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By Societal Convention (IC)

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August 2019 


The impossible had happened and a shining knight had found love with a perfect goddess of science and patriotism - or so it was known in much of the Freedom City community. The reality of the unholy cyborg killing machine from beyond the stars and the mysterious controller behind Miss Americana was rather more complicated than that, and far less known, even inside the relatively small confines of the hero community. But it had happened and those two lovebirds really were married now, a texted picture of rings on fingers having been sent to Erik and Talya's cellphones about twenty minutes earlier, about the time the Interceptors had arrived. 

They, their children old enough to stand a party, and a selected few friends of the family had been invited to the reception for the wedding at Steve's invitation. They were about ten stories up in a glass-walled, flower-bedecked atrium in a room staffed entirely by robots too far off the humanoid to be creepy - some were serving drinks, one appeared to have built-in speakers and was parked near a small dance floor, and others had been dusting and cleaning when the Interceptors and party arrived. It was a nice room on a sunny summer day, the sky overhead a lovely shade of blue dappled with white clouds. Steve and his bride were supposed to be there at any moment...

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"Not going to lie. Actually thought I might burst into fire when I entered the building."


Mara looked around the room, dark blue eyes taking in everything with almost mechanical precision. She'd come dressed in dark greys and sea blues, a blouse that fit close around the waist but flowed loose along the sleeves over smart no-nonsense trousers that hung long over what might have even been short heels - almost certainly Ellie's or her mother's influence, one was hard-pressed to imagine she'd have bought such things on her own initiative. She'd never been much of a party-goer, and was already occupying herself at this one by mentally pulling the design of the robots apart, reverse-engineering their probable construction. "Demons do it in holy places? Probably okay people do it in evil places. Conservation of spontaneous combustion. Those are the rules."


Her expression was unreadably flat, but she popped an eyebrow up as she looked back at the people coming in behind her. "It's....nice, though. Fancy."

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"I wouldn't expect anything less," Talya replied easily as she followed Mara in, one hand lightly on Eden's shoulder. With a big family, Eden was often surrounded by her siblings. It was a rare treat to be alone with all three of her parents at a special event. Raina had been more than happy to volunteer for babysitting duties. Not only did it pay handsomely - Talya was more than happy to provide pocket money in exchange for the rare night out - but it gave her an entirely acceptable excuse to pass on the party. The twins and Mia remained at their home with Raina while Eden, at seven, was allowed to come to the party. 


Talya wore a simple fitted sheath dress that hit just below her knees in a navy so dark that it might as well have been her typical black and a pair of matte pumps to match. The three inch heels put her closer in height to her partners. Her blonde hair had been twisted up into a soft chignon and the makeup was subtle. It was certainly not the sort of dramatic figure that she usually cut. Chic and stylish - certainly lovely - but Talya chose her clothes with the same care that she always did, in an effort to put the bride at ease as much as possible. 


Eden, however, was adorable in a fluffy high waisted dress and with a less complicated version of the braids that Talya often put in Min's hair. A pair of sparkly clips kept her hair pinned in place but she couldn't stop fussing with the delicate golden pendant attached to an equally delicate golden chain. The charm was real gold, shaped like a small rose with a single pink diamond in the center. Eden offered Talya a smile before she dropped back to slip her small hand into Erik's and squeeze lightly, with clear nerves.


Talya tipped her had back to offer Min a smile. She was already eyeing the dance floor, personally, as Talya really did enjoy a spin around the dance floor. "Do you want anything to drink, dearest? Mara? Anyone?" 


Moving away from her family, Talya went to glance over the options as a robot floated by with a tray. It stood to reason that Gina would feel more comfortable if they weren't all standing and waiting to watch her enter. Most brides wanted that big entrance but Gina was hardly 'most brides'.

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"You couldn't iron a shirt?" Ellie grumbled under her breath as she tugged her brother's collar into a semblance of order as they entered. Her own burgundy collared shirt was immaculate, paired with a slate grey vest and slacks that matched Mara's ensemble and a pair of heels that had found their way into her wardrobe after an off-hand remark in Talya's presence. She'd cut her dusty brown hair short again, a little longer than a pixie cut and artfully ruffled.


