A/N: The omake! Coming in at over ten thousand words! I feel like I should explain what all this is.
The first scene is a mini-fic that I wrote while I was writing the last few chapters of Man of Dreams. At that point, the fic was so thoroughly depressing me that I decided to just sit down and write something unremittingly stupid (and I mean really stupid) and non-angsty as fast as possible, just to take a break from the misery. The "reviews" in front of it came when I started showing the mini-fic to friends and we started up making up dumb things to make the mini-fic sound fancier than it really was. It's all nonsense, don't take it too seriously.
The next scene is the first scene of the fic I've promised y'all, the one that's going to actually be mutual HashiMada. (Unless, of course, I change my mind later and something else becomes the first scene of that fic.) So, just a tiny preview. That fic's going to have nothing to do with Man of Dreams; it's not a sequel or anything like that. It's just more HashiMada. Not that you can really tell from the preview scene, so just trust me on that. And even though the current working title of the fic is This Impure World, don't worry, that doesn't mean anybody's an Impure World Resurrection zombie, everybody's alive. I've got a few more details on that fic in my profile.
The next five scenes are alternate versions of scenes in Man of Dreams. (Each one's labeled with the chapter that the scene originally came from.) That means they start out pretty much the same as the original scenes, before they veer off in a new direction. They're not in chronological order, they're just in whatever order I felt like putting them. I should point out that these scenes are basically pure fanservice/wish-fulfillment. They're not necessarily, "It could have ended up this way"; they're just "It would have been really really really nice if it had happened this way, wouldn't it?" So, don't necessarily take any of these as an indication of how, for example, Madara actually felt about Hashirama. (Unless, you know, you want to take it that way. I just ain't gonna confirm or deny either way.)
So, that's that. I hope you guys enjoy the omake—and I hope it'll help to make up for some of the misery of the rest of the fic, haha.
And thank you all again for sticking with Man of Dreams, all the way to the bittersweet end. I really appreciate all of your comments and reviews, and I'm glad you all have enjoyed it so much. I look forward to posting the next fic—hopefully in a few months—and hopefully hearing from you guys again. So please enjoy, and thanks one final time for being such great folks.
The Omake Chapter
A bonus for those who suffered through the rest of this.
Man of Dreams: the Omake
Happy-Happy Sunny-Sunny Rabu-Rabu Super Sexy Lovetimes
A POIGNANT TALE!
From the editor: "A masterwork of literature, it is a beautiful story of the triumph of love over adversity. It brings up biting questions of morality, and subtly muses upon the state of our world and its social norms. But at its heart, it is a poignant tale, capable of touching readers of all ages, chronicling the heart-moving emotional journey of two dudes who are totally in love."
"Oh, yes, I suppose it has a developed plot arc. It possesses a beginning, middle, and ending. It is indeed a well-structured story." —Sai
"It was kinda weird! I think it was funny!" —Konohamaru
"I am honored and blessed to have been one of the first to have an opportunity to read this work. Unquestionably, this is a literary masterpiece. It is accessible enough to be understood and beloved by many, and yet has enough depth to provoke deep analysis for generations to come. The likes of this shall not be seen for another hundred thousand years, at best. Reading this story is truly like glimpsing into the mind of a god of art. What? No, I don't accept checks, if you don't pay me in cash for this review I'm taking your heart." —Kakuzu
"What is this crap? I could've written it way better than this!" —Jiraiya
"What is this crap? I could've written it way better than this!" —Naruto
"I will murder the author." —Madara
AND NOW, PRESENTING...
Once upon a time there was a dude called Hashirama and another dude called Madara and they were in love and it was great. Even though they were both dudes and that kinda freaked Hashirama out. He got over it because that's how the power of love works. Better than two years in therapy. No lie.
They weren't always in love. At the start of things Madara kind of hated Hashirama's guts, because he's a bit of a prick like that. However, Hashirama pretty much thought Madara was the sex from the start, and as far as he's concerned that's basically all you need to be in love, so for all intents and purposes he was in love from the start.
So then one day Hashirama was just so freaked because he thought Madara might die or something if they kept having to fight and stuff. (The author has neglected to mention that Hashirama and Madara were on opposite sides of a war. Actually they were on opposite sides of a lot of wars. Hence why Madara hated Hashirama.) So Hashirama decided to make this village with Madara so they wouldn't have to fight and stuff. Madara was totally suspicious of Hashirama's motives because who wouldn't be? The dudes were enemies and Madara didn't know Hashirama thought he was the sex, so he thought Hashirama was gonna backstab him or something like that.
Which is totally what he thought happened when Hashirama got elected leader of this new village, so he went "Dude, you jerk, I'm gonna run off and like destroy your village or something, 'cause you were planning on backstabbing me."
So Hashirama went "Wait! I never meant to do that! I didn't know I was gonna get elected. And I never wanted to backstab you, I just think you're the sex. Love me please?"
Madara did not go "Holy noodles, I love you too! Let us now go find another way to 'backstab' each other if you catch my drift wink wink nudge nudge." Because he's a bit of a jerk. He actually went "That's a little weird dude, I mean I don't even like you. But I guess you're not gonna backstab me if you think I'm the sex, so I guess I'll hang around a while and make sure you don't mess up this village." So he hung around and made sure Hashirama didn't mess up that village.
And after a while he went "Dude, this Hashirama guy is like super nice to me. And since I am a jerk and I have an ego the size of the Ten-Tails—I mean the moon, I think it's totally hot when people worship the ground I walk on." So he totally fell in love with Hashirama because it was like, hey, he could get fawned on 24/7. And Hashirama was all like super excited because it was like, hey, he could fawn on Madara 24/7. Everybody's happy.
So then Madara went "Dude, so wanna move in together so we can do sexy sexy things like all the time?" And Hashirama went "Dude, how 'bout we do one better and get married?" And then Madara went "Dude, that's not even legal." And then Hashirama went "Dude, I rule this village, I could totally make it legal." And then Madara went "Dude, that'd just be weird. Let's just live in sin, sin is sexier." So they moved in together and lived in sexy sexy sin. But Hashirama gave Madara his super fancy necklace and pretended it was like a marriage necklace or something because that made him feel better. And Madara totally wore it because that thing was worth like a fortune, so Madara was basically wearing a fortune on a string around his throat, and seriously, folks, it doesn't get much hotter than that.
Meanwhile there was a babe named Mito and she went "I was gonna marry Hashirama, but his bro Tobirama is totally more the bomb." So she married Tobirama and everybody was happy forever except Izuna who died before the story started.
