Chapter 1: Out to crime
It was the fifth time he’d said “no” that the question got asked.
Bushroot had never been the most active member of the fearsome four when it came to crime. However, ever since Liquidator had practically moved into the greenhouse with him, the two had been a package deal, partners in crime, whenever one had a plan the other almost always came along.
At least until recently.
“You’re still not interested?” Liquidator asked. “How come?”
“Oh do I need a specific reason now?” Bushroot asked. “I’m just not in the mood I guess.”
Liquidator tilted his head slightly and moved to the plant’s side. “Experts agree, refusing to get out of your lair for long periods of time is most likely an indication of a problem. Is there something you need to tell me?”
Bushroot frowned. “I don’t know,” he said as he began to fiddle with his own leaf-like fingers. “Well, I just-lately I h-haven’t really felt like I needed to go out and rob a bank, or get revenge on someone to feel better.”
“Oh?” Liquidator folded his arms. “Has the crime-commiting experience become tedious? Tired of having outings with your partner in crime?”
“N-no!” Bushroot said quickly. “It’s nothing like that, really. I think I just don’t need it anymore? I mean I know that you enjoy when we go out to do that stuff together, but hey, we can still spend time together other ways right?”
Liquidator nodded quietly. For a moment his expression was unreadable, then suddenly he nuzzled his head against his partner’s cheek. “Of course! The Liquidator can be flexible to accommodate his partner’s needs any time!” He kissed Bushroot quickly on the tip of his beak, then parted from him. “But if you ever change your mind, feel free to inform me!”
“Of course!” Bushroot grinned. “Wouldn’t be as much fun without you anyway.”
Liquidator winked. “Just add water to any situation to receive a quality experience!” He headed towards the entrance. “Well, don’t worry, the Liquidator will return in a mere couple of hours! I guarantee it!”
And with that he left.
After six hours Bushroot began to feel a bit concerned.
“No need to worry,” he reassured himself. “He’s made of water, what’s going to happen to him?” He looked around the greenhouse, still and quiet except for Spike running after a small critter in a corner of the structure. He pouted. “Doesn’t mean I don’t wish he’d have kept his word about how long it was going to take.”
After fifteen hours, it was beginning to overtake his thoughts.
“Oh, m-maybe I should have gone with him anyway. Or at least asked him where he was going.” He wondered if it would be worth the trouble to go out to find him.
After twenty hours, he was back to reassuring himself.
“What am I thinking, we never go back to our usual hideout with the police or Darkwing on our tails,” he said. “Of course, he’s probably just laying low for a while until he’s sure he won’t be followed.”
When Spike presses himself against his side, Bushroot unconsciously began to stroke the plant’s head.
“I’m sure he’ll be back soon.”
Soon a full week had went by.
In that time Bushroot had ventured outside the greenhouse to try to find him. He checked the areas where the canine usually spent his time.
Or at least, he had tried.
Some of them weren’t as accessible to solid people as he had hoped. Unable to enter, he would call his partner’s name at the entrance. After getting no response, he assumed that Liqui wasn’t there.
After all, there’d be no reason for his boyfriend to be ignoring him.
Another week passed.
He was now checking more hideouts. If he didn’t know where Liquidator was, there were two people who might.
Well, three people, but he wasn’t that desperate yet.
After checking at least four of their known hideouts, he finally made his way to the door of a building that… well it’s previous purpose was hard the identify, but the large lightbulb on the roof was an obvious clue to its new function.
Immediately after turning the doorknob Bushroot knew it was occupied. He knocked as loud as he could on the front, and began to hear voices from inside.
Suddenly, through the metal doorknob that he still clutched, a large jolt of electricity shot out and through him. His grip released immediately and he stumbled back, swaying for a moment before coughing and shaking his head.
“It’s me, you jerk!” He said as his head felt back in order. “Let me in!”
The door opened to reveal Megavolt and Quackerjack. The jester burst into laughter at the sight of Bushroot’s singed body.
“Yeah, yeah very funny,” Bushroot pushed past the giggling duck and moved inside. “I’ve been looking for you two for a while now, and I’m not exactly in the mood for jokes.”
“Yeah, well, we’ve been in prison for a while so not exactly fun for us either,” Megavolt said.
“Well, I thought the prison break was a riot!” Quackerjack said.
“Prison break?” Bushroot asked, perking up. “You wouldn’t have happened to have seen Bud would you?”
“Oh yeah!” Megavolt said. “We were out robbing a jewelry store and we ran into him doing the same thing!” He chuckled. “Didn’t plan it either. Kinda funny, huh?”
