Somebody's Daughter

by Rachel Ehrlich

Author's Note: This story takes place immediately after "Unfinished Sympathy".

"Joe!"

Donna ran out to greet them as they pulled up at the driveway of her farm. The car had barely come to a halt before he was out and wrapped in her enthusiastic embrace, which he returned in full. "Dick called last week and told me what happened; I can't believe you've been gone since before the Titans went to New Chronus! It's been so long -- Lord, the endless days you must have spent wondering why none of us were looking for you!" She wiped the tears from her eyes and smiled. "Look at us, blubbering like a couple of children! You'd think Titans were made of sterner stuff."

She held out her hand to Jessica as she approached. "Hi, I'm Donna Troy-Long. You must be Dr. Cassel."

"Please, call me Jessica," she smiled, taking Donna's hand.

"Come on inside, both of you," Donna urged, tugging at Joseph's sleeve. "There's so much to tell you about, and I have to show off our new farmhouse, too." They moved toward the door, nearly colliding with Terry as he came out.

"Last chance to add something, honey," he said to Donna, waving a list in the air.

She grinned. "I'm sure I got everything this time. Terry, you've met Joe; this is Jessica Cassel. Jessica, this is my husband, Terry."

"Pleased to meet you," Terry said, sticking out his hand. Jessica stared at it, unsure of what she should do; finally, she decided to shake his hand, albeit very briefly. Hopefully her face hadn't betrayed her ambivalence to Terry, who might mistake her religious restrictions as personal dislike.

Apparently it hadn't, and he left for the store just as cheerfully as he had greeted them. Donna ushered them into the living room and settled herself in one corner of the couch, gesturing for them to sit wherever they chose. Jessica picked an overstuffed armchair while Joseph took the other end of the couch, giving Donna room to put her feet up after slipping off her shoes.

She immediately launched into the dramatic tale of Phoebe's arrival at the Tower, which led to the Titans going off into space in search of Donna's origins. Jessica listened in astonishment to the descriptions of powerful aliens posing as gods, their adopted alien children -- of which Donna was one, vicious space battles, and how Raven's mysterious soul-self had provided the setting for final showdown with the mad Sparta.

Upon returning to earth, Donna took the codename Troia to reflect her array of new powers and things returned to normal -- or as normal as they could be, given the Titans' line of work. Even the battle with Scourge's creatures that nearly resulted in Raven's permanent conversion was just more of the same; loathe as she was to admit it, the Titans were getting a little over-confident in their ability to come out ahead in the end.

All that changed, of course, with the Wildebeest attack. So many Titans were dead or injured by the end of the battle that she knew things would never be the same again. The apparent loss of both Joe and Raven had been a serious blow to the team, moreso than the other losses, for now the Titans had no one to speak up for peaceful solutions and moderate the more aggressive tendencies of the other members -- and, unfortunately, it showed.

The melancholy reminiscence had an obvious effect on Joseph, who appeared increasingly more depressed as the saga wore on. Donna slid over to his end of the couch and hugged him sympathetically. "You miss Raven, too, I know," she confided. "You two were always close; I even tried to get you together right before the whole Wildebeest disaster, although I guess that wasn't really you."

'What??' he gasped, staring in disbelief at Donna.

She blushed. "I know, I know -- Terry always teased me for being a busybody whenever I tried to play matchmaker, but you would have been wonderful together, and you know it."

To her amazement, Joseph laughed. 'Of course I loved Raven,' he chuckled, 'but as the sister I never had, nothing more. In any event, your work is done; I'm already engaged,' he added with a meaningful look at Jessica, who smiled in return.

"Oh, that's wonderful!" Donna exclaimed, hugging him again before bounding off the couch to hug Jessica. "I'm so happy for you both! Do you need any help with the wedding? I have plenty of time, now that every waking moment isn't spent on some Titans' mission! Hopefully the fact that we're all retired from the team will mean that your wedding will go much more smoothly than Dick's did."

'Dick got married??' he asked, stunned.

Donna looked surprised. "He didn't tell you?" She thought about it for a moment. "Well, no, I guess he wouldn't have," she sighed. "It was a disaster; even Kory had doubts. Dick -- he's had a really tough time of it lately, and I think he was under the impression that marrying Kory would calm things down.

