While spending a morning in the quiet solitude of his kitchen idly trawling the internet shouldn’t be especially strange, Roy Harper feels the unfamiliarity of it keenly.
He’s in the kind of civvies that suggest no intention of leaving the privacy of his apartment, unshowered and still faintly aching in places from the showdown against Troia a few days ago. It’s weird to be nursing his wounds - and a Diet Coke - without the background chatter of his friends, but it’s something of a relief, too. Keeping a civilian residence is a practical necessity for a number of reasons, not the least of which is occasionally indulging the human need for solitude.
Roy is a social animal, at his core, and he loves his team, but sometimes he needs a little space to clear his head. Especially after a couple of weeks like the ones they’ve had - recovering long lost memories of another life; Dick’s shitbag littlest brother royally fucking Wally over and showing zero remorse for doing it; the cosmic force that’s been steadily beating down the door to their universe finally successful in breaking through, nearly killing more than one of their teammates in the process.
Troia wasn’t Donna, not really. Roy knows that, but he’s been waking up in cold sweats every night since Donna put her future self down like the rabid animal she was, Troia’s sneer imprinted behind his eyelids and her words echoing in his head.
“You loved your addiction more.”
It’s not exactly surprising to hear. He thinks that’s the part that bothers him most.
He knows how close he’s come to meeting that particular end already, knows how close it lingers all the time.
Everybody likes to talk about how proud they are that he beat his addiction, like it’s been confined to history. Most of them don’t understand that addiction isn’t like that. It’s not a villain you get to lay out and toss into Arkham or Bell Reve to forget about. An addiction like Roy’s is a thing that haunts every second of your life, every corner of your existence from the moment it first appears, and it is always firmly rooted in the present tense.
I am fighting it. I am beating it. I always will be unless, someday, I’m losing again.
The verbiage is important. That’s the lesson Waylon spent the most time drilling into his booze soaked brain over the weeks after Roy’s clumsy attempts to goad him into murder.
It’s a constant struggle, a chronic illness that no amount of time or medicine or therapy ever cures whole-cloth, and it’s crucial to remember that. He appreciates his friends’ support, their concern, truly. Even so, it rankles at times, to not be able to explain to them that there will always be meetings, there will always be an itch under his skin, there will always be bad days, and worse ones, where he skims too close to the bottle for comfort, spends too long considering which seedy alley is likeliest to house vices he hasn’t actively courted in years.
They might understand, if he could bring himself to say anything of import about it. The closest he’s gotten since the Titans wandered back into their memories was during that whole debacle with the Furious Five, trying to impress upon everyone that while recovery is conceivably within the grasp of anyone who desires it, it’s also a long, difficult, ugly road to tread.
He thinks back to Dick’s hand on his shoulder, his easy, affectionate, immediate reassurance that Roy didn’t have to worry, that he’d bested his demons already.
Roy understands what Dick was trying to do. It’s the same reaction most people have when they see an addict on this side of hard-won sobriety. The practical reality of living with addiction is unsettling to look at, so most folks try to push past it and face toward the gilded parts - all the joy-limned auspices of success that come with breaking free of the bottle or the needle or he pill.
Don’t worry, you did it, you won, it’s over. So eager to to assuage any perceived negative that they don’t recognize that the ugly parts are the ones that matter most.
He knows that Dick didn’t mean anything by it, was just doing his best to be supportive, but that doesn’t stop Roy’s stomach from twisting a little when he thinks on it. Normally, he would try to be more gracious about it - Dick is hardly the first person to want to gloss over the difficult parts of recovery to remind Roy of the better ones - but with the possibility of a future like the one Troia laid out for him staring him in the face, he can’t quite manage.
He takes a quick, hard sip of his drink. Even though it’s just a Diet Coke he tosses the mouthful back like a shot, play-acting to soothe a little of that itch under his skin as he scrolls absently through a long list of search engine results.
There’s an abundance of AA meetings in the greater Manhattan area, and while any of them would probably work - especially considering that Roy has distinct memories of falling hard off that particular wagon in the imminent days before the Titans got their memories back - he’s holding out for a narcotics group.
