A Time for Heroes – Chapter 18

Waiting for DeploymentDr. Singh was waiting for Ginny when she arrived at the arena at about 5 minutes to 7. Both had worn their uniforms as that’s what they’d have to wear in a fight.

Neither one was quite awake enough for small talk, so they squared off and started sparring.

They were very evenly matched and for every time Jas sat Ginny back on the seat of her pants, Ginny did the same to her.

After about 15 minutes, Ginny looked up to see Steve watching them from the observation booth. He hadn’t told her he’d be there. But she needed all of her wits about her to fend off Jas’ attacks, so she didn’t have time to think much about it.

After an hour, it was clear that neither one of them had any great advantage over the other and Dr. Singh had a good feel for Ginny’s fighting style. She called a stop to the session and shook Ginny’s hand.

“You didn’t learn to fight like that in a couple of weeks.” Jas said to her.

Ginny shook her head. “I got a lot out of training with Nat and JP, but I came into it as an MMA Master.”

“Can I assume that you’re as competent with a gun?” Jas asked.

“That needed a little more work coming in, I think, but Steve and Nat made sure I wasn’t lacking there.” Ginny said.

“You could still stand to spend some time with Nat at the shooting range.” Steve said, coming over to join them.

“Do you think she’d have time to work with me before the team deploys?” Ginny asked, turning towards him.

Steve sent a quick text. “Let’s see. You haven’t been issued a weapon yet, have you?”

Ginny shook her head. “Nat can meet you there in 10 minutes.” he said.

“In the meantime, let’s go and see what you can do.” Jas said, leading the way.

Steve got her weapon issued to her and showed her how to sign out rounds. He told her she should have her weapon with her always, loaded and safetied. It wouldn’t do her any good sitting in her quarters. If she found it awkward to wear while working, they could have a holster mounted under her workbench.

Ginny put the pistol into the holster that was part of her uniform.

“It’s fine.” she said.

Ginny demonstrated her shooting skills for Jas while she and Steve talked. Then Nat showed up and put her through her paces with the laser pistols, setting up shots on the run.

When they were done, Steve came over and squeezed Ginny’s shoulder and said, “Nicely done. I’ve got to go though. I’ll see you later…?”

“Of course. Just let me know what’s going on tonight.” she answered, holstering her pistol.

“I will.” and with another squeeze, he was gone. She smiled after him. You’re learning, Rogers, she thought.

 

Ginny went for a shower and grabbed some breakfast before heading for the infirmary.

The day passed quietly and quickly again. Mid-afternoon, she realized that she had a problem with Steve’s leg she wasn’t sure how to fix, so she Skyped Joseph so that he could walk her through the process. It was relatively simple, but she didn’t want to wing it and get it wrong.

That done, she just had to reattach the foot mechanism and she was done. It was 3:30 when she texted Steve to let him know his prosthetic was ready for testing.

He responded quickly.

 

I’m with Thor now. We’ll meet you in the arena.

 

Ginny told Dr. Singh that she was going to the arena and why.

Jas told her, “That’s fine…and anyone who can set me down as often as you did this morning can call me Jas. You should spar with the others on the team as well. I’ll set up a two on two situation for tomorrow morning. The others have done this before and you should know their strengths, too.”

“Thanks, Jas. 07 00 again?” Ginny asked. Jas nodded and Ginny packed up the prosthetic and a small toolbox and headed for the arena.

Steve was sitting with his other leg already off and talking to Thor.

“Anxious, aren’t we?” Ginny said, teasingly.

“Just trying to make your job easier.” Steve answered with a smile.

She knelt down in front of him to help him on with the combat prosthetic and Thor knelt beside her.

“You won’t be on the ground with us.” Thor said to Ginny. “Show me in case there are any problems.”

So Ginny and Steve showed Thor how the leg attached and reacted to Steve’s movements; how the hydraulics worked and what minor repairs may be needed in the field. Ginny would put together a toolkit that they could take.

Once the prosthetic was on and Ginny had made a few adjustments, Steve said, “Time for some field testing.”

Ginny stood to one side and watched, stopping them occasionally to adjust something on Steve’s prosthetic. Then she went into the observation booth to watch and see that it was working well.

