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Peggy wakes up because she hates sleeping on her back, but when Steve had collapsed beside her--wheezing and damp with sweat, his guileless blue eyes wide in his narrow face--he'd cradled his head on her shoulder and draped his too-thin arm across her chest. She didn't have the heart to move him. He curls against her in his sleep, gentle even now, one hand loosely cupping her bare breast.

When she'd invited him to her room, she'd expected that gentleness. She'd expected inexperience when she kissed him. What she'd forgotten, though, was the recklessness, the fearless disregard that made him throw himself on a grenade while others took cover. For all his stammering protests that he didn't know anything about women, he knew enough. By the time he finally kissed his way back up her body and slipped into her, she was shaking with need.

Ever since she joined the SSR, she's told herself she doesn't have room for feelings. Feelings she leaves to the men, and lets them overrule themselves with their hearts while she sticks with her head.

Until now.

Until now, she's been careful, keeping herself aloof and distant from the men around her. Steve Rogers is going to be trouble, she can tell already. He's the first one that's gotten past her shield. The only one.

He stirs beside her and then startles, head jerking up and eyes unseeing.

"Hey," she says, running her hand down his back.

"Hey." He blinks, and shakes his hair out of his eyes, mouth curving in a shy smile that makes her want to kiss him senseless. "Thought I dreamt you."

"Was it a good dream?"

He leans up and kisses her, and the hand at her breast grows more purposeful, his thumb circling her nipple. Her breath catches in her throat and she cradles his head in her hand, running her fingers through his fine blond hair, keeping his mouth at hers, teasing her way in with her tongue.

When she finally lets him go, the shyness is gone from his smile. "Better than any dream."

"Good." She kisses him again lightly, then drops back to the pillow. It's not a question she'll ever ask, but she suspects she was the first, and that excites her on a level she isn't examining too closely.

"What time is it?" Steve asks, settling against her again, nuzzling at her neck. When she cranes her neck to the look at the bedside table, he takes advantage, pressing his lips to her pulse. He's a fast learner.

"A little after oh-three-hundred," she says, turning on her side to wrap both arms around him. His body is unlike any she's held before--not that she has particularly vast experience herself, but all her life she's been around physically strong men, military men. Steve isn't fragile, no matter what her colleagues say; he's just small. And the feeling of his angular limbs, the way his collarbones poke up against his skin, the slender leg that hooks around hers, all of it arouses a fierce possessiveness in her. Not protectiveness. That would be understandable, although Steve would hate it. No, feeling him wrapped around her this way makes her want to keep him there, to feel him against her, on top of her, beneath her.

"Do you need me to go soo--"

She cuts off his words with another kiss, rolling over until she's straddling him, her undone hair spilling over her shoulders to cut them off from the outside world.

"Wow," he murmurs. "Hi."

"I don't want you to go yet," she says, and kisses him again, running her hands down his sides and back up to tangle in his hair. He runs his hands down her back, those slender, dextrous hands curving over her arse with surprising boldness.

"I got that impression." He squirms, and she can feel his cock starting to stiffen again. Before they can get too involved, she backs away, and the pout he gives her makes her want to both laugh and give him anything he wants.

"Sit up," she murmurs. "Let me look at you."

Steve makes a face, but scoots up in the bed, the sheet falling away from his body. "Not much to look at." It hurts her heart a little that even now he's shy of his body with her. How can she explain his body is what's made him into a man that she could--tell the truth, Margaret--that she could love?

Men and their ridiculous obsession with the physical shape. They look at a man like Steve Rogers and see a weakling, a liability. They don't see the enormous levels of compassion and bravery and fierce intelligence. Abraham Erskine is a little better than most, but even he can't see the full value of what's in front of him. They're going to take this Steve away from her and replace him with a man who better fits their ideal of manhood.

Dr. Erskine insists that his procedure will amplify the good that's already there, and that's why he wants Steve, but he doesn't know for sure; he can't. Peggy knows human nature, and she knows the mentality of strong men. She can't bear the notion that Steve will learn what physical strength means, and that he'll change.

That he'll wind up like all the other slabs of muscle walking around this base, convinced of his own superiority based on his size.

"You're beautiful," she says as he leans against the headboard.

He laughs and shakes his head. "Nah, not me. You're the beautiful one, Peggy."

"I," she says, stretching to the bedside table to retrieve a second condom, "am going to show you just how beautiful I think you are, Steven Grant Rogers. And by the time I'm done, I'm going to make sure you never forget it."

His eyes get wide and he gulps a little. "Yes ma'am."

Peggy laughs and crawls forward to kiss him again. Maybe Erskine is right, and maybe he'll stay the same good man afterwards, but she can't shake the feeling that either way, he's not going to be hers much longer.