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The Night We Met (Lumberjack!Steve x reader)

Chapter Text

March 2014

Barren tundra. Frigid wasteland. Isolating Hell-frozen-over. Uninhabitable nightmare. These were the most accurate ways to describe your current location, which was a small logging town in the mountains of North America. Although you spent a good portion of your life growing up here, you never claimed it as home and despite having returned two months previous, you still felt no true affection for the place.

Returning to your "hometown" had been a difficult decision, but in the end it was for the best. Job options had run dry and your father offered you an opportunity. Telling yourself it was only short-term helped ease the sting, although you still didn't exactly have a solid exit plan. Be here now, you told yourself. Do the work, save money, bide your time, and maybe even salvage some sort of relationship with your estranged father. That's as far as you let yourself think into the future.

The town primarily existed because of your father's company, so the residents were almost exclusively employees and their families, if they had them. You were one of the few single females in town so the result was dozens of burly, overly-macho, hairy, and often intoxicated men hitting on you on a regular basis. Some of the older men watched you grow up, so they kept an eye on you now that you were back in town. Not that you couldn't take care of yourself, but the North can be an isolating place. Never hurts for someone to have your back.

The days became monotonous, though. There wasn't much to do in town and you would have to travel at least an hour to ski or shop beyond groceries. You also rarely felt inspired to hang out in random bars with your co-workers. The cold kept everyone inside during the winter months so for you, if you weren't working, you were at home snuggled in front of the fire with a book or movie and a glass of wine.

Once in a great while, the only female friend you had would coerce you into going out for a drink, such as that particular night that was now permanently etched in your mind. Wearing at least three layers of clothing on every part of your body, you were still somehow freezing for the few minutes you lingered outside before your friend appeared.

That was when he came into view, walking with a large duffle bag slung over his shoulder and a look of determination in his eye. You knew everyone in town, so he was definitely a stranger and an attractive one at that. A dark knitted hat was pulled down low over his head with the scruffy beginnings of a beard speckling his chiseled chin. He strode down the main street running through town, wide shoulders and fit physique apparent even under multiple layers of bulky clothing.

Pausing for a moment, you watched from a distance as he took a slow turn. He seemed to be familiarizing himself with the area, shifting his huge bag from one shoulder to the other as if it weighed nothing. He took a deep breath of frigid air, steeling himself, before he walked onward toward the boarding house across the way and disappeared inside.

You exhaled a breath you didn't even know you'd been holding as the icy cloud hung in the air before you.

"Y/N. Y/N," Jana spoke to gain your attention with a snap of her fingers in front your face.

You turned her way and offered a smile. "Hey! Sorry, I...zoned out for a bit. What was keeping you?"

"Couldn't get the little one to sleep, she kept asking for more bedtimes stories and Brent was already asleep on the couch so he was no help. Finally had to wake him before I left telling him to mind the baby monitor," your dear friend declared with a frustrated huff before perking back up with a grin. "But let's not talk about that now, I don't get many nights out so let's get inside and out of the cold! I need a drink."

You laughed at that and followed her inside, squeezing past the throngs of people as the appearance of the stranger was pushed from your mind.

_________________

Two weeks later, you sat at your desk squinting at the outdated computer program that was frozen on your screen. One of the biggest grievances you had was this stupid computer that often failed to boot up and barely functioned when it did. It was time to push your father once again for an upgrade. Pounding on the keyboard one last time, you gave up and turned your focus to the paper files on your desk.

Your job description at Snow Peaks Lumber was always fluctuating as you took on many different tasks that your father couldn't deal with or just didn't want to. Mostly involving personnel and other human resources-related projects, you were responsible for updating employee files, health benefits, and company safety. It became tedious to be stuck behind a desk, but better than being out in the cold cutting down trees. You'd leave that to the professionals.

There was a knock at the trailer where you worked, which was located near the current job site for convenience. You vocally beckoned for them to enter, preparing yourself for the frigid gust of wind that blew in as someone climbed the steps and shut the door behind them. The two space heaters under your desk mostly kept the chill away, but you still wore several layers and even gloves on occasion.

Pulling a knit hat from his head, the man shook snow from his jacket before taking the few steps toward your desk with something in his hands.

"Ms. Y/L/N? Sorry to bother you, but Darryl said I should come see you about this," he said as you stood up from your desk.

"Please, Y/N is just fine Mister...." you began, extending a hand.

"Sanders. Kurt Sanders. Nice to meet you, ma'am. I mean, Y/N," he corrected himself nervously.

Finally seeing him up close, you recognized Kurt as the stranger you saw that night. By now his beard had grown in but he kept it neatly trimmed, unlike many of the other disheveled men in town. His whiskers matched the dark blond shade of his medium-length hair with a few strands wandering down to his forehead. What you hadn't seen from a distance that night was how brilliantly blue his eyes were and suddenly you were captivated, grasping his hand a moment too long before breaking from your stupor.

"Uh...Nice to meet you as well, Kurt. I saw your file come across my desk but I hadn't met you in person. Good to put a face to the name, although...you don't strike me as a Kurt. Probably a strange thing to say, but..." you admitted as you took a seat and gestured for him to do the same.

He waited a beat and then barked out a laugh. "No offense taken," he replied with a warm smile.

You held his gaze a moment, then glancing down at the file on your desk. "So, how are you liking it here so far?" you asked as he pulled the zipper down halfway on his down coat, making you a little warm yourself. He must be sweltering in all those layers inside your heated trailer. "You've made quite the impression on the boss already, it seems. He's starting to count on you more every day."

He shrugged with a smile. "I like to make myself useful. And I enjoy the work, you know, being outside and staying active. All that. The fellas are great, too. Can't complain," he confessed, running one hand through his hair as something jangled in his other.

"So, what happened there?" you asked, nodding to the harness in Kurt's hand.

"Oh, um...safety harness broke earlier. Thought I'd let you know and get a replacement," he answered, handing the contraption over as you set it on your desk to examine it.

"Wow," you uttered, turning the harness every which way, perplexed. "This strap is practically ripped in half. I researched and bought these myself, I know what they can withstand and it shouldn't break like this," you said with concern. "How did it happen?" you asked, turning back toward the man before you.

He reached up to scratch the back of his head. "Um...I'm not sure, I guess it got caught on something. Luckily I wasn't up too high," he said, pursing his lips.

"Hmm." You considered the broken strap a minute longer before standing from your desk and opening the closet door. Plucking a replacement from a hook, you walked back and handed it to Kurt. "This one is brand new, so hopefully it lasts a while. I'll have to contact the manufacturer and find out why that one gave out so soon. Can't have you men strapped to a tree 50 feet in the air in faulty harnesses," you said with a reassuring smile, which he returned.

"No, we can't have that. Safety first," he said with a wink, causing a small flip of your stomach.

"Exactly," you uttered with a hitch in your voice, attempting to remain calm.

He maintained eye contact a moment longer before standing and pulling his hat on. "Well, I better get back to work. Thank you, Ms...Y/N," he said with a nod and then he was gone, leaving you barely breathing.

Later that night, you collapsed on your couch with a glass of wine in hand, determined to forget the small moment you had with Kurt earlier. There was no way you could get involved with someone in town. You didn't need anything tying you here, even if he was tall, blond, and gorgeous. Besides, it was probably a momentary infatuation. He just happened to be the first new guy in town in a long time so he was bound to catch your eye, nothing more. So you let it go.

________________

A few days later, you found yourself at the bar seated at a table once again with your friend Jana, but this time the gathering was your idea. Try as you might to forget The New Guy, he somehow lingered in your mind so you thought getting out of the house could effectively distract you.

Jana was talking about her upcoming trip to see her in-laws and how perilous traveling with a baby was when you spotted him across the crowded bar. Of course your plan would backfire and he would show up. Kurt was accompanied by a few of the guys from work whom you recognized. The blond then caught your eye and raised his drink at you in greeting with a smile, which you returned.

Your friend followed your gaze and let out a low whistle as the man broke eye contact and returned to his colleagues. "Ooh. Who's that handsome hunk of plaid-wrapped muscle?" she asked, intrigued.

"Jana!"

She laughed. "What? Brent doesn't care. I can still appreciate a beautiful man from afar. So?" she asked again, waiting.

You deflected with a shrug. "It's um...he's no one, just a new employee. He came in to see me a few days ago. It's nothing."

Jana nudged you then, sly smile upon her lips. "Uh huh. Sure didn't look like nothing. You should send him a drink or some...oh, hold on," she paused when her ringtone sounded and she searched for her phone to answer.

As you barely heard the one-sided phone conversation, you snuck covert glances back at Kurt, who had his back to you now. He wore a plaid button-up with the sleeves rolled to the elbow and jeans hugging his thighs and butt just right. Running a hand through his butterscotch locks, he threw his head back in laughter with a wide smile upon his handsome, bearded face. You were transfixed.

"I'm sorry, I have to go, YN. The baby is running a fever," you heard Jana say and you finally realized she was speaking to you. "And I was selfishly dominating the conversation, so rude. There was something you wanted to talk to me about?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, that's fine. Go, take care of your little angel. We'll talk another time," you assured her with a dismissive wave.

"You sure? Alright. Call me later," she replied with a hug before donning her coat and heading out the door.

You thought about leaving, too, but figured you might as well finish your drink. You took a sip and turned your glass this way and that, the liquid swirling and catching the light. A shadow fell upon your table then, causing you to look up only to find the smiling, bearded face of your unbidden crush.

Oh boy.

___________

Part 2 Coming Soon....

Chapter Text

Previously:

You took a sip and turned your glass this way and that, the liquid swirling and catching the light. A shadow fell upon your table then, causing you to look up only to find the smiling, bearded face of your unbidden crush.

Oh boy.

______________

"Y/N, hi. It's good to see you," he greeted with a nod.

"Kurt...hello. Nice to see you, too," you replied nervously.

"I saw your friend leave, would you like some company?" he asked, gesturing to the now-empty chair beside you.

You shook your head. "Sure, yeah, you're welcome to sit." He followed your prompting as you felt your palms begin to sweat.

Kurt leaned back in his chair and set his bottle of beer on a coaster, which made you smile. No one actually used the coasters, a fact made evident by the dozens of circles covering the table's surface. He sat forward then, forearms resting on the table as he turned your way.

"So how long have you been in town?" he asked, taking a sip of his beer.

You scoffed at that. "Well, that's a loaded question."

His brow furrowed in concern. "Oh. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry."

"No, no, it's fine, I'm just..." you took a deep breath and released it. "I kind of grew up here, actually. My parents divorced when I was in high school so I went to live with my mom out of state and I've only been back for short visits since then. Until now..." you trailed off, realizing you'd told him more than you'd planned. He wasn't asking for your life story, you thought, kicking yourself. "I've only been back a few months."

He nodded somberly. "I'm sorry. About your parents, I mean. That's rough. So, what brought you back? If you don't mind my asking..." he interjected.

You just shrugged and replied, "A job. I wasn't having much luck after the last company I worked for went under. My dad mentioned in one of our bi-yearly phone conversations that he could use some help, so I took him up on it."

Kurt's eyes grew wide then. "Wait...your dad? So, you're the boss's daughter?"

You raised your hands in surrender. "Guilty as charged. Nepotism at its finest, huh?" you joked.

He let out a quick, dry laugh. "But your last name..."

"Oh, that. I ended up taking my step-father's name once he married my mom. I cut ties with my dad for a long while. Only recently have we tried to actually 'reconnect' " you finished, the last word in air quotes. That was the term your dad always used when he started reaching out. You figured there wasn't much point, since you were already grown and had a positive male influence, but somehow you couldn't say no.

Kurt took a swig of his beer and cleared his throat. "So...not a fan of the small town life, huh? I guess there isn't much to do. Of course, I haven't really explored much outside of town..." he trailed off, using a thumb nail to peel off the label from the bottle in his hands.

You shrugged at that. "It's not all bad. Being stuck here as a teenager wasn't ideal but then again, I don't think my negative attitude has changed much since then," you joked. "My one escape was snowmobiling through the back country. If I was able to sneak around behind my father's back, that is," you joked. "Have you ever been?"

"Um...nope. Never been snowmobiling. I've been on motorcycles and such," he answered, taking another long drag of his beer.

"You should try it," you told him, nudging his elbow with yours. "I, uh...I was actually thinking of going out this Saturday. Would you like to join me?" you quickly asked before your brain caught up and you panicked. You had no such plans until you just made your offer, but if he said yes, then great.

Kurt's eyebrows shot up at that, bright blue eyes meeting yours. "Wow, um...I can't. But thank you. Maybe another time?" he offered apologetically.

Your heart sank at that, trying to maintain your composure. "Oh, yeah. No problem. Another time," you said with a hopefully unforced smile.

"Great," he replied with a nod, then letting silence fall a moment. "Well, I better get back. Hope you have a nice evening, Y/N," he said as he pushed his chair back to stand.

"Okay. Yeah, you too," you uttered quickly, returning his nod as he walked back to his group of friends.

Sitting still for a moment, you felt that sting of rejection and wanted to kick yourself for opening that can of worms. So what if you had put yourself out there and been shot down? So what? Well, now it would be awkward if you ran into each other and your raging crush hadn't been doused in the slightest, that's what. Going out was a terrible idea, you thought as you drained the last of your drink. You stood to put on your coat before heading out the door and into the cold with head hanging low.

_______________

Two days later, you walked into the local coffee shop and stood in line behind a few of your fellow persons in need of an afternoon pick-me-up. Even in this tiny town, there was a Starbucks, which was further proof that they were taking over the world. Truthfully, it was probably your father's doing but you couldn't fault him for that. Everyone loved a nice, hot, caffeinated beverage you didn't have to make yourself.

Shuffling forward in line, you were glancing down at your phone when a voice behind you called your name. Turning around, it was the one and only man of your most-recent and possibly indecent dreams.

"Kurt! Hi, um...what are you doing here?" you asked him, startled.

He just smiled and pointed at the counter. "Coffee?"

"Oh. Right," you cringed, feeling the heat rise in your face. "Are you...off today?" you asked nervously.

"No, just a break. There was an equipment malfunction so your father told us to take the afternoon off until it's fixed," he replied, then gesturing ahead of you. "I think you're up next."

"Hm? Oh! Right," you uttered, stepping up to the counter and giving the barista your order. Walking a few feet away to wait for your coffee, you kept your back to the handsome man. Why did you have to be so awkward around him?

As soon as your name was called, you grabbed your drink and practically ran out the door without looking back. You had to get this guy out of your system, you thought on the way back to work. Yes, he was attractive, but there were other good-looking guys around. Right? None came to mind at the moment, but....

Settling back at your desk, you decided to dive into work as a distraction. Get a grip, Y/N, you thought. There's more to life than him.

_____________

You made it almost a week without seeing him and thought you might be in the clear until you decided to visit the book store Saturday morning. Deeply engrossed in a new mystery thriller that you weren't sure you wanted to pay for just yet, you didn't notice anyone approach until he was right in front of you.

"Good book?" he asked, making you jump in surprise. "Whoa! Sorry I scared you."

Recovering with a hand on your chest, you laughed nervously. "No, it's fine. I, um...I just didn't see you there. And yes, good book so far," you replied, showing him the cover.

"Hm. I'll have to check it out," he said with that warm smile that made you melt. He had to quit that or you'd never get over him.

Surprisingly, you soon found yourself seated at a table with Kurt, spending the rest of that morning talking about your favorite books and sharing recommendations. Conversation flowed smoothly and you felt yourself falling even more. How could this man be so amazing? It was like he didn't even belong here. Which was kind of how you felt about yourself as well, actually.

Eventually, your stomach growled and you looked at the clock.

"Wow, must be lunch time," you mentioned with a laugh. "I better eat something soon..." you began, leaving room for an invitation. Or so you thought.

"Right. I better let you go. It was fun talking to you, Y/N. I'll see you around," he spoke and then he was gone before you could even process his words.

Slumping back in your chair, you were perplexed. It almost seemed like he was into you, but...nothing. What was his deal?

________________

Over the next few weeks, there was more of the same. You would run into Kurt in random places in town and you'd get talking, which led to laughing and enjoying each other's company for hours and yet, still nothing. You figured that your invitation for snowmobiling had been putting yourself out there enough, so if something were to happen, it was his move. You still tried to make it obvious that you were available, though, and yet he wouldn't take the hint.

After yet another ranting conversation with Jana over the phone, you were ready to give up. Maybe you could just be friends. Easier said than done, though, as your heart raced at the thought of him and other parts of your anatomy recognized your attraction to the man.

The next morning, you entered Starbucks for your caffeine fix and much too late, you noticed that it was Kurt ahead of you in line. For a split second, you thought about taking the coward's way out and leaving empty handed, but he had already seen you. Damn.

"Y/N, hey," he greeted you with that gorgeous smile. Curse this handsome, sweet man and your involuntary reaction to his presence.

"Hey, Kurt," you replied, a little colder than usual. Maybe the friends thing wasn't a good idea. It might hurt too much to be around him, so subconsciously, you began to emotionally step away from him.

His face fell at your cool response. "Um...everything okay?" he asked in concern.

"Yeah. Why wouldn't it be? It's your turn," you gestured toward the counter with your head.

Kurt looked puzzled for a moment, then turning away so he could order. Stepping up next and opening your mouth to order, the barista spoke first.

"He already got your order," she told you in a chipper tone.

"Um...okay?" you replied and stepped away, confused. "You didn't have to do that," you said quietly as you reached Kurt's side.

He just shrugged with a smile. "I know how you like your coffee and you looked like you could use some cheering up."

The corner of your mouth raised slightly as he held your gaze until his name was called. Grasping both cups, he walked toward a table with you following, still unsure what was happening. You took a seat while he settled across from you and just as you opened your mouth to ask, he spoke first.

"So, Y/N...I was thinking about that invitation to go snowmobiling. Are you still up for that?" he asked, taking a careful sip of his hot coffee.

Eyebrows raised in shock, you attempted to catch up. "Um...yeah. Invitation is still open. You really want to?" you asked hesitantly.

"Yeah, it sounds like fun. And my Saturday is free, if that works for you?" Kurt offered.

You paused a moment, curious about the 180 he just pulled. He had seemed uninterested for weeks and now he's all in? Should you be suspicious at all, or was it better to just say yes and throw caution to the wind? Huh. Eh, what the hell? you thought.

"Okay," you said with a nod. "Saturday."

"Great! 9am okay?"

"Sure."

"Perfect," he exclaimed, beaming at you with a self-satisfied grin.

A smile tugged at your lips while butterflies took flight in your stomach, attempting to hide your gleeful expression behind your coffee cup. You had a date with the man of your dreams. Finally!

Snowmobiling wouldn't be your first choice in dates these days and it had been a while, but you used to ride all the time in high school. It's not something you forget, right?

What could possibly go wrong?

Chapter Text

Previously:

A smile tugged at your lips while butterflies took flight in your stomach, attempting to hide your gleeful expression behind your coffee cup. You had a date with the man of your dreams. Finally!

Snowmobiling wouldn't be your first choice in dates these days and it had been a while, but you used to ride all the time in high school. It's not something you forget, right?

What could possibly go wrong?

___________

Saturday morning, you found yourself bundled in multiple layers while gassing up two snowmobiles borrowed from your father, with permission this time. It had been years since you had done this, but muscle memory all came back shortly. Kurt was familiar with the basics, having been around motorcycles, so after a few minutes of instruction, you were on your way.

The tracks were fresh and the weather was good, not too cold but with a little cloud cover which helped with the snow blindness. Soon you were both trying to out-do one another, attempting small jumps and racing playfully. A few hours in, however, your sled began to sputter and it eventually died halfway up the mountain. Kurt circled back and you both checked the motor in confusion.

"I filled them both up before we left and I thought they'd been serviced recently," you said with a frustrated sigh.

"Well, that's a lie," he replied, backtracking upon seeing your angry expression. "No! Not you, I mean...I know you filled up the tanks, but I don't think they've been serviced recently. Looks like you've been leaking gas since we left and now....empty," he shrugged.

"Damn it," you cursed as you tried to move around to keep warm. The temperature seemed to have dropped and you were cold from standing still so long. The effort of driving had kept you warm the past few hours but now you were stuck freezing your butt off.

Kurt thought it over with hands on his hips. "Well, I could siphon gas from the other sled but yours will keep leaking. We probably wouldn't have enough to get us both back, though. Might be best to leave yours here and head home. Come back for it later?" he proposed, stuffing gloved hands in his pockets.

You were annoyed by the whole situation, but knew he was right. "Okay. Let's go."

Kurt straddled the snowmobile and you slipped in behind him, wrapping your arms around his small waist. Feeling the warmth emanating from his muscular back as you held him close, you thought that maybe this wasn't so bad. The engine roared to life and he steered the sled back toward town. You had only been riding about five minutes before the snow began to fall, obstructing your view.

Another fifteen minutes later, Kurt slowed the snowmobile, letting the engine idle as he half-turned toward you to speak. "I can't see a damn thing. Do you have any idea where we are?" he asked as you loosened your grip on him.

You looked around for any landmarks, finally spotting the outline of the nearest mountain peak faintly through the snowfall. "Y-yes. I think w-we're about 3 miles a-away," you answered with a shivering voice.

"God, you're soaking wet, you must be freezing," he uttered with concern. The snow that fell was heavy and wet. Adding that to the spray from the sled, you were struggling to keep warm. "I wish there was somewhere closer—"

"Th-there is," you interrupted, teeth chattering. "M-my father has a hunting c-cabin. It's not far," you sniffled.

"Okay. Lead the way," he told you, rubbing his large hands over your arms still wrapped around his waist.

Ten minutes later, Kurt was pulling the sled into the slight overhang to the side of the cabin. You struggled to move in your frozen state, but he stayed right behind you, rubbing your arms for warmth. Feeling around the frame of the doorway, you found the loose brick that housed the spare key and let yourself into the darkness.

Your father hadn't used this cabin in years, but on occasion his friends used it. Hopefully there was dry clothing somewhere and non-perishable food because you were starving. Using the light from your phone, you found an old-fashioned oil lantern and some matches to light it with. The flame sparked to life and a warm, yellow glow filled the cabin.

"Would there be any firewood outside?" he asked, rubbing his hands together.

"Around back, I th-think," you chattered.

"Okay. We'll get you warmed up in no time," he said with a smile before stepping out into the cold again.

Glancing around, you took in your surroundings. The cabin was small, consisting of only one bedroom and bathroom with a combined living room and kitchen area. There were white sheets over the furniture, ghostly shapes of a couch and chair facing the currently empty fireplace. You wandered into the bedroom and searched the drawers for dry clothing, thankfully finding some around your size.

Closing the door just in case, you peeled off your multiple layers of a coat, jacket, thermal underwear, t-shirt, and leggings underneath. Your basic underclothing was thankfully still dry, so you pulled on a pair of sweats and cinched them around your waist before buttoning up a large, flannel, long-sleeved shirt. Peeking in the closet, you discovered a huge, warm blanket that you immediately wrapped around yourself before leaving the bedroom.

Kurt had returned then, crouching in front of the fireplace and within minutes a fire roared within its depths. You crawled forward and sat on the rug directly in front of the fire, pulling the blanket tight around you like a cocoon. Only your face was showing at that point and you heard a snicker from beside you, turning slightly toward the sound.

"Feeling better?" he asked with an amused smile.

"Yes, thank you," you answered in a pleased tone. He stood there a moment and you noticed that he still wore his damp clothing and had made no move to change. So far he had only taken off his hat and gloves. "There's dry clothing in the bedroom, it's sort of a random selection, but you should be able to find something."

He waved your suggestion away. "I'm fine, really."

You offered a deadpan expression. "Kurt. Come on, we could be stuck here for hours, depending on the storm. Might as well let your clothes dry and get comfortable," you reasoned with him.

He considered your words and finally resigned, heading for the bedroom and closing the door.

The fire had soon thawed you considerably and by that time, you realized how long Kurt had been in there. Much too long, it seemed. Curious, you stood and lightly knocked on the door.

"Kurt? Everything okay? Were you able to find something to wear?" you asked through the wooden door.

"Um...kind of," he answered, voice muffled. Kurt opened the door a sliver with only his face showing.

"What's wrong?"

He hesitated a moment. "Promise you won't laugh?"

Raising an eyebrow, you slowly agreed and backed away from the door. "Um...okay. I promise."

Slowly he swung the door open, revealing the large man wearing the smallest clothing possible for his frame. You bit your lip to keep your reaction in check as you recognized what you were seeing. The sweats he wore were almost okay, thanks to his unusually slim hips but the bottom hem hit him mid-calf showing a lot of ankle. The shirt, however, was a problem, but not in a bad way, in your opinion. He had somehow squeezed into the off-white thermal, "long-sleeved" shirt that exposed his wrists as well. The shirt was skin-tight, showcasing every curve of his taut muscles that rippled and stretched as he moved into the living room.

Still trying to keep your face passive, you spoke, "Um...are those...children's sized?"

"I think they're women's, actually," he replied sheepishly. A snort escaped before you could clap a hand over your mouth and he pointed a finger. "Hey, you promised!"

Straightening out your expression, you took a deep breath and nodded. "You're right, I'm sorry," you apologized, clearing your throat. "So...I'm feeling much warmer and now I'm starving. Let's see what's in the cupboards, shall we?" you offered, leading the way to the kitchen.

