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Hashirama stopped once he was about two miles away from Madara’s chakra and let out another wheeze, leaning on his knees and collapsing against a tree. Okay, he told himself, feeling frantic, okay, that didn’t mean anything.

He was probably just surprised, he reasoned. It had hit him out of nowhere. It was because he’d seen Madara dancing so lasciviously and had it slapped in his face that his friend was, in fact, very beautiful, that seeing him do something out of the ordinary had startled him.

That’s probably what it is, he thought, taking deep breaths to calm down and placing a hand over his racing heart. His mind latched onto the logic, flimsy as it was.

Madara IS very handsome, he reasoned. Friends notice that sort of thing all the time.

It was completely normal.

It was then he realized that he had, in essence, just trekked out to Madara in the training grounds and instantly run away and probably made himself look like a weirdo. A depressed cloud crashed into him.

“He probably thinks I’m sick or something,” he mumbled to the ground. “Or a freak.”

Then he remembered he actually did have paperwork he needed to be doing, and going to see Madara had been his excuse to avoid doing it.

He groaned and reluctantly started back towards the village.


 

Madara hated going to the bathhouse when there was a crowd. The room got crowded, people had no concept of personal space, and he loathed to be so vulnerable around so many.

There was a hot spring open all through the night he frequented sometimes, located on the far side of the village near the Uchiha compound, and it was smaller than some but much more private at the times he went.

It was nearing one in the morning when he made his way there, an ache in his bones that came from sitting at a desk for five hours helping Hashirama do paperwork. The man was still acting weird, sending him stilted smiles and being oddly hyper-focused on his own work, and Madara caught him glancing at his hair- tied up with one of Miki’s silver hair ties ribbons- more than once.

He looked away whenever he realized he’d been caught and stammered something out about whatever report or form he was working on, anything to divert attention from his behavior.

Tobirama had been in the same room as them and he’d started twitching violently whenever it happened. Madara didn’t think Tobirama knew what was going on better than he did, but he still felt like he was missing out on something, that he was out of the loop.

(He was still waiting for Tobirama to complain about Madara invading their office, but it hadn’t happened yet. He was saving his most judgmental eyebrow for it.)

He stepped into the changing room. Steam from the spring was floating in through the doorway under the curtain, slowly dissipating as it spread further into the room. A shelf was built along the walls to hold patrons’ clothing.

From the other side of the room, Hikaku caught sight of him just as he was untying his robe and froze. “Madara-sama,” he greeted with a smile, and Madara could tell he was tense because he’d slowly dropped the -sama and transitioned to Madara-san and eventually just Madara as it became apparent that Madara wasn’t returning to his position and they became friendlier. “It’s nice to see you.”

He tightened the sash on his robe and smoothed the material out. Hikaku never fidgeted. “Weren’t you going to use the springs?” Madara asked, brow crinkling in confusion.

“Ah…I was, but I’ll let you enjoy them. It’s more enjoyable by yourself, yes?”

“I wouldn’t mind your presence,” Madara countered, befuddled.

“Well, I prefer to bathe by myself anyway,” Hikaku told him, a bit more relaxed as he reached for his clothes with a smile sent his way. “Have a nice evening, Madara-san.”

Now he was fumbling around with his forms of address. Madara’s confusion reached a peak and made him just stand there with a puzzled expression on his face as Hikaku left, taking his clothes with him and exiting the room in his robe. What on earth was with people acting weird around him lately? He knew he hadn’t been the most socially adept in life and he’d spent years alone in a cave, but he wasn’t dumb. Maybe there was something in the air.


 

The weird behavior was spreading. Madara started to dread going out in public because no one seemed able to act normally.

A woman who ran a confectionary stall smiled at him as he turned onto a street and leaned halfway over her counter, hands folded together. “Good morning, Madara-sama! Would you like a sample?”

Madara hadn’t been expecting to be singled out. “That’s-”

“Here you are!” Not waiting for a confirmation, she reached out and tugged him in by his sleeve, depositing a melonpan on a paper napkin into his palm.

