Heart to Heart

August 24, 2018:

Peggy and Steve have a heart to heart

Peggy's Place

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Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The dust following the death of the elder Peggy Carter have started to settle. The dust around the Warehouse? That has officially started to settle as well. However, there have been quite a few upheavals around SHIELD itself and Peggy's own personal life.

However, Peggy has never been one to take adversity lying down, nor to hide away when that sort of thing happens. Most of the time she holds her head high and works as if nothing has happened in her small office within the Triskelion. The rest of the time, though, she has been staying at home and either pouring over files or contemplating. There are quite a few things that are weighing on her mind lately.

It's been awhile since she has actually seen Steve and while she does wish to give him some space, as the situation can already be considered strange, she also doesn't wish to run from it nor him. And so, she's asked if he'd like to come over.

*

The life of Captain America has certainly lived up to being even more than the idealist Steve Rogers had ever planned on. What was supposed to be just a chance to serve his country and fight for a better world and a better America became something else: Fighting to stop galactic aliens, supernatural threats, and something Rogers never thought would happen… Finding the woman of his dreams that he would give his life to help protect.

But even the idea of tragic love seemed to throw Steve for a sucker punch when he was pulled to the current time.

She's alive but much older. She's pulled through time just like you. She's both. As he drew close to one as a love lost and another as a love found, it's no surprised that Steve Rogers has spent a good time away from Carter once her older alternate counterpart passed. It's an easy thing for him to do once he was there for her during the strange concept of watching (a version of) herself die. Peggy understood the demands of work and exemplified duty and there was always yet another place in need of Captain America.

It's an odd thing for Peggy to reach out to meet up, but finally, the Man, the Hero, the Legend comes to her door, knocking a couple of times. He's thought long and hard about what he wants to discuss and when she answers the door, she will find Steve Rogers clad in a grey hoodie, t-shirt, and black running shorts, clearly just returning from exercise. And he has just the thing to begin.

"Hey Peggy, hope you're doing okay. Mind if I come in?"

Regardless if given permission to enter or not, he will go right into the heart of the matter right away.

"So a scorpion demon woman tried to kidnap me so I could sire an army of hellspawn or something like that, but Sam, and some monkey people saved me." He looks Carter in the eye as he announces confidently what is true. "I told her I didn't want to have her babies."

The Man, the Hero, the Legend… The utter derp.

*

The uniqueness and strange absurdity of their situation left this Peggy realizing that perhaps they both had to deal with the death of the other Peggy Carter in their own ways. How do they mourn her? How do they look at each other? Who is she in comparison? Who is she? Those are things that are possibly best thought of and dealt with separately. How can he mourn Peggy Carter when one is sitting right beside him?

The question of whether he can come in is met with a nod and a ghost of a smile. That is very Steve. "Yes, of course. I did invite you, after all." Without ceremony, she gestures for him to come in and she shuts the door behind them. Even as she is shutting the door he is talking about a scorpion demon trying to kidnap him to sire an army of hellspawn.

Unable to help herself, there are a few blinks. Then, without a change of tone, she tells him, "That is rather the smarter move. There is that tale of the scorpion and the frog, after all. You wouldn't wish a sting halfway across the river." While she keeps a hand on the door knob, she offers him a seat. How she is doing is not exactly answered. "She isn't thinking of coming after you, is she?" That's really the important question, after all.

*

A brief pause denotes serious thought. "I don't think so, but she's a shapeshifter and a demon, so…" A simple shrug is given. "Just figured you should know." But Peggy can take some solace in that Steve does takes SOME precautions in making sure he doesn't lead people to those he would wish to keep safe. While he has his moments where he seems simple, Steve has the odd ability to ante up when the situation requires either on or off the battlefield. Most times.

That blurt offered, Cap soon takes his seat. "But I take it you didn't call me over to talk about frogs and stingers." A half second pause is given before he observes his own guess on Carter's well-being. "Seem to be holding up well… All things considered."

