“Happy fucking birthday. I hate you.”
This greeting did nothing to quell Steve’s hatred of his birthday.
Half laughing, half wincing, Steve kissed the back of Angie’s neck, which was about as much physical contact as she allowed him these days. “I know, I’m sorry.”
“Burn in hell,” she grumbled, kicking off the sheets that tangled around her legs.
“Already there, darling.” Peggy’s voice was equally grumpy as she shifted in bed, enough to place her hand on the bump of Angie’s stomach. “I hope this one at least got some sleep.”
“This one needs to get out, that’s what this one needs.” Levering herself up with assistance from Steve, Angie wiped sweat soaked curls from her eyes. “Peg, how is it that Howard can build himself flying cars, but fixing the AC in this place is too much for him?”
“The car remains a bust, unless you want a few seconds of hovering followed by a colossal thud.”
“Bet the car has AC though.” Heaving out a great sigh, Angie kissed Steve, brief and soft. “Happy birthday. Really. Love you.”
“I love you.” Steve put his hand on Angie’s belly, next to Peggy’s. “Both of you.”
Angie hummed. “Birthday tradition’s still off. Sorry, Soldier.”
“It’s not like I can do any more damage,” Steve said, drumming his fingers over the taut skin that concealed their first child.
“Who says? Mr. super serum, you might plant one in there before this one’s even out.”
“I really don’t think that’s going to happen.”
“I really don’t think I’m risking it. Peg, do your duty, think of England.”
A small explosion of sound invaded their room, another in the endless barrage of fireworks that’d been assaulting them for four days straight. Peggy flinched. “Oh I am,” she said, scowling. “Were I home, I’d be having a perfectly wonderful lie-in instead of listening to you ungrateful Yanks carry on.”
“So, no birthday tradition then?” Steve asked.
“Darling, given the seemingly infinite stocks of fireworks in this city, and how hot, twitchy and exhausted I already am, do you really want my teeth so close to that part of your anatomy?”
“Right. Maybe next year. You are hot though.”
“Mmm. Still a no.”
“Damn right. Don’t listen to him, Peg, that’s how I got like this. Maybe all the noise will scare this thing out,” Angie said. “One of you shove over, I have to pee. Again.”
Steve shoved over, helped Angie up. “Come on, you don’t want the baby born today.”
“Don’t I? It’s been squatting inside me way too long.” Angie pressed her fingers into her lower back, working at a soreness that never seemed to ease.
“Cheer up, love,” Peggy said, not cheerful at all as she stood, “you’ll be squatting soon enough, and then the trespasser will be out.”
“Screw you, English.”
Another blast of sound went off. Peggy cursed. “Ungrateful bloody bastards, the lot of you.”
Steve was left standing by himself as Peggy muttered about making breakfast “assuming the heat from the oven doesn’t kill us all.” Angie waddled off to the bathroom (waddling was the only thing to call it, though to actually do so risked death). A moment later she declared that one of them better be on hand in case she got stuck to the toilet seat.
“Happy birthday to me,” Steve muttered.
All in all, it went as well as a reasonably terrible day was ever going to go. Peggy made him a birthday breakfast, one of the rare occasions she admitted her ability to cook. They went to the Martinelli house for a barbecue. Angie’s father and oldest brother had both gone to war, understood the harsh reactions that the fireworks triggered in Steve and Peggy. The four of them sat in the blistering heat and complained about that for awhile, and then several of Angie’s brothers called her a fat penguin in a flower dress.
The resulting bloodshed was less than Steve would’ve expected, but that was only due to Angie’s disinclination to move. “This thing you stuck me with is leeching out all my strength,” she’d said.
When they got home, Angie barely bothered to kick her shoes off before taking over the nearest couch. She mentioned the leeching situation again, then dropped off to sleep. Steve lost track of Peggy but didn’t pursue her. He saw in her eyes that she needed a break from the constant intrusions of sound, wished he could provide it as a short but loud series of blasts went off in the distance. Sometimes he hated his enhanced hearing.
