Mono (The Super-Soldier Serum Strand)
Warnings: Captain America, Avengers movies spoilers
"You know it's love when forever is not long enough."-Deana Carter
This is the part of the story that she never tells. Somewhere, in the moments between the train and the HYDRA aircraft, he corners her up against a wall and kisses her, deep and wet and a bit bloody, like the world is ending.
And then he goes and dies, and for her it does, and Peggy Carter starts to count time in terms of A.S. After Steve.
But the cruelty of life is that it goes on; that the world still spins without Captain America and the war still rages, even though it's on its last legs, and so Peggy, always the soldier, has little time to dwell on the impossible underdog she loved and lost.
But then 2 years pass (2 A.S) and the war is suddenly over and Peggy, always the soldier, finds that she has nothing but time to think. So she does, and in doing so, she sheds some light on some things that she'd missed while she was too busy with the war. Like for instance, the fact that she can hold her liquor much better than she ever could. Or the fact that she's more agile these days, even though the progression of age suggests she should be getting less. And perhaps most rattling; when she got shot a year ago in the shoulder, it was supposed to have taken her 3 months to heal, and likely would have scarred her for life.
Peggy had been better in 3 weeks, and her skin is as unblemished as a babe's, no mark in sight.
On their own they would be unremarkable things, but together, and combined with a super serum project? Peggy is, unfortunately, too smart to think that this is all just a coincidence.
But Peggy is also too smart to lay out her suspicions to the government, because she has no desire to live the rest of her life in a lab. And so, instead she buys a plane ticket to New York and turns to the one friend that she knows will try to help her for no price.
Howard, not a butler, opens the door when she knocks and his surprise is quickly chased away by a smile as he ushers her inside, and gives her a hug. Anything romantic that might have existed between them once died when she met Steve, but war makes family out of strangers, and after all they've seen together, Howard is probably her best friend and so she lets herself be drawn into his embrace, and if she sheds a few tears, he's too much of a gentleman to mention it.
After she pulls herself together, she finds herself in one of-what she imagines is-the many sitting rooms that exist in the mansion, drinking tea as Howard sits across from her. He watches her carefully for a moment while she sips her tea, and after she's put the cup down he says, lightly, "As pleased as I am to see you, I have a feeling this was more than a social call."
His insight makes her feel more relaxed-gives her the courage to do something she never would have before-and so without further ado, she pulls a small stiletto out from her boot, and swipes it down the length of her forearm, creating a deep gash.
"What are you-!" Howard exclaims, panicked, and he jumps up, makes to grab for her arm, but he halts when Peggy raises her eyes to his.
"Look," Peggy says quietly, with a calm she doesn't feel, and they both do, his protests turning to a sort of stunned silence as the skin heals in front of their very eyes, the red river of blood sealing itself until her hand is once again smooth and unblemished.
"Tell me everything," he says, quietly, into the silence that follows, sinking shakily down into a chair.
She lays out the story that Howard already knows, and then, after some subtle prompting from Howard, she tells him the parts he didn't.
The parts that are hers.
"He kissed me," Peggy says finally, remembering warm lips and a copper taste, "And his mouth was bleeding."
Howard nods tensely, and turns towards his equipment for a moment, before he turns back with a cheek squab. "Gives us a place to start," he says, voice soft, and Peggy swabs her cheek with hands that tremble, and waits for these machines to tell her fate.
It doesn't take long, which becomes a bit of a mixed blessing when Howard turns to her about an hour later and says, voice strained, "Your cells are…not aging. And they're regenerating at an accelerated rate. Not at the same rate as…Steve's were," and neither of them have the heart to mention his hesitation, "but still greatly accelerated."
And then he continues, science geek beginning to bleed into his careful tone, "I can't be sure, but I think it was a mixture of the blood and the saliva. The serum in the two fluids interacted to form new chemical reaction, and well," he gestures helplessly, "here you are."
"So what does that mean?" She asks when he is finished, and her voice wavers more than she would like, because these are the kind of answers that give many questions but little comfort, "For me?"
"I'll find the answer," Howard promises, enfolding her into his arms, and Peggy nods into the crook of his neck, even as the sense of trepidation builds in her at his tone, just this side of too determined.
She doesn't see this ending well.
