Reinstatement

December 04, 2017:

Agent Coulson shows up at Agent Carter's house with good news…and something that belongs to her.

Peggy Carter's Apartment, NYC

Surprisingly unbroken.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Thor

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

As a rule, Agent Phil Coulson does not make house calls.

But every rule has its exception, which is why he ends up standing at the door to Peggy Carter's penthouse suite, politely ringing the doorbell. There is some news, after all, one simply does not deliver via phone call, or e-mail, or even by post.

No. Some news demands that a person show up and handle it in person.

Bad news, often.

But good news, sometimes, too.

Of course. The careworn Agent, in his pressed blue dress shirt and sable grey suit, is not entirely sure which the legendary Peggy Carter will read this one as.

Things have been a little hectic in the Carter household ever since the return of her erstwhile roommate Thor Odinson. It has actually been a bit of a boon that she has enough free time to first carrol and then bring him up to speed. However, being the overachiever that she is, that generally means that she has doubly cleaned everything and attempted to figure out this whole cooking thing. This has gone about to mixed results.

The knock on the door - at least - is good news as far as she is concerned. Knocks on the door generally means distractions and possibly, even, something for her to look into. For a woman as career and goal oriented as Peggy Carter, finding herself with quite a lot of freetime and little 'actual work' has been disconcerting.

When Peggy opens the door, she's wearing what counts as casual clothing for her - slacks and a button down top. Behind her, arrayed about the living room, are various weapons from medieval looking to the far more modern guns.

"Agent Coulson," she greets warmly enough, though there's certainly curiosity in her voice. "Come in. Would you like me to put the kettle on?"

—-

"I would love it if you'd put the kettle on," Coulson replies, his worn features settling into one of his more genuine smiles. The one that actually touches his eyes, versus the one he wears when he's trying not to give anything away or trying to keep his cool. He wasn't entirely sure what sort of welcome he'd get; the warm one pleases him.

He steps inside and closes the door behind him. "You've got a lovely home, Agent Carter," he says, with real admiration, glancing around. The weapons catch his attention; mostly the historical ones. "And an incredible collection. Those do not strike me as replicas."

As best as he can tell, with a casual glance.

If there is one thing that Agents can generally tell with each other, it's when they are being genuine. The smile chain reacts a smile of Peggy's own and - like the host that she is - she invites Coulson in and then shuts and locks the door securely behind them. Host, yes. Careless? No.

Moving about toward the kitchen, she takes the kettle, pours some water and has it handily bubbling in no time. It's a practiced thing, no doubt. There's a look over the counter back toward the living room and the various weapons arrayed there.

"Ah, thank you. No, they're not replicas, as far as I can tell. However, they're also not of this world. Asgardian make, I believe. Either that or they collected them from here over the years. It's all a little fuzzy and when Thor discusses the history of each it sounds a little like it's either a drunken tale or an epic saga." There's a fond smirk at the talk of her roommate. He's a strange fellow, but she's gotten to enjoy his company quite a bit.

"I tend toward more of the modern make of weapons. Though, most of my favorites would be considered vintage now, as well, I assume." The Walther PPK, for one.

Stepping back into the room, she smiles and gestures that he can study closer and pick up whatever he wishes. "Feel free. If they can withstand an Asgardian, I'm sure they're safe enough. I was doing a bit of organizing and rearranging."

—-

"I'm impressed you can survive an Asgardian," Coulson says dryly. "I mean. Nothing's even destroyed in here. Your stern glares must be more fearsome than we ever thought, and we were rating them quite highly!"

But he's not going to turn down the opportunity. He gently takes a smaller sword off the wall. Smaller, because he's got his doubts on what he could lift, that's Asgardian. But this isn't exactly Mjolnir, so he's able to test the weight and balance with an impressed look on his face before he finally returns it to the wall, giving the geekery a rest.

He grins like a 10-year old for just a moment during this exercise though.

