A Time for Heroes – Chapter 25 – Family Funeral

The funeral home wasn’t even a block from their hotel. By the time they arrived, there were already lots of people outside smoking. So many people still smoked in Montreal; it still seemed odd to Ginny.

Inside, they greeted her uncle and cousins before going to the casket to see her aunt. She looked beautiful, Ginny thought, in magenta and black with her hands folded solemnly around a black rosary. There was a crucifix in the lid of the casket and a cascade of magenta roses on the bottom half of the lid.

There was a kneeling bench in front of the casket, so Ginny knelt down. But she didn’t pray. As Steve stood silently behind her, she spoke quietly to her aunt in French.

Finally, with others waiting to pay their respects, Ginny stood and wiped a tear quickly from her face. Steve was prepared with an extra handkerchief, which he gave her with a little smile.

She led him to the picture boards and found that she was in quite a few of the pictures. Vivienne and Pierre joined them and the two cousins started regaling the boys with tales of their shared childhood.

Steve watched Ginny laughing and hugging her cousin as they finished each other’s sentences. Several others came over and the area was soon the focal point of the room.

When they had come through the doors, the mood had been sombre, but now it seemed to be joyous. How does she do that at a funeral, Steve wondered, laughing at another story?

As more people joined the group around the picture board, Steve was separated from Ginny, so when he saw Claude come in, he broke away to go and greet him.

After a little small talk, Steve asked him if Ginny has always been like this.

Claude smiled and nodded. “She was vivacious from the time she was a toddler, always the one people were drawn to. Watch her.” he said. “See how she draws people in from the sidelines and makes everyone feel that they are special to her. Her mother was like that and so was Thérèse. The girls are more reserved, like their papa.”

Steve was watching. No wonder everyone on the helicarrier had fallen in love with her!

Then she turned and saw him with her dad and gave him one of the smiles that had made him fall in love with her in the first place. He smiled back and she went back to her admiring crowd.

Claude was quiet for a few minutes, watching his daughter. Then he said, “She’s very special. Try not to forget that.” and he walked away.

Steve looked after him for a moment before looking back at Ginny, who was now beckoning to him to join her.

“Look at this picture.” she said, pointing to the two women and the little girl in the picture. “That’s mama et ma tante Thérèse at la cabane à sucre…um, a sugar shack, where they make maple syrup. We used to go every year and make maple candy and eat pancakes covered with maple syrup.” She closed her eyes remembering the sweet taste. “It was always the highlight of our winter.” She raised a finger to stroke the picture.

“I’m the only one left from this picture.” she said, sadly. Steve had his arm around her shoulders and he squeezed her quickly.

She pointed to another picture with her and her cousins with their mom. She was in her early 20s and her bangs were pure white.

“That’s before I started dying it.” Ginny said, blowing up at her faded blue bangs.

Ginny continued to show him her life with Thérèse beside her every step of the way. Steve started to understand the depth of this relationship.

After about half an hour, they went and stood by Jean-Guy near the casket for a while, greeting newcomers.

There was a lull around 4:30 and Ginny turned to Steve and said, “I need some air.” She touched Jean-Guy’s sleeve to let him know they were going outside for a few minutes, then caught Vivienne’s eye so she could come and be with him.

There was a wrought iron bench on the porch of the funeral home so they sat down. It was a busy street and it was almost rush hour. Ginny was almost shocked to see the world going on as usual after what had happened. It felt…odd.

She put her legs over Steve’s and he held her close. They stayed that way until people started leaving at around 5. Most stopped to say goodbye and say they’d be back or they’d see her at the funeral.

Finally, Claude and Jean-Guy and the girls came out. They were walking to Jean-Guy’s where a friend with a catering business was setting up dinner for them.

Juliette walked with her dad while Vivienne and Pierre walked hand-in-hand behind Giselle and Marc. Ginny walked with her dad and Steve brought up the rear.

It had been a difficult afternoon and it was a quiet walk. When they got to the house, Giselle poured everyone a shot of whiskey and they toasted Thérèse before sitting down to eat.

The conversation centred around who was yet to come; friends and family who they hadn’t seen in a while and what was going on in their lives…everyone seemed to have gotten pigeonholed by different people so there were many stories.

Dinner was delicious as was the wine, but far too soon, they had to go back for the evening visitation.

The evening was more of the same and by 9:30, when they were finally able to leave, they were all exhausted. After hugs around, Ginny and Steve started walking towards their hotel hand-in-hand.

Being alone together for the first time in hours made them very aware of each other. Steve was stroking Ginny’s hand; he loved the softness of her skin under his thumb. Each stroke of his thumbs sent an electric current through her. This made her shiver.

He looked down at her and asked, “Are you cold?”

“A little.” she answered, so he draped his jacket over her shoulders and put his arm around her.

With his jacket around her, she could smell his scent and it excited her even more.

They made it through the hotel lobby and into the elevator before they turned to each other. She tangled her fingers in his hair and pulled his mouth down to hers for a deep and passionate kiss. He had his hand on her ass, pulling her into him. She flexed her hips into his and he moaned deep in his throat.

Ginny reached up and started pulling his tie loose.

He stopped her saying, “Let’s get to the hotel room before you undress me.”

