Please note: This is a sequel to Recalled.
Dick Grayson watched as the ambulance pulled down the street and rounded the corner out of sight. It was dark now and cold and he was hungry and tired. He stood for a long minute lost in thought then turned and headed back up to the apartment. In fact, what he really wanted to do was sit on the steps right here, bury his face in his hands and start crying, but he wasn't going to.
He'd let that wait until he was upstairs.
God. This was a nightmare.
Everything had been fine. He had woken Garth early so they could make love before they each had to go to work. Garth had seemed a little tired, but that was reasonable considering that they had spent most of the night making love. He had thought that--well, he hadn't thought that there was anything wrong. All right, fine, he hadn't thought.
Garth never complained. Never. Dick couldn't think of a single time in all the years they'd known each other when Garth had bitched about anything. Not once. If something really bothered him he would just either get quiet or leave, but he would usually just put up with it. It wasn't that he was a doormat or a wuss or anything, mind you. He really was that polite and he didn't like upsetting people about things he considered minor. Well, there had been that time he had come close to raising his voice at Dick because he tended to be a slob and Garth was really neat and had gotten tired of always being the one to pick up, but they had solved that by getting a cleaning lady.
He just didn't complain.
It probably had something to do with when he was a kid and if he said anything, Arthur would pound the Hell out of him. That would make an impression on anyone.
So if Garth weren't feeling well, he wouldn't have said anything.
He must have felt like crap for a while.
He kept it to himself, of course, until he had finally passed out at some high-powered meeting at the UN Security Council that he was addressing. Flat out cold right at the podium from what he'd been told.
Shit. He'd had no clue. If he had known, if he'd had the slightest idea, even a thought that he was sick--he'd have made Garth see a doctor. Honest to God he would have.
He put the key to the lock and went in. It was empty, of course, but all the lights were on and there were little signs that people had been there a few minutes ago. There were glasses of water around where they'd been left on tables. Someone had forgotten a jacket on the chair. The door to the bedroom was open and he knew that the bed was unmade from when the men had lifted Garth out of it less than twenty minutes ago.
He didn't think that he could face that right now.
He started picking up, getting the glasses, placing them in the sink. Taking the sheet that had fallen off the gurney when it was being wheeled into the apartment, he tossed it on the laundry pile. The marks from the wheels were still on the carpet.
He went to the fridge, opened the door and was confronted by a fresh supply of the salad stuff and cheese that Garth lived on. A strict vegetarian, Dick could still picture the look on his face when he'd walked in and seen the slab of bloody steak marinating on the counter. Going pale, he had done an about face and left the room, refusing to return until it had been at least covered so that it wasn't just sitting there.
He took a step back so that he was against the kitchen wall, his legs gave way and he slid down to the floor. He just sat there, his back against the wall, his knees up in front of him, his hands laying lax at his sides and the sobs started.
He hugged his knees, burying his face in his own legs, tying himself up in a tight ball of pain, trying to somehow give himself the comfort and reassurance that he desperately needed. Garth had to be OK, he had to be. He was strong, the strongest person Dick knew. He had overcome--everything, abandonment and abuse and banishment and prejudice and he had beaten all of them. He had come out of it strong and whole and kind and loving and sane. He had to get better. He had to.
He would, he'd get better and he'd be back and they would be together again and they would tell each other how much they had missed each other and Dick would tell him how worried he'd been and Garth would kiss him and smile in that quiet way he had and they would make love again and it would be all right.
The sobbing slowed to noisy gulps and strangled efforts to get air through his clogged nose.
When they had made love this morning, Dick had woken early. At first he had watched Garth sleeping, peacefully and deeply, but then he had leaned over and gently kissed him. He had continued kissing and running his tongue along the smooth skin of his cheek, up to his ear and behind. At first Garth had merely smiled contentedly and gone on sleeping, but Dick had continued to kiss him until he was kissed in return. Garth had been so tired, wanting more sleep, but he had never refused Dick, he never would.
Groggily, he had murmured, the small smile visible but his eyes still closed, "Yes, love, take me." Dick had carefully rolled him onto his stomach, found the small bottle of scented oil, prepared both himself and Garth and entered him, moving slowly. Garth had just lain on his belly, barely moving at all and Dick realized now that he had felt too badly to engage more than as just a receptacle. He would never refuse, though. Anything Dick wanted, anything that Garth thought would make him happy, he would do with out a murmur.
Damn it. Why hadn't he noticed that all Garth wanted and needed this morning was sleep? He hadn't wanted sex; he had just wanted to rest, to be held and warm.
It suddenly seemed to him that he was usually oblivious to what Garth needed. Just last weekend he had been watching a football game when Garth had come over to join him. Well, OK, he hated football, but he'd had one of those briefing papers he was always reading and laid on the couch with it, using Dick's lap as a pillow. In minutes he's fallen asleep for the entire three-hour game, not even moving when Dick had gotten up to find food.
