The first rays of sunlight diffused in through the fogged-up panels of Bushroot's greenhouse, the night's humidity having condensed against the panes as the heat finally dissipated in the earliest morning hours. The light awakened Bushroot from a pleasant rest; he had always been an early riser, but his mutation had underscored the trait in him, and now he rarely slept much past dawn. As he sat up and stretched, his gaze fell upon the puddle in the dirt beside him, a still pool of water that somehow managed to stay sparkling clean despite being on the floor of his greenhouse. Liquidator was still asleep, deeply enough that hardly any evidence of his face or head was visible, except for the slightest blur of his closed eyes beneath the surface near the bloom that had been his pillow when he first lay down. A hint of a smile curled the edge of Bushroot's beak as he watched the sleeping Liquidator and recalled the events of the previous night. After a failed caper with the Fearsome Five, he had gone back to his greenhouse only to have Liquidator surprise him with a visit a short while later. While that had been unexpected, what had come as the biggest surprise was when Liquidator somehow managed to seduce him while he was there, by watering him.
A blush-like warmth rose to Bushroot's cheeks as he thought about it. Only someone like Liquidator could manage to turn something as simple as giving a plant water into something so sensual, so intimate, and so… naughty. Bushroot turned his eyes away from Liquidator's puddle, still a little embarrassed, and rose to his feet. Spike immediately ran over to him when he saw him up and about, and Bushroot petted the fly trap absently as he made his way over to the bench that served as a kitchenette for him. He turned on the hose to fill the bowl he kept out for Spike to drink from, and the powerful rush of water from the nozzle instantly made him think of Liquidator and his watery touch. His delightful touch, a touch of just the right combination of warm and cool, with perfect pressure that no hose could ever duplicate—and Liquidator knew it, too, as evidenced by the huffy way he had said, "You have your hose, I suppose," when Bushroot had protested the water dog's seemingly cavalier attitude about the intimate nature of their encounter.
Bushroot finished filling Spike's bowl and lifted the hose to his coffee maker, wondering if he should make extra for Liquidator, even though he doubted he would want his special fertilizer blend of java. As he then turned the hose off and proceeded to fill Spike's food bowl with compost, Bushroot continued to think about Liquidator and what had happened between them the night before. The experience had been incredible, unlike anything he had ever felt. Being surrounded by Liquidator's fluid body, immersed and caressed by the liquid pleasure he craved while drinking it in, had filled not just his physiological need for water, but also a psychological one for contact that had long gone unfulfilled. Bushroot supposed that he should not have been surprised that he reacted the way he had to it, in retrospect. However, the fact that he had surrendered to the erotic feeling so readily and easily was surprising to him, as well as embarrassing.
It had been one thing to know privately that Liquidator's watering had excited him so. It was another matter altogether to know that Liquidator knew. When Liquidator had made a glib remark about them having sex afterward, at first Bushroot had thought Liquidator was just teasing him. The water dog had a wry sense of humor and Bushroot was used to being on the receiving end of ribbing from the other Fearsome Five members. When Liquidator made it clear that he was not merely speaking in jest, however, Bushroot realized that not only had Liquidator noticed how much he enjoyed what he had done to him, but that he had liked it every bit as much himself.
Bushroot lowered his eyes as he scooped his fertilizer coffee into the basket of his coffee maker, feeling embarrassed all over again. Embarrassed because in his loneliness, he had ached so badly for the loving touch of someone else that the first tender embrace he experienced had been enough to arouse him so much, and embarrassed because he had been so caught up in the sheer pleasure of it that he had not even realized that he was having sex to begin with. Granted, it was hardly a typical situation for such a thing, but still. If Bushroot felt any regrets about what had happened with Liquidator, it was that. He had longed for years to love and be loved by someone else, and he had always imagined that when he finally did, whoever he was with would know exactly how he felt and feel the same.
