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Brave New World

Chapter Text

London, Greater Nazi Reich – England
1962

“Pick up, Peggy! Damn it, pick up!”

Michael Carter barely made it inside the telephone booth in the obscure part of a dark, London street, lucky to find a telephone that wasn’t decommissioned by the Germans.

He hissed in pain and slumped against the cool glass walls of the booth. Gingerly and with shaking hands, Michael pressed the tip of his fingers against his stomach and winced as he pulled them back. He was bleeding through.

He swallowed deep and shivered. He wasn’t going to make it.

But Peggy didn’t answer.

The answering machine kicked in and he heard his little sister’s voice—

In the distance, the sound of furious hunting dogs barked and howled through the streets, followed by the swift running of heavy boots.

Michael paled. The Schutzstaffel were closing in on him.

“Listen, Peggy, old mum, I’ve found it. The reason to everything.”  He doubled over in pain and gasped. Beads of sweat already pooled on his forehead. “Go to the Colonel. He’ll understand what I mean. Remember. The grasshopper lies heavy.”

The line was cut off and Michael let his back lean against the wall. His knees already gave in to the pressure and slid down the glass, leaving trails of his blood to stain the walls of the booth.

“I found it, Peg.” He whispered, half-delusional, half lucid, half dreaming of a free world. “We can change the world.” He coughed up, crimson already staining his lips but he couldn’t bring himself to care.

“We can fight them now. And they’re scared, Peggy, old mum.”

A beam of flashlight was shot at his head and Michael barely lolled his head to the side to see the troop of Germans running towards him. There was a string of loud shouting, angry German curses and the dogs rounded up on him, clawing their way through the glass.

Michael fumbled with his fingers inside his jacket just as the Germans pulled the dogs aside.

Locking his jaw, the soldiers pulled on the door of the booth wide open, baton and Luger in hand.

“Hands up, scum.” Said one of the soldiers in heavily accented English.

Withdrawing his hand from his jacket, Michael watched their faces shift from a steely confidence to a look of horror as a metal pin dropped from his fingers.

Stirb, arschloch.”

The grenade tumbled from his hands and Michael Carter ceased to be.

Chapter Text

London, Greater Nazi Reich – England
1962

It was all very hush-hush.

There wasn’t even a funeral to begin with. Peggy just remembered some of the uniformed soldiers dropping off a bag of bloodied belongings down on their doorstep and left them as their home had erupted into madness.

Michael Harrison Carter, the only son of Obergruppenführer Harrison Reginald Carter of the British Waffen-SS, a renowned ace pilot for the Luftwaffe, was killed in pursuit. Her brother, the illustrious Michael Carter, a proud son of the Fatherland, was a member of the underground secret resistance from the remnants of an old war office, the Strategic Scientific Reserve.

“Sorry for your loss, Carter.”

Peggy stood inside the office of a former US Army colonel, Chester Phillip’s office. He had been in London when the H-Bomb was dropped on Washington that killed Roosevelt and the senate in quick succession. After the loss of an integral ally, whose troops were recalled from war as to negotiate the surrender of the country to prevent further bombings, Britain stood alone until Buckingham was bombed.

After that, the Germans proclaimed VE and VA-Day.

Still numb from the pain, Peggy nodded mutely. “I got a message from him, actually. The night he died.” Chester Phillips simply raised a brow at her. Michael had been the higher ranking agent in the resistance.

She had just been initiated. Peggy never imagined that she would have to face this world without him.

“What’d he say?”

Pulling a rolled-up piece of scrap paper, Peggy handed it over to the Colonel, as he was still fondly called. “You’re sure of this?” she nodded.

“With my life, sir.”

Colonel Phillips lit a match and burned the paper. “Follow me,” he said gravely and into the backdoor of his office where the windows were frosted, and the blinds were closed over. “Do you know anything about Camelot?”

“The legend?”

The Colonel shrugged and gestured towards the only vacant seat on the small study desk. “Do you know the mission your brother was on?”

“No.”

“Good, neither did he the moment he took it on.” He slammed a folder into the table and sighed heavily. “The mission as a black-out ops, only the two of us knew.” Peggy flipped through the pages and gritted her teeth, warily eyeing the slits of the blinds.

“We have a spy.” She answered in a deathly calm, low voice. She had treated these men and women like family, she trained with them, lived with them, trusted them, and yet they were the ones to took her brother away from him. “We have to get the double agent, sir.”

I am going to find that mole and make that son of a bitch that wish he was never a twinkle in his daddy’s eyes.”

“Sir, with all due respect, I’m going to—”

“Carter.” Phillips stopped her and produced a small notebook. It was a copy of the mission dossier given to every agent out on the field. “Keep your voice down—no one knows that we know.” He hissed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You read the reports?”

Her breath hitched.

Read the reports?

Peggy did more than read the reports. She was there, to identify what was left of her brother, there to identify the strewn-up pieces of fabric that hung around the tinged, blackened skin. She had more than read the report, she had lived it.

“I did.”

“Good.” However gruff the man may be, it wasn’t lost to her to see that he had paled considerably. She wasn’t the only one who lost Michael that day. “Because here’s the real kicker—whoever the mole is, they don’t know the real mission, or at least the entirety of the mission.”

“I’m going to avenge my brother, Colonel. With or without your blessing.”

“I’m not telling you to sit back, Agent Carter.”

“Because I won’t, sir.”

The Colonel slid another folder to her as he stood from his chair. Cautiously, Peggy opened it up and watched Colonel Phillips’ reaction. “Then avenge him the way we do here at the resistance, Carter. By winning the damn war.”

But that was the thing. They didn’t win the war. Germany won that fateful day of 1945. The world had surrendered.

In her hands was a folder containing a full report from one of their own strategically-placed counter spies in the German government. “I’m going to ask you again, Agent Carter: what do you know of Camelot?”

