The superhero stuff? That was going really, really slow. After Jade left Lian with Roy, he decided to settle back down in Star City. He thought that he’d be able to keep being Arsenal- or Red Arrow, that was his name now- while raising Lian, but turns out team Arrow had it more than handled. He just disliked how slow things were, someone always on the scene before Roy even got wind of the trouble going down. He never got a chance to feel that kick of adrenaline that beating baddies gave him. Then again, not having to kick ass every night meant more movie nights in pillow forts. Every time someone called to let Roy know things were handled, he couldn’t help but smile. The superhero stuff was going really slow, but Roy wasn't complaining.
The only bad thing about Star City was that there was a fair amount of crime, not as much as some places, but still enough to require a team of vigilantes. Luckily for Roy, he was a member of said team, and said team was also his family. Dubbed “Team Arrow,” they were lead by none other than Oliver Queen, also known as “dad” by Roy.
See, Roy grew up on a Native reserve with his biological father. One night, there was a fire, and his dad lost his life trying to save people. Roy was upset for a long time, cursing his dad for leaving him, but with time came understanding. The Navajos taught him that his father was a hero. Roy admired that and learnt to accept it. Brave Bow, the chief and Roy’s guardian at the time, also taught him how to wield a bow and arrow, which, when it was finally time for Roy to leave the tribe, benefitted him greatly. Green Arrow needed a sidekick, and Roy was eligible. Since then, Oliver had been Roy’s legal father. He was flown away from the reserve in a private jet, he could still remember how jarring that was, all the way to Star City, where he donned a red suit and received the name “Speedy.”
Roy loved being Speedy. It was everything for him. Going out and fighting crime all night then spending all day coming up with new ideas for trick arrows, gizmos, and gadgets, that was the life! He was helping people, like his fathers, all while unleashing that inner tech-god he discovered he had. For most of his adolescence, Roy felt useful, like he was making and impact and improving the world.
But then Roy ended up in the wrong crowd. He did things he isn’t proud of. Yet, he can never find it in his heart to regret anything he’s ever done, because all of it has lead to this. Every mistake and every victory, every slip up and every success, they all came together and now he has Lian. Roy can honestly say that he regrets nothing.
Now, he finds himself in the supermarket, buying just enough groceries to get his little family through the week. Oliver might pay the rent for Roy, but he tries to never do more than that. On some level, Roy is thankful for it. However, he's in his late twenties, and knows that he should be able to provide for two by now. Except, his story isn’t one of good choices, it’s one of redemptions. Things aren’t easy, but he’s making it.
Oliver, on some level, believes that Roy can sustain enough income on his own to feed his child- which he can! But, without the help from his legal parents, there’s no doubt that he and Lian would be living in the slums rather than right above the lower class. He guesses that’s what happens when your inventive genius is limited to working as a mechanic.
If he could go without the help from Queen Consolidations, Roy would. He’d give anything to be the perfect dad for Lian. All he wants is for her to grow up in a good home without struggling. Sure, Roy technically lived in wealth in his younger years, better than what they have now, and that made him ignorant. He needs his daughter to be smart, but not forced to be smart by the harsh realities of the world. Lian deserved to live a happy life.
Which is exactly why is broke him to tell her no. It didn’t matter what it was for, Roy hated it.
“Lian, I’m sorry, but we don’t have enough for that. You know they over price all the superhero stuff. I’m sorry.” The heat of embarrassment rushed up the back of Roy’s neck as he said the words. He didn’t know why he felt so ashamed of not having money. For some reason it was just humiliating to admit to not being able to provide for his daughter everything she wanted. Maybe it was because not giving her the world made him feel like the biggest asshole ever? He was sure people could see that easily.
Said toy was an old Raggedy Ann styled Robin doll that Lian held clutched to her chest. It’s red shirt only slightly more faded than Lian’s own darker one. It looked like it was styled off of Dick’s old costume based on the green shorts and neat hair. He didn’t know where she found the doll, but there was no way something that old was less than twenty dollars. That twenty dollars could pay for a week of school lunches, good school lunches, and no matter how much Lian wanted the doll, Roy knew that eating was more important. He wasn’t that dumb.
Lian stared up at him with wide eyes, and Roy felt panic as they started to welt up with tears. He knew the tears were fake, but that didn’t matter, it still broke his heart to see. He’d have to ask the Titans which one of them taught her this trick because he felt destroyed seeing it. His money was on Donna or Wally.
“But, cha!” Lian cried, “It’s an older Robin doll, so it’ll be worth more in a few years! Please? I don’t have this one yet! It’s like an antique!”
“Lian..” he said softly. Trying to think of a way out of this quickly. He was second in line at the checkout, luckily with no one else behind him, but he caught the slight tilt of the head that the man in front of them had. He was listening in on the conversation, probably judging Roy’s parenting. Roy didn’t feel like he had any choice but to give in. Even Elaine, the sweet old lady running the cash register, looked at him with pity.
Before he could accept defeat at the hands of his nine-year-old daughter, the man in front of them spoke. “I’ll pay for it,”
“You don’t have to--” Roy tried before he could even really stop himself. He looked up at the man from his squatted position in front of his daughter. The guy had on an off brown jacket, like a tan color and the sleeves were split with an unzipped zipper that revealed a red lining. He had dark green cargo pants. He didn’t look like the kind to have cash, in fact he looked like the kind that would steal, with his dark aviators and matching gloves. He didn’t exactly scream “trustworthy.”
“It’s fine,” the stranger interrupted him. “Kids need heroes to look up to, right? I have more than enough for it.”
