Pretending

by Simon

A sequel to te ones I posted recently where poor old Garth is still a bit under the weather as well as being under the water.

B

Title: Pretending
Author: Simon
Pairing: D/G
Rating: PG
Summary: Dick continues to deal with Garth's illness
Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.

Feedback: yes.

Please note: This is a sequel to Recalled and Alone



The dinner was going really well, the food was good, there was lots of it and Wally, Donna, even Roy were all doing their level best to cheer him up. Lot's of laughter, lot's of jokes and the part over desert where Roy and Wally had reenacted the entire "Who's on First" Routine from Abbott and Costello had almost everyone in the restaurant on the floor. It was a terrific night, one to go down in the record books of great nights out with friends and Dick Grayson couldn't have been more depressed if someone had slipped a mickey into his drink. Not that anyone could tell by looking at him, of course. He was smiling and laughing with the rest--telling his share of jokes and looking for all the world like he was having fun.

In fact, all he really wanted to do was get back home so that he could check his e-mail. This was about the time Garth usually contacted him and, although he had mentioned yesterday that he was going out with the others for dinner, he really wanted to see how his lover was doing today.

They'd been separated for four months now, their only contact being electronic or through the intermediaries of the embassy, and though Dick wouldn't admit it to anyone, he was lonely and frightened. He had come to depend on Garth's easy companionship, his quiet humor and the advice which was always exactly right, whether he wanted to hear it or not. He had learned to look forward to not being alone at the end of the day, whether at the dinner table or in bed. Just being able to fall asleep or wake with another warm body beside him, curled against his, was a joy to him and a wonder that he never tired of. Being able to just walk up to someone and put his arms around them and kiss them and know that he was welcome and wanted--God, that was an incredible feeling.

But life went on, day after day, week after week. Slowly, incredibly, the hours and minutes and finally the months started to pass.

At first Dick received a lot of messages from his friends, asking him how was he doing, had he heard anything new? They would call or invite him to a movie or dinner or even to come along on a vacation to the islands or maybe skiing, but he politely declined almost all of them. He had accepted a few at first, but he found that the friends didn't know what to say to him and were afraid of upsetting him and sometimes they did upset him without meaning to. They either wouldn't bring up Garth at all or they would want to know every detail, thinking that they were being concerned, but what they were doing was just making everyone uncomfortable so he pretty much stopped going when they asked him.

He went to work. He worked extra shifts and accepted the good natured jokes and teasing from the other cops--the ones who knew he lived with someone (although they didn't know who) would ask if the old ball and chain would get mad when he worked the long hours or did they have a fight. Some of them assumed that he and his roommate had broken up or something. No one really pushed, though and they didn't pry, so Dick was happier at work than most other places.

Goddamn, he was lonely, though.

The worst time was either when he was trying to fall asleep or when he first was waking up. When he wasn't quite in either place and he would reach to take Garth in his arms, to hold him and kiss him and would find no one there and the other side of the bed cold and empty.

Then, knowing that he wouldn't sleep, he would usually get up and turn the light back on, maybe get a beer and read another book.

He was getting a lot of reading done.

He did hear from his lover, of course. Almost every day there would be another e-mail from him, telling how he was doing, what the doctors said and how he was spending his days. He was getting better, stronger each day but they still wouldn't let him know when he might expect to return both to his job as Ambassador or to his lover and he was becoming more frustrated with each week that passed. He was bored and feeling useless and missed Dick more than he would have thought possible.

The two of them had even looked into the possibility of Dick going down to Atlantis to visit for a week or two, the doctors agreeing that it would do wonders for His Highness' morale, but the logistics had proven simply too complicated. The idea had been dropped.

Finally, finally, the dinner was over and he could get away without the others bothering him, thinking that he was all right. Sitting astride his bike, he revved for a moment, waved to the small group and rode off in relief.

He went straight back, taking the fastest, most direct route he knew. Climbing the stairs two at a time, he opened the door, crossed straight over to the computer station and saw the icon: He Had Mail.

There is was, the fourth line down, Garth's private address. He clicked the line.

"Rob, finally!

I've been given the OK by the doctors here to return to New York, at least on a trial basis. They still think that I'm not 100%, but I'm recovered enough to go back to work on a part time deal.

I suspect that they are simply afraid that the negotiations are floundering and that I might be able to smooth things over somewhat. It's really not that difficult, but I know the others reps pretty well and they will usually talk to me more easily that they will to the others.

I don't care...we can be together again.

They say that if all goes well, I should be back on the surface by Friday, be at the office that day and then have the weekend before really starting back. I'll tell you more details as I know them

I'm so happy I can't stand it. I long for you with everything in me.

I miss you.

I love you.