They sparred for about half an hour, then Steve called up to her, “So do I pass inspection?”. Ginny nodded and came out.

Steve was sitting and had already removed the combat prosthetic and was putting the other one back on.

“It feels good.” Steve said. “Very smooth and fluid in its motion. Did you make some changes?”

“No, just made sure it was well lubed and that all of the joints properly fitted.” she answered.

“Will you be joining us at dinner tonight?” Thor asked. “The whole team has assembled.”

Ginny looked at Steve and he nodded.

“Thanks for stealing my thunder, Hammerhead.” Steve said to Thor, teasingly. “I hadn’t asked her yet!”

“Stealing thunder is what I do.” Thor said seriously. Steve laughed at that.

“It’s just an expression, Thor.” he said. Thor looked a little confused but smiled nonetheless.

Steve was standing and he took Ginny’s hands.

“It’s in the conference room. Do you know where that is?” Steve asked. “It’s right next to my quarters.”

“I’ll find it.” she said. She was surprised then as Steve leaned in and gave her a long, lingering kiss.

When he pulled away, she cocked an eyebrow at him. He was truly running hot and cold today.

“Do you know how many times I’ve had to watch this guy and Jane making out?” Steve said. “Paybacks.”

“It’s good to see you happy, Rogers.” Thor said, slapping Steve on the back.

Steve smiled at his friend, then turned to Ginny again. He took her left hand and turned it so he could see her watch.

“It’s after 4:30. Some of the team will be there now. Do you have anything else to do in the infirmary?” Steve asked.

“Just drop this stuff off.” She indicated his combat prosthetic and tools. “Jas hasn’t assigned me a shift or other duties yet.”

“Jas, is it?” Steve said with a smile.

“She said anyone who can sit her down as often as I did gets to call her Jas.” Ginny smiled. “I’m working with some of the other medical staff tomorrow morning in 2-on-2 combat situations. That’s going to be something new to me.”

Thor took his leave to go and call Jane before dinner and once Steve helped Ginny pack everything up, they made their way back to the infirmary.

 

The conference room felt too small for the gathering of heroes it contained. Tony came over and greeted Ginny with a big hug. Everyone else greeted her warmly with hugs and handshakes.

Ginny had never met Wanda before this and was a little wary. Part of her power was the ability to read minds.

But Steve greeted her warmly and introduced Ginny as the mission’s prosthetics specialist and physiotherapist.

Wanda took Ginny’s hand and looked into her eyes. “Good to meet you, Ginny.” she said, leaving what she was seeing in Ginny’s mind unsaid.

Dinner was delicious and the conversation was mostly casual. There was some talk about the mission but Ginny got the feeling that most of what they knew had already been talked to death. They were all just impatiently waiting for some action.

Ginny managed to talk to Nat about the team exercises she’d be working on the next day. Nat was able to give her a few tips, but said she usually fought solo.

Ginny also set up some time with Bucky in the morning.

Once dessert was finished, people started heading out with various excuses. Soon, just Bucky, Ginny and Steve remained. Ginny was still slowly eating the fruit from her plate.

Bucky was the last to leave, promising to see Ginny the next morning.

“Alone at last.” she whispered to Steve.

He chuckled. “Let me go change and we can head up to the observation pod.” and he was gone.

Ginny finished her fruit and coffee just as Steve returned. He took her hand and checking that the coast was clear, took her out into the hall.

Their time in the observation pod was much the same as the previous night. Steve was quiet and contemplative and Ginny was happy just to be there with him.

Finally, Ginny asked, “Any new intel on the mission?”

“A little bit. Mostly stuff we already knew, though.”, he answered. “Have you talked to your dad?” He didn’t want to talk about the mission.

“Not yet. I’ll try and get him tonight, I think. Talked to Joseph today, though. He helped me with something on your leg.”

“Glad he was able to help. The leg feels great.”, he said. “Let me know when you’re done with Bucky. I’d like to spend some time with him in the arena.”

“You’ll have to pull your punches.” she said.

He smiled. “But he won’t have to pull his. And I haven’t really seen what his new arm can do.” he said.

