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Destiny be Strange Yet Sublime

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Arthur visited the village again. This Inuit village on the remote coast of the Bering Sea was a place only handful of people in the world knew existed. Usually forgotten except for the rare crabbing ships that would be forced to dock there during storms. The people of the village didn’t ask any questions, when he came up from the sea last year during a bitter winter, bringing the sea’s bounty with him. This was a place where they still believed in the old gods. They quietly thanked him but did not make a big fuss about it. Instinctively, the people figured to give the strange god a wide berth and to let him be till he went back to the sea. This time he drank dry the only bar for the next 50 miles, nobody bothered him. And that’s just how Arthur Curry wanted it. And maybe that why he came back here today.

On this particular day, the pair of humpback whales that have been his companions had wandered off several hundred miles away from that remote coast. They were part of a bigger pod of humpbacks that had 20 whales, yet somehow, they always seem to find him when they were in this part of the world and had taken to following him. Sometimes it was tempting to think of them as pets. He never had a pet. He asked his Dad once for a dog and his dad told him they moved around too much to be dragging a pet around, a pet would just slow them down. Better to be able to just get up and leave at a moment’s notice. Besides, his Dad had said the two of them was enough, they didn’t need “a stinking dog.”

Arthur thought wryly, he might think the whales follow him but in reality, he knew that these majestic beings had chosen him to be a part of their own pod… Child… the mother called him… Brother… the calf said. Half of him was of the sea, yet his family, no his mother’s family hated his very existence so much that that her husband the King of Atlantis banished her. Banished the Queen into The Trench — Vulko called it a dark, desperate place inhabited by monstrous creatures. Banished to her death for having him. Maybe the whales found some sort of strange kinship with him, for in the end they were all just wanderers. The large mammals were driven by biology and instinct. He was just driven by the urge not to stay too long in one place, to do what he could, take what he needed and just move on. He left nothing behind but empty bottles of liquor and people who were either in awe of him or terrified of him. He came home to see his Dad whenever he could, but he could never stay long in that town by the ocean before the restless hunger struck again. His dad said it was the stirring of the sea within him, for he has never found peace with that part of him. That may be true Arthur thought, he loved the ocean and it’s creatures with his entire being but as for its people, the Atlanteans, he couldn’t care less.

After a while he had taken to naming the whales; Thing One and Thing Two. Thing One was the mom and Thing Two was the calf. Mischievous and curious creatures of Dr. Seuss. A story told by his dad from his pile of favorite books along that pile was a well-thumbed copy of Jules Verne’s Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea — he knew his Mom had something to do with that.

This time they had gone away, far away, as they were prone to do when he stayed in a land too long. Suddenly a group of seagulls circled above him, their flight pattern and squawks alerted him that something was very wrong.

A nearby radio outside one of a fishing shack was broadcasting; “Mayday, Mayday! This is the Bright Aurora calling all ships in the vicinity. We’ve had an explosion, and the platform is on fire. Numerous survivors are in the water!”

The Bright Aurora was an offshore rig only a few nautical miles away from where Arthur was. He closed his eyes and used his gifts to see what the seagulls saw. There was an explosion on an oil platform on the Bering Sea. Fire was now eating through the entire structure. He knew nearby ships would reach the site first to assist with the evacuation. Quickly he jumped off a cliff and sent a message through the water. Let the ships do what they can. Help those who can’t help themselves. And be careful! He knew Thing One and Two were close to the disaster.

Arthur sped through the water faster than any torpedo. The waters were frigid, easily several degrees below zero at this time of the year. Arthur quickly caught sight of the drilling platform engulfed in flames. Quickly he circled the perimeter, fishing several survivors out of the water before he tossed them into hastily deployed lifeboats. Most of them were weak, their sensorium clouded by hypothermia and injury. They didn’t even notice that they were just rescued out of the freezing sea by a shirtless man that swam very fast. After he surfaced again, he heard a loud roar. It was the massive oil derrick. The gigantic structure was toppling into the ocean. Impossibly, he thought he saw a man holding up the collapsing derrick. Another explosion tore through whatever remained of the oil platform. Because of the smoke and the fire he lost sight of the entire thing. A rescue helicopter just managed to pull away moments from being engulfed by the shockwave of the explosion. He dove deeper, so he could swim faster without fighting the surface turbulence, already convinced that what he saw earlier was a result of all the chaos with the fire and explosion. He heard an urgent message sent through the water by Thing One and Two.

A man on fire, came the message. He saved all those people in that oil rig. The oil rig burned and burned. But he didn’t leave, they said. He fell into the water. A man on fire, like the bad things from under. The bad things from under, a chill went through Arthur’s spine, what exactly happened here? Was it Atlanteans? The Trench? Quickly he turned to their direction. The surface dwellers called him an angel… What is an angel, Orin…... Orin, his Atlantean name, the name given to him by his long dead mother.

A fiery angel. What is an angel, Orin?

The water carried the cacophony of sounds and the whales’ vocalizations. Arthur despite his gifts struggled to understand. He knew what they were saying as certain as his own breathing. The language of water, with the ebb and flow of its currents, carried even a more baffling story. Nothing made sense. A man helped the oil rig workers, so they could escape into the chopper. A man held up the collapsing derrick on his shoulders. This particular oil derrick in the Bering Sea was easily between 300 to 500 meters of solid metal and steel. Even Atlanteans weren’t that strong unless they used some Atlantean tech, Arthur thought, but he knew Atlantean will never even think of helping the surface world. The whales sent more messages through the water how this man was consumed by the flames as he fell into the water crushed by tonnage of the collapsing derrick.

Yet the whales tell him…. he did not burn.

The whales had found him, like oversized, curious puppies as they swam around him. Arthur sent a warning through the waves as he shot through the water, afraid that the curious mammals will find harm. Once Thing Two swum too close along the Sydney Harbour ferry route, she still bore the scar of the propeller of the ferry boat she collided with.

The surrounding sea was scattered with the flotsam and jetsam of fossil fuel, and pieces of the submerged derrick as other burning wreckage floated around him like fiery spectral islands. The Coast Guard was already nearby with their fleet of fire boats and rescue ships. He did another survey of the area to make sure there were no other survivors or any Atlanteans just in case.