G"

Dick stared at the screen for a couple of minutes, reread the message at least five times and then hit 'reply'

"God, this is fantastic! I want to write more, but all I can think of is I love you, I love you, I love you, like a chant. It's already Wednesday night, on Friday I'll meet you at the UN and bring you back here.

Is that all right?

D"

The answer came through within minutes.

"Yes. Perfect. I love you.

Come up to the offices about five.

G"

Neither one could sleep and they finally stopped trying. The two of them spent the rest of the night exchanging e-mails on everything they could think of, from how much they had missed each other to what they would do together to how the treaties were progressing to what food should be in the kitchen.

He was coming home.

Friday Dick was at the UN by 4:30. He knew that he was early; he knew that he would probably interrupt some high-powered meeting, he didn't care.

He showed his ID, passed through the metal detectors, had his appointment confirmed and was allowed onto one of the elevators. He stopped at the office he had been directed to. Actually, he had never been up to where Garth worked because they had tried to keep the various parts of their lives separate and their relationship was still pretty much under wraps--the UN wasn't exactly a bastion of liberalism. Besides, they didn't want stuff that didn't matter to get in the way of the real work that went on around here.

The door opened onto a reception area that looked pretty much like the reception area of any lawyer's office in the world. Tasteful and restrained, all quiet and very old antiques. You had to look for the touches that marked it for what it was...the Mission of a country that existed over a mile underwater. The art on the walls was pre-Roman or Pre Egyptian or something, the fish in the wall tanks were species unknown on the surface, the language the workers were speaking and reading and writing was known to only a handful of surface dwellers. The clothing was cut differently. The flag displayed was an unfamiliar one to most people.

As he walked over to the receptionist, he remembered that she was one of the locals they had hired.

"Yes, sir. May I help you?"

"My name is Richard Grayson. I believe that the Ambassador is expecting me."

Her smile widened and became more real and less professional when she heard his name. "Oh, of course. He mentioned that you'd be by. I know he's been waiting for you. Just let me tell him you're here." She picked up the phone... "Ann? Could you tell him that his friend is here?...Yes, more so...I will."

The young women in the office had snuck into the Ambassador's office one afternoon when he was gone, taking a look at the photos on his desk after Ann had told them about the hunk His Highness was 'friends' with. She was right. This guy was major eye candy. They had mourned the fact they none of them stood a chance with the Prince, but Damn! He had good taste, no arguing that.

"His assistant will be right here to take you back."

"Thank you."

Within a minute another young woman was by the desk. "Mr. Grayson? Would you come with me, please?"

He followed her down the hallway to the end, knocking at the closed door, she turned to him, smiling, and said, "Go right in, he's expecting you."

Closing the door behind him, his arms came up and around Garth. They were carefully hugging and feeling the solid weight of each other, their arms around each other's back and shoulders in relief. Passion would come later. Now what they needed was to reestablish contact missing too long. Mouths locked together, gently seeking what they had each wanted for over four months. Finally they pulled apart enough to look at each other.

Dick saw the circles under Garth's eyes, the bruising a mocking reflection of the violet eyes. He could feel the ribs and the hipbones protruding where they had been covered with muscle a few months ago. God, he was thin. He was pale, too and looked exhausted, even after months of care by the best doctors that could be had.

He put his hand up to his lover's face. "I've missed you--you've no idea."

Garth smiled. "Well, yes. Actually I think that I do." He leaned in for another series of gentle kisses, the loneliness and fear of the last few months evident in how they held each other, the care and tenderness in their movements

"When can we go home?" Dick saw the odd look on his lover's face. "They're not expecting you to stay in the city, are they?" He smiled and started to laugh, then stopped. "What, they think that you're going to sleep at the townhouse?" He was referring to the building the mission maintained to accommodate visiting VIP's.

"...I'm not sure yet. There's a reception tonight that I have to attend at the Waldorf, but that should be over by eleven or so." He saw the disappointment, though Dick tried to hide it. "Rob, I know. It's just that--there's a lot of work that I have to catch up on and I'll have to get started so that I can get back into working next week."

Dick knew better. Garth had been receiving every report and treaty in progress as they were hammered out, he had been commenting on them all along from his private rooms in the Palace. The monitors and phone lines never were turned off. He was as involved as he had ever been, to the despair of his doctors. There should be almost nothing that he had missed. Putting his hand up along the now sharp jaw line, he spoke quietly.

"The doctors want to keep a close eye on you. That's it, isn't it?"

He nodded, smiling, trying to downplay the illness. "You know how doctors are. They see things that aren't there. I've been approved to come back here and to start working again. They're just justifying their jobs, that's all. They're looking for trouble where there is none." A short pause, "It was part of their agreeing to my coming back. I said that I'd stay there for a couple of days. That's all. I can come home next week."

"But...if they think that you should still be watched, you shouldn't be here, you should still be recovering."

