Once, as a young boy with a mind filled with hope and other illusions, he lamented that men cannot share one's true thoughts and feelings.

He knows better now and it makes chuckles escape his throat from deep within because sometimes it's better not to know. Madara Uchiha's mind is a place shrouded in darkness and he prefers to keep this realm to himself and curiously study the pictures it throws back at him.

In the heat of battle, it's a different story all together of course; there in the ballroom of destruction man is turned inside out and all of his ugliness is put on display. One can read it in their fevered eyes and the blood soiling their appearance and in their movements. Only your equal or superior can recognize the individual style of each shinobi and interpret it properly.

The weapon of a warrior is nothing but an extension of their heart.

Madara's heart is a beautifully curved Kusarigama, a blade that he has slaved over for hours in an effort to sharpen it so it will easily slice through flesh and strings of muscle and bone. He will dance and the blade dances along with him, cutting elegantly through his victims as he spins. They are in tune with one another then, he and his heart.

He learns though to keep his heart to himself when dealing with the common fodder; none of them are able to see it for what it is, when the blade slashes they will never see his heart, only steel and their own blood and guts flying. Art is wasted on the philistine, so Madara hides it and substitutes his heart for a simple sword weighing too much in his hands, or not enough.

His heart lies carefully wrapped in cloth somewhere in his tent under scrolls and kunai, neglected and cold.

Just every once in a long while Madara takes his companion into battle.

It's the days on which he wakes and he knows. It's a tingle of anticipation in his limbs, a prickling beneath his nails, a lurch of his stomach, a violent thump of his heart to bruise his ribs.

A smile stretches naturally over his face and his hands seek for the scythe before he can command them to. Armed with his heart and followed by his shadow is how Madara heads to battle and he is God and he is powerful.

It feels like floating, his heart soars through the air and decapitates the unfortunate fools who step in his path.

His whole body thrums with excitement but still he contains himself; he graciously allows the world to align for this spectacle they will be blessed with. With a spring in his step he crosses the field, through the rows of awestruck shinobi, feeling their eyes on him.

The sea parts for him and he steps onto the stage and his grip on his singing heart tightens; his partner has arrived as well. Several feet away from him on the other side waits Hashirama Senju and a laugh claws at the walls of his throat, trying to tear through the skin, for everyone to hear. The sun is the perfect spotlight and the Senju's hair glows under the touch of its rays. It looks like a halo bestowed onto Hashirama.

The other's features are set with determination, lips pressed in a thin line, like a careful cut through skin. Only his eyes speak of broken friendships and carefree days and flowing rivers.

Madara gives a small smirk as a way of greeting his old friend, then pointedly faces the other way. He has no interest in reading about such things because he has not yet breathed life into the lines. Hashirama's heartbeat is too calm, the show is yet to start.

A quick look around tells Madara that he has the audience's attention and he readies the Kusarigama as he averts his attention to Hashirama again. With disdain he watches him unravel the enormous scroll he carries on his back. A cloud of smoke appears and for a second shields the Senju from view.

Until the music starts and Hashirama charges, taking the first step.

The rest is a practiced, perfected dance between the two. The blood in their veins whispers of ancient battles, barely audible over the noise of their instruments clashing but ever present. Their ancestors lend their vocals for this symphony, they must be so proud and honored.

Madara has found his equal and he comes undone on the battlefield.

The tendrils of that dark place in his mind coil and reach out, rapidly consuming his entire being. It burns his flesh from within and sears through his skin, all Hashirama's to see and admire. Because this is his doing, it is him who brings all these things boiling in him to the surface!

Nobody else has seen this part of him.

Nobody else has seen his heart.

It's an honor, really!

He should treat it as such.

How does he feel, suddenly knowing all these things about his dear little childhood friend? What does he feel when faced with all this depravity that pours out from that dark recess in his mind?

Because that is what he is, depraved, utterly depraved to the bone.

But what does Hashirama think of it, indeed?

Madara cannot find his heart in this performance, in any of their preceding dances.
Hashirama never fights with his heart, only arbitrary weapons he pulls from the accursed scroll, uncaring which one it happens to be. And even his coveted, unique Mokuton is not his heart, because the Mokuton is a foreign life that bends to the Senju's will. It is not like the flames that Madara exhales; these are his very breath and his being.

There is only so much Madara can read from Hashirama like this; he can read in his eyes, but all he finds there is hope for the glorious future he envisions with him and the treasured past, and in his features he finds nothing but frustration, and in his body's movements is only written down the fury of battle and the hesitation to kill that little boy from back at the riverbank.
But where is the heart?
What does the heart think? What is its sound? Is it just that quiet and hidden, that the sweet music of battle drowns it out, or is it missing altogether?

Or does Hashirama not have a heart?

