Sea and Sky:

Foundering

by SKH



©April 2002
Rating: NC-17
Characters: Nightwing, Tempest
Continuity: Kerithwyn's fanfic slash-saga, Sea and Sky
Thanks to J.C. for the "Alfred's liniment" bit from "Just Another Day"
Disclaimer: Above-mentioned characters are owned by DC Comics. No profit is realized from creation of stories based on these characters.
Comments and feedback are welcome to SKHwrite@cranky-dog.com


A near-naked Nightwing stood shivering on the transport ship's deck. Stripped of his uniform, gauntlets, and boots — leaving him clad only in his mask and black Speedo briefs — he showed no emotion as he was tightly bound. Rough nylon rope bit into the flesh of his arms, pulled behind him and wrapped constrictively from elbows to wrists. His ankles were likewise bound, in addition to the heavy chain that was now being secured to the undercarriage of one of the hundreds of stolen vehicles that made up the ship's cargo.

Nightwing had been investigating the epidemic of stolen vehicles over a five county area, including Haven and Gotham. He had worked his way up from street-level car theft rings up to his present company, enforcers from the Kandinski family, Blüdhaven's chapter of the Transbelvian mafia.

He wouldn't be in his current predicament if he hadn't felt compelled to make his presence on the ship known. From an unseen viewpoint inside the ship's cargo hold, Nightwing had been looking over the stolen cars when it happened — the harness on the vehicle being lowered into the hold broke. Darting out of his shadowy observation post, Nightwing shoved a crewman out of the way of the plummeting quarter-ton of death. The man would have been crushed if not for the vigilante. Nightwing received a glancing blow to his right hip by the car for his efforts.

Exposed, Nightwing had been immediately targeted and besieged by several armed mobsters. Still, they were no match for the Blüdhaven hero. Nightwing had gotten the best of them when Kandinski Lieutenant Mikki Jannek shouted to him from several feet away. The grim-faced Jannek held a gun to the head of the shaken crewman Nightwing had just risked his life for. He threatened to spill the man's brains if Nightwing didn't stand down.

"I say we pop a cap in his punk-ass," one of Jannek's men had snarled as two of his fellow thugs roughly subdued the vigilante. The man's face had been bloodied, courtesy of one of Nightwing's roundhouse kicks.

Surveying the damaged car with disgust, Jannek turned his gaze back to their captive. "I have a better idea for this so-called hero," he'd smirked, still pointing his handgun at the terrified crewman's head.

Nightwing watched Jannek's finger begin to squeeze the trigger. Knowing he would need freedom to move, a diversion, and a split second of time, Nightwing had activated the taser webbing in his suit. The resulting electric shock had thrown his two burly captors violently backward. Nightwing lunged forward, palming and throwing one of his customized batarangs at Jannek.

Jannek was pivoting to fire at the oncoming Nightwing when the projectile struck him in the shoulder. The gun had discharged, its bullet smashing into Nightwing's Kevlar-protected right thigh. The impact knocked his leg out from under him, and he rolled with the fall. Before Nightwing could rise to his feet, another thug smashed him in the back of the head with the butt of a shotgun.

Nightwing had come-to on the deck of the ship, his clothing and equipment removed, as Jannek's mooks bound him securely. Darkness had fallen, and the ship was now headed for open water.

"What's the matter, hero, are you cold?" taunted the same thug who had earlier endorsed blowing Nightwing's head off. The man sneered and threw Nightwing's suit, gauntlets, and boots overboard.

"Not as cold as you are stupid, asshole," Nightwing replied.

The man rushed over to the bound vigilante, his pistol drawn, and shoved it in Nightwing's face.

"Mikki, let me kill him now," the man angrily spat.

Jannek waved his brother back. "No, Pierko. Shooting him is too easy. He's caused trouble and spilled blood. I want him to think about that as he's drowning." Jannek stepped in front of Nightwing, standing close enough for Nightwing to feel his breath on his face. "If anyone recovers your body — and I doubt they will — I want them to see your pathetic little mask as the only testament to your doomed crusade, hero."

Nightwing's only response was to head-butt the mobster in the face.

"Stupid Fuck!" Pierko Jannek screamed as he smashed the butt of his pistol across Nightwing's cheek.

The vigilante dropped to his bare knees, shaking off the wave of pain and disorientation. His action, though resulting in a predictably painful retaliation, served a purpose. With his arm and leg gear gone, Nightwing's only method of communication was the tiny vid-cam configuration in his mask, which he had hands-free activated with his violent contact with Mikki Jannek's face. Hopefully it was undamaged, and hopefully it was transmitting a signal to Oracle.


