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Confidentiality (solo)


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One thing Stesha had learned about herself during both of her pregnancies was that the further along she got, the more she craved soft surfaces and cozy places. Nesting instinct was a real thing, and she'd gotten a bad case of it with Ammy that wasn't showing any signs of easing up with this new one. Her bedroom on Sanctuary was dangerously close to achieving pillow fort status after a number of impulsive online bedding orders. Amaryllis, at least, was delighted by the development, but combined with the continued spontaneous plant growth, it was getting sort of hard to navigate in there. It was definitely comfy, though.


The high tech labs at ArcheTech couldn't be much further from that natural coziness if they'd tried. Miss Americana had obviously gone to some effort to soften the technofuturistic aesthetic of the lab she'd parked Stesha in, rolling in some baffle walls with soothing art prints of mothers and babies to conceal hulking pieces of equipment and dimming the lights from surgical brilliance to something easier on the eyes and nerves. It still reminded Stesha of getting a doctor's checkup from Dr. Frankenstein, a comparison she couldn't dismiss no matter how often she told herself it was unkind. Miss A wasn't really a mad scientist, and she'd done a fine job during Stesha's first delivery (which had apparently been Miss A's first as well, something Stesha was just as glad she hadn't known at the time.) Superhuman intellect and study skills made up for a lot, and she'd gotten more practice in the intervening decade.

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“Everything looks good on the ultrasound,” Miss A reported, startling Stesha from the light reverie she'd fallen into while watching the fascinatingly alien creature moving and grimacing on the screen. This new one didn't appreciate the poking and prodding, responding with enthusiastic pokes of their own to every movement of the probe. “Normal development, and you're still on schedule for your original due date. Good movement, good heartbeat, and you're gaining an appropriate amount of weight and, um, girth for this stage of pregnancy. I know you didn't want to know the gender...” she began, trailing off.


“I figured I'd let it be a surprise,” Stesha told her easily, trying to not remember last time when Derrick had been with her and had written his excitement and glee on the surface of the moon.


“Yeah, and normally that'd be totally cool,” Miss A replied, shifting on her stool in a way that was a little less polished heroine and a little more like the real woman who rarely let herself peek out from the robot shell. “But in this case I think it's relevant.”


“What do you mean?” Stesha asked, her attention sharpening. “Is something wrong?”

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“Not wrong, not really,” Miss A hedged. “The baby's totally healthy. Absolutely fine as far as I can tell. Definitely going to be a meta, though it's too early to tell any kind of power set. But you mentioned that there was no father... um, involved in the situation.”


Stesha offered a Mona Lisa smile, which so far had served her amazingly well in deflecting questions about her child's parentage. Her own powerset was broad enough and poorly defined enough that it could include all sorts of things, and people tended to think it was rude to ask too many questions. “Sometimes a sister just has to do for herself, right?” she quipped.


Miss Americana looked unimpressed by the flippancy. “Sure,” she said, “but human parthenogenesis is a little more complicated than just deciding to be a single parent. And it's still bound by some of the rules of science that we understand. For instance, we know for sure that because there's only one set of DNA involved in the process, parthenogenesis invariably results in a clone of the mother. There might be small genetic differences, but nothing too big. Nothing, for instance, like an entire Y chromosome showing up out of nowhere.”

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“Ah.” Stesha pursed her lips and looked up at the ceiling. Someone had pasted a print of Klimt's Mother and Child up there, presumably to distract from the inevitable stirrup-related procedures involved in obstetric care. “So, a boy then?”


Mazel tov,” Miss A told her, dry humor in her voice. “Look, I understand if you want to keep people out of your personal business. Nobody understands better, I bet. And everything that happens in here with you and me is totally private. I don't even let my employees look at these records, much less other superheroes or members of the public. You can tell people anything you want, but I'm your doctor here, and I need to know what's actually going on so I can care for you and this baby. You're saying this is parthenogenesis, but that seems impossible. Do we need to start looking for answers, or is this an answer you already know?”


Well,” Stesha hedged, “I never actually said parthenogenesis. But people made a lot of assumptions, and I just, ah, let them believe things.”


Are you kidding me?” Miss Americana went on a rapid and deeply expressive face journey, incredulity, anger, exasperation as Stesha practically watched her search her own eidetic memory for every conversation they'd had. It didn't take long, and finally the genius was left massaging the bridge of her perfect nose with three perfect fingers. “Oh my god. Stesha, really?”

