Alina's stomach fluttered when she heard Steve's voice on the phone.
"Happy birthday, Captain."
She could hear him smiling on the other end.
It had only been three days since they last saw one another in her apartment— and decided to make things official — but she missed him. Alina glanced at the clock. It was Saturday noon which meant it was midnight where Steve was.
"Am I the first to wish you a happy birthday?"
She could hear him nod again, and his voice smiled when he spoke.
Alina felt a strange pulling sensation in her stomach. She wished she could be there with him on his birthday, but she could not leave this weekend because of an event for the Chen Foundation tonight. If it were not for that, she would have flown out Friday after work just so she could celebrate with him in person.
Birthdays were important to her. She enjoyed celebrating her own and making them special for people she cared about. As it stands, she had to wait two weeks to see Steve again. She sighed, feeling her stomach constrict.
"I'm sorry I can't be there with you today, Steve."
"It's alright. I'm not one for big celebrations or parties."
"Any plans for the day ahead?"
"Not really. I think the others are planning a 4th of July barbecue of some sort."
Alina nodded. Steve shared the same birthday as America's day of independence. Go figure.
"How old are you, anyway?" she asked.
Steve laughed. It sounded like honey in her ears.
"Well, it depends. I'm 96 if you count the years I was out of commission."
Alina grinned. "Happy birthday, you old fogey."
There was noiseless grinning on the other end. "But if you don't count those years, I'm 30."
Alina felt her stomach drop.
"You're turning 30?"
He was so...young. He brought new meaning to the phrase 'an old soul.'
"Steve, that's a big birthday."
Alina felt like her heart sink to the bottom of her stomach. She should be there with him. She wanted to be.
Alina sat up on her couch and nodded.
"All the decade ones are - 20, 30, 40. And 30 is your Saturn Return."
"It's some sort of cosmic rite of passage," she frowned, trying to recall what she could remember from a conversation she had with Ara recently. Her best friend was very much into astrology. "Wait, let me Google it."
There was a tapping of keys. Alina found an appropriate website and read it out loud.
"Every 30 years or so, the planet Saturn comes back to the position it was in when you were born."
"Hm," Steve said.
"At this stage in your life, you will get the nudge you need to advance into a new stage of adulthood. In astrology, we call it the Saturn Return."
Encouraged by his tone, Alina continued.
"The first Saturn return can happen between ages 27 and 30. It is a rite of passage welcoming you into your more mature role here in Earth," she took a breath before continuing. "It says here that during your Saturn return, you will come face to face with some of your own blocks and be forced to push through them.""
She couldn't hear anything on the other end.
"You still there? Should I stop? Is this stuff too much woo-woo for you?"
He laughed though there was something in his voice that she couldn't place. "What's that now?"
"Woo-woo? You know, like too...out there."
He laughed again. "No, it's not too...out there for me. I know a thing or two about woo-woo. Trust me."
Alina smiled. Steve was silent for a few moments. She knew him enough to wait for him to speak.
"It's just...aIl this talk about the stars...it's a little eerie."
"Well..." he hesitated. "I went into the ice at 27. And it's been 3 years since I woke up."
Alina stopped. That was eerie. Maybe there was something to this astrology thing after all. She felt a curious sensation in her chest.
"Should I stop? We can talk about something else."
"No, go on," she could hear him adjust himself on the other end. "You were saying something about being forced to push through blocks. What kind of blocks?"
Alina frowned, looking at the page. "It depends on what house your Saturn was in when you were born."
She frowned again. This astrology stuff got complicated.
"What year were you born? There's a table here that can tell you what lessons you might learn during your Saturn Return."
Holy shit. Steve was born before the roaring 20s?
Alina breathed out and searched down the table. Steve's Saturn was in Leo. When she looked at the blurb outlining the area of life his Saturn Return would challenge, her eyes widened. She felt a swirling sensation in her stomach.
"What's it say?" Steve said after a few moments.
"Um...apparently, your lessons will be around finding your voice, self-expression, and confidence."
Alina nodded wordlessly. It said a good deal more than that, but she wasn't sure she wanted to tell him the rest of it it.
"So, do you believe in this...woo-woo?" Steve asked.
Alina smiled and pushed the laptop away, grateful to have a segue-way.
"I don't know. Ara has always been into astrology which is why I even knew about a Saturn Return. I find it mildly entertaining. How about you? Do you believe in this woo-woo?"
