Sea and Sky:
Best Laid Plans
Disclaimers: Characters belong to DC Comics, borrowed without permission for fun and not for profit. This story is set in 'rith's Sea & Sky series, and was produced at her direction.
Canon Notes: Story covers events from NW #48-50. Several correctives to canon are offered in addition to tweaks made to fit canon events into Sea and Sky. Some dialogue and scenes taken verbatim from NW #50.
Continuity: Follows Tower of Babel tie-ins in the S&S 'verse. Dick's arrangement with J'onn was detailed in ('rith: a fic possibly to be written later, if I ever get my lazy ass around to it).
"Swim lag," Garth explained, setting down his book and rising from his seat. "Tough night?"
Dick nodded, accepting Garth's hug but gazing past him into the apartment and barely squeezing back.
He sighed. "Caught up with Sylph."
"And?" Garth prompted, keeping Dick within the circle of his arms.
Dick still wouldn't meet his eyes. "She -- she slipped by me, off the balcony. But her costume--"
Garth placed a gentle kiss on Dick's cheek and tightened his arms a little. "Talk to me, Dick."
Dick shuddered against Garth. "I thought -- I thought she hanged herself."
Dick shook his head. "She didn't. I don't know how she got out of it, but... but I wasn't careful enough. She could've -- she might've been--"
"Shh, Dick," Garth murmured, holding him closer. "She didn't die. She'll mysteriously reappear in a few months and you'll be complaining about clingy fabric again."
Dick still stared off into the distance. "I don't know. I think -- she just wanted to avenge her father."
Garth stepped back a little, trying to catch Dick's eyes. "This is about more than you thinking she died."
Another heavy sigh wracked Dick's frame, and Garth gave him another gentle kiss on the cheek.
"We don't have to talk about it now. You look exhausted."
Dick nodded. "Amy still thinks I'm in cahoots with someone upstairs."
Garth paused in his effort to lead Dick to the bedroom, this time moving his face into Dick's range of vision and forcing him to meet his eyes. "You'll prove her wrong, just like you've already proved that you are not out there every night in search of revenge and you've already proved that you are not the kind of man who would shrug away any kind of collateral damage."
"You need sleep, Dick." Garth laced his fingers through Dick's and resumed leading him to the bedroom. Dick followed slowly.
Garth did not rush him, letting him set the pace to the edge of the bed. Garth turned him and settled him down on the mattress, leaning down to kiss his lips. He felt Dick wince and pulled back, noticing for the first time the puffiness at the corner of his mouth. "Someone got a punch in?"
Dick reached up to touch his cheek. "Yeah."
Garth shook his head. "Dick, if I thought it would do any good I would ground you for not taking better care of yourself. You're going to make me worry every time I have to leave town for work."
Dick was once again avoiding his eyes. "'m sorry," he murmured.
"Dick--" Garth gave up, allowing his exasperation to fade. He sat on the bed behind Dick and wrapped his arms around Dick's torso. "Should I call you in sick tomorrow?"
"Amy and I moved to second shift," Dick informed him. "I don't start until 3."
"Okay," Garth allowed, squeezing Dick a little. "You should still sleep now."
Dick nodded and set his hands on Garth's arms, allowing himself to be lain down on the bed. Garth shifted his hold to one more comfortable for spooning against Dick's back. He rested his arm across Dick's ribs and gentle stroked his chest, letting his fingers send soothing magic through Dick's tense body.
Dick did not object, and eventually, he fell asleep. Garth continued holding him into the early morning, wishing he could carry more of his burden.
The harsh jangle of the phone startled Garth awake before he realized he was asleep, and he reached to pick it up. He rolled away from Dick as he pressed the receiver against his ear. "Hello?"
"Rise and shine, Rookie," a female voice chirped.
"This isn't Dick," Garth replied. "Sergeant Rohrbach, I take it?"
"Um," he could hear her embarrassment through the line, "yeah. Is Dick there?"
Dick had rolled over to face Garth, and his eyes had widened at the mention of his partner's name. "Hold on," Garth instructed, handing the phone over.
"Amy?" Dick spoke into the receiver. He glanced at the clock. "It's only ten in the morning."
Garth watched Dick's face as he focused on the tinny sound of Amy's voice, audible and understandable if he concentrated. /We gotta a situation down at the Justice Center. We're calling in everybody./
Dick's eyes widened as he sat up in bed. "What's going on?"
The voice through the phone continued. /All hell's broken loose, Grayson. Some nutjob got into the Chief's office. Took a hostage and blew out the side of the twelfth floor. Spur Street looks like Desert Storm. And it looks like it's gonna get a lot worse./
Dick pressed his hand to his forehead, his _expression pained. The obvious weariness on his face did not bleed through into his voice, however, as he crisply answered. "Damn. I'll be there ASAP. Amy?"
