Sea and Sky XIX:

A Funny Thing Happened
on the Way to the Tower

An S&S story guest-starring a spider, a bird, a seer, and a bat.

by 'rith

Archive: Ask first, please.
Warnings: m/m relationship, nothing explicit. No sex for the slash fans and enough implied for the gen fans to avoid on principle. I'm satisfied. ;)
Fandom: Modern comicsverse. S&S series. The previous parts can be found at http://www.offpanel.net/kerithwyn/.
Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics. What I have done with them is mine.

(What Has Gone Before, briefly: After dealing with all kinds of *issues,* Dick and Garth are finally together. They've just returned from a week-long and much-needed vacation in Greece.)



{prologue}



They'd decided to wait until the regular Titans' meeting to share their news; no reason to disrupt everyone's schedule for an "announcement." In another time Garth might have wondered if Dick was stalling, putting it off, but it wasn't like that at all. Dick wasn't hiding anything, anymore.

But with everything that had happened, there were certain things they hadn't taken into account. Like the fact that Garth hadn't been hiding his identity in the 'Haven. Not a problem unless someone happened to have all the right pieces of information....

It was Jon Law, their neighbor, who first made the connection.

He squinted at Garth, who was just coming up the stairs. "Haven't I seen you somewhere recently? Not here, I mean, somewhere else--" He tilted his head, thinking, and then looked up. "The new Titans team. I follow superhero news, you know."

Garth hesitated, then nodded, resigned. "Yes."

"So what's the Altantean ambassador and member of the Titans doing in Blüdhaven? Ah. That is." Law coughed softly into his fist, flushing. "Aside from, er, rooming with Grayson."

"Just that." This, Garth thought, was a problem. Too easy a connection to the Titans, to--.

As if on cue, Law went on, his gaze sharpening. "I hear Nightwing's been working the 'Haven, too." He held up a hand before Garth could scramble for an answer. "Never mind. I'm just speculating. Something to consider...." and he continued down the stairs.

Indeed.

So he explained what had happened to Dick. Who took it fairly well, considering. "Well, Jon was the Tarantula, you know--"

No, he hadn't. "The--what?!"

"Oh. Sorry. World War II, he was in the All-Star Squadron with Jesse's mom. Small world, huh?"

"So you think he'll keep it to himself?"

Dick nodded. "I'm *sure* he will. But if others recognize you...."

"I could disguise myself. With illusion." It would be a drain on his energies, but a small one, and if it kept Dick's secrets safe--

But Dick was shaking his head. "That's not fair to you. Besides, I--" He smiled and moved closer, reaching out to trace the lines of Garth's tattoo. "This is who you are. I wouldn't ask you to hide."

It was hard to think with Dick touching him like that, but he tried. "Your...identity. If he could reason it out so easily, anyone might."

"Sure." Dick moved even closer, curiously dismissive of the whole situation. "We have to come up with another way Dick Grayson met Tempest-the-Atlantean-ambassador, that's all. Just not this second." He smiled, leaning in to kiss, his hands--

"Later, then," Garth breathed, and swept him up.

Then it was later, and Garth was determined to settle the question. "Leaving the Titans out of it...how might we have met?"

Dick was wearing his 'I've got a plan' look. "I've been thinking about that. You mentioned exporting Atlantean waterproofing technology. I think that'd be something Wayne Enterprises would be interested in. You know, handling marketing and distribution, that kind of thing...."

Garth looked at him quizzically. "An interesting idea--but the connection?"

"Though Bruce. I haven't been *that* involved with the business side of things, but it isn't unusual for me to attend receptions and the like either." He hesitated. "I'll have to talk to Bruce about setting it up."

"Won't this be difficult for him? If there is publicity, if he is asked questions...."

"Ha. The press loves him. You've seen his act, they don't think Bruce Wayne can tie his shoelaces without help, so they'd never think he could lie." Dick snorted. "He can handle it. Besides, it'll help cover his ID too."

"There's more to this. The social implications...." Which he could never understand, but he'd seen enough to know of the potential difficulties.

"Oh, I know. *If* this all goes public...everyone's gonna want to know where Bruce stands on, say, gays in the military all of a sudden. He'll deflect it all like he always does, and I'm not known for giving interviews anyway. I'm just the gypsy-carnie kid who moved away from Gotham to be a cop in the Blüdhaven hellhole."

"Not 'just' anything. But if you think this will work, I can arrange things on the Atlantean side." He thought a moment, then said, "Dick...are you sure about this? Do you really want to--what's the phrase--'out yourself' like that?"

Dick's voice was quiet but firm. "I hide enough with being Nightwing. When I came to 'Haven I decided to be *Dick Grayson* to the people here, not just Nightwing without a mask. Being with you is part of who I am. A really good part."

