Hope and Meaning

January 25, 2017:

Steve and Peggy discuss hope, rehabilitation and what information they have on their search for James Barnes. Steve tells a joke.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

"It's tough to speak on hope sometimes. When you are young, when the fiancée says yes, when you get that new job you were hoping for, it's easy to hope. But sometimes it hurts. When loved ones die, when we face rejection from those we care for, when we are denied the opportunities we need to live a life we expect or deserve… It is a painful choice to make."

As Steve Roger speaks, his powerful voice carries across the room. While he had learned the concepts of presenting during his time as a WWII American Mascot, he has refined and expounded on them to try and be the best and instilling some of the traits he speaks so impassionedly about.

"Hope is a flower that needs time and effort to be allowed to grow. We cannot neglect it, we should never uproot it. While hope must be tempered with reason and sound judgment, hope allows us to retain what was lost and have things we never thought possible. It's why everyone deserves hope, even those that had a rough start in life."

It's a very nice start to a speech about prison programs designed to help reformed criminals get integrated back into society. It was a rather controversial thing to agree to support, but the particular program boasts of high rates of success and Rogers seems to have a fondness for a lost cause or a hard fight. But soon, he makes the speech, shakes the hands, and makes his way toward the person that is supposed to be giving him a ride as he walks out of the important reception hall filled with lucrative donors, politicians, and other necessary parts of a large non-profit. It was supposed to be Melodie, the secretary that seems destined to always be helping Rogers do his oh-so-busy life. But life has been throwing a lot of curve balls at Rogers lately.

—-

Indeed, there has been quite a lot of curve balls thrown at Steve Rogers lately. Perhaps one of them, depending on how closely he was watching the crowd during his speech is the fact that there is one additional attendee - one Peggy Carter. Unobtrusive and sitting toward the back, she watched him give his speech, but did not stay for the meet and greet. Instead, she waits for him outside the reception hall and nearby the doors.

Jacket on and with a pair of car keys, it seems as if the part of Melodie will today be played by Peggy. There's a smile awaiting the Captain when she sees him approaching and she gives a raise of her arm to hail his attention and to alert him to what he might see as a change in plans.

"I hope you don't mind, but I told Melodie she could stay back at SHIELD. Which, I believe, means that I'm your ride. There were a few things I wished to discuss with you. A car ride seemed like the perfect time."

—-

A blink of surprise is given as Rogers finds the change of plans. He offers a simple smile once he processes that Peggy is there instead of the secretary and moves forward. "Hello, Agent Carter," he begins with a professional formality as he moves to walk beside the Woman of Legends. "That's fine, with the conversation in the coffee shop among other things, figured that might be the case," he admits.

While Rogers didn't really speak during John and Carter's exchange, it didn't mean he didn't have anything to say. It just meant that he knew who needed to speak and who had insight on the matter. For that moment, it certain wasn't him. But it seems despite his lack of expertise on magical artifacts and horrible people who might be after them, his aid is further required and that will be the major talking point and perhaps the only one really. Or at least that's what he thinks.

—-

The smile grows just a bit when Peggy realizes she has surprised him. "Captain," she returns the greeting properly with a nod of her head. She turns as Captain America meets and then she matches his stride toward the parking lot where the car awaits. "Yes. There's quite a lot to discuss, to be honest. The past few days have been quite a whirlwind, I must say." And that's without having been involved with portals through butts.

On the way back to the car, she remains mum on the matter of what it is she wishes to discuss. It's probably best to wait until they are in the privacy of the enclosed car. Instead, she tells him, "I enjoyed your speech, I must say. With all that we have been dealing with, it's nice to think on hope and rehabilitation."

—-

"I'm glad you enjoyed it," Steve states first and foremost, letting the importance of that sentence carry before he talks on his own personal feelings like they were a mere afterthought. "I always think on hope or I try to, at least. I feel like people today are always focusing on what they lost, what they can't do… Not nearly enough on what they have or are capable of doing. But I guess that's just me," Cap replies, giving a shrug as if to say his own words are 'take it or leave it'.

As they move toward the car, Steve does his autopilot thing, which is getting the door for Peggy. Soon he moves himself inside and puts on his seatbelt, letting it clip on. Still clad in his 'work clothes', he turns his head with a curious tilt. "So, what's first on the agenda?"

—-

"It can be hard to focus on hope when times are difficult," Peggy agrees. "The easier thing is to despair and give up. Or, to succumb to the idea that others are out for merely their own gain." As she speaks, her voice is thoughtful. "Sometimes it takes someone else to remind others that it is not always the case. I have often fallen into that same train of thought. Though, that may simply due to all the years working with Howard." That last part is a joke.