P.S. Okay, so maybe Izuna actually is happy but he's still dead. He's chilling with the Sage of the Six Paths. The dude's legit. No lie.
P.P.S. If you ask them which one tops, they'll just make something up. Imagine whatever you want. You're probably right.
The End, for real this time.
Seriously, you've suffered enough.
Untitled Work-In-Progress Fic: "This Impure World"
"What are you doing here?"
The hiss came from the darkness just behind Hashirama's ear; if he turned, he was sure he would see the god of death behind him. It was a hiss from the wrong side of the grave.
Hashirama knew that voice.
The chain holding Hashirama—trapping one hand against his chest, wrenching the other behind his back—wasn't all that strong. He could have snapped it in a second, he could have caught the chain-wielder (Uchiha Madara?) in a tree...
But if he did, he was sure, then that hiss, that voice from the wrong side of the grave, would vanish, the way a ghost vanishes when you turn on the lights.
It had been fifteen years.
The man, the ghost pulled tighter on the chain, as if hoping that if he were insistent enough, the chain might somehow become strong enough to actually hold Hashirama. The ghost didn't respond to the name.
Hashirama barely noticed the chain. Insistently, he asked, "Is it you?" His voice was as soft as the ghost's. The last thing he wanted was to scare him off.
"I asked you a question," the ghost snarled; those words from the wrong side of the grave were just inches from Hashirama's ear, inches from the corner of his eye. "What are you doing here!"
Hashirama knew that voice. And yes, he knew the feel of that chakra, he knew...
Wait. Did ghosts have chakra? "Is that... are you... Are you alive?"
The ghost-or-whatever lost patience. Hashirama reacted to defend himself before he consciously realized there was a kunai swinging for his throat. He jerked away, snapped the chain, twisted around and blindly grabbed for his attacker's shoulders as vines twisted up from the ground to grab at the attacker's ankles—
And the attacker vanished. Hashirama never even touched him. Just like a ghost, leaving behind nothing but a broken chain and disappointment.
A fraction of a second later the ghost was using the broken chain to strangle him.
A thin branch squeezed against Hashirama's throat to tear the chain off. He once again snatched at the ghost and once again missed; his momentum caused him to land on something that gave beneath his foot, and he stumbled. Before he could regain his balance, the ghost's knee drove into his back (and that could not possibly be a ghost) and forced him to the ground. A chain around his wrists, and a knee in his spine, and a kunai against his throat. Hashirama tensed his shoulders, ready to jerk free.
And once again, from the wrong side of the grave, the ghost spoke:
"Did you have to wreck my bookcase?" he grumbled.
Bookcase. Ghosts didn't talk about bookcases. Hashirama thought. Or he was pretty sure. Maybe. Close enough.
This wasn't a ghost?
"You're alive." It was no longer a question. It was a pure dumbfounded declaration. "How long have you been alive?"
For a moment, there was silence.
And then, sarcastically: "Oh, I don't know, I keep losing track of my birthdays. You'll have to ask my mother."
That was not what Hashirama had meant. But upon further reflection, what he had meant was just as stupid. "Just tell me. Please. Madara-sama, is it really you?"
The silence went on and on, long enough that Hashirama began to adjust to the dark; he could now distinguish between black, and blacker black. "Yes."
Yes. Yes. Yes yes yes—
Hashirama let his shoulders relax, let the side of his face sink to the ground. "Then do what you want with me." He could feel the kunai's blade against his throat. He shut his eyes.
If it was Madara, if it was Madara, the man with whom Hashirama had founded Konohagakure no Sato—then he deserved to do whatever he wanted to Hashirama.
Silence again. For so long. All Hashirama could feel was the kunai, still, then almost trembling, then barely barely pressing harder harder—
And then gone. Along with the chain and the knee on his back. (The moment the kunai was gone, Hashirama wondered what in the world had driven him to endanger himself like that; and then he decided he'd wonder later.) Hashirama pushed himself to his knees, then to his feet, looking wildly around for a shadow shaped like a person. For a moment, he was sure Madara had vanished again.
"Fine. I'll bite."
Hashirama turned toward the sound of the voice, somewhere near the doorframe. From the shadows, he almost imagined he could see two glimmers of red... but he didn't.
"But this had better be a damn good story," Madara said. "And now—for the third time—to what, oh Hokage-sama, do I owe the honor of your presence?"
"I..." Hashirama's mind went blank. Something about tailed beasts. Something about the war. Something about a roof covered in leaves. "I was..." His brain was no longer functioning. It was busily trying to rewrite fifteen years worth of history, fifteen years of insistence that Madara was gone, was dust, was a phantom if he was anything at all. His brain didn't have time to waste answering questions.
"Well?" Madara was starting to sound (even more) impatient.
Hashirama swallowed hard. "It was an accident."
"Really," Madara said.
Hashirama nodded, then wondered if Madara could see it. Knowledge he hadn't needed for fifteen years, moving slow with age and disuse, fought its way to the surface of his mind, to remind him that Madara most definitely could see him through the dark.
"Well, that confirms it," Madara muttered. "The world itself personally hates me." Hashirama heard him trudge from the room to the hall.
Hashirama wondered what in the world Madara had to complain about. As far as he was concerned, five minutes ago, Madara had been dead.
Suddenly, the world didn't seem to be quite as cruel a place.
Hashirama followed Madara down the hall.
Hits the Fan
Well into the afternoon but long before evening, Hashirama finally gave up trying to continue work, snuck somebody's bottle of sake out of the Hokage Residence's break room, told the guards who'd have the night shift that he didn't want to be bothered until morning, locked himself in his room, and got smashed.
He meant to drink about half the bottle. He downed the whole thing.
This time around, he wasn't quite as drunk. Consequently, he wasn't quite as hung over the next morning.
Being a ninja, he was completely capable of hiding his discomfort as he stood before his village in the bright, bright sunlight (thank goodness for the wide hat that went with his Hokage robes), and announced the name of the Nidaime Hokage.
Being a ninja, he was easily able to resist the urge to flinch when his eardrums were attacked by a village's worth of exuberant cheers.
Being a ninja, he was just barely able to make his queasy way to his office, lock the door, and lay his head down on his desk, before he began quietly crying into his arms.
He didn't even know why he was crying.
Maybe he'd just stay in there the whole day. The village didn't need him today, it could go bother the new Nidaime if it wanted something. He'd just wait for the day to be over. He'd barely woken up and he was already exhausted.
So. He'd stay in his office, door locked. Feeling nauseous and drained and miserable. He'd done his part. He'd done what he had to do.
He was finished.
