Victory coats his throat, thicker and sweeter than any mead in the world as the sails become apparent upon the horizon.
Gorge rising, Hashirama collapses his telescope and nods briskly to his boatswain. The man snaps to and steps away to alert the crew.
“Are you well, Commodore?”
Hashirama’s eyes flash as he turns to his brother. Tobirama lowers his gaze in deference but he stands near him still. “It is high time to bring the wayward Uchiha scion to heel.” His lips twist, curling into a cruel sneer. “I will not rest until I have him hanging in the gallows. He has led his house to ruin.”
Tobirama pulls free his pistol and begins cleaning it, knowing what they are about to face. “One bad seed does not a bad family make.” He frowns, eyeing the trigger before fiddling with it. “The Uchiha family was rotting from within long before Madara. It is the only explanation for the way so many of them have taken upon piracy.”
Hashirama’s heart squeezes as he remembers days long since gone: playing at swords with sticks, skipping out on important social events to explore the briny caverns near his childhood home, even their hushed conversations in the barracks as they started training. Madara was the shining star of the academy; the jewel in the Queen’s crown.
Somehow, he turned his back on all of it, on him, on the law in favor of vice and villainy.
Hashirama shakes away the clinging memories, resettling himself in who he is today. He rubs at his side discreetly, feeling the soreness that came of shrapnel still lodged within. Hashirama scowls. That little boy from the bonny shores of Hastings is gone, shot dead by the bullet Madara put in his back all those years ago.
“They’ve seen us,” the boatswain calls.
“They are fleeing.”
“No matter,” Hashirama says, striding up onto the forecastle deck. “We are the fastest ship among the fleet. They cannot escape us. Not today. Not again.”
Hashirama stands at attention, watching with delight as the ship draws nearer and nearer its quarry. He begins to make out the finer details of the ship. It is smaller than he expected, especially with the tales others have weaved over this particular crew. Tall tales, certainly. It is well kept but none of that can disguise the wear and tear to the ship, its threadbare sails, creaking wood, and fading paint. Honestly, it surprises Hashirama that Madara would deign to set foot upon this ship, much less claim dominion over it.
Things have changed.
Hashirama looks down at his clenched fist and takes in the gold signet rings there, placed lovingly by the Crown. He smiles. Well, he has certainly changed too.
He draws his cutlass and adjusts the pistol at his hip. They are so near now that he can hear the creaking bow of the other ship.
“Prepare yourselves men!” he calls, refusing to be discomfited by the surprising silence of the other ship. He expected curses and shouts of despair, not just the splash of waves against its hull. “We take this ship for our own!”
Hashirama watches, calm as his men take out the boarding pikes and set to work drawing the other ship abreast of their own. He cannot see anyone upon the other ship.
“We’re ready, sir,” Tobirama says, eyes flashing with wariness. “Will you have us board?”
Hashirama waves him on and steps down onto the gangway, watching as his crew makes efficient work of boarding the ship. He crosses over on the gangplank, examining his surroundings with a sneer. The ship is so dowdy, unfit for the sea.
“Commodore,” one of his crew calls.
Hashirama turns from his perusal, looking to the man who stands outside the captain’s quarters. Hashirama feels his breath catch. The man nods.
Hashirama finds himself striding forward, bypassing his busy men as he ducks and enters the quarters. It’s small and shabby, fitting for Madara’s fall from grace. The man in question sits in a simple chair, head buried in his hands. His hair spills long and messy over his knees.
He is tempted to crow his victory over this fallen, broken man. Instead, he says, “You are a fool.” Madara doesn’t bother to look up but as Hashirama looks, he can see his shoulders trembling. “You have fallen far, old friend. I expected a fight, something. And yet you simply let us take your ship with nary a whimper.”
“I’m tired,” Madara says, muffled by his hands. “You’ve chased me for years. Is victory all you wished?”
Brows furrowed, Hashirama thinks on it. Truthfully, he finds there is no sense of accomplishment in this conquest. Perhaps because it isn’t much of a conquest. He wanted a fight, a battle, a resolution, closure to Madara’s betrayal. This passive acceptance of fate offers none of that.
“It is,” Hashirama says lightly, ignoring his thoughts. “Where is your crew?”
“They abandoned ship the moment they knew we were had. The quartermaster led them.”
