|Brian Campo (briancampo) wrote in birthrightrpg,|
@ 2021-04-07 18:27:00
|Entry tags:||brian campo, cj johnson|
The Shape of Water
Who: CJ, Brian
What: Big Reveal
When: Present, Afternoon
Where: Off 165 Near Nelson, NV
Brian spent a lot of time outdoors in Nevada. When the full moon came around, it paid to know the best places to go and which to avoid because of crowds. Being an avid runner, he also liked to know where he could run in the devastating heat of summer and jump into a cold body of water. That was how he discovered a place called Nelson’s Landing, which was off 165, a few miles past the ghost town of Nelson.
Just south of the lazily named Scenic Blue Water Point, the Landing was part of national park land with no entrance fees. It was a stretch of rocky beach on the Colorado River where trucks could drive up to the water’s edge and put in small boats. It was even better known for cliff jumping. All around the beach, rocky outcrops could be climbed, allowing people to cannonball into deeper parts of the river. Though Brian didn’t have any scuba equipment, he was told that a giant, metal octopus was submerged off the Landing for people to explore.
As soon as the weather hit the lower 90s, Brian got an itch to get back out there, even if the water temp was lagging far behind. When CJ called and asked if they could get together to talk, Brian suggested they head up to the Landing for a hike and, if CJ was up to it, they could take a few flying leaps off the high point.
CJ would have been happy to meet up with Brian anywhere. They had a habit of catching up with each other at random times at random places in Vegas and occasionally Lucky's, but this was a conversation he'd prefer not be overheard. Of course he had heard of Nelson's Landing; he didn't want to admit it but he knew most of the shorelines and best spots within a 100 mile radius of Vegas.
The water wouldn't be too cold for CJ. He'd swim in the middle of winter and had before, but it raised too many eyebrows so he settled for laps of the local heated pool instead. It was always a pale comparison to natural water, but sometimes one had to take what they could get.
He could see Brian's car as he pulled up at the small parking area. The cooler bag was taken from where it had been sitting on the passenger seat - just a couple of cold cans of Coke and some sandwiches - just in case one of them got hungry. Getting out he spotted his friend and walked over to him. "Hey, great little spot." And kind of fitting for what he was planning to reveal.
“Yeah, it’s cool. A little crowded in the summer, but it’s quiet this time of year. Except on Friday nights. Man, I interrupted something a couple weeks ago.” He laughed. “I don’t know what they were doing. All I saw was bare legs, running.” Brian was leaning on the hood of his Subaru. He was back to feeling like his old self. His arm had heeled up and no additional hunters had popped up in Lucky’s to use the staff as roving dartboards. There was a hot breeze blowing in from the west. He pushed his hair off his forehead. “You off for spring break?”
He laughed, thinking what it was that Brian had interrupted on that Friday night. Probably a bunch of skinny dippers who thought they were alone. If it was, it made a change from finding under aged drinkers and the rubbish of beer cans and bottles that was often left in their wake. CJ gave a nod. "Yeah, though I'm sure the kids agree that the holidays are never long enough." Not that CJ minded, though he didn't get all of summer off like some other teachers, he didn't mind being able to do things in the library without having anyone around to disturb his flow. "How are you going?" CJ had heard about the bar fight at Lucky's, although he didn't know the full details, other than Brian got attacked, and the bar was a mess.
“I’m good.” He held up a hand to count. “The dog stopped peeing on the couch. Nobody’s quit the bar in eight months. My neighbor who leaves for work at five a.m. just sold the loudest truck in Searchlight. And according to a hunter I know, the hunter who threw a knife at me was paid off by the last person who was looking for me in New Jersey. Now that that’s called off, I’m in the clear.” Brian got up from the car hood. “Which means I can fly home.”
An eyebrow quirked when CJ heard that it was a hunter that had injured Brian, he had a suspicion that it hadn't been just a normal bar fight but it was one of those things that was better left unspoken until heard from the source. "Sounds like Lady Luck is finally shining on you." He smiled, picking the cooler bag back up from where he had placed it on the ground. "There's an awesome swimming spot about five minutes that way," pointing to their north, "feeling up for a swim?"
