Tobirama was at the Uchiha's Nakano Temple, watching intently how Izuna was bowing to a large altar in whither he could deduce were some precious items upon. It surprised him, normally he wouldn't get that far to bring such personal things for this, just on some rare, rare occasions. There were flowers -Izuna's favorite ones- toys, clothing, and old paper rag drawings which seemed made with fingers and mud.
He was curious about this strange kind of ritual. He had seen Izuna perform it quite a few times, so he got familiar with the process involved: he would enter the place, enlighten some candles, salute with utter respect all of his ancestors whose names and memories were carved on large pieces of stone. Then, he would put the items brought on a decorated altar, not chosen randomly, things that seemed important, or that could have been important once. At first, he conceived them as odd enemies' provisions, or failing that, from traitors of the clan. Now he wasn't so sure because of the drawings. He didn't have to guess to know that they belonged to Izuna and his brother.
It felt kind of awkward, being in the shadows like a vile spy watching closely something that seemed to be extremely intimate. However, he couldn't take his eyes off the scene as it came the time for the most important task, and the most endearing to see as well: get rid of all. In the blink of an eye, every item on the table was set on fire, the force with which Izuna invoked big blue flames making the hanging drapes around the place flog, his silver strands fluttering in the air wildly.
Letting go of memories must be too much for a Sharingan User.
Now, after the second war...
The hot steam made Tobirama almost suffocate from where he was, while the other was just as fine in the middle of the chaos. There was an enormous urn hanging above, in which all the ashes went up to rest who knows how long for. Izuna's arms slumped to his sides, he looked exhausted, tearful. It was apparently done. Izuna took his time to leave the room in complete order heading out of the temple 'till he was finished. By the time when he was about two steps from the bottom of the stone staircase, Tobirama decided it was enough of hiding, not sure if the other was just ignoring him or if he truly haven't noticed his presence, appearing in front of him with his Hiraishin, although he slapped himself mentally for doing it as Izuna had expressed many times before how it made his nerves spun.
If he had had his sword with him...
"Burn?" Tobirama released the first question that came to his mind, although it sounded more like a demand than anything.
Izuna didn't move, he just breathed in and out the dense air and perked down at him.
"You're never understanding if you keep trying to be logical about it."
"Or so you could teach me. I'll be pleased to learn the details."
"You always watch, you have enough data to complete your investigation haven't you?" Izuna muttered, passing strategically from Tobirama to take the last step.
Tobirama wasn't so sure about the other's annoyance towards him.
Every single time he'd come across with him things proved to become...eerie, starting from the stern face the man held against his persona. Tobirama didn't expect any kind of friendship, nor some rivalry bond he saw often amongst other shinobis, but considering they had shared bed more times than he was willing to acknowledge -yet if it was by pure relief- he deserved better than the same old grudge and the sensation of being in the wrong place at the wrong time whenever they crossed paths, didn't he?
Izuna had not taken three steps on the footway when he stopped abruptly on his tracks. The sandals. Tobirama completely forgot.
"All of you Senju, not just need to learn how to introduce yourselves properly, if not too, to respect other's sacred places."
Tobirama huffed, quitting his foot off the stair.
"Someday you'll stop behaving like an old man."
"You should've met my father. He was particularly obsessed with privacy and preserve our old traditions as they were, Madara and I used to spend a lot of time with him, so, I guess it's a family thing, besides, no one should be allowed in here, nor even near." Tobirama caught the warning tone in the last sentence, clearly directed to him. But aside from it, he did not expect to hear something such private, feeling strange by that sudden moment of trust, considering his own father was a taboo theme to discuss. He might have just shared kind of -very- private information.
There was a prolonged silence in which he could tell that Izuna was recalling his own words, possibly planning to leave, and as he didn't want to let him go cause he obviously was visiting he tried to recompose, "I see. Is this also the place where your clan gathers? It's kind of a secret place, isn't it?"
"Congratulations, you just decipher the world's largest secret of all times."
"Hm, you tell me. We were looking for this place like crazy."
"I doubt finding out at this time is gonna give you any credit."
Izuna seemed to hold his laugh, using his dumb excuse of a question to make fun of him.
"It's clearly obvious- pff, nevermind."
"What? You think of me as your touristic guide or something?"
"That you could."
Izuna glared at him contemplatively.
"And why of all Nidaime-sama occurs to be so interested?"
"Really? Do you expect me to believe that?"
Tobirama feint to cross his arms but ended up adopting an awkward pose thanks to the scrutinizing gaze of the other.
"What are you trying to do? I doubt you came all the way up here just to see me."
"I just wanted to know how were you doing, can't I? After all, it was you who saved me."
Izuna quirked an eyebrow, Tobirama could tell he was baffled by his statement.
"I'm doing just fine. Thank you."
