Disclaimer: Teen Titans, or any of its counterparts are not mine.
Seasons Greetings from Kryalla! Present for you!
After Locked Hearts ended, there was a lot of interest generated in the children of the Titans… And I did mention that I had names, sex and ages for them all… so… here you go.
Set three years after the epilogue in Locked Hearts. You can read it if you never read my other stories but you'll understand it more if you do.
And when I'm using real names, everyone that has physical attributes that differ from the human norm are wearing hologram rings to alter their appearance (ie, Cyborg, Raven, Beast Boy and Starfire all wear rings).
I'm Aussie, spelling and slang are different, but you will notice that I use "Mom" instead of "Mum". This is simply because while I might spell things differently, Mom is considered a name, and as Dick and Kori live in America, it's more appropriate.
This has no plot, no substance, just family.
d'anthe l'ani – keeper of my heart, endearment for a partner
alasehe l'ani – joy of my heart, endearment for a child
myca – mother
mi'myca – grandmother (Fyria)
mi'onpa – grandfather (Galfore)
morn'lo – Tamaranian fertile time. Akin to being in heat.
Big fat warning: Major fluff alert. Slightly suggestive themes.
Christmas with the Graysons
"Daaaaaaaad," a voice crooned.
He buried his head into his pillow further, keeping his eyes tightly shut, refusing to be woken.
"Daaaaaaaad," the voice sang again.
He grunted and waved his hand at the annoyance.
"Moooooooooooom," another voice sang from the other side of the bed, so similar to the first. "Dev, they're not waking up."
"Jump on 'em then."
"Do not dare," his wife of twenty-three years muttered. "Or I will inform Santa that he will not be coming to the Grayson household next year. Dev, Ale'x, go back to bed. It is far too early for little boys to be awake."
"But Mooooooom," both boys whined together.
"Wake your father and I doubt he will be doing the bacon and eggs for breakfast. And I might just have to insist that we partake in a traditional Tam-"
"We're going!" they both blurted, bolting from the room.
"And shut the door!" he called after them, cringing as he heard them slam it. "Well, if Mar'i wasn't awake, she is now." He rolled over, his hand searching for his wife. "Do you remember why we went back in time as an orb to save ourselves from becoming said orb?"
"I believe it had something to do with the want for bundles of half-Tamaranian energy to bound on us at five in the morning on Christmas day," came the sleepy reply.
"Just checking…" He snuggled into her back, kissing her bare shoulder. "Hey, since we're both awake…"
She giggled, turning her head toward him as he slipped his hand up the inside of her nightshirt. "They will not last long in their rooms, you are aware of this?"
"All I need is five minutes," he mumbled, his lips on her neck.
She giggled harder. "What happened to my 'stud' that could last hours in the bedroom?"
"He had kids, now he takes what he can get."
She rolled over, slinging her leg over his hip. "Well, I suppose that it is the celebration of Christmas."
"Glad you see it my way." He kissed her, coaxing her onto her back and nestling between her legs.
The room flooded with light from the hallway as the door opened again and Dick tore his lips away to peer over his shoulder. "Mar'i, go back to bed."
Mar'i pouted at him. "Dad," she whined. "It's Christmas. The twins are already awake and making noise. Do you honestly expect me to be able to sleep?"
"Yes, now shoo."
She curled her lip. "What are you and Mom doing?"
Dick threw a pillow at the door. "Get."
"Eww Dad," she said, dodging the pillow before he saw that wicked smile cross her lips. Mar'i raised her voice. "Ale'x, Dev-"
Dick's eyes got wide. "Don't you dare, young lady!"
"-Mom and Dad are wrestling again!" Mar'i finished with glee.
Two bundles of energy dive-bombed onto the bed. "Mom, Dad, can we open our presents now? Can we? Can we? Can we?" the twins chanted simultaneously, both of their hands pounding on his back.
Dick groaned and buried his head into Kori's neck. Damn. "Boys, get off me."
Dick grunted with each pound on his back, his body squishing Kori's as his boys thumped against him. "Ow."
"Enough," Kori said, her voice stern. "Devand'r, Ale'xand'r, Mar'iand'r. Bed. Now."
You tell 'em Star, he murmured into her mind affectionately.
"Let your father and I shower and then we shall see what Santa brought you."
"Yes!" the twins cried together and there was a scrambling of feet at the three Grayson children exited the room and he heard three doors slam.
"Aww what?" Dick grumbled, raising his head to pout at her, seeing her face illuminated from the hallway light through the still open bedroom door.
Kori smiled sweetly at him and poked him in the ribs. "Off, d'anthe l'ani. It is Christmas and your children are excited, it is not fair to keep them waiting. And remember to lock the door this time, we do not want to be interrupted again. And if you are very lucky, I may even allow Starfire to come out at play," she finished, wiggling the finger that wore the hologram ring hiding her alien features.
Dick grinned, crawling off his wife and headed to the door.
A thin wail echoed through the corridor and Dick inwardly cursed.
Kori sighed, heaving herself out of bed, gathering up her robe. "You shower, Richard, I will deal with this."
He caught her elbow as she passed him, leaning over to kiss her. "Merry Christmas, Star."
Dick sighed, slouching on the couch before the sparkling and elaborately decorated Christmas tree in his red and yellow nizzre silk sweater that Kori had knitted for him and jeans, socks and red slippers on his feet while his children staring up at him with their eyes hopeful.
Eleven-year-old, Mar'i, her black hair pulled messily up in a ponytail, her brilliant green eyes fixed on him as she waited patiently, her sky blue robe pulled around her tightly.
Seven-year-old twins, Dev and Ale'x, both of them inheriting the And'r/Grayson black hair and the alien green eyes like Mar'i had. Dev tugged teasingly at his brother's red robe, his own yellow one loosely tied at his waist revealing Spider Man pajama's.
Kori wandered into the room in her purple robe, carrying in her arms the fourth Grayson child, the only other redhead amongst them, with his eyes. Two-year-old Kes squealed in delight at seeing him and he held out his arms for her. "Daddeeeee," she squealed, bouncing up and down on his chest. Of all his children, she was the only one that didn't need to wear a hologram ring to hide her eyes, all of them inheriting his skin tone, even though it was slightly tanner. Both he and Kori had been startled to see his blue eyes staring back at him when she was born, but Victor theorized that the purple And'r eyes that had been so prominent in Kori's family tree, not including herself, was actually weaker when confronted with his human blue eyed gene.
"Morning Kessie," he said, rubbing his nose against hers.
"Now?" the twins whined together.
"Coffee, Richard?" Kori asked, heading into the kitchen.
"Awwwwww Mooooooooooom," the twins complained immediately.
"Yes please," he called after her, bouncing Kes on his knee. "Have some patience, boys. No opening presents until we're all ready."
Dick raised an eyebrow. "Complain, and I'm sure your mother won't be making you hot chocolates. Mar'i, go give Mom a hand, would you?"
Mar'i mumbled something under her breath before she rose to her feet and trotted into the kitchen.
Dick smothered a smile as his boys looked at him beseechingly and continued to bounce a happily squealing Kes on his knee.
Ale'x inched closer.
Dick ignored him.
Dev moved nearer.
Dick pretended he didn't see.
As one the twins moved, leaping toward him but Dick was already gone. Up and over the back of the couch, a giggling Kes pressed against his chest as he landed from his backward one handed flip.
"Daaaaaad," Dev and Ale'x whined.
Dick grinned at them. "Gotta get up really early in the morning to catch me, boys."
They both shot into the air and Dick bolted, Kes giggling happily in his arms.
"No flying in the house!" Dick blurted, weaving around the dining room table before he bolted through the door into the kitchen.
Mar'i squealed with surprise while Kori simply stepped closer to the bench and out of the way, calming making the beverages without even looking up.
