Professional Relationships

December 09, 2016:

Peggy and Steve discuss whether Bucky Barnes could possibly be alive, and also skirt emotional stuff. Like bosses.

The Triskelion


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bucky Barnes


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

Saving the world is a busy endeavor, as both Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter know firsthand. The Triskelion is also a large and encompassing building, making it easy to disappear into the crowds. However, much like New York itself, you always tend to run into people when you least expect it. It's late afternoon when Peggy Carter steps out of one of the medical facilities of SHIELD. A scarf and bandage is wrapped around her neck, though even then, the edges of angry purple bruises creep up toward her chin.

Her voice has mostly lost the scratchy quality that it had for a few days due to someone attempting to crush her windpipe with an incredibly strong metal hand. She has been told to take a few days off to heal, but that is not Peggy Carter's style. She has, instead, returned every other day in order to prove that she Is Fine and can return to work.

As she shuts the door behind her, though, her face is darkened and she huffs a bit, shutting the door a bit more soundly than it needs to be properly latched. It's not quite a slam, but it certainly is close to one. The sound echoes down the corridor, but she does not seem to care.

"Of course, I've used a telephone before, but this is kinda different." The firm footfalls of red boots against the hallway offer a steady sound, a hurried but measured measure or two before the voice begins again. "I'm sorry, I know you've told me before, but which email are we talking about?"

The voice is familiar and despite the uncertainty that the talk of technology brings, it remains cordial. "Oh, that one. I see I'll get to checking it when I have I can ask one of the agents assigned to me to glance over it. Yes, I'll make sure they leave the room before opening it." It comes closer, the footsteps still keeping their swift march, the voice more clear after yet another pause. "Sounds like a plan. I really appreciate the patience, it means a lot." A final pause. "No thanks needed. Have a great day."

A man in uniform wheels the corner of the hallway, the proud A on his forehead and trademarked shield on his back swiftly revealing his identity, though the woman stepping out of the medical bay likely already knows who it is. Of course, he knows her as well.

The attention is currently on the phone that the boy in blue holds on his hand, pressing a few buttons to attempt to end the call, causing him to take off his glove in frustration with his teeth to touch it with bare skin as if that will help. Finally, he presses the button on the side, cutting its power. He'll just turn it off and on again. That usually does what it needs to.

By that time, Captain America, the Man Out of Time, looks up just to see a family woman about ten to twenty feet away from him. His blue eyes go from mild confusion and faint irritation to shock and awe. But it isn't the first time he's met her, nor the first time he's had this reaction. Yet somehow, it isn't the current time that he struggles with the most but something else: He gets to see her again.

"Peggy?" he asks softly, as if worried that she might fade into a dream.

The seconds pass as he processes mentally before he gathers himself in the moment, realizing critical differences that make this different from their average meetings. This isn't going to be brief conversation that ends with work whisking one or both away, he just feels it. "What's wrong?" he asks once the pieces click.

Steve's voice echoes down the hallway, as does his footfalls. Agent Carter, famed for her nerve and fearlessness in battle freezes when she hears that confused, yet cordial tone. Steve. The brunette - while wearing mostly modern clothes - still does her hair in pincurls and her lips that signature red. She, for only a moment, briefly considers fleeing back into the doctor's office. However, she did just call the man a quack for refusing to agree that she was ready to return to duty immediately. She went through a war, she could handle a psychopath with a metal arm that looked like an old acquaintance that should be dead. She could also face Steve.

Peggy adjusts the scarf and takes a step in the direction that she was already moving. When Steve turns the corner, however, she can't help but remain still for a moment. There's a surprised half-smile there as she sees him in his uniform. She watched his newsreels where it portrayed him in black and white for so long, that to see it again in its bright red, white and blue is still such a pleasant surprise. "Ste—That is, Captain," she greets, voice almost fond in using his Title, meeting his eyes, half smile turning full. Her voice is still a bit raspy. She coughs and clears her throat, attempting to sound as normal as possible. The two of them have yet to truly find a moment to speak alone.

"Nothing," she tells him a bit too firmly. "I had a bit of a—run in. I'm alright." There's a bit of hesitation there. If that person she saw on the street was truly James Barnes, she should tell Steve. For the moment, though, she attempts a change in subject. "Email problems?"


"Of course," Steve offers swiftly at the response, taking the greeting with the faint awkwardness, though the genuine concern is unwavering and all but evident as his blue eyes soften. "Agent Carter" is added a couple beats later, as if reminding himself of how he should be. The formality snaps him back to the here and now and the phone that was mere seconds ago held in a grip so loose it almost clattered to the ground is clenched tightly and lifted up with a grin.

