February 14, 2015

Keeping It Basic on Valentines

At the agency's headquarters, Steve Rogers had an office. He rarely used it, preferring to be in the field constantly. It was late in the agency's building, Steve sat at his desk in his office with most of the usual stacks of files moved to another location in the room. His latest attention was to a old ratty book that looked like it had yellowed pages. He flipped through it carefully, but then set it down away from the center of the desk. He then pulled to the center a ream of scrap paper, a small bottle of Elmer's glue and a jar of glitter. He sat there at the desk and again pondered on what kind of direction he was going to take.
"Com'mon, Steve," he mumbled to himself. "You've punched out Hitler over 50 times, but somehow you've got to know how to make this simple little thing look great. Is this befitting a princess?"
At that moment, Diana had just arrived outside his wide open door. "Hey, Steve, I have the latest briefings to go over." She was still in her civilian office suit, but several the buttons on her white blouse had been undone. She had a stack of manilla file folders and a clipboard in her arms, but precariously hiding a second alternative motive.  Steve looked over in her oncoming direction wanted to panic. Was the surprise ruined? Steve couldn't let her see the special art project he was working on before it was finished. He quickly swooped up his art supplies and tossed them into any random desk drawer. But in his hustle to hide the contents, the glitter's lid wasn't fastened tightly and spilled. He tried to pose nonchalantly and prop his head up by his fist.
Diana always had a standing welcome when it came to Steve's office, so she let herself in through the doorway without bothering to knock. The click clack rhythm sound of her heels on the signaled her tip-toeing into the room. Steve watched her slow deliberate march forward toward his desk. Her shoulders dipped and her hips swayed back and forth. He tried not to make eye contact with his gaze. However, with each stepping movement, Steve could get a peek of Diana's cleavage. When she arrived, she flopped the stack of files and clipboard in her arm and revealed her true surprise intentions.
"It must be casual weekend at HQ." Steve looked up at her. "Who are those for?"
With a big smile on her face, Diana placed a bottle of Napa Valley's finest red wine and two long stem wine glasses. "I thought you might be thirsty," Diana looked down. "but is something on your mind? You always stand up when I enter the room."
"Oh, I'm very sorry, I guess I have been preoccupied tonight." Steve let a grimace curl his mouth and stood up from his chair anyway.
"Do you have a corkscrew?"
Steve quickly scanned his previously bare desk. But he also searched for evidence to his heart design. "Um, I don't think so, I don't keep something like that in my desk. I don't drink in my office - pointless to me when I can't get drunk." Steve needed a way to dismiss her self-invitation with his mind on finishing the paper heart.
"In that case," Diana reaches out for a pencil cup and finds a sharp letter opener and violently plunges it into the cork stopper. "I'll take care of it myself." With a strong heave, she pulls out the letter opener with the cork and holds it out like a lolly on a stick.
Steve's face went from a coy ambivalence to downright impressive. "You really don't know your own strength."
"Or, I just have some gifts left over from the gods." Diana asserted. She placed the bottle of wine back on his desk with the label out towards him to read. She then turned behind her to fetch a folding chair for herself and planted it right beside Steve's office desk.
"An '84," Steve picked up the bottle and poured some into the wine glasses. "I heard it was a good year."
Steve watched as Diana measured the wine equally in each glass. Steve eyes finally made contact with hers as he followed Diana picking up the glass closest to her up to her lips. Before taking that sip, she checks for Steve's cooperation, smiled, then signaled with her eyes directing him to his long stemmed goblet.
"So what are we drinking to?"
"You don't have a calendar in this room? Did you lose track of what day it is?"
"No, I know what day it is, I'm just too busy with work to plan for days." Steve looked away from Diana to out his office window. The February snow continued to lightly fall gathering to pile up along the outer windowsill.
"You're a hard man, Steve."
"I'm a busy man." Steve picked up his drink from the lip of the glass between his fingers. He turned it up to his mouth.
"You have to smell it first," Diana insisted. "You don't know anything about wine."
"The last time I even dared sip it, I was in an encampment over in France. Another soldier from the 107th had pocketed a bottle from an abandoned winery. When he took it out we all sipped from our canteens or G.I. tins. We didn't stop to appreciate it, just glad that we had a few minutes of not getting our heads shot off." Steve's nostalgia was taking a somber tone. He could feel Diana's lighthearted visit turn to another therapy session. His eyes glazed over as his war-torn visualization alienated him from Diana. A few minutes go in silence before he hears Diana's voice sharply cut through the PTSD.
"Well, you're not in France now, you're here with me." Diana pointed with her index finger on the desk. She tapped with her nail. "Look, I'll show you." Steve watched her bring the long stem glass up to her nose and breath in the aroma. Once her eyes close, her face commits to blissful changes. Steve watches voyeuristic as she indulges herself in the pleasurable aroma of the wine. He can't really tell what she is thinking about but when she opens her eyes again, she is smiling wide again. Steve watched her enjoy her moment of satisfaction. Was it the lights in the room or was Diana again working her mojo on him? Steve witnessed her big grin gleaming like the her costume's golden tiara. He could feel his guard sliding away. For her sake, Steve tried again, to learn properly and picked up his glass.
"Here's a tip for you," Diana broke in. "Not by the top, but by the stem," She held out her own wine glass demonstrating it to Steve. "If you hold it here then your hands aren't warming the wine. It could stay chilled longer."
Steve tried it on his own. The sophistication really wasn't his normal style, but as long as it kept her pleased, he played along with it. It had a real fruity taste on his pallet. He let the wine slowly swish on his tongue to savor it. That was the only genuine pleasure that he received from alcohol. His metabolism didn't allow him to get drunk no matter the quantity.