“Yeah.” Brian patted himself for his wallet and keys, put on an olive green backpack, and locked his car. As he took off, his pair of broken-in hiking boots crunched the dirt and pebbles. The footwear was hot but gave him some protection if his foot slid between two rocks or he got close to a snake or sharp vegetation.
They had walked up the narrow trail for a while before Brian said anything with the potential to get deep. The last time they had a talk, CJ was seeing somebody new. He kinda hoped CJ wasn’t looking for relationship advice; he didn’t have a great track record. Nesryn seemed easier for him to navigate.
“Everything good with you?” he asked, looking at CJ through his sunglasses. As far as openings went… bring on the participation ribbon.
CJ was in similar footwear, he knew better than to try trekking anywhere in Nevada in anything less than boots that went over the ankles. He was wearing a pair of shorts that he went swimming in, save an extra layer of clothing or having to strip down when they got to there.
He glanced over at Brian when the question came. "It's going great, well other than that band you put me in touch with." That had been a bit of a failure, but definitely not on his part. "Lasted a whole three gigs before they said 'it's not going to work', turns out the fiddler was overly jealous and worried I was going to steal his position." Complete with the air quotes when they were needed. "Bit hard to get into the music when you're getting daggers stared at you from the front row."
“Really?” Brian frowned. He’d had good experiences with them and thought they were good guys, otherwise he wouldn’t have recommended them. Hearing the temporary gig hadn’t lasted longer surprised him. “Well. Whatever it was, it probably wasn’t personal. It’s hard when you can’t play. I broke two fingers on my right hand when I was about twenty. It killed me, not being able to work.” He looked at his hand out of habit. One of the fingers had been crooked after, but all the shifts seemed to have brought it back into alignment.
They were a good bunch of guys, and a good band but broken bones or not, the fiddler had made it clear that CJ wasn't welcome. "I did say that if things change in the future, they've got my number." He said with a shrug, it was obviously not meant to be. "I broke my ankle when I was a teenager, makes you feel so hopeless when you can't do things for yourself. At least it was during winter so I didn't miss the surf." And hobbling around on crutches wasn't a walk in the park either.
That brought up a memory. “My sister sprained her ankle once. You’d think it was the best thing that ever happened. She had everybody waiting on her hand and foot. I think she was disappointed she didn’t get put in a cast.” Brian shook his head but he was smiling. It wasn’t as hard, thinking of home now, since he knew he might see them for the first time in a few years. He reached into the side pocket of his backpack and pulled out a bottle of water. “Oh, shit! I forgot. My drummer called in a favor and got the Spirals a gig off Fremont Street the night before Las Rageous,” he said, referring to a two-day rock and heavy metal festival in April in downtown Las Vegas. Some of the crowd came in early for the long weekend, so getting a stage near the venue was a major win. “That’s a show I’d play with broken bones.”
As they came up on the swimming spot, Brian took off his backpack, which had made his shirt stick to him.
CJ hadn't had that luck with his broken ankle, just his mother taping up the plastic bag over the cast so it wouldn't get wet when he had a shower. Though he was excused from a few things in school, especially sports related things.
A grin spread across his lips when Brian told him about the band getting into the festival, although he wasn't that big a fan of heavy metal he knew that excitement. "That's awesome man, I think you'd play even if you had to be wheeled on stage!" He was pretty sure some of the big rockers had done something similar in the past.
The cooler bag was placed down on the ground when they had arrived, stretching for a moment as he looked out at the water, eyes scanning for other people but seeing none which he was thankful for. "So peaceful."
A laugh. “Compared to a high school, Lucky’s is peaceful.” Brian drank some cold water. It would be a cold day in hell before anyone dragged him back onto school property. Short of having a kid, he was more than happy never stepping foot in one again. He settled down on the hard-packed shoreline. Back on the east coast, the rivers were murky with sediment, not this clean water he could see through to the bottom in the shallows. “The first time I swam after I moved out here, I jumped in and got a mouthful of water. Spit it right back out. I didn’t expect the salt.” It made sense after he Googled it and read about saline springs, runoff, and eroded rock with halite. He started unlacing his boots.
