Warning: Adult Subject Matter and Language. Reader discretion is advised.
 
[Note: This story occurs just before Arena of Regrets.]

Sow, Sow, Reap, Reap
by Scott Bennie


I was warned when my powers were first examined that there would come a time that I couldnít take it, and "it" wouldnít be the comic book life of your favorite letter of the Greek alphabet, "it" would be my powers. Iím strong, handsome, can fly, and people look at me like theyíre about to get on their fucking knees and sacrifice a goat to me, and thatís fucking awesome. But I can do a lot of other shit: almost anything I can imagine, at least on a personal level, and right now thatís gotten under my skin.

So Iíve come home, to a medium sized farm on the outskirts of Milford Nebraska, looking for comfort, if not answers. The fields are brown, the aftereffects of a recent harvest, silent except for a few crows. I buzz them, and they scatter, taking lazy flight. The carportís empty, except for dadís pick-up and some haulers. The place was abandoned right after Rachelís murder because the government figures that my dad and my cousin Buck (and even my mom) should receive government protection. Itís a fucking weird sight, seeing this place so empty. But perhaps solitude ainít such a bad thing right now.

So I do some chores, mow the front lawn, nail down loose floorboards, paint the sheds: anything I could think of doing as a distraction. Work has always been a drug for me. Shit, given how much I like to work with my hands, Iím surprised I never became a carpenter.

At eleven in the evening, a pick-up truck comes rolling down the drive into the main house. I turn invisible, ready to jump them, hoping against hope that itís Orchid, coming here hoping for a final showdown.

Nah, itís just Steve Doerksen: ex-neighbor, ex-teammate, and a friend or a pest (itís a coinflip to decide which, depending on how big an asshole I feel).

"Doerksen, goddammit, what the fuck are you doing here?" I tell him.

"Hey Tommy," Steve says, waving in my general direction. "You invisible?"

"Of course, asshole," I say, becoming visible two feet in front of him. He collides with my brick wall of a chest and falls to the ground. "Youíre supposed to be in protective custody, shithead."

"I wasnít on the list." Steve shrugs, after getting to his feet.

"What? Not on the fucking list!"

"I guess they talked to some of the people at school, and they mentioned weíd been at odds, so I wasnít important enough to warrant government protection"

"What the fuck were they thinking?" I snap.

"You mean I should have made the list?" Steve says.

"Yeah. Just fucking barely." I smile. "As long as youíre living here. So what are you doing here?"

"Got back from a friend in Lincoln," Steve says. "Whereíd you come in from?"

"Ireland," I say. Steve raises an eyebrow. "I really donít want to talk about it."

"Thatís okay." Steve smiles. "My date sucked too. My boyfriend finally broke down and told me I was too young"

"Steve" I interrupt. "Was that the Air Force Captain?" Steve nods. Doerksenís my token gay friend, although I really have to admit that Iíve never been comfortable talking about his relationships. "Of course youíre too young. Why do you let these thirty year old pukes take advantage of you? All you are is a fucking piece of meat to them."

"Maybe I like relationships with older guys," Steve protests, his voice tinged with defensiveness.

"Or maybe you like to fucking hide in some old guyís apartment or hotel room, rather than have to face competition from other guys in your age bracket," I counter, and then I see a discouraged look on his face. "Shit, itís none of my fucking business."

"I wouldnít tell you what was going on if I didnít expect you to give me your opinion," Steve says.

"Maybe Iím just a little uncomfortable talking about your sex life," I respond.

"Not that thereís anything wrong with it?" Steve adds, chiding me. Yeah, as much as I hate to admit it, itís an issue, and I should be fucking honest about it.

"Well, there is that," I say, admitting my prejudice. "Steve, you settle for fifth place all the goddamn time, and I get so fucking tired of it," I reply. "Go for the gold, asshole! You can do it if you just fucking tried. Just fucking try."

Raindrops started falling, big plump drops that hit you in the face like bird shit. Steve begins to walk toward the house, while I walk beside him and continue my harangue.

"I want to be proud of you. I want to look at you doing something important, like being a Supreme Court Judge or something, and tell people that I wrestled that guy back in high school."

"Maybe Iím just not that ambitious," Steve states.

"I wish you were. I know I canít live your life for you, but I wish you could see yourself the way other people do," I say.

