All's Fair, part 13

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"

Garth had long since lost track of how long he had been floating there, feeding power into Zatanna's spell. Her constant murmur had become hypnotic, the lone sound penetrating his consciousness. He was dimly aware of the protest of his muscles against so long a period of stillness, and his eyes had given up the illusion of focus. Whether they were opened or closed, they still gave him only the same violet haze.

He knew they were making progress. The steady touch of J'onn's mind relayed the flow of magic through him and had begun to flutter with hints of Atlantean magic that did not belong to Tempest. He could feel the caution in their spells matching the care with which Zatanna wove her magic through J'onn's link. This was uncharted territory on both sides, and too many lives hung in the balance for them to be capricious.

A strange echo sounded in his head, and he realized that there had been conversation on the telepathic net with the JLA that he had stopped hearing. This time, though, someone was addressing Zatanna directly, and he heard her response more than the initial query.

Confirmed. Hands full here, sorry.

Hands full. He would snort at the irony, but his focus was too intent. Entire body full was more like it, every ounce of energy dedicated to the task at hand.

He felt a mental nudge from Zatanna, a request for a little more power expressed more with a gesture than a word. He carefully summoned up his resources, increasing his output until he received a leveling off gesture. The new vibration felt strange for a moment or two, then settled into the same numbing consistency that it had previously worn.

For a little while.

He felt himself gasp suddenly as his contact with the link was abruptly cut off, his arms and legs involuntarily flailing at the water until Zatanna grabbed at his hand. Her eyes were wide, but she continued to murmur the words of her spell, now pulling Garth's power through his flesh. At her contact he felt a new touch to his mind that was almost as unnerving as the sudden silence.

Hold on, minnow.

Orin? He felt himself unconsciously increase his power, yearning toward the voice, but Zatanna's hand tightened on his wrist and she shook her head. Steady, her eyes said.

He struggled to comply, feeling unmoored without J'onn's mental contact and desperate to bring his mentor and Poseidonis through to him. He became aware of squealing feedback in his ear, followed by clipped, rapid fire exchanges over the JLA bandwidth. He filtered them out, clinging tightly to the voice in his head. You did the right thing. Keep doing it.

It was almost a mantra, a soothing yet commanding force in his brain. He wanted to ask what had happened to J'onn, whether the spells were still working, but the voice did not invite questions. Instead, it buoyed him the way Orin used to support him as a child, before things got complicated.

Stay with it, Garth, Orin ordered, making Garth aware he had begun to drift, was risking another submersing in his still tangled memories. Now was not the time, he chided himself, seeking to find that same monotonous daze in which he had been operating before. He had almost obtained it when he felt a brush against the wrist Zatanna was not holding and his eyes flew open.

He was ghostly, but he was there. Orin, King of Atlantis, gripping Tempest's arm and staring intensely at him. Tempest opened his mouth but was stilled with a look. Steady, he ordered.

He made himself obey, staring all the while at the gradually solidifying form beside him. He felt a blossoming hope - it was working! They could do this!

The transponder in his ear squealed again, making him wince. More frantic snatches of conversation assaulted his ears, coalescing only enough to make him aware of a sense of crisis. It wasn't important. He couldn't let it be important. He continued to stare at Orin, watching as the ocean played with his beard like a caressing lover. The waters which had once cast out Arthur Curry now only played a welcome song for their returning master. Their flow became as hypnotic as Zatanna's voice.

More crackling intruded into his thoughts, and he became aware that the voices in his ear were addressing him.

"-team, report. I repeat, this is Batman. Alpha team is in trouble. Beta team, report."

Tempest sought to open his mouth to respond, but he found he could not. Zatanna's eyes flicked to him desperately, her sing-songing chant faltering. Orin began fading into insubstantiality before him.

"Beta team -"

An oceanic growl came from Orin's throat as his hook stabbed at the communicator at Zatanna's waist. "You interrupt this now, Batman," he hissed, "and we're all dead."

Icy dread curled in Tempest's mind as sudden silence fell over the communicator. Orin became still more transparent, the communicator floating free of his hook as the King of Atlantis faded. NO! Tempest howled, forcing more power into Zatanna.

He felt her grip tighten as her whole body stiffened, her voice hastening in its incantation through jaws now locked by the force of the magic flowing through her. Tempest reached out for Orin's hand. They wouldn't fail. They wouldn't.

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