He’s not entirely sure when he attended an NA meeting last, which means he’s way overdue. Not counting the couple of hazy counseling sessions he’d had with Lilith under the influence of memory magic - which Roy has been doing his best to pretend never happened - the closest he’s gotten to actively participating in his own recovery since way back when he was thrown into that shithole prison in Qurac are the few times he saw Waylon when he was tooling around Gotham with Jason.
He scrubs a hand over his face, huffing a bitter half-laugh into his palm. Jason. Now there’s a name he hasn’t thought of in awhile.
That’s something of a lie, if Roy is being honest - and not just because a significant portion of Roy’s time in previous months has been dedicated to defending against defamations of Jason’s character in light of the Red Hood’s recent polarizing shenanigans.
He thinks about Kory and Jason both, all the time. He can’t really help it. They were a huge part of his life for half a decade, and given Roy’s proclivity for personal attachment - a “stage three clinger,” Jason had called him on more than occasion - it would probably be worrisome if they didn’t cross his mind more often than not.
When it’s Kory who wanders into his brain, Roy will spend a few moments drifting gently in fond memories, maybe send an absent, affectionate text if the mood strikes. He gives Jason half a heartbeat to cross his consciousness before he shuts that train of thought down with extreme prejudice. He’s only willing to entertain it now because he’s feeling self-destructive, and if there’s one thing Roy has always been good at it’s knowing which of his wounds are the tenderest, which will give the best, hardest rush if he sinks his fingers into them, and Jason left a gash across his heart like Roy hasn’t nursed in years.
The more bitter parts of him, the neurotic parts that the drugs and alcohol have long since hooked into, have a lot to say about Jason. About why he left, and what kind of man Roy really is, no matter what Jason’s previously voiced opinions on the topic may be.
It sticks bitter in his craw even now that Jason had begged off of what had arguably been the most important relationship in Roy’s life with an excuse as flimsy as not being able to live up to Roy’s apparently oh-so-exacting ethical standards. As if Roy was some big hero. As if they hadn’t all been fumbling through together, him and Jason and Kory, just wanting to be better than they were, to have somewhere they belonged and someone they belonged to.
Roy had loved them both, in a lot of varied, alarming, and frequently confusing ways. Even after Kory left, after Jason let Roy’s anxieties spin out just enough to allow Roy appreciate his own autonomy before calmly coming to collect him through a hail of gunfire and easy banter, Roy had been happy. Really happy, with just the two of them and their warehouse and their, admittedly misguided, hero-for-hire jag.
If any of it had even been real.
It sits heavy in Roy’s chest, the dismal possibility that their friendship, the loyalty that’d driven Jason to return to the last place on Earth he should ever want to see just to save Roy’s stupid ass from a mistake of his own making, might just have been some trick of the universe’s fucked up timeline. Everything that had come after that was of their own doing, of course, but that’s something of a cold comfort a year after Jason walked out and left Roy defeated and alone.
He tries his best not to think about Duela. Not because he’s afraid of her, or even because he believes she’s more than tangentially responsible for the flaming wreckage of whatever nameless, amorphous relationship he and Jason had had, but because if he thinks about her too hard he understands more than he cares to about Jason’s motivations where she was concerned. About whatever fractured self-image drove Jason to take her in and, later, to turn his back and walk away.
Understanding breeds forgiveness, and Roy isn’t ready to let this grudge go yet.
He’d wondered, at first, why Duela hadn’t tried more obviously to drive a wedge between them, although she’d always been clear that of the two she was more interested in impressing Jason than Roy. It wasn’t until she had him strapped to a table with blood in his teeth and a few more puncture wounds than usual that he realized it had been a calculated decision on her part.
“I’m tearing out his heart,” she’d said, and Roy had nearly laughed.
It had seemed such egotistical folly at the time, to assume he meant so much to anyone, let alone Jason, who takes extreme measures to convey that whatever remained of his heart after the Joker blew it to pieces had melted away in the Lazarus pit. Roy can’t help the rush of bitter amusement that accompanies the memory on this side of the past, because it had seemed something like a miracle at the time.
