Six doesn’t like waking up early, and Siete is much the same. But when Siete says he likes waking up later, he means he sleeps until around noon. Six sleeps in until three in the afternoon, waking only when the sun’s been sizzling in the sky and their apartment is hot enough to throw out their oven and bake meals in the stuffy air.
Not that he minds at all, because it means he’s alert enough to see Six wake up and drag himself out of their bedroom. No matter the season, no matter the temperature, Six always wraps a blanket around himself before he shuffles through the door, his hair sticking every which way.
Even if their schedules are so busy that they don’t have as much time together anymore, Siete doesn’t mind lazing around in bed and waiting for Six to wake up. Six needs time on his own even on days off, and Siete doesn’t mind the quiet. He also doesn’t mind getting a few things done around the apartment before Six can crawl out of bed, shuffle over to wherever he’s standing before he does anything else in the “morning,” and tiptoe to kiss him on the jaw.
Last night, Six slept fourteen hours straight. Siete looks up from their couch at the sound of their bedroom door opening, his cheeks already hurting with his grin when Six shuffles over with his eyes closed. “Rough week at work?” he asks, looking up from his laptop.
Instead of answering, Six wriggles himself under Siete’s arms, wraps them around him, and buries his head into Siete’s chest, his ears tickling at his jaw.
With a laugh, Siete wraps his arms around him tighter and breathes with him.
When Six had first moved into his apartment, Siete had joked that his belongings were thirty percent actual belongings and seventy percent plants. Six had ignored him to set up the plants where they would be “happiest.”
Siete let him do what he wanted, mostly because his own attempts to keep plants alive in the past had ended poorly. They did brighten up their apartment, made it feel a little more lived-in, which was funny to him—neither he nor Six were people to openly decorate their spaces with personal belongings until they’d moved in together, when there had suddenly been an explosion of life.
He liked seeing the plants knowing that they made the air in their apartment cleaner, and Six’s cat acclimated better into Siete’s apartment with the plants around. Apparently, he hadn’t made it obvious enough that the plants were a welcome addition, because after a few days of awkward tension, Six had finally come up to him and asked, Are the plants too much?
He’d said it like he’d dared Siete to say otherwise, like it would be good enough cause to break up with him, and honestly? Six would be justified in doing that. He’d seen the way Six took care of them.
What—no, I love them, keep them, Siete had said. All of Six’s tension drained in an instant at his words, although he still seemed skeptical. I’m just leaving it all to you to it because I’ve killed every plant I’ve tried to own, but they do make the place, uh, “happier.”
At the revelation of his plant care history, he’d expected Six to threaten him if he ever so much as looked at his plants the wrong way. Instead, Six had nodded as though he’d given him some important information (which it was, Siete could not take care of plants, and that should be important to someone who brought an armada of plants to take over every single free space on every windowsill). Let me show you how to take care of them so I don’t regret moving in.
And so, Six had introduced him to every last one of his thirty-nine plants, rattling off the amount of sun and water they needed and their proper care without missing a beat. He’d tried to write down everything, and Six filled in the blanks, but he’d barely gotten used to what each one did before Six had gotten busier at work.
Make sure the Pitch-Black Punisher doesn’t eat the plants in our room, he’d said. Their little black cat in question had meowed up at them as if she was agreeing. None of my plants are dangerous, but that doesn’t make them agreeable to her.
At first, it was like another job. Siete’s habit of waking up earlier worked out with Six being too tired most days to wake up before the afternoon to do his routine with the plants. Once, a plant’s leaves had browned and shriveled, and he’d spent the entire four hours before Six woke up searching how to fix a plant help before Six came out, saw it, and told him firmly to not water it for two more weeks.
It was fine after that. The way Six knew exactly what to do was like magic.
It took a few months, but Siete finally figured everything out. He’s always been good with names—and with names, the things those names need. Once he christens all the plants with little nonsense names, it’s easier to remember that Gerbil needs more sunlight than most, or that Sweetie Pie Cupcake Honey only needs half a cup of water every week.
Then, with names comes the desire to talk to them. Siete’s heard before that talking to plants and telling them kind things helps them grow. Six had never mentioned that, and Siete’s never seen him talk to his plants, but it comes naturally.
He’d felt a bit silly the first time he’d switched from muttering to himself to muttering to their plants. But their cat had walked up to him more than once while he was talking to them, meowing beside him, and he’d felt less lonely. If she was used to this, then perhaps Six talked to his plants after all.
Now, it’s second nature to give each of his tiny plant friends the attention and care they need. Some people on the plant care forums he’s started to frequent call their plants my children, and honestly, he gets it. He’s devastated when he forgets what one of them needs or he sees that he’s accidentally overwatered one again.
