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His last wish

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It had been four months. Four long and painful months since Madara's life came to a stop.

Today again, Madara had woken up after noon and spent the rest of the day lying in bed, not daring to leave it unless he had to go to the bathroom or when the hunger was too much for him to bear. He had turned off his phone hopeful that Izuna would take the hint and stop calling him. Madara was thankful for his brother's love for him, he was thankful he was there, in such a moment but some days, much like today, it felt overwhelming to even talk with his baby brother. Madara knew it was no good to lock himself up like that, he knew he should do something and that's what Tobirama would have wanted.

But Tobirama was gone.

Four months since the car accident who had taken away his lover from him. Madara had always called Tobirama his lover, ever since they started fucking together. They didn't have a romance at first, they'd meet and fuck and it was perfect this way. Madara had wanted nothing more than a fuck buddy and Tobirama happily obliged, never asking for more anyways. And fuck they did, anywhere and anytime and it felt so good. They didn't even need to talk, a text was enough to set a place and an hour of the day and they'd meet and go for it. The lust had been incredible and never faded, even with the years.

Madara didn't know what happened for him to fall in love. Even now he had no idea why he once asked Tobirama to move in with him, arguing on how it'd be so much easier than having to go to the other side of the town for a fuck. And he still didn't know why Tobirama had accepted but he did move in with him. And they shared the only bedroom of the flat because Madara had said he didn't care. He had said it would allow them to fuck in the morning, still half asleep and feeling nothing but the warmth and the pleasure coming from Tobirama's body. It was something Madara enjoyed dearly, to be fucked in the morning, only conscious of his body and Tobirama's cock deeply buried in his ass, not moving at all, leaving all the work to Tobirama and Tobirama once said it made him feel powerful to do so. They had found quite a match in each other and Madara always claimed it only was about sex.

It took them weeks to realize they really were a couple. Weeks and their respective brothers telling them so and both Madara and Tobirama denied it at first, too embarrassed to admit they had fallen for each other.

It's when they started to cuddle at night that they realized they fooled themselves quite hard and they just went with it. They were happy together after all and there were no reasons for them to go against it.

They were in love.

Some months later, they decided to buy a house together. Officially, on the papers, it was Tobirama's. But Tobirama had made sure it would be Madara's too, at some point. They lived in the old part of the town, in these rows of identical houses with a small garden on the front and a bigger one on the back. It was big, for only the two of them, there were three bedrooms and a bathroom with a shower tub and a bathtub, which probably was what had them fall for the house. And it took them time to settle, as they didn't have much money to decorate and buy furniture at first but they managed, over the years.

Only their bed was one of the things they didn't change with time. Madara's bed, they one they shared in his old flat because it was comfortable and neat and held so many memories.

There were too many memories with it now and Madara clung to them with all he had. Four months since Tobirama died in that car accident and Madara still couldn't believe it was true. Sometimes he hoped for Tobirama to return, to act like he was coming back from work, apologizing because it took him so much time. The doctors had said it's be easier after the funeral but they were wrong.

It became so much harder.

Tobirama would have laughed to hard at him, teased him. Reminding him how much time it took him to say "I love you" for the first time but Madara would give everything to be able to say it again. He'd take his own life if it gave him the chance to meet Tobirama again, somehow and hold him. Just hold him and say these words. He didn't ask for more than that at this point and he'd give up on everything. He never said it nearly enough and Madara realized so during the funeral. Far too late, to say the least.

Crying had become the only thing Madara did most of his days. He had always bragged on how he didn't cry before, how he was immunized to this but Fate had decided to take his challenge it seemed and he probably had cried more during these last months than the rest of his life. Madara hated it but once he started, only exhaustion and sleep could stop it.

Today was one of these days and Madara wished he could stop feeling at all.

It was around eleven, this night, when Madara heard the front door being opened downstairs. It was either Hashirama or Izuna, as they both had the home's keys and Madara had promised to never let his own keys in the lock so they could always enter the house if needed. They had feared for his safety, in case he fainted or something happened. Madara accepted only because he didn't have the courage to fight anymore.

Madara listened to the ruckus from downstairs, listened to his brother or his best friend go through his stuff until they reached the stairs and Madara sighed. He wasn't going to have his peace tonight it seemed but he knew it was useless to try and convince him, whether it'd be Izuna or Hashirama, to leave him alone. They cared for him. How inconvenient in such times.

Madara knew it was his brother behind the door right before he entered the bedroom. Hashirama always knocked. Izuna didn't. But as much as he had wanted to be left alone today, Madara felt relief when Izuna sat in front of him on the floor and pulled him into a hug. Izuna never needed to talk the way Hashirama did. He could stay silent and hug him for hours without peeping a word. Madara thanked him for that whenever he could.

Izuna's hand in his hair made him shiver and Madara cried because he didn't know what else to do and he didn't know what to say. He felt like he had said it all already, like no words could really describe how he was feeling. So, he cried on his brother's shoulder the same way he did so many times before until he had no more tears to shed and only then did Izuna speak.

"I bought pizzas. Go and take a shower, I'll set the table."

Madara was sore from lying all day long but he did as his brother asked. Izuna cared for him and Madara wasn't stubborn enough to go against him. Or maybe he didn't have the courage to do so anymore, nor the strength. Madara didn't care.

Izuna left the bedroom before Madara was even standing and Madara heard his steps walk down the stairs. He wondered for a moment if Izuna wasn't going to yell at him some day, for not trying. Madara wasn't sure he wanted to find out.

His dressing room was a hellish place to be, mostly because Tobirama's stuff was still there, neatly folded on the shelves or hanging on holders. Most of the time, Madara didn't come here at all but he had no choice today. He needed clean clothes and the ones he usually wore were all dirty. Izuna was going to tell him to clean them all once he'd be downstairs. Madara almost counted on his brother to do so.

Madara grabbed a shirt and a pair of jeans with underwear and he left this place as quickly as he could to lock himself in the bathroom. Here, most of Tobirama's stuff had been put away. Madara didn't care for soap and razors and beauty products so Hashirama had taken it all away. It was like a sanctuary in a house full of memories. The only place that didn't hold as many memories of Tobirama. They did fuck in the bathtub more than once, they spent endless nights in the water, surrounded with candles and bubbles and they fucked in the shower-tub too. But they fucked everywhere in the house so it probably didn't count.

A glance toward the big mirror sitting over the faucet and Madara rolled his eyes. He truly was a mess and the dark circles under his eyes never were bigger than today, he thought. So dark and so big and Madara thought they almost looked like bruises. Result of crying so much, Madara decided, of sleepless nights and agitated slumber when he finally closed his eyes. Or maybe he was losing the battle against his own life.

The shower helped, a little. It was enough to make him feel a little better as water washed away how disgusting he felt about himself. He didn't shower nearly enough anymore. His past self would scrunch his nose at that. His past self probably would pity him too, to look so miserable but his past self never thought love was that powerful either.

Combing his hair took more time than Madara planned on spending on it and Izuna worried, it seemed, as he opened the bathroom's door with a uneasy look in the eyes. Madara was only wearing a towel around his hips, trying to untangle his mane the best he could and he looked thinner than the last time Izuna saw him. It was no good and Izuna would have wanted to take a leave and spend most of his time with his brother, to make sure he was eating but he really couldn't. He had to provide for his family, for Toka and theirs kids and the twins wouldn't understand if their father spent so much time with Uncle Madara. They were too young to understand what Death meant. They didn't understand why Uncle Tobirama didn't visit them anymore.

Madara was thankful when Izuna started to brush his hair himself and he made use of his free hands to dry his body and put on his underwear and trousers. And it took a couple of seconds for Madara to realize that Izuna was braiding his hair but he didn't say a thing. It was something they had done when they were younger and already refused to cut off their mane. Izuna would braid his hair, Madara would braid his brother's. It felt relaxing to feel Izuna's fingers work on his hair.

Izuna lead him downstairs after Madara put on his shirt. The smell of pizza slowly re-heating up in the oven had his stomach grumble in need, as he hadn't eaten in hours and Madara sat on his chair when Izuna asked him to, he waited for his brother to place a slice of his favorite pizza in front of him. Izuna sat beside him, knowing the chair right in front of Madara's used to be Tobirama's, he wished his brother a good appetite and started eating as well.

They ate in silence. Madara refiled his plate twice because he was starving but he had no motivation lately to cook his meals himself. He never was the greatest cook, after all, Tobirama was. His specialty always had been to prepare large cups of sorbet and whipped cream for them to share while watching a movie. The kitchen was Tobirama's playground and he was coming back from the restaurant when the accident happened.

Madara sighed at the memory. Tobirama had been working there for years, happy he found his dream job so close to home. It was a ten minutes ride with his car, he sometimes enjoyed going there by foot because the neighborhood was nice and he could take via the park and reach the restaurant quickly. A ten minutes ride and a drunk driver had hit Tobirama's car right on the side, sinking into the driver's door and crushing Tobirama's car against a tree.

Madara had been home when it happened and he heard it clearly. He didn't think, when he left their house and ran toward the accident. He could hear the sirens, as the police and the rescuers had been called already but his legs gave up on him when he recognized Tobirama's car. Thankfully, he didn't see Tobirama's body. Madara knew he'd still have nightmares if he did. A policeman helped him walk away, to an ambulance because he was in deep shock and they put a blanket on his shoulders and asked him if he knew the victim. Madara couldn't speak, he was trembling hard, breathing with difficulty. It took time for his brain to process the words but only one word stuck to him as he fainted.


It was Izuna who told him, when Madara woke up on an hospital bed. Izuna told him clearly, bluntly, directly that Tobirama had died. He knew it was the best thing to do. He said Tobirama hadn't suffered, that his spine had broken on the impact and that he died without pain. Madara hated him at first, for being so cold.

He thanked him later for telling him the truth without tiptoeing.

Letting go of his third pizza slice, Madara felt like throwing up as memories flooded him and he rested his head in his hands, breathed in deeply to try and calm down. Izuna's hand soon was on his shoulder and his back, massaging them, helping him relax with this simple gesture as he had done millions of times already.

“The twins are asking for you,” Izuna whispered to try and distract his brother. “They have tons of drawings for you and you promised you'd take them to the traveling funfair. It settled in town last week.”

Madara sniffed as his brain showed him the twins' smile. They were Izuna's pride and joy. Ume and Usui had the most precious smile he ever saw, they were the cutest little girls ever and Madara still couldn't believe his baby brother became a father with such serenity.

Izuna always was a little shit, ever since they were kids and he almost went to prison when he was sixteen because he went rampage and burned a teacher's car out of anger, because said teacher had told him he'd do nothing good with his life. Izuna was sentenced to community work instead, helping the town's gardener take care of the parks and flowers, working in the town's library and helping organize activities for kids from the orphanage. That's how he met with Toka. She never wanted to participate in these activities, feeling too old for them. Izuna worked hours until he was able to find something that would please her and helped organize a whole camping trip in the woods with the orphans who wanted to try.

She loved it. They never parted after that.