Steve stops within running distance of the kitchen side door while the rain begins to fall in earnest. "I have the same conversation with Kenny all the time. I dunno. Maybe I need time to recover -- from dad, from high school, from Nebraska -- before I can figure out what to do with my life," Steve says.

"Youíre just a chickenshit!" I say.

"Tommy, compared to you, everyoneís a chickenshit," Steve says. "Avatar is a chickenshit next to you."

The rain begins to come down in sheets. I grab Steve around the shoulder and quickly flew him to the lip of the porch.

"Thanks," he says.

"Anytime," I reply. "I live to fly, man."

"Good way to live," Steve says, holding his hand out beyond the shadow of the porch to measure the heaviness of the deluge. "Though I sorta like being out in the rain," Steve says.

"You just like getting soaked, you fucking deviant," I say. Steve couldíve taken the remark the wrong way, but he doesnít; he laughs.

"Is the spandex waterproof?" Steve asks, grabbing a small section of my costumeís right arm between his fingers, rubbing it and snapping it.

"Nah. I just donít feel things like that anymore," I say, and we walk in the kitchen door. I walk over to the sink and throw Steve a tea towel to wipe the rain from his face. Thereís a thunderstrike. I bristle a bit -- that sound still freaks me a little, or maybe Iím just on edge.

Steve curls the tea towel into a ball, takes aim for the laundry room, and lands a three-pointer into the basket. "Okay, big man. Now itís your turn," he tells me. "Are you okay? You looked pretty spooked when I showed up. At least, thatís what I could see when I looked past the usual Tommyisms, that is. Did you have any luck catching Rachelís killers?"

"We had a fight," I report. "A nasty one. I broke Hackís fucking back"

"Good."

"and then Orchid showed up and hauled him away, saying sheíd Ďwrite my name in the blood of my loved ones.í"

Steve rolls his eyes. "Wonderful. What we need is some government-sponsored telepath. Someone whoíd scan the country for these nutcases and fix them from a distance so they donít bother any of the good people."

"No, we donít. I donít want fucking 1984 in 2001," I say. "As tempting as it sounds. After all absolute power"

"I donít buy that cliché, not for a minute," Steve counters, interrupting the quote. "Letís think for a second. If absolute power really does corrupts absolutely, wouldnít that make God the most corrupt being in the universe?"

"Of course not," I say, ignoring the philosophical question.

"Why wouldnít it?" Steve says.

"Shit, Steve," I say. "You really want a debate? Iíd rather wrestle."

"You always want to do that. Especially when things get tough up here," he points to his forehead. I groan at Steveís observation, and turn my neck like an agitated colt, but heís fucking right on the money. "Yíknow, when someoneís as powerful as you are, Tommy, itís kinda good to take sometime and think about your place in the larger scheme of things."

Steve hedges his bets in his sentences more than anyone Iíve ever met does. "Youíve definitely been talking to dad," I observe.

"A bit."

Steveís got a young, almost angelic face, like mine but wider, and a little more innocent. Heíd make a great bartender, or a priest; itís hard not to tell him shit when heís got that look. "Iíve been doing some thinking." I tell him. "And the more I think about it, the more freaked out I get."

"About absolute power?"

"Not absolute, but just enough to make things complicated," I say. "There was this Irish superhero I met earlier who lost his hand."

"Thatís too bad."

"Then I regrew it," I admit. "Out of nowhere. It grew like a fucking beanstalk on one of those old time lapse films back in biology. One minute, it was a stump, the next minute, there was finger wiggling."

"Thatís cool," Steve says, and he looks at me. "Want some popcorn?"

"Sure."

Steve goes into the cupboard, grabs a bag, puts it into the microwave, and hits the "popcorn" button. The microwave lights up and hums.

"So replacing the guyís hand really bothered you?"

"I felt like I dunno a false god or something. Did you know, Iíve actually been debating flying over to Rachís grave and trying to raise her from the dead," I admit. Steve just looks at me, eyebrows raised, mouth slightly agape. Fuck, does he look like an idiot, or like someone just punched him in the stomach, or both. "Do you see how nuts it gets?"

"Not fully, not without my own set of powers and a cute set of tights," Steve says. "But allow me to say oh boy!"

"Iíll bet Iím about the last person alive you wanted to see with a god complex," I say, ironically, but with a bit of a snicker.

"I take it you havenít gone to Rachelís grave and actually tried this?" Steve says.

"Every instinct I have says tells me itíd be wrong. Every instinct, but still I want to do it so bad" I admit.

