Summary: a death in the family...sort of
Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.
Feedback: why yes, by all means. Baeden2000@aol.com
It had been a normal day at work, a few traffic tickets, a tour of the station house by a class of thirty-five second graders, and Dick Grayson was glad to be home so that he could kick back, eat a late dinner, maybe take the night off and just relax with his roommate, lover, best friend. That was Garth, everything rolled into one. He would be glad when the new week started, this working the late shift was wreaking havoc on his other life...no flying all week, and not much time for 'other things', either. Normally they had a pretty healthy sex life, but the last couple of weeks, the hours they had been awake just hadn't meshed. It would be nice to get that back on a normal schedule, too. He might have been able to sleep to noon, but Garth still had to be up to get to the UN at a reasonable hour. He usually rolled into his office by nine or nine thirty which meant that he had to fall out of their bed by about seven. Talk about your bi-polar schedules.
Pulling his motorcycle into the garage under the building and climbing up the stairs he didn't hear anything, didn't see any lights and thought that Garth must be working late. He was wrong.
Dick walked into the living room to find him sitting on the couch. There were several folded papers with unbroken seals spilling from an Atlantean diplomatic pouch and there was an open letter on the cushion beside him. He looked like he had taken a hard blow. There was a stillness about him that was almost shock.
"Garth?" He crossed over to him, kneeling in front of his lover. "What is it?"
He indicated the letter beside him. "She's dead."
He glanced at the letter. It wasn't in English. Gently taking his hand he asked, "Who's dead, love?"
Garth had been abandoned at birth, later refusing all contact with the woman who had borne him. From odd comments made over the ten or so years they had known each other, Dick had picked up that she had made several attempts to establish some kind of relationship but had been rebuffed. As far as he knew, Garth had never met the woman. Nor would he ever discus her or his feelings, if any, about either her actions or the woman herself. Should anyone be tactless or uninformed enough to bring up the subject, it would be quickly squashed.
"The funeral was three days ago. She requested that I not be informed of her death until after the fact." He sounded more depressed, more defeated than Dick would have thought possible. He carefully put his hand up to Garth's cheek, cupping his face, kissing his forehead.
"I love you. We'll deal with this together."
Wordlessly, Garth nodded as Dick enfolded him in an embrace.
Minutes later he spoke softly against Dick's shoulder. "What I don't understand is why I'm so upset by her death. I've never even met her. She threw me away. She left me to die." He paused, taking several breaths. "I should be relieved or happy or something. I shouldn't be--in tears."
"She was still your mother."
"No, she just gave birth to me. I had no mother, or father for that matter."
Dick continued to hold him for a long time, stroking and trying to give some comfort, saying nothing other than small words that he hoped would bring some solace. After a while he nodded at the unopened messages. "What are these others? Diplomatic stuff?"
"No. They're letters she wrote to me. One was written just before my birth, the other last week." His arms tightened around Dick. "I was going to open them, but I..." He drew a shaky breath.
"It's all right. They'll wait until you're ready." After a pause, "Would you like me to read them to you?"
The first half smile as Garth looked at him. "They're not in English."
"That might help." The tiny joke produced another tiny smile.
"Let's eat something first, them I'll look at them."
"Did you eat at all today?"
Garth just shook his head no.
Dick nodded, "What would you like? I'll get it."
The tiny smile grew almost infinitesimally. "I'll get my own, thanks. " Dick had a well-deserved reputation as the worst cook on the planet.
Standing, snapping on a couple of lights, they went into the kitchen and began looking for some dinner.
Neither was, in truth, hungry at this point but it would be a break and a chance to regroup, to think how to deal with a loss that in a real way actually happened over twenty years before and had never been addressed.
Sitting at the table over a couple of salads, Dick broke the silence. "How did you find out? I mean, did the letters come here?"
"No, they were included in today's diplomatic pouch. Xan--you know him, you've spoken to him anyway. He's the ambassador to the US; he's stationed down in Washington. He actually flew up here on the shuttle to tell me in person and deliver them."
"It was thoughtful of him to go to all that trouble."
