focused on the seals so he can figure out the sequence in which he should remove them. Still, the tone of his voice delivered the message just fine. "I've grown up with you. I know how curious you are and how relentlessly you pursue the answers to your questions. And I was pretty damn obvious that you were just trying to distract us both from ... that. Besides, it would take a lot more for me to grow truly annoyed with you. You just exasperate me at times. You didn't doubt that I'd come get you, right?"

The Senju wanted to shift guiltily because the thought had crossed his mind in a moment of weakness that he was not proud of or broadcasting. Not when he was bound to get an impassioned rant of offense from his oldest friend. It's not like he even got a chance to answer, anyway, when the exact same second he attempted to make some excuse or the other, seven jonin level Kusa shinobi barged through the door of his cell, jutsus already hurtling their way along with several fuma-shuriken and Madara still in the middle of undoing the third seal. Neither of them were in the position to defend themselves and Tobirama wanted to curse but knew telling Madara to get the fuck out of here was more important and would have done it had he not felt an unfamiliar flare in the older teen's chakra before an immense wave of it was suddenly pushing outwards from the Uchiha's body, dark blue in color and growing, growing until it started forming a shape and the top of it burst through the ceiling.

The chakra construct was like a monstrosity from nightmares and ancient myths, a glowing skeleton that seemed to be on fire of the same color of its body, though that was no more than a trick of the eye as that was just what appeared to be excess chakra. Tobirama found himself and Madara in the middle of its rib cage as the weapons and jutsus all collided with it and were far too easily repelled, as though nothing had happened. Any further attacks received the same fate and not even the crumbling of the building around them seemed to affect the chakra giant. A single glance at his friend's eyes had Tobirama feeling like a venting tea kettle.

"You have got to be kidding me!"

"Well, you wanted the Susanoo," Madara threw back, sounding just the slightest bit out of breath but pushing through whatever discomfort he was feeling to make the skeleton swipe its gigantic hand and swat the jonin away like flies. They really stood no chance against its might.

Despite his indignation that only now Madara decided to manifest the strongest doujutsu of his clan, Tobirama grinned in a feral way akin to his summons. He had not liked his stay in Kusagakure at all. "Let's see what this baby can do."

Madara was only too happy to oblige.

Chapter Text

The first time Team Disaster officially ran into the Akatsuki and nearly got involved in their plot to conquer the world and force peace on it, Mito and Madara were fifteen, Tobirama was fourteen and Menma had only recently turned three and was, unfortunately, used as bait to get his parents to hand over the Kyuubi's Jinchuriki. Namikaze Minato and his wife Uzumaki Kushina had been left with the horrifying choice they would never make, not in a million years, without regretting it for the rest of their lives. Tsunade had taken one look at the distraught parents and at the determined Mito, not even needing to look at her other two favorite brats to know their opinion on the matter, and she banned all stupidity from happening. Not while she wore the hat.

Instead, she combined Sakumo's team with Minato's and sent them out to meet up with one of Suna's teams since the organization apparently had a temporary hideout near their territory at this time and they were near stable allies at this point. Chiyo, Raza and Yaken had not been eager to be around Team Disaster after the flooding incident with Tobirama or the hurricane Madara and Mito had raised in their desert, but the Ichibi's Jinchuriki understood all too well the necessity of dealing with the Akatsuki, who have been hunting for biju for years. He did not want to end up being their next victim if he can stop it.

Due to emotional duress of the whole situation and how close to home it was, Minato was not actually allowed to lead his team. Instead, Madara was proclaimed temporary leader but the decision calling is ultimately Sakumo's unless they separated. Though no one was all too happy about these arrangements - Minato wanted to go after his son, Kushina nearly committed treason when she heard the Hokage's decision, Team 4 would rather keep an eye on their sensei themselves and Sakumo was honestly unsure whether he can control the forces of nature that were these teenagers after all that he's heard about them - they had no choice but to agree and set off as soon as was humanly possible. There was a child's life on the line, after all.

The Hiraishin jump was not something Sakumo was new to after having spent more than half of his life as friends and once teammates with Minato under Jiraiya-sensei, but it was different with his students. The little Senju-Hatake was scarily quicker in the delivery and the landing was almost imperceptible. Dai, Boruto and Tenton, having never felt a ride through dimensions by being summoned through them, fell over and Tenton even nearly lost her stomach contents when they landed on the border to Suna's territory.

Chiyo, Raza and Yaken of Sunagakure were not all that pleased to see them. They had no sensei with them, but they were all jonin by this time since they had last been seen in Konoha. Sakumo found it ironic how Team 4's lack of new promotions since then seemed to both surprise them and not at all.

After all, the other Kage still sent every year a reminder that they will not participate in any Chuunin Exams if Konoha's Team Disaster would be allowed to participate.

Sakumo had at first thought things might get tense. Dai was in love with the Uzumaki and had a strange bone to pick with the Uchiha, all three of the teens added to his squad were infamous in Suna for many reasons, chief among them that one week long mission that has actually earned them the moniker Team Disaster, the rivalry between the Hyuuga and the Uchiha about their doujutsu was legendary and Madara's temper was as infamous as his mother's. They were a exploding tag waiting to go boom and he had been in reaching range the entire time.

Surprisingly, or maybe not at all, Team 4 didn't pay anyone any attention. They waved off Sakumo's explanation how he will summon one of his wolves or tracking dogs to find little Menma and Tobirama instead crouched down, placing two fingers to the ground and allowing his enormous range to extend even further as he actually concentrated on sensing while Madara and Mito seemed to instinctively move to watch his back and ground him so he can resurface no matter how much he sinks into the chakra around them in the world. Sakumo found himself horrified to look and yet unable to turn his eyes away. Sensors the likes of these three were legendary. And yet, this felt almost intimate, the way one of them allowed the very essence of himself to seep into the world to search for a child they had declared their family years ago. He could not look away, far too fascinated by it all.

He himself had never been that great at sensing chakra, not even the signatures relatively close by.

These kids had ranges that covered countries.

"I can't find Menma, or any disturbance in the natural flow of chakra in the world that would indicate shinobi are amiss," his distant relative said after a minute or two. "For all intents and purposes, there are no Uzumaki besides Mito anywhere near us except in Uzushiogakure."

"That's near us?" Boruto asked in a very perplexed tone of voice that the jonin very much understood. Uzushiogakure was in the completely opposite direction, across Hi no Kuni and Mizu no Kuni and across a sea that separated them. The older Hatake was definitely used to Minato's incredible range as a sensor, but had he had it at this age? Had he been so proficient with his abilities back then? Sakumo couldn't remember. He, Minato and Fugaku, a rare team that had no kunoichi in it, had been an exceptionally strong and talented bunch of genin, the best in their generation. He was used to mold breakers in his everyday life. This, though, this was entirely different. Minato's genin were ... monsters.

"Though, I am picking up a rather interesting lack of chakra in the Land of Rivers that I would usually associate with warding seals. Someone's trying to hide there."

Mito wordlessly took out a map from a seal tattooed on her wrist, handing it down to her youngest teammate. "Do you think you can give us a location?"

Madara snorted and Tobirama looked near insulted. "Of course I can. Though I must say that the barrier is very well done. There are three grounding points. My guess would be that we'd have to deactivate all three to get the wards down. Whether the wards are protective instead of just for stealth purposes, I can't determine without either of us seeing them." He wordlessly accepted the map and took out a graphic pen seemingly out of nowhere. He made three circles, one noticeably larger than the other two. "My guess is that this is the place being guarded. The wards don't feel like anything usually used for protecting hidden villages' secret hideouts, though I can't really say for Uzushio."

The Uchiha was leaning over his shoulder to look at the map. "That's right alongside one of the larger rivers in the country. There's a cave somewhere around that one," he said as he tapped at the largest circle. "It would be safe to say that those bastards are hiding there."

"Hm, and it is definitely Uzu's fuinjutsu work," the redhead commented, eyes closed, a contemplative frown of concentration on her face as she stretched out her senses in that direction. "Tobirama is right to suspect that the seal is for more than hiding purposes. I can feel the connections between the three anchors. Don't we have markers near all three spots?"

"I definitely have one near that cave," Madara straightened up, already unsealing his by now trademark weapon with a small puff. "And I think you had one on the anchor we will dub anchor number two."

"Sensei has one a bit further from the remaining anchor, but you know my speed. It would take me about fifteen to twenty minutes to get there."

"That's all great," Yaken of Suna drawled in an annoyed voice, an eyebrow twitching at being so completely ignored in the plan making no matter how efficient the youngest team present was. "Except for one problem: how do you plan on taking out all three anchors at potentially the same time when they're so far we can't communicate with each other. And where exactly do we all come in?"

"Usually, you wouldn't, as we don't really need assistance for missions like these. Hokage-sama was just being overly cautious," the Uchiha said casually. "Except these bastards have expressed an interest in not only the biju but also those who can potentially control them so we had to get backup if we wanted to be part of the mission."

Sakumo knew that everyone else besides himself and the three youngest teens was confused by his comment and tried not to think about that chilling October night three years ago. He also tried extra hard not to contemplate the meaning behind Madara's words about 'those who can potentially control biju', as it was a known fact within their village's walls that there was no 'potentially' where Madara was concerned. He's done it twice before already. Raza must have felt it on his own skin, even if he probably doesn't remember it during the 'Konoha Crush' as some people had dubbed it two years ago.

"As for the communication 'problem'," the redhead kunoichi said with wry amusement at the 'problem' part. "We don't have it. All three of us are sensors whose range reaches all five Elemental Nations. We've developed a silent, undetectable and incomprehensible for anyone else way of communication by flaring our chakra in a coded language we made up ourselves. As we are the ones that will be dealing with the anchors, you needn't worry yourselves about the timing."

"You'll be what you were sent to be: our backup," Tobirama starts finishing up. "Madara will be the one taking the main one and you will be there to watch his back until Mito and I can come back. You are all skilled shinobi. I trust none of you will get in the way or endanger either our comrades or our target."

"Sakumo-sensei is the one in charge. Why? Because he has the most experience. You should leave the strategizing to him. Why?" Tenton pushes her dark glasses up a little higher on her nose. "Because he is the White Fang. His experience and reputation are well earned."

"And we can do much more to help!" Insisted Dai passionately. "It is not youthful for you to try and shoulder all of these responsibilities by yourself. It is in the spirit of youth that you let your comrades assist you and-"

"We can do this our way or we can just leave you guys here and go on our own. We'll only get stuck with iryo-nin duty at the hospital for a few weeks as punishment," Madara offered the ultimatum with a casual shrug and Sakumo ignored how incredulous his own students looked at that tidbit of information or how the Suna siblings looked downright shocked. It was undoubtedly true that no one would be crazy enough to restrict or not utilize the skill and power of these three kids if they were fully aware of their potential. Even when they couldn't leave village walls, they would have something to do to earn their salaries and from what he'd seen the last time these full trained medic ninjas had been 'punished' at the hospital, they took a great amount of joy in intimidating fools into being more careful out on their missions lest they land themselves in one of their medical bays.

No one really wants to test their tempers when injured. They were the second comings of the Uchiha Dragoness, the Red Hot Habanero and Lightning Claw. Having met and grown to know all three women at some point in his life, Sakumo could understand why everyone would be frightened of Uchiha Ryukyu-sama's eldest son, Uzumaki Kushina-san's niece and his distant cousin's second eldest son. It would not be pretty.

"The plan is sound and the logic behind it is solid," the jonin sensei cut in before Team Disaster could potentially traumatize his team and their allies. They kind of operate on a no nonsense, overkill level, so it's best to get straight to the chase and deal with the mission as soon as they can. He'd heard a lot about his old teammate's genin from said teammate. Why weren't these kids promoted in the field again? They were already in the ANBU books, registered under flee on sight orders. "I believe we should utilize it. It will certainly cut down on the search and travel time. Not to mention it gives us the element of surprise since the Hiraishin can't be predicted or intercepted. Just make sure that you return to us as soon as the anchors are down, Tobirama, Mito."

"Of course," the two complied easily and Sakumo was reminded why these teens were banned from all sorts of mass-promotion exams while Senju Hashirama, who was in many ways even more dangerous and powerful than them, wasn't. Hashirama was cheerful and smiled and goofed around, even on missions. Sakumo had had one with his team and knew from experience.

Team Disaster operated on practicality, efficiency and were far more serious. They focused on the mission with scary intensity while never forgetting about their comrades, going as far as to take on entire shinobi villages to get them back. In some ways, they were even ruthless to their enemies and they shared their knowledge between them so they were equals in all that they can be. They were strong, they were skilled, they were focused and they didn't mess around. (Except if they decide to test out something new against a particularly annoying enemy. Yes, he'd heard about what happened with the Gold and Silver brothers of Kumogakure. You can't blame him for eyeing Senju Tobirama's weapons pouch warily.)

"If everyone's in agreement, we should head out," the long haired Uchiha grumbled out. "I want to get Menma back from those bastards as soon as possible while potentially killing them all. With Amaterasu. Preferably, I mean. Any killing would be good."

Sakumo tried not to sweatdrop. Or fidget uneasily. It probably shouldn't surprise him that Madara was eager to eradicate these people from the face of the earth. He'd been the one to interrogate the shinobi who had attacked Konoha months ago and killed his brothers, father and friends. He'd been the first one to know the name Akatsuki and to know they were involved. He's the one that will have to restrain himself from outright obliterating them all before they might get some more intell from them.

"Then we're ready," Sakumo said before any more comments or complaints could be dropped at the risk of Madara's patience snapping.

It's best to just get this over with how Team Disaster sees fit.

Otherwise, chaos might ensue.

Chapter Text

As unyouthful as the Hiraishin was - youthful shinobi should race across the lands to show their youthfulness, their strength and their speed, to exercise their muscles and let their youthful energy shine through - Dai had to admit that, in this one instance where time was of the essence in saving a youth's life, it was extremely convenient. Even if it made him want to throw up the healthy lunch he had had before embarking on this mission. Though, Dai was certain that the landing was so rough and unsophisticated because it had been that vile Uchiha Madara that had transported them all to the marker placed close to their target's location. It would be just like the fiend to enjoy the suffering of others.

The man threw his own brother into ponds and other bodies of water almost as a daily ritual! He was indeed truly most vile.

Dai mourned that it could not have been the delightful, elegant Mito-hime that had escorted them to the heart of their enemies' dwellings instead of the unyouthful Uchiha. Or that it had been her that had accompanied them to it with the fiend instead of the somewhat maybe youthful Tobirama, who only nodded to his unyouthful teammate, bid Sakumo-sensei goodbye and ran off to reach the final anchor.

The fire fiend was indeed as unyouthful as his best friend was youthful. Unlike Hashirama, the fiend Uchiha Madara did not chat with them as they waited for his teammates to reach the other anchors and do their secret chakra code to signal him that they were ready. He kept quiet and stared at the sealed rock sealing the entrance to the cave he led them to with his wicked red eyes, ignoring anyone that tried to get his attention. Very rude and very unyouthful, in Dai's opinion. To this day, he could not understand what a lady the likes of Mito-hime saw in that brute.

He even dressed weird!

"What can you see with your Byakugan, Boruto?" Dai's Aburame kunoichi teammate asked in her quiet voice, drawing Dai's attention away from the rude brute with his back turned to them.

"It's just as they'd said. There's an anchor on the rock, connected to two other, considerably further away anchors and they need to be disassembled at the same time for the cave to be opened."

"As expected of the wonderful, smart and beautiful Mito-hime!" Dai did his best to youthfully ignore the unyouthful snort that come from the single remaining member of Team 4 to his rightfully deserved praises for his beloved.

"Are the other two in your range?" Sakumo-sensei asks as he finished discussing something with their maybe youthful Suna allies - Dai doesn't know them all that well so he can't exactly judge. Not when he had been one of many to have been knocked out by that sleeping genjutsu at the arena during the final stage of the Chuunin Exams. He's heard rumors and Dai did his best not to believe those without evidence he himself saw or experienced in another's company.

"Yes. I don't know the details, but they're well hidden and connect strongly to the ones here."

"Enough chatter," the unyouthful Uchiha Madara suddenly snapped, not even looking over his shoulder as he prepares that ridiculous weapon of his that still mostly outclasses him in size. Dai was honestly surprised by how short the younger teenager still was. The youthful Hashirama already had an two centimeters on him and these two were supposedly each other's perfect match in power and skill. "Mito's in position and Tobirama is ready. Prepare yourselves so we can get this over with. I have better things to do than waste my valuable time here."

How arrogant! Dai had always known that Uchiha Madara was not a man good enough for someone as precious as Mito-hime but he had never expected him to be-

Uchiha Madara moved before he gathered his thoughts properly, taring off the seal on the rock with little flair or hesitation, which was rude as he had only second before warned them to prepare themselves. (He ignored how shinobi should be able to follow orders momentarily hen they're given, especially when it was the order to prepare for battle or up their guard for a fight.) The seal did not retaliate, so Dai could only guess that the overall efforts have been successful, all in all, as the fuinjutsu guarding the cave sizzles out of existence. Uchiha Madara then displays that he is nothing more than a brute when he, without any fanfare, summons a demon from hell, a large blue skeleton that burns with his chakra, and punches the boulder right into the cave beyond, breaking the rock wall around it and making it crumble into the water.

As the dust settles, the despicable, unyouthful Uchiha Madara walks right in with no hesitation in his step. Dai may not have the sensory talents that Team 4 as a whole share, but he does not need it to feel the killing intent spike to such degrees that he finds his knees threatening to shake. He'd heard of this particular trait, usually attributed to the famous Uchiha Dragoness. He had never felt it on his own skin before. He had never imagined such evil chakra might indeed actually reside in Uchiha Madara.

"Well, well, well, un. Look what the cat dragged in, un." An unfamiliar voice says in greeting when they all follow in after the infuriating Uchiha Madara when the dust settles enough for everyone else other than him and Boruto to actually see. Dai looks up to see what must be a girl with blond hair only a year or so older than the rest of them, sans Sakumo-sensei of course, sitting on a rock just behind the crying bundle on the floor that was youthful Menma wrapped up in ropes and cloth to immobilize his movement but at least without the potential to hurt the toddler. Instead of calming Uchiha Madara, the sight of him has the brute's chakra spiking even higher.

Dai is not entirely clear as to why he had not sustained the demon he had summoned to make an entrance into the cave, as he was of the opinion that it would have been more useful at the moment than not. (No good shinobi revealed all of their tricks if they can help it.) Perhaps it was too taxing?

"Release the kid and I will kill you only a little," the brute says illogically and the blond girl laughs. Her hair shifts out of her face to reveals strange looking device on her left eye.

"Did you hear that, Sasori-danna, un? What a cute brat, un. Do you honestly think you stand a chance against us, un? Your Sharingan will have no affect on me, un. I've trained myself to resist your clan's genjutsu specifically, un," the blond brags of her impressive feat but Uchiha Madara, the arrogant fiend, does not appear to be impressed.

"Then I guess it's a good thing I intend to beat you into the grave with my gunbai and not genjutsu."

"Now, now!" Dai cannot help but scold, scowling at his temporary teammate. "Enemy or not, nukenin or not, that is no way to treat a lady, Uchiha Madara!"

"LADY, UN!?" The blond shrieks and the strange, hunched person that looks sort of unyouthful and rather ... unappealing snorts. "I am not a lady, un! I am a man, un! How dare you mock me like this, un! I'll kill you for this insult, un! With a bang!"

"Way to set off the explosion, Maito," Chiyo the Puppeteer yelled over the racket caused by several explosions that they all escaped the brunt of because Uchiha Madara had thrown up his gunbai to absorb them before they reached them. The youngest currently present then took off, batting away any further attacks with futon attacks of his own or using his fire to melt the clay bombs that the blond not-lady seems to be continuously throwing at them. Chiyo was the second one to break away from their group while Raza took the liberty to create one of his sand shields to protect them from the few stray explosives that Uchiha Madara did not manage to prevent from passing him by. "I guess the time to face you head on has finally come, Sasori-ojiisama."

"Perhaps. Let us see, granddaughter, how much you have improved since last time."

"We should get the child. Why? Because Uchiha is busy," Tenton suggested and immediately made her youthful way over towards the toddler, DAi dashing after her in case his teammate needed assistance. Only for a couple of puppets to get in their way unexpectedly and it was only thanks to the chakra strings of Chiyo that they managed to avoid being sliced in half by one of their kamas.

"I don't think so," Sasori of the Akatsuki, Suna's most skilled puppeteer ever, the once leader of their puppet brigade before he defected after killing the Nidaime Kazekage, said coldly. "The child is a bargaining chip. And while Uchiha Madara would be a good trade off or even little Raza over there, the Akatsuki has clearly made our demands. Namikaze-Uzumaki Menma for the Kyuubi's Jinchuriki. And yet you've arrived without it."

"We will never give you Mito-hime, for she is beautiful and you are unworthy of her!" Dai yelled, reaching down towards his leg warmers to unclasp the weighs there for maximum speed. Only to be once again yanked out of the way by the strings still attached to him when an explosion got to close and nearly blew him up.

Then a wall of sand rose around him and Tenton, Raza coming to stand in front of them. "Stay out of the way. You are outclassed here." And, as if to prove his point, the blond nukenin from Iwa made a huge teddy bear looking clay explosive that was sent at Uchiha Madara and anyone else unfortunate to be too close to him. Boruto protected himself with that complicated Hyuuga technique of his while Raza cast sand around the rest of them who were just close enough.

Uchiha Madara, in an unexpected show of youthfulness and good creed, dove for youthful Menma, throwing and using a Hiraishin marked kunai to appear in front of the toddler and shield him with his body and his gunai as the explosion went off. When Sasori went after him while he was still shielding the babe, a couple of ninneko jumped out of his unruly hair, seeming to have appeared out of nowhere, attacking the hunched form with far too sharp claws that cute through materials that sounded suspiciously like wood and metal rather than skin, meat and bone. The brute whirled around as soon as the explosion faded a little and breathed several dragon shaped fireballs at where the ninneko were still tearing into Sasori, setting the area on fire and making something jump out of the smoke and flames.

"Sasori-danna, un!"

"Focus on your own fight, brat," came a much different sounding voice as the miraculously alive puppeteer came back into view, only this time looking like a young man only several years older than the Suna siblings. "I can handle myself. Though I must commend you, Uchiha Madara," the redhead said as Uchiha Madara reappeared on their side, Menma nursed in his arms and already removed from his bindings. "I had not even noticed you summon your cats. I was under the impression Uchiha preferred birds."

"You will rue the day you meet my actual summon," Uchiha Madara stated arrogantly, nose high in the air even as he rocked the child in his arms to keep the sobbing boy calm. "Shishi and Izumi simply allow me to call upon them from Sora-Ku should I need assistance."

Dai did not understand the difference. His turtle summons allowed him to call upon them at any time. What was the difference between that and Uchiha Madara's cats? Why does he claim them as not his summons, but rather shinobi partners? Was it more like the Inuzuka's dogs that way? Normal animals that know how to use chakra but live on this earth instead of the animal dimension? Dai had never actually been all that curious outside of the realms of taijutsu and the opening of the Eight Gates.

"Don't ignore me, Uchiha bastard, un!" The blond not-lady bomber shouted and proceeded to attack the brute without a care for the youthful life in his arms but Chiyo sacrificed one of her dolls youthfully to protect him before Sakumo-sensei took hold of the two youngest and dragged them out of the line of fire.

"We got this. Find out what happened to your teammates. Hadn't they said they'd be back as soon as they deactivated the other anchors? They should have gotten back by now if they can sense the marker on you like they should be," their dearest sensei suggested, much to the apparent amusement of the blond not-lady.

"Better give up on them now, un! There is no way either of those brats survived Kisame-danna and Juzo-danna, yeah! They're not some of the best Swordsman of the Mist for nothing, un."

"Stop revealing our secrets, Deidara, you idiotic brat," Sasori said in a somewhat snappish, totally unyouthful voice.

"It's not like it matters, un! They'll be dead in a minute anyway." The blond took out a huge lump of clay with an eager grin on his face, one blue eye staring unerringly at Uchiha Madara. Seeing as the fiend, as unlikable as he may be, now had to be protected for the sake of the babe in his arms, Dai took it into his own hands and rushed at the blond since no one seemed to be paying him any attention at the moment, which was rude but extremely useful. "Hey! Get away from me, you color-challenged freak, un! What are you wearing!? That outfit is an affront to my artistic soul, un!"

Not that he seemed to be able to do anything about it because the Maito Clan's secret green training jumpsuits allowed for the maximum range of movement and absolute speed of the body, which Dai youthfully utilized to get in close while dodging the hastily thrown bombs, engaging the blond not-lady Deidera in a taijutsu duel. He laughed and counted out loud the amount of clay bombs that he knocked out of the blond's hands, not really hearing his comrades' protests as the bombs flew willy nilly around the cave, endangering both them and Sasori. It only stopped when Uchiha Madara showed his petty jealousy yet again by suddenly appearing between Dai and his opponent, kicking Deidera into the stomach hard enough to bury him a bit into the wall a considerable distance away before making them appear back behind the protective sand walls Raza had erected to keep everyone safe from the explosions.

"Uchiha Madara, what is the mean-"

"Shut the fuck up or I am going to give you a repeat trip into the nose of the Hokage Mountain from here!" The brutish fiend snapped with enough aggression in his voice that Dai actually didn't doubt his ability to do it for even a second. "Are you out of your goddamned mind!? You nearly killed us if Raza didn't have such fast reflexes! Nearly two thirds of those bombs could have decimated us!" Dai took note of a surprising lack of toddler in Uchiha Madara's arms. Young, youthful Menma was instead being shushed by Yaken instead, who had mostly been covering everyone since the fight started with his giant tessan from the lighter projectiles. "We had a child with us!"

"That is no way to thank someone for saving your life-"

"If I wanted someone to play hero for me, I would have asked Sakumo-sensei!" The youngest teen present snapped before turning away from Dai when he childishly lost control of his doujutsu. Dai saw his eyes turn that demonic, blood-curling red just before it was out of his range. It was truly a bad sign of Uchiha Madara's temperament and another sign of why Mito-hime truly shouldn't be so infatuated by this demonish overgrown child. Dai had never seen Boruto lose control of his Byakugan before. Or Hitoni and he seemed to dislike Uchiha Madara's character as much as Dai does. "Hyuuga, my Sharingan can make out the chakra strings so your Byakugan should be able to see them clearly. Do you think you can cut through them before the bastard can take out any more dangerous shit? I trust Chiyo can keep him occupied enough. Leave the bomb-happy blond to me. The rest of you either cover everyone else's back and keep Menma safe or wait outside for Mito and Tobirama, in case they had really ran into trouble they can't handle. I checked with them and they were too busy to go into detail but they seemed to be doing fine. Still, better safe than sorry."

"You don't have to take all of this on your own, Madara," Sakumo-sensei approached the brute but Uchiha Madara just shook his head.

"I'm not. I'm trusting you to watch my back in my teammates stead, so don't make me actually have to do everything on my own. We need to take this shit hole down and deal with those two menaces before they realize we aren't even giving it our all and actually get serious. I'd rather not find out what the Nidaime Kazekage's magnet release is like."

"What?!" The Suna siblings all yell youthfully, even if they sound rather shocked.

Uchiha Madara rudely does not answer their question. "You with me, Hyuuga?"

"Bring it, Uchiha," Boruto answers in a somewhat youthful voice, sounding almost eager for the first time since Dai's met him years ago.

Dai is mighty confused, even if he jumps into the fray as well as he can.

Chapter Text

Hyuuga Boruto had never given much thought to the infamous Team 4 - or Team Disaster, as more and more often their official designation was as time passed - not even when everyone had expected or dreaded their participation in the Chuunin Exams three years ago. He knew about them, of course, as everyone did by that time. They were a genin team of three prodigies from three most powerful clans in Konoha - even if it was galling to admit that the Hyuuga could fall short, even when there were only a coupe of Uzumaki actually living in Konoha and not Uzushio - that drew back their ancestry to the village's creators and all three of them are often regarded as the 'second comings' of some truly terrifying women.

He'd met them all, at some point, either in passing or during their Academy days, but he was two years older than Uzumaki Mito and Uchiha Madara and three years older than Senju Tobirama, so it had also just been in passing in the hallways. He remembers them well enough, though. They stood out with their appearances and personalities and the whole school knew about their talent. The whole village knew about their talent.

Still, Boruto had not given them all that much thought until he found himself assigned to the same mission as them for the first time. He'd gone to different missions with Team Sakumo paired with other teams before, but Team Disaster almost never got paired with other teams, usually being utilized for what many might consider suicide missions since they tended to fill in each other's weak spots to the point that there weren't any. He'd heard about their first 'big' mission, about the circumstances in which a bunch of kids had found themselves in while fighting poison and running from enemies twice their age and experience. That had set the precinct for them and so they were rarely sent out with other teams.

This time, they got backup just because no one actually knew what these Akatsuki guys were capable of and Hokage-sama didn't want to put them through unnecessary risk when they can't even have their sensei there and had a personal vendetta against the organization. It was a perfect chance to observe them and Boruto would be lying if he said he wasn't a bit intimidated by how Uchiha, Uzumaki and Senju seemed to perfectly in sync with each other almost the entire time he had seen them together. They'd come up with a plant between them rather swiftly and had executed the first part of it without a hitch. Boruto didn't have the luxury of time to use his Byakugan to gaze into the distance to check out how Uzumaki and Senju were faring against their opponents, since the two here were rather powerful and skilled and Dai was getting too enthusiastic and making a mess already, but he did have the time to observe Uchiha Madara even as he started daring in and out, between the puppets Sasori was manipulating to cut off their strings so at least they weren't at such a huge numerical disadvantage.

Even as he focused on the chakra strings connecting the puppets to Sasori, Boruto found it near impossible to ignore Uchiha's chakra. He was younger and shorter and less experienced by all rights, but his chakra network burned brightly, an overwhelming amount of chakra under breathtaking control. The part of him that blazed the brightest was, of course, his eyes but ever since he turned to Boruto with this new plan, the glow from those two points were blinding. Boruto will be honest and say he always underestimated the amount of chakra the Sharingan required and had even considered the Uchiha's doujutsu less taxing. They, after all, couldn't see through everything and just copied jutsus and were immune to genjutsu, right?

Then an injured Senju Tobirama appeared mid taijutsu/shurikenjutsu battle between Uchiha and that Deidera guy right at Uchiha's side and Deidera saw it and utilized it and then there was a huge chakra giant there, smashing the blond into the ground with an unrelenting fist and Boruto felt like he had gone blind. Raza saved him at the last second before Sasori could get rid of the annoyance that kept sabotaging his puppets. Boruto found he had to completely deactivate his Byakugan and even suppress as much of his chakra as he dared before he could open his eyes and not feel like he was dying again.

Uchiha was definitely the center of attention still, hidden behind the rib cage of a behemoth of chakra that swatted away the attacking puppets even as the Uchiha himself berated his injured teammate and seemed to be focused on healing him. Senju took it silently. His chakra was considerably depleted but his injuries were minor from what Boruto could make out. Uchiha was probably going overkill in this but the chakra warrior was crushing the puppets beyond reparation, so Boruto had no objections.

Sakumo-sensei at least saw an opening in Sasori being so thoroughly focused on surviving the raging giant. One second the Hatake was protecting Namikaze-Uzumaki Menma and the next he Shunshined behind the redheaded puppeteer, his White Light Chakra Sabre through the redhead's heart. Boruto already knew that the man was not exactly human anymore, for any given value of the word. He had the same constitution as the puppets: no chakra pathway, no organs, only a container for his 'heart', the 'battery' for his chakra that somehow remained bound to this form. A stroke of genius to reach immortality.

Boruto still only found it sickening.

The puppets all dropped to the ground as soon as the redhead stopped moving. His death was swift and silent, instantaneous almost. There was no proper organ to try and fight for its continued function. In the end, Sasori had ensured his death to be as swift as one can manage. Perhaps that, if nothing else, is for the best.

His partner was still somehow alive, despite the power behind the punch that giant must have delivered. Deidera had not been happy - or sane - when he saw his companion was well and truly dead. In the end, they owed Uchiha a great debt, for he had protected them from a grand explosion that had nearly made them 'go out with a BANG'. That chakra giant he was generating was a powerful trick.

"Madara!" Uzumaki Mito shouted when she arrived moments after the cave stopped collapsing in on them around said chakra giant. Uchiha and Senju had went from Madara supporting the younger to Tobirama now holding up a barely conscious fifteen year old with some serious chakra exhaustion crippling his body. "Madara, release the Susanoo, damn it! Let me in!"

"We're safe now. You can let go." Uchiha did after Senju's reassurances, though it might simply be that he had passed out as he was certainly not moving by the time Uzumaki dropped down to her knees next to her teammates. Boruto took note how she, too, looked considerably worse for wear than when they had last seen her with her clothing cut up in places but there seemed to be no visible wounds. Some of the holes in her clothes had some blood splashed here and there, indicating that there had been injuries but Team 4 seemed to be living up to their reputation and status as Tsunade-sama's iryo-jutsu students as it was all obviously healed. Both Senju and Uzumaki were considerably dirtier than the group that had went with Uchiha so Boruto wondered what the hell had happened to the other two thirds of Team Disaster. "The idiot overdid it. He'll probably have migraines for weeks. We need to see if there's a way to stop the whole bursting of eye capillaries problem, too, or else he really will go blind soon enough."

"At least he's not injured. Take off his hitai-ate. I'm unsealing his Byakugo to replenish his chakra. His reserves are too low for my liking."

"I'm not an expert," Chiyo said as she made her way over to the three of them and the Hyuuga could see how obviously she tried not to flinch when chakra chains and a sword made of lightning were immediately thrust in her face. "Not in Tsunade-sama's seal, at least, but I am a medic who had done some research on that medical innovation. Isn't it meant for desperate measures and mass healing?"

"If it is needed to heal lethal injuries, it is completely unsealed. If it is for minor injuries or just replenishing chakra reserves, only 20% of the seal is unsealed and used to remedy that which endangers the bearers life and health," Uzumaki said coolly even as she and her remaining conscious teammate withdrew their weapons. The chakra chains remained up, though, and it wasn't even all that surprising.

Boruto also had to refrain from using his doujutsu when looking at them. What was up with these people and how overwhelmingly packed with chakra their jutsus were?!

"Surely a few food pills will do the job just as well," suggested Yaken even as he rocked young Menma in his arms to keep him calm.

"Madara's chakra is far too depleted for us to do that safely. He needs his own chakra and it's not as if he can't regenerate the amount we release back into the Byakugo seal in a matter of months," Senju waved them off before creating a clone and going straight for Yaken, the Kage Bunshin taking the bawling toddler and gently, slowly but steadily calming the boy down until he was asleep. The clone brought Menma over to the original and Senju ran a medical check over the child's body before grunting in relief at apparently finding nothing wrong.

Uzumaki had by that point already unsealed Uchiha's Byakugo seal - Boruto had only ever seen Sandaime-sama's, never on any of her apprentices - geometrical lines running down Madara's face but not disappearing past the high collar of his robes. It would seem that the seal was indeed not fully activated.

"What kept up you two?" Sakumo-sensei asked after he made sure their two opponents were indeed dead. Though, since Deidera pretty much blew himself up - that was a bit overkill, wasn't it? Were they lovers or something? - there probably wasn't much left to find. Not when the entire cave had suffered quite a bit of damage in the explosion.

"Hoshigaki Kisame," Senju replied, eyes flashing with irritation even as he put away Uchiha's signature weapon.

"Biwa Juzo," Uzumaki said in just as clipped a tone. "It would seem that our infamy for always going out together has created a false sense of security in ambushing us when we are on our own."

"Yes, Hoshigaki seemed to be under much the same impression. Also, he seemed to have thought that just because he can merge with the Samehada to boost his own healing factor and chakra reserves that he is apparently a better suiton user then me." An assumption that probably even lesser suiton users would make, especially a man as infamous and as huge as Kisame of the Hoshigaki Clan from Kirigakure. The man's hailed as the Tailless Tailed Beast, for god's sake!

"You used Sage Mode?" Grunted Uzumaki as she finally stopped forcing the Byakugo to feed Uchiha's chakra pathways with chakra. Boruto could see that her stunt had worked. Uchiha's chakra was at much more acceptable levels. He was not yet the inferno levels he usually is, but he was also at least no longer stuck on dying embers, either. A healthy bonfire, for now. "How did it feel? How different is it? Did you use any new jutsu or did you just utilize the greater speed and agility it provided you?"

"I made it rain and nearly turned Hoshigaki into stone when he tried absorbing my chakra since he isn't a sage and had no way to control the natural energy," Tobirama said casually as though surviving a battle against the Monster of the Hidden Mist was something that happened every day. Then again, given what team he was part of ...

"You have Sage Mode? Like Hashirama?" Tenton asked curiously.

"What happened to Biwa and Hoshigaki?" Raza asked not a second later, obviously more interested in how safe they were at their current location and how long that status was going to last.

"Escaped," both of the younger teens replied before Senju continued, answering Tenton's question. "And no, not like Anija. Anija's Sage Mode comes from his mokuton. I, on the other hand, made a contract with snow leopards and they taught me. Are we done here? I'd rather we get Menma back to his parents, report to Hokage-sama and have her berate Madara again once he wakes up for pushing himself too far. Which time will this one make it?"

"Unimportant. I agree with Tobirama's assessment. If you need a lift back to Suna, I can take you," Mito offered, ignoring how Dai immediately started a poem about how wonderful she was. Boruto sort of thought his teammate to be pathetic in his desperation to get her attention. Dai should for once listen to some gossip. Everyone knew Uzumaki and Senju Hashirama were dating. Or at least courting, if nothing else.

"Considering the situation, being as close to Suna would be much appreciated to prevent anything from happening to Raza," Chiyo said like it hurt her to make the concession. Then again, Team Disaster had faced off against her at the infancy of their infamy and had left Suna an island in the middle of a huge ocean and some storms. If rumors are true, anyway.

Uzumaki nodded, told the Suna trio to hold on to her and each other and they vanished in a flash of light.

"Wha?" Uchiha chose that moment to awaken, looking wildly around as though he had sensed Uzumaki's departure - which, considering he was a damn good sensor, he might have - before Senju drew his attention to himself.

"Relax, Madara. Rest. Everyone is fine. The mission is over. We're heading home soon. Try to get some sleep. You've overdone it again by trying for a perfect Susanoo to keep us safe from the blast. Mito unsealed some of your stored chakra from the Byakugo but you still need plenty of rest."

"Menma-"

"Is fine," the Kage Bunshin Senju replied, dipping a little so Uchiha could see the sleeping toddler better.

"Oh." And just like that, he was unconscious again, the white haired teen watching over him shaking his head at his ridiculousness.

"Ridiculous, unreasonable Uchiha."

A flash and an amused chortle. "Aren't they all always like that?" The redheaded kunoichi scanned their party before gesturing for them all to cluster together so she and Senju may Hiraishin them back to Konoha. Not Boruto's favorite form of transportation, but it sure as hell beat running back home after this jarring experience. "If we're all ready?"

"As ready as we can ever be," Sakumo-sensei replied for them all and the two nodded and with a flash and the uncomfortable sensation of too fast travel, they arrived at no place else but the Hokage's office, where apparently the parents were anxiously waiting for their child's return. Minato-sensei and Kushina-san both jumped towards the clone, taking the child and praising and thanking the gods, Minato-sensei's team, Team Sakumo, the Hokage ... Sandaime-sama, though, took one look at her favorite team and cursed up a storm when she saw Uchiha's condition.

"Chakra depletion. He tried getting the Susanoo perfect again," Senju immediately reported before the Hokage could ask any questions. Tsunade-sama did not look impressed by that. "He just needs some rest."

"I scanned him for injuries and not even overuse of chakra had any effect on his system that could be dangerous," Uzumaki filled in with her own report. "I had to unseal his Byakugo to replenish his chakra reserves, though, because his had dropped to dangerous levels and needed fast and safe replenishing. It wasn't a significant amount and he'll be able to refill the seal soon enough."

"Bring him to my ward. I expect you two to give me a fully detailed report while I check on the idiot myself to make sure he didn't sustain any serious eye damage. We don't exactly know all that much about the Mangekyo but it would be best to be cautious until we learn Madara's limits."

"Hai, Tsunade-sama," the two awake Team Disaster members said in unison and used Hiraishin to disappear to the hospital, no doubt.

"Anything you would like to report, Sakumo?"

Sakumo-sensei looked grim. "Mito and Tobirama fought Biwa Juzo and Hoshigaki Kisame. Last I heard, they were Kiri's most wanted nukenin, but I still think it would be smart to investigate whether Kiri is in any way dealing with the Akatsuki. The organization seems to definitely be set on capturing Jinchuriki and taking their biju. Both Mito and Raza were threatened at one point, even if it hadn't exactly been direct. We destroyed one of their hideouts in Land of Rivers - I can give you the exact coordinates later, if you wish to send ANBU to investigate the site further - and two of their members are presumably dead. Biwa and Hoshigaki ran off - Minato, may I just say what the fuck!? about your students? Because those kids are monsters - and the other pair, the supposedly dead one, consisted of Sasori of Suna and Deidera of Iwa, one of their bombing squads given his technique. Tobirama also mentioned an Uzumaki at some point but we never ran into anyone. If I may be honest, I don't like where this is going, Tsunade-sama."

Boruto had to agree. Besides a few exceptions like Mito and Kushina-san, Uzumaki usually tend to stay in Uzushiogakure, where people won't use them for their vitality or their fuinjutsu knowledge. If there had, indeed, been an Uzumaki where they found Akatsuki, then it meant that there was even defections from a place that Uzumaki usually preferred to stay in their entire lives. And between Kiri's two of seven Swordsman of the Mist being a part of this organization and dangerous individuals from Suna and Iwa like Sasori and Deidera ... Akatsuki was obviously more powerful than any of them had anticipated.

"I don't like any of this any more than you do, Sakumo. This does not bode well. Do we know if there is any of our own former ninja mingling in their ranks?"

"Rumors said once that Orochimaru had had liaisons with the organization, but whether that is true is another matter entirely," Shisune-san, who was never far from Tsunade-sama's side, answered her boss. "We'd have to ask either Jiraiya-sama or Anko-sama to be sure, as they had kept tabs on him far longer with as much detail than even ANBU units did."

"Call them and ask them. We need to know whether and how much information the Akatsuki has on our village and defenses. I need to call for a meeting with the Elder Council and-" Boruto was not ashamed to say he jumped with how startled he was when the door suddenly banged open. His teammates did the same and even Sakumo-sensei twitched, his hand flying towards his White Light Chakra Saber. It was perfectly normal, given what they had just been through with Deidera throwing bombs at them.

Thankfully, it was only Genma.

Unfortunately, the man looked grief stricken. Heartbroken. Like he was already deep in mourning. It made everyone on edge because they had all been through some shit at this point and none of them were ready for anymore bad news.

Unfortunately, that was all they were going to get.

"An Akatsuki pair snuck into the village. They killed Sarutobi-sama."

Chapter Text

Hiruzen didn't even register how time passed as the group funeral was prepared for his old father and even his mother. It wasn't fair, a part of him registered. Sarutobi Asuma was a good man who had only ever had the well-being of the village and others at heart. He didn't deserve for those savages to just hunt him down and kill him. Hiruzen hated that he had been there to see it at all. He hated that he and his teammates had been the ones to find the intruders, that they had been the ones to engage them because it had happened close enough to his house that his father had gotten words of it and had immediately jumped to his only son's rescue. Hiruzen was his eldest, his heir, and while that was no longer as vitally important as it used to be to the clan before the village was built all those decades ago, Hiruzen was still Asuma's son.

He had joined the fight, saved six foolish young adults and paid with his life for it. One of those monsters had preformed some kind of unholy ritual and had stabbed himself through the heart to kill Asuma. Hiruzen had watched in horror as his father died from no wound inflicted to his body, only pain and death shared with a man who was in no way worthy of him.

And what was even worse, the other monster of a man had just picked up the body and the two of them left after killing several more ninja and former ninja when Namikaze-sensei appeared and nearly tore them apart with his giant Rasengan coupled with natural energy. Several more bodies had been stolen and no doubt taken to bounty hunters or collectors, since they were all rather skilled and infamous people. Hiruzen hated that they had died, hated that he couldn't save any of them, hated that Danzo now had a vivid reminder of their failure in the form of a scar on his face, hated that his friends were trying to console him when he didn't deserve it.

He had been the one to fail his father and his village so completely that he should be punished.

Instead, Tsunade-sama just gave him her sincerest condolence and didn't argue when he demanded that it be their team that goes after the two Akatsuki members. With Namikaze-sensei and Jiraiya-sama going with them as the leaders of the mission and, to Danzo's disgust, Senju Tobirama and Uzumaki Mito as their backup.

Hiruzen didn't fully understand why Danzo didn't like the kids all that much, to the point that he actually might hate their missing - in a medical coma for recovery purposes, as he'd heard - teammate, which was weird as Madara was Kagami's favorite younger cousin. Well, Danzo was intrigued by Tobirama and the kid's sharp mind and sharper tongue, but he hated Madara and was uneasy around Mito. Hiruzen honestly liked the kids but hated that they were sent as their backup against two dangerous and seemingly immortal individuals. Of course, they were probably sent with them for that exact same purpose, given that there was no way there wasn't some trick behind Kakuzu's and Hidan's immortality. A jutsu or a seal, whatever it may be, these two or Namikaze-sensei were the most likely to figure it out.

