A Time For Heroes – Chapter 21 – Rescue

shield_of_captain_america-HDSteve came around shortly after the explosion and could see the building still burning beyond the thicket.

He knew that his team would be looking for him now that the base’s defenses were down, so he moved to the edge of the thicket to wait.

But waiting wasn’t his strong suit. He looked at what was left of his com. The power source wasn’t destroyed but the rest was just loose wires.

I wonder… he thought. He pulled the unit off of his wrist and started to fiddle with it. If he touched two of the wires together, they sparked. Maybe if he was still connected to the system, those sparks would show up on his monitor back on the helicarrier.

He started with something simple: SOS in Morse code. He wasn’t a ship but it was simple and most people knew what it meant.

He tapped that out a few times, then he decided to compose a longer message. He didn’t even know if anyone else still knew Morse code, but since he really didn’t have anything else to do…

Once he had written his message  out with a stick in the dirt, he started sending it. He started with SOS and then his serial number and then his message.

He had been sending for what felt like hours. It was starting to get dark. Still he heard no engines in the distance coming for him. He searched the sky. No planes, no drones, nothing.

Maybe they had taken casualties and had to go back to the helicarrier. Maybe they had given him up for dead. Maybe the reason the base had been so poorly protected is because they had attacked the helicarrier instead.

Regardless of why, it looked like he’d be spending another night there, so he sat down at the edge of the thicket where he could watch the sunset and see the stars when they came out and tried to relax for sleep. But even though he was exhausted, sleep seemed a long way away.

The team, consisting of Tony, Nat, Cliff, Vision and Thor, had left a half an hour ago. There was still half an hour before they landed.

Ginny was more anxious than she’d been since Steve went missing. What if it hadn’t been Steve who blew up the base? Maybe it was just a mishap. He could still be lying where he dropped seriously wounded or dead. She thought she would have felt it if he had died, but what if she was wrong?

Her thoughts were disturbed by Ron. “What’s wrong with this monitor? It keeps jumping.”

Ginny came over and looked over the shoulder of the tech who had come to look.

The tech crawled under the desk to check the connections.

“I don’t see anything that could be causing that here. Could be interference…but from what?” the tech said, half to himself.

He looked around at the other monitors, but none of them were jumping like this one.

Ginny was watching the monitor and thought she saw a pattern. Three long jumps, three short jumps, then three long jumps, then a pause and again.

“Nick,” she said, not taking her eyes off the screen, “what’s Morse Code for SOS?”

“Dash, dash, dash, dot, dot, dot, dash, dash, dash.” he answered, looking at her quizzically.

“Come and see this.” Ginny beckoned him over.

The pattern repeated again and, then again, and then it stopped.

Nick looked at Ginny and called over the tech.

“Can you find the coordinates that this interference signal is coming from?” he asked.

“You think it’s a signal, sir?” the tech asked.

“Yes, and I need to know the exact coordinates.” Nick said.

“It’s changed!” Ginny said, excited. She started writing down the new message, but Nick was ahead of her.

“Computer, translate this interference pattern from Morse Code.”

A series of numbers came up on the screen. Ginny could see that they matched the numbers at the top of the screen, which was Steve’s serial number.

The message was simple:

 

MISSION COMPLETE

EXTRACTION NEEDED

 

“He must have found a way to use his wrecked com to set up a distortion.” Nick said. “Do we have coordinates yet?” he yelled.

“Not yet.” came the answer. “We’re working on it.”

Ginny just sat there watching the words repeat, over and over again.

 

“Stark, come in.” Nick’s voice came over the com on the jet.

“Stark here. What’s up, Nick?” Tony answered.

“We’ve got coordinates for you.” Nick said.

“What? How? Can you see him on the satellite feed?” Tony asked.

“We were getting an interference pattern on his monitor that turned out to be a Morse Code message. We were able to trace it back and get you coordinates.” Nick said and gave Tony the numbers.

“Looks from here like he’s just on the edge of the thicket near the burning base.” Nick said.

