Actions

Work Header

The Life and Times of Anthony Michael Carter

Chapter Text


 

Peggy will always remember the look on Howard’s face when she breaks the news to him. Howard Stark isn’t an easy man to surprise, and even when he is, it never lasts for very long. But his shocked expression lasts for a good three minutes, during which he just stares, open-mouthed and wide-eyed, at Peggy, who stares right back. She’d almost find it hilarious, were the situation not… Well, as it was.

Finally, Howard swallows thickly and addresses her, his voice shaking. “You’re… You’re what?”

She represses a sigh.

“Pregnant, Howard.”

“Are you sure?” he blurts, his expression now full-blown panic, and if that hurts Peggy to see, she doesn’t show it.

“Quite sure,” she says stiffly. “I saw a doctor yesterday. Thought I simply had a bug, but no. Pregnant.”

Howard doesn’t move from his seat; in fact, he seems frozen in place.

“And you’re sure it’s… it’s mine?”

Peggy can feel her eye twitch in irritation. “Yes, Howard! You’re the only man I’ve…” She stops, then takes a deep breath to calm herself. “The only man I’ve been with recently.”

“I…” Howard finally unfreezes, slumping back in his chair, his face dumbfounded. “Holy shit, Peg.”

Peggy shifts her weight from one foot to the other. “My sentiments exactly.”

He looks at her, eyebrows drawn up, and Peggy honestly can’t think of a time when he ever looked so apprehensive.

“What are you… you know, gonna do with it?”

“I beg your pardon?” she asks, eyebrow raised.

“I mean…” Howard runs a hand through his hair. “Look, Peg, that night? That was damn amazing, I’m not going to lie. But we both agreed that it would be a one-time, no strings attached kind of deal.”

“And it was,” she replied, still frowning at him. “What are you getting at?”

“A baby is a pretty big string, Peg!” Howard yells, near hysterical. “I can’t just – I’m not ready to have a family!”

“And you think I am?” Peggy steps forward, planting her palms flat on Howard’s desk, looming over him with a fierce look. “Howard, my job sees my life in danger damn near every week! I can’t add a baby to that!”

“Yeah, well, I run a million-dollar company,” Howard retorts, so unsympathetic she almost wants to hit him. It’s only through years of honing her self-control that she doesn’t. “Not much room for a baby there, either. So.”

She narrows her eyes. “So.”

They stare at each other for what feels like an hour, neither wanting to yield to the other. But, as always, Howard is the first to break. He looks away and groans, rubbing a hand down his handsome countenance.

“You gonna keep it?” he asks wearily, not bothering to look her in the eyes.

Peggy straightens her back. “… I wasn’t planning on it,” she answers evenly. “I was thinking of putting it up for adoption.”

Howard takes a second, then nods, the tension in his shoulders melting. “Sounds good. Don’t really see why you needed to come all this way if you already made up your mind.”

She stiffens again, feeling rage bubble up inside her. “I thought you had the right to now, considering it’s your child too.”

He gives her a dry look, and god, she feels her self-control slowly slipping. “Look, Peg: you know me. Better than most people. Better than Jarvis, probably. You know how I feel about kids. Yeah, they’re cute to look at, but they tie you down. I cannot afford to be tied down. And neither can you.”

Peggy takes a deep breath. She knows he’s right; they’ve had this conversation before. Neither of them could really picture themselves settling down, starting a family. Peggy had had that dream once, briefly, before it went spiraling down into the Arctic, but she was sure Howard had never given it a second thought. They were both busy people with dangerous lives – hers more so than his, but still. A baby would… complicate things. More than the act of sleeping with each other already had.

“I know, Howard,” she conceded. “But I still thought I should tell you, lest you wonder why I’m growing consecutively bigger for the next nine months.”

He rolls his shoulders. “Well. Now I know. And I’ll be sure to be extra sensitive about it.”

Peggy rolls her eyes. “You arse.”

She leaves his office shortly after that, since there’s nothing more either of them want to talk about. As soon as Jarvis (blessedly ignorant Jarvis) brings her car around, and she is seated safely within its confines, she rubs a hand down her stomach. She sits there for a few minutes, before she shakes her head and begins to drive.

 


 

Jarvis doesn’t stay ignorant for long. Though, to be fair, it was really Ana who pointed it out.

Peggy has tea with the Jarvises semi-regularly; that is, when her work would allow it. It’s during one of these teas that Ana points out how pale Peggy’s become, and how suddenly tight her dress is. She doesn’t do so maliciously – Ana Jarvis doesn’t have a malicious bone in her body, Peggy’s sure – but rather, with a knowing look in her eye.

Peggy just sighs and puts down her cup. “It’s Howard’s.”

“I figured,” Ana nods.

Jarvis looks between his wife and best friend curiously, if also somewhat concerned. “What’s Howard’s? Miss Carter, are you alright?”

“I’m fine, Mr. Jarvis, just…” She struggles to say it. She’d meant to tell them sooner, but work… Well, it was a combination of work and her own anxiety that prevented her from confessing all.

Luckily, Ana is with her now.

“Pregnant,” the redhead supplies helpfully.

The word hangs in the air for a few moments, and both women watch as Jarvis’s eyes grow bigger and wider.

“I… O-Oh my goodness,” he says finally. “I suppose some congratulations are in order…?”

“They’re appreciated, but unnecessary,” sighs Peggy. “I’m going to give the baby up.”

“What?” Ana’s eyes are round. “Peggy, why?”

“Ana, I can’t possibly raise a child with my work! And Howard’s made it clear that he wants nothing to do with anything resembling ‘family life’. It’s for the best,” says Peggy. She takes a quick sip of her tea, hating how Ana’s eyes are still searching her face, like the redhead knows something she doesn’t.

It’s Jarvis who speaks next, however, not his wife. He looks as uncomfortable as Peggy would expect.

“It’s your decision, Miss Carter…”

Peggy sighs. “But you two don’t approve.”

“It doesn’t matter,” says Ana, stiff as a board. “Like Edwin says, it’s your decision, not ours.”

Peggy hates that closed-off, guarded expression on Ana’s face. So she blurts, “I just don’t know what else I’m meant to do!”

The Jarvises regard her curiously.

“Miss Carter?” asks Jarvis.

She takes a deep breath to collect herself. “The Peggy Carter that wanted… a family died at the end of the war. Or, I thought she did. I thought maybe she’d come back, briefly, back when Daniel…” She blinks, hard. There is no ill will between her and Daniel. What they had was barely a connection, before he got sent off to L.A. and met Violet. Peggy wished him all the best, but sometimes she did wonder…

Ana’s hand is suddenly on hers, interrupting her train of thought. The redhead stares at her imploringly, begging her to go on.

So she does. “Anyway… I was just… feeling lonely, and frustrated, and then Howard made a pass like he always does. Except this time, I took him up on it. Then, a month later, I’m vomiting into my toilet bowl and Angie thinks I’ve caught the flu. Only, surprise, it’s not the flu, it’s a baby!” She barks out a laugh.

The Jarvises exchange a glance, worry clear in their expressions.

“And the worst part,” Peggy goes on, ignoring it, “is that for one, pitiful moment… I was happy.”

She can feel tears gathering in her eyes, so she quickly wipes at them with her free hand; Ana is still holding onto her other, only now the redhead looks heartbroken.

“Oh, Peggy…”

She spares Ana a tiny smile. “It wasn’t how I imagined it. Not even close. But, despite all that, I had the inane hope that maybe I could keep it. Maybe Howard would want the baby too, and we’d raise it together. Not, together, in the most literal sense, but…” Peggy shook her head. “It was a ridiculous thought.”

“No, Peggy.” Ana squeezes her hand. “It’s not ridiculous at all.”

Peggy smiles at her again, bigger this time, though her eyes are still brimming with tears that she steadfastly refuses to let fall. She rests her other hand on top of Ana’s.

Across the table, Jarvis speaks up.

“Miss Carter?”

“Yes, Mr. Jarvis?”

“If you could keep the child, would you?”

Peggy blinks at the question. “I… I don’t know,” she says. “I don’t see how I could. I don’t want to give up my job to raise a baby, and if I don’t, how is that fair to the child? To have a mother who constantly runs off and gets shot at, with no guarantee that she’ll come home?”

