To Be Hokage
I seem to have a habit of focusing on more obscure characters, especially if they're 'Founders' of something. This was written because the Senju brothers are amazing, and there aren't nearly enough stories focusing on them. I hope you all enjoy it :)
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
"I don't know about this."
Tobirama sighed. "Hashirama, we've been over this. We do not have any other option."
"I could always-"
"You don't even know what I was going to say."
"Yes, I do," said Tobirama flatly. "You were going to suggest you go instead. We both know you can't."
Hashirama glared at him. "I'm Hokage."
"Precisely, which means your duty is to the people of this village. Leave the mission to me."
Hashirama held his gaze for a long moment before his shoulders slumped. "Fine. But you'd better be careful."
Tobirama gave a slight smile. "Aren't I always?"
Hashirama sighed. He knew that they needed missions, and he knew that Tobirama was the best he had. For this mission, he was the only choice.
That didn't mean he had to like it.
"I will be fine," said Tobirama quietly.
Hashirama shot him a wry look; for someone so blunt, his brother was ridiculously perceptive. "You sound very sure."
Tobirama shrugged. "I will be."
"We've never been given one like this before."
"Which is a good thing," Tobirama pointed out. "It shows that they're gaining confidence in us, and in this system. That means more missions, and more resources, both of which this village needs if it is to survive."
"I know all this, Tobi."
"Then trust me to do my job." He folded his arms, scarlet eyes narrowing. "I don't understand why you're so worried. You've sent me on worse missions in the past."
"Not solo ones," said Hashirama quietly. "And not for money." He could risk the lives of his subordinates to ensure the survival of the clan, had been doing so for years. It was a necessary part of being a shinobi. But he had never been happy doing so, and this mission would have little to no effect on the village's welfare. If it wasn't for the fee, and the question of trust...
Tobirama's gaze softened. "We knew this would happen. I am willing to take the risk."
Hashirama took a deep breath and released it. "All right. But that doesn't mean I won't worry." He grinned suddenly. "That's a prerogative of an older brother."
"Don't I know it," Tobirama muttered. He rolled up the mission scroll and tucked it away in a pocket. "I'll tell my team to report to you while I'm away."
"I'll keep them out of trouble," Hashirama promised. "I've got a stack of D-rank missions they can work their way through."
"Good, their teamwork could use some work."
"I thought you said they were getting better."
"They are, but there's always room for improvement."
Hashirama nodded. "I'll keep an eye on them." His smile faded. "When will you leave?"
"Tonight. No point in wasting time."
"All right, but if you're not back in two weeks, I'll start sending out search parties." He kept his tone, but he meant every word. Tobirama rolled his eyes.
"You worry too much, anija."
"Can you blame me?"
A small smile touched Tobirama's lips. "I suppose not." He straightened up. "I'll be back in two weeks."
Tobirama shook his head fondly, and slipped soundlessly from the room.
As soon as he had gone, Hashirama let the smile slip from his face. Tobirama was an incredible shinobi, strong enough to make even him work for his victories when they sparred. He had never failed a mission, either during the war or for Konoha. There was no reason to expect him to fail now. The mission was challenging, but still within his capabilities. There was no need to worry.
But Tobirama was still his otōto. He would always worry.
Hashirama shook his head. Tobirama hadn't even left and he was getting worked up. He would be fine. He pulled a stack of mission requests towards him. Now, how best to occupy three extraordinarily talented genin for two weeks...
"So what are we doing today, Hokage-sama?"
Hashirama flicked through the stack of papers. "Well, let's see. There's a gardening request-"
"We did gardening yesterday."
"And Koharu pulled up the roses."
"You did too."
"Or there's some construction work-"
"I'm not going anywhere near Hiruzen if he gets hold of a hammer."
"Shut up, Homura."
"Catch a missing dog," said Hashirama loudly. How did Tobirama put up with this every day?
Koharu folded her arms. "We've done all of these before."
"Multiple times," Homura added.
Hashirama sighed. "I know, but even minor missions like these are important. And since you can't do any higher-ranked missions until Tobirama-sensei returns-"
"When is Tobirama-sensei going to get back?" asked Hiruzen. "He's been gone for ages."
"Yeah, he's never had a mission that's lasted longer than a week."
"He should be back any day now," Hashirama assured them.
Homura looked up at him. "But why is he taking so long?"
Hashirama paused. He knew Tobirama wouldn't want his beloved students to worry. "This is a very important mission. I expect he's just being careful."
