Tea and Questions

June 20, 2016:

Peggy comes to visit a woman Older Peggy knew. Violette has many questions.

Dr. du Vernet's Office

Dr. du Vernet's office at Columbia is situated quite nicely in the
Schermerhorn Extension and features a great deal of wood. Wooden built-in
bookshelves cover two walls out of four, with the door set in one and a
lovely window in the other. Books do dominate bookshelf space, but
interspersed among the books are various items the professor has brought
back from her travels—old books or scrolls, sometimes, but more often a
sculpture or cultural item. There is a sense of warmth and comfort here, and
though the place is well organized, there are always papers to be graded and
books to be reviewed, making this office look thoroughly lived-in.

A large wooden desk dominates the room, setting off the third closest to the
window as Violette's primary workspace. Two chairs sit opposite her desk;
these are for supplicating students or other visitors. A small wooden table
closer to the door has a pair of wooden chairs as well; this seems to be a
secondary work area for graduate students or anyone else who doesn't get to
use Dr. du Vernet's desk.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Her office hours are duly posted on her website, and Dr. du Vernet generally keeps them. She can often be found in her office, in fact; the bustle of Columbia is somewhat to be preferred to an empty apartment. A recent acquisition stands in one corner behind her desk—not a statue or a strange artifact but a standing birdcage holding a remarkable and curious bird. It's vivid green and of many different shades, with a bright orange beak and a smudge of orange feathers on its crown. It's also hanging upside-down from its perch.

As afternoon settles, Dr. du Vernet has made herself a pot of tea and is pausing to open the cage, clean out the water container and refill it, and fill the food container with seeds and a little bit of fruit. The lights are off, but the sunlight streams in through the large window to make the room warm and softly illuminated.

Dr. du Vernet has an appointment today that has little to do with her course work or her office hours. It is for one Ms. Peggy Carter. It was arranged by her assistant. Therefore, the arrival of a younger, in her twenties Peggy Carter may be quite a shock to the archaeologist who knew the woman from her elder aunt. It's not that she's exactly sheepish, in fact the rap on her door is confident.

However, the woman standing in front of Violette looks somewhat like the young pictures of her aunt and Peggy. The difference being the clothing. Her lips are still a bright red, her hair is still curled as if by pin curls. However, her outfit is far more modern. She wears trousers, a collared shirt tucked into them. "Dr. du Vernet?" she asks as she comes more fully into the doorway.

A visit from Peggy Carter is always a pleasure, and one that Violette likes to clear her whole afternoon for. It's why there's a pot of tea rather than just a cup, and why the desk is (mostly) cleared of work. When she hears the knock, Violette looks up in delight and calls for her guest to come in. Her bright smile becomes a bit puzzled when she sees the woman who steps in; she looks at once familiar and strange, eyes flicking up and down the woman who has stepped inside.

Peggy would be forgiven for doubting whether the woman standing before her is any relation of Evangeline du Vernet. This woman is tall like the rest of the du Vernet family, but her skin is several shades darker and her features are, for the most part, decided not French. Yet there is something about her—the fact that her eyes have the same icy hue as Evangeline's, yes, but also something about the way she holds herself, the way she tilts her head even as she does now in some puzzlement.

"I am," she begins. "And you—please forgive me, I know I have seen you before, but I am puzzled as to when."

There's a bit of a smile from Peggy as she remains in the doorway. She doesn't wish to crowd the other woman, especially considering the news that she brings. "I, yes, I believe you have. However, I was much older at the time." It's a bit of a puzzle for Violette to think over before she quickly solves it. "I am your appointment: Peggy Carter. However, I am sure you were expecting someone older?"

Still, the woman does not come in, shrugging her shoulders a bit. "I am, well, I was alerted to my elder self's friendship with your own aunt and I thought - well, I wished to come by. I have been far more active in the public eye and I thought it best that I met you face to face before you wondered who I was."

