A Time For Heroes – Chapter 23 – Landing

griefThe next day started at 6:30 am when Steve nuzzled Ginny’s neck. “Are you still sore?” he asked, hopefully.

Ginny rolled towards him and they made love slowly and sleepily.

Steve left Ginny lazing in bed while he had a shower. He had a 9 am meeting.

Steve had ordered up breakfast and it arrived while he was in the shower. He came out to find Ginny nibbling on bacon wearing one of his t-shirts.

He sat down across from her and said, “That shirt never looked that good on me.”

Ginny looked down and said, “Oh, yes it did!”

He smiled at that and realized this was the first time a woman had ever worn his clothes.

“What’s your day like?” Steve asked.

“Packing up the infirmary and the gym, not to mention my quarters.” she said. “You?”

“Meeting…then the same. Getting everything ready for the landing tomorrow.” he answered.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing my dad. Talking on the phone hasn’t been enough.” she said.

“Is he out of the hospital?” Steve was just finishing his breakfast.

“Don’t know.” she admitted. “He was supposed to be, but I’ve been a little busy the last couple of days.” She smiled innocently at him.

He laughed. “Yeah, yeah. Blame it all on me.” he said.

“You know I will.” she said, reaching across and squeezing his hand, with a quick smile, which disappeared with her next thought.

“I’ll have to get in touch with my uncle to see what’s happening in Montreal.” Her brow was furrowed in concern. “Funny, my dad hasn’t mentioned ma tante Thérèse since I’ve been away.”

“Maybe there’s nothing to tell?” Steve said, hopefully.

“Fingers crossed.” she said, holding up her crossed fingers.

The rest of the day was full of necessary tedium. Bucky was still in the infirmary and he stayed close for most of the morning, chatting with Ginny.

But Ginny lost her companion after lunch when Nat came and got Bucky. Guess his time laying around is over, Ginny thought.

The afternoon passed much the same. Ginny spent some of her time with Glory in the gym, settling everything there.

At 6:30, Glory and Ginny went to see if there was any food to be had in the canteen. It had been a long time since breakfast.

When they got there, Steve was just leaving and he pulled her aside.

“I’ve got hours to go yet.” he said. “Probably won’t be free until 10:30-11 o’clock.”

“I’ve still got stuff to do with the medical team, then I should give my dad a call. Why don’t you come to my quarters when you’re done?”

He raised his eyebrows and then tentatively agreed.

“Just don’t fall asleep on me.” he said.

“You know how I like to be woken up,” she said, tracing a line down his chest with her finger.

Steve grabbed her finger before she could go too far and kissed her sweetly on the lips and forehead.

“See you soon,” he said as he left.

 

Ginny took her time at dinner before heading for her quarters to pack up and get ready for the landing. She left one uniform and clean underwear out to put on in the morning and then went to take a shower so she could pack away most of her toiletries before calling her dad.

She chatted with Claude for over an hour. He was out of the hospital and had a very attentive female friend who was driving him crazy! He was glad to be leaving in the morning to drive up to the Avengers’ facility to meet her when she landed.

When she asked about her aunt Thérèse, though, he was evasive and said tomorrow was soon enough for the news from Montreal. He wanted to hear about Bucky and his treatment in Korea and how Steve was doing. He called them his boys. He was upset to hear of the damage to Bucky’s prosthetic. Even though he hadn’t built it, he still felt proprietary towards it.

At the end, there were tears. Ginny missed him so much and couldn’t wait to be folded into one of his heartfelt hugs.

It was past 11 when she finished with her dad. She had no idea what time Steve would come or if he’d change his mind, so she left a light on for him and settled to sleep. It had been a busy day but a good one. She fell into a peaceful sleep.

 

Ginny didn’t hear Steve come in, but felt him get into bed behind her and cradle her close. She stretched a little bit to settle herself more comfortably against him.

“What time is it?” she asked, sleepily.

“Almost 2.” he said, kissing the back of her neck. “Go back to sleep, love. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Steve was too tired even to bother to undress. He’d taken his boots and prosthetic off along with his belt and a few other sharp objects on his uniform and climbed into bed behind Ginny  on top of the covers. If he hadn’t been so exhausted, her pressing her firm, round bum into him would have kept him awake. But there was hardly a twitch from that area of his anatomy, luckily, and he settled to sleep.

 

It wasn’t a particularly early morning for either of them. Ginny had completed most of what she needed to do the day before and Steve just had to pack up his personal effects before having to be on the bridge for the landing.

So they lazed in bed for a bit, managed to get the rest of Steve’s uniform off and spent a slow and sensual hour exploring each other.

