“I’m not quite sure what I can tell you, to be honest--or what you’d really like to hear.”
Agent Carter was full of softness and concern in the back seat of the car that was driving them through Brooklyn. Steve’s guts were tied in knots. It wasn’t so much the fear of the unknown. Heck, he was over that. More than over it. He was apprehensive, sure, no one could tell him if he was going to come out the other end of this thing alive. Anyone would be at least a little nervous about that. What was really fraying at the last shred of calm that he was clinging to was the fact that they were very literally on familiar ground.
Where in the ever loving fuck were these people taking him?
He’d lived in this section of the borough his entire life. That was just shy of a quarter century. He knew these streets like the back of his hand. He’d played here, learned here, hit the pavement selling papers and hit the pavement with his face. He’d either been in a fight or tried to stop one in every nook and cranny of this neighborhood.
There was no real government facility unless you counted the post office. There was no Army facility unless you counted the recruiter’s office.
There could not possibly be a fancy laboratory-slash-secret-multinational-agency anywhere near the streets they were driving on.
He’d come to like Agent Carter. He’d come to trust and respect her. He’d come to downright admire her over the course of his very short time in basic training watching her put big, dumb assholes in their places and treat every WAC lady who was placed under her tutelage and command, confident in their new placements or not, with a saintly level of patience and respect.
He thought that she’d never steer him wrong. He thought that she respected him as well, or at least liked him enough not to yank his chain this way, to be up-front with him.
Steve Rogers was growing increasingly confident that he’d seen and heard too much about what the Strategic Scientific Reserve was planning and developing and that they were simply going to weight him down and toss him in the East River. They weren’t too far from Pier 13. Bucky’d shipped out. Steve had spoken on the phone to Rebecca telling her that he’d found work with Berkeley Blades over in Jersey City. It wasn’t too much of a stretch. When jobs were hard to come by or no one would take Steve on account of all his various issues (or questionable, very vaguely criminal history of rowdiness), he’d hoof across the Hudson to try his luck. The apartment was cleaned out, they didn’t have much, all Bucky’s things in a steamer trunk at his folks’ place, all Steve’s things tucked away in storage at Camp Leigh. As long as the Barnes family was occupied, no one would really question where that Rogers kid had gone. What was confusing was why they’d brought him all the way back to Brooklyn to do it. Would have been a hell of a lot simpler to get rid of him somewhere out in the middle of nowhere in Jersey.
He babbled about his inability to find a date, to relate to the girls in his social circle, small as it was. He ran his mouth about all the alleys he’d been smacked around in. He did everything he could to keep his mind off of whatever was going to happen. Agent Carter was looking at him like he’d just spontaneously taken off all his clothes. He shifted his feet back and forth and stared straight ahead, praying they’d get it all done and over with.
The car pulled up in front of an antique shop. “Deep breath, Rogers,” he thought to himself. “Deep breath. In and out.” He patted his pocket as they stepped through the door, frowning when he found it empty and remembering that he’d run out of his asthma cigarettes in the first few days of being at camp. It had been the tail end of a pack he’d been trying to make last. It hadn’t been pleasant--the vice grip on his lungs and throat or the rapid hammering of his heart and swimming of his head as he dragged the smoke in like a thirsty man in the desert and willed the universe to let him make it through just one more night.
Agent Carter told the old woman who ran the shop that she always carried an umbrella. He knew this lady. He’d had to sell his Ma’s jewelry at one point. She’d given him a good price, better than a jeweler would have really given him. She’d be far kinder than the guy at the pawn shop, too. It hadn’t been much and had been hell to part with and she’d managed to make the experience worlds less painful than it had to be. The robotic way she greeted Carter seemed completely out of character. She stepped behind the front desk. There was a faint buzzing and she nodded. Carter led Steve through the front of the store into what looked like a storage area and stood before a bookcase. She straightened her back and squared her shoulders and the bookcase that clearly was not a bookcase swung open.
