A/N: Crackfic. Thanks, ch. 510! Also, as if that wasn't troubling enough, not-so-hidden Mean Girls quote in plain sight! Handle with care.
"…the last fiscal year has been abysmal, probably because Konoha doesn't actually possess any industries or, well, currency, if you want to be particular, but perhaps we could—Tobirama, are you quite all right?"
Tobirama tore his gaze from the window so emphatically he could almost hear the visual rupture.
"I'm sorry, nii-san," he said. " I thought I saw Uchiha Madara climbing over the fence with a troupe of traveling musicians."
"I understand that I can be slightly boring, and I'm sorry," said Hashirama, seeming apologetic for doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing, "but try not to hallucinate until the meeting is over, all right? We're almost done. Now, to solve the problem of currency, some of the Uchiha have been auctioning their—is that music?"
They all paused. The unmistakable chorus of the Konoha tavern regular "When the Leaves Come Off" became discernible, quickly followed by the equally unmistakable and lamentably common sound of a lute being broken over a bodily protrusion. The music quickly resolved itself into a classical Uchiha ballad with an evocative, lyrical refrain.
"…A most poetic description of dismemberment," said Uzumaki Mito finally, ever the diplomat. "I would never have thought of comparing the blushing mechanism to an 'aortic valve rent asunder, discharging its gore-laden juices,' but you do have a reputation for innovation here in Konoha."
No one really knew what to say, so they all acted as if this remark was greatly appreciated. Finally, Tobirama could no longer bear the suspense. He lurched to his feet and threw open the curtains.
Madara was standing immediately under the window like a signpost of death, wearing an expression of truly psychotic concentration and holding a terrified lute musician up to the opening.
"…Uh," said Tobirama. "Do you…need something?"
"No," replied Madara. "I am serenading your brother. Go away."
"Okay," said Tobirama, and closed the window. The statement took a few more seconds to process. Then he opened the window again.
"I'm sorry," he said, because he was a Senju and they generally prefaced their statements thus, "but what the hell?"
At the Uchiha compound, a similar status meeting was underway.
"Go on," said Izuna kindly, nudging the frightened Hyuuga girl with his cane. The wooden point made contact with a table about ten feet away from her, but the Uchiha were under explicit instructions not to acknowledge Izuna's visual difficulties, so they all pretended his overture had been successful. "Tell us what's happening."
The girl squeaked, because Izuna, with his blood-splattered bandages and ethereal, white-robed frame, was an intimidating specimen, in spite of or perhaps because of his eyeless condition.
"It's all right," he said. "We're not going to hurt you. We love Hyuuga. Look, I have even taken the liberty of wearing my special Hyuuga-themed bandages."
"B-but those are j-just plain white b-b-bandages," said the girl fearfully.
"Exactly," said Izuna. "Now, why don't you just tell us what's going on? Uncle Izuna knows you can do it."
Rightfully horrified by the third person usage, the Hyuuga began stuttering madly and managed to get out the word byakugan! She squinted in the general direction of the Senju compound.
"Well?" said Izuna expectantly. "Has Hashirama-san, perhaps, leapt bodily into my brother's waiting arms?"
The Hyuuga twitched. "N-not exactly."
She cast a nervous glance around her. Some of the surrounding Uchiha had rictus grins of excitement. An old nursemaid who had apparently cared for Madara since his infancy was sobbing into a clan elder's shoulder, overcome by emotion. Many among the assembly were clutching scythes. Izuna had patiently explained that there was no use for scythes at this stage of the plan, but they seemed to believe that scythes imparted the aura of malevolent glamour that Madara cultivated and thus should be in use at all times. Izuna himself was far too sensible to carry a scythe as a token of admiration. He kept in his sash a small, grease-stained handkerchief he had once used to polish Madara's own scythe, an instance which still made him slightly giddy whenever he had cause to contemplate it.
The Hyuuga girl was still gawking inarticulately.
"I understand," said Izuna in a tone of paternal affection, "Hashirama-san and onii-san have become maddened by the excesses of passion and retreated to a bush, or mayhap a sturdy, impromptu tree."
"Well, then, what is it?" asked Izuna.
As if on cue, the door suddenly exploded in a conflagration of fire. The Uchiha were unsurprised, as this was nearly recreational in their compound, but the Hyuuga girl shrieked and sprang up, upending her chair. Her lip quivered, and before Izuna could detain her, she bolted. No one noticed. Most occupants of the room were busy gaping at Madara's furious visage.
Izuna turned towards the sound and smell of smoldering wreckage.
"Hello, onii-san!" he trilled. "How did it—"
"I have never," roared Madara, "been so insulted in all my life!"