"But sensei always gets important missions," Hiruzen pointed out. "And he's always careful, but he's never been gone for this long." His eyes narrowed. "Hokage-sama, what's going on?"
Hashirama hesitated, but lying had never been his strong suit. They would find out sooner or later; better that they hear it from him. "This mission is a bit different."
"What do you mean?"
Why did Tobirama have to pick the most talented kids in the village? "The daimyo sent me a request," he said slowly. "It's a bit more demanding than usual."
"What was it?" asked Homura.
"Classified," said Hashirama promptly. "But Tobirama-sensei can handle it."
"Are you sure?"
Hashirama smiled. "I wouldn't have sent him if I wasn't." No need to mention his own reservations, but they still did not look happy. "What's wrong?"
The three genin exchanged a long look before Hiruzen spoke.
"Hokage-sama, exactly how dangerous is this mission?"
It took Hashirama a moment to formulate a reply. "He will be fine."
He wasn't surprised when none of them looked convinced. He hadn't even managed to convince himself.
"He will be fine," he repeated, more firmly. "In the meantime, you have your own missions to attend to."
Homura's eyes narrowed, and Koharu set her jaw, but Hiruzen tilted his head to one side. "When is Tobirama-sensei expected back, Hokage-sama?"
Hashirama didn't even need to stop and work it out. "Two days from now."
Hiruzen's eyes gleamed. "Then we volunteer for sentry duty."
Hashirama stared at them. Sentry duty was vital, but was widely regarded as the most tedious task available, and most people went out of their way to avoid it. But Hiruzen met his gaze steadily, and his teammates moved to back him up without even a word being spoken. Hashirama smiled.
"Very well then. The three of you are assigned to sentry duty for the next two days."
"But what about after that?" asked Koharu.
The smile faded slightly. "After that, if you are still under my care, you will have a scouting mission."
All three bowed low.
"We understand, Hokage-sama," said Homura quietly. "Thank you."
"No problem." After a moment, he added, "And remember that it is you duty to alert me to any individuals of interest."
Hiruzen grinned. "Of course, Hokage-sama."
Hashirama tried to concentrate on his paperwork. He really did. But, try as he might, he simply couldn't get more than a few lines before his mind started wandering, and it was all his brother's fault.
Tobirama had promised to be back within two weeks. It was now the afternoon of the fourteenth day and there was still no sign of him. Hashirama was trying not to overreact. There could be any number of reasons for the delay. He could have gotten lost, or had to take a detour, or been slowed down by a minor injury, or a more serious injury...
No. With an effort, Hashirama wrenched his mind away from that train of thought. Tobirama would be fine. He turned back to the paperwork back in front of him. He was fine.
Ten minutes, and a grand total of fifteen words later, he was sorely tempted to tear the damn thing up and set fire to the rest. He pushed the lot to one side and rested his head in his hands.
"Hurry up, otōto."
If Tobirama had gotten himself into trouble, if he had lost his last remaining brother...
At that moment, his thoughts were disrupted by a furious pounding at the door.
He recognised the voice, and had wrenched the door open even before the last syllable was spoken. "He's back?"
Koharu nodded, her face flushed as she gasped for breath. "Just now."
Hashirama didn't waste time on further questions. He swung her onto his back and Shunshin'd away.
There were startled exclamations from Homura and Hiruzen, not to mention Koharu, as he reappeared and let her down, but all Hashirama's attention was on a familiar blue-clad figure.
Tobirama gave a tired smile. "Hashi-" He broke off with a choked splutter as Hashirama, ignoring the watching genin, ignoring the fact that he was Hokage, darted forwards and pulled him into an embrace.
"I'm exactly on time," Tobirama retorted, but he did relax into his brother's arms. Hashirama smiled, until Tobirama coughed. "Hashirama, I can't breathe."
Hashirama released him immediately. "What? What's wrong?" He scanned his brother's form, taking in the ashen pallor of his skin, and the dark circles under his eyes. "Tobi," he breathed.
Tobirama managed a smile. "I'll be fine, anija."
Hiruzen's eyes narrowed, and the phrasing of the statement didn't escape Hashirama's attention either. He laid a hand on his brother's shoulder and his eyes widened.
"Fetch a chair, Hiruzen-kun," he ordered. "Homura-kun, a medical kit. Koharu-chan, go to the Senju compound and inform Mito-san that I will be a little late."
Their reluctance was obvious, but the genin bowed and scattered. Barely had they gone before Tobirama's knees buckled. Hashirama moved quickly to brace him, looping his brother's arm around his shoulders.