Then he clears his throat and comes back to the kitchen where she's working on the tea. "So. I brought you two things that belong to you, Agent Carter. One that I've really been remiss in bringing you, as I've been rather absent-minded about one of them since the day we met."

"We've generally come to an accord," Peggy grins, crossing her arms and leaning against the divider between rooms. "And, also, he was traveling for awhile and only recently returned. He hasn't had the time to truly attempt to break anything. I also do my best to restrain myself from challenging him to arm wrestling matches."

As Coulson pulls the sword off the wall, the brunette grins. She can certainly understand that feeling of joy at testing out new equipment as well as old.

The mention that he has brought her two things is met with a nod. "I was about to ask if this was a social call or something a bit more official. Of course, the information given so far does not preclude on or the other." Him bringing her things does not automatically mean SHIELD things. However, he is an Agent of SHIELD and he does not tend to be the type of person who stops by merely on a social call without previous arrangements.

Behind them, the kettle rattles as the water heats up to bubbling, if not boiling.

"What might those two things be?"

He pulls the first. It's her badge, which he pushes across the counter.

"It took me a bit of time, but your involvement in the Wakanda affair allowed me to get your suspension lifted. King T'Challa granted SHIELD a huge amount of intel on Hydra activities throughout Africa, and we've been able to launch a number of successful sorties as a result. I won't say we have them routed…"

They never do.

"…But I will say that the coup is yours. You're sharing it, a bit, with Agent May, but only a bit. You were the one that was there, start to finish."

Peggy blinks as she stares at the badge pushed across the counter. Generally, the spy is not one to find herself so surprised. Even rarer that the surprise registers on her face. However, this is certainly one of those times. Perhaps she should have gathered this might be the reason for his visit simply due to context. It did not.

For a moment, it sits on the counter before she reaches forward to pick it up. A finger brushes against the SHIELD symbol for a moment before she tucks it into her pocket, a soft smile over her face. "Thank you." Then, her attention and eyes lift back up to Coulson, the surprise and the softness melded into something more akin to what he is used to seeing there: a friendly, but neutral expression.

"I have no qualms with sharing any of that acclaim. The most I did involved being tossed into a Wakandan Jail and finding some missing technology. Agent May was the one that actually was there under any official capacity."

There's a pause. "If my suspension has been lifted, does that mean that those who insisted upon it have changed their mind? Or is it more that with this new information it was the political pressure that allowed your insistence to finally be recorded?"

"The latter."

Coulson wishes he had better news, but he won't sugar coat it. Nor will he sugar-coat this.

"We've ruled out one of the four Special Directors, but I'm pretty convinced one of the remaining three is a Hydra plant, Agent Carter." His face settles into tight, grave lines. "And I believe that is the real reason you got suspended. Much of that intel would not have been classified if someone at that level hadn't taken steps to seal it before the trial. They forced you into that choice, then forced out of it. The problem is, of course, proving a negative— someone isn't Hydra— is harder than proving a positive. And whoever it is knows I know. So that's what you'll be walking back into. Watch yourself."

Despite all this grave information, and Peggy's self-deprecating statements (which Coulson just opts not to even address, he's pretty sure Peggy did more than she's copping to) he takes a second item out of his pocket. This is a little jewelry box, too big for a ring, too small for a bracelet.

He pushes it across the counter as well. "This has been sitting in my private collection for far too long. It is yours. Please forgive me for forgetting to return it over and over again. I have, as I said, been beyond remiss."

"It would not be an intelligence and espionage agency if we did not expect moles and betrayal." Peggy's wry words bely the worry that she feels when she thinks that a Hydra agent might hold one of the top positions at the agency she helped found.

"I am not one to play dumb on a long term basis, so I am sure that they have an eye out for me as well." As for what she will be walking into, she nods. "I'd feared it was something of the like," she sighs. "You're quite right. None of that information should have been classified as it was unless they were attempting to hide involvement or wished to ensure that James hang to wrap up loose ends, as it were."

