Disclaimer: I don't own the Titans.

Author's Note:

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, except for that mouse.
The stockings were hung by the tree with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were all sleeping soundly,
While Kry's writing madly, her husband's astounding,
Her fingers all sore from peeling the prawns,
and the dinners all sorted to start in the morn.

The house smells of baileys and gingerbread,
but all is not well, Kry smacked her forehead.

Away to the computer Kry flew like a flash,
She'd forgotten to post her last Xmas stash.

Silly Kry. That's about my year quota of almost rhyming used up right there. Rather pathetic really.

Anyway, Kater's fault this one. We were talking, as we do, and I mentioned, completely in passing that one of the things I hadn't written yet was a particular scene, with a particular garment. Kater, of course, jumped on it, and said something to the effect "I'd be so happy if you wrote that! It can be my Xmas pressie!"

I grumbled and groaned, and complained she'd already gotten a birthday present from me set in the e'ara world and I really didn't have time to write another one (no, you can't see it). I didn't tell that to Kater, of course. I just love it when she gets wriggly puppy over what I write.

So, without further ado, Kater's Xmas pressie! Yes, part of the e'ara universe, even though I said there wouldn't be more. See what Kater can do? She's evil, I say. Evil. Oh, who am I kidding, I wanted to write this.

Yes, the title is almost that of the movie.

Broken Record Moment: Aussie, spelling, word usage, slang, all different.

Big fat warning: Little bit of angst. Mostly romance. Rated for candid talk.


Sixty first dates.

Random extracts from the secret files of Dick Grayson.

1.
Date: 21 August 2016
Alias: -no name- "Random pickup"
Appearance: Blonde hair, blue eyes. Caucasian.
Location: Planet Bowling alley, Gotham City
Reporter present: Yes – Clifford Clyve
Photos Taken: Yes
Additional Notes:
Wally attended this one, without informing him of what we were doing, we attempted to see if the disguise was sufficient enough to hide Starfire's core personality. Wally did not appreciate it. Memo to self, Flash can pack a punch, but he's a good friend.

2.
Date: 15 September 2016
Alias: Rebecca
Appearance: Brown hair, brown eyes. Caucasian.
Location: Café Prescott, Gotham City
Reporter present: Yes – Susan Peterson
Photos Taken: Yes.
Additional Notes: We were able to relax for this one. Simple date, coffee and cake and talking. Was meant to show I was on the market again.

3.
Date: 17 September 2016
Alias: Li
Appearance: Black hair, brown eyes. Asian.
Location: Dixon Docks, Gotham City.
Reporter present: Yes – Clifford Clyve
Photos Taken: No.
Additional Notes: Mistake to go to the Docks. Mobbed by fanatic girls. Starfire looked nice.

7.
Date: 31 December 2016
Alias: Cindy
Appearance: Blonde, blue eyes.
Location: Gotham's New Year bash.
Reporter present: Yes.
Photos Taken: Yes.
Additional Notes: Had a blast. Arrived with Star on my arm, didn't part from her all night. Lots of dancing and making out. Bruce wanted to have an altercation between 'Cindy' and Kori, but we decided against it. Kori has too much class. We want to have her just be absent for a while, not have her be so hurt and involved in my 'dates' that it would be too hard to pretend to forgive later on.

15.
Date: 15 April 2017
Alias: Mitsy
Appearance: Strawberry blonde, green eyes. Caucasian.
Location: Wayne Manor – one of Bruce's parties
Reporter present: Yes – Susan Peterson
Photos Taken: Yes.
Additional Notes: We had fun. She didn't tell me what she was going to look like, she wanted it to be a surprise. It was fun finding her. I'd know her anywhere. We went for the whole eyes meeting across the room, to dancing suggestively together all night and allowed ourselves to get sprung doing some heavy petting in a closet.

25.
Date: 30 July 2017
Alias: Sylvia
Appearance: Black hair, dark brown eyes. African-American.
Location: Opera
Reporter present: Yes -Clifford Clyve
Photos Taken: No.
Additional Notes: A date for one of Bruce's mandatory opera appearances. Apparently someone he was dating was one of the cast members, I still haven't figured out which one. Or why Selena was also there. Star enjoyed the opera, she likened it to the singing of the Glorka pipes. Not sure if that's a good thing. Fell asleep partway through.

29.
Date: 17 October 2017
Alias: Siobhán
Appearance: Red hair, green eyes. Accent – Irish.
Location: Oktoberfest – Germany.
Reporter present: Yes - many present
Photos Taken: Yes.
Additional Notes: These dates are starting to lose their appeal. Star is compensating by having appearances close to her own. The accent was fun, she's been practicing that for a while. Also, she drank me under the table. Revisit for St Patty's day.

