Choices Chapters1: Prologue
Chapter 10: The Titans
by Marilee Stephens
He sat and stared down the length of the T-shaped table in front of him. It had been a long time since he had sat at the head of an identical table Or, at least, it seemed that it had been. So many things had changed, and his version of this table had been gone even before those changes had taken place. Maybe coming here had been a mistake. He had wanted to find a place where he could really be by himself, to try and sort out some things by himself, but the memories just kept assaulting him.
It was almost as if they were around him right now. If he just closed his eyes, he could picture them. The scowl that had eventually metamorphasized into the wide smile of the tall man as the light gleamed off the half metal side of his head. The chatter of the small green monkey sitting on his shoulder or the green rabbit skidding along the floor. The quiet dark-haired woman who always seemed to be holding something back, even when she didn't have to. The silent young man who somehow could still get his point across better than anyone he had ever met. The carrot-topped speedster who he had grown up with, fought with and laughed with. The self-possessed brunette who was easily one of the strongest people he had ever met, physically, mentally and emotionally. Two girls who had not been members for all that long a time, but whose deaths had both made an impact on the group when they had died, one due to madness, the other, sacrifice. And the long form of the golden-skinned woman whose green eyes and bright smile would sparkle over at him, filling him with love and a sense of confidence about himself.
Then he thought back to other tables, like the round one in the basement of a disco out on Long Island. Some of the people had been the same, some of them different. There had been amethyst-eyed youth who was at times the quietest one of the group, yet could unleash a temper if he felt he needed to. And the girl he had brought into the group, who knew how to fight, but also how to love. The archer whose attitude and antics would drive him insane, even as he secretly envied the guy his freedom. The angry boy from the ghetto who forced all of them to see some of the more pressing problems surrounding them. And the girl that followed him into the group, who wanted to show all of them how much her guy was capable of. Then there was the girl who leant a quiet strength to all of them, even as she was foretelling them of things to come.
And others as well. The pair of brothers, one on the side of the fight, the other who just wanted peace, whose battles never did hide the love between the two of them. The bubbly blonde who got into the business just to try to impress him, but ended up being very good with what she could do. The boy who soared high on golden wings, before he crashed and fell.
So many people So many faces. He shook his head to try and clear it, but the pictures in his mind didn't want to go away.
Not that the room he was in was exactly the same as the one he could see so clearly in his mind. It wasn't. Where at one time the wall to the side of the table had held individual portraits of the various members of one version of the team, now the sites showed pictures of each version of the team. He had walked over to them when he had first come into the room, and looked at them closely. He had recognized the style. It was Joey's work, obviously inspired by some photos that Donna had taken over the years. And the chairs were lacking the individual symbols that had always indicated whose chair was whose.
But he had been noting differences ever since he had stepped out of the transport tube on the roof of the Tower and looked across at the familiar New York skyline. His elder counterpart, when Dick had expressed a wish to come here, had teased him as to how long it might take him to break through the security codes that would actually let him into the Tower. It had taken a little while, he admitted to himself, but not as long as it could have. Because whatever other differences there were between him and the other Nightwing, they still thought the same way about certain things. Dick had been able to guess a number of the codes, just using what he himself probably would have used, as well as the tricks of the trade he had picked up over the years. Finally getting into the Tower, as he had walked down the long, spiraling staircase and investigated the various floors, he had noted small differences in terms of pictures hanging on the walls of the living quarter floors, in terms of furniture scattered about the main kitchen and living areas.
And the one big difference. In one of the corners of the large entrance foyer, there was a memorial. Three people were immortalized there. Looking at the display, he felt a sadness overwhelm him. Only one of these people was dead on his earth, yet somehow the simple poignancy of the memorial touched him. It was obvious that whoever had worked on this shrine had done so with extreme love and care.
The statues had been cast in bronze, and whoever had done them had given them the utmost care in terms of detail. The first one showed a young woman in the prime of her life, cresting a wave and smiling joyously. Her love of life was obvious from the detailing on her face. Tula might not have had a long or easy life, but she had made the most of what she had been given.
The statue of the other young woman must have been that of this Bat-girl that Koriand'r had mentioned, he noted. Betty Kane. Her facial features were that of the Bette Kane he knew, even though the costume was nothing like the one that Flamebird wore.
But the other statue He had recognized the man figured in the other statue immediately. Even if the face hadn't given it away, the pose of the man notching the arrow into his bow would have. "Roy What happened to you, Roy", he had to wonder to himself. He still found it hard to comprehend that his friend could be gone on this world, and yet others who he knew to be dead were still here.
Shaking his head, he had left the area, a sense of something lost overcoming him. They had never erected memorials to the loved ones they had lost on his earth, outside of their gravesites. Maybe because they hadn't wanted to be reminded of what would be missing from their lives.
And he hadn't allowed himself to think of any memories of the times spent in his version of this building. Maybe because he hadn't wanted to be reminded of all that he had lost from his life.
Not wanting to contemplate on his reasons why he had done that, he had made his way to the meeting room, and had seated himself at the head of the table, where he had always sat. He had told the others this morning that he had wanted somewhere that he could go to think by himself. Ever since the meeting the day before on the satellite, he had been restless. He needed to think out the implications of what they had been telling him
"Nightwing", he had heard this world's Wally speaking to him, "it's probably going to take us a few days to work around this problem. This barrier isn't anything like what we've encountered before."
