It was a few days after saving Dick and getting Rachel the hell away from her father that they made their way back to Kory’s ship.
“Holy shit,” Gar said, as the ship materialized in front of them, its shiny, sinuous surface flickering in the dim light, streamlined beams of light emerging from within its crevices, framing it gradually into view.
Kory grinned, looking at the kids’ gobsmacked faces and then turning to Dick, who looked surprisingly more encouraging than normal.
A low hum filtered into the room, and thin beams of purple shot through the air, running along the length of their bodies once, twice, before disappearing.
“Koriand’r,” the ship said.
Rachel startled at the voice, unconsciously backing away into Gar.
“Hello,” Kory chirped, as she walked closer to its trapdoor. “X’hal.”
Like the last time, and supposedly many times before, the door slid open, exhaling a hiss of air, a ramp unfolding slowly out of its threshold until it touched the floor.
Kory strode forwards, up the ramp and into the ship, Dick following behind with the kids bringing up the rear, necks turning here and there as they tried to grasp everything within view.
“Aliens exist!” Gar exclaimed. “There's stuff out there in outer space! I knew it!” He let out a whoop of excitement.
“Normally, I'd tell you to cool it,” Rachel said, eyes following along the lines of the room, from the floor all the way to the ceiling, “but this is the coolest thing that's ever happened to me.”
“I thought meeting Robin was the coolest thing that's happened to you guys,” Dick remarked, drily.
“Nope,” Gar said, standing in the middle of the room with his head tilted up, slowly turning in a circle. “This beats Robin. By a longshot.”
Kory patted Dick on the shoulder, “Tough luck, dude.”
Dick rolled his eyes, “I'll live.”
Kory started walking, heading for the control room with muscle memory seeming to lead her way. The last time, they had dashed out so quickly, she hadn't really gotten time to look around. But now, she took her time, brushing her hand along the glowing walls, every part of the ship seeming as new as ever, and yet as old as a path she had walked a thousand times before.
Dick followed, eyes flickering her way every couple of steps, gauging her reaction but failing to do it discreetly.
Gar coughed from somewhere behind them and when she turned her neck to look back, he gestured his hand vaguely around the room, “You mind if we explore?”
“Knock yourself out.”
“Sweet!” Gar replied, and seconds later he and Rachel had disappeared around the corner, even though she could still hear their voices echoing around the ship.
There was a door at the end of the room that Kory somehow knew led to the cockpit. She pushed through, with Dick following behind, and then stopped momentarily at the threshold. It was the same room she had seen in the memories of her crashing down towards earth -she shook her head when the scene once again manifested to the forefront of her mind.
A single chair sat in front of a control system and as Kory neared it, she noticed the few knickknacks sitting on the empty space beside the main controls. An empty cup, though it looked clean, something that looked like a keychain, a few papers with the same sigils that they had found in her storage unit, but nothing more personal than that, not even a picture of someone she might have left behind.
She sat on the chair, fingers moving across the controls, memories of all the times she had done so before sparking up hazily in the back of her mind.
She opened up a holograph of Tamaran, scrolling across the globe with her fingers, observing the mountains, the cities, the rivers that stretched across its surface like blood vessels, forking and multiplying…
“What does this say?”
She turned her head as Dick held up the keychain towards her. It didn't look like anything special, devoid of even a key that might have come with it, a thin piece of silver metal as long as her forefinger. A Tamaranean sigil was engraved on its surface that had faded away in places with time.
“It's my name,” she said, feeling her lips spread into a smile. It somehow seemed such a human thing to do -to own a keychain with her name on it and to have brought it with her on a world saving mission.
Dick brought the keychain closer to his face, observing the sigil more closely now that he knew what it said.
“Koriand’r,” he pronounced the word softly, almost unconsciously, testing it on his tongue.
Kory felt a strange drop in her stomach, hearing her real name from his mouth. She didn't know how much time had passed since she had heard it from someone who was not herself or her ship, and she felt a strange longing for it, to be addressed as she would be in her home planet.
But the flutter in her stomach, it was not from longing for her planet -no, it was because of the person who had said it, the way he had pronounced it, carefully, like it meant something, like it was something important.