Garth gave him a look that Dick didn't recognize. Suddenly he realized that Garth was capable of being cynical. Somehow he had never seen that in him before. "He was covering his back at home. It would look bad if he had just phoned or had them messengered up or something."
"I'm sure there was more to it than..."
"Dick, I'm a prince. I'm in the line of succession. There may come a time when he works for me. He wants to be on my good side, just like the rest of them. That's why he did it, no other reason."
"....Garth, I know your people genuinely love you. I've heard how they talk about you and I've seen how they treat you. They care about you."
"If they do it's because I've reclaimed some of my birthright and some of the power that goes along with it. Ten years ago I if I were injured they would have gladly pulled whatever plug was keeping me alive and considered it a good day's work."
Dick had never heard him so bitter or so snide. It was a part of him that Dick would have denied existing if he hadn't seen it himself just now.
"But--you don't really believe that the only reason they support you is hope that they can use you somehow at some point."
Garth looked at him as though he were a child and a not very bright one at that. "Of course that's why they support me and work for me. All right, I grant that some of them may like me personally, but they do their jobs in the belief that it will benefit themselves in the long run. Either the country or government will be helped by my work which will translate down to them or they'll be given good jobs or some kind of protection along the road." He saw the shocked look on his lover's face. "Did you think I believe that they work for me because I'm a nice guy? Come on, Dick, grow up."
"...Garth...that's not necessarily true..."
The patronizing look was back. "And if I make any mistakes or anger the wrong people, I'll end up like my father before me, with a knife in my back."
"That won't happen, you know that ..."
"Princes only die two ways--old age or murder."
He stood up rather abruptly, leaving the meal unfinished. "Let's read those letters." He walked, stalked really, into the other room.
A somewhat stunned moment later Dick followed him to the couch, regained his seat next to Garth and watched as he broke the seal on the slightly aged letter, the one written before his birth.
He watched as Garth's eyes started to quickly skim the hand written words, slowing as he reached about the middle of the first page, his expression softening slightly.
"What does it say?"
"About what you'd expect."
I am told that you will be born within the next few days and I wait through the minutes and hours impatiently. I long to hold you, to look at your face and feel you against my breast.
You are the last that I have left of your father and I would have you know him as I remember him now, before my memory of him is affected by your birth.
I loved him. You must know that. You were conceived in love, of that, at least you can be sure. If there is nothing else in your life that is certain, you may know that you were began in love.
He wanted so to be a good king; he wanted that with all his heart.
He wanted to be good and kind and wise, he wanted to be loved by his people as he loved them, as he loved me, and as he would have loved you.
He so wanted you, so very much. I believe that I never saw such joy on any man's face as when I told him that we had made a child. He had such plans for you, such hopes and dreams.
I will do what I can to ensure the life he wished for you, the happiness, the learning, the knowledge and security be felt when you understand that you are born to a great house and a line of great rulers.
You will be born to greatness. Of this I have no doubt.
You are also, I am desperately afraid, born to great sadness. That is the birthright, the heritage I give you and I wish, with all that is in me that your life could be free from the terrible burdens that will follow you. I pray that you will find ways to relieve the torment that plagued your dear father and finally drove him beyond his endurance.
You will know, by the time you are of an age to read this, what killed your father, and who were responsible. They are of no consequence now. It is my hope that you will show them the mercy they denied to others.
My son, for I am told that you are male, I love you now, before even having held you in my arms. You are part of me and you are the last link that our people have to the great kings of the past.
You have a destiny that chills me and you shall have a life beyond compare.
I fear so greatly that you will be forced by the tides born within you to a life of grief. I pray, desperately, that you will be spared this and that you will know joy, but I fear for you.
I hope, with all my heart, that you find a love as great as the one I found with your father. He filled me with such joy. I would wish that for you, as I wish that you be spared the grief of parting from a lover. I fear that you will likely know that pain, but I pray that you do not go through your life alone. That is a terrible burden and one I would do anything to spare you.
This letter doesn't say what I wanted to about your father, though. I digress.
Despite what you may hear of him, in spite of what you might read or are told, know that he was a good man, and an intelligent one who loved his people and loved me and would have loved you with all his heart.