Steve catches the raw emotion in my throat, leans forward, and when he sees me begin to shiver, he embraces me. Shit, Iím glad he did that, even if itís a little embarrassing. I could take this from Kenny, or Michael, but Iím not used to leaning on Doeksen for emotional support He just holds me, saying nothing, and it ainít dirty, or gay, or like anything youíd see in a tabloid.

Steve lets me go after about thirty seconds. I can hear the popcorn start to pop in the microwave, making a sound like man-made raindrops. The kitchen begins to smell like butter. "Tommy, in high school, you were an awesome wrestler."

"Fucking right"

"But if youíd gone from high school straight into the Olympics without any of your powers, youíd have gotten your butt kicked so bad it wouldnít have been funny."

"Yeah," I concur. "Whatís your point?"

"Be practical. You canít raise the dead without practice. Try it out on a dead lab mouse or something," Steve says. Shit, itís such an incredibly dumb suggestion, until you think about it and it actually makes a lot of sense. Fucking Doerksen. "Work your way up from there."

"I was also thinking about curing Buckís brain damage."

The microwave chimes. Steve opens it, ignores the hot steam warning to rip open the top of the bag, and we take turns plunging our fists into it. I begin pelting Steve with unpopped kernels, until he protests with a whining "Tommy!" and shields himself with an arm.

"You and your fucking pain intolerance." I smile. "Shit, youíd make a fucking lousy superhero." I say.

"I didnít think there were any job openings, not with you in town," Steve replies, throwing a kernel at me. I open my mouth, catch it, and swallow it.

"Letís wait and see what goes down next in Velvettaland," I reply. "I guess thatís what I should be thinking about, not the fact my cousin has scrambled eggs for fucking brains."

"Philly isnít going to be a problem," Steve says. "I have faith."

"Thanks."

"After all, God wouldnít have given you these powers just to die in six months, or to watch you rot away in Alaska," Steve adds.

"I ainít Godís telepath," I answer. "But I do promise that Alaska ainít gonna happen. I ainít dumb enough to let them throw my ass in Purgatory. Iíll go fugitive first."

"Be careful," Steve says, shaking his head. I pour the remaining popcorn into a bowl, and toss the bag into the trash.

"Shit, I donít think itíll come down to that."

"Hope not."

"Howíd Buck take getting relocated?" I ask.

"He smiled, stood in one spot, and basically refused to move," Steve reports. "He wanted to see how many government agents itíd take to budge him. They finally had to get someone in a battlesuit to move him."

"Goddamn that brain damaged asshole." I grin. "The sooner we get drag him back to the human race, the better."

"Maybe. But they say the human brainís supposed to be real delicate," Steve notes. "You might want to consult some specialists first."

"Good call," I say. I open the fridge, and grab me a beer, and Steve a coke. Steveís dad never let him drink alcohol. "But that still doesnít solve my problem."

"Well, aside from Hack and Orchid, I ainít seeing a problem," Steve replies, taking a sip.

"I already know I can restore lost limbs," I say. "Should I change my operating procedure? Should I quit the fight game and go around to amputee wards and heal people?"

Steve doesnít say anything for awhile. As if Iíd ever quit the fight game, Iíll bet heís thinking. "What happens to bionics research if you make it too easy?"

"Thatís bullshit," I reply. "Thatís a fucking cop out!"

"Not altogether," Steve says. "I guess the big question is what do we owe people? With great powers come great responsibilities"

"Oh shit, not Stan Lee again"

"But look at things from the other perspective. How powerful is the world? The human race is more powerful than anything either of us can imagine," Steve argues. "Consider its collective resources, its collective brainpower, and all that manpower? Does the world have the right to give up its collective responsibility just because you can do what you can do?"

"Itís hard enough to get one person to admit responsibility, let alone the entire collective of humanity," I respond. "Look at all those libertarian assholes you meet on the Internet who refuses to believe any unit larger than an individual is responsible for anything."

"So some people donít live in the real world. Big deal," Steve says. "You gotta do what your conscience says is right. And you also know there are assholes out there whoíll make your life miserable when they find out what you can do, and in the end, theyíll make it impossible to help anyone. Right now, youíre using your gifts to fight threats to humanity -- and look at the price youíve already paid."

"Most people donít seem to care, given how many people want to relocate me to Alaska," I mutter.

