This story is written on Fanfiction dot net and on Archive of Our Own. Anybody reading this story on other websites is reading unauthorised copies. Please read this story on those two sites, where I can see reviews and hit-counts, which tell me how much people are enjoying my work so I can be encouraged to go on writing.

All thanks to Insane Scriptist for beta-ing. There will be another update next Monday.

Direct thee to Peace

Over the three weeks of the hostage exchange, Kita spent several hours most days listening to Madara work out the terms he wanted for a comprehensive formal treaty with the Senju, regularly asking him questions and reminding her husband of the importance of making all the details explicit. After her discussion with Tobirama on Uchiha chakra culture Madara went over the entire document again, almost doubling its length with all the fine details an Uchiha would take for granted but a Senju might not.

Who is responsible for resolving interpersonal disputes. What support is available to widows, orphans, the crippled or the elderly and who is responsible for providing it. How much arable land must be attached to a residential property depending on its size and the number of residents. The duties a craftsman has towards his apprentices, regardless of whether or not they are his children. Parental rights, the conditions under which they are forfeited, and to whom they default in such cases.

The one thing her husband goes over repeatedly is the section of the treaty proposal containing the age limits for learning external chakra manipulation, combat-orientated chakra techniques, weapons training and the age limit for taking shinobi missions. Kita watches him agonise over those demands, refining the language here and there in between scrapping entire sections and rewriting them.

Then there are all the details of the prospective village, from the planned sewer layout and road grid pattern on translucent washi that can be overlaid on a sturdier topographical map of the intended area to the rules for keeping certain craft workshops within a specified distance of the river banks and ensuring the smiths will keep their forges downwind of the village centre.

There's not much in terms of actual buildings laid out in the treaty for the village; Madara recognises that people need to decide for themselves when they want to move in, so it's more a matter of laying down ground rules and making sure people follow them as they move in. Everyone adds their own personal touches to a building to turn it into a home, so the rules are mainly about ensuring the fire risk is kept minimal, preventing diseases and illnesses fostered by improperly managed waste and covering what counts as refuse and how it has to be disposed of.

Now however Izuna is home again and it has been determined that there will be a treaty made, so Madara has to go over those terms that will affect the inner workings of the clan with the Homeguard Head and the elders. As this treaty is significantly more involved than a simple promise not to attack one-another, there is a lot to discuss. Kita spends a week refining the hands-off seal and working on a patchwork coat for Midori, since her little sister is the heir of the Toyotama lineage now, in between reading more Toyotama Mangekyō scrolls, having polite discussions with Echigo-oji, her former lineage head, and rather sharper arguments with Grandma over the treaty.

Grandma has replaced Granny Fuji as the Toyotama elder –no lineage has more than one each now, there simply aren't enough adults and the Kōjin lineage is represented by a proxy– and she brings her perspective as a craftswoman and the daughter of an out-clan man to the table. She is fully in agreement with some of Madara's peace terms, arguing vehemently for them, and fiercely opposed to others. Such as the clause allowing craftspeople to take on out-clan apprentices; after two days of debate and negotiation Madara does rework that one, classing certain crafts and techniques as 'clan secrets' and therefore not open to outsiders.

Grandma's weaving is of course not covered, but the patchwork coats are; as are their charcoal, ink, steel, lacquered armour and wire. Of the other crafts only the chakra techniques involved as classed officially as 'hiden'; the shuriken and blades themselves are after all made in much the same way as civilian ones, just as the pottery is.

There is an attempt to class Kita's chakra-spinning as a secret clan technique, but she makes it clear that it is a personal skill relating to her seal work rather than a clan specialty. She knows very well that Tobirama will not have kept quiet about her embroidered seals and she would much rather teach others the discipline than have to put up with the hassle and peril of espionage and sabotage attempts. It's not exactly rocket science after all, any more than seeding ink with blood to improve chakra conductivity.

She's also a little wickedly curious whether Tobirama will be interested enough in a new sealing medium to learn how to embroider. The idea amuses her greatly.

As far as her Mangekyō goes… she will learn to use it, then she will set it aside. Only when her eyesight starts to fail will she need to contemplate the possibility of transplants, and until then it is a moot point. She's not a battlefield shinobi like her husband is; she is not even a shinobi at all. She will not be using her Mangekyō on a regular basis –or at all, most likely– so deterioration is unlikely to be an issue for some time, especially with Yori supervising her training sessions and healing the damage before it can set in.

The lineage scrolls are surprisingly numerous and very detailed. Kita learns that there have only been three Toyotama with the Mangekyō before her, and that only one of them ever joined the Outguard. He –the only man– had a relatively short lifespan, but the other two lived well into their seventies. The benefits of being a woman and a mother, evidently; it's easier to live longer when you are not expected to take missions or fight on the battlefield.

Apparently the wani transformation she experienced is an incomplete manifestation of the Mangekyō technique: its size reflects her spiritual maturity, so will grow further as she ages, but if she transforms while drawing on Yin chakra rather than simply allowing the change to take her, she will achieve the complete dragon transformation and then be able to carry out smaller, partial changes. Such as claws, steel skin or teeth; a tail is also possible. It is a defensive manifestation; the lineage has other named techniques –just as the Amaterasu have not just their titular fire but also Tsukuyomi and Susano-o– but this is where she must start.

Her ancestor Ibuki who was in the Outguard was the one to most fully explore the possibilities granted by partial changes; his notes are in small, neat kanji on long scrolls, clearly a compilation added to regularly once he was sure of each aspect he had discovered. Ibuki was in fact the one to discover the true strength of Toyotama-hime's defence after being impaled through the middle by a long-ago mokuton user: forcing the transformation into or out of dragon form allows the wielder to regenerate from injuries. It's clearly an expensive technique in terms of chakra and eye damage –Ibuki notes that his vision deteriorated noticeably afterwards– but he survived that battle. Despite losing most of the contents of his abdomen and a chunk of his spine to a wooden spear a hand-span across.

Kita makes a note of the mental focus required and tucks it away in the back of her mind. She's not dealt with many assassination attempts yet, but when this alliance goes through that is likely to change. The Uchiha and Senju clans are the most powerful in Fire Country and indeed the surrounding nations as well, but as they are constantly at each-other's throats the only person with any power who cares what they're getting up to is the daimyo, because the conflict undermines his authority and the collateral damage to the landscape reduces the tax revenue arriving in his coffers. The Uchiha and Senju bound in alliance such as Hashirama and Madara both want though… then they will be a force to be reckoned with on an international scale. The Fire Daimyo will be pleased, but the other daimyo will likely be wary.

Which is why focusing on trade and demilitarising is so essential if they want peace to last. It still might not last anyway, but this way they are minimising the risk by seeming less of a threat to other shinobi clans, so they won't feel obliged to join the village just so as to avoid getting squished by the combined might of the Uchiha and Senju.

A week after Izuna's return Madara has got the clan's elders and lineage heads on board with his slightly revised treaty proposal. That unfortunately leaves him with a week to stress about the details before they are due at the Akimichi compound, which he does his best to distract himself from in various ways.