"Nothing" Steve replies with regards to his own woes, though his tone is more chagrined than defensive as he takes the conversation change hook, line, and sinker. "Sometimes I get the different accounts I have mixed up and verifications get all changed and…" There is a hint of fluster starting to rise as all the "how to" tutorials start to flood his mind's eye before the soldier affixes his attention back the Legend of SSR and goes back to the professionalism expected of the organization. "Yeah. …It will be fine though."

A gaze is given toward the neck, studying it until Peggy makes some sort of conscious effort on her part to reveal that Steve is not being subtle. "I'm glad you're safe," he offers, rushing to have the same confidence and cheer that he would have for any GI or SHIELD agent. Part of him feels he shouldn't bring it up again, but his well intentions cause him to circle back like a moth to a flame. "I'd ask if you need help, but I'm sure you have the situation handled," he says, the last part given rather swiftly in fear of rebuttal. "If you do though, I'll be around for a bit." A bit of ease goes into his voice as talking shop makes things seem more natural, going into the rhythm of deployment discussion and conjecture of future missions. "I think after doing the Brazil mission after helping out with Paris means I have a few days to give assist where it's needed."


Peggy is astute in body language. She catches the grip of Steve's phone in his hand, the grin. It's hard for her to know how to address Steve while in SHIELD HQ. Her own position here has been mostly nebulous since arriving from the past. Finding that Steve is alive has been quite another pleasant, but earth-rocking surprise. It's hard to figure out where they both stand now in a new world where she feels both completely connected, yet somehow remains an oddity.

Steve's explanation of his problems with email accounts is met with a grin. "Yes, emails were possibly the most complicated thing I had to deal with. Also, smartphones. For something labelled smart, they tend to not be properly intelligent, do they?" It's her attempt at small talk, to keep the subject changed.

However, it is impossible for her to not notice that he is still staring at her neck and the bruises that are still there. "I would never go down without quite the fight," she assures Steve with a good-natured shrug and smile. His offer of help is met with an unreadable expression. She doesn't answer him immediately. Instead, she looks about the hallway and then back at Steve. While this may not be the 1940s, she apparently still has an image to maintain. "Do you have a moment now? For a non-hallway conversation?"


The glove that remained off in the wake of his 'how does touchscreen turn on' moment is placed back on as Peggy talks of conversations elsewhere. "Of course" is the short and simple reply to both questions. The small talk is tabled with a simple grin as Cap prepares to follow. After a short time, however, the First Avenger stops himself as he comes to a sudden realization.

"Ooooh… /the phone/ is supposed to be smart," Steve replies as Peggy's small talk becomes true revelation. A socially-savvy man would stop, but Rogers just keeps talking as he resumes his walking. "I thought they called them smartphones because they were for smart people."

It made a lot of sense in Steve's head.


The Med Labs are far from her office, so Peggy instead starts to move down the hallway, waiting for Steve to follow her. During her tenure here, despite how large the building is, she has attempted to learn the plan of every floor. As they walk, she can't help but grin at Steve's sudden epiphany on smartphones. It's rather endearing, damn him. "I could only wish that were the case. I have found far too many people where the smartphone certainly had a higher IQ."

Finding what basically amounts to a supply closet, the Agent Emeritus opens the door, ushers Steve in and then shuts it behind her.

"This is not the most best meeting place," she says immediately, attempting to immediately alleviate any awkwardness he might feel about "But, this is the closest room I can assure we may speak in private." A hand moves up to her throat and she frowns. "I—there's something I should tell you. However, I'm not sure how to say it, exactly."


When Agent Carter reveals her 1940 inspired perspective on modern era phones and the people who use them, Cap just gives a nervous chuckle. First, the man merely gives a simple reply toward the meeting area. "It's okay, I've seen men and women going to closets to talk about important stuff a few times." Because that is what they were doing when they went to the supply closet, looking around to make sure no one was seeing them go in. Talking about important stuff.

The mirth soon fades, however, even his best attempts at lightening the mood stopping cold as Carter gets hesitation. Rarely that few things have Carter at a loss for words, so he goes into Mission Mode. "I guess starting at the beginning would be good," he offers with an air of confidence and professionalism.


Peggy can't help but raise an amused eyebrow at Steve's innocent view of what men and women do when they sequester themselves in supply closets. However, much like in the plane over Nazi territory, the innuendo is pushed under the rug for now. There are more important things to talk about.

"Honestly, I'm not sure the beginning will be of any help. It's the end that matters." That is not helping the supply closet talk. However, there is no amusement, now. In fact, she looks downward, toward the white star on Steve's chest before she continues. It remains there as she speaks, unable to meet his open and trusting blue eyes. There's a sigh, hand still gently pressed about her throat. "A man who looked exactly like Sergeant Barnes did this to me." The This must be apparent in her mind: the bruises.