The elevator doors opened on the their floor and they rushed out, giddy with their excitement. Steve fumbled with the key card trying to get the door open, but finally managed.

Once inside, they scrambled to try to undress each other without stopping kissing. Ginny managed to get Steve’s jacket and hers off and Steve pulled his tie the rest of the way free.

Ginny stopped in frustration! This wasn’t working! She hooked her hand into Steve’s belt and pulled him towards the couch. She quickly undid his pants and let them fall around his ankles, then pushed him back onto the couch. While she got rid of her panties, he managed to kick his shoes and pants free.

Then she pulled the waistband of his boxers down, freeing him, and straddled him, sinking down with a sigh, taking him deep inside of her.

She sat there for a moment with her hands on his shoulders, trying to slow things down. He went deeper in this position than in any other they had tried.

Steve’s only thought was that he had to get this dress off. He ached to touch her. So he reached around and got the zipper down. They managed to get Ginny’s arms out of the sleeves and let the dress pool around her waist. She reached back and snapped her bra off. The only thing still on was the silk scarf, which felt very sensual against her breasts, so she left it on.

Steve’s hands went to her breasts and she moaned with pleasure at the contact. He felt her clench around him, and he had to close his eyes and clench his teeth to hold onto some control.

He lifted her a little so he could get her breast to his mouth. She arched her back and pulled his head close as she moaned her pleasure. He switched to the other breast and could feel her kiss his head and stroke his hair.

It was getting to be too much, so he put his hands on her hips and pushed her down hard onto him and held her there so he could get back a little bit of control. Right now, this was going to finish way too fast for his liking.

Ginny leaned her head on his shoulder panting and trying to catch her breath.

After a minute, Steve put a hand on each of Ginny’s beautiful ass cheeks and lifted her slightly, starting to plunge into her from below. It was still going to be quick, but he’d given himself some breathing space.

Almost immediately, Ginny let out a primal growl as she started to climax. She was gripping his shoulders painfully and her legs pulled in tightly beside his hips as she let go and he felt wetness flow over him. That was all it took for him as he felt his balls tighten and he emptied himself into her.

They sat for a long time, still joined, trying to become coherent again. Ginny’s head was on Steve’s shoulder and he caressed her back and arms.

Finally, she sat up and gave him a long, soulful kiss and pressed her forehead against his.

“Sorry.” she said, softly.

He laughed and then got very serious. “Why?” he asked.

She sighed. “I pass out for a day and a half, then I inflict my family on you, then I bring you back to our hotel room and rape you!” she said, quickly.

He laughed again, stroking her cheek. “This was very consensual.” he said, “and your family is lovely, and I’m over the moon that you came out of your coma.”

“There’s nothing to apologize for here.” he said, huskily, looking deep into her eyes.

She gave him one of her brightest smiles. “My family is lovely, eh?” she said. “I know them and even I find them a little overwhelming.”

“Well, you always want what you don’t have.” he said. “I’m pretty alone here.”

She stroked his cheek with one finger and said, “You’re not alone anymore.” She kissed him softly on the lips.

“So,” he said, kissing the tip of her nose, “are these some of the rude things you spoke of?”

“Yes.” she whispered. “How do you like them so far?”

“So far?” he said in surprise. “There’s more?”

She felt him slipping out of her, so she reached for the box of tissues on the side table and wiped up a little before responding.

“Well, yes.” she said, finally. “There doesn’t have to be…but, yes.”

She let him mull that over while she went and used the washroom.

She came out in a bathrobe and brought the other one for him. While she was in the washroom, he had started to pick up their discarded clothes.

“Not that I mind you naked, but it is a little chilly in here.”

Steve put on the robe and sat down on the couch pulling her with him.

Ginny liked talking to him face-to-face, so she straddled his lap again.

“I like seeing you when we talk. If something comes up, we’ll deal with it.” she said with a mischievous smile.

“So more.” he said. “Are you going to tell me or make me wait?”

“I think wait.” she said, stroking hair off his forehead. “There’s just more exploring to be done and different positions to try. Nothing earth shattering. Just finding out what pleases the other and what doesn’t.”

“So far, everything’s been great.” he said, unnecessarily.

“I can tell.” she whispered, rubbing her nose against his.

He smiled, shyly, then kissed her to cover.

He pushed her hair back over her ear. “The sex is fabulous. But it’s you, you’re the prize.” he said.

“Who, me?” she mouthed, feigning modest surprise.

“I was watching you today. You just have a way with people. They flock to you.” he said, quietly.

“No…today? They just haven’t seen me in a while.” she said, dismissively.

“It’s not just today.” he said. “I left on mission for, what, three days? And came back to find that you were everyone’s darling!”

“Your dad says your vivacious, like your mom and your aunt.” he said. “I wish I could have known them.” he finished, sadly.

Ginny moving off his lap and laid her head on his chest. He wrapped his arms around her. “Me, too.” she said, quietly.

He sighed contentedly and kissed the top of her head as he settled her into a more comfortable position.

They stayed like that for a long time just letting the cares of the day melt away.

Ginny nestled in closer and said, “You’re so nice to cuddle with.”

Steve stretched his back out. “Do you think we can cuddle in bed, darling?” he said. “ I spent the last two nights in a chair.”