It turns out she's right of course, because the next five years are a lesson in obsession gone wrong. Howard plans and builds and schemes, and their lives become tiny submarines and artic expeditions and an expanding pile of stuff recovered that gets them nowhere. And Peggy appreciates this, she really does, but it's been five years and they've gotten nowhere, except perhaps in building a Captain America Museum, which is frankly creepier than anything else, and Peggy, can't take five more years of this. Steve never would have wanted them to do this-to fixate on the past like this and ignore the future-and although Peggy perhaps has all of the time in the world Howard doesn't, and this obsession is keeping him from living his life.
And so, heart heavy but mind made up, Peggy heads to the office where Howard is, poring over maps of the Artic, and makes a decision for both of their futures. Rolls up the map and takes his hand, waits until he's looking at her and if she'd had any reservations left, the haunted look in his eyes confirm that she's doing the right thing.
"Stop." She says finally, calmly, and that's all she needs to say. Just stop.
"It's been five years," Howard says quietly, his voice so very tired, "And you haven't aged a day."
"I know," she says, because she does and it's terrifying, but this can't go on, "But we're never going to find him, and he wouldn't have wanted us to spend the rest of our lives looking."
"I don't…" Howard starts, trailing off, and Peggy hears everything he can't say-I don't know how to stop, I don't want to give up on Steve.
"We have to try," she says gently, trying out the words in her own mouth, because she doesn't want to stop either, she simply knows they must, "For him and for us."
"Alright." Howard says, holding her hand in a vice grip, voice small, and Peggy grips back just as tight, "alright."
And so they do.
Peggy travels after that, no destination in mind, just a desire to see the world that they all fought for, and see the people who exist in it.
The world Steve died for.
She tries not to dwell on that last part.
She fails, but at least she's trying.
And so she says her goodbye's to Howard, who's decided to put his relentless energy into building an Empire, and she buys a ticket to London and sets out to explore a Europe still rebuilding itself after the war. London, dull and dreary but still bustling and alive, to Ireland, green and beautiful but beginning to show signs of civil unrest, to Italy, beautiful seaside vistas and people she once fought against, trying to find themselves again as a nation.
Then, of course, there are the people that she meets.
There is a waiter, blonde and gorgeous in Paris that tempts her, but Peggy doesn't do anything more than smile at him as she sips her espresso. It isn't Steve-not really, because he never would have wanted her to be alone for the rest of her life, though it does play a significant role. Rather, it's more that Howard has no answers to whether or not kissing others will make them like her, and Peggy can't take that risk for something as meaningless as a kiss with an attractive stranger.
She ignores the little voice that says that if it was a kiss with Steve, she'd damn the whole world.
But there are others-a family in Wales that lets her stay with them and refuses her money, despite being so poor themselves, a young couple in Morocco, so in love that when they ask Peggy to take their picture, she can't help but say yes.
There is a woman she tours around Scotland with for a few weeks-Latino descent, gorgeous, no nonsense, and the exact opposite of the brainless twits Howard dates.
Her name is Maria.
Peggy feels only a sense of satisfaction when she convinces Maria to come back to America with her and when she uses her spying skills to set them up together, Howard's jaw drops almost comically.
Maria only smiles, charmed but not sold yet, and Peggy knows they're going to be great together.
This time when she leaves, it's with the knowledge that he's in good hands.
And so then it's more traveling-the icy coldness of Russia to the warm heat of the Australian outback, to Cape Town, where Peggy picks up surfing. And so time passes-months bleed into years, the passage of time only evident in calendars and clocks-Peggy's face stays stubbornly the same, and Peggy slowly begins to accept that this is the way of things now, after Steve.
It's in Cape Town that Peggy calls Howard and finally something changes, as she asks, "How are you and Maria doing?"
"I asked her to marry me," Howard says, and the joy in his voice, so clear even through their poor phone connection makes Peggy's heart sing, "She said yes."
Peggy buys a ticket back the next day, and is the maid of honor.
Obadiah Stane is the best man.
Needless to say they do not 'hook up', though it isn't for a lack of trying on Stane's part.
Peggy has never seen what Howard sees in Stane-he's a brilliant businessman, this is true, but there's something in his eyes-something cold and too calculating-that just doesn't sit right with Peggy. Still, he's one of Howard's closet friends-herself excluded-and most trusted business associates, and so Peggy bites her tongue and watches Howard and Maria beam, refusing to spoil a moment of happiness on this day for them.