“Er…thank you…”

She beamed and waved at him as he walked away. She’d done this the week before too. Frankly, it was impossible to say no to her.

An elderly woman sweeping the area outside a flower shop looked up at him and smiled in greeting. There were still those who diverted their gaze when he looked in their direction, or simply refused to look at him at all, but more and more, he found people smiling at him whenever he walked through the village. It was unsettling. It was a little bit creepy. Had a contagion been set loose? Something hallucinogenic that sent the citizens into a dazed high?

A whisper to his right caught his attention. He was used to hearing whispers, but they were especially apparent now that he’d started to hear them less. A quick whap cut the speaker off.

Befuddled, he looked for the source and found two chuunin sulking at an outdoor table in front of a teahouse while a Senju woman stood over them like a reprimanding mother and glared them into submission. One of them was rubbing his head as if she’d cuffed him.

There had to be something in the air, Madara concluded. There had to be.


 

Mito didn’t regret her decision to stay. She knew having a taste of freedom would make going back to her father and marrying the man he chose for her all the more excruciating. That didn’t mean it wasn’t painful sometimes.

None of the other Uzumaki had elected to stay, lest it look like they were taking her “side” and going against their clan head. Some of them would probably migrate at a later date, but they didn’t dare during such an incident or it would look untoward. Mito was left alone in a village in which she only knew two people.

She had some money to her name, of course, a sizable amount compared to what many came to Konoha with, and a few possessions she didn’t care about that she sold off. It was enough to attain a house near the Senju compound (though it was less a compound, she thought, and more ‘the Senju area of town’) and her skill as a seamstress quickly brought in a steady income in a village full of shinobi who were constantly tearing their clothes. She was just as capable a kunoichi as anyone- rather powerful, in fact- but she’d always been a homebody; she preferred to stay in her village to protect it than go on missions.

All in all, it wasn’t anything physical causing her problems. It was that every time she walked through the village, even though she received amicable smiles, she knew people whispered behind her back. Especially since she’d started spending time at Madara’s, uncaring of what anyone thought. Some of the whispers weren’t even about her and how she’d rebelled against her father and societal norms; some of them were simply about the fact that she was with ‘that man.’ It was no secret that Madara was her only public friend. (They were rarer, but some whispered that they had a thing, despite Mito confirming that she had a female lover.)

It wasn’t an unbearable life; she wasn’t a village pariah and she was happy enough most of the time. She was simply lonely and sometimes, it started to bother her.

Someone cleared their throat above her. Mito had been sitting on one of the benches in the square outside the Hokage Tower, absentmindedly fanning herself as she stared at the excited children running about who’d been let out of the Academy for the day. She looked up and found Toka standing before her, looking nervous, wearing full armor and holding a bouquet.

“Mito,” she greeted, trying to stay composed even as a bead of sweat slid down her brow.

“Toka? What are you…”

Their relationship wasn’t public- not yet. They’d traded murmured sentiments and fond looks in private and held hands under the cover of night and they’d even kissed, the day before, Mito having to stand on her toes as far as she could reach and even then Toka had to lean down.

“These are…er…for you. I came to…to formally ask that…you allow me to court you,” Toka said with a blush so red she looked like she had a fever.

In the back of her mind Mito remembered to cover her mouth with her fan so she wouldn’t rudely gape. She held her breath subconsciously, realizing what Toka was doing, publicly declaring herself as Mito’s lover, sharing the weight of the stares with her, telling Mito that she was in it for the long haul, that yes, someday she would be overjoyed to marry her. Even people around them had started to gawk and whisper.

“I…I- y-yes, of course I accept!” she stuttered, trying not to let her voice squeak. That hadn’t happened since she was sixteen. She stood up a little too quickly and closed her fan, clutching it with shivering hands.

Toka looked relieved and delighted at the same time. “Ah…that’s, um, that’s good.” She covered her mouth with a closed fist and cleared her throat, holding out the bouquet.