Garth carefully picked over a pile of fresh avocados. He picked up one and then another, giving each a little shake, testing for ripeness. Unannounced and ahead of schedule, Garth had returned to Blüdhaven from an ambassadorial business trip. Noting the characteristically sparse contents of Dick Grayson's refrigerator, Garth had set out for one of the few pleasant places he'd found that the old whaling city had to offer — a fresh market that had been converted from an old riverside warehouse and dock. The sun had been down for about a half hour, and the market began to surge with some of Blüdhaven's newer young professional residents. Products of the post-earthquake gentrification, they also were taking the time to shop after work.

Placing his selection in a hand-held basket, Garth stepped outdoors to look over the dockside tables. The temperature began to drop as twilight settled on the market. Twinkling lights illuminated potted ornamental trees, giving the place a less gloomy and foreboding atmosphere than was the norm in Blüdhaven. In another hour the market would be closed, though. The shoppers would hopefully be ensconced in the relative safety of their homes, leaving the streets to the dangers that stalked there.

But stalking the danger in return would be Blüdhaven's young guardian, Nightwing. Garth smiled at the thought as he cast his eyes over the darkening waters of the river. Dick would be surprised at his unexpected homecoming, and Garth would greet his weary but happy lover with food and affection, and later....

The sound of his Titans' communicator interrupted Garth's thoughts. The "civilian model" Dick had given Garth was a sleek, pressure resistant diver's watch. Garth set his basket down and walked toward the end of the pier, away from the other shoppers as he responded to the call.

"Yes?" he answered.

"Oh, thank goodness! Garth, I need your location and availability. We have a situation."

"What's the emergency, Barbara? I'm at the market. The one by the river."

"I'm getting spotty video transmission from Nightwing. He's on a case and it looks like he's in a little bit of a jam. How fast can you get into the water?"

Garth looked over his shoulder at the preoccupied shoppers, then stepped to the edge of the pier and looked into the dark water. "About one second. Where is he?"

"On an outbound freighter, the 'Mariposa,' about five miles off the coast and headed southeast."

"I'm on my way."

Garth dove off the pier into the murky blackness.


Rough hands grasped Nightwing beneath his armpits and yanked him to his feet. A forklift approached the damaged automobile Nightwing was chained to. Its forks crashed through the windows, lifting the car from the deck.

Mikki Jannek, now sporting a growing shiner, gestured to the forklift driver to move the car toward the edge of the ship. Crewmembers removed a section of the railing, making room for the car to be "offloaded."

Jannek's men dragged Nightwing closer to the side of the ship along with the vehicle. Just before they all reached the edge, Jannek signaled the forklift driver to stop. The car was lowered to just above the surface of the deck.

"I hope you can hold your breath, hero," the Transbelvian snarled. "And just to be a good sport, you won't be down there alone."

Jannek motioned to his brother. Pierko, grinning maliciously, opened the car's trunk. Inside lay the body of the crewman Nightwing had risked his case and life for, shot through the temple. Rage bubbled up inside the vigilante. He pushed up into the support of the thugs who held him fast, swinging his legs out to smash into Pierko's jaw, sending the man flying backward. Nightwing's only regret was that the trajectory wasn't right to send the filthy swine over the ship's edge first.

Furious at Nightwing's assault on his younger brother, Mikki Jannek screamed, "Push it over now!!"

The forklift whined, the car groaned and disappeared over the edge of the ship. Dropped to the deck by his handlers, Nightwing braced himself for the painful pursuit of the falling vehicle. His bare skin scraped over the rough decking before the bottom dropped out from beneath him.

Nightwing had only a split-second to anticipate how and where to contort his body to avoid falling on top of the car when it hit. He knew the car wouldn't submerge immediately, and impact with the water's surface — while not unlike smashing into concrete from the height from which he'd been dropped — was still preferable to hitting the automobile.

And that impact came as hard as Nightwing had expected. He managed to twist just enough to land beside the car, the wind knocked out of him, and body slammed with excruciating pain. He fought mightily to stay conscious, despite his agony. His next sensation was the icy cold of the water, and the steady tug of the chains binding his legs. The car began sinking faster now. Nightwing had only a moment to gasp a precious lungful of air before he disappeared beneath the black surface of the ocean.

For a few seconds he struggled valiantly to loosen his bonds. Without the tools compartmentalized in his gauntlets and boots, though, he had no way to cut or burn his way to freedom.

Thoughts raced through Nightwing's head as he was pulled downward into the murky cold: he estimated the depth of the ocean, how long it might take before reaching the bottom, wondered how long he could hold his breath as the water pressure increased, if was Babs watching....

Oh shit. If his mask's video signal was transmitting, she would be watching... and she'd be witnessing the last thing he would see. Lungs burning, Nightwing imagined how she would tell Bruce, Alfred—

— Garth....

"Oh, love," Dick thought of his Titans companion, friend and lover, "I'm so sorry...."

The increasing pressure of the ocean's depths constricted Dick's chest, forcing him to gradually expel the lungful of air he'd fought so hard to retain. He was starving for oxygen, freezing from the bone-chilling water, and still he traveled downward. He had no concept now of how long he'd been in the water, no concentration left to calculate the speed of his decent.