"Well, to quote the great American superhero, Tommy Champion, Ďfuck them.í" Steve smiles. "If you donít mind advice from a ĎDorksoní"

"Shit, Steve, I havenít called you that in years," I protest.

"start small, practice, develop your talents gradually, and follow your gut. And remember that lawsuits, like shit, happens," Steve says.

Fuck, heís right on the money again.

"And by the way, I cared for Rachel too, but let her rest in peace, at least for now. Same goes for your granddad, your aunt and uncle, your older brother"

"Okay!" I say. "Jesus, Steve, you always get carried away!"

"Sorry."

"I guess we got that in common." I smile, reacting to his remorse. "Okay, we have a plan! At least until some disaster hits, and I have to think hard again."

"Itís going to happen someday," Steve admits. "But try to prepare yourself. Itís not like the fate of the world rests on your shoulders."

I probably should tell Steve about the Chosen, but I donít. "Look, Steve, you remember back in eighth grade, when I tried to force you to quit the wrestling team?"

"Yeah."

"I was a real fucking idiot back then," I tell him.

"We all were," Steve says, dismissing the compliment. "By the way, I got one more personal question to ask."

"Ask, and I shall deceive." I smile.

"I was wondering about you and Knock-out"

"What the fuck does that matter to you?" I smile. "Youíre gay after all."

"Iíll have you know that gay men like really strong women," Steve informs me. "And even without the Lesbian factor in play, sheís become an icon to the community."

"Youíre a Nebraska farmhand!" I scoff. "What the fuck do you know about the gay community?"

"Iím telling you what my old boyfriend told me. Heís a pilot."

"Okay, Mr. Community. And what do all your brothers in leather and garters say about me?" I ask with a smirk.

"Well" Steve hedges his bets. I prod him to continue. "Uh Tommy, no one believes me when I tell people youíre straight," Steve says. I pretty much expected to hear this. "Mind you, with your looks and your love of wrestling, youíre about the gayest straight guy I know."

"I guess that Iíll chalk one up for crossover appeal." I shrug, guessing thatís meant as a compliment. "But Knock-out and I are friends. Weíre tight. But you know me, I never fuck and tell."

"Fine. Iím just glad you have a friend right now," Steve says.

"I have several." I reply, brushing his chin with a fist. We trade mock punches for a few seconds, and I back him up against the wall and poke his abs with my knuckles. Steve backs down way too fucking easy, as usual.

"I just wanted to know if you were happy." Steve is a little uncomfortable with my last comment. "If Knock-out was helping you?"

"Sarahís been great," I say. "And I donít just mean in bed."

"You going anywhere with the relationship?" Steve asks.

"I dunno. Maybe Iím so scared of fucking it up, itís not funny," I admit. "I guess I want to take it another step, but Iím just afraid. You wanna go for pizza?"

"Anything open this time of night?" Steve wonders.

"Iíll fly to Chicago and bring back some of the good stuff," I say. "Itíll take me about an hour."

"Cool," Steve says. "I could use a shower, while I wait for Tommy the god to return with some Chicago-style."

"Fuck you," I snap, as the remark really pisses me off. "I am not a fucking god."

"Compared to me, you are," Steve says. "Compared to everything except the standards of perfection of Tommy Champion holds as his ideal, youíre a god."

"Shithead," I say.

"Sorry." Steve says. "Letís get some pizza, and weíll talk some more. Or wrestle. Or whatever you want to do."

"I want to smite my enemies and have a good fuck," I say, trying hard to make a joke, and falling on my fucking face. "Neither of which I can do with you."

"Well, Iím sure two guys whoíve had a really lousy day can find something to do together," Steve says. "Hell, we could even get drunk, say all the things we ever wanted to say to each other, then drink so hard that we forget we ever said them."

"Now that sounds like a plan," I reply. "Especially the forgetting part."

We donít do it, of course -- forcing Steve to drink alcohol would be like forcing dad to vote Republican, it ainít happening. But we do share pizza, and we talk, and Steve even tries to throw some of his favorite philosophical writers my way, and he even seduces me to take part in an impromptu poetry session (Steve writes some not half-bad shit, I donít but I could if I wanted). I become aware, as the hours creep on me and prepares to hit me with a fucking blackjack, that dawnís probably breaking over fucking Philadelphia, so I let Steve get some sleep and fly east. There is no resolution to the questions, but there is comfort, and even a bit of healing.

I feel good enough to kick someoneís ass, and thatís all I need to feel today.
 

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