The car - a forgettable black modern car that she obviously borrowed from SHIELD - is not far from where he gave his speech. When Steve opens the door for her, she gives him a nod of thanks and then slides into the car and puts the key in the ignition and then putting on her own seatbelt. The engine easily turns over, but she waits before changing gear for a moment.

"I would say first would be discussing a young woman who snuck into SHIELD a week ago. I intercepted and interrogated her, as she seemed to know Sergeant Barnes. She says that she knows how to both find and help him. She believes him to have been brainwashed over the years. Multiple times. She wishes to meet with you, however the possibilities of if that will happen or not are entirely up to you. I wished to bring this up with you earlier, however it did not seem the thing to discuss in mixed company."

—-

"I guess" Cap admits, giving a chuckle toward Peggy's insight tempered with humor. He leans back slightly into his seat, perhaps taking it easy as best he can before he is taken to wherever it is there are going. His eyes look toward the area around them, perhaps a hint of wariness coming up at the talk of someone making their way into SHIELD without permission.

After a brief pause, Rogers speaks as he rubs his chin. "Well, it's a theory," he begins. "Either way, unless you recommend against it, I suppose I could make time for this… well-intentioned intruder. I appreciate the discretion as well. With more and more people getting wrapped up with Barnes, I don't really like the idea of dragging more people into it than necessary." A soft sigh is given. "Don't get me wrong, I rarely turn away help, but the last thing I'd want are people getting hurt at Bucky's expense or due to his actions because we got too many cooks in the kitchen."

—-

The car idles in the car park for the time it takes her to explain and then listen to Steve's response. "Believe me, I'm certainly not fond of the idea that she broke into SHIELD, either," the woman tells him seriously. "However, she has an ability that allows her to see things about other people which I believe it tends to make her feel attached. And she did manage to force her way into SHIELD until she ran into a properly applied open door and a few ICER rounds. I believe her capable of handling herself."

After that piece is said, she turns her attention over her shoulder toward the back window and puts the car in reverse so they can start on their way. "Especially after our last encounter with Barnes, I believe time may be of the essence." With a bit of a sigh and a hard to read expression on her face, she adds to the question of whether she would recommend meeting or not meeting with the woman, she says, "For what it is worth, I do believe her to be sincere about her motivations and willingness to help. She seems genuinely concerned for Barnes' wellbeing."

—-

Blue eyes show the inner workings of thought in response to Carter's words. "Sounds like I'm talking to her then," he muses simply, already set on meeting with The Dark Devil at once receiving Peggy's wisdom on the matter. His attention goes toward the area around them as he speaks on the next point.

"I take it you have some thoughts on our reunion with Bucky." There is a short pause. "You didn't have to shoot him, so that's good."

Cap is trying /really/ hard to be optimistic these days.

—-

There's a bit of a nod and a smile shown to Steve when he decides to meet with Azalea. "Her name is Azalea Kingston." That's an important thing to share should she actually want the pair of them to meet. "I'll be sure to give you the contact information." One tends to get those things after interrogating an intruder.

Peggy puts the car back into gear and they glide forward and out of the parking lot. "I do," she agrees. There's a bit of a smirk as to his optimistic viewpoint on the matter. "You're right, I did not and it was." She takes a moment to concentrate on merging and then says, "The tracker I took from our meeting yielded some interesting results. There was very little trace, however what I could get is that it came from a Weapon's faculty in Germany. SHIELD files has it flagged with possible Hydra ties. However, they could not confirm that."

—-

A simple nod is given as Rogers looks to his phone and presses a button. There is a bit of awkward gap as Rogers attempts to yell to his phone. Ding! "Yes, Steve?"

"Siri, make reminder to talk to Kingston. Please."

Ding! "Yes, Steve?"

"No, Siri, not Kingston Please. Just Kingston."

Ding! "Yes, Steve?"

"No, Siri, I wanted to say it's just Kingston nothing else. No, Siri, get rid of the stuff around Kingston, just her name."

This goes on for like Ten minutes after the information is shared.

Finally, Cap is either encouraged to put down the phone or just does so himself. Maybe he'll get himself a Dayplanner. That seems easier to manage. "Annnnyway, we should likely keep a closer eye on that place. If we have a trace down there, getting floor plans and other related information would be important. If it has possible Hydra ties, usually means it has them."

—-

Peggy gives both Siri and Steve quite an amused look as he attempts to make an appointment to talk to Azalea. There's a possibility she would be able to help him or Siri, but this is a little too amusing to not allow to run out its course.