Dick's spirits, which had been on a high a few minutes earlier, plummeted at the man's words. Sensing this, the Earth-2 Superman had hurried to reassure him. "Don't worry though, son. We've had tougher problems to solve. Just give us a bit more time, and we'll make sure you get home."
The others had quickly added their agreements to that statement. Looking around, he had noted the confidence that radiated out of most of these people's faces. It should have lightened his thoughts, but in the back of his mind, he felt a slight trickle of fear seep through him. What if they couldn't get him back to his own world?
What was he going to do then?
The meeting had broken up shortly afterwards and he had headed back down to the Manor with the others. But not before several people had approached him and again reassured him that everything was going to work out all right. He had appreciated the sentiments, even as the doubts still flooded through his mind.
Getting back to the Manor, Alfred had had dinner waiting for all of them. Koriand'r had joined them at the table, but Helena had taken a tray up to the Catwoman, whose leg prevented her from making the trip downstairs. The others had discussed everything that had come up at the meeting and he had tried to keep his mind on the conversation, but his own private thoughts had kept reverberating in his head. The kids, somehow sensing that his attitude was different from that of the afternoon, had kept trying to cheer him up with some antics that their parents had tried to control, even though it was obvious that they understood and approved of what the kids were trying to do. But it really hadn't worked. Excusing himself before dessert, he had headed down to the cave, hoping a workout would dissipate a lot of the nervous restlessness he felt.
An hour into his workout, he had sensed eyes upon him. Looking down from the high bar he had been practicing on, he had seen Koriand'r watching him. When she had entered the room, he had gracefully catapulted himself off the bar and landed in front of her.
"Sorry to interrupt. I was just hoping to have a word with you."
He had tensed up a bit more with that. They really hadn't left things on a great note last night. After the start of the fight at the warehouse, there had been no time to dwell on what they had discussed. He hoped that she wasn't going to start in on him about it again.
"I just wanted to apologize for my temper from last night. I hadn't realized all that you were going through at the time. I still don't agree with what you did "
He had been surprised at her words. He knew from his conversation with her husband that afternoon that they had put a bit more together about what had happened in his life about that time, but he hadn't expected her to
"No It's okay. I didn't give you all the facts." He had grimaced slightly with that, but continued. "And in some ways, you were right to be upset. I did let my Kory down."
An awkward pause in the conversation had manifested itself at that point, but she hadn't let it last. "I also wanted to thank you for spending time with the kids this afternoon. When they came up to see me later, they couldn't stop talking about how 'Uncle Wing said this', and 'Uncle Wing did that'. You really made their day."
He had smiled when he remembered the laughter from that afternoon. "Believe me, Koriand'r. The kids did more for me than I could ever do for them."
She had reached out with her good arm then and patted him on his arm. "Thanks They are pretty good at bringing a person's spirits up, aren't they."
"Yep They get that from their mom, if I'm not mistaken."
Taking in the compliment, she had bestowed a wide smile on him at that point. But her face had then grown thoughtful as she queried, "So, mind telling me why they weren't able to work miracles on you at dinner tonight?"
He had shifted uncomfortably under her knowing gaze at that point. Of course, it had probably been obvious that he hadn't been in the best of spirits. But still
"It's just I don't know. I know that everyone's doing the best that they can to try and get me back home, but with everything that was said this afternoon "
"You're wondering what will happen if we can't get you back to your own earth." It hadn't been a question, but a statement.
He had nodded slowly. "Yes."
She had lowered herself to the floor mat at that point, and gestured for him to join her. "I understand. I remember what it felt like when I first showed up on Earth, before I knew I could return to Tamaran. I wondered if I would ever see the places that I was used to, the people that I loved ever again."
He had nodded slowly at her words, even though he hadn't mentioned the other concern that he had been trying to ignore. A very big part of his fear was just that, not seeing the versions of the people and places that he knew and loved ever again, the routines and expectations that he had grown comfortable with. But he had faced such things before. No He had another concern as well. That of what he was going to do if they couldn't get him home. This earth already had a Dick Grayson, as did Earth-2. Dick Graysons that had lives and relationships and histories. He didn't have a place to fit in here. And if they couldn't get him back home, just where was he going to be able to fit in.
But he hadn't been able to share those concerns with this woman. He had wanted to, but she had enough other things to deal with at the moment, and he wasn't sure if she would understand. Still, he had smiled his thanks at her concern. She had looked tired, and he had told her that maybe she should go up and get some more rest. She had started to protest, but then Alfred had made an appearance to give him back his own costume, which he had finished mending. Between the two of them, they had convinced her to head back upstairs.
But then Alfred had started to question him. "Is everything all right, young Master Dick?"
Dick could only shake his head slightly. All this concern. It felt good. But he didn't want to worry these people anymore than he already was. "It's okay, Alfred. Just some stuff I have to work out for myself." The older man had looked askance at him, but had only nodded. He wasn't going to push.
"If you need to talk "
"I know. Thanks. May take you up on that yet."
"Very good, sir. I'm always here to listen."
"Yeah That's the one thing I can always count on you for, Alfred." Even as he had said it, he had to make himself remember that it wasn't this Alfred he had always counted on before. But for some reason, at that point, it hadn't really mattered. "Thanks for fixing my suit too. Don't know what we'd do without you."
Alfred had sent him a somewhat sardonic look at that point. "I wonder that myself sometimes, sir", he had added in a mocking tone.