Several miles away from the main wreckage in the deep, he finally found the whales nudging the body of the man. He was fully expecting a lifeless body covered with burns, despite what the whales had told him, but he wasn’t. There was no sign of any injury on him. The only thing that showed that he went through something horrific burned up fabric that used to be his pants that barely covered him. The whales, Arthur noted, were more intrigued than usual.

Not dead… the in- between… They tell him.

From what Arthur could tell, his heartbeat slow and steady. The man seemed to be asleep, his face tranquil, not frozen in the death mask of those who die of drowning. Maybe he was dreaming, Arthur thought. Dreaming or not, he was not moving, not waking. And the strangest thing was, the body was warm. Arthur could feel the unrelenting currents gathering again. In a matter of minutes the wind will bring more than 40- foot waves and they were very far from land. Arthur couldn't care less what kind of human he was, he needed to get out of the water, especially if there was a chance he was still alive. The winter sea around here was not to be messed with, for it was the most brutal and merciless.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When he fell into the water Clark didn’t fight it. He let the forward momentum of the crashing derrick just push him into the frigid sea. Fire and heat engulfed him. The shock wave of the last explosion from the fire pushed him deeper into the water. The dark cold tingled against his skin. Finally, he floated on his back, letting the current pull his body. The dark depths cradled him. Soon the water’s rhythmic movements were accompanied by the soothing whale songs reverberating under the waves. It invited dreams and memories. The first time his enhanced vision kicked in. The first time he could suddenly hear everything. The first time his Mom taught him how to narrow his senses by thinking he was in an island, to focus on her voice.

Several weeks ago, he had taken a job at a fishing boat that sailed off one of the Aleutian ports. He knew they were heading North, and that was all that mattered, for he was drawn to go North. The strange pull to the North was difficult to resist, deep inside him he was convinced it had something to do with who he was. He knew he was different even as a small child until one day when he was 10 his Father told him why—an alien sent to Earth as a baby. Every day, he felt stronger, faster. Every day his parents taught him to hide what he could do, hide who he was. His Father sacrificed himself, because of that belief.

But for now, he could lay here in the cold and the dark forever, down here the waves muffled the world out there and he didn’t have to work as hard to not see everything, to not hear everything, to not feel everything. He could shut himself off without even trying. He could rest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Arthur lifted him up easily despite the man’s bulk. He was all solid muscles and very firm flesh and even firmer ass — Arthur attempted to shake himself out of those thoughts. He was supposed to be rescuing not checking him out. He found himself out on a deserted beach. By this time hypothermia should have long set in, but his temperature remained warm as if the man himself was generating heat. For the first time, he could closely look at the man he rescued. Definitely not an Atlantean and not a regular human either. Maybe there was some truth to what the whales told him. Perhaps like him he wasn’t just of this world. The people on the oil rig called him an angel. He survived the fire, the freezing water. What was he?

“Thanks, you can put me down now.”

The man spoke to him, voice deep and gentle. His eyes were clear, sea-blue eyes with a speck of brown on the left. Arthur wondered how long ago he had woken up and stared at him. Those eyes were like an entire sea with a small island, right there looking up at him, Arthur thought before he let go with no warning. The man landed gracefully on his feet. He glanced at himself before looking at Arthur again, brows knitted in concern. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Arthur got over his initial surprise. He inhaled, then exhaled slowly. “Who… What… Where did you come from?”

“Kansas.” He gave a crooked smile at Arthur’s confusion.

“Kansas. With the land and the corn.” The tone in Arthur’s voice showed his disbelief.

“Yup. That Kansas.”

“You’re far away from home, Kansas. Now, I haven’t been there, but I’m sure people there are not resistant to hypothermia or fire or are incredibly strong.” Arthur gave him a meaningful look. He was still suspicious, though relieved he wasn’t Atlantean,he still didn’t know what he was. The only other people he knew with abilities were the Amazons—he was definitely not Amazon. Yet something about this man’s manner; his quiet confidence and how he helped those people, drew him. Plus, it didn’t hurt that he wasn’t bad to look at.

“Pot, kettle, black. You’re strong and you swim really fast. And I don’t think tattoos are considered swimwear.” Kansas looked intently at him, more like looked through him.

“I guess we both have our stories. I’m Arthur Curry.” He offered a hand. Another thing he rarely did.

“I reckon so,” He shook his hand.. “Joe,” he answered after a slight hesitation.

“Sure, no-last-name Joe,” Arthur said, disbelief in his voice again, this time at the name he gave. Kansas gave a “take it or leave it” shrug before he returned Arthur’s handshake. Arthur had many questions running around inside his head. He wondered how forthcoming Kansas… Joe… whoever the hell he was, with answers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They clambered up the rocky cliff above the beach line and espied a lone weathered log cabin. Clark scanned the cabin and saw it was empty. Fortunately, clothes hung on a line outside the log cabin and a pair of muddy boots rested on the stoop. It was a good thing Clark thought he’d rather not walk around naked, even though it was with another almost naked guy.

“All right, I feel bad,” he said as he put the shirt and sweater over him. He grimaced, the clothes smelled of fish and it still had some fish scales stuck to it. Well, it was a fisherman’s cabin and beggars can’t be choosers. He could clean it with some water and his heat vision but for now he’d rather suffer the smell than display his powers in front of a stranger even if he was different like him and very — hot. I’ve never seen tattoos like that.

“It’s ok. People in these parts leave stuff in cabins like these in case people need it. The harsh weather around here makes people hospitable like that,” Arthur said.

“I’ll come back here and replace it,” he grabbed the pants and looked at Arthur, “Umm.… can you turn around.”

Arthur smirked, “What’s the difference? You’re practically naked right now. I saw everything.”

Clark ducked his head. He could feel the heat rise up his cheeks and knew he was practically beet red at that very moment. “Please….”

Arthur was relentless, “You should be proud,” he gave him a wink.

If it was possible, Clark felt hotter, so hot he could burn through his clothes. He had met this man all of ten minutes, but he couldn’t help the heat that travelled along his neck intensify with that smirk.

