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“I’m too fat to fly!”

Steve froze in front of the open door, the tearful wail coming from open door Thor used when he was on-planet stopping him cold. He recognized the voice, wobbly though it was, so of course he was concerned. 

Darcy. And the gently exasperated voice of her friend, Jane. “You’re not fat, Darcy, you’re just pregnant.”

“Then why won’t they let me fly?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe because you’re thirty-seven weeks pregnant and they don’t want to have to deliver a baby on the plane?”

“It’s only an hour!”

“Do you really want to take that risk? Do you think they want to take that risk? Come on, Darcy, it’s not personal.”

This was, apparently, not the best thing to say, as Darcy burst into tears. Steve poked his head into the open apartment, wincing as he saw Darcy, in all her pregnant glory, sobbing uncontrollably, her face buried against Thor’s chest. Thor looked alternately alarmed, concerned, and amused, but he patted her back consolingly, even as Jane visibly struggled to hold on to her patience.

Considering Jane had been surprisingly patient and attentive during Darcy’s pregnancy, Steve suspected this little episode had been going on for a while now. 

Darcy hiccoughed, lifted her head and wiped at her eyes with her sweater sleeves as she tried to pull herself together. “I just need to be home for Christmas.”

Steve’s heart broke a little bit at that. He didn’t know her story, although everyone speculated on it. It was just one of those things—even in this day and age, when a single woman showed up pregnant out of the blue, people were going to talk. There were rumors of one-night stands, secret marriages—hell, there was even a nasty rumor that Tony was the father, which made Darcy turn green around the gills and run for the restroom. It was morning sickness, but that didn’t stop Pepper from teasing Tony about it.

For the most part, Darcy took the rumors in stride, she even found most of the rumors hilarious, but she never gave anyone a straight answer when they were forward enough to ask her who the baby’s father was.

He couldn’t help but be fascinated by her. Not that he’d never seen a pregnant woman before, but there was just something about Darcy being pregnant that was…well, interesting. All in all, she seemed to take her pregnancy like she took everything else. It was there, so she was rolling with It, rumors and all. He’d noticed the occasional shadow pass through her eyes, but generally, she was all jokes and smiles, and he really admired that, because it couldn’t be easy for a pregnant woman alone. And once she had the baby…well, it made him think of his own mother.

Or maybe he was assuming too much. He did know, however, that Jane went with Darcy to her doctors appointments, because Thor had mentioned it in passing. Steve couldn’t help but think if there was a woman out there pregnant with his child, he’d want to be with her every step of the way. 

There was more crying, and then Jane sighed.

“I’ll take you.”

Instead of making it better, this seemed to make the crying worse. “You can’t! It’s a six hour drive and I know you don’t want to leave your space thing for too long.” A pause. “And no, I’m not talking about Thor.”

Steve snorted at that.

“I can—“ Jane started, but Darcy interrupted, voice tearful but firm.

“You’ve already done so much. I can’t ask you for more.”

“I’ll take you.” The words stopped the conversation cold, and even Steve was startled into looking around to see who’d spoken.

Oh. That was him.

The more he thought about it, the more he didn’t regret the offer. He wasn’t sure how she’d react, especially since they were friendly, but not friends, but she’d stopped crying abruptly and threw herself in his arms with a “Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.”

Sure the decision was impulsive, but it seemed to literally lift a weight from her shoulders, and her smile was back and brighter than ever when he passed her in the hall. And maybe it was all that Christmas cheer in the air or just the feeling of helping out his fellow man, but something in his stomach flip flopped about at the curve of her lips.

Nope, he didn’t regret it at all.

“You gonna ask me?”

Darcy wasn’t sure why she blurted that out. She and Steve were eating lunch together at a diner just down the street from Stark Tower. If they were going on a road trip together, however short, she’d declared they needed to get to know each other. And it didn’t hurt that she really just liked looking at the man. What could she say? The man was hot.

Problem was, the only thing they were doing was looking. Well, looking and eating. Dear Lord, the man could pack the food away. She was pregnant and she couldn’t think of eating half as much as he was shoveling into his mouth.

This was not how she’d wanted their “getting to know you” lunch to go.” But that was also not how she’d wanted to break the ice. But she’d said it, so she’d go with it.

“Gonna ask you what?” he asked, fork halfway to his mouth.

“The question everyone asks me when they get me even semi-alone.”