It was, Garth thought, as much of a commitment as anything else Dick could have said, or done. And the best of omens for their future.



{end prologue}

***

On the way to New York they stopped in Gotham to see Barbara, a visit too long delayed. But when they got there--

A pause on the intercom. "...Sure, guys, come on up. The more the merrier; someone else dropped by unexpectedly, but I think you know...do you remember Dinah Lance?"

Oh, yes; of course. Babs was giving Dick the head-up on the identity game. And he could readily say, "Sure, I remember," because he'd met Dinah as a civilian years ago when he was Bruce's ward and she was Oliver Queen's girlfriend. A couple of social functions before Ollie lost his money and stopped playing the games of the idle rich.

He'd *also* met her as Robin, and later as Nightwing, because it was really no secret that Dinah was also the Black Canary: JLA founder, current JSA member, and Oracle's sometime partner when she needed a competent and clever operative in the field. Which probably explained why Canary was there.

As they headed up the stairs of the Clock Tower, Garth asked, "Are you certain? If she asks questions about how we met it might be difficult...."

Dick nodded. "I think we can wing it--follow my lead."

"Always," Garth murmured, and Dick had to stop in the stairwell to kiss him thoroughly for that.

The "eye" of the video camera outside Barbara's apartment swiveled to inspect them, and then the door opened. Babs was there and grinning. "Have a nice vacation?"

Dick grinned back. "Fantastic. Thanks."

"My pleasure. You'll tell me everything...later." She winked and waved them inside. "Garth, good to see you in person again."

"And you." He hesitated briefly, then took her hand. "Thank you again. For everything."

"Sure." She tugged on his hand and when he bent over, she whispered something to him Dick couldn't hear. Garth straightened, nodding.

Barbara let go of his hand and smiled up at both of them. "Come see Dinah."

Dinah Lance was sprawled across the couch when they entered the living room, and she rose to greet them. Babs started to make introductions: "Dinah, I think you'd remember Dick Grayson...?"

Dinah grinned and flipped her blonde hair back. "Yup. Ollie and Bruce used to go and play tennis at one of their clubs, and leave us oh, all alone." Her gaze moved to rest on Garth. "And I remember you, too, even though you were so shy and tried to hide behind the others when you came to see Roy in the hospital. Garth, right?"

"Yes. It's nice to see you again, Miss--"

Dinah snorted. "It's Dinah. Try that 'Miss Lance' stuff and you'll regret it, 'Aqualad.'" She grinned again and her eyes went from Garth to Dick and back again. "Well, now, this is cozy...."

"Uh, Dinah, maybe you should--" Babs started, but Dinah cut her off.

"Let's be honest here. Just a friendly little superhero gathering, right? Oracle and Black Canary, Tempest and Nightwing." She laughed at Dick's nonplussed expression. "Come on. I remember you visiting Roy as well, 'Robin.' Look, it's fine; I've known for years. If the Big Bad Batman would unclench and talk to someone outside Gotham once in awhile, he'd realize the only secret being kept is the fact that some of us *can* be trusted!" She took a breath and said fiercely, "I never even told Oliver. So Bruce has nothing to worry about. And neither do you."

Dick glanced at Babs, who just shrugged. "She didn't tell me she knew either."

"Okay." Dick smiled a little. "Thanks, Dinah."

"De nada." Dinah threw herself across the couch again and smirked up at them. "But I *do* want to know how long you two've been dating. *There's* some gossip that hadn't reached me yet...." She threw a hurt glance at Barbara. "And here I thought you told me everything."

"Hey, *you* didn't tell me you were seeing the new Dr. Mid-Nite," Babs murmured, and Dinah sputtered.

Without a sound a teenage Asian girl, almost painfully thin but with wiry muscles, came out into the living room from the back of the apartment. She stood and regarded them all for a moment, eyes flickering over those she obviously knew--Barbara and Dick and Dinah--and then she walked over to Garth. Without a word she took his hand, making her other into a fist and touching it to his open palm. She reached over for Dick's hand and placed it in Garth's, then stepped back, seemingly satisfied.

"His name is Garth," Dick said, and the girl nodded. Garth glanced over at him, eyebrow raised.

"This is--" Dick paused fractionally-- "the new Batgirl. I worked with her a little during NML." He glanced over at Barbara. "Did you ever find her name?"

"Cassandra," Babs said, and the girl smiled. Barbara went on, "I'm not sure if that's her given name or just one she likes, but it's better than calling her 'hey you' all the time, right?"

Cassandra grinned suddenly and vanished again, this time in the direction of the kitchen.

Garth looked questioningly at Barbara. "She doesn't speak?"

