by Starsky Hutch 76
“They really were something, weren’t they?” Dick Grayson said to the young woman in his study as they stood before the large portrait of the Flying Graysons.
“Yeah, they were,” she said. “Hard to believe they were my grandparents.” Rachel Levine pointed to the youth in the background behind them, launching himself from the platform as he hung from the trapeze. His eyes were on his mother as she reached for the outstretched hands of her husband, who hung from a trapeze by his legs. “Is that you?”
“Yeah, that’s me,” Dick said sheepishly.
“My God!” she exclaimed. “How old were you? Eight? Nine? They let you go up there when you were that small?”
“Well, not without a net,” Dick chuckled. His laughter suddenly stopped, and a sad, thoughtful expression came onto his face.
Rachel was surprised by his sudden change of demeanor until it hit her. His parents had been working without a net the night they died. That was why he had been on the ground to witness their deaths instead of up there with them, sharing their fate. Dick Grayson already looked extremely young for his age, but at this moment, in his face, she could see the boy who had so tragically lost his parents.
“I’m sorry,” Rachel said. “I didn’t mean to make you relive that.”
“You have nothing to apologize for,” Dick said. “If I wanted to forget them, do you think I would have that enormous portrait hanging in my study?”
“I can’t even imagine what that must have been like for you,” Rachel said. “When…” she paused to take a deep breath and compose herself, “…when my mother died, it was cancer. She was in so much pain that we actually felt it was a blessing when she finally passed on. Your parents were in the prime of life, and in this painting they’re here as veritable textbook examples of the joy of living.”
“That they were,” Dick said hoarsely. “Your grandparents lived life to the fullest, and they put on one hell of a show.”
My grandparents, Rachel thought to herself, contemplating how weird it felt to think of anyone other than the people she had come to know as her grandparents in that role.
“They were pretty much the circus’s main attraction,” Dick continued. “That’s why Boss Zucco chose them to take out when the circus wouldn’t give in to his extortion.”
Rachel felt a sudden sense of anger toward this old gangster, a feeling of resentment that he had cheated her out of ever getting to know these incredible people who had been her biological paternal grandparents.
Almost as if he had been reading her thoughts, Dick added, “I wish you could have known them. You and Karen.”
Rachel frowned at the name of Dick’s future bride. “Not to be blunt — I’m sure Karen is a wonderful person and all — but why is it that you could marry her and not my mother?”
“I… it… it’s taken a long time for me to get to the point where I could marry anybody,” Dick said. “I think, deep down, I was afraid to commit to anybody out of fear that they would be taken away from me, too.”
Rachel looked at the painting and said, “I understand.”
“Believe me, if I had known that she was carrying our child, I would have made every effort to put all that behind me and do the right thing by the two of you.”
“She said in her journal that she didn’t want that,” stated Rachel. “She didn’t want to be in a marriage where the husband was only there because she got pregnant and not there out of love, just feeling trapped and resentful. She didn’t want to raise me in that kind of environment.”
“But I did love her. Truly and deeply. It nearly killed me when she left. I spent a long time cursing myself for a fool, condemning myself because I couldn’t give this beautiful, wonderful, incredible woman the kind of devotion she deserved. If only I had known she was carrying you. It kills me to think of all the times in your life I missed — times when I should have been there for you.”
“I had my father — Maury,” Rachel said.
“I know you did,” Dick said. “He’s a good man. He was a good friend. Though deep down, I knew he was in love with Rachel, too, even if he never said anything.”
“He made her happy,” the younger Rachel said. Dick’s expression said he wasn’t entirely sure he believed it. “He did! She said as much in her journal. It wasn’t a great, passionate relationship, but he made her laugh and feel good about herself. She came to love him a great deal. There was a peace and contentment there, if not a great romance.”
“Some might say that the great romance is something we should all strive for,” Dick said sadly.
“If you can say that, then why didn’t you?” Rachel asked.