“All right, fine, sorry. Here, you could stare at my ass,” Arthur turned, still smirking. He couldn’t help it, seeing Kansas blush was incredibly hot.

“Here,” Clark said when he was done. He threw another chunky, equally smelly sweater at Arthur.

Arthur caught it easily with one hand, then held it gingerly like a small rabid animal about to bite him. “No, thank you,” he said before he threw it back to Clark.

“I don’t need it. I’m going back to the water to deal with all the dead people floating around.”

Kansas looked alarmed. His body suddenly tensed, and he looked like he was about to bolt to the water. Arthur immediately placed a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, I’m kidding,” Kansas frowned at him. “Okay, okay, that was a terrible joke… look… I pulled out everyone before I got to you. The Coast Guard they’re there now.” Kansas gave him a long unreadable look then stepped away from him. Arthur reluctantly let his hand drop to his side.

“Anyway, what I really meant was I like how you’ve been staring at me…” He turned to Kansas fully with a smug grin on his face, he didn’t want Kansas to miss anything and maybe he could distract him from that idiotic joke two seconds ago.

Kansas shook his head and gave him a shy smile before he ducked his head again, seemingly enraptured by the disgustingly muddy boots he was wearing. It was startlingly different in Arthur’s opinion how Kansas behaved like that, in his experience people who looked like Kansas who couldn’t even do the things he could do acted like they were God’s gift to humanity. Kansas clearly wasn’t like that and shy was such a good look on him. It truly wasn’t fair in Arthur’s opinion. He decided to give the man a break, also priorities.

“So where are you going now?” Yep, priorities. He couldn’t just let him go, right?

“I can’t go back to the fishing ship I worked at. Too many questions. I need to go North. Find a job, something.”

“North? Why North?”

A guarded look shuttered over Joe’s face. Arthur noticed his hand come up to his chest where earlier he had seen an odd shaped pendant hanging. Since he wasn’t a stranger to earth shaking secrets himself, he didn’t push it. “Okay, go up this highway, about 10 miles east there’s a place called ‘Bearcat.’ It’s rough, but they’re always looking for help. You could start there. A lot of truckers that pass through here end up there, so… you know,” Arthur shrugged a shoulder.

“Thanks. Also, I would really appreciate it if you don’t mention this to anyone.”

Arthur quickly curbed the impulse to respond with something flippant and very flirty. But there was a pleading look in Kansas’ unearthly blue eyes. He looked truly worried. Could he blame him, really? He just met him, and Kansas probably spent his entire life hiding who he is. Moving from one place to another, trying to be invisible.

“I would never. You have my word on that.” Arthur offered his hand once again to him, and they shook on it. Usually he wasn’t into making deals or giving a rat’s ass what people thought of what he said, yet right now it was important for him that thus guy believed him.

After the handshake Arthur could see him relax a little, Arthur felt very aware of the fact that that made him feel good too. Damn.

“Will I see you again, Arthur?”

Arthur wasn’t really planning on sticking around. This part of the country had a little too many people for his taste. “Don’t worry Kansas, I’ll find you.” Plans change.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

One week of back-breaking work. Back breaking to most people, anyway. Bussing tables, cleaning up floors, washing dishes, and anything else, his boss Weaver wanted. It was just his luck, Weaver fired a busboy and the other kitchen guy had quit. Clark was essentially doing the work of two, sometimes three people. He kept his head down and didn’t complain, Weaver wasn’t entirely merciless aside from a paycheck, Weaver gave him the small room in the back to stay in. Arthur wasn’t lying when he said the Bearcat was busy. A regular traffic of truckers, miners and fishermen passed through. It was one of those middle of nowhere places where you can have a decent cheeseburger at the bar then freeze to death in the parking lot because you were passed out drunk with your truck window open.

In between drunken jokes and raucous laughter, the customers talked about places they’ve been and places they were heading to, Clark filed them away in his head hoping for a clue to whatever it was that drew him here. He wasn’t keen on staying here too long; he planned to give it two weeks to see if something pans out before moving on. He sighed deeply. He was on his knees scraping dried vomit off the floor and it was still 6 o’clock at night. Clark wasn’t surprised, with the Bearcat the only halfway decent bar and grill for the next 100 miles customers trooped in at all hours to eat and of course drink. Weaver had pointedly told him that since there hardly any customers he might as keep himself busy, not that he wasn’t busy. At least, it wasn’t fresh puke like earlier. It wouldn’t be so bad if he could use his abilities, but he didn’t want to risk it, since stories of the miraculous rescue at the Bright Aurora was circulating like wildfire in the area. Not for the first time that day, he idly wondered if Arthur would come by.

He still wasn’t sure what to think of him, Clark told himself. He wouldn’t mind seeing him again. Obviously, he needed to get a handle on the guy, since he was another being with abilities like him, just to compare notes or something. Something. He chided himself for thinking that, he shouldn’t think that —

Thick, black biker boots stopped right by his hand, “Heyyy, Joe!” A deep voice greeted him.

Clark gave himself a moment before looking up, the sound of his voice this close made something hot fizzle down Clark’s spine. Images of Arthur’s bare skin and tattoos flashed before him once again along with the suggestive way those deep green eyes roamed over him. The sunlight from the window behind him haloed the sheer bulk of Arthur with the shaggy hair, leather pants and sheepskin jacket. He squinted at him, which he really didn’t need to do; it was one of those almost involuntary human responses he had to learn, drilled into him by his dad, so he won’t look too weird. The first one was blinking, after Clark almost got into a fight at first grade because he had a “creepy ass stare.”

“Look at you with the apron and everything, Jesus fucking Christ,” Arthur said, he came in on a lark to check if the kid was serious about working in this rat- hole. He really was and cleaning vomit too!

“Hey, outside later,” Clark whispered as he stood up, he tilted his head to where his boss, Weaver was standing behind the bar. He knew without looking, Weaver was already glaring at him. Weaver didn’t like his bus boys standing around talking, only the bartender got to do that, he would yell. Arthur caught on and tilted his beer at him and mouthed — “later.”

