"Its a date."
"It is NOT a date."
"It IS a date."
Grace sighed while glaring in the mirror at the person lounging on her bed. Or at least she tried to. One eye was closed as eye shadow was being brushed on. It only ended up in her looking like she was squinting. Living in the Avengers tower was like living in a small town. Everyone knew everyone's business. It's how Grace found a grinning Natasha Romanoff at her door an hour ago with Clint and Lucky in tow. Despite her numerous protests she could get ready for her dinner with Steve all by herself, Natasha wouldn't hear any of it. It's why she was sitting in a chair while Clint did her make up. Natasha had a selection of outfits laid out for her and was now stretched out over Grace's bed with Lucky.
"You don't think I haven't heard this from Sam already?" Grace tried to switch tactics. No matter what she said, everyone was convinced this was a date. Sam had already been over that morning, teasing her mercilessly about it. The only reason she had taken it so well is that Bucky had been talkative in the first session Grace pushed him about some of his memories. Grace had given Bucky some of the notes she'd gone over with Steve. The memories had prompted him to open up a little, not much. Grace was thrilled with the tiny step of progress.
"I know you've heard this from Sam, I've been actively encouraging him to make sure Rogers is dressed appropriately for tonight," Natasha quipped. "You picked a fancy steak house and he needs to learn to dress like someone from this century."
"I picked a steak house that said it has the biggest steaks in New York," Grace ignored the dig at Steve's way of dressing. Grace didn't care if he showed up in cargo shorts and a t-shirt. "Nothing more."
"You should wear the red dress," Natasha urged, leaning over to scratch Lucky's ears. The dog huffed in his sleep, stretching his legs before settling down again. "You have the boobs for it."
In front of Grace, Clint laughed quietly under his breath. Grace was grateful he wasn't injecting his opinion into the matter. Though she was still very surprised at his offer to do her make up for tonight. The pair of assassin's had certainly made her feel very welcome.
"So, where did you learn to do makeup?" Grace asked, hoping to steer the conversation into neutral territory. She had been leaning more towards the knee length black dress for tonight. It looked more business-like and less 'Wow look at my boobs' type of dress.
"I grew up in the circus," Clint's voice was slightly muffled with the eyeliner in his mouth. "The ladies always liked having a steady hand around."
"And he liked having an excuse to see them all in their underwear, especially when he was a teenager," Natasha put in, earning her a dirty look from her partner. "What?"
"If it makes you feel better, Sam got suspended in high school for setting up a camera in the girl's locker room," Grace struggled to hold back her amusement. "It was quite the scandal at the time."
That earned her a round of laughter from the pair. Grace was still surprised this was actually happening. Out of all the people to knock on her door, these two were the least expected. Grace had a feeling this was more than helping her out. She felt like this was almost like a mission and they were gathering intel on her. Grace wasn't offended though. It had been their life watching and manipulating people, seeing what made them tick. Regardless of their motives, Grace was very grateful for the help and the friendship she was being shown.
The conversation drifted in and out of unimportant things as Clint finished her make up. Grace was very impressed with the subtle but sexy look he'd gone for. The smokey eye and shade of red lipstick wasn't something she'd pick for herself. But she had to admit, it worked very well. Grace picked up the black dress of the back of the chair and took a step towards the bathroom.
"You aren't going to a funeral." The displeasure was clear in Natasha's voice. She'd thrown the black dress over the chair earlier in hopes Grace would ignore it. "Come and pick out something more appropriate."
"This is appropriate," Grace argued, clutching the dress to her chest. "It's not a date."
"It's a classy restaurant in which you are taking an attractive man, more importantly, he's Captain America and will most definitely get recognized," Natasha argued back. She got up off the bed and picked up a red cocktail dress and a deep green halter neck dress. "You need to look your best."
The thought hadn't crossed Grace's mind about going out with someone who was a superhero. The Avengers had the celebrity status of movie stars. No doubt they were going to attract a lot of attention. A woman going to dinner with Captain America was going to create a stir, whether Grace wanted it to or not.
