It Doesn't Fit in a Breadbox, But It Fits A Breadbox

June 13, 2015:

Howard has a surprise for Peggy.

New York

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Howard has been very close-mouthed about where it is they're going. Jarvis has the afternoon off, so one of the private security guards that Tony insisted on is behind the wheel of the sedan. It says something about him that despite everything that's going on, he's smiling like the cat that caught the canary. "I promise, you'll like this surprise."

Peggy is not wary, but she certainly is curious about what it is that has Howard in such a state. "Oh really?" Her eyes move to the guards behind the wheel of the sedan. Honestly, she should be guard enough to ensure Howard's safety, but she also can't fault Tony for wishing to be careful. "With a smile like that, you realize I can only be suspicious," she tells him with a good-natured smirk. "Does it fit in a bread box?"

Howard laughs brightly. "Ah, no, it doesn't." The secretive smile grows. They're not in the car very long before the car pulls up to a beautiful old high-rise. From Howard's penthouse to here would be about a brisk fifteen minute walk on a good day. It looks to have been built sometime in the 50s, and lovingly maintained. Peggy may have walked past the construction site at some point. He gets out of the car, then circles around to open the door for her.

With a raised eyebrow, Peggy has already started to open her door by the time Howard circles around. However, as he gestures to open it the rest of the way she allows it without much of a fuss. There are certain things she would usually get snarky about that he gets a pass on. As she steps out of the car, she tilts her head upward at the building. She's dressed in one of her more vintage outfits. On the weekends she tends to dress in clothes she's more used to, while during the week she tends to dress a bit more modern. Taking in the whole gesture only takes a few moments and then she tilts her head questioningly at Howard. "You're limiting yourself, Howard. I'm sure you could invent a breadbox that could fit it," she grins. "I'm not sure we needed the car, however. It seems a bit of a waste."

"Pal, you should know better than to encourage me," says Howard. He starts towards the door, signalling that the guards should stay behind. They bristle, but obey. "Not my idea. It's the guards. Besides, could you imagine us walking with those two goons shadowing us?" He holds open the door and crosses into the lobby. There's a polished marble floor and a cluster of couches around the fireplace, and a doorman who simply nods to them. The elevator is polished and bronze coloured, and there's a decorative grate that opens first.
Once they're inside, he pushes the button for the twenty-first floor. The elevator may look old and grand, but it works quite efficiently. It slides to a stop. He heads down the hallway, to 2121. He pulls out a key, but instead, he hands it to Peggy. "Will you do the honours?"

"I'm sure it would merely be like old times, however, these goons aren't tailing us for a nefarious purposes." Plus, Peggy certainly knows how to lose a tail or two. As they move through the lobby, she curiously nods at the doorman as well, entering the elevator with a raised eyebrow. "You are certainly bringing out your old presentational routine," she smirks. "Have you been watching your old reels again?" However, as she takes in the hallway and they key, she delicately takes it from him. Red nail polish glints and she turns to insert the key into the doorway and then test the lock. Should it turn, she'll open the door with a gentle push.

The flat smells clean and new - like all purpose cleaner, fresh paint and a furniture store. The door opens on a lovely mid-century appointed apartment. The decor is in cool browns and reds. It's a decent size - especially for Manhattan, but it's not nearly as flashy as Howard's own penthouse.
"I uh, we can redecorate it however you like," says Howard. "I hazarded a guess and chucked a few images to a decorator."

Peggy steps into the flat curiously. It's certainly more Howard's taste than Peggy's, but then again, she never really decorated her apartments very carefully. She was more often at work than she was at home, so why bother? She moves through the entryway and slowly takes it in and then looks over to him. "What is this place, exactly, Howard?" It's a whole other apartment only a few minutes away from his penthouse. She has a few ideas and guesses, but she'd rather ask.

"I figured you were getting tired of me working at all hours. At not having your own space. I know you're independent, Peg. I also know you don't have any life savings of your own, and SHIELD isn't paying you enough to afford a decent place of your own." Howard closes the door behind him. "It's yours. Paid in cash. I owe you a hell of a lot more than an apartment."

The idea that she didn't have a space of her own certainly has been chafing at her a bit. However, she's not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. "You're making a habit of repaying your debts with places for me to live," she replies. The townhouse she and Angie lived in for a little isn't that long ago to her. Blinking a few times as she looks around this apartment, she attempts to decide how she feels about it. Howard certainly does owe her a few favors, but she also didn't expect it to be paid like this. A hand reaches out to rest on the back of one of the sofas. "It's lovely, Howard."

"I also…" Howard clears his throat, "…realize that it might not be doing you any favours over at SHIELD HQ to be shacking up with me. We're on decent terms now, but we don't always see eye-to-eye. I figured you could use at least the possibility of impartiality as far as I'm concerned."

