Sea and Sky:
Beneath the Waves
by Dannell Lites
SPIFFY DISCLAIMER THINGIE!
Ah do not own Garth of Shayeris (consarn it!) nor Jero, nor Lori Lemaris or Tritonis or Poisidonis! DC comics does! This is a fanfic for entertainment purposes only and not intended to infringe upon any copyrights held by DC Comics or others! So don't sue moi!:(:(
Rated PG-15 for m/m themes. Nothing is depicted, though, graphic or otherwise! But if'n such like bothers ya'll then skeddadle!
This is a part of moi's ongoing series "Sea And Sky" written with Kerithwyn Jade! It occurs just a couple months after Garth and Dick Grayson have reconciled!
This one is for 'rith, who insisted that Ah write it and then did a bang up beta on it for moi! *smootchie* Ya'll are the best, Twin!
The angry thought rang out through the assembled Atlanteans like a bell, carrying a wave of bitterness and loathing before it; debris cast out of the sea onto the shore. Garth of Shayeris frowned and clamped a tight rein on his rising temper. Returning anger for anger, insult for insult, would accomplish nothing. He sighed. His job as ambassador to the surface world was a thankless one, at best, to be sure. This was not the first time he'd been reviled for it. He was very doubtful that it would be the last. He opened his mind to speak, to defend himself, but, much to his surprise, someone else beat him to it.
"Mind your tongue, Parren!" snapped Vulko.
The young Tritonian merman scowled, lashing his tail angrily, but otherwise betrayed no sign of his wrath. "Prince Garth does not answer to you for his loyalties! Only to His Majesty King Orin!" the elderly Councilor reminded the rash youth with dignified disdain, his white beard and mustache trembling with the force of his ire. Garth was hard-pressed not to chuckle at the flush of embarrassment that reddened Parren's cheeks and brightened the scales of his lithe, muscular tail into glittering iridescence. Mera, Arthur's estranged wife and Queen of Atlantis, did laugh, much to Parren's further humiliation.
Surprisingly, it was Lori Lemaris, the chief of the Tritonian delegation who spoke up in defense of her fellow Tritonian.
"Parren spoke out of turn and too harshly, in anger, yes," she admitted, favoring the youthful delegate with a sharp glance to quell him. "But, with respect, Councilor Vulko, Majesty, he is not alone in his feelings." She faced Garth, her eyes, blue as the sea that was her home, brimming with sadness. Her long chestnut hair, floating like a crown about her head, caught a warm ocean current and Garth's heart fluttered in his chest. She could still do that to him. Even after so long, she had lost none of her beauty nor her deep kindness and compassion, so essential a part of her giving nature.
"Forgive me, Garth," she begged and the thought, he knew, was meant only for him, not the assembled others. From them she shielded it. "Parren and those like him are foolish children ... but they have a loud voice and must be dealt with, eventually. Better now than to let the thing fester like a neglected wound. Please tell me you understand, carisaith." The thought was like a warm embrace and Garth shivered slightly at the intimacy of it. It had been a long time, after all. Memories like sea foam, bubbled to the surface of his mind, unbidden.
Lori Lemaris' dazzling smile ... the touch of her soft hand, exploring him reverently, as though he were a precious thing to be venerated ... revealing to him slowly, delightfully, the mysteries of his own body and hers as well. The taste of her like wine upon his lips ... the passion of her kiss .... Her dark eyes shining with anticipation in the filtered moonlight of The Lover's Grotto ... the joy that lit her face, suffusing her with a rosy glow at the first sight of him, swimming to her side .... Her arms open wide to embrace him ...
But most of all, he remembered her love for a sometimes lonely, shy young man; a not-always-welcome- hanger-on and guest at Arthur's Court. Lori would always hold a special place in his heart.
"Of course I understand, Lori, carismi," his return thought caressed her. Her gentle smile was reward enough.
He stood and faced the assemblage squarely. Drawing himself up to his full height, he said firmly, "I can sympathize with those among you who might question my methods as ambassador to the surface world. But not my loyalties. Rest assured all, both Tritonians and Posidonians alike, that I abhor the thoughtless, profligate ways of the surface world as much as you do! More so, perhaps, since I see more of it than most of you, living among them as I do. It's true that I have many ties of friendship and ... and other things ... with certain surface dwellers .... " Garth thought of Dick Grayson and smiled "But this hardly blinds me to their stubborn, sometimes arrogant refusal to acknowledge the fact that they share this Earth of ours with other intelligent peoples however different from themselves. But among those of the surface world, indeed among we of Atlantis, too, change is a gradual thing. It cannot be forced. We must educate our surface brothers about us and the seas which are our home."