“Koriand’r… Kory Anders,” he said, face uncharacteristically light-hearted. “Very clever.”
She turned back to the controls, hating how her heartbeat picked up, all because he had said her name and made a lame joke. “Well, we can't all be born with human names…especially ones as clever as Dick.”
He shook his head, smiling, “Touché.”
She reverted her attention back to the holograph of Tamaran, zooming into one particular city. Clearing her throat, she beckoned him closer, “C’mon, I’ll show you where I grew up.”
“As much as I'm going to regret saying this…we need codenames.”
Dick collapsed on the armchair and Kory suppressed a grin at the abject misery on his face. He was still wearing the new custom suit that Donna had had made for him, generic black for now and streamlined to fit his acrobat’s built, hair in disarray from their most recent scuffle.
Gar rubbed his hands together, looking like Christmas had come early. “You don't know how long I've been waiting to hear you say that.”
“You don't know long I've been avoiding saying it,” Dick sighed. “Right now, Jason is regrettably the only one in this room who's not giving away his identity every time he's out on the streets. With the cops on our tail, we need to be more careful.”
Jason winked from where he was leaning against the kitchen counter, a fresh bottle of beer already in his hands. “Robin's in the elite squad now, baby.”
Dick didn't deem to provide Jason with a reply. He looked towards Rachel, lounging on the sofa beside Gar. “Let's start with you Rachel. Any ideas?”
Rachel shrugged, pulling the sleeves of her sweater between her fingers, a stark contrast to Gar who was almost bouncing in his seat.
Kory hung her coat beside the door and made her way to Dick, taking a seat on the arm of his chair. She smoothed her hands over her dress, a deeper shade of purple than she had worn before, a bit more sober but still eye-catching. Much more like herself.
“The manuscripts -they refer to you as Raven,” Kory said to Rachel. “I know it's not something you thought of for yourself, but you should be able to own the name. And not the other way around.”
“Raven,” Rachel sounded the word, testing it out. Her hand reached out to the back of her neck, where Kory knew she had her birthmark. “I… I like it.”
Dick nodded encouragingly. “Well, you don't have to decide right now, you can think about it.”
“My turn,” Gar said, clapping his hands together. “I was thinking…Meta Man…you know, like a meta human.”
Kory snorted, “Maybe in ten years, when you're actually a man.”
“Ouch,” Jason said, following the conversation even though the majority of his attention was now focused on his phone.
“Monster Man?” Gar suggested, not deterred.
Rachel scrunched her nose, “Worse.”
“Why don't we just go with Tiger Boy?” Dick intervened, looking like he was already regretting starting this conversation.
“I can transform into other stuff too!” Gar said, before trailing off, “...once I figure out how to do it again.”
Rachel turned her head to look at him, eyes narrowed, as if she could glean away a name just by looking at his face. She stared at him for a few moments too long before she said, “What about… Beast Boy?”
There was a beat of silence and then Gar said, beaming, “Rach, you're a genius.”
Rachel rested her chin on one hand, “I do have my moments.”
“Beast Boy…” Gar said, testing out his new name. “I like it.”
“Me too, surprisingly,” Jason said, taking a seat at the bar separating the living room from the kitchen. “I was so sure I was going to hate whatever you kids picked out.”
“You're not that much older than us,” Gar said, rolling his eyes.
Jason snorted, “You're what, like thirteen?”
“Hey, Rachel's fourteen, I'm -”
Rachel cut him off, turning towards Kory, “Your turn, Kory.”
“Oh,” Kory said, suddenly realizing that the group wasn't aware of the many names and titles she had carried in Tamaran. “I already have a codename... well, a title, really.”
Everyone's attention in the room was suddenly turned towards her.
“Yeah?” Rachel asked. “What is it? And why haven't you told us?”
Kory thought about Starfire...a name she hadn't heard in a long time. She had always worn it like an honor, like an armor, signed, dented but something that belonged entirely to her. Until it hadn't been enough to stop what had happened to her family. Did she even have the right to retake that mantle?
It turned out that that was something she didn't have to decide.