After a few minutes of searching, you both had discovered a few cans of edible food, a sleeve of crackers, bottled water, and your last discovery had you quite excited.

"Ah-ha! I knew it!" you exclaimed, producing a bottle of wine from the back of a cupboard, then blowing the dust that had collected. "This has probably been here long enough that it's a decent vintage. A little something to warm us up, huh?" you said with a smile.

He chuckled lightly, then making a discovery of his own. "Victory! A can opener," he grinned at you, also plucking another tool from the drawer and offering it to you. "I guess this corkscrew might come in handy as well?"

You took the corkscrew from him, fingers lightly brushing his, and you set out to open the bottle as he pierced the top of one of the cans. "So tell me, Kurt...does red wine pair better with baked beans or chili con carne?" you asked with a cheeky smile.

This time, a full bodied laugh burst from him, his right hand clutching the left side of his chest as he head was thrown back. You joined him in laughter and a different kind of warmth began to fill you.

Spoons were found and a pair of dusty glasses were washed with bottled water over the sink, since the water lines were frozen. You threw the white sheet off the couch and settled on one end with the cans and bottle of wine resting on the small coffee table. Kurt joined you on the couch and poured each of you half a glass of the dark liquid. You were so hungry that the cold baked beans and crackers actually weren't that bad. There was a small stove in the kitchen, but the gas line wasn't connected, it seemed.

Kurt tucked in as well, inhaling the chili in a few bites. There was also a can of green beans, which you shared. Stomach filled, you sat back with your glass of wine and let out a sigh of contentment.

"Feeling better?" he asked you, taking a sip.

"Much," you replied as you drained the last of your glass.

You stood then, reaching to the far end of the table for the bottle, but your shuffling feet stepped on the blanket with your legs tangled and you began to fall with a squeal, unable to catch yourself. Kurt wrapped his arms around you and pulled you down to the couch with you half landing on top of him.

A laugh broke free from you, feeling embarrassed as he joined you with a chuckle. "Thanks for catching me. Sorry," you said, turning your face toward him. Suddenly you felt his closeness, strong arms still around you with his nose an inch from yours as your eyes flickered to his lips. The atmosphere changed as you leaned in just as he did, your lips connecting in a soft, tender kiss.

You leaned back slightly to gauge his reaction, seeing the desire burning in his eyes as you freed your arms from the blanket and pulled him closer. He pressed his lips to yours once again, the once gentle tenderness now gone, replaced with a furious passion as his strong arms pressed you against his body. You nipped at his lower lip and he opened wide, granting your tongue entrance to explore. Your hands wound into his dark blond strands as he pushed the blanket down to your waist, his fingers teasing the hem of your shirt.

Finally you unwound the blanket from you in a frustrated tug, your lips never leaving his as you placed a knee on either side of his narrow hips to straddle him. His large, warm hands pressed against the skin of your lower back as you broke the kiss, his lips trailing down your neck.

"Kurt..." you moaned in pleasure.

Immediately he stopped his actions, frozen in place before he gently pushed you away from his lap and stood in a quick, sudden movement. "I'm sorry, I can't, Y/N..." he whispered, combing his fingers through his hair in uncertainty.

"What?" you breathed out in confusion. "Why?"

He huffed out a sigh and walked toward the fireplace. "I just...I can't. Not like this."

"What do you mean, 'not like this'? Not here? Not with me? I mean, I definitely want this but it's okay if you don't feel..." you began, trying to ease the sting of rejection once again. Your heart couldn't take much more.

"No!" he whirled your way. "I do! I do want this...you. You have no idea how much, but I just don't feel good about...deceiving you," he confessed, a flicker of guilt glancing over his handsome features.

"I....what?" you uttered, now more confused than ever.

"Y/N...I'm not the man you think I am."

____________

Part 4>>> Coming Soon

Chapter Text

Previously:

He huffed out a sigh and walked toward the fireplace. "I just...I can't. Not like this."

"What do you mean, 'not like this'? Not here? Not with me? I mean, I definitely want this but it's okay if you don't feel..." you began, trying to ease the sting of rejection once again. Your heart couldn't take much more.

"No!" he whirled your way. "I do! I do want this...you. You have no idea how much, but I just don't feel good about...deceiving you," he confessed, a flicker of guilt glancing over his handsome features.

"I....what?" you uttered, now more confused than ever.

_______________

"Y/N...I'm not the man you think I am," he said in a low voice as he paced the floor. "I, um...I came here as an undercover agent to learn about the inner workings of Snow Peaks Lumber and get close to the boss, you know, get him to trust me. I just...I don't want to lie anymore," he confessed with a sigh.

You processed his words and then finally scoffed in disbelief. "Undercover? Seriously? Come on. So what, you're lying about being in the CIA or something so you can get into my pants?" you accused bitterly.

His cheeks flushed at your venomous response, but he replied calmly. "Forgive me if I'm wrong, but...weren't we headed that direction anyway? I mean, why would I stop what was happening and lie to you if I was already getting what I wanted, supposedly?" he asked you.

Slumping back against the couch, you had to admit, he had a point. "So...you're confessing to me and breaking your cover just because you didn't want to be dishonest and sleep with me? What kind of boy scout are you?"

It was his turn to scoff then, rubbing a hand over his bearded face with hair tousled from your previously intimate moment. He kept silent, however, making the curiosity burn even more within you.

"Why are you telling me this, Kurt?" you asked. He flinched at the last word and it dawned on you. "Wait...that's not even your real name, is it?" you demanded with a sharp tone.

"No, it's not. It's...Steve," he finally answered after a short internal debate.

"And that's your actual name?" you asked, suspicious, and he nodded. Sitting in silence a moment, you played with the edge of the blanket and thought it over. Could you really fault him for telling the truth? Unbelievable as it sounded, it was better than some scumbag telling you after he got you into bed. So you made a decision and stood. "Hi, Steve. I'm Y/N," you said with a smile while extending your hand.

Kurt...no, Steve. Steve eyed you and waited a beat before wrapping his hand around yours in a shake. "Hi," he replied hesitantly.

"It's nice to meet you."

He withdrew his hand slowly and you crossed your arms over your chest, taking a breath. "So...you're not upset?" he asked timidly.

You just shrugged. "Not really. Disappointed, maybe, but if what you're saying is true, then I can't blame you for doing your job. So, let's just sit down and have another glass of wine. We're not going anywhere for a while, so might as well enjoy ourselves," you offered, taking a seat on the couch once again.

The blond hesitated, but did as you suggested and sat down with glass in hand.

You both took a drink in silence, and then you let out a small giggle. "I knew the name Kurt didn't fit you," you bragged, catching his eye.

Steve chuckled then, "I know. The alias was chosen for me, so...I thought I was caught right then and there in your trailer. Almost blew my cover because you'd seen right through me. So much for covert infiltration..." he trailed off.

"Isn't that something you're used to? The lying, I mean?" you inquired, curiosity piqued.

"No," said with a shake of his head. "I don't do this sort of thing often, but I was the best man for the job, so here I am," he spoke, throwing his arms out and putting his god-like physique on display.

Chewing on your lip a moment, you asked the question that was gnawing at you. "So...get close to the boss. I guess it makes sense you might use the boss's daughter to get to him, huh? Is that why you're with me?"

"Wha—no!" he uttered quickly. "No, Y/N...I, um...it's quite the opposite, in fact. I liked you before I knew who you were. The intel we had didn't mention a daughter, so when you told me at the bar, I was shocked. I had to check in and share any contacts I had made, so I mentioned you and they—my bosses, I mean—they wanted to use you to get inside information, but I just...I couldn't. I tried to tell them that you were estranged and there wasn't a reason to pull you into this. I didn't want to involve you," he said with a sigh, playing with his empty glass. "That's why I tried to keep my distance and said no to your invitation. Any other time, I would have asked you out in a heartbeat. We have a lot of shared interests and you're gorgeous and funny, but...I tried to stay away."

Your heart both swelled and sank at the thought of him feeling the same way and yet stopping himself. So you weren't entirely undesirable, at least. "What changed your mind? Why agree to go out today if you intended to avoid me?" you threw it all out there, needing answers.

Steve rubbed a hand on the back of his neck with a sigh. "Because I'm selfish. I wanted to spend time with you and I only had one day left here, so..."

"Wait, what? You're leaving?" you broke in, nearly leaving your seat in surprise.

He nodded in regret. "Yes. They gave me a few days to wrap everything up and I'm scheduled for extraction tomorrow morning."

"Wow. That sucks," you blurted.

"I know, trust me," he set his lips in a straight line, meeting your eye. "I kind of wish I could stay a little longer," he confessed.

Feeling a squeeze of your heart, you swallowed the lump in your throat. "Me, too."

There was a lull in conversation as your limited time together hovered over both your heads. He finally broke the ice and attempted to change the subject.

"So, um...I know you said that you weren't really happy being back here. What do you hope to do in the future?" he asked, throwing his arm over the back of the couch.

You considered the question carefully. "Hm. I have a hard time making set plans right now because it feels too big to move forward just yet. But eventually, I want to save some money, find a job in a new city, and start fresh," you told him with a flourish of your hand.

He nodded. "I get that. Needing a change. I've been working in the city for a while now and it's been refreshing to be out here in the wild."

"Which city?" you asked, deciding to push your luck.

Steve smirked at you then. "Nice try, but I can't really tell you much about myself. For your own safety, of course," he assured you.

"Right," you pursed your lips. "Can you tell me anything at all? Big or small family...general region where you came from...relationship status...favorite color....hobbies?" you listed in hopes of getting at least something out of him.

He took a deep breath, eyeing you carefully. "Okay. I'll give you some vague details. I, um...I grew up on the East coast. Small family, most of whom are gone now. I enjoy drawing in my spare time, which I don't have much of these days, and my favorite color is blue," he finished with a smile. "And...unattached," Steve leaned forward pointedly to finally answer your last unanswered question.

Taking in that information, you thought back to the first moment you laid eyes on the stranger on the street and how you had arrived here. Snowed in at a cabin with that stranger who despite weeks of conversation, you still knew almost nothing about. You knew the bare basics now, but still.

A random thought crossed your mind from that night, so you asked with nothing to lose, really. "Do you usually have a beard? I mean, I saw you that first night you arrived and you looked almost clean-shaven. Did you grow it for your 'role' " you inquired, putting the last word in air quotes.

Steve grinned at that, stroking the magnificent and well-trimmed beard on his handsome face. "You're very observant. I will say, the beard is a new experience, but I kinda like it," he said with a shrug.

"I like it, too," you agreed, holding his gaze. There was still that fire in his eyes, but now caged, longing to break free. You could feel the electricity flowing between you and in one split second, you decided to stop fighting it, no matter the consequences.

Setting down your glass of wine, you rose to your knees on the couch cushions and slowly eased your way over to Steve until you were beside him. Taking his glass from his hand to join yours on the coffee table, he watched your movement as you placed a hand on the armrest at his side and the other on the back of the couch. Caging him with your arms, you were almost hovering over him.

"Y/N, what—" he began to ask, but you pressed a kiss against his lips to silence him before pulling away an inch. "Are you sure about this?" he asked you, now catching up to your line of thinking.

"Yes," you answered with absolute certainty. "It may be only one night, but I don't want to have any regrets in my life and right now, I want you," you replied, raising a hand to rest against his whiskered cheek.

A wide smile spreading across his lips, he let go of all restraint, wrapping his strong arms around you and pulling you tight against his chest. Your hands found his silky strands once again as you moved to straddle him, but in that moment he instead lifted you and pressed your back into the cushions. He settled between your legs and you felt his hands explore, fingers working on the buttons of your flannel shirt.

It was then that you yelped, but not in a pleasurable way.

"What? What happened? Are you okay?" he pulled back in concern.

"Yeah, just a broken spring digging into my back. Bedroom, maybe?" you offered and within seconds he was lifting you in his arms and walking to the other room.

He held you easily with one arm while he yanked the white sheet covering the bed with the other. You bounced lightly on the mattress where he had dropped you, then watched as he peeled the too-tight shirt from his sculpted upper body. You almost forgot to breathe upon seeing his beautiful form. Catching up, you finished unbuttoning your own shirt and slipped it down your arms. It was his turn to marvel this time, his gaze raking over your half-undressed figure.

Steve crawled onto the bed and hovered over you before capturing your lips in his. "You're so beautiful," he muttered against your lips as your hands mapped every inch of his bare torso.

Each article of clothing then fell to the floor in succession and soon there was nothing but his skin against yours. Steve nipped and sucked against the whole expanse of your bare flesh, leaving you writhing under him before his lips returned to your mouth and you were joined as one.

That entire night was spent learning each other in the most intimate ways, his beard brushing against your most sensitive skin and drawing uninhibited groans of pleasure from you. Some time in the early hours, you finally collapsed from exhaustion and fell asleep in his arms.

______________

Opening one eye, you became aware of the early morning light in the room along with the memorable soreness that spread throughout your body. Wide smile stretching across your face, you reached a hand over to the other side of the bed only to discover cold sheets and a crinkling sound emanating from where your fingertips had landed. Lifting your upper body onto one elbow, you grasped what turned out to be a piece of paper and read what was written with a sinking heart.

Please forgive me.

How I wish I could stay...

— S.

Dropping the paper, you fell back against the pillows and let the tears fall silently. You knew it was going to happen, but in the cold reality of morning, the truth was much harder to swallow.

Once you had dressed and made sure to douse the fire, you walked outside to find the storm gone and several new inches of fresh, powdery snow that had fallen during the night. The snowmobile was somehow parked a few feet from the door and after checking the gauge, you saw it was now full of gas. How Steve had managed to do that or in what sort of vehicle he had left was a mystery to you, but taking a deep breath, you straddled the sled and brought the machine to life with a press of a button

Heading back to town, you let your mind wander to the night before, knowing that even if it wasn't your happy ending, you had no regrets. Your time with Steve would never be forgotten, but it was necessary to let him go and move forward without him. You most likely would never see him again, and you had to come to terms with that. It was one night. One amazing, spectacular, unforgettable night, and that was all it was. Nothing more.

But soon you would discover that fate had other plans...

_________________

Part 5>>> Coming soon...

Chapter Text

I am not the only traveler
Who has not repaid his debt
I've been searching for a trail to follow
Again
Take me back to the night we met...

______________

February 2017

Arctic winds whipped past furiously, chilling Steve to the bone as he rode in the back of an open-bed cargo truck headed for the mountains up North. On it's return trip, this truck would be filled with logs headed to a lumber mill, but at the moment, the bearded fugitive, along with the small construction vehicle he was hiding behind, were the only cargo.

The driver was unaware of his presence and perhaps he would have allowed Steve to ride in the cab if he had asked, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Pulling his knit hat lower upon his head, he dared to peek out over the side of the truck to check the road signs showing distances until reaching certain towns.

Finally reading the name he had been searching for, Steve strapped his duffle to his back, crept to the side of the truck bed and waited until the driver's gaze was facing the opposite direction before launching himself into the air and landing in a large snow embankment by the side of the road.

Shaking off the snow, Steve walked the mile and a half through the woods before reaching the edge of town. He stowed his large pack under some steps in a back alley, then pulling up his collar before walking toward Main Street and the town's main center.

Steve didn't really have a plan at the moment, which was ironic for him. He was used to always knowing the next step, but for now, it was better to act purely on instinct rather than overthink it and complicate things. The man formerly known as Captain America had absolutely no idea where you were. A lot could have happened in the three years since he last saw you, but he had to start somewhere. Perhaps somebody in town knew where you had headed.

That was his one thought, though. His one singular goal: finding you.

Steve walked up and down the street twice to ensure that he wasn't being followed and also to re-familiarize himself with the small town. Very little had changed since he had been there and he did recognize a few faces from his time as an employee for Snow Peaks Lumber. One of them might know of your whereabouts, but he had to be careful about who he could approach. Hopefully no one would alert the authorities of his own location. It was a gamble, but you were worth it.

Glancing at his reflection in a store window, Steve almost didn't recognize himself. His normally close-cropped dirty blond hair was now poking out from under his hat and brushing his shirt collar. Steve had also let his beard grow a little wild and along with the world-weary expression he wore, the Captain Rogers the public knew was nowhere to be found. Luckily, that was his objective—to hide in plain sight.

His gaze finally leaving his own reflection, he looked through the window pane of the coffee shop and felt his heart leap into his throat. Could it be? Was it possible that in this time of challenge and uncertainty that he could receive the stroke of luck he had hoped and prayed for?

Pacing inside the coffee shop while talking animately on the telephone was...you. Or he thought so, at least. Squinting, he cupped one hand against the glass with his nose millimeters from it's reflective surface. Another turn in your step and he finally got a clear shot of your face. It was true. He had found you.

This was unexpected and despite the miles he had traveled and the daydreams he'd had of this moment, Steve suddenly felt ill-prepared of what to do. What could he say, after all this time? You had probably moved on and had a completely different life that didn't involve him. Maybe you didn't ever think about that night, unlike the images and feelings that were permanently seared into his entire being. Was it right of him to try and drudge up the past?

Regardless, after lingering on the sidewalk a few more minutes, he knew he had to see you. Speak to you. Even the mere sight of you had his heart racing. With no more delay, he pulled the cafe door open and allowed a couple to exit before stepping foot inside. You were still engrossed in your conversation, so he joined the line to order and hunched his shoulders in an attempt to hide himself. From what he could hear, you were wrapping up your conversation.

"...so much for doing that, I really appreciate it. Okay. Yeah, I'm just grabbing some coffee," you uttered with one more turn of your pacing steps. "Sure. I'll see you in a bit. Bye," you signed off and hung up.

Two more customers had joined the queue behind Steve before you followed suit. He dared to peak behind him with just a half turn to see you lost in your phone before you looked up quickly to read the specials board above his head. He nearly panicked, returning his gaze to face forward at lightning speed. Catching him staring out of the blue was not what he had in mind for your first meeting in so many years.

Reaching the counter, Steve ordered and stepped aside to wait while keeping his back to you. He was hyper aware of every small motion you made, his view available through your reflection on the glass case holding baked goods and pastries. You seemed lost in thought, automatically advancing in line a few inches as the people ahead of you moved. Steve was so taken by you that he nearly missed the barista calling out the fake name he had given when he ordered.

Snapping out of it, he picked up the two coffees to go and took a few deep breaths before he slowly turned in your direction. Your gaze was still off in the distance, clearly lost to your surroundings since Steve was able to sidle up to you without your noticing.

Heart galloping, he finally cleared his throat and spoke quietly only for your benefit. "Thought I'd save you some time. Hope it's still your usual," he uttered to gain your attention, watching as your eyes fell to the two cups of coffee and then trailed up his coat-wrapped muscular form to meet a familiar face.

He saw your flicker of confusion before realization set in, your eyes growing wide. "Wha...Steve?" you breathed out in disbelief.

"Shhh," he urged you quietly, then gesturing with his head toward a table in the far corner away from the crowd before walking that direction.

Steve glanced back to see you hesitate a moment before following, an expression of awe upon your face. You settled into the chair that he pulled out for you and Steve then took a seat across the table, sliding your coffee over to you. You wrapped your hands around the warm beverage, eyes still wide in wonder.

"Wow," you finally spoke with a growing smile. "Steve. Or should I say Captain?" you asked quietly with a raised eyebrow.

Steve smirked a moment before the cocky smile faded into a nostalgic one. "Not so much anymore."

"Right," replied, pursing your lips. "I heard something about that. How are you? How did you even get here, being on the run?" you asked him in a low voice.

He breathed a heavy sigh. "I'm fairly resourceful, so I made do. And I've had better days, but I'm getting by. Speaking of my alter-ego, how long did it take you to realize who I was?" he asked with a curious smile.

Steve watched you take a sip of your coffee, then clear your throat. "A few months," you finally replied. "D.C. and the helicarriers....I think we all knew about Captain America after the Battle of New York, but that was a superhero with a helmet and shield, not....you. I mean it IS you, but it's not, you know? Few people put the two together, I guess, until the truth about SHIELD and HYDRA came out. Plus the Smithsonian display. I haven't seen it, but I heard..." you trailed off with a noncommittal shrug.

He nodded soberly, unsurprised at your astute powers of observation. "I know what you mean....about the Captain, anyway. I do feel like he's a part of me and has been for so long, so now without him I'm a little...unsure. He always had a plan, you know? But now, I'm not sure of anything, really," he let out with a dry laugh, attempting to make light of his confession.

Steve reluctantly met your eye only to see sorrow there and a softness. He didn't want to burden you with the weight he carried, but something in him felt like you would understand. It was almost as if he wanted to share all of this with you, like he had come all this way just to look into your eyes and know that it would be okay. It was a strange and comforting feeling. It was still a bit unexpected, though, when you reached across the table and grasped his hand in yours.

"I'm sorry," you uttered with a squeeze of his fingers. "I obviously don't know the full story behind the Accords and...everything else, but it does seem unfair that the blame has fallen to you. I do believe that no matter what, you did what you had to do. What you thought was right," you said with assurance. You didn't even know the half of it yet, but his heart warmed at your faith in him.

Steve finally let out a genuine smile, a little more light shining in his brilliant blue eyes. "I hope so. I won't lie, I haven't always been so sure, but...thank you for saying that," he said, returning the hand squeeze.

"So...why here, of all places?" you asked, throwing Steve a little off guard.

He withdrew his hand from you reluctantly, taking off his knitted cap to run a hand through his hair in a nervous moment and to gather his thoughts. "Um....I've been searching for...something. A purpose or an occupation of some kind, I guess. The Captain always had his objective, but as Steve? I hadn't thought about myself in a long time. So after it all happened, I took care of a few things and then I had a thought: I always wanted to see America. As great as Brooklyn was, growing up I'd hoped to see more of the country I loved. So, I grabbed a few essentials and started walking," he answered with a shrug.

Your eyes widened at that. "Wow. That's...ambitious. Especially for someone who doesn't want to be found, but I guess it's easier to be off the grid that way. So where did you go?" you asked, leaning forward on the table, your coffee forgotten.

Steve smiled, his memories of the past few months flitting through his mind. "Anywhere. Everywhere. Sometimes I would point to a spot on the map, other times I would be at a truck stop and just ask where they were headed, see if they minded my tagging along. Or I'd even just hop on a passing trailer, see where it would take me. I stayed in the colder areas so it was easier to hide under a hat, beard, and bulky clothing. I saw a lot of the country and I loved it, but couldn't interact with the people the way I would've liked to. Eventually, though, I found myself heading West, then a little more North. It was almost as if something was pulling at me. Even in my wanderings, I almost felt like I had a destination," he explained, then taking a pause as he took in your expression.

He watched you fiddle with the gloves in your hand absentmindedly as Steve told his story. He was right. It was you he was seeking and you whom he truly wanted to speak with. He began to feel unburdened already, just seeing the light in your eyes and the slight upturn of your lips as he spoke.

Finally, he continued. "I honestly didn't know what it was that urged me on at first, but I was thinking back on a question someone once asked me in a time of uncertainty. A friend asked me what made me happy and...I hesitated. I told him I didn't know, but I lied. I knew. No one had asked me that in a very long time. All that was expected of me was to take orders, execute the mission, and be a good soldier. The second he asked, though, the image of when I was last truly happy was of a snowy cabin in the woods...and a beautiful face..." he trailed off, gauging your reaction.

Steve watched the realization hit you, your eyes growing wide. You leaned back in your chair and raised a hand to your lips and suddenly regret hit him like a blow to the gut.

He sputtered out an apology. "I'm sorry, I didn't...it's too much, I know. I mean, that was years ago and I'm sure you've moved on and don't ever think about that night, but..."

"I do," you blurted quickly. " A lot, actually. I do think about that night...."

"...the night we met," he finished with a smile, thinking of your official introductions once Steve confessed who he really was.

You grinned with a bite of your lip, "Right."

There was a lag in conversation as he held your gaze, knowing that you were both lost in memories of the time you had shared together from years ago. Feeling the electricity flow between you even in the middle of a crowded cafe, Steve knew that it hadn't just been him who dwelled on that night and the months previous you had spent time getting to know one another. Time hadn't changed everything, it seemed. You were still as beautiful as ever, your hair only a little different, but your expressive eyes and kind smile remained the same. There was also a shift in the way that you carried yourself, but he couldn't put a finger on why.

Steve finally broke the silence with a clearing of his throat. "So...how have you been since then? I'm honestly surprised you're still here, what with all the plans you had to get away. I thought I'd have to track you down through someone here. Are you still working for the lumber company?" he inquired, sipping his lukewarm coffee.

You shifted in your seat, seemingly nervous. "Yeah, um...that's the thing about plans. They can change in an instant. Steve, I should probably..."

The cafe door opened then, letting in a cold gust of wind as a few customers entered. Steve was still focused on you, but your gaze was on someone else with a smile growing on your lips. You stood from your chair as a small voice cried out and Steve's eyes followed the sound.

"Mama!"

A young boy was trying to escape the clutches of a tall, dark-haired man, who eventually put the child down. Steve watched as the boy scampered toward you and you scooped him up in your arms, planting a kiss on his squishy cheek.

"There's my boy! Did you have fun at daycare?" you asked, rubbing a smudge of something from his chin with your thumb.

"Yeah! I drawed a picture!" he announced enthusiastically.

Steve stood up then, shocked by what he was seeing as you stepped toward him with a smile upon your face.

"This is my son...Grant. Grant, can you say 'hi'?" you prompted him, followed by a small wave.