Roy couldn’t argue with that. It was just a doll, right? There wasn’t any way accepting a favor from a stranger could come back to bite him in the ass.
“Only if you’re sure,” He said quietly from his spot crouched in front of Lian. He could identify a Gothamite accent anywhere, and the man in front of him had a fairly thick one. That only increased Roy’s distrust. He hastily internally cursed himself for being so judgmental.
“Positive,” the stranger confirmed while Lian walked closer with the toy outstretched.
As Lian asked the man about superheroes, Roy couldn’t help but shake the feeling that this guy was familiar somehow. It could’ve just been the accent, Roy does know a fairly large group of bat-obsessed people residing in the grimy city. However, none of those vigilanties had a jarring white streak of hair center point in their bangs. Roy figured that’d be a dead giveaway if he actually knew the guy.
“Do you like superheroes, ngai?” Lian asked as a glove-clad hand took the Robin doll from her. Gloves were weird for civilians, but weird didn’t always mean bad. Still, Roy didn’t let his guard down completely. What if the guy was a mugger or a human trafficker?
The man smiled, and, okay, yeah, it was friendly looking, but--
Maybe Roy just wasn’t used to the kindness of strangers.
“Vâng,” said the man. Which freaked Roy out a little because it’s not everyday that someone in Star City speaks Vietmanese. Not unless they wear a mask. “The Teen Titans especially.”
“Really?” Lian asked excitedly, and Roy slowly rose from his squatted position. “Who’s your favorite? Mine’s Robin and Starfire! More Starfire though.”
Roy wondered which Robin his daughter was referring to. She didn’t know Dick when he was Batman’s sidekick. (Thankfully because he was a menace back then.) But that was his first assumption when she also mentioned Starfire. Then again, Kori hung around the Teen Titans long after everyone else left. So maybe Lian was talking about Tim. They’d only met a few times, but he was always kind to her, even going as far as to let her try coffee. Which was a disaster, but Roy looked back on that memory fondly.
Lian could have even meant Stephanie. It’d make sense since Lian did usually prefer the female heroes. Always talking about Grannie Dinah, which the older woman hated to be called, and Aunt Babs and Aunt Kori. Roy didn’t know Steph as well as he’d known the other Robins, therefore Lian didn’t know her that well either. He supposed you didn’t need to personally know a person to idolize them though. Roy himself didn’t know Superman very well, but still got nerve induced hiccups whenever the other man even looked in his direction.
There was also Damian, he was around Lian’s age, so it could’ve been him. Roy found the kid a little scary though, so a small part of him really hoped that wasn’t who she meant.
Of course, there was one more Robin. Lian had met Jason when she was still a baby. The teenage punk loved babysitting, it was pretty ironic actually. Jason had been gone a long time though, the only reason Lian knew anything about him was from the stories Roy and the Titans would tell. He doubted that’s who she meant, so his best guess was Dick.
“Well, you might be a little too young to know who he is, he’s been off the radar for a while, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Speedy.” The stranger said smoothly. Roy swore he saw the man’s eyes flick towards him behind the confines of his sunglasses. Did he know who Roy was?
Even if this guy was really weird , Roy felt his own joy spark up when Lian happily shouted that she knew who Speedy was. Then, his smile grew when she admitted to wanting to be just like him some day. He was a pretty cool dad, huh?
“That so?” The man asked, kneeling down to be eye level with Lian. “I think you could pull it off. You have an archer’s eyes.”
The stranger was pretty good with kids, Roy admitted. Normally, that’d make him ecstatic. He loved when people could talk to his daughter since none of his friends had kids of their own. Lian’s only social interactions came from school and the occasional super baby that was born. Super babies usually came with superpowers though, which was something very lacking in Roy’s bloodline. Roy knew that made Lian feel left out, even if she never said so.
He couldn’t shake the odd feeling this guy gave him though. How could someone seem so familiar, yet not give off any indication of who they are. Roy wasn’t terrible when it came to faces, so why was it hard to place the man in front of him?
He had a confident air around him, almost like arrogance. Although he acted in a kind manner, he still had this vibe that yelled “danger!” Roy wasn’t sure if he just found the guy badass, or if his gut was trying to tell him something important.
Elaine handed the doll off to Lian while the man stuck his card in the chip reader before punching in a few numbers. After it beeped, he ruffled Lian’s hair and told her to enjoy the toy. Lian thanked both Elaine and the stranger before he said he had to get going.
“See you around, Arrow Head!” He called, shooting Roy a pair of finger guns while walking backwards. His sunglasses even slipped partway down his nose to reveal he was winking. Wait-- was he flirting?
As the man walked backwards, he bumped his hip against the side of a shelf with a loud squeak. Roy couldn’t help but snicker as the stranger turned around embarrassed and muttering about how dumb the nickname he gave was. Roy realized that, yeah, “Arrow Head” was a weird thing to call someone you didn’t know. Especially if they’re secretly an arrow themed vigilante, who’s name even has “arrow” in it.
Lian climbed onto Roy’s back while Elaine scanned their groceries. He glanced over to where the man disappeared out the front door.
“He kinda reminded me of Uncle Dickie,” Lian commented.
Roy thought for a moment, about the confident smile the man had paired with his accent. That was definitely like Dick, but this man’s demeanor seemed a bit more closed off. It was almost like a translucent dark curtain was drawn around him, but still holding some sort of childishness.
“He kinda reminded me of someone too,” Roy said, and maybe it was hopeful wishing, but Dick wasn’t the Robin he was thinking of.