“Now I’m really sorry.” Ginny said, jumping up and offering her hand.

“Fair is fair. I made you sleep in a chair for a couple of nights.” he said.

“That’s right!” she said. “You did.”

She took off the bathrobe and slid into bed to warm up the sheets.

Steve sat on the edge of the bed to remove his prosthetic before tossing his robe on the chair and rolling into bed beside her.

She snuggled in next to him. It wasn’t very late, but the day had been a very long and emotional one. Steve drifted off first. Ginny listened to his slow, even breathing for just a few minutes before she closed her eyes and let sleep take her, too.

 

Steve looked at the clock: 6 am. Shit, he thought, why am I awake? But he was and he had to go to the bathroom, so he carefully got out of bed so as not to disturb Ginny, who had rolled to the other side of the bed and was still fast asleep. He hadn’t brought his crutches, so he hopped to the bathroom.

Steve was looking in the mirror wondering if he should get dressed and go for a run when there was a little knock on the bathroom door. He turned and opened it to see Ginny standing there as naked as he was, rubbing her eyes.

“I have to go, too.” she said. “Don’t flush.”

He opened the door for her and said, “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“It’s okay.” she said, sitting on the toilet. “I don’t intend to stay awake.”

Steve smiled and turned to go. “Mouthwash.” she said behind him.

He gave her a puzzled look.

“In case we need help getting back to sleep.” she smiled, suggestively.

He paused for a second before turning back to the sink and rinsing his mouth out quickly. Then he hopped back to bed.

He heard a flush and water running and a spit before she joined him in bed.

She was chilled and he was warm, so she snuggled in next to him to warm up.

“Mmmm…you are so warm!” she said, appreciatively. He pulled her close and rubbed her back to warm her up. Soon his rubbing turned to more inquisitive touching and they spent the next half hour exploring each other.

Lying together catching their breath afterwards, Ginny asked, “You okay…you seem off this morning.”

He sighed and said, “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a woman go to the bathroom before today.”

“I’m sorry.” she said. “I keep forgetting that you’re not…I mean…I’m sorry. I’ll try to be a little more discrete.”

“It’s okay. It just takes getting used to.” he said.

“Just let me know if there’s anything you don’t want to get used to. I can do boundaries.” Ginny said, sleepily.

“I will.” he said, and kissed the top of her head. He closed his eyes and found that he could sleep.

It was 9 o’clock before they woke for the day. Ginny jumped in the shower first and found Steve ironing when she came out.

“Do you do this to relax?” she asked, teasing.

“I told you: army training.” he said, with a smile.

“Go grab a shower and we can find some real breakfast.” She was drying her hair with a towel and when she pulled it off, her hair was sticking up all over her head.

Steve laughed and said, “You look like a porcupine.” Ginny stuck her tongue out at him and went to find some clothes.

Steve took a quick shower and shaved and came out to see Ginny dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and her leather jacket. Her hair no longer looked like a porcupine.

He got dressed quickly and they went out to find breakfast. Ginny had spotted an all-day breakfast place on their way to the funeral home.

Breakfast was delicious…bacon and eggs, hash browns and toast.

“Reminds me of our first breakfast.” Ginny said, spreading jam on her toast.

“A lot’s happened since then.” he answered.

“It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.” she agreed. “Any regrets?”

“No, I think I’m pretty happy.” he said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

“Nothing?” Ginny said, flipping her bangs up with a finger. “Not even this?”

“I like that.” he said. “Needs to be redone, though. It’s pretty faded.”

“When I get home.” That statement brought with it sadness. This trip to Montreal had not been for the happiest of reasons, but it had extended their time together. Home meant separation and neither of them wanted to think about that.

She sighed. “Maybe I should look for dye here and do it today. Ma tante Thérèse loved my hair. She’d be disappointed that I didn’t have bright colour for her funeral.” she said.

“Oh, and I want to pick up some heels.” she added. “You make me feel short!”

He laughed at this.

“Shopping it is, then.” he said. “We have the time today.”

First they found a pharmacy that carried the hair dye. She picked up blue and green to try a multicoloured look, since the red, white and blue had worked so well.

Then they hopped on the Metro to go to a little shoe shop Ginny knew across the city.

She bought classic black pumps with a heel high enough to put her head just above Steve’s shoulder.

Back at the hotel, she dyed her bangs while Steve found an old movie on TV. The blue and green worked well together and when she showed it to Steve, he agreed.

“Perfect match to your scarf.” he said.

Ginny laid down on the couch using Steve’s leg as a cushion to watch the movie with him. But his softly stroking her hair put her right to sleep.

It was 1:30 when he woke her up.

“Hey, are you okay?” he asked. “You seem to be sleeping a lot.”

“Coma does not equal sleep. I guess I’ve still got some catching up to do.” she answered, stretching and yawning.

 

The afternoon and evening were more of the same. Thérèse had been very involved in the community and her church so there were many stories shared about her kindness and generosity.

In the evening, Fr. Leblanc from their church came and led prayers in both French and English. Then there was a group from the St. Vincent de Paul Society who spoke of Thérèse’s work with their group, helping those less fortunate. By the end, there were many tears for a life ended too soon.

