Hashirama stared, eyes wide, keeping absolutely still, not a single sound made.
She spun on her heel, arms gliding through the air, eyes closed, a bright smile across her face.
She bend low, back straight, flowed upright, moving to music only she could hear.
The prettiest girl he'd ever seen.
She danced as he'd never seen anyone move, fluid like water, every gesture, twist and turn graceful and elegant. Hashirama was mesmerized.
She twirled, spinning so fast, so pretty. Hashirama leaned forward even further, not wanting to miss a single step. His sleeve caught on a twig, fabrics rustling.
Her dance halted, eyes snapping open, smile gone, wide obsidian meeting his. She tensed, a single step taken backwards. Hashirama jumped forward from behind the bush, hand reaching out, a meaningless sound escaping him, not a squeak, nope, not at all. She took two steps to the side, prepared to run.
"Wait!" She halted her retreat, eyes still wide.
"How did you..." She looked so scared. Hashirama didn't want that, wanted her to smile again, to keep dancing, keep being bright and shining.
"Don't go!" She hesitated. Gave a quick glance to the trees beside her. Hashirama raised both hands, showed he was unarmed, took a small step forward. Halted as she tensed even further, another step taken towards the trees. She couldn't leave!
"Don't go, I'm not– I was just watching because you were dancing and smiling and you're so pretty." Hashirama snapped his mouth shut, felt himself blush. He hadn't meant to blurt that out.
She giggled, short and sweet, looked so very surprised by the sound herself. Hashirama felt himself smile, knew he had to look silly but didn't care. He'd made her giggle!
She gave him another wary look but didn't move. Hashirama cleared his throat.
"I'm– I'm Hashirama." He hated how he almost stumbled over his own name. He was a shinobi! He was strong and cool, not some fumbling boy.
She giggled again. Hashirama didn't mind his clumsiness anymore, never would ever again.
"...And you are?" He dared ask as she kept quiet, kept watching him with those pretty black eyes. He'd never seen eyes so dark, darker than the night itself. She hesitated, gave him another cautious look. Hashirama kept very still, desperately not wanting to scare her off.
"...Mai." Hashirama smiled widely, knew it must look dopey but couldn't help himself. Mai. What a pretty name. The prettiest name for the prettiest girl.
Silence stretched. Hashirama wanted to fidget but didn't dare, so afraid he would scare her off. She gave him another look, a little less tense now.
"...Are you going to keep standing like that?" Hashirama hesitated. What answer wouldn't make her run?
"...Yes?" She giggled! Hashirama smiled hugely once more.
"You look silly." Hashirama's eyes widened, heart clenching painfully. She thought he looked silly? That he looked stupid? Hashirama felt as though the sun had died, the world gone dark forever.
She giggled again. The sun returned.
"You can lower your hands you know." Hashirama whipped his hands behind him, blushed no matter how hard he tried not to, fingers fidgeting with his haori behind his back.
She smiled. Hashirama felt as though he could fly without the use of any chakra. He smiled back. Kept smiling even as the silence returned, didn't care as long as she kept smiling as well.
She did, looking so very amused, smile so very bright. Hashirama sighed happily, his own smile growing, almost surprised his feet were still on the ground.
"...Sooo." She drawled out the word, still smiling.
"Sooo?" Hashirama repeated, his stomach feeling very strange in a very good way. Like butterflies were fluttering inside.
She giggled once again. Hashirama sighed happily once more.
"So what are you doing here? Aside from watching me. From behind the bushes. Which is a little creepy." Hashirama's cheeks burned. He fidgeted with his haori some more, hands still behind his back.
"I ah... I was just looking for a place to be alone and then I saw you and... I didn't mean to be creepy! But you're..." Hashirama fell silent, blushed a little more.
"I'm so pretty?" Hashirama somehow managed to blush even harder, felt it crawl upwards, even his ears burning . But he smiled as well. Because she was grinning, eyes sparkling, stars twinkling in the night.
"Yeah." The prettiest girl, with the prettiest eyes, the prettiest hair, the prettiest smile. And the prettiest name. Mai.
Mai's grin grew.
