Centering v.2

by 'rith



Archive: Ask first, please.
Fandom: DC Comics, Titans, AU 'verse. Set immediately after (previous series) Titans #12, the H.I.V.E. battle. Everything is as canon except Garth died in Crisis instead of Tula. More gratuitous information at end. An alternate version of "Centering," though it took rather a different path in translation, and is probably better for it.
Notation: F/F sex. Tula reference: http://titanstower.com/source/whoswho/tula.html
Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics. What I have done with them is mine.
This one's for TBoarder, who begged so long ago. Thanks to Siviusx for the kick in the pants to finish and Smitty for the beta.




All the way back to Titans' Tower the tension was palpable, setting the entire team's nerves on edge. It stemmed from the intensity of the fight itself, what Kory had done, what Roy had done--

*She* was still reeling from it all, and it didn't help that immediately after reaching the Tower the usual litany began.

"Can I talk to you for a minute, Donna?"

"Listen, I really need--"

"Donna, can you *believe* what she--"

It was too much.

"Listen, people! I am NOT the den mother here! Go talk to somebody *else!*" And she'd stormed off, angry and depressed and feeling the weight of the team on her shoulders.

She loved them all, she really did, but sometimes...sometimes she had to take a step back. To stop being Troia of the Titans for little while and just be Donna Troy.

Whoever *that* was.

Somehow she'd always been everyone's ear, the team counselor, and usually she didn't mind. Except she'd been feeling a little lost herself these days, and it was hard to find the patience and energy to start rebuilding herself when everyone was constantly knocking on her door for help with their own crises.

But this wasn't helping either, stewing about it alone in her room. She *needed* people, needed their warmth and friendship. That was only part of the reason why the Titans had always been such an important part of her life. But right now she needed that with no demands on it, no qualifiers, and she wanted--

Just to be *held,* dammit! And maybe...no, definitely. To be loved.

Determined now, she showered away the stink of battle and threw on some casual clothes. She wasn't the angel or the saint or the excruciatingly perfect "good girl" everyone thought she was, she was a flesh-and-blood woman with needs of her own. Right now she was in dire need of comfort and reassurance--and she knew precisely where to find them.

Without hesitating she left her quarters and went down the stairs to her teammate's door. It opened to her knock. "Hi."

"Donna?" Tula's blue eyes went wide. "You look awful."

Donna blinked and replied dryly, "Thanks." She'd come to expect that kind of honesty from Tula, even if it was a little more blunt than she'd anticipated. But it was also comforting in a way, not to be lied to or coddled. "I just don't...feel like being alone right now."

"Certainly." With a dazzling smile Tula opened the door wider, motioning Donna inside. "Come on. I have wine and chocolate and if you need to talk--"

"No, you don't understand." To hell with subtlety. Donna moved deliberately inside the doorway and kissed Tula firmly on the mouth. The taste of her was like the ocean, and without more than a second's hesitation Tula was kissing her back, her arms coming up to encircle Donna's waist. After a moment Donna drew back to look her teammate--her friend--in the eye. "I don't want to be *alone* right now."

Tula's robe--negligee, in effect--was short and sheer and she was naked under it, no surprise. Donna didn't have to guess at what Tula'd have done if it'd been Dick or Gar who'd knocked: she'd have stood in the doorway and spoken with them as if she'd been fully armored. Tula could be as unconcerned with public near- or actual nudity as Kory in the early days, except that she had less excuse for "cultural unawareness." She'd finally acceded to Dick's increasingly frantic pleas to at least wear a bikini in the Tower pool, but only after she'd caught him unaware more than a few times, always laughing mercilessly at the resultant blush.

That same catlike smile was back now, her eyes bright with amusement and unexpected pleasure. "Why didn't I think of that?"

Donna laughed, kicking the door closed behind her. "I hope you don't mind--"

"'Mind.' Oh, Donna." Tula reached out to touch her cheek. "You're my friend and I love you dearly. Allow me and I'll try to help you forget all of-- *that.*" She waved a hand, indicating the rest of the Tower and the roiling tensions outside her door.

"Yes. Oh, yes, please."

"Your wish..." Tula caught her hand, pulled her close. "Your wish, Donna, is my desire." And kissed her, deeply.

Kissing Tula was...easy. Comfortable. *Gentle.* Tula was being gentle with her, not like she thought Donna was delicate, but like she understood the need for comfort.

Donna had the vague thought that she should have felt a lot more guilty than this, seeing as she was technically dating Roy, but he'd been so careful to make sure she understood they were casual, no commitment, and besides--

Besides, Tula tasted good, and that was all the justification Donna needed right now.

