Steve gulped nervously as he took a few steps forward.
"You're good, Cap. Proceed with the mission," Tony's voice said in his ear.
"I don't know if I can do this," the soldier breathed as he approached the entrance.
"You can," Clint reassured.
"We all believe in you," Bruce piped up.
"Stop girling around and get in there, Rogers," Natasha growled.
"Be brave, Captain Steve!" Thor enthused.
Steve winced at the last comment, which was shouted just a bit too loud for the comm. link. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
"Okay. I'm going in."
"Relax, Steve," Pepper added, "You're asking to marry her, not getting shot at by supervillians."
"I'd almost rather the second," Steve grimaced and put the link in his pocket as he entered the house to speak with Jeff.
"Hey, Steve!" he was greeted with a warm hug. "Where's Chrissy?"
"She's uh, not here," Steve said slowly.
Jeff's eyebrows lifted and he deduced Steve's business rather quickly.
"Hm. Okay. Come in. Amy! Amy, c'mere."
The two men sat awkwardly in the living room. For once, their usual easy banter was gone, replaced by a tense silence.
"Okay. She's sleeping…she was a lot better yesterday."
Steve nodded and played with his shirt. Tina's Aunt Amy finally stopped bustling around in the kitchen behind them and entered the room.
"Hey, Steve, how are you?"
"I'm great," he smiled weakly.
"Good," she grinned, oblivious to the tension.
"What I really wanted to-to um, come here, to talk to you about, was I-I, uh," Steve stammered and rubbed his sweaty palms against his jeans. He took a deep breath and met Jeff's eyes. "I wanted to ask you for Tina's hand in marriage."
Amy squealed and clapped her hands, and Jeff smiled a little bit.
"This is a day that every father dreads. You never want to give your baby girl away," he said, holding Steve's intense gaze, "But if I had gotten a chance to create the exact man Chrissy should be with, it'd still be you. I'll be happy to give her away to someone who will take care of her like I would."
Steve grinned happily, glad that the tension was gone.
"But you better be good to her," Jeff warned, "We know people. So watch it or-"
"Oh, shut up, Jeff you don't know anybody," Amy laughed and hugged Steve.
Jeff's bravado deflated like a balloon as his sister shut him down.
"When are you going to ask her?" Amy asked.
"Tonight," Steve responded. "Cross your fingers."
Jeff chuckled and slapped him on his shoulder, which, a few months later, had healed from its encounter with his shield.
"Go get 'em!"
Tina spent most of the day avoiding Pepper, who seemed to be undergoing some form of psychotic episode, constantly bouncing and laughing at nothing, then switching straight to tears.
"What is her deal?" she had asked Natasha out of the corner of her mouth.
"She spends hours with Tony. Alone. Lord knows what that does to your brain…" Natasha had remarked. Tina had shrugged and gone back to sketching.
When Steve finally got home from his SHIELD physical, he announced that it was date night, and goddang it I need to get out of this house, and please Tina come with me I need to get away from Tony for a minute. Tina laughed and agreed.
"Wear this!" Pepper begged, thrusting a sage green high-low dress at her.
Tina pulled the dress on obediently, then stepped into her favorite summer sandals.
"This is really pretty, Pep, thanks," she smiled at the smug redhead, "What's it for?"
Pepper laughed, sounding a little hysterical.
"Doesn't it just scream 'Tina'? I just had to get it for you…and I figured as long as you were going out, you might as well wear it."
Tina nodded her thanks, and meandered out into the living room.
"Ready?" she asked.
Steve stood up abruptly from what had been an intense looking discussion with Tony, Clint, Bruce, and Thor. He was wearing a white, short-sleeved collared shirt that hugged his muscular form just right. Tina smiled to herself. Take that Macy, and all the girls who were mean to me in high school. This is MY boyfriend. I win.
"You look gorgeous," he said softly.
"Thanks, Cap," she said with a wink.