There had been other incidents, too. Times when he would read the same paragraph over three or four times before comprehending it, times when he would just sit, staring at nothing, too tired to move. Dick had noticed that he wasn't eating as much as he should, either. He was starting to lose weight. He had never complained, never said anything, and just kept going until he couldn't any more.
Three days ago he'd come home to find Garth dead to the world, fully clothed on top of the bed at one in the afternoon. He'd been up and dressed to go to the UN then lain down for just a minute. He'd slept until four when one of his assistants had come looking for him.
God, he'd been getting sick all this time and no one had noticed.
Damnit, he should have noticed. Wasn't that what you did when you loved someone? You noticed when there was something wrong. You took care of them.
He heard the knocking at the apartment door but hoped that if he ignored it, whoever it was would go away. It had to be someone from the building asking about what was going on.
The knocking kept up. Whoever it was wouldn't quit. He got up, went to the door, looked through the peephole. Clancy. Shit. Go away. He knew that she wouldn't.
He opened the door.
"Yes?" his voice was quiet, subdued, resigned.
"What's happened then? I saw the ambulance and all those men."
"Garth is sick, he has to go home for a while." She took in the red eyes, the dejection, and the defeat.
"Is there anything I can..."
"Dick, please, may I come in?"
"Later, OK? Maybe tomorrow. I'm OK. Please, Clance." She leaned in, giving him a soft kiss on his cheek then turned and he watched her go down the stairs. Good.
He went back inside from the landing and looked around. He should do something. Garth always hated mess; he should clean the place up.
Instead he found himself going from lamp to lamp, turning them off. Garth's staff from the UN, about a dozen of them, anyway, had all been here. They had every light in the place on. You practically needed sunglasses. One by one, he flicked them off until the only ones still on were the one in the kitchen, the one by the couch and the ones in the bedroom. He couldn't go in there. Not yet.
He should eat something. He had been hungry when he'd gotten back, but he wasn't hungry now. Maybe later. He turned that light off, too.
He heard he computer chime. Sighing in resignation he went over to the monitor. "Yes, Barbara?" Obviously she'd heard. She knew everything.
She spoke without preamble. "I've been on line with the Embassy and their main hospital. They know what's wrong with him and treatment will start on board the ship they have taking him home. They told me that his prognosis is good."
He looked at the monitor. "When? When did you talk to them?"
"About two minutes ago, hon." His eyes teared up again.
"Barbara? You're not just saying that? He'll be OK?"
"That's what they said, sweetie. They said exactly what I told you...his prognosis is good. It may take a while before he's completely himself, but he'll get there."
"Barbara, what is it that's wrong? I mean, the doctor said that he had been here too long, but I didn't get details."
She shifted into info mode. "Evidently, that's about the size of it. He's spent so much time on the surface that his lungs have been strained pretty badly which put pressure on his heart. He wasn't able to get enough oxygen. Then there were some problems with his optic nerves because they've adapted to pressure that doesn't exist here. There were also some residual complications because he can't really get the foods he needs here. Some pretty serious vitamin deficiencies."
"Is there any way they would let me speak to him?"
She hesitated for a moment too long. "Sweetie, he's been sedated so that the trip will be easier for him. He's not awake right now. Maybe you could talk with him later."
He looked at her on the monitor. "I really love him, you know?"
"I know that you do, hon. He'll be OK." The screen went dark.
He'd be all right. Then he'd be able to come back. They could be together again. They could ...No, that wasn't what she had said. She hadn't said that he would come back. She had said that he'd recover. He might have to stay there. He might never be able to come back. Even Garth hadn't said that he'd come back; he had just said that he would if he could.
If he could.
Shit, Grayson. Get your priorities straight. Think about him, not your stupid self for once. He had to get better, that's what mattered. OK, maybe he would have to stay there, but he'd be healthy and alive and that was what mattered. He could live there, he had friends down there and work that they would give him to do. He'd be fine if he had to stay there.
He was the one who would be alone again, naturally. He smiled absurdly at the line from the old song. But he would be alone again. Everyone left, his parents, Kory, even his damn dog had died. Don't even mention what was going on with Bruce. Don't even start to go there.
He didn't want to be alone. He wanted Garth. He wanted things to be like they had been just this morning when they had held each other and kissed and been together and had nothing more pressing to look forward to that another day at work for both of them, just like any other couple. After, they would both have come home and had dinner while they had told one another about their day and then they would have made love before going to sleep next to one another.
He spent the rest of the night sitting in the reclining chair they had both liked to use for lovemaking. He didn't go into the bedroom; he couldn't do that just yet. He couldn't look at the unmade bed where Garth had lain too sick to even sit up.
A while later he groggily roused himself, realizing that he must have at least dozed for a few hours. He looked over at the clock. He had to go to the station. He was about to call in sick when he knew it would be pointless. Whether he was one place or another, he would feel the same. Might as well go in. He glanced at the monitor. He had e-mail. A quick check told him that the word had gone out, probably from Barbara or maybe it had even made the news--Ambassador collapses at the UN.
