A Time for Heroes – Chapter 7

Patio RevelationsIt was 9 am when she woke, and she groaned. Too early and too late! She had stuff to do that she wouldn’t get done if she slept any later. But, gods, she was tired!

She lay there for a few minutes and then forced herself upright. She was going to grab her tablet from the gym but then decided to leave it. She had her purse and her car keys. She could head home, shower, head out and do her errands and be back here shortly after lunch.

So she headed out, asking Jarvis in the elevator if the boys were up yet.

“They are not, Ms. St. Pierre.” was his response.

“Mr. 06 hundred, my ass.” she said to herself on the way to her car.

An hour later, her apartment was clean and she was showered and ready to head out and grab some groceries. The grocery store was packed as usual for a Saturday morning and it seemed to take her forever to get through to the check-out. And there was Steve, staring out at her from the cover of a magazine!

The article was about his injury and the Avengers visit to the hospital the other day. The pictures were all from the hospital and they were great! Her kids were in a lot of them following their heroes around and she even made it into one! She grabbed what was in the rack and placed them on the belt.

The cashier gave her a funny look until she told her that she worked at the hospital.

At home, she put away her groceries and sat down to read the article, which was fairly well done. She put the rest of the copies near the door so she wouldn’t forget to take them with her.

Her phone rang and she answered it without looking.

“Yellow” she said brightly into the phone.

“Hi!” It was Steve, and he sounded like he was outside somewhere. “I’m outside. This new leg lets me ride my motorcycle again. Wanna go for a ride?”

“Outside where?” she asked, looking out the window and answering her own question.

“Outside your apartment.” He saw her in the window and waved. He had his helmet under his arm and his hair was a mess!

“Be right down.” she said and grabbed her leather jacket and tucked her phone and ID in the pocket. Troy had driven a motorbike, too, so it had been over a year since she’d been on one. She always found it exhilarating!

On her way out the door, she grabbed a copy of the magazine.

“You know, Rogers,” she said with mock sternness, “I can’t get away from you anywhere!” She held out the magazine for him to see.

He put his helmet on the seat and he was smiling as he flipped through the pages.

“You and your hair even made it in!” he said, turning the picture around for her to see.

She stuck her tongue out at him and said, “You still don’t like the hair, eh?”

He looked at the colour, shrugged and said, “It’s growing on me. What colour is next week?”

“You’ll just have to wait and be surprised, like everyone else…including me, usually, until the night before.” He chuckled.

“Can I keep this?” he asked and when she nodded, he put it in his boot and pulled out his spare helmet.

“You look like you’ve ridden before.” taking in her leather jacket as she was doing it up.

She put the helmet on her head and started to do it up. “Old boyfriend use to ride.” She tested the helmet to make sure it was a good fit.

Then she stopped and pinned him with a gimlet eye. “How did you escape?” she asked, suspiciously.

“I didn’t.” he said, pointing up and down the block at 3 black SUVs. “But at least I get to ride. Look at the movement I can get with this foot!” He held out his left leg to show her.

“I booted around Stark Tower for a bit, just to get a feel for it, then I thought I’d take you for a ride…kind of a thank you and apology for yesterday.”

“Aw!” she whined. “And here I was going to take that out on you in the gym!”

“You probably still will.” he laughed. “But for now, let’s ride.”

She waited for him to get on and then jumped on behind him. She took a second to check for straps and belt loops she could grab if just holding on to him wasn’t enough to keep her on the bike.

Steve put his helmet on and pushing a button on the handlebars, said. “You guys ready to roll?”

She saw the SUVs start to move and Steve started the bike, revved it once, and they were on the move.

It was too loud to ask him where they were going, so she just enjoyed the feel of him as he moved with his bike. She watched his left foot on the clutch for a while and it seemed to be working well.

“You okay back there?” he yelled.

She squeezed him in answer.

She settled in and was enjoying the scenery and having the wind in her face.

Too soon, Steve was pulling the bike up to the curb and turning it off. Ginny jumped off first and pulled her helmet off and ran her fingers through her short hair.

“One of the advantages of this haircut.” she said. “No helmet head.”

Steve ran his hand over his head but still had some spots sticking up, which made her laugh.

“Thought we could have lunch at this patio in my neighbourhood. First time I sat down here,” he said, pointing to the little café, “the waitress told me that Iron Man flies by here quite often and that I might get lucky.” His voice was dripping with sarcasm.