The first thing Steve noticed about the secret government facility hidden behind an antique store run by a little old lady in the middle of Brooklyn was that it was absolutely crawling with MPs. It didn’t strike him as an immediately positive sign. All of the things that Steve had ever done wrong or that could possibly get him court marshaled or discharged raced through his head. There had been the multiple enlistment attempts. The blatant falsifying of his applications. Paramus. Yeah. Right. He hadn’t exactly smoked his asthma cigarettes in the knowledge or view of anyone who should have probably known about it either, at least in regards to the fact that he was having serious attacks, let alone that they were mildly intoxicating. He thought back over everything he’d done and said at camp trying to think of something that would earn him the discipline that seemed to be headed his way.
Agent Carter led him down the corridor, bright white and sterile looking, with her head held high and her heels clicking against the tile. Her carriage seemed so completely effortless, somewhere between graceful dancer and lightweight prizefighter, flowing forward but coiled and ready to strike. She seemed completely in her element and it was terrifying. Or, terrifying was how he was going to describe it because he couldn’t quite reconcile the way the whole image made his gut twist and his ears get warm because thinking about what a beautiful dame she was right then felt like something he should be blurting out an apology for.
“The lab is just a floor below.” She punched her thumb against the button for the elevator at the end of the corridor and stepped inside when the the MP standing nearby pulled the grate open, looking at him expectantly. “Coming?”
“Change your mind?”
“No, ma’am.” He put his shoulders back and his chin up and stepped into the elevator car beside her. The grate slid closed and he looked at his disrupted reflection on the shiny surface. He straightened his spine as much as he could, tried to look taller, more significant. “This is really happenin’?” The elevator car shuddered almost imperceptibly as the bright yellow numbers for each floor painted on the wall slid by. Agent Carter raised a brow at him and opened her mouth to speak. Instead, she gasped as the car went dark, shook, and lurched to a halt. Steve stumbled back, Carter’s hand shot out in his direction, gripping his bicep tightly to steady him. Her heel clomped loudly against the floor once as she steadied herself, the sound filling the small space like a gunshot.
“They knew this was going to happen!”
“That the el’vator was gonna get stuck?”
Peggy huffed in annoyance, “No, that they were going to overload the circuits... fry the grid... whatever!” She let go of his arm, confident he was no longer in danger of falling and dashing his head against the floor, and slid her feet forward, feeling for the grate and the button panel on the wall beside. “They put out half the damned lights in Brooklyn testing the thing. Howard said that he’d fixed the issue. Clearly he hasn’t.” She pressed her thumb into the alarm button.
Rogers laughed nervously. “Well, I think I’m just glad it didn’ happen while they were workin’ on me.” Peggy leant back against the wall, feeling more crowded in the narrow car in the dark than she had before. “That is whea we’re goin’ right?”
“I’m not gettin’ court ma’shaled?” He cleared his throat like there was something more he wanted to say but didn’t continue.
“Why on earth would you be getting disciplined?”
“I... I dunno.”
“Guilty conscience?” He chuckled and fell silent. “I think we may be here for a while.” She picked at the front of her blouse, waving the fabric away from her chest. Barely a few moments and it was already too warm inside the car.
“Do ya mind if I sit? My, ah, my back’s not the greatest.” She told him she didn’t mind at all. She listened as he slid down the wall, knees cracking. He apologized when he touched her foot briefly with his and arranged his legs out in front of himself. He sighed heavily. “Maybe this is suppose ta be a sign.”
“Of what?” Peggy shifted her weight from one foot to the other, smoothed back her hair.
“That I’m not meant fer this.” He paused, clearly waiting for some kind of response. She didn’t immediately offer one. “I feel like eith’ah I’m gonna wake up back in my apartment from some kinda fever dream or that, I guess, it’s just not gonna work. It’s not suppose’ta be me.”
