Peggy really disliked her new nursing home. Oh, pardon. Her new assisted living community. She may be old, but she was still perfectly capable of living unassisted, thank you very much. For heaven's sake, she'd helped create and train super soldiers (well, a super soldier) during war time! She could certainly handle keeping a house and driving to market every week.
But no, her children were all, "we worry about you in that house all by yourself, mum" and "they have lots of things to do" and "you really should have some friends your own age, mom". In her opinion, people her own age were, for the most part, old and boring. She did not want to sit around and play card games with these people, or go on outings to the zoo, or do any other 'activity' the staff felt was appropriate for people 'her age'.
Besides, they hadn't allowed her to bring her weapon when she'd reluctantly moved in, and she felt positively naked without her pistol.
(She loved her children, and seeing how genuinely worried they were about her was really the only reason she had agreed to the move in the first place. But, honestly, was Florida really necessary? She spent much of her time idly plotting her epic and legendary escape.)
It was after she again refused - politely, of course - to go on yet another excursion, that her life changed dramatically.
She was passing through the tv room on the second floor, when she heard Esther and Ruth start complaining about their stories being interrupted. Peggy glanced at the television, then did a double take and stopped in her tracks. The local news was showing what they said was live footage from New York, and she felt cold all over. Another attack? She couldn’t make out what was happening, exactly, but there was definitely some kind of battle going on in the streets of Manhattan.
She quickly snatched the remote from Ruth before the old bat had the chance to turn the channel. Ignoring hers and Esther’s protests, Peggy raised the volume and tuned into CNN. Anderson Cooper informed her that if she was just joining them, there appeared to be some kind of attack on Manhattan, and that people were being advised to seek shelter and that the National Guard was on its way.
”I’m sorry, one moment please,” Anderson held a hand to his earpiece and glanced down at the desk, then back up at camera. ”I’ve just been informed that we have some new footage of the battle, and what appears to be… I’m sorry,” another pause as he listened to whomever was on the other end of his earpiece, ”Iron Man and costumed vigilantes? Take a look.”
Then they were showing grainy footage of a flying man in a red and gold suit; a young woman all in black; a brief flash of red, white, and blue; an enormous…
Wait. She rewound the television with shaking fingers. It couldn’t be. It must have been a flag that got dislodged from somewhere, it couldn’t be… But as she replayed and paused the shaky images, there was no denying it. The uniform was different - more modern - but the shield was the same, as was the way he handled it, the shift of his shoulders and the placement of his feet.
It was Steve.
There were still people in Washington that would take her calls. There were still strings she could pull and favors she could call in, and she used them all to get the phone number of the man who get her to Steve.
"Director Fury, this is Peggy Roberts, formerly Carter. I worked with Dr Erskine on a certain government project back in 1942."
There was a brief pause, during which she could hear the faint click of computer keys as he undoubtedly pulled up her file.
"Mrs Roberts, how are you enjoying Florida?"
I'm sorry to hear that. My grandpar--"
"Let's cut the bull, Director, and get down to brass tacks, shall we?"
Another pause, and she had the feeling she may have surprised him.
”Certainly, Mrs Roberts. How can I help you?"
"I saw Mr Rogers on the news a few days ago, during the... battle of Manhattan I believe they're calling it? I'd very much like to meet with him.”
A week and a half later - enough time for background checks and verification on SHIELD's part, and a trip to the hair salon and a new dress on hers - and she was waiting in the so-called 'library' (really, just a smallish room with a couple sets of bookcases and a few chairs), quite nervous. For all her steam-rolling of Agent Coulson, it had still been nearly seventy years since Steve had last seen her, and though he hadn't appeared to have aged a day, she was, well, she wasn't quite the vibrant young woman she'd been in the war. And while she thought she'd aged pretty well, time, gravity, and three children had certainly had their say in the matter.
She didn't have too much time to dwell, though, because one of the staff poked her head into the room with a smile.
"Your visitor is here, Peggy."
"Thank you, Irene." She smoothed her hands over her hair and dress, let out a nervous little breath, and Irene's smile became softer.
