A Time For Heroes – Chapter 15

Mission PrepGinny slept right through her alarm and didn’t even move until 8 o’clock. That gave her just enough time for a quick shower and to get dressed before going to find food and Steve.

She grabbed some fruit and ran up to the arena. She opened the door slowly so as not to disturb whatever was going on.

Steve and JP were sparring and JP seemed to be getting the best of Steve, but it turned out JP was showing him some new technique for the next time he sparred with Thor.

They broke apart when Ginny came in and JP came over and shook her hand.

“Steve tells me you threw Romanov around for a couple of hours last night. Well done!” JP said.

“More like she threw me around.” Ginny eased a sore muscle in her neck.

“I’ve never gone up against her, but I’ve never seen anyone else last two hours against her, either.” Steve said, taking his gloves off.

“She is…amazing.” Ginny said. “Such deadly grace. I learned so much last night.”

Steve had picked up his tablet and brought it over to where she and JP were standing.

“We need to go over scheduling.” Steve said in his best Captain voice. “We have less than a week to get you up to speed.”

They looked at his schedule together. He had scheduled her from 10 to 3:30 at the hospital.

“You still need to spend some time with Joseph, right? And Bucky? Can we use the time between your visits with your dad for that? And this weekend, I can help you move in here. Bring whatever you’ll need for the mission. It’ll be easier than trying to juggle two residences.”

“Are you ever moving back to your place?” Ginny asked. He’d been living at the hospital or Stark Tower since she’d known him.

“Once this is over.” he said, not looking up.

“Let me see if I can get Bucky to pick you up at the hospital and take you to the workshop today. I can text you details.” He made a note on the tablet.

“And I hope today goes better with your dad than yesterday, but if not, let me know and we can use that time, okay?” he finished.

JP was behind her and she looked up at Steve and mouthed “Commander-y” which made him smile.

He reached over and touched her shoulder. “Are you driving over today?” he asked.

“Yes.” she said. “I feel the need for very loud, very bad disco music before facing down the old Frenchman.” JP laughed at this.

“What is your poison of choice?” he asked.

“Usually ABBA” Ginny answered.

“I stick to the BeeGees and Donna Summer.” JP said. “I’ll have to give ABBA a try.”

“I think you’re both sick.” Steve said, looking up from his tablet.

JP started singing, ‘Staying Alive’ and aping John Travolta. He grabbed Ginny by the hand and they spun through some Saturday Night Fever moves.

When he was done, he spun her in Steve’s direction and Steve caught her with one hand on her waist. She reached up and pulled him into a kiss. It was short but passionate.

“Disco has its place in life, darling. I’ll teach you. You’ll be fantastic.”

She checked her watch, kissed him again and said, “But not now. I’ve got to boogie if I’m going to get to the hospital for 10. Text me about Bucky.” and she was gone.

“Good for you, Rogers.” was all JP said and they went back to work.

 

Ginny opened the door to her dad’s room cautiously. They had moved him out of the CPU that morning into a semi-private room. Right now, the other bed in the room was unoccupied.

Claude lay in the bed by the window and he was staring out it when Ginny came in. She had brought him a nice healthy fruit basket.

He thanked her and they talked small talk for a little while until they both fell silent.

“Tell me about this mission and why they need you.” Claude said finally.

She told him what she could. She didn’t know exactly where they were going, only that the technology what had almost killed Steve was there. The plan was to recover the data and bring those who used it to justice.

“I’ll be working as part of the medical team, but almost exclusively with Steve and Bucky and their prosthetics. Joseph is lending me his toolkit. I hope that’s okay. He said he can use your tools while you’re recovering.”

Claude waved away her concern. “Will you be safe?” Claude asked. “That’s all I need to know. You are my life.”

Ginny felt tears prickling at the corners of her eyes. “Safety is an illusion, papa. But as far as it is within the Avengers’ power, I will be safe. I’m working on my shooting and my MMA skills so I can take care of myself if there’s any trouble, but we’re in a rear position so I should be fine.”

