A Time for Heroes – Chapter 8

No more laying aroundThe next morning dawned dark and drizzly, which made Ginny ecstatic! She was hoping for rain so she could see what the glass dome looked like in the rain.

She was wide awake and ready to go even without caffeine, but she went to the kitchen and made herself a tea and grabbed a croissant and took them upstairs at about 7:10.

She took a seat on the grass and just watched the rain dripping down the glass. She slowly ate her croissant and drank her tea.

Steve showed up 15 minutes later to find her lying on her back on the grass watching the threatening clouds.

“Pretty cool, eh?” he said, sitting down next to her.

“I was actually happy to see it was raining this morning!” Ginny said. “Are you ready to run?”

He held out his leg to show that he had his blade on. “You bet!” he said.

Today he was wearing shorts. “I’m tired of always having to roll my pants up.” he grumbled.

He took off running just to show her how well the blade worked. He kept pace with her for a lap so she could get an idea of his gait, then he hit his own stride. He wanted to just run himself out, the track and the blade felt so good!

Ginny’s pace was much slower, but she wasn’t there just for her anyways. She stopped and sat down in the grass and watched him run for a while.

Tony and Pepper joined them on the track just after 8 am.

Pepper stopped beside Ginny before she started to run and asked, “I hear there will be dancing this afternoon. Can we join you?”

Since dancing was always more fun in a group, Ginny said, “Of course.” and Pepper popped in her earbuds and took off after Tony.

Steve stopped beside her and as he was catching his breath, said, “Give up already, St. Pierre?”

Ginny shrugged and said, “I’m here for you, not me. And I’m not liking what I’m seeing. You’re limping.”

“It just started.” Steve said, as he flopped down beside her. He was taking off the blade so they could see what the problem was when Pepper stopped beside them.

“Everything okay?” she asked.

Steve had just pulled the stump sock off and braced himself for the look of horror or revulsion he expected to see on Pepper’s face. But, when he looked up, he only saw mild interest.

Ginny had moved around in front of Steve so she could check for injuries and Pepper hunkered down beside her.

Pepper was nodding as she said, “They really did do a nice job.” She looked up as Steve, who was smiling and shaking his head.

“Pepper, you surprise me at every turn. Most people turn away the first time they see my leg.” Steve said.

“I had a roommate in college who was an amputee. With her it was her arm, and the stump was a mess!” Pepper answered.

Ginny had found the problem. There was a burr in the cradle. The blade would have to go back to the shop.

Steve and Pepper were talking about her roommate’s injury as he pulled the stump sock back on and pulled the blade over it with a wince.

“I can really feel the burr now.” Steve said. Ginny and Pepper each gave him a hand up and then Ginny helped Steve towards the door.

Pepper was standing, watching them when Tony stopped beside her. After taking a moment to catch his breath, he said, “I don’t know how you can look at it, Pep. It just creeps me out.”

“It’s actually not that bad.” she said to her squeamish partner, “and he seems to be accepting his injury pretty well.”

“I think that has a lot to do with Geneviève.” he said, “and the fact that he’s in love with her. I don’t want to be around if that ever falls apart.”

Pepper smiled and said, “Nice. He deserves that.” Then the earbuds went back into her ears and they went to finish their run.

 

Steve was alone in the gym. Ginny had taken the blade up to the lab so her dad could deal with the burr. His newest leg on, he walked over to the punching bag and looked at it for a long moment.

He could still see traces of his blood on it. Ginny had tried to clean it off, but he had punched it for a long time after he had started bleeding, so the stains went pretty deep.

He flexed his hands experimentally and found that they were much better than the day before, but the thought of working the punching bag and bringing back all those memories horrified him right now. He took a step back and then turned towards the other equipment. When Ginny came in, he was well into his upper body routine.

Ginny took a look at the training schedule. The rest of the morning was here, then they’d grab some lunch. This afternoon, Steve would go back into combat training, so he’d be working with Sam and Bucky and one of the martial arts masters the Avengers used. She was going to sit in just for today. It was his first time back since the attack, and she wanted to make sure her training would be complimenting what he would be doing in combat.

She sighed and looked up to watch Steve for a moment. The thought of him in combat scare the shit out of her. But it was what she’d been hired for, to get him combat ready.

Once he’d finished with upper body, she went over to make sure the burr hadn’t hurt him too badly, then she warned him to stick to the training schedule. He sighed in resignation. He knew he could push it and he was frustrated at how slowly she had him going right now.

