Tony creates the most beautiful flowers. It takes a lot of
work, a lot of effort. He crafts each one with love and care. He readies the
trees to bloom and pollinate, to wake up from their long slumber. He’s proud
when his plants withstand Natasha’s steady heat and glaring rays, her
thunderstorms and torrential downpours.
He sees to the newest generations of animals and insects as
well. Some don’t make it to adulthood but he tries very hard anyway. His
favorites are the squirrels and the bees. He’s proud of his creations, and they
go on to live their best lives.
Steve hates that he has to kill all of them. But it is his
duty—the earth cannot sustain endless life, endless birth. The flowers wither
and the trees droop to sleep. The bees go into hibernation, or they die in his
first cold snap. The squirrels hurry to ready themselves for winter. Some don’t—don’t
make it. But it is his duty. So he carries on, until Bucky comes to blanket the
land with snow.
Bucky listens to Steve lament about this for centuries,
about how he hates to ruin Tony’s hard work, hates to kill the things he puts
so much love and affection into. He listens, stoic, because he understands—he lingers
just enough to watch Tony begin to create his spring every year, begin to
And then one year Tony catches him lingering, and he comes
to him, eyes wide and bright, earthy brown like the soil his flowers and trees
spring from, and he whispers, “Does Steve like my gifts?”
And Bucky—blinks, unable to come up with an answer.
Tony doesn’t wait for one, pressing on, “It took me a long
time to figure out flowers that can withstand Natasha’s summer. I hope he likes
them. And the squirrels! They’re very industrious. I thought he’d like them
because he also works very hard. I know—the bees were a mistake, they can’t
handle the cold very well, but—but they’re cute, and they pollinate my flowers.
I hope he doesn’t mind the bees.”
Bucky manages to flee without causing Tony too much stress,
and when he meets Steve at the tail end of his autumn, he says, “Tony says they’re
“Gifts?” Steve repeats dumbly.
“He made them for you. The flowers, and the squirrels, and
the bees. He made them for you, Steve.” And Steve lingers as Bucky blankets the
land with snow, struck dumb, because how—how did he not know that they were
“Tony,” Bucky says, lingering at the beginning of Tony’s
spring. “He told me to tell you he loves them.” Tony beams at him. “He wants
you to linger with Natasha. He can’t—leave a gift for you, but maybe you’ll see
him make it.”
Tony lingers even though Natasha complains, so he makes
lilies for her still waters, her oases from the heat. She complains less. He
fights the pull to go to sleep. It doesn’t work, and he falls into slumber on
the longest day of summer.
Natasha laments that she did not concede to let Steve have an
early autumn. “Next year,” she promises, which is all the apology Steve gets,
but he understands.
“He’s not angry,” Bucky tells Tony when he finds him
fretting and trying to make extra life. “He’s only sorry he missed you. He’s
had more time to practice. You’ll like his gift.”
Tony lingers as long as he can, eyelids drooping, but this
time at least Natasha helps him stay awake with cooler days and a honeysuckle
breeze. She pinches him when he starts to doze, lets him powernap but
ultimately wakes him up again.
It’s from one of these naps that he wakes up to a field of
fire, of reds and oranges and yellows and pinks. He gapes, because he didn’t—he
didn’t make these flowers. They’re lovely. They’re beautiful. He looks up as Steve approaches, choked up.
“I had to thank you for your gifts somehow,” Steve whispers,
presses a kiss to Tony’s forehead. “Thank you, Tony.”
“Steve,” Tony says, throat blocked with tears.
“Go to sleep, darling,” Steve soothes, and lays Tony down on
the bed of chrysanthemums, and presses kisses to his drooping eyelids and his
cheeks and finally on his lips. “Goodnight, my sweet.”
“Steve,” Tony mumbles against his lips, and then sighs, and
it tastes like honey and lavender.
“Tony,” Steve whispers back against his lips.
When Tony wakes up at the beginning of spring, his lips still taste
like cinnamon and pine.