My Dinner With Termy
By Louise Freeman Davis
"I didn't know how the others would react, when I told them the truth. But I guess I had to take that chance" Garfield Logan, Tales of the New Teen Titans # 55.
"Brrrrrrrring!" rang the Titans Tower phone. Donna Troy snatched it up anxiously.
"Hello? Gar! Thank Hera!" The rest of the gathered Titans sighed with relief. "Where are you?" asked Donna. "We've all been worried!" There was a pause.
"I see. All right, I'll put him on." said Donna.
Victor Stone stepped forward to take the receiver. "Salad-head, if you've done sumthin' crazy I'll--"
Donna shook her head at Cyborg. "He asked for Dick." She handed
the phone to Nightwing.
"Garfield, are you all right?" he asked, his voice a mix of concern and anger. Again there was a pause.
"All right, that's good. But tell me, is theTerminator?" There was another anxious moment of waiting, but all the Titans sighed with relief as their leader gave them the OK sign.
"You sure? All right, if that's what you want. Meet me at my apartment. But be discreet, I don't want to have to explain green visitors to my landlord!" Nightwing hung up the phone and looked at his perplexed teammates. "He says he wants
to talk to me, alone."
Dick Grayson heard a pecking at his window and looked up to see a small green canary perched on the sill. He opened the pane to admit the bird and lowered the shade, and the creature immediately popped into the human form of Garfield Logan.
"Hi," he said sheepishly, for once not taking the adverb literally.
"Hi," answered Dick, regarding his younger teammate. The boy looked exhausted and bedraggled, and his eyes were red, as if he'd been crying. A bit of Dick's anger at the trouble Garfield had created over the past few days evaporated, and he motioned the boy to sit down on the couch.
"You look beat. What the hell happened to you?"
"I met the Terminator," Garfield replied, quietly.
"Why?" asked Dick, his tone icy.
"I was planning to kill him."
Dick sighed. "Well, it's damn lucky for the Titans that you didn't! And for you most of all!" Garfield cringed visibly. "What changed your mind?" asked Dick.
"He did. It's sort of a long story."
"I've got time. You're the one who said you wanted to talk." Dick said curtly. Garfield bowed his head and seemed close to tears again. Dick's voice softened a bit. "Listen, Gar, you want a soda, or a sandwich or something?"
Garfield shook his head. "I already ate." he answered with a wry smile. "That's the weird part "
Sometime later, he had told Dick the entire story: his impersonation of the Terminator with his stepfather's Mento helmet, his attack on Slade Wilson's in his prison cell and the fight-to-the-death challenge that had somehow wound up as a civilized chat in a greasy spoon diner. At the end of it all, Dick stood and crossed the room, folding his arms.
"Garfield, answer me one question," he said, turning around to fix the boy with a glare. "Why are you here?"
Gar blinked. "Uh, well, the main reason was to tell you all the stuff that I just told you." he said, hesitatingly.
"Because I thought you all deserved the truth."
"Key word being all. Why not just come down to the Tower and spill your guts to the whole team at once?"
"I didn't feel like a group inquisition, OK?"
"Vic's your best buddy; why aren't you at his place, then? And if you wanted a heart-to-heart, that's Donna's territory, not mine. Why are you telling me all this?"
"Well, I figured you're the head honcho. Top banana. Chief Titan, ya know?"
"Garfield, I'm the Titans' leader. I'm nobody's boss. What do you expect me to do?"
"I don't know "
"You screwed up royally, you know. I'm angry enough to clobber you, yeah, but you're a little young for me to punch without feeling guilty. And you're too big for a spanking. I'm not keen on my obituary reading 'trampled by rhinoceros in his own living room,' anyway."
"I wouldn't do that, Dick."
"Well, from what I heard happened at Newsgate Pen you'll pardon me if I don't take that chance! Point is, Garfield, it's not my job to discipline you. I'm not your father confessor. Or your father, for that matter."