Jarvis nods thoughtfully. “But… say you gave the baby to a couple you trusted. That way, no matter what happens to you, you know the baby will be cared for. So, you can keep the child and ensure its future.”

Peggy and Ana share identical looks of confusion.

“Mr. Jarvis, what are you getting at?” asks Peggy.

“Yes, Edwin, what - … Oh.” Ana’s eyes go wide again as she stares at her husband with shock.

Peggy looks at her. “What?”

“You want us to raise the child,” Ana breathes. Jarvis sends her a soft smile, and Peggy looks on, stunned.

“It seems like a perfectly logical solution to me,” he murmurs. “Miss Carter can keep her job and watch her child grow up. And we… We would get to have a family, Ana.”

Ana lets go of Peggy’s hand, only to latch onto Jarvis’s. But Ana does look back at Peggy, hope swimming in her expression.

“Peggy, would you…?”

Peggy startles. “I… Would Howard let you?”

“No offense to my employer,” sniffs Jarvis, “but even if he didn’t, I wouldn’t care. Besides, he’s told us time and time again that adoption is a perfectly viable option.”

Despite her glistening eyes, Peggy laughs. “I don’t think he had this scenario in mind when he suggested that.”

Jarvis chuckles, too, and Ana is smiling, but she still watches Peggy, like she’s awaiting her answer. Peggy gives her eyes another wipe and breathes in deeply, exhaling a moment later.

“… It does seem logical,” she admits, beaming when Ana lets out a beatific cheer.

 


 

They’ve got everything all set up – Peggy will take a year’s sabbatical from work to carry the baby to term. Then she’ll give it to Ana and Jarvis, who will raise it as their own. They’ve decided that it’s better that way, for the baby to not know who Peggy really is. Instead, she’ll be dear old ‘Aunt Peggy’, its godmother.

Even Howard didn’t put up much of a protest when Jarvis told him their intentions. True, he seemed vastly uncomfortable with the idea, but even the most selfish man couldn’t deny the earnest eyes of Ana Jarvis. He gave his consent easily enough.

And no one at the S.S.R. gave much thought to Peggy’s leave of absence. Except for Jack, surprisingly; he seemed surprised that a ‘workaholic like Marge’ would even take a week off, let alone a year. Peggy teased that he wasn’t going to be able to manage the place without her, and after that, he scoffed and told her to go. So, that was resolved.

All that was left was Angie, and Peggy couldn’t lie to her roommate of many years. She told her the whole story, and all Angie did was request to be the honorary godmother. The Jarvises agreed easily to that, and from then on, Angie and Ana were a tag team of terrors when it came to looking after Peggy.

She was six months along when they brought up the topic of names.

“I always wanted a girl,” sighs Ana as she folds the laundry.

She, Peggy, and Angie are at Peggy and Angie’s place in New York – the one Howard himself provided – and the redhead insisted on doing the chores. Peggy tried to protest, but she was secretly glad for it, as it was becoming harder to move around as freely as she normally liked. Angie, on the other hand, had no such qualms, and even jokingly asked Ana to move in with them.

“A girl would be nice,” adds Angie, from where she sits next to Peggy, a plate of Ana’s homemade cookies in hand. “Maybe you could name her after me?” she grins.

Peggy rolls her eyes. “One Angie is enough, I think.”

Ana chuckles. “I liked the name Natasha. It was the name of one of my aunts from Hungary.”

“Natasha’s nice,” acquiesces Angie, taking a bite out of another cookie. “What about her nickname? Nat? Tasha?”

“We don’t know if it’ll be a girl,” reminds Peggy. She runs a hand over her enlarged belly. Sometimes, the baby kicks up a storm, but for now, it’s quiet.

Angie swallows the cookie and pauses. “Okay, so what about a boy’s name?”

“Anthony,” Ana answers immediately. “After Edwin’s grandfather.”

“I had a cousin named Anthony,” says Angie. “We always called him Tony, though. What do you think, English?”

“Anthony’s fine,” she replies, hesitating. “Just…”

“What is it?” asks Ana.

“Well… If I ever had a boy, I always told myself I’d name him after my brother. Michael.”

“Michael’s a good name, too,” says Angie.

“It’s going to be Ana and Jarvis’s baby, Angie, they should pick its name.”

“Why not both?” suggests Ana. “Anthony Michael Jarvis. And we can call him Tony for short,” she adds, winking at Angie.

The blonde toasts a cookie in her direction.

“That’s a good name. Sounds like future President of the United States material to me.”

Peggy laughs. “Indeed. President Tony Jarvis.”

“Oh, I can already see Edwin crying at his inauguration,” bemoans Ana, and she and Angie quickly dissolve into a fit of giggles. Peggy laughs, too, but at the back of her mind, she can’t help but imagine…

Anthony Michael Carter.

She tries desperately to ignore how right it feels.

 


 

She’s just entering her ninth month when there’s a furious pounding at her door.

At first, she thinks it’s Angie, who just left for an audition half an hour ago. She might have forgotten her keys, or maybe the audition went very poorly. Ana and Jarvis are both busy with work, and Howard has been avoiding Peggy for the entire duration of her pregnancy, so she can’t fathom who else it might be.

Of course, when she opens the door and pokes her head out, she’s very much surprised to see Jack Thompson on the other side.

“Jack!” she exclaims, caught off-guard. Luckily, most of her body is hidden by the door, so all Jack can see is her messy bedhead and makeup-less face.

The man is dressed like he’s just come from work, and since it’s barely two in the afternoon, he’s likely still on duty. Which makes his appearance at Peggy’s front door even more puzzling. There’s a file in his hand, she notes absently.

“Marge,” he greets, grinning when she instinctively scowls at the nickname. “Mind if I come in? I need you to take a look at something.”

“The great Jack Thompson, needing my help?” Peggy asks dubiously, tamping down on the surge of panic she feels rising within her. “Color me surprised.”

“Very funny, Carter. I wouldn’t be here unless it was absolutely necessary. So, you know, let me in and we can get this done faster.”

He takes a step forward, and Peggy shrinks behind the door.

“I’m not decent!” she shouts, immediately burning red at the horrible excuse. True, she’s in only a nightgown, but that’s hardly the sort of thing to rattle Jack Thompson.

Jack just raises an eyebrow. “Then throw on a robe or something. I haven’t got all day, Marge.”

“I’ve also got a headache,” she says quietly, but she already knows Jack doesn’t buy it.

The blond groans. “Seriously, Carter, just let me in.”

“Seriously, Jack, now’s not a good time.”

“Oh, well.” Jack takes on the sardonic expression she’s come to know well during her years of working with him. “I’ll be sure to tell that to the Russian terrorist that’s been leaving coded threats all over the city. ‘Sorry, sir, but we’re putting off the investigation until it’s convenient to our resident codebreaker.’”

“The S.S.R. has several agents capable of deciphering codes,” argues Peggy.

“None of them are as good as you,” replies Jack, so matter-of-factly that it makes Peggy pause.

“Was that a compliment?”

“Oh, for the love of…”

Without warning, Jack barrels forward and pushes past the door, making Peggy stumble back just enough to let him charge inside. She lets out a shout of protest, and he turns to address it, but his eyes fall upon her swollen figure and whatever he’s about to say dries up in his throat.

Several moments of silence stretch between them. Finally, Jack raises a shaking finger and points at her.

“You’re pregnant,” he says dumbly.

“Oh, really? I hadn’t noticed,” hisses Peggy. She slams the door shut and storms into the living room. Jack follows her, his expression still shell-shocked.

Pregnant, Carter!”

Yes, Jack, I’m pregnant!” she shouts back. “Are you going to keep pointing that out, or can we move on?”

“No, we are not moving on!” He seems to regain his composure, though now he looks angry. “Why didn’t you just say so? The S.S.R. offers maternity leave!”

“I didn’t want anyone asking questions,” she huffs, crossing her arms. “It’s a complicated situation.”

Jack stares at her, long enough that she starts to fidget uncomfortably under his gaze.

“It’s Stark’s,” he says at last.

Peggy groans. “How in the bloody hell - ?”

“Sousa and Dr. Wilkes are still in L.A., and that Jarvis fella doesn’t strike me as the cheating type. Of all the men in your life, that leaves me and Stark. And I’m pretty damn sure I haven’t slept with you.”