It was easy to imagine the rumbly, somber voice in the darkness belonging to a much larger man. Peggy squatted down and felt the floor, brushing her fingertips along the fabric of Rogers’ pants before she sat and extended her legs carefully in front of her. She hadn’t known Rogers for very long, but she’d come to see that as something very essential to who he was: that there was a much larger person, a vibrant personality, packed down into his petite frame. In the few times she’d been able to speak with him after Abraham zeroed in on him as the ideal candidate, she came to see what exactly the man had been thinking when he stamped Rogers’ forms with a 1A.
“Steve?” She spoke softly, tentatively; unsure how he’d react to the casual address. “What do you mean?”
“The doc... he said...” Steve trailed off. His legs shifted along side hers. His breathing grew minutely wheezy. “The serum. It makes the good great and the bad worse, right?”
“That’s the gist of it, yes.”
“It should fix all my problems, right? No more asthma. No more fluttery heart. No more pain. Good eyes and ears. Turns yer body into a well-oiled machine.”
“Yes, in theory.”
“That’s all great. But... what about th’other stuff? The bad stuff y’don’t go t’the hospital fer?”
“What do you mean?”
“I... I’m not... I’m not a saint, ma’am.”
“It’s Peggy. As long as we are stuck in this box, it’s Peggy.” As long as he seemed to be pouring his heart out to her, she wouldn’t be standing on formalities and ranks.
“I--Peh--I’m not a saint, Peggy.”
“No one expects you to be.”
“Ya don’t get it.” His breath was coming in short bursts, like he’d just gone for a jog. “I’ve got a temper, I’ll be the first one’a admit it. Get inna fights more than I probably should. I’ve picked pockets and stolen from the market. I boosted a car once. I don’t... I’m not really fond’a myself, at least not all the time. I’m... I’m angry. I--”
“Steve, I don’t think you get it.” He made a sound like he was going to protest, cutting himself off when she placed her hand on his shin, reaching out to close the gap in the dark. The gesture felt far more intimate than it was intended to given their situation. “It’s the manner in which you conduct yourself and your reasons for--” His breathing had become labored, his leg tensed under her hand. “Steve?”
His knees bent an straightened again. His clothing rustled in the darkness. She groped for his hands to find them trembling. “I can’t breathe.”
Peggy squeezed his hands firmly. “If you can speak, you can breathe.” He let out a wheezy laugh and sucked in air again, sounding like a bum engine trying to turn over. “Is this the asthma or something else?”
“Not sure.” He disengaged their hands, fabric rustled. “Hot.” Peggy shifted herself onto her knees and reached out tentatively in the darkness. “Ow.” That was most certainly a nostril. She moved her hands down, feeling for his and pushing them away to loosen his tie and unbutton his collar. His wheezing lessened slightly. His body sagged against her efforts to keep him upright.
The door that guarded the elevator grate on the floor just above them opened with a loud squeak of the hinges. “Agent Carter? You down there, ma’am?” The beam of a torch illuminated a space perhaps five inches wide at the very top of the car.
“Yes! Rogers is here as well.”
“How ya doin’? We weren't sure which floor y’were suck on.”
“M’fine,” Steve croaked. The beam of light fell on them. She took the opportunity to look him over, his hair stuck to his forehead with sweat, face quite red as far as she could tell.
“Rogers don’t look too good, ma’am.”
“M’fine,” he cleared his throat and spoke louder. He looked at Peggy squarely, that dogged determination she’d become so familiar with set into his features.
“We’re alright. Have you come to get us out of here?”
“It might be a while, ma’am. Doin’ the best we can. Stark really... We’re at FUBAR, ma’am.”
“The electrical panel is kaput. Damn thing is scorched.” The beam of light disappeared for a moment. “Think y’can grab this?” The butt of a canteen appeared in the small, illuminated space. Whomever was up at the top attempted to shove it forward, wedging it between the sections of the grate. Peggy got to her feet and grabbed it, helping to wiggle it through the awkward space. “I’m gonna leave the door up here open. Holler if ya need anything. We’re gettin’ ya outta there soon as we can, ma’am.”
