He was someplace warm – warm and soft. The smell of sea-salt clung in the air and he could feel the sand under his fingertips. It was peaceful, something his dreams hadn't been for the longest time. His eyes slid open and he sat up slowly, finding a vast ocean not too far in front of him.
Roy wasn't exactly sure where he was, the beach looked completely unfamiliar – not like the one near the Titans East Tower or some place he might have been at one point in the past. There wasn't any way to tell where he was either. Everywhere he looked, he saw nothing but sand, water, and a few rocks. There was no boardwalk or docks or even lights from a building in the distance. He was alone in a sprawling nowhere and yet he felt amazingly calm despite the fact he was lost here.
From the remoteness came a soft, melodic hum. Roy knew where it was coming from. His mind just kept working on auto-pilot as he stood up and started walking towards a formation of rocks. The closer he got. The louder the humming became; and as he started to climb over the slippery rocks, the night sky became a light orange-pink with oncoming daylight.
The humming just seemed so comfortingly familiar, it was incredible. That tone, that softness. It couldn't be. It just couldn't.
And sure enough, it was. As Roy made it over another rock, his eyes widened in disbelief – all because he saw him.
Garth was sitting on the edge of one of the rocks, his feet dangling in the water as he watched the sun rise and quietly continued to hum. It was just such a gorgeous sight to see.
Roy quietly crept behind the Atlantean. If he could just reach out and touch him…maybe this could be real. "Garth…?" he only just croaked out, his hand reaching out and just barely brushing his shoulder.
Garth stopped in that moment. He turned back to look at his lover, a reassuring smirk gracing his face.
Roy slid down onto his knees, his hand reaching all of the way to touch Garth's face. He smiled as the other pressed back into his touch. They leaned in towards each other.
So very close.
Please, oh God, please.
Please be real.
- o -
Roy's eyes shot open against his will. He sat right up, breathing heavily and blinking rapidly.
He was on the couch in Dick's living room, the beach and rocks were long gone. The sound of calm waves was replaced by the cacophonous early morning traffic of Blüdhaven. And Roy was alone. All alone again.
Garth was still gone. Garth was still dead. Garth wasn't going to come back.
Roy looked at his hand. It had all felt so real though.
"No…" he muttered, voice crackling slightly.
Why couldn't it have been real? Why did life have to keep throwing punches at him? Orphan, addicted, abandoned, hardened, alone – innocence and joy lost so young in so many different ways. Why wasn't it possible for him to have a long, lasting happiness?
"No." The corners of his eyes started to sting and the lump in his throat grew more painful with each passing second. No matter how hard he swallowed it just wouldn't go down.
They didn't have enough time together! It was never going to be enough time. He and Garth loved each other so fucking much! Why couldn't they be happy? Why couldn't they be happy together? Why not just this once could things be okay and stay that way?
"No, no, no!" His legs curled up and his knees pressed against his chest. His arms covered his head as he viciously shook it. How many more mornings like this could he take before he finally snapped?
And for the first time, since the day Garth died in his arms, Roy cried.
- o -
"You think he'll like it? I mean, didn't Nightwing say that talking about him was still a sore spot?"
"Of course he will, besides, there are also pictures of Bumblebee and the twins along with Green Arrow, Titans West, and us! One part of it just happens to be largely composed of him and one other person is all."
"He better like it after all the cutting and pasting we did."
"It wasn't that bad, Kon. I don't think we have anything to worry about, guys. Just trust me on this."
- o -
The kitchen remained quiet throughout most of the morning. A slight tension remained between Roy, Dick, and Kory, having started when the couple heard their friend's soft sobs from their bedroom. The both of them had held back, unsure of what to say or do to ease their friend's pain, and found themselves in the exact same situation here. So instead of having a nice, friendly conversation, Dick was fiddling with his coffee cup and Kory was thoroughly chewing her toast while Roy pushed around the eggs on his plate with his fork.
Kory swallowed and placed her toast back on the plate. She cleared her throat a little and gave a tentative smile, "So Roy, how have things been with Titans East. Tim has told us many great things about how you have led the team." It was better to make small talk then to sit in there in silence.
Roy looked up at her and returned the smile. "It's been alright. Took a while to adjust to different positions, but everything's working out just fine. Tim's pretty sharp, Bats made a good choice for a Robin."
Dick laughed a bit and took a sip of his coffee. "What choice? Tim was the one who decided to take the mantle. Bruce was kind of reluctant to find somebody else after…well, after everything that happened with Jason."