30.
Date: 23 November 2017
Alias: Matilda
Appearance: Red hair, green eyes. Accent – Australian.
Location: Bruce's thanksgiving bash.
Reporter present: Yes – Vicky Vale
Photos Taken: Yes.
Additional Notes: Star's accents are awesome. I don't know how she does it. At least she's still finding these fun.

33.
Date: 23-28 December 2017
Alias: Nadia
Appearance: Brown hair, blue eyes. Accent – German.
Location: The Alps
Reporter present: Yes - various paparazzi
Photos Taken: Yes.
Additional Notes: Long skiing trip. Starfire wanted to try being a snow bunny. Good thing she doesn't react to the cold as we do. Was watched the whole week. Getting old.

38.
Date: 2 May 2018
Alias: Chastity
Appearance: Black hair, blue eyes
Location: Wayne Manor
Reporter present: Yes – Vicki Vale.
Photos Taken: Probably.
Additional Notes: 'One night stand'. I didn't even give Starfire the chance to act out whatever routine she'd planned, just 'propositioned' her and left with her. I felt bad because she always plans these things, but I just wanted to be out of eyesight. Those boots, though, omg.

53.
Date: 3 July 2019
Alias: unknown
Appearance: unknown
Additional Notes: I stood her up. I'm going to be in so much trouble.

55.
Date: 2 August 2019
Alias: Cynthia
Appearance: Red hair, green eyes.
Location: Wayne Manor
Reporter present: don't care.
Photos Taken: Probably
Additional Notes: I couldn't do it. Star was there and I spent the night avoiding her. Funnily enough, she didn't seem to mind. Or is she hiding it?

59.
Date: 27 November 2019
Alias: Belle
Appearance: I don't know.
Location: One of Bruce's functions.
Reporter present: -
Photos Taken: -
Additional Notes: Mutual avoiding. Newspapers are reporting I've been single for a while and on the prowl.

60.
Date: 25 February 2020
Alias: -
Appearance: -
Location: Wayne Charity Ball.
Reporter present: -
Photos Taken: -
Additional Notes: I can't put her through them anymore. I can't put myself through them. She doesn't even know there is one on tonight. I haven't spoken to her in over a week. I have a bag packed, and although I probably won't use it, I think we just need a break for a while.

TTTTT

Dick sighed, clicked save and shut down the computer. He smoothed down the sleeves of his black jacket and left his office, locking it behind him. Yet another social even he had to attend because of his father. It would be alright if his wife could attend as herself, but Bruce's insistence that he play the field, however sound the idea, meant that Kori couldn't be seen in Dick's world for some time.

Three years of playing this silly game. Three years. It was getting old, tedious. It was hurting them both. It was hurting their marriage, pretending to be someone else, neither of them could leave the baggage in Gotham, it followed them home. Dick knew that was mostly his fault.

Starfire was such an emotional creature. Dick knew when he got upset and retreated from the world like he was, it hurt her even more. She thrived on love and affection and lately he wasn't offering any. He loved Starfire, but right now he didn't like her very much. It was nothing she did, it was just difficult to be around her. Everything felt forced, even their normal day to day lives. He knew he was shutting her out. He knew she was letting him.

These stupid dates were a poison, slowly weakening their bond, contaminating their lives.

At the centre of the poison stood Bruce Wayne, and there wasn't anything Dick could do about it. Starfire's need to please Dick's father because nothing she ever did pleased her own was detrimental to both of them and something which Bruce had no qualms about using to get what he wanted.

Dick wondered if his father even knew that Starfire had a breaking point too. Then he wondered if Bruce remembered what she did to her own father when she reached that breaking point.

Cyborg sat at his computer, working on a new schematic. Dick wasn't sure what it was for, if he was feeling himself he probably would have asked. Instead, he rapped politely on the side of the open bedroom door. Cyborg swivelled to face him with a greeting grin, then grimaced as he noticed what Dick was wearing. "Another one?

Dick sighed. "Yup."

"Man, that bites."

"Yup."

Cyborg acknowledged Dick's despondency with a nod. "I'll have Star somethin' chocolate-y for when y'all get back."

Dick took a deep breath. "She's not coming."

Cyborg's eyes narrowed and his lips pursed sternly.

"I didn't tell her," Dick clarified. "I can't do it, Vic. It's killing us both."

"She's going to be hurt."

Dick dropped his eyes and shrugged. "Better her be hurt than depressed for days."

"'Spose so," Cyborg agreed. "Want me to play distraction?"

Dick was surprised at that. "Would you?"

"I love her too, man. Besides, these blueprints could use a feminine touch."

