Old Times

May 24, 2018:

Steve visits Old Peggy's grave and remembers one of his visits.

Nursing Home - Virginia

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The rain and small bits of hail beat without mercy against Steve Roger’s form. The umbrella he holds in his hand shields his head and some of his torso, but it isn’t enough. In the wake of the horrid weather and the winds that occasional blow means that it’s only a matter of time before the khaki pants are soaked. But he doesn’t seem to mind. He doesn’t even seem to notice. It only took a few moments of staring at the grave marker before he was lost in thoughts, regrets, and memories.

MARGARET ELIZABETH CARTER
1921-2018

It’s unclear how long the Man Out of Time been here. How long he will stay. It’s only the ringing of his phone that causes him to break out of his fugue for a moment, only to return to it a moment later once he sees the name of who trying to reach him:
Peggy
The phone song blares out, but even the notes from the device soon fade away as his brow furs. It’s odd mourning a woman who is both alive and dead, as if she were some sort of Schrodinger's Lover.

2017

Steve makes his way in familiar building dressed in his civilian attire, moving past the nurses and security agents of odd building. It’s a unique thing to see a well trained killing machine standing talking with a woman about to change bedpans, but when you have aging men and women with top secret information locked in their minds and struggling to have the ability to have the mental wherewithal to keep it, there are either two choices: retirement or ‘retirement’. Captain America is glad SHIELD is humane enough to elect the first.

At the moment, Steve’s got flowers in one hand. He always brings flowers. The same combination that seems so new and refreshing every time. The other gift has changed. Sometimes it has been candies, then they weren’t recommended due to potential choking hazard. Then it was applesauce, but then it seemed odd. Then it just became a CD player and CDs. The collection grows of music from an era gone by, as well as occasional things that he believes Peggy would like. Most of the time, he’s dead wrong. But he tries.

After a brief talk with the staff outside to see how she is doing, Steve makes his way in after taking a deep breath to compose himself before entering in. Somehow, no matter how much he prepares himself, it’s still hard. But he moves in, the smile as large and sincere as always. “Peggy, sorry I’m late.”

*

The woman in the bed is still Peggy Carter. While she no longer has the pristine makeup and coiffed hair of her youth, she remains a woman of presence - even while bedridden. Her hair is now white and falls to shoulder length. Her crisp outfits now a well ironed nightgown. Still, though, the demeanor remains.

Currently, she's looking out the window. It's raining in Virginia. While time tends to pass in different manners to Peggy Carter, for now it has run very slowly. She is waiting for a very specific moment in time. The movement at the door is always a tip off. Most of the time, she's asleep when he enters. Today, though? She's awake.

The entrance of Steve causes a remarkable change in her expression. She smiles, relaxing back against the pillow. "Steve." She glances toward the table and the wall to find a clock. None are there. Furrowing her brow, she then returns her attention to him. "Are you late? It's alright. What matters is that you are here."

Immediately, her eyes go to the flowers. "Oh, are those for me? Lovely. There's a vase, put them in those, please. Right here where I can see them." She gestures toward the space in the side table. It's where she always asks him to put the flowers he brings her.

"How are you, Steve? It's so good to see you."

A warm smile is given toward the talk of his presence being more important than timeliness as Steveo places the CD by wherever he’s placed them prior as well as the flowers. His own smile grows as he takes in the woman. If there is something to be cleaned, he’ll work on that. If not, he’ll just move around in an attempt to keep himself moving… Because he knows if/when he’ll seat, it will be for some time.

“I’m doing pretty good, just got back from Marathon event to raise awareness about Autism. A few people thought there was a going to be an issue with me being out and jogging with a lot of other people, but it was handled.” A glance is given around the room, a desperate attempt to find clues to her present state amongst the relics of yesteryear. “What about you? Do anything fun recently?” he inquires, his smile gentle and sincere. Slowly he moves to his usual place as her answer comes, making sure to give her his undivided attention.

*
The perks of living in a very well maintained retirement home is that everything is cleaned for her. There's little to clean and everything seems to be in a proper order. However, there are always the framed pictures, the books and general tchotchkes that can be shifted, viewed, rearranged.