Peggy settled beside Steve once again and uncapped the canteen to press it into his hands. “I’d like to say you should hurry, but I understand. Take care of what needs to be. We’re alright for the time being.”
“Y’sure Rogers is squared away?”
He took a tentative sip and nodded. His breathing had quieted, not rattling anymore. “Quite sure. I’ll raise hell if it’s urgent. It is a little warm down here, another canteen would be magnificent.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The torch beam disappeared, she listened to footsteps fade down the corridor. The mystery man at the top of the car--or laying on the floor from his perspective--returned a short while later with a second canteen and assurances that they were working to resole the issue and get them out of there. “Do ya think y’kin get to the ceilin’ panel?” He angled his beam to illuminate the square panel in the ceiling that would let them into the shaft.
Peggy considered Rogers’ frayed nerves and shaking hands. “Perhaps as a last resort. Not entirely sure that would be the safest option.” Or that if she gave Rogers a leg up that he’d be able to pull her up. She considered the possibility of whomever it was on the floor above lending a hand, but didn’t want to risk the extra weight on the car when there was nothing reasonably holding it steady beyond decades-old gears and cables.
“Yes, ma’am. Just holler.” He disappeared once more.
He just felt so completely exhausted. The heat and the cramped space and the panic and the stress and his body choosing to completely betray him all added up to every last ounce of his energy just leaving his bones and seeping down into the cracked linoleum underneath him and his hands shaking as he clutched at the canteen Carter had placed into them.
“M’fine. I could... I could get up there, if y’wan’ta try the ceilin’.”
“No, Steve. We’ll save that for later. Right now, just gather yourself.” He was leaning forward and resting his forehead against her shoulder before he was conscious of what he was doing. It was the way she said his name, really. So few people actually referred to him like he was a functioning adult worthy of some kind of dignity. Especially after an attack. People treated him with kid gloves and small words and fluttering hands and sidelong glances. There were the exceptions, his Ma, Bucky, the Barnes family, his landlady. But they were few and far between.
Agent Carter--no, it was Peggy as long as they were trapped in that box--was different. Maybe it was because of what she’d said, that she knew something about struggle, about having doors shut in her face. But it felt like she was really just genuinely concerned for his well-being, nothing more or less. Her shoulder was firm and steady, even after her initial flinch. She smelled very faintly like cloves and flowers and at least a little like the salty sweat that was making her hair stick to her forehead and neck when he peered at her in the weak beam from the flashlight that whoever that was topside had shined down on them. She took the canteen from his hands and placed it down on the floor. She gripped his shoulder comfortingly.
“You are allowed to change your mind. Even if it’s right before Dr. Erskine injects you with the serum. It is your body, your sacrifice should something go awry, your final say. There are a dozen other ways your can continue to serve the SSR. You might also be discharged, if you’d like, we may be able to arrange it.”
Steve lifted his head, his chest constricting for a fleeting moment as his clammy cheek brushed hers. “No. I can do this.”
She shifted, settling on her knees. She took a deliberate breath, “Private Rogers.”
Her palm was warm against his chest, molding to the exaggerated shape of his sternum. His heart was still deciding whether or not it was going to continue to race in distress, it felt something like the throbbing muscle was trying to seek out the heat of her hand, to burst out of his body and offer itself to her in supplication. Her face turned toward him, almost imperceptibly save for the distinct feeling of her skin sliding against his. “Are you absolutely certain?” Her lips moved against the corner of his mouth as she spoke.
He swallowed hard, his mouth suddenly very dry. “Yes, ma’am. Absa’lutely.”
She turned very subtly once more. Her lips pursed and touched his lightly. Her eyelashes tickled the high point of his cheek. “Steve?” Her tone was low, throaty.
“Yes... yes, Peggy?” He turned his face toward hers, finally, and pressed his dry lips against the slickness of her lipstick. She jerked her head back away from him in the darkness. “Apologies, ma’am.”
