Sea and Sky XVII:
Ghost of a Chance
epilogue by Dannell Lites
Warnings: M/M slash. If this concept disturbs you, read no further.
Fandom: Modern comicsverse. Seventeenth in the "Sea and Sky" series, the previous parts of which can be found at http://www.offpanel.net/kerithwyn/.
Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics. What I have done with them is mine.
Thanks to Leah for the Atlantean vocabulary, to Carmen for the line that put me on the floor laughing and found a home here (g'on, guess *G*), and Dannell for finding the perfect island. :)
He watched Dick sigh. Again. "I was a complete moron. I don't know how I'm going to make it up to you...."
Garth gave his own mental sigh and answered him, deadpan. "I might consider forgiving you. Maybe. Possibly. After a lot of oral sex."
...which nearly made Dick laugh himself into a hernia, and gods, that felt good. Hearing him *able* to laugh like that. "Ohhhh, lord..." He snickered again. "If that's what you want... I'm happy to oblige."
"I want *you.*" Said so directly there really wasn't any question about what would happen next. Some sweaty innumerable minutes later Dick lay sprawled across Garth in a comfortable, possessive posture, lazily drawing instinct patterns on Garth's chest. He paused, looked up. "What would you say to a vacation? I mean, just you and me, away from all...*that.*"
Dick's emphasis underlined everything they'd been though, how sorry he felt for it, and just how determined he was to beg forgiveness for it. Garth wasn't really interested in the apology; having Dick here, like this, was just about enough. "That sounds wonderful. Did you have somewhere in mind?"
"Far away from Gotham, 'Haven, even Atlantis... somewhere near water, of course, so I can swim with you...." Dick sat up, musing. "The Caribbean is too touristy. Hawaii, too. Um. I want to see you on a beach." Garth watched his lover's mind work, smiling. "Oh! I know. Bruce owns this great villa on Hydros, in Greece. How's that sound?"
"The Aegean." Garth remembered the taste of that dark sea. "It's beautiful there."
"Perfect. I'm still waiting for a permanent spot on the 'Haven force, no worries there, and the rest of the Titans can cover things here. Can you get away? All your appointments in Washington...."
Garth nodded, then flushed a little with embarrassment. "I warn you, I'm a poor air traveler...."
Dick started to grin mischievously. "We'd lose at least two days traveling anyway, who wants *that?* I have a better idea, if I can arrange it...." He refused to say any more. Just, "Pack light. And never mind a bathing suit." As if Garth owned one anyway.
A shimmer and their own Tower faded, replaced in seconds by the gleaming walls of the Watchtower. "Give me a second to recalibrate the coordinates. Stand by."
"Ah. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Just passing through?"
The Martian Manhunter stood there, larger than life and twice as green. His gentle smile put them both at ease immediately, and Dick nodded. "Sorry to intrude. Oracle's just rerouting the transporter...."
"No trouble. I enjoy the distraction from monitor duty." He approached and held out a hand to Garth. "Tempest, a pleasure to see you under more peaceful conditions."
Considering the last time they'd met the Titans had been *fighting* the JLA over the fate of Victor Stone, that was saying something. Garth shook the Manhunter's hand. "Yes, sir. And it's Garth, please."
"And I am J'onn." His eyes glittered. "I think we can all manage to avoid telling Batman about this, *ahem,* unauthorized use of JLA equipment...?"
"No worries, J'onn, it'll be like they'd never been here," Oracle's voice broke in. "Ready to go, guys?"
"Yeah!" Dick grinned. "Thanks, J'onn. We owe you one."
"Not at all. Enjoy yourselves." The Last Son of Mars smiled to himself as the two young men disappeared from sight. ~ How very interesting. Good for them. Now, where did Kyle hide the Oreos....~
Bruce Wayne owned a villa there.
It went virtually unused, most years. The islanders grumbled a little about the waste of perfectly good property. ("He could at least rent it out during the season!" complained those who relied on foreign tips to supplement their incomes elsewhere.) But Mr. Wayne paid for its upkeep and was always generous to those who made sure the villa was ready for occupancy at a moment's notice.
