Maria had a busted lip from defending Carol in a cafeteria brawl. Carol hadn’t started it, not exactly. But once Maria had taken a hit, she’d sure finished it.
Well, really, they’d finished it together.
And after their punishments were doled out and they’d gotten clearance from medical, they were back in their room. Alone, at long last.
Maria’s lip had started bleeding again while she brushed her teeth, and Carol was dabbing at it with an alcohol pad. Maria hissed but otherwise stayed still.
She felt Maria’s eyes on her as she let her gaze linger too long on Maria’s mouth.
But she wouldn’t take advantage.
No. She couldn’t do that to her best friend.
They were at Pancho’s, and that complete jackass was leaning into Carol, asking her if she knew why it was called a cockpit.
Maria hit him before Carol could. And didn’t even spill her drink doing it.
She just went right back to pulling at her beer, eyebrows slightly raised as their fellow pilot checked for blood on his lips and found it.
“You were saying?” Maria asked him. Carol stood when he rounded on Maria.
“I wouldn’t,” she warned, and she’d already kicked his ass in a sparring session that morning.
He skulked away promising vengeance they would never give him the chance to get.
“How’s your knuckles?” Carol asked as she sat back down, taking Maria’s hand into hers under the cover of examining her skin for injuries.
Carol wasn’t sure if she imagined Maria gulping at the contact, Carol’s sudden switch from deadly to tender, but she knew that touching Maria’s hand was magic and lit her entire body on fire.
She grabbed at her own beer and chugged.
“Oh please, you know I’m fine. I can throw a proper punch.”
“Damn right you can,” Carol shook it off with a laugh, and as they raised and clinked their beer bottles together, all Carol wanted to do was lean across the table, take Maria’s smiling face into her own, and kiss her until neither of them could breathe.
But there were too many people who wanted to see them fail. Too many risks for her, and even more for Maria.
She contented herself with laughing, hard, because there was too much life to live to let fantasies of what could be eat at her insides.
It was pouring, and they were sprinting.
They held hands as they ran, Maria tugging Carol across the grass and Carol tugging Maria up the steps.
They didn’t let go when they reached the barracks, and they didn’t let go as they burst into the room they shared more often than not.
They didn’t let go as Carol shook out her hair like a wet puppy, as Maria shrieked and shoved her back into the door.
They both fell silent at that.
At the sound and sensation of Maria shoving Carol up against the wall, at their sudden aloneness, sudden closeness, the sudden way that their breath was the only thing between them.
“Maria,” Carol panted, eyes drifting down to Maria’s lips.
“Yeah?” Maria asked, and her voice caught, and it made Carol’s knees go weak.
But Maria was her best friend, and she couldn’t risk it, couldn’t ruin it, they were so close to flying in ways that mattered, and she couldn’t just…
“Your hair’s a complete mess,” she settled for, and Maria shoved her again, and this time, it devolved into wrestling and skin on skin and the only ways they could touch each other, be on top of each other, make each other scream, without touching each other, being on top of each other, making each other scream, the way Carol wanted them to be.
She contented herself with waiting for Maria to get out of the shower, waiting for her to deep condition her hair. She contented herself with wrapping Maria’s hair for her, pressing a soft kiss to the back of her neck.
Because that’s what friends did, right?
“You’re early,” Lawson informed them, without looking up from her work.
Goose leaped off her lap and stalked toward Maria and Carol, both breathless, smiling, and only slightly sweaty.
“I won!” Carol declared.
“You did not,” Maria scoffed. “You cheated.”
Carol pffted. “How did I cheat? I was clever.”
“You violated the agreed upon terms of engagement–”
“Captains! We have a job to do?” But Lawson was smiling, watching her proteges like she knew there was something beautiful happening between them. Like sometimes, the most gorgeous things were the ones that defied explanation, wouldn’t or couldn’t be named.
“Yes ma’am!” Carol and Maria both snapped to attention, but Lawson shrugged them off.
“At ease, and get ready to fly.”
“We’re always ready to fly, ma’am,” Maria told her, and Carol nodded sharply.
Lawson looked at them like she was looking at a tragedy waiting to happen; but a tragedy that would, she had to believe, get its happy ending.
“I know that. So. Who’s ready to save lives?”
“Carol.” Maria’s voice was tense and terrified and also, Carol knew… hopeful. Excited.
She knew every nuance of Maria Rambeau’s voice, and she loved it. Loved knowing.
But right now, there was also something she’d never quite heard in Maria’s voice.
