Jupiter’s sits by the window while Caine and Kiza play chess on the dinner table. She starts tugging at her necklace when the question crosses her mind and she frowns; that one might be too personal.
“You have that face, Your Majesty,” Stinger offers her a cup of tea and the sight of it brings Jupiter out of her head.
“What face?” she takes the mug and watches the man sit on the floor by her side.
“The one you make when you’re preparing an interrogation.”
“You are very lucky I’m one of those few entitled with a sense of humor and a dislike for executions…” she takes a sip of the drink and tries not to grimace: it’s too sweet (as always) but she doesn't dare to complain to the man who lets her in his house almost every weekend. Not even with an invisible (but pretty real) space crown over her head.
She glances at Stinger to make sure he doesn’t notice her discomfort, but the man is lost watching her daughter take Caine’s rook.
“I do have a question,” Jupiter starts with a whisper.
“Shoot,” he drinks his tea and closes his eyes, pleased with the overdose of honey.
“Well… it’s about… Kiza…” Jupiter sees Caine’s reaction in the corner of her eye: his eyebrows tense while his ears twitch and he tilts his head just a fraction; enough for her to be sure that he’s listening. Could Kiza also…?
“I can hear you too, Your Majesty,” says Kiza loudly, not daring to turn her back to the chessboard, “But please, feel free to ask.”
“Oh God…” Jupiter whines and takes another sip to hide her face while Stinger snickers.
“You could just ask her, you know…”
Well, this is awkward already, so why not? Fast and painless.
"I was wondering about your mom. Well, if you have one…” Kiza’s hand freezes just above Caine’s king and for a few seconds there’s only the buzz of the bees to fill the silence. Caine lifts his eyes and they move from Kiza to Stinger and then to Jupiter and she holds his gaze while speaking, “I know that Stinger and Caine were engineered… So I was wondering if you…”
It’s easy to forget that Kiza’s a splice but in that moment the movement is so fast that Jupiter only sees a blur of yellow and then the girl is sitting backwards on the chair, with a big grin on her lips that doesn’t quite reach her golden eyes.
“I had a mom. She died when I was little so I don’t remember her much but dad has told me all about her…”
“Not everything…” Stinger rolls his eyes as if the mere suggestion of him giving all the possible details of a subject when asked were ridiculous.
Kiza’s innocent smile turns mischievous “Then Her Majesty might be able to help me come up with some new questions.”
“Ouch, ok, I get it.” Jupiter raises her free hand, “I crossed a line with that one…”
“It’s ok, I like talking about mom,” Kiza leans her head playfully, “I can show you her holo later…”
Jupiter nods and then Kiza goes back to the game, “Hey!”
“What?” Caine asks looking as innocent as possible while crossing his arms.
“You moved the pieces!”
“Of course not! I barely understand how this works!”
“More tea, Your Majesty?” offers Stinger and he pushes her leg slightly while getting up. The girl follows him to the kitchen, smiling at Caine’s poor attempt at cheating and she can still hear their banter when the door closes behind her.
“I haven’t finished mine,” says Jupiter, closing her eyes while trying to take another sip.
“Too sweet?” Stinger asks, concerned.
“Not at all.”
Stinger smiles while pouring more hot water in his cup. Yes, she knows she’s a terrible liar but nobody questions The Queen.
“Kiza’s a second generation splice,” he starts to explain while letting half a bottle of honey fall into his mug, “It’s not biologically impossible for two splices to have a child, but it costs a lot of money.”
“Wait, what?” Jupiter lets her mug down too close to the edge of the counter and Stinger slides it gently to the center.
“The permits,” he continues, stirring his tea with a tiny spoon, “And the advocate’s fee. We’re not allowed to alter or reproduce our genetic code but since it’s described more like a… like a random mix of two different patterns without intent of profit or mass production…”
Jupiter shakes her head and raises a trembling finger between them, “Are you saying… that you had to pay to have a baby?”
“Not only me, all splices do it. Well, the ones who can afford it…”
“That’s messed up,” Jupiter declares, asking herself for the hundredth time how space civilization could be so advanced and at the same time such a fucking pile of –
“That’s the law,” Stinger says, lifting his shoulders before sipping at his tea.
“You know, on Earth, all people… no, not everyone but most people can have all the kids they want. For free.”
“That’s kinda the point of it, Your Majesty.”
She opens her mouth, closes it again and decides that she needs a glass of water.
“I have a lot of work to do…” she mutters angrily, moving swiftly to the fridge when it occurs to her that a beer might be a better option at this point.
“I know you don’t always like the information I give you, but I hope this answers your question. The important one.”
She turns around slowly with a bottle in her hand and keeps her head high while walking towards the man, “All my questions are important, Stinger,” she doesn't know why it is so hard to admit it out loud when she has been thinking about it for months, but for some reason it is way easier to just open the bottle and drink.
“Caine’s mutation has been an inconvenience, military speaking, but he should be able to procreate without a problem…” Stinger keeps talking over Kiza’s screams, Caine’s growls and Jupiter’s coughs when she almost chocked, so the girl only registers his final question, “… you planning on having kids?”
“No! No, no, no…” she wipes the drops of beer from her face with her hand and ignores Stinger’s smirk, “Ok, I’ve been thinking about how would that work… but we haven’t talked about it yet…” Stinger nods knowingly and waits for her to recollect her thoughts. She continues only after the sound of her boyfriend’s laughter fades away, “I know Caine doesn’t have a… a biological family… I mean, he has you and Kiza, of course, but there are these moments when he’s at my uncle’s house and he just stands in a corner, watching us with…”
“With longing?” Stinger offers and Jupiter feels her heart sink.
“I’ve seen him do that before…”
“I don’t want him to feel like he doesn’t belong. He would never say it but I know…” her left hand traces the cold surface of the bottle while her right hand goes up to her necklace, “I want to give him what he’s never had. Maybe not right now, but someday…”
Stinger smiles and lifts his mug to her, “That’s one lucky dog.”
Jupiter chuckles and raises her beer, “Nah... I’m the lucky one.”