Even after a late night, Ginny woke early the next morning. Seeing it was only 6 am, she was very tempted to roll over and try to sleep some more. But as soon as her eyes had opened, her brain had kicked into overdrive thinking about all that she had to deal with that day.
She groaned as she got up. She was sore in places she’d never been sore before. She tried to stretch it out, but it wasn’t working.
Yoga, she thought. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d done a good yoga practice. That would help clear her mind, strengthen her body, and get her ready for the day ahead.
So she dressed in yoga gear, pulled out a couple of statues and trinkets she used to help focus her meditation and headed for the gym.
But she wasn’t the only one in need of refocusing this morning. Steve had already pulled out one mat and when he saw her, he laid out a second.
“Thought you were running this morning.” she said, stretching up to kiss him.
“I can run after. I just needed to refocus after yesterday. And it’s been a while.” Steve shrugged. Ginny set out her meditation aids, which included a laughing Buddha statue as well as Ganesh and Kali, the goddess of destruction and transformation. She wasn’t a usual goddess that westerners turned to, but Ginny felt a strong connection to her. She also had some crystals – citrine and hematite and malachite, and a Himalayan singing bowl. She laid these all out on a purple cloth with the ‘Om’ symbol stitched on it.
“Pagan idols?” Steve asked, a little surprised.
“Meditation aids. It helps me sometime to have something to focus on.” She slowly hovered her hand over each piece. “Laughing Buddha for joy; Ganesh for strength; Kali for transformation and acceptance; Citrine for balance, Hematite for connection to the earth; Malachite for personal protection, and we’ll finish with the singing bowl. And all on the OM symbol, which represents the universe and all that’s in it.”
Steve stood looking down at this little altar for a moment and then looked at her.
She smiled up at him. “I guess spirituality is something else we haven’t talked about yet.”
Steve laughed quietly. “Well, what you just said certainly makes as much sense as praying to a statue in a church.”
He reached over and squeezed her shoulder. She went and put on her yoga mix of soft eastern music and they got started.
Steve hadn’t had a personal practise in a long time, so he followed Ginny and for an hour and a half, they both found peace.
After lying in Savasana for a while, they took a cross-legged position and Ginny reached for the bowl.
“Let the tone of the singing bowl wash away any debris still cluttering your mind. This will bring into clearer focus that which is most important in your life right now.”
Steve watched as Ginny started the bowl singing by running the stick around the outside of the rim. Then she stopped and holding the bowl in the palm of her hand lifted it in front of her. The tone got louder and more resonant. Steve could feel it in his chest and his throat.
Eventually, the tone died away. Ginny made it sing again. The she passed the bowl to him. It took Steve a couple of times to get the singing started but once he did, he could feel it washing away stray thoughts. The only thought left was of Ginny and keeping her safe on this mission. He tried again, and she still stayed in his mind…just her this time…no mission.
He opened his eyes; he hadn’t realized he had closed them; and looked at the bowl before handing it back to Ginny.
“Powerful, eh?” she said, as she place the bowl back on the altar. She turned towards him and bringing her hands to prayer position, said “Namaste” to end their yoga practise and he answered in kind.
Ginny sprayed the mats with something containing tea tree oil and wiped them down. The whole gym was fragrant with the scent.
She stood and looked at the mats for a moment. “I think I’ll leave them. Maybe we can do yoga every day until we leave. It certainly will help with the stress.”
“Agreed.” Steve said. He took her hand and kissed it, then they walked hand in hand to go and find some food.
Tony and Pepper were in the kitchen and Pepper ordered two more omelettes when she saw them.
Pepper noticed them holding hands and said, “No more hiding?”
“Nope. Seems we weren’t very good at it anyways.” Steve said. “Did everyone know?”
“Probably before you even admitted it to yourself, buddy.” Tony said. “You certainly weren’t smiling this much before you two met.”
Two delicious omelettes were placed in front of them and Steve and Ginny ate voraciously. Dinner had been early the night before with lots of work afterwards so they were both starving.
As they sat sipping tea and coffee afterwards, they discussed their day.
“We’ll have to be in the arena by 2, and we can’t see your dad until 10. Do you want to go to your apartment and get your stuff moved over?” Steve asked. It was just before 9.
