The Uchiha bar, as Tobirama found out, was literally the Uchiha Bar.
They’d taken over a slightly rickety building near the Uchiha compound that looked more like a drooping saloon than a restaurant, composed of wood that had gone dark with age yet somehow held up strong and a bar with suspicious stains on it and a battered Uchiha banner over it. The rest of the room was filled with small round tables, some of which had been shoved haphazardly together as Uchiha grouped around them, drinking. One group had even started to sing.
It was…very odd. They were clearly in their own domain and in a distinctly Uchiha space.
“You look like you’re gawking at some sort of animal you’ve never seen before,” Hikaku breathed out, stumbling over a laugh. Tobirama turned back around a bit sheepishly, watching the normally composed man give him and Naori a sleepy smile. “See, we can enjoy ourselves!”
There was a loud crash from behind him followed by giddy cackling. Tobirama winced.
“Hey!” Hikaku stood up on his chair’s support beams, leaning his palms against the table. “No arson tonight!”
A chorus of disappointed cries followed his declaration.
“Are things often set on fire?” Tobirama asked wryly, trying not to roll his eyes.
“It’s worse if Kotori comes around,” Hikaku laughed, settling back into his seat. “She’s a little, unhinged when she lets loose.”
“God, Kotori.” Naori let out a wistful sigh and took a sip of her drink. “I’d let that woman ram me.”
Tobirama almost choked on his own sake.
Hikaku chuckled and slapped him on the back as he coughed to cover it up. “Who wouldn’t let Kotori ram them?” he teased.
Naori let out another sigh, clearly more drunk than Tobirama had thought a minute ago, and sunk further towards the table. “Inoue came by the studio again yesterday. She’s just…so gorgeous…”
“The Yamanaka clan head?” a woman yelled from the other side of the room, somehow hearing all the way from there. “Hot damn!”
A murmur of agreement spread through the crowd.
Tobirama twitched and leaned further into his own table. It wasn’t that he found the topic shameful, he just didn’t like to be overheard by nature.
However, it was…surprising that the Uchiha were so free with it all. He would have expected them to be uncomfortable with the idea, holding onto some amount of old bigotry. He had eyes and ears; he knew that plenty of people were disapproving of Mito and Toka even if there were those who offered support.
Yet, he could hear not a single mutter of contempt or disagreement in the whole bar. The idea that the Uchiha as a group had let go of a prejudice faster than everyone else, for once, was a bit startling.
He himself had no problem with people who had…different inclinations. He’d noticed the aesthetic qualities of other men before. In a completely analytical way. Outside of practical needs such as deciding marriage contracts and producing heirs, there was no real rule dictating who could love whom.
“-rama,” Hikaku said, drawing him back to reality as he poked the red mark on Tobirama’s cheekbone. “Tobirama. Tobirama. Are you still conscious, Tobirama? Do you sleep with your eyes open? That’s impressive, but quite creepy.”
Tobirama batted his hand away. “I’m awake, you ninny.”
“Ninny!” Naori shrilled towards the ceiling. “Just like Ninue! God, she’s so gorgeous!”
“Hey. Hey.” Hikaku reached over and grabbed her hand, expression growing weirdly stern. “Don’t start screaming like Miki.”
“Didn’t she set your robes on fire again?”
“Yes. I’ve told Madara to tell her to stop practicing those godawful gigantic fire jutsu so close to the compound but he’s passing on his pyromania.”
“Miki?” Tobirama asked, confused.
“Madara’s student!” Hikaku told him cheerfully.
That made him pause. “Madara has a student?” he repeated, flabbergasted.
Naori and Hikaku gave him matching confused stares that made him feel the slightest bit dumb. “Uh, yes, of course he does. He’s had a student for several weeks now.”
Tobirama frowned, wondering how he’d missed such a thing, staring at the tabletop. Surely Hashirama would have known, but then why wouldn’t he have mentioned it? He would have babbled endlessly about something he found as cute as Madara having a student.
He wrinkled his nose when he thought of Hashirama finding anything about Madara cute. God, his brother was starting to rub off on him.
“You’re thinking too hard again,” Hikaku chastised, shaking his head. “I bet it’s about Hokage-sama and Madara.”
Tobirama looked up to give him an incredulous look at how he’d known that.