Know also that I will do all in my power to allow you to have the life he wished for you.
Mother (the mere writing of that name causes tears in my eyes--it is a name I never thought would apply to myself.)"
Garth put the letter down with no expression beyond, perhaps, slight annoyance.
"Garth, she loved you."
The purple eyes looked at him with the closest thing to anger he had seen. "No, she fantasized about a child who hadn't yet been born and then she allowed that child to be condemned to death at the age of less than half an hour. She spoke in platitudes but when it came to the reality, she did nothing other than wring her hands."
Dick hesitated, spoke softly so as to not further anger or stress his lover. "I was told that you were taken from her over her objections. A woman who had just given birth would be in no condition to fight back. Love, you know this."
"...She had more than twenty years to try to get me back if she had wanted to. It was no secret hat I was with Arthur. She never even attempted to contact him, let alone me. It was too--difficult."
Dick put his hand gently on Garth's knee. "I know she hurt you, but..."
"Hurt me? She allowed me to be taken away to be murdered. Do you really think that a letter will make up for that? Have you any idea what those years were like? Do you?" He was breathing in hard gasps, biting his words with his anger. The softness that was the main beauty of his people's accent gone in harsh fury.
He was staring down at the carpet, his breathing still harder than normal, his hand clenched.
Dick put his own hand over the fist resting on Garth's leg, caressing and gently rubbing the knuckles and the skin on the fingers, finally raising it to his mouth to kiss. He heard a sigh of resignation.
"You're right. She's dead, there's nothing to be done now, anyway. And it no longer matters." He looked up, as though he had made some kind of decision. "It's late and I'm tired. Come to bed with me?"
"Of course. I'll be right in."
Without another word Garth got up and walked the few steps down the hall to their bedroom leaving Dick to turn off the various lights. A couple of minutes later the shower was running as Garth rehydrated himself for the night and a very few minutes after that he was in bed staring at the ceiling. Dick finished cleaning the few things that were out of place, the remains of their uneaten meal and some clothing strewn about, switching out the bedroom light as he joined his lover in the bed they had shared for over three years now
Turning, Garth pressed himself against the strong body he knew as well as he knew his own, his arms embracing, his mouth pressed against Dick's chest. "I'm sorry that I was so angry with you. It's not you, you know that. I--don't know what I would have done if you hadn't been here tonight." He paused to kiss the warm skin beneath his cheek. "I love you."
"Garth, love. Whatever she was or couldn't be to you, it's over now and you are strong and powerful and beloved not just by me. You are...exceptional."
Dick's arms held him, giving him the comfort that his mother never had. Murmuring soft words and stroking him so as to sooth the tension and anger, he could feel the knotted muscles start to slightly loosen, feel the breathing return to a semblance of normalcy. Soon, exhausted by both endless meetings and strain of long weeks of negotiations, lack of food and today's emotional upheaval, Garth was lulled into sleep. Not long after despite his fears and concerns for his lover, Dick, as exhausted as his partner was also dead to the world.
It was sometime in the middle of the night, long after they had both slept but still long before dawn that Dick woke to realize that he was alone in the large bed. Thinking that Garth had likely merely gone to either use the bathroom or to shower, or possibly to get a drink of water, he merely lay on his back and waited his return. After a few minutes and hearing no water running anywhere--or any sounds, for that matter, he got up and went searching.
He checked, making sure that the bathroom was empty then walked out to the living room. There, sitting on the couch, no lights on, was Garth, the velour robe they shared between them wrapped around him to ward off the night chill. The second letter was open in his hand and it was apparent that he had read what was written there. His face was composed, but thoughtful.
There were no lights on, his eyes were well able to read in what Dick would consider a dark room, the only illumination coming from the city lights and moon outside the windows.
"Are you all right?" Garth simply nodded but turned his face to Dick and lifted a hand in invitation to join him. Sitting close and kissing Garth's shoulder, he gave warmth to his lover. "What does it say?"
"What you would expect, that she's sorry and had regrets that she hopes I'll forgive and understand. She says that she's been following me since she found that I was taken in by Arthur and that she's proud of me." He shrugged. "Nothing of consequence."
