Author's Notes: This was the one shot that would not stop growing. I had planned for it to be around 500 words. *points at word count* As you can see, that clearly didn't happen. This takes place during the movie when Steve and his crew have destroyed their second Hydra lab (aka towards the being of the "Dude, Captain America and his peeps are awesome!" montage).
"Well, if it isn't Captain America himself!" Phillips announced sarcastically. The colonel leaned against his desk as Steve and his men entered his small office.
Peggy looked up from the file she was reading and performed a quick assessment of Steve. He was still in his uniform, shield in hand. If she wasn't mistaken there were a couple of new chips in the paint; other than that, it didn't look worse for wear. She looked at his face, drawn and tired, but there were no signs of injuries.
She allowed herself a small smile at seeing him safe.
"Sir," he greeted. His gaze moved to Peggy. "Agent Carter."
"Captain Rogers," she returned, hoping her happiness at seeing him wasn't obvious to every other man in the room.
"Debriefing is in two hours. Until then do me a favor and do something with all of this." Phillips gestured to several large mail bags flopped on the ground.
Steve looked at them inquisitively. "What are those, sir?"
"Based on the strong scent of perfume and feminine writing, I'd be willing to guess that it's fan mail to the great and mighty Captain America." He huffed. "Apparently the good senator thought it would be a great idea to have all the mail from your adoring fans sent here." He looked at Peggy. "Remind me not to vote for him next election."
Steve frowned slightly. "I'm not sure what you want me to do with them, sir."
"Use them as tinder for a campfire. Decorate the walls in the barracks. I don't care. I just want my office back," Phillips replied. "Damn perfume gives me a headache."
Peggy watched as Steve eyed the pile uncertainly. She was amused; he could enter into enemy territory without fear but he didn't know how to accept open appreciation for what he was doing to fight the war. Especially from the opposite sex.
Phillips tapped his watch. "Time is ticking, Captain."
Bucky slapped Steve playfully square on the chest. "Come on, Captain. I'm sure some of the dames sent some...memorable pictures to make you you stay motivated during the war." He waggled his eyebrows.
Steve shook his head and gave Peggy an apologetic look. Bucky, picking up on the awkwardness that settled over the room, cleared his throat. "Not that he's into that sort of thing, ma'am."
"I am quite aware of the type of man Captain Rogers is, Sergeant," Peggy replied, looking intently on the uniformed man in front of her.
"Then you know that he likes to follow orders so his CO doesn't get pissed off," Phillips cut in. "And take off that damn costume before the debriefing, Rogers, I don't know how anyone takes you seriously wearing that."
"Schmidt seems to take me seriously enough, sir," Steve said as he slung two bags over his shoulder. His friend able to lift the last bag off the ground. He looked at Peggy. "Are you going to be at the debriefing?"
"Aren't I always?"
He nodded. "Yeah. You are."
"My arms are gonna fall off, Steve," Bucky complained as he dragged the bag to the door.
"I'll be right there," he replied.
Peggy started walking towards where he stood. She didn't miss the once-over he gave her as she approached him.
"It's good seeing you," he said openly. Then, realizing that Phillips was listening, he cleared his throat. "And, you know, everyone else."
From behind her, she heard Phillips groan. "For the love of God, Rogers, don't tell me you're still acting like a tongue-tied schoolboy when you're around Agent Carter."
His eyes widened as his gaze moved between Peggy and his CO.
Ignoring Phillips' presence, she leaned down and picked up his shield off the ground. He shifted the second bag to his left hand and took the invaluable item from her with a thankful grin.
"It's good to see you too," she replied sincerely.
His Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed. "That's really good to hear. Maybe-"
"Steve! This bag isn't getting any lighter," called Bucky from the next room.
He nodded in Bucky's direction. "I should probably go."
Peggy nodded as he slowly turned around.
"And Rogers?" Phillips called from behind his desk. "If you do read those letters, don't get an ego. The rest of you is big enough without your head growing."
Steve nodded as he started walking away. "Understood, sir."
"Take a look at this one, man." Bucky let out a long whistle.
Steve looked up from his report that was due in less than thirty minutes. He nodded in the typewriter's direction. "I'm trying to write that report for Phillips, remember?"
Bucky slapped the picture of a busty woman wearing a bathing suit, saluting at the camera with a wink. "She looks better than some of the pinup girls on the posters around here. Tell me this doesn't do anything for you."