Tobirama wasn't so sure about that. Izuna was especially good at hiding emotions, the perfect liar for everyone else, but for him? He was like an open book, and that was the thing that annoyed Tobirama the most. He could actually feel those emotions on the man. Izuna was a fool if he thought he could deceive him with his empty words.
"That time you took one step ahead of yourself. Only that I think you don't know you did, in fact, I did consider it impossible, to get to trust you someday."
Izuna scoffed. "Do you now?"
It didn't take him two seconds to answer.
"I do." he was tired of pretending he didn't. "I considered you a danger. Someone who shouldn't be trustable. You gave me red flags with every action until then...and when I found out what happened with the elders."
Izuna smirked. "More than you cooperate with their decision."
Tobirama sighed, somehow he had expected the accusation, ". I didn't."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever, I just suggested it. It's not that of a big deal, now we're at peace and it's not that it matters anymore."
"They were old Izuna, only a few still holds their beliefs."
Izuna hissed, wrinkling his nose. "Is that another way to say you'll help me with it?"
Silence. Dark eyelashes battered erratically.
"Even if you are Hokage now, the public's opinion-"
"Are you serious?"
"Don't tell me that doesn't matter."
"Izuna." he took a pause, he had to take a pause ". You defended Konoha, you saved Saru, Kagami, and my ass. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you."
"Don't try to give me so many credits on that, any shinobi with enough brains and guts would have done it."
And that was the thing with all.
"Not you." he got a step closer remarking their height difference "I know you Izuna. The old you would never, you know you care-"
But he wouldn't. Not this time. He was tired of Izuna being so stubborn all the time about his own efforts, tired of hiding everything from each other as if they were strangers.
The army of Iwagakure took them by surprise, surrounding his team, weakening their defenses, he was ready to die, to leave everything in his pupils' hands until he felt the earth quaking. Sparkling lights illuminated the forest, and then he saw Izuna's eyes in the middle of the steam. Carmin and beautiful. He appeared out of nowhere with a group of ten Uchihas at least. It was enough to getaway. He did brilliant. There was no other loss than a couple of broken bones that day.
Ever since, no thanks were given. No acknowledging, no courtesies from any side. He was also tired of not being honest with himself, of hiding even the minor evidence of appreciation towards the man. He had wanted to hold him, to thank him properly, to comfort him.
Things that have been impossible to think of before.
It was watching Izuna's evolution through the years which took him to his doom. He did spy on him in the first place merely to measure him, trying to find weak points he could use against the man as he had done it on their battle days, scratching until he reach the deepest place. The problem was that Tobirama ended up being so into him, that he wasn't able to get out anymore. From one moment to another it wasn't he and his life. No. It was Izuna standing in front of his wary clan, Izuna teaching the youngsters to become stronger, Izuna's efforts to give in everything of himself to raise his kin from the precariousness and the hard work he put on his own old reputation to be a reliable ally that the bandage around his eyes weighed down.
He started to admire him. To love him in such a desperate way, that it had become impossible to deny it. Izuna used to seek the same as he did, the difference was their way to achieve it. They were so similar and at the same time complete opposites. They have always complemented each other so well.
If only Izuna could see it. If only Tobirama could read his mind to know more, to carve more, to get deeper.
"You trained Konoha's young men and helped a lot of them, Kagami looks at you as if you held the sun upon your head, including Danzo. I saw your efforts Izuna, as well as many."
"What does it have to do with everything?"
"We're talking about trust. I'm trying to tell you they will understand your ways. Now is different from before."
"And you? How can you understand something you haven't seen?"
"You're totally correct." Those graphite eyes were piercing his very soul. He didn't hesitate though. "Illuminate me, show me so I can do."
For some reason, Izuna rolled his eyes, clicking his tongue exasperatingly. "You just can't help yourself."
Tobirama frowned, "Wasn't that what you wanted?"
"You said you trust me."
"Then explain to me why have I been spied on since I came the first day? I haven't done anything wrong, have I? You've been following me as if I'm going to- Madara-"
"No! Is not about that."
"Then what?" Izuna clenched his fists. Tobirama could feel his frustration, his anger.
"I care about you. I-" say it, say it. There's no turning back. "I think that I-"
He was almost tempted to laugh from nervousness. His extremities started to shake. For a moment his sight blurred out and when it came back fully he saw Izuna quickly passing from irritated to be in absolute shock. No one said anything for a while, god knows what his mouth let out, he didn't dare to recall.
Tobirama groaned. "Look, I don't know when it happened, I just...know it is how it is! I'm sorry! I can't change it. You make me!"
"Uh? Now is my fault?"
"Of course is your fault! Haven't you heard what I just said?!"
Izuna rose his lips, he was too occupied being annoyed to notice.
"Forget it. Calm down, yes? Now I have something to show you."
"Where is it?!" he demanded in a louder voice than he pretended to use.