“And did you?” she asked.

“What? See Iron Man?” he smiled.

“No, get lucky. Pretty waitress, I assume.” She pointed discreetly at the blonde who had just waved to him.

“No.” he said to her under his breath as they sat down and the waitress in question came over and left them with menus.

“Why on earth are you still single?” she asked as she browsed the menu.

“Because all of the women in my life are too busy trying to set me up with someone else to go out with me themselves.” he growled as he checked the menu as well.

“Maybe you intimidate them.” she whispered, folding her menu and looking at him with a half-smile.

He put his menu down and pointed to himself mouthing, “Who, me?”

The waitress came over and took their orders, smiling prettily at Steve.

“If anything, it’s you girls that intimidate me.” he said. “I get the pretty smiles and batting eyelashes, but, when I express interest, you back off.” He sat back in his seat and looked at her.

She laughed. “Yeah, we don’t always know our own minds.”

“No, you don’t. Makes it real tough for us guys to keep up.” he said.

“You have to be careful. You’re too pretty, with those long eyelashes and rippling muscles.” she said batting her own eyelashes. “Every woman and some men are going to take a second look.” She took a sip of her water.

“Pretty, am I?” He gave her an amused look. “Never been called that before.”

She smiled. “What I’m saying is that with your looks, everyone is going to be interested in the package. Makes it harder to find someone special. It’s a forest through the trees kind of scenario. Thank you.” she said to the waitress as her lunch arrived.

“You don’t want my advice on your love life anyways. In a bit of a dry spell lately.” she said, sadly, taking a forkful of salad.

They ate in silence for a few minutes.

“What about the ex-boyfriend? What happened to him?” Steve probed.

“Being inquisitive today, aren’t you?” she said, as she continued to eat. Her eyes were downcast and she was undecided how much to tell him.

“Truth is, he was a daredevil with a death wish and I got tired of scraping him off the pavement.” She kept her eyes downcast so Steve couldn’t see the tears clinging to her lashes. She ate a few more bites of salad and excused herself to go to the bathroom.

Steve sat there stunned. He rubbed his forehead and tried to figure out how to apologize when she came back…if she came back. Crap!

He picked up his fork, but couldn’t find his appetite. He turned to look towards the restaurant to see if she was coming back and when he turned around, she was there!

She smiled at him. “Did ya miss me?” she asked him.

“Very much.” He smiled back at her.

“Listen, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.” he said.

“No, it’s okay.” she said. “Didn’t realize it was still such a sore spot.”

The silence stretched between them again.

“Troy was a client, an amputee.” she said, with a sigh. “We worked together for about six months and then we went our separate ways.”

“About a year later, we met again at a party and we clicked. But he was more than a daredevil, he really had a death wish.” She stopped and picked at her salad before going on.

“It was a motorcycle accident that cost him his leg, but that didn’t keep him off the bike. He rode in dangerous weather; he rode with no helmet. We were together for two years and I don’t even want to tell you how many nights I spent by his hospital bed hoping it wasn’t the last time.” She sighed deeply.

“Finally, it got to be too much. He tried to jump his bike over a cavern and didn’t make it. He survived, but just barely.” She shook her head. “He was in the hospital for months and months more in rehab…working with someone else.” She stopped for a sip of water.

“I knew it was over, but how could I break it off while he was recovering?” She looked up at Steve with pleading eyes.

He met her eyes and saw the tears there. “You couldn’t.” he said, quietly.

“So I saw him well and then I left.” She fell silent.

“He didn’t live a year after I left.” she whispered. “I was here in New York when he died. I didn’t go back to Toronto for the funeral.”

She stabbed a piece of cucumber at the bottom of her bowl and ate it.

“He sounds a lot like me.” Steve said, sadly.

“Actually, no, not at all.” she said, looking up at him. “Troy went for the rush. It was like he needed that adrenaline rush to feel alive. He didn’t help people or save people. In fact, when he died, he took his best friend down with him.” she paused. “I left because I didn’t want it to be me.”

She emptied her water glass and called the waitress over to order a cappuccino; Steve ordered a coffee.

“That was over a year ago.” Steve prompted.

She shrugged. “I have no network here, no friends, really, just dad and work. Tough to meet someone.” she said, simply.

“And you should talk. Wasn’t your last girlfriend in 1945?” she smiled.

He smiled back and said “And Peggy wasn’t even my girlfriend, just a girl I liked.” he said.