"That's fine for you to say," muttered a middle-aged Tritonian, garbed in a colorful doublet. A merchant by the look of him. "You can pass for one of them, if you must." He gestured down at his fishlike tail. "What about us?" A wave of small nods of agreement flashed through the Tritonian delegation, greeting his sally. Garth looked away. What, after all, was there to say?
"Lofty words, ambassador," said a quiet, bitter voice that Garth recognized instantly. "In the meantime, surface men use the sea for a garbage dump for all their refuse and their poisons. They slaughter her denizens, foul her waters. Where does it stop? When does it stop?" At those familiar tones Garth's heart sank like a heavy anchor.
Garth bit the inside of his lip and tasted the salty, metallic tartness of blood.
Stricken dumb, Garth could only stare at Jero in horrified dismay as he watched a frowning Mera rise and address the assemblage. "My people," the Queen said calmly, "I think it best if we adjourn for the evening and let tempers cool. This is an important issue and will not be solved immediately. I can only say that His Highness, King Orin and I have the utmost confidence in Prince Garth." Heads bowed in submission, the assembled delegates murmured their thanks to their monarch.
"You are dismissed," the Queen informed them. Garth watched with a heavy heart as, one by one, the delegates took their leave, bowing once more before Mera. His mouth still tasting of blood and the bitter ashes of painful memories, Garth's hands knotted into fists at his side when Jero swam quickly from the audience chamber without so much as a backward glance in his direction. The haughty merman wouldn't even look at him.
Mera's reassuring smile and light touch on his shoulder was most welcome, he discovered. It wasn't until the Queen of Atlantis made her formal exit, her bodyguards swimming frantically in her busy wake, that Garth noticed that he was not alone. Without a word, Lori Lemaris reached out and engulfed him tightly in her arms, kissing his dark hair. Gratefully, he closed his eyes and pillowed his head upon her breasts as he had done so many, many times before in years gone by. She was warm and her hands were gentle as they comforted him.
"Garth, carisaith ... " she whispered.
"Gods, Lori," he mourned, "why does he hate me so?"
She lifted his chin and stared deeply into his violet eyes. "You misunderstand, Garth, my young love," she replied softly. "He doesn't hate you. Not at all. He still loves you ... but he doesn't think you love him. And you don't, do you? You're heart belongs to another, now." He thought again of Dick Grayson ... the hard-won trust and love that now lay between them ... the deep, deep blue of his eyes, like the sea ... the easy shelter of his cradling arms ... There was more than a touch of sadness in Lori's dulcet contralto voice and it tugged painfully at Garth's heart. He lay a caressing hand on one high, flushed cheek.
"Lori - I - I - "
She lay a pensive finger against his lips to still his voice, even though it was a futile gesture. Old habits died hard. "No, no," she admonished quietly. "Don't apologize. I'm happy for you, Garth. Really, I am. Very happy for you and Richard. He's a fine man. I'm - I'm sorry it couldn't be me ... I wanted it to me very, very badly, once upon a time ... But it just wasn't meant to be, it seems. You were so young ... And I - I was still longing for ... for someone I was never going to have. What a fool I was!"
"I'm afraid I'm not much competition for Superman," he sighed, forcing a smile. "But then - who is?" He thought of Tula, bright, passionate Tula, leading a revolution to rid Atlantis of her oppressors, fighting like a demon, rallying the people ... "Ghosts," he whispered, "so many, many ghosts ... "
"But, ghosts," she assured him, "can be exorcised. Go and speak to Jero. Lay the ghosts between the two of you to rest ... "
And so he found himself standing before the beaded curtain shielding the entrance to Jero's chambers, nervously calling out telepathically for the young merman.
"Jero, carisaith?" When no answer came, he tried again. "Won't you please let me in ...?"
With an angry rattle the curtains parted to reveal Jero, his gills working hard to pump breath into his body. His face clouded like a sea storm, he snapped, "Don't call me that! I was never your carisaith, your 'little love'! Never!"
Garth's face turned grim under the verbal assault. So this was to be the way of it, was it? So be it. "Are you going to let me in or are we going to argue in public here in the corridor in front of everybody?"
