The next morning dawned beautiful and sunny. She had not been taking the time she should for her own fitness, so she decided to take advantage of the beautiful day to go for a run. She hadn’t run in her neighbourhood since she’d met Steve, but she preferred it to running indoors, even on Stark’s sky-high track.
She stopped on her way home to pick up a few groceries. She’s at least be able to have dinner at home tonight!
At home, she had breakfast, showered and suited up for a day in the corporate world.
She checked her schedule and saw her meeting with Margaret and the foundation in the morning and several interviews in the afternoon.
She’d been disappointed so far with candidates she had seen, but maybe she needed to change her interview style. She made a few notes for herself for the afternoon and a couple others to talk to Jess about this morning.
The day passed quickly with Margaret bringing feedback from the other hospital administrators and suggesting candidates. That was helpful, because the interviews in the afternoon didn’t go any better. Ginny gave Jess the names of the candidates from the other hospitals and asked her to set up interviews with them at their hospitals for later in the week. If she could get a few in, she’d like to invite them on Thursday to her child amp group.
Ginny got home at 5:30 and whipped up some dinner before sitting down to her piano. She hadn’t been playing and she missed it.
She played for long enough and difficult enough pieces that her hands had started to ache.
Steve’s call put a welcome end to her playing.
“Hey.” she answered her phone casually.
“Hey, yourself.” Steve said with a smile in his voice. “How’d things go with Margaret this morning?”
Ginny told him all about the day, the meeting, the new ideas, the bad interviews, even cooking dinner. He shared what he could about his meeting with Fury and the next steps they were taking to investigate this threat. He was working with Tony on new weaponry for the Quinjet.
Finally, Steve said, “Let’s talk about the ceremony you sent me.”
Ginny was a little apprehensive. She hoped his didn’t hate it.
“Did Ellen send this to you or did you write it?” he asked.
“Little bit of each. She sent me a couple to look at and then gave me a couple of websites to check out and I reworked one of those.” she said. “Why? Do you hate it?”
“No, not at all!” Steve said, quickly. “It just seemed really personal to be written by someone who didn’t know us.”
Ginny smiled. “No, all of that was me and I think I know you pretty well.”
“Yes, you do.” he said, sounding distracted. “Can I make changes to this and send it back? Just a couple of things I’d like to add.”
“Of course, darling. Change whatever you want.” She smiled to herself. She loved that he was working on this with her!
He was quiet for a long moment, then said, “Okay, I’ll look at it later. I got a call from the jeweler today. The rings are ready…and they got in a wedding band that they thought would complement your ring. I figure I can send you a picture when I pick them up.”
“Yeah, not a real rush on that. But it would be nice to have it bought and out of the way. Maybe when we get back from Sylvie’s wedding, we can go in and I can try it on.” she said. “How would you feel about flying to Toronto? I don’t think I can leave here for more than 3 or 4 days and it’s almost 8 hours each way to drive.”
“I’m okay with flying. I can even see if we can fly up Avengers style just in case I have to come back in a hurry.” he said.
“Do you think that’s likely?” she asked, concerned.
“Don’t know.” he said, sounding distracted again. “I really hope Nick can figure out what’s going on before it all blows up, because it looks big.”
“ISIL?” she asked.
“Could be. But I don’t think they’re working alone if so.” Steve said. “How’s Dot? Anymore symptoms?”
“Dot is still a dot and no…no more projectile vomiting to report. I am avoiding chicken like it was poison, though.” she answered.
Ginny heard Steve chuckle on the other end of the line. Then he was quiet for a minute.
“I still can’t believe this is real.” he said, quietly.
“I am pretty overwhelmed by it myself.” Ginny said back, placing her hand on her belly protectively.
“I love you.” he said in a hoarse whisper.
“I love you, too, Steve.” she whispered in response. “I think Dot and I are going to curl up with a good book in bed now; something not too racy.”
Steve chuckled again. “I wish I could curl up with you. I still have work to do tonight.” he said. “Just needed to hear your voice.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow night?” she asked.
“You’d better!” he said, firmly.
“Goodnight, babe.” she whispered.
“Love you.” he said back and hung up the phone.
It worried Ginny that he was so distracted, but he did have a lot to think about.
