"...With You in Any Water."

by 'rith



Archive: Ask first, please.
Warnings: M/M slash.
Fandom: Titans, modern comicsverse, AU. A different sequel to "The Thousandth Man," which can be found at my webpage http://www.offpanel.net/kerithwyn/. For the less slashy version, see "...More Close Than a Brother." Both fics share the same opening scene.
Thanks to: KayJay, who wanted to see this version. ;)
Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics. What I have done with them is mine.


For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.

--Kipling



Another day, another battle, another bunch of anonymous thugs who thought they were good enough to take on the Titans.

And the six Titans in residence were enthusiastically proving them *wrong.*

"Why is it every group of half-trained goons thinks we'd make good punching bags?" That was Arsenal, his mouth running faster than the Flash as usual. "This never happens to the JLA. We need better press, Wingster!"

Nightwing grinned as he vaulted over the battle and landed feet-first on the shoulders of a gunman, driving him into the dirt. "Sure. Lemme call up Bethany Snow...."

Cyborg shook his head and grabbed up two of the thugs, slamming them together, stunning them. "Nah. She'd only say we maliciously and without provocation attacked these poor, innocent gun-wielding, armor-wearing gentlemen who just *happened* to be on Titans island...sight-seeing."

Argent, new to the team but quickly finding the spirit of it, chimed in. "Maybe we can recruit someone--like that Kent guy in Metropolis, he does all of Superman's press."

"...or Lane. Yeah, I wouldn't mind her hanging around, watching my every move...."

"She's *married,* Roy!" Troia glared at Arsenal as she tore the power packs out of the fallen weapons.

"Well, all right. Tana Moon, then." He grinned. "I'm just sayin'--"

Cyborg laughed. "Yeah, Harper, we know what you're saying, you never shut up!"

Crouched behind a rock, one of the last remaining gunmen--a little more cautious than the rest--took stock. It was infuriating, watching the Titans' casual disposal of his team. They were laughing, *joking* as the bodies piled up around them, and the sound of it was worse than the failure. Well. He'd make sure to leave them with something they *couldn't* laugh off. That one, the quick one who directed the others as casually as breathing...he was obviously the leader. Take out the head, and the rest will fall. Maybe not in this attack, but surely with the next.... He took careful aim, tracking the acrobat's moves, and fired.

The energy bolt screamed through the air toward Nightwing's back, only to be intercepted by a red-and-black garbed body throwing itself in the way. Tempest went down, sorely burned but protected from a killing shot by his Atlantean physiology. As Nightwing, merely human, would not have been.

To some surprise, it was Arsenal who reacted first.

"Garth! Stay down, buddy, I gotcha--"

Faster than thought three arrows buried themselves in the gunman: one in his shoulder, one through his hand, the last piercing his thigh. He went down howling, never knowing how close he'd been to finding that final arrow through his heart.

"Jeez, Arsenal." Argent looked at him with wide eyes. "Thought you were gonna kill that guy."

Roy ignored her, running heedless of his own safety toward the fallen Tempest. Behind him, Cyborg and Nightwing dispatched the remaining goons. "It's okay, you're gonna be okay, please be okay--"

Troia swooped down. "Roy? Is he--"

"...'s alright, it's just a bad burn, but he's unconscious. Can you carry him?"

"Of course." Donna lifted Garth easily and took off toward Titans' Tower and the new medical bay.

Nightwing came up. "Roy? He'll be fine. Are you--"

"That blast would have killed you, Dick! If he hadn't seen it...."

"That's what the team's for. We watch out for each other." Dick nodded to Cyborg and Argent and called across the field, "Vic, Toni, you two deal with these guys, all right? Roy and I are going to check on Garth."

Argent looked at Cyborg, a little panicked. "They're just leaving us to do that? But..."

Vic patted her shoulder. "They've got more important things on their minds. You have to remember, Donna and Roy and Garth and--Nightwing, they've known each other a long time. Making sure a couple of goons get turned over to the authorities is pretty minor compared to that. And they trust us to do it. C'mon, you truss 'em up, I'll make the call...."

Back at the Tower, Dick was still trying to get Roy to talk. "You, ah, that was pretty harsh with that last guy--"

"He deserved it."

"Hm."

Silence for one moment, two, and then: "Okay, okay. Look, it's...this is weird, don't laugh, but I ended up talking with Garth a little a couple of weeks ago. Really talking. Man, Robbie, I've known him forever and I barely knew...."