"What are they?"

"Extensions for the Watch Tower. Batman wanted more quarters added."

Dick nodded, then looked at his watch. "I'll be late into Gotham if I don't leave now."

"Be late. Bruce is a bastard."

Dick laughed sadly.

"Taking the one of the T-ships?"

"Yup." Turning away from Cyborg's door, Dick called over his shoulder, "Look after her."

"Always do."

Getting into one of the smaller versions of the T-ships, Dick considered the bag in the passenger seat and sighed. He felt guilty the whole trip to Gotham. He should have warned Cyborg about the bag. Adding to the guilt was the fact that he didn't say goodbye to Starfire and he really should have. It was wrong to saddle Cyborg with her when she found out Dick had left her behind. And perhaps wasn't coming back. He was being a dick and he knew it.

Alfred was waiting for Dick as the T-ship flew into the Batcave, stoic and stern as ever. A larger sense of disapproval flowed through the air when Alfred spotted what was in the passenger seat rather than Dick's wife. "I see."

"No, I don't think you do," Dick muttered, jumping out of the T-ship and smoothing down his black dinner jacket again.

"I see more things in this household than you could ever dream, Master Dick, I believe I do see."

Dick looked up at the hint of compassion in Alfred's voice.

"I believe," Alfred said, "in trust and truth. And I think you have forgotten just who you are married to."

Dick cocked his head. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Alfred ushered him toward the exit. "No time for that now, Master Bruce sent me down here to make certain you were not dawdling."

"My bag," Dick said, trying to reach around the suddenly imposing and forcefully directing Alfred.

"I will see it is where it needs to be."

"But—"

"Do you doubt me?"

There was really nothing safe Dick could say, so he allowed himself to be ushered upstairs and into the car.

Bruce stared at him from his seat. "You're late."

"Yeah, yeah," Dick muttered, sidling into his seat. He stared resolutely out the window, refusing to meet Bruce's eyes, or even speak more than one syllable answers.

"You're in a mood," Bruce noted eventually after several failed attempts at conversation.

Dick grunted and didn't deviate his gaze.

"Well, I hoped whatever ego Starfire picked for tonight will perk you up. This night is important."

"Everything's important lately," Dick muttered. "Tim doesn't have to attend these things like I do."

"Tim still has parents," Bruce said, "thanks to your future self. And as much as he important to me as Robin, Tim has no visual in Bruce Wayne's life. It would be inappropriate to include him until he's older. You do have a visual."

"Duty first," Dick muttered.

"Dick, I have no blood son, nor really any inclination to go out and have one. You are the only family I have, you and Alfred—" he amended with a glance at the still stoic Alfred driving the limousine. "Who do you think the Wayne Empire will fall to when I die?"

Dick frowned at the window. "You're grooming me."

"Of course I'm grooming you. I can't believe you haven't figured that out by now. The press certainly has."

"I don't read the paper anymore," he said sullenly.

Bruce regarded him. "A few years ago, you would have started roaring at me if I said even mentioned grooming you."

Dick glanced at Bruce and bit his tongue. To say, a few years ago Kori was in Dick's life, properly as she should be, would just create another argument. He stubbornly refused to say anything else until they reached the gala.

Dick dutifully put on his party persona, mingling with all the upper crusts of Gotham, laughing at Bruce's jokes and making snide remarks like he was expected to, but his heart just wasn't in it. As soon as it was socially acceptable, he excused himself and headed for the bar. Drink in hand, he wall flowered, surveying the guests once, and then gazed into the liquid in the glass.

White table clothes, flowers, candles, waiters and waitresses offing drinks and refreshments, everything the epitome of a gala. Ladies in swirling dresses laughed as they waltzed with their smiling partners. Men talked and drank in clumps while women chattered in tight knit circles. The music was nice, soothing to the soul, a small orchestra positioned in the corner before the dance floor. It reminded him of another gala when everything was simple.

There was some sort of commotion by the door, Dick noted absently with eyes still on his glass. He could hear Bruce's voice, muted anger in his tone, but Dick was too far away to make out the words. There was a woman's voice too. Another of Bruce's conquests, perhaps, deciding to make a scene.

The commotion was not loud enough for people's heads to turn, Dick only really noticed because he was trained to. Nor were things like that uncommon at these sorts of events, so why was conversation dropping away around him.

Dick glanced up and his world constricted.

Kori was here. Kori in her purest, simplest form. The only alterations to her were her eyes and her skin, the obvious signs of her heritage. Nothing else, no different nose, cheekbones, lips of the wrong size or face the wrong shape. Her hair was colour of scarlet, his mother's honeysuckle combs held it up in a pony tail. His brain barely registered the symbolism of it as his eyes dropped to the dress.

