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Once and For Always

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When she first meets Colonel Phillips’ son it’s in an airless metal office in the desert, and he’s just had his heart broken by an alien.

 

“No, no,” he says, mouth quirked up at the corners, “Jenny Hansen broke my heart. The alien...he was just visiting.”

 

“Ahh,” Peggy says and nods, not sure how much is appeasement and how much is genuine amusement.

 

He breaks out in a full, real smile, “See now, you don’t believe me.”

 

He’s all boney teenage angles sprawled out in an office chair, dark eyes under a perfectly trimmed mop of black hair. She watches him from the corner of her eyes, shuffling files on a rusty tin desk.

 

“And why wouldn’t I believe you?” She says, glancing up at him, “You forget what we’ve dealt with before.”

 

“Super strong soldiers, men with skulls for faces.” He’s staring at her, she’s trying not to notice, “Mite bit of distance from there to little green men from Mars.” he stops, then, “Well, tall green men. And he wasn’t from Mars.”

 

She can’t help the way she’s starting to mirror his grin though she’s doing her best to hide it behind her paperwork. “Did he have a ray gun? One that went ‘zap’? I hope you told your father.”

 

The boy’s eyes sparkle with amusement at her teasing, “No, he was a nice guy, very polite. And you know what he said?”

 

He leans in low, across the desk. Around them is the hurried shuffle of dozens of men anxious on their toes, the stagnant heat of the place, and there’s two mangled old desks between them but his dark eyes lock on her like a laser beam.

 

“He said there’s more,” the look in his eyes is vast and wondrous, and she’s hit by the full force of young awe and curiosity, and the notion that quiet multitudes linger underneath his skin.

 

“There’s so many more out there. And they all want to come here. What if we let them?” his steady voice picks up, energy bubbling up through him, “If we can’t go to them, why not let them come here? What if we could-”

 

“Private!” A voice cuts across the room, people stop in their work but Colonel Phillips’ sights are trained right at the gangly young boy. The Colonel’s flanked on both sides by a number of other very official looking men, all in suits. “Here. Now.” He says pointing a finger at his feet.

 

The young Phillips stands up from his chair, Peggy watches as he unfolds himself and picks up his jacket. He turns to her and holds out his hand.

 

“It was a pleasure to finally meet you Miss Carter,” His hand is dusty but soft under hers.

 

“And you, Mr. Phillips.” She smiles gently.

 

He joins his father across the room, wading through the once-again-milling soldiers and he and the Colonel and all the men in suits disappear down the hall. Peggy turns back to her work and thinks how unsurprising it is that Phillips calls his son ‘private’.

 

----

 

She is a woman of 40, and he is her boss’s son.

 

She is a smart woman (she is a very smart woman) and she knows this is a mistake.

 

But she is a smart woman who knows full well how this will go and accepts that she wants it anyway.

 

He’s a gentleman with all the distilled courtesy and charm of an army man’s son and the southern twang to go with it and with all the earnestness and sweetness of a starry eyed teenager.

 

She is not overwhelmed, she is not infatuated. She is old enough to know better and smart enough not to care. But she is captivated, and he is a beautiful boy.

 

He comes to the base on his bicycle, shirt buttoned up all the way, shoes dusty. When she is there he follows her around like a puppy and talks about space. She listens and she keeps working. His father calls him to his side with a sharp look and barely concealed exasperation and he always holds her hand in his and says goodbye. And she lets him.

 

She is gone for months at a time and she doesn’t think about him, the boy with with the dark eyes, and at times he won’t be there either and she reminds herself he is a kid and there are so many more things, and people, he could be seeing and that this fancy of hers is foolish.

 

But then he shows up and smiles that sly smile and her heart doesn’t skip a beat but it’s a close thing.

 

One day he puts a small bouquet of wildflowers on her desk and she has nothing to say but he does.

 

“No new aliens, yet, and I didn’t want these to wilt.” And he goes, and she sees the nervous teenager in his quick step. She snatches them off her desk before the Colonel can see. Wraps them in her jacket and puts them in a vase on her table, then shakes her head at her own ridiculousness.

 

“Let me give you a ride,” he says another day. She stands on the metal steps and looks down at him and the beat up old Ford parked on the gravel drive.