She saw the determined set to his jaw and said, “If you pull something and set us back, you’ll have to give up combat training for a while. Remember, you were flat on your back for two weeks. Give yourself the time you need to get there.”

He was trying to forget that little fact and he hated it that she was probably right. He turned without a word and got started.

Is Captain America pouting? she thought. Is that even allowed? She smiled and shook her head before joining him on the equipment.

After an hour, she toweled off and sat down at her tablet to work. She had so much to work on; training schedules and her proposal. She had been neglecting the least favourite part of her job and now she was swamped. She sighed. She’d have to multi-task and work on this stuff through combat training.

The rest of the morning passed peacefully. Steve stuck to the training regime but was really looking forward to cutting loose a bit more this afternoon with JP. Steve had requested him specifically. JP was master in several of the martial arts and he could count on him for the balance he needed right now.

He was toweling off, getting ready to go for lunch when the door opened tentatively.

Ginny looked up to see Steve being dragged into a bear hug by a blonde giant of a man.

“It is truly heartening to see you doing so well, Rogers.” Thor said, and pulled Steve into another hug, thumping him on the back.

“Are you here for combat training today?” Steve asked.

“Yes, they want someone who can challenge you.” Thor still had his hand on Steve’s shoulder.

“Guess I’m really done laying around.” Steve said with a grimace.

Then he turned to Ginny. “Thor, let me introduce you to my trainer, Geneviève St. Pierre.”

Ginny came over to where the men were standing.

“Geneviève; beautiful name for a beautiful woman.” He raised her hand to his lips, then he let it drop. “I hope you are not being too soft on this brute.”

Steve was behind her, so she turned, gave him a megawatt smile and mouthed ‘oh, my god’, while shaking her hand in front of her in the universal sign for ‘hubba hubba’.

Steve gave her a wry smile.

“Stark sent me up to get you for lunch.” Thor said.

“You coming?” Steve asked as they headed for the door.

Ginny looked at her paperwork and decided that it would still be there after lunch and she had to eat, so she followed them out the door.

Pepper and Tony were already eating and chatting easily with a woman Ginny didn’t know.

“Geneviève, may I present Jane…my particular friend.” Thor said to Ginny, formally.

Jane smiled sweetly and shook Ginny’s hand. “I can’t get him to call me his girlfriend for some reason. So pleased to meet you, Geneviève.”

“You are neither a girl nor just a friend. I don’t understand this terminology. It seems to diminish the depth of our relationship.” Thor said.

The food looked great; salad, bagels, cheese, and fruit. Ginny filled a plate while she listened to the discussion of what terminology could be used that would better describe an intimate, adult relationship that the high school-ish ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’.

Several suggestions were put forward: paramour, lover, particular friend, which seemed to be Thor’s favourite.

“I guess ‘Friends with benefits’ doesn’t really describe the kind of relationship we’re looking to name.” Ginny put in.

“That rather infers a lack of commitment.” Pepper said. “Although friendship in itself requires a strong commitment.” She stopped to think about that for a second.

“In my day, it was girlfriend, fiancé, wife. We didn’t really see long-term, committed relationships outside of marriage, like we see today.” Steve said.

“I’m not sure I like lover.” he added. “Sounds too much like ‘sex partner’ to me without the rest of the package.”

“So, is ‘particular friend’ what you’d call Jane in Asgard?” Ginny asked.

“Yes” Thor answered. “Socially, we are much as Steve described. Once a couple has pair bonded, they marry.”

“I guess you could say ‘my best girl’ would be similar to ‘my particular friend’” Steve mused.

“Could go trailer trash and say ‘my old lady’” Ginny offered, to much laughter.

“Is that what you want to be called?” Tony asked.

“Not even when I AM an old lady!” Ginny answered, caustically. “I had a friend who solved the problem by getting engaged. Fiancé definitely indicates the level of intimacy and shared life experience that we’re talking about, doesn’t it?”

“It does,” said Pepper, “but doesn’t it also give the impression of waiting, or not being finished? I always thought that betrothal was a promissory state.”

“Traditionally, it is.” Ginny said. “But who says it has to be? If you’re betrothed and just never get around to throwing the party, is the relationship any different?”

This provoked thoughtful looks around the table.

“How about just ‘my girl’ or ‘my man’?” Ginny threw in after a moment.

“Why is the feminine a girl but the masculine a man? That’s a little sexist, isn’t it?” Jane asked.

“Because when I hear guys say ‘my woman’, they always sound like cavemen!” Ginny countered. “Try it…Thor, say ‘my woman’.”

