Her errand done she turned from the water and sighed softly. She ran a fingertip over the stopper. The vial was empty, but she would wash it out before throwing it away just to be certain there was nothing left.
She sniffled, wanting to blame it on the breeze coming off the water here on the bridge, but she knew that wasn't the case. Possessing that vial; it was foolish, but it was a part of Steve. She still wasn't sure she could trust Howard not to do something with it. She didn't care what he said about wanting to safeguard it from the US Government. She'd been so relieved when Jarvis had given it to her. Shocked beyond belief that he'd gone behind Howard's back in such a blatant fashion, but she was grateful. He'd trusted her to do the right thing. He'd allowed her the ability to say goodbye.
She would forever owe him a debt of gratitude. She'd desperately needed to do that. Jarvis evidently knew that even if he hadn't come out and said so. He was an astute fellow. She hoped never to have to call upon him again, but she knew he'd be there for her if she did. She'd enjoy working with him, too.
She ran a finger along her cheek, brushing away the tears and headed in the direction she knew she'd find a pay phone. She hoped it wasn't too late. She hoped the offer of a drink was still open. She could go home and talk to Angie, but try as she might Peggy doubted Angie would understand. She wasn't even sure the gentleman she was calling would completely understand. She knew she could trust him, though. She trusted Angie, too, but it was different for some reason. Angie knew things, but not everything and there was a part of Peggy that hoped that would never change. She wanted her friend safe, protected. As safe and protected as living in one of Howard Stark's homes could be anyway.
Funny, trusting the man who'd accused her of being a traitor. She knew, though, he was only doing his job. She'd expect no less of him. He'd followed the evidence as any good agent should. She had no idea how he'd figured it out. She'd have to ask him because she thought she'd done a good job of covering her tracks. Obviously not that good.
She paused at the pay phone, listening to the dial tone for a second or two. She had coins in her fingertips, ready to deposit them but rethought calling. She hung up without dialing. She had a better way of dealing with it. She didn't think he was going to slam the door in her face.
He was an idiot is what he was. He wasn't sure which part she'd find more appealing. The missing leg or the part where he'd turned her in as being a traitor? It was a tossup, especially considering who her … What was he exactly?
Boyfriend seemed so common.
She'd fallen in love with the guy. A hero. The ultimate hero. A guy kids wanted to be like and he was pretty sure more than one woman would have envied Peggy's position in the man's life.
How the hell could he even hope to compete with that? Dying like that? Sacrificing himself? Being heroic? Daniel was none of those things. Not really. He'd served his country. He'd come back, leaving a part of him on a battlefield God only knows where. Physically and mentally.
And he'd accused the woman that man loved of being a traitor. He should have known better. He should have…
He should have done a lot of things, but he wanted to prove he was more than just a guy with a crutch taking up desk space with the SSR. He could investigate, he could research, and he could interview people with the best of them. He'd had to prove it because he'd be damned if he'd type reports for the rest of his life. Missing leg be damned, he was determined to do more.
His door buzzer ringing distracted him from his depressing thoughts. He'd been trying to listen to The Fat Man, but he hadn't done too well with his mind occupied. He stood, debating on turning the radio off, but that'd take too much time so he headed for the door. It took him a minute to get there, moving a little slower than usual. He was sore. He wasn't afraid to admit it. Whoever it was hadn't impatiently rung the buzzer a second time, so evidently they were giving him time to get there. He opened the door certain he was seeing things. He almost closed it and opened it again, but if he was seeing things he wasn't sure he wanted to stop it.
"Uh, Peg…Agent Carter. Hi. Is everything all right?" She sure looked all right. Then she always did. He wasn't sure there was ever a time she didn't look perfect to him.
"It will be," she said.
Upon closer perusal now that he'd come to terms that she was here at his door, looking for him, well, apparently looking for him anyway. Why else would she be here? He noticed first thing that her lipstick was a little smudged. He grimaced at that thought. As if he'd needed a reminder that she already had plans for the evening that very plainly didn't include him. He sighed at the thought of her kissing someone else, irked a bit that she'd do that. He'd seen more than once how she reacted to seeing some of Steve Rogers things the SSR had possession of.
Then, though, he noticed her eyes were reddened and a bit puffy. Her hair wasn't as kempt as it normally was either. Had something happened to her? The idea of someone hurting her… Well, then he remembered who he was looking at and realized the chances of any guy getting the drop on her was slim to none. So that left…
"You invited me for a drink."