He had been in his office for mere minutes before Uchiha Madara flung the door wide open.
He barely had time to sit up before Madara was towering over him, eyes bright, in that sarcastic way of his saying, "A moment of your time if you're not too terribly busy, oh Hokage-sama!"
What? What? For a moment, a horror-stricken moment, Hashirama was sure he had given the wrong name—that when he had been called upon to name the Nidaime Hokage, he had opened his mouth and without even thinking without even hearing had named someone other than Madara, just in desperation pulled some name out of the crowd...
But no, no, Madara was smiling. He was just being sarcastic because he was Madara and that was what he did, not because he was angry—and he was smiling. Oh, hells, was he ever smiling. Hashirama completely lost track of reality for a moment as he drank in Madara's face—that smile, that smile, that bright beautiful smile and his eyes, Hashirama could honestly say he had never, never seen Madara so happy, for the first time there was nothing angry, nothing guarded, nothing distrustful in his beautiful beautiful red eyes, they simply overflowed with joy and relief and gratitude—and Hashirama, Hashirama had made him so happy...
He rubbed his eyes, partially to distract himself, partially to wake himself, and partially to wipe away his tear streaks. "Yeah?"
"I didn't think you'd have the nerve!" Madara said. "You, a Senju! I honestly didn't think you would go through with it! You really meant it, all of it. All that stuff you said about peace and hope and, and teamwork, and love, and alliance... I don't believe it." He nearly sounded like he was laughing. "You're the real deal after all, Senju Hashirama."
Hashirama had nearly started feeling good about himself until Madara used the word love, at which point his stomach gave a sickening lurch that wasn't at all helped by his still-throbbing hangover. But he gave Madara a smile that he hoped didn't look as painful as it felt. "Who else could I have chosen?" he asked. "You're the only one for the job, Madara-sama."
Madara's grin twitched wider for a moment, but then faded. "You're not looking that great, you know," he said. For a moment, Hashirama thought (hoped) that maybe Madara was actually concerned about him; he had a worried look in his eyes.
"No, I'm fine." He rubbed his eyes again, for all the good it would do. His eyes were probably nearly as red as Madara's, bloodshot as they must be; and there were probably shadows under his eyes and still tear streaks down his cheeks. "Just waiting for someone to come assassinate me, now that I'm obsolete." (Madara snorted in amusement; Hashirama was weakly pleased.)
That wasn't the truth. He was waiting for someone to figure him out, for the whispers to start, asking, why did he really choose Uchiha Madara? Asking, why does Hashirama seem to be so obsessed with Madara? Asking, is there more than just politics behind the decision, is there maybe some emotion...?
"You're not having second thoughts, are you?" Madara asked.
Ah. So that was why he looked so concerned. "No, no, of course not. Not about you," Hashirama said. He managed a wry smile (and a wince). "I just regret having thought I needed to down a whole bottle of sake last night to work up the nerve."
At that point, he felt he was adequately justified in putting his head on his arms again. Which was good timing, because Madara burst out laughing. It would have been a much more wonderful sound if it hadn't felt like a million swords stabbing his eardrums. (But it was still a pretty wonderful sound.) "Were you really that against handing Konoha over to your old rival Uchiha Madara-sama?"
Hashirama couldn't tell from his tone whether he was joking, or whether the question genuinely bothered him. "Never for a second," he mumbled, and raised his head just enough so he could speak a bit more clearly and look Madara in the eyes. "You are, and always have been, the only person I even considered choosing. I can't possibly imagine anybody else as the Nidaime Hokage."
Which was why he'd had to choose Madara. No matter what people might eventually think about Hashirama for it, no matter what it was going to do to his reputation. His reputation no longer mattered. If he had to, if he was figured out and his reputation was destroyed and he lost all credibility, he could now step down and let Madara take complete control, and then everyone would see that the choice had been right. Madara deserved to lead Konoha, and Konoha deserved to have Madara as its leader.
Hopefully. Unless all that was just what Hashirama wanted to be true, what he had convinced himself was true. But, he had to believe that choosing Madara had been right. He had no choice but to believe.
He lowered his head again. "It's everyone else I'm worried is going to be against it."
"Hmm..." (Hashirama could hear Madara walking around his desk, coming to stand behind it.) "Apparently, I'm a bit more popular than either of us suspected," he said. "There haven't been any riots yet."
"That's a good sign."
"And your approval rating has skyrocketed in the Uchiha clan."
"Glad to hear it."
They were both silent a moment.
Madara suddenly clapped a hand on Hashirama's shoulder, almost startling him out of his skin. (Madaratouchinghim) "What are you doing here, anyway?" he asked sharply. "In your condition, you shouldn't be in your office. Come on." He started trying to tug Hashirama to his feet.
He awkwardly stood, and Madara pulled him toward the door. "Okay?" he said. (Madara's hand on his arm, Madara's arm around his arm, oh wonderful!) "Where should I be?"
"Resting! You've got a Nidaime Hokage, he can take care of things today!" Madara opened the door, grandly swept Hashirama's hat off his head, and used it to gesture out the doorway. "Go take a nap. You look horrible."
"Thanks. I think," Hashirama said. "You're sure you don't want me around today, Madara-sama?" Headache or not, Hashirama would have loved watching Madara during his first day as Hokage. (He would have loved watching Madara any day at all, but he had a feeling he'd be getting quite a few more smiles out of Madara today.)
"I'm quite sure I don't want you around. You wouldn't want Konoha to think its newest leader needs his predecessor to walk him through his duties, would you?" Madara asked. He gave Hashirama a mock-serious look and added, "And you can't keep calling me 'Madara-sama.' I'm a bit higher-ranked than that now."
"Of course. My apologies, Hokage-sama," Hashirama said, smiling (and trying not to smile too widely). "I didn't mean to disparage your high rank."
"I am certain you didn't," Madara said grandly. "See that it doesn't happen again." He turned and strode back into the Hokage's office, holding the Hokage hat behind his back.
Hashirama turned to watch him. "You know, Hokage-sama, we can't go around calling each other the same thing," he said. "Don't you think that would get a bit confusing?"
"Confusing for whom?" Madara asked. "I think most people would be able to figure out that if you say 'Hokage-sama' you're talking about me and vice versa." Unless, of course, Madara was talking about himself in third person. But before Hashirama had to point that out, Madara quickly asked, "Do you have any alternatives? Other than continuing to call me 'Madara-sama'?"
"Well," Hashirama said (carefully, nervously), "You could just call me 'Hashirama.'"
