Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.
Archive: Fine, but if you want it, please ask first.
Feedback: Hell, yes.
So it was behind them, or so they all tried to pretend.
It wasn't true, of course; it hung over the Titans, The members of the JLA, and especially Oliver Queen and Dick Grayson because they were the ones who blamed themselves the most for having missed the symptoms. Well, all right, Roy shouldered the most blame, but that's a given.
Dick and Roy got back from the cabin with a lot of explaining to do.
They ended up back at the Tower, immediately going down to Roy's suite to clean as much as feasible. Partly this was cathartic, partly it was simple necessity and partly it gave Dick a reason to stay close so Roy wouldn't call a dealer. The bedding, the towels from the bathroom, a large part of Roy's civilian wardrobe were all loaded into garbage bags and dumped out back. The rug would have to be pulled up and replaced and the walls needed painting, as well. There were at least twelve ceiling tiles needing to be replaced and two windows had cracked panes.
They did as much as they could and then called in a discrete decorating service used to dealing with rock bands to take care of the rest. The bill was in the tens of thousands and paid for in cash. Roy swore he'd pay Dick back as soon as possible and made good on his promise. Within two years the debt, plus interest, was wiped clean.
Next, three days later, with Roy now over the worst of the symptoms of the cold turkey, Robin called a Titans meeting. The kids assembled, curious why they were there and Dick—not Robin—handed over the floor to Roy. Four pairs of eyes were on him as he stood up, nervous, to talk to his friends.
"Yeah, well it's like this…" He stopped and looked over at Dick who nodded encouragement. "I've kind of had a problem the last year or so, I guess you've maybe noticed, huh?" The others nodded or just waited for him to continue. "I made a mess of things and I didn't handle it well—I sort of, I made a mistake and I…" He stopped again then straightened his shoulders as he forced himself to just say it. "I'm an addict. Heroin. Dick found out and he made me get straight—I mean I wanted to, but he's the reason I could do it. He stayed with me and he, I mean, he pretty much saved my life."
Everyone turned to Dick, as usual, looking for a cue about what to do. "First of all, Roy did this, got clean. I was just there, nothing else. Secondly, we all now what it means to try to shake this—maybe not first hand, but we've all seen it. I know you'll all do whatever you can to help him. Third, Roy is on medical leave for a while so he can get solid with being clean." He paused, making sure everyone was really taking this in. "Next, obviously no comments to the press if this gets out—and we all know it will. Finally, the Titans go on. We do our work, business as usual. Questions?"
Garth, usually the last to say anything, had been watching Roy since they'd all come into the room. "But why would you do this?" It was soft spoken and said with some hesitation, as though Garth really didn't understand how something like this could happen.
Roy, for once, bypassed the easy quip and insult. "I guess I thought it would make pain go away. I know that sounds stupid and self-serving, but that's about as good as I can explain it."
"But—everyone has pain."
Roy just nodded. He knew that.
Wally didn't say anything, probably not knowing what he could say and Donna, close to tears, simply went over and hugged Roy for a long time. It was about what he'd expected would happen when his friends knew about him. He knew they'd stand by him and offer their support. He also knew, with every fiber of his being that from now on, when they worked together, there would be a small kernel of doubt about him and he didn't know how to make that go away. He had no idea how to make them understand that they could trust him.
"This is completely unacceptable and you know it—clearly the reason you lied about where you were going and why. And yes—you're paying for the damage to the cabin. David called me as soon as you he boarded up the front window you broke. Not Roy. Not Ollie. You're paying since this mess was your idea."
"Don't." He held up his hand, as thought to physically stop Dick from even trying to defend what he'd done. "Ollie is Roy's guardian; if anything, didn't common sense tell you that he had to be informed? Didn't you owe him—and me—the simply courtesy of letting us know what was going on?"
"You would have stopped us and Roy would be in some bullshit rehab which he would have walked out of inside of the first ten minutes of being there. This was the only way to get him clean."
"That's not your decision to make—you have neither the experience nor the medical background to make that decision."
"C'mon, f'chrissake. I saved his life!"
Bruce gave Dick the look he hated the most, the one where he was a bug and Bruce had him under a microscope. "You managed to get a heroin addict to go through detox once. You know what the odds are. You may have done more harm than good with this stunt. He may well have backslid already and then who's supposed to pick him up next time? Are you going to be there for him again? Are you going to be there for him 24/7 for the rest of your life? That's what this is, you have to know that. Do you plan to move in with him so you can keep an eye on him?"
"Jesus, give him some credit, will you? And me, too while you're at it. I know all the stats and the odds. I have worked narcotics cases, I do have so insight into this and, even if that weren't true, Roy is my friend."
