Title: Alphabet of Two Fates

Summary: Flashes from Madara's and Hashirama's lives - in alphabetical and not necessarily in chronological order.

Warnings: some yaoi, some angst

Disclaimer: Only thing I own is my perverted ideas about these two. And my typos.

A/N: These short stories and drabbles make a longer tale together, but they won't always follow each other on a timeline. A and Z makes a frame, but what's in between are determined on the letters - words associated with them, words I thought would fit this pairing. This was an experimental style for me and pretty fun to write. Hope you'll enjoy

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A for Awkward

"So?" Hashirama asks, out of the blue. "What do you think?"

"Huh?" Madara is lying on his back in the silky, end-of-summer grass. He's been daydreaming, letting the warm breeze ruffle his locks just as the clouds above let it roll them by. This is peace, the only one he knows. "Think of what?"

"Of the village! Our village!" his friend exclaims and he's sitting up, bubbling with enthusiasm. His voice cracks over his exclamation and Madara smirks, though he knows it's unkind. Hashirama is almost a year younger than him and he's living changes Madara was struggling with last summer. But his friend doesn't seem to be as bothered as he was. He just doesn't give much for dignity.

"What do I need to think about it?" He glances sideways at the other boy. Hashirama reaches out as if he wants to touch the wind-swept clouds on the blue sky.

"Well you know…" his voice now takes a funny deep tone, "where will we build it, when can we do it… Let's give it a name!"

"That's early to think about, isn't it? We can make those up when we made it happen."

"Yeah, I know, but… I like to think about it. It's nice to plan stuff like that with you."

He says it so matter of factly, as if it's nothing and it's Madara who blushes in his stead. What's it with Hashirama he doesn't know - he's such a strange, awkward kid, but he can talk nonsense as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. He doesn't look at him when that warm palm seeks out his hand and clasps it tightly. If he pretends there's nothing wrong in it, maybe it won't be wrong at all.

B for Blood

Hashirama stares at the blade. It's free of blood, the steel clean and sharp, though wearing all the signs of a well-used weapon. He stares at it and tries to comprehend somehow that this was the sword he killed Madara with. It seemed easy at the time, to deliver the final blow, to run it through his friend's chest. His best friend's. His lover's. Seemed like the only chance at the time, to claim victory, to put an end to the Uchiha's constant attacks, so he didn't think about it twice, just let his instinct take over.

The doubts come later. Was it really the only solution? Can killing the most important person of the whole world be unavoidable?

His eyes reflect back from the surface of the blade. They are dull, tired, rimmed with red - sleep is avoiding him for days, since that fatal fight. Whenever exhaustion wins and he nods off, he dreams about Madara, how his blood splattered his hands, how he crumbled at his feet. Will the aching emptiness ever go away? Madara left him and now he severed the last remaining threads of their bond in the most finite way possible.

He puts the sword away, to never use it again. For him it will remain blood-stained forever, no matter what thorough cleaning it receives.

C for Changes

Madara loathes changes. They rarely seem to turn his life for the better. If he had the power, he'd go back to the time when he was still happy - when Izuna and their father were still alive. When his sole friend, Hashirama didn't turn out to be a Senju yet. He thinks about it sometimes- recreating a world as it was then.

That's what he craves for, the carefreeness of youth. When everything seemed doable with Hashirama on his side. It can be possible - it has to be possible. He refuses to accept this world as it is.

The village has been built, but the price to pay was too high. Hashirama tries to be a friend and a lover for him, but he changed too much - he's the Hokage now, by every day he has to feel the weight of duty more and more. It's only a matter of time for him to refuse their bond - why should he wait for it, wait till the expectations become more important than their connection? And honestly, Madara changed too much as well. Nothing can ever be the same again, their bond, their emotions, their dreams - they are becoming tainted with the time passing by.

He thought at first that it can be done. The peace with the Senjus, the planning, the handshake, the constructions. He managed to fool himself, let Hashirama's charm him at first. He opened up, believed happiness can be found in his arms. But it was a lie.

Everyone favours their own blood. As Izuna was the most precious to him, Tobirama is the most important for Hashirama. That much has become obvious already. He won't let power out of his hands just to reassure Madara, no matter what he told him.

He longs for stillness, for that time to come back when they were just boys meeting secretly, without clan wars and mistrust standing between them. If the world can't be like that - he'd just recreate it.

D for Death

Edo Tensei is such a crude jutsu, it's fitting that someone like Senju Tobirama invented it. Madara looks into Hashirama's face, watches as the flakes roll off...how he dissolves rapidly into oblivion. Soon enough nothing will be left of him - nor of Madara. It's not how he planned it, but he doesn't mind it any longer.

Death used to mean losing. Losing his own life, his beloveds' lives, losing against fate, giving up on his plans, admitting defeat. Now, as his body -his Edo Tensei body, this stolen shell crumbles, he only feels peace. He doesn't have to fight any longer. Maybe he'll never have to fight ever again. So he didn't manage to reform the world, to capture it in eternal dream. Life won't go on as he planned - but maybe it's all for the best. It's surprisingly liberating to have no more power over his own fate - now that there's nothing he can do to prevent it, he can accept failure, accept death.