Madara quirked an eyebrow at him—as if that surprised him, as if he actually couldn't quite believe it. But then he gave him a half smile. "All right then, Hashirama-sama." (Never before had Hashirama thought the sound of his own name was so beautiful.) Madara turned around, and strolled behind the Hokage's desk. "And now, I believe I ordered you out of this office to get some bed rest?" He pulled out the chair, regarded it admiringly for a moment, and then sat down. "You have nothing to worry about. Today, the Nidaime Hokage Uchiha Madara-sama is in charge." He grinned like a little kid with a matchbook, a firecracker, and no parental supervision.
Hashirama bowed, ignoring the way that made his head swim. "Then I won't disturb you any longer, Hokage-sama." He stepped outside, and pulled the door shut behind him.
"Oh, one more thing, Hashirama-sama."
He opened the door again. "Yes?"
Madara had put Hashirama's hat on. It looked so perfectly in place, framing Madara's face like that. And its dull red made Madara's eyes look even brighter.
"I just wanted to tell you," Madara said, "you did an excellent job on the selection." But his eyes said something different: thank you.
And so Hashirama said, "You're welcome."
Like Schoolgirl Gossip
It was then that a woman started approaching them from the opposite direction. Hashirama never would have noticed her on a normal day; he hadn't thought Madara would have, either.
As the woman got closer, Madara, who had very slightly turned his gaze to follow her, started rotating his Sharingan.
As she drew level and passed them, Madara paused, turned, slowed for a second, glanced at her from behind; and a moment later faced forward and resumed his pace, Sharingan slowing again.
Meanwhile, Hashirama had completely lost track of the topic at hand. Had Madara actually just...? No, he wasn't the kind of guy to... Plus, it had been so subtle, but... What else could he have been...?
"Do you know her?"
Madara gave him a blank look. "'Her'?" And then comprehension. He smiled, so slightly that only someone who lived to see Madara smile would notice it (Hashirama noticed it), and then looked forward again. "Yes," he said. "Why do you ask, Hokage-sama?"
Oh. What did he say? He could hardly say that he thought Madara had been eyeing her and he wanted him to confirm or deny. "I just, uh, noticed her go by—"
"You were watching her?"
"I wasn't—well, I mean, I saw her—"
"What do you think?"
"Uh," he said eloquently. "She... looks nice. Doesn't she?"
"I see," Madara said. And then his smile grew into a wicked smirk. "She's my half-niece."
Hashirama's thoughts, in order of appearance:
Oh hell, Madara thinks I was eyeballing his half-niece?
Wait. Madara was eyeing his own half-niece?
... What the hell is a half-niece!
(How long was her hair?)
But whatever insane thing was going on here, Hashirama was not about to let Madara think that he was eyeing Madara's half-niece, and so before Madara could speak again, he blurted out, stupidly, "I was just—" just, just, just what, think of something— "wondering how long her hair was."
That was moronic. Hashirama was a moron.
Madara stared at him, eyebrow cocked, in utter bafflement. Hashirama stared back, mouth clamped shut.
A moment later, though, Madara's smirk returned. "Not quite as long as yours, Senju." Then he continued on toward the Hokage Residence, as though nothing had happened.
And Hashirama trailed along beside him, half-dazed and wondering what Madara had meant by THAT. And oh, Hashirama hadn't realized his heartbeat could get that fast outside of battle—although really it had only ever seemed to get that fast when he was battling with Madara so, maybe it was a Madara thing.
What was wrong with him. This was silly. He was being silly.
Did this mean Madara liked his hair?
He didn't consciously notice it (although unconsciously oh yes he did), but for the rest of the walk back to the Hokage Residence, Madara never quite stopped smiling.
Still Love You
After the battle, Hashirama was in shock.
He was in shock when his backup, the Hyuuga and Yamanaka, came to move him from the battlefield in case the Kyuubi escaped; it was trapped in a living cage made by Wood Release trees, locked shut with an immense scroll of Uzumaki seals.
He was in shock when Tobirama showed up with what seemed like half the village, to do what they could to reinforce the Kyuubi's seals until an Uzumaki arrived, and to search for whatever was left of Madara.
He was in shock as he was treated for his injuries, as an ANBU in a snail mask gently brushed his stray hairs from his head and cleaned his torn flesh from his wounds, and as he was led to a tent and told to get some sleep. He didn't sleep.
He was in shock when the tent flap was tugged aside in the middle of the night, long enough for the ANBU in the snail mask to slip inside and crouch beside him.
He was in shock when the ANBU started whispering to him. He knew he was in shock because otherwise, he would not have thought that this ANBU's whispered voice sounded just like Madara's.
"Were you telling him the truth?" he asked.
Hashirama thought for a long, long moment. His brain was not functioning at its best. "No. I was probably lying," he confessed. "What are we talking about?"
"You told Uchiha Madara-sama that you were in love with him," the ANBU said. "Was that true?"
Hashirama was so in shock that he didn't even wonder how this ANBU would know. "Yes. It was," he said. "It is. I am."
"Yes." He looked down at his hands, dimly lit by a single low lamp. The tent was dark. Hashirama wondered where Madara was.
"Then why, if you loved him so much—" his voice was a furious hiss, as loud as could be allowed in the tent without somebody outside hearing— "didn't you name him Hokage?"
Hashirama stared at his hands. Wondering. Why didn't he? "I couldn't."
"You couldn't!" the ANBU said. "You couldn't. You couldn't. Well, sure! Of course! Isn't that just..." He balled a hand into a fist, pounded it into the other. His voice was trembling, his limbs were trembling—with rage, with exhaustion. He sounded worn out. An ANBU's life, Hashirama supposed, must be hard.
And then he let out a long, frustrated sigh. Ran his fingers through his hair, which was only a few inches long and looked like it had been hacked off with a kunai. Hashirama suddenly found his hair fascinating. Amazing. The color, it was, it was like... well... well, it was like something dark, was what it was like.
"No. I suppose you couldn't, could you?" the ANBU said. "There's always... politics. Isn't there?"
Hashirama nodded dully. "And... reputations to protect."
"There's things a Senju can't do for an Uchiha. And things he can't say to an Uchiha unless he's trying to kill him." He sounded weary. World-weary. "And so... here we are."
"Yes..." Yes, they certainly were here. Weren't they? And where was Madara, anyway?
But... wasn't he right here?
Neither spoke for a moment. Hashirama stared flatly at the ANBU, his snail-shell-spiral mask, his hair the color of... of... smoke, he supposed. Black smoke.
"And I suppose," the ANBU's whisper was even softer, "there are things an Uchiha can't say to a Senju."
Hashirama stared at the mask's eyehole. It was black.
