Purple Heart



Also Featuring:

past-emily_icon.gif past-rachel_icon.gif past-raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Purple Heart
Synopsis Some things defy explanation.
Date August 17, 2007

Grew up in a small town
And when the rain would fall down
I'd just stare out my window

Music floods through a strongly middle-class ranch style home tucked away in a picturesque suburban neighborhood. There's a few people standing in the kitchen, chatting and smiling. The windows are open letting in the warm, sweet smell of summer and fresh mowed grass. Small plates of hamburger buns, bowls of salad, jars of condiments, and a few platters of grilled ribs sit on the kitchen island. Rachel Epstein-Raith rolls her eyes, cradling a wine glass in one hand while making small-talk with a cousin. The energy in the air is light, warm, and comforting.

Dreaming of what could be
And if I'd end up happy
I would pray

Through the kitchen and dining room, the sliding doors open onto the back porch and a sprawling, grassy backyard. "Look at you, grillmaster." Jensen Raith pats his cousin William on the back, ambling out of the house with a freshly opened beer in hand. William glances over at Jensen, cracking a smile as he flips a steak with a pair of tongs. But Jensen doesn't linger for small-talk, he weaves between a couple of relatives on their way back into the house, navigating his way to the umbrella-shaded patio table where the patriarch of the Raith family sits in his khaki shorts, sandals, and faded t-shirt, balancing an inquisitive sack of potatoes on his knee that just so happens to be Jensen's niece Emily.

Trying hard to reach out
But when I tried to speak out
Felt like no one could hear me

"I thought you retired from babysitting?" Jensen says with an easy smile as he sits down in the shade across from his father. Roy cracks a smile, gently drawing Emily to lay back against his chest as she sits on his leg.

Wanted to belong here
But something felt so wrong here
So I prayed (I would pray)
I could breakaway

"You know me, I'm a sucker for a cute face," Roy says with a gently tap of his knuckles against Emily's cheek. She bubbles with laughter and hides her face against Roy's chest, peeking between her fingers at Roy. Even at nearly eight years old, even as a girl forced to act older for the pain the world threw on her, she acts younger than she is around her grandfather. Roy gently wraps his arms around her to make her feel secure, and seems happier than Jensen had ever seen him.

I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly
I'll do what it takes 'til I touch the sky
And I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change

"This ain't bad," Jensen says, motioning out to the yard, watching one of his relatives throwing a frisbee that a black and white dog is feverishly chasing. "Thanks for not taking no for an answer from me." Roy shrugs, gently brushing a lock of hair from his granddaughter's face. Jensen looks, for a moment, lost. Surrounded by family, by comfort, by Roy Raith sitting as an example that one can live a life of violent conflict and then—successfully—retire to live the life he'd fought so hard to protect. Roy can see that and so much more in his son's eyes. It's a victory.

And breakaway

Epstein Household

Rhode Island

August 17th

An hour later, Roy Raith was relieved of his babysitting duties taking care of little Emily. She was now firmly planted in the living room, watching tv and soaking up the air-conditioning while Rachel chatted with a sister-in-law on the back porch. Roy, meanwhile, retired to the garage to get some space from all the socializing. He'd pulled in 64 Ford pickup out into the driveway, both to show off and to get it ready for a proper car wash. As he hooks up the house to the outside spigot, the noise of the interior garage door opening and closing has him poking his head back inside. There's Jensen, new beer in hand, wandering out into the garage.

"Hey, is that my bike?" Jensen asks, gesturing with his beer to a fixed-gear bicycle up on a high rack over the garage workbench. Roy wipes water off of his hands and leans into the garage, smiling.

"Sure is." Roy says with a toothy smile. "What'd you think, I'd throw it away? I paid good money for that thing."

"Yeah, back in like, '71." Jensen says with a side-eye to his dad. Roy smiles and shrugs.

"Maybe you settle down, have yourself a kid I can give it to?" Roy suggests, lowering his voice. "I saw the way you were looking at Emmie. Bittersweet." Jensen looks away and takes a swig of his drink, he doesn't want to talk about children. He paces around the garage, looking at old license plates on the wall from cars his father's had through the years, the old tool chest that Roy inherited from his father. A purple heart medal earned in Vietnam, pinned to a corkboard next to some of his favorite tools.

"I'm not not thinking about settling down," Jensen admits, taking another sip of his beer. Roy takes this small ground won as a victory. "To be honest, I didn't think I'd be able to. But, you know, when you had that health scare last year and I just…" Jensen trails off, sighing. "Ten months passed a lot fucking faster than I expected. But you seem to be… you know you seem to be doing good." There's a hint of hope in that voice. "But it just—all of this feels fucking weird."

