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This Photograph is Proof (I Know You Know)

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The senator struts out from Thompson’s office like he’s processing somewhere...more important than he used to think they were, and Peggy and Daniel mutually exchange yet even more unamused glances. It seems like she’s about to roll her eyes when the senator decides that the two of them might actually deserve a lick of credit, and comes over to shake their hands, reaching for Daniel’s first, even though he’s closest to Peggy and Daniel has to take a moment to move his crutch before he can accept the gesture.

“Agent Margaret Carter,” Peggy introduces herself amicably when he turns to her, surprising the senator by shaking his hand even though it appears he assumed the proper greeting would have been to kiss it, and she gives him a charming - but fake - smile.

"Ah, yes, I've heard that name. You were the, uh, the girl, the girl behind the scenes, the one Captain America was with."

Even Thompson winces knowing that’s entirely the wrong thing to say, but Peggy, of course, has been steeled for times like these, and though she certainly doesn’t widen her smile, she manages not to show more than a little discomfort, declaring with awful and undue politeness, “amongst other roles that contributed to the Allied victory, yes.”

The senator doesn’t seem to get the concept of context clues, but he does realize that he may have made an unwise decision in his address: Daniel’s only just gently informed (re-informed?) him that Peggy had trained Rogers - not that there aren’t a thousand other immensely important things she’s done, but no one has time for that list - but the Senator’s ignored that.

“That’s probably a tender topic, innit? Only been a, a year…I’m sorry, Miss Carter.”

His voice sounds genuine enough, but that doesn’t make it less painful to hear.

He must just be clueless, and even though Peggy’s jaw stiffens, she just nods, certainly more nicely than Daniel knows she has a right to be.

“Well, sir, it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance, but I actually have work to do. Things to be filed, coffee to be made, yes?” her voice comes out almost as a sneer - though not harsh enough that the bastard actually notices - and then she slides back to her desk and out of the room with a large stack of files nestled between her arms and her chest, and a forced smile back at Daniel, the only person she knows will watch her leave.

+

Fifteen minutes later he’s escaped the throes of the SSR’s politics, a cup of tea in hand. The door to the storage room opens and closes as quietly as always, and naturally she’s distracted, so it takes until he’s actually standing at the end of the aisle that boasts the Project Rebirth file for Peggy to realize he’s come in at all.

She startles, but only slightly, and makes no effort to wipe her tears before he advances to the table. She softens at the sight of the tea, putting down the photograph of Captain Rogers to take the warm mug into her hands, cupping them around it like she'd been cold.

“Thought you just might need a nice strong hand - or, you know, crutch arm - with all this filing, Miss Carter.”

“If you’re about to make a joke about your leg, I recommend you don’t,” she says with a hint of warning, but the amusement behind it and the smile creeping across her red lips betray her.

“I don’t need to, see, you’re already smiling just thinking about all the absurd things I could be saying right now. Mission accomplished.”

Peggy laughs.

“You two would’ve gotten on swell, you know. You’re quite alike, really…”

She’s obviously meant it nicely, but the remark surprises him nonetheless; she seems slightly worried by his furrowed brow, at least until she cracks a small smile again. She picks the photograph back up and flips it towards him.

“Does that look like the Captain America of whom you’ve seen photographs and heard tales?”

“That is the man of whom I’ve seen photographs, just…slightly smaller.”

She chuckles again.

“Much smaller. Jarringly so. A good bit shorter, much skinnier, sickly…he was really rather in poor shape when he came to us. But he…he wanted, always wanted, to do the right thing. Even if it cost him…everything. Right from the beginning, he was like that. Everyone thinks that he became great because of Rebirth, but they’re wrong, they’re all wrong. Just like they are about us, about both of us.”

She trades the photograph for the mug, blowing on the tea delicately and then taking a small sip.

“Perhaps that’s part of the price we pay. When you do what no one else dares to, what people think you cannot or should not do, when you prove people wrong about what is possible…it’s difficult to be taken seriously by anyone.”

Her voice trails off at the end of her sentence, and though she doesn’t go into it, Daniel knows her look well enough to know that some hurtful particulars have come to mind. He reaches into the breast pocket of his suit jacket, not giving her the time to insist that she isn’t crying before putting his handkerchief into her hand.

“I’m no Congressman, let alone Captain America, but I do promise to always take you seriously.”