"What I need is you. I need you to hold me and sleep next to me. I need to be able to touch you and know that you're in the next room or about to walk through the door." He tightened his arms around Dick's waist. "Look, I'll have one of the cars bring me back as soon as I can get away tonight."

"The doctors will..."

"Screw the doctors." The words were spat out. Dick stared at him. Garth almost never swore. Hearing that phrase from him gave the lie to his saying that he was all right. "Look. I'll leave the reception as early as I can get away. All right?" The phone on his desk buzzed, he answered it listened for a moment and then said "Yes, that's fine. Thank you."

"Robbie, I have to meet with the French Ambassador in two minutes, he's on his way down from their offices. It's nothing; Jean-Claude just wants to welcome me back. I'll see you tonight, though--OK?"

Dick just looked at him. He was being dismissed like an appointment that had run over and become an inconvienence.

"Rob. Please. I know you're disappointed and that you're probably angry, but please. It has to be this way for now." Garth's hand touched his cheek. "It was the only way they would let me come back. It's only for a short while. Please."

Nodding, he kissed Garth lightly on the mouth. "I'll be there." Turning, he left the room. Walking down the hallway to the front area, he glanced into one of the side offices and saw the older doctor he recognized from the night Garth had been taken away...the one he had mentally nick-named "Marcus Welby". The man looked up and stepped to the doorway. "Mr. Grayson? I'm glad that you're here. Might I have a word with you, if you have a moment?"

"Yes, of course." He went into the small office as the doctor closed the door behind them.

"It's good of you to come here for the Prince. I know that he has missed you quite a lot. Seeing you will undoubtedly do him more good than anything else at this point."

"Doctor, could you tell me what his true condition is? He insists that he's fine and just needs to take it easy for a while, but he's not, is he?"

"No, it's more than just his gaining back some of the weight that he's lost."

"Excuse me, but just how much has he lost? He's so thin..."

"In your measurements, thirty-five or forty pounds, I believe. He's lost strength along with that as well, of course. If I may be blunt, Mr. Grayson, he shouldn't be here at all. He needs at least another six months of rest and treatment, but he insisted that he would return here."

"But if he's still sick...."

"He is a Prince. There are few who can tell him what he can or cannot do."

"Are you telling me that he bullied his way back here over medical objections? That's why you want him to stay here in the city where you can watch him." It was a statement.

Dr. Welby nodded.

"...Would it be any help if I stayed here in the city, too?"

"That's what I was hoping you'd be willing to do. That way we can continue to monitor him and treat him as needed."

"Treat him? What is his medical situation, is he in danger by being here?"

"Please, sit down, I'll explain."

Dick cabbed his way over to the townhouse about eight that evening, knowing that Garth would make good his promise of an early exit from the reception. Knocking, he was met at the door by Marcus, recently promoted to Under Councilor after the stalker attack on the UN Mission a few months before.

"Mr. Grayson, how very good to see you again. Please, come in."

The building had been impeccably restored to mint condition with a few alterations for it's new owners. There was now a pool taking up the entire basement level and the air was kept at almost tropical levels of humidity. The security was subtle but substantial and there was a communications room that the pentagon would envy. Other than those changes, you would just think that you were in the home of some rich New Yorkers. The place was pretty comfortable, in a semi-formal way. It was used for parties and the typical kind of stuff that Embassy's had to do, but it was livable, too. Upstairs were several bedrooms and suites for whichever Atlanteans were in need of a place to stay. It was easier than getting some hotel to make the needed accommodations.

"His Highness should be back soon. His assistant just called to tell us that they expect to leave within the next ten minutes or so. Would you like anything while you're waiting?"

"No, thanks, Marcus, I'm OK."

Nodding, he gestured to a door. "Why don't you wait in here?"

"Sure, thanks. Umm... Marcus, could you answer a few questions for me?"

"If I can." They had moved into some sort of living room and sat down on a couple of incredibly comfortable chairs by a fireplace. The flower arrangement in the hearth told Dick that it didn't see much use. Well, that would make sense, no fire under water, after all.

"You know the Ambassador pretty well, you work with him, right?"

"Yes, you know that I do. What would you like to ask me?"

"Is he--OK?"

Marcus paused for a moment. "Mr. Grayson. You know the answer to that as well as I do."

Dick looked down at the floor. Yes, he knew. "He should go back, shouldn't he?"

"...Medically, yes he should. He won't go, we all know that. He wants to be here. He needs to work and he needs to be with you. We all understand this and so we shall make whatever accommodations are necessary."

"I'm curious...are you doing this because he's the Ambassador, the Prince, or are you doing this because he's the man he is?"

"They're one and the same, aren't they?" Marcus smiled as he rose. They could hear the front door opening. Garth was back. In seconds he was entering the room.

"Good Evening, sir, did the evening go well?"