Once the appointment reminder is made and Siri is properly resting again, she waits a few moments before adding on another observation. "This also means that the people after Barnes might be linked to Hydra. That tracker was meant for Barnes. He was scared of leading people to you."

—-

There is a long pause as Peggy shares to Captain America that Barnes was concerned for leading people to him. "It's not my safety I'm really worried about," he points out softly. A soft sigh is given as he leans back, looking toward Agent Carter. "Thanks for taking point on gathering all this information," Steve confides. "I remember that when we were in the SSR, every bit of information was critical and we had to work to get it. Seems like it's not the opposite. We have so much… and now it's just going through it and seeing what's really important and what's meaningless."

—-

"I know it's not," Peggy replies, her own voice is both soft as well as firm. "However, other people worry about it." Barnes, for one. Luckily, her own attention is clearly on the road. Perhaps she doesn't have to watch it so intently, but she is at the moment. The thanks is given with a ghost of a smile. "You're welcome," she replies. "It's the way I can pitch in." While she is able to handle herself in a fight and is handy with a gun, she also is not a Super Solider, nor does she have the same connection to Barnes. "I know what you mean. It's not simply a needle in a haystack, it's a needle hidden in one of these twenty haystacks spread out amongst a field. However, I think we may be close." It's her own version of being optimistic.

—-

"Well, as long as we are moving close to the goal then. If there is anything I can do other than what I am? Just let me know," Rogers points out with a faint smile in return. It's clear the issue's weighing on him, but as time goes on, it's clear that he wants it resolved. Steve is a Man of Action and when combined with Unfinished Business involving the loss of Barnes, it means that this thing will always nag the back of his mind until he's done everything he can to set it right. Still, just because it rocks around in his brainpan, it doesn't mean that Rogers is unable to switch gears and talk about other things.

His tone is conversational, clearly lacking the same urgency that it had with the warehouse. "Oh, there is someone else that I was hoping you could talk to. It's far from pressing and likely something to check out when you have free time." Or when Peggy PRETENDS to have free time, either or. A card is taken out from Cap's pocket. It's for a girl named Hikari, who apparently runs a business in Mutant Town. "She was doing a favor for me getting some clothes together, I told her I'd introduce the two of you. If possible, figure I can do that in person, but seems like it's just as hard for us to get together as it was in the war."

Awkward pause.

"To spend time together."

Another pause.

"As people."

And at that, Cap just looks out that window. That's some quality storefront right there.

—-

The traffic starts to kick in as they drive and Peggy has a little more time to glance over toward Steve without compromising her blind spots - driving-wise, of course. "We are. Much as Edison said, every false lead is getting us closer to the truth. Of course, Edison was an unmitigated ass." At least, she knows Howard hated the inventor. "We'll find—-" She stops before she says 'him'. Instead, she attempts to shift gears, "We'll reach our goal." There's no room for any other beliefs, if her tone is to be believed.

The topic, however, switches and she glances a bit in his direction as she makes a right turn. Once the car is on the proper lane, she reaches a hand out to take the card from Steve. Holding it in one hand while eyes dart between it and the road. There's a pause as she attempts to link ideas together. "A seamstress?" she asks, confused for a moment. Unable to help herself, she teases, "Are you attempting to tell me my wardrobe is lacking?" However, she slips the card into her jacket pocket.

"It is hard for us to find time…" the pause is noted and she does what is not exactly a rare thing, but one that Steve may not see often: she blushes. "To spend together." As people. Not finding Bucky or fighting the evils of the world. "I'd like that." A short pause before she adds, almost in a blurt, "They closed the Stork Club."

—-

"That's sad."

There is a brief pause before Rogers looks over, feeling the need to swiftly explain. "The closing of the club, that is. I thought that thing would be around forever, it was so classy."

Of course, the conversation is getting closer toward things like feelings and Peggy is blushing (and likely so he is), so Rogers steers it clear back toward work. "As for the seamstress, I was there to speak with her about my clothes at first… And ask about Mutant Town. I was concerned when people were saying mutants were gathering themselves in a lower income part of New York, but it doesn't seem forced and people seem to enjoy themselves there. That was the important thing." While some would consider it odd that Captain America looks into social justice issues under the radar, it's clear he believes that's it's just part of the job description.

—-

"It is," Peggy replies, knowing - or hoping - which topic he thinks is sad.

"I went there once or twice." After the crash, after their plans were made. She went there hoping the Star Spangled Man might show up despite her rationality telling her it was impossible. Steve had returned from behind impossible situations before - once with POWs in tow. Could anyone blame her for her faith in this one last Captain America hat trick? It continued for six Saturdays after he went down. Howard would sit next to her at the bar every other weekend. He would say little, pay for their drinks and then put her in a car. Then, like a switch, she could not do that to herself any more.

