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For heroines_fest!
Peggy Carter
whipsy
Title: Life Must Go On
Characters: Peggy Carter/Steve Rogers, Colonel Phillips, Howard Stark
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2200
Disclaimer: Marvel and Paramount Pictures own.
AN: for heroines_fest, prompt- life after Steve Rogers

The sound of static was unbearable. Peggy wasn't sure how long she listened to it hoping she would hear Steve's voice come through again, but many minutes passed and there was only static. Tears filled her eyes, but she held back as many as she could. She wouldn't cry. Even if she suddenly felt like she could no longer breathe or the pain in her chest seemed like it would cave in on itself, she still would not.

When Colonel Philips returned to the room where she still sat and placed his hand awkwardly on her shoulder, but with a steady voice declared, "He's gone," she did not cry. When she returned to the base and Howard was unusually silent and wouldn't even look at her for a long time until he mumbled, "I made some modifications," things designed to protect Steve, she did not cry. However, when Peggy was alone, putting away Steve's file and happened to see the picture of him as she first met him, small and scrawny, but with the biggest heart and the most sincere look in his eyes, that had her tearing up.

Tears would not bring him back to her, she knew that, but there was something else. She couldn't, wouldn't, didn't want to believe he was gone at all. Wiping her eyes dry, she put the file away. It was by far the strangest feeling she'd experienced as she stood there, but somehow she knew Steve wasn't gone. Even after the transmission cut and she could only hear the bloody static and not his voice, she felt it. It was the reason that when Saturday arrived, Peggy showered, changed, and caught a cab for that date they agreed on.

She arrived at the Stork Club at quarter to eight wearing her favorite red dress and bypassed the Main Dining Room, choosing to sit at a small table near the bar. As more and more hours passed, that feeling of certainty began to fade. When it became clear he would not show, she finished her drink, and returned home alone. There, she cried without reservation until the first rays of light shown through her window and sleep finally claimed her.

In the morning, Peggy didn't admonish herself. Not for crying herself to sleep and not for expecting Steve to walk in the front door of the Stork Club wearing his clean and crisp brown service uniform and carrying his hat under one arm while he searched the bar for her with those sincere blue eyes of his. He'd smile at her, that earnest smile that broke through her defenses despite the fight she put up. She wouldn't smiled back, not yet. She would wait until he was seated across from her and after he apologized for arriving late, because Steve would apologize for something other men would have so easily overlooked, then Peggy would smile. Since he couldn't get drunk, he wouldn't even try and he'd order a cola with lots of ice. It would be then Peggy would remind him he promised to dance. His earnest, beautiful smile would light up his entire face while a near blush colored his cheeks and Peggy would be tempted to kiss him again.

But, Steve didn't show and Peggy had to get out of bed and ready for work. After all, there was still a war going on.

...

Agent Peggy Carter never stopped moving, she was in continuous motion. As if she didn't stop to think of the pain she felt, it didn't exist. Dangerous mission after dangerous mission, she grew bolder and decided early on to make it her personal goal to stop HYDRA.

Colonel Philips threatened to sit her behind a desk if she didn't stop being so reckless.

"Don't make the mistake of thinking you have nothing to live for," he told her one day.

The words that were itching to come out of her mouth didn't make it past her red lips because even feeling the way she did, she had not forgotten her manners. She was a professional and she wanted to remind him she was only doing her job, but the mood he was in, she doubted he would listen.

"Of course, sir," Peggy replied, forcing her voice to a calm, steady timber.

They had both seen what war does to soldiers, how the hurt and the fury destroy them little by little until nothing remained. Peggy swore she would not let herself become that lost. She wasn't going to become a cliche and she wasn't going to turn her back on everything and everyone she'd ever believed in, but she would be lying if she didn't admit the world wasn't nearly as bright now that Steve was gone.

Still, she didn't let herself think about him too often. Not when she wanted - late at night when she was alone with her thoughts. Not how she wanted - in an endless line of what ifs, most that started with him showing up to their date and finished with their putting an end to the war together. Sometimes it didn't matter whether she wanted to think about him or not because it was hard to get away from what he had come to mean to everyone else.

When some of the men drank to him, with a deep sigh she joined them.

"To Captain America!" they would say.

Peggy would raise her glass, too. "To Steve."

The children she saw on the street wearing small replicas of his mask, carrying homemade copies of his shield, they made her smile certainly, but what was more, they remind her why she had to fight on. Because she would not forget the most important thing wasn't her broken heart, it was winning the war. And, that would remain her primary focus.

Peggy didn't give Col. Phillips much to complain about after his warning. Over several months and seven missions she led since they lost Steve, six were a resounding success, four led to the destruction of HYDRA bases, and two freed hundreds of Allied soldiers. However, the one unsuccessful mission had the Colonel as rattled as he got.

"Told you this would be the end result," he said without looking at her. The six stitches along her hairline made him wince but not as much as the thought of the two bullet wounds along her right shoulder blade. Two bullets that just missed any important organs by millimeters. The injuries took her off active field duty, something he was grateful for that she was not pleased with.

"I am quite well, sir, and I'm ready to leave for Germany tomorrow," Peggy replied, not looking at him either when she spoke.

"Agent Carter, you have your orders." She wasn't to go out on the field for three weeks, pending suspension. That desk job he promised a few months past, it was hers now.

"With respect, sir-"

"Stop right there, Agent." Finally, the Colonel looked up from the command sheets in his hand. His face was it's usual steely reserve, but there was something in his eyes that kept her from arguing. "I don't know why you insist on making me talk more than I like to, but you're done here until the doctors clear you. In the meantime, there's a desk with your name on it back home. Now go, Agent Carter, because you're wasting my time and yours just standing here," he said. When still she did not move, he added, "Don't make me make you. Because I will."

