The days passed by in a blur. She was glad that Tony had extended his hospitality because it made her life so much easier when she didn’t have to worry about feeding herself.
She stayed at home Wednesday night to dye her hair for the kids. She went with red this week and sent Steve a picture again.
Liked last week’s better…not sure why. 😉
he texted back.
She had been used to seeing him in the evenings and now she found herself at loose ends. She played piano a bit, but it didn’t feel as nice as the grand at Tony’s. She was truly getting spoiled!
She picked up her phone and texted a quick message to Steve.
Tu me manque.
The answer was a quick and confused.
Not a phrase in French that he knew.
I miss you, or more properly: You are missing from me.
He took a moment to reply with a simple:
She sent a response back:
Gotta sleep. Hopefully, you’ll be in my dreams and I won’t miss you so much.
She put her phone on the bedside table and went to the bathroom to brush her teeth.
I know you’ll be in mine, love.
She was still smiling when she closed her eyes and let exhaustion take her.
The next morning she went straight to the hospital to meet the kids. Steve was going to meet her there.
The kids filtered slowly and sleepily in, asking about Steve and grabbing food. She always made sure there was food. Nothing worse than trying to work with hungry kids!
Sarah still wasn’t there when they got started. Steve showed up about half an hour later.
Ginny left the kids with Steve for a moment to call Sarah’s mom and noticed that there was a message on her phone.
It was from Diane, Sarah’s mom. Sarah had attempted suicide the night before. She had taken a bunch of pills, which, luckily, had turned out not to be lethal. Ginny had her back to the kids so she could get herself under control before going to talk to them. Steve came up behind her and put his hand on her shoulder.
“Everything okay?” he asked. She started the message again and handed him the phone. She wiped her nose quickly with a tissue and went to talk to the kids.
It took Steve a long time to come and join them.
The rest of the morning was spent discussing Sarah’s attempt. Everyone had stories to share about being desperately down, some had even considered suicide for themselves.
Sean was one of them. He had gotten really low when he lost his arm. As a young teen, how he looked was really important to him and the empty sleeve wasn’t a look that worked with his self-image.
He had started gathering pills from his friends’ houses and figured he was two days from having enough to do the job.
Steve was sitting next to Sean and put his hand on Sean’s shoulder. Sean looked up at him with more than a little hero worship and with tears in his eyes.
“My dad found the pills and put two-and-two together and that’s how I ended up seeing Dr. Coulter.” he finished simply.
Ginny didn’t think Steve was ready to talk about his experiences over the last week, so she was surprised when he started to talk.
“After the attack, I don’t remember much accept pain. The nanobots that I’d been shot with were trying to destroy me from the inside. They could stop them and get them out, just not fast enough to save my life.”
“When Nick Fury came to tell me I had to go into cryo to slow them down, I was terrified! The last time I went into the ice, I missed 70 years!” He was looking at his hands.
“When I woke up, I was in the hospital with no more pain, except in my leg. Then they told me my leg was gone.”
He was still looking at his hands and he chuckled. “I wouldn’t believe them and I wouldn’t look.” He sighed. “If I didn’t see it, it couldn’t be true, right?”
Steve stopped and Sean put his hand on Steve’s shoulder. Ginny smiled and bit the inside of her cheek to keep her emotions under control.
“Then Ginny came in with her purple hair and told me to suck it up.”
Ginny laughed. “I did not!” she said defensively.
“You said I’d lost my leg, not my life and the sooner I came to terms with that the better.” Steve said, softly. “Kinda been my mantra ever since.”
There were nods around the room. How often had she used that particular line never realizing how effective it was?
“What about last week?” Maya asked Steve. “Sean told us you were in a bad way.” Her big, green eyes were wide with sympathy and unshed tears.
Steve gave Sean a withering look.
“Last week was something else.” Steve said, simply.
If he thought that would put them off, he was sadly mistaken. They all sat in silence, waiting.
Ginny was just about to rescue him and move them on to something else when Steve said, “When you’re a soldier…” His voice cracked so he cleared his throat and started again.
“When you’re a soldier, sometimes you see and do things, horrible things, nightmare things.” He paused.
“If your mind can’t live with the memories of those things, it will lock them away where you can’t see them.”
“But they’re still there and sometimes something will trigger them.” He stopped.
“That’s repressed memories.” Randy piped up. “I saw a thing on TV about that. When they triggered, it’s like it’s happening all over again…nightmares, hallucinations.” Randy stopped when he saw the intensity of Steve’s look.
“Do you know what triggered the memories?” Maya asked.
“Yes.” Steve’s response was clipped.
“What?” asked Sean.
Oh, no, thought Ginny, don’t go there, Rogers.
He must have heard her quick intake of breath, because he looked at her and shook his head ever so slightly. There was no way in hell he was telling these kids that.
“There is a code among soldiers.” he said. “We will take on the horrors to protect you but that’s only half of it. We don’t come home and share our stories either. There’s some things you just should never have to know.” he finished, simply.
With that, Ginny moved them on to yoga and then their work-out. Annalisa was doing well with her new leg. The rest were keeping up their exercise on their own, too, so everyone was strong on the machines. No one seemed to have the heart to dance, so Ginny pulled out some craft supplies and they made cards and gifts for Sarah for the last hour.
