Peggy got back to her room, ordered some tea and a newspaper and slipped out of her heels. She had vowed no work for the two days she would be in Washington, but old habits die hard and she had case files to glance over in her briefcase. A half hour call to Howard for an update and she was ready to wash up for dinner. She hadn’t expected to hear from Barnes, one way or the other, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t hoping just a little that he might show. She wasn’t sure why she suddenly cared. Maybe it was how tired he looked, how starved; for food, conversation, company. Two of those hungers she recognised quite well, the other she was thankful she was in a position to never have had to experience it. But she did care now, and once she found herself on a certain path there was little that could be done to deter it. If she took a little more time to pin her hair, or do her makeup, it was for no one but herself.
Her mother always did say that looking ones best was just good manners.
Even if she was dining alone.
She took her seat by the window and ignored the other coupled up diners, though there had been one or two men also dining alone. She bet none of them got stared down in judgement as she did, but it was par the course of her life at that point.
She ordered herself a drink and took a leisurely glance at the menu. Of course it was then that a ‘gentleman’ from the bar decided to make his presence known, much to her chagrin.
“Well hi there,” he said, standing by her seat. She looked up slowly, trying with every second to silently vibe how uninterested she was in whatever he thought this was.
“I couldn’t help but notice you’re here by yourself, and well, so am I.”
“Oh you got an accent on you, that’s sweet, you’re English then?” He was leering and it was annoying. He wasn’t even attempting to be subtle about it either.
“I am, but really –“
Her frustration was growing by the second, though the barfly seemingly didn’t notice.
“It’s funny,” he said while taking the seat across from her. “I have a few friends across the sea now. What part of the former motherland are you from then?”
“No, no, let me guess, proper Dame like yourself, you look real smart, educated like, and damn fine if I may say so myself.”
“You may not, Sir.” Peggy was seconds away from revealing the small knife she carried in her garter on her left leg.
“Aw come on, Doll. Don’t be like this. I just want to offer you a drink and some company that’s all.”
With that her own drink arrived, which she accepted gracefully.
“As you can see I’m just fine for drinks, and for company.”
“I don’t see anyone here with you –“
“Honey! I am so sorry I’m late. Traffic was absolute murder, a truck overturned on the … well it’s not important.” At that he came sweeping in, kissing her sweetly on the cheek before leaning back with a smile. He smelled like soap and toothpaste, a nice change for him.
“Uh, can I help you with something, Pal?”
Barfly looked between Peggy and Barnes before raising his brows.
“Uh, no I was just –“
“In my seat and in the way, from the looks of things? Seems to me the lady was making it real clear she had no desire for your company. You a gentleman that can’t take no for an answer?”
“No. Didn’t think so.”
There was a second or two pause before Bucky spoke again, this time all light and pretense absent and she was reminded of the perfect shot marksman he was during the war.
“You’re still in my seat.”
With that, Barfly got up, mumbling apologies before making his way to the other side of the restaurant and seemingly disappearing.
Neither of them spoke while Bucky poured himself some water, but she just couldn’t take the silence and broke it.
“I had things under control, you know.”
“Oh, I know I bet you’re armed too ain’t ya?” he said with a quirk of his brow, forcing her to bite her lip.
“Oh my God you are! A pistol?”
“A knife,” she admitted, looking out from under her lashes, sipping her drink as if she’d just admitted nothing of the sort. His eyes went wide, and then he smiled.
“Amazing. Remind me never to piss you off, Carter.”
“You’re late,” she quipped with a cocked brow.
“Mmm, traffic really was terrible. I got out of the cab, walked the last two blocks. I’m starving, what’s good here?”
And that’s how the first time they sat and shared a meal together began. They found that conversation came unexpectedly easily, good food was welcomed, as well as more than a few bottles of wine. Before they knew it the restaurant staff was cleaning up. It had just struck midnight. Had they really talked for five hours? They had certainly drank for that long. Bucky was actually feeling buzzed if not outright drunk, and Peggy Carter – who had started swearing like a sailor a few hours before – was smashed. Giving out stink about Howard and his unrealistic expectations, his ‘bloody brilliant madness’ that she was sure was one day going to get them all killed. But that where she was now, working toward a massive goal was as invigorating and as necessary as she’d ever known a job to be. Howard was still a womanising basket case and she had never ending tales about him, all of which were funny no matter how she told them.
