Roy always was an insincere womanizer and a leading cause for heartbreak. But what matters is that payback is payback, even if it is unintentional.
"All men that are ruined are ruined on the side of their natural propensities."
When Robin said someone from Titans East was coming over to talk to Raven, she figured it would be Bumblebee. Karen always liked to talk, whether there was a problem, a gossip update, or just felt like being companionable. The two girls hadn't had a good, long chat for a while, and Raven almost missed the company—almost.
And if it wasn't Bee, it would've probably been Garth. As the prince of Atlantis, he always had a number of good stories to tell, and he'd listen patiently to anything Raven wanted to say. When he was around, she actually talked about herself without fidgeting, and he understood. Of course, his good looks and smooth voice were always more-than-welcome.
But she never expected to open the enormous main doors and see the lanky silhouette of Speedy standing in front of the sinking sun. To be honest, the two didn't get along well, mostly for the fact that they hadn't gotten the chance to even talk to each other. His raucous, wild personality contrasted horribly with her quiet, rational one.
But the moment the door slid open, Raven felt an immense surge of complex emotions rush in at her. Speedy's face was tense, anxious, and his smile was crooked when he flashed it.
"You needed to talk to me?" It was more of a statement, but Raven waited for Speedy's terse nod before stepping aside.
"I heard you play therapist pretty well," he explained, following her into the elevator. "You have those powers, obviously, and if anyone could be… understanding, you could. I think. Then again, I don't know you very well, so it's all assumption, although I really hope everyone's right… And anyway, if you just decide that I'm being stupid or foolish or whatever, you wouldn't be the type to break someone's trust and tell everyone. Not saying that Bee or Robin or anyone would… but you're distant—from me, at least—whereas I hang out with them more often, so if you judge me it wouldn't be as disast—"
He snapped his mouth shut, brow twitching.
She flipped up her hood, adjusting it around her pale face. "You're rambling."
His face went blank for a moment, and then he shrugged, a nervous grin stretching awkwardly across the bottom half of his face. "Yeah, well…"
The elevator stopped, its doors sliding open to reveal the long hallway of bedrooms. "We'll talk in my room, if that's all right." She began floating down the hall, regardless.
"Sure, that's perfect," Roy said quickly, trotting after her eagerly.
Raven caught the archer's reflection in the glass of a window when she turned the corner and became slightly more aware of the tension rising within him. He plainly emanated apprehension and fear, although sparks of joy would flicker up from the back of his mind. Whatever he was thinking about ran much deeper than anything his stereotypical playboy nature could account for.
She led the way into her room, turning on the too-bright light for Speedy's sake. Whenever she had company, it was standard procedure to let their needs overshadow her own—most people, with Aqualad and Jinx excluded, were most comfortable talking in a well-lit room.
"So," she started, waving her hand to move two seats to the middle of the room. She sank into one of them, gesturing for him to sit in the other.
Roy obliged, but twisted the chair so it wasn't directly facing her, and then swung one leg over the other.
"Want to explain what's wrong?" she asked after a moment, yanking down her hood. Another thing that made people more comfortable was being able to see her face, and her expressions.
Speedy was studying his entwined fingers, lips pursed. "It's…" He looked up, an apologetic grimace set in his features. "I… don't know where to start, actually."
Raven studied his face; even though he wasn't used to talking to her, he seemed to have dropped all masks—the figurative ones, at least—and let the self-conscious, unsure side show through. She knew he cared about appearances, but… maybe he only cared about keeping his weakness hidden around people he was close to. That was probably what he was talking about before, when he mentioned Bumblebee and Robin.
"Do you have a problem?" she asked, starting out simply.
Speedy's mask quirked as his brow beneath it did the same. "Yeah, that's why I'm here. Isn't that obvious?"
"We're starting with the basics," she clarified. "Does this problem involve you, or does it involve other people?"