The silence returned. Hashirama didn't mind, would be happy just watching her the entire day, week, year even. Watch the delicate comb holding her pretty hair, black strands carefully held back, a little unruly still, contrasting beautifully with her kimono. Fire licked at her sleeves and at the bottom, right above her small feet, clad in tabi and sandals, the flames crawling upwards across the blue fabric, a pearl obi tied in a pretty bow. Though he couldn't see the bow right now. Because she was looking right at him.
More specifically she was looking him over. Suddenly Hashirama felt shy, awkward, wondered if his tunic wasn't dirty, if he'd tied it together correctly, if his haori fell neatly. Hashirama suppressed the urge to bring up his hands and check if his hair was messy. He did give his tunic a quick glance. A little dirty. A very little. She probably wouldn't notice.
Hashirama desperately hoped she wouldn't notice. Mai's eyes halted at the stains on the bottom of his pants. She'd noticed. Hashirama blushed. She giggled again.
"You're cute." Hashirama's heart stopped, butterflies up to his throat, only realizing he'd stopped breathing as he grew lightheaded, taking a deep gasp.
Mai thought he was cute. Hashirama wanted to squeal in glee. Except he was too busy breathing because that was very difficult right now because she thought he was cute.
Mai's cheeks grew rosy, somehow growing even more pretty and oh, Hashirama couldn't believe his feet were still on the ground because he felt as though he was flying through the air, as though wings were carrying him up!
Mai gasped, eyes wide, not scared but surprised and full of wonder and so pretty.
"How are you doing that?"
"Doing what?" Hashirama almost didn't recognize his own voice, so high and breathy and she smiled and the butterflies were fluttering so hard, the world was so beautiful and wonderful and–
"The flowers. How are you doing that?" Hashirama blinked very slowly, confused. What flowers?
Mai's eyes were aimed at his feet. Hashirama looked down. Squeaked, so surprised he couldn't help it. Because there were flowers twining across his ankles, creeping up his calves, blooming and vibrant. And he hadn't noticed.
Though it would explain why he hadn't gone flying. They were keeping him grounded.
Mai laughed, Hashirama's eyes snapping back up, the sound so bright and wonderful and now he noticed as another flower sprouted, curling around his ankle, even noticed his chakra overflowing all around. Which would explain the flowers.
"That's amazing." Three more flowers sprouted. Hashirama was glad they did, otherwise he would've gone flying high and he didn't want that, wanted to stay right here forever.
Mai thought he was amazing. Another two flowers sprouted.
She laughed, another three flowers shooting up. She laughed harder, two more flowers appeared.
"You're going to be swallowed up by them if you keep doing that."
"Yeah." Hashirama agreed, watching her laugh and grin and she was so pretty.
"Do you want to be swallowed by them?"
"Yeah. Wait, I mean no, I mean–" Hashirama didn't know what he meant, just knew what he wanted.
She giggled. Hashirama sighed happily. That's what he wanted.
One of the flowers curled around his waist. Hashirama blinked and looked down.
...She was right. The flowers were going to swallow him up. Which, while it would keep his feet on the ground, wouldn't be a good thing. If they managed to reach his face he wouldn't be able to look at Mai anymore. Hashirama shifted his vision again. Mai was smiling, all tension gone, shining brighter than the sun.
Another flower sprouted, the one around his waist crawling even higher. Hashirama closed his eyes even though he really didn't want to, focused on his chakra, forced it to stay inside of him and not spill over everywhere. The flowers stopped growing. Hashirama opened his eyes.
Mai was still smiling. Hashirama smiled back, even as he concentrated on pushing down his very rowdy chakra, bad chakra, stay put.
His chakra stayed put. For now.
"You're very cute." No, bad chakra, stay down, no spilling everywhere, stay put. His chakra stayed put. Barely.
Mai thought he was cute– no, no, concentrate, no more chakra flying around, stay put. Hashirama manged to keep his chakra contained. Very barely.
The silence returned once more. Hashirama so didn't mind. Because Mai was relaxed and amused and happy and she was smiling at him.
Hashirama sighed happily once more.
"You sigh a lot."
"And you say yeah a lot."
"And you're still covered in flowers."
"...And you always watch pretty girls from behind bushes?"
"Yeah. No! No, I don't, I really don't! This was, I just–" Hashirama flailed his arms, at a loss for words. He didn't want her to think he was creepy! He wasn't! He normally didn't do this!
But Mai was so pretty.