Sarutobi found he didn't get to focus much of his attention on the kids or that they spared him any, either. They were silent and yet seemed to have a form of communicating between them that had Namikaze-sensei complaining to his own former teacher that was going to drive him insane one of these days. Tobirama and Mito only spoke up when they started discussing ways to fight the two 'zombies' or when Namikaze-sensei prompted them to share their experiences against the other four Akatsuki members they'd faced so far.

Which was impressive, given the reputation the organization had accumulated in just several years. So far, there were only a handful of survivors as far as even Jiraiya-sama knew and he was the one actively spying and gather information on the group. They travel in pairs, they wear black cloaks with red clouds and they are all S-ranked criminals who had defected from their villages, usually because they were displeased with what the leading authority thought of their actions and experiments and goals. Except Kakuzu.

Kakuzu, if Mito was to be believed, formerly from Takigakure, was once sent to assassinate Shodaime Hokage, before the first Shinobi War broke out and he was ridiculed and all but exiled from his village for his failure despite being heir strongest ninja. Not much is know about him but he's practically the oldest being except boss summons and biju in the Five Elemental Nations.

It spoke of skill and it made Hiruzen and his friends aware of the fact that if they fail now, they won't live to have a second chance. Sarutobi hated that he was dragging his friends into this mess but they had felt slighted by how easily they had been nearly taken down if not for his father's help and so they had set out to amend that, restore their reputation, all the while helping him avenge his father's graceless death.

Kakuzu, when they found the two Akatsuki nin, was as uninclined to help his partner fight as he had been the last time until Asuma had beheaded Hidan, leaving him practically immobile. This time, though, he had to fight for his own survival, as the Yellow Flash and Jiraiya of the Sannin had no plans of letting a dangerous enemy like him keep running around, hunting biju or kidnapping innocent children again. It had been a rough week behind them all and no one was in the mood to be merciful. Not if the lightning sword in the little Senju's hands and the Kyuubi's chakra cloak with three tails surrounding its Jinchuriki were anything to go by.

Fighting Hidan was near impossible since he wouldn't simply just die. They can blow him up to smithereens, chop him up into tiny, itty bitty pieces and he can be reassembled if only Kakuzu was around with whatever strings he was using that stitched both of the zombies' bodies in various places. Namikaze-sensei and Jiraiya-sama seemed to be keeping up well enough with the ancient man, all things considered, and Namikaze-sensei even managed to destroy one of his hearts - which, what the fuck!? - but then Kakuzu had these four monstrosities running around the field with various chakra releases and Kakuzu now wanted the Yellow Flash's raiton since he'd killed his raiton heart and Hidan was doing his best to draw blood on one of them but Mito and Tobirama were confusing him enough that Hiruzen got to use one of the strongest Sarutobi katon jutsus to give the man quite a few burns.

It all proved to be not nearly enough until Koharu got sick of the endless fighting that was only exhausting them and opened a giant hole in the ground to trap Hidan. "Go for the head and smash his brains out already, damn it!"

Kagami, being the fastest of their team of six, immediately ran for the opening, Sharingan active and reading any shifts in chakra or muscles that will allow him to predict movement, only to have to be tacked by the white haired Senju when a swift futon was sent his way, sharp and strong enough to definitely cut him in half.

"That's not going to work! We need a more permanent solution. Mito!"

"On it!" The Uzumaki immediately responded, hands flying through several hand seals before she sank to her knees and pressed both palms to the earth. Lines upon lines of seal kanji immediately flew from her fingertips, changing direction until they were forming a circle with a square on the inside as a sealed dome flickered into existence, cutting Hidan off from the world. From each corner of the square, something akin to black chains sprang from the ground and wrapped wound the trashing Jashinist. "There. At least he can't move anymore. We can study his condition as he is now."

"We're here to kill him, not examine him," Danzo reminded coldly, already taking out a kunai and some sort of special seal that, if Hiruzen was not mistaken, was developed by the Fuma Clan to severe chakra networks or strings without cutting into the body or any physical manifestation of a solid form.

"If you haven't noticed, brat," Jiraiya-sama calls from where he's apparently wrestling with one of the ugly heart creatures. "That guy may actually be really immortal. He doesn't need extra hearts, at the very fucking least!"

"You can't kill me!" Hidain taunted them with a deranged, crazy sounding laugh that sent shivers of dread down all of their spines. "I am Jashin-sama's devotee! Jashin-sama is mighty and he will never allow for one of his own to die as long as I am loyal to him! You won't be able to hold me here forever! Once I free myself, I will take all of your blood and sacrifice you all at once for the glory of Jashin-sama in one big ritual! Jashin-sama will be so pleased that he will reward me plenty- What the fuck!? Put it out, put it out! Fuck, this actually hurts and burns and it's burning me! Put it OUT!"

Hiruzen, Danzo, Kagami, Koharu, Homura and Torifu all stared in horror as black flames appeared out of nowhere and started burning the trashing silver haired man still trapped in Mito's seal. Team Disaster, though, turned as one to look around until their eyes settled over their shoulders to where Uchiha Madara was standing. Unarmed, no forehead protector, no protective vest. Hell, the fifteen year old was even for once out of the robes he usually wore and was instead dressed in what Hiruzen recognized as a hospital gown.

"Oops," the Uchiha said as Hidan continued screaming. "I guess one god losses to another, no? Amaterasu has always been known for burning her enemies until not even ashes remain and what kind of Uchiha would I be if I didn't take your declaration as a challenge?"

"Madara-kun, you should be resting!" Namikaze-sensei, whose own fight against Kakuzu and his creatures had stopped upon Hidan's agonized screaming - which had quieted by now; that black fire worked fast and Hiruzen suddenly understood why Team Disaster had such a reputation if they had ways to kill immortals - admonished upon setting his blue eyes on his Uchiha student.

"And you should have waited for me to wake the hell up or woke me up if you knew you were going up against supposed immortals!" Madara snapped, sounding pissy. Hiruzen did his best not to look the teen in the eyes. He knew what the Mangekyo Sharingan could do. Kagami had been geeking out about it ever since his two cousins awakened the advanced form of the Uchiha doujutsu.

"Never mind that, you imbecile," Tobirama snapped, drawing attention to himself this time and everyone's head - except Hidan. There was barely anything left of him at this point in time - swiveled to face him as he seemed to be struggling with himself not to march right over to Madara and whack him over the head for his apparent stupidity. "Your chakra has still not reached your full reserves and yet you're already using your Mangekyo again!? Are you crazy!? Or just masochistic!? And for that matter, why aren't your eyes bleeding!?"

"Madara, you eyes," breathed an entranced Kagami barely a few feet behind him, making Tobirama twitch and everyone's attention swivel back to the younger Uchiha cousin. Madara immediately reached with his fingers - for once bare of his usual gloves that he had seemed not to take off for years now, since he'd acquired them - to touch just underneath his eyes and proceeded to blink in confusion for some reason. Seeing as the Senju had mentioned bleeding, it was, apparently, at the lack of blood on his fingers.

Mito abandoned the seal she had been keeping since there was nothing left to keep sealed as, indeed, not even ashes were left of Hidan, and she instead Shunshined over to her teammate, her eyes going a bit wider in wonder and awe. And confusion, like, copious amounts of confusion. " Madara, is it normal for your Mangekyo pattern to change?"

"What? No. The Mangekyo is unique to every Uchiha and is the final form the Sharingan takes. It can't change further. Well, unless if an Uchiha were to ... " Madara trailed off, eyes narrowing and that strange design within them spinning a slow, calculative circle before his expression fell into a deadly glare. "I am going to kill them. I am going to kill them," seethed the boy, his Mangekyo giving a more vicious spin but Mito, to her well deserved credit, did not flinch back.

"Explain," she said simply instead and Hiruzen wondered when his revenge and his team's redemption plot became an Uchiha drama over their super special eyes.

"According to tradition, the Mangekyo pattern can only change if two compatible Uchiha of a close blood relationship exchange eyes after they both activated the Mangekyo Sharingan," Kagami was the one to reply since Madara appeared to be too angry to answer. "The closer the blood relation, the better. Once the eyes are exchanged, both of the Uchiha restore any lost eye sight and it is immensely easier to use Mangekyo techniques. All of this is speculation, of course, as we only have one confirmed occurrence of an Uchiha taking another's eyes and that guy went crazy."

" ... That does look a little bit like a combination of your's and Izuna's pattern," Tobirama grunted when he got closer to inspect his teammates eyes himself. "So he should be able to use all of his previous techniques with more ease now? Less strain and chakra?"

"Supposedly," Kagami shrugged, frowning. "Though don't you guys already know that? I know you have access to all of the clan archives, even the Head House's library."

"I'm making a point," the youngest Team Disaster said absently. Madara scowled at that.

"I told you I don't want to take Izuna's eyes!"

"And so he decided to give them to you when you're too exhausted to protest. Something you shouldn't even be doing, not here, not now, not when we're in the middle of a fight that could very well cost us our lives. So if you're just going to stand around and bitch, you might as well leave."

"Oh, fuck you, Senju!" Hiruzen nearly craped in his pants when suddenly, there was an absolute giant the size of the fucking Kyuubi standing in Madara's place, the teen seemingly nowhere in sight until he looked up and he saw him somewhere in the giant's head, in a jewel on its forehead. The giant looked a lot like a tengu, if Hiruzen were honest, and that sort of freaked him out, okay? Tengu were supposed to be fairy tales!

"What. The. Fuck?" Kakuzu echoed all of their thoughts, no doubt, as they all craned their necks to look up at the chakra construct. Hiruzen wasn't sure if he'd stayed that cold-blooded in the face of a thing of nightmares. He'd ... heard rumors of the Uchiha's Susanoo after a bunch of chuunin accompanied Madara, Izuna, Hikaku, Touka, Mito and Hashirama a few months back to save Tobirama after he got kidnapped. And he'd heard about the tests Tobirama insisted on Madara and Hashirama doing in the wake of said rescue operation so the Uchiha could better learn to control it. Hell, he was pretty sure he'd seen outlines of it in a significantly smaller form from afar since said tests and experiments tended to happen outside of the village walls for everyone's safety of mind and body. He can see why, though what he'd glimpsed and heard of paled in comparison to this.

"No fair~!" Complained Kagami, Sharingan eyes drinking in the sight of the tengu-warrior-chakra-giant-thing unabashedly and with the usual fervor and reverence Uchiha usually reserved for fire and all things fire related. Hiruzen knew they came from a clan of natural fire users but he comes from a clan that has its own special katon jutsus and they weren't so enamored with arson. The Uchiha, he'd learned, were natural pyromaniacs. "He's a kid and yet he gets to do shit like this~? I want one too~!"

"For fuck's sake, Kagami." You knew it was a bad day when Torifu cursed.

"Seriously!?" Tobirama and Danzo demanded both, the both of them sounding incredibly peeved through obviously for different reasons. Danzo was competitive and hated when he had to admit someone was stronger than him. Add to it his strange like/hate relationship with the Uchiha Clan in general, save maybe Kagami, and the fact that the person he now had to admit was vastly more powerful than him was several years younger and was an S-ranked genin and Danzo was bound to be extremely, completely and utterly pissed.

Tobirama, Hiruzen suspects, was probably angry this happened when he didn't have the time to appreciate the finer details of the workings and developments of the jutsu. They were in the middle of battle, after all, even if said battle had stopped the second Uchiha fucking Madara found a way to kill Hidan despite his apparent immortality as long as he stayed loyal to Jashin and served him faithfully or whatever nonsense the pink-eyed masochistic-sadistic moron had been spewing.

'Well, at least my father is avenged.' It wasn't by his hand but, if Hiruzen was honest, the only way he could think of to possibly kill Hidan would have been with an Uzumaki kinjutsu that would result in summoning the Shinigami, offering his soul to it so it would take both his and the Jashinist's life and dying on the spot, which would in turn be an extremely dick move as his mother and sister don't deserve that grief or to take up his responsibilities permanently instead of just until he's legally allowed to become Clan Head. Sarutobi-Yuhi Kurenai and Sarutobi Mirai didn't need the added grief after losing spouse and father respectively and Mirai would have to wait nearly eight more years before she could legally take over the clan. All in all, his loss was not one his family or his clan could take and he suspects Tobirama would use Edo Tensei - why was a kid allowed access to that highly forbidden jutsu!? Wasn't Orochimaru on the loose with it enough!? - just so his family could tell him how stupid and reckless he had been and would no doubt bring Asuma back, too, just to drive the point home.

It's Hiruzen's own fault for so often indulging Butsuma-sama's second son when he had been a child that Tobirama impressed on him as an older brother figure of some sort that would answer his questions instead of say 'I don't know, ask your father/mother/someone else' or along those lines. His own. Damned. Fault.

"At least this will benefit Konoha in the long run," Koharu says and Homura nods obligingly beside her and Hiruzen despairs at his choice of friends.

"If I ever become Hokage, I'm placing you as my council of elders."

"At this point, I think Madara-kun might end up being Yondaime Hokage, Saru." Torifu was just savage today, wasn't he? Maybe Hiruzen should have tried to just up and leave the village to get his revenge, possibly find his way to Orochimaru to learn some powerful jutsu before killing the snake in the name of Konoha and hunting down these two monsters himself but it had sounded like far too much effort. Besides, he was pretty sure old Mitarashi-sama wold hunt him down and beat the crap out of him if he killed Orochimaru since she had first dibs.

"I think you might just be right. Better not suggest that to Tsunade," Jiraiya-sama says in a afar too serious tone in what should be a joke. "She might take you up on the offer. Don't give her ideas. As lovely a sight as it's bound to be, I'd rather not witness the aftermath of a brawl between Tsunade and Ryukyu-sama." There was a collective shudder at that. Even Kakuzu shuddered and Hiruzen wondered who thought it was a good idea to let that woman have children. Madara took far too much after her for anyone's peace of mind.

If he ever became Hokage ...

'Please let it be Hashirama!'

" ... Can I surrender?" Kakuzu actually asked, speaking for the first time since verbalizing all of their thoughts upon seeing the tengu-warrior-thing of chakra.

Tobirama shrugged. "You have a kill on sight order and you're really not that interesting to study like he," he pointed to where there was not even any charred ground remaining that used to be where Asuma's killer had been trapped. "Would have been." On cue, bright blue burning shuriken like things that weren't actually shuriken because they were made of chakra and resembled connected comas lit on fire appeared in the chakra tengu-warriors hands, about the size of a Bijudama if HIruzen was not mistaken and a flat-faced Tobirama, Mito and Namikaze-sensei immediately started collecting their allies to Hiraishin out of the way and probable blast range.

"Oh fuck my life," the ancient zombie man groused before just one was released and Hiruzen watched with his teammates, the two Team Disaster members, the Yellow Flash and one of the Sannin as that single shuriken-coma-whatever chakra thing blew up the entire little rocky clearing they'd been fighting on. Like it was nothing. The aftermath will probably be burned in Hiruzen's brain for the rest of his life even without Kagami's super special doujutsu to preserve it because he's sure he'll be seeing it in his nightmares regularly.

" ... The fuck, Minato?"

"I know, Ero-sensei."

Hiruzen felt them.

He really did.

Chapter Text

It was understandable, really, that people were caught off guard by it when it finally occurred. It had been almost a year without such or even a remotely similar incident so their old annoyances and grievances were forgotten in the face of this new sort of 'd even grown complacent in it since there had not even been a reason for such an occurrence since Team Disaster hadn't been apart since Kusagakure grew bold and stupid enough to kidnap one of its members.

Really, they had thought their problems regarding that had been solved when Senju Tobirama spent an entire two months away and had no adverse affects on himself or his mental health while he had been with his snow leopard summons. And since Uzumaki Mito had never been hit as hard as the youngest and strongest sensor on their team and had only made chaos with him when he drew her into his crazy plans and experiments, Konohagakure had truly gotten far too used to peace and quiet in their village even when Uchiha Madara left on solo missions. (Not that that happened often, especially not since he lost his brothers and father, since everyone feared he might just go off to hunt down the rest who were even remotely involved in their deaths.)

So, really, they were so completely used to that peace and quiet beyond the usual experiments that they were so completely taken off guard when the first major explosion hit not fifteen days since Madara left the village.

Apparently they had forgotten that when Kusagakure had been foolish enough to kidnap Tobirama, they had sealed his chakra away and to seal a sensor was a fate crueler than death.

Truly, it was bound to happen that Tobirama would feel off kilter and overwhelmed the first time Madara wasn't within his immediate sensing distance. They should have seen it coming. They really, really should. In the end, that first time around, Tsunade paid for assigning that month long mission to Madara with so many severe headaches that she was truly tempted to give the hat to her favorite Uchiha brat as soon as the teen stepped foot back into the village.

Unfortunately, of course, Tobirama got to him first and even Mito had seemed frazzled at that point.

Tsunade resolved to not have a repeat of that happen again.

00000

A few weeks later, she had no choice but to allow it.

Not when Ryujin-sama himself descended from the heavens above and demanded both of his summoners' presence in the animal dimension given there were some disputes over whether or not his territory should fall under his own domain there or if it should be categorized as belonging to the Ryuchi Cave and he needed Madara's and Ryukyu's backup in this. Really, mother and eldest son left in seconds on Ryujin-sama's head to settle the dispute before the dragon decides to just kill the White Snake Sage for even daring to suggest that he should be subservient to a bunch of no-leg ground crawlers, stalling only long enough to distribute their duties between Hikaku, Kagami, Izuna and a few other higher ranked Uchiha so the clan won't fall apart in their absence before they were off.

Hikaku had honestly thought they wouldn't stay longer than a few days before remembering just who were the most prominent and powerful snake summoners and groaned as he realized he'd be acting as Clan Head with his other selected relatives possibly for a few weeks at the very least.

Ryukyu-sama placed in the same space as Orochimaru of the Sannin after he had made allusions to wanting her son's body? Yeah, the Ryuchi Cave was as good as demolished already if those two meet.

Of course, no one else had the same epiphany as Hikaku, at least not that early on. They, too, thought that the Uchiha mother-son pair's battle prowess, if nothing else, will discourage a few snakes from angering two temperamental, fiery, spiteful Uchiha, especially ones with a reputation like Ryukyu and Madara, but they were proven wrong yet again as days passed and, once again, about fifteen days in, chaos was unleashed on Konoha.

This time in the form of yellow jackets because, apparently, Tobirama had managed to convince several Aburame to indulge him and give him some larva of said insects so he can try to develop a way for their more rare bugs to repopulate sooner instead of going extinct. Like the Baikochu, which, of course, had them all but thrusting said larva in his face. And Tobirama being Tobirama did find a way, though most of the village was uncertain whether they approved or were rather unhappy with him about it. The Aburame as a whole certainly were delighted, even as they, too, suffered from the stings of the yellow black bugs.

Madara, who nearly suffered the same fate upon his return, was not nearly as happy, which he displayed in allowing smoke to linger around himself like a shield and wouldn't let a red-skinned Tobirama in until the situation was finally put under control two weeks after his return from his twenty seven day trip.

(Apparently, his temperament had been what had ended the dispute when he'd formed the Susanoo and threatened to White Snake Sage that he will tear out his spine through his anal opening if the snakes kept persisting and Ryukyu had been in full agreement to do the same to Orochimaru the second she'd spotted him upon entering the debate on the first hour of the first day.)

Things settled, of course, as they always did when Madara was around.

The village was starting to realize they might really end up needing to make the Uchiha Hokage if his teammates continued making this much chaos in his absence. After all, the Hokage almost never left the village.

It was becoming their safest bet.

00000

The next time it happened, it was surprisingly Mito's fault.

The Uzumaki princess might be a lot more levelheaded than her teammates or even most of her clan mates, considering how the Uzumaki could get - a prime example existed in Konoha itself with Kushina and her young son, after all, and even their Hokage showed signs of where a part of her ancestry comes from - but she was still, at her core, an Uzumaki. That means that, should she ever get bored, it's best for people to start running for their lives. Because, unlike Kushina, her mischief was not obvious, just like her rage, and it took you by surprise.

Also, she was raised among the Uchiha so she had a very special relationship with Spite. Madara and Spite were practically married at this point and it always got him through almost anything. Mito, who had lived like his sister for the past decade, was very well acquainted with her metaphorical 'in-law'.

So, some time after the twelfth day since Madara left on some super secret, extra important mission that he had to genjutsu Hashirama into not telling them about with said Senju brother, by when ten patients in the hospital managed to thoroughly insult her with their leering, she got three marriage proposals from Dai and ten more from random individuals even though everyone knew she and Hashirama were an item and two Hyuuga have managed to question the integrity of her seals and insinuate some very unsavory things about her position on Team 4, about her teammates, her father, her adopted family and her future in-laws, Mito decided that it was time to take a page out of the Uchiha book and use Spite.

Needless to say, it was far too easy to get Izuna in on the action and Menma was an energetic, true Uzumaki child who was looking forward to mischief. Though Mito wondered if auntie Kushina will regret her decision to cover for them once the chaos was unleashed.

Because if there was one thing that taught Konoha a lesson in manners, it was threatening them with a sensory overwhelmed Tobirama while Madara was out on a mission. And if there was one thing that was perfect punishment or an opportunity to make a point, it was unleashing said sensory overwhelmed Tobirama while Madara was out on a mission on the village. And Mito wouldn't regret doing so.

So, mere two hours after the two Hyuuga said some things she won't repeat or think about again - she wants to scare them into submission, not accidentally destroy their beloved home village - she marched into Tobirama's lab with her two minions on her heels and all but yanked the bleary-eyed Senju out of his latest experiments. Somehow, he hadn't yet gotten restless enough to dive into the more explosive or volatile shit yet. Mito was kind of disappointed by that, actually.

One more thing people tended to forget about her was that she was a sensor on the same scale as her teammates and sensei and while she never showed how badly it affected her when Madara wasn't around for Mito and Tobirama to focus on him to drown out the rest of the world, it didn't mean she wasn't affected. It was simply easier for her to control and to be distracted from it given that she had the Kyuubi to talk to her whenever it got too much. Tobirama, though, they suspected, was quite possibly a sensor stronger than Minato-sensei, as he was still so young but matched the man in skill and range. Tobirama was affected by it the worst but Mito was a close second.

If it wasn't like that, she and Madara would have never met, became friends or pseudo-siblings.

And because people tended to forget that, they tended to forget that she could become quite snappish and much more temperamental and infinitely easier to annoy after a certain number of days that her friend wasn't in the village.

So, of course, they didn't see it coming when Mito gave Tobirama some incredibly convenient ideas that matched well with some of his explosive tags research that he was always doing. The first day, Konoha was rocked by explosions.

The second day, Mito introduced Tobirama with a few of Uzushio's forbidden masks, one of which summoned the Shinigami itself, so the whole day most of the jonin and ANBU spent futilely chasing an overly excited and curious Senju all over Konoha while he tried to figure out how the moon mask had the power to transport one to the Moon while Mito cackled in the background as she watched Izuna and Menma trick, sidetrack or trip various high ranking ninja.

And on the third day, Mito helped Tobirama fix up a weaker, limited Edo Tensei, where the reanimated may not have infinite chakra or can stay around forever once summoned, but they didn't require a living sacrifice but were instead managed and sustained by special seals.

Needless to say, Konoha didn't appreciate a zombie invasion.

Needless to say, Hashirama was horrified when he and Madara returned that afternoon from their mission - rushed by Madara, because he know these things, has a sixth sense for them, alright? - and had nightmares for years to come about that one reanimated rabbit that seemed to have died of rabbis and had taken the chance to attack him when he gawked at it too long.

Needless to say, Madara found himself saddled with both of his teammates for weeks to come.

(Needless to say, Uzumaki Kushina cackled in delight.)

Needless to say, Mito had her revenge and it had been served corpse-cold.

Needless to say, it seemed more and more likely Konoha will do something drastic to ensure Madara never leaves on solo missions again.

Tsunade will make sure of it.

00000

The time after which they all but order Tobirama to go back to the snow leopards so he can relearn to be less obsessively dependent on Madara's chakra signature happened not a half year later, a few months before things got heated and then there was no missions, just battle and a mess that needed to be fixed in the aftermath.

Madara had been gone only five days that time and Tobirama had been having a bad day and there was no overwhelming chakra signature to overwhelm his senses and drown out the rest of the chakra around him because Madara had went to the Land of Demons of all places and that whole country had such a bad vibe to it that Tobirama never allowed himself to go even near it with his senses.

Mito was busy with some seal work with Kushina-sama and Minato-sensei had been delegated to babysitting duty since Menma-kun had a cold so he couldn't be left alone for a day or two until his fever drops. His mother and even Ryukyu-sama had been needed to meet with the Hokage for some village matters and the Clan Head Council had been called to discuss it, Izuna was out on a mission, Tuoka was training with her squad and Hikaku was on duty at the Police Station, so Tobirama was left to his own devices.

Or so he thought until Hashirama returned early from his jonin written tests and said he was bored and would like a spar.

So Tobirama got the bright idea that they should compare their Sage Modes since they'd never really done that before, to check how truly similar or different they were. And showing off all of their skills went from aimlessly firing their special senpo attacks to sparing.

And sparing for anyone from the Senju or Uchiha Main House usually meant severe property damage even when it was just a taijutsu spar, let alone when the two competitive Senju brothers went all out with their senjutsu!

Madara, Mito and Minato all actually Hiraishined right to their location to stop them from accidentally destroying Konoha in their zeal and none of them were impressed. Tsunade-sama was even less so, but at least they didn't get punished and at least Madara had managed to finish his mission at the last moment before teleporting back to Konoha. No one doubted that it wouldn't be pretty if the Senju brothers had been allowed to continue as they had completely forgotten themselves.

Though the actual problem came afterwards for Tobirama, as combining his chakra with natural energy in Sage Mode left his senses even more sensitive and the aftermath left him a whimpering mess with his head buried so far in Madara's chest that he was surprised he hadn't actually dug a hole right there when he finally surfaced from his overload two whole days later. Madara looked wrecked by the time Tobirama got his head back together and that had nearly sent the younger Senju brother into a frenzy, thinking Madara was sick or poisoned or injured and hadn't had his injuries healed because the second he stopped touching Tobirama, he had whimpered and screamed as his senses were assaulted with the rest of the world's chakra.

The order to return to the snow leopards hadn't been necessary but Tobirama was never going to tell anyone how much more painful it had been to realize Madara had looked so bad because he had actually gotten literally sick with worry. He'd have preferred to stay and watch over his sick teammate but he knew an intervention was needed.

So he went and he trained with Kaida and the other snow leopards for a month, forcing himself to not search out Madara's chakra signature the second he returned to Konoha. He was a shinobi and he had a reputation that would kill him with this sort of vulnerability. Even if Madara didn't mind, Tobirama minded that he could be so easily taken out of commission if only enough time passed.

Though Madara put a stop to him trying to spend less time in general with the older teen as soon as the Uchiha caught on to it and instead called him an idiot for thinking he had to go that far.

At least the disaster and chaos caused by his experiments due to unrest stopped.

(When he was fifteen, he gave up ever being okay without Madar's chakra there to ground him. After falling into a genjutsu for the first time in his life, losing all sense of reality and self, losing himself in a dream that would have killed him and only waking up because Madara was the one to do it, because he had been the only one who could, he gave up on it.

Why even bother when both he and Madara wanted nothing more but to be close?

Konoha, at that point, enjoyed that one piece of normality after the war they'd fought.

The Fourth War had shaken them all.)

Chapter Text

" ... You're kidding me, right?" Madara couldn't help but ask, staring down at the 'disguise' they were being given for their newest mission. Bone-white, painted masks, flexible protective gray vests, all black clothing, no hitai-ate, a katana for them each. The standard ANBU equipment pretty much since Konoha's foundation. Or, well, since the Nidaime's foundation of the organization, really.

"The Fire Daimyo asked for an ANBU squad to accompany him to a meeting with the other Daimyo," Tsunade-sama said as she steeled her fingers under her chin, leaning on her desk. Her eyes were sharp, a sight much less usual with Team Disaster in her office than anyone else, given she's always complaining about them. "He asked for the best we have. Excuse me if I don't reveal that the best we have comes in the form of three genin teenagers I'm not allowed to let entire the Chuunin Exams and their jonin sensei."

"You're not telling us something," Tobirama states, not asks, and Madara glares at the blonde for daring to think she can hide something from them.

"I just didn't get to it yet, brat," she waves them off and Madara can actually feel his hair bristle in indignation. His and Tsunade-sama's relationship had been a weird one since day one. Most people actually wondered if they should flee when they get annoyed at each other. Most people tended to put at least several reinforced concrete walls or floors between them and the Hokage's office when Team Disaster is in there. "The reason why I am sending you is because the Fire Daimyo has reason to believe there might be an assassination attempt. He doesn't know whom to suspect, or who the assassin might be, but his spies tell him the other Daimyo are definitely taking some serious protection with them. Lightning's Daimyo, for instance, will be having Kinkaku and Ginkaku for protection-"

"Just great," muttered Tobirama under is breath with a pout he will no doubt deny later and Mito pulled a very unladylike expression at those news.

"And rumor has it Water's Daimyo hired the Swordsmen of the Mist. Don't know how many or if it's true. The Daimyo doesn't want to risk it, as you can imagine, to be the only one inadequately defended. Our ANBU are unmatched in the shinobi world, so he ordered a squad to accompany him to the meeting and back as his bodyguards. In full uniform."

"As a show of power and wealth, no doubt," Mito, who was raised in what may as well be a court in Uzushio, ventures a guess and Tsunade-sama shrugs.

"Beats me. All I care about is that this mission is fulfilled successfully while not endangering any of my shinobi. As sensors and some seriously overpowered brats, I believe you to be the best equipped for this task. Will you accept?"

Minato-sensei looked at them, as though he didn't already know the answer. At the confirming nods he got from his team, the blond man nodded and accepted the mission scroll from the Hoakge with a shallow bow. "We will do our best, Hokage-sama. Should we be on the lookout of anything in particular."

The busty Senju woman snorts, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms. "Of course you'd ask." Meaning Of course you'd assume Akatsuki if I am sending you. "Word is Akatsuki might be planning something in the area. We have no confirmation but the meeting place is too close to our borders for my liking to send Jiraiya out to investigate. You're currently one of the few teams sent out on missions. I'm mostly drawing our ninja back into the fold in case things don't go too well."

-Planning for an invasion?- Madara sends in pulses of his chakra to his teammates, doing his best not to frown to give away his thoughts to the adults who had no doubt felt the pulses but had no idea what they meant. Well, beyond that Team Disaster was essentially whispering to each other in secret communication.

-Seems like it.- Mito was the first to send back. -We'll need to stay alert.-

-Usual schedule in monitoring Konoha?- Tobirama suggested and Madara and Mito sent their confirmations immediately. They'd started always monitoring Konoha with their senses ever since That Day so they'd make sure it never happened again. Minato-sensei and Tsunade-sama knew they did this and let them do it since they were the ones most likely to notice if things are going to shit and alert everyone before it's too late to do something about it. No one wanted a repeat of That Day, after all.

"When do we leave?" Madara asked with a put upon sigh as he picked up his designated disuse uniform. He wasn't sure if he was exactly comfortable with being ANBU, even if it was just pretend. ANBU were famous for being elite shinobi not only for their skill, but for their stoicism during missions. No Uchiha should ever become ANBU for the sheer fact that no Uchiha had an off switch for their emotions. No Uchiha would put a mission over the well-being of a comrade. The fact that he was expected to act as though he were an emotionless weapon for the Hokage to point, even if he knew Tsunade would never abuse her power and authority like that, made him feel like less than human.

Why would anyone want to join this organization again? He's just glad not even Tobirama would like to be a part of it, since the work hours would interfere too much into his research. Small mercies that he didn't have to worry about his dear ones joining.

"You are to meet the Daimyo and his companions on this journey tomorrow morning at ten o'clock at his residency. From there on, you will follow the route that has been agreed on for safety purposes. Once you reach the meeting place, you are to stay hidden save Minato, who will openly tail him into the meetings as his bodyguard. The three of you are to keep a weather eye on everyone else and keep the convoy you will escort safe at all times. The meetings will supposedly last a week, the journey to the meeting point is three days at civilian speed. Expect to be accompanied by at least two dozen samurai, five servants, the Daimyo's personal servant, his daughter and her handmaids and the Daimyo's personal adviser. The Daimyo's heir will be guarded in Fire's capitol by another group of our ninja."

"Why aren't the Twelve Guardian Ninja on the case, though?" Mito asked what Madara considered to be the most logical question save one very important fact that most people not native to Hi no Kuni didn't realize.

"They've been disbanded around the time Asuma left and retired from active duty," Lady Tsunade said, crossing her arms over her chest with a frown. "There were some political reasons behind it all but the whole thing was a mess altogether and I'm not sure even Kurenai could tell you how or why that unit is no longer in the business. Asuma dealt with whatever the mess was so no one could complain, not when even the Daimyo himself thought it to be for the best. It still leaves him vulnerable in situations like this, though, which is why he relies on us these days to provide him with the necessary protection. I trust you will take care of that splendidly."

"Hai, Hokage-sama."

00000

Mito was frowning down at her katana, weighing it like she wasn't used to such a weapon. Given she most often used seals as actual weapons, Madara wasn't surprised. "I hate this katana. I much prefer my tessen. Must I stick to such standardized weaponry when I could simply use my own? I'd even take my own katana instead of my tessen."

"ANBU have a singular weapon-smith, Mito-chan," Minato-sensei explained as he put on his owl-like dark mask, one usually reserved for covert missions of the most skilled ANBU captains. Given his reputation, skill and power, it made sense that he would get that mask, since they were also attempting to intimidate any would-be attackers into not going through with any assassination plot. Though simply having the Yellow Flash in all of his blond, blue-eyed glory might have been more effective to that end but Madara guessed the element of surprise could be just as appreciated. "If you were to have any sword but an ANBU one, skilled eyes would recognize it and see through our disguise."

"I'm with Mito on this, even if I don't really mind the katana." He'd prefer his gunbai over anything but the weapon was far too recognizable and people would instantly know it was him. Not that Team Disaster was exactly good for these sort of covert missions to begind with. They had quite a few distinguishable characteristics that would allow an even half blind man to recognize them. Red, white and blond hair wasn't exactly all that common and almost no one had the same hair volume, length and style as Madara did. The masks felt almost like an insult, really, a joke. "Uchiha blacksmiths are some of the best and my kayana is definitely better made than this cheap, standardized, commercialized thing."

It was, of course, an exemplary piece of work, for anyone else who didn't have eyes that could practically see on an almost molecular level when completely focused and who wasn't raised by a clan who specialized in kenjutsu, shurikenjutsu and about any other weapon style there is. This katana was made to fit someone roughly his height and weight group, but it wasn't made for him and it showed in how he had to readjust his grip to fit the handle instead of the handle being made to fit his grip, how the balance was half an inch more forwards than he was used to, how the blade was sharpened at a different angle, the difference in the width of the sword altogether. Yes, Madara will be able to fight and kill with this weapon, but it was not meant for him, will probably be given to someone else when he returns it and Uchiha just don't do that. If they're not at war, it's seen as an insult.

Not even sons get their father's swords. Instead, a retired or fallen Uchiha's sword is either hung in his family's house or in the front room of the Naka Shrine.

All the more reason the Uchiha don't like ANBU.

"I don't mind that much, even if Raijin no Ken is better." Mito and Madara both rolled their eyes at their younger teammate.

"Of course you don't mind, snowflake-"

"Don't call me that."

"You use a katana most of the time," Madara huffed, ignoring Tobirama's protest to the nickname as easily as he did every other time. "You're used to it. Mito and I only occasionally use or train with swords, as we prefer war fans, which are more typical to people with any semblance of a wind affinity, and since Mito's a futon user naturally and my secondary affinity is also wind, we have little use for blades bigger than a kunai when we can just channel chakra into them to make them longer and invisible in their added length. Katana, on the other hand, are always better weapons for those with a lightning affinity and even suiton, as the Swordsman of the Mist occasionally show off."

"We didn't ask for the entire theory behind weapons making and chakra affinity per weapon, Madara," the redhead of their group said teasingly but also out of self preservation. There was an interested glint in Tobirama's eyes and that never bode well, for anyone. This was, of course, not a subject he heard much about since he didn't usually hang around blacksmiths to hear them talk about how chakra affinity affected weapons preferences, though Madara briefly wondered how many ordinary blacksmiths outside of the Uchiha Clan even knew about it. It was such a normal thing to him but evidently, this was something new for his companions to hear judging by how neither Minato-sensei nor Mito interjected with any data of their own. "We have to head out now if we want to appear as though we've been running from Konoha to the mansion to keep our cover from being blown this early." Hiraishin, after all, was only used by four people in all of the Five Elemental Nations.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. You guys can talk about seals for hours and no one is allowed to interrupt-" Which was, partially, true, as they always enjoyed Madara or their families joining them even if none of them had anything to contribute to their more complicated conversations. "But the second I try to talk about something only I know about, no one wants to listen. I'll remember that. Mark my words." Then he put on his red hawk mask and Hiraishined to the spot they had agreed upon from where they will finish their journey to the Daimyo's place on foot.

He delighted in Tobirama's curses, Mito's put upon sigh and Minato-sensei's laughter.

That was a good way to start a mission.

00000

With Tobirama hidden behind a blue tiger mask on his right and Mito behind a green fox mask on his left and Minato-sensei standing in front of them, between them and the Daimyo, Madara had the perfect opportunity to study the group they had been put in charge of protecting for the next two or so weeks as Minato-sensei spoke with the Daimyo about the last minute changes in the formation the samurai should take and how the attendants should gather around the traditional peace/alliance gifts to discourage bandit attacks and the such.

The little convoy they were escorting had agreed to mask themselves as moving poor villagers going from one village to the other in search of a better home and better work. The Daimyo will, of course, leave his residency with all the flourish his position and power deserved and will arrive in just as much style to their destination, but on the road, he will be walking just like everyone else to blend in and lessen the opportunity or cause for an assassination attempt. Some protested at the mere idea of him degrading himself as such but the old man had nothing against it. Said it would be good for him to stretch his legs a little and there was a wagon pulled by a horse for him to rest upon should he get tired. All of the gifts and the glamorous attires and other such things had been stored away in scrolls by Mito that were distributed among the shinobi so even if one of them were to be taken down (Pity the world if that were to ever happen.) not everything would be lost.

The Daimyo might have been willing to walk for his own safety, though his daughter was a very different story. Madara had nearly been tempted to knock her out with the Sharingan and just put her in a sack of potatoes on the wagon, but it was still the Daimyo's daughter, no matter how annoying. Also he didn't want to waste chakra on such a stupid endeavor.

"Sometimes I wonder how Ryu-chan managed to put up with her at all," Madara didn't turn to acknowledge the old adviser when he came to stand next to him as Tobirama and Mito were called away by sensei to receive their orders where they will be standing in the convoy, the older man's dark eyes distant as if lost in memory if not for the sharpness of them he could see even from the corner of his eye. "It is no wonder she no longer visits us at all. Kyoko-hime takes too much after her mother, I fear, and Ryu-chan has little patience for such women. Takes too much after her father's side in that, just like you do on your mother's, Mada-kun."

"I am on a mission, uncle, and would prefer to keep my identity secret," the Uchiha replied as stoically as he knew how. Akatane Setsuna, the Daimyo's personal and most trusted, most treasured adviser, a man he considered as his own brother, hummed.

"No one is looking in our direction. Surely you can spare your uncle a short exchange of information, a little gossip. Tell me, how fares my niece? My other grandnephew?"

Many years ago, Uchiha Seiji fell in love with a pretty noble girl he had not realized came directly from the Daimyo's court, that she was one of his trusted advisers' only daughter, that she had been already married to another. The girl had had some loose morals and even looser ideas about matrimony. Her husband could not please her, as he loved another but their marriage had been arranged since she was born and he was but a babe in his mother's lap, so she sought out pleasure where she could find it. Which in the capitol where everyone could recognize her at first glance, meant an outsider. Uchiha Seiji had been on a mission when they met, briefly courted and fell in bed together. The story is unclear if the girl ever promised herself to Seiji in marriage or if they had made an arrangement of sorts, but when Seiji asked her to return to Konoha with him, he nearly lost his head as the girl told her father. Young Seiji fled the capitol with a broken heart and orders never to set foot there again, only for, a year later, to be brought before the then Daimyo himself by his very guards, have a three months old babe thrust into his arms and be declared the child's father.

Seiji, of course, fell in love with his little daughter at first sight and was utterly heartbroken to hear that the woman he had loved had died in childbirth. Her husband had not even bothered to mourn the proper length of time before marrying the woman he truly loved, which left the babe in her uncle's hands and he had no means to raise her. Not with his duties and a recently passed wife.

So the child went to her father, as was actually Uchiha tradition to keep the Sharingan in their Clan, with the promise that the child will be raised by not only Uchiha standards, but also Akatane, as they were a part of the Daimyo's very court and the babe will probably be the only heir to the name one day. As such, Uchiha Ryukyu was raised never knowing a mother figure beyond her grandmother, her aunts and older cousins, a kunoichi first and foremost, but a lady as well. A lady of the Daimyo's court. Up to her tenth birthday, she would spend her summers with her uncle and be taught about court life, while the rest of her year she could do as she please.

As such, the fierce Uchiha Dragoness was born.

As such, Uchiha Madara, her eldest son, was introduced to the Daimyo's court as the now Daimyo's personal adviser's first grandnephew.

And so, the Uchiha had a rather interesting and strong position in the Daimyo's good graces, which always helped Konoha.

"That's what you think," Madara replied, keeping his stance casual and alert, as though he were merely scanning the surroundings for any possible threats. "Kaa-chan is fine, Izuna is fine. They're doing good, all things considered. Kaa-chan can't visit because she's now Clan Head regent of sorts until I come of age to take my position. How did you know it was me, anyway?"

"You're not exactly subtle, Mada-kun," Setsuna-jiisan said with an imperceptible snort. "Your hair, your posture, your bearings, they give you away. Honestly, you walk like royalty, nephew mine. And I know you and my niece well enough to recognize you even if you were to shave your hed, gauge out your pretty eyes and get facial tattoos."

"Don't tempt me to test you," he grumbled and Setsuna-jiisan laughed as he walked away, leaving Madara to be stared at by his teammates and sensei. He could clearly feel Mito's and Tobirama's questions in their secret shared code but he didn't answer.

This was going to get more complicated than he'd thought.

Chapter Text

Madara hated the position in the convoy he had been given. He really, really did. It was not fair that Minato-sensei got to take the front and Tobirama got to take the back while he and Mito guarded the middle from both sides. It would be so bad if it just didn't oh so happen that the Daimyo's daughter, Kyoko-himesama apparently, had taken an interest in him and insisted on following him around like a lost puppy, her attendant having the misfortune to have to trail after her even when she realized his annoyance was spiking dangerously by midday of their second day of travel.

It was a test of patience that would, no doubt, in the end prove why Uchiha were not really suited to be ANBU and Madara especially.

Between doing his best not to offend the girl, not punch Mito in the face for communicating blatant amusement and teasing through their secret code, avoiding talking with his uncle lest Setsuna-jiisan accidentally reveal to the Daimyo that his ANBU bodyguards are just children by civilian standards - fifteen and fourteen was hardly adulthood in their eyes, which was hypocritical since they expected women to birth babies at that age already - and being confused over why Tobirama kept glaring into his back from the end of their little convoy, the trip was tiring in a way it had no right to be and he nearly sang his relief to the heavens when they were less than a kilometer from the meeting place. All that was left was for them all to change into their formal, ceremonial garb and march proudly into the city that will house the meeting of all the Daimyo's of the Great Five Elemental Nations and then watch over the proceedings from te shadows.

Of course that was when Kyoko-himesama decided to be difficult, to make his life difficult, by insisting that she wanted Madara to be her personal bodyguard while her father is doing business with the other Daimyos. Which, unfortunately, meant Madara would have to march right into the lion's den that was a political meeting in full ANBU gear on the first day, when full attendance is to be held with everyone and anyone of station that had come with each Daimyo. Only Minato-sensei was supposed to go in out of their team, the teenagers were supposed to watch over it all from a distance!

He thought Setsuna-jiisan might come to his aid but of course his uncle had to be a traitor and agree that it was probably for the best that they bring two guards. The old man probably just wanted to have more of an opportunity to speak with Madara and that annoyed the Uchiha because he could respect that but hated that it was happening during such an important and complicated mission. Honestly, he'd come to visit one of these days if he had to if it would just get his uncle on his side in this matter and allow him to hide away from the annoying hime-sama.

Ultimately, it fell to the Daimyo and the man loved his daughter too much not to give in. She was his youngest, gotten at a rather old age he had not expected to have a child in, therefore he doted on her too much. Madara was tempted to be the assassin they feared might crash the party and strangle him himself.