"Catch," Dick blurted, tossing Kes at Kori, who whirled and caught the giggling girl, her expression stern. Dick shot his wife a cheeky grin and slid under the table that served as an extra bench in the middle of the kitchen to avoid his boys before he dashed out into the darkness of the backyard. The screen door to the kitchen thumped close behind him while he vanished into the woods that surrounded the house, his feet crunching against the snow covered ground. With agile grace he climbed the nearest tree and leapt onto a nearby tree to conceal footprints.
After leaping to different trees several times, he crouched in the upper branches and peered back toward their country house.
Dev and Ale'x were hovering by the open door to the house, eyeing the darkness beyond warily. Light streamed from the kitchen creating a rectangle on the snow-covered ground.
Must you train them on the day of Christmas? Kori's tart voice asked in his mind.
Nope, he sent cheekily. This ones just for fun.
Fun is it? she replied mischievously, walking out onto the veranda that rimmed the back door, Kes on her hip and Mar'i behind her.
"All right, And'r," he heard her call. "Light him up."
Dev and Ale'x instantly raised their hands, green star bolts shining from them while Mar'i rolled her eyes, her own green star bolt springing into life. Kes clapped her hands together happily, her purple ones fizzing in her hands. Kes was the only one that had inherited the purple flame of And'r.
Cheater, Dick sent.
Am I now? she sent sweetly, before her voice rang through the woodlands. "First to catch him, first to open presents."
Dick's eyes widened. That's not fair! he complained as he turned and fled through the treetops.
The good thing about his lit up children was that they were easy to spot coming. Mar'i actually got quite close to his hidden form at one stage, her green light illuminating her face as her eyes searched the woodlands. He could actually see the thoughts crossing her face as she searched for him, looking for broken branches, hidden track marks and was secretly very proud. Her training was going very well.
The boys, however, were just too loud for their own good. Very easy to elude. Well, Dev and Ale'x weren't named Swiftfire and Dartfire for nothing were they? Still, he'd have to talk to them about that.
Little Kes was doing well though, wobbling through the air a few feet off the ground. Dick smiled down at her as she passed beneath the tree he was secreted in; her happy face lit up, her hands around her purple star bolt. She was holding it for longer and longer, and could wobbly fly for at least thirty minutes before she got tired, not bad for a two-year-old. And her flexibility was coming along nicely.
Kori calmly shadowed Kes from a discreet distance, ready to act at a moment's notice if she got into trouble, but not close enough so that Kes would feel intruded upon and unable to play the 'find Daddy' game on her own. He shifted in the tree above, considering dumping a handful of snow on his wife's head as she passed beneath his tree.
He gathered up some of the fallen snow on the branch he was crouched upon, shaping it into a ball and peered down toward the ground again. But he hadn't counted on the deviousness of his wife as he received preemptive strike in the form of a face full of snow for his trouble.
He scrubbed the snow from his face and dropped from the tree, tackling Kori to the snow. He managed to score a kiss of two from her before Kes tackled him.
"Got Daddeeee," she squealed happily, bouncing up and down on him.
"That was a ploy, wasn't it?" he whispered huskily.
Kori smiled. "Perhaps. But it is not often that Kes beats her siblings in the 'find Daddy' game."
"That's true," he murmured, rolling off her to wrestle with Kes in the snow briefly. "That's my girl," he said happily while she squealed with laughter.
"Awwww man," Ale'x complained, darting up to them. "No fair."
"Mom, you cheated," Dev grumbled , appearing from the opposite direction.
"Myca never cheat," Kori said with dignity as she got to her feet, brushing the snow from her hair.
"Besides, Kes found me fair and square," Dick said, pulling himself up after her. "So, first present, wasn't it?"
Kori smiled. "That was the offer," she said before she raised her voice. "Mar'i! He is found."
"I know," Mar'i said, coming from behind them. "You're slipping up, Dad, I spotted you before."
"Uh-huh," he said offhandedly.
"Honest," she said, that Grayson cheek in her voice. "You were gonna hit Mom with a snowball."
He peered at her and she grinned at him. Dick sighed. "C'mon, you lot, presents."
Wrapping paper was strewn across the floor before the Christmas tree, its bright colours and crinkle noises had fast lost its allure to little Kes, in favour of candy and the little purple tricycle Santa had brought for her.
The twins had snatched up their new roller blades, hastily dressed, gulped down breakfast and scampered outside into the morning sun to practice. They were currently performing various tricks and stunts on the improvised ramp on the paved driveway under Kori's watchful eye. Dick watched his boys for a moment as they preformed various acrobatic stunts, flips and twirls, wondering for a moment why they never did their training with such vigor and enthusiasm. Perhaps if he and Bruce included roller skates and skateboarding, they'd work harder.
He watched Kori for a moment, smiling as she helped Kes put her feet back on the peddles of her tricycle and showed her how to peddle again, laughing and clapping as Kes managed two rotations before simply planting her feet on the ground and scampering off, giggling gleefully. He smiled at the antics of his youngest.
"Hot chocolate, Mar'i?" he called as he headed over to the kitchen, tussling his eldest's hair as he passed her sitting at the table, already messaging her friends with her new laptop computer.
"Yes please," she replied, before her voice became excited. "Dad, this computer is totally awesome! I can even link up with Mi'myca and Mi'onpa from this!"
He chuckled. "Well, Santa thought you were a good girl this year. You've worked really hard at both your school grades and training. Grandpa was impressed."
She raised her eyebrows at him, following him into the kitchen. "Really?" she asked eagerly. "I impressed Grandpa?"
"Yup," he replied, reaching for the saucepan. "Grab the chocolate for me, would you?" he asked as he gathered the rest of the ingredients. "Grandpa even went as far to say that perhaps you could start joining in on patrols."
Her green eyes shone with happiness as she passed him the chocolate and sat on the table in the middle of the kitchen eating marshmallows. "Really?"
"Don't get your hopes up," he said, poking the wooden spoon at her, before carting the saucepan full of ingredients to the stove. "It will only be patrols, and either myself, your mother, Uncle Tim, Cassie or Grandpa will be with you until you turn thirteen. And-"
"What?" she wailed. "Dad, that's a year and a half away, no fair!"
"Very fair," he said sternly. "I didn't patrol by myself until I was thirteen."
"And you were living on your own at fifteen," she complained.
He arched an eyebrow at her and continued stirring the milk on the stove. "We can always make it fifteen."
"Well, what about Mom?" she whined. "What age was she when she was allowed to patrol?"
Dick froze for a moment, suddenly finding himself remembering what had happened to Kori when she was eleven. "Fifteen," he said stonily. "She never patrolled until she became a Titan. And even then I was usually with her."
That seemed to placate Mar'i a little. "Oh."
Dick was glad she didn't try and peruse it further and they slipped into silence for a while.
"And you still have to pass Grandpa's Gauntlet first," he said as the chocolate began to simmer.
"That'll be easy," she replied with a wave of her hand. "You passed, didn't you, Dad? And you were younger than me."
"Grandpa's got a lot trickier since then, alasehe l'ani, he's crafty in his old age, but Mom and I are confident you'll pass. Just make sure to rub it in to Uncle Tim when you do."
"So when do I get to pick my superhero name?" she asked excitedly. "And when do I get a uniform? And-"
"Woah," he said, holding up a hand as he stirred the hot chocolate. "One step at a time. I thought you'd already decided on a name. Weren't you going to use your Tamaranian translation like the twins?"
She made a face. "Yeah, but Joyfire… eww Dad. Not very hero-y."
He frowned. "I like your name, Mar'i. You were named for my mother."
Mar'i sighed. "I know, but I was thinking… Nightstar."
Dick looked at her flabbergasted and she blushed and ducked her head.
"Cause… it's… like, both you and Mom together."
He chuckled. "Just as long as Kes doesn't want to take Wingfire."
"Well… Skyfire doesn't sound very intimidating either. Why did the boys end up with such cool names?"
