Steve liked defending against weapons fire. They didn’t fire real bullets but rubber bullets, which still hurt like hell when they hit the mark, which they didn’t very often.
They all took about 20 minutes for a quick sandwich at around noon, then they were back at it.
A couple of hours later, Steve was surprised to see Tony come in and beckon him over. He blocked a couple more shots and came over.
“Steve,” Tony seemed shaken, “Claude’s been take to the hospital with a heart attack. I just got a call from the hospital.”
Steve already had his helmet off and was working his gloves off.
“Did you try Ginny?” Steve asked as JP handed him his cell.
“She’s not answering.” Tony said.
Steve was already listening to Ginny’s voicemail.
“Damn.” he said. “Does she even know?”
“The nurse who called me was going down to tell her when I spoke to her.” Tony assured him.
Steve turned to JP with a shrug and said, “I’ve got to go.”
“Yes, you do.” was all JP said.
Steve headed for the change room to change into street clothes and Tony followed him.
“It’ll take you an hour and a half at this hour to drive. The chopper’s fueled up on the helipad and cleared to land at the hospital.” Tony said. “Take it and keep me in the loop.”
Steve nodded at Tony and turned away to go and change.
Ginny was very pleased with Angie’s progress and they were discussing dropping Angie’s visits to three times a week when the nurse came to the door.
Ginny stood and listened to the nurse, then asked her to repeat it.
“Ms. St. Pierre, your dad’s been brought in to the emerg with a heart attack. The doctors are with him now.” the nurse repeated.
Ginny looked at Angie and was trying to put words together in her head to say when Angie said, “Ginny, go. If you’re not back before I’m done, I’ll kill the lights when I leave.”
Ginny shot her a look that she hoped conveyed her gratitude and followed the nurse out.
Her dad was sedated but still conscious when she got to see him. He was prepped for surgery and she had only a few minutes with him.
“Papa, je suis ici.” she said, softly to her dad.
She took his hand and he squeezed it weakly.
The doctors had told her that he had blockages in three of his arteries, which is what caused the attack and that they’d be trying angioplasty first, as it was far less invasive than bypass surgery. If it worked, they could place stents in the arteries to open them up and keep them open. If, for some reason, they couldn’t do that, they would have to do a triple bypass, which would be riskier. The sooner they had him in surgery, the better.
So she sat with him and told him little things about her day, about Steve, about the Avengers, until they came to get him.
She followed the stretcher as far as they would let her go and watched as her whole world disappeared behind a pair of swinging doors.
She stood there in the middle of the hallway and wrapped her arms around herself and tried to find the strength to deal with what was coming.
That’s where Steve found her. He arrived at the heliport at the hospital 20 minutes after Tony told him about Claude. It took him about 10 minutes to track down Claude on the 4th floor.
As he came through the doors of the elevator on surgical floor, he saw her. She exuded such pain and desolation, it almost broke his heart. But he could also see the walls around her.
He walked up behind her and placed his hands gently on her shoulders, covering the one hand that she had on her shoulder.
“How is he?” he asked, quietly.
She didn’t move at first. Then she put her head back onto his chest.
“He’s…I don’t know. He’s in surgery, now.” she said, quietly. “They’ll know more once they go in.” Her voice was flat on the last line.
He wrapped his arms around her from behind and just held her.
Ginny’s eyes were squeezed tightly shut and tears were dripping down her face onto Steve’s arms. She had to get back in control.
Steve was whispering little comforting words into her ear and they were finally registering.
“It’ll be okay, baby. Your dad is strong. He’ll come through this.” Steve assured her.
Ginny pulled a tissue out of her pocket and blew her nose and with a deep sigh, pulled herself together.
“Ginny, where’s your phone?” Steve asked, quietly.
She sniffed and turned around and looked at him, puzzled. “My phone?”
“Tony and I have been trying to reach you since we heard from the hospital.” Steve’s face was serious. “You had us worried.”
She patted her pockets and then Steve saw the lightbulb go off. “I didn’t grab it off my desk when I rushed up here.”
“Oh, Steve, I’m so sorry.” She threw her arms around him and he held her close for a moment.
“Don’t be sorry. Let’s go down and get it. You probably have a bunch of messages.”
When they got to the gym, the lights were all off. Angie must have finished and gone home. Ginny flipped the lights on and went to check her voicemails and text messages. Steve stayed near the door, not sure what to do.
As she was listening, she walked back over to him and put her arm around him. There were four messages and two texts from Steve as well as others from Tony and Joseph. She looked up at him as she was listening to his third message and mouthed, Sorry. He smiled and shrugged at her.