Peggy gives him a half-hearted glare, then sighs and collapses onto a nearby sofa.

“Oh, fine. The long and short of it is this: it was a one-time thing, Howard doesn’t want to keep the baby, so the Jarvises are going to adopt it. Got it? Because I’m not repeating myself to you.”

Jack sinks into the chair next to the sofa. He still looks angry, but not as much as before.

“… Okay.”

“Okay?” Peggy quirks an eyebrow. “That’s it?”

“It’s your business, Marge,” he says. “I’m still unbelievably annoyed that you didn’t just tell me the truth, but there’s not much I can do about it now. So. Yeah, okay.”

She stares at him, and he merely hands over the file he’s been carrying.

“Now, unless being pregnant has somehow hindered your codebreaking abilities, I still need your help with this,” is all he says.

Peggy quietly takes the file from him, still eyeing him warily. Then, after a moment, she sighs, smiling tiredly.

“I can never quite figure you out, Jack.”

“And I take immense pride in that, believe me.”

The next half an hour is spent with Peggy poring over the codes. The Russian terrorist is smart enough to use an outdated system of codes that takes even her a while to break, but soon enough, she’d cracked it, and she’s transcribing a translation for Jack to take back to the office. All the while, Jack has remained quietly in his seat. She knows he’s still staring at her stomach, but she can’t really feel it within herself to call him out on it, so she lets him be.

Suddenly, she gasps, squeezing her eyes shut. Jack startles in alarm, and moves to sit beside her.

“Are you alright?” he asks.

“Fine, fine,” she grits out, eyes still shut. “Just contractions.”

Jack looks dubious at best. “Shouldn’t you be in the hospital, then?”

“Not until they’re at least seven minutes apart. Which they’re not, yet.”

The pain subsides and she exhales, cursing softly. It’s then that she notices Jack’s hands, which are hovering protectively around her, one by her knee, the other behind her back. She sends Jack a weary smile.

“I’m fine, Jack. Really. It’s all very natural.”

Jack huffs, but lowers his hands. “Nothing about you being pregnant is natural.”

She shakes her head at him and continues working on the code.

Soon enough, she gets the last word down, and hands the paper, along with the file, back to Jack.

“There. The supposed bombing will take place at National Bank, next month. I trust you already have a team trying to track this man down?”

“Yeah,” answers Jack, who scans his eyes over the paper. “Fletcher, Ramirez, and Isaacs.”

Peggy nods; they’re good men for the job. “Tell them to keep an eye on diners or other such restaurants near National Bank. That’s typically where would-be bombers like to stake out their targets.”

“I’ll let them know. Thanks, Carter.”

They walk back to the front door, but before she can open it for him, she hesitates.

“Jack?” she asks, turning back to look at him.

He tilts his head to the side. “Yeah?”

“You won’t, um…” She bites her lip. “Mention my… condition, to anyone, will you?”

Jack rolls his eyes, but he can’t hide his amused smile. “Secret’s safe with me, Marge.”

Peggy smiles, too. “Stop calling me that.”

“Not a chance.”

Relieved, she turns back to the door, when another contraction hits her. She curses and leans against the door just as Jack reaches out to steady her. His hands are warm on her arms, not that she’s noticing much of anything outside of the pain.

“Jesus, Carter!” breathes Jack. “I think that was less than seven minutes.”

Peggy just groans in response. “Oh, bloody Nora… Jack?”

“What is it?”

She glances down at the floor, where a puddle has amassed under her legs. “I think my water just broke.”

Jack’s eyes practically bulge out of their sockets. “Now?!”

“Yes, now!” she barks.

“Right, okay - !” Jack grabs her coat from the hooks next to the door and drapes it around her shoulders. “Hospital, now!”

Peggy doesn’t bother to fight as he opens the door and maneuvers her outside. She’s mostly busy trying to block out the pain from the contractions, so it barely registers to her that Jack has ushered her into his car and is speeding down the roads to the nearest hospital.

She does recall making it to the hospital, where a nurse takes one look at her and quickly escorts her to a delivery room. She loses track of Jack after that, but all she can remember is the doctor running in to take care of her.

 


 

Peggy drifts fully into consciousness hours later, when someone gently shakes her shoulder. She turns, forcing her bleary eyes to focus, and sees Angie smiling brightly down at her.

“Hey, English,” she chirps softly. “How’re ya feeling?”

“Exhausted,” she replies weakly. “What happened?”

“The miracle of birth, English. The doctor just took him away to do the check-up. He’ll be back any minute now.”

“He?” Peggy repeats.

Angie beams even wider. “Yup. Healthy baby boy.”

Something light wells up within Peggy, and she grins back at her roommate. “A boy…”

Angie pats her shoulder. “Ana and J are filling out the paperwork. And Blondie had to go back to work, but he told me to tell you to take it easy for a while.”

“Blondie?”

“You know, that fella you work with? Calls his grandmother Gam-Gam?”

Peggy blinks. “Jack?”

Angie snaps her fingers. “That’s the one. Apparently, the staff thought he was your husband. You shoulda seen the dirty looks they were giving him when he had to leave; they thought he was abandoning you in your time of need!”

She laughs at the mere memory of it, but Peggy has barely enough strength to muster up a weak chuckle. She’d apologize to Jack later, as well as thank him for all the trouble he’d gone through.

The door opens then, and the doctor steps through, a blue bundle in his arms. He smiles when he sees Peggy fully awake, and Peggy’s breath catches in her throat as she spots the bundle.

“Miss Carter,” he says warmly. “I believe this handsome young man belongs to you.”

He walks over to the bed, and Angie steps aside to let him lean over Peggy. He deposits the bundle in her arms carefully, and Peggy, with a bewildered stare, allows herself to take it.

A small, reddish face peers back at her. Her son’s face is pudgy and soft, with a tuft of dark hair curling over his forehead. And it hits her.

Her son.

“Oh…” she gasps softly. The doctor chuckles and leaves her to admire her newborn. Angie reclaims her spot beside the bed and coos.

“Aw, English, he’s got your nose!”

“Don’t be absurd,” she chides, but her tone is far from reproachful. The boy wiggles slightly in his bundle, and he opens his mouth to let out a tiny gurgle. Peggy’s heart melts.

Ana and Jarvis enter the room shortly after that. Ana buzzes over to the other side of Peggy and joins Angie in cooing over the baby, while Jarvis watches fondly from the foot of the bed.

“How are you feeling, Miss Carter?” he asks.

“Tired, but… happy,” she answers honestly. She looks back down at her child and smiles as he twitches his nose. “He’s so small,” she whispers.

“Six and half pounds,” says Ana. “Or so it says on his certificate.”

“Ah, which reminds me…” Jarvis holds up his hands, which are gripping a clipboard and a pen. On the clipboard is a piece of paper – a birth certificate, Peggy realizes. “It needs your signature.”

Peggy, however reluctantly, lets Ana take the baby as Jarvis hands her the clipboard. Over the top of the paper, she sees ‘Anthony Michael’ written in the name slot, but there’s no last name after it. Slowly, she drags the pen over the paper to sign her name in the correct slot, and then she hands the board back to Jarvis. She glances at Ana, who is wiggling her finger playfully at Anthony.

She winces, and Jarvis notices. He makes his way over to his wife and puts a hand on her shoulder. Ana pauses, looks up at him, and then over at Peggy. Understanding dawns on her expression, but instead of a pout or look of disappointment, she only smiles and hands the baby back to Peggy.

“We left the last name blank on purpose, you know,” she says, as Peggy reaches up to take Anthony back. “Just in case.”

She stares at the redhead. Then she redirects her gaze to her son. “I don’t…”

“You wanna keep him, don’t you, Peg?” asks Angie.

“I shouldn’t,” Peggy says. “He’d be better off with Ana and Jarvis – he’d…”

“We’ll still be around, of course,” says Jarvis. “You won’t have to do this alone, Miss Carter.”

“But the boy should get to have his real mother,” finishes Ana.

Peggy looks at them all, with their soft smiles and understanding eyes, and feels the resolve slowly drain out of her. She laughs, leaning her head back against her pillows, and clutches Anthony tighter.

“When did you start thinking that I’d want to keep him?” she asks.

“We always planned for it,” answers Ana. “We wanted you to make the decision when you knew what it felt like to hold your son in your arms.”