That Jason - private, taciturn Jason, whose only hard currency is secrets - had not only admitted to his affection, but exposed that particular vulnerability to an audience of thousands. Even now it makes Roy’s heart shiver with awe, despite the wave of pain that roars in after it.
Because the first thing that Jason did immediately afterward was to brutally, publicly excise his admission in the same breath, ripping Roy’s heart out right along with it.
Roy shouldn’t have been surprised, probably. Jason has always shared more with the Bat than he cares to admit, and neither of them suffer that kind of visible weak spot for long. It was always just a matter of time before Jason left Roy out in the cold. Roy just hadn’t expected it to hurt so badly when he did.
He takes another swill of his soda, drumming his fingers against his kitchen counter and idly considering his schedule. According to the meeting list, there are a few places in Midtown he could swing by this afternoon - he’s not officially on Tower duty until the day after tomorrow but he knows his friends well enough by now to know that he ought to at least put in a social appearance before the roster demands his presence. In the wake of the kind of fight they just barely scraped through, if he goes to ground too hard they’ll get worried, and the last thing he needs right now is to be coddled by well-meaning superheroes.
Reluctantly, he thinks on Jason again.
For all his many and versatile faults, Jason had never handled Roy or his issues with kid gloves. He remembers a trek through the snowy Colorado wilderness, a pause outside of a neighborhood dive, Jason’s eyes clear and frozen blue as he said easily, “This isn’t mission critical, and I need you where you can be at your best.”
It had been similar to plenty of other casual, preemptive admonishments Roy had received from any number of fellow crime-fighters, nothing to write home about. What had been special was the way that Jason just rolled his eyes and smirked and took Roy completely at his word when he nudged Jason’s shoulder and assured, “Never better than when I’m by your side, Jaybird.”
He’s still proud of himself for making it out of that hole with nothing but water on his breath.
A while after, Jason found Roy with a flute of champagne on his tray table during an intercontinental flight and had only asked quietly whether Roy was drinking again. He hadn’t ranted or railed or judged or assumed. When Roy had explained that it was a control exercise, that every once in awhile he liked to order a drink just to prove he could let it alone, Jason hadn’t made any indictments of the foolishness in such an action or looked at Roy with suspicion, just nodded and settled into his seat and passed the rest of the trip in amiable conversation.
Maybe it’s because he grew up around addicts, lost his mother to the same demon and knows intimately how treacherous it can be, but Jason is the only person aside from Waylon who has ever really seemed to understand what Roy struggles with, when he needs to be treated with extra care and when he needs everything to be normal, when he needs space and when he needs to be pushed into confrontation.
It’s that knowledge, that intimate understanding that makes the whole miserable business of Jason leaving Roy bloodied and battered in a dilapidated old Gotham factory building so much harder to stomach than it should be. After all, if someone who knew him, understood him the way Jason did couldn’t hack it in the end, what kind of time clock is running down the minutes on his current team? How long before he makes the first misstep that cracks their trust? What if he already has?
He tugs his cell phone out of his pocket, fiddles with the screen until he’s scrolling through his contact list. He lets his gaze catch on the simple entry that reads “J” for brief second, thumb hovering indecisively for a beat before he scrolls past.
He doesn’t know where Jason is now, what he’s doing, aside from gallivanting across the globe with a wayward Amazon and some kind of funhouse mirror Superman knock-off. And doesn’t that sting on the days Roy lets it, when he can’t push past his wounded pride and simply be glad that Jason has somebody half-competent watching his back because, despite their fractious departure, Roy still believes down to his bones he’d do a better job. He doesn’t know if Jason would want to hear from him about anything, let alone something as silly as this, even if he was in a position to answer at all, so he sighs and scrolls a half-step further, instead, to the ‘Jonesy’ a few slots down.
It only takes a moment for the phone to ring through to voicemail, same way it has the six other times Roy’s called him in the last week and a half. Running around with the aptly named Suicide Squad doesn’t leave Waylon an abundance of time for personal business. The vigilante lifestyle rarely does, in Roy’s experience, and he can’t imagine a team leashed by Amanda Waller has an easier time of it. Still, he’s a little disappointed when Waylon’s recorded voice echoes down the line.