“You have to stay in an office with them. For hours.” Hikaku wrinkled his nose, but Tobirama got the explicit feeling that he was thinking of it in an entirely different context that Tobirama was. It was like he was missing something right in front of his nose. He hated that feeling.
“What a torture,” Naori muttered, then poured another drink and slid it over to him. “Drink to forget.”
Tobirama wrapped a hand around the mug she’d given to him and threw it back. Drink to forget was right. He was utterly exhausted of trying to decipher in what ways anyone around him at any given point in time was being melodramatic.
It was late by the time they got back to their homes. Madara weathered Hashirama’s excited chattering the whole way, barely even registering that he was drifting after Madara as he climbed the stone steps leading to his house.
He trailed off as Madara swung the door open, wondering if he wanted him to come inside or not, and followed when the Uchiha left the door open. He closed it behind him as Madara flicked the lights on.
A loud screeching startled the living daylights out of him as a streak shot off one of the couches in the room and darted towards Madara’s feet. The man himself just looked slightly resigned.
“Stop your inane shrieking,” he said with a scowl down to the…brown kitten clawing at his feet?
Caught off guard, Hashirama did little more than blink a few times and watch his friend bend down to pick up the kitten from the floor. He held it against his chest and stroked a hand down its back, huffing. “Troublesome. You can’t even handle me being absent for a few hours.”
The kitten meowed at him as if in reply.
Hashirama stuffed a fist into his mouth. That’s so cute, he thought, watching with watery eyes as Madara set the cat down. “You have a cat?” he asked, almost squeaking himself.
Madara glanced over at him and huffed when he saw the look on his face, turning away and folding his arms. “Obviously.”
The kitten noticed him and let out another shrill screech. It streaked over to him and almost rammed into his foot in its haste to stop and start pawing at his trousers, mewling pitifully.
“Aww!” Gushing, he bent down and wrapped both hands around it, bringing it towards his neck to cuddle and kissing its forehead. “You’re so adorable! I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you had a cat, Madara!”
Madara stared at him as he cooed over the thing and swallowed. “Yes, well…I do. Three. I have three of them.”
“Three?” Hashirama looked at him with shining eyes. “Where are the other two?”
His question made Madara frown and glance around. “Good question,” he rumbled, eyes going narrow. “It’s too quiet.”
He said it the way one might grow suspicious of a forest filled with enemies.
Just then, there was a loud bang from the kitchen. Madara whirled towards it with a growl, hands folding into fists as a fuzzy white ball of fluff emerged, walking as if it owned the house. “You little shit. What’d you break this time?”
The cat gave him an imperious stare and hissed. He looked past him at Hashirama, lips pulled back in a snarl, and hissed louder, as if he was trying to convey You brought THIS into my home? He’s even worse than you!
The cat moved closer and yowled louder. Hashirama gulped and took a step back, holding onto the tabby as if it were his protection. He looked to Madara for help.
The Uchiha waved a hand dismissively. “He does that to everyone,” he drawled, and that was no help at all.
“Ahaha, well…” He edged over to Madara and the hissing got even louder. The cat seemed angry he dared to get near, even though he seemed to hate Madara too. It…must have been an odd relationship. “Uh…”
“Cut that out, Toba, you little hellion!” Madara snapped, growing irritated the longer the kitten shrieked. It cut off and stared at him with a blandness he felt was familiar.
“Wait. Toba?” Hashirama’s head turned like a swivel as a grin crept onto his face. Madara froze as if he’d accidentally divulged a secret. “Did you name him after Tobirama?”
“…no.” Madara looked away from him, using his hair to hide a flush.
Hashirama guffawed, holding the other kitten with one hand and slinging an arm around Madara’s neck, oblivious to the way it made the red on his face intensify. “That’s great! I have to tell him!”
“Do so, and I gut you in your sleep.”
Unbothered by the threat, Hashirama just continued to grin at him. Madara averted his eyes to the wall. “What’s this one named, then?”
Madara was silent for a moment. When he spoke, the threat was gone from his voice as he practically mumbled out his answer. “Hachi.”
“Aww, that sounds like-” Hashirama paused and beamed. He turned to him, slowly, with a shit-eating but somehow affectionate grin, eyes twinkling. “Aww, did you name him after me?”
Madara went rigid and glared at the wall. “…no.”
“You did! That’s adorable!”