Leaning against the bench while his coffee brewed, Bushroot looked over at the puddle in his flower bed once more. That was perhaps the most frustrating part about it, being blindsided and not having the time to sort out what his feelings for Liquidator, or Buddy as Liquidator told him to call him the previous night, were. He certainly liked him, very much so. Bushroot had liked Liquidator long before anything physical ever happened between them. Water and plants went great together, and once they had become a team working as partners in the Fearsome Five, Bushroot had been pleasantly surprised by how much he enjoyed Liquidator's company. Liquidator was forward and aggressive while he was cautious and sneaky, but those differences played out as complementary rather than competitive. Bushroot admired Liquidator's charisma and outgoing personality, and even though he knew Liquidator was a salesman through and through and more often than not had an ulterior motive whenever he really poured it on, he could not help but like him anyway. Bushroot also felt that Liquidator respected him in a way that the others in the Fearsome Five did not. Negaduck only wanted him and the others around for what he could get from them. Quackerjack was not careful of his plants, and his destructive, unpredictable, and insane sense of humor left Bushroot wary of considering him anything more than a friendly acquaintance. Megavolt he had a few more things in common with, but the rat was moody and treated Bushroot's living plants like cannon fodder while idolizing his inanimate light bulbs. Liquidator, on the other hand, was generally considerate of his plants. He often watered them without being asked, and although Liquidator made the occasional joke at his expense, it was never with the same derision that Bushroot felt from the others.
However, he thought as he waited for his coffee to finish brewing, he still was Liquidator. All of the times Bushroot had sought out someone to ease his loneliness, for either romantic companionship or just a meaningful friendship, he had not considered his fellow super-villains, and for good reason. What had happened with Rhoda, with Posy, and even that odd little slime duck called Yucky had been heartbreaking enough, but at least they had not deliberately hurt him. That was not something he could sensibly expect another super-villain not to do if it suited him. Or could he? He already trusted Liquidator more than the others, but could he trust him that much? Bushroot's blue eyes cast a thoughtful gaze upon the sleeping water dog. Would you do that to me?
He did not want to think so. Bushroot recalled the playful affection Liquidator had shown him the previous night after their encounter, how he had simultaneously teased and flattered him, and how he had hinted that he wanted to spend the night by presenting it as an offer for Bushroot to "act now" on if he wanted him to do so. He imagined that Liquidator would have been more complacent and indifferent if he had just used him, and certainly he would have left as soon as he had gotten what he wanted if it had only been about gratification. That led Bushroot to wonder if in his own way, Liquidator was lonely too, and if that was why he had come to visit him in the first place. For all their differences, they did have one important thing in common: they were both mutants, different from everyone else, and feared by civilized society in general. Just because Liquidator reveled in it while Bushroot resented it did not necessarily mean that Liquidator did not desire companionship. The notion made Bushroot smile—not that his friend, or whatever Liquidator was to him now, might be lonely, but that he might want to be with him to ease that loneliness.
Bushroot was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he did not notice that his coffee was done, and the loud sucking noise of the machine's empty water chamber draining snapped him back to reality. Blinking, he turned and filled one of his coffee mugs, taking a moment to savor the delightful compost-like aroma that wafted from the brew. He had just taken his first sip when he heard a voice behind him.
"Ah, fresh brewed fertilizer, good 'till the last drop!"
Bushroot turned and greeted Liquidator with a smile as he approached. "Oh, I didn't realize you were up. I didn't wake you, did I?"
"Nope. The sun did that," Liquidator replied with a gesture upward. "I'm used to a little more shade than this, especially in my hideout in the sewers. No windows there, but then again, the air's not nearly as outdoorsy-fresh either." He smirked at the coffee pot. "Though the fine aroma of your morning beverage does have a few similarities…"
"Oh, right. Sorry," Bushroot said sheepishly, and set his mug down on the bench. "This probably doesn't smell so great if you're not a plant. I guess that means you don't want a cup, then."