So she sprinted.
Sprinted from the couch through the bedroom and into the bathroom, and barreled into the door.
“Babe?” She didn’t mean to say it, but it came out, and both of them let it pass between them like it was the most natural thing in the world.
Because it was.
Maria held up the stick in her hand, her lips slightly parted and her hair fluffed up like she’d been running her hands through it, liberally.
“You’re… you’re… baby?”
“Are you calling me baby or asking if I’m having one?”
Maria took pity and Carol’s hands into her own, setting aside the pregnancy test on the sink counter.
“Yes. I’m having a baby.” She bit the inside of her cheek. “Alone. I’m keeping it. I want it.”
“Then you’re having a baby,” Carol smiled, wiping away Maria’s fear that she’d have a different reaction, even though they’d had this conversation so many times before.
“We’re?” Maria half corrected and half asked.
“Yes. We’re. We’re having a baby,” Carol smiled, and looked down at Maria’s lips, because what else would she do?
But her peripheral vision caught the pregnancy test on the counter, and the way Maria’s hands were still very solidly gripping her own, as though for comfort, for stability, for permanence in what was about to be a world that would change very, very quickly.
So she kissed her hands instead, eyes glowing and smile radiant.
She was forced to wait with other expectant fathers, instead of being in the room with Maria.
The world was too racist for them to pass as sisters, and too homophobic for them to say anything else.
So she waited, and she paced.
“Your sister in there?” one of the men had nodded toward the delivery wing, and Carol suppressed a yell.
“Something like that,” she murmured, because it’s what was safest.
“It’s our first,” the man volunteered, even though Carol hadn’t asked. But his face was clean of malintent, covered in nothing but pure worry. “Do you think they’re in pain? I don’t like thinking of her in pain. But she insisted I wait out here. You too, huh?” He lowered his voice. “Your girl?”
Carol’s eyes flickered, and she readied herself to throw down.
But he just lowered his voice even more and leaned forward. “My brother lives with his best friend. They have a kid together, too.”
Carol grimaced noncommitally, but let the man hug her when a nurse came in to tell him that he had a healthy first child.
And when the same nurse came back for her, her heart hammered like it never had before. Not when her father would scream or when her mother would cower; not when the endless ridicule flooded through from men in basic training, from the endless doors slammed in her face, from even more doors slammed in Maria’s.
Her heart was through her throat, and she knew those steps through to Maria’s room were the most important steps she’d ever take.
“Hi,” she whispered when she stepped through the door, letting the nurse squeeze her hand as she left them alone together.
“Hey there, Danvers,” Maria croaked softly, face still sweaty and eyes exhausted but glowing.
Carol stared almost cautiously at the little bundle wrapped in Maria’s arms as she came closer.
“Well hey, little sweetie,” Carol tilted her head as she reached Maria and the baby, knowing full well how closely Maria was watching her watch the infant in her arms.
“You wanna meet Monica?” Maria asked. The question was unnecessary, but Carol’s face lit up when she asked: it was Maria’s way of telling Carol that she’d officially decided on a name they’d chosen together.
“Hi little Monica. Oh god, your toes are so small and perfect. How do you have such small toes? What’s that about, huh?”
She covered baby Monica’s soft face in even softer kisses, over and over until she couldn’t stop the tears from falling.
“We have a baby,” she whispered, raising her head to look at Maria, who was shedding a few tears of her own.
“We have a baby,” Maria confirmed, also whispering, her voice also trembling.
“You’re amazing,” Carol whispered to Monica. “You’re amazing, and your mommy is amazing. She was so brave, having you all by herself like that. And she’s gonna be the best mommy in the entire galaxy, you know that? You know that, Lieutenant Trouble?”
“I love you, Carol,” Maria murmured, almost more to herself than to Carol. “I love you so damn much.”
It was nothing they hadn’t said before. It was nothing Carol didn’t know.
But just then, somehow, with that statement, the meaning shifted. The entire world shifted.
“I love you back, Maria. So much. And we… we have a baby.”
She kissed little Monica’s face again, and looked down when Maria’s hand caught her shirt.
They both instinctively checked to make sure they had the room to themselves: just them, just their little family.
“Carol,” Maria whispered, and it was all the permission Carol needed.
She kissed Maria’s eyes, first, then her forehead and cheeks, her temples, her nose, her chin.
They held Monica between them, delicate and careful, as Carol shifted and kissed Maria’s lips, for the first time and forever.