During the St. Vincent de Paul presentation, Ginny turned to Steve and cried quietly on his shoulder while he tried to comfort her. She hadn’t yet had a chance to grieve for her aunt and it had finally caught up with her.

They stood quietly at the edge of the room as people started to disperse. Many came by and touched Ginny’s back and spoke comforting words. Steve was left to exchange a few pleasantries with each of them and say he’d see them in the morning.

Finally, Ginny was able to pull herself together enough to turn and say farewell to those who came by. Her tears still flowed easily, but not as often.

When it was just family left, Ginny and Steve sat on one of the couches for a few minutes, cuddling together; stray tears still leaking down her face.

Vivienne and Giselle were talking about who they had gotten as pall-bearers: three nieces and three nephews of Thérèse’s…she had insisted that there would be women in the honour guard. Giselle asked Ginny to be with them to bring up the offerings. Along with the normal offerings of bread and wine, there were lots of personal items they were going to place before the altar. There would probably be others joining them who would bring their own offerings. Ginny would carry Thérèse’s guitar. Music was a strong bond between them. Tears started to flow again as the thought struck her that she’d never get to play music with her aunt again.

Claude watched her and Steve from across the room with approval as Steve comforted Ginny again. He hadn’t left her side all day and wasn’t uncomfortable at her tears. And he seemed at ease dealing with this big family of hers.

Ginny put her head on Steve’s chest and Steve looked up to see Claude watching him. He wondered briefly if he was passing muster. He smiled at Claude, who smiled back as he came over to them.

“You two should go and get some rest. We need to be back here by 9:30.” Claude said.

After hugs and a few more tears. Steve and Ginny headed back to their hotel.

They walked in silence with their arms around each other for a few minutes before Steve said, “It finally hit you.”

Tears immediately started to flow. “Yes.” was all she could say before turning to him and breaking down again.

He held her and stroked her hair and back until the sobs stopped, then he pulled out a clean hanky for her.

“Come on, let’s get inside.” he said. “You can get comfortable and relax.” Steve took her hand and drew her towards the hotel, which was just a couple of buildings away.

Once in their room, Ginny stripped out of her dress and put on yoga pants and a sweatshirt. Steve was getting things ready for the morning, which meant more ironing.

Ginny made sure her dress didn’t need ironing. It looked fine to her, but Steve took it from her to touch-up anyways. She rinsed out her nylons and then was at a loss.

“Sit down. Relax.” Steve said. “I’ll join you once I’m done here.”

Vivienne had insisted that they take a six-pack of beer with them the night before, so Ginny opened a beer and sat on the couch, surfing channels. She offered Steve one, but he said he’d grab one when he sat down.

She found a cheesy rom-com called ‘Music & Lyrics’. She’d seen it at least a dozen times before, but it was just funny enough and sweet enough to keep her from dissolving into tears.

Steve joined her a few minutes later and she caught him up.

“He’s a washed up teen-idol who was in a duo in the 80s that had a couple of hits, but when they split up, the other guy hit it big and he just didn’t…very much like Wham!.” she said.

“Who’s Wham!?” Steve asked.

“We danced once to ‘Wake me up before you go-go’.” she said. “That’s Wham!.”

Steve shrugged. “Anyways,” she continued, “George Michael went on to be a superstar and the other guy disappeared, like this guy.”

They sat quietly and watched as Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore fell in love.

Steve got up and got them each another beer. When he sat down, he said, “Can I ask you a favour?”

“Anything!” she said, raising her beer towards him.

“I don’t think my prosthetic was made for standing around a funeral home for two days in a row.” he said. “My stump aches. Will you rub it?”

“Of course.” she said, putting her beer down and readjusting herself on the couch so she could rest his stump in her lap.

He pulled the leg and stump sock off and swung his stump up for her. She could see right away it was swollen and red.

“Why didn’t you say something sooner?” she asked. “I could have rubbed it for you last night.” She closed her eyes and started to feel for swollen muscles so she could ease them.

“Um, we were otherwise occupied last night.” he said, clearing his throat.

She smiled up at him. “Yeah, that was fun.” she said, before focusing on her work again.

“This is awkward.” Ginny said after a moment. She pushed the coffee table back so she could  face Steve and sat on that.

Now that Steve could put his head back, he could relax and let her talented hands ease his sore leg.

Ginny half turned to see a favourite part of the movie without stopping her massage.

“But you can’t see your movie there.” Steve said.

She shook her head. “I’ve seen it before. I’ll swivel around for the really mushy parts.” She pulled a face that made him laugh.

Once she was done with his stump, she moved on to his good leg. It was stiff from trying to take the pressure off of the other leg. She worked on the thigh muscles, then moved down the calf to the foot until Steve was so relaxed he doubted he could walk.

Ginny flipped back onto the couch and snuggled in to watch the rest of the movie.

“Better?” she asked.

“Mmmm.” was the only reply followed by a kiss on her head.

Steve was not a fan of rom-com movies, but Ginny smiled in all the right places and it seemed to relax her, so he watched.

The movie ended at 11 and they were both yawning by the end so they quickly brushed teeth and hit the sack.

At first, they snuggled together, but eventually they moved apart and settled to sleep.

