August 3rd, 1994
‘I see skies of blue and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.’
The crooning voice of Louis Armstrong filtered softly throughout the living room of the comfortably aged and settled Cape Cod. The white house, settled among a thicket of trees, sat perched up high on an incline, overlooking the sleepy Bellevue Forest neighborhood. In the distance laughter could be heard as a group of young boys played a pickup game of baseball in the street. The music rang out peacefully through the open windows as a light, summer breeze pushed the transparent curtains back and forth in an airy dance.
A thunderstorm the night before had dissipated the thick humidity that was usual this time of year. The air was light and refreshing. Louis’ dulcet tones were uninterrupted except for the occasional scratch of the needle on the record. It was quiet in the open living room as the sole occupant busied herself with her scented marker masterpiece. Bright shades of blue, yellows and greens clashed together as a rough image of a garden grew and took shape.
Seven year old Sharon Elizabeth Marie Carter was hunched over the coffee table, her face scrunched up in concentration as she scribbled freely with a red marker reeking of strawberries. Her mass of blonde curls rested atop her head in a ponytail and she frequently was blowing her bangs out of her eyes. Resting lopsided on the couch was Sharon’s most prized possession and her partner in crime, her Bucky Bear. He was immaculately dressed in his snug, dark blue jacket. The only sign of wear and tear being a missing button and rattled fur where Sharon had once spilled juice on him.
‘I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do, but they're really saying I love you.’
Pleased with her masterpiece so far, Sharon pulled a wrapped lollipop from one of her numerous denim overall pockets and popped it in her mouth theatrically. In the kitchen could be heard a low whistling and steady click of a cane.
“Do you want carrots with lunch Sweet Pea?” Uncle Daniel called out from the kitchen as Sharon gasped and turned betrayed towards the entrance even though he couldn’t see her.
“No carrots! I’ll turn orange if I eat carrots.”
A head of almost entirely grey hair peeked to look into the living room as a face worn with age turned upward into a smile. Crinkles around the eyes and mouth appeared giving away the fact that the man in questioned had spent much of his life smiling and laughing. Daniel Sousa’s smile turned even more amused as her took in Sharon’s fierce frown and her stubby arms crossed across her chest.
“And who told you that carrots turned you orange?”
“Sally Jenkins from Mrs. Foster’s class. She said…she said that if you eat too many carrots you’ll turn orange, and Uncle Daniel I don’t want to be orange! If I had to be any color I’d be blue.”
“Oh, like Violet Beauregarde? You want to be a big blueberry?”
“She was violet, Uncle Daniel.” Daniel had to bit his lip to prevent his grin from growing bigger in the face of his great-niece’s ire.
“My mistake. Alright, no carrots. How about green beans?”
“Yummy. And peaches! We just picked the peaches yesterday!”
“I’d never forget the peaches. Lunch will be ready in a few minutes, but before that, I have a mission for you.”
Sharon perked up at the word ‘mission’ and tossed her marker to the side as she gave all her attention to Daniel, her brown eyes wide and attentive.
“Mission?! Give me the mission!”
“Okay, here it is. Your objective is: get Aunt Peggy to leave her paperwork in the office and join us for lunch. Also, make sure to wash your hands before sitting at the table.”
“Got it, sir!”
“On your way then, Agent Carter.”
He saluted Sharon with a grin before returning to the kitchen as the young child sprang into action. Not content to merely walk to Aunt Peggy’s office down the hall, Sharon somersaulted her way there. She grew too dizzy and disoriented by the fourth roll and sprawled across the hallway carpet as the world spun and spun.
She pushed herself up and quietly crept down the remainder of the hallway to the door that was only cracked open an inch or so. She kept her steps light as she remembered the first rule of spy work: always take your opponent by surprise. As she neared the door the crisp tone of Margaret ‘Peggy’ Carter could be heard as she conversed on the telephone.
“I know you have the situation handled Nick, but you can’t mind an old woman worrying. Just because I’m retired, does not mean I am content to sit on my ass and just let the world pass me by.”