Steve barely glanced at the photo before shrugging. It was just like the other half-dozen pictures that had caught his friend's attention. "Nothing."
His friend let out a frustrated sigh. "Don't tell me that you're still pining for that British dame," grumbled Bucky. "You heard her say it herself. She's not going dancing until the war is over."
"Then neither am I," Steve replied as he loaded in another sheet of paper into the typewriter.
"You're hopeless. You know that right?" Disgruntled, he snatched up the picture and stacked in on top of the pile of pictures he deemed were worth saving. "Every man needs something to fight for." He nodded towards the black and white photo. "And she is worth fighting for."
They were getting nowhere in their discussion-if Steve would even call it that. He was trying to finish his after-action report before the debriefing; Bucky was trying to separate the girly pics from the handmade drawing sent by Captain America's younger fans.
"Look," Steve said, as he started typing again, "why don't you take some of those letters down to the guys in the barracks? I'm sure they'll enjoy going through them more than me."
Bucky shook his head in disbelief. He stood up and clasped Steve's shoulder. "Someday you are going to regret giving all of this away."
"I'll live with it," Steve assured him.
With a final shrug, Bucky hoisted a half-full bag over his shoulder and left Steve blissfully alone with his report.
He glanced at his watch. Twenty-five minutes. Maybe he'd actually finish the report on time.
He started typing again.
ONCE WE BREACHED THE-
"I'm not disturbing you, am I?"
Peggy stepped next to his desk and looked down at him.
She was, in fact, doing that very thing, but after being away from her for the past two weeks Steve wasn't going to send her away. He flashed her a smile. "No. Not at all."
She glanced at the paper in the typewriter. "Your are a terrible liar, Steve."
"Well then about the truth? I want you to stay," he said frankly.
"Now that I can believe," she said, taking another step forward. She glanced around. "Did your friend find a more private place to gawk at the women who sent the photographs to you?"
Steve grimaced slightly. Sure, Bucky's attitude towards women, especially beautiful ones, was something he was used to. Hell, sometimes, especially when he was drunk, it could be downright amusing, but it was different knowing that Peggy had apparently overheard what his friend was saying. "You heard that, huh?"
"The whole department did, I'm afraid."
"Yeah, well, that's Bucky for you."
She raised her eyebrows. "And he wonders why he is still single."
She fidgeted slightly. Something in her hand rustled against the desk. Steve tried to look what she was holding; an edge of a newspaper was barely visible.
"If that's an article about the latest mission, I don't want to read it. The reporters are always embellishing the facts. It's like they want to make me some kind of hero or something." He shook his head. "I'm just a soldier like any of the other men here."
"You're more than that, Steve. You're a good man."
Involuntarily, he flinched as he recalled the last person who told him the same thing.
Peggy tilted her head slightly. "Did I say something to bother you?"
Steve shook his head as the thoughts of the first man he had been unable to save flooded his mind. "No...you're just not the first person to say that to me. The night before my..." He struggled to find the right word. "...this." He gestured to his body. "Dr. Erskine said the same thing."
"He was right," she said softly.
"I'm glad you think so." An uncomfortable silence settled over the pair.
Being maudlin wasn't how he wanted to spend the few private minutes with Peggy. Steve cleared his mind of the painful memories. "So," he said, nodding towards her left hand, "what is that?"
If he hadn't been looking at her so intently, he would have missed the flash of uncertainty that passed over her face. She shook her head slightly and her doubt vanished. "It's nothing." She moved to step away from his desk. "I should let you get back to your report."
He reached out and gently grabbed her right wrist as she started to turn away. The heat of her skin seeped through the silk sleeve and Steve could swear he could feel her pulse under his thumb.
She turned back to him, eyes wide, questioningly.
He could almost hear her unspoken inquiry-What do you think you're doing? -as if she had said the words out loud.
He was wondering the same thing himself.
Subconsciously, he rubbed the pad of his thumb across her wrist before releasing his hold on her. He licked his lips, trying to find the words to say.
"Steve?" Peggy prompted.
She seemed to appreciate his directness earlier. He raised his gaze to her. "You don't have to show me the paper, but I'd like it if you'd stay."
For several seconds, she said nothing. Then, her stance softened. "Phillips will be furious if he finds out that I'm the reason why your report is late."
"I'll blame Bucky."
