Once upon a time, Hashirama would gaze far off into the horizon and wonder, what if. What if the clans could just stop fighting and get along? What if they could stop sacrificing little ones, little brothers, treasured people? What if he could lay down his sword, strip off his armor, use his mokuton to grow, to heal, to nurture as he so desperately aches deep inside his chest, and extend a hand in greeting, in friendship to people who are supposed to be their ancestral enemies?
Supposed to, he thinks.
Are, he knows his father and his brother would say. (Would have said.) And although the two are different, their father beholden to tradition and hidebound in his ways, his little brother already too pragmatic for his own good (was, was, was), the end result is the same. No one trusts in the vision he has, in his wishes for the future, and so he must put this part of him away.
He wants to do more. He wants to be more. Not just a shinobi, not just a tool, but unfettered from all of that. Free to utilize his talents and let loose his laugh and watch ten thousand seedlings sprout in joyous harmony.
Or what should have been joyous.
He's here again, standing in front of a mound of dirt, the only difference this time that there is nothing inside. Only an empty coffin where the body should go, where a form so beloved to him, so cherished should (should not, not ever, never, never, never) reside. He's standing here again, this time, for the final time, because what else has he to lose?
Kawarama. Itama. Tobirama.
He's lost it all.
His father is looking at him, those brown eyes hard as Hashirama has never seen before. Tobirama was his favorite, of course. The realist to Hashirama's idealism. Practical and sensible where Hashirama would prefer to dream. And yet it is Hashirama who stands here, once more, and Tobirama who is...who is...
It's hard to breathe suddenly, and Hashirama can feel his throat closing up, clamping down on the screams threatening to rip themselves out of his chest. He bears down on it, his teeth creaking with the effort.
One moment passes. Two.
And it doesn't go away (it will never go away), but it passes. Just another momentary, expected ritual in the life of a shinobi no mono.
Where is the justice in it? How is any of this right? Three grown Uchiha against his young brother. And the marks on them, the state of their clothes, it can only speak to...to...
He wants to retch. He almost does. Only the thought that he would be defiling the only grave his brother would have, that he would be desecrating this last spot where he can pay his respects to his last precious person keeps the burning down, locked inside the way Hashirama wishes he could lock away his emotions.
How much easier it would be if he were like his father. How much easier it would be if he were a proper shinobi no mono.
He glances at the man out of the corner of his eye and quickly looks away. It's not so much the severity in them that has him flinching (stern brown, always stern and hard when it comes to him), but that hint of wetness, the sheen of water.
Maybe...maybe it wouldn't be easier if he were a proper shinobi no mono. Only easier to hide. The pain remains the same.
The paper is being burned now. The incense lit. The food—peaches, Tobirama's favorite—are lovingly placed next to the mound. Flowers (because Tobirama loved wisteria) nestle around them.
It should be easier by now. It should be easier.
How many times has he gone through this?
He should know how to deal with this now. How to act.
(There wasn't even a body. What they've done with him, whatever they did to end his young life, they couldn't even leave him peace in death.)
He wants to scream. He wants to scream and run to that riverbank, find that boy who he knows is Uchiha Madara and shake him. Demand anwers. Demand to know why they targeted his little brother and if their budding friendship was a trap all along...
And it's this thought, more than anything else, that makes him want to curl up right there and simply die.
Because he had snuck away, these past few weeks, to go meet with that boy. Because he had left Tobirama behind. Because Tobirama had been looking for him when he was ambushed.
And doesn't that mean that Hashirama killed his own little brother?
Father is still looking at him, as if expecting him to go on another outburst, another condemnation of their lifestyle and demand that they extend their hand in peace instead.
Well, he won't do that. Not anymore.
And now Tobirama.
And it was his neglect, his dreams that got Tobirama killed.
(His last precious person. His beloved little brother.)
He understands now.
He'll be the perfect shinobi no mono.
(There's no one left.)