21. History is filled with blood
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Natasha and Bobbi were flying the Zephyr while catching up. Their profession gives them less time to catch up with each other. After two years, this is the first time they have been assigned to the case together.
In the main area, Steve was analysing all texts about Loki to identify his weakness. He had called his friend to let her know he would be dropping by. He was hoping to catch up with her since they haven’t seen each other since World War II.
Bucky and Hunter were readying the weapons in the weaponry. That’s when Bucky heard a sound. He was sure someone other than the team was on the airship.
“Can you hear anything?” asked Bucky.
“Oh yes, somebody just said, "Can you hear anything?" Hunter said with a straight face earning a frown from Bucky.
“I’m going to check,” he said, replacing the gun in its place. Hunter who was curious followed Bucky. Bucky approached the room behind the stairs and opened the door slightly.
Daisy peaked out from their hiding spot. Seeing the two men, she reclined back.
“The grumpy man and the British dude” she informed Wanda
Wanda pressed her finger to her mouth signalling Daisy to be silent. Bucky’s advanced hearing means trouble for the girls. They hoped that they wouldn't be caught. Daisy pressed herself more closely to Wanda not wanting to be caught.
“I heard you both. You can come out” called out Bucky. He was even able to hear their heartbeat and breathing, one of the perks of being a vampire.
Smiling sheepishly, they came out of their hiding spot. Bucky took them to the main area where Steve was reading about Darkhold. The more he read about the book, the more it worried him. If Loki lays his hands on the book, it means sure defeat for them. Hearing footsteps, he turned to look Bucky entering the room. To his shock, Wanda and Daisy followed him.
“Look, who decided to join us?” Bucky said.
Steve lost his shit when he saw Wanda. He had asked her to stay back due to the risk of this trip. He ran his hand through his hair.
“I asked you to stay back. What are you doing here?”
“I was the one who led Loki to the location of these two objects. I am responsible for stopping him. I should be here with you guys fighting not back there.”
“It’s not safe here, Wanda”
“It’s not like it’s safe back there. Loki is there.”
Steve pinched the bridge of his nose. “You don’t understand. Europe is not like America. Here the Legion rules. Their single goal is to destroy every vampire they come across” he said. “They don’t care about the humans dying in the crossfire” he added grimly.
“Stop treating me like a kid. I can take care of myself. I am trained by Natasha,” Wanda retorted. “Nat, tell him” she called out to the agent.
“Don’t involve me in your family drama” Natasha shouted from the cockpit.
Both of them ignored her comment.
“You’re acting like one,” Steve shot back.
Bucky intervened before Wanda could speak back. He looked at Steve, “Can I have a word with you in private?”
Wanda was sitting alone in the empty lab of Zephyr. Bucky knocked on the door gaining her attention.
“Are you here to give me advice?”
“I just wanted to check on you.”
Silence settled between as both waited for the other to speak.
“So, that’s just a myth” she said, striking a conversation.
Bucky looked up puzzled. Noticing that she was looking at his reflection he replied, “Yeah.” After a moment he added, “I’m sorry about what I said about you… back then”
“Sorry for calling you a bloodsucker.”
“It’s not a lie” Bucky chuckled. He continued, “We started off on the wrong note. Let’s start over again. I’m Bucky.” He extended his arm for a handshake.
“Wanda,” she said, taking his hand.
“I wish you could understand where Steve is coming from.”
“Before you waste your breath going blah blah blah let me say that I’m not angry at him.”
“So, I prepared a speech for nothing?”
Wanda laughed. Silence settled between the two. Wanda was the one to break it.
“I wish he could believe-”
“He does. But it’s not like we are going against a mafia gang now. Loki is a completely different element. Legion is a whole different story.” After a pause, Bucky continued, “I have been thinking about this for quite some time. I believe your powers are much more than looking at memories. You need to practice your powers.”
“You mean like…”
“You too are bonding. Something I thought I will never see” a cheery voice called from behind.
Both of them turned around to see Steve walking towards them. He smiled at them as he settled down.
“Steve, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, kid. I’m sorry too.” He smiled. “As Bucky said, it's good if you practice.”
“How would my powers be useful?”
“You can access memories which could give you clues or information.”
“Or block people from entering your mind.”
“Okay. We are going to train now?”
“We have hours to kill before we land, so why not?” said Steve.
“It’s okay, kid. Give it a try.”
