HAPPINESS


The boat is a not-wedding gift from Ollie and Dinah – technically speaking, there was no wedding, nor are Roy and Kaldur married in any legal sense of the word, but nonetheless the older adults seem to have surmised that something is different. Perhaps business-minded Ollie caught wind that Kaldur sold his apartment in Connecticut and aptly guessed the reason why. Perhaps Dinah, with her sharp eyes, noticed the remains of the ceremonial ribbon amidst the usual clutter of Roy's coffee table, and knew enough of Atlantean tradition to know what it meant. Or perhaps the two of them simply decided that after six years, their boys had proven their lack of interest in any formal validation of their relationship and had acted accordingly.

They christen her Escape with fresh black paint and a shattered bottle of champagne. The name is somewhat ironic – all of them have piloted enough escape boats to know that this is not one of them, with its modest engine, its inadaptable sails, and its many delightful, impractical amenities. There is a sun deck, and a lavatory, and a little kitchen with a two-burner stove, and down a few narrow stairs there is a room that occupies the space below the bow, its wall-to-wall mattress conforming to the shape of the hull. It is a small craft, built not for speed but for comfort and reliability, and its clean little mainsail twitches as if excited the first time Roy lays his hand against the mast.

"For the times you need to get away for a little while," says Dinah with a warm smile as Ollie presses the keys into Roy's hand.

Kaldur cannot suppress his own smile as his eyes roam the craft, taking in the elegant economy of its design.

"She is beautiful," he says gratefully. He knows that Ollie is not a rich man – not anymore, at least , and the generosity of the gesture does not escape him. "We cannot possibly thank you enough."

"You just keep this one out of trouble and we'll call it even," Ollie tells him, clapping Roy on the shoulder, to which the younger archer responds with a rebellious grin.

"You wish."

"I will do my best," Kaldur promises.

A fond silence descends over the four of them as the sun begins to set over the docks. Dinah and Ollie share a meaningful look that turns into a meaningful smile, then Ollie's hand quietly intertwines with hers to deliver some unspoken message. Reserved as ever, Kaldur averts his eyes from what seems to be a private moment, at which Roy chuckles and wraps an arm around the Atlantean's shoulders to give him an affectionate squeeze.

"Well," says Dinah at last, turning to the two boys (not boys anymore, she corrects herself internally – Roy turned twenty-four just last month, and Kaldur has always been an old soul, but still, on some level they will always be her boys). "We won't keep you any longer."

"You are not –"

"Go on, take her out for a spin," Ollie urges, interrupting Kaldur's attempt at politeness. "She's equipped for a night out on the harbor."

"What about patrol?" asks Roy automatically.

Dinah rolls her eyes.

"Take a break, for God's sake," she tells him. "Honestly, you're worse than Ollie."

And finally, with enough hounding, the younger two heroes make it up onto the boat and begin the process of freeing it from the dock. Kaldur raises the anchor while Roy unties its mooring lines, coiling the ropes with an ease that says he's done this a number of times before, perhaps back when Ollie's millions allowed for such outings. When at last Kaldur coaxes the engine to life and they begin to drift out towards the harbor, the two of them make their way to starboard to wave goodbye to their elders, who are standing on the edge of the pier to see them off, arms wrapped unabashedly about each other. Then they're off into the blue.

After some time, they reach open water and kill the engine. At Roy's suggestion, they head inside to familiarize themselves with the craft, moving through the cabin as the boat rocks gently on the mild swell of the harbor. Ollie and Dinah have left a picnic dinner on the fold-down table in the kitchenette, along with a bottle of wine from a vineyard Ollie used to own, and there are surprises in some of the cupboards – they find wine glasses above the sink, a six-pack of Roy's favorite beer in the minifridge, photos of their loved ones on the wall opposite the lavatory; then, to Kaldur's mortification and Roy's uncontrollable laughter, they find a bottle of lubrication and a box of condoms in a shallow cabinet in the bedroom.

"Hey, at least they approve," Roy grins as he shuts the cupboard, and despite his shame Kaldur has to nod agreeingly to that – it's not been an easy path to where they are now, and Dinah and Ollie's unexpected support has been an immeasurable relief.