A faint inhalation of breath meets that news, and Violette's eyes widen a litlte. She moves around the desk and gestures for Peggy to come in; looking her over, she meets the woman's eyes, casting her own gaze over the lines of her face. "You look just like the old photos," she says wonderingly. "It must be you. But yes, I was expecting… well, I was expecting you, clearly. Have you been in the papers, then? I was very much out of the country until now. Please, please; have a seat. I have already made us a pot of tea and I would be delighted if you…"

She trails off, looking Peggy up and down again before retreating behind her desk. "I do apologize. It's. It's a lot to take in. Are there… two Peggys Carter now?"

There is a bit of a surprised look from Peggy at the reception. She was expecting quite a bit more 'what?' and 'impossible!'s. However, the secret agent does step inward and moves toward a seat as she is asked. "No," she responds easily to the papers. "This is more of a rather hush hush thing. It involves, well, it is not a common knowledge sort of thing." She gives a bit of a smile and a shrug at that. State secrets, amirite?

"There…yes. There are. There is the one that is in the nursing home in Virginia and there is me." It's hard to exactly explain things, but there is that. "I was recently made aware of your aunt and my long standing friendship. I thought it best to speak to you myself. Just in case, in your line of work, you might eventually hear of me and worry and wonder."

Either she's quite good at internalizing the shock she must be feeling, or she's good at accepting the absolutely ridiculous. It might be a little of both. As Violette turns back to the desk, she exhibits a very English trait: she carefully pours out two cups of tea. It's the thing to do when nothing makes sense. She offers Peggy the milk and sugar along with the cup, watching her intently. Perhaps to see if Peggy has always taken her tea the same way?
"I would have worried intensely. You — that is… you know, I have no idea how I ought to refer to either of you. But Peggy ought very much to stay resting rather than running around and being a secret agent. She has done more than enough for this country, for the world. She deserves her rest. She would also disagree with me intensely. How…" She settles cautiously into her chair as if worried it might go skittering away from under her. "How can this be?"

The pouring of tea is met with an almost amused look from Peggy. She certainly knows the English cure-all: pour the tea, cure the wound. The intense look is certainly met. She knows a test when she sees one. She's unsure of how old Peggy took her tea - tastes can change - but she pours only a smidgeon of milk into her tea and then a singular cube of sugar. Her coffee she takes black, her tea she takes 'civilized' as her mother used to call it.

"Yes, I do not believe an 95 year old woman should be out in the field." Plus, there are the memory issues that she knows of. She has not visited the older Peggy out of fear and some form of doubt that if they should meet together some form of singularity would collapse. Plus, it is a strange thing to look your own mortality in the face. To know what will happen to you sixty years down the line. "Of course, I would also agree that I should always be able to be in the field." It's a conundrum. As for why it is possible, there is a bit of a shrug. "It is a bit of Howard Stark's doing. A bit of something involving time."

"Though if any 95 year old woman could do it, it would be her." Violette may be a staunch-ish defender of Peggy Carter. "She is a remarkable woman. To look her in the face as she was when she was… my age? Younger than I am now, perhaps?" There is certainly something ageless about the Frenchwoman's face; to have this office, she can't be in her twenties, but she looks like she could range anywhere from twenty to past forty. Talk about good skin.

The tea choice passes muster, but Violette's eyes are still watchful. Still thoughtful and perhaps not entirely trusting. Still, she's smiling faintly as she sips at her own tea. She takes it much the same, though with a little more milk and a smidge more sugar. English-style, redolent of wool cardigans drying by the radiator and the scent of damp spring rains.
"Neither of you should be walking around looking like you do," she replies with a faint quirk of her lips. "The 1940s are coming back with a vengeance, apparently. He is back up to science; would it be a stretch to imagine you are up to your same tricks of sixty years ago? Or is that more than I am allowed to know?"

The compliment is met with a smirk. The Older Peggy is still her - though perhaps different due to her life, her choices. It can be hard to say with time divergences. "I have heard," Peggy replies, setting the spoon down. She doesn't take a sip immediately, she'll let it cool a bit. "It's a slightly strange set of circumstances. I am…not sure she knows that I am here." And even if she did, would that matter? What would she think?

The looks from Violette are met with an equally guarded expression. It's basically Peggy's default expression: she was a spy for many years. Also, she's used to people being wary of her presence here. "I'm not sure if I'm up to my old tricks exactly, but I am still with SHIELD," she tells Violette. It's something she can say without actually explaining what she is doing with them. What else would she do? It's the world she knows.

