It occurred to him the position he was in after he accidentally revealed himself to a visiting Uzumaki out of pure irritation. He found Mito outside her home arguing with a redheaded man wearing a headband with the mark of Uzushio carved into it, the both of them looking primly annoyed with their lips pressed harshly together and hands folded together beneath their sleeves all in a very pseudo polite manner.
“You’re not being sensible, cousin,” the man was going on, sounding a hair’s breadth from trying to shake sense into her. Madara would pay to see that. “Running off to this village on your own, taking a woman as a lover, hanging around with that man- he’s a bad influence. I cannot believe-”
Madara walked up to Mito’s door with a bland look on his face. The Uzumaki stopped and shot a glance at him. “And you are?” he asked through gritted teeth upon seeing Madara was just going to stand there, wanting to get back to his argument. He most likely didn’t recognize Madara due to him having tied up his hair with the lavender ribbon Miki had given him and wearing clothing a subdued shade of purple that Mito had foisted upon him. “You need more color,” she’d said.
“The bad influence, of course,” Madara said, smiling coquettishly. “It’s such a shame I couldn’t emit any of my attraction to men to her through diffusion, isn’t it?”
There was a sharp snap as Mito flipped open her fan to hide her face and let out a snort. Thrown off, the Uzumaki gaped at him for a moment, opening and closing his mouth before straightening and speaking stiffly through his teeth. “I will speak to you later, cousin.”
He turned and stomped off. Mito waited a moment before laughing and leaning against him as he smirked. “You’re horrible!”
That position, he realized, was one of a certain freedom.
“Hey, um, sensei, how do you…uh…”
He stared at Miki silently, expecting a question about jutsu or technique.
She fiddled with the handle on her katana and stared at the grass. “How do you…ask someone to…you know…”
He raised an eyebrow. “To what?”
Red bloomed on her face. “To go on a date!”
Madara froze. He hadn’t been prepared for a question about…romance. “Who do you want to go on a date with?” he asked out of reflex, dreading her answer as thoughts of her running about with Kami forbid a Hyuuga boy flitted through his brain. Or an Inuzuka. Or a-
“Um, well…” Growing pinker, she scuffed one heel on the ground and rubbed her neck. “There’s this…girl…”
Madara relaxed a fraction. Young girls were much more responsible than young boys.
“Her name is Tamaki,” Miki went on in a mumble. “She’s really pretty and strong and I really like her but every time I try to ask her I get too embarrassed.”
She hesitantly raised her eyes towards him, looking afraid to look him in the face; he realized what she was thinking with a small wince. “Ah. I don’t…have much advice for you,” he admitted.
“Do you like anyone, sensei?”
He twitched as a bead of sweat ran down his neck. “Perhaps. Though…he doesn’t feel the same.” He’d tried to get his point across casually, as if it weren’t a big deal.
Her eyes lit up. Some of the tension in her body relaxed. “O-oh! W-well that’s his loss, sensei, you’re a great catch!”
His eyebrow twitched again. What was that supposed to mean?
“Um…do you think I should ask Mito-san?”
Madara tried to ignore how uncomfortable this conversation was and nodded. “Probably so. Or Naori.”
She stopped, and her eyes went wide. “Naori-nee-san likes girls too?” she squeaked.
“Of course,” Madara replied, utterly confused. Naori had always liked women. He remembered when he was a teenager, when he and Izuna had spent time in her tent, sitting on her floor complaining about whatever random shit the Senju had done, while she read sat on her bed and read her “romance novels” she kept under lock with a smirk. She wasn’t exactly the most vocal about it, but there was a reason she had quietly avoided getting married and producing Uchiha children.
“Right. Um…can I leave early, sensei? I need to go…talk…to her.”
Madara nodded and waved a hand. She turned and sprinted out of the training ground, slinging the strap of her sword over her shoulder and disappearing into the trees.
That position, he realized, was in its own way, a privilege.
Naori and Miki were quiet about their inclinations. Miki had been nervous to tell even him. Anyone else who still relied on the clan was likely to be keeping their lips sealed in the meantime. Mito had been forced to give up everything she had to live as her true self, and people were even starting to give gawking glances to Toka, when no one was looking.
He, however, was used to being the subject of rumors and distrustful looks, even if the village seemed to be treating him differently now for whatever reason.
He was used to being on his own.
He was far too powerful for anyone who wanted to give him trouble over his orientation to dare.
There was no use keeping it a secret if it might make it easier for his
friends acquaintances later.