"Oh, please. He's a junkie and you're a sixteen year old who thinks you can make it better by holding his hand."
"Dammit, Bruce, I'm not just some kid, I've been working narcotics since I was ten years old; it's not like I've never seen a junkie. I know what it's about, I know what it means; I'm not just 'some sixteen year old' and neither is Roy—and you know it."
Bruce sat back, taking a breath, shifting gears and changing tacks. "Okay, you're right. You're not a naïve kid and neither is Roy, but you have to know that what you're trying to do is this side of impossible. Heroin addicts have almost a ninety percent failure history at kicking the drug and staying clean. You're setting yourself and Roy up for a hard fall." He was being reasonable, calm, appealing to Dick's rational side.
"I know the odds; they don't matter. Roy's a Titan—if he can do that, he can do this."
His heels were dug in; he wouldn't budge, at least not so Bruce could see. Dick would defend and do any and everything to help Roy get through this and nothing Bruce could say would change that. It went beyond simple stubbornness or childish faith in the world being a fair place. Roy was part of Dick's extended family, the one which was born when his parents were killed. Bruce knew that he'd do everything possible to ensure that he never lost anyone else who mattered to him.
Roy used his key to let himself into Ollie's apartment. Thought it was after none PM, the lights were off and it had the unmistakable feel of a place with no one home.
Ollie was probably on patrol or with Dinah, maybe both. There was a note on the kitchen counter, 'pizza in the freezer. Back later, O'.
Just a normal night in the Queen household.
Roy hoped someone had cleaned out his stash so he wouldn't be tempted and suddenly wished he'd stayed at the Tower, despite his room being trashed. Either that or gone over to the Manor with Dick—anything would be better than being alone tonight.
Screw it—the longest journey begins with the first step, right? Wasn't today the first day of the rest of his life? One step at a time, left, right, left, right and that's all there was to it.
He could do this.
Going into his own room he looked in the shoebox behind the pile of crap on his closet shelf and found his works with enough stuff to take him through the morning.
He took the box down, went into the bathroom with it and sat on the edge of the vanity looking at the needles and all. Piece of cake, two minutes or less and he's be feeling no pain at all. He'd be flying, free, feeling good and wouldn't have to worry about any of this crap—about what Ollie would say, about the look on Donna's face when she hugged him, about the pile of shit the Bat was dumping on Dick right about now.
Just put the powder in the spoon, get out the matches, tie the rubber hose around his arm and away we go.
He sat there, making up his mind, thinking about what would happen. Dick would be disappointed but wouldn't give up, at least not yet. Ollie would shrug and figure he had nothing to do with it. Donna would cry. Wally would…Wally wouldn't understand. And Garth? Who knew what he ever thought? He was so far out in the Ozone most of the time Roy was surprised he functioned at all. Ollie was screwed up? Try Arthur—he was seriously messed up.
In an abrupt movement he opened the bathroom window and threw the box as far as he could.
NYPD looked at the same security tapes Robin accessed a few months before; the ones showing Speedy taking hard drugs from the evidence locker. There was a meeting of Internal Affairs which stretched on past dinner without resolution.
"The kid has an Interpol badge and another one from Star City. He's got a rep and he's a Titan—those damn kids are role models and we all know cops need more good publicity. Hell, those kids can't fart without it making the papers and we all know it. I'm telling you, this gets out, there'll be hell to pay."
"Sam, c'mon, sure, but none of that changes the fact the kid was caught red handed stealing contraband evidence and then using. We gotta make an example, show that we don't play favorites just cause he's high profile."
"I know that, but weight the pros and the cons here. There's no reason why he should be let off, but there's also no reason why this should make the papers. I want this investigation and any resulting decisions sealed—everyone agree with that? I'm talking about the good of the department."
There was some grumbling but everyone nodded in agreement. This would stay behind closed doors.
That was the plan. Of course it didn't stay quiet because people talk, it's just human nature and when the people involved were Speedy and then you threw Robin in the mix as well…furgeddaboutit. The story hit the papers and it hit hard.
First there were rumors, unaccredited blurbs: 'Which well known young vigilante was recently in a personal and private lockdown to shake a few nasty habits? We wish him luck.'
That opened the floodgates and from then on it was a feeding frenzy.
The Titans and the JLA were all inundated with requests for comments about the identity of the rumored victim. No one said anything, the only responses given were a steady stream of 'no comments' but between leaks in the police departments and the tenacity of the reporters, it was just a matter of time before the stonewall began to crumble.
