Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters. DC Comics does.
A/N: For lack of a better title, I offer you this oneshot as reparation for not posting anything from my big TT fic this month. Still working on my Nano novel, and I thank all of you who have been reading through it thus far.
The day seemed much too bright for a funeral.
Sunlight beat down on Joey Wilson's face as he looked up towards the blue sky. It was a nice spring morning. The air smelled of rain and freshly mowed-grass. A slight breeze ruffled his curly blond hair.
Even now it seemed surreal that he was attending his big brother's funeral. Just a few days ago he was pulled out of class. His principal told him, in very kind, slow words, that his brother had been killed. No details. The details of his death were still a mystery to him. Although Joey eventually pierced together the truth: Grant died while fulfilling a contract as a mercenary.
Deep down, Joey supposed that he knew it. Adeline probably knew it as well, but didn't want to admit it. Grant had always been like Slade. Sometimes Joey hated him for that, but then again he couldn't possibly hate his brother. No, never hate his brother...if Joey had to hate him, then it would be for dying.
His mother struggled to suppress her tears as the priest droned on. Joey wanted to say something, but his mother's eyes were so full of tears. She wouldn't be able to see anything he signed. He squeezed her shoulder gently. Adeline lifted her head to look at him. She put a trembling hand to his face, stroking his cheek softly, as though she couldn't believe that he really was her son. Her eyes suddenly widened as she caught sight of someone over his shoulder.
He turned around.
Joey opened his mouth to call out to his father, but then he remembered the bitter truth. Even now, months later, it was still odd to hear nothing come out of his mouth. He hadn't seen Slade in months. After the divorce Joey was allowed to see him a few days a year, and even then those meetings were quiet.
"It's your fault," Addie snapped, standing up and grabbing Slade's arm, "it's always been your fault. I'm the only one who's keeping this family sane!"
"Not at his funeral," Slade said quietly, trying to disengage himself from Addie.
People began to stare at them. His grandparents, from Addie's side, muttered darkly to one another. His father looked more menacing than ever with his missing eye.
"Am I allowed to attend my own son's funeral?"
There was something about his father's voice that startled Joey. He had always known his father as a hard, straightforward man. After the whole Jackall incident...
Joey lifted a hand to his throat and rubbed the ragged scar. Why couldn't Slade just tell them that he was a mercenary? It would have saved everyone so much grief. And Grant...Grant might not have followed in his father's footsteps.
"I don't want you here," Adeline said, "I don't want to see you."
"I want to see Grant," Slade replied, "and Joey. Let me see my sons, for once."
They looked at him. Why did they have to fight?
Dad did come to save me, Joey thought. I can't be mad at him for that.
He knew that what Slade did for a living was wrong. A part of Joey hated his father for hiding that secret. Yet Joey wanted to see the best in his father. He wanted to believe that Slade cared for him. He wanted to believe that Slade would do everything in his power to take care of him. But would he?
As Slade and Adeline continue to argue Wintergreen walked silently past the small group of mourners towards Joey.
"Will they always be fighting?" Joey asked.
Wintergreen looked at him, perplexed. Joey still struggled to sign well. Of course, Wintergreen didn't understand. Frustrated, Joey pulled out a pad of paper and scribbled down his question. It was annoying to have to write everything down.
"They may yet reconcile," Wintergreen replied quietly. "Only time will tell."
Even Wintergreen sounded shaken. If Wintergreen had come alone Joey was sure that his mother wouldn't have objected. True, Wintergreen kept Slade's secret for him, but Wintergreen was an old family friend. He cared for them all. Joey didn't respond. He merely stared at his parents, a melancholy expression crossing his face.
He hated seeing his mother break down. It only made this more unbearable.
Perhaps it was childish, but in that moment Joey wished that his parents would come back together. Joey was aware that he was the only person who held this fragile family together, despite what Addie said. He now acted as their go-between.
What will it take? Joey asked himself. What will it take to bring us back together, besides a death?
Tears stung his eyes. Why did Grant have to die? Why did he leave him like that? He was always the one Slade liked best. Joey didn't know how to connect with his father.
He grabbed both of their arms. Both of them angrily glanced down at him, although their expressions softened when they saw who it was. Joey wanted nothing more than to tell them to stop, but he couldn't. His throat constricted as his tears intensified in frustration. It had been hard to speak up before, but now it was impossible. Tears fell down his cheeks.
What if Slade really did care for Grant? What if Slade secretly wished that it had been Joey, and not Grant, who died?
"Joseph?" Slade looked surprised to see him.
Joey let go of them and stood there crying.
"Stop it," he signed, his fingers trembling. "Please don't fight. Grant wouldn't want you to fight."
"What did he say?" Slade asked, turning to Adeline. "Addie, what did he say?"
To Joey's great surprise his mother broke down completely. His father moved first. Slade placed his hands on Adeline's shoulders and drew her close to him.
"Shh...Addie, it's ok..." Slade said softly.
She buried her face into his chest and wept. Slade cradled her in his arms, whispering something in her ear. Joey had never seen his father act so tenderly towards his mother. Perhaps it was because he had seen so much hate between them lately that it came as a shock to see them like this. After a minute she pulled away from him.
"I still hate you."
"I still care very much for you."
Before Joey could move Slade pulled him into a tight hug.
"Joseph," Slade said, "don't ever follow in my footsteps."
Instead of feeling comforted, Joey felt more panicked than ever. With his arms pinned, he wasn't able to say anything. Then again, did he need to say anything? His panic died down as he accepted the hug.
"I shouldn't have to attend my child's funeral," Slade said softly. "And I don't ever want to attend yours."
In that moment Joey understood. His grief, while painful, was nothing compared to the pain his parents felt. Although Slade didn't cry he held Joey close to him, as though afraid to lose him as well. Together, in silence, his broken family grieved. Joey only wished that they could come back together through something other than tragedy.
But perhaps, as Wintergreen said, they would all heal with time.