“It’s an open secret, Colonel, among the higher ranking ministers: the isolation of the führer.” Colonel Phillips nodded accordingly and reached his arm across to toggle on the switch of the small television set nestled on top of a stubby bookshelf.

“Can you tell me why exactly, Agent Carter, are the ministers isolating Adolf Hitler in his castle of dreams?”

Peggy recognized the tape being played on the small television screen. It was a recording of the advisory from the evening news yesterday. It showed how happy and perfect life is inside the Greater Nazi Reich if you cooperated.

Featuring in almost every scene was a bright, pastel colored take of the führer, Hitler himself, as he paraded the camera crew around the grounds of his castle. Even the footage looked dated, Peggy remembered seeing the exact same loop of reels from when she was a child back in the 1940’s.

“It’s an old reel, Colonel. From when the war had just been lost. They government’s hiding Hitler.”

“Yes, but do you know why?”

Peggy leaned in and narrowed her eyes at the screen and took note of how, in every scene, Hitler waved around the beautiful palace garden grounds with his right hand, the other remaining firmly inside the pocket of his coat.

“Rumor has it, Hitler has Parkinson’s. His left-hand spasms wildly out of control, that’s why he keeps it hidden back then.” Peggy watched the screen closely and there it was again, the noticeable cut in the looped editing.

There it was again, Peggy thought, his hand remaining firmly inside his pocket.

“I don’t think anyone in the Reich, other than his ministers, have actually seen Hitler in years.”

Colonel Phillips nodded approvingly before tossing her the dossier that Michael had always been given. “Agent Carter, what I’m about to say to you will not go beyond these walls.”

“Sir?”

“Recently, our source mentioned that once in a few months—she couldn’t iron the details out how often—Hitler gets all antsy and orders up his personal guards to go through this earth with a fine tooth comb for a special package. She said that she’s heard from the older guards that Hitler’s been searching for these packages ever since the beginning of the war.”

“What does this have to do with Michael?”

“Ever since the war, we had no idea what these putzes have been searching for. It all changed when your brother got close to a contact and got this—” the older man deposited a cold, metal tag into her hands. It was of three fists, hoisted up and formed in a Y with the Liberty statue intersecting it, behind it, however, was something she did understand: a set of coordinates, “—whatever the package is, we know where to find it.”

“This is in the Neutral Zone.”

“Brush up on that American accent there, Agent Carter. ‘Cause you’re going stateside.”

Chapter Text

New York, Greater Nazi Reich – Nazi America

The American Reich was different.

The flight across the Pacific had been uneventful save for the meeting with the immigration office when she had been interrogated by the agents there, somewhat tipped off by Michael’s death. Although she knew her official cover which was to visit her cousin—which itself had been a truth of its own—had been carefully planned, Peggy still held in a nervous breath as the head of the office sat her down in a locked room and could only wait in lingering anxiety when he had phoned her father to confirm.

It was by some luck that her family had managed to clear Michael’s death from any association with the resistance that her father, and therefore her in turn, still had standing within the Reich.

But no matter how shaken she was, Peggy resolved her will and remained on her mission. There was a task at hand, a death to avenge, and a world that needed independence.

Peggy knew that she couldn’t falter.

Which was exactly why, despite a small inkling of fear that blossomed inside her chest, she bought a ticket destined for the Neutral Zone.

The ticket boot operator raised a brow at her when she had asked to buy one. “Wait,” the man had gaped, the cigarette nearly falling off his lips, “you mean like across? On land?” he gestured with his hands.

“Yes.” She repeated her words, trying her best not to lose her patience. “I would like a bus ticket, roundtrip, to the Imperial Pacific Provinces.”

The booth attendant eyed her attire and Peggy outwardly sighed. “It says here on your papers that you’re Obergruppenfuhrer Carter’s kid, you sure some of the officers just ain’t pulling your leg?” her father’s reach and influence, it seems, had worked too well.

“I’m certain. We’re holding up the line, mister.”

“Surely there’s got to be some sort of travelling arrangement you can have made instead of a 36-hour bus ride. It’s not a very smooth ride.”

“I’ve wanted to see the scenic route.”

The man looked conflicted. “Lady, listen, you’re not from around here, you don’t know what happens along these parts—”

Desperate, Peggy leaned forward, her breath already fogging the glass divider. “My family doesn’t know I’m here,” she said in one quick breath, flashing the ring on her finger. It had been Michael’s college ring, but the design had been simple and classy enough, and the booth attendant didn’t need to know.

For all he knew, it might have been an engagement ring.

“Please,” Peggy said, twisting the ring, smiling tightly and hopeful, praying to God that she looked pitiful enough. “Can you help me?”

Peggy could see the reluctance in the attendant’s face but despite his hesitation, the man punched out her bus ticket and handed her back her passport and other travel documentation.

“Thank you.” She clutched the ticket, hoping to convey the lovesick character she had just portrayed and not a resistance agent looking to find a package deep in the Neutral Zone.

“Hey, lady!” he called out just as she turned to move out of the line.

“Yes?”

“I hope you know what you’re getting yourself into inside the Neutral Zone.”

In that moment, as she stood just outside the line, staring at the attendant, that she swallowed and slightly paled. Despite the brief, Peggy had no idea in truth what to expect from the Neutral Zone.


Peggy found a seat near the middle aisle, one that was thankfully free of any other passengers. It was in the mesh container that hung by the seat in front of her did she see the pamphlet.

The paper was creased and folded many times. It had been a standard German Reich print about the Neutral Zone, advocating the citizens of the Reich to avoid the buffer area between the two empires at all cost.

The history of the Neutral Zone was fresh in Peggy’s mind.

After the war that decimated the American government the remaining military officers who didn’t desert and jump ships to the Reich had been given a spot on the peace conference held by the Japanese and German powers who needed to divide America between themselves.

That was how the Neutral Zone was born—the Germans would have killed the Jews, the Japanese would have forced the Africans and natives to brutal and deadly manual labor.