“I guess we’re both pretty pathetic, eh?” Ginny said.

Steve laughed. “I’d heard about the Canadian ‘eh’, but I’m just starting to notice how much you use it.” he teased her. “Never gonna get an American guy that way.”

The waitress brought their coffees and Ginny added raw sugar to her cappuccino and tasted it.

She made a face and sighed, saying, “I so have to get back to Rome…no one makes a decent cappuccino here.”

The conversation shifted to their experiences in Europe and they chatted over their coffees for another half hour.

When the bill came Steve snapped it up.

“Hey, not a date!” Ginny protested.

“You paid for breakfast.” he countered, to which she had no response.

Steve paid the bill and they headed back towards his bike.

“Listen,” he said, “I really want to do some intense legwork this afternoon. It feels like I’ve been slouching off waiting for this permanent prosthetic.” He paused. “Are you coming back to Stark Tower? I didn’t want to push it without you there.”

“That was the plan. I was actually thinking about heading back when you called.” she answered.

“Do you need to go home for anything or can we go straight there?” He had handed her her helmet and strapped his on.

She patted her jacket to see what she had…phone, wallet…she wasn’t really dressed for a work-out though.

“Home, I think.” she said. “I need to grab my work out gear.” But she smiled at him. “Then we can go on your bike. Much more fun than my Civic.” she said referring to her car.

When they got to her apartment, she squeezed him quick and then hopped off the bike. “I’ll be quick.” she said and headed inside. She didn’t even take the helmet off.

Inside, she grabbed her workout bag, which she’d packed up that morning and threw in an extra t-shirt and toothbrush, just in case and she was out the door.

Steve was leaning against his bike looking through the magazine again when she came out.

“It’s not a bad article, either.” she said. “Talks a bit about the child amp program. They must have talked to Margaret.”

“How’s your proposal for the Stark Foundation coming along?” he asked.

“Slowly, slowly.” she said. “I’ve got so many ideas that sound great in my head, but the logistics of them are challenging to put down on paper. I got a lot done while you were sleeping yesterday, though. Means I don’t have to work on it all weekend.”

Then Steve started the engine and they fell silent for the ride.

On the elevator ride at Stark Tower, Jarvis informed them that Mr. Stark was on the track, Mr. Fury and Mr. St. Pierre were due at 3 pm for a meeting on the prosthetic implants, Dr. Coulter would be there at 7:30 pm for his session with Captain Rogers, and Ms. Potts would be arriving by suppertime.

“Thank you, Jarvis.” Steve said, checking his phone for the time. “That gives us 2 hours in the gym. Damn! I was hoping to get up to the track today!”

“Let’s plan it in for tomorrow. I’d also like to do some more dancing tomorrow.” Ginny was working out a schedule on her phone.

“Dancing? I thought that was only for the kids.” Steve seemed surprised.

“All of my clients know how to dance when they leave me. It’s part of the package.”, she said, smiling up at him.

“But why? Seems a little frivolous.” he said, sounding interested.

She sighed. “I had a prof in France who believed that learning to dance helped amputees to be comfortable with their bodies again. It also helps with the isolation they tend to feel once they get back to reality.”

“If you can dance, you’re more confident in social situations, more likely to ask for the dance and the date and offer the ring.”

Steve was nodding. That made sense, he thought.

“She had done some research and found that adult amputees tended to not marry or marry poorly; you know, marry the first person who shows interest. But she found that that wasn’t the case with her clients who learned how to dance.”

“Which is why part of my training was to learn to dance and then to learn how to teach dance to others.” she ended simply.

“That’s really interesting.” Steve said, “and it makes a lot of sense. I’d love to take a look at her research.”

“It’s probably on-line. I’ll take a look and if not, I’ll get in touch with her had have her send her latest stuff.” Ginny’s phone rang and she pulled it out of her jacket pocket.

She wrinkled her brow in concern. “It’s Sean.” she said and answered. They had just stepped off the elevator and she stopped to take the call.

“Hey, Sean. What’s up?” she answered, casually.

“Hi Ginny.” There was a long pause before he continued. “I think I made a really bad decision on Thursday.” He sounded really concerned.

“Tell me.” Ginny said, simply.

Another long pause. “When you asked me to check on Steve…Captain Rogers…in the washroom, he wasn’t okay.” Sean said, quietly, then rushed on before he lost his courage.