Wanda held Steve’s hand and tried to enter his mind. She closed her eyes to concentrate and her mind to enter Steve’s but she wasn’t able to. She shut her eyes tight and pushed herself more. The more she pushed the more her mind refused to listen to her. Finally, she gave up.
“I can’t do it. It just seems impossible” she said, shaking her head.
“Just relax and make yourself comfortable. Don’t let your mind wander on its own. Try to organize your thoughts” Bucky said.
“Let’s try it one more time, shall we?”
Wanda agreed and held onto Steve’s hand again. Wanda first singled her thoughts and stopped her mind from wandering randomly. She slowly prodded it to enter Steve’s thoughts. A opened her eyes to see herself on a stairway. She saw Steve chasing a man up the stairs. He jumped over the railing and stood in front of him blocking his path. He was beyond recognizable. His hair was blond and matted with blood. His shirt was drenched with blood. His eyes were dark red.
Steve punched the other man twice on his abdomen and hit him against the wall.
“Is Sousa here? Tell me”
The man struggled to get his words out. Steve hit him against the wall again.
“Yes… yes… I saw him getting dragged here an hour before.”
Steve threw the man down and ran up the stairs. Wanda followed him not wanting to lose the connection. Steve took down everyone in his path ruthlessly killing them. Wanda had never seen him like this before.
Steve opened the door at the end of the hall. He closed his nose, unable to breath the stench. Wanda felt a weird feeling around her. It was bringing down her spirits. But she wasn’t able to understand what it was. Wanda peaked inside the room. Her stomach churned at the site in front of her. There was blood everywhere. He heard people groaning and screaming in agony. She retched but didn’t throw up as it was just a project of her physical form.
Steve, who had disappeared into the room, came back moments later carrying a man in his arms. Wanda observed his face but she hadn’t seen him before. She noticed he was missing a leg. She gasped, closing her mouth with her hand.
Steve ran down the stairs with the wounded man in his hand. Wanda followed him to his car. She boarded the car along with him. They arrived at a harbour where a docked ship was getting ready to leave. Crowds of people were rushing to get in but Steve wasn’t interested in the commotion. He kept looking around searching for a familiar face.
“Steve! Not getting aboard?” asked a man walking towards Steve. He had a slight touch of French accent in his tone.
Jacques Dernier was one of the members of the Howling Commandos. Now the war had come to an end and they needed to get back home. Jacques’ face turned serious as he took in Steve’s state. Then his face became pale looking at the state of Sousa in Steve’s hand.
“I will search for her.”
Jacques went off and returned with a woman. Peggy’s throat constricted looking at the pale figure of Sousa looking almost lifeless. Peggy ran to Steve hoping it’s not the worst.
Sensing her fear Steve answered even before she asked the question. “He is alive but he has lost a great deal of blood. I cannot stop anywhere for provisions. We were running out of time. There will be enough blood in the ship. Make sure to-”
“What happened to his leg?” asked Peggy, cutting him off.
“Even after this you’re going to stay here?” Jacques asked, looking concerned.
Steve passed Sousa to Peggy and avoided Jacques.
“Please, come with us Steve” Jacques urged but Steve walked away without answering
Wanda not only saw the memories. She felt the wave of emotions Steve felt and overloaded her. She was trying to make sense of the situation. She missed the connection with Steve, as he drove away. She got thrown out of the memory.
Chapter 22 (coming soon)
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Pairings: Steve Rogers x Peggy Carter
Summary: Steve's return to Peggy in 1945 at the end of Endgame
“Peggy, this is my choice.” Click.
Howard glances at Peggy, finger resting on the pause button. “He didn’t ever give you coordinates?”
“Actually, Howard, he did. I just fancied a game of hide and seek.” Peggy glares at Howard across the table. “Keep rolling.”
“Peg,” Howard’s voice is soft. “I’ve listened to this recording a hundred times. There’s nothing there. No background noise, no autopilot warnings, no clues. Nothing.”
“You’re not a well-seasoned analyst trained to find intelligence in the most unlikely of places.” Peggy’s voice is level, but curt. “Play it.”
“We could both use some fresh air." Howard sighs, “Let’s go above deck. You can help me look.”
“Anyone can spot a plane wreck. I need to stay here.” Her eyes turn glassy.
“I’ve been out here a while. Take it from me.” Howard lays his hand over hers. “You can’t function like this. Take a break with me.”
She rips her hand away with a growl, “Play. It. Now.”