"I have to agree with you there." He still heard things from the school that happened outside of the library, though he was glad he didn't have to deal with it. "I'm amazed how many students still come in and look at books, surprised that the internet doesn't have everything that they need to know." Which was why there were always books coming in, mostly non fiction and reference but there was still a section of novels.
"Not quite as salty as the ocean, but it's definitely not as fresh as most of Lake Mead." Maybe that was what drew him to come down here, it was the closest to the ocean he could get without having to drive to the ocean. CJ took off his boots and socks, wiggling his toes a bit as his shirt joined the small pile.
Brian tossed his shoes and socks next to his bag and pulled his shirt overhead. He squinted at CJ. “Do you like students?” It was a joke, one he signaled with a crooked smile. The sunglasses went into the soft fabric so he wouldn’t destroy another pair and he got up and started making his way up the nearest geologic feature that offered some height over water that was a reassuring blue. He wouldn’t immediately hit bottom when he jumped in.
Brian disappeared from sight for a minute, then the sound of a splash interrupted the peace of the riverfront. He came up shaking his head and pinching water out of his nose. “Fuck, it’s cold!” He started swimming so his muscles wouldn’t tense up.
"I tolerate them," CJ replied with a chuckle, while he could never picture having kids of his own, it wasn't too bad working at the high school, it was a reminder of how much things had changed in the 20 years since he had graduated. He watched as Brian jumped down into the water, laughing at the other man's remarks.
His own dive into the water wasn't all that graceful, not that it was the Olympics or anything. The water was chilly, but he had a bit of a grin on his face once he surfaced. "Na… this is cold." The surface of the water just around him turned to ice for about 3 feet in all directions around where CJ was treading water and trying to hide his smirk.
“Whoa!” The werewolf reeled back from the cold. He bobbed in place for a second. The river streamed around the donut-shaped chunk of ice with CJ at its center, rather than carrying it downstream. “Bro…” Confusion turned to a smile of disbelief. “Are you… waterbending?”
CJ laughed. "Something like that." While it wasn't a term he often used, he knew that thanks to pop culture it was the term most people would know hydrokinesis by. He ducked underwater, letting the donut of ice move away with the flow of the river, surfacing a moment later. "Christmas… that was my fault too."
“Christmas?” Brian frowned, trying to figure out what CJ was talking about. “Oh the snow?” A trickle of water ran down his face. He sniffed. “You ever do anything warm?” He held up a hand. “Dude I swear to god, if you piss upstream from me…”
He gave a nod to confirm the snow was his fault, even though it was months ago he still heard the odd whisper about the white Christmas. "Oh please, what am I, seven? I'd never piss in the river." CJ appreciated water too much to foul it in such a manner. "But no, I haven't done anything warm, not yet anyway. It's all just manipulating the water molecules. It's on my summer holiday schedule though." If he gave himself headaches, at least he didn't have to go to work with it.
Technically piss in a toilet ended up back in the water, but there were bigger things happening than a joke about warm water. “Is this what you wanted to talk about?” Brian asked. He took a few strokes toward the shoreline, where it was shallower and the temperature a few notches higher. “Is it new or something?”
Another nod. "Had it since I was a kid, so it's not exactly new. It's always been a family secret, not something that others should know about... but I've made the decision to at least let those friends I can trust know who I really am." It felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders, Brian had trusted him with a secret but it had taken CJ some time to get over his own fears about sharing this.
Brian nodded. He was silent for a moment and then asked, “Did you know about Clarke County when you moved here? I mean, about how having a ‘family secret’ is the one thing a lot of us have in common?” He pushed into a flutter kick that took him closer to the shore until he could climb out. Brian unzipped his bag and brought out a towel, which he returned to the water’s edge with and sat down. The rougher side of it absorbed the water from his arms and legs.