“We’re about 10 minutes out.” Tony said. “I’m going to try to put down right in their backyard, if the drones are down and the fire’s not too hot.”

“Let us know when you’ve got him.” Nick said.

“Will do. Stark out.” The com went dead.

Ginny hadn’t noticed the tears running down her cheeks until Nick handed her a tissue.

“Not a time for tears, Ms. St. Pierre.” he said, quietly.

She wiped her face and blew her nose. “My eyes seem to have a mind of their own these days. I can never tell when the tears are going to flow.” she said, giving Nick a crooked half-smile.

 

Steve must have drifted off to sleep. It was the roar of the jet engine that roused him. He saw the jet put down between him and the burning base. He stood up and found that he wasn’t very steady on his feet. He held onto the trunk he’d been leaning against to watch the sunset.

Once he’d found his strength, he started walking towards the jet. Then he stopped. This might not be his rescue, he thought. What if this was reinforcements for the base? Then he was walking right into enemy hands. The jet looked like the quinjet. He waited.

The ramp came down and Thor and Nat were running towards him and he felt a smile grow on his face as he started walking towards them.

They stopped just short of him, taking in his dishevelled appearance.

“You’re a sight for sore eyes, my friend.” Thor said, wiping his nose with the back of his hand and clapping Steve on the back.

Nat was not so reserved. She wrapped her arms around him and said, “You scared the shit out of us, Steve!” She pulled away and said, “Glad you’re still in one piece.”

“Where’s Bucky? I thought he’d be first off the plane.” Steve asked.

“Bucky’s been hurt.” Nat said, and they filled him in on what had happened as they headed for the jet.

 

Tony’s voice came through the speakers on the bridge. “We got him.”

A cheer went up from all the bridge crew.

“Rogers, report.” Nick said.

“I’m here, Nick. Mission complete. I got the data and destroyed the base and the tech. They shouldn’t be bothering us again.”

Ginny could hear the fatigue in his voice.

“Good work, Steve.” Nick said.

“Is Ginny there?” Steve asked.

Ginny pressed the button on Steve’s station.

“Oui, je suis ici.” she said, quietly.

Steve didn’t say anything for a moment.

“Tu me manque, ma chere.” he said, finally, his voice husky with exhaustion.

“Moi aussi, bébé.” Ginny answered. “Viens ici.” she finished.

There was a pause and she heard Tony say, “Come here”. Steve mustn’t have known that phrase.

“On my way.” Steve answered. “Rogers, out.”

There was some scuffling and surprised sounds coming from the jet.

“Everything okay over there?” Nick asked, concerned.

“Um. Yeah. Rogers just passed out.” Tony said. “Have the medics meet us when we land. Stark, out.”

 

Ginny was with the medical team when the jet landed. Jas had tried to send her away.

Ginny had laughed and said, “You know that’s not going to happen.”

Jas looked exasperated.

“I can have you sedated.” she said, firmly.

“You’ll have to.” Ginny said, just as firmly.

Jas held her eye for a long moment. “Stay out of the team’s way, and you’re not coming into the surgery.” she said with a sigh.

“Fair enough.” Ginny answered and went to put on scrubs.

 

Ginny stood back and out of the way while the medical team worked. When she saw how much trouble one of the nurses was having getting Steve’s prosthetic off, though, she stepped in.

Jas just raised an eyebrow, but Ginny just got the prosthetic off and took it to her workbench.

It had taken a hit, too. She’d have some work to do before Steve could wear it again.

By the time she got back, he was prepped for surgery and they were taking him away. The bullets that he had been hit with hadn’t been nanobots, but some had splintered and were causing internal bleeding.

Ginny stood for a moment staring at the door to the surgery feeling a sense of déja vu. It hadn’t been very long since she’d watched her dad being wheeled through similar doors. Steve had rescued her then. Now he was the one in surgery. She felt so helpless.

She walked up to the bridge and Kristen waved her into Nick’s office, where she found Nick and Tony talking about the mission.

