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moving up to higher ground

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A water bottle dangles in front of Hashirama’s face, and he blinks, reaches for it even as he glances up, and smiles.

The man he’s spent most of the morning lapping flushes angrily, pointedly looking away, and shoves it into his hand. “Take it!” he snaps, eyes still on the street, but Hashirama isn't about to complain. It gives him the freedom to look, and the man’s masses of dark hair are all pulled up in a high tail, cascading down his back. The line of his throat is elegant, his face a little pink from the exertion and the sun, and Hashirama doesn’t want to look away.

He does, of course. It’s not polite to stare, even now.

“Thank you,” he says instead, and cracks the seal, taking a sip. He’s not winded, is only just breathing hard; the serum is a miracle he still can’t adjust to, after a childhood being the smallest, sickliest child in the neighborhood. The fact that he can run full-out all morning and not need the water is just—bewildering.

The stranger huffs, throwing himself down onto the grass next to Hashirama. “Not that you need it, apparently,” he says, a little sourly, and drains his own bottle in a few long gulps. “You bastard, what did they even feed you?”

“Army rations,” Hashirama says with a laugh, and offers a hand. “Hashirama Senju.”

The man scowls but still takes his hand. He has a firm grip, and calluses. “Madara Uchiha. And bullshit. All those gave me were indigestion.”

Hashirama chuckles, offering him the mostly-full bottle of water. “The honest truth!” he defends, and Madara snorts, but takes the bottle. He sips at it this time, instead of gulping it, and leans back against the tree. Is silent, for a moment, and then says, “So what is Captain Konoha running from?”

It takes effort for Hashirama not to let his smile falter, but for a moment all he can think of is the dream he had, Tobirama on top of the train, Tobirama falling

“Sorry,” he says, and pushes to his feet. “It was nice to meet you, but I'm needed—”

One step away, and Madara says quietly, “I usually run by the Naka River. There’s a path by the park. The watchpoint trail.” He rises as well, pulling the tie from his hair, and smirks at Hashirama, thin and full of far too much meaning for Hashirama to catch it all. “It makes the nightmares fade faster, most of the time.”

Hashirama’s heart turns over in his chest, and he has to duck his head. This time he’s the one looking away. “I don’t—” he starts, and then realizes that the protest it already dying on his tongue. “That sounds—nice.”

With a snort, Madara claps him on the shoulder, and it’s probably Hashirama’s wishful thinking that his hand seems to linger. “Don’t make that face, our city’s first leaf-spangled superhero shouldn’t cry.”

Hashirama hasn’t actually cried since before Tobirama fell. Somehow, in the aftermath of watching his little brother, his protector, his best friend, vanish over the side of an endless cliff, tears felt cheap. Still, he manages a smile, because Madara's tone is all taunt with concern beneath, and finally manages to raise his head again, meeting Madara's dark gaze. The care is even clearer there, and it makes Hashirama’s smile come easier, grow wider.

“Thank you—”

A car honks, close enough to make Hashirama startle, and he turns sharply. From inside the sleek black muscle car parked at the kerb, Mito gives him a cheeky wave.

“Done communing with nature?” she asks. “I don’t see any roots yet.”

Hashirama laughs. “You’re early,” he tells her. “You have to give me some time.”

“Hagoromo wants us,” Mito says in explanation, and pointedly unlocks the passenger door.

Hashirama waves a hand at her in acknowledgement and turns back to Madara, who’s watching with careful eyes. “Sorry,” he says, and this time he actually means it. “It was nice to meet you, Madara.”

For a long moment, Madara stares at him, eyes narrowed. Then, faintly flushed, he turns his back on Hashirama and leans down to pick up his empty water bottle. “I run at six,” he says. “Every day but Friday. If you want company.”

Relief flutters in Hashirama’s chest, and he grins. “I don’t know if I can slow down enough for that,” he teases, and promptly gets a face-full of empty bottle.

“Shut up! Just because some of us are supersoldiers and yet insist on inflicting themselves on normal human—no no no, do not, that expression is ridiculous! You are a grown man stop pouting—”

Hashirama can't help it. he gives in and laughs, and even Madara throwing the half-full bottle at him in retaliation can't begin to dampen his good mood.