She was a hell of an amusing drunk. Bucky hadn’t laughed or smiled as much in what felt like decades. She was full of stories about her training days, all the shit she had to put up with, right up to Philips and his grumpy old man act but really he was a big old softie. And a few stories from her time with Steve.
That son of a bitch jumped on a goddamn grenade?!
“Oh but it was something! All the other boys, all of them at least a foot taller and a good few hundred pounds on Steve at the time, all of them ran like little girls ran from spiders. Their faces when he landed on it, attempting to get us all out of range.” She sighed, wistfully. “It was something I won’t soon forget, that’s for sure. I think even then he earned points with Philips, which was no easy task.”
“Yeah Steve had this way of just winning people over no matter where we went, it’s why it confused me so damn much with women you know? He could charm anyone. His Ma used to say he inherited his grandfather’s Irish charm. He used to counter it with how he inherited his bad lungs too, but he was difficult to say no to, even when you knew better.”
He had no idea where that had come from it wasn’t even the topic of conversation.
She nodded, finishing her glass of wine and fidgeting with the glass.
“I imagine for you it would have been difficult.”
That earned her a hard look.
“No – I just mean…” she sighed. “I just mean having known him for as long as you did. Truth be told I was always a little jealous of you. More than a little, really.”
Now that had surprised the hell out of him, which probably showed on his face.
“What the hell were you jealous of me for?”
“Please, Barnes. I may have had feelings for him but I wasn’t blind to his feelings for you. Or yours for him come to that.” She whispered now, even though they were the last ones in the hotel restaurant, promising that these drinks were their last. “I wasn’t sure of course, you both weren’t stupid. But… well when I was sure, it was obvious looking back once you knew. Hindsight being what it is an all.”
“Jealous of me, goddamn.” He drained his whiskey,then looked at her. “If anyone was being eaten alive by jealousy it was me.”
She rolled her eyes.
“Hand to God, Carter. You were what I always said I wanted for him, a smart, beautiful woman who could kick his ass – serum or none – you still could have. And I said I wanted that for him, but the second I saw the way he looked at you … Jesus … I …”
“Not as fun in reality then.”
She sighed then.
“Moot points now, I suppose.”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
And it was. He never made the choice because he never got the chance. A fact that would never stop being beyond unfair in Bucky’s mind.
“Are we drunk? No! I have to drive I can’t be drunk,” she whispered harshly, seemingly to herself. It made him laugh.
“We’re in your hotel, you lush,” he said while standing and once again offering her his elbow. She looked at it and him questionably.
He got it. Once upon a time he would have tried anything with a beautiful woman with curves like Carter’s, but that was a lifetime ago as far as he was concerned.
“Walking you to your room then I’m going to get a cab, that okay?”
She accepted, internally cursing herself for relaxing so much and getting so liquored up. By the time they were in the elevator to her floor, she was coming back to herself quickly.
“Thank you for the company this evening, it was … Well, it was nice.”
He nodded before the doors opened and when he placed his hand on the small of her back as she stepped out she ignored the chill it sent through her. She also ignored him blatantly checking out her arse.
Not the first time she had caught him doing that.
Her memory floated back to another life, another red dress.
As they got to her door, things like reality set in and it was a tad awkward.
He laughed in an attempt to break the tension between them both. It was awkward, of course, but he knew that could be overcome with some charm, if he only had it in him anymore to fake it.
“I uh… well.”
“Right,” he smiled awkwardly, scratching the back of his neck as he spoke. “Well, Miss Carter, it’s been a trip. Get back to New York safely.” He leaned in then to kiss her on the cheek and she allowed it. He noted right away how warm her skin was, how lovely she smelled. She always smelled good, even during a war when it was damn hard to smell of anything other than gunpowder, sweat and fear, Margaret Carter always smelled of lavender and roses.
It had been a real long time since he’d been near anyone that smelled as good as she did. He ignored the shiver that ran down his spine as he stepped back. But before he could move too far her hand was on his jacket. She was shaking, and as much as he wanted to blame the drink, he knew he couldn’t. He looked at her hand instead of her eyes. He knew if he did whatever sense he had was out the window.
But then she spoke. She said his first name in what felt like forever – if ever – and whatever denial he had left crumbled.