"Go on." Dick carefully kept his face straight, and tried to put the story Changeling'd told him out of his mind. Something about Garth finally getting annoyed at Harper's insults, and a kiss.

"Yeah. So I just never realized, I guess. What, uh, you and me and Donna and Wally mean to him. It kinda shook me."

"I know." Dick smiled faintly. "I don't know why you have such a hard time believing we care about you, Harper. You're only an idiot on the outside."

"Gee, thanks. But it wasn't just about me. He could've died out there, he was saving your life, and he didn't hesitate for a second!"

"Roy." Dick caught his friend's eye. "We've all fought together before, it's always like that. Next time it'll be your turn to save Donna, or mine to help Wally. Why is this different?"

"Nothing! That's just the point!" Roy looked away. "All that time, I barely ever talked to Garth except to insult him, I never really got to know him, and he loves me--you, all of us--enough to die for us. What'd I do to deserve that?"

"You're *you.*" They reached the medical bay. "Donna?"

"Here, Dick." She was looking over readings on the computer console. "I bound the wound and got him in the tank STAR Labs sent. I'm just adjusting the pressure now. I figured the last thing he needed was a case of dehydration on top of everything else."

"Good thinking." Garth stirred and winced in the water-filled chamber. "Looks like he's coming to."

"Ouch." Tempest opened his purple eyes and reached for the intercom inside the tank. "Glad to see you guys in one piece. The others?"

"Fine, no one got hurt except for you, and thanks." Dick shook his head mournfully. "What, 'Nightwing, duck!' wouldn't have been enough?"

"I didn't want to take the chance." Garth smiled. "Besides, this offers a fine excuse for all of you to visit me while I lie in bed injured, the selfless hero...."

Dick snorted. "An ulterior motive. I knew it." He moved forward and laid a hand flat on the chamber; inside, Garth mirrored the motion. "Thanks, Garth."

"Any time, Robbie."

"I should get back out there and see if our 'friends' want to tell us anything about who sent them. I'll check back later."

"Yeah, later." Roy looked up into the tank. "Glad you're all right."

Donna smiled to herself. She'd heard the story too--and Gar had shown her the picture, as well. "Roy got the guy who shot you. Took him down pretty hard, actually."

Tempest raised an eyebrow. "Not too hard, I hope?"

"He'll live."

"Thanks."

"De nada, amigo."

Garth shook his head. "You two don't have to nursemaid me, if you need to go--I should rest, anyway."

"Nah, if I go back out there, Robbie'll put me to work." Roy grabbed a chair and put his feet up on the console. "Go ahead and sleep, I'll be here if you need anything."

Donna smiled at Garth over Roy's head. "I'll leave you in good hands, then." She bent down and kissed Roy's cheek.

"Huh?" He looked up at her, confused. "What's that for?"

"Being you. Never mind."

"Sure." She left, and Roy grinned at the tank. "You get shot, and I get kissed. No question who got the better deal today, buddy."

No answer. Roy glanced at the monitor and saw Garth had fallen asleep. Donna'd put a sedative into the water to help ease the healing process. Sneaky. He'd have to put a note in his own file so they'd never pull that trick on him. Drugs, no thank you, never again. He'd suffer the pain, but Garth didn't deserve to. "You sleep. I'll be here."

It was, after all, the least he could do.


{the next day}

"Hey."

Garth looked up to see Roy eyeing him hesitantly from the door. "Hey, yourself. You've just missed Dick...."

"Yeah, that's all right. How, uh, how are you feeling?"

"Much better. Come in, Roy, you don't have to stand in the doorway...."

The new rec room at Titans' Tower had considerable improvements over the old, including a much larger pool and the jacuzzi Garth was soaking in. It looked pretty inviting, in fact. "Mind if I join you?"

"Not at all."

He stripped down, ignoring Garth's slight smile as he decided to leave his Speedo on. Garth, of course, wasn't wearing anything. Roy eased himself into the water. "Feels good."

They shared the tub in companionable silence until Dick's voice came over the intercom. "Guys, I've got to get back to the 'Haven--call if you need me."

Roy reached over and touched the controls, conveniently placed so that he didn't even have to get out of the water. "Okay, Robbie. Have fun."

Dick's rueful tone was clear even over the connection. "Right. All things considered, I'd rather be in Tahiti." It was an old joke between them, and Roy and Garth exchanged an amused glance. "Roy, kiss Lian for me, and Garth, heal quick, okay? I can't stand the guilt."

Garth leaned over toward the 'com. "None necessary, and I will. Call if *you* need us."