"Do you hate her?"
"I don't know. I did, certainly, for a long time. Now I mostly don't care."
Dick put a hand up to stroke his face. "Then come back to bed, love."
Garth turned to look him full in the face. "Before she died, Tula would often ask me if we would have children, how many, how would we raise them? She wanted to have them so badly, wanted to become pregnant from the time we were both about fifteen and I never would. I was always so careful to make sure that I never got her pregnant." He stopped, swallowed as he thought for a moment. "Sometimes I think that I've become involved with another man so that I'll never have children."
"Garth, after what you went through..."
"But I do love you. I mean that I would love you no matter what your sex was. I love you, your spirit. Whatever it is that makes you unique, I love."
"I know that you do, just as you know that I love you. You've said it before, we've both said it--we're soul mates and we are. There is nothing that I wouldn't tell you or trust you with."
A whispered "I know" then "Sometimes I think that part of what drew me to you was that you needed me--or someone. I knew that and I played on that, I exploited it. I wanted to feel like you needed me. No one ever had before and I wanted to know what that was like."
Dick took his hand again, holding it against his own chest with both of his own. "I do need you. You are what grounds me and centers me. You are the calm in my life, you are my lover and my best friend and there is nothing I wouldn't share with you."
There was a ghost of a smile. "And you won't get pregnant, either."
"No more than you will."
Garth moved, put his feet back on the floor and stood, still holding Dick's hand. "Come on, it's late."
Moments later they were settled back in the bed, spooning with Dick behind when Garth spoke again in his quiet voice. "There's something else. I didn't know how to bring it up but Arthur has been on me for a while now."
He had thought there might be something else. Garth was capable of mentally putting things away when he was finished with them; there was still something on his mind. "What about, love?"
Garth turned onto his back, his face looking at the ceiling. "He isn't sure that he'll have any more children and so I've been named next in line after him--unless he changes his mind, but that's unlikely since he's announced it in council and made it official. It would be difficult for him to go back on it."
"He did?" Jesus, Garth was telling him that he was going to become king one of these days. Jesus. Something in the way Garth was hesitating made Dick realize that there was another shoe about to drop. "And?"
"I have to have children to ensure the succession. If I don't have children and inherit the throne, there could be chaos after I'm dead. " He looked over, "Rob, it's just politics. It has nothing to do with us."
Sure, he understood. Politics, nothing personal. OK, fine. "Um, do you have a choice or anything? I mean, if it's just political, do you actually have to marry some woman to make it count or something?"
"She is minor royalty. It involves an alliance with one of the satellite city states to help firm those relations, they've been dissatisfied for a while now and this will help."
" 'She is?' This is a done deal, isn't it? How long have you known about this?"
He paused, knowing that Dick was catching on to what he was getting at. "About six months, but it only became definite in the last few weeks."
"And when is this all supposed to happen?"
"Rob--I--tried to tell you several times, but I -the last time I went back, a month ago, I was formally betrothed to a princess who is thought to be appropriate." Dick was looking at him in disbelief.
"Betrothed? You're getting married to a minor princess? When the Hell were you planning on saying something? For the birth of your third child? And what the fuck does that make me? Your bit of stuff on the surface?"
"Rob, please, it's not like that. It's nothing more than a contract. It's just another form of treaty. She doesn't matter to me personally any more than I matter to her. In all likelihood, she'll have her own lovers, anyway. That's how these things are done. It's just politics."
"But you're expected to have kids with her, right?"
"It's part of my job, if you want to look at it like that. It's part of being royal."
"That's a Hell of a day at the office you put in."
"You have any other little tidbits that you've been meaning to bring up? I mean, was that it or do you have some other stuff that you've shoved to the back burner?"
"Dick, stop this..."
"And what was that shit about you wanting us to get married? Were you thinking about tying that in with a conjugal visit with the little woman? Or is that just another minor prejudice that your people have managed to avoid? You know the one about bigamy? Or would this come under adultery?"