The twins were three, now and Madara hadn't seen them since the funeral. They hadn't understand what was happening, during the ceremony, they had asked about Uncle Tobirama and why he wasn't there. Madara loved them dearly but their questions had him break down so hard, for they were so innocent. He still didn't know if he had the strength to meet with them and maybe hear them ask such questions again.

“They .. They start to understand what happened,” Izuna said, knowing all too well his brother's thoughts. “Ume stopped asking and she cries, sometimes. Usui has more trouble accepting what happened and she calls for him each time someone rings the doorbell. They miss him. And they miss you.”

“I don't know if I can ..” Madara trailed, his voice hoarse for not speaking nearly enough anymore.

“I know, I just .. You have to get out of here, Mada. It's no good to lock yourself up like this,” Izuna pointed out, his hand never leaving his brother's back.

Madara didn't answer. Because he knew his brother was right, he knew he'd have to leave this place at some point, even if just for a couple of minutes. Izuna and Hashirama had been more than helpful, for the last four months, they had cleaned the house for him, helped him with the groceries, even cooked for him. Madara couldn't remember how many times they even had food delivered for him, already paid for and in enough quantity for it to last a couple of days. They were the bestest friends one could ask for and he probably didn't deserve them, with how he didn't even try to feel better but his pain was overwhelming and Madara wasn't strong enough to overcome it.

He had lost the love of his life, the man that truly meant the world to him. How could one feel better after losing someone like that ?

“Here, let's make a deal,” Izuna offered, a faint smile on the lips. “We'll go with Toka and the twins. You do your absolute best. But if it is not enough, if you don't feel like staying, I take you back home.”

Madara pondered said deal for a moment. He didn't want to go out, he really didn't and he'd rather stay at home and lie in bed and continue whatever he had been doing until now. Nothing really but the thought of doing anything was too much for him to handle already. But as Izuna had said, he had promised the twins to take them to the fair, before the accident. He had talked with them about the rides and the haunted house because there was a picture of him and Tobirama posing in front of the carousel in the living room and they had asked why the horses were so weird. He had promised and he couldn't go back on his words, he couldn't betray them like that, even if it meant going out for the first time in months.

He valued their love for him more than that.

And Izuna had said he'd take him back home if he didn't feel good. It was enough for him to accept, hoping Izuna wasn't going to go back on his words.

As soon as he nodded, Izuna pulled him into a hug. A tight hug and Madara shivered when Izuna's hands caressed his back and hair. Oh, how much he was in need of physical contact for all this time, he almost wished for his brother to visit him more often just for his hugs. Hashirama tried to hug him too, sometimes but Madara never let them last more than a couple of seconds. Hashirama smelled too much like Tobirama and it hurt.

“Alright, I'll come pick you up at ten tomorrow,” Izuna whispered, in a thankful tone. “I want you ready, cleaned and shaved by this time. Now, let's take care of your laundry and clean the fridge a little.”

And so they did. Madara helped his brother gather all his dirty clothes that he had left in a corner of the bathroom to put them in the washing machine to clean them. It wasn't a difficult task but everything felt difficult for Madara lately, standing felt difficult, even opening his eyes so cleaning his clothes ? It was out of his reach for now. Izuna didn't judge him though. Izuna never judged him.

His fridge was a mess and needed a whole cleaning, Izuna realized when he opened it. It was mostly empty, save from some leftovers but said leftovers were almost rotting now and it stunk. Izuna decided it'd be best if they just left it like that for today and find time during the week to take the fridge out and clean it properly with the help of the garden hose. And disinfect it. Twice. At least.

Since they couldn't do much for the fridge tonight, Izuna helped his brother go through his mail, as it had been stacking up in the mailbox for too long. It was a good thing the mail man was considerate enough not to complain about it. Madara watched, as Izuna walked to the garden's gate to the box with the little keys to gather it all. He was standing under the porch, enjoying actual fresh air for the first time of the week. The night was fairly temperate, for the summer, a soft warm breeze had him shiver and the smell of blooming flowers made him smile a little. He missed going outside at night, as it was his favorite moment of a day. It was so calm, so silent and he had loved to go on walks with Tobirama during the night, just for the sake of it, to feel like the town was theirs as there was no one else to bother them. He missed that.

Izuna took his sweet time when he noticed that Madara was enjoying himself and they eventually, silently, decided to go through the mail while sitting on the couple of steps leading to the front door. There were bills for water and electricity that were already paid for. Some ads for nearby restaurants and places to visit. There were condolences cards coming from distant friends and some other people who had known Tobirama. Madara kept them dearly, all gathered in a box in the living room. There was a letter from Tobirama's bank asking him to call them back because they were unable to reach him by phone. Madara didn't know what they wanted with him. He didn't care.

Izuna had left after walking him back to the bedroom, the previous night and it had taken hours for Madara to fall asleep. He was eager to see his nieces again, despite how anxious it was making him feel and he hoped he wasn't going to scare them off. But Izuna had been right, he couldn't stay locked in there all his life and the fair might help him, even if a little. He was never the most sociable guy but the noise and the many things to see might distract him enough away from his thoughts and from Tobirama's memory. Even if it was just for a day. He didn't really ask for more than that.

Just like Izuna told him, Madara showered and he took his sweet time today. He scrubbed his skin the best he could to get rid of some dirty marks, he made sure to clean his hair just as thoughtfully. He had kept Izuna's braid all night long, making his hair wavy but it'd go back to its usual stay after a shower. Then he shaved. Not that he had a decent beard to get rid of, his beard usually grew as patched on his cheeks and chin and it was weird at best and utterly ugly when it started to grow out too much. Madara shaved whenever he could but lately, he hadn't done such a thing. Hence, he was pretty ugly.

He wasn't that ugly anymore when he was done shaving and Madara combed his hair, making sure to part it the way he usually did and he got dressed. It was going to be fairly hot today it seemed, if the blue sky was any indication and Madara already planned on buying his nieces some ice-cream if Toka allowed him to. She always was strict with their diet. He was the bad Uncle sneaking candy in their house and buying ice-cream for the twins when they were home.

Madara was ready way too early but he used that time to eat some pizza leftover from last night to make sure he wouldn't faint from the lack of nutriments and he found an old (but not expired) bottle of orange juice. That would do until noon, he decided and they were probably going to eat on the fair. He'd treat his brother's family happily then. Despite his anxiety and his violent need to go back to bed, Madara couldn't help but think going out and spending time with them would probably do him way more good than lying in bed and crying.

It was ten exactly when Izuna knocked at the front door and Madara made sure he had his wallet, his phone and his keys before he left the house. Izuna welcomed him with that soft smile of his, the same smile he had whenever he looked at his daughters and Madara looked away. He was embarrassed to think Izuna was mothering him that much, when he was the older brother but Izuna never seemed to be bothered by it. He'd spend as much time with him as he could and Madara would always be thankful.

“Looking good,” Izuna commented when he noticed his brother's efforts. “Shall we ?”

Madara locked the house's door, he followed his brother to the car and was surprised when he noticed it was empty. He shot a questioning look at his brother, silently asking him what he was up to and Izuna only answer when they both were sitting in the car.

“I thought it'd be easier for you this way,” Izuna explained. “Not to sit between the twins until the fair and endure their questions if they have some. We told them not to speak much about him but you know how they are ..”

Yes he knew and Madara nodded, silently thanking his brother to be that considerate with him. He didn't know what he'd had done, were he sitting between both little girls if they bombarded him with questions. He had promised himself to try and not cry today. It'd be easier if no one asked about Tobirama or even spoke about him.

This wasn't his first trip on a car since the accident but Madara wasn't relaxed anymore. He tensed, each time they passed another car, he closed his eyes several times when he saw cars arriving from adjacent streets but he said nothing. Izuna was a careful driver, since he had his daughters, he never drove higher than the speed limit and sometimes preferred to let people pass him even if it wasn't their turn rather than forcing it. He cared more for his girls rather than people yelling and honking. Madara had never rode with anyone but his brother since the accident.

The annual fair was quite renewed in all the area and hundreds of people were already roaming the place when they arrived. Izuna had parked the car in a one way street, thankful to find a spot not that far from the fair and he and Madara walked along the street to the fair in silence, at first. Madara was keeping his eyes low, still unsure what he was supposed to do or say, were the twins asking him where Tobirama was or why he didn't come but he decided to let Izuna deal with it if he had to.

“I'll need to go to the ATM,” Madara said, as they weren't far from the gates anymore. “I'm treating you all for lunch.”

“Mada, you don't have to ..” Izuna tried to argue but seeing his brother's gaze, he knew it was already too late. “Alright, don't let Toka know then, she keeps saying we should help you more.”

“You already do a lot with Hashirama,” Madara shrugged and glanced at his brother. “What could you possibly do more ?”

“She offered for you to live with us,” Izuna explained. “To take you away from the house for a week or two, so you can .. breath.”

Madara shook his head at that. He was never going to leave that house. It was Tobirama's, it was a part of them, they put their heart into it and there was no way he was ever going to live somewhere else. Even if it hurt, even if it was too much sometimes.

“It wouldn't be definitive,” Izuna pointed out. “But it is not healthy for you to lock yourself there. It'd be like holidays. Nothing to do except take care of the girls while we're at work and eat good meals.”

“I'll .. think about it,” Madara lied. He wouldn't. He already took his decision and he wasn't going to accept.

Izuna smiled, still, it was all Madara had wanted and they reached the outskirts of the fair. It was big. Bigger than what Madara remembered of it but he didn't mind it, as long as he was with his brother. Izuna knew how to deal with him, he knew what to do and there was no reason for things to go wrong, was it ?

They found the ATM soon, Madara withdrew quite the amount of cash, eager to spoil his nieces rotten during the day but Izuna didn't comment that. If it made Madara happy, he wasn't going to ruin his mood.

Toka was waiting for them with the twins beside the big oak near the main entrance of the fair, just like she had planned with Izuna and she tried to hold back the little girls when they noticed their father and uncle approaching but she failed. Ume was the first one to run to him, calling his name with a big smile on her lips and looking so beautiful in her summer dress and Madara knelt to catch her, he hugged her tightly against his chest, closing his eyes and touched with such an outburst of joy. Usui joined them soon, she found her uncle's second shoulder to rest her head on and Madara sat back on his heels with care, he held them both and held back his tears. He hadn't thought they'd be so happy to see him. It hadn't thought it'd hit him so hard in the guts to hear them call for him almost desperately.

Both little girls took their sweet time hugging him, as they had missed their uncle so dearly and Madara's first rule with them was to always let them pull away first when they asked for it. It tricked him, once or twice, as they refused to let go of his neck but Madara kept to his word and didn't let go. They eventually slept on him all night long. Madara didn't mind. Tobirama took a picture of them. It was framed in the living room.

As none of the girls seemed to wish to pull away from the hug, Madara sighed, rubbing at their back, thankful there weren't three of them or he wouldn't have enough hands for that, he scooped their legs and stood up carefully, holding them in his arms and smiling as they both giggled. It was starting to become harder, as they were growing up, it wasn't as easy as when they were babies to carry them both but they didn't seem to want to let go and Madara obliged with their need of affection.

