The next morning, Ginny was already chatting with Tony over breakfast when Steve came in.
“It’s very good, but Pepper and I have a few suggestions.” He looked up to see Steve come in. “But we can discuss that tonight.”
“Hey, beautiful.” Steve said to Ginny as he sat down. Way to keep things platonic, Rogers, Ginny thought and she rolled her eyes at him.
“How was dinner with your dad?” Steve asked as he filled his plate.
“It was good, but it was an early night because dad wasn’t feeling very well.” Ginny’s forehead was wrinkled in concern.
“What time should we serve dinner tonight, Geneviève?” Pepper asked as she joined them. “What time will you be done at the hospital?”
“I should be done by 5, so give me an hour to get back here.” Ginny answered.
She had just finished her tea. “Let’s run, Rogers.” she said to Steve.
“Thanks for the compliment this morning, gorgeous, but that’s not very platonic.” Ginny said back over her shoulder to Steve.
“Tony knew I was in love with you before I did.” Steve said, simply. It was nice to have someone other than Ginny he could talk openly to.
Every day, Steve’s increased strength surprised Ginny. The combat training was helping him immensely.
She ran with him for about an hour, and then went down to the gym to work. He joined her an hour later for yoga and then he ran through his training. They were still sticking to her revamped training matrix, but some days she felt she was holding him back.
Today, though, he was struggling a bit because of an injury to his bad leg the day before in combat training.
“Just dial it back a few pounds and if you don’t make it up to where you should be today, we can make it up over the next few days.” Ginny said. He just nodded and kept at it. By noon, he had gotten himself back on track. She was impressed and said so.
“Got a really good reason to want to be back in peak shape.” He ran his finger down her cheek and she smiled.
“Glad to see that I motivate you.” she said, covering his hand with hers and squeezing it before letting go. “I’ve got to go, though. There’s construction on the way to the hospital and traffic is murder.”
“I’ll see you tonight.” he said, still caressing her face.
She turned away. She knew he wanted to kiss her and she also knew that she wanted to let him. But there was no turning back from a kiss. She had to draw a hard line there and stick to it…for now.
“Should be here by 6.” she said as she left. She had packed a bag for the weekend last night and it was in her car so she didn’t have to stop at home again.
The afternoon went quickly. Angie was first and her dad was there with her prosthetic foot, so it was a great training session. She’d be seeing Angie daily for the next week or so, then she would only be coming a couple of times a week and working on her own the rest of the time.
She had some free time to work on her new client’s training matrix and then one more client before calling it a day.
The drive back to Stark Tower was ridiculous and she didn’t pull up until almost 6:30 pm. She would have liked to drop her bag up in the guest room, but decided just to take it with her up to the dining room.
When she got there, she was pleasantly surprised to see that they hadn’t started without her. Thor and Jane were joining them and Bucky and Sam as well.
Pepper came over and gave her a quick hug. “I figured an hour wasn’t realistic with the construction.” she said to Ginny.
The first course came in and they all sat down. Steve sat down next to Ginny and squeezed her leg under the table. She put her hand over his and held it for a moment until she needed it to eat.
The conversation was mostly about their combat training this week. She noticed that Steve wasn’t wincing as much when he moved today, so he must be giving as good as he got now.
Thor toasted him as a worthy opponent and everyone raised their glass.
“I’m glad you think so, my friend. I still have a ways to go before I feel ready for this mission.” Steve said. And with that, the talk moved to the mission.
They were all perturbed that Nick Fury hadn’t been sharing much of the intel with them, so they didn’t have much to go on. But what they did know or guess at made Ginny’s blood run cold. A glance up let her know that Pepper and Jane were feeling the same.
Dr. Coulter arrived at 7:30 and with a quick squeeze of Ginny’s hand, Steve was gone.
Bucky piped up and asked Ginny to play for them again.
“Sorry, Bucky.” she answered. “I have to meet with Tony and Pepper. Maybe after.”
Tony lead the way to his office and the three of them sat down.
Pepper brought her proposal up as a hologram and started going through each element and each phase of the roll out and making suggestions.Pepper hooked Ginny’s tablet in by Bluetooth to the system so she could make notes right on the proposal.
“One thing you need to change right off is staffing. You can’t do all of this by yourself. You’ll need at least two other senior therapists and a PA. Once you’ve got things going, you can hire junior or intermediate people to work in the centres under your programming. Your dad will need staff as well.” Pepper was pointing out. “I’m afraid you may have been thinking too small-scale. If you’re coming before the foundation for funding, you need to be asking for the whole farm. Let them pare it down, if they feel they have to.”
Ginny sat for a moment trying to absorb this.
“Wow!” Ginny said. “I was going for reality. You’re asking me to grab for dreams. I’m not sure I can switch gears to have this ready for Monday.”
Pepper sat for a moment thinking about this. “The two of us could do it. I’d be willing to lend you my business acumen this weekend to help with the logistics of your dream.” Pepper flipped through a few more screens. “We can do this Geneviève. This is important.”
Ginny stared at the screen for a long moment. This was her dream, but was she ready to give up the day-to-day in order to expand this to help so many more young amputees? On the other side, she was a therapist with no business training at all. Could she even make a go of it without some strong business advice and support?