"I did?" He almost didn't hear her, focused on trying to figure out what could drive Peggy Carter to cry. "Oh, yeah, right, I did."
Should he not have done that? He thought he was okay in asking. He hadn't pushed, he hadn't even asked if it was going to be a date or anything. Just two colleagues having a drink after work. "Listen, I'm sorry if I crossed some sort of line, I just thought we could have a drink."
"Does that offer extend only to a bar?"
"A bar, Daniel. You see," she said, holding up a paper sack that very obviously contained a bottle of some sort. "I thought I might bring the drink to you."
"Oh," he said, realization dawning on him. She was coming here to have a drink with him. That depressing feeling he'd been experiencing not even five minutes ago wasn't quite as heavy anymore. "Sure, come in," he said. "Did your plans fall through?"
"Sort of," she said. It was a vague answer. Then that was pretty typical of her. She wasn't one to share too much.
He headed in the direction of the kitchen with her following. She trailed behind him, not rushing him as so many did. He appreciated that. On it all day as he had been his leg was ready for some rest. So was he for that matter. No more than she was, though. He bore that in mind, knowing he wasn't the only one who'd had a busy and pretty rough day.
In the kitchen he flipped the light switch that controlled the overhead light. He'd made himself a sandwich when he got home. His plate and glass from the milk he'd had with it were still in his sink. Otherwise, it was clean and everything. He was very glad that was the case.
He reached into a cupboard once there for two glasses that would work for the bourbon she'd brought. He couldn't say he'd ever drank bourbon with a woman before, but then Peggy wasn't like any woman he'd met so it was probably fitting she was the first one he drank it with.
She poured them each a couple fingers' worth, watching him.
"Does it hurt?" she asked.
"Your leg, Daniel."
"Oh, I was actually just about to take it off."
"And I stopped you? I do apologize. Should I go?"
"No," he said with a scoff. Was she crazy? He never wanted her to leave again now that she was here. She prettied up his house incredibly well. Well, he'd been looking forward to removing it he'd hold off indefinitely if it meant time spent with her.
"Where shall we sit?" she asked, grabbing the bottle and the two glasses easily. There was no way he could do it, but she knew that obviously.
"Uh, living room," he said, gesturing through the doorway. "Through there."
She went in first, but remained standing until he took a seat on the couch. He'd stopped to turn the radio off first. She chose the armchair next to it, setting the bottle and the glasses on the end table there.
She picked hers up first while he was still settling. He cursed to himself that silly things like sitting took him longer. She'd have to notice, too. Way to impress. Again he wondered why he even thought he'd stand a chance with someone like her. She held her glass up to his once he'd picked his up, tapping them together.
"Cheers," she said. She didn't mean it, though.
"What are we drinking to?" he asked.
"I'm not really sure yet," she said.
"Is everything all right?"
"As well as can be," she said. He didn't miss her analyzing eyes taking in his living room. It wasn't great or overly spacious, but it suited his needs. He grew a little nervous about what she'd think, knowing she had friends like Howard Stark who probably didn't have a second-hand rug on the floor of his living room as Daniel did.
"You had plans…"
She smiled a bit at that, regarding him finally.
"Settling my friend, Angie, in. You met her."
"Miss Martinelli? The one who lied for you at Griffith House?"
"I'm sorry about that, Daniel, really."
"I'm sorry, you're apologizing to me?" That made him feel like a heel in the worst way. That she felt she owed him any sort of apology. "Me and my bright ideas."
"You did wonderfully, Daniel. The facts led you down the path you went on. I don't blame you."
"I appreciate that," he said, rubbing his leg a bit. He could tell the weather was going to change. He always could these days. He has his very own built-in barometer.
So her plans had been with her friend. She was here now with her lipstick smudged and her eyes looking … Well, as if she'd been crying. He wasn't real keen on the behavior of women and this woman sitting next to him wasn't a typical one at that. She was here, though, and not with her friend.
"Yes, well, she lost her room at Griffith. I felt the need to," she shrugged, taking another sip of the bourbon. She paused for a second, letting the liquor do its thing. She hadn't bought the cheap stuff either. Daniel couldn't afford much better than the cheap stuff.
"Find her a place?"
"Yes, she and I will be residing together. For now. I'm not sure how long that will last," she said.
He scoffed at that, laughing lightly. He'd witnessed first-hand what she was capable of, but she wasn't a menace to society or anything.
"I am, Daniel. Everywhere I go, someone invariably gets hurt."
"Why are you here, Peggy? Did something happen?"
