Author's Note: Three chapter fic updates in three weeks. Yes!
By Everything is Magic
I've never really felt that different. Okay, I mean… aside from the superpowers. I definitely knew that was unusual. But when I was a kid, and I sort of crushed on the boy superheroes just as much as the girl ones, I thought it was normal. I mean why not? I was always taught that beauty was found within and all that, so I kind of figured… that it applies to this as well? I figured out that… things don't work out quite that way when I was older, but as an eight year old boy, I didn't get it like I do now. That some people are attracted to the opposite sex, some to the same sex, and some to both; it's just how we're wired, I learned as I grew up. I mean it's science, and I'm really, really awesome at science.
But when I found out that it was considered… weird to like guys, at least living in a small town like I grew up in, I kind of stayed quiet about it. I only dated girls in high school, and it was fine, even though I really leaned more toward interest in guys. Once I got to college, I was too busy to date, and as Freedom Star? Now I'm even busier.
When Arthur came along though, all pissed scowls and fluffy wings and giant eyebrows, I knew he was something special. I knew that I wanted him to… know that I really, really cared about him.
But he managed to get to that first, when he kissed me after I defeated Seismic Wave. And it was great and awesome, and despite the pain from my injuries, little fireworks were going off in my head and I was… ecstatic.
Unfortunately though, now I was going to have to deal with the fallout. Being a hero is so much about public relations, it's odd to say. I'm a celebrity. I can save the world all I want, but if I don't pose for the cover of so and so magazine and show off my 'Hollywood smile' or if I don't make appearances at special events or do interviews, I may as well forget about being recognized. Arthur says it's not right, and that being a superhero should be all about the heroics you perform, the people you save. He might be right, but it's also an industry, and I have to behave like any other celebrity if I want to stay on top of it. Luckily, I'm pretty charming and charismatic, but…
This was still going to be a problem. I wasn't stupid. I was a role model to kids all over the country, all over the world. My image was totally wholesome, safe enough to be on the cover of a cereal box, and… the theme I'd chosen for myself as a super was patriotism and justice and the American dream. And I just kissed a man, in public, in front of hundreds of people. It shouldn't have been a problem, but that didn't change the fact that it was.
Arthur let go of me, stepping forward with a scowl on his lips. "Idiots! Can't you see that Freedom Star is injured right now? He can't take your questions, we'll be going!" he shouted, and I sighed. Bad move. Arthur was getting angry with the press, and you just… don't do that.
I placed my hand on his shoulder, shooting the press a pearly white smile. "Hey everyone! I really am hurting a lot. Defeating Seismic Wave took a lot out of me. If you want to schedule an interview, you know to contact my agency."
Arthur huffed, and I squeezed his shoulder to calm him down.
"Freedom Star!" someone yelled, and I noticed it was Angéline. "May we at least get the name of your mysterious partner in crime?"
I froze for a moment, tapping my chin in thought. I was Freedom Star, and my outfit was all… red, white, and blue and totally awesome. I'd always been really patriotic, so it almost struck me as a given that I'd go with that when I became a super.
Arthur was English. He was really English. Like, when I thought of a stereotypical English guy, something akin to an older version of Arthur would come to mind. Sure, he had his quirks, but he was definitely… way English.
And he had wings, which were his superpower, so he probably needed something like 'angel' or 'seraphim' in his name. I stared at him for a moment, trying to muster up something that had a good ring to it.
Ahah, that was it. That sounded awesome, and… I thought it went with Freedom Star pretty well, which was important.
I grinned, staring straight at the throng of reporters. "Britannia Angel. He's called Britannia Angel."
By the time Arthur and Alfred got home, flying part of the way courtesy Arthur, and walking the rest of the way via the subway tunnels (they'd have Kiku pick up the car later), Alfred's soreness had intensified.
He and Kiku had the equipment to take care of it though, so Arthur watched as Alfred ran scans on himself, checking for any broken bones and bleeding, and then assisted him as he wound bandages around his center and cleaned his scratches and wounds. He chided Alfred, telling him he should have been more careful, but Alfred would just chuckle and say he was "doing his job."