"Red one." Grace held out her hand for the requested dress. "I like it better than the green. I need jewelry too."
"I have the perfect earrings," Natasha said excitedly, handing the dress over as she got up. "Go get dressed. I'll be back."
Natasha bounced off the bed and out of the room. Lucky raised his head to follow his mistress, but soon put his head back down and went back to sleep. Grace smiled at the dog and then over to his owner as well.
"I really appreciate this," Grace said, holding the dress to her chest. Nerves fluttered in her stomach, despite telling herself and everyone else this was not a date.
"This is what we do," Clint gave her a smile, walking over to the bed to sit on the edge. Lucky woke up long enough to rest his head on Clint's leg before going back to sleep. "Go, get dressed. Steve is ridiculously punctual. In fact, he's probably standing at his door wondering if he should head down early and stand in front of your door awkwardly."
Grace took his advice and went into the bathroom. She already had her chosen underwear on under her robe so it was a simple case of pulling on the dress. It was a slinky dress and clung to everything, making Grace feel a little self-conscious of all the good food she'd been eating lately. She flicked her straightened red hair around her face, letting it fall in soft waves. Staring at herself in the mirror only made her nerves grow.
"Okay," Grace blew out a long breath. "Come on Grace. You look awesome girl and this is not a date. You've got this."
The reflection staring back at her looked a lot more confident that Grace was feeling. But she gave her hair one last pat before going back out into the bedroom. Clint had gone into the kitchen, Grace could hear him shuffling around. But Lucky still hadn't moved. If he wasn't breathing, she'd be wondering if he was dead. Whoever took Lucky for a run this morning must have worn him out completely. The pair of black heels were very impractical, but Grace knew she wasn't going to be walking far. At 5'6, she needed the extra height around Steve. As she sat down on the bed next to Lucky to do the strap up, Natasha came back into the room with 2 Tiffany boxes.
"Is this the part where you tell me if I lose them you'll maim me?" Grace joked as she took the offered boxes. Opening the longer of the two, Grace couldn't stop her small start of surprise. The glittering diamond bracelet looked like it cost more than her education.
"It's not me you have to worry about, it's Pepper," Natasha explained. "Then again, I've had these for 6 months and she said she'd forgotten about them. Tony buys her a ridiculous amount of jewelry."
Grace gingerly took the delicate bracelet out of the box. It was a simple design, a gold bracelet with diamonds on the individual links.
"Good thing I have Captain America with me." Grace put the bracelet on her wrist and held it out to Natasha to do up. The tiny clasp looked like it would snap if someone breathed on it the wrong way. Grace didn't want to be the one testing that theory. "This looks like it would have paid off all of my student debt."
"I'm sure there's jewellery upstairs that would run a small country for a year," Natasha said dryly, doing up the clasp with nimble fingers. "I've been around rich people before, but never of Stark's magnitude. But he does good things with his money these days."
Grace nodded in understanding as she reached for the smaller of the 2 boxes. Stark Industries had become the leader in medical technology ever since they had stopped making weapons. Grace had seen some of the new technology at medical conferences. Some of it made even the grimmest of surgeons excited like kids at Christmas.
The earrings matched the bracelet. Simple drop earrings with diamonds. There was a bit of effort to get them into the holes. Grace had seen one too many accidents involving psychiatric patients and earrings to wear them during work. Once the earrings were in and her shoes were on, Natasha gave Grace a small nod.
"Now you look ready to go to dinner with Captain America." Natasha was extremely pleased with herself.
"Going to dinner with Steve Rogers is perfectly fine too," Grace knew her argument would be ignored but she said it anyway. She looked in the full-length mirror in her bedroom and found herself nodding in approval. Natasha was right, she looked fantastic despite her earlier reservations.
"Yes, but the public doesn't see him as Steve Rogers," Natasha pointed out. "Don't be surprised if you get snapped by paparazzi. They've been relentless since SHIELD fell, especially when it comes to Steve."
"Hence why I look so good." Grace's earlier suspicions were confirmed as she swept her hand over her outfit. "Thank you for your help."
