A Time for Heroes – Chapter 17

Mission LaunchSix-thirty came early and Ginny wasn’t the only one who was groggy at breakfast. She had stopped to drop her duffel bag off at the loading area before heading to the kitchen for breakfast.

The jet would be flying them to the Avenger’s training centre in upstate New York at 8 am. Loading had been going on through the night.

Pepper wasn’t at breakfast. She and Tony had said goodbye the night before and Tony had left her sleeping.

“Eat up everyone.” Steve said, sitting down with his coffee and Ginny’s tea. “We won’t be eating this well on the mission.” An omelette was placed in front of Ginny…all she really wanted was her tea and some fruit. But once she started eating, she found she was ravenous.

Ginny was only half finished her breakfast when Steve got up to leave.

“I have to be there for the finish of loading.” he explained to Ginny.

She turned her face up and he leaned down for a quick kiss.

“Take your time. I’ll see you down there.” Steve said, and was gone.

No one was very talkative that morning and as people finished, they headed out. When Ginny left, Nat and Tony were still finishing up.

In the loading area, Ginny was ushered right onto the jet and shown where to sit. Sam was already there with his head back and earphones in, listening to music. He gave Ginny a little wave.

Nat came on board and sat next to Sam leaving the seat next to Ginny open.

Tony came on and ran through safety stuff for her benefit. Parachutes, life jackets, exits. Ginny nodded at the end, hoping she wouldn’t have to use any of it.

“Don’t worry, Geneviève. I’ll get us there safely.” Tony said.

“I’d appreciate it.” Ginny said with a smile. Tony squeezed her shoulder and headed forward.

Steve finally came in a few minutes later with his tablet.

“All loaded.” he said, tucking the tablet away in the overhead storage. “Did Tony go over safety stuff?” he asked Ginny.

“Yes, all done.” she answered.

“Great, belt in and I’ll see if Tony’s ready to take off.” and Steve headed forward as well.

Moments later Steve was back and strapped in as they were taking off. They would only be in the air about 40 minutes and even though they could have unstrapped and moved around the cabin, everyone just sat, still trying to wake up, each alone with their own thoughts.

Ginny looked up at Steve. It took him a moment to notice, but he smiled down at her.

“I hate the waiting.” He took her hand. “I’m glad we’re underway.”

He kissed her hand and held it on the armrest.

It made Ginny much less nervous to see Steve so relaxed.

 

The jet landed right on the helicarrier and Steve offered to show Ginny around. They left the jet hand-in-hand.

They started with Ginny’s sleeping quarters. Her duffel hadn’t been brought down yet. From there, they went to his office and quarters.

“I don’t end up spending a lot of time here. I’m usually on the bridge.” Steve said.

That’s where they went next. Steve showed her the com monitors.

“Each of us on the ground team are hooked up and monitored. If there’s ever a problem, you’ll be able to see if here.” Steve told her.

Nick Fury was on the bridge and introduced Ginny to Maria Hill, who greeted her with a handshake and a smile.

From there, they went to the training centre, which included a well-appointed gym and arena. She’d have to see if Nat would have time to spar before they were deployed.

Next stop was the infirmary, where she’d be working.

Dr. Singh was there and greeted Steve familiarly and welcomed Ginny to the team. She called the rest of the team over to introduce them and let everyone know what Ginny’s role would be.

Dr. Singh showed Ginny to her workbench where Steve’s combat prosthetic was, as well as Bucky’s.

“Figured you might as well make sure they’re in good repair before we deploy.” Steve said.

“I was hoping that was the case.” she said. “You’ve been using it a lot in the arena, so I’ll check it out.”

“Jas, Ginny shouldn’t be too busy.” Steve said to Dr. Singh. “Feel free to put her to work. I know there’s always something to do down here.”

“You may be busier than you think.” Jas said to Ginny. “Everyone spends time in the arena so I could really use a physiotherapist here some days.”

“Jas, do you need Ginny now?” Steve asked. “I just have a couple more things I need to show her.” He looked down seriously at Ginny.

“No, go ahead, Steve, Ginny. I’ll see you back here once we’ve launched.” Jas said to Ginny.

From there, they went to the canteen.

“You can usually get food 24 hours a day here; everyone’s schedule is so different.” Steve explained. He introduced Ginny to the head chef.

“I was kidding about the food this morning. It’s actually pretty good.” Steve said, once they were out of the canteen.

“I have one more place to show you.” Steve said, grabbing her hand.

This spot didn’t seem to be official. They had to go through a couple of storage units to get to a small observation pod.

“Right now, there’s not much to see,” Steve said, “but once we’re airborne, the view from here is breathtaking. This is where I come to decompress.”

