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Should the Stars Align

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May 1st, 1949 - An Abandoned Alley in Queens

It had been a hell of a day, to say the least.

It hadn’t quite ended from the day before. Agent Peggy Carter had just finished another mission, which had required a hell of a beatdown. The discovery of a woman who shared an eerie similarity to Dottie Underwood had caught their attention several months ago, and finally, tonight Peggy tracked her exact location and ran there with Mr. Jarvis at the wheel of the car. There was no time to call for backup and she needed to seize the opportunity to confront her before she vanished, just as Dottie had. For all she knew, this woman, named Genevieve Edwards, could be Dottie under another alias. She couldn’t risk losing her. Unfortunately, Genevieve - whom she quickly realized was not Dottie - was every bit as good as Dottie was in regards to combat skills. Peggy however, was never one to back down from a fight, which resulted in a prolonged stalemate of hand-to-hand combat that seemed to never end until Genevieve managed to throw Peggy against a wall of a building. Using this to her advantage, she grabbed a stray cable and used it to choke Peggy from behind. Though things had seemed grim as Peggy tried to wrestle herself free, a well-timed distraction had caught the woman off guard for enough time for Peggy to get loose and finish kicking her down.

Yes, the fact that Mr. Jarvis had snuck up behind the assailant and hit her with a pipe was rather fortunate indeed. 

After ensuring she was properly restrained with the cable that had been used to choke her, Peggy had called the SSR with her find as Mr. Jarvis attempted to analyze her wounds. She shrugged him off with the excuse that they couldn’t let their guard down for even a moment, even though Genevieve was restrained. She heard him mutter something about stubbornness, causing her to roll her eyes fondly at him. Chief Thompson arrived with a few other SSR agents very shortly after.

“Hey Carter, thanks for finally inviting us to the party,” Thompson said as his agents put the woman in the back of one of the cars.

“I’m sorry Jack, but I’m afraid your handwritten note must have gotten lost in the mail. I’ll be sure to put in a formal complaint with the post office,” she quipped. She couldn’t help but match Thompson’s smile at her comment.

“Good work, Carter,” he said sincerely.

“Thank you, chief,” she accepted gladly.

“We’ll take her back in, but you get home and get yourself cleaned up. Just because you caught another one of these Russian Red Room ladies doesn’t give mean I’m going to let you come in late, Agent,” he said firmly.

Peggy was used to the way that Jack always seemed to shift from moments of extreme sincerity to professionalism on a dime. In her years of knowing him, she never knew him to be able to hold sincerity for any remotely extended period of time, aside from their plane ride back from Russia. Even still with his rare moments of sincerity, he had vastly improved since their first days together in the SSR, and that was what mattered.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less, Chief,” she smiled at him and walked - only somewhat delicately - toward the car that Mr. Jarvis had pulled around.

Jarvis drove her home, and she quietly thanked him. Though she didn’t specify what for, he knew. He told her to take care of her wounds, and perhaps even take the day. Peggy, never being one to take a day due to injury or illness, and much less because someone had told her to, Peggy simply smiled and told him to send Ana her best.

Upon entering her flat, she looked at the clock and sighed. It was nearly 7am. So much for sleeping even a little. She decided to take the time instead to inspect her body and ensure that she wouldn’t need to stitch herself up (she didn’t), though she was sore all over. Afterward she carefully washed herself up, taking extra time to properly sanitize her open wounds, and changed into new clothes - a simple white button down long-sleeve shirt, black knee-length pencil skirt, and dark green blazer. She took extra care in her makeup, ensuring that the large purple bruise across her cheek was well covered up - she refused pity from anyone, and as the only female Agent in the SSR she knew she only needed to sneeze for that to happen. She couldn’t let them see any sign of weakness, ever.

 She had a quick cup of tea, grabbed her black hat, and began to walk to the SSR. On her way there, a man had forcefully knocked into her, causing her to stumble as her body screamed in pain, and her hat to fall off her head, where it landed in a large puddle. She muttered a few obscenities as she picked it up and tried to shake the water off. She carried it in her hand for the rest of the walk.