She got up and started to pace. “This is a lot to take in.” she said.
“You won’t be alone on the business side, Geneviève. You’ll have a business manager and whatever other resources Stark Industries can offer you.” Tony said, coming over to her. “Pepper’s right. This is important work and there is a void out there. Even specialists like yourself who work with adult amputees are sparse. This could be big.
“I had thought to start small and grow. This feels like starting from the top. It’s not going to help anyone if this venture fails.” Ginny said, passionately.
“I do see your point.” Pepper said, after taking another look at a few slides.
“We can pare the proposal back and just focus it on training staff and opening centres in the community in the greater New York area. This would be a good testing ground.” She was making changes as she went. “It can be expanded organically through the training.”
Pepper finished her changes and went through it again with Ginny.
Ginny was quiet for a few minutes. “That looks much more what I was looking at as a start.” she said, finally. “But this looks like a lot of work to revamp before Monday.”
“I’ve got no plans for this weekend.” Pepper said.
“Anything you two need just let me know.” Tony said.
Pepper and Tony looked at Ginny expectantly. She was still pacing.
“Do you want to talk to Steve before you decide?” Pepper asked.
Ginny looked up at her. Did she want to talk to Steve? Their relationship wasn’t there yet…but it would be. They could talk later tonight…this was her decision.
“No, this is my decision to make.” Ginny said. “Let’s do this.” Ginny said finally. “Steve may have to work on his own this weekend.” She flipped a couple of screens before turning to Pepper and Tony with a smile. “When and where, Pepper?”
“Let’s get our run in at least, then we can discuss strategies over breakfast.” Pepper said, shutting down the hologram. “Let’s go and join the others. I could use a drink after this.” She smiled at Ginny. It had been a long time since she’d worked with someone so passionate.
Steve had rejoined the others by the time the three of them had finished. Ginny grabbed a beer and said, “I think I need some music.” and headed for the music room.
There were lots of requests and Ginny was in her element, playing rudimentary melodies for those songs she didn’t know and just followed the singing. After a tough week, this was balm for everyone’s soul. Thor even taught her a couple of Asgardian drinking songs.
After a couple of hours, her hands were starting to stiffen up, so she begged off.
She caught Steve’s eye as she headed to the kitchen to grab another beer and he followed shortly after.
Without saying a word, he wrapped her in his arms and held her there for a long time.
When he released her, she looked up at him and asked, “Rough day?”
“Not so bad.” he said, hopping up onto the counter. “Just missing you.”
She stood between his legs, looking up at him and didn’t know where to start.
“Everything okay?” he asked, brushing her red hair out of her eyes.
“Something’s happened today that we should talk about…” She stopped abruptly and looked behind her before hopping up onto the other counter.
“I met with Tony and Pepper tonight about my proposal.” she started.
Steve was watching her intensely. She was upset and he didn’t like thinking it was because of him.
“If this proposal goes through, my life is going to change drastically.” she said.
He looked at her, but didn’t say anything.
“I know we’re both hoping for…something more…once we’re done working together. I thought you should know.” she finished, lamely.
“It won’t change the way I feel about you.” Steve said, quietly.
“I know.” she said back.
He looked at her for a long time while she fidgeted with her fingers.
“Something about this scares you to death and it’s not us.” Steve said.
“I love what I do, Steve.” she said, finally. “It’s exciting to think of being able to offer my program to more child amps, but it’s probably going to see me sitting in an office somewhere, writing programs and never getting to work hands-on with the kids again.” She jumped down off the counter and started pacing.
“Why not?” Steve asked after a moment.
“I’ll be running the program, managing a staff, being a CEO. How am I going to have time to work in the trenches?” she said, still pacing.
“But if you’re the CEO, can’t you make that a priority? Wouldn’t it be important for you to stay in touch with the trenches to run an effective program?” Steve countered.
Ginny stopped pacing and stood staring at him, dumbfounded. He had just cut through everything to the heart of the matter. She really couldn’t run this program if she stopped being a therapist herself.
She felt a smile start to spread across her face.
“What on earth would I do without you?” she said and walked over and put her arms around him.
He wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. “Even in the army, a general needs to know what’s going on in the trenches or he loses the confidence of his troops and his ability to lead.” he said.
“I really hoped to be able to steal a few moments with you this weekend, but I’ll be working with Pepper all weekend to get the proposal ready to present to the foundation on Monday.”
“We’re together now.” he said.
She pulled back and smiled up at him. “Yes, we are.”
She hopped up on the counter next to him and pulled her leg up so she could face him and they started talking.
She told him all about her meeting with Tony and Pepper; he told her about combat training; she jumped down and got them each another beer. He held her hand through all of it.
About an hour later, Pepper came in and seeing them, said, “You guys have to stop hiding at some point.”
“We will, Pepper, when we’re ready.” Ginny responded.
“Well, if you want to be more comfortable,” Pepper said, “everyone else is crashing, so the music room is all yours.” and she left to find her bed.
Steve looked at Ginny once Pepper had left.