Years later, when she hears what Stane did to Tony, she will regret this decision bitterly, as well as the missed opportunity to put a bullet through Stane's overly shiny head, but this is hindsight, and for the moment everything is alright in Peggy's world.
"You could stay," Howard says as they dance together at the reception, and Maria takes a turn with the little ring boy, a business associate's son who is terribly adorable in his little tux.
"I know," Peggy says after a moment, because she does-Howard is her best friend and he's never sent her away-it's Peggy who just can't stay still, "I just can't yet."
Howard nods like he was expecting that, and Peggy supposes that he knows her well enough to have, as he says, voice soft, "There will always be a place for you here."
Neither of them point out that one day Howard will age and die and Peggy will not, and on that day what he's said will be a lie.
Peggy appreciates the sentiment anyways.
And so, after goodbyes to Howard and Maria, Peggy is off again, this time to Egypt, to marvel at the pyramids and then Peru to explore the ruins of Machu Picchu and to Canada, to stare at one of nature's greatest wonders.
It's in Russia, though, where she comes across a dead man, sitting in a little café in Moscow.
"You're supposed to be dead," she says, to James "Bucky" Barnes instead of hello as she stares at him in disbelief and she watches him set down his coffee and stare at her in return.
"You're supposed to be older," he parries back, without losing a beat, and gestures with his hand for her to sit down which she does, taking her weight off unsteady legs because he isn't a day older then the last time she saw him.
Right before he fell of a train and down a cliff and died.
There's a moment where neither one of them say anything, just absorb the magnitude of this meeting –that they're both like this, ageless and, if Bucky is any proof, very hard to kill, before Peggy, uncomfortable in the silence, finally blurts, "Howard thinks it's a chemical reaction with the serum-blood and saliva."
Bucky nods once, unsurprised before he states, "He kissed you, I take it." And Peggy nods once, and tries to bite back the inevitable question. She fails though, because curiosity is one of the things that made her a good agent, and so she straightens up, gathers her nerve and asks, "How'd you…?"
"CPR." Bucky says, a rueful twist to his mouth that indicates he's fully aware of what she was asking, "His mouth was bleeding."
"I still find myself looking over my shoulder for him," Bucky says after another moment of silence, an allowance that Peggy knows costs him to share with her, and so she can't do anything but respond in kind with the truth, as she says, voice terribly quiet and sad, "Me too."
They say nothing else, just sit there and sip their coffee, two ageless people waiting for a friend who will never come.
And life goes on.
After Peggy and Bucky part ways in Moscow-and there's a story there, but it basically boils down to the fact that she has enough ghosts of her own-Peggy decides to give South America another try, and hits up Brazil for Carnival, Argentina to see Evita's tomb and the Falkland Island's to get a taste of home.
She's thinking about maybe trying Chile next, when the phone call comes in from Howard.
"Peggy!" he says, breathless and excited, "Peggy I'm going to be a father!"
"I'll be on the next plane back," Peggy answers, Chile forgotten, and it's with a light heart that she heads back to America, because in a life that never changes, a baby is a special miracle indeed.
Peggy stays with them for the remaining months of the pregnancy; the best friend and the honorary aunt, helping out as much as she can-ice cream runs at 2:00 am and baby booties and helping Howard and Maria paint the nursery. Maria is cool calm and radiant, a glorious force, even through delivery.
Howard is a nervous, anxious, fainting wreck.
Peggy and Maria both laugh at him when he wakes up.
They name the boy Anthony Edward Stark, and Peggy falls in love for the second time in her life.
"We were hoping that you'd be his godmother," Howard says as they both stand and stare at little Tony as he rests in the maternity ward with all the other little babies, and Peggy decides Tony is the most beautiful of all of them.
"I'll look after him for you the best I can, Howard" Peggy promises, watching in fascination as Tony sniffs in his sleep, "Even if it's not specifically…me," she finishes, because even though Margaret Carter will have to die of something and Peggy will have to live on as someone else, she'll do her best to be there for Tony.
And so the years pass, and Peggy keeps her promise, spending more time with Howard and Maria and Tony and less time travelling. She still can't bear to spend all of her time there-with them Peggy has to be someone she isn't, someone older, and the make-up that she wears is constrictive and makes her feel trapped, and so the time when she travels is a welcome break to just be herself around strangers who don't know any better.
But Tony frankly makes it all worth it-he's adorable-sweet and curious and so bright.