So he just looks at his old friend, his lover. Hashirama is holding his hand, uncaring of the army around them watching, but after all what could matter now?

Will I meet you again? Madara thinks, but doesn't ask out loud.

The wind starts to blow, or so it seems, and the flakes roll off faster. The world is greying out, but Madara no longer wants to cling to his life. He turns his face into it and thinks it has to be the same breeze, the gentle zephyr that always blew over the riverbank where they first met.

Never forget me, he silently begs then he knows no more.

E for Enemies

"Madara!" Hashirama yells. His voice resonates with all his conflicting emotions - anger to be attacked by his old friend, sadness at his own inadequateness for being unable to prevent this. But there's more to it, feelings he doesn't want to twist his heart right now, not in this situation. Longing to embrace Madara in his arms again. The urge to hold him down, to fuck him, to kill him, to caress him and pretend everything is alright.

Come back to Konoha and we will work this out.

How dare you do this to me?

I love you.

I loathe you.

I was ready to give everything to you.

Please…

There's no use in saying any of what he thinks, he knows very well. It's not the first time Madara attacks the village. It's only a matter of time until this ends for good, and he can only see two ways to end the battles. Defeat Madara or be defeated by him. Death is the only solution, his or his friend's. He doesn't want to kill him… but he doesn't want to die either.

He has people to protect - and he has to protect them from Madara more than he has to from anyone else. His brother, his clan, his village. His wife - Mito is pregnant. He has to protect their child to be born. He wonders if the Uchiha heard about his marriage. Is that why he's attacking again? Probably that's only his wishful thinking, because that would mean the other man still cares.

If he asked… Hashirama would throw away everything for him. That's the terrible truth and he's ashamed about it. If only he'd ask… but Madara doesn't care about anything else, but to defeat him.

Steel clashes on steel. He has to accept they are no longer friends, no longer lovers, only enemies. Once he manages to swallow the bitter taste of this fact, he'll be able to find the strength to stop Madara.

F for Fucking

Madara runs his sweaty palm down on Hashirama's back and arse, before he takes his cock into his hand, smoothing oil on it and positions himself for the penetration. He's nervous as hell - he's having all kinds of second thoughts - that he should have never agreed to this, that he should have let Hashirama top him as he wanted to do originally. It's such a bad idea, no wonder, it was the Senju who came up with it, who pulled him close and kissed him after he lured Madara away from the public room, to celebrate their reunion as friends in private. But it's too late to back out now.

Madara pushes into the hard, battle-toned body under him slowly. There's resistance, and he can tell from the way the muscles on Hashirama's back tense, from his sharp intake of breath that he's causing him pain.

He fucked women before, but that wasn't anything like this. There was no nervousness of what he's doing wrong, no urge to please, just the quick, hurried movements to find his own release. He certainly never felt clumsy before, or wished to hear soft gasps of pleasure and see dark eyes clouded by lust.

His glance is fixed on the man moving under him, pushing back to meet his tentative thrusts. Despite all his misgivings, Madara is still hard. He shoves his hips in harder this time and his old friend moans. It's impossible to tell whether it's in pleasure or pain.

They drank sake - a lot of it - before this turn of events, but the Uchiha doesn't feel intoxicated enough to continue like this. Shouldn't alcohol set his mind free and relax his body? His eyes jump to the empty bottles and toppled over cups on the ground. A Senju mixture it was, you can't trust anything that's made by Senjus apparently. This position - Hashirama on his hands and knees - seemed like a good idea, for controlling the other, who was always the stronger, for not exposing himself, staying behind him, but now he regrets. He can't see his face like this.

Can I make love to you?

Of course you can't. But I can fuck you. And Hashirama agreed.

The Senju looks back over his shoulder, face sweaty and red from alcohol and from what they are doing.

"I'll turn to my back," he says on a hoarse voice and Madara just nods. A bit of logistic is required - they might be rather drunk after all, the world is spinning around him and Hashirama's movements are nowhere as coordinated as usual - but soon enough strong thighs wrap around his waist as Madara starts to fuck him once again, and it's much better this time, in fact quite wonderful to see him like this, passionate and handsome and how can he manage to look powerful when he has a cock up his arse Madara can't fathom, but it's certainly intoxicating.

He's hot and tight around his length and it's surely the sake's doing that it doesn't take more than a few short minutes for orgasm to run through the Uchiha's body.

He collapses on top of the taller man, feeling ashamed - he really should have let Hashirama to be on top, he'd be the one flushed from embarrassment now - but his lover just grabs his chin softly to make him raise his face, smiles gently and presses warm lips against his.

G for Grief

He goes through the burial in a daze. Izuna was strong, so his dying took long - one would expect he accepted the concept of losing him during those endless, sleepless days and nights. And indeed, he looks at the grave through the new eyes given by him and feels nothing. That broken, frail young man lying in the coffin...was he really his little brother, who he vowed to protect? Can that be? Is it possible that he failed so completely?