Thor did and sure enough, he sounded like a caveman.

“That’s because he is a caveman!” Steve said, through the laughter.

“You’re up then, Rogers.” Thor said.

Steve turned to Ginny and said “My woman” which made Ginny’s heart soar!

“Yep,” Steve said, “I even feel like a caveman saying it!” More laughter.

“But ‘my girl’, I think that might work.” he added.

“Or my lady.” Ginny countered.

Thor turned to Jane and bringing her fingers to his lips, said, “My lady.”

“Yes.” Jane said, breathlessly. “That definitely works.” She folded her hand around his and stared deeply into his eyes.

Steve hazarded a glance at Ginny and saw her watching Thor and Jane. When she saw he was looking at her, she said, “I think she’s right. My lady just works.”

Tony and Pepper had started holding hands and sharing secrets, too,

Steve looked at Ginny and cleared his throat. “I’ll better go suit up.” And he and Ginny made a quick exit.

 

Walking down the hall together, Ginny seemed deep in thought and Steve wasn’t inclined to disturb her.

Suddenly, she said, “I must be pretty special to you.”

“Um.” was all he could think of to say.

“Because you lied to me!” she said, teasing.

“What?” he blinked in surprise.

“Last night. You told me that Thor was short and a little tubby.” she said, pointedly.

He looked a little shamefaced. “Yes, I did.” he said.

“So does that make me the first person you’ve lied to? Isn’t Captain America supposed to always be honest?”

“In my defence,” he piped up, “he has put on some weight since I’ve known him!”

“Yeah, but it’s all muscle…doesn’t really count as tubby!” she countered. “And he’s taller than you!”

They walked on in silence for a moment.

“So is he as impressive as you thought he’d be?” Steve asked, changing the subject.

“Nah.” she said, dismissively.

“No?” Steve was surprised.

Ginny was walking slightly ahead of him and as he caught up, she said, “I work out with Captain America. Takes a lot to impress me.” She smiled up at him and he laughed out loud.

At the end of the corridor, they split up; him to go suit up and she to grab her tablet. They’d meet up again in the combat training room. She knew where it was but had never been inside.

She got there well before Steve, so she had a chance to meet JP and talk over their training matrices. JP was a tall, African man with dreadlocks to his waist. Not what Ginny had expected at all. His voice was deep and soothing and his manner calm.

He looked over her plan of attack and approved.

“You will watch today.” he said. “You will see what needs to be done.”

Thor arrived alone and Ginny asked where Jane was.

“She can’t watch me fight.” he said. “She says it hurts her soul.”

JP showed her the booth where she could watch from.

Steve showed up a few minutes later and had to show JP his prosthetic before they could get started. It wasn’t the combat version, but JP approved and Steve and Thor squared off.

Two hours later, Ginny was shaken and realized that his training program had to be completely revamped.

Steve and Thor were talking quietly with JP when Ginny joined them.

“Rogers, you let yourself get flabby, man.” JP said. “But we’ll sort you out. Geneviève, do you see the way of things?” he asked as she joined them.

“I do.” she said. “I’ll send you my revised matrix in the morning for you to tweak.”

Steve sat down on the floor to catch his breath.

She crouched down beside him, a little bit in awe! She had seen footage of him fighting before, but had never seen it up close like this.

“I bet you don’t have a muscle that doesn’t hurt right now.” she said.

He just shook his head.

Thor came over and gave him a hand up. “Hot bath and perhaps a massage…?” He raised an eyebrow at Ginny in enquiry and she just nodded. “And you’ll be ready for the dancing!”

Steve straightened up and attempted to stretch out the worst of his bruised and cramped muscles with little success.

“Dancing.” he said with a sigh.

“You’ve got about an hour…everyone’s coming at 4.” she said. “I can come to you for a massage but my table is in the gym.”

“I’ll come to you.” he said and headed for the door.

 

Ginny was waiting for Steve when he got to the gym. He had thought to dress for dancing instead of working out and he was right. Dress shoes and khakis would be easier to dance in than trainers and sweats.

Ginny had put on her favourite dancing skirt; full and flared, in shades of red and orange. It looked like flames when she moved.

“Nice.” Steve said, with a tired smile, when she gave him a little spin and the skirt floated up around her.

“Here. Sit.” She indicated the chair. “I’ll just do your shoulders and neck. Full massage will have to wait.”

So he pulled his t-shirt up over his head and sat down.