“Even your crew leaves you to fate; a mutiny in its own right,” Hashirama tuts. “How do you enjoy the retribution for your actions?”
Madara doesn’t respond.
Hashirama purses his lips before turning and striding away. “Secure the ship!” he bellows.
He doesn’t bother to restrain Madara. There is no point in it. There is nowhere he can go. And besides, his spirit is broken.
“Something doesn’t add up,” Tobirama says.
“And what is that?” Hashirama asks, watching his men shift chests of goods out onto the upper deck.
“The goods…it’s all the household items: food, clothing, and that ilk. All that has been taken are the more expensive items like the gold and weaponry. If the crew truly jumped ship, wouldn’t they bring food with them?”
Hashirama sniffs in distaste. “There is land nearby. No doubt they left in great haste and only took those items of material value and safety.”
He can feel Tobirama’s eyes on him, but he ignores him, feeling restless. Hashirama pivots and returns to the captain’s quarters, glaring down at Madara. He hasn’t moved at all.
Without words, Hashirama strikes a hard blow across his face. Madara crashes to the floor and finally, finally, looks up at him, the red of his eyes matching the red of his cheek. Hashirama glares balefully at him, fighting the urge to take up his pistol and shoot him dead here. He looks down at his hands and smiles.
Well, he can compromise by flaying him with his bare hands.
Hashirama strides forward, grabbing Madara by the hair and pulling him to his feet. He stares him down coldly and says, “Keep in mind, you deserve this.”
Hashirama suddenly finds himself on the floor, blinking as he hits his head hard. He looks up in a daze, catching sight of a slight person with the most appalling hair assisting Madara to stand. He is dressed in plainclothes, but the cutlass at his side warns people away from him. The stranger turns and Hashirama blinks harder as icy green eyes meet his.
“Time to go,” she says softly to Madara, looping his arm across her shoulders. She snorts at Hashirama, shaking her head. “Some Commodore, huh?”
Madara looks at him, a sinuous grin breaking free. “My quartermaster,” he says, bowing with a flourish. The quartermaster moves along with him, in sync in a way that speaks to years of experience. It is apparent that they are siblings in arms.
Hashirama curses and fights to get back on his feet. The woman darts forward, still bearing the brunt of Madara’s weight and presses him down with her foot.
“You’re embarrassing yourself,” she says, conversationally, as if her foot isn’t digging into his chest in a way that makes it difficult to breathe. “Stop while you are…somewhat ahead.”
She glances at Madara and he nods, taking the seat against the desk as Sakura goes about binding Hashirama. She pauses at his hair, captured in a tight horsetail. She pops the hair tie free and Hashirama splutters as his hair falls free. He stiffens as a hand brushes through his hair.
“I will forever be jealous of this long hair,” Sakura sighs, looking at Madara. “I don’t understand how either of you maintain it at high sea.”
“It’s that noble blood,” Madara says, smirking at Hashirama’s befuddled expression. “Alright Sakura, time to go. Leave the poor man alone.”
Sakura stands and Hashirama resists the urge to shiver as she moves back to Madara’s side, assisting him once more.
They make their way out as Hashirama struggles with the binds, calling out for his men. There is no response, though truly he wasn’t expecting one.
He manages to stand and gets his hands into a position where his cutlass can cut the rope away. He runs back onto the deck, looking around with wild eyes. His crew is, all of them, bound and hogtied. Madara and his quartermaster are nowhere to be seen.
He turns around and gasps.
Madara stands on the gangway of his ship, his ship, wearing a broad, satisfied smile. The ship is moving away but Hashirama can feel the smugness wafting off his former friend. “A quartermaster’s duty is to determine the booty we claim.” Even at this distance, Hashirama can see the way his eyes sparkle with admiration and mischief. “She chose the Resolve and who am I to deny the quartermaster’s commission?”
Hashirama looks beyond Madara, to the quarter deck where she stands barking orders. His jaw works as rage and respect overwhelm him for a moment. He turns, stiff and angry, and begins to free his men.
“New task,” he says to Tobirama as they begin to guide the dingy ship toward port. “I will have Madara and his quartermaster both.”
“To hang?” Tobirama says, nodding in agreement.
Hashirama thinks on it, eyes stormy. He shivers as his hair whips past him in the wind. He turns away from his brother, not answering the question.
No, he has something much more special in mind for the quartermaster.