"Even if the Senju already said it first."
There was silence.
And then the ANBU shifted, moving closer. Hashirama didn't move away. "It's an awful world we live in. Isn't it, Senju?"
Hashirama nodded, and dropped his gaze back to his hands. It was a world where you were forced to use your own two hands to kill the person you loved most. A world where you had to kill him because you loved him.
He was in shock throughout this conversation.
He was in shock when the ANBU placed a hand on one of Hashirama's, and when he heard the soft, soft sound of a mask sliding up onto hair.
He was in shock when he felt the soft, soft touch of lips against his cheek.
"I'll find a way to change that world. I promise."
He was in shock when the ANBU pulled his mask back in place, and turned to leave the tent, and drew the flap up to leave.
is when he woke.
"Madara-sama!" He reached out, grabbed a wrist, held on as tight as he could. "Don't—"
He quickly pulled the flap down and turned to slap a hand over Hashirama's mouth. "Quiet! Do you want everyone's attention?" he hissed. "You have no idea how much scrutiny your tent is under right now, it's a miracle they let me in without a strip-search." He sounded terrified. That was wrong, Madara never sounded terrified. "Half the village is out there, Senju, and I think it's going to be a day or two until I'll be up to fighting that many people. Unless you feel like giving me my pet fox back." At least that was his sense of humor.
Hashirama stared at the mask, stared into its eyehole, trying, trying to see, just a glimmer of red, just a hint, just enough to know for sure...
Slowly, Madara pulled his hand back from Hashirama's mouth. (Wait wait wait, that had been Madara's hand on Hashirama's mouth—) "Welcome back to the land of the living, Senju," Madara said dryly, still whispering. "Here I was beginning to think I'd permanently broken you."
"Well," Hashirama said, still reeling, still trying to reconcile this, this, with the image of Madara dying, shock in his eyes, sword in his chest— "Well... you fixed me." He reached for him with both hands, one on his shoulder one on his mask—Madara flinched back, but then froze, forcibly relaxed, let Hashirama touch him (touch him!)—and he cupped his hand around Madara's masked face, pressed his thumb to the point where there should have been a second eyehole but there was only solid clay, to push the mask closer to his face, to try to see through the eyehole...
And there. There. There, oh heavens, there, a glimmer of red, and there, oh beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Sharingan, it could be no one else.
"Madara." His vision swam with tears. "How did you..." Actually, he didn't care. He wrapped an arm behind his back and a hand behind his head and pulled him close and oh yes yes yes—
And then Madara shoved him off. "Senju."
And then the question started again, what's wrong with me wrong with me wrong with me— "I-I'm, I'm so sorry, I shouldn't—"
And then Madara pressed a hand over his eyes, pressed him down to the ground, and pressed his lips to his lips.
Madara's lips truly did feel like fire, and his mouth truly did taste like smoke.
His lips were too hot, overheated, feverish. His mouth tasted bitter and dry.
Not that Hashirama was particularly picky, at the moment. He had just about been overloaded by all the surprises he could handle, Madara was alive and Madara was kissing him, and right now what little brain power he had to spare was trying to process those two facts, while the majority of his brain was trying to keep up with whose tongue was doing what where and, in fact, which was which. But, when he had a moment to analyze, when he could draw a conclusion:
Madara wasn't well. He was sick, or he was injured, and he wasn't well. And it was because of the battle. It was because of Hashirama.
And there was nothing Hashirama could do about it.
He could only hope that something in this was making Madara happy. He could only wrap his arms around Madara's back, and feel the heat radiating off his feverish skin through his clothes, and let Madara put his dry dry hands over his eyes and on his face, and hope, and hope that at least he could make Madara happy.
When Madara drew back, he kept his hand over Hashirama's eyes until he had his mask back on. He wondered, distantly, what he was hiding.
Madara promised that, one way or another, he would find a way to achieve that peaceful world. Hashirama promised that Madara would always, always be welcome to come back to Konoha. Madara promised that he never, ever would.
Hashirama asked how he'd find Madara again, after this.
Instead of answering, Madara left.
It took a good half hour for Hashirama to fully realize what had just happened.
He was in shock when Tobirama came to check on him the next morning. For an entirely different reason.
Marriage and Successors
While Mito was back in Uzushiogakure, Hashirama received an inquiry from the Uzumaki clan. It was in Mito's handwriting and addressed to Madara, asking about the Uchiha clan's practices of arranged marriage—for purposes of political alliance, of course. Hashirama's heart sank as he read the letter; but he dutifully passed it on to Madara.
A few days later, Madara presented a letter to Hashirama, to send to the Uzumaki clan. It was barely on the polite side of a written sneer. The Uchiha clan did not do marriages outside the Uchiha clan, arranged or otherwise, for whatever reason, under any circumstances, forever and ever, the end, period. Hashirama felt relieved.
Later that afternoon, while passing him on the way to some other errand, Madara stopped to ask whether Hashirama had sent the letter yet. He assured Madara that he had. (He had sent it as quickly as he possibly could.)
"Good," Madara said. "Do you know why Mito-san wrote me?" Just from the look on his face, it seemed like the letter had bothered Madara even more than it had Hashirama.
"No," Hashirama lied. He knew better than to admit that he'd been snooping in Madara's mail.
"She was asking about marriage." He said marriage with the same tone and expression with which other people might say sibling incest. "Did she really think an Uchiha would ever marry an outsider?"
"I suppose so," Hashirama said, guiltily enjoying the fact that Madara was so outraged at the idea of marrying Mito and quietly ignoring the fact that he was equally outraged at the idea of marrying anybody outside his clan.
"And not just any outsider, but an Uzumaki," Madara continued. "Who are not only descended from the wrong son, but are one of the weakest clans to branch off from that lineage!"
Hashirama just nodded, trying to remember which clans were supposedly descended from which of the Sage's sons. He'd heard the myths, but he could never keep them straight. Which son was it that had believed in love, again? (He also quietly ignored the fact that he himself was also descended from the "wrong" son.)
Madara let out a huff of annoyance. "Of all the stupid requests," he muttered, stomping off to do whatever it was he was supposed to be doing. "I'd rather marry you than an Uzumaki woman."
Madara paused, turned back to Hashirama, and added, "No offense."
What? Where was the offense in that? Hashirama found nothing offensive. "None taken."
Hashirama spent the next couple of hours feeling like his heart had been replaced with a balloon. He was a bit too light-headed for his brain to be getting any actual blood. And it would certainly explain why he felt like he was floating.
