Ginny managed to sleep until 5 am. Her sleep had been sporadic and interrupted but she felt fairly rested and a little more positive than she had the night before.
So she got up, had a shower and read the news on her tablet over a cup of coffee. She had no idea where she’d be sleeping tonight, so she packed a bag just in case.
She had to adjust the seat in her car from Steve driving her home the night before. She took a deep breath in through her nose and could still catch a whiff of him in her car.
She smiled and thought, Papa, you’re wrong about him.
Thoughts of her dad brought her up short and she checked her phone to make sure she hadn’t missed any calls from the hospital.
Nothing, which she hoped meant he had had a good night.
She looked through what she had for music and settled on ABBA…really cheesy disco music…just what she needed to get her in the mood to run.
Traffic was light that time of morning and her half hour drive was spent singing ‘Mama Mia’ at the top of her lungs and seat dancing at red lights.
It was 6:15 when she pulled into the garage at Stark Tower. A little early, so she organized her briefcase before heading for the elevator.
Jarvis was as chipper as ever, telling her that Mr. Stark and Captain Rogers were in the kitchen and that Ms. Potts had left late the night before for an early meeting out of town.
Steve got up to greet her with a quick kiss and a hug when she came into the room.
Tony didn’t get up, but asked, “How was your night? Did you get some sleep?”
“It was restless, but I did manage to sleep a little bit. BJ Birdie helped.” She smiled and winked at Steve.
“BJ Birdie?” Tony was looking at both of them, puzzled.
“The Toronto Blue Jay’s mascot.” Steve answered with a smile. “My competition.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “I highly doubt that.” she said. “And it’s Torono, not Toronto. If I ever take you up there, they’ll have you pegged as a tourist before we cross the border talking like that!”
Tony raised an eyebrow. “So officially together?” he asked. “No more hiding in the kitchens?”
Ginny smiled at this and shook her head. “I don’t think either of us were very good at hiding our feelings, were we?” She sighed. “Probably have to take things a little slow since my dad’s really not on board.”
Her face darkened at the thought of her dad and his disapproval.
Steve didn’t like to see her upset, especially when he was the cause. Should he talk to Claude? he thought
Tony saw the determined look on Steve’s face and said, “The only way you’re going to prove to Claude that you’re good for his daughter is to be good for his daughter. Words won’t work.”
Ginny looked up at Tony’s words; she had been lost in her own thoughts and missed most of this, including Steve’s look.
“It’s true. I don’t think there’s a man on earth that he’d think is worthy of me.” Ginny stopped for a moment. “Maybe I should switch to women. Might have better luck.”
Steve looked up sharply at this. Ginny winked at him.
“Okay, you two. Stop making eyes at each other and let’s run.” Tony got up from the table.
It was a beautiful, sunny day and they ran for over an hour. Ginny never seemed to tire, although she wasn’t keeping pace with either Steve or Tony.
The three of them stood afterwards, sipping water and catching their breath.
“Do you have time for me to do the assessment today, Steve?” Ginny asked. “Or should you be working with JP?”
“Do you have time?” Steve asked.
“I can’t see papa until after 10, so that gives me about an hour. That should be enough time.” Ginny said.
“Chopper’s at your disposal, Geneviève, if you need it.” Tony said.
“Thanks, Tony. I’ll keep that in mind.” Ginny smiled at him.
Ginny made her way to the gym while Steve went to switch his blade for his regular prosthetic. He also brought his combat leg.
“My regular leg might not be able to stand up to all the weight I can pull now.” Steve said in explanation.
“Let’s work with the combat version, then, since it’s stronger.” Ginny said. “Any pain now?”
“Just what I’m used to from training.” he said.
So she ran him through all of the same exercises she’d assessed him on originally and every indication was that he was as strong and agile now as he was before the injury. After seeing him in the arena, she’d had no doubt that he was at full battle readiness, but she needed these final numbers for her records, to close the file. He’d still see Claude for his prosthetics, but he no longer needed a physiotherapist.
Steve was wiping his face and neck with a towel and he came over to her desk where she was finishing up.
“So what’s the verdict?” he asked.
She looked up at him with a big smile and said, “Congratulations, Captain Rogers! You are in peak shape again and no longer in need of my services. If you should ever suffer an injury and need help recovering, I am at your service, but other than that…” She shrugged.
He was wiping the back of one arm and said, “That’s good news, then. So we’re not working together anymore.” He raised his eyebrows in question.
She went over to him, put her arms around his neck and kissed him in answer.
“Yes, we can officially be a couple now.” she said, looking deep into his eyes. “So we don’t have to count last night as our first date.”
“Good.” he said. “I’d like the chance to make our first date a little more memorable.” He stroked a stray hair away from her temple.