Her wedding dress design, now emerald trimmed with gold. The diamond cut in the middle of a skin hugging bodice. The ribbons which fell to the floor. The skirt puffing from her hips. The golden gorget was gone, instead she wore an emerald choker, a gift from him on their honeymoon as Nightwing and Starfire, and it suited the ensemble perfectly. There were other subtle differences too, a certain flair that Dick could only assume came from Simon and his designs.

Dick's knees went weak as he was flooded with memories and he had to clutch at the table he was standing beside just to stay standing.

His eyes reached Kori's face again and got caught at the tiny curl of her lips. He found himself reaching for her, with hand and mind before he could stop himself. The soft brush of her mind sent a quiet thrill through him and it made him realise just how long it had been since they used their a'tiyk valm.

Kori was here. Kori. Kori and Dick weren't supposed to be together, Bruce said so. But here she was, standing before him just out of reach, her hands clasped together, and waiting.

Clarity washed over Dick like ice water.

His hand, previously reaching for Kori on its own, dropped back down to his side. He looked past her to a fuming Bruce. Alfred stood beside Dick's father, talking sternly. He tried to listen in to hear to what was being said but instead the hushed tones of people around him prevailed.

"Who's she?" a gala attendant asked in a hushed tone.

"Gusty, wearing something like that."

"Didn't they used to date?"

"That's Kori Anders, isn't it?"

"Who's that?"

"Think she's single?"

"The first girlfriend. The one Vicky Vale always writes about."

"What's she doing here?"

Well, that was a very good question, Dick thought. Best he find out. He just hoped when he spoke there would be no squeak. "Hello."

"Greetings," she returned.

"You look—" gorgeous, sexy, as beautiful as the day he married her, there were so many words, "—nice," he finished lamely.

"Thank you," Kori said. "You look like crap."

Dick blinked. Then chuckled. "Well, thanks."

"I did not mean it as a compliment."

"I'm aware." He glanced sideways at the crowd of people trying not to be obvious about watching them. Mind speech wouldn't be appropriate right now, so he said, "Kori, not that it's not great to see you and all, but what are you doing here?"

"I came to ask you a question."

Dick waited.

"I have been watching very closely lately," Kori continued, her voice laced with double meanings. "I have seen many things I do not like."

Dick cringed. His heart thudded strangely and he felt lightheaded but he had to ask. "What's the question?"

Do you still love me?

Dick's eyes widened. He gulped. His head span. Tiny reactions were all he could afford even though her question threatened to topple him, they still were playing a game. Star—

Kori looked at him with soulful eyes which saw too much. It is a simple question. Long explanations can wait, if there is to be any. At this point in time, I simply require a yes or a no.

Now, when everything came to a head, and the bag he packed weighed heavily, he gave her the truth. I love you more than you know.

Kori studied him, her eyes betraying nothing of what she was feeling. Dick waited, trying to be calm, attempting to appear as though he was politely waiting for her question. If anything, these stupid dates had made them both incredible actors.

Kori's eyes narrowed briefly, then lifted her chin slightly and squared her shoulders. "Mr Grayson, are you prepared to be a grown up? To put away this childish façade and let someone become a permanent fixture?"

That caught him by surprise as he looked past Kori again at Bruce. Bruce looked strangely defeated and Dick couldn't care. He felt elated. "More than you know."

She smiled at him. "Oh, I think I know." She waited a heartbeat. "It is customary for the male to ask the female to dance," she prompted.

"Oh! Right." He held out his hand. "Would you like to dance?"

She rested her hand in his and he curled his fingers around it as he led her to the dance floor. He was vaguely aware that conversation around them was returning to normal but he really only had eyes for her. He stopped and she swung in an arc until she was facing him.

As he placed his on hands on her hips and hers slithered around his neck, Dick didn't know why but he was suddenly incredibly nervous. As they began to sway to the music Dick swallowed. "We need to talk."

"Not now," Kori said, demurely. She didn't look at him but she leant in so their cheeks almost rested together. "Just hold me."

As simple as that. They returned to the simple pleasure of holding one another as they swayed in time to the music. Couples swirled around them dancing vigorously and laughing, but even as the tempo changed, Dick and Kori's dance didn't.

Others might perceive their height difference as awkward but Dick never felt out of place with her. Sure, she couldn't rest her head on his shoulders, but if she stooped a little, they were cheek to cheek.

Dick's hands stayed on Kori's hips, and as much as he would have liked a more intimate embrace, it didn't seem right to take it further. It may be a reunion for Starfire and Nightwing, but it was a fresh start for Kori and Dick, their public faces, and it was better to take things slow. Besides, this just plain felt nice. Comfortable. Whole.