The grieving comes later.

The fury at the Senjus - at Hashirama and his damned brother. Madara smashes the furniture in his room, burns the drapes with a jutsu as if that would enable him to do the same with his enemies.

The loneliness, the realization that he's now finally, unchangeably alone, that everybody, his parents, his brothers are dead. He has a clan to protect - a clan that doesn't believe in him any longer, if they ever believed in him at all, who doesn't really think they can win against the Senju. Who whisper behind his back, about his unwillingness to make peace, to bow his head, about the way he uses Izuna's eyes.

The self-accusation for being unable to prevent all this happening. He's supposed to be strong. It's terrible to accept that he's anything but.

He'll make Izuna's murderers pay, he promises silently, standing in the middle of the ruin that's left of his room. Blood is dripping down his hand - he must have cut himself in his mad fury, and didn't even notice. He'd kill them or die trying. He doesn't care which.

He wipes the red stains off on his shirt.

He'll make Hashirama suffer as he's suffering and if he can't - then it's better if his own life ends.

H for Hangover

Madara avoids him the day after. It shouldn't be a surprise, but it still hurts. Yes, they were drunk the previous night, but Hashirama doesn't regret a thing. Obviously that's not the case with his friend.

He wakes with a really unpleasant ache in his backside and an unbearable pounding in his head. He easily gets rid of the first - healing jutsus are good for many things - but there's nothing much he can do with the second.

So he just winces if anyone talks louder than a whisper and tries to avoid people who can't keep their voices down. Like Tobirama. Especially Tobirama, as it's very probable that he will shout at him for disappearing from the celebrations last night, and if he suspects what else happened...He shouldn't, of course, but he has the habit of knowing things he has no right to know.

So he looks for Madara, but nobody seems to have a clue where he is. In the end he just decides to go to the spot he's sure he can find peace at - the riverbank. It's not far away at all, maybe it's just pure chance, maybe it was an unconscious decision on their part, but they agreed to meet for the handshake signalling peace very close to where they used to meet as kids.

Madara is already there, sitting by the water. He tenses up when Hashirama approaches and sits down next to him, but doesn't look his way. Judging by his greenish complexion and the deep purple circles under his eyes, he's not feeling any better than the Senju does.

He doesn't know what to say - Thanks for last night? Was it any good for you? When are we repeating it? - so he stays silent. It's obviously the right thing to do, as in a few minutes Madara starts to relax. When Hashirama picks up a pebble to throw it against the waves he even gives an amused snort.

"How are you feeling?" it's the Uchiha who breaks the silence in the end. He sounds gruff. Hashirama wonders if he means whether he's hurt.

"I have the most terrible headache," he confesses. "On the good side, I created a new healing technique for… sensitive spots that are difficult to reach."

"Oh?"

"I'll show you next time," he promises. Madara goes red in the face so Hashirama grins and puts an arm around his shoulder.

I for Ignoring

He quickly gets used to ignoring Hashirama. He's a Senju - that's a fact and he can't do anything about it. Senjus are enemy, responsible for the death of so many of his clan. That's another thing given. That's just how things are, that's how they've always been.

So Madara hardens his resolve, pulls a barrier around his heart to be able to ignore his emotions and fights him every time they met on a battlefield. Maybe if he manages to kill him, he can forget about them being friends. Forget about all that time they've spent together. It was a deception, a lie, a naive dream.

He ignores his attempts to reach out to him, to talk to him. He's fifteen, so Hashirama is barely over fourteen, but they are already the strongest of their respective clans. He wonders sometimes if the other teen's voice still cracks. Probably not, he's noticeably more like an adult every time he sets his eyes on him, becoming taller and more masculine.

Every time they clash, Hashirama tries to reach out to him, to talk to him, to plead him… Plead him for what, he tries not to care. Mentions of peace, of dreams woven together between gasps of air, even when Madara is doing his best to slice his chest up - they are better ignored. The memory of a warm palm covering his, excited whispers about a shinobi village they would found together, where children would live in peace, where they could be friends without anyone caring...

Hashirama is a Senju. That's all that matters. Everything else, he would ignore.

J for Jealousy

They are all sitting around the low table, celebrating. The village - at least those having a right to vote - has chosen, they have their first leader elected - Senju Hashirama, the Hokage.

Madara slowly chews on the rice in his mouth. It tastes like ash, he feels he might not be able to swallow it at all.

The head of Shinobi, who will protect Land of Fire from the shadows...I want you to become the head. To become Hokage.

He believed him for a short time, believed that Hashirama really wants him to step to the front to be the leader figure of the dream they spun together. Believed his promises, believed his touches and kisses. That despite all odds, despite all that happened he could be content here.

He finally swallows and hopes he won't throw it right back up. Or spring to his feet and punch the Senju in the face.