So now he found himself being prepared to be paraded like one of Kyoko-himsesama's pretty attendants, glaring through the eye holes of his mask at Mito and promising to murder her through their chakra code while Tobirama seemed to be radiating a level of pissed off he really couldn't understand.

He missed his gunbai, his high collared mantle with his long sleeves, the freedom to have his hair free from the high, tight ponytail he had had to sit through his mother making and Mito remaking just five minutes ago and, most of all, his gloves. The standard ANBU up to shoulder black, thin gloves annoyed the hell out of him. They covered his storage seal for his gunbai on his forearm, were too thin to keep out the cold - not that cold bothered him much anyway, not with his chakra nature, but that was not the point - and were not water-resistant like his leather gloves were since they were made of silk or some such material. Madara was going to murder someone for this. Possibly the Daimyo. Probably Tsunade-sama for assigning them this mission. Most likely the first person to stir shit that might prolong this torture.

The infuriating noble girl was currently on the top of his potential-murder-victim list.

"What is your name, shinobi-san?" She asked as soon as he took up his position next to her carriage that had just been unsealed for the grand entrance.

"Hime-sama!" The scandalized handmaiden gasped, reproachful and terrified that he might take offense and kill them on the spot. She actually had good survival instincts and a healthy amount of paranoia to keep her head in this world. Madara almost approved, if he didn't sense the amount of fear all but rolling off of her any second she so much cast a glance at him or his teammates and sensei. Weak. "They are ANBU! You can't ask them to reveal their identity! They have families that could be endangered if their names ever reach-"

"But we have to call him something if there will be two of them in attendance," the girl rationalized and Madara resisted, barely, the urge to snap at her that they wouldn't be having this problem if she herself hadn't insisted Madara accompany them as well. "So surely he can at least give us his code name, ne, shinobi-san?" The last was turned to him and Madara was suddenly glad for the mask that was hiding his deadly scowl even as his mind raced. Code name? He didn't have a code name! He was Uchiha fucking Madara of Konoha's Team Disaster, a genin not allowed to attend Chuunin Exams because no one else would send their own genin to the 'slaughter', a kid whose name has been in the ANBU bingo black book since he was a preteen, the strongest Uchiha born in his generation! He had a flee on sight order! Why the fuck would someone as recognizable as him need a code name!? It's not exactly like he and his teammates were subtle! You can't overlook someone with their features!

Luckily, as always, he had his teammates to rely on.

"Hi-kun, I need your assistance here," Tobirama called from the back, where he had been arranging the samurai's formation for the final leg of the journey with their shinobi protectors halved and hidden. Madara sighed in relief at both the code name and the out he'd been given, all but rushing to his younger teammate.

He leaned in and whispered in Tobirama's ear a sincere and quiet "Thank you," before going back to 'business', not really understanding why he felt flares of satisfaction and embarrassment in equal measure in the younger boy's chakra. Or why Mito felt so smug about it.

This was getting really annoying.

00000

Minato-sensei looked like a fish washed up on shore in the not so little political meet and greet meeting that took place as soon as all participants have arrived and settled enough to get into their fanciest robes and kimonos for the proceedings. He didn't fidget or anything, but he was definitely uncomfortable in all the finery surrounding them, even if they were far from the only shinobi present in uniform.

It was interesting, though, that Madara was the only shinobi even remotely comfortable in a setting like this. It sort of came from attending a few of these in his his young life so far, even if he had never been at a meeting of this magnitude or importance before. He at least knew of the proper conduct and did his best to subtly instruct his sensei in how to act, what to say and what not to say, which questions to answer and in how much detail or wording. He had to reassure the man that no Daimyo, even their own, had the power to make him take off his mask since ANBU answer only to the Hokage. If a Shogun or an Emperor was present, it would be different, but none of the people present had the right to demand to see their faces.

The other hired shinobi that were here to play bodyguards were an interesting bunch, to say the least. Mizu no Kuni's Daimyo had, indeed, hired a Swordsman of the Mist, but Madara was impressed that he had gotten the Demon of the Mist for his bodyguard. He'd thought Momochi Zabuza had practically defected from Kiri and mostly worked for that tycoon, Gato, but given that he had a kid of Madara's age dressed as an oinin, which might as well be Kiri's version of ANBU for all intents and purposes except they hunted nukenin and disposed of their corpses so that no enemy can learn the secrets of a Kiri nin's body. Madara wasn't sure he if the kid was a boy or a girl, just that they were strong and that their chakra felt freezing.

'Hyoton, huh. A member of the Yuki Clan. Impressive, Momochi Zabuza, impressive.' He'll have to keep an eye on those two. Zabuza had earned his reputation as the Demon of the Mist and Yuki had a seriously strong Kekkei Genkai he would rather not mess with if he wants to keep his identity a secret.

Lightning's Daimyo did indeed also have the rumored guards in the form of Kinkaku and Ginkaku, which was just annoying. Madara had been hoping they'd seen the last of them during the Chuunin Exams and that that was it. No more running into the Kumo annoyances. So much for that. Kaze no Kuni's Daimyo, though, surprised him in having assorted a lot of different shinobi from various villages and none of them were from Suna. He wondered what that was about and wondered if there might be a rebellion or a coup. Should they notify Lady Tsunade?

Earth's Daimyo had Mu and, surprisingly, Gengetsu as a combined effort, a team if he was seeing right, and Madara wanted to laugh himself silly because those two fairly hated each other. It promised to be entertaining that they were meant to work together.

There were, of course, other shinobi scattered about as backup, no doubt, but this was the lineup for the official meetings. Madara still kept a wary eye on everyone in attendance, feeling shinobi-level chakra signatures in the dozens and he couldn't help but wonder if Lady Tsunade had overestimated their ability to keep their client safe with so many potential assassins roaming around.

-You're getting anxious. Problems? Need backup?- Came from Tobirama and Madara automatically relaxed even if his vigilance didn't drop one iota. It was reassuring to know his friends were still close enough that he'd have assistance if shit hit the fan suddenly.

-Everything's fine.- He rattled off the shinobi present and the numbers they're facing to his teammates so they'd be kept up to date and informed of who they are to be wary of. -Opinions?-

-Suspicious about Kaze's Daimyo.- Mito shared and Madara was glad that he wasn't the only one who found that a bit fishy. -Suna should have a discount for their Daimyo. He should be their best client.-

-Suna's services are expensive. Or were.- Tobirama revealed and Madara took the time to pinpoint his and Mito's locations for his own piece of mind. They were safe, kept hidden from other ninja milling around protecting their clients expertly by Mito's scrambling seals, which was a relief and not at all a surprise. They were sensors. They knew how best to hide from other sensors and ordinary ninja. -It's why it was easy to take out the Kazekage and attack Konoha for Orochimaru. Kaze's Daimyo used to hire our shinobi because we were cheaper.-

Because Konoha could afford to be cheaper. Konoha had all the natural resources to keep running without needing trade agreements and deals to keep its economy stable. They had almost limitless amounts of good wood, rock was no hardship to find, Sora-Ku was a good source of rarer materials and they had a good deal with Iron and Snow Countries for their metal ores as long as Uchiha blacksmiths are willing to trade in weapons. Not to mention that Konoha was the only hidden village that had Uzumaki seal masters and the only village that Uzushio openly did business with. Just that was enough to make things a lot easier since Uzushio's seals were worth a fortune and their seal masters knew that. No one haggles over Uzushio seals. The price is the price. Long years of friendship and partnership made sure Konoha got the same seals as everyone else at half price.

-Keep an eye on their group. I don't like the feel of them.-

-Acknowledged.-

00000

"Hi-kun, do you think I am pretty?" Madara nearly stumbled over his own feet as he escorted Kyoko-himesama around the gardens the next morning while they waited for the gong signaling breakfast. Kyoko-himesama couldn't dismiss her personal attendant no matter how much she ordered it, so the other girl was walking a dozen or so feet behind them while Kyoko-himesama seemed determined to make it look like she and Madara were walking in tandem, together, as though they were, what, exactly? Lovers stealing a moment in the gardens, out of sight of prying eyes? Madara sure as hell hoped that wasn't it. By Amaterasu, he might be his uncle's 'heir' to take up his position in court one day, but he hoped Setsuna-jiisan will simply find some other lad to train and not expect of Madara to give up his shinobi life for that crap.

Madara would honestly rather join Hi no Tera than the court and Izuna was much the same.

They were Uchiha. They solved things with fire and weapons and spilled blood.

Politics was not a game they often played.

"You can be honest with me, Hi-kun," the Daimyo's daughter insisted and he realized he still hadn't replied.

"I think everyone has their own definition of pretty. One's definition of pretty may not coincide with another's and that could, therefore, create discord. To shinobi, our general definition of pretty or even beautiful is when a person is strong enough to watch our back." General enough answer that will make her think about things instead of getting offended and making his life even more of a hassle. Honestly, the only thing he needs now is for the Daimyo's daughter to demand the head of the ANBU 'Hi-kun' because he implied he didn't find her pretty.

Uchiha standards for pretty were fierce eyes, pale skin, strength and passion. If one does not have passion, does not have love, especially love for their family, they are not the ideal partner for any Uchiha. Some of his clansmen could get a bit extreme, like his father had been and like Izuna was, almost masochistic in their tastes to find dangerous women attractive, but a bit of that tendency existed in each and every one of his clansmen.

They stayed silent almost until they were supposed to go to the dinning hall for their morning meal before she spoke up again. "Do you think Gengetsu-san would like me? If I knew some self defense?"

Madara nearly sagged in relief and, from the corner of his eye, he could see Kyoko-himesama's attendant doing exactly that without reserve, thinking she had went unseen. Sweet, merciful Tsukuyomi be blessed, Madara had feared the Daimyo's daughter was interested in him. He wasn't sure how much he liked the possibility of Hozuki getting a connection to Hi no Kuni's Daimyo's family, but at least it wasn't him. Life at court was definitely not for a temperamental person like himself.

Still, the girl had asked him a question and was looking hopefully up at him. "Do you wish to learn? And may I ask, but why have you come to the impression that I would be the best one to have this conversation with?"

Kyoko-himesama snorted in a very unladylike fashion. "I may not be a shinobi, but I am observant, Hi-kun or whatever your true name might be. Seiji-sama is one of the most trustworthy people I know but he is paranoid and he does not take to strangers easily. He obviously knows you from somewhere and he trusts you. And even if I were not to take a cue from him, it is obvious that your teammates respect you and your opinion. And while I may not see his face, Mizu-kun's regard for you is obvious. I can still see how he looks at you. Obviously, you were the right person to go to regarding this."

'Mizu-kun? Fitting for Tobirama, though what did she mean his regard and how he looks at me? He looks at me like he's always looked at me. We've been friends for years.' He couldn't find anything that could have changed their status quo in the past year or longer. Maybe it was just a civilian thing to read too much into such things? Who knows. He just shrugs it off and instead returns to the topic of conversation that he'd rather not be having, actually. "Taichou-" Because ANBU called their leaders explicitly Taichou. "Is actually happily married with a kid. Kaze-chan-" Fitting for Mito, as fitting as Fire was for him and Water for Tobirama. "Is blissfully dating her boyfriend for a year now." Yes, Hashirama had been swept off his feet once Mito got sick of waiting for him to do it instead. "They could have given you advice just as well."

"I wanted your opinion." Damn it. 'Why does she have to be so stubborn!?' "You are a shinobi, closest to Gengetsu-san in age, and you are in his position on this mission, so you must be of similar skill and standing." Unless Gengetsu was the Heir and official Clan Head of his clan, even if it is with a regent, so to say, then he doubted it. "Do you think he would find me acceptable as a partner?"

"I don't really know Hozuki-san all that well. We only truly had one conversation." Which had been full of taunts and dares and challenges and had lasted a really short time before Mito bulldozed them to get to her promised ramen. "So I admit that it would be hard to say, especially since he comes from another country, another culture. You should take that into account if you approach him or invite him to approach you. But if you are truly interested in some self defense, I guess we have a week or so to teach you the basics."

Perhaps she wasn't so annoying, a part of Madara's brain mused as he watched Kyoko-himesan's whole face light up with gratitude. She was still, of course, annoying, just not as much as he'd first feared she would be.

This, at least, promised to be interesting.

Chapter Text

Teaching the Daimyo's daughter some self defense turned out to be the best concession Madara could have ever given in to, given that on the fourth night of their stay, there was a break-in in their assigned wing, a scattered attack whose purpose was unclear beyond te fact that they had made everyone think they were after the Daimyo when a smaller unit went after Kyoko-himesama. Madara had gotten there just in time to see a grown, highly trained shinobi fall to the ground from where Kyoko-himesama had kneed him right in the balls like he had taught her - "No fair play, go for where it hurts the most without shame, shinobi play dirty, use every advantage you can, don't hesitate. You're fighting for your life. Always aim where you know for sure it will hurt and where you know you can reach." - and try to get away from the other man trying to grab her and her handmaid - Mio-san, as he now knew. Madara had yanked him back, out into the corridor and dispatched of him in a swift fashion before all but gluing the two girls to his side as he ran through the big residence to meet up with the rest of his team.

The only surviving shinobi from the attack ended up being the one Kyoko-himesama had kneed and he was now tied up before the Fire Daimyo, his chakra seals and under intense surveillance of four sensors, one of which had an activated Sharingan trained on him to watch him for lies or any tricks he might try to pull.

"He's wearing the clothing of one of the Wind Daimyo's clothing! I don't remember his face but I clearly remember that tunic, Daimyo-sama!" One of the samurai said with clear anger and disgust in his voice but Madara shook his head, refuting the conclusion.

"That man has been reported dead. Haku-san from Kiri confirmed Mito's estimated time of death to have occurred over two hours ago. Whoever led the attack had planned for the Wind Daimyo to be blamed, therefore creating discord."

"How certain are you of this?" Asked the captain of the samurai and Madara would have rolled his eyes but didn't These people didn't know he was an Uchiha, therefore they didn't know about his perfect memory.

"One hundred percent."

"Then who is he?"

"Judging from the feel of his chakra, I would say he doesn't even come from Kumo. He comes from Ame," Tobirama - or Mizu-kun as people knew him while under that mask, as of a couple of days ago - said confidently, earning himself a couple of weirded out looks. Civilians were always funny when they were trying to deal with how very different shinobi were from them. "Chuunin level at best, reserves slightly above average, no notable distinctions that might suggest a Kekkei Genkai. He's cannon fodder. There's probably a bigger game at hand."

"For now, I suggest we abandon the idea of two hidden shinobi, Daimyo-sama," Minato-sensei said gravely, bowing only his head in deference to the shocked and uneasy man. "I won't allow for my clients to be in danger if we can prevent it. Hi-kun, Mizu-kun and Kaze-chan work best as a unit that is allowed to openly communicate." Never mind that they can do that anyways, but no one needed to know that little secret of Team Disaster. "If you hesitate to use all that is at your disposal, the next incident might end with some much worse consequences than a few injured warriors. I'd rather not have anyone's lives on my or my team's hands if I can help it."

"I agree," Setsuna-jiisan murmured, putting more weight behind Minato-sensei's words with that simple two worded sentence. "We've hired them, for good money, to do their job as efficiently as they can. I think we should give them free reign on how they should go about ensuring our safety."

"If I may, Daimyo-sama, Akatane-sama, Taichou?" Mito, bless her, at least had the manners to ask before bluntly stating her opinion, which was probably why Tobirama had sent his thoughts to her for her to express them in as polite a manner as possible.

"Speak, Kaze-chan, was it? Please say your peace," the Daimyo generously conceded and Mito nodded, offering a shallow bow.

"I am of the opinion that we should remain as we are. We have not yet lost the element of surprise. It may turn out to be vital to us. My suggestion is only that Mizu-kun and I disguise ourselves as your servants in the meetings so we may remain hidden in plain sight, allowing us to respond more easily and better observe all potential culprits for this hubris."

"I must say I am more partial to this opinion, Daimyo-sama, if you would excuse me for speaking out of turn," Madara finally spoke up from where he was still standing besides Kyoko-himesama and Mio-san. All eyes turned to him, Mito, Minato-sensei and Tobirama seemingly surprised by his proper conduct, Mito less so than the other two. Mito, at least, had seen how his mother at times took him or any of his brothers aside to teach them things befitting proper behavior at the court, but she didn't know where his mother's roots aside from the Uchiha drew from. Madara's great grandfather had died two years before she moved into their house and Kaa-chan had never taken the Uzumaki princess when they'd go to visit Setsuna-jiisan. "As Kaze-chan said, the element of surprise is still ours. If worse comes to worst, it will allow us some leeway in assuring that everyone comes out of it safe with no casualties on our or your side. Her suggestion of a disguise is perhaps the best way to go about this. If we keep close to each other, we may have more people to protect but at least a scenario like tonight will not occur again, where someone might be bait and another person is actually a target."

"Sounds like a sound suggestion," the Daimyo murmured to himself and Setsuna-jiisan nodded, a spark of pride in his eyes that Madara didn't like because it was so obvious and he'd rather not deal with his team finding out now that he has noble blood in his veins. Or anyone else, for that matter. "We shall implement it for tomorrow's meeting. Or today's now, I guess."

"But what of the prisoner? Surely you can extract some information from him? Who hired him? What did they want?" The captain of the guard insisted and the shinobi exchanged unnecessary looks, when it was obvious which one of them would be doing the interrogating.

Madara nodded for show and stepped up, faltering only when Kyoko-himesama grabbed at his bicep. When he turned to look at her, she had a honestly worried and scared look in her eyes and he wondered when the hell they had become some sort of friends. Casually making friends out of everyone he meets was Hashirama's shtick, not Madara's! Still, he patted her hand in reassurance and nodded at her, making her let go so he can approach the bound man. He cast a glance at Tobirama when he felt what seemed to be a spike of irritation from the Senju but found that the other's body showed no obvious signs of his displeasure. He was a bit proud of that, as he'd been the one who had taught Mito and Tobirama to hide their body's tells so that even a Sharingan or Byakugan user couldn't immediately discern what they were feeling, whether they were lying or not. He'll have to ask Tobirama if something is wrong later, though.

"I'm going to cast a genjutsu, an illusion, and it's not going to be pretty. Please don't get scared if he screams. Mizu-kun, please soundproof the room. Kaze-chan, unbind his chakra." The redhead and the white haired ANBU-dressed shinobi moved into position while Minato-sensei came to stand behind the bound man, holding his shoulders down as though to restrain him should he react violently once he wakes up. It was for show, more or less, since Madara already had his Sharingan activated for half an hour now and was prepared for whatever reaction the idiot might have. But, once again, these people didn't know he was an Uchiha and it was as such for the best that they continued to pretend these things were necessary or according to protocol.

As soon as everything was ready, Mito unsealed the prisoner's chakra and the man surged forward, waking up at the rush of now free chakra and head automatically snapping up as he tried to attack whoever was in front of him while he was in such a vulnerable position, but that was his biggest mistake about the entire evening, because as soon as he looked up, dark blue eyes met Sharingan red, the Mangekyo swiftly blurring into place.

"Tsukuyomi," Madara whispered more to himself than anyone else and put the man under. A mere five seconds later, the man slumped, sobbing hysterically and muttering about pain, scared out of his mind as Madara let up, the five days of torture he'd put the man's mind through fading with the Mangekyo. "Who hired you?"

"Pain*sob*pain*sob* pain*gasp*"

"Who hired you?" Madara asked more firmly and the man flinched away from him, into Minato-sensei's hold. "If you want, I can go on like that for hours and hours. In just five seconds, you've experienced that hell and it has left you like a broken rag doll. What do you think I can achieve with just a full minute?" The man let out an ugly, hysterical sob, his eyes looking insane when they looked up at Madara pleadingly, beseechingly. "If you don't answer my questions-"

"Pain!"

"You're in for a lot more if you don't start talking," he growled and the man fucking whimpered but kept babbling about pain.

Only ...

Something about that ... It felt ... Almost familiar ...

He listened more carefully to the man's mumbling, let his Sharingan read the lips as he kept babbling.

No ...

No, it wasn't pain, it was ...

"Pein? Is the name of your boss? Pein?" The man stopped sobbing and whimpering and nodded frantically. Madara exchanged a glance with Minato-sensei and could feel the uneasy intrigue from Tobirama. But Mito ... The way her chakra coiled confirmed his own suspicions. "Is he the leader of Amegakure?"

The man nodded frantically again, new fear adding to the one already there. "Please, please just kill me. Leader-sama will do so much worse if he finds out I betrayed him. Please just end me."

"We'll offer you protection, in Konoha's very heavily protected prison, if you keep talking," Minato-sensei said almost consolingly, though the man didn't seem much reassured.

"If I promise to kill you as soon as you tell me everything that I want to know, will you talk? If you don't, I'll deliver you straight to Pein myself right now." A bluff, the both of those sentences. He'd never return to Amegakure unless fully encased in the perfect Susanoo, armed with his gunbai and an urge to kill everything and anything in his way to avenge his brothers and father and clan members who had fallen that day, to avenge the three Senju he had considered family despite having no blood relations between them. This man didn't need to know how big of a grudge Madara had for that place, for that man. For That Man.

"I'll talk, just please don't let Pein-sama find me alive!"

"Then tell me what I want to know."

The man did.

00000

"A new world order ... What do you think he meant by that?" It was the first thing Tobirama asked as soon as they were alone, sealing the man in a prisoner storage seal in their new shared room meant for mostly Mito and Tobirama, since Madara had his own quarters to be closer to Kyoko-himesama and Minato-sensei was sleeping in the Daimyo's closet as of tonight. Or will be, as soon as they are finished here.

"More importantly, Madara-kun, Mito-chan, you two reacted rather interestingly when this Pein person was mentioned. Mind sharing?" It may have been posed as a question but there was a clear demand for an answer in Minato-sensei's usually gentle voice. He was not used to his students hiding things from him and Tobirama didn't seem particularly pleased that he was out of the loop, either.

"It's not that we know much," Madara said defensively, crossing his arms and glaring at them properly for the first time in days now that he had his mask off. Mito's privacy seals were neigh unbreakable. No one will be able to spy on them, not with the overkill genjutsu Madara had added just in case. Aburame weren't the only ones who trained bugs and there were other interesting ways to spy on people. A genjutsu from the Mangekyo Sharingan worked on everyone, though. "It's the guy that kidnapped me, or had his goons kidnap me. I think I overheard someone calling him 'Pein-sama' and 'Leader-sama' in he few moments of lucidity I had back then."

"I overheard some of his 'goons', as Madara so delightfully described them, say those same titles in or even without his presence. He might be the Uzumaki I mentioned before, the one who kidnapped Madara and Menma-kun."

"The one that ordered the attack on Konoha that ended with my brothers-!"

"Please not now, Madara," Tobirama said gently, coming to put a hand on his shoulder and squeezing gently. "Now is not the time to lose you to your grief and loss. We would be vulnerable if we let our emotions guide us in this. One day, that motherfucker will pay, but that is not today." Madara grabbed the younger teen's hand before he could pull away and squeezed it, keeping it on his shoulder. He needed an anchor lest he drown in rage. The world was red and exceptionally sharp. He needed to calm down before he accidentally Amaterasus something.

"So the fears of Akatsuki getting involved have proven valid," Minato-sensei mused, more to himself than as a statement directed at them. "If we were attacked, maybe other Daimyos were as well. We might need to check on the others. Maybe we could form a temporary alliance so we'd all get out of this with our heads on our shoulders, because I honestly doubt the Akatsuki will just send a bunch of chuunin for a big job like this."

"They might," Mito reminded. "We killed four of their members. We don't know how many teams they had."

"Three. Suna's ninja came and collected Sasori's remains and his puppets, but there was no sign of that blond Iwa bomber you told us about," the Namikaze informed them, almost pessimistically. "Pakkun, Kakashi-sensei's greatest sniffer dog, when summoned found that the blond's scent left the site not long after you guys left. Deidera might still be among the living."

"Fucking fantastic. As if I didn't have enough annoyances to deal with around here," Madara grumbled with a scowl.

"It's not ideal but we'll have to deal with it regardless. Sorry if it cuts into your time with Kyoko-himsesama." The Uchiha turned to the Senju with an incredulous furrow to his brows because he didn't understand Tobirama's acidic tone.

"It's the job I've been assigned, unwillingly might I add." Minato-sensei at least looked apologetic at that though he didn't like how amused their resident Uzuamki appeared by the whole conversation. Was she in on something that Madara wasn't? Why wasn't she telling him if something was bothering Tobirama enough that he seemed to be giving in to his more Hatake side that he usually felt silly for? "But it turns out she's not such a bad kid, all things considered." That, for some reason, only made a growl leave the albino's throat. What the hell? "Has some bad taste in men, though. You better not breathe a word about this - I'm dead serious here - but she's apparently attracted to Hozuki Gengetsu."

" ... Oh?" Did all the tension suddenly leave Tobirama's shoulders? Like, seriously, what the hell?

"Yeah. Don't know if they knew each other from before or whatever, that's civilian business and I don't want to get involved in it, but Kyoko-himesama has a crush on him and she wanted my opinion on the matter. On whether he would find her pretty or like her if she knew some basic self defense. She's got some potential, I'll give her that. She'll never be a shinobi but she can protect herself long enough if she's attacked for a more skilled fighter to reach her in time."

"You've been ... teaching her self defense?"

" ... Yeees," Madara drew his answer out and wondered why Tobirama suddenly felt both pleased and embarrassed. This was more drama than he was ready to deal with in one night and he was an Uchiha, fuck! "That aside, guys, I think we need to seriously up our game. This was a prelude to something bigger. There's no way this was it. Shit's getting heated soon."

"Madara's right. There's been less of a period of silence between the last Akatsuki attack and this one than it has been before," Mito pointed out. "We'll need to be more vigilant."

Minato-sensei nodded in agreement. "Madara-kun, can you send one of your birds with a message for Tsunade-sama to inform her of the situation before you return to your post? I think it's best to warn her of Akatsuki's activity in case something bigger does happen and we may end up needing assistance. For now, we need to focus on tomorrow and on the fact that this might push back some of the negotiations, especially since so many more people will be in the Fire Daimyo's attendance than usual. The other Daimto might get suspicious."

"Everyone will be suspicious. A Kumo nin had been murdered and his clothing stolen to impersonate him while attacking the Fire Daimyo's daughter while he had been under the Wind Daimyo's paycheck. Accusations will go flying and be thrown around like rice at a wedding before breakfast starts," Tobirama realistically and pessimistically predicts and they all sigh at the likely truth behind his words. Their week just got a whole tone worse.

"I'll be sending that message now. Stay safe and I'll see you in the morning," Madara waved to them and set off towards his charge's room. "Goodnight!"

"Goodnight," they called back and he just sighed again as he made it to his destination a few doors down the hall, took out a pen, a scroll and summoned a ninneko to wait for him to write his report since he hadn't actually taken any of his hawks or falcons with him. Izumi was kind enough not to disturb him and only asked for a few ear scratches when he was finished before she went off to play messenger.

He'll be going to fucking Sora-Ku after this for a bit of vacation, he swears.

Nekomata was always happy to welcome him, at least.

Chapter Text

"Mizu-kun seems to be staring at you extra hard today, Hi-kun," Kyoko-hime - she'd made him drop 'sama' but he refused to drop all formalities when she didn't even know his real name, so she settled for just Kyoko-hime - said as he lead her around the little dinner party the other Daimyos had thrown in order to salvage the situation due to the climbing tension between Hi no Kuni, Kaze no Kuni and Kumogakure after the event from two nights ago. Apparently, the only thing they could think up to ease the tension was to dress themselves and their attendants like dolls and parade around their wealth in a not so subtle way to distract everyone from the findings that Akatsuki might be on them soon.

Madara really didn't understand civilians and was grateful to Amaterasu, Susano'o and Tsukuyomi that he was born Uchiha, so far from civilian that he doubted even the patriarch and matriarch of his clan when they had founded it had been anything but ninja. Or at least warriors of some sort.

Fuck the civilians' lifestyle and fuck Setsuna-jiisan for trying to convince him to participate in it more than he already has to. He's a shinobi through and through and he likes it that way, thank you very much.

"I really don't know what you're talking about, hime-sama," he replied, keeping an eye out for any strange behavior and trying not to stare at the traditional servant clothing an irate Tobirama and Not Amused Mito had been forced into. That Hatake pride seemed to be making an appearance and Mito was tired of being propositioned for her pretty face and rare hair color by men twice or more her age and her ladylike behavior and mask was cracking, threatening to unleash the fearsome Uzumaki temperament she usually hid and controlled so well onto them all. Tobirama wasn't really faring any better. They'd put makeup on his face tattoos - and he looked weird without them after years of having them - to make him less recognizable and he wore glasses so his red eyes wouldn't pop out, but that mad him no less interesting to the noble ladies or even some gentlemen. Madara wasn't sure why that irritated him a bit but he took great pleasure in Tobirama not so subtly telling them to fuck off while remaining perfectly polite and even wearing a fake smile that looked like it would crack his face.

It was almost a religious experience, really.

Still, he understood why people were hanging all over his friends. Tobirama and Mito - and Minato-sensei, had he deigned to take of his mask, but he was an official bodyguard and had to stay in uniform. It had been interesting trying to convince the Daimyo that Mito's and Tobirama's youthful appearance was genjutsu and then he'd actually had to cast a subtle genjutsu on them so people wouldn't recognize them on first glance for who they were even with the subtle changes to their appearance - were exotic in their coloring and looks, even in some of their behaviors, and they looked breathtaking in a kimono. Hashiram was one lucky bastard to have caught Mito's eye, even if Madara will kill him if he in any way ever hurts the girl he'd call sister.

Seriously, without his facial tattoos and Byakugo and with a simple white wrapping around his forehead that almost blended in with his hair if not for its natural Hatake-silverish sheen, Tobirama in a pale green servant's kimono with red lining almost didn't look anything like Senju Tobirama that the world knows best with a sword in hand and a glare on his face that promised a swift death. The glasses were also distracting.

Mito, though, had to get a bit more of a makeover. The Byakugo seal was, of course, covered up, but she'd gotten some subtle make-up around the eyes and some lipstick instead. Her hair was out of their customary buns and was instead left to flow free down her back with some of it pushed towards the left side of her face to cover it up. In a pale blue kimono with red lining and a yellow obi and a tray in her hand, she didn't really resemble herself at all. She looked more like a lost princess or a seductress waiting to steal the hearts of men while the blood red lipstick suggested she eats them.

Madara wonders what the hell she had been thinking when she'd made them these disguises and was now immensely grateful to Kyoko-hime for pulling him out of that mess.

"Oh, come on. We are more than simple acquaintances or client and shinobi by now, Hi-kun. I'd like to consider ourselves tentative friends, or on the way to it. You can tell me if you and Mizu-kun had a fight. I might be able to help."

Madara turned his head away from observing the room to stare incredulously at his companion as though she had grown another head. "While Mizu-kun and I like to bicker in private or when returning from a mission, I can assure you that we didn't fight and that declaration has nothing to do with us actually still being on a mission. Though he has been a bit uneasy a couple of days ago, but it seems to have passed now."

He still didn't see the connection to Tobirama's prickly demeanor that night beyond maybe him being relieved that Madara won't make complications for Konoha if he'd thought that Kyoko-hime had a crush on him or something and knew Madara would turn her down? If that was it, then it explains it well enough... He thinks.

"Oh. Then maybe he is jealous that you are standing with me all the way over here instead of spending time with him over there, on the other side of the room?" The girl suggested and Madara snorted.

"That might just be it." Tobirama may have went for another trip to the snow leopards' domain to regain his control over not needing Madara's chakra signature to ground himself, but he still preferred to have it on hand, so to say.

"You can go check up on him, if you want. I think I'd like a chance to speak with Gengetsu-san, privately, if you don't mind." And Madara didn't need to be raised in a court or by someone on it to recognize a polite 'So please fuck off,' that may as well quietly complete that sentence. He snorted but let her go, keeping an eye on everyone even as he made as if to cross the room to do just as she suggested when he noticed Mio-san, dressed in the same kimono as Mito, if with a few decorations that stated her status as the Daimyo's daughter's personal handmaid, was still standing at his side.

"Mio-san," he said with a nod of his head by way of acknowledgement when he noticed she was staring intensely at him and watching in curiosity as she blushed for some inexplicable reason. "May I be of assistance?"

"I- That is- Hi-kun, I was wondering ... I mean-" Madara watched in something akin to curiosity as the woman stuttered more and more with each attempt at speech but tripped up more and more every time she opened her mouth. Fascinating. He hadn't thought a human could turn that shade of red. She almost put the Sharingan to shame.

"ANBU-san, I have a message for you." A servant boy saved Mio-san from her own embarrassment when he arrived and handed Madara a little slip of paper with his name on it. "I know not who it is from, it just appeared on my tray. Excuse me, please." And then the boy was off, not a single lie in his weak civilian chakra signature that Madara could detect. He frowned under his mask and unfolded the note.

He handed it to Mio-san with gruff instructions to hand it to Tobirama and a simple, halfhearted excuse before he made his way outside, into the bigger clearing in the gardens and crossed his arms. "I am here, oinin. Show yourself and state your business." He made sure to keep his Sharingan active and his senses extended. It's not everyday a Kiri oinin invites a Konoha ANBU out into a dark, secluded garden for a private 'talk'.

"I am pleased you answered my invitation, ANBU-san," Haku of the Yuki Clan said as he appeared on one of the trees that was the border between the garden and the forest beyond.

"Enough chitchat and just tell me what you wanted."

"I was rather impressed by your medical knowledge, when you and your companions declared so easily the time of death on that Kumo nin the Wind Daimyo had hired. When I thought about it, though, it occurred to me that ANBU are practically suicide squads, taking missions no one else can for various reasons, the elite who as soon as it becomes clear that they are losing, they destroy their own bodies. No falling back, no medical attention if it's more than a scratch. So why would there be not one, but two ninjas in an ANBU squad with any medical knowledge at their disposal, let alone at that level? You are hiding something, ANBU-san, if I may even call you that."

"It is in a shinobi's nature to hide things, oinin. Or should I just say Yuki Haku, since we are talking about hiding things. Does your partner know? Or was he the one that had saved you from the bloodline purges of Kirigakure and Mizu no Kuni as a whole?" Haku tensed and Madara knew he may have gone too far. Kekkei Genkai are not as welcomed in Kiri as they are in Konoha.

"If you know my secret, ANBU-san, then I fear you must die. Please forgive me."

Madara, had he not had the Sharingan active, probably wouldn't have seen the senbon coming until it was too late. As it was, he easily dodged them and took out a kunai, throwing it at the other masked teen. But Haku was faster than he'd given him credit and easily got out of the way, throwing more senbon Madara's way. The Uchiha dodged, the weapons not nearly small nor fast enough to catch him off guard. The Sharingan saw everything.

(Except maybe the Hiraishin, but there was a damn good reason why Madara honed his sensory abilities as well as his Sharingan skills, damn it.)

"Rather bold of you to assume you have what it takes to take me out," Madar shot back, throwing in shuriken with some wires in the mix, directing their trajectory in various ways that made the oinin - if he really even was one to begin with - run all over the place to avoid them. Madara didn't use any jutsus in fear of flaring his chakra too much and drawing other shinobi's attention or simply lighting up the gardens enough that even a civilian would notice a fight was going on. He would rather the Five Nations not descend into war. The Daimyo were sure to drag the shinobi villages into it, fucking civilians.

"I am shinobi. It is my duty to have what it takes to fight my enemies." Then Haku disappeared from his vision with a seriously fast Shunshin, appearing somewhere behind Madara and he felt that ice cold chakra surge and he didn't bother with anything else but the Hiraishin to get out of the way of the sharp icicles that now occupied the place where he had been standing seconds ago. Unfortunately, the other boy seems to have directed him into a preset trap as senbon rained down on him and Madara was too busy with deflecting them with his hastily drawn katana to give much attention to Haku appearing several feet in front of him.

Then, the other's chakra surged again, so fucking freezing to his senses it was utterly uncomfortable, and that was enough to draw a portion of his attention to his masked opponent to see a rather strange hand seal being made before ice mirrors rose around him in a dome and Haku simply stepped into one. 'Oh, fuck.'

"Surrender, ANBU-san, and I will make it painless."

"Fuck that and fuck you." As if Madara would ever run from a fight, even when suddenly every mirror showed the same image, Haku with his mask like incoming death, three senbon in each hand, between deft fingers, ready to sink into Madara's flesh at any time. 'You want to fight Kekkei Genkei against Kekkei Gengkai, eh? Well, while I might not be able to copy your jutsus, I can still see through them and your speed is simply not enough for my Sharingan.'

Which he proceeded to prove as he easily kept track of the real Haku in the mirrors and still dodge all the senbon that came from almost every direction. He got a few scratches here or there but the needles weren't even caked in poison so he knew he could ignore the weeping wounds for now. They were shallow and no more than a scratch, will be uncomfortable to heal if left on their own at most and won't even take longer than five days if he'd just slather cream on them. As long as he avoided the ones aimed at the typical acupuncture points - the only place where senbon could do some serious damage if not used in huge amounts or with poison - or his organs, he will be fine. Besides, this was almost fun. It's been a while since he's had a new sparring partner whose style he didn't know. Haku was skilled and strong from what he could tell of the few brave attempts to take him off guard with a full on, physical, frontal assault and a taijutsu spar with him would have probably been a delight, if for the novelty of it if nothing else.

But then he felt a familiar surge a chakra, Mito's and Tobirama's chakra signatures flaring in warning and alarm before the first explosion shook the place, followed by screams and curses. Madara cursed under his breath as Deidera set off even more of his crazy explosions and he caught Haku's arm on the other's next lunge and would have given up his own identity by putting him in a Sharingan induced genjutsu had the Kiri boy not froze in his hold as another familiar chakra flared in both their senses.

Haku released a distressed wail of "Zabuza!" before they exchanged a glance, made a silent truce and Madara Hiraishined them both back into the no crashed party.

Madara, of course, first turned his attention to his teammates and his clients to make sure everything was even remotely alright. The first thing he registered was that the Fire Daimyo was being escorted out of the chaos by one of Tobirama's Kage Bunshin while the real deal was trying to wrestle Setsuna-jii-san away from where Deidera seems to be aiming at the Senju and Madara's uncle just happened to be there at the wrong time. They looked slightly worse for wear but Tobirama seemed to be preparing to make another Kage Bunshin to get the old adviser away to safety.

MInato-sensei was engaging a huge teddy bear like clay creature just waiting to explode and Deidera, who really wasn't dead which was a damn shame, cackled and spoke of revenge for killing his 'Sasori-danna, un' and shaming him in the eyes of his organization. Mito seemed to be busy dealing with, once again, Biwa Juzo, forgoing her disguise by releasing Kurama's chakra cloak to four tails, her whole body covered in red chakra with some black substance of whatever the hell it was and trying to keep out of reach of Hoshigaki's chakra-absorbing Samehada. Her seals seem to be tripping them up the most and she had assistance from Mu and some of the random ninja that came with Wind's Diamyo, so she was holding up fine. Though it was extremely unlike her to lose control like that and go into the fourth stage.

But then he caught glimpse of Kinkaku and Ginkaku with their own chakra cloaks and it became obvious that Kurama was not reacting well to his stolen power being so near, resonating in an uncomfortable way that was no doubt driving Mito crazy to compensate for on the go so it wouldn't mess up her seals.

Gengetsu, when Madara automatically sought out his charge, was doing a great job of protecting Kyoko-hime from the smaller clay creatures that kept trying to get close enough to blow up in their faces. Those water finger guns or whatever the name of the technique was were actually a bit frightening and Madara resolved to never let Tobirama learn it. He would rather not live in fear if Tobirama pointing a finger at him meant the younger of the Senju brothers was threatening to blow his brains out with a bullet made of water, thank you.

Then Haku tugged out of his hold and ran impossibly fast forward, towards the center of the room where Water Country's Daimyo was trying to scramble away from behind Momochi's figure pierced with almost numerous kinds of weapons that Madara spent one horrifically intrigued second wondering where the hell whoever had done that had kept them all and then he realized Haku was running to stand in front of Zabuza to act like a living shield. A living shield that was meant to intercept an electrified katana wielded by one far too familiar masked man.

Madara didn't even think. He Shunshined after Haku and made the boy get behind him, his Sharingan spinning until the Mangekyo sharpened his vision almost impossibly and Susanoo's rib cage encased him and the two Kiri (nuke?)nin, shattering the sword that had attempted to kill them both. The sudden surge of his chakra made Madara's flimsy falcon mask fly off his face and he gave zero fucks considering Mito and Tobirama had already given themselves away with their signature fighting styles and everyone knew Team Disaster traveled together 98.8 of the time.

Sharingan always gave clarity and a deeper perception, the Uchiha mind designed to process the too much visual stimuli in ten times faster than just about anyone else and the Mangekyo afforded an even clearer picture of the world. Madara appreciated it viciously in that moment as he caught the one eye visible through the single eye hole of the orange, swirly mask widen, at Madara's Mangekyo, at the Susanoo, it didn't matter. The Man faltered and Madara nearly cleaved him in half had he not, at the last second, turned intangible and fled from Madara's immediate reach. Madara snarled in rage at being denied revenge for his brothers, for the ones he had considered his brothers, for his clansmen, for Kurama, for Minato-sensei and his family.

The Man, though, he needed but a second to process what was going on before he chuckled. "Well, well, well. What do we have here? Uchiha Madara, in the flesh. That's quite some eyes you've got there, baby Uchiha. You sure you know how to use them?"

Madara wondered if the man was damaged in the head because Madara was quite literally the first person in decades to not only get the Mangekyo, but to use its most advanced technique. Susanoo was no easy thing to form nor maintain though every since Izuna sneakily switched their eyes, it's become even easier. Izuna, though, was still disappointed that his greatest feat with his own new Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan was Amaterasu infused lightning. Or was it Amaterasu-based lightning? Madara didn't really know. Izuna, despite being the second strongest Uchiha since the warring clans era, still got rather worn out after the technique, no matter how gloriously destructive it was to call on black lightning out of fucking nowhere with the power to nearly split Hashirama's biggest mokuton creation in two with little fuss. And then set it on Amaterasu as aftereffect. It was draining and Izuna was still learning to control it.

Still no Susanoo from his little brother, though. There were no words to describe how disappointed Izuna was when he found that out once his eyes healed enough from the transplant to try it and he grew grumpy with Madara every time he called on the Susanoo without even activating the Mangekyo. It was easier with it but Madara was trying to train himself into forming it without activating his eyes at all. That ought to be a surprise attack in its finest and deadliest form.

"I think I can use them just fine."

The Man snorted. "And what does a brat like you know? Eyes like yours are so rare, people would kill for them. In fact-" The Man's arm shot out, that strange power of his allowing him to phase through the Susanoo's protective rib cage, reaching for Madara's throat-

Only for him to cry out in pain when lightning cracked in their ears as Raijin no Ken cut the limb off, unexpectedly, Tobirama having Hiraishined inside of the chakra construct with a snarl on his lips, his red eyes glinting and having a dark blue slit pupil in them. There were blue markings decorating his face, making him look quite cat-like in his Sage Mode and he was channeling natural energy into his deadly lightning sword, which was probably what had allowed him to even touch The Man. The Man's one barely visible eye was so wide Madara wondered how the Sharingan he could see through the the eye hole hadn't fallen out yet.

"You do not touch him!" The Senju growled like a beast and The Man took one shocked last look at them before he disappeared in that strange black, swirly vortex thing, gone even as Madara sent Amaterasu at him, the fire burning at the void until it closed and the black flames had nothing else to burn.

'That was a Mangekyo technique!' Madara realized, but his realization was short-lived as Haku released another cry and fell to his knees in front of a collapsed Zabuza, who was bleeding out on the floor. "Mito!" He called out without care and the redhead appeared by his and Tobirama's side in a pinkish flash, still in her four tailed chakra cloak. "I'll take over the Kumo wonders, you heal Zabuza and keep these two safe." The redhead didn't question him, instead placing a seal on herself to get her and Kurama's chakra under control despite the unsettling resonance, nodding as she returned to normal and immediately went with green glowing hands for Momochi. Haku went to snatch her hand away in a crushing grip but Madara grabbed his wrist before he could. "She's helping," he told the other teen, gently taking off the other's oinin mask so they can properly see eye to eye. Haku hesitated before nodding, relaxing his arm, which prompted Madara to let go, instead turning to a scowling Tobirama. Those red eyes turned to him in a second, dismissing the two Kiri nin in favor to listening to his teammate. Madara wondered when he'd become a pseudo leader of their team if Minato-sensei was unavailable or a situation didn't fall into the immediate specialties of his teammates. A thing to ponder another time. "That bastard's all yours, since you're the only one who can hurt him. Cut off more than his hand next time, but stay safe."

Tobirama nodded and disappeared in the white-blue flash that marked his Hiraishin, leaving Madara to nod at Mito in departure before he descended on the rampaging pseudo-Jinchuriki with all of his might. He's not sure how no one had noticed his Susanoo by now but he called it back, instead unsealing his gunbai for his preferred method of fighting. He'd rather control these two into calmness than reveal to the shinobi world the one trump card he hold secret. Or, well, as secret as it could be given that the Suna Siblings had seen him using Susanoo against Akatsuki last time they faced off.