“Papa, I got to fight Black Widow last night and it was exhilarating! She moves like liquid and I’ll be training with her until we leave. Next time I take a masters class, I’ll be unbeatable!” Ginny was so excited to tell her dad about everything that had happened the day before. But he stopped her.

“Is your Captain commanding this mission?” Claude asked. When Ginny nodded, he went on. “How is he handling having you on his team?”

“Sometimes well, sometime not so well.” she admitted, reluctantly.

“Having a relationship with one of his subordinates puts him in a difficult position. Have you talked about this?”

“We know it’s not ideal.” Ginny said. “And I think if they had more time or anyone else who could fill the position, they would take them…but they don’t.”

“If you are sleeping with your commander, that will compromise his ability to command.” Claude said, bluntly.

“Luckily, I’m not sleeping with my commander.” Ginny said. “We’re just not there yet and there’s definitely no point in going there now until after the mission is complete.”

“And Steve is alright with this?” Claude asked. He knew Steve wasn’t your average soldier, but he was a soldier.

“We’re taking it slow. Falling in love while he was still my client wasn’t great either, but it happened. And it’s why we’re moving slowly.” Ginny assured him.

“Not another Troy, I hope.” Claude said.

“No, not at all.” she answered with a smile. Oh, how could she count the ways he was different from Troy!

“I want to talk to him before you go. It might not be pleasant.” Claude scowled.

“Steve’s pretty tough.” she said. “I’ll let him know that you can have visitors. He’s been wanting to talk to you about all of this.” This surprised Claude and he said so. Most of Ginny’s boyfriends had avoided him if they could.

“Steve’s an honourable man, papa. If you have objections, he wants a chance to answer them.” she said. “You and he are very much alike.”

“Are you sure about him, Geneviève?” Claude asked. “Because if you’re sure…” He let his voice trail off.

“I am, papa. He may not end up being forever after, but I can see us together and happy for a long time.” she said.

“Tell him to come and see me.” Claude said with finality. Pistols at dawn, Ginny thought, ironically.

They spent the next hour and a bit catching up on all that had happened. Then Ginny’s phone buzzed letting her know that Bucky would pick her up in 10 minutes in front of the hospital.

She took her leave from her dad with a kiss and a promise to see him that afternoon.

“Check visiting hours with the nurse.” he said. “They’re not as restrictive up here.”

When she was gone, Claude stared at the closed door for a moment. She had always been a whirlwind and filled any room she was in with her enthusiasm, but when she was excited about something that was even more pronounced. His sister, Monique, had that, too. He smiled remembering her phone call the day before.

He reached over to the side table and picked up the magazine Ginny had left with the Avengers article in it. Time to get to know Captain Rogers a little bit better.

 

Ginny and Bucky hadn’t spent a lot of time together, so the ride to the shop was a little awkward.

Finally, Ginny said, “I think the most we’ve ever talked before this was you flirting with me.”

Bucky smiled at this. “I meant no disrespect.” he said. “I was just trying to push Steve a little bit. I could see he was interested in you and seeing me interested, too, might force him to make a move.”

Ginny was curious now. “When did you know he was interested in me?”, she asked.

“He mentioned you a little too casually that first night he met you. The girl with the purple hair!” he laughed. “I don’t think you fit his idea of what someone with purple hair should be like.”

Her turn to laugh. “I like to keep people guessing.” she said, as they pulled up in front of the shop.

The next couple of hours were spent pulling Bucky’s prosthetic arm apart, discussing how it worked with the implants, having him show them how he sent messages to his arm, etc. But by the end of it, Ginny had a much better understanding of how his arm worked.

 

On the way back to the hospital, she asked him what he remembered of the initial experimentation Hydra had done on him.

“Have you ever compared notes with Steve to see if it was similar?” she asked.

“He’s never really wanted to talk about the enhancement.” Bucky answered. “He tends to be a pretty private guy.”

“We should talk about it.” Ginny said, making a mental note. “If we can get a sense that what was done to you was similar to what was done to him, perhaps the implants would work for him as well.”