For a man struggling with temporal displacement, it seems all too easy for it to feel like time stopped. "Barnes… You mean Bucky?"

James "Bucky" Barnes: It's not a name he's heard much in this modern age. After all, most know not to speak of close friends and allies around Cap, as reminding of the losses he's endured both in service and while 'on ice' is considered poor form. It's a name that hurts deeply yet, the memories…

193?, New York City

"Whatca going to do? Cry for your mom? Cry for /Bucky/?" the mocking voice thunders from above, the pounding blood in Steve's brain making the teenager seem older and more intimating than he is. It's as if the bully held the keys of Rogers' life and death with his bloodied fist.

But Steve doesn't yield. It's his fight. It's his hill to defend, even with his final breath. "Not over… Can do this all-" Steve's words are soon stopped as his strength faded and the cool concrete is the final sensation he feels. The next thing he knows, he's being half escorted, half dragged. Well, mostly dragged with one arm slumped over someone's shoulder.

With an earnest desperation for maintaining masculinity, Steve's feet push themselves to work again, feebly clomping about. Teeth grit as eyelids battle to open, almost swollen shut from lack of battle prowess. Once they open, there he is: A young Bucky Barnes looking straight forward as he walks to the Rogers' residence, silent and bloodied from a scuffle of unfair odds. He doesn't say a word. Not a single syllable of the important event that he was supposed to be attending nor of how he heard about Rogers getting in trouble for the sake of 'justice'. There isn't even a speech about how many times this has happened in the past. He's just being a true friend, sacrificing without question to protect the mouse who wishes to be a man.

To be honest, Steve isn't even sure the memory is real or just manufactured shrine of a thought; either way, it was for the man that was his lone defender, even when the wussy warrior claimed he needed no such thing.

The weakling returned the favor by letting his best friend fall to his death. 'Captain America' couldn't save him even when he could save the world. The look of terror on Bucky's face as he fell is burned into Steve's memories. When Steve had the ability to help Bucky, he failed.

Present Day

It's hard to tell how long Captain America is silent. In the darkness of the closet, moments feel like eternity. After what may seem like five or ten minutes, but assuredly much shorter, he speaks. "I see."

Steve gives a swallow, as if those two words suddenly made him hoarse. His stunned nature speaks volumes, but he still tries to continue on, not wishing to make Peggy feel uncomfortable. "I'm glad you're okay" is the only thing he can whisper as he takes a small step closer.

"Yes," Peggy says, softly. It's unclear if Steve even heard her. The time may have been hard to tell for Captain America, but Agent Carter counts the seconds, minutes. She stands all but motionless as she waits for Steve's response. She knows exactly how much Bucky Barnes means to him. She was there in the bombed out bar in London while Steve mourned. She attempted to bolster him, to make him stop blaming himself. She never know if it worked, but she did know it made some impact. His own words of comfort to her as he crashed his plane into the ocean to save New York were the same ones she told him. It was his choice. She should not blame herself. It was those words that she clung to as she mourned him and replayed that time in the communications bay over and over again. Even if she hadn't known or witnessed Bucky and Steve's friendship with her own eyes, by knowing Steve, she would have known what Bucky Barnes meant to him.

In the indeterminable amount of time, her eyes shift from the bright star on his chest to his eyes. There's a moment where she can determine Steve has returned from his memories, and then when he his able to speak. She can see his refocus. Peggy doesn't step backward as Steve moves closer. The trepidation she felt in the hallway is gone. She doesn't wish to crowd him, but she she matches his move forward with one of her own. "I didn't know if I should tell you or not. This might be some form of psychological trick. He didn't know me at all."

Tentatively, she reaches out a hand to try and place on his arm, just gently. It may be the first time she has actually touched him since they found themselves in the same time period. "We'll find out." Her voice is very determined, a familiar tone to when she lead Project Rebirth.


To some, this would be a time they shrink into themselves; to shore up the mental defenses and coping mechanisms in the hopes of surviving until the pain subsides, take advantage of whatever pleasures are offered in the name of pity, allow sorrow to be numbed by substance and media overload. But as Carter knows, Steve has mourned for his friend once and knows that liquor has no pull and she was there for him.

Her touch is soft, but it pulls him into a different mindset as he considers the hurt of pain and loss and the helpless of watching someone disappear off the face of the Earth in an instant. A faint watering of the eye can be seen. Steve's face soon has an intensity of compassion, proudly displayed with no sense of the stoicism of his British company. His expression's an open book for the woman to view at her discretion.

The words are simple in length, but deep in meaning: "I'm sorry."