Madara only vaguely remembered the details of the battle that unfolded- from his first life, anyway. If he remembered correctly, news that Konoha had gathered so many clans hadn’t reached the northeast yet- it had all happened rather quickly- and three of the clans that had been enemies with the Uchiha and Senju banded together to try and wipe them and their fledgling village off the map once and for all.
They received word of it ahead of time from scouts returning from a mission; word of a large force gathering in the plains to the north. The intent was obvious.
Back in his armor for the first time in what felt like forever, Madara gave the Hokage standing on his left a smirk. “I thought Hokage-sama was meant to stay in the village, hmm?”
Hashirama gave him an exasperated stare. Now that Madara thought about it, this would be the first time they fought together in…a long time. “Be serious, Madara.”
“Oh, I will be. You have my solemn word.”
Hashirama turned away from him, but he knew the man was rolling his eyes. On his other side, Tobirama looked done with the both of them.
The morning air was crisp and cool; the grass underfoot was long and ripe for burning. There was open space around them that stretched for miles and not a soul in sight that wasn’t there for battle. Madara dared to say he felt excited.
Toka landed in a crouch in front of them. “They’ve rejected your offer, Hokage-sama,” she called out. A deep frown settled over Hashirama’s face.
Tobirama sighed. “I expected as much. You know the Hagane are unlikely to accept any peace agreement you put forth, anija.”
The Hokage sighed. “I know, but still…”
“Total annihilation?” Madara asked hopefully. Hashirama gave him a dry look.
“They approach,” a scout called from further ahead. “Hokage-sama, your orders?”
A sigh wracked Hashirama’s body. “Take prisoners if you can,” he called out, raising his voice to be heard by the Uchiha and Senju and various jounin from other clans behind him, “but protect the village at all costs.”
He was met with a series of affirmations. Madara folded his arms and watched the approaching horde with a smirk, looking altogether unconcerned. Hashirama shook his head at him.
The first to attack were, predictably, the enemy; earthen spikes broke through the ground and launched towards the center of their line.
Not willing to wait any longer, Madara propelled himself off the small precipice they stood upon and towards the fight. It was a shame there were so many allies around to hobble him. He could have taken this army out himself and really had fun.
He let loose a burst of chakra when he landed that sent everyone in a ten-foot radius flying back with startled shouts. Grinning, he swung his gunbai wide and unleashed a torrent of wind chakra that mowed down the twenty people in front of him before Konoha shinobi started to flood the field and limit his area of attack.
“Leave some for the rest of us, Madara,” Tobirama called over to him sarcastically. A kunai sailed into a downed, wriggling body, making it go still, and the man himself appeared a moment later, giving Madara a flat stare.
He grinned back. “Then keep up.” He took out his sword and stowed his gunbai on his back. “Brat.”
Tobirama glared at him. They went in opposite directions towards different ends of the battlefield.
“Where’s Madara?” Hashirama asked after he’d disposed of another group of ten with a smaller version of his wooden dragon. He was satisfied to say that they’d been weathering their first defense with not a single casualty. Well, on their side.
“Over…” Tobirama, having gone back-to-back with him, twisted around to point with the end of his sword. He pointed out Madara among a sea of enemies across the field, cackling wildly as bloodcurdling screams filled the air around him. “…there.”
“Ah. He’s…having fun.”
“Sometimes I wonder about him, anija,” Tobirama sighed, turning back around. “And you.”
Madara was having a jolly time mowing down shinobi from the Hagane and the Isawabi- he wasn’t sure what the other one was, since he didn’t recognize their clan emblem- when he felt a killing intent focused on him. That wasn’t altogether surprising- he was rather infamous even now, and plenty of the enemies probably held at least a small amount of vitriol for him even if just for the fact he was an Uchiha- but this one had a more personal tinge to it, like the bearer viscerally loathed him.
Interested, he dropped the man he’d been choking and turned towards the source. Dead bodies littered with kunai and wounds decorated the landscape around him even as the opposing force began to be crushed by the Konoha shinobi.
Among a group that hadn’t yet fallen, a blond man with milky pale skin clutched a sword tight in his grasp and glared at him. Madara spurred himself forward, amused when the shinobi sprinted towards him in reply, weaving signs as he did.
Their blades clashed together and sent sparks flying. Entertained by the glower on the other man’s face, Madara looked him in the eye, having deactivated his Sharingan almost ten minutes ago for lack of need.
The man gritted his teeth.
And then his eyes bloomed with the color of blood and the world flipped out from underfoot.