Had he been physically capable or inclined, Izuna might have blinked. As it was, he sprang immediately into damage control mode, drawing up a comfortable genjutsu-propelled armchair, upping the ambience with a roaring fire in the jury-rigged fireplace made by the collapsed door, and shooing auxiliary clan members out of the room. Within minutes, the room was empty save for some scythes. Madara gave the one nearest him a searching look, then quite decisively picked it up and cradled it like a baby before settling into the armchair.
"Izuna," he said dangerously. "Aren't you forgetting something?"
When the array of desserts was laid out in front of him, he finally began to relax somewhat.
"It started out well," he snarled, examining an elaborate rice cake with a stenciled eternal mangekyou design before shoving the entire thing into his mouth. He didn't like eternal mangekyou rice cakes unless Izuna had made them. For anyone else to make them seemed like an insidious accusation. He needed to be careful of such things because of the fact that, as with many famous personages, so many people wanted to live his life that it was in danger of ceasing to exist at any given moment.
Izuna, for his part, had indeed made the eternal mangekyou rice cakes. He found them a subtle and lovingly home-cooked reminder of the bond he shared with his beloved brother. Smiling, he discreetly felt around for Madara's shoulders and began to apply a soothing pressure.
"Tell Uncle Izuna all about it, onii-san. Did you get his life force?"
"I'm sorry. I was attempting to appear loving and paternal to the Hyuuga girl. It was a suggestion from our extortion department."
"She didn't appear impressed."
"I need some work," explained Izuna. "Affection does not come easily to us Uchiha, because we are fire-breathing denizens of the underworld. Would you like another rice cake? I made this star-shaped one."
"That will do nicely, thank you. The Hyuuga girl?"
"Yes, onii-san—anyway, the girl was highly skittish."
Madara scoffed. "With their luck, it'll run in the family," he said. He experienced a moment of unfettered glee at the thought of eventual effeminate, insecure byakugan children being cowed by the testosterone-fueled demigods of his sharingan line, none of whom would ever appear feminine or delicate in any way. The prospect of contributing to this was delightfully appealing; he resolved to investigate systematic bloodline sabotage at the nearest opportunity. Elimination of feminine characteristics from the Uchiha gene pool would probably necessitate doing away with his third cousin Yisuo, who had once been caught straightening his hair with a battle fan on low katon power, but Madara was undaunted.
"Anyway," he said, shelving this intriguing matter. "It began well. The musicians performed one of our traditional clan songs."
"Which was that?"
"My Heart Impaled Upon Your Kusarigama."
"Very good, onii-san. You have impeccable taste. How could he have resisted?"
"He wouldn't have," said Madara darkly, "if it hadn't been for that woman."
Izuna shuddered. "How horrible," he said. There was a moment's silence. Then he asked, "Which woman was that?"
"That Uzu creature."
"How do you know her name?"
"One hears things," said Izuna glibly, choosing to skate over the time said Uzu creature had thoughtfully provided him with heavily doctored dark glasses to supplement his fashionable bandages. To further insulate himself from harm, he opted for guilt-tripping. "Particularly when that's all one can do."
"Fine," snapped Madara. "Anyway, she…" He fell silent.
"She did what, onii-san?"
Instead of answering, Madara got up abruptly, picked up his battle fan, and snapped it down so quickly the genjutsu armchair flickered and vanished. He had time to cast an appraising glare at the beautiful, seal-quality kanji scrawled over the canvas before the fan suddenly burst out singing, to the exact tune of My Heart Impaled Upon Your Kusarigama:
If like many others in our quaint enchanted town
You strive to woo our leader, with his tresses russet brown
Prepare to be discouraged by the scant regard he gives
For no Uchiha will triumph while an Uzumaki lives!
The two Uchiha stood there and stared or strained at the singing fan as their respective circumstances mandated.
"Well," said Izuna cheerfully, "she's got style, you have to admit."
"Izuna," replied Madara, between gritted teeth, "I did not hear what you said because my ears ceased functioning out of self-preservation. Perhaps they are defunct, and I will require a new pair—"
Izuna left rather quickly after that.
The Senju, after harshly interrogating the musicians for information, bought them all dinner and inquired after their families as was their custom. Neither technique yielded anything useful as to Madara's motivations.
"I found it very flattering," said Hashirama. "I'm sorry, but I don't understand why you're so paranoid."
"That song talked about wanting to garland you with someone's entrails," said Tobirama.
"Tobi," his brother chided, "you need to learn to appreciate others' musical tastes, eclectic though they may be."
Uzumaki Mito was ignoring them. She sometimes felt that she had been sent to Konoha specifically so that someone could take the responsibility of ignoring them. Instead, she was carefully considering the ramifications of Madara's latest proposition. She drew her hand fan and snapped it open with the self-confident air of a woman who had been known to castrate offenders with a lacquered hairpin, which she eyed thoughtfully for a moment before shaking her head. The Uchiha situation would require far more in the way of delicacy and good taste.
