-Marlene Arrives-

It was about four in the afternoon when Marlene finally arrived. She was wearing a harried expression on her face.

"Sorry about being about two hours late," she grumbled. "One of the problems with being a Blank is that the airport finds it a convenient excuse to keep your luggage. I had to swing by the consignment shop and pick up a few outfits. Thank Heaven they accept old cash."

"If you're a Blank, how did you board the flight?" Murray inquired.

"Max Headroom got me on board. Are you my father? Bryce Lynch?"

"No. I'm Murray. Bryce is down by the pond talking with his former classmate, Jenny."

"Childhood sweethearts?" Marlene inquired, raising an eyebrow.

"If they were it's taken him over twenty years to figure it out," Murray told her. "Still, better late than never. Though there is one little complication."

"Which way is the pond?" Marlene asked.

Murray pointed her in the right direction. With a thankful smile, she hurried off to finally meet her father.

Reaching the pond moments later, she saw a woman in her forties who was sitting on a rock by the bank with her toes in the water. Near her was a boy of sixteen who was skimming stones over the surface of the pond.

"You know, Jen," he said in a voice that was both happy and casual. "I really think we can make this work. Sure we'll get a few stares. And I'm sure some shock show host will want to have us on his show."

"It's perfect if he does, you know," Jenny pointed out. "We can inform everyone in the world about your true age and explain things so that nobody pesters us or calls me a cradle robber or... what was that word they used to use?"

Marlene's mind raced as it wrapped itself around what they were saying. This mere teenager was her father. Even if he had been considered adult at his age in the country where he grew up, she couldn't think of him as such. While she now lived in New Zealand and had lived there for the past five years, she had grown up in the United States where the minimal age of physical consent at the time had a little older.

"I don't know, Ocelot or something," Bryce shrugged, picking up and skimming another stone.

"Cougar, actually," Marlene said, happy to get a word in. "Are you...?"

"Bryce Lynch," Bryce introduced himself. "You're Marlene...?"

"Blank Marlene," she told him. "I wasn't expecting a child-father, to be honest. This is going to take a little getting used to."

"Child?" Bryce sounded mildly offended.

"I grew up in the United States," Marlene told him. "I've only lived in New Zealand for the past five years."

"But I was under the impression that you were adopted to New Zealand," Bryce replied, confused.

"I was," Marlene confirmed. "But my family moved to the U.S. when I was seven. My adoptive mother was in the Air Force and she was stationed there on extended tour of duty. My father decided to pack us up and move over there to be close to her. So, what was all that talk about shock show hosts and ocelots? You two thinking about getting married or something?"

"We might be," Bryce admitted. "But don't tell anyone. We'll make the announcement in a little while. We still are trying to get used to the idea. And we're a little nervous that the others might have trouble accepting it."

"Because of how young you look?" Marlene asked.

Bryce nodded.

"Your secret's safe with me," Marlene promised. "You know you can always elope."

"Better not to," Bryce said. "It might be weird for them to watch us get married. But Edison and the rest of the old team would pitch a fit if I got married and didn't invite them."

Marlene joined her father in skimming stones while Jenny continued to cool her feet in the pond.

"We'd better get back up to the house," Jenny suggested after a while. "They're probably starting to get dinner ready by now. And if we don't help out we might not get fed."

"Whatever you say, Jenny Penny," Bryce grinned at her. He skimmed one last stone, then went over to help her down from the rock. Unfortunately the bank where he stood was slippery with silt and the two of them both tumbled into the pond.

Jenny sat up, ego and backside both slightly bruised while Bryce rubbed his elbow which had a little abrasion on it that was bleeding just a little bit.

"You know," Oliver said to them as he arrived with a little smirk on his face, "if you want to get baptized there's a little church down the road."

The four of them laughed merrily, then walked back to the little farmhouse.

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