Dick could only smile. Yep, there were definitely a lot of things that this Alfred had in common with his own. Changing the subject, he had added, "Great dinner, by the way. The Chicken Kiev was amazing."
"I'm glad you liked it, sir."
Leaving the work out area with the older man, they had been chatting about the kids when he had seen Bruce, Amanda and her father at the computers. Nodding a quick farewell to Alfred, who turned to head back upstairs, he had headed over to them.
"Anything come up?"
Amanda had turned to him excitedly at that point. "Uncle Wing, Aunt Donna just told us that there's been another robbery reported."
He had looked at the two other men at that. Bruce had answered his unspoken query. "Happened on the West Coast. A computer lab in 'Silicon Valley' was broken into this afternoon and some experimental chips taken. We're still trying to get details."
Dick had felt a surge go through him. The restless feeling from before was still with him, and he had felt like doing something. Maybe going to investigate
His counterpart must have sensed his thoughts, as he nodded understandingly. "I'm about to head out west, using the transporters, to look over the site. Want to come with me?"
"Sure", Dick had jumped at the chance. But then thinking, he had added, "But don't we need to go back out tonight to watch some of the other possible robbery sites."
Batman had reassured him. "Richard, Helena, Jason and I will deal with those. The pattern of the robberies indicates that they don't hit the same city two days in a row. It's doubtful whoever's behind these acts will come back to Gotham tonight. Especially since they know after last night that at least in this city, we're covering our bases."
Dick could see the logic in the man's words. As such, he had turned back to the elder Nightwing and said, "Just give me a minute to change, and I'll be right with you."
Hurrying off, he had quickly gathered up his other equipment and changed back into his own costume. The heavier material in his suit, versus the one that he had had on last night, felt a bit better. It seemed to ground him a bit. At least he felt he was back in his own skin.
Rejoining the others, he and Nightwing had quickly made their way up to the JLA satellite and then back down to California. Dick decided that while it was definitely a fast way to travel, he hadn't known if he could do it all the time.
Going to the offices of the computer company that had been broken into, the two of them had been greeted by Green Arrow and Elongated Man, as well as some members of the LAPD.
"A mystery, GA. I definitely smell a mystery", Ralph Dibny was saying, with his nose twitching, as they had walked into the room.
"No kidding, Stretch. Just what did you think we'd find down here?"
"Of course, NW. Just give me a few hours and I'll have the whole case wrapped up."
Green Arrow had just thrown a look of annoyance over at the two darkly clad men at that. "Gotta hand it to you, Stretch, modesty definitely ain't one of your strong suits."
"Modesty never got anyone in my business anywhere, Arrow. Now, let's get down to work. My Susie is waiting for me. And you know what my Susie gets like if I keep her waiting too long."
"I still can't imagine what 'your Susie' sees in you, Stretch."
Dick had thought to interject something into the banter that Wally had once speculated about that, back in their teen-age years, but decided against it. If only because he had been pretty sure he didn't want to hear Elongated Man's reply.
Seeing his counterpart shaking his head in a teasing exasperation at the other two men, Dick had kept his silence. After the other Nightwing decided what each of them would look into, they had split up to examine the whole crime scene, as well as the other areas of the building.
The work had gone fairly quickly, but had been ultimately futile. Whoever had pulled this one off was very good. There wasn't any physical evidence to be found. It was almost as if a ghost had walked in and walked off with the chips. They hadn't even find a fingerprint, or how the perpetrator had gotten in. The people involved with developing the chip had told them that it was for controlling a piece of equipment that another company was building that would allow for frequency phase shifting of objects. One that would use sunlight to power it.
"Great", Green Arrow had muttered. "An environmentally safe transponder. Just what every world needs."
The restless feeling had been coming back. Dick could feel it. While they had been investigating the site, he had shoved it to the back of his mind. But the lack of success had only enhanced it. It had been almost 2:00 in the morning when he and Nightwing had gotten back to the Manor, after filing a report on what little they had uncovered.
"You might as well head up to bed", Nightwing had told him. "You've had another long day. I'm just going to download the report from the satellite and leave it for Bruce, then go check on Kory."
"Shouldn't we join the others, wherever they are?"
"Well, why don't we check and see if anything's come up. But otherwise, I think it would be better if we caught some shut-eye. We all can't be going 24 hours for days on end. Whatever's going on might take a while to get under control. It's probably wiser if we start grabbing sleep when we can."
Again, Dick had seen the logic in the words. As such, after a few quick checks with the others, which assured both of them that everything was quiet, he had headed upstairs. Wandering down the corridor to the room he had been given, he had paused. The restlessness he felt meant that he wasn't going to go to sleep all that quickly. The kids had shown him their rooms that afternoon. He decided to just check on them, just to make sure that everything was okay.
Bruce had remodeled what had been his counterpart's old room a bit for the kids, he had found out. Opening the door to the room just to one side of that room, he had spied Mike curled up in the center of his bed. Wandering over, he had smiled down on the boy. He had wondered if he had ever looked so peaceful asleep. Then he had headed through the adjoining door that Bruce must have had put in that led to the room next door, his old room. Obviously, it had been kept for all the Graysons to use, just as Koriand'r and the two youngest had the day before. Another adjoining door off that room led to where the youngest Grayson slept. Alexandra had thrown off all her bedclothes. She was obviously the type to toss and turn. Gathering up the sheets he had tucked them in firmly around her, not waking her. She had sighed, rolled over in her sleep and immediately thrown them off again. Smiling, he decided that it was a lost cause.