The Neutral Zone was supposed to be a place of refuge to those who didn’t want to face the brutal racial policies in both empires. But the amount of people running form the law and the lack of authority to send out any troops inside the Neutral Zone to keep its political neutrality and independence, had formed a different problem.

“You have to look out for bounty hunters.” The Colonel once told her in grave warning, giving her all of the supplies she needed and enveloping her into a hug before sending her off to America to find the package.

The grasshopper lies heavy.

Peggy grimaced as she looked at the paper and its coordinates. Sabra.

“Chances are, because of Michael, whether or not they know he’s resistance, the SS is aware that someone is hunting down the package. They’re going to tighten up security.”

“I thought the German Reich and the Japanese Empire couldn’t send out soldiers to the Neutral Zone?”

“They can’t. Not officially, no. They hire bounty hunters.” There had been a number of open and closed cases of murders. The majority of them were linked to an infamous assassin, known only by the name “The Marshall”.

His picture was on the brief. He was skilled with any firearm and a good arm for knife throwing. His profile was however marked by a face-length scar running from his temple right down to his chin. Shrapnel, their sources said.

The bounty hunters of the Neutral Zone are forces to be reckoned with. They recognized no true power, only the payment of each kill. Peggy imagined that she would have to face a number of them as tries to find the package.

Slipping her hand inside her jacket, Peggy let out a sigh of relief when she felt the cold brush of metal against her skin. Arms had been difficult to procure.

Chet couldn’t send her to America with a firearm. Coupled with Michael’s death, her sudden departure for America would have been enough to send the hounds of the SS running after her even with her father pleading her case on her behalf.

The gun was courtesy of an antiques shop.

Any firearm in the Reich would need documentation, a permit to carry. But vintage firearms, especially in the Imperial Provinces, were seen as luxury commodities, items holding the remnants of a now devastated culture.

Buying an antique gun was easier, but its capacity was far too limited.

It was a revolver, a Colt, and there were only three remaining bullets. Peggy had to make each shot count if she’s to make it out of the Neutral Zone alive and with the special package.

Suddenly, the bus made an abrupt stop. “We leave tomorrow at 7!”

Peggy’s brows furrowed. “Excuse me, what is happening?” she went to the driver.

“We make a stop here. Go buy a ticket for the next bus.”

She fished for her ticket and flashed it accordingly. “No,” she said, handing the ticket over. “I have a roundtrip ticket. The attendant said that it would get me to the Pacific states and back to the Reich.”

“It would,” the driver agreed before shrugging, “but you’d have to wait until it’s morning to get there.”

“Where are we?” Peggy looked around.

“Canon City.” Her eyes widened. That’s too far away from the coordinates. She’s nowhere near.

Taking a wad of bills from her purse, Peggy cleared her throat and caught the attention of the driver. “Please.” She said pristinely. “You will be rewarded handsomely.”

But the driver scoffed. “Listen, lady, you’re not from here—”

“Yes, but I need to get to—”

“—but there are things that happen around these parts that ain’t pretty. You hear and see things you shouldn’t and the next thing you know, well, you ain’t hearing and seeing no more.” He waved away the wad of cash. “Money can buy you a lot of things in the Neutral Zone, lady, but no amount is worth my life.”

It was clear, the way the man clutched the steering wheel, that Peggy would have better luck finding the package on her feet than having a ride. “How far is it, then?”

He looked at her like she grew three heads. “It’s going to be dark soon.” He pointed out as if answering her problems.

“I know how to tell the time,” she said pristinely, sharply breathing in, “but what I do not know is how far Sabra is and how to get there.”

“On foot?” the driver mused with a grimace. “You’re not getting there alive, is all I’m saying.”

“Then it’s a good thing I’m not endeavoring to get there alive, yes?” she pressed, slipping a bill on the car counter and nodding tightly. “Now, would you be so kind to tell me?”

Quietly, he pocketed the cash. “There’s a trail out back in the outskirts of the city, somewhere out west. Follow it out to the mountains. You’ll get to Sabra.”

“Thank you.”

“You sure I can’t ask you to stay the night at a motel and just go in the morning?”

Peggy paused. It would be preferable, safety and the slight chance to live. But the Reich knows, they were close to getting the coordinates and it’s only a matter of time before they start combing the forest near Sabra for the package.

If she couldn’t get it to the resistance, then it’s better she destroy it before the Germans or Japanese get their hands on it. Either way, she would finish what Michael had started, she would make sure that his death would not be in vain.

If the mission were to go sideways, Peggy trusted Chet Phillips enough to find the mole and make that scum pay for Michael’s death.

“Thank you for your help.” She smiled, earnest and honest this time, slipping the bill before ducking out of the bus, bracing herself for the trek ahead.


Hours had past and the skies grew dark.

Despite the fact that her stomach rumbled and protested in hunger, or that her heel had long since been aching for relief, or that her skin had already been marred by one too many bites of mosquitoes, Peggy kept braving the dark and humid mountain side in search of the package.

It helped that she travelled light—a small purse strung over her shoulder and a briefcase hopefully big enough to hold whatever the package was.

Peggy stumbled in the dark woods, struggling to find her footing in the ragged terrain.

While a nice and strong torch would have been nice, she could attract some unwanted attention on her trail.

A dim glow of her compass in the moonlight helped her as she readied her hand on the pistol when she had finally found the spot. It was a rundown shack, the roof had caved in and nature had almost taken over.

The spot had been hidden just by number of clumped up groves leading to a spacious field of clearing. Peggy would have otherwise ignored the downtrodden shack if it weren’t for a symbol that nearly blended in with the darkness of the night.

It was the same symbol on the metal pin. Three fists hoisted in the fashion of the letter Y, the Liberty Statue intersecting it.

Running as fast as she could without making much noise, Peggy made it to the shack. The door creaked, the iron bends protesting its use as she pushed herself in. Given the absence of the moonlight, Peggy used the small torch she had and waved it slowly around the room.