Once they were all gone, Steve was helping Ginny clean up. She hadn’t said anything at all since the kids had left.
“Hey.” he said, softly, touching her on the shoulder. She turned around and he could see that her eyes were brimming with tears.
He pulled her into his arms saying, “Shhh, it’s okay.” She cried quietly into his chest for a few minutes. When she had wiped her face and tried to mop up the wet spot on his shirt with a little, “Sorry” she said, “Not as much fun as last week, eh?”
“As I recall, last week left me in a pretty bad state.” he said.
“Always an adventure when you work with kids.” she said and he gave a little laugh in response.
“I still have to go see Sarah before my afternoon appointments.” She checked the time. “Wish I’d had a big breakfast with you guys this morning. Doesn’t look like I’ll get lunch again today.”
“How about we hit the cafeteria for a gross sandwich and then we can both go see Sarah.” he said. “Not much of a lunch, but I do want to talk to Sarah.”
“You’ll be late for training.” she stated.
“They’ll wait for me. I’ll let JP know. Thor can throw him around for a while.” he said a little bitterly, rubbing a muscle in his shoulder that was still tender from yesterday’s training.
The sandwiches in the cafeteria were indeed gross…stale and soggy and cold, but they were fast and filling. The chai tea Ginny got was effective in washing the taste of stale ham and Swiss cheese out of her mouth.
Steve was finishing his coffee and he said, “Are you coming back to the ivory tower tonight?”
“Can’t tonight.” she said, packing up her garbage. “I’m out with my dad tonight. I feel like I’ve been a neglectful daughter lately.”
“But I’ll be up tomorrow night. Tony and Pepper want to meet about my proposal. We’ll probably meet while you’re with Dr. Coulter. Are you still seeing him every day?” she asked.
“They want me on this mission, so everything is being accelerated, including my psychiatric treatment.” he said. “Not that I mind. Jim is a great guy and really easy to talk to.”
They had been walking and now Ginny asked at the nurse’s station where Sarah Johnston’s room was.
At the door, Steve held back.
“Go ahead.” he said. “I’ll come in in a minute.” She was intrigued, but left him and walked through the door to be greeted by Sarah and her mom.
Ginny hugged Sarah and gave her all of the cards and gifts the kids had made for her. Sarah seemed a little distracted but cheerful.
Diane excused herself to make a phone call.
Steve came in shortly after.
Sarah brightened when she saw him.
“Hi, Steve.” she said, cheerfully.
But she wasn’t seeing Steve Rogers, but Captain America. He had his arms crossed and he was not smiling.
“This isn’t cool Sarah.” he said, sternly.
Sarah’s mouth dropped open in surprise. Then she clamped her lips shut and looked at the opposite wall.
When she looked back, her eyes were flashing!
“How dare you judge me?! You don’t know what I’ve been through!”
Steve came over to the bed. The look in his eyes was angry; blistering.
His voice was a growl. “You’re going to pull that?” He pointed to his chest. “With me?!”
They were both shooting daggers at each other. Ginny had stepped back and was staying out of it…unless she was needed.
“You have every resource imaginable right at your fingertips…your parents, your teachers, your friends, Ginny. And you chose to do this instead of speaking up and asking for help?” Steve was still furious.
“I tried to tell people I was having trouble, but no one was listening!” Sarah spat back.
“You didn’t talk to me.” Ginny said, quietly.
“You were too busy with him last week to notice any of us!” Sarah turned her vitriol on Ginny.
“That happens whenever I get a new patient in the group. I depend on the rest of you to know you can pull me over any time. And you have my cell number.” Ginny wasn’t giving in to this tantrum.
“Well, I’m going to some shrink now, so you don’t need to worry about me, anymore.” Sarah said, sullenly.
“A good shrink can help a lot, Sarah, but only if you’re willing to do the work.” Steve said more quietly.
“What do you know about shrinks?” Sarah smirked at Steve.
“You think I’ve been through all I’ve been through without some help?” he asked.
This shut Sarah up for a moment. “I thought…I mean, I didn’t think. But you’re Captain America!”
“Still human, you know.” he said, with a smile. “Who’s your shrink?”
The tension was gone and Steve and Sarah, who, by coincidence, were both seeing Dr. Coulter, were chatting easily with Ginny when Diane came back in.
Ginny smiled behind her hand to see Diane flirt shamelessly with Steve. He handled it well, but almost laughed when Sarah rolled her eyes at him.
As they were walking down the hall, Ginny teased him, “’Oh, Captain Rogers, it’s so good of you to take such an interest in these poor children like Sarah. It means so much to them and to us as parents.’” She batted her eyelashes at him.
He laughed. “You may not think that’s so funny once you’re my girlfriend…or my lady.” he said, sarcastically.
“Oh, no! I’ll still think it’s funny. I think I can be pretty confident of you.” Ginny said, “You’re willing to wait for me, after all.”
“You’re worth waiting for,” he said, grabbing her into a big hug, “but I gotta go. JP might be unconscious by the time I get there to rescue him.”
“I’ll see you at breakfast in the morning.” Ginny said. “Don’t take too much crap from Thor.” She squeezed him tight and letting go, started to walk towards the gym.
“I won’t. See you in the morning.” He waved as he headed towards the door.