"Maybe he's looking for a wife," Tobirama was suggesting. "Those bloodline clans? They don't even buy you dinner before they get all you wanna have my kid? I mean, I don't even go out with bloodline girls, okay, because of all the…you know. Weird…uteral obsession."
Alarmingly, Hashirama actually gave this serious consideration.
"No," he concluded finally. "Our children would be displeasing to the eye. That can't be it."
Mito intensified her stoic pursuit of oblivion. She pedaled air with her fan a few times to provide the appearance of lounging indolently. But in her mind, she was running through all the overtures she had seen Uchiha Madara make towards the Senju since truce had been called. These included hiding a live lobster in her shamisen case, constructing an elaborate modern sculpture in the front courtyard entirely out of mutilated pieces of wood, and filling Tobirama's sleep with genjutsu dreams of Hashirama taking his eyes. The serenade incident, as she was coming to call it, differed from all of these. For one, no one had sustained any notable injuries. For another, she had rather liked his taste in music.
"Hashirama-san," she said courteously, deciding that her ignoring period was over. "If I may offer a suggestion."
She never ended this sentence with a question mark because it was not a question.
"Of course!" said Hashirama, as if he actually possessed any power to stop her from doing this. She sheathed the fan with an efficient click and folded her hands into her kimono sleeves.
"I believe it might be advisable to be…accomodating…to the Uchiha's overtures for the time being."
Tobirama was skeptical. "What's the point of that?" he asked. "He'll just keep doing it."
"Precisely," said Mito. "We need more data before we can draw a conclusion."
"I'm very good at being accomodating," said Hashirama, ever eager to please. "What should I do?"
"I received the impression that he would be interested," said Mito, "in a proper date."
No one found it a coincidence that the otherwise innocuous Six Paths Café and Bistro was completely booked the night of the Senju/Uchiha date, or Uchiha/Senju date, depending on which part of town the observer happened to be coming from. Konoha paparazzi turned out in full force, their Hyuuga eyes glinting with barely suppressed fervor, and musicians at the restaurant nearly drove themselves to distraction attempting to compile a coherent set list from the Uchiha clan's greatest hits, which featured things like evisceration, and the corresponding Senju songs, which featured things like home-grown begonias.
Hashirama found it all very invigorating. He had never been on a date before. Mito had assisted him with his hair, rubbed wax on his lips, and convinced him to leave off his armor by quietly burying it in the back courtyard, and he was feeling along the lines of what a lesser warlord might have termed "pretty." He waved benevolently to the Senju clan members, who were standing in the doorway holding onto one another and acting nostalgic.
The moment his neatly coiffed hair had whisked around a corner, they sprang into action.
"Let's go," said Tobirama grimly. "We should have our surveillance set up before either of them get there."
"I can't believe onii-san is going on his first date," said Izuna in a way that might have been tearful under more optically favorable circumstances. "I understand that this is all part of a dastardly plot to steal Hashirama-san's, er, life force—haha, life force—but it's really very adorable. Can someone please describe to me what onii-san is wearing? I want to recreate the image in excruciating detail and enshrine it in my mind."
"Oh, you know," said one of the clan members, a little too quickly. "Fatigues. Very boring. But," he amended, catching the glowering pout Izuna often substituted for his former glare, "Madara-sama doesn't need frippery. Whatever he wears immediately becomes the height of couture."
"So true," sighed Izuna. "Once I saw onii-san wearing sandals and a high-collared shirt, so I bought sandals and a high-collared shirt."
The unfortunate clan member filed this piece of information away, noting with trepidation the origins of that particular misguided bit of Uchiha fashion, and returned to contemplating Madara's attire, which was unfortunately as far from fatigues as an outfit could logically be. Their clan head had, in some spasm of madness or self-absorption or mad self-absorption or self-absorbed madness, seen fit to acquire a red dress and slit the garment so high up the side that observers risked sudden death via sartorial vertigo. Appallingly, he found nothing unusual in this choice of datewear. Even more appallingly, he looked extremely fetching, being possessed of the rare skill of making any stretch of flat surfacing into an impromptu catwalk.
Madara himself nodded curtly at the Uchiha observers, most of whom looked completely shell-shocked at the lengths he would go to for the sake of Senju life-force acquisition. Particularly notable among these lengths were those of his legs, which were set off to perfection in the red dress and really did not receive proper showcasing in the hideous white shorts worn by many Uchiha as de facto uniforms. He smoothed down the front, tucked a stray sequin back into place, and cast about for a suitable place to hide his battle fan. This did not exist. Madara made a note that when he inevitably ruled the universe and held sway over the laws of physics, the space-time continuum would be reengineered such that battle fans could be stored down the front of revealing dresses. He tucked a sheaf of exploding notes into the garter belt instead, choosing to take serious risks with his vital anatomy rather than arrive unprepared.