First, because of the wording of the tease, it was assumed that it had to be one of the youngsters and a male one, at that so Wonder Girl was crossed off the list. There weren't too many young boys working and it wasn't hard to follow their movements for the last few months. Kid Flash was accounted for working in the Midwest the last few months with no large breaks. Robin was seen in Gotham regularly and besides, he had Batman looking out for him—him doing hard drugs would be a long shot. Batman would kill him—or at least ground him, plus he couldn't do the acrobatics he did if he were high. So that left Speedy and Aqualad. Speedy was a possibility since he always was a little on the smart-ass, obnoxious side, the kind of kid who had a rebellious streak and Aqualad always seemed a little out of it even on a good day. That might be marked down to drugs and who knew anything about what was or wasn't considered okay in some oddball place like Atlantis?
The Titans couldn't appear anywhere without having the questions shouted at them; "Yo, Robin, you still using?" "Wonder Girl, C'mon, you know who it is, right? Help us out here." "Speedy, it's you, right? You're the junkie." "Fishboy, that common where you come from? And how the hell do you grow poppies underwater, huh?"
The answer was always the same: 'No comment'.
Robin tried to encourage them, remind them that wouldn't last forever, "As soon as something else happens this will be old news, this will fade away. Just ride it out, this won't last much longer."
The Internet went insane for the story; blogs sprung up and were inundated with opinions and suggestions.
The kids were invited to speak on all the Sunday morning news programs, Nightline, 20/20. The morning shows and Barbara Walters did everything she could think of to get the exclusive interview, offering to go wherever they wanted to meet and adding that she wouldn't do anything to embarrass them in any way—though she didn't promise not to attempt to make them cry.
There was an editorial in the NY Times: 'Teen Titans—Empowered or Enabled?'
The National Enquirer and the Star competed to see who could publish the least faltering picture of the assumed addicts—either Speedy or Aqualad, which caused Arthur to recall Garth back to Atlantis for six months, ignoring the fact that he was blameless and adding fuel to the fire.
People magazine featured the Titans on three successive covers, outlining both their positive and negative aspects and then asking readers to write in with their opinions, They received over two hundred thousand letters.
The legality of allowing teenagers, accredited though they may be, to chase criminals and risking life and limb before they'd graduated high school was debated in both houses of Congress. There were calls to outlaw them for their own protection.
There were suggestions that not only the Titans, but all the superheroes, should have access to the best psychological counseling available.
There were cries demanding to know where their parents were and how had they allowed such a thing to happen.
There were questions wondering there was just one Titan involved in the drug use or were they all using? And were they also selling? Goodness, that headquarters they had must have cost a pretty penny and how on earth would children finance that sort of thing?
To everything, to every question and invitation to explain themselves or to answer questions they gave the same answer: 'no comment'.
And during all this, the Titans and the JLA went about their business as usual.
And Roy stayed clean.
"Well, I was against it from the beginning. I've said it before and I'll say it again—those kids have no business being on the front line. It's dangerous and we don't have the time for babysitting."
"Sit down, Clark. You've also said how impressed you are by the kids and you've gone out of your way any number of times to lend them a hand. I also recall you going on about how impressed you are with Robin and that wasn't too long ago, either." Barry wasn't in the mood for this. Wally wasn't involved and, as far as he could tell, Roy—no surprise, was the only one who'd ever used drugs.
"Clark is right; they're too young, too inexperienced, too naïve to handle this kind of work. I think we should stop them, force them to disband until they're older and better equipped to cope with the pressures."
Bruce gave her a steady look. "Your own sister is a member of the Titans, Princess, or am I mistaken?"
"And your ward decided to take a peer through heroin withdrawal without any medical backup and without anyone's knowledge. How many thousands of dollars worth of damage did they cause, again?"
Superman banged the gavel, "That's enough, sit down, both of you. We're here to discuss whether or not having sidekicks should be banned. Opinions?"
GL spoke up. "I want them disbanded, both for their own protection and to take away the problems they're causing us and every other hero operating. This mess is overshadowing everything else we're doing and taking attention away from the positive side of our work."
"I like having the kids around, I mean, just speaking for myself. They lighten things up and they're pretty good at what they do—at least I think so, anyway." J'onn looked upset at even having to be there. "And not one of them has caused any real problems before this, have they? They're, every one of them, bright, hard working, dedicated and all of that. I think we should leave them alone."
Diana shook her head. "We did leave them alone and this is what happened."
It went back and forth for another twenty minutes, Clark finally interrupting. "I think we should get some of them in here and listen to what they have to say." He pressed a button on the table's control pad. "Robin? Please come in." The young man walked in, confident but clearly concerned about how this was going. "All right, you've heard what we've been saying, do you have a response?"