"How bad is it?"
Tobirama sighed. "Not serious, anija." His eyes began to flutter closed.
Hashirama gave him a light shake. "Tobirama, report."
The words got Tobirama's attention and he straightened automatically. "Mission parameters were filled six days ago. Engaged multiple shinobi while leaving territory, several fatalities-"
"I mean your health not the mission!"
Tobirama somehow found the energy to roll his eyes. "You need to learn to prioritise."
"My priorities are fine," Hashirama snapped. "What is your condition?"
Tobirama sighed. "Cracked ribs, possibly fractured. Chakra exhaustion. May have torn a muscle." He seemed to consider for a moment. "Possibly a concussion."
Hashirama bit his lip so hard he almost drew blood. "I'm sorry, Tobi," he whispered.
Tobirama's brow creased into a frown, but before he could say anything, Hiruzen reappeared with a chair.
"I found..." His face drained of colour at the sight of them. "Sensei!"
"Hiruzen," Hashirama snapped. Tobirama's eyes were drifting closed again. Hiruzen started and hurried over, and together the two of them eased the exhausted Senju into the chair.
"Is he going to be all right?"
Tobirama cracked one eye open. "I'm fine."
Hashirama snorted. "He will be." He crouched in front of his brother and laid a hand on his forehead. Closing his eyes, he reached out with his chakra.
Hashirama might not have Tobirama's sensory skills, but he was easily the better medic-nin, and not for the first time, he found himself very glad of that fact. Tobirama hadn't lied exactly, but he had neglected to mention the cuts and deep bruising that littered his body. Add to that the most severe case of chakra exhaustion he had seen in a long time, and it was a miracle his brother had made it home at all.
He felt Tobirama flinch as his emotions surged up, and forced his guilt and fear back under his control.
"Forgive me." He sent a pulse of healing chakra into his brother's body; he couldn't fix everything now, but he could ease the pain, and soothe away the concussion. Tobirama gave a low sigh of relief, and when Hashirama opened his eyes, he was glad to see that some of the colour was returning to his cheeks.
Hiruzen was still hovering at his shoulder, his dark eyes shadowed with concern. Hashirama took a deep breath and released it.
"Some rest, and he'll be fine."
"Told you," Tobirama muttered.
Hashirama swatted him very lightly on the head. "Telling me about the rest of it would have been helpful."
"Told you about the important ones."
"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" As he spoke, he began to unbuckle his brother's bloodstained armour. Tobirama gave a grunt of protest, but he didn't try to move so Hashirama ignored it. His frown deepened as a number of cuts became visible, but closer inspection proved that none were as deep as he had feared. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hiruzen's hands clench into fists, and suppressed a smile. Despite a slightly rocky start, all three genin had come to adore their teacher. It was a sentiment that Tobirama reciprocated.
"Aren't you forgetting something?"
Hashirama paused. "Huh?"
Tobirama's lips twitched into a faint smile. "You haven't even asked for a proper mission report."
"You already told me it was a success," Hashirama protested. "You can tell me the details later." He ran an eye over his patient. "I'm guessing there were complications."
Tobirama scowled. "They were Doton specialists."
Hashirama winced. That was not a good match-up. He looked away and saw Hiruzen's face crease into a frown. Tobirama caught it too.
"Something wrong, Saru?"
Hiruzen nodded. "Suiton is at a disadvantage to Doton," he said slowly.
"Then, why did you go?"
Hashirama flinched, but Tobirama's eyes narrowed. "One of the aims of the mission was to gather information," he said sharply. "None of us knew their elemental affinity, but even if we had, it would not have mattered. A shinobi cannot refuse missions simply because he is at a slight disadvantage, and I was the most logical choice."
Hiruzen looked down, cheeks flushing as he mumbled an apology. Tobirama's eyes softened, and he reached out and ruffled the boy's hair. "There was no harm done."
Hiruzen brightened, but Hashirama still couldn't bring himself to meet his brother's gaze. Tobirama's brows knitted in confusion, but Hashirama was saved from awkward questions by the arrival of Homura with a medical kit. The genin's eyes widened at the state of his sensei, but Hashirama didn't give him a chance to question him.
"Thank you, Homura-kun."
Homura pushed his glasses back up his nose. "It was the first one I could find." He turned worried eyes on Tobirama. "Are you all right, sensei?"
Tobirama smiled. "I shall be fine."
Hashirama laughed at the decidedly sceptical looks that passed between the boys. "I will make sure of that."