She smiled. "Then I guess I have a few minutes to spare."
They spent the next twenty minutes talking about nothing and everything until Phillips barked for Steve to report to the debriefing room.
He pulled the mostly blank paper and slid it under the part of the report he had managed to finish earlier. Phillips would chew his ass for not having the report finished on time, but Steve couldn't say he regretted how he had spent the previous half-hour.
As he scooted out his chair, he saw Peggy move the newspaper out of his line of vision. Whatever was on that paper, she didn't want him to see. Though he was curious as to what could unnerve the usually unflappable agent, he knew she must have had her reasons for changing her mind about showing him.
He stood up and gestured for Peggy to go ahead of him.
"You go ahead. I'll be there soon," she replied.
Steve squelched his inner voice that insisted that he allow her to precede him-ladies first, after all-and started walking to the conference room. He walked several steps before turning around and facing her.
"This was really...fun." He glanced around the room where soldiers and civilian contractors were rushing around. "It's nice to have a break from all of this chaos."
She smiled. "It is."
"Rogers," Phillips boomed. "How many times to I have to tell you to get your ass in here?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Guess that's my cue." He rushed ahead and stepped into the room, not noticing the pair of brown eyes trailing his moves.
Peggy waited until Steve entered the debriefing room before pulling out the newspaper from her vice-grip hold. Without allowing herself to second-guess herself, she slid the paper under the front corner of the typewriter Steve had been using. She snatched a blank sheet of paper and scrawled a quick note on it before placing it on top of the newsprint. Satisfied, she made her way to where Steve and the others were.
She slipped through the door just as Dum Dum, the last of Steve's unconventional group, was about to go in. With a quick glance at Steve who had taken his customary position at the end of the table, she moved to stand next to Phillips.
In his hands, the Colonel held the pieces of paper which Peggy recognized as Steve's unfinished report.
He scowled. "I suppose you have a reason-outside of getting distracted by pictures of the opposite sex-for not completing your report, Captain."
"Of course, sir." He cast a quick glance in Peggy's direction. "Agent Carter and I were discussing pertinent information before the debriefing."
Peggy almost let a smile slip from her lips. Unless she was mistaken, discussing whether coffee or tea was a superior drink hardly constituted "pertinent information".
Phillips shot a sour look at Peggy. "You and me are having a special conversation after I find out what Captain Rogers did to Hydra."
Steve looked at her, contrite. Peggy, however, wasn't concerned; she had numerous "conversations" with the colonel since that day she found Steve on that rainy day in Italy.
"Well then, since I don't have your official report, Captain, I guess we'll all get to sit around and listen to you tell us what happened." Phillips sat back in his chair and glared at Steve.
It took the better part of an hour for Steve and his men to give Phillips all of the details-explosions, gun fights and seemingly impossible feats with Steve's shield-about how they managed to take down their second Hydra lab.
When Phillips was finally done asking his questions, he crossed his arms. "I've heard enough. Go. Get your report done. Just because you wear some costume doesn't mean you're immune from the hell called paperwork."
Peggy moved to walk out with Steve and the others, hoping the colonel forgot about his earlier ire.
"Agent Carter," Phillips called. "You get to stay."
Damn, she had been so close.
Phillips waited until they were alone to start speaking. "You know that kid still has a crush on you."
Peggy said nothing.
Phillips sighed. "Next time try to use that to my advantage and get him to finish his after-action report on time, would you? Since he's America's golden boy, the brass chews out my ass when he doesn't do his job."
"I'll do my best."
He sat back down at his desk and started shuffling papers on his desk. He glanced back at her. "Watching the two of you is more nauseating then listening to my wife's romantic radio shows back home." He looked down at his paperwork. "And believe me when I say that is quite a feat."
"Sir, Captain Rogers and I-"
"Listen, I don't care what you and Captain Rogers do and don't do. As long as I don't see the two of you in a compromising position on this base, I'm fine. Are we clear, Agent?"
Peggy smiled softly. "Crystal, sir."
"Now get out of here before I find something else to complain about."
Without waiting for him to change his mind, Peggy did as he ordered. As she left the room, she tamped down a niggle of disappointment; she had wanted to be nearby to see Steve's reaction to the newspaper-and her note-but knew she had missed her chance for that.
Or perhaps, she thought hopefully as she noticed Steve typing intently on the typewriter and her newspaper untouched, maybe she hadn't.