The work day itself began with a lack of files on her desk where there desperately needed to be. Due to this, Peggy had spent the morning tracking down the individual responsible, reprimanding him, and then going over those same files to correct his mistakes. Though that part was technically not her job, she knew that they couldn’t afford to have a single error, and they needed to have been sent out first thing in the morning. What had especially aggravated her was Chief Thompson’s reprimand of her that the files hadn’t been sent on time, and refused to listen to her attempts of trying to - as he put it - “pass the buck”. She had been given slightly more responsibility lately and it was her job that the team under her meet their deadlines. She stormed out of his office and went straight toward the interrogation room where they were holding Genevieve for questioning. She walked into the room on the other side of the glass and watched as Agent Davis - Chief Thomspon’s new right hand man - attempted to coerce answers from her. She sighed after a few minutes. Everything he was doing was failing, as she knew it would before Genevieve continued to toy with him each time. Peggy knew how these women worked, she needed to be the one in the room getting the answers.

Ten more minutes and Agent Davis walked out. Though he was frustrated he refused to show it to Genevieve. Peggy was soon joined in the room by him, and Thompson. She didn’t hesitate for a moment.

“Chief Thompson, you have to put me in there. I know these women, I can get her to talk.”

“That may be true Carter, but this isn’t Dottie. There’s a lot you don’t know about her,” he reasoned. 

“Yes I know that but she was subjected to the exact same training as Dottie was. She fights just like her, she speaks nearly exactly like her, I know how I can do this,” she affirmed.

“Davis, can you give us a minute?” Once the other man left the room, Jack began again. 

“Carter, I appreciate the enthusiasm, but we have to consider you may not be in the proper head state right now,” he said carefully.

“I beg your pardon?” she questioned indignantly. He sighed.

“I just mean that I know how these women fight, and you took her on alone-”

“And I won-” she interrupted pointedly.

“And you took a hell of a beating in the process, and I need the judgement of someone who has actually slept in the last 24 hours,” he continued.

“I understand your concern and I thank you but I am more than capable of handling this. Besides, you and Davis mustn’t have gotten much sleep to have arrived to take her here when you did and you’re letting him handle this. I assume he’s been in here for most of the morning and he’s still gotten nowhere,” she pressed.

“Just listen, will you, Carter?” he sighed. “You know that I know that you can do this, but I have reason to worry that you’ve been overworking yourself since you’ve come back from California. I know you and Sousa ended amicably but every day for six months you’ve been here before I come in every morning and you stay after I leave. I know I told you to come in on time but it was so I could see how you’re doing, and talk to you about it. You have to acknowledge that you haven’t necessarily keeping a healthy lifestyle right now.”

“Jack I… I’m not… That’s not important as long as I’m getting the job done,” she attempted to protest, though she was quite dumbfounded as to the reason for Jack’s protestations of her handling the interrogation.

“It’s a Chief’s job to make sure all his Agents are safe. So I’m just saying, maybe take the day. Rest, eat, do whatever. If we don’t crack her by first thing tomorrow then she’s all yours,” he promised.  

Peggy inhaled sharply and examined his face. There was a sincerity in his tone of voice that she knew meant that he truly was only looking out for her. She even toyed with the idea that he may have a point. Since California, Jack and herself had gotten on better, and it was nice knowing that at his core, he did respect her, even though he was still terrible about the way he went about it most of the time.  

“Alright fine, but I am only conceding because I know you won’t crack her without me,” she said sternly. To her slight surprise, he smiled at her.

“That’s the Agent Carter I know. Now go on, I know you’ll be back at ass kicking first thing tomorrow.” 

“I beg your pardon Jack, but I am always kicking ass,” she quipped.

Jack gave a small laugh and nodded.

“Of course,” he agreed

“I shall see you tomorrow Chief,” Peggy said firmly.

“See you, Carter.” 


She decided to make the most of the day and called Howard, thanking the heavens that he was still in town after his plans to go to Washington had gotten canceled at the last moment. The rest of her afternoon was spent in what she considered to be a mostly useless meeting with him during which they argued over the next steps regarding their newly formed organization, SHIELD. The idea of SHIELD was that is would serve in a similar fashion to the SSR, but with its advanced technologies and expertly trained staff, be much more efficient. Peggy knew during her first few months back at the SSR after the war that there needed to be more done if they were to truly be able to keep their nation safe. With Howard Stark and Colonel Phillips, she developed a plan for a new organization - Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, or SHIELD - which would be run the way she believed that the SSR should have been run this entire time.