"Shacking up?" Peggy raises an eyebrow at the term. "Is that what we were doing?" There are certain implications of that usage. "Though, if that is your worry, I doubt that SHIELD HQ would think all that much more of me for moving from living in your penthouse to a flat bought for me by you. I believe that might hinder impartiality." It may take awhile for her to work her way up to the security clearance she had before, but she can certainly attempt it. "Either way, it's impossible for me to be impartial where you are concerned and they must know that. You're my friend."

Howard smiles and shakes his head. "You do have a point." He turns and leans against the bar and kicks a foot out. "Well, it's up to you. This place is yours if you want it. Or you can keep living with me. You know I'm happy to have you. This place might not have a library, but it does have a gym and a rooftop pool."

Moving around the couch, Peggy sinks into it. She sighs just softly; it's incredibly comfortable. Then, she gives a quiet laugh. "Was it always like this for you and I?" she asks Howard. She mostly forgets how much older he is than how she looks, however, the thought returns to here every once in awhile. "Dancing about the red tape?" She crosses her legs at the ankle and spreads her arms out over the back of the seat. "I imagine it was easier when we were both running SHIELD together."

"SHIELD got too big for both of us almost as soon as we opened shop. We were like a small start-up company whose product was in desperate need. We expanded quickly. SSR became obsolete, though they stuck around a few more years. Inside of ten years, we had international certification, permission to operate inside a dozen nations. We opened an LA office in the first two years. By the fifth, we were in London. Then Prague. Rio."
He moves to the bar (which is, naturally, fully stocked) and opens a bottle of cabernet. He fills a lovely set of glasses with the fine wine, then decants the rest. That done, he carres the glass over to Peggy and hands it out to her. "Which means it quickly became more than you and me could handle on our own."

Peggy takes the glass of wine from Howard. She doesn't immediately sip from it, instead, she rests it on her knee and looks into the red liquid pensively. "Yes, I certainly realized that it became quite a bit larger than we originally intended. I didn't realize, however, that it happened to suddenly. I would have thought we would work alongside the SSR for far longer." The fact that something she started became such a huge organization is still rather astounding to her.

"How long did you stay, then?" It's clear from his tone that he did not work there the rest of his life.

Howard shrugs. "Fifteen years or so. Though it only had my full attention for the first five years. Then Stark Industries was picking up all sorts of contracts to guard against the Russians. I officially resigned from SHIELD when I found out Maria was pregnant."

"That's still quite a bit of time," Peggy tells Howard. She leaves out that it's quite a long commitment for the man to have made at that time in his life. She takes a sip of her wine and nods. "That's a reasonable time to resign from a spy agency," she tells him. "The danger, the hours. I saw how hard it was on Chief Dooley." The mention of contracts against the Russians is nodded at, though she is certainly interested. That would seem to tie in with Erben's grudge against him. "I've seen that I stayed for awhile after that." Even though she had her own family and marriage by then, it would seem. She's done a bit of research into that.

"It was your life's work. You gave it everything. You fell in love and had a family and you didn't even mean to. Everything just fell into place for you." Howard smiles at the memory. "Not that you didn't fight for all of it. It was after you settled down that I realized how far behind I was." He looks down at his glass of wine, then up at her. "You saved my life more times than you realize. Saved my soul, too."

Her life's work. Peggy looks down into her wine. And SHIELD is still going and she's returned to it. Much lower on the totem pole, but she's there. At the idea of things falling into place for her, she laughs. "I find it hard to believe that things could ever simply fall into place for me." Her entire life has been about struggle and fighting for her place. That she could find love, satisfaction at work and a family without trying? Well, that is hard believe. "You've helped me, too, Howard. And not just in bringing me here, but back then as well."

"Mhmm, yeah, but I also caused you a lot of heartache," says Howard. He bites the edge of his lip and smiles. "But I don't want to tell you all the details. I'd like you to keep the respect you have for me. It took the other you awhile to come back around." He swallows a mouthful of the wine, then looks into it a bit sadly. Doesn't do a damned thing for him, but he keeps drinking out of habit.

"When you put it that way, it certainly does not distill quite a lot of confidence in my continued respect," Peggy tells Howard, but her tone is wry and there is a smirk there. It certainly is supposed to be taken lightly. But, there is a kernel of truth there. "I didn't think I could ever trust you again after what happened with Steve's blood," she tells him truthfully. "And yet, here we are. You're important to me and there is not much you could do that would make it impossible for me to trust you again. It may take years, but we've shared too much for it all to simply go away."

Howard sinks onto the couch beside her, then sets his glass aside. "Why do you put up with me, Peg? I really don't deserve it." He extends his arms, one eyebrow quirking in that charming way of his. "Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful. But it doesn't entirely make sense." He pauses, then leans in and whispers, "Are you secretly in love with me? I promise I won't tell Steve." Cue a shit-eating grin.

Peggy snorts into her wine glass at the notion of her being in love with him. There's admiration, respect and trust for the man, but there's nothing romantic there. "Your charm doesn't work on me, Howard," she reminds him bluntly, though she tilts her head and smiles. Once again, she rests the base of it on her knee and leans back, thinking seriously for a moment. And, really, the answer is simple. "I put up with you because you believed in me before most anyone else other than Steve. And when I lost him…you were the only one who understood what I had truly lost. Though you are at times you are self-centered, you also - in your own brash, outlandish and at times caddish way - you will go to extreme lengths for the people you care for. That's worth it to me." Then, she smirks. "And I know that I am not exactly a picnic, myself."