She snorted and oh, Mai wasn't just pretty, she was cute. Hashirama blushed. Again. Even though he tried really hard not to. Mai laughed. Grinned.
"So I'm special?"
"Yeah." She really was. He'd never felt like he was feeling right now, not in all his whole nine years.
"...Special enough to get a flower? They're very beautiful" Hashirama's eyes widened, jaw dropping before he quickly snapped it shut.
"Yeah. Yeah! I'll just–" He bend down, grasped the flowers still curled around his legs, yanked, almost overbalanced, only just manging to stay upright.
Mai laughed, the butterflies soared, his chakra flared and no, no more flowers.
Except if she wanted more flowers. Hashirama would make a whole field, a whole forest if she wanted more. But she'd asked for these ones, had to get out of these first. He could make a forest after.
Hashirama manged to loosen the stalks enough to slip out of them. Glanced up at Mai.
She was smiling. At him. Hashirama subtly checked to see if his feet were still on the ground. They were, surprisingly enough.
He grasped the flowers now simply sprouting from the earth and snapped his wrists. Straightened, an entire bouquet held between his hands. Moved forward. He might have been almost running. Almost.
Mai giggled. Yeah, Hashirama was running, didn't care he was. He halted.
Up close she was even prettier. How could anyone be so pretty?
He thrust the flowers forward.
"Here." Hashirama almost winced. Here? Smooth Senju, very smooth.
Mai snorted, button nose crinkling and so cute. And pretty.
"I asked for a flower you know."
"You can have them all! Except if you want one, I can give one, which one? Or do you want more? I can make more, I can make a field, a forest, a–"
Mai threw back her head and laughed. Hashirama sighed, felt so happy and wonderful and life was just perfect. She was perfect.
Mai reached out a hand, small and dainty. Hashirama held his breath as her fingers almost brushed his, so close he could feel her heat hitting his skin. She gently plucked out a single flower, delicate petals a vivid, deep red.
Mai brought it under her nose. Closed her eyes. Inhaled deeply. Smiled.
"I didn't know cherry blossoms could be crimson." She murmured softly. Hashirama blinked. Looked a little closer at the flower and realized, yes, that was a very big sakura flower. One with a crimson color. Huh. He hadn't known he could make those. In fact, he wasn't sure how he'd made that one exactly. Or any of the other brightly colored flowers.
But if she wanted more he would make her an entire forest of sakura trees that bloomed crimson! Who cared he'd only been able to create saplings until now, for Mai he'd find a way.
Her pretty eyes opened and she beamed. Hashirama's heart stopped.
He'd fill the entire country with crimson sakura.
"Thank you. It's beautiful."
"Yeah." She was. And cute. And pretty. So very pretty.
Mai laughed softly, lifted the blossom and wove it through her hair. She was wearing his flower. The butterflies were soaring so high Hashirama was surprised one didn't appear as he sighed happily once again.
Today was the most wonderful day of his life.
"So are you going to keep holding those flowers like that?"
"...Yes?" She giggled. Somehow the sound was even more enchanting up close. Hashirama felt his cheeks begin to ache a little from how widely he was smiling but he didn't care, didn't even try to stop.
"You can have them all." He told her, meaning every word. Mai's grin grew.
"I can't carry so many back home."
"I'll carry them for you!" Mai flinched, eyes wide, grin gone, a step taken back and looking scared.
"Or not! Not is good! I'll just–" Hashirama opened his hands, flowers tumbling to the ground and see, he wouldn't! Don't go!
Mai hesitated. Sighed, shoulders slumping. She was sad! No!
"No, I'm sorry, it's just... You're sweet. Very sweet. But you can't come to my home." Hashirama raised his hands again, his heart beating way too fast, almost beating out his chest from fear –don't leave!– and happiness –she thought he was very sweet!– almost dizzy from his conflicting emotions.
"I won't! I promise!" Please don't leave!
Mai smiled, not as bright as before but happy again. Hashirama relaxed, his hands lowering. She looked down at the flowers scattered across his feet.
"Sorry I made you drop them."
"No problem!" It wasn't. Because Mai was still here, hadn't left. That was all that mattered.
She gave a quick grin. The butterflies suddenly fluttered wildly again.
"Shame you pulled them all out thought. Now they'll wither away."
