i.

You are a child, five, maybe still four, and you are crawling through the bushes. At this moment, it doesn't matter whether you are boy or girl, two or sixty five – all that matters is that you are small and quiet and fast and can lay down traps undetected.

You have no name here, just an assignment.

This is your first time on a battlefield, and you are determined to make it count.

ii.

You are not naive enough to ask why does he have that thing between his legs and I don't when your parents present you with a wailing bundle and proclaim him your brother; children grow up fast in times of war (and aren't you always at war with someone, anyone?) and you are no exception.

(You wonder, though, why do they say, everyone says, he'll be a fine shinobi when he grows up, how can they know [why don't they say the same about me])

This is the first time you think it's unfair, but you don't know how to formulate the thought properly.

iii.

You grow, and the world doesn't change. You've lost count of battles, of dead clansmen and dead enemies, but you keep track of how many praises they heap upon your brother, a boy of six (activated his Sharingan, that boy sure is something, he'll be even greater as he grows) (unless he dies first) (anything is possible)

(we are still at war)

(always at war).

You keep tally of your mother's reproaches.

A girl does not act like that

and

that's not the proper way to mix herbs

and

a woman has to do with what she has, so learn to use it to your advantage

and

brush your hair, Madara, it's unbecoming.

At night you sneak away and practice. With your eyes closed you can hit target fifty feet away, then seventy; your Katon is good enough to start a campfire, then to burn down a tree.

(It's not good, never good, because you don't know how to walk like a lady, with demure small steps, because your hair is full of leaves and branches, because you don't know how to bat your eyelashes to bring men to their knees, even if you are still too young to engage in adult activities).

(No one is too young).

iv.

You are twelve, thirteen maybe, and you are still a scrawny kid with scabbed knees and blisters around your lips, and the clan is disapproving – you overstep the boundaries of your gender: stay behind, tend to the children and the wounded, prepare poisons and healing salves each; your aim with a knife is only good if enemy gets behind the lines (but they won't get behind the lines)

(the men of your clan will not fail and fall).

You were trained not to be completely helpless, but this is pushing it, this is not your job – the unimaginable amount of chakra you have should be better directed at keeping men alive, by healing, not by tagging behind and raining fire and destruction upon enemies.

(You are humiliating them, the men who can't keep up with you, even if you haven't activated Sharingan yet [and isn't that the proof enough that you are a worthless woman, not fit to be an Uchiha even])

This is no place for women; fall back and bite your nails and wait for the men to return.

v.

At least Izuna is on your side; has your back when you rush in the middle of conflicts – no one has time nor will to bother and try to get you back (stupid girl) (let her get herself killed); tentatively offers you a shoulder to lean on when you stumble away, both exhausted.

(Don't encourage her; she should know her place)

Izuna is the one who teaches you everything he can, even if he's the younger one – but he is a boy and he has so much potential, so of course the clan made sure he can utilise his abilities the best – of course they push him forward the way they try to push you backward.

When your father realises what's going on, he beats you up both, but it's not until you hear Izuna defending you through bloodied lips (she's so much better than me, why are you all too stupid to realise) that your vision colors red.

Afterwards, you can't recall what exactly happened to put that frightened expression on your father's face, but he never dares raise his hand at either of you again.

Afterwards is also the first time you ever tried to make use of knowledge they tried to force on you and tend to Izuna, who smiles at you with his lips bloody and eyes alight. He is the only person you will ever do that for.

vi.

You are fourteen now, maybe fifteen, and you are still a scrawny girl with wild hair (you consider cutting it off, if only to rebel further against everything that tries to limit you [it has it's uses, and not one man met his end when he mistook it for a weakness and tried to grab]), but your body starts filling out in some places and hollowing in other, and your monthly bleeding has started – nasty business that makes you want to cut your belly open and cauterise yourself from the inside – and the whispers (find her a man, get her pregnant, before she does any more damage)

(put her in her place)

When they look at you, they still refuse to see a young warlord, a force of nature that is still on their side in every skirmish, every battle, the one who now dictates the rhythm of warfare – all their carefully constructed plans and tactics fall apart when you tear through the enemy with brute strenght and sheer willpower, your brother like a shadow at your side. The only one, still, who stands with you.

