Sorry for the cliffy in the last chapter guys! Here you go, the aftermath of the revelation!
How Will the Dust Settle?
Dick exited the hotel and walked out into the warm May night air. He looked at Kori's car, his only mode of transportation. He knew he was being presumptuous, he shouldn't take Kori's car, but he needed to get away to think. He hopped into the front seat and pulled out onto the fairly deserted drag along Philadelphia's western suburbs, dubbed the Main Line, and onto Lancaster Avenue.
It was only 12:30AM, but it was a weeknight. He drove a few miles along Lancaster, then took Bear Hill Road north, heading toward Valley Forge Park. He pulled into the parking area in front of the National Memorial arch, a near-replica of the Arc de Triomphe, which was bathed in light. Dick stepped out of the car and walked under the structure. It was the only source of light in the park at this hour so he had been drawn to it. He soon realized, however, that he would prefer to be enveloped in the darkness of night, so he began walking away from the marble structure and along a paved foot path.
Finally he began to think about what had happened over the last few hours. He was yet to question himself about just walking out on Kori, concentrating on how this possibly could have happened, how he could have not known Starfire and Kori were the same. He always thought he had great detective skills, something that was an absolute necessity as an ER doctor, but he missed this. Of course, he had last seen Starfire nearly 17 years before when he was only 15 and she was 13, and soon after that he was told she had been killed.
Nearly as much as the death of his parents, the 'death' of his first love Starfire shaped him emotionally. Of all the women in his life, and there had been many, Barbara was the only one he actually loved, although never felt truly in love with her, never saw himself married to her. Other than long red hair they really weren't at all alike, and he had always been fond of red heads since Starfire.
Once he did think about it, it was not lost on him that he shouldn't have walked out on Kori and now the feeling of guilt began. This revelation was certainly as significant to her as it was to him. He just hadn't been able to stay. But his thoughts and the time alone were not giving him any answers, nor was it giving him solace. He had to talk to Bruce.
The father-son relationship between Bruce and Richard was unique. Not that he wasn't very thankful for being adopted by him, it was just that Bruce had a great deal of resources but did not always have the emotional availability to be an effective father. It was a fluke he had adopted him, that Bruce saw so much of himself in Dick, that Dick's parents died tragically just as Bruce's had, that he took him in as a single and young father. Alfred had been there, however, and he was very nurturing.
Dick arrived at Bruce's apartment after 1:30 AM. A look around the parking lot indicated that there was still some celebrating going on. At least Bruce would be up, Dick wondered if he was going to be able to speak to him privately. He felt a fullness in his throat as he took the elevator to the luxury penthouse apartment.
There were only about 20 people still in the apartment so it wasn't too crowded, but Dick wasn't prepared for Babs and Xavier to be right inside the door when he entered.
"Hey Dick, you made it!" Babs exclaimed, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. Then there was a beat, "Where's Kori?"
His look was 'back off' but Babs wasn't one to be intimidated by Richard Grayson.
"What did you do?!" she said in a very accusing tone.
"None of your business, Babs," Dick started to walk past her, not in the mood for this discussion, certainly not with her.
Again, Babs was not one to be intimidated – or stopped. She grabbed his arm and spun him back so he faced her, "You broke up with her, didn't you? You slept with her and then broke up with her, didn't you?"
"No Babs!" He wasn't expecting Babs to be so defensive of Kori – a few weeks ago Babs wanted Dick back and wanted Kori out of Dick's life.
"No to which? You know she was a virgin!"
Babs knows that? "No to both!"
Xavier was so intrigued it was hard to keep his face passive, Kori is a virgin? Are they really breaking up?
"You did something stupid, I know that look!" Babs pressed.
Dick gave a defeated sigh, Babs did know him well. "Look," he said softly, no longer having a defensive tone to his voice, "I'll talk to you about it later, okay? Or Kori will. I just need to talk to Bruce now."
"I'm holding you to that Grayson," Babs gave him a quick smile, then poking him in the chest for emphasis, "but I know you messed up, so you better fix it. Bruce was in the kitchen the last time I saw him."
"Thanks Babs," Dick gave Xavier a quick nod, "Red."