He takes his hawks out for flights several days running. He spars with Izuna, which is rather more exiting now they both have their vision fully restored. He trains Sakurajima and Sahoro with Izuna and Hikaku's help. He has Kita explain the hands-off seal to him in greater detail, as well as the particulars of her chakra binding seal, which turns out not to be a binding seal at all. He also allows himself to be sworn to secrecy on that particular detail; Kita's right that it's best not to let it slip out. People would get ideas. It's not a seal that will be discussed or traded like her more practical domestic seals; there are others they will also be keeping secret, like the temperature regulation seals they use on the kilns, so as to preserve their advantage on the ceramics market.

He also spends time playing with the girls and doing a bit more ink painting, as well as having a bit of fun decorating various ceramic pieces in time for the next round of firing the kiln. It's been a while since he had so much free time and treaty or not, it's probably going to be a long time before he gets this much again.

Madara makes a point of carving out several hours a day for Kita and keeping his evenings free. Sitting with her as she finishes quilting Sakurajima's coat in between working on the patchwork design for Midori's, quietly talking about clan things and her hopes for the future, is all really restful.

Their evenings after the girls are in bed are a little less restful, but the exertion is part of the fun. Madara cannot deny that he really enjoys being married. Training with his wife is also incredibly exhilarating: she's making great progress with her Mangekyō and Yori is managing to keep the swelling and deterioration to the absolute minimum between practice sessions. Madara is just glad that it didn't take Kita very long to work out how to stay clothed while shifting between forms, even if neither of them has a clue how that works; Yori has no clue how that works either. Madara doesn't care how, he's relieved he no longer has to worry about people seeing his wife in a state of undress, so she now can train alongside the others he is tutoring in their Mangekyō techniques. She still has to practice outside –the transformation is not small– but at least modesty is preserved.

Then the respite is over and it is time to travel to the Akimichi with the planned entourage to negotiate with the Senju for peace. Madara is just glad that the elders agreed that the actual negotiation process was purely an Outguard matter; the only person not part of the Outguard that he is taking is Kita, and that's because she's been as much a part of arranging the terms as he has and he wants her opinions on the Senju's counter-offers without having to wait for letters to be exchanged.

He's also taking Hikaku, because Hikaku is diplomatic, and his two new Mangekyō-wielding subordinates because their training is his responsibility; that it also provides a cover for teaching Kita is a bonus. They all need that training, their eyesight depends on it and he refuses to neglect it; he's sure Akimichi Chōtai will be willing to grant them usage of a discreet practice field.

Of course, this being a full formal diplomatic negotiation with a formerly-enemy party there is going to be a lot of gift exchanges and probably the expectation of a further hostage exchange as well. Generally speaking, in these situations the 'hostages' are women granted in marriage to high-ranking clan members, but the Uchiha do not give away brides. Not ever. The historical records Kita has somehow charmed out of Murasaki-sama indicate the Senju have only ever exchanged brides with the Uzumaki, so at least there will be no expectations there either; however some kind of hostage exchange must nonetheless be carried out.

Madara is loath to entrust a child to Hashirama for fostering; Izuna's description of his friend's negligence of his son is less than promising. A high-ranking warrior though? A lineage head? That shows trust while also ensuring his hostage will be able to defend themselves if necessary.

It's going to have to be Hikaku, isn't it. He can't exactly offer any of his other Mangekyō wielders –Oshiki is young and angry while Sahoro and Sakurajima are not yet fully trained– as the Senju wouldn't understand why he was offering a young orphan not closely related to him and take it as an insult.

Hikaku meanwhile is his first cousin, in line to lead the clan after Izuna, his most trusted in the Outguard and well-known to the Senju already from the battlefield. He is also temperate, thoughtful and has long since moved past hating the other clan unthinkingly.

More pragmatically, Yori is due to give birth in less than three months so even if things fall through in the worst possible way, his line will not end with him. Hijiri is courting, so will likely marry soon and further stabilise the Yatagarasu lineage, and Hidaka is there too; he even has all the training Hijiri doesn't.

Madara hates these decisions, but as Outguard Head he has to make them. He suspects Hashirama –or more realistically Tobirama– is currently agonising over the same choices. The Uchiha clan will probably get the woman who is Tobirama's second; Izuna mentioned her name was Tōka. Respective clan thirds is not so bad an exchange, all things considered; high enough to know what is at stake and have political training, but not so high the clan would fall apart without them. It shows commitment and they can be exchanged back again once the shared outpost has been up and running for a while. Maybe in six months? Or at least agree to revisit the arrangement after six months, yes that would be enough. It would take them to New Year or thereabouts, which would be a good time for renewing commitments and so on.

Thankfully, being Outguard Head means he can make Kita's new and improved hands-off seals a condition of joining, so all his warriors are now protected from the crudest means of bloodline theft. The Senju have not stooped so low in centuries –not even Butsuma went so far, taking the lesson from history of what had been done to the Senju who had– but others are less scrupulous, especially the smaller clans encountered infrequently on missions to more distant nations. To them the Uchiha are not a present threat, merely an opportunity for advancement in their own local skirmishes and wars.

It comforts Madara to know that he will never again be sent out on a hunting mission after a clansman is brought home missing one or both eyes, either alive or as a desecrated corpse. He has done so only twice, once to Water and once to Lightning, and made a point of inflicting considerable collateral damage both times. Now at least his warriors are safe from that violence, if not from the wiles of women hoping to steal their bloodline in more subtle ways.

There is a reason that it is Uchiha women who are encouraged to bring husbands into the clan, not the other way around; a woman cannot have her unborn stolen from her save by death.

Speaking of, Madara has to wonder if Kita can prevent other kinds of bloodline theft with seals too. Something to ask her about later, once the treaty is settled and she's fully trained in using her Mangekyō. All the changes of the past weeks have unsettled her and she's a little sharper than usual from the stress.

He sets aside the scrolls he intends to take –in case he has to wave them in Hashirama's face to back up certain treaty points– and heads out to make tea. A drink and a pause in the packing will help his wife find her balance and calm herself. She's not pleased to have to leave the twins with Izuna while they're visiting the Akimichi, but they can't exactly bring the girls with them. It wouldn't be safe.

She's right though; leaving them behind when they might be away for a month or more is far from ideal. But if they get peace, lasting peace, it will be worth it. Even if it only lasts a few years; peace made once is easier to re-establish.

Now if only he had been able to come up with a suitable argument to not wear sokutai. Then again, he'll only have to wear it for the initial formal introductions and Kita will at least be suffering alongside him in jūnihitoe. After that he'll be able to go back to formal hitatare. Kita of course will be in variously formal kimono –plus the uchikake she wore on their wedding day– and Hikaku and the others will be able to get away with formal hitatare throughout, not being part of the negotiations save as witnesses. The clan's widows have been working hard to attire everybody appropriately, so the entire delegation will be dressed as befitting the Uchiha's station.

Diplomatic negotiations are unfortunately too formal for a nobleman of his rank to just wear hitatare or kimono and hakama; the Uchiha clan predates the formation of Fire Country and are technically of a similar rank to the daimyo's family as an old imperial lineage, so have to dress accordingly for formal audiences and diplomatic ventures. They are kuge, not bushi as the Akimichi are, and that carries with it certain responsibilities and duties along with the associated privileges.

Privileges such as only being taxed on the silk that they sell, not all they make for their own use, but the duty to dress the part. Hence the awkward but at least newly-made many-layered court robes he will be practicing in shortly; being fourth-rank means the robe is black, and being a recognised military leader lets him wear split panels for easier movement.

