That first date had unexpectedly been wonderful. Having been set up, you didn’t know what to expect beforehand. Of course you knew who he was. There wasn’t a soul in the world that did not know Captain America. His celebrity had made you incredibly nervous. Why would someone like him, go out with someone like you? Wouldn’t he want someone more flashy? Adventurous?
There were so many questions that swirled around in your head and there were no answers for them. They weren’t yours to answer.
Maria had promised you that it would be fine. Which would have eased some of your fears if you hadn’t known her as well as you did. She tended to say that about everything.
World falling apart? It would be fine.
Aliens attacking New York? It would be fine, the right people were on it.
Trusting her judgement might have gotten a tad harder, after you needed to be saved from a crumbling building during the attack on New York.
That didn’t stop her firm belief that all would work itself out, it never faltered. And as a pessimist, having a friend with such rock solid faith was nice. She always knew just what to say to you, to make things seem less daunting.
Same went for this semi blind date. She had helped you pick an outfit and made sure your confidence was boosted by the time he came to pick you up. And having around for the initial contact was good too. She easily broke the tension with her pragmatic attitude.
“Steve, timely as always.” Those were her first words upon opening the door for him. You chuckled, knowing there was nothing sarcastic about them either. She valued punctuality. It had taken her some time to accept your ability to always cutting it short.
Maria stepped aside, allowing Steve entry into the apartment. She then quickly introduced you, since you hadn’t actually met before. And then she swiftly waved you off.
“Have fun, you two” she said, pretending to be a mother waving off her kids. Including a handkerchief to catch the tears as she watched her only daughter go off. Tension was a thing of the past then. Laughing you both waved goodbye. Maria really was a good friend to have.
Steve led you to his car that was parked in front of the building. Chivalrous as he was, he held open the door for you. The first of many gallant acts he bestowed on you. It was nice, refreshing. Maria had joked that your old soul would mash well with his actual old age and somehow you agreed with her now. There was no awkwardness in accepting his courtly behaviour, he managed a healthy balance between that and modern standards.
Soon you found that his chivalry wasn’t the best part of him. He was funny. As the captain he was often viewed as strict, somewhat stoic and a true do-gooder. Steve however was a different story. He had his strong opinions, though there was little stoic behaviour present. He was even slightly mischievous.
The date flowed well, conversation came easily. There was lots of laughter and at the end of the night, you felt like you had truly gotten to know one another.
A second date was planned in rapid succession and it was rather similar. Conversations grew a little deeper as a connection quickly grew. He made you laugh so hard you cried and made you feel safe and comfortable. Not always such an easy feat.
Still it wasn’t until the third date that you finally dared bring up your health. Or more accurately, your health problems. You almost chickened out, wondering just how he would react. Last time he had mentioned his love for running and hiking, wondering if you liked it as well. You had been as honest as you could, without mentioning your issues just yet.
You had told him that running had never been your thing, but you did love hiking. Quickly adding that you rarely had the opportunity to do so. Steve had been quick to promise he would take you hiking sometime.
You should have told him then and there, but it was hard. A difficult subject to breech, at least for you. It wasn’t something you spoke off often, since you were still busy coming to terms with it. However, you felt now that it was necessary to inform him. If it was something he would struggle with, it would be easier to walk away from this now, than it would be in a few weeks. He was far to charming and had been tugging at your heartstrings already. The longer this went on, the harder it would be to end.
Which was why, for that third date, you had invited him to your home. Show him your love for cooking and hoping that could win him over once he knew more about your disease.
It had been two years since you got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic illness, and it hadn’t been easy. Initially you had felt liberated by the diagnosis. After years of feeling sick it had been nice to know what was wrong. It had given you something to work on, a way to make you feel better.
You could still see the doctors face as he regarded your expression, trying to read your response. In all those years, not one of your previous doctors had even thought of this. It had been a shock. Especially since there was only one person that had this disease and upon his diagnosis, he looked rather close to death. As if he was already standing with one foot in the grave. Surely with the right medication he had gotten much better, but that image of his sunk in cheeks and hollow eyes was still the first thing that came to mind.
It had not been similar to your case at all. There had been no massive weight loss or ten bathroom breaks an hour. For you it had been mostly fatigue. Extreme fatigue, a bloated stomach, painful joints and infections all throughout your body. There was so much pain and to took so long before medication calmed it all down. Still the fatigue never left you, nor the painful joints.
It had made dating a daunting task, creating a period of several years in which you simply avoided it all together. That was why Maria had been setting you up, she wanted you too embrace life again. To fully live. Steve had not been the first guy she set you up with. It had been the first one to be successful though. He had been sweeping you off your feet from the moment you’d met.
And telling him now, was the scariest thing you had done in a long while.
You’d spend the day leading up to the dinner as a nervous wreck. You had woken up early, unable to find any rest or some piece of mind. This meant that by the time Steve came around, you had already been beyond tired. And the kind of tired that made you emotional, which was great, just marvellous.