"She did once, just a word," Barbara said. "But she's...it's kind of hard to explain. Batman says that the way she was trained replaced language with combat. She's quite possibly the best martial artist living, outside of Lady Shiva." Babs smirked slightly. "From what I gather, Cassandra regularly matches or even beats Bruce in their training sessions."

"Now that I'd pay to see," Dinah murmured, and shrugged when the others looked at her, startled. "That tiny thing taking on the Bat? Hell of a show, I bet."

Cassandra reappeared with an apple in one hand and a glass in the other. She solemnly handed the glass to Garth and then went over to sit at a table in the corner, which was piled with books--children's books, from what Dick could see, with bright colorful letters for easy reading.

Garth took a sip. "Water." He glanced up, puzzled. "How did she know?"

"She just does." Barbara sounded resigned. "Same way she knew you and Dick were together by looking at you. Part of her talent, I guess."

Dinah rolled her eyes. "Like that was *so* difficult a trick. I got that one, too."

"Yes, Dinah. You are a genius." Babs paused, then continued conversationally, "Your roots are showing."

"Bitch," Dinah threw back cheerfully, and turned her attention back to Dick and Garth. "So, either you've been amazingly discreet or this is something new...?"

"Some of both," Dick said, tugging Garth with him to sit on the couch opposite Dinah.

She smiled. "Well, good. Nice to see you 'kids' happy." She paused a second. "Does Roy know yet?"

Garth shook his head. "We were headed to the Tower this evening, to tell them all."

"Good luck. If Roy gives you any trouble, let me know. I'll kick him into shape."

Dick grinned. "I'd pay to see *that.* But I think it'll be fine."

Dinah snickered suddenly. "Too bad I didn't know this before. I'd have set one of you up with Connor."

"Dinah...!" Babs said, exasperated, and sighed. "You are the *worst* gossip, I swear."

"Connor-Green Arrow-Ollie's son-Connor?!" Dick blinked at her. "Really."

"Yup. Oh, well." Dinah shrugged. "Uh, I guess he wouldn't want that spread around. He's shy, you know."

"We shall be the very souls of discretion," Garth said solemnly, and smiled.

"Yeah. But Dinah..." Dick said, "it shouldn't get around that Nightwing and Tempest are dating. I mean, more than to the people we tell. I don't know how we're going to work this out yet, but it won't be Nightwing and Tempest who're together, it'll be Dick Grayson and Garth, because he's staying with me in the 'Haven...."

"Ahhhh. Right, gotcha." Dinah shook her head. "Secret identities. More trouble'n they're worth, you ask me. But you didn't. Okay, no sharing the good gossip with the JSA." She grinned. "Too bad. But tell me--"

Babs interrupted, "Okay, Dinah, I'm sure the guys weren't expecting an interrogation."

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Dick and Dinah announced simultaneously. They looked at each other in surprise, then started laughing uncontrollably.

"Dear God. *Two* of them." Barbara dropped her head into her hands. "Garth, remind me never, ever to let them in the same room again."

"And miss *this*...?" Garth sounded terribly amused, and Babs looked up to see Dick and Dinah giggling, heads together, trading Python gags between them.

"The *Parrot* Sketch!"

"We are the knights who say 'Nee!'"

"Ohhhhh, I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay--"

"I think we've lost them," Garth said, and came over to stand by her chair. His next words were quieter. "Barbara, are you all right?"

She blinked up at him. "With you guys? Sure. I told you--"

He shook his head. "No, that that. Although I'm glad to hear it again. I meant with everything else that's happened recently. From what Dick says it's been a...difficult year."

She looked at him, thinking. "Difficult" was an understatement. She'd stayed in Gotham in the aftermath of its cataclysmic earthquake and through the hell of No Man's Land...so much terror, so much loss, and at the end of it her own family was scarred *again* at the hands of the Joker. She and her father were still coping with Sarah's death.

So she was a little surprised when she answered honestly, "Yeah. I'm all right. It was tough for awhile, but...things are better now."

"I'm glad. I'd like...." He smiled a little, seeming suddenly shy. "I'd like to know you better."

"Oh!" She smiled back, surprised. "I'd like that too."

"You're an important part of Dick's life. That won't change. And that means you're important to me, too." He paused. "Not just because of him. I'm not saying this well."

"You're saying it perfectly." It didn't look like they should have much in common, but when she thought about it.... Really, the only friends Garth seemed to have on the surface were the Titans. The only friends *she* had, aside from the few acquaintances she'd made in college, were the Bat-clan and a scattering of other heroes like Dinah and Ted.

And of course the thing they had most in common: they both loved the same man. Which would have made her jealous if she hadn't made a decision about *that* beforehand; and okay, a LITTLE jealousy wasn't going to kill her anyway.

She glanced up to see Dick looking at the both of them, smiling, and she smiled back. It was worth whatever regrets she might have to see Dick so happy at last, and she could find a good deal of comfort in that.