"Marathons. That seems expertly suited for you. Was it one of those ones you needed to get backers for to pledge? Did you go door to door?" There's a hint of teasing in her voice. She can't help herself.

As for her own health, there is a shrug and a cough. "I'm as well as can be expected. Oh, Sharon came and gave me a bit of gossip about the Triskelion. That is always welcomed. She's a good girl. You should look after her. She wishes so much to prove herself." There's a shake of her head. "You did not hear that from me. She is an incredibly capable agent. She doesn't need your intervention, but I know the two of you would work well together in the field."

Unable to help herself, she tilts her head. "You didn't actually answer my question, however, Steve. A marathon is all well and good, but that's merely a surface."

*

A playful smirk is given at the wry wit of Carter, clearly her charisma flawless despite the lines of age upon her brow. But as she talks of Sharon, he decides to ignore what Peggy will later call ‘surface’, the mirth replaced by admiration. “I hope to be able to work with her soon. I’m sure if you were giving her advice, she might be the one looking out for me,” he admits with a brief chuckle. For a second, he prepares to get up to fetch water once the cough comes, but since it is only one, Steve settles himself back in the chair.

Then the question comes for how he’s really doing. A twist of the head gives the silent question: ‘Do you really want this?’ it pleads. And considering that (Retired) Agent Carter does not yet, Steve gives a soft sigh in response. “Okay, I guess. It’s just hard. Adjusting. There are times where I think ‘I’ve got this, I feel like I’ve got a pulse on this new world and then something happens and I feel so out of it.” He gives the example. “I was in Starbucks and a teen just started cursing while talking to someone else. And kids were in earshot. And no one blinked. I told him that he needed to be respectful of others and he told me ‘it’s a free country’. And the other teen that was with him laughed.” Rogers rubs the back of his neck. “Not sure I’m still the right man for… Well, all of this.”

*

There is a soft laugh, low and almost like another cough from Peggy at Steve's wariness. It quickly passes. "We shall see. If she's watching out for you, I imagine you'll be fine."

The twist of the head is met with a look of complete and utter annoyance from Peggy. Of course she wishes to speak of this. If she didn't, would she waste her time? He visits her, she listens, and sometimes she speaks wisdom. It's not often. There are times when Steve visits that she barely recognizes him. She grasps onto him, thinking them back in World War II. Those are the hard days. Today, though, she is mostly cognizant.

"Are you really worried about the kid in Starbucks?" Peggy tilts her head at him. "You were beat up in alleys for voicing your opinions, Steve. There will always be bullies, always be people who don't share your values, who will cuss, who will take advantage of people."

Peggy smiles, reaching out for his hand as he settles. "Steve, the thing I always admired about you, the thing that always made me believe not just in Captain America, but Steve Rogers, doesn't have a time period restriction. That kid who swore in Starbucks might not be anything ideal, but that's not what Captain America is about. It is a free country. That kid was a…what is the word…twerp? And the best way to show them the right way is just to be it."

There's a sigh. "Steve, you are sweet, but also very dramatic. You are a good man. I trust you and the things that you do. If there is anyone who will teach or show others the way to be good, it is you and what you do."

*

There is a speech that lurks in the throat of Captain America. A woeful monologue on how that teen symbolized America now and how he wasn’t sure if he was the right man to lead it forward. And the burdens he feels. But ultimately, the words catch in his throat to the point where he seems for a moment to need the water. But after a bit of humility and the resting of the aged hand upon his timeless limb for punching evil, he understands the woman’s wisdom and her insight on his moral (yet overly dramatic) soul and lets it pass. At least for now.

“You’ve lived in both eras,” Cap replies calmly as his eyes look up to Peggy’s, relishing the lucidity while it remains, knowing that much like the sun, it rises and sets within the woman. “If you think I should keep going, I’ll do what I can for as long as I can.” There is a brief pause as Rogers offers his girl a heartfelt squeeze of her hand as he softly offers gratitude. “Thank you.”

