by Dannell Lites
Archive: Ask first, please.
Warnings: Rough language and explicit m/m slash. If such concepts disturb you, read no further.
Fandom: If this were in continuity and not totally AU
Summary: Tensions between Nightwing and Arsenal explode into a confrontation--and more.
Thanks to: Poi Lass--this one's for you, because you asked! And because you give good beta. ;)
Dedication: At end.
Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics. What we have done with them is ours.
With his fair skin, when Roy Harper turns red in the face for any reason, he turns really, really red. And his freckles show. He *hates* that. As far as he's concerned, it's just one more thing that makes him feel like a kid. I know that. Matter of fact, I know Roy pretty well. I ought to, anyway. I've only known him since we were about thirteen. Almost half my life now, for God's sake. We joke and kid around a lot, even now, but Roy just never knows when to stop. He's always pushing the outside of the envelope to see how far he can go.
There are some things Roy knows better than to crack jokes about.
Bruce is one of them.
Even halfway across the room, I heard his teeth grinding and I almost surrendered to temptation and smiled. But unlike Roy, I *do* know when to quit.
He just had to have the last word, though. Couldn't leave it alone.
"Oh yeah, Bird Brain?" he sneered at me. "Well, at least I'm not the back half of ‘Batman and...!'"
"No," I said sharply, "You're not the back half of anything, Roy. Ollie was never around long enough for that, was he?"
Roy's eyes narrowed and he hissed, "If Bruce is such a swell guy, Dicky-boy, then why can't you face him, huh?"
Without another word I slammed my way to my room, leaving Roy glowering in my furious wake. Probably a good thing Ace the Bat-Hound is sad history, so I didn't have a pet to kick around. See, that's the thing with letting people know you: they discover all the soft spots, all the vulnerable areas that hurt like hell. All the weaknesses they can take advantage of in a fight.
Sometimes I think Bruce is right.
He thinks, if he doesn't let anyone know him, he can't be hurt. So he locks his emotions up deep, withdraws his feelings from the world and those who know him. He becomes the Bat: cold, logical, ruthless, unstoppable. But despite all his best efforts, some of us managed to find a way inside that shell and discovered a man who loves--when he *allows* himself to love--with an intensity so powerful it burns. Those few who love him, and who are loved, would die for him on the instant: Alfred, Barbara, Tim. And me.
Sometimes I think Bruce is right. Usually I know better. I can't lock my heart in a box and pretend it doesn't exist. Which means that those who know me, know me *very* well. And can hurt me. Those are the moments I feel the Bat creeping ‘round the edges, whispering, even though I've already won that battle. I cannot be him, will never be him.
But yes. I understand Bruce very, very well.
Roy, on the other hand, doesn't understand Bruce at all. The only thing Roy knows about Bruce is that Bruce scares the crap right out of him. Roy doesn't like to face his fears. He's just as soon not admit that he has them, thank you very much. He's not the only one.
*("If Bruce is such a swell guy, Dicky-boy, then why can't you face him, huh?")*
On the other hand, Roy thinks I'm perfect and it irritates him to no end. As far as he's concerned, I make everything *look* too damned easy...just the way Batman does, but without the scary part. Most of Bruce's JLA colleagues have no idea how hard he works to maintain that image, and that's just fine with the Batman. Oh, I think Superman probably knows...but he's too polite to say anything. They may not be the best of friends, but Superman has a lot of respect for the Batman. And well, he's...Superman, okay?
I like to think Roy respects me...but I'm never sure. That laser-zap mouth makes it hard to tell. I could be wrong. I'm not arrogant enough to believe I never make mistakes; I can't fool myself that much.
Just everybody else.
"Hey, Robbo! " came Arsenal's angry voice as he pounded on my door. Robbo...now there was a blast from the past. Roy isn't the only one who doesn't like being reminded that there are still people who think he's a child.
"Helpless without the big, bad Bat, huh, Boy Blunder? Open up!" Even through the door I could hear him singing, "Who's afraid of the big bad Bat...the big bad Bat...? Who's afraid of the big bad Bat--little Robbie, not me!"
See what I mean about not knowing when to quit?
For some reason I hastily slapped my mask back on. Maybe I just didn't want to face him as Dick Grayson. Though that's a little closer to Bruce's modus operandi than mine.
"Come on in, Arrow-Breath!" I called cheerfully.
