Sea and Sky:


a moment of silence

by 'rith

For the Sea & Sky series, I wanted to make very certain that I never disregarded the importance of Kory in Dick's life, or Tula in Garth's. If you never knew Tula, I hope this fic gives you a sense of who she was...and why Garth loved her.

Archive: Ask first, please.
Disclaimer: Characters by DC, words by 'rith.
Note: This is technically a part of the Sea & Sky storyline, but a flashback before that series begins and true to canon save for one small detail. Many thanks to Aqua-experts Leah and Daria, who provided information about Atlantean history and events, and to Leah again for letting me borrow her Atlantean vocabulary. Set approximately a year or so before Crisis.

News from the surface reached them slowly down through the miles of deep ocean, though they were more aware of events in the world above than the land-dwellers might have believed. Thank their lord king for that; his ties to the surface, though sporadic and not always comfortable, gave them a wider perspective. *This* particular bit of news was of very little interest to any in the great city of Poseidonis, except three: the king, who merely noted it, and the two of them.

Tula watched as Garth read the note forwarded over the grid. It seemed the Teen Titans had re-formed, with their old friends Robin, Wonder Girl, and Kid Flash. No word of Speedy or the other heroes from Titans West, but there were others mentioned: the mysterious sorceress who apparently called them together, a green boy who could take animal shape, a golden-skinned alien girl who cast fire from her fingertips, and a man made half of metal.

No one had bothered to tell Garth.

He finished reading and turned to her, shrugging. "That's good news, I guess."

"Are you sorry they didn't ask you?"

"No." He tossed her a glance, then amended the statement because he knew she saw what lay below the surface. "A little. But they don't need me." Only a touch of the old bitterness, there. "And I won't leave you."

She had to tease even as the sincerity in his voice made her smile. "Not even to see *him?*"

Ah, that was worth the blush. "Tula..."

"He IS cute. Even if he is a surfacer. Why you never told him, I don't understand. Maybe I should!"

"Don't you dare!" He was blushing furiously now.

"And then..." she said sing-song, "you and he could play...and I could watch...."

Garth groaned and hid his face behind his hands. "I can't believe you said that."

She laughed and moved closer to pull his hands away. "Oh, well, if you don't *want* to, I won't breathe a word of it. Pallais' name, I swear."

He glared, half in utter embarrassment, half appalled. "Robbie would--I don't know what he'd do. Please, Tula."

"I'm joking, truly." She glanced at the news report again. "But you really don't want to be their 'Aqualad' again? I'd never stop you."

"I know. I don't." Garth shrugged again. "There's certainly enough to keep me busy here, anyway."

"True enough. We should visit them sometime, though. I'd be nice to see everyone again."

"Were *you* thinking of--"

"Playing 'Aquagirl' again? Not really. That was fun while it lasted, I have to admit."

"Oh, yes," Garth said dryly, "fighting Mr. Twister and the Mad Mod. I'm sure the Titans can handle *them* without us."

She smiled. "No doubt. Well, they know how to reach us if they need us. Meanwhile, since we've got the afternoon to ourselves...."

"Our cave?" he asked, starting to smile.

"Unless you'd rather we loved each other in the Center Gardens," she grinned, with that wickedness she knew he loved.

He laughed. "You *would,* wouldn't you!" And took her hand as they left the city.

"Their" cave was some miles outside the city and surely no secret to generations of lovers before them, but at the moment it was theirs alone. They swam the distance laughing, twisting around each other like dolphins, fleeting touches that only made them more eager.

Garth had been shy of this once, so much so that she'd virtually had to lead him, one slow step at a time. And then not so slow. Now, knowing his desire was welcome, he reached for her as often as she did for him.

Their clothes fell away to be anchored under a convenient shelf of rock. As always she caught her breath at the sight of him, and delighted in the way he did the same on seeing her. They suited each other so well, in this as in all other things.

His voice sang a litany. "I love you, Tula, I love you, I love only you...."

What could she say to match the purity of his devotion? Only truth. "Garth, carisaith," she gasped as his hands traveled her, his mouth, "my heart is yours."

Afterward he slept, his head cradled against her breasts. She held him, drifting, and let her thoughts drift as well.

They didn't know, none of them. Most thought his shyness hid slowness, not understanding his quiet nature was a necessary defense against the sharp-tongued, voluble folk of Poseidonis. Some, still believing the old tales told about purple-eyed babes, were convinced that Garth was weak, unfit, infirm of mind and body.