Mito took it with a pink face that only grew redder when Toka grasped her hand and leaned down to kiss her knuckles.

“Would you like to…take a walk with me?”

“Yes!” Mito burst out, growing abashed at her own enthusiasm. “I mean…yes.”

Miki watched the two blushing women walk away together hand-in-hand from behind a table. She’d crouched down behind it and stared at them with wide eyes over the rim, having been clinging to the napkin she’d been using but now holding two torn pieces due to how much her hands had shook.

I can’t believe it…in public too! she thought, flushing beet red. She knew Mito was brave, but that was…really really brave. She couldn’t think of how to describe it.

Mito-san likes girls…and Toka-san does too…they like each other… Her blush intensified the longer she sat there. If they could be so brave…

She looked away from the bench and her heart skipped a beat when she found a familiar face, so, so pretty, also staring in surprise at where Mito and Toka had been. Pretty blonde hair, pretty umber eyes, such a pretty voice she used to answer questions whenever civilians asked her for directions in the street.

“Ack, T-Tamaki-” Miki squeaked, collapsing to the ground to hide better and covering her eyes with her hands. She wanted to be brave. But how on earth could she get enough courage to ask Tamaki to go on a date with her?

The shopkeeper glanced down at her and sighed long-sufferingly. “I need to sweep there,” he said, gesturing with his broom. He pinched his nose as Miki shouted an apology and scrambled to get up and leave.


 

Madara was waiting. He’d been waiting for several days. He was starting to get tired of waiting.

He glared at Tobirama as the man sat at his desk, filling out deposit tickets for various bills to the Hokage’s office, looking for all intents and purposes like he didn’t even know Madara was there. The Uchiha himself was lurking (he may have been in full sight, but he still had a talent to simply lurk) by the window, leaning against the wall with folded arms. Hashirama wasn’t there; he’d gone out to get them lunch, naively thinking they’d be fine on their own.

The silence stretched on, filled only by the scratch of Tobirama’s quill against paper.

Madara twitched. “You know,” he began in a falsely conversational tone that grew more hostile as he went on. His lip curled into something like a snarl. “You can stop treating me as if I’m made of glass.”

Tobirama’s quill paused. “How do you mean?” he asked, so infuriatingly calm that Madara curled his hands into fists.

“You know exactly what I mean!” he snapped. Tobirama had hardly said two sentences to him since the incident, tolerating his presence in the office since he actually had a better work ethic towards paperwork than Hashirama and avoiding him when possible. “That had nothing to do with you, so stop acting as if I’m going to try to stab myself at the smallest provocation.”

Tobirama pressed his lips together and set the quill down, staring at him with something that wasn’t a glare but was nonetheless frustrated. “Nothing to do with me? You remember I was holding the sword you stabbed yourself with, correct?”

Madara made a noise of dismissal and gave him a withering look. “I’m not going to tell you about my issues,” he said, grating over the word with irritation. “Stop trying to ignore me for the sake of your brother. I don’t care if you hate me.”

The look on Tobirama’s face went a bit flatter. “Uchiha, contrary to what you may believe, I don’t hate you.”

“Hn. Don’t treat me as if I don’t have eyes, you nitwit.”

“Don’t treat me as if I’m so juvenile I would deny it if I did hate you,” Tobirama retorted with a scowl. “I don’t know where you got this idea-”

Madara threw his head back and pushed off the wall. “Hah! Where I got it? Don’t be purposefully ignorant.” Tobirama snapped his jaw shut and glared at him. “I noticed it when you glared at me whenever I was with Hashirama. I knew you didn’t like that we were friends. You expected me to make trouble.”

“Maybe so,” Tobirama snapped back. “I do not like you, and I was suspicious of you. That does not mean I hate you. I have been trying to avoid arguments with you for the sake of this village and Hashirama. What disagreements we have personally should be stowed if we’re to work together.”