Ginny turned to look at him for a second, then looked away with a smile.

She shook her head and said. “You’re not being very commander-y since we’ve come aboard.”

“What do you mean?” Steve said.

“Well, holding my hand, showing me your favourite romantic hiding spot. It’s all very sweet, but not what I expected.” Ginny sat down on the leather padded seat.

He sat down beside her, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.

“Once we get underway, we’ll hardly see each other.” he said. “I’m just taking the time before I have to truly command the mission to spend with you.”

“If your whole team knows we’re in a relationship, won’t that cause you problems?” she said, her concern clear in her voice.

“Ginny, I know my team. They know I wouldn’t bring someone on a mission who wasn’t necessary. And they know that I’m not one to show favouritism.” Steve said, sitting back and putting his arm around her. She snuggled in and draped her legs over one of his.

“I won’t lie to you. This mission will be dangerous for me. I don’t want to regret missed opportunities if something happens.”

Ginny tightened her grip around him.

“Don’t.” she whispered, and they sat in silence for a few minutes.

“You have to come back.” Ginny said finally. “I have several rude things I want to do to you.” She didn’t look up at him but smiled.

He chuckled. “Rude things?”

“Yes.” she said. “Things that would probably make you blush if I told you about them.”

Ginny looked up at Steve to see his reaction and he claimed her lips for a deep and passionate kiss.

“Rude things.” Steve said again, his eyes still closed. “Sounds like a great incentive to come back safe.” He kissed her again.

Steve could feel things beginning to shift; systems being tested, engines being primed. He knew that their time together was over. He’d have just enough time to get into his uniform to be on the bridge for launch.

He kissed Ginny again and with a regretful sigh, pulled her arms down from around his neck.

“Time to go and be commander-y.” he said with a sad smile.

Ginny gave him a childish, pouting face and he laughed.

“My feelings exactly.” he said.

“You can watch the launch from the bridge. Anyone without a station to man during launch usually does. It’s quite the thing to see.” Steve said standing up and stretching. He turned around and offered Ginny his hand to get up.

“I have to suit up…” he said.

“And I should touch base with Dr. Singh to see if she needs me in the infirmary for something during launch.” Ginny understood the chain of command and wasn’t about to alienate her boss the first day she was on board.

“Good girl.” Steve said, kissing her hair. “Chain of command. I hope I see you there, though. Medical is usually there.”

 

Steve left Ginny at the infirmary door with his kiss still on her lips and went to change.

Ginny walked into the infirmary to find only Dr. Singh there.

She looked up from her work and greeted Ginny. “Ah, just the person I wanted to see.” She got up and came over to Ginny.

“Everyone else has gone up to the bridge for the launch, but I wanted to talk to you alone for a moment.” Jas was tapping her lip with her finger, thinking how best to say what she needed to say.

“We are all aware of your relationship with Captain Rogers, however, I had hoped that the two of you would be a little more discreet than what I saw today.” She was very serious.

“We are all very happy that Steve has found someone and you two seem happy together, but your relationship puts both of you in difficult positions.”

Ginny looked down at her hands for a second before looking back up at Dr. Singh.

“You know, that’s the exact conversation I just had with Captain Rogers. His demonstrativeness surprised me, too.” she said, holding Dr. Singh’s eyes.

“And what did he say?” Jas asked.

“He said that he knew that the ground mission was very dangerous for him and he didn’t want to regret not spending time with me these last few days before he deploys because of protocols.”

Jas sighed. She’s always known Steve was a true romantic at heart.

“I will definitely try to keep things as platonic as I can, at least in public.” Ginny said, contritely.

“Well, I certainly can’t fault his reasoning.” Dr. Singh said after a moment. “As long as it doesn’t interfere with the work here.”

Dr. Singh smiled at her and said, “Now let’s go watch your man launch this junker!” They walked out of the room together talking about the launch and some of the things Ginny should expect to see happen.

 

On the bridge, Steve was already at the helm and giving orders and receiving updates. He didn’t notice Ginny and Dr. Singh arrive.

Once all was ready, Steve gave the order to launch. He turned around quickly to see if Ginny was there, but didn’t acknowledge her presence with more than a little smile.

Suddenly, they were airborne! Ginny felt the aircraft destabilize as it lifted off the ground. She found herself walking forward to get a better view. When she was adjacent to Steve, he noticed her and smiled.

She looked up at him from across the deck and raised an eyebrow at him in question. He simply waved her forward and didn’t take his eyes off of her.

Ginny was enthralled by the view of the earth falling away under her. She’d flown before but only on commercial aircraft; nothing like this!