“What happened to him?” Bushroot asked.
“Well he got thrown in jail just like us, duh!” Quackerjack said. “Then when we- oh hey wait a minute, I don’t actually remember seeing him when we broke out. But you were celled closer to him weren’t you Sparky.”
Megavolt frowned and looked like he was concentrating. “Yeah. But I’m pretty sure I saw him escape with the rest of the place.”
“Well if that’s the case, why would Bushbrain here be asking where he was? Those two can barely keep their hands off each other!” Quackerjack said.
Bushroot tugged on his petals in frustration. “I don’t know! It’s been at least two weeks since he left a-and I can’t-”
“Hey wait a second, why weren’t you with him?” Megavolt asked, accusingly.
Bushroot looked slightly embarrassed. “Well I-I just-“
“Trouble in paradise lover boy?” Quackerjack asked.
“No!” Bushroot said. “I just didn’t want to commit a crime with him that day! I-I mean, lately I haven’t wanted to really wanted to do it at all… but he said he was fine with it! Although maybe he wouldn’t have gotten caught if I was there to help him.”
Megavolt and Quackerjack exchanged a look, which only served to further agitate Bushroot.
“What’s that look for?” The mutant asked.
“Well, you do know he’s got a bit of a habit of lying,” Megavolt said.
“A lot actually!” Quackerjack added.
“Yeah I know, but not to me!” Bushroot said.
Megavolt grimaced and Quackerjack let out a small snort of laughter.
“He doesn’t lie to me though, right?” Bushroot repeated again, his voice cracking.
The two remained silent, but their faces spoke a thousand words.
Chapter 2: Stage 5 never came
Bushroot deals with the idea of Liquidator leaving him.
Bushroot paced back and forth. He had stormed out of Megavolt’s hideout so quickly he hadn’t had time to think over the idea. Now that he was he realized how ridiculous it was.
“Buddy wouldn’t leave me just because I don’t want to be a villain anymore! Y-yeah! That’s ridiculous! He loves me! How many times has he said so? I-I can’t even count!” He stopped and began to tap his foot, an unintentional little nervous gesture. “I mean we’ve been together for at least a couple of years! We’ve been together long enough for me to-”
Long enough to propose to him twice. And get turned down both times. “Sorry Reggie, I love you but I just don’t think I’m ready to commit to this yet.”
“So that’s it huh? After all this time and he j-just ditches me! That bastard! S-so I guess he lied to me for years saying that he loved me? Of course, take advantage of me, use me! ‘Oh poor Doctor Bushroot is sad, he’s so lonely I bet he’d do anything for love, even if he was being lied to for years!’ I see now why he always told me he liked ‘my potential,’ why he thought my powers were impressive! Because helping him be a criminal was all he cared about! Well, I don’t need him!”
“B-but…” Bushroot glanced out of the entrance to the greenhouse, towards the city. “He told me to tell him if I changed my mind. M-maybe, if I start committing crimes again, he’ll come back? W-we can just go back to being together and pretend this never happened.” He wrung his hands. “I’m sure if I just-”
He stayed like this for days.
A sad, miserable sack of plant matter.
At least two times he cried, just thinking about him. It was so strange. It had taken him so long to really get used to the fact that someone loved him, and now that the feeling was gone it was so hard to shake. The ghost of it was still there. Haunting him. It didn’t take long for a longing, an itching arose within him. He couldn’t bear to keep these feelings within. He wanted to twist them into something sharper, a weapon to use to take out his feelings on the innocent world. And so that’s what’s he eventually did.
He never reached it.
Chapter 3: Smash and dash
Quackerjack and Megavolt attempt to cheer Bushroot up.
So here he was again.
When Bushroot had said he needed something to cheer up, anything really, anything to vent out his feelings, Megavolt and Quackerjack had been all too happy to agree to it.
“I know just the thing!” Quackerjack said as the three of them made their way into the city in Megavolt’s car later that night. “Museums are the perfect for letting off steam!”
“Are you just saying that because you always end up breaking stuff?” Megavolt asked from the drivers seat.
“Well yeah, but some of that stuff is just boring old junk!” Quackerjack said. “Even if it is valuable.”
Megavolt smiled. “I will admit some good destruction makes me feel a bit better sometimes.”
Quackerjack turned to look at Bushroot. He sat in the back seat, staring at his hands silently. Quackerjack placed a hand on the mutant’s leg, causing him to look the jester in the face.