She sighed softly, reaching into her coat pocket. He realized then he hadn't even offered to take her coat for her. She must think he was a complete dolt or just had absolutely no manners whatsoever. His mother would be so disappointed. He shook his head, wondering if there was anything he could do right this evening.
He watched as she pulled something out of her pocket, frowning slightly as she set an empty vial on the table between them.
"Is that what I think it is?" he asked, unable to take his eyes off the vial, and the fingertip sliding along the stopper. Unlike her lipstick the nail was perfectly polished, not a smudge or scratch visible. He was looking at it pretty intently, too.
"It is," she said.
"What, uh?" How did one ask something like that? "Where?" God, he sounded like a complete fool. She had to be wondering if he could even complete a sentence without stammering. Why was talking to her so difficult?
"On its way out to sea," she said, sniffling softly at that. That got his attention off of her hand and the vial to her face.
"Oh geez," he said. "You did that?" he asked.
"I did," she said. "I thought," she sighed, taking a deep breath. He reached into the back pocket of his trousers, pulling his handkerchief out. He held it out to her, but she waved away. His heart dropped at that until he saw her take one of her own out from the sleeve of her blouse. Of course she had her own. He'd never known her not to be prepared for everything. Why would crying be any different?
She laughed then, but it didn't really sound like a laugh. Not her laugh. He loved the sound of her laugh normally. This, though. Well, it tore him up inside hearing it.
"Hey," he said, settling his hand over hers still touching the vial. "It's all right, Peg. I'm not going to tell anyone."
"I had to, you know. I mean, if anyone got a hold of it. Steve wouldn't have wanted that. I didn't want that. He was…" she shrugged. "One in a million."
"Sure," he said, completely understanding. And realizing once again that he was not one in a million. "You did the right thing, Peggy, even if you don't feel like it is right now. Like you said, he wouldn't have wanted anyone to get their hands on it."
"I know," she said. "I just," she blotted her eyes with the handkerchief. Lace at one end, of course. He wondered if she'd sewn it herself. She didn't seem like the embroidery type, but then she probably at one time was taught things other women learned. She had to have been. "You must think I'm utterly ridiculous behaving this way over some blood."
"Well, I can't say as I get it, but you loved him."
"It was a piece of him, something you could touch, smell, and, well I guess, even taste if you wanted to."
"You do get it!"
"Well," he stammered. He wasn't sure he did. Except he knew what it was like to be able to touch her. She slid the handkerchief back where it came from and took another sip of her bourbon. His had remained relatively untouched for now. Somehow he guessed she needed hers more than he did.
"I know. It's foolish. He's gone. I've known that, but I suppose a piece of me…"
"Held onto hope? That's normal," he said.
"I suppose, but I'm a realist," she said.
"Well, sure," he said. "Love is real, though, Peggy, even if it's not tangible."
"You're hurting," she said.
He blushed then, shaking his head a little. He hated she noticed, but he liked that she didn't make a big production of it. She hadn't offered to help him or anything, which he appreciated. As much as he thought he'd like to see every inch of her very much he was pretty sure he wasn't ready for the same to be true in reverse.
"You haven't touched your bourbon, maybe you should."
"Man, if I start drinking that for the pain…"
"I see," she said with a nod. She couldn't understand, but then he supposed emotional pain could be numbed, too.
"I'm all right. It's just some days are worse than others."
"Tonight is one of those days?"
"It is," he admitted.
"I should go," she said, downing the last of the bourbon in her glass.
"You don't have to. I'm fine for a while yet, trust me. I'm off it, that's the most important thing."
She sighed. She still hadn't lifted her hand away from the vial. He couldn't help but wonder what was going through her mind. Did she regret it? Not that she could undo it, but was she wishing she hadn't?
"What are you going to do with it?"
"Wash it out, boil it so I know there's no residue left, and then I don't know. Break it before I throw it away?"
"I have a sink," he said.
"You want to watch me do that?"
"I'd watch you do anything, Peggy, don't you know that by now?"
She was quiet then, regarding him. He averted his gaze a bit, focusing on the glass she had resting on her knee. More of her lipstick was gone now, rubbed off along the rim of it. He'd said too much and apparently she wasn't sure she liked hearing what he had to say.
"I said good bye to him," she whispered.
His eyes flickered to her face once more. No hardship, but those six words got his attention pretty easily.
"I think I had to otherwise I'd never see anyone else. You know? Things right before my eyes. I don't want to be blinded, stuck in the past?"
"And you want to? See things?"
"I think I do," she whispered.
He could live with that.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com