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Drought (Or the Care and Feeding of Plant Boyfriends)

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Steve woke to the sight of Bucky, nestled into the crook of his arm. His hair was tousled and fell over his face, and his mouth was open just slightly, drooling a tiny puddle onto Steve’s chest.

“Buck.” Steve whispered. Bucky just groaned and nuzzled further into his arm. “Bucky, hey.” Steve said, a little louder. No such luck. There was only one thing that could get Bucky up at this hour. Steve leaned towards the window and craned for the pull cord, flailing his arm in an effort to reach it over Bucky’s shoulder. He got it on the third try and pulled the blinds open, flooding the room with light.

Almost instantly, the flowers in Bucky’s hair started to move. The stems craned upwards and arched toward the window, and the buds unfurled into pretty blue blossoms, basking in the morning sun.

Bucky stirred and blinked his eyes open. He looked up at Steve and gave a sleepy smile. “Mornin’.”

Steve smiled back. “Morning. You want anything for breakfast today?”

Bucky put his finger on his chin. Technically, he didn’t actually need to eat. Laying here photosynthesizing would be breakfast enough to keep him going. But eating was fun sometimes, provided he was in the mood. “Can you make me an egg?”

“Just one?”

“Yeah, just one. With mustard on it.”

“Ugh.” Steve placed a kiss on Bucky’s forehead. “You’re disgusting. I love you.”

Bucky’s smile grew wider. “Love you too.”

Steve hopped out of the bed and into the kitchen, leaving Bucky to soak up the sun. He was nearly done with their eggs when he heard the floorboards creaking, and his Bucky-sense started tingling. It was probably nothing. But just to be safe…

Steve turned around to find Bucky doing yoga in front of the window. He did this every morning, stood in front of the window and did sun salutations. It was a thing of beauty to watch, especially with the sheer prowess it took for Bucky to hold some of the poses with just one arm.

Unfortunately, Bucky was also butt naked.

“Bucky!” Steve dropped the spatula on the counter and ran over, just as Bucky was diving into downward dog. “Neighbors!”

Bucky rose up and blinked at Steve. “Neighbors?”

“Yes! Do you want them to see your junk?”

Bucky looked down at himself, and his eyebrows lifted, as if he hadn’t even realized he was naked. Who was Steve kidding, he probably hadn’t. “Oh.” Bucky said. “Clothes.”

“Yeah! Clothes!”

There was a brief moment of silence as Steve waited for Bucky to go put clothes on, and Bucky just kinda blinked at Steve.

“…Are you gonna do something about that?”

Bucky paused for a second. Then he nodded and shuffled back into the bedroom.

Steve frowned. Bucky seemed… slower than usual. Okay, so Bucky was normally pretty slow about everything, but in a nice kind of way, like a cat stretching languidly in the sun. Lately he seemed slow in a tired way. Like something was weighing him down.

A few minutes later, Bucky came back into the living room dressed in actual clothing. Steve was already at the table, and Bucky plopped down beside him and smiled at the single mustard-slathered egg on his plate. “Thanks, Stevie.” He leaned over and kissed Steve’s cheek.

“Yeah, enjoy your culinary abomination.” Steve chuckled, taking a bite of his own breakfast. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Bucky’s flowers shifting minutely to face the window. But they looked… different. He frowned and looked again, and realized they were drooping. Some of the flowers weren’t even open yet.

“Hey, Bucky?”

“Yeah?” Bucky said through a mouthful of eggs.”

“Are you okay?”

“…Yeah, why?”

“You just seem kinda tired, lately. Is there…” Steve grimaced as he tried to figure out how to word his question. “Is there something you’re not getting? Like do you need-” he gestured vaguely, “fertilizer or something?”

Bucky doubled over his eggs laughing.”

“Well sorry if I don’t know everything!” Steve threw his hands up. “I’m new to the whole plant-boyfriend thing!”

“Fertilizer!” Bucky giggled. “You – pft – Steve you can fertilize me anytime.” He wiggled his eyebrows.

Steve rolled his eyes and punched Bucky lightly in the shoulder. “You dick, that was an honest question! I was worried about you, but now see if I care when you wither away from- from lack of fertilizer.”

Bucky snorted. He put his hand on Steve’s shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile. “I’m fine, it’s just the drought.”

Steve frowned. “So you haven’t been getting water?”

“Yeah, s’fine. I deal with dry spells most every year.”

“But why can’t you just drink water? Or, I dunno, take a bath?"