Steve was watching Ginny as closely as he was watching his instruments. She turned her head and he saw the look of awe on her face and he was so pleased to be able to give her this experience!

What neither he nor Ginny realized was that his feelings were showing clearly on his face. The rest of the crew saw it, though, and there were lots of smiles. It was good to see him so happy.

As she went back to join the rest of her team, she nodded her thanks and Steve nodded back with a half-smile.

Once they were at their altitude, the medical team headed back to the infirmary. Ginny was planning on pulling apart Steve’s combat prosthetic that afternoon to make sure she had lots of time to do any fixes that might be needed.

She had most of the hydraulics apart an hour later when Dr. Singh called her into a meeting.

There were a dozen of them on the team: doctors, nurses, a psychologist, orderlies and now a physical therapist/orthopedist.

They discussed possible needs and their readiness to meet them. Dr. Singh asked Ginny to speak about her role and then expanded on that to include regular physio with three crew members that were in treatment on land as well as dealing with any soft tissue injuries incurring in the arena.

The meeting lasted an hour and Ginny left with a new understanding and respect for the rest of her team.

Dr. Singh held her back. “You and I have a date in the arena tomorrow morning.” she said. “I know Steve said your skills are beyond his expectations, but I always like to assess my staff myself. Helps to know everyone’s strengths if we do end up having to defend our position.” she said, simply.

“Sounds reasonable.” Ginny said. “I could use a work out anyways. It’s been a couple of days.”

“07 00 in the arena, then.” Dr. Singh said. “And we can go to the shooting range and have them issue you your side arm. I see you don’t have it yet.” Ginny nodded agreement and went back to her workbench.

 

Ginny had forgotten how much she enjoyed working on a bench. When Steve found her three hours later, she had grease all over her hands and she had wiped away a stray hair and left a mark on her cheek.

He smiled and picked up a rag to wipe the grease off of her face.

“I leave you for any afternoon and you become a grease monkey!” he said.

She took the rag from him and finished wiping her face and tried to clean her hands off.

Then she looked at her watch – 6:30.

“Are you all done captaining for today?” she asked.

“Sort of. I ordered dinner for two in my cabin, if you’re hungry.” Steve offered.

Ginny had not had anything to eat since breakfast and was starving.

“Sounds great. Let me just clean this up a bit so I don’t misplace anything.” she said, starting to tidy up her bench.

“Any problems with the leg?” Steve asked, picking up the foot, which was lying on the bench.

“Just a little wear and tear, but I want to make sure it’s 100% when you need it.” she said, pushing in the drawer she had just put all of the little odds and ends in. “Do you know yet when the team will be deployed?”

Steve looked around quickly. “We can discuss that upstairs.”

“Give me 5 minutes to clean this up and we can go.” she said, putting tools away.

“I’ll just be over with Dr. Singh.” he said and walked over to where Jas was working.

Ginny joined them a few minutes later.

Steve turned to her and said, “Ready?”

Ginny nodded and smiled at Dr.Singh.

“I hear you two are sparring tomorrow morning.” Steve said to Ginny. Then he turned to Jas and said, “You’d better bring your A-game, Jas. This one’s a tough cookie.”

“I always do, Steve.” she said, smiling at the two of them. “See you 07 00, Ginny. Enjoy your dinner.”

They walked together to the commander’s quarters, talking quietly about inconsequential things. Steve was stopped once to look at something. He looked at it quickly and asked that the report be sent to him so he could review it in the morning.

Ginny just had time to see a covered dish and two places before Steve turned her around and pulled her into a deep and passionate kiss. Then he held her for a long time.

“Did you even have time to miss me today?” Ginny asked, looking up at him.

“Not until I thought about coming up here and eating dinner alone. You don’t mind do you?” Steve said, stroking her cheek.

“I hadn’t even thought about dinner, so I probably would have grabbed a sandwich in the canteen if you hadn’t saved me.” she said and kissed him again.

“Much better company here.” she said, quietly.

“I ordered Beef Bourguignon for 2 and Tony picked the wine.” Steve said, pulling out a chair for her.

Ginny hesitated a second before sitting down. “You know, Dr. Singh had a conversation with me about our relationship today.”

Steve froze. “What did she say?” he asked.

“She said everyone knew about us but that she had expected more discretion.”

Steve sat down, still looking wary. “And…?” he asked.

“And I told her what you said about not wanting any regrets, and she said as long as it didn’t impact operations in her infirmary.” Ginny answered, putting her napkin on her lap.

Steve’s forehead creased with worry. “I hope we don’t impact operations anywhere.” he said, as he started to serve out the beef and vegetables.