They were wrong, all of them. He was strong and beautiful and *hers.*

Tula smiled to herself a little at the fierceness of the thought. It would have surprised most of those who knew her. She was believed flighty, even fickle; but while she counted many as acquaintances, she held few close to her heart. And only one, this boy with eyes like no other, had found a place in her soul.

And if they knew, they would laugh. "*Him?* A foundling? Fit for a Lady? Never!" Even though she was nobility only by adoption, and closer in spirit to the warriors than the courtiers. Worse, they might say: "And his *eyes,* you know, think of how your children would be...."

She did. She had. Oh, they were too young to think of such things and she knew it, but still...she'd seen them in her dreams. A girl with Garth's curly dark hair and olive skin. A boy with her lighter shades and smaller build. Both with those violet eyes that would mark them for a great destiny, power, *distinctiveness* uniquely their own. Like their father.

Only Alianne, her closest friend among the other girls, had understood when she'd shared her vision. Ali never doubted her love for Garth, and never believed the old tales either. But even Alianne had considered Tula's daydreams as a teenaged fantasies, ones that should be put away until she was older.

It wasn't as if she was ready for any such thing, anyway. But Tula *knew* -- she felt it deep in her blood, the old blood of sorcerers that all Atlanteans shared--that the time would come. The same way she knew that one day Garth would come into his power, the heritage he carried. She didn't know when, or how, or even what that power might be, but it was there. Waiting to be wakened.

~And then,~ Tula thought, ~and then....~

Something wonderful. Power, and the respect of the people, and the ability to *change* things. To make them better. To surpass even the heroes of ancient Atlantis, to protect the oceans, perhaps to command the very tides themselves...!

She had to laugh at her own imagination. Perhaps not so much as that. But she had no doubt, had never doubted, that Garth would eventually find his power. And that she would be by his side when he did.

"All of my life and my heart, in this world and the next, eternal," she murmured, the words of the traditional vow...and even more than that, the Bonding in Sai'a'thash so that they would be with each other always, minds joined as tightly as their bodies ever did. Together always; two made one.

It should have frightened her to be so certain, but Tula had rarely been afraid of anything in all her life.

At least, not for herself. At fifteen she'd helped to lead a revolt against a usurper to the throne of Poseidonis; after fighting on the front lines of that war, very little had the power to scare her. What she'd seen then made her determined to live life to the fullest. Sometimes recklessly, she could admit, but without risk, what reward? And in fact the "recklessness" that had drawn her to Garth in the first place proved to be precisely the right path.

When she feared it was mostly for *his* sake, because from the very beginning it seemed as though the gods themselves had lain as many obstacles in Garth's path as they could devise. Which, she'd reasoned, was always the way it was with legendary heroes, and another "proof" of Garth's destiny. But seeing him *live* it was hard. Abandoned as a baby, found again only to be shunned by the very people whose city he'd helped save in the same war she'd fought, seemingly forgotten by those on the surface he called friends. Not that she blamed the Teen Titans for that, though. Garth had distanced himself from his companions, feeling "useless" to them so out of his element. But Tula still felt a great debt of gratitude to Dick and Donna and Wally and Roy, who had been the first people to accept Garth as he was and not as the purple-eyed child of ill-omened tales.

What hurt Garth most of all wasn't any of those things, but rather the man who had found him: King Orin II, commonly called Arthur and who the surfacers had named, "Aquaman." That title had respectively led Garth and Tula to be called Aqualad and Aquagirl, and how they had laughed about those names! She much preferred the name the Atlanteans had bestowed on Arthur: Aviga'al, the Father-Protector of the Sea, which made Garth the Nariga'al, the Sea Prince. At least in her mind.

Arthur took the throne of Poseidonis when her own adoptive father King Juvor died, and reconfirmed Tula's status as a ward of the court. Garth was--not Arthur's adopted son, nor even legally his heir. Garth lived in the palace and was accorded the rights of a citizen, if not the respect owed him either as Arthur's protégé or as a hero of the city in his own right. It infuriated her.

As for Arthur himself--

It hurt to think about it. He was at heart a good man, trying to be a good king. He had always been kind to her. His love for his other-dimensional Queen Mera made Tula smile to see them together.