He is also so the biggest, most precocious trouble maker she has ever seen.
The robots he builds are worth the fact that west wing of the mansion is now missing a wall or two in her opinion.
The maids hold a grudge though.
And so more time passes, and Tony grows up, evolves from the brilliant little boy she'd known into the brilliant, slightly manic and sullen teenager she is getting used to, and it is during one of her visits to Howard and Maria's while Tony is at MIT-something that as a godmother makes her unbearably proud-that Howard shapes her future for her, with a computer screen and that brain that built him his Empire.
"You're sister just had a child," Howard announces, a king in front of all of his computer monitors, and Peggy smiles indulgently at him before she says dryly, "I'm an only child, Howard."
"Not anymore," Howard announces with the flourish he used to have when he was young, gesturing at some files that pop up on the screen, "Now you have a sister, and a niece named Sharon.
And then, just as Peggy is beginning to get it, he smiles and spells it out for her, that hint of mischief that he only shows to her and Maria gleaming in his eyes, "I predict she's going to look a lot like you."
Peggy brushes a kiss over his hair, now gun-metal grey and silver with age in thanks, and tries not to think about the day when she won't be able to do that anymore.
Cover for the future in place, there then comes the time when she free-lances for a while-private work because Margaret Carter is a middle aged woman and Peggy doesn't appear a day over 28-but it's good work, and Peggy's missed being a spy. The Cold War drags on her heart though, because she'd been in a war with good men who had been Soviets, and to spy against them is a hard thing.
Still Peggy is a solider at heart, and she goes where the war is.
It leads her inevitably back to Howard and Tony.
Because if Peggy is a soldier at heart then Howard is an inventor at heart, and Peggy doesn't realize this was a problem until she comes back and really watches Howard and his family.
Because he loves them, this Peggy has never doubted, but he's Howard-who forgets to eat while in his shop, and spends 20 hours a day working and pushes his son to succeed but forgets to say I love you. Back in the war Howard almost killed the barracks dog, a mutt that had wandered into camp and had been adopted by the men, because he'd gotten so caught up in his work he hadn't feed it for a week and had left it locked in its cage.
The dog had eventually forgiven him.
Looking at Tony's face, Peggy isn't sure if he ever will, and it makes her want to shake Howard.
Stop, she wants to say again, just stop for a moment and tell your son you love him. He can't see what I see, and if you never tell him he'll never believe it.
But she never does, and then Howard and Maria Stark die, and Peggy's heart, already so broken breaks a little more as she holds Tony's hand at their funeral, 17; a boy trying so hard to be a man, who never saw how much his father loved him.
This, even more so than Stane, is probably Peggy's greatest regret.
That, and not being able to call Howard, who no matter what he was doing, always took her call. This-standing over the coffin of her closet friend-is the first time Peggy curses her agelessness.
It is not the last.
But then times passes, years drag by into a decade, and Peggy watches as Tony Stark spirals out of control, and she tries to keep her promise-tries to be there for him but it's so hard, with Obadiah's sharp eyes on her and even Tony himself, too smart for his own good and Peggy has to stay away more than she would like, because make-up can only do so much to hide the fact that she's far too young, and Peggy loves Tony but she can't become a government lab rat for anyone.
And it gets close, close to the time when Peggy can start being Sharon without suspicion-Howard's hacking skills outlasted Howard himself, and Peggy never knows how to feel about that-but Peggy doesn't want to go without leaving Tony, who has lost so much already, with someone. Tony has only one real friend, a pseudo father-figure in Obadiah-a mixed blessing if ever there was one-and plows through PA's like a jackhammer, but he needs someone to run his life and so Peggy searches for one that might last; someone smart, stubborn, someone who will care for him but who won't take any of Tony's crap.
A Maria, to his Howard.
And so Peggy looks, and looks and looks, and is right about to rip out her hair in frustration when she comes across one Virginia Potts, mid-level accountant at Stark Industries, who just feels right-like Maria did all those years ago. And so Peggy, still a spy at heart, puts a plan in motion for operation "A Problem Like Maria" and what? She thought that was clever.
After the next meeting, Peggy gets a call from Tony who informs her in his typical round-about way that he's hired a PA who corrected his math, is gorgeous but doesn't want to sleep with him and how exactly does one deal with women like this?