"You were lecturing me pretty good earlier! I just wanted to let you know the cotton's out of my ears, if you want to finish."
Dick smiled ruefully. "Y'know, Batman used to tell me if I was smart enough to know I deserved a lecture, I didn't need one."
Garfield buried his head in his hands. "Nothing makes sense anymore. I thought the Terminator was the worst there was, after everything he did to us. To me, especially! And we wound up chatting over a grilled cheese sandwich!"
Dick sat down beside him. "The enemy turned out to be human. It happens sometimes. And it can be hard to accept."
"What do you mean?"
"Tony Zucco, the man who murdered my parents. There was I time when I wanted nothing else in the world but to see him dead. But then I got sent to St. Jude's Orphanage for a while, before Bruce took me in. One of the nuns there, Sister Mary Elizabeth, told me Zucco had been at that same place as a child. She had known him, before he turned into a killer. St. Jude's was an OK place, as far as orphanages go, but for me, it was the worst time of my life. Because it was the only place I ever lived where I didn't have a family. But for Zucco, it was the best. The only place he ever knew love. Once I knew that, he wasn't a monster anymore. He was human, and after that, I could never have killed him. Doesn't mean I'll ever forgive him, but I had to think If I'd wound up with his parents instead of mine, would I have been any different? I don't know, and sometimes that scares the hell out of me."
"Why does it have to be so confusing?"
"Because people aren't like recyclables. You can't sort them into bins labelled 'good', 'evil' and 'insane'.
"Do you think Tara was insane?"
"I don't know. It's hard to believe anyone could be as corrupt as her and not be insane, but there's no way of knowing. And I don't think it matters anymore."
"I thought Tara was one of us! A Titan! My friend, more than a friend, even. And she turned out to be " Gar's voice trailed off.
"She was a traitor, Garfield. Say it out loud. We were infiltrated by a traitor! That's the only way I was able to make myself believe it."
"She was a traitor! And I should have realized it! I spent more time with her than anyone, and I knew she was lying to us, right from the start! About sewing her own her costume, about other things But I was stupid enough to trust her, anyway! I brought her into the group! It's all my fault!"
"Tara fooled us all, Gar, not just you. Because that was her mission. She made it her profession!"
"Did you know she killed King Tawaba, too, over in Chad? He was like a second father to me!"
Dick sat back "Speaking of second fathers, when's the last time you talked to Steve Dayton?"
Gar winced. "Right before I stormed the prison."
"You cop the same attitude with him you did with us?"
"Worse, actually. A lot worse."
"You need to go home, Gar. I'm sure he's worried about you."
"Forget it. He doesn't want anything more to do with me. At this point, I don't blame him."
"It was a bad scene?"
"Yeah, you could say that."
"Then all the better you get back soon."
"You wouldn't understand, Dick."
"Look, Gar, Bruce Wayne is no Ward Cleaver himself. There's been plenty of times he's lashed out at me, and vice versa. You work through it. Sometimes it means having the guts to go back and take your medicine, but you work through it!"
"Did you ever smash out his TV?"
"Yeah, actually, I did once!"
"Did you backhand him one across the jaw afterwards?"
"Hey, I may have been dumb, but I wasn't suicidal!"
"Well, I had a slight advantage. You couldn't turn into a orangutan first."
"This is Batman we're talking about. I don't think that would have helped me any!"
Gar grinned wryly for a brief moment, but then ducked his head in genuine shame. "He'd never forgive me. Not after that.."
"Steve Dayton cares about you," Dick said.
"Dick, you know a lot, but not a lot about Stepdaddy Dearest!"
"I was there when we brought down Madame Rogue, remember? Don't tell me you two don't care about each other!"
"Things were different then."
"Then you can make them different now! Get cleaned up and let me drive you home."
"I'm not sure "
"I'll stick around, if you want me to. If he starts yelling 'no wire hangers!' I'll bust you out! Deal?"
Garfield smiled ruefully. "Okay, chief."
