A/N: We have reached the last chapter of this story – thank you for reading! I was very happy with all of the suggested ideas I received, I wish I could have adapted more of them. Still, it's entirely possible that this is still not the last piece in this universe.
A/N #2: Let me dedicate this to Komo. If she didn't ask, probably I wouldn't have started to post this story at all. I'm also very grateful for her interest in my ideas.
A/N #3 (I promise this is the last one): If this turned out totally sloppy, I'm sorry. Got carried away…
Hashirama was sitting on his heels, his sweaty palms on his knees, trying to appear calm and composed. Watching Madara pace back and forth, back and forth, stopping suddenly to glare angrily at the closed door, start his pacing again didn't make the already hard task easier.
"Would you tell him to stop doing this," Tobirama growled on a low tone. Madara turned sharply towards him.
"It's my daughter giving birth in there," he whispered furiously - they were given clear instructions to keep their voices down. "Though, for some reason I can't understand, that woman gained the right to order me out!"
"That woman happens to be my wife..."
Hashirama tried to tune them out. He knew they were nervous and if he tried to intervene they'd just pour their frustration on him. Everything was going to be all right, he told himself firmly. Mito-san had the perfect control over the situation. Everything was going to be all right, and if anything might happen still, he was here to help. He spent the last month with researching any healing technique that might be needed for a difficult pregnancy.
Not that Aina had a particularly hard time up till now. At least he was told repeatedly that all symptoms her daughter produced were completely normal. She even told him that her biggest problem was all the males around her worrying were driving her mad. Hashirama, Madara, her brothers, her uncle, Minoru and even Kagami. That the only person keeping her sane was Mito-san.
Hashirama felt bad about it, but he still couldn't stop worrying.
He peered at all these guilty males waiting outside the room in various states of distress. He could understand Aina had a hard time because of them.
"Keep your voice down," he tried to hush Madara and Tobirama, as their argument started to get out of hand. Predictably they glared at him, but at least they fall silent. Both Mito-san and the midwife she insisted to lead the childbirth instead of Hashirama were very adamant that the place of men was outside and that they shouldn't bother the mother with being loud.
After what seemed like an endless wait the door finally opened and the old, withered midwife came out. Her disapproving glance swept over the seven men gathered outside.
"Both mother and baby girl are fine," she barked. Hashirama felt tension easing up in him. "Father goes in first," she glowered at Madara who wanted to brush in next to her. The Senju quickly stood up and put a hand on his lover's shoulder before he'd do something regrettable to this brave woman. "The mother and baby need rest, so all you lot can't charge in at the same time. You'll have enough opportunity later to see them."
"If I could be allowed to see my own daughter in my own house," Madara growled.
"Hmpf," she looked up at him without the slightest sign of fear. As she had said to Hashirama when Mito-san introduced her, she was well past the age when the antics of men could impress her. "Grandfathers go in when the father is finished."
"She called me grandfather," Madara said frowning after her.
"Well we are," Hashirama smiled at him. "Isn't it great?" His lover must have felt really overwhelmed as he let the Senju put his arm around his neck and pull him close, even though others could see.
Minoru didn't take long in the room. When he came out, beaming with happiness. Mito-san was also with him, smiling at Hashirama upon catching his anxious expression and despite his impatience he managed to smile back. He was glad that they started to get on better lately.
This time Madara didn't even mutter a scratching comment on seeing that as finally, finally they could go in to see Aina.
She looked tired, but was smiling down at the little wrinkled, red-faced package of baby sleeping in her arms.
"Look Dad, isn't she beautiful?"
"Sure she is, honey." He wasn't prepared for the sudden rush of memories the newborn evoked. He used to take care of the Itama when their mom died shortly after giving birth to him - it was so long ago, it seemed like a different lifetime. So many children died since then - but now they were here, in the village they dreamt and made to come true with Madara, to keep the new generation safe. Aina's baby girl - his granddaughter - shouldn't face what he and his brothers had to face. There were so many things to do still, so many lives to protect. It was an impossibly huge task to save everyone, he knew very well, but with his family here, with his children and Madara by his side, he had the strength to try it again and again.
"May I?" Madara asked quietly, holding his arms out, and Hashirama used the opportunity to rub his eyes quickly free of tears. Aina smiled so warmly at the Uchiha as she gently handled the baby over that it melted his heart.
