Philip, RA, Casey, Eric, and Colin: while I can't stop you from reading this, if you do read this please let me live my life thinking that the five of you have never even seen this fic.
"How do you feel about children?" Thora asked as the two of them were getting ready for bed. It had been a few weeks since Arlo had officially moved in with her and given up the pretense that he had regularly used his former bedroom as something other than an office in the previous few months.
"Well, they do still have a lot to work on, but for the most part their essay-writing has improved greatly between this paper and the last one I assigned them." Arlo frowned slightly. "Nisaria seems to be stagnating a little. It could be that she was already writing at a much higher level than her classmates, and I'm simply not challenging her enough by focusing on the others, or alternatively she's improving at a normal rate, but it doesn't seem like much in comparison. I'm concerned, though, that it has nothing to do with comparison and everything to do with how she's handling the stress of what's going on. I'll talk to her after I hand back everyone's papers tomorrow."
"Thanks for telling me; I'll try and talk to her parents later this week. But I wasn't talking about the students." She tied off the braid she kept her hair in while she slept. "Have you ever considered having children of your own one day? A baby, not just a kid we've taken in because of their mark or because the others rescued her from a fairy tale."
"I… well, I guess I hadn't really thought about it. I told you I hadn't had much of a social life outside of the family business, teaching, and my research. Raising children never… I guess I had thought if I ever met someone, and a pregnancy occurred, I wouldn't be opposed to it. I had no reason to think about it before, though." He paused for a moment as he finished the last of the buttons on his shirt. He was already raising children with Thora. Well, Thora and the Stryke Force when they weren't on a mission. Mo, Pip, and Kara were legally Thora's wards, and if he were to marry her he would likely gain partial custody over them.
"And I suppose I'm fonder of children than I ever thought I would be," Arlo continued, "now that I'm regularly interacting our students."
"I would hope so, considering what I hired you for." The teasing smirk fell away to a sad smile. "Being married to my job never stopped me from wanting kids one day, though I knew I wanted to eventually be a mom – but not a single one – before I was old enough to join the army. But I only ever got close enough to develop feelings for one person before you, and nothing ever really came of that relationship."
That wasn't entirely true. Thora had never been able to act on her feelings due to the timing, but their friendship was still ruined with consequences. He was rotting in an Aundairian prison, and his sister resented the Stryke Force and Thora by association.
"And then I manifested my mark, and…" Thora turned away from Arlo. "I don't know why I brought it up. I wouldn't trust a Jorasco-licensed midwife not to make it look like the baby and I died in childbirth. The situation with the Houses is just getting worse no matter our efforts. I'd rather not go to our resident fungal nurse on this."
Everyone had been surprised by Esri stepping up to an official role at the Academy, but at least he was finally taking on more responsibility. Thora herself had allowed herself to get caught up in an illusion that Blackwheel cared about her as more than just an aberrant tracker instead of responsibly pulling at every loose thread in the organization until she had found the true rotten core. She had thought that they would let her one day retire with health benefits, and perhaps safely give birth in a Jorasco hospital if she had ever met someone. Surely she had benefitted them enough that they'd give her maternity leave and time to just seek out other aberrants instead of actively fighting and leading her team.
She had been so selfish.
Arlo reached out to stroke her shoulder. "It's your decision ultimately, but standard elven biology isn't too different from human biology. I'm pretty sure it's mainly the eyes that separate drow biology from standard elves."
And so far the school had kept positive relationships with multiple drow communities.
She leaned into his touch. "I hadn't thought about that."
That would solve the problem of even bringing a child into the world. There would still be a target on their baby's back, though. Thora had been prepared to raise a nebulously defined family in a war, because that was what people had been doing in the Five Nations for the past century. The concrete thought of her and Arlo raising a family together on the verge of war with the Houses was terrifying.
Arlo got up to brush his teeth, letting his elven persona fall away as he did so. He was too tired to hide his mark right now. Maybe that was proof that he shouldn't be a father; he was already tired enough dealing with children who slept through the night. And yet he found himself dismissing that idea; he could give up hiding his mark in exchange for the energy to keep up with his and Thora's baby.
As he caught his marked reflection in the mirror, a question formed in his mind. It didn't go away as he climbed into bed, nor when Thora curled up against him.
Arlo took Thora's hand and moved it from where it rested on his chest to his face so that the tips of her fingers would brush against his mark. "Our marks are different. Three out of four children born to mixed-house parents are aberrant. We're probably the best equipped parents to raise a child with an aberrant mark, but do you think our children be more likely to develop one?"
He knew a child of theirs would likely never live an entirely normal life. He wanted them to have as much of a chance as they could.
"I don't know. They say aberrant marks aren't genetic, but mixed marks are caused by genetics." She had heard rumors that House Ghallanda occasionally celebrated the marriage between one of its heirs and an aberrant-marked halfling, and that would imply that an aberrant mark couldn't give cause for a mixed mark. She hadn't ever tried to confirm those rumors before. Another thing she should have done instead of blindly listening to Blackwheel's promises. "Promise me you won't repeat what I'm about to tell you?"
He kissed her hand. "I promise."
"I hope if we have kids they won't be more likely to have a mark than if a kid with no marked parents. I've known people driven mad or killed by their marks. I don't want that for our child. I seem like a hypocrite, don't I?"
"If you are, that makes two of us."
"Knowing our luck, this is going to backfire on us. I think I'd like to try to plan things so we'd have a Nymm or Lharvion baby. That way they'll be at least a month old when the new school year starts."
"We have about five months before we need to re-evaluate whether or not this would even be safe. That sounds reasonable." He had been planning on proposing one day, anyways. This just moved up that timetable.
This fic was brought to you by the following three, in order:
1. The desire to type up this fic quickly enough as to not potentially become OOC with the next NPC Q&A. Thanks for that sudden jolt of motivation, Mia.
2. The "Among the reasons why I don't want bio kids, not wanting to pass on my disability is one of those reasons" gang
3. Keith Baker's "Sidebar: Aberrant Dragonmarks" article. I'm still undecided on whether or not I would want the child of two aberrants to have the same likelihood of being aberrant as, say, a Jorasco x Ghallanda baby in my campaign + fics.
For the record, them trying for a Nymm or Lharvion baby would be like someone on Earth trying for a June or July baby. This is of course assuming that school in Eberron starts in the September equivalent and ends in the equivalent of late May.