He tries to stand up. Fails. Nearly falls on his face for the attempt.
Crawling it is, then.
It’s not exactly dignified, but he’s always been more practical than that. Plus, there’s no one around to see him–nobody within his sensing range, the Kinkaku Force included.
He makes his way towards the trees, an almost childish desire for protection even though he’s the last of his brothers, and tries hard not to think about how none of this makes any sense.
Unfortunately, he’s rather good at thinking and so his mind is a whirlwind of facts tearing away at each other.
He died. He knows he did. Can definitely remember the feel of metal cutting through his chest, his heart futilely beating away his lifeblood.
The Kinkaku Force was right there, they wouldn’t suffer him being alive after he killed seven of their members and they looked right at him. But they were specifically searching for him, he’s the only white-haired piece of shit they were fighting, and yet…
A cat, though. They thought he was a cat. Perhaps that’s some kind of code?
It’s only when his back is pressed up against a tree (so foolishly sentimental) that he feels brave enough to look down at the somehow killing-yet-not blow.
It’s not there.
What is there, though, is an awful lot of fur. And… paws. He tries to sit up properly, but his body, this his-yet-not body, doesn’t want to move that way.
He lets it twist in a way that feels more natural, examines the rest of it: white fur and grey spots and paws and a tail. It almost looks like one of his snow leopard summons except it’s small, the size of a cub, if that.
He’s a cat. An actual literal cat.
He takes it back, he’d prefer some dignity instead.
But brooding is only a step up from panicking, in his opinion, so he shuts it down soon enough. Cat or not, he’s alive and mobile and still loyal to his village–even if he did technically pass on the hat to Hiruzen such that he’s no longer Hokage–so he turns tail and heads towards Konoha.
Unfortunately, he’s a little unsteady on his feet (literally and metaphorically), the size of a house cat, and has a fur coat which doesn’t exactly blend into the brown and greens of a forest. Konoha is a long way off and it’s war time.
Tobirama Senju is known to have snow leopard summons.
This time, he doesn’t get a warning.
He wakes up again. Still confused, but mostly coldly furious.
(And, maybe, a little scared and in shock, but he’s died twice now–would anyone blame him?)
It’s enough that the moisture in the air condenses, reflexively gathers around him in a protective mist. When he bares his teeth it liquifies further, three water bullets shooting off in the direction of his attackers.
They’re not expecting it, so it makes contact, and he follows the rush of instinct and rage that says take out the threat before they take him out first.
It’s nothing like the efficient and elegant taijutsu katas he’s developed over the years. It’s fangs and claws and his muscles straining, his heartbeat thundering, and for three minutes it’s just sheer violence and aggression unlike anything he’s ever felt before.
Three minutes is enough.
He tries not to gag at the taste of blood in his mouth, looks ashamedly away from the bodies. War is war, he’s always been a soldier, but this wasn’t… this isn’t him.
It’s him until he can undo it.
He gets attacked twice more on the way home, but at least this time he only dies once.
It’s a messier and redder cat that finally makes it to Konoha.
Tobirama slinks into the village, simultaneously relieved and annoyed by how easy it turns out to be. He’ll have to increase security as soon as he changes back, but there’s a lot he needs to do that will have to wait until he changes back.
Getting cleaned up is not one of them. It’s one thing return home as a cat, it’s another to return home filthy. A quick swim should take care of the worst of it, because he’s still trying to get the taste of blood out of his mouth and he’d rather not add to it. And anyway, he’s a Suiton master.
In his own village, he doesn’t need to be on guard. Here, Tobirama Senju being known to have snow leopard summons is a good thing. The villagers stare at him, but there’s no hostility or malice. If anything, the seem excited to see him–his cat form, that is.
The Senju compound isn’t very large–the remains of his clan choosing to live in the village, proper–but he has a place there, too, which he uses more as a laboratory than a house. It’s home, though, familiar and soothing in it’s own way.
His chakra is still the same–the gates letting him through–but when he enters, he pauses.
Everyone is in black–they’re mourning him already.
A/N: I wanted to make a Schrödinger’s Cat reference but knew it wouldn’t fit culturally so let me just say it here. Also, a Homeward Bound reference, because the idea of Tobirama as Sassy the cat just amuses the hell out of me, but I wasn’t sure how popular it was of a movie.