Sometime later, Steve awoke to hear Ginny speaking softly in French. Then she stopped and rolled onto her back. She turned her head and noticed him watching her.

“She was here.” Ginny whispered, rolling over to snuggle against Steve’s side as he put his arm around her.

“Who?” he asked, sleepily.

“Ma tante Thérèse” she whispered. “She wanted to make sure I was okay.”

Every hair on Steve’s body was standing on end. He wasn’t one to believe in ghosts, but if spirits wandered before their funerals… He let that thought fade.

“I asked her how she was and she said ‘Don’t worry for me, Bibette. I’m on to my next adventure.’” Ginny whispered after a couple of minutes.

“Bibette?” Steve asked.

“It’s a pet name…literally little bug. She called me that when I was small.”

She seemed comforted by the experience, so Steve relaxed, kissed her on the top of her head and said, “Sleep now, sweetie. We have to be up in a few hours.”

She stretched up to kiss him sleepily on the lips, then pulled back, still holding his hand. She fell back to sleep so quickly, Steve didn’t think she had been fully awake.

 

The next morning, neither of them mentioned their late night visitation, but Ginny seemed lighter, less oppressed by the grief that had gripped her the night before.

There was a continental breakfast, so they went and grabbed coffee and tea and some croissants and fruit to nibble on as they got dressed.

The funeral home was packed when they arrived, with cars already in place in the parking lot for the procession.

“Shit.” Ginny said. “I didn’t even think about the procession.”

“I’m sure we can hitch a ride with someone.” Steve said, putting his hand protectively on her back as she went up the stairs.

When they got inside they found that arrangements had already been made. They would ride with Vivienne and Pierre. Jean-Guy, Claude, Juliette, Giselle and Mark would be in the limo.

Ginny was subdued. People still sought her out but she clung closely to Steve and to her family.

When the funeral director asked everyone to say their final farewells and make their way to their cars, Ginny would have moved forward and then taken Steve to wait in the other room.

But Giselle said, “You’re as much a daughter to her as we were. Stay if you wish, Geneviève.”

So much for escape, Ginny thought, but she was so touched by Giselle’s words that she stayed.

Ginny went up with her sister-cousins to say goodbye to the woman who had been her mentor and friend as much as her aunt and mother. Tears flowed and they held each other for support.

Jean-Guy moved forward with Claude close behind him. He stroked Thérèse on the cheek in a way that Ginny had felt Steve do to her many times and she couldn’t hold herself together anymore. She turned to Steve, who pulled her into his arms.

She didn’t turn back to see the satin lining folded in and the box closed. When she was able to look back, Jean-Guy held a little velvet bag that contained Thérèse’s jewellery and they were being guided out to their cars.

The procession to the church was a short one. Once there, the pall-bearers lined up behind the hearse to help lift the casket onto the base. The church was an old one with grandiose stairs leading up to the front entrance, but the funeral director led the pallbearer’s around the side to the elevator and Ginny followed her family up the stairs and through the packed church to the front row, which had been reserved for them.

The casket was accompanied to the front of the church by its honour guard, and a white cloth laid over it before the mass started.

The mass was in French. Ginny looked up at Steve with an apologetic shrug and he whispered to her, “I’m used to mass being in Latin. This isn’t far different.”

Giselle and Juliette did the readings and Fr. Leblanc, after the gospel reading, spoke at length about Thérèse’s life. He spoke in both French and English and had many people in tears by the time he was done.

Ginny followed her sister-cousins to the back of the church for the offertory and found about a half a dozen people waiting for them, each with a personal item to be left on the altar.

Giselle and Vivienne took the chalice and wine and water while Ginny took Thérèse’s guitar and Juliette carried her sewing basket, and they followed the altar boy up the aisle, splitting at the front to pass on either side of the casket. Giselle and Vivienne handed their offerings to the priest and altar boy. The rest of them moved forward to place their offerings in and around the big basket in front of the altar.

At communion time, Steve didn’t expect Ginny to go up, but he followed her lead as she crossed her arms over her chest and accepted a blessing from the priest.

The mass came to an end shortly afterwards and they all followed Thérèse’s casket to the back of the church and then out to their waiting cars.

The procession to the cemetery was much longer and Ginny switched to the middle seat so she could be closer to Steve. His strength and comforting presence was what was holding her together. She felt very clingy today and hoped that wasn’t bothering him. But he never pulled away or seemed impatient.

For his part, Steve had given no thought to how he should behave and what he should do. The woman he loved was in pain and he would do whatever he needed to do to ease that pain.

The cemetery brought more tears as final farewells were said and they prepared to leave Thérèse to the earth. The last family funeral that Steve had attended was his mother’s, where the casket had been lowered into the earth and he had been expected to throw the first handful of dirt into the hole. He was extremely glad that wouldn’t be happening today.

Thérèse was to be cremated, so the final service was held in the mausoleum.

Steve stood behind Ginny with his arms around her and she clung to him. Prayers were said, holy water sprinkled and the priest invited everyone back to the church for a lunch to be served in the hall. There had been several flower arrangements brought and mourners were taking flowers from them as they left.

Ginny had stood like a statue through the final prayers but now she moved up and placed her hand on the casket. Steve moved to join her, but then saw Jean-Guy move up and place his hand over hers.

