"Can I just stay here with you?" Thea said, just about managing to keep her voice steady.
"Yeah," Roy said, and immediately, Thea reached forward, her arms around his neck. She breathed in his smell – leather, a scent that had for some reason had always lingered on him, along with something faintly earthy she could never quite make out – and took comfort in the warmth of his neck where she had buried her face. It was all so familiar, yet at the same time so alien. She hadn't hugged him like this since they were together. Back then, when she needed Roy, he was there, the one rock solid thing in her life that she could fall back on whenever, to kiss, to caress, to savour.
But things had changed since then. Too many things. She wondered if it was even possible to go back, when so much of herself that Roy had known and loved had been burned away by the monster she had spent the last few months calling her dad. Thea doubted there was even anything of her left.
She pulled away from him a little, so she could see his face. Before she even realised what she was doing, she was kissing him, and she could feel his surprise as their lips met. They broke apart after a few seconds, and Thea opened her eyes, unsure of what he was going to do. But when his eyes locked with hers, she could only see the longing she was sure mirrored her own, and she could feel the firmness of his biceps as his arms encircled her waist and he kissed her again. Her nails dug into his arms and his teeth lightly dug into her bottom lip, eliciting a groan from her that felt simultaneously unexpected and wonderfully familiar.
"I love you," he said hoarsely, one hand going up her back to her hair, but at his words, Thea halted, surprised, and her hands dropped to her sides.
"Y-you do?" she whispered.
Roy's brow furrowed, and now his fingers framed her face, his thumbs pressing on her cheekbones. "You think I ever stopped?"
She shook her head. "No, I mean… how can you, after – after everything I've done?"
He sighed. "Thea, it wasn't you."
"I let Malcolm into my life," she said, and she reached up and caught one of his hands in her own, allowing their fingers to lace together. "I lied to you, to my brother, to everyone, and I let my - my father make me into a killer."
"You say that like I didn't lie to your face for months," he said, and, still holding onto her hand, he gently led her to the couch. It was old and threadbare, and she remembered feeling its springs in her back the days when they had fallen asleep on it together. But she didn't care. She'd called this place home for nearly a year, and it was comforting being back here.
"That's different," Thea said as she sat down. "You… you were doing it to protect me. And I'm sure I would have reacted differently if I knew my brother was your hero the whole time."
Roy laughed, and Thea closed her eyes, revelling in the sound. She missed this – the slight smirk on his lips when she said something funny, the way he quirked his eyebrow just a little when, for a wonderful moment, she was able to smile back. Then, once again, she remembered; the image of her father's beaten face flashed in her head and she could feel the cold metal of the knife on her fingers. She blinked, trying to bring herself back to Roy. His eyes were a cool, calming blue, and once she was able to focus on them, she felt a little better.
"I was saying to Ollie today," she said quietly, "how hard it was to remember who I was before Mom died. That girl… I don't know where she is, Roy."
He cupped her cheek and regarded her earnestly. "She's right here," he murmured. "And her hair's a lot shorter, sure, but that's the only thing that's changed. Well," he amended with a small smile, "that and the fact that she can now legitimately kick ass."
She let out a strangled sound that was somewhere between a watery laugh and a sob. "And you know who taught me that?" she said bitterly. "My father. The one I tried to kill twice now."
To his credit, Roy didn't even blink. "I never told you about when your brother told me his secret."
"No, you didn't," said Thea, wondering why he changed the subject but thankful nevertheless.
"Some guy got his hands on a prototype of the earthquake machine," he explained. "He had set the timer off and we were trying to stop him. Except I was more concerned about bashing his head in than stopping the thing –"
"Because of the… drug you were injected with?" she guessed. He nodded.
"I was just… filled with this rage, and I didn't think I could get rid of it. Until the Arrow took off his hood and his mask and Oliver told me – told me he needed me, needed my strength, to save the city. He told me I needed to save you."
"And that snapped you out of it?"
"Better," Roy said softly. "All that rage, that anger that literally made feel like I wasn't even human, it just disappeared. Because I thought about you in danger, and the possibility that I could lose you was enough to get me to think straight."
"Like with Nyssa earlier," she said. "I thought – God, part of me was hoping that she would kill me."
And in that moment, his expression changed.
"You let her out," he said flatly. It was not a question.
"How did you know?" she breathed, but deep down, she already knew.
"I've been there," he replied. "Remember? With the Saviour. The guy that –"
"– kidnapped you, yeah," she said. "Kind of hard to forget."
"I can remember every second. When Oliver came to save me, he tried to talk him down, saying if he killed me, I could never be given a second chance. To change."
Thea shook her head in disbelief. "You never told me this."
Roy shrugged. "You didn't exactly think much of him at the time."
"That's what you meant when you said he saved your life," she said slowly. "You kept saying you owed him everything, but you never said why."
Roy nodded, reaching out and tentatively touching her arm. "Ever since then, I don't think I can ever do anything to repay him for that."
"Why are you telling me this now?" she asked.
"Because I know what it's like, Thea," he said, "to feel like there's something broken inside you. And I promise, it gets easier."
She scoffed, looking away from him. "And here I was thinking you were the one person in my life who would know better than to try and save my soul."
He reached up and tucked her hair behind her ear, his hand resting on the back of her neck. "I'm not," he said firmly, "because you don't need anyone to save it."
She kissed him, then – really, properly kissed him, with her lips and with her tongue, her hands sliding under his t-shirt with such ease and familiarity that it was hard to believe they had ever been apart.
Her fingers splayed on the taut flesh of his midriff, and she could feel his sharp intake of breath and a sudden fire that had erupted inside her, filling her with a warmth she never thought she would feel again. "I love you too," she whispered against his lips.