Dragon and Tempest

by 'rith


Archive: My page and DV page only.
Warnings: Jason is a potty-mouth.
Fandom: DCU, Dracoverse style. If Jason Todd hadn't died at the hands of the Joker, he might have grown up to become Draco, a 'one-eyed gimpy-legged green-Batman-looking dragon-wannabe,' in the words of his creator, KJ. Visit the Dracoverse at http://thundercrack.hispeed.com/dracoverse.htm for more background.
Disclaimer: This mouthy bastard fictive is KJ's [used with her permission] and she can take him back now, please, because he's an enormous pain. All other characters property of DC Comics. What I have done with them is mine.

Additional disclaimer: This is a NON-CANON Dracoverse fic; that is, certain elements may not fit KJ's original conception of the characters and events, and any Dracoverse fic by KJ or other approved DV writers should supercede the details herein.

Originally written over two years ago. Dracoverse timing: Set some time after the critical event in Dannell's "Draco Draconis" but before the framing element of that story. Takes place before KJ's "Here There Be."


*****

There's something about the guy that makes me...nervous.

Yeah, that's pretty funny, right? Considering. I mean, I got trained by the Batman; he pretty much *defines* the word 'intimidating.'

I'm not talking about being scared of him, or anything like that. Hell, no. It's only, he's so...quiet. It sort of creeps me out.

But for Dick's sake--well, Dick took me in after the dust-up with Bruce and helped me become Draco, so there isn't a hell of a lot I *wouldn't* do for Dick's sake.

And Dick's in love with him, so....

Okay, so that's still weird to me. You know, how two guys--well, I acted like a real asshole when I found out. Big surprise, right? But yeah, that's me. Show me a delicate situation and I'll be sure to fuck it up royally.

Anyway. I went off on them and said some awful things, and then ran. Just couldn't deal, you know? But they came after me, and he said--

Garth, I mean. Garth no-freakin'-last-name of Atlantis, the Titan formerly known as 'Aqualad.' Sheesh. Might as well have called him 'Water Boy,' 'cause the way I hear it, he was pretty useless to the old Titans since he couldn't stay out of water for more than an hour at a time. I mean, what are you gonna do with a guy like that? Hope the super-villains decide to attack the aquarium? 'Gee, Aqualad, there's some sushi that needs saving!' Gimme a break.

The thing is, somewhere along the line he got all these other powers, and oh yeah by the way he's strong enough to bend steel in his hands, and now he's called 'Tempest.' Not too shabby.

But like I was saying, Garth told me he'd been in love with Dick since he was, like, thirteen or something, and about what Dick meant to him, and by the time he was *done* talking I felt pretty much like a horse's ass. Which with my face isn't too far from the truth.

Good thing Dick's the forgiving type. I apologized and things went on like normal from there, if 'normal' means you get your jollies dressing up in spandex and beating up bad guys. I went back to the 'Haven and lived with them for a while longer while Dick went on teaching me how to be the best little Draco I could be. I made damned sure to *knock* before I opened their door after that, though.

Garth and I didn't have too much to say to each other. Still don't. Sure seems like we might have stuff in common. Both of us got dumped by our real families and pretty much had to raise ourselves--me on the streets of Gotham, him in the middle of the ocean. Lucky us, we were both adopted. And that's kind of funny too, because the big bad Batman and King Arthur-Orin-Aquaman-whateverthefuck he's calling himself today of Atlantis are both real strict guardian-types. Not real big on shows of affection, you know?

I've only heard maybe rumors, but I'll say *this* in his defense--at least Bruce never hit *me.*

But that's as far as the comparison goes, really. Garth joined up with the Titans, and besides what he's got with Dick, I've never seen anybody stick as close as those five. *Real* family, not the kind that dumps you when the going gets rough. 'Blood is thicker than water,' my ass. You don't get to choose who your parents and siblings are. Fight alongside someone every day, risk your life for 'em on a second's notice, *that's* real family.