He'll take it, honestly.

Tobirama slumps at his desk as Tōka kindly makes a pot of tea. This may well be the peace treaty Hashirama has been daydreaming of since he was eleven, but that doesn't mean his brother has been doing all that much to prepare for it. Yes, his brother does know how to write every possible kind of peace treaty that the clan archive offers examples of –which he's grateful for– but they've never actually had a treaty with the Uchiha before. Not a proper formal one. Well, not since that time about five hundred years ago when a Senju Clan Head very foolishly decided to stoop to bloodline theft; that was less of a treaty and more of a 'please don't massacre us all we didn't know he was this crazy' pitched by the scattered survivors of the Uchiha-Hyūga-Inuzuka alliance that swiftly crushed the idiot like the wrath of a vengeful kami, wiping out three-quarters of the clan in the process.

Suffice it to say that the Senju have emphasised the taboo of bloodline theft ever since.

That is unfortunately the only formal treaty example they have though, so Tobirama has been reading it and re-reading it in search of guidance. He's one of maybe four people in the clan who can read archaic characters –his Uzumaki grandmother is the only other one he would trust to give him an accurate rendition of meaning– and some of the terminology is rather obscure. In that he's not entirely sure what all these poetic titles and allusions mean.

Hashirama's read this one –well, he listened attentively when Tobirama read it to him and made up a copy in modern characters and katakana– but it's the fine details of precedence and address that interest him right now. Because yes, that the Uchiha were unquestionably victorious –if unexpectedly gracious in victory– on that occasion does go a way to excusing some of the florid poetry, but not all of it. And that the only Senju left to lead the clan was the very late Head's youngest niece does partly explain why her titles are so few in comparison, but when taking into account the titles accorded the Hyūga –very similar to the Uchiha– and Inuzuka –mostly praising their loyalty and strength but no mention of nobility at all– the picture painted is somewhat different. It implies a significant difference in social status between the Senju and Uchiha clans and Tobirama is concerned.

Comparing this treaty with what few contemporary documents the Senju have, there's a similar theme in the address granted the daimyo of the time –who was one of the early ones, as Fire Country was newly-established then and far smaller yet also considerably more warlike– and that directed at the Uchiha Head in this document. Which might be triumphal hyperbole, but also may not; it's not like the Senju know anything about the history of their rival clan. They've been fighting one-another for longer than they have records for and clearly nobody has ever cared to clarify why.

Tobirama knows the Hyūga are an old noble clan, old enough that they were rulers of the part of Fire Country they still live in today until they gracefully surrendered civil governance to the Fire Daimyo in return for being permitted to continue to live there and practice their traditional lifestyle unhindered. Daimyo's daughters have married into the Hyūga, and daughters lacking their bloodline have married back out to daimyo's sons. Not recently, but it has happened. And still, that the Hyūga are implied to be less noble than the Uchiha in whatever measure is used to determine such things has unfortunate implications.

Which means that it is entirely possible that this treaty negotiation is going to be the kind of courtly-formal that Hashirama regularly fails to recognise as something he has to participate in and respect; Tobirama really hopes it isn't. Honestly, Tobirama's been grateful for the ongoing war, as it's meant his brother is not required to go to the capital and address the daimyo. Yes, for some reason the ruler of Fire has thus far seemed to find Hashirama's cheerful protocol violations amusing, but that's not something the clan can rely on to continue now that his brother is their clan head. Heirs get more leeway, but Heads are assumed to know better so the insult would be significant.

There's nothing he can do about all this at this juncture save hope for the best; they are due at the Akimichi holdings in two days' time and Tobirama just has to pray that Madara is serious enough about peace to overlook the inevitable foot-in-mouth Hashirama is going to commit. He's not even sure his brother really listened to him when he was explaining about the differences in the healing the Uchiha have available or the civilian casualties the Senju have caused; yes, Hashirama looked serious and agreed to add the offer of medical training in the treaty, but Tobirama doesn't get the impression his brother has taken the details to heart as he should.

For all his grand idealism, Hashirama has never been particularly imaginative or empathetic where individuals are concerned.

He wishes he could be sure that his brother has fully considered all the specifics of peace though. Yes, his brother has talked about a lot of points he wants to include in a treaty on various occasions, but Tobirama still doesn't know which of those Hashirama considers most important or what Madara considers most important, or whether their ideas are going to mesh well. Negotions could drag on extensively depending on points raised and there is always the option of it ending poorly.

However this goes, he just wants it to not end in insults and bloodshed. Which right now still seems all too likely, unfortunately.

"Drink some tea," Tōka urges him firmly, "and stop pulling on your hair; it won't make things any better."

"I just wish Anija was a bit more forthcoming about the treaty specifics," Tobirama grumbles, picking up his teacup and sipping it; it's perfect. Tōka makes excellent tea when she wants to. "Usually he's all too willing to have me do the drafting, so what's so different this time?" His brother has insisted on doing all the writing himself; Hashirama won't even tell him what's going in there! They're going to be defending their demands in a few days and Tobirama doesn't even know what all of them are! He's going to have to read it over after they arrive, without any reference documents because Hashirama will probably forget to pack any! Even Mito's not entirely sure of what's in there, although she has coaxed a few details out of her husband; nothing that offers a clear indication of what documents to bring though, for all that he appreciates her efforts. She's worried about this as well.

"Well it's his dream, isn't it?" Tōka points out wryly, settling opposite him with her own teacup. "Of course he wants to make sure all the things he wants to happen are included."

"Up until the fiddly detail work gets too boring for words," Tobirama mutters irritably, then shakes his head. "Don't mind me; I haven't been sleeping well." He's had uneasy dreams ever since returning, which is a bit odd when his sleep in the Uchiha compound was utterly restful. Yes, the dreams were a trifle strange at times, but he never had a single nightmare or even woke up in a cold sweat due to flashbacks.

Come to think of it, those three weeks were the best sleep he's had in years. That's possibly a little suspect.

Are there seals for peaceful sleep? He'll have to ask Mito. How would you even go about designing such a seal, anyway?

Those questions may have to wait until after the treaty as well; at least his discussions with Yuta-oba and Baasan have clarified the value of his coat –not counting the seals stitched invisibly in its lining– and his grandmother has assisted him in selecting an appropriately valuable gift to offer Kita in return for her generosity. The Uzumaki deal with the nobility more often than the Senju do so she has the experience to make such choices, despite being less certain on the appropriate protocol for negotiations beyond 'as formal as meeting the daimyo,' which is not particularly helpful.

It is not a bought gift –she did not buy the coat after all– but a minor clan heirloom that Kita will hopefully appreciate. His grandmother assures him it is not inappropriate for him to gift to another Clan Head's wife, as technically the gift is on the Senju clan's behalf, in thanks for the consideration and hospitality shown to him while in her power.

Tobirama still isn't quite sure what to do about the uneasy awareness of having caused her father's death. It's not something he can offer compensation for, not without opening the Senju to crippling financial reparations for all the civilian lives they have ended, but he still wishes to make sure Kita is aware of his culpability. He will not have her grace to him be founded on ignorance; she deserves to know and to have the freedom to speak and act accordingly. He owes her his life –a debt he cannot hope to repay– and it sits uncomfortably with the knowledge of his responsibility for her loss.