Fireworks of red and white exploded in his mind as his brain began the process of shutting down his body's functions. Dick could no longer feel his limbs, or the motion of his decent. He clutched at his fragmented thoughts as he had grasped the trapeze bar the first time he had flown in practice, with his father. Sadness washed through his barely conscious mind as images of his life with his parents, with Bruce, the Titans, Tim, Barbara, and Garth raced along his failing neurons.

Without knowing it, Dick exhaled the last of the stale air as the crushing depths embraced him, taking possession of another drowning soul.

o
Oo
O
O
o

And then a curious sensation of warmth began to envelop Dick. His mind's dying spectrum brightened from dark red to a vivid purple. Though he was certain — as certain as his failing brain could be — that his eyes were closed, a spectral vision approached him from afar. It grew from a tiny indigo pinpoint to a splendid, angelic appearance of purple and white.

"Beautiful. So beautiful. Love. My love. Mine." More a spiritual sensation than a cognitive thought, Dick's vision took on the appearance of his beautiful Atlantean mage, his friend and lover. His Garth.

Dick's spectral lover approached him and softly pressed warm and tender lips to his. Tiny explosions of light ignited in Dick's brain. He pushed instinctively into that kiss with the last of his strength.

No longer sinking, Dick floated, suspended in a warm, purple womb, casually breathing...something...as if he'd done it all his life. His vision-Garth pulled back and smiled, violet eyes warm and welcoming. Dick smiled back, then laughter bubbled giddily out of him. It was Garth, truly, but how??...

Oracle. Babs. Dick grinned.

For a few precious seconds, Garth vanished below, into the darkness beyond Dick's bound legs. The vehicular anchor Dick was chained to seemed to stabilize in its descent. Curious, Dick's eyes followed Garth. His visual acuity in the salt water was now heightened — another benefit of the Atlantean mage's life-giving spell. The weight of the sunken car no longer pulled at Dick. He watched as Garth quickly attached flotation devices — inflated by cartridges of compressed air — to the submerged vehicle.

Garth then swam back up to Dick and joyfully placed his hands on Dick's face. He kissed Dick again, much warmer than the first time. Willingly, Dick opened his mouth to receive Garth's tongue, yielding to the lingering oral caress. Garth's hands left Dick's face to slide sensually along the sides of his neck. They moved to Dick's shoulders and down his arms, leaving a tingling trail as nerve endings responded to invigorating heat. Dick interrupted their kiss with a smile. He imagined Garth's hands were leaving a phosphorescent trail along his body, like the bioluminescent "pixie dust" effect they had seen on their last magic-enhanced deep water sojourn. The thought was silly. The memory was enchanting.

Garth's lips moved to Dick's throat and paused over the pulsing artery. His teeth nipped expertly at the familiar, sensitive spot. Dick was rapt with the pleasure of it and shuddered, not for the chill of the water. When Garth released his throat Dick ached with want. His heart was pounding, his blood coursing, his temperature — and something else — rising. Garth's mouth traveled lightly down Dick's collarbone to his chest. Nimble lips and tongue suckled hungrily on Dick's nipples, sending an electrical charge surging throughout his body, but primarily to his awakening genitals.

Dick lowered his head to watch his lover as Garth's hands now slid down his torso to his thighs. Dick winced and contracted as Garth reached his injured leg, though the mage's hands were gentle. Dick knew Garth was warming him, pulling him out of the clutches of hypothermia. Garth's violet gaze found and locked with Dick's eyes, apologetic in their expression. He wrapped his arms around Dick's hips, resting his cheek against the swelling heaviness of Dick's sex through the thin undergarment. Growing impatient with the bonds on his arms and legs, Dick squirmed. Garth looked up again, and grinned. He pressed a kiss to Dick's barely clad cock, and descended farther to address the chains around Dick's ankles.

A white flash indicated Garth's breaking the heavy links with his bare hands, thanks to concentrated, rapid heating and cooling of the metal. A second later, Dick was kicking his legs free, moving away from the car. It remained stationary, hovering tomblike in the blackness. Dick offered a silent, somber prayer for the murdered crewman who lay in the trunk of the car. The man's body would be recovered and returned to his family, as well as to provide further evidence of the Janneks' crimes.

Dick was again pulled into the Atlantean's arms and held tenderly in a loving embrace. Garth's lips nuzzled Dick's ear, then found Dick's mouth again. The lovers' kiss lasted the lengthy duration of their ascent to the ocean's surface. As impatient as Dick was to be completely freed from his bondage, he wasn't about to complain. He didn't have long to wait, though, before Garth — reaching around him — snapped the nylon rope tying Dick's limbs. Relieved, Dick raised his sore arms, linking them appreciatively around Garth's neck.

