Steve Rogers was officially a hero.
There had been no script for him to memorize when he had made the decision to save his best friend and the men who were imprisoned with him. He had gone behind enemy lines with nothing more than a couple of stage props and a healthy dose of stubborn determination. He came back earning the respect of everyone in the SSR.
Peggy had been ahead of the curve compared to her male counterparts. She had held Steve in high regard since the day he had hopped on that grenade, willing to sacrifice himself for everyone around him. It was in the States where she had recognized the quality of Steve’s character. There, he had refused to give up even though the odds were stacked against him.
She knew it had been a mistake when Phillips had refused to take Steve with them to Europe; she knew it had been a mockery of Doctor Erskine’s work to turn Steve into a publicity stunt.
When Phillips had handed Steve his well-deserved medal, Peggy had felt a swell of pride settle over her. Finally, Steve was getting the dignity he deserved.
The colonel had just walked away, muttering under his breath about Steve’s unconventional choices for his team. Steve and Peggy were left alone, standing next to each other.
Before an awkward silence could settle between them, Peggy spoke, “So, are you alright with the idea of giving up your life of fame to fight Hydra?”
“Yeah.” He glanced at a poster of Captain America before shifting his gaze back to Peggy’s inquisitive look. “I thought it was time to get off the unicycle, don't you think?”
The drawing of the dancing monkey popped into Peggy’s mind. “And your reason for making such a drastic decision was?”
His answer was honest and simple. And it completely flustered Peggy.
Before she could formulate a response, an arrogant voice cut through the air. “Way to be subtle, kid,” Howard said, looking away from the cube on the table. He shook his head in disappointment.
Steve cleared his throat. He took a step closer to her, leaning close to her ear. “I didn’t mean it like that.” He spun the black box in his hand, fidgeting. “If you hadn’t talked some sense into me, I would have been on a train to my next performance instead of being here.”
He paused for a moment. “Here,” he said. He held out the box containing his medal. “I want you to have it. As a way of saying thanks.”
Her eyes widened. “Steve, I can’t,” she objected, shaking her head slightly.
“Yeah, you can.” He nudged the box into the back of her hand.
Peggy recognized the set of his jaw. It was the same stubborn look he had given her right before he had jumped out of Howard’s plane.
“I’ll hold onto it for you,” she hedged.
She reached out to take the box from Steve. As she wrapped her hand around the thin box, her fingers accidentally grazed his. His eyes widened at the unexpected contact. She looked down to where their fingers were still touching, a blush coloring her cheeks.
Maybe Phillips was right, she thought as she pulled her hand away. Maybe I do have a crush on him.
She took a step back, taking the box with her. Peggy wasn’t sure if she was more disappointed or relieved at the loss of contact. It had been a long time since she allowed a man to make her feel flustered.
Steve tilted his head over his shoulder. “I should go and find the guys to see if they want to go follow ‘Captain America’.” She didn’t miss the slight disdain at his moniker. “Do you want to come with me?”
She did, even if it meant she would have to go to that wretched bar. However, there were still the repercussions of her actions in Italy to tend with. She shook her head. “I’m afraid I can’t. I have a meeting with Phillips. Apparently,” she said, raising her eyebrows, “there are a lot of people wondering how you got a transport so close to the Hydra lab.”
Steve looked guilty. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” she said, placing a gentle hand on his forearm. “I’m certainly not.”
Peggy noticed Howard watching the exchange between the two of them with unabashed interest. Peggy dropped her hand to her side. “I’ll do my best to come when the meeting is over.”
Howard smothered a chuckle at Steve’s excitement.
“I’ll see you then.” Steve turned around without looking at the smirking man behind Peggy.
Howard watched Steve leave the room before turning to Peggy. “Wear the red dress. He won’t know what hit him.”
“It’s not like that,” she replied, stepping towards his work station.
“You just keep telling yourself that, Sweetheart. You might actually start believing it.” He frowned slightly. “I guess this means you’re not looking for a fondue partner anymore.”
“No,” she answered thoughtfully. Just one for dancing.
Maybe she would wear the red dress after all.