Author's Note: Trying to get back on track with updating my big three fics.
By Everything is Magic
The restaurant was nicer than any Arthur had ever been to while alive. The tables and furnishings were done in warm cherry wood, and the chairs were soft and large. They were in a small back corner of the establishment, the back of a booth in front of them hiding them from the sight of the rest of the diners. Alfred had… actually thought this through.
Arthur glanced next to him, at the small stain glassed window next to their table and then over to the chandelier that lit the room with a golden glow.
"I've never been to this place," Alfred said, "but I looked it up on the internet and it had… really awesome reviews." He scratched the back of his head, pausing to take a sip of the glass of Coca-cola he'd ordered. Arthur had not failed to notice, that most of the other diners were drinking wine, coffee, or in his case, tea. Alfred on the other hand, drank soda pop.
"Don't you think the waitress found it odd that you're ordering for two people?" Arthur asked, staring across the table at him. Alfred smiled and shook his head.
"I've got a big appetite?"
Arthur snorted. "The biggest I've seen, I dare say."
He pouted. "I'm a hero, gotta keep myself going!"
The angel took a sip of his beverage; silently thanking God above that tea had not ceased to exist since he'd died. "Oh of course."
Alfred laughed, and Arthur noticed the way his eyes sort of… crinkled at the edges when he did it and… his smile, so genuine and wide. "You're so weird, Arthur."
"I'm a gentleman," he countered, without much real defiance in his tone.
"A gentleman angel, hmm?" Alfred tapped his chin, before breaking into that smile again. "I like it!"
Arthur attempted to hide a blush behind his teacup. He took a deep breath and exhaled. "Alfred?"
"I-I…wanted to thank you for bringing me here," he rushed out.
Alfred flushed pink. "Oh yeah well, " he laughed nervously, "I said I wanted to take you on a date, didn't I?"
Before Arthur could answer, the waitress clattered across the marble floor, their lunches in hand; tangliolini for Arthur and potato gnocchi for Alfred.
Arthur caught her shooting Alfred a bewildered look as she asked if everything was all right and took the teacup and glass to refill them, but he either did not notice or did not care.
The angel stared down at his food, sifting the noodles back and forth with his fork. "I suppose you did."
Alfred swallowed a bite of gnocchi and grinned.
"Can't thank you enough for coming, Kiku," Heracles said as he adjusted his tie, which despite the formality of the occasion, was patterned in a cat print.
Kiku's cheeks warmed, and he glanced away from Heracles. The exhibit was packed with artists and socialites and other wealthy citizens, and Kiku felt a bit out of place.
He shouldn't have, because he was… honestly wealthier than most of the people there. However, the fact that he and Alfred kept their wealth confined to their secret identities meant that neither of them ever really engaged in the lifestyle normally befitting citizens of their monetary worth.
Kiku swished his glass of wine gently and observed one of the statues. Heracles's sculptures were well known for their classical approach to the art, as opposed to the more modern art styles of most of his fellow peers.
Heracles greeted the guests that approached him with a languid politeness that caused a small smile to quirk up Kiku's lips. He kept the smaller man close to his side, seemingly having no problem admitting that Kiku was his boyfriend.
This embarrassed Kiku terribly. He really needed to get used to how much more open Heracles was about these things than he was…
He was pulled from his thoughts by a light squeeze on his shoulder. Heracles met his eyes, a warm expression on his features. "You doing okay, Kiku?"
They were walking around now, Heracles speaking to guests and Kiku using this as a chance to get a better look at the exhibit. His favorite section was the feline sculptures. There were almost twenty of them, and they all showed a precise and admirable understanding of the anatomy of the creatures… in addition to being adorable.
Alfred and Arthur were correct. It was right of him to come to the exhibit to support Heracles. He sighed inwardly. He needed to loosen up, and although it was happening slowly, he thought that Heracles may be the key to that.
"I'm fine, Heracles. I apologize if I've worried you…"
Heracles chuckled deeply. "You're fine." He leaned down, and he was about to press a kiss to Kiku's temple before he was interrupted by a gruff voice.
"Nice day today, huh Heracles?"
Kiku glanced up and observed the man. He was tall and well dressed, in a snappy suit and tie. He had a smattering of stubble on his face, and his eyes were dark and keen. There was a smug smirk on his lips.