Heading through the door that led into her older sister's room, he had noted that Amanda obviously didn't have the same sleeping pattern as her little sister. Good thing that they had all been given separate rooms here, he decided. He was about to quietly exit the room when her voice came out of the darkness.
Her query had caused a weird tightening in his chest region. "No, Amanda It's just me."
The girl had yawned, stretched and sat up, while rubbing her eyes. "Uncle Wing? Is everything okay?"
"Sure, sweetheart. I was just checking on things."
"Oh Okay. Did you find anything in that computer place?"
"Not really. Listen, I'm sorry I woke you. You better get back to sleep before your dad comes and throws me out of here."
Amanda had settled down in her bed with his words. "Okay, Uncle Wing. I'll see you in the morning, right?"
"Sure, Amanda Maybe we can have a quick game of Mystery."
Yawning, Amanda had already started to dose off. "That would be great, Uncle Wing", she managed to get out before her even breaths told him that she was back asleep. Smiling, he had leaned over and brushed his lips over her forehead before he let himself out of her room.
He eventually headed to his own room, but had ended up pacing a lot of the night, as various thoughts and ideas roamed around his mind. He had thought about what they had all ready uncovered. He had tried to think about whom could be doing all this. But he had realized that that line of thought wasn't going to be all that productive. Considering the number of differences he had uncovered between the people he had already met and the ones that he knew so well back home, he couldn't even imagine some of the differences that there might be with their enemies.
Finally, he noticed the sun starting to rise. He had decided to head downstairs and see what, if anything had happened with the others.
Reaching the cave, he had found it deserted. He had wandered over to the computers to see if anything had been added overnight. Accessing the files pertaining to the robberies, he had found logs reporting that there had been nothing happen that night that related to what was going on. The reports did indicated that both Batman and the Huntress had had other crimes pop up in front of them that they had dealt with. Remembering his thoughts from earlier about how he didn't know what differences there might be between various villains on his earth and ones here, he had decided to spend some time going over Bruce's files on various criminals he had been exposed to over time. However, after about an hour of this, just when he was marveling over the massive differences between this world's Lex Luthor and the one on his earth, he had heard Helena and Richard coming down the stairs.
As they had descended, he could just make out that Richard was trying to convince Helena about something.
" Expect them to behave like your parents did, Helena. They're not the Bruce and Selina Wayne that you grew up with."
"Give me a break, Dick. I know that. But I also know what my parents had. And I've seen them have the same thing. You have too. So there must be some way to clear up whatever happened between them."
Much as he was intrigued about what they were talking about, Dick had decided to speak up before anything was said that he shouldn't hear. He was still smarting from what had happened two days ago when he had overheard the older Nightwing and Starfire working out.
"Mornin', you two."
The others had glanced over to where he sat at the computer. "Good morning, Dick. We heard you didn't have much luck over in California", Helena said.
"No Though I read that you were a bit busy last night."
"Not really. Simple convenience store heist. Didn't take too long to settle. What are you up to?"
"Just going over some files. I'm trying to get caught up on just what type of differences there might be between some of the bad guys I'm used to and the ones on this earth."
The three of them had settled into some discussion, comparing notes about various enemies they had all gone up against. But the restlessness was back, as Dick learned more and more about the people they might be dealing with. He had begun to pace around the cavern.
"Want to talk about whatever's eating you, Dick?", Richard had inquired.
Dick had grimaced slightly. Much as he appreciated all of them wanting to help him, he really didn't know how to explain this feeling of not fitting in. He had been saved from having to answer by the rush of air that signaled the arrival of three small bodies in the cave.
"Morning, Uncle Richard, Aunt Helena, Uncle Wing", had spilled from the various mouths of the children as they approached each of the adults for hugs.
From that point on, Dick had been kept busy, but always in the back of his mind was the feeling of needing to be somewhere else. At the manor, everyone was looking to try and help him with whatever was bothering him. Much as he wished they could, he hadn't felt like it was possible. Finally, after turning around for the umpteenth time and finding one of them looking at him with that questioning air, whether it was either of his counterparts, Bruce, Koriand'r, Helena, or Alfred, he had realized that he needed to get out and find someplace quiet where he could clear his head. That was when he had remembered Donna mentioning the Tower. He had thought that if it wasn't used on a regular basis anymore, he might be able to find some peaceful time there. So he had mentioned it to Nightwing
But sitting there musing, he wondered if he had made a mistake. Because being here was just bringing back memories. Good memories for the most part, but memories that reminded him of just how many he'd lost.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he almost didn't feel the rush of air that signal the entry of a body through the door to the room. Looking up, he found himself staring at a girl, maybe 7 or 8 years of age. She had deep-red hair that while not strictly what could be considered curly, was more than wavy in texture. It had bangs in the front and grew long down her back. The lighting of the room seemed to give it a glow that almost cast a wine-red glaze on it. But it was her eyes that drew him, and gave him a clue as to her parentage. They were a deep, deep purple, a shade of purple that he had seen on only one other person.
The girl was staring back at him just as intently as he was staring at her. They were both so startled to see each other that neither of them moved. After what seemed to be an endless moment though, he made to rise from his chair. She must have noted his movement, as it seemed to unfreeze her.