Roy nodded a bit. None of the Titans had really had a chance to meet Jason, he had been Batman's Robin in Gotham while Dick was with the Titans. He had been killed less than a year later though, how though was a BatFamily secret. Dick was pretty convinced though that the person who had stolen his Red X costume was Jason, but he couldn't really find any explanation for a resurrection so the issue was never really looked into.
Despite the slight downturn, conversation between the three continued easily. Breakfast was quickly finished and the kitchen was cleaned without a lick of awkward silence. Things gelled among them easier than they had in months, ever since two of them moved on to other things and one stayed on the path that he found the best. Before any of them knew it though, it was time for Roy Harper to leave and Arsenal to return to Titans East.
They stood in an alleyway outside of the apartment building, Arsenal perched on his motorcycle and mask firmly in place. Dick carefully looked out to make sure no one was watching as Kory bid her good-byes, throwing her arms around their friend's neck in a hug. "Drive safely, Arsenal. I hope that it will not be as long before we see you next time."
Arsenal laughed a little as he hugged back, "Don't worry, I'll make sure to not be as anti-social and show up once in a while. You and Birdboy over there have to do the same thing though. Bee's told me that Raven and Cyborg have been wondering about you two for a while."
Kory smiled as she pulled away and changed places with her boyfriend, knowing the two would want a moment to themselves. In the back of her mind, she contemplated visiting their other friends at some point.
Dick's eyes met the white out lenses of Arsenal's mask. Something about this just felt so weird, not final per say, but almost as if a new chapter of life was beginning for the both of them. He swallowed uncomfortably, "So…"
"I'm really glad you didn't just leave after you found out we tricked you. I missed talking to you, I mean sure you can be a bit of a jerk and you did pretty much copy me at first-"
"Do we really have to get into this now?"
A laugh. "The point is, I don't want to have to jump through hoops just to talk to you again, if I wanted to do that I'd join the circus again. You're like a brother to me, Roy; I mean that. You can be an ass like your 'father figure' and I can be a bit of an antisocial prick like mine, but you always seem to pull through whenever you're needed. So all I can really say is…thanks." He smiled a bit and clapped his hand on Arsenal's shoulder. "So, when's the next time you're meeting up with Titans West? Maybe we'll pop by for a visit, and embarrass Tim while we're at it."
Arsenal scoffed a bit and rolled his eyes behind the mask, "Like he'll let you do that, but I'll be sure to let you know. Speaking of our new Boy Wonder though, maybe you should think about telling him about…y'know. Better he finds out from you before he figures it out himself, right?"
"Maybe you're right. Bruce is the one I have to worry about though." He quickly looked at his watch, speaking of Bruce, they had to meet him in less than an hour. Leave it to old dark and batty to try and keep him on a tight leash. "I'm sorry I have to cut this short but-"
"It's fine, I've seen Batman irritated. You've really helped me out though. You helped me realize I may not be ready to get past Garth's death, I probably won't ever be, but…" he put his helmet on his head and started his bike, "at least I'm ready to start hurting a little less."
And with that, Arsenal sped down the alleyway and turned onto the street, briefly waving to his friends behind him.
- o -
It was late twilight by the time Arsenal made it back it back to Steel City and mostly dark by the time he made it to the East Tower. It was quiet, too quiet, and all it did was give him a sinking feeling as a million scenarios played in his head. Robin finally snapped and became a super villain; Superboy left an empty milk carton in the fridge, so Static killed him in a fit of rage and somehow it turned into a mass murder-suicide; all four of them got caught up in a massive orgy…wait, no…that would have been louder.
The lights were still on, that was a good sign. And at least they'd managed not to burn the whole building to the ground. You have to count your blessings where you can find them. He got off his bike and put the helmet on the seat before pulling out a comb to fix his helmet-hair. He placed the comb back in his pocket as we walked up the stairs from the garage to the Tower, dreading whatever horrible scene he was going to walk in on.
There was no blood in the hallway, so that disproved about half of the theories running in his mind. No signs of a struggle at all, so nobody had tried to break in and none of the boys got into any spats. He opened the door to the common room.
Superboy and Static were playing some kind of video game on the big screen. Impulse's head was shoved in the refrigerator, probably devouring whatever food they had left. Robin was sitting on the opposite end of the couch his teammates were using, feet on the coffee table and typing away at something on his laptop. None of them had seemed to be aware of their leader's return.
Arsenal cleared his throat and waited a little while before doing so again, only a little louder. The game paused, typing ceased, and raiding ended. All four turned to look at him. Wow, being a leader really did get all of the attention. "Anything happen while I was gone?"
Robin shrugged and turned back to his laptop, "There was a small run-in with Gizmo earlier this morning, but nothing we couldn't handle. Oh, and BumbleBee called wanting to talk to you, but when we told her you were out she said she'd call back tomorrow." He went right back to typing. "Otherwise, no, nothing happened."