The threat was given and the threat would be carried out, they both knew it. He would never consider her until she was cleared.

"Yes, sir," she replied before leaving his tent.

...

It took Peggy five weeks to be able to raise her right arm above her head, and thus be cleared by the doctor. Even then, the Colonel didn't send her out on the field despite her numerous requests. Quickly she understood that the Howling Comandoes would continue to go on missions without her. She didn't ask why because she already knew. Peggy didn't make a scene like half the camp expected. That had never been her style. Instead, she went to someone she thought could help her. It had been the backup plan she thought up while off active field duty.

"Look, Peggy," Howard Stark said, grinning, "I'm not sure what you expect me to do."

Peggy smiled at him, but it was just a façade to make her look nice, docile, everything she wasn't feeling. "They listen to you, Mr. Stark." The men who sanctioned Steve's transformation needed Stark and Peggy was going to make him realize he needed her. "Besides," she added, "That...new division...you're trying to set up?" Howard's grin faltered. "I can do it," she assured him.

Howard laughed.

"And if I do that for you," he replied, handing her a scotch and sitting closer than was necessary, "What will you do for me?" Of course, he was as sorry as the rest of the nation that Steve was gone. He'd searched for weeks on end in that frozen wasteland for his friend and found nothing but the tesseract. However, nearly a whole year had passed and he'd always liked her...

Peggy took a long drink, letting the liquid burn its way down her throat, and made him wait for her reply. Putting the glass aside, she leaned in close, like she was going to share a very important secret, and saw his eyes flare when her lips turned up at the corners. "I will make this new division a success," she said, there was no hesitation and no doubt in her voice. She stood and looked back down at him. "You know as well as I that in order to win this war, we need to stop HYDRA until they're all dead or captured." Howard finished the last of her drink for her while she looked deep in thought. Her mind made up, she turned to him. "I've compiled a list," she explained, "Of people who can help."

"A list?"

Peggy pulled out a sheet of paper from the inside pocket of her jacket, then gave it to him. She trusted Howard, it was why she found her way to his house. He took it and read off the names.

"Jack Fury. Isaiah Bradley. James Howlett," Howard was smiling when he paused midway, "You want your own Howling Comandoes, is that it?"

"No," she grinned, knowing he was more interested than he led on. She knew exactly how to seal the deal. "What I want is to make the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division the reason HYDRA and the war end."

For a whole minute Howard didn't blink. He came up with that name on a whim, playing off of the Strategic Scientific Reserve title where he helped Dr. Erskine with the super-soldier treatment, but he wanted his own division with little to no government intervention. Howard wasn't sure he would even use the name, but more impressive, he had yet to tell anyone about it.

"Well done, Agent Carter," he said, clearly excited by the prospect she presented. "And might I add, welcome aboard."

...

On the first anniversary of their would-be date, Peggy returned to the Stork Club. She arrived at eight o'clock on the dot and sat at the same small table near the bar. She ordered two drinks, hers and what she imagined Steve would have ordered. When they arrived, she placed the cola with ice in front of the chair across from her while she held her drink. She wanted some sense of closure from...him...because her first assignment as the debuting Director of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division would begin shortly.

Peggy shut her eyes tight, hoping that when she opened them Steve would be sitting there at their table. He would undoubtedly apologize for having kept her waiting so long. She'd tell him she didn't want to hear excuses and that after a year, he still didn't know a bloody thing about women! With some hesitation, he'd take her hand in his, then go on to explain how something beyond his control kept him away, something fanciful that would make for great headlines: he was caught and imprisoned behind enemy lines, he suffered from amnesia due to the crash and only just recovered his memory, maybe he'd been frozen in ice the whole time. Peggy would smile eventually, her relief and elation overcoming her usual reserve. And, because each would have the right partner sitting at that very table, finally, they would share that dance.

Peggy opened her eyes to an empty chair and sighed deeply.

"I may or may not return to this place," she whispered, knowing her new duties would take up most of her time. She couldn't possibly foresee then that she would return nearly every year until the Stork Club was torn down.

Peggy finished her drink and set the glass on the table. "Goodbye, Steve," she sighed, then added, "I wish you could come with me." If she blinked, the tears would fall, so she stood instead and straightened her skirt. She paid her bill, then left to meet with her new team.

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Ooh, this was gorgeously written and very sad :(

Your take on Peggy is quite quite awesome though!

Thank you!! =D I'm so glad you enjoyed this despite all the sad.

Peggy's a great character and it makes me happy that you think I did her justice! \o/

Everything with Peggy breaks my heart, but this was an excellent fic...

"Jack Fury. Isaiah Bradley. James Howlett," Howard was smiling when he paused midway, "You want your own Howling Comandoes, is that it?"


Isaiah Bradley! FTW!

This was truly fantastic.

Everything with Peggy breaks my heart, but this was an excellent fic...

Yes, I know what you mean. =( But I'm glad you liked this! =)


Isaiah Bradley! FTW!

Yay! \o/ He insisted on this tiny cameo! ;)

So. many. feelings.... I feel an ache at reading this... it's lovely and it's a bit bitter. You captured their story and everything so perfectly. I really love the care you had in writing their personalities since you captured them so so well. I adore this. So sad yet so beautiful and very heart felt <3

Not sure how I missed this, but thank you! You're comment made my day! ♥

Theirs is such a sad story. =( But I'm hoping to write something where they get to spend some happy time together! ;)

Oh, my heart. I was thrilled when you had her go wait at the club, anyway, but the yearly ritual? I can see it as her own personal rebellion against death.

Thank you for the lovely comment! ♥


I can see it as her own personal rebellion against death.

Love the way you phrased this! I wish I would have thought of it, it'd be in the story! ;)



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