Howard shakes his head. “I’m going to keep looking. I really wish you’d join me.”
He turns and climbs the stairs to the main deck. When he’s out of sight, Peggy presses the play button.
“I’m going to need a raincheck on that dance.”
“Alright. A week next Saturday at the Stork Club.”
“You got it.”
“Eight o’clock on the dot. Don’t you dare be late. Understood?”
Peggy swallows the last of her scotch and slams the glass down on the bar, signaling the bartender for another. She feels ridiculous, sitting there in her red dress. The whole thing is absurd, waiting for the man she just spent two weeks searching through ice for. Unsuccessfully.
And yet, here she is. An hour early. With pristine curls. Leaving red lipstick stains on a fresh glass. Entirely hopeless. Moments from tears.
A young soldier with a devilish grin takes the seat beside her. “What’s a lovely dame like yourself doing all alone in a joint like this?”
“Not looking for you.” She snarls.
He chuckles, “Come on, doll. No need to play hard to get, I’m already interested.”
She downs her drink in one gulp, not allowing herself to wince at the burn. “The only thing I came here for is a decent drink.” Her eyes dart to the beer bottle in his hand, and her tone turns patronizing. “So, run along, then.”
“Alright, kitten,” he gives her a wink, “this drink’s on me. How about we talk again after.”
She rolls her eyes with a dramatic sigh. “I am more than capable of buying my own drinks. Now, leave.” Tired of the games, she locks eyes with him. “Get up. Walk away. Before I embarrass you.”
He snatches his beer off the counter and slides off the stool with a comment under his breath. She throws a two-finger salute at his back.
“Never thought I’d miss the bloody war.” She mutters to herself, taking a sip from her new glass. “At least those twats knew better.”
She glances at the clock and drops her forehead to the countertop. Seven fifteen. She could leave right now. She should. But she knows she won’t because despite losing everything to the war, despite the pit of despair in her stomach, there's still something. A tiny seed of hope, a dream more than anything, one she dares not allow to take root. She knows the moment it does, what remains of her life will come crashing down around her.
Or maybe it’s simply because her quarters are cold and dark. Lonely. The small room has too many memories and not enough future. She kept his duffle bag after the last mission. It wasn’t much, just a few shirts, a spare uniform, and his sleeping bag. His scent had faded quickly, barely noticeable now. When she returned from the search and rescue mission, she buried her face in his undershirt just to smell him one more time. Though she’d never admit that to Howard or anyone else.
She chokes down a sob with another sip. She holds the warm liquid in her mouth, letting the taste ground her. She takes another drink, relishing the burn on her tongue and down her throat. This is a pain she can handle.
As she lifts the glass for a third sip, Howard pushes through the crowd. “Someone sitting here?”
Peggy turns to him unamused. “Oh, sod off.”
He takes the seat and orders a scotch. “You know me better than that.”
Not one to sit alone, crying into her drink, Peggy smiles at the bartender. “Make this one a double. On Mr. Stark.”
Howard smirks at her. “Finally going to take me up on those drinks?”
She finishes her drink with a smile. “You can’t keep up with me.”
“Tonight, I’d have to disagree.”
Peggy scoffs, shaking her curls across her shoulders.
“You’re not the only one who misses him, Peg.” He frowns into his drink. “I was his friend. I was part of every mission he was on. I was supposed to find him.”
Her face softens. “You're right. I just-”
“Yeah. Me too.”
“He spent two years running their missions. Playing their games. And they couldn't even spare him two weeks.” She struggles to contain a sob.
Howard takes a long drink before rubbing her shoulder. “When the war's over, we'll look again. As long as you want.”
They finish their drinks in silence. For once, she’s grateful for his presence. She tells herself it’s because he intimidates the young bucks, but she knows she doesn’t want to be alone.
“Another round?” Howard glances at her from under his brow.
Peggy nods. “One more.”
“Only one? Agent Carter, you’re losing your edge.”
“I’m debriefing the Colonel first thing.”
“So, the whole bottle then?” Howard lets out a sad laugh and waves to the bartender.
“There’s not enough in the world to get me through that report.” Still, she takes the bottle and fills her glass nearly to the brim.
“You know, you’re a pretty miserable drunk.” He takes the bottle from her.
She nearly snorts. Steve would have heartily disagreed. “You’re not exactly jolly either. It’s refreshing, actually.”
