HASHIRAMA


It's precisely the moment he hears the knock sound from his office door that Hashirama realizes his mistake, though, only when he gets up and finds his feet drag like sand across the carpet as he goes to answer does he realize the extent of it.

In his head, he hears the echo of Tobirama's voice, telling him that he'd lose his own head if it wasn't screwed on, and idly thinks he might have to agree. When his brother suggested he label each batch of brownies, he'd laughed him off. There was no need, special on the top shelf, regular on the bottom, easy. Simple. No need to overcomplicate things.

Then, of course, Hashirama had gone out to the garden, and the morning had gotten away from him. Before he knew it, Tobirama was shouting from the kitchen that he was going to be late for work if he didn't leave soon, and in his rush to get out the door, Hashirama grabbed a brownie from the top shelf, certain he'd made the right choice. He'd eaten it on the way to work and felt perfectly fine, right up until the moment his first patient arrived and he realized he'd been admiring the patterns formed by the stuccoed ceiling for the past fifteen minutes.

Now, it's far too late to reschedule, and Hashirama is left standing in his doorway, staring at a devastatingly attractive and increasingly perturbed looking former cop while his feet seem to be sinking into the ground like led weights as his head fills with soft static.

"Am I supposed to be doing something, or—" Hashirama realizes he's been silent far too long, and distantly wonders if he could fall asleep standing

"No!" he exclaims, too loud. When he tries to laugh it off, he can't seem to make the sound come out in a way that doesn't feel forced, and Madara—if he remembers his name correctly, from the file he read this morning—has leant back from him, visibly confused. "No, no, you're perfect—I mean. You—you're here for therapy!" Madara stares at him. He's overcorrecting. Bring it down, he tells himself. Just chill out.

"Maybe this isn't the best time—"

"It is," Hashirama insists. It's ridiculous, he should definitely take the out, call Madara tomorrow with profuse apologies and a recommendation for someone else, because he can hardly treat a man he wants to, well—but then, he's already here, and he's come all this way, and Hashirama's mouth just keeps speaking regardless of his permission. "Come inside," he steps back, gestures to his office, and tries his best to gather himself.

"Is this normal?" Madara asks, settling on the couch in his office as Hashirama swipes his notepad off the desk and sits in his eames chair, trying to look casual and not like his blood has turned to molasses in his veins, making everything feel thick and slow.

"Is what normal?" he asks, pleasantly. Madara just stares at him for a moment.

"Nevermind. Look, I've never done this before, and I probably won't come back, but my brother is making me be here, so let's just get this shit over with."

Madara is far from the first man to resist the idea of therapy, even once here, and Hashirama knows he'll be far from the last, but he's surprisingly forthcoming once they get going.

"What brings you here today?" Hashirama mimics his own genial tone from previous sessions, and Madara's tired eyes go sharp.

"My brother told me everything I say here is confidential."

"That's correct," Hashirama assures him. "Unless you or someone you know is in immediate danger, nothing you say leaves this room." The long look Madara gives him makes him feel seen in a way Hashirama himself is often accused of, and he's left dazed when Madara breaks it, leaning back with a sigh to turn his eyes to the ceiling.

"Alright, well…"

Hashirama sits and listens and tries not to show how much his heart aches. By the time they're nearing the end of their session, he's certain that Madara has more reason to be here than most, and dearly hopes he hasn't made such a terrible impression that he'll never come back.


MADARA


It takes months—a year, really—of increasingly concerned harping from Izuna before he books the appointment, and when he does, Madara manages to maintain what's left of his tenuous grip on his sanity right up until the door of the therapist's office opens and he's greeted by a man with broad shoulders, warm skin, and a disarming smile.

A disarming and incredibly stoned smile.

It's at roughly this point that he finds himself cursing the day Izuna was born. When he leaves, he can't help thinking Hashirama is among both the most attractive and strange men he's ever met.


"So, how'd it go?" Izuna is leant across the kitchen table, shamelessly picking food out of boxes with his fingers while Madara is still attempting to dish out their Thursday night take-out properly.

"I don't think you're supposed to ask me that."

"I'm not asking you to spill your guts." Izuna rolls his eyes. "Just tell me if you liked the guy." Madara sighs. He'd been tired of this conversation before it began.