Toka looked at beautiful as ever, Madara thought when he looked at her. The smile on her face meant a lot to him, she knew how much her girls loved their uncle and she greeted him with a kiss on the cheek and a hand on his shoulder.

“Good to see you,” she whispered, caressing Usui's head as the girl seemed to be crying against her uncle's shoulder. “Girls, will you tell Uncle Madara what you did this morning ?”

Ume, who was more an extravert than her sister, sat up in Madara's arm, she smiled at him. “We choose the dresses !” she explained, pulling on her dress's collar to show him. “With flowers and bow to be pwetty for you !”

“Is it true, Usui ?” Madara asked the other girl, as she was shy and Usui only nodded against his shoulder. Madara kissed the top of her head to try and sooth her crying, he kissed Ume's cheeks so she wouldn't get jealous and let Izuna take her when Ume decided she had hugged her uncle enough for now. Madara then shifted Usui in his arms, so it'd be easier for him to carry her.

“Shall we go ?” Izuna asked his little family. Ume nodded with enthusiasm, asking to walk on her own and they walked toward the main entrance of the fair.

It was crowded, already, full of families and teens and even older people and it was noisy and full of life. Ume was excited with it all, pulling at her father's hand one direction or another to look at things while Toka kept an eye on her second girl, not doubting Madara's ability to deal with her.

“Usui,” Madara called softly against her ear. “Come on, honey, look around.”

“No,” the girl answered, shaking her head.

“Why not ?” Madara inquired, caressing her back and trying to make her feel better.

“I miss you,” Usui whispered, crying a little harder.

Guilt hit Madara full force and he bit his lips, glanced at Toka, holding back a sigh. He knew they missed him but hearing it from one of the girls wasn't easy.

“Well,” Madara said, swallowing hard, pulling away just enough to look at Usui in the eyes. “If you want, you can come and visit me with Ume sometimes.”

“For real ?” Usui asked, tears in the eyes.

Madara nodded and she threw herself at him again, hiding against his neck and crying even more than before. Madara couldn't do more than holding her close, a hand in her soft dark hair and trying to hold back his own tears. He had promised himself not to cry today but it was difficult when a little girl was crying of happiness against him just because he had said she could visit him.

He hadn't allowed Izuna to take them with him after all, they hadn't seen each other since the funeral and he understood why Usui was that touched with his promise. Madara loved them with all his heart. They were like his own children, as he was never going to have his own. He told Izuna, once. He said he didn't expect any less from his big brother.

Toka helped sooth Usui's tears, too, as she spoke in a gentle voice to her daughter, telling her how she had to be strong and show Madara how beautiful she was today, that they were going to have so much fun all together and Usui eventually let go of him, she kissed his cheek several time and Madara put her down on her legs, held her hand when she asked for it and looked around to try and find Izuna and Ume.

Both of them had already stopped by a plush stand, where people had to pull on long strings to win a stuffed animal and they joined them quickly as Ume was pulling on her string after she carefully chose it. Of course, Madara paid for Usui to do the same. Ume's plush was a little Simba and it was really soft. Usui was able to win a pink unicorn plush and she seemed so excited with it. Both of them thanked the man behind the stand, who answered with a soft smile and they moved to the next place, who happened to be a ride for kids with little cars and planes and buses.

Of course, both of them asked for a ride and Toka decided to go with them as they were still so little, leaving the brothers together, holding the kids' plush and watching them from afar.

“How do you feel ?” Izuna asked in a soft tone and Madara sighed.

He had to admit, his brother had a neat idea with this. Spending time with the girls was always precious to him, he had missed them so much during the past months and it was reciprocal, it seemed. His guilt hadn't vanished, yet, as he had forbidden Izuna to bring them over, just so he could avoid their questions but he wasn't going to go back on his words and on his promise to Usui.

“I told Usui you'd take them home, next time.” Madara informed his brother, ignoring the question. “Just .. warn me beforehand when you do.”

“Sure,” Izuna nodded. But he soon turned away, pulling his phone from his pocket to take pictures of his girls and his wife as they were riding a little bus together. Ume was laughing so hard they could hear her over the loud music of the ride, while Usui was smiling like she always did when she was happy. It was almost unbearable to see them that happy. Madara could feel his heart explode with their happiness.

Usui and Ume decided the ride wasn't long enough and started to argue when Toka told them they could go again later so Madara decided to buy them another ride right away, ignoring Toka's pout. She didn't really like this kind of rides and he hoped she wasn't going to get sick. It wasn't that fast but it was the circular motion that had her throw up more than once on another ride.

And from the look in her eyes, she was going to make him pay for that. But the girls were happy and it was all that mattered.

“If she throws up, you're dead,” Izuna commented as Madara walked to stand beside him again.

“I'll make sure to make up for that,” Madara answered with a smirk. “I'll keep the girls while you will be enjoying the haunted house and make out with her.”

“I won't make out with her if she throws up,” Izuna laughed. “But she hasn't stopped talking about that damn thing for weeks so I guess she'll forgive you !”

Needless to say, Toka loved haunted house. Last year, she had visited it at least ten times with Izuna. They had made the best of it, while they didn't have the girls, as they had been on a holiday with Izuna and Madara's mother. Tobirama had said they looked like teens when they were making out in the middle of the haunted house and probably scaring the employees more than they were themselves scared.

Toka didn't throw up, thankfully. She looked pale and sick but she found a small bottle of water in her bag to help her make it pass and she glared at Madara for at least twenty seconds before she let it go, because Izuna was showing her the beautiful pics he took of her and the girls. Izuna still was a manipulative little shit, when he needed to.

Most of the next rides were too much for the girls so they walked passed them, stopping when the twins wanted to watch, saying how they'd do if when they would grow older and they found a small roller coaster for them. Toka hesitated, as it seemed a little too quick for the kids but a small sign near the start stated that Ume and Usui were big enough to ride it and she made sure Izuna and Madara were going with the girl. Usui chose to sit beside her father, Ume riding next to Madara and the ride began.

Madara could remember well how he used to love this kind of rides. Not the small ones, of course, there was an actual huge roller-coaster a bit further away and he rode it with Tobirama, last year. Izuna hadn't wanted to try, not trusting his stomach enough not to vomit because of the tailspins and the loops, Toka had preferred to stay with her husband while waiting for the two of them. It was a good memory, Madara thought as Ume was laughing beside him. Tobirama always loved fairs and fast rides.

Ume was trembling because of the adrenaline when the ride came to a stop, eyes wide and a smile on her lips. She asked to do it again as soon as they exited the cart and Madara lifted her in his arms as she didn't seem able to walk just yet.

“Later,” he promised her. “When you calm down a little.”

Usui seemed more composed about it but her smile was wide too. They both loved it.

Toka then made sure they avoided the candy shop, as the girls were probably going to beg to buy it all if they noticed it and they arrived to a fun house. The girls did beg for Madara to go with them and Madara obliges, too happy to see them laugh that much. He paid for their entry ticket and helped them all along the route, as they still were little and lacked some strength. They'd run through it all next year, he was sure of it. For now, they needed time and many kids ran past them laughing. Madara made sure they didn't push the twins as they did so.

The last obstacle for them to pass was a wheel they had to walk through and Ume passed it without hesitation, laughing. Madara could see the owner had slowed the wheel down for them, to make sure the girls wouldn't fall but Usui was clinging to his leg, afraid to do it.

“Come on, kitten, you have to do like Ume,” Madara smiled down at her, keeping an eye on Usui. “You just walk straight ahead.”

“I-I can't !” Usui cried out and Madara didn't insist much. There was no need for him to scare the girl more and he wasn't going to force her if she didn't want to do it. So, he scooped her leg, holding her against his chest while she was laughing and he walked through the wheel without a problem even if it scared her, grabbing Ume's hand as he did so.

“Ew !” Ume suddenly exclaimed as they were walking down the ramp leading them back in front of the house. Madara frowned, wondering what was happening and he did smile when he saw Izuna and Toka kissing in the middle of the crowd, acting like teenagers with grabby hands and happy smiles.

“Take a room,” Madara groaned as they reached them and Izuna turned away from the kiss, he shook his head, a wide smile on the face.

“What can I say ? I love my wife !” he snickered, making Toka roll her eyes.

Toka noticed immediately how Usui was clinging at Madara, how she was hiding against his neck again and Madara shrugged. “The wheel was too scary,” he explained. “But you can do it next year ?” he then asked the girl. “When you'll be older ?”

Usui nodded against his neck and Madara patted her head to try and sooth her fear, he nodded at Toka when she silently asked him if he was didn't mind carrying her for now.

Madara knew Usui wasn't only hugging him because she had been scared. She wasn't crying on his shoulder, she had laughed when he raised her from the ground. She probably needed this, needed to feel close with him. Maybe knowing Tobirama was gone forever had her fear for her other uncle's life ? Maybe she was thinking that he was going to leave too ? They hadn't seen each other for a long time, after all and Madara didn't know what Izuna had told the girls, what excuses he invented for them but his guilt was slowly rising to its higher level.

Usui always had been the most sensitive one, compared with her sister and she always loved to spend time with him. It would be no wonder if she felt like he had abandoned her lately.

They continued roaming the fair from one end to another. Usui had eventually let go of her uncle's neck, especially when Ume had told her there were ponies. And they had begged their parents for a ride, both of them loving ponies so much but Toka had refused. She didn't fear for her daughter's safety, the ponies seemed quite tamed and kind but she didn't like the way they were treated. Instead, she promised her girls a proper ride in a farm, when they'd find one respectful enough toward the animals.

She did let the twins pet one of the ponies, though.

It was past one when they decided it was time for lunch. Izuna had sent his wife and girls to sit somewhere calm and away from the fair while he was waiting in line with Madara to grab their food. The line was slow and a bit messy in front of them and Izuna rolled his eyes several times, because of the lack of organization but he eventually calmed down and turned to his brother.

“How do you feel ?” he asked, concern in his voice.

“It already is the second time you're asking,” Madara pointed out, looking away and pretending he didn't care.

“You didn't answer the first time.” Izuna smiled.

It took all he had for Madara not to sigh and he shrugged. He didn't really know how he felt. Good to an extent, because he was with his brother and his family and his nieces had a gift to make him smile and he didn't have many reasons to smile, lately. Seeing them laugh was one of them and he had missed them so much. He loved them so much.

But, there were the memories, too. Memories of Tobirama, all around the fair and the ones he reminded himself hadn't hit him as hard as he imagined. Then again, these memories weren't as precious to him as those he had in the house. They were fainter, almost fading and Madara hated it. He wanted to remember all he could about Tobirama. He couldn't let go of him. It would mean he didn't care enough and Madara didn't want anyone to think he didn't care enough for Tobirama.

His eyes started to tickle, as he was holding back tears, Madara bit his lower lip, crossed his arms and shrugged again.

“Then stop asking,” he answered his brother. “You don't have to worry, as long as I'm not crying.”