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It just seemed easier!” Stesha claimed, trying not to sound defensive. She definitely sounded defensive, even to her own ears. “It's not like I meant to get pregnant, but I want this baby very much and I didn't want to cause a lot of problems on the team. But if you're asking if this baby was conceived the natural way then the answer is yes. Two sets of DNA, just like every baby.”


Miss A sighed and studied her for a minute, obviously processing a lot of information all at once. “All right,” she finally said. “Okay. So I'm going to make a couple more assumptions here, but this time I need you to actually tell me if I'm right or wrong.”


Fine.” Stesha looked back up at the ceiling.


You got pregnant right around the time you came back from that attack this spring, I'm assuming that part is accurate based on fetal development and because you wouldn't screw around with that kind of information.” Stesha allowed a tiny nod for that inference, so Miss A went on. “Getting almost killed makes people do impulsive things.”

Actually getting killed,” Stesha corrected curtly. “Coming back notwithstanding.”


Right,” Miss A agreed. “It can make you reevaluate your life, maybe decide to change some things. Maybe do things you normally wouldn't do. I'm going to go out on a limb and say you maybe slept with somebody you regret, and that's how this all started. And if people on your team knew, it could cause trouble.”

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I don't regret it,” Stesha said, her voice just a little choked. “But otherwise you're pretty close.” She rested a hand on her stomach, ignoring the traces of gel still clinging to the bare skin. “It's complicated, but not really, not when it comes down to it. Like I've said all along, I'm perfectly capable of doing this on my own.”


I don't doubt it,” Miss A assured her, belatedly offering her a damp towel to clean herself off. “You're not only self-sufficient to a fault, QED, but if you had a problem, half the goddamn city would drop everything to make sure it wasn't a problem anymore. But personal problems aren't exactly the sort of thing you can always solve with superpowers. I'm assuming that the father is a meta, just from the strength of what I'm seeing on the readings. Do you think he might, ah, cause problems if he were to find out?”


He knows,” Stesha replied, her voice a little bleak. “He's not a supervillain, if that's what you're thinking. He just... he has his own things going on. He can't... we can't afford to... I don't really want to talk about it.” She pursed her lips hard and blinked at the ceiling, trying to focus on the lights and ignore the painting. “But trust me, I'm not in any danger from that direction.”

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Okay.” Miss Americana accepted that without further question, maybe worried that if she pushed any harder, Stesha would actually cry. It wasn't an ill-founded fear. “That's good to know, that helps. We'll probably want to talk about his powers at some point, if you know them. It might have something to do with why your whole... flower... thing has been so much more intense this time around. But I don't think it's urgent right now. And I meant what I said. You can tell people whatever you want and I'm not going to say anything. God knows we deserve what privacy we can get.”


I just can't cope with the tabloids again,” Stesha admitted, swallowing past the lump in her throat. “It's bad enough with them not knowing anything and just speculating. It's actually kind of funny when they think I did it all by myself. But it would be so much worse than last time... I'd just have to go to Sanctuary and not come back. I don't want to have to do that.”


They won't hear anything from me,” Miss A promised. “And if I see anything coming down the pike, I'll do what I can to quash it. It's going to be all right,” she offered, with an awkwardness that was somehow more comforting because it was more real. “You're alive and the baby's healthy, and everything's going smoothly right now. And even if your teammates found out, I'm pretty sure they'd still have your back. I don't get along with everybody on the League, but they're good people.”

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Yeah,” Stesha agreed with a watery smile, “sometimes almost too good. But you might be right. I just... I don't want to have to deal with it. It's nobody else's business.” She took Miss A's offered hand to sit up and adjusted her voluminous shirt back into place. “Thanks for the exam, I know you're busy.”


Miss A nodded almost curtly, but it was discomfort and not dismissive. “Anytime,” she told Stesha. “Take care of yourself and I'll see you in another four weeks.”


Leaving the ArcheTech complex was a simple matter of stepping into the nearest hallway, thanks to the bamboo palm standing in the corridor near the elevator. It was looking especially bushy, possibly due to Stesha's proximity for the past hour, and provided an ideal doorway to the safe anonymity of the park outside. As she walked off down the path, Stesha pulled out her phone and dialed by heart. “Hey, yeah, it went really well. You're never gonna guess what I found out...”

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