"Father, Father Come quickly. Something's happened to Uncle Richard!!" The high-pitched, lightly accented voice called out, even as the girl backed slightly out of the door. Though at the same time she tilted her chin up in a slightly defiant manner. He noted that her pose had a very regal manner to it, even for someone so young. "Who are you and just what are you doing here?", the girl inquired in a slightly haughty voice. He didn't know if the slight air of disapproval he was getting from her was real, or something that she was putting on to possibly hide fear.
He heard steps hurrying towards the room. However, it wasn't the single set that he had expected, but two sets of sounds. A dark-haired man burst through the door. He had the same deep purple eyes as his daughter. Behind him hurried a woman with the same deep red hair as the girl, though her hair wasn't quite as unruly.
What do you mean
as Garth spoke, he drew to a halt as he saw Dick for the first time. The
girl, Kallen, wrapped her arms around her father's waist and hid slightly
behind his thigh.
Reaching out with his hand, he grasped Dick's own. "Hello. You are be the younger version of Nightwing that Donna told me about?"
Dick nodded as he regarded the man in front of him. This Garth was obviously older than the one that he knew, of course, but there were some other differences as well. For one thing, he didn't have the scars over his eye that his Garth had been sporting the last time he had seen him, during that adventure with the new team of Titans led by the Atom. And he wasn't wearing Garth's new red-and-black Tempest costume. No, his clothing was somewhat more formal, though still unassuming, like he had been on some sort of official business. But there were other, more abstract differences too. This Garth was wearing an even greater "robe" of responsibility than even his own did. This was a man who clearly had some greater role to play in society. A certain sense of not power, but purpose, came off of him.
"Ali ", Garth was gesturing to the woman behind him. She came over, bringing the child with her. "Ali, this is the young man that Donna told us had been transported here from that other earth. The one that we didn't know existed." The woman slowly extended her hand as she smiled her welcome. Dick didn't know if he should shake it or kiss the back of it. But her demeanor gave him the impression that the second one might be more appropriate. "Nightwing Or may I call you Dick?" With a nod of assent, Garth continued. "Dick, this is my consort, Lady Alianne, and our daughter, Kallen." Looking more closely at the woman, Dick could see that while there was a certain quiet serenity to her on the surface, in her eyes, there was definitely a spark of spunk.
The woman sent a mocking frown up to her husband, even as she rolled her eyes. "*Lady* Alianne, Garth? You know I despise being called by my title."
"Of course Why do you think I call you by it anyway", he smiled back down to her.
For a few moments following that, silence reigned. However, when Dick saw the intense looks they were bestowing on each other, he knew that they were still communicating. A slight twist of his lips occurred when he wondered what they were "saying" to each other.
After a moment, Ali picked up the conversation again, even as a winsome, if slightly wicked grin flashed across her face. "Garth Do you recall what transpired the last time you kept referring to me by my title? Do you wish for a repeat of that episode."
Garth seemed to spend a couple of moments in quiet contemplation before a fake look of horror crossed his face. "No, not that Anything but that!!"
Dick smiled at their exchange. He had a feeling that he was going to like this woman.
"Hello, Dick. I am pleased to meet you, even under these trying circumstances. But please, you may refer to me as Ali." The woman's voice was smooth, with an even more pronounced accent than their daughter's.
"Thanks. It's nice to meet you too." Dick then knelt down in front of the girl. She eyed him in a manner that was in one way quite fearless, but in another a bit wary, like she didn't know quite what to make of him. "And it's nice to meet you, Kallen. Amanda and Mike have mentioned your name to me. I was wondering who you were. I'm glad to have found out."
The girl nodded a bit abruptly as she extended her hand. "So you are not trying to impersonate Uncle Richard. You just greatly resemble him." The child had a poise that belied her years. He wondered what their home life was like back in Atlantis.
"That's right. I'm sorry if I startled you. I didn't think there was going to be anyone here."
Garth responded to that. "Well, we were just dropping in on our way back to Atlantis. I had a meeting over at the UN that I had to attended and Ali wanted to take Kallen to see some of the surface museums."
"Yes. I'm the ambassador from Atlantis to the surface world. Arthur originally asked me to do it for Poseidonis, which made sense, considering that I have more experience with the surface world than anyone else, given my work with the Titans and going to school in Scotland. But then the people of Tritonis asked if I could also present some of their concerns to the surface world as well. This past week, there's been a UN-sponsored conference here in New York dealing with various types of pollution, including water, and ways to deal with them. I had to give a keynote address. Not one of my favorite activities, but I knew what the job entailed when I took it."
Dick smiled at the other man's slightly exasperated tone. No, he could see how that might not rank very high on Garth's favorite things to do. But if this Garth was anything like his own, he knew that he must take his responsibilities very seriously.
He then turned to Alianne. "Do you work in diplomacy for Atlantis as well?"
Her direct emerald gaze settled on him. "No I work in undersea antiquities. That is why Kallen and I were visiting the various surface museums." She stroked her daughter's hair as she talked. "We want her to receive a well-rounded appreciation of both the underwater world and the surface world, and all they have to offer."
Dick nodded his understanding. "Learning to live together by learning about each other, right?"
"Exactly." Alianne cast a loving look over to her consort. "Garth knows what it is like to suffer prejudice because of ignorance or a sheer lack of caring", she stated with a harsh note in her voice. "I do not want Kallen to grow up with any sort of prejudice against anyone. Just as I do not wish to see her mistreated because of things that are beyond her control."
