Stephanie shuffled to the cryochamber with orthopedic sandals and a long black summer dress draped over her protuding abdomen. Gold discs decorated each shoulder to complement the gold belt under her chest. She took a seat in front of the glass screen and pulled out a flexible holographic screen and started tapping the buttons.
“I don’t know how much you can hear in there but…” She slid a scale on her screen and a squishy thumping noise erupted through the chamber’s speakers, “That’s the baby’s heartbeat.”
She let it play for a few moments before turning the volume down, “So it’s pretty strong, which is the good news. The...less good news is that...he was due last week. His vitals are fine, so we know he’s okay, so it’s me that they’re worried about. With your serum and my serum combined, it’s safe to say that this is the first su-...the first enhanced birth so the doctors don’t exactly know what to expect.”
Her voice choked on the thought of calling her baby a super soldier. He hadn’t even been born yet, and yet she knew the expectations the world would place on him. That’s why she stayed hidden in Wakanda throughout her whole pregnancy. If anyone got their hands on her child, who knew what they would do to him? Plus, she was already a fugitive on her own. She had more than enough reasons to hide. She told her team that they didn’t have to stay with her if they didn’t want to, and so they each made their choice.
“I don’t think I’m in any danger, or at least I don’t want to think that,” She continued, even though she was tearing up, “I mean, babies are overdue all the time, and it doesn’t hurt the mother. He just needs a little more time to grow, right? Although T’Challa is especially worried. He thinks I should consider inducing labor, but I don’t know. It’s kind of funny. I’ve wanted this for so long, and now I don’t even know what to do.”
She pressed her forehead against the glass and asked quietly “What do you think we should do?”
A week later, on Washington’s birthday of all days, Stephanie went into labor. She was still strong enough to walk to the medical bay even as the contractions hit her along the way. The doctors quickly escorted her to one of their delivery rooms, which surprised her when she saw something resembling a chair more than a bed.
“Don’t I have to lie down?” She asked as she changed into the sleek white hospital gown.
“The proper technique for childbirth is a more of a crouching position.” The midwife explained as she leaned Stephanie over the chair and set her knees in the designated cushioned pads. Two ropes descended from the ceiling that Stephanie had to wrap around her hands and squeeze. The nurses hooked her up to an EKG to watch her heart rate for complications.
She rested there for hours as the contractions made her groan in pain. It wasn’t an end-of-the-world type of pain, but it was worse than getting shot or stabbed. Those times felt a like a sharp shock followed by dull throbbing. This was a continuous streak of coiling and stretching, like her guts were getting chewed like bubblegum.
“Where’s...His Majesty?” Stephanie asked breathlessly.
“He’s preoccupied at the moment, but he has been made aware that you’re in labor.” The nurse answered.
When she was fully dilated, they told her to push. She hoisted herself up on the ropes as she strained and squeezed herself.
“Very good. Do it again.” The midwife told her.
She did as they said and pushed and pushed, but even her strength was weakening after so many contractions.
“You’re doing excellent. Just a few more.” The midwife encouraged her more, placing an assuring hand on her back. She was very nice, but she wasn’t who Stephanie needed.
“I...I can’t do this alone…” Stephanie sobbed and clenched the ropes for support.
“We’re here for you. Just a little more, Stephanie. I need you to push.” The midwife told her, but Stephanie needed more time to muster up her strength.
“Push now, Stephanie.” The midwife said. Stephanie squeezed her eyes tightly and struggled to collect herself again.
Suddenly, a firm hand grabbed her wrist and slipped her hand out of the supports. And then another, metallic hand did the same with her other wrist. She opened her eyes to see Bucky’s rugged face and soft eyes smiling at her.
“C’mon, Steph. You can do it.” He encouraged her, giving her his hands to squeeze.
“Buck…” She turned her tears into a soft chuckle.
“You knew I couldn’t miss this.” He kissed her sweat-covered forehead.
With Bucky by her side, she got the second wind to give the last few pushes that brought their son into the world. After the doctors cut the cord and measured him at 9lbs and 7oz, they handed him to Bucky while they brought a bed for Stephanie to rest in.
“You were right, he does have my nose.” Bucky said as he held the screeching fat-cheeked baby boy delicately in his metal arm. Stephanie reaches her hand to touch Bucky’s face first.
“How are you?” She asked exhaustedly.
“You’re the one who gave birth, and you want to know how I am?” Bucky smiled.
“I’m really glad you’re here.” Stephanie rubbed her baby’s soft head to soothe him, “I guess he’s blonde, like me.”
“For now, he is. It might turn brown when he’s older. Your hair gets darker sometimes.” Bucky said and handed him over to his mother, “You got a name for my boy, yet?”
Stephanie nodded and cradled the baby close to her chest, “Carter. Carter Joseph Barnes.”
“I like it.” Bucky touched the baby’s hand, “Hey, Carter. It’s gonna be an adventure taking of care of you.”
The medical team stood at attention when T’Challa walked in. The king walked towards the family and nodded.
“Congratulations. Your son looks to be completely healthy.” He told them.
“We can’t thank you enough for this.” Stephanie said.
“Your family and my father...you are both victims.” T’Challa looked out into the horizons of his country, “If I can help one of you find peace…”
“You know if they find out we’re here…” Bucky put his arm protectively around his wife and child, “They’ll come for us.”
T’Challa looked at the boy and confidently responded,
“Let them try.”