He sighs, pinches his nose as he gets beeped through a halfhearted instruction to leave his message after the tone, and says, “Hey Waylon, it’s me. Sorry to bother you, I know you’re busy, it’s just.” He pauses, considers how to best explain himself. “It’s been a rough coupla days.”
He snorts a little at that - understatement much? - shakes his head, and adds, “Fucking time travel, you know? I’m so sick of villains from the future, man. We gotta get someone to put some kind of lock on the timestream or something. Frankly I could go the rest of my life without anyone telling me that I - telling me how I go.” He pauses. Swallows hard. “That it - it gets me, in the end.”
There’s no need to qualify. Waylon will know what he means.
Roy is silent for a beat, stomach twisting grossly at the premonition he’s been trying so hard not to look at dead-on - the promise of an ignoble death with a needle in his arm and a bottle close at hand. He takes a deep breath, lets it out slow, waving a hand in the air as though he can physically brush the knowledge aside.
“I know, I know, the future isn’t set in stone, just because he was me doesn’t mean I have to be him, yadda yadda, time travel platitude bullshit.” He sighs and closes his eyes, takes another long breath and opens them again. “Anyway, uh, give me a call when you have a minute? Could use some sense talked into me right about now. Oh! And, uh, don’t worry, too much. I’m headed to a meeting this afternoon. Hope you’re doing okay. Talk to you soon, big guy.”
He doesn’t throw his phone down immediately after he hangs up, but only barely. He feels jittery, too many emotions rattling around inside him and all clamoring for attention at the same time. He’s always vaguely assumed this must be what drowning is like - struggling against some invisible, impossible force just long enough to snatch a pitiful respite, a tiny, agonizing moment of hope, before its momentum drags you under again. It’s a worryingly familiar feeling, and that more than anything is what’s got him so spooked, has him leaning on Waylon so much recently.
That’s what sponsors are for, and he knows that Waylon doesn’t mind, but Roy hasn’t felt this wrong-footed in years, recent magic-induced, head-first dives back into alcohol abuse notwithstanding. That’s another part of what’s got him in a twist, he knows.
All it took was one demonic monster scrambling his brain a bit and Roy was right back to spending nights thoroughly whiskey-pickled in the bed of his truck and starting fights with local law enforcement when he got rightfully pulled over for driving under the influence. Some hero.
He always takes great care to remember that it’s a thin line between recovery and backslide, but he’s had more viscerally upsetting reminders of that than usual in the past few months. He should probably look into therapy again, but it makes his stomach hurt to think about it.
About Hugo Strange - back when Roy was running with the Outlaws and even earlier, before shit broke bad with Ollie - poisoning his mind and severing his support systems, driving him to isolation and self-loathing and nearly to an early grave. Lilith, after that, who had been a wonderful counselor, it’s true, but who is too deeply entwined with Roy’s personal life on this side of memory lane for Roy to feel comfortable talking with her in a professional capacity.
He doesn’t know how to go from watching someone make cow-eyes at his most obnoxious friend to confiding in them about two days ago when he’d spent longer than he was proud of staring at the half-empty six-pack of craft IPAs that Wally keeps discreetly in the back of the fridge, considering; or how the weight of everything that’s happened over the last year is pressing down on him so hard that he’s halfway to quivering with the desire to trade it all for an empty, dizzy spin. Easier to unload those secrets on a roomful of strangers that he’ll probably never see again, and while there’s a lot to be said about the healing power in intimacy, this is one demon that anonymity will exorcise just as well.
The NA meeting isn’t until one, but Roy’s chest is tight with agitation, fingers jittering wildly against the countertop. He could just shoot the shit with someone for awhile, reach out to Dick, or maybe Kory. They’re good at distractions, when they’ve got the time. He could probably call Donna, if he wanted, offer her lunch or something, but they’re taking some time, figuring out where their heads are at, respectively, before they talk some things out, and he’s reluctant to push too hard.
He could just try Jason.
The thought flits across the forefront of his brain before he can really grasp it, agitation dropping hot into the pit of his belly as soon as he parses its content. He pushes off from the kitchen counter, nearly knocking his laptop to the floor, and leans into his palms where they’re curled over the lip of the granite countertop until they sting.