Bruce was indeed in the kitchen, doing an impromptu wine tasting with six of his guests hanging on his every word as he extolled the virtues of each bottle.
"Dick," Bruce recognized something was up, and without missing a beat, "hey, Selina," he called out to this girlfriend who was on the other side of the room, "can you take over here?"
She looked at Bruce then Dick, "Sure," she said with a sweet smile and moved over to the kitchen table to take over in Bruce's place.
"Let's go out on the balcony off the bedroom" Once there, Bruce asked plainly, "What's going on Dick?"
"What do you know about Kori?"
Bruce cringed inwardly a bit, this can't be good. "Not much, why?"
"Do you know that she is the Princess of Tamaran?"
Bruce's expression showed one of the rare times he let himself actually look surprised. As a diplomat, he was a professional when it came to looking impassive.
"She is? The reports were that the royal family was wiped out in the first few weeks of bombing, right after we left. I was under the impression that the only princess, the only surviving member of the royal family was Komand'r"
"Tamaran's Patty Hearst? I guess that would mean she's Kori's sister."
Dick considered that briefly. He'd been reading up on recent Tamaranian history since he started seeing Kori. At age 18 and about a year before the bombings, Komand'r had been allegedly kidnapped. She then joined the coup effort against her parents. Some said it was Stockholm Syndrome while others said she was a bad seed with a vendetta against her family, the royal family.
"Boy, talk about two very different people, they hardly seem like they could have been related, let alone sisters."
"That's a valid observation," Bruce replied.
"So you had no idea that Kori was the princess?" Dick asked.
"No, none. Why is it an issue?"
"Because, well, do you remember Starfire?"
Bruce only needed a moment to recall the name and the person it belonged to. "The girl you were, uh, sneaking out to play in the hayloft with when we were still in Tamaran?"
"Yes," Dick said, irritated that it was put so... trivially. "Remember that Hans told you after we left that Starfire was actually the princess? Dammit Bruce, we made the assumption that Starfire died, but she didn't! I never got over that Bruce! And now Kori, Princess Koriand'r is Starfire?! She has lived in the US since she was 18. In fact, she was even at Penn some of the time while I was at Princeton. She was 45 miles from me and I never knew it!"
"But you found each other again," Bruce pointed out.
"Dick, what do you want me to tell you? I had no idea that Starfire was Koriand'r. I had no idea that the reports we had were wrong, that Kori survived when the King, Queen and Prince died. Before our introduction to her, Ambassador Galfore only described her as his niece and And'r is not an uncommon surname in Tamaran. Didn't Koriand'r ever tell you she was the princess?"
"No," Dick thought for a moment, and added softly, almost to himself, "she said she never referred to herself as a princess again after her family died."
"And she didn't remember you?"
"No, she knew me only by my old nickname Robin and I never told her you were the ambassador. Also, she apparently repressed most of the memories from the last few months or so that she was in Tamaran due to the trauma of watching her family blown to bits. She only remembered it tonight when we were in the barn. She's been having flashbacks all week of the bombing and fleeing Tamaran since that terrible thunderstorm the other night ."
"Dick," Bruce could not help but see how upset his son was, but attempted to reframe it for him as the positive thing it was, another well honed diplomatic skill. "Look at it this way. You didn't know. She didn't know. I'm not usually one for fate, but maybe you are two people that are actually meant to be together."
Just then Selina walked in, "I'm sorry for eavesdropping, but Dick, Bruce is right. You two love each other. Now you know you have a history - a very special history. You should be overjoyed, not upset."
"Selina, its not that simple -" Dick protested.
"Men! Of course its that simple! And why are you here? Why aren't you with Kori?"
Dick realized Selina was right. He felt a grip of dread in his chest. Oh God, she is as upset as I am! I just abandoned Kori when she needed me and now she is probably even more upset! She probably thinks I left her like her other boyfriends did!
"Thanks Bruce," Dick shook his father's hand and then leaned over and gave Selina a kiss on the cheek, "thanks Selina."
"Just go to her," Bruce said. Selina grinned at Bruce – when did he become a romantic?