Arthur gave him his phone number and told him to text him whenever. Clark texted him at midnight telling him he had to close up shop and won’t probably be done till 2am. Arthur texted back a short “no worries” and nothing else. Two am came and Clark was almost done locking up. The text tone of his phone beeped.

“Hey, you still up for that drink?” Arthur texted.

This surprised Clark. He almost said no, but his curiosity got the better of him. Ten minutes later Arthur came around in a battered pickup truck. Later they got on the deck of one of the larger winter fishing boats that was being serviced on the deserted pier. A six-pack and two bottles of cheap whisky in between them, some left-over chicken wings, burgers and fries from Clark’s work. “A friend lets me use it when I’m in these parts,” was Arthur’s blithe answer when Clark asked about the boat.

At first, Arthur didn’t really want to come to the Bearcat, he promised himself he’d forget about the hot-not-so-human stranger, one meeting was enough. Kansas was complicated, he didn’t do too well with complicated things. But he ignored his own advice and went, anyway. At first, he didn’t see him when he scoped out the bar; he was about to leave after he got his beer, when he noticed someone down on his knees cleaning the floor, behind a table. And for fuck’s sake, there he was. Before he could stop himself, he had walked up to him. The next thing he knew those gorgeous eyes were looking up at him, again.

It was a pleasant night; the sky was clear with the stars and the full moon, even with the bone chilling temperatures of November. Further away in the deeper waters, One and Two were feeding and playing. They were still very curious about Clark. At one point they came close to the pier and Arthur had to practically shoo them away.

“So, they really follow you around?” Clark nodded towards the horizon.

“Yeah, I guess they like me. They’ve kinda adopted me.”

That is very cool.”

They began trading stories of their unique childhood and the parents they’ve lost. Things they haven’t really spoken about to anyone for a long time. They’ve been loners for most of their lives, very wary of other people, yet it was impossible to deny that they had enough in common and how easily they fell into talking with each other.

Even with the explanation of how he came to the planet, Arthur still had a hard time wrapping his head around the fact that Kansas was an alien. “Why is it hard to believe?” Clark grinned, tickled by the thought that he was actually kidding with someone other than his Mom about this. “Because I’m not gray or green or ten feet tall with gigantic brain eating tentacles. I mean you probably get this a lot too— you're from Atlantis, no visible fins, gills… wait … can you talk to fish?” Clark asked wonderingly.

“Checking me out, huh?” Arthur waggled his eyebrows at him.

“I can’t believe you,” Kansas said, giving him one of those shy smiles again. That earned another chuckle from Arthur. A long time ago when he was a boy he was bullied by kids who teased him about “talking to fish.” Even most grown-ups were idiots, well what can you do, but he knew, Kansas was clearly just asking.

“Fish don’t really talk.” Arthur explained after another healthy swig of whisky. “They have very primitive brain functions. Certain aquatic mammals like whales and dolphins have intelligence and perception we can’t even begin to understand and as far as I know they think of humans as small annoying helpless creatures, that have overrun the planet. Cephalopods, like octopuses and squids are very intelligent although I would recommend to just stay away from them. Especially the big ones, they’re very moody.”

“Got it, stay away from cephalopods.”

“Unless I’m around. I’ll protect you,” Arthur said.

Clark began to grin. “Of course, I would never expect anything less from you.”

They shared a convivial smile then became silent for a while, lost in their own thoughts. Arthur finished one bottle of whisky while Clark steadily worked on his second beer. “Tell me, when I found you in the water, were you hurt or something? Cause you were really out of it, you weren’t trying to kill yourself, right?” Arthur asked.

“No, it wasn't like that. I just fell, that’s all, and it’s hard to hurt me.” Clark wasn’t quite ready to tell him that as far as he knew nothing can hurt him, yet. “And I can do things… that nobody else can do. My senses are a little different and sometimes it’s hard to just shut off things. When I fell into the water… the song of the whales, the waves, being deep in the ocean like that gave me a peace I haven’t had for a long time. I think I just drifted off and started dreaming.”

“Well, I’m sorry I interrupted your nap.”

“Honestly? I’m glad you were around, you know to help.”

“Me too,” Arthur said easily, he couldn’t believe that even if he just knew Kansas for a couple of days, he had already broken down enormous chunks of his internal defenses. “How long are you going to stay around at the Bearcat?” Suddenly, in his already complicated life, this was something he needed to know.

“I’m giving myself two weeks, but I’m not really sure. What about you? Are you just going to hang around, fishing strangers out of the water?”

“Nah, I’m not like you. They called you an angel you know that?” Arthur teased, although he himself was very aware of the wild stories about the “Aqua Man” up and down several remote fishing villages in the Aleutians all the way up to the Barents Sea.

Clark winced inwardly. Being thought of as a divine being always embarrassed him. People he’s helped always swung between extremes, they either thought of him as a freak or some angel or saint, depending on where he was. With the idea of divinity always came the idea of infallibility, which is even worse, “You help people, too,” he said quietly.

Arthur took a big swallow from the second bottle of whisky that made even Clark cringe, “Yeah… sure,” he said gruffly.

“You helped me,” Clark said, with an intensity that surprised even him.

Arthur smiled, self-conscious at the heat that suddenly bloomed in his chest and it wasn’t from the whisky. He studied the bottle in his hand for a second or two, then decided. “You know, you don’t have to sleep at the back of that hovel, you could stay here.”

Clark glanced at him. “What about your friend?” He gestured towards the boat.

“Don’t worry, he’ll be cool about it.” Arthur gave Clark one of his winks before downing another gulp of alcohol.

“I don’t know — I don’t want to impose and all. Being around and checking up on me… you’ve done enough. Really, it’s not that bad, it’s warm and I have a bed and a bathroom, I don’t need much… I don’t think that’s a good idea — umm—I’m sorry…”

“Hey, I wouldn’t offer if it wasn’t okay. No strings attached, I’m just here to help for what you did for those people, that’s all — really, no strings attached.” Arthur repeated that last statement for good measure. Kansas was so skittish.

Kansas ran a hand through his hair, clearly debating about something in his head before he finally met his eyes. “No strings attached… okay, thanks… sorry I didn’t mean to be weird about it…” He gave Arthur a sheepish smile.