"I'm pretty sure he was high," he grouses. Izuna starts laughing, Madara doesn't join him.

"Wait—are you serious?" Izuna's eyes go wide, and Madara can't quite tell whether he looks thrilled or horrified. "Was he actually high?"

"Think so."

"Shit," Izuna sighs. "Well, I'll call someone else, sorry it didn't—"

"No," Madara cuts him off. "It's fine. He's fine." As soon as he says it, he feels the weight of Izuna's stare change. No matter what he says or doesn't say, Izuna always sees right through him. Madara takes one of the plates he'd set out and starts grabbing food, trying not to look as desperate to get away as he is.

"Was he?"

"Izuna, don't—"

"I mean, you didn't want to do this in the first place, then you show up and the guy is stoned and you don't even care? There's gotta be a reason."

"The reason is I'm only doing this because you won't get off my back about it, so what damn difference does it make?"

"A pretty big one, if you're lucky," Izuna leers. Madara ignores him, heading for the living room with every intention of taking up the entire couch before Izuna can claim half of it. "I don't think it's helpful to want to fuck your therapist!" Izuna calls out after him.

"I don't think you're helpful," Madara replies, mostly to himself.

Later on, when they've both eaten enough to be halfway asleep and Izuna has knocked his legs aside to sit next to him, he turns to him with those same too-sincere eyes that got him into this in the first place, and asks, "You'll tell me if it's not working, right? Please, Madara." Shit.

"Yeah," he sighs. "Yeah, I'll tell you, I promise."


"Tell me about your hobbies."

Hashirama is every bit as genial and warm as he was when Madara saw him the first time, but significantly more—well, like a therapist. He's not certain he's a fan.

"I used to run," he offers, feeling a little pathetic about it.

"Why did you stop?" Madara doesn't have an answer, at least not a good one, and he tells him as much, watching Hashirama's face for the inevitable signs of judgement, disapproval, disappointment, but none come.

"Anything outside of running?"

"Not anymore." Of course. No hobbies, no friends, no life, as Izuna has lovingly pointed out several times. It's something he'd rather not think about more closely than he has to, and when he notices the dirt under Hashiama's nails—mostly, but not quite, clean—he takes the out. "You gonna' try and convince me to grow some medicinal herbs? Mellow me out?" Madara nods down at Hashirama's hands, and the man looks at them folded in his own lap and bites his lip as he grins like he can't quite help himself. Madara tries desperately not to find it as attractive as he does.

"You're very observant," Hashirama smiles, looking up at him with an edge to his expression that Madara guesses is as close to an open acknowledgement as they're getting, "though, I suppose that's to be expected."

"Suppose so."

"May I ask why you left the force?"

And so it goes. Madara tries to hide the way his hands shake when he recounts how it felt to have Izuna bleeding out in his arms—so close, too close, to leaving him alone. Tries not to get too angry when he talks about the way the department swept the whole thing under the rug, or to sound quite as desolate as he feels when he mentions the brothers he's already lost. If the look on Hashirama's face is anything to go by, he fails on all fronts, but Hashirama doesn't call him on it, and Madara tries to remind himself that he wouldn't.


"I want you to try and find a hobby. Something that gets you using your hands." Madara's first thought is boxing. It's something he was into, for a while. Back in— "Something non-violent," Hashirama continues. So much for that. "I think it would be good for you to learn to use your body in a more gratifying setting." Hashirama, Madara has found, is a surprisingly difficult man to read, for as open as he seems. It should be impossible that he wouldn't have understood the double meaning of his own words, however guileless his smile.

"Any suggestions?" Madara's voice curls in a way not entirely devoid of interest, and while it is, perhaps, not best form to flirt with his therapist, he's pretty sure Hashirama already threw form out of the window when he led their first session high as a kite. Besides, what has he got to lose? After the things he's told him, it's not like this could make him seem like any more of a mess.


HASHIRAMA


Sweat across his brow, dirt on his hands, sun warming his skin and making the land glow; this is how Hashirama finds himself most at peace. There's nothing quite so grounding as reminding himself of the things he truly needs. The earth below his feet, the food he's sown, and the sky up above him. Typically, this is his method, the way he stays centered and strong enough to be a support for so many others, the way he clears his mind. Today, though, one thought refuses to leave him. A thought with dark eyes and wild hair and far too much command over Hashirama's attention, as of late.