Dick left quickly although Babs had practically barricaded the door. He assured her that things were going to be fine with Kori. He wanted to get back to Kori as soon as possible but wondered if he should pick up flowers, or something, to make it up to her. But there aren't enough roses in the world to make this up to her.
He did stop at a chain grocery store that was open 24 hours and grabbed a few things to eat and drink, making sure to get some of Kori's favorites. There was a fairly decent floral department in the store, so he grabbed three dozen roses. Red for love. God I do love her.
He found himself back in the hotel parking lot. Kori had given him the pass key to her room after the ball so that Dick could take the elevator to her room, as that floor was only accessible by pass key. He took a deep breath, worried about her mental state and worried that she might break up with him over his reaction that night.
Dick knocked before entering, but heard no reply. He wanted to talk to her and wondered if she was asleep.
"Kori?" Dick said softly, letting himself in.
If he had paid attention, he would notice that basically nothing had changed in the two hours he was gone. The same lights were still on and Kori was still in bed. Perhaps the only thing that had changed was the amount of tears shed that now soaked Kori's clothes and pillow. In truth she hadn't moved. She spent the two hours crying, alone, hurting so deeply, unsure if Dick was going to return. Unsure if he did return, where they would stand as a couple.
So many things had gone through her mind. After he left, she immediately abandoned the impulse of trying to run after Dick or even calling him. He needed to be alone, she had heard that loud and clear.
Kori also thought of something her mother had once said to her older sister Kom, after learning that Kom had spent the night with her boyfriend against her parents' wishes and after Kom had said that she couldn't live without him: "The only one you are guaranteed to wake up with is yourself." Something she never thought would apply to her, something that she realized was true.
She also thought of a Tamaranian expression, that the rejection of one's love can hurt more than death itself. This certainly hurt beyond words and she was not even sure if she had been rejected.
Kori kept thinking over and over again of all the time that she had spent with Richard in the nearly eight weeks since they met. Or technically since they met again. With the exception of the flash of memory she had that night at Dark Night Farm, the night that they admitted their love for each other, she had barely remembered that second summer with Robin before today. The memories of those last months in Tamaran were simply missing and she never worked to regain them. Having to go through the storm earlier that week had triggered her memories of that time and as the memories of the bombing came back, so did those of Robin, their time together, and their young, innocent love.
She heard him come in and braced herself. The door was still open into the suite's bedroom and Dick crossed over to it and knocked. When Kori looked at him, it broke his heart: she looked so devastated, so scared. She looked broken. She had obviously been crying, her eyes and cheeks red and swollen. She laid in the bed in a near fetal position. She hadn't bothered to change or even button up her dress, the dress Richard had unbuttoned while kissing her, caressing her, reconnecting with his Starfire.
"May I come in?" Dick asked gently.
"Yes," Kori replied in a meek voice.
"May I sit down?"
"Kori, I'm so sorry. I should have never left that way."
Kori didn't say anything. It hadn't been okay for him to leave like that and she was not going to easily forgive him. Plus, she had no idea if he was back to stay or not and even when she caught sight of the large bouquet of roses she didn't dare let herself hope for anything.
The look on her face just reflected the hurt, and he found it unreadable beyond that.
"I love you, Kori, very much and I am so sorry I hurt you tonight." His words were more than she had hoped for, his voice warm, sincere, and kind but she was not swayed.
She still didn't respond but turned and sat up, which unintentionally caused her dress to fall from her shoulders. She didn't move to cover herself up. She wasn't taunting him, she just didn't care at that moment.
Dick's mouth grew dry seeing her in her thin lace demi-bra and cursed himself for being such a lecherous creature. But even with her face red and swollen from crying, she was gorgeous. The girl he thought was so cute at 12, the girl he was sure he loved when she was only 13, was the same woman that he was undoubtedly in love with now. Kori was the woman who he was more attracted to than any other of the countless women he had known, more than the dozens he had taken to bed.
Overwhelming, yes, but Starfire was Koriand'r and this was a truly wonderful turn of events.
He reached over and cupped her chin, blue eyes meeting green ones. "Kori, Starfire – I am thrilled beyond anything I have ever known that you are in my life and that you came back to me. I never dared to hope or pray that this could happen. Please tell me you'll give me another chance."