“Work together? Work together?” Unbidden, years of frustration and anger rose to the surface. Madara lost control of what words came out of his mouth in the face of the chance to finally scream his irritations. “I’ve done nothing to hurt this village or you since we started. How am I supposed to work with someone who does nothing but expect the worst of me?” he yelled, Sharingan springing to life in his eyes. The notion seemed to startle Tobirama, as he looked at him with a slack expression and opened his mouth to say something but didn’t start. “What right do you have to treat the Uchiha as if they’re more worthy of suspicion than the Senju? You know nothing of their dreams, of their feelings, of how badly they want this. If you want to work together then start with yourself,” he finished, words coming out as a hiss.

Tobirama stared at him without saying anything, feeling a little bit unsettled. His first gut instinct was anger, burning white hot in the back of his head, but he’d learned long ago not to listen to kneejerk reactions. His mind separated itself from the feeling as he stared at the man in front of him, breathing heavily and glaring at him, obviously governed by emotions Tobirama wasn’t understanding.

Hashirama sometimes told him, when Tobirama chastised him about wearing his heart on his sleeve, that he relied too much on logic and rationality. Tobirama had considered the Uchiha from a logical standpoint; of what benefits and possible dangers they presented to the village. Hashirama had accepted their alliance with hardly any question, overjoyed at its existence, and Tobirama had told him he wasn’t suspicious enough. They’d been betrayed by alliances before and a hearty amount of wariness was never a bad thing.

Perhaps they were both- not quite wrong- but not quite right. If even Madara thought he wasn’t considering his feelings, that should’ve been a red flag. Madara was hardly known for being adept at his own emotions.

The man was hard to work with, irritable, and prickly like a porcupine that only Hashirama was skilled enough to handle, but maybe, Tobirama considered, he’d come at this problem from the wrong direction.

He still needed to watch the Uchiha, like any other clan, like all their clans, because a group mentality often won out in the face of the need of the common citizen, but if his line of attack in dealing with issues were only alienating people more, maybe some of Hashirama’s approach was more necessary. He was most often the one tempering his brother’s actions with reason but he hadn’t considered that perhaps Hashirama would temper his as well.

(He shouldn’t have been surprised. They’d needed each other in ways Itama and Kawarama hadn’t.)

It stung his pride a bit, but if it came to it, he would have to be humble enough to be the one to offer an olive branch when another was held back by convention or hubris. The end result was the only thing that mattered.

“You have a point,” he admitted, watching Madara’s face freeze and fall into a confused frown. “I won’t apologize for being wary of you. Not being so of new allies only gets you a quick death. However, I do see now that you care about the village. I recognize that you wouldn’t purposefully do anything to hurt it, or my brother. You would have done so already if that were the case.”

Madara didn’t say anything for a moment, considering him with a weary glower. “…fine,” he said at last, a bit imperiously, looking down his nose at him. “Then stop acting like a fucking weirdo. Everyone else in this village is already doing it enough.”

Tobirama had no clue what he meant by that. He squinted at him. “I’m willing to attempt to put aside our differences for the sake of the village and my brother. Are you?”

“Tch! Didn’t I basically say that?” Madara retaliated with an annoyed wave of his hand, and Tobirama twitched, because no, he most definitely hadn’t, and he wasn’t fluent in Madara’s doublespeak.

He likes to make things difficult, Tobirama thought with a twitch. “As I said,” he went on through gritted teeth, making Madara stare sourly back, “We should put aside our differences. I doubt we’ll ever get along, but for any…behavior, of mine, that seemed inimical, I apologize.”

He’d been expecting Madara to make any apology unbearably irritating by mocking him, but it threw the Uchiha off and he stared down at him in surprise. “Oh. Well. Uh…” He looked away, frowning at the wall, and his mouth opened and closed a few times. He looked like he was struggling to make himself speak.

Just get it over with for Hashirama, his mind told him. It doesn’t even matter in the end.

“I…apologize…for being…rancorous,” he mumbled. For some reason using words Izuna had often yelled at him over (Stop acting like you swallowed a dictionary and just say sorry for being a jerk, you asshole!) made it easier.