Thankfully, a comfortable silence once again came between them as they continued drinking. Kansas leaned against the metal post of the deck railing, face turned to the horizon in profile, eyes half closed. Arthur looked at him from the corner of his eye, he did not want to be caught staring, but it was very difficult not to stare. Kansas’ pale skin was luminously lit by the waning moonlight like an impossibly perfect piece of art. Like those Greek sculptures he would find in ruins along the Mediterranean. Wonderfully made, yet their eyes always gazed out in the distance with this sadness and longing. Maybe he could do something to make him less sad. Arthur was very surprised that this thought even crossed his mind, he found part of him did not seem to care anymore.

“So, let me ask you, you clearly don’t want any attention. But those people saw you, they know what you did, they know what you can do. They will look for you. So why did you do it?”

Kansas contemplated his question as he stared at the beer bottle he swirled slowly in his hand. He spoke softly and carefully, “You know, in that crab boat I worked at — this old sailor, Edie told me a story about this fishing village in the middle of nowhere. It’s a small tribe, he said, less than 400 people. The last of their kind. One winter it was very brutal and long- people were dying, the village would have been wiped out. One day a man came from the sea brought them fish to eat, he came every morning without fail until the weather calmed down and the people could start fishing for themselves again. Nobody believed Edie, old sailors always have these wild stories they say.” He turned and looked at Arthur squarely in the eye, “Arthur, I’m glad that you’re not just a wild story. You and I, we can do things that nobody else can. We can help. And maybe make things just a little better out there.”

Arthur sighed, “Jesus fucking Christ, Kansas, you’re going to make me all weepy and shit,” he said, amused, yet he can’t keep the pride that welled in his chest with what Kansas said.

“Sometimes, I have that effect on people.” Clark said with that shy smile again.

Suddenly, Arthur felt out of his depth and said the first thing that came to his mind. “So, Kansas, I know this completely flies against everything I just said. You could just say no.” He felt his usual cocksure stupid shit would not work on Kansas. He felt uncharacteristically nervous, “---- so like I said, you could just say no, and I’ll go away, but I thought I should ask—”

Kansas’ brows furrowed, and he looked so concerned, “What is it? Is everything okay?”

Arthur knew without a doubt this would be his only chance, Kansas could disappear tomorrow, this strange, freakishly hot man who just wants to help — “Yes, it’s just that — I really want to kiss you… can I please…. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think you liked me… liked men--- I like you…Shit!”

He blinked at him. A brow raised in amusement. There was a faint glow on Kansas’ cheeks. Arthur could see his Adam’s apple go up, then down. However, Kansas was awfully quiet and seemed awfully confused. This was a big mistake. Maybe it was all in my head. Maybe —

“Yes. I like you too, Arthur.”

Arthur heard him but needed further clarification, “I can kiss you?”

“Yeah… I mean… yes.” Kansas had turned to him, his eyes intent yet inviting. Arthur moved closer, slowly, so that there was no doubt of his intentions and if Kansas changed his mind, then he could just go. But Kansas didn’t move away. He tilted his head, meeting Arthur’s, and they kissed. God, Arthur thought, his lips were so soft and warm even in the biting cold air. It was a kiss that Arthur always imagined kissing someone under a soft moonlight. Gentle, exploring, unhurried. Kansas leaned further towards him, hands on his shoulders. Arthur’s hands slipped lower on Kansas’ waist, touching the smooth, bare skin under his untucked shirt.

Arthur felt him pull back slowly, Kansas’ hands on his chest — he wouldn’t have minded if they kissed longer, he thought they were going to kiss longer, but this was okay too he knows that sometimes he is too much for most people. All Arthur wanted to do at that moment was to continue kissing and feel up Kansas’ amazing body but that wasn’t happening, Arthur was now going to list heroic self-control as part of his powers. He noticed the way the other man slowly bit his lower lip where Arthur had gently nibbled it. Kansas probably wasn’t aware how sexy that little gesture was. Fuck. He needs to stop that.

Kansas sighed before he looked up, and much to Arthur’s dismay no further kissing was happening instead Kansas was just studying him with those eyes.

What? “Ummm… are you okay? Did I do something wrong?” Arthur felt his heart beat a little harder. Did I forget to brush my teeth? Wait…

“Too much tongue? You’re just so hot—sorry—”

The other man chuckled. “No, the tongue was…. fine.” Kansas said softly, finally, after an interminable moment. “It’s just that… it’s Clark Kent. My real name… I just want you to know.” His eyes darted to one side, suddenly he looked panicked like he was regretting something.

“Okay, Clark Kent, nice to meet you, Clark… and–” Arthur added hurriedly, “--- thank you for that, you didn’t have to tell me. You won’t be sorry.”

He was surprised that Arthur picked up on his anxiety with the revelation. Clark really wanted to trust Arthur. Something in his gut told him he could trust him. He can’t deny they connected because of who they were. Yet he couldn’t help but think that maybe he was clutching at Arthur like he was the lone lifeboat in this sea of utter loneliness. Clark was always so careful, this has never happened before, he put his Mom and those in Smallville at risk, he will never be able to forgive himself if he was wrong about Arthur.

“Let me tell you something. My dad still lives in Maine. In that same lighthouse where he found my Mom. We hid for a while, moved around a lot… moved further inland while I was growing up, but he never gave up that light house. Eventually, he went back there, I didn’t want him to. I was afraid that Atlanteans could still come after him. But he said it was the last place he was truly happy.”

Clark nodded slowly. He understood what Arthur was trying to say in not so many words. They all have people they love and care for. People who took the great risks because they love someone like them. 

Arthur reached out and enclosed his hand over Clark’s. “Can I see you again?” Arthur said, uncertain this time, a sliver of hope in his voice.

Clark stared at their joined hands. Arthur tried to figure out what he was thinking, he was instantly worried, maybe Clark was going to take it all back and just disappear.

“I’d like that.” Clark whispered.

Arthur smiled, then suddenly felt lost again. There was a brief and awkward silence broken by Clark, “I need to get some sleep before my next shift,” he said as he gently untangled his hand from Arthur’s.