“He was really bad, curled up on the floor and whimpering and he had thrown up, I could smell it. But he asked me not to tell you so I lied.”

After a long pause, Ginny said, “Okay, and…”

“And I’m afraid he’s still not okay and I wanted you to know so you could call him and make sure or something.” he finished, a little lamely.

She took a deep breath and gave Steve a dirty look before continuing. “Sean, it’s never okay to lie, but Captain Rogers put you in a difficult position so I understand.” Steve was watching her and slapped his hand to his forehead. He knew exactly what Sean was calling about.

“But you don’t need to worry for him. He came and talked to me yesterday and he’s getting help. He’s right here, if you want to talk to him.” she said.

“He’s with you?” Sean asked. “But it’s Saturday.”

“Yeah, we’re working really hard to get him back in the field so I’ve had to give up my weekends.” She sighed dramatically and Sean laughed.

“You wanna talk to him?” she asked again.

“Sure.” Sean said, trying to sound nonchalant. Ginny handed the phone to Steve and they started walking towards the gym.

“Hey, Sean.” Steve said lightly into the phone. “Yeah, I’ll be okay. Thanks for covering for me the other day. I know it put you in a tough spot.”

Ginny tried not to listen to this one-sided conversation, but caught parts of it.

“Yeah, guy’s name is Coulter.”

“Really? Is he any good?”

“Yeah, it is. Just saw him for the first time last night and he seems nice enough.”

“Not the whole weekend, clown.” Steve said, derisively. “Just this afternoon and probably sometime tomorrow.”

“Hey, language!” Steve looked at Ginny quickly before going on.

“Just got my new leg and I can ride my motorbike again!” They had reached the gym and Ginny went off towards her desk and Steve headed back to change, so she couldn’t hear the rest of the conversation.

Steve came out a few minutes later in sweats with her phone in his hand, laughing and shaking his head.

He handed her phone back to her and said, “Cheeky little bugger, isn’t he? He just asked me if we were sleeping together!”

She laughed. “Teenage hormones…all they think about is sex at that age. What did you tell him?” she asked, turning away to hide the grin on her face.

“I told him it was none of his bloody business,” he said, indignantly, “which he took as a no.” He smiled.

“Guess I’m pretty easy to read sometimes, aren’t I?” he said.

“Sometimes.” she agreed.

“You gonna start on the punching bag?” Ginny asked.

Steve flexed him hands, which were still stiff and answered, “No, I’ll give that another day or two.”

So they started on the leg press machine, gauging differences in strength between his good leg and his injured leg.

“It helps that you’ve still been running and using the punching bag.” she said after making her notes on his functioning on the different machines.

“Now we need to work this one.” she had one hand on the knee of his injured leg, “a little harder than the other one without letting your good leg get lazy. Here’s what I propose.” She had her tablet with her and she showed him the progression she wanted him to follow until both legs were back at full strength.

She sighed. “For most people, even if they’re in peak shape, this would take at least a couple of months, but they want you back in the field in 3 weeks or sooner.” She shook her head. “The worst part is I think you can do it if you don’t have any setbacks. I just think it’s too fast.” she finished, simply.

“You have to keep in mind that my body heals faster and my cells regenerate faster than other people’s. If we set an accelerated schedule.” he reduced the timeline and moved a few things around on the tablet. “That looks doable, and it would have me up to speed in under 3 weeks.”

“That timeline is just between you and me.” she said, sternly. “I’m still going to tell them that I need the full 3 weeks, or they’ll be shipping you off to Malaysia or something before you’re ready.” She looked at him. “Deal?”

He looked back and smiled. “Deal. No Malaysia until you say so.”

The afternoon was spent following Ginny’s training matrix. Between checking on him, she got her work-out in, and by 3 pm, they were both done and showered and heading for the conference room to meet with Nick Fury and Claude.

Ginny had brought her tablet so she could take notes if she needed to. She waved at her dad and grabbed a seat while Steve went over to chat with Fury and Claude. Her dad came over a few minutes later and they went over the training matrix she’s set out for Steve.

“It’s very fast.” Claude said, looking concerned. “With the breakdown yesterday, maybe you should stretch it out…?”

“I can’t. They still want him in the field in 3 weeks and he says this is doable. We only worked for an hour and a half today and he stayed on schedule.”

“What’s the deal with these implants, papa?” she asked.

“Lots to discuss.” was all he would say.

