There are sprawling gardens on the Senju compound. Rows and rows of bushes and trees, a small orchard that bore fruit in every season, and cousins to tend it. It was a lovely place to be, with benches and ponds. It's the traditional site for proposals and for meditation. It's also where young Mokuton users first learn how to control their kekkei genkai, the garden's wealth of natural flora and fauna encouraging the chakra in the user to mold the nature transformation.
It makes Tobirama sneeze.
The gardens were Hashirama's idea after the war had ended. The gardens in the Senju camp during the war had been maintained solely by Mokuton users, and even then, they only cultivated medicinal plants. Wildflowers were common, were used for proposals rather than the lush red and blue and yellow flowers that sprawl across the garden now.
Still. It's tradition. Tobirama is a man of innovation, a man who looks into the future with squinted eyes and a hand on his chin, already examining how he could mould it in his hands before it came to pass. And now he's sitting in the bowels of the fragrant garden, fiddling with the stems of a yellow camellia.
He sneezes again, and wipes his nose with the back of his hand. There's a basket beside him, weighed down with flowers he had carefully picked that morning before he settled down in an isolated cove so he could work in peace.
Tobirama isn't sure where the tradition started. His father had proposed to his mother with a flower crown, though it had been spartan compared to the one Hashirama had made for Mito, and the ones the two of them made for Madara. Before the fighting was at its worst, the flower crowns had been more like they are now.
Tobirama would prefer not to make one. Not because he wants to spurn the old ways, but because he's a private person. He doesn't like the idea of exposing the object of his affections for his clan to pounce on. Madara will be even more insufferable than usual if (read: when) he finds out that Tobirama is planning on a proposal. But considering the garish crown Touka made for Izuna when they were courting, he doesn't really have a choice.
The crowns are a sign of prosperity now, of peace time. They weren't as private as they used to be. Now, they were proof that the Senju had been able to see Hashirama's (and Madara's) dream to fruition. Tobirama couldn't not make one. He was the Shodaime Hokage Senju Hashirama's younger brother. If he didn't make one, it'd be as much an insult to the woman he was hoping to marry as it would be to his clan, to his brother.
But if he has to scrap another camellia because he breaks the stem, he's going to abandon the whole pursuit.
"You know flowers can't fight back," says Mito over his shoulder, sly as she ever is.
Tobirama is not even remotely surprised that she's here to annoy him; it's one of the hobbies she bonded with her second husband over. Besides, he felt her coming. He feels Madara and his brother not too far behind, and hopes they're just on a walk and will leave him to his misery.
"I'm fairly sure you're committing a war crime."
Mito sits down beside him, all fanning white fabric and flowing red hair. She looks more relaxed than usual, her hair in a braid that she wears over her shoulder. There must not be many visitors to the compound today, for her to be dressed to casually.
"Anemones?" she asks, peering down into the basket beside his feet. She covers her mouth to hide a snicker, and Tobirama knows she's seen the discarded flowers beside it.
"Took you long enough," she continues, crossing her arms. "I was beginning to think you'd never get up the courage to ask her."
Tobirama does not roll his eyes. He carefully winds the stem of the white camellia around the daffodil. He likes the way the soft yellow looks beside the more vibrant one. He'll put the carnations nearby for a sharp bit of color.
"Yes, well," he snipes, "we don't all have the bandwidth to get married to one man, and then another in the same month."
Mito huffs, and picks up a fallen carnation, rubbing her fingers over the petals.
"It was more like three months," she replies. "You Fire Country people are prudish compared to us in the Water Lands. My grandmother had two wives and three husbands."
"An even set," Hashirama says, intruding with Madara, like their wife before them.
Tobirama makes his hands as still as possible. He's finally getting somewhere with the crown, and he doesn't want to let the latent irritation that comes with seeing Madara ruin it.
Hashirama comes to his wife, dipping his head low to put a kiss on her cheek. Madara sits down beside her, taking her hand in his and folding their fingers together. They're all wearing matching braids, which is horribly domestic, which means that Tsunade had gotten to them once her lessons had ended.
"You're going to break the stems," Madara says, lifting an eyebrow at the arrangement in Tobirama's basket. He snorts at it, but says nothing, instead leaning back as he holds Mito's hand.