“So what’d ‘ya say huh?” Quackerjack said. “We can go steal some priceless artifacts, tie up some guards, maybe smash a few things. Doesn’t that sound fun?”
Bushroot gave a small smile. It didn’t reach his eyes. “Y-Yeah. I guess so. Thanks. For doing this by the way.”
“Eh, we uh... had nothing better to do anyway,” Megavolt said with quick glance back at him. “Besides, we had to do something after that jerk ditched you right? I mean, really, we did have to, right?”
“Any excuse to have a night out is a good excuse,” Quackerjack said. “We’re happy to have you along petalhead!”
This time Bushroot genuinely smiled.
And so that night, Bushroot was on guard duty. Not as in “guard the entrances”, but as in “take out all the guards to no one can stop us.”
He had volunteered for this. He wanted this.
Part of him didn’t want to admit that it made him feel better. Summoning torrents of vines that gripped the security guards’ bodies, seeing them cry out as their mouths were eventually covered, and their noises of distress muffled beneath layers of plant matter. Practically feeling the pain as the vines squeezed a bit too tightly, eager to please their mutant ally whose suffering they had witnessed first hand.
Yeah, he wasn’t too proud of that feeling of satisfaction.
As he surveyed his handiwork, a few vines slithered up his leg, caressing him and blooming into beauty, hoping to give him some comfort. Understanding their intentions, he patted them half-heartedly before heading off to find the others.
Megavolt had swiped a few things by now and Quackerjack had made a small pile of objects on the floor. When the duck spotted Bushroot, he rushed over to him, and Megavolt turned.
“See anything you like?” Megavolt asked.
Bushroot shook his head. “Not really…”
“Then c’mon! I got something to show you!” Quackerjack tugged on his arm, pulling him into another area of the building.
Eventually the two of them stopped in a room full of paintings and ceramics.
Bushroot looked around the room quizzically. “What’s so interesting in this-”
Before he could finish him sentence there was a loud smash. He whipped around to see Quackerjack smashing a large, colorful mallet into one of the paintings, splintering the wooden frame and cracking the wall behind it.
“W-What are you doing?” Bushroot asked.
“Smashing stuff!” Quackerjack said. “You should try it! Great way to let out some feelings.”
“I dunno,” Bushroot said. “This stuff actually looks pretty nice.”
Quackerjack dropped the mallet in Bushroot’s hands and turned him around to face another one of the paintings. “How about now?”
At first, Bushroot didn’t know what he meant, but then he really looked at it.
A rowboat on a bright, beautiful, big, blue lake. The image instantly brought up memories.
There was a lake just like that in St. Canard. There had been trees around it, just like the painting. They had been swaying nearby the whole time, appreciating the plant mutant’s all-consuming contentment as he sat in the rowboat. Him, his familiar bubbly voice had been coming from all directions, his shape concealed in the expanse of the lake’s surface, freckled with the pinpricks of starlight above. The plant duck hybrid had searched the water for a sign of his partner from within the rowboat. Gradually the water rocked the little wooden boat back and forth until the plant was tossed from it into a pair of wet, strong, beautifully blue arms.
The last thing Bushroot thought of was the canine’s laughter before he realized he had smashed the painting to pieces.
Bushroot shook his head, clearing it of thoughts that had now become painful. He looked down at the mallet, unaware that his long arms had twisted around it so many times.
“Feel any better?” Quackerjack’s voice asked from behind him.
Bushroot released the mallet, his vines quickly unraveling leaving the mallet to drop on the floor with a loud *thunk!*. Then he turned. “Maybe a little.”
An intricately carved ceramic bowl rolled over to him and bumped to a stop next to his feet.
“Wanna do some more?” Quackerjack asked.
Bushroot picked it up and in an instant it had been smashed, thrown to the floor in a burst of emotion.
Quackerjack threw one back out through the entrance, nearly hitting Megavolt who had walked in to check on them.
“Hey!” Megavolt squeaked, then got distracted by the sight of the destruction. “Woah, you guys really are destroying the place.”
“Wanna join us?” Quackerjack asked, holding up another pot. “Why not zap a few things while we’re here?”
Megavolt looked perplexed for a moment then nodded.
And for the next several minutes the three ran wild. They were snatching, destroying or vandalizing anything unfortunate enough to get in their way. Megavolt and Quackerjack’s laughter rang through the halls, and soon Bushroot began to let out quiet chuckles as well.
The three had no idea when the building was surrounded by the police.
“Sorry,” Bushroot said as they went over another bump in the back of the police carrier.