Both possibilities are awful. They would mean that while Madara had always given his everything in their dances, presenting his heart so readily, while receiving nothing. He is more vulnerable like this than if he were stripped naked. And Hashirama never gave anything of him in return, and even refused all that Madara had offered to him.

The thought is unbearable, it is humiliating. With a wrathful cry that is audible even over the chaos raging all around, the Uchiha lets the scythe in his hand cut through the nearest dancer and twists his body around once more, aiming for the ribcage of his rival.

Madara's heart meets the dull blade of dead metal with a splintering noise, but neither side will yield, defeat is not an option.

Chests heaving in futile efforts to fill the screaming lungs with air, they stand before another, crossing Kusarigama and sword. It is an intimate moment, a moment in which the orchestra of war quiets and the silence speaks for itself.

Their gazes meet, and there it is, that mutual understanding of each other, however brief, that keeps Madara searching for that heart.
This is the final act of this tragedy.

When they are like this, Madara could tenderly kiss him and simultaneously slit his throat, he could lovingly cradle his head before he violently smashes it open against rock, he could wipe away his tears as he guts him.

Movements become frenzied and careless, the beautiful composition descending into dissonance. Those who have not yet fallen or retreated are driven by desperation to save their hides for the next dance, and not even Madara is spared from exhaustion. His muscles scream in protest like rusty wires, there is only that much time left until his body caves and his heart needs to be put away to rest and heal.

In the end, it is the Uchiha who falls first, his unprotected back hitting the hard ground beneath and robbing him of the breath he has left. His face is turned upwards to the gray sky above, but his eyes peer up unseeing. For the moment all he can register are the coughs wracking his broken body and the stubborn organ in his chest, hammering there away. His heartbeat.

Only when the first raindrops fall does it sink in what position he is in, lying there motionless on the ground as if defeated.

With some difficulties he scrambles to see where is opponent is, and is pleased to find that while Hashirama still stands, it is just barely. He is swaying badly as he tediously takes cautious step after cautious step towards the God to his feet.

Oh, but the curtain hasn't closed just yet, their dance is not over.

Madara blesses that last surge of energy. Before Hashirama can even think to defend himself, Madara launches himself at him, throwing both of them on the ground.

Now it is Hashirama who is beneath him.
Now Hashirama is at his mercy.

Yes, Madara could kill him. He could do that. Maybe he would like that.

But no, that is not what he truly desires.

His hands tremble as he severs the string holding the plates of Hashirama's armor together with a blood-smeared kunai. During their earlier dancing, Madara has lost one of his gloves and the metal of the armor is bitingly cold against his skin as he removes all that bothersome armor in his way.

Eventually, victory is his and this is truly the only taste on his lips that Madara tolerates. He is drunk on the feeling, but he has not forgotten his objective; he never would.

A twinge of nervousness lets his hand twitch, mingling with the thrilling anticipation.
Will he find it?

He hears not Hashirama's words as he slowly reaches out and with a deep breath, presses his palm against the by now rain-soaked fabric of the Senju's shirt.

Time freezes and cold dread twists his insides so suddenly that he swears he had plunged into the dark waters of a stream in winter.

He holds his breath.

And then he feels it.

The fluttering of Hashirama's heart, trapped behind flesh and bone. Madara feels it thrumming against the naked palm of his hand like a little bird flapping its wings.

He is at peace.

Hashirama's heart can no longer escape him.
He has found it at last, after all these years during which it had been kept from him, he had found it and by Rikudou, he has never felt so complete before.

The red blaze of the Sharingan has long left his eyes, and so there is nothing in the way anymore as his gaze travels up to Hashirama's very own pair of dark eyes.

For the first time, Madara can see Hashirama's deepest inner.

For the first time, Hashirama cannot overlook the dark corners of Madara.

There is something utterly divine about this moment in which each is bare before the other, and they are Gods. It is so overwhelming that Madara cannot believe it. He really cannot. Has there ever been ground for trusting this man?
To find true peace, he has to cut open Hashirama's chest, remove the layers of muscle and flesh, bend open those bones and see the heart with his own eyes.

Hashirama knows what is on his mind. He seems awfully disturbed by this knowledge that he could have always had, had he just respected and honored Madara enough to hear the words his Kusarigama whispered.

But Madara is a forgiving man, and will trust Hashirama this time. He will excuse this insolent and irreverent behavior, because he has never been this happy, and it is Hashirama after all. He puts aside the dagger clutched in his other hand. No words are necessary between them anymore, and Madara knows that he is forgiven, just as he has forgiven Hashirama.

They remain like this, Hashirama on the ground and Madara straddling his hips, upper body hovering above his old friend, until Madara's arms can no longer hold up his weight and he collapses on top of Hashirama, lips brushing the other's cheek, before he rolls off of him.

The thud of him crashing is the final note of their song, and the blissful darkness of unconsciousness swallows the world.


Thank you for reading! ^o^ I do hope you enjoyed this little piece~