There was nothing and Peggy could feel disappointment bubbling in her stomach when the light had stopped on a cloudy metal container.

The container was circular, as big as a dinnerplate and there was a clasp on the side. But just as Peggy made out the shape of the clasp that held the container together, she heard a small click of metal before it fell to the ground.

It was a metal chip. The coordinates were muddied with dirt but a larger location was still there. Sta. Fe, New Mexico.

The same symbol was imprinted and Peggy realized, in bated breath, that there was another package—

“I think you have something that belongs to me.”

Peggy felt as if ice water had been poured all over her. Readying the pistol in hand, she turned around and nearly cursed. In the gleam of moonlight, she could clearly see the scarred face of the man who had a gun pointed at her head.

The crooked noise and the permanent crack of scar was set in the man’s face. The Marshall.

“You give that there package to me, and I’ll let you live.”

Clutching the package tighter to her chest, Peggy raised her own gun and scowled, “I’ll make you a better offer—walk away now and I’ll let you keep your life.”

“You’re not from around these parts, aren’t you?”

Honestly, Peggy was getting tired of hearing that. “What gave it away?” she asked mirthlessly, sarcasm falling on her voice in clear annoyance. “Is it the shoes?”

“Shut ‘yer mouth.” The Marshall’s smirk fell apart and frowned. “Give me the package.” Peggy got a glance at his pistol and fought hard to contain the near panic she felt. Semi-automatic while she had an antique which for all she knows wasn’t properly cleaned out and could jam and backfire.

“Over my dead body.”

“That,” said the Marshall imperiously, “could be arranged.”

“Who are you working for?”

“You’re not in the position to ask any questions.”

“Then you’re not in the position to demand things of me. Quid pro quo.”

It was at that moment Peggy broke into a sprint, charging into the Marshall when the moon had hidden behind a heavy cloud. There had been a gunshot, but Peggy managed to dodge.

His foot had been planted forward, and given the uneven terrain, Peggy managed to slink into his front and slammed her fist into his cheek, sending him doubling down towards the ground before she ran with all her might towards anything, anywhere just to get away.

“Get her!” the Marshall yelled and Peggy swore.

Of course, he would have back-up.

Her lungs began to ache, and Peggy was sure that her ankle had been twisted from a loosing her footing when running down a small slope. Peggy wondered whatever it was, the package, and with a grim thought, her mind thinking of the small bottle of alcohol in her purse and a lighter, that it would be flammable.

“Get back here!” a voice yelled from behind her and she broke out into a sprint once more.

The Marshall and his men had caught up to her. It would be easy now, Peggy thinks to herself as she clutched the container, to slip it open and destroy whatever its content was before slipping it inside the briefcase for safekeep—

“Nowhere to run, missy.”

Peggy panted. They were at the middle of the highway. The Marshall had a gun aimed at her head, his nose had a streak of blood that stained his face. “That was a dirty trick, there. Now hand it over.” When she didn’t reply, a shot was fired and this time it hit her right in the shoulder.

A white hot pain exploded. Her shoulder felt like it was on fire and repeatedly frozen. “Never.” Peggy pulled on the trigger of her gun. Only, nothing happened, just an empty click.

The Marshall grinned wickedly and maniacally. His teeth glowed with red. “Tough luck, now—”

Thwack!

There was a moment of silence, at first. Peggy didn’t know what had happened exactly but the next thing she knew there was blood running down the Marshall’s face and had slumped down to the ground. A strong but gentle hand had gripped around her arm and pulled her away.

“Come on!” said the voice. Masculine, her brain notes. “You’ve got to help me out, you’re going to bleed out.” Peggy glanced down and barely registered that the blood dripping on the concrete was her own.

“What’s going on? Where are you taking me?” she managed to ask before she was plopped down on something remarkably comfortable. It was soft and she nearly sunk into it when she was gently shaken awake.

“Hey, no sleeping. Come on, stay with me.” Prodded the man, the sound of a metal kit being opened, and her mind nearly yelled out in protest:

“Not the container—” only it wasn’t the container. Her brain foggily remembers that the container was inside her briefcase. What the stranger had opened was a medical kit.

“I’m sorry.” Said the man and Peggy wondered what on earth for when she realized that he had cut open a portion of her blouse. Pain once more sprung around in her shoulder. “I’ve got to get—” there was a metal clank, the sound of a heavy but small object falling to the ground, “—the bullet. Good.”

Diligently, with efficiency, the man dabbed alcohol on a bandage pad and pressed it against her shoulder. The wound stung, but in her mind, dazed and a flurry of blurred image and movement, she could only groan in pain.

Peggy could barely remember the pain of a needle stitching over her shoulder. It was all very fast. “We need to get out of here. The Marshall’s men are going to find us.” He apologized for the rashness of his hands, making quick work but she could only hiss on acknowledgement.

“Where are you taking me?”

Finally, gauze and a strip pad had been tied around in place. “You can rest.”

While thankful for the respite, Peggy was still aware of the danger of a random stranger picking her up, even if he did just save her life. “Who are you?” she asked, considerably much more sober, her eyes readjusting to her surroundings.

She was inside a truck.

The man beside her rushed to get the engine running, looking anxiously around in an effort to lose the Marshall’s men. “You’re safe with me. I promise.” The mystery man promised.

Still, she his reassurance would not suffice. “Who are you?” she pressed.

Glancing briefly to her direction, his eyes worriedly raking over her shoulder, gave a short, tight, but genuine smile.

“My name’s Steve Rogers. Don’t worry. You’re safe with me, just get some rest.”

Chapter Text

Santa Fe, New Mexico – Neutral Zone

Their first destination was a diner, just near the outskirts of Santa Fe.

Peggy could spot the little signs of what used to be America. But now, all that remained was dust and sand in a torrential wind. Steve had already asked her to order at the diner, going straight for a telephone booth instead.

Paying for both of their foods, which was the least Peggy could do for all he’s done for her, she took a booth near the window and spotted Steve in a heavy conversation. His face was tight, his lips pulled into a grimace and nearly forming a frown.