"It's what we do." Natasha brushed off Grace's praise. "Come have a pre-dinner drink that I'm sure Clint is mixing up."
On cue, the blender in the kitchen started up briefly. The gleeful look on Natasha's face made Grace wonder if she was about to regret having the pre-dinner drinks. She dutifully followed Natasha into the kitchen and found Clint pouring a toxic looking green drink into cocktail glasses. On the bench was an assortment of liquor bottles, far more than Grace would have thought necessary for one drink.
"I have to walk in these heels you know." Grace looked at the cocktail doubtfully.
"I'll tone yours down with Sprite," Clint promised. "Where's my dog?"
Grace pointed back to the bedroom where Lucky was still snoring. She doubted he'd move unless he had to.
"Sorry." Clint gave Grace an apologetic look before turning back to the cocktails. "I promise he's clean and doesn't have fleas. Thor took him for a walk this morning. I'm pretty sure they walked the entire island of Manhattan. Here you go."
Clint turned back around and offered Grace the glass. It didn't look any less green, but the soda in it seemed to dull the alcohol smell down. Grace took a doubtful sip, half expecting to get alcohol poisoning from it. But to her surprise, it tasted fruity and not at all alcoholic.
"I feel like this could be very bad if I have more than one." Grace took another sip. "This tastes like you'd have 6 of them and then forget how to walk."
Any reply from Clint was cut off by a knock at the door. A second later JARVIS' voice came from the ceiling.
"Captain Rogers is standing at the door," JARVIS announced.
"Let him in please JARVIS." Grace ignored the knowing looks sent in her direction. Grace wondered if he had been standing at the door feeling awkward like Natasha had said earlier. She didn't have time to ponder on it too long. The door swung open and Steve was standing there in the doorway.
The first thing Grace noticed was how incredibly good Steve looked. He was dressed in a casual suit without a tie. The navy blue suit and a very light blue shirt looked immaculate on him. He was clean shaven and expensive cologne tickled Grace's nose from across the room. A few butterflies that had nothing to do with being nervous erupted in Grace's stomach. Steve looked nervous standing in the doorway.
"Hi," Grace said, lifting her drink in his direction to deflect her own attention away from the butterflies. "Do you want one of Barton's toxic cocktails before we go?"
The nervous tension Steve had been holding disappeared at Grace's question. A smile came to his face, which did nothing for Grace's butterflies. There was something about a good looking man in a sharp cut suit that always got to her.
"No thanks." Steve walked into the room, eyeing off the drink in Grace's hand. "Barton, are these the drinks that made Natasha throw up off your balcony on movie night?"
"You said we would never talk about that again," Natasha called from the kitchen. Grace turned to see a scowl on Natasha's face while she was glaring daggers at Clint. "I wasn't the only one throwing up either."
"We had food poisoning from that horrible street vendor you insisted we eat it," Clint said leveling a scowl straight back at her. "I was sick for a week because you insisted that you had to have that Brazilian barbecue meat."
Grace smothered back her laughter by taking another sip of her drink as the pair continued to squabble over whether Clint was drunk or sick.
"So, was he drunk or sick?" Grace turned to Steve to sort the argument out. Not that Clint and Natasha were paying attention to either one of them.
"I'm sure it was both," Steve said with a small chuckle. "Everyone who was there that night had a week off work from food poisoning. But we all drank a lot that night. You look very nice."
"You have Natasha and Clint to thank for that." Grace deflected the praise, feeling her cheeks heat in pleasure at the compliment. "You look very nice too."
"You have Sam to thank for that," Steve said with mild exasperation. "I feel like we got ganged up on."
"I think so too," Grace laughed, taking another long swig of the drink. "Do you get the feeling we weren't trusted to dress ourselves?"
"No, you weren't." Natasha cut into their conversation. "You two need to get going. Do I need to give you a curfew?"
Natasha teasing was aimed more in Steve's direction than Grace. Steve rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to make a comment. But Clint beat him to it.