Peggy feels like crying. “Ana, I’m sorry. I know you wanted…”

Ana stops her apology with a wave of her hand. “Nonsense. We will still help you raise him. It’ll be like being a mother, but with a lot more hands.”

“If you’ll have us,” adds Jarvis.

“And me,” says Angie, innocuously raising a hand.

“I don’t think I could do this without you all,” grins Peggy, and she lets the tears slip down her cheeks. She looks back down at Anthony, who has finally opened his eyes. They’re a dark bluish-brown, for now.

She lifts a finger and strokes gently down Anthony’s cheek.

“Hello, darling,” she murmurs. “I’m your mother.”

Peggy lifts her head and holds her baby up a bit higher, so he can see the trio crowded around them.

“And this is your family.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

 

“Hey, Carter.”

Peggy looks up from Tony’s peacefully sleeping face to see Jack leaning against the doorway of her hospital room. It’s the day after since the birth of her son, and she’s due to be discharged soon - Jarvis is making sure everything is ready at her home, Ana is preparing a feast, and Angie is out to buy champagne, since Peggy can finally drink again. So she’s been left alone, and she’s spent most of her time staring at Tony’s tiny little face, completely mesmerized.

She smiles at him. “Jack.”

“Just came by to see if you were okay,” he says, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, but not venturing any closer into the room. His stare zeroes in on Tony, though he can’t really see much of him, since he’s obscured by a baby blue blanket that Ana made. “That the little guy?”

“Yes,” she answers, looking back at her son. After a beat, she tilts her head back up to address Jack. “Would you like to meet him?”

Jack seems to hesitate for a moment, but Peggy only continues to smile, and he eventually steps inside, making his way to her bed. Tony stirs when Jack’s shadow falls over him, but otherwise, he remains asleep.

“... Huh.” Jack stares wide-eyed at Tony. “He really is a little guy.”

“Smaller than usual, that’s for certain,” murmurs Peggy. It’s at that, as if he’s reacting indignantly to the idea that he’s too small, that Tony squirms, letting out a small gurgle. Peggy rocks him soothingly until he stops, and all the while, she notices Jack watching her carefully.

“Something to say, Chief?” she asks, her tone light, but her eyes narrowing in warning.

“No, just… It’s nothing.”

Peggy watches him, but Jack stands his ground and makes no move to say anything more, so she sighs - she’s in no mood to start one of their infamous back-and-forths, not with Tony still in her arms.

“What’s his name?” Jack asks, after a few moments pass in silence.

“Anthony,” she replies. “Anthony Michael Carter. But my roommate has taken to calling him Tony.”

“Tony’s a good name,” muses Jack. “But ‘Carter’?”

“Yes?”

“I mean, having your surname? I thought you were giving him to the Jarvises?”

“Oh. I…” Peggy readjusts her hold on Tony, biting her bottom lip. She knows she has to tell Jack, because there’s no guarantee that he won’t just make another unexpected visit to her house and see Tony there. That, and she doesn’t want to lie to him; not after what he’d done for her already. “I’ve actually… changed my mind. I want to keep him.”

Soft surprise colors Jack’s face. “Oh.”

Instinctively, defiance wells up within Peggy, and she raises her chin up. “Will that be a problem?”

Jack rubs a hand across his chin, where a thin layer of stubble scratches his palm. “Shouldn’t be, I don’t think. If anybody can do it, it’d be you.”

Peggy gapes at him, clearly caught off-guard by his words. After a while, she lets out a breath of air not quite full enough to be considered a chuckle, but she’s smiling all the same.

“Careful, Jack. You’ve been awfully nice to me lately, I might start getting to wrong idea.”

“It’s only because of the kid,” he retorts. “Anyway, I’d better get going. We got a tip on our Russian bomber, Ramirez and I are going to check it out.”

Peggy nods, but as he turns to walk away, she’d compelled to speak up again. “Thank you for stopping by, Jack. Really.”

He pauses in the doorway, turning his head back to look at her. “A chief looks out for his own,” he shrugs.

“We’re having dinner, at my house, later tonight,” Peggy blurts, surprising both herself and Jack, who turns a bit more to face her better. “As a sort of ‘welcome home’ party. You could drop by, if you wanted.”

Jack is quiet, for a long enough time that Peggy starts to gear herself up for his rejection, but then Jack just smiles, the barest tilt up of his lips.

“I just might, Carter. Now, you rest up, alright?”

“I will,” she says, as Jack exits the room, waving his hand in parting. Her gaze lingers on the doorway, something warm moving against her, until she realizes that it’s Tony, who’s now awake and staring up at her with his large, round eyes.

Later, after Peggy’s been discharged and brings Tony home, she enjoys a peaceful evening, surrounded by her friends. Jack does show up later, and he and Jarvis end up getting into a ‘friendly’ debate about British and American movies, which Angie weighed in on and ended up winning, much to Peggy and Ana’s amusement.

 


 

It isn’t that Peggy expected it to be easy; she’s a much more realistic person than that, and so she knew that the trials of motherhood were nothing to scoff at. It’s just that, on top of raising her son, she’s also got a relatively dangerous job being an agent of the S.S.R. to worry about.

When she returned to work from her year-long ‘sabbatical’, she was pleased (and not at all surprised, at this point) to learn that Jack had kept his promise, and the rest of the agency knew nothing about the true reason behind her absence. However, Jack was also very insistent that she ease back into things, so she was mainly relegated to desk duty, or anything that didn’t involve her going out into the field and getting shot at.

Were this under any other circumstance, Peggy would’ve marched right up to Jack and told him exactly where he could shove it, but as it is, Peggy finds herself grateful for his intervention. She now has more time to be at home and care for Anthony. Which is great, because the then-two-month old child seems to consume all her spare time.

Anthony (or Tony, as Angie has dubbed him) is a fussy child. Peggy has no qualms with pinning that part of his personality on Howard, though unfortunately, she can’t say so to his face just yet - Howard’s avoidance of Peggy continues well past her pregnancy. He hasn’t even seen Tony in person; she’s fairly certain that Jarvis has taken a picture of the baby to show him, but according to the butler, all Howard did was stare at it for a few seconds before shrugging and going back to his work.

Peggy can’t even summon the energy to be mad at him.

At the very least, she has help. Ana is her go-to babysitter when she’s at work, and as expected, the redhead is a wonder with children. Angie, of course, is also good with Tony, and even Jarvis, who at first seemed nervous around the baby, now seizes the opportunity to hold him whenever one presents itself. Peggy knows very well that she’d probably have collapsed from exhaustion if it weren’t for them, and she’s grateful.

Unfortunately, they’re not available all the time. The Jarvises have their own work for Howard, and Angie is often busy with auditions or rehearsals, so Peggy finds herself alone with Tony often. And she loves him, she does, but when he refuses to eat something or cries inconsolably, or shrieks for no reason at all, she wonders if she was ever truly ready for motherhood.

 


 

Tony awakes her, once again, by crying.

He has his own little room in her and Angie’s spacious home, a guest room that Jarvis helped convert into a nursery, and it’s there that Peggy stumbles in at 2:30 in the morning. Tony is lying on his back in his crib, red-faced and tears streaking down his cheeks, and all Peggy can do is sigh and reach down to pick him up.

“What’s wrong, poppet?” she asks gently, bouncing him lightly. Her voice is almost drowned out by his screams, but she’d learned early on that raising her voice to be heard only made him more upset.

She checks his diapers, only to find them unsoiled, so her next step is to try nursing him. But Tony wiggles and writhes so much that she can’t manage it, so he must not be hungry. She casts her still-wailing son a pleading look, but he continues.

“Hey, English,” Angie’s sleepy voice yawns from behind her. She turns and sees her roommate leaning against the doorframe, her hair a mess and her dressing gown hanging loosely off her shoulders.

“Hello,” Peggy smiles back, though hers has a more apologetic lilt to it. “I’m so sorry, did Tony wake you?”

Angie pushes off the frame and walks towards Peggy. “Yeah, but it’s alright. That’s what babies do.”

She pokes a finger at Tony, who pauses in his crying briefly to glance at her. The blessed silence lasts only a second, however, before he goes right back to crying.