Izuna sighed, knowing he shouldn't have insisted. Madara had looked quite fine until now, enjoying the moment and spending time with the girls. Fresh air was doing him good but it wouldn't take away his sorrow, Izuna knew that much. There wasn't much he could do to help his brother in such situation but he hoped this day would do some good to him. He had seen him smile, already and it was a good thing, wasn't it ?

Izuna side-hugged his brother, patting his shoulder and Madara was thankful. He would have cried, if Izuna insisted too much.

It was soon their time to order food and Madara, as announced earlier, paid for it all. Treating his family felt right, today and Madara knew Toka was going to kill him if she realized what he had done but he didn't care. They had done too much for him already, they had sacrificed a lot of time together so Izuna could visit him as often as possible. It was only fair to pay for most of today's spending.

Toka and the girls were waiting for them exactly where Izuna had planned and both men sat on the grass, handed out food around their little group and the twins were happy to see they both had fries with ketchup and smaller sized hot dog. They looked even more excited when Izuna pulled out a bottle of diet coke from their bag and he poured a glass for each of them, precising they weren't going to drink more than that today, under Toka's furious glare.

Madara tried to ignore them, as he reached for his burger and started to eat. This was between the two of them and his turn would come, when Toka would be mad at him as he had planned to buy candy and waffles for the girls. He knew how strict Toka was on their diet but this couldn't hurt, could it ?

The meal was quite silent, when Toka was done whispering his opinion to Izuna, while Izuna was doing his best not to smile too much. He always wanted to spoil his daughters and he knew it wasn't that good to do so but he just couldn't help it. He loved them too much and didn't want to deny them this kind of little pleasures. The girls were happy and it was all that counted to him.

Still, the day was a tiring one for little girls and such a meal wasn't going to be easy to process and Toka insisted for her babies to take a nap before they went back to the fair and had fun again. Usui didn't wait long before she decided her uncle would make the best nap pillow and soon, Ume approved the idea. They both settled in Madara's arms, as he was sitting against a tree, they got comfortable and fell asleep quickly.

Madara didn't dare looking up, at first, touched with the gesture, with how peaceful they both were against him but Izuna snickered and he had to glare at his brother.

“You should come help us put them to bed at night,” Izuna commented. “It's becoming harder and harder. Ume even wants her own bedroom now.”

Madara smiled, looking down again and nuzzling at Ume's hair. He too was tired, after his restless night, he had been unable to sleep, so many thoughts in mind. His sleep schedule had been quite a wreck for the last months, he barely slept, most of the nights but his body still was tired and decided to catch up whenever it wanted. Right now would be a nice moment for a nap, for example and Madara yawned several times.

Before he knew it, he was sleeping, his head resting on Usui's and holding the girls tightly against him.

It was Ume who woke him up, as she was trying to leave his arms. She still looked so sleepy and she rubbed at her face several times but he didn't hold back when she pushed on her arms, he only helped her stabilize on her feet and offered her a tired smile.

“Come here, honey,” Izuna whispered, searching in his wife's handbag. Toka was nowhere to be seen but Madara wasn't worried for her. She was strong enough to handle herself.

Izuna helped her daughter straighten her dress and he brushed her hair slowly because it was a mess on top of her head. He was good with it all. Madara knew Izuna was a really good father, he had known since the first time he saw him take care of his girls in the hospital, right after their birth. Izuna had panicked so much during the whole pregnancy, especially after he learned Toka was expecting twins but when visitors had been allowed, Madara and Tobirama had found Izuna comfortably settled in a chair, feeding Usui with a bottle of milk. She had seemed so tiny in his arms and Madara had feared holding her, at first, scared he might hurt her. It was Tobirama who had been able to help him calm down, telling him how strong babies were.

Madara preferred to sit, the first time he held Ume, as she was done eating already but he immediately felt so much love for the two of them. And Izuna went through parenting with such ease he made it appear easy to deal with.

Madara knew better.

Still, as he was watching his baby brother braid his daughter's hair, speaking with her with such a soft smile and such a look in the eyes, Madara couldn't believe this man was the same who burned a teacher's car when he was a teenager. Izuna always was so angry with life, when he was young, defying every figure of authority, even his own big brother. Now, he looked so .. so happy, so at peace with himself and Madara envied him, sometimes. He too wanted to be happy again. But happiness wasn't possible without Tobirama.

His breath trembled, catching Izuna's attention, Madara looked away, sniffing and forcing back the tears. He didn't want to cry. Not today. Not before he was home, at least and he pinched his lips together, wishing with all his had that Izuna wasn't going to ask if he was fine and he didn't move until it was Usui's turn to wake up. Toka had returned by that time, she had been walking around the fair, it seemed, fidgeting too much to stay put but Madara noticed easily enough how puffy her eyes were. They had been talking about him while he was sleeping, Madara knew. He didn't comment.

They waited for Usui to be completely awake to go back to the fair and Madara, as he promised Izuna, took care of them while the parents were doing whatever they wanted in the haunted house. The three of them wandered a little further, as the girls had noticed the Ferris wheel and begged him for a ride but Madara told them they'd wait for theirs parents for this one. He did send a text to Izuna, to tell him they had moved so they wouldn't freak out when they'd leave and didn't see them.

When Izuna and Toka joined them, Madara was pretty sure they didn't only have one ride in that haunted house. Toka's cheeks were red and Izuna had that smug smirk on the lips. It was enough for Madara to understand they had their usual little fun already but he didn't comment, as the girls would have heard him.

“Mom ! I wanna do that !” Usui still begged her mother, pointing at the wheel and jumping on her feet.

“You won't be scared ?” Izuna asked, raising an eyebrow at her and amused with her behavior.

Usui shook her head, Ume already was climbing the stairs leading to the wheel, pulling on her mother's hand and Izuna glanced at his brother.

“You're coming ?”

Madara hesitated, a lump in the throat. He wasn't sure this was a good idea. He was fine with the rest of the fair, his memories of Tobirama weren't as powerful as he first imagined. But the Ferris wheel was another matter. He had told Tobirama he loved him, up there. It hadn't been the first time but it had been one of the few times he did and he could already feel the tears coming and he shook his head.

“Go without me on this one,” Madara whispered, hoping Izuna didn't notice how strangled his voice was. But of course, Izuna noticed. He wasn't his brother for nothing after all. “Tell them I'm afraid of heights, if you must. I-I can't do this ..” Madara told his brother and he turned away before anyone could argue, found himself a quiet spot to hide in, behind a food stand.

Almost immediately, Madara placed his hands on his knees, to try and breath deeply. He couldn't let his mask crumble. He had done so nicely until now, he had been able to keep the tears at bay when he felt them arrive and he wasn't going to cry. He didn't want to ruin everyone's fun. He had promised Izuna he'd do the best he could and he wouldn't go back on his word, not when the twins looked so happy he was here, not when he was able to give his brother some time to have fun with his wife. He just had to avoid the Ferris wheel. And the carousel. Then he'd be fine.

A shiver ran up his spine, making him violently jerk to the side, feeling like something had touched him and Madara looked around him but there was nothing. He couldn't shake off the feeling that he was being watched, closely and it wasn't the first time he felt this way before but Madara had always ignored it. He had thought his body was playing tricks on him. It couldn't be anything else, after all. But Madara hated it, it was obnoxious.

Madara decided to walk, after that. The Ferris wheel would take quite some time for a complete rotation and he preferred to get away from that place for now, as it was reminding him too much. Buying candy for the girls would be a good distraction for now and he took his sweet time choosing the ones they liked the most, taking some for himself too.

Izuna, Toka and the girls were waiting for him when Madara walked back to the Ferris wheel and he held out the bag to Toka, with the most innocent smile.

“I hate you,” Toka muttered but she still hid the candy in her bag, making sure her daughter hadn't noticed it yet so they wouldn't ask for candy right away.

Madara then forced himself to glance at Izuna, to reassure his brother, to show him he was fine before they started to walk again, toward what seemed to be a bouncy castle, Madara paid for his nieces, helped them take off their shoes and watched them as they climbed the castle and started happily bouncing around, pushing each other gently and laughing like crazies.

“We took a pic,” Izuna said, as he stood beside his brother. “If you want it framed.”

“Send it to me tonight, I'll take care of it,” Madara smiled, thanking his brother like this.

Izuna smiled back, caressing his brother's hair and Madara leaned in the touch, as he needed it after that moment behind the food stand. He had been close to break down, way too close and he was still feeling a little shaky from it. Izuna knew, of course but there was pride in his brother's eyes. Surely because he hadn't asked to be driven back home yet and Madara already knew he wasn't going to do this. Even if he had to hide like he just did, even if he had to distract himself, he didn't want to ruin the day. He was trembling, yes but he could do it, couldn't he ? He needed this, he needed to spend time with his nieces. And maybe he wasn't going to go out for four other months, after this but at least, he had kept his promise and took the girls to the funfair.

“Why did Toka cry ?” Madara asked, looking at his brother's eyes and Izuna pulled him closer, kissed the top of his head.

“You know how sensitive she is, even if she acts tough,” Izuna whispered, running his fingers in his brother's hair. “Seeing the girls and you sleeping so peacefully together brought her to tears. She took a pic for her collection and their albums.”

Said albums were full of dozens of pics and Madara always wondered how many of them Toka was willing to make. Not that he minded. There were a lot of pictures of him and Tobirama in them. Peaceful memories printed on paper forever. He cherished them.

The girls' time on the bouncy castle came to pass, as they were informed by the person in charge and Izuna called his daughter with enough assurance to have them stop playing. They ran to them, cheeks red from the effort and breathing hard as they kept laughing. Madara helped them put their shoes back on again, while Izuna was adjusting their clothes and they walked back to a smiling Toka, continued their trip happily.

Ume insisted to do the fun house again so Toka went with her while Madara, Izuna and Usui decided to find something to do while they were waiting. Usui asked for her father to carry her and Izuna obliged, taking her in his arms. She almost immediately started sucking at her thumb and playing with her father's hair, not that Izuna minded and they walked toward a shooting range. It was usually rigged and winning wasn't easy but Madara knew most of the tricks and he paid for his game. He was never a great shooter, and he'd never use a proper rifle but air rifles were alright.

Usui was watching him in awe as Madara was shooting at the targets with care, taking his sweet time to adjust his aim to the rifle's default and he won a set of felts for Usui. And of course, he had to win the exact same thing for Ume, since he didn't want any jealousy between the girls.

They left, after that, knowing the stand owner wouldn't like it if he won too much and they found Toka and Ume walking toward them, Madara showed what he had won for Ume who thanked him with a huge smile on her face and they walked for a moment, until they find something suited for the girls.

Izuna always loved mirror mazes and his eyes widened when he spotted it, he almost dragged his family to it and decided they'd go all of them together. Toka would accompany Usui, Izuna would go with Ume and Madara would do his best not to get lost on his own, as Izuna teased.