She was starting to really relax into the kiss when Tula giggled against her mouth.

"You knew why you were coming down here and bothered to put on a *bra?*"

Her free hand, Donna realized belatedly, had crept under Donna's loose shirt and was casually tracing the rim of underwire. That she hadn't noticed was only another sign of her distraction. That, and it'd been a really good kiss.

"Habit," she muttered. "Help me out of it?"

"Gladly."

Nudity held no surprises for either of them, after being teammates for so long. But now she had an invitation to really *look* as the thin drape masquerading as a robe dropped away from Tula's body with a whisper. Donna had forgotten about this, hips and breasts and *softness,* and Tula purred under her exploring hands.

"Donna, let me," she started, but Donna didn't want to hear, didn't want to *stop,* not if that meant she had to slow down and think about anything. She wanted to forget, wanted everything outside this room to go away--

"Hey," Tula said softly, twisting away from Donna's clutching hands, "this isn't a race."

She looked up, startled, and heard her own breathing harsh in her ears. "I--"

"I appreciate the enthusiasm," Tula grinned at her, implicit forgiveness in her tone, "just give me a chance to reciprocate, all right?" She reached out, tugging at Donna's shirt. "Let me *see* you."

"...right." Donna laughed shakily and pulled her shirt over her head, wanting to feel stupid and embarrassed about it, knowing Tula didn't see her that way. "Sorry."

Tula watched her strip off the rest of her clothes, her gaze appreciative and appraising. "No apology necessary. But I think I know what will help." Without further explanation she picked Donna up in her arms, carrying her easily into the bathroom. Tula wasn't by any stretch fragile, but she was slender and shorter than Donna herself; it was easy to forget the Atlantean strength that had been shaped by the ocean's deep pressures.

She stood Donna in the center of the large whirlpool bath directly under the hanging showerhead, then picked up a small stool and set it behind her. "There. Sit. I'm going to wash your hair."

"But--"

Tula glared. "Donna. Be quiet and let me take care of you. All right?"

*Permission* not to think was about as perfect a dispensation as she could have asked for. "...all right."

She was right, of course. Minutes later, warm water was cascading over her and Tula's fingers were in her hair, massaging away her remaining tension. Donna sighed happily and let her head fall back against her friend's chest.

"Better?" Tula's hand brushed a caress over Donna's forehead, keeping the soap out of her eyes.

"Mmmmm-hm."

Tula laughed softly, rinsing the last of the shampoo away. "Good. Stay for just one moment--" She vanished from Donna's sight briefly, returning with bottle in hand and two long-stemmed glasses. "As promised. Here, now, let's move this and we'll have a long soak."

They arranged themselves in the tub, Tula behind and Donna leaning back against her. Donna sipped at the wine and watched, nearly hypnotized by the warmth and steam and the strength of her friend holding her, as the water crept up their legs and filled the spaces between them.

"Aren't you going to turn on the whirlpool?"

"Too noisy." Tula touched the surface of the water with her fingertips; immediately, it began to churn around them.

Donna grinned and relaxed against her friend's body. "Mm, handy."

Water roiled around them, soothing to overtaxed muscles. Between the heat and the wine, after a few minutes she was beginning to feel a bit sleepy...until she felt a light caress on her breast. Tula's hands were laced in her own, so she dismissed it as a phantom sensation, but then there was another on her thigh. And under her knee. Another--

"Tula?"

Tula responded with an innocent tone that Donna didn't buy for a second. "Something wrong?"

More now, sweeping over her body, touching everywhere. "Uh...."

"Shh." Tula tilted Donna's head back and kissed her, while the water around them suddenly seemed to be made of a million tiny gentle hands. They swept over her, gentle and intimate. Everywhere, dear gods, teasing her breasts, stroking down her sides, sliding up her inner thighs. Solid/not-solid indistinct shapes that might be mouths or fingers or just simply liquid molded to a specific purpose, like the slender tendrils curling precisely around her nipples. The water was hotter now, wet pulsing heat where she wanted it, and when she arched up for more it *pushed* back against her in response.

She groaned, and Tula chuckled low in her throat. "Don't be afraid, Donna, tell me what you want."

Her head tossed back and forth against Tula's breasts, and she could feel the sweat gathering across her forehead as the heat built and built. "Inside me," she muttered, giving herself up to it, "please."

Tula's indrawn breath mirrored her own gasp as a whisper-thin tendril slipped inside her, expanding slowly, infinitely gentle.

"Say when," Tula said, laughing, but her own breath was coming fast.

Donna wondered, briefly, if Tula could feel the sensations through the water she controlled, and decided she could ask *later.* "That's... ohhhh...."