 

“Your father wouldn’t approve.” She raises her eyebrows at him but he grins. She does too.

 

“You’ll be out here another hour waiting on a transport, and my father would tell me to ‘not just stand around and offer the lady a ride, boy.’”

 

It’s hot (it’s always hot) and he’s right.

 

He opens the door for her and takes the files from her arms. He gets in and rolls his window down.

 

“I never could convince him not to call me ‘lady.’” She says, rolling hers down as well.

 

“You are a lady,” the car takes off, sand and gravel crunching, “A fine one at that.”

 

She should slap him for his cheek but turns the radio on instead.

 

----

 

He hands her a drink, months after that first day, and they’re in some old VFW hall, celebrating a general’s retirement.

 

She sips at the punch, “Don’t you have anywhere else to be on a Friday night?”

 

He looks down into his drink, she thinks he might be blushing. “I think this might be the most hopping place in the county right now.”

 

A handful of old majors and captains play perfectly maintained guitars and accordions at the head of the hall. One man who can’t be more than 5 feet and no less than 100 years old rallies out a trumpet solo that pierces the crowded room and everyone claps.  

 

“They’re setting up a program,” he says, “a whole agency, for...paranormal relations.”

 

“I know, I heard.” She leans back in the rickety metal chair and looks at him with soft eyes.

 

“I think I’m going to be a part of it.”

 

She heard that too.

 

He leans over the table and there aren’t acres between them this time. “It’s a little hot in here, care to get some air?”

 

He talks to her like a man, but not a man like his father and not a man like the other agents. More like...someone else, and it makes her heart stutter, just enough to feel it.

 

She follows him outside into the dry desert heat and the only light is the orange glow from inside spilling out from the windows. Behind the hall it’s empty and beyond the edge of this town is a stretch of sand and twinkling starlight as far as can see.

 

She loves one thing about this place and it is the sky choked with stars.

 

The band inside slides into a slow, syrupy number, and he smiles, both cocky and shy, and holds out his hand. She takes it without hesitation.

 

Two things.

 

His arm around her waist is solid and his hand in hers steady. They sway together and she watches the way the light shifts across his face as they turn in the sand. Damn her heels, the dust will be a tribute to this unspoiled moment.

 

He twirls her and she can’t hide her smile. She is woman dancing with a fine man to a sweet, slow song and she wanted this. Wants this.

 

When he pulls her close and then closer still, she chides softly, “Why, Mr. Phillips.”

 

“Kevin,” he says, eyes gone dark as the sky with a bead of light like a star, “Kevin, please, Miss Carter.”

 

“Peggy,” she says on the end of a breath, “Peggy, if you would.”

 

“Peggy,” he repeats, like it’s the most beautiful thing.

 

And when he kisses her (finally, finally) he puts his hand against her cheek and his arm around her waist tightens and she feels the flutter of his heartbeat against her hand on his chest.

 

When the band switches songs, it’s another soft one, romantic and tender, but they’ve long since stopped listening.

 

----

 

When Kevin goes away to college Peggy does not obsess over him. It would be ridiculous to do so. He is a brief, bright thing in her life and she took what she could and regrets nothing.

 

But he comes back for Christmas with his father, and then Christmas with her.

 

“You must have your eye on any number of young women,” she says to him, standing in the doorway.

 

“Well,” and he ducks his head, shy all of a sudden, “none quite like you.”

 

She wants to tell him that she is definitely not young (not that she cares), and shoo him away back to his new life. But instead she holds the door open for him.

 

He’s filled out some, plays football at school. Still a little gawky however, and she finds the mix hopelessly charming. She accepts his present, wrapped in shiny green paper and a bow that looks like he tried. A pair of shoes, “for wrecking your other ones”. But the smile on his face doesn’t look very remorseful about it.

 

She keeps the old ones anyway.

 

They talk, and talk. He leaves when it gets so late his father will probably go crazy. He kisses her hand as she stands in the doorway, same as when he came, and she watches him drive away in that same old Ford.

 

He comes back the next day, and the day after.

 

“What does your father think?”

 

Hand on his neck, “Oh, out with friends. Causing trouble, no doubt.”

 

“Aren’t you?”

 

He blushes furiously behind his smile.

