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August 2019 

The AEON Building 

 

Mark and Nina and Ritchie arrived at Alex and Mike's front door - which is to say, a ripple of magical energy in the air like a crackle of distant thunder turned into shifting, warping shapes that resolved themselves into Mark Lucas in his suit and tie, Monsoon in her glistening silver armor, and a very excited toddler. Ritchie liked his father's powers very much. "Boom!" he declared. "Boom!" He darted up quickly to Alex and Mike's door, laughing. Mark and Nina were just a few steps behind him, the former knocking on the door. (He knew not to just teleport into people's houses, even if they were expecting them.) 

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Mike looked up eyes seemingly unfocused peering through the wall as he heard Ritchies excited cries heralding his old friends arrival.  He set the lesson plan in his satchel on the counter and arrived at the door moments after Marks knock swinging it open with a genuine smile, "Come in."  He greeted stepping aside sweeping an arm to invite them in, "Mark, Nina,"  his smile widened a bit, "and who's this?  He's way too big to be Ritchie?"  he teased lightly and closed the door behind them.  "Can I get you anything to drink?"  he offered politely his eyes getting the distant but familiar 'telepathy face' as he alerted Alex of their arrival, "Alex will be right down."

 

He walked to the refrigerator to list off the juices and sparkling waters that had had the name of a fruit shouted at them at some point.  Forgetting as usual to offer the adult beverages available.  "Have a seat."  he offered gesturing to the large half circle couch dominating the main living area.  

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"Ike!" declared Ritchie, looking up at his uncle Mike with a big smile on his face. Richard Amir al-Darsah Lucas did bear a striking resemblance to Mark, though his soft fuzzy toddler hair was dark and glossy like Nina's. Ritchie was, as far as Mike had had a chance to see, a very good-natured toddler. He fearlessly toddled after the big man, just behind his parents. 

 

"I'm afraid we can't be staying long," said Nina politely. "But I will have a fruit water, thank you." Being a guest in Mike and Alex's house, she actually let him bring it to her rather than simply taking it as soon as he'd opened the fridge. 

 

"You gonna be good for Mike and Alex, buddy?" Suit and tie or not, Mark was down where he seemed to spend a lot of time - on his knees down at his son's level. He sat down the bag of kid stuff that he was usually carrying these days too. "Show them how cool it is to have a little buddy around?" 

"No! Ha-ha-ha!" said Ritchie, smiling as he stuck his hands in his overalls. 

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The penthouse was really designed with fliers in mind. While there were stairs, the upper floors all had easy balconies to float off of and the view of Freedom City was stunning from the large windows that filled one of the rounded walls. Mark and Nina had been over enough to know that there were multiple bedrooms and bathrooms on the subsequent floors but usually Alex and Mike tended to primarily use the open living space for most of their day to day. 

 

"Hello, Mark, Nina!" Alex called cheerfully as she floated off of the balcony, a box in her arms. For once, Alex wasn't dressed fresh from work. Her red curls were loose and she wore comfortable leggings under a loose long top with the sort of bright colors that she favored. "And Ritchie. Hello. I picked up a few toys for you, Ritchie, would you like to see what we have?"

 

She held out the box of unboxed, though new, toddler toys for Ritchie to poke through and offered Mark and Nina an easy smile. "Don't worry. We're happy to watch him. I don't suppose you're actually getting a date night out of it; Work?"

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"Toys!" declared Ritchie, distracted from his no by something much more interesting. While he busied himself with digging in the box, his father rose to his feet to quickly embrace Alex. 

 

"Well depends on if I play my cards right," he said with a grin. "There are only so many hours in the night, after all." 

"Work can be a date night if everything goes smoothly," said Nina with a smile of her own. "Hello, Alex. You look wonderful," she assured her, and it was certainly true. "How are you feeling?" 

 

"Doom!" Ritchie had set down a teddy bear and was pointing at it with one finger. "Doom!" He tugged at Mike's pant leg and asked, "Doom ike?

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Mike handed off the water to Nina silently and watched Ritchie toddle around after him with clear amusement before turning to watch Alex descend from the upper floors.  He stifled a laugh at Ritchies 'No' not wanting to encourage but clearly charmed by the display.  "Well I hope you manage to make at least a little time for yourselves."  he advised, "It's rare enough in this business without your sundry responsibilities."

 

At the tug on his pant leg Mike looked down and crouched to be slightly closer to Ritchies level he looked over at the bear with a quizzical expression, "Oh I dunno he doesn't look so bad are you sure?"  he asked earnestly,  "Lets go check!"  the big man exclaimed and pulled Ritchie up to 'fly' him closer to the bear.

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"Thank you," Alex replied brightly. As Mike knelt down, hunkering his massive bulk closer to Ritchie with the practice of a kindergarten teacher's ease, Alex ruffled her fingers through Mike's dark hair with open affection. Thankfully, he'd taken to discarding his glasses and the mild mannerisms that made him seem so different when he was in their apartments now. Smiling with bemusement at her husband as he engaged the toddler, Alex paused before answering honestly, "Oh, okay enough. The morning sickness is pretty much the pits but it hasn't been too bad. I'm lucky that I can really juggle my schedule these days. Honestly, AEON sort of runs itself, at least all the parts of it that make real money and I've mostly been focusing on the clinic and the latest results on the most recent Terminus exposure."

