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Konoha was so perfect that it felt like a dream. It was a dream, in many ways, built on the highest delusions of two idiots. (Or visionaries. It depended on which side of history you wanted to stand on.) 

Day one eked into day two, then into week one, and then month, a year. People who’d carried themselves like burnt cats – wide-eyed, stiff-legged, always ready to go bugfuck and claw a face – relaxed out of their shocked dumb stupors. They nodded to themselves and the dream sunk into their skins. They ate their meals and muttered their conversations; little by little, like some shy boy slowly shedding his clothes, everyone shucked off the last of their fight-ready modesty and got down to business.

Madara was one of them. Right in the middle of the frothing insanity, he was riding this wave of maybe-possibly-could-be, struck blind and loving it.

It was like they were all blind now. All of them on their hands and knees, groping the rocky dirt, cutting their hands and sucking up the blood, seeking the diamond they’d been promised. Stupid, it was all so stupid – but it was wonderful. It was a miracle.

Sometimes, Madara felt like an empty container of a man with all his feelings exploded from him. During these dazes, he had only two thoughts.

One: This is really happening. Our dream is coming true. Hashirama held out and it’s going to happen, we’re going to build the future we want. Together. Uchiha and Senju, hand in hand. We are no longer the tools of our fathers.

Two: I wish I could really believe that.

It was his nature. To second guess, to doubt, to see beneath the underneath. His father had trained him to see every angle that could be squeezed out of a person’s intentions and he can’t stop it now, this need to think and analyze everything. He had to be prepared. He had to know. Blind trust was for other people – people who had less responsibility. This wasn’t a mistake he could make, not unless he wanted to stumble with all the hopes and dreams of his clan.

So he saw him. Him. Behind Hashirama’s flash and glamour, behind the summer sunshine of his smile – Tobirama. Pale. Cold. Bloodless. A sullen ghost of a younger sibling, the malformed ball left in the womb after Hashirama. (Ah, but they were half-brothers, weren’t they? What cold bitch had Senju Butsuma fucked to make that thing?)

Madara had a million and one reasons to hate Tobirama. The first and foremost of them was never far from his thoughts. But contrary to common opinion, that wasn’t the only reason to hate him.

The problem with Tobirama was that he never acted with passion. Everything he did, he had some rationale for. It was infuriating. It made Madara want to slit him open and see if his blood was even red, because if he were a feeling, fighting man, Madara could have choked him empty. But Tobirama was neither, so he took his resentment and dressed it in logic to make it easy to swallow. Everything had a reason and so everything was rational. Tobirama would never stoop so low so as to be irrational. Not ever. He was above it, even though he really, really wasn’t.

Not in Hashirama’s eyes, anyway. So Madara watched him cling to his portion of Hashirama’s heart and gnaw on it until Hashirama, inevitably, swayed to his demands. It was love, so Madara didn’t hate Hashirama for it. He understood love, especially when it came to little brothers who were a little too sharp to be left alone.

But that didn’t mean he rested easy. It haunted him in the night’s pale hours, the question he didn’t pose to Hashirama. The truth was… Madara had gotten used to thinking of him, Hashirama, as mine. That they were equals on a perfectly-balanced plane, having been invaded by each other in every way that mattered.

But he could be wrong. He could be very wrong. The question he never uttered sat in his stomach like something sour. It went something like this:

Who would you pick, me or your brother?

That was just one iteration. There was also If your brother killed me, would you kill him? and Who do you trust more? and so on and so forth.

Sometimes, Madara is sure, so sure, that it’s him. That they were destiny-bound lunatics in one boat and Hashirama would always pick him. He just had to put aside his thinking brain and do as Hashirama did and have faith. But… but

Still.

It was the way Tobirama looked him at him, all that flat, insect-like calculation, and the way he could pinch Hashirama’s heart shut. Then Madara had to think that maybe, just maybe, that this man, his man, his boy from the river, his universe-given equal in all things… might not pick him. He had to think that:

He will choose.

And:

When he does, I will not live much longer.

It was enough to drive any man insane. Perfectly, utterly insane.