Author's note: Just a little prompt: Madara falls to alcoholism after the death of his brother; Hashirama confronts him
I made it slightly AU in which they are soldiers fighting a modern war, but left details to the imagination.
Sound the bugle now; play it just for me
As the seasons change, remember how I used to be.
Now I can't go on. I can't even start
I've got nothing left, just an empty heart.
I'm a soldier, wounded so I must give up the fight
There's nothing more for me.
Lead me away.
Or leave my lying here.
It was raining. Always raining.
And Madara hated the rain. He despised the way it snaked down the windows: twining, curving, slithering down the glass, almost obscene in the way its serpentine path covered every crack and crevice, obscuring everything beyond it. He hated the red stains it left— the more he tried to wipe them off, the bloodier it would become. He hated the way the rain plipped down into puddles, lethargic in the way it filled them up after the main showers. He hated the sound that every drop made as it landed, each one ringing loud and clear and almost deafening that even the loudest pleas to make it stop were rendered futile.
But most of all, he loathed how it wouldn't let him forget: eyeless sockets staring up at the heavens that did nothing but pour down on them, as if mocking their inability to make tears any more. Puddles of water turned into puddles of blood, and Madara had been knee deep in it, shielding the fallen soldier from the incessant downpour. Were they not allowed dignity in death?
Perhaps not, for ever since Izuna, it had always been raining.
Today was no different. Well, not entirely so. The rain and the images weren't the only things Madara was trying to drown, but there was an obnoxiously loud and persistent knocking on his door that wouldn't let him be. Fists bang on the other side of the door once more, and Madara only takes another swig from his bottle, his stare blank as his gaze fixes on the door only eight feet in front of him, almost waiting for it to fly open. Just two more bottles and everything will stop. Just two more and he would stop feeling again.
But that door bursts open before he could even reach for the second bottle, the abrupt crashing of wood against the wall startling him out of his phantasm enough to allow him to notice the familiar silhouette of his old friend.
Hashirama is much thinner than Madara had last seen him, the spaces around his eyes sunken, wrinkles more prominent. His weatherbeaten skin peers out from the collar of those fatigues he still wore. Had he just got back home from deployment? Probably, Madara surmises. Madara's gaze shifts to those boots- muddy, he notes. "Madara." So it is still raining.
"Get out," comes the calm, cold greeting as he lifts the cool glass neck of that bottle to line with his lips once more, and then he tips it.
"No." Hashirama's brows furrow, jaw set in a straight line as he reaches out for the door, slamming it closed behind him before fixing another look at his friend. Well, whatever was left of him, he reckons, taking in the mess- taking in the shell of the man that Madara once was.
"Get. Out." The order is punctuated, and Madara's voice is hoarser than Hashirama remembers. Whether it is for effect or whether it is the result of something else, he cannot tell for certain. Yet he suspects that it could be the latter. "You weren't invited."
"Have I ever needed an invitation before?" Hashirama wades through the mess of bottles and upturned tumblers, approaching the coffee table and singling out the remaining bottles that haven't even been opened yet. One look at Hashirama and Madara already knows what the man is about to do. He reaches out to swipe those bottles- but Hashirama is faster.
Madara winces at the sound of glass smashing on the floor. And red... Dark eyes turn to slits as they watch puddles of liquor blossom and ooze out of the broken glass, spreading across the wooden floor like a slow, putrid, terminal disease. Fingers grip that bottle closer and almost lift it to his lips again. But Hashirama is there, sat across from him on the very edge of that coffee table, that large yet gentle hand reaching out for Madara's bottle instead.
"Izuna would not have wanted this for you."
The mere mention of that name makes him visibly stiffen, eyes on softer, gentle ones. The gentleness in them pisses him off. "Izuna is dead." Why did Hashirama always make things difficult? Here he was, trying to drown out hope and reason and guilt in liquor, and there was Hashirama, chocolate brown eyes as gentle as a doe's staring back at him. Despite the hardness around it, despite the weatherbeaten face, despite the tales of love and loss and hardship written all over those scars and wrinkles, those eyes looked back at him with all the hope in the world. They were the eyes of a dreamer, the eyes of a visionary, the eyes of a revolutionist. They were the eyes of a friend. Madara's eyes had been the same a few years ago, but now? Now they were dull and the fire dimmed, ebbing away further into the darkness that pulled him into himself.