"Is there a problem?" he snapped, taking note of his family's stares, no doubt admiring ones. "I'm not exactly going to acquire his…life force…by showing up in one of those godforsaken boatneck shirts, am I?"
"Of course not, Madara-sama," said a random Uchiha hurriedly. "Your dedication to the cause of world domination is truly awe-inspiring."
"Of course. Well, then, gentlemen. Shall we?"
The Uchiha, finding nothing else to do, nodded dumbly at him. He thrust his hip out in preparation for his signature strut, shouldered his kusarigama the way another might have shouldered an impractical handbag, and set off, bespoke stilettos clicking forebodingly on the floorboards.
The maitre'd of Six Paths was batshit terrified.
Tales of Uchiha Madara's legendary histrionics had been relayed via the Konoha grapevine for as long as it had existed. The former maitre'd had left him with a traumatizing account of some kind of seventy-two hour genjutsu incident, apparently precipitated by Madara's refusal to eat the house tonkatsu. He had claimed it was poisoned by Senju field agents; it was later discovered that it was simply bad for the complexion. Uchiha Izuna, acting as a surprisingly capable litigator, had argued in the ensuing scandal that this was no less than complete sabotage of the Uchiha genetic makeup, which necessitated vampirically pale skin. Due to a complicated loophole in Konoha's code for the protection of bloodline genomes, this was allowed to slide and had cost both the restaurant and the Senju clan thousands in legal damages.
Each chime from the revolving door was making the man nervous. It pinged once, and he nearly broke into sobs before realizing that it was merely Senju Hashirama, looking dashing with his hair parted neatly on the side and wearing what appeared to be a mokuton corsage. The maitre'd hurried to show him to a table.
"Good evening, Senju-sama," he said nervously. "May I interest you in some wine? We've acquired a delightful vintage—a Senju handmade, as a matter of fact, ahaha—"
"That sounds lovely," said Hashirama, smiling kindly, "and I'm sorry, but I believe I'll have to wait until my date arrives. I am on a date, you know."
The maitre'd's face paled with the realization that Hashirama actually believed this was a legitimate date and not some kind of elaborate insanity-inducing hoax. He saw no way it could be otherwise. Madara had made Senju-baiting an organized recreational activity in several of the Uchiha enclaves; that he should suddenly decide to treat Hashirama to Konoha's swankiest six-course dinner was a concept that not only taxed the imagination, but drove it completely bankrupt.
"V-very well," he stammered. "Well, in that case, I believe we will…hold off on the Senju handmade."
He could practically smell the scent of fresh legal papers, with their telltale Uchiha letterheads.
"I do, however, have a fascinating Uzugakure blend that…" He trailed off, correctly deducing that any reminder of Hashirama's attractive, adorably redheaded female friend would not be welcome at this particular table.
"How intriguing!" said Hashirama. "Mito-san often mentions the wines of her home country. I'm sure that would be most appropriate."
The maitre'd was surprised by this demonstration of complete tactlessness.
"Senju-san…I believe that Uchiha-san might not appreciate the, er, mention of Uzumaki-san's presence…"
"Really? Why ever not?"
"Well, she lives in your compound, and she is rather…beautiful…"
Hashirama laughed. "My good man, you are acting as if Madara has reason to be jealous of Mito-san. That is completely unfounded. She is my, oh, what are they calling it these days…myfag hag. Yes, that is correct."
The maitre'd suddenly felt that the threat of legal entrapment was preferable to continuing this conversation. As if responding to his unspoken wish, the revolving door suddenly disintegrated entirely under one spontaneous burst of flame, apparently initiated by an absolute bombshell of a woman in a red dress. She was toting a kusarigama, teetering on a pair of lethal-looking crimson stilettos, and fuming in all senses of the word.
"Idiot Senju," she snapped, and the maitre'd's soul suddenly capsized and drowned as he realized it was no she at all, "did you not realize you were supposed to wait for me before sitting down?"
Tobirama and Mito were setting up traps to prepare for the extremely probable eventuality of an ambush.
"Oh my god," said Tobirama in a strangled voice. "I can't deal with this. He looks…"
"Ridiculous?" supplied Mito.
"…Really fucking hot."
"Tobirama-san," said Mito icily, "if you are incapable of treating this reconnaissance with the requisite professionalism, I am perfectly capable of completing it solo."
"You're just jealous," sulked Tobirama. "You want the dress."
"Hardly. I am a redhead, and thus look better in black."
Tobirama promptly envisioned this, went scarlet at the startlingly vivid mental image, and returned to his task setting up a pair of trip-wires, sneaking impressed glances at Mito as he did so. He was still uncertain as to whether she had designs on his brother or not, but until this was confirmed, he reasoned, there was no harm in turning up the infamous Senju charm. Just to cover all bases. Hopefully literally.
