So, I don't know where all this Avengers inspiration is coming from, but it's produced two stories in as many days. I guess I can't say I'm complaining. :) This just kind of hit me and wouldn't retract its claws. I also usually don't mention specific songs or even artists in my stories, but this one kind of demanded it. I love Florence + The Machine and this song seemed to fit (ignore any and all Vampire Diaries associations!).
So, as usually, I don't own, etc. Thanks so much for reading, I'd love to know what you think, and I hope you enjoy. :)
Leona Carter had known for decades that her family was wrong. She had always known ever since she was little, ever since she first met Great aunt Peggy. What Leona knew was that her great aunt was not crazy. She didn't care what the others said about Peggy's mystery soldier: he was real.
She had faith in Captain Steve Rogers.
Leona had always been fascinated with her great aunt's life, her stories, and her dance lessons. It had started when they met when the girl was four and only spun off from there as they found kindred spirits in one another. Both were different, both were strong, both were kind and both were very set and happy with their own minds. They did well together.
Peggy had married "late" in life for her era. She'd held onto the hope that her soldier would come back from the war for almost ten years. It was 1954 when she married a British pilot who she'd worked with during WWII. She was over thirty and considered an old maid by then, though neither minded. Leona had always figured their marriage was more out of friendship than anything else. Peggy was in love with her soldier and Freddie was a widower, unable to get over his wife's death. They found each other to help heal, not because they wanted a fairy tale ending, something Leona had understood even before her parents left her indefinitely with her great-aunt and great-uncle.
It wasn't until Freddie died and Aunt Peggy began finding herself alone in a world of disappearing war veterans that she truly began talking about her soldier. Leona didn't push, knowing it would be harmful to make her beloved relative's suffering into a entertainment not unlike a tv series. But, it didn't take long before Peggy was gossiping with her great niece about her man with more laughter than the younger woman had ever witnessed.
"He was so adorably shy," she would often say, eyes lighting up at the memory. "He really had no idea how to talk to women, which was what made him all the more endearing. And, he was just so incredibly decent."
Of course, she would also generally go into just how damn tall, strong, and gorgeous the man had become as well. Leona laughed along with her, finding it more cute than odd for an eighty then ninety year old woman to be gushing about such things. It was Aunt Peggy. She was just awesome like that. Besides, the old woman had showed her the one picture she had of her soldier.
Leona hadn't cared if it was from seventy years ago. The man was hot.
They had been happy there for a long time, even after Freddie died. Peggy had accepted death like the rest of the world was forced to when the war came around and slapped the planet in the face. As a soldier in her own right, Peggy had needed to accept it more strongly and quickly than others. She'd told Leona this one night as they sat by the window looking out to the ocean in their house in Devonshire.
Peggy often looked out to the ocean, searching it always seemed to Leona. "I was okay with death," Aunt Peggy said firmly, though her voice cracked as soon as she continued, "but I could never accept his. I just knew it. I still know it. He isn't dead. He just…can't come back to me."
And then Great Aunt Peggy had died.
Leona had been just starting university, beginning her illustrious foray into engineering, wanting to do wonderful things with computers and mechanics one day. History was a minor of extreme interest, a way to find the ever-elusive Captain Rogers for Peggy. Leona's one main goal in life had been to find him for her aunt. She wanted to let the woman she loved like a mother know what had happened to her prince charming. Nothing would change how much she loved him, but a woman who had waited for seventy years deserved an answer.
She had come home one day in October, the wind blowing frigidly off the water, to find Peggy once again sitting on their porch, covered in blankets and eyes toward the gray expanse that she was sure was holding her man.
"Aunt Peggy, come on inside. It's cold, let me make you some hot chocolate. I'll throw in some Irish whiskey!" Leona offered over the wind.
Smiling at her, the old woman laughed with a shake of the head, "No thanks. Leona…" She brought out a hand and pulled Leona down into the chair next to her. Their identical chocolate eyes meeting, the old woman began in so earnest and loving a manner that Leona didn't have to strain against the wind to hear—the wind did the smart thing and backed down when faced with Aunt Peggy's displeasure—when she said, "Leona, darling, you are going to be an outstanding woman. I have the utmost faith in you. Remember, life is all about the right partner… And Leona, when the world finds him…give Steve the dance for me."
Smiling and squeezing her aunt's hand, Leona had nodded, "I promise. A fast one or slow one."
"Make it a slow one," she'd answered, closing her eyes to take in the feel of the sea air.
Agent Peggy Carter had passed fifteen minutes later when her great niece came back with more blankets, the younger woman falling to her knees, torn between a smile and tears. Peggy Carter was the type of woman to go out on her own terms.
Then that day had come. Leona had been sitting in her lab finishing her latest project with the television on for background noise. It was past eight at night. No one was around to mind.
A breaking story had interrupted everything. New York City was being attacked by beings the reporters had no clue about. They were, for lack of a better word, aliens. New York City was being attacked by aliens! Like the rest of the world, Leona's work was forgotten in her hands as she watched the horrific events unfold.