Steve felt the blood drain from his face. Did she say...Grant? Was he....could it be? No, there's no way. Unless...

He finally found his voice, shaky and breathless as it was. "Um...hi, there, Grant. It's nice to meet you. How old are you?"

"Can you show my friend how old you are?" you asked, holding up his hand as the boy struggled to hold up two fingers without the third popping up. "Are you two? More like almost two and a half," you answered, turning back toward Steve.

The blond felt a flip in his stomach as he met your eye, knowing that you were well aware of why he was asking. With a smile, you nodded in confirmation. Steve suddenly felt faint, taking in a few deep breaths as he turned away with tears in his eyes. It was true. The child was his.

Steve Rogers had a son.

____________________________

Part 6>>> Coming Soon!!

Chapter Text

Previously:

The blond felt a flip in his stomach as he met your eye, knowing that you were well aware of why he was asking. With a smile, you nodded in confirmation. Steve suddenly felt faint, taking in a few deep breaths as he turned away with tears in his eyes. It was true. The child was his.

Steve Rogers had a son.

____________________

Throughout years of wondering and worrying, you had always hoped that Grant would get a chance to meet his father, but the odds felt increasingly unlikely as time passed. Now, standing before Steve with Grant in your arms, it all felt like a dream. Steve arrived out of the blue, bringing up all those memories and feelings that had faded but never disappeared and you began to see the world in full color once again the moment you set eyes on him.

You gave Steve an apologetic grin. "I'm sorry, I was about to tell you, but..."

"Hey, Y/N, I thought we were meeting halfway. Is that my coffee?" the tall, dark-haired man asked, pointing to the now-cold beverage resting on the table.

Frozen a moment, you finally realized what he was asking. "Uh...no. I'm sorry, I got distracted," you admitted. A flicker of annoyance passed over his features, but it was gone in a flash.

"That's probably my fault, sorry," Steve piped in, drawing the other man's attention.

The two men eyed each other a moment before you interjected. "Oh, um...Ted, this is Kurt, he used to work for my father. Kurt, this is Ted," you finished the introductions, waving your hand between the men.

"Nice to meet you, Kurt," Ted replied warily, offering his hand

"Likewise," Steve replied, having lowered his gaze and hunched his shoulders slightly.

"I'll, uh..just get my own coffee," Ted spoke to you, eyeing Steve once again before turning toward the counter.

"Cocoa!" your son cried out in your arms, causing Ted to look back.

"You want some hot cocoa, sweetie? Ted, would you mind getting him a small hot chocolate? Here," you asked him, reaching for your wallet.

"I got it," Ted replied, waving away your offer to pay.

Stuffing your wallet back in your purse, you shifted Grant on your hip. "Thank you," you smiled, watching him walk away.

Turning back to Steve, you saw that he still looked a little pale, his gaze fixed upon Grant. He did finally meet your eye with the shock and confusion still evident. "I'm...I'm happy for you. For you and...Ted," he told you, clearing his throat. "You deserve to be happy."

Your brain finally caught up to his meaning. "What? Me and...no! No, there's no 'me and Ted'. He's, uh...we work together," you assured him with a smile. "Listen...we should talk. How long will you be in town?" you asked.

"Mama! A truck!" Grant cried out, pointing through the windows to the vehicle passing by outside. You spotted a quick smile on Steve's face before his brow furrowed again.

"I don't...I'm not sure. But yes, I'd love to talk. Can I...call you?" he asked, uncertain.

"Yes!" you replied, fishing a business card out of the outside pocket of your purse. "There's my cell phone on there..."

"Here you go, little man!" Ted declared, holding out the small to-go cup to you. "Careful, it's hot. Y/N, don't you have an appointment?" he asked, blowing on his steaming cup of coffee.

"Oh," you muttered, glancing at the clock. "Yes, we have to go. Thanks again, Ted. Kurt, um...call me in about two hours and we can set something up?" you proposed, backing away toward the door as Grant reached for his hot chocolate. "No, honey, I'll hold it. It's too hot right now."

"Two hours. Sure," Steve nodded, tight smile upon his face.

You felt his eyes on you as you turned toward the door that Ted now held open. Outside, you thanked him again for picking up Grant from daycare and said your goodbyes before heading in opposite directions.

You stole one last glance through the cafe window before you passed the shop, watching as Steve slowly lowered himself into a chair, resting his head in his hands. Heart clenching in sympathy, you wondered how this all was going to work. To say things were complicated was an understatement, you thought, before hurrying down the street with your arms full and mind racing.

_______________

Almost exactly two hours later, your phone rang just as you had arrived home and put Grant down for a nap. Pulling it from your pocket, you saw an unlisted number displayed on the screen. You got a feeling that it was the call you were expecting, though, so you swiped to answer.

"Hello?"

"Y/N? Hi. It's Steve," he answered, keeping his voice low. Wherever he was, he clearly couldn't speak freely.

"Hi," you replied, unable to stop a smile from stretching across your face. "How are you?" you asked, then kicking yourself for such a lame response.

He chuckled a moment. "I'm fine. How are you? Both of you?" he added quickly, still most likely trying to wrap his head around the situation.

"We're good," you said with a grin. "So...I was thinking that maybe you could just come over later? And we can talk?" you offered, your statement coming out as a question without meaning it to.

"Sure. Yeah, what time?"

"8? Grant should be in bed by then, so," you began, merely ending with a shrug you knew he couldn't' see.

"Oh. Okay," he answered, sounding almost disappointed. "What's your address?"

You shared where you were living, then tried to put Steve's mind at ease somewhat. "You know...I do hope that you'll get some time with him, if that's what you want. I just think we need to figure out a few things between us without interruption before committing to anything."

Hearing him let out a sigh, you hoped it was a little bit of relief on his part. "Good. I agree. Thank you, Y/N. I'll see you soon."

After hanging up, you slumped down on the couch and looked around your small but cozy two-bedroom apartment. It could use some tidying up, so you glanced at the clock and got to work, hoping to get it all done before Grant woke up from his afternoon nap.

____________

Dinner was a struggle, as it generally was with a stubborn 2-year-old, but you finally coerced him into eating a decent amount of pasta and broccoli followed by a bath and bedtime. Checking the clock, you still had about 15 minutes before Steve was to arrive, so you took some time to freshen up. You felt a little grimy from the day of rushing about, but there wasn't time to shower so you at least washed your face and began putting on some fresh makeup.

Reaching for a tube of lipstick, you chastised yourself. This wasn't a date. This was....well, you didn't really know, exactly. It was just a chance to talk and explain things...catch up, perhaps? Regardless, you left the lipstick alone and took a quick glance in the mirror before changing into lounge pants without holes and a shirt without stains on it. The bar was pretty high on your appearance these days. Obviously.

Right on the dot, there was a knock at your door and you peeked through the peephole before turning the knob. Steve stood on your porch, hands buried in his pockets and still looking handsome as ever, despite his "disguise". You swore those bright blue eyes could see right through you, a shiver of remembrance running down your spine.

"Steve. Come on in," you welcomed him, swinging the door wide for him to enter.

"Hi, Y/N. Thank you," he replied, stepping to the side as you closed the door to the cold. "Should I take off my boots?" he inquired, having remained standing on the rug near the door.

"It's not required, but sure. I can take your coat, too," you offered and he slipped it off before handing it to you for hanging. He had toed off his boots and stepped into the living room when you returned. "Have a seat."

"I will. But first...can I look around a little? I'd like to see those pictures, if that's okay," he asked, pointing to the framed photos on the far wall, mostly of Grant.

"Of course," you answered, following his steps to view each stage of your son's life so far. The largest photo in the center was the most recent, taken only a month ago. You tried to stay current on documentation, since your mother all but demanded an updated photo every few weeks. Steve lingered on that one a moment, then following the younger and younger versions of your little boy. Maybe he was seeing some of the resemblance in Steve that you had noticed almost from birth. His strong brow, sweet smile, and piercing eyes...you hadn't been exaggerating when you said you thought of that night often. Each time you looked at Grant, you were reminded of Steve.

He asked a few questions, but mostly just observed as you explained each photo, finally resting his eyes on the very first photo taken of you and Grant. Seated in a hospital bed, you were holding your two-hour-old baby boy with a tired but happy smile upon your face. The photo was taken by your mother and while you almost didn't want to hang up a less-than-flattering picture, you wouldn't trade that moment for the world.

Steve seemed to dwell on that image longer than the rest, his brow furrowing once again before he turned your way.

"He's beautiful, Y/N. You, uh...you've done a great job with him, I can tell. I wish...." he trailed off, those last two words carrying an incredible weight.

"I know," you answered quietly. "I wish you had been there, too."

His eyes glassy, all he could do was nod in response.

"You know...I tried. A few months after you left, I realized I was pregnant and shortly after, I watched those helicarriers fall. Once I knew who you were, I tried to contact you...to tell you..." you started to explain.

"You did?" his eyebrows shot up.

Nodding, you led him back toward the couch and took a seat. He followed your lead, leaving a respectful space between you. "I think I was in shock at first. It seemed hard to believe that Captain America had decided to come to this small town and by chance we...connected. I sure wouldn't have believed it if someone told me. So, I looked you up and low and behold...there was the mysterious Kurt who wouldn't tell me anything about himself," you teased, shooting him a smile.

He tried to return it, but then ducked his head with an apologetic small frown. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I never blamed you, Steve. That was a beautiful night that I never regretted for a second. There were consequences, sure, but...they were mostly good in the end," you spoke softly, resting a hand on his knee briefly before pulling away. .

Steve let out a heavy sigh. "I still wish I could have stayed. It made no sense logically and I knew I couldn't, but...." he trailed off, shaking his head. "So, did you ever find me? Obviously, I didn't know, but..." he asked, curious.

"Mm...yes and no," you began. "Obviously, I knew who you were, but how do you contact a superhero, you know? Besides, SHIELD was gone by then. No one knew where you were, other than a short news story about you being released from a D.C. hospital. About a year later, I contacted someone at the Smithsonian, but they directed me to a fan club webpage," you admitted with a laugh.

The scruffy blond let out a chuckle finally, a dusting of pink on his cheeks.

"I eventually had to admit, even if I reached the right people who knew you, claiming that I had given birth to Captain America's love child was a hard sell. Even I know that sounds like a story for the tabloids. But I knew it was true. I just didn't tell anyone," you ended with a shrug of resignation.

"Really?" he asked curiously. "No one knows? Even though you named him..."

"...Grant. After your middle name, yes. I still kept it a secret. People said it was an old-fashioned name, but they didn't know the half of it," you replied with a wink, making Steve laugh once again. Your heart felt lighter now, hearing that sound along with finally telling this story with whom you had always hoped to share.

He swallowed thickly, eyes shining once again. "You don't...you don't know what that means to me, Y/N. You didn't owe me anything and I just...I left you alone to deal with all of this and I..."

"Steve, no," you interrupted. "Having Grant was the best thing that could have happened to me. That night with you was a gift and while there have definitely been some challenges, I wouldn't trade any of it for the world. Please don't feel guilty. You haven't wronged me. Or Grant. Okay?" you tried to convince him, tilting your head to catch his eye.

At some point in your conversation, you must have moved closer to Steve because upon trying to soothe his guilt, you had grasped his hand with yours. Now, having finished speaking, he gave your fingers a squeeze and raised his head. He still seemed to be struggling to accept your words, but the crease of worry between his brows had finally disappeared.

"Thank you, Y/N," he replied, exhaling a heavy sigh.

"So," you began, hoping to distract Steve from his thoughts, "how has it been, being back in town? Probably all feels the same, right? Nothing really changes here," you joked with a laugh.

He joined you briefly, then shrugging. "It's been good. You're right, not much has changed, but that's kind of nice. A little consistency. Went to the library for a bit and then grabbed some lunch from that really good sandwich place. I'm just glad that's still there," he grinned.

"Oooh. I'm sorry I missed it, but Grant had a doctor's appointment, so—"

Steve nearly shot off the couch at that. "What? Is he okay?" he asked in concern.

"Yes, he's fine! He's fine, Steve. Just a mild ear infection," you assured him. "Children do get sick and it sucks, but Grant is otherwise perfectly healthy."

The blond collapsed against the cushions, dropping his head onto the back of the couch. "Oh, thank god. I, uh...I always worried about passing on my genes. You know, because I was so sick growing up. I never wanted that for my...children," he confessed, his voice thick with emotion.

"I understand," you nodded. "You know, there was a time where I was worried about how the, um...serum? Is that what it's called? I wondered how it would affect him, but so far Grant is a perfectly normal, healthy 2-year-old," you confirmed with a shrug. "He's—"

"Mama?"

You turned to the sound of your son's voice, seeing the young boy standing in the hallway rubbing his eyes drowsily. "Hey, sweetie. What're you doing up?" you asked him, standing from the couch and walking over to pick him up.

"A snack," he said with a pout.

Shaking your head with a laugh, you glanced over at Steve a moment. "I'm transitioning him into a toddler bed instead of a crib, but sometimes the temptation to get out of bed is too great," you explained, then turning to your son. "You don't need a snack, peanut. It's time for sleeping. Do you want a drink of water first, though?"

Grant nodded at the compromise.

You walked further into the living room toward Steve, who had stood up just after you. "Grant, do you remember my friend from today? His name is Steve. Can you say hi?" you urged him as he shyly tucked his head under your chin.

"Hi, Steeb," he muttered quietly against your chest, making you laugh.

Steve just beamed, huge smile upon his face. "Hi, Grant. I'm so happy to see you again," he replied in a soft tone.

"Okay, buddy. Bedtime. Go get back into bed and I'll bring you some water, okay?" you promised, setting Grant back on his stockinged feet.

"Okay. Night, Steeb," he waved, retreating into his room.

"Bye, Grant," Steve said with a small sigh, both of you watching the boy's small shuffling form. "I should go," he spoke regretfully.

Your time together had passed much too quickly and now you weren't so sure you wanted to say goodbye just yet. "Where are you staying?"

"Um... I was thinking the boarding house maybe? I hope they're still accepting people tonight, I just brought my duffle here and left it outside. Otherwise, maybe a motel," he replied calmly. The idea of not knowing where he would sleep tonight frightened you a little, now realizing that Steve had been living this life for months, at least. Your heart clenched at the thought of his lonesome, weary travels.

"Stay here," you blurted out before you brain caught up, but once it was out there, you knew you meant it.

"Wha...really? No, I couldn't. I don't want to intrude," he protested.

"Please. Seriously," you offered, placing a hand on his arm. "My couch is open to you. Plus, less people to see you and become suspicious, right?" you bargained with a smile.

Steve shifted on his feet, considering your offer, before he nodded. "Okay. If you're sure. I won't be in the way, I promise," he assured you.

"You are far from in the way, Steve. Bring your things in and get settled. I'll go tuck Grant into bed," you said, backing away.

That sweet smile had returned and knowing it was because of you also meant the return of those butterfly wings a-fluttering. "Thank you," he said sincerely.

You paused, struggling against yourself, but finally giving in. Within a few quick steps, you had reached Steve and had wrapped your arms around his torso. Startled, he froze a moment before returning the hug and holding you tight with your head against his shoulder. His familiar warmth and lingering, earthy smell brought back so many memories.

"I'm so happy to see you. Did I tell you that? And that I'm relieved that you're okay?" you muttered into the fabric of his sweater before pulling away slightly.

Steve met your gaze with tenderness, smile upon his lips. "I'm happy to see you, too, Y/N. You have no idea how much."

You finally released him. and retraced your steps toward the kitchen for a glass of water. "Um...make yourself at home. I'll see you in the morning, Steve," you told him as you reached the hallway. "Good night."

You heard his last quiet words as your hand touched the doorknob to Grant's room.

"Good night, Y/N."

__________________

Part 7>>> Coming soon...

Chapter Text

Previously:

"I'm so happy to see you. Did I tell you that? And that I'm relieved that you're okay?" you muttered into the fabric of his sweater before pulling away slightly.

Steve met your gaze with tenderness, smile upon his lips. "I'm happy to see you, too, Y/N. You have no idea how much."

You finally released him. and retraced your steps toward the kitchen for a glass of water. "Um...make yourself at home. I'll see you in the morning, Steve," you told him as you reached the hallway. "Good night."

You heard his last quiet words as your hand touched the doorknob to Grant's room.

"Good night, Y/N."

_______________

Slowly waking from slumber, you stretched and parted your lashes, squinting from the light. That might have been the best sleep you'd had in a while, not to mention very pleasant dreams. You smiled, trying to hold onto the last images before they faded. Waking without an alarm was heaven. That was until you realize there was something very wrong with your quiet morning.

Bolting up to sitting, you swung your legs off the bed and stood, taking quick steps to your door. Wrenching it open, you were headed toward Grant's room when you heard quiet voices coming from the living room. Walking lightly, you peered around the corner, heart hammering in your chest, until you saw a sight you never thought you'd witness.

Sitting on your couch was Steve eating a bowl of cereal and right next to him in a chair was your son, strapped into his booster seat with his own breakfast in front of him. Both sets of eyes were trained on the cartoons playing on the tv. Your heart swelled at the sight, surprised but utterly thrilled to see the two interacting so easily.

A voice on the television asked the question, "Can we fix it?"

"Yes, we can!" Steve and Grant answered in unison, bright smile on both their faces.

Grant kicked his legs in his chair, taking another bite of cereal as milk dribbled down his chin. He wasn't wearing a bib and still in his pajamas with hair sticking up on one side. Steve, on the other hand, wore a pair of sweats and a snug t-shirt, his medium-length hair tucked behind his ears. He'd even trimmed his beard, which you had to admit, looked much better.

Grant made another comment with his mouth full and Steve laughed just as you stepped into view. He caught your eye and looked a little guilty, setting his cereal bowl on the floor and standing to meet you.

"Good morning," he greeted you. "I, um...I hope I wasn't out of line, getting Grant breakfast. He seemed a little surprised to see me when he woke up, but when I said I'd go wake you up, he just grabbed my finger and pulled me into the kitchen. He even pointed out the cereal and where his plastic bowl was. He's, uh...he's smart," Steve declared, a hint of pride in his voice. "Besides, I figured you don't get to sleep in often."

A slow grin grew on your lips. "That's a good guess, yeah. Having a two-year-old who often doesn't stay in bed means less sleep for me. In fact, I was a little panicked that he didn't wake me this morning, but...thank you. I don't mind at all. Did you sleep okay on the couch?" you asked, noticing the folded blankets and an extra pillow you had left on the armrest

"Yeah, it was great. Thank you. I actually slept on the floor, but don't worry!" he assured you quickly when your eyes flew wide at that. "The floor is better for me, really. Best night's sleep I've had in a while. I really appreciate you letting me stay, Y/N," he mentioned sincerely, holding your gaze.

Feeling heat rise in your cheeks, you finally broke eye contact and crossed arms over your chest. "You're very welcome, Steve."

"Mama! Is Bob!" Grant cried out upon seeing you, pointing to the tv with his milky spoon.

"Yeah, buddy, it's Bob the builder!" you answered, walking over to where he sat and planted a kiss on his messy bedhead. "Did you have a good breakfast with Steve?" you asked, catching the blond's eye.

"Uh huh. Steeb!" he pointed again, making you both laugh.

"So, um...do you have to get to work soon? I hope I haven't interrupted your morning routine or—"

"No, you're fine," you answered with a wave of your hand. "I'm actually working from home today, which really just means I'm basically on-call. I have a little flexibility with my schedule, thankfully. I think I'll make a pot of coffee, would you like some, Steve?" you offered, heading for the kitchen.

"Yeah, that'd be great," he accepted, returning to his seat on the couch and his bowl of now-soggy cereal.

Stepping into the kitchen you took a deep breath before facing the coffee pot and filling the reservoir with ground beans. You pressed the button to brew, pulled out two mugs, and turned, nearly running into the muscular chest before you.

"Oh! Hi," you exclaimed in surprise.

"Sorry," he chuckled. "I'm still in stealth mode, I guess. You know, not drawing attention to myself. I'll have to make more noise next time," he teased, walking to the sink with two empty bowls in hand.

"No problem," you squeaked, then clearing your throat. "Coffee's about ready. I'll get some sugar..."

"Great, um...so I guess Grant is all done, do I get him out of his chair or..." he asked you, seeming a little lost. He clearly hadn't taken care of a small human before, so you just smiled.

"Well, it's best to clean him up a bit before setting him loose again, so since he wasn't wearing a bib, I'd just take off his pajama top and grab a clean washcloth to clean his face, unless it got in his hair then that might mean a full bath so..." you trailed off, seeing a look of panic in his eyes. You stepped forward with a light touch on his arm. "Steve, it's fine, I promise. Here, I'll show you where the bibs are for future reference and the linen closet."

You opened the second drawer to the left of the sink to reveal several colorful bibs you used to ideally keep Grant's clothes clean during mealtime, although they often failed their task. Steve peered inside and nodded, then following you into the hall where you opened the linen closet. You grabbed a washcloth and wet it with water, not too warm, and walked back into the living room.

"Alright, little man. Arms up," you directed at Grant and he did as you asked, raising his arms so you could remove his pajama top.

Using the damp cloth, you cleaned his face and chest while Grant squirmed and whined as if he were being tortured. Why was that always the case? Two-year-olds were definitely a challenge. Finally, you unbuckled your son and set him free, immediately rushing toward his basket of toys in the corner of the room. Steve and yourself watched the boy play for a few moments before you cleared your throat and turned toward the man.

"So," you began, suddenly very aware that you hadn't even looked in the mirror yet today. Yikes. "I was thinking of walking to the park with Grant a little later. It's supposed to be clear and sunny for once and we like to get out of the house when we can during the winter. Do you want to come with us?" you proposed, a little nervous to ask.

A wide grin split his face. "Yeah, I'd love to," he replied readily.

Returning his smile, you felt your heart flutter. "Okay, great, um...would you mind watching Grant while I get ready? It's a much faster process solo," you joked.

Steve laughed, "I'm sure that's true. I don't mind at all."

"Oh, my coffee!" you said in remembrance, returning to the kitchen to fix yourself a cup. Coffee in hand, you caught Steve's attention. "Creamer is in the fridge and sugar's on the counter, help yourself."

He uttered a thank you as you headed down the hall to your bedroom. It was quite the luxury to spend more than five minutes taking a shower either before Grant awoke for the day or during one of his naps. A full fifteen minutes uninterrupted was heaven! Hair and makeup done, you dressed for the day in something comfortable but flattering before you headed for the living room. Steve was laying on the floor while Grant crouched on all fours with cars and trucks of all sizes while they raced each other. Grant let out a peal of laughter when Steve faked disappointment when his car lost.

"Oh, no! Looks like you won, buddy. Best two out of three?"

"No! My car!" Grant exclaimed, grabbing the toy out of Steve's hand.

"We're racing for pink slips now? I see how it is. No mercy this time," the blond uttered and you couldn't hold back the laughter anymore, letting out a chuckle. Steve heard you and rose up to his knees next to Grant. "You look nice," he said with a smile.

"Thanks," you replied, suddenly self-conscious. "Um...I'm going to get Grant dressed if you want to get ready?"

"Sure," he agreed, rising to his feet. "Also, I didn't want to interrupt you, but someone smells a little offensive and I don't think it's me," Steve said at a whisper, not-so-covertly pointing at Grant.

You laughed. "I'll take care of it. Come on, little man, let's get you dressed!" you told your son, holding out a hand to him. He started to whine at the interruption of his playtime, but you knew the magic words. "Do you want to go play at the park?"

"Yeah!" the boy answered, dancing in his seat.

"Okay! Then we have to get some clothes on, hurry!" you explained, beckoning with both hands.

"Steeb come too?" Grant asked as he grasped your hand.

Your eyes met Steve's. "Yep, Steve is coming, too," replied, feeling a tingle under your skin from the intensity of his gaze. "Let's go!"

Wrangling Grant out of his pajamas, into a clean diaper, and then into a somewhat matching outfit took longer as usual, but you kept him happy and mostly compliant with tickling and singing the occasional song. Slipping on his snow boots, you pulled Grant to his feet.

"Okay, let's go!" you said with enthusiasm, heading for the door.

Steve was ready by then, dressed in a dark blue sweater and those jeans that hugged him in all the right places. All three of you donned your winter clothing including coats, hats, gloves, and boots. You were sweltering by the time you were all ready to go and looking forward to the chilly outside air.

"Let me just grab the stroller from the closet," you muttered, but Grant had heard the 's word' and was near having a meltdown.

"No!! No, I don't want it!" the boy screamed.

"What's wrong?" Steve asked, a little alarmed.

"He's fine, he just doesn't like the stroller, but if I let him walk, it takes us forever to get there and I have a hard time carrying him both ways. He'll get over it," you explained as you pulled the wheeled contraption out.

"I'll carry him," Steve offered.

"Really? Okay," you agreed and Steve bent down toward Grant.

"Can I carry you to the park, buddy? We can get there fast and go down the slide, what do you think?" he addressed the boy, excited.

"Yeah!" your son yelled, practically jumping into Steve's arms.

Opening the door, you let the pair pass through and you closed the door behind you, then locking it. Grant loved being up so high in Steve's arms, making comments about his surroundings constantly. At one point, Steve lifted Grant up to touch a high branch and then carefully dropped him a few inches before catching him, followed by a round of giggles from all of you.