He arched his brows. She arched hers back.

“You mean how you got pregnant?” When Darcy nodded, he shrugged. “No offense, but I’m pretty sure I figured out how that kind of thing goes a long time ago.”

Darcy’s nerves evaporated under her surprised laugh. She’d known he was nice, known he was an upstanding kind of guy, and that he more than occasionally looked like he wanted to throw Tony Stark out of a 33rd story window. She hadn’t known he was a smart ass. That was kind of nice. 

“Are you sure you don’t wanna have the Talk? It’ll be good practice for when I have to do it twelve, thirteen years down the road.” Steve grinned, and for a second, she was afraid he was going to take her up on it. “But really, you’re not at all curious about who the baby daddy is or if he’s in the picture?” 

Steve shrugged again. “Not really anyone’s business but yours.”

Darcy picked at her french fries. “Yeah, well I’m pretty sure that has stopped no one in the history of ever.” 

“Can’t say I haven’t heard the speculation,” Steve said, dry amusement in his voice. “It’s been…interesting.”

Darcy studied him shrewdly. “What’ve you heard?”

“A lot of things, most of it stupid. The rest of it, the people judging, that’s even stupider. Although the alien abduction theory you threw out there last week was pretty funny. Mostly because people weren’t sure whether you were kidding or not.”

And the part of her that had been holding her breath, that had worried that he’d judge her just like most everyone else, relaxed.

“The alien abduction story was Thor’s idea,” she said with a small smile. They finished their meal companionably. Conversation was still sparse, but the silences in between didn’t feel awkward. All in all, she was very pleased with how her “Get to Know Your Driver” plan had proceeded.

After lunch, she let Steve help her to her feet, which she appreciated (because Lord knew that getting out of a chair at this point in her pregnancy was more daunting than the birthing process). He let her pay for lunch—she insisted because if dude was taking a day out of his life to drive an acquaintance home, the least she could do was pay for a meal—and then they stepped out into the frigid New York air. 

She shivered, and Steve glanced at her, studying her heavy coat, hat, and gloves. Then he took off his scarf, wrapped it around her for extra warmth, then put his hand at the small of her back to steady her as they walked back to the Tower. If her stomach did a flip flop, she ignored it. She was pregnant, about to become a single mother. There were more important things to think about than how nice it felt to have an almost stranger walk her home.

They were leaving on Christmas Eve. It took that long for Darcy to talk to her mom, her aunt, her doctors, and get everything cleared away. 

They loaded the car up the night before they left. Well, Steve loaded, Darcy leaned against a garage support, watched and snacked on blueberries. Sure, it was a six hour trip, but there were blankets, the pregnancy pillow Jane had bought her, various drinks and snacks for the drive, Christmas presents, and her luggages.

Steve heaved the second of her three suitcases into the trunk of his car, then turned to her, hands on his hips. 

“Maybe I should have rented a U-Haul. Planning on coming back to city at all or are you making a break for Canada?”

Darcy made a face at him, rubbing absently at an ache in her back. “I’m staying until after the baby is born.” She thought about home, about why she was going, what she’d face when she got there. “It’s—I’m—I just need to be home.” To her horror, her voice broke, and she quickly looked down, fighting back tears. She would not miss this part of being pregnant at all.

“Hey,” Steve said softly, squeezing her elbow gently, “I’m sorry. I was just teasing.”

“No, I’m sorry. I’m not usually this emotional,” Darcy said with a sniffle, wiping furiously at the tears threatening to spill over. “It’s the hormones, I swear.”

Steve took her hand. “It’s okay. I’ll get you home.” He squeezed her fingers in reassurance, then grabbed her third suitcase, and put it in the car. "Is that everything?"

"Just this," Darcy answered, nudging at the bag at her feet.

"The three suitcases weren't enough?" he asked, then dodged out of the way as she swatted at him. All traces of tears were gone, thank goodness. He was good at making people smile.

“Hospital bag, Cap. I’m due in three weeks, but I could have the baby anytime from tomorrow until that date. So I have to be ready."

It was kind of funny seeing Steve, who always seemed to take everything in stride, turn pale. "Oh God. Please not tomorrow. Please do not have the baby tomorrow."

"That would definitely not be my preference, either," Darcy said wryly, then looked sternly at her stomach, "so stay in there, you hear me?"