He’s angry with himself for a lot of things right now - for tripping up and falling back into drinking even though he knows most of that blame lies with Mr. Twister; for mishandling things with Donna so badly; for fighting with Wally over something so small and foolish as romantic entanglements when the world was breaking open around them; for letting Troia’s dismal promises of his bleak future get under his skin. He doesn’t need the added portion of self-loathing that comes with the inability to get Jason off his mind.
Roy is something of a hothead in many ways, but this kind of personal rage is different. Ice-pick sharp and turned inward with surgical precision, made especially dangerous because the urge to drive that feeling out, to mask it under something easy and sweet and dizzying, is what had driven Roy off the path of righteousness to begin with all those many years ago. It puts him in a spot where the parts of himself he’s not proud of can get their hands on the tiller of his existence with a little careful maneuvering, feeding off his insecurities and anxieties and nudging him in directions he knows better than to go.
Pity that knowing what’s happening doesn’t always make it any easier to fight.
Roy straightens up, scrubs his hands over his face again, and stalks across the living room, toward the door leading to the office that he’s fashioned into a miniature workshop with a little pointed remodeling and application of top-of-the-line tech. Idle hands being what they are it’s probably best if he gives himself something to do, some problem for his brain to pick at and dismantle so that he can get a moment’s respite from doing the very same to himself.
Because his entire life is going to hell in a handbasket without his consent, fate or God or the universe at large elects to throw yet another obstacle into Roy’s path - somewhat literally. Roy has barely meandered past the coffee table when something big and heavy dive-bombs onto his balcony with a thunderous crash.
He spares a second to think that this seems strangely apropos even as he’s flinging himself over the back of the sectional sofa he’d jammed into the cramped living room for cover. Nothing explodes immediately, which is something of a blessing, though there are continual metallic rattling sounds from the direction of the balcony. Roy crawls on his elbows and knees over to the corner of the couch and peers cautiously around, sparing a moment to toss a prayer to whoever may be listening that if this is the day he goes down he at least gets to put up a fight first.
He zeroes in on the vaguely familiar shape huddled in the corner of his meager little wrought-iron patio, crumpled up next to an oversized planter that the previous tenants had left full of thriving herbs. It has now been reduced to a pile of chipped ceramic, dry dirt, and brittle plant husks through a combination of the intruder’s poorly aimed crash landing and Roy’s incredibly lacking prowess for gardening. He squints at the shape, and though it takes him a moment to understand what he’s seeing, once he does his eyebrows leap toward his hairline.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” he mutters furiously, pushing himself up, scanning the roofline of the neighboring buildings for hostiles as he picks his way toward the balcony door. “Of fucking course.”
He doesn’t see any immediate threat, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. He carefully inches the door open, glancing up to the rooftops once more and then down to the mass currently trundling its way to its hands and knees while the balcony creaks under the motion.
“You know,” he says absently, when nobody takes an immediate shot at him and nothing catches fire, “when they warned me about birds flying into my windows, this isn’t quite what I had in mind.”
“Funny,” rasps Jason fucking Todd, not bothering to raise his head while he makes a few woozy attempts toward vertical posture. He’s in a pair of ill-fitting suit pants and that’s about it, hair sweaty and matted, body splattered with bruises and blood. It’s not the worst Roy has ever seen him, but neither does it inspire a lot of confidence in Jason’s ability to get himself upright.
“C’mon, let’s get you inside,” Roy sighs, wrapping his hand around the least battered portion of Jason’s arm he can find and hauling the other man to his feet. Jason goes mostly willingly, but it’s enough of a struggle that Roy starts to worry for real, catching Jason with his other arm in a tight grip around Jason’s waist when the bigger man staggers dizzily and almost topples over again. The balcony is only so big, and if he goes down at the wrong angle he’s liable to slip over the side and pull Roy with him. It’s a miracle he landed on it all, if Roy is correct in his suspicions that Jason had jumped from the neighboring building.
Jason leans into the support, reaches up and pats a clumsy hand against Roy’s chest, the faded Star City Rockets logo therein.