Dick sighed. "Do you know how hard it is to come up with names that mean something in Tamaranian and still sound human, at least? I'm surprised we came up with four. Be thankful, you nearly ended up with Ma'ryand'r." She cocked her head at him and he grinned cheekily. "Sweetfire."
"Ewwwww," she whined with a shudder. "No fair, your Tamaranian name sounds so cool!"
He grinned. "Your mother picks good names. Now, little miss Nightstar, fetch some mugs, this is just about ready. And did you leave us some marshmallows?"
She huffed and jumped off the table. "Is Grandpa coming today?"
Dick nodded absently as he removed the hot chocolate from the stove. "Everyone's coming today, except Uncle Tim and Cassie, our turn to host this year. Hmm. That reminds me, better start the turkeys soon." He headed for the oven, setting it to preheat.
"Whew," he heard Mar'i mutter under her breath.
"Your mother is a fantastic cook," he said immediately.
"I don't like wiggling food," she replied, placing the mugs on the table.
"It's part of your heritage, she wants you to remember where she comes from, too."
"Doesn't mean I have to like it."
"Keep it up," he said, pouring out the mugs, "and you won't be allowed to have any zorkaberry pie for dessert."
"Aww Dad," she complained, her face suddenly pleading.
"I don't know why you think that's going to work on me, kiddo. Now, where are those marshmallows?"
Kori was sitting on the veranda watching their children by the time he walked outside with the tray of hot chocolates, one in a sippy cup for Kes.
He placed the tray on the table before her and sat down beside her on the swinging chair. "Bit nippy out here," he said as Kori swung her legs across his lap and eagerly accepted the steaming mug from him.
"Is it?" she asked mildly, her robe hanging open to reveal the white silk slip she slept in.
"Well, I can see my breath," he replied, one hand running up and down her bare leg, the other bringing the hot chocolate to his lips.
"Hmmmmm," she hummed absently, her eyes half lidded as she breathed in the scent of the hot chocolate.
"Boys are doing well," he commented.
Kori smiled, turning her eyes to their sons. "Yes, they are quite vigorous. I am beginning to think that perhaps you and Bruce have the wrong approach for their training."
He rubbed his chin, feeling day old stubble and making a mental note to go and shave before people started arriving. "Yeah, me too."
"Dad, Dad," Ale'x exclaimed excitedly. "Watch this!"
"I'm watching," he called absently, seeing Ale'x getting a run up and bolt toward the little ramp he and his brother had set up.
"Mar'i?" Kori asked.
"Computer," he replied.
"Ahh," she replied as Ale'x completed several forward somersaults and landed snuggly on the ground before skating off. "Well done, Ale'x," she called before her tone turned quiet again. "You did ensure that she cannot-"
"Yup. Even Babs had a hard time hacking it. She won't be able to break that parental lock."
Kori nodded her acceptance, her eyes fixed on Kes as her little legs carried her across the pavement. "She will most likely still try to."
"Course she will," he replied, his fingers caressing her legs. "She wouldn't be a Grayson if she didn't."
"Daddeeeeee," Kes called, spotting him. "Bike!"
"I can see that, Kessie," he called. "Doing good!" He lowered his voice. "I can't wait for the day she can assimilate languages like you."
"I can," Kori said melancholy. "It is a milestone. It will mean our little baby is growing up."
Dick nodded. Tamaranian babies brains were not equipped to take languages at birth. It wasn't until around their fourth birthdays that they were able to use lip contact to learn languages.
"What time will people begin arriving?" Kori asked.
He jerked his arm so that his sleeve fell away from his watch. "Geez, it's nine already. Bruce said noon, but then they're coming from Gotham," he murmured. "The others will be here once they get their lazy asses out of bed. I just put the turkeys on. Massive birds this year, take ages to cook."
Kori eyed him. "Did you remember to-"
"Yes dear," he said, interrupting her. "There's even a tofu turkey there for the Logans."
Kori nodded. "Careful, Dev," she called. "Kes is right behind you."
"Woah," came Dev's cry as he turned around from skating backward before skating around Kes.
Kori sighed and wiggled her bare toes.
Dick tickled her feet. "As much as I love seeing you nearly naked and looking deliciously disheveled, you should probably take this opportunity to shower."
Kori nodded. "I can take Kes with me."
"Nah," Dick said. "Let her play. I'll watch her. She can have bath in a little while."
"Bub-ble bathhhh?" Kes asked, having just rammed her bike into the foot of the stairs leading onto the porch.
Dick laughed. "You and your bubbles. Yes, bubble bath." He shooed her with his hand. "Not now though, keep riding your bike." He watched his youngest scamper away. "Ever think about having more?"
Kori eyed him critically. "Richard," she said disapprovingly. "Kes was your 'I do not remember going through morn'lo with you because we just spent the last twenty years as an orb and all my memories have not yet returned, can we have another?' baby."
"That's a long name for it," he said with a laugh. "Gotta admit though, morn'lo is fun!"
Kori sighed. "Can we speak of this back in Gotham? I do believe that soon you will not have the time to think about having more children."
Dick echoed her sigh. "Yeah, it's getting close, isn't it?"
"Well, he does want to ensure that you can handle his business before he hands it over completely," she said softly.
He looked at his wife. "Star, are you sure you don't mind? I can still back out of it."
She regarded him with her quiet understanding. "Richard, when has your father ever asked anything of you? We have spent the last seven years in Gotham so you could 'learn the ropes'. The children are comfortable there. Mar'i is doing well in school. The boys have many friends, indeed they do not know any other life. And your father wishes to hand Wayne Enterprises over to you, even then it will be another ten years before you receive complete control."
Dick sighed. "I just… don't want to go back to being that obsessive workaholic I used to be."
"Go back?" Kori questioned with a smile, her hand going to his cheek. "D'anthe l'ani, you never ceased to be that person. You just balance yourself better now. Besides, I will ensure that you remember you have a family." I can nag exceptionally well, she finished in his mind.
That you can, my love, he sent in reply. He patted her leg, resisting the urge to just slide it up further. "Go, shower. Make yourself even more beautiful. I'll freeze my butt off out here with our temperature resilient children."
Kori giggled and swung her feet off his lap and he made sure to swat her on the rump as she passed him.
Dick watched his children play for a while, his hands warm around his mug of hot chocolate. Every now and then the boys would scamper up the stairs to him and take massive gulps of their own mugs and dash off to complete more acrobatic tricks on their skates. Kes was carrying her sippy cup around with her, still happily zooming around the long driveway.
"Morning Dick, Merry Christmas," a voice called and Dick turned his head to see Victor appearing on the porch of the house next door, clad in a blue hoodie that Kori had knitted a few years ago and jeans and his own steaming mug in his hands.
With the original Titan five spread all over the world now, Victor spending his time between training Titans in Jump City and Metropolis where Barbara was heading up the Birds of Prey and Garfield and Rachel in Africa, they rarely spent time together as a group anymore. So Kori had suggested that every year, they spent Christmas in this sleepy little town surrounded by woodlands and renting the street of holiday homes.
This town was virtually empty at this time of year, which allowed the children to run free, unfretted by secrecy and use their powers if they wished as long as they were careful with them, although Dick asked them to wear the hologram rings at all times, just in case. There had been close calls with neighbors in the past.
The press never, ever, managed to discover where the Graysons would sneak off to every year. They always made sure to board a plane to some undisclosed destination, double back and fly here.
"Morning Vic," Dick called, raising his mug in salute. "Merry Christmas."
"Uncle Vic, Uncle Vic," the boys called instantly. "Look what we can do!"
Victor ambled across the snow-covered lawn toward them. "C'mon then," he called as he reached the porch, one foot resting on the first stair, his back against the railing.
Dev bolted for the ramp and soared into the air, doing a back flip before landing on the ground and skating away proudly.
"Definitely your boys," Victor commented with a smile.
"Saw the 'ghost lights' were up early this morning."
Dick chuckled. "We played 'Hunt the Dad'."
"Oh?" Victor asked. "Who won?"
