Alani lightly caresses the soft dark hair on her newborn daughter's head, then moves on to the tiny points of her ears. She looks at Jian then, who is holding their daughter, the blue skin of his arms contrasting with the baby's light tan skin. There are tiny little gills working perfectly on the sides of her neck. She's already been examined and she is perfectly healthy and her lungs will be able to process air without assistance, as expected. For now, happily fed, the baby is sleeping. Alani takes her again though she remains close to Jian. "Okay, this wasn't a terrible idea." She smiles up at him. He was the one who brought having a child up, years after that pregnancy scare, and she took months to think on it, before deciding that she wanted one and was ready to become a parent. She had hated being pregnant and giving birth hadn't been a picnic. But it has been worth it as their daughter is perfect.
There is a knock on the door but it opens before either of them can answer. Alani is too happy to chide Namor for not understanding how knocks work. "Come to see your newest subject, have you?" Without asking, she places the baby in his arms. She's so small he could hold her with only one but Namor does use two, securing her against his chest. "Her name is Leia Alice Ryan." Jian didn't understand the need for two names, much less three, but he had been content with her choices. Namor remains silent but there is the tiniest of smiles on his lips.
"Wait, they thought Leia was yours?" Alani collects her eighteen-month-old daughter from Namor's arms. The girl is half-asleep, a trip to the surface always the cause for much excitement. Alani feels it's important for Leia to breathe air and while she goes with her herself at times, at others, she simply entrusts her child to Namor.
Namor nods. "I did not think they would assume that. And when I realised they had, I corrected them and some idiot accused me of stealing a baby."
Alani burst out laughing, but her daughter is so exhausted that she simply snuggles further against her neck. "Oh. My. Gods."
"There are people who know who you are so my patience was not too sorely tested."
"You know, that mean that for a while, she was Princess Leia?"
Namor rolls his eyes at her. "Go away, Alani, you need to put your daughter to bed."
While Alani fully expects her daughter to develop powers at puberty, her three-year-old punching a table so hard it breaks take her by surprise. She glances at Jian, hoping this might just be your average superior Atlantean strength, but he looks as concerned as she feels. Unfortunately, Leia decides breaking things is exciting and she takes out a chair next.
"You grab her and I'll call Namor."
By the time Namor arrives, Jian is sporting a split lip from preventing Leia from breaking stuff around their home and their child is in full-blown tantrum mode, furious at being kept from destroying the furniture. Alani sees to her partner while Leia kicks and punches at Namor as best she can while caught in his arms. Namor bears it stoically.
"Why is her power manifesting so early?"
Namor shakes his head. "I have no idea. My own strength came when I was older."
Alani starts picking up the broken pieces of furniture that are floating about. It takes a long while for Leia to exhaust herself, which is rather painful to watch, until she just falls asleep on Namor's chest.
"Namor, can you take her with you while we finish cleaning up and decide if it's worth it to acquire replacements for these?" She gestures with a bit of chair and of table leg.
The king agrees without hesitation but by the way his face twitches, Alani knows he finds their situation hilarious.
The following morning, Alani lets herself into Namor's chambers to collect her daughter. She finds them both sleeping, Leia in the very middle of the bed, hugging her favorite toy, while Namor is right on the edge. He clearly fell asleep while watching over her, which Alani finds adorable. But where her daughter would sleep through a marching band practising just under her window, Namor opens his eyes. Alani lies down on Leia's other side.
"This whole parenting thing's become a lot more difficult, hasn't it?"
"You and Jian are up to this challenge, Alani. Do not doubt yourself. I will teach her to control her strength."
Jian joins them and sits down near Leia's feet. "That would be a relief, Namor."
Namor pre-emptively waves away any attempt at thanking him. "I will see you both later."
"Right, you need your beauty sleep and this is some kind of ungodly hour for you." It's not early by her own reckoning or Jian's but they know they are being dismissed.
Alani is resting her head on the documents she's supposed to be reading even as she's speaking to her king. "She does science, Namor, actual science. At first, I thought it was just so that she could use her transmutation power better but she seems to actually enjoy it. Now there's this whole world she's into that I can't share with her."
Namor actually turns away from the file he's perusing to look at her. "Alani." He is very serious as he puts his hand on her shoulder. "She will not love you any less because she loves something you do not. You support her in this and that is all she needs."
Alani moans dramatically. "I know. I just need to whine about it. Also, she won't even use her power to make gold. Who raised that kid to have such strong morals?"
Namor plays along, a tiny smirk on his lips. "I'm afraid that you're the one to blame on that count, Alani. She's welcome to use her power to add to the kingdom's coffers."
"Who knows, she may agree to do it for her Uncle Namor."
He glares at her, as he has the past twelve years every time she's referred to him as such. She knows he secretly loves it though, as his eyes light up every time Leia herself calls him that.
Alani wakes up groggily. There has been a scream but she can't tell if it was merely in the dream. She automatically reaches for Jian and only remembers on finding the other side of the bed empty that he's been dispatched to a colony on the other side of the ocean. She drags herself out of bed to check on her teenage daughter, the only other person currently in the dwelling. Her daughter is sitting on her bed, examining wings that have appeared on her ankles. "Mom, look!"