“I just don’t know how to stop him,” Peggy sighs. “He’s not hungry, his diaper doesn’t need to be changed…”

Angie shrugs. “You know, my Mama used to say I was a pretty fussy baby.”

“Really, you?” Peggy asks sardonically. Angie just grins at her.

“I know, it’s a shock. Anyway, she told me that whenever I was being a loudmouth, she’d just turn on the radio. Music knocked me right out.”

Peggy raises a brow. “You think he wants to listen to the radio?”

“Not exactly. Maybe he just wants to hear some music.”

Peggy glances down at Tony, who has been crying throughout their entire conversation, and then back at Angie with uncertainty in her eyes.

“Like a lullaby?”

Angie smiles and nods. “Couldn’t hurt to try, right?”

“What… What should I sing?”

“Do you not know any lullabies?”

“None that I can recall.”

“Then…” The blonde purses her lips as she thinks. Suddenly, her face lights up. “Oh! What about that romantic song from Cinderella?”

Peggy is looking at her dubiously now. “The cartoon?” she asks dryly.

“Oh come on, Peg, you loved it. You were humming that song for weeks!”

“Well…” Peggy turns back to her son, wincing when he raises his cries a pitch higher. “... Alright. It’s worth a try.”

Angie beams, giving her an encouraging thumbs-up, while Tony just continues to cry. Peggy takes a deep breath and begins to sing.

“So this is love, mm / So this is love / So this is what makes life divine…”

Peggy’s not a singer, and in fact, she hasn’t sung in front of anyone since she was twelve years old, so her voice is small and unsure in the beginning. But Angie is grinning widely at her, and Tony has quieted just enough to embolden her to go on.

“I’m all aglow, mm / And now I know / The key to all heaven is mine…”

Tony is still crying, but now it’s more whimpers than wails. He’s looking up at his mother with wide, if puffy, eyes. Peggy smiles at her son and lays a calming hand against his front.

“My heart has wings, mm / And I can fly / I’ll touch every star in the sky…”

Tony’s eyelids begin to droop as his crying finally tapers off. She can almost swear she hears Angie sigh contentedly.

“So this is the miracle that I’ve been dreaming of…”

She hums the next part, lowering her voice as Tony’s eyes close.

“So this is love…”

By the time she finishes the last line, Tony is fast asleep in her arms. Peggy can’t help but stare at his face, peaceful and serene, when just minutes ago he was screaming bloody murder. She almost wants to laugh at how quickly Tony changes moods.

“Wow, English,” mumbles Angie, reminding Peggy that she’s there. The blonde has a soft, awed expression on her face. “Didn’t know you could sing like that.”

“Well,” Peggy whispers back, replacing Tony in his crib. “I haven’t had much reason to, until lately.”

“... Hey.” Angie steps forward, placing a hand over Peggy’s shoulder. When Peggy turns to look at her, she offers a  comforting smile. “You’re doing a great job, you know?”

Peggy smiles back. “I hope so.”

Minutes later, Peggy is back in her bed. Despite her fatigue, she falls asleep with a smile on her face.

She’s not even upset when Tony wakes up three hours later, once more screaming bloody murder.

 


 

Tony is almost a year old when Peggy walks into the New York S.S.R. HQ, bags under her eyes after another long night of trying to soothe the baby back to sleep. She ignores the jeers of “Long night, Carter?” coming from her less-than-amiable coworkers, puts her things by her desk, and then heads into Jack’s office to receive her assignment for the day.

When she enters his office, however, the first person she sees is Daniel Sousa.

“Daniel!” she exclaims, surprised, as the man turns to face her with a wide grin.

“Nice to see you, too,” he laughs, presumably amused by her shock, but his smile abruptly drops when he notices the dark circles under her eyes. “Christ, Peggy, are you alright? You look exhausted!”

Peggy blinks. “I’m fine,” she replies. “I just… didn’t get much sleep last night.”

She hears a snort to her left, and she turns to see Jack, seated at his desk, watching their exchange with a wry smile. Daniel doesn’t seem to notice, or if he does, he doesn’t call attention to it.

“Are you sure? Maybe you should take it easy…”

“Really Daniel, I’m alright,” Peggy finds herself smiling at his concern, though she’s still desperate for a change of subject. “What are you doing in New York?”

Daniel frowns, not entirely convinced. “Well, Violet has family here. We thought we’d visit before the wedding…”

“Aw, come on, Sousa,” grins Jack. “Just admit it. You missed rainy, dreary New York.”

That makes Daniel crack another grin. “Well, I certainly didn’t miss you.”

“How is Violet?” asks Peggy.

“She’s doing just fine. Wants to know if you want to catch up over dinner sometime while we’re in town?”

“I’d be delighted.”

“Just make sure you rest up before then, Marge,” teases Jack.

“Hush, Jack,” she sends him a glare, which is accompanied by a playful smile, and Daniel looks between the two of them curiously.

“Am I... missing something?”

Peggy starts, looks at Daniel, then sighs, glancing towards the door. It’s shut, and no one outside of the office seems to be paying them any mind. She turns back towards Jack with a raised brow.

“I’m honestly surprised you didn’t tell him.”

“Hey,” Jack holds up his hands, “I’m a man of my word. I said your secret’s safe with me, and it is.”

“That’s almost sweet of you,” she gives him a half-smile, while Daniel clears his throat rather loudly.

“Excuse me, hi, I have no idea what you two are going on about.”

Jack and Peggy share a look, and then the blond gestures towards Daniel.

“Floor’s all yours, Carter.”

She rolls her eyes. “Right, well. Daniel. A lot’s… changed, since I came back from Los Angeles.”

He looks amused. “Like you and Jack suddenly getting along?”

“I wouldn’t say that,” says Peggy, as Jack snorts again. “But… one major change has come into my life lately, and I think you deserve to know about it.”

“Okay…” Daniel now appears dubious. “And what would that be?”

Peggy steels herself, taking a deep breath. And then she says it.

“I have a son.”

The words hang in the air. Peggy and Jack are both watching Daniel, whose expression slowly morphs from soft disbelief to outright shock.

“You… what?” His eyes are round and wide. “You have a son?!”

Peggy grimaces. “Yes.”

“W… When did that happen?”

“Last year,” supplies Jack. Daniel whips around to face him, like he forgot that Jack was even there, despite it being his office.

“You knew about this?” he asks, incredulous.

“Well, to be fair, I found out by accident.”

“And by ‘accident’ he means he barged into my home and caught me nine months pregnant,” explains Peggy.

“Hey, I drove you to the hospital, didn’t I?”

“Yes, and now everyone at that hospital thinks I have a deadbeat husband who didn’t stick around to witness the birth of his son.”

“... Wait, what?”

“Hold on,” Daniel holds up his free hand, ceasing their chatter. “Let me just get this straight… You,” he points to Peggy, “have a son now.”

She nods. “That is correct.”

“Who’s the father...?” he asks next, casting a dubious glance towards Jack, who sees it and immediately laughs.

“No! God, no. Carter, tell him.”

Peggy resists the urge to roll her eyes again. “Howard.”

Daniel nearly startles. “Stark?!”

“He is the only Howard I know, Daniel.”

Daniel continues to stare, mouth agape.

“Sousa?” asks Jack, frowning. “You handling this all okay?”

“...” Daniel just closes his eyes and shakes his head. After a few seconds, he looks up and smiles at them. “Guess everything really does happen in New York.”

Peggy’s lips twitch up into a smile, relieved at his reaction. “I suppose so.”

“What’s his name?”

“Anthony. But we’ve taken to calling him Tony.”

“We? Who else knows about him?”

“Aside from the three of us in this office,” says Jack, “There’s Stark, obviously, the Jarvises, and Peggy’s roommate, Angie.”

“Okay,” Daniel nods thoughtfully. A beat passes, and then he grins. “Did I miss anything else?”

 


 

Daniel and Violet adore Tony, as Peggy suspected they would. They come over to her house for dinner, where they spend a good thirty minutes cooing over Tony, who only watches them curiously, unsure of who they are and why they’re making noises at him. Daniel seems especially amused by the teddy bear in Tony’s crib - a gift from Angie. It’s dressed as Captain America, including a little plastic shield, and while Peggy had been not entirely comfortable with the toy, it was clear enough that Tony loved it. And, she had to admit, he was an adorable sight when snuggled up next to “Cappy Bear”.