Bucky stared incredulously at him. “Well I dunno, Steve, why don’t you just put away those eggs and have a flavorless protein shake instead? Tap water tastes horrible. ” He pointed a warning finger at Steve. "And don't even get me started on bottled water. I'm not subjecting myself to that unless I have to."

Steve’s eyebrows furrowed deeper. “So you’re just gonna go without water until it rains.”

“Yup.”

“Isn’t that bad for you?”

Bucky shrugged. “Like I said, this happens all the time. A month or so won’t hurt me.”

“As long as you’re sure…” Steve went back to his eggs.

Steve kept one eye on Bucky all morning, but nothing disastrous happened. They both got out the door in time for work, and Bucky even texted him later that afternoon just to show him how well the spiderplant in the YA section was doing. Steve reached the conclusion that Bucky was fine and told himself to stop worrying.

Except, as it turned out, that was just the beginning.

Bucky got slower as the week went on. He started forgetting things; his keys, his phone, his pants. On Thursday, Steve had to stop him from watering Delilah after he stood there too long, and water started spilling over onto the floor. By the time Steve got there he was standing in a puddle and he hadn’t even noticed.

Saturday came. Steve woke up bright and early, and found Bucky still asleep next to him as usual. He reached over and opened the blinds, bathing Bucky in sunlight. “Come on, Buck! We’ve got yoga today!”

Bucky pulled the blankets over his head and muttered, “You go.”

Steve frowned. “By myself?”

Bucky nodded. “Say hi to Sam for me.”

Steve tried to nudge him out of bed for a few more minutes, but he wouldn’t budge. Finally he just got up and walked to the park himself. When Sam asked why Bucky wasn’t with him, all he could do was shrug.

Over the next two months, Steve watched Bucky become increasingly more lethargic. He slowed down until he was basically only moving to go to the bathroom or head to work, and his flowers drooped more and more until they were hanging limply over his face. Finally, one morning, Steve woke up to find dried leaves scattered on Bucky’s pillow.

“Alright, up.” Steve shook Bucky’s shoulder, but Bucky just groaned and burrowed further into the pillow, rubbing off even more leaves.

Steve got up, shoved his arms underneath Bucky and hefted him off the bed. Unfortunately he could only take Bucky’s weight for about two seconds before he had to lower him to the floor with a soft “thwump”.

Bucky startled awake. “Whu- huh? Steve?” He blinked up at Steve, dazed and confused.

Steve huffed and grabbed his arm, trying to drag him to his feet. “Come on, you’re taking a bath.”

Bucky lay there silently for a few seconds, processing. Finally the words seemed to hit him, and he grimaced. “No!” He whined, sitting up and pulling his arm away from Steve. “I don’t wanna!”

“Buck, you’re losing leaves all over my pillow! It’s not healthy!”

“No!” Bucky pouted, crossing his arms. “I’m not going, you can’t make me.”

Steve huffed and set his jaw. Fine; the hard way then. He walked around behind Bucky, slipped his arms under his shoulders, and dragged him across the room.

“Nooo!” Bucky whined. “It’s so gross, it’s like eating plain tofu!”

“Yeah, well I’d eat plain tofu if it meant saving my life!”

“I’m not dying, Steve!”

“Maybe not but you look like you’re getting there, and damn if I-”

They were halfway to the bathroom when a distant rumbling noise stopped them in their tracks. They paused, Steve still with his hands underneath Bucky’s armpits.

Steve glanced down at Bucky. “Was that-”

Thunder cracked across the sky, and suddenly there was a sound like a thousand war drums beating over the roof of the building. Bucky whooped and shot out of Steve’s grasp, racing for the door.

“Bucky!” Steve shouted. “Clothes!”

Bucky stopped in his tracks. He ran back, pulled on a pair of sweatpants, then ran out the door.

Steve smiled, shook his head, and followed him at a leisurely pace.

He caught up with Bucky outside the building. He was standing just beyond the awning, arm outstretched and head tilted up, a blissful smile on his face as the rain soaked him from head to toe.

“Having fun?” Steve said, leaning on the wall beneath the awning.

Bucky looked back and nodded, grinning. “You wanna join me?”

Steve looked down at himself and shrugged; he was still in his pajamas, anyway. He stepped out into the rain, and Bucky pulled him close and tucked him under his arm. Steve closed his eyes and let it all wash over him. The rain pattering on his head. The safe, comfy feeling of being held close. The slight chlorophyll smell of Bucky’s skin that he’d finally gotten used to.

“Don’t think you’re getting out of a bath next time.” Steve muttered into Bucky’s chest.

Bucky sighed. “Yeah I figured.”