“…take the team back and do clean-up. Just want to make sure those nano-weapons were all destroyed.” Tony was saying.

“How is he?” Nick asked, turning to Ginny.

“Jas has him in surgery.” she answered. “I guess some of the bullets splintered and there’s internal bleeding.”

She sat down in the chair Nick indicated.

“And what do you need, Geneviève?” Tony asked.

Ginny had to think about that. Other than to have Steve’s arms around her, what did she need? “I need to hit something really, really hard.”

“Well,” Tony said, “there’s the heavy bag, or we could go a few rounds in the arena. I could use some stress relief right now, too.”

“Spar against you?” Ginny asked, surprised.

“Sure, why not?” Tony said, striking a ready pose. “I can pack a pretty good punch, but I understand you can, too.”

“You’re on!” Ginny said, getting up to lead the way.

“Try not to kill each other. I don’t want to have to explain that to Rogers.” Nick called after them as they left.

 

Almost an hour, head to head with Tony Stark…Ginny was sore everywhere. He didn’t have the finesse that Nat had or the dirty tricks she’d learned from Sam, but he had brute strength to spare. His excuse? The suit was heavy.

But an hour was all she needed to feel comfortable in her skin again and able to deal with what she had to deal with.

They were still catching their breath and towelling off when Jas came in.

“Nick told me I’d find you two here.” She looked at Ginny. “Feeling better?”

“Yeah.” Ginny said, nonchalantly. “Beating up Avengers always puts me in a good mood.” She winked at Tony.

“How is Steve?” Tony asked. “I’m assuming if you’re here, he’s out of surgery.”

“Everything went well.” Jas started. “He’s in recovery, if you want to go and sit with him, Ginny. It may be a while before he comes around, though. You may do better to get a good night sleep and see him in the morning.”

“I won’t get a good night’s sleep in my quarters. Maybe I can curl up in one of the big chairs.” Ginny thought about taking a shower, but she just needed to see Steve now.

 

There were wires and tubes and beeping monitors, and in the middle of it all was Steve, his face half hidden by an oxygen mask.

He was in a curtained-off cubicle in the corner of the infirmary. Ginny walked up to the side of his bed and smiled as she noticed his eyelashes fanned out on his cheeks. She took his hand; the one nearest her wasn’t hooked up to anything.

“I still say that eyelashes that long should be illegal on a man, Rogers.” she said to him under her breath.

A tear trickled down her cheek and she dashed it away with her hand when Peter pushed a big chair into the cubicle. There were blankets and a pillow in the middle of the seat.

Peter took a second to check the monitors, IV bags, dressings and oxygen before touching Ginny on the shoulder and smiling at her.

“I’m on all night.” he said. “Just call out if you need anything.” and he pulled the curtain closed as he left.

Ginny just stood beside Steve’s bed holding and stroking his hand, brushing the hair off of his face, adjusting the blankets.

After about 10 minutes, she saw Steve’s eyelids flutter and he looked at her.

She brought his hand to her lips and said, quietly, “I’m here, babe. Sleep now.”

He squeezed her hand weakly and his eyes closed again.

With Steve still sleeping, Ginny decided to grab her tablet and a book and B.J. Birdie to keep her company through the night. She’d gotten to be a pro at long hospital nights with Troy.

The tablet felt too bright for the dim lights in the infirmary, so she decided to read instead. She had been trying to reread her favourite series of books, but life had been getting in the way. Tonight gave her a good chance to reread ‘Outlander’, the first book in the 8 book series.

She pulled the chair next to the bed and started reliving the adventures of Jamie and Claire in the 18th century.

But her day had been long, too, and shortly after Claire found herself in Castle Leoch, she had to lay her head down and close her eyes.

She laid her head on the bed next to Steve’s hip and promptly fell asleep.

It was hours later when she became aware of Steve stroking her hair. She opened her eyes to see him looking down at her.

The oxygen mask was gone. Peter must have come by while she was sleeping.

“You should go to bed. You won’t sleep well here.” Steve said, sleepily.