Childish? Oh, yeah. Roy and I hadn't fought and called names like this since the early days of the Teen Titans when Roy was convinced I was trying to beat his time with Donna. Now *that* little bit of psychological ammo made me smile. Never mind that it hadn't been true at all.
Roy was spoiling for a fight. Unfortunately for him, he was gonna get it. One of the things that Roy resents the most about me is that he's afraid I'm smarter than he is.
He's right. I am. I learned to play these little games from a master; I just usually don't play them with my friends.
For Roy, I was about to make an exception.
My door exploded inward, banged itself loudly on the wall, and rebounded like a basketball. Roy Harper stood framed in my doorway like a portrait by Picasso; a study in wrath. He was still red-faced and breathing in short shallow breaths through his mouth, a picture of anger and frustration.
"The Bat-Cave's history, buddy!" Roy jeered. "You're not livin' there anymore, remember? Turn up the damned lights! I *can* hit a target I can't see...but it's not as much fun."
One of the first lessons Bruce ever taught me was how important state of mind can be to a fight. Any fight. "Don't ever go into a struggle angry, chum," he told me. "You'll lose. Learn to use your anger, to channel it and make it work for you."
Memories are a bitch, aren't they? Bruce hasn't called me "chum" in...a very long time. But there's still a small part of me that warmed at the sound of that word from his lips. Mostly I think because it isn't "son" and friends aren't bound by the same rules as...sons. I try not to think about it a lot.
Silently, I moved across the room, making sure that I passed the nightstand with its prominent picture of Donna. Roy's eyes followed me as I knew they would. I watched from the corner of my eyes as his gaze fell on the old photo, and his jaw set and then hardened. I almost smiled, but I suppressed it. Wouldn't do to betray myself so early in the game, would it?
"What brings you here, Harper? Did you *lose* something?" Oh, yeah. He knew where this was going, all right, I could tell by the way his face drained from red to white in an instant. I thought: *You* started this, buddy, with that crack about Bruce, and I'm finishing it.
From the way his fingers tensed and flexed I was glad he didn't have his bow. I *have* dodged arrows before, mind you, but I prefer not to make a habit of it. "You're a real son of a bitch, you know that, Grayson?" Roy spat between clenched teeth. "Learned that from your ‘dad'?"
"Is this what you learned from *yours?!* Ollie would be so proud..." The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them and I winced. But it was too late to call them back.
All right. I lied. Sometimes I don't know when to quit, either. It's the price of being human, rather than the Bat.
But when I saw the open fury on Roy's face I knew I had overstepped the unspoken bounds. Yep, one step too far. Damn, damn, damn. Why is it that Bruce makes me this crazy? What is it about him I--
I derailed that train of thought faster than you can say "repression," boys and girls, and bit the inside of my lip until I tasted blood. Roy and I were both bleeding now, on the inside where no one could see. Way to go, Grayson. Did I mean to hurt Roy like this?
I...don't think so. God, I hope not.
He just...pushes me. He *always* knows how to push me. He always has. "Arsenal"--now there's a well-chosen codename. Arrows or words, his weapons strike right to the target.
It's my own damned fault he had such an easy target to hit, too.
*("...then why can't you face him, huh?")*
But that's still no excuse for what I'd said. "Roy, I...I'm sorry, I--"
"Shut. Up." He was dead pale and his eyes turned cold and if there'd been a weapon in his hand, I might've been a corpse.
Oh, hell. Goddamn it all to hell. Grayson, you stupid, *stupid* bastard!
Roy jokes a lot. He laughs and says he's a screw-up, and that he has an inferiority complex, and that he's basically no good. We all laugh and agree and it's all in good fun, right?
The problem is, Roy Harper believes all that. He's been abandoned so many times he doesn't believe that anyone who loves him will stay, or even that they really do love him at all. He struggled with temptation and lost because he didn't believe his life was worth fighting for. These days he's trying to make up for that, but his doubts remain. I think they always will.
The fact that *we* believe in him and love him helps. Sometimes. But not often enough.
I pulled the mask off and tossed it onto the dresser. Reaching out, I touched his shoulder. "God, Roy, I'm sorry. I never should have--"
He cut me off in mid-word, furiously. "No, you shouldn't have, Bat Brain!" he snarled, and threw off my hand with a motion as sharp as one of his arrows. "You've got a lot of nerve, picking on a dead guy, Grayson! Ollie's..." he closed his eyes and his lips trembled. "...Ollie was no saint, but he did the best he could by me. He tried! He tried to change. He--he just--he just *couldn't* that's all. He didn't know how to handle the responsibility of a kid. He thought he'd be getting a pal, a buddy, a little bro'..."