"Yes, thank you. I think that if we set up a meeting for me with the Japanese Ambassador, I might be able to convince him to suggest some less harmful fishing methods than what they're using now. A dinner meeting would probably be best, just the two of us and maybe one assistant each. Early next week. That was the only thing of substance this evening." He had handed his jacket to the butler, or whatever he was. "I won't be needing anything else tonight. You might as well turn in. Thank you."

"Good night then, sir, Mr. Grayson." Marcus made a movement that was somewhere between a nod and a bow then left, closing the door behind him.

"So. How did it really go tonight?"

Garth moved to him, lightly putting his hands on Dick's waist and kissing his cheek, smiling. "It was fine, boring as these things usually are. I couldn't wait to leave so that I could be with you." He took Dick's hand. "Come on."

The walked up the curving staircase to the second floor went down the hall to what was likely the back bedroom and then were alone behind a closed door. It was a small suite. There was a comfortable sitting room and a well-appointed bedroom beyond. A substantial bathroom was attached. It had been redecorated while Garth was away.

"Nice." Dick took in the room.

Another kiss and a small laugh. "Well, when you're the top guy you get the big room." Garth was already stripped to the waist and was walking into the bathroom. "Come on. I need a shower."

Dick joined him a minute later to find him already under the spray, leaning against the tiled wall, his eyes closed. Either he was incredibly relaxed or exhausted. Dick knew where he would put his money on this one. He opened the glass door and stepped in. Garth's eyes opened and his arms came up in an embrace as he smiled gently.

"I haven't held anyone in over four months." He was holding Dick as carefully as he had earlier in his office, almost cradling his lover against him, gently kissing the skin on his neck. Dick returned the embrace and was appalled to not only feel but to also see how thin he was. The ribs he had felt before now stood out in relief. His collarbones and hips were sharp ridges under his skin and the skin itself was far too pale. God, he was still so far from what he had been just a few months before. He had been, physically, the most beautiful man Dick had ever seen, healthy and strong with energy and vigor radiating from him. Now he was ...still so sick. He shouldn't be here; he should still be home with doctors attending him twenty-four hours a day, not here working.

Horrified at his own reaction, Dick tried to conceal it as best he could, but they knew each other far too well for that to work.

Garth moved in his arms, his head coming off his shoulder where he had laid it and he looked into the blue eyes then, seeing what was there, pulled away. His first hesitant words were the sort of thing Dick would have expected when they were both much younger, not the way they spoke to one another now.

"I--sorry. I know that--I'm--not as I was." He looked away for a second in what seemed to be shame. "I didn't think. I forgot that you--hadn't seen -this." He added an apology as he moved away from Dick and out of the shower. "I just, I missed you so much. I didn't think." He pulled a towel off the rack and went into the bedroom with it.

Turning the water off and grabbing his own towel, Dick went through the doorway to find him sitting on the edge of the bed, his head down and staring at the carpet in front of him.

"I'm sorry, Rob. I just wanted to be with you. I should have stayed back there until I've gained back the weight and am stronger. I ...I'm sorry."

Dick knelt before him, his hands going up to frame and hold his face. Leaning forward, he kissed Garth's mouth as tenderly as he could then moved on to his cheeks, eyes, forehead and then back to his mouth. Speaking quietly, he began. "You're the love of my life. I need you beside me. It doesn't matter that you've been ill. You're getting better. You're better than you were and you'll get stronger and soon you'll be where you were just a few months ago. I love you. You know how much I do...and if it takes longer, then what does it matter? You'll get better and we'll be together."

He leaned into his lover. His hands on either side of Dick's neck, their foreheads resting against each other. His soft voice almost whispered. "I want to be as I was. I want it to be as it was before. I wish--I want to make love all night as we did and then wake in the morning to start again." He pulled his face back so they were looking at each other. "I can't bear to be a burden to you."

"Garth, if our positions were reversed, you wouldn't hesitate to care for me. You know that's true." Dick saw the denial and the start of another round guilt and self-recrimination. "For better or worse, in sickness or in health...' That's the line. Look, it's illegal here, but that doesn't change the fact that we're married. You know that I'd no more leave you than you would ever leave me." They kissed again. "I love you. That hasn't changed. That won't change." He stood pulling both towels off of the bed and tossing them into the bathroom. Moving around the room he turned off lights until the only one left was the one over the headboard of the king-sized bed. Pulling the covers aside he positioned Garth between the sheets then joined him. Reaching up Dick turned off the last light and pulled his lover into his arms, his head resting on his chest, arms embracing, legs tangled. "We'll make love when you're ready. It doesn't matter, not now. I've ached to hold you for four months and now I can. This is what I need tonight, nothing more."

Turning his face up, Garth kissed him again. They settled together.

*-*-*

end

11/24/02




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