“I was sleeping.” Ginny answered with a half-smile to take the sting from her testy words.

“I know. I’m sorry.” Steve said. Ginny brought his hand around to her lips and kissed his palm. “I just wanted to hear your voice.”

“Don’t be sorry for that.” she said, looking down at her hand where he was stroking it. “I almost cried when I heard your voice from the jet.”

Steve chuckled softly. “Are you impressed I managed French?” he asked.

“Very!” she said, smiling.

Neither one of them could think of anything they needed to say to each other. Just being together was enough.

And then, suddenly, it wasn’t. Ginny stood up and kissed him gently on the lips and then put her arms around him and laid her head on his chest. She just couldn’t bear not to be holding him.

He put his arms around her, being careful of his IV. He kissed her on the top of her head and sighed with contentment.

“I’ve ached to have you in my arms.” he said, quietly.

After a few minutes, Steve said, “I haven’t even had a chance to talk to any of the docs. How bad is it?”

“You’ll be okay.” she said, not moving. “Some of the bullets you got hit with splintered, so Jas took some time getting them out and patching you up. Other than that, the IV is taking care of the dehydration and you’ll probably be able to eat breakfast in the morning.”

“So only good news?” he asked, reaching up to stroke her hair.

“Well,” she said, lifting her head to look up at him, “the Yankees are out of the play-offs.” she whispered.

“Damn.” he said, looking away. “You had to ruin it. I assume the Jays are still in.”

She put her head back down on his chest. “Yes. I’m sorry.”

“I don’t think you are.” he said.

She chuckled softly. “Can you still love a Jays fan?” she asked.

Steve paused for long enough that Ginny looked up at him.

“I love you no matter what.” he said, seeming a little surprised that she would doubt it.

She snuggled back into his chest, careful of the leads to the EKG monitor.

“I love you, too, Cap.” she said, quietly. “Please don’t ever put me through that again.”

Steve tightened his arms around her and said, “I’ll do my best.”

He had closed his eyes when Ginny had put her head back on his chest and now he found that he couldn’t open them.

“I think I need to sleep again.” he said, drowsily. “Will you stay?”

Ginny hugged him tight then stood up. “Of course I will.” She straightened the blankets and checked his IV. His arms felt cold so she brought a heated blanket over and laid it across his chest and arms.

He sighed with pleasure and within minutes his breathing was slow and rhythmic.

 

Ginny stayed by the bedside through the night and next day. Tony had led a clean-up mission back to the island and by the end of the day, they were back and on their way to Korea and Dr. Cho’s lab.

Steve slept most of that time, waking occasionally to share a few minutes with Ginny, then dropping back off into a healing sleep.

Ginny left to have a shower and change, and to eat, but was never long away from Steve’s side.

When Steve woke near dinnertime and said he was hungry, Ginny went to find Jas to see what he could eat.

Jas came over and checked his dressings, most of which she was able to remove, leaving only pink scars behind.

“You’re healing well, Steve. What would you like to eat?” she asked him.

“Medium rare steak.” he said with a smile. He doubted very much he’d get it, but she had asked.

Jas looked at him appraisingly, then said, “Okay.” and went to order it.

When the food came, there were two trays. Jas knew that Ginny hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

Both had a filet mignon, mashed potatoes and carrots along with a roll and a bowl of soup…

Ginny tried the soup. It was bursting with flavour and not too salty. There were little pasta balls and meatballs in it, so it must have been Italian Wedding soup.

Steve went right for the steak. As he chewed, he lay back against his pillow and closed his eyes, savouring the wonderful flavour. What had it been 4 days, 5 days…since he’d last eaten?

“Your chef makes an excellent soup.” Ginny said.

“I haven’t eaten in 5 days, Ginny. Sawdust would taste good at this point.” he said, taking some potatoes.

She giggled at him and continued with her soup.

Ginny went and got them each a big glass of water. She wasn’t used to eating without something to drink.

“There’s bottled water in the fridge.” Jas offered when she saw Ginny filling the glasses.