At the SSR she was little more than a skirt. For years she knew she had been one of their biggest assets, and yet she had to fight to be given the slightest bit of responsibility above secretarial work. Though conditions had improved with Chief Thompson since California, he still had his moments of utter ignorance that were growing more irksome each time it interfered with her work. Even though she knew he had the slightest point today, she knew that he never would have sent another man home if they were in the same situation as she was.

As much as it saddened her, Peggy knew that she could do little more with the SSR. Not only that, but their enemies seemed to be infiltrating the SSR at alarming rate. Every time she caught one, another had appeared in its place. Even if she did manage to weed out every rat and rotten agent, the misogynistic structure itself would keep her from being able to fulfill her job properly, and in turn continue to hinder the SSR’s efficiency. However, if her plan to have SHIELD acting as the primary organization in place of the SSR - with Colonel Phillips, Howard Stark, and herself at the helm - she could ensure that there would be no corruption as the three of them were building this from the ground up, and she knew that the three of them would work hard to weed out any overly misogynistic behaviour, which was a nice added bonus.

Peggy had big dreams for SHIELD. This organization would lead in technologies and espionage, and use its resources to protect the little guy. It would protect this nation, just as Steve would have.

Though they had made a lot of progress in the last two years, days like this reminded Peggy of how much work was left to be done. If they weren’t careful and specific of how they set up their structures, it would lead them vulnerable to infiltration - the same kind that had seemed to be poisoning the SSR the last few years. Peggy wouldn’t let that happen on her watch. However it was difficult to iron out the small details of these policies when the Howard and Phillips were constantly travelling for their work and Peggy was working for the SSR. It was gruelling, to say the least.

After their meeting, they promised to meet again once Phillips returned from his meeting in Washington. It had been made clear that even though they were finally able to debate to getting on the same page, it meant nothing if Phillips didn’t sign off on it. Peggy begrudgingly accepted Mr. Jarvis’ offer to drive her home, and though she knew that her hesitation hurt him, she couldn’t help but allow herself to wallow in the feeling of helplessness that had seemed to be surrounding her lately.

It felt as though the last few weeks she was always taking one step forward, two steps back.

The sun was unusually warm, even for an early May day, especially considering how it was nearly night. She revelled in the warmth that it brought, how it enveloped her almost as though it was embracing her. She liked to think that it was Steve’s way of reminding her to keep her chin up. Though it felt a tad vain to think of it, she couldn’t help but wonder if he was watching over her. If he was, she could only hope she was making him proud.

She thanked Jarvis and stepped out of the car. As she walked toward the front doors, her thoughts were interrupted by the feeling of someone watching her. She casually pulled out her compact from her purse and pretended to check herself as she walked. A glimpse of a familiar face with blond hair and blue eyes made her whip her body around, resulting in her muscles to scream due to their soreness. She ignored it and looked around until her heart finally calmed down. There was no one in sight. For a moment, she thought she truly had seen Steve. She shook her head and walked inside the apartment building. Her head had been hit quite hard, after all, she attempted to reason.

The feeling of being watched didn’t quite leave her until her door was closed behind her.


 After washing her dinner plates, she set to tidying up her flat. Since moving back to New York from California, she had settled in Brooklyn - for no particular reason. Her flat was small, but cozy enough. She didn’t spend nearly enough time there for her to consider it a true home, but she had come to care for it. She had few belongings, but she made sure to proudly display her favourite pictures, books and records.

The last year she had promised herself to be hyper-focused on moving forward. She realized sometime during her relationship with Daniel that she hated the term “moving on”, and that it was the reason why she had had trouble continuing in her life. Moving on meant that she had to forget every moment she had shared with Steve, everything that he had meant to her, and every way that he had changed her. In reality, he would always be with her. His impact on her life made her strive even more to change the world into the one Steve dreamed of. He had inspired her into looking more positively on life, and to always do the right thing, even if it was the hard thing. She wanted to take everything he had given her and use it as she ventured forward in her new organization.

So instead of moving on, she was moving forward.

Peggy picked up a stack of her own files that she had built and sorted them on her shelves. A particular one caught her eye, and she separated it from the lot, holding it in her hands as she eyed the aggressive red front.