"Geh, Sadiq," Heracles grumbled, and he sounded more irritated than Kiku had ever heard from him. The man wasn't often upset, after all. His body has also tensed up, and there was obvious discomfort in his posture.
Kiku's eyes widened, curious. "Heracles…?"
"Kiku, it's my pleasure," he gritted out, "to introduce you to my half-brother, Sadiq Adnan."
"I didn't know you had a brother," Kiku said.
"I try to forget," Heracles murmured, although Kiku heard him. "Anyway, this is Kiku… Sadiq. He's my-"
"Your boyfriend," Sadiq cut in. "Heard all 'bout him, of course."
There was something in the way that Sadiq spoke, and the way he raked his eyes across him, that made Kiku nervous. He felt as if he were being analyzed, observed down to every minute detail. He shifted and glanced down, unable to make eye contact with the tall, strange man.
"Keep your hands off of him, Sadiq," Heracles snapped, and his eyes flashed. Kiku's cheeks pinked at how… protective he was being.
Sadiq held up his hands in surrender. "Easy. I don't have any interest in him like that, and y'know it."
Heracles's shoulders fell, and he took a deep breath to calm himself. "Sadiq. Just leave. Now is not the time. You know I'll be there tonight, if that's what you're worried about."
Shrugging, Sadiq half-smiled. "Heh. Not worried 'bout you showin' up. Just wanted to come an' see your art." He shot a glance to Kiku and his smile grew. "Gonna be goin' then."
"Good," Heracles leveled him a steely glare.
He heaved a sigh of relief once Sadiq had turned around and walked away. Kiku's stomach, which was previously in knots, untwisted. "Heracles… what did he…"
"Family meeting tonight," Heracles said. "I don't have the best relationship with my family, so I don't… really like going to them."
Kiku nodded. "I'm sorry if I'm intruding by suggesting this. I realize that you may consider it too private an affair. But… if you ever wish to speak about it to someone, I would be willing to offer an ear."
Heracles smiled warmly, ruffling Kiku's hair as he did so. "It's not a big deal. I'm… used to it."
"All right. I apologize…" Kiku said, shooting him a look of concern.
"How about a better subject?" Heracles offered. Kiku nodded. "You know my celebrity sculpture collection?"
"Yes… I quite enjoyed the one you did of Lea Zwingli. She's my favorite singer. Also the one you unveiled of Aqua Prism recently. The movement in it is beautiful."
The taller man scratched the back of his head. "Thank you… Kiku. Anyway, for my next project I have a man in mind this time. I know I've done women up to now, but… I would really love to sculpt Freedom Star."
Kiku's eyes widened, infinitesimally. "Freedom Star? Well he is… very famous."
"His physique would allow me to do a more traditional sculpture, like something Greek or Roman. But… it's just a thought. I think that… he is probably very busy."
Kiku nodded, but at the back of his mind, he was plotting a way to get Alfred to agree to sit for Heracles as Freedom Star, without revealing that he was Omoikane in the process.
Arthur stared at Alfred as they strolled along the main street of downtown Tri City. They'd left the restaurant behind, both full and happy, and now Alfred had decided to show him some of the sites of his beloved city. He babbled about something at almost every corner, every stop; whether it was a monument or a fountain, or in one case a store that sold 'really cool' science trinkets. They ended up going into that one, and Alfred almost bought a deluxe rock tumbler because his old one was apparently broken. He'd found this 'really cool rock in his backyard' that he was pretty sure was an aventurine feldspar (whatever that was. Arthur hadn't the foggiest), and he wanted to polish it up. In the end he'd decided to order one online. The whole thing was confusing as all hell to Arthur, who had no idea what a rock tumbler was and still had only an extremely basic understanding of what the internet was.
Alfred now had two ice cream cones in his hand, one for himself and one for Arthur (who leaned over and licked it every few seconds), and he was explaining the history behind the city's local WWII monument. Arthur had more than a passing familiarity with the war, as it was one of those times in history where angels were needed more than ever. In the century plus that he had been deceased, he'd never spent as much time on Earth as he had during that war. There were so many children that needed help getting to sleep at night during those years. Alfred's grandfather had fought in it, and he spoke with pride of his accomplishments and how he was one of the reasons that Alfred had wanted to be a hero.