Peggy sets her hands down on the counter, a frown evident on her face. "If this is true, though, there is no place else better for me to be." She did not intend for her life's work to be rooting out Hydra. She had hoped that the end of the war had put an end to Hydra. Of course, it did not turn out that way. "Unfortunately, I have rather extended experience in infiltrating and identifying Hydra."

As the jewelry box is placed in front of her, there is another look of confusion. Eyes flick from the box to Coulson as she carefully picks it up and opens it without a word.


It is her very own SSR pin. The original, the one that has moved normally through time and space to be somewhat old now. It's free of any tarnish because it's been meticulously polished and kept up by someone who has obviously showered quite a bit of attention on it.

Coulson remains quiet while she opens it, because he feels it might be one of those things that's spoiled by a great deal of talk. He lets her have her look with only the slightest of smiles on his face. Still a genuine one, but one that lets her have, well, whatever reaction she needs to have. After all, it might provoke more painful emotions too.

But it's still hers. She should still have it. In Coulson's estimation, anyway.

The box is opened with quite a bit of curiosity fueling the movement. While Peggy is quite good at educated guesses, she has no idea what it is that Agent Coulson could have of hers that would be in his private collection.

Seeing the pin there, though, has her blinking a few times. It's a long few moments as she stares at it and then plucks it from the box to turn over in her fingers a few times. It's much more worn than the one that traveled with her through time. However, somehow, she can still tell that it is unmistakably hers. The expression on her face is hard to read, though it is certainly not neutral. The closest one might call it is pensive.

She might have stared at it, ignoring Coulson completely for awhile if it weren't for the sharp whistle of the kettle behind her snapping her back into this time and place. There is not exactly a jump, but she starts back into motion. The pin is gently set down in the box again as she moves to turn off the heat and then pull out tea and mugs for them.

"However did you get that?"

Coulson wouldn't have minded; he had, after all, been patiently prepared for that. But he smiles slightly at the question.

"SHIELD's been…everything to me. For a very long time. Family. Friends. Purpose. Meaning. For many years. And it was her history that first brought me to her. So when I find something that's important to her story, well. I hold onto it. Give it an honored place. Make sure it's remembered. There are probably a great many things in my office you'd recognize."

Another gentle, genuine smile.

"But in this case, a Senior Agent who was nearing retirement came up to my desk during my first year on the job. Didn't even give me a name at the time. Says: 'you're the young man with the History degree?' I probably was the only one with a History degree, not exactly a recruitment hotbed, that. I was still wearing sweater vests to work, in fact. So of course I say 'yes, I am.'"

There's memory in his eyes; a twitch of his lips up to a bit of a smile. It enters his voice, too, this rhythm of reminiscence.

"Says: here's a jolly bit of some for you.' And lays it on my desk. And after she was done listen to me gush and stammer, I asked whose it was. The Agent told me. Then said— you're entirely too flustered, young man. That simply will not do. And then the Agent told me two things which guided pretty much my entire career."

Mugs are set down on the counter with a ceramic clink. Tea bags are procured. While true tea aficionados - and even Brits of her time - would be horrified by her go to being bags rather than loose leaf, her longstanding with the Americans during the War and afterward made her accustomed to the idea and she stuck with it even after. Hot water is poured and a small jar of sugar and a tiny pitcher of milk is set between them much like her badge and pin were.

It's only then, her duties finished, that she returns to the box and its contents. Unable to help herself, she picks it up again, rolling it between her fingers. Some might think Peggy Carter to be a woman without sentiment, an Agent through and through who operates on intel and logic rather than emotion, a stifled Brit who prefers to be repressed rather than sympathetic.

Either those people do not know Peggy Carter or they do not know that she was the one that named SHIELD. She did not call it SHIELD at first, of course. It was the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. An unwieldy name, but one whose whole purposefully shortened to a specific acronym, an ideal that she strove toward and wished the agency she helped establish would uphold.