“It’s like I told you — I wasn’t capable of it back then. It took a long time for me to realize that. There were… circumstances that forced me that realization upon me. The Crisis made me realize how fragile life was, so that’s when I took a chance with Karen. Another close call made me finally propose to her. Even then, we might have stayed perpetually engaged. Ironically, it was speaking with Maury and hearing about his life with your mother that finally made me set a date. It made me realize how much I had missed, or at least I thought I did, until that dinner with the two of you.”
A few seconds of uncomfortable silence passed until Dick broke it. “I didn’t get the chance to do right by you all those years ago. I hope you’ll give me the chance now.”
“Y-yeah, sure,” Rachel said. “I mean, yes, of course I will. I want us to have the chance to get to know one another.”
“Great,” Dick said smiling. “Thank you for that. And there’s really no need for you and Maury to stay in a hotel. There’s plenty of room here at Wayne Manor.”
“Are you sure?!” Rachel exclaimed. “You’re planning a wedding.”
“If I have to tell a couple of the boorish, snooty Wayne cousins that there’s no room at the inn, all the better.”
This drew a laugh from Rachel. “OK,” she agreed. “I’ll discuss it with Maury.” She was confident the man she had always thought of as her father would agree. He would even put on a happy front when he did. A part of her worried, though. How he would truly feel about it was another matter, and the last thing she wanted to do was hurt him.
Power Girl was nearly in tears as she flew toward Smallville. She hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but with her super-hearing she had overheard Dick’s talk with Rachel, all his regrets, and all his past heartache.
She had never fooled herself into believing she was the only woman he had ever had in his life. Old girlfriends she could live with. That she was somehow second choice, that he could have wanted a life with someone else, that was what tore her up inside.
She couldn’t keep her feelings bottled up inside anymore, but she couldn’t talk to Dick about how she was feeling. Normally, Helena would be the one she would confide in, but she had so much going on in her own life with the adoption she was trying to make happen, not to mention her budding relationship with Bat Lash (which she would never understand). Kal would be willing to offer a sympathetic ear, but he was still a man and could never understand what she was going through. That left Lois.
When Karen had first arrived on Earth, their relationship had been of the strained stepmother/stepdaughter variety. Over the years it had warmed up, but the real transformation didn’t take place until after the Crisis and the boon from Odin. Whatever Odin had done had greatly invigorated the older woman to prepare her for motherhood. The only signs left that she might be older than she appeared were the leftover streaks of silver in her hair. Her increased youthfulness had affected her behavior as well. She had become more active at home and at the Smallville Gazette, taken to new hobbies such as jogging, racquetball, and aerobics, and had begun to dress in a more modern and stylish fashion. All this seemed to make her the perfect example of the old saying, “You’re only as old as you feel.”
Power Girl touched down on the Kent farm, walked up to the front porch of the farmhouse, and rang the doorbell. Lois Lane Kent opened the door, saw her troubled expression, and said, “Hi, Kara. It’s not another crisis, is it? Because Clark’s not here.”
“That’s OK,” Kara said. “I didn’t come to see him.”
“Ah,” Lois said, nodding knowingly. “Sounds like it’s a crisis, just not a JSA-type crisis. Come on in. C.J. and Jenny are inside helping Mary practice for being a flower girl.”
“Jenny Olsen?” Powergirl asked.
“Yes. There aren’t too many who know the family secrets that we could get to help. Plus, I get the feeling that she doesn’t mind the extra time with C.J. too much.”
That made Kara break into a grin despite herself. The two of them walked into the living room, where Jenny and C.J. were struggling with a very stubborn two-year-old. Karen had to stifle a grin when she saw that Jenny Olsen had a white lace napkin pinned to her red hair in a makeshift bridal veil. Obviously, she had been playing the role of bride to C.J.’s makeshift groom.
“I don’ wanna be fwowah-girl!” Mary said loudly, shocking Kara.
“You’ve gotta!” C.J. said. “It’s already been decided. It’s for your Auntie Kara’s wedding!”
“I don’ wanna be fwowah-guh! I wanna be Supah-guh!” Mary said. Kara felt a sudden sense of relief at the misunderstanding.
“You will be Supergirl someday,” Jenny said. “But we need you to be flower girl for your Aunt Karen’s wedding.”