He is yet to mention her sharingan variant or the seals in his coat to anybody; if they do succeed in making peace then the knowledge is meaningless, and if they do not he can inform his clansmen later. It is not as though the information would change anything about the treaty his brother is drafting.

Her monthly bleeding is late. It was due around the time of Izuna's return, and Kita honestly expected it then what with her short temper concerning the murder attempt and the discovery of her Mangekyō, but it did not arrive. Not then and nearly two weeks later it is still not in evidence.

Her cycle has always been very regular, save the few months following her mother's death, so Kita doubts the delay is stress-related; that has always brought the bleeding forwards rather than pushing it back. No: she is pregnant. Conception must have been within a day or so of Izuna's injury, meaning she is now almost five weeks pregnant. Well, six weeks counting from the end of her last cycle.

It doesn't quite feel real yet. The only clear indication of the change is the halting of her monthly bleeding, which her husband has either not noticed or assumes he has missed with how busy he was in the immediate aftermath of Izuna's safe return.

Kita isn't sure she wants to share the news yet. She may yet miscarry –although she has taken the time to unpick the seals from her nightwear and the clothing she is taking with her for the negotiations– and she would prefer to spare Madara the disappointment if her body rejects the foetus before the end of the third month.

Chakra-wise, Tobirama may notice the change in her signature during the negotiations, but then again he also may not as she has in fact been pregnant throughout the past three weeks of increasingly close acquaintance. He may even overlook it entirely until her body makes the shift at the beginning of the fourth month, pooling her chakra around her womb to protect and nourish the baby as her abdomen begins to swell.

Children do not develop their own chakra until a week or so after they are born, which is part of why shinobi culture –or at least Uchiha culture– doesn't recognise a child as a separate person until then; the Uchiha only enter a child's name in the shrine records after two weeks of life. Until they are truly independent from their mother and have the chakra to prove it, unborn and infant are both considered an extension of their mother's body, a vessel that is yet to be filled by a soul of its own.

Kita wants children. She wants to carry and bear her husband's children, to raise and love them, to discover the adults they will become. However… she is ambivalent on the prospect of sons. Madara was the oldest of five boys so sons are likely, and as Outguard Head her husband is expected to have sons and train one of them to succeed him, but…

Kita wants daughters. Girls to teach to spin and stitch, to paint and dye, to read and write and sing and play music, to work wire, throw shuriken or wield naginata. Girls with her husband's warm smile and whimsical sense of humour, little girls her husband can adore and delight in as he does Toshi and Azami. But sons are more likely and it is hardly fair of her to set herself up for disappointment, especially when the child would likely perceive her unhappiness as a personal failing of their own. Any child of her husband's will be a delight regardless of their gender and she must hold to that. She doesn't know her little brothers very well –unfortunately– but she does love them dearly and she got on very well with Hijiri and Hidaka when they were little, so what is her problem with boys?

It comes to her as she entrusts her luggage to Sakurajima and falls in behind her husband with Yōko, Inemi's cousin, at her side as attendant and the party's medical specialist. Yōko-chan is barely fifteen and looks it, but she is intelligent, serious, very capable in pharmacy and skilled at fading into the background. Her chakra control is also excellent: she can already stitch all of Kita's medical seals and is proficient in the Yin medical technique, if only for short stretches of time.

Kita has already sworn the girl to secrecy on her pregnancy and knows that the oath will be kept, but she almost trips over her own feet as her mind finally hands her the missing puzzle piece concerning her reluctance for sons. Puzzle pieces; her fears are twofold.

"Wife?" Madara asks, glancing over his shoulder as they leave the compound.

"Just an unexpected revelation, husband," she assures him as they pick up speed. He smiles –he probably assumes her distraction is related to a seal project– before focusing on the trees ahead. All six of them are now running full-tilt, having the proper training for it –it is now standard and expected for all Uchiha to learn to run at mission speeds aged thirteen– so it won't take them even half a day to reach Akimichi lands, even with Sahoro and Sakurajima both balancing clothes chests on their shoulders.

Half her attention on following in her husband's footsteps through the leafy woodland, Kita ponders her revelation. Firstly she is afraid of emulating her mother and neglecting Toshi and Azami in favour of a newborn son. Even though she was only home for the first year of Jōnen's life and at that point Mama's behaviour seemed to be her usual focus on a fragile needy infant, Kita only has Mama as her example of how to parent.

She knows she is not her mother, but it is still hard. She can't remember having sons in her previous life –although what she remembers of her actual life is vaguely congruent to her age, so she may simply have married later than in this lifetime– so has no other examples to draw from.

Her other fear is that Madara will emulate his father if presented with a son. Which is stupid –her husband is very different to Tajima-sama in both temperament and behaviour and works hard to stay different– and yet not, because Madara doesn't have any other examples of how to raise sons any more than she does; well, unless she counts Niniji-sama but she doesn't know how much her husband saw of Niniji-sama growing up. Emotionally, her fears make sense.

Logically and practically, Madara's rules on mission readiness for the Outguard and agonised over for the treaty make it very clear he's not going to turn around and hold his own child to a different standard. She has to have faith. Faith in herself, to not neglect her girls in favour of a son, and also to not draw back from a son over something as arbitrary as gender. She promises that she will not allow her child's gender to blind her to their identity as a person.

And she also needs to have faith in her husband, that having a son would prove an opportunity for growth and change for the better. Somehow it's easier to believe in Madara; she's seen him learn to parent her little sisters, doting on Toshi and Azami with an open heart and gentle discipline, so she knows he can do it.

She will tell him of her pregnancy once the treaty is complete, no matter how well or how badly it goes or how much or little time it takes. If she loses the foetus before then, well. Maybe. She will probably need the comfort.

Tobirama does not look up from either his brother's slapdash treaty or his own notes as six Uchiha chakra signatures, all of them more or less familiar, dart along the road leading to his current position. The Akimichi have already noticed their guests' imminent arrival; the clan head and a number of others are converging on the clan compound's front gates and an ino-shika-chō trio are already advancing at a run towards the border where their lands meet the main road.

Hashirama does not need to know. He would only offend their hosts again. It is bad enough that he insisted on arriving a day early; being early is worse than being late, as your host may not yet be fully prepared to receive you. The Uchiha have made their journey in proper time, arriving an hour after noon of the day indicated as appropriate, so as to leave the Akimichi several hours for appropriate protocol and exchanging gifts without needing to delay a meal to do so.

Unlike the Senju, who arrived right before lunch yesterday morning and delayed the midday meal by over an hour. Not that the Akimichi were anything but gracious and welcoming, but Tobirama knows that his brother's enthusiasm was not as appreciated as it might have been.

Hashirama is currently out in the garden drinking sake and daydreaming, hence Tobirama finally having the space to go over the prospective treaty and fill it out a little. Some of his brother's ideas can most politely be described as impractical, others are very good but lack the required definition and structure to be clearly achievable and others still look deceptively straightforward from a Senju perspective but Tobirama can already tell the Uchiha will not appreciate them; Hashirama building the village himself in minutes, for instance. Hearing from Tōka about Izuna's refusal to even set foot in the buildings Hashirama made, let alone sleep in them, were a timely reminder that the Uchiha would find the constant low-level buzz of his brother's chakra threatening rather than reassuring.