The rest of the week went by quickly. Steve picked up the rings on Tuesday and the band they suggested looked perfect. They had a conference call with Ellen on Wednesday night to talk about the ceremony. That’s also when Steve told them that Tony had gotten wind of it and offered his garden. It would mean it wouldn’t be as private as they had planned, but that would still work.
Thursday morning with the kids was a blast! Bucky and Nat both showed up and it ended in a free-for-all, boys vs. girls brawl! Everyone was laughing so hard, it was difficult to get them all out to their rides. Ginny had two of the other hospital candidates along with Sunny who she hoped would work, with her at this hospital. They didn’t stay for the whole session, but Ginny was able to give them an idea of the advantages of yoga and dance for these kids as well as mentors like Bucky and Nat.
And then it was Friday. Ginny was so distracted that she ended up doing a great deal of staring off into space. Steve would be down that night and Ellen was coming in the next day. They would do the hand-fasting on Sunday at noon at Casa Stark with their friends in attendance. The ceremony had had to be rewritten a little bit to take some of the more intimate bits out and any reference to Dot…those they would commit to privately…
The day dragged on forever. Finally, at 4 pm Ginny made an excuse and left. She was available if she was needed, but Jess knew better than to bug her unless it was a dire emergency.
Ginny got home and started on dinner. She had found a recipe similar to the pork medallions they had had the weekend before. Steve would be there by 6, so she had time to get the wine that she picked up on the way home chilled and all the prep work done.
By the time Steve knocked on the door, dinner was just about ready. She opened the door to see him standing there with flowers.
She put her arms around his neck and kissed him before taking the flowers to find a vase.
Steve came in to find the whole place ablaze with candles and Ginny in the kitchen arranging the flowers and crying.
He came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. “Romance and tears don’t go well together.” he said, quietly.
She put the last piece of greenery in the vase and turned around. He put his arms around her to comfort her.
“I know.” she said. “Tears have been close to the surface all week. Don’t know if it’s hormones or the hand-fasting.”
She pulled back to look at him. “Sorry,” she said, with a shrug, “probably not the welcome you expected.”
He leaned down and kissed her. “You’re beautiful. Whatever you’re cooking smells wonderful and there’s got to be a hundred candles burning! Best welcome home ever!” He kissed her again.
Ginny put the flowers on the table out of their way. Steve helped her serve up dinner and wine and they sat to eat.
“This is wonderful!” Steve said, after the first bite.
“I’m so glad you like it! I was looking for a recipe similar to the meal we had on the mission, the night you asked me to stay.” she said, looking up to catch his eye. “I think this is better.”
“You know,” he said, taking a sip of wine, “I hadn’t planned to ask you to stay. I fully intended to wait until we got home. But after those nights alone in the thicket, having you so close and not with me seemed unbearable.”
“You did surprise me.” she said with a smile at the memory.
He chuckled, softly. “Surprised me, too. I didn’t realize I was going to say it until it was out of my mouth. But I knew I didn’t want you to go.”
They lingered over dinner and wine until Ginny’s phone buzzed on the counter. She picked it up and read the message and laughed!
“One of my cousins trash talking.” she said. “I forgot; Toronto and Montreal are playing tomorrow night.”
Steve looked a little confused. “Hockey?” he asked, tentatively.
“Of course!” she said. “Big rivalry, especially in my family. We’ll have to watch the game tomorrow night, if I can find it.”
“No problem.” he said. “I like hockey.”
She smiled at him and started clearing up. Steve helped her and they were quickly done and retreated to the living room.
Steve sat on the couch and Ginny curled up in his lap. He put his hand protectively over her belly.
“Pork doesn’t seem to bother you…or wine.” he said.
“Nothing else yet. But I caught the smell of chicken cooking from the cafeteria one day this week and I felt queasy the rest of the day.” Ginny said.
“I guess we’ll have to warn everyone: no chicken in your vicinity.” he said with a smile.
“Really hard to do when we can’t tell them why.” she said.
“And that seems to be getting harder. It feels like it’s all I think about, so when someone talks to me, I have a hard time focusing on what they’re saying.” Steve said. “It’s only here with you, when I can speak freely, that I feel alive.”
She tightened her arms around him and they sat together in their candlelit cave enjoying the feel of each other’s bodies.
