The music of your favorite Christmas album whispered through your apartment. It left a calm and quaint air in your home as you hummed along to the playing tune while you chopped up pieces of a Ghirardelli chocolate bar. After ridding of the knife you used to mince the chocolate, you swiped your hands together a few times to do away with any leftover candy flakes that were stuck to your skin. You placed one hand on your hip and used the other to pick up the piece of paper that had a hastily scribbled down recipe for hot chocolate. Normally, you would not need directions to make such a simple drink, but after realizing you had run out of cocoa powder, you took to the internet to seek out another way to make it. Fortunately, you found a recipe that used chocolate bars, which you had more than enough of stashed away in your cupboards.
You read that you needed a saucepan, but just as you were leaning down to open one of your bottom cupboards to find one, your cell phone rang and vibrated loudly from your dining table behind you. Startled out of your wits, you jumped straight up and nearly hit your head on your slightly protruding counter. Curious about who would be calling you at such a late hour, you moved away from the counter and reached over to the table to pick up your phone. In bright white letters at the top of your screen, it read “Steve Rogers.” Under his name was a picture you had taken months ago of him from his neck up while he posed with your black cat named Nyx. While Steve had a genuine smile on his face, your cat Nyx had been none-too-pleased about him invading her personal space.
You and Steve had met nearly a year ago at the local supermarket in a rather anticlimactic way. Both of you had been standing next to each other in the fresh produce section when the two of you reached for the last orange. After you and Steve had gone back and forth for nearly ten minutes, telling each other to take the orange, you had awkwardly blurted out that he should just follow you back to your apartment so the two of you could split it. He had contemplated on your offer for a moment before he surprisingly agreed, and that was how your close friendship with Steve had begun. Ironically, it had taken you almost an entire week before you realized that he was Captain America due to your avoidance of mainstream media.
Smiling, you slid your finger across the bottom of the screen to answer his call then immediately tapped the button to place Steve on speakerphone. “Hey, isn’t it past your bedtime?” You heard him laugh heartily, and your grin widened. “How have you been, Steve?”
“Very busy with work.” The sound of Steve dropping what you figured to be his keys onto a hard surface resonated through the phone. “What about you?”
You grabbed your phone and moved it to the kitchen counter as you answered him. “Busy with work, too, but I have the next two weeks off.”
“Oh, really? How did you manage that?”
Bending down to pull out a saucepan from the cupboard, and making a racket in the process, you replied to him. “Ah, sorry about that. I’m trying to make hot chocolate. But anyway, I have a bad habit of never using any of my vacation days during the year, so then by December I’m scrambling to use them up so I don’t lose them. I suckered my boss into letting me off the 15th through the 29th, but she gave me the ‘don’t do it again’ look.” You added the listed amount of milk into the saucepan and then the pieces of chocolate to begin melting them. “If you don’t have to get up early in the morning, you should come over and have some hot chocolate. I haven’t seen you in forever.”
Steve chuckled, and you heard him scoop up his keys. “Two days isn’t forever, but sure, I’ll come over.”
“Okay, be careful. It’s almost eleven o’clock, so the drunks and loonies will be coming out soon. I don’t need Captain America getting beat up or anything on the way here.”
“You’re ridiculous. I’m only five minutes away. I’ll see you soon, though. Don’t drink all of the hot chocolate.”
“I’ll try not to. See you soon.”
You ended the call and tapped the end of the wooden spoon you were using to stir the chocolate against the edge of the saucepan to remove any excess before you increased the heat output and added the remainder of the milk. You struggled to contain your giddiness as you thought about hanging out with your best friend. Usually, you were able to see him every day, whether it be for five minutes or five hours, but his job had dragged him away for the past two days. You remained unaware of what his occupation actually entailed when there was no international emergency, but you preferred it that way. Steve always made it a point to avoid the details when talking about his days at work so you would not worry about him too much. There had been numerous times when he arrived at your apartment bandaged up and in obvious pain. You had to use every ounce of your willpower not to ask him what had happened. The moment you found out what his line of work was, was the moment your anxiety was going to go through the roof with no way to bring it back down.