“Apparently, dad had the heart attack at work and Joseph sent him in an ambulance and tried to call me, but I must have been working with Angie. And then the nurse came and got me, so I never got his message.” Ginny told Steve. “I’d better call him back. He sounded pretty upset on his last message.”
Her conversation was quick…she really didn’t have any news. She just apologized and told him she’d call him once she knew something.
“You’re not alone there, are you, Geneviève? If so, I can come…” Joseph’s voice trailed off.
“No, my friend, Steve, is here with me, so I’m fine.” Not another guy with a crush, she thought. Can’t get a date for years, then all of a sudden…
Steve was on the phone with Tony, letting him know what was going on, too.
As Steve hung up, Ginny came over and put the top of her head on his chest and just said, “Gods.”
As he stroked her arms, he said, “I know.” He pushed her back so he could see her face.
“Let’s go back up and see if there’s any news.” Steve said.
Back on the fourth floor, the nurse told her that there was no news yet.
So they sat down and Ginny cuddled up to Steve’s side with her legs draped over his. Then she would get up and pace for a while. Then she’d sit again. They talked sporadically about their days. Ginny hadn’t realized that Steve had come by helicopter.
Steve checked his watch and said, “I’d still be on my way if I was driving.”
“I guess I owe Tony big time…a for a lot of things.” Ginny said.
After about 3 hours, the doctor finally came out to talk to her. The angioplasty had gone well and the stents were in place. Claude had, however, died twice on the operating table and been revived. There should be no lasting effects from that but they wouldn’t know until he had regained consciousness.
“He’ll be a while yet in recovery before you can see him.” the surgeon said. “Why don’t you grab some dinner and when you come back, he should be in the CPU and conscious.” The doctor looked at Steve and nodded before he left them.
They sat in the waiting area for a long moment trying to let it all sink in.
“Why don’t you leave your cell number with the nurse and we can go to the little grill across the street for dinner.” Steve suggested. Ginny nodded and went to the nurse’s station.
“Okay.” Ginny said. “The nurse will call me if he wakes before we get back or if there’s any compli…” She stopped mid-word and was looking down with two fingers in front of her mouth. She shook her head trying to get back her control, but it wasn’t working.
Steve stood up and put his arms around her as she started to shake and just held her, stroking her back and her hair and whispering comforting words in her ear. One of the nurses saw his situation and brought out a box of tissues.
She finally subsided to shuddering sobs and sniffles and she was able to speak her fear.
“He died, Steve. Papa died. If he’s gone, I have no one.” Her voice was almost a whisper. “I’ll be all alone.”
“You’ll have me.” Steve said with a half-smile. “I’m no replacement for your dad but I’m not going anywhere.”
He got her to sit down. “And you have Tony and Pepper. I think they’ve adopted you as their surrogate daughter. Tony even gave me ‘the talk’ the other day; said if I ever broke your heart, he and I would be going a few rounds in the arena.”
Ginny half laughed, half sobbed at that image. Steve was still stroking her back as he continued.
“You’ve got the whole Avengers team. I’m always getting texts asking how you’re doing. And what about all of your clients over the years? I bet there aren’t many you don’t keep in touch with.
Ginny nodded and shrugged and Steve carried on.
“You are so caring and empathetic and strong and compassionate, you inspire love and loyalty in everyone who gets to know you.” he said. “You are not alone.”
She put her head on his shoulder trying to absorb what he had said.
“But your dad’s not going to die. Not today.” he said firmly. “So let’s go eat and then you can see him, okay?”
She looked up at him with tears still clinging to her eyelashes and nodded.
Once they got to the restaurant and ordered, Ginny said, “Not much of a first date.”
“Oh, I’ve had worse.” Steve said.
“Really.” she said. He had definitely piqued her interest.
So the conversation flowed as they both shared some of their worst first date experiences. By the time coffees were served, Ginny’s tears were tears of laughter as Steve related the details of one date who was drunk when he picked her up and tried to give him a blow job on the way to the restaurant.
“Needless to say it was a short date. She passed out in my lap and I just took her home.” he finished.
“Oh, my gods!” Ginny said wiping tears from her eyes. “Where do we find these people?”
“Usually set-ups…how about you?” Steve asked.
“Yeah, set-ups…I tried on-line dating, too, for a while and that’s no better.” she answered.
He reached across the table and took her hand.
“I’m really glad we found each other.” he said.