Ginny stood there stunned. She knew he had taken a beating today, but she hadn’t expected the mass of bruises she saw!

“Fair skin.” he said over his shoulder. “Most of them will be gone by tomorrow.” He had sensed her hesitation.

“I don’t know if I can even touch you without hurting you!” she said.

“I’m tough. If it hurts too badly, I’ll stop you.”

So she started gently, adding more pressure where she felt knots and tightened muscles. They only had about 20 minutes, so she had to work quickly.

When she finished, he stood up and stretched and all Ginny could think was ‘WOW!’ She had never seen him shirtless before, and even bruised as he was, he was breathtaking. She made herself busy at her desk so she wouldn’t stare.

He was decently dressed again by the time Tony and Pepper bounced in with Thor and Jane behind them.

“I was going to start on the waltz today. Classic dance and easy to learn but harder to master.” Ginny started.

She had quite a few pieces of music with the ¾ beat, ranging from the classic ‘Blue Danube Waltz’, to more modern music, like Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A’ Changing’.

So they squared up and she put on a classical waltz. It tended to be easier to find the beat with the classics.

Steve was stiff at first because of the pain, but by the end of the second song, he was loosening up a bit.

Once she’d taken them through spins and dips, it was time to speed things up. A little bit of jitter-bug, which Tony and Pepper were very good at already. She started them out with Bette Midler’s version of ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ and then moved on the ‘Wake me up before you go-go’ by Wham!. It was much easier to teach when you didn’t have to demonstrate all of the steps yourself.

They were all laughing and panting from the exertion of the dance and it was almost time to go, so she put on ‘Nights in White Satin’ and killed some of the lights. Tony and Pepper were already slowly turning. Jane was showing Thor where to place his hands…there really were no steps to teach.

Ginny turned to Steve with a little smile and held her arms out to him.

“This, I can do.” he said to her with a smile, and pulled her in close. She tried to keep a little distance between them…a ‘friends’ distance…but in the end she laid her head against his chest and he rested his cheek against the top of her head and they slowly moved around the dance floor to the sad strains of the music.

All Steve could think about was how good she felt in his arms. He sent her out into a spin and sighed when she put her arm around him again. Nope. Being friends was not going to be enough, he thought.

Steve finished with a twirl that sent Ginny’s skirt floating again and a dip. Dancing finished, they all headed for the dining room for dinner, chattering about dance moves.

Dinner was amiable, with Thor regaling them with stories of heroism from Asgard. Dr. Coulter joined them again for dessert and then whisked Steve off for their session at 7:30.

The last thing Ginny wanted to do was hang out alone with 2 lovey-dovey couples, so she begged off using her paperwork as an excuse.

She worked in her room for a couple of hours, revamping Steve’s training matrix, finishing up Angie’s matrix; that was her diabetic client; Annalisa would need to be reassessed this week with her new leg…

She had read the same line of text four times and it wasn’t penetrating her exhaustion, so she shut her tablet off, brushed her teeth and changed for bed.

As she crawled under the covers, her phone buzzed.

 What time at the track tomorrow?

 Steve texted.

She groaned. Could she get away with 8? No, not with the way her schedule was shaping up for tomorrow.

 How about 7? Or is that too early?

She texted back.

 That works. Tony says breakfast at 6:30, if you want more that tea and croissants.

 Was his reply.

She tried that timing with her schedule in her head and it seemed to work. If she had a big breakfast, she could just grab something quick for lunch on her way to the hospital for her afternoon appointments.

 6:30 in the kitchen, then. Sleep well.

À demain.

Steve received the text sitting with Tony and Thor and smiled. The girls had both gone to bed, pleading long days and early mornings.

“6:30 for breakfast is good. Thanks, Tony.” Steve said.

 Bonne nuit, ma chere.

He texted back, and made his own excuses to find his bed. Tony had seemed like he wanted to probe him about Ginny, and since there was nothing to tell, he didn’t feel like politely fielding the questions.

 

Monday just went from busy to busier as the day went on. Tony met Ginny in the kitchen and asked if he and Pepper could review her proposal before she presented it the following Monday and he wanted it the next day! After a run and working with Steve in the morning, she made a quick stop at home to pick up some more clothes and toiletries before driving to the hospital for three back-to-back appointments with clients, one of them, the first appointment with her newest client, Angie. She also got a note that there was another client she’d have to meet with this week…a 16 year old who had lost his arm in a car accident.