Unfortunately his brother has never been very good at seeing the world from other people's perspectives, so it falls to Tobirama to fill in the gaps and persuade his sibling otherwise. Well, attempt to do so; Hashirama may disregard his advice. Again. At least Tōka was the one left behind to wrangle the clan in their absence; she will keep everyone in line and Mito will support her without question. Tobirama would have liked his cousin's support here, but she's the only other person with the strength and training to lead and the rest of the clan foolishly do not recognise Mito's skills as sufficient.

Tobirama would also have liked Mito to be here, but Hashirama dismissed the idea so while they do have strong warriors with them, nobody else in the Senju party has any appreciation of the politics involved in this kind of negotiation. The Uzumaki have more experience with the protocols for differing ranks and could offer insight into how to adjust levels of formality as necessary, but Hashirama decided against bringing Mito and the Senju clan obeyed.

Going by the feel of the now-familiar Uchiha chakra signatures, Madara has left his brother behind to lead their clan in his absence, but has brought his wife and Tōka's usual opponent –Hikaku, his name is Hikaku and he's Madara's first cousin as well as Yori-san's husband; he came over for dinner a few times while Tobirama was staying with the Uchiha– along with three other less familiar Uchiha. Tobirama is sure he's sensed these specific individuals around the Uchiha compound on multiple occasions during his stay, but can't put faces or names to them; Uchiha really are confoundingly similar in chakra. He can only pick out Kita due to spending three weeks in her company with her seal binding him; Madara's strength is unmistakeable and he's become familiar with Hikaku after a decade of battlefield encounters.

The Uchiha pause for a few minutes upon coming face to face with the trio sent to greet them, then both parties proceed together at a more sedate pace. Meanwhile on the far side of the compound from the Senju guesthouse, frantic last-minute preparations are perceptively underway.

Tobirama continues to feign ignorance of the bustle and focuses on his notes, keeping a careful internal eye on the Head of the Akimichi clan and the leaders of his shinobi vassal clans. This appears to be a far more formal reception than the Senju received. It could be that their early arrival precluded a suitable greeting, but Tobirama suspects otherwise. The Akimichi are a noble clan, being from a distinguished samurai lineage with the daimyo's ear who did not abandon their proficiency with chakra when Fire Country ceased to expand and war with the surrounding nations became a matter of mercenaries and proxy conflicts over trade –which is what most of the Elemental Nations' other bushi families have done, abandoning ninjutsu in the pursuit of wealth– but Tobirama is aware that he knows very little of the intricacies of court precedence or how nobles rank amongst themselves. His father was far more focused on combat and which clans were on good terms with the Senju than the precise rank of those allies, beyond the obvious necessity of suitably respectful address.

Suitably respectful address for the Uchiha has of course never been considered relevant before today.

Hashirama eventually learns of the Uchiha's arrival over dinner, as their meal is hosted by Akimichi Chōkō and his new bride rather than by his father Chōtai-sama. That demotion is in itself suspect; the Akimichi hosting the two negotiating parties separately is not.

Of course his brother overlooks the former point and pouts at the latter. "Tobirama, you should have told me Madara was here! I want to talk to him! This is the first chance I've had for a proper conversation since we were both children!"

"Anija, as our hosts and the intermediaries for this treaty the Akimichi have to follow the approved protocol for such things," Tobirama explains patiently. "Interfering with that would be inappropriate."

"But Madara wouldn't fight me over dinner!"

Why must his brother be so thoughtless of consequences? "We want other clans to recognise the validity of this treaty, don't we anija?" Tobirama reminds him. "For that to happen we should follow the formal measures laid out for such things."

Hashirama swiftly subsides. "Of course I want to set an example! That's important!" He beams. "My apologies Akimichi-san! I'm so glad to hear that Madara has arrived!"

Tobirama does his best to keep his cringe internal; their hosts have consistently referred to Madara as 'Uchiha-sama.' Thankfully the Akimichi heir allows his brother's blatant disrespect to slide. This time, at least; once negotiations open that may well change.

Diplomacy is a slow business, involving lots of bowing and much polite speech. Madara greets Akimichi Chōtai with the appropriate formula that recognises the man's samurai background and connections to the daimyo, and is greeted in return with a long and much more humble formula acknowledging the Uchiha's specific noble rank and historic imperial connections. The empire has been dead and gone for about eight hundred years now, courtesy of the Kyuubi obliterating the capital and sinking it beneath the sea along with the emperor, his entire court and much of the surrounding countryside, but a few of the old noble lines survived the cataclysm and the Uchiha are some of the highest-ranking left; certainly the highest ranking in Fire Country.

Then a gift is offered, refused twice and finally accepted, and the giver urges the recipient to open it. Madara does so then praises the gift, allows his host to make polite disclaimers and hands it –a very fine shogi set carved from deer horn– carefully to Hikaku, so he can offer a gift of his own to his host to express his gratitude for the Akimichi clan's hospitality.

The whole procedure then repeats, but the other way around with additional disclaimers from Akimichi-dono claiming that his home is humble and not at all fit for such prestigious guests, until the other Clan Head has accepted, opened and lavishly praised his gift –a set of porcelain plates that Madara has painted himself– and Madara has made his own deprecating comments on their quality. Then the Uchiha can finally be shown to the Akimichi guesthouse, which involves more polite humility but also sweets and then finally they are left alone to settle in before dinner.

Madara makes tea while Hikaku oversees the men's side of the unpacking and Kita manages the women's side. The Uchiha party being half men and half women means that Hikaku and Sahoro can share a room, Yōko and Sakurajima another and he can sleep with Kita; everybody has a room-mate to watch their back and nobody is too crowded.

Everybody appreciates the tea; Kita then leaves the remnant of the unpacking to Yōko-chan and remains sitting with him, looking out through the shōji at the small but very lovely garden with her cup cradled absently in her hands.

"Well, here we are," she says eventually, tone faintly wondering.

Madara understands completely. He can hardly believe it either. "It's happening," he agrees. "We're making peace with the Senju. Real formal peace, not just an indefinite cease-fire; a treaty with tangible clauses and restitution demanded for violations, which will be witnessed by a third party and copies sent to the daimyo so he can enforce it." It had been a distant dream as a child, a castle in the sky, and here he is building it.

His dream has come a long way in the past fifteen years; hopefully Hashirama won't demand too many modifications to the new details he's bringing to the table, because Madara isn't sure he's prepared to compromise on many of them. He has seeded in a few more daring demands that he is willing to concede on –that is important and part of appearing reasonable– but some of them he will not. He cannot. Hashirama will hopefully understand.

Kita shuffles closer and leans her head against his shoulder. "Your thoughts on the Senju delegation?"

Madara hums, thinking back to what Akimichi-dono had said about who Hashirama has brought with him. His brother of course –Tobirama is likely to be heavily involved in the negotiation process– but not Tōka or Mito, which is a little odd; it's considered appropriate to bring women along to diplomatic negotiations, wives especially, to assist in hosting and as a show of commitment and good faith. Well, it might be that Hashirama –or rather Tobirama– has very few people he trusts with the wellbeing of the clan in his absence and that those two are best suited to keeping the Senju's warriors firmly in hand, but still. Surely Hashirama has an aunt or some such still living? Madara's aware of Butsuma's mother having been Uzumaki, so she's probably still alive –Uzumaki longevity is well-known– and would be a perfectly adequate substitute. Better even, being an honoured elder.