Taking her attention away from him, Peggy took out the metal pins and laid them out on the sticky diner table. It was only there, beneath the dimmed light of the diner did she notice a small, clipped notch at the bed of the pin.

Rubbing the pad of her finger over the notches and comparing it, she let out a small gasp. Six notches. The pins were numbered. There were six packages, six metal pins.

Craning her neck out, Peggy’s shoulders relaxed when she noticed that Steve was still heavily engrossed in his phone call as she lifted the briefcase up form under the desk with her good arm. With a wince as pain reverberated from the wound, Peggy resolved to get her shoulder checked at one day.

Mindful of the diner and the people around her, Peggy sneaked in a glance inside the container and gave a quizzical look at the sight that greeted her—it was film.

Rolls and rolls of film.

Then, Peggy spotted markings on the inner shell of the container.

“SPACE” read the scrawling handwriting. Hurriedly written, Peggy thinks, and using a marker. There was smudge of a thumb, right at the edge of the word, one of dried of blood.

Dumfounded, she slumped back into the booth and hid the container back into the briefcase and sunk it under the desk once more. Space, she asked herself, deep in thought, what has Michael got himself in?

A waitress disrupted her thoughts.

“Coffee, hon?” she was wearing a light blue uniform, her eyes teetering towards the pot. “It’s free with the meal.”

Peggy felt her stomach grumble. “None for me, thank you.” For such a warm and earthy, wonderful scent, coffee happened to turn her insides out. She shook her head to decline when a voice popped up.

“Just a cup for me.” Steve sat down across her, carrying himself lightly, face still crossed. His smile was tight, as he asked the waitress and filled up his cup. “Thank you.”

“Are you alright?” she asked, examining him. His shoulders were knotted tight, she could see the muscles of his jaw lock as he sipped on his coffee and his gaze wandered, eyeing the window, lost and distant in his thoughts.

“No, I’m fine.” He muttered, shaking his head before trying to focus on something different as they wait for their food. “So, where are you headed now?”

Peggy, thought of the metal pin. She wondered how on earth Michael got it, where he had received it. Surely, if he had a pin, then there would be another film reel, somewhere in London. Michael had somehow uncovered it and found the tag before the SS did.

To find something, she wants to say. Instead, she shrugged, “Around.” Strangely enough, he hummed in acknowledgement.

“There’s a bus station near here, it’d take you anywhere in the city. I can take you there if you want.”

“No,” she shook her head and smiled. “I’ve already taken up too much of your time. I can find this on my own.”

Steve twirled around his coffee. “So, are you visiting family? A friend?” he eyes her hand and she realized that she never really took off Michael’s class ring.

Cheeks flushing, she took it off. “It’s not what you think,” she says quickly.

“I’m just saying,” he began. “If that’s the case, no one’s going to judge you. Everyone here is trying to run away from something. Or running towards someone.”

Peggy smiled longingly. She thought of Fred Wells, someone she thought had meant something to her. “Oh, I’m afraid I’ve sworn off that.” She says with little amusement. It had been a long time ago.

“How come?”

“You’re a stranger.” She balked, pointing out with a raised eyebrow.

At that, Steve smiled. “You know my name,” he pointed out. “And I dressed your wounds. But if it helps—I’m Steve Rogers,” he held out his hand, and then cheekily added, “Very pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Peggy rolled her eyes, her lips fighting a losing battle to keep a smile off her face. “His name was Fred Wells.”

The small smile nearly dropped off of his face. “Was?”

At that, Peggy realized her mistake. “Oh,” she shook her head and waved her hand. “It’s nothing like that. Fred is happily married to Mrs. Wells, just you know, a son and a daughter.”

“Then what happened?”

“We wanted different things in life.” Different was a way to put things. Fred, despite being a good man, had submitted himself. He had in been in awe of the Reich. It would be easier to spot a rebel than to find a more patriotic son of the Reich than Frederick Wells.

He was a citizen of the new world through and through whereas she wanted to topple down a tyrant who loomed over the world like an axis of darkness.

“Guess he isn’t the right partner.” Steve looked at her, intently and boring into her eyes. He said it with such conviction, with firm understanding that she couldn’t help but nod. He was right. Fred Wells wasn’t her right partner.

“Yes, I guess he wasn’t the right partner for me. And you, Mr. Rogers? Is there a right partner in your life?”

He smiled shyly, bending his head down, cheeks a shade pinker. “Not that I can say of, no.” He answers.

“And why not? You saved me last night, you’re a gentleman, very attractive, if I say so myself. I’m having trouble believing you don’t have women lining up around the block!”

But instead of letting that get to his head, Steve only smiled more bashful and shook his head, shrugging offhandedly and staring off in the distance. “Believe it or not, I wasn’t always big as a kid. I was scrawny, 90-pounds soaking wet, shorter than most of the girls around our tenement at 5’3” and that’s with newspaper in my shoes!”

Peggy tried to envision him, aptly at his description. She thought what a pity, not for him, but for the women who missed out on him. Steve is wonderful company, anyone would have been fortunate to have him as a friend or as a partner—

“Oh, you must have danced.”

She didn’t think it was even possible, but his cheeks burned a brighter red and looked even more bashful. It wasn’t tinged with self pity, but acknowledgement, and understanding. “No girl wants to dance with someone who looks like their kid brother, no one wants to dance with somebody they can step on.”

“How very shallow.”

“Welcome to America.” He cheered lightly, though lacking heart.

“Well, they must be kicking themselves once you’ve grown out.” Then, in a bold move, she reached out across the table and gently laid her hand on top of his, giving him a small and gentle smile. “You’re a good man, Steve Rogers, not many can say that. You’re meant for great things; you’re meant for more.”

“Thank you.” He says, all of a sudden, catching her off guard.

“Whatever for?” she was, after all, saying those things not just because she meant them or to flatter him but because it was true.

