Cooking With Honey
[Argent (Toni) and Tempest (Garth) make a sunny breakfast for Lian Harper]
[The following story is fan-fiction, written purely for entertainment purposes. It may not be reprinted in any form without my permission and may not be reused for profit. I don't own any of these characters; copyrighted hero names belong to DC Comics.]
"Ummm...something smells REALLY good," I say aloud as I head into the kitchen, lured by the wonderful aroma of something warm and breakfast-like. I make sure I've said this loud enough to announce my arrival, since it's always a good idea to kiss up to whoever is cooking, just in case they've made enough to share and don't mind doing so. When you're the youngest, non-culinary inclined team member living in a glorified superhero dormitory, a home-cooked meal is a rare and wonderful thing, and if you're smart, you grab the nearest fork and use your powers as needed to fight for a bite.
From the yummy scent wafting through the kitchen door, I'm expecting to find the very smart, super-pretty and ever good at cooking---and everything else---Donna Troy standing at the stove. The last thing I expected to find would be a nice-looking pair of cut off denim shorts, a baggy red t-shirt and a pair of bare feet with webbed toes stationed in front of the stove. With a spatula in hand, there stands our team's aquatic wonder, Tempest, wielding a frying pan as easily as if he'd trained at the Nuevo-California Cooking Institute. I must be flushed in the face because I suddenly feel a bit warm and lightheaded. Hopefully, Garth has put this down to hunger. I'd be like so totally embarrassed if he has noticed the dumb look on my face I just know is there.
"Good morning, Antonia," he greets me ever so politely in that soft and sweet voice of his that would melt the ice off of a frigid winter morning's window. "I'm making Lian some breakfast. Would you care to join her?"
"Would I..?!" I reply quickly. "Why, sure! Thanks!"
Oh my gosh---did that sound too gushy or what?! I'd just die if he knew I had a crush on him. He is like SO devastatingly cute, most especially those really pretty purple eyes of his. Wow wow wow---he sure is something! Funny, I've never thought much of my name before but it sure sounds beautiful the way he pronounces it. I wish he didn't always run off to the ocean so often to return to Atlantis. If he did stuff with the rest of us, like watch TV and go to movies and the like, well...maybe I'd get to know him better and he'd like me more.
Garth seems really shy, not at all like the boys I knew in school, and he's certainly not full of himself as Flash and Arsenal are. He never says much of anything unless it's important; he conserves words like he's a recycling bin. When he does talk, it's like when you hold a conch shell to your ear to listen to the sea: soft, warm, inviting, calm...ooooo! And his accent: it's sort of Sean Connery meets...meets...gee, I dunno, some Greek guy with a yummy voice...oh, like that nice man in that movie 'Shirley Valentine.' I didn't know where that came from until Roy Harper---our resident kid Lian's dad---told me that Garth went to school in Scotland. Scotland of all places! Totally mondo combination, but boy does it send me!
Oooooo...I've got goosebumps! I hope he doesn't see them!
"Uncle Garth said if I eat all my oatmeal, I can have eggs and cheeeeeeese, Toni!" beams tiny Lian, a little bit of the sticky cereal stuck to her knobby chin.
Lian's dad Roy is a real looker, a total redheaded dish, totally different from her mom, who is a psychopath and a brunette. 'Course I try to keep it together around Roy as best I can but it sure is hard being around all of these oh-so-great-lookin' guys. Taking a napkin, I wipe Lian's face and almost get a spoon stuck in my hand for my trouble. I guess I should call my shots.
"Hey kid, slow down, huh?" I tease her, "I thought your daddy already gave you a bowl of Oatie O's this morning. Where is he, anyway?"
"Daddy went back to bed," Lian says with a big Cheshire Cat grin, "...'cause he says he got a big honkin' headache!"
"Figures---that's what he gets for staying up all night watching the 'Late, Late, Late, Late Movie,'" I reply as I sit down across from her, making sure to sit far enough back to avoid her constantly swinging legs under the table. "I bailed out around 1:00 AM when the Infomercials started, but he said he was going to look for an all-night movie marathon."
Garth gives a knowing smirk and turns to say something...and then takes a look at us girls and thinks better of it.
"What, Garth? What were you going to say?" I ask, not content to let it go and dying to hear that sexy voice again.
"I was going to make a comment about the type of film he was looking for, but it is nothing your young ears should hear," he says, his cheeks beginning to match his shirt color.
"I am NOT a kid, you know, Garth," I remind him. "I know he's got the 'X' Channel on there. Nightwing found that out months ago!"
He stops to look at me thoughtfully, then turns back to the stove. "Well, it keeps him off the streets at night, so I suppose it serves its purpose. Now no more of this talk in front of the wee one, right?"
A nod and a wink is his signal that the topic is off limits in front of Lian, not that she's paying attention to us right now anyway. Apparently 'Uncle Garth' also told her that if she ate all of her oatmeal she would get a treat at the bottom of her bowl, so the kid hasn't come up for air since I sat down here.