They reconnected with little movements. His thumbs stroked at her hips. Her fingers brushed at the back of his neck. Their faces touched, cheek to cheek. Occasionally she would whisper something, something small in Tamaranian and he would respond the same, little pleasantries, how she looked beautiful, how she missed his presence, how nice it was just to hold each other.

Dick caught glimpses of Bruce's sour face throughout the night, and of Alfred's quietly triumphant expression. His feet were getting sore from these overly dressy shoes he was required to wear, but he didn't want to stop dancing with her. His cheek was warm from her proximately and he breathed in the scent of her hair but he wished he could see her face.

He lifted his hands until he cupped her shoulder blades and moved his head away from hers so he could see her. Her hands slipped down until they rested on his chest and she raised tear bright eyes to meet his.

That concerned him. "Hey, now," he murmured. "None of that."

She gave him a watery smile and blinked her eyes several time to clear them. "Apologies," she said when it didn't work.

He glanced around. The gala had thinned while they'd been dancing, most of the people had gone home but Dick spotted several members of the press and paparazzi looking in their direction with interest. Although he didn't spot Bruce immediately, Dick was sure he wasn't far away. And probably still glaring. "Would it be too forward of me to say 'let's get out of here'?"

"I thought you would never ask."

"Good," he said and looked around again, his mind ticking faster than it had in a long time. "We're going to get followed."

Kori sighed. "When are we not? What is the plan?"

Dick spotted Vicki Vale and nodded in her direction. "Vicki's probably got the apartment staked out already."

"That seems likely." Kori looked over her shoulder. "Alfred has one of Bruce's porches in the parking bay in preparation of our departure. I have the keys."

Dick stared at her.

Kori shrugged and dropped her eyes. "One way or the other, I knew I would be leaving in a hurry."

"Star—"

"Later," she said. "Let us focus on getting out of here."

He removed one of his hands from her shoulders and placed it over hers on his chest. "Let's go," he said, releasing her completely, except for that one hand. As one, they turned and walked toward one of the exits, in the opposite direction of where Vicky Vale was conveniently positioned.

Both of them heard Vicki call out to them. Both of them ignored her and continued past a stoic Bruce without even a glance in his direction. Once they were free of the ballroom, Dick quickened his step. It wouldn't do to run, that would just be a dead giveaway that they were sneaking off and for once Dick didn't want to have to hide. Let the world know he was with Kori again.

Giggling, they reached the car Alfred had left for them and Kori handed over the keys. Dick helped Kori into the car, making sure he didn't slam the door on her dress, and hurried around the other side, ignoring the questions from Vicki Vale as she struggled to reach them.

Dick drove as recklessly as he could in an attempt to shake the paparazzi following them, but without breaking any road rules he was unable to. So instead, he parked out the front of the apartment building. Getting out of the car, he hurried to open Kori's door and gallantly helped her out. She smiled at his antics and allowed him to help her.

He paused, aware of the long lens camera pointed their way from the darkened car parked down the end of the street. As nervous as a schoolboy, he dropped his head and kissed her hand. "I had a lovely time tonight," he said, still clasping her hand in both of his. "But I need to go now."

For a brief moment, she looked crushed, then she too became aware of the car Dick had spotted and her face changed to being simply resigned.

"I'll lose them and come back," he promised. "I won't be long."

"Please do," she said and took a step backward. Dick waited until she'd removed her set of keys from a hidden pocket and was safely inside before he hopped back in the Porsche. He was pleased that Alfred had chosen this particular car. It was one of Bruce's special cars, with the ability to drive itself to a set destination, and the darkened windows made it virtually impossible to see inside. Bruce often used it to give the appearance he was driving somewhere, when in reality, Batman had slipped out of the car.

As soon as Dick was safely able, and the car following him was far enough behind him, he took a shortcut down an alleyway, set the car to drive back to Wayne Manor, and hid behind some dumpsters. He watched as the paparazzi hightailed it after the now empty Porshe.

Kori was in the kitchen preparing hot chocolate by the time he got back. She'd changed to PJs, spaghetti top and long pants both an apricot colour although the top was a much lighter shade. He didn't remember seeing them before. Her hair was down and Dick spotted the two honeysuckle combs on the bench. She smiled in greeting and gestured the table as she carried the two steaming mugs.

Dick removed his jacket and tie and loosened the strangle hold his dress shirt had around his neck and kicked off his shoes before he sat opposite her. "Thank you," he said, taking the mug. He glanced around her flat. "You moved the furniture around."

She frowned at the apartment and nodded. "A while ago."

"And, I'd know that if I was around more often."