“Nothing,” he chortles out, eyes crinkling. “Just, thank you.”

In the moment, just before their food had arrived, Peggy couldn’t think of being anywhere else on this earth.


It turns out, Steve had made plenty of pit stops here at Santa Fe.

Coupled with bombarding pirates who lurked near the streets, he and his cargo had been ambushed and stolen in more than one occasion. He gave the motel, not a glowing review, but half a frown which, as it turns out, when concerned with any form of accommodation and lodging in the Neutral Zone, was top service as far as she should be concerned.

The room wasn’t bad. It was plainly and scarcely decorated. There may have been mold growing on the exposed parts of the wall where the wallpaper had been torn off due to water damage but it was serviceable.

In a search for answers, to know just exactly what Michael had given his life for, she needed to know what was on that reel of films.

Stepping outside her room, the first thing Peggy noticed was the smell. It was enough to make her gag. The smell that wafted around the motel was the most awful stench, a stomach-lurching smell that lingered on.

The scent at the reception had improved. There was a tin can of air freshener, but it lingered on in her clothes. There was a man, African American who stood behind the counters. Immediately, upon seeing her, he had ushered a small child to the back room, incredibly wary of her. “Hello,” she asked, approaching the man. “Is there a film projector that I could borrow?”

“Room?”

“3B.” She answers automatically. The man gave her a puzzling look but waved it off.

“Hold on.” He called out for a helper and barked orders. Quizzically, Peggy spotted the helper reflexively grab a handkerchief, and ran to the tap. He returned and the white cloth was now pressed against his mouth and nose before heading outside.

“I’m sorry, but do you smell that?”

The receptionist just shrugged. “You just get used to it.” He said, not really answering the question.

“What’s that smell? Where is it coming from?”

“It’s from the hospital.”

Peggy’s brows furrowed together. What kind of hospital would smell like that? But before she could ask anything else, the helper came back, a box in his hands, the lens just peeking out of the folds of the box.

She opened her mouth to ask more on the hospital, but there was a look on the man’s face, one that had no words but its message was exceptionally clear.

“Thank you.”


Setting up the projector wasn’t difficult, turning it on was.

Peggy’s hand hovered over the switch, her fingers trembling.

She didn’t know what she would see. A weapon of mass destruction, the death of more people she knew and loved. It could be anything. She didn’t know.

THE GRASSHOPPER LIES HEAVY –  SPACE

“You can do this, Carter.” She whispered to herself before pressing on the switch—

There was someone knocking on the door.

She hurried to hide the reel. “In a minute!” she called out before tugging on the set up behind the dresser. Peggy straightened her blouse before crossing the room, making a bee line for the door.

To her surprise, it was Steve.

“You told me I was meant for greater things, that I was meant for more.” He was soaking wet, rain had now been pouring heavily. He still had that haunted look on his face, that same rush of helplessness. He looked like he was about to do something incredibly reckless. “Did you mean that?”

“What’s going on?”

“I need your help.”

Chapter Text

Santa Fe, New Mexico – Neutral Zone

The more Steve drove, the scent grew worse.

“I thought I could ignore it.”

Peggy wrinkled her nose and covered her nostrils with the back of her hand. If Steve was, by some chance, referring to the awful stench then she would perfectly understand him because there is no bath on earth that could ever wash away that odor.

But an inkling in her stomach knew. The little of what she knew of Steve, it appears to Peggy, he would not make such fuss over trivial matters. It was clearly bigger, something that stood larger than he, and probably her.

He didn’t make a fuss on her bullet wound. In fact, he was every bit methodical, systematic that had saved her life. But this side of Steve, this version was very different from the one she has grown to know since the their first encounter.

“I saw your stuff.”

The confession wasn’t unlike a swim in a cold, frozen over lake. It had managed to slow her heart to a rigid stop and her breath to cease. Steve still drove like a madman, his chest heaving up and down and he looked like he was about to suffer from a heart attack.

“What?” she asked, voice low, incredibly still.

“I saw the film. You’re either resistance or with them,” he spat the word like acid before tersely pausing, his lips pursing into a thin line. There must have been thoughts raging in his head but she would never know because he shook his head in defiance. “I really don’t care.”

A part Peggy thinks of Michael. Was this how he was lured into his death? A person pretending to be a kind stranger, gain their trust before being cornered and left with no choice but to kill one’s self?

There were a million thoughts raging in on her mind, wondering what on earth would happen now that she was made. But the one lesson her brother had taught her was that when someone pulls a gun on you, you either take the gun or pull out a bigger one.

So, naturally, in the spirit of her brother’s words, she pulled out the gun.

Granted the gun had not worked on the Marshall, years of being decommissioned to a decorative pistol with little cleaning, but he didn’t know that.

But Steve didn’t balk or shrink away. No, he kept on driving, his forehead knotted into furrows. “I deserve that,” he answers tightly and she rightfully nods.

“As you should,” she continued to point the gun on him but he would not slow down. “You lied to me.” She says coolly and heated at the same time, not knowing whether to be angry at herself because she had let her guard down or betrayed that someone she thought was trustworthy had lied to her. “Give me a reason why I shouldn’t shoot you.”

Peggy thought for a split second with horror—what if he’s with the Germans?

“There’s something you need to know.” He pressed on the gas pedal, the engine roaring to an unprecedented speed before making a sharp swerve, nearly slamming the driver’s side of the car straight to ram into a tree trunk.

“Pray-tell, what is it?”

He still gripped the steering wheel. “I’m resistance, too.” And at that, Peggy thought what a load of bollocks. She had been in the resistance ever since her adolescence and never once did she hear of an American frontier. Never was there a more unconvincing lie.

“Need I remind you that I am in possession of a gun that could very clearly end your life with your brains inside out?”

“I know, and you’re welcome to try.” Steve rasped out, but his eyes were otherwise occupied. He kept staring at the building before them. “But how about you do that after we save some children?”

“Save some—" she echoed incredulously until she caught herself.