“Did you know that he’s always in pain?” she asked.

He looked down at her, concern showing on his face. “No, I didn’t know that. How do you know that?”

“My superpower, remember? I can get people to open up about themselves.” She smiled up at him.

“Can you talk to Jas about that tomorrow and have her take a look when he’s there with you?” he said.

“The docs must have been over him with a fine-toothed comb before letting him join you. It sounded like this was the best they could do. But I will talk to Jas.” she said. “You never know…another opinion. I wonder if he’s ever tried acupressure…” Her voice trailed off.

“You know,” Steve said, brushing bright blue strands of hair out of Ginny’s eye’s, “I don’t come up here to talk about work.”

“I don’t think you come up here to talk at all.” Ginny countered.

“True.” he said.

“But if we come up here to make out, we’ll both be very frustrated.” she said.

He sighed deeply. “True again.” he said. “I am truly looking forward to rude things.” His voice was deep and husky.

“Me, too.” she whispered and kissed him, letting her tongue play with his.

When they broke apart, they were both a little breathless. Steve pulled her close and stroked her back.

“Can you tell me something?” he asked.

“Anything…we have no secrets.” she said, keeping her ear pressed against his chest.

“I know I won’t be first…” he said and paused. “Can you tell me how many there have been?”

She looked at him concerned. “Does it bother you that you won’t be first?” she asked.

He thought about that for a minute. “I always thought it was a little silly to throw two virgins into a room together on their wedding night and expect them to know what to do.” he said, finally. “So, no, it doesn’t bother me that I won’t be first.”

She thought for a moment then said, “I want you to understand that I’ve not been promiscuous…none of these were one night stands…but neither have I been celibate for most of my adult life.”

“I know.” he said, looking down at her. “All of a sudden, I’d just like to know if I’m 2nd or 50th.”

“You will be number 7.” she said, quickly and put her head back down on his chest.

He was quiet for a moment.

“Lucky number 7?” he asked.

She chuckled at that. “I guess we’ll see, won’t we?” she said.

There was another long pause.

“Do you…did you have sex with all of your boyfriends?” Steve asked.

“There were a couple early in high school that I didn’t. Once you’ve had sex, it’s really hard to have a relationship without it. It’s kind of addictive.” she explained.

Steve knew he should let this drop, but he just couldn’t seem to. She didn’t seem nervous or uncomfortable talking about this.

“Who was your first?” he probed.

There was a pause before she answered and for a moment, Steve thought he had gone too far.

“His name was Michel. We were in grade 11 together. We did the holding hands and making out behind the school thing for a couple of weeks. Then he invited me to a football game. His older sister had driven and he got the keys from her and we did it in the backseat of the family car.” She smiled at the reminiscence. “He was sweet and we stayed together most of that year. We broke up over something stupid in the spring. I think we had just run our course.”

“Did anyone ever break your heart?” Steve asked after a few minutes.

She sighed at this. “A few people. Troy for sure.” she answered.

“I thought you ended that.” he said.

“Not because I wanted to.” she said, sadly. “That was self-preservation. He was getting increasingly dangerous to be with and he seemed to take joy in how much he could scare me.”

“But I did love him and it took me a long time to get over him. And just when I was starting to go through a day here and there where I didn’t think about him, he died and it started all over again.” She snuggled in closer to Steve.

He stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head to comfort her.

Something happier, he thought.

“Any proposals along the way?” he asked.

“Just one.” she said and laughed quietly. “From Morgan in kindergarten.”

Steve laughed at this, too.

“But he moved away that summer and I never saw him again. Guess it wasn’t meant to be.” She shook her head. “I haven’t thought about him in years. He was more interested in me than I was in him. I just wanted to play on the swings and slide.”

There was a very long pause and Steve thought Ginny might have fallen asleep.

“You know,” she said, finally, “you may not be the first, but you could be the last.”

That made him stop for a second.

“Are you thinking of us in terms of forever after already?” He tried to say it jokingly, but failed miserably.

“Always.” she said, simply. “Is there any point in going into a relationship if you don’t believe it’s going to last?”

“I guess I never thought about it that way.” he said, wrapping her more tightly in his arms.