Tula's voice, barely a murmur in her ear: "Mmm, yes...."

No reason or thought now, just pure sensation as the shapes played over Donna's body, fitting to her desires. Concentrated tongues of heat licking at her, making her arch up until she was pumping her hips, unreservedly thrusting back against the semi-tangible shape formed by Tula's power.

"Ahh, there... ahhh, ahhh!" Tula's hands were supporting her, keeping her head above water as her body shuddered, clenched tight, shuddered again, and finally drifted down to rest between Tula's legs.

For a moment Donna simply lay back, breathing deeply, feeling the warm aftershocks race through her skin as Tula ran her hands over Donna's body, a sensation more soothing than stimulating now. "...wow," she finally managed. "No wonder you asked for the extra-large bathtub."

Tula giggled softly. "Oh, it's more fun with someone else. I lose concentration after awhile, by myself."

"Oh?" Donna swiveled around to face her friend. "I haven't got your, um, magic touch, but I'll do what I can."

"Please." Tula's eyes were bright with desire, her body unconsciously leaning toward Donna.

Donna met her with a kiss and let her hands begin to roam, more gently this time. Tula arched into her caresses, voicing her approval without restraint. She didn't have to be tentative, Donna quickly found; Tula had no reservations about letting Donna know how she liked to be touched.

Which didn't stop Donna from discovering for herself the fact that Tula's breasts were apparently more sensitive than her own. The power coiled under Tula's skin, the strong curve of her hip. The startled laugh that turned into a moan as Donna pulled Tula across her lap and slid two fingers inside her.

"Say when," Donna teased, but Tula was already ahead of her.

"*Harder,*" Tula gasped, and Donna obeyed, reveling in the chance not to hold back for once, not to have to worry about fragile flesh unable to withstand even a touch of Amazon strength.

Her hands came up to grip Donna's shoulders and her head fell back as she groaned. Sweat gathered on her collarbones and Donna leaned in for a taste. She felt the ripple run through the length of Tula's body, felt her fingers squeezed with the strength of that pulse, and found herself laughing in delight at her friend's pleasure.

They disentangled from each other slowly. Tula's head slipped under the surface and Donna started to reach for her, then remembered. After a few moments Tula rose, dripping, smiling contentedly. "The water tastes like us, together."

Something like the smell of musk in the air, Donna guessed, breathed through Atlantean gills rather than human lungs. "I wish I could...see your world."

Tula's smile turned wistful. "So do I. There are such wonders I would show you. I--" and then she shook her head. "Let's get you out of this bath before you shrivel."

***

They lay together, lingering water droplets on their bodies cool in the night air drawn in by the Tower's recyclers. Donna pillowed her head contentedly on Tula's stomach. "Why didn't we ever do this before?"

Tula laughed softly, her fingers trailing through Donna's hair. "I can't think of a single good reason." She paused, then said, "But then I suppose your other lovers wouldn't have been too pleased."

"No, I don't suppose--" Donna stopped, considering, then turned over to look into Tula's face. "What do you mean, 'mine'? What about Garth?"

Donna could never think of Terry without at least an internal wince, but Tula never minded remembering her lost love.

Tula smiled, the look tinged with fond memory. "Garth loved you too, don't you know that? But he was too shy to ask you to be with us. And I wasn't familiar enough then to presume."

Donna stared at her. "Is that...you wanted...."

"I'm Atlantean, Donna, I don't play by landsmen rules." Her grin faded and she went on, more seriously, "I didn't want to offend you. I wasn't sure if you'd be interested...and I never wanted to intrude on your relationship with Terry or anyone else."

But the way she said it... "Are you saying you wanted...this...all these years?" It sounded so egotistical like that, surely Tula hasn't meant--

Tula looked at her calmly. "You're strong and beautiful and my friend. Why would I not want you? All of the boys loved you from the beginning, should I have been different?"

"I...I didn't know...." Donna said weakly, feeling suddenly uneasy. Here she'd thought she might find something uncomplicated, simple, and Tula was telling her--

"Donna!" Tula sat up and took her shoulders. "That was supposed to be a compliment, not an obligation! Stop it. Right now."

"But you..."

"But nothing. I'm glad you're here now. I'll still be glad in the morning. Should this never happen again I'll *still* be glad of it, because I've enjoyed myself and I know you have too." Tula shook her head. "Don't complicate it. It's not cheap because I love you, and you don't owe me anything because I love you. Just let me love you."

Donna put her face in her hands and started to laugh. It was that or cry. "Ohhh. I really am being silly."

"Yes." Tula's arms encircled Donna to hold her firmly. "But you're upset and the last thing I wanted to do was add to that."