“Long time, no see, Arse-face,” he greets with a hazy smile, and if the severely inhibited physical capabilities weren’t enough to alert Roy to the fact that something is really wrong here, his blown-out pupils, so big that Roy can hardly see any hint of blue irises around them, would have done the job.
Roy’s gut twists painfully at the casual salutation, but right now is absolutely not the time to indulge his wounded pride, so he just sighs, “Tell me about it bird-brain,” and hustles Jason toward the door.
It takes a little maneuvering to get him around the coffee table and settled comfortably in the L-shaped corner of the couch, but Jason goes easily and sinks into the cushions with a contented sigh. He tilts his head back compliantly when Roy lifts his chin, blinking slow and sleepy while Roy pushes his bangs up off his forehead with his other hand.
“You cut your hair,” he says, dazedly, and Roy sighs again.
“I did,” he agrees, not bothering with a petty comment about how he’d cut it more than a year ago, not that Jason was around to notice. He’ll save his ire for when Jason can actually appreciate it. Instead, he busies himself with tilting Jason’s face this way and that, watching as he tracks Roy’s motion a half-step behind where it should be. “What happened, Jay?”
Jason licks his lips - they’re dry, cracked and bitten, split to one side and Roy will need to clean that out before he lets Jason settle in - and says, “Cleanin’ up after Black Mask. Some’f his guys’re in town, not happy to see me. Got me w’thout my hood an’ tied me up. Took my gear. Clothes.”
That explains the poorly tailored pants and the gratuitous nudity, at least. Roy drags his thumb absently along Jason’s cheekbone, tugging at the skin around his eyes for a better peek.
“Any idea what they gave you?”
“Sedative,” Jason replies in a breathless exhale. “D’no which one, how much. Nun- new- nur’leptic maybe.”
“Right,” Roy sighs, shaking his head. “Neuroleptics, of course.” He scrubs his hands over his face again. This isn’t really what he’d had in mind to keep himself busy, but there’s nothing much to do about it now beyond retrieving the extensively well-stocked first aid kit from the master bath and dealing with the issue at hand. Even if said issue looks about a half a second from passing out asleep on Roy’s living room sofa, blood and contusions be damned.
He reaches up, curls his palm over Jason’s cheek and nudges his head a bit until Jason makes an absent, quizzical noise and opens his eyes to narrow, sleepy, black-blue slits.
“I need you to stay awake for me,” Roy says. “Just for a few minutes while I clean you up.”
Jason tries for what Roy assumes is a nod, but must decide halfway through that his head is too heavy to finish it out because he just lets it flop to the side, instead, resting on the cushioned sofa back.
“Kay,” he agrees, and Roy gives his shoulder a reassuring squeeze before beelining for the first aid kit. He glances back from the threshold of his bedroom and Jason is still watching him, eyes narrow but attentive, face open and trusting in a way that makes Roy’s heart clench painfully.
“Be right back,” he promises, and ducks past the doorway.
There’s no real time for introspection or a much-needed self-directed pep talk, but Roy mutters half-hearted platitudes to himself even as he digs the big repurposed toolbox out from behind a half-empty bottle of Drano and a stack of toilet paper.
“C’mon, Harper, you got this. Just your ex-bestie riding back into your life on a forced high, you’ve seen weirder shit in the last month.”
He doesn’t think he sounds especially reassuring and when he catches sight of himself in the mirror over the sink he looks just like he feels - pale and wounded and angry, whole body coiled tight enough to snap. He doesn’t linger on it, though. He hardly thinks Jason is in any position to appreciate his fraught emotional state, and Roy doesn’t need to be happy or even calm to remember his way around rudimentary wound care.
When he drags the kit out into the living room Jason’s eyebrows twitch in surprise and Roy can’t help the commiserating smirk that flickers to life at the corner of his mouth.
“I know,” he agrees, falling back into the comforting patterns of familiar conversation even without whatever pithy one-liner Jason would usually offer when confronted with the beast of a medical supply kit. “Blame Lilith. She’s big on self-care, mental and physical.”
“C’n see that,” Jason offers, blinking politely while Roy snaps the latches on the front of the kit and starts digging out all the supplies he might need at a glance.
