"press charcoal to paper"

Genre: Romance
Rating: PG
Time Frame: Missing Scene
Characters: Peggy Carter/Steve Rogers

Summary: "It's just that you have rather perfect geometry," he explained, his cheeks flushing pink as she ran a careful finger over the paper, entranced by the likeness it held.

Notes: The fifth in a series of flash ficlets uploaded this evening, done for a Shuffle Challenge on another site. I hope you enjoy. :)

Disclaimer: Nothing is mind, but for the words.


"press charcoal to paper"
by Mira_Jade

"What are you scribbling away at now, Mr. Rogers?"

He looked up at the sound of her voice, his smile stretching in greeting. They were hardly kilometers away from the next HYDRA base on their list, deep in the Black Forest of Germany. The great wooded slopes of the Hornisgrinde mountain were filled with towering evergreens – so tall and thick that they blocked out even the sunlight from above. A thin layer of snow fell upon the camp, making the ground muddy from the passing troops and moving artillery. The tents of the soldiers were icy specters in the mists, frosted over by the cold with a sheen of lacy white.

Steve had found a post at the base of one of the pines to take a moment to himself and sketch. He was using an empty wooden crate as a seat, while leaning back against one of the bases of the towering trees around them. Before the horror of the second Great War, he had taken to art for the comfort it provided. Now, that he was in the thick of the battles shaping the world, little had changed.

Not even a pace away from him, Margaret Carter stood at relaxed attention, curiously eying the journal in his hands. Her breath puffed on the air before them, and her pale face was flushed fetchingly with the cold.

"Oh, just this and that," Steve answered her question, his grin turning lopsided. He gestured in invitation, and she accepted, moving to take a seat on the crate next to him. Primly, she smoothed her olive toned skirts about her legs. Her boots were muddied, he noticed, but still she raised a hand to push her hair almost daintily behind her ear. He gripped the charcoal tighter in his one hand, feeling the smear of it on his skin.

She tilted her head curiously, and bit her lip before asking, "Would I be too forward if I asked for a glance?" The lilting tones of her accent frosted on the air between them. Steve blinked at the question, taking a moment as the parameters of her request registered in his mind.

"Oh, of course," he said, fumbling a little awkwardly with the flyaway pages in order to straighten the book enough to pass to her. Even with all of the enhancements Erskine's serum had made to his body, he still seemed to retain a bit of his former awkward mannerisms in the worst possible moments. "They're just doodles," he explained, strangely self conscious of his work. "Nothing like the ones from back at home." The words tripped off his tongue.

Peggy nodded, remembering reading of his time in art school in his file. Gently, she turned through the pages, recognizing the scenes that he had pressed into pages - villages that had passed through the height and breadth of Europe, the sights and sounds of London, the towering buildings of Brooklyn, and then quite a few of Stark's futuristic looking gizmos and gadgets. And then there were faces upon the pages – moments caught where Steve had doodled during debriefings, or when Bucky and the Commandos drank and carried on while he scribbled from the corner.

About half way through the book, she turned the page, and found herself staring back at her. She blinked when she realized that he had portrayed her as she had been just moments before – with her breath clouding on the air, and her eyes narrowed in determination as she addressed Colonel Phillips. They were just lines of charcoal, smeared and smudged until a likeness emerged, and still she couldn't help but think that Steve had portrayed her as some warrior deity rather than the girl from Leeds who had simply been too proficient with a long shot for her own good.

She traced a finger over the portrait, felt the black dust gather upon her skin.

"You have rather perfect geometry," Steve explained sheepishly. "It was kind of impossible for me to resist."

Peggy leaned in close, as if to better examine the portrait, and for a moment her body lined up straight with his. Even so far from home, she smelled lightly of perfume. Her lips were red, a splash of color against the grey cast of the landscape all around them. He stared for a moment, and then looked away.

"Not bad," she commended lightly. She had rested her hand against his shoulder, so as to better share the view with him. He could feel the tips of her nails at his collar. He shifted, just slightly.

"Not bad?" he echoed, his lips quirking up. "This is you, perfectly," he tried to keep his tone light, even as he boasted. If the tops of his cheeks were flushing pink, then he would certainly denied it if Bucky ever asked.

"Really?" asked Peggy, her voice wry. "This woman on the paper is lovely."

He bit back the instant not as lovely as you that managed to bloom on his tongue, already imagining Howard Stark's eye roll at the simple, but earnest words. Instead, he leaned back against the tree trunk. The back of his uniform turn damp. "Well . . . she's not bad," he said, echoing her words.

Peggy blinked for a moment, and then, very slowly, her lips stretched into a smile. She laughed then – really laughed. The sound was nothing like the exasperated fondness she gave for the Howling Commandos, or the sharp humor she held when bantering with Stark. No, this was lighter than that – all a weightlessness about her eyes and an ease to the military set of her shoulders. It was the laughter of a woman who preferred red on a dress, and wore lipstick even on the front lines. It was the laugh of a girl he wouldn't mind taking dancing – for the first time in his life.

"You are a dear, Steve Rogers," she said. "Don't ever let anyone change that about you." She leaned over, and kissed his cheek then, and why yes, he was now blushing. The laughing Stark in his mind increased his snickering by a hundred fold.

He looked down, hiding his smile in his collar. He turned the page, the charcoal smearing upon his gloves. "Do you want to see more?" he asked, glancing over at her.

Peggy wiped her fingers on her dress, smudging it, and smiled. "Always, Mr. Rogers. Always."