"N-no, it's okay. I overreacted. I did-- I mean, I *knew* that, that's why I came here in the first place! I thought you meant...something else. Never mind." She smiled shakily. "It's been a really bad day."

Tula looked briefly furious. "Roy doesn't deserve you." Then, before Donna could respond, "But you don't want to think about that now, and I wasn't going to let you." There was that sly look again. "I'm not going to let you *think* about anything." Again with that casual strength, she eased Donna back down and started kissing her way down Donna's body.

She made good on her promise.

***

...and that, Donna thought dreamily, sprawled across the bed, was the difference between them. Donna worried; Tula *acted.* She was finally, finally relaxed, her body luxuriating in satiated contentment, her mind at peace.

Tula had gone down to the pool for a breath of water before she slept. Back in the old days, Tula and Garth hadn't even been able to stay for more than an hour on the surface without needing to run for the nearest body of water; now, with her new powers, Tula could live in Titans Tower and even sleep in a bed rather than at the bottom of the pool once she was suitably hydrated.

Those same new powers made her more than equal to anyone else on the team. Gar had cracked jokes about raindrops falling on their enemies' heads before he'd seen Tula casually flatten a regiment of Blood cultists with a crashing wall of water that somehow left them all undrowned. There were no more jokes after that.

But that was typical of her outlook, too. Hippolyta herself had welcomed Tula as an Amazon sister, and she'd seemed more at home on Themyscira than Donna herself ever felt. She could be as fierce as Kory, but where Starfire fought with blazing passion, Tula fought with cool precision. She could be as calculating as Dick in deepest Bat-mode, and even more ruthless when pushed.

Like Kory, she had killed. Donna's combat skills had been learned in sparring with her friends, and in battles against the Titans' super-villainous foes. Tula's expertise had been earned in war, in battles she'd led at an age before a landsman would be eligible to vote.

At the same time she had a serenity Kory could never match, a kind of stillness Donna associated with unshakeable self-confidence or deep religious faith. In Tula's case, she knew, it could very well be both. Diana had that kind of faith in her gods, who were supposed to be Donna's as well, and yet....

The door opened before she could begin thinking again about all the things she wasn't. Tula came in, once more having lost that excuse for a robe between the front door and the bedroom. "You look comfy. No, don't move, I'll just slide in here--" and she did, fitting around Donna like a blanket.

Tula was warm against her back and her breath was calm and even in Donna's ear and consciousness didn't seem worth clinging to any longer. "...'night, honey." Donna murmured, and in moments was asleep.

***

No matter how deeply and comfortably she'd slept, she couldn't escape the horror of...morning breath. So much for her "perfect Donna" image. She smiled at Tula's sleepily blinking face and peeled herself away. "Be right back."

A few minutes later she returned, feeling a little shy. "Um--"

"Hmm? Oh." Tula's look was both affectionate and ever-so-slightly amused. "After all this time, as if you'd have reason to be embarrassed. Never mind. Come back."

Donna snuggled into bed, Tula's arms wrapping around her. "I guess...it's silly, but I was sort of feeling like I took advantage of you last night."

Tula chuckled a little. "That's like--that story, what the rabbit said to the farmer. 'Please don't throw me into that briar patch.'" She kissed Donna's forehead. "I have no complaints, believe me. And Donna..." she tilted Donna's head up so she could see her eyes, "we're both aware of what this is, and what it isn't. You don't need to apologize, or feel guilty."

She smiled. "Okay." And just like that, she didn't.

"Good." They held each other for a long time in comfortable silence.

Soon enough, she'd have to go back out and face the rest of the team, try to help Dick hold it together and make peace where she could. Soon enough. But for right now--

She could rest in the arms of her friend who loved her, and be content.




{end}


Unnecessary detail:

So...there's this HUGE AU project that Falstaff came up with, and Carmen and I helped plot, and in all likelihood it's never going to be written. :p But one of the features of that other universe was that Garth died in Crisis rather than Tula. The image of a grown-up, mature and powerful Tula stuck with me and I wanted to play with her some more.

Tula is code-named Tsunami (she was granted the name by the WWII heroine) and she can...well, control water. ALL water. How? At roughly the same time that Garth in canon underwent his magical training with Atlan, Tula made a pact with Naiad, the spirit of the oceans in the DCU.

And "water control" means she can draw down rain, or generate a tidal wave, or dehydrate an enemy to the point of death with a touch. (All that aside from her bathtub tricks. ^_^ ) Add that to Atlantean strength and endurance and she (like her canon-reflection Tempest) is one of the most powerful Titans the AU team's ever had.

I like her, even if she's only in my head.




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