Each time he's seen Madara since the first, the case for recusing himself as his therapist has grown, and yet—yet, Hashirama is certain he can help him. Certain he can do it better than anyone else. It's unethical, really, definitely far from orthodox, but then—Madara doesn't seem particularly interested in orthodox. Of course, Hashirama knows that no matter how he tries to justify himself, it's selfish to keep seeing Madara, but however much that might weigh on him the entire time he stays outside, by the time he cleans up and comes in with his freshly harvested veg, he's no closer to dropping the man as a patient than he was this morning.


Lunch is especially sweet, and when Hashirama pinpoints the fresh carrots as the source of the sweetness, he excitedly tears a scrap of paper from a nearby notepad and scribbles his findings onto it. Afterwards, he tucks the note into the gardening book he's borrowed from the library, right by the same page that gave him some helpful—and not so helpful—growing suggestions on said carrots.


Distraction plagues him all throughout the afternoon as he runs his errands, and it's only when he's on his way out of the library with a new book in hand that he realizes he has, once again, forgotten his library.

"Again, for real?" Mito is manning the desk, as she usually is, and she reads his face far too easily, as she usually does.

"I'm so sorry, you know I'll—"

"Mhm, next time. Right. Just put mine, go ahead Hashirama." He signs Mito's name on the check-out card and she waves him off as Hashirama thanks her loudly on his way out the door.


MADARA


Cooking isn't new to him, and Madara finds it not unlike slipping on an old, well-worn set of gloves. The fire that flares up from the burner, the steady sizzle of oil, the smell of savoury meats and veggies filling the air. For a moment, everything feels good.

It would be perfect, if not for the taste.

There's something missing. Some depth to the flavour, some further step not taken. Madara spends the next month visiting every store, every market he can find, and he almost gets there, but never quite. Hashirama's words run through his head, a hobby. He needs a hobby. Cooking had felt like the obvious answer, the only answer, really. He's always liked it, and it's not violent. But—well, taking on a new hobby is as good an excuse as any to indulge in solving a needless mystery. He tries every spice, every oil, every herb under the sun, and none give him what he's looking for. In the end, he knows it can only be the ingredients themselves, and if he can't buy something that tastes correct, he'll have to grow it himself.


Madara spends long enough lingering in the home gardening section of the library to make his head hurt before he finally gives up on trying to decipher what separates one book on root veggies from the fifty surrounding it and grabs the nearest one.

"Starting a garden?" The woman—Mito, her name tag says—asks him while he's signing the back of the small card she's given him.

"Trying," Madara grunts. "I'm not very good at keeping things alive." He winces at the too-raw edge to his voice, but she doesn't seem bothered or even particularly dialed in to what he's saying. Fair enough.

"I'm sure you'll find something helpful in there," she smiles pleasantly as she hands him both his book and his card.

"Here's hoping."


By the time he gets home, Madara is no longer convinced he needs the book. It takes him roughly twenty minutes of fighting with the moss poles before he figures out he doesn't actually need them and decides the book might be worth a look, after all.

When he opens it, a page falls out, or—on second glance, a folded up piece of scrap paper.

It takes him a couple of minutes to match it to the right page, but once he does, he understands that he's found what is, essentially, a very disjointed running commentary on someone's experience growing purple carrots according to the guidelines of the book.

wet soil & mix in eggshells

let them breathe

DO NOT be cheap about the eggshells

thin the duds, don't be shy

He stares at the note for a while and wonders how likely it is that this random dirt-stained scrap of paper is more reliable than the book, and hears Hashirama's voice in his head, telling him he has to relearn how to trust his instincts.

Fuck it.

He carries book and paper both into the back yard. Things go much quicker, this time.

On impulse, he checks the writing on the note against the writing on the punch-out card, and finds it matches. Uzumaki, written in rushed, blocky letters that match the writing on the note. On the off chance whoever wrote it picks the same book up again, he copies down the directions, and then scribbles a quick thank you onto the bottom of the note before tucking it back in the book to return.


