You ran past a common area. You happened to glance in, and spotted the person you’d been hunting for. Nearly tripping over your own feet, you backtracked and burst into the room, running straight towards him.
“Steve!” you cried out. You got close to where he was lounging on the sofa, reading a book. You took the seat beside him. A little out of breath you said urgently, “Oh my god, Steve, I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” You took his left hand in yours and asked, “Will you marry me?”
‘Will I what?!” he asked surprised and in shock.
From the other side of the room you heard a murmured, “Oh, this ought to be good,” and realized, for the first time, that there were others in the room. You glanced over your shoulder and spotted Natasha, Clint and Sam on the other side of the room.
“Will you marry me?” you asked again, this time with some hesitation and much more softly. You looked away for a moment, unnerved. When you brought your attention back to Steve you found his face was unreadable, but his blue eyes showed concern and were full of questions.
“Sweetheart, you’re not making any sense. Why do you want to marry me? I mean, we’re friends, great friends, the best-”
From the corner came disgruntled shouts of “Hey!” from Nat and Sam, only to change to them bickering over who knew him first and who knew him better.
Steve continued, “My point is, we’re friends. We’ve never even gone on a date. Don’t you think you’re skipping some important milestones between friendship and marriage?”
You took a deep breath to center yourself, and tried again, less frenzied this time. “I’m sorry, Steve, I didn’t mean to come at you like that. Let me explain, okay?”
He nodded, and changed hand position so that he was now cradling yours, stroking his thumb over yours knuckles in a soothing manner.
The others had moved over to sit in chairs around you and Steve and they were giving their rapt attention. The sight of them relaxed you, oddly enough. You had worked in the Tower with them all for a couple of years and considered them to be another family. Natasha knew you had long harbored feelings for Steve, and the wicked little closed lipped smile she had on her face was pure delighted evil right now. You couldn’t hold in your chuckle, and relaxed enough to speak again.
“You know how my grandma Alayne has been in a coma for last few months. My mom has been at the hospital every day, I go every couple of days during my lunch or after work and stay with her.”
“That’s gotta be rough on mom, and on you,” Natasha said.
A hand touched your shoulder and you turned to find it was Clint’s. “I’m so sorry to hear about your grandma. If it helps though, it sounds like she’s giving you a gift of time with you mom.”
You placed your hand over his and gave it a squeeze and gave him a smile. “She is, she truly is. My mom and I would only see each other every couple of weeks before this and our talks weren’t all that deep. Just the day to day stuff. Being at the hospital has given us time to really get to know each other on a whole new level.”
“Silver lining,” added Sam. He gave you a sweet smile, and it instantly lifted your spirits. He’d walked in your shoes before, on multiple occasions and had been the one to suggest that people in comas can hear what’s going on around them. His advice was to keep the topics positive, to have conversations that your grandma would enjoy hearing about, because they might filter through to her.
You returned the smile and nodded. “Absolutely. We’ve reminisced a lot, spoke about our families, our hopes and dreams. I’ve learned so much about my parents and grandparents that I never knew.”
Turning to Steve, you confessed, “One thing I learned was that you were my Grandma Alayne’s first crush.”
He turned bright red, the shade turning even deeper as the other’s began to tease him.
“She was 10 and went with her parents to see you perform in the USO show. She left the theater that day convinced she’d grow up to marry you and be ‘Mrs. Captain America’ and that she would also be a dancer like the glamorous women on the stage. She cried for days when news that you disappeared hit the papers.”
Steve’s hung his head, his hands squeezed yours and you weren’t sure if it was on purpose or involuntary.
“She did get to be a dancer for a short time, so at least that part of her wish came true. It’s funny, knowing about that background makes things so much clearer now. I remember her talking to my dad about you when the news said that you were found, but I was on my way out and didn’t stay for the conversation. When I started working here and got to tell her that I knew you and we were friends she was absolutely thrilled.”
“But why would that make you want to marry this dope?” joked Sam, earning a swat on the arm from Nat, who was watching you with rapt attention.
“Well, that’s where it gets tricky,” you said with a sheepish grin. “See, my mom believes that when someone is holding out like my grandma has been, that sometimes they’re just not ready to move on because of unfinished business. Something they’re waiting to hear about, or someone they’re waiting to hear from. She told me that one of my grandma’s big wishes was to live long enough to see all of her grandchildren get married, and to have at least one great grandbaby.”
“And how close is she to that?” asked Steve, now completely engaged in the situation.
“She has three great grandbabies. And seven out of eight grandkids are married. Guess who the hold out is?” you stated, taking you hands away from Steve and waving your non-ring wearing left hand around for emphasis.
Steve let out a amused laugh. He folded his arms across his chest and asked, “Let me guess, you told her we were getting married, didn’t you?”
With a shrug, you answered, “Okay, yes, I did.” The others were comically groaning, easing the tension you felt in your body at the revelation.