“He doesn’t want this. he said, flexing his arm. “It’s painful even now and I still feel like I’m always fighting whatever is in me for control.” He sounded very bitter and Ginny firmly crossed out her mental note.

“I didn’t realize.”, she said, quietly.

“That’s because I’ve never told anyone that before.” he said, a little surprised.

“Like I told Steve last night, that’s my superpower…getting people to talk about themselves.” She smiled remembering their time in the Great Room the night before.

Bucky switched subjects. “I don’t think Steve’s real happy to have you on this mission.” he said.

“He is pretty conflicted about it.” she agreed. “It’s definitely going to be a tough one. But we’re working hard to keep private and work separate.”

“If I see things going south, I’ll let you guys know. I’m really glad he found you. I haven’t seen him smile this much in…well, not ever.” Bucky admitted. “What colour is your hair going to be for the mission?”

“I’m thinking camouflage green.” she said. “If anything happens, I don’t want to stick out from the crowd.”

“Good call.” Bucky said as he pulled up outside the hospital.

“Say hello for me, Ginny, and I’ll see you at dinner.” Bucky waved as she got out of the car. He smiled, then sighed, as she walked through the front doors. Too bad Steve had seen her first.

 

The afternoon passed pleasantly. Claude gave her all the news from France. There were weddings and babies and lots of gossip. Ginny expected no less from her aunt Monique.

She hadn’t realized that her uncle Jean-Guy from Quebec had called as well. It was his family Ginny had stayed with after the accident. Her aunt Thérèse was not doing well. She had been in and out of hospital with stomach problems. They had ruled out cancer, thankfully, but were no closer to figuring out what WAS causing her problems.

Ginny added a trip to Quebec to her list of things to do…maybe when she went for her friend, Sylvie’s, wedding in Toronto.

When the nurse came to tell her visiting hours were over, she said she could come back after dinner to visit again.

“I’m sorry, papa. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it back tonight. Steve’s got me pretty tightly scheduled from now until we leave on Wednesday.” Ginny said.

“Call me, then, if it’s not too late.” Claude said. “And get that man of yours up to see me!” She kissed him quickly.

“Hopefully, tomorrow. He’s as anxious to see you as you are to see him…foolish man!” she said with a smile.

 

The drive back to Casa Stark was pretty quick. It was early, so Ginny avoided rush hour traffic. Playing ‘Babe’ for Steve the night before made her want to listen to more Styx, so ‘Renegade’ was playing when she pulled into the parking garage.

Steve was just getting off the elevator and he came over to her car as she parked.

“Where are you off to?” Ginny asked.

“Supplying a mission is my least favourite part of my job.” he said. “It’s what I’ve been working on all day and I need some wind in my face.”

“I was just going to call you to see how far out you were. Did you get lunch?” he asked.

“No.” she said, surprised. The day had just flown by. “Did you?”

He shook his head. “No. What would you say to an early dinner? Maybe give this first date thing another try…?” he said, hopefully.

“Sounds like a great idea. Do you have someplace in mind?” Ginny was standing in front of him and leaned in for a kiss.

“Somewhere far from here.” he said with feeling. “I need to ride for a bit to decompress. Hope that’s okay.”

“Hopefully, no place too fancy. I’m not really dressed for fancy.” Ginny said, looking down at the jeans and t-shirt under her leather jacket.

“No, not too fancy. You look perfect.” He handed her his spare helmet, and once he felt her wrap her arms around him, he drove off.

He smiled to himself as they left the garage and he could feel her moving with him on the turn. There are advantages to riding a motorcycle, he thought.

Steve managed to steer clear of most of the traffic and they rode for about half an hour before he pulled up outside a little trattoria.

“You said you liked Italy, so I thought maybe these guys might do a better job on a cappuccino for you.” He held the door for her.

Once inside, the waitress greeted Steve by name and gave them a table by the window.

The menu looked wonderful and Ginny ordered something that promised to be wonderfully rich and cheesy. Steve ordered Chicken Parm, which was his favourite at this particular place.

Once orders were given and water served, Steve reached across the table to take Ginny’s hands.

