Red Arrow was transferred to a table where he was restrained. His shirt had been removed but the blindfold was left to cover his eyes. "I'm going to inject this syringe of phenol into your spine," Dr. Reinhard told the helpless teen. "When the drug takes effect, you won't be able to feel what I'm doing to you."
"Why would you do that? You haven't had a problem hurting me before now," Roy retorted. He felt the doctor turn his head to the side to gain access to the back of his neck. The young man stiffened, but he was afraid to resist. He really didn't want a broken needle in his neck.
The doctor ignored his question and injected the solution into the boy's spine. "It will take a few minutes to start working. I just want to remind you that you could have given in to me at any time and spared yourself these recalibrations."
"Go to hell," Roy said, which was the best rebuttal he could come up with under the circumstances.
"I suppose I could test you to see if it is working yet," the other man said. Roy felt a knife (or maybe a scalpel?) cut into his arm. "Did you feel that?"
"Why should I tell you?"
"Because the pain is going to get very bad, and it would be better for you if that didn't happen before the drug kicks in," the doctor answered evenly.
The calmness of the man's threat shook Roy. "I felt it," he admitted. There was another incision made on his calf. "That too." The pain from the two cuts was negligible. As a hero, (Roy tried to argue with himself that he wasn't a hero, but he saved people, so he was one) pain was a necessary side effect of going up against the bad guys. But he knew the doctor was serious about increasing the pain level. The electrocution he endured when he was first captured was not something he would voluntarily repeat.
"How about this?" Dr. Reinhard asked.
"I didn't feel anything."
"You don't feel this?" the doctor repeated. The teen got worried. As much as he didn't want to feel the pain, with his sense of sight and touch taken away he didn't know what the man was doing to him. The not-knowing was worse.
"No," he said coldly, pretending it didn't bother him.
"Then we're ready to start." Roy heard a match strike and smelled the smoke from the flame. The smell changed, and it took him several moments to realize it was the stench of hair burning. He pulled on his bonds, or he tried to. The young man couldn't feel his limbs, and he had no way of knowing if his efforts were fruitful. In fact, the doctor could have undone the straps and he still wouldn't be able to escape. "You're really not feeling this?" the doctor repeated.
Roy ignored him. The man enjoyed his pain and fear. Right now, the teen couldn't feel pain, so if he refused to show fear, he would deny his captor any satisfaction. Roy took deep breaths and tried to center himself like Green Arrow had taught him. Just as he thought it was beginning to work, the smell changed slightly. No longer burning hair, but burning flesh. Roy gagged. What was the man burning? His leg? His chest? All thought of composure went out the window. Roy started to thrash around, or at least he tried to.
A sudden memory from years earlier made him freeze, his breath caught in his throat.
/His father had left for work. There was a bad forest fire, close to the Indian Reservation. Roy never worried when his dad was called in. After all, this was his dad. No one was more amazing than him. His dad would be safe, he just knew it.
There had been a knock on the door. "I'll get it," he yelled, running for the door before the babysitter could stand up. It was a police officer.
"I'm sorry, son," the man said, and Roy's world came crashing down. For years after, he had nightmares of his father being consumed by flames.../
No, not him. Other Roy. The real Roy. Red Arrow fought to remind himself that these memories weren't real. He never met Roy's father, had no reason to be devastated at the loss. The logic did nothing to dispel the emotional pain and he found himself screaming.
"That's enough for now," the doctor said over the sounds his patient's anguish. "I think we've made good progress, don't you?"
Red Arrow wanted to ask what part of him had been burned and how bad it was, but his brain was caught up in a nightmare from a decade ago. He couldn't form words. Just as he managed to open his mouth to ask, he heard the doctor's footstep walk away, leaving Roy to imagine what condition his body had been left in.
They swept the city, each using their talents to narrow down the search. Superman flew above, using his x-ray vision to look for pods. J'onn used localized telepathy to search out feelings of distress or pain. Batman's tech helped him pinpoint areas using an unusual amount of electricity, which would be needed to power the pods and computers Cadmus would be running. Green Arrow and Black Canary interrogated criminals on the street for clues on where the missing hero was being held.
Batman decided there were five likely places where the secret facility might be and used the comm link to send Superman and J'onn to check them out. Green Arrow wanted to go with them, but his teammates' ability to fly meant they would finish searching all the places before he could even reach the first. He punched the wall next to him angrily.
Black Canary was beside him in a second. "Hey, I know you're worried about him, but let the others help. We'll get him back."
"Is it wrong to wish that I was the one to save him?" Green Arrow asked.
"No, it's not wrong. But using the League will help find him faster. You will be there to help him recover after this."
"I don't know if I can. I haven't proven that I'm very good at that. Give me a bad guy to take down and I've got it, no problem. But talking to my protégé? Apparently that's beyond my abilities."
Dinah gave him a look. "You can say it's too hard and give up, or you can try and see what you can actually do. He needs more than just being saved from Cadmus. He needs you. You can't just walk away from him."