“Fwowah-guh for two weddings?” Mary asked.
“Two weddings?” Jenny said, wrinkling her freckled nose in confusion.
“Auntie Kara’s an’ dis one,” Mary said, pointing to C.J. and Jenny. All the women in the room laughed out loud while C.J. looked horrified.
“This one?!” C.J. exclaimed. “This is just a play wedding!”
“Then I wanna pway Supuh-guh!” Mary said defiantly.
“You can’t — aargh!” C.J. exclaimed, throwing up his hands in frustration.
“This is practice, sweety,” Lois said, kneeling down to address her daughter, “so you’ll do really well for your Auntie Karen’s wedding. You want to look good when you’re being flower girl, don’t you?”
“OK,” Mary said. Her face brightened when she saw the bride-to-be in question. “Auntie Kara!” she exclaimed, literally flying into her arms with a leap. “Hello, sweety!” Kara said, catching the child.
“I was pwaying fwowah-guh for your wedding,” Mary said.
“I saw,” Kara said
“I gonna do good,” Mary said.
“I’m sure you are,” Kara said, kissing the girl on top of her head.
“So what is it that brings you here?” Lois asked.
Kara gave a quick, anxious look over at Jenny Olsen before speaking. Something about the girl’s pleasant, cute, and concerned demeanor made her decide to bring her into her confidence as well. Maybe it was because she had always liked Betty over Veronica and secretly hoped that Jenny would win the war with the pretty and popular Laurie Lemmon for C.J.’s attention. “The wedding,” Kara sighed.
“You’re not having second thoughts, are you?!” Lois exclaimed. “It seems like the two of you have been together forever now. I know you’ve only been seeing each other a few years, but so much has happened in that time.”
“I know,” Kara said sadly. “But so much has happened just recently, too. She slumped into a nearby chair and recounted everything that had happened, including overhearing the conversation between Dick and Rachel.
“Oh, my goodness,” Lois said. “That is a lot to handle.”
“So you can see where I’m coming from,” Kara said.
“Well, I can see where it would provoke such a strong reaction in you,” Lois said. “What I can’t see is where it should be allowed to prevent you and Dick from continuing to build a life together.”
“You still love him, don’t you?” Lois asked.
“Of course I do,” Kara said.
“That’s all that really matters here,” Lois said. “In any relationship, you have to accept the fact that there might be some history there before you arrived on the scene. And in this case you’re involved with a much-older man, so there’s liable to be a whole lot of history.”
“And in this case, there definitely was,” Kara sighed.
“If you truly want to be with him, you’re going to have to learn to accept this,” Lois said. “If this girl is his daughter, she has as much a right to be a part of his life as you do.”
“And that’s going to make her a part of mine,” Kara groaned. “A stepdaughter almost as old as me.”
“I don’t envy you that,” Lois said. “I’m suddenly very glad Clark and I are about the same age.”
“It wouldn’t be so bad if we at least seemed to have something in common. She’s this spoiled, arty rich girl. A dancer.”
“Is it possible you’re judging her unfairly?” Lois asked. “Sort of like you said she seemed to be doing with Dick?”
“I suppose,” Kara said. “I guess I’ll have plenty of opportunity to find out. It’s not like I can avoid getting to know her better, since Dick invited her to stay with us.”
“Oh, man,” C.J. commented from the other side of the room.
“And you’re not to say anything about this to Jason,” Kara said sternly, pointing to him.
“Wha–? He’s my best friend,” C.J. said, wide-eyed. “You want me to start keeping secrets from him?”
“Yeah, when it’s none of his business, I do,” Kara said. “I don’t need this going from his mouth to Dick’s ear. Dick has enough going on right now to not need to worry about me getting cold feet.”
“OK,” C.J. relented. “It’s not like the subject would’ve come up, anyway.”
“See that it doesn’t,” Kara said.
“OK, children. Knock it off,” Lois chided, laughing inwardly at the sibling-like roles they had taken on over time. She hoped, in time, a similar close relationship could develop for her with this Rachel Levine girl who had entered their lives.