“How’s Claude today?” he asked.

“He’s actually very well.” she said. “We talked quite a bit about the mission and the news from France and Quebec. He’s out of the CPU now. And he wants to talk to you.” She couldn’t help but make the last sentence sound rather ominous.

“Are there visiting hours tonight? Maybe I should go tonight.” he said. “Get it over with.”

“Isn’t tonight Friday? Don’t you see Dr. Coulter tonight?” Ginny asked, taking a piece of bread. That fruit for breakfast had been a long time ago.

“I saw him this morning. He was coming in for Tony, so he asked if I could see him afterwards.” Steve said.

“Yes, then. There are visiting hours tonight and you should go and see him.” she said.

“I’m going to hate missing you and Nat tonight, but this is important.” he said.

She shook her head. “Why do guys always like to see girls fight?”

“Really? I just like to watch because you two are so well matched. Men today are a little sick.” he said in disgust.

She reached up and touched his face. “You are so sweet.”

He gave her a frown, and covered her hand with his. “Last time we went out, you called me pretty, now I’m sweet? You’re not very good for my male ego.”

“Your male ego is just fine.” she said. with a little giggle. “You still get the eye from every woman who sees you.”

“As long as you still look at me like that, that’s all that matters.” he said, turning his head to kiss the palm of her hand.

Ginny’s phone buzzed and she checked it quickly. “It’s my friend, Sylvie, from Toronto.” she said. “She wants to know if I’m bringing a date for her wedding.”

“When is it?” Steve asked.

“In a couple of months.” She gave him the date. “I know it’s a bit to ask with us so new,” she said, “and I’d like to take a side trip to Montreal to see my aunt and uncle. My aunt’s not well.”

“I’m sorry.” Steve said. “Are they the ones you lived with?”

“Oui.” she said, switching to French. “Mon oncle Jean-Guy et ma tante Thérèse. At least they’ve ruled out cancer.” she added quietly in English.

“Can we call it a definite maybe at this point? I’d like to see what happens with the mission; there may end up being more to this than we can see right now.” Steve said, as their food arrived.

“This place is fast.” Ginny said.

“Well, we’re early.” Steve said. “It gets pretty busy later. Do you want some wine?”

“I think I’d rather be stone cold sober sparring with Natasha.” she said with a smile.

Her gooey, cheesy concoction was as delicious as it had sounded in the menu.

“Oh, this is divine!” she said, after the first bite. “It’s hard to get really good Italian food, even in New York. How did you find this place?”

“Trial and error.” he said. “I ate a lot of bad Italian along the way.”

They ate in silence for a while.

“I’ve never been to Canada.” Steve said at last.

She laughed at this. “Seriously? You’ve never crossed the border? But you’re so close here.”

“Just never had a reason to head north…until now.” he said. “Tell me about Canada.”

“Wow!” she said, staring at him. “You know that Canada is really big, right?”

“Yes, I do know that Canada is really big.” he answered, sarcastically. “Tell me about Toronto…I mean Torono, then.”

“Torono is the centre of the universe,” she said, “or that’s what everyone says, anyway. Gives an idea of how arrogant the rest of the country thinks we are.”

“But it’s a little like New York with the different neighbourhoods. You can hit St. Clair for Little Italy and the Danforth for Greektown. All winter, you can watch the Leafs lose and then all summer watch the Blue Jays win.” She smiled, remembering the fun she’d had growing up there.

“We used to go downtown for the Video awards and catch a few movies at the film festival and stargaze a little bit.”

“If you do come up, I’ll have to take you up the CN Tower and tour the Niagara Wine region.”

“Sounds like fun.” Steve said. “I’ve heard about the CN Tower, but I didn’t know there was a wine region up there.”

“There’s lots of wine regions across the country, but Niagara and the Okanagan Valley in BC are the two biggest.” she said.

“Have you been out to BC?”, Steve asked. “That’s on the coast, isn’t it?”

“On the coast and through the Rocky and Coastal Mountains. That’s beautiful country out there. Dad and I went out once.” she said.