He didn't want to look at them right now. A further check. No, nothing from Garth's private address.
He went to work. He could shower and get cleaned up there.
He went through the motions. No one seemed to notice and he didn't volunteer anything. The shift was routine, mostly paperwork and too much coffee.
After eight hours he left. He didn't really want to go back to the apartment, but he couldn't think clearly enough to decide on another place. He hadn't heard anything new about Garth's condition, but he knew that he would if there was any news. They would be considerate about that sort of thing.
He let himself in and saw that Clancy had cleaned the place up for him and left a casserole on the counter with a note to just heat it up when he was ready. That was nice of her.
He felt numb. Shit. He wanted Garth, he wanted to know that he was all right, or at least that he wasn't any worse.
He dialed the number of the Atlantean offices at the UN but just got a standard recording about their regular hours of business and please leave a message if it's important, someone would get back to him. He hung up and tried the Embassy in Washington. They were usually there later.
To his surprise, an actual person asking to whom he wished to speak answered his call. I dunno know, he thought...is Garth home?
"I'd like to speak to the Ambassador, please. Richard Grayson calling. It's in regard to the Prince's illness."
He was connected immediately.
"Mr. Grayson? I'm sorry that we aren't speaking under more pleasant circumstances. How may I help you?" God, that accent.
"I'm sorry to intrude on your time, sir, but I was wondering if you had an update on His Highness' condition?"
"I'm sorry, other than that he is stable, I'm afraid that I have not. I will certainly keep you fully informed. I know of your close friendship with His Highness, he speaks quite highly of you. Have you spoken with his staff in New York? They may have more current information that I do. They are the ones who work the most closely with him."
"Thank you, sir, but they seem to have gone home for the day. No one was answering the phone, anyway."
"...Mr. Grayson. I'm sure that they are there. They likely are just not picking up or the receptionist has left. I think that if you try this number, you'll get through." He gave Dick what was probably a private number for some official from the delegation. "I know that you are to kept abreast of any information that they have concerning his condition. That was made quite clear to everyone there."
Thanking the Ambassador, Dick hung up and dialed. It was answered on the second ring. He recognized the voice at the other end.
"Marcus? Have you heard anything since last night?"
"Mr. Grayson? We've been trying to get a hold of you. There was a message received just a couple of minutes ago from home. It's from the Prince himself and is labeled to be delivered to you at once. It's for your eyes only. I can have one of the staff bring it to you if you would like, are you at home?"
"Thank you, please, yes...Marcus is he all right? Have you heard anything about his condition?"
"Jon, leave now, please. Take the disk....excuse me, I was just sending one of the staff to you with the letter from His Highness. Yes, he seems to be starting to respond to the treatment that he is receiving. I understand that he's in his personal quarters in the palace and under medical care there."
"He's doing better? That's great, Marcus, great. Thank you. The courier should be here in what...twenty minutes or so?"
"I'm being told that we can send it to you directly. Forgive me, I'm not as familiar with the technology as I should be. The message is electronic. I've instructed the staff to upload it to your private e-mail address that we have on file for you. It should be coming through any minute."
"Thank you, Marcus."
"My pleasure, Mr. Grayson."
Dick walked over to the always-on computer. Just as he sat down the signal dinged, telling him that he had mail.
Opening it, he read:
I'm sorry about what has happened. Believe me, if there was a way to make it different or to have this never have been, I would.
I'm back in my old suite at the palace as I write this and I miss you desperately. I was kept unconscious for the trip and have only awakened in the last couple of hours...all of which were occupied with doctors and various concerned members of the government determined to see if I am dead or alive. This is the first chance I've had to contact you and I know that you are worried.
Love, I'll be all right. I promise you that I will.
The physicians all assure me that it's just a matter of time before I regain my strength and that I should be able to return to my work and to you.
What they do not tell me is when and I fear that my badgering them will be to no avail. They are the same world over and will not be pushed into a schedule they cannot guarantee.
I looked at your face yesterday and my heart broke for you and for us. I wanted so to put my arms about you and hold you close to me, but I hadn't the strength to do so and the sight of your fear was almost more than I could bear.
You are never afraid, though you would deny this. You are the bravest person I know and the strongest.
I need your strength now, love. I need you to be strong for me.
I do not ask you to wait until I return, nor do I expect or even want you to do that. I don't want to think of you alone.
Please, for me, find someone who will share the things we did. I would rather think of you safe and warm in our bed with another than believe you to be grieving and alone. I mean this with all my heart and I say it because I love you as I do.
Please, get on with things, as you know you are capable of doing.
We shall be together again, one way or another. I promise you this.
Until then, continue to know that I love you with all that is in me.
Dick reread the letter.
Garth said that he would be all right and that he would return. He said so and he never lied. He would be back and Dick would be here for him when he walked through the door.
He hit the 'reply' button.
I love you and I will wait, whether you wish me to or not. I want no one else and when you come back, I shall be here waiting for you. We will be together and we will make love in our bed--which shall contain only myself until you are beside me in again.
Please, be well.