"Mito and Hashirama gathered red spider lilies from old Uchiha territory for my crown," he boasts, haughty and annoying as if Tobirama wasn't the one who had to listen to Hashirama bawl because he couldn't grow them himself with his Mokuton, and Mito browbeat him into making the journey.
"Hm," Tobirama murmurs. "They gave you a flower that says 'abandonment' and 'lost to memory' to propose to you. An auspicious start to your marriage."
Mito pinches him.
"Don't be that way, brother," Hashirama admonishes. "You know what red spider lilies mean to the Uchiha."
Yes, Tobirama is well aware. He also had to listen to Touka when she ran into Hashirama's room, demanding directions to old Uchiha territory so she could harvest some of the flowers for proposal to Izuna.
"You aren't even going to put her namesake in the crown?" Madara asks, lifting an eyebrow as he looks at Tobirama.
"It seemed redundant," Tobirama replies. "Trite. Boring. She knows she's named after cherry blossoms. Her hair is pink. It's not like she needs a reminder."
Tobirama has sprigs of cherry blossoms hidden just underneath the bench. He was planning on adding them last, gently sticking the small sprigs into the finished woven crown. The pink would bridge the gap between the yellow and the red, and would complement the anemones.
"Really?" Madara drawls. "I'd have thought they'd be perfect. There's the myth of Konohasakuya-hime, and the strange way Sakura just appeared out of nowhere during the war, punched a volcano - ,"
"She didn't actually punch a volcano," Mito interrupts. "She kicked it."
"I don't see how this is relevant," Tobirama drawls, braiding the stem of a carnation into the crown.
There's a disruption of space that suddenly resolves itself just in front of Tobirama. Touka is there, her arm around Izuna's waist, smirking like she's a cat that's just been handed an entire liter of cream.
The cove is getting terribly crowded.
"Does everyone need to watch me do this?" he asks.
"Where are the cherry blossoms?" Izuna asks, diving for Tobirama's basket and rifling through it as he does.
Tobirama lifts his foot and presses it to Izuna's cheek, and kicks his cousin-in-law away from the basket. He doesn't want to see the satisfaction on Madara's face when he finds out that Tobirama was actually planning on including cherry blossoms in the crown.
"Nowhere," he snipes.
Touka sits down beside where Izuna has righted himself, rubbing at his face where Tobirama left a footprint.
"What about the cosmos flowers?' she asks, looking at the crown slowly being made in Tobirama's hands.
"Cosmos flowers?" he asks, looking dubiously at her. "Why would I need those?"
The five of them let out a collective groan.
"You've been dating her for three years and you don't know what her favorite flower is?" Izuna asks, incredulous.
Madara looks positively gleeful at the admission. Mito sniffs at him.
"We don't -,"
He feels suddenly and incredibly off balance. Of all the conversations he's had with Sakura (about her life before she came here, about the future she was desperate to keep from happening, about the people she loved, what she had lost, and how exactly she could demolish a volcano without breaking a sweat) he hadn't ever asked her about her favorite flower of all things. He knew her favorite foods, her favorite places in the village, how she behaved when she was stressed, and what to do when she needed help calming down because she couldn't do it on her own.
And it's been three years. Six months of not trusting her, three months of getting her to trust him, five months of ending the war, six months of making sure the village wouldn't fold on itself as soon as they tried to set it up, four months of making sure the rest of the world wouldn't fold on itself as soon as they tried to set it up. Then two months of dancing around attraction, and finally, finally a week to actually start dating.
Then three years. And somehow in between it all, Tobirama (who was from a clan where making flower crowns was literally the way you proposed to someone) had never asked Sakura (who was named after a flower) what her favorite was.
"They mean cleanliness," he sputters, trying to save face.
"And love," Touka quips.
"And a maiden's heart," Hashirama adds. "Though you aren't a maiden, and neither is Sakura-san."
Tobirama sets the crown down in his lap and rolls his lips between his teeth.
"I - I will be right back."
He stands, picks up his basket, and walks very briskly out of the cove where his family had come to mock him.
Even after Sakura says yes to the proposal, he will not thank them for providing the little bit of wisdom. He won't have to. They'll all already know.