by Immortalwildcat, Starsky Hutch 76 and Bejammin2000
“I just don’t know, Karen. Are you sure it won’t be too much of a problem?”
“Alfred already took it into consideration when we drew up the guest list, Joan. Jay and Dick have been friends for over forty years, and Jay was one of the first to really welcome me into the JSA. I’m not going to let a little thing like a Secret Service detail get in the way of that.”
“I’ll tell Jay that it’s settled, then. Thank you so much, Karen.”
As Joan Garrick hung up the phone, she turned to her husband, who was reviewing a position paper in his easy chair. “Better let Cameron know that she needs to buy a formal dress. Karen says that they already planned on us attending, and the Service team is invited as well.”
“Well, I’ll be doggoned. Leave it to Dick to think of that.” Jay Garrick, the U.S. presidential candidate formerly known as the Flash, ran a hand through his graying brown hair. I’ll let her know after I’m done with this.”
Joan went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. As she went, she wondered to herself if the chief of the Secret Service detail assigned to her husband even owned a dress.
“Look, Steel, you’ve got to do something. This is going to be insane, trying to protect him at an event like this.” Cameron Chase was practically shouting into the phone.
“Now calm down, it’s not like this is the first time something like this has happened. Hell, it’s safer than most of his campaign speeches, ’cause we’ll already have a guest list, and we can screen the workers as well. And I can’t wait to see you in a dress.”
“Like hell you will! I’m wearing my black suit, same as always. I’m on duty here.”
“Uh-uh-uh, sweetheart. This here is going to be a swank society wedding, and you are going to blend in. Oh, and don’t worry, I’m planning on supplying some back-up, just in case.”
“Back-up? What do you mean, back-up?”
“Oh, sorry, Cam, the other line is blinking. Gotta go.” Hank Heywood, known by his code name Steel, hung up the phone and leaned back in his chair in his DEO office. “Yes, I think this will be just the assignment for young Nemesis.”
“This is great. Really great. Just great,” Dick Grayson said as he sat in the booth of the Italian restaurant. Next to him sat his fiancée, Karen Starr. Across from him was his old friend from law school, Maury Levine, and his daughter, Rachel. Dick couldn’t get over how much she looked like her mother, another Rachel he had known and loved years ago.
“It really feels like old times, doesn’t it?” Maury said, smiling.
“It does,” Dick said. “Especially considering how much Rachel here looks like her mother. I swear, I feel like I’ve gone back in time and I’m sitting across from her again.”
A worried look crossed Karen Starr’s face that went unnoticed by Dick but not by Rachel. “You and my mother were very good friends, weren’t you, Mr. Grayson?” Rachel said.
“Very,” Dick said soberly, with a contemplative look. He suddenly seemed to snap back to the present. “But the better man won out in the end,” he said, gesturing toward Maury. “And many years later, so did I when I found my own true love.” He took Karen’s hand with those last few words, and she gave a half-smile accompanied with a quiet snort as if to say she didn’t quite buy it.
Dick suddenly found himself feeling very self-conscious. Sitting across from Rachel, he found himself under a studying gaze. She almost seemed to be judging him. He supposed that was due to her being the child of two lawyers.
Rachel Levine was doing her best to hide her shock and disappointment at the man she had recently discovered to be her biological father. She had called in every favor she had to be able to spend an extended period in Gotham City to get to know him, and now she regretted it. The only thing about him that she would describe as impressive was the apparent quality of work of his cosmetic surgeon, whom he surely had on speed dial. There was none of the usual over-tightness of skin found in face-lift recipients who usually just looked like old people who had work done. Whoever he had used had somehow managed to make him look genuinely youthful in time for a wedding to someone young enough to be his daughter. She found herself wishing once again that she had never discovered the truth and still believed that Maury Levine, who was at least growing old with dignity, was her biological father and not this aging fop.
Even the usually gracious Maury had exclaimed, “Gottenyu! Now he’s gone and dyed his hair! That just leaves the sports car, and his mid-life crisis will be complete.”
“Don’t you drive a sports car?” she had teased.
“Bite your tongue, girly.”
“So, how long will you be in town for?” Karen asked, snapping her out of her contemplation. “You’ll be able to attend the wedding, won’t you?”
“We’ll be here a little over a month,” Maury said. “Now that Rachel’s dance company is doing an extended tour here, I’m taking a leave of absence to keep her company. I needed the time off. Hopefully, she doesn’t mind having an old man hanging around cramping her style in a city like Gotham.”
“Me cramp your style?” Rachel laughed and turned to Dick and Karen. “One of the things that made Dad the best entertainment lawyer was that he was the only one at his firm that could keep up with all those wild showbiz types.”
“Sounds like the Maury I remember,” Dick said smiling.
“I’ll have to get with your friends in your company to plan something special, since we’ll be here for your birthday,” Maury said with a smile of his own.
“Oh, you’ve got a birthday coming up?” Dick asked.
A look of concern crossed Maury’s face that both Dick and Karen found puzzling.
“Yes, I’ll be twenty-eight,” Rachel said.
“Twenty-eight?” Dick said. “You couldn’t be twenty-eight. Maury and your mother were married in ’60. For you to be twenty-eight, you’d have to have been born in ’59, and that’s when Rachel and I were still dating.”
“No,” Rachel said coldly. “That’s about nine months after you broke it off.”