"So, Mito-san," he began, in a tone of casual seduction or a reasonable facsimile thereof, "I hear that in Whirlpool, you're all pretty famous for your capacities of…suction?"
"Do you see my hairpin, Tobirama-san?"
"I once relieved a man of his right to call himself such with this hairpin."
"…I-is that so…"
"Yes. Shall we continue our preparations?"
"Funny, I was just about to suggest that myself."
Hashirama, blissfully unaware of his associates' orwellian surveillance, was enchanted.
"You look ravishing," he said, as he drew out a chair for Madara.
Madara swerved from enraged to sultry so quickly Hashirama nearly sustained an injury from the facial rearrangement alone.
"Is that so," purred his erstwhile rival. "Perhaps you should act accordingly, in that case."
One of the corollaries of being completely boneheaded when it came to matters of the heart was a corresponding inability to perceive or act upon innuendo, even of the stupidly obvious sort. Hashirama blinked, smiled the smile of the terminally naïve, and wondered why several diners at the surrounding tables seemed to be cringing and blushing in embarrassment.
"That dress is quite something," he continued, showcasing the dogged and oblivious tenacity by completely taking in stride the fact that the Fire Country's most intimidating warlord had arbitrarily shown up in a slinky dress. "Is it…comfortable?"
"I'm so glad you asked," murmured Madara. "It's not at all, and I can't wait to get out of it."
"That's too bad," said Hashirama sadly. "We'll have to get you home quickly, in that case."
"Yes," said Madara, "but not my home."
"Oh?" Hashirama furrowed his brow. "Is there somewhere else you need to be?"
"I'd like to call it an early night," said Madara quickly. "I believe the Senju compound is closer—why don't you take me there?"
"That's all right. I know of your unfortunate dislike for us, after all…"
"No! I mean…don't be silly. I'm sure it would be alleviated by…getting to know you a little better."
"Really? That's very touching."
Despairing of ever making headway with less idiotic remarks, Madara cast class to the winds and leapt in with "I know. I love touching," before Hashirama could say anything else.
Hashirama, confronted with this apparent non sequitur, paused. Madara was eyeing him expectantly, manicured eyebrows raised.
"That's a wonderful idea," he exclaimed finally, extremely flattered. "Why don't we start with your favorite color?"
From their vantage points behind vases, under tables, and posed as random bystanders in various three-dimensional murals, the collective Uchiha and Senju clans groaned.
What Izuna lacked in one particular sense, he made up in all others save common sense. As he listened to Madara's various failed insinuations, he became more and more distraught. He decided to do what he did best and intervene with an insane, potentially suicidal game-changer.
"Your attention, please," he said quietly, and an Uchiha quite convincingly camoflauged as the daimyo's wife turned and regarded him expectantly.
"It is vital that this stage of the plan succeed if onii-san is to attain the Senju life force," said Izuna. "I am going to enter the room and cause a commotion in order to expedite the process."
"Izuna-sama! You can't possibly—"
"Anything is possible for onii-san," said Izuna defiantly. "The Senju are here and may try to intervene, although I believe they are merely suspicious and have not yet divined our intentions. See to it that there is no interference."
"…As you wish, Izuna-sama."
Izuna squared his shoulders, straightened his bandages, and strutted into the room with an attitude that left absolutely no doubt as to his fraternal heritage. The staggering, heartrendingly noble idiocy of the act could only be comprehended by an understanding of the various obstacles that confronted him, including but not limited to a rogue dessert cart, some musicians scattered about playing an improbable Uchiha/Senju fusion tune, and the myriad waiters bearing trays laden with the namesake six courses for which Six Paths was famous.
No one had a better understanding of these obstacles than Uzumaki Mito, who had in fact manuevered most of them into position to avoid exactly the situation which was taking place.
"Tobirama-san!" she said, alarmed. "The Uchiha are on the move. I'm going in."
Madara had learned Hashirama's favorite color (blue). He had also learned his favorite beverage (milk), worst academy mark (second rank after Senju Toka beat him in genjutsu), and most embarassing memory (accidentally producing a bouquet of poison ivy in an attempt to impress a childhood crush with mokuton). What he had not done was come even incrementally closer to attaining the coveted Senju life force. Even for someone of his immense patience and dedication to world domination, it was a trying situation. He was ready to take off his stiletto, bludgeon Hashirama with it, and shriek at the man to divest him of the red dress and take him right there over the coconut-dusted chicken (course four, the "animal path").
Madara contemplated this and, in his half-crazed state, somehow decided it was not actually a bad strategy. His strategies were always paragons of genius. He had just begun to toe off the shoe when he remembered that it was held in place by an exquisitely complicated succession of straps.
An idea occurred to him, and he smiled a smoldering, slightly cannibalistic smile.
"Idiot Senj—Hashirama-san," he said silkily, "My shoe is bothering me. Would you mind helping me take it off?"