Grant headed straight for the smaller slide once you made it to the park so you sat down on a bench to watch him and Steve settled beside you. You both quietly observed for a few minutes before he broke the silence.

"It's nice that you're able to work from home. You're still working for Snow Peaks?" he asked, meeting your eye, but keeping a low profile with hat down low on his head and his collar up.

"Yeah. Well, kind of. The company changed a bit once everything happened with my dad. Speaking of which, I never did find out the real story there. Care to elaborate?" you questioned Steve with a raised eyebrow.

Steve let out a guilty smile, ducking his head. "I guess I do owe you an explanation. So, yes, I was sent here undercover to find out intel about your father and the Lumber company in general. Quite frankly, even my knowledge of the operation was limited at the time. I found out later that on the surface, the company was thought to be laundering money for an arms dealer or maybe even funding it. In the end, it turns out that your father's company was sending lumber to a steel mill which then led to a construction company....anyway, it was complicated. It was also discovered that HYDRA had something to do with it and that was revealed after what happened in D.C. It was all a big mess."

"Wow," you breathed out. "I mean, it makes sense. My dad never let me touch the accounting books, despite my experience. I guess he got what he deserved then, huh?" you asked rhetorically.

Steve placed his hand on top of yours, meeting your eye. "I'm so sorry you got caught in the middle, Y/N. I tried, it's just...."

"It's okay. You were just doing your job," you shrugged.

"Still..." He let out a heavy sigh. "Your father was a small player, actually, so serving 18 months in a minimum security prison was pretty reasonable. He decided not to stick around here?" Steve asked, assuming.

"No. The board of the company claimed no responsibility, whether there was blame to be found there or not, so they ousted my dad and restructured all the management. That's where Ted came in, actually," you mentioned casually.

Steve's jaw clenched unconsciously, his gaze on the playground. "Oh, yeah? What does he do?"

"He's the on-site specialist, so he oversees all the guys out in the field and reports to the board of directors. Luckily he stood up for me, even though I was the daughter of a criminal. He encouraged me to testify and clear my name. So, now I do most of what I was responsible for previously but with better benefits and more freedom with my schedule. Upgrades with the computers and equipment were nice, too," you finished with a grateful smile.

Steve remained silent a moment, his brow furrowed, before he let out a small smile as his gaze followed Grant up the stairs to the slide once again. "That's great, Y/N. I'm glad it all worked out. What made you want to stay in town, though?" he inquired, turning your way again.

It was your turn to share some uncomfortable truths. "Well, a few months after you left, I found out I was pregnant, then there was D.C. and finding out about you, plus everything with my dad...it just seemed like everything happened at the same time. I thought about moving to be with my mom. She offered and I love her but if we lived under the same roof, we'd kill each other. Plus I still needed to work. No one is going to hire someone who's 6 months pregnant with maternity leave around the corner, so I stayed. Just for a while, I thought, but...here we are. I've kind of grown to love the small town feel, actually," you finished with a smile, but it faded to see the look on Steve's face.

Leaning forward with elbows on his knees and an expression of guilt, Steve hung his head.

"Steve," you urged him to look at you. It finally took grasping his whiskered chin with your hand to turn his face your way. "Steve, please look at me. I said it before, but I'll say it again until you believe me: you did nothing wrong."

He shook his head, causing you to release your grip. "Maybe not, but I am to blame for...all of this. One assignment. One night, and now..."

Grasping his gloved hand in yours, you slid on the bench until you were hip to hip with Steve. "One night, but not just one time," you teased, wiggling your eyebrows. Finally, you got a small laugh out of him. "We could speculate about that night and what should or shouldn't have happened, but bottom line is I still regret nothing. Not one moment. And now we have a beautiful, two-year-old souvenir," you said with a smile before turning your gaze toward Grant running toward the swings.

Steve sighed, giving your hand a squeeze. "I guess you're right. We can only move forward from here," he admitted.

"Exactly."

"Mama!" Grant yelled from across the playground near the swings. "Up!"

Standing to help your son, Steve stopped you. "I'll go. If that's okay," he added, seeking permission.

"Of course, he'd love that," you urged him, watching as the tall, muscular man made it to the swings in a few long-legged strides. Gently lifting Grant onto the swing, Steve began to give him a push each time the boy swung backward. Squeals of delight rang out through the playground, making your heart sing.

"Y/N?" a voice called out from behind you.

Turning around, you smiled in delight. "Jana! Hi, how are you?" you asked, pulling your friend into a hug. "Wow, the girls are getting so big!" you remarked upon seeing her two daughters in a double stroller.

"I know, right? Growing like weeds," Jana said with a laugh. "Where's Grant?"

"Oh, um..." your gaze wandered to the swings.

Jana spotted Grant but then her eyes narrowed, followed by a gasp of surprise.

"Is that who I think it is?"

___________________

Part 8>>> Coming soon...

Chapter Text

Previously:

Turning around, you smiled in delight. "Jana! Hi, how are you?" you asked, pulling your friend into a hug. "Wow, the girls are getting so big!" you remarked upon seeing her two daughters in a double stroller.

"I know, right? Growing like weeds," Jana said with a laugh. "Where's Grant?"

"Oh, um..." your gaze wandered to the swings.

Jana spotted Grant but then her eyes narrowed, followed by a gasp of surprise.

__________________

"Is that who I think it is?" Jana loudly whispered to you in shock.

"Jana, it's not—"

"Oh, really? Cause he looks a lot like..." she began to exclaim loudly, taking a few angry steps toward the swings where Steve had noticed the commotion.

"Shhh!!" you tried to quiet her and grasped her arm, trying to hold her back. "Jana, please, I'll explain everything. Just not here, okay? Please?" you begged your friend in a hurried whisper.

Jana crossed arms over her chest, fuming, but she finally conceded. "You'll tell me everything? You swear?" she eyed you, watching for a lie.

"I promise, everything," you nodded, releasing a relieved sigh.

Taking one last look in Steve's direction, she then met your eye. "Fine. But tell me the truth, are you okay?"

"Yes! Jana, we are fine, really. It's just...it's been a surprising few days. I'll tell you all about it. Thank you," you uttered, pulling her into another hug. "I'll talk to you soon."

"You better," she lovingly threatened, before she walked away, pushing the stroller down the sidewalk with Steve still in her sights.

"What was that all about?" Steve asked, walking up to you with Grant in his arms.

"Um...that's Jana, my best friend. She knows who you are. Kind of," you admitted, avoiding his gaze.

"What?" he cried out.

"No! I mean, not the real you. She knows about Kurt and how he left town after we...you know, cause she knew about us and..." you said at a low whisper while gesturing emphatically. "Anyway, I have to talk to her. Explain somehow, cause right now she thinks you abandoned me."

"Oh great," he said sarcastically. "I've upset your best friend and we haven't even met yet."

You placed a hand on his arm in comfort. "I'll explain, it'll be fine, don't worry," you assured him.

"Mama, a snack?" Grant requested, looking perfectly comfortable in Steve's arms with his small hand patting the man's bearded cheek.

Smiling at the sweet moment, you relaxed somewhat. "Sure, sweetie. Let's go home for some lunch. Here's some Teddy Grahams, though," you offered, pulling the package out of your purse.

The three of you made the walk back to your apartment, Grant munching on his snack and occasionally offering a little bear-shaped cracker to you and Steve. There wasn't much conversation, the two of you both caught up in your thoughts. Reaching home, you all stripped off your winter clothing and made sandwiches with celery and carrots sticks. Halfway through lunch, Grant began to drift off in his booster seat, so you cleaned him up and put him to bed where he thankfully slept on.

Returning to the kitchen, you saw that Steve had already done the dishes, which was sweet of him. You found him sitting on the couch with a book in his hands, but not reading. He looked up as you approached and took a seat beside him.

Letting out a sigh, you turned toward Steve. "I guess we should figure out how much to tell Jana....but first, there are a few questions I know she'll ask that I don't have answers to."

Nodding, as if expecting this, he set the book aside. "Ask away."

"Steve...why did you come here?" you asked.

Catching your eye, he then looked away, lost in thought. "I...I don't know. I mean, I was telling the truth that I hoped to see you, but..."

"But?" you urged him on when he paused. "What did you hope would happen, Steve?" you finally voiced.

Huffing out a sigh, he shrugged. "I always hoped that, you know...there might still be something there. Some possibility for us. Part of me was terrified to come here and discover that the night we spent together meant nothing and that I had held on to that hope only to see it crushed."

Heart racing to hear those words, you prodded a bit more. "And now?"

Letting out a smile, Steve cautiously brushed fingertips over the back of your hand and when you turned it over in invitation, he grasped your fingers in his. "Now...that night means more to me than ever. As for that hope, well...it's still there. But I guess the rest is in your court," he confessed, staring down at your joined hands.

Allowing yourself to smile, you felt the warmth of joy fill you, now knowing that hope for a future together was something you both shared. "It's there for me, too, Steve. It never really made sense, considering I thought I wouldn't get a chance to ever see you again, yet somehow, it was always there in the back of my mind. But it's not just me I have to think about. I know you're his father, but right now Grant sees you as a new playmate. He's too young to understand anyway, but soon he'll get attached. I know it's not fair to ask and it's probably not even possible for you, but...are you staying? I know there's no possible way that you could have planned for this, but I have to think about what's best for Grant."

Steve nodded soberly. "I know. I've been thinking a lot about it. You're right, I couldn't have planned this, but now...it almost feels like it was all meant to be, you know? Of course, I was meant to come here. It all makes sense. I was drawn here to you. To Grant. So many things that I've been worrying about just faded away because this is where I'm meant to be. It's true, my future is uncertain right now and it would be unfair to you both if I were to promise anything, but...Y/N, I want to be here. I want to get to know Grant and see him grow and learn. I want to share the challenges and joys of parenting with you. I want to see what happens between you and I, too. I have to be honest, though. There will always be a chance that there might be a time when I have to leave unexpectedly. It's selfish of me to even think of inserting myself into your life with no guarantee, so, if you decide that's not enough, then I'll go, but...God, I want this. I want us. I want to be here for as long as I possibly can. Hopefully, forever," Steve told you, his expression earnest as his brilliant blue eyes held yours.

Feeling the prickling of tears threatening, you stayed silent a moment before wrapping your arms around Steve and pulling him close. He squeezed you tight as well, feeling the uneven breathing in his chest as you held each other and cried for the years lost and the weight of all that lies ahead. As your tears slowed, you pulled away to see a wet spot on Steve's shirt as you sniffled.

"I don't have the answers either, but...I want you here, too, Steve. It's crazy that you've only been back a day, because having you here...it just fits. I'm willing to accept that this situation might not be forever, but if we have a chance to be a family, I think we should try," you said with a hopeful smile.

Steve's eyes grew wide, as if the thought only just occurred to him. "Family. I have a family now," he uttered, smile stretched across his face before he pulled you in for another long hug. "Thank you, Y/N," he muttered into your shoulder, holding on tightly a moment before pulling back.

"It's not going to be easy," you admitted. "Parenting is really hard and being dropped into it suddenly...well, there will be a lot of wake-up calls for us both, I think. But for right now, we just have to deal with what to tell Jana. How much do you want her to know?"

Thinking a moment, he met your gaze. "Do you trust her?"

"Absolutely," you said without hesitation.

Nodding in response, he captured your hand again. "Okay. Then we tell her everything. I want you to have as much support as you need. If you say she's willing to hold on to my secret, then I trust her, too."

Relieved, you let out a smile. "Okay. Thank you, Steve. I'll text her to see if she can come over tonight. And I'd like you to be here."

"Of course."

Reluctantly leaving his side, you went in search of your phone.

______________

The rest of the afternoon was relaxed, in comparison. During Grant's nap, you and Steve talked some more before you received an email from work that required your immediate attention. Grabbing your laptop from your desk, you chose to settle on the couch to work while Steve read beside you. There was a comfortable silence between you, both finding joy in just having the other nearby.

A while later, you heard Grant begin to whimper and call out for you as he awoke, so you set aside your laptop and went to his room. Even though he could leave his bed on his own, Grant was sometimes disoriented if he fell asleep somewhere and then found himself in his bed. Enjoying cuddles with a sleepy Grant for a moment, you then changed his diaper and carried him to the kitchen. He asked for a drink of water, so you fetched a plastic cup and filled it, securing a lid on top to prevent spills.

You carried him back into the living room and settled back on the couch with Grant seated between you and Steve. The little boy leaned against your side for a while, still waking up, as you tried to resume your work. Soon, he noticed the book in Steve's hands and reached for the pages in interest.

"This book's probably not quite your speed, buddy," Steve responded, showing Grant the pages full of words and no pictures. HIs little brow furrowed in disappointment.

"Hey, sweetie, why don't you go find one of your books and bring it to Steve? I bet he'd read it for you," you mentioned to your son, then meeting Steve's eye with a smile.

Grant scooted off the couch and wandered to the bookshelf in the corner, then selecting a book to bring to Steve. He reached his arms out to the man and Steve gathered the boy on his lap with the book in hand. Apprehensive as he may seem, Steve really was naturally good with Grant. He read the words but also pointed out all the animals on each page, asking Grant if he knew the sound they made and what they were called. The adorable display was a little distracting to your work, but you didn't mind in the slightest.

After reading, Grant pulled Steve down on the floor with him to play cars. During lulls in playtime where Grant was off in his own little world, Steve would ask you questions about him growing up. Milestones like when he started crawling and walking, what his first word was (mama, followed shortly by cookie), if he was allergic to anything (not so far), and any other questions that came to his mind. You loved that he wanted to know all those things and was trying to catch up on what he missed.

Once you finished your work, you shut down your laptop and headed into the kitchen to see what to make for dinner. You had told Steve that Grant was allowed one tv show in the afternoon, so he turned that on for him and then joined you in the kitchen.

"Anything I can do to help?" Steve asked in offering.

Pleasantly surprised, you glanced at the ingredients you had pulled from the fridge. "Sure, uh...I was thinking of having tacos tonight. Do you want to dice up some tomatoes and lettuce for me?"

"I can do that," Steve agreed, picking up the knife on the cutting board that you had set aside.

Your kitchen was on the small side, so with a large man beside you, there were moments of bumped elbows and light brushes against each other. The two of you found a rhythm, though, and soon everything was ready on the table. Steve offered to help Grant wash his hands and buckled him in his booster seat but with a bib this time, which made you smile.

Dinner was a lively affair, mostly consisting of Steve being amused by your attempts to get Grant to eat. He was generally a good eater, but would still get distracted or only eat the least nutritious part of the meal, like the hard taco shell.

"Come on, sweetie, you need your veggies to grow big and strong! Look at Steve, he ate his lettuce and tomatoes and look at him!" you used as an example and gestured toward Steve.

The blond scoffed at that, "Well, that's not exactly..."

"Shh, we'll tell him the truth later," you whispered behind your hand with a wink.

Steve laughed at your deception, but decided to flex his biceps to drive your point home. Instead, it mostly resulted in you trying to keep from swooning outwardly. The man was a beautiful sight to behold.

Grant's eyes grew wide. "Steeb strong!"

"See?" you told your son. "How about two more bites of tomato because you are two years old, huh?"

He agreed, using his fingers to pick up the tomato and pop it in his mouth. "All done!" he declared, throwing his hands in the air.

"Good job, bud," you praised him before grabbing a wash cloth to clean him up.

Steve offered to put away the dinner leftovers while you bathed Grant and got him ready for bed. Dressed in pajamas, you brought him out to say goodnight to Steve and then tucked him in. A few short picture books later, he was down for the count.

Returning to the living room, Steve rose from the couch and stuffed both hands in his jeans pockets with a soft smile.

"Today was a great day. Best day I've had in...I don't know how long. Thank you, Y/N," he spoke sincerely, taking a few steps forward.

"You're welcome," you replied sincerely. "Thank you for being here. I guess I never realized how nice it would be to have a partner in this. I got used to doing the single parent thing from the get-go," you said with a shrug.

Holding that tender gaze, Steve slowly reached out and took your hand, threading his fingers with yours. You glanced down at your joined fingers and then back up at him, taking a step forward. A spark of electricity seemed to flow between you, drawing you closer. Mere inches away, there was a sudden knock at the door and you jumped apart.

Flustered, you dropped Steve's hand and rubbed it against your thigh. "That must be Jana. Maybe I should talk to her alone at first. Is that okay?" you asked.

Steve nodded. "Of course. Whatever you're comfortable with. I'll be in the kitchen," he said as he walked that way, stealing one last glance at you and sending a comforting smile.

Swinging the door open, you enveloped your best friend in an immediate hug. "Hi. Thank you for coming," you said as you released her.

"You know I'm here for you, Y/N," Jana assured you as she took off her coat and plopped down on the couch, getting comfortable. "So spill, girl. I need the dirty deets!"

Chuckling, you joined her on the couch and took a deep breath. "Okay. So, I know you met Kurt all those years ago and yes, that is the man you saw in the park with us today. Except....Kurt isn't really Kurt," you began to explain.

"Wait...what?" she asked in confusion.

"Kurt was a fake name he used when he came here to hide his identity because he was...undercover," you cringed at the last word, quickly silencing Jana's words of disbelief as she laughed out loud. "I know, I know! It sounds like an elaborate lie, but I swear it's the truth," you promised her, hoping she would see that you were being earnest.

Rolling her eyes, Jana gave you the benefit of the doubt for the moment. "Okay? Undercover for what? CIA? Is he a spy? Double agent?" she joked with a smirk.

You hesitated, then deciding that the best approach was the most direct one. "Why don't I let him explain?" you uttered quickly and rose from the couch. "Steve?" you called out.

Jana stood and began to protest, possibly because "Kurt" was at your home at all, and on top of that hiding in your kitchen. He stepped out with a sheepish smile before squaring his shoulders and stepping toward Jana with an outstretched hand. "Hi. I'm Steve Rogers," he spoke with that kind, approachable grin.

Jana eyed his hand in shock, looking up at Steve and then over to you. "Are you serious? Steve Rogers, like..."

"Yup," you nodded in confirmation. "Also known as..."

"...Captain America," Jana uttered quietly, finally accepting Steve's hand and giving it a shake as she gave him a once-over. "I don't know why I didn't see it before. Wow."

"Well, I did try to be unassuming when I was here last," Steve shrugged as he released her hand.

"Steven Grant Rogers, actually," you piped in. "I named my little boy after his father," you smiled, catching his eye.

You best friend whirled toward you. "You knew this whole time?" she asked, accusing you slightly.

"I found out while I was pregnant. I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but honestly, would you have believed me if I had?" you questioned calmly.

She scoffed. "No."

You burst out laughing and she soon joined you, leaning against each other since you could barely stand form your hysterics. It took a long while before you both gathered your composure and by the end, Steve looked a little alarmed at your reactions. "I'm sorry, Steve, it's....it's not you, I swear," you managed to squeak out.

Wiping tears of laughter from under her eyes, Jana took a deep breath and met your eye. "I can't believe you got knocked-up by Captain America," she uttered as a laugh bubbled up in her throat once again.

You sighed, your cheeks sore from laughing. "Me neither, and yet..." you trialed off, now noticing the pink dusting on Steve's cheeks as he overheard your conversation. "...no regrets," you finished, capturing his hand and looping your free arm around his bicep for comfort. Steve smiled down at you and gave your hand a squeeze.

The rest of the evening was spent answering Jana's countless questions and also swearing her to secrecy, for everyone's safety. Finally saying goodnight and giving her a hug, you waved as Jana walked down the steps. Closing the door to the cold, you tried to stifle a yawn. You then turned toward Steve and smiled, exhaling loudly.

"That went well, I think," you declared.

"I think so, too. She seems great and I'm glad you have her to talk to," Steve replied, gently brushing knuckles across your cheek unconsciously before he realized the intimacy of the action. Instead of letting him pull away, you captured his hand and pressed it against your face, holding his gaze.

Drawing closer, you hesitated a moment before pressing your lips to his gently. Steve tucked one hand behind your neck and looped the other around your waist, reciprocating the kiss. His lips caressed yours lightly as you felt the warm familiarity of being in his strong arms once again. As much as you would've liked to go all-in and turn up the heat, something held you back, so you reluctantly pulled away to meet his eye.

"That was..."

"...amazing," Steve finished the sentence, brushing his thumb across your cheekbone with a smile.

"It was, but...I think we should take things slow for now," you told him, almost regretting your words immediately but knowing it had to be said.

He nodded in return, pressing a kiss to your forehead before reluctantly stepping away. "I understand. You should get some sleep," he uttered softly.

"Yeah..." you replied, already missing the warmth of his body against yours. "Sleep well, Steve. I'll see you in the morning." Walking down the hallway, you had to fight yourself from being drawn back into his embrace.

"Good night, Y/N," you heard him say as you ducked into your bedroom and leaned against the closed door, feeling the cool wood against your heated skin.

"Take it slow?" you groaned outwardly. Possibly your worst idea ever, you thought, as you changed clothes and crawled into bed alone.

______________

Part 9>>> Coming soon...

Chapter Text

Previously:

"Sleep well, Steve. I'll see you in the morning." Walking down the hallway, you had to fight yourself from being drawn back into his embrace.

"Good night, Y/N," you heard him say as you ducked into your bedroom and leaned against the closed door, feeling the cool wood against your heated skin.

"Take it slow?" you groaned outwardly. Possibly your worst idea ever, you thought, as you changed clothes and crawled into bed alone.

________________

The next morning, you awoke to your alarm, which you had luckily set just in case. Your usual two-year-old alarm clock hadn't appeared once again, but you were not so worried this time. Instead of silence, you heard the sweet laughter of your young son followed by a booming masculine voice through the walls. Your lips curved into a smile as you stretched in bed, then planting your stockinged feet on the floor and heading for your bedroom door.

Shuffling down the hallway, you followed the laughter to the living room where once again, Grant was in his booster seat with a bib on and a bowl of breakfast before him. The joyful squeals from your son continued as you watched Steve imitate the voice of one of the cartoon characters on tv. Grant giggled each time, clapping his hands to Steve's performance.

"Again, again!" the boy cried out, bright smile upon his face.

"Take a few more bites first, pal, look! You still have some blueberries in there," Steve pointed out, probably needing a break. He had apparently discovered that with two-year-olds, once they find something funny, you're never allowed to stop doing the thing. Ever.

Grant let out a whine, but picked up his spoon anyway. Steve leaned back against the couch and sighed, then spotting you in the hallway. A huge smile stretched across his handsome face as he rose to standing.

"Good morning, Y/N," he said in a gravelly morning voice, making your stomach flip.

"Morning," you replied with a matching grin. "Blueberries, huh?"

Steve looked back toward Grant with his breakfast. "Oh, yeah. I made oatmeal this morning. I wasn't sure if he'd like it, but I added a little brown sugar and blueberries. That's how I usually eat it. There's more on the stove I can heat up for you, if you'd like," he offered, heading toward the kitchen. You planted a kiss to Grant's messy face first and then followed Steve.

"Sounds amazing, thank you," you uttered, then tugging on his hand once you entered the kitchen. He turned your way and looped his arm around your waist as your lips met briefly. "Hi."

Steve chuckled. "Well, hi to you, too," he answered, leaning in to prolong the kiss a few moments before breaking away. "Did you sleep well?"

"I did, yeah," you replied as Steve released you. He grabbed a bowl from the proper cupboard and dished out some oatmeal for you, then sliding it in the microwave to heat.

"So, what does the day look like for you?" Steve asked as he turned back toward you.

"Um...actually, I was planning on going into work today. I normally take Grant to daycare, so..." you trailed off, uncertain how to proceed.

"I'll watch him," Steve immediately offered as he retrieved your oatmeal and handed it to you.

"Really? You're sure? Cause you don't have to, I know it's a lot right now and I don't want you to feel obligated, he does fine at daycare," you assured him as you topped your oatmeal how you liked it.

Steve stopped you then with light grip on your arm to gain your attention. "Y/N, I want all of it. Every moment I possibly can, I want to spend with Grant and with you. If you'll let me," he told you sincerely, meeting your gaze.

Breathing a sigh of relief, you let out a smile. "Okay. I want you to have every opportunity to get to know Grant. And of course I want time with you, too, but just know that having him 24/7 is intense. I definitely need a break sometimes, so you have to let me know when it's too much. Okay?" you made him promise, and he agreed. "Okay. Thank you for the oatmeal. I better get ready," you said, pecking a kiss on Steve's lips and heading for your bedroom.

____________________

"Grant usually takes a nap around 10:30 or 11, but he fights it sometimes, so be prepared for that. You can have the taco leftovers for lunch and I'm going to try and drop by during my lunch break," you said as you slipped your laptop in your bag before heading toward the door. "He can have any of the snacks in the cupboard, but he will OD on Goldfish crackers if you let him so you have to ration them. Call or text if you need anything at all, I'm serious, I'll have my phone with me and..."

You had rambled on a few minutes when Steve lightly gripped your shoulders so you would face him. "Y/N, take a breath. It'll be fine, I promise," he assured you with that sweet smile.

Heeding his advice, you inhaled deeply, finally releasing it with a smile. "Okay. I know you'll do fine, I'm not worried. Did I tell you how happy I am that you're here?" you smirked, tugging him closer by the front of his shirt.

"I'm happy I'm here, too," he replied, pressing a lingering kiss to your mouth. You broke apart as Grant entered the room. There wasn't a good way to explain what was happening between the two of you to a toddler, but now definitely wasn't the time.