Madara, you were at the voting too… It's not what I wanted, but what can I do? We have to serve our people, do what's the best for them, and if that's what they want…

He thrills in the attention he gets from all these fools. He smiles and jokes and doesn't even glance in Madara's direction.

Don't, brother. Don't let them fool you.

He feels bitter and cheated. He sees now where this leads - Izuna was right all along. The Senjus will just took over and push him and his people to be background.

He doesn't know what's worse - how easily Hashirama gave up on his promises to make him head or how it feels like he's nothing but a shadow from the past for his old friend already. When he stands up and walks out, nobody calls him back.

K for Kissing

It's his first kiss and he can't help but think he's doing it with the wrong person. The girl is three years older than him, but Hashirama has grown so much in the last couple of months - got taller, wider in chest, looking almost like an adult - that she doesn't seem to mind.

There are more disturbing changes as well, like getting hairier, which he can't decide if he should be proud or ashamed of. The increasing number of dreams he wakes up from sweaty and with messy pants something else.

He's pretty sure he shouldn't have these dreams about Madara.

But he invades his dreams at nights just as he invades his thoughts during the day. Even right now, when soft lips moves against his, when he can feel perky breasts pressing to his chest through their clothes, he thinks he'd rather be kissing Madara.

He gets hard just from picturing that's what he does, the feel of delicate, pale skin under his hand, the uneven edges of unruly black hair that would tickle his face, the boyish, hard angles his partner should have. The girl pulls back when she feels his prick pressing against her hip and Hashirama is sure he's red as a tomato in the face.

"That's all right, you don't have to be ashamed," she reassures him, and there's no way he could tell her how wrong she is.

L for Love

Hashirama moves slowly, carefully. He waited so long for this and he now wants to enjoy every precious moment. It was like an eternity until he and Madara became lovers. And as much as he enjoyed all their time together, the Uchiha have been reluctant to really give in, to give him control like this. To submit. It took much convincing, flattering and in the end, trying what worked so well on the first occasion - sake. Maybe it's not fair, but he really wanted to make love to him like this, to be inside him. Love him properly, like a man, he thinks, but has enough sense not to say that out loud.

Madara is trembling under his touch - barely noticeably, but he knows him well enough to sense it. His thighs press against his sides like vice, his fingers dig painfully into his back and he gasps into his mouth when Hashirama kisses him - only one of those would be enough to drive him out of his mind with desire but combined like this make self-control almost impossible. It's nothing like he's ever felt before, he wants to slam into the body that grips his length so tightly, he longs to give in to his urges and take his pleasure, roughly, brutally, selfishly, but he also wants to cherish their time together, to be sure Madara enjoys it as well. Because he's important to him and he wants to make him happy, but also as he really wants to repeat this a lot more times. And Madara won't let him if he screws it up now, he's sure of that, he's obviously scared and doesn't trust Hashirama all that much. That's the painful truth.

For a moment he closes his eyes tightly and stays still until he's sure he can continue on the gentle, slow way they started their lovemaking.

"What the hell are you waiting for?" Madara grumbles under him. He can't help but laugh out on that. What could he say? Waiting for you to love me like I love you. Waiting for you to trust me, to accept me. Waiting for you, only for you, in all my life, to make me happy. Waiting for you to allow me to make you happy.

But telling him something like that is unthinkable, so Hashirama just kisses him and starts to move again.

M for Madness

Madness creeps into his mind like darkness creeps into the house at nightfall. Unnoticed at first then quickly taking over the light. In the beginning Madara attributes those periods, when his mind wanders off to a happier time and space that maybe never existed at all, only to his solitude. He can't even tell exactly how long he has been living in the cave, with nothing else to do but slowly, oh-so-slowly work on his plan. Work on it and think about it so meticulously that it drives him insane.

He realizes his mind might be failing him when he starts to talk to the clone - the unresponsive, forever silent, senseless but still living statue of Hashirama. It scares him first, he still remembers how rumours used to spread about him being mad, over the loss of Izuna, with his new eyes, his determination not to make peace with the Senju and later, in Konoha about his jealousy of Hashirama's power… He tried not to hear them, he tried not to mind them, to act as if it was all below him, but he never really succeeded.

What would they say if they saw him now? Body old and frail, living on the Gedo Mazo's energies? They could put their heads together and whisper as they always did, that they knew all along he was a rotten egg, even when he tried to protect them, do what he thought was the best for those under his care. The hypocrite, ungrateful bastards.

But nobody is here to see him as he touches this false-Hashirama's face or rambles to him on his raspy, old, mad-man voice. He doesn't even mind much that there's never an answer - the real Hashirama was never a great conversationalist after all, he usually just talked nonsense and got on his nerves.

I want you to think of all the shinobi in the village as your brothers. I want you to watch over them.

You know you're the most precious to me.

You were at the voting too… We have to honour their decisions.

I can't do this without you. As the Hokage's right arm, as my brother, please work with me! The people will eventually understand you too...