CAPTAIN AMERICA

INACTIVE

 She had taken it home the other night accidentally as it landed on her desk and mixed with other files that she was taking home to help build her case against Genevieve. Against her better judgement, Peggy opened the folder, sitting down on the couch. The picture which was originally there was gone, having taken a permanent spot on her vanity three years ago, no matter where she lived. She had originally wanted to put it on her desk in the SSR, but knew it would only cause her more troubles with the men, no matter how comforting it was to look at it. She took a deep breath as she intensely scrutinized every letter on every page, as if she didn’t already have it memorized. As if this time, there would be one thing different.

 How a person’s career and impact can be summarized in just one folder, she could hardly understand. Before Steve’s death, she had looked through hundreds of files, but it wasn’t until she looked through his that she realized how lacking of depth they really were. Though his actions of heroism during the war were more or less accurately depicted, his life was greater than what was recorded on these pages. He was more than Captain America. He was Steve Rogers. Her Steve.

His life was also his kindness and loyalty, his persistence, and his willingness to always fight for the little guy. It was in how he treated every person with the utmost respect until they proved that they deserved otherwise.

His life was also made up of every little moment he had shared with her. Before the serum, when he fully admitted to her that he hadn’t the slightest clue how to speak to a woman. When he couldn’t take his sparkling eyes off of her in the red dress. When she saw that her picture was in his compass. When they both froze for a moment after meeting in the middle of their final battle together. When she kissed him. Though it was chaste, it was more than enough to send her head spinning. In her (very biased) opinion, he had been at his most gentle (and awkward) with her.

With Steve, time had always stood still. Even in the face of war, it had always felt that they had an eternity to simply gaze into each other’s eyes. His eyes, that held more passion than she had ever witnessed in any other pair. They enraptured her, and unknowingly held her hostage every time she dared to hold their gaze.  Unfortunately, Time was a cruel mistress, who denied her the opportunity to look in the eyes of her love ever again. They still haunted her dreams every now and then. Dreams where they had gotten their happy ending, and the nightmares where she watches him drown and is frozen, only able to scream his name as he is taken from her again. In the morning, she didn’t know which was worse. In her nightmares, she relived the worst moment of her life. In her dreams, her greatest happiness was given to her, only to be ripped away.

She closed the folder when the first tear fell on the page. Though it had been four years filled with healing and strides toward moving forward, her feelings never lessened in intensity, and occasionally the nostalgia would overwhelm her. After her relationship with Daniel had ended, she found that there were more nights like this, where she would dwell on blue eyes and a life that could never be. It wasn’t that her relationship with Daniel had been bad - quite the opposite in fact - it was wonderful, and she truly had loved Daniel. Though, not the way she loved Steve.

The way she still loves him.

A knock on the door startled her out of her reverie. Looking at the clock, she realized it was nearly midnight. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. Howard knows to notify her anytime he is planning on stopping by, no matter how impromptu the visit (after the time she beat up his butler and shot two of his car tires he really learned his lesson), and he is the only person who could possibly be here at this hour. Slowly, she stood and grabbed her gun from its concealed location on her person. Walking quietly to the door, she kept her gun slightly lowered at her side, bracing herself for an attack.

Nothing in the world could have prepared her for what stood on the other side of the door. 

For the slightest moment, it felt as though she had had the wind knocked out of her. However, she only faltered for a second before her gun was pointed at the man in front of her, though her breath, mind, and heart had yet to recover - let alone understand what she was seeing before her.

A man who shared the exact physical features of the one she lost four years ago.  

Well, perhaps not exact. This man had more pain behind his eyes. There were more worry lines around them, and on his forehead. Though his physique and build was the same. There was no doubt about it. This man was impersonating Steve Rogers.  

“Who are you?” She bit out angrily before taking a breath. She needed to remain in control.  

“Peggy, it’s me,” the man said, slowly raising his hands.

She couldn’t help the lump that formed in her throat. Even his voice was the same.

“Steve Rogers is dead,” she said coldly. “Now tell me who you really are.”

“I know this is crazy, but you have to believe me. I’m Steve.”

“People don’t just come back from the dead,” she all but hissed. 