“Me, too.” She looked up at him, her eyes shining.
He brought her hand up and kissed it and said, “We should probably get back.” He picked up the bill and said, “Can I get this? You need some pampering tonight.” She nodded. Steve paid the bill and they left hand in hand.
Back at the hospital, Claude was still in recovery but he was awake. They were just checking all his vitals, then they would be moving him to the Cardio Care unit.
When Tony and Pepper came in 10 minutes later, they found Steve sitting and looking worried and Ginny pacing.
“What’s the news?” Tony asked Ginny, looking grave.
Ginny was just a bundle of nervous energy, so Steve answered.
“The angioplasty went well.” Steve said. “He’s still in recovery but he’s awake. We’re just waiting for him to be moved to the cardio care unit.”
Ginny stopped pacing and turned to look at Tony. “He died twice.” she said in a flat voice. “He died twice and they revived him.” She was hugging herself again to try and stay in control.
Pepper touched her arm and said. “That’s not uncommon with heart attacks.” she said. “Lucky he wasn’t alone when it happened or we might not be here talking right now.” She stroked Ginny’s arm and pulled her into a hug.
“He’s going to be okay, Geneviève.” Pepper said, firmly.
Steve still remembered when his dad died and his mom a few years later. He grabbed a tissue to wipe his nose.
“You okay, there, old man?” Tony asked, clapping him on the back.
“I’m good.” Steve said, waving away his concern.
Shortly afterwards, a nurse came to tell Ginny that she could see her dad.
“But just family.” she said firmly.
She was holding Steve’s hand and looked up longingly at him and for one second considered telling the nurse he was her husband. But then realized how much she really wanted to be with her Papa alone for a while.
Steve pulled her into a quick hug, and as he let her go said, “You go. I’ll be right here.” And with one look over her shoulder, followed the nurse through the doors.
Steve, Tony and Pepper sat down in the waiting room. They chatted about inconsequential things for a while, then they all fell silent. They had each lost parents and were feeling that loss again.
Ginny moved cautiously to Claude’s bedside. He looked so small and weak amid all the wires and tubes and beeping machines!
His eyes were closed and she didn’t want to wake him, so she just stood looking at all the gauges and monitors.
Claude opened his eyes and saw her standing there with tears in her eyes.
“I should have listened to you, cherie.” he said quietly.
“Yes, you should have.” she said, bringing her eyes to rest on his face. “But when do you ever. I am your child, not the other way around.”
He smiled at this. “I’m as weak as a child now. Probably be bossing me around.” He lifted his hand to better see the IV and blood oxygen monitor.
“I’m just so glad you’re alive.” she said, letting the tears flow down her face.
“I am not that easy to get rid of.” he said, wishing he could hug her and make the tears go away.
But Ginny disregarded all of the wires and tubes and laid her head on her papa’s chest. He managed to get one arm free enough to pat her back.
“Don’t leave me yet, papa. I’m not ready to be on my own yet.” Ginny said, wiping tears away with the backs of her hands.
“Speaking of being on your own, what’s going on between you and Captain Rogers?” Claude demanded.
Ginny smiled. There’s my papa, she thought.
“Friendship to be sure. Maybe more.” she answered.
“Geneviève, he is a soldier. You don’t want to get mixed up with a soldier.” Claude said.
“But I thought you liked him.” she said, surprised.
“I do like him. He is a very polite and personable young man. But that doesn’t mean he’s good enough for my daughter.” Claude insisted.
Ginny’s brow furrowed in thought. “I don’t like that he puts himself in the line of fire.” she said, quietly.
“And he always will.” Claude said. “It is what he is trained to do. And in his case, what he was designed to do; even down to having a specially designed prosthetic for combat.”
But one look at his daughter’s face told him that he didn’t have a chance of convincing her that this man wasn’t for her.
“Does he feel the same way?” Claude asked.
She thought about the last 24 hours and smiled. “Yes, I believe so.”
“You will do what you will do anyways, but be careful with this one, cherie.” Claude said.
The nurse came by then to tell her visiting hours were over. She kissed her dad and promised to see him the next day.
On the way out, the nurse gave her the low-down on visiting. It was very limited so that patients had lots of rest time. She would be able to see him from 10-11:30 am and 2-3:30 pm only the next day. This late visit was an exception because he had just gotten out of surgery.
When Ginny came out into the waiting room, Steve, Tony and Pepper were still sitting quietly. They had gotten coffee and looked to be settling in for a long wait.
Steve saw her first and came to greet her. “That was quick.” he said, taking her hand.