Again, they fall into a comfortable silence. Neither acknowledging their utter failure. She couldn’t save Steve, and Howard couldn’t find him. The two people closest to him had let him down so completely.
“It was his choice.” Peggy empties the bottle into her glass with a deep breath.
Howard nods silently, laying cash on the bar. “Let me give you a ride back to base.”
She shakes her head. “I’m going to stay just a bit longer.”
Howard glances at the clock. Seven forty-five. “Peg, this can’t be healthy.”
“Tomorrow, before I’ve even had a drop of tea, I tell Colonel Phillips, the Commandos, Senator Brandt, and half of Army Research that Captain Steven Grant Rogers is officially dead. Missing in action with no hope of recovery. Tomorrow by lunch, Dugan will bring me his personal belongings to sort through for anything of intelligence value. Tomorrow evening, I will read his condolence letter before mailing it to Rebecca Barnes, because she's the closest family he had left.” She turns away from his knit eyebrows and puffy eyes. “So, just give me tonight.”
“Yeah. Alright.” Howard’s voice is tight as he walks away.
She turns her attention to her drink. She swirls the glass, watching the brown liquid move smoothly with every twist of her wrist. Absorbed in her own thoughts and memories, she loses track of time. Somewhere between ten and thirty minutes must have passed when the room goes quiet and someone clears their throat behind her.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.” Some big shot officer is going to try his luck. “Just don't. Not tonight. I am not in the mood.” She picks her glass up, ignoring the hand on her shoulder. “I came here for a drink. I don’t need an escort to the barracks or another round on you. I don’t care for a chat, and I certainly don’t want to dance.” She takes a breath to continue.
“And to think, I came all this way.”
She drops her glass. It shatters on the edge of the counter, spraying shards across the bar and into her dress. The pieces clink onto the ground as she stands up and whirls around.
Disbelief, joy, relief, and comfort flood through her when she sees Steve’s face.
She throws a fist into his jaw. The whole bar gasps.
Steve rubs his jaw. “Not quite what-”
“How long have you been back?” Peggy demands, face flushed. “Couldn’t phone? Or radio? Couldn’t find a single way to tell me you were alive? For what? So you could have this bloody moment?”
“Well,” he grins at her, “you know how I like to be dramatic.”
“Christ, Rogers, I swear.” She shakes her head leaning into him. “You’re an arse.”
He embraces her, nuzzling into her hair. “You owe me a dance.”
“You owe me a double shot of scotch.” She buries her face in his chest before anyone can catch a glimpse of the tears streaming down it. “Top shelf.”
Steve pulls her away, wiping her cheeks. He leads her to the dance floor and asks the band to play something slow. He leans down to kiss her forehead.
“I thought I lost you.” Her voice is unsteady.
He begins swaying to the music, his arms wrapped around her waist. “I could never leave my best girl.” His eyes glisten, tears threatening to spill.
She smiles up at him. “Steve, I don’t understand. We looked-”
He shushes her gently. “I’ll explain everything later, I promise. Right now, just dance with me.”
She lays her head against his chest and wraps her arms around him. “I thought you didn’t know how to dance.”
“We'll talk later.” He holds her snug against his body until the song ends.
When she looks up at him again, tears flow freely down her cheeks, but a smile covers her face. He leans down, pressing his lips to hers. She stands on her tiptoes, fingers curled around his lapels, deepening the kiss.
She pulls away, breathless. “Walk me to my quarters?”
“I thought you weren’t in the mood.”
She quirks an eyebrow up at him. “If you don’t remember the way, Captain, I can walk myself.”
“Sweetheart, that’s not a path I’d forget in a million years.” His eyes sparkle at the comment. “But, I made other arrangements for tonight.”
“Then what are we waiting for?”
He holds out his arm, and she takes his elbow. He leads her out of the Stork Club and waves down a cab. He opens the door and wraps an arm around her after he settles in. She curls into his side, breathing in his scent, different somehow.
He hums into her hair.
“If you ever crash another plane, you’d better crash it well. Because if I find you, you’re death will be neither quick nor painless.”
He grins, “I would expect nothing less.”
When they arrive at the high-rise, Steve takes out his wallet and groans. “You got to be shitting me.” Credit cards.
Peggy raises her eyebrows. “Language, Captain.”
He hangs his head with a chuckle and turns to Peggy, cheeks burning pink. “This isn’t going to make much sense to you, but,” he licks his lips, “I don’t have any money. Can you…”
Peggy opens her purse, drawing her eyebrows together. She takes out a handful of change and passes it to Steve. “You owe me.”