Tobirama mumbled something that sounded distinctly uncomplimentary under his breath, which only made Hashirama grin wider. His brother was renowned as an atrocious patient. A thought struck him, and he glanced at Hiruzen and Homura.
"Though it looks like your more interesting missions will have to wait."
"We know, Hokage-sama," said Hiruzen. "We're fine with it."
Hashirama raised an eyebrow. "That makes a change."
Tobirama frowned at his students. "Have the three of you been causing trouble?"
Hashirama hastily turned a snort into a cough as the boys shot him pleading looks. "Oh no, the mission reports I've had back have been excellent."
Well, it was true. On missions they performed perfectly. It was only after that they turned into little hellions.
Tobirama raised an eyebrow, but whatever he was about to say was lost as he broke into a fit of hacking coughs.
Hashirama caught his arm, and flinched as he caught an echo of the pain tearing through his brother's body. Another burst of healing chakra helped, but it was another long minute before the fit passed, and Tobirama's face was bone grey by the time he was able to sit up. Hashirama felt him sway and tightened his grip on his shoulder, wondering for a terrified minute if he was going to fall, but Tobirama just took a long, shuddering breath.
"S-sensei?" Hiruzen whispered.
Tobirama forced a smile. "I'll be fine."
Homura frowned. "You've been saying that a lot today."
"Because it's true. This is nothing a few days rest won't cure. Isn't that right, Hashirama?"
It would be more like a week if Hashirama had his way, but he nodded. "We've had worse."
That didn't have quite the effect he intended as both genin paled. Tobirama looked at the pair of them and sighed.
"You two should go home," he said gently. "You've been here for hours."
"He's right," said Hashirama, before either of them could protest. "If I'm not mistaken, your shift ended over an hour ago."
"But we want to stay," Hiruzen pleaded. "We want to help."
Hashirama felt a fierce surge of pride. This was what he had wanted Konoha to be. Tobirama's face broke into a tired smile.
"Come here." They shuffled closer and he laid a hand on each of their shoulders. "You have done more than enough," he said quietly. "Now it is time to look after yourselves."
Homura's eyes narrowed as they searched his face. "Are you sure you'll be all right?"
Tobirama nodded in Hashirama's direction. "I will have to Hokage-sama to make sure of that."
Hashirama smiled. "I'll look after him," he promised.
Hiruzen held his gaze for a long moment before nodding. "All right."
Hashirama felt Tobirama relax. "Thank you. Make... make sure you find Koharu and tell her to get some rest too."
"We will, sensei."
Tobirama smiled and gave them a gentle push. "Off you go then. I'll let you know when training will resume."
"Get well soon!"
The two boys bowed and departed, both throwing several reluctant glances back. Hashirama watched them go with a smile.
"They're good kids."
There was no mistaking the pride in Tobirama's eyes. "The best."
"They've been pestering me as to your whereabouts for over a week. They care about you a great deal."
"And I for them," said Tobirama quietly.
Hashirama sighed. "Are you truly all right, Tobi? And don't say you 'will be.'"
"Not even if it's the truth?" Hashirama raised an eyebrow and he sighed. "I have been better."
Hashirama felt his heart constrict. It was the most acknowledgment of discomfort his brother had given in years.
"I'm so sorry, Tobi."
Tobirama shook his head. "You have nothing to apologise for."
Hashirama stared at him. "Nothing? You call being beaten so badly you can barely stand nothing?"
"I never overreact! And what about your chakra exhaustion? Could you create even a puddle right now?"
"This is not nothing, Tobi!" He began pacing as guilt and frustration welled up. "I never should have let you go. I should have sent someone with you, or just gone myself."
"I'm better at Doton than you, I would have stood a better chance. The village would have been fine; nothing more exciting than a bar fight happened in all the time you were gone-"
"Hashirama, sit down!" Tobirama roared.
Hashirama froze, stunned into silence, and Tobirama took full advantage of the opportunity.
"You are Hokage. Your first responsibility must always be to Konoha. Have you considered that it was because you were here that there were no serious incidents? Who knows what might have happened had our enemies discovered you gone."
Hashirama shook his head. "It was still too dangerous for you to go alone."
Tobirama rolled his eyes. "We discussed this. This was never supposed to be an engagement mission; more people would have done nothing more than compromise our secrecy." His eyes narrowed. "You know as well as I do that missions don't always go according to plan. At least I was able to get the information we needed and return."
"Barely," Hashirama whispered.
Tobirama shrugged. "Irrelevant. I survived and the village is safe. I count that as a satisfactory result."