 

“I haveta go back tomorrow,” he says. She knows this.

 

He comes up to her at the counter of her kitchen, the cheap linoleum already peeling in places. He fusses with a corner of it, making it worse but she doesn’t bat his hand away.

 

There’s no ‘I’ll miss you’s, no ‘come see me again’, nothing so dreamy as that. His hands cup her face and he kisses her, and she puts her hands on his chest, and she lets him take her to bed.

 

----

 

“You should finish your education,” she says more because she thinks she should say it then meaning it. He’s a smart boy. A smart man.

 

“I’d rather be doing this,” he says, and for a heartbeat she can’t tell if she means the extraterrestrial program, or sitting in her dining room drinking coffee. He looks comfortable there.

 

He’d been back to school for all of a month before leaving unceremoniously, as soon as he heard the program had officially gotten off the ground - after a visit from some very confused visitors from an unpronounceable planet who landed in Nebraska.

 

Colonel Phillips was livid, as expected.  

 

“It’s bigger than the rest,” Kevin says, leaning over the table, intent and humming with expectations and excitement.

 

“Bigger than zero matter and dimensional rifts?” she asks coyly.

 

He cows a little, but it doesn’t kill his energy.

 

“But this we can touch, we can see,” he reaches out to her as she comes around to his side of the table, pulls her close and looks up at her, “proof that there’s so much more than ourselves out there.”

 

Beautiful boy, she thinks, with stars in his eyes. She brushes a hand through his hair and he pulls her into his lap and hitches up her skirt. What a strange wonderful thing this brief bright spot has become.

 

----

 

It’s not the end of the world. Peggy has stared that down time and time again and this is barely a blip on the radar of catastrophe.

 

But it is something. Boy, it’s something.

 

She expects both reactions when she tells Kevin, so it’s appropriate that it ends up being a mix of the two.

 

“For sure?” he asks, voice serious but his eyes are shining.

 

She nods, “I am.”

 

Then he smiles like the sun and she can’t help but mirror it, can’t help but laugh helplessly as he swoops her up into his arms and spins her.

 

“When, do you think? How far along?”

 

“Six weeks. November probably.” By the math it was the beginning of February, right when he got back.

 

He falls into a chair, holding her across his lap and she loops her arms loosely around his neck. This will not be easy, it will not be always good, always happy like this. This could all change in an instant - it will - but for now she doesn’t worry and she kisses him.

 

----

 

He has to leave, she won’t hear otherwise.

 

“I can’t, not now,” he says. He looks pained.

 

“You can, and now is the time,” she says, and she knows she is an immutable force and not even he can change that.

 

She’s just starting to show. No one at the agency has said anything. Maybe out of disbelief (her? And now?) or that they don’t dare. She has not slowed down at all and she has no plans to. She can’t ask for him to.

 

He shrinks, shoulders slouching. It’s an unfamiliar look on him and she doesn’t like it.

 

She steps toward him, tilts his chin so he has to look in her eyes.

 

“You can’t miss out on this,” she is steady, she is resolute, “I know how this goes, I always have. Trust me.”

 

He was meant to be a little spark, a sweet small thing. A shooting star, bright and wonderful, and then gone. And she was never meant to be more than that for him. They will not be each other’s roadblocks, she won’t allow it.

 

He will go to New York, he will be there when the program starts, he will meet his visitors from other worlds. And they will live their lives, with some adjustments, and they will be fine.

 

He wraps his arms around her and kisses the top of her head. Promises he’ll write, they’ll talk on the phone, he’ll come back when the child is born.

 

----

 

Her calculations were exactly right, she goes into labor in November. She’s in Washington DC when it happens and calls it serendipity. Kevin arrives at her side within hours.

 

“You’re wearing a suit,” she says, maybe a little loopy from the drugs. And he looks older. It’s only been months since she’s seen him, how does he look so much older?

 

He laughs at her, “They won’t let me in the door without it.”

 

Ridiculous, he’s too young for suits. Where are his faded button downs? The dusty jeans? But all these worries fly right out of her head when the contractions get worse.

 

Many hours later she watches him in the chair beside her bed as he cradles their son, looking down at the child with blind, overwhelming affection.

 

“Huh,” he says softly and looks up at her, “I always figured you’d have a girl.”