At this point, he'll take what he can get.

Chapter Text

Madara's target turned out to be right next to Tobirama's target, considering the mysterious Uchiha must be controlling Kinkaku and Ginkaku to rampage like this, even if she'd never actually known them to be particularly civilized or tame or keen on another's authority. Mito hated that Momochi was so injured she didn't have the presence of mind to both heal him and keep an eye out on her teammates when facing two such dangerous forces at once, especially since they didn't actually know all that The Man could do. His disappearing act had been unnerving and Madara in particular seemed uneasy about it, but she'll quiz him about it later, when this whole mess is resolved.

For now, she had to remind herself that Madara and Tobirama, even without her, making a marvelous team and that they won't let each other die.

Besides, she couldn't fight in these conditions even if Madara hadn't left Momochi's and the oinin's care in her hands. The seal she'd hastily put on herself was barely holding for finer chakra control needed for iryo-jutsus. It is easy to let go but there is no telling if she'd be able to reign in her's or the Kyuubi's chakra if she lost focus and let the resonance take over her chakra flow again. She'd have tired herself out eventually or, even worse, hurt her own chakra coils and pathways.

It's not as if Kurama could help it. That was his stolen chakra, after all.

So Mito forced herself to focus on the wounds in front of her, taking out one weapon at a time and healing the wound immediately, cursing inwardly The Man every time she detected poison on one of them. Damn him for making her job harder. She may not be in the best condition to fight right now, but she still could have secured the civilians or been healing others as well and not just Zabuza, who resembled a pincushion too much for her liking.

"Why are you helping us?" The Kiri boy - Haku, Madara had briefed them to be his name, a member of the dwindling Yuki Clan from Mizu no Kuni - asked, looking up at her in naked confusion and incredulity, as though no one had ever offered him kindness in his life.

Mito frowned at him, unsure what to make of him. "Madara asked me to."

"Yeah, but why is he helping us? I tried to kill him minutes ago!"

'You what!?' A part of Mito screams but she keeps it quiet. She always does her best to upkeep the image of a controlled, graceful, elegant lady so that she can surprise anyone who is stupid enough to test her strength or temper when she unleashes it and shows that indeed it is Uzumaki blood that runs through her veins. The element of surprise is a shinobi's best friend, after all. Besides, she only feels truly relaxed around her teammates and their families to allow that side of her show freely, since they won't judge her or stare incredulously at her when she lets go of all those manners and shovels five large ramen bowls as appetizers.

The redhead regards the dark brunet as the boy - a rather beautiful and pretty boy, with rather feminine features all things considered and it's not like his clothes helped determine his gender - kept tearing himself between fretting over the tall man he was partnered with and the reasons behind Madara's actions.

"Madara might not show it," she said, looking back down to her task but still splitting her attention so she can't be blindsided by the Kiri nin. "But he is a dreamer. He and his best friend lost all of their younger brothers but one and they won't ever forget it, Madara especially. They dream of making our village stronger, better, so no one would ever have to bury their younger siblings again. It may be worse for Madara. He sensed their deaths and he is an Uchiha. Uchiha don't take that kind of loss lightly."

"How does that have anything to-"

"He understands the loss of someone precious to you," Mito carelessly interrupted the question, not even looking up from her task of closing seemingly numerous wounds on the Swordsman of the Mist. She briefly wondered why Kiri's men were so damned tall. She wasn't sure even the Senju were that tall! "He felt it multiple times in a single day. My guess is that he realized how precious Momochi Zabuza was to you and he wished to spare you that pain. Feeling it just once could ruin a person."

"But I tried to kill him," feebly protested Haku and Mito glanced up to where Madara and Tobirama had decided to be little shits and scare the crap out of people while being all too competent, hands clasped together, the two of them standing back to back, arms connected from shoulder to elbow to their intertwined fingers as they channeled equal opposites of chakra natures until fire and water merged and Kinaku, Ginkaku and The Man were treated to a face full of liquid fire that had most of the other shinobi still milling around panicking. Mu definitely didn't seem all that pleased to be reminded of the day his village's shinobi had been treated to that same spectacle of power that Madara and Tobirama simply named Ekitai Kasai no Jutsu, no matter how much more imaginative the latter wanted to be. Madara preferred it simple so Tobirama gave in and let it be simple.

"We're shinobi," Mito said by way of explanation when she looked away from her teammates and started the finishing touches to Momochi's injuries. "If we don't try to kill each other, then we're not exactly good." With the exception of Hashirama, but Hashirama was the exception to a lot of rules. Like, a lot. "Besides, he's Uchiha and while the other nations don't know this, Uchiha prefer the company of people who can break them like twigs. Not literally, of course." Mostly because no Uchiha will actually stand still to let it happen. "But you get the message behind my point. If you've fought and Madara didn't immediately set you on Amaterasu, then he respects your skills. That combined with my earlier point and there you have it."

And Madara truly was more alike to Hashirama than he would ever like to admit out loud. There was a reason they were best friends. Either way, Madara saw something worth saving in Haku and Tobirama and Mito both knew at this point that there was no point doubting Madara's judgement - between being able to sense another's chakra for lies and having the Sharingan to confirm it, it was near impossible to lie to him unless one is a psychopath to its truest definition - or arguing against his decisions. He never made them rashly - he was,by far, the best strategist on their team, the reason they often turned to him for guidance, since he had an uncanny talent for long term plotting and planning to make things go his way; it was always interesting to watch him and Tobirama duke it out over shogi, as interesting as it was to see them go up against any Nara or Hatake - and he always had the well-being of their team at the forefront of his mind, so there was really no reason for them to doubt or argue or question. He'll either explain himself later, when there was more time for it, or his reasoning will become obvious before explanations are truly needed.

Team 4 did not become the infamous Team Disaster because they questioned each other's abilities, decisions or judgement.

They became who they are today through solid friendship, unshakable trust and unmovable devotion.

If Madara wants them to save a random pair of shinobi, then they freaking will.

(Just like if Mito said she wanted to paint new seals on them that they knew nothing about.

Just like if Tobirama wanted their help on testing an experiment or a new jutsu of his.)

Mito left Haku to his contemplation just as she finished healing Zabuza when there was a big, very much different Boom! shaking the entire estate from the direction the two blonds had been fighting. Mito's sigh was utterly put-upon when she raised her head and saw the cause. She had no qualms about raising her voice to be heard over the chaos. "Minato-sensei, there is something as far too much! Ransengan powered and combined with natural energy is it!"

The blond, blue eyed man looked up from where his technique had quite literally obliterated Deidera of Akatsuki until quite literally nothing but an ugly red, bloody smudge was left on the walls of the crater he had made, smiling sheepishly at his niece-in-law. "Apologies, Mito-chan. I guess I got carried away." Mito blamed aunt Kushina for the utter lack of regret or actual apology in his words, but she would wager that Deidera definitely deserved it. He had probably taunted Minato-sensei to the point the usually perpetually kind man snapped, probably about Menma-kun's kidnapping, which was a dick move. Still, Minato-sensei definitely shouldn't possess that vindictive streak and most probably wouldn't, if not for her aunt's influence.

Or maybe it was his best friend's, Fugaku-san's, influence that he was showing right now? Or even Madara's? It was hard to say but it almost tasted like Uchiha vengeance to her.

Still, all she did was send him a deadpan look, her face totally blank, as she pointed a single finger over to the two defected Swordsman of the Mist that worked for Akatsuki. "Please deal with them, sensei."

"Of course, Mito-chan."

Sensei was probably the best one to deal with them, anyway. If Hoshigaki Kisame tries to use Samehada on him, Minato-sensei could just let him absorb his chakra and the natural energy in harmony with it to turn the shark-man into stone and Biwa was not nearly as much of a threat.

00000

Tobirama cursed as Madara's head snapped up at the sound of a familiar scream and Ginkaku got in a good hit on the Uchiha, sending Madara flying, but at least it was in the direction of Kyoko-himesama's handmaiden and that idiotic Hoshigaki who was trying to, what, exactly? Use her as bait? She was dressed up enough to fool anyone unaware of her true station that she could be a noble. Or was Hoshigaki just going to use her as a meat shield?

Either way, her scream had distracted Madara and he paid the price for it, but now Tobirama was left standing against both the Kumo brothers and The Man, who was doing his best to avoid any head on confrontation with Tobirama since he realized the Senju had a way to hurt him. Tobirama was so glad that he had devoted so many hours into creating something that would affect The Man's ability to turn intangible and creating the seal that did was one of his best inventions. He was just glad it worked for Raijin no Ken.

He was also glad that he had mastered Sage Mode, as only natural energy could achieve what he had been aiming for.

Kaida was going to eat her heart out.

Tobirama kept careful watch on his opponents as well as any outside sources of attack, on his teammates' status and positioning. Kinkaku and Ginkaku as they were are not something he can face on his own without more preparation. Yes, he has a seal that would disrupt their chakra flow and force them into a drowsy state that would make them unable to fight, but he wasn't confident he could put the seals on either of them if they fought together and were watched over by an Uchiha's Sharingan. Hiraishin was faster than the doujutsu but was vulnerable to sensors who can react fast enough. Ginkaku and Kinkaku would be fast enough and good enough sensors with the Kyuubi's chakra for it and if he just tries utilizing his normal speed without jutsu, even with Sage Mode he wouldn't be faster than the Sharingan.

Besides, Kinkaku and Ginkaku were sent here as escorts of Lightning's Daimyo. If he were to seriously hurt them or accidentally kill them, Lightning and Fire Countries might fall into war, something he can't allow.

Therefore, Madara was generally the best to deal with anything and everything pertaining the biju, Jinchuriki or the Kumo brothers, who were pseudo Jinchuriki of some sort or fell in some such category. Either way, it was usually best to let Madara deal with them but he was busy trying to save Kyoko-himesama's handmaid to deal with them.

Tobirama nearly sighed in relief when he felt Minato-sensei going straight for Hoshigaki, allowing Madara to use the distraction to save the handmaid and get her to safety. That meant he won't be dealing with these fuckers alone for long. Which was a relief, because his mind had been running overdrive and only ended up going in circles as he tried to figure out just how the hell he was going to get around all three of them.

"What, not using your endless paper bombs?" Madara asked as soon as he came back to stand at his side, gunbai in one hand, kama in his other, obviously a bit pissed off that there was so much chaos going on if he was taking it out as well. Honestly, the Uchiha loved his gunbai so much that he was always disgruntled when he didn't get to use it. Tobirama, even as he grew increasingly fond of Raijin no Ken, could not quite understand Madara's attachment to the ancient weapon. Tobirama had made his sword himself and the attachment and affection for it went only as far as its usefulness in all sorts of battle and combat situations. The great gunbai was neither made with Madara in mind nor was it a gift. It carried the vague status of 'family/clan heirloom', but no one had seen or used that thing in about a century, if not longer, so Tobirama didn't really understand even if he had to admit it was one of the most magnificent weapons he had ever set his eyes on. If it made his friend so happy, then he guessed it was alright.

"It's not as if our goal is to bring down the house on to our heads, Madara."

"I'm not sure that ever stopped you before. For anything. Or even from anything."

Which may be true but Tobirama took offense to the way it was said. He was not careless about his experiments. He just thought science and new discoveries took precedents. And you can't change his mind, either. Not even stubborn people like Hashirama or Madara could do it. "I've yet to hear you complain."

"Which is why I'm not. I'm asking if you have something else up your sleeve besides that new trick to your sparkly sword."

"Riajin no Ken does not sparkle," Tobirama scoffed because he had his priorities straight. "And what, a seal designed with the specific thought in mind to allow a weapon to touch something incorporeal is not enough for you? You're not exactly bringing anything new to the table either, Uchiha."

Madara rolled his eyes but his chakra flared and Tobirama saw the Kumo brothers being forced to look down so Madara couldn't wrestle control from the mysterious, masked Uchiha, only for them to look up just enough to follow the motion of Madar's pointing finger and freeze. Just like Kurama-san had that first night when Madara had wrestled control from the other Uchiha during the attack on Konoha. "How about that? Sharingan genjutsu from a finger. I've read about Uchiha Itachi doing this sort of shit all the time and started training with Izuna. I'd rather not tell you how bad a Mangekyo genjutsu can be like this. Tsukuyomi is, unfortunately, not achievable in this form but this is enough."

And indeed it was. Whatever Madara was showing them with his illusion, it had calmed Kinkaku and Ginakaku enough for the chakra cloak to recede, going back into their bodies and The Man cursed from behind them as Madara still held the genjutsu strong so he couldn't take control over them again. "Impressive."

"Be impressed later," the older boy said, sounding breathless. "It's taking too much chakra to combat another's Mangekyo genjutsu so just get done with it, Tobirama."

The Senju felt his lips fall into a grim line at the realization that brought, not liking that Madara had entered this little showdown with the regular Sharingan against someone who was apparently a Mangekyo user like himself and was now fighting him for control through genjutsu alone. He nodded. -Try to wrestle more control with the Mangekyo while I lunge. That should distract him enough that the change won't be noticed.-

-Acknowledged.-

With that, the white haired of the two surged forward, startling The Man enough that he actually flinched at the sudden movement and the change in Madara's chakra suggested that he had allowed for the Mangekyo to take over. The Gold and Silver brothers twitched, a bit of red chakra threatening to seep back out as he ran past them but Madara had them firmly under control now and Tobirama made his way past them without incident, Raijin no Ken poised and properly charged to take The Man's head off. The Man had just enough time to bring up a sword to be cut in half by Raijin no Ken but it slowed the blow just enough for the man to activate that black, swirly portal thing that made him completely disappear. Tobirama cursed and looked around, trying to find The Man but there just was no sign of him.

"Oh, look. Haku had skewered Biwa," Madara commented, making Tobirama look away from the spot he was cursing to hell and back to see that the Kiri oinin had, indeed, skewered the nukenin on rather big and rather unpleasant looking sharp ice spikes as he stood between Mito, Momochi and the petrified Water Daimyo and Biwa Juzo. "Now I just wonder why the hell there are two Kubikiribocho in existence when I'd heard of there only being one."

"Yes, that does sound like an interesting thing to investigate," he admitted, eyeing the two identical giant swords, one lying by Momochi's side, the other by Biwa's. Admittedly, unlike the other swords that the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist used, the Kunikiribocho wasn't exactly special except for the great quality it had been made in and with. Tobirama was sure even a kunai charged with enough futon chakra would be enough to snap it in half. Probably. If there were two, nothing hurt to test the theory out.

"We'll get the chance to ask once we settle them in to Konoha."

That, though, had Tobirama's attention completely snapping into focus onto his Uchiha teammate, who was looking contemplatively at how Mito and Haku seemed to be conversing. "Are you telling me you want to integrate two Kiri nukenin into our village?!" That was insane! "Madara-"

"Haku is, quite possibly, one of the last if not the last hyuton user, Tobirama," Madara cut in, eyes sharp and voice dead serious even as he left the Kumo wonders, as he always mockingly called them, to fall into unconsciousness. "Kirigakure and Mizu no Kuni has showed time and again how they treat their Kekkei Genkai clans and I have no intention of letting another Kekkei Genkai be erased from this world over petty fear and grudges. Besides, they have nowhere else to go."

"Momochi's defection from Kiri was never official. He's not an official nukenin, you idiot," Tobirama growled, wondering what had gotten into his friend. "Not to mention he works for that scum of the earth Gato. What is to say he won't attack-"

"Haku is to say he won't attack. Haku's safety is to say he won't attack." That had the younger boy pausing, looking back over to where the supposed oinin in question was fretting over the only now rousing Swordsman of the Mist. He had to admit the two seemed fond of each other. He wasn't exactly an expert. Besides his family and his friends, who were his teammates, he didn't really care all that much about the people around them. As long as they were safe, healthy and happy, he was content. He didn't exactly pay much attention to how other people interacted, but he was sure that Momochi Zabuza cared at least a little about Haku of the Yuki Clan.

"You won't be able to just assimilate them into the Uchiha," he says by way of conceding and Madara seemed pleased and grateful by that. Apparently this means a lot to him, for whatever reason. Uchiha were weird that way, especially this one. "I doubt the ice would hold up against so much fire."

"I actually think it's genetically impossible for an Uchiha and a Yuki to procreate, now that we're on the subject."

"Could be worth further investigation. Though I don't think it's exactly ethical to test and experiment on humans."

"Regardless, I'm going to need you on project Science Hyuton Babies, if we want the Yuki Clan to thrive in Konoha how it never could in Mizu no Kuni-"

"Wait, what?" Maybe this conversation was getting way out of hand, way too fast, because Tobirama found himself stumped. "Science babies?"

"Science Hyuton Babies, keep up, Tobirama, I need your brain on this," the Uchiha casually deadpanned as though Tobirama was being the unreasonable, shocking one. "We obviously can't just wait for Haku to make all the babies necessary to revitalize his clan and even if we did, we still don't actually know his preferences and I'd rather not gamble the revival of a whole bloodline on whether he's gay or just effeminate."

Tobirama blinked, blinked again and cursed his own mind and his own heart for being curious and for not being able to choose a less ridiculous individual to be stuck on, because he knows he won't hesitate to research on this for both those goddamned reasons. "We'd need his consent. For both that and moving into Konoha. And we should probably inform Tsunade-sama." She'll probably like to know that Madara was bringing in a Mizu no Kuni native from a Kekkei Genkai clan that was near extinction with the hopes of reviving it in Konoha so it can thrive to its full potential.

"We'll send her a heads up. Seems like the shit here is over." Madara pointed over to where, stupidly, Hoshigaki had tried to steal chakra from Minato-sensei in Sage Mode and was now being turned into a stone statue. "Hey, we'll even have two Legendary Swords of the Mist to give to the Mizukage in exchange for Kiri's Swordsman!"

Tobirama has no idea how Madara could be so cheerful about this, but at least The Man didn't seem to be making a reappearance, so at least this shit show was over.

But then, of course, the universe decided to spit on them when a frazzled Izumi, one of the nekonin Madara most often worked with if he needs some assistance, appeared out of a puff of smoke, some cuts, dirt and patches of missing fur covering her body, her dark green eyes wild as she searched for her favorite human. She let out a desperate sounding mewl when she finally found him and launched herself into his arms. The Uchiha looked utterly stunned as he caught her on instinct alone. Tobirama had never seen the brave ninja cat so shaken; she was actually shaking as she tried to burrow herself into Madara's arms until she would be invisible.

"Izumi, what-"

"Madara-sama, Konoha is- is- It's destroyed!" The cat choked out before returning to seeking comfort and safety in Madara's arms from whatever had frightened her so.

Cold dread filled Tobirama's bones.

Chapter Text

Minato didn't feel comfortable leaving their Daimyo's care in Haku-kun's and Zabuza-san's protection, but the Water Daimyo had hired more ninja and they were going to escort him back home anyway, while Madara-kun had apparently convinced the two to ditch Gato and Kiri and just come to Konoha with them. The meeting was ruined, anyway, and the Daimyo have decided to convene again at a better political time when Akatsuki wasn't attacking the strongest hidden village on its own turf, which was really only a dozen or so miles away. But despite however uncomfortable and unhappy he was to leave their clients, he would never forgive himself if he didn't return to Konoha now, when they were needed most, when it was under attack and Team Disaster would be a great line of defense. Not when Menma and Kushina were there.

"Thank you for allowing us this concession, Daimyo-dono," Madara said respectfully, bowing deeply with his head facing the ground in utter respect, and the Daimyo surprised them all by giving back a shallow bow of his own.

"Of course, Madara-kun. We would never make you stay when Konohagakure, your home, your people, need you so. I expect news from you, though, when everything settles. You must survive, after all."

"Of course, Daimyo-dono." The man nodded and left to finish packing, leaving his attendants, daughter and adviser to say their goodbyes as they see fit.

Kyoko-himesama and her handmaid, who seem to have gotten rather close to Madara-kun over the last week, came with somber looks on their faces, the Daimyo's daughter once again surprising them all when she bowed respectfully to the Uchiha heir. "Thank you for your kindness and protection, Madara-sama. Please excuse me if I have caused you any inconvenience in your time as my bodyguard."

"Nonsense, Kyoko-himesama," Madara-kun replied, waving off the formalities in a way a person of his status should not do with a princess. "I thought we became somewhat friends." The girl smiled and Madara-kun returned it. "I'm sorry you didn't get a chance with Gengetsu."

"Don't be so sure," the noble lady grinned in a not at all ladylike manner. "Playing damsel in distress until the last moment when you knee someone in the groin hard enough to make them topple over definitely catches attention. He promised to write. He definitely kissed my hand in a way that has nothing to do with treatment of nobility."

Madara-kun shared her grin and the two said their goodbyes quietly with a promise extracted from Madara-kun to come visit the court more often since they obviously didn't know each other well enough if they were missing out on a friendship like this. Team Disaster was left to stare in incredulity as the Daimyo's daughter left with a wave, leaving only her handmaid behind. The poor girl blushed beat red every time she tried looking Madara-kun in the eyes. Minato felt almost bad for her. The girl had obviously had a crush on him even before she saw the usual Uchiha good looks. He'd like to give her some time to figure out what she'd want to say but they were in a hurry.

Madara-kun had sent Izumi-san to deliver a message to Tsunade-sama almost three days ago, on the night of the attempted attack on Kyoko-himesama, and the ninneko had only now returned with these news, beaten up and tired and shaken enough to scare Madara-kun with a message that chilled all four Konoha nin to the bone.

As much as he would love to give young love a chance, Konoha needed them more.

"Hi-kun- I mean, Uchiha-san- Uhm,, no, um, it's Uchiha-sama! Uchiha-sama, I, um, must confess that I ... In the short time we've known each other ... I mean ... You are Ryukyu-sama's son, so you probably will come to the capitol again ... And I- I ... If you would let me, I would wait for you!" The girl had ended up pressing her eyes tightly closed and bracing herself as though for a blow. Minato took note that Madara-kun looked flabbergasted by the not so subtle offer even if the most important thing was not openly said and Minato had to wonder what the response would be, for a single moment forgetting about the urgency of the situation back home in the face of such drama-

When Tobirama-kun spoke up, voice gruff and unmovable, unrelenting, eyes sharper than usual. "He has someone already waiting for him." Minato was unashamed to say he gawked. Hell, Mito-chan and Izumi-san, who had yet not left and refused to leave anytime soon by the looks of it, gawked. Kyoko-himesama's handmaid looked like she wanted to burst into fire or to have the earth swallow her as she hastily said her apologies for assuming and of course someone as handsome as Uchiha-sama would have someone waiting for him, please excuse her, she had to attend to Kyoko-himesama.

Madara-kun seemed to be red in the cheeks as he looked inquisitively at Tobirama-kun, who only lifted his chin as though daring Madara-kun to oppose the- the claim. Minato forgot far too often that his youngest student took more after his Hatake mother than his Senju father, despite the looks and the brains he had so obviously inherited from his mother's clan.

The Uchiha's cheeks only got redder and they all flinched when Akatane-sama burst out into deep belly laughs, coming over and harshly patting the boy on the shoulder. "Well, nephew mine, it would seem that there will be more than shinobi-related things for you to fill me in on once you come to visit. Do try to convince Ryu-chan to come as well. I have indeed missed her so. Until next time, Mada-kun."

"Don't call me that, Setsuna-jiisan," Madara-kun seemed to mutter out as a learned response, not even completely aware of it as he continued staring incredulously at the Senju, who was now staring back at him just as incredulously, like the rest of their team. The Uchiha scowled. "What? There's no way Kira-sama didn't tell you! She was the first one outside of the Uchiha to learn about it!"

"We should probably talk about all of that later," Minato said almost on autopilot, recognizing a bicker-fest in the making during a time sensitive mission. That, at least, seemed to snap all of them out of their stupor, for which he was grateful for. He shook his head and focused on the problem at hand. "We need to go back to Konoha and help."

According to Izumi-san, Konoha had been attacked while she was waiting for Tsunade-sama to write a response just the morning after they sent their report about the attempted attack and set up to Wind's Daimyo. It was swift, out of the blue and relentless. Ero-sensei, Tsunade-sama, Ryukyu-sama, Kira-sama, Kushina, Mikoto-san, Sakumo, Fugaku and numerous other jonin and chuunin had tried to defend the village and evacuate the villagers, with the help of stronger younger ninja like Hashirama-kun, Izuna-kun, Touka-chan and Hikaku-kun, who could survive rougher battles to the death have all been fighting since then and only a few of them were left standing. Izumi-san had been injured in the first attack and had only a few hours ago been deemed well enough to come get her Uchiha and his teammates.

Katsuyu and Gamabunta and various other boss summons were in play but the man attacking Konoha, the Leader of the Akatsuki, apparently, was much too powerful. Minato wasn't sure why Ryukyu-sama wasn't summoning her infamous kyuchiyose, but she probably has a damn good reason.

Whatever it was, it didn't matter at the moment.

Team Disaster was needed.

"Ready?" He asked his students and they each nodded gravely, Madara-kun shifting Izumi-san to his shoulder so he can better prepare for the fight they are about to enter.

They were tired, he knew. Fighting four Akatsuki, two pseudo Jinchuriki and whoever else had come at them had taken a toll on them. The resonance had unsettled Mito-chan, Madara-kun had been forced to fight Mangekyo Sharingan with the regular Sharingan for a while after another fight beforehand and Tobirama-kun had spent most of the fight in Sage Mode. He himself was also tired but they were shinobi and they were endure, preserve. They can still fight. They can still protect their loved ones and Minato kind of doubted it that any one of them would allow this attack to go unpunished.

"Let's go then."

"Hai!"

00000

Kira was at the last dredges of strength, leaning against a piece of debris as she carefully cradles her pierced-through-by-one-of-those-strange-chakra-suppressing-black-rods best friend protectively and looks on helplessly watches as their children fight for them when reality shatters in a flash of yellow light and four presences appeared rather near her. The Lady Senju couldn't nor would hold in her laugh of utter relief when she saw who it was.

The past couple of days were a disaster. Konoha had been under siege and it had only been a siege because of Hashirama and Izuna joining in the fight with their seriously overpowered jutsu when even the two Sannin had not been enough. As soon as the boys and their cousins took over the main battle ground, Tsunade-sama had returned to healing their shinobi so Konoha could continue to fight while Izuna's Kaminari and Hashirama's Senpo Mokuton: Shin Susenju kept the Akatsuki leader back.

Pein, as he had introduced himself, had a problem with the current world order and planned on changing it in such a way that his organization controlled the world, achieving peace through war, or some such ideal. Kira had honestly not cared because she was a grieving single mother and widow and only had two out of four sons remaining. War cut down children like grass and she would not lose her Hashirama and Tobirama. Ryukyu had agreed, of course, and would have obliterated Pein had he not pinned her with three strange black rods that blocked her chakra and disabled her to summon Ryujin-sama.

It said a lot about how Ryukyu was handling her losses and this situation if she was willing to involve Ryujin-sama in what may as well be war when she had always sworn she would never summon him to a battlefield unless circumstances were end-of-the-world dire.

They might as well be.

Pein, or whatever his true name might be, was abnormally powerful and, worse of all, seemed to possess a doujutsu that only the Uchiha had known of and even they had thought it to be more Kekkei Mora than Kekkei Genkai, more legend than fact. The Rinnegan came with some seriously overpowered abilities and this Pein had had who knows how many years to master them all. His fighting style had changed drastically since the last time Jiraiya-sama had seen him - though he had called him by a different name - since he had been the man's student. He was an orphan from the Second Shinobi World and he and his friends had dreamed of peace. Jiraiya-sama sure as hell seemed rather incredulous by how he had turned out to be like this.

The fighting had tired and worn them out thoroughly and they were starting to falter. Touka and Hikaku had no more energy nor strength to fight, too injured, too drained even with pills and healing by Katsuyu-sama. Jiraiya-sama was pinned down like Ryukyu, only he had managed to do quite a bit of damage, even destroying one of those bodies with which Pein fought so only five remained.

Except, correction, there came another one. Bugger.

But Kira found she wasn't even all that annoyed - maybe she didn't have the strength to be? She'd fought as much as she could before she was placed on protecting the pinned ones from any stray attacks - because it won't matter. Not now. Not when her Tobirama had come to help his anija and his friends were there to fight with him, too.

She got worried, though, when she noticed that they were battle-worn as well, that they had fought recently enough that their clothing was still dirty and rumpled, hair messy and sooth on their faces. They were uninjured, of course, though that could easily be as much that they were incredible iryo-nin as skill in battle. And Kira wasn't much of a sensor but they felt strong and energized enough to continue fighting. But she was a mother and she still worried.

"Kaa-san!" Tobirama spotted her first and all four of Team Disaster ran over to her and the pinned, by now unconscious and rather sickly looking Ryukyu. Madara was by his mother's side in a second, scanning her with a knowing worry that honestly unsettled the white haired woman. Why would Madara know anything about these rods? Why does Mito look like she was also familiar with them!?

"Don't touch it," the Uchiha and Uzumaki said together when Minato-kun went to try and yank the things out and that confirmed Kira's unhappy suspicions. They knew. Somehow, at some point, these two had encountered these things and they knew.

"Mito, make a Kage Bunshin and pull it out the same way you had done with Madara," Tobirama instructed but Madara stopped the kunoichi before she could even bring her hands together.

"As much as it pains me to leave my Kaa-chan like this, we can't risk Mito falling unconscious due to the backlash now. None of us has the time needed for recovery from that and there are more immediate dangers and things to worry about. Kaa-chan is strong. She'll last a little bit longer. She can wait. We need to stop that fucker before everything and everyone of the village is destroyed."

None of them looked happy by that decision but Team Disaster never argued, one of the many reasons they were scarily competent and deserving of the reputation they garnered. "We need a plan," Minato-kun said gravely and Kira watched them practically huddle as they discussed strategy. It felt like somewhat of a privilege to have front row seats to watching these legends in the making in action. Or preparation for action, anyway. "Madara-kun, Mito-chan, what can you tell us since you're familiar with this guy?"

"We're not," Mito refuted immediately, scowling when Kira and Minato-kun gave her skeptical looks. "Look, some months ago, some strange bird like thing had scooped Madara right off the ground out of nowhere and carted him off to Amegakure. I followed and with Kurama-san's immense help, we saved him from those same rods but it had created such imbalance in my chakra system that it practically knocked me out instantly and we only got away because Madara managed to use Hiraishin despite his chakra having been pinned previously for a questionable number of hours. Cats from Sora-Ku brought us back to their city for protection." The cat on Madara's shoulder nodded to confirm this. "Tobirama already knows this story since he met up with us in Sora-Ku once he returned from his little stint with the snow leopards in the animal realm. We don't actually know anything about that guy expect that he feels like an Uzumaki and considers himself and is considered by others in Ame as a god."

"Now I can see why," Madara mutters to himself, gaining his teammates and Kira's attention. "That seems to be the Rinnegan from what I am seeing." He pointed casually to where Pein seemed to be trying to pin Izuna down but the younger Uchiha was deftly stepping out of the way with the ease of anyone who can predict movements like all the Sharingan users are capable of. Kagami, an older cousin of Ryukyu's boys, seemed to be helping him in staying unpinned. Kira didn't need to feel for Madara's chakra to recognize the same type of rage an overprotective Ryukyu radiates whenever a loved one is being put in danger by a foolish enemy. "The doujutsu is revered to have the power of a god, as far as records about it can say. The Sage of Six Paths sure as hell has been called a god for having them. Seeing as this guy seems to have put each of the Rinnegan's Paths into six separate bodies, we need to find the Naraka Path and destroy it. The King of Hell, no matter how little there is written about it, is most definitely the most dangerous one since it can extract souls and make more minions for him. We can't let that sit get close to Mito, their doubtless target."

"What are we looking for?" Minato-kun asked by way of acknowledging what Madara had just said and Kira couldn't help but stare. Yes, she knew from watching them train or just interact with each other that they don't operate the same way as all other shinobi teams do but she had never thought her inquisitive, ever curious son would not ask more questions before accepting something so easily. No shinobi accepts so little information before throwing themselves headfirst into a battle like this!

"Something ugly that looks like a monster, probably guarded by one of those ginger, piercing-covered bodies. Best bet would probably be a Sage Mode attack." Tobirama and Minato-kun nodded, already understanding that was to be a mission for one of them. "We need to focus on what could get those rods out except biju coated Kongo Fusa. Mito is much better at fighting with us than being knocked out to let others who don't know how we fight get in the way."

"Anija's mokuton might do the trick," Tobirama suggested, pointing to where Hashirama seems to be holding up quite well against one of the Paths. "He could create wines and branches with similar properties in suppressing chakra with his Sage Mode. And since they're not connected to him, it won't disrupt his own chakra flow, allowing him to continue fighting unaffected. You take his place fighting those fucked up animals and explain what he needs to do."

"My chakra is still wobbly from the resonance," Mito said grimly, obviously dissatisfied. "If I fight, I'll likely go into stages five or six of the chakra cloak and I'm not sure how well either Kurama-san or I will return from that. Losing control in a fight like this would not be wise. I'll be your backup."

Minato-kun nodded, pointing to the injured Jiraiya-sama and numerous other bodies strewn about. "You can still heal. Fix them up and then stay close to Hashirama-kun or Izuna-kun until your chakra settles. I'll find this King of Hell and deal with it. Tobirama-kun," the blond turned to Kira's (now) youngest son and she just knew he'll be getting the most dangerous part to play in these plans of their's. "You, in your Sage Mode, are by far the fastest and the strongest sensor of us. I know it might be asking too much, but I would like for you to try and find the ... Original body? The source? I don't know what to call it, but you need to find the true face behind Pein. You need to find where he is hiding and end it."

Kira reeled. "No! I forbid it! He is too young, Minato-kun! That is not a mission you send a genin out on!"

"Then I guess it's a good thing he's dressed as an ANBU," the Namakize said ironically but before Kira could protest or eviscerate him for daring to make such a joke at such a serious moment, Tobirama himself spoke up.

"Kaa-san, you need to trust me when I say I can do this." The look in his red eyes was unnerving. No one that young should look so old, so tired, so war-ready, so world weary. But Akatsuki had had a hand in his little brothers' deaths, in his father's demise. Had, apparently, kidnapped Madara, her younger son's one true north. Had attacked Konoha, his home, his family. He won't b budging on this.

"Take Kaida-sama with you." The snow leopard matriarch adored her young summoner and would let nothing happen to him, even if it cost her her life.

That, at least, seemed to be a concession Tobirama was willing to make. "I'll see you soon." Then, in a flash of whitish blue, he was gone, off to finish his mission. Whether he already knew where to look or if he was just finding a quiet place to meditate so he can properly extend his senses at a safe location, Kira didn't know but she hoped he'll return to her soon, healthy and whole. She wouldn't survive losing him or Hashirama as well.

"Why hadn't Ryukyu-sama summoned Ryujin-sama?" Minato-kun asked, almost absentmindedly, and the remaining Senju-Hatake sighed.

"Her pact with him has been originally made so that she would never summon him to war, because a creature of his age, wisdom and experience does not deserve to be so needlessly and so cruelly dragged into human stupidity. Ryujin-sama isn't a normal summon, Minato-kun. I don't know the details, but he does not belong to our world, to our world problems." Madara quietly nodded to confirm her words. "She was going to, though. It was a matter of life and death, an end-of-the-world kind of trouble. That asshole must have known about her reputation because he ensured she had no way of doing it. As soon as it looked like she was going to do it, he pinned her with these," she pointed to the chakra rods grimly with a glare directed to each and single one of them. "And she could no longer fight, let alone summon Ryujin-sama. She tried, of course - to fight, I mean. But she eventually succumbed to chakra depletion or exhaustion or I don't even know. All I know is that I was placed on protecting-the-pinned-ones duty and have been at it for a few hours now. I'm not Hashirama. I'm not Izuna-kun, who can continue fighting with a few food pills and some healing. We're not going to last all that much longer. Or, we wouldn't have, but now you're here."

"We'll deal with it," Mito promised, pure conviction in her voice, so assured of her and her teammate's abilities and power that Kira found herself relaxing because she believed her. "Hold up just a bit longer, Kira-sama. We'll deal with this mess. Just you wait."

"I'll leave it to you, then."

Chapter Text

Kushina was struggling against one of the sick, fucked up animals, using her Kongo Fusa to keep them away or trying to tear them apart so she could shield Mikoto tending to an injured Fugaku when a huge surge of wind actually cut the ugly bird creature in half and a cackling Madara whisked by its remains on his way to Hashirama.

"Payback's a bitch, bitch!"

The redhead had no idea what that was about and didn't really care at the moment. If Madara was here, then so were his teammates and her darling husband, which made her relax inwardly just slightly. She may be an Uzumaki and she may have consumed who knows how many pills or ration bars to keep fighting and gotten a few boosts from Tsunade-sama's boss summon, but she was tiring out, her body demanding sleep if nothing else. She wouldn't have been in the condition to keep fighting much longer so she was immensely grateful that Konoha's infamous Team Disaster was back to help them deal with this bullshit.

The other's weren't hard to find, now that she had the time to look around since the beaked annoyance had been dealt with. The others were bigger but Kushina was not only one of the most proficient Kongo Fusa users but also one of Uzushio's best seal masters and when those two combined, it was not pretty for the enemy. She'd wrestled the Kyuubi under her control, once, so these ugly beasts were easy as pie, even if they vastly outnumbered her.

Mito, her beloved niece, had joined Hashirama after Madara took over his best friend's post fighting the Asura Path, if she remembered well from when Pein had been bragging about his 'power of a god', and the Senju and the Uzumaki were now over by Ero-Sennin, the Uzumaki seeming to explain something to him before she made her way over to the injured shinobi in reaching radius of them. Kushina frowned when she felt the way Mito was kneading her chakra. It didn't exactly feel comfortable. She wasn't as good of a sensor as her niece, her husband and their teammates, but she wasn't cannon fodder, either. And Mito looked rather ruffled, dressed in some strange clothing over her mission assigned ANBU uniform that looked like a servant's formal kimono of some sort. She didn't like the implications that the kids and Minato had just returned not only from their mission, but another fight as well. They may be strong, but not even they are all-powerful.

Her husband was equally as easy to spot, what with his head of shocking sunflower-yellow blond hair that only Menma seemed to share in their village. Minato was fighting the freaky one with mind reading abilities and the nasty one with the fucked up contraption that spat out more Path bodies or sucked in souls, the Human Path and the Naraka Path and the King of Hell it guarded, respectively. The Human Path had proved relatively harmless and useless in combat so far and was used more as a distraction and cannon fodder to allow the Naraka Path to protect that abomination that sucks out and stores souls, but Minato seemed to be doing rather well against them both between Hiraishin and his Sage Mode. She had a fucking good husband, she thought smugly to herself before returning to kicking the Animal Path's ugly, piercing-covered, ginger butt.

She couldn't spot anywhere a shock of white hair besides Sakumo, who was dealing with the so called Preta Path with the aid of his wolves and several ANBU and special jonin, and Kira-sama, who was still on watching-the-pinned-ones duty until she regains some strength to continue fighting, but she didn't doubt he was okay because Madara would be a raging mess if anything happened to the younger Senju brother. He wasn't helping Izuna with the Deva Path, so he might have been sent off to find the real Pein (in the ass) to end this. She wouldn't be surprised.

While Madara was undoubtedly the strongest of Minato's students - yes, even with the Kyuubi inside of Mito, but let's not get into technicalities of that right now - Tobirama was without a doubt the most versatile and the quickest. You don't need immeasurable power to kill someone if you can get under their guard fast enough. A second was all it took to kill a person. Even someone as powerful as this Pein (in the ass) dude.

"How is he holding up?" Kushina asked Mikoto as she finished wrapping up Fugaku's seriously messed up left thigh. It had been a good, lucky hit by the Asura Path and its plethora of weapons, but Mikoto had managed to get in between them before the thing could take Fugaku's entire leg - or his head, for that matter - off. Tsunade-sama will have to see to that if he hoped to walk ever again.

"He'll live but I need to get him out of here. There's no way he can fight like this," the Uchiha kunoichi said, only to almost take Mito's head off when the younger redhead appeared behind her with a Shunshin, startling her hard enough to react instinctively.

Mito just dodged easily before kneeling beside the unconscious man. "Let me deal with that. Get Hikaku and Touka to the infirmary. Their chakra levels are far too low for my liking." With that, the younger Uzumaki kunoichi went straight to business, hands glowing an insanely intense green as she did a quick scan before she started healing the wound itself, muttering under her breath the names of the tendons, veins and muscles she stitched back together. Mikoto spared Kushina one last look, to which the Red Hot Habanero nodded, and the Uchiha kunoichi was off to get the two above mentioned cousins of the main house brats of their respective clans and probably to check up on her own team while she was at it. They had been put on civilian evacuation and protection duty, but this wasn't exactly a regular battlefield or invasion/attack.

Konoha was half in ruins and Kushina was seriously glad Hashirama had been one of the once in a blue moon Senju who inherited the mokuton. They'll need it if they want to rebuild after this mess.

"What happened to you?" Kushina asked as she finally managed to break the necks of the two-headed dog and strangle the giant panda, whooping in victory. Pandas were supposed to be cute, right? Because this one sure as hell hadn't been. That was three down to add to the earlier destroyed two, which meant three more to go. Now if only she could wring the Animal Path's damned neck!

"The Daimyo summit was attacked, twice. Once, probably in the hopes of starting a war, the other time to just kill them all in one fell swoop. We have three more Akatsuki members to report dead," Mito replied, sounding a bit distracted as she continued on channeling healing chakra. "Madara managed to make friends with the Daimyo's daughter and practically adopted a Yuki and Momochi Zabuza to Konoha. They'll be making their way to the village as soon as Madara sends a message to the Daimyo about the shitshow here." Kushina whistled, surprised and impressed. By the whole situation, really, but also by the fact that Madara seems to be collecting people now. Wasn't that more Hashirama's thing? "By the way, did you know he is nobility? Because Tobirama and I sure as hell didn't! His granduncle is the Daimyo's personal, main adviser!"

Kushina whistled again, low and long. No, she had not, in fact, known that and she was pretty sure neither had her husband. Or most of Konoha, for that matter. Did Tsunade-sama even know? "Are you kids making a tally board against everyone else in the world? Because I'm pretty sure you've killed most of Akatsuki at this point. As for Madara, well, I guess there have been rumors about Ryukyu-sama's mother being an outsider and a civilian, at that, but I never knew she was a noble's daughter! I've met her father, but I've never asked about her mother." That would have been rude and potentially painful to talk about, anyway. "Damn. Seems Tobirama will probably have even more competition than we thought."

"Not necessarily," the other Uzumaki hummed, a single chakra chain seemingly absentmindedly snapping out to protect Hashirama from some falling debris while he kept ... pulling out the rods they had thought immovable with his mokuton? Did Mito tell him he can do that? What the hell?! What else is Team Disaster knowledgeable in!?

Also, whatever Mito was about to tell her sounded juicy and Uzumaki did so love some good gossip! "Oh?"

Mito nodded to herself about a job well done when she finished healing Fugaku and summoned one of her platypus summons to take the Uchiha to an infirmary for rest until he wakes up before turning back to their little gossip-in-the-middle-of-battle fest even as the same chain that had protected Hashirama now snapped over to strangle too big for anyone's tastes centipede, wrestling it to the ground with what looked like careless effort. Kushina sort of wished she'd take over for the crustacean as well because it was ugly.

"Indeed. Tobirama kind of publicly claimed him, after all."

And then she was gone, going off to help Izuna while dragging the screeching creature and then using it to bat away at Sakumo's opponent until the thing was destroyed against the Preta Path's chakra absorbing techniques. Or at least reverse summoned due to a lack of chakra. At least Mito's chakra felt normal again.

Still, Kushina was just glad she learned that little tidbit. It made her day and the animal abominations she was fighting looked uneasy as she cackled.

She seems to get all the more reason to fight these hours, all the more reason to win.

She can't wait for this to be over so she can go back to her little Menma.

00000

When Jiraiya woke up after his impromptu nap due to having all of his chakra practically sealed away and left like that practically for dead because no one could free him but his own former student - who definitely wouldn't, seeing as he hadn't been the one to put him there in the first place - it was to young Hashirama's back as he used his mokuton and Sage Mode to free Uchiha Ryukyu from a similar fate, his chakra free once more and his wounds already healed.

By Mito, as a cursory glance around the battlefield showed, since she was still at it with other fallen ninja.

So Team Disaster was back in Konoha.

That would explain why they were all still alive despite Pein - never Uzumaki Nagato, never again, that boy was dead, killed by Hanzo the same day when Yakihito was struck down, even if his body lived on - still raining his terror onto them. For the third day in a row, at this point.

Not that Pein felt it. He just absorbed more of their own chakra and went on fighting.

But Minato seems to have destroyed the King of Hell and the Human Path, keeping the Naraka Path too busy to summon another one, and Kushina seems to be slowly but surely devastating the Animal Path. Mito was now helping Uchiha Izuna to destroy the Deva Path, the Kyuubi chakra cloak at the third degree, and Madara - that kid gave him the chills, honestly - was slowly dismantling the Asura Path.

(Uchiha were seriously made to rain destruction and cause unspeakable damage.)