He sat there smiling and shaking his head. “I’ve been a lot of places with the army and Shield and the Avengers, but usually to fight, not to sightsee.”

“Then we’ll definitely have to go to Niagara Falls. It’s one of the most tourist-y spots on the planet!” she said, gleefully.

“I thought Niagara Falls was in New York.” he said.

“It’s actually on the border but the Canadian side is nicer.” She was just finishing up her meal.

“Is that just an opinion?” he goaded her.

“No, not really.” she said. “The Horseshoe Falls are on the Canadian side and they’re the most spectacular falls. The Bridal Veil Falls are on the American side and they’re kind of wimpy by comparison.”

“Wimpy?” he said.

“You’ll see.” She pulled out a pen and started drawing on her napkin. “I was thinking of driving up, then we’d go through Niagara Falls and the wine region to get to Toronto.” She drew the Niagara peninsula and showed the route. “We could spend a few days in Toronto and then take the 401 to Montreal. Not much to see along the way, unless we want to make a side trip to Ottawa to see the Parliament Buildings.”

She saw his puzzled look and clarified. “Our White House.”

He nodded and she carried on. “In Montreal, it just churches and forts, so we’ll probably just hang out with la famille and then we can cross back into the states south of Montreal and head home.” She had drawn a full circle with a little Niagara Falls and CN Tower to mark Ontario.

“What are you thinking? A week? Or more?” Steve asked, looking more closely at her map.

“More, if we can swing it, but we could do it in a week. Might be better to fly, though, if it’s only a week. Fly into Toronto and back from Montreal and rent a car.” she suggested.

“How about you tell your friend I’ll be at the wedding with you and we’ll work out the rest when we get back?” he said, finally.

“She doesn’t even know you exist yet. She’s just fishing to see if she needs to set me up.” Ginny pulled a face to let Steve know what she thought of that idea.

He laughed. “I can at least save you that indignity.” he said.

Steve picked up the napkin and looked at it. “Can I keep this?” he asked.

“Knock yourself out.” she said.

The waitress came by to clear their dishes and Ginny ordered a cappuccino.

“Gotta try.” she shrugged. “But I think it has something to do with sitting on a patio beside a piazza with an obelisk in the middle and medieval churches surrounding it. Not going to get that in New York.” She looked out the window at the traffic zooming by.

“New York has a different kind of charm.” Steve said.

“You’re right. It’s definitely grown on me since I’ve been here.” she said.

They both fell quiet for a few minutes until their coffees came. Steve had decided to try a cappuccino, too.

Ginny stirred raw sugar into her cup and tried it. “Not bad,” she said, “but it definitely needs the ambiance of Rome.”

Steve just stirred his coffee to mix some of the froth in. He usually didn’t take sugar in his coffee. He tasted it and thought, Not bad.

“Well, if we ever get married, we’ll go to Rome for a honeymoon.” he said, raising his cup to her.

She touched her cup to his and asked what was in store for that evening.

“If we get back early enough, I’d like to go down to the shooting range again. Then Nat’s going to work with you in the arena.” He was counting off on his fingers.

“I’ll go and see Claude while you and Nat work. I’ve asked JP to stick around. And Bucky’s been bugging me to get you to play piano for us again…if you’re willing.” He picked up his cup and finished it.

“Wow! My head is spinning!” she said, holding the sides of her head. “I’m just not sure what my objectives are.”

So she’s goal-oriented, he thought, which made sense in her profession.

“We’re going to work on shooting moving targets today and Nat’s going to work with you on taking aim while moving. Then we can work on that at the range, too.” Steve said. “I’d like to have you spar with Sam or JP…Nat is tough, but she’s small. I’d like to know that you can hold your own against someone bigger than you.” She was nodding as he talked. She was right. He should have told her the objectives first.

“That all sounds good. I just like to know what the end game is so I know when I’ve gotten there.” she said.

He smiled. Why did this just make him love her more? Sappy, Rogers! Get a grip!

“It’s still early.” Steve said. “Do you want to go for a walk? There’s some nice architecture in this neighbourhood.”