“It doesn’t bother you that none of your other relationships lasted?” he asked.

“You know what they say. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.” She looked up at him and kissed him softly.

He thought about this for a long time.

“But what if I can’t give you the life you want, the things you need?” he asked, finally. “I don’t want to just be another frog.” he finished with a sad smile.

She sat up and saw the concern on his face. She put her hand on his cheek and kissed him.

“Steve, don’t worry about any of that.” she said. “This is a journey we need to take together and we won’t know how it turns out until the end.”

“But right here, right now, in this moment, you are my prince.” He smiled at this.

That seemed like a good note to end the evening on.

Steve kissed Ginny sweetly outside her door this time. There have to some perks to being in charge, he thought.

 

There were already a couple of her team mates in the arena when Ginny arrived the next morning.

Peter was one of the doctors; tall and blonde and well-built; he always seemed so cocky and sure of himself. Ginny hadn’t gotten to know him very well.

Alex was smaller and worked in the lab, but Ginny could see that he was wiry and moved with the kind of grace that spoke of years in the martial arts.

Glory was one of the nurses. She was sassy and sarcastic and her skin always reminded Ginny of milk chocolate.

Jas showed up and teamed Ginny with Alex.

“This is usually one on one but keep an eye on your team mate.” Jas told Ginny, when she said she’d never fought like this before. “If he’s in trouble and you can help him, do it.” She cocked an eyebrow at Ginny and Ginny nodded her understanding.

Jas wanted to see Ginny against a bigger opponent, so she squared her off with Peter.

Peter was a very strong fighter and was getting the better of Ginny to start. He had the weight advantage and a longer reach.

But once Ginny starting putting some of Sam’s street fighting techniques to work, Peter found himself on the back foot more often than not.

She checked on Alex when she could, but he seemed to be doing fine against Glory.

Jas called them after about half an hour. Peter shook Ginny’s hand and said, “Not very many people can put me down.” There was a new respect in his voice.

Peter got a call then and had to head back to the infirmary. Jas asked Ginny to stay with Glory and Alex and the four of them spent half an hour with the laser pistols. Ginny found it getting much easier to line up her shots on the move. Alex was able to give her some good tips on this.

After a quick shower and change, Ginny found Bucky already waiting for her at the infirmary. He wasn’t lonely, though. Jasmine was flirting outrageously with him and he was enjoying the attention. Jasmine was one of the nurses and she’d already told Ginny how she felt about Bucky.

When Bucky saw Ginny setting up at her workbench, he came over.

“Didn’t mean to interrupt.” she said, under her breath.

He smiled back at Jasmine. “Don’t worry about it. I’m seeing her tonight.”

Romance seemed to be contagious, Ginny thought.

They worked together for hours, Ginny working on adjusting his arm for maximum impact but good fine motor skills.

Jas came over to examine him, but couldn’t offer much to relieve his pain.

“There may be a way to deaden the nerves, but that may leave you with less control. Until we have a better understanding of the tech, I think this is the best you can expect.” she told him, regretfully.

It was almost noon before Ginny felt satisfied that Bucky had the optimal balance.

“Steve wanted to meet you in the arena.” she told Bucky. “Is now good for you?” she asked.

“Whenever Steve is free…you don’t say no to the boss.” he said.

Ginny texted Steve and he responded that he’d meet them there in 5 minutes.

Ginny sent Bucky on so she could tidy up and she met Steve just outside the door.

“Any luck with the pain?” he asked her.

She shook her head. He looked disappointed but held the door open her and greeted his friend with no hint that there was a problem.

“You sure you want to do this, Steve?” Bucky asked. “The last time we fought, I almost killed you.”

“I need to see what you can do.” Steve said, simply, “and Ginny knows first aid.” He smiled at her.

Steve did take a little bit of abuse but was able to hold his own. Bucky was holding back at first, until Steve started to really push him around and he got angry.

“You said not to kill you then you sucker punch me?!” Bucky yelled.

“What I said was don’t hold back.” Steve yelled back. “I’m not your grandmother!”

