A/N: Hello there my fellow Stegosaurus'! So this is based off of the scene is The Winter Soldier when Steve and Natasha go into that bunker at Camp Lehigh and see that picture of Peggy. I have a hard time believing that Natasha wouldn't look into who Peggy was and thus this fic was born. This is my first Captain America fic; this story can also be found on Archive of Our Own. Happy Reading!
Disclaimer: I own nothing (except a broken shipper heart).
. . .
When Natasha walks into Tony's workshop, she can barely hear herself think over the sound of whatever band he's listening to. He's welding something with his back to her, only noticing her presence when she turns the music off.
"I was listening to that," he says, indignant, turning to her as he turns off his blow torch.
"Good to see you, too, Stark."
"Did I miss a meeting or something? Forget to send you a birthday present? Cause I told you guys that if it was your birthday to just ask Pepper for my credit card-"
She holds up the file in her hand, laying it on his workbench. "I need to use your computer."
She wouldn't usually do this, but SHIELD doesn't exist anymore and hey, maybe he'll know something she doesn't.
"Be my guest," he says, grabbing the file as his brow furrows with interest. He opens it to find a restored black and white photo, picturing a woman with ivory skin, dark eyes, lips quirked upward with brown hair framing her winsome features. He looks up and watches as Natasha types swiftly, running the woman's face through his database.
"What's this about?" He asks.
"Do you know her?"
He looks back at the photo. "She was a friend of my dad's. She's got to be in her nineties now, what are you looking for?"
Natasha steps back as the screen loads, picture after picture flashing in front of them. Finally, the screen is still, landing on a photo of two smiling people, obviously not planned-just the two of them just looking at each other with something like love in their eyes.
The red head sighs softly, maybe surprised or maybe understanding, and turns back to Tony.
He looks at the picture, then back at her. "Huh. Would you look at that."
. . .
Natasha is sitting in his kitchen when he gets home that night.
"You know, I don't remember giving you a key."
"You didn't," she says and Steve chuckles, mildly annoyed but expecting nothing less from her.
"Want something to drink?"
"No, thanks. Actually, I have something for you," she says, watching his face contort with curiosity when she pushes the file, thicker than it was earlier today, towards him.
Steve flips it open fearlessly, but stops when he sees Peggy's face staring back at him; the same picture that they saw hanging in the bunker at Camp Lehigh.
His face is taut, voice low when he asks, "What is this, Natasha?"
"I wasn't going to show you. I saw the way you looked at that picture in the bunker so I decided to do some digging. I just thought you might want them."
Steve sighs. He could be mad at her for poking at a wound that still bleeds, but he isn't. After all, seeing who Peggy was when he knew her will help him remember her when she no longer remembers herself. Steve goes through the other pictures with his heart feeling a little lighter. Whenever he thinks about Peggy, he always feels alone-it's easy to forget the time they shared in those moments. It's easy to remember all the time they have lost. But Natasha is here now, and he trusts her. After what they've been through, he considers her a friend. It helps more than he can say.
"What was she like?" Natasha asks, spreading the pictures out so they can both admire them.
He's not sure he can do her justice with just words-but he knows he has to try.
Steve smiles. "Peggy...she's amazing. First time I met her she clocked some guy in the jaw for running his mouth at her-landed him face down in the dirt. Besides Bucky, she was the only person who valued me for who I was before the serum. She always had faith in me...knew what I was capable of before I knew myself. She was the strongest person I ever met."
Natasha smiles. "What happened to her after Valkyrie went down?"
"She helped found SHIELD with Howard. I'm almost glad she's not here to see what a mess it all became. After a few years she left and worked as a field operative for private sectors around the country and in Europe."
Natasha nods. "She must have had a hell of a time keeping you boys in line."
"She did. But Peggy never let anyone stand in her way when she knew she could do something. It's why I admire her."
She can sense what he doesn't say.
It's why I love her.
Natasha picks up a picture of Peggy standing with Steve and the Howling Commandos, machine gun cradled powerfully at her hip. "She sounds like my kind of girl."
He doesn't look up from the pictures. "She was."
He finally gets to the picture she and Tony had found earlier that day. The one of Steve and Peggy grinning at each other, oblivious to everything around them. His eyes light up when he sees it. He remembers this. He had been on a mission in Italy for over a month. They usually wrote to each other while he was away, but neither of them could get letters over enemy lines, especially when he was constantly moving. The picture was taken once he got back; he had been so happy to see her. He can recall the urge to take her in his arms, the warm look her liquid eyes that told him she wished they were alone. But they hadn't been-there were men all around, congratulating him on another successful raid, whisking him away to make an official report. Steve found her later that night after everyone was asleep. They made small talk over cold cups of coffee and kissed a thousand times with their eyes before they finally did it with their lips. Sometimes when he closes his eyes and lets the world melt away, he can feel the soft movement of her lips against his, the way her hair tickled his neck and the light caress of her hand on his cheek. The memory overwhelms him and he suddenly wishes he was alone. Steve can tell Natasha senses his shift in mood, but she just stares at the picture.
"She's beautiful," she says.
He smiles at that, at how wonderfully true it is, and how she's a million other things along with it. "Makes me wonder sometimes."
"About how lucky I am that she...chose me, I guess. Even if it didn't last. I've never been so lucky."
She just nods, trying her best to maneuver through the life he was forced from. Natasha asks a few questions, listening as he talks with a smile she's never seen on him before. Any rigidity he had earlier seems to have slipped away and she's glad for that.
So when she smirks playfully and says "So does this mean you were lying when you said you had been kissed since 1945?"
She has never seen him blush before; and although making Captain America turn a bright shade of red is something she considers an accomplishment, Natasha simply says, "You're secret's safe with me. It might work to your advantage, though. Women like guys with sensitive sides."
"Still trying at that, huh?"
Her eyes flick down to Peggy's face. "No, I'm too busy to be finding you a date these days. I'll have to regroup and get back to you."
She knows Steve will move at his own speed, just like everything else he does. And when he is finally able to let go of that part of himself, at least a little bit, Natasha knows he won't need any help from her.
He chuckles. "Do I at least get a warning?"
"We'll see." She pauses. "Are these the first pictures you have of her?"
Steve wordlessly pulls his compass out of his pocket, worn from years of use, and sets it in front of her. Peggy's face greets her when she opens it, placed so that she always points north. In an instant, Natasha knows what Steve himself has known for a long time: that he would never love anyone the way he loved Peggy Carter.
"Did she give you this?"
"Nope," he says, and to answer her questioning look, he sighs. "I clipped it out of a newspaper article."
Natasha smiles. "She must have either thought you were really sweet or really creepy."
Steve could have said how he was petrified to ask her for a picture himself, how after Bucky found the picture of her he had hanging next to his bed he threatened to tell her about it for weeks, or how he still can't fall asleep without the compass clutched in his hand.
But he doesn't; he just shrugs. "Yeah, well...it doesn't matter what year it is, talking to women hasn't changed."
With one last look at the compass, she smirks and stands to go, leaving him to be with the other woman at the table.
"Thanks, Natasha," he says, motioning to the photos.
"Not a problem, Cap."