Yet to Garth he was distant, cold, even occasionally cruel. Arthur *cared* for him, that was clear, and yet he seemed to have no way to show it!

Perhaps it was a good thing, then, that Arthur and Mera had decided to leave the city, in no small part to escape the memory of their own loss. The fact of their son Arthur Jr.'s death at the hands of Black Manta was still a raw wound between them--and Garth and Tula had their own measure of grief to deal with. They'd virtually been surrogate parents to the boy while Arthur and Mera dealt with other crises.

Simply by virtue of who they were they'd always been *responsible.* Caring for young Arthur, aiding Aquaman against numerous foes, protecting the city. Large responsibilities for two teenagers, Tula thought, and somehow it was both infuriating and flattering that those tasks were given without much consideration for their age. Infuriating because--well, didn't they deserve to just *be* sometimes, have real time for themselves instead of just stolen moments? And flattering because along with the casualness with which those duties were assigned them went an unspoken confidence that they would not fail. It might be nice to *hear* that once in a while, though.

But with Arthur and Mera leaving she and Garth could foresee even less time for themselves. Minister Vulko was to be the city's new ruler, and while he was a fine administrator...he simply didn't have Arthur's presence, or talent for command. Which meant more unrest, always brewing among Poseidonis' malcontents. More attempts by outside forces to subvert the city's people, or even the threat of outright attack.

At the very least, there was the small consolation that whatever she and Garth were to face in the coming months, they'd do it together.

Some time later she spoke gently to wake him. "Garth, love, it's time to go back."

His lips shaped a kiss against her skin. "I know."

Laughing, she hugged him closer. "Were you awake all this time? And just waiting 'til the last minute...."

"Time with you is precious." Tula felt him sigh a little. "And we're likely to have somewhat less of it shortly."

She could sense the melancholy that sometimes took him creeping up again. There were reasons for it: the prejudices he faced daily, his troubled relationship with Arthur. This time--

"It *does* bother you, doesn't it," she said softly, and after a moment, felt him nod.

"I can't blame them, really, it was never practical for me to be on the team. Still..." he lifted his head and smiled, a bit lopsidedly. "It would have been nice to have been asked."

"I'm sure it's not..." she started, and stopped, helpless. It almost surely *did* have something to do with their limitations out of water. Inevitably, their lives were here.

"Tula," Garth said, touching her cheek, "it doesn't matter. As you said, they'll call if they need us."

The Titans would, it was true, and equally true that both she and Garth would answer. They had both enjoyed their surface adventures, the complete strangeness of the world above and opportunities to see things most Atlanteans never dreamed possible. But where Tula considered those sojourns as amusing interludes from her "real" life and obligations here, for Garth they had been much more. There he fought alongside people who considered him as an equal, and who simply welcomed him into their company without so much as a second thought. She sometimes wondered that if it were somehow possible for Atlanteans to live on the surface comfortably, if Garth wouldn't choose to leave Poseidonis and its petty intolerances behind for good.

But he never would, if for no other reason than the responsibilities he had been given or taken on himself; and, of course, for the promises between them.

She was tempted to ask for the Bonding, to have it done tomorrow, today, so that she and Garth would have each other always, even when parted. But Tula was a realist, too, and considering the dangers that surrounded their might be perilous. They *were* too young for it, not because they might change their minds, but simply in needing a few more years of experience, psychic "toughening," before taking such a immutable step. And worse, if the unthinkable happened, one would follow the other into death. It was a risk she was willing to accept, and gladly, once they had peace and time to live in it; but to tempt fate in such a way now was too heedless even for her.

For now, it was enough that the promise of "future" and "forever" lay between them.

They would have time.


Background music: "Who Wants to Live Forever" by Queen, "A Kind of Magic" album.

Gratuitous commentary....

It's a bitch to fall in love with a character over a decade dead.

Tula, of course, died in the Crisis on Infinite Earths--about a year and a half after this fic. The characterization here is mainly drawn from her appearance in the Titans underwater-attack-on-the-H.I.V.E. storyline (Tales of the Teen Titans #45-47). I'd been thinking about Tula a lot for an AU project that Falstaff and Carmen and I batted around a lot last year (hey, Staff, still interested?), but she wasn't satisfied to wait.

Anyway. "Fierce," is my tag emotion for Tula. I like her. I hope you did too.