Tony and Bucky showed up and everyone took their seats, with Steve coming back to sit next to Ginny.

Ginny had heard most of this the other night from her dad. But the one thing that was made quite clear was that this was alien tech that they could use, but that they don’t quite understand.

“Doesn’t Captain Rogers already have alien tech in his body?” Ginny asked. “Is it a good idea to perform another alien procedure that you don’t quite understand? Wouldn’t that be ridiculously dangerous?”

Steve sat silently next to her, deep in thought.

The discussion carried on, but Ginny was also lost in thought. The tech used to turn Steve into a super soldier was never duplicated. The serum was replicated but no one had any idea what the machine did to create the enhancement. Bruce Banner had tried Gamma radiation with the serum and turned himself into the Hulk.

Now there was Bucky’s arm. Again, alien tech. Bucky may or may not have gone through a similar enhancement to Steve’s when he was a German POW, although his healing wasn’t as rapid. When Hydra had experimented on him, they didn’t care if he lived or died. That wasn’t the case with Steve.

She looked over at him as he looked at her. He gave her a half-smile and sat up in his chair. He had heard enough.

“I think this needs more discussion and research before I’d want to give it a shot. Two different alien techs in one human body is one too many for my liking. Not in the mood to be a guinea pig…again.”

Decision made…meeting over. She loved to see him take charge like that!

Tony invited everyone to stay for dinner to celebrate Pepper’s return and was overjoyed when everyone accepted.

“Looking forward to having another woman at dinner.” Ginny said to Steve. “Too much testosterone!” He laughed.

This wasn’t like one of the intimate dinners that they’d been having this week. They were in a bigger dining room, which looked like it could easily hold 20 people. But the 7 of them seemed comfortable around the end of the huge table.

The conversation moved easily from the implants they’d just been discussing to Pepper’s trip, and on to other inconsequential things.

Again, Dr. Coulter, Jim, joined them for dessert and ended up in the empty chair beside Ginny. He seemed very interested and concerned with the accelerated plan to get Steve through their program.

“With yesterday’s episode,” he said, with a look of concern, “I would have thought things would be stretched out a bit to allow for more psychological work.”

Ginny shook her head. “We can talk to Fury about it again, but the message I’m getting is that they need him back in the field in 3 weeks. I guess we’ll have to see how things go with you guys. I don’t have a lot of concern that he can do this physically, but I agree that he may need more time psychologically.”

Pepper called Ginny from across the table. “I hear you’re putting our piano through its paces, too, Geneviève. I hope you’ll play for us tonight. Tony was just telling me about the sing-a-long last night.”

Steve and Jim were just getting up to leave and Steve leaned over to Ginny and said, “Don’t start without me.”

He gave Ginny a wink and they were gone. Conversations were going on around her, but the room seemed oddly empty with Steve gone.

Steve and Jim hadn’t returned when the rest of the guests made their way to the music room, so she played some quiet classical pieces just to warm up.

Bucky came over and laid a harmonica on the piano in front of her.

“I heard a little ditty today by a guy named Billy Joel. Steve says that you like him. It’s got some great harmonica bits to it.” He stopped and looked at her.

“’Piano Man’.” she said, simply. Bucky broke into a huge grin, picked up his harmonica and ran it up and down his mouth to warm it up.

She played the beginning riff of the song and once she started into the intro, Bucky picked up the tune and she was able to just play rhythm.

Tony had moved up to the other side of her and started singing in a sweet, alto voice: “It’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday…”

She knew the song so well, she could have played it in her sleep. But she had never had accompaniment before! Bucky knew all of the harmonica pieces and Tony knew all of the words. Everyone knew the chorus! She was feeling sorry that Steve was missing this when she looked up and saw him next to Bucky.

“Oh, that was marvelous!” Ginny said, as she finished the piece with a flourish. “I never get to play with other musicians!” She looked up at Bucky. “What else do you know?”

“I can play whatever you can, doll. The harmonica is very versatile.” He ran it across his mouth again to demonstrate. “And so am I.” he said, suggestively, with his hand on her shoulder.

Ginny didn’t even have to look at Steve; she knew the withering look he must be giving his friend right now.

She started to play whatever came to her mind or whatever was requested with Bucky accompanying her and everyone singing the songs they knew.

After about an hour, she noticed that Tony and Pepper had disappeared. She was glad Pepper was back. Tony missed her so much!