"Okay, little man, I have to go to work, but Steve is going to stay here and play with you, okay?" you told your son as you knelt down to gather him in a hug. "Be good for Steve. I love you."

" 'Kay. Love you, mama," Grant said, returning your hug.

You gave one last lingering glance and a wave to the two people closest to your heart before you stepped out the door.

___________________

The short drive to work helped you shift gears and turn on the professional part of yourself. Knowing that Steve was caring for Grant helped you relax and prepare for your workday, making a mental checklist of all you needed to accomplish as you drove.

Being a working mom was challenging, but for the most part, you had no problem caring for your son and being the sole provider for your small family. The past few days with Steve had given you a new perspective, however. Having a partner to help had become more and more appealing, which also made you a little wary, given Steve's situation.

Shaking off those thoughts, you pulled your car into a parking space and walked the few yards into the building. After the changes with Snow Peaks Lumber, there was finally a brick and mortar structure built for offices, instead of the drafty trailer that you had reluctantly gotten used to. Although you weren't as close to the work site now, transportation was simple with various vehicles available. Not to mention that working in a consistently heated building had it's advantages.

You headed for your office, greeting a few fellow employees on your way, before you slipped off your coat and stowed your bag under your desk. The second you sat down and turned on your computer, there was a knock on your door.

"Good morning, Y/N."

You looked up in surprise. "Oh! Good morning, Ted. How were things yesterday? Did you get those files I sent?" you asked in reply.

"Yes, I received them. How are you? And Grant, I know he had that doctor's appointment," Ted began, taking a few steps into your office.

"Grant is...he's fine, thank you. And thanks again for picking him up, I was in a tight spot and..."

"It's my pleasure, really. Anything I can do to help," he assured you with a smile.

Ted was always kind and welcoming to you, especially when it came to your pregnancy and maternity leave. It was part of why you were able to stay and work in the first place. He always stood out in town, though, being the only man without a full beard. Instead, Ted was always clean-shaven with perfectly styled hair, no matter the weather. He was tall and thin with dark hair, carrying himself in a commanding and yet quiet manner. Ted seemed to take pride in remaining apart from the group.

He had reached the edge of your desk then, lingering as his gaze fell on a framed photo of you and Grant that sat on your desk.

"Was there something that you needed, Ted? Any urgent files for this morning?" you asked, trying to move the conversation along.

"Hm? Oh, no. Just wanted to check in."

"Okay, well...I'll start on those new hires, then," you said with a smile.

"Sounds good. I'll leave you to it," he nodded before stepping into the hallway.

Taking a deep breath, you opened your email and got to work.

____________________

Hours later, you popped your head into Ted's office after knocking and receiving a response.

"Hey, Ted? I'm going to take a lunch. Thought I'd bring back coffee, since I owe you from the other day," you told him.

"Of course. And thank you," Ted replied with close-lipped smile.

You were about to close his door and head out when Ted called for you.

"Oh, Y/N," he began, so you swung the door open once again. "Is Grant okay? I spoke to Molly over at daycare and she said you called to cancel for the day."

Momentarily stunned, you shifted on your feet and thought quickly. "Yes, he is, I promise. He's, uh...just staying with a friend today. How—how did you speak with Molly?" you asked, a little confused.

"Well, I had to speak to her about her husband's insurance coverage through the company, so I asked about Grant while I had her on the phone," he simply replied, using one finger to nudge his stapler so that it was parallel with his desk. Ted was rather particular about his desk being in order.

"Oh. Thank you for your concern. I'll be back in an hour," you finished, swiftly closing the door and retrieving your coat and bag from your office. Reaching your car, you thought a moment about your exchange with Ted. That was odd....right? Turning the ignition, you shook off the feeling and headed for home.

____________________

Stepping in the door and removing your key from the lock, you almost called out to announce your presence, but the apartment was unusually silent, so you crept forward and peeked into the living room. The first thing you saw was Steve's stockinged foot resting on the armrest of the couch, so you walked around only to discover the sweetest sight you'd ever seen.

Steve was lying on his back asleep with one arm under his head while Grant was curled against his chest with a blanket over the two of them. You thought your heart just might explode right then and there. Silently pulling out your phone, you swiped over to camera and pressed the button to capture the sweet moment, but the shutter sound was on. Quickly hugging your phone to your chest, you hoped the sound wouldn't disturb them, but you saw Steve part his long lashes and then blink up at you.

"Hi," he whispered groggily, smiling and then glancing down at a still-sleeping Grant.

"Hi. I'm sorry I woke you, but I just had to document the moment," you confessed quietly with a guilty grin. "Did the morning go okay?"

Steve chuckled lightly. "Let me lay him down first," he told you, gingerly gathering the little boy in his arms and walking him down the hall. A few minutes later, he silently shut the door, and returned to the living room with a stretch, putting those rather impressive muscles on display through his snug shirt.

"So?" you asked, dropping your bag and slipping out of your coat as Steve settled back on the couch. Once you were free from the garment, he gently tugged on your arm and you let yourself be pulled down to sit beside him.

Steve shook his head with another chuckle and slipped an arm around you. "I don't know how you do it. It's only been half a day and I'm exhausted. Honestly, I've been in endless firefights but I don't know if I've ever been this tired. Grant's not even three and he's running me ragged. I swear, with the constant questions and needing new entertainment every 15 minutes, plus the nap thing! Oh my god, you weren't joking," he threw his head back against the couch.

Holding in your laughter, you just curled into his side in support.

"I mean, it's like I was torturing him, trying to get him to sleep! I did some of the things you suggested: turned on a fan for white noise and read him a book, made sure he had a snack beforehand, turned on a nightlight...but no. Once I shut the door, he screamed for 10 minutes straight before I gave up. I did, I caved. I told him he could watch a movie out here if he promised to lay down, and quite frankly, I had wanted a nap all morning, so that's what happened. Guess we fell asleep during the movie. I'm sorry, Y/N," he exhaled, sounding defeated.

Finally, you let out a snicker, grasping Steve's whiskered chin so he would meet your eye. "That sounds like a typical day in parenting," you told him honestly. "You did a great job, Steve. Grant's just fine, the house is still standing and some days, that's all you can really hope for."

Steve smiled at that and you felt him relax against you. "Seriously, though. You're amazing to do all of this by yourself," he said, grasping your hand with his and threading your fingers together.

"Thank you, Steve," you muttered, sealing the moment with a kiss.

The blond took a deep breath. "But enough about my morning, how was work?" he asked, shifting slightly to face you.

You shrugged. "It was fine, mostly. More paper pushing and squinting at a computer screen," you replied.

"What was that 'mostly'? " he asked, catching your choice of words.

"I just had a weird moment with Ted earlier. He found out that Grant wasn't at daycare and asked me about it," you told him. "He said he originally called Molly, the caretaker, about her husband's insurance, but I don't know..."

Steve seemed to tense beside you, shifting in his seat. "Huh. That is a little strange. More involved than a boss should be?"

"I don't know," you brushed it off, "it's probably nothing. I mean, he's been a good friend to us, so I guess that line might be blurred."

There was a quiet moment before Steve responded. "Y/N, I hope you feel comfortable enough to talk to me about anything," he urged you gently. "I'm here, not just with things concerning Grant. I want to be here for you as well, no matter what it is."

"I do feel like that," you answered as he rubbed a hand against your back in comfort, "but thank you for the reminder, Steve." You pressed a grateful kiss to his lips.

Another comfortable silence lingered a moment before you let out a deep sigh.

"Are you hungry?" Steve asked, changing the subject. "I was going to make those tacos when he...well, when WE woke up," he mentioned with a smile.

"Yeah. But can we just stay here a little while longer?" you asked, curling even more into his side.

"Of course," he spoke quietly. "There's nowhere else I'd rather be."

________________________

The rest of your workday passed unremarkably, your only contact with Ted being when you dropped off his cup of coffee and exchanged a few words. As the day ended, you saved all your files, checked your email one last time, and prepared to leave. Offering a few goodbyes on your way out, you walked to your car and headed for home.

Slipping in the door, it was a lot more noisy than when you dropped by at lunch with the music and laughter instantly making you smile. You dropped your work things at your desk and hung up your coat before heading toward the sounds coming from the kitchen. Steve was stirring something on the stove's back burner and swaying his slim hips while Grant spun around on the kitchen floor, dancing to one of his kiddie CDs you recognized.

"Mama!" Grant called out as he saw you and ran into your arms. You hoisted him up and set him on your hip with a smile.

"How's my handsome boy? Did you have fun with Steve?" you asked him, catching Steve's eye.

"Yeah! Look, soup! I help," he pointed to the stove where Steve was stirring.

"Ooh! Smells delicious," you declared, walking toward him.

Grant wiggled out of your grasp and you set him down where he headed for whichever toy that caught his attention at that moment. Arms now free, you slipped them around Steve's waist and he pulled you into a hug.

"Hi," he greeted you with a kiss to your forehead. "Rest of the day go okay?"

"Yeah. Just glad to be home," you replied with a smile and turning back toward the stove. "What's this?"

"Oh, um...I kind of just scoured the fridge and threw some stuff in the pot. Smells decent, so that's a good sign. Hey, Grant helped, too! He was begging to, so I sat him in his booster seat and gave him a slice of tomato to mangle with plastic scissors. He got to put it in the pot, so if you get a long string of tomato, just know it was made with love," he said with a proud grin.

Shaking your head with a chuckle, you gave Steve another squeeze and then released him. "I bet it'll taste delicious. Sounds like the rest of the day went well," you said, hopeful.

Steve nodded happily. "Yeah, the nap thing really helps. Who knew?" he teased, then turning off the stove. "Dinner's about ready."

"Okay. I'm going to go change," you said, taking one last glance at the man puttering around your kitchen. Your heart swelled at the sight, also spotting Grant playing happily as you passed through the living room. This was a feeling you hoped to always appreciate, coming home to a house full of joy and laughter.

After dinner, you bathed Grant and tucked him in while Steve did the dishes and wiped off the counters and table. When you returned Steve looked exhausted, but when you suggested he go to bed early, Steve resisted, saying he wanted to enjoy some cherished time with you.

You let him pick a movie he hadn't seen and you pressed play. The beginning credits had barely ended before Steve's lips found yours. It was a slow, lazy kiss that kindled a flame between the two of you. Movie forgotten, you shifted on the couch to face him, your fingers running through his butterscotch locks. Steve nipped at your bottom lip and you granted his tongue entrance to explore. His hands remained firmly against your back but as you pulled his chest flush against yours, he slowed his movements and pulled away.

Breath uneven, he put some space between you and brushed his knuckles against your warm cheek. "I guess we should say goodnight," he said respectfully as he stood up and pulled you to your feet.

Heart sinking and body cursing your suggestion to take it slow, you nodded in agreement. "Yes. We probably should," you said with labored breathing as you straighten your rumpled clothes. "I'll see you in the morning."

"Sleep well, Y/N," he wished, pressing a chaste kiss to your lips before pulling away.

Heading down the hallway toward your bedroom, you had your hand on the doorknob when you looked back toward the living room to see Steve standing there. There was a short moment of debate within you before quickly making a decision.

"Ah, screw it," you muttered before running the distance toward Steve and jumping into his arms where he easily caught you.

Legs wrapping around his waist, your lips found his and all inhibitions were lost. Steve reciprocated, teasing and tasting and caressing with abandon. He stumbled as quietly as possible down the hall to your bedroom where you opened the door and closed it behind the two of you followed by the click of a lock.

One last question he felt compelled to voice. "Are you sure?"

Nodding rapidly, you released your legs and found your footing, heading for the bed. "I've been without you for three years. I'm not wasting another second," you declared as you leaned into his kiss once again.

________________

Part 10>>> Coming soon...

Chapter Text

Previously:

One last question he felt compelled to voice. "Are you sure?"

Nodding rapidly, you released your legs and found your footing, heading for the bed. "I've been without you for three years. I'm not wasting another second," you declared as you leaned into his kiss once again.

_________________

The moment your lips touched Steve's, there was a steady smolder that began to burn hotter under your skin. Desperate as you were for one other, you felt a desire to take it slow and savor this long-awaited reunion. Looping your arms around his neck, you melded every part of you against Steve's muscular form. Soft, pillowy lips caressed yours as you walked in tandem toward the bed, soon finding the mattress with the back of your knees.

Steve pulled away an inch, his gaze never leaving yours as he placed a hand on the side of your face. He brushed a thumb across your cheekbone while his other hand reached down to rest it at your waist, teasing the hem of your top. Your fingers slipped under the fabric of his long-sleeved shirt, seeking the warm, smooth skin underneath. Steve leaned away from you just enough so he could grip the shirt's collar and pull it over his head in one swift motion.

Gently, he reached for your hem and met your eye for permission with you nodding in response. He did so gently, tossing the article of clothing to the floor. As you leisurely undressed one another between slow, sensual kisses, you had a moment of doubt. Looking down at the ways your body had changed due to carrying a child and giving birth, you suddenly felt self-conscious under his gaze.

Steve seemed to sense your hesitation, slowing his movements only to use a finger under your chin so you would meet his eye. Once you did, you saw nothing but awe and adoration. Pressing a gentle kiss to your lips, he smiled tenderly.

"I didn't think it was possible, but you're even more beautiful than I remember," he whispered softly, causing your face to warm.

You smiled gratefully, feeling your nerves fall away along with the rest of your clothing. As he joined you on the bed, Steve took his sweet time to re-learn every inch of your skin, paying loving attention to the scars and stretch marks that stood as evidence that your body once carried his child. He worshipped your form tirelessly until you couldn't take it anymore, begging to be joined as one.

Hurriedly finding the small packet you sought in your bedside drawer, you soon sighed in relief as your bodies fit together perfectly in a way time and distance could not alter. You moved in tandem, being cautious of the noise you made, as Steve brought you higher and higher until you both tumbled down together. Catching your breath, Steve pulled you into his side and pressed a kiss to your sweaty brow.

"I've missed you," he uttered breathlessly, brushing a hand across your bare back.

Tilting your head up, you swept a sweaty lock of hair from his forehead and trailed your fingers down to his soft, whiskered cheek. "I've missed you, too. You have no idea how much," you replied, pecking a kiss to his lips and stretching your legs with a groan. "Well, I'm gonna be sore tomorrow. I was a little nervous, actually...feeling out of practice," you confessed as your fingers traced the hard lines of Steve's chiseled torso.

"Really?" Steve asked in mild shock. "I was honestly surprised you're still single. Guess I should have asked first, though, huh?" he teased.

You pinched his side playfully in response and Steve retaliated by tickling you mercilessly. You both finally called a truce and settled back into your post-coital cuddling.

"What about you? Any time for a love life in between saving the world?" you asked in response.

Steve chuckled lightly and exhaled. "Not really. There was the possibility of someone...wouldn't have worked out, though. And now I'm glad it didn't," he answered while letting his hands begin to wander across your skin once again.

"Mm," you groaned in pleasure as his hand dipped below your waist. "Ready so soon? That Super Soldier stamina might be the death of me. What a way to go, though," you grinned as you lifted a knee to straddle his waist. Soreness be damned.

________________

Quiet knocking and a rattling sound roused you from slumber the next morning, your head raising from your human pillow as Steve shifted underneath you. Squinting at the bedroom door, you realized the rattling was the doorknob failing to turn, since it was locked.

"Mama," a small voice was heard through the wood. "Where Steeb?"

You quickly sat up, clutching the sheets to your chest. Glancing down at the handsome man sharing your bed, he seemed a little lost for words as well. "Well, it's official, he likes you better than me," you joked to Steve at a whisper. "I'll be right there, sweetie! We can find Steve together!" you answered through the door and jumping out of bed. Steve did the same, reaching for his clothes.

"What do we do?" he asked in a whisper.

"It'll be fine, I got it," you assured him, pulling on your robe and tying the sash.

Carefully opening the door, Steve managed to hide behind it as you scooped up Grant in your arms with a kiss to his cheek. "Morning, little man. Should we go find Steve?" you asked in a curious tone.

"Yeah. He make breakfast," Grant said with a pout.

"I know, he does make a good breakfast. Let's look in the living room," you said, making a elaborate act of looking behind the couch and under the coffee table. "No? Hmm. Maybe in the kitchen?"

Just as you walked in the kitchen you saw Steve sneak past out of the corner of your eye into the living room. You and Grant looked under the dining table and around the side of the fridge before exiting the room only to find Steve in full view.

You let out a fake gasp. "There he is!"

"Steeb!" Grant cried out, launching himself out of your arms where Steve caught the little boy and tossed him a few inches into the air before catching him.

"Here I am," Steve replied with a huge smile, bedhead still apparent in his gorgeous locks. He tickled the boy's tummy, peals of that sweet laughter bursting from your joyous son. "What should we have for breakfast, pal?"

"Blueberry!"

Steve chuckled. "Well, how about we put them in some pancakes this time? Do you have the ingredients?" he asked, addressing you about the last part.

"We should, I'll check," you replied, heading into the kitchen.

While you pulled all the ingredients out of the cupboards, Steve buckled Grant into his booster seat so he could "help" again by whisking or something. It was mostly just the keep him stationary while Steve cooked.

"I should probably go into the office today, since it's a Friday. The weekend seems to go better if I do," you told Steve regrettably. You wanted so much to stay home, but in order to enjoy the freedoms of your job, you had to do what was required of you. "Are you okay with daddy duty again or do you want me to get Grant ready for daycare?"

Steve smiled at your choice of words. "Daddy duty. I like it. And I don't mind at all, I'd love for him to stay here with me," he replied.

You had actually surprised even yourself with that phrase, but since he didn't mind, you just gave him a grin. "Okay. I should get ready myself then..." you trailed off, walking into the hallway.

Steve caught your hand then and pulled you toward him in one swift motion. He held you tight against him, pressing his lips to yours for a lingering, sensual kiss. Now that was a nice morning pick-me-up. His hands began to wander under your robe where you wore nothing at all and you let out a low groan from the back of your throat.

"Mm. I'll never get out of here if you don't stop that," you muttered against his lips before reluctantly pulling out of his grasp. "Pancakes, Mr. Rogers," you said with a point of your finger, to which he nodded with a smirk and bite of his lip.

Steve watched you go and when you looked back, he had that smoldering expression that about had you coming undone right then and there. Grabbing clean clothes from your dresser drawer, you headed for the bathroom. Cold shower it is, you thought with a sigh.

______________

A quick breakfast of pancakes later, you headed out the door with a kiss to Grant's sticky cheek and a lingering embrace from Steve. When you arrived at work, you noticed that Ted's office was vacant and part of you was relieved. The majority of the morning was spent filling out paperwork for a Worker's Compensation case where an employee had been injured on the work site. Dealing with insurance was a hassle, but it was part of your job.

After that, you caught up on emails and sent a few files to the payroll department concerning personnel changes. Glancing at the clock, you noticed that lunchtime was approaching, so you grabbed your phone and dialed.

"Y/N, hi," Steve answered, a little breathless.

"Hi," you answered with a smile. "What are you fellas up to?"

"We got a few inches of snow, so we bundled up and went outside for an hour or so. Hope that's okay," he replied.

"I didn't even know it was snowing. Of course, sounds like fun. It'll probably help to tire him out for a nap, so bonus," you teased, imagining your son traipsing through the snow with Steve, hand in hand. The thought warmed your heart.

Steve chuckled lightly. "That definitely crossed my mind. I think we'll head in soon to eat. Will you be coming home for lunch?" he asked, hopeful.

You glanced at the files on your desk and considered your to-do list for the day. "Actually, I don't have much more to take care of. I might just work straight through and then hopefully leave in a few hours. Maybe start the weekend early?" you spoke optimistically.

"I like the sound of that," Steve agreed. "Also, I did want to mention...this is probably my fault, but the leftovers are almost finished and there's not much else in the fridge..." he trailed off, sounding apologetic.

You laughed. "That's okay, I figured it was about time to go grocery shopping. How about I grab some dinner on the way home for tonight and then I'll get some groceries tomorrow?" you offered.

"Perfect."

"Alright. Any preferences?" you inquired, parting the blinds at your office window to watch the snow fall.

"Nah, I'm good with anything," he answered casually. "Drive safe. We'll see you soon."

"I will. Okay. Bye," you signed off, then turning away from the window. You jumped then to see someone standing in your doorway. "Ted! Oh, you startled me," you told him, placing a hand over your racing heart.

"Sorry about that," Ted apologized with a smile as he took a step into your office. From what you could tell, he had just barely arrived at the office, the snow still melting in his perfectly coiffed hair as evidence. "How's the morning been?"

"Um...fine. I got that Worker's Comp paperwork done and sent personnel files to payroll. I didn't know it was snowing, though, is it bad out there?" you asked with concern.

Ted shifted his stance and frowned slightly. "Not terrible right now. Pretty good visibility. Were you heading out for lunch? Because I bought way too much Chinese food, you're welcome to join me," he offered with a wave of his hand.

Blinking a few times, you thought about his offer. "Um..no, that's okay. Thank you for offering, but I think I'll just work the next few hours and try to get home early before the storm gets bad," you said with a small smile.

"You sure? Okay," Ted nodded as he took a step to leave.

"Oh, Ted," you spoke suddenly and he turned your way. "I just wanted to mention that Grant will be staying with a friend for a little while whenever I'm working. I'd rather save the money on daycare and all that, you know....I appreciate your concern, though," you finished speaking. You weren't sure what compelled you to tell him all that, but perhaps you felt the need to keep Ted from digging into the matter any further.

Ted paused then, crossing his arms over his chest. "I see. Well, whatever's best for the two of you," he replied with a tight smile.

"Thank you," you told him, the silence lingering a moment too long. "Well, I better get back to it."

"Of course," he uttered quietly before leaving your office.

Slumping down in your office chair, you wondered why things suddenly seemed so weird between the two of you. Your professional interaction had always been normal, with occasionally bumping into one another in town, which was inevitable given it's size. Perhaps allowing him to pick up Grant from daycare last week had shifted the dynamics unexpectedly. Shaking it off, you grabbed a granola bar from your purse to munch on while you got back to work.

__________________

Snow was still falling as you arrived at your car and brushed the white powder from your windshield. Hopping in the driver's seat, you turned the ignition, cranked up the heat, and set out for home. As you reached a stop sign you remember that Jana had texted you earlier and you hadn't been able to respond, so you used hands-free bluetooth to make a call.

"Hello?" you heard Jana answer, her voice filling your car.

"Hey! Sorry I couldn't answer your text, I was trying to finish work early and head home before the storm got bad. I'm in the car now. How've you been?" you asked, flicking on your turn signal to head toward town.

"Oh, we're all fine here. Glad you're heading out early. But as I recall, my text actually asked how things were going with Steve. Don't hold out on me, girl," she called you out, as usual. It had been such a blessing to have Jana for a friend, especially the past few years. She was a straight-shooter, not afraid to tell it like it is. Her concern about Kurt/Steve was genuine and you really appreciated that. Now it seemed she was invested in your current situation, making you smile.

You let out a laugh as you increased the speed of your windshield wipers, the snow falling a bit faster. "Things are...good," you answered vaguely, knowing it would drive your best friend crazy.

"Y/N!! Don't give me 'good', I'm home almost every day with two kids under 5. I need to live vicariously through you and your superhero baby daddy, don't make me drag it out of you," she threatened at a whisper, knowing that she was keeping her promise of not telling anyone about your situation.

"Okay, okay!" you relented with another chuckle. "Things are great, actually. Really great. He's so good with Grant, even though he's nervous about not knowing enough, he's willing to learn. Steve's actually watching Grant while I work. He completely volunteered, I even gave him an out and he refused it. I mean, I always envied you having Brent to help with parenting, but I never really knew any different than doing it all myself. Having a partner is...amazing," you finished with a huge grin upon your face, knowing you were headed home to the two who held your heart.

"Aw, sweetie, I'm so happy for you! And, uh...what about the two of you?" she asked in a not-so-subtle tone.

Biting your lip and thinking about the events of last night, you finally answered. "Steve and I are....I mean, we've been talking and catching up and everything. I told myself I should take it slow and wait, but...."

"But?" Jana demanded when you trailed off.

"Well, he was so sweet and respectful about waiting, but...basically I jumped his bones last night and it was amazing!" you shouted within the confines of your car, grinning from ear to ear.

"WHAT? YES!" Jana yelled on her end, then explaining to her startled children that everything was fine. "Oh my god, okay you have to tell me everything..."

You spent the rest of the call going into detail about last night, feeling a bit flushed as you relived each moment. Saying goodbye to Jana when you stopped to grab dinner, you then drove the last few minutes home in silence to concentrate on the road.

Walking in the front door, you set down the bags of take-out and shook the snow from your coat and hair. As you approached the living room, you heard the low timbre of Steve's voice mixed with Grant's whines and cries. You recognized this cry, though. He wasn't hurt, more like he wasn't getting what he wanted.

Entering the kitchen, you spotted Grant sitting on a dining room chair facing the corner.

"You've got another two minutes, buddy. Then we'll talk about it," you heard Steve say to Grant before he turned your way.

"Hey, what's going on?" you quietly asked in concern as you set down the bags.

Steve gently pulled you into the living room and engulfed you into a tight hug. "I'm so glad you're home," he uttered against the skin of your neck, his beard tickling you lightly.

"I'm glad I'm home, too. The roads are starting to get bad. Is everything okay?" you asked again as you pulled away.