Ginny nodded and they headed for the door.

Once outside, he put his arm around her shoulders as they walked. She put her arm around his waist and found a belt loop to hold onto.

They walked up the street as he pointed out some of the more interesting buildings. There was a little park with a bench, so they sat down for a little while, talking all the time.

As they walked back toward the restaurant, Ginny grew quiet.

Steve squeezed her shoulder and said, “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.” she said. “This is perfect. Let’s just blow off this mission, go back to your place and never leave.” She squeezed him in close, too.

“Very tempting.” Steve said and they walked on in silence for a few minutes.

“But…” Ginny prompted him.

“But I need this tech off the streets or I’ll always have to be looking over my shoulder.” he said, seriously.

They walked on for about a block, then Steve stopped and pulled Ginny around in front of him so he could see her face.

He put a finger under her chin so she was looking up at him and said, “We’ll get this done, you and I together. Then we’ll go back to my place and never leave.” He cocked one eyebrow at her and she nodded.

He kissed her slowly and sweetly and they stood for a minute with eyes closed and foreheads pressed together.

“I wish it could be now, too.” Steve whispered.

Ginny opened her eyes and smiled up at him. “Something to look forward to, then.” she said. She kissed him quickly again and they walked on.

The ride back to Stark Tower was not as quick, as they had to fight rush hour traffic, but they finally made it and Ginny went up to change. Steve smiled as she left. Her uniforms had come in today and he’d left them on her bed. He hoped he’d gotten the sizing right.

He popped in to the dining room where everyone was just sitting down to eat. He’d let Tony know that he and Ginny wouldn’t be joining them, but he wanted to touch base with Nat and Sam before they went down to the shooting range.

Ginny had headed down to the range and was there waiting when he arrived. She had her uniform on and it looked great. It was dark blue and very form fitting to allow no hanging cloth for an opponent to grab or get in the way of a clear shot. She was still wearing sneakers, which looked a little silly, but her boots would be in the next day.

“Captain.” She greeted him with a little salute when he arrived.

“Soldier.” he said just as seriously, then broke into a big grin.

“Looks like I did get the sizing right.” he said. She put her arms up around his neck and he ran his hands down her sides over the smooth material. One day soon, he was going to peel her out of this uniform. The image that left him with wasn’t very professional or productive. So he kissed her quickly and they went to work.

Shooting at a moving target wasn’t quite so easy and Ginny really struggled to follow Steve’s instruction. Leading with her aim; anticipating; she just didn’t seem to be getting it.

Steve tried to keep his frustration at bay. He wasn’t frustrated with her, but with the limited time they had. She was improving and he knew she could get it, but he looked at the clock again and shook his head.

Ginny saw and said, defensively, “I am trying!”

“It’s not you.” Steve said. “You’re getting better and if we had more time, I know you’d get it down. But I should leave now if I’m going to see Claude tonight.”

“You could see Claude tomorrow.” she offered. “Or maybe see if the helicopter can take you.”

He sighed. “Yeah, I can take the chopper. Tony already offered. But I was kinda looking forward to the ride to clear my head.”

He picked up his cell to text Tony that he’d be leaving in an hour if the chopper was still available. Tony’s response was a yes and Steve and Ginny got back to work.

When Ginny finally landed three shots on the target half an hour later, she was ecstatic! She jumped up, punched the air and yelled, “Yes!”

“Don’t get too excited yet.” Steve warned. “You have to be able to do that consistently. Again!”

The next half hour was hit and miss, although she was hitting more than she was missing now, there still wasn’t consistency.

“You’re getting it!” Steve said. “Tomorrow, we’ll work on that some more. I’ve got to go and you have Widow and Falcon waiting for you upstairs in the arena.”

Ginny was putting away her pistol and unused rounds. “Guess I’ll see you in the music room after? I hope papa isn’t too rough on you.” She came over and wrapped her arms around him.

“This is a first for me. Never had to do a dad interview before.” He reached up and stroked her hair. “I just hope I don’t completely alienate him.”