“We have mandatory refresher courses every other month,” he continues, setting a stack of iodine wipes and clean washcloths alongside a couple of rolls of gauze and an assortment of bandages. “And a standing order to take at least one mental health day after any engagement.”
“Bet’chu love that,” Jason snorts, and Roy lifts one shoulder in a shrug, strangely stung by the brush-off.
“It’s kept me alive so far,” he says blandly, and Jason goes quiet. They both know he doesn’t just mean the lessons in field dressing. When he glances up, Jason is watching him, eyes still heavy lidded but open, mouth turned slightly down in what, for Jason, counts as an expression of fairly obvious anguish. Roy sighs and scoots closer, beckoning Jason to lean forward as he instructs contritely, “C’mere Jaybird, and wipe that frown off your face. I need to clean your lip up.”
Jason is a good patient, by some definitions. He’s still and quiet and malleable in an utterly disconnected way that makes Roy uncomfortable if he thinks on it too long. He remembers setting fingers for Jason once and not getting so much as a wince at the miserable grind as he snapped them back into place. It’s disconcerting, to say the very least. Even moreso when Roy’s past and his present are overlapping one another like a double exposure, Jason’s stoic acceptance of pain stark and out of place in the cozy comfort of Roy’s Manhattan bachelor pad.
He makes quick work of it, insomuch as he can, unwilling to overlook potential injury just to soothe his own rapidly fraying nerves, especially with Jason too doped up to make note of issues he wouldn’t normally let slide. It’s mostly a lot of little scrapes and cuts - the split lip, busted knuckles, road rash on his shoulder from tucking and rolling without a shirt, bruising all over his ribs, some minor contusions that might be from his plummet onto Roy’s balcony.
“How’re your legs?” Roy asks as he lays a butterfly bandage across a nasty gash along the bridge of Jason’s nose. His voice is softer than he means it to be, but it still sounds loud in the intimate stillness of the apartment.
“Fine,” Jason says.
“Nothing I need to check out? No stab wounds or twisted ankles?”
Jason shakes his head, for a generous definition of the term, rocking it back and forth without lifting it up off the sofa cushion. It makes little tufts of his hair stand out at odd angles and Roy’s heart lurches uncomfortably in his chest at the sight.
“Alright then,” he says, pushing past the unwelcome feeling, tucking all of the unused medical supplies away and gathering the rest in a haphazard pile for later disposal before pushing himself to his feet. “Let’s get you into something comfier than some gunrunner’s stolen pants and put you to bed, Jaybird.”
“M’fine here,” Jason protests, waving a hand in a slow, lazy arc, dropping it down like it’s heavier than he expected it to be.
“Maybe so,” Roy agrees, “but I’m gonna need to use my living room sometime in the next sixteen hours, which’ll be tough if you’re out here getting your beauty sleep.”
It’s a weak joke, as they go, but Jason snorts gamely and accepts Roy’s proffered hand when he holds it out. It takes more effort than Roy would prefer to drag Jason onto his feet, but he can hardly blame the guy for not shaking off major tranquilizers with a flick of his wrist. Though, if anybody could, it would be Jason, who, between his own paranoia and the Bat’s unholy commitment to Boy Scout preparedness, has probably spent most of his life building up tolerances to all manner of substances. Roy considers this for a long moment, mentally revises the size of the dose he’s been estimating they gave Jason, and increases the projected recovery time accordingly.
He tugs Jason’s arm over his shoulders, fingers wrapped firmly around Jason’s wrist, and after a few false starts the two of them manage an awkward shuffling side-step all the way to Roy’s bedroom.
It’s nothing special, standard array of furniture with the exception of the bed itself, which is a California king. Roy’s one indulgence, considering his intimate partners, historically, err on the side of tall and athletic, and Roy isn’t exactly a small man, himself. Everything is fairly unkempt for the moment since Roy has been actually inhabiting his apartment for a few days, but it’s the standard clutter of a lived-in space - half-empty glasses of water collecting on the nightstand, dirty laundry tossed carelessly into the corner, linens kicked down to the foot of the bed. He debates changing them out, but only for the half second it takes Jason to shift his weight so that even more of it is hanging off of Roy.