Sakumo and a handful of other Konoha nin seem to be holding up relatively fine against the Preta Path, even if they don't seem to have yet figured out a way to defeat it. At least it was contained and as long as Minato manages to destroy the Naraka Path, things will be immensely easier.

And then Pein seems to have gotten annoyed with the new, stronger resistance because there is suddenly a black receiver flying up into the sky from the Deva Path and it suddenly started sucking in ... everything, collecting it around itself and creating what looked like a moderate-sized meteorite that kept growing and growing and growing-

"Quick!" He called out as loud as he could, not sure who will hear him but uncaring of it as long as someone does something before that thing takes half of Konoha apart and then destroys the other by dropping it on it. "Aim for the center before the layers around it get too thick! Your strongest attacks!"

Madara seems to have heard him, because there was suddenly the towering Susanoo - not perfect, but it didn't need to be - throwing those coma-like shurikens - Yasaka Magatama, he things the Uchiha calls them - at the center, one after the other, even as one of the Susanoo's swords descends on the Asura Path's body and obliterates it with a single swing of its energy sword Kasanagi. Izuna and Mito seem to follow his lead, the younger Uchiha brother using that scary eternal lightning trick of his and Mito going into the fourth degree so she can create a Bijudama and launch it at the growing celestial-like body in the sky.

The thing explodes spectacularly and then Madara is on the Deva Path with his Susanoo as well to keep it from making another one.

Meanwhile, Minato seems to have taken the opportunity the destruction of that thing had given him to use a natural energy charged Choodama Rasengan to destroy the Naraka Path once and for all.

That left the Preta Path, the Animal Path and Naga- Pein himself, wherever he might be.

Given he can't spot Senju Tobirama anywhere, the kid might be on that already.

Jiraiya had seen many things in his life, as a man and as a shinobi, and he was quite used to near impossible or unimaginable things like this popping up every now and then. Some shinobi were simply impossibly strong while others could train themselves to the point they could continue fighting even when they are knocked out. (Looking at you, Maito Clan, Lee Clan.) He had seen both and was even a part of that rare few who reached legendary status. He, Tsunade-hime and Orochimaru had been the strongest of their generation and retained the reputation as the Legendary Sannin even today. Then he had met those Ame orphans, had trained them so they can protect themselves and each other, so they can survive and reach for their dreams. Then he was an official sensei with his first ever and only genin team with three terrifyingly smart, capable and skilled boys. Minato, Fukagu and Sakumo had the making of legends to them but not even they could compare to the Team 4 Tsunade had put together four years ago.

Nagato was strong, had a power none of them had known of or thought real, but so did were Konoha's shinobi. So was their Team Disaster.

It was humbling, to see the younger generations band together and take on - take down - a threat the likes of which none of them have ever seen before. Hashirama, Izuna, Touka, Hikaku, Mito, Madara and Tobirama especially, since they were all so damned young. They were the ones who were thinking up ways to protect their village, the ones who will build the future and teach the next generation, who will tell the stories of these days and how teamwork and Konoha's Will of Fire had saved the village and all its people.

It was easy to tell, the exact moment that they won. Especially since the last remaining Path bodies froze, turned gray and crumbled to the ground before disappearing altogether as if they hadn't even been there at all, the battlefield coming to a stop all too abruptly. The official end came when Senju Tobirama appeared besides his mother again and Kira dragged her youngest son into what looked like a bone-crushing hug. They could breathe easy.

For a few short moments of rest.

There was a village to rebuild, after all.

00000

Tsunade watched, the very next day, as Konoha started to rebuild itself and couldn't help but find herself humbled in the wake of such resilience.

Pein had done a number on them. Nearly a hundred graves had to be added to Konoha's cemetery, a hundred new names carved into stone as heroes of their village that died protecting it, civilian and shinobi both. Half of the village was in ruins, a third of their protective wall brought down completely, the protective barrier obliterated to the point a completely new seal will need to be engraved for the first time in almost a century since it had been placed in the first place. There was a lot of building and rebuilding to be done, but the same could have been said for the Kyuubi incident a couple of years ago and they had preserved back then, too. They had rebuilt, for there was something to rebuild due to the efforts of their loyal shinobi.

Today, they will rebuild again, so there will be peace and safety for their villagers again.

Today, there was something to rebuild because their young ninja had fought for them as fiercely as the adults had.

Tsunade had spent most of yesterday and today buried in work in the hospital, during and after the fight, curing and healing and fixing up everyone that came her way. She'd almost been to the point where she would need to activate her Byakugo seal so she could continue until every last one of her shinobi were healed and stabilized when her favorite trio had made their way into the building, carrying dozens of previously injured who now only needed bedding until they wake up and Mito, Madara and Tobirama got to work as soon as their hands were empty. Tsunade and every other iryo-nin breathed a sigh of relief, all of them knowing that these three will be a great help in their endeavor to save lives, from the smallest scraps to the few amputations they had had no choice but in making.

Hashirama, who had a natural healing ability to his chakra, had tried offering his help but Team Disaster had promptly kicked him out of the hospital with orders to rest since his help will be needed tomorrow in the rebuilding efforts.

Today, it was clear to see that it was the best decision they could have made at that point, even if it had left all iryo-nin utterly exhausted by late afternoon. Their shift had been long and tiresome, many have made it, some have succumbed to their wounds despite their best efforts and finally the injured of Konoha could just rest. Konoha's medical ninja could rest.

Hashirama was doing a good job in rebuilding most of the houses all on his own. They were identical to each other as they sprouted from the ground but no one was going to make complaints about it when everyone was just looking forward to having a place where they can rest their heads. The remodeling can happen later, when the village was secured once more. Their biggest priority with cement and steel was the wall, anyway.

Tsunade had watched a sight similar to this twice already in the last four years and her thoughts now were rather similar to what they had been back then. A handful of amazing, unbelievable, impossible children had saved the village and were rebuilding it at this exact same moment. Had it not been for them, all of this would have been gone already.

What worried her, though, was that the feeling that this was all a part of a bigger game remained and reaffirmed itself in the wake of the last couple of days.

The Daimyo's of the Five Elemental Nations had been attacked, almost assassinated or pitted against each other in war on suspicion and kidnapping accusations had it not been for Team Disaster to prevent it.

Pein had come to Konoha preaching of a new world order, where Akatsuki ruled so there would be everlasting peace.

And Tobirama had returned from killing Uzumaki Nagato with the information that an Akatsuki member - a woman with light purple hair that Jiraiya recognized as likely being Konan, an orphan from Ame he had trained many years ago - had escaped with the aid of The Man whose disappearing in the void trick is apparently a Mangekyo ability - she shuddered at the thought; wondered if he was a traitor Uchiha or someone who managed to steal a Sharingan - and had sucked away Nagato, some ugly wooden statue he was connected with that gave Tobirama the shivers, taking the Rinnegan eyes with him in Pein's dead body.

(Tobirama could be merciless, brutal, for his loved ones. He was fast even without Hiraishin or his Sage Mode, but with it, he was almost unstoppable. He and Kaida-sama had thorn the place apart, blown it to high heaven and nearly killed Konan, too, if not for Nagato protecting her and then The Man whisking her away.)

Nagato was dead but his eyes were taken and that didn't sit well with anyone.

She hated that they couldn't do more than rebuild and possibly warn the other villages that there might be a war brewing.

(She calls for a Hokage Summit three weeks later and takes Team Disaster as her bodyguards only no one falls for the masks anymore. It was fun to watch how annoyed the other Kage were with her for forcing them to be in the same room as them. Tsunade definitely had a bit more Uzumaki blood in her than her appearances belied to be taking such sadistic pleasure in watching them squirm.)

She just hoped they'll have time to prepare.

Chapter Text

" ... Why are we also being dragged into going with you?" Izuna whined for the third time in half as many hours as they slowly came into view of the capitol of Hi no Kuni again just two weeks after they had visited it last. The rebuilding effort of Konoha was a week well underway and going splendidly, especially after the Daimyo got word from Madara about the damage and financed 45% of the needed materials as a thank you for saving his and his daughter's lives and preserving the hard-won peace between the nations in such trying times.

Still, Tobirama would have preferred it if they could have pushed off this visit until much later - preferably by a few years as he was utterly sick of nobles and civilians and samurai who thought they were above shinobi just because they worked for a specific lord full time - but it wouldn't do to piss off the man that had the power to make their efforts and lives a living hell if he so pleases, so he just went along with it.

Besides, Madara had also admitted that he would have preferred for Mito and Tobirama to accompany him, Izuna and Ryukyu-sama on the trip while his cousins and uncles took care of the clan for the couple of days they'd be the Daimyo's guests because they would remind the man that the Uchiha were shinobi and they won't be tempted to stay in the court no matter how they bribe them. It was apparently very much needed. Ryukyu-sama agreed on that point and was extremely grateful that they had accepted.

None of them wanted to be forced to give up their preferred lifestyle to pamper themselves needlessly in civilian, hollow luxuries.

"Because you are also Kaa-chan's son, even if we wonder sometimes, and Setsuna-jiisan wants to see you as well, for whatever reason."

"Hey!" Izuna protested and pouted and Tobirama wanted to find a giant paper fan to hit him over the head with like he had seen in anija's favorite TV comedy dramas but that would be out of character and too silly to lower himself to so he refrained valiantly. He was tired, he was pissed and he didn't exactly want to return Madara to an environment where random civilians made presumptuous offers when they didn't even know his stupidly pretty face, let alone now that he was proudly displaying it and presenting himself not only as Uchiha Madara but also a descendant of the Akatane noble family, which was just bound to attract gold-diggers and opportunists who want a better standing in life the easy way.

"Boys, behave," Ryukyu-sama said in an amused voice that Tobirama thought was not needed in this situation since there was no reprimand in it and he wasn't even sure why he was so bothered with it all when he usually wouldn't mind, but he was prickly and he would have preferred to curl up somewhere snuggled with Madara - potentially Mito, too, but not necessarily - and just sleep the last two weeks away so he can feel like himself again. There's just been too much shit and too much drama going on for his liking.

He needed a break.

Their team needed a break, too.

Life just wasn't being fair at the moment and wasn't giving it.

"We know, Kaa-chan," Madara said while Izuna groaned.

"But why?! Why can't we just visit Setsuna-jiisan and be done with it? Why do we have to waste time with the Daimyo's court?!"

"You can thank your brother for that. Madara had to go and make friends with Kyoko-himesama during his mission." The mother sounded even more amused by this while Madara pouted.

Tobirama still tried to reconcile with the fact that these two - and Izuna, which was even harder because the kid was a spitting image of his father - were, in fact, direct descendants and apparently heirs of nobility. He, Mito and Minato-sensei had pinned Madara down to get the full story the first brake they got after helping out at the hospital for two days straight and hearing it had been startling and almost unbelievable. It sounded more like a cheesy romance novel filled with angst and a happy ending, but it was apparently true to the last word. Sometimes life was just crazier than fiction.

He bemoaned the fact that it usually happened to him and his closest friends and family.

"It's not my fault she seems to have discerned me to be the most suitable to help her with her infatuation with Hozuki Gengetsu," pouted Madara with a sniff, which should be absurd but only managed to look regal. Tobirama wondered if his perception was warped by new knowledge or if he had just never noticed this side of the Uchiha before. The Senju couldn't decide which was more unsettling.

"You didn't need to go make friends with her handmaid." He nearly slapped both hands over his own mouth for uttering something so frivolous, so foolish and so telling about his own emotions and thoughts on that development, especially after all but publicly claiming Madara how Hatake were wont to when the girl had asked if she could wait for Madara, cursing himself and refusing to look at either of his teammates. Mito, because the harpy knew, and Madara because he feared he might come to know. Izuna was throwing him suspicious stink-eyes and he just knew Ryukyu-sama must be smirking.

She and his own Kaa-san found too much joy and delight in how close and how well Madara and Tobirama got along.

Also, she knew Hatake ways too much for Tobirama's good. Or at least the well-being of his brain and poor, traitorous heart that had started longing after his first ever, closest and dearest friend, his most precious person. (Yes, even more so than anija, but he was never going to tell Hashirama and it wasn't his business anyway.)

"I'll have you know Mio-san is a perfectly respectable person and I happen to quite like her." That, of course, soured his mood despite how he tried to prevent it from effecting him. Luckily, Madara didn't seem to notice, too offended on this 'Mio-san's behalf. "I don't see what's wrong for me to be friends with her."

"Friends. Right." Was it horrible of him to feel so much relief?

(He found he didn't care, as long as there was no one to take Madara away.)

"Is she cute?" Izuna, of course, had to butt in and ignored his mother's scolding, much more genuine this time than when she had been earlier with her sons. "What? I'm allowed to get a heads up!"

"I thought you were dead set on Touka, brat," Madara groused and the younger Uchiha brother went beat red, looking away, sulky and embarrassed.

"Yeah, well, she doesn't even seem to notice me so why keep holding a hopeless torch?"

Ryukyu-sama scuffed her younger son over the head reprimanding. "I'll have you know your father thought much the same for myself - as did most of the village when they learned of his intentions to court me. Where would this world be if he had given up as easily as you are, my foolish little lightning sprout? Ryujin-sama definitely wouldn't have another summoner."

"Why do you bring him up?" Madara asked while Izuna seemed to be getting more wind in his sails about his intentions to court Touka from that little motivational(?) speech.

"Setsuna-jii happens to be fascinated by our dragon friend. He may or may not ask to meet with him again," the Uchiha matriarch replied and Mito arched an eyebrow at the woman who had taken her in as her own daughter.

"This happens often?"

"Only when he can convince me and only if things turn so mind-numbingly boring or ridiculous that I can't take it anymore and want out. I may have been raised from a young age as to how to live and behave at court, but I am still of Uchiha blood." The Uchiha Dragoness went as far as activating her Sharingan to accent this claim. "Such nonsense interests me very little and greatly grates at my patience. If I become desperate to leave, summoning Ryujin-sama usually saves me from having to deal with any of it."

'I can imagine,' Tobirama thought sarcastically. He had literally seen the beat twice and he knew that if he wasn't allied to Madara, he would be terrified of the creature. No matter how fascinated by him he might initially be. Ryujin-sama almost dwarfed the Kyuubi and the Kyuubi was slightly bigger than Gamabunta, who was huge. And he was apparently rather picky about those he creates a contract with.

"Hn, that's something to remember," Madara mused to himself and Tobirama wondered if there will be any heart attacks.

Madara's fuse was infinitely shorter than Ryukyu-sama's.

00000

"-we apologize in Minato-sensei's stead, as he had a wife and son to care for in the wake of the attack and as such could not respond to your invitation," Madara was saying from a semi-shallow bow after they had arrived at the Daimyo's court, had been officially introduced and welcomed and had said the regular pleasantries and Tobirama found himself once again stunned with the knowledge that his friend had, indeed, spent a part of his childhood being taught in such things as behavior and the workings of a noble court. Shinobi had no need for that. They just needed to know how to show respect. None of these flowery, meaning-laden words and politically acceptable terms and the such.

The fact that an Uchiha was expected to play these games was a bit mind-boggling, honestly.

And yet, from as far as he had seen, Ryukyu-sama, Madara and even Izuna played it extremely well.

Izuna seemed a bit rusty in comparison to his mother and brother and Madara seemed reluctant and uneasy - his face showed almost nothing of it, but his chakra could not hide it - to participate and Ryukyu-sama ... Well, she had undertones of displeasure at having to be a part of it but she appeared used to it and well prepared, almost conditioned to certain responses within the court and the proceedings of such formal conversations.

For their part, Mito and Tobirama stayed silent and just stood there, behind the three Uchiha, bowed with bent heads and waiting quietly for them to be dismissed. The Daimyo's dearest and nearest seemed to be as impatient as them to get it over with the formal pleasantries so they might move to a more private setting and 'catch up'. Kyoko-himsesama definitely looked bored out of her mind while at the same time being fascinated by how Madara looked in his normal Uchiha garb and Akatane-sama was definitely impatient to speak with his relatives.

It was almost impossible to spot any similarities between that elderly man and the Uchiha he knew so well for almost the whole of his life. Maybe it was his civilian upbringing or maybe it was the fact that Ryukyu and her children after her had taken completely after their Uchiha side in personality and appearance, but it just seemed almost impossible to connect them as family.

Though it could simply be that he was unused to anyone being related to the Uchiha while not looking like an Uchiha. It was weird.

"-I am more than happy to welcome you to my court for the duration of your visit," the Daimyo finished saying and Tobirama blinked, realizing this meant that the formalities were over and they can leave. "Please join us for dinner this night to celebrate the continuation of your village and the safety of your comrades! I would be honored to have you as guests at my feast."

"This one thanks you for your hospitality, Daimyo-dono," Ryukyu-sama replied and Tobirama nearly groaned.

Great. More formal pleasantries he wanted to have nothing at all with.

00000

"Hold still," Madara grumbled as Tobirama tried to fidget away from the many layers of the formal kimono he was expected to wear. It was much more complicated than the one he had worn while pretending to be a servant during their mission just a week ago.

"Why can't I wear something a bit more practical?" He groused, glaring at the complicated knot Madara was making at his right hip but grateful when he realized it was placed there, in that way, to allow for him to place his Raijin no Ken in the carefully arranged folds, hidden away by the heavy fabric but easy to reach. At least that made sense. Everything else seemed like frivolous, unneeded luxury that could get him killed if it got in the way.

He'd rather wear the metal plated armor from the warring clans era than these restricting clothing. At least the armor had a function, unlike this mess.

"Because anything else or less would be a grave insult we can't afford to make right now so bear with it. You're a shinobi, right? Shinobi are supposed to endure so endure, damn it." Well, at least Madara seemed as frustrated to be dolled up like this as well instead of being allowed to stay in his preferred Uchiha garb with its high neck collar and long mantle-like robe.

Instead, he was dressed in a midnight blue yukata with a ruby dragon design wrapped around the whole length of his body and a crimson obi around his waist which was tied at the back like a girl's, which seemed to annoy him even more, but he had to be more traditional than Tobirama since he was nobility. Sucks to have that blood now, doesn't it. The white haired Senju kind of even pitied him. There was no way he could hide anything there but at least he had the tattooed storage seal on his arm. He must be extremely grateful to Mito for that.

"Now, a few quick pointers on how to act in court," Madara muttered to himself as he straightened up, inspecting his work of Tobirama in his opal blue kimono with simple wave patterns on his sleeves and at the edges o the material. He seemed pleased even as he smoothed down some wrinkles only he seemed to be able to see. Tobirama didn't mind. He found Madara looked quite fetching with his hair pulled up in an intricate ponytail with decorative needles holding it up, complete with crimson beads dangling from the ends. He may know those were sharp enough to kill, but the civilians will probably just think them to be hair decorations.

Foolish.

"Firs of all, don't initiate conversation with the Daimyo or anyone of significantly higher status - you'll be able to tell them apart by the complexity of the wrappings around their waist; you have a simple obi because you're just a guest of his adviser's family, but born nobles will have decorative braids and ropes and other silly things wrapped around there as well." Madara pointed to his own waist where he, indeed, had a rope that matched the color of his yukata but was actually ninja, chakra enhanced rope that could withstand being come down upon by a futon powered blade. "Just don't approach them. If they want to talk to you, and you don't want to talk to them, excuse yourself by saying me or Kaa-chan or Izuna called you over. They'll accept it since civilians are convinced ninja communicate through hand signs or exchanged looks alone." Not exactly untrue, but that seemed irrelevant in the whole conversation to point out. "Try not to talk about shinobi related things, even if asked. Civilians think they can handle it, but they have poor stomachs. Avoid saying anything even remotely perceivable as offensive as much as you can. Keep your weapons out of sight. Don't sit down, eat or drink before the Daimyo does. Don't interrupt conversation and, above all else, avoid any woman with a fan. They'll flirt with you relentlessly and then get annoyed and offended when you don't respond. Everything else is just a bit more formal form of standard etiquette. If you find yourself lost or uneasy, just come over to one of us and stay close by for the entire night. Oh!" Madara perked up, seeming to remember something important. "Don't, and I mean absolutely don't, ever, no matter what, talk informally with any of them, even if they do it with you. These people are just looking for a reason to start a scandal and having Uchiha-Akatane Ryukyu back in court after over a decade will increase that itching for drama tenfold. Just be polite and falsely subservient and they'll leave you alone. Be boring, for the lack of a better word. We want this night to be over as quickly and as painlessly as possible."

That sounded far easier said than actually done.

"Can't I just pretend to be your bodyguard for tonight or something? Wouldn't that be easier? I could even dress up as an ANBU again. No one would need to see my face."

Madara stopped fussing over the kimono and paused for a moment before looking up at the white haired teen. His face seemed carefully blank. "You'd willingly want to go back to being ANBU?"

The Senju shrugged, not really seeing the big deal. "They're the elite of the elite, a symbol of shinobi power and skill at its best. I wouldn't mind. Why? You don't exactly sound happy about it."

The Uchiha frowned, mouth tugging lightly downwards at the edges. "You do know what the Uchiha in general think of ANBU, right?" He asked carefully and Tobirama thought he understood. Pretty much everyone knew what the Uchiha thought of ANBU and their need to supress all emotion to the point they could be considered the Hokage's tools. Uchiha didn't want to be ANBU. Shinobi endured and compartmentalized, but the Uchiha would never support suppression of emotions. It went against everything that defined an Uchiha as an Uchiha.

"I do. I can understand, from your point of view, but I can't say I really share it. If I were invited, I'd probably join," he said with another shrug, at which Madara whacked him on the shoulder for since it seemed to mess up his careful work (fussing).

"That's a shame."

Red eyes narrowed, displeased and a little ... hurt, that his friend wouldn't support him or want the best for him and his further career. "Wouldn't you be supportive of my decision if that were the case? It's a great honor."

"Not really," Madara replied honestly, surprising Tobirama by flushing just a bit, black eyes darting elsewhere. "If I were less selfish, probably, but if you joined ANBU, we wouldn't have as much time to hang out together. And even if we happened to go on missions together, it would be the worst."

"What? Why?"

The older teen rolled his eyes at Tobirama's confusion. "Because ANBU aren't allowed to display emotion while on a mission - hence the mask. I don't think I would like being in such close proximity with you but for us not to be allowed to cuddle at night while we sleep."

Tobirama's whole being froze. He swore his mind came to a screeching halt while his heart started thundering in his chest, as though trying to escape it. "You ... Cuddle ... What?"

He thought it unfair that Madara was under the impression that he had the right to roll his eyes. Or look so ... cute while blushing and feeling embarrassed. "I grew up used to being able to cuddle with you at any point, Tobirama. I don't think I'd be too keen on suddenly not being allowed just because of a painted bone-mask. I'd miss it."

Yep, Tobirama's brain just crashed.

Chapter Text

"Tobirama? Are you well? You seem ... Dazed," Mito asked when she saw her youngest teammate all but stumble in after Madara into the dinning hall for the welcoming feast the Daimyo was throwing for his visitors. The kunoichi wasn't sure how, exactly, she felt about being dressed up in a kimono so different from the ones she usually wears that is flexible and allows easy movement and access to weaponry or the ones she used to wear as the Uzumaki princess back in Uzushio, but she had to agree it was pretty and that Ryukyu-sama had good taste.

Mito found it somewhat amusing that Ryukyu-sama and Madara had near identical yukatas, except she knew it was on purpose and meant to be a reminder that they had the power to summon a dragon should they grow bored/displeased, while Izuna seems to have settled for simplistic elegance with only the Uchiha fan on his back and a more intricate obi, like his mother's and brothers, his yukata the same color and with a subtle lightning-like design around the sleeves.

The Uzumaki herself was clad in a kimono that matched the color of her grayish purple eyes with rose petal designs the same color as he hair. Ryukyu-sama had had it made for her on her fourteenth birthday and it was still good on her, which she was glad for. Mito had left behind her life as the Uzumaki heiress and princess and much preferred being a Konoha kunoichi, a part of Team Disaster. The kimono was pretty but she preferred her reinforced, kevlar-material kimono-like dresses with shinobi pants and tessen instead of fancy clothes, jewelry and a fan mostly used to indicate to men she was up for a dalliance, which she wasn't.

Give her futon jutsus and fuinjutsu over sappy samurai romance novels any day.

Tobirama blinked at her slowly, still beyond lost in whatever daze held him and Mito would have worried that he might have been poisoned if she couldn't feel the confused whirling of his chakra quite easily. That may be new but it was nothing life threatening. Just unusual.

" ... Cuddling ..."

Mito blinked at that, waiting for an elaboration, but none ever came. Though she was beginning to suspect the culprit for the Senju's current state. Only one person could cause a reaction like this with cuddling. "Cuddling?" She echoed with a questioning lilt to the word and watched her companion nod distractedly.

"Cuddling. Would miss it. ANBU don't cuddle."

... That didn't exactly clear things up but Mito knew her teammates for more than half of their lives at this point, so it didn't take her long to connect the dots. Tobirama had probably suggested he act as an ANBU escort for the Uchiha again instead of dealing with the complications of a civilian noble court and its inane and insane politics and policies. Madara, as an Uchiha, had probably been offended by it and had accidentally slipped that he liked cuddling with his teammates - specifically Tobirama, since Mito had minus infinity desire to join the organization - which had, without a doubt, broken Tobirama's genius brain when he heard that coming from his crush while Madara was all pretty and dressed up. Hence his mind crashed. Hence the fixation on cuddling.

Mito couldn't help but smirk. "You know, by Uchiha tradition, one gives their beloved a decorated fan that best represents them as a statement of intent and the capitol has many artisans who would create some beautiful pieces for a bit overpriced price, but I bet it would be worth it." It was perhaps far too funny to see Tobirama literally snap out of his daze to stare at her with too sharp eyes. He looked a bit conflicted, though. And she knew why. Hatake tradition stated that he ought to give his intended a bladed weapon to state his intentions. But it's not like he can't compromise or just forget old traditions. Rare few used them these days, anyway. "A tessen would be more fitting, I wager, with hidden blades and maybe even some seals, but decorated to fit traditional parameters. I should think Madara might like that."

"Right. Fan. Tessen."

"With jewels, Tobirama. Lots of jewels."

"Jewels."

She watched him nod to himself, gazing growing once more dazed and distant, though this expression she was far more familiar with; he was busy and lost in his planning, figuring out how and when and how much and where and who, the best way to get what he wants with the least resistance. She's not even surprised he hadn't paused to think it over and instead just went with it. Or that he was ignoring his Senju side in face of his Hatake one. Senju tradition dictated he waits until he is of age to start courting whoever he may like and she rather doubted either Madara or Tobirama would like those flowering courting rituals. They fit more Hashirama's style. (She would bet two months' salary that Touka will appreciate more the Uchiha ones than the Senju ones when Izuna finally gets the guts to make a move.)

Mito figured this might be the best state to leave Tobirama in. He has this amazing ability to avoid people when he's deep in thought, thinking about experiments or research or whatver he thinks to be most important in that moment, which means he'll avoid making conversation and potentially insulting someone to the point Madara or his mother might need to do some dragon summoning to keep from creating a scandal or problems for their rebuilding and recovering village.

It was really two birds with one stone, the Jinchuriki mused as she mentally patted herself on the back for a job well done.

Not to mention that this will make the rest of their stay much more amusing.

00000

"Madara-kun," a vaguely familiar voice said in greeting, finally snapping Tobirama properly out of his daze and allowing him to focus on his surroundings once more, just as red eyes locked with dark brown ones of a pretty boy that may as well eclipse many of the noble ladies in beauty and made him look rather innocent if no for the sharp, calculating look in his eyes that screamed 'shinobi'. Tobirama stiffened when he felt that ice cold chakra, not sure what was going on, but Haku of the Yuki Clan seemed focused on Madara and the Senju remembered that his teammate intended to drag this fake(?) oinin and his partner back to Konoha to offer them a better life where he won't be hunted and killed because he was born with a Kekkei Genkai.

Madara had praised Haku's speed, precision and skill in the rare few moments of the last week when anyone asked about the two Kiri nin he intended to bring back to the village. Tobirama had not expected him to come to them like this, not right now, but Haku was dressed in the same servants garb Tobirama himself had worn a week ago, so he might be here as the Daimyo's guard until the matters of their last mission can be discussed properly, as Madara had sent him and Momochi to be.

He swore to keep a better eye on him.

"Haku," Madara replied in what might have sounded like pleasure and he was indeed pleased to see the other boy, though it was also clear to Tobirama that he was wary of him still. Good. It wouldn't do for Madara to loose his edge. "I trust everything has been well?"

"Indeed," the 'servant' agreed as he served Madara tea. All three shinobi were careful to keep an eye out for anyone who might be watching their interactions. "Zabuza-san and I have not found anything to worry about since our last meeting. Everything seems to be as silent as the grave in the wake of the Akatsuki attack."

"Well, that's at least a relief and some good fortune in the last couple of weeks," the Uchiha breathed, relaxing a little. He nodded to the hyuton user in thanks. "You should probably go now so no one grows suspicious. We can talk later or tomorrow. It's best to just get this thing over with as soon as possible and not do anything that might prolong it."

Haku nodded and finished pouring them tea before he walked off, effortlessly losing himself in the crowd of servants and leaving. Tobirama and Madara both tracked his chakra signature until they felt him settle next to Momochi where the man was hidden behind the walls at the Daimyo's back, obviously still protecting the Fire Daimyo in the wake of the previous attacks and in favor to the ones that had saved him and his partner.

Madara sighed again as he reached for his tea. "I swear this whole shitshow is going to make me go gray and bald if it continues for much longer. Stressing over my family, my clan and my teammates somehow just isn't enough, is it? I have to worry about a whole village and now the whole damned country, too, to boot. At least those two seem to be doing fine."

"They're shinobi," Tobirama said by way of answer. "Do you think That Man will try to attack the Daimyo again?"

"Not if he wants to recover from the eye transplant." Tobirama turned to give his friend an incredulous stare but Madara just snorted. "Tobirama, use that briliant mind of your's. Why else would he risk it so much just to take Uzumaki's corpse? Dead Uzumaki contribute very little. Besides, the Rinnengan is not a doujutsu that can spourt just out of anywhere or nowhere. It is the final evolution of the Sharingan."

"Are you suggesting that That Man hadn't been the only Uchiha who had been in on this? That someone else had been working towards this with him and simply died earlier? That Pein's eyes are not his own but someone else's implanted into a child?" Please do excuse Tobirama for feeling quite sick at the mere thought of it all. And extremely worried. "So, what? He came back to fetch the eyes? For himself or someone else?"

"Depends," Madara murmured, looking over the room as if to make sure no one was around to hear their conversation. Ryukyu-sama was only now making her way towards the table as the celebration finally turned towards the feast part. The Daimyo was at least already seated and Tobirama will have to move one seat down the table when Izuna stops chatting up Kyoko-himesama and her handmaid - Mio-san, was it? She seemed flustered under his attention. At least she'd stopped making eyes at Madara, but Izuna was equally as taken. Touka would not appreciate someone trying to steal Izuna's attention away from her, too used to the younger Uchiha falling all over himself for her - and comes to take his seat as was proper. Mito, the lucky harpy, was to be seated right after Izuna not only because she lived with the Uchiha and was all but unofficially adopted by them but also because of her own status within the Uzumaki and Uzushiogakure as their princess. Tobirama was to sit next to her.

"On what?"

"Whether he has another Uzumaki or anyone else with their potent chakra or their reserves that can sustain it," the Uchiha replied, nodding to his mother when she sat down next to him, in between Madara and where Akatane-sama will sit. "Whether he himself has the reserves to sustain the eyes. You know that when a Sharingan or Byakugan is transplanted into a host not of the right bloodline that the eye can't be deactivated, right? The Byakugan drains the least chakra, Sharingan drains more but the Rinnegan would, potentially and hypothetically, drain copious amounts if someone were to transplant them into anyone not of Uchiha blood."

"So someone could basically die of chakra depletion if they transferred the eyes? What about just one eye?" Tobirama asked, a theory he didn't like already forming in his head as to what might happen to Pein's eyes since an Uchiha had taken him. The Man's cakra signature wasn't average in reserves but because of those strange techniques he uses, it's almost impossible to tell the extent and the limits. But if an Uchiha is the right host for the eyes ...

"Are you two seriously talking about doujutsu eye transplants at a formal dinner at the Daimyo's court?" Ryukyu-sama hissed as soon as she sat down and overheard their topic of conversation. Tobirama wasn't an Uchiha so he probably didn't find the topic nearly as disgusting as someone who had lived their entire life wary of eye thieves, but Madara didn't seem to mind. Then again, Madara was probably desensitized at this point to inappropriate conversation topics after years of knowing Tobirama and indulging his infinite curiosity. Though that man sitting across from Tobirama looked a bit green in the face. He had obviously been eavesdropping, so he definitely deserves it. It served him right to listen in on shinobi conversations. Don't civilians know that gore and death were standard companions of a shinobi's day to day life? "Knock it off! This is hardly the place to be discussing this! Madara, you should know better!"

"Sorry, Kaa-chan. I guess the conversation ran away with us," Madara apologized but Tobirama was quick to cut in.

"It was my fault. You know how my curiosity gets the best of me, Ryukyu-sama. I'll take care not to let it happen again." The Uchiha matriarch rolled her eyes at him and huffed something about that being a helpless cause, but she didn't appear angry with them. Just overall exasperated. She probably knew her son's friends too well at this point to be surprised. She was just reminding them so as to not cause a scandal that would prolong this boredom.

"Just be careful not to talk about it during dinner," she said semi-sternly and turned her attention to her uncle when the man sat down next to her and drew her into conversation as everyone else finally started slowly taking their seats so the food could be served.

"You didn't have to do that," the black haired teen said with a slight, confused frown. "It's not like she'd get angry or something. I wasn't going to get in trouble."

But Tobirama just shrugged, thankful when he had to move for Izuna and Mito so he didn't have to explain himself and how he wanted to be certain. He was aware his brain was probably going into overdrive right now and his heart wasn't exactly helping the matter the foolish, traitorous thing that it was, longing for his friend. All he could really think about - yes, even with the knowledge that That Man might have transplanted at least one Rinnegan to himself and was thus all the stronger and more dangerous for it - was the type of fan he was going to have commissioned for Madara and wonder if his Uchiha crush will even realize his intentions if he doesn't make himself clear.

Madara has proved rather oblivious in the matters of attractiveness and desirability so far, after all.

00000

Akatane Setsuna may be old and he may not be a shinobi, but he was far from blind, no matter what his younger grandnephew - youngest, now; Gods, he sometimes truly hated Ryukyu's life choices if it had cost him three grandnephews he had had so very little time to get to know but had loved and doted on whenever he could regardless - may think. Madara was politer to give him the benefit of the doubt - and wiser; he had played the court's games before, he'd seen how civilians dealt with business and politics and was right to be wary of them and their motives, what they knew and what they pretended they didn't - but even he sometimes forgot that civilians could be just as observant.

Perhaps even more so than shinobi, in some matters.

Finding one's weakness was as important to someone of his status as it was to a shinobi, after all. And matters of the heart were always the most touchy subjects.

So it didn't really take him long to figure out that there was something going on with Madara's little Hatake teammate.

He recognized most of the boy's features, of course. There had been a time when his dearest niece had been attached to the hip with a fierce young Hatake kunoichi that she often dragged to the capitol so she wouldn't get bored out of her mind with all the 'civilian nonsense' she had to deal with for the other half of genes in her DNA. Hatake Kira had never trusted the court, had always wrinkled her nose at their upturned noses because she had worn fur and leather and animal fangs. She had never even been all that fond of Setsuna, had recognized he wished to keep Ryukyu in the capitol, away from the shinobi lifestyle and she had always been rather opinionated, especially on that matter.

"You had turned her away before," she would say whenever someone even so much as hinted at suggesting to Ryukyu that she would be better off as a part of the court, away from the bloody battlefields and deadly missions that honed her skill and made her the Uchiha Dragoness she was today. Away from the village that raised and accepted her, away from the clan that taught her to love and to burn and to never bow down or hesitate. "You lost all right to claim her as your own. She belongs to us now. She is Uchiha, not Akatane."

Despite his many disagreements with the girl, now woman and mother, regent Clan Head if his intelligence was correct, he had always respected Kira and was glad she was the first person Ryukyu had latched onto, had made a friend of. Later, of course, came Tajima and even Butsuma and they all made legends of themselves and he got to hear just how fearsome his niece grew to be, got to be proud of her and learned that it was for the best to let all that fire burn where it can be managed properly. He grew to be grateful to Kira for always sticking up for his niece and convincing her again and again she belonged with the Uchiha and nowhere else.

He knew that woman very well and she could recognize her son on sight. He was nearly her spitting image with some bone structure that he must have inherited from his father. He'd not met many Senju, but they were apparently built like trees.

The look in the little Hatake in Senju's clothing teen's eyes reminded him a bit of the way Kira had at one point looked at Ryukyu, before they had settled firmly on friendship and sisterhood despite sharing not an iota of blood between them. The boy was definitely possessive - he'd heard from Kyoko-himesama about the Mio incident and was amused by the practically public claim - and there was obvious familiarity and easy affection between them, but there was also so much more.

Mada-kun was an Uchiha. If he discovered that something more, it will go from a sweet flicker to a burning inferno rather quickly and Setsuna didn't know the little Hatake well enough to know whether he'd weather the flame and come out unscathed from it.

Hatake were about devotion but if his feelings weren't deeply rooted, he may not withstand an Uchiha's love.

"It is rude to stare, Setsuna-jii," Ryukyu's gentle voice startled him and he tuned back in to his surroundings - the food had been set, the drink had been served, everyone was seated and the Daimyo was giving one of his long-winded speeches that he'd learned long ago to half tune out as there will be nothing interesting said, not when he spoke in that monotone voice that used to nearly put him to sleep as a younger, more energetic man who just wanted to move - and he removed his eyes from his grandnephew and his friends.

He was unsure how they were doing it, but he would bet his right limb and left eye that those three were somehow talking to each other. At least judging from the most minute reactions they showed. How all three of their eyes would slide to the same place, sometimes judgmentally, sometimes exasperatedly, most often considerately, as though ascertaining threat levels (such a shinobi thing,honestly). How they would look at each other at the most random of times, how sometimes their facial muscles might twitch here or there, how they would exchange looks between them.

Maybe there was some credit to most of the civilian rumors about secret shinobi languages after all.

"Don'y bother trying to figure it out. Not even their sensei knows how they do it," Ryukyu whispered again and Setsuna decided to take her word on it.

"I was not staring, merely observing," he said in defense to her first accusation. "Evaluating."

Ryukyu released a snort that could have been misread as a mere twitch of her nose. That wasn't a shinobi trick. That was a civilian noble court trick. Setsuna would like to see shinobi hide their reactions like that. (He almost wanted to add a childish Ha to those thoughts but didn't as he was the Daimyo's personal adviser and he had more dignity than that, even in his own mind, thank you.) "One does not evaluate Team Disaster. They are stared at. No one 'observes' when those three are concerned. They're simply too much for that."

"Doesn't it worry you?" He asked, ignoring all comments made about 'Team Disaster'. He didn't need Ryukyu to explain. They were young but they were powerful and they have made names for themselves rather easily. He wondered why they don't simply get one of those 'field promotions' since he knows they're not allowed to enter those Chuunin Exams. (For which he is shamelessly grateful. He;'d heard about them. He knew how brutal they can be. Ryukyu had taken them and he couldn't have stopped her back then any more than he could now nor Izuna a few years back, but at least Madara will never have to go through that, even though he's pretty certain everyone else would be finding the Exams hell if he and his team were candidates. He just wanted his family safe. He may not be Uchiha, but he's allowed to love his family.)

"Tobirama has a good heart and he has claimed Madara as his many, many years ago. I am actually rather pleased that he will be making a move, finally." Setsuna could only blink at her and wonder if all shinobi - or just Uchiha - were a bit addled in the head. Madara and Tobirama were far too young. But he guessed age meant very little in a world where a child became an adult the first time they spilled blood. "Don't look at me like that. Don't look at me like you pity me or disapprove of my choices," the fierce mother warned and Setsuna sighed.

"I don't-"

"And don't look at Madara like that, either. We're Uchiha. More than anyone, we live for the moment we will find someone whom we can share everything with, be they a romantic partner or a friend. For me, that was Tajima and Kira respectively. For Madara, Tobirama has been both, even if the latter position is shared by Mito and Hashirama. We're all the better for it. Uchiha love. It's best when we have more people to."

'That way, when you loose someone, there is always someone else to anchor you in your all consuming grief,' he thought with bitter, sorrowful resignation as he cast another glance at his grandnephiew. He looked ... happy, despite his relatively recent loss. 'Perhaps I can leave him in their hands after all.'

"Perhaps it is," he agreed, just as the Daimyo finished his speech and there was a polite applause.

He wasn't blind to how Ryukyu relaxed.

Chapter Text

Ryukyu had never been blind to the bond developing between Madara and his various friends. She'd be an exceptionally bad kunoichi if she didn't see it and an even worse mother if she didn't notice it, especially given that she had always known Madara would be ideal for a pact with Ryujin.

She'd known from the first day Madara invited the Senju brothers over that he and Tobirama will have a special relationship that none other will ever match in either of their lives.

Watching them fall unwittingly in love with each other had been almost too bittersweet. She knew her father's story, from both said father before war and battle took him and from her uncle. Setsuna-jii had never hid just how badly her mother had treated her father and Ryukyu knew, was taught from the earliest of ages, that outsiders mostly did not know how to handle an Uchiha's love. Some simply because they didn't want it, others because it was too much for them. Tobirama was definitely not of the first but whether he was one of the latter was not something Ryukyu had been keen on discovering while her son had been so young.

Setsuna-jii had every right to worry. He only had second hand, outsider information on the Uchiha that he had gathered when he realized his only niece was one. She knew what outsiders thought of the Uchiha and their mental health. They weren't exactly 100% wrong but they weren't all that right, either. And Madara was somehow the very epitome of Uchiha being Uchiha and Ryukyu had worried and worried and worried until it became clear that Tobirama ...

Well, Tobirama might bare the Senju name and practice the deeply suited Hatake devotion, but he seemed to, by personality, love like an Uchiha. It might have been from spending so much time around them as a kid, it might be a Tobirama thing, but Ryukyu was just so fucking grateful that it was the case because, and she had no doubt about this, Madara and Tobirama will be inseparable for the rest of their lives if not the rest of eternity as well.

Madara deserved someone who understood his deeply rooted love and need to protect all those he calls his. Mito learned the trait from living with them but Tobirama seems to have learned it on his own, or simply come to terms with it much more easily.

Watching the way those cute red eyes had followed Madara around the entire night at last evening's feast had been fascinating, had been a relief, had been extremely amusing as she watched Tobirama grow jealous or possessive at the seemingly most random of times. Really, didn't Tobirama know by now that no civilian girl will ever catch Madara's eye? Kyoko-himesama didn't seem to bother him that much, though that might have more to do with the fact that he knew she was interested in someone else and the Daimyo's daughter's handmaid didn't seem to dare allow herself to linger with her eyes on Madara. Mito had shared the story of why that might be while the village was rebuilding those first few days. Everyone had seemed cheerier as they listened to the insanity that was Team Disaster's everyday life.

The other girls and women, though? Even some of the lads around their age? Those circulated around Madara like vultures and he didn't seem to notice the nature of their interest as Kyoko-himesama dragged him around and Tobirama followed with a dark scowl.

Mito, the girl she had taken in like her own daughter, one she had never gotten the chance to have with her dear Tajima, whom she loved like her own flesh and blood, seemed rather amused by it all. Ryukyu had no doubt that the Uzumaki had set something in motion. Judging by the often absent glint in Tobirama's eyes when Madara wasn't surrounded by admirers, it was probably something that might finally push Tobirama into making a move and enlighten Madara to how oblivious he was being to his own and Tobirama's feelings.

For an Uchiha, who felt more fiercely than anyone else, Madara was incredibly dense with his emotions.

At least last night hadn't been a disaster.

"I'm quite pleased to say last night went rather well," Setsuna-jii said with a casual hum as he took the tea from a servant and shooed them away, handing it over to Ryukyu to inspect for possible poisons as he by now knew any shinobi would request. The Lady Uchiha sent him a grateful nod and set about checking the safety of ingesting the tea. She didn't doubt they'd survive even if they were to ingest poison, since Team Disaster were unparalleled sensors and incredible iryo-nin, not to mention ridiculously fast, so they'd arrive with more than enough time to save their lives. Wasn't Tobirama their poison specialist? "Aside from that eye talk right before dinner and that needles out of water incident when Fukimo-san's son thought it would be a good idea to attempt to scare the little Hatake, it was not as bad as I had feared it could be, given those friends of his had never been to something like it before."

"Don't be so sure," Ryukyu hummed in return as she set the tea back down and served it for them since she had determined it safe to consume. "Mito is Uzushio's princess. I've visited only once and they certainly don't have the same customs as we do, but it hadn't been so different. I only needed to tell her a few tips to abide by for her to blend in. As could be witnessed by the fact that we rarely noticed her unlike Tobirama who had stuck out."