When Dick and Garth broke the surface of the ocean into wind-whipped waves, they were immediately bathed in a flood of light from above. With one arm around Dick's waist, Garth grabbed a suspended rope ladder with the other. Dick didn't have to ask where the ladder came from, or to where they would be lifted. Nor had he questioned the origin of the flotation devices that now preserved the precious evidence of murder and attempted-murder. Dick merely grabbed the ladder's rungs and began hand-over-hand pulling himself up far enough to get a landing with his good foot. Garth was right behind him, gripping the ladder and holding his teammate securely as the ladder retracted toward the hovering Batcopter.

The two Titans were barely inside the copter when Nightwing yelled hoarsely to the pilot, "Drop a marker!" A green-gloved hand signaled a "thumbs-up" and a flashing strobe/global-positioning satellite tracking marker dropped into the black water beneath them. Garth slid the door of the Batcopter closed.

"I don't suppose you brought me a suit!" Nightwing shouted to Batman's junior partner. Robin skillfully maneuvered the aircraft away from Nightwing's foundering site.

"Co-pilot's seat!" Robin replied, grinning broadly. "Oracle and I thought you were a goner, bro! Welcome back!"

Dick started for the copilot's seat, then halted and turned to his fellow Titan and lover. He smiled, gripped Garth by the back of the neck and pulled the Atlantean to him, locking lips joyfully. He released his grip, sliding his hand around to cup Garth's cheek.

"In case I forgot to say so, 'thank you'," Dick smiled.

Garth's hand closed over Dick's. He turned to kiss his lover's still-cold palm. "Tell me again during our debriefing," he replied.

Dick opened his mouth to retort, but Garth held up his finger, shushing the smirking wisecrack before it had a chance to emerge into vocalization.

"Get dressed. Unless it's slipped your mind, you're still freezing cold."

Dick's happy, crooked grin was his tacit comeback, and he reached between the aircraft's seats to grab his clothing.

Robin glanced at Nightwing, his toothy grin still in place. "Dude. Turn the mask-cam off. Oracle's getting aaalll this on disk."

Dick's response was to lay a salty smacker on his younger brother-in-arms' cheek. "What can I say, little bro'... I am the 'greatest show on earth!'" He touched the side of his mask to terminate the micro video feed. Before he disappeared into the back of the 'copter, Nightwing — his tone growing more grim — issued a request to the young pilot. "Buzz that ship, Robin!"

"You got it! You'll have company, though. Oracle's already notified the Coast Guard. Look!"

Nightwing glanced out the windshield of the cockpit at the Mariposa. She was flanked by three Coast Guard cutters, their emergency beacons flashing and floodlights trained on the ship. The Blüdhaven vigilante quickly pulled his suit on, barely conscious of the stinging scrapes on his body, and the deep, painful bruising of his right leg and hip.

The Batcopter had barely reached the Mariposa when Nightwing launched himself out of the doorway, swinging lithely down to the deck on a decel line. Tempest followed, sliding down the same jumpline as the Batcopter hovered above the ship. Robin radioed a Coast Guard cutter below him, to notify them of the location beacon he'd dropped to mark the stabilized sunken automobile.

The armed Coast Guard boarding parties had already secured the ship's bridge and were rounding up the crew, bringing them all topside. Nightwing approached the commander of the Guard's crew. He scanned the growing complement of the Mariposa crew and Transbelvian thugs. Mikki Jannek glowered at him from out of the crowd. Nightwing saw Jannek's gaze shoot upward momentarily. The mobster smirked. In a split-second, Nightwing spun, locating Pierko Jannek on an upper deck of the ship's superstructure. He palmed and threw a Batarang with deadly accuracy. The projectile hit the rifle, which was aimed at the Coast Guard crewmen. A shot discharged, harmlessly deflected. The bullet struck a section of deck beyond the crowd.

Pierko, however, lost his balance and, screaming, pitched over the railing toward the deck below. Nightwing was faster, though. He fired off a line and went airborne. Nightwing caught the younger Jannek brother before the man could splatter onto the deck. As Nightwing landed with his cargo, the strong smell of urine hit his nose. In his terror, Jannek had voided his bladder.

"Hey, ass-wipe! You pissed yourself!" Nightwing snarled, pushing Pierko away from him.

Still trembling with fear, Pierko looked down at his soaked crotch. Nightwing's foot shot out, smashing the Transbelvian thug in the chin. The man flew backward, landing heavily and unconscious on the deck.

"Made ya look, you piece of shit," Nightwing muttered as he turned to go back to the Guard commander. He passed an armed officer who rushed to take custody of the younger Jannek. "He's all yours, pal," Nightwing quipped with a short wave of his hand.

Limping slightly from the aggravated pain in his right leg and hip, Nightwing continued into the throng of the Mariposa's crew who stood under guard. His eyes never left Mikki Jannek, who tried unsuccessfully to disappear into the group. Nightwing launched himself at the Transbelvian.

The Coast Guard cutter commander started to protest, but was stopped by Tempest's extended arm. "I don't see anything. Do you see anything, sir?" Tempest casually queried.