“It’s me you have to impress and you already have.” Ginny said, bringing his mouth down to hers.

Steve’s phone buzzed and when he checked it he laughed and shook his head. He held it up so she could see the message from Natasha.

 

Quit smooching and get your girl up here. I’m itching to knock her on her ass again!

 

Steve quickly texted back:

 

On her way.

 

“Don’t take any crap from her.” Steve said at the door and kissed her before heading to the helipad.

 

Up in the arena, Natasha was there with Sam and JP. Natasha was looking at a message on her phone and shaking her head.

“What?” Ginny asked Nat as she look up from her phone with a shocked look on her face.

“I texted Steve that we’d be nice to you tonight and here’s what he said:

 

Don’t be nice! I need to know she’s not a liability.

 

Ginny looked up at Nat and raised an eyebrow.

“I just sent him to see my dad for what promises to be a difficult interview. Guess he wants to make sure I have as bad a night as he does.” Ginny smiled.

JP cut in. “Geneviève, Steve wants you to square off with Sam. Nat can give you tips on dealing with larger opponents as we go.”

“I’m used to sparring with men. Not many women at my level.” Ginny said, getting in position.

But Sam was something different. Her other male opponents had just used MMA moves in the ring. Sam just fought. She thought he might have been a bit of a brawler at one point in his past.

He laid her out on the mats a few times before she got a feel for his style. Then the tables turned. They were pretty evenly matched even though he had the weight advantage. He wasn’t as fluid at Natasha but he moved easily and struck hard when she let her guard down.

Nat showed her a few new moves to use and an hour later, Sam tapped out.

“I wouldn’t want to meet you two in a dark alley.” Sam said, towelling off.

JP was right there, though, with a couple of pistols. “Steve said to work on setting up a shot on the move. These are laser, so you can see when you’ve made a hit.”

Ginny got instruction from all three of them but especially from Nat. She could roll and come up and hit her target every time. Ginny just couldn’t get her bearings that fast.

“You’re still looking for your target.” Nat said. “You need to never lose sight of it.”

There was a lot of discussion and practise and the time just slipped by.

When Steve walked in at 10:30, Ginny was just starting to get the hang of ducking and rolling and coming up to fire. She let off three shots at Sam before ducking away.

“Nice!” Steve said, enthusiastically.

“Yeah, as long as he doesn’t move.” Ginny said referring to their session at the range earlier.

“I thought you guys would be long done by now.” Steve said.

“Why? What time it is?” Ginny asked, giving her pistol back to JP.

“After 10:30.” Steve said. “How’d she do, JP?”

“You saw her shooting on the run and she put Sam on his ass more often than he’ll admit.” JP was tidying up the arena to go: stacking mats, putting the pistols away.

“Good day’s work, then.” Steve looked down at her approvingly.

“Let’s get together a little earlier tomorrow. Mid-afternoon – 2ish?” He got nods from everyone and he and Ginny headed for the door.

Steve headed for the Great Hall and Ginny followed.

He didn’t sit down right away but stood at the glass wall looking out.

Ginny came up and put her arm around his waist. He looked down at her and put his arm across her shoulders and they stood looking out at the city.

“Claude gave me a lot to think about tonight.” Steve finally said. “That’s why I’m so late. I had to go for a walk to think.”

She didn’t say anything, just waited patiently for him to go on.

“I shouldn’t be taking you on this mission. Claude was actually the one Fury wanted. He has military training and would have been a great asset, but he got sick. And we have to have someone with a good handle on the prosthetics.” He paused. “We thought about Joseph, but he has none of what we’re looking for in the way defensive training. So we decided on you.”

“Nick didn’t realize that we were so serious until I spoke to him the other night. He told me it was time I learned to compartmentalize, and I have been.”

“But I vowed to myself that if you couldn’t come up to the standard I expected, you were out. I’m not endangering my team or you…especially you…by having someone along who’s a liability.” Steve paused and Ginny could see in the glass that his face was set and stern.