She paused and looked at him. "I did not mean it as a criticism."

"I know."

Kori blew her hot chocolate before she took a drink and then carefully placed the mug on the table and looked at her hands. "Explain the bag."

Dick froze, then chocked down the mouthful of hot chocolate he'd just drunk. "Just dive right in," he said wirily, once he'd caught his breath.

Kori was undaunted, even though her eyes were stubbornly on her hands. "Were you leaving me?"

Dick studied the marshmallows Kori had put in his drink. Three, just like he always had. "No. Yes. Maybe and probably not."

"That is not an answer."

Dick ran his hands through his hair. "I don't really have an answer. I can't explain the bag. I wasn't leaving you, I just wanted to get away for a while. I didn't know if I'd actually use the bag."

"But you did not tell me." There was no real emotion in her voice, no accusation like he expected, but mild curiosity. It was rather scary.

"I didn't want to worry you unnecessarily. Until faced with the decision, I didn't know what I'd choose. I thought, if I told you, and then came back, that I would have put you through it for nothing."

"Since you did not tell me, if you did not come back what was I to think?"

Dick sighed. "I don't know."

"Seems to me the bag itself was a decision."

Heat drained from him. "Star, I—"

"I am saddened that you could not confide in me," she said woefully. "There is also a great guilt because I am part of the problem."

"No—"

"I should have put a stop to the dates a long time ago when I sensed they were no longer appealing."

Dick chuckled. "My father is not the easiest man to say no to."

"Still, I should have—"

"This is not just on you, I should have said something. God knows I don't have a problem standing up to him. Plus, I'm guilty of letting this affect our lives when we got back to Jump. It was wrong of me to bring that burden home with us."

"You could not help that. It is part of who you are. If you did not obsess over these dates, I would have become more worried. "

"I forgot."

Kori frowned and looked up from her hands. "Forgot what?"

He reached across the table and took her hand. "Who I was married to. The lengths you'll go to get what you want." He looked over at the emerald dress which hung carefully on a hanger by her open bedroom door.

That got a reaction. She flushed, dropped her eyes, her shoulders curling into her chest to make herself seem smaller.

"What?" Dick asked, concerned.

"I was not being manipulating, I assure you," she said timidly. "I just wanted to remind you."

He hadn't meant it like that. "I didn't think you were being manipulative. I love that dress. I'm just curious. Why go to those lengths?"

Kori considered. "A query. If I had confronted you at home about the bag, what would have been your reaction?"

Dick thought. "Denial," he said slowly. "Blame. Stubbornness. I can think of a number of things, none of them good."

"I thought the same. I wanted my husband back, but I needed to know if you still loved me. There is no known power, not even the a'tiyk valm, which will make someone stay in love. I was afraid you had fallen. I hoped if we were in public, as ourselves, you would not be tempted to lie to me, nor would it would not hurt as much if you had."

Not what he had expected. "Star," he began and was interrupted by a sharp rapping at the window. Kori and Dick exchanged a tired glance.

The knock had come from the window in the laundry room, the smallest window in the apartment, but the only window also hidden from view of the street. Sure enough, when Dick swung it open, he found himself staring into the black gaze of Batman. Although the temptation to slam the window in Batman's face was high, Dick sighed and moved aside to allow him entry. "Don't you know how to use a door like a normal person?"

Batman stood imposingly in the little hallway that separated the bedrooms, laundry and bathroom. "That was some stunt you pulled today, young lady."

Kori's chin jutted out. "It was not a stunt. I meant every word."

"It's too soon," Batman continued. "Not enough—"

Kori strode forward and grabbed the front of Batman's costume, lifting him into the air. Looking at Dick she said, "Would you open the balcony window?"

Dick stalled, staring at her. "Um…"

"I believe the paparazzi downstairs would be every interested in capturing a photo of Batman being launched through the air."

"You can't be serious," Batman snapped, his hands trying to pry Kori's open.

"Every word," Kori said. "I am weary, Bruce. Weary of the games, weary of the hurt in those I hold dear. Do not be the price we pay to be together."

Batman considered her as she held him aloft. "A little warning might have been nice. There's a way it could have been done without –"

"You knew this was coming," Kori said. "You would have seen the effect this was having on your son."

"You had to know," Dick commented. "Aren't you the world's greatest detective?"

Batman cut him a scathing glance.

"If I had warned you, you would have found a way to manipulate me into waiting, and then it would have been too late," Kori said and planted Batman back on the floor abruptly. "Enough. Now, please leave, either the way you came or out the balcony window, your choice." She turned away and headed back to the dining table, grabbing Dick's wrist on the way and pulling him with her.