“One of these days,” he said, snuggling with her afterwards, “I’m just going to spend a whole day in bed with you.”

She pulled him closer. “Our first weekend together. We’ll just clear the calendar and not leave the apartment.” she said.

Steve caressed her back and felt like his heart would burst from loving this woman.

Too soon duty called and they both got dressed and headed for Steve’s quarters. He didn’t bring much on a mission other than some casual clothes to wear when he was off duty, and work-out gear, which he hadn’t really had time to wear on this mission.

Once he was packed, he had a shower and got dressed while Ginny responded to an email she had received from the foundation and another from Sylvie. She had her duffle bag with her so they could both drop them in the loading area on their way out.

They stopped on the bridge to make sure everything was on schedule. Steve told Nick he’d be back in an hour.

Next stop was the infirmary where Jas waved Ginny away saying everything was under control there.

The observation pod was Steve’s destination for this morning. They had only been down there at night and he wanted Ginny to see it by day.

Her reaction was everything he had hoped for. She stood by the glass wall beside him, completely awestruck.

The world was floating by beneath them in all its glory. There were few clouds so they could see the rivers and lakes, farms and cities laid out like a carpet below.

Ginny put her arm around Steve’s waist and he rested his across her shoulders. They stood like that for a long time.

Ginny sniffed and said, “Thank you.” in a very soft and husky voice.

Steve looked down and saw a tear on her cheek. He reached over and caught it on his finger.

“Tears? Why?” he said, surprised.

She shook her head to clear it. “My life has changed completely since I met you.” she said, sniffling again. “It’s all been a little overwhelming…kinda like this view.” She rested her head on his shoulder.

“And it’s about to change again.” he finished for her.

She turned around to face him and took his hands in hers. “Up to now, our relationship has been pretty intense. We haven’t spent a lot of time apart.” she said, looking up into his eyes. “It’s kinda been like a honeymoon. But now it’s back to real life and I’m not sure I’m ready to leave the honeymoon.”

Steve pulled her in and held her close. He knew exactly what she meant. He’d been struggling with the same feelings all morning.

He pressed his lips to her hair and asked, “What happened to my annoying optimist?”

She smiled at this. “Oh, I’m sure she’ll be back. She just slipped out for a coffee.”

They were quiet for a few minutes before Ginny said, “Right here, right now. I’m scared shitless of what’s to come and I’m torn with grief over what we’ve had coming to an end.”

“What we have ahead of us is the rest of our lives to do with what we want.” Steve said, firmly. “We might be at others’ beck and call right now, but we’ll make a space for us with everything else falling into place around that.”

Steve pulled back and tilted Ginny’s chin up so she was looking at him. “I’ve never been here before with anyone else, standing on the edge of forever. I’m truly looking forward to it!” He leaned down and claimed her lips in a slow, soulful kiss.

They stood together watching the view for a long time until Steve finally said, “We’ll be landing in about an hour and I should be on the bridge. Come with me?”

“Where else would I go?” she said, kissing him quickly. “I love to watch you be all commander-y.”

He laughed at this and they talked about possibilities for the next few days as they walked to the bridge.

On the bridge, everyone greeted her amiably. They had gotten to know her well during the mission. Kristen and Ron were both at stations and Ginny joined first one and the other to see what they were doing and to catch up. Ron had a wife and toddler waiting for him at home and he was anxious to get home before she took her first step. Kristen’s boyfriend had been in Africa with Doctors Without Borders for a year and had returned while she was away. Her plan was something like Ginny and Steve’s…to lay in food and wine and not venture outside for several days.

“Sounds like heaven.” Ginny said, glancing at Steve. She told Kristen that she and Steve would probably be apart for the next couple of months until they could find a place for each other in their lives.

“You will.” Kristen said. “Love finds a way.”

 

The helicarrier landed without a glitch. Ginny left Steve to oversee unloading with a kiss and went to find her dad.

Jas spotted her, though, and conscripted her to help off-load some of the more delicate equipment with the rest of the medical staff. She didn’t trust anyone else with her equipment.

So it was another hour before she could seek out Claude.

When she did, he was chatting with Tony, but he broke away when he saw her, wrapped her in a great big hug, then held her away from him to look at her critically.

“This trip has agreed with you, ma filles.” Claude said. “Or is it your little soldier boy?”

Tony laughed at this. “Not very many people could get away with calling Steve Rogers a little soldier boy!”

Claude fixed Tony with a gimlet eye and Tony backed-pedalled. “But his girlfriend’s dad would be one of them.” he said, with a smile, and he excused himself quickly.