I released a sharp, relieved breath when he didn't use the word "chum."
"...somebody to play with, not another leech on his play-time. Not somebody else who needed his attention!"
I blinked. Don't let anyone ever tell you that Roy Harper doesn't understand people. He doesn't understand himself...but he'd nailed that one. No wonder; he'd had plenty of time to think about it.
I loved my real parents, I truly did. When they died, if it hadn't been for Bruce...
Yeah, I loved them. A lot. But it didn't stop me from being angry; from feeling as though they had abandoned me by dying and leaving me behind. Poor Roy. Abandoned so many times by so many...and here was Ollie dying and carrying out the ultimate abandonment.
I didn't touch him. It probably wouldn't have been wise just then. I had to let my voice tell Roy how sorry I was, and that wasn't easy. Neither Roy nor I have a single superpower to our names. When we fight we need all the help we can get from any available source. Like Oliver used to, Roy likes to distract his foes with what he thinks of as witty repartee--dazzle them with bullshit. You'd be amazed how often they underestimate him as a result. I learned in a different school, from a different teacher. I've got "the voice" down to a science after all this time, believe me. Works like a charm, but it can get out of hand. It's been known to slip out of my mouth at really bad times, if I'm not careful.
"I know, Roy," I returned quietly. "Believe me, I *know.* Think I don't realize what it feels like? Oh yeah, Roy, I do. I've seen it too; the struggle, the *trying*...and the defeat when he just can't do it, when he just can't say it....Oh yeah."
He stood there breathing hard, puffing like a steam locomotive, then took several deep, calming breaths before he answered with a frown. "Yeah, I guess you do, at that."
"Well, well, Arrow Man," I quipped, not really amused at all, "ain't we a pair...ain't we a pair...."
That made him smile and I was glad. "Friends?"
"Yeah, don't get your short pants in a wad."
I held out a hand to shake, and when he reached out to take it I pulled him close and wrapped my arms around him.
He started, surprised. "Hey, Dickie, I don't love you *that* much, man...."
My turn to growl. "Shut up, Harper." I held him firmly and after a moment he relaxed into it. Except--
He wasn't relaxed at all, but shaking so hard I thought he might fall. He tried to pull away at the same time that his hands clutched at the back of my shirt, almost desperately. "I'm f-fine, Dick, lemme go--"
I would have missed it if I'd been taught by anyone but Bruce, but there it was: the slightest tremor in his voice. Roy really wasn't all right after all. So much desperation in that simple touch.... I've clung to...others...like that. I know what it means. He needed to know that somebody cared; that somebody loved him.
So here's the part where I was supposed to clap him on the back and send him off, right? Can't break the real he-man facade, nope, no emotions here.
To hell with that.
I looked into Roy Harper's green eyes and saw more pain there than I'd ever seen before--and that's going some. I sat by his bedside and watched Roy claw his way out of the hell of heroin addiction. I've seen him face down super-powered villains that would give Superman pause with nothing but a bow and some arrows. I heard him tell the entire tribe of Tachini Navajo to kiss his lily-white butt. I've heard him laugh, I've heard him cry out in pain, but I swear, until that moment I'd never been so afraid for him.
I was going to lose Roy, I could feel it. He had to know that he *mattered,* that there was at least one person who wasn't going to leave him when he needed them.
I brought my mouth next to Roy's ear and said, "I'm not letting go, because I'm sorry, and you're my friend, and I do love you."
He got as far as, "Oh, sh--" before I felt him shudder, and then he grabbed me and--
I swear I didn't instigate it. Hadn't even been thinking it when I held him.
But he grabbed me and shoved me up against the wall and *kissed* me hard enough to bruise.
About the only thing I had time to think was, "What the hell...?" Roy's about the straightest guy in the superhero business--no, I take that back. That's Wally. But all the inherent kinkiness about costumes and masks aside, Roy's always chased women. Aggressively. Ceaselessly. I had *no* idea where this reaction was coming from.
And I really should've taken the time to figure it out, except I've never been good at saying "no." Look at what happened with the Huntress, for God's sake. Kory, Joey, Mirage-pretending-to-be-Kory, Emily, Miggie, Helena--and I would've slept with Babs first and foremost way back when if she hadn't realized Bruce would've skinned her alive for touching his underage ward.