"Sure. Later!"

Dick clicked off, and Garth sighed in resignation. "He never will."

"What, call? Nope." Roy shrugged. "Stubborn."

Garth raised an eyebrow. "Pot, kettle..."

Roy grinned. "Who, me?" He was quiet for a moment. "Listen. I've been thinking a lot about when we talked, the other day."

Garth's eyes were level on his own, undemanding. "Oh?"

"Yeah. So, um, I was just wondering, I dunno why, about, uh, what you said about Dick and me and the others...."

"I remember, Roy. I never meant to imply that I expected--"

"Nah, I know, but, uh, this isn't obligation or worry or guilt or anything else, it's cause I want to. All right?"

He leaned forward, seeing the astonishment turn to acceptance in Garth's eyes. A breath, and their lips met.

Naught but silence, and the faintest whisper of flesh against flesh.

Roy pulled back, and Garth looked at him wide-eyed. "Wow."

"Yeah." Roy shook his head, stunned. "That's, uh, some talent you got there...."

"Praise from a master." He gazed at Roy speculatively. "I may have to revise my opinion."

"What's that?"

"Oh, when I said I hadn't been yearning after you all this time--maybe I should have been."

Roy blushed but held his ground. "Well, maybe I wouldn't mind..." he trailed off.

Garth's voice was quiet. "Don't tease. I couldn't stand.... Don't say that unless you mean it."

Roy abruptly remembered that while Garth'd been annoyed at his teasing, it was only when Roy mentioned his relationships--or lack thereof--that Garth had gotten truly *angry.* As far as Roy knew there hadn't been anyone in Garth's life before Tula, and after her death Garth had been alone again. He'd had a brief affair with some woman named Dolphin, but apparently that had ended badly. Roy thought of all his own relationships and winced to himself. Most were only flings, but at least he'd *had* some....

His own feelings were a tangled mess. Maybe it was only friendship, or the reaction to seeing Garth hurt, but he'd been wondering...and that kiss only made him more curious. He took a long breath and met Garth's eyes. "I think--I think I do."

The Atlantean held himself carefully still. "Really?"

"...yeah. I mean, I'm not, uh, looking for--"

"You're not looking for something serious, because you're still hoping for something more with Donna."

Roy started. "You never said you could read minds!"

Garth smiled. "Oh, I don't have to. It's entirely obvious. But on the other hand...." His expression was both amused and faintly hopeful. "Donna wouldn't mind--she's an Amazon, after all. And curiosity is a perfectly acceptable motive."

"Well, when you put it that way...." He laughed suddenly. "God, how awkward. And I'm supposed to be good at this kind of thing."

"It's a different situation. ... Roy? You're sure?"

"No, but I'm willing to give it a shot."

"Good enough." Garth slid forward and Roy found himself pinned against the wall of the jacuzzi. "Let's try this again."

This time it was slow, leisurely, as Garth kissed him with gentle thoroughness. Roy felt his last reservations melt away under the care, the *love,* he felt in it. He threw himself into it, bringing his own experience to bear, and felt Garth shudder slightly against him. He drew back. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all." Garth's eyes were bright. "It's been--a little while, that's all. I don't want to come on too strong."

"Hey, I won't break." Roy grinned. "Trust me, I'll tell you if there's something I don't like. But that felt great."

"It did. Again?"

"Sure." Roy reached out to draw Garth closer, mindful of the burn across his ribs. So different from what he was used to but just as arousing, the feel of another body against him and an eager tongue meeting his own. Roy shifted a bit and groaned into Garth's mouth, feeling his body start to respond in a very familiar way.

They broke apart again, both breathing faster. Roy raised a hand to trace the scars over Garth's right eye and felt him shiver again. "Does that hurt?"

"No. It feels...very good." Garth smiled shakily. "Everything does." He ran a hand across Roy's jaw and down his chest to rest over his heart. "Last chance to back out...."

"What are you, kidding? No way." Never let it be said Roy Harper wasn't open to trying something new. Especially in *this* area. "What d'you have in mind?"

In response, Garth leaned in to tease *just* the right spot behind Roy's ear with his lips. "Just let me touch you, for now...."

"Whatever you--ohhhh...." Roy stopped trying to talk as Garth caressed his arms, his chest, and his mouth trailed a determined line down Roy's throat. Roy's flailing hands caught the sides of the tub and held, not trusting his legs to hold his weight without buckling.