And Tobirama had mostly stuck out because he had all but glued himself to Madara's side to half glower at anyone who tried to steal her son away. At this point, though, Ryukyu couldn't say if it was jealousy, possessiveness or protectiveness given what and whom they had been talking about.

The webs of Akatsuki ran deeper than they could yet comprehend and The Man was still on the loose, its true leader it would seem. Judging by the part of conversation she had heard, Ryukyu knew Madara could be a target. He fit the parameters needed to potentially control the Rinnegan eyes, what with him being an Uchiha and having some truly ridiculous chakra reserves.

Not to mention he had been kidnapped before, apparently. Possibly for that same reason.

(Ryukyu hated that she hadn't been told about this by Madara or Mito, that she had to hear it from Kira, who only knew because Team Disaster had been chatty while they discussed a plan on how to take Pein down. She'd had stern words with Minato but the blond hadn't heard of it before then, either. Team Disaster had its own secret, it seemed, and Minato was sometimes not included in them. He hadn't known about Madara's contract with Ryujin or Tobirama's Sage Mode until he accidentally found himself in the middle of a tift between Tobirama and Hashirama and a pissed of Madara had come to threaten them with him.)

"And Tobirama's not exactly a Hatake. He may have their coloring, but he's Senju."

Her uncle snorted, very unfitting of a man of his station in the court of the Daimyo. "He may carry their name but he is Hatake through and through. And he was fine, mostly. Fukimo's boy is just spoiled and used to getting things his way. Mada-kun and his little wolf will probably do him some good to get his own head out of his ass."

Ryukyu bit her lip. She loved her uncle, she truly did. People did not realize that just because his name was that of nobility, it did not mean he himself was a stuffy, uptight noble who did not understand or know how to have fun or enjoy himself. He put up that facade for the court, of course, but the reason he was the Daimyo's personal and favorite adviser - besides his intelligence, competence and how well informed he was on everything that he needed to be well informed and, of course, his connection with one of Konohagakure's strongest shinobi clans - was because he could be savage when not surrounded by people he had to put up appearances for. He could tease, he could ridicule, he could gossip and he could poke fun at people. It is rare to find someone with the balls to criticize the Daimyo himself, which is why the Daimyo valued his opinion the most.

It was sincere, if nothing else, not some sweet words that people usually presumed people in power wanted to hear.

"Surely Fukimo-san has taught his son that it is ... unwise to startle a shinobi, though." That just promised a world of pain if not outright death. Shinobi survived because they reacted to such things fast enough.

Not to mention Tobirama was always much more brutal when someone tries to play pranks on him while he is plotting.

You don't interrupt mad scientists in the middle of a good plotting.

Konoha (Hashirama especially) had learned that the hard way.

Only Madara could get away with it.

(Could Tobirama possibly get any more obvious yet for Madara not to notice? The Uchiha Dragoness sometimes despaired for her son. For both her sons, because Izuna was equally as helpless in the field of love. More so because he sucked at courting than Madara's problem with obliviousness.)

(She carefully did not wonder at how her three youngest sons would have fared had they lived to the age to have their first crushes.)

"I think he didn't care," Setsuna-jii, thankfully, snapped her out of her thoughts. "Or worse yet, he somehow learned that which has interested me as well."

Ryukyu wasn't sure if she wanted to roll her eyes or narrow them dangerously. Because her son's life should be no one else's business but his own and his nearest and dearest. Neither Setsuna-jii nor anyone else should have the means to find out about a certain dragon's decision to bond with Madara in a chakra contract. "Hopefully Fukimo-san is wise enough not to test the boundaries of one who can summon a creature to bend the natural flow of power of our world with barely a flick of a (admittedly large) finger."

Ryukyu had summoned Ryujin to the capitol a handful of times in her youth, for various reasons. From getting out of boring court sessions - which, urgh, they will have to attend to one later in the afternoon - to actually needing his assistance that one time someone had managed to knock her out and slap a chakra binding seal on her so they could demand ransom from her uncle and the Uchiha.

The contract with a being like Ryujin, though, didn't depend much on intentionally channeling chakra to summon him to the human's realm of existence. A thought was enough to make the tattooed contract seal on Ryukyu's hip light up with chakra and send out a call to her 'kyuchiyose' partner that Ryujin would then answer by coming to Earth by himself.

That one time had been one to remember. She'd known of her uncle's fascination with a being so completely not of their world and she'd known Fukimo and many others must have been interested as well, but she'd never thought that Fukimo would potentially endanger his only son just to see Ryujin in all his magnificence again.

"Fukimo's boy may not be but Tsuruga-ojousama is rather fond of the boy and he ought to keep him in check," the Daimyo's adviser said unconcernedly and Ryukyu wondered if he really believed that or if he was trying to reassure himself as much as he was her. It was truly hard to say with civilians. But the Daimyo's son was a relatively reasonable young man. Ryukyu will just have to keep her eyes open for some irresponsible shenanigans going on, just in case.

She didn't want Madara being endangered needlessly.

She also didn't want the Susanoo accidentally causing copious amounts of property damage and accidentally taking innocent lives if someone got smart and thought to attack the Daimyo's adviser's grandnephew and technically heir.

"The little Hatake looked like he was planning something and one of the guards on duty said he ran off early this morning to the market by himself," the old man said again after a long silence in which they just enjoyed their tea and the peacefulness of no nonsense going on around them. "Should we worry?"

Ryukyu thought of the look in Mito's eye last night, on how closely Madara and Tobirama had been standing or sitting as often as they could, the intent stare in those red eyes, the ease in Madara's posture when he was there (especially if he had to turn his back). She remembered all of the thoughts and fears she'd harbored for years, thought of the 'claim' she'd heard about, thought of every and each time she'd found Team Disaster cuddled up together, Madara and Tobirama and Mito as close as they could be (thought of Mito's obvious feelings for Hashirama) and shook her head with an amused smile. She even found herself anticipating what her best friend's younger son might think up in his wild genius mind.

"Not at all."

(And if she lied, well, Setsuna-jii needn't know about the craziness and the disasters Konoha went through almost regularly with their resident mad genius.)

(Besides, it was time for someone else to suffer like they did from that same resident mad genius.)

It was about damned time that ball got rolling.

00000

Tobirama was surprised by how incredibly lucky he had been in the market. He'd not only found all the materials and designs he'd want to be a part of the fan he intended to gift to Madara, but he'd also found an artisan who was willing to teach him how to make it himself so the gift was even more valuable because he had put in his own time and effort. The woman had been impressed with his learning speed - and even more so with his ingenious use of Kage Bunshin to faster master what she was teaching while also creating a small factory in her shop to pay off the lessons she was giving him - and had then been impressed with the fan he'd made, declaring it a tessen worthy of her trade.

He'd even managed to finish it before afternoon tea time!

He looked down at the tessen in his hand and smiled in satisfaction. It was a beautiful - and dangerous- piece if he said so himself.

The ribs of the tessen were the size of a normal, civilian fan but were made of a special metal from Land of Snow and while incredibly thin, they still contained a hidden blade that can be drawn as daggers on each end of the fan or be used as an extension of the tessen itself. The fabric covering the ribs was a special one from the Land of Demons, a name he could not pronounce and had never actually heard of, but he had tested it when the merchant had boasted about it and found it worthy of praise and its price. He loved that it was as red as the Sharingan and while strong, it was malleable for shaping and decorating. The wire holding the tessen together was, of course, ninja wire and the thread of the design etched into the tessen's unique cloth material was a type of silk kunoichi from the Land of Hot Springs used for their kimonos to look enticing while being fully protected as though decked out in kelvar.

The integrity and strength of the weapon was worthy of his Hatake instincts and it settled something deep within himself to know this was a weapon worthy of Madara.

The decorations were almost fun to plan, design and deal with.

First, he'd found soft plumage of a gyrfalcon to line the edge of the tessen. It was beautiful, it would appear to Madara's incredible love for his hawks and falcons and it would hide the deadly, secret business end of the fan. Then, he'd found garnets and rubies and obsidian to decorate the spines of the ribs not covered by cloth. If placed correctly, these stones were marvelous for channeling fire chakra, which will go marvelously with the inherent wind chakra generated by tessens. Indeed a weapon worthy of Madara.

And then came the final decoration, the cherry on the cake. He had needed three hours of practice with dozens of Kage Bunshin until he got it right and was confident enough to move away from practice fans to his courting gift to put needle and threat to cloth to weave the stunning - or so said the tessen artisan lady - visual of a magnificent dragon protectively hovering over a beautiful phoenix, fire and water swirling around them.

Not clashing, but not quite yet combining, either.

Almost like the stage right before he and Madara allowed their chakras to form the Ekitai Kasai no Jutsu. It would have been presumptuous on his part to go all the way to that when he doesn't even know if Madara could like him that way instead of just as a friend. (Worse yet, as a younger brother.) It was truly beautiful in his opinion and represented Madara rather well. He hoped the Uchiha would like it.

He wasn't sure he could do better.

(He wasn't sure if he could take it to see all those idiots fluttering about Madara, in Konoha or here, when he'd been harboring these feelings for years and he was sick of waiting.)

So, it was with raw, unshakable determination that Tobirama stormed right into the big hall they were supposed to have tea in soon, senses zeroed in on Madara and he ignored everyone else as he marched up right to the startled Uchiha. Because he was so focused on his teammate/friend/intended, he saw the exact moment that those sharp black eyes fell on the fan in his hands and several emotions flashed through them: surprise, confusion, appreciation and ... tentative hope? Tobirama can work with tentative hope! It's more than he could have hoped for! To have any of Madara's regard like that was seriously a relief.

He thought he heard Izuna release a teakettle noise somewhere in the background, Mito's startled Uzumaki-cackling and even Ryukyu-sama and Akatane-sama hissing at him something about this not being the time for this? Ridiculous! Madara had already seen the fan, was already hoping(?) it was for him, so there really was no reason why Tobirama shouldn't just hand it over now and plainly state his intentions. Madara had always appreciated it when people were as blunt with him as he was with them, after all. It's why he, Mito and Tobirama got along so well from their first meeting to this day. So, really, there was no need for a delay. They might just be confused or something.

-Go for it.- Mito sent in pulses of supporting - and amused; far too amused, but this was the real Mito and he and Madara were used to it - chakra code that only they understood and Tobirama didn't get any rejection ones from Madara even if there was no way that the Uchiha hadn't sensed that, too, so he took a deep breath, bowed slightly as was traditional and extended his gift in both hands towards Madara.

However, this was where words failed him. He actually felt tongue tied for the first time in his life. And at such an important moment, too! He had to clear his throat three times just to be sure he would even be able to speak if his brain started functioning.

-Tobirama?- Madara sent a slightly worried pulse at him and it was that, that simple show of worry and care which allowed Tobirama to speak.

"You've been mine for years. I think it neigh time that we made it official." And he actually winced at his own words. So presumptuous! Madara had been his friend for years, his teammate, not actually his. That had only been in his mind and his heart. His friend had no knowledge of that. -I hope.- He added in a way only he, Madara and Mito would understand and waited with bathed breath for the response.

There was a long moment of tense silence as everyone seemed to be watching the drama ...

And then calloused, warm, pale fingers - only a shade or two darker than his own - brushed against his as Madara accepted the fan. "Idiot Senju," he murmured fondly and Tobirama's head snapped up to see a brilliant smile on the Uchiha's - far too pretty - face. "You sure did take your time." -Of course it is.- The words he spoke and the ones he sent were different and yet they sent the same reassuring and accepting message and Tobirama felt like he might actually float away with how lighthearted he felt. "Now, when are you taking me out on a date? I'm thinking inarizushi."

"Madara!" Akatane-sama gasped, apparently scandalized, and Tobirama suddenly remembered that right before everyone was to come together for tea, the Daimyo's court was supposed to convene about some matter or the other and that the room was full of nobles and officials that had just witnessed Senju Tobirama state his intentions to court the Daimyo's main adviser's grandnephew and apparent heir and said grandnephew and apparent heir had accepted just as publicly.

Kyoko-himesama started clapping like this was the best drama she's ever watched in a theater and Mito - because she was an utter minx beneath all of those proper manners and calm facade - joined her eagerly. Ryukyu-sama just sighed, exasperated and the Daimyo fell into booming laughter about the joy's of young love. Tobirama supposed that no one else's opinion really mattered.

"I'm going to kill you! Get your hands off of my Aniki, you Senju bastard!"

Well, besides maybe Izuna but Ryukyu-sama seemed to have him under control, scuffed like a kitten by the back of his robe.

So Tobirama serenely turned back to his intended - who was marveling at the fan; the Hatake hindbrain was sending pulses of pride and pleasure to him at that, because his mate was appreciating Tobirama's gift and his ability to provide for him and- And he stopped that train of thought while he still could because he won't be driven by his instincts, no matter how much Kaida and his snow leopards might try to encourage it - and offered his hand to the Uchiha. "I know just the place."

Madara smiled even more brightly and unhesitatingly took his hand, letting him Hiraishin them away to the ideal restaurant he'd discovered while getting the things he needed for the tessen.

It was a good first date.

(Even if Akatane-sama - "Call me Setsuna, we're practically family now." - scolded them later about how asking someone to start a courtship in the middle of a meeting of the Daimyo's court was not proper behavior for a court.)

(Even if Mito teased them as well as congratulated them while thinking about all the money she'd cash in from the betting pool their nearest and dearest had been indulging in for years now, apparently.)

(Even if Izuna's poor attempts at a shovel talk were seriously annoying.)

(Even if Hashirama's snot and happy tears were even more so.)

(Tsunade-sama's downing of sake at the news was hilarious.)

Madara's smile was worth it.

Chapter Text

Uchiha Fugaku had been the Captain of the Uchiha-ran Konoha Military Police Force for barely a single year and he was already starting to wonder if Tajima-sama's hairstyle had been a thing of choice or of convenience to cover up all the hair he was losing due to stress and the idiocy he had to deal with on a daily basis. Because surely he'd had it even worse than Fugaku, right?

Back when Tajima-sama - may he rest in peace while his soul burned in hell for leaving Fugaku with the position; the man had predicted correctly that neither of his son's would be eager to pick up the damned position and most of Konoha already knew where fate will lead Madara if their village hoped to survive - had ran the Police, Tobirama-kun had been too young to do any of his more dangerous experiments - not that that had ever stopped Senju Butsuma's genius son - but Madara had also been leaving the village a lot more often, too. Fugaku remembered that first time. Every villager of Konoha remembered it and reminisced about it every once in a while like war veterans about the Second and Third Shinobi Wars.

It had been a nightmare.

And Tajima-sama had still been the Captain when his son's Senju friends had discovered Sage Mode and that one time when they'd gotten into an argument that had left the entire village reeling. (And had been smart enough to send his far-too-much-like-his-scary-mother eldest son to put the fear of a pissed off Uchiha denied their favorite treat to deal with them appropriately, which had left the village shaken. Madara-sama's killing intent was even worse than Ryukyu-sama's.)

He'd been Captain when Madara-sama made a contract with the dragon, when Team 4 had chased Jiraiya-sama of the Sannin around the village half dressed and when the Kyuubi and then later Orochimaru attacked Konoha.

Still, Fugaku was Captain when Madara-sama and Izuna-sama discovered their Mangekyo Sharingan, when they started practicing their powers. He was in charge of the Police Force when Pein attacked Konoha while Team Disaster was off escorting the Daimyo. Fugaku was the one who had had to deal with the clean up afterwards and had been all but put in charge of village security until the wall was rebuilt and the protective barrier established again.

And yet, one of the worst possible things that had happened during his time as Captain of the Konoha Military Police Force was the fact that Senju Tobirama had rediscovered his clinginess to Madara-sama.

That first time had been a disaster worthy of Team 4's name, not that any one after that had been any better. At some point, Tobirama-kun was once again sent to rehabilitation to deal with it again, but they all knew that all that was needed for it to go back to that manic sciencing whenever Madara-sama wasn't home was some time under a/several suppression seal(s). No one wanted to go through that again. Tobirama-kun's mind was a dangerous place, no matter how incredible. They'd rather not test out the improved version of Edo Tensei - one that doesn't need a sacrifice even if it means that the jutsus was temporary - on bunnies again. (Cousin Shiro still has a nervous breakdown if he sees a rabbit.)

Then came another thing of nightmares during Fugaku's captaincy. A week and a half, let's even say two weeks, after Pein's almost successful decimation of Konoha, Tobirama-kun started courting Madara-sama.

It was adorable, it was heartwarming and it was, like all things involving Minato's blasted team, a disaster.

At least there were no explosions. So far.

Two months after Pein's almost successful decimation of Konoha, Tobirama-kun and Madara-sama got into a Fight, completely deserving of both the italics and the capital letter.

There were explosions this time.

What was worse, Madara-sama got offended by whatever they were fighting about and refused to speak with Tobirama-kun. Even worse, they were still on the same team, even if they had no more missions outside of the village for a long while since they wanted to keep their strongest shinobi around for protection until Konoha was wholly back on its feet again. That meant the two teens saw plenty of each other while still being snappy with each other, which meant they argued even more.

The worse came to absolute worst when Madara-sama grew sick of it all, summoned Ryujin-sama and flew off with the dragon who knows where. Apparently not even Minato or his team could sense their wayward Uchiha teammate because Madara-sama must have asked Ryujin-sama to disguise their signatures or take him well out of his teammates' range until both young lovers can cool off before they snap each other's heads off.

Fugaku had heard about it, of course, but he hadn't really noticed how long it was lasting. He was busy. Madara-sama had, of course, decided to go all Hashirama-kun like and had dragged two shinobi into Konoha so they'd have a better life and now they needed to be tested, questioned and integrated into the village so they could actually make a decent life here. Tsunade-sama had not been amused and had dumped half of the responsibilities for integrating Momochi Zabuza and Yuki Haku into their village into Fugaku's lap since they were a 'safety hazard' and a 'security risk', which were at that moment Fugaku's unfortunate concerns. Having that added to his work load had been annoying but he couldn't say he regretted all those hours spent trying to figure things out for the two former Kiri nin when he saw Haku-san's smiles and how content Zabuza-san appeared now that he didn't have to fear for his young partner's safety wherever they went.

Madara-sama had been right that Konoha would make them flourish.

They had joined the Military Police Force since Haku-san was a scarily good hunter since he'd been impersonating an oinin for half of his life and they always needed more suiton users when most of the Police Force was made up of Uchiha, who were rather emotional and prone to arson as an expression of said emotions, so a suiton user of Zabuza-san's skills was appreciated. They didn't cause any trouble, just gratefully accepted the small apartment the village gave them and grew as protective of their home as any Konoha-born citizen. They made friends and Haku-san even revealed he had a pet, an old snow rabbit.

He was focused on the peaceful, adjusting pair that he didn't even notice Team Disaster's two remaining genin - Seriously, why wasn't anyone giving them the field promotion they deserved after all the shit they went through, victoriously and successfully, for the village at this point? Was it their choice? Did they like the reputation of being the only genin team in the ANBU black book? They were trolls like that. Fugaku wouldn't put it past them - growing restless until several of his clansmen, two Sarutobi, a Yamanaka and a Nara brought a feral looking Tobirama-kun into his office, so deeply in sage mode that the Yamanaka and Nara Clan Heads had to work together to keep him under their combined control so that he can be put in a well fortified, well sealed off cell.

Fugaku rubbed at his forehead and wondered if Mikoto will understand that he will be missing date night because Madara-sama wasn't around to have his own to sooth his mad genius of a boyfriend. "What. Happened?"

"Tobirama-san seems to have been testing out some jutsu of his in Sage Mode and accidentally went too deep into it. Mito-san - who was there with him to watch him and is now tending to Akimichi-sama, since he tried grabbing Tobirama-san but Tobirama-san now has claws - says that it should fade away soon and that she already sent word for Madara-sama, but we should try to at least partially suppress his chakra before Madara-sama might come back to help calm him down. Mito-san said she'd come to see to him as soon as she can."

Fugaku rubbed at his forehead harder as he felt a headache coming on. "And the ears and tail?"

"Part of going too deep into Sage Mode," one of the Sarutobi offered. Looking up, Fugaku saw it was his distant cousin's Kagami's teammate and friend, Hiruzen, the soon to be new Clan Head of the Sarutobi. If he remembered correctly, then those fools were all collectively a little too interested in Tobirama-kun and the crazy shit he gets up to for their own or anyone else's good. They had a habit of enabling him to do said crazy shit, especially if Madara-sama wasn't around to keep an eye on them. So far, Torifu had been the mildest and the kindest towards the village, even if they had all grown sick of the countless explosions until Tobirama-kun figured out the Akimichi special food pills.

At least that experiment had had rather pleasant side effects.

Tobirama-kun was still looking into their Red Pills, if memory served well.

The brunet man looked at the albino with the fluffy snow leopard ears and tail, the sage markings on his face making a work of art as they mixed with the red tattoos the kid had had for as long as he had the red Byakugo seal on his forehead and sighed, motioning at the temporary holding cell right across his office where usually political or high-end prisoners end up until they can figure out what they're supposed to do with them. Fugaku's granduncle Obito had loved putting the Nidaime in there for reading porn out in public, if rumors were to be believed. It had been the inspiration for Jiraiya-sensei's desire to write the best ever porn book in the world that even the connoisseur of the genre will be blown off his feet when he reads it.

Whether he had been planning on showing it to him in the Pure Lands or whether he was the reason Orochimaru even knew about Edo Tensei in the first place was not something Fugaku liked to contemplate. Kakashi-sama - because Fugaku will never understand Minato's desire to hang around the weirdo, even if it had benefited him in the long run to do chores for the lazy old man - was their weirdest - and horniest, maybe? - Hokage yet and Uzumaki Naruto had been the Shodaime. Fugaku wasn't fond of him but he also hadn't exactly celebrated when the man died in his early thirties protecting the village. Many had cried. Fugaku had just wondered if he'd finally see his old teammates that had left him years earlier in the Pure Lands.

The Captain watched them settle Tobirama-kun in just in time for the Yamanaka and Nara Clan Heads to lose their grip on the Senju and he was treated to a truly feral Tobirama-kun nearly scratching their faces off. Hiruzen, indeed, seemed far too entertained and intrigued by Tobirama-kun for him not to have somehow been involved in whatever experimental jutsu had resulted in this.

Fugaku resolved to speak with the brat's mother. Kurenai-sama ought to give him a good trashing, no matter either of their ages.

It took ... hours for Tobirama-kun to stop trying to get out of the cell. Had he had his full mental capacity and abilities, he probably would have been out of there immediately, but whatever had happened was seriously messing with his brain as he paced like a restless tiger in his cage. Fugaku had the questionable delight to watch him work himself up and then down, not sure what was actually going on but it looked like the natural energy fused with his chakra was pulsating at the weirdest of times. The Uchiha didn't know what to do but watch and he grew rather uneasy when the Senju stopped prowling his cell altogether and just looked contemplatively at the bars that held him in. Nothing ever came when this particular Senju got contemplative or thoughtful. Nothing.

It was fucking unnerving and Fugaku felt ashamed that a fourteen - or was it fifteen? Fugaku didn't exactly keep track of Minato's team's ages. Better not to think about the little terrors too much - year old could make him so uneasy.

Still, he'd like to see anyone else, even Sandaime-sama, to just sit there while those red eyes watched them with unwavering focus, that dotted, long, fluffy tail only occasionally flicking this way and that. He's not sure if there was a living being - besides perhaps Madara-sama and Mito-san, but those two have been declared non-human since the Kyuubi's attack and didn't count - that wouldn't be freaking out right now, especially if they knew what kind of brain actually rested beneath the feral instincts brought on by this strange fusion with the Sage Mode.

He was not getting paid enough for this shit.

He nearly slumped in relief when he overheard various voices greeting the Uchiha Heir moments before Madara-sama himself appeared in the hallway between Tobirama-kun's cell and Fugaku's office. The future Clan Head looked at the occupied cell, where Tobirama-kun had gone unnervingly still, not even a twitch of his new ears or a flick of his tail, even his breathing seeming to have deepened and evened out to the point Fugaku almost thought that the white haired teen had gone into a meditative state. Madara-sama frowned before turning those black, furrowed eyes at the Captain. "What-"

But he never actually got the chance to ask whatever it is he had wanted. Because the second he turned his attention away from his teammate slash childhood friend slash boyfriend, the younger teen was suddenly out of the cage in a familiar flash if not the yellow color Fugaku was most used to, appearing behind Madara-sama and grabbing onto him so fast Fugaku's Sharingan automatically activated because everything in him screamed danger. Madara-sama only got to yelp before Tobirama-kun yanked at his traditional Uchiha high, wide collar and buried his face into the crook of neck and shoulder. Fugaku didn't exactly need the Sharingan's extremely sharp perception to know that the Senju must have attached his mouth to the skin he'd just bared, even without the flush and startled moan coming from Madara-sama.

The Senju purred and wrapped his long tail around Madara'sama's waist and upper right thigh, which at least seemed to snap the Uchiha Heir out of it. "Fugaku! Give me a hand here, damn it!"

Fugaku took one look to the dangerously glinting red eyes and the way lips peeled back to reveal sharp teeth - since when does Sage Mode do that!? He's pretty sure it never did something like that with Minato or Jiraiya-sensei! Maybe Orochimaru, but that guy was a creep who did all sorts of things to his own body so no one could actually tell what was the cause of which modification - and made a snap decision while praying to all the gods, great and little, that this won't come back to bit him in the ass.

"Nope."

The way his future leader's eyes widened at that would be extremely funny if not for the consequences he knew he will face sooner or later. "Fugaku, don't you dare-"

"Have fun."

Tobirama-kun rumbled in approval and before Madara-sama could really protest, the Senju hauled him up into his arms and just vanished in the light of the Hiraishin. The brunet man didn't even look up when several of the Uchiha police officers poked their heads inside of his office with wide, startle, worried eyes, just sending them away with a wave of his hand. He'd made his bed and he was ready to sleep in it, though he's not sure whether his officers were worried about the retribution will face or the fallout of said retribution that might befall them, too. They were at least smart enough for that.

Fugaku, though, honestly wondered if he'd doomed all of Konoha for a moment before brushing it off and getting back to his work.

He went, surprisingly, undisturbed until the end of his shift, got back home at a reasonable time, had dinner with his lovely wife and got to relax and get some good, much needed sleep, the creepy thing that had happened at the office completely slipping from his mind until he was walking to work the next morning, only to come across his Clan Heir on the way. Madara-sama looked ... disheveled would be the politest term, even if the most correct one would truly be 'well and truly fucked'. His hair was in an even worse disarray, the bags under his eyes actually looked like eye bags and not tear troughs, like he hadn't slept a wink last night, his clothing was rumbled, the high collar near ripped apart with how it hanged pathetically around his neck while said neck was littered with love bites and actual teeth marks. He was either hiding it or he had healed himself so as not to show a slight limp in his gait.

Honestly, if no one knew where he was - or rather who had taken him wherever - people would think he'd gotten mauled by some wild beast.

It actually still sounded like a good description.

"Had a good night, Madara-sama?" And because Fugaku was obviously suicidal and a masochist to booth, he was apparently going to poke the beast.

The glare the teen sent him was hard, hot and sharp enough that, for a second, Fugaku actually wondered if the black flames of Amaterasu will burn him to oblivion. "You're going to pay for that, Fugaku. Mark my words. I'll be your Clan Head one day and your life will literally be in my hands. Wait in fear, asshole."

If Fugaku wasn't used to his Clan Heir's flare for dramatics and his overall temperament, he would have probably already been trembling in fear. As it was, he knew Madara-sama would never actually raise a hand against anyone in his clan. Though his penchant for petty revenge should be feared. Madara-sama had access to some invaluable and terrifying resources - Uzumaki Mito, Senju Tobirama, Nekomata-sama of Sora-Ku, the Kyuubi no Kitsune, Ryujin-sama - and a strategic mind that seriously terrified some adults. He should not be prompted to turn those to mischief.

Still, Fugaku had one true hope he was actually sure will probably come to pass one day soon, anyway. "They'll probably make you Hokage first to stop your friends' crazy shenanigans, so it's more likely Izuna-sama will be Clan Head. Not to mention, with his preferences, he'll have a spouse who can give him Sharingan babies - though that's also a terrifying thought, if he and Touka-san were to procreate - and you know the elders will insist on that. Though it's a shame your strength won't be passed on to the next generation. Besides, any babies from you and Tobirama-kun would be adorable."

He regretted ever saying a single teasing word in his life when he saw a considering glint in Madara-sama's eyes, even if a part of him idly wondered if he had picked that up from Tobirama-kun or the other way around since it was eerily similar to the look he'd seen yesterday in the younger Senju Heir. Either way, on anyone from Team Disaster, that look was bad news.

"Madara-sama-"

"You have a point," Madara-sama interrupted before the older Uchiha could say anything else. Fugaku blinked in confusion, to which the wild haired youth smiled that serene Ryukyu-sama smile that sent shiver down anyone's spine and Fugaku felt dread pool in his stomach like led. "I guess I'll just have to tell Tobirama he'll have to work extra hard so he can make not only Science Hyuton Babies but also Science Sharingan Babies."

"Hyuton babies ... ?" Fugaku repeated dumbly, not believing the words coming out of his mouth. Did Haku-san even know about this? More importantly ... " ... Sharingan babies ... ? ... wha-?"

"Science Hyuton and Sceince Sharingan Babies," Madara-sama said with a confirming nod, his smile going from Ryukyu-sama's serene one to a perfect copy of Tajima-sama's most smug, self satisfied one that Fugaku had ever seen on his former superior officer. "Thanks for the lovely reminder to that troublesome problem, Fugaku. I'll be sure to reward you by letting you babysit the little angels whenever neither Tobirama nor I are free to do so. Truly, I thank you for this wonderful idea. Now, if you would excuse me, I need to go change and wash up before I go back to Tobirama to inform him of this genius plan of yours. You do know he's working on this with Tsunade-sama, yes? I'm sure she'll be happy to hear she'll be getting grandnephews from both her godsons/nephews."

Fugaku felt faint, like a single gust of wind would knock him over and take him away. He almost wished it could as he watched Madara-sama walk away, cackling in delight at the new way to torture someone he'd just invented. Fuck Morino and their torture techniques. Madara-sama was obviously the one shinobi in all of the Five Elemental Nations you should never piss off.

He wasn't sure how he found his way to the Police station, but the second his underlings saw him, they all thought he was sick - "You look like you've seen a damned ghost! You're paler than our paperwork sheets! Go back home, we don't need you keeling over and making us take you to the hospital or, god forbid, Tsunade-sama or her Team Disaster!" - and immediately escorted him home, where Mikoto was having tea and sweets with Kushina and young Menma. The second the two women saw him, he could see their faces morph in worry and he laughed shakily even as he let them drag him to sit down.

"Anata, what's wrong? Did something happen? Should we alert Ryukyu-sama? The Hokage? Minato?" Mikoto asked in quick succession and Fugaku gave a weak, shaky chuckle.

"Mikoto, Kushina, you know I am the Captain of the Military Police Force ever since Tajima-sama ... Well ..." The two nodded, frowns marring their faces. Fugaku chuckled again and he knew he was unnerving them but fuck that. Just imagine how he feels! "So how do I, in the name of the law - and our peace of mind, our collective sanity - arrest a mad scientist who is my best friend's student, my Clan Heir future Clan Head/Hokage's boyfriend and my current Hokage's nephew? Because I don't want Science Sharingan Babies of Madara-sama and Tobirama-kun to babysit!"

He thinks it utterly unfair that Kushina is cackling at his very serious plight. He hopes she chokes on her own air but that would be too merciful with what's in store for the rest of them.

He really should have just kept his stupid mouth shut.

Chapter Text

Kurama, the Kyuubi no Kitsune, the strongest of the biju, centuries older than any creature in Konoha, was quite satisfied with his current life. It wasn't often that a biju was treated as well as he was by his Jinchuriki and the villages they found themselves living in. Shukaku had it really bad with Raza and how everyone feared him, Matatabi and Gyuki at least had each other as support and Chomei's Jinchuriki was extremely lonely despite them both being ditsily friendly towards everyone. Isobu probably had it the best in that that no one seemed to fear him and his Jinchuriki's were more often than not respected.

Well, Kurama had it truly the best, but he was thinking of his 'siblings' situation first.

Kurama seriously had it leagues better than the other eight biju. For one, he'd made friends with Uzumaki Naruto early on and they'd spend most of the man's long (he reached his eighties, both due to his Uzumaki blood and to Kurama's presence) life bickering and teasing each other, working together like a team and Kurama had been extremely sad to see his first host go. He'd never wanted to be put into a human so his strength can be used as a weapon, but Naruto had been kind and Kurama will never forget the brat he'd come to call his kit.

His second best Jinchuriki was undoubtedly Mito and it came from forging a friendship not with his Jinchuriki herself but with her friend. Uchiha Madara, in some ways, reminded Kurama of Uchiha he had encountered in the past but never actually being anything like them. Madara was confident but somehow not really arrogant - it's not arrogance when there is skill to back it up - caring, protective and intelligent. Most of all, he had freed Kurama from That Man's hold, taken control for himself but hadn't even attempted to use Kurama, even if it was clear he more than had the power to do so. He had done it with the regular Sharingan! Not the Mangekyo, the basic Sharingan. Madara was obviously powerful but his only ambition was to keep those he cares for safe.

With a single short encounter with the eleven year old Uchiha, Kurama had decided to put his trust in him and to this day, it was one of the best things he could have done.

Senju Tobirama and Uzumaki Mito were wary of him at first, as was pretty much everyone else. Madara and his mother were not allowed to leave the village for weeks, if for two very different reasons. Madara, because the kid could control him, Uchiha Ryukyu because she was the only one with the means to subdue him since her summon was even older than he was. It took time before people started relaxing and trusting that he wouldn't attack them on his own. It happened, eventually, and then Team 4 was all too eager to test out the changes to the usual Jinchuriki seal matrix they'd made to see if it worked.

From that first day when he'd manifested into the physical world the size of a house cat in front of four curious, different colored pairs of eyes, Kurama had been declared an official part of what will come to be known as Team Disaster. Their mascot, Madara would tease just to get the fox to snap at him, but it had never been malicious and his opinion had always been accounted for.

It took quite some training before he and Mito managed to work together and everyone became comfortable with the idea that he could pop out of the seal however he pleased. He was mostly content to nap away the time until something more interesting was going on. Mito was quite hesitant to disturb him and only Madara seemed quite eager to invite them in any fights Team 4 might find themselves in. Perhaps it's simply because he, as someone to whom fire is as easy as breathing but is also someone of immense power that sometimes just begs to be unleashed it's overwhelming, understands that Kurama would like to let off some steam from time to time as well. It's actually through Madara's insistence that the Kyuubi join in on their fights that he and Mito began getting along.

Mito and Tobirama were still wary and awfully respectful of him and while he appreciated the respect part, he also longed for companionship as easy as the one he'd once shared with Naruto, who had treated him like family because he hadn't really had one growing up. And Uchiha Itachi, too, had been one of his favorite humans. He'd always had so many questions, had never wanted to use Kurama as a weapon, had desired peace even if he was born in the time of war.

He could see his two friends in Team 4 and he longed for such a relationship with them, too. Tobirama was just as brilliant as Itachi, maybe even more so, and he was so young. He must have even more questions for the Kyuubi than Itachi ever had. He'd overheard the Senju when he got interested or excited by something which he didn't understand but wanted to. It took nearly a year for the Senju to openly ask him the questions he really wanted whenever Kurama decided to have a spell with his human companions outside of his Jinchuriki. And Mito was much like Naruto in all the most important ways. She valued her friends and would go to the ends of the earth for them, she was fierce and an incredible warrior but with a kindness one would not expect in a person who used to be made fun of for something as silly as hair color. She'd come to a completely new place with nearly all new faces and none of the old ones she knew and held dear and she'd prospered, made friends, made a home out of this new place so completely different from her own childhood home. She'd adapted and now calls Konoha home, her village.

Madara was a strange mix between Kurama's two old, long gone friends. He was Uchiha through and through, as he'd observed from the beginning, but it took some observation of the wild boy for Kurama to truly start understanding him. He valued all of his loved ones to near infinity if not more, he would do anything for his home, his clan, he may enjoy fighting and was extremely good at it but he was a pacifist at heart. He knew how to make friends out of people without even realizing it. In a way, people simply came to him without him or sometimes even them being aware of it. People knew they could trust him. Perhaps it was the same faith soldiers hold in their generals, trusting them to lead them to battle and back home to the best of their ability. Madara definitely could be a war general, if it ever came to it.

But perhaps that which made him think of Itachi and Naruto than his skill, his intellect and his people skills - which were actually sometimes rather questionable, but no one was perfect - was his smile, his acceptance of people no matter their background or the fact they had tried to kill him second earlier. Madara was practical to the bone, as were his teammates, but his ingrained desire for peace was what allowed him to reach out if there was a chance.

Haku and Zabuza benefited from it.

Hell, Mito and Tobirama were so well off today because of it! Madara was the one that had banded them together. It seemed crazy, especially if you put him and Senju Hashirama, his best friend, to stand next to each other. Madara was prickly and temperamental and was gifted with quite the pair of lungs that he tended to use to their full capacity far too often to yell. But he had his ways and Kurama had had the delight to watch how it helped make Team 4 into Team Disaster.

His human companions were all also incredibly determined and sometimes overwhelmingly stubborn. Kurama had seen each of them try to 'walk off' injuries that should have left them near crippled for life. They had a tendency to get themselves into some serious shit and not rely on anyone else if not from Team Disaster to solve it. Kurama was often touched to find out that he was a part of Team Disaster perhaps even more so than their sensei. Namikaze wasn't told about Ame kidnapping Madara, about Tobirama's new Sage Mode, about Mito mastering higher stages of the chakra cloak, about Madara's new summoning contract, Tobirama's new experiments, Mito's many new seals that litered their clothing and some weapons. It wasn't out of a lack of trust, it was simply that Team Disaster often forget to inform their sensei but Kurama was always informed first because no matter what, it's more than likely he'll need to eventually fight with them and it's best to keep him well informed and they trusted him to have their backs on it. It was really touching and it made him exceptionally protective of them.

They were still so you, just children. But they were powerful and indispensable.

What's more, they wanted to be right where they were so Kurama had vowed to himself that he will always protect them.

It's why he hated Pein, That Man, Orochimaru and Kinkaku and Ginkaku so much. It's why Maito Dai and Hyuuga Hitoni annoyed him so much.

He was protective and he wasn't ashamed to admit it.

Which was why he helped Madara, Mito and Tobirama train as much as he could. He wanted them stronger so that the likes of the above mentioned dangerous annoyances (except the last two, those they could already deal with with no problems and no assistance) could never endanger them again like they have in the past.

Which was why he was training with Madara and Hashirama. Madara wanted to master his Susanoo and the only things that could stand up to the chakra construct were Kurama and Hashirama's Senpo: Shin Susenju, the later even proving to be powerful enough if used seriously to destroy the Susanoo.

Which, in retrospect, none of them had considered a possibility right up until the moment it did, breaking through the armor and striking Kurama underneath it, making him stumble and making Madara fall right off his head, left to plumet towards the ground as he reeled from having the Susanoo taking so much damage all at once. Kurama tried to catch him but couldn't do so without accidentally crushing him, so it was a relief when Madara landed on the ground without his assistance. Still, Kurama frowned when he thought Madara's chakra signature gave an interesting ping to his senses, almost as if in pain - had he landed on his foot wrong? - but the watching Team Disaster did nothing more than call out to see if he was okay, to which the stubborn Uchiha just scoffed and replied that 'Of course he was'.

"I still think you should quit with the Susanoo training today. Hashirama-kun, please spar in kenjutsu with Madara-kun for a while before we end it for today," Minato said and that was that. Kurama huffed but stood down, waiting for the Susanoo to dissolve around him. Madara was scowling - pouting - at his sensei but obediently took out a katana so he and the Senju Heir could practice. Kurama decided not to go back into the seal or even take up a smaller, sociable size, feeling more like silently watching the two spar than share comments with Mito and Minato at the moment like he would usually do. He would hear them talking, of course, but he wouldn't be required or expected to talk back.

That was enough.

Madara and Hashirama, in many ways, reminded him of Uchiha Sasuke and Uzumaki Naruto, too, and some other people before them, long ago, that he preferred not to think about. It's not like he'd ever been fond of those two and Sasuke had never been his favorite brother of the two with whom Naruto had created strong bonds with. Sasuke was all that Madara could have become after his brothers' deaths, if for the single difference that Madara had created strong bonds with people outside of his family and clan to ground him in his immeasurable pain and grief. Sasuke had never allowed himself to rely on anyone else and that was what lead to his eventual downfall.

Madara, on the other hand, had created a family of his own with the bonds of friendship. The Uchiha Clan as a whole in this time was much more open to outsiders and everyone's used to seeing Senju and Uzumaki going in and out of the fire clan's compound, equally as they are used to seeing Uchiha going into the Senju compound or really anywhere else in the village. Naruto would have loved it here but Kurama's not sure if Sasuke would agree. Itachi had dreamed of this, to an extent, but he had never lived to see it with his own eyes.

(Perhaps not the best turn of phrase given that Sasuke had the Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan, but you get Kurama's drift.)

Kurama was old. Really old. He'd seen so many generations come and go, had seen times and cultures and habits and opinions change, had watched so many familiar faces pass until there were none that he could say he really knew. Naruto had been his first friend in a really long time. He'd not even spoken to the other biju in centuries, too bitter by certain losses and hating humanity for their need to wage war, their battle lust and greed for power and riches. He was so glad Konoha was built. There had been wars, more devastating in nature than ever before, yes, but once those were settled, villages could live in relative peace.

He was glad, more than ever, that Team Disaster was banned from the Chuunin Exams given what they were supposed to replace. Mito, Madara and Tobirama had no place in that bloodshed.

Besides, he was actually pretty sure his human companions didn't even want to be promoted. They took far too much satisfaction out of people underestimating them when they hear 'genin Team 4', the mind always focusing on the genin part instead of the 4. Team Disaster had started out under Minato as Team 4. Four, an utterly unlucky and almost cursed number anyone even slightly superstitious would be terrified to be put under or to hear that a bunch of kids now carried it. Team 4 turned into Team Death but it all somehow settled on Team Disaster. But people tend to forget that. They hear genin and think weak. They hear genin and think easy.

They meet said genin and regret it.

"Hey! That's not fair! Don't go using jutsu, Madara~!" Shouted Hashirama with a pout clear in his voice and Kurama turned his attention back to see what was going on.

"It's not jutsu, it's my Sharingan, idiot!" The Uchiha shouted back, his eyes indeed the blood red color of his clan's Kekkei Genkai.

"Doujutsu, Madara, doujutsu!"

"It's also kenjutsu, you brainless halfwit! No one said I couldn't use it!"

"Minato-sensei~!"

"Madara-kun-"

"You didn't give any rules other than not using the Susanoo. I'm not using the Susanoo, am I?"

"Well, no-"

"He is right, Minato-sensei."

"Tobi~! Why are you taking his side? I'm your brother~!"

"You'd take Mito's side if you were in my place, too, so shut up and spar, anija. Tonight's date night."

"Madara~! You've turned my own brother against me~! How could you~!?"

Kurama chuckled as all Madara did in reply was rush at the Senju again, katana raised and the two continued their spar. He'd missed how silly humans could be while he'd been inside Kushina. Don't get him wrong, watching the Yellow Flash flail through a courtship with Wicked Eyes Fugaku and the White Fang despairing behind him had been golden, but he'd missed what it was like to experience human silliness by himself. They were ridiculous, wonderful, curious creatures when not waging wars.

"Well, if you can use your Kekkei Genkai, then so will I!" The older Senju declared at some point during their spar but didn't actually seem to get the chance to do anything about it. From what Kurama had observed, Hashirama preferred ninjutsu, relying more heavily on his mokuton than any weapon and if he was using a weapon, he preferred that ridiculous sword that was simply too wide in height. If Madara had looked ridiculous with his gunabi at first, when he'd been a preteen, Hashirama looked completely stupid with that sword. Seriously, Kurama sometimes wondered if the Senju had just chosen it to rival Madara's gunbai. It just wasn't practical for most close combat situations, where a thinner, lighter sword would be preferred.

Not to mention that Senju Tobirama and Uchiha Izuna were the swordsmen of their little group. Madara and Mito, as such, often trained with them and were about as proficient with the weapon as they were. Kurama didn't even know who was on Hashirama's team, if he was honest. He'd never even tried to find out, but he's pretty sure none of them used a katana. He was pretty sure Mikoto had been his sensei and she didn't use it, instead specializing in shurikenjutsu. Even if they were both genius shinobi, Madara and Hashirama differed in what went easier for whom.

It didn't take long after that before Madara's experience and familiarity with a katana earned him a victory, tripping Hashirama up and holding him at sword point so he would yield. These two practically took turns on who would win which day and if Hashirama had won their MegaSpar, Madara was bound to win their next spar, which happened to be the kenjutsu one.

"Yield, Hashirama. This round is mine."

"That's what you think," 'Hashirama' and Hashirama said at the same time as the real Hashirama surged from behind Madara's back unexpectedly, sword pointed straight for the Uchiha's heart.

It all happened as if in slow motion from there.