The news was already everywhere. Alfred had only to flick on one of the screens in the base to find every major news outlet talking about, not his defeat of Seismic Wave, but the kiss afterwards. And the computer monitors down in the base showed him that it was all over the internet news sites as well. Right now it was just basics, the broadcasters and articles relaying the simple facts. The editorials hadn't popped up yet, although… he was sure that people all over the world had developed opinions and started to share them elsewhere; blogs, comments on articles, personal conversation, wherever.
He sighed, turning to Arthur. They were sitting together on the couch in the living room now, having come upstairs from the base because Alfred really needed a snack (a can of coke and a chocolate bar). Alfred was shirtless, his center wrapped in bandages and a loose pair of jeans covering his bottom half. Arthur still wore his clothing from earlier, although, he noticed, it was quite dusty and dirty from the battle.
The television was off, and they were both content to leave it that way.
They… hadn't really spoken much since they returned, and it… was an uncomfortable silence.
Arthur broke it. "I'm a right idiot. I can't believe what I just did to you. I of all people should know, considering that in my era…"
Alfred shushed him with a finger to his lips. "Hey, I'm not mad at you. If you hadn't noticed, I sort of… liked it." There was a small, sheepish smile on his face. He turned to face Arthur on the couch.
His cheeks flushed. "Y-yes well, that's… irrelevant. It was wrong of me to do that, considering your image and…" He let out a puff of air. "Look, we can just forget about it. I mean obviously the press isn't going to, but we can, if you want."
At this, Alfred's breath hitched and he frowned, shaking his head vehemently. "N-no way! I don't want to forget about it. If anything I want to…"
He felt his neck heating, and then his cheeks and the tips of his ears.
"Do it again," Alfred whispered, and he cupped Arthur's chin, leaned down, and pressed their lips together. It was slow and languid, and… gentle, not fierce and emotional like their first kiss had been. Arthur made a sound in the back of his throat before returning it, his eyes sliding closed and one arm snaking around Alfred's neck. His other hand rested on Alfred's chest, right above his bandages.
Arthur felt his heart thrumming in his ear as the kiss continued, as Alfred ran a hand through his choppy blonde hair, bunching it up at the nape of his neck, as their hot breath intermingled, and as… shyly, Alfred pressed his tongue forward, requesting entrance, which Arthur allowed.
He had never felt so alive.
"I want to be with you," Alfred proclaimed, breathless, as they pulled apart. He pressed a chaste kiss to the tip of Arthur's nose, causing a hot blush to flare up on his cheeks. "I… think we're amazing together."
"We'd make… the greatest team," he continued.
"But I'm no hero, Alfred," Arthur countered, feeling a bit breathless himself.
"You sure as hell were today," Alfred chuckled.
Alfred had slid his arms down, around Arthur's center and beneath his wings, and he shifted under his touch. "Look, I just… did what was right. It's not as if it was anything special."
"You kept your cool. You were smart and quick and… resourceful and awesome," Alfred said.
"And you can be a bit hotheaded and far too reckless, so I suppose I do balance that out." Arthur felt a small smile tug at the corner of his lips, in spite of himself.
"Well… I don't agree with that, but you were still great," Alfred shrugged. "In any case, if you want, I wouldn't mind doing this with you again… both the k-kissing and the heroics, that is."
Arthur gulped for a moment; his heart speeding up because… this was so much, Alfred offered him so much. "Freedom Star and Britannia Angel, hmm?"
"Yeah! Do you like that name by the way?"
He shrugged. "It could be worse. Much better than… Angel of Darkness or whatever you called me when we first met."
"Angel of Death," Alfred clarified, "and that's because I thought you were a bad guy!"
"So what happens if I-" he glanced away.
