Sea and Sky:
untitled (Drought POV)
Garth spends a lot of effort the first few weeks not thinking.
It's a mistake, he knows, especially considering that not thinking--or perhaps more accurately, *disregarding* his own thoughts--put him in this situation to begin with. He'd realized something was wrong, and ignored it. Hoped for the best while secretly, with increasing surety, fearing the worst.
He's doing the same thing now.
It's easy enough, given his weakness and generally miserable state, to let the days flow by in a haze of sleep and enforced idleness. The little work he's accomplishing is busywork, no more; no one at the Embassy is inclined to trust him with truly critical tasks at the moment, and Garth doesn't feel the need to request any. His ability to concentrate seems to have completely deserted him and it's just another symptom that the fact doesn't bother him as much as it should. It's simply easier to drift, and to sleep.
Only one thing provokes him enough to muster the energy to resist: even the mildest suggestion that maybe he should...go. Half-unconscious back in the tank at STAR Labs, he'd been adamant on that point. The doctors said it, Arthur said it, Dick said it (clearly hating every strained word), Donna said it with all well-meaning intent: Going back to Atlantis would certainly be easier on his system, and the physicians there would be able to more precisely treat his infirmity, and it's all perfectly logical and he can't do it. Won't.
"Why" is part of all those things he's not thinking about.
Dick, at least, seems willing--or perhaps resigned--to endure the current status quo and it's for exactly those same unspoken reasons. Whether that's a mistake or not, whether they're both letting days pass in willful denial of the obvious, doesn't matter. They're both still *here* and that's what Garth has to cling to while the world passes by outside.
Then Atlan arrives, and everything changes.
Dick will never know that for the briefest instant, that first moment seeing Atlan standing in their home, Garth had been almost...offended by his presence. Atlan's being there means an end to the luxury of lethargy, physical and otherwise, and part of him resented the loss. But the emotion is fleeting, and Garth truly is grateful for Atlan's arrival even as he knows, instinctively, that the next weeks are going to be as much a test of his self-control as his endurance.
As the days pass, Atlan makes Garth both angry and uneasy in ways he can't articulate. It has nothing to do with the sexual banter and innuendo--though he knows that Atlan's attitude would change from 'offhand invitation' to 'predatory intent' in a heartbeat if Garth exhibited even a shred of interest--and everything to do with the *other* things that Atlan wants from him. Power. Will. *Destiny.*
Garth doesn't want, has never wanted these things, except that part of him did. He'd hated being weak, back in the early Titans days, so much that he'd made himself sick. Self-fulfilling prophesy, precisely the kind Atlan loves so dearly. Thinking himself so useless had *made* him useless to his friends and to himself. It had never been about time limits out of water or clumsiness or ignorance of the surface world, no matter how much Roy teased. Just a simple lack of confidence, of *ego,* of any sense of self-worth altogether.
Or it would have been, if not for Tula. Even then Garth had known he couldn't be all that useless if she loved him, and she did. And she would have been the first to understand how much he's really changed since coming into his powers and his birthright.
Discovering his magical heritage was...after all the fear, after all the trials and grief and pain, *everything* he'd wanted. The ability to stand with his peers, to be not only of use but dependable, a cornerstone of the team. Power enough to make a difference.
Atlan wants him to be more powerful still, to direct his abilities not only to the defense of others but to actively shaping the course of events. You can, Atlan says. You should. Use your power, or it uses you.
But if there's one thing he's truly never wanted, it was that kind of...responsibility. That, Garth supposes, makes him a very bad "superhero." What else do they do, if not take on a responsibility no one granted them to save the world? But Atlan means more than thwarting super-villains and combating natural disasters and the other mundane duties a hero accepts by virtue of putting on a costume. Atlan believes, truly *believes,* that it's Garth's destiny to take up his magic and his metaphorical (or perhaps even literal) sword and return to the oceans to--
--to *what,* Atlan remains nonspecific in the extreme, but certain nonetheless. He's determined that Garth is supposed to be some kind of savior, some kind of leader or liberator or champion for "his people" and "his heritage."
Roy would say, "he's so full of shit his eyes are brown," only Atlan's eyes are as blue as his son's and just as merciless when he knows he's right. Which, as far as Atlan is concerned, is always.
Garth has no interest in proving Atlan right but all of his protests will prove meaningless if the spell--this damned magic, this *blessed* magic that's all that enables the possibility of a life spent beyond Atlantis--doesn't begin working again. He hasn't even been able to think past, much less say, "if it doesn't--" because everything freezes up with those three words and leaves him struggling to draw breath, even surrounded by water. That's what fear *is,* the inability to breathe, and if he'd never known how utterly debilitating and paralyzing true fear was, he knows now. Drowning in air has nothing on drowning in his own terror.
He'd lost everything once before, with Tula. She *was* everything, then. Now--and it's no insult to Dick to know this--he has even more to lose. He's not utterly dependant on his lover any more, and that only strengthens them both. He's *useful* now. People depend on him, he's become dependable. To lose that now, to be forced to admit it was all a magic trick and an illusion of self-sufficiency--
It's almost a blessing that Atlan's lessons leave him too tired to think, much less follow his thoughts down the easy spiral to despair. He's even grateful for the jibes that make him angry, and Atlan doubtless knows that too, but Garth is frankly too worn out these days to care. *Let* him be right about that, let him be right about all of it, because Atlan swore that Garth would be well and Atlan's ego is too rooted in his arrogant sense of inevitability to allow otherwise. Garth can count on that, if nothing else.
But that's not even close to the truth. He can depend on Dick, utterly and without question. Dick called Atlan when Garth was too paralyzed to do more than wait. Dick has been...*patient,* and if that's a word that's never been applied to him before, maybe they've both learned something from this. Bereft of all his other weapons, Dick still found a way to fight for him. For *them.*
Once, it would have been enough for Garth to fight solely for Dick's sake. That's part of it, maybe the largest part, but there are other things to fight for now as well. That's why without any certainty whatsoever, without any confidence behind the thought at all, Garth knows it's going to be all right.