Steve huffed out a sigh while running a hand through his hair. "Everything was fine when you called. We had some lunch and you're right, he went down for a nap just great. I sat down to read for a while and must have fallen asleep, too. When I woke up, Grant was out of bed and had somehow discovered a marker. He was writing on the wall of his bedroom when I found him," he finished with a defeated expression.

You gave him a sympathetic smile and looped your arms around his small waist.

"So, I took the marker from him and told him you only draw on paper and he kind of flipped out, even started hitting me. That was a new reaction, so I had been reading one of those parenting books that I found on your bookshelf and saw something about time-out, so I thought I'd try it. Not as easy as it sounds," he shook his head, rubbing your back absentmindedly. "I didn't really know how you would have dealt with it and didn't want to bother you at work, so..."

"You did just fine," you assured with a smile. "Grant is a good kid, but he's still two years old. There's a reason they call them the 'Terrible Two's'. He's been in time-out a few times before. Hitting is definitely not okay, so you were right to react that way," you replied, raising a hand to his handsome face. "And don't worry about the wall, it'll come off."

Steve closed his eyes a moment. "I just hated making him upset, though."

"I know. We can't always be the good guys, though. If we give him everything he wants and never teach him right from wrong, then that's how you raise a spoiled brat that society will later hate. I know it's all new and scary, but you're doing just fine. I promise," you said, pressing a kiss to his lips.

Steve deepened the kiss a moment, before pulling away. "Thank you. I needed that," he said with a sigh. "So, is that dinner you brought?"

"Yeah. I got sandwiches from that amazing place we both loved," you answered, leading Steve back into the kitchen by the hand. You started to unwrap everything when Grant finally notice your presence.

"Mama!" he cried out from his exile in the corner. Grant crawled up onto his knees and reached over the back of the chair for you.

"Hi, sweetie. You can come have your sandwich once your time-out is finished. Now, turn around and sit on your bum. You have one more minute," you said sternly.

"No," your son whined, collapsing onto the chair once more.

"Uh uh, I'm not gonna rescue you. You know that drawing on walls and hitting is not okay. You should've listened to your daddy the first time," you scolded the boy.

Grant seemed to quiet then, his tear-stained face scrunched in confusion.

"Daddy?"

_________________

Part 11>>> Coming Soon!!

Chapter Text

Previously:

"Uh uh, I'm not gonna rescue you. You know that drawing on walls and hitting is not okay. You should've listened to your daddy the first time," you scolded the boy.

Grant seemed to quiet then, his tear-stained face scrunched in confusion.

"Daddy?"

_____________________

"Um..." you trailed off, meeting Steve's eye.

He seemed just as surprised at your declaration, raising his massive shoulders in a shrug.

So you stalled. "You have one more minute, little mister, and then we'll talk, okay?"

Grant seemed to accept that in his confused state, so he sat back down. You paused with the sandwiches and pulled Steve back into the living room.

"I'm pretty sure that minute was up several minutes ago, so..." Steve mentioned.

"It's fine, he can't tell time yet, luckily. We need a minute ourselves. So...I guess I slipped up," you admitted sheepishly.

Steve grinned at you. "I guess you did. What do you want to do now? I mean, I always hoped he would know who I am at some point, but I understand your hesitation," he said, clutching your hand in his.

You took in a deep breath. "Well...I want him to know who you really are, too."

"Does he understand?"

"He does, to an extent. I mean, he knows that when his friends are picked up from daycare, sometimes it's the mommy or sometimes the daddy. He only has ever had me, so I think it still might be a little confusing, but...we could try introducing the idea. What do you think?" you asked, consulting with Steve.

He glanced toward the kitchen, seemingly weighing the possibilities. You were doing the same, wondering if it was wise to introduce such an important person in Grant's young life who, heaven forbid, might someday not be around anymore. Your heart clenched painfully at the thought.

Steve finally spoke again. "I do want him to know me. The thought of him calling me daddy, it just..."

You could see the tears pooling in Steve's eyes, causing your own eyes to prickle with a lump in your throat. "Then let's do it. The cat's out of the bag already, so let's try it out. He might not take to the title at first, but who knows?"

The blond squeezed your fingers with a grateful smile. "Okay."

Walking back into the kitchen hand in hand, you found Grant kneeling on the seat facing you once again. His sweet face was resting on the back of the chair with his eyes flickering to your joined hands.

You let go of Steve and crouched down. "Come here, sweetie," you beckoned to your son and he quickly hopped off the chair to run into your arms.

"Sorry, mama," he murmured as he wrapped his little arms around your neck.

You squeezed him tightly a moment and he then pulled away, sniffling. "Can you tell me why you were in time out?" you asked him gently.

Grant frowned slightly, hanging his head. "I drawed on the wall," he spoke quietly.

"And?"

"Hit Steeb."

"Was that a nice thing to do?" you prodded.

"No," Grant confessed.

"No, it wasn't," you agreed. "Can you tell Steve that you're sorry?"

Grant untangled from you and walked into Steve's arms, who was crouching down next to you. "Sorry, Steeb," he muttered against the man's chest.

Steve hugged him tightly a short minute before releasing him. "Thank you, pal."

You smiled at that sweet moment, meeting Steve's eye and lightly grasping your son's hand as he stood before you both. "Grant...you know how your friend Stuart's daddy comes to pick him up from daycare sometimes?" you asked gently.

Grant nodded his head. "Uh huh."

"Well...Steve is YOUR daddy, sweetie. Do you understand what that means?" you questioned, gauging his reaction.

His small brow was furrowed in worry a moment. "Steeb my daddy," he repeated, taking in your words. "Where you go?" he asked Steve, wondering in his own way why his father hadn't been around until now, you assumed.

Steve's eye flickered to yours quickly before addressing the young boy's question. "I didn't know that you were here, buddy. Your mom tried to tell me but I was too far away. I'm so sorry, Grant. But I want to spend every minute I can with you now. Okay?" he told his son, tears swimming in his eyes.

Grant kept his gaze on the linoleum kitchen floor a moment before he looked back at Steve. "Okay. Steeb stay?"

Your heart broke at that, seeing the worry and hesitation flicker over Steve's features.

"I hope so," the man answered thickly, causing that same desire to flutter in your chest.

Steve and yourself both pulled Grant into a hug, feeling the enormity of this moment as you knelt on the hard floor. Letting go, Steve got to his feet and offered his hand to help you up. He then scooped up Grant in his arms. There were smiles all around as you unpacked dinner and Steve buckled Grant into his booster seat.

As you sat down to eat, Steve spoke. "Will the wall really be okay? I don't even know what kind of marker it was..."

You shrugged. "There's this white sponge that cleans almost everything that I've used before. Other tricks exist online, too, but if it comes down to it, we can paint over...." you trailed off as a thought hit you. "Ooh...."

Steve eyed you questioningly. "What?"

"I have an idea," you said with a sly grin. "Eat your dinner, we have to make a trip to the store."

______________________

After dinner, you all piled into the car and made a trip to the nearby hardware store. Steve kept Grant occupied and somewhat contained by finding him something fascinating but safe to play with every five minutes. You gathered all the supplies you needed and just as you approached the cash register, Steve came up with something in his free hand.

"Hey, what do you think about this? The sales person said it was good for kids' dexterity and hand-eye coordination," he said, showing you the thin particle board that was covered with small contraptions on one side. There were chain locks, zippers, light switches, buckles, and a lot of other things to keep Grant occupied for a long time.

"Huh. Sounds like a good idea. Let's get it," you said, handing it to the cashier and paying the bill.

Once you all arrived home, you stashed the other bags for now and let Grant play with his new activity board in the living room while you and Steve lounged comfortably on the couch. Grant eventually demanded the assistance of Steve, so of course he obliged and got down on the floor with his son. Bed time rolled around and you started getting Grant ready for bed. Steve stayed with you, watching the whole process and helping when he could.

However, for a change, you put Grant to sleep in your bed that night instead of his own. You rarely let him sleep with you, unless he was sick or had a nightmare, so it was a treat when he got to snuggle into the center of your large bed. You laid down with him for a while, reading books and singing songs until Grant dozed off.

After Grant was asleep, you and Steve went to work. You had to move some furniture first, then opening the paint can and using blue painter's tape to mark off the desired area. It was a small space, so the actual painting didn't take long between the two of you. You talked some and there were also a few comfortable silences. You often found yourself humming to some song in your head and more than once, you spotted Steve watching you. Each time you caught him he would just smile brightly and focus on his own task again.

Hours later, you sat on the floor of Grant's bedroom against the wall with Steve beside you. Your little project had come out better than you expected and you couldn't wait for Grant to see it. The bottom half of the wall across from you was now a dark, blackish-green color, thanks to your paint job.

"So, what made you think of a huge chalkboard for his room?" Steve asked, threading his fingers in yours.

You sighed, tired but content as your head rested on Steve's shoulder. "Well, I thought about how Grant loves to draw and the wall has been his choice of surface in the past. He'll draw on paper, but he usually expands that onto our poor dining room table, so I think his ideas are just too big for paper. I don't want to stifle his creativity or demand that there be boundaries for his imagination. This way, he can draw as big as his dreams and even if he does draw on other walls, chalk is much easier to clean off," you shrugged, covering an escaping yawn with your free hand.

Silence followed for a moment, so you raised your head off his shoulder to look up at Steve where you saw the most tender expression upon his face. "You're amazing, do you know that?" he uttered quietly. "I mean, you're a wonderful mom, an incredibly kind and beautiful person, and you've worked so hard for this life all on your own...I'm just in awe of you."

"Steve..." you breathed out, tears springing to your eyes.

"It's true," he said firmly, shifting on the floor to face you. "I know that you and I...it was all a surprise and kind of unplanned, but I want you to know that I am so grateful that it was you. I'm so happy that you are the mother of my child and Grant is so lucky to have you. Neither of us knew what would have come of that night and I don't have any regrets, either. Well...I guess my only regret is leaving and those years apart, but...I don't want to have any more regrets or to leave anything left unsaid, no matter what happens. I know I haven't been back very long, but I think I always kind of knew. Y/N...I love you," he confessed, placing a hand on either side of your face gently.

A gasp escaped you in surprise, momentarily speechless.

"It's okay, I know it's sudden, so you don't have you..." he began, starting to pull away, but you held his hands firmly against your face with your own.

"I love you, too," you uttered without a doubt, watching as his face broke out into a teary smile.

"I love you so much," Steve repeated as he pressed his lips to yours, softly and then growing in intensity.

You rose up onto your knees and Steve followed, pressing your body firmly against his. Your tongue teased at the seam of his lips and he allowed you entry, deepening the kiss. Steve's hands gripped your hips, his thumbs grazing the skin under your shirt as your fingers wound into his dirty-blond strands. Finally coming up for air, you breathed deeply with a wide smile on each of your faces.

"Whew," you huffed out, breathless. "I'm feeling a bit lightheaded. Not sure if it's the kiss or the paint fumes," you joked.

Steve chuckled at that. "Well, it could be both. Better leave the room, though. I mean, there's a reason why we didn't want Grant sleeping in here."

You nodded in agreement and got to your feet with Steve's help. He walked you out into the hallway, holding you tightly against his side. "Guess we better get to sleep, huh?" you said, a small tinge of disappointment in your voice. "Thank you for helping me tonight."

"Always," Steve murmured, pulling you back into a slow, meaningful kiss.

Finally pulling away, you both entered your bedroom quietly and grabbed your night clothes, then washing up and changing in the bathroom. You gently slid into bed on one side of Grant's small form with Steve doing the same on the other side. Holding your breath a moment, you waited to see if Grant would wake at all, but he just rolled over toward you and resumed sleeping. You got comfortable on your pillow with your body facing Grant and Steve.

Despite the fact that you would most likely not get a great night's sleep, having the two loves of your life right there with you made your heart swell to near-bursting. Steve caught your eye in the dim room with a soft smile upon his face. He reached over and brushed a strand of hair off your forehead and trailed his fingertips down your cheek tenderly.

"Good night," he mouthed at you.

Good night, Steve," you repeated, pressing a kiss to his palm and holding it against your cheek a moment before you drifted off to sleep.

_______________

Some time during the night, you awoke to a small foot pressing against the middle of your back. Shifting carefully, you gently moved Grant's small sleeping body so that he was lying parallel between you and Steve instead of perpendicular, threatening to kick you both out of bed. Grant's response was to roll over toward you and bury his face into your stomach. You heard a quiet chuckle then, realizing that Steve was awake as well.

"This was probably a bad idea," you whispered. "I'm sure you haven't gotten much sleep either."

"There might have been a small punch to my kidney earlier, but I don't mind," he whispered back. "I actually like having both of you close by."

Steve reached out, finding your hand resting upon your pillow so he could thread your fingers with his. He just held it a moment, his thumb caressing the smooth skin on the back of your hand.

"You know, at the cabin all those years ago, I didn't sleep a wink the whole night," he confessed quietly in the dark.

"Really?" you asked in surprise. "So, what, you just watched me sleep, creeper?" you teasingly asked with a poke to his chest with your free hand.

He chuckled lightly. "Maybe. I also spent a lot of time thinking. That whole night was amazing, along with every minute during the months beforehand that I got to spend with you. I was trying to burn the memory of your body pressed against mine, your breath rising and falling. You have the most serene face when you sleep, then and now," he spoke tenderly, your face warming at his sweet words.

"Well, when you say it like that, I guess it's not creepy," you replied, moved by his openness.

"I actually tried to come up with scenarios that would send me back this way. It was supposed to be a one-time job, but I held on to a bit of hope," Steve muttered softly.

"I know what you mean," you confessed. "I had moments during my pregnancy and then when Grant was young where I dreamed of taking a trip to the East coast. I didn't have the money for that, nor could I take time off work, but it kept me going for a while. I thought if I could just get to D.C...the thought of randomly seeing you and being able to share everything I wanted to tell you, I don't know. I guess we all hope for the impossible, huh?"

"Guess so," he agreed. "I wish it hadn't taken a rift between the Avengers and running from the law to bring me back here, but I'm still glad I made it."

"Me, too. I'm sorry you've had to go through all that, though. Is...everyone okay?" you asked vaguely, unsure how to frame your question.

You heard Steve take a deep breath and pause before speaking again. "That's kind of a loaded question, but...everyone's alive as far as the Avengers go. There were still too many lives lost, though. Even one is too many," Steve whispered with emotion in his voice while playing with your fingers as a means of distraction.

"I heard about Vienna. Saw some article about your...best friend? He was framed or something? Is he on the run, too?" you asked, trying to remember the specifics.

There was silence from Steve then as he continued to squeeze and caress your hand, in comfort this time, you thought.

You backtracked then, feeling that he may not want to talk about this subject. "I'm sorry, this is probably too much for a middle-of-the-night whisper conversation, I..."

"No, it's okay. I just needed a minute. I don't want to keep anything from you, Y/N, but I can't share everything right now. For his safety and yours," he said with intensity in his voice. "Bucky...he's safe. And I think he'll be okay," he finally told you, knowing there was so much more to the story but that he was right to keep some of it to himself.

"I understand. I'm glad you told me," you replied sleepily, your eyes drooping.

Steve must have noticed the quiet slur in your speech, so he brushed a thumb across your cheek and released your hand. "We should get some sleep. Or try, anyway."

"Okay. Sleep tight, Steve. I love you," you murmured as you lifted your head from the pillow a few inches. Steve did the same before he pressed a kiss to your lips blindly in the dark.

"Rest well, Y/N. I love you," you heard him speak before sleep finally pulled you under.

________________

Saturday came much too early, especially when you were awoken by a toddler jumping on the bed and also on top of you.

"Mama! Steeb! Wake up!!" you heard much too loudly coming from your son, who was not going to allow another moment of rest for either of his parents.

You groaned, squinting against the light as you tried to clear the fog from your mind. Steve was quicker, wrapping Grant in his muscular arms and tickling him that resulted in the sweetest laughter from them both.

Finally awake with a smile upon your face, you pulled your son in for a morning hug. "Good morning, sweetie. Should we get some breakfast? We have a surprise for you, if you're really good," you bartered with him but knowing you'd tell him about the addition to his wall anyway.

"I be good!" Grant promised, excited about what was to come, whatever it was.

You all three climbed out of bed and cleaned up a bit, including brushing teeth and using the bathroom. Traipsing into the kitchen, you decided to do the cooking this morning and made some of your favorite breakfast foods. Or what you were able to make, anyway, now reminded that you needed to do some shopping.

After breakfast, you led Grant into his bedroom and revealed the new chalkboard that he could draw on to his heart's content. Steve showed him how to hold the chalk and even drew a few pictures himself, now remembering that you heard somewhere that he was artistic. It explained Grant's love for the arts, given that you didn't have a creative bone in your body.

Grant was thoroughly captured by this new experience, so you saw it as a good time to run out and get some groceries. Steve offered to have you all come, but Saturday mornings were busy at the market and even if no one recognized him, there would be a million questions from friends and acquaintances about your "new man". He conceded and stayed behind, helping Grant draw on his new gift.

After you returned, there was lunch and then it was nap time for you all. Nobody slept well last night except Grant and he still needed it anyway. You slept exceptionally well in bed with Steve's arms wrapped around you, even lying still after waking a few hours later just to enjoy the closeness and comfort. He eventually stirred and you rolled over to face him.

"Hi," he greeted you as he stretched. "That was a great nap."

"Yeah, it was," you agreed, listening for any sound of Grant being awake.

"So I had a thought," Steve began and you nodded for him to continue. "Maybe Grant could go to daycare one day this week?"

You were a bit surprised at that request, but knew Steve probably needed his space after an intense few days. "Um...yeah. Absolutely, you deserve some time to yourself. How about Monday? I have to go into work, so..." you offered, but Steve quickly interrupted.

"No, that's not...I didn't mean it like that. I actually wanted to have some alone time with you. Maybe even take you somewhere during the day?" he proposed.

Grinning, you fiddled with the buttons of Steve's plaid shirt. "Mr. Rogers, are you asking me out on a second date?" you asked with a raised eyebrow.

Steve laughed at that, looping his arm around your waist. "Yeah, I guess I am. So what do you think?"

You bit your lip with a smile. "I say yes. How about Tuesday? I'm usually not needed then and I'll give the daycare center a heads up."

"Perfect," he uttered, pulling you close for a lingering kiss that was interrupted by your child bursting into the room.

Feeling giddy, you crawled out of bed and joined your little family in the living room. You had a date with the man of your dreams to look forward to. Again.

______________

Part 12>>> Coming soon...

Chapter Text

Previously:

You bit your lip with a smile. "I say yes. How about Tuesday? I'm usually not needed then and I'll give the daycare center a heads up."

"Perfect," he uttered, pulling you close for a lingering kiss that was interrupted by your child bursting into the room.

Feeling giddy, you crawled out of bed and joined your little family in the living room. You had a date with the man of your dreams to look forward to. Again.

_________________

The weekend passed far too quickly for your liking. Having two whole uninterrupted days with your boys was absolute bliss. The rest of Saturday was spent cooking dinner as a family and more drawing before bed. Grant nearly had a meltdown when you told him sleeping was required, which would interrupt the drawing he loved, but you finally let him go to bed hugging his box of chalk as a compromise. Such a funny kid.

Steve and yourself spent some time cleaning the kitchen and picking up toys from the living room floor. Typically, you asked Grant to pick up after himself, but you let it slide this time. Turning off all the lights, you both prepared for bed and laid down side by side, not quite ready to sleep. You talked about the events of the day and plans for tomorrow, enjoying this new sensation of comfortable pillow talk.

Words eventually ran out and gave way to soft, sensual kisses peppered with quiet declarations of love and adoration. Clothing softly fell to the floor piece by piece, followed by intimate, slow lovemaking in a way that left you feeling happy and whole. You didn't know what you did to deserve this man, but every perfect moment was precious and you would never let yourself forget that.

Afterwards, despite how blissfully exhausted you were, you both purposefully slipped on clothes in anticipation of your two-year-old alarm clock's morning intrusion. You held each other a while longer, resisting the strong pull of sleep since you couldn't imagine any dreams that could ever be better than your current heavenly reality. Eventually, Steve's warm embrace enveloped you comfortably and slumber claimed you both.

Grant did not disappoint, his small body climbing onto the mattress to tackle you both at an unnecessarily early hour. You tried to encourage him to lie down between you, hoping for a bit more rest, but your son wasn't having it. He was up and ready for the day. What it must be like to have such enthusiasm for each day filled with exploration and new adventures. You caught glimpses of it, though, glancing over at the man you loved. Each morning brought something wonderful to your life simply because Steve and Grant were in it.

Finally climbing out of bed, you went to change Grant's diaper, but Steve offered and you weren't about to say no to that. After cleaning yourself up a bit as well, you all headed to the kitchen, starving. Breakfast was more elaborate that morning. Having just gone to the store, the fridge was filled with possibilities, so you decided on breakfast burritos with pan-fried potatoes. Everything was delicious with you and Steve enjoying several helpings.

Grant, on the other hand, decided that dipping a tortilla into ketchup was all the sustenance he required. You bargained with him and he eventually ate some fresh fruit before bolting from the table with chalk in hand. He just couldn't get enough and as you and Steve watched the little boy scamper down the hallway, you both smiled and knew it was all worth it.

Leftovers were put away and dishes were loaded into the dishwasher before retreating to the living room couch. You brought the newspaper in from the doorstep and took turns reading each section with Steve while checking in on Grant periodically. This was the type of lazy Sunday you'd only dreamed of: lounging in pajamas all day, reading, napping, playing, and enjoying the cozy cocoon of your newfound family of three.

Snow began to fall in the early afternoon and after a few inches had accumulated, you decided to bundle up and go outside to play. Grant ran around the back yard, squealing as Steve chased him. He teased Grant each time, pretending that he wasn't quite fast enough, but eventually Steve wrapped the boy in his strong arms and threw him over his shoulder. While the two were distracted, you gathered a handful of snow and packed it tightly before throwing the ball. It struck Steve in the middle of his back and he whirled around toward you, looking scandalized.

"Oooh, you're gonna get it," he said with a devious grin as he set Grant on his feet. "Here, son, can you throw this?" he asked Grant conspiratorially while handing him a small snowball.

"No! You're ganging up on me?" you asked, laughing as you watched Grant's projectile hit the ground a few feet from you. Steve was ready and waiting, though, tossing a snowball that hit you in the thigh.

The playful fight went on a few minutes as you ran around the yard dodging snowballs and trying to get in a few hits as well. Steve picked up Grant and was using only one arm to toss the semi-packed flakes at you while he ran. Even then, you were outmatched, despite him going easy on you.

In a short while, you were all exhausted, cold, and wet, so you stomped your feet on the porch to remove the snow and peeled off your many layers of clothing once inside. You made hot chocolate for everyone and snuggled up on the couch to watch a movie. Grant fell asleep across your laps and you just enjoyed being wrapped up in Steve's arms for a while longer.

As evening crept closer, you gently slipped out from underneath Grant and Steve did the same, leaving your sleeping son on the couch. Stretching from being in one position so long, you then wandered into the kitchen and glanced in the fridge for dinner ideas. You settled on homemade chili, having Steve help chop vegetables as you prepared the rest.

Chili was a perfect choice for the cold weather outside and it was about ready by the time Grant woke up and crawled off the couch. He rubbed his eyes with small fists and sleepily wrapped his arms around Steve's leg. The man patted his son's messy head of hair and then plucked him off the ground and held him in his arms.

"Did you have a good nap, pal?" Steve gently asked the boy.

"Uh huh," he said as more of a grunt before resting his head on Steve's shoulder. "Hungry, daddy."

Your eyes flew wide open and met Steve's, which were already tearing upon hearing the use of his new title. Grinning lovingly, you walked to Steve's side and put an arm around him. He just pulled Grant into a tighter hug and tried to swallow the lump of emotion in his throat before responding.

"Dinner's almost ready, son. Your mom and I made some chili, doesn't that sound good?" Steve asked thickly as he tried to blink away the happy tears.

"Yeah!" he cried out, feeling more awake. "Chips, mama?"

You brushed a finger against the soft skin of your son's cheek. "Yes, we can have some tortilla chips with dinner," you agreed, wrapping an arm around him as well to form a group hug right there in the kitchen.

Moments later you reluctantly left their embrace and put the finishing touches on the chili before setting everything on the table. Steve washed Grant's hands and strapped him into his booster seat with a bib. You dished out the chili and let everyone choose their toppings, such as chips, cheese, sour cream, or avocado. The meal was thoroughly enjoyed by all, followed by kitchen clean up and time to relax.

Grant ran straight for his room to draw and Steve pulled you down on the couch, sitting with an arm around you. The day had been wonderful, but the Sunday slumps began to hit you as you thought of going to work Monday morning. Ugh. You decided to distract yourself, instead.

"So...what's this date going to consist of?" you inquired, threading your fingers in Steve's.

"Nope," Steve spoke emphatically. "No hints, it's a surprise," he said with a coy smile.

"Seriously?" you whined a little. "How am I supposed to know how to dress or plan or..."

Steve stopped you with a finger to your lips. "Don't worry, I'll give you a little bit of warning before we leave, but just...let me do this for you. Okay?"

You relented with a sigh. "Okay."

"Thank you," he whispered, pressing a lingering kiss to your lips.