When Ginny looked back at Claude, he was deadly serious.

“What’s happened Papa?” Ginny felt cold fingers of dread creeping up her spine.

“It’s Thérèse.” he said, gravely. “They finally found out what was wrong with her.”

Ginny didn’t say anything, just watched his face.

“It is cancer, hidden in the lining of the stomach. When they found it in her liver, they were able to trace it to the source, but too late.” He sniffed loudly. He had been close to Thérèse and Jean-Guy since Régine had been killed. They had taken Ginny under their wing as a surrogate daughter, but had also cared for Claude as he found his life again. And they had always been there to help with Ginny. He’d never signed on to be a single parent and he depended on Thérèse more than he should have to be a strong female role model for his little girl and Thérèse had never let them down.

“I have to go to her.” Ginny said, trying to absorb the enormity of what her dad was saying.

“You know you can’t.” Claude said. “You know what will happen to you when she dies.”

Ginny stopped at this. She chewed her lip, thinking. She did know what would happen. Searing, tearing pain which was only relieved by the unconsciousness that followed.

“What  if she dies while you’re in the air?” Claude said. “You can’t go. We’ll set up a video conference. You can say goodbye.” Claude was struggling to stay in control of himself.

Ginny paused for a second, then looked into Claude’s eyes and said, “I have to go papa. She’s more of a mother to me than mama was. She’s waiting for me. She won’t go before I get there.” She said this with more confidence than she felt.

 

Steve spotted Ginny and Claude deep in conversation across the loading dock. It didn’t look like a pleasant conversation. But he had a couple more things to deal with before he could join them. He could see there were tears, though, so he finished as quickly as he could.

By the time he came over to where they were, Ginny had her arms crossed and tears were streaming down her face. Claude was still trying to reason with her in French.

Steve put his hand on Ginny’s shoulder, nodded at Claude in greeting and said, “What’s going on?”

Ginny swiped some of the tears away with the back of her hand. “Ma tante Thérèse is dying. It was cancer after all and they found it too late.” she said in a flat voice.

“I’m so sorry, darling.” Steve said, squeezing her shoulder. “Do you need to go, to be there with her?” He wanted to hold her, but she had walls up again. He didn’t really understand why this time.

“Yes, I do!” she said belligerently to her father and walked away to find tissues.

Steve watched her go, then looked at Claude. “Wanna fill me in?” he said with more anger than he had meant to.

Claude was watching his daughter, too. He had been with her through all of her episodes except Régine’s. He had been near death himself and Thérèse and Jean-Guy had dealt with her that first time.

He turned to Steve and sighed. “Geneviève feels the death of someone she’s close to physically. She describes it as something being ripped from her body.”

“Tony told me about that.” Steve said, letting his eyes rest on Ginny for a second before turning back to Claude. “It’s how they knew I wasn’t dead when I was lost during the mission.”

“How serious is the reaction?” Steve looked concerned.

“It is life threatening.” Claude said, quietly. “It seems to be getting worse with each episode and the last time they had to revive her twice. If she hadn’t been in the hospital…” Claude’s voice shook a little as he let the end of the sentence hang between them.

Their eyes met for a moment before Steve’s sought Ginny again. She was walking back towards them.

“Does she know?” Steve asked, quickly. Claude looked at him. “That she died…does she know?”

“No.” Claude answered, simply.

Steve’s mind was in turmoil. He couldn’t lose her, not now, not after all they’d already been through.

Ginny had rejoined them but was still radiating anger and stubbornness.

“We could get you to Montreal in the Quinjet.” Steve said, quietly, touching her arm. “We could bring a full medical team, so if something happened, you’d be taken care of.”

“This is a good opportunity to see if we can figure out what causes this. It may be emotional, but being forewarned would help the medical team.”

“It’s not emotional.” she said, flatly. “It’s definitely physical…maybe metaphysical.”

“How do you know it’s not emotional? These have all been people you’re close to; that you loved.” Steve said, reasonably.

“Because it happened when Troy died.” she said. “It took papa two days to try and track down who had died when I had my last episode. We hadn’t kept in touch after we broke up, but one of my friends in Toronto had seen the obituary.”

Damn, Steve thought. Troy again. Why does this guy’s name keep coming up?

“I don’t think we need a full medical team.” Ginny said. “The pain is excruciating, but then I lose consciousness for a day or so and I’m okay after that.”

Steve raised his eyebrows at Claude, inviting him to fill her in on what had happened during the last episode.