He misses the touch of his skin so badly, after all these years. The clone's surface is warm as a smooth tree standing in a patch of sun would be, but not human-warm. When Madara rubs his thin, bony fingers down on it, it doesn't give him any kind of thrill.

So he uses it the only way it's good for; as a substitution of company and talks to it. About deceiving dreams, wicked plans, lost hopes. About a family long dead, about promises unkept, about happy days at a riverbank so long ago that maybe he's just imagining them. It's all for the best that there's never an answer.

N for News

Even at the edge of nowhere he hears the news of the marriage. He feels bitter rage. So much for all those promises of love, friendship, faithfulness… He thought them as sincerely as he wanted to make him Hokage, apparently.

Though it was the Uchiha who left the village, Hashirama's bonding with the Uzumaki woman still tastes like betrayal. Madara knows unfaithfulness very well and doesn't care for its flavour.

Looking at it realistically he knows what it is - a pact to fortify the village. The precious, important above-all, fucking village, home for the weak and unworthy... He can't help but feel it's revenge on him. He left and now Hashirama proves he never needed him at all. Why did he ever let him be deceived otherwise? Hasn't he known all along?

So he took a woman. No surprise there really. He shouldn't care, but… how dare he? He promised so much and in the end left Madara with less than he ever had.

He won't let it at that. He knows what he needs - more power - and how to achieve it. He'll make his dream come true and take revenge on Hashirama along the way.

O for Obedience

"You're my son! And nothing but a child on top of that. I expect obedience."

"I'm not a child when you expect me to kill, only when I'm not doing what you say?"

"You're lucky that I think of you as a child now, otherwise I would need to consider you a traitor! And you know what fate awaits traitors."

Yes, Hashirama knows it, and doesn't try to argue further. Obedience, as his father put it, is expected of shinobi of all age. Expected of sons as well, especially from those who have the leader of the clan as father.

He's not about to give in to that. He might be young, but he's sure that what he wants, what he planned with his best friend, who so unfortunately but not unexpectedly turned out to be an Uchiha, is the right thing to do. He just needs to become really strong really fast to make it come true.

He hopes he'll have the chance to sneak off and meet Madara in a few weeks or months in the worst case. He's sure he'll be watched closely for a while, but after some time...he desperately hopes that Madara thinks along the same lines and they'll meet on the riverbank again as soon as they can, because he already misses him.

"Have you understood what I've said?!"

"Yes, father," he replies, head bowed and eyes cast down to the ground as he knows his expression would give him away.

P for Pretending

He doesn't need to close his eyes any longer as he slides into his wife to imagine Madara in her place. He managed to perfect this; gentle thrusts of hips, caresses, smiles and kisses, while he sees someone who's not there, a completely different scene of the past. What kind of a man does this make him be?

He just doesn't know how else to cope. It's cowardice, he knows very well, but he doesn't want to hurt Mito, who he's actually learned to like. Like, but not love and not desire. But he has responsibilities and fathering children are one of them, apparently.

He doesn't mind that part, he likes kids, and in his vague dreamings he always pictured himself becoming a father. He also pictured his life with Madara.

In the end sex is sex - though he has left, the urges remained. He has a wife now, so it's absolutely normal to lay with her. But afterwards the daydreaming, the pretending always leaves a terrible feeling in him, shame and disgust at himself.

It needs to come to an end, he decides afterwards, lying on his back and staring at the ceiling. He can't continue living like this. Mito is there next to him, close enough to touch, but the warmth radiating from her is still alien, even after close to a year of marriage. Hashirama's body is lax with his release, but his mind is a tense jumble of conflicting emotions.

Madara left for good. Why can't he accept that? Since then they'd clashed two times, the Uchiha's intention to kill him clear. The third fight can't be far away, he feels it in his bones. Can he end it? Will he be able to…? Just the thought makes his stomach squeeze into a tight ball, because how could he?

He turns to his side, away from his wife. She shifts behind him as if she wants to reach out and touch him. She changes her mind, pulls back and doesn't say anything as she never does at times like this, and Hashirama is grateful for it.

Q for Questions

Hashirama is always full of ideas and questions. Madara is used to more quiet children, well-behaved ones,as his mother would say.

Hashirama is not that, no doubt about it. His parents wouldn't approve of such a friend, loud, open mouthed and disrespectful of things that have to be respected, like traditions, revenge, the opinion of adults… But they will never know about him, so Madara is safe to copy his behaviour and laugh loudly, shout at him, fight with him just for fun or just skip stones to pass the time. Or even to plan a better world, one not as bloody as violent as this, one where precious persons like Izuna would be safe and he could be openly friends with Hashirama.

He likes to spin unlikely dreams like that with him. He doesn't even mind all those usually silly, sometimes unanswerable questions.

What's your favourite food?

When's your birthday?

What do you like to do the best in the world?

Will we do it? Found the village together?

Madara tells him he likes those fired tofu pouches his mother sometimes makes and his birthday is at winter, not that it makes sense to ask such things when they don't even know each other's last name.