Steve rolled his eyes and took Tina's hand, leading her out of the Tower.
"Dinner was awesome," Tina sighed as they started walking home, "Where'd you even hear of that place?"
"Pepper. I don't know anything about restaurants nowadays…she helps me pick."
"Well by all means, let her keep picking, that was amazing."
"Yeah it was. Those little breads with the tomatoes on them…"
"Bruschetta," Tina corrected.
"And the pudding stuff…"
"Whatever," Steve chuckled, "It was delicious and that's all I know."
Steve turned a corner.
"Wrong way, smarty pants," Tina said, laughing.
"Nope, I know where I'm going."
Tina allowed Steve to pull her along until they ended up in a tiny park overlooking the Hudson.
"This is where we first met," Steve explained.
Tina smiled, then Steve grabbed her hand and started pulling her down the path.
"Wh-what? Steve!" Tina stammered in confusion.
Steve grinned, but refused to elaborate, dragging her to the little coffee shop.
"Here is where we had our first date."
The stairs up to her college.
"Where you first held my hand."
The entrance of her old dorm.
"This is the place we first kissed."
The oak tree in Central Park.
"Where you first told me you loved me."
Steve finally stopped in a beautiful little garden, surrounded by rustic brick walls. It was empty, save for the flowers and shafts of moonlight. Tina could hear a fountain and smelled the perfume of roses…maybe orange blossoms, too. And lilac, definitely lilac, Tina tried to guess all the different types of flowers by smell.
"And what's this?" she asked, certain that she'd have remembered a place as lovely as this one; "I don't remember this place."
"You will," Steve said with a sweet smile.
He dropped to one knee and took Tina's hands in his. Her eyes widened.
"Tina, ever since I met you, you've given me purpose, hope, and more love than I ever thought I could deserve. You make me so happy. You've made me feel whole, for the first time. When I'm with you, it doesn't matter where we are; I'm home. I'm asking you to let me be your home, too. Tina Marie Adams, will you marry me?"
Tina gasped and nodded her yes, tears streaming down her face.
"Yes, yes, I will," she promised, dropping to his level and wrapping her arms around the man she loved.
Steve laughed and hugged her back.
"You didn't even see the ring yet and you're gonna say yes?" he joked.
Tina giggled and kissed him. It was both soft and passionate, full of love, joy, and promises of things yet to come. Steve cupped her cheek in his hand, kissing the tears off her face. He pulled a little jewelry box out of his pocket, opening it for her to see. She inhaled sharply.
"Oh my god, Steve," she whispered, gingerly reaching down to stroke the ring with a fingertip.
Inside the black velvet box was a simple, elegant ring. The gold band was smooth and unmarked, tapering up like a ribbon where the beautiful diamond was set. The pure white stone was gorgeous, sparkling like a star in the bright, summer moonlight.
"It's one of the few things I have of my mothers," Steve murmured, tucking a strand of hair behind Tina's ear. "The band anyway. She sold the diamond to pay for medication for me. We might need to get it resized for you. The diamond is something I picked out recently. Old and new. I thought it kind of goes with us," he smiled.
"It's just right," Tina said softly.
Steve slid it onto her finger.
"It fits," he said, slightly astonished.
Tina smiled and kissed her soldier on the cheek.
"I love you."
"I love you too, Tina."
He pulled his fingers through her curls for another moment.
"Mrs. Tina Rogers," he chuckled quietly.
"It has a nice ring to it," she agreed.
Steve nuzzled her cheek.
"Now you're all mine."
"I always was," Tina reminded him.
The Captain grinned.
"My closest companion has been replaced…I have to go break it to my shield later."
"I can still be a shield. Just for your heart," she suggested.
Steve placed his hands on her arms and pulled her closer.
"Tina Rogers, The Captain's shield."
The first chapter of the sequel, The Captain's Cradle, is now up! Be sure to check it out :)
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