“Visiting hours are limited in the CPU. I can come back tomorrow between 10 and 11:30 and 2 and 3:30.”, she told him.
“How is he?” Steve asked.
“Tired, miserable, glad to be alive.” Ginny shrugged. “We didn’t get to talk for long.”
Tony came over and clapped his hands together. “So what are the sleeping arrangements tonight, kiddies?” he asked.
Ginny looked up at Steve. “Are you coming back to Stark’s?” he asked.
“No, I think I need to go home tonight.” Ginny answered. “I won’t be very good company anyways.”
“Your car is here?” Tony asked. Ginny nodded. “Steve why don’t you drive Geneviève home and we can follow and take you back to Casa Stark.”
Steve shrugged and said, “That works for me.”
Ginny was exhausted and more than happy not to have to drive herself home. “That would be great.”
“I’d like to come for a run tomorrow morning, though. What time are you running these days?” Ginny asked Steve.
“Same; breakfast at 6:30, track at 7.” Steve said.
“I probably won’t sleep much tonight anyways, so I’ll see you guys for breakfast at 6:30. Maybe I can do your assessment tomorrow and close up your file…?” Ginny was working hard at thinking about anything but her dad.
“Sounds great.” Steve said. “Let’s go.” He took Ginny’s keys and they headed for the garage.
Ginny curled up in the passenger seat and watched Steve drive her car. He had an easy control of the car and it was nice to watch him.
Steve looked over at her at the red light and said, “Penny for your thoughts. You’re awfully quiet.”
“My dad doesn’t approve of you.” she said.
“Really?” He was surprised. He thought he had gotten on well with Claude.
“Don’t get me wrong. He really likes you. He just doesn’t like us being together.” Ginny said.
Steve didn’t say anything for a long time. “Does he usually approve of your boyfriends?” he asked.
She laughed at that. “No, never. No one is good enough for his little girl.”
This made Steve feel a little bit better.
“I guess if I had a daughter, I wouldn’t want her dating me either.” Steve said.
“Oh, because you’re so depraved and evil!” she said, teasing him.
He laughed at that. “I guess not.” he said.
They fell silent for the rest of the ride. At Ginny’s building, Steve walked her up to her second floor apartment.
The apartment was small but tidy with lots of personal touches…pictures, knick-knacks, even a stuffed Blue Jay in the corner of the couch. He walked over and picked it up.
“Oh, no!” Steve said. “This isn’t a Toronto Blue Jay, is it?”
“Yep. BJ Birdie’s been with me for years. Dad and I love to watch the games together. We used to go quite often when we lived in TO.” Ginny said, reclaiming her prized doll.
“We’re especially loving it this year when we’re kicking New York’s butts.” she said. She knew he was a Yankees fan.
“I see a problem with our relationship.” Steve said, teasingly.
“Don’t worry. A little friendly rivalry is good in a relationship.” She smiled up at him as he came over and put his hands on her shoulders.
“You know, I could stay if you need me to.” he said. “I could sleep on the couch.”
She looked at her couch and then at him. Not a very comfortable fit.
“No, babe. If you stay, you’ll sleep with me in the bed. But that won’t be tonight.” she said. “I truly do need to be alone. I’ll probably just curl up with BJ Birdie and cry myself to sleep.”
Steve looked deep into her eyes and said, “I understand. I don’t like it, but I understand.”
He leaned down and kissed her gently on the lips. Ginny put her hand up and cupped his cheek.
Steve looked up and could see that Tony and Pepper had just pulled up outside.
“My ride’s here.” Steve said, rubbing her arms. “You sure you’re going to be okay?”
“Yes! Now go!” she said, smiling. “And if I need you, you’re just a phone call away.”
“I’ll see you at 6:30 for breakfast.” she said at the door. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him, pouring all her fear and anger and passion into the kiss. He held her for a long time after that before finally letting go.
“Á demain.” she whispered.
“Á demain.” he repeated as he shut the door.
At the window, she saw him climb half-way into Tony’s SUV, then wave before getting the rest of the way in and closing the door.
She stood at the window hugging BJ Birdie for a long time before turning away.
Steve sat silently in the backseat.
“You know she’s right.” Tony said. “She needs to be alone tonight.”
“I know.” Steve said, quietly. “It doesn’t make it any easier to leave her when I know how badly she’s hurting.”
Steve stared out the window at nothing.
“Anything new from Fury on this mission?” Steve asked. Anything so he didn’t have to think about Ginny alone.