"Kes did actually."
Victor chuckled. "Or you broke your hiding place to try and snuggle up with Kori."
Dick tried to shrug as though it didn't matter, but he knew the grin ruined it. "Could've been that too. Where's Babs?"
"Asleep," Victor replied, turning and sitting on the step so he could watch the boys bladeing. "She had an emergency late night mission to coordinate."
Victor swept his hand toward the house he and his wife were staying in. "By all means, go wake her up."
"Kessie," Dick called. "Stay away from the road."
His red headed daughter glanced over at him, her eyes shining before she scooted back up the driveway toward them.
"Just dump a bucket of water on her head," Dick said. "She'd get up then."
"And wouldn't speak to me for a week."
"We could throw snow balls at her window."
Victor peered at him. "How old are you?"
Dick grinned. "Old enough to know that I can blame it on my kids."
Victor guffawed. "That's why you had them, wasn't it? So you could blame your dirty tricks on 'em!"
Dick raised his mug in salute. "You know it."
The front door to the house opposite banged open, Garfield strolling out carrying his own steaming mug with three-year-old Benji darting ahead of him while seven-year-old Layla walked out behind him. "Woah, Benji," he called as Benji darted down the stairs and headed for the road. "Road. Wait for me."
Dick saw Benji peer over his shoulder and scuff his shoe against the ground pouting.
Kes squealed in delight as she saw Benji, jumping off her tricycle and bolting for the road.
"Shit," Dick muttered, planting his mug on the table before him and vaulting over the porch edge.
"Wait, Kessie," Garfield called, holding out one of his hands to stop her.
Dick knew there wasn't a chance she could get hit by a car. There wasn't anyone on the roads at all. But the last thing he wanted his daughter to think was that she could just trot out onto the road whenever she felt like it. He scooped her up before she even got close. "Kesand'r, no," he said sternly, slowing to a walk. "Not without Mom or Dad."
She pouted at him and wiggled in his arms.
"Morning Gar, Merry Christmas," Dick called, waiting while Garfield had Benji check each way for cars.
"Morning Dick, same to you," Garfield replied as he approached. "All right Benji, off you go."
Dick placed Kes back on the ground and Benji all but tackled her, the pair of them darting off to have a look at Kes' new bike. "You got the kids this morning, huh?"
"Rae's meditating and Benji's been a right terror, wanting to come and play. Thought it just best to get my butt over here."
Dick nodded and smiled. "Morning, Layla," he said to the girl. "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas, Uncle Dick," she said, brushing her long blond hair over her shoulder, hair he knew was Garfield's green beneath the hologram image. "Aww, no fair, the twins got skates." She folded her arms across her chest and pouted, her green eyes becoming overly big.
Dick grinned. "Ale'x, go fetch that box Santa 'accidentally' left at our place for Layla, would you?"
Layla squealed, chasing after the boys as they raced inside. Garfield planted his hand on his hips and looked disapprovingly at him.
"Hey, I checked with Rachel first," he said quickly. "She said it was okay. Besides, we can't break up the terrible threesome, can we?"
Garfield rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I guess so." He gestured at Victor. "Morning Vic, merry Christmas."
"Morning, grass stain," Victor called, raising his mug.
The three of them sat on the bottom step to Dick's holiday house watching the two children taking turns with Kes' new bike.
"Bonsai!" Dev cried, leaping over the top of the adults heads and completing a forward somersault before he landed, skating away grinning cheekily. Layla followed his leap, although she didn't do any acrobatics. She wobbly landed and skated after Dev.
"Careful Layla," Garfield called and she rolled her eyes at him.
Ale'x tried to be different though, leaping over their heads and twisting through the air and missed the landing completely. "Woah," he cried, going straight into a hover, his face inches from the pavement, his hands and legs spread eagle.
"Nice one," Victor commented as Ale'x picked himself up. "What do they call that move?"
"Bring your hands closer into your body," Dick said, demonstrating the correct position with his own hands. "Your knuckles almost need to be touching and level with your chest, your hands were too low then. And ankles together. Try it again."
Ale'x nodded and got himself a run up, darting toward the ramp and tried the same jump again.
"Better," Dick called as Ale'x managed to land the jump. "Feel more natural?"
"Yeah," he replied with a nod. "Thanks, Dad."
Dick nodded. "Dev, see if you can do one."
"Dude," Garfield said, his voice low, running his fingers through his blond hologramed hair. "It's Christmas day, and you're training them."
Dick shook his head minutely as he watched Dev do the same jump. "Keep your legs straighter, and you need to land on the balls of your feet more, harder with skates, I know," he called once his son was done. "No," he said to Garfield in a quiet voice. "I'm giving them skating advice. Say the word 'training' and they'll stop doing it."
Victor nodded his approval. "Clever."
Dick nodded. "Bruce and I have been having trouble getting them motivated lately. They love doing acrobatics but hate the hard work that goes into getting it right. Starting to think skating might be the incentive they need."
Garfield chuckled. "Dick, they're better trained than most sixteen year olds that have been doing this kinda stuff for years."
Dick grinned proudly. "They're my kids, what more can I say."
The salivating smell of cooking turkey was already wafting through the house. One of the children, Dick guessed Mar'i, had turned on the stereo and Christmas carol's echoed through the house.
Kori had a streak of flour on her face; he'd seen her brush her hair away from her face before, leaving the streak there. Her hair was wound up in a messy ponytail, that white cooking apron covering the green sundress she wore.
Dick leaned on the doorway that separated the kitchen from the rest of the house and watched the back of his wife as she kneaded dough on the table that served as an extra bench in the middle of the kitchen. She made a soft breath of noise as she blew a strand of hair away from her face.
He loved watching her work that dough. It was almost reminiscent of the way she fought. Her whole body was intent on that one action, her hips would shift and her shoulders bunch, her arms always moving.
She bent over to retrieve more flour and sprinkled it on the surface of the table so the dough wouldn't stick, one hip cocked higher than the other and one foot slipping out of the flat shoes she wore. He swallowed as the skirt of her dress rode upward as she leant over again. Damn his temperature resilient wife that wore clothes no one should be able to wear in the middle of winter and knew exactly how to how to get to him motivated.
He made a mental check on where the kids were. Mar'i was in her room on the phone. The boys and Layla were in Dev's room playing video games. Kes was outside with Benji with Victor and Garfield watching.
Two steps would be all it would take. Two steps and he could-
"Pervert," a voice droned.
Dick closed his eyes to reign himself in before he grinned. "I'm allowed," he said, glancing over his shoulder before turning around and enveloping Rachel in a hug. "Merry Christmas, Rae."
Rachel patted him on the back lightly. "Having a nice day?"
"Brilliant so far," he commented.
Rachel nodded. "Are you going to let me past so I can help Kori, or aren't you done perving yet?"
"Not done," he replied cheekily, moving aside. "But you can go through."
He watched as Kori turned, smiling brightly at Rachel before they exchanged a friendly kiss.
Rachel rolled up the sleeves of her cardigan and accepted a ball of dough from Kori. When Kori leaned across the table to pass Rachel the flour, he just couldn't help himself.
Two steps across the room and his hands were on her hips, pulling her toward him before he attached his lips to the base of her neck.
Kori giggled, her neck tilting to allow him better access. I was wondering how long that would take, she sent. I was almost certain I would have to stretch to capture your complete attention.
Sly minx, he sent in return, sliding his hands up to her ribs while she leaned back into him. Do you think Rachel would mind if I just threw you on the table and had my wicked way with you?
Kori made a small noise, but he couldn't tell of it was in agreement or not.
Someone cuffed him on the back of the head and Dick detached his lips in annoyance.
Barbara grinned at him as she took her place opposite Rachel, rolling up her sleeves. "Hiya Dick, you know that does look rather funny from behind, can't you reach her lips? We should've brought you platforms for Christmas this year."