If their daughter was surprised at the skilful way Madara held the baby, she didn't show it. Hashirama reminded himself that he wasn't the only one growing up with younger brothers. It was impossible to tell what the Uchiha was thinking of the newcomer; he was staring down at her with a solemn, unreadable expression.
"How will you call her?" he asked after a while. His voice was equally serious and emotionless.
"Senju or Uchiha?"
"She's both, after all, isn't she, Madara-san? And Iwa as well, after my father. She can use any name she will want later. Or you know. She can be simply herself."
The baby opened her bluish eyes, staring up at Madara, unseeing. The Uchiha was looking down back at her with a faraway expression on his face. Hashirama wasn't sure what or who he was seeing, this new life who just came to this world, or one that passed away a long time ago. Aina noticed that something was going on too, and shot an anxious look at him, so he stepped up to his lover and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. Madara blinked and seemed to come back to the present. With great care he laid the baby back to Aina's arms.
"You are such a good girl," he told her quietly. "Teach her that - to be herself. You'll be a good mother for her," he touched her face in an almost-caress before he straightened up and strode out of the room.
Hashirama crouched down next to the bed, and his daughter embraced his neck. He could feel her tears falling steadily on his skin.
"Is he alright?" she asked on a throaty voice. "He never told me anything like this before."
"He was just very overwhelmed, honey. He loves you. I love you too. And we are proud of you."
"Dad, I really hope that giving birth wasn't the biggest accomplishment of my life. Sure it was damn though, but… Dad, are you crying?"
"I'm sorry, darling," he let her go, as he was afraid they would disturb little Tsunade, and sat down on the floor rather. "You must think we're both completely crazy."
"I know that you're both completely crazy, Dad."
Hashirama smiled, drying his tears with his sleeve.
"It's just that I lost so many people. And Madara, he lost everyone. By the time we founded the village, it was already too late, he had nobody left."
"But he had you."
"I was hardly a suitable compensation for his whole family, all his loved ones who he couldn't save… but why am I telling you this again, you heard it a million times."
"You know I love your story. It's so romantic," she shifted on her pillows. She looked very tired, and that made Hashirama feel bad for forcing her to watch her fathers' emotional storms at a time like this.
"Anyhow, you three came into our lives and now that little Tsunade is here as well - finally it really feels that Konoha was not built in vain," he stood up to place a kiss on her forehead. "I won't disturb you more now, you need rest. Your brothers will want to see you too. Kagami is here as well…"
"Dad," Aina grabbed his arm with surprising force. "Do not let Kagami come in. Please. He can't see me in this state."
"You look beautiful, darling."
"For you, maybe, but you don't count! Dad!"
"All right, all right, I'll keep him out."
He wasn't hiding. He just wanted to be left alone, not wanting to meet anyone. He wasn't hiding, but maybe he should have picked a place where Hashirama couldn't find him straight away.
Or maybe he was hiding, but wanted to be found by Hashirama.
"Madara, you're in there for very long. I'm coming in."
"No respect for privacy," he muttered, sinking lower, until the water came up till his nose.
Hashirama either didn't hear him or ignored him, as he came in to the bathroom and crouched down next to the tub.
"Water's gone cold," he dangled his hand in Madara's bath, ignoring the glare directed at him. "Why don't you get out?"
"I'm fine," as he had to emerge to reply him anyway, he leaned back, resting his head on the brim. He watched with eyes opened to the barest of crack as his lover rolled up his sleeve and picked up the sponge. He held back a pleased sigh when he started to rub his chest gently with it. "Have all those people finally gone from my home?" he demanded.
"Yes, they've left. Takumi and Noboru were watching over Aina and Tsunade when I left them. So you can safely come out."
"Leave me alone, I'm fine here."
He was rubbing his arms in soft little circles. It wasn't washing him - Madara was soaking for long enough and by no means dirty anyway, but it felt fine, so he let him.
"Speak with Aina tomorrow. I think you got her worried."
"Why? I didn't do anything."
He turned his head away, hoping that Hashirama would understand that he didn't want to talk about this at all. The other man took his hand and washed his fingers one by one with the sponge.