"Mr. Logan!" The butler met them at the door. "Garfield! Are you all right?"
"Hi Questor. Yeah, I'm fine. Where's Steve?"
"In his study, Garfield."
"Is he OK?"
"He has recovered since yesterday, yes. Do you wish to see him?"
"Yeah, if he will."
"I shall check, sir." The butler disappeared.
Garfield sighed. "I'm dead, you know." Dick gave him a reassuring smile.
Questor returned. "Mr. Dayton will see you now, Mr. Logan." With a final fearful look at Dick, Garfield entered his stepfather's study, and the door shut behind him.
"I told him I'd stick around," explained Dick, in response to the butler's questioning glance.
"As you wish, Mr. Grayson." Questor turned and disappeared.
Within 10 minutes, Garfield reemerged. "How'd it go?" asked Dick.
"Grounded for a month," sighed Gar.
"I see. Tough luck, kiddo."
Garfield shrugged. "Coulda been worse, I guess. He says if I walk the straight and narrow for a week he'll consider parole, for Titans events, anyway."
Dick knuckled him on the chin. "Then do us a favor and walk the straight and narrow, will you? We need you back."
"Hey, never can tell when we'll have another wedding! You pulled Donna's off without one single supervillain showing up! You know what the odds against that were?"
Garfield smiled. "Maybe I should open a business. 'And the Bride Wore Spandex.' Listen, I gotta go. Part of straight and narrow includes being ready for my new tutor tomorrow morning, and I've got about a month's worth of geometry to catch up on. Thanks, Dick."
"No problem, Gar. Take care, and see you soon, I hope."
Garfield started up the stairs and paused halfway. "Don't tell the others what happened, OK? I want to tell them myself."
"You got it." Garfield exited, and Dick turned to leave.
"Mr. Grayson?" He turned around to see Questor beckoning to him. "Mr. Dayton would like a word with you, sir."
"Me?" Dick raised his eyebrows in surprise, but entered the study at Questor's nod.
Steve Dayton stood silently at his window, sprouting a three-days growth of beard, a puffy bruise on his right cheek, and eyes redder than Garfield's had been. He held a drink in one hand, and the smell of whiskey hung thick in the air.
"Ah, Grayson, come in." he asked, his voice raspy. "Care for a drink?" he asked, gesturing at the crystal decanters on the table.
"No thank you, sir," replied Dick, feeling uncomfortable. "Is there something I can do for you?"
"I just wanted to thank you for bringing the boy home."
"Glad to do it, sir. Garfield's a good kid. I know he regrets what happened. I'm glad you weren't seriously hurt."
"Hurt?" Dayton gingerly rubbed his bruised cheek. "You mean, he's responsible for "
"You didn't know?"
"I assumed I had hit my head on the desk when I passed out. Wouldn't be the first time. Don't look so shocked, Grayson. I'm no Bruce Wayne and I never claimed to be!"
"I'm sorry, sir. I didn't mean to cause more trouble for him."
"Don't sweat it. Even odds I provoked him." Dick could only swallow in response. Garfield was right, there were things he didn't understand and never would. "Anyway, there's another reason I wanted to talk to you," Dayton continued. "I have a favor to ask."
"I want you to look after Garfield."
"Grayson, I'm dying."
Dick was stunned. "I'm sorry, sir! I didn't know Garfield never "
"He doesn't know, and I want to keep it that way! I haven't been any great shakes as a parent to him, but I'll be the 4th one he's lost. No point in inflicting that on him until I have to."
"I think he would want to know!"
"Look, as I see it, I have maybe a month to make things right with the kid. For Rita's sake." Dayton gulped down the rest of his drink and poured another. "I don't want that hanging over us, the time I have left. Now promise me you won't say anything to him!"
"And you'll look after him, once I'm gone?"