Tobirama blinked and stared at him. He blinked twice more, just to be sure Madara was still standing there and wasn’t a hallucination. He…apologized?

“Ah,” he replied.

They both sat there in awkward silence, neither of them looking at each other. It occurred to Tobirama this was the only real opportunity he might have to address the elephant in the room neither of them had spoken of since founding Konoha. Feeling hesitant, he glanced at Madara again, unsure of how to word what he wanted to say without setting the man off.

“There’s…” Madara’s eyes flicked over to him. Tobirama felt worse, suddenly. Was this contrition? Or just a want that things had turned out differently. “You’ve not mentioned- your brother-”

A switch flipped in the Uchiha. “You-” he interrupted Tobirama, nostrils flaring, eyes whirling in anger, “you do not-” He paused to hiss, stepping closer and glaring at Tobirama with such abhorrence that it made him freeze, made him wonder how he ever thought Madara was serious when he glared at Tobirama before because nothing compared to the look on his face now. “I’ve tried to ignore you, what you did, to tolerate you, to work with you, but you do not- you do not speak of him, understand? Do you understand me?”

Mutely, Tobirama nodded, too stunned to reply. Madara glared down at him like he was something gross he’d found on his sandal outside and whirled around, exiting the office in a blur of black and blue that left Tobirama sitting there, staring at the door, thinking that he’d just done the most unintelligent thing he could do and undone all the progress he’d made.


 

Madara regretted even bringing up Tobirama’s behavior because now he was utterly irritated. Why couldn’t the Senju have just let the conversation end there? Why did he have to bring up Izuna? About what happened to Izuna?

He couldn’t even manage to die and go back in time right, he thought. If only he’d waken up earlier…

In truth, he was frustrated because he knew that Izuna’s death was on him. Even when he’d paralyzed Tobirama with those black rods in the future, deep down, it had felt…empty.

The battle wouldn’t have even happened if Madara had made peace with the Senju sooner. Izuna wouldn’t have died if Madara had been able to protect him. He could have taken Hashirama’s hand right then, and his healing would have saved his brother.

Izuna would have been upset. Angry. In disbelief at the fact that his older brother would trust the Senju. Even if he were, at least he would have been alive.

Oh, he was angry at Tobirama. But even his anger at him felt empty. He felt empty.

God, did he feel empty.

“Madara?”

He glanced up, removing the hand he had over his face, and stared blankly at Hashirama as he walked towards where he sat on a park bench. He was frowning in concern, exercising his enraging ability to somehow sense whenever Madara was upset and conveniently show up.

Hashirama looked him over, as if checking to make sure he wasn’t wounded. When he’d seen Madara sitting there he’d been nervous, but when he realized something was the matter it had dissipated and given way to concern. “Are you all right?” he pressed.

Madara waved him off. “I’m fine. You’re a worrywart, Hashirama. As always.”

He didn’t deserve Hashirama and his worry.

A small, sad cloud rained over Hashirama’s head. “Can you blame me for worrying about you? You can talk to me, you know.”

“As you make clear every other day or so.”

The depression cloud got bigger. Hashirama slumped over and pouted. A tiny smirk appeared on Madara’s face.

Things were…better when Hashirama was around. He hadn’t realized it, but he needed to see Hashirama every day, or else the world started to feel as bitter and empty as it had when he first woke up. It was disgustingly codependent and clingy and he hated himself for it.

Even if he wanted to live his life the same way he had the first time, he…he didn’t think he could do it. He couldn’t bring himself to leave.

Even if he couldn’t forgive Tobirama, or stop being angry at him, he thought, he should try to become- apathetic, towards him. There was no way Madara was ever going to not have to deal with him- he was Hashirama’s brother- and he didn’t want to upset Hashirama. He didn’t need fondness- if he could just feel nothing- maybe the empty feeling in his gut would go away.

“Tch,” he muttered. “You still get depressed too easily.”