Exploration complete, they return to the deck, taking dinner with them. There is a cool breeze off the water that slowly chases the day's heat away, and as the distant sun sinks into the sea they sit in companionable silence and eat. It's a different sort of isolation, out here in the salty air, taking in the cries of the gulls and the quiet lapping of the waves against the hull; they haven't had this much time to themselves in a long while, and though they're the kind of men who would just as soon spend a night fighting crooks under grimy streetlights as spend an evening trading kisses under the stars, neither can deny that this feels right. They've needed this for longer than they realized.

"Do you think they know?" asks Roy when dinner is finished. He maneuvers himself onto the deck, resting his head in Kaldur's lap and looking up at the Atlantean. "It seemed like they did."

"Batman," says Kaldur simply, and he doesn't need to explain the logic that led from Roy's question to his answer.

Roy laughs, folding his hands over his stomach.

"Probably right," he concedes. "Well, we got a boat out of it, so I guess I can't complain."

"It is a very generous gift," Kaldur agrees, absently running his fingers through Roy's hair.

Roy snorts.

"That probably also has something to do with Batman."

They fall back into silence, watching the moon rise out of the waters. Out here, away from the worst of the city lights, they can see the faint speckling of the stars in the sky, criss-crossed and outshone by the occasional airplane. From this distance they can't hear the city or its never-ceasing cry for help, the needy sirens that would normally call them away from a moment like this, and though it's not easy for either of them to accept that they're entitled to a life beyond their weapons, they're grateful for the respite anyway.

In time, they sleep. The Escape rocks softly at her moorings as they lie cradled in the room below the deck; it would be a short walk from the pier back to Roy's heated apartment, with its broad bed and ample pillows, but neither of them regrets it in the morning.

They can't know it then but this is the first of many, many nights they will spend at sea. The boat is ideal for both of them, for different reasons: it allows Kaldur to be close to his natural home, the sea, and to his chosen home, Roy; in turn, it allows Roy the freedom to go where he pleases, untethers him from the restrictive requirements of the stationary life that so grate against his restless nature. They travel up and down the coast like wraiths, acquainting themselves with the life and the lowlifes of every major city in the American West with each stop. When League business calls them further inland, they leave their little craft waiting at some dock or another, apply themselves to the crisis at hand, then seek it out again to glide out onto the open sea, where there are no neighbors to gossip and the horizon stretches to infinity.

On a sunny day, Kaldur will stand on the nose of the boat, barefoot and breathing deep as he soaks in the sun and the spray of the great Pacific. At the sound of the cabin door he will turn to see Roy standing there with hair mussed from sleep, and he will take a moment to appreciate the archer's tanned physique, the lean, hard muscles of his arms and chest, and the way he feels no need to hide himself after all these years. Then Roy will catch him staring, and they will both smile, and Roy will walk across the deck to fold those long arms around the Atlantean, and without saying a word they will gaze out over the ocean like some elegant two-figured bowsprit.

If it has been a while since they were last in port for supplies, Roy will attempt to fish for their lunch, although often his impatience and the better judgment of the fish will get the better of him. Whether or not he is successful, Kaldur will go for a swim, usually when the afternoon sun is at its hottest, and sometimes he will convince Roy to join him in the deep, cold waters. (Secretly, Roy always enjoys these swims almost as much as his lover does, but he enjoys Kaldur's attempts at coercion even more, so he's careful never to let on.)

When at last the sun begins to disappear in the west, traipsing over the horizon to herald some other couple's daybreak, they will settle down, limbs dangling from the edge of the craft as they pass a plate of supper and a slim bottle of wine back and forth. They will talk, of their next destination or of friends they should visit or of worries they bear, or sometimes they will not talk at all, but simply sit in silence as their feet brush and the light fades and Kaldur's head droops to rest on Roy's shoulder. Then, when true darkness comes over them and night has fallen, they will clean up their mess, and secure the boat, and retreat to the room beneath the bow, and make love to the rhythm of the deep, deep ocean.