Peggy just smiles, and considers it a job well done, because Tony doesn't make mistakes with his math. But Tony did leave that particular spread sheet out when his favorite godmother came to visit, and hey, that was obviously a miscalculation, so it all works out.
"Pepper" Potts-renamed by Tony; something Peggy finds absolutely adorable and tremendously telling-ends up working out better than anything Peggy could have ever dreamed and so, it's with a lighter heart that six months later Peggy Carter, former Agent of the Strategic Scientific Reserve dies in a one manned plane crash out at sea at the age of 86. Her body is never found, and Tony Stark, 27 but still so young, is a pallbearer at her funeral, carrying an empty coffin.
She attends, of course, as Sharon Carter, daughter of the deceased sister Peggy never had and Peggy's only living relative. Her hair is blonde and styled to make her look as young as she can, and she says very little to anyone; disguises her silence as grief and hides her too familiar face under a black hat.
"I'm sorry we couldn't find your aunt's body," Tony says when he comes up to her at the funeral, and Peggy hides her face further as he continues, "I'll keep looking." And his eyes are sad and his tone is one that Peggy is only too familiar with-it's Howard's, when they were starting their mad search for Steve, and she knows that unless she says something, Tony will never stop searching for a body that is not there.
And so she puts her hand on his arm; not the move she really wants to make - to pull his head into her neck and tell him it will all be alright – but all she can give to him as Sharon and says quietly, "My aunt loved you very much. She wouldn't want you to waste your life looking for her; she'd want you to live your own life."
He looks like he's going to disagree, the expression on his face all Howard's determination and Maria's empathy, and so Peggy pulls out the one thing that worked in the past, all those years ago. "Please," she says quietly, and nods towards the empty coffin, "For her."
"You look a lot like her," Tony says and for all that it's a subject change Peggy also knows that it's a concession, and so although she hates to do this to him-the man who has lost so much already-she is glad that now perhaps he'll be able to move on and live his life, like Howard did.
But she can't say that to Tony, and so instead she settles for the entirely insufficient, "I get that a lot," and it's a lie, but it's a kind one and it'll soon be a truth, and so she thinks that maybe it's alright.
It's not really, but it's getting there.
One year later Sharon Carter, blonde, niece of one former Agent Peggy Carter joins SHIELD on her "20th" birthday.
The year is 2002 (59 A.S) and Peggy is 87.
SHIELD isn't privy to that last part.
But Peggy is a good Agent; she's been a spy in one manner or another for longer than most people have been alive after all, and so she moves up through the ranks; destroys dictatorships and corrupt regimes and criminal organizations and builds a reputation for being bad luck to anyone who would cross her.
They call her Agent 13.
Peggy wears it with pride.
It's though this, being Agent 13, that she meets Agent Phil Coulson.
She likes him immediately; he's professional, competent, entirely badass, and surprisingly funny. He coordinates and handles several of her missions, and after a few months working with him, Peggy's decided that he's basically the perfect agent.
He also has the most massive man-crush on Captain America Peggy has ever seen.
Peggy think's its adorable.
"My aunt was Peggy Carter," she says to him once, when they've got a free moment in some country that ends in -stan, and he simply nods because he already knows that; Howard's hacking skills were flawless and so all of S.H.I.E.L.D knows her 'family history.' When she sees he isn't going to ask, she smiles and continues, "She told me all her stories about Captain America. I could tell you some of them, if you wanted to hear them."
Coulson nods so hard Peggy's almost afraid he's going to get whiplash.
And so it becomes their thing; whenever Peggy and Coulson have some down time she tells him one of her 'Aunt's' stories, and he brings coffee or beer and listens, an entirely rapt audience. For his birthday, she gets him the last vintage Captain America trading card he needs for his collection, and his boyish smile is so bright it could light up the sun.
She's not interested in him, at least not romantically, even if she could have relationships without fear of turning them into people like her, but the life of a spy is a lonely one, especially for ones who have clearance levels like they do, and after Howard's death, he's probably her best friend.
For once, everything in Peggy's life is comfortable.
And then, in 2011 (68 A.S) they find Captain America, alive, in an ice chunk, and Peggy's world tips drastically out of balance.
Coulson of course is the one to break the news to her, because Coulson is heading up the op, and has the highest clearance of anyone but Fury. He tells her gently, because in his mind this is the man her 'aunt' was in love with, and his kindness is appreciated, but so insufficient, because this is the man she is in love with-the man she mourned for 68 years, now alive.