Steve pays the driver and turns around, smirking at Peggy. “I intend to pay that bill in full very shortly.”
“Don’t take too long. I charge interest.” Her sultry demeanor falls when Steve wraps his arms under her backside and lifts her into the air. “Steve!” She giggles leaning against his chest.
He kisses along her collar bone, carrying her to the side of the building before setting her down. He presses her back against the wall and nips at her neck.
He smiles into her skin at the sound of her whine. After he kisses her neck once more, sucking hard enough to leave a bruise, he pulls back and looks at her.
“Steve, we’re not in the field anymore. We’re not undercover. I want a bed. Not the woods or some back alley or an elevator. A bed. With blankets. Maybe a bath.”
Steve smiles, “Anything you want.” He takes her hand and leads her inside to the elevator. He presses the button for the penthouse apartment, appreciating her quiet gasp.
Peggy gapes at the entryway. She drops Steve’s hand to explore the different rooms. When she finds the bedroom, she throws her bag into the corner and falls back into the bed.
“Steve, this is magnificent.” She rolls over, burying her face in pillows. “Everything is so soft.”
Steve stands in the doorway. “You like it?”
She nods, grinning. “How did you-”
“A favor from an old friend.”
She slides off the bed and turns her back to him, wiggling her hips. “I could use some help with the zipper.”
He’s behind her in seconds, tugging the zipper down to the dimples in her back. He watches her slide the sleeves off her shoulder and leans in to kiss her neck. “Let’s talk interest.”
She smirks over her shoulder. “I prefer to keep rates low.”
He wraps his hands around her waist and turns her to face him. He lifts her by the hips and sets her down on the bed. He slides her shoes off one at time, tracing his fingers up her ankles.
She giggles, “Not that low, Captain.”
He kisses the inside of her ankle and gazes up at her with dark eyes. “Tell me when to stop.” He kisses her other ankle and brushes his lips a few inches up her calf before pressing his lips deep into her skin.
Peggy moans. “You’re getting warmer.”
He kisses the same spot on her opposite leg and repeats the process until she falls back, squirming under his touch. He leans forward, hovering over her, and presses his lips to hers.
“You have no idea how much I missed you.” She kisses him again, tugging at his hair.
“I think I do,” he chuckles, breathing in her perfume. “I missed you too.” Exactly what he remembered.
Peggy wakes up alone in the middle of the bed and sits up to see the sun coming through the curtains in the bedroom.
“Damn.” She falls back onto the bed. “No sense in hurrying now.” Philips has certainly either sent out a search party or fired her already.
A chill runs up her spine and she pulls the blankets around herself. She sits back up, carefully hugging the sheets to her body, and looks around the unfamiliar room. “Damn.” She must have gotten so sloshed she actually went home with one of those officers and convinced herself it was Steve. Howard was right; she’s losing her edge.
When the boys find out she woke up in a stranger’s bed, she will never hear the end of it. She chuckles to herself. She can already hear all her own jokes being tossed in her face. Then again, they probably won’t, not today.
She hears the shower turn off and looks for her clothes. It doesn’t matter what happened last night, last night was- Her chest tightens. She chokes back the drunken memories and pulls her garter belt over her hips. Last night is over, and she’s leaving with what’s left of her dignity. And preferably before her mystery suitor returns to the bedroom. She tugs her dress over her head and moves to the mirror.
“Oh, bloody hell.” Her makeup is a mess, eyeliner smudged down her cheeks and lipstick well outside the bounds of her lips. Her hair hasn’t looked so unruly since she spent two and a half weeks sharing a single bathroom with the Commandos in that bombed out hangar. She’ll just wash her face in the kitchen and fix herself up back in the barracks.
With a quick nod to herself, she rolls one of her stockings up. She lifts her dress and takes the clips dangling from the garter belt. The bathroom door creaks open, allowing steam to creep in. Peggy huffs, squinting into the light in the doorway.
“Peg, you’ve seen me-” Peggy darts into his arms and pulls his head down for a kiss. “I should go missing more often.” He presses gently against her hips, pushing her back.
“You most certainly should not.” She tosses her curls, or whatever remains of them, side to side. “You weren’t there. I thought it was a dream.”
Steve raises an eyebrow as she clips her stocking, “I’m barely gone two weeks and you go home with somebody new?”
She swats his shoulder. “I’m just happy you’re real.”