"Ugh. You must be the sovereign of the dumbest questions ever made. Stubborn Senju."
He, in fact, felt dumbfounded, as if he was losing the important point of the dialogue "If only you could explain yourself we wouldn't be having this qua-"
Izuna barely uncovered his chest, rummaging inside his yukata, attracting his attention inevitably. He quirked an eyebrow, clearly doubtful about the other's intentions, not blushing, watching as his hand touched the thing he was looking for, Izuna took it out in a risky movement, making him startle a little. His expression changing quickly as his eyes collided with a too well-decorated parchment.
"Is right here."
Silver threads embroidered around the edges of the white paper, with little prints of small wave patterns surrounding something in its center he could not get to see fully cause its design was hidden beneath the blue strip with which was tied, its details were obviously exceptional.
"What is that?"
"You wanted me to show you, didn't you? That's why you were here." lie "Although you may know more than you claim."
Discerning the calmness on Izuna's face he simply slumped his shoulders defeatedly, accepting the parchment from Izuna's hands, making them rose on unplanned purpose.
"I was thinking to use it later at the mountain burning festival, for the New Year's eve, but as things went with those mummies..."
"I'm sorry." Izuna shrugged, as if he was dismissing the matter, raised his index and middle finger and started murmuring with his harmonious voice close to his face "It's fine."
"No, it's not." his mood relaxed "Your clan, Madara..."
He regretted saying that as Izuna's eyes started watering. He moved out of pure reflex, putting their foreheads together.
"I've been waiting to show you this..."
"To show me-?" he felt hypnotized.
Before he could add anything, a soft flame came out of Izuna's lips, quickly burning the thin paper of the parchment until it was reduced to ashes, causing Tobirama to startle. However, he left no room for further action, and before they fell to the ground, he blew the ashes jokingly on Tobirama's face who tried to steer them away with his free hand. Of course. As this was Izuna's trickery, he could not do it. A spiral-shaped flame he didn't know where it came from, tied his wrists so that he could not free himself from the grab. Izuna looked back at him amused, and when his arm was also tied to the contact something happened: the lifeless gray particles began to turn into the most vivid colors, beginning to form small circles around their shapes and, from one moment to the next started thundering in the air like small explosions.
It was beautiful.
Tobirama wasn't sure he'd seen something like this before. That, or it was just that Izuna's figure was getting on his range of view.
However, as it seemed, the show was not yet over. Izuna infatuated his lungs with air and blew hastily on the dancing ashes, making them sway and stir a lot more, spinning in the air, crossing ways, making crispy dust, almost covering the sky above, floating freely until they started forming a figure.
Tobirama's eyes gleamed.
A gorgeous tree surrounded by steaming water.
It was the same image he had previously seen drawn on the parchment, now fully appreciated.
The analogy was more than obvious, and the effect of the lights and fire were doing wonderful things to make the ocean waves and green leaves seem to move with a chaotic and powerful rhythm.
Izuna smiled triumphantly looking at him like he just owned the entire shinobi world.
He was speechless. "I haven't seen anything like this before." Izuna chuckled.
"You thought I was going to blow the place off?"
"Yes, in fact, you are impressed. Stubborn Senju."
Their hands had been in touch all along, and the moment Tobirama realized it, thought of withdrawing it as soon as possible. Such a thing never happened. Izuna tightened the grip upon his fingers, and he was trying not to be affected by that action, ignoring the fast beating that squeezed his chest.
Tobirama gulped. "Ah. Nothing."
"Wanna know why didn't I scattered the ashes as my brother's belongings?"
"You don't have to-"
"Because you're right here. Alive with me."
With a wave of his hand, Izuna made the magic scenario go away, leaving the reddish heaven on sight again. As the image break, the ashes lead to becoming part of the parchment again, regenerating as if they were never touched. It was a beautiful view, none of them commented anything until Tobirama cleared his throat.
"So...shall you pinch my arm, or is it gonna be me?"
Izuna pouted. This has to be the first time he saw him flush. "Tobirama..."
"Sorry. I'm sorry. Uh. I guess...we can leave that for later."
"We can. Yeah."
"I'd say I'm willing to accept your incendiary performances if you tell me more about that procedure you were doing up there."
"Does it really intrigue you that much?"
Tobirama didn't know from where, how had he took the courage to, but there was no doubt, nor a single trace of qualm in his voice as he stated:
"Of course it does! I told you I care about you!"
He felt Izuna's gaze upon him, he remained still, too shy to return it.
Izuna's upper lip rose in a tiny smile, the warmness of his hand, the intimacy of the moment, this was too much to gather. Tobirama's pupils dilated, his lips were kissed softly, and he forgot who he was for a moment. There was no Senju or Uchiha clan. He'll deal with whatever consequence coming later, for now, they were only Tobirama and Izuna, a couple of ninjas watching the sky turning a deeper shade of blue.