This is Steve, alive.
"Don't tell him about me," she asks him when he finally finishes, and at his quizzical look, Peggy manages a shaky, "It would hurt, I think, to see my face."
It's a lie, and she thinks even Coulson can see it, but he doesn't call her own it, and she's impossibly grateful for it.
The truth is both simpler and more complex than that.
She stopped looking for him.
She marched into Howard's office and told him to stop, when all this time Steve was alive and needed to be rescued.
She gave up on him, and she's not sure how to apologize for giving up on the man that never gave up on anyone.
Not sure if she even wants forgiveness.
And so Peggy avoids him-takes an op across the world and stays out of his line of sight. Not forever, she promises herself, but long enough that she can come up with some way to explain what she did-why what she did was necessary.
She has the time.
And then Loki attacks and the Avengers assemble, and Peggy regrets that decision quite a lot.
It takes her a while to get back, but she's on the helicarrier when a compromised Barton strikes, and it's by sheer dumb luck that, in her quest to avoid Steve and neutralize the threat, she comes across a near dead Phil Coulson.
"Phil…" she says, trailing off, because Phil might appear like a superhuman agent, but he's just a man, and he can't survive this, his eyes already going glassy and drowsy from blood loss.
And it's in that moment that Peggy comes to a decision, because Peggy couldn't save Howard, but she might be able to save Phil, and she has to try.
Peggy can't lose another best friend.
"Sharon," he says confusedly, as she leans forward, and this is the first time he has ever said her name, "Sharon what…?"
"I'm about to do something stupid," she says quietly, as she leans in further, and prays, "And if it works, you are absolutely free to hate me afterwards."
And then she kisses him, and her mouth is bleeding.
When she draws back he stares at her, entirely bewildered, but before Peggy can even begin to try and explain she hears boots on the floor heading towards them and if this works she can't be the person they find around him and so with an apologetic look and a hopeful prayer heavenward she turns and runs.
Then of course there is the Battle of Manhattan, and Peggy is a little busy directing agents and avoiding Steve and trying to make sure that the Council doesn't nuke a couple million civilians, and so it isn't until after, when the day is saved and the dust has settled that she hears word on Coulson. But even when she hears they called it, she doesn't despair quite yet, because Peggy is a spy who knows how Fury thinks-just because the Avengers needed someone to avenge doesn't automatically mean death-and 'Sharon' has clearance high enough to know where all of the bodies are buried, and so she makes her way to the medical bay that 4-possibly 3, depending on what she finds-non-medical living personal knows exists.
It turns out its still 4.
"Heard you were dead," she says in greeting to the still very much alive Agent Coulson as she takes stock of him-attached to a few machines, but not as many as he should given his injury, which could be a mixed blessing, all things considered.
Coulson gives her a long look before he has, voice casual, "Apparently I was. And then three minutes later my heart started itself again." And then, with a look of particularly clever intent, though his voice stays entirely bland, because SHIELD has cameras everywhere, "The lab techs have run my blood about a hundred times, but it comes up clean. Apparently it's just a miracle."
"Ah," she quietly, her mind whirling because if his blood is clean that means he won't be like her and Bucky and most probably Steve. "That's good," she says finally, and it is, because agelessness can be a curse as much as it is a gift.
Bucky-the Winter Soldier to SHIELD because Peggy understands him too much to ever rat him out to the agency-is proof enough of that, of how dangerous living forever can be.
Coulson, who has always been good at reading between the lines, relaxes at her answer, and for a moment there is a comfortable silence.
"Fury got blood on your Captain America cards," she says, for lack of anything better to break the silence, "But I imagine you could still get Ste-" and she manages to hid her wince at her slip, "Captain America to sign them for you."
"Perhaps you could sign one as well, Agent Carter," he says, his voice entirely bland as he says her old title-the one that SHIELD has never called her, but his eyes are kind and Peggy knows that that this is his way of saying, 'I know who you are and thank you for saving me; it's ok.'
"Perhaps I could," she says, and the relief in her tone is obvious. And then she smiles, leans forward and takes his hand and says, "Let me tell you a story, about a very good, very brave young man and the woman who fell in love with him."
He lies back and listens.
It's after visiting Coulson-after the visceral reminder that life, even for people like her is finite-that Peggy decides that she's put off visiting Steve for too long.