So it didn't take them long at all to prepare the place at all when that notice came. That in itself was a little unusual, since the call was from a Mr. Richard Grayson rather than from Mr. Wayne himself. But Mr. Grayson was on the list of those who could sign in Wayne's name, along with a Mr. Fox and a Mr. Pennyworth. Still, it was unusual *enough* that they felt it prudent to make doubly sure. When they finally got through to him, he said immediately, "Of course. Whatever he wants."
So they opened the windows to let the breeze flow through, filled the fridge according to the faxed specifications, turned down the beds, and left to ensure the privacy of the guests.
Who, when they arrived from the mainland, promptly made use of that privacy. And the floor. And the beach. And the bed.
And each other.
Garth acceded and was entirely content to watch. "Wouldn't want to break the 'law,' officer...."
"Now there's a thought." Dick grinned with familiar mischief. "Too bad I left my uniform and...stuff...at home."
"I don't find anything lacking at all," Garth said, and drew him down.
They swam. A lot. The waters opened to them, made them welcome, perhaps sensing in some primordial way the presence of the Nariga'al, the Sea Prince, and his chosen lover.
They made love everywhere; the villa, the beach. Below the water, in a cave Garth had found, while his magic made it possible for Dick to breathe in his Element. At the surface, lazily entwined, with bright fish circling and darting between their feet. Under the moon and in the full light of day, in full ecstatic voice and in loving whispers, with frenzied passion and as slowly as both could stand it.
They walked the circumference of the small island (Dick had, regretfully, agreed to wear something in deference to the locals, and settled on a Speedo that hid nothing), the last hundred meters turning into a race. Dick won easily, which only meant that Garth could watch him from behind and take pleasure in the sight. Dick's insisted-on "prize" for winning the race was as inevitable--and as enjoyable--as either might have predicted.
I learn--or rather, rediscover--how compatible we are, how much we both, well, love sex. Which sounds stupid but it's absolutely incredible. A word or smile from him makes me ache to touch him. Never mind when we're actually in bed and make love through the night, almost unable to stop because it's just too good.
I learn that Garth is deeply religious, not in a daily-prayer kind of way but in knowing that the Goddess he calls on is real. The Titans have met gods before, of course; maybe considering our team name it was inevitable. Twice we went to Mount Olympus itself and became involved in a conflict between the Greek pantheon and their forebears, our namesakes. But Pallais is older by far than those gods, the mother and embodiment of the ocean itself. I admire his faith, especially since I don't know how I feel about mine. The way I grew up, everything I've seen--some days I'm absolutely certain about the existence of some higher power, and other days I'm equally as sure there's no such thing. Most of the time my belief or lack of it doesn't matter at all, but he makes me question the idea either way, and I'm glad.
I learn more about his new abilities, asking after specifics. Those tattoos on his face--which used to be scars, and I have to wince thinking about how he might have gotten them--are reminders of what he went through to awaken his powers. He'd tell me everything, he says regretfully, but Atlan swore him to secrecy about the magical rituals and rites he underwent. For the first time he tells me the whole story about how his own magic was stolen by his insane uncle Slizzath and used to raise an undead army undersea, and I'm astonished again by the sheer *power* he now holds in those elegant hands.
I learn that I'm, uh, what they call a pushy bottom. You know--put myself in his hands and loudly demand that he take me. Garth laughs and does and God, I never knew I could need it that much. And later he's quieter about it but no less demanding when he wants the same from me.
I learn to love water. I always enjoyed swimming, but with him by me, watching him move in his element, I learn to really *love* it. When he casts the spell that allows me to share it with him it's the most intimate kind of invitation, bringing me into a world I never knew existed. More importantly, seeing him in that world--where he truly belongs--I make a silent promise never to make him choose. He gives up so much every day to be with the Titans, to be with me...and knowing that makes me even more determined to be certain he never regrets it.
I learn more about why he's a vegetarian. It's partially to do with respect for life, a moral objection to the way most food animals are treated, but it's also about his physiology. I remember how he used to be, almost frail despite his Atlantean strength, and it was more than just being out of water. His system simply functions better on a more limited diet. His magic flows more easily. Besides, he says, eyes sparkling, the only flesh he wants on his tongue is mine. And demonstrates.