His kiss wasn’t gentle, but then again nor was hers. This wasn’t about love or sweetness or anything other than two people needing to be touched, to be reminded that they weren’t alone and that drowning in their grief could be lessened just slightly for a time. He pushed her up against the door, right there in the hallway, his mouth never leaving hers. Wet and warm and so wanting, needing, with every gentlemanly thing he thought disappearing. Instead of stopping and wishing her goodnight, he pushed her harder against the dark wooden door, making her moan, loving how it sounded, and he didn’t stop himself from grinding into her there in the hall. It was dangerous, but then he was dangerous, for both of them. His hand slid up her leg, to her thigh and the sensation he felt when he touched the knife tucked into her garters went straight to his dick.
Maybe he wasn’t the only dangerous one after all.
“Christ…” he moaned as she broke away, her hand on a key – where that came from he would never know – but the key turned and suddenly they were on the other side of the door. This time she had him pushed up against it, smaller than him, even in her heels. Weaker too, but he knew only in physical strength was she weaker than anyone in the world. Ignoring it, he allowed himself to get lost in the taste of her mouth, the feel of her warm hands on his neck. He was not focusing on how the last person he kissed was Steve. Hell, he wasn’t focusing on the fact that the last person they’d both kissed was Steve.
“Wait…Wait,” he said, letting her go and stepping back. He rubbed his face he took in what she looked like before him.
Her hair messed up, lipstick past her mouth, dress askew, and she had never looked more beautiful.
“I…this…” he started but wasn’t sure where he was going.
“I’m sorry I shouldn’t have –“ She was blushing now, and not just from their kisses.
“No it wasn’t you… it’s not you.” You’re perfect, he wanted to say, but didn’t. Before it wouldn’t have mattered much who or what she was if she was a Dame that looked and smelled like she did. And if she had her hands on him like she just did, then it was a done deal. But things were different now. He was different and so goddamn scared of just how different. And she sure as hell wasn’t just some stranger.
“You … you don’t want me.”
She looked confused then, making an attempt to smooth her dress and her hair.
“What do you mean I don’t want –“
“You want him,” he said quietly. Almost too quietly, but she definitely heard him.
“That’s not –“
“Don’t lie, okay? Just…don’t.” He was willing his hard-on to fade, to please just stop wanting her, but it wasn’t working. He was riled up in more ways than one and of course like a right hook to a hot button, his blood was pumping and fucking everything up.
“Peggy come on! You don’t want me, okay? You want the good guy. The honest, sweetheart guy who’ll wed you before he beds you, not someone like me who’ll fuck you and never call you again. Because that’s what I do. That’s who I am, okay? You wanted Steve, the shining golden boy, the shield. I’m the weapon. I’m the one that puts the bullet through the heads that get past the shield. I’m the one that was fucking the man you wanted when you wanted him, right under your nose.”
She looked as if someone slapped her. He hated that he was the one doing this, but it was as if someone else was pulling his strings. What was coming out of his mouth couldn’t be stopped no matter how wrong he knew it was to say.
“Do you know, huh? Just how indecent he really was? Course you didn’t. He was the perfect gent with you, all blushes and coyness and then he’d go and push me into a dark hallway and kiss me and rut against me, whispering promises in my ear. Do you know how many times I had him? Hell, even I lost count. No one saw what I saw before you people changed him and it was a damn shame because that boy could fuck you like no one else.”
She hated that his voice was panicked, as if he was on the verge of an attack of some kind, as if he didn’t really fully understand what he was saying. But she knew that wasn’t the case. He knew, and he was doing it on purpose to push her.
“No! He was amazing, Carter, damn amazing. Then…” he ran his fingers through his hair, “when your guys got a hold of him and turned the little righteous guy filled with anger and pride and honesty and the need to do the right thing – everything in him got … multiplied. He became a hero, the one that I always saw. Even if you all painted him as this icon of good old fashioned heroic Americana, that didn’t stop us any chance we got right there in his quarters, right there in our tents. The Holy Joe taxpayers would lose their minds if they knew what the mouth of America’s greatest hope was capable of in the dark. He was far too decent to make a move on you … with me he never had any hesitation –“
He didn’t get to finish his rant when the sharp sting and the echoing sound of her hand slapping his face took over.
“Get out,” she hissed then, her voice low.
He grinned then. It wasn’t genuine, and she knew that. It was forced and deliberately filled with malice.
“Told you, you don’t want me.” She hated the look sadness in his eyes at this apparent inevitability.
“Get. Out.” She managed to be louder this time, the anger evident now, just like he wanted.
Barnes just grabbed his jacket off the floor, sweeping it under his arm with a nod.
She was so livid with him, but not for the reason he wanted her to be.