"Doesn't mean you have to follow." A smile. "Not yet. It's not your time." A smile that felt like the clouds parting to let in the sunshine.
In the pause that ensues, Madara doesn't protest when Hashirama wrests the half empty bottle away from him. The silence between them rings louder than words, and neither has to say anything for the other to understand.
But Madara wants to say it. It has been eating away at him for two years already; he has to say it.
And so, turning his hands - now empty - in his lap, staring down at them, he murmurs: "I have nothing left to lose."
Hashirama lowers his gaze to stare at those hands as well. Those are hands he knows well.
"I have nothing left to live for."
At that, Hashirama looks up at his old friend once more. "That's not true." That large brown hand comes to rest in the other's now. Fingers curl around Madara's, and he brings them up to rest his elbow on his knee. Madara follows automatically, and stares at the hand holding his in a firm, solid grip as though they were preparing for a show of strength. "Remember our dreams, Madara. Everything we've ever worked for. Remember why we're still fighting." That grip tightens. "Remember who you are."
Madara hasn't forgotten, and Hashirama knows this. It is this very fact that is keeping him lingering in this life even now. That, and the guilt of letting down a beloved brother; the self appointed punishment of drowning in this guilt was what kept him from putting a bullet to his head.
"Easier said than done, Senju-" But in that moment, Madara winces, eyes glinting dangerously in Hashirama's direction as the grip tightens considerably and it almost hurts. He grits his teeth, free hand clenching to make a fist, knuckles white as he kneads his thigh with it, trying to calm the flames that danced within, an ugly bubbling in his chest that threatens to erupt.
"We left the easy path behind the moment you and I put on this uniform." Hashirama leans in closer, and the proximity only melts a fuse in Madara's head, that fist aimed straight at the other's jaw. Lightning speed reflexes stop that fist in its path and Hashirama captures that hand also, staring straight down into fiery black eyes, the bottle he'd been holding on to now merely rolling lazily on the floor, spewing the last of its contents.
"I know you loved him. I know you loved him more than life itself. I know it hurts. And I know it will never stop hurting. But you are putting his memory to shame. You are throwing away all that he fought for, side by side with you. You are forgetting where it all started. How many more Izuna's and Itama's must die, Madara? How many?!"
This time Madara manages to wrest his hand free as well as land a punch right under Hashirama's jaw. And Hashirama does nothing to stop him, merely spitting out blood and a tooth before turning to look back at the Uchiha.
"You- You- Stop!" Madara finds himself fighting for words, choking on them, even. He is angry, furious, seething- but knows that every word is true. There was guilt in letting Izuna down, and there was guilt in wanting to keep fighting. There was guilt in being the one to survive when this dream was a gift he had wanted for his brother. He could cry, but there was guilt in crying for oneself, too.
"No. You stop." The right forearm of those fatigues stain red when Hashirama wipes his mouth. He meets defiant black eyes in response; eyes that are layered with anger, guilt, shame, and pain. "It's okay to feel guilty," he murmurs, speaking from experience, from painful memories of a little brother dying. "It's okay, for now, but you shouldn't blame yourself forever. You couldn't right it then, but you can right it in the future. You've still got work to do, Madara. We've still got a lot of work. We can't stop now."
He can see Madara's lower lip twitch, and watches as the man bites down on it to rein in the emotions that are so ready to spill.
"We can't stop," he continues. "What'll they think of us? What'll he think of you? What do you think you will tell him when you meet him on the other side? We're not fighting for ourselves. We never have. We're doing it all for them. And we're not done."
And it's raining again- not only on the inside this time, but also on the outside. It's raining quietly down Madara's cheek, and somehow, it feels a little better. It feels a little better that he isn't alone, though he will never admit to it openly. It feels a little better that somebody understands. It feels a little better to know that it is okay to feel this way. It feels... a little better...
Hashirama sighs, exhaling softly as another one of those gentle, warm smiles break across his features despite his bruised and rapidly swelling jaw. There is a hand on Madara's shoulder, and fingers squeeze gently around it. Madara doesn't even have to look up at him to know that the Senju is smiling, but he does anyway. He does because he wants to see it this time.
A broken smile graces the Uchiha's features as he slumps forward, burying his face in his best friend's shoulder.
And it was still raining... Except this time, there was the promise of sunshine...