Stationed high in the rafters with the complicated assortment of tripwires, Tobirama swallowed hard. Even for someone who knew the vicious Uchiha clan head personally and had seen him in a variety of unflattering, antagonistic situations over the years, the sight of Madara's long, silk-encased leg resting suggestively across Hashirama's lap was highly provocative. He wiped his brow and wondered how the hell this behavior was even allowed in a restaurant of this caliber.
It had become quite clear at that point that Uchiha Madara was not, in fact, perpetuating some kind of questionable practical joke and actually intended to sleep with Senju Hashirama for reasons no doubt sinister beyond comprehension. The thought was traumatizing and not a little intriguing, particularly the bit which involved the red dress.
Oh my god, thought Tobirama for the second time that evening. I hate myself.
Even Hashirama seemed flustered. Anyone would have been, navigating the artistic straps that seemed to hold Madara's shoe together while trying to ignore the tempting flash of—was that a garter belt?
Tobirama was so preoccupied with this vital question that he outright missed Uchiha Izuna sauntering onto the dining room floor, pausing to receive his brother's grunt of acknowledgment, and quite deliberately triggering one of the tripwires.
Fortunately, Mito caught the flash of movement and dove under one of the tables just in time to snatch the seal attached to the tripwire, which meant that the attached candle merely sputtered awkwardly instead of exploding.
Izuna was completely undaunted.
Feeling about carefully with the tip of his slipper, he felt the distinctive tug of one of the other wires. He kept his toe on the wire while listing very subtly to the side, moving his cane in a careful arc as he went. When another wires had been located with pinpoint precision, he made a movement which resembled an innocuous flail, but was actually a strategic kick and swipe at both wires at once.
Mito's traps went off perfectly.
"That entire row of candles just exploded!" cried Hashirama. "Did you see that?"
"No," lied Madara outrageously, surrepetitiously spotting Izuna and cottoning on to what was occurring. "I think I'm about to faint."
"W-what?" stammered Hashirama. Madara noted with satisfaction that his palms were sweating intensely. He shifted subtly in his chair so that the dress hiked up further than was even remotely appropriate, and, seeing that he had Hashirama's attention, threw his head backwards in a needlessly dramatic gesture.
"I need to be taken to a horizontal surface immediately," he said. "I believe you should assist me."
"But—the restaurant is—"
Some more candles exploded. Izuna, bizarrely, was avoiding them with consummate ease, and various concealed Senju were leaping out to help civilians, as was their wont. The Uchiha saw the opportunity to unveil themselves and cause mass chaos, which they did with great gusto.
"All this noise!" cried Madara. "Take me away and set me down in your bed immediately!"
By this point, Hashirama was so befuddled that he registered neither the complete unlikeliness of Madara's story nor the inanity of his statement. He was also discombobulated from the untoward ministrations of Madara's foot in his lap, which combined with the sight of him dangling his shoe off his finger suggestively were enough to send anyone over the edge. The general pandemonium of the situation was not helping his confusion. He got to his feet, gathered Madara up in an approximation of the chivalry he felt the situation called for, and broke into a run just as a chandelier crashed to the ground in the center of the room.
"—and since I was caused a great deal of trauma by these tripwires, I am inclined to take legal action against this restaurant and its management," finished Izuna blithely. The surrounding Uchiha clan members were so proud of their young hero that they could barely contain it and in fact did not, instead going about and chest-bumping one another and generally acting like assholes.
The maitre'd closed his eyes for a moment, strongly visualized his resignation letter, and felt at peace with the world.
"I assure you that no member of our staff knew of the existence of these tripwires," he said. "You must believe us, Uchiha-sama. This occurred without our knowledge."
"I am not at all convinced," said Izuna. "Who else could have done it?"
"Well, tripwires are a shinobi item, so I would guess that someone well-versed in ninjutsu…"
"That's interesting," said Izuna. "You mean, like the person I hear under that table?"
Mito, who had just emerged from underneath said table disarming the last of the traps, found herself clutching a handful of seal tags, fixed with several pairs of hostile eyes, and quite decidedly the victim of a setup.
"This is ridiculous," she said immediately, because it admittedly was. "Izuna-san here purposely triggered the traps. He is attempting to frame us."
"Frankly absurd," said Izuna. "How could I have seen them?"
"Don't listen to him!" cried Tobirama. "He's a fucking ninja, man!"
"I have no idea what that person just said," frittered Izuna. Then he tapped his cane emphatically on the floor, tilted his head at an angle to show off his ostentatious bandages, and played his trump card with an absolutely deadpan relish.
"I suggest you investigate appropriate disciplinary measures for the delinquent Uzumaki girl and her Senju hosts," he said coolly. "Otherwise I shall be forced to bring suit against you for outrageous discrimination against the blind."