"Definitely understandable. Though if Garth is anything like the Garth I know back home, there's no way in hell he would bring up a child of his to act like that. And I can see that you wouldn't either."
"That is correct. I would not." A certain note entered the woman's voice. Dick couldn't quite figure it what it meant, though it was obviously very protective in tone. But protective towards whom? Her daughter or her husband?
Even as he was contemplating that, however, she was gesturing towards Kallen. "Come on, my little angelfish, we had better weave your hair before we head back out to sea. I do not want it to become like a kelp tangle." With that, the woman moved off and sat at a seat at the end of the table. From a pocket on her outfit, she extracted some sort of string that she was obviously going to tie the girl's flowing locks back with.
Garth motioned for Dick to regain his seat at the head of the meeting table. Pulling one of the chairs stationed at the ends of the T's-crossbar around, he also sat. "So what brought you to the Tower. Donna said that you were staying at Wayne Manor. I'm sorry I didn't get up to the satellite to greet you when the call to the JLA went out, but with this conference "
"Hey, it's all right. I understand. I can't expect everyone to drop everything just to deal with my problem."
"Still, as Aquaman, I have as much a responsibility to the JLA as I do to the UN."
"Yes, but neither can be as important as your role as Atlantis' representative, can it? And there were plenty of others that showed up."
"I know But you're also a version of one of my oldest friends from the surface, one of the first people to accept me the way I am. A fellow Titan. And we Titans tend to stick together."
Did they, Dick wondered. There had been so many times in his life where the Titans just seemed to fall apart. Yet, regardless of the fact if there was an actual team or not, they were still family. He guessed the Titans on this earth felt the same way.
"So, you didn't answer my question. How come you're here at the Tower instead of at the Manor?"
"Just needed some time to myself. Donna said that you guys still occasionally use this place, but it didn't seem like it was the main base anymore, so I thought I might be able to do some thinking here."
"'Thinking'? About anything in particular?"
Dick didn't know how to answer Garth. It was like back at the Manor, where he didn't know how to explain about the feeling of being a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. That there was no place for him here and if they couldn't get him back home, he didn't know just what he was going to do.
So instead of answering, he asked his own question. "Your 'consort', Ali. She seemed a bit upset with something there for a moment."
Garth sighed, though Dick couldn't tell if it was because of the question or because he knew what Dick was trying to do. But he seemed to decide to answer his question anyway.
"Sorry. Ali's a bit tense. Some of the delegates at the conference weren't the greatest example of diplomats that you can find, in terms of expressing their views in a nice way. And Ali's long been one of my "protectors" when it comes to how people treat me, whether they're reacting to my purple eyes, or the fact that we all have to submerse every hour "
"Every hour? The Atlanteans on my earth have to submerse several times a day, but not every hour. Isn't that a bit of a pain when you're working on the surface?"
"Yes It always has been. I don't think anyone, even the other Titans, really realized how limiting that could be. I know Ali's taken one or two of them on about it in the past "
"What do you mean, 'taken them on'?"
"You know They just never realized how many times I felt out of the loop when we were growing up. Sure, I was around for all the cases and such, at least until I was called back to Atlantis. But I really couldn't take part in a lot of the more fun activities the others would go on about. The movies they went to see together, the various trips they had taken. Having to go for a swim every hour limited me that way."
Dick sat back at that. Had his own Garth felt that way. He knew there were times that his Garth had felt like a bit of an outsider, like when he had asked him to go help them rescue Kory the time her sister and the Gordanians had come back to kidnap her. Had he and the others, also without realizing it, excluded his Garth in some ways as well?
The other man was continuing though. "Yeah, so Ali took a couple of them on about not realizing how they had made me feel like I didn't totally fit in with them over the years. She said that it was bad enough that my own people had abandoned me, that the people of Atlantis had initially rejected me because of my eye-color. My friends shouldn't make me feel like a second-class member of the club as well. I remember a time about six years ago when she really tore a strip off Roy about it. Not that she got mean or raised her voice or such. She wouldn't do that. She just made him feel lower than a bottom-feeder about how he acted around me."
"Made him feel like he didn't fit in", echoed through Dick's head a few times. Maybe Garth did understand some of the feelings that he was going through. Maybe he could give him some advice on how to deal with them. It sounded like that he had gone through a situation that, though it wasn't really identical, had elicited some of the same emotions.
"I wonder if she could do the same for me", Dick mumbled to himself.
"Sorry. I really don't need her to do that sort of thing for me. No one's done anything but be great to me. It's just that I can sort of understand how you felt. I've been finding since I've been here that I've been feeling out of place. Everyone knows everyone else, their relationships and their shared histories. They're all comfortable with each other and who they are. But I feel like I'm in a movie where I've missed huge portions of the plot and I can't catch up. It's like I'm viewing the world through some sort of dense, distorting liquid, where everything is slightly warped. For all the surface similarities I've found on this earth, the underlying people and personas are very different. I don't fit in here, and there's a chance that I might not be able to get home. And if that turns out to be true, then where do I fit in?"
Garth nodded slowly in understanding. "Yes, I do see why that would be upsetting. I know that until I stood up and looked at just where my life was heading, and how I had to be the one in charge of it, I was just going to be swimming in circles. I had to find a place and a role where I fit."