It dawned on Peggy.

Suddenly, everything made sense. The smell, the people around. It made sense.

They were at a hospital in the middle of nowhere, far away from the prying eyes and the lingering gazes of those who snuck their hand in the wrong cookie jar.

It was Reich controlled, the very little fact should have occurred to Peggy sooner and she berated herself for not realizing it sooner. “It’s a euthanasia hospital, isn’t it?”

Although every fibre in her body wished he wouldn’t, Steve nodded grimly and continued to grip at the steering wheel to the point where his knuckles were already white.

“Children’s euthanasia hospital. Usually the Reich rounds up children, up to 13 years old. They’d drive them to the hospital and. . .” Steve blinked away a tear, “well, you see smoke.”

“It was built on orders of Himmler and Mengele.” Steve swallowed, his voice raspy and only now did Peggy register that he might have been crying just before. “A place where they could dispose of those who were. . .defective in this side of the Reich.” Steve spat the word with a hate that she could never imagine him having, a hatred that had him shaking in white fury and anger.

The racial policies of the Reich had been cruel, Peggy knew that well enough, but the extent of which, being driven away miles and miles away from their loved ones only to die at a foreign room, alone and considered only to be an embarrassing stain upon the so-called Aryan purity.

“There’s a crematorium, that’s why—”

“—why the city smells bad.” She finished for him, floundering at the sight of the hospital, standing tall and proud before her.

“I was supposed to get the film, for the resistnce, but you were there with the Marshall and I thought you were with the Germans or the Japanese.” He admitted with a shaky breath, eyes still locked on the steering wheel, unable to meet her gaze or the gun that she’s slowly deciding to tuck away.

“You saw the fight.”

A small smile peaked from his lips. “At first, I wanted to burst in. It didn’t matter if you were with the Germans or the Japanese, the Marshall and his gang’s ruthless. What he puts people through,” Steve shudders, “No one should get through that.”

“Aside from shooting me, he didn’t do anything to me.”

Steve laughed, finally looking in her direction. “You didn’t let him. You stood against him against all odds, didn’t take any cheek from him, too.”

“I could very well be a German or Japanese spy, you know.”

“You could be,” Steve relented, “But you wouldn’t react the way you did when I said you were resistance. Or you wouldn’t give a shit less about dying children if you were.”

“And,” she tries carefully, “If I was an agent with a conscience and morals?”

Steve gulped, looking unsteady before he locked eyes with her, a steel determination in his jaw. “Then I die, you turn me in to the authorities.” There as a graveness to his voice. Saving the children, it appeared, he was willing to lay down his life. “But we save the children first.”

That was what did it for Peggy.

No spy would be like that.

There was a chance, yes, that maybe it was an ambush waiting for her to get that film. But there was something in Steve she could trust. An earnestness that she knew was genuine, that he would lay down his life if it would set those children free.

So, despite logic and brain desperately yelling at her not to do it, Peggy tucked the gun away and leaned in forward. “How do you plan to get them out?”

“Knock on the front door, what else?”


Steve’s definition of knocking on their front door was very different from hers, Peggy decided.

Whereas hers would be the simple rapping of a fist against the door, Steve had rigged the pedals with a brick and rammed the truck right into the gate, sounding the alarm as she climbed through the roof, sneaking in through one of opened windows.

The truck’s noisy sacrifice would buy her and Steve some time to find the children and set them free.

Peggy’s thoughts were jarred out of her mind when she spotted an empty room and a window. Swinging in her weight towards the call, Peggy came crashing inside, knees tucked soundly as the glass shattered.

Her leg felt sore from the impact, but she could walk it off.

Through the frosted glass pane of the door, she saw flashlights, Despite being, so far, an ineffective gun, Peggy raised it nonetheless at the door and nearly had a heart attack when the man who bust through the door was Steve.

“Christ almighty!” she whispered, exhaling slowly, lowering the gun lest she shoots him. “You got inside quickly.”

“Sorry.” He says sheepishly. “There’s a school bus in the parking lot.” Steve eyes the vehicle from the window. “We sneak the kids out and we drive away in that.”

“I can see that.” She says with a nod before her eyes squinted at the doors. “Where are the children?”

It was almost automatic, the way Steve answered. “Left and right wing. The middle bridge leads to the crematorium.” Then, he looks stricken with guilt, hanging on him like a wound. “We’re too late for them.

Peggy had half a mind to ask him how on earth did he know such things about the euthanasia hospital but there were more pressing matter on hand. They needed to save some children. She nodded accordingly and began to sprint out.

She had just gained momentum on her sprint when she heard him. She turned around and saw him there, just at the hall before he’d disappear into the corner. “Thank you, for helping me.”

All this time, he’d been thanking her. For what exactly, Peggy didn’t know. At the time, she didn’t think she’d care enough to find out. Now, she didn’t think she’d have the time to find out.

“Don’t thank me just yet.”


Twisting on the knob of a door, Peggy had silently woken up the children from their sleep and gave them instructions on the layout of the building.

“Once you see the exit, run as fast as you can. There’s a bus in the car park downstairs, get inside as fast as you can, understood?” the children ducked low and ran, making as little noise as possible.

She was just about to follow the children when there were yells from the stairwell. The children’s eyes had widened. “Go.” She said, voice strained. “I’ll buy you all some time, just go to the bus!” she whispered hurriedly before sprinting out, catching the attention of the men whose attention where now diverted from the children.

Peggy ran as fast as she can, slipping in from one room to another, making as much noise as possible to confuse the guards. Finally, she found a room and crouched low. The sound of the heavy leather boots soon faded, Peggy was ready to leave when something caught her eye.

It was a photograph of Howard Stark and Dr. Abraham Erskine. They were standing in this facility, with pipes running down along the walls of the chamber and there was this huge pod.

The famed inventor and weapons constructor, Howard Stark, already graying in the picture, gave a pursed smile but she could see, even in the picture, the gleam in his eyes that nearly betrayed his composure. He could be bouncing off the walls with that gleam in his eyes.