“Oh it’s fine!” Quackerjack said. “All part of the game!”
“Would’ve happened eventually anyway,” Megavolt said with a smirk. “We never learn our lesson.”
“Well I don’t wanna learn better,” Quackerjack said, crossing his arms across his chest.
Despite their reassurances, Bushroot felt his nerves creeping back in. He never really liked going to prison. Well, sometimes the ride there was worse than his stay. He hated the waiting.
And there was no one there to calm him now. No one who would run their fluid hands over his, who would lower his voice and tell him it was going to be alright. No one who’d ever so gently stroke his hair, whose chest he could press his face against.
He still wasn’t here.
And though he appreciated the company of the other two criminals, it wasn’t long before they began to draw closer to each other. Their eyes looked towards each other, and not towards him.
And once he was alone in his cell, he had time to think. Thinking about him again was painful but alone once more, it was all he could do.
His smile, his voice, his laugh
Stop thinking about him!
His color, his chest, his tail
Why couldn’t he stop thinking about it?
The sounds he made when he moved, the splashing and swirling. He could almost hear it now.
Wait a minute.
Bushroot moves closer to the clear barrier between him and the outside, just in time to see him.
Chapter 4: Escape
He came back. Just not at the right time.
After weeks and weeks of wanting to see his partner, after day upon day of hoping he’d return, now, now , he was here.
For a moment it was almost as if nothing happened. It was almost nice to see his familiar blue shimmering shape. His first instinct was to run to him, even if he couldn’t reach him, to run to the glass.
But only for a moment.
After that the anger of the past few days raced back to him and hit him like a slap in the face. His hands curled into fists.
“What are you doing here?” Bushroot asked.
“I’m here to break you out of course!” Liquidator responded examining the walls of Bushroot’s confinement.
Bushroot scowled. “I don’t want-”
He was interrupted when a huge mass of water struck the corner of the cell, spreading a crack through the wall next to him, which had already looked weak. Three more times, a large mass of water was swung into the wall, until the whole thing eventually crumbled. Liquidator moved into Bushroot’s cell and picked him up.
“Hey!” Bushroot squeaked.
Ignoring his protest, Liquidator carried him out through the hole and down the hall. It was coming back. It was so familiar, the arms, the feel of water dripping down his back. The speed at which Liquidator moved, uninhibited by the boundaries of a solid body. Comforting, how easily and willing Liquidator embraces him. It almost pained him to do this.
“Stop,” Bushroot said.
Liquidator looked at him. “Huh?”
“Stop! Put me down!”
Shocked, Liquidator stopped in his tracks. “Reggie, this isn’t the time to walk on your own. The Liquidator’s speeds are unmatched by any-”
“Liquidator,” Bushroot’s voice was hard and his anger was audible. “I told you to put me down!”
Slowly, the watery canine put him down. Free of his arms Bushroot put his hands on his hips.
“Really, I can’t believe you!” Bushroot said.
Liquidator stared blankly. “What do you mean?”
“Oh just that you have some nerve trying to come in here and just carry me out after all this time!” Bushroot said.
Liquidator looked around, nervously. “Reginald…”
“I j-just- you showing up a-after weeks-“ he was about to cry. No, not now. He held back his tears. Keep it in, keep in. “N-no explanation or-or anything y-you just…”
Bushroot couldn’t finish his sentence. His voice was cracking.
“Listen, Reggie now isn’t the time, the guards will be coming soon, we can talk later.” Liquidator scooped Bushroot back up.
The arms no longer felt inviting. They were wet, cold. They were too tight, he was getting soaked, it was too much. He didn’t want this, he didn’t want to be held by him.
Bushroot began to squirm, but Liquidator’s arms adjusted to keep his grip.
“Let me go!” Bushroot said. He began to wiggle and squirm more desperately. “Liquidator I swear!”
Finally, they stopped again, and Liquidator’s grip loosened greatly, allowing Bushroot to slip out of his arms.
“What are you doing?” Liquidator asked, seeming genuinely confused. “I’m just trying to get you out of here!”
“Well don’t bother!” Bushroot said. He had to put a lot of effort into keeping his voice from breaking.“I-if you want to-to go so b-badly why don’t you just leave me alone l-like you did before!!”
Liquidator’s eyes widened. His mouth opened, as if he had something to say but nothing came out. After a bit, the watery shape flowed back into the shadows.
It was only then that Bushroot realized he had just sent away his best means of escape.
Well, Bushroot thought as he was escorted to a different cell by the guards. At least I won’t have to deal with him right now .