You defended yourself, laughing along with them. “Hey! I thought it was a good plan, people. I mean, she knows who Steve is, she had a crush on him herself, and I figured if I fibbed a little it was not a big deal. If it could help her find peace and give her what she was looking for while she was in a coma then I didn’t see the harm in it.”
“Wait a minute, you said ‘was’ in a coma,” Steve questioned No getting anything passed old eagle ears, was there.
Collectively, the others in the room started bombarding you with the same question about your use of the word. You finally raised your hands to quiet them and said, a little more forcefully than you expected, “She woke up! Alright, she woke up from her coma, shocked the doctors, and then shocked me when she asked if I’d married Steve yet.”
For the next several minutes you were fielding questions for all of them, trying to answer as best as you could about why she woke up and her prognosis. The doctors had informed your family that it was a miracle that she came back, but warned that she was on borrowed time.
The mood in the room was somber and quiet as everyone contemplated what had just been said. You looked at Steve again and pleaded, “We don’t actually have to get married. And you don’t have to say yes to any of this, really, you don’t. It’s my mess and I’ll clean it up whichever way I need to, but I had to give this a shot.”
Steve took a few moments and he was thinking so hard and so fast you could’ve sworn that you could see the gears spinning behind his eyes. His lips were pressed tightly together, shoulders hunched forward, one arm across his chest and the other balanced on it so that his hand could hold his cheek. His pointer finger kept tapping his face and then he suddenly stopped and relaxed, straightened his back and declared, “Guess we need to go ring shopping.”
You could have kissed him. It was difficult to contain your excitement and relief, but you held it together to say to him through a grin, “No need. My mom has been holding onto one for me, family heirloom. Since she’s in on the ruse, she’s given me her blessing to use it now for my ‘fake’ engagement.”
“So what now?” asked Nat, “And do we get to throw you guys a bachelor and bachelorette party?”
Sam and Clint were totally on board for that suggestion, hi-fiving each other over Natasha’s head. You and Steve broke out into loud laughter, partly because of their antics, but also because the release of the tension had made you both a little silly.
“No parties, remember, we’re not actually having a wedding.” Steve chastised, keeping his tone playful. He turned to you and said, “Guess the next step is to figure out when I’m meeting Grandma.”
Like an excited puppy, you jumped up and hugged him, knocking him back into the sofa, then backed off and quickly coordinated calendars. You left the room and called your mom to catch her up and make the arrangements.
Your grandmother was released from the hospital the next day and brought home to your mother’s place, your dad having left after a divorce many years prior. Nurses had been arranged for her, but your mom was the primary caretaker. It was two days later when you made your debut as the fiance of Steve Rogers.
Both of you were nervous as hell and it caused a bit of giddiness. It worked to your advantage though, because the smiles it brought out on your faces were enough to bring a sparkle to the older woman’s eyes.
The sparkles turned to tears after you introduced Steve and she got a good look at him. She held his face in her palm and looked at him in astonishment. “You look exactly the way I remember you. You’re still the most handsome man I have ever seen.”
Steve blushed and became a bit flustered, even more so when your grandmother took your hand and kissed you hello, adding what a lucky woman you were.
It was March, and still pretty cold outside. He pushed her wheelchair into the heated four season porch, the sunlight streaming through the windows warmed everyone up even more. For the next few hours your grandmother was in her glories, reminiscing about the 1930’s and 1940’s, catching Steve up on what happened after the war, from the perspective of someone who lived through it. She had grown up in Queens and they bonded over many things. Your mom had come in and joined and brought tea for everyone. You couldn’t remember ever seeing Steve Rogers this relaxed and comfortable before.
Grandma Alayne was growing tired by the end of the visit, but was fighting the fatigue, not wanting it to be over. Steve crouched down to get eye level with her and told her, “Listen, young lady, rest is very important. It will help you heal. We’ll be back again very soon, I promise.”
The old woman broke out into a girlish grin and laughed, then repeated, “Young lady? Who are you calling young lady?”
He used the tips of his fingers to hold her chin and smiled back, “You, Alyane. I’m older than you, let’s not forget that.”
She blinked a few times, her face full of disbelief as the man before her appeared to be in his twenties, but then her memory snapped back into place, and so did her wit.
“Fine, I’ll listen to the old man. Get me to bed.”
Steve’s shoulders came up as his body fell forward with laughter, bracing himself against the side of the wheelchair.
“You’re a feisty one. Now I see where your granddaughter gets it from.”
You planted your hands on your waist and raised your head high. “Damn right! I learned from the best.”
Your grandmother beamed as she looked back and forth between the two of you. She nodded her head, approving of a question in her head that only she could hear, and said her goodnights.
On the way to his car he asked if you’d like to go have dinner somewhere before going home. It was your first meal together alone. You didn’t consider it a date, so there was no tension, no awkwardness. Just friends getting to know each other more, chatting about work, about friends, the gym. By the time he’d dropped you off at your apartment the next visit to Grandma Alayne had been set in your calendars.
Over the next few months, the visits to your grandmother became a regular thing. The porch became the mainstay, but once the weather warmed up in the Spring everyone went outside to the garden to get some fresh air. Steve always pushed her chair and always made sure she had a blanket to cover herself.