"You don't have to be sorry, it's just flowers. And I didn't stop you from doing it either. It's just a shame, they're really beautiful."
"Wait, I can fix that! Just let me..." Hashirama crouched down, gathered the flowers again, holding them upright, stalks touching the earth. He gathered his chakra, careful, not too much, only need a little. He send it through the flowers, used it to poke and prod and careful, watch how much he was using, don't want to sprout new ones, just wanted... there they go.
Hashirama watched in satisfaction as the stalks sprouted roots, burrowing deeply into the ground. He aimed a smile up at Mai. And blushed.
She was looking at him as though he'd done something amazing, something impossible. Hashirama felt as tall as a mountain. Straightened, grinning like mad.
"There. Now they won't die."
"How did you do that? You just... and they grew roots." Hashirama felt like bursting with pride. Barely managed to suppress his chakra before it decided to grow more flowers again.
"It's not that hard, I only need–" Hashirama snapped his mouth shut. Hesitated.
"You only need?" Mai was curious and Hashirama wanted to answer, but...
But civilians didn't like shinobi. At all. And Hashirama wanted Mai to like him. So very much.
Yet she looked so curious. Maybe... maybe if he told her a little?
"I only need to make them remember. Plants know what they're supposed to be, sometimes they just need a little help getting there."
Mai rolled her eyes.
"You didn't even use handseals. How did you do it? Exactly I mean." Hashirama gaped.
"You know?" He didn't care his voice was a squeak, because she knew?
"That I'm a shinobi?"
"It's kind of obvious. Civilians can't magically grow flowers like that. And I didn't notice you sneak up on me. Shinobi."
"And you don't mind?" Mai looked puzzled, brow a little furrowed and looking so very cute and she didn't mind? Really?
"Of course not, why would I?" Hashirama shifted his weight, fingers fidgeting with his haori again.
"Most civilians do." Mai looked completely flabbergasted. And then realization crossed her face, though Hashirama had no idea why.
"You don't– I mean,, you're not exactly scary." Hashirama felt hope rise. She didn't hate him?
"I'm not?" Mai smiled, bright and shining and oh, the butterflies were back, even stronger than before.
"No you're not. You're sweet and cute." Two more flowers sprouted before Hashirama managed to push down his chakra again and how was he still standing on the ground and not flying through the air because Mai thought he was sweet and cute. Sweet! And cute! Hashirama knew he was smiling like a loon. He absolutely didn't care.
"I am?" Mai giggled.
"Yes. Very sweet and very cute." Three more flowers but oh, how could he help it? Because Hashirama was soaring, butterflies carrying him away, higher than the clouds! He felt like the daimyo of the entire word!
Mai thought he was very sweet and very cute!
"I–" Hashirama's head snapped to the river next to them, glint seen from the corner of his vision. He stilled. Noticed Mai had as well.
A body floated down the stream. Hashirama hesitated. Glanced towards Mai. Saw hard eyes aimed at the body, lips a thin line.
"Stay here." He told her and shot forward, running across the water. The body was drifting face down. Hashirama examined the armor. Noticed the Hagoromo Clan Crest. And...
Hashirama frowned, grasped the armor, halted the body's descent down the river. Looked a little closer. Stilled absolutely, heart frozen in fear.
There, stabbed in the femoral artery, was a kunai. A kunai of Senju make. Hashirama let the body go as though it was on fire, turned wide eyes towards Mai. Her own widened as she looked at him, uncertain and wary once more and Hashirama wanted to reassure her but couldn't because that was a Senju kunai.
"I have to go." He rushed through the sentence, wanting to run run run, what if there'd been an attack on the compound? What if his brothers– what if what if what if!
"I– yes of course. It was nice meeting you Hashirama. Thank you for the flower." Hashirama hesitated. He had to go –what if!– but...
"Will you come back?" Mai's expression blanked, unreadable thoughts racing behind those pretty eyes.
"...No." Hashirama wavered even though he already knew he had to go –what if what if!–Yet if he left he would... he would never see her again. He didn't want that.
But he had to go –what if!–
Hashirama gave her a last look, the prettiest girl he'd ever seen, his flower in her hair. His flower...
Hashirama dashed back, her eyes going wide, tense and almost taking another step back. But she didn't. Hashirama halted, brought up a hand, stopped the movement. No, that wouldn't be proper.