The other three Senju are not people Madara knows by name, but that Hikaku will likely recognise when he sees them; his second is more aware of who's who in the upper Senju hierarchy, having fought most of them on various occasions while Madara and Izuna have been preoccupied with countering Hashirama and Tobirama. His familiarity is part of why it is Hikaku who is his second rather than Izuna; Madara needs his deputy to have a more rounded understanding of the Senju forces and the skill-sets of the individuals involved.

It does make Madara wonder who exactly Hashirama has in mind for a hostage exchange though. He has to have somebody in mind, even though at this point in the proceedings such a thing is only a possibility, not a certainty. Does he intend to carry out the exchange later, after terms have been signed?

Has he even asked anybody to agree to it yet? Would he make the effort this time when he hadn't before?

"I suspect that Hashirama has not been paying much attention to his brother where the formalities are concerned," he tells his wife. "Which might be enthusiastic forgetfulness or outright ignorance, but neither is exactly ideal."

"He's going to be rude again, isn't he?" Kita sighs. "Well at least he's honestly committed to peace, so we know he's not deliberately sabotaging the process."

"We'll have to take matters as they come," Madara agrees, "and I'll try not to shout at him during the official negotiation proceedings." Outside of that, over informal tea or sake… well it might make a difference or it might not, but Hashirama does at least try to listen some of the time. So long as Madara is saying things his friend wants to hear.

Hashirama is a terrible friend, but he is at least a profoundly sincere one. He is personally powerful enough that he can afford to be.

"The unfortunate necessity of at least appearing reasonable," his wife commiserates mischievously.

"Are you suggesting I am not reasonable, dearest?"

Kita smirks at him. "I could not possibly criticize my husband in public," she says faux-virtuously, pressing a hand over her heart. "That would be most improper of me."

Madara snorts. He knows he's impetuous; it's a common Uchiha failing, to lead with their hearts rather than their heads. Kita knows he has never tried to conceal this particular flaw; she's just teasing him.

"My wife thinks so poorly of me," he murmurs mournfully, widening his eyes and pouting. "I will never recover."

Kita twitches, lifting her hand to cover the wicked smile spreading across her face; Madara catches the hand and firmly lowers it.

"My wife is beautiful when she smiles," he assures her softly.

The smile softens, as do her eyes; the warmth in them makes his heart flutter. "My husband is also most handsome when he smiles," Kita murmurs, meeting his eyes steadily. "And he blushes very charmingly."

Madara feels his face heat and has to fight not to let his eyes drop; how can she do this to him, even now?! They've been married for over two years and she still sends him all to pieces!

He loses the battle for eye contact, attention falling to the layered neckline of her kimono. It looks slightly different to usual; Madara frowns and smoothes it out, trying to pin down the difference.


His fingertips tell him what his eyes could not entirely decipher without the sharingan. "You're not wearing seals in your collar," he notes, glancing at her curiously. Has she not had time to add them with how busy they've been? He knows she's had to deal with a lot of new clothing in a very short span of time in preparation for this; several of her older kimono have also been handed on to her younger sisters, so they can dress appropriately for their new station within their lineage.

His wife's skin takes on a faintly rosy tinge and her eyes darken. "No, I'm not," she admits softly. The way she says it… is this deliberate?

"Would my wife be so good as to tell me why?"

Kita takes a very careful breath. "I want to give you a child, husband."

Madara can't breathe. He can't remember how. All he can see is the cautious hope on Kita's face, the longing and–

–she wants this he wants this oh this is what peace means to her–

"I love you." He doesn't even care that he said it out loud, he means it and the way Kita's breath catches as she trembles, eyes wide, say that his words mean the world to her.

"Madara?" It's more a gasp than a question.

"Yes," he tells her, joy burning fiercely in his blood as takes her teacup off her and sets it aside before standing up, lifting her to her feet as he does so. "I would be honoured, beloved. Kita, would you permit me?" Who cares that it's the middle of the afternoon? There're a few hours until dinnertime anyway.

Her answering smile is like the sun rising on a winter's morning, gloriously bright no matter how contained. "Nothing would please me more," she confesses, eyes dropping almost shyly as her chakra quivers in anticipation.

Firmly evicting Yōko from their bedroom is the work of a moment; what little remains of the unpacking can wait until evening.

The first meeting takes place the following morning; Tobirama has a really bad feeling about it. The Senju are all dressed in matching haori and hakama just the same as when they're visiting the daimyo, but the Akimichi men are wearing formal grey silk kamishimo embroidered with their crest over red kimono and most of them are holding fans. The women present –and there are several– are wearing variously patterned black tomesode, and Chōtai's wife Masu even has on an uchikake, indicating that this event is of the highest possible degree of formality.

The heads of the Nara and Yamanaka clans are sitting behind Chōtai-sama in regular kimono and hakama in their clan colours, complete with multiple crests, but looking nonetheless rather underdressed. Just as the Senju do, except it is worse for the Senju because what they are wearing is nowhere near as fine and their hakama only have their clan crest on the back rather than on the fronts as well and the design is only painted, not embroidered.

Then the double doors at the entrance of the hall are thrown open by two Akimichi in full ceremonial armour. "Announcing Uchiha Madara-sama, Head of the Uchiha Clan, Inner Minister by inheritance to the Emperor, with Uchiha O-Kita-sama his wife, Uchiha Hikaku-sama, Uchiha Sakurajima-sama and Uchiha Sahoro-sama, his generals, and Uchiha Yōko-sama, all of the forth rank of the dōjō kuge!"

Every Akimichi present instantly rises to their feet. Tobirama promptly does likewise, the rest of his clansmen rising with him; he recognises barely half those titles and they fill him with a terrible sense of dread. Surely the Uchiha are not–

The thought dies unfinished as the Uchiha party steps into the room. Madara is wearing layered formal court robes in black, cut for greater mobility, and has his usually wild hair up in a sleek topknot which adds significantly to the impression of acute formality. Kita is wearing jūnihitoe, the many layers visible in her trailing sleeve cuffs and the lower hem of her robes, and carrying a large fan. Flanking the couple a few steps behind are Uchiha Hikaku and a woman who must be Sakurajima, both in silk hitatare embroidered with large Uchiha crests and armoured greaves around their calves. A little further back are another man in hitatare and a woman in slightly less extravagant jūnihitoe, positioned so that he is visible between Hikaku and Madara and she between Kita and Sakurajima.

Tobirama has never seen anybody other than the daimyo and his wife dressed so formally, and then only in prints of state occasions; even then the daimyo's sokutai is red, not black! He's only come across black court dress in historical art from the imperial period and it was reserved for the highest ranking lineages of the Emperor's court!

Are the Uchiha more noble than the daimyo?!

Going by the very deep bows being made by the Akimichi –and the Nara and Yamanaka Heads are kneeling and prostrating themselves– the answer to that is yes.

Tobirama feels lightheaded. The problem with not being at war is that you have to respect your former enemy's social status and the Senju are very much not a noble clan, which means the properly polite greeting at this point is in fact saikeirei, the most respectful kneeling bow. Which he knows already his brother isn't going to do.

