AN: Happy early birthday to Star of Airdrie, whose amazing reviews resulted in this story being completed before my deadline (which was August 16th, the day before school starts).

One Year Later

The thick scent of incense filled his lungs as he dragged in a slow breath. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead and slowly dripped down into his eyes. He blinked them away, not daring to move his hand, as it was most likely the only thing that was keeping him from collapsing due to the heat and state of his nerves. His eyes were trained directly ahead, staring intently at the white marble gravestone. It stood as a stark contrast against the meadow-green grass of the cemetery's lawn. The two sticks of incense he'd lit earlier and placed on the base were dying; only miniature coals left, yet the smell still lingered in the air.

A swift gust of wind brushed lightly against the tears welling in his eyes, such a similar color to the water nearby.

"I'm sorry." Absentmindedly picking at the flowers he'd brought, Dick cleared his throat and let his gaze wander to the landscape surrounding the graveyard. Several hundred feet away, crystal waves broke on the crisp, white shoreline. Blocking his vision slightly were the rows of brightly-painted houses that crowded the eastern side of the island. Some were decorated with elaborate herb gardens and some were boarded up from the tourists that had occupied them.

Enough stalling, Dick reprimanded himself, just say what you came here to say. His mouth flapped open and closed, bobbing uncertainly as the words he wanted to say hid in his throat. They could taint this land, he knew. The things he needed to say to her would ruin this island, the place she'd grown up. "I'm sorry," he began again, trailing the pads of his fingers over the carved letters, "I let you down. If I had been faster, if I had been smarter, I would have caught him sooner… before he could do what he did. None of this would've happened."

Utter, complacent silence responded to his admission. Another gust blew past, scattering the coals of the incense and carelessly tousling the feathers of the seagulls that flocked above in a date palm tree. The birds cried out and floated up to ride the sudden breeze, heading to lower ground to escape.

Dick watched as they slowly vanished, their white forms melting in the sun that burned brightly on the edge of the water. Clouds painted with thick strokes of sienna and violet blocked some of the intense sunlight, enough to where the mild heat was just enough to warm the skin. While he wasn't expecting any form of a response, he felt his heart thud as a hand placed itself upon his shoulder.

"Richard," Kory moved her hand to wrap both of her arms around his torso, squeezing tightly, "My mother would not be angry. She would hug you until your spine snapped in half for saving me."

"And your father?" The familiar comical sheen returned to her eyes.

"That is another matter." Dick groaned playfully and lifted her palms up to his lips, trailing the skin with quick, hot kisses. After a lapse of comfortable silence, Kory pressed the flat of her palm on her mother's headstone for a moment and then moved on to her father's and brother's to bid them goodbye, as well. Rising up, she slipped the hand back around her boyfriend's waist. "Come, we must not miss the sunset." He strolled along with her out of the cemetery and down the winding path that led to the shore. Citizens of Tamaran milled about the busy city center to the left, tiny dots and blurs as they hustled out of office buildings and cafés. The air here was breathable, unlike the harsh smog coating Gotham. When they had arrived this morning, Dick couldn't ever imagine going back to New York. This place was simply radiated luxurious, but not in the form of classy hotels and limestone architecture like Gotham. The temperature was a steady, humid 83 degrees this time of year and the sandy beaches and lofty bungalows decorated the island instead of crowding it.

Footpaths wound through the small green hills on the eastern coast instead of seven-lane interstates. Truthfully, Dick would have contemplated buying a vacation home here if Kory didn't already own the waterfront bungalow that sat on over six thousand acres. All of this scenery was a peaceful contrast to the last few months, which had been filled with trials and jury deliberations.

He could see Marty sitting in that chair, diagonal from himself on the witness stand, as he spoke of what his ex-partner had committed. The defense had tried to pull a contamination claim, saying that several pieces of evidence could have been tampered with due to Dick's relationship with one of the victims, but no one in the courtroom fell for the old trick.

Once all the fingerprints and witness reports piled on, it was obvious that this was no mistake. Fumbling for a mistrial, the defense pleaded insanity, but without a solid evaluation by any psychologist not pulled from the local community college, the claim was denied.

In the end, the prosecution had won and Marty was sentenced to twenty-five to life without the possibility of parole.