Hashirama lunged, clearly expecting for Madara to have sensed him the second he had appeared behind the black haired teen. Madara, apparently, didn't, as he stiffened and tried to turn around to block but it was too late. Kurama was only vaguely aware that he and everyone else was jumping to their feet even as the sword far too easily pierced flesh and muscle and bone and muscle and flesh again, going cleanly through Madara's chest in a way that the great fox was sure he will have nightmares about for eternity. Madara's eyes widened, the Sharingan flickered and his breathing stuttered before his eyes went black and he fell from a frozen Hashirama's sword, which only made the wound worse.

Blood coated the pebble covered ground immediately, making a puddle beneath the Uchiha just as the other members of Team Disaster appeared at his side.

Kurama, though, reacted on instinct and wasn't sure if he would even regret it later.

He swiped at Hashirama like a fly to get him as far away from his injured companion.

He cursed his hearing when he heard Madara stop breathing.

His chest did not rise up.

Chapter Text

Pain. All Hashirama felt was pain. His whole body hurt. He guessed that's what happened after the Kyuubi no Kitsune punches one through a boulder and half a mile of old trees without preparing yourself for the impact. Honestly, the Senju Heir wasn't sure how he'd even managed to survive or remain with all of his bones intact. He felt like he'd been ran over by Kinkaku and Ginkaku or like he'd fought Pein by himself all over again. He rather didn't like the feeling.

It couldn't be compared to the feelings that hit him when he realized he had ran his best friend through! From behind! Madara hated having anyone at his back but his teammates and family and Hashirama and he'd gone and disrespected that by attacking and actually hitting him from behind! If Madara survived this, he won't ever want to see him again, let alone-

He cut himself off when he realized he'd thought IF and not WHEN. It had to be when. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if-

Hashirama cut that thought process off, too, instead getting up and rushing back to the clearing where they'd been training together since late morning. He wasn't as fast as anyone from Team Disaster, and that usually never bothered him but gods did he wish to have his brother's speed right now. The few minutes it took him to get to the site of his unintentional crime were torture but coming to the clearing brought no more relief than he could have hoped for. In fact, it brought none.

Because a part of him had foolishly hoped, childishly, that Mito and Tobirama, as some of the best iryo-nin in Konoha, if not farther, would have just done their thing and the wound would have been healed already. Despite him having taken up learning iryo-jutsu himself, he had hoped, had wished for it to be true instead of having to come back to his brother desperately trying to stop the blood flow while Mito struggled to regenerate the tissue he had so callously cut through in a fit of carelessness he had not been prone to since he'd been promoted to jonin. He had hoped, but he had forgotten that Madara was the best surgeon of the tree and the wound first had to be properly treated before they can just close it up. Mito was the best inclined to be a medic nin with her chakra and her heritage and Tobirama's control was unrivaled, but Madara had somehow become their default surgeon for any more grievous wounds, only partially because he had the reserves to withstand the surgery by himself.

Minato-sensei was attempting to help as best as he could, apparently breathing for Madara at that moment and doing his best to do heart massages without interfering with Mito and Tobirama's ongoing work. Tobirama was no doubt pumping blood through Madara's body so his organs won't suffer from this but his brain was the one most in danger here if he were to be saved from death's clutches. The brain can only survive four minutes without oxygen before there is permanent damage and with his left lung definitely severely damaged, his body wasn't getting enough air.

And it was all Hashirama's fault. He had done this. No one else could. Madara was too strong even for his own teammates to ever do something like this. Only Hashirama could hurt him like this, because only he was slightly stronger than Madara and only he was the one his friend would trust like that. Madara had trusted him not to ever seriously hurt him in a spar and what had Hashirama done? He'd gone and spit on that. Madara, who was too much like Tobirama sometimes, so paranoid, never able to truly relax, never able to truly trust except those whom he'd grown up with. Madara, who was his first friend, his best friend, a brother from a different mother, his platonic soulmate whom he had trusted with secrets he doubted he'd ever told even his brothers because he was their older brother and they should never know of the things that terrify him, how weak he could be and he'd been weak for Itama and Kawarama and he'd proven weak for Tobirama because it had been Madara that always provided Tobirama comfort and now he was weak for Madara-

"Oi! Get a hold of yourself, Senju bastard, and help them damn it!" The Kyuubi's voice broke through what Hashirama only now realized was a devastating anxiety attack. His vision was near black with all the spots dancing in front of his eyes and he would have no doubt fainted and hit his head had the great fox not snapped him out of it before he could spiral so far he'd be useless. Not only useless, but also a liability, a distraction when Madara needed all the attention- "Oi! Didn't you hear what I just said!? Get to it before I bite your head off!"

The older Senju brother wanted to be grateful to the biju but he wasn't sure if he should be. The Kyuubi was standing hunched over like a giant overprotective she-wolf or something over her cubs and the look in those sharp, red, split-pupil eyes was chilling him to the bone.

But that would never stop Madara, had never stopped Madara before. His friend had never allowed for anyone else to face dangerous things if he could help it. He'd fought the Kyuubi and then the Ichibi all on his own, had learned to control biju just so no one would have to risk life and limb in fighting them. Had fought Orochimaru of the Sannin, had faced various foes over the years, had come to face Pein after a rough fight not even hours before.

If Madara could and would do it, Hashirama would honor his best friend in the same way.

The Kyuubi didn't maul him on approach but when his brother's red eyes snapped up at him from where he was desperately trying to keep his first friend and most precious person - Hashirama wasn't blind, even if he is rather dense at times - he thought Tobirama might. But Madara's life was more important than Hashirama's fear/guilt and Tobirama's rage/despair, so the paler Senju said and did nothing as Hashirama came to kneel next to him, hands glowing with a scanning jutsu to check on Madara's status before he can see how to help.

He nearly puked in disgust at himself as he realized what he had done. Madara's left lung had collapsed entirely, his heart had been nicked by the katana and even a small part of Madara's right lung had been grazed, so seriously low levels of oxygen were getting into his bloodstream and to his organs. Mito had managed to repair the right lung and the nick on the heart but she was having ill luck with regenerating the tissues and cells for his left, much more damaged lung.

He didn't know how Madara was even alive let alone how he was supposed to help. He'd done this and he-

"Focus, Hashirama," Mito, beautiful, wonderful, focused Mito, covered in the lines of her Byakugo seal so she can more efficiently treat Madara, snapped and he flinched, but he did as was requested. "I need your help. Your healing and regenerative ability is even more potent than mine. I need you to rebuild his lungs, one cell at a time, as I fix the blood vessels, the ribs, the skin and the muscle. Tobirama is going to continue pumping his blood and Minato-sensei is going to continue breathing for him but you need to fix what you've done and here's your chance. If we want him to survive, Senju Hashirama, he's going to need all of us."

The brunet nodded, shaky hands coming together to rest over the wound. He could see from the corner of his eye how Tobirama twitched, as if itching to shove his hands away and that hurt, but he understood. Tobirama, brilliant, genius, desperate Tobirama, too, had his Byakugo unsealed as he focused on practically pumping his lover's heart for him. Tobirama will no doubt break if they lose Madara now. Madara was the one that had held him together after Itama and Kawarama ...

They had both held each other together so they don't break apart. They'd held the pieces until the other was ready to put them back together.

Hashirama would never forgive himself if he ended up killing his best friend but he would never be able to live with himself if his actions destroyed his last remaining brother.

So he pushed all of his unnecessary thoughts out of his head and focused, green healing chakra flowing into his hands and glowing much more intensely than the other two. His chakra reserves truly dwarfed Tobirama and Mito on their own and the Kyuubi's chakra wasn't conductive to healing anyone and anything else but its own host so Mito couldn't exactly use the biju's power to make this easier.

Usually, Madara would be doing something like this, using his senses and his Sharingan to see the damage he was fixing so he can carefully, diligently fix every last bit of it. Hashirama felt like a fake, a fraud, an intruder even as both Mito and Tobirama uttered instructions. He debated going into Sage Mode so he could have some sensory ability of his own but he knew it wouldn't be helpful in this. He didn't know how to use his sensory ability to detect damage so he'd only be wasting time and there was no telling how his Sage Mode would interact with healing someone. He didn't want to accidentally grow flowers or something in Madara's chest! Hanahaki disease was scary enough as fiction and would be utterly terrifying in real life.

"Kurama-san, please go alert Tsunade-sama that Madara will be in need of a hospital room, ASAP. And please find Ryukyu-sama or Izuna. They need to know what's going on. We'll transport him with the Hiraishin to the hospital as soon as he's stable," the Uzumaki in their group said and there was some sort of poofing sound before the sun shone down on them full force again with the Kyuubi gone and them no longer being in its shadow. "You're doing good, Hashirama. Keep going."

"Not enough oxygenated blood is getting to his brain," Tobirama said and it sounded like it was coming from far away despite his brother being right next to him. "We need this done faster."

"I'm on it. Just keep going," Mito replied and Hashirama saw from his peripheral view that she was bunching up her kimono shirt's long, billowing sleeve and putting her bared forearm in front of Madara's mouth. "Come on, you stubborn ass. We're not losing you now but you need to help. I need you to bite me real hard. Did you hear me, Madara? Bite as hard as you can and drink. It's good for you, I promise. You trust me, right? That's it, there you go."

Hashirama's head snapped up when he heard that, only to see Mito coaxing the downed Uchiha to drink blood from her hand! "Mito-"

"Shut up and do your job, Hashirama!" Tobirama snapped and he flinched, surprised by the lack of 'anija' and the vicious tone in his little brother's voice. The glare in those eyes was even worse. Hashirama gulped and did as he was told. It was his fault Mito was doing something like this in the first place. He had to fix it.

He noted immediately that the healing was going a lot smoother and considerably faster now. It would seem that the stories about the Uzumaki's blood and chakra were true. The older Senju nearly collapsed in relief when one side of the wound in the lung finally healed, completely closed. It made fixing the other one so much easier and then he continued going since Mito was more focused now on Madara's 'transfusion' than anything else. It came easily now and they all did collapse a little with the first clear breath Madara took on his own. Tobirama stopped artificially pumping blood through his body but kept the bleeding at bay while Mito joined Hashirama in closing the wounds.

When it was all done and they were all soaked with sweat from their efforts, Hashirama was really disappointed that Madara didn't immediately wake up, even if he knew that his body must have put him in a natural temporary coma so it could deal with the stress it's just been through.

"We need to get him to the hospital," Tobirama said after just a moment of them breathing with Madara. "He needs to be monitored until we can be sure that the healing patches will hold and that there won't be any relapse."

"I'll take us," Minato-sensei said, the two other genin nodding even as they allowed their Byakugo seals to close up and go back to normal. Hashirama briefly wondered why Madara hand't simply used his or why Mito hadn't forced it open so he can heal himself when he knows they'd done something like that for his friend and relatively recently. Back when little Menma had been kidnapped, if he's nor wrong. He figured there must be a reason why not now, too, but he honestly didn't understand the seal well enough to even dare asking. "You two need some rest, too. Hashirama-kun, hold on tight to Mito-chan."

He did as he was told - the only thing he was good for at the moment was following orders - and watched with empty eyes how tenderly, protectively Tobirama cradled Madara, as though the Uchiha might break. It wasn't a pleasant image, not when the other was usually so loud, so strong, so full of life, seemingly untouchable, invincible, unbeatable. Even Hashirama always wondered if he was actually Madara's match despite how evenly the beat each other in silly ninja contests they make up for themselves, in their spars. Madara just exuded that sort of air that made one believe he was unable to lose.

It was a painful reminder that Madara was still perfectly human.

Tsunade-sama was waiting for them when the Hiraishin landed them in the hospital. The grim set of her mouth eased a little when she saw that Madara's wound had been treated but the concern in her eyes was obvious when she spotted the blood soaking his clothes.

"Damned brat. Always getting yourself into these situations and making us all worry." The words were supposed to be scolding but were achingly gentle and Hashirama knew, had always somewhat known, that Team Disaster were Tsunade-sama's favorite, that she always worried, for Madara more than the others because he usually insisted on taking the brunt of the damage for them all, but seeing it only made him feel more like a monster for what he had done. He wanted to disappear so he wouldn't have to face Ryukyu-sama, Izuna and Hikaku when they heard. It may be cowardly of him but he just couldn't- "Let's get him settled in. I'll check his Byakugo's reserves so we can unseal it and let him heal himself until he's good as new. I'll have him monitored for the next twenty four hours, just to be safe. You two need to get some rest, too. I'll have them bring in extra cots for his room. Minato, I expect you in my office bright and early tomorrow. Hashirama, you go with them. You need some rest, too, by the looks of you."

"Yes, Hokage-sama," they all replied even as Madara was gently placed on a wheel table and carted off towards whatever room he was assigned, Tsunade-sama hot on the hospital staff's heels and Tobirama hot on her's, eyes never leaving Madara's prone form.

"I need to go speak with Ryukyu-sama," Minato-sensei said a few minutes later when the mother in question arrived with Izuna and the Kyuubi - the size of a hunting hound now - in tow. It left Mito and Hashirama alone and he nearly jumped out of his skin when she put a single gentle hand on his.

Her eyes were gentle, worried and forgiving when he met them. She wore an expression that said she understood, which didn't seem fair to Hashirama. Why would she understand?! She didn't-

"It was an accident," the redhead said before he could go down another spiral for what seemed to be nth time in the last hour? Two? More? He's not sure how long they have been working on Madara before he was stable enough for them to breathe a little and then healed enough for the Hiraishin jump. "Everything is alright. He will be just fine. No one is blaming you."

"You should," he insists, tears running down his cheeks and he didn't even realize it until Mito used her free hand to wipe them away. "You really should. Madara almost- If we hadn't- If you and Tobirama hadn't- He would have- And I-"

"But we don't. He isn't. We were there, all of us. He will recover in no time and he won't be angry. Pissy, maybe, because he will have to spend days in the hospital and you know he hates that, but he won't blame you. He won't hate you, Hashirama. You're his best friend."

'He maybe won't blame me and will act like nothing happened, but he will never trust me again. Not with his back.' That was ... devastating to think about and he knew it would be true. He couldn't bear the thought of it. Madara, his dearest, most precious friend, he who had always been there for Hashirama when he had needed him, he who had never hesitated to show him his back, will wake up, look him in the eye and never again let him leave his sight because Hashirama had broken the bond of trust between them.

It made him crumble, imagining Madara smiling at him but without that one spark in his eyes that always used to be there, and he broke down crying. Mito caught him and held him up, kept him steady in her strong arms and just let him cry, carding her fingers through his hair.

"It will be alright, Hashirama. Everything will be alright."

How he wished he could believe her. Desperately. With all of his being, he wished to believe her.

But guilt was drowning him and he nothing will be the same ever again.

And it was all his fault.

Chapter Text

Ryujin had not always been alone.

Once, there had been thousands, millions, billions of creatures just like him, inhabiting a world that no human mind could possibly hope to imagine. Eons ago, he and his kin would travel the universe, see innumerable planets, soak up the warmth of the most brilliant of stars, learn things and hoard knowledge from so many different creatures and cultures, so many different species, only to return to their home world, isolated from the rest of the universe in a galaxy that was only their own, to rest and share their new knowledge before going out again. They were powerful, strong enough to destroy or devour whole worlds if they so wished, but they were peaceful. They never used their power against other species, not even those who might turn hostile on them in their journeys.

They were content to travel and learn and explore and discover, because not even after innumerable eons of flying all over the universe have they managed to see everything. There was always something new to find, always something unique to intrigue them. It was a nice existence, a nice way to live out a near immortal life.

That all changed, one day, many millennia ago, when people of white hair, white eyes and pale, pale skin suddenly breached their little galaxy, which they had thought, up to that very point, to be impossible. Firstly, the galaxy itself was hidden in asteroid fields and poisonous space gasses that almost no other species could travel and survive. Secondly, they had learned, by themselves and from watching other species, how to hide their galaxy. They were powerful, so that made them either dangerous or desirable, to either extinguish or steal their power, their knowledge. Many have tracked one of them down to their galaxy and even if they somehow managed to get passed the dangers protecting it, they had never managed to find it, to see or detect it.

The people of white did. Their pale eyes, pupil-less and with no shine, managed to see, somehow, the flows of energy of their galaxy, of their world, of themselves. They managed to breach all of their defenses and they lay waste to everything in their way, planted a deadly seed on their planet and watched in sick delight as they were soon all destroyed, one by one, their energy being given to the monstrous people of white with their horns and their dangerous eyes.

Ryujin had been far from the oldest of his kind when he was forced to leave his planet, but he had been one of the strongest despite his, relatively, young age. He and a few others had been sent away while they could still run, still hide, still survive so that their species may live yet again, if somewhere else. He knew his fellow survivors had been hunted down within the first hundred years of their exile, just like he knew his home world was no more.

He, Ryujin, was left alone, to hide and seek peace for himself elsewhere, away from the people of white.

He was a fugitive, a survivor, the last of his kind.

He traveled alone, for centuries, millennia, until he stumbled upon a pretty blue planet with lush green vegetation and various lifeforms, far enough away from where he had last heard word of the people of white for him to decide he could settle there for a while. Tired and exhausted, he found a place for him to rest and slept for decades, centuries maybe, when he felt a disturbingly familiar presence break this peaceful little planet's atmosphere.

He was awake instantly. He was prepared to flee or fight, ready to defend himself should it be necessary, but it turned out that the two people of white - a man and a woman - had not come to this world for him, but for the same seed that had killed his own world. Ryujin realized he must have slept much longer than he had thought as his destination of choice for slumber was no longer so peaceful. The dominant species of this planet, at least where he was now, was at war with each other. They resembled greatly the people of white and several other species Ryujin had seen in his life. They called themselves humans.

The people of white separated, the woman staying near the accursed seed while the man set off. It did not take long to figure out that the man was the stronger of the two, the more experienced one, for he seemed to be searching for Ryujin.

After all that he had been through, Ryujin was not as keen to peace as he used to be. The humans were a young species. They had much to learn, to discover. They were innocent in the grand scheme of things, for they have yet to discover the world beyond their own. Ryujin would not say he particularly liked them, but he sympathies with them and he was not about to let the people of white destroy another planet. Not if he could stop it.

He was well rested and still much more powerful and much more experienced than the man of white. Ryujin tried not to think much on the fact that he had just taken another's life, something he had never done before, something that none of his kind had ever done before.

Survival tasted both bitter and sweet in his mouth.

Of course, while he had been leading the man away to a safe place to do battle, things had progressed with the woman of white as well. She had apparently found a lover in an influential human, had conceived with child, had been attacked and had defended herself and another human she seemed found of. The woman of white was then betrayed by her lover, her human friend was killed and she ate a fruit forbidden for only one to consume, if Ryujin understood the customs of the people of white correctly, gaining unimaginable power.

She was strong, stronger than the dozens of her kind that had come and wrecked his own home world. It's what made him realize that the people of white consume their powers together after they are harvested from any of the numerous worlds they do this to.

The woman of white enslaved humanity and Ryujin had to go in hiding to prevent himself from being lost like them, like his own kin had been. He may have wanted to help them but if he was already too late, he will not give himself and his own power against something he did not know how to fight. He had no real choice but to hide so he can see - and fight - another day.

Years later, the thrall above ground ceased and Ryujin dared rear his head to observe this world yet again. The woman of white had born two sons, it would seem, and they had sealed her away in the new celestial body that was quickly named the Moon. Ryujin snorted at the humans' naivety and self importance. There were dozens of trillions of moons in the universe. Their's was only special because it housed a woman of white as its prisoner. And maybe not even in that. Not even his own kind had ever seen the entire universe so it was impossible to tell if this was the first one like it.

The woman of white's sons split up, one going to the Moon, the other staying on 'Earth', having sons of his own and starting a clan. Ryujin ... Didn't really pay him or his clan any attention right up until the point when, one night, out of the blue, the son's sons did battle in a way no kin ever should, resulting in the older one being defeated. He had started a clan before his death, it would seem, and they demanded his body back, declared the younger's clan their enemies and so began a war Ryujin had honestly not thought would last as long as it did.

The elder's clan stayed united while the younger's split into two and they sporadically fought the war with the former.

Ryujin was of the opinion that the woman of white's elder son was an idiot for sharing and spreading the power for which the people of white had even targeted their planet for, thus creating a new, more devastating form of war, but Ryujin was not about to be dragged into human stupidity. He'd thought them naive, at first, but now he saw that they knew exactly what they were doing as they created new, better, more inventive ways to kill each other for power and greed.

He left them to it, mostly keeping to himself as centuries passed. It was inevitable that someone would see him at some point, though he had not been prepared for the knowledge that his kin must have visited this planet before, for they had a name for them. Dragon, they said in awe and reverence and fear and power-greed. They tried hunting him, allying him, banishing him, using him, killing him, for years and years and years and he always made it clear that his answer was no, hid the true potential of his power, hid himself away.

It's how he missed the formation of the new world order when it eventually came, villages instead of separate clans, respected shinobi instead of paid mercenaries.

It's how, decades after that, an eighteen year old Uchiha Ryukyu found herself in his lair. She'd literally fallen into his hiding hole of the past two hundred years, having been on a mission and running away from a large squad pursuing her with a broken leg from the knew down. To this day, Ryujin remained impressed with her stubborn will to live, even if they hadn't exactly gotten off to a good start upon their first meeting. Ryujin was suspicious of humanity as a whole and Ryukyu was unsure if he was a trap or a trick meant to lead her to her slaughter. She wouldn't let him heal her wound until she passed out from the pain and when she woke up, Ryujin refused to admit he had healed her.

They had both known they were acting like brats but they were also both prideful. Ryukyu was a fierce kunoichi used to being feared for her temper and her strength while Ryujin was a dignified, ancient creature that had traveled the universe, seen hundreds of worlds and survived the genocide of his own kin. They were both prideful, arrogant and more concerned with their own problems so they had little time to concern themselves with the other's.

But Ryukyu was also incredibly stubborn and not at all intimidated by the fact that Ryujin all but dwarfed the biggest and oldest of boss summons or the biju - another idiocy of the woman of white's elder son, but better - or that he was powerful enough that he could level the forest overhead with a twitch of his fingers. She persisted and poked and prodded at him until they started talking and became, surprisingly quickly, great friends.

But by that point Ryukyu had stayed away from her village for far too long and she had to return lest they declared her MIA, KIA or a deserter. Ryujin had been reluctant to see her go, as she had been the first person he had had a true conversation with in ... far too long. Ryukyu herself seemed to not want to just up and leave like that, either, so she proposed to him something he could not have possibly hoped for.

A summoning contract the likes of which shinobi had with animals from an alternate dimension of their own world. It would not only connect them by their very life energy, but it would also provide him a way to enter the animal dimension, where he would not have to hide from humanity.

It was too good of an offer for either of them to refuse.

Ryujin's life didn't exactly change all that much. He and Ryukyu had talked a lot between meeting each other and binding themselves in a contract unlike any other any human had ever seen before - true, it was based on what Ryukyu could tell him about how kyuchiyose contracts worked, but Ryujin was hardly something like the native creatures of this planet and thus needed a specific, unique contract for himself in order for this to work - and Ryukyu understood that Ryujin would rather not be used in human wars like little more than a weapon. She understood he wasn't fond of them, wasn't fond of shinobi, so she promised to never, ever, ever call on him in battle unless it was dire or world-ending. Ryujin didn't tell her he would answer even if it wasn't that dramatic - he learned that was an Uchiha trait - or so severe, knowing she will understand - hopefully - and instead thanked her for the promise and left for the animal dimension for the first time while she returned to her village.

There were some rather obvious changes to his lifestyle. For one, he had chosen a quiet, isolated habitat in the animal dimension for himself that had previously belonged to no one - apparently, the dimension itself changes to accommodate any new kyuchiyose who ended up there, be it through birth or other means, so it was always peaceful here - near identical to the little forest he used to live in back in the human world. He had a big, deep cave that went underground after a while, a big lake and a clearing in the sun for him to enjoy its warmth. He didn't need more, didn't ask for more, but then other animals became interested in the newcomer and he made enemies with the snakes from the Ryuchi Cave who were his first neighbors and he ad to defend the territory he'd claimed. He swears that, out of the three biggest, supposedly strongest summons in this dimension, only Katsuyu was normal while Gamabunta was a grumpy idiot and Manda was an arrogant fool.

Ryujin didn't like any of them nor their smaller fellows.

He didn't really like anyone here. They were even more foolish than humans and humans he could at least ignore and avoid. The animals, he just had to put up with so he placed barriers on his lands and went back to enjoying his existence. Ryukyu called on him a few times - mostly to help in escapes or setting traps or simply scaring the shit out of random people, be they enemy ninja or stuffy, civilian nobles at the Daimyo's court - and their relationship progressed until they were kin not by blood, but by strong bonds.

Ryujin truly liked the 'Uchiha Dragoness', as her nickname came to bee soon after they made their contract. It was always a pleasure to come to her aid if she needed it.

Another of the very obvious changes to his life came from that bond, actually. Their contract was unique, made in such a way that barely a thought was enough to send out a hailing for Ryujin and he could honestly travel through the dimensions just fine on his own since he now knew the way and had an anchor on both sides for even easier access. Their contract that they had constructed together allowed for Ryujin to feel Ryukyu even when they were thousands of miles or different dimensions apart. It allowed him to feel when she was in trouble or if she was seriously injured.

He'd nearly panicked each time she'd given birth, though he'd showed up for it only the first time as he had not known what was going on and had been ready to level armies all on his own. Ryukyu's mate, Tajima, barely managed to explain to him what was going on before he could start tearing apart their village. Later, when it was done, Ryukyu had insisted her friend Kira and her mate Butsuma help her waddle over to where Tajima was missing the birth of his first son - not that he would have been allowed in the birthing room, anyway, so he should have really been grateful more than anything that he'd been given something else to do other than pace uselessly in front of the door - so he could meet the bundled up, miniature human Ryukyu proudly named as Madara

The child may have seemed perfectly ordinary to just about anyone, but Ryujin had immediately detected the immense potential for power that the boy held. The babe burned as brightly as a star and Ryujin found himself wondering if he was going senile or if it was just nostalgia talking since this was the greatest warmth he'd felt since he'd settled on Earth. He'd decide only years later that it was only partially the latter, when Madara almost grows into his full potential to truly burn as brightly as any star.

Ryukyu's son would grow, years later, to desire a contract with him as well and Ryujin found he rather liked Madara. Loud, temperamental, powerful and a smudge arrogant but also kind, caring, generous and incredibly intelligent, Ryujin found he rather liked having Madara as his only other summoner. Clearly the compatibility with him was a family trait, since Madara seemed to take so much after his mother. Only the shade of his skin and the exact color of his hair seemed to come from Tajima. Everything else was from Ryukyu. It suited him.

The gold glowing, dragon in coiled flight shaped contract on his hip suited him.

Madara called him even more sparsely than Ryukyu, though he was thankfully not born in a war but rather in peace, even if he ran missions twice as dangerous as the ones from the past had been.

Madara had been the one hurting the most when that tragic night happened and yet neither he nor Ryukyu had called. He'd felt their pain and had come to assure himself of their safety, only to find Madara just slipping into some obviously much deserved rest, bloody tears trailing down his cheeks as two families leaned on him for support, a behemoth of chakra he'd glimpsed an Uchiha use only once or twice before. Once, decades ago, another time whole centuries ago.

He'd known Madara was a special child, of course, but he'd never imagined how special, potentially, until he'd seen the Susanoo and the teen had been unconscious.

He'd known he'd have to keep a better eye out for Madara in the future. Things were changing. Something was coming, a bigger game was at hand and no one truly knew what that meant, for the Uchiha, for the biju and Jinchuriki, for Konoha, for everyone. Guesses were not enough. Not when so much was at stake.

Then, one day, he felt pain shot through Ryukyu before her chakra was suddenly out of his reach. He could still feel her, but not detect her. He could feel Madara and detect him perfectly, which confused him. He knew many kyuchiyose were being summoned to a big fight in Konoha, but he had no more information than that and Madara, when he relocated back to the village, made no attempt to summon him. Ryujin didn't so much relax as he eased when he felt Ryukyu properly again not long after that. He's not sure how much time passed for the humans, but time flowed differently in these two dimensions. Ryukyu made a social call after she recovered to fill him in and he felt dread fill him.

Somehow, for some reason, this reminded him of the people of white. They had plots like this, powers like the ones Ryukyu described.

He did not like the implications, especially when he learned from his first summoner that his second one had been kidnapped by this group at some point in the past.

Things seemed deceptively peaceful since then. Ryujin wasn't holding his breath. Not when the threat of the people of white, so many years after he had last even thought about them, was looming over this world again. He wasn't even sure how or who or when or where. Only the why. That was obvious - power. Maybe even revenge. The woman of white wasn't dead, just sealed away, in the Moon shinning overhead. If someone learned how to unseal her, aimed to do so ...

Ryujin did not want to think of the consequences. He knew he would do it again, kill another person as he had all those centuries ago. He had more reason to, this time. Two whole, concrete reasons besides protecting an innocent world from those power-hungry tyrants. He wouldn't let Madara and Ryukyu suffer the same fate as all others of his kind have. Ryukyu and Madara were now his kin.

He would protect them.

Only he had failed, hadn't he? For just a moment, for several of them with interventions in between, he'd felt Madara die. He didn't understand. Ryujin could feel his chakra flicker out, stay dead, then come back, stay alive for minutes at a time before it flickered out again. Every time he thought to go to his younger summoner, to save him, his chakra would be back and he didn't know what was happening, if it was a suppression seal of some sort, if he was some place where there is interference between the two dimensions. All he knew was that Madara's chakra kept flickering and flickering, dead and alive, dead and alive, dead and alive until, after what felt like an eternity, it finally settled, stabilized, but agony of pain was still there.

Madara had been hurt.

Madara had nearly been killed.

This was confirmed when, what might have been moments or hours later, Ryukyu's signature lit up with unbearable pain and anguish and loss.

He panicked.

Konoha panicked when they saw him descend from the skies like a hunting eagle, not that he cared. All he cared about was in the hospital building, in a single room until Ryukyu and her bedridden son were suddenly transported to the Hokage Mountain, only Madara's younger teammate with them. He noticed the commotion this caused in the hospital but paid them no heed.

Madara, so frail and fragile in the white sheets of the hospital bed and the silly hospital gown he was wearing, was all that mattered.

"Training accident. He hasn't woken up for two weeks," the white haired child, mere year or two younger than his younger summoner, Ryujin didn't know, said when Ryukyu didn't answer quickly enough the questions his mere presence silently posed. "He's fully healed, but he just ... He just won't wake up. He should have but he's ... He's not ... And I ... We ... We don't know what to do." Kira's son, this boy was, the dragon realized, recognized. Tobirama, Madara's new mate. This was the first time Ryujin was officially meeting him. The Kyuubi was usually more than enough to assist Team Disaster if they needed something big and ancient and Madara followed the same promise Ryukyu had made to him years earlier.

He looked haggard, harrowed. Tired and worried and fretting beyond simple words. Two weeks was ... a lot, though not the longest a coma, non in the least, could last. But Madara was a healer. His teammates were healers. He was a fighter, a survivor. He should have, indeed, woken up. If there had been any fatal wounds on him, they have been so thoroughly dealt with that Ryujin could not detect them. Perhaps there was a scar left, wherever it may be, but nothing about Madara felt ill or injured.

He should be waking up, should be awake already.

He'd never stayed on bed rest for two weeks before.

Clearly, the two before him knew that.

Clearly, it is what worried them the most.

"Ryukyu-sama said you can heal better than any human can. Ryujin-sama, I am well aware you are found of him and that I need not ask, but I beg you regardless. Please heal him." Tobirama, Madara's mate, the family he had claimed for himself years before he had officially been introduced to Ryujin, bowed to him, his words desperate and truly, indeed, unneeded.

Ryukyu and Madara were his kin.

Perhaps that made Tobirama kin, too. He's never met the rest of their close ones except Kira, Butsuma and, of course, Tajima. Perhaps he should. He wouldn't mind having more kin, even if he won't be creating contracts with anyone else. Not willy nilly, as humans say.

Thoughts for later contemplation.

"I have something better in mind. Young one, take Madara and come to my head. I believe I have just the thing to rouse him from this sleep." Ryukyu looked ready to protest but Madara's mate already had his second summoner in his arms and was approaching respectfully, obediently. Ryujin stayed still as the two teens climbed onto his head, to rest on the bride of his nose, between his eyes. It was obvious Tobirama did not know how to settle to make himself comfortable, but he was sure to position Madara just right. Ryujin did not need to look up to know his summoner was all but in his teammate's/friend's/mate's lap. It is the most logical position for holding on to someone should what is obviously to be a ride get rough. "You needn't worry for him, Ryukyu. For either of them. I will return them healthy and whole and fine tomorrow at sundown. You know you can trust me. We are kin."

Uchiha valued family, love above all else. Dragons, as humans have named his kind, valued kin just the same. Ryukyu understood what he had said, what he meant. She was obviously hesitant to leave her son out of her sight, but Tobirama would doubtlessly be there for him and Ryujin would never do something to harm someone he had declared his.

Ryujin ascended to the heavens, erected the barrier around himself that allowed for smooth and safe travel before he left Earth's atmosphere altogether. He heard Tobirama gasp and would guess he was clutching Madara tighter as the gravity of their home planet lost effect the further that they went. Space was beautiful. Humans once had a clear view of the galaxies, of all the stars in their own galaxy, before the Moon came, before it reflected the light of the sun in the night and blinded humanity to the wonders they had once gazed upon, had wondered about.

Weeks ago, when Madara had been angry with his mate and sulking about it, Ryujin had shown him this exact same wonder, this beauty, and Madara had been enraptured, had asked of Ryujin to keep his body from needing sleep so he could see everything while they were still up here, since he knew he would have to return to earth from beyond the clouds soon. Sharingan eyes had never stopped observing, stopped admiring that which had once been Ryujin's.

"Why did you ever leave all of this behind?" He'd asked with a voice still so full of wonder and Ryujin had had to think of a way to tell the truth without tainting this experience for his young summoner.

"I got tired and lonely. I wanted a home, kin, even if I knew I would never have any in the true meaning of that word." He had resolved, long ago, that only Ryukyu will know his story. Perhaps he will change his mind, one day, for Madara, but that day had not been then. Madara had been enjoying himself too much for Ryujin to ruin it with his story.

Tobirama was obviously meant to be Madara's mate. He was just as enraptured, perhaps even more. Ryujin had never taken even Ryukyu off of her home planet. Only Madara and now his mate. And Tobirama still clutched desperately yet all too carefully, so gently at his second summoner that Ryujin found his old heart yearning for something similar that he knew he could never find. Not when he was the last one.

It took some time, but eventually he felt the Uchiha stir, obviously somehow sensing where he was, with whom. Tobirama waited with bathed breath and even Ryujin paused in bathing in a far away star's light as Madara finally groaned and cracked open his eyelids. The white haired child released a sound that might have been a mix of a keen and a sob.

"Wha?"

"Thank kami!" Whispered Tobirama at the confused question and Ryujin hummed in amusement, reassurance, to his summoner's question.

"It was time for you to wake up, little one. You were late. I prompted you to hurry up." He noted that there was ... Something a bit strange about Madara's signature now that he was awake. The changes felt muted and he actually doubted even sensors the likes of Madara - whose body was in question - and even Tobirama - who was unrivaled even by adults, even by their sensei - could sense and detect them. There was just something ... different there. Almost uncomfortably familiar but it was still so Madara that he brushed it off.

"Do we have time for some more explorin'?" Madara asked with the slightest of slurs to his words, obviously body still exhausted from the coma, but the Uchiha seemed persistent to take as much of the galaxy in as he possibly could, even if Ryujin could not feel the distinct patterns in his chakra when the Sharingan was active.

"I need to get you two home before your mothers start worrying. You've been asleep for far too long."

He left it up to Tobirama to fill Madara in on the way back, taking his time so both teens may marvel at all that lay beyond the world they were familiar with and thought they knew. After hearing Tobirama out, Madara was even more stubborn about staying awake so that he can reassure his mother and brother that he was fine, show Mito and Tsunade that he didn't need to go back to the hospital - Ryujin rather doubted that they'd agree - and whack Hashirama over the head for daring to think that one accident was enough to ruin years of friendship.

When they finally made landfall, Madara was far too exhausted to go through with his plan beyond falling into his mother's arms when Ryukyu helped Tobirama get them both safely off, mumbling about not needing hospitals, idiot Senju and needless worrying because he was stronger than that, never mind that both of his lungs and heart had been damaged.

Ryukyu just cradled him closer as he finally fell asleep again, tearful eyes locked on Ryujin's. "Thank you."

Ryujin saw no need for that gratitude nor for acknowledging it beyond a single nod before he left for the animal dimension to rest and potentially wait for Madara asking another trip out of Earth's atmosphere. Madara was kin.

More so than Ryukyu, it would seem, as he was just as fascinated with the stars as any 'dragon'.

This time, should the people of white come, Ryujin will fight.

He no longer needed the stars to find kin.

Chapter Text

The peace after the Akatsuki 'fell' didn't last long.

For one, as far as they all knew, at least two more members of the organization were still at large, still alive, still plotting something and one was an Uchiha with access to a pair of Rinnegan eyes. Whether he or someone else will be using them was up for debate and had, indeed, been debated for long, tiring hours both in Konoha and then, later at the Kage Summit.

Team Disaster, as Tsunade had known she would take them, had been there and it was, perhaps, only thanks to their presence that they survived the Summit at all. The Man, claiming himself to be none other than Uchiha Sasuke, had been there, had shown up in the company of Orochimaru and his cronies, one of whom just so happened to be a creature called Shin that had the Sharingan and had nearly managed to kill them all despite their skill levels and the so called Uchiha Sasuke had just watched.

Then, when the dust settled and the creature was all but dead under Mito's enlarged chakra cloak hand, Uchiha Sasuke declared the start of the Fourth Shinobi War and stated his intention to catch the rest of the biju for himself and make a new world order with him as the leading power.

And all of that was fine and dandy, only it meant that the last three remaining uncaptured Jinchuriki - Raza of the Sand, Killer B from Kumo and Konoha's Uzumaki Mito - were ordered to stay at Turtle Island with the rest of Team Disaster, save their sensei, as their bodyguards.

You can guess how well any of them took the news.

Mito was perhaps even more infuriated about it than her teammates. Neither Madara nor Tobirama liked the idea of their brothers, mothers and cousins fighting against what turned out to be an Edo Tensei army without them, but neither did she. Nor did she like the implication that she couldn't defend herself. She and Kurama-san were in perfect agreement. They worked as a team and neither wanted the Kyuubi extracted by the man claiming himself to be Uchiha Sasuke. At least now they had a name for him, though Kurama-san seemed doubtful about the identity behind that ugly mask.

The Kage were not to be swayed, though. The name was power and it banded the five big hidden villages and all the smaller ones under a single banner and they went to war while the last thrre remaining Jinchuriki and their new 'guards' were kept under the stern eyes of the Raikage and their own Hokage for extra protection. The other hidden villages hadn't exactly had the chance to be turly informed about the new strengths and skills that Team Disaster acquired since that one disaster week long mission all those years ago. They thought Team Disaster would get overwhelmed.

Tsunade-sama knew, of course, that that was a load of bullshit but she didn't want them on the front lines any more than their sensei or their families. Which was even more bullshit, since they knew best just how well Team Disaster can handle themselves.

Needless to say, no one was happy and half of the people on the island were eyeing them with open wariness, just waiting for one of their legendary tempers to snap or for them to make their escape. Luckily, no one had had the bright idea to try and put any sort of seals on them, not even something to block their access to the Hiraishin. You never know when someone might attack and they need to make a quick escape.

Mito fought back a sigh as she watched Madara work himself up into a tiff as he paced, his chakra agitated with the knowledge that his family, his clan, his friends, hims comrades and fellow Konoha shinobi were out there fighting a war without their best asset to ease the way. Tobirama was meditating to counter his boyfriend's agitation, though it was clear he himself was heavily annoyed. Raza and Killer B were silent, the former watching Madara with interest while the latter was watching all three of them warily. It was probably a smart move on his part. Madara and Tobirama had unleashed the Kyuubi and infinitely multiplying paper bombs on his village first and anyone who can wrestle Ginkaku and Kinkaku - before or after acquiring some of Kurama-san's chakra - was no laughing matter.

What neither of the two outsiders realized was that Madara was most probably working on the best plan for them to get out of here and join the fight before too many people died needlessly and Tobirama was not just meditating but extending his senses, gathering information on numbers, positions, identities of the reanimated shinobi, possible strategies on both sides, all of which he was silently communicating to his two teammates. Madara was the one who needed that information but Mito got the message as well by proxy of knowing the code like her teammates.

"I am honestly surprised that you've let yourselves be kept from battle," Raza said some time later as he came to sit beside her, pale green eyes still tracking Madara's every move. Madara paid him no heed, his strategic mind otherwise occupied with more important matters. "I half expected you to blast your way out of here and march over to the worst battlefield to show everyone who Team Disaster is and why you're so infamous."

"We are being kept as a last resort, apparently," Mito answered casually, glancing at her fellow redheaded Jinchuriki. Kurama-san and Shukaku-san had a really strange relationship where they both hated and loved each other like bickering siblings but neither wanted to talk about it. Mito didn't push and she's not sure if Raza even spoke with his biju. Not everyone was on such good terms with the 'monsters' they were forced to host. She's not sure but she thinks Killer B and Gyuki-san - the Hachibi - get along relatively well but only Kurama-san has any true freedom, freedom bought for him by Madara, years ago, and his willingness to make allies and peace for everyone. "They know we have what is needed to deal with the reanimations." Whether it be Tobirama's knowledge in either how to overtake the control from the summoner or to free them from the control tag that made them puppets or even the seals she and Tobirama both had developed to best contain even the strongest - the Kage - of the Edo Tensei shinobi. And that's not even mentioning Madara's Amaterasu that would keep burning the reanimations right back into regeneration every second until he decides to put out the black flames. "They simply asked for the ways we would do it and we provided them with the information and the seals. That, however," she says with emphasis when Tobirama's eyes fly open and Madara startles mid step, a clear indication that things were about to start getting rather serious. "Does not mean we will stay here until they decide we can fight. Tobirama, Madara, what is going on?"

"That Man - Uchiha Sasuke or whoever he might be - he knows our location. He's coming this way and he has the other Jinchuriki reanimated coming with him. We can't stay here," Tobirama swiftly explains and Madara nods.

"There's more," the Uchiha says with a dark scowl. "It's just as we'd speculated. He has at least one Rinnegan eye. I can feel the same pulsations in him as in Nagato - Pein, the Leader of Akatsuki," he explained at the blank looks the other two Jinchuriki gave him. "The Jinchuriki are directly under his control, not either of those snake bastards'."

"That bastard!" Killer B snapped, apparently enraged on behalf of the Nibi's Jinchuriki, who had been somewhat of a mentor and an inspiration to him when he had first been turned into a Jinchuriki himself. "I'm going to kill him! Till there is no life in him, yo!"

"We shouldn't confront him. It would be suicide," Raza said as a voice of reason but Mito just shook her head.

"He'll come for us sooner rather than later. Tobirama is right. We can't stay here."

"Then how do you propose we leave? I take it you have something up your sleeve." Mito wasn't actually sure if the riming and rapping was endearing or utterly annoying. It wasn't nearly as important right now to debate over that, even if Kurama-san was of the opinion that it was definitely the latter.

"The Hiraishin is not a jutsu that can be restrained easily and no one even tried," Tobirama pointed out, wrinkling his nose in distaste to show his own opinion on Mito's wondering from seconds ago. It would seem she had unintentionally projected that through her chakra. Perhaps she was a bit more antsy about this whole situation than she would have admitted. It was understandable. Even Uzushiogakure was joining in on the fighting, so that meant not only her found family was fighting, but so was her blood family. She finally understood how Madara felt almost every day of his life. "It would have been a risk to try and contain us in case of a situation like the one threatening to happen right now. As such, we have a way to leave and lead That Man away from the strategy headquarters."

"We should split up," Madara finally pipped up with a plan, something Mito and Tobirama had honestly been waiting for. Minato-sensei was a good strategist and Mito and Tobirama each had good ideas often, but strategy was definitely Madara's strongest forte. Most of the time, he was the one to concoct plans for them. "Most of all, the Allience needs our support in dealing with the Edo Tensei army. Tobirama tells me that the Fourth Division is facing the worst opposition from the enemy. One of us, preferably Mito or Raza, needs to go give them a hand in sealing the poor bastards away."

A sound plan, as always. The Ichibi had a natural power for (cursed) sealing that would allow Raza to easily deal with several Edo Tensei soldiers at the same time while Mito had the advantage of all but being an officially fully trained seal mistress at this point. An Uzumaki seal mistress, at that, one who has mastered the Kongo Fusa that can hold biju, so she, too, can restrain and seal several opponents at once. Not to mention that the both of them have a biju's chakra to support them should their natural reserves ever run out. They'd be invaluable in a fight on the over-stressed front lines.