But those overactive Dick Grayson hormones kicked in, and I kissed him back. Hard. Hard enough to reopen the wound where I'd bitten down before, the iron taste flooding our mouths as our tongues fought for dominance. He caught my lower lip in his teeth, sucking, and at that point there just wasn't any stopping.
The next minute we were on the floor, wrestling with each other's clothes. Roy was cursing, a quick steady stream of obscenity. "Goddammit, Grayson always has to have the last fucking word, I'll shut you up this time, I swear--"
I'm not stupid. I kept my mouth shut. Well, except for gasping at the way he...*ravaged* my body, all that frustration and desperation transmuting into lust through some strange emotional alchemy. It was rough and fast and almost brutal, all hands and tearing clothes and frantic thrusting against each other. When he came he bit the side of my neck, and though he didn't draw blood, the next day I was glad for the fact that my Nightwing costume covers my throat.
He rolled away onto his back, arm flung over his eyes and breathing in deep, hitching gulps. After a couple of minutes of continued silence I didn't know whether he was still reeling or just--afraid?--to face me, so I had to ask. "Roy? You all right?"
"Yeah." And that was it. Not good.
"Hey, *Speedy,* look at me, wouldya?"
He sat up and glanced over in my direction but refused to meet my eyes. "Dick, I, uh--"
I could've said a couple dozen different things but somehow, I bit my tongue and let him get it out.
He raised his head and started to say something, then spotted the beginnings of the bruise he'd made. "Oh jeez, look at your neck, I'm sorry, I don't know why I, uh, I mean, I'm not, um, and you're not..."
Well, he was wrong about at least one of those half-formed thoughts. "Calm down, Roy. It's all right, you didn't hurt me, and--uh, I guess I never got around to telling you about me and Joey...."
"You and--! You gotta be kiddin' me! When'd you--never mind, I don't wanna know." He shook his head, obviously stunned. "You think you know a guy--"
"But you do." I caught his eye and held it, another handy trick from the Bat-arsenal. "You *do* know me. Which is why you drive me crazy, sometimes."
"Sure, but...." Gotta admit I was bracing for a straight-guy panic attack. Roy surprised me, though; his next words were a lot milder than I'd expected. "You, uh, really got to me so it was either kiss you or kill you, and I didn't want to have to explain your corpse to the Bat. Or Donna. Or hell, half the known world."
Mild as that was, he was starting to look even more uncomfortable, so I took that as my cue. "It's all right, Roy, don't worry about it." I got up, picked up a tattered "Gotham Knights" T-shirt to toss over the shreds of my costume, and started for the door. I figured he was embarrassed enough, he wouldn't want to deal with me any more today.
Like I said, sometimes I'm wrong.
"Don't go yet."
He said it so quietly I barely heard him.
I turned around. He was still sitting on the floor, head down but flushed again--no, *blushing,* as red as his hair. "Please don't go."
I dropped back down next to him and took his hands in mine. "Roy?"
He still wouldn't look at me. "I...I...."
"Shhhh." I freed one hand and lifted his chin and kissed him, gently. When he didn't pull away I drew him closer.
There are times when we all need comfort from our friends; sometimes, only the physical kind can help. Joey had been that for me. Roy...needed this, now.
His mouth opened slowly to me, tasting of leather and desert winds and that abominably hot chili he'd made for dinner. He made a noise in the back of his throat, something between a laugh and a sob, and clutched at my arms. I felt his tongue reach for mine tentatively, and then more confidently.
A slow learner, he's not.
We pulled apart for a breath. His eyes were still a little too bright, but I saw the beginnings of a typical Roy Harper smirk around the corners of his mouth and I knew it'd be all right. I decided I could risk a little humor. "So. You gonna show me your arsenal, or what?"
"Oooh, funny, Wingster. Maybe I will!" The smirk got a little broader. Yep, he was definitely feeling better.
I stood and held out a hand, which he took willingly enough. "C'mon, I'm not getting any more carpet-burns today." I pushed him toward the bed. He took one step, then faltered and looked back at me.
"Uh, maybe this isn't such a good idea after all...."
I sighed. "Roy, be quiet. Lie down on your stomach and *trust* me a little, okay?"
He did as I asked, and I straddled his waist and put my hands on his shoulders before he could protest. "Relax, all right? Say the word and I'll stop." I dug into his tight muscles with my fingers, reaching for the pressure points that would loosen them. I felt the tension slowly drain out of him as I worked. Shoulders, arms, upper back, lower back, upper thighs--he tensed again for a minute, then relaxed--calves, feet.