"You'll be a hero, Arthur. I know that you… always wanted to do something in life, and here's your chance," Alfred said, and he squeezed Arthur just a bit tighter. "You and me? People will tell stories about us, like all the stories I loved as a kid about previous superheroes, all the ones that… inspired me. No one would ever forget you, Arthur. We could be the stuff of legend, and… you'd be able to save so many people."
"But you kissed me, and that's not going to do well for your image, is it?" Arthur queried, raising an eyebrow, but his chest was clenching because Alfred was offering him… something he'd always wanted, a chance to be… noticed, appreciated even, and more importantly, to have a purpose, to genuinely do good for the world.
Alfred sighed, a rueful expression crossing his features. "It's going to be messy, and… I'm not excited to deal with it. I'll lose fans, and I'll have a lot of people on my ass."
"Because of me…" Arthur murmured, his expression guilty.
Shaking his head, Alfred placed a hand on the side of Arthur's cheek. "Arthur, if you honestly think that I'd ever choose my image over you, then you're… a way bigger idiot than you've ever accused me of being. Besides, I bet I'll probably get some new fans out of this as well." He smiled. "And it's not going to affect me saving people's lives."
No, he supposed that it wouldn't.
For now he could be happy, Arthur thought. Perhaps not forever, because he still… wasn't alive, and it ached to think that this would only be temporary, and he'd have to go back. And perhaps one day, Alfred would be ready to join him, after living a long life. Likely not though, because no doubt Alfred would… find someone else, and who could blame him, really? But for now, they could be together, and he could help him and be with him and… just for one fleeting, shining moment in the grand scheme of time, he'd have the life he always wanted.
Arthur nodded. "I'd like to be your partner then, Alfred." He smiled. "Kissing included."
"You need a costume," Alfred said plainly as they entered the base.
"No bloody way," Arthur countered without delay.
Alfred just laughed. "Seriously. As nice as I think you look in a sweatervest, if you're going to be Britannia Angel, you have to go all out."
"But Alfred, I don't want in on all these… shenanigans, I just want to help you," Arthur said, running a hand through his hair in exasperation.
It had been almost a day since their very public outing, and it had been… a whirlwind.
Kiku had returned less than an hour later after them, and he'd hardly allowed himself to take a breath before diving into work. "We'll need to arrange interviews. I'm terribly, sorry, but this is going to be a lot of work for both of us. You'll have to very careful with your words. I-" he sighed, a frown crossing his lips, "please don't be upset with me, but I must admit that I'm not very happy with this development."
Alfred was about to retort, but Kiku interrupted. "That is, I'm… sorry, that came out wrong. I am happy for you and Arthur. It's been…" he coughed, "very obvious even before now. I just wish it had not happened publicly."
And of course, Arthur apologized again, and Alfred told him not to again, and Kiku continued onward, typing out frazzled emails to Alfred's various endorsers and pointing out that Alfred really needed to decide where he'd want his first interview to be. "You can't wait long, unfortunately."
They ordered Chinese takeout that night, and after eating, Alfred went to his bedroom, complaining of a headache.
In reality, Alfred had buried himself under his comforter with a book light, piles of comic books stacked up around him. He reread all his favorite stories, as if seeking guidance from the heroes he'd grown up with. Alfred did this sometimes, when things were strange or something new was happening, he went back to the men and women who had inspired him, and… it helped. After about half an hour, Arthur had joined him, and they both sat in his bed, Alfred tearing through comics and explaining supers, both real and fiction, to an attentive Arthur.
And it had been… awesome. They'd shared a few chaste kisses, and Arthur had barely protested when Alfred leaned over to snuggle him as they read.
But the next morning brought his current issue back to light. Alfred, as Freedom Star, released his first public statement, a press release. He talked about defeating Seismic Wave, and how grateful he was to have accomplished it, and how… he remained firm in his quest to keep Tri-City free of crime. And then he mentioned Arthur, explaining that Britannia Angel was his partner and that if anything, he was going to be a stronger super now that he had him on his side.
He arranged an interview, a one on one with Angéline that was to be on Monday evening. He nearly died of embarrassment when he saw a giant photo of him kissing Arthur plastered on the front of the paper that morning.