Laughing, Hashirama pulled his arm tighter around him and pressed his forehead against the side of Madara’s face in a half embrace. The other man froze and dragged in an uneven breath, trying to ignore it when his heart rate picked up.
God, he couldn’t. Not with Hashirama that close.
“Yes, well,” he stammered, clearing his throat as he jerked away and moved towards the hallway, “Zunu should be around here somewhere.”
Hashirama set Hachi down when he made to claw at the air and cast his friend a bit of a confused glance. He had noticed that Madara seemed a bit uncomfortable lately, seemingly at random. Sometimes they conversed just fine, and other times he grew tense and pulled away. It was strange.
It was then he noticed there was a small black ball at his feet. He jumped and let out a surprised yelp, having not even noticed the third kitten appear in front of him, and Madara whipped around at the noise. Hokage and cat stared at each other with wide, unblinking eyes.
“He…does that,” Madara muttered. Zunu’s unchanging gaze made Hashirama feel rather unsettled. He wasn’t sure if the animal was going to let him pet it or kill him in his sleep. “Zunu, it’s fine. It’s just Hashirama.”
Zunu turned and gave him a long, slow blink. Toba let out an unhappy growl as he retreated to the couch and hopped onto the arm, giving them all a sour look before curling up and hiding his face with his tail.
Zunu turned to stare at Hashirama’s foot for nearly thirty seconds before standing from his crouch, keeping low to the ground as he carefully moved around Hashirama to get to the hallway, moving like a predator stalking its prey. He only looked away when he faced the kitchen and could creep past Madara towards the stairs.
“…does that mean he doesn’t hate me?” Hashirama asked hopefully.
Madara shrugged, wearing a bland expression. “Perhaps.”
“That doesn’t help me at all…”
“Stop getting so depressed over what a cat thinks of you, you buffoon.”
Hashirama lost the depressed cloud that had come over him and looked at Madara with a smile. “But I have to get them to like me since they’re yours, Madara!”
Madara stared back for a moment before looking away, folding his arms and wrinkling his nose. Hashirama couldn’t get rid of the inane talent he had to make him feel embarrassed over nothing at all. “Idiot,” he muttered in lieu of responding.
He heard Hashirama chuckle and shuffle closer. “You know, you’ve seemed a little prickly lately.”
Madara froze and looked at him out of the corner of his eye. “Oh.”
Hashirama noticed the way his muscles went taut and the uncomfortable rise in tension. There must have been something making Madara uncomfortable, he reasoned, if he was acting in such a way; he never did anything without a reason (not always good reasons, but there were reasons). It was something he was trying to hide, if the way he dodged Hashirama’s questions was any indication.
“If something’s bothering you, you can tell me,” he tried to reassure, taking another step closer. There was an odd sense of anxiety in the air as Madara stood there, body rigid, still refusing to look directly at him. “Is there?”
The man opened his mouth, paused, and licked his lips and closed his mouth again. Hashirama watched his throat move as he swallowed.
Madara noticed that Hashirama had been sending him a few odd glances here and there. He was starting to note his strange behavior. With how nosy the Senju was, he was bound to try to figure it out, even if Madara avoided the topic.
Part of him wanted to expose his feelings in a rush and just get it over with because that part of him hated lying to Hashirama’s face every time he asked if something was amiss. The smarter part of him pushed it down and ridiculed how weak a will he must have had if he was almost swayed by something as precarious as his feelings.
He looked over at Hashirama again, staring at him with such an earnest face and eyes unbothered by any hardship between them, eyes that were only worried and affectionate.
“…no,” he said.
Hashirama frowned. He almost told me, he thought disappointedly, glancing at the way Madara’s hands had curled themselves in the sleeves of his mantle. What made him hold back?
“It’s late,” Madara blurted out, unable to take the tension anymore. He whipped round and forcibly turned Hashirama towards the door, shoving him as he stomped towards it. “Are you trying to make me feel exhausted in the morning, Senju? Go dance around your own home at ass o’clock in the morning.”
“But-” Hashirama protested.
Madara threw open the door and shoved him outside so hard he stumbled. “Good night,” he said shortly, slamming the door shut.
“But Madara!” the man whined through the door.
“Good NIGHT, Hashirama,” Madara yelled.
He could practically see Hashirama slumping over and turning away from his house with a pout on his lips. His mind fixated on it as he imagined it; the way Hashirama’s bottom lip jutted out, how plump it looked when he did, how it made him want to lean in and trap it between his teeth-
Madara slapped a hand to his face. God forbid he do that when the man those lips belonged to was around. A distraction like that was the last thing he needed.