He also met this Atlantean chick named Tula, and I guess they were really in love for a couple of years until she got killed in some big crisis. Sad, but I gotta envy him too--at least he *had* that.

Oh, boo-hoo. Shut the fuck up, Jays, no one cares. Yeah, I got taken in by Bruce and became Robin--as it turned out, a temporary stand-in between Dick Grayson the super-acrobat and Tim Drake the brain-boy. Me, I was a street punk who could fight dirty. Hell, I even teamed with the Titans for awhile, taking on that bitch Cheshire and Brother Blood. Whole time they kept looking at me and I kept looking over my shoulder, expecting to see Grayson there. I wasn't *their* Robin, I wasn't anywhere near as fast or smart or good as he was. They were nice enough, but...I could still see it. I got out of there soon as I could.

The rest is history, right? What the Joker did to me, and how Bruce said I could never be Robin again, and how I told him to fuck off and went to learn from Dick instead.

Which is why I'm standing here at the edge of Cape Carmine freezing my ass off, thinking about this stuff and waiting for Tempest to show up. I'd gotten a tip from Julius Dunn about a trade of heavy weapons going down at the harbor, and I meant to stop it. Crimefighting in the Corner is tough enough without facing grenade launchers and flamethrowers instead of good old-fashioned bullets.

A *lot* of ordinance. Too much for me to handle myself--I could admit that, sure.

Dick always said, call if you need help. So when I heard about the trade I'd swallowed my pride and called. Got one up on Bruce, who only calls Nightwing when he's really up the creek. No, wait, I forgot. He doesn't. Hence Jean-Paul Valley, that psycho Azrael. Batman really miscalculated on *that* one. Good idea, Bruce! Don't call the guy you've trained since he was a teenager to fill in for you, get this guy you barely know! And oh, yeah, never mind that he's been brainwashed into thinking he's a friggin' angel of vengeance!

And people tell me *I* don't think things through.

Anyway, I called down to the 'Haven. That conversation didn't go exactly as I'd thought, though.

{{"Hello?"

"Yeah, hey Dick, it's Jays."

"Oh, hey. What's up?"

"I've got this situation, a big weapons' buy goin' down, I wondered if you could give me a hand."

*pause* "When is it?"

"Tonight. Sorry about the short notice, I just heard--"

"Damn. Jays, I *can't--I've got a case here in the 'Haven that's coming to a head pretty quick. You know I would if I could get away--"

I heard someone else say something, muffled over the line, and it didn't take a brain surgeon to figure out who it had to be. Dick answered--he must have put his hand over the receiver, 'cause I couldn't make it out--and after a minute his voice came back on. "Garth says he can be there in under half an hour, if you want."

Dick's tone was neutral, leaving the decision up to me. Hell, I could be adult about this. "Yeah, sure, that'd be great. Tell him it's tonight, 'round midnight. "

"Okay. Be careful, Jays."

"My middle name, man." Which was pretty ironic, but whatever.

Dick snorted. "Sure. Good luck." }}

But it bugged me a little, you know? That he'd be so willing to help me. Why the fuck does he care? Must be a superhero thing. They kick you out of the union if you don't help out.

Half-past eleven exactly, I saw a hand reach up to grab the dock and Garth pulled himself up onto the pier. He glanced around, searching, and I took pity on him and waved to him from the shadows. He nodded in response. "Hello, Jason."

"Hey, man. Call me Draco when I'm working, would ya?" I walked over and frowned. He smelled sort of...pungent, and it only took me a sec to realize why. "Damn, how can you stand swimming in that sludge?"

He shrugged. "I brought up clean water from deeper down to clear a path, but...." He didn't say it, but his expression was clear enough. Still, he refrained from the 'you surfacers polluting the oceans' speech, which I appreciated. I'd caught one of those in Aquaman's address to the UN. Made me feel like I was personally responsible for destroying the earth. Sheesh. I do my part, all right? Put out the recycling and all that.

I'd explained the sitch and now we were waiting for the gunrunners to converge. Figured it'd be easy, right? Two of us, he had *powers* even, no sweat.