Something had been nagging at Ginny all week and her cousins text had brought it to mind again.
“Steve, there’s something I need to talk to you about.” she said against his chest.
“You know you can talk to me about anything.” he said, feeling a little uneasy. The last ‘talk’ they had had almost ended in disaster.
She sighed and sat back to look at him. “I don’t know if there’s anything we can do about this, but you need to know how I feel.”
Steve didn’t say anything, just settled her back against the arm of the couch so he could see her face. At least she wasn’t pacing, he thought.
She took a long time to find the words to start. “You know I’m Canadian.”
“Yes, half French, half Canadian.” he said.
“I may only be first generation on my dad’s side but my mother’s family were among the first to come to New France in the 1600s. I am thirteenth generation Canadian.”
She rushed on before he could say anything. “My ancestor was one of those granted a seigneurie, a land grant, along the St. Lawrence River and one of my ancestresses was a filles de roi; one of the young women sent to the new world as a wives for the hunters and trappers. This is the stuff we learned in history class and I can put names to these people.”
She paused to collect her thoughts. “I never wanted to live in the States. The only reason I came down with papa is to get away from memories of Troy. And before I met you, I was making plans to move back. I was homesick and I wanted to help Sylvie with her wedding. Memories of Troy had faded to the point where I could be in Toronto again.”
Steve smiled, sadly. “And then you met me.”
She smiled back and ran a finger down his cheek. “Yeah, then I met you and you ruined all of my plans!” Steve chuckled at this.
She got serious again. “I love you so much. You are my home, but I will always be Canadian and when I think about raising a child, it hurts me to think that he or she won’t know what it is to be Canadian.” She reached over to the coffee table for a tissue.
Steve pulled her close. He was at a loss. He’d had no idea she felt this way and no idea what to do about it.
After a moment, Ginny said, “I don’t know if we can even do anything about this now or in the future, but I needed you to know what was in my heart.”
He held her fiercely, afraid to lose her.
“We can talk about it and see what we come up with.” he said. “You’re right, I need to know this. I had no idea. But wherever you are is my home, so I won’t rule anything out.”
They sat for a long time in silence.
Finally, Steve asked, “Is it that different here?”
“It is, but it’s subtle. It’s more in prevailing attitudes that anything concrete.” she answered. She wasn’t sure if she even understood the difference to explain it, she just knew it was there. Then she remembered something one of her high school history teachers had said.
She sat up so she could see his face. “You know how the US gained its independence from England, right?”
“Of course. The war of Independence – 1776 – Paul Revere and all that.” Steve said, with a small smile of pride on his face.
“Do you know how Canada gained its independence from England?” she asked.
“Did they? Gain independence, I mean. They’re still part of the Commonwealth.”
“All of the Commonwealth nations are independent nations but for some, their constitution is still held in Britain and the British parliament still needs to give permission for changes.”
“And Canada?” Steve asked.
“We gained our independence in 1974 when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau went to England and asked nicely.” she said.
Steve smiled. “Really? That’s it?”
She shrugged and said, “Yeah. England didn’t really want this power over us, had not refused any changes that we’d asked for in over a hundred years, so all we had to do was ask. The queen came over, there was a nice photo op while the papers were signed and we were independent.” she said.
Steve thought about what she said. “So how does that translate into day-to-day life, though?”
“I think that we’re generally more cooperative. We make sure that our poor have basic necessities, like health care. We use our armed forces for peacekeeping missions. We bring in refugees and have a strong immigration policy. We take care of each other. It’s not perfect and sometimes it doesn’t work, but I think, overall it’s just a more cooperative, kinder culture.”
Suddenly, it was too much and her tears started to flow again. She missed her country so much and had struggled to understand these foreigners for so long. Now even the love of her life didn’t get it.
Steve pulled her close to him and tried to comfort her until she finally took a gulping breath and said, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to lose it like this.”
“Hey, hey! Don’t worry about it! I think I understand. You must feel like I did when I woke up, trying to fit in with people who have no idea of how I lived and what it was like, except a few people over 90.” He held her close. “I get it. I really do. If Canada is full of people as caring and empathetic as you are, I think I could live there.”
Ginny sat up to look at him.
“We’ll figure it out. Maybe not tonight, but we’ll figure it out.” He brushed a tear off of her cheek. “No more tears now. This is supposed to be a happy weekend.”