 

“You’re right,” she says, half asleep, “let’s trade this one.”

 

He laughs, brilliant and young again.

 

They decided long ago that their son will have her last name, so they name him Phillip.

 

----

 

She keeps her home in the desert. She doesn’t know why but she likes it. It feels like the first place in a long time that feels steady and dependable. Always there, no matter where she goes.

 

The next time she sees Kevin is his father’s funeral.

 

He wears a suit to the cemetery. Peggy stands beside him, Phil in her arms, Kevin’s mother on the other side. After all the plates are cleared, the mourners gone home, Kevin kisses his mother’s cheek and drives Peggy home.

 

“At least he got to know you little guy,” he says, Phil in his arms as he paces slowly around the living room.

 

It wouldn’t have been fair to keep it from him. Kevin said there’d been shouting - out of wedlock, older woman, an agent ‘for crissakes!’ - but Peggy never saw that side of it. For two months he’d been a very doting grandfather.

 

He looks older still. But he’s happy. He tells her what he can tell her - they will always only know half stories about each other’s jobs - and he speaks with that same awe and amazement he had when they first met. She doesn’t regret letting him go for a second.

 

----

 

Phil is two years old when Kevin comes to see them in DC. His face is serious and she still hates seeing him like this. He’s not the gawky 18 year old anymore.

 

“It’s for the agency’s safety,” he tells her, “and for the public. And for their safety too.”

 

When he says ‘they’ he means their visitors. No longer just lost travelers but a growing population of extraterrestrials across the world. Some just tourists, he tells her, but others asylum seekers, hoping to find a safe place.

 

He doesn’t say it’s for her or Phil’s sake. It’s true, at least partially. She does not need protection, she doesn’t need anyone worrying about her. She could tell him this goes both ways.

 

But then there’s Phil, who is already caught in the crosshairs of two secret organizations and that’s two too many.

 

She loves him - as the father of her child. He is so good to Phil, so happy to see him - to see them both. But his visits are fewer and far between, and he can only stay for two or three days at most.

 

This is something she could have done on her own if she wanted. She does do it mostly on her own. She isn’t bitter about it. She’s a smart, capable woman and she wanted this, wanted Phil. Kevin will have a place in their lives, always, whenever he pleases.

 

“..whenever you please,” she says out loud. He gives her a sad smile and lets Phil hold his finger.  

 

“You are a fine woman Peggy,” he says her name like he had in the warm glow of the VFW lights one night in the desert.

 

“And you’re a good man Kevin,” she says, and squeezes his hand in hers.

 

She had always kept a watch on him from afar, checking his files from time to time to make sure there was nothing alarming. The information slowed down and stopped a while ago, and then one day Kevin Phillips ceases to exist at all.

 

----

 

The early sixties are quiet in her field. Not so many megalomaniacal skeleton men running around, Hydra having gone underground in the fifties, a lull in superpowered humans. She at least has Howard to keep her entertained from time to time.

 

She’s still a top agent in SHIELD. She takes the job of director and she’s proud of herself but that doesn’t keep her behind a desk when things start to pick up.

 

Phil is a great traveler. He sleeps through every plane ride to London, Turkey, Russia. There’s always the acute terror when she gets caught up in something dangerous that she won’t be coming home for him - a spy trade off in Moscow goes bad and there’s a split second where a gun goes off that she’s sure she’s done the wrong thing - but she always does because she will always be the woman she is. She doesn’t stop being Peggy Carter because of him.

 

Kevin would take him, if something did go wrong, Men in Black or not she knows that at least.

 

Kevin sends birthday cards and gifts, for her and Phil both. There’s never a name on them, the return address always some abandoned storage locker or a desolate field in Kansas, but there’s no mistaking.

 

She’ll find letters in blank envelopes that have been dropped on her desk through a channel of people as long as phone book. He’ll call from a number that can’t be traced or redirected and she listens to his voice start to lose his Southern drawl.

 

And they do see him, in person, once or twice a year. Always with little or no warning and then there he is. Agent K, as he’s called, has no connection to Peggy or Phil Carter officially, anywhere. But Kevin knows the way to her home just the same.

 

Phil is always thrilled to see him, and Kevin is still so good to him. Phil knows who his father is, Peggy makes sure of it.