And now he was dealing with Arthur.
"That's awesome, but you have to have a supersuit, Arthur."
He crossed his arms and huffed, but finally relented with a tiny nod and a grumble.
Alfred beamed, and he totally wasn't thinking about how amazing Arthur was probably going to look in… whatever they chose. "Great! We'll get a design drawn up, and then I'll have Kiku help me with measurements."
Arthur bit his lip and glanced around the base, spotting Alfred's closet of costumes in the corner. "It's just… a bit silly."
Placing a hand under Arthur's chin and tilting it upward, Alfred shot him an encouraging smile. "You're going to look great. Amazing, even."
"N-now you're just being ridiculous," he argued, his cheeks growing red.
Alfred placed a quick kiss on his lips. "Heroes don't lie. You're adorable."
Arthur's cheeks darkened, and his green eyes went wide. "G-git." He cleared his throat. "But… even if you think that, why will everyone continue to just believe I'm a super? I mean I… obviously look like I'm an angel."
He shrugged, sitting down in one of the large comfy chairs he kept down in the base. Arthur joined him. "We fought a man who can control earth yesterday. One of my good friends in the business has the ability to summon water. It's… crazy, what kind of powers exist. So big fluffy white wings? It's not so hard to believe."
"And a halo floating above my head?" Arthur quirked a brow.
"A magnet in your head or something? They probably just think it's part of your costume," Alfred reasoned.
Alfred scooted his chair closer to Arthur's. "But actually, that reminds me."
He reached across the distance between the two of them, grabbing Arthur's halo in his hand. "I've always wanted to do this, but I kept forgetting."
It didn't move, no matter how hard he tugged. The gold halo felt warm under his touch, and it was solid and- apparently even super strength couldn't get it to budge.
Arthur let out a short laugh, and he smiled a genuine smile. "Almost every child I tell stories to tries to do that. It would be right daft if it actually did come off, I would have lost it a thousand times."
Alfred gave him a sheepish look, scratching the back of his head as he did so. "Oh well…"
"I'm surprised that you hadn't tried it before now. I've been expecting you to yank on my halo since I first came to this base and saw that it was filled with toys and video games."
"Hey, my base is awesome!"
Arthur reached across and squeezed his hand. "It's… very you."
Alfred squeezed back. "I'm gonna take that as a compliment."
The last thing I wanted to do on Monday was go to work. I seriously think that I dreaded it more than the interview. I mean, I'd discussed up and down with Kiku what kind of things to say in the interview, so I felt prepared. But work? That was a totally different thing, and it was extra annoying because I really did love my job most days. I didn't like not wanting to be there. I was used to the whole don't-react-when-your-coworkers-are-talking-about-Freedom-Star thing, and I'd had to stay silent before at times when it was really difficult; like the previous Friday when I'd lost to Seismic Wave, the bastard.
But this was… a whole new beast. And in addition to that, I was still sore from the battle. Going to work as banged up as I was, wasn't advisable, but luckily for me, it didn't hurt as much when I only used a fraction of my strength. And a fraction of my strength was more than enough. Kiku and I had decided long ago that it wasn't a good idea for Freedom Star's injuries to match up with days I called into work. It was doubtful anyone would make a connection, but to be safe, I didn't call in when injured unless I… just had no choice (luckily this had only happened once, a few months after I started working there).
Arthur encouraged me in the morning, telling me to be careful and saying he'd 'like to kick the arse of anyone who says bad things about us,' which made me smile, even though I told him he wasn't allowed to. And then he'd kissed me and given me a few scones he'd made earlier that evening to go with my lunch.
They were terrible, but when lunchtime came around, I ate every single one… just because they reminded me of him.
Of course, no one would shut up about Freedom Star and Britannia Angel. Most of my coworkers didn't have an issue with the whole kissing-guys thing, which was a relief (although a few of my older peers expressed disdain), but that didn't mean that all the gossip wasn't annoying and… sometimes sort of hurtful.