He held her close to his chest again, letting her catch her breath.
After a few moments, he said, “I have rings.”
“Oh, I forgot!” she said, looking up at him. “Can I see?” Her face was bright with anticipation.
“They’re in the side of my bag.” he said, and let her jump up and retrieve the three little boxes.
The first one she opened was Steve’s gold ring. She slipped it on his finger and it fit snuggly, but not too snuggly. He looked at his hand for a moment.
“I like it.” he said. “It’s thin and shouldn’t get in the way, even once the other half is attached.”
He reached for the box he knew contained her ring. He pulled it out and slid it on her finger. It slid on easily and the petite setting looked perfect.
She smiled shyly at her hand, then she held it up beside his face, comparing the colour of his eyes. She leaned in and kissed him.
She had meant it to be a quick kiss, but he had deepened it and held her close to him until their breath started to come in ragged gasps.
When they paused, Steve said, “Enough talk for tonight.” He kissed her again stroking the fabric of her shirt over her nipple until he felt it harden and press against his fingers.
“I want you.” he whispered against her lips and shifting forward, he carried her off to bed.
Once in bed, the tears and the fears were forgotten as they explored each other with hands and mouths. They came together hard and fast at first, banishing the deep need their abstinence had created. But then they took the time to worship each other’s bodies as they slowly brought each other to climax again.
They lay breathless and shaking on the bed afterwards, each touching a part of the other to hold the connection.
Ginny caught her breath first and rolled towards Steve, ducking under his arm and putting hers over his chest. She reached for blankets to cover them when she saw his chest was a mass of goosebumps.
Steve was shattered. The week had brought nothing but frustration and disturbing news. When he had arrived at Ginny’s apartment, his only thought had been of burying himself in her and letting it wash away all of the worries of the week. Ginny’s revelations had just added to his unease. So when they had finally made love, he pushed himself and her so that he would be able to forget and just fill himself with her.
And it worked…for a moment. He settled the blankets more closely around her neck and held onto her like a life preserver. He closed his eyes and quickly fell asleep.
Ginny was surprised when Steve’s rhythmic breathing told her that he was asleep. He so rarely fell asleep before her.
She was a little apprehensive about what could have been keeping him awake nights to make him this tired tonight.
She closed her eyes. The fatigue of early pregnancy had been plaguing her all week and she fell easily to sleep, too.
When Ginny opened her eyes, it was still dark out, but the light coming through the window was enough to see that Steve was lying next to her awake.
She touched his arm and he covered her hand absently with his. He looked over and smiled at her.
“I didn’t mean to wake you, love.” he whispered.
She moved over next to him so he could put his arm around her and pull her in close.
“You didn’t.” she whispered back and snuggled in to the warmth of his body. “But I can almost hear you thinking. Is everything okay?”
“No.” he said simply. “I’m really afraid that it’s not, but information is like mist; we can’t seem to figure out what the threat is and where it will come from. It’s frustrating.”
“I wish I could help.” she said, squeezing him.
“You just did.” he said, pressing his lips to the top of her head. “This is the first good night’s sleep I’ve gotten all week.”
Ginny lifted her head to see the clock. 6:15 am.
“It’s early. Go back to sleep. Maybe I’ll be able to follow.” Steve said.
She looked at the set of his jaw and knew there was only one way he’d get back to sleep.
She slid her hand suggestively down his belly.
He chuckled. “You want more?” he asked, surprised.
“No,” she said, “but you do.” Her hand had found him and he was more than ready.
“I’m okay.” he said, huskily, but his eyes were closed and he was enjoying the sensation.
Ginny slid down his body, still holding him in her hand.
“No.” he said more firmly. “It’s okay. I don’t need…” He broke off as he felt her warm breath against his thighs.
“You need more sleep.” she said firmly and proceeded to lick and suck until Steve finally arched his back and came deep in her throat, the groan of pleasure sounding like it was ripped from him chest.
Ginny slid back in beside him and pulled the blankets up around them. She couldn’t hear Steve thinking anymore; just his ragged breathing.
After a few minutes, she heard a whispered, “Thank you.” before his breathing fell into the rhythm of sleep.
She smiled at how effective that had been, before closing her own eyes and matching her breathing to his.