I learn about how much he loved--still loves--Tula. My memories of her are less vivid but I remember our attack on the H.I.V.E. and how strong she was, how determined. In the old days we were all glad that she loved him because Garth was so much happier with her by his side, it was almost tangible. Now he's come to terms with it, said his good-byes, but I still want to apologize for so much. We were all so bound up in our own lives that we really weren't there for him when she died but left him to mourn alone. He stops me, saying that Donna helped him through; and that there were others.
I learn with surprise about those others, his lovers, and how he threw himself into whoever he could to take the pain away. I can hardly believe we have that in common. And something else, too. The way Kory approached me, pursued a relationship so aggressively; Garth smiles when he remembers that Tula did much the same, with him. That she got tired of waiting and finally dragged him off somewhere private...and proceeded to show him exactly what she wanted. My God, it's a good thing we'd grown out of those patterns, or that he had, anyway--I don't know if I would have found a way to reach out to him. But I'm slow that way.
I learn about his life before Arthur found him. I'm ashamed to admit I'd never thought about it before; great detective work, Dick, ignore the mystery under your own nose all those years. Garth was abandoned as a baby by those who feared his purple eyes signaled a rebirth of an evil mage out of their ancient history. He wasn't meant to survive and by all odds shouldn't have, given predators and the sea itself. When I ask how, he smiles wryly and says, "Atlan." Who apparently had been watching Garth from the moment he was born, and cast spells of aversion and protection to keep him safe. Arthur, he says, never questioned how an abandoned child hadn't gone completely feral. That was Atlan's doing too because he taught Garth in his sleep, giving him language and the possibility of being reintegrated into Atlantean society. Of course, Garth didn't know any of this until he wound up in Atlan's pocket-dimension, and Atlan told him. It also turns out that Garth trusted Arthur implicitly the moment they met due to some residual memory of Atlan's dream-teaching sessions. I bite my tongue and manage *not* to say that particular effect might not have been for the best.
I learn about his body and my own. It's a joyous and mutual exercise of discovery. He learns he can make me come just by stroking my feet. I learn his nipples are less sensitive than mine, and he likes when I bite.... We play games. We play the "who can hold out the longest" game--Atlantean stamina, I swear, it's a bitch. We play the "who do you fantasize about" game--that one's fun, because Garth blushes. The suggestions get wilder as we try to shock each other; when he says he'd grab Roy and kiss him, just for the reaction, I laugh so hard I can't breathe. More seriously he says, of course, he's always loved Donna...well, don't we all? When I prod him for a *real* fantasy, someone really outrageous, he stammers and stutters and finally says, throwing his hands in the air, Diana...because as a warrior she reminds him of Tula, and Tula admired her so. Then he smiles and says that Tula often urged him to tell me about his, ah, crush years ago...because she wanted to *watch.* It's my turn to blush at that.
And me? Aside from He Who Shall Not Be Named...most of the older heroes were mentors. I mean, Kal-- Kal is a beautiful man, but he's always been something like an uncle to me. He gave me my name.... Of course there's always been Babs, and Garth nods soberly and asks, do I still love her.
I answer, truthfully, yes. But no matter how many times I've told her that the chair doesn't matter, she's refused to believe it. Sometimes I'm so afraid for her, that she'll become so involved in her life as the Oracle that she'll forget who she really is...and then I laugh, though not for very long. As if "obsessive" wasn't quality Number One for a member of our "family."
We talk, only a little, about our real families. He already knows pretty much everything about my parents. Garth never knew his father, who was murdered before he was born. His mother....
Garth doesn't want to talk much about his mother, and I can't blame him. *Her,* though.... Berra allowed her son to be taken from her, to be exposed to the elements to die, and I can't comprehend it. All over fear of an ancient prophecy. The idea makes me shudder. I can't imagine how he must feel about her.
I learn that he's got a great, surprising sense of humor. We go into town one night for dinner and between the appetizers and the main course Garth gets...frisky. Under the table his hand in my lap does some really amazing things, and it's all I can do to keep from whimpering. The waiter brings our dinners and his barely suppressed smirk tells me that my face must've given the game away. I make sure to leave a big tip to thank him for *not* calling the local *astynomia* for a display of public lewdness.