All he can do is pray that both other noble clans in the room do not take offense at Hashirama's utter defiance of the social pressures being exerted; he swiftly kneels himself, thus forcing his lower-ranking clansmen to follow his example.

Hashirama, as anticipated, does not take the hint; the depth of his bow is meaningless when he is staying on his feet. Tobirama stares at the floor and despairs.

Miraculously, Madara does not take offense and call off the treaty as he has every right to do. Instead he ignores Hashirama's blatant disrespect, ignores that the Senju are significantly underdressed for an occasion this formal, and after offering both the Akimichi and the Senju small bows of acknowledgement he uses the fan in his hand –which has sharpened steel ribs– to motion all those kneeling to stand, complete with an appropriate verbal formula.

Tobirama stands, then discreetly grabs his brother's sleeve so he doesn't sit down again until after the entire Uchiha party are settled opposite them. Then the Akimichi sit, and once they are seated Tobirama releases Hashirama, and the Senju also make themselves comfortable facing the Uchiha on the cushions provided.

Now it is time for the speeches and gift exchanges; going by how the Nara and Yamanaka Heads are moving to sit at the corners where the Akimichi party meets the Uchiha and Senju parties respectively, Tobirama is thankfully not going to have to urge all his clansmen to stand up each time an Uchiha rises to bring a gift over on a tray. That is very tactful of their hosts and he is incredibly grateful for their forethought.

Hopefully this way his brother can limit himself to just two or three deadly insults per session; he already knows Hashirama isn't going to address Madara as 'Uchiha-sama' and that will put the count at two for today. He does not want to think about how many more will have piled up before the treaty negotiations are complete.

Akimichi-sama's speech is very generous, citing what a momentous occasion it is that two such powerful clans are finally making peace and the stability the treaty will bring to Fire Country. Hashirama's speech is more enthusiastic but less structured; Madara's speech in contrast is measured, gracious and manages to communicate a strong commitment to peace while maintaining considerable ambiguity in what he considers necessary to achieve that.

There are scribes in Tobirama's periferal vision making note of every word; that has the potential to get very awkward for Hashirama in the future. He is going to have to start helping his brother to write speeches beforehand.

Then it is time for the gifts. Thankfully it is considered crass to weigh a gift purely by its monetary value; instead originality and thoughtfulness hold the day and unique or handmade clan-specific items are most cherished. Tobirama was heavily involved in this part of the process, needing something useful to do since Hashirama wasn't letting him set terms in the treaty, and he has hopes that this and the subsequent gift-giving intervals will help smooth over his brother's missteps.

The first gift to the Uchiha is two sets of carved wooden transom panels to be fitted over shōji or fusuma, the cut-outs shaped to create the impression of cranes, pines and bamboo or dragons and waves respectively. They are well-received; Tobirama breathes out a quiet sigh of relief. He had to really be very persuasive to convince Tōka's father, his uncle Tokonoma, to make those, but they are evidently much appreciated. Madara may even choose to display them in the Uchiha clan hall, which would be a significant compliment.

The first gift from the Uchiha is a single stoneware tea bowl, expertly shaped and glossy black with a white skeleton leaf printed into the glaze on the inside somehow. Hashirama manages to express suitably effusive thanks without being excessive; the tears gleaming in his brother's eyes suggest a personal reference that Madara is alluding to, which is hopeful. There is a difference between polite gifts and personally tailored ones after all.

The second round of gifts are dolls; they are intended to be symbolic of each party's wishes for peace, so are shaped like toddlers and dressed in the style of their clan. Tobirama tries not to feel ashamed that the Senju doll is wearing a miniature version of their formalwear no doubt cut from somebody's old clothes, in contrast to the intricately embroidered miniature silk hitatare the Uchiha doll is wearing complete with tiny etched steel greaves. There's nothing else he could have done there; his clan do not have the means.

The third gift is supposed to show commitment to the treaty process; the Senju therefore gift the Uchiha with an inkstone. It is in fact the inkstone that goes with the writing set Hashirama gambled away to Izuna; Tobirama has no particular attachment to it and it is of high enough quality to be a very good gift. The Uchiha present the Senju with a set of beautifully molded inksticks which are very clearly of their own making; Tobirama resolves to make sure his brother uses one once they get into the formal signing of the treaty.

By this point it is coming up on lunchtime, so after more speeches and expressions of commitment the meeting closes, with Tobirama dragging his brother to his feet as Madara stands to help his wife to hers. Kita has been gently fanning herself throughout the meeting; she must be very hot in all those silk layers.

Once the Uchiha have left, Tobirama corners Akimichi Chōtai as politely as he can and asks whether the treaty discussion will all be this formal. Akimichi-sama graciously assures him that no, this is the only occasion when full court formality will be upheld and future meetings will allow for greater freedom of speech. Also less restrictive standards of dress.

Tobirama bows in thanks; he doubts the Uchiha will at any point dress down as far as the Senju; it seems more likely that Madara will don the same silk hitatare as his generals. Speaking of which, is that a genuine formal rank or something else? He's certainly never heard anybody addressing Hikaku as 'general' on the battlefield. He's also fairly sure the youngest 'general' isn't even out of his teens yet.

There's clearly something special about those three though, as the other woman was introduced without a title at all. Well, the girl; her face is still rounded with baby fat and she has that unfinished look that children do not shed until they have finished maturing.

It's not his problem; he can always ask later if he truly cannot bear the suspense. In the meantime he has lunch to attend, questions for his brother regarding the tea bowl and gifts to store securely so that they are not damaged. That would be most disrespectful.

"Your thoughts, Kita?" Madara asks once they have changed out of their restrictive and stifling court garb and settled down around the table for lunch.

"Hashirama wilfully ignored half the appropriate formalities because he does not recognise their value, Tobirama cringed at every one of his brother's missteps and they are both completely committed to making this work in their own ways," Kita says firmly. "The problem is that Hashirama is used to getting his own way because nobody dares challenge him, so expects that to continue working on all social and interpersonal levels. Tobirama meanwhile is more accustomed to compromise so recognises that formality and manners are essential for political rapport, yet has no authority over his brother with which to command his attention."

Her husband sags. "Hahirama's entire plan for peace when we were younger was that together our clans would be too strong to oppose, so everybody else would stop fighting too," he confesses.

"Except they wouldn't, because our clans would then be a present threat to all of their sovereignty so they'd either try to ally themselves with us or gang up against us," Kita points out.

"I know that now," Madara mutters. "I was eleven, Kita; Otōsama hadn't started me on court politics yet."

Kita privately wonders how long it took Senju Butsuma to give up on teaching Hashirama anything he didn't want to learn, because it's very clear that Tobirama is the one with the grounded and nuanced understanding of interpersonal and political relationships. "Well, at least there weren't any ill-mannered moments you couldn't politely ignore?" She offers.

"Small mercies," her husband agrees wryly. "The bowing can be overlooked –it was only Hashirama and he is personally powerful enough to match me– and the same goes with the less than formal address. Tobirama kept the rest of his clansmen in line and made sure Hashirama didn't disrespect the Akimichi by sitting down too early, and the gifts were all well-chosen and extremely polite."