Violette takes a breath, but she refrains from saying whatever was on her mind — quite possibly that even if someone told Peggy that her younger self was around, she might well forget. She masks her mouth with her cup of tea instead, taking a long, slow, thoughtful drink.

"Well. All work and no play would make Peggy Carter very dull indeed. What else do you get up to? You are coming to terms with modern fashion, I see, and with some style. Surely you get off hours; you aren't working just now. I'm sorry," she adds with a tiny laugh. "This is all very puzzling. You are the woman who knew my aunt so very long ago. She told me a thousand stories about you. For you, though, they are not long past. Have you contacted her?"

That very same thought crossed Peggy's mind. She spoke enough with those who know her now to understand how the memory may play a factor in their meeting. The last thing she wishes to do is to confuse…if not herself, then another version of herself. Instead, she gives a wry smile. "I've been here long enough to find some very remarkable leaps forward in fashion. The lack of girdles, for one. I certainly do not miss them." They were uncomfortable at the best of times. "I understand," she says. "I have…been through this before," she explains as best she can. "I haven't spoken with your aunt, no. I find it has been hardest for people who knew me best and longest." Hence her speaking with Violette and not her relative. "I will, though." Duty, after all.

"You. You do know her," Violette replies, choosing her words with some care. This whole time-shifting thing is more than a little hard to maneuver mentally. "She is hardy, and after the initial shock she will be delighted."

There is a moment before Violette takes a deep breath: "I am sorry. Truly. The fact is, we don't quite know each other. You are not my Aunt Peggy, and you and I have never met — and I am not Aunt Marguerite, as you can see very plainly. But that doesn't mean I don't want to know you," she adds quickly. "I am sure we will be very good friends. But I must really think of you as someone quite different from the Peggy Carter in Virginia. Her twin, perhaps, who has seen so many of the same things but is not quite the same person. Does that make sense to you?"

A wry smile follows this: "As far as believing all of this. You must have wondered. But time travel is not, frankly, the strangest thing I have ever experienced."

"I do," Peggy replies in the affirmative. "However she knows me in a far different capacity." Finally, she takes a sip of her tea and smiles at Violette. "I'd like to get to know you as well." Despite the fact that she and the other Peggy lived far different lives, she's found the woman to have very good taste in friends. "I think that might be best. A twin or a relative." They tend to have similar viewpoints, mannerisms. Peggy doesn't have the life experience the woman Violette knew. The thinking certainly makes sense to her.

"Honestly, I have seen quite a number of strange things since arriving here that I thought impossible. However, time travel ranks high, I must say. What is it that you've witnessed that makes this less startling for you?"

Violette hesitates at the question. There's an obvious moment where she seems ready to disclaim anything particularly shocking — after all, the average New Yorker sees enough super-weirdness for a lifetime — but she gives Peggy a measuring gaze and tilts her head to one side. Peggy Carter can be trusted.

Then again, Peggy Carter's a member of SHIELD. She might be required to report what she sees.

"You can hardly wonder at that — all kinds of ridiculous things have been seen in New York, and New York is not the only place where impossible things have started happening. Most people just try to explain them away as something more sensible than the facts. More than that, and I would have to ask for perfect confidentiality from you. With the natural caveat that I would not tell you or show you anything that would hurt you or anyone else."

There are multiple levels of the trust that Peggy is used to. Either outright suspicion, or something akin to hero blindness. It's been a strange journey. "That certainly sounds like a deflection," she tells Violette with a sip of her tea and a raised eyebrow. "I certainly wouldn't put others in danger." Her whole life has been dedicated to ensuring as many people as she could's safety. "However, perfect confidentiality is a bit of a tricky subject, but as long as what you're showing me does not hurt others, I can't imagine I will break it." There's a pause, a question. "Did the…" she pauses, rephrases. "Did my twin know of this?"

"She did. Does." Violette reaches out to toy with a sugar cube, rolling it back and forth between her fingertips. "The reason I mention it is — is just. It's that I could use some advice, frankly, but under the understanding that I may not take it. What other people would do, I have frankly no interest in. Nevertheless, it worries me."