Hashirama glanced up at him and grinned sheepishly. “And your mug is still scary!” he said with a laugh, tossing his head back and guffawing. He sat down at Madara’s side and made something warm settle in his chest.

Everything was completely normal, Hashirama thought to himself. Sure, he’d been a bit abashed at his friend- that was normal- and uncertain- that was normal- but everything was- normal. They were having a conversation like any other day.

“You know,” he laughed, growing sheepish again, “they started carving my face in the mountain the other day!”

Madara cocked an eyebrow at him. “Oh? Now I get to see it every day and suffer. Wonderful.”

“It’s not that bad!”

“Are you sure you aren’t speaking from egomania?”

Hashirama pouted with a huff and turned away, crossing his arms. “You’ll see once it’s done! It’ll look better than the idea…”

Yes, he thought, everything was normal.


 

Madara stared. Tobirama stared back.

The Senju got to the office at the crack of dawn, so Madara was already blaming him for forcing him to get up so damned early to avoid Hashirama. He’d stepped into their office and stopped in the middle of the room, and Tobirama had looked up and sat there with his quill in hand not moving, and now they were staring at each other.

He decided that he was going to break the silence. “Tobirama,” he greeted as neutrally as he could. He told himself to get it over with already for Hashirama. “I’m-”

“Oh,” the Senju idiot interrupted him, eyebrows lowering judgmentally, “you hypocrite.”

Madara’s brow twitched. “Excuse me?” he growled.

“Hypocrite,” Tobirama repeated, as if he was hard of hearing.

“How the fuck am I a hypocrite?” Madara snapped, losing his temper again. “I came to- to-”

“Do exactly what you accused me of doing,” Tobirama told him, with some small amount of smugness that made him want to hiss. “You aren’t good at being neutral, Uchiha.”

That made Madara actually hiss. “You are infuriating,” he spat, moving closer and glowering down at him. “Do you not have an ounce of humility in your pathetic bones?”

“That’s rich coming from you,” Tobirama retorted, a mildly sour look on his face. “If you want to hate me, just do it. Don’t pretend for my brother’s sake. He’s not a child.”

“You aren’t even worthy of my hatred. And with the way you mother-hen Hashirama, I’m surprised he doesn’t act more like a child.”

“I do not mother-hen him-”

“You might as well start clucking like a chicken, Senju,” Madara spoke over him, smirking when Tobirama began to glare with a lividness that made a giddy feeling shoot through him. “Cluck, cluck.”

Tobirama slammed his quill down and pressed his palms against the table as he stood. “Do you have the maturity of a five-year-old?”

Madara bared his teeth at him. “You’re the one who’s immature if you can’t handle it.”

“If this is how you treat your allies, I realize fully now why the Uchiha were fighting with every single clan on this continent.”

Madara leaned closer, Sharingan whirling and speaking in a low hiss. Tobirama wasn’t intimidated. “Listen, you little brat-” He could think of no other word to describe the idiot right now.

Tobirama’s voice was indignant. “Brat? You’re hardly older than I am!”

More like several decades. “I have more life experience than you could fathom,” Madara said haughtily, tilting his chin up. “Brat,” he added on just to irritate him.

Tobirama’s eyebrow started twitching. He opened his mouth to angrily retaliate when a loud clap from the door made them both jump.

Madara whirled and found an Uchiha in the doorway. There was a pile of paperwork at his feet that he’d dropped. He had one hand over his heart, as if he’d witnessed something terrifying. “Oh, thank god,” he breathed, then turned tail and ran out the door.

What the hell? Madara stared after him for a moment. He turned to Tobirama and narrowed his eyes. “This isn’t over,” he warned, pointing in the man’s face before storming to the door. Tobirama glared at his back as he went.


 

Tobirama had noticed the Uchiha’s general distant behavior towards him. They weren’t rude, exactly, simply…avoiding him. He’d assumed it was because of rumors, or that Madara had told them something, or the fact that he had killed their clan head’s little brother. It wasn’t because he was a Senju; they were all friendly towards Hashirama- they actually weirdly liked Hashirama.