“Yes, what was I thinking? I’ll text you,” Arthur stood up quickly, relieved, as if stretching to his full height will just smooth away all the worry and the tension from earlier. Clark did the same. Then they both gathered the bottles and trash and placed it in separate bags. Arthur reached into his pocket, “Here, for the boat.” He said as he handed Clark a set of keys.

“Thanks.”

“No worries. If you have to go, just leave it inside the port side toolbox.” Arthur said although he didn’t want Kansas… Clark to just leave with no warning.

“Sure,” Clark answered. He was about to say something else when Arthur took off his jacket dropped it on the deck followed by his shirt. The sight of Arthur stole his breath. Arthur was simply stunning. It was early dawn and the warm tints of gold was just over the horizon. The soft glow of the early morning light reflected off his smooth brown skin and highlighted the tattoos over his lean muscles. The tattoos rippled like obsidian liquid in this light, over his thick chest, his biceps and over the flat planes of his stomach till they disappeared down into the ridges of his hips. Arthur looked up at Clark. He had just finished removing his boots.

Arthur smiled, “Take a picture it’ll last longer —”

“I’m sorry — I didn’t mean —”

“Hey, I really, really wouldn’t mind if you took a picture.” Arthur winked.

That wink. Again. “Maybe one day I’ll tell you about the different kinds of visions I have,” Clark teased lightly.

“What? Wait? What do you mean?”

Clark chuckled. “Your whales are calling for you. Bye, Arthur.”

Arthur had a ‘what the fuck’ look on his face still hung up on the last thing Clark said."Heyyy — you can’t just say those things to a guy and leave it like… that — ”

“Well, I just did. I have to get some sleep before my next shift. And clearly you have somewhere else to go.”

Arthur pouted."No, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do," Clark said as he picked up the trash, the empty bottles, along with Arthur’s shirt, jacket and boots easily like this was something that happened between them every day.

“You don't have to do that, just leave them here on the deck.” Arthur was embarrassed and moved to take the stuff off Clark’s hands. Clark stepped back out of his reach.

“I don't think thats such a good idea. Temperature's dropping fast, all of this would freeze... Bye, Arthur.” Clark said once again, before he turned on his heels and started walking towards the cabin.

“Can I at least get another kiss?” Arthur called after him.

“You’re impossible,” Clark muttered, then louder, “No.”

“I’ll text you.”

“I know.” Clark said, smiling to himself, not looking back at Arthur. Maybe he didn’t trust himself to just look back at Arthur. He listened for the sound of the water behind him. He stopped and saw the turbulent wake under the surface as Arthur shot through the water, reaching the deepest end in no time. The whales happily joined him and greeted him with a cacophony of clicks and whistles. As he watched Arthur move through the water, Clark Joseph Kent could not believe himself, here he was in the middle of nowhere doing the very thing he shouldn’t be doing and he was afraid he was powerless to stop it.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

The next day Clark was busy hauling trash out to the dumpster at the back of Bearcat when his phone vibrated. It was Arthur. 

 

You need help moving your stuff to the boat?

 

Clark smiled. If stuff you mean my one and only duffel bag. I’m good. Thanks.

 

Cool. So, how’s your day? Weaver being an ass?

 

Not bad. When is Weaver not an ass.

 

But of course, he spoke too soon. There was a convoy from the Army Corps of Engineers that came around noon, all very hungry and very thirsty. It was nonstop for about 2 hours of serving and bussing tables.  When they were all gone, Clark had barely hauled all the trash to the dumpster then it was time to get ready for the trucker dinner crowd. The Bearcat was right next to a truck stop, so this was a given. Then there were the times he had to run out suddenly since it was a particularly icy day. His hearing had picked up 5 near accidents on 5 different highways thus stopping what could have easily been 20 multi vehicle crashes. His text alert had vibrated several times. There were the usual messages from his Mom. He quickly responded to his Mom, so she won’t worry with a promise to call her soon. A message from Arthur with the last one asking if he knew when he would end his shift for the day. Clark responded with a shrug emoji. Arthur in return sent him a video of a dog wrestling with a water hose, Clark wasn’t sure what he meant with that if anything, but it sure was a funny video. And maybe it made the day a little less miserable in Clark’s opinion.

 When Clark finally walked up to the boat around oh dark thirty, it was just a relief to take a nice hot shower and eat a hot dinner that didn’t come from the bar. It didn’t also hurt that the houseboat was not only well heated, it had everything inside it had the comforts of a small apartment, more than he ever had at Weaver’s place. Clark had been in far worse conditions when out in the road. It would take a lot for him to feel truly uncomfortable, yet he wasn’t really against creature comforts after living rough for a while. He just finished putting away the  dishes when the phone pinged.

 How’s the boat? Figured you’d be there already. Arthur texted.

 Well, everything’s great. Thanks. I’m going to bed now.

 Clark could picture Arthur smirking already. Wish I was there. When are you off?

 Monday.Clark texted back. As soon as he pressed sent, his phone rang. One guess who that would be. Clark couldn’t help his smile.

 “Good. I should be back from the Australia then. If you don’t have plans, we could ummm… hang out?” Arthur said quietly over the line.

 Clark settled on the comfortable bed before answering. He could hear movement on Arthur’s side, water gently lapping on rocks. Arthur running his fingers through his hair before he answered. “Tell me about the island you’re on, it’s small right?” Clark asked.

 “One of the Whitsunday Islands. Yup, this one’s one of the smallest, basically just a piece of rock jutting out of the ocean. Wait… how did you know I was on an island.”

 “I wasn’t sure. This will sound weird but I’m practicing my hearing… the sound of the air around you… how the water hits the rocks…” Clark didn’t mean to be vague but if he was hard pressed to explain it a lot of it had to do with his eidetic memory, how his mind processed and catalogued what he heard, felt and saw, so he was secretly happy he was right.

 “That’s cool. But, remember water’s my territory,” Arthur said in mock affront, then he shifted to a nasally voice using one of the tackiest, plummy British accents Clark had ever heard “The islands have the whitest sand, like strewn diamonds, the most gorgeous sunsets in this side of the world. You can explore this paradise, personally escorted by yours truly,” he added dramatically.