"Their dress could be taken as disrespectful, but considering how blank Tobirama went when we walked in I suspect it's more that they don't have anything more formal to wear," Kita continues, fingertips tapping against her teacup. "They were likely unaware of the extreme difference in social status and I know that's the same clothing they wore when we were all in the capital together, and it's a fair assumption that what's good enough for the daimyo would be good enough here. Except of course that the daimyo summoned us for a festival, not an official function, so visiting wear was sufficient for both the leaf-viewing and the Shichi-go-san."

"And it's entirely possible that the daimyo has not ever held an official meeting with the Senju, since their evidently not being noble means he would see no need to," Madara concludes with a sigh. "Well this is awkward."

Silence descends as they both eat, contempating the situation.

"If they're not noble they don't own the land they live on," Kita muses aloud after finishing and setting her chopsticks aside. "Which could explain Izuna's observation that their farmers don't call themselves Senju: if they're not allowed to use the clan name, then the clan doesn't have to pay food tithes to the daimyo for cultivating his land and independent farmers pay less, as they're assumed to lack protection and support. Which means that the Senju clan is in fact an exclusively mercenary clan and technically lacks holdings at all; their dwellings are therefore assumed to be temporary by law, which again means lower tithes." Which might also explain why Hashirama has built some of them with his mokuton.

"Except they've been squatting just off the Uchiha clan's borders for the past six hundred years," Madara grumbles, glaring at the dregs of his tea.

"True," Kita agrees slyly, "but now they're making peace with us and want to establish a formal settlement, that means they're going to be officially resident, doesn't it? Which means petitioning to the daimyo for the land and establishing a suitably official relationship. A suitable subordinate relationship, unless they agree to settle on Uchiha land. Which would of course make them our vassals, but also not subject to more stringent supervision from the daimyo due to the pre-existing relationship between our clan and the daimyo's lineage."

Madara stares at her, eyes wide and mouth dropping open for a second before twitching into a massive and delightfully evil grin. "Wife, you are an empress among women," he rumbles, setting his teacup down and rising to his feet. "Let me get the land records; I know I packed them."

Kita clears the dishes away and waits for her husband to return with the selection of relevant scrolls; actual land ownership is restricted to the nobility, with everybody else paying tax to the daimyo for the privilege of his protection. Noble clans do their own protecting, but still pay taxes to the daimyo they have sworn allegiance to as a show of respect and to gain access to services such as road-building, dispute resolution and so on. They are however markedly lower taxes.

Well, the Uchiha pay lower taxes, because their noble station and property predate Fire Country; the Akimichi, as a samurai clan who became noble and landed under the daimyo's aegis, may well pay more. Taxes on specific goods are a little different, as then the tax is for the privilege of selling them within Fire Country; the Uchiha don't pay any tax on what they consume themselves.

Kita adds some more charcoal to the brazier and makes another pot of tea, which is still brewing when her husband returns with an armful of loose pages and scrolls, Sahoro following him carrying a low table. Madara waits until the table is set down, then waves Sahoro away and settles beside it, opening three different scrolls and laying the rest of the documents down on the tatami.

"Here," he says, pointing; Kita shuffles closer to examine the slightly stylised map. "Our boundary is the Naka, so the Uchiha do in fact own half of the land which Hashirama and I intended for the village. The side including the cliffs, see?" He traces the line of the river, following it south and around the western curve past the sandstone cliffs and off the edge of the map; the red-marked border continues back north and east, around the far edge of the small mountain range to join the river again. "If we relinquish something else to the daimyo he may be willing to extend our holdings to include a portion of the eastern bank; it will certainly make tax easier if our settlement isn't straddling a boundary."

"He'll also appreciate your forethought in arranging matters beforehand rather than forcing him to compromise later," Kita agrees dryly.

"So what to sacrifice," her husband mutters, pulling out a much larger-scale map which includes all the smaller Uchiha territories scattered across Fire Country, remnants of historical trades and vassalage arrangements. The clan still uses them as waypoints on missions, secure locations to store weapons and supplies and as information drops for letters, but only two of them are inhabited: a farm that is entirely unremarkable beyond its owner paying his annual rice tithe to the Uchiha rather than the daimyo, and Sora-ku.

Sora-ku is an imperial remnant and the Uchiha own it by virtue of claiming it first after the fall. It's not exactly a profitable holding, but it does bring in steady income by virtue of being technically outside the daimyo's authority and therefore a prime location for the black market. The Uchiha theoretically disapprove of this, but practically speaking it's a great place to go to ground or buy things that are tricky to find elsewhere, and the local criminals are fine with paying a modest fee so the clan mainly look the other way.

The Senju cut off most of the city's water supply about a century ago, aided by the Uzumaki's sealing specialists who disrupted the water table and drained its natural reservoirs, but rain still falls and artificial tanks still retain moisture so there are a few holdouts. It's a terribly desolate-looking place though: nothing but cement and steel high-rise buildings, punctuated by rocks and dust. The Uchiha have always had vague plans for reversing what the Uzumaki did if it was ever possible and they had their own seal specialists, but with how many of her apprentices have died over the years that hope is currently on hold. Disrupting the seal work slightly should at least allow greenery to return to the land, so it will be less bleak and desolate. The clan hangs onto it because it's near a natural doorway to the home of the cat summons, so there's always somebody with the cat contract living there. Currently that's Uchiha Sen; her cousin Mitake was doing it before, but he's married now and wants to raise his future children in the compound rather than out in the wilds with only the cats for company.

Kita's pretty sure Mitake married an ex-geisha, but she's not going to comment. Not when Kazue-san was enthusiastically introduced by her beloved as a self-taught poison specialist; besides, it would be rude. The Uchiha don't bring women into the clan very often –usually it's Uchiha women bringing in out-clan men– but when they do, it's generally women like Kazue who don't want to go back to where they came from.

Not that Mitake's cheery introduction of his new bride spared Kazue a gentle but very probing sharingan interrogation to make sure she wasn't a honey-pot trying to steal the clan bloodline.

Kita taps one corner of the map, down by the coast near the riverlands. "I seem to remember this is just a ruined watchtower with a clean well, but it's strategic for keeping an eye on Wind." It's a bit out of the way, but the well means that Uchiha generally pass through there on their way in and out of Wind despite the length it adds to the journey and the difficulty involved in crossing the riverlands' delta.

"The Osprey Nest?" Madara runs his fingers over the other scrolls lying beside him before picking one. "Yes, and the attached land is large enough that we can demand a decent chunk of the plains beyond the river as well; good farmland if nothing else, but also plenty of room for expansion later. The daimyo will be interested –I doubt he's aware that we own that, even though the palace will have records somewhere– and it's a good location for a small fort to fight off pirates. Decently close to Wave as well, so he might annex them in some suitably polite and unobtrusive manner later. Hopefully we can keep access rights to the well; water is precious."

"Are you going to suggest this during negotiations with the Senju or do it privately afterwards?" Kita asks mildly. This kind of thing does require a face to face meeting with the daimyo after all, being far too important to be arranged by letter.

Madara smirks. "Well, if the Senju bring up land ownership or tax I will of course volunteer the information, but if not…"

Kita chuckles behind her sleeve and pours the tea. She really doubts even Tobirama has considered the implications there; it's not something he will have been taught to take into account.