“Even if we fly, we won’t make it to pack and see papa. Let’s drive to the hospital and get that out of the way.” Ginny pulled a scary face at Steve and he smiled. “Then we can go and pack and be back here for two.”
Steve nodded and finished his coffee.
Tony and Pepper looked at each other after Steve and Ginny left.
“I feel sorry for them going into the lion’s den.” Tony said, shaking his head.
It was a silent ride. Neither Steve nor Ginny were in the mood to listen to music. Both were lost in deep thought.
At the hospital, they held hands for support. When they walked into Claude’s room, though, Steve hung back and let Ginny go and greet her dad, while he stayed by the door, his arms crossed across his chest.
Claude nodded at Steve, but other than that, he ignored him.
Ginny chatted with her dad for a few minutes before the tension in the room made them fall silent as well.
Claude sighed and said, “I believe Captain Rogers and I have a conversation to finish.”
“If you think I’m leaving, Papa, you are sorely mistaken.” Ginny said with her hands on her hips.
Claude looked to Steve for support, but Steve shook his head and said, “She can stay. This affects her, too.”
Claude knew when he was beat.
“You said last night that I had given you a lot to think about.” Claude said, giving Steve his opening.
“I spent a long time thinking about what you said last night, Claude, and you made some great points.” Steve said, not moving from his spot by the door. “But Ginny is still coming on this mission with us.”
Claude took a breath to speak but Steve raised a hand to stop him.
“Hear me out.” he said. “We would have preferred to take you, but you are incapacitated at the moment. And your heart issues would have shown up in your medical anyways and disqualified you.”
He turned to Ginny and said, “You’ll be going through that, too, probably on Monday.”
“But we do need someone with us to keep the prosthetics in good shape and do repairs, if needed.” Steve paused.
“Ginny will be in a support role under the direct command of the chief medical officer. Although I’m in command of the entire mission, I’ll be leading the ground offensive, so I won’t be her commanding officer day-to-day.”
“So you think that makes this okay?” Claude indicated him and Ginny with a hand gesture.
“Okay.” Steve said, quietly, shaking his head. “It doesn’t matter if it’s ‘okay’. It’s what is going to happen.”
Claude was getting angrier by the minute. “Can you at least assure me that she’ll be safe? You won’t even be with her to protect her.”
“She really doesn’t need protection, Claude.” Steve said, with a smile in Ginny’s direction. “She is already a force to be reckoned with and with the training she’s receiving, I wouldn’t even want to go up against her.”
“And,” Steve said before Claude could interject, “she will be on a well-defended aircraft with other agents who are trained in combat, too.”
Steve put his hand on Ginny’s shoulder and looking at her fondly, said, “Claude, I have as much reason as you to want her to come through this safely.” he said.
Ginny smiled up at him and covered his hand with hers and Claude knew he had lost.
He held both hands out to his daughter and she stepped forward to take his hands.
“Es-tu sûr, ma petite?” Claude asked her in French – are you sure?
“Oui, papa.” she said and kissed his hands.
Steve saw that his presence was an intrusion now. So he put his hand on Ginny’s back and said he’d wait for her outside. She smiled and nodded.
He found a seat just up the hall and took a deep breath. He hadn’t realized how nervous he had been, but it had gone better than he thought it would. He just hoped Claude wasn’t giving Ginny grief now.
Ginny came out about 15 minutes later and Steve walked up the hall to meet her. Her eyes were red and she still had a tissue in her hand.
The bastard had to make her cry, Steve thought uncharitably…but he smiled at her when she came up to him.
“Everything okay?” He knew it wasn’t. She walked into his arms and let him hold her for a minute before answering.
“He’s going to be so alone while I’m gone.” she said, finally.
“You’ll be able to call him; we can even set up video conferencing if you want. And he has friends here.”
Ginny wiped her nose and said, “I know. Just normal daddy-daughter guilt stuff. He’s had a heart attack. He’s entitled.”
Steve laughed and then shrugged and said, “Okay, then.” He put his arm around her and they started walking towards the elevators.
“So 11 o’clock. Packing?” she said.