Both of them were silent, listening and waiting until they heard the small creak of the window. Dick got up and checked to see that Batman was really gone and not lurking somewhere, locking the window on the way.

"What did you tell him?" he asked curiously as he returned to his seat.

"That we had been good, dutiful children and done what he asked but it was our turn. You have been playing his game for too long. I told him either he could allow us to be together or he would lose us both. All I wanted was to be with you as I am, no more fake personalities and I do not care if he ever consented in our marrying on Earth, the Tamaranian marriage was enough." She hesitated a moment, then continued woefully. "I do not believe he would care if he loses me, but he loves you very much and is afraid of the hold he believes I have over you."

He was aghast that she would think so. "That's not true. He loves you too, Star."

Kori shrugged indifferently and took a mouthful of her drink.

The shrug made him nervous. Kori was never indifferent about anything. "What happened to us?"

Kori considered her mug, slowly twisting it from side to side. "I believe we forgot. Many things."

He studied his hands. "We took the bond between us for granted."

Kori nodded. "We did."

"Other couples don't have the advantage we do and they survive."

"They work at their relationship. We forgot that we needed to."

He mumbled his agreement and fell silent. Kori looked like she was thinking very hard so he gave her the time she needed. She stared blankly out the balcony window out into the city as she thought.

"It's a nice night," he said eventually.

She nodded her agreement. "I often stare at the city at night when I am here. There is a sense of equilibrium in Gotham."

He winced. So many nights he left her here alone. "I'm sorry."

Kori blinked once, but her eyes didn't turn. "No blame."

"Bit hard. I was an ass, leaving you here alone."

"If you had come, we would have fought. I understand why you stayed away."

"You're too understanding sometimes," he muttered. "You might understand, but you're still hurt by it. Blame me. Yell and scream. There are some things I deserve."

She looked at him and smiled, shaking her head. "Silly man," she said and, still smiling, she returned to the window. She sighed once, took a drink of her cooling hot chocolate and lent back on her chair, putting her feet up on the adjacent one. She shook her mane of hair out and ran her fingers through it with one hand, leaving the other on the table.

Dick couldn't stand the waiting. "What are you thinking?"

"What to do."

"Oh."

It was some time before she spoke again. "Richard?"

His name. A good sign. "Yes?" he asked hopefully.

"Do you want to make this work again?"

He took her mug away and held her hand with both of his. "More than anything." A heartbeat. "Do you?"

She smiled at him, lifted her feet off the chair and moved her free hand to cover his. "With everything I am." She laughed, a light sound. "I would not have come tonight if I did not want to, nor worn that dress."

Relieved more than he could express, he glanced at her door. "That is an awesome dress. Would you wear it again?"

She laughed and pulled her hands away, taking both their now empty mugs. "Perhaps. One day."

"How about now?" he asked as he followed her into the kitchen. "We could dance again."

"There would be no dancing involved if I wore it."

"That's the whole point," he teased.

She laughed and threw a drying cloth at him. He took the hint and dried the dishes after she'd washed them. They stood close together, hips almost touching and he took great delight in nudging her ever so often to put her off balance. She'd retaliated by splashing him. When they were done, Kori sat on the bench while he lent on the opposite one and they continued to talk. Little things, catching up. How Fyria, Galfore and Ryfore were. What Raven and Beast Boy were up to in their trek across the universe. How Cyborg had reacted when Kori told him she was going after Dick. Dick laughed at that one. Then Kori mentioned Alfred had assisted her in the development of the dress.

"Of course he would," Dick said. "He loves you."

Kori smiled. "He is a good man."

They talked some more. Eventually Dick got hungry and opened the fridge looking for a snack. "Star!" he exclaimed and stared at her. "You have ingredients for zorkaberry pie in here!"

Kori blinked. "And?"

"I can't remember the last time I had one."

Kori laughed. "It is almost 3 am, now is really not the time to—"

He pouted at her and then gave her a puppy dog look. "Please?"

So, for the next hour, they worked together, side by side, making zorkaberry pies. They laughed as the flour just happened to be involved in a fight and dusted Dick's hair white. They giggled as he stole so many zorkaberries from the pie as Kori was filling them that his tongue turned purple. Kori giggled as he watched the oven so intently, waiting while his mouth watered in anticipation.

Dick savoured every bite he shared with Kori once the pies were done.

As the sun dappled the sky, they stretched out beside each other on the bed, staring at the ceiling as they continued to talk and reconnect. Kori curled up on her side, her head resting on her hands while Dick lay facing her, one hand propping his held up with a crooked elbow.

Kori was beginning to struggle to stay awake, her answers and questions were becoming slower and she was blinking a lot more, her eyes staying shut for longer.