*

"I lived through both eras," Peggy reminds Cap. "There is a difference. It was a gradual slope. The Cold War, Vietnam….these things changed how Americans not only saw themselves but their government. Children not much older than that kid in Starbucks died overseas for what many only saw to be political maneuvering. It's strange, but I don't even think I realized how much things had shifted until I saw you again. Until I remembered who I was back in the trenches. I'm a different woman now. I've done things I am not proud of, that I am not sure I would do again, now that I know what I know."

For the moment, the hand she holds with Steve is as much for her own support as her initial attempt to comfort him. She sighs, her face falling as she thinks back to those moments she wishes she could change, the impossible. Her voice, when she continues is sadder, but still resolved. "What this world lacks now that we had in spades back then is faith. "

Her expression sets again, either in a mask of strength or strength itself. "That is what has been missing and what you bring to the world again: faith, not only in ourselves, but in others. They need something to believe in. It's why I think this era needs you just as much as it did during our time. They need to believe in a good man and that a good man can not only survive, but win."

She smiles. "You're welcome, though there's no need to thank me. I'm just an old woman who has had quite a lot of time to think on the manner of things lately."

*
“It seems so.”

The declaration is simple as Steve agrees with the aged warrior’s assessment on the current state of affairs within the world today. As Peggy discusses how much rests on Captain America’s shoulders to inspire America and perhaps those across the globe to greatness, a soft smirk is given. “And I’m the dramatic one.”

A thumb moves across her skin. During World War II, her hand could either be grimy and hardened or smooth as silk depending on the need and context. Now, it is soft and frail, his presence barely a brush, not seeking to bruise the tender peach-like skin of Carter, whose soul remains just as strong and fill of life as any pit or seed. The talk of having a lot of time causes a bit of silence to linger. Eyes look down toward the hand, though the thoughts in Steve’s mind are not voiced, but perhaps suggested in the words he next speaks. “I’m glad that you’ve had a full life. A meaningful life. I know you might not be proud of everything you’ve done, but I know you fought the good fight, even when there was no one cheering for you; when there was no benefit for you. True heroes do the right thing when no one watches, no one cares. It’s no surprise you’ve done that. I’m just glad that the world is just now starting to see everything you’ve done for it. After all, I’m not the only one who inspires.”

*

Unable to help herself, Peggy gives a soft laugh. It devolves into a bit of a cough and she reaches for the water be her bedside. Setting it back down, there is a twinkle in her eye as she tells him, "I'm old, I'm allowed. I have seen this world shift and rumble. I have seen the rise and fall of regimes and had a hand in perhaps one or two. It gives one certain perspectives."

She allows that thought to ring out for just a moment. Then, she smirks and gives a mischievous look to Steve. "Dramatic enough?"

His thumb across the back of her hand is met with a a fond smile. There is less sarcasm, less guarded reserve. Instead, there is only fondness. "Thank you, Steve." Her eyes well up and she allows a few tears to roll down. "Truly."

There is an intake of breath, but the smile does not recede. "I only regret that you were unable to live yours uninterrupted. And to now be here, where things are different and yet the same. I can only imagine how difficult it is for you. It was difficult enough living through it."

*
For most of Peggy’s response, there is only nods of agreement, showing Cap is just as capable of listening quietly as he is giving his stylized speeches. The smile of Steve softens at the tears, moving to gently brush the water away from cheeks that were once plump and rosy without need of makeup, now changed by the passing of time.

As Peggy offers regrets on Steve’s behalf, a brief shake of his head is given. “I should have died,” he replies, seemingly having truly no regrets on time lost. After all, save Peggy and the Howling Commandos, there wasn’t much for Steve to leave behind. “I’m just blessed to have survived, whether it be with a fifty-year nap or so. I just wish I could have been there for that dance I promised. I hate being late for commitments,” he replies with a grin.

There is a brief pause as Cap awaits the woman’s response, waiting a short time before speaking once more. The question is serious and one that he often asks the woman. “All that being said, is there anything I can do for you? Anything at all. I know I don’t often visit as I should, but want to make it count however I can.”