"I see them, darling." When Leia's transmutation power manifested two years previously, Alani had thought that marked an end to her gifts, but that clearly isn't the case.
"I gotta go see if I can fly."
"Leia, it's the middle of the night. It can wait till morning."
Alani knows there will be no reasoning with her daughter. "You can go tonight only if Namor agrees to go with you. I'll ask him."
Namor shows up five minutes later, to her daughter's excitement, while Alani herself is just looking forward to going back to bed.
"You're not coming, Mom?"
"It's late and some of us are old." Namor rolls his eyes at that as, of course, Alani isn't. "And I will be able to watch you fly once you're worked it out. I don't need to see you crash into the waves." She smiles indulgently at her daughter.
"I won't crash."
Namor and Leia don't return until the following afternoon. Her daughter, exhilarated but exhausted, goes straight to her room, shouting "That was awesome!" on the way.
"Did she crash then?" Alani serves some tea to Namor, who's sat down at her kitchen table.
"She still needs to work on her turns. She did well." He appears to be in no hurry to leave, slowly sipping his tea. She keeps working on the documents she has to review while he simply remains there. His silence is unnerving so she looks up at him. He looks tired. "Namor, why don't you go to bed?"
"Someone is going to wake me up for something inane, I can tell."
She snorts. "Well, why don't you stay and sleep here? No one would look for you here at this hour. I'll only call you if it's truly important."
It doesn't take long before he agrees, a true sign of his weariness. He disappears into her and Jian's bedroom without another word.
Alani sits on the beach, alone. Jian is in the water and Leia in the air, respecting her desire for solitude. Her excitable daughter has been subdued the whole day but her nature is coming to the fore again and she's engaged her father in some kind of game Alani doesn't care enough to follow. Over the last two years, the young woman has become a proficient flier. and it is soothing to watch her pirouette through the air, diving in the water, and then rising again at speed.
Alani looks back down where the intricately-carved Atlantean urn containing her father's ashes rests between her knees. Despite the sadness she feels, she knows she's one of the lucky ones, her father having lived to just reach a hundred years old.
Namor lands softly in the sand next to her. "Hey." She doesn't acknowledge his presence further.
He kneels down on the sand and puts his hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry that I couldn't make it."
Alani shakes her head. "We talked about this, Namor. I've already told you that it's fine." She smoothes his frown away with her fingers. "Don't be stubborn." She prevents any further protest by putting her fingers on his lips. "I know where I want to spread the ashes. Give me a lift?"
Namor is relieved at being called to action, listening attentively to her directions. Once she's holding the urn firmly, he gathers her in his arms and takes off. Leia takes notice but Jian calls her back before she can follow them.
Once they've reached the cove that holds precious memories of her father, Alani asks Namor to fly lower. She leans over, trusting Namor not to let her fall, slowly emptying the urn. "Goodbye, Dad." Her whisper is lost in the wind but likely not to Namor's ears.
For a while, they simply hover, the ocean churning below them. "Do you wish to go back to Jian and Leia now? Or something else?"
She takes a moment before answering. "Go back. There's a picnic ready." This time, she holds the now empty urn with one arm while looping the other around his neck. "You know, you and Dad are the only ones who never asked why Jian and I aren't married, or even worse, said we should. Thank you for minding your own business." She kisses his cheek, knowing full well that it will annoy him, as thanks do, even coming from her.
"I could drop you. We're low enough that you wouldn't get hurt."
"Yeah, but you're not that much of an asshole. Not with me. Or not today at least."
Over the years, she's become adept at reading him, at deciphering what she can get away with and when. He doesn't correct her, proof enough that she is right, and they remain silent the rest of the way back.
By the time they land, Leia is already going through the contents of the cooler. "You're just in time; I wasn't going to wait much longer."
"How rude. Something you clearly get from Namor." Alani's tone is fully sarcastic and all those present know her well enough to know she's absolutely joking.
"Well, if I do, it's your fault for getting him to babysit me so much."
"He volunteered. Your father and I merely took advantage."
Both males are stifling smiles at their antics, but the meal is soon laid out on the cloth. Even Namor's lent a hand, albeit just once. Leia digs in with gusto; she's actually still growing, taking after her father in the height department rather than her mother.
"Do you want to race after lunch, Uncle Namor? A flying race, I mean?"
"I can indulge your desire to taste defeat, girl."
Her daughter looks furious as she hurries to chew and swallow before uttering a retort. Alani bites hard on her tongue so as not to laugh. Jian's eyes are sparkling with merriment. Namor raises an eyebrow at the colorful names Leia is calling him, most of them a comment on his age.
"The winner shall have an extra slice of cake." There is quite enough to go around regardless but Alani hopes that that should provide extra motivation for her daughter to win, though she's under no illusion that Leia has much of a chance. Namor has over a hundred years of flying experience on her after all.
Alani is the one to count down to mark the beginning of the race. But as Leia flies off, Namor stays standing on the sand. "What are you doing?"
"Giving her a head start. And the two of you a week off. I'll make sure Leia is fine while you're gone." And with that, he rises into the air and shoots off after the child he's helped raise.
Alani looks up at Jian, who looks conflicted at the unexpected time off. "So, since he's forcing us to go on vacation, we are totally crashing at one of his surface places, right?" Jian doesn't answer verbally, simply bends down and kisses her.