But the moment before he was sealed back in, something blue slipped in underneath the door.
Liquidator stood up. “I’m not leaving you alone this time.”
If looks could kill Liquidator would’ve been dead on the spot.
Chapter 5: Venting
Now stuck with him, Bushroot is forced to confront Liquidator.
“Don’t you ‘Reggie’ me you-you-” Bushroot trailed off, clutching at himself in frustration. “Why don’t you stop pretending you actually care?”
“Why don’t you think I care?” Liquidator asked.
Bushroot scoffed. “Gee, I don’t know, maybe because you left me for weeks? N-no explanation, no goodbye, nothing! You left after I told you th-that I didn’t want to help you break the law, and you didn’t come back until I was back in jail!”
Liquidator’s eyes widened. “Oh Reginald…”
“Yeah I get it now! The moment I don’t want to help you a-anymore you ditch me! Why? Because I’m n-no use if you can’t use my powers for your own gain!”
Bushroot stopped. Tears were once again threatening to break through despite how hard he was trying to hold them back. He turned from Liquidator, facing one of the corners of the cell.
“Guess it figures th-that you- that y-you didn't really l-love me,” Bushroot said, his voice quiet.
“I do!” Liquidator moved in front of Bushroot, causing the plant mutant to take a step back. “There’s no doubt about it, I adore you!”
He reached for Bushroot’s hands, but they drew away.
“Oh, you’d like me to believe that w-wouldn’t you,” Bushroot said. He sighed. “Hell, I wish I could believe that. I know I loved you… a lot.” His eyes turn to Liquidator’s for a moment before moving to look at the ground. He folded his arms. “But if you loved me you wouldn’t have left like that.”
“I didn’t leave you! The Liquidator is not one to abandon his most faithful-”
“Oh quit it with the salesman talk would you!” Bushroot said.
Liquidator nodded. “Right, well, what I meant to say is, I really did mean to come back. I just got arrested! Clearly you can understand since you seem to be in the same position.”
“What, you think I didn’t hear about the prison break?” Bushroot scowled. “I heard about how you got arrested with Megavolt and Quackerjack, and they got out!”
Liquidator grimaced. “Well, yes I-“
“They even said they saw you escaping!”
“Listen, I know that sounds bad but I really-”
“And you know what, even they think what you did was horrible! I mean we’re all criminals, but at least the three of us wouldn’t do something like that! I mean we’ve been dating for years! H-how could you just do that to me! Two weeks of being on my own, waiting for you day after day. I held out hope for you! I missed you so much, only to realize you didn’t want to come back! You know how lonely I was before you came along. You of all people should know how much that hurt me!”
“I’m sorry,” the canine almost sounded genuine. “I know, I know you didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t mean to do that to you.”
“Sure you didn’t,” Bushroot said, his gaze cold. “You just meant to abandon me without having to deal with that emotional baggage huh?”
Liquidator shook his head. “But I didn’t! I mean listen, I technically I did escape but I-”
“I don’t want to hear it,” Bushroot said, turning from him.
Liquidator placed a hand on the plant’s shoulder. “But if you just let me explain, I assure you-”
That was it.
“I said I don’t want to hear it!” Bushroot said, slapping away the hand. “What, you assure me y-you’ll be able to come up with some bullsh*t story to trick me into trusting you again?” He rounded on Liquidator. “You lie to everyone Bud! You lie to people and manipulate their feelings so you can use them! It’s what you’ve always done! I always thought that I was different but I guess not!”
“You are different,” Liquidator said, his normally commanding voice now quiet, almost pleading.
“Oh yeah. That’s what I said too. And the moment I did, Quackerjack laughed. He laughed at me. Why do you think he would do that huh? Is there something he knows that I don’t? Something you forgot to mention to me, or maybe something you lied about? Or heck, multiple things you might have lied about?”
Liquidator was completely silent now. He looked like he wanted to say something, but no words came out.
“Well?” Bushroot asked.
“... yes,” Liquidator said. He looked down, almost seeming genuinely ashamed. “But I promise, I didn’t lie to hurt you, and I wasn’t lying when I said I loved you.”
“Y-yeah. Sure.” Bushroot turned from him once more. “Y’know what, explain all you want, I don’t care, but I’m not listening. I’m not falling for you again.”
Chapter 6: Lies
Stuck with Bushroot in a cell, Liquidator simply starts talking.
When he had wanted to break Bushroot out of prison, he had expected a nice reunion, joy, maybe appreciation. But not this.
