The Photograph

by Lara Wilson

He ignored her room for weeks, keeping the door closed, as work crews who wouldn't ask questions repaired the damage from the grenade. Prison hadn't held him for more than twenty-four hours, and the only two who knew of the location of this house didn't seem interested in coming after him.

At last report, Dick was off on some world tour with Batman and Robin, reunited with and apparently forgiven by his father. Slade knew payback for Bludhaven would come, but then a lot of people wanted revenge against him these days.

And, Rose...Rose was gone. She'd turned against him, but, he knew not enough to betray him. She might never trust him again, but he had complete faith her in.

Still, he couldn't open the door to her room.

The house was repaired, business resumed, he began to plan both for revenge against the Titans and Green Arrow, and one night, as he retired to bed, he found himself outside Rose's door. Before he could think of a reason not to, he turned the knob and flipped the light switch.

Construction dust covered every surface in a thin, gray film, but he could make out the bedspread covered in pink butterflies, the stack of military history books on her night stand, a scattering of girlish hair things on her dressing table. Slowly he approached the latter, drawn by the pictures stuck into the frame of the mirror.

There were some of the two of them, and one of she and Dick in costume sparring, but the one that surprised him was of her playing with a toddler.

Harper's little girl.

Rose looked so happy in that photograph.

Slade found his fingers trembling as he reached for it and took it down. Frowning at his own serious reflection, he felt something on the back of the photograph and turned it over. It was a post-it note--a pink heart.

On it Rose had written 'How can I make my daddy love me like Roy loves Lian?'

Loss hit him, hard and fast, and he nearly stumbled, his hand clenching around the photograph as he fought the emotions threatening to overwhelm him. His eye squeezed shut but the images came--his hand tossing the grenade, uncaring where it landed, the explosion and the flames and Rose fleeing him, words of hatred on her lips. He remembered standing there, before the sprinklers came on, watching her through the fire, seeing the pain and horror on her young face.

He remembered a part of him hoping the flames would claim him.

He'd pushed one more child away.

And, yet, the next day he'd flung himself into battle and ignored all emotions and the loss of his daughter, simply closing the door to her room as if it was so easy to close her out of his life.

There was something seriously wrong with him.

He just didn't know how to fix it.

Carefully uncrumpling the photograph, he stared at his laughing daughter and prayed he found a way.

End

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