And maybe it would have, if they'd been given half a chance, but the wedding was interrupted by -- by your typical Titans ambush, and Kory was injured, and then... well, things just kept going downhill from there. Kory went off to Tamaran, Gar and Vic joined her, Dick moved to Blüdhaven to become another Batman, Leonid decided to quit, and I had already quit long before. Which left Arsenal -- Roy Harper, he's no longer 'Speedy' -- to lead no one. He managed to get a whole new team, kids about the same age Dick and I were when we first became the Teen Titans. I hope it works out for him, but some of the kids aren't exactly team players, especially Ro --"

A wail from the back room grabbed her attention. "My life has changed a lot more than just by finding out who I am and quitting the Titans," she grinned, beckoning them to join her. She led them back to the nursery and lifted a crying baby boy from his cradle, rocking him gently while cooing lullabies.

"Robert's always a little cranky when he first wakes up from his nap," she explained, handing him to Joseph. Robert settled down instantly in Joseph's arms, grabbing a fistful of curly blonde hair and trying to stuff it in his mouth. Joseph deftly extricated his hair from the child's iron grip and quickly substituted a pacifier, which Robert found equally acceptable.

"I had no idea you were so good with kids, Joe -- not that I'm surprised," Donna teased, glancing at Jessica. "Legend has it that there's nothing he can't do," she added in a stage whisper. Joseph rolled his eyes and shook his head, laughing.

He handed Robert back to her. 'I got plenty of practice growing up. There was always someone at Searchers, Inc. who needed child care, and I ended up being the default babysitter more often than not.'

"What's his full name?" Jessica asked as Donna changed Robert's diaper.

"Robert Troy Long," she replied. "It was kind of silly for me to want the 'Troy' in there, since my mother's surname was Hinkley and my adopted mother's surname was Stacey, but Terry thought I should, and it fits nicely."

"That's all?" Clearly, Jessica had expected something more, but Donna had no idea what. "Jews have two names, their given name and their Hebrew name," Jessica explained. "My given name is Jessica Rae Cassel, but my Hebrew name, which is more important, is Rahav Miriam bat Chaya. I was wondering if Robert had an equivalent name."

Donna shook her head. "Terry's a non-practicing Christian, and I'm -- well, I suppose I'd have to be classified as a pagan, having been raised by the ancient Greek gods. I made do with being only 'Troia' all during my childhood, so I guess I never felt the need for multiple names." That led her to the twisted tale of Robert's accelerated birth and the battle with his future self, Lord Chaos. After letting the full extent of her powers get the better of her common sense, she had begged the Titans of Myth to divest her and her infant son of all powers, making them normal humans once again.

'All of them?' Joseph asked, shocked. 'You have no powers at all now?'

"Can't really say I miss them," she replied lightly, leading them back out to the living room. "Sure, there are days when I'm stuck in traffic and I wish I could still glide, but then I remember that millions of people live their whole lives without any fancy powers, and they do just fine. And so will I."

'I would never give up my powers,' Joseph admitted as he sat down on the couch again. 'With all the enemies my parents have, and all the ones I made as a Titan, sometimes I feel like they're my only defense. And after what I've just been through, I already feel too vulnerable as it is.'

The doorbell interrupted any reply Donna may have had. She glanced nervously at her watch, and then over at the door. "Oh dear, I haven't had time to prepare you yet," she whispered. Handing Robert to Jessica, she went to open the door, Joseph right behind her.

The sullen teenage girl who stood there was staring resolutely down at her feet, hands thrust deep into her jacket pockets, her long white hair shielding her features. She made no move to look up even when Donna opened the door and invited her in.

"Why am I here again?" she demanded, still studying her shoes. "Did the Titans finally get sick of me, too?"

"Of course not, Rose," Donna told her. "I asked Roy to let you come here --"

"Then ask him to let me leave," Rose snarled at her, finally looking up to reveal eyes nearly as pale as her hair, as well as a nasty scar across her cheek. "I don't want to be here and I don't want you playing mommy with me; you already have a kid, and I already have a mom. Just leave me alone."

Donna sighed and decided the direct approach would be the best. "Rose, I asked you to be here because I thought you might like to meet your brother, Joseph."

Rose stared at Joseph in shocked silence. She made no move to return his spontaneous hug, or even to say hello. Her reticence didn't seem to bother him; after all, he'd been given advance notice of her existence, but she had received no such warning.