Their reaction encourages Peggy to tell one last person about her son, but she has to do it over the phone. Right now, he’s working on a project for Howard that requires him to remain in California, but he’s made plans to move to New York once it’s finished. Peggy decides that she can’t wait until then and makes the call.

Jason Wilkes is shocked, of course, but like Daniel, he recovers quickly and promises to visit from L.A. as soon as he can. He’s already making plans to introduce Tony to science, and Peggy stops to think how the boy will be if he ends up having his father’s brain. Howard might pay more attention to him, if that were the case. But as soon as that thought passes her mind, she shuts it down. Howard hasn’t been in to see her or Tony once. If he didn’t care before, nothing would make him care now.

 


 

However, as Tony grows older, it’s increasingly obvious that he does follow Howard’s footsteps - to a point.

He’s progressing much faster than most kids his age; he started walking early at eight months, and at two years old, Tony knows a lot more words than he should, though Peggy places some of the blame on Angie. The blonde chatters away at Tony at a mile a minute, and Tony’s started to parrot what she’s saying, even (or especially) if he doesn’t understand any of it. His first word was “fathead”, following a remark Angie had made about Jack.

Peggy was amused; Jack was not.

At three years old, Tony is mostly coherent, and very verbal about what he does and doesn’t like. He loves Ana’s deserts, hates squash; loves Angie’s stories, hates baths; he adores puzzles and hates anything that he can't put together.

While Peggy is naturally very proud of her son, the one who's expressed the most excitement for Tony’s developing mind is Jason; he's responsible for nearly all of the puzzle sets in Tony's room, and he even lets the toddler grab at some of his (not so dangerous) tools.

Tony views the world curiously, and he seems hellbent on taking things apart to see how they work. Try as she might to deny it, Peggy knows that her son has a scientist’s mind, just like his father.

She wonders if Howard realizes this, but the answer is likely no; Jarvis reports that every time he and Ana have tried talking about Tony to their employer, he tunes them out. He doesn't want to hear any of it, and if she's being honest, Peggy is both parts relieved and frustrated. It's gotten easier to ignore Howard’s avoidance as time goes on, and she'd be quite glad if he never decides to show his face around he again; on the other hand, it hurts to think that he really wants nothing to do with Tony - bright, loud, inquisitive Tony, who wound up with his father's eyes.

All of her musings on the subject become irrelevant when, as soon as Tony’s fifth birthday has passed, Howard all but barges into her home, like a hurricane with a manic grin. She didn’t even know he still had a key to his old house.

“Peggy!” he shouts, striding into her living room like he’s a regular fixture in the place. It startles Peggy and makes her drop her book onto the floor.

Once she recovers, she sends the billionaire a glare.

“What on earth are you doing here?” she hisses, ignoring her book to stand up and face him.

If Howard notices her obvious irritation, he doesn’t show it. “I’ve just had the most brilliant idea, Peg, you’ll love it!”

His grin is so bright it could likely power all of New York, but Peggy only scowls in response.

“And what makes you think I want to hear it? Howard, I haven’t seen hide nor hair of you in almost six years! You can’t just bage into my home like a madman and expect me to just be okay with it!”

To her satisfaction, Howard does shrink back a little.

“Okay, fair point, but no need to bite a guy’s head off,” he says, slowly, and Peggy wants to smack him. “Besides, this is important.”

“So important you couldn’t have called ahead?”

“Yeah. Look, I’ve already talked to Chester about it - !”

That manages to break Peggy’s contemptuous look, and her expression morphs into one of surprise. “Colonel Phillips?”

“Yes! And he agrees that it’s a great idea! I just need your input on it…”

She sighs, rubbing at her temples. “Howard, surely this can wait until morning?”

“What?” Howard blinks, clearly bewildered. “Peggy, what part of ‘brilliant idea that even ol’ Chester thinks is great’ do you not understand?”

“The part that requires me to care about it at 10 o'clock at night.”

Howard huffs. He’s growing upset, and Peggy takes a vindictive pleasure in watching his usually handsome features contort with frustration.

“Ten, schmen, Peg! We’re talking game-changing stuff here!” he says, indignant. “American defense, shaking up the intelligence game - hell, we’re talking about the next step of your career!”

His voice grows louder with each listed item, and while Peggy would have ordinarily grown interested by that point, instead all she felt was growing worry.

“Keep your voice down!” she demands, her own voice a harsh whisper.

“No, not until you listen to me!” he replies childishly, and raises makes himself even louder out of spite.

“Howard!” she threatens, stepping forward, but it’s already too late.

“Mommy?”

Both adults freeze, slowly turning their heads towards the living room’s entrance. Tony is standing in the doorway, still dressed in his pajamas, Cappy Bear in one hand, the other rubbing groggily at his eyes. His dark hair is mussed from sleep.

“Tony,” she breathes out, maternal instincts kicking in as she steps away from Howard in favor of scooping up her son in her arms. “What are you doing up?”

“I heard shouting,” he replies. He looks over her shoulder to see Howard, and when Peggy turns her head, she can see a shocked, vaguely terrified expression on the inventor’s face.

“Who is that, Mommy?” asks Tony cautiously, as he curls in closer to his mother.

“That’s…” Peggy hesitates. After a beat, she decides on, “Howard. He’s… a friend of Mommy’s.”

“Oh.” Tony lays his head on Peggy’s shoulder and raises a hand to wave at Howard. “Hello.”

Howard, gaping, manages to give a little wave of his own.

Tony yawns. “He’s weird.”

Normally, Peggy would have scolded her son for his blatant verdict, but she can only smother a laugh, in this case. “He is, poppet,” she agrees, kissing Tony’s cheek. “Now, let’s get you back to bed.”

She looks at Howard again, but it’s clear that he has no intention of moving from his spot, as he’s still stock-still with surprise, so she shakes her head and carries Tony back to his room. He falls back asleep quickly, cuddling Cappy Bear close to his chest, and she leaves after giving him one last kiss, this time to his forehead. Howard’s in the same spot when she returns, though he’s calmed down from shocked to uncomfortable.

“Uh…” he tries to speak, but Peggy holds up her hand to silence him.

“No. You did not come here to talk about Tony, so we’re not going to. Just… Tell me what this idea of yours is, and do it quickly.”

Howard almost, almost, looks like he’s going to protest the idea, but instead, he just coughs awkwardly into his fist and gestures towards the couch. After they’re both seated, he starts to talk.

“I’m going to call it S.H.I.E.L.D.…”

 


 

Chapter Text

 


 

She hates to admit it, she really, really, does, but SHIELD is probably the best idea Howard’s ever had.

It’s slow going, at first, since he has to get things approved by the US government, and many politicians, to no surprise at all, aren’t comfortable with the idea of another high-discretion intelligence agency. But Howard charms them into submission, and preparation start just a few months after he barged into her home.

Since SHIELD is proposed as a newer, better version of the S.S.R., all of Peggy’s coworkers are offered positions in the agency, should they pass the required screenings and tests. More than half of them agree, including Jack. Colonel Phillips throws in his own recruitment recommendations, and Howard gathers up brilliant minds to work in the Science and Technology division (Jason Wilkes is among his ranks, which pleases Peggy).

Once the dust settled on their headquarters, a large and admittedly impressive building dubbed ‘The Triskelion’, Peggy got to work. As a founding member and Director (Howard and Colonel Phillips were also counted as such), she has a large amount of power within the agency, something Jack complains endlessly about.

(“I only got to be your boss for, what, a couple years?” he’d complained. Peggy knew there was no real anger in his words, however, since he was just as happy being a Senior Field Agent, so she let him carry on.)

Her first order of business is, in fact, one last recruiting assignment. She waits patiently in her newly-furnished office for her appointment to arrive.

It’s a simple, professional space, which was unsurprising, given that it was still new. There’s a desk made of dark oak, similar chair, a plush sofa, and two modest paintings hanging upon the sleek walls. All Peggy had time to add in the way of personal touches was a throw blanket knitted by Ana, and of course, a picture of Tony on her desk.

She snaps out of her reverie when she hears shuffling outside her door, and then a tentative knock echoes throughout the room.

“Peg?” A cautious voice calls.

She smiles. “Come in, Timothy.”