"That's--enough." The tone of Garth's voice cut through the red haze that was clouding Dick's thoughts. "I'm a prince of my nation and as such I have responsibilities that I'm expected to fulfill. You know that."
Dick lay back, breathing hard, angry not just at what he had learned, but more so because of the fact that Garth had kept this from him for a month. He had been engaged or married or whatever the fuck he was to this woman for a month and had said nothing. They lived together as lovers, ate together, slept together, bathed together, made love all the time and yet he had said nothing. God damn it.
God Damn him.
Dick sat up. "This is fucking beyond me. How you could do this and not tell me. OK, fine, you have a responsibility to your country or the crown or whatever the fuck you have a responsibility to, but why didn't you tell me? You've known for six months."
"I was hoping that it wouldn't happen. There was a chance that it wouldn't be thought necessary. I didn't want to upset you for nothing."
"What else have you lied about?"
Garth sat up, putting his hand on Dick's shoulder, it was removed after a look. "Dick--Rob, I didn't lie. I should have told you, I know that, but I couldn't--hurt you."
"So, are you married?"
A sigh, resigned. "Sort of. It's a betrothal, but at home that means more than it does here. We haven't taken vows yet, but the only thing that would prevent it would be if one of us died."
"So, where does that leave us?" The sixty-four dollar question.
"Rob, it makes no difference to us. Honestly it doesn't. This woman is nothing to me."
"Shit, she's going to be the mother of your kids. That's nothing?"
Garth tried again. "This is just a contract. This is a negotiating ploy between two different political factions. It has nothing to do with me or her or any children that we end up producing. They will be raised, educated and cared for and will be fine."
"And you'll have nothing to do with them? After the way you were raised, shit, after what we've both been through, how could you do that?"
His body sagged. "I couldn't, of course I'll have to be involved with them. But it doesn't have anything to do with us, don't you see that? It wouldn't intrude on us any more than the UN or your job impact us as a couple now. We deal with them and do what we have to for them, but we manage to keep ourselves apart from them. Separate. When we're here, it's just us."
"Garth, you're talking about a woman who you're married to..."
"No. I'm talking about a business partner. You're the person I'm married to."
Dick was becoming exhausted by it all. Work, the death of Garth's mother and now this. All he wanted was to sleep and wake up and have this day have been a bad dream.
"Garth, do you really not see that this is a problem?" His voice was calm, reasonable.
"Robbie, it isn't a problem. That's what you have to understand. This doesn't change anything. I promise that it doesn't."
"And when Arthur dies and you're king?"
There was silence broken by Garth's voice, quieter than usual. "...Then I have to go back. You know that. We've always known that I wouldn't be up here forever." Dick felt his hand gently grasped, squeezed and drawn up to Garth's mouth where it was kissed and held. "Rob, I am what I am. This is my birthright and the reason I was born. I have no choice in this."
"But if you don't want..."
"What I want is of no importance." He turned on his side, head resting on his hand, the other resting on Dick's chest. He stared at his lover as he spoke. "You have to understand that it's different for me than it is for you. I was born to duty, obligation, and responsibility. I was raised with those ideas everyday. It's what I was born to and my reason to be. I serve my people."
Dick's hand covered Garth's. "But if..."
"No. I have no choice in this. Robbie--we have this time now. It won't last because it can't, but we have this time together now." Dick was startled to feel a small splash on his shoulder, Garth's tears. "Please, Rob. Please understand this." Dick had never, in all their years together, seen him cry. His arms came up and around in an embrace and he felt Garth's body shaking with silent sobbing.
"Today was so awful. I'm sorry, Rob, I'm so sorry that you had to go through this, that you found out like this." Dick stroked his back as he spoke. "I thought, I hoped that it wouldn't come to this. I don't want to be King. I've never wanted that. When my father was King he was murdered." He sounded almost resigned.
"Garth, that won't happen. Your people love you. I've seen it. You know this as well as I do." There was a shrug.
"I can't bear to do this if you're not with me. I can't, Rob. I need you. I can't do this alone."
"What about your..."