After showing up, excited, ready to reunite with his partner that he missed so much, Bushroot’s anger had been a slap in the face. He hadn’t realized why his partner didn’t want to be with him, didn’t even want to see him. Until Bushroot had vented at him.
Now he understood.
Bushroot hadn’t been lying when he said he wasn’t listening to him. Hell, he hadn’t even looked at him in an hour. Despite Liquidator’s numerous attempts at apologies, nothing seemed to be getting through to him.
He had to say something though.
Better apologies, explanations, and ways of begging for forgiveness all circled around and around in his head. He knew they wouldn’t help. Even if he was forgiven, and at this point he doubted he would be, he would still have the lies on his conscience. An experience that only really started when he had met Bushroot.
What Bushroot had concluded was true. He had lied before. He had done it so many times previously. But he hadn’t thought about it recently. It was a habit that had almost died out at this point, and now it came back to bite him.
There was no way to fix that though. It was in the past. And now the lies had done their damage. What could he possibly do now?
Well. There was one thing.
He could do what he should have done in the first place.
If Bushroot never wanted to see him after this, maybe this was the last chance he’d get to tell him the truth.
Even if Bushroot didn’t want to listen, at least he’d be able to finally be able to get it out.
At least the lies would be over.
He sighed, slumping his watery mass against the wall. He looked over at Bushroot. It took him a minute to psych himself up for this.
He knew this first one was gonna hurt.
“I guess I may have lied about loving you before,” Bud finally said. “At least once. It was the first time I said it. We were having a heart-to-heart, and then you had kissed me. You started apologizing immediately, but I was intrigued. I kissed you back. I thought it’d be appropriate. I wanted to see where it would go, so I told you I loved you.”
This was the first time in a while that he’d really thought about how he had really felt during those early days in their relationship. He had begun to try not to think about why their relationship had started.
“I was bored. Had nothing better to do. I didn’t think it would last long anyway.” He turned away, looking through the glass that gave him a view of the rest of the prison. “Most of my relationships don’t.”
Still no response, but he wanted to keep going.
“The second time I said it was probably a lie. I remember it. We had just pulled off a heist. I was giddy, and you said it first that time. I responded automatically.”
These memories were bittersweet. Bushroot had been so easy to cling to him, so desperate for companionship, and he had taken advantage of him for what, entertainment?
But then there were other memories…
A small smile crossed his face.
“Then the third time… I wasn’t lying. I thought I was though. You were just talking about plants, and asked if you were boring me. I said ‘no, I love hearing you talk. And I love you.’ I thought it was a bit cheesy at the time, but maybe that’s because I meant it.”
“I didn’t used to have time for love before I met you. I thought it was a waste of my energy to be invested in people. But eventually I realized loving you was different. I think I’ve only been in love with a few people Reginald. If even that many. And loving them was sometimes draining. Like I was giving away a part of myself. But not with you. I didn’t want to admit I was in love with you at first. It was confusing. It was new to me, but I couldn’t stop. You made me so happy. It made you so happy, and I for once, actually cared about that.”
It was almost painful to admit that now of all times. When Bushroot wouldn’t even look at him. When Bud himself had clearly caused him so much pain.
“And I did it so often. Little lies that I knew would make you happy. Maybe that was wrong, maybe they were pointless. But still, you have the most dazzling smile, and I just wanted to see it so badly.”
Then there was something else. Something that hadn’t made him smile.
“And when it came to marriage...” He shuddered.
The proposals had been painful. Though, he couldn’t imagine what Bushroot had felt when they were rejected. At the time of the first one he had such bad ideas attached to the concept of marriage. The second one however…
“I wasn’t lying the first time you proposed, when I said I needed more time. Marriage… was not a comfortable idea for me back then. I was scared.”
He inhaled deeply.
“And then… the second time scared me even more.”
This one got Bushroot’s attention. He had been scared? It scared him? The one who had rejected him?
“Why?” Bushroot asked, speaking for the first time in over an hour. He now felt even more bitter than before. “Because I didn’t get the hint?”
Liquidator was silent for a moment. When he finally spoke, his voice was shaky.
“No, it wasn’t that. It was because that time I wanted to say yes .”
Liquidator felt something strange. A bubbling sensation in his chest, water rushing through his body, to his face, it almost felt like blushing, but he wasn’t embarrassed.
“I-” he had to pause to compose himself. This almost never happened, he was normally so good at getting his words out. “I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. But I still never got used to it. Being in love. And after some of my former relationships I didn’t think I’d ever get married again.”