The door creaks open, and she’s greeted by the sight of Dum Dum Dugan’s face peeking into the room. He looks vaguely suspicious, but once he sees Peggy, who is rising from her desk to meet him, he grins, and throws open the door with gusto.

“Peggy!” he bellows. He meets her in the middle of the room, sweeping her up into a tight hug – she lets him, letting out a huff of laughter. She’s missed this.

He feels the same, apparently. He sets her down a few moments later and steps back, appraising her with the same grin affixed to his face.

“You look good,” he comments. “Though, I haven’t seen you in so long, I almost forgot what you actually look like.”

She gives him a good-natured smack on the arm. “You liar.”

“Yeah,” he chuckles. “How could I ever forget Peggy Carter?” He tilts his head, surveying the room now, and lets out a low whistle of appreciation. “Nice place you got here.”

“I’m glad you think so.” She gestures to the sofa, and Dugan obliges, practically throwing himself onto the expensive furniture. She sits next to him. “Have you thought about my offer?”

At that, Dugan raises a hand to scratch at his mustache, pursing his lips as he does so.

“Well… Gotta be honest with you, Peggy, a lot of people don’t have faith in this… SHIELD of yours.”

She scoffs. “I’m not surprised. There was bound to be a healthy amount of skepticism involved.”

“Not saying it’s healthy,” offers Dugan. “I’m just saying, I wanna know how long this horse is gonna last before I tie myself to it.”

Peggy stares at him. “What on earth does that even mean?”

He rolls his eyes. “You know what I meant. I need your guarantee.”

She smiles. “You know I don’t like to deal in absolutes, Timothy.  But…”

He leans towards her. “But…?”

Peggy looks straight into his eyes, unwavering. “I think we could do something good here, with SHIELD. All of us. So I’m going to make damn sure it survives.”

He takes in her words, pausing for just a moment, and then he grins. “Well. Between your gumption and Howard’s money, I’d wager SHIELD will last for years to come.”

“Is that you accepting the job?”

He waves a hand. “Yeah, yeah. Consider me an agent. I’ll even try and get in contact with the others as soon as I can, convince them to join up, too.”

Delighted, Peggy rests a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you. You won’t regret it.”

Dugan huffs out a laugh, and pats her hand. “I don’t have regrets, Peg. I just pick up and move on, just like you.”

He turns his head to look at the office, surveying it, and studying each detail of the room with a practiced eye.

“Still…” he hums, stroking his mustache thoughtfully, “never figured you’d end up a desk jockey.”

Peggy snorts. “Hardly. I’ll still be going out on the field. Just… not as much.”

He raises an eyebrow. “And why is that?”

Instead of answering, Peggy stands up and walks over to her desk, aware of Dugan’s curious stare following her. She picks up the framed photo of Tony and walks back, handing it over to her friend. It’s a very cute picture, if she does say so herself – Tony’s first day of school, and he’s adorably wide-eyed and excited about it, grinning widely at the camera with his hands holding his backpack straps.

Dugan takes the frame with a dubious look. He frowns at the picture, and she can tell he doesn’t quite understand what she’s getting at.

“His name is Tony,” she says softly. “He’s my son.”

She’s seen him surprised a handful of times before, but this is different. First, he looks confused, then shocked, then, finally, his expressions calms to one of comprehension.

“… Looks like we’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” he says, voice hitched up only the slightest bit, and Peggy smiles.

“Lucky for you,” she says, “I’ve cleared my schedule for the rest of the day.”

 


 

SHIELD keeps her busy, which she pretty much expected, but so far, Peggy’s managed to make things work.

She takes to her leadership role well, which surprised no one, and many of the newer agents have come to admire and respect her. There are one or two recruits who scoff at the idea of a woman agent, and openly antagonize her, but Peggy doesn’t even have to bother with them. Usually, those recruits receive a stern lecture from either Colonel Phillips, Howard, or, amazingly, Jack, who’s taken to telling them about the time Peggy punched his lights out.

“Isn’t that a tad embarrassing for you?” she’d asked, once she found out.

Jack had only shrugged, a smile playing on his lips. “Not as much. I did kind of deserve it - !”

Kind of,” she repeats, unamused.

He ignores her. “And, the looks of pure terror on their faces when I tell them is well worth reliving that embarrassment.”

Peggy frowns. “Terror? All I did was punch you. What are you telling them, exactly?”

“I may be embellishing a little,” he admits. “Just roll with it, Marge.”

And, well, she does. She can’t say she approves, exactly, but it gets those recruits to stop openly harassing her, and a part of her is a little happy to have Jack so staunchly in her corner now. It makes the memories of him antagonizing her himself back in their S.S.R. days seem so much further away.

But anyway, the point: Peggy is handling things. SHIELD doesn’t keep regular hours, but she still sees Tony often enough, and when she can’t, she calls on either Angie or the Jarvises. Jason has also been added to her roster of babysitters, as have Daniel and Violet, who moved to New York shortly after SHIELD was set up. Tony is never alone, and always looked after. Peggy might’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by the time he was seven.

And then came that one day.

There’s an emergency at SHIELD, one that requires Peggy’s immediate attention. Unfortunately, it happens to occur on her day off – she’s with Tony when Jason calls her, frantic, and she’s at a loss on what to do with him.

Jason, of course, is working, Danny and Violet are out of town for vacation, Jarvis and Ana are busy running errands for Howard, and Angie is at rehearsals for her newest play. So Peggy has no choice but to bring Tony along with her to the Triskelion while she sorts things out.

Tony is bouncing happily in the car, ecstatic to finally see where his mother works, and he marvels at the size of SHIELD’s headquarters as they walk in. Peggy is receiving strange looks, which she pointedly ignores, right up until Howard and Jack come running towards her, expressions hysterical.

Peggy, there you are, thank god – !” the industrialist stops short, finally catching sight of Tony. Much like the first night he saw him, he gapes, like he’s never seen a child before. Jack seems surprised, but he spares Tony a small smile, before looking at Peggy quizzically.

Tony waves at them.

“Yes, I’m here,” says Peggy, professional as you please, despite the seven-year-old clinging to her hand. “This had better be important. Today is my only day off in the week to spend with my son.”

“It’s – …” Howard looks conflicted. “Sensitive. Chester is waiting for us in the briefing room…”

Peggy sighs. “Right. I’ll just drop Tony off in my office.” She kneels to address Tony. “I’m sorry, poppet, but this might take a while. Be good and wait for me, okay?”

Tony’s expression morphs into one of clear upset. And Peggy feels the same, honestly.

“By myself?” he asks quietly. He’d brought Cappy Bear with him, and the stuffed bear was currently being squeezed tightly in his arms.

Peggy winces, but before she can answer affirmatively, Jack speaks up.

“I can watch him.”

Everyone turns to look at him.

Peggy blinks. “Really?”

“Yeah, sure.” Jack shrugs. “It’s not like they really need me in there. You eaten yet, champ?” He directs this at Tony, who shyly shakes his head.

“No…”

“There’s a great diner nearby. I can take him, and hopefully you’ll be done by the time we come back.”

“I…” Peggy snaps out of her stupor, the surprise quickly overwhelmed with relief. “Yes, thank you Jack, that would be wonderful.” She turns back to her son. “Do you want to go with Mr. Jack, Tony?”

The child glances at Jack for only a few moments before he nods, whatever anxiety left in his body slowly leaving him. Jack holds out a hand, expression patient, waiting as Tony slowly reaches out and grips it. The boy exchanges one last glance with his mother, who smiles encouragingly, and that seems to get him to relax completely.

“Go save the world,” are Jack’s parting words as he and Tony walk back out the front doors. Peggy watches them leave, oddly at ease. Then she turns back to Howard, who is adjusting his jacket nervously, a small frown on his face. She coughs and he startles.

“Well? Come on.” Peggy marches past Howard, not bothering to wait for him to catch up.

When they reach the briefing room, they are met with a scene of chaos: agents scrambling to and fro, Colonel Phillips massaging his forehead with one hand, a pile of documents in the other. There may or may not be shouting.

Peggy’s hopes that it will be a short meeting are quickly dashed. Now all she can do is pray that Jack is prepared for a long lunch with Tony.

