A/N Thanks to all the reviewers/supporters of this story! It's my last one, I think. And here's the last chapter.
Kory placed a bowl of chips on Richard's kitchen table and poured salsa into another, smaller bowl. Richard was getting bottles of soda out of his fridge when his phone beeped. Looking at it, he groaned.
"What is it?" Kory asked.
"Bruce. You know the gala we're going to weekend after next?" Kory nodded, remembering how excited she had been when Richard asked her if she would meet his family in Gotham. "There's a shareholders' meeting that morning, and Bruce wants me to give them an explanation on why profits in Wayne Enterprises' defense sector dropped four percent last quarter."
Kory's mouth formed a small 'o'. "But is two weeks enough time to determine the cause?"
"I think I know what's wrong. I've been following the stock and the news. There was a new congressional committee formed a couple months ago that monitors defense spending and they may have cut into our federal contracts." Richard shrugged. "I just hate shareholders' meetings. And meetings in general." He sighed as Kory placed a comforting hand on his arm. "Plus, I have to back up my claim, and that's going to be tedious."
"Perhaps all the evidence you need is the quarterly reports of other defense contractors? They are likely to have had poor outcomes as well."
Richard grinned broadly and kissed her. "I knew there was a reason I kept you around." Kory giggled. "Why don't you become the heir to this company instead?"
"There is no chance of that," his girlfriend answered cheekily. "Even you do not appear to want this job."
His smile disappeared. "Yeah, that's true," he muttered glumly. He felt her arms around him.
"What would you do instead, if you could?" asked Kory softly into his chest.
Richard thought for a moment. Even before they'd officially started dating a couple of months ago, she was always asking him things no one else cared to know. It was one of the many, many things he loved about her. "I actually...I've wanted for a long time to be a police officer."
"A police officer?" In her surprise, she let him go.
"Yeah." He gave her a weak smile. "A detective."
"But that is not what you are studying. How do you expect to enter this profession without the proper credentials?" Kory demanded.
He laughed. "I don't expect to enter it at all. I've got Wayne Enterprises, remember?"
"Oh, Richard..." She looked even more put out than he did about the situation. "I will not tell you what you should or should not do. But I would very much like to see you happy with your career." Her genuine concern was another one of those things he loved.
"I know." He kissed her forehead. "We'll see. I've got a lot of time, still. Don't be sad, Kor, it's okay. Everyone will be here soon."
"Yes, they will. Although I feel my current mood is appropriate, as we are celebrating the Madness of March." How adorable she looked when she was being stubborn - definitely a third.
"March Madness," Richard corrected good-naturedly, holding back a smile. "And it's more like mad/crazy than mad/angry."
"I see," Kory said. "Truthfully, when I was studying American basketball last night, I was unable to determine that -"
Richard's doorbell rang, and Kory stopped mid-sentence to practically fly over and answer it. "Vic! Karen!" she greeted cheerfully. "Come in!"
The couple hugged her, Karen more awkwardly because she was carrying a tray of cookies. "Alright! Look's like you're as excited as I am, little lady," Vic boomed as his girlfriend set the cookies down with the other junk food on the kitchen table. Richard gave Karen a quick hug as well, just before wincing at Vic's slightly-too-hard pat on the back. "Sorry, little man. I just have a feeling. You know. This game's gonna be a good one."
"I hope so," Richard replied. "Are Gar and Rachel on their way, Kor?"
"Yes, Gar texted me only a few minutes ago. Will you sit? Would you like something to drink?" she addressed their guests.
"We're good for now, Kory. What time does the game start?" asked Karen.
"Three. That little grass stain better get here soon." Kory giggled, still not quite used to all of Vic's nicknames for his friends. The four of them sat down on the two couches in Richard's living room, chatting animatedly until the doorbell rang again.
"Kory, we saw you this morning," Rachel grumbled as she suffered through one of Kory's hugs.
"So you did!"
"I brought vegan brownies!" Gar announced.
"Why are they green?" Vic looked ready to puke. "I don't want any of your nasty vegan stuff."
"More for me then!"
"Okay, okay, guys," Richard interrupted, trying to calm them down. "The game's going to start soon. Just get whatever you do want to eat and sit down."