This is what they (want to) see: a breeding stock; the only thing you will ever be good enough for is the thing between your legs - a womb that needs to be filled with seed and hope that you will birth sons.

You break the jaw of the first man who tries to follow up on that idea, and crush the ribcage of another.

vii.

Men hate you and women are ashamed; they turn their eyes from you and the girls are cowed even more into submission, into their proper roles – now they don't let them even do things small children are needed for, things you did when you were five, four.

It boils, your anger and your hatred, but this is still your clan, your family, no matter how bitter those words taste on your tongue, so you will not stand aside, you will not ignore, leave.

You awaken Mangekyou Sharingan instead, you and your brother, and with him at your side, you bring them to their knees – not with sultry, haf-lided looks, but with a swish of your scythe and eyes ablaze with power.

(There is no should or shouldn't)

(This is how it'll be)

viii.

You are seventeen when you first meet (fight) him, though you can recall awed rumors that

preceded him. Not the first Senju you fought, but this one is something else entirely, and not only for the abilities he wields.

(So you are the Wild Girl, he tells you once, and you are surprised there is no mocking, no fury in his voice or his eyes – that he can so seemingly calmly accept the fact that a woman can hold her own against his might)

((unlike your clan)

When you clash, the ground trembles and splits and burns, and the skies cry.

ix.

But neither has the uper hand, and your sight blurs and blurs.

x.

Marriage would be the next logical step, to cement this uneasy truce you mistrust with every fiber of your being. Him, the clan leader, you a woman (also the clan leader, no matter how improbable it sounds). There are reasons to and reasons not to wed – main concern being your Sharingan, his Mokuton – clan secrets and children you might have.

You don't look at the empty space at your right side, and stoically bear the sting of eyes that are not your own. This is what Izuna wanted, a chance at peace, and for him, you will try. For him, and for little girls of your clan – give them a place to grow, opportunities to see the world outside of your clan; tear down the ties and blindfold. Let them realise their own strenghts and limits, test them; not have boundaries being imposed on them.

You keep that in mind at the still hostile meetings, where elders squabble politics and you count the ways you could kill them all; turn the world to ash and make the new order rise, like the legendary birds of fire that could heal with their tears.

xi.

He is getting naked and doesn't look at you, but you will have to face each other eventually.

(Where do babies come from, mother?

From your belly.

But how does it get there?

Uneasy conversation with your mother when you were too young, but she didn't let your age count as she gave you a dry report – this goes here, this happens – and later figuring things out on your own.)

This is what you also remember: lay down, don't fight, don't move – your husband knows what to do.

Do your duty.

Do not move.

…and that won't do, not at all, because you never followed rules and have no intention of starting now – with fingers that don't shake you undo your robes and calmly meet his eyes.

xii.

And though quite a gentleman (surprise surprise), when he notices red patches on the sheets, on your thighs, he smiles a smug, self-satisfied smile that you instantly want to incinerate.

Instead you stretch langorously and yawn and turn your back at him; a clear dismissal.

He doesn't frighten you, and you won't let him, ever, and you will always, always fight back. (Even if he doesn't give you a reason to)

xiii.

And you are twenty three or twenty four and who keeps count anyway, when years pass and nothing changes and no child, no child, why don't they have a child

(good for nothing, after all, always knew)

(look at her, probably starving herself – no teats, no hips, what man would ever want her)

(poor Hokage-sama)

no child. Barely any excess flesh – just whipcord muscles and sharp angles and hint of breasts. And scar, that he eyes curiously, jagged marr on your pale skin.

(You, fifteen, an enemy and a spear – a miscalculation – a monthly pain that makes you want to die as your womb cramps and sheds itself and the scarred tissue pulls)

A special tea that you drink in secret, because you won't take chances and bring a child to this world, where person's worth is measured by the flatness of their chest and the number of holes between their legs.

xiv.

Well, if the world won't change, you will just have to give it a mighty push.

His voice echoes as he screams your name – as your answer, Kyuubi roars.

xv.

And this is how it starts, with your last fight.