"What caused you to decide to do that?"
"Tula's death. It took me a while to get over what had happened to her. I loved her so much. But I eventually realized that I couldn't let myself mourn her forever, just as I couldn't let myself feel out of place wherever I was. I had to make a niche for myself. Of course, Ali helped me with that as well. Her family's one of the more prominent ones in Atlantis, so she knew a little bit about feeling somewhat detached from the average man in the swimway type of thing."
During their exchange, Dick had noticed that Garth would occasionally glance down the table and catch his consort's eye, even as he continued to talk and she to work on their daughter's hair. Again, he had to wonder what messages were flashing between the two of them.
But Garth was speaking again. "Listen, let me put a call into some of the others. We can take a little while and try to sort all this stuff out."
Dick rose in half-protest. "No, you don't need to bother them about this. I mean, it's not like they can do anything."
"Maybe not, but it will help to get your concerns out in the open. And who knows. Maybe one of them will have an idea about what you could do if the remote possibility of us not being able to get you home does occur. Though I really can't see that happening." Garth laid a reassuring hand on Dick's shoulder before he headed over to the communications panel on the computer terminal.
"I guess But don't call my counterpart or Starfire. I just don't think he'll really be able to understand. And she's still recuperating from an injury."
Alianne looked up from Kallen's hair with that. "Koriand'r has been injured? How did that transpire?"
"It's a long story. It's really not that bad. A wound to her shoulder. I just think she should be resting."
"I shall have to visit her and make sure that everything is all right."
Dick looked quizzically over at the woman. "That's awfully nice of you "
She returned his look with a slightly regal tilt of her head. "Koriand'r was one of the first people who made me feel at home when I first visited the surface with Garth. She understood what it was like to be faced with a culture quite different from your own "
Finishing his message to whoever he was talking to, Garth turned and nodded his head enthusiastically at that comment. "You better believe it. Of course, you should have seen their reactions when Dick and I first took them to a baseball game. What a Well, let's just say that it was an unique experience and leave it at that."
"I am afraid I still do not see the entertainment value of grown men hitting a little ball with a stick and then running in a circle."
"It's all in the strategy, my love."
"So you have said."
Garth obviously decided to drop the topic. Turning back to Dick, he shifted back to what they had been discussing. "I've just talked to Donna. She's going to call some of the others. They'll be here shortly."
"I still don't think they should have to go to all this " But even before Dick could finish his sentence, a rush of air blew into the room and the red costume of the Flash appeared in the chair next to his.
"Hey there, Mister Ambassador. How's things in the wine-and-cheese social circles?" Leaning over to Dick, Wally joked, "You should see the spreads that this guy gets invited to. Amazing."
Wally", Garth stated with an exaggerated air of
"Yeah, I talked to our Nightwing earlier. He said that you were acting a bit down. But don't worry. Everything will work out in the end. It always does."
For a brief moment, Dick instinctively thought to ask the Flash if Roy would agree with that statement. But he held his tongue. These people were trying to help him. He couldn't take his anxiety out on them.
Just then, Donna also walked into the room. Smiling she greeted him. "Hello Nightwing. I'm glad we're going to have another chance to talk." As she drew abreast of Ali and Kallen at the end of the table, she bent down to give Ali a hug and reached over to plant a kiss on Kallen's cheek. She then wandered down to where the men were sitting. Reaching up, she deposited another kiss on Garth's cheek before addressing the group again. "Garth said that you had something that he thought you might want to talk to us about", she clarified.
"It's really not that big a deal. It's nothing really."
Again Ali broke into the conversation. "It is not 'nothing', Dick. You have every right to feel the way that you do."
Dick looked over at Garth with that. The man shrugged and pointed at his own skull. "Telepathy" was the only explanation he provided.
With that, Garth made Dick go over with Donna and Wally what he had just discussed with Aquaman. At the end of his explanation and what Garth had already told him, various looks were exchanged around the table.
"So, any ideas of how I should deal with these feelings?" Dick asked into the silence.
Donna got up and placed her hands on his shoulders, giving him quick squeezes. "I think first that you shouldn't concentrate on this until we actually know if we're going to be able to get you home or not. Maybe we should try to get over that fence when we actually have to face it."
Dick knew that she was right. He would have to cross that bridge when he got to it. But it still rankled him slightly. Turning to Wally, he wanted to know, "Shouldn't you be working on this 'barrier' thing?"
Wally didn't take offense at his tone. He obviously realized that Dick was still a bit stressed. "Everyone needs to take a break. Besides, listening to Jay, Ray and Vic go on about Fourier Transforms and Trans-spectral Frequency analysis was getting to me. Especially the Atom. Man, when he's in physicist mode, he's off somewhere where I can't, and don't want to, go. Besides, I had to head home for a while to touch base with my wife and kids."
"Wife and kids?" Dick wanted to know more about this.
Wally smiled sheepishly at that. "Yeah, Natalya gets a little concerned if I don't check in every so often."
"I know I know. After that whole mess with Leonid, who would have thought that I would end up married to a Russian. Let's just say I've seen the light and how much of a jerk I was back then and have changed my ways."
"I see. Amanda mentioned that her friends included a 'Barry' and an 'Iris'. I take it that those are your kids."
"Yep, and our son Ivan as well. I've got a trio of little 'fleet-feets'."