"It involves me…" He stood, stretched, and wandered to the edge of the room. Examining a bookshelf with odds and ends of spells on it, he continued. "But it kind of involves other people. Well, one other person, unless you count what happened before…"
When it became obvious he wouldn't go on without prompting, she spoke. "What do you mean, 'what happened before'?"
"Nothing," he said quickly, looking over his shoulder before taking a sideways step, continuing down the shelf. "I don't know what I meant."
"All right, then… You said the problem lies between you and another per—"
"Not really between…" He fingered a glass ball, holding it up to the light. "More like… from me, about the other person."
"Who is it?"
He set the orb on its original stand, turning toward Raven again. He leaned back on the shelf, palms on the edge, skin tense and white over his knuckles.
"Let me explain first," he chuckled, the anxiety returning to his tone. "You have to know, I have a bit of a… reputation when it comes to dating. I'm not the biggest puritan, and… well, I'm downright lewd at times."
Raven raised a hand, stopping him. "Don't tell me you got some poor girl pregnant."
"No, nothing like that—I may sleep around, but I take precautions!" He held his smile for a moment, but then his expression fell again. "See, if I had a kid… it'd be much simpler than my current problem."
"Which, speaking of, is what, exactly?"
Roy winced, crossing his arms, lowering his head to examine the floor. "Well, like I was saying, I get around a bit. But after a while, I started to realize that I…" He licked his lips, a nervous twitch. "I realized that it all kind of… bored me. It was just one whiny girl after another, and none of them wanted to actually talk to me. They only wanted my body, and sex."
He jerked his head up. "Which was totally okay by me, at least at first. I had similar motives; the women were beautiful, sophisticated, trendy, with immaculate bodies and experience in that, mh, field of work."
Raven thought it amusing that his panic disappeared when he talked about sex, as if he was discussing the weather or a training schedule. And then the amusement vanished as he fell back into the rut of tension.
"So, like I said, I got bored. I just… couldn't enjoy those shallow conversations and repeated dinner dates that would inevitably lead to a one-night stand." He stopped a moment, pinching the bridge of his nose, shaking his head. "God, this is gonna sound stupid…"
"Go ahead anyway," she urged. "Speedy, you came all this way and explained that much to me already."
He let out a noncommittal, "Hnh," just staring at the floor, probably mulling over the unutterable confession that he was about to make. "Well…"
After a moment had passed, Raven frowned. "This shouldn't be so hard."
"But it is," he laughed, peeling off his mask to rub his eyes. "All right, just… don't say anything until I'm done. Okay?"
She nodded; "Sure."
"Since it was all so dull, I got away from the club scene and stayed at the Tower a lot. I started reading bedtime stories to the twins and cooking and helping clean… chores, pretty much."
Raven nodded again when he looked up at her, a slight smile of encouragement in her expression.
He swallowed hard and then went on. "Given the fact that usually only one person does the chores a day, with me helping—and eventually others, just to make it a true joint effort—everything got done so much quicker. We all had so much time on our hands, which meant that every day Bee would be out shopping or going to the movies with Cy, or I don't know what—but she was busy. The twins would play video games, which tied up the big-screen so I couldn't watch anything in hi-def, and anything not hi-def wasn't worth watching. That left me to train, but then that got boring… so I started hanging out with Mr. I'm-the-banished-prince-of-Atlantis, and… we actually got along surprisingly well."
He stopped again, looking at Raven once more. Her expression had darkened slightly, having a feeling for what he was going to end up saying.
"Anyway, we started talking—actual conversations, not just arguments, like we had before. I found out that he really likes 'surface world music,' as he calls it, and doesn't just swim all day. We talked about Steel City sports teams and players, and books and movies, ice cream flavors… everything, kind of.
"And then," he continued, eyes narrowing as he played with his mask, stretching it in front of him. "We were invited to dinner by the mayor of Steel. He has a daughter, and she is the biggest Aqualad fan you could ever meet. She sat next to him the entire time, ogling and giggling, just elated to be there. And it was strange… because I felt extraordinarily jealous."
"Of the attention?" Raven asked, already knowing the answer.