Meanwhile we had to wait, and I've never learned how to do that as patiently as Dick or Bruce. Drives me nuts. Especially with someone else standing there.

I hate quiet. "So, uh...how's Nightwing?"

"Well." He glanced over at me. "You should come by more often, Ja--Draco. Believe it or not, we miss having you around."

I'll be damned. Guy has a sense of humor after all.

Actually, he *did*--now. I'd almost forgotten, but Garth was there too when the Titans fought Cheshire, though he was so quiet I hardly noticed. Not the way he is now, but...scary-quiet. Suicidal. That was right after Tula died, I think. When Donna went to talk to him, he just said, "I'll do whatever you guys want. I really don't care what I do anymore."

...I know how he felt.

I thought...after the Joker, I thought I was useless, and when I tried to pick myself up and be Robin again the Batman stomped *that* idea down flat. No second chances with the Bat. Dick got 'fired' after a case with Two-Face went bad, I got blown up and discarded. Better watch your step, Timmy-boy, one screw-up and you're history.

Yeah, like *that'll* happen. Kid is mini-Bruce. Too damn smart for his own good.

Huh. I guess...that's weird. Sort of like Garth an' me both owe Dick for the same thing--I mean, he'd said that Dick was there for him after Tula's death, letting him know he wasn't...alone--

"Draco?"

Gar--Tempest's voice broke me out of my thoughts, which was good, 'cause they'd been getting too melancholy for words. "Yeah, 'm fine."

"All right." And then his mouth quirked a little, and he said in this drawl that sounded exactly like Roy, "Waiting *sucks.*"

That about floored me. I cracked up, doubling over, and nearly missed the flashes of light from the headlights that appeared a couple hundred yards down the pier. I felt the adrenaline start to flow. "Showtime."

We waited long enough for all the buyers and sellers to arrive and establish their bona-fides. When they started to haul the merchandise out of the car trunks, we *moved.*

First couple of minutes went smooth. I launched myself right in, takin' out the bodyguards before they could go for their guns. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Tempest heat up the weapon boxes so they couldn't get to the heavy stuff, then start taking the goons out one by one, purple energy blasts from his eyes or superhuman strength that'd put them out with one restrained blow. I caught a couple with a tear-gas grenade, that evened our score, and soon there were more guys on the ground than standing. Some of the smarter ones looked like they were ready to surrender, make my job easier, and that's when a line of fire traced itself across my shoulder.

I threw myself down and rolled, looking desperately for the shooter. Damn, damn *lucky* Draco, that could've gone through your *head.* I scanned around and saw two things at once: the shooter, and Tempest.

There was this *look* in his eyes--

Oh, fuck.

I'd never seen Garth get mad. Figured he was too damn calm all the time to get worked up about anything.

But there was this *energy* coming off of him, and I swear to Christ his eyes were *glowing* with that weird violet color. He snarled something I didn't understand--probably Atlantean--and he waved his left hand and the guy screamed and dropped the gun. It *shattered* when it hit the dock. But the guy was still screaming, moaning rather, folding into a ball and I realized--

I shouted as loud as I could. "Tempest, STOP!"

Almost immediately the energy flickered out and Garth looked around, seeming a little stunned. "Wh-- No." He went over to the downed guy and felt for his pulse. "Only unconscious. Thank Pallais. Call for an ambulance, Draco."

I did, the scene replaying through my head. Left hand meant cold. He'd been *freezing* the water in the guy's veins. I'd never seen him do anything that--vicious before. I didn't know he *could!*

The next hour or so went by with all the usual; ambulances and police everywhere, cleaning up the mess, taking the men and the evidence into custody. Tempest and I stayed well out of sight. I slapped a patch on the bullet graze and then watched to make sure they got everything squared away. Garth was silent.

Finally it was all done and I didn't have to be quiet anymore. "What the hell was that? You almost killed that guy."

"I lost my temper." No inflection.