The commander turned his gaze away from the screaming thug to look at the Atlantean Titan. "See what?" he replied, the corner of his mouth turned slightly upward.

Before Nightwing had completed his "interrogation" of Mikki Jannek, the murderer had one-upped his younger brother, losing control of both bladder and bowels.

Nightwing rejoined his teammate, limping painfully on his injured leg now. After the two Titans gave statements to the Coast Guard commander, Nightwing and Tempest made their way to the Batcopter's unfurled rope ladder. Nightwing stoically refused assistance, despite the growing pain in his leg.

However, after they were several feet above the deck, retracting toward the hovering Batcopter, Nightwing allowed himself a fatigued smile. "Can we go home now?" he wearily asked his teammate.

Tempest gripped Nightwing's wrist as the ladder rose. "I think that's a good idea," he agreed with relief.


It hadn't taken long for the Teen Wonder, with the Batcopter running on stealth mode, to drop the Titans off for an unseen landing on the rooftop of Dick Grayson's apartment building. Moments later, Dick and Garth walked through the disguised passageway between Dr. Fledermaus' and Dick's apartments.

Dick crossed the living room to his computer, to check in with Oracle, confirming what she already knew from Robin to be a successful rescue and arrest.

"Looks like I owe you again, Red," Dick grinned, peeling off his uniform shirt.

"Just leave the computer's vid-cam on while you shed those britches and we'll call it quits, Hunk-Wonder," Barbara laughed.

Garth reached around Dick and waved his fingers, glowing like St. Elmo's fire, at the monitor. "I'm afraid we're experiencing technical difficulty, Oracle," he laughed as the onscreen image wavered and faded.

"I get the picture," Barbara's voice crackled with static. "Or rather, I don't..." Her image and voice faded to black as the Atlantean shut down the computer. Turning his concerned gaze on Dick, he spoke almost reproachfully.

"You need warmth. Shower. Now. Then we'll attend to your... injuries."

Dick pulled off his mask and eased down onto the couch. He chuckled softly, "I have a LOT of boo-boos to kiss, O Caretaker of Mine."

Dick bent to pull off his boots, exposing the angry scrapes along his back where he'd been dragged across the deck of the ship. Garth slowly began to remove his own clothing, eyeing his beloved with concern. The injuries that he'd been too preoccupied to give much notice to earlier were revealed as Dick undressed. Dick wearily lay back to lift up his hips to push his leggings down over his ass, revealing a large, black and spreading bruise on his right hip that contrasted with his fair skin. Again Dick winced and sucked in his breath as he slid the tight fabric over the painful contusion.

"Wait," Garth pleaded, "let me help with the rest of that." He knelt and slowly eased the leggings down further to expose the ugly, deep bruise from the Kevlar-diffused gunshot. Garth's slightly audible gasp of surprise followed, unexpected and unintended.

Propping himself up on his elbows, Dick first observed the bruises. He curiously considered them to be sort of artful — even if they hurt like a bitch — but certainly not the worst of the career injuries he had suffered over the years. He then looked at Garth, whose tender compassion was written all over the man's face. The quip that had been on Dick's lips about needing help undressing, died there as Dick remembered — and then appreciated — he now had a partner who didn't routinely treat near-fatal injuries as casually as a mosquito bite.

Dick sat up. Spreading his legs, he pulled Garth between them, bent and embraced his rescuer. He rested his cheek against the soft, black curls of his lover's head as he stroked Garth's cheek. In return, Garth's arms encircled Dick's waist.

"A successful mission is one where you come home alive, you know. I have that on the highest, pointy-eared authority." Dick's voice was deep and soft, reverberating in Garth's ear that was pressed to the Former Boy Wonder's chest.

Garth pressed a kiss to Dick's chest before rising to his feet. Taking his partner's hands in his, he pulled the bruised hero to his feet, then whisked off the leggings and the small, thong undergarment, leaving Dick gloriously naked, if slightly goose-pimply.

"Shower together now?" Garth asked quietly.

The loud growl from Dick's abdomen was the obvious answer. Giving the Atlantean a lopsided grin, Dick patted his tummy and shook his head. "Nah, if I get in that shower with you I probably won't come out conscious, and I'm starvin'! And I'm sure you've noticed I have totally nada in the fridge, too."

"Yes, I noticed, and I was in the process of procuring something to feed us when Oracle called me," Garth answered, amusement overtaking his immediate concern for Dick's injuries.

Dick shrugged culpably. "I've got a twenty in the pocket of my jacket on the back of the door," he gestured, "and 'The Excellent Dumpling' delivers. What I'd reallllly like is to do the 'three-s's' and then have whatever Chinese food you decide to order." Dick leaned forward to capture Garth's full lips with his own in a hungry kiss. Stepping back, he winked, grabbed his cock in his hand, waggled it impishly at his companion, and strode toward the connecting passageway.