Dick scowled at Barbara, rubbing his head where she'd whacked him. Barbara took every opportunity to rub it in that Kori was taller that he was, to the extent that last Christmas she brought him a foot ladder. Garfield had gotten a kick out of that. It wasn't as if Kori was that much taller than him. And she never wore heels to make him shorter.
Barbara just poked her tongue out at him before turning to the others. "Merry Christmas, ladies. Pie time?"
"And a Merry Christmas to you too," he muttered.
A horn honked from outside, followed by Kes' squeal of delight.
Several boisterous cries of 'Grandpa' echoed through the house, followed by thunderous footsteps as Mar'i, Ale'x and Dev charged down the stairs.
Dick sighed and rested his head against the back of Kori's. "Oh goodie, Grandpa."
Kori shifted as she wiped her hands on her apron. "Come, Richard, let us greet your father."
Alfred was unpacking presents from the car by the time Dick and Kori reached them while the four Grayson children were clamoring over Bruce.
"Dick," he called as he and Kori drew closer. "Make yourself useful and get your spawn off me for a minute."
"Merry Christmas, Bruce. This is what happens when you're a granddaddy."
Bruce rolled his eyes. "Whelp."
"Just for that," Dick said with a sly grin. "Kids, Grandpa really wants to wrestle in the snow."
The boys had Bruce on his back in the snow within moments, while Kes sat on his chest bouncing up and down gleefully. Dick found himself grinning as Bruce wrestled with his grandchildren in the snow, obviously trying to make it look like he wasn't enjoying it, but Dick knew his father better than that. Even Benji decided to scamper over and join in the fun and games, unable to resist a wrestling match.
"It is good to see Master Bruce loosening up," Alfred said with a smile.
"Al, Merry Christmas," Dick exclaimed, giving the man a hug.
Alfred's voice dropped to a whisper. "He was quite anxious to get here today. I have not seen him as excited over Christmas in a long time."
Dick grinned at the shared secret.
Alfred turned to Kori. "Mistress Koriand'r, you are looking more radiant with every passing year."
Kori smiled and Dick winked at her. "Alfred, you are becoming more and more of a flirt with every passing year."
"One does ones best. Can I offer my assistance with the pie making? Or has it already begun?"
"Rachel and Barbara are currently in the kitchen preparing the dough. I shall return there in a moment."
"Very good," Alfred said, picking up the bags and heading inside and Dick heard Garfield and Victor call out greetings to him as he passed.
All was well and good, with Bruce managing to untangle himself and stand back up with a dignity that didn't quite conceal the smile on his face, leaving the rest of the And'r children and Benji to wrestle in the snow, right up until Kes began to pull on Benji's hologramed tail.
It actually looked pretty comical, with Kes seemingly tugging on thin air, but Dick knew that had to hurt with the wail that erupted from Benji's mouth.
"Enough," Kori said, stepping in and untangling the children, allowing Benji to scamper off to his father. "Kes, no. Bad. We do not pull on Benji's tail."
Kes' bottom lip trembled and Dick winced. Kori shook her head, able to withstand the quivering lip better than he could. "No Kes, go and say you are sorry to Benji."
Kes trotted over to Benji, sheepishly giving him an apologetic hug.
Dick felt a tugging on his arm and looked down to see his boys staring at him appealingly.
"Dad, can we open the rest of the presents now?" Dev pleaded.
"Yeah, Dad, can we?" Ale'x included. "Everyone's here now."
Dick sighed. "Let your Mom finish making the zorkaberry pies and then we can open the presents. In the meantime, why don't you show Grandpa the tricks you can do on your skates, I'm sure he'd love to see them."
"I would?" Bruce asked, his face stony, one eyebrow arched as the boys and Layla scampered off to put on their skates again.
Dick nodded. "We've been going about their training all wrong. Wait 'til you see this."
"Oh the weather outside is frightful," Kori sang under her breath along with the music that echoed through the house, placing the pumpkin she'd just prepared on the tray.
"But the fire is so delightful," Dick returned quietly from beside her, reaching for another potato to peel.
"And since we've no place to go," she sang back to him with a smile.
"Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!" they sang as one, leaning in toward each other, their sides pressed together.
"It doesn't show signs of stopping," Dick sang, placing his peeler on the bench.
"And I've bought some corn for popping," Kori sang, drying her hands on a towel.
"The lights are turned way down low," Dick sang, taking hold of her hand, his other snug on her waist while hers went to his shoulder.
"Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!" they sang boisterously as he waltzed around the kitchen with her.
Dick caught sight of Rachel rolling her eyes while Barbara giggled behind her hand and he poked his tongue out at them, feeling playful.
"When we finally kiss goodnight," Kori sang, her eyes shining.
Dick winked at her. "How I'll hate going out in the storm!"
Shapes appeared by the doorway, and Dick grinned as he saw Garfield sweeping Rachel up and start waltzing around the kitchen with her too, while Dev, Ale'x, Mar'i and Layla looked put out and disgusted with their parental units.
"But if you'll really hold me tight," Kori sang, Barbara's voice joining in as Victor dragged her to dance too.
"All the way home I'll be warm," Dick, Victor and Garfield sang boisterously.
"The fire is slowly dying," Kori and Barbara sang, giggling and stumbling over the words.
"And, my dear, we're still goodbying." Dick span her, loving the way she laughed.
"But as long as you love me so," Kori sang, fluttering her eyes at him.
"Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!" they belted out, before collapsing into laughter.
"Are we done?" Rachel asked tonelessly, making no move to disengage herself and Dick saw the smile on her face. "Can we be adults again?"
"Nope," replied Garfield gleefully, still holding her tight as "It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas," started belting through the stereo.
Dick grinned and held Kori closer.
Dick sat back and laughed while Kori giggled, having gotten the larger half of the Christmas crackers. All around the table, similar explosions where taking place. He laughed even harder when Kori planted the blue crown on his head, declaring that it suited him more than it suited her. He made sure he tied the silly little plastic necklace he received as a prize around her neck.
Hearty cries and the joyful laughter of children filled the air as the crackers popped and the treasures inside discovered. Garfield's boisterous retelling of the jokes encased inside followed by the uproashish laughter of Victor and the quiet giggles of the wives. Clattering of cutlery soon followed, the noise of many mouths eating at once, the contented sighs and moans of enjoyed food.
"Ahhhhhh," the twins said as one, sitting back on their chairs, their plates empty before them. "We're full."
"That was delicious, Dad," Dev said, rubbing his stomach, his yellow paper crown from the Christmas cracker still on his head. "I couldn't possibly eat any more."
"Wonderful," agreed Ale'x, conducting a similar movement although his crown was wrapped around his neck.
"Glad you enjoyed it," Dick said, still eating.
"Mom, can we be excused?" the boys asked at the same time.
"Plates in the sink first," she said absently as she cut up the remainder of Kes' food. "And stay inside."
"Coming Layla?" Ale'x asked, surging to his feet and gathering up his plate.
"I'm not a garbage disposal," she droned in a tone so similar to her mothers. "I can't just gorge myself on food."
"How long before we can have pie, Mom?" Dev asked, getting to his feet.
"I believed you said you were full," Kori said, looking at Dick. "Did you not just hear Dev say that?"
"Yeah," Dick added. "Couldn't possibly eat another bite, wasn't that his words?" He grinned at Kori. "More pie for me."
Garfield chuckled up the other end of the table, his voice sounding over the top of Dev and Ale'x instant complaints. "Gee, that sounds familiar. Spending too much time around Galfore."
Dick chuckled. "That man knows his pie. Besides, there's only two woman in the universe that can bring a man to their knees with pie, and one of them happens to be sitting beside me." He threaded his fingers through Kori's and raised her hand to his lips while she beamed at him.
"And the other?" Dev asked curiously.
"That'd be your Mi'myca."
Bruce let out a small sigh. "That woman can cook pie."
Dick arched an eyebrow at his father. "I think we need to get you a wife."
Bruce shot him a scolding look.