“Do you need reassurance?” Steve leans in, wrapping his arms behind her shoulders. He nuzzles up her neck and whispers in her ear, “Because I have a few ideas.”
She smiles, “I have to meet with Colonel Phillips.”
“It’s covered.” Steve sits on the bed and pulls her against his chest. “Howard informed Philips this morning that you were up all night interviewing me for potential intelligence I may have discovered during the mission."
“Still. I didn’t pin up my hair last night. It’ll take me hours to fix it.” Her eyes glint. “Maybe tonight.”
Steve hangs his head. “Alright. I’ll get dressed and call for a cab.” He begins gathering his clothes and looks back up at Peggy sheepishly. “Can you…”
Peggy smiles, “Yes, Steve, I think I can swing another taxi.”
Steve rubs a hand down his face. “Peg, I’m so sorry. I wanted this to be perfect. I can’t believe-”
“Steve,” she quiets him with a kiss, “I’m just glad you’re home.”
“Steve, I really have to go to work now.” She leans back against the door, turning the handle.
“But I missed you.” He tugs at her wrist.
She pulls away stumbling backward out of the cleaning closet. “I missed you too.”
She turns around, nearly knocking Howard over. They both take a step back. She tucks a loose hair behind her ear, glancing at Philips, and wipes at her lipstick. She gives her coat a sharp tug and clears her throat.
“Captain.” She nods to Steve and walks down the hall in the direction the men had come from.
She walks into the SSR office, flips on the coffee maker, and sits at her desk. Taking a deep breath, she smiles to herself looking through files that accrued in her absence. She’s barely cracked open the first file when laughter bubbles up in her chest. She’s a grown woman and federal agent; she has no business messing around in broom cupboards. And yet- She allows a quiet chuckle to herself, biting her fingernail.
“What’s got you all giggly?”
“Oh, Wilson.” Peggy jumps. “Nothing really. Just remembered a joke my mum used to tell me. You wouldn’t get it.”
“Because I’m a dumb American?” Wilson raises an eyebrow, opening his desk drawer.
“I was just going to say American.” Peggy laughs, pulling a teabag from her drawer and dropping it in her mug. “What are you doing here? I assumed the entire agency would be fielding senators and scientists all day.”
“Smoke break.” He places a cigarette between his lips and holds the pack out.
She shakes her head, carrying her mug to the coffee maker. “I’ve catching up to do.”
“Great.” He flicks his lighter. “The Howling Commandos have been ringing our phones off the hook since Stark made the announcement this morning.”
“I can handle the boys.” She chuckles lifting the coffee pot. “Oh, bloody- who’s responsible for this?” She holds up the pot, deep brown liquid sloshing over the top. “This is my coffee machine. Mine. You gentlemen have three for whatever monstrosity you want to run through them. Mine is strictly for hot water so I can have a few cups of this sad, American excuse for tea. I ask for one thing in this office.” She slams the pot onto the table. “One bloody thing, and you tossers can’t even manage that.” She snatches the pack of cigarettes and lighter from Wilson’s desk. “I’ve changed my mind.”
“Just dump it out and brew another pot.” He blows out a puff of smoke. “I thought MI-5 sent us their brightest.”
She rolls her eyes and leans on the desk next to him. “It’s been contaminated.”
Wilson holds the cigarette between his teeth, and turns his back to Peggy. When he turns back, he gives her a small origami rose. “I’m sorry for you loss.”
She snickers taking it from his hand. “You’d better keep that little talent a secret.”
“Carter,” Philips walks into the room, “I understand you may need a smoke after the late night you had, but we need you in the conference room.”
Peggy stands up, pulling the unlit cigarette from her lips and thanks Wilson, leaving it on her desk. She takes three large steps to catch up with Philips. “Need me to intimidate a few of the scientists from downstairs, sir?”
“Congressmen, actually,” Philips chuckles. “They want to speak with you and Stark directly.”
“Has been medically cleared for duty and has already found a seat between Senators Brandt and Pierce.”
Peggy pull her eyebrows together. “Was the medical exam really necessary?”
Philips rolls his eyes, “You're not there only one who wants to get their hands on him, Carter.”
“That’s quite enough, Colonel.” She opens the door to the conference room. “We have guests.”
Peggy and Philips take seats around the table, and Philips opens the meeting.
“Before we begin, as head of the Senate Security Committee, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask. Has Captain Rogers been thoroughly debriefed?” Senator Pierce glances at Philips.