Ginny had to call several stops to do adjustments to Bucky’s arm, but for the most part, just stood back and enjoyed watching Steve move and feint and taunt his best friend.

The time passed quickly as Ginny made a couple of adjustment to Steve’s leg as well.

Ginny hadn’t had time for breakfast so when Steve and Bucky said they were going to the canteen for a late lunch, she went with them.

“How did it go this morning in the arena?” Steve asked.

“I knocked Peter on his butt.” she said, with some satisfaction.

“Not easy to do.” Bucky put in.

“Sam taught me a few street fighting moves that Peter wasn’t expecting. Guess you don’t learn to fight like that in med school.” she sounded cocky.

“Is there anyone you haven’t put down?” Steve asked.

“So far, no. Although I’m not sure if I put Nat down or she was just being nice.” Ginny responded.

“Well don’t get too cocky. Everyone’s got an Achilles Heel.” Steve said, as they walked into the canteen.

It was late but still crowded, but the line-ups moved quickly.

There was delicious smelling turkey soup and lots of wraps and sandwiches. There was also a pot of stew for those ending shifts. Ginny got soup and a wrap and some juice and went to find a seat. Glory was sitting with Alex, so Ginny joined them leaving two seats for Steve and Bucky.

“Impressive beating you put on Peter this morning.” Glory said. “Almost worth letting Alex here get in a few extra shots so I could watch.” Glory said.

“Don’t make excuses for your shoddy performance this morning.” Alex said, with a smile.

Ginny looked up to see Steve and Bucky heading for their table.

“Now there’s two I’d like to see go head-to-head.” she said.

“Just came from there.” Ginny said, blowing on her soup. “Like gladiators.” she smiled at Steve as he sat down next to her.

“Who, us?” he asked with a quizzical look on his face.

“Yup. Roman gladiators. Very impressive to watch.” she said, carefully taking a spoonful of her hot soup.

“Don’t often do it as a spectator sport.” Bucky said. “You’re just one of the lucky ones.” He smiled as Jasmine sat down next to him.

“What’s the rest of your day like?” Steve asked Ginny.

“I’m going to start working with my physio patients.” she answered. “I’ve got one meeting me in the gym…” she checked her watch, “…in 15 minutes. I’d better eat up!”

“Dinner tonight? Just the two of us?” Steve asked.

“Sounds wonderful.” Ginny answered. “What time?”

“It’ll probably be 6:30 or 7 before I’m free.” he answered.

“Let me know when you’re done and I can meet you in your quarters.” Ginny said, finishing off her wrap. “I gotta go.”

She turned to him and kissed him before getting up. “Love you.” she whispered. Then she got up and was gone.

Steve turned to watch her go, and had to turn back and talk work with Bucky to get the image of peeling that uniform off of her out of his head.

The rest of the afternoon passed quickly. Her physio patient worked well on her own and after a massage to get rid of the kinks, Ginny was done. She had some time, so she decided to dress for dinner. Steve had seen her too often in her uniform and she had brought one dress…just on a whim. So she did a quick rinse in the shower, dressed and put on some make-up.

Then she sat down with her tablet. She still had at least a half hour before Steve would be free, so she called her dad.

He had been worried that he hadn’t heard from her in a couple of days, but was fine once she told him all that had been happening. Claude told her that they had let him go down to visit with the kids the morning before. Chris and Sean were disappointed that he didn’t have any info to share with them on the mission.

“We may be back by next week.” she told her dad, “but, if not, I’ll make sure you have some tidbits to share.”

They chatted amiably until Ginny got a message from Steve. She promised Claude that she would call again in a couple days.

Ginny knocked at the door to Steve’s quarters and he opened the door almost immediately.

He stood there for a moment just taking her in. The short, flared dress was the same blue as her hair and a pair of black flats finished the outfit off. No jewellery or other embellishment.

Ginny did a quick spin holding Steve’s hand over her head as she did so.

“How did you know I wanted to dance tonight?” Steve asked and pulled her in for a kiss.

“I didn’t.” she said, a little breathless. “I was just tired of wearing uniforms all the time. Do you like?” she asked, striking a Vogue pose.