“If I get anymore feedback or see anything untoward, I’ll report it to command.” she said, formally.

Steve smiled at this and poured her a little bit of wine to taste. She was no wine connoisseur, but with relatives in France, she’d been exposed to a lot of very good wine in her lifetime and knew what she liked. A quick swirl and taste told her that this was an excellent vintage for Beef Bourguignon.

She closed her eyes to savour the finish and said, “Thank you, Tony! This is perfect!”

“Oh, good.” Steve said, pouring them each a glass. “I don’t know wine at all so I’ll depend on you for this.”

Steve sat down and they talked easily throughout the meal. Steve told her about the launch and the few things that were of out the ordinary. Ginny told him about the other staff in the infirmary and what she’d found to fix on his combat leg.

Finally, Ginny said, “Can you tell me when you guys are deploying or is that a mission secret?”

“Not a secret, but not common knowledge.” Steve said. “We’ll be over the drop zone early on Saturday, but we won’t deploy until Sunday, once we’ve gather more intel.”

“Good. Give me time to finish up with your leg; then I can get Bucky down. His arm is a little more complex and integrated, so I’ll have to work with him on it.” Ginny said. “I’d like to see you in the arena to make sure everything’s in perfect working order before Sunday.”

Steve nodded. “Let me know when you’re done and I’ll see when Thor and I can get together in the arena.”

“Is Thor the only one you’ll spar with?” Ginny asked.

“I don’t like pulling my punches.” Steve answered, simply. “I’ll go up against Tony and Vision, too, but that’s about it.”

Once they were done dinner, Steve grabbed a tray of dark chocolate from the counter behind him. “Red wine and dark chocolate?” he asked. “Good match?”

“Mmm…perfect.” Ginny said, savouring a bite of the bitter chocolate. Steve tried it too and found it delicious.

“Jas says she hasn’t scheduled you for a shift because you look like you’ll be pretty busy, at least until we leave.” Steve said. “After that, she’ll play it by ear.”

“The busier I am once you’re gone, the less time I’ll have to imagine the worst.” Ginny said, quietly.

Steve reached across the table and took her hand. “I am really glad you’re along on this mission, but I’m not sure how easy it’s going to be emotionally.” he said.

“Are you kidding?” she said. “I’d be worrying now if I was back home.”

Steve chuckled. “True. It’s early. Do you want to check out the observation pod?”

Ginny just smiled and nodded.

“Give me a second to get out of this uniform.” Steve said, and went through to his bedroom.

A couple of minutes later, he reappeared in jeans and a t-shirt. “Do you want to change, too?” he asked, realizing she was still in her uniform.

“I’m good. This uniform is like a second skin.” Ginny said, twisting a little bit. “I could do yoga in this.”

“I’m going to have to make some time for yoga, too.” Steve said, shaking his head. “Don’t know when.”

“We’ll work it out.” she said, putting her arms around his neck and kissing him.

 

They walked hand in hand to the observation pod where the view of the night sky was breathtaking. Neither of them felt the need to talk. They sat together watching the universe go by.

Eventually, Ginny curled up in Steve’s lap and laid her ear against his chest, listening to his heartbeat. He held her close, stroking her back absently. He wasn’t sure why holding her in his arms helped him to think, but it did.

Ginny felt herself drifting to sleep, so she sat up, disturbing Steve’s thoughts.

“Sorry, sweetie. I’m falling asleep and sleeping with the commander is a no-no.” She smiled teasingly at him. She checked her watch – 10:30 – not as late as she had thought.

“I can hear you thinking and I don’t want to interrupt…” she stopped. She was looking at him closely.

Steve pulled her back down to him and said, “Just a few more minutes and I’ll have all the world’s problems solved. If I have to, I can carry you to your quarters.”

She kissed him quickly and snuggled back in to his chest. “No, just wake me. I’ll walk. It wouldn’t look too good to have you carrying me off to bed.” she said.

He smiled down at her stroking a stray hair off of her cheek, then he held her close again.

Once he had settled his mind on a few more matters for the next day, he kissed Ginny’s forehead and said, “Ready for bed, love?”

Ginny just snuggled in closer and said, “Have you solved poverty and found peace in the Middle East?”

He chuckled. “Nothing so grandiose…just trying to find time in my day tomorrow for yoga, which I didn’t, and you, which I don’t have a choice on.”

She smiled and sat up. “You are so sweet.” she said, rubbing her nose against his.

He turned his head so he could kiss her instead. “So are you.” he said.

But it was late and their beds were calling them. Steve walked with Ginny to her quarters and stepped inside so he could kiss her properly away from prying eyes. Then he found his way to his own bed.

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