Calling back over his shoulder, Dick announced, "I'll clean up in the next apartment and gather up the stuff to work on my boo-boos. See you in a few!"


'Three-S's.' Shit-shower-and-shave. A crude expression Dick had learned from the circus roustabouts somewhere during his early childhood. It was certainly a phrase he quickly learned never to repeat in the presence of Wayne Manor's major domo, Alfred Pennyworth. But it was necessary, and once completed, Dick Grayson felt like a new, though very weary, human being. And while the offer to join his lover in the hot, steamy water was almost too tempting, Dick had wanted to check out his battle-wounds without causing Garth any more alarm than he already had. Sometimes stoicism could only take a Dark Squire so far.

Clad only in loose, cotton-knit work-out pants, Dick stepped through the clandestine doorway between the gym/workshop/medical facility that was officially Dr. Fledermaus' apartment, and his own living space. The fragrance of the newly delivered meal of Chinese take-out wafted past his nose, leading him back to the couch in the living room. Garth was arranging their dinner on the coffee table. He had also considerately arranged pillows for Dick to recline there.

"My hero," Dick smiled appreciatively as he deposited his handful of medical supplies on the end table.

"Hm. I'm not sure if that would be for this evening's rescue or for ordering our dinner," Garth replied with dry amusement. Showered, shirtless and wearing a pair of black silk pajama pants, Garth picked up a bottle of wine and began to open it.

Dick eased sorely onto the end of the couch with the propped up pillows. "I didn't know the 'Dumpling' delivered wine," he grinned. "I'll have to go easy on that stuff or I'll be out like a light before I have a chance to thank you properly for tonight."

Garth gave a low chuckle. "I'll go easy on you, in all respects." He poured a glass of the Merlot and handed it to Dick. "Sip. Slowly. And what's that you brought out with you?"

Dick accepted the glass, picked up a tube of antibiotic ointment and held it out to Garth. "I thought maybe you could get the places I couldn't reach," he said, sipping from his glass to disguise the sly grin creeping across his lips.

Garth gave Dick a skeptical look as he accepted the ointment. "I've seen you twist into boneless contortions, my acrobrat! I don't believe there's a centimeter of your body you can't put your hands on!"

"C'mon, Garth, work with me here. I was shooting for adorably wounded and needful," Dick smirked.

"It worked, of course," Garth smiled. He sat next to Dick and pulled him forward just a bit to gain access to the long, angry scrape on his back.

"I know," Dick grinned smugly. "I was forced to hone my acting skills on the two stoniest, most impassive and unimpressionable men in the world." He reached out and grabbed a spring roll from a plate on the table.

"Oh you're skillful, I'll grant you that." Garth began to apply the slick ointment to the ugly scrape on Dick's back.

"Yep. A born talent," Dick winked, turning his head so that Garth could see him slowly and suggestively lick and suckle the phallus-shaped food. Mischievous sapphire eyes teased his caregiver as Dick finally popped the entire roll into his mouth, devouring it with gusto.

Garth laughed, capped the tube of antibiotic cream in his defeat. "You are incorrigible! We should just eat dinner then, and take care of your wounds later — except that scrape is a nasty one, and it runs all the way down to your—"

Pressing a finger to Garth's lips, Dick interrupted, blue-eyed sincerity claiming victory over humor. "I know how far down it goes, and how uncomfortable it is, 'cause I deal with stuff like this all the time, mostly alone before you came here to stay with me. I know it makes you feel better to make me feel better, and I really love that about you."

Garth gave a light kiss to the finger against his lips. Before Dick withdrew his hand, he caressed Garth's chin with his thumb.

Dick finished off his glass of wine and stood up, untying the drawstring of his already very loose pants. A slight nudge with his hands and they were around his ankles. He turned his back, and behind, to Garth's face, exposing the full length of the disputed injury. It was far less impressive, Dick thought, than the Technicolor contusions on his leg. The deep scrape ran from just below his right shoulder blade down his back to just below his ass cheek. Upon his earlier private inspection of it, experience told Dick that although it was ugly right now, it didn't warrant stitches, nor would it result in a significant scar.

Turning slightly toward his lover, Dick reached out and touched Garth's face again. "Have your healing way with me," he smiled warmly.

"The food..." Garth began.

Shrugging his shoulders, Dick turned to face his still seated lover, bringing both hands to cup Garth's face. "Eh, Chinese food always tastes better cold, anyway. We'll get back to it in a bit."

Dick stepped out of the trousers pooled around his feet, and carefully straddled Garth's lap, kneeling on the couch. He gave his love a gentle push to lean back. Dick took Garth's hand and squeezed a liberal smear of ointment onto his middle finger. He then scooted closer, bringing their groins together, and leaned forward to rest his head on Garth's shoulder.

"How's this for cooperation and access?" Dick asked, laying a light kiss on the Atlantean's quickening jugular.

"Very accommodating — and inventive." Garth began to gently trace the remaining, untreated length of Dick's deep scrape, taking his time in carefully massaging the soothing ointment into Dick's ass cheek.

