Peggy couldn't help tearing up when the line went dead, but she didn't break down. She took several deep breaths and got herself under control.
"You're relieved, Major," Colonel Phillips told her.
She nodded jerkily. She'd pay for this later- there would be talk of how emotionally frail she was (as all women were), how she shouldn't have ever been allowed this close to the fighting- but she didn't care later. She would take care of it later. She'd let herself fall apart for tonight, then put herself back together and report back for duty in the morning.
Captain Williams was waiting for her with a bottle of scotch. Captain Amelia Williams, she should say; Captain Rory Williams was likely still helping to mop up the HYDRA base, and taking their cry of "Cut off one head!" as a literal suggestion.
They were unorthodox, but effective. Anyone who questioned why Churchill had requested they be assigned to the SSR had long since been silenced.
"Come on," she said, threading her arm in Peggy's. "I've been saving this bottle for just this very moment."
"Yes," Amelia said firmly, tugging her away from the action.
Once they were safely ensconced in her tent, and Peggy had sobbed, raged, and drank five fingers of scotch, Amelia said. "I've got a story you need to hear."
And she said "You're going to hate me before I finish it."
Peggy didn't believe her. She didn't believe the little girl called Pond who waited for her imaginary friend for years, who ran away on her wedding night, who fought pirate and saved whales and inspired Vincent Van Gogh. She didn't believe watching aliens invade New York in a home bought for a woman who wanted to stop waiting, didn't believe in Captain America being the one to save New York once again so strongly that she slapped Amelia across the face and left without a backwards glance.
She didn't speak with either Williams for nine years.
Nine years later was 1953. 1953 was the coronation- was watching the new Queen ascend to the throne with half her mind on the situation with people's face being stolen and Torchwood muscling in on everything, and feeling guilty about it but not being able to stop herself anyway.
It was also the year she met Dr. Bracewell, who shook her hand firmly enough for her to feel the metal shift beneath the glove he wore. He could tell that she noticed, from the way his mouth tightened; heart pounding in her throat, she decided to get confirmation as subtly as possible.
"Yes, Dr. Bracewell. I believe we have a mutual friend: Amelia Williams?"
"Oh!" His face brightened immediately. "Amy!"
"Yes," Peggy continued. "She mentioned she met you during the Ironsides project."
Just as quickly, the smile melted from his face. "Ah. Yes. That was… messy."
"Still you pulled through. With help from the Doctor."
She could see him pulling away from her, and thought to herself 'to hell with subtly'. "It's all true isn't it? What she said? About the future."
He softened again, slightly. "I wouldn't know. I haven't been. But, I know enough to trust her authority on the subject."
She was in New York to recruit Nick Fury. Nick Fury did not want to be recruited. When she reached the point where the sheer thought of the man made her want to scream, she resolved that the trip would not be a complete waste and began to look for Amelia.
It took her all of about fifteen minutes. Rory Williams ran a general practice popular with veterans of both the Second World War and the more recent Korean War; Amelia Williams wrote novels, and did freelance work for the New York Times.
She knocked on their door around seven that evening. Amelia answered it, throwing her arms around Peggy the moment it opened wide enough to accommodate her arms.
"I'm sorry-" she began.
"Oh, none of that now," Amelia said. "Just- do you trust me? Now?"
"Of course!" Peggy replied.
"Brilliant!" Rory called from the kitchen. "Come on in, Nick's due round in an hour. I think between the three of us, when can make him sit down and listen to what you have to say, at least."
SHIELD was founded under her auspices. Stark provided much of the technology, though it was Bracewell, needing shelter from Torchwood, who actually headed up their research department. Nick was as brilliant at enforcement as she predicted he'd be, and gaining the Williams to run medical and public relations was a stroke of good fortune she hadn't thought to find.
Amelia told her most of the rest of the story over the next two years. She didn't think Steve was in any discomfort; she hadn't felt anything when she was in the Pandorica, and he'd never mentioned it in interviews at any rate. She knew how hard waiting was: the angel sent her back five years ahead of Rory, and she'd waited that out in Hooverville, which was apparently more full of pig-men and Daleks than anyone would have thought. Sergeant Barnes was, at the very moment, an entirely different sort of frozen behind the Iron Curtain- and no, Peggy couldn't rescue him either. It didn't matter if it made her feel powerless, because she would never be remembered as powerless, because she was such a huge force in the world. Every little girl from the generation currently being born and onwards wanted to be just like Peggy Carter, from Amelia herself to Harriet Jones, former (future) Prime Minister of Great Britain.
She was packing for a conference in Budapest with the communists that, strictly speaking, wasn't actually happening, when Amelia presented her with a sealed envelope.