"Go to sleep," Dick suggested and dared put a hand on her waist. "You're exhausted."

"So are you," she returned. She frowned briefly, as though something had just occurred to her. "You were staying, yes?"

Dick hadn't actually thought that far ahead. "Am I invited?"

"Of course."

"Then I'll stay." He leant forward and kissed her forehead. "Sleep. We'll talk more later."

"Mmmmm'kay," she mumbled, sighed sleepily and snuggled into the pillow.

Dick watched her drift off. He lifted a hand and brushed her bangs away from her face and ran his fingers down the tendril of hair that had slipped over her shoulder. "I missed you," he whispered. He leant forward again, placing another kiss on her forehead, then one on her cheek. "I love you," he whispered and kissed her lightly on the lips.

He went to move away, only to find Kori gripping his shirt to hold him there and her eyes were now open. Dick froze, sprung.

"I hope that is not all I am getting tonight," she murmured.

He lifted an eyebrow. "Oh? What would you like?"

"Kisses," she told him. "Lots and lots of kisses."

"I see," he said with a rather dopey grin. "Well then, I'd best get started."

Her mouth was warm, moist, lickingly zorkaberry tasty. Lips, soft and sweet, parted almost immediately to allow for deeper kissing. Tongues swirled, tasted, danced. Bodies shifted closer. He pushed against her a little, inviting her to roll. She complied, not as far as he wanted, but it was enough to get both her arms free, enough so the curve of her breast brushed against his shoulder. She lifted a leg, draping it over his hip so they could slot together closer. He could feel her foot caressing his calf.

Warmth flooded, settled in his belly. He loved her hands in his hair, liked the way she tugged him back when he moved away to gasp in breath. He loved the way her breasts squashed against his chest. He panted, catching breath when he could, devour and gasp, tug and pull, warmth and heat and so very sweet.

He tried not to be too eager, really he did. He tried to be satisfied by just kissing her and being close but he wanted more. His hand slipped under her top, slid against the skin of waist as he pulled her closer. It was riding up anyway and Kori didn't seem to mind. He followed the curve of her body, down over her rump to her thigh, to the back of her knee where he pulled her closer, then returned his hand to the warmth of her waist.

He broke away from swollen lips to gasp before he sunk under her swell again. He leant over her, his weight supported on his elbow, pushing her so her back was flatter on the bed. He could feel the rise and fall of her chest through his shoulder but he wanted to feel it through his hands.

It wasn't like the other times. He didn't have to close his eyes and pretend. Even through the hologram he always knew the shape of her body, the taste of her lips, the scent of her, but the betrayal of his eyes hurt. Now, there was none, save the tone of her skin and the shade of her eyes. Everything else was her. Wasn't good enough.

His hand followed her arm until he reached her hand, then he slipped Cyborg's hologram ring off and tossed it on the dresser. That hand went to her stomach as he broke away from her lips to look at her.

Starfire panted lightly, watching him right back. Fingers curled around his shoulder he was leaning on while her other hand rested against his sternum. "Richard?"

"Just looking." He flexed the hand on her belly, slid it upward until it encountered a crest and then covered it. He shifted his weight, propping his head back up on his hand as he gazed at her.

She smiled coyly. "Like what you see?"

"Very much." He bent down and kissed the swell that peaked from beneath her top, shifting his hand down to her ribcage. "But I think we need to go to sleep."

Starfire blinked, clearly she had not been expecting that. "But—"

He kissed her nose. "Not a lot can be solved through sex—"

"Make up sex," Starfire quipped.

Dick paused. "Yeah, well, okay. There is that. And as tempting as that is—"

"Be tempted, Richard," Starfire purred, scrunching up his shirt to pull him back down to her.

He wanted to, oh how he wanted to yield. But some things were more important. "Let me woo you," he said in between kisses. "Let me take you out to dinner, let me hold your hand in the park. Let me take you to places we never went as anyone else because they were special. Let me romance you."

Starfire pushed him back and studied him. "Why?"

"Because I can. We need to find our feet again. Let's take time to do that. We've had more than our share of one night stands, fake whirlwind romances, and quickies. Let's do it properly."

"Can we not romance after you do me hard and fast and right now?" she moaned, pulling on all the slang she'd learnt at once. He liked that she teased though and the temptation to take her at her word was enormous, but he'd seen the agreement in her mind and her excitement of being romanced.

"Sure," he said. "But I'm tired." He illustrated by yawning. "Sleep first, then sex."

"Sex first, then satisfied sleep."

"Romance first, then mind blowing sex."

Starfire pouted. "What about more kisses?"

"Kisses," he said with a grin. "Now, that I can do."


Merry Christmas Everyone!