“I’m good here.” he said, stroking her hand.
She smiled at him and said, “Me, too.”
They talked for another hour. So much had happened through the week and they’d hardly seen each other to talk it all through.
Finally she leaned forward and put her forehead on his shoulder.
“Tired?” he asked, putting his arm around her.
“A little.” she lied. She was exhausted and a little drunk.
“Je te besoin.” she said, quietly.
He was quiet for a minute. “Besoin is need…you need me?” he asked.
“Oui.” she said.
“You have to be patient with me and the French. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to use it.” Steve said. “Mais, je te besoin, aussi. Tonight was…” he was at a loss for the right word.
“Yes, it was.” She looked up at him, smiling. “It’s definitely bedtime.”
She came in closer and put her arms around him.
“You know, I wish I could kiss you.” he said, huskily.
“And I wish I could let you.” she responded, quickly.
She looked into his eyes and said, “Be patient, bébé. Our time will come.”
They pressed their foreheads together for a long moment, then Ginny slid off the counter. Steve walked her to her room. They hugged and said goodnight.
The rest of the weekend went by in a blur for both Steve and Ginny. After their morning run the next day and breakfast, Ginny was closeted with Pepper all day reworking the proposal, and Steve’s combat prosthetic was ready, so he was in the training room all day with Thor, Bucky and Sam. By dinner, they were both exhausted after the late night the night before. But at 7:30, Steve disappeared with Dr. Coulter and Ginny and Pepper went off to tie up some of the loose ends they had left that day.
They worked well together and Ginny was surprised when her phone buzzed and she saw it was after 11.
You guys still at it?
Steve texted. Pepper saw Ginny’s smile as she checked her phone.
Pepper thought them to be very sweet together but if they wanted to keep it quiet, who was she to tell them that everyone already knew.
Ginny texted back:
I think we’re almost done for tonight. I need sleep!
Steve’s response was a few minutes coming.
Sleep well, then, love. I’ll see you at the track.
Ginny smiled again and texted back:
Dream about me.
I always do.
was his quick response.
Half an hour later, they wrapped things up for the night and Ginny headed for bed to get a few hours’ sleep before starting all over again.
The next day was much the same. By dinnertime, the proposal just needed a few finishing touches. Steve looked like he was ready to fall asleep in his plate…but so did the rest of the guys.
Only Tony seemed to have any energy. He talked at length about the new combat leg and its capabilities. Ginny was interested and glad to be able to talk about something other than her proposal.
They had decided against any sort of propulsion in the prosthetic, but it did have some pretty amazing hydraulics to allow Steve to use it to jump further. It also had a lightweight armour to protect the leg and deflect anything coming at his other leg as well.
None of this was news to Steve or the other Avengers, so they started talking about something else when Tony started drawing on a napkin to show Ginny specifics.
At 7:30, the party broke up. Steve was still meeting with Dr. Coulter each night, and Ginny and Pepper had a few finishing touches to put on the proposal.
Steve stopped Ginny as they were leaving and Ginny sent Pepper ahead.
“Are you heading home tonight?” Steve asked.
“Yeah, I’ve got to get all dolled up for the Stark Foundation tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon, I’ve got a couple of meetings at the hospital.” Ginny said. “Then, hopefully, back to the ivory tower for a celebration.” She smiled. “But first, I have to sell my proposal to a bunch of suits.”
They started to walked down the hall. “How’s combat training going? You guys all seem done in the last couple of nights.” Ginny said.
“Just not used to full days in the arena with these guys.” Steve smiled and shook his head. “But it’ll get better.”
“Not coming back to the gym?” she asked.
“Maybe a couple of times a week, but not every day. They really want me on this mission.” They had stopped and he was holding her hand. “I’m sorry.” he said.
“Don’t be sorry! I’m just glad you’re doing so well. Maybe we can assess you later this week and I can leave your training to you. Looks like I’m going to be pretty busy if this proposal goes through anyways.” she said, stroking his fingers.
“Sooo…would that mean we’re not working together anymore?” Steve asked, hopefully
She smiled up at him. “It would. I’m just thinking that neither you nor I have the energy or the time to pursue a romantic relationship right now.”
“You may be right.” he said, kissing her fingers.
“We’ll play it by ear, okay?” she said.
Steve pulled her into a hug and said, “Okay.”
“I probably won’t see you until tomorrow night.” Ginny said.
“Text me what happens with the foundation.” Steve said, and reluctantly let go of her hand and went to his appointment.
Finishing touches didn’t take as long as Ginny thought they would so she was able to pack up and be home before 10 pm. She made sure her suit, shoes, nylons, shirt, etc., were all pressed and polished and ready for the morning. Then she took a look at her afternoon schedule. One new client and Angie. Not too bad. She may be able to pop into the arena and watch the boys train. Not ‘the boys’, she thought; just her man.
She got into bed and sent Steve a quick text:
Tu me manque. Bonne nuit, mon amour.
His text came back quickly.
Sleep well, love. Too tired for French.
She smiled at her phone. Could they do this? She loved him and she knew he felt the same but they truly ran in different worlds.
It took her a long time to fall asleep.