"Mmm. That part feels p'tic'larly good," Dick purred into Garth's neck. Garth's warm hands slid around to cup his lapful of relaxing vigilante, kneading flesh, as well as pressing his lover's thickening sex against his own. Dick's arms went around Garth's neck and he began to thrust gently, craving more contact and pressure. He shifted to adjust the position of his hardening cock against Garth's when a jolt of pain shot through his right leg. An immediate hiss escaped his lips, and he bit them to keep in any other evidence of just how much his leg hurt.

"Sorry. I'm okay. Really." Through tightly clenched teeth, Dick attempted to reassure his lover.

"Oh, I don't think so," Garth growled softly. Before Dick could make another move, Garth leaned forward and stood, carefully shifting Dick over his shoulder and gripping him by his good leg to steady him. "Time for tired Nightwings to go to bed now," he scolded.

They reached the bedroom and Garth gingerly deposited his weary, wounded lover onto the bed. Dick winced again, but not from any injuries. The room was spotless — definitely not how he had left it that morning. His face reddened. Dick admitted sheepishly, "I really would have cleaned up if I'd known you were coming back sooner."

"Of course," Garth wryly agreed, pulling the bedspread down. "Get in."

Dick contritely complied. "I did wash the sheets."

"Let us thank Pallais for that!"

Garth vanished into the bathroom, then emerged with a bottle of baby oil in his hands.

Dick propped himself up on his elbows. "Hey, I've got some of that liniment Alfred makes for us—"

"I prefer this," said Garth, holding up the baby oil and flicking the lid open with his thumb. "Alfred's preparation may be beneficial to you and Batman, but it stings my hands when they begin to heat up. Baby oil seems to be the mildest thing for my skin."

Putting the oil down on the bedside table, Garth slid out of the silk pajama bottoms. Climbing onto the bed, he straddled Dick's lower legs, feeling Dick shiver slightly at the contact.

Garth bent to softly kiss Dick's, then repeated the kisses to his throat and finally, his mouth. "Lie back now, love, and relax," he coaxed.

It had been a long time since Dick had been presented with the opportunity for such tender ministrations. With their injuries, Alfred had always been clinically efficient while Bruce, when tasked with his ward's therapy, was brusquely concise. Kory's massages had always gotten the two of them easily sidetracked... and then Dick had been alone for the most part. But Garth....

From the moment Garth's warm, oiled hands touched Dick's skin, it was as if the same life-giving magic he had breathed into Dick's mouth was now flowing into Dick's muscles. Try as he might, he could not come up with any words to express the ecstasy his lover's healing touch brought to him. Neck, shoulders, arms — so carefully did Garth's hands move down Dick's chest and abdomen. Even more carefully did they heat and sweep the bruise at his hip and thigh, encouraging the contused blood to dissipate.

Dick's only utterances were low moans of pleasure. Down his muscular legs went the kneading heat from Garth's hands, forcing blood to flow (as if it needed to flow more below Dick's waist), to smooth the knotted spring-tight engines that served as the acrobat's propulsion.

Endorphins flooded Dick's blood, dulling the pain and mixing with the single glass of wine he'd drunk. The combined effect lulled the battered hero into a state of profound relaxation. Profound turned to sublime when Garth's healing hands reached Dick's turgid cock and began to stroke it firmly. One oiled hand pumped while the other cupped his tightening balls gently, rolling them with the same steady rhythm. Dick's mouth opened and he gasped unevenly as he soared toward orgasm. At the moment Dick's balls drew up to jet his release, Garth dove upon him, taking his cock deep into the wet heat of his mouth. With a shudder and a wordless groan, Dick came, and Garth drank the successive outpourings of his lover's ecstasy.

Garth slid up to spoon behind Dick, pulling the covers over them. Before the sleep of exhaustion and satiation overtook Blüdhaven's hero, he cradled Garth's arm in his, and kissed his life-giving lover's fingers, one by one.


When Garth was satisfied that his lover was sleeping soundly, he carefully got out of bed. He turned the light out and left the room, pulling the door closed behind him. Naked, Garth padded out to the living room to close up the containers of food they had abandoned. Sticking one of the spring rolls into his mouth, Garth held it between his teeth, grinning at the memory of Dick's earlier play with the food. He picked up the containers and carried them to the kitchen.

In the low light from over the stove, Garth stowed away the food and washed his spring roll down with a long draught of water. He washed his hands and splashed his face at the sink. Rubbing the excess water into his skin, Garth turned to leave the kitchen when he heard it begin — the anguished moans of the dreams that often disturbed his companion's rare moments of sleep.

Entering the darkened bedroom, Garth could see that Dick had kicked the bedcovers off with his thrashing. Garth quickly pulled them back onto the bed and climbed in beside his love. Dick was freezing cold and shivering; his skin was raised in chill bumps.

