Feeling The Heat

by Lara Wilson

Feeling the heat on his face, Slade opens his eyes. There's a fire burning in a ring of stones, a coffee pot sits nestled in the coals, around the ring sit men, laughing at a story told by one of them--something about women and the trials they put men through.

He picks up his metal cup, sips the coffee, tasting the strength and a hint of fire you only get when coffee is cooked in coals.

Above him a nearly full moon shines down with a large scattering of stars. There is little cloud cover and no pollution.

The sky is beautiful.

A light breeze blows, bringing with it the distant roars of lions. He notes their location, his agile mind planning tomorrow's hunt even as he listens to the next storyteller and thinks of his wife tucked at home with their sons, waiting for his return.

Life is good here in Africa, leading safaris, giving his expertise to the local game preserves, raising his boys in a land both wild and free, yet with enough civilization that a good cup of tea can always be had alongside a political or economic discussion.

Slade knows he made the right choice after freeing Wintergreen. Deathstroke was only needed that one time.

He smiles into the leaping flames and thinks about making love to Addie in front of their bedroom fireplace on the rug of the snow leopards he hunted two years before.

~~~~~

Feeling the heat on his face, Slade opens his eyes.

Wayne Manor is burning and crouched over him, fist raised to hit him again is the last surviving scion of that family. He catches the fist, turns it, pins the arm behind the kid's back before flipping him over his head. He's on his feet at the same moment as Grayson, preparing for the charge that comes, driving both of them down again.

"I'll kill you!"

He sympathizes at the raw pain in the kid's voice and keeps his own voice silent. Nothing he can say will ease Grayson's loss, nothing he can say will give him any satisfaction. He takes the next blow, then rolls them, pinning the struggling acrobat beneath his much larger body.

As he watches the defeat slowly enter those broken blue eyes, feels the body still beneath him, he knows he has two choices, and his mind goes back to the dream he had while briefly unconscious from Nightwing knocking him through a stone wall. He had two choices then, as well, and he took the one completely different from his reality.

In reality he lost his wife, his sons, his friends and home. He chose Deathstroke and twenty years later that's all that remains.

Now he can either kill Dick Grayson or let him live. If he takes the latter path, will the boy haunt him, hound him, eventually bring him down like the lions they hunted in his dream?

If he lets him live, the kid will choose his own path.

If he kills him, the journey ends.

Feeling the heat of Grayson's hatred on his face, Slade closes his eyes and makes his choice.

End

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