Arthur found himself smiling in spite of himself at this. He'd fought in a war and felt no emotion for it, but Alfred and his grandfather had found strength in fighting, a reason to fight that was true and just and… heroic. He felt a pang of envy at this but brushed it away.
The date had gone well, Arthur thought. He and Alfred… clicked, in a way that Arthur never would have thought possible considering their first meeting and how obnoxious he'd found Alfred at first. But when Alfred tried, he could be considerate and sweet and even charming, in his own unique sort of way.
He felt his face heating up. Of course, it was all for naught. They could date all they wanted, but in the end-
Alfred's ringtone, a rather obnoxious pop song, interrupted his train of thought.
Cursing, Alfred placed the ice cream cones on the edge of a bench and reached in his pocket, flipping the phone open. "Hello."
A pause. Alfred pouted. "All right, be right there. Thanks a lot…" He closed the phone and shoved it back in his pocket.
"Do you know how to get home from here, Arthur? I can give you my keys, and you could just fly back if so."
Arthur crossed his arms. "And why, pray tell should I go home? Because if it's the reason I think it is, I'm going to come with you."
Alfred picked up his ice cream cone again, finishing it off in a few quick bites. "It is. Seismic Wave, a few miles from here." He leveled Arthur a steely expression. "You should go. You're not part of this, and you could get hurt."
Arthur challenged his firm expression with one of his own, fierce and defiant. "I'm bloody invisible for one."
"Yeah but a rock could hit—"
"Shut up. Secondly, I am part of it. If I'm part of your life, which I rather hope I am, I'm part of this." He was standing up straight, jutting out his chin and staring at him in a manner that read, 'just try to disagree with me.' "I'd rather be there in person than watching on the blasted television."
Alfred felt a small smile cross his lips, reminded of Arthur's dauntless conviction in asserting him that he had not hurt Rose on the first night they'd met. There really was no arguing with him when he was like this, was there?
His expression settled into a rueful one, and he sighed. "All right then Arthur, let's go. I'm gonna take care of Seismic Wave once and for all this time…"
Arthur nodded and patted him on the shoulder. "Quite right. And I'll be there to support you."
Alfred chuckled and held up Arthur's ice cream cone, allowing him to finish it off. "I guess you can be my guardian angel, huh?"
By the time Arthur and Alfred (now Freedom Star) arrived at the scene of Seismic Wave's attack, it was already chaotic.
Photographers and news crews stationed themselves at a comfortable distance from the melee, and police cars were trying their hardest to barricade citizens from the action, even as the very earth beneath the officers crumbled and broke.
"Arthur, you stay on the sidelines, behind the police cars," Alfred demanded, his lips thinned into a grim line.
Arthur huffed but nodded in agreement. "Right, but I'll have you know that if you do anything too stupid, don't expect me to just stand here and watch." A blush spread across Alfred's cheeks at this, but he frowned. "What exactly is going on anyway?"
"Another hostage situation for money like the other night," he explained. "New villains are kind of like that. They repeat the same gig over and over if it works for them." Alfred scowled. "And… last time it worked."
"All this just so he can get rich. Bloody hell…" The angel reached up and placed a hand on Alfred's cheek, his expression gentle. "That wasn't your fault. You can't be perfect all the time, you fool."
Alfred's face grew redder. "Y-yeah well… I can't let it happen again." He squeezed Arthur's hand and ran into the fray, squeezing through the barrier of police cars and carefully navigating the broken road.
Taking a deep breath, Alfred fisted his hands and made his presence known, "Seismic Wave, it's over for you," he yelled, drawing the attention of his opponent.
Seismic Wave was currently building up his new prison, this time filled with several employees from the city's treasury. With mere flicks of his wrist, he spun their prison higher and higher, a rock cave balanced precariously on a tower created of broken road. They were already around ten feet into the air, and Alfred knew that if the spire grew too high, it wouldn't be able to hold the weight of the men and women and would collapse.
He wasn't a very imposing figure, Seismic Wave. He stood at about middle height, but he was slender with large hands and feet. He wore a mask, and his costume was simpler than that of most people in the business; for bad or for good. But his power was formidable, and he'd rarely encountered anyone, hero or villain, with skills to his level.
"Is it really now, Freedom Star? Because if it's anything like last time, I'd say that it's only just begun for me," Seismic Wave gloated, a smirk on his lips. As he finished, he slammed his hand down onto the ground and caused a spike of earth to shoot up mere inches from where Freedom Star stood.