Jero moved aside and gestured grudgingly into the spacious guest chamber provided for the Tritonian delegates. "Come in," he growled. "What's the surface expression? 'Airing dirty laundry in public'?"
"Something like that," Garth admitted, swimming past the merman into the concealing chamber with a sigh of relief. He turned to face the Tritonian. "Jero, this has to stop," he almost pleaded. "We can't go on like this anymore ... "
Jero poured himself a small goblet of wine and drank it quickly, as though to fortify himself for an ordeal he wished with all his heart to avoid.
"And why can't we 'go on like this anymore', Garth?" he demanded of the other Atlantean in a hard, unyielding voice. "It's not as if we ever see a great deal of each other these days, is it? You spend all your time on the surface! I never see you! Atlantis almost never sees you!"
For a moment Garth wished for a cup of fortifying wine himself. Jero was not going to make this easy. That much was plain. Lightly, he cursed under his breath.
"For Pallais' sake, Jero," he swore, "that's not fair! I have a job to do! An important job."
"And you do it so well," Jero mocked. "Consorting with surface scum!"
"Stop it, Jero!" Garth warned, reaching out a hand to seize the merman's shoulder and shake him lightly. With an angry shrug, Jero flung Garth's hand away.
"Don't touch me!" he cried. "Don't ever touch me!"
Garth's pain was reflected in his expressive purple eyes. His eyes always had betrayed him. They kept no secrets and it was his eyes, those cursed purple eyes, that had gotten him exiled from Shayeris, his City, in the first place. He heard Dick's soft voice.
" ... you have the most beautiful eyes ... "
But he had never believed that.
"You used to like it when I touched you," he breathed and saw Jero stiffen.
"That ... that was a long time ago ... " the other Atlantean mumbled. Garth swam around to confront the young Tritonian. Wisely, he did not touch him although he longed to do so. His spirit cried out to comfort his one time lover, to make him understand.
"And that's what this is all about, isn't it? Not my conduct, my success or failure as ambassador to the surface world. It's about what happened between us."
"You're wrong," Jero denied it sharply. "There was no *us*. That implies two people, Garth. As in plural, as in more than one! I was alone in my feelings. You never loved me. I deluded myself that you did because I wanted desperately to believe it. And you let me."
Garth sat down heavily on the room's couch, a polished giant clamshell strewn with cushions. After a moment he gathered himself and spoke in what he hoped was a calm, level voice. "You're the one who's wrong, Jero. You were never alone. Why, there was a whole crowd of us in that bed!" At Jero's look of befuddled confusion, Garth looked away. He could not face the merman just now.
"There was you and me and Tula," he began in a small voice, barely above a whisper. "And ... and ... " He let his words trail off inanely, helpless to continue. He swallowed against the desert dryness of his suddenly parched throat. Jero swam close to Garth, crowding into his space, his enraged face within inches of the other mans. Pale, Garth nevertheless stood his ground.
"And ... and ... who. Garth?" he demanded, his voice a low, sibilant hiss in Garth's thoughts. "Who?"
"K-Kara .. " Garth whispered.
With an inarticulate cry of pain, Jero shoved Garth angrily away, sending him flying over the back of the seashell couch, struggling to regain his equilibrium. Swimming strongly, the merman struck Garth solidly in the midsection and the two of them plowed through the waters, until Jero slammed Garth against a rocky wall with a loud 'oomph' of escaping breath.
"Pallais damn you to one of her desert hells!" he raged. "You son of a demon from the Lower Depths! How dare you! How - how dare you mention her name to me?"
Garth pried Jero hands from around his neck and spun him around, deftly reversing their positions. Dick and Arthur were both good teachers, he thought.
"Stop it, Jero!" Garth insisted, tightening his grip when the mer-youth struggled for release. "Look at yourself! Just look at you!" With a single kick from his strong, sinewy legs, Garth pushed the two of them out and away from the walls into the more spacious open waters of the middle of the large chamber.
Enraged, Jero struck at Garth, who easily dodged the clumsy blow. Blow after blow reigned down on the youthful superhero. Moving with lightning swiftness the former Titan fended off each one, turning them aside almost gently. Jero, in his fury, did not seem to notice or care that none of his blows landed.