'Dad never mentioned you,' he signed. 'Where have you been living all this time? I don't think I've ever met you before, anywhere.'

Rose glared at Donna, clearly irritated by the revelation. "I don't understand sign language, thank you for asking."

"He asked where you've lived until now," Donna translated. "Slade never mentioned you to him, so he didn't know he had a sister any more than you knew you had a brother."

"Half-brother," Rose corrected her. "I lived with my mother, Lillian Worth. I would have lived with her even if my father had any interest in my existence, which he didn't. But that's fine, you know? No problem. He wants nothing to do with me, and I want nothing to do with him -- directly or indirectly."

Joseph glanced over at Donna, who raised her eyebrows helplessly. Rose's anger at her father was well-known to those who had been in her presence these past few months. Donna had hoped that anger wouldn't extend to Joseph, but apparently it did, and she had no idea what to do about it. She remembered when she'd found her adopted mother after all those years alone, and how happy she'd been to have family, including step-siblings. Obviously Rose didn't feel the same way -- at least, not yet.

'I know how you feel,' he conceded. 'He wasn't the greatest father for me or Grant, either, and he was even married to my mother. But not being a good father doesn't make him a bad man.'

"Really?" Rose asked icily. "Exactly what sort of good man turns his back on his daughter after her mother has just been killed because of him?"

'I'm sorry,' he apologized. 'I didn't know your mother had died. But that makes his actions more understandable. You have to realize he's only trying to protect you when he distances himself like that. He knows what sort of enemies he's made, and he doesn't want them using you as a means to get at him, like what was done to me when I was a child. He doesn't know how to keep you safe and keep you close, so he chose safety.'

"Well, he was too damn late to protect me -- or mom!" she snapped.

He shrugged helplessly. 'Everyone makes mistakes, Rose. He's only human.'

Donna interrupted whatever scathing reply Rose was preparing. "Everyone, let's sit down, OK? You too, Rose." She pulled the reluctant girl inside and closed the door. Rose dropped into an armchair next to Jessica while Joseph returned to the couch, looking pensive. Donna motioned to Jessica that she was going into the kitchen to make lunch, which Jessica understood to mean that she was to take over as moderator.

"Rose, did your mother Lillian also dislike Slade?" she asked casually.

Rose glanced at her suspiciously. "No," she finally admitted.

Jessica nodded to herself. "Perhaps you might honor your mother, then, by also liking him, since to not like him is to imply that your mother's decision was wrong."

"Mom wouldn't like him now," Rose countered caustically. "Not after I got shot and she got killed because of him."

"What happened, if I may ask?"

Minutes passed in silence as Rose pondered her request. Finally she spoke, in a soft voice that betrayed her inner pain. "I was kidnapped by some masked lunatic in tights and chainmail. He called himself the Ravager, and kept ranting about Deathstroke the Terminator and how he was going to get even after all these years. I didn't know what the hell he was talking about -- I didn't even know who my father was at that point -- but he was dragging me all over creation, up in some snowy mountain region, and I was really angry. It was all well and good for him; he had his stupid thigh-high skull boots, but I was wearing jeans and sneakers, and it was really cold, and I was really wet. I tried to get away, and he shot me in the arm. That's when mom and Wintergreen found us, and mom..."

She bit her lip, took a couple of deep, ragged breaths, and continued in a rapid monotone. "Mom tried to run the bastard over, but he was really fast; he dodged, and her Jeep went over the cliff. That's when I just lost it. I grabbed the gun he'd dropped and shot him, and kept shooting until he went over the edge, too -- but he was holding on to a bush, so I shot his hand off and he fell, and he'd better be dead. Wintergreen said he must be."

Joseph had been paying very close attention to the tale, and as Rose finished speaking, he signed, 'My brother -- our brother -- Grant tried to be a mercenary, right before he died. His costume and codename match that description, but he's been dead for years.'

"I don't know any 'Grant'," Rose told him after Jessica translated for her. "This bozo's name was Wade DeFarge." Joseph froze, and Rose pounced on his reaction. "You know him! Who the hell is he? Why did he attack me?"