Madara could hardly tell what happened. One moment he stood there taunting the enemy with a smirk, the next he was cave red hair white Nagato purple rings meant power meant destruction meant power-
He ripped himself away with a gasp, using his own dojutsu to break himself out of- whatever illusion the man had used, and brought his Susanoo to life with a jerk, shoving the shinobi away with one armored arm and falling to a knee when the safety of his chakra was around him. He held onto his left eye- the one that man had looked into- gasping for breath and trying to quell the sudden quake that ran through his body.
What was that?
It was like a rush of his worst memories slammed through the forefront of his mind with no control over them. He felt as if he was watching someone else’s life. All he could feel was the darkness of that cave around him and the blood on the ground as a girl bled out and the tears of his own blood pumping in his chest. He set his other palm against the ground to steady himself.
When had he started manipulating children to save them?
A roar startled him as a wooden dragon much larger than the others Hashirama had been using darted through the air, coiling around his partially-formed Susanoo and leaving an opening on the side facing the Konoha shinobi. The man himself landed on the ground and stopped outside the border of his chakra, staring at him with an almost panicked look on his face. “Madara, release your Susanoo!”
What? Dazed, Madara looked up, briefly removing his hand from his eye. It came away stained with blood. He stared at it in shock. Why am I bleeding?
Hashirama frowned as the chakra in front of him wavered and listed back and forth. Glancing at the still immobile Madara, he cautiously stepped forward and reached out with one hand. It sunk through the outer layer of the construct with no issue.
He dashed forward without anymore hesitation and skidded into a crouch at Madara’s side. “What happened?” he demanded, looking him over. “Where are you hurt?”
Madara startled as if he hadn’t known he was there. That was concerning enough on its own, but the far-off look on his face when he looked up at Hashirama made his heart seize. “N…nothing. I’m fine.”
He winced as soon as he said it, reaching for his eye again. Hashirama wrapped a hand around his wrist and held it still, placing a glowing green palm over the eye in question. It was red and enflamed, bleeding as if something had irritated it, but that hadn’t happened since before Madara took Izuna’s eyes.
Madara jumped when Hashirama grabbed onto him and came back to himself. He took a deep breath- remembering that they were on a battlefield and it wasn’t smart to dawdle as he was even if he was practically untouchable- and went rigid when he realized how close Hashirama was. He was practically breathing down Madara’s neck, focused so heavily on healing his eye that he didn’t notice the reddening of his face.
As soon as the glow started to fade, Madara tugged himself away, turning his face towards the other end of the battlefield. “That’s good enough, isn’t it?”
Hashirama frowned up at him as he stood and, for some reason, felt reluctant to let go. He opened his hand and let Madara’s wrist drift out of his grip. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
They both turned, vaguely surprised, and saw an Uchiha knocking on the Susanoo’s ribcage. Madara’s face went even redder when he realized how they must have looked.
“There’s, uh…still a battle going on out here, if you’re ready…”
“Of course! I’m terribly sorry, we- why aren’t you coming inside?” Hashirama derailed himself, looking helplessly confused.
The Uchiha’s expression went slightly flat. “You can’t enter another’s Susanoo without permission, sir.” He said it as if Hashirama should have known this.
“Hn. Tha- wait, how are you in here?” Madara started, turning to demand an answer of the Hokage with an accusative frown. He looked him up and down as if he’d somehow broken through.
“Because it just…let me?” Hashirama tried, looking like he knew the answer no better than him.
Madara froze, realizing his subconscious must have let Hashirama in, and huffed. “It doesn’t matter,” he snapped, letting his Susanoo dissipate. He strode towards the opening in the wood. “Stand around and gawk after the enemy is dealt with.”
Hashirama stared at his back for a moment, feeling as if he were missing something, before following him. He would deal with Madara’s strange behavior later, he thought; there were other matters to attend to at the moment.
Madara went to leap to another part of the fields when a hand caught his elbow, jerking him to a stop. “No running off,” Hashirama scolded him. “You stay at my side.”
Madara stared at him, too thrown off to argue. He swallowed and averted his eyes. Hashirama really had no idea how he looked when he was authoritative. “Fine,” he muttered.
The ground rocked as if something heavy had slammed into it. “One of them has a summon!” an Inuzuka yelled from down the line. “Someone bring something big!”
“I’m coming!” Hashirama yelled back, giving him a pointed glance. Madara resisted the urge to roll his eyes- he wasn’t five- and kept to his side as they burst into a sprint.
The enemy’s “summon” turned out to be a gigantic sixteen-legged salamander that was, frankly, creepy to look at. Madara stood staring at it in morbid fascination for a minute before stumbling half a step as the ground shifted underfoot and broke as wood rose into the air. He quickly got his feet back under him and watched as a wood golem arose from the cracked ground below, leaving them on its head as it loomed over the rest of the battlefield.