"Damn you, Garth!" he shouted, "Damn you! Damn you!" Hot tears coursed down his reddened cheeks as he tried ineffectually to expend his pain and anger. Gradually the blows grew fewer and weaker until they had no real force behind them, as the strength was sapped from Jero's limbs and the fury drained from his flailing fists. Until, finally, spent and exhausted, he lay his head sobbing on Garth's broad chest.
"Damn you ... " he whispered, his breath coming in deep gasps as sobs claimed him. "Damn you ... "
Garth stroked the silky brown hair, so familiar to his touch. "Shhhhh," he urged, pulling the merman into a close embrace. "Shhhh ... Shhhhh ... "
"It's-it's not fair!" Jero wept. "It's just not fair! Why? Why did she have to die? W-why?"
Tenderly the Atlantean hero lay the other youth down on the couch with his head in his lap. With his hands he soothed the wrinkled brow and wiped away the spilling tears. "I -- don't know," he said, and sorrow echoed hollowly in his deep voice. "I can't tell you that, Jero. Any more than I can tell you why Tu-Tula -- why Tula died. ... I don't have any answers for you. Or for myself. I wish I did. I only know that I loved her. And that you loved Kara."
The other man stirred, clutching at Garth's hand like a drowning man after a life preserver. "I did love her," Jero swallowed hard. "But she -- she didn't love me ... "
Garth smoothed the brown hair off the brooding forehead. "Jero ... Kara was always confused about love. Like a lot of us. I think she did love you ... as much as she was capable of it She had a lot of love to give, but she was frightened, I think. Afraid to share herself." Against his will he thought again of Dick Grayson. So much fear ... But it was fear that had been conquered.
He leaned down and, with a kiss, closed Jero's eyes. "And I know that I loved you," he said softly.
"You - you did?" The longing in that stammering, uneven voice was painful for Garth to hear. He lay a hand on one sculptured cheek.
"Oh, yes ... " he said.
"Then what happened?" the merman wanted to know. "How did we drift so far apart?"
"Pallais' mercy, Jero, if I knew the answer to *that* - !" The young Atlantean hero took a deep breath and released it slowly. As Atlan had taught him, he reached for the calm center of things within him. Thankfully, it was still there, untouched and unblemished.
"We were both hurting, Jero. We were both in pain. Both looking for something to fill the giant void that suddenly opened up in our lives and hearts. And in our grief and pain we reached out to each other. You helped me heal myself after Tula died. I hope I did the same for you. I like to think that I did. But was it love? I don't know. I know it was the best that I could do at the time. All I was capable of. So, yes, I did love you. But was it enough? Was what we had meant to last? Maybe not. We were both so young. Young, inexperienced and hurting, grieving. And for a time we found solace in one another. Can you forgive me for messing it all up so terribly? Can you?"
Jero entwined his shorter, stubbier fingers with Garth's long, elegant ones, braiding them into a single, stronger whole. "If you can forgive me for being such an idiot. You're right about Kara. It was like trying to catch a cloud and pin it down to the Earth. Hopeless. The more I grasped after her, the further, the faster, she ran from me. And when she died ... it almost destroyed me. Broken into a million little pieces. And, like all the King's horses and all the King's men, I expected *you to put them all back together again, like Humpty Dumpty in that fairy tale Kara once told me. And you did! But when you left .... it was like losing Kara all over again, in a way."
"We both hurt one another, Jero," Garth pointed out sadly. "I'd like to try and salvage something, if you're willing. Can we try and just be friends?" Jero squeezed Garth hand in affirmation.
"I'd like that a lot," he said.
"Good! Why don't we begin by having dinner together and talking?" Garth suggested with a smile. "I don't know about you but I could eat a shark - raw!"
Jero laughed. "Still fond of sautéed kelp and pickled seaweed? Fried sea cucumber?" Jero wondered. "Or have you picked up other bad habits on the surface - like eating meat?" he jested. Garth shuddered.
"Not likely!" he retorted.
Chuckling, Jero rose and ordered their meal, then made himself comfortable once more on the couch. "So tell me," the merman urged with a mischievous grin, "is there anyone special in your life, just now?" Garth blushed.
"Yes," he admitted, "there is! You?" With a satisfied smile Jero nodded.
"Her name is Dorilys, Parren's sister."
"Tell me about her!" they both urged simultaneously and burst into laughter.
"You first!" directed Jero, grinning. Garth blushed an even darker shade of red, matching his uniform.
"Well, his name is Richard. Richard Grayson ... " he began, smiling softly.