Steve laughed again. Alina thought of the way his eyes crinkled whenever he had that lopsided grin on his face. Her heart beat faster at the thought.
"I'm not sure, but I've always loved anything to do with the stars."
"Oh, yea? How so?"
"I used to read a lot of fantasy comics growing up. That's why I started drawing, actually. I guess I liked the idea that other worlds existed. Sometimes, I would stargaze and imagine they were out there. Not just in the stories I read."
Alina smiled as she imagined a starry-eyed, young Steve looking up at the night sky.
"Do you know all the constellations?"
"No, nothing like that. But I sure thought they were pretty."
She smiled, feeling heat rush to her abdomen. God, she wanted to be next to him so badly.
"We should stargaze together sometime," she said.
"I'd like that."
She grinned, hearing him smile on the other end of the line. Steve cleared his throat.
"I should get going. It's getting late here, and I have that barbecue to attend tomorrow. I think Sam and Nat might have bought a cake to surprise me with."
Alina nodded, heart sinking.
"Ok, Steve. Goodnight. And happy birthday again."
"Goodnight, Alina. Thanks for calling. I'll let you know when I get up. Maybe we can chat again then. "
She heard a click, and the call ended. Alina sighed. She put her phone away, and her eyes wandered back to the laptop screen.
Glamour, passion, and fairy-tale romance: you want them all, but may take the long road to achieve them. A tendency to romanticize and idealize people can bring struggles in relationships. Although it may take you a while to figure out who is right for you, you could enjoy a rich and rewarding love life.*
Alina took in a deep breath. She hadn't told Steve that his Saturn Return also involved matters of the heart.
She closed the tab and opened a new one. She had been waiting for the right inspiration for a gift, and after tonight's conversation, she knew exactly what to get him. She spent the next half hour, finishing up the order before clicking the purchase button. Then, she sat and smiled to herself.
A few days later, Steve was in the conference room listening to Natasha and Rhodes give Hill a debrief from the week's latest mission.
A courier knocked at the glass door.
"I have a delivery for Captain Rogers."
He frowned. He didn't like to be interrupted while he was working.
"Please continue," he said, gesturing to the team. "I'll catch up when I get back."
He stepped outside. The courier handed him a piece of paper to sign before giving him the large, flat package that he had been holding under one arm. Steve took it and frowned. It was wrapped in nondescript brown paper.
"Any idea what this is, son?"
The courier shrugged. "The sender's address is in Singapore, but the actual product was shipped from right here in the States."
Singapore? Steve's heart skipped a beat.
The courier nodded and made his way out. Steve carried the package under one arm and walked back into the conference room. All eyes turned to him.
"Everything alright, Rogers?" Natasha asked.
"Yeah, why wouldn't it be?"
"Because you have a look on your face. Like someone told you there would be dessert after dinner," Sam said.
He felt heat rush to his cheeks. Six faces grinned back at him.
"What's in the package?" Vision asked.
He didn't answer. Natasha and Wanda exchanged knowing smiles. He cleared his throat.
"Shouldn't we be getting back to the debrief?"
"The debrief is over. It was a simple mission. We were all there," Rhodes said.
"Don't try to change the subject, Captain. We all want to know what's in the package now," Hill replied.
Steve smiled and adjusted the package under his arm, gripping it tighter.
"If the debrief is over, we should take a break. Take ten, team. I'll meet anyone interested in a pre-dinner run back here in half an hour."
Before anyone could say anything, Steve turned around and marched out the door.
"Aw, c'mon Cap!"
Steve waved his hands in goodbye and continued to walk away to the sounds of protests.
When he got to his room, he carefully laid the package on the bed and examined it. He hadn't noticed before, but there was a small note attached to the front. His heart beating, he opened with care and read it.
Happy Saturn Return. Alina.
He grinned and untied the package, eyes widening. It was a framed photo with an orb of what looked like stars. Steve looked at the inscription underneath.
THE NIGHT SKY
BROOKLYN, NY, USA
4th JULY 1918
Steve stared at the gift. It was a star map** of the sky, the night he was born. He swallowed and looked at the stars scattered across the black orb in the photo. There was a strange, twirling sensation in his stomach.
He stared at the picture for a few moments longer then, set it carefully on his table and took a step back, to look at it again. It was wondrous.
