Her voice was so weak, broken with a bubbling noise that told him her lungs were filling with blood.
He went to one knee, eye on her dirty face, every other sense focused on her as well. The battle waged around them, but no one came near, as if they knew to do so invited instant death.
Her one eye, shot through with blood, begged for the truth. Her hand came up, reaching for him, and he grasped it, feeling how weak she was in the trembling of the fingers in his own large ones.
It was a statement with a question at its core. She didn't know, but she hoped.
He'd given her that freedom to hope, and, now, it was leaking away from her with the blood staining the rough ground upon which she lay crumpled and broken.
Pulling off his hood, he drew her hand to his mouth, kissing the bruised knuckles.
"It was all lies, kitten," he said softly, trying not to wince as she coughed and blood sprayed across her chin.
There was nothing he could do for her--experience and a cursory glance at her wounds had told him that. She was going to die, too young, in too much pain, and he couldn't stop it.
But, as he heard Robin's horrified yell of her name, saw her brother charging towards them, Wonder Girl weeping as she flew down to land next to them, as every Titan wrapped up their personal battles and converged on father and daughter...
Slade knew he'd been right.
Bending down, he kissed Rose's cheek and his tears mingled with her own. "I love you, Rose, and I've never been prouder of you."
"...Thank you, daddy," came with her final whisper and her hand slipped from his.
As he lifted his head, he felt the tip of an arrow at the back of his neck, sensed the girl Speedy quivering behind him.
"He killed her," Speedy choked out, digging the arrow into his skin until a dot of blood appeared.
The young man knelt on the other side of Rose and their eyes met, one set masked, the other single eye unable to hide the anguish.
"He's evil," the girl lashed out, some of her teammates adding their voices.
Nightwing shook his head, reached down to close Rose's one eye, reached across her for Slade's trembling hand. "He's not. He's just a really good liar."
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