Sea and Sky:
Harmony and Discord
Title : Harmony and Discord : Many Voices
Rating : PG
Summary : How many kinds of culture shock should one Ambassador have to face?
Disclaimer : No money, don't sue, and they're rith's anyway, so get over it.
Feedback : Cherished for good or ill. Come on, tell me something! Or there will be. Uhm. Sharks. Yeah.
It was only a five minute walk over to the attached business complex, but they were about to be unfashionably late. It was his fault, for once. He'd been slow to get out of bed when the alarm went off. The warm blankets, soft pillow, and view of Dick going through his morning stretches had been much easier on the eyes than the anticipation of starting this day had been on the brain. He'd hurried through his shower but, despite his best intentions, the view was still more appealing than focusing on the next few hours.
Dick was standing in the window of the hotel suite in only his trousers, holding his shirt in both hands and looking intently down at the street. It was a toss up as to whether the long, lean muscles of the exposed back were more appealing than the bits hugged perfectly by hand-tailored fabric. The light from the window -- sunlight always did wonderful things to the Romany undertones in Dick's skin, and the current slant hid shadows in the dips and curves of muscle that Garth's fingers wanted very much to explore.
"Excellent use of pose, props, and natural lighting. Full points. But we really don't have time." He made himself turn to the rack holding his suitcase. Socks were safe. He could think about finding his socks.
Dick laughed briefly and shrugged into his shirt, but didn't turn from the window. Instead of a return on the teasing, he said, "Sorry. It's not the best time for distractions, is it?"
Garth frowned at his back, pulling on his slacks. Dick didn't look around when he didn't answer, so Garth padded up behind him to take the lean hips in his hands. Dick made a sound low in his throat, and leaned against him.
Dick tried not to melt into the warm grasp and just go back to sleep standing up. Garth's hands weren't touching skin, but somehow the hold itself gifted stiff muscles with warmth. He made another sleepy, content sound as Garth spoke just beside his ear.
"That distraction's always welcome. When we have time. Is your hip bothering you?" He pressed his palm in, very gently, and got a longer pleased sound. Dick had spent several minutes of his stretching in seisa with his shoulder blades pressed to the floor, but Garth, curled around a pillow, hadn't noted it at the time with anything more than extreme appreciation.
"Is there a way to say 'not at all' and 'that makes it feel better' at the same time?" Dick sent a smile back over his shoulder, reassurance flickering into the humor when he registered Garth's concern. "Seriously, it's fine. A little stiff -- I wouldn't've been up to the usual acrobatics last night -- but it doesn't hurt."
Garth swallowed a chuckle into a reproving sound. There'd been no doubt that the US government was taking an active, if determinedly inconspicuous, interest in the first major business contracts between an American company and a foreign, nonaligned power. Dick had found the surveillance equipment -- audio only -- but hadn't disabled or removed it. That would reveal more than it concealed, raising suspicions at the very least. If the intelligence agencies wanted to waste their time listening in on personal conversations between two very non-inhibited gay men -- well, they hadn't been deliberately baiting their audience. At least, he hadn't. Dick was possibly having a bit too much fun making everything he could sound innocent but scandalous.
"You don't need to be here for the meetings, you know. You could go get a massage." He moved his palm again, hopefully invoking the thought of an hour or so of that, at professional hands.
It was possible that Dick wouldn't even be with him if a street dealer's unexpected backup hadn't managed a hit in an unfortunate split second. Dick's left leg had been at full extension in a kick, his torso turned opposite to block a second attacker, when the third had slammed out a heavy metal door from the building to join the fight. The edge of the door, with the weight of a large man behind it, had caught Dick across the left glut. He'd described this when he'd come limping in two days before, berating himself and seeming somewhat amazed that he hadn't dislocated his hip. By his own admission, he wasn't fit for patrol -- in either uniform.
"You haven't exactly taken much time off lately. You should indulge yourself a little."
"Mm." Dick rested his hands over Garth's and leaned back more insistently, until Garth hooked his chin over a convenient shoulder. Then, quietly, "Are you nervous?"
"These meetings are pure formality. Courtesies to the people who've been working behind the scenes. All the negotiations were concluded over a week ago."
"That wasn't an answer," Dick noted, amused.
Garth laughed softly. "Unbelievably. I'm glad you're here."
"Well, I couldn't offer you the caramel ice cream alternative to this, but I thought I could at least be a tag along to the ambassador's entourage."
Garth kissed his shoulder lightly. "Hardly that. You rate at least 'entertainment.'"
Dick snorted softly, and snuggled into him again, but didn't say anything else, undistracted. Garth tried not to sigh as he, finally, directed his eyes across the street below. He hadn't had to ask what Dick was looking at.
Protesters. Literal hundreds of protesters. Some with signs large enough to be read from their window. Many featured words like 'unnatural' and 'deviant' and even 'bestiality.' 'Abomination' was popular, also, and varied takes on 'Like to Like' and 'By Humans for Humans' and 'Natural Order,' although some of them had so much to say that the small print was too ambitious for the signs, the last lines shrinking crookedly into illegibility. One large banner that'd been tied to a mobile home read in neat blocks, 'Boycott WayneCorp : Betraying America for Deviant Lust.'
Dick read that one aloud, when he realized Garth was looking. He laughed. "You have to wonder if LexCorp's not behind that one, at the very least. Not that it'll do him any good."
Before Garth could reply to that, a group of very soberly dressed young people caught his attention. They were standing in rows, singing from small black books, and each had a small, white-on-black sign. "Leviticus 11:10?"