Steve drew back, pulling himself away from her. She moved her hand from his chest to his cheek. “None required. I startled myself.”
He let out a breathy laugh, “I think I might be the one who should be startled.”
“Was I too forward?” She couldn’t help the amusement in her tone.
“Not a bit.”
Peggy found herself full of wonderment at the way the darkness filled her with boldness. The way the heat, just bordering on oppressive and making her blouse and hair stick, seemed to shut down the world and reduce it to the space immediately around them. There hadn’t been sounds of movement or voices in the corridor above them in several moments. The dark and the quiet and the closeness of everything dissolved the barrier of propriety and formality between them.
She leaned forward, seeking out his mouth. He kissed her back cautiously at first, his lips mostly closed and his hands resting feather-light on her arms. She opened her mouth to him, inviting him in. He seemed to let her have the lead, responding to her advance rather than pushing them forward. It was unlike other men who had kissed her, unlike other kisses that had been reduced to feeling less like a loving or ardent act and more like a struggle for power. The softness of his mouth and touch felt far more like Louise, shy and exploratory and tucked away in the shelter of a sturdy bough while they waited out the light rain on their walk back to their neighborhood from a day of school at Saint Barnabas when she was sixteen; or Eleanor in the darkness of the cinema or a booth at the back of a dance hall after giving their dates the slip when she was nineteen and twenty and full of self-assurance and determination and yet to have a door slammed in her face quite so hard.
Whatever it felt like, Peggy was sure that all those girls who refused to dance with him were missing out. Steve Rogers was an excellent kisser, even if he used just a bit too much teeth for her particular liking. He was easy, pliant. His frankly obscene looking lips plump and soft. Not too wet. Not seeming to attempt to lick her uvula. Just following the natural flow of things.
Peggy shrugged her uniform jacket off, fairly certain if she was standing that her knees would have turned to jelly. As it was, she was on her knees with a crack in the floor digging a groove into her skin. She shifted to relieve the discomfort, Rogers shifting forward with her, led by the tug of her teeth on his bottom lip. She sighed when he threaded his fingers into her hair, his mouth moving over hers as he peppered kisses against the corner of it and down across her jaw to her throat. His lips pressed firmly, mouth just barely open, against the side of her neck as her head lolled back. His free hand grew bold, his thumb rubbing circles into her hip through the thick fabric of her skirt. She took hold of his tie to bring his face back to hers.
Everything was moving at light speed and Steve wasn’t sure which one of them was doing it. Or if either of them were doing it. If it was just happening of it’s own accord.
Agent Carter--Peggy, she was kissing him like a woman kisses a man. Not like some dame who’d gotten roped into a double at the end of the night, pitiful and reluctant. Not a fleeting peck like you got from someone who saw you as something like a small, shaking lap dog. It was a honest to goodness kiss. One killerdiller smooch that just kept rolling.
She dragged him back to where she wanted him, using his tie like a lead. He pulled away to catch his breath, “I feel like I shouldda taken ya out ta dinner’er somethin’ first.”
She rested her forehead against his and laughed quietly.
“Perhaps when we get out of here, we should go dancing.”
“I’d like that. Think Erskine’s magic concoction’ll improve my coord’nation? Wouldn’ wanna step on yer toes.”
“No matter, I’ll teach you.” They breathed each other’s breath, random pecks and roaming hands mapping what they couldn’t see.
Voices grew closer, inquired as to their status. Peggy shouted back through the darkness that they were fine. Steve was grateful for the lack of a flashlight shining down on them, he could imagine how rumpled the two of them had gotten. Footsteps receded once again, the thunk of army-issued boots against the floor growing softer with distance. They resumed their kissing, less urgent feeling this time. His heat had steadied and even in the heat and the cramped space he found himself feeling light and free.
