I couldn't decide how to make this cohesive, so here! A huge mish-mash of babies and Mother!Maline and fluff and some IMPENDING SAD but no real sad. I hope it's ok!


"Maline?"

"Yes, darling."

She doesn't even say it like a question. Marco watches her carefully, from the floor where he's helping Inari stack his new wooden blocks. She is perched on the impeccably brushed velvet sofa, one heavy book of law held to her nose and another on her lap. The nightgown she's wearing is long and modest but very soft and touchable. Versatile to any mood she might be in on any given night.

"What about another?" he asks.

"If you eat too much chocolate, you're going to get fat. I won't abide it."

"No. Not chocolate." Despite the tempting dish on the polished oak table between them, still piled high. He'd only had a couple after dinner, mostly as his Father Reward for feeding one to Inari and getting chocolate drool all over his shirt. He pulls their son into his lap. He is a pretty gangly two-year-old, even with his chubby cheeks and wrists. He'll be really tall someday.

"Whatever do you mean, then? I don't exactly have the time for games, you know. My case is tomorrow morning."

"I mean another." He holds Inari out toward her. Though being several feet and a wide, glass-crowned coffee table away, Inari holds his arms out for her. He's always been a Mama's Boy. Maline snaps her book shut, the only indication that she's tempted to reach out for Inari, too.

"I liked this proposition better the first time you presented it," she says.

Rubio grins at the memory: a ball to commemorate Sokara's return to Delyra and the end of the war. Koshka's pregnancy was also announced. It was such a shocking joy for Marco, who'd come to see her as his sister. So much that unlike usual formal occasions, he didn't spend it tugging at his collar and complaining with Sokara. He put to use the intensive month of dance lessons that Maline had forced him through in their parlour each evening, so that he could "behave like a gentleman" when the occasion came.

It was foolish, he knew as he swept her onto the floor. She was trying to focus on her career, and everything he knew before the day he took Sokara's hand was well and truly gone. Perhaps he had been married, in another life. Perhaps he had gone through all of this already. Perhaps, as a man who couldn't even say where he'd come from, he didn't deserve to take on the new responsibilities he hoped for. He didn't know. All he knew was how much he wanted his future with this woman. She matched him in wit despite his lofty position as an Exalt's tactician, she always found new things to teach him despite his propensity to live in libraries, and she was looking at him with such coy adoration that he couldn't help himself. He lifted their joined hands as they spun and brushed his lips over her knuckles far more sensually than he knew should be allowed, and he murmured, What about a child of our own?

She'd nearly dragged him from the ballroom.

But this time, she is experienced. She stays poised on the couch, watching him the way he expects a cat watches a mouse coming out of its hole.

"What brings this on, Marco?" she asks.

Inari starts to squirm and fuss in his lap, so he lets him go. Meets Maline's eyes.

Stands.

"I can't really explain it," he says. "Sometimes I just don't feel...tethered. It was how I used to feel all the time, before I met you. Marrying you was the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me a home, a place in life, and not just something I was borrowing from Sokara. And having Inari just made that stronger. Having Inari has been so good."

"Inari good," Inari repeats from the floor, overhearing some of the many words he's starting to pick up.

"Inari is good," Maline says, both correction and praise.

"But I'm starting to feel a little...I don't know. Off, again."

Maline delicately pats the spot on the couch next to her. He sinks down with a sigh.

"Love," he says, "I still can't remember anything. Anything. And the headaches are getting more frequent."

"Perhaps you should stop trying so hard to remember," she says.

"What am I going to tell him when he asks about his other grandparents? When I'm probably Gudoran, so he's probably half, but I have nothing of the culture to give him? What if he asks how old I am? What if someday we're out and somebody recognizes me, and I don't remember them, and this whole thing gets hashed out before his eyes?"

Maline does not often drop her eyes, but she does this time.

"I'm sorry," she murmurs. "I did not realize it was so hard for you."

He takes one of the hands folded so neatly in her lap. "I'm glad to hear it. I've been trying not to worry you."

"I do not like to be kept ignorant."

"I'm just taking a leaf out of your book. You're always so strong. No matter what you go through, you just bottle it up and focus on helping other people."

He starts to stroke the back of her hand. She leans her head on his shoulder, something she also rarely does in fear of ruining her curls.

"I would still like to know," she said. "In the future. If you please."

It's not a request. Marco chuckles and kisses the top of her head. "All right. But only if you stay open with me, too."

"We'll see."

I love you, he wants to murmur, although the moment isn't right and she would scoff at him for blurting such a thing out of the blue. She is so independent, so self-reliant, and though he isn't really a subservient person, he feels he should always scramble to be worthy of her. He drags his fingers up her back, over the soft material of her nightgown, until his fingertips could ghost over the nape of her neck.

