APRIL 1, 23:57 EDT
It had not been a very good day for Dick. (April 1 rarely was, but he was trying not to think about that.) And now, with all the tactical discussions and base preparations behind him, he was ready to go home. He paused for just a moment, casting one final look around the warehouse.
Well, it was the best he had been able to pull together on short notice. It had been one of his own private safe houses, so it was already wired with enough security and computer equipment to serve as a temporary base for the Team. As for living accomodations…well, there was only so much he could do. The place had beds and a fridge now, but Dick was glad that he at least had a nice, spacious apartment to go back to at night.
Conner, M'gann and Mal weren't back from the Hall of Justice, though Dick was at a loss as to what was keeping the former two. However, La'gaan and Gar had gotten back from Taos since they left. La'gaan was sitting in front of the TV, his red eyes glazed and unseeing; Dick knew from experience that it was better to leave him alone to brood. Meanwhile Gar was sitting on his cot, also staring off into space. That was unusual. Dick gave the smallest of frowns as he walked over.
"Hey, Gar," he said, forcing a lighthearted tone to his voice. "How you doing?"
"Alright, I guess." He didn't look up.
"Isn't it past your bedtime?"
Dick had meant it as a joke, but Gar scowled. "No. M'gann's not even back yet."
"That doesn't mean you don't need rest. Especially after what you've been through." You know, being tortured by aliens. Because of me. Dick tried to push that thought out of his mind.
Gar shifted his weight on the cot. "I don't even know if I can sleep. This bed doesn't feel very comfortable."
"Sorry. It was the best I could do on short notice."
Gar plucked at his uniform. "And I don't have any other clothes to sleep in. I've been wearing the same uniform since I got captured a week ago. It's pretty rank."
"Yeah…I probably should have thought of more supplies," Dick said sheepishly. "But M'gann should be back soon with whatever they salvaged from the Cave. And we can get you some new clothes if we have to."
It was a long moment before Gar spoke again. "I want to go home," he said finally.
Dick sighed. "I understand that. But—"
"No, you don't, Nightwing!" Gar snapped, and Dick was surprised by the vehemence in his voice. He looked away, then spoke a bit more calmly. "That place wasn't just Team HQ to me. That was myhome. I've lived there ever since my mom died. I think I even lived there longer than she and I lived in Qurac." His voice dropped almost to a whisper. "And the Light took it from me. Again."
Dick felt a sudden chill. He remembered a week ago when he tried to convince Wally that the Cave was just a place of no real importance. Except for some reason, he also found himself having to fight back images of circus tents and an old Gotham mansion.
After another long silence Dick awkwardly sat on the cot next to Gar. "Believe it or not, I actually dohave an idea what that's like," he murmured. He hesitated. "Do you know what April 1 is to me?"
"The day Wally steals your mask and sunglasses so that you have to go around covering your face with your hands?"
"Besides that." He sighed again, hesitated again, and then said "It's the day that I lost my first home. The anniversary of when my parents and cousin died."
Gar stared at him for a long moment. "Oh," he said finally, looking away. "Noted."
Dick scratched the back of his head awkwardly. "Yeah. Ten years ago today, in fact. I've…sort of spent the whole day trying not to think about that."
"That's okay." Dick closed his eyes and let the memories swirl in his mind for a moment. Most of them were hazy, disjointed. The fall. His mother screaming. Doctors and policemen talking to him. Mr. Haley and the others trying to comfort him. Meeting Bruce. And then, a few days later, coming to the Manor…
"How did they die? If you don't mind me asking," Gar added quickly.
Dick opened his eyes, dispelling the memories. "I'd rather not talk about it." Though now that he thought about it, even their loved ones' deaths weren't so different: a car flying off a cliff, four bodies falling from the wires, Queen Bee, Tony Zucco…
Gar was silent for another long moment. Then he asked, "Where did you live after that?"
Dick hesitated before answering. "With Batman," he said finally. That was technically supposed to be a secret, especially since Gar had heard his real name, but Dick did not want to lie at the moment. "I became his partner after he adopted me."
Gar's voice was quiet. "What would you do if his place got destroyed?"
Dick's stomach turned. He could not answer, but for two different reasons. One was because he honestly did not know what, emotionally, seeing Wayne Manor destroyed would do to him; just thinking about it left a gaping hole in his stomach. But the other reason was because, practically speaking, it would not affect him—he had that loft here in Blüdhaven, after all.
Too bad Gar didn't have a third home lined up.
"I'm…really sorry about the Cave." Mostly because it's all my fault. "We'll try to come up with better accommodations soon. Something more…permanent."
"Okay," Gar murmured. Then "Can I stay up until M'gann gets back?"
He laid back on his cot and Dick walked away, forcing himself to look calm even though he felt like running away and hiding. He was not sure he could take another second with Gar; just looking at the child reminded Dick of his own twisted guilt.
Why had he not thought of this before? Did it really not occur to him how much the Cave had to mean to some of the others? It was the only security Gar had since his mother had died. M'gann had lived there practically her whole stay on Earth. Superboy had been there his entire conscious life.
He had tried to convince Wally, convince himself that it did not really matter. He never really considered that it might be somebody's home.
Dick stopped to sit on Mal's vacated cot. He glanced at his watch again; it was after midnight now, and M'gann and Superboy still were not back yet. He glanced over to the Zeta Tube, then back to Gar. Despite his insistence the young boy was laying stilly, and Dick would not be surprised if he was already drifting off to sleep. Dick rubbed his own eyes and then, after a moment's thought, laid down onto Mal's cot and stared up at the ceiling.
If Dick wanted to sleep, he had a nice, spacious apartment to go home to. But tonight he belonged here.
After all, why should he get to go home when Gar and the others could not?