 

----

 

It’s July, 1969 (she’ll always remember that) when Kevin comes to the door late one evening.

 

“As usual no warn-,” she stops short. He looks devastated.

 

“Hey Peggy,” he says and manages a weak smile.

 

“Darling, what happened?” She pulls him in and he steps heavily into the kitchen and she drags him into her arms.

 

He doesn’t answer her, but wraps his arms around her back and sighs deeply.

 

There’s the padding of small feet and then a questioning “Dad?” in a tiny voice just past them in the living room. Phil stands in the doorway in his pajamas, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

 

“Phil! There’s my boy!” Kevin seems to turn on a dime, the morose look on his face shifting to ecstatic as he sweeps a giggling Phil up and twirls him around. He hugs him tight and only Peggy sees the shuttered sadness in his eyes.

 

Phil stays up until 1 AM that night, playing and talking to Kevin. He asks Phil about school, about his friends, baseball, superheroes, wanting to hear every little minutiae a seven year old can provide.  He drags out every toy from his room to show off, goes through his superhero cards one by one.

 

He falls asleep sprawled on top of Kevin on the couch, face tucked against his chest. Peggy settles down next to them.

 

“Darling,” she says softly, “tell me.”

 

“Peggy, there was this kid,” his throat sounds tight as he tells her (tells her what he can) about a kid looking for his father and that his father died in his arms. He’d never find him.

 

It’s a constant nightmare of her own.

 

She reaches over and brushes the hair from Phil’s forehead and Kevin rubs a hand over his back. When he tugs her closer she doesn’t resist, just lays her head on his other shoulder.

 

It could have been this, but it was never going to be.

 

They sleep through the night there, and in the morning Kevin takes them to breakfast, apparently not caring if anyone catches on. He spends the rest of the day with Phil and puts him to bed.

 

He stops just beyond the doorway and looks back at Peggy. That boy that stood there once now so much older.

 

“Peggy-” he starts but she doesn’t let him finish, kissing him soundly.

 

They’re not lovers anymore, haven’t been for some time, but there will always be a familiar intimacy between them. It’s comforting.

 

“Mr. Phillips,” she says, looking into his dark eyes. The corner of his mouth lifts. He probably hasn’t been called that in years.

 

“Kevin,” he replies, “Kevin, please, Miss Carter.”

 

He kisses her once more and goes out into the dark (with all those stars above) and she doesn’t see him again for a long time.

 

----

 

She meets a man named John Coulson in 1970 and marries him in 1972. He’s a lovely man, from a different department in SHIELD (analytics), and he adores Phil.

 

He takes him to baseball games, drives him to school every morning, helps him with homework. John buys her jewelry (she barely wears) and holds out his arm for her when they walk together.

 

She knows someone will look after Phil when she’s away for work, knows that he will always be happy to see her at the end of the day. He is a lovely man.

 

She always keeps keeps an ear out for any news about MIB that filters its way through their network. They don’t overlap with SHIELD much, but there’s rumors about this possible invasion thwarted, or that alien technology. Peggy wonders how many aliens she’s run into and never known about.

 

Three times she overhears something about Kevin. Or ‘K’. All three good things, something great he’d done. She’s proud to hear other people talk about him like that.

 

“Mom,” Phil asks, 12 years old and looking more and more like Kevin every year, “do you think dad thinks about me a lot? I mean dad dad.”

 

“Always,” an easy answer. Letters still come, no name, no address. Presents on the holidays from some unknown deliverer.

 

Once a raygun that really went ‘zap’ that took out a small rosebush and if (when) she sees Kevin again he’s going to get an earful for that one.

 

Sometimes she wishes he’d call. She misses his low rambling Southern accent and the effortless charm in his voice.

 

She shifts aside some papers on her desk, peering through them behind reading glasses. Phil rocks on his heels and shuffles through them. He’s fully aware of who his mother is, and who K is.

 

“Mom,” Phil begins again, he must be bored, “do you think I could join SHIELD when I’m older?”

 

“Absolutely,” another easy answer.

 

----

 

She and John split in 1978. Amicably, honest. She never needed him to feel stable, he was just a nice brick in the foundation. When that wore off there was no point to going through the motions. He still takes Phil to baseball games.