Angie slept through it, her dress hiked up past her stomach with no care for modesty. Steve, knowing he risked death if he disturbed her, sat himself on the floor near Angie. She was flushed and sweaty from the heat, and he wished he could give her the benefits of a serum-regulated body temperature. He wasn’t comfortable, but he had it far better than either of his spouses. Carefully, he placed a hand on Angie’s bare belly, rubbed slow circles.
“Don’t tell her I told you this,” Steve said quietly. “Don’t listen to your mama, not this time. You stay put awhile longer. You don’t want to come on my birthday.”
His birthday had never bothered him, ironically, until he became Captain America. Then it became a sign, almost a joke, really. Of course Captain America would share America’s birthday. The date became less about everything else that made it important, everyone else, and more about him. The interviewers would ask if he knew from the beginning, because of his birthday, that he was meant for something special, if his mother knew. Most of them stopped asking when his answer remained the same, that his mother probably would’ve preferred he show up a month later, when he was meant to, shown up healthy.
“You don’t want my birthday,” he continued, voice warm in the heat as he spoke to his child. “You deserve your own day, where we all celebrate just you. Not me or the country or anything else, just you and how amazing you are and how happy we are. And a day when your mum and me aren’t so grumpy.”
Footsteps across the hardwood. “I’ve every right to be grumpy,” Peggy said. “Ungrateful bastards, the lot of you.”
“I know, Peg.” Steve smiled as he felt her arm around his shoulder, her lips in his hair as she stood behind him.
“It wouldn’t be the worst, if he chose to make his appearance now,” said Peggy. “At least it would give me a reason to look forward to this wretched day.”
“Right. Because you don’t have that already.”
“You know what I mean.”
Steve took her hand, his other one remaining on Angie’s stomach. “Wouldn’t be the worst,” he conceded, “but wouldn’t be the best. And she deserves the best.”
“Whatever it is,” Angie said, voice heavy with sleep, “it wants you both to shut up.”
“How long have you been awake?” Steve asked. He should’ve caught the change in her breathing, but he found that the baby tended to take up most of his focus.
“Long enough to want you to shut up,” Angie said with fake annoyance, real affection. She reached a hand out, touched Steve’s cheek. “Wouldn’t be a bad birthday, you know. Lots of great people with that birthday.”
Steve kissed Angie’s forehead as Peggy moved to sit at the end of the couch, taking Angie’s swollen ankles into her lap. “She’ll be great all on her own,” Steve said, “with her own great birthday.”
Angie sighed heavily, stroked his face again, through his hair, before covering his hand on her stomach. “Well you heard it, kiddo. You can stay where you are today, that’s daddy’s birthday present. After that, you got a week to get out or I’m having a lease drawn up.”
Steve smiled. He loved his birthday.
In the early hours of July 7th, Steve was awoken with an elbow to the ribs. Peggy received similar treatment, judging by the cursing.
“Bloody hell, Angie. The AC’s fixed, those goddamn fireworks have finally stopped. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a decent sleep?”
“Little over a week,” came Angie’s voice through the cool darkness. “Boo hoo, I’ve had an invader in my stomach for nine months.”
“Yes, my gorgeous, perfect darling, I noticed that about seven months ago. Is there a pressing reason you’re bringing it up now?”
“I think it’s pressing to get out, finally. That reason enough for you?”
Steve felt his heart stop, something that should be next to impossible given the serum. He turned on the bedside lamp and saw Peggy looking significantly more awake than she’d sounded moments ago. “You mean…?” He struggled for words.
Angie grinned. “I think they think it’s safe to come out now that all the fireworks have stopped.”
Peggy huffed, took Angie’s hand with one of hers while picking up the phone next to their bed with the other. “At least we know the child has good sense, waiting for all that nonsense to end. Are you alright, my love?”
“Never better,” Angie said, still smiling. “You alright, Steve? Haven’t said much.”
What was there to say? He cupped Angie’s face in his hands, kissed her, smiling from ear to ear. “Never better, Ange, never for a second.”