"The family reunion?"

"No," Jensen takes another swig from his beer. "I mean, yes, too. It's all this just, fucking normalcy while the rest of the world is losing its fucking mind. I spent a long time with the agency wondering what the fuck was wrong with the world, only to find out—what—the Justice League really existed?" He makes an expression of feigned exasperation at his father. Though he doesn't notice it in the moment, Roy's expression takes on a momentarily distant, momentarily haunted look. As if his fingertips were on the edge of something he'd forgotten.

"I know it's crazy," Roy says, reaching out to put a hand on his son's shoulder. "But maybe it also makes a lot of sense, hmm?" He smiles, reassuringly, both to Jensen and himself. "There were a bunch of times, back when I was deployed, I was sure I should've died. But here I am." He says, gesturing to himself. "Maybe it's as simple as that, you know? Maybe I'm one of those special folks. Heck, maybe you are."

Jensen snorts and shakes his head. "I always thought us Raith's had good genetics. You are suspiciously fit for a guy your age, bad heart aside."

Roy smiles warmly, squeezing Jensen's shoulder. "Even Achilles had his heel." He remarks with a grin. "Think about it, Jensen. There's always gonna be a fire in this world, whether it's one we understand or one we don't. There's never going to be a perfect time to settle down. But maybe, y'know, there's a good enough time."

A ghost of a smile crosses Jensen's lips and he stares down into the neck of his beer bottle. "Maybe," he's reluctant to agree. "Don't hang out here too long," Jensen adds, "or I'll send Rachel to come talk at you."

"Be nice to your sister." Roy calls back to Jensen's retreating form as he heads back into the house, shutting the door behind him. Roy smiles, shaking his head, and turns back to the truck. That's when he sees a ghost standing there, leaning up against the bed, looking like he'd walked out of Roy's memories of his childhood.

For a moemnt, Roy just stands there in silent disbelief, mouth opening and closing, one hand up at his chest as if to feel if his heart was still beating.



Marcus Raith smiles faintly at his son, an impossibly ancient specter out of the past. A father he remembers mourning when he was just a boy. "Hey kiddo," Marcus says with an easy smile. Roy looks down at his hands, trembling, then around in the garage, confused and disoriented. "You're not dead, or having a stroke." Marcus says, taking a few meandering steps closer to his son. Roy can't form words, just keeps shaking his head in disbelief and confusion. "I just came back for something…"

Marcus steps up to his son, slowly removing a glove from one hand and takes Roy's weathered hand in his own. "Don't worry though," Marcus says softly, "you don't need it anymore."

Roy gasps softly, looking around with wild eyes, trying to find some anchor to reality. The sound of the garage door opening at his back has Roy withdrawing his hand from his father's, looking over his shoulder to find Rachel poking her head out. "Hey!" She chirps. "You're gonna miss the eclipse!" He stares at her, barely processing what she said for all the noise in his head. He stumbles over his words and the look on his face has Rachel's expression shifting to confusion and then concern.

"Dad— Dad's—" Roy stammers, turning back to where Marcus was. But there's no one there. Roy's heart sinks even as the neighborhood outside begins to sink into encroaching darkness as the sun is blocked out. Roy huffs a few labored breaths, staggers over to the back of the truck, and slouches against the tailgate, clutching his chest.

"JENSEN!" Rachel screams into the house, then thunders down the steps into the garage, running to her dad's side. "Dad—Dad are you ok? Is it your heart?" She kneels down beside him, one hand on his shoulder, the other cupping his cheek. Roy just stammers in confusion, looking around his garage, trying to tether himself to a moment in reality. Jensen comes barreling into the garage a moment later and jumps off the steps, running to his dad's side as well.

"He—he was here. I saw Dad." Roy stammers, looking up at Jensen in bewilderment. Rachel ignores him completely. The screaming has brought other relatives toward the sound, all filled with various measures of concern. Rachel's brother-in-law is holding Emily's hand while she braces against the door-frame to stand. The young girl stares wide-eyed at her grandfather. The stress of the moment, seeing Roy disoriented, seeing Rachel and Jensen scared, brings her to frightened tears.

"How long has he been like this!?" Rachel screams at Jensen.

"I was—I was just out here with him! He was fine!" Jensen yells back, arguing around Roy's crisis. "He was fine! He was fine!"

Roy looks back to where he saw Marcus standing, and the neighborhood sinks into night. He would never tell anyone what he saw, two days later Roy Raith would be dead.

Taking what he saw with him to his grave.

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