All's Fair, part 18

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"

It seemed like a sound must have woken him, but it was the shift of currents at his back, the sudden chill of water displacing the bodily warmth against him, that brought him to full awareness. He registered belatedly the sound of an infant crying, and the soothing tones of his wife. He opened his eyes, directing his vision toward the sound. "Dolphin?"

She swam into view, cradling Cerdian. "Looks like both my boys are awake," she observed lightly, settling herself beside Garth and leaning awkwardly around the baby to kiss his forehead." How're you feeling?"

He didn't answer immediately, stretching a hand out to brush the soft down on Ian's head where Dolphin supported it at her breast. He felt an odd awe that distracted from the muscle ache that accompanied the gesture, waking similar pains through his body.

"So beautiful," he murmured.

Dolphin smiled demurely, her hair floating to frame her face in response to the ducking of her head. "He's your son," she pointed out proudly.

"Our son." He couldn't keep a tone of wonderment out of his voice. He felt somehow that he had been taking this for granted, this miracle of their love.

Dolphin cupped her hand over his and stroked his fingers, an unexpectedly soothing gesture that seemed to loosen his protesting muscles all the way to his shoulder. "You're tense," she observed.

He was, he realized, not quite certain why. "But I'm home now."

"Yes. They wanted to keep you with the magus, but J'onn convinced them that it would be better for you to wake with your family."

His brow furrowed. J'onn? He had barely thought the name before he felt the Martian's presence in his mind, unobtrusively there. And with his awareness of J'onn came the sudden return of memory. He might have flailed upright in panic but for the comfort of Dolphin's touch and the reassuring anchor provided by J'onn. Instead he merely stated, "We're in Poseidonis."

"Thanks to you." There was clear admiration in Dolphin's tone. "You brought them back. You saved them the first time and now you brought them back."

"Orin? And Zatanna?" he asked anxiously.

"Shh. Orin's busy with the council, and Zatanna was returned to the surface last night. Both tired, but well."

"And J'onn's back."

She nodded, seeming to understand his need for reassurance. "He's been by several times to check on you - on all of us. He brought Cerdian and I down as soon as the city stabilized. I'm not sure he's slept at all since all this started, the way he's been working between here and the surface."

Garth felt a faint smile tug at his lips at the tender concern in Dolphin's voice - he remembered in a flood why he had fallen in love with her, and the jumbled memories were a pleasant wave rather than a threatening maelstrom. "He is like the creatures of the deepest sea - unfathomable," he commented, eliciting a low laugh from the nursing mother.

"That was worthy of Nightwing," she complimented, reaching her fingers out to touch his smile. "It is good to feel your humor again."

He nodded, understanding with remorse that he had not been easy to live with in the months after Imperiex. "I love you," he said feelingly.

Her expression softened as her hand trailed over his face. He closed his eyes, letting the caress leach more tension from his body. He felt so safe. From the way Dolphin spoke of the surface, the alpha team must have succeeded on Everest. Atlantis was once again intact. His mentor - his liege - was home. And all that was just a backdrop for the touch of this beautiful soul, the woman who had borne his son and had been so unfailingly there during the disasters of the past months. He wasn't aware that he had drifted into sleep again until he was wakened by Dolphin.

It took him a confused moment to realize significant time had passed - the baby was tucked back asleep, and a tray of food had somehow appeared in their room. "Garth," Dolphin was saying softly. "You need to wake up enough to eat something."

He blinked sleep-encrusted eyes. "'m sorry," he mumbled. "Didn't mean-"

"You need the sleep," she interrupted. "That much outpouring of magic - they were surprised your body wasn't cannibalizing its own marrow to support your effort. And while your body rests, the dreamstate lets your unconscious work on your memory. But you also need to eat." She had pulled the tray closer, and the currents carried tantalizing scents to his nostrils.

He curled his spine to pull himself upright, groaning involuntarily at the protest of his body. His hands felt shaky, but he managed to handle the covered tureen, tipping it to his mouth with the slightest aid from his wife. The warmth of the thick soup spread through his body in a relaxing wave, and he felt rather like a sponge, soaking up every ounce of nutrient in the kelp rich broth.

"When you are done eating," Dolphin began, stroking his back as she spoke, "if you are up to it, Orin would like to see you."

He hesitated, half-tempted to take the out he had been given, the right to refuse an order of the king. Dolphin seemed to understand his pause, dropping a kiss onto his shoulder.

"You needn't see him now, although he is waiting to come to you. He's been anxious for you these past few days."

Few days? Somehow in his fog it hadn't occurred to him to ask how long he had recuperating, and a part of his mind felt a heavy relief that he had not been awake earlier, if this was what his body felt like now. A larger part, though, was focused on the other part of Dolphin's statement, that Orin had been anxious for him. A dangerous fragment of old memory, still unmoored, bristled at that, but the larger part of him remembered his own unreasoning worry, his cold fear that Orin had died with so much left unsaid between them. "I'll see him," he decided, and he sensed approval from Dolphin. She swam behind him, winding her arms around his torso to give him a careful from-behind hug.

He could feel her hair tickling his back as her cheek pressed against his spine. "It will be good for both of you," she assured, and she let her hands trail across his chest as she loosened her hold. Then she set to work massaging his back, deftly working at the worst of the small knots she found there as he finished his meal. Then she helped him dress, and he could feel her eyes sharply noting any twinge or evident ache. Her fingers occasionally squeezed at a pressure point, quieting the worst of his pains.

How had he survived without her too-infrequently regarded care? When he was finally presentable, he rewarded her with a long kiss, and the hunger with which she responded communicated exactly how much she had worried for him, missed him, longed for him. He couldn't let the disasters of the world come so much between them again. He wouldn't, he vowed, just as he wouldn't shirk his relationship with Orin, no matter how much work it might entail. He'd given too much of himself to the surface, and while they might still have some claim to his time, he belonged here, in Poseidonis. His son needed to learn the ways of his people.

Dolphin finally broke the kiss. "Keep that up and I won't let you see Orin," she said huskily, one hand trailing down to his hip.

He smiled and kissed her forehead. "There'll be plenty of time later," he promised. "And I fully intend to collect."

She grinned and wiggled enticingly in his arms. "You better."

A hiccupping cry sounded, and Dolphin sighed. "A mother's work," she remarked.

"And a father's," Garth pointed out, holding her back for a moment. "I'll talk with Orin, and when I get back, I'll help you with Ian. And then..."

She laughed, her eyes shining. "Then you'll be asleep again," she teased. "But go." She kissed his lips softly one more time before slipping out of his hold. "Give the old man some peace of mind. But do hurry back."

He touched his lips, feeling her lingering warmth there. "I promise," he said quietly, then opened the door to their receiving room to present his resolve to his liege - his mentor - his, he realized, friend.

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