Peggy’s hand landed on his thigh. He took it as an invitation to reciprocate, running his fingers over the shapely curve of her hip and leg. She shivered and made a quiet sound and let out a hot breath against his face. He explored further, tracing the outline of a strap around her thigh, following the side seam of her skirt down to her knee, inching his fingers up beneath the fabric. Her leg tensed. He took his hand back. “Sorry, I--”
She breathed in and out as if she’d gone for a jog, taking his hand in hers and placing it back on her thigh where her skirt was pushed up. “No.” She paused as if listening for something. “Keep going.”
Steve slid his hand up the outside of her thigh, moving her skirt up as he went, gripping her buttock when he got to the top. Her hand covered his, pushed the tips of his fingers up under the leg band of her cotton panties. She gripped the longer hair at the back of his head hard and ran her tongue over his teeth. “Stand up?”
She pulled back, “You can’t give me orders.”
Steve shifted, drawing his knees in and tucking them under his body. He ran his fingertips over the indentation in her flesh from the elastic. “Not an order. Just a sincere request.” Her lips curled into what felt like a smile against his mouth. She kissed him once more before backing up and steadying herself on his shoulders to stand upright.
“Are you coming?” Her thighs tensed and relaxed when he ran his hands up them. Her shoes slid against the floor as she shifted her balance. “Up here?” She drew in a sharp breath when he laid a firm kiss against firmer flesh, bulging just slightly against the strap running across it. “With me?”
Steve straightened up on his knees, feeling his way across the fabric on the inside of her thigh as she shifted again, squaring her legs out with her shoulders.
Gentle kisses and fumbling hands under her skirt reminded Peggy of a girl called Celia and her beau too much cheap champagne in the last moments of 1939. There was nothing to hold onto, nothing to ground her but her senses in the dark and her senses were running away from her.
Steve’s long fingers on her skin.
His warm breath against the the cotton covering her crotch.
The pressure of his chin on her thigh and his nose against her mound and his lips pressing into fabric and hair and she swore that he would be able to feel her heartbeat down there between her legs against his lips.
Her body sagged against the wall, her pelvis tilting forward. “Peggy?”
“Keep... keep going.” Her grip tightened on the rolled up hem of her uniform skirt, the coarse fabric something to keep her in reality.
Even if reality happened not to include the very real possibility of being discovered in such a compromising situation.
The fingers of one hand curled around the strap across her backside, the other caressing her thigh and the crease between leg and groin and pulling aside the gusset of her panties before the tentative swipe of his tongue against her cunt.
He pressed his face into her, pulling her pelvis closer with his grip around the back of her. She threaded her fingers into the smooth flop of his hair and dug her heels into the floor.
The wet sounds he made seemed to echo through the cramped space, drowning out her rapid breathing and pounding heart. His teeth grazed and nipped, lips sucked hard and gentle, tongue flicked and probed in and out and around.
Steve groaned openly, his vocalization muffled against her body as she ground her hips down, clenched her thighs together around him. He stopped holding onto the strap of her leg shield, his hand snaked up her flank and pressed into her belly.
Panic rose in her chest as the heavy sounds of approaching boots drew closer. “Agent Carter? Private Rogers? Everything alright?”
Peggy squeezed her eyes shut. Steve sucked particularly hard. She gasped. She could just made out the beam of a torch bouncing off of the whitewashed walls above.
If there was any form of higher power out in the heavens, they would not shine that light down into the elevator car.
Peggy feigned a sneeze to cover the gasp, doubling over as Steve’s tongue flicked quickly against her clitoris and sent a wave of heat rolling down into her toes. His thumb slid easily into her, pressing up into the springy muscle inside.
“We’re fine! Just waiting to be rescued!”
She gripped his hair hard, fisted her other hand in the fabric of his uniform shirt. Her legs tensed. Her belly fluttered. Her sex tensed and relaxed wildly.
“Shouldn’t be long now, ma’am. We’ve got the lights in the store up’n runnin’. Y’sure you don’t wanna try climbin’ up?”
“No! No, we’re fine. Very fine.”
