Author's Note 12/25/2011: Merry Christmas! The first chapter of Equinox, the sequel to this story is posted. You will need to have read this story in it's entirety to understand and enjoy that fic.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans. I do own the plot.
"It's the Winter Solstice tonight, the longest night of the year," remarked Lt. Dick Grayson to the red haired beauty he had met only hours before.
"Then why does it feel as though it is the shortest?" Kori Anders replied.
Great, just great. Dick Grayson thought as he pulled into the little Bed and Breakfast in the canyons outside of the of Jump City. Even with his military credentials, he couldn't get a flight out of San Diego to go home to Gotham for Christmas on such short notice. So he decided to make the drive to Jump City to take a commercial flight from there. A long pretty drive in California could give him time to think, so it seemed like a reasonable enough plan.
So who would have guessed that a freak once-in-a-century snowstorm would sock in the people of Jump? What was all this talk about global warming?
"No more sliding now, please!" Kori Anders said to her rental car trying in vain to navigate the slick but thankfully nearly deserted road. She had barely ever driven, it was not a skill she needed as a full-time graduate student, and had never, ever driven in the snow.
"Thank X'Hal!" she exclaimed when she saw the Bed & Breakfast. She knew she had to get off the road. She was was well aware that she could kill herself and possibly someone else.
Dick watched the Toyota slip and slide, and then finally spinning out as the driver attempted to turn into the parking lot in front of the B&B. At first alarmed, he was relieved when he saw the car come to a complete stop. The driver couldn't possibly plan to leave it there...
For some reason, he was drawn to the vehicle. He should help the driver if he could. Isn't that what heroes do? The door didn't open. In fact, there was no movement in the car at all. He approached with caution. Why wasn't the person doing anything?
Dick caught a glimpse of the driver. He couldn't quite see the person through the blowing snow but what struck him was that he continued not to see any movement. He tried to peer in to see who was at the wheel. He made out red long read hair and not much else. After another 15 seconds or so, he decided to knock on the car door.
Brought out of her shock, Kori turned to the noise at the car door window. She cut the engine and finally opened the door.
Dick was taken aback by her beauty but also noticed how cold and frightened she was.
"I-I-I do not know how to do the driving in the snow," she said in a pleading tone. "I am sorry. I should not be on the road."
"Here, come on out," he said gently, "Let me help. I can move your car for you."
He noticed the she had regular shoes on, that she worse pumps on her feet, not exactly the proper footwear for a snow storm. "Here, hop in the back and I'll park your car closer to the front door. Maybe there's a room for the night."
Fear crossed her face but Dick wasn't sure if it really was a different expression coming over her as she had appeared so shaken by her drive. He realized his words could easily be misinterpreted but didn't take the time to explain given that the situation had to be addressed quickly. The snow was really piling up so he simply took her arm gently and opened the driver's side rear door for her. Once she was settled in, he got behind the wheel and carefully steered the car to the empty parking space next to his own.
"I cannot thank you enough for your assistance," Kori said as Dick assisted her out of the vehicle. She felt oddly trusting. "You are correct. I see no alternative but to stay here for the night."
"You're welcome," Dick replied, giving her a smile, "do you have any luggage?"
"Yes, the items I have packed for the Christmas Holiday are in the, uh, trunk is it?"
Dick flashed her a smile and popped the trunk, grabbing the small suitcase in the back. He carried it for her as he walked next to her on the parking lot toward the lobby of the little inn. When Kori slipped a bit on the slick macadam, Dick reached out and steadied her. He could have sworn he felt something when he touched her and held her elbow for the remainder of the walk to the front desk.
"Ladies first," he said with a smile to Kori as the clerk walked up.
"Is there a room I could rent for the night?" Kori asked the older gentlemen that was now behind the reception desk.
"Certainly, I have a room for you both."
"Wonderful," she replied as she fished for her i.d. and credit card.
Dick was torn. Should he wait as this mystery girl checks in, or should he just go out and grab his own bag out of his Cayenne? He really didn't want to leave her side. He was enticed by the smell of her perfume that became more noticeable as she shrugged off her coat. Still a little dazed, the coat probably would have fallen to the floor if he hadn't been there to catch it. Given that, there was no way Dick would leave her side quite yet.