“You lost consciousness because your heart stopped, cherie. You had to be revived twice.” Claude said, flatly.

Ginny’s mouth dropped open. There was a chair nearby and she walked over to it and sat down heavily.

Steve crouched down in front of her. “That’s why we need a full team.” he said. “I can’t lose you.”

When she looked at him, there was primal fear in her eyes. “I didn’t know, Steve. I didn’t know it was this bad.” Tears were streaming down her face.

“We’ll get through this. Forewarned is forearmed and maybe we can find a way to stop it or at least dampen the effects.” Steve pulled a handkerchief out of his breast pocket and dabbed away her tears. He handed it to her to blow her nose.

A thought occurred to him. “Let me ask Wanda to join us. She may be able to sense something.”

Ginny still looked a little uncertain and very scared.

“We’ll get through this.” Steve said, again, brushing the blue hair off her forehead and kissing her there.

Steve got up to go and make arrangements. Claude just stood next to his daughter with his hand on her shoulder.

Within the hour, the quinjet was ready to go. Jas, Peter and Glory were 3 of the 8 members of the medical team. Wanda was aboard as well. Tony was going to be piloting the jet and he had clearance at a small airport near the hospital and had arrange for facilities to be made available to them at the hospital.

Ginny balked because neither she or Steve had anything to wear for the funeral they would ultimately be attending.

“You have your blue dress,” Steve said, “and we can go shopping there if we need to. I need a new suit, anyways. Mine is too tight.”

Once on the jet, Jas took charge of Ginny, hooking her up to the monitors as though she were going on a mission. She asked her and Claude lots of questions about the previous episodes.

“It starts here,” Ginny told her, indicating a point just at the bottom of her sternum, “and it radiates out until it engulfs my whole body. But the pain is always worse at my core.”

“Does it start before the person dies or once they’re dead?” Jas asked.

“When my grandfather died, it felt like his pain ended and mine started. His heart was stopped before I felt any pain. Ginny said. “That’s the only person I was actually with when they died.” She shrugged, apologetically.

“And you’ve experienced this 5 times and always with the death of someone you loved?”, Jas asked.

Ginny nodded. “My mother, my grandfather, my cousin, Jody, Cecile, my best friend in high school and Troy.”

“And it’s gotten worse with each episode?” Jas confirmed and Ginny nodded.

She turned to her dad. “Papa, did I die with any of the others? You were with me for Cecile.”

“No, just the last time.” he answered.

“And how long ago was the episode with Troy?” Jas continued her questions.

“Just under a year…last November?” she looked up at her dad for confirmation.

“You spent Thanksgiving in the hospital. Don’t you remember?” Claude said.

Ginny smiled and shook her head. “I was pretty out of it, papa.” she said. Claude smiled at her, remembering.

“And your aunt, you are close to her? How close?” Jas asked.

She felt Steve’s hands on her shoulders.

“Thérèse is like a second mother to her, Jas, so, close. Are all these questions really necessary?” Steve said from behind Ginny.

Jas smiled at Ginny and said, “I think I have all I need. Rest now.”

Steve came around in front of her and put his arms around her and they stayed like that while the jet took off.

Ginny couldn’t let go. Steve was very literally holding her together. If not for his arms around her, she felt like she would splinter into a dozen pieces.

For his part, Steve was spending his time with her. If he thought they could sneak away somewhere to make love, they would be there now.

But all he could do was hold her. Where she was going, she’d have to go alone, and, he sincerely and desperately hoped, come back.

The flight to Montreal was an hour. The trip to the hospital, half an hour. Steve knew Ginny would have to stay with her aunt until the end…and then she would be the patient.

Steve was shaken out of his planning by Ginny.

“I’m so scared.” she whispered. Steve’s throat contracted and he had to swallow a couple of times before he could answer her.

“I’ll be right here. I promise, I won’t leave your side.” he whispered back.

Ginny pushed Steve away so she could see his face. She ran her hand down his cheek. His face had become so dear to her.

He cupped his hand over hers and turned his head to kiss her palm.

“I didn’t know, Steve. You can’t imagine I would have gotten involved with you if I’d known. I’m so sorry.”

Steve was so surprised. She was worried about him! She was losing her aunt, and she might die in the next few hours and she was worried about him. He felt like shaking her!

It took him a minute to get control of himself.

“If what we’ve had is all we get, I’ll never regret it, not one minute.” Two tears started down his face and she wiped them away with her thumbs.

“But I will fight Satan himself to keep you beside me. We deserve more than this.” He dropped his head and kissed her hands before wrapping her in his arms again.

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