by Hitman 44077
Central City, Thanksgiving Night, 1987:
Given that the start of the holiday season was at hand, one would naturally assume that love, peace, and joy would be filling this city as it did the rest of the world. Not this year.
A case in point was a beaten section of town, worn from the years and deemed as replaceable by current administrations. Most buildings were rotted, almost unliveable, yet they were crammed with people whose lives hadn’t worked out as best as they’d hoped for. Relegated to the background as they were, it almost seemed a chore to make it through day after day.
Tonight, however, one of those buildings burned. Flames consumed it, and its inhabitants watched as the building, their home for many years, quickly became nothing more than a fireplace from hell. From above, the sky sprinkled faint snow, but not by any means enough to aid in the slowing of the fire, only serving as a sad reminder that sometimes there were no miracles.
Firefighters soon arrived to combat the menace, but even they could tell that there was no saving the building. They set their equipment up and tried to fight the blaze, knowing it was going to be a long night. They began their efforts when Central City’s fire chief made his way to the scene. Stepping from his vehicle, he surveyed the sight, and though not completely surprised, he wasn’t quite filled with hope, either. It’s been one hell of a day — a day I’d sooner forget, he thought sadly.
Still, he had a job to do. That meant saving as many lives as possible. He approached several of the homeless, who continued watching as their home burned. “Were any of you inside when this happened?” he asked one of the disheveled men.
“No — we were at the soup kitchens nearby when this started,” the man said, rubbing his scraggly beard. “Trying to enjoy the day as best we can. But we heard these explosions — loud, almost like what you’d hear in a movie or a TV show. We ran outside and saw our home in flames.” The homeless man placed his hands against his face and wept before screaming aloud, “Why?! Why would someone do this to us?!”
“I don’t know,” the fire chief answered solemnly. “With what’s happened today, everything’s unsure.” He turned toward his men, who were working to put the fire out.
But the homeless man was wrong. There was someone inside the building. On the second floor from the top, surrounded by flames and fiery debris, was the Flash, nearly unconscious from something, possibly an attack. But what could have led to this — and how?
Slowly, the Flash began to press his hands against the floor. He struggled with all his might, barely knowing the danger he was in as his mind kept twisting and turning; something had definitely hurt the speedster. But his valiant struggle to move was destined to fail.
Got to… move… got to… he thought before collapsing to the floor, even as his barely coherent thoughts reflected not on these current events, but on his day as it began.
In the early hours of Thanksgiving morning, within Wally West’s apartment, the red-haired speedster was taking a brisk shower. As he washed his hair, he thought to himself, I’m glad Fran stayed over last night. She didn’t have to, but with the things that have happened in the last month, well, it puts a different perspective on things.
Wally adjusted the hot water dial slightly, off-setting the cold water that was slowly taking over as his thoughts continued. There’s been a sheer lack of any news on either the Brainiac front or the one-time arson, and then there was that business Hal and I dealt with on Halloween with the one and only Weather Wizard. (*) But still, it doesn’t compare to what’s happened to the guy who’s pretty much my best friend.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Flash: To Battle Brainiac and The Brave and the Bold: The Flash and Green Lantern: Party Fervor.]
Rinsing himself, he turned off the water and began drying off. It has to be taking a toll on Dick. I know it did with me. I’d heard several years ago that Earth-Two’s Batman had died. I never thought the same thing would have happened here, he thought solemnly as he started drying his hair. (*) Horribly ironic that Dick, Donna, and I would have lost three great people in the span of two years. Donna and I pulled through, and I know Dick’ll do the same.
He finished drying himself and slipped on a pair of boxer briefs. He saw his girlfriend Frances Kane yawning as he opened up the bathroom door. “Happy Thanksgiving, Wally,” she said with a tired smile before yawning once more.
“You too, Fran,” Wally said with a loving smile. “I gotta warn you, I’m out of hot water, so give it about twenty minutes before going in for yours.”
“Thanks a lot!” Fran said in mock anger. “But I forgive you.”
“You better,” Wally said sarcastically, narrowing his eyes before smiling again. “I’m kidding.” The two shared a kiss.
“I hated to ask for help with the pies, but with my civic duty today at the parade, I didn’t have much of a choice,” Wally confessed, “unless I wanted to buy frozen or from a pie store. I always preferred the homemade ones better, anyway.”
“Well, I’m glad your folks are eating later than most. I’m glad they invited me over, too,” Fran said with a smile, keeping her sadness hidden.
“They like you a lot,” Wally said, gazing at Fran. “They’ve liked you since we were in elementary school and Sunday School together. I’ve talked to them since June, but it’s the first I’ll be seeing them since then. Grandpa’ll be there, and so will my Aunt Charlotte, Uncle Edgar, and my cousin Inez. I haven’t seen them in ages.”
When two people knew each other for so long, when they loved and trusted one another, sometimes they could tell when one of them was feeling sad. This couple was one of those, as Wally could tell something bothered Fran, and he had a good idea what it was.
“What’s wrong, Fran?” he gently asked the blonde-haired woman.
Fran’s smile faded from her face before she responded. “Believe me when I say I truly appreciate your parents’ gesture, but the holidays haven’t been the same for me since… well, you know.”
“Yeah… yeah, I do,” Wally said softly before giving her a gentle embrace. He held her for a few seconds before continuing. “You’re not alone, Fran. I love you, my parents already consider you family, and you have a cousin who’s there for you, too.”
“I know,” Fran said with a sad smile. “I’m really lucky to have all of you in my life.”
Wally kissed her forehead and thought to himself, She loved her dad and her brother Billy a great deal. It’s never really over when you lose someone. The pain fades in time, but it never truly goes away. And all the crap she went through with her mother — no one should ever be treated like that by their own mother — ever. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Possessing of Frances Kane,” The New Teen Titans #17 (March, 1982).]
His support slowly aided Fran’s feelings, his love strengthening her resolve. “Thank you,” she said, rubbing the side of his face.
“Any time,” Wally responded.
Slowly, they let go of each other, and Fran walked to the kitchen. “I’ll get started on the pies, and you’d better get ready yourself.”
Wally grabbed his Flash ring; with a minor thought the futuristic device opened up, and out flowed the metallic red suit of the Scarlet Speedster. “The Central City Thanksgiving Parade isn’t Macy’s, but it’s fun,” Wally said before donning his Flash costume. “And I’m Grand Marshall, along with the other man in the red suit without a secret identity.”
“Ho-ho-ho,” Fran said with a laugh, already feeling better. “Any other super-heroes joining you?”
“Yeah, Captain Invincible,” the Flash said with a chuckle. He closed his eyes to keep from laughing any further. “It’s Darryl Frye in his super-hero costume. He retired the identity a few years ago, but he pulls it out each year for the parade. He gets a kick out of doing it, and you can’t knock him for that.”
“I’d love to hear more,” Fran said, amused.
“And you will, but I have a date,” Flash said. “I’ll be back around noon or one, and then we’ll hit the road — unless you want to take the Scarlet Express and arrive sooner.”
“I don’t think the pies would make the trip on the Express,” Fran said. “We’ll take my car and enjoy the scenery. And you can bet I’ll be watching for you on TV while the pies cook and cool down.”
“Good. See you in a few hours,” the Flash said with a wave.
“Have a good one, Mr. Grand Marshall,” Fran said with a wave of her own.
The Flash left through his apartment doorway and headed for the parade.