"I'll go," Raza said resolutely,making everyone look at him. "It is fact that Team Disaster causes the most devastating destruction when you are all together and losing me would be a much less devastating blow than losing either you or Killer B," the other redhead said as he met her eyes. "Besides, I've been squirreled away here when I am the new Kazekage. I should be fighting with my people, should be their first line of defense. I refuse to hide like a coward."

Mito and her teammates had, of course, known that Chiyo's youngest brother had taken the position as Kazekage some time after their first and last joined mission all those months ago. They had seen him at the Summit, had congratulated him for achieving such an honor, had wished him a long and prosperous office and he had been as genuine in his gratitude as they had been in their well wishes. It was funny how well some shinobi could bond over a single mission while never having seen eye to eye before.

Raza had ended their little moment by hinting that he would be honored to one day sit at that same table with Madara as his ally, though Mito and Tobirama were taking bets on whether their Uchiha teammate had been oblivious to that hint or if he had ignored it because he was still denying the inevitable future that saw him with the hat of office on his wild head of hair. What was worse, Mito was sure he'll actually be the first Hokage to actually look good in the silly mushroom cone hat.

"Take this with you," Madara surprised them all by taking out a kunai with his personal Hiraishin mark on it. Of course, all of Team Disaster had their own mark and shared the access of them all between themselves, Minato-sensei included, but it was rare they gave a marked item to someone decidedly not who they considered family. Madara's mark was only carried by Mito, Tobirama, Minato-sensei, aunt Kushina, Izuna, Hikaku, Ryukyu-sama, Kira-sama, Hashirama, Touka and little Menma-kun. No one else while Mito and Tobirama had given their own to a few other people should they ever find themselves in need of some help. Her father had Mito's and Tobirama had definitely given a marker to Kagami, Hiruzen, Torifu, Koharu, Homura and even Danzo. Minto-sensei has been using the Hiraishin for a significantly longer time and has given it to a great number of his friends, including but not exclusively Mikoto-sama and Fugaku-sama, as well as Jiraiya-sama, Tsunade-sama and, once upon a time, the Nidaime Hokage. Madara had kept his marker for only his dearest and nearest. To offer it now ... "Should you need assistance, flare your chakra and one of us will be there."

"I'll use it wisely," Raza promised solemnly as he took the kunai and tucked it away into his weapons pouch.

"I'll take him to the Fourth Division," Tobirama offered with a nod to his two older teammates. "Meet you in ten minutes. Don't try to suppress your chakra." He offered Raza his hand and the Kazekage hesitated, probably remembering how unsettling traveling with the Hiraishin could be if you're not used to it but took the hand anyway and the two were gone in a bright flash of bluish white light.

"Come, B-kun," Mito said mildly, offering him her hand as she confidently grabbed Madara's with her free one. "We need to lead them away from the headquarters if we wish the efforts so far not to go to waste." Killer B eyed them suspiciously, as he's been doing since they were all pretty much stuffed into this room early this morning, but didn't show the same hesitation in taking her hand as Raza had Tobirama's. Probably because he had never had to experience a jump with the Hiraishin.

"Shouldn't we leave a note?"

"The old hag was probably expecting this to happen sooner rather than later," Madara said in dismissal and Mito nodded in agreement. Tsunade-sama must have known that her most formidable, infamous genin team wouldn't stay put until the other Kage deemed it acceptable to let them out. Not when they had the most experience in fighting any of the things this war brings. "Besides, we don't want them coming after us. It would be a waste of manpower. Nothing can keep up with someone using Hiraishin as long as they are a sensor with a large enough range to transport themselves anywhere they want."

"Quite," the Uzumaki murmured in agreement and amusement as they watched the faces their companion pulled. "Is everyone ready?"

"Where are we going?" The Kumo nin asked again and the two Konoha shinobi shared a look. That Man had to be stopped, whether he really was Uchiha Sasuke or not, but he was still far enough away from leaving mainland, let alone getting to Turtle Island. There was, however, a much more dangerous threat nearer to them and approaching a squad of the Allied forces. A threat they were familiar with paired with an Uchiha presence they did not recognize, both undoubtedly reanimations.

Mito and Madara knew where they were needed more.

"To fight Uzumaki Nagato."

00000

They appeared in a flash several hundred meters away from a big clearing with a large body of water, surrounded by a forest not nearly as thick as the one surrounding Konoha. Killer B, predictably, looked rather wheezy as soon as they landed, making Mito and Madara share an amused look between them, as Team Disaster always did whenever they took someone somewhere with the Hiraishin. Never mind that they themselves had a similar reaction the first couple of times they'd experienced it all those years ago, except maybe Tobirama since he'd studied the jutsu by himself even before they met Minato-sensei as their jonin sensei. Still, Madara and Mito let him have a moment to gather himself while they both extended their senses outwards to take stock of the situation they've arrived in.

The first thing they focused on, instead of their enemies, however, was Tobirama, who was sending out a message from the battlefield with the Fourth Divison. -Confirmed. That Man is NOT Uchiha Sasuke. Reanimated Uchiha Sasuke standing before the Fourth Division. Staying with Raza. Come soon. May need more backup.-

Mito frowned, not sure how she felt about these news. A single look at Madara made his thoughts rather obvious. He was questioning which Uchiha could possibly be behind the mask, then, and he hated not knowing. He was also trying to include this new knowledge into the plans he had been making and figure out which he should just discard and which he should change to fit the new parameters. Mito left him to it and instead focused on the two approaching chakra signatures which they had come for.

Two slowly approaching chakra signatures, as though one of them was injured and needed support to limp along, which made no sense since the Edo Tensei was supposed to bring back people in their prime so they'd be capable soldiers. That was one of its first purposes. No one knew for what goddamned reason the Nidaime Hokage created that jutsu for but everyone agreed on what purposes it could have, how it could be used. So a crippled Edo Tensei made absolutely no sense.

Except she knew, from what Tobirama told them, that Uzumaki Nagato had, appearently, been crippled somehow, had been connected to some ugly, worriesome statue that the Senju said felt like it acted like a life-support of sorts. Which also didn't really make much sense but Tobirama had been busy at the time and had little chance afterwards to study it before That Man blew shit up. Either way, Pein's immobility or lack of proper mobility actually mattered very little, all things considered. The Rinnegan can do most of the fighting for him, however he went about it.

The other presence was definitely Uchiha but Mito didn't know it. Madara didn't, either, or he would have said so. So they had a familiar, known variable and an unknown one they would have to account for with no real way to prepare.

The Uzumaki seal mistress was suddenly very glad Team Disaster usually left strategy planning up to Madara. This was like a headache in making.

"What's going on, yo? We need to move on, yo!"

"The man we'd thought to be Uchiha Sasuke is not really Uchiha Sasuke. That bastard's over at the Fourth Division, wrecking havoc, so we need to be extra careful around the Masked Man when we eventually encounter him," Madara said, not bothering to explain how they even had that information no matter how much Killer B protested or asked about it. It's not like Team Disaster usually distributed such knowledge for all to be aware of their secret chakra code language. "For now, we need to focus on Pein and that reanimated Uchiha with him. We should meet them halfway. An open field is better to do battle against an unknown enemy."

"I agree. It will give us more space to maneuver should they turn out to be ... Impressive." Which, in Team-Disaster-speak, meant whether the Uchiha may be a legendary one with some jutsu that could be quite devastating. If Uchiha Sasuke was brought back, it would be best to be safe rather than sorry. Uchiha had a tendency to be rather excess with their doujutsu and just because not many Mangekyo users were recorded did it mean that there did not exist more of them. Some of the history chronicles Madara had let Tobirama and Mito read strongly suggested Uchiha Shisui may have had the Mangekyo, even if there are no texts actually confirming that tidbit of information.

"Then let's not waste time! Let's get that piece of slime!" And then Killer B proceeded to lead the way towards the lake, leaving Madara and Mito behind for the Uchiha to swear under his breath bodily harm and property damage if the other Jinchuriki kept rhyming and rapping. Mito stayed quiet, knowing Madara needed a distraction from his growing worry. Not only was Tobirama with the Fourth Division, but so was the rest of their families and a good number of Konoha shinobi, many of them Uchiha and Senju. Mito was worried, too, and she didn't have the same worship of the old gods after which the Uchiha named their Mangekyo abilities after to pray to for their safety.

Instead, she focused ahead, she and her teammate keeping pace with the Hachibi's Jinchuriki until they reached the clearing they had spoken about, just in time as the pair of chakra signatures they'd been tracking. Mito almost didn't recognize her fellow Uzumaki if not for his chakra signature and the purple of his Rinnegan eyes. He was deathly pale, there was no trace of red in his limp, chin length hair. He looked nothing like all the ginger Path bodies they'd fought that day, months ago. He looked ... weak.

And yet he had the Rinnegan.

And yet his chakra reserves were not something to sneer at. Even without the Edo Tensei.

"What's this?" The Uchiha was the first to speak upon spotting them, the Sharingan activated, eerie red on the black sclera. His hair was ash black tied back in a loose ponytail, his skin the typical Uchiha pale and he was dressed in some seriously outdated armor, all metal plates and heavy Uchiha mantel with a sword strapped to his lower back. He had even bigger tear troughs than Madara, longer and deeper, running like two lines from underneath his eyes down almost the entire length of his nose at an angle of about thirty degrees or so. If not for the cracked lines on his skin that came with being reanimated by the Edo Tensei, he would be a typical Uchiha beauty. "An Uzumaki and an Uchiha?"

"They're the ones we need to keep an eye out for. Two thirds of the genin Team 4, Team Disaster of Konohagakure no Sato," Pein - or truly Nagato, as he was now - answered his companion's question and even his voice sounded different. "Uzumaki Mito and Uchiha Madara."

"Of Konoha? I'm glad the village continued standing this long," the Uchiha breathed and a beautiful smile lit up his tired-seeming face. "I'm glad to see that the alliance is still strong." Mito frowned, casting a look at the tense but also confused Killer B before turning her eyes to Madara. Madara, who was tense and not taking his eyes off of the reanimated Uchiha man. Madara, whom she'd never known to actually hesitate. The dead Uchiha noticed and smiled at his clansman. "Do you know who I am, Madara-kun?"

"I do," Madara said in an even tenser sounding voice. "Uchiha Itachi-sama."

Chapter Text

It was obvious to Madara that neither Mito nor Killer B had recognized the Uchiha man dragging Nagato along, the two obviously more focused on the more obvious, supposedly bigger threat, but as soon as the name slipped from his lips, all eyes were fixed on the legendary Uchiha who had dreamed up Konoha and in whose honor his friend, Uzumaki Naruto, built it even if he had died before he could see it. The tension that had been there moments ago was amped up to unbearable levels, but Madara actually felt himself relaxing in this new atmosphere.

He'd never liked it before when he'd overhear outsiders say that the Uchiha were made for war. It was true, of course, as the Sharingain just by itself was one of the most devastating weapons any army could possess in even small quantities and that's not even mentioning the Mangekyo or the jutsu-copying abilities. The Sharingan was terrifying because it can create the strongest genjutsu, saw through all other jutsu and could see very far and read lips, which meant all orders shouted from too far away to be heard could be interpreted and interfered with, intercepted and retaliated against in the swiftest manner possible. Add to that that the Uchiha naturally had larger chakra reserves than other clans and that their bodies needed relatively little training to master new skills, heir affinity towards weapons and their ability to master all five elemental natures and the Uchiha, truly, were made to wage war in the most efficient way possible.

He still didn't like it how outsiders said it, as if that fact made them weapons instead of people, soldiers and tools before humans with their own thoughts, dreams, desires and feelings, which all actually made the Uchiha the Uchiha.

But, in times like these, when almost everyone else was uneasy and he just felt anticipation for a good fight making his blood sing, Madara was glad how true those careless words were. It meant he was more than prepared for when the first attack will inevitably strike. He was prepared to fight and he will be the first to notice the exact second that the fight actually starts brewing instead of just waiting for the first clear sign that battle has begun.

Uchiha Itachi looked exactly as the single portrait his clan had of him in the Naka Shrine, down to every long, lush eyelash, a typical trait among Uchiha to draw other's eyes towards their greatest, most deadliest weapon. He didn't carry himself like a man suffering from a terminal illness, though whether that was because of the Edo Tensei or because he'd never allowed himself to be seen as weak in life so therefore he won't allow it in death, either, remains to be pondered upon at a different time.

Right now, Madara had two Jinchuriki to protect and a teammate who will need backup to reach. He had a war to fight, so contemplating his ancestors eyelashes really wasn't on his To Do list.

Itachi-sama smiled at him for knowing his name, nodding a respectful greeting. "I wish I could meet one of my descendants in a better situation, but I am afraid I didn't have much choice here."

"You do know your younger brother has not only left Konoha, but turned his back on all it represents and came back to attack it with the Kyuubi no Kitsune, right?" Madara asked, watching the ancient Uchiha close his eyes as though in pain.

"I had ... heard about it, I'm afraid. I wish I could speak with Sasuke, but I don't think I will get the chance. A young man named Kabuto is holding us quite tightly under his control."

"That can be changed," Mito said from Madara's side, confident as ever in her skill and their teamwork but the two reanimations looked doubtful.

"There have been made some ... changes for the more powerful of the reanimations," Nagato said haltingly, sounding pissed off. "Orochimaru made sure that he can control us, no matter how powerful some of us may be. And he and Kabuto split the effort of maintaining that control between them, so we can't escape."

"You should run before he makes us fight," Itachi-sama warned just as Nagato went utterly stiff in his hold, the light in his eyes dulling until he actually looked like nothing more than a corpse. Before any of them had any time to react, the white haired man had thrust up his hand and shouted "Shinra Tensei!" before a blast of invisible force slammed into the two Jinchuriki and Madara, sending them flying. He recovered first and grabbed Mito and Killer B, using the Hiraishin for them to return to their previous spot, gunabi out and sending a blast of wind at the two reanimations. The dead Uchiha jumped out of the way but Nagato absorbed the attack, which Madara was counting on as he sent a barrage of shuriken at the same time. Nagato couldn't repel them and his body couldn't move fast enough to avoid, so most of them landed good and true, tearing at his body and making him even slower as he regenerated.

Madara would have gone in for another hit but Itachi-sama was suddenly there, meeting his gunabi with a katana easily, blocking his attack. "The great gunabi? I am impressed. My great grandfather was the last one skilled enough to use it. You must be quite something, Madara-kun."

"You've seen nothing yet," Madara muttered, using Hiraishin to get out of the way as Mito took her turn to send impossibly sharp slashes of wind with her tessen, three seals active on it to make the slashes completely under control, moving at her will. To Itachi-sama's credit, he deserved his legendary status with how easily he dodged the attacks until Nagato absorbed them when he regenerated and then called upon the King of Hell. Madara cursed inwardly as he just barely managed to push Mito and B away from the reaching dark purple chakra chains that would have thoroughly trapped them. -Mito.-

-Got it.-

Together, they turned around, gunabi and tessen at the ready and smacked them together until a deadly hurricane burst from the impact point, sending it at the two reanimations. Madara went a step further and breathed fire into the winds, making the attacks twice as deadly, though it should do little more than distract and keep occupied the two dead doujutsu users. It still gave them time to regroup, Killer B taking out his knives and getting ready to fight and Mito releasing his Kongo Fusa.

Madara, though, shook his head at them. "You need to get out of here. Neither of you are safe fighting against the Rinnegan, not when he could so easily just drag your souls out of your bodies, take the biju and then turn you two against me.

"We're not running from a fight! Yo, that just ain't right!" The Kumo nin immediately protested and tried to get in his face but Madara casually put a kunai right under his throat when he got too close for his liking, which was two feet away from his face.

"Right or not, I am the commanding officer here and you do what I say."

"Says who?"

"The Kage, for a start. Common sense and logic to back them up." Madara rolled his eyes. "Listen, you'll get your chance to fight and die stupidly, some day, but not on my watch and not when so much depends on that not happening. Now shut the fuck up and do as I say. You two still need to get away from That Masked Man and letting him bring reinforcements to these two is just a shitty strategic move. We'd be outnumbered and outgunned, so shut your pie hole for once in your life and listen to orders not given to you by your Raikage. I have very little patience, so I can and will force you to move along with a genjutsu or simply let Mito pack you up in one of her prison scrolls. So you decide what it's going to be."

"You're arrogant to think you can do this alone, fool. They're going to kill you until everything's goon, fool!"

Madara rolled his eyes and without looking away from his comrades brought up his gunabi to stop the next Shinra Tensei from blasting them away, letting his ancient weapon absorb the blast and then returning it in kind just as a barrage of curving shuriken tried to sneak up on them from all sides. "Doujutsu is my specialty. I'm not saying it will be easy, but at least I'll be able to let loose without having to worry about accidentally killing you two so just get the fuck out of here. The Fourth Division needs backup and you were the one insisting on wanting to fight. Fine, but this is not your fight. One of these bastards owes me a chance for vengeance for my baby brothers, the other is my ancestor and deserves the honor of being defeated with respect by a clansmen of his. You've got no true grief with them so get out of my sight already. And no," he cut in when Killer B looked ready to protest, probably at the grief part, probably for the Nibi's Jinchuriki who had once been his mentor. "You really don't. Not like I do, so fuck off. You can go free your Kumo Jinchuriki friend from being That Man's slave. Just leave."

"You truly think you can take on the both of us?" Nagato sounded disgusted by what he perceived was Madara's arrogance. Madara sent him a flat look but said nothing in return, waiting for his companions to get going. He'll need all of his concentration to interfere should these two try to stop them.

"B-kun," Mito said softly yet her tone was brimming with unyielding authority only dangerous women can manage. "Let's go. Madara can handle himself just fine." -You better not make me a liar.-

-Dully noted.-

"We don't do things like this in Kumo, ay!"

"Well, this isn't Kumo," the Uzumaki kunoichi said casually as she reached out with one of her chains and started dragging the man behind her like a disobedient child by the wrist. "This is Team Disaster and this is how we do things."

Madara was ready for the chains coming out of the King of Hell, aimed at the retreating due. He took out a seal Tobirama and Mito had been experimenting on with Kushina-sama and Minato-sensei and slapped it on his gunabi, creating a barrier that stopped the chakra chains from getting past him. Then he made a Kage Bunshin to intercept Itachi-sama when the ancient Uchiha made a move to go after them as well. The clone held him back just long enough for Mito to Hiraishin them away and the two had no way of immediately reaching them.

It left the Uchiha of Team Disaster alone to face off against one of the strongest Sharingan users ever and the first confirmed Rinnegan user in history aside from the Sage of SIx Paths, who everyone was still wondering if he was real or just a myth. The Rinnegan would seem like proof to some but Madara spent most of his days with scientific minds that would not accept such weak proof as proof.

He eyed them and they eyed him, a tense staring contest that ended when Kabuto or whoever was controlling the Edo Tensei got impatient and sent chakra chains at Madara now, as if that would work against the barrier when it had already proven futile before. Still, it was a good enough distraction for the Uzumaki to summon two of his ugly giant animals, one of which immediately tried to stomp on Madara. He was seriously sick of the multi-headed dog and the ugly green bird. He ducked from both of their attacks while still keeping the barrier up with his gunabi and the seal whenever the chains made to grab him. That was getting rather annoying, actually. So much so that when he felt and then saw the presence of a red Susanoo preparing to punch him through the earth, he scowled and didn't hesitate to unleash his own, dark blue one that grew and outgrew the ancient Uchiha's without him even needing to make his Mangekyo activate. He'd spent quite a bit of time perfecting that so he can pull surprise moves like that.

He easily punched through Itachi-sama's Susanoo - only the skeleton,definitely not enough to stand up to the second stage that Madara preferred - sent a Yasaka Magatama at the King of Hell so it would be blow into oblivion and stabbed one of his Susanoo's swords through the ugly dog. All in one move.

Itachi-sama jumped back down to the ground, looking quite startled. "But your eyes didn't even-"

"The Mangekyo takes up too much chakra. It's easier this way," he replies even as he lets the Susanoo drop. No need to waste precious chakra when there was an entire war to fight after this. "Is there any possible way you can fight this? I know you, at least, don't want to destroy Konoha."

"I'm afraid not," the other Uchiha replied solemnly and yet Madara was a sensor and this guy might be dead but he was pretty sure Itachi-sama was lying. He was lying because he apparently had a plan and needed a distraction, needed Madara to perhaps buy him some time. Madara can do that. Madara was more than happy to do that. He'd always admired more Uchiha Itachi than Uchiha Sasuke even if the younger of the brothers was lauded to be the most powerful Uchiha to date. Uchiha Itachi was still the best and besides, Madara himself was an older brother and a pacifist no matter how good he was at fighting. He sympathized more with Itachi-sama and wanted nothing more than to trash Sasuke.

He had a feeling The Masked Man's name 'being' Uchiha Sasuke and the man now appearing himself wasn't exactly as much of a coincidence as some might expect and he didn't like the implications of his own thoughts.

He needed to get to the Fourth Division as soon as possible.

He was needed elsewhere.

If Itachi-sama can help with that, Madara was more than happy to support him.

"Then forgive me for what I am going to do." Not exactly one hundred percent empty words. He wasn't Mito, Minato-sensei or Tobirama. He knew fuinjutsu but he'd never exactly rely on it to save his skin in a do or die situation. That, however, did not mean that he didn't know how to seal the reanimations away. Tobirama had drilled it into his head vigorously, for some reason, as though his Senju feared Madara will be the one who most needed to know it despite them knowing that they'll spend quite a bit of time locked away on Turtle Island - or so had been the plans, anyway. He briefly wondered how Tsunade-sama excused them for that before brushing it off. Instead, he put his hands together in the horse hand seal, smirked at the confusion on the other Uchiha's face before he drew on his chakra, breathed in and spat out a sea of fire that his ancestor didn't seem able to outrun. Katon: Goka Mekkyaku was seriously his favorite fire jutsu for no other reason than that no one seemed capable of escaping it without the Hiraishin or raiton-enhanced speed, though he hadn't put the Raikage to the test, yet. For diplomatic reasons.

Or because the man would rather not have an Uchiha breathe fire in his face because he was sensible.

While Itachi-sama recovered, Madara turned to the fucked up bird that was now swooping towards him and did not hesitate to quickly go through the sequence needed to summon Nekomata to his side, watching the ancient cat take one look at the bird and pounce on it with the same blood thirst as Madara felt for it since that fucking thing had once kidnapped him. He enjoyed watching Nekomata thoroughly maul the feathered menace and that was why he saw the exact moment that Nagato fell from its head where he had been moments ago. Taking the chance, he lunged across the field at him in hopes of maybe actually managing to seal the guy away - though he would then have to put him in a scroll so he can take him with him since the seals had to be monitored and guarded and he wasn't exactly sure whether he should be put in a storage scroll or a prisoner one - and then have to deal with only one opponent, one who was willing to help him should he be able to free himself, only for said opponent to be forced to jump in front of him before he could reach the Rinnegan user.

Madara snarled and unrepentantly cut through Itachi-sama's body, only to blink in surprise when the other suddenly broke up into a bunch of crows, seeming to be half carried away from them in flight as they somewhat formed and reformed his body like a fucked up genjutsu only it wasn't.

He'd heard about how difficult it was to make a pact, not a contract, with crows but how much more rewarding it was. It would seem rumors were true.

Izuna was truly going to eat his heart out when he shows his brother the Sharingan-remembered memory of this when this shit is all over with. Magpies instead of crows was a stupid decision, it would seem. Not as stupid as magpies instead of a dragon, but he actually doubted Ryujin and Izuna would have been suitable or compatible with each other. Who knows? Ryujin was uninterested in making any more contracts at this time and every time someone mentioned it, his little brother would sulk.

The crows were now all over the field and some of them tried to come and peck at him with their beaks but Madara kept hawks and falcons and knew how to avoid over-exuberant birds - and idiots; looking at you Hashirama, Maito - so he managed to avoid them, right up until another of the monstrosities was summoned and Madara had no time to do anything else but Amaterasu it right out of existence.

"You've got strong eyes, Madara-kun," Itachi-sama said from where crows had reformed him back on the ground, only a few left flying here or there. It was distracting - was meant to be, he knew - but he was an Uchiha and the Sharingan saw everything. It saw the singly crow that seemed to be casually sitting on a nearby tree branch, preening its feathers seemingly without a care in the world. "But you also have the Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan, for your eyes don't bleed from such a powerful jutsu."

"My little brother and mother exchanged our eyes when I was unconscious and couldn't stop them," Madara replied, reassured, knowing the story behind how the first Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan was achieved.

"But you mentioned before-"

"I had four little brothers. Because of that bastard, I now have only one and I am not losing him to this stupid war!" He snarled, falling back into a fighting stance. Itachi-sama assumed a resigned look and tone.

"I am sorry, Madara-kun. Amaterasu." But as soon as the other Uchiha's technique even started drawing on his chakra to be preformed, the crow he'd spotted earlier cawed and was suddenly there, having a staring contest with its master and Madara felt a powerful genjutsu fall into place, snapping the string of control he'd felt the whole time attached to the two reanimations. Uchiha Itachi blinked and shook his head, once again fully in control of his body. He turned his gaze to where Nagato was standing and the black flames caught him instead, prompting Nekomata to jump back as Amaterasu burned Rinnegan user and Animal Path summon both.

"Itachi-chan," Nekomata grumbled a greeting, nodding to the ancient Uchiha, who returned the nod.

"Nekomata-sama. It is good to see you doing so well."

"Yeah, yeah, just end it already. Madara is needed elsewhere." Itachi-sama didn't seem to take exception to his words and nodded, but before any of them could do more than turn towards Nagato, there was a black receiver ball flying up into the air, already pulling the earth and trees and rocks in to form a meteorite. Madara grit his teeth and channeled chakra into his feet even as he let the Susanoo form around him at the same time as his ancestor did. Only Madara didn't hold back this time. No, this time, Madara let the Perfect Susanoo materialize around him in its full glory and he didn't hesitate to cute the formed ball in to quarters with both of Susanoo's swords, shattering the receiver in the process.

Down bellow, Itachi-sama had a sword sticking through Nagato and it took Madara a moment to realize what was going on. In a matter of seconds, though, it didn't matter as the Uzumaki was pulled into a gourd, sealed away irreversibly.

"So that's the Sword of Totsuka? Handy little thing. Tobirama's done research on it while working on Raijin no Ken but never found any reference as to where it might be hiding. Typical that you should have it, that it is an Uchiha weapon."

"Sasuke has the Kusanagi," Itachi-sama said by way of warning, the Susanoo still in full armor now, a shield and the Sword openly on display. He was contemplating Madara with a light in his eye the teen wasn't sure how he felt about. "Madara-kun, do you love your village?" He asked, pointing at the stylized leaf symbol on Madara's hitai-ate. Team Disaster didn't need the alliance's new forehead protectors. Everyone knew who they were, they knew not to attack them. (For their own good.)

Madara frowned at his ancestor but didn't hesitate to answer the question. "I do. My dream is to keep it safe and make it even safer since it protects my clan, my family, my friends, all of my loved ones. I want to make it safer so no one else has to lose their siblings how I lost mine."

Itachi-sama nodded and came closer, extending the hand on which the crow was still sitting. "This is a very special crow. It saved my life, a long time ago, and has been my partner since. In return for its long years of loyalty, I have it my best friend's, my cousin's, my practically older brother's, my right hand's eye. Shisui possessed a very powerful Mangekyo genjutsu that he entrusted to me on his death and that I now entrust to you. I trust you will use it wisely." Bird and master exchanged a look before the crow nuzzled the man and flew over to the teen, who automatically extended an arm as though welcoming one of his own hawks. "I believe you and Kuro Onyx will get along well. I have another gift for you, though, but this you will be able to use only once so use it wisely."

Madara stared almost uncomprehendingly at the red Susanoo offering his the weapons it held. He'd never heard of it being possible to pass along weapons from one Susanoo to another. Then again, there had never before been two Susanoos in such close proximity.

"The Sword of Totsuka and the Yata Mirror. Able to seal all it cuts and capable of deflecting all chakra nature attacks completely. They should serve you well if my brother is truly set on destroying Konoha."

"And why do you sound like you won't be joining us in taking him down?" The younger asked warily even as his Susanoo reached for the offered weapons. "Surely seeing his brother again would settle him." That was, after all, why he'd gone mad to begin with.

But Itachi-sama only shook his head. "I need to go dispel the Edo Tensei. Fighting Sasuke alone will be taxing and costly. I need to stop this before more people can die. I leave the rest to you, Madara-kun." And with that, the weapons were thrust into Madara's Susanoo's hands and three things happened at the same time.

Itachi-sama dared to go and poke his forehead before disappearing.

A whiplash of power made Madara crumble to his knees.

And in the distance, he felt Mito's chakra flare like never before and the Earth shake even father away, where Tobirama had been.

He was out like a light before he could even think to go and investigate.

Thankfully Nekomata was there to look after him.

Chapter Text

Tobirama cursed to himself as he seemingly uselessly tried to heal the idiot Nidaime Tsuchikage after the old man had tried to hold up two asteroids all by himself and some assistance from Raza. Raza was, thankfully, off much better but he was unconscious, too, and the battlefield was not only destroyed but there were very few shinobi still left in any fighting condition.

Uchiha Sasuke was, apparently, terrifying to fight.

Tobirama cursed both Kage as a hundred different fools and idiots for not letting him join the fight.

"Team Disaster works best together. You are our last hope should we all fail." That's what they'd said, as if continuing to fight anymore would mean anything with nothing and no one to fight for. The sentiment and somewhat sound strategy behind their words will be meaningless if everyone dies by the time Team Disaster can reunite since he could feel both Mito and Madara were rather busy at the moment.

Mito, it would seem, has finally come across That Man with Killer B after about an hour since separating from Madara and the two Jinchuriki were fighting their reanimated fellows and That Man a good three dozen miles from where the Fourth Division had just gotten the devastating blow delivered upon them, a good dozen or so miles away from where Madara was apparently engaging an unknown reanimated Uchiha and Uzumaki Nagato with only Nekomata as support. He was scared for his teammates as neither of those enemies were easy to deal with but he also had faith in them. Neither Killer B nor Nekomata would want their partner in the fight dead, one because it would leave him extra vulnerable and lose them all the war they desperately needed to win, the other out of long standing fondness and partnership.

And despite wanting nothing more than to take Mito and Madara away from the dangers their opponents posed, Tobirama was also selfishly grateful that he had been here, that he was still here, even if it meant facing Uchiha Sasuke on the front lines without the usual reassurance of his teammates at his side. Hashirama was here, his mother was here, Touka was here, Madara's family was here, Minato-sensei and Kushina-sama were here. Their family was here and they needed someone from Team Disaster as backup until the other members could come along to offer more support.

He cursed the Tsuchikage again when the old man coughed up some blood, glaring down at him. He wished Madara were here. The Susanoo would have been perfectly capable of blowing up the two stupid boulders while they had been hovering overhead. Or if even these old stuck up bastards had just let go of their prides for five damned seconds, either he or Izuna could have blown them up. The Raijin no Ken required very little chakra from him to generate more than enough lightning to make the thing blow and Izuna's Kaminari was almost effortless since he tricked his brother into exchanging eyes and definitely devastating enough to have caused more than sufficient damage.

Instead of letting them fight, Onoki had decided that they should stay on the sidelines, that they should wait for a better opportunity.

Had it not been for Minato-sensei, Jiraiya-sama and Hashirama erecting all sorts of shelters from a toad's stomach to wooden domes, even less shinobi would be alive, let alone in the state to continue fighting. Tobirama himself had only survived because he had been underneath a mokuton dome when the asteroids hit.

"Give me the Ichibi and I will leave you to die peacefully," Uchiha Sasuke called from about a hundred meters away, standing high and mighty on the same rock formation he'd been on when he'd decimated the field with the Shodaime Tsuchikage at his side. He looked like an Uchiha of the main house bloodline, alright, with hair resembling the color of a midnight sky and pale skin, only his hair was only shoulder length and limp, not at all like the long flowing or spiky hair Tobirama was used to from Madara and his family. The tear troughs looked to be more from age than caused by the intense usage of the Sharingan, which actually made him less attractive than any other Uchiha Tobirama had met so far. It was pretty well known that the bags under an Uchiha's eyes were more prominent the more power they possessed, the more they fought and used their doujutsu at the cost of themselves for their loved ones.

Uchiha Sasuke was like a spoiled little brother who'd only learned of true hardships when his older brother died.

To borrow Madara's comment upon meeting the Shodaime and Nidaime Hokage, he found the 'legendary' Uchiha not at all impressive.

Some may wonder at his sanity for thinking so of the man who was apparently the true second person to have had the Rinnegan before implanting it into an innocent Uzumaki child and had just decimated an entire battlefield with two summoned space boulders, but he's part of Team Disaster. He does not surprise or impress easily.

The white haired Senju stood up once he was certain the Tsuchikage was halfway heald and waved for Hashirama to take his previous spot. "Tobirama-" The brunet started but Tobirama was not about to hesitate. He could feel the other Kage inbound, which meant more firepower will be arriving soon, but if he can distract and maybe even get a chance to seal Uchiha Sasuke before they arrive, then Raza will remain alive and, with some healing, will be able to return to the fight soon.

"I know what I am doing, anija. Fix up as many people as you can and leave this guy to me." Without really waiting for a response, he took out his most favorite sword and watched the interest light up in those purple eyes when the ancient Uchiha saw Raijin no Ken ignite for the first time. People were always impressed with what a little kid could do.

"Just be careful," his brother called after him and Tobirama paused just long enough to nod even if he never took his eyes away from the threat he will be engaging.

Sasuke smirked. "You want to play with lightning, kid? Very well." That dangerous sword he used that can't be blocked with other weapons was drawn back up and Tobirama watched as the Chidori, as he'd learned it was called, lit the steel.

The man obviously didn't understand what he was facing up against. He may not be able to die, but he'll not be getting in any hits against the wielder of the Raijin no Ken, either, not when it is its inventor, the one person in this world who knows perfectly how to use it.

Tobirama narrowed his eyes, opened his senses to their maximum capacity and lunged forward.

The surprise on the Uchiha's face was priceless when Raijin no Ken easily deflected the man's own strike. Tobirama smirked as their swords locked, the two of them swiping and cutting and thrusting and slicing and blocking and deflecting each strike, locking their blades every few times. It was in the Uchiha's advantage that he had mastered making seals with only one hand so he attempted spitting fire in Tobirama's face more than once but it was to Tobirama's own advantage that he needed no hand seals to preform Tenkyu, just chakra and concentration, something he can expend even at his most exhausted. That sure as hell surprised his opponent and gave him several openings to slap suppression seals on him, but he never had the opportunity to actually seal the guy.

Cutting his limbs off a few times bought him time but never enough, much to his frustration.

He needed to be faster.

It honestly took less than a thought to access natural energy, absorb it properly and enter Sage Mode, He could feel the exact moment that the markings appeared on his face even without the surprise and sudden increased wariness on Sasuke's face. He felt the energy spread through his body, mingle with his chakra and replenish the amount he'd used up to that point. He grinned in a way Madara said was utterly infuriating and disappeared from in front of Sasukle's face, only to reappear overhead and drive his lightning blade through the Uchiha's head down to his toes, going that bit extra that really wasn't needed to summon lightning from the darkening skies to strike the Uchiha and the reanimated Shodaime Tsuchikage when he tried fleeing.

He lept away with little difficulty when the Kusanagi tried to stab him in return, only to reappear in front of the Uchiha again, an exploding tag quickly placed on his chest and kicking him away in a mocking mimicry of what he'd done to the Fourth Division's shinobi moments after Tobirama and Raza had arrived on the battlefield.

As he exploded, the shinobi at Tobirama's back cheered loudly enough that it was bound to be heard for several miles.

The Senju did not let his guard down. Uchiha Sasuke's skill was legendary and the only reason Tobirama had gotten in so many hits at once was because the fool had been stupid enough to underestimate his opponent due to his young age. An idiotic mistake that definitely earned him rightfully all the humiliation Tobirama had just piled atop of him and his reputation for having a fifteen year old kid trash him like that.

He didn't need to see the man's face when he finally looked back up at Tobirama to know that he was angry. His chakra, dark and suffocating even if it felt not even half as voluminous as Madara's or Hashirama's, was roiling with it. Tobirama was Not Impressed. It was the moron's own fault for assuming that a child could be less dangerous of an opponent.

"That would be Senju Tobirama-kun of Team Disaster, Sasuke-san," the one controlling the Edo Tensei said through the Shodaime Tsuchikage. "Perhaps I should have warned you that he is not ordinary. Their team is rather infamous throughout the Five Elemental Nations. His teammates are fighting Nagato-kun and your masked accomplice. I must say I am thoroughly impressed with Madara-kun, though. He gained himself an ally and trapped Nagato-kun, which leaves us with one less Rinnegan user."

"This Madara is an Uchiha?" Sasuke asked as his face fell back into empty impassiveness that Tobirama was not buying for a second. You can't bullshit a sensor.

"Many speculate he is the strongest to be born to the clan as of yet. His potential is massive but he is mostly secretive about his abilities and full strength. He's a true shinobi, keeping his tricks to himself, though rumors have it that he possesses some of the same powers as you."

Sasuke's eyes flit over to where Izuna and Touka were escorting some injured shinobi away from where Tobirama was entertaining their enemy. "That may be true, seeing as that one over there has the Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan. Only nii-san and I have ever exchanged eyes before. Or rather, Itachi left me his on his death bed. I do wonder how well these brothers fare in comparison." The grin that split his face had Tobirama at his throat in a second, cutting his head off with no remorse.

Even if he didn't consider Izuna family after all these years, he was Madara's little brother, his last living little brother, last remaining sibling. Madara had nearly went completely mad when Asama, Hiroto and Keichiro died in the same day as Tajima, Butsuma, Kawarama, Itama and a bunch of their other clansmen and fellow Konoha ninja. Losing Izuna would have left him an empty husk of his former self. Tobirama had just barely managed to get him to return to Konoha instead of go hunt the Akatsuki down by himself with his chakra so quickly dropping in levels due to the new Mangekyo he was so new to using. Madara would have probably died had Tobirama not went after him that day.

He would die if he lost Izuna, too.

Tobirama was not going to allow that.

"Oh, have I made you angry, Senju Tobirama?" Sasuke taunted when he reformed back into one. Tobirama glared harder. Many a adults had quelled under this very same glare for less offenses. The ancient Uchiha just grinned. "I did, didn't I? Why, because of the little me look-alike? Should I perhaps target him?"

"Actually, that might not be the smartest idea," the Edo Tensei summoner interjected, sounding unsure for the first time since this whole mess started. "That is Izuna-kun, Madara-kun's little brother. I think it inadvisable to go after him. Madara-kun has proven to be overprotective of him and quite frightening when angered. We would be best off not to risk it-"

"Are you seriously scared of angering a little kid?" Sasuke scoffed and Tobirama dearly wished Madara were here. Madara was not a person to scoff at.

"I'd rather not risk the victory in this war over whatever mind games you wish to engage in. Wouldn't it be embarrassing if a child were to defeat you?" Sasuke glared at that but the Edo Tensei summoner didn't back down. The Uchiha scoffed again before returning his eyes to the waiting Senju.

"I grow tired of this game. Amaterasu."

Unfortunately for him, even before his eyes turned back to the Mangekyo Sharingan to utilize the devastating Mangekyo jutsu, Tobirama was moving, having felt that shift in chakra, similar to the acrobatics Madara's or Izuna's preformed whenever they used it, out of the way. Out of his sight, in fact, moving around until he was at Sasuke's back, this time going at him not with sword, but with palm. The Uchiha managed to whirl around just as he touched his back, catching his wrist and flinging him away into the same spot he'd been before, where now a merry black fire was burning.

"What's this? Have you grown tired and lost your speed? Such a poor stamina!"

Tobirama smirked before disappearing mid air, reappearing once again at the man's back, where he'd placed his Hiraishin marker second ago, having slowed down so the other wouldn't realize he'd deliberately allowed himself to be caught. He had the rope he'd developed long ago at the ready to bind the man and nearly managed it if not for Sasuke revealing a little teleportation trick of his own, changing places with his sword. The rope was around his left hand, yanking it clean off from the shoulder down, but the dead Uchiha was still free to utilize his full range of movement and Tobirama had been in a complicated position.

He had no way to move out of the way as a black rod sailed straight for him and sank in deep and true in his gut, skewering him like a dango.

"Tobirama!" Hashirama yelled as soon as he'd seen just moment later but any attack he tried to send at the man holding his brother up like it was nothing with one hand was deflected with the now regrown hand pointed in his direction, absorbing or deflecting any attack that tried to land.

Tobirama coughed a bit of blood, feeling his chakra suddenly subdued as though it weren't there at all. It was unnerving, way worse than that time Kusagakure had kidnapped him and suppressed his chakra to the point he could feel nothing outside of his own skin. This was worse. It felt like the roaring ocean that was his signature had been impossibly frozen over completely, to the deepest parts of his soul, even in the depths he himself could never reach. It was making him sick, as was the mere idea that this was what Madara had had to endure for hours.

Sasuke, though, obviously wasn't satisfied with just capturing the fastest shinobi of his generation. No, he needed to taunt him, bringing him just a little bit closer until their breaths were mingling. "So much for a pathetic little weed of the Senju flock. Any last words?"

Tobirama managed to smirk at him, kneading the smallest bit of chakra until he spat out just one senbon at the Uchiha, straight into the eye. "Hope you like cats, motherfucker." Then, together, Minato-sensei and Kaida appeared at Sasuke's back, a Choodama Rasengan blowing the man away while Kaida mauled the Shodaime Tsuchikage into pieces. His snow leopard wasted no time before jumping right at the rapidly recovering Sasuke, allowing for an opening for Minato-sensei to carefully pick up Tobirama and Hiraishin them back down to Hashirama, who immediately got to dragging the rod out of Tobirama with a few wines and the seal they'd thought up for these damned things. The white haired Senju breathed a huge sigh of relief when it was pulled out. He was surprised he hadn't passed out, but then again, Madara had only passed out because he had had multiple of those things stuck in him. One apparently was just enough to take away any finer control.

He'd slipped right out of Sage Mode and his chakra was a bit all over the place. Almost absentmindedly, he took out a soldier pill and popped it into his mouth to regenerate a bit of his charka. It should help him settle it, too, until he can have his natural control back.

"Don't you dare do that to me again, Tobi!" Hashirama admonished as soon as he'd tossed the rod away from them so no one could accidentally touch it and get trapped by the damned thing. "You nearly died! Since when are you this reckless!?"

"He's marked now," Tobirama said, ignoring how frantic Hashirama sounded right then, drawing the attention of Jiraiya-sama, Minato-sensei, a recovering and resting Raza, a barely awake Onoki-sama and, of course, Hikaku, Touka, Izuna and Kushina-sama, who had apparently been keeping the Ichibi under control while the new Kazekage had been unconscious. "We have a way past his defenses. The advantage we have over him is that he doesn't know we're familiar with the arsenal of the Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan and even most of the abilities of the Rinnegan. We have that against him. We have the Hiraishin against him. We just need a good distraction and either me or Minato-sensei can transport Kushina-sama or any Uzumaki to seal him. Or even Raza, if you're up to it."

The said redhead nodded, not bothering to look at his broken gourd as he gathered the sand from underneath him. "I am rested well enough to continue fighting."

"That's good," a familiar female voice said and they all looked up to see Tsunade-sama, A-sama and Mei-sama posing dramatically as the wind ruffled their clothing and hair as they looked on ahead at the ancient Uchiha now glaring at them. Well, glaring at Tsunade-sama, apparently. "Because it is time the Kage showed Uchiha Sasuke he has made a mistake attacking our villages."

"Can you stand, Tsuchikage?" Mei-sama asked gently as she bent down to help the short, old man to his feet. He wobbled a little and Tobirama thought little of reaching over and placing a healing hand on him, watching as he seemed to get rejuvenated. Not literally, of course, but he didn't look dead tired and barely awake anymore. The old man nodded his head in thanks, hesitating for a moment before walking over to his fellow Kage. It would seem he had been awake enough and long enough to have witnessed Tobirama's brief bout with their Uchiha problem and it was grinding at his immense pride. Still, he had given him acknowledgement, so Tobirama knew that should he offer help this time, it won't be so callously turned down.

"Tsunade-sama-" Minato-sensei went to say but she shook her head.

"Save your strength, Minato. You're going to have to be the ones to seal him." The Namikaze doesn't look happy to be practically brushed off but he takes one look at Tobirama, who was still dazed and definitely not ready to return to the fight, and nods reluctantly, accepting.

"Yes, Hokage-sama."

"You are Naruto's descendant? How disappointing. And annoying." They all look back at Sasuke at those words and he looks about as unimpressed as Tobirama had looked at him, which he had no right to. That was a patented Team Disaster expression! "How could someone so weak be related to Naruto?"

"I may not be my granduncle," Tsunade-sama says as she flexes her muscles and her chakra surges in preparation to fight. "But I have my own strengths. Don't underestimate me, you bastard. I am the Sandaime Hokage, Senju Tsunade of the Legendary Sannin, the best iryo-nin in the world. I won't let you destroy all that my granduncle did, his dream, all that he stood for."

"Bold words. Let's see if you can own up to them."

Tobirama sat back and waited for his control to come back.

He has a bad feeling this won't end so well.