 

Phil is 22 in 1984 and he graduates college and the next day asks his mom to join SHIELD. She smiles proudly and says alright.

 

He’d asked about Men in Black just once, at 16. Peggy took a breath and asked him honestly if that was what he really wanted. She wouldn’t be the one to hold him back.

 

“No,” he said after a long thoughtful pause, “because then I couldn’t talk to you whenever I wanted.”

 

She sighed in relief.

 

Phil Coulson - he keeps the name - does very well in the academy. He’ll be an agent in no time, and that makes her a little afraid, but he’s her son. She never doubted him.

 

“I’m going to go see him,” Phil tells her one day and she doesn’t have to guess to know who.

 

Kevin was never the only one sending letters, if she wanted to get something to him she would. She’s not surprised it works just as well for Phil.

 

She’s happy for him. He looks so much like his father now she wonders if Kevin will be surprised.

 

Phil bursts into her office two days later, wound up like a little kid.

 

“It went well?” she asks with a smile.

 

He starts talking a mile a minute then, relaying every single detail he can. Yes he was surprised that Phil looked like him and maybe he got a little choked up by it, Phil could tell, and he swears the suit he was wearing was exactly like he wore in his memories, and that he knew where his sense of humor came from now. (Dry as the desert, she’d always say)

 

He practically wears himself out by the end.

 

“We talked about you, too,” he says, almost cautiously, “do you think...he misses you?”

 

“As much as I miss him I figure,” she responds, wistfully. Missing something that was never meant to be there and ended up being so important anyway. Something that never really goes away.

 

When she walks out of the office and down through the lobby that evening a phone rings.

 

The fifth payphone in a bank of ten is going off. There’s no one else around so she answers.

 

“Peggy,” comes the voice from the other end and a smile slides across her face.

 

“Agent K, I presume,” she says, and he chuckles on the other end.

 

----

 

She learns that his accent gets stronger when he talks to her. That he already knew how well Phil was doing in SHIELD before they met, he’d heard. He was proud. And how in the world did he end up with Kevin’s grandmother’s eyes?

 

They talk every couple of months. Never for very long, but Kevin sounds happy when they do.

 

He keeps an eye on Phil and Peggy pulls some strings so he can. MIB and SHIELD don’t commingle, but if an agent of either needed - absolutely needed - information, there were ways.

 

He tells her that the man at the newspaper stand that she always stops at is from a planet called Skrall. The man catches her staring from time to time now.

 

She can tell even over the phone there’s a lot he wishes he could tell her.

 

She retires later than everyone thinks she should. She’s still dead useful at 70, but even she has to admit it’s time.

 

She debates releasing a tell all book or donate all her old spy gear to the Smithsonian just to see how many heart attacks she can cause but just manages to embarrass Phil when she mentions it.

 

She goes to dinner with and catches up with John. He’s well, he and Phil still talk. She lets Howard swoop her off to London, Paris, Barcelona, and she dines with him and Maria until Howard gets pulled away again.

 

His son Tony is eight years younger than Phil. She finds it hard sometimes not to worry about him.

 

She looks after Harrison’s daughter, little Sharon. She asks Aunt Peggy to tell her stories.

 

Phil is a doting son, coming for dinner when he can, calling when he can’t. Though it becomes rarer, he’s doing so well as an agent. She sees so much of herself in him.

 

And she talks to Kevin from time to time. It’s a welcome constant.

 

She’s lived a good life.

 

----

 

“Mom,” Phil’s voice is even but she knows him too well. “We found him.”

 

It is the last thing she ever expected to hear.

 

He’s alive. More than alive. Still young, beautiful, strong.

 

She’s in a hospital bed, he’s still Captain America.

 

Phil looks at her with nervous eyes, “Do you want to see him?”

 

“Of course I do,” she says not a beat of hesitation.

 

She’s lived a good life, of course she wants to see him.

 

Steve Rogers steps into her hospital room like a memory. Tall, handsome, eyes like the sky.

 

“Peggy,” he says, almost reverential, and he smiles and her heart feels as full as the first time she realized she was in love with him.

 

He asks her about her life, all the things he doesn’t know, everything he missed. But how could he have missed it - it wouldn’t be what it was if he hadn’t gone. It could’ve been something else, but it wasn’t.