She shakes her head suddenly, sharply. "This is rather deep talk for a meeting over tea. I really shouldn't have said anything. It's not dangerous, it hasn't hurt anyone, and discussing it would just be belaboring an uncomfortable subject. Hardly fitting for our introduction."

Peggy takes a long drink of her tea. Once at the proper temperature, it only takes a few minutes for it to drop to too cold. Putting the cup down, she gives Violette in front of her a bit of an amused look. "You would like to speak to someone whose opinion you value," not hers, specifically, but in general, "However, you may not take their advice and you fear that it is too deep to speak on to start." There's a laugh and a shake of her head. "I certainly think that is quite a conundrum," she tells her, though she is attempting to be as kind as possible about it. "I would certainly disagree, this sounds exactly like a conversation over a cup of tea for our introduction. What use do we have for niceties when we have something interesting like this to speak?"

Really, if anything could have convinced Violette that she was speaking to Peggy Carter, it would be that little speech. Her eyes crinkle and she breaks into a broad smile, actually letting her head fall back in a warm laugh.

"And that is a Peggy Carter answer if I have ever heard one. Neither you nor your twin are much for idle gossip or small-talk. I should have been sensible to whom I was speaking. When I told her, I was beating around the bush and she snapped that I should be out with it or out of the room; she had no time for prevarication."

There's a moment of the briefest hesitation — and then she flings the sugar cube into the air between them. This is hardly nonviolent on its face, but the fact that the sugar cube stops midair is… something. It spins left, spins right, and finally breaks apart into a tiny cloud of sugar grains before reassembling into a cube once more. It wafts back through the air to Violette's cup, where it crumbles back into her drink. To improve the balance, tea comes floating out of the pot and milk from the tiny milk-jug, and a spoon stirs the whole business. Not a drop is spilled, and not a grain of sugar gets anywhere it shouldn't be.

"So there's that," she says softly. "Which is interesting."

There's a grin from Peggy as she makes Violette laugh. She generally enjoys the ability to surprise and amuse other people. She may not have come her to prove herself - she learned long ago that the only true metric was her own opinion - there's a bit of a relief to hear that someone else has accepted her for who she is.

Then, however, without a statement about Violette suddenly thinking she is who she says she is, her attention is taken by the sugar cube. It's dissolving into mid-air and subsequent reconstituting is met with a somewhat neutral expression. However, the woman remains very still in her seat, making little sudden movements or otherwise. It's the reaction of a spy to something incredibly unexpected.

Dryly, she replies, "From my viewpoint, I'm not quite sure it supersedes time travel." Then, she looks back to Violette, surprise now clear on her face. "However, that is certainly more than interesting. When did you learn you could do that?"

"You would find it more interesting if you knew just how far away it worked. And how much," Violette replies, her tone equally dry. "If you had broken the heel of your shoe and left it… well, anywhere, frankly, I could bring it here, particle by particle, and reassemble it on your shoe quite seamlessly. You might imagine how much this comes in handy in archaeology, though of course it must be used with subtlety and care."

"About… twenty-five years?" she adds as an answer to Peggy's question. "It hasn't always been so… so potent as it is. There was a book I read when I was little about a girl who could move things with her mind. She would practice on tiny things — paperclips, pencils, that sort of thing. Like any other child who would read such a book, I tried it myself. You can imagine my surprise when it worked."

"That's certainly handy," is how Peggy replies to that. "I hate it when I break a heel." It's a wry response to seeing something almost supernatural in front of her. While it is true that she has seen quite a few remarkable and stunning things over the course of her year in what she would call the future, there are still things that surprise her.

"That's a lot of time to practice," she nods. "I certainly wish I had that power at times." Peggy gives a soft laugh and shakes her head. "It's rather remarkable, I must say. However, you've had this ability for twenty-five years. What is it about it now that causes you a need to seek advice?"

