Living Vicariously


Steve's databand buzzed twice, indicating the receipt of a text message. A frown moved over his lips, and his hairless brows drew down over his eyes. Glancing at his wrist, he didn't really try to soak in the details of it – just acknowledging its arrival.

"I'll check it later," he muttered, continuing to stalk down the hallway and check the offices for security. If it was something urgent, the people who knew him best knew to contact the duty desk, not his personal phone.

Managers frowned upon employees using their personal devices on company time. Sure, he worked nightshift, there would be no worry about getting caught by another employee. But these guys checked cameras each morning – incentive enough to keep one's nose clean if he wanted to remain employed.

Later came and went, Steve's brain occupied by other matters through his break and his lunch. By the end of the evening, Steve was simply looking forward to going home.

As he drove through deserted streets of their New Fresno suburb, he realized that all the sensible people were already in their beds. He drove with the windows open and his radio turned down and wasn't even sure why. The temperature this morning wasn't in his comfort zone, dipping down into the mid-fifties.

Yet, he was glad he did.

There were strong smelling spring flowers in bloom somewhere. Jasmine maybe? It was breaking through his busted olfactory senses and bringing back some pleasant childhood memories. An absent smile worked over his lips before fading away with his thoughts.

The rest of the drive was by rote and the next thing he knew he was pulling into the driveway of the cottage. As a gentle squeak of brakes announced his arrival, he found his gaze fixed on the light shining through the curtain of the front room.

He next checked his chrono, grimacing when it told him it was 2 am.

"What's Maribel doing up?" he grumbled.

She never left lights on for him. In the months that they'd been living together, a month as husband and wife, Maribel came to understand that his cybernetic eyes were able to draw in more ambient light than his real eyes ever could, making darkness quite a bit less daunting. It was an unnecessary expenditure of electricity to leave him a nightlight.

Lights meant she was awake and waiting for his arrival. A pang of nerves went through his middle. There wasn't much of a stretch for Steve to be worried, not with the precedent set by all the previous times she met him at the door for one bad bit of news or another.

This bout of nerves continued as he gathered his things from the passenger's seat, closed the door with the minimal amount of noise possible, and worked his way up to the deck. Sure enough, the door popped open before he could set his hand on the knob.

"Steve!" Maribel cried, her almond eyes wide. "You're home!"

His expression pinched. "Yeah, same as every other night. Question is, what are you doing up still?"

She didn't answer him. Instead, she squealed, "Did you get the news?"

"News?" Steve uttered, unsure what she was talking about. "What news?"

She grabbed his hand, yanking it toward her with more force than needed in her excitement. She curled herself into the loose embrace of his arm, leaning against his chest as she swiped a finger across the face of his chrono. She twisted to look at him even as she held up the face of the device to show the text notification he'd completely forgotten to double check.

"Oh that. Yeah I was in the middle or rounds when it came in and then forgot about it," he sighed. "Why? What's it about?"

He pulled her tighter to him as his other hand reached over to tap the notification.

"Angelina gave birth today!" Maribel squealed, dancing in his embrace. She couldn't wait for him to finish reading it, it seemed.

"Oh?" he said, intrigued despite himself.

"Uh huh," she acknowledged, seeming happy that he hadn't spoiled the surprise for himself. "It was a boy! A healthy seven pounds, nine ounces! Isn't that wonderful?"

"That's great," Steve replied, wincing when his inflection didn't match his words. "What'd they name him?"

"Michael!"

His brows lifted. Pretty mundane name for the first child of a pair of sharkmues.

"What?" Maribel huffed, clearly reading the incredulity on his face.

"Nothing," he replied, pursing his lips and shaking his head just a little.

Her suspicion didn't diminish, and once more she guessed, with startling accuracy, what he'd been thinking. "It wouldn't do for him to stand out, you know. Look at his picture!" she stated, leaning into his bicep as if she was in the way.

There he took in one very "beat to hell by the delivery" Angelina holding a small bundle in her arms. The joy and enchantment mingling in her expression as she gazed on the baby seemed to outshine the exhaustion.

When Steve merely stared at it, Maribel, with her small deft fingers, zoomed in on the bundle in her arms.

"Look at how cute he is!" Maribel cooed.

"You sure they didn't switch babies? He looks…."

Despite her reproachful stare, she said, "Human. I know. Just a bit of a prominent brow there." She stroked the image as if actually petting the downy, white-blond peach fuzz on the boy's scalp.

She melted against him, and he took an unobtrusive step back to keep from upsetting his balance.

"He's so adorable," she sighed.

"Not a bad looking kid," Steve replied. Wrapping both his arms around her he settled his chin on her silky, black-haired crown. "Should congratulate them."

"I already did! For both of us!"

"Thanks for including me. Wouldn't want David thinking I still hate him or something."

"Yes, yes. Too much of the same cloth… bla bla bla!" She teased.

While David and Steve's initial animosity faded considerably, he was still working through his long-standing distrust of gemues in general. He was doing better at it, so the comment was somewhat of a joke.

A wistful sigh escaped Maribel as she continued to eye the image of the baby. Once again, she ran her finger down the image of the little gemue child on his wristband, before twisting a bit to wrap an arm around his waist.

There was something else in the way she was acting, something that set a frown on his face. When Maribel moved out of their embrace, he wiped the expression clean and leaned down to give her a heartfelt kiss. When they quit the affection, he added, "It's good to see you up."

"I couldn't sleep. I'm just so excited for the Scotts' news." She grinned and then spun away. As if a switch flipped, she changed subjects. "I've got your things set out. I'll be in the bedroom when you get your shower done!"

A suggestive tone permeated her voice, and Steve's brow quirked in interest. "Alright. I'll be in there in a few minutes, then."

