A Time for Heroes – Chapter 3

A let to stand onHe got back into the easy rhythm he usually followed when he worked on his upper body. Moving between machines was awkward with the crutches, so he parked them and hopped.

So he was pleasantly surprised when the door opened and a tray of sandwiches made their appearance. He’d been working for almost an hour and a half! And he was famished!

He joined Ginny where she was setting out drinks and sandwiches.

“Taking you out for a good breakfast this morning aged Corelli five years! So I thought I’d better just bring lunch in.” She smiled at him. “Hungry?”

“Starved!” he said. “It all looks great.” He chose a couple of sandwiches and grabbed a Coke and hopped over to the chair where he had left his crutches. She pulled a chair up beside his and they ate in companionable silence until he noticed her concerned looks at the clock on the wall. She had said her dad and Stark would be there at noon and it was almost quarter to 1.

He raised his wrist-com to his mouth. “Can you give me an ETA on Stark?” he said, quietly.

She had taken her earpiece out so she looked expectantly at his face, waiting for the answer.

He looked up into her worried eyes and hoped he wouldn’t have to give her bad news.

“They’re about 10 minutes out.” He relayed the information he was hearing on his earpiece to her. “There was an accident on the freeway.”

Her whole body visibly relaxed.

“If you’re done, I’d like to take a look at your injured leg to check that sore tendon we found last night.” she said as she shifted her chair across from his.

He put his leg up and she lifted it onto her knees and unpinned his pant leg before rolling it up to expose what was left of his leg.

He had only really looked at it in the dark the night before with her. Now he saw it in full light. It didn’t horrify him the way it had the first day or two, but he still didn’t like to see his leg end where it shouldn’t.

She was putting pressure on the back of his leg below the knee, where it had hurt the night before, but there was no pain today.

“Amazing!” she exclaimed. “I knew your healing was accelerated, but I don’t feel any swelling or anything! I think you’re good to go.” She tapped his leg, playfully.

“How’s the phantom pain? Still good?”

“All gone. Thanks for that.” He looked at his palm contemplatively before saying, “Think you can teach me how to do that?”

“It’s not as effective to do on yourself but I can show you.” He pulled his leg off of her knees and grabbed the pins to pin his pant leg back up.

“You might as well leave it down.” she said. “The engineers will just unpin you again.”

She took his right hand into both of hers and then stopped.

“Here,” she said, offering him her right hand. “It’s easier if I show you the pressure point on my hand.”

So he took her hand and pressed where she pointed…and nothing happened.

“Does it work if you have both legs?” he asked.

“Oh, yes. Just feel for the nodule right there and press a little harder.”

He didn’t want to hurt her so he had been pressing lightly; now he put more pressure…and nothing.

“Try with your thumb and move a little to the right.”

There, he thought. He could feel it. He squeezed with all his strength and was rewarded with a squeak of surprise from Ginny and a little jump.

“I forgot how much that felt like an electric shock.” she said, rubbing her palm.

She took his right hand in hers again and said, “So now you’ve felt where and how hard to press, see if you can find the spot.”

He pressed his thumb into his palm searching for the right spot and then squeezed hard. He felt the jolt go through him like this morning, but it wasn’t as strong.

“See, not as effective to do on yourself, but it will work if I’m not around or once you stop coming for training.”

He tensed as she said this, still rubbing his palm. He didn’t want to stop coming to her for training. He didn’t dare look at her in case his feelings showed on his face.

“But that won’t be for a while, so no need to worry too much about it.” She seemed to have an uncanny knack of reading his mind.

He glanced up at her quickly and back at his hand. There were those eyelashes again! Her heartbeat quickened and she was very glad that Tony Stark and her dad chose that moment to arrive.

Tony Stark, always larger than life, seemed to fill her small gym, but she only had eyes for her dad.

She ran to him and threw her arms around him asking him in French if he was okay, then scolding him for scaring her.

“Je suis désolé, ma petite.” He smoothed her hair down by her right ear. “Traffic.”

Steve had gotten to his feet and come over to Ginny and her dad. But their foreheads were together as they spoke quietly to each other in French.

Tony came up beside him and slapped him on the back, saying, “Wait ‘til you see the new toy we have for you, Cap.”

“Claude here is almost as good as me.” He smiled at his partner.

Steve heard a slightly French-accented voice say to Ginny, “Geneviève, introduce me to your young man.”

“He’s not MY young man!” Ginny said at the same time as Steve said, “Geneviève??”

Claude smiled indulgently at his daughter, but it was Steve who recovered first.