Maybe it was a little unfair, but I'm no saint, y'know. I know what having *my* feet rubbed does to me--every one of my lovers who discovered that used it against me, unmercifully. Apparently it had the same effect on him, because I heard him give a faint moan.
I moved back up and said again, quietly, "Trust me." Then I started over again at his shoulders, but this time drawing away his clothes and reaching for those *other* nerve endings--the ones that spark arousal. The first moment my mouth touched the side of his neck he jumped, then arched his head back. I took that as an invitation and flicked his jugular with my tongue.
No mistaking his groan; that was desire, pure and simple. He raised himself on one arm to turn over, but I held him still. "Not yet."
He fell back to the bed, burying his face in my pillow. I smiled a bit to myself. Given Roy's rather...extensive...experience, it was fun to see him out of his depth. So I decided to make him squirm. Mostly I was trying to make up for what I'd said to him, plus there was a little bit of revenge for what he'd said to *me,* and some prurient curiosity as well.
Well, I couldn't help *wondering,* after all. Harper has one heck of a reputation...and I wanted to find out why for myself. Call it the detective in me. Or maybe just those overactive hormones; like I said, I'm no saint.
I went back over his body again, fingertips and tongue, learning all the places that made him twitch. Even muffled in the pillow, his voice was an excellent guide.
After a bit Roy was writhing, hips pumping lightly and the sweat starting to rise on his skin. Finally he lifted his head and looked at me over his shoulder. "You're killing me, man.... I'm gonna poke a hole right through your mattress!"
I laughed, and he grinned and used his leverage to flip and pin me to the bed. I could have freed myself, of course, but I wanted to see what he had in mind.
"You asked for it, Grayson." He lowered his face and covered my lips with his. In under a minute he had *me* squirming. Color me impressed--no wonder he gets away with so much with all those women!
It was...seriously perfect. He had me under him just right, firm enough to feel his hardness against my own without being too heavy. Our mouths fit together like we'd done this a hundred times before. I moaned into his mouth and it got even more intense, his lips caressing mine more gently than I'd expected and even more overwhelming than the hard kiss we'd shared before. His tongue outlined the shape of my mouth and slipped inside, exploring. Our tongues tangled, stroking with increasing heat.
I couldn't tell you for sure if it was the best kiss I ever had, but it definitely ranks up in the top five.
I was panting like a racehorse and *aching* by the time he let me up. "*Jesus,* Roy! You got that thing registered as a deadly weapon?"
"You ain't seen nothing yet, Robbie." His mouth trailed down my neck opposite the bruise he'd raised before. He licked a spot, I shivered, and then he *sucked* hard on my skin. I would've protested except his hand had wandered down and was stroking me into submission.
He broke off and grinned at me again, and I started laughing helplessly, caught somewhere between incredulity and outrage. "I can't believe you just gave me a *hickey,* Harper!"
Roy snickered. "Well, now you match. One for each side. I know how neat you like things!"
Whatever shyness he'd started this with had dissipated completely. Which was good, because I really, really didn't want to stop. Problem was, I just wasn't sure how far Roy was willing to go. Hell, I wasn't sure how far *I* wanted to go!
Except his hand on me made it difficult to think, and there was that challenging *spark* in his eyes. The one that said, c'mon...do your best. I can take it.
I ran my hands across his broad shoulders, enjoying the play of a strong body beneath my fingers. Roy's arms and shoulders ripple. It takes great upper-body strength to pull a 120-pound bow, and he has the muscles to prove it. An archer's arms and back, as opposed to an acrobat's.
"Hey." His voice caught me by surprise, and I looked up into his face. "You gonna do something, or *think* it to death? I mean, it sure *feels* like you're ready to go...." His hand tightened on me just enough to prove his point, and suddenly there was just no *thinking* any more.
But now he was on a roll. "Or maybe you think I owe you something, huh? From before." He ran his fingers along the length of my spine and I moaned aloud. Damned sadist. His smile told me he was enjoying this way too much.
His grin got broader and broader. "Yeah, buddy? What can I do ya for?".
I buried my hands in hair the color of crackling flame and tugged hard, gasping. "Just...*touch* me!"
"Say please..." he demanded evilly, his hand still busy and making it impossible to refuse.
"PLEASE!" I probably could've been heard all the way to Gotham.
His mouth came down on mine again and his lips and tongue began making long, slow, torturous strokes in counterpoint to the movement of his hand. The fingers of his other hand, roughly callused from a lifetime's practice with a bow, rubbed slowly over my hardening nipples.