Instead of reminiscence, she tells him, "It seemed quite classy. Though, I stayed at the bar."

While others might question his interest in mutant rights, it does not seem out of character or odd to Peggy. Instead, she smiles and nods. It's warm, despite their dangerously close personal conversation. "I have only been to Mutant Town once or twice. I know it is not forced, however, it may be socio-enomically influenced. While they may be happy there, it's not ideal. Mutants should feel comfortable to live wherever they wish to live."

—-

A simple nod is given in response to the Stork. Blissfully unaware of the vigil done at said bar, Cap moves on toward the topic of mutants, continuing the odd dance he shares with Peggy; signs of affection that abound for one another, but rarely intersect.

"It just made me think of the camps they had for the Japanese when I first heard of it, but the way you make it sound it isn't quite as rosy as the papers are making it seem," Steve points out thoughtfully. "Maybe at some point I'll get more involved, but for now, I just wanted to get more information. It seems… complicated." A small frown is given at that, as if understanding the final word is a deep understatement.

"I feel so selfish sometimes."

It's an odd thing for Captain America to say and without context almost entirely out of place. Thankfully, he explains himself.

"When I was fighting Hydra, it was oddly simple. Stop horrible people, protect good people. The enemy lines were drawn. I know it wasn't really all that simple and there was a lot of tragedy as well… But now, it just seems like people don't even know what to cheer about or cry about," Cap softly observes as he looks out the window. "I want to understand how to best serve America and be the hero they need /now/, but sometimes, I fear that I'll lose who I was in doing so." A glance is given toward the woman beside him, perhaps one of the few that understand his plight. "I guess I'm just over-thinking everything," he concludes, perhaps trying to dismiss his own verbalized musings.

—-

"Yes, I had similar thoughts," Peggy agrees when she first heard of Mutant Town. "It's entirely possible that things are happy there. I certainly am not the target resident." In fact, as an employee of SHIELD and a woman without any form of abilities, she might even be seen as an intruder. "Matters of inclusion and identity tend to be tangled matters, even if on the surface it looks relatively simple." Much like including women in the workplace and on active duty. While she may not be a mutant, she does understand discrimination. In fact, that had a similar conversation in a car all those years ago.

The statement of feeling selfish certainly does seem to come out of nowhere to Peggy. However, she doesn't immediately attempt to deny it. She might have before, but she is starting to know more about Steve's idiosyncrasies. There is a reason for this statement and she knows he will explain himself in a moment.

There's a short silence that follows this musing of Steve's and Peggy glances over at him during it. It seems she is attempting to choose her words carefully. "True, it is a complicated world. Far more than I even realized after the war. I started to see inklings of it with my time at the SSR, to know that just because that fight was over didn't mean it ended." There's an earnest shake of her head. "I don't believe you are over-thinking everything. It is important to know what it is you are fighting for and what that means."

After a moment, she asks, curious, "What is it that you believe America needs now in a hero? And why might that incompatible?"

—-

There is silence as Captain America gives Carter's words keen consideration. Like a tennis match there are bouts of soft silence before they reply. Many couples have conversations where they bounce back and forth so swiftly. At least for now, slow and deliberate tends to be the theme for how they share life in a world that seems shooting by at the speed of light.

"I'm still trying to figure it out. I know that when I started being Captain America, when they thought I was too valuable to risk, I was a showman, someone who said things to make people feel good, encouraged them to do the right thing, but was just some speaking mouth. No risk, nothing controversial."

A glance is given toward Peggy, as if making sure she wasn't thinking his version of controversial was like those ladies dancing on TV in music videos.

Soon Steve's eyes go back toward the road, as if looking to avoid her judgment or perhaps pity. "I know I couldn't do that. Make deals with bad people because they are more in line with what America needs; pretend certain problems aren't there because they are too tough or expensive to deal with. To change who I am in order to keep the support of the people I'm trying to manipulate."

A gentle exhale of breath is given. "Of course, I'm sure you know what's it's like to deal with expectations and knowing when to go with them and when to defy them," he replies, understanding that his problems are not unique to himself.

—-

"I remember," Peggy nods, a bit of a smile reaching her lips at the memory. She went to one of his performances, of course. His last performance as a War Bond spokesman, as it were. It may be too serious of a conversation for her to bring up the blue woolen leggings, but the thought still remains, a small bit of humor in her mind.