"You look lovely. I'm sure he'll be blown away."
She hoped so. With a final pat to her hair, she followed Irene to the lobby, where... a slight man in a dark suit was waiting. Not quite what she was expecting, but she was nothing if not adaptable. He smiled as she approached, and she returned it politely.
"Mrs Roberts," he said extending a hand to her, "Phil Coulson. I'm a big fan of your work."
Once they were in the sleek black town car Agent Coulson had waiting outside, he explained that he'd thought she and Steve might feel more comfortable meeting in a less public space, and so had reserved a suite of rooms at a near-by hotel.
"Not that I'm implying anything, Mrs Roberts," he added hastily, clearly concerned, Peggy assumed, that she might be upset about some perceived impropriety. It was sweet, and charming, and so she really couldn't help herself.
She raised a brow at him and said, in her best stiff-upper-lip, "I should hope not Agent Coulson," and watched him flounder for a minute before smiling and laughing softly.
"That sounds fine, Agent, thank you."
"You're welcome." He smiled back, relieved. "Please, call me Phil."
"Phil. Thank you."
They drove on in silence for several minutes, Peggy mentally taking note of their route in case... well, in case of nothing, really. Some habits were just too deeply ingrained to break.
"You look nice," Phil said, out of nowhere.
"Thank you." She smoothed the hem of her dress over her knees. If she didn't know any better, she'd think Phil was just as nervous as she was.
Being with Steve again is awkward at first; neither of them really seems to know what to say to the other. Then he orders lunch from room service, and over the course of the meal conversation begins to flow easier.
He tells her what he can about what's happened to him after being recovered from the arctic. He apologizes that he can't tell her more, but he isn't sure about her security clearance. She says that she understands, and she does. He may be Steve Rogers to her, but to the rest of the world he's Captain America, and information regarding him must be protected.
She tells him about working with Howard Stark to try to replicate Dr Erskine's serum, and about their eventual failure.
He tells her about working with Howard's son, Tony. About how similar they are, and how very different.
She tells him about her life after the war, and after the Super Soldier project. About her late husband, and their children and grandchildren.
He tells her about how he thought of her often after waking up, and what a life together could have been like. Tells how he wanted to find out what had happened to her, but was too scared to actually look.
At one point during dessert, there's a lull in the conversation, and Steve smiles at her across the table, and her heart flutters in her chest.
"I think I owe you a dance, Miss Carter."
She laughs and smiles back at him. "I believe you do, Captain Rogers."
He gets up and fumbles briefly with the ipod on its dock across the room, then soft, slow music is playing. Her smile widens as she recognizes the old Bing Crosby tune, and she grins when Steve comes back to the table and offers her his hand.
"Miss Carter, would you care to dance?"
"Thank you, Captain Rogers, I'd be delighted."
She puts her hand in his and he pulls her up and into his arms. He holds her close as they move slowly with the music, and she rests her head on his shoulder and breathes in the scent of him.
"I was in love with you, you know," he says quietly, barely above a whisper, as if he's afraid to say it out loud.
She smiles, runs her hand along his arm, lightly squeezes the hard muscle there and speaks just as quietly. "I know. I was in love with you, too."
"Really?" He sounds surprised, and she brushed her nose along his throat. He shivers.
"Really. I never stopped loving you, Steve."
"Peggy." His voice is thick as he pulls away, cups her face in his hands, and she smiles up at him. He says her name again, barely breathes it, and she leans up and kisses him.
He's hesitant at first, his lips soft and gentle against hers, and she puts her hand on the back of his neck and pulls him closer. Well, she can't really pull him closer, the man's a mountain, but she pulls herself closer to him, a pleased hum sounding in the back of her throat, and that seems to flip a switch. Suddenly he's kissing her harder, arms wound tight around her, hands fisting in the fabric of her dress, and her libido raises it's head for the first time in years.
She pulls at the material of his shirt, fumbles with the buttons, and he suddenly stops kissing her, pulls back to look at her. He's hesitant again, unsure, his uncertainty written all over his face, and she kisses him gently, smoothes her hands over his chest.