They spent the next hour talking mostly about their mutual "business," like Canary's news from the JSA. Dick knew the team members in passing but had never really worked with any of them before save for some boxing lessons from Wildcat. The Titans weren't lacking for power themselves these days, but with the likes of Sentinel and Fate and even the Spectre on its side, the JSA was in a whole different league.

"It's different, though," Dinah said candidly, "because from what I gather from Roy--and from you two--" her gaze turned mischevious, "the Titans are a lot closer."

Babs cleared her throat. "Oh, they're not the only ones with the habit of dating their teammates...Dinah."

Dinah's eyes widened as she clapped a hand melodramatically to her chest. "Me? What on earth would you be looking at *me* for?"

"Um, hello? Ollie? And didn't I hear something about Barry Allen?"

"Just a rumor," Dinah said primly. Everyone stared at her. "I wasn't actually *dating* him," she grumbled. "I mean he was engaged, for crying out loud."

"Paging Dr. Mid-Nite." Babs looked at the chuckling guys as Dinah dropped her face into her hand. "She thinks he's *funny*," she told them, shaking her head. "This guy is grimmer than Batman and she thinks he's funny."

"Oh, come on," Dinah protested, her voice muffled by her hand. "No one's grouchier than Batman."

"I'm going to have to side with the opposition on that one, Babs," Dick said with a grin.

"Besides," Dinah said, lifting her head. "It's all heresay. None of you have any proof."

"Donna Troy caught you two kissing on Coney Island," Garth spoke up. "On film."

Dick and Babs burst into laughter as Dinah dove for the nearest pillow.

"Don't worry," Garth told her with a smile. "I'm sure she won't turn it into the JLA newsletter. For a reasonable fee." Dinah hurled the pillow in his direction as everyone burst out laughing again. Dick caught the flying cushion and tossed it back to Dinah as she sat up, grinning from ear to ear.

"Hate to run out on you, Babs, but we've got to get to the Tower to meet everyone."

"Things to do, people to tell..." she laughed. "Good luck."

"Thanks." Dick got up, came over, leaned down to kiss her forehead. "Give us a call if you need anything. And hey, you ever want to get out of here, 'Haven's just an hour away. You're always welcome."

"Any time," Garth agreed.

"Thanks, guys. G'on, I'll talk to you soon. Count on it."

"We will," Dick said, then saluted Dinah and grinned over at Cassandra, who grinned back. "Don't study too hard, kid, your eyes will fall out. Go beat up some bad guys or something."

"*There's* an idea," Dinah said, "when it gets a bit darker you can grab your Bat-suit, Cass, and I'll patrol with you. See how you guys do it. If you don't think Batman would mind too much."

"He'll get over it," Barbara and Dick said together, and the sound of his laughter followed him as he and Garth went down the stairs, and out.

Once they were gone, Dinah looked at Barbara piercingly. "Okay, spill."

"Hm?" Barbara started wheeling herself over toward her monitor station. Breaktime was over, and the Oracle needed to get back online.

"Why did you let him go?"

She turned, startled. "I don't know what you--"

"Oh, bull...puckey," Dinah said, catching herself with a glance toward Cassandra. "You love that boy. And he loves you, that's pretty clear. So why did you give someone else the chance to step in?"

The thing about Dinah, Babs had discovered, was that she was altogether too good at making Barbara admit to things she didn't want to. It was infuriating. It was also a quality that made Dinah such a good friend.

Still. Deflection worked, sometimes. "He and Garth are really happy. You're not suggesting I try to break that up, are you?"

Dinah tossed her a *look.* "Of course not. But that's not what I'm asking, and you know it."

"You don't think he's happier with someone he can, you know, walk around with?" Never mind other things.

"That is SO not an issue." Dinah glared. "Quit trying to snow me. Either tell me to shut up, or tell me the truth."

Barbara didn't answer right away, and Dinah waited patiently. Which was *also* annoying, because if she had pushed it would have been easier to avoid the question entirely. But Dinah deserved an answer, and maybe finally saying it out loud would make it even more true.

"He remembers too much."

"Huh?"

Barbara sighed. "He sees... he remembers me. From before, when I was Batgirl. When I used to fly over the city...he sees that girl when he looks at me, and I can't...I can't afford to remember. Too much has changed."

Dinah let out a slow breath. "Okay. It sounds like garbage to me, but okay. So what you need, then, is someone who didn't know you 'before.'"

Babs looked up at her, shocked. "I'm not--we were talking about Dick. I'm not looking for a boyfriend, Dinah."

"I'm just saying." Dinah grinned. "Keep your options open, you know?"

"We are NOT having this conversation," Barbara said decisively, which ended it.

But she thought about it, later.



{end}