Madara was the first one to enter the maze, making sure to hold a hand in front of him so he wouldn't walk straight into a mirror. He remembered well Tobirama's hack, from the last time they entered such a place, Tobirama had told him to place his right hand on the nearest wall and continue to walk, never taking off his hand from the wall. It was the best way to find the exit, if one was lost and Madara remembered well how much he laughed at Tobirama for knowing such a trivial thing. It wasn't as if he'd ever need this in his life but Madara smiled at the memory, concentrating on Tobirama's memory as he walked through the maze.

A shadow startled Madara, as he passed a corner but the laughter of a child some steps ahead of him helped him relax and he placed his hand on his fast-beating heart to try and calm down before he started walking again. He didn't know where the others were, but he'd find them when he would leave this place, for sure.

Madara resumed walking farther and farther into the maze, probably away from the exit and he eventually placed his right hand on the wall next to him, hoping Tobirama had been right about it. He wasn't lost, he really wasn't. It was just .. an insurance. Just in case.

Madara turned around, as he arrived in a dead end but something caught his attention. From the corner of his eyes, Madara noticed a figure. It wasn't just a shadow, this time, there was nothing behind this wall, no path, no door. No, it was more like a reflection, the reflection of a man but it was distorted, as if it had been reflected too many times. Without thinking, Madara turned again, to face the reflection but his eyes widened as the reflection smiled at him.

“T-Tobi ?” Madara called, his voice full of disbelief and his blood freezing in his veins. But it was him. It was Tobirama. He couldn't be wrong, not with this white hair and fair skin and reddish eyes. It was Tobirama and Madara felt his heart stop in his chest, his breathing hitched in his throat, his head felt strangely light for a moment, as he was staring at the reflection in the mirror in front of him and Madara was going to look behind him, to make sure this wasn't just a sick joke when a hand landed on his shoulder and had him jump in fear.

Izuna was smiling up at him, Ume in his arms but he quickly lost it when he noticed how pale Madara was and stepped closer, placed a hand on Madara's cheek.

“Madara ?” he called as softly as he could. “What is it ? What happened ?”

Madara took in a shuddering breath, trembling and almost choking on air but he did his best to hide his state from Ume, as he didn't want to scare the girl and he shook his head.

“N-nothing,” Madara stammered. “Go ahead, I'll be right back.”

It took Izuna all he had not to drag his brother with him but one glance at his daughter's worried look convinced him to follow Madara's demands. He wasn't going to let Madara in this state if it lasted but he couldn't say anything in front of Ume.

“Alright, honey,” Izuna forced a smile and kissed his girl's cheek. “Let's go find Mom and Usui and scare them too !”

Ume quickly nodded, even if she kept looking at her uncle and Madara waited for them to disappear behind a mirror to look up again. Slowly, he wiped the sweat from his hands on his trousers, forcing his breathing to calm down and he looked at the mirror again, the one he had seen Tobirama on but there was nothing. No reflection, no sign of a trick, not even a shadow. There was nothing at all and Madara shook his head. He probably was going crazy, if he started hallucinating images of Tobirama. He should get himself checked, if it happened again.

Madara shook his head again, to try and order his thoughts, he took his sweet time calming himself before he started walking again and found the exit quicker than he expected. He had used all his strength not to think about Tobirama. It really wasn't easy.

Izuna looked worried, when he caught sight of his brother but Madara forced a smile, to tell him he was fine, he thanked Toka when she held out a water bottle to him and he drank two mouthfuls of it before he asked the girls what they wanted to do next.

The next few hours were nice. Madara couldn't ignore his brother's concerned glances to him, couldn't ignore the way he was staying close, even if he never asked how he was or what happened. Madara appreciated this. At least, he kept telling himself, he hadn't ruined everyone's day and they did have quite some fun together. It would have been a shame if he hadn't come, Madara told himself as he was walking with Ume in his arms, toward a set of slides. Everything was fine and he was fine. He was only tired. That's why he thought the shadow in the mirror was Tobirama. It couldn't be Tobirama, after all. Tobirama was dead.

Madara nuzzled at Ume's hair at that, she tightened her grip around his neck and Madara closed his eyes, just for a second. It was hard, though. So hard and he missed him so much. Tobirama would have been so happy to be with them today. Maybe they could have taken the girls, just the two of them and spoiled them rotten for the afternoon, leaving Izuna and Toka to enjoy some quality time together. It would have been nice and Madara would have loved it.

Madara knelt, so he could set Ume back on her feet near the slides and the little girl hesitated. She was holding a strand of his hair in her little hand, as if she wanted him to stay around so Madara smiled up at her, encouraging her to talk and Ume's lower lip started to tremble.

“I'm so sorry uncle,” she whispered, on the verge of tears and Madara's eyes widened.

“What is it honey ?” he asked, almost panicked. “Why are you sorry ?”

“I'm sorry uncle Tobirama died.” Ume cried out. “I didn't want him to die.”

With that, she threw herself at his neck, crying loudly and Madara pinched his lips, hugging her with care and hoping his hands weren't trembling on her.

“I know sweetie,” Madara said, in his gentlest tone. “I know .. Thank you.”

Ume cried in his arms for a couple of minutes, under Izuna's and Toka's affected gazes, while Usui was hugging her mother's legs and hiding behind them. Then Ume pulled away, turned away and asked if she could ride the slides with Usui. Toka quickly lead her girls toward the slides, knowing Madara needed time alone now and Madara stood up slowly, a hand in front of his lips and tears in the eyes.

“Madara ..” Izuna started, grabbing his brother's sleeve. “I'm sorry, we .. We told them not to speak about ..”

“I-I need air ..” Madara hiccuped, walking away without waiting any longer.

Madara didn't know where he was heading to, blinded with the tears he didn't want to shed and Izuna on his heels but he soon found an isolated spot and Izuna pulled him into a tight embrace, letting him cry as much as he needed.

Madara hated himself for this. He hated to cry, where people could see him but he couldn't hold back the tears anymore. He had done his best, all day long, he had been able to suppress them for hours, even after he thought he had seen Tobirama in a reflection but this was too much. Having Ume tell him how sorry she was for Tobirama's death was above what he was able to handle right now and he wasn't nearly as strong enough to hold back. He couldn't and he wouldn't and at least, Izuna had understood that. Izuna was hugging him, without saying a thing and he was all the support he needed in such a situation.

Madara didn't know how long it lasted, how long they stayed there, holding each other in silence but it felt good to bury his face in the crook of his brother's neck and forget about the world around him. Izuna's hand was slowly rubbing his back, as he was trying to sooth his pain, just like he did last night, his other hand in his hair, holding him close and being so calm despite the situation, being so placid. Madara didn't know how Izuna was able to do that, Tobirama had been one of his closer friends, after all but he never dared to ask.

When Madara pulled away from the hug, he dried his eyes with the back of his hand, made sure to hide any trace of his crying, ready to face the girls again. He hoped Ume hadn't felt his distress and wouldn't feel bad for it. Madara never wanted his niece to feel bad like that and her tone had seemed so concerned despite the absolute innocence of her words.

“Don't ask me if I'm alright,” Madara warned when he noticed Izuna was about to talk.

“No,” Izuna smiled. “I was going to ask if you needed a tissue.” he added, holding out a pack of paper tissue to his brother.

Madara rolled his eyes, picking one and blowing his nose. “You actually planned that I was going to cry ?”

“Better safe than sorry,” Izuna answered in this fatherly tone Madara enjoyed to tease him about. “And let me remind you that I have two clumsy little girls and they love to get dirty.”

“I ..” Madara started but he stopped himself as he didn't know what to say.

“You can tell me anytime if you want me to drive you home.” Izuna nodded. “Actually, I am surprised you lasted this long without crying. I thought you'd be gone before noon.”

“I .. I don't want to ruin the fun,” Madara admitted, looking away. “And the girls look happy.”

“They are,” Izuna smiled, tilting his head to the side. “You have no idea how many times they asked for you.”

Madara cleared his throat, awkward now but Izuna didn't speak anymore. He didn't need to. Madara knew his brother and would thank him everyday for being so blunt with him. He needed it, he needed to be told these things directly. It might be harsh, sometimes and it might hurt him but Madara knew it was for the best.

They stayed there a couple of minutes more, as Madara was making sure he wasn't going to break down again. Until he nodded at Izuna and they slowly walked back toward the fair, Izuna's hand resting on his brother's shoulder. The crowd was slowly changing, from the families of the afternoon, to the teenagers and young adults that preferred to come in the evening, it was making the air less suffocating, as there were less people around them and it was good. He didn't know if he was going to have dinner with his brother and his family, he had leftovers of pizza waiting for him if he didn't and he'd probably spend some days locked in his house and phone turned off to recover from such a day.

He hadn't done anything remotely tiring since the funeral and he wasn't used to this anymore.

“What about you, sweet boys ?” someone called out for them in the ambient noise of the fair. “Wanna know about your future ? I can tell you !”

Madara looked around him, until Izuna showed him the most cliché fortune-teller he ever saw. It was an old woman, dressed in ragged dress and shawls, with gray hair and a hooked nose and missing teeth. She probably had a crystal ball in her tent and some mechanisms to make the table tremble and the lights flicker and she would tell them the most obvious predictions and charge them for it a huge amount of money.

“Come on,” Izuna chuckled. “Let's try ! It'll be fun.”

Madara rolled his eyes at his brother's enthusiasm, because Izuna always loved a good laugh but he let him drag him to the tent, following the odd woman inside. They were sat on wooden chairs, around a table, she sat in front of them.

“No crystal ball ?” Izuna gently mocked, as she held out her hands.

“We must form a circle,” the woman said, ignoring the teasing. “So I can dive into your timeline and see your future. Who's first ?”

Izuna immediately nodded at his brother, Madara rolled his eyes again. It was ridiculous but a little distraction from earlier wouldn't hurt. He was still feeling a little shaky from before, on his nerves and like Izuna said, it could become fun if she was a good actor. Funnier even, if she wasn't.

“Close your eyes,” the woman said, as Madara and Izuna were holding hands and forming the circle she had asked for. “Close your eyes, empty your mind and let me travel through your future.”

Beside him, Madara was able to hear Izuna snicker and he pinched his hand to try and make him stop. He then tried to do as she told him to, emptying his mind. Not that he believed in this kind of things, it really was the oldest con in the world, people pretending to read the future but the distraction would be nice and he was going to make Izuna pay for it anyways, since his brother dragged him here.

“I can see .. blurry images ..” the woman whispered after a minute of complete silence. “You will receive a good amount of money .. A heirloom, maybe ?”

Madara could practically feel Izuna roll his eyes next to him but he didn't answer, he pinched his lips together and tried to relax a little more. There was a soft scent of incense in the tent. Lavender, maybe ? It was a scent he knew from somewhere, something he was used to.

“There is a child,” she then added. “Running to you. A little boy.”

This time, Izuna laughed out loud. “Come on,” he sighed. “My brother's gay.”

“There is .. something else but I can't see clearly,” the fortune teller continued, ignoring Izuna's comment. Madara ignored him too. He was concentrating on the scent. It was like a word he had on the tip of his tongue but unable to say it. It was right there, like a distant memory so close and it was so frustrating not being able to put his finger on it. It wasn't lavender. It was something else. A flower. Roses ? no. Mimosas, maybe ?