"Do not be silly," Alfred said. "Master Bruce is determined to be a bachelor for the remainder of his life."
Bruce raised an eyebrow at Alfred.
"Bruce," Dick said teasingly. "I thought you were going to make an honest woman of Selina sometime soon? You know there is going to come a point where being a play-"
"Ah!" Kori said instantly, poking Dick in the ribs. "No. Not today." You promised Richard, she sent with an annoyed tone.
Dick sighed. "Yeah, okay. Fine," he muttered while Bruce looked triumphant.
"Still whipped," a voice called from the door.
Dick's head flicked around. "Wally! Hey," he said enthusiastically, his voice being followed by a general chorus of greetings.
Kes squealed and clapped her hands, Benji jumping instantly down from his chair as Jenny walked into the room, placing a strawberry blonde, blue eyed three-year-old girl on the floor.
"Ris!" Benji bellowed, tackling her to the ground, Kes following after.
Dick chuckled. "You'd think they haven't seen each other in years rather than a couple of days."
Wally shrugged. "Kids are excitable. Can't stay long, we're on our way home, Argent and Hotspot send their regards by the way. Iris has been such a good girl today though, thought she needed a little fun."
Dick nodded. "And the prospect of leftover turkey and zorkaberry pie had nothing to do with it."
"Course not," Wally replied with a grin.
"Yeah, right," Jenny said, with a roll of her eyes. "Sure… like you haven't been nagging all day to come and help yourself to Kori's pies."
Wally scoffed at her. "Like you didn't want to come either, Jinxy."
"I always make extras," Kori said, scooting closer to Dick to allow for more room at the table. "You are welcome to stay."
"See!" Wally said, grabbing the spare chair that had been placed beside the wall and allowed his wife to sit. "Toldya she wouldn't mind."
Jenny rolled her eyes again, sharing an amused glance at Rachel. "That's cause we do this every year."
After Christmas lunch found Alfred asleep sitting up on one of the lounge chairs, all the kids, Garfield, Victor and Wally having snowball fights in the back yard and the girls in the kitchen, cleaning and laughing.
Dick brought one of the quilts out from the cupboard, draping it across Alfred's sleeping form, quietly studying the aged lines on his face, the white streaks in his hair.
"He's getting old isn't he?" he asked quietly, turning to look at Bruce.
"He is over eighty, Dick."
"I know… but…"
"All of a sudden he seems old," Bruce murmured with quiet understanding.
Bruce emitted a heartfelt sigh. "He… asked me to start searching for a replacement."
Dick looked at his father aghast. "You can't replace Al! He's family."
Bruce held up a hand. "Calm down, Dick. I'm not replacing Alfred. But he does need some extra help. And he won't last forever. We've… been making discreet inquiries into someone Alfred can groom to replace him." Bruce sighed sadly and scrubbed at an eye. "He needs this too, Dick. He's worked so hard all his life. He needs to know that we'll all be looked after when the time comes. And I want him to enjoy his golden years and relax a bit."
Dick felt a lump in his throat. "Dad-"
Bruce's lips twitched. "We've had longer with him than we should've, remember? An extra fifteen years. He's not going to go anywhere soon, he's just making arrangements that's all. He's seen 'great grandkids' arrive. He's happy. What more can we ask for?"
Dick looked back at Alfred, blinking back unbidden tears. Alfred had been such a big part of his life for such a long time. It physically hurt him to see him looking so old.
Richard? Kori's soft voice asked in his mind. Are you well?
Dick lifted his head, turned it toward the kitchen for a moment. Yeah, why?
You feel sad.
Staring at mortality, that's all. Don't worry about it baby. "Going to come and have a snowball fight, Bruce?"
Bruce gave him a bland look.
Dick shrugged. "Suit yourself," he said, walking into the kitchen. "Gorgeous, those pies smell delicious, when are they going to be ready?"
"Aww Dick, you always say the nicest things to me," Barbara said immediately with a playful tone, looking up from where she was helping Rachel with the dishes. "But I thought we were trying to keep our relationship on the quiet. Walking in here acting all lovey-dovey, Kori's bound to find out."
Kori laughed while Dick glowered at Barbara. "He always did have a thing for redheads."
"Eight out of ten of the woman he 'dated' before he married you on Earth were redheads," Jenny said with a sassy smile. "Or strawberry blonde, or ginger, or-"
"That's not fair," Dick interrupted with a roll of his eyes and thrust his hands into his pockets. "They were all Kori, under a hologram ring. And it's not as though I wanted to do that-"
"Admit it Dick," Rachel said without turning around. "You liked the idea of being a playboy."
"Not really," he muttered sulkily, remembering Bruce's insistence he appear to 'play the field' a little before marrying Kori on Earth. Kori, of course, had loved every minute of it, pretending to play all these different personalities and having 'fake' arguments in public with between him and the real Kori which was actually energetic Tamaranian flirting. But Dick personally hated the fact that the press blew everything out of proportion and questioned his commitment to her when they finally did marry on Earth.
"I just looooved the fact that all the 'models' he dated were taller than him," Barbara announced teasingly. "It was soooo funny seeing him in the paper the next day trying to get it on with someone taller than him."
"I am upset that I was not allowed to have the string of boyfriends as well. I would have liked to have done the dating a blond," Kori said with a giggle.
"There's still time to do that," Barbara replied with a wink. "The press hasn't had a good Grayson scandal in years!"
"No," Dick said immediately.
"Something like that would hurt the children," Kori said, looking at Barbara. "They would not understand."
"Besides, not all of the woman Dick dated were taller than him," Rachel droned.
"Huh?" Jenny asked curiously.
"He did have a sassy little blonde at one stage didn't he?" Barbara added with a wink.
Dick rolled his eyes again. "Rachel, that was you. And it wasn't my idea. Plus I never kissed you."
"And there was that cute little dog following you the whole time," Barbara said with a grin. "I remember the press saying you'd been replaced because Rachel was showing more affection to the dog than you."
"Oh, poor Richard," Kori said, coming across and giving him a hug. "Are we being beastly to you?"
He wrapped his arms around her, kissing her neck briefly. "Yeah, I'm gonna go sulk now."
"Did I hear the dulcet tones of picking on Dick?" Wally asked from the door.
"They're done now," Dick replied. "At least they'd better be."
"Good," Wally said, gesturing at him impatiently. "C'mon, we need another on our team, we're being beaten up by the kids."
"Everyone, say goodnight to Kes, it's bedtime," Dick called as he picked up his exhausted daughter from Alfred's lap.
"Goodnight Kes," came the chorus while she half-heartedly waved.
"Not sleepy," she mumbled, resting her head on his shoulder.
"Course you're not, Kessie," he said quietly, his hands stroking her back. "Not sleepy at all. That's okay though, we can rest."
"No bed," she continued defiantly.
"Do you want a story, Kessie?" he asked after he had wrestled her into her bedtime clothes.
She nodded eagerly.
"Which one would you like today?"
"Daddeeee," she mumbled.
He hoisted her into her cot. "Lie down," he said quietly, switching off the light and waited until she did so and tucked the blanket in around her. "Let's see. One about Daddy. Once upon a time, when your daddy was very small, he lived in a circus. It was a very famous circus and people would come from all over the place to watch the show. What kind of animals do you think there were at the circus, Kessie?"
"Phant," she said in amongst the babbling words as she told the story with him.
"Elephants, that's right, what else?"
"Horses. Any more?"
Dick nodded. "There were dogs too. Daddy was an acrobat in the circus, along with his mommy and daddy too. We used to perform tricks in the air, tumbling like Dev and Ale'x do, only Daddy can't fly, so we had the trapeze. Daddy used to love swinging through the air and grabbing on to his mommy's hands. We traveled all over the world. One day we went to Gotham City and performed in front of all the people there. It was a wonderful show. There was popcorn and candy canes, and all the elephants got peanuts and some lucky children got to ride on them. And do you know what else was wonderful about Gotham?"