Garth did not have to strain to hear the booming explosion staticking over the line. /Just get down here, rookie!/
Dick opened his mouth and then closed it, handing the phone back to Garth as he rose from the bed. "It went dead," he explained, grabbing his uniform pants from the back of the desk chair and scrambling into them. "God only knows what's going down-"
Garth set the phone back in its cradle and sat crosslegged on the bed facing Dick. "Dick-"
"Garth, I gotta get going. Who knows--"
"Dick," Garth interrupted more firmly as Dick dug into the closet for a shirt in frantic haste. "Don't you think this might be a good time to call in a favor?"
Dick hesitated, one arm in his shirt sleeve and the other reaching back futilely for the other sleeve. Garth rose and straightened the shirt so Dick could get into it. "Garth, I don't--"
Garth silenced him with a peck on the lips. "Go. At least find out what's going on. And if it's large scale? Say... league scale?"
Dick blinked and turned to rummage for a pair of socks. "I doubt that it -"
"Remember that Intergang was moving in," Garth pointed out.
That gave Dick pause. "Shit. You think-"
"I don't think anything yet. I'm just reminding you of your options."
Dick gave a sharp nod, bending over to put on his socks. "You're right. Thanks." He pulled on his second sock and then jumped up, sliding his feet into the shoes that sat by the bedroom door. Garth padded barefoot after him as he opened his gun safe and threaded the holster onto his belt.
"Be careful out there," he reminded, feeling troubled, as if he were sending Dick out vulnerable.
Dick turned and gave Garth a quick kiss. "Always. Love you." Then he was grabbing a muffin from the bread box and his jacket from a hook by the door, and Dick was gone.
Garth sighed and dug up the remote for the television to see if whatever was going on had made the news. The answer came as the picture tube flared to life with the roar of an explosion and a news camera caught an emergency services van blasting into the air.
Any hope of getting any work done was lost as Garth stared at the television for hours, flipping occasionally to get different coverage as the siege of the Justice Center roared through the day. Once he had allowed Dick enough time to get there, he strained to make out the figures caught by the sweep of the cameras, hoping for some confirmation that Dick was safe. He thought he caught a glimpse of him around 3 in the afternoon, ducking behind a cop car as debris from another explosion rained down on the street.
"Call somebody," he repeated at the television time and again. Maybe the destruction of a block or so of Bludhaven real estate was not enough to get the attention of whoever was monitoring the planet from the moon, but Garth could see that the BPD was not dealing with any standard ordinance. He entertained and then rejected the idea of intervening; there was a limit to what he could do in any case, and recent troubles with the Titans suggested such help might be less than welcome.
There were issues as well, around his official duties. It was one thing for him to play a hero, but if he stepped in where he had not been requested... he did not want to create an incident. No, this was definitely a case where Dick needed to call the Watchtower, to signal Babs to kick their earlier plan into action. So why wasn't he doing it?
It wasn't until late afternoon when dusk was falling that two things occurred to Garth. The first was that Nightwing would not appear during the day. The second was that despite the encroaching night, the sky over the downtown district was lit to a blood red by fires.
J'onn couldn't fight in fire.
Wasting no time, Garth dressed in his Tempest costume, pulling on a pair of sweats and a light jacket to cover it as he headed to the water. Fire he could help with, creating a localized rain effect that would not draw attention to his hand in matters.
He dove into the Narrows and sluiced easily through the water toward the conflagration. It was full dark when he emerged from the water and slipped into one of Dick's hiding places, pulling out a set of clothes and tossing them into a backpack for later. He hooked the backpack over his shoulder and walked a couple of blocks to where he could view the scene.
Cops were silhouetted by the roaring flames, and Garth noticed a column of them working around to storm the building. "Please don't be getting ideas, Dick," he thought to himself, engaging his magic to gather the water vapor in the air.
He saw the column of cops forced back by an explosion, then noticed a figure leaping up and over an overturned semi. "Dick," he protested under his breath, letting the water vapor form into clouds and coalesce raindrops.
Another figure was scrambling after Dick, and Garth scowled. It was one thing for Dick to throw himself into harm's way, but if anything happened to the cop behind, Dick would not forgive himself. Using the cover of the mini-storm he was creating, Garth shot an eyebolt into the clouds, watching it ricochet to strike the ground like lightning several feet in front of the cop. The cop jumped back, shaken, but relatively unharmed. The resulting clap of thunder that sounded caused heads to jerk up towards the sky in startlement.
Then he let the rain fall, a hissing downpour that began to damp down the raging fires. Under the cover of that downpour, he was able to concentrate water over the worst of the flames, snuffing them as effectively as emptying a giant bucket of water could have done. He watched as fire fighters redoubled their efforts, and he gradually relaxed his control of the water, letting the sudden squall dissipate.
He could here gun shots coming from the Justice Center, and his heart was in his throat.
Ducking into an alley, he opened the backpack he had claimed and pulled out a pair of jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt. The jeans were his, tossed into the hiding hole during an evening of waterside lovemaking and then left "just in case." The t-shirt, though, was Dick's, and fit against Garth's body like a second skin.