It had been close. So close in fact, that Alfred thought he may have lost a few hairs. He punched through the pillar of earth, and it crumbled at his feet, although a stray chunk brushed his cheek and sliced it open in the process.
"This isn't last time," Alfred shouted, and his voice was steel and anger and determination. He wiped his cheek, ignoring the way the blood continued to seep from the shallow wound. "A hero like me isn't going to be humiliated twice, and more so, I'm not going to let you endanger people any longer."
But the ground was Seismic Wave's domain, and as strong as Alfred was, he couldn't launch an attack well if he was constantly being attacked from underfoot. He fought his way closer to Seismic Wave, landing a few punches but not doing any real damage. He was covered in dust and dirt and gravel, and he knew that several more cuts were open and bleeding on his body now, but he didn't care.
There would be no giving up this time, and no letting anyone else force him to give up.
The spire was growing. Fifteen or so feet now.
Alfred aimed to disable Seismic Wave's feet, sliding underneath him and trying to grab them and hold them with brute force. But he was stopped when a slab of rock clamped around his center, trapping him in place just long enough for Seismic Wave to escape.
He broke the rock and cursed, wondering how in the hell he was going to do this.
The rock around his center had held him in a tighter grasp than he'd thought. His ribs ached, and he knew that it had bruised them badly. Biting back the pain, he grabbed a large chunk of curb and tossed it Seismic Wave's way, only to have it volleyed back to him.
It smacked him square in the stomach, and Alfred tasted something coppery within his mouth as he collapsed backward.
But he didn't hit the ground.
Instead warm, surprisingly strong arms caught him, and he glanced up to meet a pair of furious but concerned green eyes.
"You idiot," Arthur snapped. "You're completely banged up. I can tell, you know! You aren't going to last much longer in this fight, and you know it."
Alfred shook his head. "You're wrong. I can totally do it. I have to! I mean the hostages…"
"Are taken care of," Arthur interrupted. He gestured skyward.
The cave atop the spire was empty.
"While you two were busy trying to kill each other, I took the liberty of rescuing the hostages. They're all safe across the police line, and that bloody idiot Seismic Wave didn't even notice." He smirked a bit. "I suppose wings can come in handy."
"Not invisible. You know I have the power to will myself visible, and I did so."
Alfred nodded, his eyes feeling a little droopy. "I think… Seismic Wave noticed."
Arthur snapped his head up. Indeed, Seismic Wave was furious. He was approaching them now, leveling earth with every step, a vicious expression on his face.
"Do you think you have enough energy to fight a bit longer?" Arthur queried, speaking quickly.
"Hell yeah I do," Alfred said.
"Then I've got an idea…"
"There's no way you can fight him with the ground beneath you."
A smile curled across Alfred's lips. "I need to take him on from above."
"Right you are," Arthur said, and he hoisted Alfred up into the air, soaring upwards until they were at least twenty feet above their opponent.
Arthur held Alfred under his arms, and the superhero's feet dangled below them. "This won't do. I can't just have you dangle and… kick…" He bit his lip in thought.
Alfred glanced down, and then back up at Arthur. "Hold me in the center, parallel beneath you."
"What? But your stomach is injured. I don't want to grip you there…"
He shrugged. "A little more pain isn't a big deal, Arthur. Not if it helps us take this bastard out."
Arthur chuckled and carefully, he shifted Alfred into the requested position. "You're stronger than I thought you'd be," Alfred said.
"I'm not some weakling!" Arthur snapped. "But… actually, I am a bit stronger as an angel, I suppose. It takes a lot of power to fly."
Oh yeah. He was flying.
Arthur was holding him, but he was still… sort of flying.
It felt just as amazing as he thought it would. Arthur's wings flapping caused gentle breezes to caress his body, and the wind ran by his face as they circled the battlefield. Truthfully, he barely noticed the pain in his ribs and stomach.
He smiled, blissful. "This is so… awesome," he said, breathless.
"I dare say it's not awesome at all, Alfred," Arthur huffed.
"No… I mean the flying."