“We’re still two people without a lot of time or energy for a romantic relationship.” she reminded him.
“We’ll make it work.” he said. “We’ll take it slow.” He leaned in to claim another kiss.
That’s how Tony found them; talking quietly between kisses.
“So everything went well here, I take it.” Tony said.
“Steve’s good to go. No more physio required.” Ginny said with a smile.
“Glad to have you back.” Tony said. “Listen, Fury’s coming in tonight and he wants to meet with you two.”
Ginny was taken aback by this. “Why me?” she asked.
Tony shrugged. “Fury’s reasons are usually his own. You’ll have to ask him.”
Steve was not happy. “What’s Fury up to this time?”
“Don’t know, buddy. But he definitely said he wanted to meet with the two of you.” Tony pointed two fingers at them. “He’ll be here before dinner, if you want to get it out of the way.”
Ginny looked at Steve with concern. He put his arm around her and squeezed. “It’ll be okay.” he said, obviously trying to convince himself.
“What about Dr. Coulter?” Ginny asked, to change the subject. “You haven’t seen him in the last two nights.”
“We’re dropping back to once a week, so I’ll see him on Friday.” Steve said, letting some of the concern fade from his forehead.
Ginny checked her watch. “I should go.” she said. “I’ll just make it to the hospital by 10 to see Papa.”, she said.
“Anything else on today, other than seeing your dad?” Steve asked.
“I’m assessing a new client at 12:30 then I’ll go back and see dad at 2 and should be back here by 5. Sorry, we probably won’t get to see Nick before dinner.” she said to Steve.
“Chopper.” said Tony. “We can have you back here before 4 if you take the chopper.”
“No.” Ginny said, after a pause. “I think I’ll need some decompression time after seeing my dad. I’ll drive back and we can meet with Nick after dinner.”
“You’re choice.” Tony said. “I’ll let Fury know.” Tony went to make his calls.
Steve kissed Ginny quickly and said goodbye and Ginny headed for her car.
Her dad was in good spirits when she saw him. They chatted about little things and memories until the nurse asked Ginny to leave.
After a gross sandwich in the cafeteria, Ginny met with her new client and his parents. Chris was 16 and had lost his leg in a motorcycle accident riding on the back of his best friend’s bike. His friend hadn’t been so lucky.
She did her assessment and told them about her kid’s group on Thursday mornings.
“Captain America, who is also an amputee, has been helping me out with this group. He’ll be pleased to meet you, Chris.”
Chris was still in a great deal of emotional pain. The mention of Captain America caught his attention, though.
“His injury is similar to yours. Do you do any running? If so, we’ll see about fitting you with a blade as well. Captain Rogers swears by it for running.”
Chris didn’t say much, but seemed in a better place when they left. Joseph would bring in his first leg the next morning.
Ginny’s afternoon visit with Claude was not so pleasant. He was starting to feel better and the confinement was bothering him.
“I really don’t like you seeing Captain Rogers. He is an old fashioned man. You will end up as his mother, cooking his meals, having his babies and not having a life of your own.”, Claude said, irritably.
She knew this mood. There was no point in arguing with him. So, after a few more heated exchanges, Ginny kissed him goodbye and left, promising to bring him the paper in the morning.
Ginny sat in her car for a long time, letting the tears flow down her face undisturbed. Maybe she and Steve needed to cool things off, at least until her dad was well again.
Tears flowed on and off on the ride home as Ginny felt like she was being pulled in two different directions.
By the time she had pulled into the garage at Stark Towers, she had decided that she needed Steve in her life. Her dad’s recovery wasn’t going to go any faster if she was unhappy.
But, with swollen, blood-shot eyes, she was not ready to face Steve or Tony, so she grabbed her bag and headed up to the guest wing.
She puttered around the room for a few minutes and then lay down on the bed with a cool cloth over her eyes to try to get rid of some of the swelling and redness.
The coolness over her eyes was comforting and she found herself drifting between wakefulness and sleep. A tentative knock on the door brought her back to the real world.
She opened the door to find Steve standing outside. When he saw her face, his look turned to concern.
“You’ve been crying.” he said, putting his hand on her cheek.
Crap, who said cool cloths worked, she thought.
“Yeah.” she covered his hand with hers. “Dad’s still not a fan of our relationship. I had some soul-searching to do on the ride home.”
“Any conclusions?” He still looked very worried.
She smiled sadly up at him and said. “My being unhappy isn’t going to help Papa get better any faster. So as long as you make me happy…”
Steve smiled and kissed her sweetly on the lips. “I’ll do my best.”
“I actually came up to get you for dinner. Fury’s here and so are Bucky and Sam.” Steve added.
“Great.” Ginny said. “I’m starving! Let me see if I have some Visine or something first.” She popped back inside and Steve waited at the threshold.
