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"The science is complicated," Mara said in an uncharacteristic show of decorum, not quite answering the question she'd been asked. She'd quietly plucked the bill off the table as soon as seemed polite - she wasn't one to fight over paying but she wasn't going to not enjoy one of the perks of running her own mildly successful business. "Not as simple as smashing together chromosomes. Not much of a super-biologist, not sure how much I trust someone else to handle the technology things, plus other complications. My body chemistry is...." She was still holding the bill with one hand, but gave a concerningly vague hand wiggle with the other. "It's complicated," she said. "And, but, that's just my side. Two-person discussion."


Card in the bill holder, bill holder at the edge of the table for pick-up and payment processing. "Can't rule it out, might be good. Wouldn't ever say Yolanda isn't enough."

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  • 4 weeks later...

"Don't forget that if you wanted to make a couple calls and skim a power set or three you could pretty much make your biology work however you want," Ellie pointed out as they retrieved their coats and headed back out in the December weather. "It'd take some careful experimenting and frank discussion of bodily functions which I know are your favourite, but..."


With a shrug she leaned into Mara's shoulder, ostensibly against the chill. "Dios, Yoyo is just the most special kid. I mean, she's a teenager now, don't know when that happened, and I know everybody thinks their kids are perfect but I think about what we were like at that age and I just can't get over how she knows exactly who she is and doesn't budge an inch if someone has a problem with it. I'm serious!" She laughed, a broad if lopsided grin splitting her face. "Forget honour student, our daughter could go ten rounds with a bulldozer and not blink. Also she's an honour student. In case you were wondering."

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Ashley smirked a little. "I'll have you know I already met the government doctor who'd be extracting my eggs and he was a perfectly nice man...and yes it was weird!" she added, with a faint blush in her bronze cheeks, remembering the conversation where she'd met the Lor military physician who handled 'frontier medicine' out here in the Sol System. Technically they hadn't directly brought up fertility issues between two women, but Fa'Rua had been ready to talk about it on the way back. "Landing a big family is nice. She's a lucky kid; even if she doesn't always tell you that." She remembered being that age - and being around people that age not too long ago. 




Cold Jersey weather or not, Ashley felt good on the walk home. Ellie and Mara were proof that it was possible to make a relationship work long-term when you were a superhero; something that nobody, not even her friends in the Freedom League, had been able to do - and they were more evidence to the case that superheroes actually could be good parents despite how weird their lives were. She listened to Ellie and Mara talk with one ear open and hands in her hoodie pockets, letting herself think about the future. Now all I need is a yes...and maybe things are actually going to start to get better. 


Back at her house, she hesitated just a fraction before she said, "Okay, uh...this has been a really great evening," she said, reaching out to squeeze Mara and Ellie's arms, "and I'm so glad you took me up on this. I really want to do this again, and...if everything goes good, you'll both have an invitation to my wedding. But there is one more thing I wanted to talk about. Here, I've just got it inside..." Inside, she headed for the duffel bag she'd left along one side of her couch and started fiddling around with it. "Now, before I do this, I..." She stopped, flipped on the overhead light, a yellow LED bulb, and went on, "Ellie, I know you're a civil libertarian with your hero work, and that's fine," it wasn't that fine but plenty of her friends had different lifestyles than she did and she didn't judge too much, "because you and your team have made that work. So we may have some differences here, but..."


She hesitated, hands in the bag, and said, "Lately I've realized that this super-woman of mystery bullshit might be fine for my job, but it's no way to live. Not with friends, not with family. So, without further ado," she reached into the bag and pulled out a blue and white helmet, then a matching dark blue bomber jacket with a white star over the chest, adorned with a series of metal pins. "You know I said I work for the government, right? Well - I am the Patriot." 

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"Mmh." Mara's head cocked to the side, eyes unfocusing a little as her brain ran back over the course of the day. "....makes sense," she concluded, sounding a little less than surprised and a lot more like a computer finishing a math problem.


There was an awkward beat before she added, "...in retrospect, anyway. Sorry." She brought her head back upright and tucked her hair back behind her ear. "Did not really suspect before but - yes. Reconciles? Never quite sure what to say here. Glad you trust us enough to tell us, especially after only just getting to know me. Apologies if earlier conversation seemed harsh when we didn't know."

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"@#$% sake, Ash, you can't just call someone a 'libertarian' like it's--" Ellie had begun to object, eyes scrunched closed and fingers pinching the bridge of her nose, before Mara's muted reaction caused her to pause long enough for the rest of Ashley's words to catch up to her. Dropping her hand and opening her eyes the doctor took in the helmet on the table, nonplussed. "Huh."