Spending time together before or after the visits became the norm. Sometimes it was a meal out, sometimes just hanging out at one of your apartments and watching tv together. Over time these happened even on days when you weren’t seeing Grandma Alayna.
You played simple board games together, built jigsaw puzzles, and heard stories about your grandparents that had never been told before. Steve brought his sketchbook sometimes and would draw you with her, or your mom with her. He was extremely talented and your grandmother like to keep the drawings and had them placed in her room.
While Steve was her first crush, her husband had been the love of her life and she’d known it the moment they’d met. Every time you were all together, or when you visited alone, she spoke of your grandfather and their adventures together. She wanted you and Steve to have even more together, which you both told her would be wonderful, eyes catching each other in glances over her head.
The visits brought you and Steve closer. Since you were pretending to be engaged you had to play the part and at least sit near each other and hold hands at times. At first, it felt weird, but soon it became second nature. He began to touch you more often, massaging your shoulders when he noticed you were stiff, brushing his arm over yours. Leaning against him and placing your head upon his shoulder felt like the coziest place to be in the world.
Your grandmother was ever watchful, a sly smile on her face when she would catch the glances that crossed between you on an ever increasing regularity. Your mom noticed them too, and questioned you about it one night when you were at the house alone.
“It’s nothing, we’re nothing but friends, Ma.”
“Friends my ass. It may have started off that way, and you can fool yourself if you want to, but you can’t fool me. He’s in love with you, and my guess is you feel the same How you guys have made it this long without one of you just jumping the other is beyond me.”
“Mom! Seriously? You didn’t just-”
“Oh yes I did. Would you make your mom and that old woman in there happy and just kiss the man already? It really should happen before the wedding.”
“What wedding? We’re not actually getting married.”
She got up from the table and picked up her now empty dinner plate. Your mom gave you a mischievous smile and said, “Mmm hmm. We’ll see. Just kiss him already, would you?”
The conversation played in your mind for the rest of the night. You had been able to get your grandmother to accept the fact that there was no set date yet, that because of Steve’s work with the Avengers there was no way to book anything and guarantee he would be able to make it. That it would be a spur of the moment, small ceremony and dinner when the time felt right. She wasn’t thrilled about it, but she said she understood and accepted the answer.
Suddenly, all you could think about was what it would be like to marry Steve. Your mom was one hundred percent correct. You were in love with him. Had been for a while. But there was no way you were going to ruin what you had with him, or scare him away and have to explain to your grandma why he was no longer coming around. Nope. You were just keeping your feelings to yourself. It was the only choice. Still, that night, you dreamed you were wearing a white dress.
It was subconscious, but you pulled away from Steve a bit after that conversation with your mother. He was giving you looks of concern, and his body language was different. Stiff and uncomfortable for the first time since you’d known each other. Your grandmother picked upon the change in mood and asked if something had happened, if there had been a fight. You assured her everything was fine, lied and said you weren’t feeling well and needed to cut the visit short. In truth, you just couldn’t be around Steve because you were ready to burst.
Your grandmother said she wanted to lay down herself, and you said goodbye to her and your mom shortly after. You walked ahead of Steve on the way to the car, still not really talking to him. A hand reached out and wrapped around your bicep, guiding you to a stop.
“What’s going on? Why are you shutting me out? Did I do something wrong?”
“No, Steve. And I’m not shutting you out, I just need some time to think.”
“Think about what?” he asked, releasing you, but staying close.
“About this, about us. I mean, what are we doing? Why are we still doing this? How long can we keep up this lie to her and to ourselves?”
“So you want to break up with me?”
“Break up? We’re not really a couple, Steve, there is nothing TO break up, is there?”
He was quiet, his jaw set and clenched as he turned his face away from you while he absorbed the words.
Still not looking at you, he asked, “Do I really not mean anything to you? Other than just being your partner in this charade?”
You saw his eyes become glassy, and realized what he was saying. Realized the women inside the house had seen what you had been blind to.
Your hand came up to cup his cheek, in the same manner that your grandma had done the first time she met him. You looked into his eyes, and what you saw in them made tears spring into your own. There was no way you could deny your feelings anymore. Not to him. Not to yourself.
“You mean everything to me, Steve.”
He swallowed hard, his eyes never leaving yours as the realization of love came through for both of you.
Steve reached out and closed the gap between you, one hand on your back, the other nestled in your hair as his lips met yours for the first time. The kiss felt like it lasted forever, and was better than you ever could have imagined. The friendship and connection that had been forged through your visits together made this kiss feel like no other ever had before.
When you finally pulled away, you spotted movement in the window out of the corner of your eye and turned in time to see the curtain still moving. Apparently, you’d had an audience. Steve laughed when you pointed to the peeping toms and pulled you in for a hug and another kiss.
Sadly, your grandmother didn’t last out the year, but she did last long enough to see the fulfillment of her wish. She was always his “young lady,” and she was also first row, center for your wedding to Steve Rogers.