Purpose

Roy bends over his filthy kitchen sink and stares out the window. His mask is on the counter beside him, his face sticky with glue. He darts his hands under the faucet to check the temperature, jerks it back. Still ice cold. He sighs and starts to search for his kettle.

The unmistakable creak of the door stops Roy cold, and he tenses. He is certain he locked it, and his bow is on the table, why is his bow on the table? Never let your guard down, Roy, he berates himself. There is a knife on the counter, and it will have to do. He readies himself to pounce.

“Nice place you have here,” the intruder says, and Roy knows the voice immediately. Oliver Queen. The tension leaves his shoulders, and he debates whether or not to put down the knife.

“What do you want?” Roy asks, refusing to turn around.

“I was in the neighborhood.” There is a rustle as Ollie places something on the table. “I thought you might like to have this,” he says.

Roy glances back and scoffs. “You can keep it,” he says, turning back to fill the kettle and crank up the stove.

Ollie’s shoes creak on the worn wooden floor as he steals behind Roy, places a hand on his shoulder. Roy takes a deep breath and fixes his eyes straight ahead, into the darkened window where he can see the ghost of their reflections. Ollie has come out of costume, somehow more conspicuous in this run-down neighbourhood, and his face… unhooded, unmasked, he hasn’t seen it this way in so long. Roy can feel his pulse speeding up, and his hands clench on the edge of the counter top.

“Was it really that bad?” Ollie asks, and there is a strain in his voice Roy has never heard before. He looks hurt, but Roy pretends he doesn’t notice. “I gave you a home and a purpose, does that mean nothing to you anymore?”

There is a lump in Roy’s throat. “Less than nothing,” he lies. He feels the grip on his shoulder tighten, and then Ollie has thrown him to the floor, and Roy knows that this time, finally, he’s truly gotten to him, finally he’s gone too far. Reeling from the impact, Roy looks up and see Ollie looming overhead, his fists clenched, and his face… oh, his face.

“I don’t know what you want me to do,” Ollie says, just short of screaming, a note of helplessness lingering. “Do you want me to ignore you, or get angry with you, or take you back with me kicking and screaming? What do you want from me, Roy? What’s the point?”

Roy stands, slowly, trying not to shake, to show weakness. He draws himself up as tall as he can and stares straight into Ollie’s eyes, and he wishes he hadn’t taken off his mask. “Get out of my apartment,” he says.

Ollie flinches, and for one almost terrifying second Roy thinks that maybe he’s not going to leave, but in the end he turns away and walks out the door. After he leaves Roy’s knees get weak and he stumbles across the room, knocks against the table and then slumps against the wall. He lets himself slide down to the floor as he takes several deep, gasping breaths, tilting his head up and blinking furiously. There is a yellow felt hat crumpled in his left hand. Somewhere behind him, the kettle whistles.

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