“I mean, I wasn’t technically dead-”

“Then why didn’t you come back four years ago?” she interrupted. Her hard tone hid how vulnerable she felt in this moment.

“That part is extremely complicated, but Peggy I swear it’s me, I-“

“Enough of this,” she snapped. The longer she stared at the man before her, the more her heart hurt. This needed to end. “You are to tell me who you are, who sent you, and why you’ve come.”

The man sighed, his eyes growing more pained. That somehow made her feel worse. For a moment she nearly let her guard down. He slowly began to reach inside his left pocket.

“Stop right there,” she snapped.

“Peggy please. Just let me show you this and I swear it’ll prove to you who I am,” he pleaded.

Peggy hesitated for half a second before nodding ever so slightly, keeping her gun trained on him. The man pulled out a small round object. She squinted at it in the low lighting, but when he opened it, there was no question. It was Steve’s compass, her picture and all. Though it couldn’t possibly be. His compass was with him when he brought the plane down, it would have drowned with him. As realization dawned on her, she felt herself go pale. 

“It can’t be,” she whispered, shaking her head slowly, not being able to comprehend how he could be standing in front of her.  

“Yes,” he said quietly, a flicker of hope in his eyes. “And… I know it’s not the Stork Club or Saturday, or anywhere near 8pm for that matter… but I was hoping I could cash in that rain cheque on our dance.” 

Peggy’s eyes filled with tears. She hadn’t told another soul of their last promise to each other. It was truly him. She immediately lowered the gun.

“Steve,” she said softly. 

In a flurry of movements that she could hardly register, Steve had stepped forward, taken the gun from her and set it aside, immediately wrapping his arms around her afterward. She wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her face in the crook of his neck. They remained clinging to each other, silent tears filled with years of heartache releasing themselves and transforming into ones of relief and just barely, hope. For all the times that she had dreamed of a reunion, none could ever measure up to actually having him hold her in his arms. It gave her a sense of comfort and relief that she hadn’t felt since God knows when.

Peggy eventually pulled away just enough to look up at him, making sure not to break apart completely.

“You’re late,” she chided him.

He smiled and kissed her head. It took everything she had not to let her eyes close at the touch.

“Would you believe me if I said I couldn’t call my ride?” he joked.

Peggy laughed softly and stared at him, still in awe that he was here with her.

“Why didn’t Howard tell me he found you?” She could feel his arms tense around her.

“Because Howard didn’t find me,” he replied slowly, not quite meeting her eyes. 

“Then how are you here?” she whispered, still in disbelief.

“It’s a really long story,” he whispered back. His smile was tender, and she could almost feel the last four years slowly melting away.

 “We have time,” she assured him.

 He wiped away a stray tear on her cheek - thankfully not the bruised one - and whispered.

 “You’re just as beautiful as the day I left.”

 Not being one for accepting compliments on her physical appearance, especially when she knew that her mascara was most likely a running mess, Peggy smiled softly and ducked her head, only to have her chin immediately tilted up by Steve.

 His piercing blue eyes gazed into hers, and time stopped in a way it hadn’t in years.

 “I mean it, Peggy. You’ve always been so beautiful, and tonight is no different.”

 “Since when do you know how to talk to women?” She teased. The small laugh that escaped him made her heart soar.

 “Since I knew I couldn’t come back here without properly sweeping you off your feet, because you, Peggy Carter, deserve nothing less.”

 She couldn’t help the large grin that her mouth formed. Steve matched it and gazed into her warm brown eyes. He slowly leaned down, giving her the opportunity to move away. Peggy tilted her head up more to meet his lips, both of them slowly melting together. 

 This kiss was very different than their first. Whereas their first was gentle and rushed, this one was slow and deep. Peggy involuntarily sighed, and Steve pulled her closer. She moved her hands slowly up to his face, her fingertips memorizing the structure of his jaw and cheekbones before making their way into his hair.

 When he slowly pulled away, she kept her eyes closed. All reason kept telling her that this couldn’t be real, that he couldn’t really be there, and that if she stopped holding him, or even opened her eyes, he would disappear again.

 She felt his nose gently nuzzle hers and she risked slowly opening her eyes. His hair was disheveled and there was red lipstick that had transferred to his mouth, which was currently in the biggest smile she had ever seen him don. He seemed to look younger than he did when she first opened the door.