This was bringing back unpleasant memories. But he didn’t want to stop now, he owed Bushroot the truth.
“I loved you so much, and I wanted to be with you forever. But marriage… I still didn’t think I could handle it. No matter how much I wanted it, I know marriage comes with commitment, and consequences, and investment. I’ve never been good with that stuff, at least not when it comes to people. That didn’t matter before. If I messed something up with someone I didn’t care, but if I mess things up with you…”
He laughed quietly, though it sounded choked and broken somehow.
“Well,” Bud said. “I’d say I don’t know what I’d do. That I couldn’t risk it. But I guess it’s too late for that huh?”
Despite how much the plant mutant wanted to keep ignoring him, this was too much. He wanted to know how this made Liquidator feel, he needed to see the look on his face as he said all this. But when he turned, he was greeted with a surprise.
“What is going on with you?” Bushroot asked.
Bud looked up at him, surprised to see the plant facing him now. “What do you mean?”
“You look like… well, you look like you’re crying,” Bushroot said. This shouldn’t have been surprising, but he had never seen the watery canine do anything resembling crying before.
As soon as the words registered, Bud could feel it. Large water droplets dripped from his eyes. As he saw them falling from his face, he noticed they stood out, darker from the rest of the water in his upper body.
“I didn’t know you could still cry,” Bushroot said, momentarily distracted.
“Me neither…” Bud said. He looked at Bushroot. “But I was just thinking about how maybe this might’ve been avoided if I had just said yes to you when you proposed to me and I-“ he stopped. That was a painful thought. “Maybe then you’d already know how extraordinarily much I love you.”
That hurt Bushroot too. The thought that this could’ve been avoided. But even more, the thought that this, of all things, could be a lie. Was he telling the truth now? Bushroot was more inclined to believe it now, but he had never questioned things that apparently he had been lied to about.
They were both silent for a moment before Bushroot finally spoke again.
“Well…I didn’t know you were lying to me the first time you said you loved me.”
“Did you want to know?”
“No. That’s not the point!” He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at Bud. “I wish you hadn’t lied to me in the first place. Why are you telling me this now anyway?”
“Because, you were right!” Bud said. “At the moment I’m not particularly proud of the fact I lied to you in the past. I want to change that! Even if you don’t want to take me back, I realize you still deserve the truth.” He hesitated for a moment before he moved closer. This time Bushroot didn’t shrink back. “I want you to know I’m being entirely truthful when I say I never meant to leave you, and I’m so sorry you were alone.”
“Buddy…” Bushroot looked at him, his face softening.
“And I love you so much,” he finished.
Bushroot sighed. He looked tired. And he was. He wanted to believe this man so badly . But the worst part had still been left unexplained.
“Then… why did you leave me?”
“I didn’t!” Bud’s voice was desperate, but he didn’t care. “I know how it looks, I did escape with Megavolt and Quackerjack, but I never got the chance to come back to you. The prison- they called Darkwing to help round up those of us who escaped into the city. The other two, a lot of the others, they went to the back ways, to stay out of public areas. But the fastest way to get back to you was right through the city, and I thought I could make it!”
Now his voice began to break. This time when he began to cry, he could feel it.
“I-I just wanted to get back to you as soon as I could, but I was foolish, careless, and I got caught again.” Bud sniffed. This would’ve been embarrassing if he hadn’t been so much more concerned with Bushroot at the moment. “If I j-just had gone with them none of this would have happened. And if I hadn’t even left in the first place, if-if I had just stayed with you, you wouldn’t have ever had to be alone.”
A leafy hand touched his face at that moment, and he leaned into it. He was hesitant to try to get anything more, worried that Bushroot didn’t want much contact.
“So you… you didn’t leave because I didn’t want to-”
“Because you wanted to stay at home instead of joining me?” Bud asked, cutting him off. “Because you said you weren’t interested in crime? Of course not! I assure you, I don’t give a shit about that!”
“Quackerjack and Megavolt seemed to think you would,” Bushroot said skeptically.
“God, no! Why should I? I am fully capable of operating on my own. L-listen,” Bud took Bushroot’s hand in both of his and held it to where his heart used to be as he continued to speak. “I swear, if there was one thing I never lied about, it’s that I didn’t ask you along so I could use you. Even before I knew how I felt, I simply enjoyed your company! You are so much more than your powers Reggie.”
“I just- well, I see how you treat other people,” Bushroot said. “When we met, I wanted to be close to you guys, but a lot of times it seemed like us all being villains was the only thing keeping us together. Every man for himself kind of thing you know?”