"Please," Steve added, leaning in to speak to her belly, making Darcy laugh. He looked back up at Darcy. "You're sure you're good to travel?"

"My doctor didn't like it, but she understood. My pregnancy has gone along pretty well, I'm generally healthy. Had a check up yesterday, and we conferred with my family doctor at home--who, incidentally, delivered me--so we're as okay as we're going to get."

"Okay." Steve still looked skeptical, but he closed up the car. "I checked the weather reports. There might be some bad weather in the afternoon but I'm thinking we can beat it if we leave early. Is that okay with you?"

"That's perfect. Thank you."

"Anytime." 

"Oh!" Darcy exclaimed, hand to her stomach as she straightened.

Steve looked a little panicked, but alert. "What? Is it time?"

Darcy looked at him in confusion. "What? Oh. No. I just remembered. I baked you cookies. As thanks. I mean, I know it doesn't even out, but I just…here you go."

She took the box, which she'd set on the roof of his car,  and handed it to him. She hoped he didn't hate them. They were a little kitschy, a little ridiculous, but she couldn't seem to help herself.

Biting her lip, she watched his face as he opened it. At first, he seemed a little bit confused as to what he had in his hands, but a grin broke out across his face as he realized what it was.

"Gingerbread Caps?" he asked.

"With Santa Caps. And I used some old pictures so I could get your different uniforms and…" Wow, this was sounding weirder and weirder. Stop talking, her brain demanded. Now. "I guess it's kind of lame."

"No, it's great. Thanks." 

Darcy smiled shyly. Steve smiled back.

---

The idea of leaving at six in the morning sounded great on paper, but the reality of it was not so great. Darcy felt sleepy, puffy, and generally fractious when she met Steve at the car. He, damn him, looked wide awake and almost chipper. 

At least he didn't expect conversation as he helped her into the car, reclined the seat for her, then wrapped her in blankets. "Just let me know if you get uncomfortable. I've got GPS and a map, so you can sleep through the whole ride if you want."

"Not likely," Darcy muttered as snuggled into the seat. Her feet and fingers were swollen, her back was killing her, it felt like a cramp was coming on. And, as she wriggled around in the passenger seat, she couldn't seem to get comfortable. But she closed her eyes anyway. Thankfully, she was asleep before they left the parking garage. 

---

All things considered, the drive wasn't bad. Traffic getting out of the city wasn't as bad as it could have been, and even with a little bit of snow flurrying down, the roads weren't dangerous. He just had to drive a little more carefully. Darcy's hometown was in upstate New York, right along the border to Canada. She'd told him "I can see Canada from my back yard," and he wasn't sure if she was joking or not. It was a six hour drive, but at the rate they were going, it'd probably be about eight, if they didn't make too many stops.

Watching the countryside go past was nice, too, even peaceful. Every now and again, he'd check on Darcy, who wasn't exactly excited to be out on the road so early. He didn't like that she couldn't seem to get comfortable, but there was nothing he could do about that. He turned on some Christmas music, low so that it wouldn't disturb Darcy, and just enjoyed the drive.

An hour out of the city, Darcy shifted in her seat again. "I have to pee," she mumbled. Her eyes were still closed, and he wasn't sure if she was awake or if this was some kind of dream, but he started scanning for a sign for a gas station, just in case. 

"Are we listening to classical Christmas music?" She was adorably rumpled and befuddled, her hair everywhere as she blinked the sleep out of her eyes.

Steve felt his cheeks turning a bit red. "It's…ah…for the baby. They said that Mozart was good for babies, and, well, it's not Mozart, but it should still help, right?"

She sighed, leaned her head back, and reached out to pat his arm. "That's sweet. You're sweet. I need to pee."

Thankfully, there was a gas station two miles up the road. It was one of those stations where truckers could shower and rest, so he thought it would be at least generally clean. He pulled into the parking lot, hurried around to her side of the car and helped her out. He kept an arm around her to steady her as they walked into the gas station. As soon as they were in, she waddled as fast as she could to the restroom.

Then he made mental note to himself not to refer to her current gait as a waddle, because he really didn't think she'd appreciate it.

He bought himself a coffee--not that he needed it--and poked around the offerings on hand. Darcy came out of the restroom a few minutes later, looking much more refreshed and awake. 

"Sorry," she said. "I've got the bladder of a squirrel these days."