“Lotus flowers,” the woman whispered and Madara opened his eyes, looked straight at hers.

Now, that was creepy. She wasn't able to read his thoughts, was she ? No. No, this wasn't possible. Not in the real world so maybe he was still sleeping, right now, under a tree with his nieces in his arms. Or maybe he hadn't heard his alarm go off in the morning and he was still asleep in his bed ?

Yet. Lotus flowers, she had said and Madara felt his throat tighten.

“So much pain,” she muttered, not blinking even once.

Madara looked around, almost desperately. Izuna seemed frozen on the spot, as if he was waiting for the next sentence to pull him out of this place, as he was seeing his brother's distress. But Madara looked around and saw no incense, no perfume burner. But the smell seemed so close, so intense.

“Lotus flowers,” she said again and Madara shook his head.

He knew what smelled like lotus flowers. Tobirama. It was Tobirama's fabric softener. But why would it smell like Tobirama's clothes in here ?

“He is calling,” the woman said and this time, Izuna glared at her, looking terribly offended, ready to call off her bullshit but Madara silenced him with one look.

“Tobirama is calling for you.” she precised in a hoarse voice, her eyes slowly rolling to the back of her head. “I can hear him. He's here, so close, so desperate to talk with you again.”

“Alright, the bullshit's over now,” Izuna said, this time, standing up and letting go of the mad woman's arm. She almost instantly grabbed Madara's other arm, leaned over the table toward him.

“He's calling for you,” she said again, her voice strangled in her throat. “Babe, he says. He's telling you to believe ..”

“What do I do ?” Madara asked, on the verge of crying.

“You let go of my brother you witch !” Izuna barked, ready to kick the woman in the face if he needed to but Madara glanced at him.

“No, Izuna, d-don't ..” he pleaded, shaking his head and Izuna stepped back. “Let me try, let me ..”

Madara then concentrated on the woman again, desperate. The smell was intoxicating, as if Tobirama was holding him, as if he was hugging him and he knew there were little chances this was happening, he knew the real world wasn't that ridiculous. But just for once, he wanted to believe. Because he missed his lover so much, because he couldn't live without him.

“Close your eyes, he says.” the woman nodded at him. “Concentrate on him. Take a big breath, he'll drag you to him.”

Madara's breathing trembled in his chest, as he tried to do as she said, and he glanced one last time at Izuna, silently begging him not to intervene, before he closed his eyes and concentrated on Tobirama. It was stupid, oh so stupid and he was probably good for the hospital if this lead to nothing but he clenched his fingers on the woman's arms, bit his lip and whispered Tobirama's name.

Almost instantly, Madara felt himself fall backward. He didn't know how long the fall lasted, a second or an eternity maybe but when he opened his eyes again, he wasn't in the fortune-teller's tent anymore. It was white, all around them but not brightly so. Like a faded white. He didn't know what he was resting on, as the ground was blending with the rest of that space. And there were shadows. Madara didn't know if they were close or far. They all were the same size but some were darker than others. And they looked harmless.

Slowly, oh so slowly, Madara pushed on his hands to stand. The sensations were weird on his hands, as if he had been pushing on thin air and yet, he had been able to push himself like that. And he was feeling so light on his feet, weightless but there was some kind of gravity. His feet were resting on something, even if he couldn't see it, he wasn't floating.

There were other things he could feel, though. His heart beating in his chest, his quick breathing even if he didn't know if there was any air around him. The strange sensation in his guts and adrenaline burning his veins.

“Hi babe,” a voice he'd recognize among thousands spoke behind him. There was a smug undertone in that voice, one Madara had loved in the past, one he almost had a kink for but Madara couldn't move. Because this voice he hadn't heard for four months and he couldn't believe he was hearing it now.

“I've missed you.”

Madara's body was shaken by a sob and he didn't think much more when he turned around and threw himself in Tobirama's arms. He could touch him, at least, Madara thought as tears were running down his cheeks freely, he could touch him and feel him and it was proof enough that this was true, wasn't it ? It was the proof this wasn't just some dream or the result of being drugged.

Tobirama was warm. Warmer than Madara had imagined and he was holding him as tight as he could. Madara had wrapped his legs around his lover's hips, his arms around his neck and he didn't want to let go. He was never going to let go. Even if it meant crying on Tobirama's shoulder for an eternity and another one after.

Maybe it was exactly what happened. Madara didn't know. He had no idea of how time was passing, in this place, he didn't even know where he was. He didn't care, as long as Tobirama was with him. He didn't care, as long as he could stay. And Tobirama didn't seem to want to let go either, didn't seem to tire from holding him. It was good because Madara had no intention of standing on his own again.

“You cry so much,” Tobirama whispered next to his ear. “All the time. It's unbearable.”

It took Madara some time to process what Tobirama just said but he eventually pulled back, just enough to look at Tobirama's eyes and frown.

“Wait,” he muttered, not able to stop himself from sliding his hands into Tobirama's hair. “You … you can see me ? In the real world ?”

“Of course,” Tobirama answered with a similar frown. “How would I know if I couldn't ?”

“No, but .. you can .. You can see me ? All the time ?” Madara asked.

“I haven't left your side since the day I died,” Tobirama nodded. “Not once, not ever.”

Madara pulled Tobirama into a kiss. A needy, desperate kiss but Tobirama obliged happily, a smile on his lips. It was weird, at first, because Madara knew this was his dead lover and they were what .. ? Somewhere between Life and Death ? But he didn't care. He had Tobirama with him and he wasn't going to waste any second of it.

Could they have sex in here ?

Tobirama laughed, after a moment, because he knew what Madara wanted from the way he was kissing him and he look at his lover's eyes, shook his head.

“Would you actually have sex with me with all of them around us ?” he inquired, teasing. “I know you're a bit of an exhibitionist but isn't this too much ?”

Madara didn't understand what Tobirama meant, at first. Then he looked around, at the dozens of shadows surrounding them and frowned. “What are they ?”

“People like me,” Tobirama shrugged.

“But .. They don't have a face,” Madara pointed out. “They're just .. shadows.”

“They've been here for longer than I had.” Tobirama explained. “Their image have faded, but not their energy. Not yet, at least.”

“What even is this place ?” Madara then asked, focusing again on Tobirama and never looking away from his eyes, playing with his hair. “And how is it possible that I am here ?”

“It's .. hard to explain,” Tobirama stated, sitting down and keeping Madara in his arms. “I spoke with some of them and they said it's an Astral dimension, where spirits of the dead .. live when they can't let go of the world of the Living. One of them said it is because I was too attached to you that I ended up here, that I can't leave.”

Madara pulled Tobirama into another kiss, feeling so safe cradled in his arms and he let out a shuddering breath. “Am I dead ?”

“No, of course not,” Tobirama shook his head with confidence. “You live. Izuna would kill me again if I had done any harm to you.”

“He would,” Madara sighed. “So what ?”

“I don't know,” Tobirama admitted. “There's a link between us. Something strong, that keeps me here. It became stronger and stronger lately and .. When you started to talk with that seer, it wasn't just me walking the world of the living anymore. You .. kind of appeared here. And I was able to pull you to me.”

Madara stared up at Tobirama, as this didn't help much and Tobirama shrugged. “I'm not an expert of the world of the dead, you know ? I did what my instinct told me to do.”

There was a silence, as Tobirama was kissing Madara's forehead, his hold tightening around him. “Maybe I was able to pull your soul out of your body for a fraction of second ? Time is weird here. It doesn't .. really pass. We don't feel it unless we walk among the living, we never tire, we never need to sleep.”

It was only then that Madara noticed Tobirama's clothes. He was dressed exactly like the day he died and it fucked him up a little. He preferred to hide against Tobirama's neck rather than look down at him again but Tobirama didn't seem to care. He hugged him, holding his head against his shoulder and kissed his hair so many times, as he was trying to sooth him.

“I miss you so much,” Madara muttered against that shoulder, surrounded with the scent of lotus flowers and his fingers clenching on Tobirama's clothes.

“I know, babe,” Tobirama answered, his nose against his hair. “I-I couldn't .. I couldn't even look at you at first, because seeing you cry for me was breaking my heart.”

“Of course I am crying for you,” Madara said, rolling his eyes. “I'm .. I'm such a mess. I can't even .. I can't live without you.”

“Yes you can,” Tobirama sighed, running his hands into Madara's hair the softest he could. “It won't be easy and it's okay if you cry again. No one will ever blame you for crying.”

Madara took in a trembling breath, as he was trying hard not to cry again.

Part of him still couldn't believe what was happening. Tobirama had pulled him into this world, into this dimension. He had probably pulled his soul out of his body, so they could live this moment together, with the help of the fortune teller. Seer, Tobirama had said, if it changed anything and Madara wondered for a moment if she truly had that kind of gift or if Tobirama hadn't just been able to talk to him through her so he could pull that stunt. Madara decided it wasn't really important, how he did it. All that mattered for him was the two of them being together, the two of them being reunited and Madara had wished it so hard he wondered if there wasn't a God, somewhere, if he hadn't been offered such an opportunity because for the first time in his life, he had prayed for something like this to happen, he had prayed to see Tobirama again.

“There are things that I need to tell you,” Tobirama whispered after a moment, cutting Madara's train of thoughts. “You won't like them but they are important.”

Madara blinked, straightening his back to look at Tobirama's eyes, he placed his hand on his lover's cheek.

“I love you,” Madara whispered before Tobirama could continue.

Tobirama smiled, almost embarrassed with the blunt declaration, his cheeks turning red a little and he chuckled, looking away. “I know babe, I love you too, but ..”

“No, Tobi,” Madara interrupted, as his brows furrowed, concentrating hard not to cry. “I love you. I love you. Let me just say it,” he almost begged. “I love you.”

“I know, Madara,” Tobirama whispered, placing his forehead against Madara's and closing his eyes. “You don't have to .. I .. I know you love me.”

“I never said it nearly enough,” Madara muttered an explanation.

“You could have never said it,” Tobirama stated, a soft smile on his lips. “And I would have known anyways.”

“I love you,” Madara repeated again, tears running down his cheeks and shifting closer to kiss his lover. Tobirama didn't argue. He kissed back, holding him and smiling when Madara bit his lip.

“Listen, Madara, this is important ..” Tobirama mumbled against his lover's lips.

“I-I just ..” but Madara didn't finish what he was going to say and he settled against Tobirama again, hiding his face in the crook of his neck and closing his eyes.

At first, Tobirama looked down at Madara's trembling yet so calm form, and he cleared his throat. “The bank has tried to contact you and you have to go,” Tobirama explained, resuming his caresses on Madara's back. “I know it's not easy but .. There's an insurance. I took an insurance and you and Hashirama are the benefactors. It'll be .. quite an amount of money. Enough for you to live without working for years and ..”

“I don't want it,” Madara growled against Tobirama's neck.

“But, Mada, I did this for you and ..”

