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Handbook for the Recently Deceased

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Attending her own funeral seemed rather too morbid an idea, so Peggy contented herself with sitting in a coffee shop on the other side of London and reading her obituaries instead. There was the one put out by the family, of course, with the details of the funeral arrangements and where to make donations in Peggy's name, but she'd received at least a few column inches in most of the major newspapers as well. Flattering to one's sense of vanity, even if the Telegraph couldn't resist one last dig at a "so-called feminist icon", and though the New York Times' offhand mention that "Capt. Steven Rogers did not respond to a request for comment" hurt her heart.

"I wouldn't, if I were you." Diana put their coffees on the table and sat down.

"What, and miss out on learning that I had a torrid affair with Howard Stark?" Peggy snorted, closing out of the browser and setting down her StarkPad in favour of her cup of coffee. She took a moment to savour the scent of it: rich, dark, and heavily caffeinated, the kind that the medical staff hadn't let her near in years. The first sip made her toes curl. "It's high comedy, to be honest."

"Margaret," Diana said, tone caught between chiding and fond.

"Well, it's that or I—" Peggy stopped short, a sudden, painful lump in her throat as she remembered the list of names in that first obituary: sadly missed by her loving children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Peggy could remember them now, to miss them, but then again there was always a catch with these things, wasn't there? They would never see her again.

"I could tell you it gets easier, if you'd like," Diana offered. She sat straight-backed in her seat. Her clothing was sober and expensive; her hair was caught at her nape in a neat chignon. In essentials, in other words, she was much the same as she'd been when Peggy had first encountered her back in '56.

"You know my attitude towards falsehoods," Peggy said.

Diana arched an eyebrow.

"By which I mean," Peggy said, waspish, "that they're no bloody use to anyone when they're that obvious."

"Then let's stick to things which are both true and of use," Diana said. She reached out and tapped one dark-lacquered fingernail against the golden cuffs which now circled Peggy's wrists, covering skin which was smoother and firmer than it had been in decades. Peggy had almost forgotten what it was like, to look at her hands and see only the strength in them, rather than signs of decline. "These cannot ever come off, not unless you are with my sisters on Themyscira. They would rejoice to count you among their numbers and claim you as an Amazon—but if you choose to join them, the way back is forever closed to you."

There was something tempting in the thought. After all, when still a little girl practising with her bow and arrow, Peggy had played at being an Amazon, battling gods and monsters in equal measure. She'd thrilled to the idea of women who'd fought battles and defended themselves with ease, who'd never been scolded for getting grass stains on their skirts or scraping their knees bloody. One of Michael's particularly noxious prep school friends had even tried to nickname her Penthesilea, hoping in vain to outrage her maidenly virtue. Still, Peggy had made her choice for a reason, and leaving this world behind her wasn't it.

"And if I stay here, I can fight."

"Yes," Diana said. "For you are God-chosen, and while you wear those you are marked by my grace."

The coffee shop was awash with morning sunshine, but Diana's eyes were midnight-dark and still as any bottomless pool—and for a moment, Peggy felt herself caught in their gaze; felt herself grasp something of why her old friend had hesitated before making the offer and had urged Peggy to think carefully before accepting. Diana was easy elegance and a helping hand and a bright smile, and filled with a power far older and vaster than even Peggy understood. A power that Peggy now shared in, even if only at a remove. Her breath hitched. Had Steve felt something of this when Erskine had strapped him into the machine—some sixth sense of what was to come?

She blinked and shook her head and said, "You know what my choices were, and what they've caused. Don't you... grace has very little to do with it."

"Margaret," Diana said, and shook her head. "You could have had a warrior's rest, but you chose to pick up the sword again, to resist. What is there in that but grace?"