"No need to apologize," he said with a smile. He noted that she was rubbing at her lower back, but she didn't say anything about it. Instead, he led her back to the car, help her put her seat belt back on, then grabbed some of her snacks before they went on their way.

Darcy grimaced apologetically as she bit into the granola bar he handed her. "This is probably going to happen a lot."

"Just let me know whenever you need to stop."

Turned out, she needed to stop a lot. Over the next couple of hours, there were three more restroom stops. Added to that, the weather got increasingly worse. Steve was beginning to worry they weren't going to make it to Darcy's home town tonight when they hit restroom stop number four. He at least had a routine by now, and they both moved like they'd been practicing it. Which, he supposed, they had been.

"I'm so sorry!" she shouted as they got into the gas station, running as fast as her pregnancy would let her go.

Gas station customers stared at her as she passed. Then they stared at Steve, who shrugged. "She's just really gotta go."

---

When Darcy made her way out of the restroom, she found Steve perusing terrible gas station fashion. "I hope you're not thinking of buying one of those. I don't know if they fit with the whole Captain America look."

"I don't know, nothing says America like a 'We the People' t-shirt with an eagle, a flag and a couple of rifles."

Darcy scowled at the shirt in question. "You buy that, and I'm walking home."

"How about this one, with the guitar pick." Steve held it up for her.

Darcy blinked. "It says 'Pick Jesus.'"

"The perfect shirt for Christmas! Darcy! Hey, where are you going?" She heard him put the shirt back on the rack, and a smiled played around her lips. He might be Captain America, but she was quickly learning that he was a pretty big dork. She liked that.

Just then a pain spasmed through her, making her gasp and her back arch. The pain had been on and off throughout the day, but this was particularly bad. She closed her eyes, pressing her hand against the cramp. Steve was right there beside her. He wrapped an arm around her to steady her, then took her hand in his.

"Hey, Darcy, are you okay?"

She breathed through the pain, and after a few moments it dissipated. 

"Yeah. I'm good." She took a second to make sure she wasn't lying. Steve looked like he didn't believe her. "I swear, I'm okay."

He looked pointedly down at his hand. She was squeezing so hard her knuckles were white, and she didn't even know it. 

Steve rubbed her back in gentle soothing motions, and she relaxed into him. "Just let me know if the car ride is too much for you."

Darcy nodded. "I will."

"Oh, how sweet!" Darcy and Steve both turned, Steve holding her in a half embrace, to see who had spoken. The picture definition of Little Old Lady was staring at them, hands clasped in delight. She reached out a hand to an equally old man, her eyelashes fluttering as she said, "Harold, aren't they sweet?"

"Yes, yes, I'm getting a cavity." Harold was, apparently, the crotchety type. He scowled at Steve. "Move, son, you're blocking the jerky."

Steve moved, taking Darcy with him. Harold moved to examine the jerky.

The old woman waved a hand at her husband dismissively. "Oh, don't pay him any mind, dear. He gets hangry, as the kids say these days."

"So does this one," Steve said.

Darcy pinched him.

Harold looked up from his jerky study. "Ethel, leave those kids alone!"

"Oh, nonsense. That's not hangry, that's just pregnant. After you've had another couple of kids, you'll learn."

Yeah, no. If this pregnancy was anything to go by, Baby Lewis was going to be the first and the last. "I'm just trying to get through this one, ma'am."

Ethel just smiled knowingly. "You might be singing a different tune once you hold that little one in your arms for the first time. You two will have a beautiful family. Merry Christmas!"

Startled, Darcy and Steve shared a look; Darcy felt pink infusing her cheeks. "Oh, no, I--"

But before Darcy could set her straight, Ethel moved on to help the hangry Harold.

---

"I never told you how I got pregnant," Darcy said, breaking the silence that had settled between them after the Harold and Ethel incident. The old couple were cute. Even though Darcy did think that she and Steve would make beautiful babies-- even if she were hideous, which Darcy knew she was not, Steve's overwhelming…Steve-ness would ensure their baby came out gorgeous--thinking about her baby got her to thinking about how the baby came to be.

Steve glanced over at her. "Darce, you don't have to."

"I want to."

Steve reached over and squeezed her hand reassuringly. "Okay."

“It was AI.”

That made him pause. “You were impregnated by a robot?”

Darcy let out a startled laugh. "What? Oh, no. AI. Artificial insemination, not artificial intelligence. A robot, really?”