“I will not live with money earned over your death !” Madara shouted and looked up to glare at Tobirama. “I already am living on the money we saved and .. I-I ..”

“Do it for Hashirama, then,” Tobirama sighed. “Because Hashi won't receive anything if you don't accept it. You know how much he needs it.”

Guilt crept into Madara's flare of anger, as Tobirama spoke about Hashirama's problems. Hashirama had a gambling addiction for years and he had debts all around town. But it had stopped, when he met with Mito, his fiancee and he was working hard to repay it all but it wasn't enough, sometimes. Madara couldn't count how many time he lent money to his best friend so he could pay his rent or his bills. And he had been suspicious, at first, constantly asking himself if Hashirama wasn't playing that money he was giving to him in casinos but Hashirama had proven more than once that he didn't. Hashirama had stopped it all and he was merely trying to rebuild himself, with the help of his fiancee, his best friend and, until four months ago, his brother.

And Hashirama did deserve this money. He learned his lesson well, he wasn't going to bet any cent anymore, not in this life, nor the next. And despite how much he worked to pay back his debts, he had come to Madara on the little free time he had to help him, bringing him food and comfort the best he could.

Hashirama had been such a good support, for all this time and Madara had no idea how he could do that. Hashirama had lost a brother, after all. And yet, it looked like he was doing so fine.

“Have you .. Have you followed him too ?” Madara quietly asked, his heart heavy in his chest.

“No. Not really,” Tobirama answered with a soft smile. “I know how Hashirama deal with mourning. It helps him to take care of you. But I was curious, sometimes, while he was at home with you and .. He cries when you can't see. Especially when he dusts the picture frames in the living room.”

“I don't think I ever asked him how he felt,” Madara muttered, feeling bad now. “I just .. I'm a bad friend, aren't I ? He's your brother and I never ..”

“Oh please, babe, you know him. He'd rather force a smile and say he's fine than show you how he feels.” Tobirama laughed. “Don't worry about him. Just .. hug him more. You know how he loves a good hug.”

“He smells too much like you,” Madara admitted, his throat tightening.

Tobirama sighed, pushing Madara's hair away from his face and he smiled. “Then close your eyes and pretend he's me, even if for a second.”

Madara grimaced, not wanting to smile at Tobirama's words and he bit his lip. “Idiot,” he groaned. It earned him a laughter from Tobirama, who kissed his forehead.

“The house will be .. well, ours,” Tobirama continued with the things he had to say. “You only have to sign the papers, they're in my drawer of the desk. I had an official take care of it, you'll only have to send them to the address noted on the post-it.”

“Tobi, I can't ..” Madara started but Tobirama interrupted him with just a raised eyebrow.

“You keep saying you don't want to leave the house,” he pointed out, amused. “You won't even accept to spend some days at your brother's place and now you tell me you can't sign a damn paper to actually become the co-owner of our house ?”

Madara rolled his eyes but he didn't argue, this time. Tobirama was right, he didn't want to leave that house. The memories hurt and were suffocating, sometimes but it would pass, eventually. He was going to learn how to live with them and how to smile, rather than cry at them. There was no way in hell he was going to leave that place or even sell it to some stranger. Hashirama wouldn't allow him to anyways.

“And, lastly, you'll find a little box among my socks,” Tobirama smiled. “I won't leave the surprise to you because it has been so frustrating for me to watch you walk by it every time you step in the dressing, not knowing it's here.” he admitted. “It is a ring. For you. It should be the right size, even now you lost weight and you might not want to wear it but ..”

“I'll wear it,” Madara whispered, a wide smile on the lips despite the fact he was crying again. “Of course I'll wear it, you idiot.”

“Then pretend I knelt when I gave it to you because it's what I had planned. I just .. couldn't find the right moment,” Tobirama sighed. “I've had it for weeks and you had no idea.”

“That's because I was planning to buy one for you.” Madara admitted, rolling his eyes. “I even saved some links in a hidden folder on my computer.”

Tobirama's smile transformed into a touched expression, he kissed Madara's forehead with gentleness and sighed. “When you're back home,” he whispered, “Show them to me. I'll tell you which one to buy.”

“And how are you going to do that ?” Madara asked, raising an eyebrow. “Are you going to pull me here again ?”

“I'll .. make sure you feel me. Like earlier, after you refused to go on the Ferris wheel,” Tobirama explained.

“Wait, that was you ?” Madara asked in disbelief.

Tobirama nodded, pinching his lips. “I can … I don't know how to explain it. But if I concentrate enough when I try to touch you, you seem to feel it. It takes a lot of energy though, so I can't do it often.”

“What about the mirror ?” Madara asked after a pause. “Did I .. hallucinate or .. ?”

“I was confused with it too,” Tobirama said. “I can't be sure but maybe, the mirrors' Droste effect was able to .. catch a fleeting image of me.”

Madara nodded, wiping his cheeks, annoyed and he cleared his throat. “What would I do with the ring though ?”

“Buy a chain, wear it next your heart,” Tobirama offered with a crooked smile. “And don't tell me I'm too romantic.”

“You are, though,” Madara said, rolling his eyes. But it was exactly what he was going to do. Wear the ring he could have bought to his lover as a necklace, as a shackle binding him to Tobirama forever.

“You have to do something else for me, though,” Tobirama whispered after a pause. “Eat more.”

“I'm not .. I'm not hungry, most of the time,” Madara admitted. “Food tastes like ashes.”

“Because you only eat disgusting things. Treat yourself,” Tobirama sighed, rubbing Madara's cheek with his thumb as he was holding his head. “Go the restaurants, order some nice food. Take Hashi with you. It'll make him happy.”

“I ..” Madara muttered, only to be interrupted.

“You lost too much weight already.” Tobirama sighed. “I know it isn't easy. I know, Madara. But it pains me to see you in such a state. I don't mind the lack of showers and days crying in our bed. But you have to eat more and better, okay ?”

Madara closed his eyes, as he breathed in and he nodded. He couldn't upset his lover like that. Tobirama was a cook, after all, a good one even and Madara could believe without trouble that seeing him eating junk food hurt him. Tobirama always had been eager to see everyone around him eat properly. Especially Izuna's girls.

“They miss you. The twins,” Madara precised when he noticed Tobirama's gaze on him. “Izuna and Toka too. They all miss you.”

“I miss them too,” Tobirama offered with a soft smile. “And I am jealous I couldn't come with you today. You should have heard me last night, when Izuna offered you to go with them. I was shouting at you to accept.”

“You must be shouting so much ..” Madara sighed, thankful to be able to switch subjects.

“I comment a lot,” Tobirama admitted. “And I talk to you a lot too. Not being able to touch you or hug you when you need it is the worst but sometimes, it feels like you hear me.”

“I don't,” Madara whispered, looking up.

“It's okay,” Tobirama smiled, caressing Madara's cheek. “It won't stop me from doing it. Especially now you know I'm here with you.”

They kissed. Madara had to kneel over Tobirama's lap, holding his neck and his hair tightly to make sure the other wasn't going to pull back but Tobirama was pleased to answer to that kiss, to deepen it when he felt Madara needed to. There was such passion and need in this kiss, such feelings Madara was pouring into it and Tobirama waited until Madara was done and satisfied, to look at his eyes and force a sorry smile.

“It's hard, babe,” he started to explain. “So hard to be there, right next to you and not being able to do anything ..”

Madara blinked, as he noticed the pain in Tobirama's voice, he looked up at him and furrowed his brow when he saw the tears in Tobirama's eyes.

“I panicked so much when I saw you running to the accident, I didn't want you to see me like that.” Tobirama forced a smile but it was obvious he wasn't far from crying now.

“Did .. Did it hurt ?” Madara asked, even if he didn't really want to know.

“No.” Tobirama sighed, wiping his eyes and looking away. “I didn't see it coming. My neck broke when the car hit mine and it took me a couple of seconds to realize my soul had left my body. I really understood I was dead when I saw you.”

Madara sighed, because he couldn't do anything else. There was nothing left to say, after this, Tobirama had been around him all this time and Madara hadn't known. How could he have known anyways ? In his world, ghosts didn't exist and Tobirama was one. Or something close to a ghost. Madara didn't know. There probably wasn't even a name for this thing they were living, the two of them and Madara wondered if anyone would believe him were he to talk about it. Izuna would, without doubt. Izuna trusting his words and he would believe him if Madara told him he had met with his dead lover.

Hashirama wouldn't. Not because he didn't trust his best friend, but his pain was still so real and he would be too harsh for him to hear that Tobirama was able to follow them, to watch over them. It would hurt him too much.

Madara settled against his man more comfortably, as he decided to stay there and not talk for a moment. Talking was optional now, he had told Tobirama he loved him, he had told him more than he ever did since the day they started to come out as a couple and he'd say it again later if he had to or felt like it. But feeling Tobirama holding him, feeling his arms all around him and his warmth and his presence was more than he could have prayed for. He knew this couldn't last, he knew he was going to have to go back at some point but he didn't want to. He wished he could stay there, with Tobirama, stay with him forever.

He had contemplated to kill himself, several times, just to be reunited with the man he loved but Madara knew Tobirama would hate him for this. He knew Tobirama would never talk to him if he ever did anything like that.

“Will .. I ever see you again, after today ?” Madara still asked after some time.

“I doubt it,” Tobirama sighed. “Pulling you here was possible thanks to the seer, she acted as a bridge between worlds. But it took me a lot of energy. And it was hazardous.”

It made Madara hold onto Tobirama even harder. If this was their only chance, if this was their only moment until his own death, Madara wanted it to last an eternity. He didn't know how much time would pass in real life, he didn't know if he was going to remember any second of it but he hoped he would. He'd hate himself if he wasn't able to remember this.

Tobirama didn't mind hugging him all this time. He had placed his chin on his head, his hand slowly rubbing his arm and his eyes closed. They both had loved these moments of calm and peace while they had been living together, while they'd go to bed and cuddle or when they'd watch a movie together and just make the best of each other's presence and they didn't need more than that. They never needed more than that.

It was when Tobirama's fingers started to clench, when he started to grit his teeth that Madara looked up at him, worried. It was obvious that Tobirama was fighting something now, it had started a couple of seconds ago and Tobirama looked so focused. But before he could say anything, Tobirama was kissing him, deepening the kiss quickly, holding his head with firm hands and grabbing his hair in need.

“Tobi ?” Madara whispered against these lips he loved so much.

“You'll have to go soon.” Tobirama affirmed, pain in his tone. “Keeping you here burns a lot of energy.”

“I-I don't want to go ..” Madara croaked.

Tobirama smiled at that, he kissed his man again, caressing his hair to try and sooth him the best he could.

“I know but you have to. You .. you can't stay here, this isn't your world.” Tobirama reminded the other. “You have a whole life to live.”

But Madara was shaking his head, asking for another kiss, this one becoming more and more desperate as seconds ticked.

“Promise me to live your life, babe” Tobirama said, forcing a smile. “Promise me to enjoy your life.”

“How am I supposed to enjoy my life now that you're gone ?” Madara questioned, almost angry but it made Tobirama chuckle in between heavy breaths.