“I don’t drink bottled water, Jas. I’ve read too much about how evil the water companies can be.” Jas smiled at this. She’d always felt the same about bottled water…but it wasn’t always a popular opinion to have. She had just gained a little more respect for Ms. St. Pierre.

Once they had finished eating, Steve called Jas over.

“Can we get rid of this,” he raised his arm indicating the IV, “and this.” he pointed to the bag hanging on the side of the bed, which was hooked to his catheter.

“I’m sure I can pee on my own now.” Steve said.

“Once the bag of saline is empty, the IV can come out. I’ll send Lane over to deal with the catheter. Okay?” she said. “Anything else, commander?” This last line was said rather sarcastically.

“Yes.” he said. “Thank you. You’re the best, Jas. I’m glad it was you in the operating room with me.”

Jas glowed under the praise and Ginny saw, once again, why Steve was such a great commander.

After Jas left, Ginny asked, “So if you’re going to be up and about, do you want me to grab you crutches and clothes?”

“Probably a good idea. Do you mind?” Steve asked, just as Lane came through the curtain.

“Sweats and a T-shirt?” she asked, leaning over to kiss him. He nodded and she left. She really didn’t want to stick around for medical procedures.

It didn’t take her long to grab clothes. He didn’t have much besides uniforms. He hadn’t mentioned boxers, but she grabbed a pair for him anyways. Socks? Why not.

So with crutches in one hand and clothes in the other, Ginny headed back to the infirmary.

Tony and Thor were talking to Steve. Tony waved her in and put his arm around her shoulders.

“You did well.” he said to her. “You held it together through the worst of it and kept everyone else hopeful. And then you caught the Morse Code.” He shook his head. “Pretty impressive for a first mission.”

“Thanks, Tony.” Ginny hadn’t done anything special, she thought. She just did what she had to to hold herself together.

Once Tony and Thor left, Ginny seemed a little moody, so Steve asked what was wrong.

“I don’t like praise like that.” she said. “I just did what I had to do to survive.”

Steve looked at her, but didn’t say anything for a moment.

“You’re very strong.” he said, finally. “I think that’s all Tony meant. It’s your first mission and no one knew how you’d react when I went missing.”

“How I’d react.” she said to herself. “I had to stay positive, or I would have been down for the count. That’s the only way I managed” she said, as a tear trickled down her cheek, “All they took for strength was just my attempt to keep breathing.” Her tears were coming faster now.

“Please don’t cry, darling.” Steve wanted to pull her into his arms, but he could see she had her walls up again. “It’s over. I’m here and safe.”

“I know.” she said, wiping tears away. “I don’t know why I’m crying!”

“Viens ici.” he said to her…maybe French could break through the wall.

She walked over and he put his arms around her. It was much more comfortable without all the wires and tubes. He’d talked Lane into taking everything off. There had to be some perks to being mission commander!

“You helped me through the thicket.” he said, stroking her hair. “Rude things.” he whispered.

She looked up at him and a smile broke out on her tear-stained face.

“Here or at home?” she asked, laying her head back down.

“We’ve waited this long, let’s wait ‘til we get home. Didn’t you want to come to my place and never leave?”

“Yes, I do.” Her voice was husky and the sound appealed to his baser instincts. Oh, well. She probably already knew what she did to him.

“Beside, I’m still your commander.” he reminded her.

“And what would my commander like me to do.” she asked in the same husky voice.

Steve sighed and kissed the top of her head. “I want you to leave so I can get dressed. I want to go and see Bucky.” he said, quietly.

She squeezed him tight and kissed him before standing up. “He’s in isolation. You probably won’t be able to go in.” she said.

“It doesn’t matter. I still need to see him.” Steve said. “Don’t go too far, though.”

Steve sat up in bed and Ginny kissed him quickly before leaving and closing the curtain behind her.

Ginny hadn’t looked at Steve’s combat prosthetic too closely yet, so she went over to her workbench to see if it was repairable there or if it would have to wait until they got back.