"Even if the situation is not the easiest, I'm really happy Aina has the baby," he told Madara, not looking up from his silly little task. "It really gives the feeling that things have now changed for the better, doesn't it? She won't have such a childhood we had. She won't be left alone either. She will have brothers, sisters, cousins later. Butsuma is close to her age as well and guess what - Tobirama told me that Mito-san is expecting their second child!"
Is that supposed to make me feel better? Madara thought, but Hashirama was looking so earnest, so wanting him to be content with the situation, that he stayed quiet.
"Aina and the boys will never be alone with such grave responsibility as we used to have. They have us and each other. A whole village behind them as support… There's Minoru and Kagami too, to help her…"
"Even if they didn't get married," Madara muttered.
"Erm," he broke the ardour of Hashirama's speech and he was almost sorry for it. Listening to his naive enthusiasm wasn't so bad. He found that he could even make himself believe it for a short time at least. "They can still get married now that Tsunade was born, can't they?"
The Uchiha sighed. And other times it got a bit bothersome how he tried to ignore all negative things in their lives. About a week ago he overheard his lover and their daughter talking. Aina was very firm on her belief that she didn't need to get married. Saying that she'd be always afraid, Kagami was with her for being the Hokage's and Uchiha Madara's daughter only if they bonded officially. That love wasn't something that needed anybody's approval. And the stupid Senju just soothed her, agreeing that honest emotions and happiness mattered more than any formal ceremony.
"Hashirama, do you really think I know nothing?" he asked with a sigh. Dark eyes darted away guiltily.
"I just want everyone to be happy and safe."
"Maybe it's time you grow up now that you're a grandfather, and gave up on impossible dreams."
"We've already made impossible dreams come true, didn't we? Why should we stop?"
"Have you considered that you're not doing Aina any good with letting her live that kind of life? People will put her through hell for it."
"We're here to protect…"
"Hashirama, we won't be here forever. I doubt that we'll die of old age either. You won't be able to protect them always," he watched his lover's expression turning solemn. It was a painful thing to say, but it was the truth. He'd do no good with pretending this possibility didn't exist in their future, so there was no reason for him to feel bad for making Hashirama sad.
"I know that," he replied, straightening up. Madara thought he'll leave the room, but instead he unfastened his robes, getting undressed quickly. "But that doesn't mean I can't do my best for the time being."
"What are you doing?"
"Taking a bath with you."
"Wait, no. There's not enough room for…"
But he was already in, sloshing around the by now cold water, bumping against Madara as he sat down behind his back. Ignoring all his complaints, he embraced him, until the shorter man gave in, and laid his head back on the other's strong shoulder. Hashirama started to ease out the tangles from his wet locks and that made him sigh contentedly
"Anyway," the Senju picked up the conversation after a while, "who said that we have to die before our time? I think we're both capable of living long. I'm looking forward to getting old and wrinkled with you."
"I'm not going to have wrinkles," he said, because he had no reply to the rest. It was so improbable that they would live long - pretending otherwise would just make it harsher when the time came to… part.
"Hmm. Then having grey hair. Silver. You'll look amazing with silver hair."
"I'm going to dye it."
"It's not as if anyone is capable of killing us, not even separately, and definitely not if we stand together."
"Maybe it won't be even a fight. Maybe your brother will snap and poison you, so finally he can be the Hokage after you."
"That's not funny."
He shrugged. Living long. He'd never even considered the possibility. Wasn't it what they had learned from the moment they got old enough to be named a shinobi? Live day by day, as you could never know which breath would be your last. You might be strong, but someone else might be faster. You might be fast, but someone else might use dirtier tricks. Had that changed as well? Maybe. They were the first ones to live in this era. Who knew yet how their lives and deaths would be?
"The times have changed. We have changed the world we live in. We can also make such a small thing too - living long," he smiled at that. Trust Hashirama to answer his unspoken doubts. He might try to believe him. For his sake. For their children's sake.
How did his life take this unexpected path? It wasn't the first time he wondered. Sometimes he pictured there was another Uchiha Madara somewhere, who left Hashirama and Konoha, just as he had been planning. Who had never looked back, never softened. Who had made a different choice and declared Senju Hashirama his enemy instead of his friend and lover. He used to wonder if he should be that man. Nowadays he found that he was glad he wasn't.
"If you dare to die before me, I swear I'm going after you to the other side and make you pay."