My toes curled, my back arched, I bucked like an unbroken horse and I'm almost positive I screamed when I came.
"Jesus," Roy chuckled, "guess you really needed it, huh?"
My heart was racing so hard I almost couldn't breathe. "Harp--Harper...you are *meat!* Oh, you are sooo dead!" And as soon as I recovered, I was gonna wipe that smug look off his face.
"What? Why?" He protested with innocence I didn't believe for a second.
"You've done this before!"
"Never!" he defended himself with mock outrage. "I'm a genuine virgin--with men, anyway." He batted his eyes at me. "You're the first, I swear!"
I hit him with the pillow, snorting. "I've heard THAT one before!" and then pulled it over my head in feigned despair.
"All that native talent!" I mimed sobbing, "all that talent...and I thought *I* was good!"
He lifted one fiery eyebrow. "Well," his tone was soft, "*are* you good, Robbie?"
"Never had any complaints...." And I had a *lot* more practice than he did, in this particular situation.
His eyes sparkled at me, an emerald challenge. "Prove it."
I tongued the circle of gold on his left earlobe and husked in his ear, "Not a problem." I pulled him close, teasing the long sleek muscles of his buttocks with my hands. He closed his eyes and gasped, trembling just a bit. I could feel his hardening length pressing against me, an urgent pressure. With my tongue I traced the pattern of the tattoo on his arm. A bright sexual flush started in the roots of his hair. Stroking, teasing, and caressing him, I followed its slow progress down his trim body.
I let my eyes wander down past his slender hips and for the first time I got a good look at his...arsenal. Again, color me impressed. Like a column of smooth, sleek ivory raising from a bed of glowing coals he arched proudly like the neck of a thoroughbred horse. Lightly, I ran my fingers over the tip and down the sensitive underside.
His breath caught, just for a second. "Um...?"
"Mmmm." Quicker than he could react I twisted around and had him in my mouth. He gasped and cried out, surprise quickly turning to raw pleasure. I *know.* I've been there.
"Oh fuck oh fuck oh GOD..." on and on. If I hadn't been...otherwise occupied I would've laughed, imagining Donna's reaction to his cursing if he ever did manage to get her into bed. But right now he was with *me,* and I was going to make sure he never forgot this.
I went *slow.* By the end of it his words had dissolved into incoherent moans and then finally into a wordless shout that made me glad of the sound proofing in Titans Tower for about the thousandth and first time.
I moved up to stretch out next to him, pulling the crumpled sheet up as I did. "Get comfortable, Roy, you're staying awhile."
File for future reference: Roy Harper wasn't much for talking, after. I figured that was probably for the best anyway.
"Don' leave, Robbie...." His voice was a shadow of its usual strength, and I could see him fighting sleep.
"It's all right, Roy, I'm here, you can relax..." It was probably a dirty trick, but he needed the rest. I pitched my voice to a low hypnotic tone and kept talking. "Shhh, it's all right, I won't leave you..."
Before long he drifted off, emotional exhaustion compounding the physical, and I went with him.
From the doorway I watched Roy wake up. He smiled sleepily and reached across the pillows for his bed-partner. When his arms closed in on the emptiness next to him, I saw momentary panic claim his pale features. I'm an early riser, see? Like Bruce, I don't usually sleep more than three or four hours a night. It comes in handy. For one thing, I like the dawn. And you *do* see some telling things by the dawn's early light.
Roy knew that he didn't go to sleep last night alone. Even in his early morning haze, he remembered that. Roy isn't a morning person. Never has been. But whoever had shared his bed and his body the night before was gone.
Dammit, I hadn't meant to leave him alone so long. I'd only gotten up to use the bathroom and grab some juice from the kitchen. But watching him wake was pretty fascinating, I'll admit.
Startled, he rose up, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and looked around. It was eerie. I could almost follow his thoughts by the look on his face. Confusion. He wasn't in his own bed. Not unusual; no need for panic, there. Scrubbing his face, he stretched lazily and I had to remind myself that this was *not* the time. The muscles of his chest rippled across the pale ivory of his skin and then flushed. It'd been a long time since I'd had the luxury of leisurely morning sex...and Roy wasn't making it easy for me to take my mind off that. Not at all.
It wasn't until he spotted my Gotham Knights T-shirt lying in a wrinkled puddle at the foot of the bed that he remembered *who* he'd bedded last night. It was almost funny, in a perverse sort of way. His emerald eyes widened when he recognized my room and he clutched frantically for the sheet to cover himself.