 

She tells him this. Tries to erase the heartache from his eyes. She has a son, she had the best career she could imagine, endless wonderful moments.

 

She had let herself dream, in the past, of what would it would have been if he’d lived. If they’d built a life, had a family, lived happily ever after. But the dreams faded the more real the world got.

 

They never got their dance, and she ended up dancing with someone else.

 

When he leaves he’s just as sad - for the things he lost, they lost - but she knows he’s happy for her, that he can be happy still.

 

He’ll always be the love of her life.

 

Phil checks with her, makes sure she’s ok. She is, truly. He’s bad at hiding how excited he is to be around Captain America anyway. She admits that might be her fault.

 

When the ruckus calms down and the halls go silent, the phone by her bed rings. She already knows who it is.

 

“I heard,” Kevin says, worry in his voice, “did you see him? Are you alright?”

She laughs. “I am.”

 

She is a smart woman (a very smart woman) but she had it all wrong. The passing bright star was always Steve. And a man who will always be Kevin to her, was the constant night sky.

 

She’s always had two loves of her life.

 

----

 

Then Earth gets attacked. By aliens no less.

 

She does not chuckle thinking about how the MIB will cover this one up. At least not in a way Sharon can see.

 

“Aunt Peggy, let me help you,” Sharon’s says, walking beside her. She has to rush a little to keep up. Pneumonia, all it was. She’s fine now, thank you very much.

 

She says this to Sharon.

 

“And if I can survive that, and the alien invasion, and everything else I’ve survived, I can walk out of this damn hospital under my own power.” She continues unabated through the hospital door.

 

Phil’s just running up to the door when she steps out, “Jesus, Mom.”

 

“Don’t you start.”

 

There’s still low level chaos around the hospital. The aliens have been swept away, the giant hole in the sky is gone, everything is trying to right itself again. She swears it was never quite this dramatic when she was still an agent.

 

She finally lets Phil take her arm and he and Sharon start to walk her to his car when she sees something at the corner of her eye.

 

Two men walk up to a haphazardly parked car, the older of the two grumbling at the other.

 

“This is going to take one big goddamn neuralizer,” the tall young man says, shaking his head animatedly.

 

“Well this was a royal shitshow,” the older man grumbles. She hasn’t seen him in decades, but she doesn’t even need to hear his voice to know who he is.

 

“Watch your language,” she says, loud enough to be heard, and Kevin lifts his head, “what would your father say?”

 

He’s older, much older, but she can hardly talk. His eyes light up like that first time in that suffocating metal office, and a smile spreads across his face.

 

“Miss Carter,” he says, and his accent’s already bleeding back in.

 

“Peggy,” she holds out her hand to him as he comes up to her, “If you would.”

 

He kisses her hand, “Peggy then.”

 

Hello strange wonderful thing. Fitting you’d come along right after the other.

 

“Dad?” Phil interrupts their reverie, “What are you doing here?”

 

He’s smiling, but trying not to let it break through his neutral facade (heavens they really are alike).

 

The man next to Kevin’s eyes go ridiculously wide and he turns, “Dad?” He points at Phil, “He’s your son? You have a son?”

 

“Yeah yeah,” Kevin says waving a hand absently, “Phil this is Agent J, J this is Phil.” but his eyes don’t stray from Peggy’s for long.

 

The two men shake hands warily. Sharon clears her throat.

 

“Oh, this is Sharon, Harrison’s daughter,” she says to Kevin and he takes her hand like a Southern gentleman should.

 

J’s tapping Kevin on the shoulder and when he finally looks J is nodding his head toward Peggy, eyebrows near his hairline, “You wanna introduce me to this woman you keep making goo-goo eyes at?”

 

Kevin turns back to Peggy, taking her hand again, “This, is Miss Peggy Carter,” that slow smile, like he’s about to ask ‘it’s hot in here, wouldn’t you like to get some air?’, but instead it’s “Peggy, would you like to get some coffee?”

 

She lets him slide her hand around his arm, mirrors his smile, “I would like that very much, Kevin.”

 

They start down the street not even bothering to see they’re followed.



“Kevin? Wait, that's for real your name?! You don't look like a Kevin.”