“But you’ve stepped up.” he said, stroking her shoulder with his thumb. “Every expectation I’ve put on you, you’ve met and exceeded. And all without complaint. In fact, you seem to be embracing the training and loving it.” He paused again for a long moment.

“You take my breath away.” he said, quietly.

Ginny smiled at the praise, but wondered where he was going with it. She wrapped her other arm around him and waited.

He sighed and put his other arm around her, too. “Your dad doesn’t want you on this mission. In fact, he’s really angry with me for even suggesting it. Really angry! He thinks I’m taking advantage of you and that you’re just doing this for me…because I’ve asked you to.”

Ginny pursed her lips at that. Was she, she wondered?

“But you didn’t ask me.” she said. “As I recall, you were pretty pissed about the whole situation.”

“Still am, actually.” he said, squeezing her tightly to him. “If the punching bag could run…”

She smiled at that image.

“I am a big girl and I can take care of myself, as you’ve seen. I am loving the training and if it means I’ll be an asset to the team, I’m happy to do it.” She paused for a long moment.

“Or is this about our relationship?” She paused turned toward him so she could see his face.

He was looking down but not at her. “Your dad’s point is a good one. Being in a relationship with a subordinate compromises my position.” He had his hands on her shoulders. “That’s what I had to think long and hard about.”

He let her go and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. “How did you get so deep into my heart?”

“I…” she started. “um. Do you not want me there?” she asked in a small voice.

He put his arms around her. “How could you think that? Yes, I want you there. I want you. I love you.” He held her close. “I just don’t know how it happened so quickly.”

He took her hand and they sat down on the couch. Ginny curled up across his lap again and they sat quietly for a long time. Steve was stroking her hair and her back.

“When I left your dad, the thought I had was to end…this…with you. Do the mission and maybe sometime in the future we could get together again.”

Ginny pulled away to look at him.

Steve smiled sadly at her and wiped his nose quickly with the back of his hand.

“I thought I could do it. We’ve only known each other a couple of weeks. Should have been easy.” He couldn’t look at her.

Ginny laid her head back on his chest and held him tight.

“Love sucks sometimes.” she whispered.

“No, love is fabulous. Life sucks sometimes.” he said.

“So, long story short, we’re going after Hydra together and I’d better hope nothing happens to you ‘cause your dad will kill me.” Steve kissed the top of her head. “He may still kill me when I tell him tomorrow, but I hope you’ll be with me to stop him.”

“Don’t worry, baby. I’ll protect you.” Ginny said with a giggle.

Steve laughed quietly. “My warrior.”

“So sounds like you had an interesting visit with papa.” Ginny said, ironically.

“I had to leave. I was worried he’d have another heart attack.” he said, seriously. “Maybe you should call him to make sure he’s okay.”

“Wow! That bad?” she said.

“Not as bad as thinking about losing you.” Steve held her out so he could kiss her. Ginny wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

“It’s late. We should get some sleep. We’ve got another big day tomorrow.” Steve said against her lips, then kissed her again.

“We could just sleep here again.” she said touching his nose with hers as he sought her lips again.

“Hmmm…” he hummed as he pulled back. “Very tempting idea.” He stroked her faded red bangs back from her forehead.

Ginny lay back against his arm and whispered, “They say that sleeping together is more intimate than sex.”

“Really?” Steve seemed surprised.

“When you’re sleeping, you’re not in control. There’s a great deal of trust in sharing that dream time.” she said. “There’s some loss of control during sex but not to the same degree.”

“I’ll have to take your word for that.” Steve said, letting his hand drop to her hip.

Ginny was looking at him intensely.

“No.” Steve said, firmly.

“What?” Ginny feigned innocence.

“If you’re scheming to get me into your bed tonight, you can forget it.” He smiled to take some of the sting from his words, but he was very serious.

She sighed and said, “I know. Dating the commander is iffy; sleeping with him is definitely out. Or I guess I should say having sex with him, because I’ve already slept with him.”

“Our time will come.” he said and kissed her again.

They stayed there talking about fighting and shooting and her moving to Stark Tower the next day and what colour to dye her hair for the mission. It was very late when they made their way to their beds.

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