He turned his head up to meet Arthur's gaze, and they were mere centimeters apart. Arthur's cheeks were wind-flushed, and his hair was shifting gently in the breeze. If it weren't such an awkward angle, Alfred would have been tempted to…
He felt the back of his neck heat, and he shook his head. "I'm ready when you are, Arthur. We're gonna divebomb him, right? I just need to land a good hit on him, and that should knock him out."
Arthur nodded. "Correct. And he shouldn't have enough time to block it, since we'll be high above the ground."
"Awesome. Got it."
"We've got one solid chance before he catches onto what we're up to," the angel explained.
"One chance that we're gonna make." Alfred smiled, wide and confident.
"Damn right we are." He stiffened, readying his body for rapid descent. "On three I'll start to descend. Hold on tight. It's going to be quite quick."
Alfred shook his head in the affirmative. "Ready, Pilot."
"Has anyone ever told you that you'd make an awesome superhero?"
A huff. "Three."
Arthur dove, angling his wings backward as he did so. The wind whipped past Alfred's face at rapid speed, and he prepared himself mentally for the attack.
Within moments, he was mere feet from Seismic Wave. He pushed forward his arm and fisted his hand.
But Seismic Wave had noticed. A slab of stone shot up, blocking their attack. Arthur cursed.
Alfred made a split second decision. He kicked Arthur in the shin, hard, startling the angel into loosening his grip on the superhero.
His hands hit the slab of rock that Seismic Wave had put up to defend himself, and he sprung off of it and directly into his path, falling in from above.
Alfred could just make out Seismic Wave's eyes widening in shock before he used the side of his hand to hit the man on the back of his head, the sheer force of it causing him to fall forward and collapse unconscious.
He would have smacked into the ground himself, had Arthur not once again caught him in his arms.
Arthur flew upward, holding Alfred bridal style within his grasp.
"Great job, huh?" Alfred said with an exhausted smile.
He glanced up, expecting to see a warm expression on Arthur's face.
Instead Arthur looked infuriated, his green eyes acidic. He flew them over to a smooth spot on the ground and landed, standing Alfred up and placing his hands on the hero's shoulders.
His eyes were squeezed shut, and Alfred could have sworn that tears were prickling at the corners of them.
"Arthur? We… did it. You were awesome. I was of course, but you too!" Alfred said, scratching the back of his head in nervousness. And crap, the pain was finally starting to register as well. He felt as if someone had churned his insides up.
Arthur finally opened his eyes, and they were still fierce and combative, but… somehow they were also tender.
"You are the biggest bloody idiot in the entire universe," he said, his voice shaking. "Jumping from my arms like that? I've met dead people with better self-preservation than you."
Alfred rubbed his cheek. "It… doesn't matter. I mean we did it, didn't we?"
"It bloody well does matter!" Arthur snapped. He tightened his grip on Alfred's shoulders and leaned up, just a bit. "I can't- I can't-" He shut his eyes again, and there was no denying the tears this time. "I can't bear the thought of-"
Instead of finishing his sentence, he closed the remaining distance between them and captured Alfred's lips in a kiss.
Alfred's blue eyes grew large, and he was too shocked to respond for several moments. Arthur was gripping the front of his costume now, his hands just above his rapidly beating heart.
Arthur's lips were warm and soft, not chapped like his probably were. Then again, he was an angel. Making a sound deep in the back of his throat, Alfred returned the kiss, his eyes sliding closed and a smile forming on his lips amidst the kiss.
If defeating bad guys meant he'd get this after he'd done so, Alfred was definitely never going to walk away from a battle without being the victor again.
Breathless, Arthur pulled away.
"Some date, huh?" Alfred quipped.
Arthur rolled his eyes, but then he frowned. "I-I am… terribly sorry."
His cheeks were redder than they'd ever been, and Alfred knew that his must be the same.
Alfred pressed a finger to Arthur's lips. "Shhhh. It's okay. Don't you dare apologize." He smiled at him, gentle and affectionate.
"I don't mean the kiss," he replied and cleared his throat before continuing, "We… obviously both enjoyed that."
"Then what do you-"
Arthur angled his head to the left, and Alfred followed his gesture with his eyes.
To be met with hundreds of cameras, snapping and filming and-
"Freedom Star, may we get a word?"
"Who is your new friend? Is he a new super?"
"Freedom Star, all these years you've been avoiding the questions about your love life. Is this why?"
"Why didn't you come out before now, Freedom Star?"