Coulson's funeral was actually a memorial for all the deaths of SHIELD agents that had occurred during what was now called the Battle of Manhattan. Still, most saw it solely as Coulson's funeral, as he was the most well-known agent who had been killed.
She sat there, in a front pew on the right side of the aisle. Next to her was Agent Sitwell, and Agent Hill next to him.
"How are you doing?" asked Agent Sitwell politely.
"Quite well, thank you," Peggy responded. She really didn't feel like talking.
Was it just two weeks ago that Coulson was sitting in her kitchen, eating pie, and happily talking about his success in collecting all his vintage cards?
"You know the Avengers will be here as guests of honor? Minus Thor, of course."
"Yes. Apparently Agents Barton and Romanoff will be there as well although technically they aren't Avengers; they're SHIELD," answered.
"Well, I'm sure they are considered Avengers now, and they deserve to have that recognition," Peggy replied.
As if on cue, the Avengers walked solemnly in.
There was Natasha, dark and silent. Peggy had mixed feelings about her. Natasha carried herself with utmost grace and deadly charm, but Peggy could not bring herself to trust her, really; even if Natasha was a SHIELD agent.
Clint Barton followed her, with his ever-grim countenance and dry, sarcastic disposition. Goodness, Coulson's death had affected her. Couldn't she see the good side of anyone?
The Hulk person came in after. She couldn't remember his name, although he had caused quite a ruckus a few years ago in Harlem. And in Rio de Janeiro some months before that. And several events throughout the years before that. SHIELD spent a lot of effort and time on this bloke.
Tony Stark walked in, but not with his usual saunter. He was very grave, making her wonder about his connection with Coulson.
And then there he was. Not a day older. Not a mark different. Nothing about him was different except for a certain oldness and sagacity in his eyes.
She realized that she had never felt sorrier for anyone before. She could imagine that being here was culture shock to the extreme to him. Historical events had occurred without him. All his friends were gone, but it would break him to see her and how she was now. It was the blunt truth. His only living friend was old. Old, changed, and different.
The funeral service went rather smoothly. There were several awkward moments where people who were least expected to cry burst into tears, but those people were understood, comforted, and the moments passed.
She went around to say hello to people after the funeral. Somehow, she found herself looking up at Steve.
"Hello," he greeted.
"Hello," she smiled back and braced herself for whatever could come next.
"I'm Steve Rogers, ma'am, pleasure to meet you."
How could she have braced herself for this? It should've been seen coming, really.
He didn't recognize her.
It should not have been a shock, but there she was, not able to move.
She found her voice.
"Pleasure to meet you as well."
"And you are…?"
Please stop. It hurts.
"Did you know Phil very well?" she asked, pretending not to hear his question.
"Unfortunately, no. But I understand he was a great man." She nodded.
There was a pause.
"He was a huge fan."
"Yes. I just wish I could've done more. For him. Like a real hero."
She shook her head.
"You are a real hero. You will always be a real hero. You have saved so much and sacrificed so much. You're the truest hero I've ever heard of."
He looked at her strangely. There was something about her that made him feel odd.
"I'm going to put these flowers next to his casket," said Peggy.
"Okay. Well, the other guys are going to go." He gestured out the open church doors through which Peggy could see the other Avengers heading towards a black SHIELD car.
They parted formally, and she watched him walk away. The tears that streamed down her wrinkled face fell onto Coulson's casket as she gently placed the carnations down.
Steve was about to step into the car, but then stopped and looked back at the church.
"You okay?" asked Clint from the driver's seat.
"Yeah, I'm fine, I just…" he trailed off. There was something so different about the elderly lady he had just met. That strength at that old age. The way she talked as if she knew him so well. Something so unreachable, yet so familiar.
"You gonna get in, Cap?"
There was something about her that just clicked. Maybe it was the British accent.
"I'm fine with going without you. I have a SHIELD meeting at 8 o'clock sharp."
"8 o'clock on the dot. Don't you dare be late." It rang in his head like a bell.
That British accent.
"Where are you going? Did you forget something?"
Steve was running back to the church.
An old lady whom the two SHIELD agents recognized as Agent Carter was just stepping out of the building. Steve met up with her.
"No," said Natasha quietly. "I think he remembered something."
The next day, Peggy Carter found Steve holding a dozen roses on her doorstep.
She invited him in, and they had tea. They talked of old friends, past times, present times, and times to come.
A year later, Steve again brought a dozen roses to Peggy, but this time it was to her grave.
"Thank you, Peggy Carter. You were the most wonderful woman I'd ever known. Thank you for being a comfort to me in this strange, unfamiliar era. I will always love you."
And with that, he left Peggy Carter for a final time, but the memory of her was forever sealed onto his heart.
A/N - That is all, folks. I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you to julliet15 for beta-reading. You are amazing. I didn't quite meet up to the standards for an ending that you had in mind, I'm sure.
Any mistakes are solely mine.
Thank you to all my review-ers, favorite-ers, and followers. God bless you all.