Coulson's story is met with something of a wistful smile. Her eyes are not on him, they are on her recently reclaimed piece of history. However, it's entirely too clear that she is listening to him with rapt attention. The moment his story started, a picture formed. Things started to fall into place for her as to just how and why he has this important memento.

"Oh? And what did she tell you?"

He puts, does Coulson, quite a bit of milk and sugar into his tea. This isn't a slight though. He does this to his coffee too. It's one of those little hints that some part of Coulson will never grow old. Some part of him will always be the kid in the short pants with the Captain America shirt on, full of wonder and amazement for the whole wide world, loving his sweets.

But only a part; the grown man is the one who sips the tea and smiles fondly.

"First," Phil says, "she says: it doesn't much matter what you're feeling inside. You can be angry, you can be afraid. You are in fact going to be. Quite often. Here I am working a desk job right? I was an analyst. But I think she didn't think I'd remain one. She says, 'if you can just find a way to smile, and hold that smile right on your face, well. You'll make yourself feel better and worry everyone else to no end.'"

His lips twitch, obviously he took that one to heart.

"And then she starts walking away, but she turns back, and she says, 'And know your own worth, boy. If you know your own worth, and understand what we're all here for the way I think you do, you'll always find your way.'"

Peggy rubs her thumbs over her old SSR badge one more time. Looking at it, she can remember the times she wore this badge proudly, what she sacrificed and won. What it meant to her and why she fought so damn hard over all the years. And, it seems, why she continued to do so.

There's a soft laugh at the advice this Senior Agent gave Phil Coulson. "Yes." She nods her head just slightly and then smiles again. "That sounds right."

Her own tea is left to steep for a little while longer. Apparently she likes it strong. Later she'll add in milk and sugar to temper it. "You know. After the first time we met, I looked up your papers, Agent Coulson." She smiles, carefully placing the pin back into its jewelry box and ensuring that it is settled just so. "I enjoyed them quite a bit."

Looking back up to him, Peggy smiles. It is not her generally friendly expression; this is open and honest. There is a clear letting down of her guard that she rarely allows. "Honestly, being here? In this time? To me, it was only a few years ago, but after everything that has happened? At times the founding of SHIELD feels an impossible lifetime away. Reading your words…it was both a breath of fresh air and a remembrance. I can see exactly why this Agent would think you were the proper person to care for this."

Closing the jewelry box lid, she pushes it back toward Coulson. "I believe she made a very astute choice. I think she would wish you to keep it in your very capable care."

Coulson's cheeks go a little pink. He's being open too, so he's not as immune to blushing as he might normally be. This happens right around the time that she tells him that she read his papers. And liked them.

He'd always wondered if it was just the passion for SHIELD that got the recruitment call, or the fact that he sometimes extrapolated possibilities that he couldn't verify because they were classified. And sometimes guessed right. Nobody ever told him, and he never asked, though from time to time he has read old files and had a 'huh' moment. Nevertheless, he had figured on those things being buried and gone.

Silly of him, they're definitely on file somewhere, as Agent Carter has just revealed.

She slides the box back across to him, and the blush grows, as does the fond smile as he closes his hand about it. In truth, he'd brought it because it seemed the right thing to do, but the pin has given him quite a bit of strength and solace over the years too.

But what he says, as he gently closes his hand over the top, is the same, soft, deferential: "Thank you, Agent," that he gave some 32 years ago.

He holds it there a moment longer, not flustered exactly but still feeling something of the same sensation he felt back then. But he finally draws it carefully back into his inner pocket, where it will be safe and sound until he can return it to its place of honor in his office.

It may be still impossible to tell what exactly it was that made SHIELD agents scoop up Phil Coulson. This Peggy Carter is not the same as the one that handed down her SSR pin to Coulson. They are cut from the same cloth by literally being the same up to a certain point. However, this Peggy did not live through all the same things the one lying in Virginia did. She has a different perspective, a different moral line. Still, though, she believes even that Peggy - after reading Phil's love and reverence about the things Peggy herself attempted to instill in SHIELD - would have insisted.