She felt hands on her shoulders and knew it was Steve. She turned her face to one side to caress his hand with her cheek and kept playing.

“Didn’t anyone get you a drink?” he asked when she had finished the song.

“No, too busy playing to even think about it.” she said, flipping through the tablet for another selection.

“What would you like?” he asked.

“Just a beer…something light.” she said and started playing again.

A minute later, a Miller Light was placed on a coaster on the piano for her. She reached for it and took a sip while keeping up a boogie woogie rhythm with her left hand.

“You know why I play piano don’t you?” she asked Steve.

“No place to put your beer on a violin…?” he answered her. “Now you know how old THAT joke is!”

She just laughed and kept playing.

Her dad came over and said goodbye, which left her with just Steve and Bucky.

“You know, it’s 10 o’clock and I’m beat.” she said. “I think I’m going to call it a night, too. What time are you running tomorrow, Steve?” she said, taking a sip of her beer.

“How about 7:30? It is the weekend.” he said, with a wink. “Do you know where the track is?”

“Actually, no.” Ginny said as she finished off her beer.

“Why don’t I show you, then I can meet you there in the morning.” he said.

“I’m going to head home, then.” Bucky said.

They walked with him to the elevator, and when it came, he said, “Goodnight, Ginny.” and kissed her hand, gallantly.

Then he turned to Steve and said, “Well played, Rogers.” and hit the button to close the doors.

“What’s that all about?” Ginny asked.

“Haven’t you noticed how much he’s been flirting with you?” he asked, exasperated. “I guess he figures I’ve won this round.”

She was quiet as they made their way to the stairs to the roof.

Steve went ahead of her and opened the door and she found herself standing IN the night sky! They were high enough that nothing got in the way of the glittering vista above them. The moon was almost new so that sky was just shone with stars.

She had her head tilted back to see deep into the night sky and she turned slowly around so that she could see it all…and Steve just stood there watching her delight with a little smile on his face. Maybe I have won this round after all, he thought.

“Pretty impressive, eh?” he said.

She looked at him with a smile and said, “Now I’ve got you doing it, eh?” He laughed.

“You can’t turn Captain America into a Canadian! It’s just not on!” he said in mock horror.

“I’ve never actually been up here at night but it’s just as beautiful as I hoped it would be.” he said, looking up.

“So you get the ‘win’?” she said, a little bitterly.

“Hey!” he said, holding his hands up. “His words, not mine!”

“You know he doesn’t stand a chance with me…none of your superfriends do.” She smiled mischievously, adding, “except maybe Thor.”

“He’s not that impressive up close.” he said, nonchalantly. “He’s short and a little tubby.” He patted his own flat stomach.

“Liar.” she said, playfully.

He reached for her hand and said, “Come on.” He led her across the track to the grass in the centre.

“Wow! This is real grass!” she marveled. “Exactly how rich is Stark?”

“Pretty rich.” Steve said, lying down on the grass.

Going for the ‘win’ indeed, Captain Rogers, she thought cynically. Then she looked down at him lying on the grass with his hands behind his head and relented. If anyone deserved a win right now, it was him.

She lay down next to him and they started pointing out different constellations and planets that they knew to each other.

Once they ran out of planets to name, they lay side by side enjoying the quiet.

“You still awake, there, St. Pierre?” Steve said after about 15 minutes.

“Hmmm.” came her sleepy voice out of the dark. “Just barely.”

“I’m sorry. I’m keeping you up. We should get you to bed.” he said, contritely.

She smiled into the dark at the intimacy of that comment, but just said, “Especially if I have to be up and caffeinated by 7:30 tomorrow morning.”

“We can run later, if you want to sleep in.” he offered.

“7:30’s good. I could laze in bed all day if I don’t have something to get up for.” Or someone, she thought.

She rolled on her side and cushioning her head on her arm, looked at him. It took him a second to notice and look back at her.

“You know, you’re a joy to work with.” she said, quietly.

“Ha!” he said, looking back up at the sky. “Not everyone would agree with you there.”

“You are – easy and yet challenging. And you’re fun to be around. I really hope we can stay friends after we’re done working together.”

He looked at her again and then back up at the sky. “Me, too.” he said softly.

He stood up and offered her his hand, which she took gratefully.

“Bedtime.” he said. “Another full day tomorrow.”

He walked her to her room and saw her inside. As he walked away, he shrugged.

Friends is good, he thought. He could live with that.


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