The man who was Apollo has never had so much time to think in his life. Patience while waiting for a mission to kick off is a feeling he has become accustomed to, and now that he has all this time it feels as if he is waiting for the next mission. He knows it shouldn’t feel this way – they’ve resigned, it’s over. “Apollo” and “The Midnighter” are retired now, and should not be haunting a man who has a real name and a past – even if he doesn’t remember them as his own. So he thinks. He thinks about all the things he has never had time for before, and for the first time, he is a little bit afraid of the things he can do. He can’t remember when he last ate, or the last time he and the Midnighter actually slept - didn’t lie in bed most of the night, each pretending not to notice that the other wasn’t sleeping.
They wear clothes normal people wear, deliberately choosing anything but black, or white. They buy beautiful furniture, go to the movies, take regular scheduled walks in the park that are as interesting as stale crackers. Apollo dreams about flying. They don’t agree not to use their abilities, but just the same they deliberately avoid any situation in which they might.
Apollo decides that he is getting bored, and he needs to do something – get out of the house. They don’t need to work, the government is paying them handsomely for the things Stormwatch did to them. Apollo decides he’s being unfair – they’re being paid for the things Henry Bendix did to them. He picks up a newspaper and looks for something to catch his fancy. He gets a job, takes a class, takes up a hobby – but he abandons each within a few days. He notices the first time The Midnighter gets up in the middle of the night and isn’t back until dawn. He doesn’t say anything, but he suspects that he isn’t the only one feeling at a loss. They don’t talk about it.
“Hey- can you remember when we last ate?” The Midnighter frowns, staring out at the city.
“Haven’t we had that conversation before? But to answer your question, I don’t know, and I’m not hungry.” Apollo glances up from behind a heavily creased newspaper, a highlighter poised to circle an ad, “Are you?”
The Midnighter shrugs and looks over his shoulder with seemingly idle curiosity.
“I’m talking about food.” Apollo makes a skeptical face and puts down the highlighter, in reply to which the Midnighter grins widely.
“So am I, so am I.”
Not too long after that, they stop wearing clothes around the house anymore. They wrap themselves in one another and pretend the exercise is enough to satisfy their minds as well as their bodies. The Midnighter still disappears most nights. Apollo briefly wonders if maybe he is loosing him, but is reassured every morning that The Midnighter reappears.
Apollo is in the living room alone when he hears about Stormwatch on the radio. He doesn’t tell The Midnighter, and he waits until his partner is installed in front of the computer in the den before shutting himself in the bathroom. He turns on the water and stands beneath it. His skin doesn’t turn pink even when the water is hot enough to almost boil. He pounds his fists against the shower wall, and almost hopes The Midnighter would come and see what was wrong - wouldn’t have such confidence that he would be fine. Just once he wishes they could pretend vulnerability physically, because inside he still feels human and alone. He remembers those feelings from before and decides they aren’t any different now.
“It has only recently occurred to me that I can’t recall us ever being apart for any length of time.” Apollo pours espresso into a cup and passes it across the counter. “I have a theory – I think the genetic modifications have something to do with it.”
The Midnighter takes the cup, watching his companion pour a cup of regular coffee for himself. He pushes aside data about the possibilities of killing someone with a hot beverage, and contemplates genetics instead. “It could be. I’d never thought about it. We’ve never really had time for much navel-gazing.”
“And who would have wanted to in our position, anyway?” The sun is shining outside, and Apollo seems a little restless. “Do you think we should have stayed with Stormwatch? I mean under Jackson King.”
“I think that falls under the category of navel-gazing.”
“Maybe, but don’t you think it’s time we started doing what we were made to do again? Don’t you ever find yourself calculating the best defensive strategy when you enter a room? Or predicting all the possible ways strangers might take you out?” Apollo pushes his untouched coffee away and walks around the island counter, “And don’t you miss it at all?”
“You’re right. But I like being normal. I don’t want to live the way we did before. Also – I don’t want you complaining about the smell again.” The Midnighter replies matter-of-factly. He takes the last sip of his espresso, deliberately puts it down before brushing his fingers along Apollo’s arm, “But now that there is no Stormwatch, I do wonder who will take their place.”
“So many of them died.” What he doesn’t say is: It might have been different if we’d been there.
“I know.” Apollo isn’t sure which statement The Midnighter is responding to, but he encourages Apollo to come closer, and white hair falls around the Midnighter’s face as their foreheads touch.
The doorbell rings, and Apollo scrambles for clothes. The Midnighter shakes his head and slowly grabs a pile of nearly folded fabric and heads for the bathroom. Apollo is still tugging on his shirt when he opens the door to find Jenny Sparks at the door.
“Are you ready?” She asks, puffing smoke into his face.
“Excuse me?” Apollo fans the smoke away, an irritated look on his face. The Midnighter rests a hand on his shoulder.
Jenny smiles grimly, “You are coming with me. We could use your help. Moscow’s been hit, and we believe there’s more coming.”
Apollo and The Midnighter look at one another, and it is a more honest communication than they have shared in a long time.