Liquidator chuckled. "I'll pass, but I do appreciate the hospitality of complementary coffee to start my day off right anyway." His watery eyes lingered on Bushroot as they lapsed into a brief silence. "So, how did you sleep?" Liquidator asked after that long moment.
"Uh, fine. Great. Like a seedling in a fresh pot on a spring night," answered Bushroot, eyeing Liquidator just as intently as the water dog watched him. "You?"
"Quite comfortably, although I hope you don't mind that I gave one of your ferns a sparkling morning refreshment to get rid of the dirt stuck to my back when I got up."
"Oh, I never mind if you water my plants, you know that," Bushroot assured him. "But I'm sorry you got dirty. I should've thought—"
With a smile assuring him that it was no big deal, Liquidator cut him off. "Don't worry about it. The Liquidator is dirt and stain-resistant, and comes clean with ease. Besides," he added with a knowing look, "we were both pretty tired last night."
Bushroot felt the sap rise to his cheeks again as Liquidator alluded to what had happened between them. "Yeah." He felt as though he should say something else, but he had no idea what.
Fortunately, Liquidator never seemed to be at a loss for words, and he glided closer to Bushroot with a curious look. "Have you ever considered a garden pond for your botanical abode, a haven for your water-loving friends?"
It seemed like any other casual question he might ask, but Bushroot could tell that there was also a personal element to it, especially if the way Liquidator watched him for a response was any indication. "Actually I have one, back over there." Bushroot nodded toward the far south corner of the greenhouse. "But I don't use it anymore. Spike kept climbing in it and breaking the cattails and uprooting the lily pads, and he always got the duckweed all over him, so I drained it and moved them outside to the drainage pond in the back. He leaves that alone for the most part so the poor things can get some peace."
"Oh." Bushroot could not help but notice the hint of disappointment in Liquidator's voice.
"I could fill it for you, if you want," he offered, to which Liquidator shook his head.
"If I wanted that, I could fill it faster… no offense to your garden variety garden hose, of course. I'm sure you stole top quality. But that's not necessary; the Liquidator is a low-maintenance greenhouse guest, with no desire to uproot his partner in crime's home."
"Well I want you to be comfortable," Bushroot said, and then added in a less emphatic tone, "When you visit me, I mean. If you plan on coming back sometime soon."
Leaning in close to the plant-duck, Liquidator tipped Bushroot's face up toward his with a gentle watery finger on the underside of his beak. "Did you think last night was an offer valid for one night only?"
Bushroot found himself drawn into Liquidator's commanding stare. "I don't know what to think. I mean, it all happened so fast…"
Liquidator tilted his head slightly to one side. "Inquiring minds want to know, what do you think now?"
"I think... well, I hope not," Bushroot replied honestly, feeling like he was wearing his heart out on his leaves as he did so. The smile that lit up Liquidator's fluid face upon hearing his response soothed away that anxiety, though, much like his watery touch did his thirsty plant-like skin.
"Then we agree one hundred percent." Liquidator drew his fingers together in a playful snap on the edge of Bushroot's beak and then put his arm around him. Bushroot settled easily against Liquidator's warm and wet shoulder, and looked up at him with both fondness and hope.
"I never knew you felt that way."
"I've always liked you, Reggie. You're a fun partner in crime, and your plants are the perfect complement to the amazing aquatic powers of the Liquidator. Not to mention you're part of the elite forty percent of the Fearsome Five that isn't either completely insane or a homicidal narcissist." Liquidator's charismatic voice took on a serious tone as he continued. "And you fascinate me. You're the only super-villain I know that sells himself short more often than he marks himself up. You know, you and your plants could have the run of half this city without any help if you wanted, and the whole of it with the help of someone like me," the water dog finished with a conspiratorial grin.