“Hey, stranger things have happened.”

And really, she couldn’t argue with that. Still, she couldn't help snickering over it again. A glance at Steve showed he was turning the thought over in his head.

"Huh. Artificial insemination. I would have thought you'd have done it, I don't know, the natural way, I guess."

“Ha, if I was gonna do it the natural way, I’d have to find a fella first. So far no one’s seemed worth it.”

“Wait, when you say that no one’s seemed worth it…are you saying that you’ve never—No, I’m sorry, that’s incredibly nosy.”

“Dude, you’re going out of your way to my mom’s house so I can have my baby in my hometown at Christmas. You can be nosy. And no. I’ve never.”

“So you’re a virgin.”

“Yep.”

“As in, never had sex virgin.”

“That would be the definition of the term as we are using it here.”

She was used to the disbelief. It was usually followed by judgment or, if she was talking to a guy, the guy trying his damnedest to get into her pants and be “the first.” Laughter…well, that was a new one.

He was laughing so hard he had to pull over, turning on the hazard lights and laying his head on the steering wheel. Luckily, the snow had slowed for a bit, leaving visibility clear. Anyone coming up the road would see them. 

She arched her brows at Steve, a little bit annoyed, a little bit confused, a lot admiring of how laughter seemed to make him look even hotter, as he tried to get himself together. When he realized she wasn’t laughing with him, he managed to pull himself together. 

“I’m sorry. It’s just…a virgin. Having a baby. At Christmastime." He glanced at her unsmiling face. "Come on, you don’t find it even a little funny?”

Her lips twitched. "Okay, that thought hadn't ever actually occurred to me. Thanks for that."

Coughing to clear the rest of the laughter from his throat, he managed to compose a straight face. He pulled back onto the road, driving slowly on the slippery surface. "Alright. I'm sorry. I interrupted your story. Why'd you go the artificial route?"

There was a sobering thought. "My cousin, Ellie, she couldn't have kids." Her heart gave a pang as she thought about her cousin, and she tried to hold on to the memory of Steve's laughter. "She and her husband were trying, but they saw a fertility specialist and…well long story short, her body couldn't sustain a pregnancy. I offered to be their surrogate.

"Ellie and I…we were best friends growing up. Practically sisters. She wanted a kid so bad, and it was the least I could do for her, you know?"

Steve studied her, new admiration in his eyes. "Not everybody would think like that. It's a gift you're giving them."

"It was. A couple of months into my pregnancy, they were killed in a fire. It was--it was pretty devastating. Her mom--my dad's sister--took it really hard. Ellie was an only child. But she called me a couple of weeks after. Aunt Susan told me that if I wanted to terminate the pregnancy, she would understand. I felt sick to my stomach, because I'd thought about it. Even before she called, I thought about it."

Steve caught her hand in his. Darcy held it like a lifeline. When she didn't go on, he asked, "What made you change your mind?"

"It was the last piece of her I had. She was my best friend. And Ellie, she wanted a kid so badly. I couldn't--I couldn't bring myself to do it."

"Is that what this trip is about? Your cousin?"

"Yes. I'd been thinking about it, and last week I realized that I wanted to have my child--Ellie's child--in the place we grew up. I wanted them to have that one last connection to his or her mother--and to their dad, too. Ellie and Mark, her husband, they were high school sweethearts. The town's a part of them and I just wanted the baby to feel that."

And then she couldn't help herself. She burst into tears.

Steve pulled over one more time, turned on the hazard lights, and as best he could, leaned over and wrapped his arms around Darcy. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, sweetheart."

He held on to her as she cried, for Ellie, Mark, the baby, and herself. She hadn't told anyone--no one but Jane and Thor--and she realized how good it felt to talk about it, to talk about them. She cried until she couldn't cry anymore.

And then she slept.

---

Steve drove on, more determined than ever to get Darcy home for Christmas. When she woke with a start, he immediately put himself on alert looking out for a hospital, but Darcy told him there was no need.

"The baby just moved," she said, her voice scratchy from her earlier crying jag. "He or she is active today. Wanna feel?"

"You don't mind?"

Darcy smiled. "No." It was like some connection had been forged between them after she'd shared what she did. It was oddly intimate, and he liked it a lot. Since Darcy was probably due for a restroom break anyway, he pulled into the truck stop that was coming into view and parked.

