A few warnings before you read the story
1) Everyone's a bit out of character. Mostly Peggy, but Steve less notably so. I did this on purpose to make the story interesting and unique. (Hopefully, at least)
2) This takes place in an alternate universe of sorts.
3) I'm really terrible at British slang. I apologize in advance...
That being said, it would be great if you would still read and overlook those certain aspects. Please? :D
The doctors had warned her to stay away from the scrapbooks.
"Keep your brain sharp," they had told her "Do some crossword puzzles, watch TV. Focus on the present, Miss Carter. Thinking about the past won't bring it back."
And so they had yanked the books from her wrinkled hands and closed them, shoving them away in that shoebox they tried to call a closet.
Needless to say, she hadn't listened. The minute they had left her room she had scrambled (or waddled, if she was being honest with herself) to the closet and snatched them back, pulling them close to her chest. They didn't leave her grip for hours.
At nightfall she finally allowed herself to peek inside. She turned the cover, running her fingers across the worn edges. She inhaled, happy that they still smelled like paper and old glue instead of piss and death like the rest of the home.
She wished that she still owned her old Polaroid. It had been a gift from her father, one of the few times she had seen him smile.
It was going to be a long night.
She squinted to get a better look at the background of the first shot, frowning when she realized it was beginning to fade. She let herself breathe again when she found that she could still make out the yellowing figure.
It was the first picture she had taken of him, a quick snapshot of the handsome soldier from behind. He had become a popular topic among the women at the camp almost instantly. She had been walking with a few other women when they had spotted him walking by himself, looking tired and a little confused. She had giggled, very girlishly, now that she thought about it, and snapped the picture.
"Watch this," she breathed between fits of laughter as the others squealed. She jogged up to him and stuck her hands out in front of her, lips stretched into an overly-confident smile.
"Hello, my name's Peggy Carter."
She closed her eyes, wondering if she was imagining the sudden silence. She was grateful for it either way. Her fingers fumbled until she was able to successfully flip to the right page.
Steve had finally warmed up to her after a few weeks of coercion. She found that he wasn't an elegant man, but he was even more handsome up close.
It was obvious that Steve fancied her. The constant blush in his cheeks, the way he tripped over his words in front of her, it gave her this tremendous, indescribable feeling, one she hadn't even known existed. Captain America was making a fool out of himself because of her. She had never had anyone important fancy her before. Or anyone, for that matter.
They had been sitting together at the edge of camp. She had just splurged on a new roll of film, taking pictures of everything in sight; trees, strangers, her own feet. It was incredibly wasteful, considering the times, but she hadn't cared. Steve sat next to her, furiously scribbling in his sketchbook.
It was a rare, but beautiful memory.
She had allowed for a small smile as she gently picked up the camera from beside her and peeked through the lens, trying to capture that special look of concentration on Steve's face. She settled her fingertip on the button, about to push down when she realized that Steve was actually biting his lip. She tried to stop the approaching torrent of laughter, but it evolved into a snort that escaped from her nostrils. Steve's head snapped up, concentration broken.
"Peggy Carter!" He playfully lunged for the camera as she squealed and quickly snapped the picture. He plucked the camera from her hands, tutting in mock disapproval.
"You're lucky I'm a merciful man, Peggy. You have no idea what you just got yourself into."
She laughed, knowing his threats were empty and grabbed for the photo as it shot out of the camera. Steve held her back effortlessly as he studied the picture before handing it back to her with a sheepish grin.
"Oh, look what you did," she pouted "You had the best expression, and you had to go and ruin it."
He scooted next to her to get a better look at the snapshot. The image was blurred from all of the movement, and only about half of Steve's face had actually made it into the frame, the ends of his hair floating in the sudden rush of air. He was grinning; his visible eye slightly squinted, little creases gathering around the corners that she had never noticed before.
Steve smiled again, but she recognized that it wasn't quite as magnificent as the one she had captured in the photo.
"I have to disagree with you on that one," he said softly "This is one of a kind, could be worth something someday. Maybe I should sign it."
"Don't get cocky."
"Me? Cocky?" he grinned, speaking in feigned disbelief "Peggy Carter, it's like you don't even know me at all."