HASHIRAMA


"You're sure it's gone already?" It's only been a day since he returned the book, but Mito's face holds little sympathy for him as he leans over the counter, pleading for her to triple-check. Mito doesn't look up from the library cart she's sorting when she speaks to him.

"Positive."

Who checked it out?" At that, she turns and levels him with a flat stare.

"What are you going to do? Track them down? It's a library book, Hashirama, it'll be back in a few days."

"My note was in there!" he wheedles.

"Not sure what you think I can do about that," she tells him, turning back to the cart. Lost for options, Hashirama mourns the loss of his perfect carrots and checks out another book by the same author.

This time, he makes two copies of his notes, just in case.


By the time he next visits the library to return his book, the one he had before is back on the shelf, and, holding onto one last shred of hope, he opens it in search of—his note!

It seems too lucky that his note would still be in there, but when he opens the book to the section on purple carrots, it slips out into his hand, and he notices there's a small addition scribbled onto the bottom.

Thanks for the tips.

Delighted, Hashirama crams the book back on the shelf, digs a pen out of his pocket and puts his foot up on the lowest rung so he can lay the book he has yet to return out on his knee. One copy of his notes is still inside—he'd had the idea after losing the last one by mistake that someone might find it helpful, and it seems he was right—and he knows it's a long-shot that the same person would get this book next, but—well, it was a long shot that he'd get his notes back at all, and here they are.

Thank you so much for returning my notes! I hope your carrots turn out as good as mine did, mystery gardener.

Hashirama bites his lip, considers the shelf in front of him for a moment, and then adds a recommendation for what to get next before snapping the book shut.

That done, he grabs the book he'd recommended off the shelf and just as he turns to leave, has one last thought, doubling back to pull the old book back off the shelf and check the last name on the check-out slip.

Uchiha.

Of course, his first thought is Madara, but then—Uchiha is an incredibly common surname. He's pretty sure he's already stretched his notoriously questionable luck far enough by having found his note.


INTERLUDES


Glad you got your notes back. What book would you recommend for radishes?


"What made you decide to try therapy?"

"My brother."

"Most people end up coming here at the suggestion of others. Does he worry about you often?"

"Not more than I worry about him. Can we talk about something else?"


Definitely the one by I. Yamanaka, a classic for good reason. Hope they don't give you too much trouble.


"I started running again."

"Have you been enjoying it as much as you used to?"

"Not really, but it's better than nothing."


Never me, but you should see the mess my brother makes when he comes over to "help out." It's worth the clean-up, though. Always good to remind him what's up.


"How've you been sleeping?"

"Piss poor."

"I see. How's your sex drive?"

"What's that got to do with anything?"

"Anecdotal evidence would suggest that oftentimes, for men especially, achieving an orgasm before bed—"


My brother loves to complain about the mud I track through the house, but you should see the mess he makes when he's working. Speaking of, your tomatoes should be about ripe now, how did they turn out?


"Did you have homemade meals often, growing up?"

"Every night. My parents used to cook together, they taught me—"


I made a sauce with the tomatoes you helped me with. It came out perfect. It was my brother's favourite recipe growing up, he would've loved it. But I wish he could've been here to try it.


"What do you think of when you can't sleep?"

"I don't know, what does anyone think about?"

"Mistakes, usually. Regrets. The things that weigh us down."

"Well, there's your answer."


I still make my youngest brother's favourite dumplings from time to time. It always helps me feel a little closer to him, but I still wish we could share them.


MADARA


"That's wonderful to hear," Hashirama gushes. Madara can't help but be irritated with himself over how much his praise warms him.

"It's just cooking."

"It's something you enjoy. It's passion," Hashirama emphasizes, and Madara does his best to allow himself to listen without letting his mind wander to what other passions of his Hashirama might be pleased by.

"Yeah well. It's been nice to have something else to think about." Hashirama looks far too smug, at that. "Just because you're a therapist doesn't give you free license to say you told me so."

"I think that's exactly what it means, actually," Hashirama argues, terribly self-satisfied.

"You would."

"Have you got anyone to show off your cooking skills for, then?" Either Madara's wishful thinking is making him hear things, or there's something a little searching to Hashirama's voice, beyond just professional curiosity.