“Mr. St. Pierre, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” he said, extending his hand.

“And you, Captain Rogers. Are you ready to put aside those crutches?” Claude asked.

“Oh, yes.” Steve said, enthusiastically.

Ginny asked if they had eaten lunch yet and they each grabbed a sandwich while they started to pull out their equipment, including the prototype prosthetic they’d been working on.

Tony started to go into some of the engineering details with Steve, and Ginny just tuned out. Her and her dad worked well together when he did his part and left her to hers. She had an appointment that afternoon to assess another patient and then back to finish up paperwork and assess what Steve could do with this new leg.

“I will leave you boys with your toys. I have another client to meet so I’ll be back in a couple of hours.” she said. Her dad waved a hand absently at her as he was making adjustments to the leg he was fitting onto Steve, and Tony didn’t even look up. Steve was watching Claude, but as Ginny walked away, his eyes shifted to see her walk out the door.

His brow creased and he realized he didn’t want to do this without her, even though he knew she’d be back.

But his train of thought was interrupted by Claude asking him to stand up. So he did. Then he was sitting again and the leg was coming off for more adjustments…and so the next hour went. Leg on, walk around, sit, leg off, adjust, leg on, try to run, adjust again.

Finally, they had him tape his hands and give the punching bag a try. He started to warm up and took a couple of shots at the bag. The new leg felt odd and foreign, but it was much better than crutches! It moved well with him, although he found the foot a little stiff. Tony and Claude said that would be improved upon in the next model. As they watched him, they talked together about changes they needed to make, improvements to this, adjustments to that. Steve barely heard what they were saying. He could feel the familiar rhythm of his work-out setting in and everything else just fell away.

When Ginny returned half an hour later, Steve was still at the punching bag and her dad and Tony were looking at the plans for the next leg in a holographic projection from Tony’s tablet. She walked up behind her dad and put her arm around his waist. He turned his head and absently kissed her cheek, then turned back to argue a point with Tony.

So she walked over to Steve at the punching bag and watched for a minute.

“I told you we’d get you back on your feet. How does the new leg feel?”

“Good, good.” he said between punches. “The foot’s a little stiff but I think that’s going to be fixed in the next generation.” He stopped and turned towards her.

“It’s nothing like the artificial legs I saw during the war.” His pant leg was still rolled up and he looked down in awe at the piece of equipment attached to him. Right now it looked very mechanical with exposed hydraulics and wires, but there would be a skin over all of that eventually, making it look more realistic. They had also discussed fitting him with a blade for running and a combat leg with armour instead of the skin that would be on his main prosthetic. It was a lot to take in.

“There’s a great deal of new tech around prosthetics and my dad’s behind a lot of it. It’s what pulled him out of the dark place after the accident, designing prosthetic devices. He thought what was available to him was poorly designed and that new technologies could be used to make them more ‘real’ in his words.” She looked over at the engineering team thoughtfully. “They just keep getting better and better. It’s his passion and it looks like he’s found a kindred spirit in Tony.”

“Do you want to finish with the punching bag? We should talk about the training plan that I’ve devised and see what our flow will be for the next couple of weeks.”

“I would usually do another half hour, but I can go back to it after.” he offered.

“No, carry on. I’ve got some paperwork to do. When you’re done, then we can discuss your workout regimen.” She smiled. “Besides, you look like you’re having fun.”

He flexed his hands and smiled. “I won’t lie…it feels good.”

Claude and Tony were still absorbed in their work at her desk, so she moved her tablet to another work surface and started her notes on the new patient. She was older and diabetes had claimed her foot. Ginny’d have a lot of health problems to keep in mind for this one.

But she was having some problems concentrating. She glanced over at Steve, who seemed to be in his element. But he was right; the prosthetic was a little stiff on the back foot. Her dad seemed to notice it, too. He had been watching Steve while Tony was working on something, now he pointed it out and they both turned to watch. As they watched, they flipped their holographic screen so that they could see Steve through it and were making adjustments to the design as they watched.

Ginny tore her eyes and her thoughts back to her new patient. She was just about done when her dad and Tony started to pack up. Steve was finished his workout and he was untaping his hands as he talked with the two older men.

She got up and walked over to join them. Tony was just telling Steve that he might want to go a little easy on this leg with leg presses and such because there was no protective outer layer yet to protect the mechanics.

“But with the next one, you should be able to go full-tilt.” He smiled at his friend. “Good to see you up and out, Rogers. Really thought we’d lost you this time.”

Steve looked straight ahead but an amused look crossed his face. “Don’t get all mushy on me now, Stark. It’s not your style.” He turned and smiled at his friend and they hugged in farewell.