"11pm kids and don't be late," Clint said, wagging a finger at both of them. "Call us when you get there so we know you arrived safely. Do you need anything? Breath mints? Spare condoms?"
"Okay, we're going." Grace put her half-finished drink down, shooting Clint an exasperated look. "You're an asshole, Barton."
"I'm just being helpful," came Clint's cheeky reply as he put his hands up in surrender. "Have fun."
Grace rolled her eyes at the heavily lanced innuendo Clint threw at them. She grabbed her coat that was already thrown over the back of the sofa.
"I'm taking this for the road." Grace changed her mind and picked up the still half full cocktail glass. "And leaving before you kill both of us from embarrassment. Be helpful and eat the rest of the tiramisu in the fridge so I don't get any fatter than I already am."
Grace tried to make a show of storming out the door looking like she was embarrassed. But she found herself fighting back a smile that the two master assassins would have seen from a mile away. Steve was a step behind her and both of them were silent until they came to the elevator.
"I feel like I should apologize for them." Steve turned to Grace, his own amusement clear on his face. "But this is their way of showing they care."
"I don't doubt it's also their way of analyzing my every movement and manipulating me into doing things their way," Grace said with no malice at all. "Hence the red dress."
"Natasha is a steamroller," Steve said with an apologetic smile. "Once she gets it into her head something must be done a certain way, there's no stopping her."
The elevator opened with a ding. Steve stepped aside, motioning for Grace to go first.
"This is where I apologize for Sam probably doing the exact same thing to you." Grace stepped into the elevator. She pushed the button for the basement level. Sam had already organised a car and driver for them this evening, despite Grace insisting she would be fine in a taxi. It's one thing Sam hadn't backed down on. "He looked far too gleeful when I told him to get out of my apartment this morning."
"For once, I was very glad of Tony's instance that we all needed bespoke suits," Steve said with a grin in response. He motioned to the well-fitting suit hugging his muscular form. "Sam didn't have to take me to do any last second shopping."
"Do you ever get the feeling our friends are reading into dinner far too much?" Grace felt herself grin as well. Despite their friends meddling, Grace was looking forward to their dinner together. Steve seemed more at ease than she thought he would be.
"Yes," Steve answered near instantly with a small laugh. "I fully expect to find Natasha in my apartment when we get back wanting a full debrief like this is a mission."
"Me too." Grace shook her head, though she was still smiling. She took another drink of her cocktail. "Is this normal for them?"
"Only to people they decide to trust," Steve said with a flicker of sadness across his face. "After the Battle of New York when I got back to DC, I had no one. Then Natasha shows up on my doorstep that night announcing we're having a pizza night and wouldn't take no for an answer. She introduced me to some of the Bravo team STRIKE guys who were there. All of a sudden I had a social life thrust upon me and I was too busy to be lonely."
"That doesn't sound like a bad thing." Grace gave Steve a gentle smile. The elevator opened making Grace jump in surprise. She had barely felt it go down. As Sam promised earlier, the car was already waiting for them. As much as she wanted to dive into asking Steve a few thousand questions about that time in his life, Grace kept herself restrained. For now.
"Not at all." The smile on Steve's face was completely genuine this time. "She's a good friend."
Steve stepped towards the car first and opened the back door for Grace. She had to stop herself short so she didn't run into the now open car door. Grace was glad her cocktail was nearly empty now. It could have made a mess on her dress. She'd forgotten about it during their brief trip in the elevator.
"The men of my generation could take a few lessons from you on manners." Grace quickly recovered with another smile. "Is it you I'm thanking for Sam's newfound manners of opening the door for me and pulling out my chair?"
"Be careful," Steve said in a warning tone. The serious tone in his voice was completely voided with his blue eyes sparkling with mischief. "You may hear what Tony like's to call my Captain America rants. It's why I'm not allowed to have Twitter."
Grace laughed so hard she could barely breathe as she climbed into the car.
The drive to the restaurant was a slow crawl. Grace barely noticed it as she chatted with Steve about his day and how her session with Bucky went. Though there wasn't much progress, Grace was excited to share the tiny steps they were making.