They spoke quietly for a moment before embracing for a long moment.

When she came back to Steve, he caught a tear on his finger before she put her arms around him.

Truth be told, he liked that she came to him like this. He didn’t like the reason for it, but he’d never really known his place at a funeral so surely before.

They met Vivienne and Pierre at the car. Once they were on the road, Vivienne turned in her seat to chat with Ginny.

“You know, papa wants to go to New York for a visit.” Vivienne said.

“I know.” Ginny answered. “He just told me.”

“And what did you say?” Vivienne asked, pointedly.

Ginny lifted her head off of Steve’s shoulder to answer. “I asked him to give Steve and I some time to get our feet on the ground before he came out.”

Vivienne gave her a puzzled look and Ginny sighed before saying, “We’ve known each other less than 2 months and we’ve spent most of that time jumping from crisis to crisis.” She looked up at Steve. “We’ve never even had a real date.”

Steve smiled at her and said, “It’s been a little hectic.”

“So,” Vivienne said, primly, “never been on a date, but sharing a hotel room?”

Ginny fixed her cousin with a disbelieving look. “You’re not turning prude on me now, are you, cousin?”

Vivienne laughed. “Like I could.” she said.

Vivienne had had many lovers before Pierre and might still have one on the side for all Ginny knew.

“What kind of crises?” Pierre asked.

“Well, there was the attack that cost me my leg. That’s how we met.” Steve said. “Then Claude’s heart attack, the mission that I almost didn’t come back from and then this.” Steve raised his hand to indicate Thérèse’s death and Ginny’s reaction.

“Ginny’s right. We’ve never even been on a real date.” Steve finished.

“I think my dad’s going to hang out in Montreal for a month or so. It’s not long, but it’ll give us time to go on our first date finally.” She looked at Steve. “I hope.”

He smiled back at her. “I hope so, too.” and he kissed her softly on the lips.

Vivienne started retching loudly from the front seat, which made Ginny kick the back of her seat hard.

Vivienne and Ginny both laughed. PDA was something neither of them could stand.

“Sorry.” Ginny said.

“No, my bad.” Vivienne said. “You two are very sweet.”

Vivienne turned back to face Ginny. “How about you two bring dad back for Christmas? I don’t think we can bear to have Christmas with no parents.” she said, sadly.

“Let us find our place and we can work it out from there.” Ginny answered. She wasn’t committing them to a big family Christmas until she saw what awaited them back in New York.

“Sounds like fun, though.” Steve said.

“Where’s your family, Steve?” Vivienne asked.

“I don’t have any.” he said. “My mom and dad both died when I was young and I was an only child. There’d be no one left alive now anyways.”

“No one left alive now?” Vivienne said. “Why?”

“Vivienne, il est Capitain America.” Pierre said to her in French.

Vivienne’s jaw dropped but she managed to regain her composure before turning back to Steve.

“I’m sorry, Steve. I had no idea.” she said, then hissed at Ginny, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It doesn’t matter, Viv.” she said. “He is just Steve Rogers. The other stuff is his job.”

Vivienne considered this for a moment. “I think it’s more than just a job, Gin.”

“It is more than just a job, Vivienne, but it is nice to have people get to know me without that prejudgement.” Steve said.

“Papa knew him before we got together and he’s still a little unsure of Steve.” Ginny said.

Steve stroked Ginny’s back comfortingly. That was probably going to be a hard-sell for a while, he thought.

They continued to talk about the visit and Christmas until they were back at the church.

Ginny got out of the car and stretched.

“Okay. Church lady sandwiches, here we come.” Ginny said.

Vivienne giggled and put her arm around her sister-cousin. “Mama changed it all. She didn’t like church lady sandwiches either. They do good food now…come and see.”

The hall was already packed with people, many with a drink in hand. Steve and Pierre left the girls chatting with some other cousins and went to get drinks.

Jean-Guy and Claude had reserved a table for the family. Ginny and Steve offered to get food for them.

In line, Ginny was her old, vivacious self, chatting with everyone around her, playing with the kids, gathering everyone to her. They finally got through the line for food and sat down to eat. The conversation was light and interrupted often by people stopping by to chat or say goodbye.

The crowd thinned slowly, no one wanting to bring the celebration of life to an end and leave Jean-Guy and his girls alone.

The girls circulated through the room leaving Jean-Guy and Claude to entertain those who came to sit.

Once the last well-wisher had left, Jean-Guy insisted that they all come and finish the day at his place. Everyone else had casual clothes at the house, so Ginny and Steve popped into the hotel to change. They didn’t even bother with jeans, just went straight to sweats!

Ginny didn’t seem to be in a rush to leave, tidying up the room and just puttering.

Steve sat down on the couch and pulled her down with him. She lay across his lap with her head on his shoulder.

“They’ll be waiting for us.” she said, not making any move to get up.

“They’ll just think we’re having sex.” he said and Ginny laughed.

“True enough.” she said, and snuggled into his arms with a sigh of contentment.

They were quiet for a long time. Then Steve said, “I’m getting asked when I’ll be able to get back.”

“I know. I’ve gotten a couple of emails from the Foundation. They want to start looking at facilities.” she answered.