She watched him from a distance for several minutes with him seemingly unaware of his audience.
"He's not going to bite you, Sweetheart." A voice was close to her ears. "Though if you ask nicely, I'm sure he'd be willing to do that if that floats your boat."
Peggy pressed her lips together in annoyance but didn't turn away from Steve. After her improvised "test" on Steve's shield, Howard had retreated from his constant fondue proposals, but that didn't prevent him from letting a lascivious comment or two about her and Steve slip occasionally.
"Captain Rogers is the perfect gentleman, Howard," she reminded him.
He leaned down towards her ear. "Maybe that's his problem."
She watched as Steve pulled out the sheet of paper from the typewriter. His hand stopped its movement as he saw the edge of the newspaper peeking out.
It was time for her to make her move.
She barely glanced at Howard. "Or maybe that's his strength."
With a determined step, she walked from Howard and made her way to the man who had her attention for the better part of a year. The nervousness that she had managed to ignore since she had pinned the hastily scribbled note returned with a vengeance.
It was ridiculous really. She had no reason to be apprehensive. Even if Steve didn't like what she had left for him, he would never say anything to make her feel awkward.
As she approached the desk he was working at, she saw him read what she had written.
Bucky was right-sometimes you do need to have something to remind you what you're fighting for.
It was brazen, even for Peggy. But, after she had overheard the exchange between the two men about her unavailability as a dance partner, and Steve's flattering response, Peggy wanted to show him that he wasn't waiting for her in vain.
She cleared her throat. Steve pushed back from his chair, startled. "Peggy, um, hey. I was just reading your note."
"I hope I wasn't being too forward. When I heard you and your friend talking..."
She trailed off as Steve moved the paper aside and saw the black and white photograph of herself printed on the newsprint. It had been a surprise when her mother-God rest her soul-had sent the newspaper clipping to her nearly a year and a half ago. Her father would have been so proud, her mother had written. She reached out to touch the black and white print, but placed her hands in front of her. "...I thought you'd be like it," she continued.
"It's great," he said, his eyes not leaving the page.
"I'm sorry it's not a proper photo. After everything since the war started, having my picture taken seemed rather superfluous," she apologized.
"It's beautiful. You look beautiful. What I mean is that you are beautiful."
An amused smile flittered over her lips. "Still don't know how to talk to a woman, do you?"
"I wouldn't say that," he said as he pulled out his compass. "There's only one woman that I want to talk to. And since she and I are having a conversation right now, I'd say I'm doing something right."
"Yes, well, don't let it go to your head."
Then, like a child at Christmas, he did something unthinkable: he started ripping the paper. She nearly gasped as he tore the sheet. There was no replacing that!
"What do you think you're doing?" she asked.
"I'm trying to make this fit," he replied. His tongue peeked from his lips as made another tear in the newspaper.
"There are scissors in the top drawer, you know."
"Too late." He held up the picture with its torn and slightly-jagged edges. He reached in the desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of glue. Then, meticulously, he spread the back of the newsprint with the sticky substance. Once it had an even layer of glue on it, he flipped the picture over and placed it in the lid of his compass. "Now I'll always having you guiding me."
A blush colored her cheeks slightly. "Glad I could help."
Suddenly, he stood up, a scant few inches from her. She could feel his gaze on her; she raised her eyes to his. If they weren't in the middle of the base with too many curious eyes, she would have kissed him right then and there, regardless of her promise to herself that she would have no romantic entanglements until the war was over.
They looked at each other for several seconds, sharing a silent conversation.
"I hope that your invasion of Agent Carter's personal space means you finished your report, Captain," Phillips called from his office.
"On its way, sir," Steve replied, still gazing at Peggy.
To her surprise, he leaned down and kissed her on the corner of her mouth. For two heartbeats, there was nothing but her and Steve and the feel of her lips not quite on her own. He pulled back slowly, looking as off-kilter as Peggy felt.
It wasn't exactly how she expected their first kiss to be; she hadn't been able to return the gesture as much as she longed to, but she couldn't keep the smile off her face.
She shook her head, still trying to wrap her head around his forwardness. "It is just a picture."
Steve's lips lifted as he reached around and grabbed his compass off the desk. He closed it with a snap. "No. I mean, thank you for being my reason," he elaborated.
"Reason for what?"
He shrugged and gave her a bashful smile. "For everything."