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Valentine's Day

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February 14th. The worst day to call itself a holiday to ever exist. What was she doing? Sitting in a graveyard with a half empty bottle of whiskey and a heart shaped box of chocolates. Pathetic. Rose had very little patience for romance and all the frippery that went with it. She didn’t have time for love, or for the time and effort a relationship seemed to take. Not that she was celibate, a woman had needs after all, but she’d spent a large portion of her childhood in a brothel. Her mother had taught her a lot about life, love, and the relationships between men and women. Most importantly, your body was a commodity, and sex was a transaction. Love had very little to do with what happened below the belt.

Before she even knew the name of the man who had sired her, she’d asked her mom questions. Naturally, she had assumed he’d been a customer, but that wasn’t true. Lili told her daughter that she had loved the man who had helped make her daughter, and that had been enough fro Rose at the time. Looking back, she wished she had asked more questions. Did Lili knew what Slade did for a living? Did she really know what kind of person he was? How could she look at his actions and still fall for him? One thing was certain, though Lili had professed to love Slade, she hadn’t trusted him.

After all, if he had, Rose might have grown up knowing her father, and her life might have been far different. She shuddered at the thought. It was not comforting to dwell on the might-have-beens, particularly when it came to the messed up disaster that was her family. Weirdly enough, no matter how many times she had gone back to her father’s side, she’d never asked if he loved Lili in return. She wasn’t afraid of the answer, she just didn’t believe that he’d be honest. Wintergreen said they’d loved each other, but the old man always had a weirdly skewed view of Slade and his supposed morals.

Regardless, this year her emotions were all over the place. She liked to blame it on the serum in her veins and the tail end of kicking her adrenaline addiction, but the fact of the matter was that Rose felt hollow. She’d had some conversations with some people she might hesitatingly call friends, and though it might not have been their intention, they pointed out how empty her life had gotten. She had managed to push everyone and everything that had ever mattered to her away. There was this void surrounding her, a null field that no one could seem to breach.

She knew when it had gone up. Most folks would blame her father, most days Rose would as well. She was a loving child, back with her mother in the brothel. She’d been open and affectionate when she was Lian’s nanny, and she had adored Margaret and Mark Madison. Losing those people, those touchstones, hadn’t left her the cold shell of a human she was now though. She’d still had hope, though the bitterness was starting to become evident. She’d already been violent, and Slade certainly hadn’t helped on that front. She’d even made friends, back in the Titan’s Tower. Not just Eddie, but Jaime, Bart, Gar, Kon… Guys she could relax and be herself around. For the most part, they accepted her abrasive attitude. But not all the Titans had, and that voice that told her she wasn’t enough, that prissy blonde face full of judgement, eventually drove her away, not that she would ever admit it.

Then came that day on the roof. That fucking roof. Out of all of them, she’d connected the deepest with Eddie Bloomberg. Kid Devil. With his red skin, horns and tail, he’d looked every bit the monster she felt she was on the inside. Her father had planted the seeds of evil within her, though she didn’t look it on the outside. Eddie was her counterpart, looking demonic on the outside but housing the purest soul she’d ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was so good, warm, welcoming. He accepted her as she was, taught her to be just vulnerable enough to let others in. Without Eddie, she wouldn’t have been able to befriend any of the Titans at all. The Devil was her humanity, and she’d found that hilarious.

They’d played the games that teenagers played with one another. Teasing and flirting. Even then, she’d been better at it than him. Every time she lit her cigarettes on his breath she could hear his heart race. It had been fun, harmless. Until it felt like maybe it was something more. Then Eddie turned back. He was human again, and just as good and pure on the outside as he had been on the inside. By then, the negative voices on the team, judging her for the level of violence she brought to bear, had been too much. She couldn’t stay with the Titans, not without changing who she was, or worse, hating herself as much as some of them clearly hated her. She had to leave.

Asking Eddie to go with her was the hardest thing she had ever done. It took her days to work up the nerve, to figure out exactly how to phrase it just right. She’d found logical reasons for him to accompany her, because she didn’t want to rely on emotions that even she wasn’t brave enough to admit to just yet. Sure she wanted to see where they were going, but she knew that the Tower wasn’t the place for her. When he’d said no. Fuck. Her whole world went out from under her feet. She hadn’t been ready for the rejection, and it had blasted against the last shreds of her self-respect. She’d played it off, pretended it didn’t matter… but it did. More than anything.

That was when she stopped caring. The fresh hell she went through after that night on the rooftop was awful. Worse than some of the darkest days of her detoxing. She threw herself into everything that came her way. She didn’t have a death wish; that would require more self-care than she’d been capable of. Sure she’d done good things out there. She’d saved the girls, she’d broken from Will’s mind control. Proven once more that she was the toughest thing on two legs that she could possibly be. It hadn’t been enough though. It hadn’t brought her back to herself.

While she had been out mourning, he’d gone and gotten himself killed. Rose leaned back against the grave stone, feeling the carved letters of Eddie’s name through the flimsy fabric of her t-shirt. Sighing she watched a pair of birds flutter through the bare branches of a nearby tree, and she popped another crummy chocolate in her mouth. “You made the best call for you, hot stuff. I get it now. I wasn’t ready for anything real, I wasn’t offering anything real. You always could see right through me. I didn’t learn a damn thing you tried to teach me though. I’m still that prickly bitch that makes the world hate her before they can decide to do so all on their own.”

Taking a swig from the bottle, she splashed some on the ground beside her. “I finally got the message, Red. Too many years too late, but I think I figured out what you were always trying to say. Fuck my dad. I was just using him as an excuse, and making my choices that way is no different than letting him make the choices for me. I can’t keep falling back on the same justifications, I’ve gotta learn to let someone in sometime.” She closed her eye, pressing her cheek to the cold stone. “Just wish it could have been you. I wish I had been ready back then. I won’t miss my chance next time, though, hot stuff. Next time I’ll give it a shot. For you. For us. For what could have been. You were the best damn friend I never deserved.”

With a small bark of laughter, she pushed herself up to her feet, leaving the now mostly empty bottle and half-eaten box of chocolates by the tombstone. “Happy shitty Hallmark Holiday, Red. Wish like fuck you were here.”