For failing Bucky? For getting himself in a situation where he was forced to 'die'? For letting her get hurt? It's unclear which he intends that for, but he seems wise enough to not go into here and now. As she reaches out with her hand for his arm, the end of the appendage reaches up, the gloved hand resting about hers. He lightly squeezes in a reassuring way, even as he attempts to move past the apology, as if fearing indomitable woman will rebut it as well

"You're right," Steve offers in her response of working together on the mission, giving a single sniffle as he gives a look of resolution. "It's likely just a trick. Bucky wouldn't do that. Bucky wouldn't forget you." It's easier to handle the situation when looked at with that perspective. "But if it is an attempt to use his image against us, we have a responsibility to see this through." His voice grows firm, an anger building toward whoever did this. "He doesn't deserve to have his name sullied like this."

Peggy keeps her hand there as she watches Steve and how he shifts through his emotions. Seeing that he does not shrink from her touch, the grip turns just a bit tighter. From a gentle touch of reassurance, it becomes a grip of a woman intent on showing Steve Rogers that he is not alone and that she has no intentions of ignoring what he is going through.

It's not just her training at spycraft that opens Steve's expression to her: she knows him. They fought a war together, they went through his transformation into Captain America together. Other than her brother, Steve Rogers was one of the few people who could meld the idea of woman and Agent together from the beginning.

Peggy takes a deep inhale before she answers Steve's apology, the long pause drawing out. There is so much there to unpack in those two contracted words. "I know," she tells him. The response is so soft, it's possible he may not hear it. She does not yet forgive him, but she understands. How could she not?

Then, the topic shifts. She takes another inhale, almost involuntary stepping forward again toward him. His physical presence always brought her some form of comfort.

"Steve," her voice is quieter, but the strength and firmness is still there. It's impossible to talk about this without that intensity. "I can't imagine how this could him, but he nearly killed me. He had me by the throat, looked me right in the eye and I thought, 'This is Bucky Barnes.'. I didn't want to shoot him, but I did. Right in the side. That's the only thing that saved me."

As Carter moves faintly, the distance between them is suddenly noticed by Captain America. Her warmth is almost felt, the smell of her triggering memories of jeep rides at boot camp. It's clear he doesn't have any problem with this, perhaps not the only one inspired by the strength of his company, drawing power from a woman who shares unshakeable values and a determination to do what needs to be done no matter the risk. For the briefest of moments, he blushes at the fleeting temptation of impurity. But well, Carter is a woman of sterling character and the last thing he would want to do is do something to endanger that… Or the proud workplace practice of clandestine supply closet meetings.

"It's okay, Agent Carter. You survived through your courage, skill, and tenacity. I doubt a gun was the only thing that saved you." Now it's this time that Steve goes professional. Knowing Cap, it's likely him just misunderstanding her using his codename before. Again, for better or worse, he's pretty reliable. She likely already knows he is going into full 'LET'S DO THIS' mode. And he does.

"If this lookalike is that much trouble then just help me find him." The super soldier knows his strengths and weaknesses. That said, his abilities with intelligence work is, well, horrendous. "I can do the rest. The sooner we settle this, the better. Any man who gave everything for this country doesn't deserve their legacy to be dragged through the dirt."


While Peggy does tend to know Steve, she isn't about to press herself on him. The fondue principle holds firm with supply closet meetings. She watches Steve and his blush, and then he moves from that to calling her 'Agent Carter' in private. She knows quite a bit about Steve, but his blushing tendencies tend to be far different from all else.

She knows his modes and can tell that he is now fully committed. "What I was trying to say before is that it is possible that this is Bucky Barnes. Either way, we will find him and stop what he is doing."


At Carter's claims that it could in fact be his friend trying to kill Peggy and possible other people, Captain America steps back, his tone getting resolute. "Until I get firm proof, I'm going to presume it's an imposter and act according. As I said, Barnes wouldn't do that." It's plain as day why he's doing this. To have his feelings of his best friend impact his work, he has to do everything he can to keep that from happening, even if it means denying his hopes until there is evidence to back them up. "As you said, either way, we'll find him and stop him. It's what we're here for. Since I've got some stuff to look into now and you need your rest, I suppose this is good bye for now." He stiffens slightly at that. "Until we see each other again, be safe."

That said, he gives a nod back to the woman before making his way out of the closet, pulling out his phone. He pushes a button and speaks into it as he walks down the hallways, having that same hurried pace as before. His final conversation of the day shows how much he has (not) progressed with tech.

"Siri, find me Bucky Barnes."

"Here is what you asked for."

"No, not barns that have dollar bills on them. Siri. Find. Me. Bucky. Barnes." Another pause at the findings. "I thought you were supposed to be smart."

And with that, Captain America is on the case!

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