“Yes. Don’t get to see a lot of leg on a mission.” he said. “What do you feel like dancing to? Dinner won’t be up for about half an hour.” He chose a song on his iPod. “How about this?”

Of course, Billy Joel’s sweet piano intro to ‘New York State of Mind’ played through the speakers.

Steve held his arms out to her and she stepped in and held him close. He sent her out for a couple of spins and dipped her deep at the end of the song.

“If this is going to be our signature song, we need to up the ante a little bit.” Ginny said. They danced through it again and Ginny added in a few steps, some more complex spins and a different finish. They danced through a couple of times until it was smooth.

“Sylvie always expects something special from me dancewise, and it is her wedding.” Ginny said, just as there was a knock on the door.

Dinner was laid out quickly and they sat down to eat.

“I hope you like fish.” Steve said, thinking now wasn’t the time to be asking. “Old Catholic habit…fish on Fridays.”

“As long as it’s not shellfish.” Ginny answered.

“Are you allergic?” Steve asked, trying to remember what her medical had said about allergies.

“No…I just think lobsters and crabs and such look like bugs.” She gave a disgusted shudder that made Steve laugh.

“No, not bugs. I think I ordered trout. They do a nice job on it in the kitchens.” he said.

It was trout and it was delicious. Steve poured them each a glass of a chilled Pinot Grigio. “Tony said white with fish. I hope you like white.” he said.

She sipped the wine appreciatively. “I like both,” she said, “as long as they’re good. But with fish it has to be white. You can get away with red with most other meats, but it brings out the fishy flavour in fish, which isn’t good.” She took a bite of the fish and another sip of wine.

“Mmmm…perfect!” she exclaimed. “Pinot Grigio can be hit or miss.” She picked up the bottle to see the vintage. “You can’t go wrong with an ’07. It was a good vintage world-wide.”

“How did you learn so much about wine?” Steve asked, sipping the wine and trying to taste what she tasted.

“I’m French,” she said, “so we never had a bad wine served in our house. And if we did, my dad would be very vocal about it.”

“I also grew up next door to a major wine region. It may be new but that doesn’t mean that they don’t create some exemplary wines. But it’s kind of like frogs…you have to drink a lot of swill before you figure out what you like.”

She swirled the wine in her glass then sniffed it deeply. Then she reached for the bottle again.

“See here it says there are notes of peach and lemon with a tropical fruit finish. You can usually catch the tasting notes on the nose.” She inhaled deeply with her nose over the edge of the glass.

“Hmm…I’m getting more tropical fruit on the nose with a little bit of citrus.” She sniffed again and her brow creased in concentration. “There’s something else, too, that I can’t place. What do you smell?” she prompted.

Steve picked up his glass by the bowl and brought it to his nose. He sniffed, made a face, then sniffed again.

“I don’t know.” he said finally.

“Trust yourself.” she said, smelling her glass again.

He picked up his glass again, sniffed it and said, “Gym socks.”

She smiled and sniffed her glass again. “I’m getting that…that’s what I couldn’t identify. Where’s the cork?”

Steve pulled the cork off the corkscrew and handed it to her. She sniffed the cork.

“Not here…which is good news. Sometimes, if the cork starts to go moldy, it can affect the wine.” She sniffed her glass again and then took a small sip, letting it warm on her tongue before swallowing.

“I’m getting a little peach on the tongue, but mostly citrus and a pineapple finish. No gym socks at all.” She took another sip and waved her hand at Steve to get him to taste.

“Take a small sip and let it warm on your tongue before swallowing it.”

Steve did this and felt really foolish sitting with a mouthful of wine, but he was just starting to taste the citrusy flavour and then he swallowed and the pineapple essence lingered at the back of his throat.

“That is very cool.” he said, still holding his glass by the bowl.

Ginny held her glass up by the stem. “Wine glasses are usually stemmed because you don’t want to change the temperature of the wine by cupping the glass, especially with delicate whites, like this one. It will change the taste.”

He nodded and put his glass down.

“There, now you’re a wine connoisseur.” Ginny said.

“Hardly.” he said, taking another sip.

“It’s just getting to know what you like.” she said. “Do you like this?”