He says he most likes practicing to become stronger because admitting that throwing stones and doing nothing in particular, just spending time with Hashirama is what he enjoys the most would sound very awkward.

"Yeah," he says to the last question as if it's no big deal, as if his heart isn't pounding in his throat. "And when we did it, I can watch over my little brother from over here."

When Hashirama smiles at him, he laughs and believes they can really do it.

R for Regret

"You damned idiot!"

Hashirama might find it funny that his brother can berate him even in this situation, if not for the choked-off tone the younger man's voice took.

"Sorry," he says, his own voice thick and slow with blood filling his lungs and spilling out to the ground. He means it - he'd rather it wasn't Tobirama who found him, and especially not before he manages to die.

"Why?! Don't tell me you couldn't have defended yourself…"

He doesn't answer, because there's nothing he could say. Both of them know that it's unfitting for him to die like this. Hashirama just can't care about what fitting and what not any longer. Didn't he choose - on his brother's urging, or maybe he's just being petty, trying to blame him in his last minutes in this world for his own shortcomings - what was expected of him? He did, and has been regretting it every morning of every day. He's not sad to be rid of that.

His body still fights, and were he younger, it would probably heal itself, even against his will. But he's a grandfather now and the good thing about his age is that at least no one can say he died too early. He wonders if Mito will miss him, if their daughter will. She's pregnant again. "Maybe a boy this time," she told him, as if he had any objection of having a granddaughter first. If he regrets leaving someone behind, it's Tsunade. As much as he failed to build a real connection with his daughter - his own damned fault, for feeling so confused in his marriage, for not being able to overcome his conflicting emotions towards his wife, the memory of Madara standing between them like an invisible but unbreakable wall - at least his grandchild he managed to love as he was supposed so. She's still so young, but he tried to make her understand that she can be only happy if she'll be a free spirit, if she'll chose to follow her heart…

"Brother!" Tobirama's voice drags him back to the present, back to the pain of his broken, bleeding body. It seems to take awfully long for all to end.

He raises his hand and touches the other man's face softy. He gets away with it. Dying gives you privileges, he thinks. He knows it's his mind playing tricks, but he sees a white haired boy, twelve at the most, crouching next to him, not the man who he could never really understand, or get along with, the man his brother has become. Another thing to regret.

"You'll be an excellent Hokage," his voice is barely recognisable any longer, just a broken whisper. "Just don't despise softness so much."

From the sounds of it, Tobirama is crying. He can't see him any longer, can't make his eyes focus. He just hears the uneven, wet intakes of breath. He must be haunted by regrets as much as Hashirama is. When was the last time his little brother truly liked him? Their connection got so damaged after he told their father about Madara, then after the peace with the Uchihas, the arguments before the Hokage voting…

His mind wanders back to their childhood, their silent alliance in the mad world of adults. To Madara. Always to Madara. He wonders if he'll see him now. If he'll have the chance to tell him all he regrets, all he'd do differently if given a second change. Will he forgive him? He's no longer afraid to find out.

S for Stones

Hashirama stands on the riverbank, feeling lost. It's been more than three years since he was last here. He wanted to come sooner, but…

Well, his father is dead now. He turns the fact around in his mind and tries to find the appropriate grief a son is supposed to feel, but he can't. No, he actually feels relief, which makes him feel disgusted at himself.

So he's seventeen now. An orphan. And from tomorrow on, the leader of the Senju clan. There'll be the voting of the elders first of course, but everyone knows they'll choose him. He should be proud of himself.

He stares into the water running by. So from tomorrow he'll be an adult, someone who has to be rid of childish, pointless dreaming. That's why he came today - he feels it's his last chance now to find the stones.

He dresses down to his underwear and waddles into the late-autumn cold water. He always thought that he'll be able to come back here soon. In a few weeks, in a few months. Not only after years. He was also sure that Madara will be here too. What a stupid notion. He sees him now only in battle, covered in blood of other Senjus, cold and determined. Attacking him with killing instinct. He erased him completely from his heart, as if they were never friends, as if Hashirama doesn't love him still, with painful, burning love.

He only gives up his search hours later, when he's frozen to the bones. He can't find those stones. He doesn't even understand why he thought he could. The ink must have washed off years ago, and he'd only held Madara's warning in his grip for such a short time, he can't even recall the shape of the pebble.

He sits down and pulls his legs up, a childish pose for childish deeds, and starts to cry. He'll be the leader of Senju tomorrow, but today he just feels like a kid, cold and wet and miserable, who misses his best friend terribly.

T for Touch

Madara has to admit - he's amazed by the effect his touch has on Hashirama. So simple things, like a soft brush of fingertips on his arm, and he has his attention. Once he mentions this - they are lying so close on the futon, legs entwined, his lover's hands in his hair and on his back, his own caressing the jut of hipbone under that pleasantly tanned skin. They shouldn't be doing this, especially not at day, as it seems even more wrong when the light shines in brightly through the windows, but most of the time he's too weak to resist. And Hashirama - he doesn't even seem to try to resist. All it takes from Madara is to touch him gently - nowhere inappropriate really - and his eyes turn even darker with smouldering desire and if he can, drags him away somewhere they can fuck. It's pleasing, but it's also confusing, so he questions him on it.