*

"We've been mostly careful about who might know about our relationship," Peggy assures Steve. "And I trust you took precautions." However, there is a bit of a smile to know that he was thoughtful to ensure that a strange scorpion alien did not attempt to wreak havoc upon her. "But thank you for telling me. It's good to know that may be on the horizon somewhere."

As for frogs and stinger, she shakes her head. While she was the one that called Steve, now that he is here, it's a harder conversation. Finally moving away from the doorway, she doesn't sit next to him. Instead, she goes into hostess mode. Gathering glasses, she pours two waters and then brings them to the coffee table. Setting one down in front of him and then the other in front of her. "I can also make tea if you'd like, " she offers.

As for holding up well, she nods. "Yes. I mean….I imagine it is harder for others. I only know myself. Others have know her for years. Decades, even." There's a frown. As he blurted out his anecdote, so does she the reason she asked him here. "If you need time, Steve, I understand. I know we share a very…unique situation. However, we had not yet spoken about it and I wished to clear the air."

*

"Water's fine," Steve softly replies.

Folding his hands as he leans forward, Steve waits for the conversation, the true conversation, to begin. And sure enough, it comes. His brow furs as he looks up. "It's not that I didn't want to avoid it, avoid us." A glance is given toward the water bottle. He looks at it carefully, as if a far easier thing to take in rather than Carter's gaze. "I know it seems that way and perhaps it is." Admitting his unintentional sin, he owns up to it as he looks toward Peggy's eyes. "I'm sorry. I just, well, I just wanted to be able to give an answer for it: How I felt, how I could help, how we could handle this in the best way. It just never came." Steve shakes his head slowly as he looks toward the ground. "There wasn't an inspiring quote to draw strength from, a bible verse to shed light on it. It's just what it is. Instead of trying to avoid the situation because I couldn't be perfect for it, I should have just been here."

As he continues with his confessional, Rogers looks up once more. "Instead of focusing on what I was comfortable with, I should have been okay with being /un/comfortable, knowing that you were struggling with your own unique burdens."

The folded hands clench slowly together as he repeats himself. "I'm sorry, I know this has been difficult for you too."

*

And water is what he has. This just means Peggy won't avoid any other uncomfortable topic by getting up again and making tea. "I know." There's a wince as he talks about avoiding what might have been happening the past few weeks. "I wanted that, too. I wanted to come to you with solutions, with plans, with steps forward, to have the best way to do things. I didn't have them. I'm sorry, too."

A hand reaches forward toward his clenched hands. She doesn't try to push her hand between his, instead, she just gently places it on top of his fists. "Yes. I'd like you to be uncomfortable in front of me. I don't need you to be perfect, I don't need a verse or an inspiring quote."

Much like Steve, she has looked down for most of this conversation. Now, though, she looks up to him. "I just…I want you to be there. And I know I haven't been here, exactly, either. I've been trying to live up to this ideal, this woman everyone knew. This person I am and am not. I have some legacy that I am a part of but personally had no hand in."

There's a sigh. "That's why I haven't called you before this. I'm that woman, Steve. I'm the same woman from Project Rebirth. But, the woman who died? We're different, too. I don't know what that means for me. And what that means for you. I don't know the best way to handle it, or even if there is one."

*

As the hand is placed upon his, it acts as if a hot stone upon ice, slowly sinking between his slightly calloused fingers until he's finally holding her hand gently with one of his own. It's a simple and silent way of stating he is being 'here'.

"I think all you can do is your best," Steve admits. "As you said, this is untouched territory. But I suppose if anyone can give you advice for how to handle your death… It's you." A shrug is given to show that this is more of a spitball of an idea rather than True Cap Advice. "While it's not your legacy, I'm sure that if you were on your Earth, it would have likely played itself much the same. So I'd see it less as living out someone else's hard work rather than harvesting the fruits your other self never had the chance to blossom. 'I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the hard work, and now you have taken up their labor'… John 4."