Bushroot let out a hollow chortle at that. "Yeah, until Darkwing Duck decides to chase me from treetop to treetop until my foliage falls out and I wilt from the stress of fending him off, maybe." He leaned a little more heavily against Liquidator, the edges of his petal hair sinking into Liquidator's watery skin. "It's not worth it. I don't want to take over the world. I just want what I have here, well that and maybe a few more nice luxuries that my plants can help me get," he admitted with a sly smirk crossing his beak. "Besides, we both know how much Negaduck loves competition. One arrogant duck hunting me down is enough, thanks. I don't need a second."
Raising an eyebrow, Liquidator looked down at Bushroot. "You don't think that we could get the better of Negaduck if it came to it? More so than anyone else in the Fearsome Five, we're practically indestructible."
With a shudder Bushroot replied, "Just because I can re-grow from a sprout doesn't mean I want to go through doing it again. Being mowed and mulched might not kill me, but it really hurts." He frowned. "And you're not invincible, you know. You can't tell me being turned into concrete or pudding is pleasant."
"It's annoying as hell," Liquidator said matter-of-factly. "But the great thing about water is that it evaporates out of everything eventually. Concrete, pudding, sponges, even high quality Quackerware with its world-renowned air-tight seal will only hold the one and only Liquidator in place for so long."
"Sometimes I wonder if you're afraid of anything," Bushroot said with a hint of bemusement.
"And sometimes I wonder why you're afraid of everything," countered Liquidator. "Like I said, the incredible regenerate-able Reggie has less to fear than the average super-villain from a caped fool with a gas gun and a megalomaniac with a chainsaw." He smoothed his hand through Bushroot's purple petal-hair affectionately. "But if I had to guess why, my market research tells me that you were used to getting the short end of the stick long before you gained the ability to grow your own, and old habits die hard."
Bushroot sighed and picked up his coffee mug again, swirling the cooling brew inside it. "You didn't even know me then."
"I didn't have to. I made my living selling to the general public, and types like you were the easiest sale, always willing to take the least for the most, especially under pressure."
A wounded look flashed through Bushroot's blue eyes. "So that's what you like about me? You think I'm easy and you can push me around?"
"No, I like you in spite of that," Liquidator argued. "I like you because you're clever and powerful, and you have the kind of potential that an enterprising mind like mine can't help but appreciate." His lips curled back in a playful smirk. "Although I admit that you being easy did have its advantages when it came to getting wet and wild with you last night. But let's face it, when it comes to that, I'm easy too."
Bushroot's expression softened, although he found it hard to refrain from shaking his head a little at Liquidator's shamelessness. "So easy I almost ought to be angry with you for taking advantage of me."
"Angry?" Liquidator frowned with a hint of indignation. "I gave you the water ride of your life! You even told me so last night. Besides, standard disclaimers apply; you could have said 'no' or 'stop' at any time."
"Which is why I said I almost ought to be angry," Bushroot replied, his beak twitching with the hint of a smile.
Liquidator met his mischievous look with one of his own and smoothed his hand along Bushroot's side as he pulled him closer, leaving a cool and wet trail against the plant-duck's skin. "You know, I'd have watered you a lot sooner if I'd known it'd have that effect."
"On you or me?" Bushroot asked as he wrapped his arm around the water dog's torso.
"Both," replied Liquidator, giving him an affectionate squeeze. "Research has shown that all work and no play makes being defeated by a super-hero loser ten times more miserable, after all."
"Well if that's the case, I guess I'll be seeing a lot of you then, with how little a life Darkwing has when it comes to bothering us."
The two villains exchanged smiles and lapsed into a contented silence, their expressions saying everything else that needed to be said.
"Your coffee's getting cold," Liquidator said after that long moment passed. "You should finish it while the fertilizer's still at its full-bodied best. I need to head out anyway." He then released Bushroot, who nodded in understanding. While he felt a pang of disappointment at Liquidator's impending departure, he did not protest.
"See you later, Buddy."
Liquidator smiled back at him. "Or sooner, depending on which rates and limitations apply." With a parting wink, he then dove into Bushroot's nearby utility sink, swirling down the drain and vanishing so quickly that a moment later it seemed as if he had never been there at all.