The driver managed to find a park right in front of the Old Homestead Steak House. Grace took Steve's offered hand as she climbed out of the car.
"Thank you." Grace quickly smoothed the imaginary creases in her dress out. It was warm enough she was able to leave her coat in the car, along with the now finished cocktail. "Shall we?"
Grace was painfully aware of the attention the two of them drew as they made it the 10 steps from the sidewalk into the front door of the restaurant. Steve had lost the few days worth of beard on his face and it was unmistakable who it was. Grace was suddenly very glad for Natasha's insistence she look her best.
"Hello, do you have a reservation?" The hostess at the door asked. As she looked up, the hostess froze like a deer caught in headlights.
"Yes, Dr Anderson for 7pm," Grace said smoothly, ignoring the woman gaping at Steve. "May we get a table at the back, somewhere private please?"
"Of course." The hostess went 7 different shades of red. She hastily grabbed 2 menus and without checking for the reservation led them to a table in the back corner.
Grace shared an amused look with Steve as the hostess bustled around them once they were seated. The poor woman was so flustered by Steve's presence she dropped their napkins twice and had to go back to get the wine and drinks menu from the front.
"I'm sorry." Steve apologized as soon as the hostess was out of earshot. He motioned to his cleanly shaved face. "I usually keep the beard but this place felt too fancy to not shave."
"Don't apologize, Natasha did warm me this might happen," Grace said with a small shrug. She picked up the menu, slightly glad for looking at it online first. Despite the healthy bank account, Grace still inwardly grimaced at some of the prices. She put down the menu and picked up the wine menu instead. "Do you drink anything specifically?"
"Only what Pepper puts in front of me." Steve looked over the top of his menu at Grace. "It doesn't affect me and I honestly can't tell the difference unless it's white or red."
The last part was said rather sheepishly, making Grace laugh a little.
"Have you found anything that affects you at all?" Grace asked curiously. The wine list prices weren't making her feel much better. Her curiosity was piqued at Steve's honest answer.
"Thor has some liquor from Asgard that makes me feel somewhat drunk." Steve's face scrunched up at the memory. "It doesn't last long and the taste is not worth the hour buzz I get from it. I'll drink whatever you're having though. I enjoy the taste even if it does nothing."
Their waiter interrupted anything further Grace was going to ask. Unlike the hostess, the waitress was cool and professional. Though she did stare a little longer than necessary at Steve.
"Can I get you drinks to start with?" The waitress asked, pen poised above her notepad.
"A bottle of whatever you recommend in a white," Grace said with a lot more confidence than she was feeling. The wine list was rather overwhelming. "With 2 glasses. I'll have a bread basket too please."
The waitress nodded and disappeared to get their order.
"You are the first person I've been with who doesn't bombard me with questions about my transformation," Steve's question made Grace look up from the menu. "The few times I've been set up on dates it is unbelievably awkward because they all want to know the old stories or about Captain America."
Grace felt her heart ache for the man in front of her. It had been 3 years since New York and the world finding out Captain America was back from the dead. She couldn't begin to imagine how hard it was for him.
"I'm curious but I'm more interested in Steve Rogers," Grace said, putting her menu down. She inwardly winced at her wording, hoping it wasn't coming across like she was flirting. " He's far more interesting than Captain America."
It could have been the light, but Grace swore she saw Steve's cheeks turn a very faint shade of pink.
"What about you?" Steve changed the subject. Looking at the menu was long forgotten as Grace raised an eyebrow in surprise. "I've talked so much about myself but I feel like I barely know you."
The waitress came back with the bottle of wine and bread basket before Grace could say anything. It only took a minute to pour the glasses and disappear again. It didn't take a genius to notice neither of them were ready to order.
"Ask away." Grace took another look at the menu and gave up a second later. There were too many choices and the man across from her was far more interesting than debating about food.
"So why psychiatry?" Steve's question wasn't a surprise. Grace had been asked it plenty of times.