Bedtime came around and it was another struggle to get Grant into bed, especially with his unexpected afternoon nap, but finally he dozed off after multiple book readings. You spent a short amount of time with your computer, checking email and your phone for anything urgent. It was best to have some forewarning rather than be unpleasantly surprised when you got to the office Monday. Steve read some of his book, also looking over your shoulder for a while and curiously asking questions about your work.

You both retired to bed later, tiring each other out once again before falling into a deep, dreamless sleep. For you, anyway. Sometime in the middle of the night, you were awakened by movement beside you, feeling the shifting of the mattress, and the sound rustling of sheets. Rolling over, in the dark room you saw Steve sleeping fitfully and murmuring something.

"Steve?" you called out quietly with a hand on his shoulder.

His murmurs became louder, finally hearing the words "No" and "Please..."

Heart breaking, you shook Steve firmly. "Steve, sweetie, it's okay..."

Steve took a moment to respond to your touch, then suddenly waking and bolting up to sitting while breathing heavily. Wild eyes searched the room until he found your face in the dim light and relaxed.

"Y/N, I...I'm sorry," he apologized, dropping his head in his hands. "I thought that...I mean, I've been so happy here and the nightmares had stopped for a while, I thought maybe..." he trailed off, sounding defeated.

Scooting closer to Steve on the bed, you wrapped your arms around him from behind with your cheek resting on his back, holding him a moment in silence.

You finally spoke gently. "Finding moments of happiness doesn't erase what you've been through. There's no shame in struggling. You've been so strong for so long...carrying the weight of the world, I can only imagine..." you trailed off, shifting on the bed to Steve's side so you could raise his chin to face you. "You told me that you wanted to be here for me, no matter what. Well, that goes both ways. I'm here for you, Steve, good or bad, big or small. I love you. You never have to apologize for being human."

Steve's breathing had calmed by then, a tear snaking down his cheek and into his beard with a sniffle. "I love you, too," was his only response.

His hulking framed draped over you as he pulled you close, letting his tears fall onto your pajamas. A few minutes later, Steve moved to lie down, pulling you down with him. He positioned himself with his head resting on your chest and an arm around your waist. You relaxed against the pillows, combing your fingers through his hair until his breath evened out and you were sure he was asleep.

Perhaps Steve wasn't prepared to talk tonight, but at least he knew you were there to listen when he was ready. It took some time, but eventually your mind calmed again and you surrendered to sleep as well.

_________________

The Monday sun rose clear and bright, it's rays filtering through the curtains at your window. Hands searching the sheets, you discovered them empty, to your surprise. Glancing at the clock, you saw that you only had a few minutes before your alarm would sound, so you shut it off and slipped out of bed.

Wandering down the hall, you followed the sound of voices in the kitchen. You found Steve and Grant seated at the table with bowls of cereal before them. Your son seemed to be telling an elaborate story, some of which you couldn't really understand and most likely neither could Steve, but he still encouraged him with replies of "uh huh", "oh yeah?" and "then what happened?" enthusiastically.

Observing Steve, you could see the faint shadows under his brilliant blue eyes from lack of sleep along with a mug of coffee resting at his elbow. A glance at the nearly empty pot told you that wasn't his first cup of the day. You heart ached at the weight you knew Steve still carried, but as he caught sight of you, he smiled as brightly as always and rose to his feet.

"Good morning, gorgeous," Steve greeted you as he approached. Wrapping his arms around you, he held your body tight against him, as if you were his lifeline.

You returned his meaningful embrace for as long as he needed and then pulled back, pressing a kiss to his lips.

"Ew," Grant replied at the display of affection with a scrunched face.

You and Steve laughed. "Ew? I'll show you 'ew'," you teased, walking over to your son and planting kiss after kiss all over his face until he was giggling and ducking his head to avoid your playful assault. "Good morning, my handsome boy."

Stepping back toward Steve, he threaded your fingers in his. "There's coffee, if you want it. Just cold cereal today, I wasn't feeling up to something elaborate, so..."

Raising a hand to caress his whiskered cheek, you calmed his worries. "Coffee and cereal sounds perfect," you replied with a smile.

Ready for work a short while later, you gather your things and paused to say your goodbyes. You planted a kiss to Grant's cheek and then turned to Steve and drew him in for a long hug for comfort.

Pulling away, you held his gaze with a hint of worry bubbling up. "Are you sure you'll be okay today?" you asked, not lacking in confidence that Steve could care for Grant, but knowing it would be a challenge on top of all he was juggling.

He nodded with a soft smile. "I'll be just fine. But thank you. Travel safe, we'll be here when you get back," he assured you with one last squeeze of your hand.

You spent most of your drive to work distracted by thoughts of Steve, but once you parked, you'd decided to focus on the task at hand. The sooner you finished, the sooner you could return home to your boys. You had actually arrived early and were one of the first in the office, which luckily meant less distractions. Booting up your computer, you checked your to-do list and set out to accomplish all you needed to, hoping that it would all be covered tomorrow so you wouldn't have to worry.

Ted popped his head in around late Morning, but your curt reply must not have seemed very inviting, so thankfully he kept the conversation short. You had too much going on to worry about whatever nonsense you boss was needlessly going on about. If it wasn't work related, you didn't care. Taking a short lunch break at your desk, you then buckled down again to accomplish your list.

Later, feeling the need to stretch your legs, you decided to deliver a few files to the offices one floor down rather than ask an intern. As you walked back upstairs, you passed by Ted's office and noticed him on the phone. He caught your eye, pausing in his conversation to walk over and close his office door with a tight smile before returning to his phone call. It all happened in the span of only a few seconds, but still, it was strange. You hadn't been eavesdropping, just walking by. He was allowed his privacy, you supposed.

The afternoon stretched on, but you pushed through your emails and paperwork, hitting send on your last item just before 5pm. Exhaling with an accomplished smile, you saved all files and shut down your computer in preparation of leaving for the day. You passed by Ted's office one last time, raising a hand in goodbye, which he returned briefly. Whatever was going on with him, you really didn't want to deal with it so you shook it off and headed for home.

Steve was in much better spirits when you walked through the door. He had prepared a simple dinner of spaghetti that he was just setting on the table, so you changed into comfy clothes and helped Grant wash up. You could have sworn that your son had a thin film of chalk dust over every inch of him. It was definitely a bath night, and every night lately, but his sweet face whenever he showed you a new masterpiece on his wall told you that it had no doubt been a great idea.

You buckled in Grant and then walked over to Steve for a proper hello. Wrapping your arms around his waist, he pulled you closer and exhaled a heavy sigh, seeming to release some of the heavy weight he carried. How you wished you could help carry some of it for him. Steve was smiling and more himself, but you could still tell that there was a lot on his mind.

Dinner was enjoyed and even Grant ate a good amount of pasta. He was also extremely messy, but there was always a trade-off. Plates were cleared and Grant got his much-needed bath from you. After tucking him in, Steve came in to read him a few books and you both bid him goodnight. Next was bedtime for you and Steve. It was earlier than usual, but he definitely needed the rest after the previous night, so you dressed and crawled into bed beside him.

"Did the day go okay?" you asked, now remember that you hadn't inquired about his time with Grant.

"Yeah. It was good. He even went down for a nap with only a few minutes of crying, so progress," Steve answered with a tired smile. "How was work?"

"Unremarkable. Nothing to report, really. Just excited for our day tomorrow," you grinned, pulling him in for a kiss.

He prolonged the kiss, but merely kept one hand chastely on your face, his thumb brushing your cheekbone. Turning to click off your bedside lamp, Steve pulled you toward him with your back against his chest to spoon. He still hadn't divulged much, but you didn't want to push. If holding each other close was all he needed at the moment, you would never deny him.

Sometime in the early hours, you were awoken by a kiss to your forehead. Parting your lashes, you were shocked to see Steve crouching by your side of the bed, fully clothed.

"Steve?" you croaked. "Is everything—" you began to ask with a hint of panic.

"Everything's fine, sweetheart," he said with a smile. "Sorry to wake you, but I have to take care of a few things and I didn't want you to worry. I'll be gone a few hours, but I promise I'll be back to pick you up for our date around 9, okay?"

Settling your head back on your pillow, you caressed his bearded cheek. "Okay. Be safe. I love you," you muttered sleepily.

"I love you, too," he replied with a kiss to your lips.

Within moments, you were back asleep.

________________

Part 13 Coming Mon April 16th (hopefully)

Chapter Text

Previously:

"Steve?" you croaked. "Is everything—" you began to ask with a hint of panic.

"Everything's fine, sweetheart," he said with a smile. "Sorry to wake you, but I have to take care of a few things and I didn't want you to worry. I'll be gone a few hours, but I promise I'll be back to pick you up for our date around 9, okay?"

Settling your head back on your pillow, you caressed his bearded cheek. "Okay. Be safe. I love you," you muttered sleepily.

"I love you, too," he replied with a kiss to your lips.

Within moments, you were back asleep.

_______________

Waking up alone wasn't your favorite feeling after the past few days of bliss, but you had plenty to look forward to later in the day. Crawling out of bed as you heard Grant call out for you, you got him breakfast and readied you both for the day.

On Monday, you had called the daycare center so they would be expecting Grant. You dropped him off Tuesday morning around the same time you usually did for work and even wore work clothes to complete the facade. Although you normally didn't work Tuesdays, you still somehow felt like you were playing hooky. It just felt different now, as if someone was keeping a closer look on your comings and goings. However, Grant was happy to see his friends again, so you blew him a kiss and headed back home.

As 9 o'clock neared, you remember that Steve hadn't yet told you what the dress code was for this date, so you decided to wait. When he arrived, you had your makeup and hair done, wearing less than comfortable underclothing, but you had a feeling it would be worth the discomfort in the end.

You heard Steve stomp his boots on the porch and slip in the door right on time. He called out for you as he neared the living room. "Y/N, doll, are you ready to—" he began with a bright smile and cheeks pink from the cold. He stopped short then to see you not quite dressed.

"Remember that 'warning' I was supposed to get?" you teased, quirking an eyebrow.

Steve looked sheepish. "Sorry. Something really warm and comfortable is what I had in mind," he told you, then indicating to the snow pants, ski jacket, and hat that he was currently wearing.

You gave him a deadpan look. "Really? Guess I didn't have to do my hair..." you muttered, heading for the closet. Steve caught you from behind then, wrapping his arms around you and burying his cold face in your neck, making you yelp.

He laughed at your reaction. "You always look gorgeous, love. And it'll be worth it, I promise," he assured you. You believed him, but mostly you were grateful to hear him laugh and seem more himself.

You sighed with a smile. "Okay. Give me 10 minutes."

_______________

Climbing onto the snowmobile behind Steve, you had your suspicions about where you were headed, but kept it to yourself and enjoyed the ride through the snowy mountains. The day was gorgeous and sunny without a cloud in the sky. He'd even checked the forecast previously to make sure no snow storms were on the horizon. Although considering how that scenario had ended, you might not have minded if it were repeated.

Just as you had thought, in a short time your father's old hunting cabin came into view. Steve helped you off the sled and unlocked the door before letting you step inside. The cabin looked mostly the same, except cleaner and it seemed that Steve had used those early morning hours to prepare this surprise.

Dozens of electric candles were scattered around the cabin and a fire was already burning in the fireplace. He threw a few more logs on the fire as you slipped off your winter clothing and stayed in your leggings and fleece jacket. Steve did the same and then lit a long, wax tapered candle that was resting on the table. Mismatched dishes and silverware were set and the plates were currently covered.

"Steve..." you cooed with a smile, touched by the effort he'd put into this day.

He just shrugged, pulling you into his side. "I wish I could take you out for a fancy dinner, but hopefully this will do."

"I don't think we have fancy restaurants here," you jested. "And it's perfect, I love it," you said with a kiss. "I wasn't even sure if my father still had this cabin or if he sold it."

He shrugged. "It looked like nothing had been touched in a months, maybe more, so whether or not he still owns it, we're just gonna borrow it for awhile," Steve replied with a wink, making you laugh.

Steve walked around to pull out your chair then and you sat with him then settling across from you. He reached for the cloth napkins covering both your plates with a smile.

"I thought I'd recreate our first date, so..." Steve teased as he pulled off the covers to reveal an open can of beans before you and chili con carne on his own plate. You burst out laughing at the gesture and he joined you, bringing back so many wonderful memories. He relented then, pulling out a cooler from behind him with actual food to eat inside along with a bottle of wine

You enjoyed your lunch and Steve's company immensely, talking about anything and everything while you ate. Curiosity got the better of you, though, asking how he had arranged the cabin and snowmobile without arousing suspicion.

"Well...I didn't exactly have the proper identification to rent the sled, so I slipped someone a little extra so he'd keep quiet. Whether or not he recognized me, I'm not sure, but if you're doing some shady dealings, you rarely want to bring the authorities' attention to you," he explained with a twinkle in his eye.

Once you'd finished eating, Steve got to his feet and asked for your hand. He pressed a button on his phone, causing music to fill the cabin. He pulled you into his arms and began to sway with you, dancing to the melody. With the warmth of the cabin, wine in your veins and Steve in your arms, you felt like this was one of the most perfect moments you'd ever had.

Slow, steady kisses began to burn hotter and soon you were swaying in the direction of the bedroom as you slowly undressed each other. Steve was pleasantly surprised to see the lingerie underneath your warm clothing, expressing that if he'd known what was underneath all that he doubted if he would've made it through the entire meal.

Arriving beside the bed, you noticed that the bedding actually looked clean this time, for which you were grateful. Steve lowered you on the mattress and soon you were lost in each other, finally able to loudly express yourself and enjoy finding pleasure in one another.

The afternoon was filled with lovemaking, interrupted by small catnaps and sustenance to regain your strength. During a quiet moment while resting in Steve's arms, you hadn't wanted to spoil the moment but felt compelled to voice a constant concern on your mind.

"Steve?"

"Hm?" he groaned sleepily.

"What happens if you're found?" you asked quietly.

Silence fell again, but then Steve shifted onto his side to prop his head up with his elbow, keeping an arm around your waist. You rolled onto your back to watch his expression as he tried to find the words.

"Well...I am a fugitive from the law, so at the very least, they'll take me in for questioning. I'm not sure what solid evidence exists, but they have their suspicions," he uttered, drawing random patterns on your sheet- covered stomach with his fingertips. "I'm pretty sure they know about the jail break, though."

Your eyes grew wide at that. "What? Who—"

Steve stopped you with a finger to your lips. "The less you know, the better, but...they didn't deserve to be there and they were my responsibility. If you saw some of the conditions...." he trailed off, jaw set in anger. "Plus, they think I'm hiding Bucky."

"Aren't you?" you asked with a tilt of your head.

Steve just smiled sadly. "Well, not technically, but..."

You captured Steve's hand with yours, fingers brushing over the callouses that had grown over time while you were lost in your own thoughts.

He breathed a heavy sigh. "I'm more worried about WHO might come. If they think I'll put up a fight, it wouldn't be law enforcement, that's for sure. But if I came quietly, I don't know..."

Sitting up suddenly then, you turned toward Steve with a sheet wrapped around you. "Do they honestly see you as a threat?" you asked with a tinge of anger in your voice.

Steve laid back on the pillows to look up at the ceiling. "They definitely don't see me as compliant, and right now that's all they want."

Dropping your gaze, you finally spoke your one last worry. "Would you run?"

Steve reached out to cup a hand to your face. "Maybe," he whispered quietly with unexpected emotion in his voice.

Lifting off the pillows, Steve brought your lips down to his with a lingering, emotional kiss as you looped your arms around him. He gently flipped you over, your back against the mattress. All talk forgotten was Steve as tore the sheet from you to worship your body once again.

As your time there came to a close, you cherished the last moments with just the two of you before dressing in your warm clothing and heading for home. You helped Steve pack up all the items used for lunch and for ambience, then locking up the cabin. Strapping the bag to your back as you held onto Steve, he started the engine and steered the sled back toward town.

Just as you arrived at your car after dropping off the snowmobile, you must have finally found service because your phone began to sound repeatedly with texts and voicemails. Your immediate worry was that something had happened to Grant, but unlocking your phone, you saw that most of them were from Ted. Climbing in the car with Steve in the driver's seat, you asked him to pause before starting the engine. You had to make a phone call first before heading for home. Filled with dread, you pressed the icon for Ted's number and heard the phone ring only twice before he answered.

"Y/N, it's nice of you to finally respond," you heard him answer, a current of anger under his calm voice.

"Ted, is everything okay? I—"

"It is now, thanks to me. That Worker's Comp case you'd been working on? Well apparently, the foreman didn't get the message that the employee isn't allowed to work so he showed up and aggravated his injury. Now we're under scrutiny with his lawyer. Where have you been all day? I called at least a dozen times!" he demanded, feeling yourself shrink in your seat.

Steve could hear the angry voice on the line, gripping your hand in his for support with brow furrowed. "Ted, I, um...I'm sorry, I've been sick all day. I turned off my phone so I could rest. Please forgive me, it won't happen again, I —"

"Sick? Really?" Ted took a deep breath then, seemingly to keep himself in check. "Well, I hope the rest helped. I was able to handle the lawyers. Is Grant sick too?" he asked, sounding more calm.

"Um...no, my friend Jana offered to take him so I could recover. He seems just fine, but thank you for your concern," you replied with a husky voice, hoping to sound believably ill.

"Can we expect you tomorrow or will you need more time?" you heard Ted ask as you met Steve's eye.

"I'm not sure, I...if you really need me to come in, I'll try," you croaked, hating to lie but knowing it was necessary.

"I see. Well, don't overextend yourself. Is there anything you need?" he asked, hearing actual concern in his voice now, which made you feel all the more guilty.

"No. Thank you, Ted. And I'm truly so sorry that I missed your calls. It won't happen again," you apologized profusely.

"I'm sure it won't," he said. "Rest well, Y/N."

"Goodnight," you replied before ending the call.

Staring at your phone a moment, you felt the heavy silence in the car before you turned toward Steve. You knew his expression well. Guilt.

"Steve, don't. This is not your fault, okay?" you tried to assure him as you squeezed his hand. "It's incredibly rare that I'm needed on a day like today and I told you it would be fine. This was my responsibility and I'll deal with it when I get back to work. Today was perfect. One phone call won't change that in the slightest," you told him with a smile.

He took deep breath and rubbed a hand across his face, trying to ingest your words. "Okay. It really was a perfect day," he said, pulling you in for a kiss. "Let's go get our boy."

"Okay," you agreed, giving directions for the daycare center. As Steve drove, you replied to a text from Jana that had gotten lost in the mass of messages from Ted.

Arriving at the daycare center, you walked in alone and peeked in the room to find Grant.

"Y/N, hello!" a chipper voice called out, drawing your attention.

Turning toward the voice, you spotted Molly, the caretaker. "Molly. Hi, nice to see you," you responded with a conservative smile. Ever since your conversation with Ted, you'd been wary of her, but couldn't pinpoint why. "Is Grant ready?"

"Just about, I'll have one of the girls get his coat and backpack," Molly said with a grin, then disappearing into the room for a moment. When she returned, there was a moment of waiting, unfortunately. "So...we're so glad to have Grant back today. It's been a few days, hasn't it?"

You gave a slow nod. "It has, but Grant's been with a friend, so nothing to worry about," you answered vaguely.

"Oh? Would that be Jana?" she asked, maintaining an overly pleasant tone that was starting to grate on your nerves.

"Some of the time, yeah," you answered vaguely, hoping to end the interrogation.

Molly pursed her lips. "I see," letting the silence linger a moment. "I was talking to Nancy at the market yesterday and she said she spotted a man outside your place with Grant the other day. Is that a new friend?"

Taking a deep breath then, you felt annoyance with a hint of fear flow through you. Enjoying the little bubble of your loving family the past few days, you momentarily forgot how the small town mentality might affect all of you. Steve should be able to play with his son in the backyard enclosed by a wooden fence without any worries, but nosy neighbors always found a way. You'd have to be a little more careful about his outdoor exposure, which made your heart heavy.

Painting a smile back on your face, you finally responded. "Yes. He's been in town for a short while. Former employee, but just passing through," you said, sighing in relief as one of the girls finally brought Grant through the door.

"Mama!" he cried out, running your way with a paper in his hand and wrapping arms around your leg.

"Hi, sweet pea, you ready to go?" you asked your son.

"Yeah! Made a picture for daddy!" Grant said excitedly.

Molly's head snapped your way. "Oh? I was under the impression that Grant's dad wasn't in the picture?" she asked, leaning forward so she wouldn't miss an juicy details.

Dammit. You couldn't blame Grant for saying something, he was excited to have Steve. It was all becoming a lot to juggle, though. Too many prying eyes and gossiping mouths. Taking a moment to gather Grant in your arms, you thought about the best way to respond.

Clearing your throat, you replied as calm as you could be. "We've had some contact. He doesn't live here, but we've Skyped and such. It's new and I'd rather not get into it. Thank you for watching Grant, have a good night," you said, speaking quickly before you rushed out the door just to make the conversation end.

Taking a deep breath, as you walked to the car, you decided not to burden Steve with your previous conversation just yet. You wanted nothing more than just feel the glow of your day together and spend time as a family. Nothing would ruin this day, not even nosy gossips.

Grant was babbling the entire ride home about a new friend he'd made and showing you and Steve the finger painting he did. Steve held your hand resting on the center console as he drove, stealing glances and sending smiles your way. You were a little slower to return them as the added worries swirled around in your head.

Keeping dinner simple once you got home, you heated up some leftover chili for everyone. You let your son draw for little while, but even he was struggling to keep his eyes open so you got him ready for bed. After a bath, you were carrying a sleepy Grant into his room when there was a knock on your door. Steve was in the living room and he gave you a questioning look.

"That should be Jana. She asked if she could borrow a cake pan. Tell her I'll be right there," you told him, walking in the room and placing Grant on the floor with a blanket to put on a diaper and change him into pajamas

"Y/N?" you heard Steve call out a few minutes later.

Confused, you put Grant in his bed and tucked him in, then shutting his door quietly. Walking toward the front door, you peeked around a visibly concerned Steve and your heart stopped.

"Ted?"

_______________

Part 14>>> Coming soon!!

Chapter Text

Previously:

"Y/N?" you heard Steve call out a few minutes later.

Confused, you put Grant in his bed and tucked him in, then shutting his door quietly. Walking toward the front door, you peeked around a visibly concerned Steve and your heart stopped.

____________

"Ted?" you asked in shock, heart in your throat. "What are you doing here?"

Ted stood on your porch with a white paper bag in hand. He looked almost as baffled as you, not because he found himself there but from the circumstances that he had walked into.

Soon he found his voice. "Evening, Y/N. You said you were sick so, I thought...well, it seems you're feeling better, so soup isn't really needed," Ted spoke sharply now, realizing he had been misled.

Steve stood beside you with arms crossed over his massive chest, wearing an expression of concern with touch of anger.

You were frozen a moment, feeling caught in the headlights, but shortly you thawed. "Um...come on in, Ted. Kurt was just on his way out," you said with regret, seeing the flicker of hurt on Steve's face before he set it in stone. He offered a nod and headed for the door, grabbing his coat from the hook.

Just as Steve passed by Ted, the thin man spoke up. "Kurt, was it?"

The blond paused a moment before slipping on his coat. "That's right."

"How long did you work for Snow Peaks?" Ted asked, his tone casual.

Steve shrugged. "A few months, years ago. I'm just passing through for a visit. Have a good night. Good to see you again, Ted. Y/N," he nodded, your name sounding like a regretful goodbye. He understood the purpose of pretending, but it broke both of your hearts to do it.

Once the door closed behind Steve, you invited Ted into the living room, hopefully to explain or perhaps apologize. You could tell he was upset, his mouth set in a grim line. He set down the paper bag on the side table and turned to face you.

"Ted, I...I don't know what to say. It was wrong of me to lie to you, but I didn't expect to be called into work and we ended up going into the mountains without cell service. I'm sorry that I made up the story that I was sick, but it just came out. It was unprofessional and disrespectful and I can't tell you how sorry I am," you blurted quickly, finally taking a breath and hoping that he would see your apology as genuine.

He said nothing for a moment, pacing your living room floor with arms crossed over his chest. Ted stopped in his tracks then, leveling you with a disappointed gaze.

"You've been a good employee, Y/N. I had my doubts about keeping you on after your father's conviction, but I believed you when you said you had no idea about his illegal dealings. Besides, I couldn't leave a pregnant woman jobless and unable to provide for herself and her child," Ted spoke with an even tone, almost emotionless.

Taking a step forward, you spoke calmly. "And I've always been grateful for that, Ted. You're a great boss, always understanding when something came up with Grant and I—"

"And you've taken advantage of that!" Ted cut you off harshly, then taking a deep breath and turning away. You stood there, frozen on the spot as he began to pace again. "Our agreement was for you to be available on the days you weren't in office, correct?"

"Yes, but—"

"Which means you must be available and in contact if need be, yes?"

"I know—"

"And it hasn't been just today, you've been distracted recently, ever since..." he paused, a look of realization in his eyes. "It's him, isn't it?"

You drew back at that, startled. "Excuse me? I understand if you feel like my professional performance has been lacking as of late, but what I do in my personal time and who I spend it with is none of your business," you told him, raising your chin in defiance.

"It does if it's affecting your work. If the situation is temporary, then I can possibly overlook your lapse in judgement and allow you to maintain your current schedule. However, we may have to revisit our agreement if the situation is prolonged," Ted lectured, his terms sounding like an ultimatum.