He had the nerve to chuckle, right there with his face between her legs.
She felt boneless and weightless.
A bead of sweat rolled down her spine and into the folds of her blouse at her waist.
Steve pulled away, took it upon himself to right her clothing. Peggy sank back down to the floor, her back against the solidity of the wall behind her. She couldn’t help but laugh as she groped in the darkness for one of the canteens.
She took a long drink to buy herself time to make her tongue cooperate with her head. His hand rested against her shin. “That was certainly not written into the day’s agenda.” She wiped her brow with the back of her hand and pushed her hair back off of her neck. He shifted beside her, his legs uncrossing and crossing again, shoe scraping against her side for a moment while he moved. “Are you--”
“No. I’m good.”
When was the last time she’d been with a man who expected or demanded nothing from her?
“Perhaps if we do... go dancing.” Peggy wasn’t sure what she expected. Her brain was muddled, the beginnings of logic and protocol beginning to worm heir way back into her consciousness. She let the notion drop, hanging in the air unfinished.
“Dancin’. Yeah.” There was the distinctive thrum of the generators beginning to fire once again. She was almost dissappointed. “I would like that.” The light overhead flickered weakly, casting deep shadows across his features. “I like you, Agen--I like you, Peggy.”
She smiled to herself. “I would hope so. Couldn’t imagine what you do for people you’re downright fond of.”
He laughed, a full-bellied sound that filled the space around them and seemed to help reform the solid shapes of the floor and walls and ceilings and them. His face was flushed with color, hair damp and sticking to his forehead or otherwise sticking up at a strange angle, shirt and tie a complete mess, a smear of her lipstick in the corner of his mouth. She laughed along with him, “Crikey!” Peggy could imagine how much worse for wear she looked.
They fumbled to make themselves presentable, Steve using Peggy’s handkerchief dampened with his canteen to clean off the bright red smudge. Peggy folded her jacked across her lap and watched as he first drained the rest of his water and then took the portion she offered. “When did you steal a car?” He laughed again. “I’ve been through your records. There wasn’t anything about car theft.”
“I was...” he trailed off, squeezing his eyes shut and raising a brow. “Sixteen? It was Bucky’s birthday, some guy who hung around ‘im dared me. Can’t back out on a dare.”
He grinned wide as the lights finally came up full force. The lift car lurched suddenly, nearly topping both of them. “Took it for a joy ride ‘round the neighborhood and put it right back where we found it. No’un was the wiser.”
“I can see it now. A fluff piece in the paper when this whole mess is done.” She held her hands up like she was taking notes on a pad of paper. “Now, Private Rogers, where did you learn to steal a car?”
“I’ll tell ‘em, ‘Nazi Germany, ma’am. Couldn’t let them Jerries get where they were goin’.” He gave her a smug look and grinned again. “And it’ll be Captain Rogers by then, you mark my words.”
Peggy stifled a laugh and threw out her hands like she was painting a billboard in the air, “Captain America.”
He jabbed at the air with his index finger in her direction. “I like it!”
The car stopped as abruptly as it started. The grate slid open, its segments cashing together in a metallic clang. The door to the hall swung open as they continued to laugh.
“Havin’ fun?” Howard Stark raised a brow as he stood in the threshold, looking down at them like they were two naughty children caught at their game. They probably looked absurd, sitting on the floor across from each other as they were, starchy clothes and hair wilted with heat and sweat.
Peggy took the offered hand to get to her feet. “I told you--”
“I know, I know. You were right, Carter, geeze.” She rolled her eyes and slipped her arms back into the sleeve of her jacket, buttoning the front as she moved to greet the Colonel. She directed Steve through the lab to Dr. Erskine, reluctant to leave him even as she was being shooed up into the viewing booth.
Peggy’s gut twisted with a combination of excitement, relief, and horror when Steve stumbled out of the chamber completely changed. “How do you feel?”
Perhaps not completely changed. She grinned and handed him a shirt.