"There are many words that come to mind when I think of you, Steve, but manipulative is certainly not one of them." That is the first thing she says, as if that must be stated first and foremost. In fact, her expression is, perhaps, hard to read. She doesn't look over at him, now, instead matching his forward gaze. "This is not the answer you are looking for, I know. And it is far too simple than what this situation actually calls for, however…there is a solution. If there is something you know will not or cannot do, do not do it. You know better than I or anyone else what you can or cannot live with when you look back. I have never known you to shy away from the hard choices and, further more, I trust in your judgement."

Peggy actually matches Steve's soft sigh as he brings up her own past and her own fight with what is expected from her and what is right. "You know, when I worked for the SSR…" she pauses, debating her words and then forging forward, "There were many times when I had to work counter to official channels. I was once deemed a traitor due to my work and nearly fired. But, I realized that their authority was not my concern. I had to compromise when it was possible, but if everyone was telling me that something was wrong and I should stand aside when I knew it to be right …it was my job to stand my ground and tell them no."

—-

As the full lips of Carter begin to smile with her soft compliments, Rogers himself can't help but lift the corners of his mouth. "Thank you," he says in the response to her first words on how he doesn't seem manipulative, as if he just got an award from the president. "It means a lot."

Cap is about to say something to Carter about her trust in his judgment, but then he hears TRAITOR and is about to have a crisis on his hands. Of course, in that split second he realizes that she is no longer considered a traitor and all is right in the world. "Wise words" he muses, clearly soaking them in.

After a second or two, Steve leans back into the chair, sighing as he does. "So, if there anything else intel wise I need to know about? Seems like there is so much information going on, it's hard to keep track of it all."

—-

"You're welcome," Peggy tells him, smile returning. The fact that he thinks so highly of her opinion is something that - despite the years - still sets a jump in her stomach. She still remembers when Steve was the only man alive who seemed to understand her. "I meant it."

As he muses over what she tells him, she glances over again. She allows the silence to continue, letting what she says sink in and then her eyes are right back on the road. "There is only one more thing I wished to talk to you about. There is quite a lot going on, I know. It seems as if even if we have moments alone, they are not truly ours."

With a sigh, she continues. "This is the last bit of horrible intel that I have. I turned in a drive to SHIELD earlier today. It has more Hydra activity. There is also the intel that Hydra is no longer using cyanide caps: they are using small devices implanted in the cranium behind the left ear. They will explode, killing the host, if they are compromised."

—-

"That…. stinks," Rogers states in response, not sure exactly how to parse the new method of killing. "I'm sure if SHIELD knows about it though, I'm sure they have some way to take them out right?" After all, they do seem almost like wizards to him with technology that is always there to solve the problem. It's one of the reasons he enjoys working with them, after all.

—-

"It does." There's not much else to say about that. Instead, she nods. "They do now. I'm hoping they'll find a way to combat it." That's all she has intel-wise. Glancing over at Steve, she sighs and shrugs her shoulders. "That's all I wished to tell you that has to do with intel." After a pause, she glances over at Steve. "Perhaps you have a joke to lighten the mood?"

—-

There is a really long pause as the dark news is considered and a request for a joke is made. An extremely long pause. Finally, Steve Rogers decides to try a new joke he had heard.

"What's big, red, and eats rocks?" he finally inquires, his eyes still watching the road.

—-

Peggy is not sure if Steve will even acquiesce to her request. It's such a strange a silly one. There's a pleased smile and a raised eyebrow as she looks over to Steve. "I'm not sure. What?"

—-

"Ross Perot." There is a dramatic pause as the blond waits for Peggy to erupt with uncontrollable laughter. Finally, he realizes he has a dud on his hands. "…Someone told me other people would get it," Steve says with a tone of disappointment.

—-

Unfortunately, Peggy does not get the joke. Instead, she glances back, confusion clear on her face at the punchline. "Hm." However, at his explanation, she can't help herself, there's a bubble of laughter that escapes. "I'm sorry, but I'm just glad that I'm not the only one who does not get that. What is a Ross Perot?" That will certainly have to be something she looks up later. Though the laughter was quick, she smiles - a hand quickly reaching out to place on Steve's shoulder before returning it to the steering wheel. "Thank you."

—-

When the eyes of Peggy go back on the road, a hand makes its way out, attempting to rest itself upon hers. But perhaps in a way so fitting, he is too slow and she is already having the digits back on ten and two of the steeling wheel. With the joke made and the information shared, Captain America settles into his seat a little more, merely turning the radio (without asking, the horrible man) to a news station in his ever desperate battle to stay current. Tonight, apparently, he will learn about Pocket Monsters and why young children are desperate to capture imaginary electric rats.

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