Before Garth could take him into his arms to warm him, Dick cried out and doubled over, almost sitting upright. He gasped convulsively and began to cough. Dick came to consciousness as Garth wrapped the quilted bedspread around him and pulled him close.

"You're home, love... here, safe with me. Are you awake? Relax and breathe — I have you." Garth crooned steady reassurances to bring Dick to comfortable awareness. Dick stiffened at first, then relaxed into the Atlantean's arms.

"Oh... oh, god, it was so cold. God, it was so cold... I couldn't... I couldn't... I was... everything just... it was so sad...." Dick's voice trailed off.

Garth lay back, pulling Dick with him, still holding him securely. Dick reached across Garth's chest, molding himself to his lover's body. They lay like that for only seconds before Dick, still restless, pulled himself over Garth. He buried his fingers in the Atlantean's ebony curls, and plundered Garth's mouth. Kissing open-mouthed and hard, it was almost as if Dick were searching for the spell that had pulled him out of death's iron grip only hours before.

Garth's hands, heated and soothing, moved carefully and surely over Dick's body, warming and stimulating him. Dick broke the kiss, breathing heavily and grinding his hips into Garth's, his cock swelling with the friction. Dick pulled back only slightly, then dropped his head to bring his lips to Garth's ear.

"I need you... I need you to hold me... be inside me...."

Garth brought his hands up to cup Dick's face between them. "Richard, you need sleep, you're exhausted; that's why the dreams—"

"This isn't exhausted," Dick whispered hoarsely, pulling one of Garth's hands down to feel his hardening sex. He moved his hand to between Garth's legs, gripping the cock, feeling it pulse in his hand. Hooking his other arm behind Garth's neck, Dick pulled himself even closer, pressing his face next to Garth's. "I was so alone, Garth. Alone and cold, and leaving you...." With his lips against Garth's cheek, Dick whispered brokenly, "...please...."

Garth rolled them to their sides and held Dick closely, kissing his cheeks, then his mouth. Pulling back, he touched his forehead to Dick's. "Never alone, Richard, never alone while I breathe water or air." Garth's mouth reclaimed Dick's for another lingering kiss. His fingers danced along Dick's skin.

To Dick, his lover's warm touch was soothing as well as stimulating. But he wanted more contact. "Now..." he implored.

Garth positioned them to cause the least discomfort to Dick's injured leg. He reached over and grabbed the bottle of baby oil, opening it and pouring the oil into his hand. Dropping the bottle back onto the bedside table, Garth moved his slickened hand between them, pressing his fingers into Dick's body.

"Ohh," Dick gasped and moved back onto Garth's hand, the beautiful instrument of magic and power. A wave of disappointment washed over Dick as the hand left his body, but in an instant the fingers were replaced with Garth's thick cock. Dick responded with a low moan of pleasure and need.

In two easy thrusts Garth filled his lover. Wrapping his arms around Dick, he held him close, tight, like a second skin. Garth left himself with barely enough room to move, but he knew what Dick needed and wanted. Dick's muscles retracted, pulling Garth farther inside him as Garth gave the short thrusts that raked across the nerve-clustered gland, sending electric pleasure-pulses throughout Dick's body.

Dick's head fell back against Garth's shoulder, eyes closed, mouth open, and breath ragged. Garth dropped one hand to grip Dick's cock and pull it with hard, measured tugs. Dick groaned with every thrust, every pull. Garth turned his head to bring his mouth to Dick's neck, sucking the tender skin into his mouth, tasting the salt, and knowing Dick would have one more bruise for a few days.

"M-more..." Dick gasped.

Garth rolled forward, resting his weight on one forearm as he pulled Dick's cock with the other. Dick wrapped his arms around Garth's supporting arm, bracing himself for his lover's harder thrusts. He gave in to the intensity of the cock that filled him, over and over. Pounding hard, their skin slapping together now, Garth fucked Dick with all the might he knew his lover could take. The heat and the tight constriction left the Garth almost mindless with pleasure. When Dick's muscles spasmed and his cock gushed its hot liquid tribute into Garth's hand, the Atlantean came hard, pumping his seed into his lover's body, and growling his name.

Garth collapsed back into the pillows, never breaking contact with Dick, pulling him as closely as he could. For several minutes they lay spooning and panting, then slowly returned to regular breathing.

Garth kissed the back of Dick's neck, and Dick turned, his mouth searching for its mate. For a long time they kissed like that, twining tongues gently, touching softly. Dick pulled back from the kiss, his head falling heavily back into the pillows. Garth smiled, and smoothed the hair away from Dick's forehead before gathering him back into their embrace.

"How do you feel?" Garth asked, his voice crooning low tones into Dick's ear.

Dick yawned, and sighed deeply, a relaxed smile reappearing on his face. "Alive. Loved."

Seconds later, only the regular sound of Dick's breathing issued from his mouth.

"And I love you." Garth followed Dick into quiet, healing slumber.