"I did!" Erik protested, shooing her away before reaching down to take his daughter's hands. "There was just a... thing." He wouldn't have been able to explain the differences between the anchor grey, subtly hatched suit he was wearing and the one he'd owned since a little after graduating from high school but it was certainly a better fit. Lighter, too, in the summer heat and striking with the jet black dress shirt he wore with the first few buttons undone.


His sister gave him a sharp look. "On the way here?"


He shrugged defensively. "It was quick! Just a purse snatcher. But I did a flip off a newspaper stand, right and it got kinda rumbled."


"'Did a flip', Dios. Well at least you look very beautiful, Edie."

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When the groom arrived, there was no particular fanfare (as had been the request of the bride.) Steve simply appeared in the doorway and hesitated briefly against this final obstacle, hands held levelly at his side, where a simple gold band glittered now on the left. Tall, dark, bald, and scarred, Steve was dressed in a subdued fashion for a man recently married. He looked as much like a well-dressed man on the street as was possible, given what he was. In a dark grey suit that was almost silver with a patterned tie made striking by his coloring, he overcame his brief moment of uncertainty and stepped inside. His face was set in lines of both anticipation and satisfaction - a soldier who'd won one battle but was now faced with a struggle anew. For just a moment as the glass doors swung open, it looked as though he'd arrived alone - surely his new bride hadn't...? 

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As Steve paused in the doorway and held it open, a woman slipped through, her head down and her entire body tense as electrical wire. She looked very little like Miss Americana, maybe like a middling-close relative, with some similarity in the features but none of the height or willowy curves or poise. This woman was at least six inches shorter, with far more brown in her blonde hair, far less willow to her curves, and an attitude that suggested imminent flight. She was pretty in the way every woman is pretty on her wedding day, nice updo and makeup, wearing a lace-trimmed white dress that covered her from collarbones to wrists to nearly the floor. Next to what Steve usually had on his arm, though, nobody would ever have looked twice at her. She held Steve's hand in a grip that would've been painful if he were anyone else, but raised her head long enough to give the room a quick, tight, embarrassed smile. It was strange to walk into a room and know everyone there, when they were all meeting you for the first time. 

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Mara and Gina had never been friends, exactly. Mara and Jessica were friends. Mara and Ellie had been friends, for all of about a day before they jumped headfirst into something else. Mara and Gina were...rivals? Collaborators? Business partners? Business competitors?


Frenemies, perhaps.


She'd secured a drink for herself and for Ellie (and not for Erik, to whom she'd good-naturedly accused of having legs fully capable of taking him across the floor to a relevant robot); having rendered unto Ellie what was Ellie's, she turned to watch Gina come through the doors in what had to have been an extreme show of bravery - clutching and hiding and all. So she simply raised a glass, voice as serious and honest as it had ever been. "Congratulations," she said. "Really. Kind of mad you beat me."

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Talya had collected two champagne flutes, one in each hand which meant when she glided over towards the happy couple, there was no necessity to offer a hand or otherwise enter the bride's personal bubble.


Her smile was warm, "We meet under better circumstances this time. Champagne?" Talya offered gamely lightly lifting one champagne flute in offering. Talya, like Mara, was well aware that the open easy affection of the Espadas clan could take some... getting used to. "And many felicitations on your happy day."


She canted her body just a bit, including Mara in the conversation without crowding the couple, "And you know, Mara, all you need to do is say the word. I do love planning a good social engagement. White tailored slacks and a chic blouse. It would be  stunning, don't you think?"


For anyone else, talking about another wedding might be a touch awkward but Talya was striving to balance talking about the wedding without turning the focus entirely on Gina so she could wade into the conversation at her leisure.


"Thank you, Tia," Eden replied with a bright smile, her hand tucked into Erik's as her other one found Min's. Anchored between her two parents, she gave Ellie a gamine grin, lowering her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "I got to wear heels too!"


Though, really, it was more of a kitten heel on a child's dress shoe but she clearly felt very grown up at the grown up party. 