After a few minutes of silent staring, he got his phone out and called Alina. She picked up within a few rings.
"Hello?" she said. Her voice was sleepy.
"I got your gift."
"Steve," He heard her smile on the other end. He grinned. "Do you like it?"
"I love it, Alina. Thank you," he said with as much sincerity as he could.
He heard her smile and then yawn.
"What time is it in Singapore?"
"Oh, shoot. I'm so sorry. I was so excited, I thought I would give you a call. I didn't check the time first."
"It's ok," Alina said, yawning again. "I like hearing your voice first thing in the morning."
Steve smiled, his stomach fluttering. There were a few seconds of silence as he stared at the star map again. It was so beautiful.
"This is a very special gift," he said softly. "Thank you, angel."
He swore he could hear her blush at her nickname.
"You're welcome, Steve."
He wanted to say so much more to her. To tell her that he missed her. That he wished he could be there, next to her, in bed.
"I wish I could thank you, in-person," he sighed.
Steve felt a familiar feeling in his stomach.
"But we'll see each other in a few weeks," Alina offered. Her tone was hopeful.
Steve smiled, still feeling the knot in his stomach.
"Until then, you're stuck talking to me on the phone every night."
He grinned, the knot in his stomach easing a little.
"There's no one else I'd rather be stuck talking to."
He heard her smile on the other end. He looked back at the star map.
"I really like this star map, Alina." He looked at it and grabbed it in his hands, balancing his phone in between his shoulder and ear.
"I thought you might appreciate it. I knew exactly what to get you for your birthday once you confessed you were a budding astronomer."
Steve laughed. Alina was so thoughtful. He loved that about her. His heart hammered in his chest at the word his mind offered.
"I love it."
I love you. He wanted to say it but he couldn't. Shouldn't. It was too soon.
"I'm so glad you do."
There was a pause neither of them filled. Steve could hear his heart beating in his chest. Alina yawned.
"Sorry about that. I had Ara over for dinner last night, and we stayed up way past our bedtime."
Steve smiled. "You should try to get some more sleep. I'll let you go."
"I won't say no to that. 5am wake-up calls on Saturday mornings are brutal. Even if it is your hot boyfriend on the other line."
Boyfriend. He liked the term. Steve grinned. "Goodnight Alina."
"Don't you mean good morning?"
"Good morning, Alina."
She giggled and yawned again. Steve felt his chest expand at the sound.
"Good morning, Steve."
There was the same pause again. Steve swallowed the lump forming in his throat.
"Ok, I'll let you go. I'm sure you have things to do. I'm going to crash until at least 10 hopefully."
"Goodbye. Have a good rest."
He heard her end the call. Steve stared at his phone and breathed out. He looked back up at the star map, a curious knot forming in his stomach. He stood up, taking it with him and placed it carefully on the table. He needed to find a place for it in his room.
He looked around the room, and his eyes fell on the wall opposite his bed. Perfect.
Later that night, after dinner, he mounted the star map on the wall. Steve sat on his bed and stared at it, eyes dancing across the stars in the photograph. He grabbed his phone and brought up his text conversation with Alina. It was 9 pm. She said she would wake at 10.
Found a place for the star map.
There was no response, so he typed another message out.
It's on the wall opposite my bed so I can look at it every night before I sleep.
He stared at the phone. Still no response. He put his phone down and reached for his notebook. He took out the drawing of Alina. God, she was beautiful. Her eyes were so intense in the picture. He swallowed, feeling a roiling feeling in his stomach. His phone buzzed. He reached for it and read the text.
Hey you. Good morning.
I managed to sleep in until 9. That counts as something right?
There was a pause.
Send me a picture of where you put the star map.
Steve took a picture from his phone and hit send. Alina's reply came seconds later.
That's a great place for it.
Another text came in a few moments later.
Are you in bed?
There was a pause. Alina seemed busy. Steve went back to his notebook and opened a new page to doodle.
What are you wearing?
Steve frowned, looking at the message.
Another message popped up instantly.
He furrowed his eyebrows.
Just something I'm sleeping in tonight.
Another long pause. He doodled.
I had a dream about you last night.
Steve stared at the message. Alina was definitely up to something.
A question mark in a box popped up on his screen.
What did you just send? I got a weird image on my end.
Her reply came quickly.
Oops. I forgot you had an Android. nvm.