"This is the last page of the story," she said, which certainly sounded ominous. "You'll know when to read it."
"I'm not coming back, am I?" she asked.
"No," Amelia replied bluntly. "But not being able to go back isn't necessarily a bad thing."
"Are you allowed to be telling me this?" Peggy asked. It struck her as different, somehow, than anything Amy had told her before, more immediate.
"Your future is my past," Amelia said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with keeping it that way."
She wasn't very surprised when the conference went straight to hell, nor was the Doctor materializing in the line of fire some great shock. What was a surprise was the Winter Soldier making a very sincere effort to kill them all aided (or perhaps, aiding) a woman alternately referred to as Chernaya Vdova or Natalia Romanova. She had gotten the impression from Amelia that the Black Widow was a much younger woman.
"They've been brainwashed," she shouted as the TARDIS door opened.
"I can fix that!" the Doctor (presumably) shouted back. It was a woman who exited the police box, though, and returned the Russians' fire. Not five minutes later, both assassins fell to the ground clutching their heads.
"Major Carter?" Barnes croaked.
"Sergeant Barnes," she replied, offering him her hand. There was no glove to mask the metal his own was made of, and it was ice cold to the touch.
"It's okay," the Doctor told Natalia, who was still folded in on herself on the floor. "It's okay, it's going to be fine."
It wasn't, not just then, and the Doctor understood that when she told him what the date was. River Song- Melody Pond, Amelia's daughter, Rory's daughter, and oh she can tell that this woman came from them- knew it too, and braced herself against the Doctor for when he was ready accept it.
"They will be okay," Peggy said, watching them make a run for the approaching army. "It will take until the next century, but they will be okay."
"You can't know that!" the Doctor squawked.
She said "Yes, I can."
And she said "I have a message for you, from Amelia Williams."
The Doctor's response to Amelia's letter- the last page of Peggy's story- largely consisted of shouting "AMELIA!" in various different tones. He was laughing by the end of it, though, and hauled her onto the TARDIS with a shout of "Come along, Carter, you have a dance to get to!"
It wasn't until later- after they'd taken several wrong turns through time and space and River had showed her how to use and maintain a pair of sonic blasters- that she got to actually read the note.
Like her contemporaries James Barnes and Stephen Rogers, Margaret Carter went was declared KIA, and her body was not recovered. And like her contemporaries, she resurfaced in the 21 st century to help to fight the mounting threat of alien invasion and internal strife. Her reunion with Stephen Rogers was, by most counts, a happy one.
Amelia had mentioned the eye-patch, but had neglected to mention that Nick had taken one of Bracewell's attempts at recreating the super soldier serum shortly after her 'death', and hadn't aged since.
"I believe you're in my chair," Peggy told him, standing with her back to the TARDIS with her hands raised high.
"Well you're sure as hell not getting it back now," Nick replied. That was the moment Steve entered, took one look at her, and then fell rather spectacularly down the stairs.
They spent the next several hours verifying that she was who she said she was. Natasha and Bucky verified that they saw her at the conference, and suited man named Phil mentioned that the Doctor matched with stories his father had told. That sidetrack the Doctor for a bit; he threw question after question at the man until something about his non-response made him shout "Canton IV!" and kiss the man on the cheek.
Steve stared at her until the medics verified that she matched what they had on file, which, considering their file contained several samples of DNA frozen and ready to be matched, was about as good as they were going to get.
"It's really you, isn't it?" he asked.
"How long has it been, for you?" he asked.
"Twelve years. You?"
"Five." He smiled. "I don't suppose you'd still be willing to try that dance?"
Well, I don't know, you're very late, she almost replied, but she was already reeling him in for a kiss, and there wasn't room for anything long than "Of course."
The SHIELD cemetery was crowded, but Nick led her to their gravestone with practiced ease.
"They went at about the same time then," she replied, remembering the year they'd been born, and the five years Amy had spent waiting for Rory to catch up with her. They couldn't count the Pandorica, of course: Rory only remembered it half the time, and neither of them had aged.
"Within hours of each other," Nick replied. "Their daughter showed up in 1969. She didn't age, most people thought she was actually mine, and every so often she'd disappear and come back… different, but they were overjoyed just the same. She's not around anymore. She left when they died, and we haven't seen hide or hair of her since."
"She's River," Peggy told him.
"How the fuck does that work?" Nick asked.
"She's a Time Lord," Peggy explained.
"How the fuck does that work?" Nick repeated.
"You know, they've explained that to me, but I'm still not sure," Peggy replied.
They were silent for a moment.
"I'll give you a minute," Nick said at last, and walked away.
Peggy nodded absently, and tried to find the right words. In the end, there were only two.
She left her last page on the Williams' grave stone.
And they all lived and loved as best they could.