On the bench beside the leg was Bucky’s arm. It was scorched and once she picked it up, she saw that anything that wasn’t metal had melted.

“Wow!” she said, turning the arm over in her hands to see the damage.

Jas came over to stand beside her. “Wow, is right! I’m surprised he survived.” she said to Ginny.

“Why did Steve not end up burnt like Bucky, though?” Ginny asked. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“From the sounds of it, Bucky got caught in the force field and it held him. Steve fell right through. Or it could have something to do with Steve’s enhancement or Bucky’s implants. No idea.” Jas said with a shrug.

“My problem now is to keep Mr. Barnes alive until we get to Korea.”

“Is he in that much danger, Jas?” Ginny asked, turning to look at her.

“He seems to be stable but we’re fighting an infection already, and that could be deadly.” Jas answered.

Steve had just opened the curtain around his cubicle, dressed but barefoot and on his crutches. Jas touched Ginny’s shoulder in farewell and went to walk with Steve to the isolation area.

Ginny set about pulling Steve’s leg apart. She might have to wait until she got back to New York to make it look good, but she could make it mechanically sound.

Ginny got lost in her work and once the leg was in good working order again, she went to work on the arm. She didn’t know if she had enough spare parts to fix it here, but she wouldn’t know for sure until she had it apart.

When she finally looked at her watch, it was almost midnight. She had dozed through the day, so she wasn’t tired, but she was a little worried about Steve. He hadn’t come back after seeing Bucky.

But a quick walk around the infirmary showed her that he wasn’t there anymore and no one knew where he’d gone.

She could track him down using the computer, but she thought she knew where he’d be.

The observation pod was dark, and at first, she didn’t see him. He looked up when she came in but didn’t say anything.

“I won’t stay if you need to be alone.” she said. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.” She stayed by the door.

He didn’t say anything, just opened his arms and she slid into her favourite place across his lap.

“He’s bad?” Ginny asked.

“He’s bad.” Steve said, his voice thick with tears. “But we’ll be in Korea by tomorrow morning.”

“I killed him once, I don’t want to do it again.” he said, huskily.

“You didn’t kill him then and you won’t this time either. He’ll last the night.” Ginny said, tightening her hold on him.

Steve sniffed loudly and said, “Are you always this annoyingly optimistic?” he asked.

“You know I am.” she said, pressing her lips to his chest.

“And I love you for it.” he said. “I just wish I shared it.”

“You don’t have to share it.” she said. “Just humour me.”

“Okay, so he’ll last the night, we’ll get him to Helen and she’ll do her magic and he’ll be fine.” he said, sarcastically.

“That’s right.” she said, smiling up at him. “See how much better you feel just having said it?”

He tried to hide his smile. “Shut up. And stop being right all the time!”

He pulled her head back down to his chest and sat stroking her hair and back for a long time.

“Thanks for finding me.” he said, finally. “I needed you tonight, but I didn’t want to interrupt your work.”

“I’ve missed spending my evenings with you.” she murmured against his chest. “Can we just stay here?”

“Would that be like going to my place and never leaving?” he asked.

“Oh, no! That’s all about me having my wicked way with you.” she said, laughing. “This is just a nice space to be together in…sure beats the infirmary.”

“I’m glad you stayed last night, though.” he said. “It gave me peace to know you’d be there when I opened my eyes.”

“I gave me peace to be there when you did open your eyes.” she said back.

“Can you tell me about the ‘hell’, the thicket?” she asked.

“Yeah, of course.” he said, then paused for so long looking for the right words, she thought he’d changed his mind.

“When Vision dropped me, I was just above the canopy. We figured the thicket would break my fall and I’d be fine. We didn’t realize there was a force field.” he started.

“When I passed through it, it was like every nerve ending in my body was on fire. As soon as I hit the ground, I passed out.”

“When I came to, it was the middle of the night. I took stock and I had my shield and my compass and my weapon. There wasn’t much I could do in the middle of the night, so I got some sleep and in the morning, I took my bearings and started chopping my way through to the base.”