"You're right. I just hope that I can-" his words were interrupted by Superman over the comm.
"We think we've found him at the fourth location. We'll wait until everyone arrives before we make our move."
Oliver ran. He ran like a life depended on it- the life of the boy he'd come to think of as his son. When he reached the location, his heart thudded with exertion and fear.
"Where is he?" he asked Batman, who was lurking near the front entrance. The other two heroes were probably covering the back.
"Superman and the Martian Manhunter think that Red Arrow and Speedy are both at this location," Batman said. "Red Arrow is in the basement, and Speedy is in the subbasement." He paused, possibly to give Green Arrow the choice of which boy he wanted to rescue.
Oliver swallowed hard. 'This isn't about choosing one over the other,' he told himself. 'Both boys will be saved today.' "Canary and I will take the basement," he said aloud.
"We will head to the subbasement," Batman said over the comm, giving no indication on whether or not he agreed with Green Arrow's decision. Oliver shook it off. He would worry about it later. The heroes entered the building, quickly disabling the guards. Each of them took a keycard from their unconscious adversaries. They found the stairs and hurried down them. Batman continued down another level. Canary and GA took a different side of the hallway and went from room to room, searching for the missing teen. They came up empty the first several rooms and Oliver's panic increased. What if Clark and J'onn were wrong, and Roy wasn't here?
"Green Arrow," Dinah called from one of the rooms, and Oliver hastened to her. Strapped down on a table beside her was a red-haired boy, clad in blue scrub bottoms and blindfolded. Dinah gently removed the blindfold. "Red Arrow," she called to the teen as she pressed her fingers to his neck to check for a pulse.
Blue eyes opened and immediately squeezed shut. "Too bright," the boy moaned. Oliver quickly turned the light off and shut the door to block most of the light from the hallway.
"How about now?" Dinah asked.
He opened his eyes again and stared at her in confusion. "Mom?" he asked, making both adults worry about his state of mind.
"No, honey, it's Black Canary," she corrected. "Do you know where you are?"
"Cadmus," he whispered and closed his eyes again. Even the low light hurt after being blindfolded for so long.
"That's right, but you're safe now. We're going to get you out of here." Dinah removed the straps around his wrists while Oliver got the ones around his ankles.
"How bad... burns?" he rasped.
The two adults looked at each other. "What burns?" Dinah asked when she looked back at Roy.
"Burns," he insisted. "The doc... said he burned me. The drug... kept from feeling... could smell it though..."
"Red Arrow, look at me," Oliver said kindly. "There are no burns anywhere on your body. "There is a cut on your arm and one on your lower leg, and your wrists and neck have been rubbed raw, but there are no burn marks."
The teen shook his head, unable to believe what the other man was telling him. Dinah caught sight of another body lying on a gurney. She pointed it out to Green Arrow. He went to check it out. "There's a body over here that is burned," he told his companions. "That must be what you smelled, Red Arrow."
"Let's get you home," Black Canary told the teen. "Can you stand?" Both heroes helped him off the table. Roy wasn't confident on his feet, and Oliver didn't plan on letting him go unless his protégé pushed him away. Maybe not even then. Almost losing him scared Oliver more than he cared to admit.
Green Arrow activated the comm. "We found him. I'm taking him back to the Watchtower."
Superman answered. "We found Speedy as well. He doesn't appear to be injured, but he has not regained consciousness. Where would you like us to take him?"
Oliver took a second to answer. Dinah came to his rescue. "You stay with Red Arrow, I'll watch over Speedy," she told him.
He nodded his thanks to his girlfriend."Royal Memorial Hospital," he told Superman. "Black Canary will meet him there." Then he contacted John Stewart, who was on Watchtower duty. "Lantern, beam us up."
The lights surrounded the three protectors of Star City, and then they found themselves in the League's floating fortress. John helped them get Roy, who had passed out, to the med bay. They treated him for the electroshock and tended to his wounds. They agreed that there would be no lasting damage. Dehydration was the main concern. Oliver decided Roy would heal better in familiar settings, so he had John beam them back to Queen Manor. Oliver and Dinah returned the teen to his bed and set up an IV drip to replace the fluids Roy was desperately low on. Once Roy was settled in, Dinah packed a bag.
"You'll be fine," she reassured Oliver. "Just sit with him. When he wakes up, be there for him. You can do this."
"You have too much faith in me," he told her. She kissed him and then left for Royal Memorial to sit the other Roy.
Oliver sat alone with his unconscious patient, and the worries that had briefly left him came back in full force. How would Roy-this Roy- react to being brought back to Oliver's house? Saying their relationship was strained was putting it lightly. Would Roy run off as soon as he was able to walk? Oliver believed in his protégé's abilities, but he didn't like the idea of him on his own, living in a rundown apartment. It wasn't that Roy couldn't take care of himself, it's that the teen would overlook his emotional needs in favor of pursuing criminals. Oliver didn't know if he could convince Roy to stay.