“Maybe it was,” Bud said. “But the status has changed! I want what’s best for you now. I want to be with you, for you . If you take me back, you don’t have to do anything for me. If you want to stay out of it, that’s fine! I’ll stay home for you, if you want something I can steal it for you, you wouldn’t have to lift a finger. If you really wanted I’d- I would even-” he took a minute, choking back his tears, his feelings, and even his pride. “I’d stop it all. I-I’d reform myself, even get a normal job! That is if I could…”
“You don’t have to do that for me.”
“But I would! If you asked me to. I pride myself on being adaptable, I can be whatever you want!”
“Really? Sounds like the kind of promise you never keep,” Bushroot said dejectedly.
“I know, I know it does, but I’d try.” Bud opened one of his hands, and Bushroot placed his own within the canine’s grasp. Now Bud held both hands with his own, squeezing them gently. “I have a lot of regrets. One of them is that I never said ‘yes’ when you proposed. Because I would now. If you would have me, I’d do anything for you. You are so much more than just your powers, you’re beautiful, and smart, and passionate. I love you more than anyone else I can remember, I’ve missed you so much . All I want right now is to be your partner again. Forever. Even if you’re not my ‘partner in crime.’”
Bushroot smirked, laughing slightly. “Are you trying to get me to take you back or are you trying to propose to me?”
“I want to.”
“You… wait what?”
“Propose to you I mean.” A few hot tears still trickled down the dog’s face. “If I had the courage. If I had a ring. If it were a better time. I mean, I know I’d fuck it up somehow, I always do. Still, after being away from you for so long, and seeing how much that hurt you? I want nothing more. If only so you’d know once and for all that I never want to leave you.”
Bushroot’s eyes were wide. He seemed to be having trouble finding words.
“I know!” Bud said quickly, seeing his expression. “It’s too much to ask right now. Maybe someday-”
“No,” Bushroot said, almost breathlessly. “P-please do.”
“Please do wh- You, you want me to?” Bud’s mouth fell open. “Does that mean you would-what I mean to say is…” He inhaled deeply before continuing in a softer voice. “ Will you marry me?”
“...Holy fuck…” Bushroot froze. “I’ve… I wanted to hear you say that for so long.” His shoulders began to shake, and he wiped away a few tears. “Oh, I missed you. I’ve missed being in love with you.”
“I-Is that a yes?” Bud asked hesitantly.
“Huh? Oh! Yes, of course I’ll marry you!” Bushroot began to positively beam. “What, do you think I’m going to say no? I was the one who asked you first! I mean, it’s about time!”
“I know! I know!” Bud was unconcerned with bothering to hide his relief and joy. “I really should’ve asked sooner. I’m so sorry Reginald, I promise, from now on, I’m not letting anything get in the way of my love for you!”
Now desperate for constant, Bud held out his arms the way he did when he carried Bushroot. “May I?” He asked tentatively.
Without even a single word in response, Bushroot jumped into his arms and hugged him fiercely. Bud’s tail wagged as he nuzzled his head against Bushroot. Soon he could feel his -once more- partner kissing him along his neck and cheek.
Bud had been aching for this. To touch him, to remember he loved him. It was like being given back a part of him that had been torn away.
And Bushroot was absolutely overjoyed. The hurt wasn’t fully gone. Especially the fresh wounds from learning the truth. But it still meant something that Bud wanted to make it right. That he was willing to make this commitment, after so long of shying away from it.
He clung to the other mutant’s wet form. Despite how unwelcoming the arms and slickness of Liquidator’s body seemed less than two hours ago, they were a haven for him now. It was such a relief that Bushroot could let himself trust him again, even if it wasn’t as much as before. It was a relief to be able to love him again.
Finally, the two kissed on the lips. It lasted at least a minute before they parted.
“Would now be the time for us to make our leave?” Liquidator asked.
“Huh?” Bushroot had been so distracted, he had almost forgotten they were still in a cell. “Uh, maybe not just yet.” He wrapped his arms tighter around his partner, pulling himself against his chest. “Who knows whether we’ll be kept together if they happen to catch us again . Let’s just stay here, alone, together. At least for a little bit longer. I’ll probably be ready to leave soon.”
Bud almost wanted to argue but… there was no need. He had all he needed right here. And he wouldn’t abandon him again.
“Of course sweetheart.” Bud kissed Bushroot gently on the forehead, and wrapped his arms around him even more. “Anything for you.”