Ginny was helping her dad pack up the last bits of equipment and chatting in French.

“Anyone have dinner plans tonight?” Tony asked. “I’m sure you’re pretty sick of hospital food, eh, Steve? Pepper’s out of town and I could get my kitchen staff to pull something together.” He raised his eyebrows expectantly.

“Breakfast out this morning just about killed Corelli!” Ginny said. “Maybe we’d better not push our luck.”

“Security’s not an issue at Stark Tower and I can have the chopper pick us up on the hospital’s helipad, so no transport issues.”

“Might even be a good time to spring you from this dreary place.” Tony said to Steve.

Ginny had a full evening planned…leftovers, re-runs on TV…the only thing that would have made her plans sound more pathetic would have been a cat!!

Claude and Steve were nodding…apparently a better offer than what they had planned as well.

“That sounds great, Tony, thanks. I’m done with hospitals and hospital food.” Steve smiled slyly at Tony. “If you think you’ve got room for me.”

Tony gave him an exasperated look. “I’ve got a full gym there, Geneviève, and you guys are welcome to work there or Steve can come back here to train.”

“Stark Tower is closer to home than the hospital and I had planned on spending my mornings with Steve.” she said, contemplatively.

She noticed both Tony and her dad smirking at each other and looking a little uncomfortable.

What’s that about, she thought…then she realized just how suggestive her last comment had been and felt the blush rushing up her neck to her face.

“Get your minds out of the gutter, you two! You KNOW what I mean!” She didn’t dare look at Steve.

He was looking between the 3 of them in puzzlement. Ginny turned away to her desk and Tony leaned over to Steve and quietly said, “You usually spend the morning with someone you’ve spent the night before with.”

“Oh” Steve said as he felt his own face start to burn.

“You guys still have some work to do?” Tony asked Ginny and Steve.

Steve looked over at Ginny, sitting stiffly at her desk and said, “I think so, yeah.”

“Okay, let me go and make some arrangements and we can meet at the helipad in an hour…17 50 hours to you, Cap.” Tony said with a smile.

Claude walked over to his daughter and spoke to her quietly before kissing the top of her head and leaving. She didn’t respond but kept working.

Yikes; angry trainer was not what he wanted to deal with right now, Steve thought!

“I’m going to put in half an hour of running if that’s okay.” he said, “then we can discuss the plan.” She didn’t look up but waved her hand to acknowledge him and returned to work.

He headed over to the treadmill and started out at a brisk walk to get the feel of it. He really preferred running outdoors, but New York winters being what they were, he was certainly used to running on a treadmill.

He pushed it up to a jog and immediately felt the pull of the prosthetic foot. He thought he’d better stick here until that problem was resolved. Not very challenging but he found he was pretty beat. He usually ran in the mornings when he was fresh and he’d done a lot today considering he’d been flat on his back for 2 weeks.

He slowed down to a walk and only then noticed that Ginny was standing nearby watching him run.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Hmmm?” she looked up at him, then away. She had been watching his feet. “Yeah, just a little embarrassed. I hope you know I didn’t mean it that way.”

“If it makes you feel any better, it went right over my head.” He punched the stop button and stepped down, grabbing his towel.

“A little better, yeah.” she said, shyly. “Do you need a shower before we head to Stark’s?”

“Nah, I’m good. Stark’s got a shower and probably all of my clothes, if he’s moving me in.” he said. “Let’s take a look at my training schedule.”

So they sat down at her tablet and went through the schedule she’d set up for him, making changes as he suggested them.

“Boy, this is so much easier than with most of my patients. You already have a training regimen and I just have to tweak it. I usually have to start from scratch!”

“So if we can work on any issues in the mornings, then that gives me the afternoons with my other patients.” Now she was checking her schedule.

“Oh, except for Thursdays,” she said.

He looked over her shoulder to where she was pointing on the screen and read ‘MY KIDS’

“Your kids?” he said, puzzled. “I don’t mind switching it up. All I’m going to be doing is training, anyway.”

“I have a better idea.” she said, with a twinkle in her eye. “How would you like some company Thursday mornings? The kids are dying to meet you!”

“Are these kids amputees?” he asked.

“Yes, and they are amazing!” she gushed.

“Oh, crap.” she said, as she caught sight of the clock on the wall. “We’re going to be late!!”

And they were by about 10 minutes by the time they grabbed everything, locked up and got to the helipad.

“If you can’t count on Captain America to be on time…” grumbled Tony as they climbed into the chopper.