"I've always been interested in the human mind, seeing what make's people tick," Grace said with a fond smile. "My major originally was psychology and then I did a few biology and anatomy subjects. I was really good at them and my anatomy professor suggested I sit the MCAT."
"MCAT?" Steve was enthralled in the conversation. He hadn't taken his eyes off Grace while she'd been talking.
"Medical College Admissions Test," Grace explained. "I got a really good score and decided I had nothing to lose. I applied to University of Michigan and Yale. Got into Michigan and there was never a doubt in my mind I wanted to do psychiatry. Even through all my rotations as an intern, nothing else grabbed my interest like this does. Though neurology was coming a very close second for a little bit."
"Nothing else caught your eye?" Steve asked curiously. "No wanting to be an astronaut or anything like that?"
The last part was said as a gentle tease making Grace grin.
"I did go through a Princess, Ice Capades skater, cowgirl, veterinarian and baker stage," Grace said, her grin growing at the ease of the conversation. "It was usually all in one week too. My mom always said I was the most indecisive child she ever knew until I hit college anyway."
"Because snotty noses are gross, right?" Steve said lightly, making Grace laugh.
"They sure are. In my circle of friends, I'm about the only childless one left. Besides Sam that is. I love kids but as soon as they start with bodily functions I'm happy to hand them back. What about you?"
"I love kids," Steve admitted, almost shyly. "Back when they had me doing the Captain America shows to sell war bonds, people would always hand me their babies for photos. I was always glad to hand them back if they cried or did any sort of bodily function though."
"I've seen those photos." Grace couldn't help but say. "They tend to do the rounds on social media quite a bit."
"You can probably thank, or blame, Pepper for that," Steve said, still smiling. "She has an entire team handling all the social media."
"Because you're banned from Twitter?" Grace teased, reaching over to take a sip of wine. The white was a perfect blend. Like the earlier cocktail, it went down quite easily.
"At least I'm not the only one. Tony is banned too.." Steve laughed. "Barton is allowed to keep his YouTube channel as long as he doesn't troll people in the comments."
"Barton has a YouTube channel?" Grace had to resist the urge to pull her phone out to have a look. "I'm guessing it's all cool trick arrow shooting?"
"Some of it." Steve reached over to the bread basket and took one of the pieces out of it. "A lot of it is him teaching archery from scratch. It's got some ridiculous following of millions of people. I'm pretty sure Natasha trolls the comments section though."
The waitress coming up interrupted Grace's laughter. Beside the waitress was one of the chefs who looked positively giddy as he came up to the table.
"Excuse the interruption," the waitress said smoothly. "But this is our head chef, Stanley."
"Pleasure to meet you," Steve's tone went from the teasing jest with Grace to serious and professional within a second. He stood up and shook the chef's hand. "This is Dr Grace Anderson, she's our new team psychiatrist."
Grace felt flattered than Steve had instantly introduced her. Stanley's attention shifted over towards her. He held out his hand with a warm smile. Grace found herself returning the smile and the handshake.
"Pleasure," Stanley said, shaking Grace's hand as vigorously as he had done with Steve. As they both sat back down, Stanley continued to speak."I wanted to come out personally to see if I can help either of you with your dinner tonight. It's such an honor to have you here, Captain."
"Grace?" Steve turned to her. Grace hid her smile at the obvious move to make sure the spotlight stayed off Steve. "I haven't looked at the menu yet."
"How about you bring us whatever you recommend," Grace said smoothly to Stanley. "I'm not fussy and I'm sure Steve would enjoy the biggest steak you can find."
The answer satisfied the chef and he went back to the kitchen at a fast pace. Grace took another sip of her wine, feeling amused at the brief interaction.
"I have always wanted to order like that," Grace confessed once the waitress was gone from earshot as well. "It makes me feel sophisticated."
Steve's laughter was barely able to be contained to an acceptable level for the restaurant. Grace found herself joining in a few moments later.