He was sure to place all of his clothes in their appropriate spots: Jacket by the door, boots on the shoe rack, and his current wear into the hamper. He clumped the fifteen steps down the hall before ducking into the shower to get work off his skin.

He was quick about it, knowing that Maribel had school later in the morning. He didn't want to keep her up much later if he could help it.

Drying on his way to the bedroom, he found Maribel waiting for him, the lights still on so he could see the cute little lilac negligée she was wearing.

"Well now," Steve said, flinging his towel into a corner of the room and joining her on the bed.

While it might be late, and the both of them were certainly tired, their lovemaking wasn't quick. They took it slow because there were physical and mental hurdles each time sex was involved. There was nothing worse than saying or doing something which triggered Maribel's trauma, even accidently. Once triggered they both dealt with sleepless nights, her for her night terrors, and him for worry over her mental state. Despite it all, his desire or love for Maribel never faded.

There were multiple things physically which could ruin a mood. At five four she was well shorter than him and built more compact. He was a big guy, period. Exuberance wasn't a friend. There was also the cybernetics from mid-thigh down that added to his overall weight. The last thing he wanted to do was to set one heavy piece of cybernetics or another onto her frailer frame.

Afterwards, the two of them lay entwined on the bed, sheets kicked to the floor in an effort to cool off after the romp. Catching her breath, Maribel rolled over to face him, stroking his hairless face and running her fingers over his lips. In between, she leaned in to kiss him.

"You've got something on your mind," Steve whispered on the tail end of an exhalation. His brain drifted and he struggled to keep his focus on her.

He could see the flush in her cheeks as her gaze dropped to his chest. Her hand followed, her fingers tensing and relaxing against his skin. Steve tried to be patient as she contemplated how she wanted to respond.

"You've…" She balked, glancing at him sidelong with an expression that said she was expecting him to react negatively to her inquiry. "You seemed disinterested in little Michael."

Steve quirked his head to one side, levering himself up onto his elbow to get a better look at her. "So, this is about kids?"

"You've... never really expressed or shown an interest them," Maribel started. "Do you want kids?"

Steve blinked a few times, and unable to formulate an answer, asked instead, "Do you?"

Her face twisted into an unidentifiable expression.

"To answer your question," Steve went on, sensing Maribel's discomfort. "I hadn't even thought about it." He focused on her reactions as he went on. "The accident? The surgeries? The experimentation?" He rubbed his face with his free hand. "I just always assumed there's no bullets in the gun."

Maribel laughed despite a try at being stoic.

In a lighter tone, he said, "I mean I'm lucky the equipment functions at all – that it's even there. Hell, Turner could have just as well turned me into a eunuch during reconstruction."

"Oh!" Maribel uttered, covering her eyes. "Thank goodness not!"

Steve laughed. "I have no idea why he didn't, except maybe to salve his own male ego."

"How would you have felt if they had?" Maribel followed the tangent for a moment.

Steve felt the blood leave his face. "I wouldn't have been happy; I know that much. But like everything else," He waved down his cybernetic legs, "I'd have dealt with it."

"Hypothetically speaking, if the function was there, would you want kids? Or, if it wasn't there, would you want to adopt a child?" Maribel pressed. "I guess I'm trying to ask if you feel there's a hole in our family?"

Steve contemplated that, feeling like she was ready to spring some sort of trap on him. Was there a right answer to this question?

After a few more moments, he began shaking his head side to side. "I don't think so, Maribel. I'm very happy with what we have. I don't long for some legacy of my name."

"No?"

He glanced down his body once again and Maribel's gaze followed. "Kids are cruel to one another. There's no doubt in my mind they would pick on a kid for having a cyborg for a father. I don't feel like it's fair to subject them to that when they're unable to properly defend themselves. I can handle it…"

"Mostly," Maribel teased.

"Mostly. But hell, I'm nearly forty now. Which is another reason I think kids are a stretch for me. I'd be fifty-seven at the kid's high school graduation. I already get funny looks for our age difference."

"True," she answered simply.

Clearing his throat and taking up her free hand in his, Steve inquired, "So. Have I broken your heart?

A pang of guilt swam through his middle. He was therefore surprised when she negated his question.

"Oh, god," she sighed. "No. It's a relief. I've never had an interest in having kids. But I didn't want to break your heart if you were dead set on the idea."

"So, what was with all the hinting earlier? It sounded as if you intimating the 'lateness of the hour.' I mean a two am seduction was nice, but it felt like it had an ulterior motive."

She snuggled closer. "I was just worried I wasn't giving you what you wanted in our relationship, and wanted to show you how much I love you."

"Not necessary, but thanks. It was a really nice post-work surprise when I'm normally slipping into bed with the hopes not to wake you. I mean, you've even got school in the morning."

Maribel laughed and playfully slapped his bare chest. "You're just as important as school you know."

"Not more than?" he teased.

She smiled over at him.

"No more baby talk?"

"Nope. I'm perfectly content live that part of life vicariously through others. It will just give us an excuse to visit them more often so I can spoil little Michael rotten."

Steve laughed. "Well, it's late – really late for you – let's get some sleep."

"I love you, Steve."

"I love you too, Maribel. Good night."

"Good night!"

Maribel rolled back over putting her midnight hair between them. He draped one thick arm across her waist and proceeded to fall into a deep sleep.


A/N: So this story was one of those that stemmed from my own personal question regarding how functional Steve is. Considering the extensive amount of surgeries and experimentation he went through to simply live through his accident. Why did Turner leave him "a man" when it probably would have been easier to omit the unnecessary parts?

Short, but I hope it has the intended emotional impact.