Hashirama looked away. The mission might have been a success, but he would hardly call it a satisfactory result. His brother, his only surviving brother, had nearly died. And even if he hadn't, next time it might be different. Would he one day have to give the order to send Tobirama to his death? Hashirama squeezed his eyes shut. As Hokage he could and would fight to his last breath for Konoha. But to give that order...
Hashirama was broken from his thoughts rather abruptly as a jet of ice cold water hit him in the face.
"T-Tobi!" he spluttered. "W-what-"
"Turns out I'm not as exhausted as I thought," said Tobirama mildly. "And it got your attention."
Hashirama glared at him. "You could have just said something."
"I did. You – you..." His eyes seemed to lose focus, and he began to sway.
Hashirama darted forwards just in time to catch him as he toppled sideways off the chair. Tobirama blinked blearily up at him.
"Maybe not," he mumbled.
If he hadn't looked so pale, Hashirama would have shaken him. "You have chakra exhaustion!" he shouted. "What in Kami's name did you think you were doing?" He pushed the chair aside and sat down on the floor next to him, unwilling to tempt fate further.
Tobirama gave a small smile. "Had to stop you brooding somehow."
"Not by scaring me half to death you don't." He shuffled closer, suddenly feeling the need to physically know that his brother was all right. Tobirama gave a low sigh and leaned into him a little.
"I think I'm going to sleep for a week," he murmured.
"You won't find any arguments here." He sent out more healing chakra, and was gratified when Tobirama relaxed a little more. "But you're responsible for dealing with whatever chaos your team causes in your absence."
Tobirama grunted. "They'll be fine now. They just get energetic when they're nervous."
"So I gathered." He was silent for a moment as he thought over the last few weeks. "I'll talk to the daimyo tomorrow," he said quietly. "I'll tell him we won't be carrying out any more of those missions."
He had thought his brother was exhausted, and so was startled when Tobirama abruptly pulled himself upright.
"We have to keep doing these missions or they will lose faith in us," he insisted. "We cannot afford to be seen as weak, or ineffective." He paused to take a deep breath, his face paling alarmingly, but his voice was strong when he continued. "Taking dangerous missions for the sake of the clan has always been part of a shinobi's duty. This is no different." His crimson eyes blazed as they met Hashirama's. "I am willing to take the risk, today and every other day."
"But what if I am not?" Hashirama whispered. "I cannot lose you too."
Tobirama's gaze softened. "You are Hokage," he said simply. "You have already proven that you will do whatever it takes to defend this village."
"This is different."
"Not really." He sighed. "Look at it this way; better me than someone less skilled, who may not come back at all. That would be an unforgivable waste."
As much as Hashirama wanted to argue, he was right. He closed his eyes, sick at the thought. "I hate this, otōto."
A hand came to rest on his shoulder, and he could feel his brother's love and support. "So do I," he said quietly. "But that is the way of the shinobi."
"To fight for those that cannot," Hashirama whispered. "So that others do not have to."
For that was what it came down to. He had established Konoha out of a desire for peace, but peace could not just be won once. Somebody had to fight for it. Tobirama was willing. Konoha and the clans would follow.
Could he lead them? Could he be the Hokage they needed?
Tobirama's hand remained on his shoulder, and he had his answer.
Hashirama opened his eyes, the flames that had been tempered by his brother's condition once again fanned white hot.
"Then we will fight," he said grimly. "We will do whatever we must do."
Tobirama's smile was small, but completely genuine. "Lead, and we will follow," he promised.
Hashirama nodded, the weight of that responsibility settling once again on his shoulders. It was one he was all too familiar with by now, and one that would never truly lift. But it was not unbearable. After all, he had Mito, and the clan heads to lean on. And Tobirama. Always Tobirama.
Speaking of which... "Use one more jutsu and I'll have you supervising the cadets for a month," he warned.
Tobirama rolled his eyes. "Then stop drifting off." After a beat he added, "I don't think I could manage another one anyway."
Hashirama shot him a grin. "Does this mean I'm going to have to carry you home?"
"Hashirama," Tobirama growled.
"Or get your students to help carry a stretcher? I'm sure they'd be happy to oblige."
"You even think about it, and I'll tell them you've deliberately been giving them the most tedious missions."
Hashirama shuddered, but not even that prospect was enough to keep him from grinning. His brother was safe. Konoha was safe. No doubt the future would bring new challenges, and new trials but, for now, that was enough.
Thanks for reading! Any feedback would be very much appreciated.