The conversation drifted around Grace's life growing up while waiting for their food. Over the entrees of crab cake and Rockefeller oysters, it moved back to Steve relaying stories of his time in SHIELD. Most of those were mostly the antics of Romanoff and Barton, along with 2 of their close friends and Steve being dragged into their mischief and mayhem. Stanley personally came out and served them their mains. Steve got the biggest steak Grace had ever seen. Her own steak, while considerably smaller was the best steak she'd ever had in her life. The bottle of wine went down very easily over the dinner and turned into a second bottle. The massive piece of chocolate cake for dessert was too much for Grace, so she pushed the last half of it over to him.
"I'll burst if I eat anymore," Grace admitted, lounging back in her chair. Between the good food and conversation, she hadn't felt this relaxed in a long time.
"I'll never say no to chocolate cake." Steve's own dessert of creme brûlée was long finished. He took the offered plate and dug into the gooey chocolate cake. "Do you want anything else?"
"No, I'll grab the bill." Grace looked around to find their waitress. The restaurant was nearly empty making Grace frown and glance down at her watch. It was a little after 11. They'd been there for hours. It had only felt like an hour at most to Grace. "I think they might be ready to kick us out soon."
Steve looked around in the same surprise Grace had just had.
"Time flies with good company." Steve gave Grace a smile that made her feel a lot warmer. "I know you said it was your treat, but will you allow me to at least offer to pay something?"
"Please, offer all you like." Grace laughed while scanning the room for their waitress. The woman had been attentive to their needs without overwhelming them. "I"m still paying. You can give our waitress a tip if that makes you feel better."
"I can do that." Steve scooped up the last bite of cake. "Next time, I pay."
"Done." Grace felt a small thrill at the offer of a next time. She finally caught the waitress eye and motioned for bill. By the time she came over, Steve was done with his cake and had pushed the plate away from him.
Grace scanned the bill to see what they'd been charged. To her surprise, the bill was zero.
"Courtesy of the chef," the waitress explained as Grace looked up to ask about the lack of a bill. "Stanley refused to let Captain America pay for the meal. It was a pleasure to serve you."
"No, thank you for dinner. It's been amazing." Steve answered first, quickly wiping his hand on the napkin. He shot grace a small, smug smile before pulling out his wallet. Grace knew this was an argument she'd never win. "Allow me."
It amused Grace to see that Steve carried around a healthy amount of cash on him. It was like he was determined to pay for something on dinner. While he was tipping their waitress, Grace grabbed her phone out and sent a text message to let the driver know they were ready to be picked up. Though New York never sleeps, the traffic at 11pm was going to be a lot better than 7pm.
Steve offered his arm to Grace as they left the restaurant. The evening had grown chilly and Grace was happy for the excuse to walk closer to Steve. Much to Grace's surprise, the car came around in less than a minute.
"The drivers wait about a block away," Steve explained as Grace's confused expression. "It's for security or if we need to get back in a hurry."
Steve opened the door as he spoke, allowing Grace to slide in and out of the cold air.
"I have a lot to learn about the life of a superhero," Grace said as she shed her coat in the warm car. The privacy window was up between them and the driver other she would apologize for making him wait so long.
"It's still weird to me." Steve climbed in beside her. The car took off as soon as he closed the door. "Never in my dreams did I think things like tonight would happen to me. Sometimes it's easier to keep my beard, put on a hat and go have a burger and shake in Brooklyn."
"I've never been to Brooklyn," Grace admitted. Steve gave her an over exaggerated horrified like like she'd committed a mortal sin. Grace shot him a sheepish smile. "Perhaps I need a tour guide?"
The wine was making her feel bold. Tonight had gone so well she wanted to do it again. Steve was everything a good friend would be. Kind, funny, intelligent and a good listener. As good as he looked in a suit, Grace was more than happy to see the casual side of him too.
"There's a diner which has been in the same family since back when I was a kid," Steve's answer was almost instant. He looked at Grace with a small but nervous smile. "They do the best burger and chocolate thick shake I've ever had. My treat this time."
"I'd love to." Grace felt her cheeks heat again. The same butterflies from earlier came back with a vengeance.