Sharon loved listening to her Aunt Peggy talk. No one sounded like Aunt Peggy. Mom always said it was because Peggy wasn’t born in the States like Sharon and her mother, but came from the United Kingdom (“Aunt Peggy is from a real kingdom? Is there a king and queen and dragons?”), the same magical land Sharon’s father was born in. Though her father had spent most of his life living in the United States, even he didn’t sound like Aunt Peggy.
Hearing Aunt Peggy say one of her mother’s forbidden words of ‘ass’ made Sharon giggle and she gasped, trying to stifle the sounds into her hands. Her aunt paused for a moment and Sharon held her breath. She then jumped as Aunt Peggy spoke loudly,
“I’m sorry Nick, could you hold for a moment? I seem to have a little spy outside my door. Dearest? Is that you?”
Sharon sheepishly pushed the door open to peer into the spacious office that was Peggy’s haven. Behind Peggy the entire wall was bookshelves filled with thick tomes written in a variety of different languages. Peggy had once sat down Sharon with a large, dusty one that was filled with a gibberish language Aunt Peggy called ‘Latin.’ It hadn’t made any sense to Sharon. Covering the floor was a large and brightly patterned Persian rug that Peggy had claimed was a gift from a Shah from the Middle East. The centerpiece of the office was Peggy’s fortress: her sturdy, dark stained oak desk. Uncle Daniel joked that Aunt Peggy spent more time at the desk than anywhere else in their house, even their bed.
Even though she was past the age of 70, time had been good to Peggy Carter. Her hair was still thick and voluminous with smatters of brown still present throughout the grey. Retirement had not been enough to dull Peggy’s routine of wearing rollers to bed each night to produce high quality curls every day. She was dressed primly in a satin blouse and high wasted trousers and her signature scarlet red lipstick drew one’s attention to her full mouth and beautiful face.
"What brings you into my lair, dearest?”
“I’m on a mission.” Sharon stated proudly, jutting her chin out as Peggy quirked an eyebrow in merriment.
“And what’s this top secret mission?”
“I have to make you come to lunch. Uncle Daniel cooked and everything.”
“I would bloody hope he did, seeing as I am useless in the kitchen. Give me a minute, dearest, and then we’ll complete your mission.”
Sharon nodded, her curls bouncing as Peggy flashed her a smile and went back to talking on the phone. Sharon twirled around in a circle as her eyes flashed to the collage of photos on the far right wall. She ambled over to the black and white photographs of Peggy’s life. Sharon smiled as she looked over the familiar faces. In the corner was a shot of Peggy and Daniel from their wedding day, Uncle Daniel sporting a large grin and crooked bowtie as he lifted Peggy’s lace veil. Next to it was a candid photo of Peggy holding a small, wriggling bundle that was her and Daniel’s daughter Jill the day she was born. Following that was a picture of Jill, Sharon’s dad and his sister, Sharon’s Aunt Judy in front of a brightly lit Christmas tree as the three children posed in matching Christmas sweaters. Sharon’s eyes darted upwards and she looked at the photograph of Uncle Dum-Dum giving a boisterous laugh, arms spread wide, and mustache larger than life as he laughed at a joke Uncle Gabe had just given with Uncle Monty crinkling his nose in the background with Uncle Jim and Uncle Jacques rolling their eyes, looking as if this nonsense had happened a hundred times before. Knowing them, it probably had.
The next photo was always hard for Sharon to understand as it was blurry and had been taken in poor lighting. All one could really make out was the hunched profile of a soldier bracing against the wind as he smoked a cigarette. The only clear indication that it was Bucky Barnes, her Bucky Bear’s namesake, was his distinct blue jacket, noticeable even in a black and white photograph.
At the center of this collage of Peggy’s life and achievements was a single photo of a tall, handsomely built man decked out in the stars and stripes of the United States. At his side rested a red and white shield. His blonde hair was tousled and his eyes distant as he looked ahead, eyes not focused on the camera that had caught him unawares.