"Why are you so surprised?" Hashirama lifts himself up on an elbow to smile at him mischievously. "When it took nothing but your touch to stop me from killing myself."

"I grabbed your wrist, because I was too shocked by your idiotism to think it through."

"All in all, I'm glad you did." He inches closer. It's both stifling and desirable - in general, his presence is always like that, evoking so many conflicting feelings in him, wanting his caring and wanting to crush him for his weakness in equal measures.

"One day I might change my mind, and want you dead," he warns as his lover kisses his neck, strong palm sliding down his side, his touch soothing but still arousing. Hashirama just murmurs something, which might be acknowledgement that he knows this, but probably it's just the sound of ignorance.

U for Unmatched

Hashirama is leading them again. He does it more and more often. It's no wonder really, he's by far the strongest, just as Madara is the strongest of the Uchiha by now.

You must hold onto your ideals and become stronger. If you are weak, no one will listen to you.

Seems like a different lifetime when Madara told him that. He took it to heart, didn't he? Of course, even back then they were stronger than an average adult. And even then they both knew that Hashirama was the more powerful of them. By now… if he'd let all his might lose, what chance would Madara stand against him?

But he never does. The Uchiha refuses to ponder on why's that. If he chooses to be a fool, so be it. He might be peerless, unmatched in chakra and with his unique technique - he's still nothing but a weak, whining boy if he doesn't use it.

Nothing keeps his hand back when he attacks. Is it because he's sure Hashirama can parry every blow, can block any jutsu? He shakes his head to clear it. It's because he wants to win, he wants to defeat his enemy.

If Hashirama dies, the war will end. His clan would be, after countless years of hostility, the winning one. He can, he must make this sacrifice. He doesn't see yet how, but he has to defeat him for the sake of his clan, for the sake of peace. He doesn't see any other way.

V for Village

"Hokage-sama," the man before him bows low. "Your brother showed me around and I have to say this village is better than we ever anticipated. I'll report back to Daimyo-sama and I'm sure he'll be most pleased with it as well."

"Thank you, my friend," Hashirama replies back politely as he's expected to do, because Tobirama is standing behind his back and made him promise he'll behave. In the last few weeks he felt like falling apart. But this is an important visit, and he can't afford to show how weak he is despite all his power, just because Madara left so suddenly.

"It's quite an accomplishment to settle peace like this, to make all the clans join the new order. And you were fighting for your dream since childhood I hear."

"Actually, it wasn't just me…" his voice cracks just slightly because it hurts, the way Madara rejected Konoha and rejected him. The slight break is enough for Tobirama to ride him over.

"Yes, my brother is very adamant if he sets his mind on something. Even if it was against all odds, he made it come true."

For lack of anything better to do, he just nods and pulls his lips into an empty smile. It seems to be enough.

When Tobirama sees the man out of his office and he's left alone, he fishes out a bottle of sake from the drawer of his desk. The burn of alcohol dulls the ache to a bearable degree.

He stands up to look out at the view of Konoha. The village is what matters now, he tells himself firmly. Madara left, he rejected their dream, so he's alone to protect it now. He must do everything to keep it safe.

W for War

It's a different kind of war than what he's used to. Not clan against clan, but a whole army against him.

Then maybe all wars are similar and it's just him who changed so much. With his dead body brought back to life with Edo Tensei, if it can be called life at all. Hashirama's power is running through him now, alien yet familiar. Chakra runs in his veins now, not blood.

Madara looks down at the five people opposing him and can't help but feel distaste. The five Kages, the leaders of the major villages. A pitiful bunch of fools. So weak, so meaningless. Not even good to provide him entertainment.

Wars shouldn't be like this. They are supposed to be built on ideas, on despair, on vengeance. He has a plan of course, chiselled so carefully for so many years. He knows he must care about it, otherwise his unnatural existence is totally meaningless.

How many years have passed? Long decades. He and Hashirama are history that already started to be forgotten.

Maybe wars never had any meaning at all. Soldiers of innumerable centuries just told themselves otherwise to keep going, to keep fighting, to die with the false belief that spilling their blood was worth something. Maybe they were never more than a cruel joke. Funny too, how he built his whole life on that joke.

X for Xenophobia

"Madara, you understand why you have to do it, don't you?"

"Yes, father," he mutters, not quite looking into the man's eyes. Of course he understands; Hashirama is a Senju and he heard nothing else but how dangerous, bad and untrustworthy Senjus are since he started to understand words. He's been deceived by that boy, his father tells him. He knows who Hashirama is, and tells Madara he should have known too.

"It's easy to be lured by false promises of friendship," he tells him. His voice is gentle, understanding. "You should have been more suspicious, but what's done is done. I don't know what Butsuma and his son is planning, but we uncovered the treachery in time. I'll be there with you next time, and we'll kill the little worm."