Terrified of how he’d react, you knew you’d be crying before the first word would have left your mouth. That was a sure way to make things even harder and it would definitely be dramatic. What would Steve think if he saw you crying? He’d probably think of worse things. All you could do was hope that you’d keep the tears at bay long enough for the words to come out first. Explaining tears of stress was much easier to do after the message was shared.
Upon his arrival it didn’t take Steve long to notice your discomfort. Still you did not tell him immediately. For in your mind there had been a plan. Dinner, dessert and then talking. And in your exhausted state it felt incredibly important to stick to the schedule. But you couldn’t focus on the conversation and more then once Steve needed to repeat the words he had spoken. That wasn’t like you and he had figured that out already.
Finally, after the umpteenth time, he dropped his fork and moved around the table to squat beside you. Taking your hand in his, he caressed it gently, asking you to tell him whatever was bothering you. Pressing that whatever it was, he wanted to help you.
The kindness of his gesture was enough to spill the tears of exhaustion and you laughed an apology as you wiped them away. This was not really going your way, he hadn’t eaten enough of your pasta to have fallen in love with it yet. And your blubbering must have looked incredibly strange to the wonderful man next to you.
“I’m sorry, I’m just really tired” you began, still trying to wave off his concern, but Steve immediately figured there was more too it and asked you to open up to him.
“It’s not that big a deal, I just…” you promised, though your voice cracked with emotion, making it hard to believe. Even you could see that.
“Just what?” His voice was soft as he spoke and his fingers were still caressing your hand.
“There was something I wanted to tell you tonight and I’ve just been so nervous” you finally offered.
“Why?” He seemed surprised, confused and you couldn’t blame him. No subject had been taboo yet. The two of you had been able to talk about anything. Almost anything.
“It’s stupid really” you tried to laugh it off again, a nervous tick you never had been able to shake. As soon as things got serious or in any way emotional, you cracked a joke or laughed about it.
“Then tell me”
“I’m sick.” Well that sounded far more dramatic than you intended. “I have a chronic illness and it just has not been the right time to tell, but it also felt like you needed to know” your words came out rushed and you barely looked at him as you spewed them out.
“Okay” he said, seemingly letting it sink in, “Care to tell me what it is?”
“Crohn’s” you sighed. There was no way to romanticise an auto immune disease that manifested itself in your intestines.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know much about it,” he offered honestly, having the good sense to mimic your serious expression.
“That’s okay,” you smiled, figuring out the best way to explain a disease like this. “It’s an autoimmune disease. Causing my body to basically fight itself”
“Oh wow” it appeared to you that he didn’t know what to say and though technically it could mean anything, it worried you more than you liked to admit.
“Yeah,” you sighed again, “it’s- it’s not stable and in return I am always tired. Which is why I’ve been so aloof when it comes to your hiking plans.”
“That’s okay,” He was quick to say, obviously trying to ease your nerves, “You don’t owe me an explanation for that.”
“But I feel like I do,” you pressed, looking him in the eye as you tried to make him understand what this meant, for you and perhaps for him, “Because you’re an active guy and right now, I can’t be a partner in that, perhaps I never will be again. You need to understand that.”
“I..”he swallowed, “I understand.”
“So, if that is a dealbreaker, just…no hard feelings,” you offered, trying to put on a brave face and smiling his way. Though your eye contact was lacking again. There was a small silence that followed in which you looked down at your still entwined hands. He was probably thinking of a nice way to turn you down. A way to walk away from here without losing face. You’d understand. You were still coming to terms with being sick yourself, you couldn’t expect others to get there easily. And unlike you, he was able to walk away from this. He deserved the opportunity to do so.
“You thought that could be a dealbreaker?” He finally whispered and you looked up at him. He was smiling kindly at you.
“ You never know. Friends have walked away for less,” You shrugged simply, not willing to get into that just now.
“ I’m sorry to hear that” he said, standing up and pulling you with him, “But I’m not going anywhere just yet.”
He pulled you into his arms, embracing you tightly as if to show you the truth to his words. You knew he would need time to really let the information sink in. And there would be more conversations. Where you would have to explain all the consequences this disease had on your life and by emend on his, if he really did stay. But for now, you had been honest and he had been a real gentleman about it. That was enough for the time being. He didn’t run.
Somewhere in the back of your mind, you were already worrying about other conversation you’d have to have with him still. How having children might be harder, though it might not be. How an inflammation of the disease could render you practically useless. How there would be a lifetime of medication and surgery. This was a life sentence and that was hard to explain to someone that didn’t have to deal with it.
You knew those conversations needed to be had, but you didn’t need to overwhelm him with everything all at once. There would be time for that later. If the two of you would share a future, those conversation would come. And perhaps, by then you’d have a better grasp on it all yourself.
“Y/n,” Steve whispered as he gently swayed you to music only he seemed to hear.
“Yeah?” You wondered, afraid to move, infer of breaking this wonderful moment.
“I’m with you, you know that, right?”
You pulled back slightly, looking at his face. He seemed so serious, sincere. He really wanted to let you know he wasn’t walking and your heart stuttered as a smile formed on your face. Reaching up you gently placed your lips on his, answering his kindness with the only thing that seemed to convey the emotions you felt.