"Please, call me Peggy."

Returning to her tea, she scoops out the tea bag and then pours and stirs in some milk and sugar. "I should be thanking you, truthfully. You brought me back into SHIELD. All I did was return a pin." By the soft twinkle in her eyes, she knows that the pin is not anything just.

"Only if you call me Phil."

But his mouth quirks. Hazel eyes sparkle warmly. "They were idiots to suspend you in the first place. Fortunately idiots can be taught. Eventually."

He sips his tea and adds, "You're coming at somewhat of an intense time. But I understand you were at the gala yourself. The public is putting a lot of pressure on us to bring in those two terrorists. What was your take on them?"

Because now? Now they had a senior agent on the ground. Sloane Albright and Rusalka Stojespal were Agents too, but…junior ones. Well, they always had a senior agent on the ground in the form of one Peggy Carter, but now it's official again.

"An accord, then." First name basis.

A smirk reaches her face as she takes a sip of her tea. It's still incredibly hot, but she learned to take her tea however she could get it during the war. "Idiots, if not Hydra," she agrees. Not that she wishes the idea of Hydra to be in their midst. However, at times it is better to quip.

"I would say that is true, but I have yet to know a time without trial." The war, the rebuilding - those were all intense. While the threat, it seems, is different, the thing that remains constant is the divide.

As for what she witnessed at the Gala, Peggy's expression turns troubled. "I wish I knew." A woman of astute observation and information gathering skills, the fact that the events of the Gala escape her is worrying - to say the least.

"I know that I dislike the idea of cataloging people based merely upon a determination of birth. However, I do also see that real harm can be done." She raises an eyebrow at Coulson. "I would ask your opinion, however I do believe I have already witnessed it."

Coulson grimaces. He lost control of that press conference. He lost control of his temper. He knows he did. Maybe not as badly as some might have; because his loss of control is pretty mild. But he knows he did.

"Real harm can," he agrees, curling his hands pensively about the teacup. "This issue is heating up for the actions of two. Just two. For two, some people would throw every super powered teenager, house spouse and civilian under the bus. I feel like there are many more than two of those. To say nothing of our own Agents and others who actively work to make the world a better place."

He exhales. "But I can't say I know what the ultimate solution should be either, how to strike the balance. The watchlist is certainly imperfect. I just hoped that statement might save a few lives. Cause a few people to think twice before attacking each other in the streets. Maybe…I don't know. Debunk the idea that this is an 'us' versus 'them' issue. I thought…maybe this was an instance where words could do more than weapons."
But by the troubled look on his face, Phil is not sure he did the right thing. Right from a certain standpoint, perhaps, but maybe not from some others. He'd been feeling angry— he does not like bigotry— he'd been feeling protective, and he'd let himself believe that his actions would do more good than harm.

But he's not sure, and it's obvious he's not sure. His tone invites her to weigh in.

"The one thing over the years I have understood to be the same is that a press briefing is practically a meat market." Peggy takes another sip of her tea as she says this. "Either they are wanting to buy things or they are wanting something to be slaughtered in front of them. Either way, they come out with a leg of lamb."

That is her treatise on the press. It's not that she dislikes them, but she also realizes they make her own job harder at times. However, this is not a press junket. This is two Agents discussing their ideas over tea.

"It's a difficult balance to strike." That is stating the obvious. "You know, Captain America was a government sanctioned project. They wished for the perfect super soldiers to defeat the Nazis. The problem now, as far as I can see, seems to be in the lack of control."

A bit of a smile is given a she says, "I would have, perhaps, stopped my commentary before 'over my dead body.'" She has, after all, dealt with quite a few people who would gladly do things over her dead body.