 Because of her.

 She grinned and gave him a chaste kiss before whispering.

 “How about I make us some tea, and you can tell me how the bloody hell you survived that plane landing and why you waited four years to loop me in, hmm?”

 Steve sighed and he nodded, his smile never faltering as she lead him to the kitchen. Peggy hummed softly as she put water in the kettle and set it on the stove before turning it on. She could feel Steve’s gaze on her the entire time. It brought her back to the old days during the war, when she would catch him looking at her nearly anytime they were apart in the same room. Peggy wet a cloth and walked back to where he stood, leaning against the counter. Without a word, she wiped the lipstick around his mouth. Her smile only grew as Steve struggled not to laugh so that she could accomplish this properly.

 “There you go, all presentable again,” she declared.

 “Thank you, I was hoping to look my best to go out into town exactly at this hour,” he teased as he took the cloth from her and cleaned up around her mouth as well.

 “You’re not going anywhere until you tell me what the bloody hell is happening,” she half joked.

 “I don’t plan on going anywhere ever again,” he said seriously, picking up on her tone.

 Peggy smiled gratefully at him and let him pull her into his arms, resting her head on his chest.

 At that moment there was another knock on the door and Peggy jumped slightly. She looked up at Steve, who had pulled away from her and whose eyes were shifting all around her apartment.

 “Steve, are you alright?”

 “Yeah ‘m fine,” though his voice was low and tense and his eyes didn’t meet hers as a British voice was heard through the door.

 “Miss Carter? It’s me, could you open the door, please? I really must speak with you.”

 Peggy sighed and smiled at Steve.

 “Don’t worry, it’s simply Mr. Jarvis. We’re safe. Just wait here I’ll be right back,” she assured him.

 “Wait,” he stopped her, holding her hand.

 She frowned at his changed demeanour. “Steve what is it?”

 “He can’t know I’m back. No one can know I’m back,” he said firmly. Peggy’s head was reeling with questions.

 “Steve have you gone mad? Do you know how many people will be happy to know you’re alive? Why would you want to keep this from them?”

 “I promise I can explain but no one can know I’m here. Please trust me,” he pleaded as the knocking continued. There was something in his eyes that made her stomach churn, and before she knew it, she was nodding slowly.

 “Thank you,” he whispered, kissing her hand and moving further into the kitchen.

 Peggy smoothed her skirt, trying to calm her racing heart, before crossing to the door and opening it slightly.

 “Mr. Jarvis, what ever could you be doing here at this hour? And without calling first? Truly I’m afraid that Howard is influencing you in the most dreadful ways,” she teased.

 “Thank goodness you answered the door. Very late if I may add,” he said pointedly. At Peggy’s raised eyebrow he continued. “I apologize Miss Carter, however, I thought I witnessed something that did not sit well with me, and it would not leave me alone until I came to visit,” he said nervously.

 “What is it?” Peggy said, furrowing her eyebrows in concern.

 “May I come in?”

 “Oh, of course. Here, to the couch,” she opened the door and gestured him to sit. He did so and she closed the door, following and sitting beside him.

 “Miss Carter, when I dropped you off this afternoon, I thought I saw someone follow you to your apartment,” he stated. “I didn’t necessarily see them follow you in but it looked like they had just come out of hiding and then as I left it looked as though they were turning around so I left it alone.”

 “So this person didn’t actually follow me into the building?” Peggy inquired, slightly confused.

 “Not technically, but for some reason the moment didn’t leave me,” he admitted.

 Peggy waited for him to continue, and when he didn’t she tilted her head.

 “Mr. Jarvis, was there… was there anything else?”

 “Well… no, but if someone had followed you and taken you by surprise and I had done nothing, well I simply couldn’t live with myself,” he told her, his voice laced with concern. Peggy couldn’t help but smile at her friend.

 “Oh Mr. Jarvis, that is incredibly sweet of you, but as you can see I am perfectly alright. I do admit that I thought I saw someone as well when you pulled away but I scoured the building and found nothing. If someone was going to attack me, they would have done so already,” she assured him.

 “But what if what we thought we saw was truly something and they’re still waiting to make their move?”

 “Then I will punch them into submission when they do,” she promised. “You know me, I never had an affinity for small talk,” she joked. She could tell that it had worked as she saw the tension leave his shoulders.