"Oh God," he muttered, shaking his head, "I am *so* screwed!"
"Nah, we didn't get *that* far." I'd been watching from the doorway, and now I watched him jump at the sound of my voice. C'mon, Roy, laugh, it's funny, and I'm too tired for another emotional crisis this morning....
I felt the guilt starting to creep in around the edges. I mean, yeah, he'd jumped *me,* but it still felt like I'd taken advantage. Then again...he'd been the one to start the second round, too. So maybe it'd be all right.
"Jesus!" he cried, "don't *do* that! Gimme a break, will ya?" Along with his words was this *look,* embarrassment verging on dismay at where he was and what he'd done, and I just didn't want to see that on the face of one of my oldest friends.
"Sure," I returned with mock cheer, and put as much humor into it as I could muster. "What would you like me to break first? Your arm...your leg...or maybe your thick head?"
His grip on the sheets loosened and he *did* look sheepish for a minute, I'll give him that. "I, uh.... Sorry. Was I that obvious?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
He winced. "Sorry," he muttered again, and began sipping the orange juice I handed him in lieu of something more useful to do. He seemed to relax a bit. I was glad of that, at least.
I sat down on the edge of the bed, careful not to touch him, and tried for a candid look. "Roy, it's okay. It's the dreaded ‘Morning After.'"
He snorted back laughter and that was definitely a good sign. "Yeah, I'm familiar with the concept."
"I figured. So let me play detective for a little bit, and you can stop me if I'm wrong about something."
He looked much more alert, nodding his assent.
I breathed deep, let it out, and said: "First of all, you're wondering what the hell last night was all about, since you've never done anything with another guy before." He didn't say anything, but his eyes told me that like one of his arrows, I was right on target.
I shook my head. "I could sit here all day and tell you that one experience does not a sexual orientation make. And what happened doesn't have to mean a thing, really. I'm thinking the situation was pretty unique and you'd just as soon get back to chasing anyone in a skirt all over creation. Either way, you are one hell of a sexy man, Eagle Eyes, no mistake about that."
He grinned at that and I had to laugh. Okay, this was good; but now for the serious part.
"What last night had to do with more than anything else," I said quietly, "was fear. On both our parts. I love you, man. You're an important part of my life. And I was afraid I was gonna lose you. I'm always losing people...people I can't reach...people I can't have. And you were afraid of being abandoned again. So I think it was mostly about finding a way to let you know that someone cared...that I wasn't gonna leave, no matter what. ‘Cause I won't."
He was quiet for a long moment, and then he reached out and lightly touched my hand. "Yeah. I guess I...dammit, Dick, I know that. I mean, you guys stuck with me through the worst times. I *should* know it, but sometimes I just--I just..."
I squeezed his hand in reply. "We all need to know someone cares, Roy. In case I've never told you before, I think you're one of the bravest people I've ever known. And not just because you do this vigilante thing, either. Me? Sometimes I think I do this because I don't know anything else. Christ, I've been doing it since I was nine years old. I'm not even sure I know how to do anything else anymore. But you! Daddy Roy! God, Lian is so beautiful. And happy. One of the happiest kids I know. Raising a child all by yourself takes more courage than I may ever have."
He snickered. "Oh, I get plenty of help, from ‘Uncle' Dick and ‘Aunt' Donna. Besides...you wouldn't *believe* what a babe magnet the kid is." He gave me that wide-eyed, "What's a helpless male to do with a baby girl? Help me!" look and I didn't know whether to laugh or throttle him. So I compromised by changing the subject. Kinda.
"Speaking of Donna," I said, and he tensed up at once like a coiled spring. "I'll hazard a guess that you're worried what she's gonna think if she finds out about this, am I right?" Yep. He was. He really should take a few lessons from Bruce about not wearing his thoughts on his face like that.
"Psssst!" I whispered. "Hey, Harper! Got a newsflash for ya, buddy! I don't think she'll be upset." When he looked rather nonplused, I gusted a heavy sigh.
"Roy," I said archly, "not to put too fine a point on the matter, she's an Amazon. Raised on Paradise Island...." He still looked clueless. I rolled my eyes at the ceiling.
"For Christ sake, Roy!" I chuckled. "Don't make me draw you an Esso roadmap, here! There are no *men* on Paradise Island, okay!"