"Pa," Kes said sleepily, her eyes becoming glazed as she looked up at him.
"Grandpa, that's right. Daddy met Grandpa and went to live with him in his mansion. Who else did Daddy live with?"
"Al," she said, blinking slowly.
"That's right, clever girl. Grandpa trained Daddy how to be a hero. Daddy worked very hard for a very long time and one day he became a hero just like Grandpa. But Daddy and Grandpa didn't get along very well sometimes, so Daddy left for a while, went to Jump City to see if he could make it on his own. Do you know who he met in Jump City?"
"Mommeeee," Kes,murmured, her eyes sliding shut.
Dick reached down at rubbed her head gently, coaxing her further into sleep. "Uh-huh, Daddy met Mommy in Jump City. She fell from the sky in a brilliant green flame, her eyes shining with righteous fury and her hair flowing in the breeze." He shifted, leaning on the edge of the cot, smiling in remembrance. "She was so beautiful. And she was all snarly and destroying things and then she kissed me, and do you know what, Kes? I think I was gone from that very first kiss." He peered into the cot, seeing Kes' small chest rise and falling evenly. "And I'm glad, cause I got to have you and your brothers and sister."
He fussed around with the blankets a bit more, making sure she was nice and warm before he tiptoed out the door.
Kori was leaning against the wall beside the door and Dick grinned at her sheepishly. "How long were you standing there for?" he asked, quietly closing the door behind him.
"Long enough," she said with that smile that always made his pulse race. "Snarly and destroying things?"
"And looking damn sexy while doing it too," he replied, placing his legs on either side of hers, his hands on her hips.
Kori wove her hands around his neck, her fingers playing with his hair at the base. "And you were gone from that first kiss?"
"Completely," he said huskily. "Just didn't know it for a while."
She wrinkled her nose at him and titled her head. He took her invitation and attached their lips together.
Things were always so simple when he kissed her. The world would drop away and nothing else would exist beside the two of them. Moments between the two of them were always so rare now, Kes having the uncanny knack, like all their other children, of interrupting their private time and something as simple as a kiss was usually only a peck before they were pounced on.
Such is the life when one has children, and Dick and Kori had entered that stage of their life willingly, which was what made these rare moments of togetherness so special.
And in these moments he felt like he was a teenager again, stealing kisses from her in the heat of battle, or in the training room before the others arrived. Or sneaking into one of the back rooms at the Manor and having his wicked way with her after staging another raging argument for the sake of the press.
She was just as eager as he was, small noises of delight emitted from the back of her throat, her fingers clenching against his head.
A burst of laughter from the lounge room made them break away a short time later.
"We should get back to our family," Kori murmured, her tone disappointed.
"Don't want to," he whispered, his mouth still so close to hers he could smell the zorkaberries on her breath. "Couldn't we-" kiss, "just stay-" another kiss, "a while?" he finished, kissing her deeply again, his hands slipping down to her bottom.
Kori giggled. I am certain your father is taking advantage of your absence to tell stories.
Dick sighed, releasing her lips, pressing his forehead against hers. "Damn, he does like to do that doesn't he? I wonder which one it is this time."
She gave him a sultry smile. "We could venture and find out, or perhaps you are wishing to continue?"
Another burst of laughter echoed down the hallway and Dick sighed, knowing the decision was made. "C'mon," he said, stepping away and taking her hand. "We can finish this later."
"And then," Bruce was saying as he stood by the open fire, his arms gesturing wildly as he spoke. "His legs were sticking all up in the air gangly-like and kicking-"
Dick sighed and glanced at Kori's grinning face. "Chimney story," he muttered before pulling her across the room to sit beside Wally, dragging her onto his lap.
"He was making such a racket about it I was afraid he was going to alert every criminal in the area to our position. I had to go and knock on the door and ask the elderly couple that lived there to please put the fire out so I could free my wayward Robin."
"How'd you get him out Grandpa?" Dev asked gleefully and Dick rolled his eyes, knowing that they'd all heard this story before.
Bruce winked at Dev. "About ten pounds of grease poured down the top of the chimney and chimney sweeper in the face pushed him up enough to be able to get loose."
"The sweeper in the face was a bonus," Dick muttered to Kori. "He did that bit for kicks. The grease enabled me to wiggle my hands free and if he had given me a minute I would've gotten out of that."
"I believe that would be the payback for attempting to do a handstand above a chimney, Richard," Kori murmured with an impish smile.
Garfield laughed heartily. "You know, no matter how many times I hear that story, it still amazes me you got stuck anywhere, Dick. Let alone a chimney."
Dick raised an eyebrow at him. "Should I mention the amount of times we found you wedged somewhere and unable to shift?"
Garfield grinned. "Yeah, but that's me… you were the Boy Wonder! You're not supposed to make mistakes."
"Hey, I made a fair few mistakes," Dick protested. "That damn chimney being one of them. The point is I learned from them." He grinned at Kori, his hands hugging her around the waist. "Most of the time."
"What was another?" Ale'x asked eagerly.
Dick arched an eyebrow at the boy, before he grinned. "Not telling, boyo, but, if you like, I have a few Uncle Vic and Uncle Gar's pranks gone wrong I can tell you about."
"Duuuude," Garfield said immediately. "My pranks never went wrong!"
Kori arched an eyebrow at him. "I seem to remember receiving a face full of oil on one occasion."
"And there was the blue food incident," Rachel added from where she was snuggled into Garfield's side.
"You tried gluing my mouse to my desk," Dick said. "And glued your hands together."
"Stank ball with Rachel," Victor added, his arm around Barbara. "I blame that one on you."
"Dude, that wasn't a prank," Garfield scowled.
"Doesn't meant I can't blame it on you," Victor countered.
"C'mon Dad," Dev said eagerly. "Tell us a Titan story."
Dick considered. "Well, there was this one time when Garfield pushed a button he shouldn't have and got us all sucked into the television…"
The next hour or two was shared with rambunctious laughter and the retelling of the glory days when it was just the five of them. Dick laughed long and hard, remembering those days, days that didn't actually feel so long ago to him.
It was nice to have them all together as a family. Reunions between all of them happened so rarely, real life taking precedence and there were times that being the leader of the Titans seemed like a fantasy. And then Kori would smile at him, take him by the hand and they'd fly together in the night and he knew that had been his life, just as his family was his life now.
Kori finally decided the children had been awake long enough. "All right, children, quiet time in your rooms for a while and then prepare for bed."
"Moooooooom," the twins complained immediately.
Kori shook her head. "You were allowed to stay up later than normal. Quiet time, then bed. And if you complain any more, you will have to go to bed sooner."
Rachel nodded. "We should probably head off, get Benji into bed."
"Can't I stay Mom?" Layla asked, her green eyes pleading. "Just for a little while."
Rachel rolled her eyes while Garfield gathered a half-asleep Benji into his arms. "I don't know, Layla," Garfield said. "We-"
"Please, Uncle Gar," the twins pleaded at the same time, suddenly on their knees before him, hands clasped to their chest.
Garfield's eyes flicked over to Dick.
"We don't mind, Gar," Dick said at Garfield's unasked question, "as long as they're quiet. Any noise, we'll bring her home."
"All right," Rachel said quietly. "Half an hour, then you can raven home, as long as you tell Auntie Kori before you do so."
The boys cheered, each of them grabbing onto a hand and dragged Layla off toward Dev's room, Mar'i sedately following them.
"You realise," Garfield said sternly. "Once she hits puberty, things are gonna change."
Dick raised his eyebrows. "You calling the integrity of my boys into question?"
Victor laughed. "They are your boys." He took Barbara's hand. "We should go too."
"Yup," Wally groaned, getting to his feet and picking up a sleeping Iris. "We'll head off too, before I get too lethargic after all that good food and can't run."
"Merry Christmas," Dick and Kori said together as they saw their friends and family to the door.
Kori placed two glasses of brandy on the table and leaned over to kiss Dick on the cheek.