“Sounds good. Maybe we can grab some lunch on the way back to Tony’s, if you’re hungry.” Steve said.
“I’ve got some stuff in the fridge to get rid of. I haven’t been home a lot lately, but I might be able to pull something together.” Ginny offered trying to think what she might have.
As it turned out, she didn’t have much that was fit to eat…a couple of apples was about the only thing in her fridge she didn’t have to toss.
“So much for lunch.” she said apologetically. “I usually have a pretty well stocked fridge and pantry.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Steve said, taking a bite of his apple. “I don’t even want to think about what my fridge looks like. I haven’t been home since before the attack.”
Once she had cleaned out the fridge, she moved on to the bedroom, where a lot of her clothes were dirty. Laundry was something she’d let slide, too.
“I’m assuming Stark Tower has laundry facilities.” Ginny said, sorting through clothes in her dirty clothes bin.
Steve smiled and nodded and picked up a picture from Ginny’s dresser.
“Is this you and your mom?” he asked.
She came over to look at it with him, even though she’d seen it every day for as long as she could remember.
He handed her the picture and she took it and looked at it for a long time.
“Dad gave this to me after she died and told me never to forget.” She held the frame for a minute, stroking the glass over her mom’s face and placed it on the pile of stuff she was packing.
“Can’t leave mom behind.” she said, softly and smiled.
She looked around the room and grabbed BJ Birdie and added him to the pile, too.
“I don’t need anything formal, eh?” she asked, looking in her closet where there were a bunch of dresses. “The Avengers don’t hold formal dinners or anything?”
Steve laughed. “No. In fact, you’ll probably mostly be wearing your uniforms.”
She hadn’t thought of that. She’d never had a uniform before. So she re-sorted her mostly dirty clothes into a much smaller pile and grabbed a suitcase to pack it all in.
Steve wandered back out into the living room and found a photo album that looked like it was from Ginny’s high school and college years.
Lots of different faces through high school, but one that kept recurring…a pretty blonde with a sassy look. Ginny walked by behind Steve to see what he was looking at.
“That’s Sylvie,” she said, pointing to the blonde, “the one that’s getting married. We were pretty tight before I moved down here.”
Further on, he found a guy with a motorcycle, swarthy and always seeming to have a 5 o’clock shadow. In all of the pictures of Ginny with him, she looked sad. Smiling but sad.
She walked by and stopped. Steve turned to look at her.
“Troy?” he asked, pointing to one picture of the two of them.
She nodded and said, “Yeah, Troy.” then she was off again.
She came out with two boxes of hair dye and said, “What do you think? Camouflage green or Avengers blue.?”
“Bring ‘em both. You can decide there.” he said, putting the photo album down and standing up. “Just about ready?”
She sighed. “No.” she said, then, “Yes. I guess if there’s anything I’ve forgotten that I really need, I can pop back in.”
“You’re not leaving forever; just for a couple of weeks.” he said.
She grabbed the garbage to take down to the dumpster and Steve grabbed her suitcase, and she locked the door.
The next few days went by in a blur. There was daily training in the arena and shooting range. Steve was pleased with her progress…by Monday, she was easily making both shots on moving targets and shots set up on the move.
Daily visits as well with her dad, who was starting to get excited with her about the upcoming mission and her success in training. Now that he was allowed visitors, there was usually someone with him when she left. Ginny was starting to feel less guilty about leaving him.
Ginny had a nice long chat with Sylvie, which consisted mainly of calming pre-wedding jitters. Ginny told her a little about her training and the mission and about Steve. They were both excited to see each other and Ginny promised a nice long call when she returned.
Ginny also talked to each of the kids in her group. She wouldn’t see them again before she left and she wanted to let them know what was going on. She was going to try to set something up by video conference with Sunny, her replacement, but she hadn’t worked out the logistics yet.
And through each day, time with Steve was woven in. A lot of his time was taken up with logistics and meetings. They’d try to meet up for yoga in the morning and find each other in the evening to decompress and share their days. Her training was mostly being run by JP now, although Steve tried to pop in and see her progress at least once a day.