Then, she turns more serious. "This country has a very definable code which I admire and is not the same as elsewhere: 'innocent until proven guilty'. Attempting to register children due to their birth rather than before they have done something wrong strikes me as painting them as guilty before they have proven they have done a criminal act."

Phil gives a sheepish smile. "Yeah, I've made smarter calls."

But her laying out the code relaxes him. All fine and well if Fury or Shepherd or Hand snarls about it. But if any of his personal heroes had he might have really had to rethink everything he did.

He had grimaced when someone had used Over My Dead Body! As one of their headlines. Fury had just snarled wordlessly.

"Indeed. I find the whole thing an overreaction. There have been meta-criminals before, we've handled them, the end. We didn't need to become Nazis ourselves to get the job done. And every time I hear 'registration' that's what I hear."

"Yes. They may be criminals, but simply due to their nature does not mean that everyone else becomes suspect." At least, that is what Peggy believes.

As for Registration turning them into Nazis, she gives Coulson a bit of a look. It's not angry, it's not lecturing. It's merely a look. "It's not only Nazis that will lock people away due to fear. This is more than that. Fear will do horrible things to people."

She sighs. "We have to be very careful moving forward. I have seen the propaganda machine at work for far less things. It doesn't make it right, but when a large group of people are afraid for their lives as well as those of their children? It turns into quite a bit more than merely a bad headline."

Right. She lived through that. Coulson tips a nod to her; he at least knows his history well enough to catch on to what she's saying. It's easy to demonize Nazis. A little harder to think about internment camps in one's own borders, the harm done to Japanese citizens right at home, all out of fear, all at the same time.

He clutches that cup a little harder. "If you were at the helm of SHIELD right now, if you were Fury, what would you do? Hell, what would you do if you were the Regional Director?"

He feels out of his element here. This is a tide much bigger than catching a criminal or fighting some goon to get at a piece of alien tech so they can shoot it into the sun. A mob mentality sweeping over the country, a churning mess of propaganda, no specific action or mission that can be taken to nip it all in the bud. Even catching the two terrorists might not accomplish that.


What would she do if she were Fury? If she were a regional director? Well, even though she was the head of SHIELD for incredibly short time from her point of view, she does know what it is like to lead the agency. It may be an incredibly different perspective from the international organization it is today, but that is still something.

What would she do with metahuman risks as they saw at the gala?

"I would put a high level alert on the two at the gala in an attempt to identify and apprehend them. I would quickly and quietly put them into custody to try and determine what happened and how they managed it, to figure out if there were others in their employ."

As for how to deal with the media? She frowns. "I would then tell the media it was an isolated incident and that it was under control." That might fuel more fear, more speculation, however that is what her instincts say.

"Well, part one is complete, anyway," Phil murmurs, finishing his tea. He sort of screwed the second one. Well maybe not. He just kept saying 'ongoing investigation, ongoing investigation, ongoing investigation.'

"I'll shoot the current efforts over to your desk," he promises, figuring she'll want real, meaningful work right away. "Maybe you can pinpoint an avenue we're not trying, because we sure haven't caught them yet."

As for Part One, Peggy nods. That doesn't seem to be a course of action that is only what she would prescribe. It's most likely the nuances that would change course between her and the current regime. And even with those she's not sure what will happen.

"I'd appreciate that," she tells him about the current efforts. Something to do is certainly high on her list of things that would be better in her life. This? Well, she is not one to shy away from what is difficult ever. "Perhaps. Or, at least, I can hope."

Finishing the last of her tea, she smiles at Coulson. "You're welcome to stay for another cup and discussion. If not, I hope you'll come back again."

"I wouldn't turn that invitation down," he says, though it seems to be to coming back again. His eyes sparkle, grim as the discussion turned they are who they are and it's good to have her back.

He puts his cup politely in the sink and says, "See you at work tomorrow, Peggy."

And with that, he lets himself out. At least one part of SHIELD has been put back the way it should be today.

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