 Clark rolled his eyes and laughed. “And you have a phone?” He knew that he was really sidestepping Arthur’s flirty comment? Offer?

 “Yup. I have my ways.” Arthur chuckled softly. “So, just say the word, I’ll pick you up.”

 “I can’t I’m sorry.” Clark said regrettably. To be out there in Australia with Arthur was very tempting. 

“Oh, good!” Arthur breathed out immediately in mock relief. “I was worried you might actually take me up on that offer, then I have to really come there and get you.”

“Wow, you’re just… I don’t even know what you are.” 

“Look I get it. You have shit to do. Unless you’re just playing hard to get.”

“Does this really work? You’re very subtle.” Clark said, another smile tugging at his lips.

“Well, you tell me. I’ll cook, and I’ll bring you somewhere not too far from your precious North.”

“I’ll see you in three days, Arthur.” Clark said. They talked for a couple more minutes. Clark listened to what Arthur had been doing since he left the Bering Sea. There were pirates in the Indian Ocean, he said. There was that opportunistic algae problem in the Great Barrier Reef, made worse by global warming, that he had been dealing with.

 “Need help?” Clark asked.

“You do miss me…”

 Clark couldn’t help another grin as he said bye to Arthur.

 That week, in between flirty one-liners and come-ons were late night phone calls where they would just talk. It was mostly Arthur doing the talking which Clark didn’t mind, in a short span of time they had settled into a comfortable rhythm in their conversations.  Arthur had also gotten into the habit of just texting him at random times during the day even just sending him silly, stupid things that would make him laugh. Arthur didn’t seem to mind that Clark sometimes could not text him back, which Clark appreciated. Even with all the travelling he did, Clark wasn’t a big texter, his Mom preferred talking to him. The only other person who would text him was Pete. They would text each other now and then so he’d get updates about Smallville. Pete Ross was far from being the bully in that bus, a thousand years ago. He was now a teacher in the local middle school; he had promised Clark he’ll keep an eye out for Martha. 

 The only problem with Arthur texting is that Clark began to look forward to those texts, and that he liked texting Arthur. And not only that the late night conversations had started becoming a pleasant way to unwind after a long hard day. Clark had known Arthur for a week, yet Arthur had suddenly become a part of his day. He honestly did not quite know what to do with that realization. Also he was very aware that he was looking forward to seeing Arthur again.

 Try to guess where I am? Arthur texted at one point.

 You’re near water.

Very funny. Anyway, I’m close -- came Arthur’s reply punctuated with a wink emoji.

 It was another day in the Bearcat, Weaver was busy showing the new waitress around, some relative who agreed to help for the season, probably why Weaver was in a pretty good mood lately. Weaver had also hired another kid to be a waiter/busboy/kitchen hand. The kid was a hard worker; he was now living in the backroom that was vacated by Clark.  Around 3pm, Weaver finally noticed that Clark didn’t even take lunch yet. “Joe, take a break.” Wow, Weaver must be really in a good mood. Clark said a quick thanks as he made his hasty escape, before Weaver had a chance to change his mind. He grabbed his beanie and anorak. Clark decided to take a walk by the shoreline, away from the noise of the Weaver’s heavy metal music and the constant traffic and chaos of the truck stop.  He ducked into a deserted alley making sure no one could see him use his speed. He headed towards the same beach that he came out of after the oil rig accident. It felt so long ago, even though only two weeks had just passed. He extended his sight a couple hundred miles more and noticed that different clean-up crews and barges trying to get the rig operational again. He almost did not notice someone else was standing next to him.

 “This is sweet, you came back to the place where we first met.”

 “Hey Arthur! I thought you weren’t coming back till tomorrow?” Clark turned, and Arthur hugged him, and he hugged back somewhat awkwardly. Arthur was expecting something perhaps a little more sociable, a kiss kinda sociable. Kansas still so shy.

 Arthur half shrugged. “Well, I wanted to be here, sooner to keep an eye on that little operation just to make sure they clean up their mess quickly and properly... how you’ve been?”

 “Not bad, nothing changed much since we texted this morning,” Clark lightly teased.

 Arthur chuckled. “Here I brought you something from Australia.” Arthur handed Clark a brown paper bag.

 “You shouldn’t have, thanks.” Clark said. Although he was puzzled, it was the size of a takeaway bag and it still felt warm all the way from Australia and it smelled slightly of… fish?

 Arthur must have sensed the question in his head. “They have this travel box that keeps it warm, and sorry about the fish smell. One carried it for me.”

 “What? How… do whales carry things? Arthur… was this inside her?”

 “They’re great burgers.” Arthur replied, sidestepping the question.

“Burgers…” Clark said with a flash of confusion on his face.

 “Man, not just any burgers, kangaroo burgers. It’s great with Cooper’s extra stout, which I also have.”

 “Kangaroo… burgers and... beer?”

 The look of confusion morphed into deep thought, but to Arthur it was almost like he was studying the bag way too intensely. Jesus, this sucked, Arthur knew he should have asked his dad for advice. But the burgers were really good and Australian, and Clark liked food. And the beer — big, bold and hearty like Australia itself. They were really great together. Like they could be great together, preferably with fewer clothes. Wasn’t that the thing people did, when they like someone, bring them stuff from wherever they travelled? Clark was still holding the bag, and a frown replaced the confused look. He tilted his head his expression distracted. Arthur had an awful feeling that he would lose any chance of future sex with hot alien guy because he gave him beer and kangaroo burgers.

 “I’m sorry—” Arthur started to say.

 Clark’s head jerked back and up, “Do you hear that?”  Arthur had a feeling this wasn’t about the burgers anymore. “Screams… from the highway…”

 Before Arthur could even think of an answer, Clark was gone. Arthur had a sense of being slammed by a gale force wind and Clark was just gone. The bright yellow anorak that Clark was wearing was now a rapidly disappearing yellow dot as he rushed down the shoreline. Arthur whistled, a seagull briefly circled above him then shot up, angled in the direction to where Clark sped away. Something’s going on. He needed eyes up there, so he can track Clark. He swam faster, but a seagull’s eyesight was far superior with long distances out here. Arthur lost no time and shucked off his shirt and jacket, then dove into the water. It didn’t take long; the scouting seagull had spotted Clark. Arthur was there in no time, his whales following him closely.