“Starfire,” Dick said suddenly, and when she turned to look at him in surprise, he admitted, a bit sheepishly, “It was in the pages that Donna translated.”
She felt a strange constricting in her stomach at the thought of Dick knowing about Starfire. It felt much more personal, like he had discovered an integral part of her, one she didn't quite fully remember and one she wasn't sure she was ready to reveal quite yet. It felt like a misbalance -how easily he had come across her alter ego, while it usually took her days to prompt even an iota of personal information out of him. But Starfire was also who she was and who she would always be, and she wasn't going to disown it.
“Starfire,” she confirmed and then hesitated. “It was the name given to me after I completed my training as a warrior.”
When she chanced a glance at Dick, he was looking at her strangely, like he wanted to know everything about what she just said but didn't know how to ask.
Instead, he just met her eyes, the distance between them suddenly too small. “It suits you,” he said, quietly, intensely.
Her breath caught in her throat. God, he was the most frustrating man in the universe, wasn't he? He didn't say much, but the things he said, the way he said them, always hit her right in the chest.
“That's so cool,” Rachel said with a sigh. “We can't compete with that.”
“You don't need to compete with anything,” Dick said, with amusement.
Kory turned toward him, “What about you, Boy Wonder? Any new names or is that what we're calling you now?”
She could tell from his face that he saw her sudden deflection for what it really was, but he played along.
“Uhh…I do have a name actually,” he said, and then paused, not elaborating.
“Well?” Jason prompted. “Do you need spotlights? Should I bring out a stage?”
Dick rolled his eyes. He turned to look at Kory, and when he said his new name, it was like he was talking only to her.
She didn't hate it.
It was their fault really -slinking around in shady streets in the middle of the night. Of course they were going to get attacked or ambushed or violently threatened. It was kind of becoming their thing.
At least Dick was wearing his suit, and she had a mask on her eyes, the most leeway she had allowed in terms of hiding her identity, and that too on Dick’s insistence. She wasn't used to hiding when she fought back in Tamaran -in fact, her armor had been specifically designed to loudly announce her presence. It was only fair that the person she was fighting be aware of who they were losing to, but she had also begrudgingly given in to Dick’s argument: if she were to stay on Earth, she had to follow a couple of their basic rules. Rule number one: don't get arrested by the police.
There were at least six assassins who surrounded them, coming at Dick and Kory from all sides, one even dropping to the ground from somewhere up above, a clear indicator that they had walked straight into an ambush.
The two of them shared a glance. And then the fighting started.
The alley was too narrow for her to comfortably use her fire powers, so for now, she stuck to sparring. Dick was quick beside her, pulling out his escrima sticks, and jumping on the attack before even the assassins had anticipated.
She dodged a knife that came straight at her stomach, grabbing onto the assailant’s arm instead and using it to propel him forwards into her knee. As the man doubled over, she bent his arm over her knee to disarm him and then kicked him into the second assailant that came at her from the side, sending them both careening backwards. It gave her enough time to jab her elbow backwards into the third assassin that came at her from the back, ducking under the kick that flew her way, and then landing a swift blow to the assassin’s neck, knocking him out in one hit.
“Star!” she heard Nightwing shout in warning, and caught the black silhouette coming her way from the corner of her eye just in time.
She reached for the heat quietly simmering underneath her skin and brought it to her fingers, her hand glowing orange as the fire in her blood burst across her skin, rendering it in a patchwork of embers and blood. As the assassin came at her, she grabbed him by the neck, the burning skin of her hand coming in contact with the assassin’s suit, eating through the cloth easily and reaching the skin underneath.
The assassin let out a guttural scream and as her fingers burned his flesh and she used the grip she had on his neck to lift him off his feet and slam him to the ground.
When she looked back up, Nightwing had already taken care of the rest of the assassins.
With a small grin, he offered her a hand. She accepted it, brushing her hair away from her face as she got back on her feet.
“Star?” she asked with a grin.
He shrugged, not meeting her eyes, “Seemed quicker.”