Once her transaction was complete and Kori was set up with a room for the night, Dick placed Kori's bag by her side. She smiled at Dick shyly through her lashes as the clerk, who was also apparently the bellman, picked up her bag and lead her down the hall to her room.
Dick watched her leave, more than curious about who she was and what she was doing out traveling in the terrible conditions, obviously not prepared to drive in the snow. He was sure they'd see each other shortly, and couldn't wait. He then walked out to his car and grabbed his bag. There must have been another inch of snow on the windowpane since he had parked. This storm was unbelievable.
When the clerk returned to the desk, he gave Dick an odd look, "You're in Room 14."
"Pardon me? I haven't registered yet."
"Oh, my apologies, I thought you were with the young lady."
Dick wished he were, surprised how much. "Do you have another room for tonight?"
"I do, the last one."
Dick filled out the paperwork and was shown to room 15. He couldn't help but notice that it was right next to room 14, where the beautiful young woman was spending the night. It was at that point he realized that he hadn't gotten a chance to introduce himself to properly to her.
After showering and changing, Dick decided to head down the lobby, fully acknowledging to himself that he was looking for her. He didn't want to be presumptuous and knock on the young lady's door on the way, but he was more than concerned about how she was holding up. She had been quite frightened by her ordeal. He hoped that she was doing well and had taken the experience into stride and that he would be running into the red haired beauty in the common area.
Dick was disappointed when he didn't see Kori among the guests around the fireplace or at the bar.
He was trained to notice things, and he had quickly assessed who was present in the common areas of the inn. There were six couples, all older, retired types, and then a group of four 20 somethings that seemed to be two couples. He sighed. 'Tis the season to be with family, friend, loved ones... and he was all alone.
After a short conversation with the clerk/bellman/bartender, he was offered the complementary drink for the evening, Hot Chocolate with Amaretto and whipped cream. A bit sweet for his taste and probably stronger than he would have mixed it if he made it himself, but definitely a nice way to chase the residual cold away.
As Bed and Breakfasts are want to do, dinner was to be somewhat of a communal experience. He hung back a bit, but finally took a seat alone in the dining room at a table for two, resigned to a quiet meal surrounded by all the happy couples.
Kori finally started to warm up after her long bath, thankful that the inn had plenty of hot water for the guest and a deep claw foot tub with a gas fireplace right next to it. It was a lovely set up and perfect for her to regroup after her ordeal driving in the snow. Why had she decided to leave the dorm for her friend's in Jump City? Well, there's an easy answer there – the dormitory was closed from Christmas through New Year's. Her late final had held her up to the last minute and she rented a car to visit her roommate and one of her few friends, Donna Troy. Her only family was her sister Koma, not that she wanted to travel all the way home, and there was no warm and fuzzy feelings there. So it was off to Donna's for winter break.
Kori's feet were still cold and she changed to the warmest clothes she had, a soft blended wool knit skirt that she paired with a pink cashmere twin set. She put on hose and shoes. She had originally thought she was going to just see if she could order room service but knew at the very least she should thank the nice (and handsome) man that had helped her park her car and carried her bag. She felt as if she had acted so improperly, she was so frightened, and she had not taken the time to be nice. He was such a gentleman, nothing like her classmates in the music master's program at the university.
Kori came to the lobby and was disappointed when she didn't see him in there.
Dick had gotten up to check the lobby for the young woman from earlier in case she was there. When he saw her standing by the fire, looking a little lost, his breath hitched. In her simple gray skirt and pink sweater set, she looked amazing. The glow of the fire accentuated her hair and features. She looked up as if she sensed his presence and he gave her a smile and a small wave.
Kori's smile could have lit the city that night. If he hadn't been gone before, he was then.
"Hello," he said with a broadening smile, feeling himself blush for the first time in years.
"Greetings," she replied.
"I'm Dick Grayson," he said, offering his hand.
"Nice to meet you Mr. Grayson, I am Kori Anders."
They shook hands and Dick held on for an extra beat, eliciting a deep blush from her that Dick found adorable. "I want to thank you for your assistance earlier, Mr. Grayson. You were most..." she paused briefly, as if searching for the word, "kind."
It didn't take Dick's intelligence training to confirm his earlier suspicion that Kori was not a native English speaker. "You're welcome. And please, call me Dick."
The briefest of frowns crossed her face. Probably because she never heard someone call themselves Dick. "Dick?"