"So, what are you doing here tonight?" they both asked each other in unison. Steve smiled and nodded.
"You first."
"I'm monitoring the shipping routes from Madripoor to Latveria. Assessing the intelligence reports,.. you know.. the usual."
Diana paused after his answer. "I just saw the light on." She followed that up with yet another gleaming smile. The expression changed quickly as her hands reached down to her feet yanking her black quarter inch heels off. She then dangled them by the tips of her fingers on her left and and flopped them together like a rattle.
"How much of those intelligence reports requires art supplies?"
Steve's coy demeanor turned to internal panic. Was she spying outside his door long enough to see his special surprise project? "Oh, that.. um.. well..," Steve stammered as he tried to come up with a dodge to the question. In the field, Steve Rogers was in command of many including himself. He is fast thinking battle strategist, the way he could perfectly bank and boomerang his shield was no help to escaping Diana's relentless inquisition. He could feel the grip of Diana's compelling presence and personality. She teased him more with a clear view of her open blouse by leaning in closer towards him. Was she even aware of her tousled exhibition, Steve wondered?
He tried never to lie to her. He couldn't. Stalling is he best he could do to duck the questions he couldn't answer. "No, I'm serious, I really was looking at intelligence reports.... it's just that.."
"..that's wasn't all you were doing." Diana finished his sentence. "Unless this place turns into a gentleman's club when we're not around, the glitter on your cheek is real suspicious."
Steve's face became flush with red as the same wine shade. He finally noticed the spilled glitter on his desktop and rapidly searched for more obvious locations.
"You've got that stuff all over your right cheek."
Steve playfully swats away her hand that she sopped up by her tongue. He recoiled away from her as she reached out with a hand to wipe it off. The further he pulled back, the further she reached out to touch him. "What are you? My mother now?"
Diana succeeds in wiping his face from the crumbly silver pieces. She caressed his face in such a gentle way that the touch on his face felt like a tranquilizing gesture. Steve recalled and compared it to the precipitous kiss that Diana gave him at Christmas time. That holiday kiss was forced on him unexpectedly, but connecting to her in the moment now had him turning like clay in her hands.
There was no other way around the truth. Where was his usually trusty shield to block the truth seeking missiles fired in his direction? This meant that Steve had to give in easier than he wanted. His covert holiday project wasn't at all finished and he'd rather get back to completing it. If he stalled her longer into boredom, she might have left him alone, but there would have been stern consequences.
He chose to slide the top drawer of his desk out and reveal some of the truth. It had to be set out delicately if she was to be brought in to his private feelings.
"That looks like it's been through a war." Diana's eyes got a little wider to Steve as the surprise had been rushed to waste on her persistent interrogation.
"Yes. Actually, It's been through two wars," corrected Steve. It was a grey bound book with yellowed pages. It was held together by a rubber band. He placed it on top of the desk.
"I remember you mentioning this a while ago. Is this actually it? You're drawing pad?"
"Yea, I sent it back home before the war ended and I wasn't going to have any more time to myself. It wasn't until just recently that someone from the Maritime museum gave it back. It's been in storage for over 70 years." He watched her reaction feeling at his most vulnerable with her in a long time.
"May I hold it?"
Pausing to search for some final assurance, Steve chose to carry through with his intentions. He placed it in Diana's hands as she asked respectfully reaching out to touch the missing piece of history. Steve got some satisfaction as he lived through Diana's discovery like it was a secret diary. The delicate pages were a trove of doodles and notes. A history book of the man she knew as Steve Rogers and as the masked avenger Captain America in a past life. What must she have been thinking while browsing through some pages, Steve pondered. Maybe even before he would get too deep in the war memories, Steve re-directed the conversation back to his favor.
"Actually, I was working on something more simple than that." Steve brought out to reveal his other project along with the ream of colored paper, scissors, a black sharpie, and some lace streamer. He didn't quite get it finished, but since he was interrupted, maybe he could make one with her. Or at the very least tell him if she appreciates it and should continue.
"Oh, that looks like a Valentine heart."  "Did you do that, Steve?"
"Well, I was working on it.... After the intelligence report."
"Who was that going to be for?"
Steve turned over the construction paper that started to be cut out along one side. The scraps of lace and paper fell to the desk and revealed a unique stenciled wording. THE PRINCESS, it read while some of the letters had already been filled in with the black sharpie. "I don't know if you would like it. Or maybe you'd expect more from me. I wasn't sure."
This was the critical moment that had to pay off. He read her gentle face moving around for any clue to her initial impressions. It wasn't an expensive jewelry or empty calorie treat, but it was giving her something more valuable than all the riches in the known world. It was the simple beauty in the value of simplistic gestures like a homemade Valentines Day card.  He was giving a part of himself to her. From this moment on, he trusted her a little more with his own feelings and there was no going back.
"It's incomplete! Here, Let me see an.. mind if I join you?" Steve got the sketch pad back from Diana's grasp while reaching for the red paper heart. "I've always wanted to do one of these."
Steve smiled at his relief that Diana wasn't resistant to the Valentines intentions. "When I was at the children's hospital, I met a few little girls who knew how to do this. They had good teachers to work with there." she confessed to him. "I'm so touched by this that I don't know what else to say."
He felt as if he were following through with more charm for her. They both smiled at each other. Steve told her about the way he agonized over how much work he wanted to make it right just for her. They worked together through the night over more of the wine that Diana brought to the office and finished up the heart shaped gesture on red construction paper.