The team that was still left in New York would be leaving early Wednesday morning, so Tuesday night’s dinner was a farewell.Nat and Sam were there; they had stayed behind to help her with training; as well as Tony and Pepper, who were clinging to each other. They had already sat down to the first course when Steve joined them. He kissed Ginny quickly and sat next to her.
“Had to stop and get the results of your medical.” he said to Ginny, and he starting eating.
“So.” Ginny said. “Don’t keep me in suspense. What deadly disease do I have?”
“Sorry.” he said. “No, you’re perfect.”
She smiled, shyly. “Good to hear. Guess a predisposition to get weepy at romcoms doesn’t disqualify me.”
Nat laughed. “No. Those get to me, too.”
Steve wasn’t sure what they were talking about, so a discussion of their favourite romantic movies ensued. When they were done, Steve wished he hadn’t asked.
Ginny wanted to play piano after dinner so she and Steve excused themselves to the music room. Nat and Sam followed but Tony and Pepper went to say their private goodbyes.
Ginny played a few classical pieces just to warm up and then got into some sing-a-long stuff that brought Nat and Sam up, both with strong voices.
They were all tired, though and Nat and Sam left fairly early and Steve sat down on the piano bench with Ginny as she played the first notes of ‘New York State of Mind’.
She played it through and then stopped and rested her head on his shoulder. He put his arm around her and stroked her arm.
There didn’t seem to be any more words to say. They were both focused on the mission and being strong for one another, so they couldn’t put voice to their fears.
“Do you want to play some more?” Steve asked after a few minutes of silence.
“No, I’m done.” Ginny said, and closed the keyboard.
“Let’s go look at the city, then.” Steve stood up and offered her his hand and they went to find solace in the Great Room.
They cuddled together in silence for a long time; it was enough to have their arms around each other, to be aware of the other’s breathing and movements. But slowly, they started to talk about their days.
Ginny had just kissed him deeply. She was looking at him and stroking his cheek with her thumb.
“Are you okay?” she asked. “You seem distracted.”
“Just lots of things on my mind.” he said, stroking her face.
She kissed him again. “Am I too distracting?” she said against his lips.
“Nothing I can’t handle.” he said and pulled her close to deepen the kiss.
Steve pulled back and said, “I’m glad you went with Avenger’s blue. It looks great with your uniform.”
“It just felt right.” she said. “Glad you approve.”
“How are you feeling about everything?” Steve asked. “I want you to feel like you’re part of the team.”
“I guess I’ll meet the medical team tomorrow. I’ll feel better once I’ve met them, I think.” she said. “Everyone I know will be going on the ground mission.”
“I think you’ll fit in fine.” he said. “We’ve got a great medical team.” That distracted look was back.
“We’ll be landing the jet at HQ around noon. Once we’re there, we probably won’t see much of each other until we’ve launched. I’ll take you to meet Dr. Singh, the chief medical officer, and she can show you what’s what in the infirmary.” Steve was talking his thoughts through. Ginny had seen her dad do this often.
Steve kept talking and Ginny listened carefully so she could help in any way possible.
After about half an hour, Ginny yawned, not from boredom, just fatigue.
“We need sleep.” Steve said, moving to get up.
Ginny forestalled him with a deep, passionate kiss that left him a little breathless.
She stood up and offered him a hand up, which he took.
Steve put his arm around Ginny and walked her to her room.
“Are you all packed?” he asked at the door, stalling.
“Just a few more things to throw in in the morning after I shower.” she answered.
Steve put his hands on her shoulders. “I’m going to miss our evenings together.”
“I guess we’ll have to go back to sending sweet texts back and forth.” she said, turning her head to kiss one of the hands on her shoulders.
He chuckled. “Those were fun.” he said. “I’ll try to catch up with you some time during the day until we’re deployed.”
Ginny put her hand on his heart. “You are my heart, you know that don’t you? Please come back to me.” Her voice was soft but firm.
Steve put his hand over hers and brought it up to his lips and kissed her palm.
“I love you, Geneviève. I’ll be back.” he said. “You stay safe for me.”
Steve kissed her softly and sweetly on the lips, held her to his chest for a moment before saying, “I’ll see you first thing for breakfast.” He kissed her again and opened her door for her.
“Sleep well, darling.” he said and closed the door.