Silently, but with a very wide grin, I watched the concept slowly filter its way into his consciousness. His eyes popped open in astonishment and he almost spilled what was left of his orange juice. Amazing, isn't it? Like me, Roy has known Donna for most of her life. He's fought beside her, made love to her. And yet, not once had such a thing occurred to him. Gotta be some kinda record. Or something.
"Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick!" he breathed, sputtering orange juice. "You mean to tell me that--"
"I mean to tell you," I interrupted him firmly, "that Donna is not gonna freak because you slept with another man--*if* you choose to tell her. She respects you. And you respect her. That's a lot more important in my book than simple lust. You were her first male lover. She's never forgotten you. You're very special to her, Roy. To all of us."
He swallowed hard and looked away, shamefaced, and ran his fingers through his fiery tousled hair. "Dick, I--I'm not any good at this stuff. I know you're right. I guess it's silly to think it'd matter to anyone...but..."
I smiled. "You've got to learn to trust us, Harper. I know it's not easy. But of all the people in the world...we know you best."
Roy flushed. "It seems like every time I do, I get screwed," he muttered, a hollow unhappy sound. He rested his chin forlornly on his knees and bit at his lip.
I love this man, but he is an idiot. "You're not half as hopeless as you think, buddy. I mean, if Donna can put up with you...."
He gave me a sour look. "Water waaaay under the bridge, man."
"Not the way I hear it. You guys just went out the other day, right?"
"Well, yeah. But we got interrupted by that Panzer moron, and Crabface showed up, and...hell." He shook his flame-colored head. "Pretty much ended with Donna telling us both to cool off. She's just not sure about anything anymore because of the whole mess with her memories; she's working through a lot, Dick, she doesn't need my kinda grief on top of that. "
I took the glass from his hand and set it on the bedside table before turning on him, exasperated. "Stop that. No Roy-bashing allowed. Listen to me. I *know* Donna, okay? I'm not wrong about this, trust me. Why do you think 'Aunt Donna' spends so much time with Lian? I mean, sure the child's a winner...but that's not the only reason, I'm telling you."
Roy gaped me like I'd transformed into a benevolent cherubim. "Really?" he managed weakly.
"Really. Lian's another way of getting close to you...since so much of you, all the good stuff, is in her. You can believe me or not, but that kid adores you past reason and it's not just because she's your daughter. She's smarter than you, Harper; she knows a good thing when she sees it. Remember *that* when you doubt yourself."
"I...know. She's...Lian's's everything to me, Dick. I'm terrified of screwing up with her, you know? I've messed up so many times before, I can't stand the thought of her getting hurt, or me doing something wrong."
"So don't." He opened his mouth to protest, but I cut him off. "Listen, every time I've seen you with her, it's really amazing. You totally open up, you know that? And *that's* one of the reasons Donna hangs around. Not just for Lian, though Donna loves her and that's part of it--but to see you, like that."
"Yeah." I couldn't help looking a bit smug. "In fact...I just happen to know that Ms. Donna Hinckley Stacey Troy Long doesn't have any particular plans for the day. *And* I know that she's been dying to see that revival of 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' at the Bijou theatre on 12th street."
I was almost blown over by the backdraft of Roy Harper's hasty departure.
"Hey!" I called out mournfully, "that's *my* Gotham Knights T-shirt, Harper!" There was no answer, of course. "Fickle, buddy," I muttered to my room, "really fickle."
But I was smiling.
‘rith says: Wow. Has *this* one been a long time in the making....
"Ask my parents what I did! Ask Brave Bow! Any of the Navajo! Ask Ollie! Ask Ollie what I did to deserve being--being--Something's wrong with me! Something's gotta be wrong. I'm untouchable, I'm worthless, I--I mean, can you see it!? Is it visible!? Some kind of force-field or warning sign or--What makes everyone keep leaving me!?...Everyone lets me down. I just get thrown out again and no one's ever gonna stay when I need them. I'm just so scared if I try again I'll--I'll--"
--Roy Harper, Arsenal #1
"Ask my parents what I did! Ask Brave Bow! Any of the Navajo! Ask Ollie! Ask Ollie what I did to deserve being--being--Something's wrong with me! Something's gotta be wrong. I'm untouchable, I'm worthless, I--I mean, can you see it!? Is it visible!? Some kind of force-field or warning sign or--What makes everyone keep leaving me!?...Everyone lets me down. I just get thrown out again and no one's ever gonna stay when I need them. I'm just so scared if I try again I'll--I'll--" --Roy Harper, Arsenal #1