"Yeah, I got that, but *why?!* I mean, shit, in this job you get shot at about every day...."

"Do you?"

"Well, yeah. Okay, maybe not every day, but close enough."

He sighed, shrugged, and looked--embarrassed? "I understand the reality. I hadn't seen that before, not with you. You were--very close to death, Draco."

My stomach was starting to get this weird sinking feeling. What was going on, here? "Well, I sure as hell appreciate you taking that guy out, but you almost *killed* him."

He just *looked* at me. "Did you think Nightwing was the only one who cared about you, Jason?"

I probably looked like I'd gotten hit with a two-by-four. "Uh...."

"Yes. Well. I don't care to see my family threatened. You are that, whether you choose to believe it or not."

So picture this: Here's me, blinking at him stupidly, and he's *saying* this stuff in that even, 'How can you *not* have figured this out by now' tone. And I'm too slow to even *think* of anything to say, so he shakes his head and says in that too-casual 'let's be professional' voice, "Are we done here, Draco?"

Oh, I was way past done. "Y-yeah."

"Fine. Call if anything else comes up." Then he was gone, diving into the dark water of the Cape before I could pull myself together enough to say, "Wait."

But that was okay, because I didn't have the damnedest idea what I might have said.


*****

It wasn't 'til a lot later that I let myself think about it.

''Family.' Not the father who left before I ever got to know him and the mother who abandoned me to the Joker, that's for sure. Bruce adopted me but I sure as hell never felt like his real 'son.' Nearest Bruce has to that is Dick. Bruce felt responsible for me, I guess, but we *never* did the father-and-son thing. Ever.

Dick calls me his brother and I can handle that. Okay, so he's the older brother from hell who's all but perfect and I know I'll never live up to his example, but he doesn't *act* like that. He takes my shit and helps me when I need it. 'Brother.' It's a pretty cool concept.

But what was I to Garth that he'd consider me family?

If it were for Dick's sake, I could understand that. But that wasn't what he said.

I was the snot-nosed punk who shoved himself into their lives after the fall-out with Bruce. I intruded into their time and even after I'd gotten over the 'gay' thing I was pretty much a brat. I didn't like Garth trying to 'understand' me. I didn't want his sympathy. I was selfish as hell with Dick's attention.

And he still considered me family. Then what the fuck am I supposed to be to *him?* Little whiny brother? Bastard cousin? What?

I didn't want to be *obligated* to feel--

But that was the point. I wasn't. He cared whether I gave a crap or not.

And that means...that means....

I don't know *what* the hell it means!

Maybe nothing. I mean, his feelings are none of my business, right? And--and I'm probably reading too much into it anyway. Like I have any idea how he really thinks. He's not even *human,* for cripes' sake.

...Sure. Right.

Fuck it, I'm not thinking about it any more.


*****

(a month or so later)

Dick rewound the message on the answering machine with a bemused expression. "You're not gonna believe this."

"Hmm?" Garth padded over. "I heard Jason's voice, I assumed it was for you."

"Yeah, that's what makes it--here, listen." He hit 'play' again.

"Hey, guys, it's me." As if that voice, all teenage annoyance barely held in check, could belong to anyone else. "There's this thing this Saturday, Barry decided we needed to have a barbeque at the garage. And, uh, we're all supposed to invite friends, it's a big deal. Anyway I was wondering if you wanted to come." An infinitesimal pause. "Both of you. I mean. If you're not busy or anything. Let me know, okay?" Click.

Garth blinked. Dick laughed. "That's virtually an engraved invitation to you, right there. I think I'm in shock."

"You and me both." Garth started to smile, only slightly sardonically. "It would be nice if I stopped hearing 'you Atlantean bastard' at the end of everything he says to me."

"Yeah. I know." Dick shook his head. "I wonder what brought this on."

Garth reached out and squeezed Dick's shoulder. "I wouldn't worry about it. Maybe he's starting to grow up."

They looked at each other for a moment, then grinned simultaneously. "Never happen."


{end}





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