Gar and Rachel claimed the smaller of the two couches, with the purple-haired girl snuggling up to Gar's side, curling up like a cat, and opening a book. It had become her new favorite thing to do, and Gar didn't seem to mind, because he could continue to talk and play video games as loudly as he pleased and it would not disturb her. Vic slung his arm along the back of the couch section that Karen sat on, sharing his towering plate of food with her. Richard sat down on an arm of the couch, as there were no other cushions remaining. Kory leaned her head against his hip. He clicked the power button on the remote with one hand and reached behind Kory's head to her shoulder with the other.
"Rachel, you sure you don't want to watch?" Richard asked.
Already engrossed in her novel, she didn't answer, so Gar spoke up for her. "She doesn't like this stuff. She's okay with missing it."
Vic shut them both up as the March Madness logo flashed across the screen. "Alright, JCU Titans! Let's beat those Steel City punks!"
Kory had learned the entire game of basketball the night before, despite Richard's many attempts to distract her. She happily cheered her team on along with her friends. On a particularly skillful three-pointer, the five of them hollered so loud that Rachel looked up, caught Kory's eye, rolled her eyes and returned to her book. Kory laughed hugged Richard around the waist, delighted to note that the score was in their favor.
Nevertheless, the conclusion was a nail-biter. In the last minute, JCU managed a dunk that brought their score up to just a point above their opponents. Kory clutched her boyfriend's thigh, worried, and he unsuccessfully attempted to pry her off. "Kor, I think I need that artery, actually, so..."
"My apologies," she said, loosening her grip. "Only five seconds remain!"
The friends counted down the time, simultaneously sighing in relief when Steel City University did not make a basket of their own. The buzzer sounded and a celebratory cheer resounded in Richard's apartment.
"That was AWESOME!" Gar decided, pulling an unsuspecting Rachel into a one-armed hug. She looked up, surprised that the game was over.
Karen grinned. "I wasn't sure for a second there. SC's point guard was really getting my stress level up."
"He was very talented!" Kory agreed. "But not talented enough, it would seem."
Richard got up from the arm of the couch, realizing now that the adrenaline rush was gone that he'd been sitting rather awkwardly. "Anyone want more food?"
"Yeah, Dick, get me more of this gorgeous girl's cookies."
"I'll have some of those too," Rachel added.
Gar frowned. "What about my brownies, Rae?"
"Brownies are eponymous, Gar. You brought greenies." He mock-pouted, only straightening his expression when Rachel slipped her hand into his. "Ready to go?"
"Already?" asked Kory, alarmed. "The game has only just finished! Stay, we can enjoy each others' company!"
The green-haired boy shrugged. "Sorry, Kor. I promised her we'd go to this new chai place since she...what'd you call it?...'suffered' through this game. And it closes at six on Sundays." He grinned as Rachel blushed, muttering about how she 'didn't say that.'
"You guys had better get going, then," Karen observed. "We'll chill next weekend."
"Very well." Kory, for one, had not shunned Gar's dessert, and munched on a piece sadly. Richard gave Rachel some of the cookies to-go in a napkin, and the couple said their goodbyes.
"Alright, so I want your guys' opinions," said Vic once they left. "JCU benched Chris Danton this game, but that was stupid, right? They shoulda let him play!"
"The guy fouls like he's playing rugby," Richard pointed out. "If JCU had to give away points for him, we'd have lost."
"I don't know about that." Karen scrunched up her brow. "His three-point game is better than Jones'. If they'd've switched spots we might've come out ahead."
Kory watched them debate, wondering why on Earth it mattered now that the game was over but deciding that was not the opinion that Vic had been looking for. Innocent bystander though she was, Richard called her in with a "back me up on this, Kory."
She cleared her throat uncomfortably. "Well, assuming that Chris Danton maintained his average of twelve points per game and fouled once, likely allowing Steel City to score two additional points, and seeing as Wallace Jones scored thirteen points during this game - although two of those points were due to the 'tip off'?" She looked to Richard for confirmation, and he nodded, his jaw hanging open. "It is unlikely that our team would have emerged victorious with the exchange suggested."
There was a long silence, which Karen eventually broke with, "Damn, girl."
"How did you keep track of all of that while the game was going on?" Vic asked in awe.
"The announcer mentioned Wallace Jones' individual score while Gar was leaving. I also researched the players before the game began," she explained, a little shyly. "This is my first time watching the game of basketball. I enjoyed it," she added, smiling sweetly at her boyfriend.
"And I," Richard said, picking his giggling girlfriend up from the couch so he could sit down and seat her on his lap, "thoroughly enjoyed watching you demolish their argument, Kory."