So that was who Ivan was. Turning to Donna, "And you have Robbie and Diane." He then pointed at Kallen, who was listening intently to the conversation. "And then there's Kallen."
Donna nodded. "That's right. Vic and Sarah have Ellie, and Gar and his wife, Caro, just had Mark. Hank Hall and his wife have two boys. Mal and Karen have a boy and two girls. And Duela just have a little girl. That's about it for Titans kids."
"What about Joey Or Raven?"
"One of these days, I'm going to get Joey settled down if it kills me. He would make such a great father. You should see him with all the kids. As for Raven " Donna's voice trailed off somewhat.
"What about Raven?"
Wally interjected at that point. "She's scared to have kids."
"What do you mean, 'she's scared'?"
"I think she's afraid that she might pass on some of Trigon's genes to a child. Genes that you might not want showing up."
Dick hadn't thought of that. But there was every chance that Raven's child would not inherit their grandfather's evilness. Again, this Raven was shutting herself off from something she probably wanted, due to the legacy of evil she had been unfortunate enough to inherit.
Deciding that a change in topic might be welcomed, Donna then questioned, "Maybe you'd like to take a tour of the Tower. See what changes we've implemented in the last few years."
Dick's color deepened slightly at her comment. "I sort of did that when I first got here. Everything looks great." He didn't want to let on that his own Tower was long gone. Speaking a bit hesitantly, he remarked, "I think you guys did a really good job on that memorial. Koriand'r Koriand'r told me about your Roy and Betty two nights ago."
A hush fell over the small group, as they all shifted slightly uncomfortably in their seats. Finally Donna whispered, "Thanks We wanted something to always remind us of what each of them brought to our lives."
"Yeah. Sometimes it's just so hard to believe ", Wally's voice broke as a slight shudder racked him.
"It gets better with time though", Garth clarified.
Dick nodded, though he wasn't sure if he could say the same. Of course, these people had actually faced dealing with their losses. Shaking his head to clear the negative thoughts flying through it, he mentioned, "Koriand'r said that Lian was living with you and Terry, Donna."
"Yes. She's been with us for about a year and a half. She stayed the first few months after Roy died with Oliver and Dinah. I know that they all tried really hard, but I think they all found it a bit rough. It wasn't that they don't love Lian. They love her desperately. But the way they live their lives and raising a child didn't mix too well. I know Dinah worked really hard to try and make it work But it's a bit easier with me and Terry, if only because Terry's not in the business. The kids know that there's less of a chance of something happening to him than there is to me."
Dick closed his eyes with her remark. Funny how on his earth, Donna was the one to survive, while Terry had died. And her remarks reminded him of some of the things that his counterpart had mentioned in the kitchen yesterday. Obviously this Earth's Dick and Koriand'r had had to make a lot of changes and sacrifices to have their family.
He was about to make a comment about just that when a new voice entered the mix. "Hey, who decided to throw a party and not invite us?", the irate voice pronounced. Looking over towards the door, Dick could make out part of Vic's metallic "skin". Of course, he could only make out a small part, as most of the door was blocked by a rather large green gorilla. "I mean, the nerve. Everyone knows that I'm the biggest party animal around."
"Guacamole head, give it up. You're not a party animal you're just an animal." Vic sauntered into the room. "So this is where you got off to, Wally. Should have known. Not that I blame you. Ray has his head so full of equations at the moment that even I'm getting kind of sick of it." The tall man smiled to take the sting out of his words though. It was obvious that he probably enjoyed doing the computations as much as the Atom liked working on them.
"Uncle Garfield Uncle Garfield. May I have a ride?", Kallen demanded to know.
"Kallen, it's 'Please, may I have a ride'."
"Yes, Mother. Please may I have a ride, Uncle Garfield."
"Of course, my favorite little mermaid. What would you like to ride on today?"
"Can you please take me flying?"
"Flying? I don't know, kiddo. Are you sure you're strong enough to hang on?"
"Of course, Uncle Garfield. I am from Atlantis, remember. We are much stronger than the surface dwellers." Dick could hear the note of pride, and maybe even a touch of scorn or pity for these "surface dwellers" in the child's voice. Looking over at Garth, he had to surpress a grin. Garth was obviously going to have his hands full with this one.
Garfield apparently thought the same, as he looked over at Kallen's parents before he agreed to anything. After a short look between them, they both nodded.
"But you must remember to hold on very tight, Kallen", her mother warned.
"I will, Mother. I promise."
With that, Garfield took the girl's hand and made to lead her out of the room. Before they exited though, he turned back and shot a warning at the others gathered around the table. "Now don't you guys go and get into trouble without me. No reason why you should have all the fun."
"As if that was possible, Gar", Wally shot back.
Turning from the door, Garfield then proceeded to greet some unseen people down the corridor. "Hey, about time you three got here. We were just about to start the party without you." A few moments of silence followed, after which Gar broke out into a laugh. "Yeah, sure Whatever you say. C'mon Kallen. I have a feeling that things are about to get silly."
A little perplexed, Dick was taken aback by the trio that then came through the door. People that, deep down, he had accepted that he was either never going to see again, or that he had no desire to see again
To be continued
The author would like to thank Leah Adezio for the use of her characters Alianne and Kallen in this story. Thanks, Leah, you Goddess of Wetness, you.
All characters are DC Comics
This piece is © 2000 by Marilee Stephens.
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DC characters are used here in fan art and fiction in accordance with their generous "fair use" policies.
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