"Is the baby still moving?" he asked, a little breathless. It was probably ridiculous, but the moment just felt…special.

"Yes. Feel." She took his hand and placed it on her stomach. At first he didn't feel anything, and then--

"Oh!" A tiny movement under his fingers once, twice, again. "I think you've got a little soccer player in there."

"Well, right now the soccer player is kicking my bladder. Gotta pee." Steve laughed, then helped her out of the car. When Darcy came out, she was once again rubbing at the small of her back, but her eyes looked less red and she was smiling. They played I Spy in the car ("You can't keep picking things you can only pick up with superhero vision, Steve," she'd whined, to which he replied, "Then stop spying something white"), they talked a bit about his past, her cousin, and they listened to Christmas music.

They were maybe 100 miles away from Darcy's hometown when it happened.

Darcy straightened, eyes wide.

This time Steve didn't think anything of it. "If the baby's kicking your bladder again, you might be out of luck. The guy at the gas station said the next restroom was another thirty or so miles out."

"No, it's not that. I--I think I'm in lab--oh God." She clutched her stomach, doubling over in pain.

"Oh. Oh God. I--are you sure?"

"No, I'm not sure!" she snapped. "I've never been in labor before. I but I'm 90% certain this is the real deal."

Steve tried not to panic. He was Captain America. They could deal with this. They could--oh, God, was he going to have to deliver a baby?

He tried to tell himself that it took time for babies to come. He could get her to a hospital. He could.

"Okay, we can do this," he said, more to himself than anybody else.

"We?" she demanded. "Are you popping out a kid that I wasn't aware of?" She groaned, clutching her stomach again.

Steve decided not to take the waspish tone personally. "I mean you. You can do this. I am here for support. Whatever you need."

"I need to get to a doctor," she wailed.

As if sensing exactly what they didn't need, the heavens opened up, dumping snow and wind and God only knew what on them. The storm.

He was going to have to deliver this baby. 

But first…first he had to find them somewhere safe.

They slowed to a crawl, and he was thankful that it seemed that everyone else had the good sense to stay off the road. His eyes scanned the area for something, anything that could be shelter.

Darcy was on her phone, doing what, he wasn't sure. She let out a keening cry.

"What?" he demanded. "Is it here now?"

"No! I just--I was watching a birth video on youtube and I don't think I can do this!"

Steve's stomach churned. "You can do this. You'll do great." Himself…that, he wasn't so sure of. "Why don't you stop looking at videos and see if you can find the nearest town." She whimpered, but tried to concentrate on that.

After a few miles, he saw something in the distance. 

"Okay, it looks like there's an abandoned barn a mile down the road--"

"No!" Darcy cried out. "My child is not the second coming! I am not giving birth to it in a manger!"

"Darcy!"

"No barns. Please--" she shrieked again, her hand to her stomach.

"Okay, no barnes. Breathe, Darcy. Just breathe." He didn't know what he was saying, but it seemed like a good idea. He reminded himself to do the same, and he let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.

Darcy's breaths came in short, shallow pants, but she was on her phone, looking for something, anything, while he scanned the horizon.

"There--there's a hotel about three miles down the road," she breathed.

"Okay. Okay sweetheart. That's great. You're doing great," he babbled. Three miles. They could make it. They would make it.

Forty excruciating minutes later, he spotted the hazy glow of a hotel sign. The Shepherd Inn. Underneath, in bright red letters, "No Vacancy."

Well tough. They'd just have to deliver this baby in the lobby.

He pulled up in front of the hotel doors, not bothering to find a parking space. He turned off the car, hopped out, then helped Darcy out, holding on tightly to her as he led her to through the front doors.

The clerk, a skinny, pimple-faced guy who looked like he should still be in high school, looked up. "Sorry, man, no vacancies--holy shit!"

Holy shit was right.

Darcy's water had just broken. All over the hotel lobby.

"Don't curse in front of the b-b-baby," she snapped that the clerk.

“Is there a doctor staying here?” Steve said in his most authoritative Captain America voice.

The clerk was still staring at Darcy in shock and horror. “I—“

“Yeah.” A kid, maybe fifteen or sixteen, was hovering by the lobby, an ice bucket in his hands. “There’s a doctor here.”

Darcy looked up, a scowl on her face. “Who the fuck are you, Doogie Howser?”