"Hey," Vic grumbled. "...fine." An insult came to him slightly too late. "She's way too smart for you, Dickhead."
"Yeah." Richard smiled at her, gazing into her gorgeous green eyes. "It's pretty great."
Vic and Karen left after about an hour, leaving Kory and Richard to clean up. There wasn't much; just a few plates and glasses to wash and some extra food to put away. Kory had just finished soaping up the dishes, which she was handing to Richard to wash, when he flicked some water in her direction. She gasped as the cold water hit her cheek.
"Oops." He threw that oh-so-attractive lopsided smile at her. "Sorry. I guess I'm just a filthy rich prettyboy who doesn't know how to clean up after himself."
Not to be outdone, Kory merely sniffed and waited until he was done to retaliate. "Oh no," she lamented, dotting his nose with the still-sudsy sponge. "I fear I am just as incompetent."
He advanced on her. "You think you're really cute, don't you?"
Kory smiled confidently, though she backed up until she felt the counter behind her. "That is what my dear boyfriend tells me."
"Oh yeah?" His arms trapped her, his hands gripping the countertop on either side. "Pretty cute himself, is he?"
"Not at all." Richard made a face. "He is more aptly described as...sexy."
His lips were warm against her own, but his hands were still cold from the water and they left goosebumps on her skin wherever they touched. She tried to pull him closer, but he broke their kiss.
"I've been thinking."
"Yes?" Her voice sounded a tad irritated. He smirked inwardly.
"What would you say to taking a trip with me this summer?" asked Richard casually.
"Where would we go?"
"Paris. For a month."
Kory gaped at him for a few seconds, barely forming words. "Pari...a mon..." It was a long time for a couple so early in their relationship, he knew. But deep down, he couldn't help but feel that they weren't just any couple. And he had an ulterior motive for the trip, which Kory soon realized. "It is so close to home..."
Kory would not be returning to Tamaran for the summer. Her sister, just as violently furious to find out she was under house arrest as could be expected, was not exactly going to welcome Kory home. Entirely out of fear for her safety, Kory's parents suggested that she remain in America until Koma had been rehabilitated. It was already March, and they had only just found a therapist that Koma hadn't threatened within the first ten minutes. It was very likely going to be a long time before Kory could go home.
"I thought it might be easier for your parents to visit you there," Richard explained in a slightly hurried manner. "It would only be a day trip for them. I know you miss them, and you'd get to spend some time with them and the rest of the time we could have our own vacation-"
She cut him off just by looking at him, her gaze filled with love and gratefulness. "That sounds wonderful. I cannot wait." The chance to see her parents, possibly every day for a month, had made her eyes a little misty. Richard stroked her cheek, smiling.
"Good. I'll book a hotel." She still looked like she might cry. "Any chance your dad'll want to say hi to me?"
Her teary expression cleared up with a snort. "I believe the correct phrase is, 'not in this lifetime.'"
"Yeah, that sounds about right." He wrinkled his nose at her. "Daddy's little Princess, aren't you?"
She giggled. "That is what you called me when we first met." He looked confused. "When you quite aggressively bumped into me on the first day of school."
"Oh, I remember. Well, at least you got my number out of it."
Now Kory was the one confused. "Your phone number?"
"Don't tell me you never found it. Did you think I knocked your notebook down for no reason?" She nodded. "It was this dumb game I used to play. Just really cliche ways to flirt...anyway, it probably ended up trampled and thrown out."
"How unfortunate," she cooed. Richard rolled his eyes. Kory took advantage of his relaxed form to slip past him. "I should be returning to my room. I will see you tomorrow afternoon." She leaned in to kiss him, but he grabbed her in a tight hold, his lips inches from hers, and her breath hitched.
"What if I'm not done with you yet?"
Kory smiled just before she closed the distance between them.
When she did manage to return home, Rachel was already back. While asking the usual questions about her date, Kory ruffled through various notebooks and textbooks until she found what she was looking for, buried in between a couple of her course book's index pages.
Text me, Princess. 908-555-3123.
So she did.
Excuse me, I would like to arrange a date with the owner of this phone number.
The reply came a few minutes later.
Sounds good. I hear tomorrow afternoon is convenient for you.
She giggled out loud, and Rachel sent her a questioning look.
"It is nothing," Kory said, putting the small piece of paper in a safe place. Maybe she would start a scrapbook. "It is just that...things have the 'way of working out.'"