"Father… he, Hashirama is…"

My friend. Please, I don't want him to get hurt.

He doesn't finish his sentence, but his face must be an open book, as his dad sighs, and puts a hand on his shoulder.

"Madara. You already fought against the Senju many times. You know how they are - rotten to the core. You can't trust even the youngsters of them, they'll just stab you in the back. You can't measure them like you'd measure an Uchiha. They are not our blood. That boy might be young, but he is already dangerous - we can't let him live. Do you understand?"

"Yes, father," he repeats dutifully, but rebel borns in his heart for the first time. Hashirama is a Senju, yes, but he's his best friend too. They were dreaming of a better future together. He'll at least warn him of danger, even if he'll have to face punishment for it.

Y for Yearning

The most pitiful, senseless type of longing is wanting something so out of reach. Wanting a dead man's touch, his kisses, one of his rare smiles.

Looking back, it does seem his whole life is built on hopeless yearning for Madara.

Being a kid, confused by his emotions and body's reactions. Unsure of what he wanted of Madara, just knowing that he wanted it bad.

Later, when they were opposing enemies, the yearning to have him back as his friend. The realization as he was growing up that he wanted so much more too. The desperate attempts to have him back in his life.

The oh-so-short period when they were lovers. The top of the hill, when everything seemed at its place, when he was happy and believed Madara happy as well. The disgraceful toppling over, realizing he never had anything in his hands, least of all Madara's love.

Despair turning into anger as he came back and attacked. How dare he? How dare he leave him, to fight him, to laugh at his stupid, useless feelings and dreams?

And now… with Madara dead, it should be all over. He's supposed to move on. He has a wife and a child. A village to lead. People to protect. It's very selfish of him to feel empty and dissatisfied with that.

But yearning in not a logical thing at all. He can't help but recall Madara's scent, the feel of his body close to his, and long for it. Just to talk to him again, make him understand why he did all that he did… and understand his motives too.

"Are you alright?" Mito asks quietly next to him, bringing him back to present. "You're staring off to space for awfully long."

"Don't worry," he forces a smile. "Nothing is wrong with me."

But it's a lie and both of them know it.

Z for Zephyr

Madara is finally at peace. He's with his family, together with all his brothers, his parents. He knows what this means, he knows he didn't achieve it the way he planned but...probably it's all for the best.

One thing is missing though. It gnaws him, pains him, though he tries to ignore it. But it's impossible to do so, and maybe it's not a surprise. This is a place to set things right it seems. He doesn't need to do more than close his eyes and picture the riverbank. A warm zephyr comes and ruffles his hair. Next instant he hears the gentle rustle of leaves and the calming splash of water. He doesn't dare to open his eyes just yet, because if Hashirama is not here, if this is not so important to him than for Madara, he just doesn't know what will he do.

"Hey," he hears the soft voice which makes him look up. His heart sinks, because although it's Hashirama, he's a man, not a boy like he is currently. Madara doesn't feel ready to deal with all that happened to them as adults. He longs for the carefree joy of youth that he only ever felt this place - or rather, a place that was exactly like this one. It was a mistake to come here. Obviously not even in death can they settle their differences. It's just not something that happens to people like them.

Too much have happened to face Hashirama as a man. They were friends, lovers and enemies. They fought in life and in the crude animation of Edo Tensei. They agreed on ideas, but disagreed on the means to make them come true. He wanted… he wanted so many things. His brothers back, peace, a place where nothing can harm him any longer. He wanted Hashirama too, but how could he fit into this…?

"Madara!" He's about to turn and go, when he calls out, not on his deep, commanding leader-of-clans voice but the cracking tone of an adolescent.

And he's a boy now, standing on the middle of the river, right on top of the gentle waves and holds his hand out to him. When he grins - a bit forced, desperate to please - funny how Madara never noticed that it was like that many times before - Madara smiles back. That terrible weight is suddenly lifted from his heart.

"Hashirama," he nods, walking slowly up to him, when he'd rather run. The other boy doesn't hold back so - he grabs Madara's wrist when he's at arm's length and pulls him into a bone-crushing hug that seems to lasts forever.

"So, what do you wanna do?" he asks Madara at last. He's smiling, not bothered by the obvious strikes of tears on his face. He was never ashamed to cry, so this time Madara doesn't try to disguise his own tears either. Madara reaches out and wipes his face clean with his sleeve and Hashirama doesn't pull back. "Skip stones? Practice taijutsu?"

"Can we just go…" he has to clear his suddenly dry throat, "...up there the hill? And plan our village."

"That's what I like to do the best as well," his friend assures him.

They don't even have to move to be at that spot. The valley below is just as he remembered it, full of trees, no sign of human life. Not ruined by the village that didn't turn out as they dreamt it would be.

Hashirama puts an arm around him and he leans into his embrace until his head ends up pillowed on his shoulder. The warm, pleasant zephyr blows here too, lulling him. Finally, they are both at peace.

FIN