He cut a glance at Hashirama, who stood with his hands folded together. He didn’t know if they’d ever ridden one of his behemoths at the same time. The last time he’d seen it had been when it had been trying to clobber him instead.
The salamander rose up on four sets of feet and aimed a burst of chakra from its mouth at the wooden dragon wrapped around the golem’s chest. Madara was, of course, content with watching Hashirama bulldoze the thing (all right, so what if it was a little bit amusing?) and knew the golem was capable of combating a tailed beast, let alone a random boss summon, but reacted on instinct and curled his Susanoo around the wood before the energy hit. It clashed with the armor on it before bouncing off and diverting to the ground.
Hashirama’s stunned voice brought his attention back to his friend. He was staring at him as if he’d grown another head. “What?” Madara asked, befuddled. Hashirama continued to stare. “What?”
The wind from the blast caused the Shodaime’s hair to wave in the air behind him, hands still clasped together as he stared at Madara with wide eyes and a shell-shocked look on his face. Madara tensed, still not understanding what he’d done to cause it, and started to flush. The man looked utterly windblown.
Madara frowned and glanced at his Susanoo, still uncomprehending. It was then he realized that he’d encased it around Hashirama’s golem like that brat had done to the blond child’s Kyuubi construct.
He’d also yet to reveal the complete form in this timeline until now.
“Move, you idiot,” he yelled, waving one arm at the salamander as it reared up on its hind legs again.
Hashirama broke out of his stupor. “Ah, right! I almost forgot about him,” he said, sending Madara a sheepish smile that was met with an unimpressed glare. He resumed his position and guided the golem forward.
With Madara’s Susanoo wrapped around it, of course, they put “bulldozing” to shame.
“Holy shit.” Even the Uchiha had lost their composure, if the woman to his right gawking up at the construct across the battlefield was any indication. “Fuck me.”
“Anytime. But really, are they even human? Seriously, they can’t be real,” a Senju directly beside her complained.
Tobirama just shook his head. He’d had no idea a Susanoo could combine with something, let alone that Madara and Hashirama could combine their battle avatars to make something even more terrifying. It was nothing if not effective, however, because what he saw before him right now was nigh unstoppable.
He could see why it was unsettling.
“Do you need any healing, Tobirama-san?”
He tried not to let the small amount of surprise he felt at the Uchiha woman’s sudden appearance show; it wouldn’t do to be caught staring at their Hokage like a common gawker. “No, I’m fine,” he replied, watching her put away a pouch of what he guessed was salve. “What was your name?”
He’d crossed paths with her in the battle more than once. She hung at Hikaku’s side, and Hikaku seemed to help him out- and vice versa- by random chance, also more than once, thus she’d ended up watching his back as well.
“Naori,” she replied with a polite smile, hardly needing to declare her clan. Hikaku appeared like a ghost behind her.
“Is anyone hurt, Naori?”
“No one that I’ve found, Hikaku-sama.”
“Ah, that’s good,” the man sighed, letting his shoulders sag. “We haven’t had one casualty. That’s…a first.”
She gave him a look and patted his elbow, once, but it was enough to draw a small smile out of him. It was strange seeing them interact like that.
“You know what that means, though,” he continued on in a cheerier way, a smirk crawling onto his face. “We can celebrate after. Do you want to visit the Uchiha Bar, Tobirama-san? I guarantee it’ll be worth your while.”
He asked because Tobirama was standing right there with them, of course, and it would be rude not to extend an invitation, but secretly, he thought the man really needed to get out of his office more. What would the equivalent of going gray at an early age even be for him?
“What? Oh, I-” Tobirama was a bit startled at the suddenness; he coughed awkwardly into his fist. “Have paperwork to do-”
“Tobirama.” Toka had appeared with no warning, giving him the most patronizing stare he’d ever seen. His eyes narrowed into a glare. “Get out of the office for once, will you? You’re going to get arthritis.”
Tobirama twitched. The taller Senju smirked down at him before turning and walking away.
Hikaku clapped him on the shoulder plate. “We’ll swing by around dusk,” he said cheerfully. “I’m guessing, of course, you’ll be in the office.”
A muffled snicker emanated from Naori’s direction. Tobirama gave him a baleful look.
“Don’t worry! None of us bite.”
Naori began to walk towards a group of Uchiha and leaned closer as she passed him. “Hikaku does if you ask nicely,” she purred under her breath, smirking over her shoulder as the Uchiha leader’s face blossomed red.