When she came out of the bathroom, her eyes were a little clearer, but her crying still showed. She shrugged and said, “All I have are tears, so this is the best I can do. Everyone expects girls to be weepy anyways, right?”
He looked at her critically. “You look fine.” he said. “Tony may notice, but the others won’t.”
He took her hand, kissed it quickly and they walked to the dining room hand in hand.
Nick Fury had seen a great deal in his lifetime and he was a born storyteller. Dinner went by quickly and pleasantly with lots of laughter and comradery.
Tony had been the only one to notice her face and his only reaction had been to raise an eyebrow.
After dinner, Tony brought out a nice port that went perfectly with the dark chocolate delicacy they had for dessert.
Finally, Nick sat back and said, “Steve and Ginny, I’d like to have a private word.”
Steve fixed Fury with a hard look. “Let’s you and I chat first, Nick.” and he got up to lead the way. Steve squeezed Ginny’s shoulder as he passed but didn’t look at her.
Ginny listened quietly to the conversation flowing around her drinking her coffee and waiting nervously for Steve or Nick to call her in. Why did this feel like waiting to see the principal, she thought?
Finally, Nick came in, caught her eye and nodded.
Steve was sitting back in a chair casually, but his face was dark and brooding over crossed arms. He looked up when she came in and gave her a half-smile, which quickly disappeared.
Nick indicated the chair next to Steve’s and sat across from them.
“Ms. St. Pierre,” Nick started, “we believe that we need someone with your expertise and knowledge to join our mission. No one on our current team has the expertise needed to maintain several prosthetic limbs.”
Nick paused and sat with his hands tented in front of his face, waiting.
“Who is we?” Ginny asked, finally.
Nick looked at Steve as if he expected some response, but when there was none, he said, “The Avenger’s initiative. Captain Rogers and I agree that you would be a great asset on the team.”
Nick noticed that Ginny didn’t look over at Steve. He knew there was something between them, but he had no idea how serious it was. He was hoping it wasn’t.
“Is this why you contracted my dad and I to help with Captain Rogers? Tony once said there weren’t a lot of physiotherapists who specialize in dealing with amps.” Ginny said.
“There aren’t.” Nick answered. “But you offer a great deal more than just physio, Ms. St. Pierre. Didn’t you intern with your father early in your career so that you could know as much as possible about the prosthetics that your clients wore? And I understand that your minor is in psychology.”
Ginny wasn’t looking at either of them, but smiled and shook her head at this. “So it’s not just free massages you’re after.”
“When and how long?” she asked after a moment.
“Wait a minute.” Steve sat forward suddenly. “This won’t be a walk in the park. Even our back-up team can come under fire.” The look Steve was giving her was intense. Then he turned that look on Nick.
“Nick, this isn’t going to work. She has no training. She’d be a liability if there’s a fight.” Steve said, heatedly.
Nick was still looking at both of them over his tented fingers.
“You might be surprised at how prepared your young lady is for this.” Nick said.
Steve turned steely blue eyes on her. “Can you shoot?” he asked.
Ginny looked at him quickly, then away. “Yes, I can. When dad and I were coming to New York, he insisted that we both learn to shoot. Once we were here, neither one of us could bear the thought of owning a gun…too Canadian, I guess…but I qualified for the license.”
“How about hand-to-hand combat, defending yourself?” Steve asked, pointedly.
“Six years of Mixed Martial Arts enough?” Ginny was starting to feel a little defensive. Did he think of her as some maiden in distress? “Then I taught it for a couple of years before we moved here. I still go out for the odd masters class and tournament.”
Ginny looked over at Steve and met his steely gaze with one that was equally intense.
“I’d still want to get you on the shooting range and in the arena with Natasha.” Steve said, holding her gaze.
“Of course. I’m probably a little rusty anyways.” she answered him.
“And I didn’t mean that I was accepting this mission when I asked when and how long. I’ll need some time to organize things here, and my participation will definitely depend on when the mission is leaving and how long it’s for.”
Nick took a deep breath and leaned forward. “We will be airborne by this time next week. I know what you’re going to say.” he said, holding his hands up. “Your dad’s just had a heart attack.”
“Yes, he has and that makes a week a little tight.” she said.
“His care would fall under the Avenger’s Initiative while you’re away. You would be able to stay in touch from the carrier.” Nick said.
“And if I get killed, he’s alone.” she swallowed and said, quietly.
“Then we’ll have to make sure you don’t get killed.” Steve said, equally quietly.
“I know a couple of therapists I trust to take on my kids and other clients for a week or so…?” Ginny looked up in question. They hadn’t told her how long yet.
“We shouldn’t be gone any more than 10 days maximum.” Steve said, rubbing his face.