Well that was confusing. Arsenal arched an eyebrow, "Probably means someone's planning something big. Keep and eye out."
Without another word, the four teenagers were back to doing whatever they had been before Arsenal came in. Not even a "hello", "how're you doing?", or anything. Pft. Kids.
Okay, wow. Way to sound old, Harper. Where's your walker?, his mind chided. He rubbed his forehead and walked out of the room. He was only twenty, still kind of a kid himself after all. He walked down the hallway once again and into his bedroom, tossing the keys to his bike on the desk. Something caught the corner of his vision though, sitting on his bed.
One of his eyebrows arched and he walked towards it. The object was some strange book, it had two pictures of the East Tower side by side on the cover: one from before and the current design. Laying on top of the book, though, was a folded piece of paper with his codename written neatly on it. He picked it up and opened it up.
To a year of Titans East and a leader we couldn't be luckier to have.
– Impulse, Robin, Static, and Superboy
P.S.: Don't worry, the originals are right where you left them."
Originals? What were they talking about? Arsenal picked up the book and sat on the bed before placing it in his lap. He lifted the cover and his eyes widened behind the mask. Oh. This is what they meant.
The first page was pretty simple, it was mostly empty and the scanned pictures still managed to look wrinkled and word. His mom, a woman he never really knew, holding him as a baby. His dad standing proud in his park ranger uniform with two-year-old Roy, Jr. on his shoulders. Him and Brave Bow not too long after that.
The next few pages seemed to be mostly dominated by him and Ollie, with Dinah at sporadic moments, both in and out of costume. There were some of old friends, ones long since gone or ones he left behind on a single page (they never really took that many pictures). Then came the Titans, both new and old, with the ones from both Easts taking up a better part of the section. Arsenal had to admit, the whole thing was really impressive and it had probably taken the boys quite some time to put together.
And then he turned the page. The scrapbook almost fell out of his hands.
It was him and Garth, together. The pictures he kept hidden away in the shoebox in his nightstand. He continued to flip through the pages, they filled the rest of the book. God, he didn't even realize he had so many. It was actually kind of scary.
He felt something inside his chest tighten. It didn't feel entirely bad though. He couldn't really describe what he was feeling to be honest – it was sad sure, but at the same time he just felt so happy. Like some weight he never really noticed was lifted off of his shoulders. Maybe it's because Garth wasn't trapped to just that small space now.
Arsenal looked up as he heard his door slide open. The boys were standing outside, looking in warily. Static was the first to speak up, "Is it safe to come in?"
Arsenal smirked, "Why wouldn't it be?" He had to resist the urge to snicker when they all breathed a sigh of relief. "So, this is why you had to get me out of the Tower, huh?"
Robin walked a little closer, pulling the flash drive out of his utility belt to hand it over. "We had to do a little sneaking around, as well as a few calls to Green Arrow and BumbleBee."
"Bee was always a nut about taking pictures of the team together. Green Arrow on the other hand, now that's surprising."
Impulse grinned, "I think we can thank Black Canary for that." In an instant he was next to Arsenal, looking over his shoulder at the book. "You're not mad though, right? I mean they were hidden for a reason, right?"
He thought about it for a second before shaking his head, "Nah. I probably would have done something with them soon anyway and at least you kept the original ones where they are." He turned the page and saw some of the last few pictures the two of them had taken together. When things had been mostly quiet and there was no sign of what was going to turn their lives upside down. A thought crossed his mind and laughed a bit.
It was different than some of their earlier ones had been. He and Garth were older for starters, about 18 if he was correct. Roy was starting to grow his goatee and Garth's hair was shorter than it had been, the result of assisting the fire department during a fire.
Speedy and Aqualad sat on the curb, in front of the burned out building they had helped to save the tenants from. Luckily the fire hadn't spread to any of the neighboring ones, but there was still a little bit of guilt that now these people had no where else to go. It was a very low class area and they had lost everything.
Right now though, the team had to worry about each other. Make sure they were alright before helping anymore – if helping was even still possible at this point. Karen was checking on the twins, the two of them were helping each other.
Roy ran a hand through Garth's hair, frowning a little when he saw the ends. "You're hair's pretty singed, but you're fine for the most part."
Garth grinned a little and just shrugged, "I was planning on cutting it anyway. So now I've got a good excuse for a change of my own."
Arsenal was a little surprised that he remembered that, in fact, these pictures were sparking a lot of old memories. Had he really forgotten that much about the time the two of them were together? Had he been shutting out more than Garth's image this past year?
Well no more. This was going to change.