“So I guess we have to talk about exit strategies.” Steve said. “Maybe tomorrow.”

She chuckled. “Not in a hurry?” she said.

“Not really.” he said. “Let’s go and be with your family tonight. Tomorrow is soon enough.” he said, caressing her back.

Ginny leaned back to look at Steve’s face. “I can’t remember the last time I kissed you.” she whispered.

Their lips met for a long, soulful kiss. Ginny wrapped her arms around Steve’s neck and clung to him, holding him long after the kiss had ended.

“I’m not ready for real life yet.” she whispered.

“Neither am I.” he whispered back.

It was Ginny who finally disentangled herself and said, “Let’s go for a bit, then we can come back and do rude things to each other.”

“Deal.” he said with a smile.

 

They spent the next few hours with the family. They had waited for Steve and Ginny to share a toast to Thérèse with shots of whiskey. They did tease them over the length of time it had taken them to arrive, to which Ginny responded, “Please! You’re lucky we’re here at all!” She raked her fingernails playfully down Steve’s chest and abs and bit her lip suggestively.

They all had a laugh at that.

Dinner was very casual. There was a fridge full of food, both from well-wishers and leftovers from dinner a couple of nights before. As people were hungry, they just fixed themselves a plate and warmed it up in the microwave.

Ginny and Steve curled up together in the corner of one couch. The conversation swirled around them. They responded when they needed to, but kept to themselves for the most part.

Just after 9, everyone started to pack up. Ginny and Steve had had something to eat and were ready to head out, as were the rest of the sisters.

Claude asked Ginny what their plans were for the next day.

“We’ve got lots to talk about, Papa, and some calls to make to see what our future looks like.” she answered. “We’ll be around in the afternoon…I’ll let you know when.”

Claude kissed his daughter on the cheek and embraced Steve as well, which was a first.

Ginny teased Steve on the way back to the hotel about being a son of the house now. But the teasing didn’t bother him because that hug had given him a warm feeling that he had never known before. Son of the house was not such a bad thing.

Ginny led the way through the door of the hotel room. She didn’t stop at the door, though. She took his hand and led him right over to the bed, where she shed her clothes and got in leaving him to do the same.

They made love slowly, with a great deal of exploring and touching. No words were necessary as they moved together to an earthshattering climax.

Afterwards, they lay together for a long time, gathering their thoughts. Then they started to talk. They talked about what they did know; Steve going to Avengers’ HQ, Ginny being in New York, the child amp program, Claude staying in Montreal, Sylvie’s wedding. Then they started to speculate about the things they didn’t know: how long they’d be apart, if Steve could get away for the wedding, what was happening for Christmas.

“I guess the $64,000 question is, how are we getting home?” Ginny asked.

Steve was quiet for a moment. “We could get Tony or Clint to fly up and get us.” he said. “That would be the quickest way.”

“We could rent a car and drive back.” Ginny offered.

“That would be nicer.” Steve said. “It’s, what, 6 hours or so back to the city? We could do that in a day. Let’s do that.”

“’Kay.” Ginny said, sleepily, snuggling in close.

With at least that decision made, they both settled to sleep, Ginny still on her side next to Steve with her arm and leg over his and his arms around her.

 

Nothing else was really settled, though, so in the morning, they both made some phone calls. Steve could delay a day or two more. The foundation needed Ginny back in New York by Wednesday at the latest.

With that information, they sat down to plan the rest of their week.

“We can leave Tuesday morning and drive straight through to New York.” Steve said. “I’ll ride my bike up to HQ Wednesday morning, so that gives us Tuesday night together.” He was sitting across from her on the couch holding her hand and stroking it with his thumb.

“Today’s Sunday, so that gives us 3 more nights together.” Ginny said, trying to sound upbeat.

“HQ is only an hour out of the city. Will you come up on the weekend?” Steve asked.

“I’ll plan on it.” Ginny said with a smile. “I didn’t get to see much beyond the loading area.”

Steve kissed her hand and gave her a sensuous look. “You may not see much beyond my quarters this time.” he said, huskily.

Ginny giggled and moved in next to him and said. “I love it when you try to be sexy.”

“Try? You cut me, woman!” Steve said, indignantly.

She giggled again and kissed him. After a few minutes, Steve said, “Do we have time?”

She kissed him deeply again before saying, “I didn’t commit us to anything this morning.”

Steve slid his hand up her side and cupped her breast. She arched her back, pressing her breast into his hand and he kissed her again.

They had just thrown on yoga pants and sweats that morning, so the clothes came off pretty easily. Ginny straddled Steve’s legs and sank down on him with a deep sigh of pleasure.

Steve slid his hand up her body and started to tease her nipples

“I like this position.” he said, lifting her so he could suck one of her nipples into his mouth. “Easy access.” he whispered against her breast.

Ginny barely heard him. She liked this position, too! She arched her back, pushing her nipple further into his mouth, each movement she made creating new sensations inside her.

It wasn’t long before Steve groaned deep in his throat and pulled her up far enough that he could thrust deep into her from beneath. Ginny held tightly to his shoulders, panting, then crying out as he felt her start to spasm around him. A growl came from his chest as he emptied himself deep inside of her.

