Sea and Sky:
...for 'rith, who can pretend it just is non b-day fic...
...and who I hope will forgive me for playing in her universe...
Callings by Chicago
A Sea and Sky story for 'rith
Set between JLA #68 and #69.
But the JLA was missing. Garth had now sent not only his own mentor, but Dick's father as well, into an unknown abyss. Almost three weeks in the ruins of Atlantis, and Garth and Zatanna and the Atom had gotten no closer to figuring out the mystery. They would try again today anyway, and the others would be waiting for him if he did not leave soon.
Sighing, Garth laced his fingers into Dick's and gave Dick's hand a little squeeze. He brought Dick's palm to his lips as he slipped carefully from below that sheltering arm, out of the warmth of forgiving love into the cold of the rest of his life.
As Garth moved, Dick's fingers tightened around his, and he found himself snared at the bedside by their clasped hands. Dick's eyes didn't open, but Garth could see the eyeballs moving beneath darkly shadowed lids. "I love you, Garth," Dick murmured.
Garth sat on the edge of the bed and brushed his fingers across the hair falling over Dick's forehead. "I love you, too, Dick," he answered. "I'm sorry I woke you."
The bruised eyes opened a slit. "You going back to Atlantis?"
"I need to leave soon," Garth confirmed, leaning down to kiss Dick's forehead. "You need more sleep."
Dick finally released Garth's hands to rub his eyes. "No, I'll get up. I can get you breakfast."
"Dick-" Garth objected hopelessly. Between the increased work load of world disasters falling to the Titans and occasional nights in Gotham to cover Batman's absence, Dick's schedule had shifted from hectic to impossible. He was handling it thus far, but there were side-effects. His protective instincts were in high gear, and he couldn't seem to turn them off. Garth suspected Dick was avoiding his own tangled emotions over Bruce's disappearance by focusing his down time on making sure Garth knew he was loved and cared for.
Dick sat up in the bed for a long moment before he began to move, his exhausted body rebelling.
"Dick," Garth began again, gently. "I know you only want to help, but I'll be happier knowing you're getting sleep."
A cross expression flitted across Dick's face. "I hardly get to see you..."
Wherever Dick had intended to go with that argument was interrupted by the sudden squeal of alert from Dick's laptop.
Dick was on his feet almost instantly, racing to the computer. Garth followed a step behind as Dick swiftly entered a security code and the monitor suddenly filled with Batman's countenance.
Garth gasped and clutched at Dick's shoulder, feeling the tension singing through his lover's body.
"Nightwing," the Dark Knight's voice rasped over the speakers, "you know why you're getting this message."
A recorded message. Nothing had changed. Except somehow Dick's muscles seemed to tense further.
"Regardless of the circumstances," Batman was continuing, "you need to move forward now under the assumption we are all dead."
Garth felt as if someone had kicked him in the gut, and Dick remained stiffly unmoving.
"I have initiated plan Omega Gabriel Alpha," Batman's voice went on. "Your team will be assembled in the next week, so you must be prepared to handle them. Report to Oracle for a thorough briefing; I anticipate the two of you will coordinate and plan what needs to happen with the new JLA."
New JLA. Now Garth felt more as if he was going to throw up, and he forced himself to loosen his hold on Dick's shoulder, regretfully aware he'd probably already left bruises. Dick still had not responded.
"We discussed this before, but I want to reiterate for you that I selected you to be field commander because of all the Earth's remaining heroes, you are the only one with the requisite leadership and tactical skills. I have every faith that the JLA will continue to defend the Earth in keeping with the tradition of the name." Garth stared at the cowled face on the screen, wondering why it is that Batman could say this now and could not have expressed his faith in Dick earlier. Then something incredible happened.
A heavy sigh rocked Batman, and he reached for his cowl. He pushed it back so it fell down his back, revealing the face of Bruce Wayne, eyes troubled, hair disheveled.
"Dick," Bruce - no longer Batman - began, "I want you to know-"
He paused, and though his eyes remained steady, there was something agonized in them.
"Dick, I love you. I always have."
Abruptly, the screen went dark, the recording ended. A cold feeling settled in the pit of Garth's stomach as he remained, stunned, at Dick's shoulder. For a long moment, neither of them moved, and then a strangled sound escaped Dick.
It broke the spell, and Garth shifted to face Dick, kneeling beside him and staring anxiously into his face.
The expression on Dick's face was terrible - hard, determined, at war with the tears in his eyes. "I've got to go see Babs," he choked out. "I'm sorry I won't be able to get you breakfast."
"Dick-" Garth reached for him, wrapping his arms around him. For a long moment, Dick remained stiff in Garth's embrace, then something seemed to give, and he returned the offered hug.
"I really have to go," he whispered into Garth's ear.
"I know," Garth replied, kissing the side of Dick's face softly. "I love you."
Dick's arms tightened for a moment. "I know," he breathed, then released Garth. "Keep looking," he ordered, pulling himself into the familiar mode of Titans' leader. "We may have to assume that they are gone for the sake of protecting the world, but that doesn't mean we have to believe it."
Garth nodded. "We'll keep trying."
"Good." Dick stood. "I'll be with Oracle if you need me. And probably at the Watchtower."
Dick paused in his motion toward the closet to begin packing. "Yes?"
"We'll find them. And you'll do him proud."
Dick turned toward his lover, his expression softening for just a moment. He leaned in to press a kiss to Garth's lips. "Don't say anything to the others," he directed. "No sense diminishing their hopes. We've got a week before we set the new team; with luck it won't come to that."
Garth nodded, pressing his forehead to Dick's. "I'll see you soon," he promised.
Dick hugged him tightly for a quick moment, and Garth wondered how much his world had just changed.