"Just my brother," Hashirama's smile widens, and Madara tells himself it's because—as Hashirama has, mortifyingly, pointed out—he always lights up at the mention of Izuna, and not because he's just made it clear that he's single. "He's coming over tonight, actually."

"What are you making?"

"Nothing too special, figured I'd throw together a stir-fry with some of the veggies from the garden."

"You've been gardening?" Hashirama has a strange look on his face, head tilted curiously to the side.

"Yeah, why?"

"No reason." After that, Hashirama seems to shake off whatever strange mood had fallen over him so suddenly, or he tries to, at least, but Madara can feel it lingering around the edges of his demeanour.


Across the table, Izuna chews torturously, deliberately slow, Madara is sure of it.

"Well?"

"Yeah, okay," Izuna's face breaks into a smile, "even if this is all you get out of therapy, it was worth it." Madara laughs, and Izuna laughs with him as they settle into their meal.


The two of them end up out on the porch, drinking their beers and staring up at the night sky. Izuna leans against his shoulder and Madara feels the last of the tension he's been carrying leave him.

"I'm glad you're doing better," Izuna says, quiet. Madara's heart aches.

"I'm sorry for everything."

"You don't—"

"Not the accident. I mean—that, too. Always that, but everything after. This last year, Izuna. I'm sorry I worried you. I wasn't myself."

"Hey." Izuna turns and pulls him closer, gripping the back of his neck so Madara is forced to face him. "I don't care, you know that, right? You'll always be my big brother. That's all that matters to me." It shouldn't be like this, the insipid, ugly voice in Madara's mind whispers. You're the oldest, you shouldn't need— "Hey," Izuna jars him, and the voice in Madara's head goes quiet. "Seriously, don't do that. I don't give a fuck about anything else. Just you. Okay?"


Before bed, Madara grabs the notebook by his bedside, next to where he keeps the ones he gets from the library, and pens his next note.

I'm pretty sure your gardening tips have helped convince my brother I'm sane again. It would be nice to thank you in person, one day.

It's been an easy night filled with peace Madara hasn't known in a long time, and for once, he falls asleep easily.


Skin cold and damp, heart in his throat, his brother's blood on his hands. God—Izuna—Izuna, not like this

It's not real. He knows it's not real. And yet—yet, he feels the blood burn against his fingers, skin gone cold to the touch. Sees Izuna going pallid, breath faint, eyes so fucking resolute Madara almost hates him for it.

It's not real.

Madara reaches for the phone and—

He can't. God, for the first time in months—a year, at least—Izuna has looked at him in the same way he used to, like he actually trusts him with himself, and Madara can't take that from him, not so soon. Still, he needs to hear someone, needs to ground himself—the number he thinks of is only for emergencies, whatever the fuck that means. He doesn't know if this qualifies, but he's dialing before he can think it through any further.

"Hello?" Hashirama's voice is low, carrying the gravel of sleep, but he seems awake enough. "Who—"

"It's Madara," he answers, tone ragged. His voice gives away too much and he feels, immediately, like an idiot. "Shit. Shit, Hashirama, I'm sorry—"

"No," Hashirama cuts him off quickly, and when he speaks again, Madara can hear that he's embarrassed about it. It kind of helps to catch him off guard like this, it feels like they're on even footing in a way that's new. "No, sorry, I mean—I shouldn't have interrupted you, but there's no need to apologize. I gave you this number for a reason."

"Emergencies, you said."

"Yeah, well. I'm willing to bet if whatever is happening convinced you to call, it's an emergency. You're a bit stubborn. Has anyone ever told you that?" Madara laughs and his voice breaks.

"Yeah," he breathes. "Yeah, my brother."

The line stays quiet for a moment.

"Tonight was your dinner with him, wasn't it?"

"It was."

"What happened?" Hashirama asks gently.

"Fuck—nothing. Nothing, it was perfect. Izuna—he looked at me like he used to, and I just— Shit, I thought things were better. But now I'm—fucking—just listen to me."

"I am, Madara. Things are better."

"I still feel like shit."

"We all feel like shit, sometimes." Hashirama soothes. Madara's heard him say it a thousand times, it does nothing to stop the feeling of drowning. "I'm sorry, but there will always be bad days. They don't erase the good ones."