"Fuck her, she's nothing to me. I've told you that. I need you, not her." The obscenity was all the more shocking coming in Garth's quiet voice, spoken with conviction and certainty. He reached into the bottom drawer of the bed stand on his side, pulling out a small box and handing it to Dick. It was a velvet jewelry gift box. Taking it and opening the hinged lid he saw that there were two yellow gold rings inside.
"You said that you wanted us to wear rings. I was going to surprise you with these for your birthday next week." He looked almost shy when he said that. "Will you wear yours for me, for us?"
Dick took one out. It was beautiful, handmade and deeply carved with an abstract pattern that suggested both waves and clouds. Inside were engraved their names in both English and Atlan. He was more moved that he would have thought possible. "Garth, these are amazing. They're incredible. Which one is mine?"
"I borrowed that ring of your father's, the one that fits you. That's how I had the jeweler size this. Is it all right? Was this what you wanted?"
"God, these are perfect, exactly right. You had these made after you knew about this princess back home, didn't you?"
"I--had been thinking about them for a while, but I had the sketches made and commissioned them about three months ago."
Garth took the one that was still in the box and raised Dick's hand, slipping it on the fourth finger of the left hand. "You saved me from the darkness and the loneliness. You are my home and my refuge and my safe haven and I love you with all that is in me." Leaning forward, their lips pressed gently together.
Then it was Dick's turn. "You are the half that completes me. No one will ever mean more to me than you do. I couldn't love anyone more than I love you." He placed the matching ring on Garth's hand.
"It's not official, it can't be, at least not for a while until I find out what's going on with everything at home, but we'll know. And this is real to me, Rob."
"And to me. I love you, Garth."
"In her letter, the second one, my mother made a comment that she heard I had found love and she was happy for me. She said that it had been one of her hopes that I would find the person I should be with." He leaned in for another tender kiss from his lover. "I have."
"However long it lasts, you are and you will be the love of my life."
Garth took Dick's hand, the one with the ring shining slightly in the dark and looked closely at the gold against flesh, his thumb rubbing over the metal now warmed by human contact. "We are married in all the ways that matter. The other one is just for show, this is real."
Suddenly Dick raised his head, he looked at his lover as though seeing him for the first time. "Garth, you're going to be a King."
"Maybe, but probably not for a long time, if it ever happens."
"But maybe tomorrow."
Garth just shrugged. "Perhaps."
They looked at each other. "That's the damnedest thing. I had just about gotten used to the idea of sleeping with a prince and at some point I'll have to readjust my thinking."
"You'll still be my shield against the wolves at the door and the ghosts under the bed."
They settled back down, entwined. It was late, it had been a more than full day and they were both exhausted. "She did love you, as far as she could. I believe that she did, anyway."
"My mother? Yes, I suppose she did, in a limited way. It doesn't matter now. It did once, but it doesn't anymore. She doesn't matter anymore."
"You're not still upset?"
"No. There was a time when I guess that I would have been, but in any real way, she died to me when she allowed the council to try to kill me. She died to me the day I was born." He rubbed the gold ring on his lover's finger again, caressing it along with the hand beneath it. "You do know that it really had nothing to do with my eyes, don't you, Rob?"
"Them leaving you to die? I'd always been told that was the reason, the superstitions and all of that."
"That was just the excuse. The real reason was politics. I was--I am, my father's son. He was a disposed King, which made me a potential rallying point for his followers. That's why I had to be killed. When I turned up alive, I was marginalized until the political climate changed over the last couple of years."
"Is that why you were named heir?"
"Yes, partly. Mostly it's because Arthur knows that there was a groundswell of sympathy for me after the real story came out at home a few years ago. I was seen as some poor abused orphan who was sort of adopted by the nation. Arthur named me as a popular choice."
"So you probably will be King eventually, then."
"Maybe. Things can change again; you never really know what will happen. The fact is that I have more legal claim to the throne than Arthur does. He has to align with me for his own protection."
"God, you really are born to this, aren't you?"
Dick rolled closer. He was exhausted, as tired as Garth was, but another thought occurred to him. "This is our wedding night, you know."
"Yes, I know. Did you have something in mind?"
"Well, actually, I do..."