He nodded. "You know us, you all know all of us and you also know the job we've been doing for years now. We get the job done. We're not amateurs and we're all fully licensed by bot Interpol and our own local jurisdictions. Our injury rate is about half of yours and our collar rate is slightly higher than the JLA's. I'm not saying we're perfect or that we don't have problems, but we're good. We are."
"The decision we're debating is whether o not to eliminate the sidekicks." Clark wanted to see Robin's reaction.
"I know that and you can't." There was a buzz around the table, half surprise and half indignation. Who was he to tell the JLA what they could or couldn't do? "Maybe a couple of years ago you could have, but not now. We're too established and we have too many cities and people counting on us. And, aside from all that, at some point you guys are going to be looking at retirement; who's going to take over if not us?"
Diana glared at him. "It's not hard to see where you get your thinking."
Robin didn't care who she was; she could be a total bitch when the mood struck her. "Meaning?"
"Meaning you have the same typical inflated male ego of your guardian. But be that as it may, the fact remains that you failed to notice that one of your team members, a boy you consider a close friend, was a drug addict until he was close to killing himself."
"You're right, I did and I have to live with that." Dinah leaned back in her chair, satisfied she'd made her point but Robin wasn't finished. "I also can live with the fact that when I did realize what was going on I dealt with it immediately and did what I believe is exactly what Roy needed. He's clean and people are watching to help him stay that way. I think he's going to beat this and if he does backslide, then we'll make sure he gets help as many times as he needs it."
Clark looked around the table. "Are there any other comments or questions?"
"Yes, we're not going to stop what we're doing. I mean you can disavow us and all of that, but the Titans, as a group and as individuals, are too established for you to just shut us down. I'm not trying to sound arrogant, but you all know this as well as I do. Inside of a year, none of us will be minors any more and that's just a fact."
"Excuse me?" The Bat had heard enough.
"Look, Bruce, I'm sorry but everyone's pinning this on the Titans and—Christ—you're all pretending to ignore that Roy lives with Ollie and he's Roy's guardian. I mean, c'mon." Robin's cell phone rang, he glanced at the message window and half shrugged an apology, "Gotta go."
A long minute went by in silence. "He's right."
"Yes, J'onn, he is."
"And where is Ollie?"
No one seemed to know. The JLA voted to retain their support both of the Teen Titans and the sidekicks by a unanimous vote.
Roy was sitting on his bed in the apartment when Ollie knocked on his door.
"Yeah, I'm good. Where were you today? Rob said you were MIA."
Ollie stood awkwardly in the doorway. "Busy." He shifted his weight. "I heard the vote went for you kids a hundred percent."
"Yeah, I heard. Robbie's pretty persuasive when he wants to be." He went back to his book.
"You're really okay?"
"Yes, I'm really okay. I'm fine, Ollie. You don't have to watch me, I'm not going out to find some dope—I think I've kicked it."
Roy closed his book; "You want an argument? Yes, I think I'm going to be okay. I'm clean and I plan to stay that way. I intend to be one of the five percent who beat it. Are you going to believe me or should I expect surveillance cameras?"
"Lose the attitude, I'm not the one shooting up."
"Neither am I. 'You want me to leave, I will, but I'm not going to go through this ten times a day."
Ollie deflated a bit. "No, I don't want you to leave but I would like to know why you did it."
Roy took Ollie's measure. "The real answer?"
He paused, gathering his thoughts and put the book on the blanket beside his leg. "I don't really have a good answer because I know it will sound like an excuse or like I'm whining and I don't want to do that. I think the truth is that I wanted you to notice me. When you didn't, when you spent all your time with Dinah and working busts and with the JLA, I filled the hole."
Ollie actually blinked at him, trying to understand, "You're serious, aren't you?"
Ollie shook his head in annoyance bordering on disgust. "You sound to me like a damn whining ten year old complaining because you didn't get some toy you wanted. 'You're just making excuses—trying to pin your own bullshit on me and I'm not buyin' it. You decided to use, you stuck the damn needle in your arm and you have to deal with it." He slammed out of the room, Roy listening to him open the hall closet and grab a coat before he reappeared in the doorway. "You may have snowed your friends about this but you haven't conned me—you made your decisions and you can damn well own them." Roy continued to sit on the edge of the bed as he heard the front door open and slam shut.
Because Roy was, at heart, honest he admitted hadn't started using entirely because of Ollie, partly but not completely. In fact he blamed himself for not having the strength to find something else to fill what Ollie either couldn't or wouldn't for him.
He'd started using on his own and, with Dick's help, he'd kicked on his own, as well.
His problem; he'd deal with it.
And he would deal with it. Or, he'd do his damnedest, anyway.