"She's cool. I think she's preoccupied," I assure him as I get up for a plate and silverware.
He shakes his head slowly and gently, stating, "Little pictures have great big ears."
Sure...whatever THAT means...
I think he read my mind, 'cause he's giving me this weird, thought-filled look, kinda sorta.
"Lian sometimes reminds me of Arthur's son," Garth begins, a wistful look in his Liz Taylor's. "That's 'Aquaman' to you. I spent many a day feeding the little prince and looking after him. That became my main function after he was born. His mother, Queen Mera, was glad to have a full time baby-minder, even if I was just a teenage boy."
"I didn't know the A-dude had a kid of his own," I say with surprise. "Heck, I used to think the name 'Aqualad' meant you were his son."
He laughs out loud, causing Lian to look up from her scoff-fest for a second.
"Lots of people seem to make that error," Garth corrects me. "Arthur and I are many things, but father and son we are not. He's made for an interesting surrogate big brother of sorts, though, if you like your family rough and tumble, that is. That's why it was so curious for me when he and his wife, Mera, had their baby. I didn't think they'd want me around any more, figuring they'd dump me like everyone wanted them to so they could be a proper family. The members of their court said I should leave, me not being a Royal, but mostly because of my eyes. To our people, my eyes signal a curse on my head. No one knew who I was then, you see, so we didn't know about my claim to the throne of my own people."
"Wait," I jump in, just grasping his words. "You're a king, too?" Gee---he just moved up another point on the dreamy scale. "Yet you were babysitting someone else's kid?"
A gentle smirk crosses his face as he begins again. "Yes, I was born Prince Garth Of The Idyllists, though I only found that out a few years ago," he says, a long-away look in his dreamy eyes. "I've never accepted the crown of my father, though it was offered to me. I didn't know anything about my identity as a child as I lived alone until I was around eleven years; that's when I met Arthur. He didn't treat me poorly when he became the king of Poseidonis even though I was just a nothing little orphan and neither did he when he became a father. That's when I got to be 'Uncle Garth' for the first time. I loved that role so much, though my girlfriend, Tula, said I was being 'used.' Arthur's baby was a pretty wee lad: had his father's hair and temper and his mother's eyes and her laugh. I used to carry around him on my hip, fed him, cared for him and played with him all day long. I'd never had a toy in my life, so I was as fascinated by all of his playthings as he was."
"Sounds like a handful," I interject, noting that Garth seems so sad remembering his life back home.
"Aye, he was," he laughs, shaking his head with the memory. "He was so spoiled, as I suppose a prince in his situation couldn't help but be. He knew how to cry just long and loud enough to get half the palace running to give him whatever he wanted. Then he'd laugh and smile and look so charming that you had to forget about him having just been a horrible brat. He was his father all over. I miss him so much and still cry over him at times."
"Maybe I shouldn't ask...but what happened to him?" I question anyway, knowing I'd probably rather not know.
"He...he was killed by an enemy of our people," comes the answer. "Arthur Jr. wasn't much beyond two. Arthur was forced to try to kill me to save his child; it was a terrible choice to make. We parted company on that day and didn't see each other for a long while afterward. You never get over something like that..."
He turns to look at Lian but that moment lasts only a second. I think he was afraid to let his mind even grasp the concern he was feeling. I don't even know Aquaman, but Garth's story made me want to cry. He's got a lot of stories from his life like that. I guess that's why he doesn't talk about himself very much.
The kitchen is silent for a minute or two, but I figure I'd better jump in and change that.
"That sure smells yummy, doesn't it Lian?" Hey, gotta insure I get bite to eat, ya know, and the cook's nearby and all. He's on my wavelength too, 'cause he immediately reaches for a couple more eggs.
"So...you have, like, stoves and pots and pans in Atlantis, do you, Garth?" I ask rather meekly. "I guess everyone wonders how you guys cook down there, huh?"
Garth laughs lightly with a cocked eyebrow while Lian crosses her eyes at me.
"I think most people put Atlanteans in the same realm as the Boogey-man, Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman," he answers me. "They don't actually believe we exist, let alone cook. And yes, Atlanteans eat both raw and cooked food, but not cooked in this manner. As for me, I learned to cook when I lived with my don's family in Scotland. I was shipped off to study there since, having been an infant exile, the authorities in Poseidonis would not allow me to attend school there. My don, Professor McCay, tutored and sheltered me in his home during my years there. His wife treated me as if I'd been born one of her children and his five kids counted me as a newly-found brother. Since I was treated as one of the family, I learned to do as a family member would: I cooked and cleaned, tended sheep, fed the chickens and did whatever housework was needed. It was very special for me to be part of a real family, attend school with other kids and do normal things, instead of chasing pirates and treasure hunters while trying to get myself killed. It was the first time in my life that I really knew what that was like to be like other people instead of being a loner...a freak."
Breaking off at that point, it seemed he couldn't stand to think about himself any further. That's when I saw him swallow hard, then raised his hand to brush back his hair, momentarily hiding his face from me.