In the end, Madara doesn't get back to sleep, but when he drags himself out of bed, he finds that the sky is only just beginning to lighten, and there's a new type of peace to be found in the garden at dawn.


HASHIRAMA


Madara doesn't call again, and every night, Hashirama is both relieved and disappointed, neither in a way that's acceptable for someone in his position, with his responsibilities. Every day, it's becoming harder to justify holding on like this, but he still can't bring himself to let go.

When Tobirama suggests a trip to the sea over the weekend, it feels like the perfect out. A little distance, a change of scenery, that might be just what he needs to get his head on straight again.


In his hurry to get everything he needs done before they leave, he rushes to the library. In theory, he's there to return his books, but it's entirely possible that he's become more than a little invested in making sure he gets to the gardening section the second it's been re-shelved. A part of him wants to ask Mito about his mystery pen-pal, she might remember them enough to give him a description, but the rest of him enjoys the mystery.

Either way, he finds his book hasn't been returned yet—a shame—and ends up so distracted by his disappointment on the way out that he runs straight into—

"Madara?"

"Hashirama."

Hashirama goes in for a hug before he can stop himself, and Madara definitely doesn't seem entirely sure what to make of it, but he doesn't pull away. It could be argued that Hashirama lingers just a moment too long. Even through his layers, Madara feels—well, it's best not to think about it. He pulls back and tries to look more composed than he feels.

"How've you been?" Madara asks, and Hashirama is incredibly grateful that he's saved him the trouble of having to find the words, right now. He's never felt half so flustered about running into a patient before, but then, the word fits less every day, and Hashirama knows Madara isn't just any patient. It doesn't help that he's dressed well, fitted jeans and a shirt buttoned low enough to be distracting leave Hashirama hyper-aware of the dirt that mars his torn-jeans and the t-shirt that he's no longer entirely confident is lacking sweat stains.

"Good, good. I'm just—my brother and I are going out of town this weekend, so I just had a few things I wanted to return first. How about you?"

"Just the same, minus the trip. Guessing this means we'll be rescheduling our session, huh?" Madara grins, and Hashirama feels terrible. Shit. He'd completely forgotten.

"I'm sorry, I didn't even—"

"Relax, Hashirama. That wasn't a dig."

"I know, I just—I do hate to cancel, but my brother is such a workaholic—"

"You really don't have to explain, but if you did, you could always do it over a beer instead." Hashirama freezes. God. He shouldn't, he really shouldn't, but—

"A beer would be lovely."


"I can't fucking believe this." Madara stares, amazed, as yet another one of Hashirama's darts misses the board.

"Shut up. My luck is about to turn, you'll see," Hashirama hisses, lining up his next shot.

"I'm pretty sure it should be impossible to lose this many times in a row," Madara muses. "A statistical impossibility. It has to be."

"Stop talking."

When Madara speaks next, his voice is near enough to be felt, and Hashirama really is distracted. "I could help you, if you wanted?" He feels his voice in his bones and braces himself against the shudder that runs through him. They're still in public—and he's his therapist. Hashirama has had to remind himself of the latter far too many times, already.

"As generous an offer as that is," turning his face as he speaks, he finds Madara's daringly near, "I'll be fine. I was just shaking off the rust." Madara remains both clearly skeptical and amused as he takes a step back.

"Go on, then."

"Thank you, I will," Hashirama replies, with no small amount of attitude.

He loses horribly.


Overall, they get through the night without incident. Hashirama leans into Madara's heat far more frequently than the size of their booth warrants, and more than once, Madara's fingers brush the sliver of skin that shows where Hashirama's t-shirt has ridden up, but—well, it's nothing that can't be swept under the rug after a few drinks and forgotten in the daylight.

What can't be so easily forgotten is how easy things feel between them. How this run-down bar that happened to be nearest to the library feels almost too-comfortable, so long as it's Madara he's here with.

Hashirama has officially crossed the line he knows he can't come back from.


MADARA


When he goes back to the library in the morning to return the book he forgot about upon being sidetracked by Hashirama, the ache in his head and the flu-ish feeling that plagues him leave him just tired enough to ask the question that's been niggling at him for months, now.