He chuckled lightly, quite aware of his nickname's use in the vernacular, "Dick is a nickname for Richard."
She again had to think for a moment, "Oh, a nickname!" she said with enthusiasm. Her English was improving since starting her Master's degree in August. She paused and considered, "I like Richard better."
He chuckled again. He never let anyone call him Richard, but he decided he'd have to make an exception. "Then you can call me Richard, Kori."
"Wonderful!" she replied.
Dick didn't wait any longer to ask, "Kori, would you join me for dinner?"
"That would be lovely."
And so it began. A wonderful dinner and good conversation. Dick hung every word Kori said about her love of teaching music to children, especially children with special needs. Kori was obviously impressed that Dick was an officer in the Navy, although he spared her a lot of the details of his service. Some because they were things he wasn't allowed to talk about, others because they were things he didn't want to talk about.
Kori was amazed that Dick knew of Tamaran, her homeland, the small island nation near Australia. Like Australia, it had been a penal colony, but for Scotland rather than England, and only for a few years. No one ever knew about it unless they taught geography or United Kingdom history at the college level.
Dick couldn't get over how sweet and pure Kori was. She was extremely intelligent and caring. Naïve, yes, but mostly that was mostly concerning American culture and considering she had only lived here for four months, she had a good grasp of things.
Dick was used to people of different cultures and with his easy going nature as well as his training, he was able to put Kori at ease. Part of his intelligence work with the Navy was working with people from all over. Plus he wanted her to feel comfortable, and comfortable with him. He was certain he wanted to get to know her and have her in his life with an hour of starting their conversation if that.
He was a prime candidate for life as a CIA operative and functioned in a similar capacity in the military, but a lifelong career in Intelligence was not in the cards. After his military service, he was destined to life at his adoptive father's business, the multinational corporation Wayne Enterprises.
Kori could not get over how attractive and kind Richard was. She found it so easy to talk to him. Most of the people she had met since moving to the US for grad school were the other musicians in her program within a fine arts college. They were a diverse group, but other than her roommate Donna, she felt she wasn't really meeting anyone she could call a friend. And the men, well, the men were mostly conceited and rude and boorish. Maybe because they were musicians or aspiring musicians and artists, maybe because they were American males ages 22-26. He was definitely special, someone she could see herself with, which made her very happy, and scared her just a bit.
"If you are not going to finish that Richard," Kori said sweetly, eyeing Dick's crème bruele that was only half-eaten. It was a repeat of dinner. She finished off his filet mignon that was left from the surf-and-turf.
"Help yourself," he said with a smile, pushing his plate toward her. As much as he wanted to comment on her healthy appetite, that generally was not considered something to give a woman a compliment about.
As the dessert dishes were cleared and Kori sipped her tea and Dick sipped his coffee, suddenly Kori found her lap very interesting. She set down the tea cup and began to twist her fingers due to her nerves. She didn't want to say goodnight but she didn't know what to do to prolong her time with Richard. She certainly did not want to appear forward or worse.
Again, it did not take Dick's training to figure out Kori's thoughts. "Will you join me for a drink at the bar?"
Kori's face lit up at the question and Dick felt a slight amount of warmth due to it, "I would love to," she replied.
"Do you like Hot Chocolate?"
She gave him an adorable confused look. Not clueless, just new to the culture.
"Cocoa?" Dick prompted. Still there was no recognition, "It's warmed milk with chocolate."
The connection was made and she brightened. "Sounds delicious!"
He ordered two hot chocolates with amaretto, "Here, try this. It has Amaretto in it too, it's really good."
A flicker of recognition crossed her features. For some reason Dick thought it was about the cutest thing he had ever seen. "Amaretto is almond flavor, yes?"
"I believe so, yes," Dick replied.
"I have tried the cookies, macaroons I think they were called, with Amaretto in them."
Dick smiled again at that, "Take a sip."
Kori did and the face brightened and then flushed, "Glorious!"
Dick had never wanted to kiss a woman he barely knew before. Ever. But it wasn't appropriate. Even if it were, what could he be starting? And he was not one for a one night stand. But he was leaving in a few days. Gotham was a stop over, a last minute holiday stop off before his deployment. He was going back to Afghanistan. Back to Afghanistan in the winter. He didn't mind doing his duty. He just liked to be able to feel his toes.
There you go. Holiday fluff.
Thank you for reading and please review.