I also rip up the phone number he tries to slip under Garth's plate. Hands off, buddy, *mine.*
"Mine." Oh, God. I can't wait 'til he gets back to prove it.
I learn...I learn that I'm only beginning to love him, and how much we still have to learn about each other.
Even better. This is *being* in love, which I'd never been sure to feel again.
The true wonder is seeing Dick freed from his shadows, joyful, *open.* When he laughs it's a clear and unfettered sound. When we talk, making plans for the future or just talking, his enthusiasm shines from him. When he touches me....
When he touches me it's all I can do not to lose myself completely; and I think, I wouldn't mind at all if I did.
I can't stop touching him. I don't *want* to stop touching him. Every moment alone we're not entwined feels like something missing. And I tell him:
"I dreamed of seeing an invitation in your eyes for more than friendship. I dreamed of being allowed to touch you, to taste you, to make love to you and seeing your desire to love me in return. I dreamed of waking and finding you there for me...."
His smile answers me even as his hands reach out to caress, we make love again and his eyes don't leave mine. I think, even seeing the irony: I could drown in that blue. Gladly.
We talk of the past, and the future--our future. The merest *idea* of having a future with him is astonishing in and of itself.
Tula and I rarely spoke of our future. In part because we were very young, but also because there was always something to interrupt our time together: another uprising, another revolution, another family crisis, another super-villain to fight. But we both *knew.* We knew that one day we would marry. We knew that one day we might Bond in Sai'a'thash, given time and peace enough. We knew--
*She* knew something that I didn't, that our mutual friend Alianne told me later, as we mourned together. That Tula had wanted to carry my children.
Oh, my love.
But had we been older and more at peace, we would have been Bonded and I would have died when she did. For a long time after her death I often wished I had. But then I would never have known this new life, this new chance.
This new love.
Dick understands that I still love her and always will, and that this doesn't diminish in the least what I feel for him. She isn't a ghost who shadows me but a part of my soul; I hear her voice as clearly as ever, and it sounds joyful.
There are moments when I want to--say too much, pledge too much, because while we've barely begun I feel the glimmerings of what I felt for her then. As it was when we first came to *know* it would be forever, when we knew without needing words that we hadn't yet discovered all there was about loving each other and were determined to spend every moment we could finding out. I start to say as much, and stop. There will be time--
But I believed that before, and was wrong.
So I...say things when we make love, vows I daren't let him hear yet whispered in my own language, and toward the end of the week he grins and says, "That's it, I'm learning Atlantean, because I want to know." For a moment I feel a shadow of fear. What if the things I say are too much, too soon for him, too--
He waits patiently while I struggle for the English words, because that fear is a small thing and I have sworn not to let it rule me any longer. Nor to let such chances go by again.
"I say the same things you do. 'More.' 'Harder.'" His laughter makes me smile. "'I love you.' And...." I pull him closer, finding his mouth with my own, and when we break from that kiss I murmur the words against his lips. "You hold...all of my life, and my heart. And my love."
"*Oh.* Garth." He touches my face and there isn't any fear in his eyes, either.
He doesn't need to know--yet--that these words *are* a vow, a pledge to be with him for as long as he allows it, for as long as Fate gives us.
No one knows.
Well, that's not quite true. Tim and Babs and Bruce and Alfred, Jean-Paul and Brian, Clancy and J'onn.... Okay, so it's not exactly a secret. Except that our oldest friends don't know.
I realize how unfair, and how selfish I've been. While I was being an ass Garth had to deal with it alone. Maybe I wasn't ready before but for him to have to hide from our friends...wasn't fair.
"I think we should tell them."
He looks at me, confused. "What?"
"The Titans. Tell them about us."
"Are...you sure?" Ouch. I earned that. But telling them would make it "real" in a way I'd been avoiding.
Please, please believe me...this is my commitment to you. "I'm sure."