“Certainly.” Howard smirks, “And probably more than once.”
Steve’s cheeks turn a deep pink and he shifts in his chair. Peggy glares at Howard.
Philips clears his throat. “Captain Rogers has been assisting Agent Carter in decoding key pieces of intel from the mission.” The smallest smirk plays on his lips. “I understand he's been working quite diligently, no stone unturned. Right, Carter?”
Peggy watches Steve sink into his chair. She smiles at Philips. “Yes, sir. I'm rather impressed with his results. He’s been very thorough.”
“So, Agent Carter, would you say you're satisfied?” Howard chuckles. “Captain Rogers is cleared for this meeting?”
By now, Steve's whole face is red, and it's quickly spreading down his neck. Thankfully, the senators are so concerned with each other, no one seems to notice.
Peggy gives Howard a curt nod. “Yes, and I think it's time to stop discussing this, in favor of a more substantial topic.”
Howard concedes, and Steve’s face slowly returns to a less alarming color. The rest of the meeting goes without incident. Although, Senator Pierce notices the flush in Steve’s cheeks and asks to have the air turned down. When they leave the conference room, Peggy ushers Steve across the hall into a small office.
“I thought you had work to do.” Steve raises an eyebrow, running a hand up the curve of Peggy’s waist and under the edge of her jacket.
“Should we give you a minute?” Dugan’s voice comes from the back corner, followed by several chuckles.
“Boys,” Peggy smirks, “I told you I’d make time for you."
Steve breaks into a grin as the Commandos circle him, making jokes and slapping his shoulders. “A minute won’t do, gentlemen.”
“It did when you took Carter to that shindig in Lucerne.” Morita looks around the group for acknowledgement.
“We were undercover,” Steve glares.
Gabe smirks, “Yeah, we heard.”
Steve whirls around, “It was an act.”
“We were all on comms that night, Cap. Give it up.” Dugan squeezes his shoulder.
“Peg, some help here?” Steve tosses her a pleading look.
She leans against the wall, smiling. “You got yourself into it, Rogers.” She curls her tongue over her front teeth and raises an eyebrow. “Repeatedly, if I remember correctly.”
The Commandos let out whoops and whistles, shoving Steve between them. He breaks away and pulls Peggy tight against him.
“Not a night I’ll easily forget.” He leans down, stopping inches from her lips.
She pulls away, patting his chest. “Boys, get your fill. The Captain has another meeting in ten and that will be the last you see him this week.”
“Philips can’t work him around the clock, Carter.” Monty speaks for the first time since they walked in.
Peggy throws a devilish grin over her shoulder as she opens the door. “Like I said, last you’ll see him.”
Steve grins at the door closing behind her.
Peggy walks briskly back to the SSR office. She has eight and a half minutes to brew a tolerable cup of tea. She nods to the agent in the corner as she walks to the coffee stand. After dumping the contents of her coffee pot, she sets the coffee maker back up to run a fresh pot of water. While she waits, she makes her way back to her desk and plucks the cigarette from the center.
“I didn’t think you smoked, Carter.”
She smiles, pulling the cigarette from between her lips and releasing a puff of smoke. “Only when people I can’t punch question my competence.”
“Meetings with Congressmen?”
“As far as the eye can see.” She blows out a ring of smoke and watches it dissipate.
“How did a non-smoker learn to do that.”
She shrugs, releasing another ring. “How did you get out of babysitting duty, Dooley?”
He smiles, removing his feet from the desk and dropping his paper. “Loretta’s going to pop any day. Can’t leave a senator without an escort if I got to beat feet.”
“A week in the Arctic will really scramble a lady’s brain.” Peggy’s eyes light up. “Have you picked a name?”
“I'm thinking something classic like William or Anne.” He waves a hand and rolls his eyes. “The missus wants to be unique.”
Peggy chuckles, taking her mug back to the coffee pot. She makes a stop at Wilson’s desk, dropping her lipstick stained cigarette butt into his ashtray, before she continues to the coffee stand. She pours water into her mug and takes cream from the refrigerator.
“You going to marry this one, Carter?”
Peggy nearly drops her mug as she turns. “Who?”
“You know who,” Dooley snorts. “Look at you, blushing like a schoolgirl.”
She looks at the floor and smiles, feeling the heat in her cheeks. “Haven’t given it much thought.”
