Thank You, Mendel-san
an Amatsuki story
by volta arovet
Heihachi was certain that he was blushing enough to match the sakura flowers (the dark pink ones in Toki's left hand, not the white ones in his right hand), but he took another sip of sake, blinked his eyes a little more, and asked Tokidoki to repeat himself.
"So Mendel-san decided he wanted to crossbreed the two kinds of plants," Toki said, jiggling the blossoms in his hands, "so he snipped off the male parts of each flower—"
Kon and Heihachi both winced and pressed their knees more firmly together.
Kuchiha snorted and looked up from her unofficial (but very important!) job as Guardian of the Food Basket. "That's one way to do it."
Toki continued, a bit louder, "He snipped off the male parts of each flower to prevent inbreeding because—"
"—that way leads to three-eyed babies and royalty," Kon said dryly.
Kuchiha punched him, but she did so lightly, so he only flew a few feet through the air before crashing into the ground. "Be respectful," she admonished, and primly drained her cup of sake. She fooled no one.
"Wait a minute," Heihachi said, scratching his head. A few loose petals fell from his hair. "So you mean the part inside the flower that sticks out is actually—"
"And another thing: why do you have to make plants sound so dirty?" Kuchiha asked Toki, and it was impossible to tell if she was being serious or slowly winding him up.
"So anyway!" Toki said, louder still, "he bred the white flowers with only the red flowers, and the red flowers with only the white flowers, and guess what happened!"
"More sake?" Kon offered.
"Please," Kuchiha said, holding out her cup.
"Guys!" Toki pleaded in his best This Is Science And Therefore Important voice. He brandished his two sets of flowers at them. The menacing effect was diminished by the third set of flowers Kuchiha had surreptitiously slipped into Toki's hair ten minutes earlier.
Kon sighed. "They made pink?" he asked, as if he hadn't learned basic genetics in Year 1.
Toki lit up. "Right! Every single flower was pink! And ithen/i he bred all of those flowers, and guess what happened!"
"Um, Toki?" Heihachi asked hesitantly, still blushing. He grabbed a nearby sprig of sakura and held it to his face, conveniently hiding his mouth behind his fist. "I think I might have missed something, but did you say that pollen is actually a plant's—"
"What the hell are you doing?" a voice demanded.
All four heads turned towards the newcomer, and if the bratty tone of voice wasn't a big enough hint, the wild green head of hair was the next good clue. The look of irritation was familiar enough, although the twitch in his eye and slight flush across his cheeks were new additions.
"Tsuyukusa!" Heihachi cried, grinning and waving wildly.
"Want to watch the cherry trees with us?" Toki asked, scootching over to make room.
Tsuyukusa's jaw jut out even further as he narrowed his eyes. "No," he said, and grabbed Heihachi's sleeve. "Come on."
Heihachi scrambled upright. "Where are we going?"
"You want to watch trees?" Tsuyukusa grumbled as Heihachi tripped after him. "We'll go find some worthwhile trees." He paused, held out his free hand, and opened a spirit path. "This'll be faster."
Heihachi backpedaled from the gate. "Wait, what's—"
"It's safe," Tsuyukusa said.
Heihachi hesitated for a moment, and that was long enough for Tsuyukusa to hoist him up and sling him over his shoulder like a sack of rice. Heihachi made a mental note to one day stop being surprised at Tsuyukusa's strength. "Come on," Tsuyukusa repeated, as if Heihachi still had a choice, and stalked into the gate.
"So long!" Heihachi waved from Tsuyukusa's shoulder. His three bewildered friends waved back. "I should be back in time to man the gate tonight!" He turned to Tsuyukusa. "Right?"
The spirit gate closed behind them.
"Be quiet," Tsuyukusa said, and something about "stupid humans" and "unfaithful idiots," but by that point Heihachi was too distracted by the karakasa hopping along behind them to really pay that much attention to what Tsuyukusa was saying.
Five rather hair-raising minutes later found the two leaving the spirit path and standing in front of a mid-sized camphor tree. Tsuyukusa crossed his arms proudly and said, "Well?"
"Um." Heihachi frowned. "It's." 'Unremarkable,' he thought, but clearly he couldn't say that. There was no shrine attached to it, no glorious flowers, no unusual wildlife. It was just a tree. He glanced at Tsuyukusa, saw how his proud eyes flickered a little, judging his reaction. There had to be isomething/i special about the tree!
Heihachi approached the tree slowly, cautiously running a hand over its trunk. The wood was smooth and surprisingly warm with the afternoon sun. He reached out to a branch and tested it; it was strong and firm and even, and he could imagine sitting on it for hours, watching the woods change around him, falling asleep on it at night, head cradled against the trunk, leg dangling off the edge, safe from the rest of the world.
He followed the branch and found a cluster of tiny yellow flowers nestled between the leaves. They weren't as beautiful as the sakura, not as elegant and sweet-smelling, but they were charming in their own way—not exactly pretty, but simple and delicate and vulnerable.
So easy to overlook.
Sort of like him.
He touched them reverently with the back of his knuckles, bent close and took in their scent, and from behind him, Tsuyukusa said, "Ah."
"Is this tree..." you?, he couldn't ask.
Heihachi turned, and Tsuyukusa was there, so very close, and he was reaching towards Heihachi's face. Heihachi's breath caught in his chest. The hand slipped past him, into his hair, and tossed aside the cherry blossoms that had been stuck into his topknot. (Heihachi wasn't sure if Kon or Kuchiha had put them there, but he made a mental note to make one of them pay once he got back, and once he was not so completely distracted by what Tsuyukusa was doing.)
With one simple motion, Tsuyukusa scooped Heihachi up and deposited him on a lower branch. He took a step back and, with a tiny frown and a tinier, "Hm," surveyed the picture Heihachi made. Heihachi squirmed under his scrutiny.
"Tsu-Tsuyukusa?" he squeaked.
"Quiet," Tsuyukusa ordered, and frowned some more, turning his head this way and that. He stalked up to the tree again, snapped off a small sprig of flowers, and, standing on his toes, tucked it behind Heihachi's ear.
He stepped back again. "Better," he said, nodding his approval. "You can stay. So long as you don't go spending time with those stupid floozies again."
And suddenly, things made sense. Heihachi's cheek burned with the ghost trails of Tsuyukusa's touch and the memory of Toki's impromptu science lesson, which was suddenly having much wider applications than he had thought.
He ran his hand down the branch and through another cluster of flowers, parting the petals with his fingertips, and watched for Tsuyukusa's telltale shiver.
"I think I'd like that," Heihachi said.
And then Tsuyukusa was next to him, and Heihachi was smiling and a little breathless, and Tsuyukusa's eyes were dark and shining and he was smiling in a way that had nothing to do with the curve of his lip, and it was the easiest thing to just lean down and kiss him.