The Senju were promptly assigned the most strenuous fine in Konoha's fledgling history.
Izuna was making his way home, being perfectly competent at navigation, when he was suddenly paralyzed by an uncannily powerful and familiar seal.
"You shouldn't leave your bandages dangling on the ground like that," came Uzumaki Mito's calm voice. "While it creates a pleasing aesthetic, it also provides ample space to attach an immobilization tag."
Izuna barely had time to complete a mental rosary of onii-san! before Tobirama leapt down from a tree in front of him, nocked a kunai at his throat, and said, "Okay. Talk. For starters, where the hell did your brother pick up that dress?"
Anyone unfortunate enough to observe Hashirama's entry into the Senju compound's kitchen the next morning immediately dropped whatever he or she was doing and stared.
"Hello," he said dreamily, spying a stunned cook and practically wafting over to her. "Can I ask you to prepare me a breakfast tray for two?"
His hair was mussed. There were telling red marks spaced out over his chest, resembling a lopsided Uchiha crest if one cared to look, which no one could help doing. He kept crashing into things in a way people normally grew out of at the age of eighteen months. Most alarmingly, he appeared to have mislaid about half his vital items of clothing.
"R-right away, Senju-dono," stammered the cook, appalled. "Anything in particular your g-guest—" She stopped, unable to go on.
"His favorite color is red," sang Hashirama in a tone which embarassed all the onlookers except the twelve-year-old girls. "I think it would be wonderful to bring him a breakfast made entirely of red foods. What do you think? Yes, please do that. Strawberries, fresh salmon, hibiscus tea…"
The cooks began to scramble about the kitchen cobbling together this unappetizing fare. They felt that they should voice some sort of objection, but the situation was too surreal to allow rational proceedings.
That is, until Tobirama and Mito burst in, waving a piece of parchment and sporting looks of abject horror.
"Nii-san!" yelled Tobirama. "You have to hear this!"
"What do you mean, he's only sleeping with me for my techniques?" asked Hashirama. "What does that mean? Is it some kind of euphemism?"
"NO," yelled Tobirama. "It's exactly what it sounds like. He thinks it'll help you become one, or some kind of—"
Much to his alarm, Hashirama's eyes suddenly misted over faster than a Kirigakure bypass.
"Tobirama, how sweet of you. I did not realize he felt the same way, but I knew I felt a connection—"
"That would be your life force and entire grasp of ninjutsu draining into his being," put in Mito calmly. There was some awkward silence, as there usually was whenever Mito contributed to the conversation.
"Because he's a deranged megalomaniac who wants to take over the world," Tobirama added.
"Oh," said Hashirama. "Well, that would explain why he kept hogging the blanket."
"What is wrong with you?" criedTobirama, rightfully exasperated and somewhat dismayed by the Uchiha crest love bites his brother appeared to be sporting, as well as the fact that anyone would think to manipulate the shape of his love bites in the throes of passion. In his mind, this peculiarity only cemented his point. "He's trying to get the mokuton, man! It's one of the six paths!"
"Tobirama," said Hashirama, displaying a hitherto unsuspected capacity for sternness, "you are ruining my afterglow."
For once, Tobirama opened his mouth and found himself with absolutely nothing to say.
"If he won't believe you," she said to him in an undertone, "why don't you call in someone with more authority?"
"Oh, and who might that be?"
"Do you remember that forbidden technique we were discussing?"
"The one that—oh."
Edo Tensei was a technique still in the beta stage of its existence, and as such was not as proficient in summoning undead warriors as it theoretically could have been. Considering Tobirama's priorities as its developer, there were scintillating light effects and sepulchral droning sounds in great abundance, but crucial aspects of the framework were still noticeably dysfunctional.
"Next time," said the Rikudo Sennin, "I would appreciate being able to bring my left arm with me."
Tobirama had the grace to blush. "Sorry, man," he apologized, "short notice. Could you, uh, maybe talk to my brother for a second?"
"Senju Hashirama!" boomed the zombie obligingly. "Leader of the free world, and tamer of the forests!"
"Honorable Sage," said Hashirama, "I am…honored by this…honor."
"I get that a lot," said the Sage. "One with my grandeur and—" He paused, which was understandable as his other arm had suddenly fallen off without preamble. Tobirama swore and gave the wooden coffin a hefty kick.
"Sorry! Carry on, I'll, uh…get this fixed…"
He fiddled ineffectually with the little tag that said Rikudo Sennin, with handy picture of what the being was supposed to look like, and, this proving useless, gave up and handed it to Mito. She went to work with a couple of calligraphy brushes and the arm materialized back onto the Sage's torso, held in place by a line of neat stitches.
"Thank you, daughter of Uzugakure," said the Sage, and rotated said limb experimentally. "Much better. Now, I understand I have been summoned to clarify a possible life force transfer?"