For the next few days—during those brief moments when his heart slipped out of his mind's oppressive vice grip—he half-considered sending a letter of his own to Madara, just to see what would happen. But of course, he didn't. As long as he never asked, he could pretend that, if he had, maybe Madara would have accepted.
RED EYED LOVE
So why had the Will of Fire given Hashirama a dream of Madara confessing his love to him?
He only asked the question because he already knew the answer.
Which was why he dreaded talking to Madara. Which was why he had to talk to Madara.
Because, because... maybe Madara... maybe he also...
And that was why Hashirama refused to hate himself yet. He still had hope, still had hope. In Hashirama's dream, Madara had asked, did you ever wonder why I spend so much time in this office with you, Hashirama? They had gone through the same fights, the same battles. Hashirama had decided: he couldn't be alone in this.
Who cared if he was sick, if he was insane, if he was a man of dreams, if he was the most pitiful pitiable pervert in the world—who cared, if Madara loved him? If Madara loved him, then he was perfect. If Madara loved him, then he was the happiest man in the world. If Madara loved him, then nothing else mattered.
He had to find out.
"I haven't seen him yet, Hokage-sama," said one of the two Uchiha guards at the entrance to the complex. "I'm sure Madara will be at the Hokage Residence soon, though."
Hashirama shook his head. "Madara-sama said he was taking the day off."
"Oh. Really?" The guard shrugged helplessly. "Well, I don't know where he is."
The other guard said, "Wait, I think I saw him on my way here. He was having breakfast with a little girl."
"Should we go get him for you, Hokage-sama?"
Hashirama mentally replayed the statement. The image which had immediately filled his mind—Madara Madara beautiful Madara and his beautiful beautiful red eyes and smile turned toward an (almost) equally beautiful Uchiha woman with beautiful red eyes—vanished.
Not a "girl," no, not just any girl—a child. Not a woman. A little girl. Hashirama's mental image was replaced by one of Madara turning his beautiful beautiful red eyes toward a happy little toddler. Which was an image Hashirama never would have thought to associate with Madara. But he couldn't say he didn't like it.
"Hokage-sama? Are you..."
"Wh... oh. N-no, I mean... no. You don't... no, don't bother him. Just... did you say... he was with a, er, little girl?"
The guard glanced at his partner for guidance, who didn't provide any. So he turned back to Hashirama. "Uh. Yes, sir."
"Who?" Hashirama asked. Since when did Madara associate with any little girls. "Another half-niece?"
"Half-daughter," the guard corrected. His partner shot him a dirty look.
Hashirama stared blankly at them both. Daughter? His mental image was revised again, to bring back the beautiful Uchiha woman and place her proudly over the little girl. But... "Half-daughter?"
"It's Uchiha business," the other guard said brusquely. "Did you want to leave a message with Madara, Hokage-sama?"
"No, no that's fine, that's... I was just... checking. On him. Don't worry about it. He's—I'll just... see him when he comes in."
Hashirama left. Quickly. Wondering what the hell just happened. And how he should interpret this.
He considered retreating to Tobirama's house to hide and try to figure out his own mind.
Instead, he returned to the Hokage Residence.
Where he hid and tried to figure out his own mind.
He did his paperwork automatically, skimming and approving or skimming and rejecting (nearly at random). Paperwork meant he didn't have to talk to people. He just had to flip from page to page, from thought to thought, with just enough room for a single thought to fit between pages:
What was wrong with him wrong with him wrong with him to think to think that Madara actually...?
But maybe Madara did, maybe maybe he still did, what else could the Will of Fire have been trying to say?
He was only with a little girl, just a child, that was all.
A half-daughter at that, what in the world was a half-daughter?
Why did Hashirama panic so much, why did it hurt so much to think that the girl might have been...?
But of course it would hurt to discover some lover, if he had thought that, if he had expected that, if he had thought that Madara might—that the Will of Fire was trying to say he was in—in... and with... with Hashirama...
But he shouldn't have thought that, he shouldn't have cared, he shouldn't have—and so, and so why had he?
So Madara was possibly still single, so he wasn't accounted for, so what difference did that make to Hashirama? Wasn't what he was doing here still, still—still wrong? He was left shaken to the core by the mere suggestion that Madara might have been involved with another woman—
Er, no, not—not with another woman, but with... with a woman. Not to suggest, of course, that Hashirama was... a... well. He was certainly acting as silly as a schoolgirl, wasn't he? Man of dreams that he was. Endlessly fantasizing, endlessly obsessing, endlessly lusting, endlessly endlessly over and over and over and...
But what if Madara felt the same? Wouldn't it be all right if Madara felt the same? If the Will of Fire had been trying to tell him that... that Madara was... what if he was? Oh, yes, yes, Hashirama was messed up, he was sick and something was wrong with him, wrong with him—but if Madara, Madara felt the same way, how wrong could it be? Did it matter if Hashirama was—no, if they both were messed up, if, if only Hashirama could reach out for Madara, and Madara reached back...
A man of dreams was the most pitiful and pitiable of perverts, a man who would lust after anyone and anything, a man who was willing to bang anything on two legs, but Hashirama would have been satisfied if only—oh, please, please if only—if only he could hold Madara, smell him, taste him, that was all, he didn't need anything more than that, that was all. Then what, what, what kind of a man of dreams was he? He wasn't, he wasn't desperate for anyone, was he? Only Madara. The touch of his skin, the scent of his hair, the taste of his mouth, that was all. That was all he wanted, and how wrong could that be—if Madara wanted it too? Then Hashirama wasn't just a man of dreams, was he, was he? Then he was simply, he was simply—
"I'm in love," he murmured, so softly, to himself, just to test the words, to taste them, to see how they felt. "I love Uchiha Madara."
The words were bitter, bitter, Hashirama had been ashamed too long for them to not be bitter—but they were sweet, too. So sweet they almost burned the back of his throat, a sweetness so potent it almost made him nauseous—hope. Bittersweet, that shamehope. It was the exact way he'd thought love would taste, love at its very worst—bittersweet, yes, but with enough sweet to make the bitter tolerable.
It occurred to him that he'd completely stopped doing paperwork. He resumed.
He wondered again what a half-daughter was.
It occurred to him that he did not care in the slightest about the paperwork.
He looked around his office, and everything red caught his eye, everything red seemed so bright—the red of Madara's eyes, the red of love. Throughout the office he could see everything that Madara had touched, everywhere Madara had been, his presence lingered in the room like the scent of smoke after a fire.
Did you ever wonder why I spend so much time in this office with you, Hashirama?