"Do you garden?" Mito's nails are impeccably clean, and while he doesn't know her very well, she doesn't have the air of someone with much interest in digging around in the dirt in her spare time. She eyes him over the counter as she marks down the books he's handed her.

"No, why do you ask?"

"Uzumaki, that's the name that's always on the check-out slips, I thought maybe you—"

"Oh, no. That's a friend of mine, he always forgets his card. I thought you knew him?"

"What?"

"Yesterday, you guys seemed pretty friendly?"

Madara thinks of every time Hashirama coached him through learning to trust his instincts and curses the irony he has little patience for. Of course.


HASHIRAMA


A weekend away with his brother has allowed Hashirama some much needed clarity. When he searches his mind, he can't manage to come up with a call he's ever wanted to make less, but he officially feels he has no choice. He's bent his ethics to the point of breaking, and has no leeway left to give himself. Picking up the receiver, he finds his stomach sinks as he dials.

"Speaking?" Madara grunts. Hashirama smiles, unable to help it.

"It's Hashirama."

"Hashirama," his voice is immediately warmer, and Hashirama's heart hurts. "I hoped you'd call."

"I know."

"You know?" Madara asks, clearly amused, and he feels his face heat despite himself.

"Stop—listen. I'm sorry to do this over the telephone, but I called because I'm going to have to recuse myself as your therapist. I'm so sorry, Madara. I promise, I'll give you a recommendation to someone who's very good, well suited—"

"Hashirama—"

"—I just don't think I can do this anymore. I know how that sounds, but I—"

"Hashirama," Madara repeats, more insistent. "I was going to say the same thing."

"Oh." Hashirama deflates. It's ridiculous to feel hurt when he was just saying the same thing, but even so— "Could I ask why?"

"Well, I might be fucked up, but I'm not stupid enough to date my therapist."

"Oh." Oh.

"I'm pretty sure there's a gap just opened up in your schedule for the night. I could cook for you, I've gotten pretty decent at it since some asshole told me to get a hobby. What do you think?"

"I think," Hashirama smiles so wide it almost hurts, "I'll definitely be a better boyfriend than I was a therapist."

"You could stand to raise the bar a little."

"Shut up. Be there at seven?"

"Seven."


MADARA


Madara sets the table nicely, puts a little extra care into making the food presentable, even goes as far as working out a little mood lighting, and feels like an idiot the entire time. It's still worth the way Hashirama smiles, unrestrained and promising, when he greets him at the door, made even more so when his face lights up upon taking in the carefully crafted ambience of the house.

"Wow," he glances back at Madara as he walks through the living room, towards the dining room, clearly delighted. "When are we putting on the Barry White album?"

"Stop."


As silly as it felt to set the table properly, Madara's grateful for it, given the way Hashirama raves and moans over the food. He does actually want to make it through this meal, and the table between them helps. Hashirama tells him he can't believe the depth of the flavour he's managed to pull out of the veggies, and Madara sees his chance.

"I grew them myself."

"Seriously?" Hashirama gapes. "When I first started gardening, everything came out so bland, if it even grew. I can't believe it. My luck can't be that bad."

"Don't feel too bad," Madara grins, "I had some help with them."

"From your brother?"

"Nope."

"You're being cagey," he accuses.

"I read a book."

"Congratulations. What book?"

"You're not actually that patient, are you?"

"Tell me."

"Honestly, the book wasn't that helpful," Madara sighs, sitting back in his chair and watching as Hashirama leans forward. "But I kept finding these notes—" Hashirama's eyes go wide, and then he bursts into laughter, launching back in his chair with enough force that Madara half-expects him to fall as he covers his face.

"My life cannot be this much of a joke."

"Unfortunately for both of us, it definitely is."

"You're my mystery gardener." When he leans forward again, his expression is so filled with open affection that Madara struggles not to haul him straight across the table.


HASHIRAMA


After dinner, they make it about halfway through dishes before Hashirama decides enough is enough. When he turns to the side with every intention of winding his wet hands into Madara's wild hair in the way he's been dreaming of for far longer than he cares to admit to, he finds himself being dragged forward, because of course, Madara has already beaten him to it. It's becoming a pattern between them, and not one he minds in the least.