All that deals with The Great Gardening Project.
Follow up to And Some You Do For; will not make sense unless you have read that. Art by the lovely tardis80.
t wasn't quite the first day of spring, but it was close enough that Brendon felt justified in laughing at Jon's sheepish, hopeful expression. Next to him, Spencer had a supportive expression on that was actually distinctly long-suffering, and his lips twitched every time Brendon met his gaze.
"Sure," Ryan said, and shrugged. "Do what you like, I don’t mind." He paused, and then added, "As long as I don't have to help."
"Awesome," Jon said fervently, and so the Great Gardening Project began.
It didn't take long for Brendon and Ryan to realise that when Jon said he was a good gardener, what he actually meant was that he wanted to be a good gardener. He seemed to think that the most important part of the whole process was gathering the seeds and young plants that they could grow, and delegated Brendon and Spencer to actually preparing the garden. They spent several long, grimy days getting the soil ready and uprooting weeds while Ryan laughed at them from inside, making himself comfortable on the couch with a book and the ever present teapot.
In his hunt for Things What Grew, though, it could not be denied that Jon was inordinately successful. He came back from Mrs Smith's house with an armful of pots filled with green seedlings; he sweet-talked Gerard into letting him poke around the small jungle at the back of the Way's place for some potential plants, and came out triumphant; he spent an afternoon on Brendon’s bicycle riding through the countryside surrounding Thornton Hill, returning as the sun set with carefully packaged specimens. One day he disappeared for several hours to Greta's, and returned with the beginnings of a vegetable patch, tomato plants, and sunflower seeds.
What followed was a week of work that very soon lost its appeal. Brendon had never been involved in anything to do with gardening beyond the annual tree planting drive at his parent’s church, and after the first day his back was aching enough that he even ignored Ryan groping sneakily at him in favour of crashing and sleeping for nearly twelve hours. He'd hoped that maybe the shared horror of yesterday would put Jon off, but at eight AM that morning he was woken to Ryan shaking his shoulders looking extremely grumpy, and a thumping on their bedroom door.
"Rise and shine!" Jon carolled. "You've got five minutes and then I'm coming in, everybody better be dressed!"
"Oh my God," Ryan said, scowling at him, hair sticking up in every direction. "Get out, and get rid of him, too. I did not agree to this stupid garden waking me up. You promised but I didn't."
"Ryan," Brendon said in a low, warm voice. "Ryan, wouldn't you rather I stayed here with you in our nice, comfortable bed--"
"Out," Ryan said firmly, and flicked his fingers. Brendon found himself dumped unceremoniously dumped on the floor, all of the breath knocked out of him. He gaped up at Ryan.
"I hate you," he wheezed eventually. "Traitor." Ryan sent him one last, venomous look and then rolled over, pulling the covers up over his head.
"Brendon!" Jon called.
"Alright, alright," he said, pulling himself up and getting dressed hastily. "I'm coming already, just shut up--"
Jon was beaming way too widely for this hour of the morning. Behind him, a half-asleep Spencer thrust a cup of coffee at Brendon, and Brendon clutched it to himself and gulped hastily, uncaring even when it burned his tongue.
"I hate you, too," he told Jon. Jon shrugged, and they all headed outside again.
The trouble with Jon's enthusiasm was that it didn't really lead him to any sort of skill. By the end of the week, there was no sign of any of the seeds they had planted, and the saplings were beginning to droop, the edges of their leaves turning brown, overcrowded and unwilling to grow in this new soil.
As the days started edging into April with no improvement, Jon began to visibly droop himself, casting long, mournful looks at the garden and sighing heavily in the middle of entirely irrelevant conversations. One afternoon, Spencer came around by himself, looking annoyed and, despite that, a little depressed himself.
"He can be so ridiculous about things sometimes," Spencer said, and Brendon rolled his eyes, while Ryan looked slightly confused.
"It's just a garden," Brendon said. "It's not like we're judging him because he sucks at growing stuff."
"Yeah, well," Spencer said, shrugging. "Try telling him that." He left earlier than usual, and the rest of the day felt strangely subdued, Ryan and Brendon occupying their own corners of the house. Brendon went to bed weirdly early, too, and fell asleep before he heard Ryan come in.
He woke up with a familiar, prickling feeling crawling over his skin, which was covered in goosebumps. He sat up warily and when he strained his ears, realised he could hear a faint humming sound. For a moment, he was entirely still; then he swung out of bed and pulled on a pair of boxers and a t-shirt before heading out to the back garden.
Ryan was standing in the middle of it, palms outstretched, head tilted back. Brendon took a startled, shivering breath. He could feel things in the soil underneath his bare feet coming alive, stirring, waking up. The night was clear and cloudless, moonlight bathing the garden in pale, warm light, and Brendon could hear the shifting, quiet whispers of a thousand green things.
"You sap," he called, and Ryan turned around and smiled dreamily at him, still caught in the spell. Brendon crossed easily over the ground and leaned against him, and Ryan hummed something nonsensical under his breath and tilted towards him, his breath stirring Brendon’s hair. I love you, Brendon thought, very, very quietly, and slipped his hand under Ryan's shirt, splayed his fingers across the small of Ryan's back.