This was Steve Rogers. The hero of all of Aunt Peggy’s war stories. Sharon had grown up hearing the wild tales of the ‘little kid from Brooklyn’ who had single handedly saved the world with the sheer power of his will.
It wasn’t until Sharon had started school last year that she realized that everyone knew Steve Rogers. She had also learned that he had had another name: Captain America.
The Star Spangled Man with a Plan.
To Peggy and Sharon, he had always been Steve.
Sharon loved hearing stories of Steve Rogers, even though sometimes she didn’t want to ask Peggy about him, because then Aunt Peggy would sometimes seems sad. And Sharon never wanted Peggy to be sad. Peggy was her favorite person in the world and her favorite person should never do anything but smile.
Sharon stared at Steve Rogers for a moment longer before her attention span demanded she look elsewhere or be perpetually bored. She turned her brown eyes to a golden medal hanging off the wall. She rocked up onto her tip toes and reached out her small fingers to grasp onto it as the emblem of an eagle stood out to her.
“What have you got there dearest?”
So enraptured in her young musings, Sharon hadn’t even noticed Peggy had ended her phone call and was not standing behind the seven year old. Sharon had failed lesson two of spy work: always be aware of your surroundings.
“I was just looking at your medal.”
“Ah, yes. Pretty isn’t it?” Peggy reached out and pulled the medal down from the wall and held it out in the palm of her hand as she kneeled down beside Sharon so the girl could have a better look. Sharon eagerly ran her fingers over the cool metal as she picked it up, judging the weight critically.
“It’s heavier than it looks.” She announced to her aunt who nodded.
“That it is. Do you know what it says on it?” Sharon angled the medal towards it as she carefully read out the letters.
“Yes, very good. And do you know what SHIELD stands for?”
“Oh, yes! You told me this! Strategic…Strategic Homeland…and…and.”
“Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.”
“That’s what I was going to say!” Sharon pouted at Peggy, her lip jutting out.
“I know dearest, I just couldn’t help myself.”
“What does it mean? SHIELD?”
At this question Peggy paused and blinked, gathering her thoughts for a moment before regarding her niece with grave eyes.
“SHIELD helps people. It does what other organizations and people cannot in order to do the right thing. SHIELD is trying to make the world a better place.”
“Just like you?” Sharon asked leaning into her aunt’s personal space, reaching out to grasp her shoulders. Her hero worship of Peggy was clear and true as she blinked up at her aunt. To be faced with that kind of trust and confidence warmed Peggy to her soul as she wrapped an arm around Sharon and tugged her nearer.
“I try my best, but I’m only human.”
“But you’re the bestest human! You started SHIELD so it must be good! I just know it.” Sharon nodded with conviction to get her point across as she reached out and laid her hands against Peggy’s cheeks. Peggy smiles against Sharon’s hands as she watched her niece delightedly.
“Is that so?”
Sharon nodded vigorously and used her hands to make Peggy nod as well.
“Yes! It’s so good that one day I’m going to be a SHIELD agent.”
Peggy blinked and watched Sharon for a moment as she bit back a hitch of her throat, her heart fluttering in her chest.
“You really want to be an agent of SHIELD?”
Sharon nodded gravely as she glanced back down at the medal.
“I don’t want to be anything else…except maybe a Power Ranger.”
Peggy bit back a smile as she tucked a loose strand of Sharon’s hair behind her ear.
“Well, one day I think you’ll make a fine SHIELD agent, or Power Ranger. Whichever you chose to be, I’ll be very proud of you.”
Sharon giggled and clapped her hands as Peggy slowly stood and hung the medal back onto the wall. She turned to her great-niece and held out her hand.
“Let’s go complete your mission and eat lunch, Agent Carter.”
Sharon smiled widely up at Peggy, highlighting the gap of her missing tooth.
“After you, Director Carter.”
The two Carter females walked out of the office leaving behind the photos of the past to rejoin the time of the present.