Taking in his statement, you blinked at the idea of Ted having the audacity, attempting to dictate your life. Pulling your shoulders back and looking him in the eye, you then spoke forcefully. "Ted, I've apologized for today with a promise that it won't be repeated. I'd be willing to discuss the matter further when we return to the office, but you have no right to show up at my home and tell me how to live my life. I'd like you to leave now," you declared with a jab of your finger towards the door.

Ted following the direction of your finger, his eyes then grew wide. "Is he living here?"

"I...what?" you asked, confused until you spotted Steve's duffel bag and a pair of boots that had been stashed behind the door and forgotten. "That is none of your concern, now—"

"Honestly, Y/N, I thought you were smarter than this. Granted, you've made stupid decisions in the past, but to bring a stranger into your home and around your son? That's just irresponsible," he replied with a condescending shake of his head.

You practically sputtered in disbelief before finding your words. "You do not get to judge me or my choices, past or present, and he is not a stranger, he's—" you stopped short, realizing what you had nearly blurted out.

It didn't matter, though, because he knew. A lightbulb went on above Ted's head and he scoffed in disbelief. "You're joking. That man...he's Grant's father? The one who left you pregnant and alone 3 years ago? Unbelievable," he spoke coldly with a cruel burst of laughter.

"That's not—"

"I guess the rumors were true, Molly was right," Ted interrupted roughly. "He'll leave again, you know. Just when you think he might actually stay, you'll turn around and he'll be gone. I've known men like him my entire career, hell my entire life, always on the road, seeking the next job and the next warm bed to share. When are you going to realize that I'm the one who has always been here? I'm the one who cares for you. I'm the one who can keep you safe and provide for you!" Ted was almost shouting now, taking a step toward you to make his point.

Your head was spinning at this sudden turn of events. Ted had...feelings for you?

"I don't understand..." you said, furrowing your brow in confusion.

Ted exhaled swiftly, interrupting. "I really thought you were coming to your senses. I thought you were finally seeing what I can offer you and how good we could be together. Spending time together outside of work, coming to me when you needed help with Grant...I've been incredibly patient but I think it's time for you to choose the kind of man you want to spend your life with. I can give you comfort, love, stability. Grant can have the best of everything and a good male influence in his life, not some drifter who will only ruin your life again," he finished his rant, stepping toward you with a frightening intensity in his eyes.

Eyes wide, you finally saw how much you'd misunderstood Ted's so-called kindness. It was all a game. He had strategically wormed his way into your life, hoping that you would eventually give in and become part of his fantasy life together. Looking back, you saw it all differently. As far as spending time outside of work, you wouldn't categorize running into each other at the bar and sitting down for a drink as a date or anything, but maybe he did. Maybe it was the same with offering to get him coffee or chatting at the grocery store. It was a small town and you were just being friendly, but that's not how he saw it, apparently. Perhaps accepting his offer to pick up Grant from daycare had been the last straw, cementing the idea in his mind that you were ready to go along with his plans.

Raising your hands in surrender, you spoke calmly, hoping to diffuse the situation. "Ted, I appreciate everything you've done for me and Grant. I do. However, I feel like we need to keep our relationship professional. I'm flattered, honestly, but I don't feel the same way about you, Ted. I'm sorr–"

Ted grabbed your arm then and you were shocked as he leaned forward, inches away from your face.

"You think you can reject me?" he snarled. "You had nothing when I came into your life. No job, no future, no way to care for your bastard son, nothing until I came along. Everything you have is because of me. This is your chance, Y/N. Don't be stupid. Come with me or you'll lose everything," he threatened at a low voice, his grip tightening on your arm.

"Ted, stop. I don't want anything from you, now let me go—"

He shook you roughly then, both hands tightening on your upper arms as fear coursed through you. Ted was delusional and clearly beyond reason as his expression darkened further. "Do you really think anyone else will want you? Once that prick is gone, you'll be left all alone and I won't be there to pick up the pieces again. No other man is going to want to raise another man's son and be with a woman who—"

"Ted, let me go!" you began to shout, struggling against Ted's grip as he held you fast. "Ted, you're hurting me!" you finally yelled.

A loud bang was heard as the front door burst open. Within seconds Ted's hands were gone as Steve's gripped the front of the smaller man's shirt and slammed him against the wall with pure hatred upon his face. You had never seen this side of Steve, but imagined that this was what the enemy saw every time he went to battle.

Steve pressed in closely, putting the fear of God into the now-trembling brunet. "If you touch her again, I will kill you," the bearded man said with calm, absolute certainty.

Ted tried to hold his gaze, struggling against the unyielding muscles holding him tightly against the wall. You now noticed that Ted's toes were barely touching the floor with Steve holding him up as if he were weightless. Stepping forward slowly, you eventually placed a hand on Steve's shoulder and he turned your way, his expression finally softening.

"It's okay. You can let him go," you spoke softly.

At this point, you didn't care what happened to Ted, but you didn't want Steve putting anymore guilt on his conscience, no matter how much the punishment might be deserved. The blond blinked a few times and finally lowered the smaller man to his feet and stepped away, loosening his grip. Ted straightening his shirt and smoothed a hand over his hair to secure a few strands. He walked shakily toward the door and you watched him go as Steve pulled you protectively against his side.

Ted stepped over the threshold with a hand on the doorknob. Straightening his spine, he gave you one last look as anger flickered over his features. "You're going to regret this," he declared before slamming the door behind him and you heard quick footsteps as he descended the stairs.

You inhaled a shuddering breath as the adrenaline began to leave your system and suddenly you were exhausted.

"Mama?" you heard a small voice call out from the hallway and you turned to see Grant with a frightened expression on his little face. You didn't know how long he had been there, but obviously the noise and yelling had woken him.

Rushing over to him, you gathered your son in your arms and held him tightly, his head resting on your shoulder. "It's okay, sweetie. Everything's alright now," you assured him as he wrapped this arms around your neck.

Steve enveloped the both of you in a hug and you held each other. "Are you okay?" he asked, pressing a kiss into your hair.

You nodded but as you felt the comfort of his arms, the tears began to fall. "I'm so sorry I sent you away, but I just thought if he saw you were just a friend, he wouldn't have to look at you too closely. I—"

"I know, sweetie. It's okay," Steve whispered, smoothing a hand across your back as he continued to hold you.

He held you both as long as you needed. He only left your embrace shortly to secure the house, checking windows and doors to ensure they were all locked. You didn't know how serious Ted's threat was, but you didn't want to find out.

Calming down after a while, you finally tucked Grant into your bed and got into pajamas while Steve did the same. Grant didn't want to sleep alone and quite frankly, none of you did. You laid down on one side of your son while Steve was on the other, but sleep was a distant thought. In hushed tones, you told Steve what Ted had said and how vastly you had misunderstood his motives. Steve had heard some of his words, since he luckily hadn't gone far. He had never trusted Ted and there was no way he was actually leaving you alone with him. You were unbelievably grateful for that.

"What do you think he's capable of?" Steve asked you after finishing your story.

"I don't know," you murmured. "He has a lot of pull in this town, but beyond that I'm not sure what lengths he would go to. Clearly I didn't know the man at all. How is it possible that I didn't see it?" you asked, tears threatening again as the memories of the night resurfaced.

"Hey, hey," Steve cooed gently, wiping a stray tear from your cheek. "There's no way you could have known. None of this is your fault, Y/N," he assured you softly.

You sniffled, still trying to wrap your head around how wrong you had been about a man you had known for years, but now looking back you began to see the signs.

"What happens now?" you asked, uncertain. "Obviously I no longer have a job and this town, I just—I can't stay here, I—" You could feel the panic setting in, your breaths coming in and out swiftly.

"Shhhh, it's okay," Steve assured you again, brushing a thumb over your cheekbone. "We'll figure it out together. Just try and get some rest for now."

Concentrating on your breath you began to calm. "Okay. I love you, Steve."

He smiled in the dim light, even despite the circumstances. "I love you, too, Y/N."

Eventually you both drifted off to sleep, safe in each other's arms.

_________________

It was far from a restful night for you, waking several times in a panic before you saw and felt the closeness of your two loves beside you. In the early hours just before dawn, you were awoken by the small body shifting next to you and you parted your lashes. Grant was lying diagonal on the bed, never one to stay in a single position, but when you saw that Steve was no longer beside you, your heart rate spiked.

Carefully slipping out of bed, you tiptoed to the door and opened it a crack. You saw light spilling into the hallway front the living room and you could hear a pair of quiet voices conversing, much to your surprise. You closed the bedroom door behind you and quietly stepped toward the voices.

"—guess I shouldn't be surprised that you found me and I appreciate the heads up but things are different now, I can't run again. Even if I left, there's no guarantee..."

A female voice spoke up then and peeking around the corner you spotted her with her back to you. "If I found you, then you know they're not far behind. You know there's nothing they wouldn't do to—"

The woman broke off in speaking and she whipped around to face you, almost as if she sensed your presence. You froze, taking in the sight of the woman. She was pretty, medium height and fit with blonde hair to her chin and strong, angular features. She wore jeans, boots, and a dark brown leather jacket but her stance looked like she was bracing for a fight. Assessing that you weren't a threat she relaxed and looked over at Steve for an explanation.

"Y/N, I..."

"You're leaving?" you asked, your eyes flickering between Steve and the woman.

Steve let out a sigh and walked the few feet to your side, placing a hand against your lower back. "Y/N, this is Natasha Romanoff, also known as Black Widow. Natasha, this is Y/N."

The blonde—Natasha— quirked an eyebrow and her gaze followed when Steve threaded your fingers with his. "I see," was all she said, her tone reserved.

"I told you...there's more at stake now. How did you find me, anyway?" Steve asked as he lead you toward the couch and you took a seat beside him. Natasha settled in the armchair nearby.

"I never lost you, Rogers. I've kept tabs on everyone, just in case. I kept watch on any unusual online activity as well and something popped up last night. Someone was digging around about one of your aliases, Kurt Sanders, and I knew you were in the area where it was last used, so I thought I'd give you a heads up. I wasn't far away," she explained, making it all sound so easy. And terrifying, considering the fact that Steve wasn't supposed to be easy to find. "Do you know a man by the name of Ted Carson?"

Steve caught your eye as your body tensed beside him. "I knew it," you muttered, dropping your head in your hands and leaning forward as you struggled to breathe.

Steve rubbed soothing patterns on your back in comfort. "He won't come near you," he promised, a hint of anger lingering in his voice.

Natasha nodded. "So you do know him. Well, from what I can tell, he hasn't connected your alias to your true identity but it's only a matter of time," she said with a shrug.

"I know," Steve answered, resigned. "But I'm not going alone this time." Your head raised at that, feeling hope flutter in your chest.

"You can't be serious," Natasha scoffed.

Steve shook his head. "I told you, there's more at stake now and because of this Ted asshole, they're not safe here either, so—"

"They?" Natasha asked in question and almost on cue, you heard a small voice call out from the other room.

"Mama! Daddy?" you heard Grant cry out.

You started to rise, but Steve stopped you. "I'll get him."

Steve left the room briefly and you noticed Natasha eyeing you, so you stared back, trying not to flinch under her gaze. You weren't afraid, necessarily, but definitely felt her scrutiny and doubt about you. Steve returned with Grant in his arms and you all stood.

"Natasha, this is our son...Grant," Steve said proudly as the sleepy boy rested his head on the man's broad shoulder.

Natasha smirked at that, approaching. "Well, you have been busy, haven't you?" A genuine smile graced her face then, surprising you. "Hi, Grant. You can call me Nat, if you want to," she spoke sweetly to the boy.

"Hi, Nat," Grant replied shyly.

"He's adorable," Nat said to you and Steve. "And I can see why things are more complicated now. Going on the run with civilians, though..." she trailed off, giving Steve a knowing look.

He pursed his lips, pressing a kiss into his son's messy hair. "What can we do?"

Natasha chewed on her bright painted lip for a moment, thinking. "You're sure about this?" she finally asked, addressing Steve only.

Steve nodded as he put his free arm around your waist. "This is my family and I'll do anything to protect them," he spoke resolutely while Natasha eyed the three of you.

She finally let out a deep sigh of resignation. "Okay. I might be able to help you out, but we don't have much time...."

_____________

Part 15>>> Coming soon!!

Chapter Text

Previously:

Natasha chewed on her bright painted lip for a moment, thinking. "You're sure about this?" she finally asked, addressing Steve only.

Steve nodded as he put his free arm around your waist. "This is my family and I'll do anything to protect them," he spoke resolutely while Natasha eyed the three of you.

She finally let out a deep sigh of resignation. "Okay. I might be able to help you out, but we don't have much time...."

_______________

Some time later, undisclosed location

One hand on the steering wheel, you let your other arm dangle out the window of the old pickup truck you were driving with a fresh mountain breeze swirling around you. Glancing down at the map on the passenger's seat, it looked like you still had about 5 miles left to go. These drives were always a little stressful, but once you left civilization behind, it was just you and the road ahead, closing the distance until you saw your sweet family again.

Steve had a hard time each time you left, giving you the tightest hug possible, an encouraging smile and a kiss for the road. Heartfelt "I love you"s were shared in parting before waving with a smile as you drove away. You never missed the worry in his eyes, though. Your trips were few and far between, trying to keep supply runs down to once or twice a month, but it was necessary. Your routine would most likely be disrupted in the near future, so your supplies load was heavier this time. Luckily, kind strangers were willing to help you load up the truck for you.

A few more minutes of driving and you curved the truck around the bend to see the nearly-hidden dirt road up ahead. You slowed down to turn and squeezed the truck between two trees that camouflaged the entrance before winding your way another half mile until the trees thinned and the road opened up to a grassy clearing. A small cabin was tucked away on the far left side of the clearing and as you approached you spotted Steve with Grant, both waving enthusiastically.

The second you put the truck in park, Steve opened the door for you and he wrapped his arms around you in a tight hug followed by a lingering kiss. Grant wrapped his arms your leg and buried his face in your skirt.

"Hi, my handsome boy. Were you good for daddy?" you asked, ruffled your son's hair as he tilted his face upwards.

"Yeah! I cut logs!" Grant beamed at his dad, who laughed.

"Well, I did the actual chopping of wood, but he watched from a safe distance and softened up the wood with his plastic sword first, so he was a big help," Steve grinned, bending down to pick up his young son. You shook your head in laughter, realizing that life had come full circle. Steve had become the lumberjack once again, just like when you met him. "Everything go okay?" he asked you.

Bringing your mind back to the present, you nodded and grasped Steve's hand in yours as you headed toward the house. "Yup, no problems. No one recognized me from when I was there months ago and if they did, they figured I was just passing through again. There was a little road work down south, but not much delay," you replied, stifling a yawn.

"Huh. I'll mark that on the map. How are you feeling? What did the doctor say?" Steve asked as you walked through the doorway and he set Grant down and the boy headed for his toys.

You grinned with a hand on your belly. "Everything looks perfect. Our little avocado is growing just as it should be."

The brightest smile split Steve's handsome, bearded face as he placed a hand over yours on your growing bump. He leaned down and pressed a kiss to your clothed stomach. "I can't wait to meet you. Daddy loves you," he murmured with emotion in his voice.

You combed your fingers through is butterscotch locks and smiled down at him with affection. Steve was an amazing father to Grant and he enjoyed seeing the growing stages of his son, but experiencing the pregnancy side of parenting brought out an even softer, gentler side of the man you loved with your whole being.

"So, what's the verdict?" Steve asked as he straightened up, wrapping an arm around your waist.

Digging a hand into your purse, you plucked out a DVD in a white paper sleeve. "I didn't look, I swear. The sonogram technician said she made clear notes on the recording, so..." you trailed off with an expectant smile.

Steve pressed a kiss to your temple and took the DVD from you. "We'll watch it after dinner. I'll unload the truck, why don't you put your feet up for a while?"

You'd argue, but the long drives were getting harder on your pregnant body, so you just nodded. "Okay. I love you."

"I love you, too," Steve echoed with a smile, pressing a kiss to your lips this time before you headed for the bedroom.

Having a second child wasn't exactly in the plans, but so much of your life had been full of surprises since Steve returned to that small town in the mountains where you met. Reconnecting, Steve finding out he had a son, you two falling in love, and then the sudden uprooting of your entire life had all been a whirlwind. Thanks to your former boss, the life you had built with your son had become unsafe.

Ted's so-called "declaration of love" and sudden demands upon your future had shaken you to the core. Because you had rejected him, you found yourself unemployed, not to mention the threat of Steve's secret being found out. Thankfully, Natasha had arrived and she was able to use her know-how and connections to move all three of you out of state within 24 hours.

Bags were packed, plans were made, and in the wee hours of the morning, you all climbed into your car and hit the road without looking back. The journey took several days, taking an indirect route and staying in cheap motels paid in cash so you could all rest. Natasha had gone ahead to make sure the route was safe and that our final destination was ready.

Grant saw it as a fun adventure a first, but soon he tired of being in the car. To remedy that, sometimes you would stop the car in the middle of nowhere and let him run around while you ate whatever food you were able to pick up. These short stops consisted of desert nights with skies full of stars, cool streams where you sat on the bank and let your feet dangle in the water, cornfields with stalks taller than Steve, it all just became part of the journey. It was worth it to see the look of wide-eyed wonder on your son's sweet face.

The urgency and worry of being on the run still lingered, but as long as you, Steve, and Grant had each other, everything seemed to be okay. One afternoon, Steve received a short, 15 second phone call from Natasha on an encrypted phone and you finally had coordinates for your destination. You arrived sometime in the middle of the night at the cabin where you had now made your home.

Living in such an isolated area was a challenge at first. As small as your hometown had been, at least you could go out and interact with others if you so desired. Now, suddenly, your world had shrunk to a 3-bedroom cabin, the forest surrounding you, and the two people you loved most in the world. Well, three now.

This new style of living caused you to become more self-sufficient and highly domestic. The more convenient parts of living in civilization were not longer possible, so in order to do something as simple as feeding your family, you dug a garden to grow your own food when possible and canned or preserved other items bought in bulk while they were in season. Supply runs allowed you to pick up other items that would last you the entire month or longer. Shelf-stable foods such as canned goods, grains, potatoes, flour, were what kept your family fed along with what you provided from your garden. There was quite the learning curve, but eventually, it became a joy to see the fruits of your labors.

Steve loved to do home improvement projects and he cooked as often as you did. He also maintained the beat-up, old truck Nat had purchased for next to nothing. Your previous car had been much nicer, but it was a luxury and could more easily be traced back. You sold it to a stranger for less than it was worth, but you didn't mind. In the end, this whole life change helped you discover what was truly important in life and how little you actually needed to be happy.

Grant loved exploring his new surroundings, climbing over rocks and trees in the nearby forest, under supervision of course. He continued to learn and grow and right before your eyes he became less of a toddler and more of a little boy. Another coat of chalkboard paint on his bedroom wall, and Grant couldn't be happier.

Steve was nervous to send you alone on supply runs, but it just made the most sense. He was too recognizable and taking Grant with you was too complicated a task. Each time you planned a trip, Steve mapped your directions carefully with no route ever the same to avoid patterns. You rarely stopped in the same towns, either, journeying in every direction to find new locations less than a day away from your little cabin to stock up. Different stores and different people meant that no one could recognize you or connect you back to Steve.

As for funds, Steve had squirreled away some money in an untraceable bank account over the years, "just for a rainy day", he claimed. You suspected it was his past distrust in the government that inspired him to do so. Natasha was able to make withdrawals when needed and would often also bring you supplies to avoid yet another long, risky drive.

Isolated as you may have felt at times, it turned out you had more visitors than you ever thought you would. Natasha dropped by whenever she was in the area and over time she became one of your closest friends. She adored Grant and seemed to let her hard exterior slip around your family a little more each time. You got to meet other Avengers as well. Sam, Wanda, Clint, and Scott all needed to take refuge at your small cabin at one point or another. Most were just passing through, but it was good to see them. Special precautions were always made beforehand, which made for complicated plans on Steve's part, but you always enjoyed the company when you had it.

Upon discovering you were pregnant some time after settling in at your new home, you were afraid at first. Could you raise another child in this uncertain environment? What about doctor's visits and the eventual delivery? There was a small clinic less than an hour away where you had taken Grant once when he had a high fever, but pregnancy require regular visits to the same doctor each time. When you fearfully shared the news with Steve, he had surprised you with nothing but joy and excitement, embracing you and the new life growing inside you in his safe, strong arms.

Steve understand your concerns and even shared some of them, but he was so over the moon about this baby that he assured you everything would be okay. He was always the man with a plan, so you began to share in his excitement and after a requested visit from Nat, you were finally feeling more at ease. Natasha was able to set you up with a fool-proof alias and medical insurance somehow, so now you could visit your obstetrician as often as needed. The visits coincided with supply runs, so the drive was always long, but you felt safer that way, even if it did involve visiting the same town often. The "my husband's out of town" lie would have to do if anyone asked where your baby's father was.

Now lying on the bed just as Steve had suggested, you let out a tired sigh and absent-mindedly played with the ring on your left hand. Steve wore one as well, a simple matching gold band for you both. Under the laws of the land, no, you and Steve were not married, but for the sake of your disguise as a family of three, it made the most sense to wear the symbols of wedding rings. It didn't feel like pretend, though.

Steve had purchased the rings at a pawn shop in the middle of nowhere, and when he presented them to you, your eyes teared up. He even got down on one knee, proclaiming with love and sincerity that when time and circumstances allowed, with every fiber of his being, he wanted to marry you. In the mean time, you had him stand up and as you each slipped the ring on the other's finger, you shared vows and spoke of promises that meant more to you than any official piece of paper recognized by law. Should anyone ask, you were Mr. and Mrs. and it never felt like a lie. He was yours and you were his, forever.

Life was far from perfect, but it was the life you would choose over and over again. Steve was the man of your dreams and you loved each other fiercely. If you had known back when you officially "met" him that years later you would find the two of you together in yet another cabin in the middle of nowhere with a son and another little one on the way, you'd have thought you were insane. It wasn't in the plan, that's for sure, but you got something so much better than your feeble dreams of escaping that small mountain town.

As far as those you had left behind, your contact with friends and family was unfortunately limited. If you had time on a supply run, you would duck into a public library to log into your untraceable email account set up by Nat and update Jana on your life without too many specifics. The rare phone call to your mother had to be enough for a while. She was upset about our sudden move and how you couldn't fully explain without endangering your family, but you always let her know you were both safe and that you loved her. You emailed updated pictures of Grant as well, when you could.

On one of Nat's visits she mentioned casually that Ted was under investigation for embezzling company funds. Apparently, there were incriminating files found on his computer and the authorities were tipped off by an anonymous source. If convicted, he could face several years in prison. You never came out and asked, but you suspected that Natasha had something to do with his arrest and you were eternally grateful. If he was tied up in court or possibly in jail, he couldn't search for you or Steve. You breathed a little easier after that.

Later, you found yourself gently awakened by a kiss to your forehead. You must have drifted off while resting and Steve was urging you to come down for dinner. A simple bowl of stew Steve made warmed you from the inside out and after you helped clean up the kitchen. Out of the corner of your eye, you spotted Steve in the corner flipping open an outdated mobile phone to check for signal and to ensure it was charged. He did it only once in a while and always made sure he was within hearing distance most of the day, but the sight of it always made your stomach clench.

Steve had told you all about the Accords and the disagreement between the Avengers, ending with the unfortunate brawl between himself, his best friend Bucky, and Tony Stark. That phone was his only connection to Tony. He made a promise to Tony long ago, before he saw you again, before he knew about Grant, before this new life you had together. But if that phone rang, he swore he would answer and assist if needed. If it did ring, well...you weren't sure what would happen to you all, but for now you could only appreciate the small slice of happiness you had found as a family.

Dinner all cleaned up, you three settled on the couch as Steve pressed play on your secondhand DVD player. The alien-looking, black and white sonogram image of your baby filled the screen as you watched your little avocado squirm. Steve pulled you tighter against his side and pressed a kiss to your temple, in awe of the new life growing inside you. He wished so badly that he could attend your doctor's visits in person, but it was too much of a risk, so this DVD would have to do for now. You had been discussing a home birth, which made Steve a little squeamish, but the more you both learned about it, the better the option seemed compared to him missing the actual birth of his child due to precautions. Besides, from your current location, there was no guarantee you would make it to the hospital in time. Either way, having this baby was going to be an adventure.

"Daddy, what's that?" Grant pointed as he perched on his father's lap.

"That's your little brother or sister, buddy," Steve answered sweetly.

Grant tilted his head, face scrunched in confusion. "That a baby?"

"It will be in a few months. The baby is still growing in my tummy," you replied with a smile, rubbing a hand over your bump.

"Is that..." Steve questioned as the image looked frozen on the screen

The technician indicated to a certain area of your babies anatomy and then type one word on the screen for you to see: girl.

Steve turned toward you with tears in his eyes. "We're having a girl."

"A little girl," you cooed, matching his tearful smile as he gave you a lingering kiss. "Grant, you're going to have a sister!" you announced joyfully as you hugged his small body.

Grant seemed to consider that and then shrugged. "Okay. Then a brother?"

His parents both chuckled at that as Steve replied. "We'll see," the handsome blond said as he met your eye lovingly.

Letting your head rest on Steve shoulder, you sighed in contentment. Neither of you could predict what the future held, but in this little corner of the world surrounded by those you loved the most, it felt like heaven.

End