A look of horror crossed Dick and Karen’s faces. “Y-you…?”
“Bin-go,” Rachel said in a melodic voice as Maury let out a sad sigh.
Later that evening, Karen Starr walked into the study of Wayne Manor and found Dick Grayson slumped in his favorite large leather chair. In his hand, he held a glass tumbler full of whiskey. Since he wasn’t much of a drinker, it was an alarming sight to her.
“That isn’t going to solve anything,” she said.
“Some things are beyond solving,” he grumbled, lifting the tumbler to his mouth. “Even for people like us.”
“If it’s bothering you this much, have a blood test done,” Karen said.
“I don’t need to. She’s telling the truth.”
“You don’t know that!”
“One, Rachel has no reason to lie. She wouldn’t be in it for the money. I’m Bruce Wayne’s ward, not his son and heir. I’m only living in this place because Helena’s all right with it. If Rachel wanted money, Maury’s loaded. Two, I can just look at her and tell.”
“All her looks say is that she’s her mother’s daughter,” Karen said.
“She has my mother’s eyes,” Dick said. “It’s been nearly fifty years since I last saw them, but I’ve never forgotten.”
“You’re seeing what you want to see,” Karen sniffed. “Because you want to believe that this lost love gave you the one thing I cannot.”
“Oh, Kara,” Dick said. “That’s not it at all. I’ve never for once believed I would be missing out on anything by marrying you. More than anything, I want to spend my life with you.”
“Then why did you take so long to set a date?” she asked.
“Why did you never bring it up?” he retorted. “You can’t answer that, either. We did what we did. Probably because we had become comfortable with the way things were, and we were afraid to change them. If Maury hadn’t shown up in the park when he did, who knows how long we would have dragged things out?”
“Boy, the Levines have really done a number on us,” Karen said, kneeling down by the side of his chair.
“Yeah,” he said, reaching over to stroke her hair. “Makes you wonder what’ll happen next.”
“Oh, God, don’t say that,” Karen said, laughing ruefully.
“You know, we don’t know for certain that you and I…”
“Clark and Lois were married for years and years without a baby,” Karen said, cutting him off. “It took a boon from Odin to finally make it happen.”
“If I were so anxious to start a family, don’t you think I would have started about, oh, I don’t know, thirty years ago?” Dick laughed. “This is just a surprise. One hell of a surprise. It’s obviously something that’s pretty important to you, though, judging from your reaction.”
“Well, yeah,” Karen said, “Just because I’ve always been independent, people have thought things like this didn’t mean anything to me. I’ve always thought I’d like to be a mother someday, though. Especially when I watch Lois with Mary. Over time, I’ve just come to accept that it’s something that will never happen for me, since every male with compatible DNA in the world is a cousin!”
“You know, last I checked, you and I still had boons, too,” Dick said.
“I’ve thought about that,” Dick replied. “I don’t think it was from Helena or me. Since Batman is still dead and Gotham hasn’t become some crime-free utopia, I think Bruce used his boon to heal Alfred of his Alzheimer’s in return for all those faithful years of service.”
“Maybe,” Karen said in a voice that said she wasn’t going to get her hopes up.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about Rachel, anyway,” Dick said, taking another swig of whiskey.
“Did you see the way she looked at me?” Dick sighed. “She sees me the way the rest of Gotham sees Dick Grayson: as an old man desperately clinging to youth when it’s really the other way around. She thinks I’m a joke.”
“If she can’t see how wonderful you really are, then she doesn’t deserve you,” Karen said, leaning up to wrap her arms around him.
“I’m glad you feel that way,” Dick said, sighing sadly once more. “But how can I make up for lost time if she doesn’t even want to give me a chance?”
“Agent Chase, thanks for coming. I figured you’d want to take a look at this,” Agent Vynsen said, opening the door for the head of presidential candidate Garrick.
“What is it?” Agent Chase asked. It was early, but not too early. Still, it wasn’t enjoyable, as it were.
“Since Mr. Garrick is adamant on going to the wedding of Mr. Grayson and Ms. Starr, we figured we get a list of the wedding guests and do a background check. Mr. Beagle was fairly gracious in lending it to us.” Agent Vynsen then pulled down a screen and turned on a projector. It showed a map of the United States with several dozen red flags all over.
“Wow. That many?”
“Uh, no. That’s all from one name that we ran through the system.” Vynsen then switched to a picture. It was a young man, perhaps only sixteen, dressed in — there probably wasn’t a word in the English language that described how bad his clothing was. It was as if all the fashions from the ’70s had fallen on this man. His hair was even worse.
“Ew. I’m think I’m having a flashback,” Chase said. She hadn’t ever thought until now that seeing something like that would cause her to nearly lose her appetite, but it was.
“Sixteen years old. Bartholemew Lash the Third,” Vynsen said. “At the time, he was calling himself Barry. Caught holding rigged games of three card monte in the school parking lot. Three years later, he started adding illegal gambling to his repertoire. Lately, for the past four or five years, he’s also added concealed weapons to it, as well.”
“Now, why would a hustler be going to a high society wedding?” Chase had to ask. This didn’t really add up.
“Oh, that. Seems he’s Helena Wayne’s new beau, or so the rumor claims. They’ve been seen on what appears to be casual outings, and they share a townhouse,” Vynsen finished.
“That’s it? Hmm… I’ll have to keep an eye on him. I don’t like loose cannons.”