"Good." Steve had a bit of color rising on his face. "I suppose we can look forward to being teased about a date again."
"Oh, we're not going to hear the end of this for a month at least," Grace said with a groan. She was smiling though. "I suppose it's better than them trying to set us up, either together or with someone else."
"Did I tell you Natasha was trying to set me up with my neighbor back in DC?" Steve asked. "And the neighbor was a SHIELD agent sent there undercover to protect me?"
"No." Grace sat up a little straighter. "Please tell. This sounds like a disaster."
The rest of the drive and trip up to Grace's apartment was Steve telling the story to isn't sure if she should laugh or cringe on Steve's behalf about the entire situation. Sharon, as her name turned out to be, at least turned out to be a good person and helped in the downfall of SHIELD.
"Thanks for walking me to my door," Grace said as they reached her apartment. "I had a really good time tonight."
"Me too." Steve smiled. "Our not date was better than any date I've been on."
"I'll have to regale you of some of my horror dating stories over burgers and fries." Grace couldn't help but smile back. On impulse, she reached over and gave Steve a chaste kiss on the cheek. She found herself lingering for a moment longer than necessary. Steve smelt really good up close. Hoping her lingering wasn't noticed, Grace pulled back quickly to a more suitable distance."See you in the morning?"
"Of course." The color was back in Steve's face.
He hesitated for a second before reaching over to take Grace's hand. The butterflies in Grace's stomach increased at the touch of his hand in hers. Steve brought her hand up and gently brushed his lips on her knuckles. Like Grace's kiss on the cheek, it was brief and chaste. A simple chivalrous gesture but Grace found her body responding in a way it shouldn't be right now. Not with someone who she was seeing as a friend
"Good night," Grace said softly. She didn't move to take her hand from Steve's. His thumb brushed over the top of her fingers, making her body shiver involuntarily. The moment stretched out for an eternity before Steve finally dropped his hand from hers.
Steve was close enough to Grace that all she would have to do was lean forward to kiss him. Neither of them were making a move to leave, despite the good nights already being said. Grace took a step back, not trusting herself with the amount of wine she'd drunk tonight. The man in front of her was far too tempting with how she was feeling. It would ruin everything she'd been working on since getting here if she made a move and it was rejected.
Grace put her hand on the door and it opened silently. Before her resolve crumbled, she walked into her apartment and closed the door behind her. She leant against the now closed door, letting out a long shuddering breath.
"Down girl," Grace coached herself. "Too much wine makes you horny and leads the bad decisions with men. That is a no go."
Despite her little speech to herself, Grace found her body was not cooperating with her words. She pushed herself off the door, toeing her heels off in the next step. She needed to go to bed and keep her distance from temptation on the other side of her door. Steve was not only a work colleague, but he could potentially be a patient. it was an ethical nightmare waiting to happen if she let her body take over right now.
Grace got undressed, wiped her makeup off and climbed into bed. After a long day topped off with wine and a very good dinner, sleep came to her easily.
Something poked Grace in the side. Hard. Hard enough to make her jerk awake, flailing to try and hit whatever was poking her. The morning sun was near blinding as Grace cracked her eyes open. A familiar face was standing over her.
"What Sam?" Grace groaned, turning to bury her head back into the pillow. "Unless you're dying, go away. I don't want to share my not date gossip with you so early."
"Gracie." The seriousness of Sam's tone made her relinquished the hold on her pillow. Sam wordlessly held his phone out to her. Squinting in the morning light, Grace took the phone and looked at the screen.
There were several photos of her and Steve from dinner last night. All of them were obviously from a phone camera and close enough to make both of them out clearly. The news article was captioned.
Captain America and new Avengers psychiatrist on a date! More details to come on this breaking story.
Grace felt her stomach drop as she stared at words on the screen.
"This is not happening."
For some reason this chapter kept throwing up mental blocks for me. I knew exactly what I wanted to happen but I couldn't put it on paper. So this has been a long time between updates. Hopefully it'll never go that long again!
I hope everyone enjoyed the chapter. Next time we will have more Bucky!