CJ followed, getting closer to the shore but not getting out of the water. "At first no, I was just travelling through, working my way across the US when by some chance I stopped by Searchlight. I swear my whole body tingled, like my blood was alive or something." That was the best explanation he could say about how the whole area just made his hydrokinesis feel. "I had planned to move on, to finish the year and head back to Australia. But I couldn't bring myself to leave the area, so twenty years later and I've ended up making my life here." And with no regrets.
“How many people know?” Brian figured CJ had it under good control if it was a well-kept secret after all this time. He knew a lot of people and none of them mentioned an elemental type who could control water. But that was kind of the point, wasn’t it?
"In the US, including you? Four." Back in Australia only his parents and siblings knew as his grandmother had since passed away. "I remember my grandma telling me when she was younger that there were a few people who knew and would blame my great grandfather if there was a flood or drowning or anything water related, as if there was something we could do about it. We're not about to confront Mother Nature, she's the most powerful force in the world and would still kill me no matter how strong I get." CJ didn't need a towel as he stepped out from the water, it just ran down his body in little rivers until his skin was dry, another little parlour trick.
“So what’s it for?” Brian finished drying off his legs and passed the balled up towel to his pile of stuff. People who were born with gifts, but still human, were mysteries to him. It was one thing to relate to born shapeshifters when he was a bitten wolf; at least they were all animals three days out of the month, and what they had was more like a virus or biological condition. A person who had a psychic or paranormal ability, but was otherwise normal? That was foreign. What did they think of it? Did it have a purpose or was it an accident? Could an accident turn into a purpose, like the place he was trying to get with therianthropy?
"Honestly? That's one thing I'm still trying to figure out. My great grandfather used his ability to help find underground reserves of water so farmers could at least run livestock on the land, but no one's called on water diviners for decades. I just try to do good with it." He knew he'd never lose the memory of that night in December 2000, even though he still didn't know if it was his fault or not, it just always sat in the back of his mind. "Saved a guy from drowning a few weeks ago, hopefully that's earned me some good karma." Walking over to the cooler bag he pulled out a can, a layer of ice chilled the can as he held it. "Coke?"
“Yeah I’ll take one.” Brian popped the tab. “You could team up with a priest. Turn large quantities of water into holy water.” The werewolf punctuated the joke with a sip of Coke. His brain took him down a weird detour on whether anybody had ever tried to bless high humidity. Or dense fog. He shook it loose.
"I think I'd just freak a priest out, especially if they see me 'walking' on water… well a layer of ice at least." He chuckled, getting a can out for himself and taking a sip from it. "Or call me blasphemous for saying Moses parting the sea was hydrokinesis and not a miracle by God." Maybe one day if he was in the mood he'd give it a go, see if he could piss off a member of the clergy.
“Now you're just instigating.” Brian laughed and set the can on the ground and twisted so the sediment held it in place. “I don’t count out anything anymore. Gods and demons, magic, mindreaders, reanimated corpses. A poker-playing squid with arms and legs.” He pushed his wet hair back. “Once you start turning into a wolf, gods don’t seem like a stretch.”
"True. There's a lot of crazy shit out there that we still don't know about, or at least no one is talking about. I knew there were other… oddities in the world since I was a kid, just didn't find them til I moved here." Though he knew there were still a lot of things he didn't know, like the pyrokinetic and the glass golem that had attacked them. "I just really hope zombies don't start taking over Vegas. Vampires I can deal with, brain eating zombies not so much."
“Oh. So you must’ve been out of town that week,” Brian said, only half-kidding. Resurrected animal-people mash-ups that ate human flesh might not be zombies in the Hollywood sense, but they counted as undead. Smelled like it, too. Brian suffered a memory of the aftertaste of a zombie leg and scrubbed his hands roughly over his face. Nope. No. Not going there. “Anyway, your secret’s safe with me. If you decide you’re ready for people to know, there’s a group of us who try to do some good when things get sideways around here.”
He had missed hearing about the undead in Searchlight, then again CJ had other things on his mind of late with his still relatively new relationship with Steve. Leaning back on elbows he let the sun warm him, feeling relaxed and at peace that only the water seemed to give him. "That might take me a while, it's taken me ten years to tell anyone outside of my family." He said lightheartedly, though the idea sounded like a great one, he wasn't sure if he was ready for that level of exposure.