Garth smoothed the fabric down to his waist, mentally noting he was fitting a stereotype but too worried to care. He began making his way closer to the barricaded street, startled when he heard a scream of "HELP MEEEEE!" from somewhere high in the melee.
His eyes followed the sound and he saw a man in an office chair plunging toward the street below, and behind him...
Behind him, Nightwing was diving, throwing de-cel line. Garth stopped and stared, caught by the beauty and horrified by the danger of Nightwing's swing. He watched the lines go tight in either of Nightwing's hands and winced at the snap with which they jerked at his shoulders. A massage would be in order tonight, if not a trip to the emergency room.
The man in the office chair crashed through a window of the building, and Garth was close enough to hear the barking of questions and orders over the police band. Seconds later he was also close enough to hear the "VRAAAAM" of shots being leveled at a still swinging Nightwing.
No matter how many times he had seen Nightwing dodge bullets, he could not quite believe he wasn't getting hit. The elegant pirouettes and somersaults through the air made it clear that Nightwing was still in control of himself, still whole as he dodged the blasts leveled at him from the 12th floor of the Justice Center.
Suddenly the shooting stopped and Dick's voice reached Garth through the assorted other noise. "CLEAR THE STREET! HUNT COVER! THIS GUN IS A BOMB!"
Garth lost sight of Nightwing as the gun exploded, overturning police cruisers and knocking down street lights. He ducked for cover himself, racing forward, heading toward a perimeter car whose number he recognized as Dick's unit.
His eyes widened as he approached and saw Dick Grayson rising from where he was crouched behind his open car door. "Dick!" he called, racing forward to assure himself that his lover was in one piece. He must've gotten that call off, gotten J'onn to come down, Garth thought with relief.
Dick turned at the sound of his voice and smiled, giving a little wave. That must mean "Nightwing" was all right.
A tall officer stepped in front of Garth suddenly. "I'm sorry, sir, but this area--"
"It's okay, Sorino," Dick's voice interceded, and the tall man stepped aside uncertainly.
"Hey, Garth," Dick greeted. "D'you see Nightwing take down Soames?"
Garth stared incredulously at Dick's easy smile for a moment, then caught him by the wrist and pulled him between two parked ambulances. There, away from prying eyes, he wrapped his arms around him and caught him in a desperate kiss.
"Get a room, boys," he heard Amy's voice remark with a hint of irony, but he didn't let go, slipping his tongue into Dick's mouth as a nagging thought suddenly solidified in his mind. Garth had put out most of the fires, but on the 12th floor...
Almost at the same instant, he felt a mental voice in his head. *Uh, Garth...*
Garth pulled back for an instant, half-startled by his recognition but also by the ache in J'onn's mental tone. Smiling reassuringly, he pulled "Dick" more closely to him, working his mouth against puzzled lips that began to tentatively respond. He pressed "Dick" back against the ambulance behind him, deepening the kiss and earning a passionate answer with lips and tongue.
He pulled back only when the ambulance rocked and the sound of a throat clearing sounded above them. The Nightwing costume was in tatters, but Dick was grinning. "Wow, we really are hot."
Garth leaned back and met his lover's smile, a hand still resting on "Dick Grayson's" shoulder. "Oh!" he exclaimed, letting a blush rise over his features. "Um, you ready to trade places?" Garth suggested.
"Please," J'onn added, morphing into Nightwing's form and touching his lips with a faintly troubled expression.
Dick chuckled and dropped down to join them, accepting a fresh uniform that J'onn had somehow stowed on his person. "Give you two credits for verisimilitude. I'd bet even the Justice League would be hard pressed to believe you weren't me, J'onn." He changed swiftly as J'onn projected some telepathic illusion for anyone who might happen to walk by and glance their way.
"You all right?" Garth asked, brushing a hand over Dick's hair as Dick tied his shoes.
Dick straightened. "A little worse for wear, but nothing serious." He turned toward "Nightwing." "Thanks, J'onn. I owe you."
J'onn once more touched his lips and glanced at Garth. "No you don't," he stated, and he shot a jumpline off into the smoky night, swiftly disappearing from view.
Now Dick settled his arms around Garth's neck and leaned in to claim his own kiss. "Fooled you, huh?" he asked when his lips were free.
"Maybe at little," Garth conceded, feeling a bit guilty for the white lie. But J'onn felt so lonely, and if it weren't for what had happened with Alianne, Dick would surely understand.
Dick cocked his head. "You didn't take advantage of J'onn, did you?" His tone was teasing, but there was a dangerous undercurrent in his voice.
Garth shook his head, his eyes drifting up in the direction that the Martian had disappeared. "I was wondering why "you" were so hesitant, but I just needed to kiss you."
Dick regarded him for a second, weighing the seriousness of his tone. "I'm okay, Garth," he said softly. "If I could've told you what we were doing, but --" He shrugged and gave Garth another peck on the lips. "I gotta get back to work. See you at home?"
Garth nodded. "I love you."
"Love you, too."
Garth watched Dick depart and turned to head back to the water.