The room had finally settled and only the low hum of the fluorescent lights remained. The heavy fire door had been shut to give the new little family some privacy, and mom some rest. The ink on the birth certificate had barely dried before she drifted off in to a well-deserved sleep over thirteen hours in the making.
Dad couldn’t sleep though. He was absolutely enamored with the small, cooing bundle in his arms. It was the most precious thing N’Jobu had ever held.
“N’Jadaka,” he whispered. “N’Jadaka Udaku. That’s your name.”
Twisting his wrist, he repeated the name into a beaded bracelet. It began to glow a brilliant blue. He gently pulled down his son’s lower lip and pressed the bead to the new flesh. The baby’s face screwed up in a moment of pain as the bead flashed and N’Jobu braced himself for the imminent crying.
But it didn’t come. N’Jadaka settled, merely wriggling a little in his swaddling.
“Ah, ah! That’s right!” N’Jobu praised him quietly. “No tears for me! No tears for Baba.”
He hadn’t anticipated how good it would feel to hear himself say that for the first time. Baba. He swelled with pride. In his arms was a blank canvas, destined for greatness. He could hardly wait to start molding him. He would speak multiple languages. He would be strong. He would be thoughtful. And he definitely wouldn’t be in Oakland very long.
N’Jobu carefully unstuck himself from the vinyl couch and began to pace around the small room. Instinctually, he began to sing Wakandan lullabies his mother had sung to him. He hadn’t thought to practice any American ones while he was under cover. To be honest, he hadn’t anticipated needing them. N’Jadaka was a bit of a surprise.
He smelled so clean. The top of his head was already smattered with curls, and his skin was so smooth and unmarred. He had a nose like his mother and prominent lips like his father. He was perfect.
N’Jobu’s thoughts were interrupted by a light rapping on the door. A golden haired nurse peaked her head in.
“Mr. Stevens?” She spoke in hushed but excited tones, careful not to wake mom.
“You and little Erik have a visitor!”
N’Jobu hardly looked up as he continued to bounce the baby.
N’Jobu tensed as T’Chaka entered the room, leaving his two plain clothes guards outside. The nurse vanished and it was just the three Udaku men. T’Chaka beamed with joy and clapped his younger brother on the back with a powerful swing. N’Jobu gripped his son a little harder.
“I am an uncle!”
“Yes,” N’Jobu replied. He was happy to see his brother, the King of Wakanda. But he was also confused as to how and why he was here.
“What’s the boy’s name?” T’Chaka asked, peering down at the newborn. “Is it really Erik?”
N’Jobu relaxed a bit, a smile creeping up on his face.
“In America, yes it is. You know the boy would struggle here with a name like N’Jadaka Udaku. Isn’t that right, Tony?”
The two men laughed.
“Aish! I haven’t been called that in years! Do not remind me,” T’Chaka groaned. “It was a stupid phase in university.”
“America will do that to you,” N’Jobu shrugged.
Mrs. Stevens stirred in her bed, the synthetic sheets rustling quietly. The two men dropped their voices once more.
“When are you coming home, brother?” T’Chaka inquired, looking around the muted hospital room. A slight air of disgust ghosted across his face. “We must announce the arrival of the new prince! The people will be thrilled. They only just finished celebrating the birth of my own son T’Challa.”
N’Jobu looked down again, using the baby as an excused to avoid eye contact.
“I’m not quite finished here. It’ll have to wait.”
T’Chaka only hummed in response and the air was tense for a moment.
“You seem to be getting off track with this assignment, N’Jobu,” he finally said. “It is time for you to come home… before any more damage is done.”
There it was. The real reason the king was here.
N’Jobu’s eyes flashed with anger. His wife and son were not “damage” or collateral in his mission. They were his family, American or otherwise. Recognizing his rising anger, T’Chaka interrupted his little brother before he could start.
“We will celebrate our new family member upon your return. You can announce it yourself.” He smoothed the front of his suit as he prepared to depart. He swiped at his shoulders as if being in this hospital room had made him dirty.
“I’ve settled your bill. Think of it as a present for little… Erik, is it?”
“N’Jadaka,” N’Jobu reminded him.
“Right,” T’Chaka confirmed. “Farewell brother,” was all he said before he departed as quickly as he had appeared.
N’Jobu looked back down at his child, trying to shake off the unsettling encounter with his brother. With the tip of his finger, he gingerly pulled down the baby’s lip to reveal a glowing blue tattoo.
“N’Jadaka,” he whispered again.