“Easy,” he nodded. “You find yourself a cute guy to fuck with and you fuck with him as much as you can while I watch you from here.” Tobirama instructed, muffling his snickering. “You know how grumpy you become when you don't fuck enough.”

Madara blinked, almost surprised with what Tobirama just said but he couldn't hold back when he choked on his own laugh and he clasped his hands on his mouth but it already was too late, Tobirama heard it. It was the first time he was actively laughing, since the accident. It had taken him two months to smile again, one night Hashirama visited him and made a fool of himself. Laughing was something else entirely. But here he was, his body shaken with his laughter.

Because Tobirama was so right about this and the thought of finding himself a “boy” was quite uncomfortable yet amusing, knowing Tobirama was going to watch. He always knew Tobirama had quite a voyeur kink and he was a complete exhibitionist. Maybe this could work ? With lots of time and if he found the right person ?

Not that he ever imagined having sex with anyone else but Tobirama. Madara wasn't sure he'd do it at all, still too deep in his mourning to think of something as trivial as sex but having Tobirama's permission was something he never imagined he'd have.

“I'm not kidding, babe,” Tobirama smiled, when Madara's laughing died.

“Are you serious ? I could never cheat on you like that.” Madara pointed out.

“It's not cheating. I'm dead.” Tobirama reminded the other. “But you can .. enjoy spending time with someone else. I want you to be happy. And I know it'll never be the same but you have the right to feel good again. Even if it takes times, even if it takes years. You don't have to spend the rest of your life alone just because I died. Promise me you'll find a guy to fuck with, at least. You can do that for me ?”

Madara sighed, he closed his eyes, trying to appease the tremble in his breathing and he nodded. “I can try. Just .. Give me time.” Madara bargained with a soft smile.

“All the time in the world,” Tobirama nodded, kissing his forehead. “And adopt a cat, for God's sake !”

“But you're allergic,” Madara blinked, looking up.

“And I am dead,” Tobirama rolled his eyes. “Cat hair won't bother me from where I am. And accept living with Izuna for a moment, you have to get out of our place, you have to take care of yourself.”

“But ..” Madara tried to argue but Tobirama interrupted him.

“Two weeks.” He offered, raising his index. “You go there for two weeks, then you come back home. Think of the twins. They'll be so happy to have you around.”

Madara tried to think something to say but nothing came and he closed his lips, almost pouting because of his lack of reply. Tobirama used that time to kiss him again, holding on his cheeks, so gently, so lovingly that Madara melted under his touch and hugged him.

“I don't want to let go of you,” Madara whispered against Tobirama's ear. “I don't .. I don't want to live without you.”

“I know babe.” Tobirama smiled, hugging him, his lips brushing against the sensitive skin of Madara's neck. “But we have to. I am dead and it isn't right for you to be here.”

“Please,” Madara begged, biting hard on his lip so it'd stop tremble. “Please, Tobi, make it last longer.”

“I can't hold you here any longer. I don't want to fade and abandon you entirely,” Tobirama whispered. “Just close your eyes, let yourself fall back and don't forget, I'll always be there, looking after you.”

“I love you,” Madara said again, closing his eyes and his whole body shaking from his pain.

“We'll meet again, babe. We'll find each other again in our next life and I promise to grow old with you this time.” Tobirama smiled, caressing Madara's hair one last time.

Madara straightened himself, to look at Tobirama's eyes, he laughed when he noticed how they both were a mess of tears and puffy eyes and runny nose and he held on Tobirama's arms tightly.

“I love you babe,” Tobirama reminded and he snorted when he heard how his voice failed him. “I love you so much Madara.”

Madara's smile had never been bigger than the one he had on his lips on this moment and Tobirama gave him one last kiss before they both nodded at each other. Madara closed his eyes, new tears running down his cheeks, Tobirama wiped them with his thumbs and they slowly let go of each other. Of course, Madara grabbed his lover's hands one last time before he was able to open his fingers again and he felt himself fall back, into the void.

Just like before, his fall lasted for an unknown amount of time, he had no idea if it was short or not and it even became nauseous at some point but Madara breathed in deeply as he opened his eyes again, paralyzed on his seat, all of his muscles cramping for a second before he was able to relax. His vision blurred, as air burned his lungs, he felt the world spin around him and he eventually focused on his surroundings and slowly looked up at Izuna.

His brother was standing exactly where he had been, before Tobirama dragged him to his realm, the look of worry in his eyes almost making him feel guilty and Madara let go of the fortune-teller's arms quickly, as if he had burned himself.

“Tobirama says Hi,” she whispered, looking at Izuna. Then, she stood up, turned around and left, wobbly on her feet and looking as if this had been quite an effort for her too.

Madara was still concentrating on his breathing, trying hard to calm himself but it was going to take time. Adrenaline was controlling his body now, making him feel completely euphoric but he had a good reason to it. He could remember. He remembered it all and Madara gave a shaky giggle, he glanced at his brother, who was still dumbstruck by his side. His nerves seemed to be on fire, from the experience he just lived, his brain felt like it was going to melt, his limbs felt so heavy to him and yet so real now and Madara was in shock. A good sort of shock, if it even existed.

“What happened ?” Izuna asked slowly, stepping closer so he could kneel in front of Madara and hold his sweaty hands. “You looked like you fainted for a second. How .. How does she know about Tobirama ?”

“J-just give me a minute,” Madara asked and Izuna nodded, pulling his big brother into a tight hug and waiting patiently for Madara to calm down. Gaining the control of his body back took him some time, as Madara was trying to get used to all these sensations again. Izuna had said it lasted for a second here but it felt so much longer with Tobirama. Maybe he did live for an eternity with him, as they embraced each other, maybe it was why his body felt so foreign but Madara didn't regret that kind of aftermaths. He was too happy he had been able to talk with Tobirama one last time.

Izuna and him left the tent after a couple of minutes, when Madara was sure he could handle it, when he was certain he could walk again and they started heading toward where Izuna's family should be. Madara didn't hesitate a second before he told Izuna exactly what had happened, giving him all the details and the sensations from his time with Tobirama and Izuna looked at him in disbelief, at first, it was normal after hearing his brother had met with his dead brother. But he eventually nodded, a kind smile on the lips and Izuna told him how happy he was to see him smile that much.

Ume threw herself in her uncle's arms as soon as she noticed him and Madara held her with care, closed his eyes when she hid her face against the crook of his neck and he sighed.

He was still shaky from what happened, shaky he met with Tobirama in that Astral dimension, shaky from having his dead boyfriend actually pull his soul out of his body for a meeting but he couldn't ignore how lighter his heart was, how subdued his pain was. Maybe it was meeting with Tobirama that helped, or the actual time he spent in Tobirama's arms, Madara didn't know but he didn't care either. Because he was going to do exactly what Tobirama had told him. If these were his last wishes, he couldn't go against them.

Madara was going to find that ring Tobirama bought for him and he was going to buy one for Tobirama, wear it as a pendant. He was going to eat more and better and invite Hashirama to dine with him in nice restaurants in town just because he could. He was going to go to the bank, reluctantly accept the money because Tobirama had done this for him and his brother. He was going to accept Izuna's invitation to live with him, because he needed it, he needed the support and to be away from the house for a moment. And he was going to try and live his live to its fullest because it was Tobirama's dearest wish.

Even if it meant fucking a cute boy, from times to times.

Usui asked to be carried by her uncle too and Izuna helped her climb Madara until she could rest against him. They all decided to wait for the fireworks, because the girls weren't sleepy yet and Madara smiled when the first bang echoed around them, startling the girls and he tried not to laugh when he saw, from the corner of his eyes, his brother lovingly kissing his wife.

And as he was looking up at the sky, illuminated in blue and red sparkles, a chill ran up his spine and he smiled, knowing Tobirama would always stand by his side.

It was the third time he was taking care of that leak and Tobirama had enough of it. Repairing it again and again was no use if they didn't get better equipment soon but the engineers of the fleet had better things to do, apparently, like taking care of the huge construction site on the Kyojin. They didn't care about the other ships of the fleet, they weren't their priority and Tobirama couldn't stop cursing at them.

“Stupid engineers,” he kept grumbling under his breath.

Still, he had good reasons to do so. He was only a mechanic, it was his job to repair his ship, Tobirama had nothing to say about this and he loved it. The main problem was that the fleet's policy was quite strict when they really shouldn't be this picky. He had repaired leaks for long enough and he had came up with a sort of glue, that they could be producing quickly and in large quantities if they used some of the ship's garbage. It would be perfect for this kind of leaks and it was frustrating to have it in his barracks and not be able to use it. Why ?

Because after centuries of blind navigation among the stars and after visiting dozens of planets to try and find one to colonize, these bureaucrats still wanted to follow to the point the stupid guide book the ship's builders left for them. A centuries old book, full of mistakes and outdated data that almost got the ship explode in the past ! Several times !

Tobirama probably hated bureaucrats as much as he hated engineers but engineers ! They all thought they were better than him because they became engineers and he was a simple mechanic ! Sure, they could come up with nice ideas for the future of the Human race but he could too.

And he, at least, was able to repair anything and everything on his ship while they'd freak out to see such a tiny leak in the main engine's cooling system.

“Engineers !” Tobirama cursed again, louder this time.

Repairing the leak took some more minutes, until it was perfectly done again, until the pressure in the pipes broke it again and Tobirama locked the hatch leading to the maintenance half level, he secured his tools on his magnetic belt and climbed down the maintenance ladder, pushed the button hiding it behind a panel to make sure the civilians wouldn't be able to use it.

However, as he turned around, he bumped into someone who seemed quite in a hurry, and he was going to apologized when he noticed the man was wearing the engineer's uniform. His apology got lost in a curse, then half a choke as the man looked up at him.

This man wasn't from his ship, Tobirama was sure of it. He had never seen him before but he was never going to be able to forget him. For his mass of black wild hair, mainly but also his amazing dark eyes glaring at him and his kind of chubby cheeks.

There was a pause, as they stared at each other and Tobirama frowned because of the strange sensation down his gut. There was something. Something strong and he was about to turn away, because he had other things to do when the man grabbed his wrist.

“You,” the stranger almost spat at him. “What's your name ?”

“Tobirama,” the mechanic answered, rolling his eyes. He didn't know why he was answering, but it felt only natural to do so, on the moment.

“My name is Madara,” the stranger introduced himself, no hint of politeness in his tone. “Room forty-two on level five, blue quarters. Pick me up at eight tonight.”

“Wha-what ?” Tobirama stuttered but the stranger, Madara, was gone before he could stop him, leaving Tobirama completely struck with the encounter.

What the hell was that ? Did this man just gave him a date ? For tonight ? After merely glancing at him ? Now that was something else, Tobirama thought, as he was shaking his head. He knew some people liked to be quick with their decisions but it wasn't his case. Then again, that Madara was cute. And he knew what he wanted. Tobirama loved a man who knew what he wanted.

Tobirama sighed, rolling his eyes. “Engineers.”