Arsenal closed the book and looked up at his team, "You know, Aqualad probably would have liked all of you. Then again, I don't think there was really anyone who he honest to god hated." He paused and thought for a second, "Then again, Wally got really close that one time."
Superboy's eyebrows raised, "You're kidding? The Flash actually irritated him that much?"
"Well it was back when he was Kid Flash and he wasn't as 'mature' as he claims to be now." Arsenal snickered, "He would make jokes about how he couldn't really do much without water and about being a 'weaker link'. Plus he walked in on us a few times when he would visit – don't give me that look, Static, I did have a sex life and can talk about it if I want – so it wasn't any surprise that it'd get a little irritating after a while. Most of the time he could deal with it though, after all Kid Flash wasn't really part of our team. There was this one extended visit though…definitely a Kodak moment."
"Well come on, don't leaving us hanging!"
"It was hilarious, especially since he looked so serious through the whole thing. Aqualad picked him up, held him over his head, walked over to one of his pools, and threw him in." Arsenal had to hold back a laugh as the incident replayed in his mind, "Then he just walked back to the couch and what he'd missed on the show we'd been watching." He laughed and a warm feeling spread through his chest.
Maybe he was ready to heal.
- o -
The night air was cool as Arsenal sat outside of East Tower. His legs were crossed under him and his arms rested under him as he looked into the cloudy sky. It was always cloudy in Steel City. Those clouds always seemed to make him think of something though. Sometimes he wished he could see the stars, other times he thought it was kind of unfair that Titans West could actually see this sky, then of course he would wonder if there was anybody above them complaining that they couldn't see their loved ones past the clouds.
Then he would realize that sleep would probably be a good idea.
Still, he always wondered.
Come on, Garth. You would find a way to move the clouds, they are made of water after all.
The door opened behind him. "Are you coming in soon, Arsenal?"
Arsenal looked behind him to answer Robin, "In a minute. It's not too cold out so I thought it'd be a good idea to sit outside."
Things were quiet for a minute. Robin shifted from one side to the other, Arsenal just kept looking up. Finally the younger hero moved at sat next to him. He cleared his throat and spoke, "It was actually a lie when we said all of the originals were back in the box." He placed something in the older one's lap.
Arsenal looked down and picked it up, his hands started to shake as he looked at it. It was the picture of him and Garth that he'd always held closest to his heart. The one he had looked at the most, the one that reassured him whenever the Atlantean came into his dreams. It the haphazard-surprise-photo-kiss, framed nicely even if the edges still looked slightly worn. He felt something forming in his throat, it was hard for him to speak. "Thank you…" he finally managed to say quietly. Happy the mask hid how sad his eyes were and how much they burned with tears he wasn't going to shed.
Robin smiled a little at him before he noticed something in the corner of his vision. "Hey, look." He pointed up towards the sky, at a small area where the clouds had pulled away and revealed a sky filled with stars.
Arsenal looked at that one spot and managed to smile himself.
I love you too, Garth.
falls over and dies
Do you know how fucking long it took me to finish this? Don't answer that. I know the ending's schmoopy, but shut up – I AM THE KING AND QUEEN OF CHEESE!
Anyway, I'm sorry this took way too long to come out. I hit some really major Writer's Block a couple of times. First with the beginning (my first draft of it is much stupider than the crap you got here), then when Kory, Roy, and Dick were all sitting in the kitchen, then I said "fuck it" and tried to just go straight to typing but I got stuck with the Jason thing, but then I finally cracked down and wrote the whole rest of the chapter in about three days. There may be a little bit of too much in some areas, but with this story I'm trying to build a bit of a universe to play in (not just me, but I'd like to build some stuff in here before saying it's okay for anyone else to join in).
Expect a sequel guys, seriously. I have some ideas for one, I'm just trying to decide the overall plot to it. I am writing a sort of prequel oneshot thing to use for my hurt/comfort bingo card. But otherwise, Mourning Morning is officially done. I wanna find an art bitch to make me fanart, haha. Kidding…maybe.
This chapter was inspired by the song "Kimi Ga Inai Natsu" or "The Summer You Were Gone" by DEEN. Again, it's a great song – go listen to it.
Many thanks to everyone who has read, reviewed, faved, and alerted this story including:
The Eternal Shadows, Ippiki Ookami no Fuyu, QueenofSuperheroes, tehdarkkitten, Fangirl104, Aqualad, whitetiger1337, , meerkat4, and T'Prin.
Cupcakes for all of you, you awesome lovelies!
Thank you for reading and see you soon! makes heart sign with hands
Unbetaed because I lack a beta, help please? And it should be automatically assumed that I own nothing.