“I’m always honest…never claimed to always be on time.” Steve said, as he buckled in easily.

Ginny, sitting next to him, on the other hand, was struggling with too many straps.

“Oh, here.” Steve said. “You missed this one.” He pulled the integral strap out from behind her and helped her with the rest.

“All set?” Tony asked before he gave the go ahead to take off.

As the chopper rose off the helipad, she found herself gripping the armrests with a death grip. She didn’t even like roller coasters; this was not going to be fun!

Steve looked down at the hand closest to him and shouted over the noise, “Never been in a chopper before?”

“Um, no.” she shouted back.

“Take off is the worst. The rest of the ride should be easier.” She saw that her dad was checking out the view and she had to admit that it was spectacular!

I must have the stupidest grin on my face right now, she thought, but looking around at her cabin mates, she saw that everyone else did, too!

Steve was looking out the other window and turned to see her watching him.

“This never gets old!” he shouted

“No, THAT never gets old!” yelled Tony, pointing at Stark Tower with a smirk on his face.

“So modest” Steve said in Ginny’s ear.

She had to love their easy comradery. Two of the most powerful men in the world trading barbs like high school chums. Not what she would have expected.

The chopper landed and Tony led the way to a gorgeous, glass-walled seating area.

“Stark, how long for dinner? I should probably have a shower.” Steve said to his friend.

“The kitchen’s pretty accommodating and I have a great new vintage I want to ply my guests with.” Tony answered. “You know where you’re going…take your time.”

It turned out to be a very nice vintage of Chardonnay from France. The three of them were talking easily when Steve rejoined them, fresh as a daisy.

“Better?” Tony asked, handing him a glass of the Chardonnay.

“Much.” he answered. “Salud”, he said, holding his glass up in a toast before tasting the wine.

“Very nice, Stark.”

“Glad you approve, Cap.” Tony smiled. “Hungry?”

“Always!” Steve answered with feeling and they were all chuckling as Tony ushered them into the dining room.

It wasn’t a huge room, but the table was groaning with food. The dinner conversation was light and the food and wine were excellent. After a while, Tony and Claude’s conversation turned to business, as it usually did, Ginny thought, when her dad had someone to talk shop with.

Steve, on the other hand, had gotten very quiet. One look at him told her why.

“Long day, eh?” she said to him with a smile.

He stretched and said, “Not very good company, am I?” He took a sip of his wine.

“You should crash. We’ll be heading out soon anyways.”

“I should,” he said, looking at Tony and Claude, heads bent over a drawing on a napkin, “but I don’t think you’re getting out of here anytime soon.”

Tony looked up and said, “You kids are bored, aren’t you? There’s a toy in the music room that you might enjoy Geneviève.” He pointed to the door at the far end of the room.

Steve looked at her expectantly and she shrugged. They got up to go and check it out.

As she opened the door, her face broke into an enormous smile…like a kid on Christmas morning. Steve followed her into the room, which contained the biggest piano he had ever seen! Neither of them had noticed Tony and Claude follow them into the room.

“The tablet has hundreds of songs, so there’s probably something on there that will interest you. If not, there’s sheet music sites saved in favourites you can access.” Tony said, picking up the tablet sitting on the music stand.

She was walking around the piano, running her hand over its curves. She had only seen a full grand piano a couple of times and had never had an opportunity to play one! The lid was up so she could see the strings…so perfect in their arrangement!

“Do you play, Mr. Stark?” she asked, formally.

“A bit here and there. Your dad tells me that you play very well, though.” he answered, standing with his hands in his pockets watching her.

She finally sat down on the bench and ran a couple of scales to feel the sound of the instrument. Then her hands hovered over the keys while she decided what to play.

She finally settled her hands on the keys and the first notes of Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’ rang out of the body of the instrument. It was a simple standard, but this instrument made it sound like so much more!

She moved easily into Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D’ and started to get lost in the intricacies of the piece, just like she usually did at home in the evenings.

She looked up but didn’t stop playing when Steve came to lean on the piano beside her.

“Geneviève, eh?” he said, catching the accenting perfectly. She smiled to hear him say her name for the first time. “With such a beautiful name, why do you go by Ginny?”

She smiled and shrugged but kept playing. This was a complex part and needed her full concentration.

“Don’t tell me.” he said after a second. “It puts people at ease”

She finished the piece with a flourish and took her hands off of the keys before answering him.

“Well, it does.” she said. “Geneviève is hard for English speakers to pronounce and to spell. In France or in Quebec, I would use it, but in Toronto and here, it just sounds pretentious.”