He stood up suddenly. “Can you two finish this off?” he asked.
Nick looked up at him and nodded. Steve squeezed Ginny’s shoulder as he left.
When Ginny came out of her meeting with Fury an hour later, she asked Jarvis where Steve was and was told he was in the gym. She went to find him.
She looked through the door to see him at the punching bag. She quietly opened the door and stood with her back to it until he noticed her.
He turned towards her and said. “Well, that took a while.” He started to untape his hands rather viciously.
“Why did you leave? I still have a question for you.” Ginny said, a little defiantly.
“What?” he said, not looking at her.
“You don’t want me on this mission.” she said.
He looked up at her and said, “That’s not a question.” and looked down, starting to work on the tape on his other hand.
She raised an eyebrow and waited.
He looked up and sighed. “Let’s just say I’m a little conflicted.” He ripped the last of the tape from his hand and threw it on the bench.
He was rubbing his knuckles absently. “I just never thought I’d have you under my command.” he said, quietly.
She came up then and took one of his hands so she could rub the sore knuckles.
“I haven’t said yes yet.” she said, still looking at his hands.
“Can you make arrangements for your clients in a week?” He was watching their hands, too, and stroking her fingers.
“I thought you didn’t want me to come.” she looked up at him with a quizzical smile.
“I don’t want to put you in danger, but I know we need you.” He smiled, sadly. “Took me an hour of beating that thing up,” he cocked his head at the punching bag, “to get that through my thick skull.”
“Will you say yes?” Steve asked, not sure what he wanted her answer to be.
“Let me make some calls tomorrow and see what I can arrange. Then I should talk to my dad, let him know.” she said, quietly.
Steve shook his head. “There’s one more reason for him not to like me.” he said.
“You’ll win him over.” She smiled up at him.
“Listen, we have work to do to get you ready, too.” Steve said. “I’d like to get you into the shooting range tomorrow, if you can fit it in. And I’ve already called Natasha in. Maybe tomorrow night, we can get the two of you into the arena.”
She smiled up at him.
“What?” he asked, smiling in spite of himself.
“I like it when you get all commander-y.” she said. He laughed out loud at her made-up word.
“And it looks like we’ve got even less time for you and me than we had even before dinner.” She sighed in resignation.
She reached up and stroked his cheek with her hand. He rested his hand on her waist for a moment then leaned in to kiss her softly on the lips.
“I told you we’d make it work.” he said, still holding her hand.
She checked her watch and said, “It’s not that late. How about we go to the music room and I can play for you.”
“Sooth your soul?” he said and smiled.
“Something like that.” she said.
They spent the next couple of hours in the music room. At first he sat beside her on the bench, but he felt like he was hampering her playing so he moved to a chair where he could watch her.
She lost herself in the music to such a degree that she almost forgot Steve was there. But it did sooth her soul and help her to think this offer and mission through.
She looked up to see Steve deep in thought, too. But the opening notes of ‘New York State of Mind’ made him look up at her with a smile.
When she finished he said, “Enough soul searching for one day. As your commanding officer, I’m ordering you to bed.”
He got up and came over to lean on the piano. “It’s almost 11 and we’ve got another big day tomorrow.” he said.
She sighed. He was right. She got up and put her arms around him and stood holding him even when he tried to disengage from her.
“What’s the matter? Too much?” he said, kissing the top of her head.
“Oh, god, Steve!” she laughed. “It’s been too much since I walked into your hospital room a couple of weeks ago.”
He held her away from him so he could see her face. “Am I too much?” His face looked so young and uncertain that it almost brought tears to her eyes.
She kissed him then with all of the passion and sadness and uncertainty this day had brought. There were tears on her face when she pulled away.
“I’m still standing.” she whispered.
He wiped a tear away with his thumb. “Me, too.” he whispered and kissed her again.
Her eyes were still closed and she touched his nose with hers.
“You know,” she said, huskily, “one of these days, instead of ordering me to bed…” She let the sentence hang unfinished.
He smiled. “One of these days…” he agreed.
His smile faded and he was serious again.
“Tomorrow’s Thursday. Are we still meeting with the kids in the morning?” he asked.
“Tomorrow’s Thursday already?” she said, shocked. She shook her head. “I lost a day this week.”
She sighed and looked at her watch. “It’s too late to cancel now and I have a new kid who’s supposed to be joining us this week.” She looked up at her bangs, which had faded to pink. “Guess no new colour for them this week.”
“It’ll be okay. Let’s take Tony up on the chopper in the morning. That way we can get back here earlier and hit the shooting range before dinner. Natasha will be here tomorrow night. It’ll make for a long day for you, though.” He looked at her, concerned.
“I’ll manage.” she said and yawned.
“Come on. Off to bed.” he said, steering her towards the door.