He walked over to one the unconscious assassins, kicking away the knife that was still in her hand, making it skid noisily away to the other end of the alley. “So which one of these guys should we take with us for interrogation?”
Kory scanned the mess of bodies and pointed randomly, “That one.”
Together, they patted the guy down for more weapons and then grabbed him by one arm each, quietly dragging him away from the scene.
“So the next time we're in the heat of battle, do you prefer to go by Night or is Wing your preferred term of-”
Kory grinned. For that moment, for that night, things were good.
For the first time since they had started doing this -whatever this was- Kory woke up before him. Early morning sunlight was filtering in through the thin curtains, and it illuminated his face almost artfully, lax in sleep, strands of hair falling messily across his forehead. The sheet was pulled halfway down his torso and she took her time observing him, the steady rise and fall of his chest, the blossoming bruise at the right side of his ribcage, the angle of his jaw, which she never failed to show her appreciation for whenever they fell into bed together.
It would really help hinder her developing feelings for him if he weren't so damn beautiful.
Sensing her stare, he started to stir, eyes blinking a couple of time before he gained consciousness.
“Kor?” he muttered sleepily.
Kor. Her stomach gave a sharp swoop downwards. Shit.
“Morning,” she said, a hand reaching to his face, fingers gently brushing stray strands from his forehead.
Sometimes, even when they woke up in the same bed, he was alert even before she had opened her eyes, already moving around the room or thinking about one thing or the next. But today, he seemed content to lie in bed for a few more minutes, face free from the thousand different worries that he usually carried with him like backpack of boulders.
He turned towards her more fully, his eyes scanning her face intently, leisurely.
“Morning,” he whispered.
God, this was so much worse. How was she not suppose to kiss him when he looked at her like that?
He gazed at her for a few more moments before he fell back on his pillow, reaching for his phone.
“It's Saturday,” he said as he checked his phone, almost surprised.
“I heard that humans have a tradition where they can legally abandon all adult responsibilities on Saturday,” Kory said, propping her head on her elbow, “and can sleep in till like noon.”
Dick gave her a wry grin. “Nice try.”
Kory sighed dramatically. “Worth a shot.”
Dick sat up a little and settled back against the headboard, turning his head towards her. “You know, we had a tradition back in Gotham. Bruce, Alfred and I.”
“Yeah?” Kory asked, softly.
“Every Saturday, Alfred used to make blueberry pancakes. He made regular pancakes all the time but blueberry pancakes were for Saturday only.” A fond smile crossed Dick’s face as he talked - it was the first time he was sharing something about his past that didn't hurt when it came out. “And it became a thing. Even when we were fighting, if I was angry at Bruce or the other way around, we would show up for Saturday pancakes, and it was like a sign of truce. All would be forgiven.”
Kory smiled at the story, something warm unfurling inside her chest. She had gleaned tidbits of Dick’s past from him here and there, but this was one of few things about his childhood that he had willingly shared. And every time he revealed a part of his past to her, it felt like something big, an silent admittance to the trust he had in her, a sign that maybe she meant as much to him as he had come to mean to her.
She realized, somewhere at the back of her mind that this was it. That if someone asked her to recall herself at her most content, she would refer back to this moment, lying in bed besides Dick Grayson, parts of their bodies touching sparsely, his voice thick with sleep, his eyes warm with trust.
“Come on,” she said, getting out of the covers and pulling his shirt over her head.
“Kory? What are you doing?”
She grabbed his arm, pulling him out of bed with her. “Come on, Dick, get dressed.”
He stopped at the edge of the bed, refusing to budge. “Kory.”
She turned back towards him, her hand still in his. “We are going to make blueberry pancakes.”
For a few seconds, Dick just stared at her, dumbfounded. Then he said, “We don't have the ingredients.”
Kory rolled her eyes but it couldn't stop the ridiculous grin that was taking over her lips. “Then we'll get the ingredients, dumbass.”
Dick just stared at her some more. And then as if he couldn't help himself in the face of her beaming, his own lips turned up in a smile. “Okay,” he said.
“Okay,” she grinned.
That Saturday, in another safehouse, in a city neither of them had been to before, Kory and Dick made blueberry pancakes.