"Can I have the blossom back? Just a moment! I'll give it back immediately!" Mai gave him a long look, as wary again as in the beginning and had it only been a quarter of an hour? More? Less? It felt like a lifetime ago.
She slowly brought up her hand. Untangled the crimson sakura from her hair. Extended her hand. Hashirama put his fingers on the petals, closed his eyes, forced his chakra to calm down, can't use too much, only need a little...
The sakura sprouted roots. Hashirama opened his eyes. Smiled.
"Now it won't wither. You can use it to remember me." Mai stared at him. Flickered her eyes to the blossom. Carefully cradled in both hands. Smiled, small and shy and shining and the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen and oh, Hashirama wished so very much he didn't have to leave –but what if what if!–
Mai leaned forward, quick as the wind. Soft lips pecked his cheek, gone before Hashirama even had a chance to react. He blinked very, very slowly. Brought up a hand across the skin her lips had touched.
Hashirama felt himself burst into flames, literally lightheaded from all the blood rushing to his head, skin burning and Mai had kissed him! Five flowers sprouted.
Mai grinned, own cheeks a little rosy and she had kissed him! Another five flowers, all others growing even larger.
Hashirama squeaked. Her grin grew.
"I'll take good care of it and remember you every time I see it." Hashirama froze. Gasped for breath as he grew lightheaded again. Squeaked once more. Cleared his throat. Twice.
"I'm welcome I mean you're pleasure I mean my pleasure I mean–" Mai laughed softly. Hashirama smiled, butterflies soaring through every part of his body, almost losing control of his chakra again. He cleared his throat once more.
"It was nice meeting you Mai."
"It was nice meeting you too Hashirama."
"Yeah..." Hashirama kept looking at her, her pretty smile, pretty hair, pretty nose, pretty lips, pretty eyes.
The prettiest girl in the world. Hashirama knew to his very bones this was the absolute truth.
And he would never see her again. He hesitated. But he had to go –what if his brothers, father, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins what if!–
"...Bye Mai." Hashirama turned away. Had to.
"Wait!" Hashirama blinked down at the slender fingers now grasping his sleeve. Mai was really fast. She released her grip, Hashirama's eyes following her hand as she lifted it back up. She took hold of the wooden comb. Pulled it out, her hair immediately turning even more unruly, small spikes shooting up. Mai held out the comb towards him. Hashirama felt bewildered. Gave her a confused look. Mai's cheeks turned rosy again.
"So you remember me as well." Hashirama stared. Her blush grew brighter, uncertainty flickering through her eyes.
"Ah, never mind, it was a stupid– you don't need a kanzashi anyway." Her voice was soft, hand starting to pull back. Hashirama squeaked once again, own hand shooting forward, halting her movement.
"No! I do want it!" He blushed. Realized he was holding her hand. Blushed harder. Mai grinned. Hashirama smiled, felt so very shy.
"I... I'd be honored." Mai giggled, soft and sweet.
"Well you gave me a blossom to remember you by. Seems only fair to give you something to remember me in return." Hashirama laughed loudly.
"I don't need something to remember you. I won't ever forget you no matter what." Even if he lived to be one hundred years old, he would never forget her.
Mai blushed a little harder, her smile shy and shining and so cute.
"Even so, I want you to have it. It's a gift." Hashirama almost felt like his grin would split his face, butterflies fluttering madly. A gift. He took careful hold of the delicate wood, carved flowers inlaid with pearl.
"I'll treasure it forever." Mai blushed even brighter, so cute and so pretty. Hashirama kept grinning like a loon, couldn't help it, not when she kept smiling at him like that.
"...Don't you have to go?" Hashirama blinked. Winced, fear and worry chasing away his happiness –what if, what if!–
"Yeah... yeah I do." He took a step back. And released her hand. Which he'd been holding until then. Hashirama blushed a little, no matter the worry coursing through him as well. He gave Mai a final look. Sighed, shoulders slumping.
"Bye Hashirama." He hesitated. Closed his eyes and shot upstream across the river. Opened his eyes and gave a final glance across his shoulder.
Mai had closed her eyes, crimson sakura held beneath her nose. She inhaled deeply, lips curled into a soft smile. Hashirama felt his own curve into a smile again as well. Shifted his vision back forward and forced himself to move faster. Worry and fear gnawed at his mind.