It was almost 6 pm when she got back to Stark Tower and she was glad to see only Tony and Steve at dinner. Pepper had a late meeting and Thor and Jane had made other plans.

She was so preoccupied during dinner, she barely noticed what the boys were talking about…then the word ‘mission’ registered.

As it turned out, they had intercepted some intel about the group that had cost Steve his leg and were looking to send a team out the following week. They were going to keep a close eye on Steve’s progress this week to see if they could include him.

She didn’t say anything, just gave Steve a concerned look.

“I know; no Malaysia until you sign off.” Steve said. She smiled at the reference to their earlier conversation.

“Malaysia?” Tony asked.

“I’ll explain later.” Steve said.

“I just don’t like the idea of people shooting at you.” Ginny said.

“I do shoot back.” he answered, lightly. She levelled a look at him and realized that this could be a long conversation that she didn’t have time to have right now.

“I’m sorry, guys. If I’m going to get that proposal done for you and Pepper for tomorrow, I’m burning the midnight oil tonight, so I should go and get started.” When she left, she thought about going to her room…there was a desk there…but some of her paperwork and her tablet were downstairs in the gym, so she headed there instead.

Everything seemed to flow for a change and she was just putting finishing touches on the paper when she saw Steve poke his head through the door.

“It’s almost midnight and I saw the light on…” he said, by way of an excuse for his presence. “Are you still at it?”

“Just finished!” she said and flipped off her tablet with a flourish.

“I’d love to take a look at it, too, if you don’t mind sending it to me.” he said, coming over and sitting in the chair beside her desk.

“You know what I would love, after the day from hell.” she said. “To dance.”

“Well, I’m pretty exhausted, but I might be able to manage a slow spin around the room.” he answered, standing up.

“That’s exactly what I had in mind. No jitter-bug tonight.” She set her iPod to play some slow, sweet music, starting with ‘New York State of Mind’.

“This is getting to be our theme song.” he said as she stepped into his arms.

Ginny rested her cheek next to his heart and closed her eyes. She breathed in deep his fresh smell…no scents, just him…and she enjoyed the movement of his body as they glided slowly around the room.

It had been a long time since she’d had anyone in her life or since she’d felt this strongly about anyone.

The song switched to Elle Fitzgerald crooning ‘I’ve got a crush on you’

Steve cleared his throat, but then was silent. She looked up at him expectantly.

“I wanted to tell you something.” he said, huskily.

“Fire away. I’m all ears.” she said, snuggling back in to his chest.

“I…um…just want to say that…” he stopped again.

She squeezed his hand in encouragement and he went on quickly.

“I’d like to be more than friends…I mean when we’re done working together.”

She stiffened for a second before relaxing again in his arms. She should try to discourage this. She should tell him she’s not interested. But she felt so safe and cherished here in his arms right then that she couldn’t do more than dance.

But she knew he was waiting to see what she would say.

“I know.” she said, finally. “Me, too.”

They danced on into ‘Just the way you are’.

“So when you said none of my superfriends stood a chance…” he ended, awkwardly.

“It’s only been you, Steve.” she said, looking up into his eyes. “From the first time you looked at me out of the fog. Gods, was that only a week ago?”

He smiled down at her and nodded. “Yup, only a week.”

He pulled her close again, stroking her hair with his hand and pressing his lips to the top of her head.

The song switched again to ‘Something’ by the Beatles.

She sighed. “This isn’t going to be easy, you know, carrying on as before knowing how we feel.”

“I’m a patient man, Geneviève. I just wanted…needed to know I wasn’t waiting in vain.” Steve pressed his lips to her hair again.

The song ended and he held her out from him, not letting go of her hands. He was stroking her fingers as he looked deeply into her eyes.

He smiled and brought one hand to his lips and kissed it, his warm breath brushing over her knuckles. The sensation went like lightening straight to her groin.

“I should go.” he said with a melancholy smile. “It’s late and we have an early morning. Are you still going to run?”

“Same time? I appreciated that breakfast this morning. All I had a chance for the rest of the day was an apple!”

He smiled at that and turned to go.

“Maybe I shouldn’t stay here tonight.” she said.

“Why not?” Steve didn’t like to think about her going home on her own this late and this tired!

“Too tempting.” she whispered, with a wink.

He laughed out loud at that and was at the door when he turned and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll lock my door.” And he was gone.

She stood and stared at the closed door for a long time trying to decide if this was her worst or best decision ever.

Well, she’d weigh the pros & cons when she had more time. Her bed and another insanely busy day awaited her.

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