"Sir, Garfield is only 3 years younger than me! I don't think I'm in any position to "
"I'm not asking you to adopt him, Grayson! Questor's trustee of the estate, and will take care of his needs in that regard. I just need someone to be there for him, when he needs them."
"The Titans are all his friends, sir. We'll always be there for him."
Dayton waved his hand. "Friendship's fine, but there's going to be times when he needs something else. Someone to show him the right path and kick his butt if he gets off. Someone he respects enough to listen to. And he respects you, Grayson. Just like he did the Chief." Dayton took another long gulp. "And a helluva lot more than he does me."
"That's not true, sir! You're his father!"
"Look at me, Grayson!" Dayton slammed both his fists into his desk. "Would you respect me, if you were his age? It was always the Chief he looked up to! And Rita. Never me. And why not? They were the real heroes. I was just the rich boy who came along and paid a few million for a damn helmet-" he angrily gestured towards the headpiece that sat on his desk. "-so I could play superhero and get the girl! Now look where it's gotten me!" Dayton backhanded the helmet and sent it clattering to the floor. Dick startled and jumped back.
"Sorry," Dayton murmured. "Garfield gets his temper from me, I suppose. Rita always was the patient one. She taught him right, she and the Chief. But she didn't have the time she needed. Garfield's practically raised himself since she died. He comes off as tough, but he's still naive. Easily mislead."
"Garfield's got a good head on his shoulders, Mr. Dayton. I don't think he's likely to wind up on the most wanted list again."
"I'm not worried about that! He was a child then! You know what those bastards did to him?"
"I know they mistreated him. And Galtry after them."
"Damn straight! It wasn't just the beatings, you know, Grayson. They convinced him he was a freak! Messed with his head! He could have torn any one of them to shreds without blinking, and he was too scared to do it! You know what you have to do to a little kid to screw with their minds that much?"
"You were the one who saved him from all that. You and your wife."
"The Doom Patrol saved him. I wasn't much better than Galtry. Rita understood him, I didn't. You know, one night he mouthed off to me and I pulled out my belt, just as a warning. He jumped into the sink, turned into one of those dimestore turtles and went straight down the drain! It was over two hours before Rita could talk him out of there, and he wouldn't come near me for almost a month. I never raised a hand to him again, but " Dayton refilled his glass for the third time, and Dick wondered how much of this was the whiskey talking.
"Anyway, that's neither here nor there, at this point. What matters is, between my estate and his father's, Garfield Logan's going to be one hell of a rich kid, once I'm gone. Everything will be held in trust until he's 21, but they'll always be people wanting to exploit him. Story of his life, I suppose. You're a kid of privilege, too, Grayson, but it hasn't stopped you from making something of yourself. Don't let it stop Gar. Make him finish school, no matter what. And go to college. Don't let him get sucked into any more of those Hollywood fiascos like Space Trek whatever-it-was. And for God's sake don't let him wind up like me."
"Garfield's done a lot of good work with the Titans. I think he's capable of more responsibility than you give him credit for."
"Oh, I know he's capable of it! I just need him to have a reason to do it. The Titans are the best thing that's ever happened to him in that regard; don't let him lose it. But you're more of the reason than you know, I think. Robin was the first kid superhero out there, after all. He's looked up to you for a long time even before you rescued him from that crazy hypnotist at the circus, remember?"
Dick smiled. "Yeah, I remember. I just wish we had known the truth about Galtry back then."
"If you had, Bruce Wayne might have a second ward now. Or one of the other Justice Leagers might. The boy'd be a lot better off now, believe me. Point is, Grayson, slightly different circumstances and you might have wound up his big brother. So will you take that responsibility, once I'm gone?"
"I'll do whatever I can for him, sir." Dayton extended his hand and Dick shook it.
"That's all I can ask. Thank you." Dayton clunked his glass down on the desk in disgust. "Now, if I can just lay off this stuff long enough to be here for him now "
Dick turned and headed for the door. "Best of luck to you, Mr. Dayton. To you and your son."
All characters are DC Comics