And so she takes a few personal days, gather her courage and dyes her hair back to brown, because if she's going to do this she's going to do it as herself, and not Sharon, and sets out to find Steve.
The Avengers have dissembled and gone their own ways to the various edges of the earth, but Peggy knows where Steve will be.
And she's right of course, because even with the whole world is his oyster-Tony would have flown him anywhere, something that makes Peggy so proud of him-but Steve goes back to Brooklyn.
This is one of the reasons she loves him.
She finds him, like she did all those years ago, in an abandoned bar. This one is closed because of damage it took in the Battle of Manhattan, and it's a bar that would have been open when Steve was a teenager before the war, and Peggy imagines that Steve is here to mourn as much as he is here to rebuild.
His back is too her when she enters, and he's so absorbed in whatever he's doing that not even his super-solider senses alert him to her arrival, and so Peggy takes one moment just to drink the sight of him in, after so many years without seeing him.
She won't go another 70 without him, this she swears.
"Hello Steve," she says to get his attention, and at the sound he startles, turns towards her and then, as he sets his eyes on her his entire frame stiffens and he freezes, the polite greeting that she knows was going to be coming dying on his lips.
"Peggy..." he says instead, voice trailing off to nothing, and his skin pales alarmingly, his face going slack with shock at the sight of her, and the look in his eyes is so fragile that Peggy hurts for him.
But as much as the look hurts, it also soothes her nerves, because no one hurts that way if they didn't love first, and so it's with a lighter heart that Peggy says, voice kind and teasing, "You know, you broke our date. But I guess you had a good reason, so I can probably forgive you."
"How…you can't…It's been 70 years! The records said you died!" Steve manages, still frozen across the room, and his gaze is disbelieving, like he thinks she's a figment of his imagination-which, frankly, is actually probably more likely than the truth, especially given the week they've had.
"Funny thing about that serum," she says ruefully, speaking softly so as not to spook him, "Turns out that fluid transfer involving blood and saliva have some unexpected side-effects."
And then, to lighten the mood she says wryly, as an afterthought, "Guess we're lucky you're not Tony Stark, otherwise there'd be an army of ageless, and probably angry, women out there."
"I never meant…" Steve trails of, an aghast look on his face, and his chivalrous instincts overwhelm his sense of shock as he takes a few steps closer, a look of helpless apology in his eyes.
"I know," she says, voice leaving no room for doubt, because of all of the things she's thought, the idea that Steve, who dove on top of a grenade he'd thought was live to spare others, had done this on purpose, was never one of them.
And then she continues, just to make sure that he doesn't blame himself for this, "Can I tell you a secret? I'm glad you did," and she smiles, her voice revealing nothing but truth, because everything she's been through was worth it for this, "Otherwise I never would have had this moment with you."
"I love you," he says, a bit helplessly, taking another step towards her, and Peggy drinks him in, how for all the golden perfection he's still just the boy with the big heart from Brooklyn that she fell in love with.
And although there are other things that need to be said-Bucky, for one, and all of the emotions that come with finding out that your best friend ended up working for the bad guys-Peggy decides that the only thing that really matter now-the only thing that can't wait, is making sure Steve knows how she feels.
"I love you too," she says simply, and takes that final step towards him, curls her palm around his cheek, tilts her head up invitingly and says, teasingly, "Now I've been waiting 70 years for you soldier, so are you going to make a move or not?"
He pulls her in and kisses her with everything he is-kisses her like he's afraid she going to disappear, and Peggy smiles even as she kisses him back, because she knows that they've got all the time in the world.
The year is 70 A.S, and everything is right with Peggy Carter's world.
A/N: Yeah, so this fic was born off of two comic canon facts-one, that Bucky Barnes lives to become the ageless Winter Solider (a bad guy Soviet Russian Spy who later becomes a good guy-comics are complicated!) and that Sharon Carter (Agent 13) is the basically identical niece of Peggy Carter. And so my brain went, Peggy is actually Sharon Carter because she doesn't age like Bucky, and then this just…happened. IDEK, let's just say that Steve deserves a happy ending and Peggy is BAMF, and so is Coulson, and this is the story where all that happens. Because reasons guys! Also, the title is in reference to the disease Infectious mononucleosis (mono) which is often called the kissing disease because it is spread through saliva-hence, kissing. Also, the Avengers ate my brain-all hail Joss! That said, enjoy, and reviews and constructive criticism are welcome.