Disclaimer: The characters in this story belong to their respective owners/creators and Marvel. The title is an actual line from the song "Peggy, the Pin Up Girl" by Glenn Miller and the Army Air Force Band. Guns, Germs, and Steel was written by Jared Diamond; Mark Mazower wrote Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century. Kelloggs owns Pop-Tarts, although I'm a big fan and wouldn't say no to one right about now.
I have very mixed feelings about this, but decided to post it anyway because I spent so much time on it.
Darcy answered the door wearing only her underwear and the kind of sleeveless undershirt that he remembered was now charmingly called a wifebeater. Steve looked away.
"Put some clothes on, Darcy."
She yawned, shaking her head. "No. It's too hot." She turned away, walking back into the tiny apartment, and Steve hesitated before entering. It wouldn't right to be in a girl's place when she was dressed like that; but it would be better to close the door and not let any Joe who happened to walk by see her in her skivvies.
Steve wasn't sure he'd ever get used to modern clothing styles. Or maybe it was the attitudes he didn't understand. She was right, though, it was hot, and humid to boot. And it was her own home, and she had the right to do as she pleased in it. But he still wished she'd put something else on, since she'd known he was going to stop by.
"Sorry I don't have it all ready. I fell asleep." She smiled almost sheepishly as she came out of the bedroom and handed him a book—Guns, Germs, and Steel, according to the cover. Darcy did seem like she'd just woken up; she'd put her glasses on when she'd retrieved the book, and there was a pillow crease on one side of her face.
At least it explained what she was wearing. "No problem. Have a nice nap?"
"Not bad." She had the hall closet open and was leaned into it, pushing things aside to look for something at the bottom. Even while flipping through the book, Steve literally could not help noticing that her panties were bright green.
With a huff Darcy backed up and then straightened. Hands on her hips, she scowled, then said "Aha!" Apparently whatever she was looking for was on the shelf at the top of the closet. Darcy stretched up on tiptoes, steadying herself with her right hand against the doorframe and reaching up with her left.
"This is why you keep me around," she said with satisfaction. "Without me you'd know allll about modern science and technology and whatever, and nothing about the socio-political climate of the post-war world. Darcy to the rescue, as usual." She shot him a smile over her arm.
She bent her right leg at the knee, pushing up further on her left, her head tilted up and her dark hair curling and waving wildly down her back, and Steve felt something like déjà vu. Some of the other recruits had kept pictures of pin-up girls in their footlockers; they even painted dames on the noses of airplanes. But there was quite a difference between seeing a painting or photograph of a beautiful girl you didn't know hardly wearing anything, and seeing one you did know right in front of you and still hardly wearing anything. He wanted to tell Darcy that she was beautiful, that her skin shone pale against the dark of the closet, that she would be a perfect artist's model, that she reminded him of Peggy, that she reminded him of home. And he knew he'd never tell her any of those things, because she was Darcy and almost the same age as him but also young enough to be his granddaughter and he didn't want her to think that he thought of her like that or that seeing a beautiful girl could make him so sad.
Because bless her, she just kept talking. "To be honest, the only reason I kept some of these is because I couldn't sell them back. The Mazower is good… I mean, you'll be horrified to read it, but it's informative. Be glad you slept through the Cold War, because that was some scary shit." Darcy stood before him, a box of textbooks in her hands, and looked up at him. "You okay there, Cap? You look a little—" Sad, her brain supplied. Lost. "—out of it."
"I'm fine." Steve made himself smile. He accepted the box, adding the book he'd been holding to its contents. Without thinking he asked, "You ever heard of a fella called Gil Elvgren?"
"You remind me of him."
She was silent for a moment, and Steve felt mildly amazed that he'd managed to make Darcy speechless. Then again, she probably still wasn't all that awake. "Did you just—did Captain America just insult me?" Darcy's voice held a mix of pride, amusement, and incredulity.
He gave her a half-smile, in thanks and goodbye.
As soon as the door was closed, Darcy went to her laptop and looked up ol' whatshisname. Her eyes widened at the search results. "Welp, I don't feel insulted anymore," she announced to her empty apartment; and as she scrolled, a wicked smile began to grow on her face.
It would've been classier to actually mail it, but hand-delivery was classy too, right? So Darcy gave it to Jane, who gave it to Thor, who would get it to Steve.
She suffered a rare moment of self-doubt once the package left her hands. What if he didn't like it? What if he was offended or disappointed or embarrassed? What if he thought she was flirting with him? Yes, okay, everything about him was gorgeous, but he was, in some weird temporal-shifty way, old enough to be her grandpa, so that was a big no. Even if he had been born in her half of the 20th century, Steve just wasn't her type. He was too good.
Eating a post-nap Pop-Tart, Darcy had considered what it must be like for him. If she woke up in the future (where there'd sure as hell better be flying cars), she guessed she'd be sort of freaked out, too. Okay, maybe not as much as he was, since she was awesome with gadgets to begin with, but still. She couldn't imagine waking up and knowing that her family and her friends were all dead. Even New York was different than he remembered it—the whole country was different. She thought that must've been the worst thing for Steve: the nation he knew and loved and fought for was gone, replaced by something he couldn't understand. It was no wonder he looked like a kicked puppy.
Things had changed. That's what they did, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop that. All they could do for Steve now was try to make it easier for him, showing him how to get along in a new world. Darcy didn't buy into nostalgia much, but clearly there were some things from the past that were worth remembering and keeping. Maybe it was time for someone to show Steve that his time hadn't been forgotten.