The dream had meant something, it had meant something, he was sure. But did it actually mean that Madara was, that Madara was—why was Hashirama tearing himself up over this, this was so so so stupid so sick so insane what was wrong with him what was wrong with—
It occurred to him that he did not care in the slightest about what was wrong with him.
So this was what it was like, to be in love.
Four hours had passed when somebody came into his office.
"Madara-sama?" That was Hashirama.
"Morning." And that was the most beautiful man in the world who was possibly also in love with Hashirama oh heavens yes please. He marched into the room like he owned it and half-leaned half-sat against the front of the desk, turned sideways so he could see Hashirama. He took one look at Hashirama's face, and said, "Did I come at a bad time?" He glanced down at the papers on Hashirama's desk.
Hashirama looked down as well, to make sure he hadn't done something stupid like doodle Madara's name all over his paperwork. He hadn't. Of course he hadn't. Why would he do that? That was silly. He would never. (He looked down a second time to be sure.) "Uh, n-no, not at all. I just... didn't expect to see you here on your day off." Did you ever wonder why I spend so much time in this office with you, Hashirama? Please, please...
"I heard you came by looking for me, Hokage-sama."
"Oh," Hashirama said. He felt stupid. "Yes. I was... it was a... don't worry about it. You can get to it tomorrow." Hashirama wondered what on earth he was going to tell Madara he'd been trying to say to him today. (Should he just say that it was—?) "I didn't want to interrupt your breakfast with your half-daughter. I didn't even know you had one." Hopefully that would keep Madara from asking why Hashirama had wanted to see him.
Madara snorted. "I usually just call her my cousin," he said. "Do you even know what a half-daughter is?"
"No." The look in Madara's (beautiful beautiful beautiful) eyes suggested he wasn't going to explain, so Hashirama took a wild guess. "Your half-sister's niece?"
Madara actually laughed. "My half-daughter is still my half-sister's half-niece," he said. "Unless she wasn't related to the original father, in which case my half daughter would be my half-sister's quarter-niece."
Even under normal conditions, that would have befuddled Hashirama. As it was, he could only stare at Madara, completely discombobulated by that laugh. (But something in that wording ticked at Hashirama's brain, made him quietly discard his mental image of Madara and some woman and some little girl and replace it with one of some man and some woman and some little girl, which they handed over to Madara.) A hopeful voice from somewhere deep inside Hashirama cried out I can make him smile, I can make him laugh, maybe he, maybe he... "I'll take your word for it."
Another chuckle from Madara. And with that success emboldening him, Hashirama decided to just go ahead and ask a stupid question. "Why don't you ever bring her here?"
Madara's expression was just barely on the shocked side of scandalized. "Here? And, what, just leave her in the little day care you've got set up downstairs, with all the other children?" He said that as though he thought the other children would contaminate his precious half-daughter.
"You could bring her up here, if you wanted."
Madara glanced around the office (as though he didn't know full well what it looked like) and then back at Hashirama. Puzzled. "Why?"
"Why not? I'm sure it wouldn't be an inconvenience," Hashirama said. "Besides, I like" you. "kids." Wait, which had he said? Had he said kids? He had said kids, hadn't he?
Madara didn't look any more puzzled; he'd probably said kids. "Having a seven-year-old running around in your office wouldn't be terribly... professional."
Hashirama shrugged. "Who cares about looking professional, anyway? Most of the time, the only ones in here are you and me."
It wasn't until the words had already slipped out that Hashirama realized how they sounded—what they meant. They meant that, when Hashirama and Madara were in the office together, it wasn't a professional environment. Which meant that it was informal, that it was, it was, it was familiar, it was friendly, it was... How would Madara interpret it? What would Madara think he meant by it? Ninja were accustomed to reading underneath the underneath, to finding the hidden meanings, and what if Madara saw it, and what if he didn't feel the same, and—
It wasn't until long after Madara's mouth stopped moving that Hashirama caught up with what he'd been saying: "Sure. I'll bring her by sometime." He headed for the door.
Oh, no, no, Hashirama wasn't ready for Madara to leave yet. He stood. "Madara-sama!" And... tried to think of something to say. Now that Madara had stopped. Now that Madara was looking at him again (with those eyes). What did he say? Why do you spend so much time in this office? No. But what else could he... "Was your brother her real father?"
He didn't know why he asked that. Well, no, actually, he did. The way Madara had referred to his half-daughter's "original father" as though her father had somehow changed; and that tangle of lines he'd seen, so long ago, on that chart in the Uchiha complex—an arrow, an X, an O, an X, dotted lines, solid lines, scrawled between Izuna and Madara and branching out to another person... And the look on Madara's face said he was right.
He seemed surprised. Hesitated, and almost didn't answer. But then he dropped his gaze. (Hashirama tried to remember if he'd ever seen Madara look down before.) "I don't know," he said. "We all think he is, but he never told me before he died. And the mother won't say." He shrugged. "Officially, she's only my cousin. But I try to treat her like a half-daughter, since..." He made a vague gesture that, Hashirama supposed, could have been meant to indicate his eyes.
He looked up again—for a moment, Hashirama saw a pain in Madara's eyes, a sharp, sharp pain—but he put on a wry smile, and attempted to lighten the mood. "Anyway," he said, "I can at least say with full confidence that she's not mine." If he'd wanted to derail the previous conversation, he had most definitely succeeded.
Hashirama laughed at that. Awkwardly. Was Madara actually bring up his sex life? To Hashirama? What was he supposed to do with this? Did he pretend Madara didn't say anything, or express pity, or congratulations, or...?
Or. Well. Why not just ask the question he'd been dying to ask anyway. "Then, er, do you mean, you've never...?" The part of Hashirama's mind that held the parasite, the part that endlessly criticized him, that tore him down, immediately started screaming HOW COULD YOU ASK SOMETHING LIKE THAT, HOW COULD YOU BE SO PERVERTED, IS THAT ALL THAT MATTERS TO YOU, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU WRONG WITH YOU WRONG WITH YOU
"No," Madara said. "Not with a woman."
The parasite immediately shut up.
And Hashirama's brain shut down.
"To prevent accidental pregnancies. I haven't got time to look after one half-daughter, I don't need any more offspring yet," Madara said. "In any case, Uchiha men aren't allowed to sleep with non-Uchiha women. And vice-versa." He gave Hashirama a sharp look and a sly smirk. "My clan actually tries to maintain its kekkei genkai, you see."
"Then," Hashirama said, trying desperately to get his mental facilities up and running again, "you've... had..." he tried to think of a word a little more tactful than "sex," failed, and just skipped it, "with...?"
"'With...?'" Madara echoed. His eyes narrowed slightly, defensively.