Then their behavior abruptly changed after his argument with Madara, and he was left confused.

They weren’t actively avoiding him anymore. They acted as if they had never even done it in the first place. He was treated like everyone else, with courtesy and general politeness; some even sent him amicable smiles or greeted him if they happened upon each other.

He got his answer to the question of What the hell was up with the Uchiha this time? when he went out to a teahouse by himself and sat at a small table near the back.

It was mid-afternoon, and a group of Uchiha came in through the door scuffed up and obviously looking for a break after training or a mission. A woman he didn’t know the name of but was obviously the leader of the group apologized to the woman behind the counter for getting dust on her floor and was waved off with a smile. They sat down near the front, but the place was small enough and empty enough that Tobirama could hear them despite them not being all that loud.

“You look like shit, Kotori,” one of the men snorted.

She sent him one of the most scathing stares he’d ever seen on a woman. “You look worse. Probably because you’re the weakest one here.”

The two other men and one woman with them snickered. He glared at the woman- Kotori- and pointed his chopsticks from a pack on the table at her. “There’s no saying I’m the weakest. We haven’t fought directly yet.”

She smirked at him. “Please, Dai, don’t delude yourself. We all know I would crush you with hardly a fight.”

“Like she did to Futoshi,” one of the other woman said with a taunting smirk, glancing at one of the men.

He glared right back. “Must you bring that up at every opportunity?”

“You got your ass handed to you. I’m never letting you forget.”

“Dickhead,” he spat out.

“Cunt,” she retorted with just as much vitriol. Tobirama stared and wondered if they were allies or bitter enemies.

The waitress set down a plate of tea and food. “Ooh, dango!” The other woman squealed, reaching for a piece. “I haven’t had some since last week. Futoshi, want to split it?”

“Hn,” the man replied, and reached for it when she held it out.

The realization rammed into Tobirama like an angry bull. Is that…is that their friendly banter? he thought, flabbergasted. He thought of how Madara always seemed to take enjoyment in goading him and the way he disparaged Hashirama constantly despite being his friend and the way that Mito woman seemed to have fun in taking him down a few verbal pegs whenever Tobirama saw the two together bickering. He’d assumed that Madara just didn’t like him when they founded the village. Is that just how they treat allies?

The world was upside down and five inches to the left. It was like he’d seen something he couldn’t un-see.

A doorbell above the door rung as a man stepped through. An instantaneous change took place- the Uchiha turned cold, distant, and closed-off, idly examining their food or nails as the jounin who’d stepped inside caught sight of them.

“Oh, Kotori,” he said with a smile that felt a little bit slimey. “Nice to see you here.”

“Hn,” the woman hummed noncommittally, twirling an empty dango stick. He stood there as if waiting for a response, so she turned and cast him a look as cold as ice. “Do you need something?” She paused, as if thinking. “Whatever your name was?”

The man’s smile became strained. “Nothing at all. I was…just leaving.”

He retreated to the door as the Uchiha gave him matching stares that were remarkably blank but somehow hostile.

“What a dick,” Dai muttered, looking like he meant it.

And then Tobirama realized: the frigidness between himself and Madara the last few weeks had been freaking them out. They’d probably assumed something vicious had happened between them. Given how protective they'd been acting of their former leader, he wasn't surprised that they'd been giving him wary glances. Now that they’d been seen fighting again, they most likely thought that they’d worked out whatever it was that was making them act with seeming coldness instead of constant frustration.

Madara hadn’t even acted like he disliked him after the village was formed, he realized, feeling like an idiot. He certainly had enough reason to, but for whatever reason, he’d either avoided Tobirama or acted (to anyone else who wasn’t an Uchiha) like Tobirama was an annoyance. But what did that even mean in Uchiha-speak?

He groaned and set a hand on his forehead. Why could Uchiha not make sense?

The world was upside down and five inches to the left.