The kid shook his head. “Oh. No. Not me. My mom. I’ll get her.” And he ran down the hall as fast as his legs could carry him, shouting "Mom! Mom! This lady's having a baby!"

"Why don't we just make a fucking announcement," Darcy grumbled, holding tight to Steve's hand.

"Not in front of the baby, dear," he murmured, earning himself a death glare. He slowly lowered her to a bench in the lobby, breathing with her as they waited for the doctor. All the while, Steve whispered prayers of thanks that he was not going to have to deliver this baby himself.

---

In the end, all Steve had to do was hold Darcy's hand while she and the doctor did all the hard work. It was grueling, painful, and it took hours, but in the end, watching Darcy cradle a little pink bundle of humanity, it was totally worth it. The baby was healthy, eighteen inches, seven pounds, and she had a set of lungs on her to match her surrogate mother. Now, however, she was peaceful.

"She's beautiful," Darcy breathed, ensconced in the room the doctor had once occupied. Seeing that the new mother needed privacy, she, her husband, and their teenager had given their bed to Darcy and Steve. The doctor and her family had opted for cots in the main lobby, until some of the other guests had shuffled around and squeezed their own parties into a single room so the doctor and her family could have their own space.

"Should I point out," Steve began, perching himself on the edge of Darcy's bed, fascinated by the little life in her hands, "that she was born just after midnight? On Christmas morning?"

Darcy groaned, cuddling the baby closer. "If you make a joke about this, I'm kicking you out."

Steve grinned. "You wouldn't."

"No. I wouldn't."

Steve took Darcy's free hand in his. "I'm sorry I couldn't get you home."

"That's okay," she said. "Thank you for everything. I couldn't imagine anyone else I'd want by my side through all of this."

"Hey, you did all the work. I was just along for the ride." 

Darcy lifted their joined hands, placed a kiss to the back of his that made his heart stutter. "You did more than that."

Emotion he couldn't define welled up in his throat, and instead, changed the subject. "What are you naming her? Something Christmas-y, like Noel, or Eve?"

Darcy pulled a face at that. "No thank you. Pretty names, but I refuse to be that kitschy. Refuse. I was thinking Marcella. For Ellie and Mark."

"That's perfect. That's beautiful." He leaned down to place a soft kiss on Darcy's forehead, then did the same to baby Marcella. "I have a gift for you. Well, for her." He'd been able to go to the car and grab it, along with the rest of their things, while the doctor was cleaning up Darcy. He held open the bag from the gas station, while she cradled the baby in one hand and reached in with the other.

She pulled out the first item, a soft teddy bear with an "I Love New York" t-shirt. "Steve, this is great, thank you." She turned to the baby, cooed, "I know you can't play with this yet, Marcella, but look at what Uncle Steve brought you."

As if in answer, the baby flailed a tiny little fist around. Darcy grinned up at Steve. "I think she likes it."

"There's more. It's probably a little big for her now, but…" he trailed off as Darcy choked out a laugh. She held up a onesie that said "I break for teddy bears."

"Her first outfit," Darcy said mistily. "Thank you."

It made him feel good, to see that smile on Darcy's face, to see her holding Marcella. She patted the bed beside her, and he settled into the spot. She leaned on his shoulder, and in that moment it felt like they'd known each other years instead of months. Well, they'd been acquaintances for months. It was only in the last week that they'd really come to know each other. 

"I know you've got a lot on your mind," Steve said quietly, "but I'm glad I'm here with you. In this moment."

Darcy tilted her face up to smile at him. "I am, too. Can I just…" Instead of finishing her sentence, she angled up a bit more, pressed her lips lightly to his in a fleeting kiss, chaste but full of promise. It made his pulse race, his heart swell, and he couldn't think of what to do except wrap his arm around her and hold her close.

They only looked up when the door was pushed open. The doctor, peeked in, saying, "Knock, knock. Just came in to check on my favorite patients."

The husband was right on her heels, along with teenage boy, who rolled his eyes. "Mom, they're you're only patients right now."

"Hush, Teddy," the doctor said. "In all the excitement, I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Dr. Weissman, and this is my husband, also Dr. Weissman. And this is our son, Teddy. Now let's see how mother and daughter are doing."

Steve's lips twitched. "Weissman? And there are three of you?"

Darcy scowled at Steve. "Don't even say it."

~fin