They stayed like this for what felt like forever; his hands gripping her hips and hers holding tightly to his shoulders; waiting for their heartbeats and breathing to slow to normal. His head was back against the back of the couch and hers was bent forward.

“I like this position, too.” Ginny finally whispered.

He brought his head up and cupping her cheek, kissed her softly and slowly. He moved his other hand up her back, rubbing it to bring some warmth back; they had been still long enough to be chilled.

Ginny shivered and asked, “How about a nice, hot bath?” They had a large Jacuzzi tub in their bathroom, which they hadn’t had a chance to use yet, and time now to enjoy it.

“Sounds like heaven.” Steve answered, giving her a half-smile.

Ginny went in to start the water and use the toilet. Steve didn’t join her until he heard the toilet flush; he was still uncomfortable with that much intimacy.

When he got there, Ginny was just sinking into the frothy water, the jets making the water swirl and foam. He sat on the side of the tub to take his prosthetic off and sank into the almost-too-hot water at the other end of the tub from Ginny, their legs entwining across the sides of the tub.

Steve put his head back, closed his eyes and let the hot, swirling water ease away his tension. Ginny brought her foot over and poked him playfully in the balls, with one toe. “Still awake, Rogers?” she asked.

“Mmmm.” he replied, waving her foot away. “You want more already?” he asked, opening his eyes and giving her a sleepy smile.

“Sex underwater in a little dicey.” she said, turning around and coming over to his side of the tub so she could lean against him. He put his arms around her and settled back against the end of the tub. “So, no…maybe later.” she said, wiggling her bum between his legs suggestively.

He reached up to push a few of her hairs off of his face and said, “What’s wrong with sex underwater?” he asked.

“Water gets forced up where it shouldn’t be and that can cause infection.” she answered, settling her head back against his shoulder.

“Being with you is always educational.” Steve said, drowsily. “I am in awe of how much I didn’t know about women and sex before I met you.”

The water was making Ginny drowsy, too. “Glad I can be of help.” she said, sleepily.

They lazed in the tub until the water started to get cold. They were both glad of the bathrobes that the hotel had provided. They wrapped the robes around themselves and then wrapped their arms around each other to get warm.

Once they managed to get dressed, Ginny called her dad to see what was going on.

“Everything’s pretty quiet over here.” Claude said. “Did you and Steve figure out your future?”

“The next week or so anyways.” she answered. “Which is more security than we had last night.”

“Security, like safety, is an illusion, belle,” Claude said, “but I’m glad you’ve got some things figured out. Come when you want. We’ll have a quiet dinner.”

“Okay, papa. We’ll be there shortly. Should I bring wine?” she asked.

“Only if you want something special. Your uncle has a very well-stocked wine cellar.” Claude answered.

“Je t’adore, papa. À bientôt.” Ginny said and ended the call.

“Quiet day, quiet dinner.” she told Steve. “Let’s go and reserve a car at the rental place downstairs before we go over.”

 

The reservation made and a favourite bottle of wine procured, Steve and Ginny headed for her uncle’s.

The afternoon was relaxing. Steve was very at ease with the two older men. Both of them had also served in the military; Claude in the French army and Jean-Guy in the Canadian air force, and  the three of them shared stories of their military service . Ginny just sat and listened and got to know so much more about her man.

After dinner, the stories continued and the wine help Jean-Guy to relax and enjoy the comradery.

It was nearly midnight and Ginny had been dozing on Steve’s shoulder for about an hour. She loved hearing these stories. Her dad didn’t often open up about his time in the military, but when he did, she got to see a whole different side of him.

Steve felt Ginny relax against him and knew it was time to go.

“I should get this girl home.” he said.

“It’s okay.” Ginny said, sleepily. “We can stay. I love hearing these stories.”

“Cherie, we’ll tell stories again.” Jean-Guy said. “Your young man is right. Time to go home.”

Steve squeezed her shoulder and pressed his lips against her hair. “Come on, beautiful, before I have to carry you back to the hotel.” he said.

 

“That was wonderful.” Ginny said to Steve as they walked back to the hotel with their arms around each other. “I love to get papa to talk about his time in the military and I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of my uncle’s stories!”

Steve smiled. “Nothing really changes in the military…and it obviously doesn’t matter which country.” he said.

“It was interesting to hear your stories, too, darling.” she said. “Not as many pretty girls as in my dad’s and uncle’s stories.”

“Frenchmen.” Steve said dismissively in explanation, which made Ginny giggle.

They walked along in silence for a few moments.

“Today was a good day.” Ginny said, quietly. “I don’t think I’ve ever really talked to my uncle before. Ma tante Thérèse was always such a gregarious person.”

Steve squeezed her shoulder and said, “I’m glad. I hope I made a good impression on your dad…”

She smiled. “I told you before…it’s not my dad you have to make a good impression on.” she said.

“I think I’ve already made a good impression on you.” Steve said.

“You have, indeed, Captain Rogers.” she said, formally. “A very good impression indeed. If you had made any better impression, I wouldn’t be able to walk!” she added, indelicately.

Steve laughed and squeezed her closer and just kept walking. There wasn’t really anything he could say to that.

It had been a good day, but a tiring one, so teeth got brushed and neither of them were awake long once they got under the covers.

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