"Again," she says primly as she re-opens her book, "my case is tomorrow morning."

"Yes, love." He presses a kiss beneath her ear anyway.

Inari suddenly begins to bawl. Maline is off the couch in an instant, on her knees and scooping him up.

"You are the fussiest child I've ever met. I do hope you grow out of this. Use your words, my duck!"

Inari just wails and points.

"I'm not sure if he knows that word, yet," says Rubio, spotting the problem. He slips off his seat too to join his family on the floor. He takes a moment to inspect one of the blocks, which has a splintery crack, and holds it out to Inari. "Broken. It's broken."

Inari cries harder about it.

"And we just bought those, too," Maline says with a scowl. "Selling broken wares; of all the nerve. I knew we should have had Koshka's husband just make us a set, instead."

"I think Lansu prefers to be called by his name instead of 'Koshka's husband.'"

Maline only shrugs and goes back to tending to Inari. "It's all right. You have the Spark, my love. One day Mother will teach you to fix all sorts of broken things."

"Like this!" Rubio holds out his arm helpfully. Inari eyes them both but subsides into hiccups, sensing that perhaps nothing was the matter after all. "I broke this thing really badly. But Mother fixed it right up."

"Hurt?" Inari asks fearfully.

"No. Thanks to her, it doesn't hurt at all."

Inari pats his forearm gingerly, just in case.

"Perhaps it's bedtime if you're this cranky, hm?" Maline asks. She stands gently with him, and Rubio follows.

Nothing helps him feel more grounded than that night time ritual. Swinging Inari in the bath ("What's this?" "Nose." "What's this?" "Tummy."), combing his hair (white-blond at birth and now golden as Maline's, although whether it would ever settle into Rubio's colour was up for debate), reading him a book (both parents insisted on literacy), tucking him into bed. He cries a little bit again because he'll miss them in the night, and Maline will be gone in the morning, but settles quickly.

Marco loves the routine, loves his son, loves the way the darkness of his and Maline's room closes around them like a warm blanket when she shuts the door.

"I have a secret," she whispers, chin tilted haughtily, eyes gleaming from the moonlight in the windows.

"I thought we were going to be open with each other." Rubio pulls her close and kisses her gently.

"You didn't have a particular time in mind for this second child, did you? Two years from now, for example? Five?"

"I suppose not. I needed your permission before I could formulate any plans."

"Well, while you formulate, Master Dracoknight Tactician, just keep in mind that they're already on their way."

She wants shock and elation from him. He can only chuckle and press his lips to hers again and then his brow to hers instead while he catches his breath. "Oh, Maline."

"You cad! You already knew! How? I demand you tell me!"

"You eat the chocolate in that bowl in the parlour during your cycle. But the bowl is still full. It has been for two months. I'm the only one eating it."

"Ooh!" She growls a little and shoves his chest; he laughs and catches her hands. "It feels like you're always a step ahead!"

"I'm merely alongside you! You just don't know the feeling because no one else can manage it." He brings her fingers to his mouth to kiss. "I had to pay attention. Make sure you were open to the possibility before I brought it up."

"Well, now you know."

"And I'm so glad."

He hugs her tightly, and Maline hugs back with all her might.


OK, so bear with me about this bad timeline thing. I'm running on headcanon because the plot of this game makes literally the most zero sense. (If Rubio kills Sokara right after they defeat Krotos, it means Eleanore Kendora's a two-year-old alone at the castle and that his wife hasn't even had their second kid yet. Maybe she's pregnant, but even so, how could Eleanore learn Sokara's fighting style in swordplay if he was dead? How would she have such deep attachments to parents she can't even remember because they left to fight a war immediately after her birth? And most importantly, if Sokara is already dead and all the Shepherds were with Rubio in that battle and were presumably killed because (guess who's back; back again) Garuga's back and possessing Marco, who the heck is leading the army to stop Garuga? The war, the kids are fighting would've been over before any of them turned three.)

So here's my headcanon. Everyone returns home. Everything is lovely. Everybody has kids. Initially Rubio is part of the happy, happy group. But over time, he starts feeling weirder and weirder. Like something just isn't right. Like there's something missing or wrong with him. (Surprise! It's Garuga.) So he keeps trying to root himself more firmly in life, only to have an evil dragon force him through a nervous breakdown, possess him fully in his weakness, and peace out for the Gate to resurrect him. If we're being real he probably tried to kill his family first, but the kids survived so I guess that didn't happen. And ain't nobody gonna hit Maline and survive, dark god or no.

BUT IT'S OK. This plays out again in the good timeline, just with adult!Inari and adult!Reuben there for added shenanigans, and that time everything turns out perfect and THE FAMILY IS EVEN BIGGER.