Hashirama had barely sulked his way to his own front door when he heard the singing. Befuddled, he turned towards the street where hanging lanterns lit the path and watched as a wide figure- or, rather, three figures holding each other up- stumbled their way towards the Senju house.
“Poor dog, he was faithful and kind, to be sure,” Hikaku bellowed out, swaying and nearly taking his two fellow drunks down with him, “and he always loved me, though I t’was poor-”
On the opposite side of him, helping to support Tobirama between them, Naori belted out, “When the sour-looking folks sent me heartless away-”
“I had always a friend in my poor dog Tray,” the two wailed together, while Tobirama mumbled along.
“What on earth?” Hashirama gaped at them and jogged down the steps. Hikaku noticed him and looked up with a bright smile.
“Hokage-sama! It’s so nice to see you. Do you live here?”
A large sweatdrop ran down the Hokage’s head. “We were just…what were we doing, Naori?” Hikaku continued, looking to her for help.
“Walking Tobirama home.”
“We were walking Tobirama home.”
Tobirama finally noticed him and dragged his head up, eyes going narrow. “Anija,” he slurred over his words, giving him a familiar glare, “why aren’t you doing your paperwork?”
“Wh- it’s the middle of the night!” Hashirama protested.
“Don’t treat me as if I don’t have eyes, Hashirama,” his brother snapped, swaying as he tried to take a step and making the two Uchiha stumble to keep him upright. “I can clearly see it’s bright outside.”
“How much did you drink?” Hashirama asked, agape.
The younger Senju snorted. “Irrelevant.”
“He set a record!” Naori exclaimed airily, smiling into thin air. “You should’ve seen it. Everyone was cheering him on.”
“Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink, drink,” Hikaku whispered under his breath.
“The Senju aren’t weak after all!” Naori crowed, looking as if she were imitating someone but couldn’t quite remember exactly who.
Hashirama groaned and rubbed his forehead. He stepped forward and held out his arms. “I’ll take him from here. You two need to get home yourselves. Can you make it there on your own?”
“Pssh. Of course we can.” Hikaku stumbled back when he took Tobirama from their support and into Naori. She slung an arm around his neck as they wheeled around, going back to their unsteady but jaunty pace. “Back to the compound!”
“Back to the compound!”
“Ohhh, I had a dog named Tray-”
Hashirama stared after them for a minute with the deep sense that he was letting the equivalent of two unruly children walk off and sighed as he started carting Tobirama up the steps. “Well, I’m glad you had fun, Tobirama, but I must say I never expected you to come home intoxicated.”
“That’s because you’re the irresponsible one,” Tobirama groused, head sagging as he did the bare minimum to keep himself upright. Hashirama kicked open their door and pushed it shut after them.
“Uh-huh. And here you are going out with the Uchiha,” Hashirama teased as they walked down the hall towards Tobirama’s room.
Tobirama made a noise of discontent as he shuffled the sliding door open with one foot. “They railroaded me.”
Hashirama nudged him towards his bedroll. Tobirama flopped onto the wood floor as ungracefully as a shinobi of his caliber could, making the noise again when Hashirama began tugging his shirt off. The mesh he had on underneath would do fine to sleep in.
“You’re impossible,” Tobirama complained, glowering at him. “Do you know what it’s like being stuck in an office with you and Madara?” Hashirama frowned, anticipating a complaint about his friend despite him and Tobirama having started to get along…well, perhaps not better, but less aggressively, when his brother went on. “You two are ridiculous. Take your drama somewhere else.”
“My…drama?” Hashirama asked, helplessly confused.
Tobirama waved a dismissive hand at him. “Don’t play dumb. You know what I mean, anija. Now go away; my head is pounding.”
He eased back unceremoniously onto his roll. Hashirama winced at the sound of his head thunking into the floor.
He gently slid a pillow beneath the man’s head and unfolded the blanket at his feet. Tobirama mumbled something else derogatory at him as he did that was incomprehensible.
“Good night, Tobirama,” Hashirama said with a fond smile, ruffling his brother’s hair and restraining a chuckle at the grumpy mutter he received in reply. He retreated to the door and checked over his shoulder to make sure the man was asleep before closing the door.