Once he sets Jason down there’s no way Roy is getting him up again within at least eight hours, by a generous estimate. If it’s the difference between recuperating on Roy’s decadent mattress or cultivating a monstrous crick in his neck on the sofa, Jason can deal with gently used sheets.
He sighs and dumps Jason onto his bed with little ceremony, slinging the other man off of his shoulder like he would a particularly unwieldy duffel bag. Jason flops back into the mess of a duvet with zero resistance beyond a soft, “Oof,” and blinks once, slow, at the ceiling.
“Kick these off, wonderboy,” Roy instructs, leaning over Jason and curling his hand over Jason’s knee, shifting his leg back and forth and plucking at the strange, slick fabric of his pants. “I’m gonna rustle you up some jammies.”
He waits just long enough to see Jason start fumbling at the placket of his slacks with clumsy fingers before turning to dig through his dresser in search of a suitable sleeping garment.
Roy is generally of the “briefs-or-nothing” school of sartorial sleep stylings so traditional pajamas are going to be a nonstarter, but he has plenty of well-worn sweatpants and much-loved novelty sports tees that should do the trick. Relics of days at the ballpark with Ollie, bittersweet reminders of the brief upswing his wayward youth had taken before everything came crashing down around his ears.
He spends a little more time than he needs to unearthing a pair of sweats so soft they’re a heartbeat from disintegrating and a decades old playoff tee touting one of the Star City Rockets’ championship runs. Half to give himself a moment to breathe past the white noise in his brain, and half to afford Jason what little dignity there is in undressing without help. He turns once the shuffling and grunting have settled back down, drawing his shoulders in tight and bracing himself for the very naked vigilante sprawled unconcernedly across his mattress.
It turns out to be a good move. Something about seeing Jason draped loose and easy over Roy’s sloppy sheets hits him hard in the gut and sends his head spinning. He doesn’t stumble as he crosses the room, but it’s a near thing, and Roy flushes with the indignity of it all, dropping the stacked clothing in an unkind heap directly on Jason’s face.
Jason makes a little wounded, whimpering noise, stomach clenching with it, and Roy tears his gaze away, rolling his eyes.
“You’re on your own, bat-brat,” he says firmly. “I’m not playing dress up.” He takes quick stock of Jason’s legs, his strong calves and thick thighs, skating around the dark thatch of hair at his groin and turning his back once he’s satisfied that Jason’s assessment had been accurate and there are no wounds, major or minor, that require immediate attention. “Get comfy, grab some Z’s. I’ll bring you some water in a minute.”
He reaches down on instinct to squeeze Jason’s knee again, quick affectionate pressure, and Jason makes another small noise that hooks hard behind his ribs and makes his heart twinge. He’s just crossing over the threshold into the livingroom when a meek, “Roy?” halts him in his tracks.
He turns, just enough to take the sight of Jason in over his shoulder - he’s dropped the clothes off to the side and pushed himself up onto his elbows. His eyes are dark and heavy-lidded, inky hair a mussed halo, lips swollen and bitten pink. It’s an image that Roy has conjured any number of times - without the injuries, of course - though none so frequently as he had when it was just the two of them and their warehouse and the unshakable certainty that no matter how Roy’s life shifted or shattered, Jason would always be there. It seems almost cruel of the universe to confront Roy with it now, when he’s spent the better part of a year burying old hopes and trying desperately to reap new ones out of the same soil, but then, when has Roy ever found fate to be especially kind?
He swallows past the knot in his throat, croaks, “Yeah, Jay?”
Jason watches him for a long second, expression hazy and a little uncertain, then blinks one of those long, slow blinks and says solemnly, “Thank you.”
Roy may be an expert marksman, but he’s never known anyone who can fire a shot straight through the heart quite like Jason Todd.
He looses a little punched-out breath past his teeth, head dropping like his strings have been cut, snapping under all the weight in that black-blue gaze. He shakes his head, as if that might rattle some of the discomfort loose, smirk cutting sharp and jagged at the corner of his mouth. He can’t quite manage to look back at Jason when he speaks.
Brisk and clipped short to keep the bitter edge from frothing up. He raps his knuckles once against the doorframe and goes, easing the door shut behind him with a gentleness he doesn’t feel.