He frowned at the screen. What the heck was NVM supposed to mean? The answer came quickly.
nvm. never mind.
He adjusted himself and put his phone down. He went back to the drawing. There were no other messages from Alina. He breathed out after a few minutes, looked at his phone and typed a reply.
What was your dream about?
He put his phone back down. The reply came after a few moments.
We were in bed making love.
Steve stared at the text. What was he supposed to do with that? Another text came in.
I wish I was next to you right now.
Then I could see you.
And touch you.
Great. He looked down to see himself start to get excited. He shifted on his bed. What could he say?
Is this what people call sexting?
More question marks in boxes.
Oops. Those were smiling, crying face emojis.
This is what us young' uns call sexting.
He grinned and adjusted himself. His erection tingled at his touch.
I'm not sure if I like it.
There was an instant response.
Why don't you give it a try?
Tell me what you'd do to me if I was in bed with you right now.
His mind went to a million different places at once. He knew exactly what he would do to her. But writing it all down in text? He swallowed, mouth dry, settling on something innocent.
I'd kiss you.
He adjusted himself. He was getting hard.
I have a problem here.
Are you alright? Do you need to leave?
Steve texted back quickly.
The problem is in my pants.
Alina's reply was instant.
I'd like to see that problem.
Steve swallowed again and adjusted himself.
His eyes almost bulged out. Was she asking for a picture of his erection? He breathed in.
I can't do that.
:( Why not?
He couldn't stop himself from grinning. Alina was persistent if nothing else.
I draw the line at pictures.
There was no reply for a few minutes and then an image asking to be downloaded popped up. He clicked the box, and his eyes bulged out of his skull.
Alina was in bed, hair messy. Eyes to the side, biting her lip. It would have been an innocent enough picture except for the cleavage that was showing in her low cut silk top. Steve sucked in a deep breath. His erection was pressing itself against his pants now.
Still draw the line at pictures?
Another image popped up. Steve clicked on it before he could stop himself.
This time, Alina was lying on her stomach in bed, elbows propped up, legs crossed. She was looking directly into the camera, a sexy smile on her face. Her cleavage was on full display now, and he could see the outline of her ass through the long silk nightgown in the picture. Was that what she wore to bed?
Steve breathed out. His erection complained at the lack of attention.
I don't know what to do with these.
Still got that problem in your pants?
He looked down. Yes, there was very much, so still a problem.
Keep the pictures for reference and take care of yourself.
I have to go to work. Orchestra practice this morning.
Steve stared at the message. She was just going to up and leave after sending him those scandalous photos?
Tell me how it goes.
Steve breathed in. There it was. Alina had just told him to masturbate to her pictures. He swallowed and stared at her messages. Then, he scrolled back to her pictures and reached into his pants.
"How was it?"
Steve grinned, hearing Alina's voice on the phone. It was 8 hours later. He had rubbed himself raw, staring at the pictures she had given him while recalling the sensations of being inside her. The sleep he had afterward was blissful.
"Only satisfactory? I need to try harder next time."
He grinned. "How was orchestra practice?"
"It was fine. The conductor was kind of cranky today. I'm just glad to be home now."
He listened as the doors to her elevator pinged. He smiled, recalling the last time he was there. He looked at the star map, hanging on the wall.
"Next time you're in town, I'd like to take you out on a date," he said.
He heard her smile.
"I'd like that. I'll fly in a day early so we can spend some time together."
He grinned. He was counting down the days until he could see Alina next. He looked at the clock, and his heart sank.
"I have to go now, angel," he heard her sigh. "I need to get ready for my run with Sam."
"Say hi to Sam for me."
"I'll text you before I go to bed."
"Ok. Oh and Alina?"
"Those pictures you sent me? I'll repay you with one of your own soon."
With that, he ended the call. A text came in immediately.
You cannot leave me hanging like that.
I'm Captain America. I can do pretty much whatever I want.
Oh, that's how it is.
There was a short pause.
You play hardball. I like it.
Steve grinned and put his phone down. He went about getting ready for his run — breakfast and a shower were the most important things. When he checked his phone an hour later, Alina had sent another picture. He clicked on it without thinking and immediately regretted it.
She was lying sideways on her bed, with just a lacy bra on. Steve felt heat rise in his body as he looked at her full breasts and smooth stomach. There was an accompanying text.
It's on, Rogers.