Dick shook his head, coughed slightly, then said in funereal tones, "'And all that have not fins and scales in the seas and in the rivers, of all that moves in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you.' It's, ah, Christian Old Testament. They must've been skimming. The verse before that goes 'This shall you eat of all that are in the waters.. whatsoever has fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall you eat.'"
Garth stared down at them in pure disbelief. "They don't want you to eat me?"
He felt rather long suffering as he waited for the gasping laughter his incredulousness provoked to die down.
"Uhm." Dick hiccupped and snickered again. "Uhm. Well, it's possible, I guess, that they've assembled to cry the warning against human/Atlantean oral sex--"
Garth goosed him in the ticklish spot just under his ribs.
Dick grabbed his hands and put them back on his hips, and managed a steadier tone. "Honestly? I think it's that whole 'abomination' thing. I think they just -- ahh -- referenced the wrong line. There are lots of things the Old Testament calls abominations."
"It's a strong word."
"I know. You have to wonder, what did the shrimp ever do to th--"
"Richard." He hesitated, and felt the hands covering his tighten. "Are you--" Of course, no one could be 'okay' with a demonstration like this, but he wasn't sure how bothered Dick really was.
Garth was familiar with being on the receiving end of ignorant, superstitious bigotry. Dick might know about violence and hate, and even being hunted, but the ordinary, petty, day to day nastiness thinking- and unthinkingly directed at those in a persecuted group wasn't something he'd ever had to deal with, as a wealthy male of Caucasian appearance. Until their open association. An entire block full of people who, without knowing you, still hated you enough to scream and wave signs all day in the cold was a pretty extreme initiation.
"Oh. Hey, no." Dick turned to kiss him, a quick brush of reassurance. "Really no, sorry. I'm mostly entertained. A minute ago the 'Abominations' and the 'Like to Likes' got into a shoving match. I think they're confusing themselves. The anti-gay ones and the anti-foreigner ones can't seem to keep each other sorted out. I can only tell from here because the anti-foreigner ones are better organized - they've probably come out for every embassy opening in fifty years." He raised a finger to tap at the window. "They don't like us because we're both male." Another tap, an inch away. "They don't like us because we're different species." Another tap. "They don't like the business deals because they think Atlanteans are really aliens out to take us from within. And the "patriotic" ones with the red sharks seem to think you're out to lull us into a false sense of complacency while the armies of Atlantis advance on California's beaches."
"The police aren't keeping them separated? Someone could get hurt."
Dick's fingers wove into his and the blue eyes smiled back into Garth's. He shook his head slightly, and opened his mouth. Then shrugged, and looked back out the window, before saying, "They're keeping the 'antis' and the 'pros' apart. If the respective sides want to turn on their own members, they probably won't break it up short of blood. With a crowd this size -- you're too outnumbered to just go wading in."
"So which are the 'pros,' Officer Grayson?" It was perhaps silly, but he'd hoped there would be enough of them that he wouldn't have to ask. None of the signs looked encouraging, so far.
Dick grinned and pulled him closer, first to himself, and then both of them to the glass, and dipped his chin.
Garth went very still.
In the sidewalk and street in front of the hotel, in the complex courtyards, overflowing the sidewalks to the business center. Waving very different banners. People.
Easily a thousand people.
Their signs weren't grouped in clumps like those on the other side of the street. He saw everything from a four person banner with serious black script too small for him to read, to a pair of circling dolphins carried by two women reading 'Atlanteans' and 'Do It Wetter.' And everywhere, dominating the waving sea of cardboard and canvas, were flags and painted squares with rainbow backings and simple block script. "Embrace Diversity."
It was only when Dick murmured, "That covers it, doesn't it," that Garth realized he'd read that one aloud.
"Did you--" It was probably ridiculous to be this affected by strangers with posters. He still had to swallow. "Did you know about--" He waved a vague hand Dick hadn't let go of. "That there would be this many?"
"No." Dick sounded a little less bemused and a little more genuinely awed as they leaned against the cool glass and watching the milling, laughing, shouting, angry crowds. "I had a heads up from Dr. Leslie, but I didn't know it would be anything like this. I think she put the word out to every activist group she's involved in, weeks ago, so people could start planning. Apparently the Gotham U Gay/Straight Alliance made the signs, and the Metropolis Metropolitan Community Church did the flags."
"She told you this last night?" There was no way he could guess how many organizations Leslie Thompkins held influence with. The dynamic, compassionate woman had been a lifelong pacifist and social activist, from a generation before it became popular.
Dick turned around without breaking their contact, settling with Garth's hands back on his hips. He smiled, something warm and quiet and bright behind his eyes. "Yes. I wanted you to see it, though. However many there were, I wanted you to see them without being able to convince yourself ahead of time that it didn't matter if anyone showed up or not." He kissed Garth, hard and sweet, more gift than invitation.
After a moment, he slid his arms around Garth's waist and spoke softly against his cheek. "I know what we were talking about when all this got started. It was all about us -- me. I wanted you to believe -- really believe -- that I'm not the only one who's benefitting from your being here, from all that you've accomplished. Not the only one who wants you here. Not the only one who's grateful." Another kiss, as expressive as Dick seemed to fear his words were not. "Look at how many people you've given a reason to care."
Garth ran one hand into the soft black hair and initiated the next kiss, keeping his other hand, on the injured hip, gentle. Dick breathed a moan into his mouth, then muttered unconvincingly, "Meeting... Late..." Garth ignored him, dropping his lips to the line of breastbone peeking through the unbuttoned shirt, and devoted serious thought to how he could make Dick scream without allowing him to move his legs. It would be an intriguing experiment.
He smiled against Dick's skin and heard a breathless groan.
They couldn't start the meetings without him anyway.