"Not possible," said a smug voice from the doorway. "Successful."
Madara had often considered what the Rikudo Sennin would be like as a being of flesh, and was pleased to note that he posed no competition at all to the anthropomorphized sex appeal that was a post-coital Uchiha wrapped in red silk, leaning against the doorjamb of his enemy's house. He waited for all eyes to turn to him and all libidos to immediately assert themselves at the debauched sight. This did not occur. He forgave it only because there was a zombie in a crate in the middle of the room and this was almost as fascinating as his bare chest.
"Ah, Uchiha Madara," said the Sage. "I see you have managed to understand the allocation of my six paths."
Madara was torn between scoffing that it was hardly difficult and a transcendent being should have known better than to make it so obvious, and asserting that the conclusion was inevitable for an individual of his talent and deductive ability. He settled for smiling enigmatically and examining his nails, which had received quite the nocturnal workout leaving tasteless red trails across Hashirama's back.
"This entire setup is completely batshit crazy," groaned Tobirama. "Is he going to go sleep with the Hyuuga now too? The Akimichi?"
"What?" cried Hashirama, looking properly dismayed for the first time all morning.
"Calm down," said the Sage. "We don't even know if it worked. Come here, Uchiha Madara."
Madara waited until a sufficient amount of time had passed since this order, so as to make it appear that he was acting randomly out of his own volition and not as a consequence of the Sage's command. He sashayed over to the crate, taking care to swing the tassel of his robe in Hashirama's general direction as he passed.
The Sage peered at him so intently that one of his eyes dislodged itself and rolled away across the floorboards. Mito gasped and scribbled away at the tag. There was a portentious silence.
Then the Sage sighed and said, "Successful indeed. Well done, Uchiha Madara."
This completed, Madara smirked, cast a completely unnecessary smug look at Tobirama, and strutted out of the room, sending the silk robe flaring like a particularly alluring parachute. As he went, he scooped up the Sage's fallen eyeball and deposited it into a formaldehyde flask he inexplicably had situated about his person.
"This is terrible," said Tobirama. "He's got the mokuton now! What are we going to—"
"Senju Hashirama," interrupted the Sage. "Would you come here?"
Hashirama went, still looking troubled by the Akimichi comment.
"Have you ever tried controlling a tailed beast?" asked the Sage.
Hashirama shook his head. "That requires a fairly advanced…dojutsu…" He trailed off, suddenly realizing what the Sage was implying.
"You should try it," said the Sage. "And now, if that's all, I believe this jutsu is braiiiiins…" He stopped and looked righteously mortified. "Senju Tobirama, what on earth—"
"It's the signal that time's up," said Tobirama hurriedly, "I couldn't think of anything better, sorry! I promise I'll fix it for next time—"
"See that you do," said the Sage. "Otherwise—"
There was a pop, and he promptly vanished. The coffin creaked, literally gave up the ghost, and fell over onto Tobirama's foot.
"Well," said Hashirama brightly, ignoring the howls of pain, "that was an enlightening experience. If you'll excuse me, I have a breakfast to—"
From the adjacent room came an anguished cry.
"I can't use it!" cried Madara. "Why can't I use it?"
"Maybe there's a combination jutsu it's supposed to create," said Hashirama soothingly. "He didn't say you would be able to use the mokuton on its own—"
"Don't be a blithering imbecile," snapped Madara. "Of course I'm supposed to be able to use it on its own. Do you even understand what this means?"
"No," said Hashirama. "What does it mean?"
"It means we did something wrong," said Madara decisively. "Cancel all your appointments for today. We're staying in."
"You are a dimwit," said Madara promptly. "Do I have to put that dress back on, idiot Senju, or are you going to shut up and get in the bedroom?"
Hashirama smiled, shut up, and got in the bedroom.
Tobirama and Mito stood awkwardly in the adjoining room and tried very hard to ignore the auditory indications of what was happening. In their valiant quest to accomplish this without sustaining mental injury, they had begun to absentmindedly pick away at the red-themed breakfast tray and found its contents unexpectedly satisfying.
"Salmon is an aphrodisiac," said Tobirama suggestively, tearing at a piece with what he considered to be masculine vigor.
"That would be oysters," said Mito.
"Oh," said Tobirama, and sighed so despondently that Mito felt somewhat sympathetic for him and offered him a strawberry.
"You know what you and strawberries have in common?" he asked dementedly, waving the strawberry around before eating it with unnecessarily demonstrative pleasure.
"We are both sweet and contain red pigments," said Mito without blinking.
"You're both—how did you know…"
He appeared to contemplate the nature of the universe as he took a long draught of hibiscus tea. This done, he suddenly slammed the teacup on the table with more force than was necessary.
"What the hell," he declared. "Hey, Mito, can I have your life force?"
Mito, predictably, went for her hairpin.