"Sorry..." he resumes, "I...I guess I used a bit too much pepper."
"That'll get you every time, dude," I agree, just to make him feel less awkward. I'd already noted that he hadn't used any pepper, since he was cooking for little Lian. Poor guy...when he gets homesick, it's really for two totally different places, I guess. Time to change the subject.
"It's kind of cold this morning for bare feet, isn't it?" I ask him as he takes my plate and fills it with scrambled eggs and the most scrumpscious-looking fried potatoes I've seen since we stayed at my Grandma's for Christmas one year---'cept being Italian, she loaded both the eggs and potatoes with pepperonchinis and pepperoni slices. How's THAT for a three-alarm-fire breakfast?! Gag me! It's when I try to shake that memory away that I notice Garth's timid-looking expression.
"Well, I'm...I'm not technically...'human' in the same way that you are, Toni," he cautions. "Atlanteans don't really feel cold in the same manner that you do," looking down a little self-consciously at his feet for emphasis. "I suppose if I did, I'd never survive at the bottom of the sea. It's just...I never did learn to walk in shoes very well, you see. I expect that's why people up here train their wee ones to walk in shoes pretty early on; there is a threshold for learning such things, as I understand it. Since we don't wear the kind of thick soles that you do up here in the dry world, it tends to hurt my feet when I have to do so. It also throws off my balance a great bit, too. I'll put some on if it bothers you, of course."
"No, no---it's fine," I assure him, waving my hands to stop him from running off for the first pair of shoes he can find. "I was just thinking the floor is cold, but of course I wasn't thinking about you...and...cold... Dumb, huh?"
He eyes me curiously, then smiles. "Concern for another person is never 'dumb,' Toni," Garth reminds me. "That is your kindness and humanity showing. You should never deny another person your compassion for fear of it not seeming 'cool.' Kindness is VERY cool and comes from within a gentle and wonderful soul. I hope you will always share that kindness with others."
I sit here stunned and humbled. Whoa...this man is SO deep! I know from a few things Donna and Dick have said that Garth has had a really hard, harsh and rough life, yet he never shows that. No bitterness or anger or sarcastic remarks out of him---ever. He lives by his words, because he is always kind; he must have a very gentle, wonderful soul.
"It's Bugs Bunny! It's Bugs Bunny!" Lian begins to yell, waving her magic spoon in the air after finally reaching the bottom of her bowl.
"And what does Bugs Bunny say, my bonny lass?" our Atlantean cook prompts her as he lifts away the bowl and replaces it with a nice warm plate of potatoes and scrambled eggs smothered in cheddar cheese.
"Wha'sth up, Doc!" she screams with glee. Her wild giggling is loud enough to wake everyone else in the compound and her pretty Amer-Asian eyes twinkle with the reflected kitchen lighting and that inner glow that's the sole property of sweet little girls like her. Garth doesn't attempt to quiet her. He is also caught up in her infectious laughter and cackles along with Roy's cute little tot.
"Don't let your food get cold now," he softly cautions Lian, leaning over to plant a kiss on the top of her head. "You either, Missy," he whispers to me, automatically lowering the volume in the room without seemingly trying. He returns to the stove and begins to clean up, all without preparing anything for himself.
"Aren't you going to eat, Garth?" I ask, puzzled at this. "Gosh, no wonder you're so fit. "
He looks thoughtfully at me for a minute and then smiles. "I don't eat very often, Toni. I have no need of it when I return to the ocean regularly as I get enough nutrients out there while I travel. Still, I keep kelp and seaweed on hand for when I get the munchies." He grins sheepishly at me, drops his eyes and returns to cleaning.
"But why'd you go to all of this trouble if you weren't eating anything yourself?" I ask him. I don't get it and I have to know: why do all of this work if he's not even hungry?
Garth looks at me again, his handsome face showing that he is rather puzzled. "You might as well ask why an Atlantean travels so far to dry land to fight to protect people he doesn't even know or live anywhere near. I like to believe that everyone's comfort is important. I am as concerned for your rumbling tummy as you were for my feet being cold. And besides, Roy makes a lousy breakfast unless he's up to making fry bread, and Donna shouldn't be relegated to playing Wendy-mother all of the time. I care about all of you...so I cook. It's worth it for the smiles and reminds me of a time when I had a different little one to care for and be an uncle to." He beams at Lian who is happily spinning strings of melted cheese from her plate to her chin, still kicking her legs wildly under the table.
I can't help but marvel at this man: a tiny king at birth, so learned and capable that he is the Atlantean Ambassador to the United Nations and advisor to a King at such a young age, but so loving and humble that he happily cooks and serves, cleans and comforts anyone around. Someday in the future, I expect to see him hugging and spoiling a pretty little girl or handsome little boy of his own, the way my daddy used to hug and coddle me and like Roy treats his Lian. Gee, that's going to be one lucky kid and his wife will be a mega-lucky woman.