As tears streaked down her face at the destruction happening, she suddenly wondered if that was how her people had felt when the first bomb had been dropped on London by the Nazis, if that was how the Americans had felt after Pearl Harbor…
Then, out of the terror had appeared six figures. Six figures that the news couldn't identify, or honestly get a good shot of aside from Iron Man, but who began single-handedly trying to save the city. While panning through the destruction and the chaos, the camera had gotten a glimpse of one of them, one in red, white, and blue, though the white had been dirtied into gray. He had a mask over his face and the reporter was mentioning something about "Captain America," but Leona noticed none of it.
She knew that face. It didn't matter that part of it was covered up. She knew that face. She'd been shown its picture a thousand times and she'd been searching for it for the three years since Aunt Peggy had died. That was Captain Steve Rogers.
The days after the attack on New York City were a media nightmare. None of the news stations had accurate details, the six heroes were unknown aside from Tony Stark and his Iron Man suit. They had also all disappeared. Even the villains weren't clear. It took about a week for all the news companies to get the correctly aligning facts. It took Leona all of two days to decide what she needed to do.
She finished the little bit of class she had left, it was almost summer break and she was a grad student. All she had to do was hand in her projects and call it good. After getting her affairs and flat in order, she rounded up some of the money her Aunt Peggy had left her. It felt right that her money should be used for the endeavor.
For the next month, Leona devoted all her time to finding Captain America. She had two names: Captain America and Captain Steve Rogers. She pushed through as much 1940s classified red tape as she could, hoping and praying she'd find something to corroborate her feeling that the two men were one in the same. Meaning, Aunt Peggy had been right and he wasn't dead. She knew it was true, she just needed to prove it before she did anything rash. She was British, after all; rash was not in her repertoire.
Once she had it, once she knew, her next step was easy. Once she watched a microfilm of Captain America's performance in Italy—his face the one she knew so well—and had even caught a glimpse of her great aunt in the crowd, she booked her ticket to New York.
She was going to give that soldier his dance.
Taking yet another deep breath, one of a thousand it felt like, Leona Carter turned the corner to come face-to-face with the Stark Tower's front door. It was for the most part repaired, the only thing left unchanged was the sign on the top floor. Stark was still cut down to just an A. However, it wasn't the building she was worried about. It was who she'd find inside.
She didn't know why, but she could just feel that he would be there. If nothing else, Stark Tower was the place to start.
The rubble had been cleared away, a fact she was very grateful for given her heels. Perhaps it was just that she was naturally clumsy, but she wondered how Aunt Peggy had worn heels like the ones she wore every day. She ignored the stares and occasional laughter from the other pedestrians as she stood hesitantly before the door. It wasn't everyday that a woman strode around in a dress from the 1940s. Though it had taken her forever, she was also rather proud of her hair, as well.
It wasn't the same red dress her aunt had always spoken of, she had only found a dark blue one of a similar style, but she was going to give Rogers as authentic a dance as she could. He deserved it.
Unsure of how long she stood there, Leona finally got up the courage to walk through the doors as the city's sky was darkening.
The lobby was empty for the most part. It was in the throes of some kind of redecoration. There was a desk that looked as if it was made for reception but no one was there. Feeling immensely stupid, Leona looked up toward the ceiling and said loudly, "Jarvis, I would like to see Captain Steve Rogers, please."
Though minus Thor, the Avengers were all in the Stark Building that night.
Bruce lived there, as did Tony and Pepper for the most part. The other three dropped in quite often, getting away from SHIELD and their at times suffocating sense of efficiency. It was oddly normal, all things considered. Most of the time they all sat around eating take-out and watching movies. Bruce had relaxation time. Pepper and Tony were their normal happy, bickering selves. Steve attempted to get more acclimated to the 21st century. And Natasha and Clint got to subtly cuddle in the dark away from eyes that would judge the action bad for their careers.
They had formed an odd, dysfunctional little family that each needed in a special way.
So that night, in the middle of watching the evening news, the three were struck still when Jarvis declared, "Sir, there is a woman in the lobby asking for a Captain Steve Rogers. How shall I direct her?"
Five pairs of eyes all turned to Steve, amounts of worry and confusion in them. No one was actually supposed to know his real name. SHIELD had kept his original existence classified even after seventy years. How did someone know that Captain America and Steve Rogers were the same man?
Immensely confused himself, Steve could only shrug.
"Put the surveillance feed from the lobby onto the screen, please, Jarvis," Tony finally ordered. They might as well know what they were dealing with.
With his usual instant efficiency, Jarvis had commandeered the television and the woman appeared, standing with obvious nervousness and looking like she had just stepped out of the 1940s. Steve started to his feet, paralyzed looking at the woman. Frowning at the man's reaction, Tony continued to his computer, "Patch me through to her, Jarvis… Ma'am, we aren't hosting a costume party here. What do you want?"