"I'm too relaxed, you're not relaxed enough. Between the two of us, we make one person who is just the right amount of tense." Howard rolls his shoulders back into the couch, then he smiles over at her. "I love you, Peggy." Which, might just come as a bombshell from a man who has always had a hell of a time expressing true emotions to the people in his life. But he has grown. "You're my best friend. I don't know how I managed these first few months here without you."
He doesn't have to explain that it's not that kind of love. He's not saying he's held a candle for her or anything of the sort. It's familial, the way he'd love a sister.

"Is this where we discuss the opposites of attraction principles?" Peggy raises an eyebrow at him, easily teasing him back. His declaration of love comes as quite as surprise to the woman. Not because she believes it to have any romantic attachment to it, but because he expressed such an extreme emotion freely and without much prompting. The other eyebrow quickly raises to meet the other one, a sarcastic expression easily moving into a startled one. So much so that she has yet to form a proper answer. Instead of touching on those emotions, she tells him, "It seems as if you managed quite ably. You've been mostly the one to help me manage since I've been here instead of the other way around."

Now, if only he could learn how to communicate like that with his son. But Howard and Tony have always been on two different wavelengths. Or perhaps, their wavelengths are so similar that the signals interrupt each other.
"It was really rough those first few months. SHIELD had me locked up and under observation. Then when I finally got out, I had…" he has a hard time admitting it, "…agorophobia. I was experiencing panic attacks." There's very few people he'd admit that to. "Then, when I finally decided to come out to the world, Tony called me property in front of the world."

It can be harder to communicate with people where a manner is already set. People get locked into acting certain ways. Either way, while Peggy and Howard have had their differences, they're also equals and friends - not father and son. While on some level she can understand why SHIELD would have Howard put in containment, she certainly feels sympathy for her friend. "I'm sorry," she tells him, reaching out a hand to put on his shoulder. This is a strange moment for her. She's rarely had to comfort the man. He keeps his emotions so close to the chest. And, really, she's not used to being someone who anyone comes to for comfort. Tony's declaration that he was property is met with a blink. "Why would he do that?"

Howard tries to laugh it off. He smiles, though it takes effort and waves vaguely. "He thought it would protect me. He thought if I said, hey this is my tech, people wouldn't mess with me." Which is…a terrible idea, but it was a terrible idea that came from a good place. That's sort of what Tony specializes in.
He stands up and rubs his hands together. "Well, I should leave you to get settled in. I can send the boys over with your things. Unless you'd rather come back and pack for yourself?"

Peggy's confused face as to why that would be a good idea just goes to show what she thinks of that declaration. "He better have apologized," she tells him, maybe sounding more like the Aunt Peggy that both Howard and Tony knew. Taking another sip of her wine, she looks around the flat, and smirks. "I didn't actually say yes to this place yet, you realize." Of course, if she's teasing, it most likely means that she will stay here.

"Tony was…Tony," says Howard. By which he means, he said something where the subtext was apology and avoided snark for several weeks. And Howard didn't so much accept as tried to forget it ever happened. So, pretty much…not dealing with it all around. Like Starks do.
He grins, then leans over to peck her on the cheek. "The cupboard and fridge has been stocked with the basics. Coffee. Butter. Cheese. A few vegetables. And the bar, of course." Of course. "And really do feel free to change anything. I posted my decorator's card on the bulletin board by the phone. Call him and he'll swap what you don't like for something you do. I won't be hurt if you completely redecorate, I promise."

There's a slight roll of her eyes. Peggy's only known the Stark Family for a short while now and she already knows what that statement and its subtext means. "I see."

At the peck on the cheek, she sighs. That's practically giving in. "Thank you," she tells him softly. Then, her tone turns more serious, "I'll be paying for it from here on out, okay? Taxes, utilities, the works. I may not have the money to actually buy a place like this, but I can save enough to maintain it." She's Agent Peggy Carter, after all.

"Mhmm, if you insist," says Howard. It's the tone that suggests he's Up To Something. But he doesn't let on. "Have Steve over soon, okay? I think he'll approve. I'm sure he didn't much like that you were living under my roof." He starts for the door. "Oh, and the doorman's name is…Mickey in the day, Monday to Friday, Greg is the night porter, and I think…it's Mel and Graham on the weekend? But don't quote me on that."

That tone hasn't changed over the years, it would seem. Peggy looks at him skeptically as she follows him to the door. "Why does your mustache look like it's up to something?" While he may not let on what it is that he's thinking, she certainly knows him enough that he's thinking about it. As for having Steve over, she laughs. "I'll be sure to extend him an invitation." She doesn't deny the fact that he may be relieved that she has her own place now. "I'll introduce myself." And she will; she's not the type to ignore doormen.

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