Look at that, guess Cap did find a verse, after all.

"If you had asked to be here to take advantage of the situation, that would be different. But you're not. And as you said, being brought here has made you your own woman. So that's just as much of a blessing as it would be a curse."

A small smirk is given. "In the end, however, if there was ever a woman Peggy would be willing to entrust with her life's work, it would be herself."

The tone makes it unclear if that fact is a true compliment, a backhanded comment on Peggy's perfectionist nature, or some mixture of the two.

*

"It is a different legacy than one I built myself. Even if I did build it. Just a different version of me." Peggy's hands don't move. They, instead, keep their grip on Steve's. He hasn't moved his, but she doesn't try to advance or do anything else but stay there, his hands in hers conveying a sort of warmth and safety.

No matter what Steve wishes to say about Peggy herself, she takes those words and thinks on them. That will be something she has to digest on her own time. She frowns. "I'm not sure how I feel about that." Despite the fact that she feels as if Steve speaks true. If Peggy had a choice to hand off SHIELD to a younger timeshifted version of herself or someone else, she is pretty sure it would be a timeshifted version of herself. Whether Steve's comment is backhanded or true is met with sincerity.

"That rings true. And how are you?"

*

A simple nod is given at the insistence of 'different legacy'. It seems Peggy is rather firm on that point and at this point allows Peggy to keep it. As stated, it's her thoughts on her life and her life, so in the end, she's the expert.

A shrug is given at the talk of his own feelings as he casts his eyes downward. It's somewhat on the hands, but also on the water. He wants that water, but well, this is important together time, he should hold the hands. "It's hard. I know that I didn't control what happened. Yet I feel like I cheated on you. With you. I know that it isn't like that and crashing the plane effectively put the relationship on ice-" A brief moment lets the pun rest, though oddly, he still maintains his all serious composure. "-but in the end, a feeling doesn't have to be logical. It just is. It just reminded me that despite you being here and now, that me being gone had ramifications on you just as it did to Bucky. The only difference is that I had to free Bucky from his past to learn my responsibility for his pain. And I had to lose you to be taught how much I hurt you."

There is a dry swallow in his throat. As if fearing this will somehow spell doom for all he loves, Captain America slowly slides one hand out cautiously to try and get one hand on the bottle of water. Should he live still without Peggy's judgment, he will get the water with his newly freed hand to swiftly drink some of it, only to return the hand meekly. He returns to the mantra of a man haunted by his own failings, even as they are lauded by the masses as heroics. "I'm sorry."

*

As Steve moves to get the water, there is no grip, no attempt to hold his hand where it rests. Instead, as he shifts, she moves her own hands into her lap. There seems to be no judgement, no sigh, no thought that this is anything other than him wishing to drink and her adjusting to accoomodate.

Instead, she listens to his thoughts as he reveals - and at one point puns - his way through them. She did ask, after all. "Yes. I have been getting that quite a bit." She pauses, then adds with something of a wry grin. "Not someone cheating on me with me, but being told that I am Peggy while wondering if I am or if I am not actually their Peggy. It is rather a conundrum for philosophers and quantum physicists, I am sure. I would say I couldn't understand the feeling, however I can to a certain extent." Steve was dead to her, and then when she arrived in this time she found him alive. While less complicated than duplicate Peggy's, there is still a shock, a confusion there that she had to work through.

He cheated on her with her. It, strangely, makes quite a bit of sense. Especially when there was another Peggy. "I see. If you think of me as entirely separate from the woman who lived continually through the years, would you still think that way?"

Steve brings up his plunge into the freezing waters and she frowns, studying him. "Ramifications?" A head tilts. "Steve, are you apologizing to me for the pain of grieving you?" The tone is neutral, truly curious.