"I'd like that. Very much." He smiles and I'm wondering if we have time before we have to catch our plane--
He looks a little embarrassed suddenly. "Ah. I think Donna may know. I spoke with her, while...while we were apart. I didn't tell her who, but...."
I can finish that thought. "...but Donna is *Donna,* who knows us. No worries, Garth. In fact, I was just thinking how crappy it was that you didn't have anyone to talk to...."
He shakes his head, dismissing the whole thing. "It doesn't matter now, Robbie. It's all past."
Just like that. I think again: I don't know what I've done to deserve this. To deserve him.
But God, I'm gonna do everything I can to make this last.
This is my series song. Take it away, guys. ;)
"Ghost Of A Chance"
Like a million little doorways
Somehow we find each other
I don't believe in destiny
I don't believe in the stars or the planets
Like a million little crossroads
For so many different connections
I don't believe in destiny
I don't believe in the stars or the planets
"Meow," said the sultry voice on the other end of his phone and set his heart racing, his blood pounding in his veins.
"Selina!" he breathed.
"Hello, lover," her low voice greeted him, laughing. "Kitty's lonely and she's wondering if you'd like to come out and play. Are you ... up ... for it?"
It took him a moment to gather himself for an answer. "Kitty scratches," Bruce replied dryly. Thoughts of Selina always left him divided like a nation at war with itself. She was a thief and a criminal, yes, but ... God, it was good to hear the sound of her voice. He expected alluring, mocking laughter and a tart retort in reply; he prepared himself for it.
But what he heard was quite different.
In the beginning there was silence but that only lasted long enough to make him frown in unseen concern. This wasn't at all like Selina.
"Bruce? I promise not to ... scratch ... this time ... "
He blinked and his frown deepened. "Selina? Is everything ... are you all right?"
Her voice instantly recovered its old vibrancy, its sensual frivolity. "Never better, lover!" she assured him. Still her voice had not rid itself of an underlying melancholy. "But Kitty is a little miffed at you, you terrible beast," she went on, "I was thirty years old yesterday. And *you* weren't there. You missed one hell of a party."
"I'm sorry," he said sincerely, "I didn't forget. I thought about sending roses, but ... I just wasn't sure if I should."
Her voice brightened like a coal fanned to life by a warm passing night wind. "I'll let you make it up to me by taking me out to dinner and dancing and spending an *obscene* amount of money on me. Then afterward, I'll let you personally pluck out the three gray hairs I found this morning."
He smiled, then hesitated. "Are you sure that's a good idea, Selina?" he asked slowly.
"I think we'll both regret it for a long time if we don't *try,* don't you?" was her quiet answer.
"I think you're right."
"Bruce? Are *you* all right? You sound ... tired. Has something bad happened?"
"Bad," he agreed, then said no more for a moment. He thought fleetingly of wounded blue eyes and a soft voice pleading, "Then let me go to someone who *can.*"
"One too many late nights, I guess," he quipped, lamely.
"No," said Selina, "it was never the late nights that bothered you. It was always the days you couldn't handle."
He drew in a shaky breath, cursing himself for his weakness. "No," he admitted finally, "I was never very good with the days."
She surprised him then. "Neither was I," confessed Selina Kyle. "Maybe we both need more practice?" she suggested, tentatively. "Together?" He imagined her slim, strong fingers, so skilled at many things, gripping the phone tightly, waiting for his reply. His keen ears, used to noticing such things, could detect no breathing on the other end of the phone. She was holding her breath.
"Eight o'clock?" he asked. "And Selina? Bring your parachute. We'll be flying." A sharp gust of breath reached his ears and set his nerves tingling.
"You promise?" she husked.
When he hung up the phone his hand was steady and he was smiling.
"Shall I make reservation, Master Bruce?" inquired an arch Alfred Pennyworth, materializing mysteriously at Bruce's elbow. "The Kit-Kat Club or possibly Casa del Gato?" Bruce chuckled and Alfred was very glad to hear it.
"Not this time, Alfred," said the Master of Wayne Manor. "We'll be ... dining *in* tonight."
"Very good, Sir," replied Alfred politely, his droll vice covering joy and amusement. "In that case, I shall be certain to count the silverware."
Bruce Wayne didn't stop smiling all day.