“Mine knew pretty quick,” Brian said. “Being a werewolf’s not the easiest thing to hide, especially when your dad saw it happen.” He picked up the can to drink a few more sips. “I used to wish I was more like you. Like if I had to be something, why couldn't it be something I could keep secret and keep living my old life. But now it feels like this is the real one. The one I’m supposed to have. And that other thing - that normal thing - was just a fantasy, and when I think back on it, I was miserable a lot of the time before the bite. But everybody’s path is different. It’s good you have a choice.”
CJ couldn't imagine what Brian had gone through, it wasn't like he had been asked to get bitten and changed into a werewolf, although he knew that like his hydrokinesis, sometimes it ran in families but that didn't apply to his friend, it was involuntary and life changing. "We often spend so much of our lives wishing that we had been dealt a different hand, then one day we realise things could've been much worse and that we got away lucky. Takes more energy to remain pissed off at something than accepting that there's some things that just can't be changed and moving on."
“Yeah.” Brian finished his drink. “So the guy knows? The one you were…” He squinted and reached for his sunglasses. “Going on a date with?” His eyes felt better but he could feel the afternoon sun beating down on his shoulders and upper back. He had on sunblock but it didn’t matter; coming out of winter in Nevada, he was going to burn at least once or twice.
There was a tiny flash of a smile when Brian asked the question. "Yeah he knows. The first partner I've ever told, but we've been friends for years and it felt kind of wrong to not let him know, especially after outing myself to a pyrokinetic a couple of months ago." He looked over at Brian. "Another thing for the list of weird and wonderful - cursed glass golems who try to kill you." That was not a fun night, and thankfully he hadn't run in to either again.
“That’s one I haven’t seen.” Brian tipped his head. “Can’t say I want to.” How did that even work? He pictured a clear guy with lots of sharp edges, but it just kind of looked like Silver Surfer with an attitude. “I'll be sure to bring it up in the next meeting. I’ll leave your name out of it.” Maybe this time he could take the lead on it instead of waiting for somebody else, like James, to make a meeting happen. He could reserve the back room of Lucky’s, or ask James about space in Curiosities.
“I don’t know if you might know about this yet, but we get these spikes, especially in Searchlight. Everybody’s shit, you know, the W.A.W.,” he used quotes, “Tends to go off the charts. There’s a guy who’s been trying to track it.”
"It was just a figurine til it got accidentally smashed, then it turned into a huge creature that attacked the pyrokinetic and myself. Really hope that by shattering it into millions of tiny pieces that we killed it, but really who can be certain." The additional information might come in handy when Brian met up with whoever else was in the little group he was talking about.
"I had noticed a bit of a pattern, like a rogue wave popping up in the middle of nowhere." CJ did have a tendency to refer to things in aquatic terms, force of habit. "The regular news barely covers anything out of the ordinary, can't go scaring the general public after all. But thankfully there's other sources for information." CJ had learned soon after settling in Vegas where these sources of information were and if something felt strange he'd check these channels for an update. He just hoped the next spike wouldn't be too bad.
“Why rely on the news when you can make the news?” Brian asked. “I think I’m gonna get that printed on the back of our next staff shirt.” The insanity at the bar had squeaked past making the 11 o’clock show more times than it made it, but there was always tomorrow. “I’m gonna get another jump in.” Brian stood up. He disappeared around the side of the hill and made the climb up the rocks and crags. A moment later, a wolf splashed into the river and started paddling downstream.
Making the news was something that CJ feared, be it for his abilities or that - God forbid - the school he worked at was the center of something terrible. He did give a chuckle at Brian's idea of putting the slogan on a shirt for his staff though. "I'll join you in a few." He added, watching as Brian disappeared from view only to reappear with a splash. A few minutes later he got up, dusting himself down before heading to the same rocky outcrop and diving into the water. He didn't surface immediately after, instead staying under and swimming away from the shore, popping up quite a distance away in order to take a breath.