Once she'd had the idea, the execution was easy. Enlisting help had been the work of minutes, a few calls and e-mails. She'd researched and organized and made notes and appointments with her typical efficacy. The only problem was July.
She'd agonized over July. For anybody else it could be a girl wrapped in a flag or wearing a sexy uniform, but those weren't an option in this case. July seemed like a sacred month, not to be sullied by salacious displays. It was symbolic in a way that couldn't be represented by a girl in her underwear. It needed something proper and subtle, two things Darcy definitely was not. That was why it would mean more if she did it.
At least, that's what she hoped.
"Steve. Steven. Steve Rogers. Steeeeeve Rogers. Rog. Stevie. Steve."
The voice grew steadily louder, echoing down the hallway. Steve didn't bother answering Tony, because he knew that Tony didn't really want an answer and would in fact ignore any he was given. Tony pranced into the cavernous living room, carrying a parcel wrapped in brown paper. It was about a foot square, maybe bigger, and thicker in the middle than at the edges. With a flourish, he presented Steve the package.
"That's what it says, Uncle Sam. Before you ask, I don't know what it is, or where it came from. I am merely the messenger. Well, one of them, at least. Thor just said it was for you."
His name was written in marker on the wrapping; it wasn't anyone's handwriting he recognized. Steve eased the tape from the paper and a CD, labeled in the same marker, slid out. He frowned. "'Swing Revival'?"
"Ah, yes, the '90s. Young people in khaki pants danced to their grandparents' music." Maybe one day Tony would stop making cracks about Steve's generation. More likely, maybe one day Steve would learn to ignore Tony. "I think that rules Thor out as the giver."
There was a piece of paper taped to the back of the plastic case with the names of songs and artists on it; he brightened when he recognized a few of the songs. Steve fumbled it open and Tony pointed to a cabinet by the bar.
"Wait, there's something else here. Don't you want to open it?"
Tony had such a hopeful look on his face that Steve waved permission immediately. "Go 'head. I know how much you like other people's surprises." Tony was ripping through paper even as he chuckled. When Steve managed to get the CD in the right slot, the first track started with peppy saxophones and brass. It would be perfect for dancing, he knew, and he closed his eyes, remembering watching Bucky dance.
Behind him Tony said, "Yowza." His reverie broken, Steve turned to see his friend's eyebrows raised over what seemed to be a calendar. If Stark looked nonplussed, it must be something worth seeing, and Steve felt a shiver of curiosity. His face heated up when he saw the second part of the gift.
The calendar was open to June. A strawberry blonde with her hair in pigtails and a straw hat on her head leaned on a pitchfork, back arched to accentuate her curves. She wore short denim shorts and a red gingham top tied beneath her—well, above her stomach. Behind her was a painted background of milky blue sky over cornfields.
Tony flipped to another month. September featured a redhead in capris and a tight sweater lying on her back, legs in the air. A black rotary dial phone was on the floor beside her and she held the receiver to her ear with a sly smile.
"How come nobody ever sends me girly calendars?" he whined. "Probably because Pep'd kill me if they did. But still."
Every month was a different girl, all in familiar pin-up poses and all wearing something short and/or tight. Steve obviously didn't recognize any of the young ladies, but neither did Tony, so they apparently weren't movie stars or professional models. And there was still no clue who'd sent it.
Tony tore his gaze with some reluctance from April (an umbrella was involved) to appraise Steve. "Somebody sent you new—newish—old music and '40s-style pin-up girls. As far as random surprises go, this one's right up your alley. American as apple pie."
If his voice squeaked, Tony would never let him live it down. "But who'd do all this? And why?"
The calendar opened to July.
"I rescind the previous exclamation in favor of applying it here. Yowza," Tony breathed reverently.
It was the front driver's side of a 1940 Ford coupe. The paint was flawless cherry red, the chrome gleamed, and the tires were white-walled. The girl sitting on the front fender wore a navy halter dress with a pleated skirt. A silver star rested just below her collarbone, hung from a chain around her neck. The pose was easily the most demure of all: she could have been posing for a school portrait, her legs crossed at the knee with her hands resting atop them and sat up straight. Her skin was pale against the dark dress and the bright car, and her hair fell in dark waves, and she smiled and Steve remembered her saying Darcy to the rescue.
"And appropriately patriotic; red, white and blue, and a star for Captain America."
It took a minute for Steve to find his voice. Even then he couldn't manage a complete sentence. "How…?"
"If anyone could find starving artists and girls willing to pose in unnatural ways to help her with something like this, it'd be Darcy."
Stark had to be assuming the tawdriest possibility. Why else would a girl give a guy a calendar that she was in? even if she was the most clothed girl of the year. That had to count for something. He ought to say something, deny that there was anything untoward happening between them, but he wasn't sure Tony would listen, let alone understand that none of it was about beauty or sex or music. So Steve said nothing and thought about Gil Elvgren and how it was possible for two people born 60 years apart to understand each other.
And Tony did conjecture briefly about what Darcy's motives were before moving on to the more important question of if she'd give him the phone numbers of some of the other girls in the calendar, or at least the number of whoever owned that car. Steve decided that meant it was safe to ignore him. He bent to pick up the wrapping Tony had unceremoniously discarded, and a bit of light-colored paper caught his eye. It was the same marker, the same handwriting, and the words filled him with relief and affection and a lightness he hadn't felt in years, and he grinned.
This is to remind you that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
"Hello, Darcy? This is Steve Rogers. Do you know how to jitterbug? Me either, actually. Want to learn together?"