Garth chuckled a little and his head came up while his hands wandered lower, to Roy's waist. "Let's get you out of *this* silly thing." He bent a little, teeth catching Roy's nipple lightly, and Roy barely felt the Speedo being drawn down, hardly registered lifting his feet, and only noticed when he heard it hit the floor with a wet splat.

The moment took on an almost dreamlike quality, or maybe that was only in his own head as Garth evoked the responses Roy knew so well. A touch *here,* and the stroke of a tongue *there,* like his body was a map with all the places that made him gasp marked for Garth to find.

It seemed unfair not to be reciprocating. "Hey, why don't..." and then Garth's head slipped under the surface of the water and the thought vanished. That mouth on his stomach, moving downward with deliberate intent, there just wasn't any arguing with *that.* Not that Roy wanted to. Not at all. Especially not....

Not *now,* when that teasing tongue was making it impossible to resist. Of course he doesn't have to come up for air, he thought inanely, and then told his brain to shut up. Garth's hands were as busy as his mouth, trailing over Roy's backside, and almost by instinct he spread his legs for better balance--and to allow those wandering hands to go wherever they wanted. Cheshire was a psychopath and an assassin but she'd been *great* in bed, and had taught him some things about his own body he'd never considered before. Just like--

Like Garth was doing now, a careful exploration that went unerringly to the right spot. It went on and on, the firm pressure of Garth's mouth, the knowing movement of his fingers, and Roy threw back his head and heard himself moaning into the stillness of the room. "Oh, oh *fuck*--there, right there..." and then he lost his words entirely and could only cry out as the tension built and built to a tight spiral and finally hit, leaving him trembling and thoroughly drained.

Garth came up slowly, touching him gently to draw out the last aftershocks. Roy stared at him, caught somewhere between shock and utter delight. "Oh, man...I had no idea."

There was an expression he'd never seen before on Garth's face, openly affectionate and even a little smug. "I haven't your vast experience, Roy, but I haven't been a monk either."

"I guess not!" He noticed the waterlogged creases on his skin. "Uh, I hate to say this, but I'm turning into a prune in here...."

"We can't have that. I don't like the taste of prunes." Garth lifted himself out while Roy snickered, surprised by the suggestiveness in the joke. Talk about seeing a whole new side to the man!

Garth held out a hand. Roy took it and was hauled up and out by more-than-human strength. He came up flush against Garth's body, felt the strength in it, and his arousal as well. On level ground they were almost of a height--he was maybe an inch taller, though Garth seemed bigger than he was due to a heavier muscle density. "Your place or mine?"

Garth started, then laughed, obviously pleased. "Mine. It's cleaner."

"True!" He grabbed up his wet trunks, frowned, and chose instead to wrap himself in a towel. Garth was doing the same. "Wouldn't want to scare the children."

"I don't think anyone else is in. If no one came running when you yelled--"

"Oh, hey!"

"You *are* loud."

"Think of it as tribute to the skill." He hesitated for a second. "So, uh, who..."

"No one you know." Garth gave him a sideways glance. "I had a wild period too, believe it or not."

"You? Really? I can't imagine it."

"I did." They headed toward the dorm wing. "It was after Tula died."

Roy winced. "Oh, God. I didn't mean to remind you...."

Garth shook his head. "It's all right, Roy. I really have come to terms with it."

The calm assurance in Garth's tone made that clear. Roy remembered the terrible depression that had overtaken Garth after her death. It was no wonder; Tula really had been his "true love" in a way most of the Titans--to their shame--hadn't understood until she was gone.

He'd loved Donna way back when--might even get there again, if things went right. In a warped way he loved Chesh too. But not like *that,* no one like that. It almost made him envy Garth, then wonder if he could have dealt with such a loss and come out the other side stronger for it.

"...Roy?"

They'd reached Garth's room, and Roy realized the other man was looking at him like he expected a change of heart. "Sorry. Just thinking--" and to wipe away that expression he stepped closer and murmured in his lady-killer voice, "Can't get rid of me that easily."

"Oh, I know *that;* why do you think we've put up with you for so long?" With a brilliant smile Garth opened the door and stepped inside.

Roy staggered and clutched at his chest. "A hit, a palpable hit!" He followed, laughing. "When did *you* grow a sense of humor? Next thing you know Robbie'll get one and then I'll be out of a job. Team wise-ass."

"Not likely. You have a few other redeeming qualities." He paused. "*And* a nice ass. Wise or not."

"Oh, yeah?" Roy reached out and quick-snatched the towel from around Garth's waist. "Let's see what you've got, since *I* haven't been looking."