Steve took another sip. “It’s nice with the fish, but I liked the Chard we had at Stark’s better.” he said.

“But the Chard, with its buttery flavour wouldn’t go as well with this trout.” she said. “That would pair better with a nice pork tenderloin.”

They ate in silence for a few minutes. Ginny could feel their time together slipping away.

“What time on Sunday?” she asked, quietly.

“Around noon.” Steve answered, not looking at her.

She chuckled, softly. “I bet you can’t wait.”

He looked up and smiled back at her. “In some ways. I already told you I hate waiting.” he said. “I’m just itching to get on the ground and get this done so we can get on with our lives.”

Ginny looked down at her plate and kept eating.

“You’re not looking forward to it, obviously.” he said.

“But I’ll manage. I’m pretty resourceful and everyone seems pretty intent on keeping me busy while you’re gone.”

She looked at him then, deeply and intently, trying to memorize his face, the blue of his eyes, his full lower lip, the colour of his hair.

“The nights will be bad.” she almost whispered.

“For me, too.” he whispered back. “I won’t be working all the time.”

She poured them each another glass of wine and raised hers in a toast.

“Maybe I’ll just get drunk every night. Then I’ll be able to pass out and not worry.” She toyed with the stem of her glass.

“We’re thinking three, maybe 4 days max.” Steve assured her. “You won’t even have time to miss me.”

She laughed. “I miss you when I don’t see you between breakfast and lunch. Believe me, I’ll notice.”

Steve reached across the table and took her hand. “We’ll have lots of time together when I get back. Rude things, remember? Take you to my place and never leave? There’s our trip and the wedding and seeing your aunt and uncle.”

This wasn’t helping, Steve thought. They could both feel the words that they didn’t dare say hanging in the air between them. What if he didn’t come back? This could be their last evening together; the next day would be crazy with final plans. He didn’t want to spend it tearfully.

“How about we eat up and we can dance some more?” he said, squeezing her hand.

She gave him a brave smile and said, “Sounds like fun.” and continued to eat.

After they finished eating, Steve moved everything out of the way to give them room, and they danced. Some waltzes, some slow, some jitter bug and just being silly. They even played around with a polka.

They final collapsed on the couch giggling.  It was late and Steve had a very early morning and a long day ahead.

“I should go.” Ginny said, reluctantly. “Will I see you at all tomorrow?”

“I’ll try to break away at some point and come and find you, but the last day is usually pretty intense.” he said. “But I won’t leave without saying goodbye.” She had curled up in his lap again and he kissed her with all of the fear and longing he was feeling.

He held her close and said, “If this was goodbye, what would you say?”

The words on her lips were, “Don’t go.” but she knew she couldn’t do that to him.

She propped herself up on her arm so she was face to face with him and place her hand on his heart.

“You are my heart, Steve. Come back to me.” and then kissed him passionately.

She pulled back and looked at him again. “And you? What would you say?”

He put her hand back on his heart and covered it with his.

“You are my home, Geneviève. Stay safe so I have someone to come back to.” Their lips met again in a soft and soulful kiss. They stayed there for a long time, kissing and touching; memorizing each other.

“I don’t know how long we’ll have or how private it will be, so…” Steve’s sentence trailed off.

“So this is goodbye.” she finished for him.

He smiled sadly and said, “I’m afraid so.”

“Not goodbye.” she said. “Arrivederci…until we meet again.”

Steve nodded, not trusting himself to speak and Ginny cuddled into his chest with her ear over his heart.

After a few minutes, he said, “Come on, I’ll walk you back to your quarters. I’ve still got some work to do tonight and an early morning tomorrow.” Ginny disentangled herself from him and dashed tears away with the back of her hand, hoping Steve wouldn’t notice.

He noticed, but didn’t say anything. She obviously hadn’t wanted him to see that she was crying.

They walked in silence to her quarters and stood outside the door holding each other for a long time. It was Steve who broke away.

He put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her quickly.

“I will find you before I go.” he said, looking deeply into her teary eyes.

“I love you, Rogers.” Ginny whispered.

“I love you, too, sweetheart.” he answered. He pulled open her door, and with a quick brush of his lips on hers, he was gone.

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