He returned to his own room, feeling a bit tired from being up so long (although it didn’t compare to the exhaustion that followed some of his and Madara’s more serious spars), and hummed to himself as he changed out of his clothes.
He laid down on his own bedroll and breathed out a deep sigh as he closed his eyes. He would probably grow them bedframes as winter approached, he thought- it would be warmer than sleeping on the floor. There was no longer any need to use something that had to be quickly rolled up in case of a bug out.
Light shining on his eyelids made him open them again. He looked over at his window and realized Madara still had his lights on, and since they were across from each other, he could see in the man’s windows since he hadn’t pulled his curtains yet.
The man himself appeared in his bedroom window, mouth moving as if he was talking to someone. Hashirama propped himself up on his elbow and chuckled, watching as he pointed a rolled-up newspaper he’d probably found at his doorstep that morning at where Hashirama knew the desk was. Long black paws reached through the air to bat at it.
He was talking to the cat. That was adorable. Hashirama couldn’t help but grin.
Madara tossed the newspaper across the room. He could only assume Zunu had leapt off the desk to follow it.
Madara reached for something off the desk and turned around, leaving his view. It took only a minute for him to return, his mantle gone, in a black robe with the Uchiha fan on the lapel and his hair tied in a ponytail.
He stared straight ahead, where the wall would be, and suddenly frowned.
He glanced behind him, in the direction of his bed, and the frown deepened.
Hashirama found his own smile slipping off his face as the expression on his friend’s became downcast. He sat up, forgetting sleep, and watched with a frown as Madara stared into space, folding his arms and looking- dare he say- insecure about something. His eyes had drifted to the ground and he gnawed on his lip, showing none of the signature Uchiha blandness now that he was alone.
Now he knew for sure that something was wrong. What was bothering Madara that he felt as if he couldn’t tell Hashirama about it?
Madara turned and stormed out of view. The light flicked off a moment later, leaving Hashirama stewing in his own feelings of concern. He wasn’t tired at all now.
Madara was so utterly frustrated.
His heart had betrayed him and refused to listen to him. He kept telling it to get in line and behave, but it still acted like a heathen with no self-control around Hashirama.
It was even starting to affect him when Hashirama wasn’t even there. Madara…missed him. He wanted Hashirama to stay and was irritated at the fact he actually had to return to his own home for sleep and leave Madara there alone.
If that wasn’t the clingiest, most disgustingly dependent thought he’d ever had, he’d be damned. But he still couldn’t help but feel alone when everyone around him had someone to return to. The other Uchiha had the clan, Mito had Toka, Hashirama had his brother.
Zunu mewled at him from the desk. “Troublesome idiot,” Madara muttered, referring more to Hashirama than the cat. He pointed the newspaper he’d been using to threaten Toba away from his statue again at the kitten’s head.
Zunu batted at it with both paws. Madara tossed it to the corner of the room and the kitten quickly gave chase.
With a sigh of frustration, he went to his wardrobe to change and tie up his hair- Naori insisted it became less tangled that way- and watched Zunu splay with the pages before sighing again and staring at the mirror on his desk he’d bought because it became frustrating to deal with his hair without being able to see it.
The cats helped some, he had to admit, but his house still felt empty in the dead of night when the silence was all too apparent.
And, he also had to admit, so did his bed. He glanced back at it and bit his lip. The presence of a warm body…would feel nice.
Hashirama’s warm body would feel nicer, his mind whispered to him.
In a moment of weakness, he let his mind wander, imagining one of the countless times Hashirama wrapped an arm around him, imagining pressing closer and lingering, hearing the man’s laughter in his ear and breathing in the scent of the forest.
Pathetic, he thought, turning and marching to the light switch. Absolutely pathetic.
He climbed into bed and pressed his forehead into the pillow, trying to ignore the distinct nothing around him.
Two small forms scratched their way up the bedframe and crawled up the mattress towards up. Madara lifted the covers and let them slither into his hair. Hachi let out a low mewl of satisfaction as he curled against his neck.
Toba gave him an unhappy hiss as he curled into a tight ball on the other side of the bed. The bastard had to act as if he didn’t enjoy anything.
Madara sighed and opened one eye. He could see the full moon out his window, shining brightly upon the village in the darkness.
He wondered, if the Eternal Tsukuyomi had been what he’d thought it was, what his dream world would have been like.