 It was the bridge. The McKenzie Bridge spanned the wide channel between the eastern mainland side with the city’s more remote communities to the west of Yellowknife. Arthur could not believe the sight that greeted him. A large chunk of the bridge’s guardrail had been blown off, leaving a gaping maw of gnarled singed metal about twenty feet across. The source of the damage was now in the waters of the channel. The tractor trailer was carrying something that blew out of its cargo hold. It was an oxygen tank company, Arthur had figured from the name on the side of the trailer. Its driver and passenger could have easily drowned into the deep and below freezing water if it wasn’t for Clark. Clark had pulled out the driver and passenger of the truck and they were already sitting on dry land covered in mylar blankets. One of them was already on his phone, no doubt calling emergency services. 

 There was a screech of breaks above them followed by more screams. A Greyhound bus had skidded trying to avoid the burning debris on the road. The 18-ton bus full of passengers was now hanging precariously over the damaged bridge. A hundred-foot drop to the water below. From the bank of the channel, Clark gave Arthur a look.

 “Go, I got this.” Arthur yelled, and Clark went. Arthur wasn’t really sure what he’s “got” now, but he was confident he can deal with it. 

 The bus tilted more to towards the water. Eighteen tons of metal groaned under the strain of its front end as it hung midair. There were more screams. 

 Something snapped. A steel girder from the bridge, the gnarled piece of metal that was keeping the bus on the bridge, fell. The bus lurched towards the water. And it started to fall.

 Arthur braced himself, considered all the possible options he had to save as much people as he possibly can. Not quite sure how---

 Fuck.

 Then, impossibly, the bus was not falling anymore. Its fatal descent was halted, as if it was held up by an invisible thread, it began to right itself. Then slowly, carefully pushed back to the safety of the roadway by seemingly by large invisible hands. There was no doubt in Arthur’s mind it was Clark. How the hell was he doing this? He wasn’t pulling the bus from the back, that would cause too much strain, the front end was too heavy since most of the bus had slid off the bridge. And then he saw it, a figure in a yellow anorak. Clark was floating. Under the bus. Moving the bus with his bare hands, easing it back to safety, midair.

 Arthur could only imagine the sighs of relief inside the bus. These people have no idea…

 A squeal of breaks followed by an explosive sound interrupted Arthur’s thoughts. Clark was still holding onto the bus. A van had smashed through the weakened section of guardrail, its momentum carried it over the warped metal. It was in a freefall dive into the water.

 Arthur shot out of the water. I have to fucking catch the damn thing. I need some help. He saw the large shape of Two, all of 40 tons, the bigger of the whales, beneath him. 

 And there he had the van!  On the way down, he broke through the water feet first. The van tilted dangerously as Arthur held it up above him. He adjusted his grip until he the got the van settled on Two’s back as he surfaced. Arthur knew if he even stopped to think about the physics of his actions it would give him a headache for days. Maybe a lot of it was dumb luck. Well, whatever it was, it worked. He caught the van. He caught a van with four passengers. Two caught him and the van. Simple. No sweat. 

 After he settled the van on Two’s back. He checked on the passengers. They were fine. Maybe a little wide eyed and terrified with his trident sticking out through the hood. He might have improvised. He used his trident to catch the van. Maybe spear is a better word. The trident went clean through the engine, but everyone was nice and dry, and all in one piece. Thank you very much.

 “Kansas, I know you can hear me,” he muttered under his breath. “Finish whatever you’re doing. Let’s get the hell out of here. I’m not doing this all day.” As an answer to his “request,” he heard the cheers of the people from the bus.  The bus was safe. People were waving at him from the bridge. Traffic was controlled, and no one was falling off the bridge anymore.

 Shortly thereafter, a rescue helicopter arrived on scene ready to airlift both the van and the people off Two. He could see the news camera guy, hanging off the rescue chopper aimed at him and the whale. This is going to be interesting, he thought wryly. His scouting seagull circled above him and relayed a message: There’s no sign of Clark.

 In the corner of his eye, he saw something yellow floating on the water. Quickly, he swam after it, fearing the worst. But it was only Clark’s anorak. He must’ve abandoned it, Arthur thought.

 Arthur swam back to the beach where he had last seen Clark. The takeaway bag with the burgers was gone. He was worried, he knew he shouldn’t be worried—the man was fireproof and apparently could fly. He put his shirt on and his coat. Somehow, he had the sense to drop it by the rocks away from the waters’ edge. He sat next to a large outcrop of rocks and thought about all that chaos on the bridge and what he and Clark had just done. Sighing, he decided he was done thinking for now. He felt a sudden breeze hit him.

 “Sorry for that,” Clark said as he closed the distance between them. “… and sorry I had to leave, I didn’t want Weaver to think I took an extended lunch.” Arthur noticed he had on a different shirt and jacket. An unexpected pang hit Arthur’s chest at how Clark was always so careful about keeping his secret. 

 “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s good it’s kinda dead at the bar right now, it will be for hours what with the traffic being rerouted because of the damaged bridge. I didn’t want to just leave and not thank you for the stuff you brought from Australia.”

 Arthur perked up, “Did you get to try them?”

 “I didn’t get a chance yet. I’m sure they’re great. And you know what I can’t believe you speared that van, and the thing with the whales.” Clark flashed him a shy smile that made his eyes shine.

 Oh, wow, he dug the burgers! Arthur thought, then said, “Catching vehicles in midair is not my gig. We worked well together.” Arthur felt something release inside him, he was just so relieved, relieved that he didn’t fuck up saving those people, didn’t fuck up with the burgers (well the jury was still out with that) but Clark’s here so… “I’ve never done that before with anybody. And you were awesome,” Fuck, get a hold of yourself…  “I can’t believe you could do that ---“ 

 Arthur didn't  get any further, because Clark's too blue eyes are now focused on him. Clark leaned up to him then took Arthur's face in his hands, pulled him down and kissed him.