"Thanks, love," he murmured, picking up his glass and before propping his feet up on the footstool.
"You are most welcome," she said with a smile. "I shall finish putting the children to bed and help Alfred with the tidying up. Enjoy."
Dick watched her walk away, his eyes sliding down her back and lingering as she walked.
"Are you sure you want me to take them?" Bruce asked skeptically, picking up his own glass of brandy. "Wouldn't Fyria be better?"
Dick shook his head. "Fyria's going to be too busy with preparations. So are Kori and I, or we'd take them with us. Don't worry, we'll come and get them the moment Ryfore's xhandal is over."
"Isn't he a little old by their traditions?"
Dick shrugged. "He is, she's just right." He chuckled. "Believe me, Fyria's been worried about him, fretting that he'll never marry. And now that Galfore's stepping down, it's especially joyous for them. Getting married and taking over Tamaran in a few short weeks."
Bruce nodded as he took a mouthful of brandy. "Kori must be very pleased."
"Yeah," he said with a smile. "We all are."
"Who's Ryfore marrying? Have you met her?"
"Her name's Jinta, she's lovely. She's actually friends with Cyridor and Beri's daughter, which is how he met her, Ryfore and Kodi being third cousins and all."
Bruce nodded. "Looking forward to going back to Tamaran?"
Dick chuckled. "Am I looking forward to Auvy'r's advances, you mean?"
Bruce laughed and shook his head. "He's a character."
"Believe me, he's gotten worse with age, I honestly don't know how Oirni does it. It'll be nice being welcomed back publicly though, instead of just sneaking into Galfore's home, Kori's missed it. And we have assurances from Cyridor and Auvy'r that the debacle that happened last time won't happen again." He smiled and took a drink. "You'll be fine with the kids, it's only for a couple of days. Kes and the boys are simply too young to witness and Mar'i has no interest."
Bruce frowned. "You don't think it would be good for the boys to attend? It might be educational."
"Kori doesn't want them there," Dick said with a shake of his head. "Not for this. Bruce, xhandals are innately violent. It's not uncommon for people to lose limbs, or lives. I've been told that my xhandal was the least bloody there has ever been, and even then, I got stabbed and Kori got cut. We don't want them there for it." He sighed. "But if you're really concerned, I can ask Gar and Rachel to have Kes for a while and Vic-"
Bruce cleared his throat and Dick stopped, waiting for his father to speak. "I'm just no good with kids."
Dick arched his eyebrows. "Dad, you're fine with kids. I turned out okay. So did Tim."
"That's mostly Alfred's doing."
"No, it wasn't," Dick denied with a sharp shake of his head. "I wouldn't be half the man I am today if it wasn't for you." He cleared his throat uncomfortably and shifted the conversation back onto safe pastures. "Besides, Alfred will be there. And its not like they haven't stayed at the Manor with you before, just not for extended periods and not without us being close by. All you need to remember is that my kids are part Tamaranian, they rely on their emotions, and they need to be able to express them, Kes especially. Oh, if she starts flying and can't seem to ground herself, get Mar'i or the boys as soon as possible. She can only last about a half an hour before she'll drop, but they can help ground her."
Bruce's eyes widened slightly.
Dick grinned. "They're actually quite excited about staying with you."
"They are?" Bruce asked, looking surprised.
Dick grinned. "You live in a mansion, Bruce. It's a child's treasure trove. Games rooms, swimming pools, you name it. The only one you really have to worry about will be Kes, and Mar'i will probably take her half of the time."
Bruce leaned forward and placed his empty glass on the coffee table. "Okay, then."
"Speaking of weddings, when are you going to make an honest woman out of Selina?"
Bruce scowled at him. "None of your business."
"Oh, c'mon Dad," Dick said teasingly. "You two have been dating for years now. I'm surprised she didn't come with you. I mean, you do love her, right?"
Bruce sighed. "We had another fight…"
Dick raised an eyebrow. "And? You two fighting isn't exactly an uncommon thing."
Dick sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "This playboy thing is getting old Bruce. It can't last forever. You need to decide what you want and go for it and don't let anyone stand in your way."
Bruce narrowed his eyes at him. "I don't recall asking you for love advice."
"Who's the one that's been happily married for the last twenty-three years," Dick replied and took a sip of his drink.
"How do you two do it?"
"We don't go to bed angry for a start," Dick replied, considering. "We try not to let things fester… I think it kinda helped that we knew for certain we'd still be together at this age, makes us try harder. We've had our share of fights. It's different for us though, we're bonded."
Bruce nodded and completely changed the subject. "We'd better start heading back to Gotham, I need to work in the morning."
"No rest for the wicked?" Dick asked, raising his eyebrows.
Bruce shook his head. "Waiting on this years 'threat' from the Joker, I think he gets bored and overly melancholy this time of year. It's getting predictable."
"Thanks for coming," Dick said, placing his hand on Bruce's shoulder. "We'll see you in a couple of days."
Dick leaned on the railing of the back porch, looking out into the starry night. The moon was hidden by light cloud, creating an eerie circular glow in the night sky. His breath frosted as it escaped his mouth and he shivered as a small wind nipped through the air. He hugged his robe to him tighter, keeping the collar closed with one hand, hunching his shoulders slightly to protect himself from the frigid air.
Warmth caressed his back as Kori wrapped her arms around him from behind. "Richard, d'anthe l'ani, what are you doing out here? You shall freeze."
He released the collar of his dressing gown, his hand caressing hers. "Just star gazing," he murmured.
"Did you have a nice day?" he asked, snuggling into her a little but not allowing her to draw her into the warmth of their holiday home.
"It was glorious," she replied. "But now I wish to spend the last part of it with my husband and I do not wish for him to be cold."
"I'm all right," he said. "The kids?"
"Asleep, finally. Come inside."
"In a minute."
Her lips brushed the back of his neck. "But you have not received your Christmas present yet."
He half turned toward her, his eyebrows raised. "Yeah, I did. You got me-" He suddenly found himself silenced by her fingers.
"There is more," she said softly with a smile and took a step away from him. She tugged on the knot of her robe slowly and shrugged it from her shoulders.
Dick's jaw dropped, followed by the sudden rush of blood to his nether regions. Even after all this time together, his desire for her had not waned.
"Merry Christmas, Richard," she said, that alluring smile he loved so much dancing on her lips.
He forced his eyes up to meet hers. "Love you, Star."
Kori grinned broadly, and reached for his hand. "Come husband, it is time for the unwrapping."
"Let it snow" belongs to Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne.
Don't tell me Bruce is OOC, technically, he's had twenty years to change, and grandkids will do that to a person. Besides, he's here as Bruce, he can have fun. And I've seen a comic of him going all gaga eyed over Helena Kyle.
Jinx... well, everyone on FFnet seems to call her Jenny, but I thought her name was Nicole... -shrug- Iris was the name of Flash's daughter from the comics (he actually had twins). Thought I'd keep that, it's pretty.
And the And'r children's names were derived from real names, see if you can guess.
Oh, Christmas crackers, or bon-bons as we call them down under, do seem to be a Commonwealth tradition. I was unsure if America had it at all, but Kater said she's seen the before. They're like big candy wrappers with a small parcel inside, usually a paper crown, a plastic toy and some stupid joke. You each pull on one end and it goes bang, and whoever has the bigger end get the prize.
EDIT 1 Nov 2010- Dear Anonymous American - Actually, you can get Christmas Crackers in America. While they might be a British tradition, it's becoming a common practice in some States. Katergator, who is American, has seen them in stores and at Christmas parties. Other Americans have also commented on the tradition. Also, Alfred has been depicted as British in many versions of the comics and cartoons. In all probability he would have enjoyed that tradition at Christmas and passed it down to Bruce and Dick. I checked the availability of bon-bons in America before I wrote that in, I did my research. I wouldn't have added it if I didn't think some people wouldn't recognise it. - Kry