Roy shook his head. "Of the little girl. She wasn't even nine, I think, and I felt jealous of her. After that, when I talked to Aqualad, I knew something had changed. It was like I was protecting him, or something… Like I was keeping him from interacting with other people. I just wanted him to talk to me, only me…"
Speedy exhaled, biting his cheek, still for a long moment. "And he looked different, too. Blatantly male, of course; he wasn't effeminate in the least. But somehow, I saw him as... striking. Somewhere, in some far-off corner of my head, I think I knew he was a naturally good-looking Atlantean prince—I just didn't acknowledge it, because it didn't matter. But now…"
"But now, it does?"
Sea-green eyes lifted to meet Raven's face. He opened his mouth, but nothing more than an uncertain breath escaped it.
"I guess it does," he said after another minute. "It's just that I see him every day, and there's this weird attraction that I now hold for him… But he's a man, and if my past doesn't account for me being straight then I don't know what could."
"Maybe you just don't remember what actual attraction feels like?"
Speedy considered it, tilting his head to one side, then to the other. "You think I'm desensitized to 'actual attraction'?"
Raven shrugged, fingering the edge of her hood. "It's a possibility. How long has it been since you truly cared about someone you were with, in more than just a sexual manner?"
She raised a careful brow, watching as the mix of emotions spluttered through his expression. "I don't… care for that gill-faced…!" he protested, gaping openmouthed at her. "I am not fucking gay, Raven!"
"Maybe you aren't. But I'm sure you considered it at one point, right?"
He closed his mouth, forehead creased into dark lines. "And then I immediately dismissed the thought!"
"Because it wasn't ideal?"
Speedy didn't answer; his face had gone utterly blank, a rather deer-in-the-headlights sort of look in his eyes. Without warning, he dropped to the ground, back against the cabinets, one elbow resting on a propped-up knee.
"What if I am a queer?"
Raven rolled her eyes. "I suppose you'd live an utterly normal life, with the exception being that you're a superhero and most people are not."
He sent a glare at her, frowning. "No, I mean… think about it. I have a… a crush, let's say… on a guy." He smirked, looking at her. "That doesn't bother me nearly as much as I thought it would."
"Is your problem solved, then?"
That was the wrong question to ask, to say the least. Roy groaned, pulling his legs up, his arms on his knees. He rested his head on his forearms and, scrunching up his face, let out another muffled grunt.
"I don't know," he finally muttered, lifting his head. "I don't think I like him any more than usual. He's just taking over my head… every little thing has some connection to him. It's… inescapable."
Taking a breath, Speedy hoisted himself to his feet, picking up his mask and putting it back over his eyes. "Thanks for wasting your time on me," he murmured awkwardly, shuffling toward the door. "I guess you must get pretty tired of hearing people's problems."
"I like to know what's going on," Raven answered, standing as well. "It's no problem."
"Well," he said conclusively. "That's that, then?"
He reached for the panel; he had one foot in the hallway when he paused to turn. "Raven?"
She flicked off the lights, running a hand through her hair. "Yes?"
"Can I come over here to talk again, if I need to?"
Her eyes widened the slightest bit. "I'm sure Bee would be more than happy to talk to you, but if you feel more comfortable here… like I said, it's no problem for me."
Speedy nodded, and then disappeared down the hall with a wave.
Raven sighed, flicking a lazy hand toward the chairs, stacking them against the wall again. She flounced down on her bed, staring up at the ceiling, still trying to get over the initial shock of Speedy's possible attraction to Aqualad.
Her thoughts trailed on to what would happen if Aqualad ever returned the feelings, and then she—selfishly—wondered where, exactly, she would fit into the equation. But then her eyes caught on a small spider at the edge of the ceiling that was dangling from its conjured web, and she remembered that she was supposed to be completing a write-up on yesterday's break-in by none other than Fang, Mr. Spiderlegs himself.
As she left the room in a hurry, the tiny spider blinked its many eyes, relieved to know that no one had noticed the little green arachnid sitting on the wall.