*

"I suppose it's a unique set of issues we have… Most people have to deal with how they spent their money or 'do we want to get a dog together'," Steve admits with a faint smirk. "But I guess when you get gifts beyond the normal man-er, person, you get problems beyond the normal person too." The shift of 'man' to 'person' is small, but a sign of Rogers in his constant effort to change and strengthen, to adapt with the times where he can while working to find the places where he must hold true no matter the cost.

"As I said, I know it isn't logical," Cap replies, looking at his hands. "I just know that things could have been different, should have been different. Maybe if I had taken out Red Skull sooner on the plane, been more careful on the train… It's foolish, I know."

*

In the face of their past, quite a few people might relish the fight about a dog or spending money. "I've always been keen on corgis," Peggy quips in a dry tone, unable to help herself.

Then, however, her tone becomes more serious. "Everything could always be different." There's a sigh. "Maybe I never walked into Howard's experimental lab when I knew it was dangerous, which sent me here. Maybe I never decided to let my brother's supposed death take me into espionage. Maybe I would have forgiven him earlier than I did, which would not have led him into a mission that would disavow him. Maybe I decided to hang protocol and jump onto that plane with you. These are all things I've thought over and over again, myself. None of it is logical, because it all only exists the world of the imagination. Anything is possible there. Everything turns out exactly as we might wish because he have the luxury of deciding it all. Like you said, feelings aren't logical."

While Steve looks at his hands, Peggy looks at him. "You made decisions, Steve. Some of them hurt people, others saved them. I can't speak for everyone. I will tell you this, though. I grieved you. I held my own private funeral for you over the Brooklyn Bridge as I was convinced you were dead and gone. It hurt me excessively to think that the truth, because even though I had never said it, I loved you." There's a pause there, but she continues. "But if I had not thought you dead, I might have never helped start SHIELD. Would we have continued as we had, that other Peggy's byline might have been, 'liaison of Captain America' forever."

*

As expected, Steve listens with a slightly furred brow and an intense yet somehow gentle gaze as Carter explains the valleys and mountains that came with loss. "I suppose so," Steve admits in the wake of the confession, clearly not sure how to process the complexity presented. There isn't really solace that is found within Peggy's words, but there is at least a peace within the War Hero that begins to settle as she finds worth within making the most of the choices made.
A soft sigh signals the release of burdens, at least for now.
While Steve could say a lot on how proud he is of Peggy's legacy, he's already said it before so he merely settles on, "I'm glad that you became your own woman," he admits, looking over toward the legendary spy as he gets up under the mostly innocent pretense of getting water. "Though I've heard the radio program and I thought you would have made a much better Betty Carver," he admits before moving toward the fridge as if it could somehow save him. Even though it's clearly a joke, he knows from the woman herself a simple wisdom: always have your exit strategy ready before commiting to a risky operation.

*

The radio show. Peggy rolls her eyes at the thought of it. The legacy of Betty Carver is a sore subject with her. "Betty Carver." She shakes her head. "The nurse who only wishes to have Captain America save her?" The derision in her voice is clear. I'm not better than her, I am just nothing like her."

As Steve stands to find whatever he wishes to find in the fridge, Peggy's eyes track him.

Finally, as she stays where she is, but tracks Steve's movements, she just asks, "What is going on?" With. shake of her head, she leans back on her couch. "My entire life has been about back and forths and double meanings. It's even worse now. If we are to have anything like a relationship, I can't have that with you, Steve. Just tell me what you want. I understand that things are complicated, I understand that I am some copy of the Peggy Carter you know. I am tired of playing spygames with everyone I meet. You died and so did I."

Her eyes have not left Steve. She has tracked him from the couch to the kitchen, she still looks at him. "I am sick of espionage and dual meanings. I know things are complicated, that I am a woman tat you both know and don't know. I have tried to give you space, as I know this is all such a unique situation, but I can't do that any more. I have lived in my own shadow too long and I have had the unique experience in tip toeing around my own legacy. I'm done with that now. Tell me right now, Steve Rogers. Do you wish to continue a relationship with me? If not, I will respect that. If you do, that is what I will respect, too. I can't live in limbo any more. I've done that too much in the past years. I need to move forward with my life. I hope that includes you and romance and sex at some point."