"Steven," she says, gently but firmly, in the same tone of voice she used on him back in the war, when he was being needlessly worrisome over nothing, "haven't we waited long enough for this?"
He huffs out a surprised laugh, rests his forehead against hers. "Yeah, You're right. You're always right."
Then he's kissing her again, pulling her towards the bedroom.
They make full use of the rooms all afternoon.
Peggy's cell phone chirped in the other room, rousing her from the light doze she'd fallen into. Her cheek was pressed to Steve's chest and his arms were wrapped around her, one hand lightly stroking her hip. She lifted her head and checked the bedside clock. Nearly seven. Which meant that was probably Phil calling her; she had to be back at the nursing... community... by eight p.m. at the latest.
She must have made a face, because Steve stirred beneath her.
"What? Was that your phone?"
"Yes. Phil said he would pick me up after seven. That was probably him." She stretched, pleasantly sore in a way that she hadn't been since her husband died.
"I wish you could stay longer," Steve said, as he pulled her close again and nuzzled at her neck.
"Mmm. So do I, but I need to get back."
He pulled back, brushed her hair off her cheek. "Can I see you tomorrow?"
She smiled at him. "I'd like that."
Steve walked her to the door after they dressed, then pressed her up against it for a proper good-bye. By the time she made it down the lobby it was going on seven-thirty.
To Phil’s credit, if he was surprised by the sight of her crumpled dress and slightly tousled hair he gave no outward sign of it. He greeted her with a simple, “Mrs Roberts,” his voice perfectly neutral, and escorted her to the waiting town car. They made the drive back in comfortable silence, and arrived at the retirement home with minutes to spare. He followed her to the front door (Peggy could see Irene waiting inside the lobby), and offered her his hand once more. She smiled as she took it.
“It was a pleasure meeting you, Mrs Roberts”
“It was a pleasure meeting you, also, Phil. Please, call me Peggy.”
Steve himself picked her up the next day. He brought her flowers, and kissed her cheek, and the nurses were utterly charmed. Then he brought her outside and they laid rubber out of the parking lot in the red convertible he’d rented. Peggy raised her hands to the sky and whooped in joy, and Steve laughed.
He’d packed a lunch, and they drove until they found a secluded little spot, and picnicked. Then they made out on the blanket, and made love in the backseat of the convertible, with the top down, of course.
On the drive back he held her hand, smiling like a fool, and she felt the same smile on her own face. They laughed and talked the whole way, and it wasn’t until they were in the parking lot that he turned serious. He still held her hand in his right, and now he covered it with his left.
“I’ve been thinking.” He frowned slightly at the steering wheel, wouldn’t look at her, and Peggy found herself holding her breath and telling herself to wait before angsting out (as her granddaughter would say). Steve cleared his throat and spoke in a rush, still not looking at her. “I don’t… I don’t want to lose you again. Will you move to New York with me?”
“Yes.” She didn’t even hesitate. “Absolutely.”
He looked surprised, and finally turned to look at her.
“You don’t want to think about it? Talk to your family?”
“I don’t need to. Steve, I’ve been in love with you for most of my life. When I found out you were still alive, I…” She paused. She couldn’t even begin to put into words how she’d felt that day. It was hard to even believe it had only been a couple of weeks since she’d seen him on the news. “I don’t see why I shouldn’t move in with you.”
“Really?” His tone and expression were so hopeful that her heart broke just a little for everything they had never had. She told herself not to dwell on what might have been, and squeezed his hand.
His wide, happy grin made her laugh, and he pulled her close and kissed her.
To say her children were shocked was a vast understatement, and her eldest granddaughter was absolutely horrified at the thought of her gran running away with Captain America.
“He’s a living part of the American culture, gran. You can’t just go around…” Emmeline’s hands flapped in the air as she tried to come up with an appropriate word to express her outrage, “besmirching an American icon!”
Peggy just laughed, told them all politely – and lovingly – to go blow, then packed her things and moved to New York with the love of her life.
It may not have been an escape scenario she’d ever imagined, but it was pretty legendary.