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Bad Memories

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Roy wandered through the halls of the Titans Tower not knowing where his feet led him. He didn’t really notice his surroundings, his eyes glazed over and unfocused, his mind somewhere else. For the other sleeping residents of the Tower, it was a silent night like any other. At any moment the alarms could go off, alerting them to any nearby trouble, but until then the rest of the Titans slept comfortably in their beds.

Roy didn’t need the alarms to rouse him from his deep slumber. A few bad memories propelling themselves into his consciousness as dreams were all it took to jar Roy out of a good night’s sleep. He now sleepily trudged through the Tower wishing his mind would let him rest a full night for the first time in a month.

He found himself at the threshold of the dark kitchen. Stars hardly shone in the polluted skies of New York but tonight they stubbornly forced some light through the kitchen windows lighting Roy’s way. A waning gibbous peaked in and out of the thickening clouds. Low rumbles were the only indication of a thunderstorm to come.

The kitchen lights flickered to life forcing Roy to blink rapidly as his tired eyes readjusted to the sudden brightness. Roy whipped around to confront whoever it was that snapped him out of his thoughts only for his side to meet the very hard edge of the kitchen island, a loud “Oomph!” following closely. Rubbing the beginnings of a bruise, he met the bleary eyes of Mal.

Mal furrowed his brows. He narrowed his eyes as if he didn’t believe what he was seeing before him. “Roy? Is that you?” He stifled a yawn and scratched his head. “It’s almost four in the morning. Why are you up so early?”

Roy leaned against the counter trying to seem as casual as possible. “Just wanted a late night snack.” The response came off more as a question than a statement.

Mal may have been fighting through several layers of exhaustion but even he could see right through Roy’s bs. “Nightmares keeping you up?”

Roy’s shoulders sagged. “How’d you know?”

Mal gave his friend a rueful smile as he made his way to the fridge. He pulled out several cartons of ice cream, cans of whipped cream, tins of icing, and bottles of syrups before answering. “I still get nightmares from some of our worst fights. I’ll wake up in cold sweats and tears streaming down my face. Sometimes I’ll be so deep in a dream that Karen has to shake me awake because I was screaming or kicking in my sleep.”

Roy sent Mal a sympathetic look. He understood what that was like. Nightmares were a part of the job. They reminded him just how fragile humans were no matter how much he tried to prove otherwise.

Roy shrugged, looking away from Mal as his teammate and long-time friend began preparing two bowls piled high with thousands of grams of processed sugars. “They’re not just bad dreams, though. . .” Roy trailed off. He hadn’t really admitted to anyone that he was still haunted by the memories of all of his past regrets. Everyone close to him implied that they knew but no one ever really addressed him directly, probably not wanting to overstep their boundaries.

Roy would still feel the pinprick of a needle cutting through his skin and injecting poison into his veins in his worst dreams. He would still see used syringes and empty bottles of liquor scattered across the cesspool he had called a home. He would still feel the incessant need to itch the crook of his arm whenever the high was beginning to wear off. He would still remember the people he’d hurt in the process of getting his next fix. And God, how he would see in the most vivid of memories the disappointment masking as anger in Ollie’s eyes when he’d finally found Roy had been shooting up.

Those memories usually led to other ones that only further served to hurt him. He would see his father running into the forest fire that took his life. He would see Brave Bow walking into the cabin to fix Roy’s mess only to leave in a body bag with a bullet through the chest. He would be bitterly reminded of the time he had lost with his daughter. Painful and heart-wrenching thought after thought would plague his dreams on those harsh nights like tonight and they would leave him feeling worthless and utterly destroyed. He wouldn’t just wake up in cold sweats or with tears rolling down his cheeks, he would wake up with the wounds of his past ripped open with a harrowing intensity.

How could he explain any of that to Mal? Words couldn’t express what he was feeling justice.

Mal laid a firm hand on Roy’s shoulder. “Roy, you are one of the most admirable guys I have ever met. You’ve dragged yourself through hell and back to become a better person. You’ve learned from your addiction and bad decisions and have made a great life for yourself. Whatever it is you’re going through right now, I know you’ll overcome it.” The sincerity in Mal’s eyes touched Roy. Roy didn’t need to explain to Mal anything because Mal already understood what he was going through, and he had faith in Roy which is more than the archer could ask for.

Roy shot Mal a grateful smile. “Thanks, man, I mean it.”

Mal returned the smile. “No problem.” He handed Roy a spoon and bowl filled to the brim with ice cream, whipped cream, icing, and chocolate and caramel syrup. “Now, let’s eat this crap fast before Karen finds me cheating on my diet.”