"I never would have considered it of… him. He's just never struck me like that at all."
"Still, he shouldn't have kept it secret. He says all the time in interviews that he's waiting for the right person. Way to break the heart of every girl in the country, dude."
"Well obviously he was waiting for the right man, but… he could have been more upfront about that."
"He was probably worried about his image, mates. You know how some of those people are, one wrong move and he's toast."
"He shouldn't be so worried about his image that he lies about his sexuality. If people aren't forward about that kind of thing, it's still going to be viewed as something to be ashamed of."
"Well he never really said either way, y'know?"
"Some parents are going to be pissed. My aunt mentioned it on the phone last night, and she was not happy. Apparently, she told my cousin to take her poster down."
"That's a dick move, but I doubt she's the only one. And… how many little boys are going to have to get rid of their Freedom Star action figures?"
"On the other hand, hello new gay icon…"
"I say good for him, but honestly? He could do way better. Did you see that guy's eyebrows?"
"I think he looks fine," I finally interrupted, and I cursed inwardly at my lack of restraint. But it was just getting to me too much. All of my coworkers, throwing barbs back and forth, because why not? They had no idea that the target of their words was… sitting in the same room as them. "I-I mean Britannia Angel. He seems… cool to me. A-and it's… up to Freedom Star if he doesn't want to talk about… who he likes and stuff. I mean, he's a superhero and his job is to save people. What does any of that have to do with saving people's lives? As for people getting… pissed, they're assholes, right?"
I knew my voice was sort of shaking, and I probably sounded a lot angrier and more snappish than I should have. I took a deep breath.
"So defensive of Freedom Star, Alfred," one of the veterinarians chuckled. "I never knew you were such a big fan."
I faked a smile. "Yeah well, I just… have always liked superheroes a lot, and you know, Freedom Star is just about the biggest out there."
"Alfred's right, mates," Bruce said, and I was… really thankful. Bruce is awesome. He's always so cool and laid back, so I knew he wouldn't care. Plus, people listen to him. He's kind of in charge, and that aside, he's just the sort of guy that no one dislikes. "As long as Freedom Star is doing his job well, it shouldn't matter to anyone who he's shaggin' on the side."
"Shit Bruce, you're so lewd," laughed the keeper in charge of the snake building.
But I was… totally bright red, and I knew it. I grabbed a magazine from the break room table and hid my face behind it, willing the flush to disappear.
"In any case, we need to stop lazing 'round and get back to work," Bruce said, standing up. "Animals can't feed themselves. Well, I guess some of them can, but that would be bad news for us." He cocked a grin, and I could swear he shot a reassuring glance at me. Geez, now everyone thought I was some kind of nerdy superhero fanatic (although Arthur would probably say that I was one).
I pushed myself out of my chair and slid my cellphone from my pocket, staring at it a moment before making a decision. "Hey Bruce, I'll be along in a few minutes. Gotta make a phone call!"
Bruce cocked an eyebrow in curiosity, but nodded. "'Right, mate. See you in a few at Wondercroc's enclosure?"
I threw the trash from my lunch away, and headed to the break room restroom, which was luckily just one stall, so no one else could come in. After doublechecking that I'd locked the door, I ran over and leaned against the wall beside the toilet.
Pressing 'home,' on my contacts list, I waited four rings for the answering machine. "Hey Arthur, it's me Alfred. I… just want to talk to you if that's okay? Please pick up. Today's been kind of crappy," I laughed, and I was sure it sounded sort of ironic. "I could really use to hear your… v-voice."
A click, and Arthur picked up the phone. "Hello, Alfred? Are you all right?"
"Arthur!" I exclaimed, and I knew I sounded kind of stupidly happy. "I'm… really wishing you were here."
There was a hitch in Arthur's breath, and I imagined his cheeks flushing adorably pink. "I-I'm sorry… I can't be."
"It's okay. Just talk to me then?"
"Of course Alfred, of course I will…"