Eventually she put her hands on her hips and gave a small nod to one side. "That does scan. Congratulations? Is it a 'congratulations' situation? You were always vague about the work you were doing so I was kinda worried it was some off-the-books black ops thing and this is obviously way better than that!" Ellie winced, wrinkling her nose again. "That sounded more complimentary in my head. Look, the jacket's great. The jacket's an unequivocal win. Are we on a list, now?" Her muted alarm was obviously fighting with her desire to be supportive, not helped by the fact that they'd just been discussing their daughter. She would have trusted Ashley with the lives of her loved ones any day of the week but the same trust didn't extend to the people to whom the Patriot reported.

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Okay, good. This is something I planned for, this is something I can handle. 


"Despite what those stupid movies say, the government doesn't take a lot of interest in the personal lives of metahumans." Most of the time. "It's not a good idea to piss off a bunch of walking nukes if you can help it, right?" She hesitated, "The Freedom League knows about me, that was part of joining. Fleur actually recognized me from Claremont if you can believe that..." She looked away and snorted, thinking about the plain and simple fact that the Interceptors have been on a government watch list ever since their leader had brainwashed them and used them for an attempted seizure of global power. "Obviously there have been some concerns, but whatever interest the government has in you, it's definitely not in your kids. Good, happy super-kids who don't think Uncle Sam is looking over their shoulder means everybody's better off." 


She considered what to say to Mara, then said, "I've heard worse. 'The Patriot's a ball-busting bitch,'" she ticked off on one hand, "'the Patriot's a fascist pig', 'the Patriot's turning our kids gay...'" She smiled thinly. "The rest is stuff that's been screamed at me since before puberty, so you know, whatever." She hesitated, then admitted, "That's, ah, why we're going to try and start a family after the wedding. Because I realized if I spend the rest of my life like this," she said, tapping the helmet, "the only way I'll ever get anything normal is if I reach out and take it." She breathed out, then said, "But listen to me; I sound like the Raven. Little kids send me pictures they drew of me, girls say they want to be me when they grow up, and I volunteered for this. What am I doing bitching about it." 

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“Okay but you see how ‘the government views you as a walking nuke’ is also bad, right?” Ellie winced, clenching her fingers into anxious claws on either side of her face. With visible effort she relaxed her hands and lowered them to her sides. “Sorry, sorry. Obviously this is a huge deal and if they’re going to have a Patriot in the first place they’re @#$%ing lucky they got you.” She let out a long breath, blowing her hair off of her forehead. “Honestly it’s weirdly a relief? You always got sort of… jittery when you didn’t have, like, a project and hey! America. There’s a project, amirite? I feel better knowing you’re doing this than thinking you’d just been unmoored after school.” A brief pause before she hurriedly added, “Not a boat joke, the house boat’s great, love the boat.”

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"Did not know you in school," said Mara. She hadn't known anybody in school, because she'd never attended school, but that probably wouldn't help the conversation. People got weird about it. "Know what it's like to have to keep busy, though. If they were going to have a Patriot, we're probably lucky to have you?" She quirked an eyebrow at that thought, glancing Ellie's way. "All of us, I mean. America us. If there wasn't a Patriot and I was told they were setting one up I'd...worry. The kind of project where things go wrong very fast, or end up with worse legacy than they started. If the hate you get it that you're not a pushover and you're turning kids gay, you're probably doing something right."


That last bit was accompanied by a thumbs-up, but her expression was so flat that it was hard to read. "Picked a hard role to play. Spotlights suck. Do your best?" Beat. "Do not raise your child in a houseboat this size."

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Like a lot of super-geniuses, Mara had lots to talk about. Hey she is pretty smart; thought Ashley suspiciously. But not every mega-intellect is a superhero, she reminded herself, even if it did tend to attract the super-brains like flies to honey. "It, uh, it's a long story, but they had a replacement picked out and he tried to kill the Vice-President because he doesn't like taking orders from Asian women." She smiled tightly at that. "There was an opening, somebody needed to fill it. And yeah, we'll figure something out." She looked around the inside of the boat, obviously thinking of her wife-to-be and a baby crammed into that space. "She keeps talking about parking a starcruiser down here, but I think I prefer my feet on the ground." 


She hesitated - then made herself say what she was feeling. "Thank you. This is - this is really great," she said, making a gesture with her hands that encompassed the whole room. "I'm really glad you're here." 

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