"Hmmn," Ryan sighed eventually, and Brendon felt the magic subside, the garden falling still and quiet once more.
Brendon turned and grinned at Ryan. "You're such a sucker," he said. "All done?"
"Look up," Ryan told him, and Brendon did, watched as the clouds gathered suddenly in the north and raced across the night sky, covering the stars. It began to rain; a loud, steady downpour.
He laughed and turned his face up to the sky, opening his mouth and catching drops that were cold and fresh against his skin. They stood there for a long time, soaked through and shivering, but Brendon was warm everywhere they touched and it could never, he thought, not be enough.
And the garden grew.
By the time Jon and Spencer came around the next afternoon, there were green shoots everywhere, the dying plants revived and reaching higher and higher. Vines climbed up the trellis that had been placed there for them, the lemon tree put out fresh green leaves, the ground covers spread and sprouted tiny white flowers, and, unbelievably, the strawberries looked as though they would be ready to eat in another week or so.
It was impossible not to see the magic at work, but Jon very obviously didn't care in the slightest. He spent half an hour sitting enthralled outside on the wet ground, as the newly arrived honeyeaters called to each other and the ladybugs settled on his knees. He swore he saw a lizard scuttling by, too, and he spent a distinctly childish five minutes giggling with Spencer as insects scuttled in every direction when they overturned a large, flat rock. Spencer stayed with him, wandering through it and marvelling at the saplings that seemed taller already, eyes wide and delighted, while Ryan smiled from the wooden posts at the back veranda.
And it grew, and grew, impossibly fast and vivid, new plants poking their heads out from the soil every day, the sunflowers shooting up until they were as tall as in cheesy Hollywood movies. Jon insisted that half of the flowers that were growing weren’t ones he had originally planted, wildly exotic and generally considered unable to grow in this climate, but Ryan only shrugged and looked away, still smiling. Jon laughed, and suggested that they eat outside.
Much to Brendon's disappointment, he was unable to join them. The rainstorm that night had given him an unexpected and vicious case of the flu, and he was confined to bed for a week. Ryan made guilty faces at him, and then apparently dealt with said guilt by being the bossiest minder ever, barely letting him leave the bed to go to the toilet and fixing him strong pots of tea with garlic and honey. Brendon coughed and slept his way through the days, hours melting together, forever unsure whether he was going to wake up to the glare of midday or the silent house at night with Ryan asleep next to him.
Every now and then, though, he would wake up and feel alert enough to sit up without his head spinning wildly, and his eyes not so blurry that he couldn’t look out the window. With the breaks in between such moments, it felt to Brendon as if the garden grew in disjointed time sequences like those on nature shows, flowers growing and blooming in starts and bursts of movement.
On the next Saturday, Brendon was finally deemed well enough for Ryan to let him get up and shower, and then wander around the house with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. His cough was still there, though it had faded to a drier one, different from the wet, hacking one that had hurt his chest so, and he felt okay, considering, enough that he wasn’t even so annoyed by Ryan hovering behind his shoulder and watching him sharply.
It wasn't until Jon and Spencer ambled in the door and kicked up a mild-mannered fuss that Ryan finally granted grudging permission for him to go outside. Jon led him out grinning, and Brendon breathed in the fresh air and stared around him, still sheltered under the back veranda, unable to quite believe what he was seeing. The tiny view offered to him by his window was incomparable; this was a huge growing mess of a thing, more wild and beautiful than Brendon had imagined anything in Thornton Hill could possibly contain.
He moved slowly through the garden, feeling a little as though he was caught in a dream. Jon skipped ahead, but Brendon hadn’t gotten very far before plants were somehow curling around his ankles, his waist, his wrists, and he was sent suddenly tripping forward, crashing heavily to his knees.
"Ow!" he cried. "What the fuck?"
Jon and Spencer turned to him in astonishment and Brendon struggled half-heartedly as a vine curled around his shoulders, another stroking a dangerous, caressing line down his neck.
"They're trying to kill me," he said, bewildered. "This garden hates me or something!"
"I – Brendon, I don't think the garden hates you," Spencer said, voice sounding kind of weird, and Brendon blinked at him. He shifted warily and the plants – the plants moved with him, he realised, not holding him down, just touching him, stroking soft and somehow reverent leaves over his skin. Brendon tilted his head back and felt something weave into his hair, a crown – he reached one hand up cautiously, the leaves around him adjusting themselves, and tugged away part of it. A purple petal rested in his hand. He blinked at it.
"Dude," Jon breathed. "It's like it's in love with you, or something."
"The garden?" Spencer asked quietly. "Or the magic?"
Jon laughed breathlessly. "I think," he said. "I think maybe both."
Brendon stood up carefully, and the plants let him, but still stretched to touch him, a thousand strange fingers curling around him. His throat strangely tight, he twisted and looked over his shoulder at the house, at Ryan's shadowy form pottering absently around inside, probably making tea or something else entirely ordinary. Brendon reached out one hand, and a rose tucked away its thorns and pressed against his palm.
Then, he took a breath and ignored the wild beating of his heart to walk through the garden, the sunflowers turning their faces up to him as he passed.