And what about the other Roy, Speedy? How could he face the boy when he hadn't even known that the teen was missing for so long? There was no way to apologize for the lack of protection he had offered. Maybe that relationship was as broken as the one he had with Red Arrow. He had failed both of them. Oliver half-jokingly considered offering mentorship of Artemis to Batman. Robin seemed well-adjusted, so the Caped Crusader must be doing something right.
Oliver's head was buried in his hands when he heard rustling from the bed. He looked up to see an unconscious Roy moving around under the covers as if from a nightmare. "Roy," he said softly, and then repeated himself louder when the teen didn't respond. The young man finally opened his eyes and blinked rapidly, as if he wasn't sure what he was looking at. Oliver had kept the room dark, knowing that Roy's eyes would need to be gradually reintroduced to light. "Over here," Oliver said, guiding the teen's face towards him.
Roy flinched at the touch, and his mentor reminded himself it was a result of his captivity, not a sign of how estranged they were. His eyes focused on Oliver, and he croaked, "Where?"
"You're home, Roy." He waited for the correction either on the boy's name or the definition of 'home,' but none came. "Here, drink some water." He helped Roy sit up, careful of the IV, and held the glass up for him. Roy drank eagerly, and Oliver had to caution him to slow down. He adjusted the pillows so the teen could sit up.
"I can see," Roy said as his eyes became accustomed to the dark. He sounded slightly surprised.
"We removed your blindfold. Considering how your eyes reacted to light, we guessed that it was on for a long time." Oliver left that as an invitation to talk, afraid to push him.
"Yeah," Roy said. There was a long pause, and Oliver almost said something, but Roy surprised him by continuing. "How long was I gone?"
"Almost 24 hours." Oliver waited for the condemnation for taking so long to save him, but it didn't come.
"Thank you. For coming for me." The words were soft, but the feeling was there.
"I thought that if I could bring back Roy- the original Roy- then it would make up for what I've done."
"You mean the fights we've had about you being a partner and joining the League?" Oliver asked.
Roy shook his head. "Betraying everyone. Allowing Vandal Savage to get into the Watchtower."
"Roy, that's not your fault. No one blames you for that. I'm grateful that you wanted to find Speedy, but you didn't need to do it as some kind of penance."
"I'm sorry I failed."
"Not exactly," Oliver said cautiously. "When we rescued you, we found Speedy. He's unharmed, but unconscious at the hospital."
"What are you doing here? You should be with him. He shouldn't have to wake up alone," Roy protested.
"Dinah is with him, so he won't wake up alone. I wanted to be here for you when you woke up."
"Why?" The one word question exposed a vulnerability in Roy that he had kept carefully hidden.
"I care about you. I always have. I know I'm not your father, but I want to protect you, to keep you safe."
"But I'm not him."
"I can care about both of you, can't I? I remember you were so upset when I introduced Artemis to the Team as my niece. You felt like I was replacing you. But just because I care about one person, doesn't mean I can't care about someone else. I know Batman doesn't believe this, but you can love more than one person at a time."
There was a hint of a smile on Roy's lips at the joke. "How will he react when he finds out I'm here? The other Roy, I mean, not Batman."
"We'll figure it out," Oliver said with more confidence than he felt. He had been winging it with the whole "dad" thing, now he was pretending he knew what to do with a fourteen year old and his eighteen year old clone. Good thing he had Dinah. She seemed to know the right thing to say or do to make a situation better. "Can I cook you something to eat?"
"You're a terrible cook," Roy reminded him.
"Can I heat up something from a can for you to eat?" Oliver amended. Roy nodded and Oliver went to the kitchen to round up something. When he returned, the teen's eyes were closed, but he must have just been resting because Roy opened his eyes when Oliver came into the room.
"Soup and crackers?" Roy asked, raising an eyebrow. "You know I'm not sick, right?"
"Yeah, but you haven't eaten anything in two days, and your stomach needs something simple to process." Oliver set the tray down on Roy's lap. The young man picked up a spoon but paused before eating.
"Are you just going to watch me eat?"
"I thought we could watch some movies," Oliver said. He gestured to the stack of DVD's on the tray.
Roy read the title of the movie on top. "Fellowship of the Ring? Really?"
"You used to love it," Oliver protested.
Roy tried to remember if it was he who liked it, or other Roy, then decided not to worry about it. He had memories of liking it, and that was good enough. "Okay, put it in." Roy drank a spoonful of broth while Oliver got the movie started. The warmth felt wonderful on his abused throat.
He fell asleep forty minutes into the movie, soup half-eaten. Oliver moved the tray so it wouldn't spill. Then he got comfortable on the chair. He wasn't going to leave tonight. He had found his protégé, and he wasn't going to leave Roy Harper for anything.
Author's note- I decided that the original Roy was not injured at Cadmus. I wanted to keep the focus on Red Arrow.
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