Garth's lips twitched and he obediently began a slow pivot. Okay, it wasn't like looking at a beautiful woman--Roy's basic orientation hadn't changed that much, regardless of this little visit to the other side--but aesthetically, he could appreciate that Garth was...built. It was more than Atlantean strength and physiology; the man had such a clearly defined musculature it made Roy feel flabby. Which he wasn't, he knew, but Garth could've been dipped in marble and put on display. And he had a hell of a lot more to look at than the *David,* too.

"Well?"

"Not bad, not bad...you know, those swimmer's muscles...." He chuckled. "I'm gorgeous, you're gorgeous, Robbie is apparently irresistible, Wally's face doesn't frighten small children. The Titans, pin-ups for a million teenage girls. We got it *all* over the JLA!"

"They have Superman."

Roy considered. "Point. Well, with a name like that, what're you gonna do?" He looked up and smacked his forehead dramatically. "Oh, hell, what am I doing?"

Garth glanced over. "Hm?"

"Sorry." Roy crossed over to where Garth stood and touched his shoulder. "I, uh, I'm not quite sure what to do here--but I owe you."

Garth replied with a serious look. "No, you don't. Whatever you feel comfortable with is--"

"Garth..."

"Yes?"

"Shut *up.*" He put a hand to the back of Garth's neck and kissed him. This time he took a little longer, making it count, learning the unique texture and taste of his friend.

He felt a little smug himself, seeing that Garth looked unsteady when they pulled apart. "Ah...Roy, I--"

"Sit down before you fall down, willya?" Laughing, he pushed Garth down the short hall to the bedroom. Somewhere along the way his own towel fell off, and that was okay, because *this* was okay. The mechanics might be a little different but it was still just sex, and if there was one thing Roy Harper was good at--

Well, two, if you counted being able to hit anything he aimed at.

But this shouldn't be *that* different. Roy knew what he liked, after all, and the principle should be the same. Once in the room Garth reached for him hungrily, and the sheer decisiveness of the motion took Roy by surprise again. "It *has* been awhile, hasn't it?"

"Well, yes." Garth shook his head, bemused. "Roy, don't you *ever* stop talking?"

"Sure. When I got a good reason." He nudged Garth back again, toward the bed. "Get comfortable, huh?"

Garth lay down, stretching, then relaxed and fixed his purple eyes on Roy's in expectation.

The idea of Garth's body given into his hands in complete trust humbled him again. He felt keenly that he hadn't *earned* it, which ordinarily wouldn't have been a factor; but in a strange way it was a little like his on-and-off again relationship with Donna. He was a lot more *careful* about things, thoughtful, because both she and Garth knew him too well to be put off with a line or a joke. It was both a terrifying thought and a comforting one.

Garth's voice cut into his thoughts, brought him back to the here-and-now. "You are a *tease.*"

"Huh?!" Startled, he flushed and reached automatically for a reply--except all his usually quick wit seemed to have deserted him. "I, uh--"

Garth sat up, took Roy's hands in his, and pulled him down to sit on the bed. "Standing there before me, just out of reach, as if you didn't know all I wanted was to touch you; if this is a technique to build anticipation, Roy, it works very well...."

Fast, too fast, the kind of banter *he* was supposed to be good at; but the twinkle in Garth's eye was all amusement at his evident inexperience. He let out a breath of laughter. "All right, you got me. I'm moderately clueless. I got the theory, but the practice...you're way ahead of me there, man."

"Will wonders never cease." Garth looked him in the eye. "I want this. I want *you.*"

That was unqualified honesty, pure and powerfully arousing. "Jesus. Yeah." To hell with it; this wasn't a experiment or a test, this was his *friend,* and the day Roy disappointed his friends again you might as well take the bow out of his hand and bury him. "Let's--"

He didn't have a chance to finish before Garth was kissing him again, and Roy forgot what he was going to say and just kissed back. They fell back together, hands starting to wander, and it wasn't awkward at all any more.

It wasn't awkward for a long, long time.



They lay dozing in lazy contentment, twined around each other. Roy stirred a little, and winced. Sticky.

"If you can peel yourself off of me--I think a shower's definitely in order."

Garth grinned. "Mine's big enough to share."

"And here we thought the extra-large bath in your room was 'cause of the hydration thing; you sneaky hedonist, you. Wish I'd put in for one." He stopped for a moment as he thought it through. "Waitasec. You were expecting to have company. *Who?*"

Garth laughed and swung himself out of bed. "That, I leave to you to ponder."