 “Yes yes I know you are perfectly capable of handling yourself. I suppose that after last night - or I suppose it was this morning,” he corrected himself, “I was worried that you were a little worse for wear. You took quite a few hits.”

 “I also gave quite a few hits,” she said pointedly.

 “She nearly killed you,” Jarvis matched her tone.

 “And yet I’m perfectly alive,” Peggy countered.

 Jarvis sighed. “Yes Miss Carter, once again, you have come out on top. Just remember, you aren’t alone in this.”

 Peggy couldn’t help but give the man a small smile.

 “Oh Mr. Jarvis you know that I do appreciate you. I know I’m not alone. You and Howard have shown me that.”

 “And we will continue to do so,” he promised.

 “Now Miss Carter,” Jarvis continued gently. “It has been nearly 48 hours since you’ve slept and in the time being you have gotten extremely roughed up. It is time you finally get some sleep, lest you keep ruining your health.”

 Peggy chuckled “And you have a wife you need to get back to. I’ve kept you from her long enough.”

 “Thank you, Miss Carter,” he smiled and she hugged him.

 They both stood and she walked him to the door. He was barely two steps out the door when she spoke again, causing him to turn to her.

 “Mr. Jarvis?”

 “Yes, Miss Carter?”

 “Be sure to tell Ana how much you love her,” she said softly.

 “I always do,” he smiled softly at her, and she mirrored it.

 She closed the door and sighed, leaning her head against it. Her mind was whirling around in circles and she didn’t know how to make it stop. In that moment, Steve appeared from the shadows of the kitchen. They spent a few moments in silence simply staring at each other. It was clear to him that Peggy was calculating her next move.

 “February 1, 1944. What happened that night?”

 Steve smiled and didn’t miss a beat.

 “You showed the entire camp that you could do 107 one-armed push ups after Hodge made a pointedly snarky comment as to how no one could match his 75 regular push ups, especially not a woman.”

 Peggy nodded in approval. “And afterward?”

 Steve let out a breath and ducked his head. “You walked by me and I… I couldn’t stop staring. You smiled at me and said: ‘Captain, unless there is something on my face, there is no reason for you to be staring at me with such intent.’ I managed to apologize, but all I could think about was that I could list a million reasons to look at you, and even then it wouldn’t be all of them,” he finished softly.

 “Alright,” she conceded. “I apologize, but you must understand why I have to ask.”

 “Of course, Peggy,” he told her as she crossed to him. “Quiz me any time anywhere, and I promise you I will always get it right,” he assured her. Peggy smiled at him.

 At that moment, the tea kettle began to whistle.

 “Now I do believe you owe me an explanation.”

 A few hours and countless cups of tea later, Steve and Peggy were both sitting on the couch. Peggy had shed her heels and was sitting on end of the couch with her legs tucked underneath her. Steve sat on the other end.

 “One last trip. Back to the future, to home. But I hesitated and I couldn’t quite pinpoint why. Before I knew it I was pulling out my compass. My compass had saved me through hundreds of missions, but really it was your picture that always kept me going. Seeing your face, it always reminded me of the good there was on this earth, and that I had to do my part to protect it. Whenever I was lost I would just look at your picture and feel found. In that moment, I finally admitted to myself that my home was with you… and that after all I had done as Captain America, that maybe I deserved to finally go home. So I changed the date and headed here. The rest, well you pretty much already know,” he finished softly.

 “Steve…” she trailed off, not knowing what she could possibly say after he had relayed his story of the 21st century. “You’ve been through so much, my darling,” she whispered, scooting over so they were right beside each other. She reached up to cup the side of his face, stroking his cheek with her thumb. He didn’t say anything, simply closed his eyes at her touch. “You’ve done so much good for the world,” she continued, “and I am so incredibly proud of you.”

 She kissed his forehead gently, and he slowly opened his eyes again.

 “Now I’m home,” he said, his voice quiet.

 “You’re home,” she echoed. “You came back home,” she repeated, her eyes filling with tears.

 Steve put his hand on top of the one on his face as his other hand found her free one.

 “And I’m never leaving,” he promised.

 As Peggy looked into his bright eyes, she knew she’d be damned if he ever did.