She turned a few more of the stiffened pages until their gazes met again. He was in his Captain America uniform, she could tell it was one of the first times he had worn it, the suit not yet modified. It hadn't yet been soaked in the blood of friend and foe, and Steve's eyes, while still haunted, didn't have that empty look that had become so ordinary in the end. The look she had grown used to. She knew now that it was a crime, what they had done to those eyes.
"-feel ridiculous wearing this, and I would appreciate it if you would stop with the photo shoot, Peggy," She frowned as the picture began to develop. She was hoping this one would turn out a little…sexier, but Steve's mouth was hanging open. She sighed, stuffing the picture into her pocket.
"My God, they're never going to let me live this down if they find out back home," he groaned.
"Don't be silly," she muttered "You look very…patriotic."
"Can you imagine me going into battle like this?" he grumbled "As if it wasn't bad enough that it looks like I just got crapped on by the American flag, but the tights?" She chuckled, watching as he paced around the room, his hands running through his hair. He had been doing this lately when he became particularly agitated. There was a sudden barrage of rambling and cursing until he would eventually wind down again. It was strange, seeing him act generally so…un-Steve.
"You're Captain America," she turned, setting the camera down on the floor "You've got to look the part, too. Don't you think so?" She shifted back to face him and realized that he had snuck up beside her when she nearly collided with his chest. He pulled her into an embrace, tighter than she would have preferred, resting his chin on the top of her head.
"I'm scared, Peggy," he said faintly. "I'm really, really scared."
She was suddenly reminded of another man. He was more of a boy, really. She hadn't known him, their lives had intercepted for only a moment before his life and body and entire being had been remodeled right before her eyes. She had tried to forget that man, tried to pretend that he didn't exist, that he had never existed. And that wasn't a bad thing, that didn't make her a terrible person. Because everyone else was doing it too.
"You probably think that's silly," Steve's words were naked. They stood in front of her, waiting for a reaction. For acknowledgement. It never came.
There was a pause as he slowly swayed, as if there was a record playing in the background. They were both aware that they danced together in a moment of awkward, suspended silence. He stopped abruptly, holding her against him while she desperately longed to pull away. She tried to pretend that he wasn't shaking.
He finally let go, hands trailing from her shoulders to her arms, not quite ready for her to leave his touch. Her gaze fell as she pulled from his grasp, silently crossing the room to retrieve her camera. As she knelt, she thought she heard a sound. A sound so low she told herself she had imagined it. But she knew, now, at least, that she hadn't.
She knew now that a part of him had wanted her to listen, but she hadn't. Instead she gave a small glance behind her before walking out the door. That old memory, this new revelation, it tore her apart.
Because Steve had been waiting for her all along. He needed someone to confide in, something he could cry with, a friend. She knew, if not all along, at least in the end. And she had closed the door behind her.
"I really want to love you,"
It was the last picture she had taken of him.
She had cried. She had mourned. And she had never forgiven herself.
She flipped the page, desperate to escape the sudden bombardment of memories and emotions and just pure guilt. She found solace in pictures of her car, her house, two little girls grinning through cat-eyed glasses.
She turned to the last page. Most of the pictures were easy to overlook; trees, flowers, rugged-looking soldiers, but one near the edge of the page caught her eye. There was a woman wrapped under each arm, both of them pretty and sweet and young as they smiled at the camera. Her hair was still fluffy and dark, spilling over the shoulders of her uniform, her rouge-coated lips opened in what could have been a laugh but looked more like a grimace. She remembered he had snatched the camera from her, snapping the picture before she could really protest. He handed it back to her with the same sheepish grin.
"Peggy Carter, forever young, forever beautiful, and forever a riot," She looked at the other women out of the corner of her eye and chuckled.
"Maybe I ought to keep you around, Rogers."
She noticed her gaze was focused on something out of the view of the camera. She focused on those eyes, Steve had told her once that they were rich and warm and beautiful, but she realized now that he had been lying. They were vacant. Always the center of attention. Always in the spotlight.
What a pathetic girl.
So...I really don't know where this one came from. I hope the plot elements I skirted over weren't too distracting. D: I've got to say, I'm a little nervous about posting this... Anyway, reviews are nice. You should do that.