*

With a slight tilt of her head, Peggy leans into the brushing of the tears away. It's a moment that she seems completely relaxed in.

"I know you would have made it if you could have," Peggy tells him with a bit of a mischievous smirk. "Nap and all. You're here now, that's what matters. You came back." There's a thickness of her voice as she intones that truth. "No matter what, I'm just glad that you survived." She smiles, looking more toward the window than Steve when she says, "We can still dance."

His question brings her more back to focus. There's a quick shake of her head. "Just be here when you can." A hand reaches for his to grip it tightly, almost a bit desperately. "I just need to know that you came back. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I don't remember, Steve. Help me remember you came back."

*
The gentle smile given at the talk of dancing fades just a hint. The hand is offered without thought, the fragility of woman temporarily overpowered by the fear of her own mind working against her. The hand is taken and even if the nails dug in into they drew blood, Cap wouldn’t take it back.

“Of course,” Steve offers, his usual wordy response kept short due to the emotional impact of the moment. That soon, the first woman who ever cared for him, perhaps loved him, will soon be dying. And there is nothing that he can do other than what he’s doing right now: being seated and spending time with a woman attempting to end her days with as much honor, poise, and dignity as possible. A brief sniff is the only sign of stifled emotions, the stiff upper lip almost heroic enough to be British. “You know I wouldn’t leave my favorite girl after all this. Not now. Not ever.”

*

Were Peggy in her proper state, she would most certainly appreciate the stiff upper lip that Steve affords her in this time. However, there is an edge to her interactions with Steve now. There is fear there, also confusion. There is no blood drawn from the tightly gripped hand that she refuses to release, but she is reluctant to give up this connection to Steve.

"You're a good man, Steve. Remember Erskine."

His assurance that he will not leave his favorite girl is met with a sad smile. "You'll have to." Her hand still keeps as strong a grip as she can on a super soldier. "We're all human." For a moment, she closes her eyes and takes a breath. "Thank you, for being here."

*

“I don’t have to remember Erskine. I don’t have to remember you.” The words seem cold in content alone, but there is a gentleness to it which soon is explained. “There is /an entire world/ that knows about what you did now; how your efforts single handedly changed the course of history. I know you guard so many secrets, even ones you keep from me still. But you’re a hero now. I know I wouldn’t be the man I am if it wasn’t for Erskine. If it wasn’t for the SSR. If it wasn’t for you.”

“That being said, I’ll keep being here..” A glance is given toward a bible, which may or may not have been deposited by Rogers himself “…until you have better places to be.” Steve continues after toward the window, regardless if its covered or not. “And then I’ll keep going. Not because you’ll be missed, but because I want to make sure that nothing undoes the sacrifices you and those close to you endured into protecting this nation from horrors it never had to endure, from threats that you ensured never came to fruition.”

Tender blue eyes turn back toward the woman, seemingly saying everything he can think to say, even if it seems too much. After so much unexpected loss in his life, Rogers has learned the vital importance of saying the words in one’s heart when there’s still a chance. “Thank /you/, Peggy,” Steve states, pouring as much gratitude as he can. Every visit is a blessing and he’s wise enough to take it for what it’s worth. “For taking pity on a witless boy from Brooklyn. For never giving up.” A hand moves to rub his nose. He’ll keep it together until he leaves, when he’ll be free to cry in the safety of his own room. “I won’t let you down. Your legacy, Erskine’s legacy… They deserve far more than I could ever give, but I’ll try just the same.”

2018

The phone continues to blare, having gone to voicemail the first time and rung once more. Steve takes in a deep breath and lifts the phone to his ear as he accepts the call. “Hey Peggy, good to hear from you. Been too long. No, not interrupting anything. Visiting an old friend, but I can make my way toward you soon.” There is a short pause as a response is offered. “Sounds like a plan. See you later, Peggy.”

The phone hangs up, Steve looking toward the grave stone tenderly for a moment as the phone is calmly placed into his pocket. A few final words herald his departure as Man Out of Time has places to be and promises to keep.

“See you later, Agent Carter. It was an honor.”

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