'I thought he was dead... he's our uncle -- unfortunately,' he told her. 'Dad's half-brother. We were on vacation in Switzerland. I don't remember where mom or dad were; Wade was with us -- with Grant and me. He scared me; he seemed very intense. He and Grant started to argue, I don't remember why, and then he hit Grant. I was too young to bother with, but he kept hitting Grant, and I couldn't get him to stop. I don't really know what happened next; there was glass all over, and mom and dad were there again, and everyone was fighting. Dad and Wade were shooting at each other, and then Frannie -- Wade's mother -- shot him and he fell out the window, into the ravine. We never saw him again after that... although it wasn't much longer before my parents divorced, so I never really knew if he was dead or if mom just didn't want to have anything to do with dad's family.

'Years later, mom told me that Wade hated everything about his brother, and blamed him for anything that went wrong in his own life. I guess that's why he attacked you; he thought dad knew you were his daughter, so that attacking you would be a way to hurt dad.'

"He knew," Rose whispered. "That bastard knew I was his niece, and that's why he targeted me." Something clicked, and she stared at Joseph. "But -- that means he would have targeted you, too, if he'd have known you were still alive." She shook her head. "Some family we've got, huh?"

'How did you -- and Wade -- know that I was considered dead?' he asked.

"Everyone knows how Deathstroke killed his own son," she scoffed. "Liz Alderman made sure everyone knew. Mom got really quiet when she heard about that," she added thoughtfully, realizing for the first time why her mother had been upset. That could have been me.

Joseph made no response, absently staring at the carpet near Jessica's feet. "Well?" Rose prodded, prompting him to look up at her. "Doesn't it bother you, knowing that our wonderful, loving father was all too willing to kill you like a rabid dog?"

'It wasn't me,' he protested.

"He didn't know that," she countered.

He shrugged dismissively. 'He did what he had to do. Nightwing told me the details; dad had good reason for acting as he did.'

"Damn you, why do you always do that?" Rose yelled, pushing herself to her feet in her fury. "No matter what he does, you have some ready excuse for him! Why? Do you honestly forgive him for getting your throat slashed? Would you make up some apology for his actions if he got your mom killed? Why can't you just admit your dad is the scum of the earth, when everyone else already knows it?"

His glare matched hers in the strength of his anger, but unlike her, he refused to vent it. He closed his eyes, forcing himself to calm the raging emotions that fought for expression. When at last he looked at her again, only resignation was visible in his eyes. 'What would you have me do, Rose? Of course it bothers me; how could it not? No, I don't like what I have for a father, but I realized a long time ago that there was nothing I could do about it. He wouldn't change his ways to keep the family he professed to love intact, so why would he change just because his son disapproves?

'Do you want me to get angry at him? What good would that do me? He would still be what he is, and I would be deprived of what minimal contact I have with him now. As much as I dislike what he is, I still want to have a father in my life. So I make a conscious effort to ignore most of what he does, in order to have what little I can of this... mockery... of a family.'

Stunned by the bitterness that needed no translation to be clearly understood, Rose sank onto the couch, plagued by self-doubt for the first time. Did she really have the right to hate her father so virulently, when he hadn't done half the things to her that he'd done to Joseph? It wasn't as though he had callously wanted her hurt, or her mother killed; he hadn't even known she was his daughter. How could she blame him for what her mother had seen fit to withhold? But if she didn't blame him, where was she to direct all the anger she felt inside?

Her jaw set stubbornly. No, Joseph's tale only made matters worse. Her father had screwed up royally with both of his sons, and he still hadn't learned anything when it came to dealing with her. Even the most far-fetched rationalization couldn't excuse him now. All that had changed were her feelings about Joseph; he was much less like their father, and much more like her, than she'd originally given him credit for.

Donna returned from the kitchen with a tray of sandwiches and drinks for lunch, which she set on the coffee table in front of the couch. She seemed to enjoy playing hostess, serving everyone and making certain that everything was perfect. Which made it that much more difficult for Jessica when Donna offered a sandwich to her.

She glanced quickly at Joseph, then back to Donna. "I, um..." she stammered, not certain how to politely decline what Donna had taken so much time and effort to prepare.

Donna solved her problem with a grin. "Certified kosher, 100%. Joe warned me in advance, so I raidednearest reputable kosher deli I could find." She gestured to the handwashing dishes on the table that Jessica had overlooked. "Plus, lots of Terry's friends at the university are Jewish, so we know more of the details than you'd think; we've even been to a couple of Passover seders."