Kori found her voice. Clearing her throat, "Richard, I am not the one that left. I do understand that you were overwhelmed, are overwhelmed, as I am, but you walking away earlier was so painful I cannot begin to describe it."
"I'm so sorry, I don't expect you to forgive me, but please understand that if I had the chance to do it over again, I would never walked away."
She searched his eyes, knowing he was telling the truth, but knowing that the pain was still there. "I do believe that Richard."
She wanted to ask about why he was more passionate tonight, once he knew she was Starfire, but it was a conversation that she was not ready to have, willing to have, after all the emotions of that day. She was just extremely relieved that they had not let things get out of hand. If they had made love and if after that he had left she would have been destroyed. Another day they'd talk about it, she was certain, but not tonight, not after 3 AM.
"Kori, we can talk now if you wish or later," he gave his most dashing smile and held up a bag from the store, "I brought snacks."
God he's gorgeous. She giggled softly and felt a warmth she hadn't in the last couple of hours. "Later will be fine, Richard. You must get some rest, are you not needed at the show tomorrow?"
He answered in Tamaranian, "Nothing is more important than this, nothing is more important than you, Koriand'r."
She replied in her native tongue, "Thank you, Richardgrayson." She paused and considered what she would want as far as sleeping arrangements were concerned, "Do you wish to stay?"
Again in Tamaranian, "More than anything, my love."
"Then sleep by my side," she said in Tamaranian and then switched to English, "We will talk things through tomorrow." Richard was relieved he could stay. There is no way she would have if she intended to break up with him. He might not be forgiven yet, but things were not all lost.
Richard stood up to go around to the other side of the bed and Kori stood up. She let her dress fall away completely, then stepped out of it, and leaned over to pick it up before proceeding over to the bureau. She was sure Richard was watching her, he'd never seen her only in her underwear and she felt slightly guilty about putting him through seeing her that way, but all's fair in love and war, right? She grabbed her tank and sleep short pajamas and slipped them on while still resisting the urge to look back at Richard. Once dressed, she went into the bathroom and closed the door.
Richard had been frozen as he saw Kori's incredible form in only her bra and panties. Good Lord she looked amazing, with what he considered perfect curves and just the right amount of flesh and muscle. It was interesting how his mouth could water as his throat went dry. Once she closed the bathroom door, he was able to move again going and went over to the kitchenette. Unable to find a large enough container for all the roses, he spied the carafe for the coffee maker, and made use of it. He fit all 36 roses into it, added water and placed it on her side of the bed.
Kori used the toilet and threw water on her reddened face. She was shocked how awful she looked and was surprised Dick hadn't said anything. She brushed her teeth and hair and headed out to the bedroom.
She smiled at the roses, "They are lovely, Richard." She leaned over and smelled them. "Nice vase."
"Hadn't thought it through I guess," he rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment.
"It was a very sweet gesture, thank you."
"You're welcome, Kori"
Richard had left his pajama bottoms there the previous night and went into the bathroom to change into them. Kori watched as he returned to bed, admiring his bare chest.
It wasn't as awkward as either had anticipated once they were both in bed. Richard kissed Kori briefly and chastely, and then held her as she snuggled on his chest. She fell asleep quickly, but Richard was still awake, still trying to get his mind around the fact that Starfire was Kori, still wondering why he bolted at the news. He hated the fact that he had taken off, that he had walked out on Kori, it was the kind of selfish thing he never thought he'd do to her. He was well aware that she hadn't forgiven him nor had she told him that she loved him since he returned. Of course he did know her well enough to know what it meant to her for him to be in her bed, and it was that which gave him the peace of mind to finally fall asleep.
Please read and review!
Is all forgiven??? Our Kori is no push over!
Stockholm Syndrome - the psychological response of abductees to sympathize with and become loyal to their captors even if they are in danger.
Patty Hearst - The heiress to the Hearst family (newspaper publication) fortune, this American woman was kidnapped by a group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army and joined their cause. She was later apprehended when she joined them during a bank robbery. Convicted of her participation in the robbery, she served two years in prison before her sentence was commuted by then President Jimmy Carter.