Just as you finished whisking together the chocolate and milk and added the desired seasonings, a knock on your front door echoed through your apartment. Giggling and clapping your hands together like a silly kid, you reached over the stove and turned off the heat then moved the saucepan onto the kitchen counter. You excitedly scampered out of your kitchen and into your living room, where your entranceway was, and you wasted no time in opening the door to greet your best friend with a giant hug. Steve was nearly an entire foot taller than you, so your cheek squished against his rock hard chest as you wrapped your arms around his midsection.
“I’ve missed you!” you exclaimed as you squeezed him tighter. There were no visible injuries on him, and the familiar scent of his favorite cologne lingered in the air, leaving you feeling even happier. “I just finished making the hot chocolate.”
“I’ve missed you, too,” he replied with a chuckle.
You moved aside and allowed him to step inside then shut the door behind him. While Steve took off his shoes and shrugged off his jacket, you walked into the kitchen to try to find two mugs big enough to fit all of the hot chocolate you made. The recipe had stated that it was enough to serve four to six people, but between your love for sweets and Steve’s insatiable appetite, you knew that the two of you would have no problem finishing all of it. You were still rooting through your cupboards when Steve walked into the kitchen to join you.
“Do you need help with anything?” he asked you.
“No, it’s okay. I’m just…” You shoved aside some pots to look behind them. “... Looking for these giant travel mugs I have. Actually, do you mind looking in the top cupboards? I know they’re around here somewhere… They’re silver with black rubber wrapped around the outside of them.”
“Sure, I don’t mind.”
While you rooted through your bottom cabinets like a madwoman, Steve searched in the top ones, and it only took him a few moments before he found your desired travel mugs. “Are these the ones you’re looking for?” He set them onto the kitchen counter for you to see.
You peeked over the edge of the counter to look at them. “Yes! What would I do without you?” You stood and grabbed one of the travel mugs to pour hot chocolate into. “I really need to find time during my vacation to go through my cupboards and organize them. It takes me half a year to find anything sometimes.”
“I can help if you’d like. I don’t have anything else to do,” Steve replied as you finished filling up one of the mugs.
You looked over at Steve. Your eyes fully scanned him as it was the first time you were able to since he arrived. His skin looked slightly tanner than the last time you had seen him, which made his baby blue eyes and blond hair stick out even more than usual. He wore an untucked, buttoned-up red and black plaid shirt and a somewhat tight pair of khaki pants. Your breath hitched in your throat as you struggled to calm down the trembling butterflies in your stomach.
You would never admit to any other person, living or dead, that you had started to have feelings for your best friend. When you had invited him over to your apartment the day at the supermarket, you had not been looking for a one-night stand or a boyfriend due to your healing heart. You had only recently moved to New York, where your sister and her family lived, to escape your controlling ex-boyfriend. You had no friends in the area and had been desperate for companionship. After revealing to Steve your motive, he had made it a point to try to see you every day, and when he couldn’t, he would at least call you or text you. The more your heart began to heal, the more you began to look at Steve in a different light. About a month ago, you managed to admit to yourself that you had romantic feelings for him, but you would never dare mention it to him. It was dangerous territory that you never wanted to tread on. Steve was your best friend and your only friend in the area, and you didn’t want to chance losing him.
Steve called your name and snapped you out of your trance. “Are you okay? You were in the middle of saying something then stopped.”
“Huh? Oh, yeah…” You awkwardly looked away from him and grabbed the other mug that needed filled. “I just thought you would be busy with work or something.”
“Actually, I have off work until the beginning of January. Well, kind of. I’m still on call just incase something urgent happens, but other than that, I’m free.”
You set down the mug in your hand and turned around excitedly. “Really?! I’m happy for you! You haven’t had a day off since before I met you. What are you going to do with all of your free time?”
Steve couldn’t help but smile at your genuine enthusiasm. “Well… If it isn’t too much trouble, I was hoping I could spend it with you. Other than my coworkers, I don’t have anyone else around here.”
You thought your head was going to burst from excitement. When you convinced your boss to let you have off work for two weeks, the thought of being able to spend all of it with Steve had never even crossed your mind. Your heart had never been so happy in your life.
“Of course you can spend it will me, silly. What kind of best friend would I be if I said no?” you replied as coolly as possible. You handed him one of the mugs of hot chocolate then picked up the other for yourself. “Tomorrow I have to finish shopping for presents for my niece and nephew. You can tag along if you want to.”
Steve took a sip of his drink and hummed in agreement. “Sure, sounds good to me.”
“Great! It’s a date!” you chirped.