But his thumb stroked across the carvings of the comb still held in hand. He brought his other up to his cheek, fingers ghosting across the spot he swore he could still feel her lips.
Hashirama was so worried –what if what if!– but he couldn't stop smiling as well.
Mai was so pretty. And she thought he was very sweet and very cute. And gave him a gift. And kissed him. Hashirama's smile grew.
The prettiest girl in the whole wide world.
Madara opened her eyes and watched the boy race across the river, hand cupping the cheek she'd kissed. Smiled a little wider.
Hashirama was very cute. It was a shame he was a Senju, she would've liked to meet him again.
But his expression as he'd seen that so very distinctive kunai, his panic and worry and fierce protectiveness...
No, an Uchiha and Senju befriending each other could only end in disaster.
All the same, she was glad she'd me him, glad to see the Senju weren't simply monsters that kept killing her family. Just people trying to survive in a cruel and unfair world. No different from her own Clan really.
Madara shook her head, turned around and walked towards where she'd hidden her supplies. Scanned her surroundings thoroughly, senses high, examining every different chakra signatures around her. She put the blossom down carefully. Opened the sack, pulled out her clothes and quickly changed. Ruffled her hair as she finished, turning it in a wild, messy mane instead of just unruly. Folded her kimono and put it away. Picked up the impossibly colored sakura. Inhaled it's scent deeply once more. Such a nice fragrance.
Such a strange boy. Until he'd made a sound Madara hadn't sensed him at all.
No, that wasn't true, she had. But he felt so much like the trees bordering the riverbank she hadn't realized he was a person. Even later, when his chakra had flared around so chaotically, she hadn't so much felt a human as she had a mighty oak, vibrant and centuries old. Madara wondered why.
And then there were the flowers. She looked at the sakura pensively, twirled the stalk delicately between her fingers.
The most amazing part wasn't that he'd grown them, but that he'd done so unintentionally. She'd have thought it a bloodline limit except she knew the Senju didn't have one. And she'd never seen a Senju use flowers to attack. Though that could also be because flowers weren't that useful in a fight.
...No, Hashirama had nearly fallen over just trying to get out of them. And yes, a large part of that was caused by his crush at first sight, but it had shown the flowers could at the very least be used as a tool to hinder. Especially because they'd been created without handseals.
Madara gave a quick glance across her shoulder towards the collection of diverse, impossibly colored flowers. A large golden rose, a giant orange forget-me-not, a huge red daisy, a big blue lily. And not just flowers but blossoms. All with strong roots burying deep, Madara could sense it clear as day. She shook her head.
Plants just needed to remember. Right. That's why they had unnatural colors and why the blossoms had roots without trees. Madara snorted. Silly boy.
Madara looked down at the crimson sakura again, the exact same shade as the Sharingan. She smiled.
Very silly. But very sweet as well.
She recalled his dopey smiles and bright blushes.
Very cute too.
Madara slung her sack across her shoulder and jumped into the trees, racing across branches. Wondered at the strange twists life could take.
Because really, what were the odds of her encountering a Senju of all people on one of the rare occasions she sneaked off to dress prettily and dance to her heart's content? One about her own age as well. One who believed she was a civilian.
Though she supposed that had been a stroke of luck, he probably wouldn't have been so nice if he'd realized she was a shinobi as well. But that thought had obviously never even occurred to him. Which she shouldn't have been surprised by, of course a girl couldn't be a shinobi, girls were only good for healing and giving birth.
Sexist Senju. Sexist shinobi in general really.
At least the Uchiha weren't so stupid as to believe a female's worth was only between her legs, even if they did have to hide their gender when on the battlefield. Madara didn't mind. Better have their enemies believe they were all men instead of giving them ideas like raping or even worse, using them as broodmares to steal their bloodline limit.
She'd slit her own throat before allowing that to happen.
Madara sighed. Glanced down at the carefully sheltered blossom, fragile petals and roots cradled inside her arms for protection. She'd plant it first thing after she returned home.
Madara hopped on the next branch.
She hoped she never met Hashirama again. Because if she ever saw him on the battlefield and he moved against her family, if he ever tried to harm them, kill them...
Madara desperately hoped she never again met the boy who would've made her an entire forest of flowers if only she'd asked.
Hashirama was... so very sweet.