"It's certainly very convenient," Violette admits. "If ever I break a glass, I have it back. If I am extremely careful, by the same token, I can clear the lime from my faucets. What I have also done is… well, frankly, when violent sorts have a scrap in the city, most of the buildings are decently covered by insurance. Most, but not all. I can, though it takes time, lay my hand upon a shattered wall and pull it all back together so that every beam, every spar, every piece of the place is back together. The electrostatic bonds that hold solid material together, you see… when they are broken, they still have… links, I suppose. When you shatter a glass, all the pieces can go back together if you get every molecule of glass dust. They will all fit perfectly, like a puzzle. This is… this is like assembling a very large puzzle, except everything just sort of snaps back to where it belongs."

Violette takes a deep breath. "And so that's what I do. Sometimes. If a tenement in Hell's Kitchen, say, has been badly damaged by some disaster, I can put it back together. But I am wondering about the ethics of all this. I have a remarkable power bestowed by… I cannot imagine what. My Creator? Do I have some mandate, then, some moral imperative to use this power? I have trained myself, and in twenty-five years I have not yet found a limitation as to size. There is always further to go. It frightens me. I… told your twin about it when I could move very small things, and she told me to be very careful about who I told. People would be suspicious of me. I had meant to bring it to her, but… but perhaps it is actually better if I bring it to you."

"That's…" Peggy frowns, thinking back on her time in this place. "I wouldn't disagree with that. However, I have seen that there are those who are able to use these powers and are also able to train with them. You seem as if you have that all under control. However, having others who understand what this is may help? To be clear, this is not SHIELD I am speaking about." While she trusts in SHIELD - it was her life's calling, after all - it is not who she might send someone like Violette to in order to learn more.

"I believe that you must do what is right when faced with your choices. If that is being able to restore a building to help others or to merely knit a glass back together, that is what you should do. Everyone has a mandate, a calling to action, but you are the one who knows what that is." It's something she came to terms with herself.

"I don't want to be a — " Violette's expression becomes a bit strained. "Frankly, I don't want to put on a costume or fight… anyone. I want to have my life. If I could be openly… talented… and keep my position, my connections, my life, my privacy, then I would. But as it is, what will happen if people find out? It would change my entire life, and I do not want my life to be defined by this single skill. I want to be able to choose who I am and what sort of life I live."

She drains her cup and sets it aside, leaning back a bit in her chair. "I have always had trouble knowing who I am. You can hardly fail to notice I resemble my aunt hardly at all; I was raised in such a mishmash of cultures that I belong to none, so the great Melting Pot is I suppose the right place for me. This that I have here, my life's work, is the only direction I have. I don't want to choose another, but I am worried that if I do not address it, a new path will be chosen for me."

"I'm sure there are ways to learn without putting on a costume." Peggy grins. "It seems to have worked for me." She's never hd anything other than her military uniform - or an impeccably well put together outfit - as her costume. "That is certainly something that you will have to think on: your ability as well as your own life." The woman in front of her has a very defined line on what duty is and how it should be handled. "If you are able to help, I believe it is something you should do. It's not being defined as a single skill, it's about being defined as a hero."

Her own cup is drained now, but she keeps a handle on it. She can't help that. "Your life's work is an important thing. I would never advocate you to leave it. However, you make a choice. It's always you that makes it."

It's the answer she knew she would get. It's possibly not the answer she wants. "I believe there are many ways of being a hero," she says slowly. "I think that… that the level of hero I am comfortable with just now is the hero who makes sure people who might lose everything have a second chance. I believe in you, Peggy. I believe that what you do is good and that you would never yourself do a bad thing. But I do not always trust SHIELD or any other organization that purports to be working for everyone's best. In my admittedly limited experience, it does not always turn out that way. That said," she adds, tracing the grain of the wood of her desk with one fingertip, "if you hear of some way I can be of service, some place where my skills can be used anonymously but in a place of great need, you will let me know?"

"There are," Peggy responds with a smile. "It's not all Iron Mans and Captain Americas." She firmly believes this. It's what she staked her life on. "However, I understand what you're saying. If I think you can help? I would be glad to include you."

With gratitude, Violette nods and rises to offer her hand to Peggy's for a shake. "With discretion, I hardly need say," she replies. "Thank you very much. Your twin never gave me simple answers, but I knew I could rely on you to give me good ones."

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