They saw her jump as Tony's voice filled the lobby. Looking slightly embarrassed as she had to just speak to nothing, she replied, "I want to see Steve Rogers. What does it matter to you why, Mr. Stark?"
"It matters because you're invading my building. What makes you think a Steve Rogers is here? And how do you know my voice?"
"I attended one of your lectures once if you being on the telly every other week isn't enough," she paused before she continued, tears filling her voice when she did. "I'm here because I promised to give him a dance."
Giving the computer butler an order for the first time ever, Steve beat Tony to speak, "Jarvis, let her up!" Jarvis informed the woman that she had been allowed access and the elevator door soon dinged open for her. On the top floor, all eyes were on Steve. They bombarded him with questions that he didn't answer, although the one that no one had the heart to ask was "who is she?"
Within moments the elevator door dinged once again and the woman stepped into the light of Tony's penthouse and all the questioned died immediately.
She looked at them all shyly, knowing that they could all likely kill her single-handedly, as Natasha and Clint's reaching subtly for some kind of weapon indicated all too well. There was absolute silence until she, after closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, began, "My name is Leona Carter."
Steve visibly jumped at the mention of her last name, a look of painfully pure hope on his face. She looked exactly like Peggy. The dress and the shoes and the so demure accent and the look of bemused happiness on her face. And those eyes…those eyes were the same ones he envisioned when he went to sleep every night. They were the same eyes he had fought to see again so long ago. The only thing wrong was her hair.
Noticing his gaze go to it, she smiled, tears once again threatening, "Our hair was always the only thing different. Hers was always much darker than mine. She used to tell me mine was better. It looked like honey. She said it looked like yours."
When he still did not speak, only taking the few steps needed to close the space between them, she continued despite the tears that had spilled over, "I can't believe I finally found you..."
She had to fight the urge to throw her arms around him and let all the grief she'd held onto concerning her aunt and her soldier go. If he was as amazing as she'd been told, he would stand and hold her without complaint, but she didn't. She had a purpose, and as he began to move, she didn't want to break the spell he seemed to be under.
He reached out slowly, hesitantly, to touch her hair, running his fingers through the golden brown locks that were held into the now old-fashioned hair style he knew so well. Leona watched as his breathing became shallow, as if he were fighting back tears of his own, when he breathed out only one word with so much love it almost took her breath away, "Peggy?"
"She was my great aunt, though I loved her like she was my mum."
"Was…?" he asked, his deep, gorgeously blue eyes finding hers in a second. All she needed to do was nod and he understood. The thought had been weighing heavily on his mind ever since he'd woken up, but he hadn't had the heart to search for the answer. He hadn't been sure if he was truly ready to know. However, now that he did, a certain kind of weight he hadn't noticed prior. The burden of not knowing left.
Tears beginning to cause her eyeliner to run ever so slightly, Leona nodded, "Three years ago." Smiling suddenly, she continued, "I made her a promise. I promised that when the world found you, I would give you your dance."
Looking down at the woman before him, Steve's face spread into a smile, "I still don't know how, Leona."
His saying her name making her feel oddly giddy, Leona smiled widely, "Oh, don't worry. She mentioned that you didn't know how to talk to women let alone dance with them, so she taught me. She also said you were far too decent to try anything, so she never had to worry anyway."
A blush rose up in his cheeks, making her smile again. There was the adorable factor Peggy had also mentioned. "Even from beyond the grave, she's putting me in my place."
Taking one of his hands and walking past his still silent friends, Leona smiled, "It's what we Carter women do. We're British; we're nothing if not proper. But don't worry, I won't shoot at you." He chuckled at that as she requested, "Jarvis, would you be so kind as to play 'Never Let Me Go' by Florence and the Machine?"
"Of course, Miss Carter," the slightly British voice replied, music beginning to fill the room a moment later.
As she rested her hand on his shoulder and his slid to hold her waist, she apologized, "The song is a little past your era, Steve, but I love it. For some reason it felt right." The way it spoke of the ocean always reminded her of Peggy's searching for him out to sea.
As they began to move and sway slowly with the music, deftly avoiding Tony and Pepper's furniture, he smiled contentedly down at her, "I like it."
As they danced, Leona began to realize why Aunt Peggy had loved the man before her as much as she did. Even if he hadn't been so perfectly decent and adorably endearing, any woman could just get lost in those blue eyes filled with so much emotion as he held her gaze. She didn't want to let go as the song wound down, its final haunting notes clinging to their ears.
Before she could step back, let him get back to his life, Steve's grip on her waist tightened, "Once more, Jarvis. I've waited seventy years; Peggy wouldn't fault me for wanting two dances."
Tears pricking her eyes ever so slightly, Leona returned his smile as Jarvis said simply, "Very well, sir."
As he spun her around and Leona then regained her grip of his shoulder, she asked, "Captain Steve Rogers, would you like a guide to the 21st century?"
"I'd love one," he replied, blue eyes again brimming with what she thought looked like hope.