"'Are you pondering what I'm pondering?' –except I don't want to be Pinky," Roy muttered. That show was one of Lian's favorites. Okay, his too.

"What's that?" Garth called, voice echoing against the tiles.

"Nothing, nothing." Roy got up and padded toward the bathroom. "Hey, this is nice. I'll have to sneak in here just to use your shower."

"Any time." Garth paused, then winked. "Whether I'm in it or not."

Roy laughed. "I gotta tell you, buddy, it's still *really* weird hearing things like that out of your mouth."

"I didn't know I was so boring before."

"Nah, just--serious, you know? I had no idea."

Garth started the shower and after a minute Roy joined him. "What's this? Smells like--" he sniffed at the unmarked bottle. "The ocean, full of salt."

"It's...well, a sort of soap. Basically. From Atlantis. Try it."

"Okay." He poured some onto his hands and reached for Garth. "But you first." With the sea-foam he drew wet circles on Garth's chest, caressing, and got just the reaction he was hoping for: a long shudder, and that *look* again. "Oh, I definitely think we need more of this."

Garth gasped as his hands went lower. "Roy..."

Roy just grinned. "As someone said to me, 'Don't you ever stop talking?' Shut up and enjoy it."

"...yes...." Garth's head fell back as Roy's hands went over him, sweeping up and down, teasing and finally settling into a rhythm. "Ohhh...."

Roy went slow, drawing it out, and when Garth moaned Roy pulled him in for a deep kiss, tongue mirroring the movements of his hands below. Garth's hands came up to grip at Roy's shoulders, holding on for support, and he cried out into Roy's mouth as he came.

He stood for a moment, almost gasping for air (water?), and put a hand to the wall to steady himself. "Ah, Pallais--"

Roy smirked. "That means 'good,' I guess."

"Oh, yes." Without another word he took Roy in his arms, holding fast.

It felt good. It felt *right,* almost frighteningly so, and in a clear moment of insight Roy suddenly understood what Garth had been talking about--his feelings for Roy and the other founding Titans, and the fact that there was nothing he wouldn't do for them, in friendship and in love.

Right here and now Roy felt exactly the same way.

Face buried in Garth's shoulder, he murmured, "I won't forget this. I do love you, Garth, and the others too. I'll try to be better about--"

Garth pulled back a little. "You don't have to *try* to do anything. We love who you are, already."

"Sure, but...ah, hell." He leaned in and kissed Garth briefly. "Not that I'm gonna run out and sleep with Robbie or Wally to prove it, ya know."

"I should hope not." Garth smiled. "I have dibs on Dick."

Roy laughed. "But does *he* know that?"

"He knows I love him; that's all that matters. But Roy, there's something more important we should discuss."

"Uh, okay--what?"

"How exactly we're going to get Donna to go out with you again."

Roy started, then grinned. "What is this, a team effort?"

"Isn't it always, with us?" Garth reached to turn off the shower and handed Roy a towel. "I think you two would be very good for each other."

"Well, yeah, I think so."

"So why are you hesitating?"

Roy shook his head slowly. "I don't want...to screw it up. I'm good at that. Donna deserves--"

"If say 'Donna deserves better,' I will slam you into the wall." Garth's tone was dead serious.

"Um. Okay. She's just been through so much, I'm afraid of...disappointing her."

Garth sighed. "You won't do that unless you refuse to try at all. There is already a bond between you that runs deep; you can only strengthen it."

"I-I guess."

"I am telling you: Donna loves you. Nothing you do will alter that. And if you can make each other happy, whether for a time or for a lifetime, you should." Roy thought he saw something...longing...pass briefly over Garth's face, but the next moment the expression was gone.

Except he *had* seen it, and he'd be damned if he left on that kind of note. "Hey, what is this? Trying to get rid of me? I think I should be insulted, man."

The look of surprise was priceless. "No...I just...assumed--"

"Well, quit it. I ain't leaving yet." Roy grinned to take the sting out of it. "What did you say, before? 'Curiosity is a perfectly acceptable motive'? I'm a pretty curious guy. And besides, even one-night stand should last a whole night." He paused. "Wait, that didn't come out right. I mean--"

"I know what you meant." Garth smiled. "Thank you."

"For what? But I'm serious." He nodded firmly. "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. And practice makes perfect. And..."

"Roy..."

"Only one sure way to get me to shut up, man. Thought you'd figured--oh, hey! Mmmm...."


{end}







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