Jessica smiled in obvious relief. "Thank you so much, Donna; you're so kind to go to all this effort just for me."

Donna shook her head. "No problem; everyone in the Titans is part of one big family, and you always go out of your way for family," she stressed, looking pointedly at Rose. Taking Robert out of Jessica's lap, she settled into the chair that Rose had vacated and discreetly nursed her son.

The conversation had died with the arrival of the food, but after several minutes of contemplative silence, Jessica spoke as though no interruption had occurred. "Rose, whatever you feel about your father, and however he feels about you, at least your mother wanted you. Don't ever underestimate how important that is. My parents already had two daughters, and like many families, they wanted a son. Instead, they got me. They never had to say anything for me to know that I was disappointment to them; they never quite managed to hide it well enough. Everything I've ever done in my life, including going to medical school, was an attempt to make up for that, to show my parents that they didn't have to be sorry that I was female. I'll never admit it to them, but deep down, I... I resent them. I resent the implication that I wasn't good enough when my sisters were, that somehow I'd be perfect if only I'd been born male. Because it's nothing I can change; I can never be what they want. And they'll never settle for accepting me as I am."

"Be glad you had your mother at all," Donna added. "My birth mother died of cancer when I was still an infant, and my adopted mother was forced to give me up as a toddler. I didn't know anything about any of my family until very recently, when Dick helped me find my birth mother's identity as well as my adopted mother's current address. I finally had a history, and step-siblings, and then even more recently, I found out that I'd been raised by the Titans of Myth on the planet New Chronus, and so I have yet another family out in space. And as thrilled as I am to have them all now, I still miss what I never had as a child: the love of my mother. You had that, Rose, and to be honest, I envy you for it."

"Stop it!" Rose sobbed, bursting into tears. "Oh god... is this what you wanted to see, then? Here it is, my weakness! I hope you're happy."

Joseph sat next to her and hugged her, and this time, she reciprocated. 'Rose, loving someone is never a weakness, even when it hurts.'

"I want my mommy," she wailed, sounding every bit as young and frightened as she really was.

'Cry for her,' he urged, rocking her gently. 'It will help you deal with your loss.'

"And it will let your mother know how keenly she is missed," Jessica added.

Rose wiped her eyes and looked at Jessica. "Do you believe in Heaven?"

"Of course," she replied, "though not quite the way Christians do. For Jews, all righteous people go to Heaven, whether Jewish or not. Even good people who have made some unfortunate mistakes, like your brother Grant, eventually end up there."

"Even prostitutes?" Rose asked quietly.

"Especially prostitutes," she smiled. "When the Children of Israel first came to the Promised Land, they had a long, hard road ahead of them. Before they could enter the Holy Land, they had to capture the walled fortress city of Jericho -- an impossible task, for a small tribe of desert nomads. But Rahav the prostitute, a Canaanite woman who had heard the Word of God, chose to help the Israelites capture her city. She told them that her people feared the Lord too much to put up much of a fight, and this boosted the moral of the Israelites, who then marched forth and took the city. For righteously doing the will of God, Rahav is honored to this day."

She caught the surprised look Joseph was giving her and realized for the first time what he had just learned -- that the tale could as easily have been about them as it was about a city. 'The will of HaShem be done,' she signed to him. Joseph brushed the snow-white strands of hair from his sister's face. 'You don't have to stay with the Titans if you don't want to, Rose,' he told her. 'Come live with us!'

Rose stared up at him, stunned by the offer. "I -- I can't. I would, but Sarge Steele is in charge of the Titans, and me. He won't let me; he wouldn't even let Wintergreen adopt me. I'm just another one of his tin soldiers."

Joseph laughed. 'Not if my mother has anything to say about it -- and she will. She always does.' He kissed her lightly on her forehead. 'Welcome home, little sister.'

The End

© 1999 by Rachel Ehrlich

Joseph Wilson, Rose Wilson Worth, Lillian Worth, Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, Wintergreen, Donna Troy-Long, Robert Troy Long, Terry Long, Wade DeFarge/Ravager, Sarge Steele, and the Titans © DC Comics

Dr. Jessica Cassel © Rachel Ehrlich