He allows himself a goofy little smile that morning. “Rise and shine, my children,” he murmurs. Six is still sleeping, so even though he most likely won’t be awake for another few hours, Siete keeps his voice low. “Our children,” he amends, glancing at the wall between the living room and their bedroom. “Daddy’s asleep, but Papa’s here!”
P.B. comes up to him, nuzzling into his shin. He crouches down to give her a head scratch. “Okay, we feed you first, because you get loud.”
Taking care of Six’s plants wakes him up earlier than he’d thought possible, especially now that he takes his time talking to each one instead of treating it methodically. As he pours food into P.B.’s bowl, he thinks that the plants look livelier, their leaves larger. Those random articles on the internet about talking to plants to help them grow really have something behind them.
His friends always told him he just liked hearing the sound of his own voice—which may or may not be true, but it does feel better when someone (or some plant) is listening.
He takes a watering can and fills it up for the first time that day. “Hello, Your Majesty,” he says to a Pilea peperomioides basking in the sun. A dark green beauty, Six had murmured once, and Siete understands now that he’s seen so many on the internet without nearly the same vibrant green as theirs. “Looking leafy today.” He pauses. “You’re growing so fast, you’re leafing the others in the dust!”
P.B. meows at him. He looks at her.
“Leave that one out of my setlist then?”
Mood unaffected, he greets every single plant without needing to double-check what each of them need. (His friends also always told him that he was always a little lonely, but he has so many plant children now! And a boyfriend! His social life is fine.)
He greets every single plant that isn’t in their bedroom, checking them for disease or pest infestations or cat teeth–shaped bite marks. His grin is infallible when he gets to the last one sitting in their kitchen, unassuming. “Morning, Six Jr.,” he coos at it.
The Fittonia is particularly finicky, always toeing the line between too much water and not enough, somewhere humid with enough sunlight but never directly in it. Six fiddled with the location of this one for a few days before it found its home in the kitchen, right by its window—and then after he explained its complicated maintenance, he called it his pride. After taking care of it for this long, Siete can see why. “Parents aren’t supposed to have favourites, but between you and me, you’re mine and Six’s favourite. Not that we don’t love the rest of you,” he’s quick to say, standing up to call to the houseplants in their small living room. “But… you know how it is.
“It’s a special occasion,” he whispers to Six Jr. as he fills up the watering can in the kitchen sink. “It’s the one-year anniversary of Six moving in with me, although I don’t think he’s keeping tabs.”
He’s positive Six would kill him if he ever found out he named this plant after him. Even Six’s complained about how much attention it needs, but he’s always watched over it closely and helped it grow. And Siete loves showering this plant with attention as much as he loves showering the real Six with attention. “Slurp slurp slurp slurp,” he sings as he pours the last drops of the watering can onto its soil.
Siete turns around to the familiar sight of Six with his blanket around his shoulders, wearily blinking at him. He’s up much earlier than usual. It’s barely before noon. “Morning, love,” he says, grinning wide and raising the watering can. “Just taking care of the kids.” At his feet, P.B. meows. “Furry and non-furry.”
Six does his familiar shuffle over to Siete, and their routine continues as normal with Six in his arms. “Why are you awake?” he asks instead of responding properly, his voice warm with affection.
“Because I heard talking on the other side of the wall,” he murmurs, barely intelligible.
“You could hear that?”
Six makes a noise somewhere between agreement and a grumble. “You talk to the plants?”
“You don’t? I thought you would of all people.”
“I don’t have anything to say.”
Siete laughs at that. Even if he doesn’t look like it, Six can absolutely talk someone’s ear off. He does it constantly with Siete, but that’s probably because Siete knows very well how to have a conversation with him in such a way that he can carry it. “Well, I heard that talking to plants helps them grow. Maybe you don’t talk to them because you can take care of them just fine, but I need all the help I can get considering my track record.”
Six’s so quiet for so long that Siete thinks he’s fallen asleep again in his arms. It wouldn’t be the fall time he’s fallen back asleep in Siete’s arms after just having woken up. He shuffles them to the side so he can continue watering the last few plants, and then Six says, “Did you name that one after me?”
“With thirty-nine plants, I start running out of names. However, that has nothing to do with the naming of that plant, because it was the first one I named so I could remember what to do with it.”
“Why that one?”
He considers not telling him the truth, but it’s too funny. “Because it makes me spoil it so much that I needed a name to remember how to take care of it.”
Six is quiet for a second, and then, he leans back to look Siete in the eyes. He looks like he’s about to fall asleep again, but not before he frowns, almost pouting (even though he insists he doesn’t pout). “I don’t make you spoil me.”
“You don’t, but I always want to anyway. I’ll water you with my love,” he says before he plants a barrage of kisses to Six’s face.