 


 

It takes a whopping four hours before everything calms down; they’ve sent out twenty agents in the meantime, and Peggy’s wrist is cramping from all the forms she had to sign to approve all of it. Colonel Phillips has bitten the heads off three secretaries, and even told off the President himself when he demanded a damage report. Even Howard, for all his ever-present smiles and joking nature, looks haggard by the end of it.

And yet, all Peggy can think about is Tony.

Someone – she can’t remember who – came in, telling her that Jack and Tony had come back from the diner an hour after they left, and that Jack said they would wait in his office for her. So, as soon as Colonel Phillips gave the okay, Peggy bolts from the briefing room and makes a dash for Jack’s office, which, unfortunately, is on the other side of the Triskelion.

When she arrives, she takes a moment to fix her flyaway hair and straighten her suit, before she knocks on the door bearing Jack’s name. A muffled ‘come in’ replies, and she turns the handle.

Blessedly, Tony is the first person she sees. He’s in the middle of the room, surrounded by small wooden blocks that are arranged in piles. He hears the door open and looks up, grinning when he sees Peggy in the doorway.

“Mommy!” he exclaims, jumping up and running to her. Her arms are already open when he tackles her around the waist in a hug. It’s ridiculous, and completely nonsensical, but she feels relieved having Tony so close again.

Tony looks up at her suddenly, mouth twisted into a pout. “You took forever,” he complains.

“Yes,” she laughs, “I’m sorry, poppet.”

“Everything okay?” comes Jack’s voice, and she nearly startles. Jack is sitting on the floor, though he’s in the process of standing up, surrounded by the same piles of blocks that Tony was. Now that she looks closer, she can see what is meant to be a miniature city, complete with a throne, upon which Cappy Bear is seated.

She nods. “All sorted.” She looks down at Tony. “I trust you had fun with Mr. Jack?”

Tony brightens again. “Uh-huh! We had burgers, and then we came back here and he got somebody to bring in these blocks so we could build New York!”

At that, Peggy raises an eyebrow. “And where did these blocks come from?” she asks Jack.

He’s completely upright now, brushing down his trousers, and he replies nonchalantly. “I guess we use ‘em to test new recruits. Assess their problem-solving abilities, I don’t know. Figured Tony would get a kick out of them. And he did. Didn’t you, champ?”

The child beams at the nickname. “Yeah! I built the Empire State Building, and Jack made a chair for Cappy Bear to sit on.”

“Well, it’s about all I could do,” demurs Jack with a shrug. “Tony, on the other hand. Your son’s one heck of an architect, Marge.”

Peggy stares at the mound of blocks, which, yes, do resemble the Empire State Building, now that she really looks at it. Then she looks back at her son, who is grinning proudly.

“He is, isn’t he?” she says finally, smiling. She runs a hand through Tony’s hair, and he preens. Jack watches them with a small smile of his own, before Peggy glances up and catches his gaze. He hurriedly looks away, turning around to walk over to Cappy Bear’s throne, snatching the toy up and walking back to the mother and son with a more schooled expression.

“Well, uh, you’re probably going back home now, huh?” he asks, holding out the bear to Tony, who grabs it immediately.

“Oh, um, yes,” says Peggy. She reaches for Tony’s hand. “Thank you, Jack. This really was too kind of you.”

He waves dismissively. “No problem.”

Tony looks between the two of them, frowning. “We’re leaving? But it’s cool here!”

“Well, yeah, but you know what else is cool?” Jack ask, kneeling down to Tony’s eye level. When Tony gives him a dubious look, he points to Peggy. “Spending the rest of the day with that lady right there.”

Now, Peggy doesn’t blush. Of course not. But damn if she came pretty close to it.

Tony mulls over these words for about two seconds, before he nods with a serious look.

“Yeah. Mom is really cool, isn’t she?”

“Just about the coolest woman I’ve ever met,” agrees Jack, in a stage whisper. “But don’t tell her that.”

Tony nods again, sparing his mother a sideways look, as if to make sure she hadn’t heard. Peggy shakes her head fondly at the two of them, and after a more formal farewell, she and Tony are leaving the Triskelion and heading back home. Tony spends practically the entire car ride talking about Jack, and Peggy just sits and listens with a smile on her face.

 


 

It’s an odd feeling when an eight-year-old Tony proudly presents her with his handmade circuit board. For one thing, she’s very proud of him – how could she not be? He’s made various little trinkets and doodads before, greedily collecting whatever scraps Jason, Daniel, or Jack could scrounge up for him, but those were things like miniature bridges, tiny sculptures that sat there and looked nice. The circuit board is something that could be used, which made it leagues above its predecessors. So yes, Peggy was quite proud of her little boy.

What was conflicting, however, was the fact that he’d decided to show it off when Howard was with her.

Howard had made another impromptu visit to Peggy and Angie’s shared abode, wanting to go over some designs he had in mind for new SHIELD standard-issue guns and vehicles, when Tony unceremoniously barged into the room, his newest creation in hand.

The look on Howard’s face was… confusing.

“You… built that?” he asks, pointing at the circuit board.

Tony shrinks back a little when he realizes that his mother isn’t alone, but he soon recognizes Howard from the handful of other times he’s seen him. Though, this is the first time Howard’s said more than two words to him directly. He manages a little nod, and holds up the circuit board so the older man can have a better look.

“Y-Yeah… Jack and Mr. Daniel got me the parts, and Mr. Jason gave me this really cool book on what to do…”

“But you did that?” continues Howard. “By yourself?”

“Well, Auntie Angie supervised me,” replies Tony, shooting a quick look to his mother. She nods in approval – after the ‘singed eyebrow’ incident a few months back, Peggy’s been adamant that all of Tony’s experiments are carefully observed.

“May I?” Howard holds out his hand. Tony hesitates, but deposits the circuit board into his care, and fidgets nervously as the older man goes over his work. Peggy watches on curiously.

“This is… This is really impressive, kid,” he says at last. And he looks like he means it, if his softly-awed expression is anything to go by.

Tony positively lights up. “Really?”

“Yeah.” He hands the board back to Tony. “Your mom said you were a smart one, but…”

Howard is looking at Tony strangely, as if he’s seeing him for the first time. Which is partially true, considering that every other time they’ve been in the same room together, he’s tried his damndest to look at anywhere other than the child. Peggy’s not sure if she’s comfortable with this change in attitudes, though, so she steps in.

“Tony, why don’t you ask Angie to make you a snack?” she says, a touch abruptly. “It’s almost lunch time, anyway.”

Tony obeys, sparing Howard a happy smile before he dashes out the door, his circuit board held steady in his grip. Once they’re alone again, Howard turns back to Peggy and blinks.

“Damn,” he practically whispers. “How old is he again?”

“Eight,” she answers dryly.

“That’s wild.” Howard runs a hand through his hair. “How long has he been doing that stuff?”

“From the moment he could get a reasonable grip on anything. He dismantled the toaster once.”

Howard doesn’t reply, and when Peggy looks at him, he seems lost in thought.

“Howard?” she tries.

He startles. “Oh, uh… Yeah?”

She narrows her eyes. “What are you thinking about?”

“Well, I just…” Howard’s voice is uncharacteristically small. “He’s… a lot like me, isn’t he?”

With her best flat look, she replies. “Well, he is your son, after all.”

It’s petty, but she feels satisfied when he flinches.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. He, uh… He hasn’t asked about me or anything?”

She pauses. Tony… hasn’t, really. She’d figured that at some point, Tony would start asking the inevitable questions like ‘who’s my father’ and ‘why aren’t you married’, but so far, the boy’s shown no inclination to do so.

So she takes a deep breath and answers, unsure of his response. “Not… Not really, Howard, no.”

To her surprise, all Howard does in reply is nod, a self-deprecating smile on his face.

“That’s probably for the best. Do you ever plan on telling him, though?”

“When he’s older,” she says warily. “Whether you approve or not.”

Howard holds up his hands in mock-surrender. “Hey, you’re the one raising him. I just hope he doesn’t show up to my door one day and punch me in the throat.”

She frowns. “Tony would never.”

“I dunno, he’s been hanging around that Thompson guy a lot, lately. And he’d definitely punch me in the throat.”

And, well, she can’t refute that. So she just shakes her head and stands, pushing Howard’s blueprints back towards him.

“Well, we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?”

Howard stands, too, and rolls up his designs, tucking them under one arm.

“Guess we will, Peg.”