Finding a secluded spot in front of the palace bungalow, Dick pressed a light kiss to Kory's temple and settled down in the wet sand beside her to watch the last of the sunset. Just a few weeks ago, he'd watched her try not to fall apart on the stand as the defense made her relive the kidnapping and drowning. She would wake up in the middle of the night, clawing at him, pushing him away from her in an attempt to escape from Marty. Eventually, she would wake up and cling to him, pleading for the madness to stop. His heart clenched painfully, knowing that he couldn't stop her terrified mind from creating the nightmares.

"Richard, you promised." He glanced over toward his girlfriend with a quizzical expression, motioning for her to explain. "You said you would stop thinking about the trial. It is finished, you realize this, yes?"

"I'm not thinking about the trial. I'm thinking about you."

"Then why are you frowning? It must not be anything good."

"Sorry, Kor," His fingers massaged the bottom of her spine and he held back a chuckle as her eyelids fluttered in pleasure, "How about I promise again?"

"Will it do any good?" This time, he did laugh and a smile formed on her face.

"Probably not." The sunlight reflected on the clear water, sparkling and bouncing on the waves, and the fire and water melded, forming one single, impossible element of illusion. Black forms of seagulls and pelicans dotted the horizon, dipping and gliding along the currents of the wind, blocking out pieces of the sunset.

"In ancient times, my people believed that if you were to swim into the sun, the water would keep you from burning up and you would be able to capture a small amount of the sun's energy. They believed that the stars in the night sky were sun-swimmers and that with all of the energy they gained, they couldn't stay on Earth and burn the people they loved, so were forced to join the other sun-swimmers in the sky."

"Then why would they capture the sun's energy in the first place?"

"The legend says that the energy meant immortality. Many of the sun-swimmers were lovers that wished to be together for eternity, so they both would swim to the sun and then spend forever in the sky.

However, there is one story about a promiscuous, evil man that tricked many women into swimming to the sun, saying he loved them and promising that he would join."

"Sounds like Bruce." Kory burst into laughter and Dick blushed lightly. "What? Come on, you know that sounds exactly like him."

"Richard, the man only did this so he could steal the women's husbands for himself," At his blank face, she continued, "Perhaps I should have mentioned at the beginning he wasn't particularly attracted to females?"

"Don't worry. It'll still make a great best man toast for when Bruce gets married- if he ever does." Expecting the playful slap, Dick caught her hand before it made contact and linked both of her wrists above her head, lowering down to capture her lips, all joking aside. "I would swim to the sun for you, Kory." The emeralds darkened and their kisses continued, his fingers releasing her wrists to plant his hands on either side of her head, digging into the wet sand underneath them.

"And I would do the same for you. Swimming happens to be my favorite form of exercise." Dick tried not to let the streak of pain in her eyes at the thought of water ruin the moment. Raising a hand, his sand-covered fingers brushed against her skin and she shivered at the tickling grains. "Do you wish to know my other favorite form of exercise?" He grinned cheekily at the sensual tone in her voice and responded deeply with,

"Oh, I'm pretty familiar with it, babe."

"You are sure?" She rose from the sand, raking a hand through her hair to rid the sand. He couldn't help but think of the little lavender box in his suitcase and how the ring would look on that slender finger of hers. By the time he'd finished the fantasy, Kory was already sauntering up the steps of the white-washed deck. "I believe there are many, many things you still have to learn, Richard." Another sway of the hips, tastefully covered in a lavender sarong, and Dick was barreling up the stairs after her. Kory squealed, dashing across the deck and into the house. Strong arms wrapped around the skin of her torso and lifted her into the air, cradling her against a broad chest.

He raced to the bedroom with her giggling uncontrollably in his arms out of sheer exhilaration and hilarity as he struggled with the doorknob. With a final turn of the contraption, he carried her over to the bed and settled her on the comforter, retreating only to shut the door. The snick of the lock catching resonated through the house until the laughter began again. It filled the bungalow, the unbound joy spilling from sorrow, as the night sky shone with a thousand pricks of light.

AN: And you thought I would kill her off… okay, I admit, the idea seemed very tempting, but as I began typing, I couldn't go back and commit an act so atrocious as having him talking to her as a ghost (which was my original idea). I'm sure you guys are much more content with this ending, too.

The legend of the sun-swimmers was made up on a whim, so no, it's not real as far as I know. I also spent over an hour finding the perfect names for Kory's parents and never ended up using them, so here's what I decided on:

Aisling Cora Anders and Rylan Declan Anders

Chapter Thirteen: "Pieces" by Red / "Your Love is a Song" by Switchfoot

Thanks for reading and reviewing!