She was absently flipping through the music on the tablet, looking for inspiration on what to play next.

“You play beautifully, by the way,” he said, “and I think you should go by Geneviève all the time and let people be intimidated.”

She smiled at the compliment and said, “Yeah, well…doesn’t work well in my profession. And thank you. Playing is my release…kinda like the punching bag is yours.”

His eyebrows shot up at this. If she sought solace for her wounds as often and as desperately in her music as he did at the gym, no wonder she was so good!

“Well then, I’ll let you have at it.” he said. “I’m just going to sit and listen.” He moved the chair closer so he could see her and sat. God, he was tired!

“Here’s one you’ll recognize from this morning.” she said, as she picked out the first notes of ‘New York State of Mind’. He put his head back and closed his eyes and let the music wash over him. He didn’t hear the end of the song.

Ginny got through two more pieces before she looked over and saw him asleep. He looked so peaceful. Lullabies it is, then, she thought, and continued to play.

When her dad touched her on the shoulder, she knew that it was late. Her hands had that familiar ache of having played for hours. Steve was still snoring softly on the chair.

“I’m so sorry, ma chere.” Claude said. “We got carried away and lost track of time.” She checked her watch; it was almost midnight! Crap, she’d need lots of coffee tomorrow. And they still had to get back to the hospital to retrieve their cars!

Tony had just woken Steve up and turned to them and said, “I have plenty of room here, or I can have a car drive you both home and then back here in the morning. Then I can send someone to retrieve your cars from the hospital in the morning.”

“Thanks, Tony, for the offered hospitality,” Ginny responded, “but I’d rather go home. I won’t get much sleep, but I’d like to get it in my own bed.” She smiled up at her dad. “Dad and I don’t live far from each other.”

Tony was already on his cell arranging a car.

He hung up and said, “The car is waiting for you whenever you’re ready.”

Ginny got up from the piano and gave Tony a big hug. “Thanks for a wonderful evening and for the use of your piano. First time I’ve ever played a grand!”

He hugged her back and said, “Anyone who plays as well as you do should always play on a grand.” He held her out from him. “What do you have at home?”

“I have a little electric piano, which is well suited to apartment living. I can still go all Jerry Lee Lewis with headphones on and not wake the neighbourhood!”

“Well, you feel free to come by and play anytime.” he told her.

Steve was still sitting and looking a little groggy.

She leaned down and kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks for listening, now go get some sleep.”

He smiled, sleepily and said, “I could sleep.”

Ginny and Claude left their computers and equipment because they would be back in a few hours. Tony saw them into the waiting car and they drove off.

Steve watched the car drive away from the wall of windows in his bedroom.

“Geneviève.” he said softly and touched his cheek where she had kissed him.

He turned from the window towards his bed and started to undress.

Get a grip, Rogers, he told himself. You just met this girl last night! Stop taking her kindness and compassion for something else, he scolded himself. You’re just her patient, her client. And you’re falling for your ‘nurse’…how cliché is that?!

As he pulled his prosthetic leg off, he sighed with relief. He hoped it would get more comfortable with time. He swung his legs under the covers and lay on his back looking up at the ceiling. Well, inappropriate crush or not, he knew that he’d dream about her tonight. He switched the light off and curled up to go to sleep.

She and her dad had chatted on the car ride home…not really a car; more of a limousine! But once her dad was dropped off, her mind was roiling!

What the hell is wrong with you, St. Pierre? A kiss? Really? A hug you could have passed off as friendly, professional even, but a kiss? You’ve known this man for a whole 24 hours and you kissed him.

She sat back in the seat and closed her eyes. Damn, he was good looking! Maybe she needed to step back, bring in a male trainer to work directly with him and just do the programming and monitoring.

This was just a crush, an infatuation…but it was interfering with her concentration. If only it wasn’t for those damned eyelashes! She noticed them again when he was sleeping.

No, she could do this. Tomorrow, she’d workout with him instead of just watching. She’d watched enough today to see what needed work, both on the prosthetic and with him. She pulled out her phone and made a few notes of things to talk to her dad and Steve about tomorrow.

When the driver pulled up outside her apartment building, she was mentally going over the program for her new patient. She’d see her again tomorrow afternoon.

The driver was one of the security detail from that morning. He walked her to her door to make sure she was safe. Once she closed the door and locked it, she leaned against it for a moment. What a day!

The driver had said he’d be back for her at 8 am, so she’d better get some sleep.

In bed, she lay there for a long time settling her day in her head and prepping for tomorrow, but in the end, it was his sleeping face that was in her mind when she drifted off to sleep.


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