*

As the joke falls flatter than Steve anticipated, he soon returns to see a woman expressing her frustration and fatigue. As she mentions sex, there is a slightly arched brow, but that is the only reaction from the man. It's clear he's moved on from the puritan kneejerk blush of previous months, but having a world-wise pair of friends like Tony Stark and Bucky Barnes will do that to a man. The fiery woman demands she will move forward, all while Steve admits he struggles to keep up. It's a natural progression to the 'time has changed us' discussion.

But the words don't come.

Instead, Steve Rogers moves to be in front of Peggy, kneeling just enough to be slightly above her as the height difference seems to mirror perfectly that fateful high speed car ride toward destiny that was the climax of the 'legacy' of Captain America. Perhaps one of the refreshing aspects of Steve is in all the things that haven't changed; it's clear if his affections are returned that the ardent passion has not subsided in the least.

Regardless if his kiss is well received or rebuffed, Rogers still speaks softly and with all the honesty he's known for. "I don't do double talk, Peggy," Steve begins as he kneels in front of the woman. "At least not on purpose. I said all this to unload it and leave it behind. You tell me you want me to be honest, to expose myself…. so I do. I do that so I move on without regret, without making you think I'm keeping something from you. I know you have to because of your work, but I try and avoid it on my end for a lot of reasons." With that, Steve pauses for a moment to consider his words, but continues on with time. "I do that because I trust you to be able to handle it. I'm sure you feel I can handle most things you tell me. Like about your brother. Or that thing with the Kazoo in Kabul."

*

The kiss is not rebuffed. Instead, she tilts her chin upward. As previously mentioned, she is a woman of action and she does not hesitate to reciprocate. At his kneeling and also his words, Peggy lets out something of a soft laugh. "I understand that. I'm doing similarly," she says of unloading the things that have been weighing on her. "I know. I do. I double talk, question motives, distrust. I've been doing it since I arrived, because that's what I am used to doing." She is, after all, a spy. Being entirely truthful all the time tends to not work well with that. "And at times I am simply tired of it. Of wondering what my being here means or if it means anything. The things I saw with such clear purpose before now seem cloudy to me."

She sighs, but keeps watching him. "I am glad you are honest with me, that you let me in. I do appreciate it, and I hope you know that. And I do feel as if you can handle what I tell you." And that means quite a bit. She doesn't feel a need to protect him from information or that he will judge her for what she has done or might do. The sigh suddenly turns into a grin at the mention of the kazoo in Kabul. "You know, the Kazoo was truly where I thought I might lose you," she teases, unable to help herself. "Learning about my brother was certainly one thing, but the story about the kazoo was certainly not something I thought you would ever let me finish telling."

*

While the natural leader and inspirer in Cap fights to offer words to Peggy's disillusionment, Steve's learned the merit of letting a feeling be instead of trying to fix or improve it. With the heavy stuff temporarily lifted, the American Hero moves toward the couch to resume his seat, albeit a bit closer to the SHIELD spy than he had started the conversation, a perfectly scalped arm moving to draw her in. "It was close," he admits with a smirk to the horrors of the tale. "Never thought Colonel Philips' training would pay off in blossoming romance, I will say that."

*

In the heart of the matter, it is probably best that Captain America doesn't attempt to inspire Peggy. Instead, the softer approach of Steve simply listening to her and being there as she gets this off her chest is met with a relaxing of sorts.

Letting the conversation move off onto the talk of the Kazoo and Colonel Phillips, Peggy shifts a bit. The arm wrapped around her pulls her into more of a lean against him. A head rests against him and she smirks. "That's only because you only knew Colonel Phillips from boot camp and then in the bunker. The colonel was completely a romantic at heart. That gruff exterior hid a softer side. I know that is generally the stuff of pulp fiction, but it is the honest truth. You know, I still think he wrote that woman letters for years afterward."