“Yeah, sure.” He props his feet back up on the desk.
Replacing the milk, she turns to leave. “I have less than two minutes to get back to the conference room. So, if there’s nothing else?”
He waves her off, lifting his newspaper.
Peggy hurries back down the hall, taking a siip of her tea. She grimaces; it tastes like coffee grounds. She sets her tea down in the conference room and ducks into the office where she left Steve. To her dismay, Stark has found his way into the little reunion. She’s barely squeezed through the door when he winks at her.
“Steve said you liked the pillows. I can have Jarvis bring some out for you, if you want.”
Peggy’s eyebrow pull together. Her eyes widen as she looks from Howard to Steve. “You took me to the Stark penthouse?”
The room falls silent.
“Steven.” She ignores the stares. “Grant.” She takes a step toward Steve. “Rogers.” She glares up at him. “Did I spend the night in Howard Stark’s bed?”
“Well, not the whole night,” Steve laughs weakly.
Peggy rubs her forehead, turning away. “I’m going to be sick.”
“It’s better than getting bed bugs from a rat infested motel.” Howard grabs her at the door.
“We have a meeting with the SSR Research Team, ” she sneers pulling her arm away.
Steve shoves his way out the door. “Peggy, what did you want me to do?”
“Take me back to my quarters as I suggested.” She corners him against the wall, whispering angrily.
Steve rolls his eyes, “Right. Because the gate guards never would have recognized me.” He sniffs at the air. "Have you been smoking?"
"Yes, what does it matter?" Her face goes stern again. “You could have gotten your own place.”
“I couldn’t even pay for the cab!”
Peggy huffs. “How long did Howard know?”
“I ran into him on my way to the Stork Club. I didn’t mean to tell him before you. I swear.” He shakes his head. “I wanted you to be the first to know I was alive, Peggy. I love you.”
She gives him a blank stare. “You what?”
“I, um-” He smiles when he sees the corners of her mouth twitch. “I love you, Peggy Carter.”
She smiles so briefly, Steve almost missed it. “Let’s go, Captain. We’re late.”
When they enter the room, Peggy and Howard take seats on opposite sides at the front of the table. Steve sits next to Peggy, and Philips sits along the back wall away from the table. The banter from the previous meeting continues, turning Steve a lovely crimson. When Peggy mentions the quality of Steve’s intelligence gathering, he kicks her ankle under the table.
Peggy looks up. “Excuse me?”
“If Rogers found such significant information, shouldn’t we know about it?”
She should’ve known better. SSR Research has worked more with Steve than any other department in the Army. They’re too familiar with the situation to miss the innuendos.
“Well, yes, Doctor Andrews. I intend to write a report for proper dissemination.” Peggy smiles sweetly.
“Just a sneak peek, then.” He narrows his eyes.
Peggy shoots Howard a death glare. He went too far. Philips clears his throat quietly. Howard opens his mouth.
“Sergeant Barnes is alive.”
“What?” Peggy’s head snaps to Steve, while Howard chokes on his coffee and Philips nearly falls out of his chair.
Quiet murmurs fill the room.
“HYDRA must have found him after the mission on the train.” Steve stares intently at the center of the table. “I don’t know where, but they definitely have him.”
Howard looks across to Peggy. “That can’t be possible.”
“It shouldn’t be, no.” She shakes her head. “I planned that mission. The drop alone…” Her voice trails off.
“Not to mention the cold.” Howard rolls his chair around the table to sit next to Peggy.
Steve’s face is blank. His eyes are distant.
“Steve,” Peggy clears her throat, blood rushing to her cheeks, “Captain Rogers, how can you be sure?”
Steve doesn’t look away from the table. "I saw him."
The whispering turns to discussion to argument. "It's not possible...Why would Cap lie... If you saw him, how can you not know where he is... That doesn't mean he's still alive... It doesn't make sense..."
“Gentlemen,” Philips silences the room, “clearly Captain Rogers is not ready to discuss this revelation. We will reschedule this meeting.”
When no one moves, he stands and raises his voice. “That will be all. Enjoy your evening.”
When everyone has filtered our, Howard closes the door. Philips, Steve, and Peggy are the only others in the room. He returns to the front of the room and rests his arms on the back of a chair.
Philips moves to the seat across from Steve.
“Steve?” Peggy takes his hand rubbing her thumb across his knuckles.
Slowly Steve looks at each of them, landing on Peggy. He swallows hard. “We need to talk.”
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