 

Alex's lips turned briefly downward at that. Having yet another exposure in their lifetime in Freedom City had been distressing on all accounts and had played merry havok with her research although those efforts were now helping a lot of people at least. "Which is good, honestly. I sleep easier at night knowing that if I'm the one that gets sucked out to a contest of champions for a few days, I won't come back to a disaster at my day job."

 

Her tone turned teasing then, clearly a gentle jibe at Mike for his recent, sudden absence from their first attempt at a pre-natal appointment. "So what are you two off to do tonight? State dinner?"

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"Ritchie's got a new cousin!" said Mark cheerfully. "Really cute kid out in Dakana. We're stopping by to make sure everything's okay, see if they need any help with anything. We miiight wind up staying the night - if we do I'll pop by here and make sure everything's okay." 

 

"Baby!" declared Ritchie, before gabbling at Mike cheerfully and pointing to the bear. Ritchie was hard to follow when he got excited; like most two year olds, he wasn't as articulate as the kindergarteners Mike typically worked with - and in his case, his bilingual upbringing made things a little more challenging. "Fly!" That part was clear enough. 

 

"We can't doom the baby," said Nina with a smile for her son, "they're family!" Turning back to Alex, all business, she went on, "I told Mark you'd be able to master the T-baby situation. I'm sure you'll do fine, and make all those lives better." She smiled, and went on, "I could have used some psychic powers when I was in your situation - are you reading anything?" she asked with a curious look down at Alex's midsection. 

 

"It should be a good visit," Mark offered, "we've met Murjana and her husband before and they're pretty nice. They sure go in for crocodiles, though!" He laughed a little nervously, pulling down Ritchie's travel bag. "This has his lovie, and his book," really the book he was reading to him, "and a blanket or two if he goes to sleep. And the crackers he likes from Dubai, and a couple of other things..." He rattled inside the bag - it was pretty full. 

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Mike happily hoisted the toddler into the air in a gentle but secure one handed grip as he 'flew' Ritchie overhead.  Mike raised a brow at the Dakanan cousin he hadn't realized Ninas family had such far flung relations.  "I admit despite everything I'm still always a bit surprised at your jet setting lifestyle Mark."  he grinned then quickly swooped the toddler in his hand when his pause to talk to adults earned a frustrated tap at his wrist. 

 

He eventually guided Ritchie in for a landing next to the bear and looked to Alex at Ninas question with a hint of nervousness, that early manifestation of power had not been easy for Alex, he wouldn't wish it on his own children no matter how prepared He and Alex may be.  With the hand off of all the little ones needful things Mike took a moment to clasp Mark on the shoulder and offer a gentle squeeze.  Looking down at what was really his first friend other than Alex he smiled, "Hey we'll take good care of him and if he needs you Daddy's just a thought away right?"  he pointed out as between Marks teleportation and Alex's telepathy this really was more like Ritchie staying in the next room than across the world.

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"Says the man who actually owns a jet," Alex commented wryly towards her husband and when Mike blinked at her, she sighed. "We own a private jet and AEON has a few standing by. What I own is half yours by marriage now, remember?"

 

Her smile was amused and fond at her husband's nonplussed expression and shook her head slightly to forestall any questions of why they owned the jet, when they could both fly. It didn't matter at the moment and if nothing else, Alex liked to be prepared. She gave Nina a small shrug, "I hope you're right. If nothing else, we're ensuring that no one is separated from their parents like our generation was. As to mind-reading... well, not as much yet. I mean, I can tell that they're there, certainly, but it's all electrical impulses and reactions right now. I don't get much from a fetus until well into the second trimester, truthfully, at least as far as emotions and reactions go. The initial readings are high for terminus energy which, well, while it isn't surprising, it does mean that I'm staying off of the research floors as the sort of terminus energy I've got going on can destabilize a lot of the tech we've built. It's not enough to cause any harm, though, you needn't worry."

 

It meant, though, as far as Alex could predict, their children would likely manifest mutations of their own on the scale of their parents. She nodded,  "I'll 'knock' like I always do. You needn't worry that I'll end up eavesdropping," 

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"That's right," said Mark, even though it didn't look like he entirely believed it. He studied his son, obviously fighting back tears. "You be good buddy!" he called to Ritchie, who was now sitting down on the bear with a look of triumph on his face. "I love you!"

 

"Love you," agreed Ritchie, who seemed to be having much less separation anxiety than his father. "Bye-bye!" He waved, then waved at Nina. "Bye-bye!

 

"Ilá al-liqā," Nina responded to her son with a grin and a wave. "In your hands, I'm sure the problem will be solved. You know Mark and I trust you. Let us know if his powers flare up, speaking of which," she said, "the AEON doctor said he's quite the little battery these days." And with that, and a few last words, Mark and Nina were off - leaving Alex and Mike alone with the baby demigod. 

 

"Treat?" asked Ritchie, looking up guilelessly at his hosts. 

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Mike absolutely mouthed, 'why do we own a jet?' as he asked his wife telepathically though was dissuaded from continuing the conversation as he really could not focus on both that and Mark and Nina's egress.  He seemed unperturbed by the readings, more at home with the idea of powered children than he'd once been.  Really more at ease about the entirety of their powers.

 

Mike offered Marks shoulder a final squeeze of support and dropped his hands to his side as the parents said their goodbyes.  He waved as they vanished and looked down at Ritchie with a nod, "Hungry lil man?"  he replied and hoisted the bag of supplies Mark had left setting it on the counter to dig through, "What sounds good?"  he asked as he pulled out the neatly packed containers of sliced fruits and cereals that were the dominant diet of a child of Richie's age.

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