*

A look is given toward the back of Carter's head at the talk of the man being a romantic, the couple's embracing making it hard to look eye to eye. "I'll take your word for it," Cap replies simply, giving a mile long stare at the horrible yet fond memories of being trained under the SSR. "I'm still shocked by how much I managed to clean with just a toothbrush and…. 'grit'."

*

"It was using that grit to clean the floor that gave you character." Peggy grins and tilts her head upward to look at Steve. His face is upside down to her vantage point now. It's rather unclear as to whether she truly believes that to be the case, but she then curls her arms about him.

"You know, I remember a time as we were setting up the first office of SHIELD that one of the new hires offhandedly told one of the other new agents that he thought Captain America was an overrated government propaganda machine. Phillips was nearby and I didn't even get a chance to say anything. He decked that man so fast that I was stunned. Then he told him to get up and make himself useful and he didn't want to hear that talk around him ever again." Her tone is fond as she talks about Phillips. While she knows Phillips was generally gruff to dismissive of Steve for most of their time together, she saw a different side of him.

"He was also the one that gave me the photo I kept with me for most of the years I thought you gone. It was you during the training periods of Project Rebirth." That is, before his procedure that turned him into Captain America.

*

“I had no idea,” Rogers stated softly. It’s odd how one can learn something new about an old friend and ally, even years after their passing. “I wish we had more like Phillips in this day and age. I think if we did…” He doesn’t finish his statement; just smiling at the thought of having that crusty old man telling SHIELD recruits what it means to serve.

The daydreaming fades as he takes the time to consider the words of Peggy, merely leaning a little more on the couch as she leans into him. The fact that she has the picture of him before he was transformed into the American Dream Hunk speaks greatly to him. His eyes actually water at the tender implications of Peggy’s preference for memories. It takes a moment for him to consider his words. Dumbfounded, he merely curls his arms around her a little tighter before stating softly, “Have I told you how lucky I am that you’re in my life?”

*

Peggy gives a bit of a smirk. "I know. He hid that quite expertly. After you died, though, he was gruffly kind, in his own way." As for the people in this day and age? She gives a bit of a nod. It reminds her too much of her current SHIELD duties of what she has had to try and field lately. "I would have hoped, too, but I think Phillips was one of a kind. He…he was a hardass, but he cared. And he truly believed in Project Rebirth. He just did it from an Army POV."

The pair lean into each other and she looks at him with a warm smile. The arms tightening about her is met with a quick and fond press of her lips against his forehead. "You valued me as a soldier when few others ever did. You trusted me to help you rescue James. You didn't even hesitate, Steve. I told you I had a plan and that was it. You boarded a plane with a prop shield and costume piloted by Howard Stark because you believed I could get you across the border. In retrospect it was entirely insane and yet you trusted me without question."

Smiling, she shakes her head. "No, but I don't believe I have told you how lucky I have been, either." Pause. "To be clear, I believe myself quite lucky."

—-

A faint and soft reddening of the cheeks is displayed at the kiss, as if there is a part of him that still can’t get over that he is actually the boyfriend of THE Peggy Carter. “I just trusted what I saw,” Steve decides as he does the necessary squirming here and there in order to situate himself for the long haul. A hand reaches into his pocket, pulling out his phone. A finger slide on the touch screen has to show ‘Emergency Calls only’ showing his intent of being here sometime before he places it on the coffee table. “And you’ve never given this world anything but the best even when it seemed it deserved anything but. The difference between a genius plan and an insane one isn’t how they appear, but how effective they are. Insanity is doing the same crazed thing expecting a different result… Genius is doing a unique thing that seems crazy that gets the results you want.” There is a short pause as a confident grin creeps upon his face. “But hey, if we have the skills and we have the luck, I saw we just ride this out as best we can, right?”

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