He glared at her and she looked to be restraining a laugh as she left them.
Tobirama just stared and slowly shook his head. Uchiha would never make sense.
Hashirama didn’t really know what happened.
Madara was the strongest shinobi in the village besides himself. He’d given Hashirama a run for his money countless times and there wasn’t anyone else he’d rather have at his back during a fight. He knew Madara could handle himself.
But he wasn’t invincible, and when he’d turned on the field when the man’s Susanoo had burst out of nowhere and seen him crouched down, unmoving, a visceral fear had shot through him and suddenly he’d propelled himself towards his friend like a bullet.
He’d used his Mokuton mostly to support the Konoha shinobi up to that point, occasionally making larger constructs to deal with large groups of enemies, but had let loose and created a dragon large enough to shield the upper half of the Susanoo without even thinking.
There wasn’t a dojutsu or jutsu that rivaled the Sharingan in its area of expertise, as far as he knew- yet Madara had acted like he’d overused it or it had been damaged. He wasn’t completely sure what had happened to the cells he’d healed, but the closest thing he could liken it to was a burn.
And of course Madara was keeping mum about it. He’d just said that a shinobi had caught him in a genjutsu and he’d broken out of it and left it at that. Hashirama knew there was something he wasn’t telling him, but he knew pushing would just make his friend more stubborn.
He knew Madara didn’t like to be open about things that hurt him, but it was just so frustrating.
When he’d noticed Madara had gone down, there had been a moment when he’d felt nothing but terror. They’d worked so hard and waited for so long to achieve their dream and almost lost each other a few times.
There had been a burning rage after, a rage he’d suppressed with concern and worry, but he’d almost scared himself with how angry he felt in that moment.
They’d worked too hard and waited too long.
Hashirama wouldn’t let anyone take his friend from him now.
The next time- if there was a next time, but that was a hopeful notion- they went into battle he was going to insist Madara stay nearby; they were stronger together anyway and now that he knew they could collaborate in such a way, they had a trump card.
But still, he thought as he jumped down from his wooden golem as it collapsed into the ground, there was something odd about the whole thing and he was going to find out what.
Madara braced himself as the golem sank into the ground. Its visage was benevolent, in a way, gentler than before now that the battle was over and its only job was to return to the earth.
When they’d neared the ground, Hashirama hopped off and turned to him with a smile as he offered his hand. Madara looked away to hide the red in his face and huffed, taking his hand and stepping down to the ground. He knew the man would just start pouting if he ignored him.
“Hokage-sama!” a man yelled over to them as shinobi ran to greet them. “That was amazing!”
“I can’t believe you merged them,” someone behind him commented.
Several Uchiha pushed through and converged on him. Startled, Madara barely had time to open his mouth before Hikaku had slapped a hand on his arm and started grinning. “A new form of Susanoo? Excellent!”
“As expected of Madara-sama!”
“Of course he would advance!”
“Er…” Madara hardly knew what to do with the praise. The Uchiha were smiling at him, nothing but affection and respect in their eyes. It was so- strange.
“Ahahah, they’re right, Madara!” Hashirama sidled over to him and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. It somehow felt much too close even in their armor. The Hokage gave him a dazzling grin. “That was great. We have to work on our collaboration jutsu more now,” he said with a wink.
“…right.” Madara’s heart had set to racing in his chest and he could hardly focus when he was forced to look Hashirama in the eye so close. He averted his eyes, biting down on his lip to distract himself with pain, and tried to ignore the heat rising to his face.
Several of the Uchiha started smirking at them. Hikaku gave him the most lascivious smirk he’d ever seen the man wear.
“We should make haste back to the village,” he exclaimed, breaking away from Hashirama so suddenly he was left holding empty air. He stormed past his snickering clan members and glared at each and every one of them as he passed by. Kami must have really, really hated him.
Senju biological material.
Raw power at his fingertips. Enough to conquer nations and bring armies to their knees before him. Enough to drag comets from the skies and bind beasts to his control. All he’d wanted was to kill the Uchiha, but even killing the Uchiha paled in comparison to what he could do if he got those ringed eyes.
Did it matter which Senju it was? The God of Shinobi was…nigh unapproachable.
The same could be said for Uchiha Madara, but no other eyes would work. He’d gotten lucky on that battlefield and even now that monstrous construct had sent him flying hard enough he had broken ribs.
It had to be a strong Senju, he decided, but any Senju would work as long as he got Madara’s eyes.
He would take them if it was the last thing he ever did.