Thank you all so much for the favorites, alerts, and reviews. I was happily surprised by the level of response to this story. And since I saw Avengers for the third time today, I was inspired to write more.
As Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers left Stark Tower together, Tony – cheerfully using Jarvis to spy on them – smirked at Pepper. "Have I done my good deed for the day now?"
Pepper looked like she was pretending to think it over. "I guess so. It was awfully nice." She clasped her hands in front of her. "It's going to be so sweet. I want to cry just thinking about it."
Tony shook his head. "You women. Always with the over-the-top romantic fantasies. Anyway, just remember – I didn't do it for him." He had grown up in the shadow of Captain America, but unlike his playmate Sharon, he had grown to resent it. Mostly because of the way his father worshiped a man who had been gone for decades but ignored his own son. Peggy Carter had shown Tony more affection when he was growing up than Howard ever had. She would come over with Sharon, then leave her and Tony to play under Maria Stark's watchful eye, but Peggy always gave Tony a quick hug and kiss on the cheek. He got more love from her in a day than he got from his father in years. Anyone who knew him knew it was a sticking point – except, of course, for Steve, who was blissfully oblivious. Also, quick to point out Tony's flaws. He'd pretty much shut up about that after Tony's encounter with the nuke, but that didn't mean it didn't sting before.
Tony's childhood hero had also become his arch rival for his father's attention, and the man wasn't even around. Now he had a chance to actually be friends with the guy, but Tony didn't know if he could let go of old hurts entirely. He didn't even know if Steve wanted to be his friend at all, if Steve saw him as anything other than Howard's son. But, still, Tony had cooperated when Pepper asked for his help on Sharon's behalf. He owed that much to Peggy, and to the only playmate Tony had who wasn't a robot.
Pepper drew close to Tony. "I know why you did it, and it may be one of the most decent things you've done lately."
"Besides nearly sacrificing myself to save Manhattan from a nuke?" Tony asked glibly.
Pepper hit him upside the head. "Correction – one of the most decent things you've done with my permission."
Despite Sharon's easy-going manner and the CD of 1940's Broadway musicals she had on in the car, Steve was getting increasingly nervous. He wanted to do this, badly, but he was afraid of the fallout. As they approached the retirement village where Peggy lived, he knew he wouldn't back out – he couldn't, he owed it to Peggy – but he began to wonder about the advisability of showing up like this.
Sharon watched him for a moment after she parked the car. "You still feeling up to this?"
Steve nodded. It was the right thing to do. More so, he wanted to do it, bittersweet as it might be. From everything Sharon had said thus far, it was clear she loved her aunt deeply. Surely she wouldn't be supporting this if she didn't think it might be healing for Peggy as well? "Let's go."
Sharon smiled as she noticed Steve taking in the fancy lobby of Peggy's building. She leaned in close to tell him, "I know you may not trust us entirely, but SHIELD takes care of their own."
He looked back at her, not all that surprised. "So she was involved with the organization?"
"Oh, quite." Sharon chuckled. "I'll have to bring you by Headquarters some time, let you take a look at the pictures of the early days. If Director Fury will let me. He can be such a pain in the ass sometimes."
"What would he care about me going through the founders' pictures?" Steve asked.
Sharon shrugged. "He likes to remain in control of information. Also, you're not the only one around who isn't as young as he looks." Before Steve could question that, they'd arrived at Peggy's apartment. "Let me go on in and prep her. You wait here – and try not to get mobbed by any rabid fangirls. You're quite popular around these parts."
Steve gave her a crooked smile. Her aunt had been right – his smile was to die for. He stepped out of the line of sight as Sharon knocked on the door.
"Sharon!" Peggy smiled widely as she opened the door. "I thought you were working."
Sharon grinned and quickly accepted the hug her aunt pulled her into. "It's my day off. Thought I'd spend some time with my favorite auntie."
Peggy snorted, but her eyes were amused. "I'm your only aunt."
"Technicalities." Sharon was not the least bit surprised to see the television was tuned to a news channel that was playing clips of the Avengers in action. "This city has Avengers fever."
"It's like I always told Nick," Peggy said thoughtfully, "...people don't realize how much they need a hero until they get one." A scene of Iron Man, sans mask, signing autographs caught her attention. "Howard would be proud of what his boy's become. Those two were always more alike than they ever wanted to admit. I just wish they could have seen eye-to-eye before Howard died. He wasn't always so restrained, you know."
Sharon nodded. She knew nothing had been quite the same for Peggy or Howard after Captain America was lost to the ocean. The difference was, Peggy had refused to shut herself off. Oh, she'd waited, always trusting, but she hadn't become afraid of connecting with anyone else.
Peggy reached for the remote, turning the TV off. "I'm sure you've seen this all before. How's work?"
Sharon shrugged. "Routine. Hopefully, recent events have convinced the director he doesn't need to shelter his pet project anymore." Once Steve realized where and when he was, Sharon had been quickly reassigned to another case, with Fury claiming he didn't want Steve to have any "unnecessary distractions." "Oh! I almost forgot. I brought you something. Let me go get it." She hadn't heard any squeals coming from the hallway yet, but she was pretty sure they were on borrowed time. Besides, Sharon knew Steve was a little anxious about how this would go. She stepped out into the hall, motioning for Steve to join her.
Steve's breath caught in his throat as he saw Peggy. White hair in an elegant bun, impossibly thin...but that was his lady. He was acutely aware that he was staring, but she didn't seem to care as her hands went to her mouth, pure joy overtaking her face. Her eyes watered, and Steve's were getting misty as well.
Steve struggled with his emotions for a moment before he was able to speak. "Sorry I'm late."
She cautiously stepped forward, shaking her head as her tears spilled over. She reached a hand up, but stopped just short of touching him. "I waited," she whispered.
Steve took her hand and squeezed it gently, then put his free hand to her cheek. "I know." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sharon moving toward the record player, and soon the opening notes of "Moonlight Serenade" filled the room. Steve's voice was uneven. "I don't suppose I could have that dance now?"
She bit her lower lip and nodded, her grip on his hand tight. Steve still didn't know how to dance, but it didn't matter, as they just held each other and swayed with the music, tears running freely down both their faces. Finally, she found her voice again. "I'm really quite mad at you."
As she should be. A part of Steve was surprised she hadn't tried to sock him when he showed up. "It's okay." If he'd had any other choice, he wouldn't have put that plane into the ocean. A chill ran down his spine as he remembered the freezing water filling the compartment, already slushy...whispering her name as the water lapped at his chin and he finally lost consciousness.
Peggy pulled closer to him, resting her head on his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, carefully not to hold her too tightly. She felt as if she might break. "I've missed you so."
Steve wanted to say he missed her more, that she was in all of his dreams on the rare occasions he was able to sleep, but he hadn't spent every day of seventy years waiting, trusting in the face of contradictory evidence. "I missed you too."
They stood together for a long time after the song ended. Steve bent his head to drop a kiss on her forehead and she smiled up at him. Their lips met, and for Steve, time stood still. In his mind, he was flying again, standing in a car racing a jet. He could almost feel the wind whipping about them, the only time he'd been reluctant to go save the world.
For a moment, everything was right.
Sorry for the short chapter, but I couldn't find a more perfect place to leave it for now. Coming soon, Pepper and Sharon swoon over True Love and Tony demands a DNA swab.