“It took me nearly two days to get there. And once I did, it was too easy to take the base, shut down the drones and force field, get the data and destroy the base. Looks like they were depending on the drones a little too much.”

“But then I couldn’t figure out how I was going to call for extraction.”

“How did you do that?” Ginny asked. “You just made your screen jump or roll. We didn’t know what it was until I noticed the pattern.”

“You notice it? Thank you!” Steve said.

“Saved your life again, didn’t I?” Ginny joked.

“Every day.” he answered, and kissed her lips softly.

“Anyways, my com was just loose wires connected to the power source so I just started tapping out SOS, hoping someone still knew Morse code.” he said. “If I’d have known it was you, I would have sent a more personal message.” He smiled down at her.

“Well, it was me and Nick and Ron and the rest of the bridge crew, so probably better that you didn’t.” she said, smiling back at him.

He pulled her back into his arms and said, “It was almost dark and I had been transmitting for what felt like hours and no rescue yet, so I sat down and watched the sunset, which was spectacular, and fell asleep. Next thing I hear is the quinjet engines landing right in front of me. Nat and Thor helped me aboard. My only thought was letting you know I was okay. Once that was done, my body gave out. I don’t remember anything after that until I opened my eyes and you told me to sleep.”

Ginny gripped him fiercely, afraid he might slip away if she let go, until Steve shifted to ease the discomfort of a particularly sensitive scar and she knew she was squeezing too tightly.

“Sorry.” she said, loosening her arms. “Guess I’m still afraid that if I loosen my grip, you’ll slip away somehow.”

He kissed her hair and squeezed her tight before saying, “We should go. I want to sleep in my own bed tonight.”

“Is that going to be okay with Jas?” she asked.

“Hey, who’s the boss here: me or her?” Steve said in a cranky voice.

“Her and you know it! And she’ll have my head if anything happens to her careful repairs.” Ginny answered.

“Come on. One more night in the infirmary. I’ll stay with you.” she cajoled.

He sighed. “Only because you’re staying.” he said and disentangled from her arms and stood up and grabbed his crutches.

Peter was surprised to see them. “I thought you’d decided to sleep in your quarters tonight,” he said, “and I wasn’t looking forward to telling Jas that in the morning, so thanks for coming back!”

“Yeah, well it’s hard to turn down such gracious hospitality.” Steve said, sarcastically.

Peter smiled and chuckled at the sarcasm.

Steve got into his bed and handed Ginny his crutches.

“Do you want to get undressed?” she asked.

“Nah, this is pretty comfortable.” he answered.

Then he asked Peter if he needed to hook him up again.

“Just the blood oxygen monitor.” he said, clipping it onto Steve’s middle finger and checking the monitor. “It’ll tell me if you’re in trouble.” He smiled at them both and left.

Steve hadn’t realized just how tired he was until his head hit the pillow.

“I’m exhausted.” he said to Ginny.

“I’m pretty done, too.” she said. She leaned over and kissed him. “Sleep well, love. I’ll he right here.” She ran her hands down his arm, which seemed cold, so she went and got him a heated blanket.

He sighed with pleasure as she put it over his chest and arms.

“I almost don’t want to get better.” he said. “I’m rather enjoying the pampering.”

Ginny kissed his lips and went to settle down in the big chair.

“I’ll still pamper you.” she said. “Maybe in a little different way…” she trailed off, suggestively.

Steve lowered the bed and turned on his side so he could look at her.

“You’re so beautiful.” he said. “Way too good for a grunt like me.”

“Yep, it’s true,” Ginny said, “but there’s no accounting for taste, is there?” He laughed softly at this.

“When we get home, I’ll make you dinner.” he said, still looking at her.

“And breakfast?” she asked, with a coquettish look.

“And breakfast.” he said, huskily.

“Enough pillow talk, Rogers. Get some sleep.” Ginny said, sleepily.

“Goodnight, love.” he said, quietly.

“À demain, mon amour.” she answered.

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