Edited by alderwitch
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Mara's comment actually drew a real smile from Gina, faint and sardonic though it was. "Better step the hell up, Hallomen," she advised, her voice barely more than an undertone, but still amused. "It's not like we rushed to the altar." Something about breaking the ice with an interaction seemed to help, she took a deeper breath and uncurled her shoulders a little bit.


She took the flute Talya offered and had a judicious sip, despite the temptation for some social lubricant. All the food and drink was excellent, top-tier catering from staff who'd been and gone before the party even started, but Gina knew her stomach was in too many knots to even consider eating. "Thank you for coming. Steve's been looking forward to this for weeks." 

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Steve beamed quietly, not an expression his friends typically saw on his face, and put his arm around Gina. Physically anyway they were a mismatched pair, the scarred giant and the small blonde, but they seemed comfortable around each other. Well, close to comfortable anyway. "I never thought I could be so fortunate." The moment was briefly interrupted by the arrival of Yolanda Morales-Espadas. Her dress wasn't exactly a bridesmaid's dress; but the sapphire blue outfit set off her eyes, and fit perfectly onto her petite, muscular frame. She was the champion unpowered weightlifter at Nicholson, and it showed.


"It's so nice to meet you," she said, shaking Gina's hand with a serious look on her dark face. "I'm Yolanda." Miss A had met the girl Steve had helped rescue from a dying world more than once, and been told about her development ever since - but this was something new. She turned to Steve, looked at him, and gave him a sudden, hard hug that made his face briefly crumple in that way that meant he'd have been crying if the world had been a little different. "I'm just so happy..." she admitted when she released him, tears enough in her eyes for both of them. 

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Whatever cutting response Mara might have had died with a melting heart; her expression softened at Yolanda's honest confession, and she settled for shooting Ellie a guilty look. "Yes. Well," she frowned, taking another sip from her glass. "Much too easy to always...be busy. Metaphor? Too many plates spinning. Too easy to be comfortable with what we have now." She shook her head, only to have to push a now-loose strand of hair back behind her ear. "Still. Good to remember that we can do more, even if reminder is from the head of an evil company. Going to have to watch her on your time off, Steve. Might be evil already."


That gave the woman pause, glass partway to her lips. "....haven't checked with HR." Mara's HR department was one hard-working person, whose initials conveniently matched their title, and she never got tired of it. "You did take time off, yes? For a while? On top of what you already took for the wedding? You'd better have. Know you have it banked up."

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"Well, I think it would be fun to plan a wedding. Min and Erik were married long before I came along to cause trouble, after all, so no meddling from me there. In all my many and varied years, I've never planned a wedding," Talya commented, her tone light and conversational and her expression relaxed and easy. One would never know she was picking her way across a personal minefield to look at her lovely, composed features. "I did steal from a wedding once. I wonder if that counts."


Her expression softened as her gaze dropped to Eden's excited features, the polished mask falling away. "And you do look stunning, my little love. Do you think you might like to dance? It's not a wedding reception if there's no dancing, after all."


She held out her slender hand, coaxing Eden away from Min and Erik. The eldest of the Espadas children laughed as she was twirled under Talya's fingertips, her skirt flaring out. "Thank you for having us, Gina. It's a rare party where we can all just be ourselves. As Mara said, its easy to get caught up in just keeping the day to day afloat."

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ellie turned to give Mara the same guilty look as if they'd practiced performing in synchronicity, looking like she'd been caught not doing her chores around the house. "W-well, I mean. Y'know." She gestured vaguely but emphatically with one hand. "...stuff." She busied herself fetching a tissue out of her vest pocket for Yolanda with an awkward cough.


Erik straightened abruptly at Talya's musing, looking very much his sister's brother in his alarm. "Did you want to do a wedding?" He turned to Min and tried to smooth the creases in his dress shirt with his hands. "We just went to city hall and signed the thing. Before anybody could try to stab anybody." At the time an attack by one faction of the House of Swords or another had seemed a very real concern, perhaps the Katanarchists or some freshly awakened Preserver shenanigans. "We could do a wedding. Right? Wait, that didn't sound romantic. Florecita, ayuadame...?"

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