"Er." Hashirama started to illustrate by gesturing at himself, realized that would be a very bad idea, and finally managed to choke out, "Men?"
Madara's shoulders were tense, his neck was tense, his jaw was tense. "Is there a problem?" he demanded. "I know it's not what your clan does..."
"No, no, it's fine!" Hashirama said quickly. Fighting the urge to smile. Fighting the urge to thank Madara—for what, exactly? Fighting the urge to vault over his desk and get down on his knees and beg Madara to show him what it was he had done with those other unknown men. "Really. There's no problem. It's great—I mean... fine. I just... I didn't know you were a, er... a... man of dreams." Something inside Hashirama wept for sheer joy. He still wasn't smiling, right? Almost.
"I'm a what?" From the expression on his face, Madara had never even heard of a "man of dreams" before.
"Nothing," Hashirama said, "just a phrase. Folk tale. Thing. Don't worry about it."
Madara's eyes looked confused. Like he was gazing at some sort of puzzle, like he had all the pieces but couldn't quite see how they all—fit—together—
Something in Madara's eyes clicked into place. And his eyes were filled with a bright, glorious, beautiful realization.
And then Hashirama realized where Madara was gazing (straight into Hashirama's eyes yesyesyes), and thus, what it was that Madara had probably just realized. He quickly looked down at his desk. Paperwork. What was paperwork doing here? Hashirama was in love with Madara, he had no use for paperwork!
"I'll assume that's a compliment," Madara finally said, and then headed for the door. Hashirama didn't call him back. He had run out of excuses to make Madara stay, and besides, if Madara had just figured out... he'd know full well why Hashirama was calling him back, and Hashirama didn't want to look desperate or clingy or, or—and Hashirama didn't even know what Madara thought of all this yet, sure he hadn't flown into a rage but was he disgusted? Was he flattered? Was he apathetic? Was he, was he (please!) interested...? "I'll leave you to your work, Hokage-sama. I've wasted enough of your time."
"No, not at all," Hashirama murmured, which was as close as he could let himself get to saying you're never a waste of time, every second with you is precious, stay forever! "I'll see you tomorrow." I'm running on two hours' sleep but I probably won't be able to sleep tonight, and if I do I'll dream about you and your eyes!
Madara stopped at the door. "Actually," he said, "I was thinking about stopping by for lunch. If it wouldn't inconvenience you."
Hashirama looked up. Madara was glancing back at him over his shoulder, and the look in his eyes said and I think we both know damn well it wouldn't be an inconvenience. "Really?" Hashirama said. "Uh, that would be fine. Sure. Why?"
"You wanted to meet my half-daughter, didn't you?"
The part of Hashirama's mind that had thought "lunch" was a euphemism and already invented appropriate mental images was sorely disappointed. (He shouldn't have gotten his hopes up anyway. Why would Madara offer something like that? Why would Hashirama suspect he was offering something like that? What was wrong with him? Oh, whatever.) On the other hand, Hashirama did like kids. It wasn't a total loss.
"I meant, it's your day off," Hashirama said. Did you ever wonder why I spend so much time in this office with you, Hashirama? "Why do you spend so much of your free time here?"
Madara paused, just the briefest of moments, before answering. "Because I enjoy the company."
That was good enough for Hashirama. There were fireworks and music behind his eyes, and it was a good thing Madara had turned away because Hashirama was grinning like the lovesick fool he was and he no longer cared.
"By the way," Madara said lightly, as though this were an afterthought that wasn't even worth eye contact. "You know my history now. It's only fair that you divulge yours."
"History?" Hashirama said blankly. Still grinning. Madara enjoyed his company.
Madara clarified, "Have you ever been with someone?" That was the most vague way of asking Hashirama had ever heard. He wished he'd remembered it earlier. "I'd assume you have, at your age, but I've heard rumors..." (Yes, Hashirama was sure that about half the village had heard rumors. And yet everyone still acted surprised when he confirmed them.)
"Nope!" he said cheerfully. "No one. Never. Woman or man."
"Is that so?" Madara didn't seem surprised. Honestly, he sounded more amused. "Well. That's too bad."
The door shut behind him.
Hashirama stared at the door.
"Too bad"? What did "too bad" mean? Did it mean Madara pitied him? Did it mean Madara was disappointed in him? Did it mean Madara wanted nothing to do with someone so inexperienced? Did it mean Madara wanted to help rectify this terrible situation? Did it mean Madara was just trying to confuse him?
Hashirama slouched back in his chair, rubbing his tired eyes. He didn't have enough sleep to be thinking about this. He'd barely been asleep long enough to have that dream—praise the Will of Fire a thousand million times over, it had been right, it had been right about Madara.
Lunch. What time was it? Hashirama leaned his chair back, trying to look out the window at the sun, and almost lost balance. Probably wasn't noon yet. But lunch would be soon. Was Madara planning on bringing something or was Hashirama supposed to plan lunch? He should probably provide something. What did Madara like, anyway? How could Hashirama possibly not know what Madara liked! He was pretty sure Madara didn't like roe. Okay. That was something. And he'd seen Madara eat sushi before. So that was safe. What kind of sushi did Madara like? What kinds of sushi were there? As far as Hashirama was concerned they were all the same. What was the difference! Who would know? Tobirama would know, he ate sushi. Would he have any idea what kind Madara liked? And if he did know, would he actually answer honestly if Hashirama asked, or would he suggest something Madara would hate? How in the world would Hashirama explain to Tobirama why he wanted to know what kind of sushi Madara liked?
Would Madara even care? Hashirama laughed weakly at himself. Madara wasn't coming for a five-star meal. He was coming to show off his half-daughter. And because he enjoyed Hashirama's company. And it wasn't like he and Hashirama hadn't had lunch together before, they'd eaten together many, many times. (Because Madara enjoyed Hashirama's company.) Then again, that didn't mean Hashirama couldn't try to track down a five-star meal.
Hashirama stood to leave and find some lunch. (The paperwork, for all he cared, could just sign itself.) He glanced out the window, trying to get a more accurate estimate of the time.
The sky was so blue, and the buildings were so bright, so vivid. Every red roof stood out to him. Hashirama looked down at the streets, wondering if he might get a glimpse of Madara heading from the Hokage Residence to the Uchiha complex. He didn't. This didn't bother him in the slightest. After all, he was going to have lunch with Madara and Madara had been with men and Madara wasn't disgusted by how Hashirama felt and Madara enjoyed his company and Madara was beautiful and Hashirama loved him...
So this was what it was like, to be in love.
It was even better than in his dreams.