Beside him was a famed doctor. Abraham Erskine, one of the leading scientists of the German Reich’s projects, the Lebensborn program.

These two men were tasked to create a new breed of citizens to prove the perfection of the Aryan dream.

Ironically, which was why Peggy stared so long at a picture of the two men, was that they were persecuted as traitors of the Reich. It was just after the war had been lost and these two men, so publicly known as faces who helped the Reich had been working against it.

Peggy remembered being forced to watch the public execution and shudders at the memory.

Then, in the corner of her eye, she sees a bulletin board. Some of the notes were filled with technical and scientific jargon even her education couldn’t comprehend, some chemical compounds that didn’t make sense. Above it all was written, in plain words, “PROJECT REBIRTH”.

Even more intriguing, there was another shot, of the same people and the same facility here in the hospital but with the addition of a new man, a shorter man.

He looked familiar, though Peggy couldn’t place her memory on meeting someone 5’3” save for Michael before his growth spurt had shot off dramatically.

Standing up to get a closer look, Peggy—

“There she is, get her!”

A guard shouted, a flash of light settling on her face and Peggy ran out of the office as fast as she could, the image of that hung on that wall still, however, burning in her mind.

The men who had been running after her were dressed heavily, batons in hand and pistols were drawn. The narrow hallways had been played to her advantage, they were all advancing to get to her that they stumbled with every sharp turn of a corner.

She had managed to beat them to the stairwell and pushed the door open to be greeted by stomach-gagging scent mixed with the cold, sharp brisk of a night breeze.

Steve was standing outside the bus, ready to help her but she shouted, “Drive!”

At first, he took a step forward towards her until the men had stumbled outside, still armed and chasing after her. Steve gave her a nod and entered the bus and started the engine while she worked on outrunning the men.

Set on losing her tail, Peggy frowned when the bus was slowing down and yelled, as loud as she can, “Keep driving!”

Peggy yelled as she ran as fast as she could, security guards and hospital personnel still hot on her tail. In the distance, in the dark blanket that shrouded Santa Fe, there she saw the bright yellow paint and the subsequent fifty honks of the horn Steve sent.

Seemingly incapable of hearing her even from a distance, Steve swerved the bus into a small path, stopping as to wait for her. Unfortunately, one of the more burly guards had the idea of running towards the bus filled with their wards.

“I said keep driving, you mad man!”

A guard came up to her, baton in hand and poised to strike, seemingly set to outrun her and give her a barrage of hits. Instead of outrunning him, Peggy planted her feet firmly into the ground and straightened her back, grounding her center of gravity as he slammed into her and went flying into the air when she pushed her legs up.

There was a noticeable cheer of children, whistling and gaggles of laughter and clapping.

A sharp corner had appeared before her and the next she knew, she thrown herself and weighed herself down with her good arm, shoulder first into the bus’s entrance. Despite landing on her uninjured shoulder, the reverberations of the landing had been enough to earn a groan of pain from her.

Steve glanced at her, an eyebrow raised at her.

“When I tell you to keep driving,” she began, panting heavily, voice rough and husky from all the running, “You keep bloody driving.”

There had been a look of awe in his eyes. “After that?” he asked in wonder, voice comically small for someone of his size. “You can bet there’s a new motto in life.”

“And that is?”

“Do as Peggy says.”

Peggy rolls her eyes, but smiles.

“Your words, not mine.”

Chapter Text

Santa Fe, New Mexico – Neutral Zone

They drove all night through an obscure, nature-ridden pathway.

When they had escaped the hospital, she and Steve knew it was a matter of time before the hospital guards would send out teams to find the children.

It turns out, being a trucker as a cover job for the resistance had its advantages. The knowledge of less used paths had aided them as they ran in the cover of the night.

Sleep was already evident in Steve’s actions—a small yawn here, rubbing his eyes there. But, what was more clear in him was how he cared for these children.

Peggy insisted that they do turns in driving, but Steve shook his head. “Despite being a cover, driving all night on a highway is familiar.” But she would insist, and Peggy reveled in her small victory when Steve slumped into the seat just to her side, shoulders sagged and fast asleep.

The mission that she had come for had taken a sudden derailment in favor of the children, not that she would regret it.

When thinking of the hospital, a shudder came over her. Peggy knows it was futile, to think of all the lives she couldn’t save, but she couldn’t help it. While she was in the diner, at the motel, if she had known, that life lost could have been another child saved, one child sitting in the back of the bus.

When the war broke out, she was young enough. She thinks, with a guilt that somehow rocks her, that had she been born differently—maybe she could have been sick, maybe she could have been born to other parents, maybe she could have been born into another race—she wouldn’t been as lucky.

She remembers a girl from her boarding school. A Jewish-American sent abroad to study. Her name was Anne. She had pigtails and a spunk that the schoolmaster had frowned upon. When war broke out, her parents couldn’t send for her to come home immediately and when the Germans invaded, it dawns on Peggy with a horror that she never saw Anne again.

She glanced at the children through the mirror and wonders, back then, just how many people, how many children had been loaded into those cattle cars that went all the way to Auschwitz? Just how many children were forcibly removed from their parents’ hands, shaved of their hair, and gassed to die, their bodies not even given proper burial, just burned?

She wiped a tear from her eyes and glanced at the map Steve had propped up against the dashboard of the bus.

“There’s a small community just outside of Sabra called Saint Theresa.” Steve explained, charting down the way in his map. “To the Germans, it’s a Catholic community, but it’s actually Jewish.”

The admission that taken its toll. Hidden out in America, Peggy almost understood immediately the way he recoiled. “They were the ones who escaped from Europe when the war broke out, yes?”

Steve nodded grimly, careful to keep their voices down. “The resistance has been working with them ever since we found out about the hospital. We’d free the children, they’d take them in,” and for a second, she wonders, aside from a good deed, why on earth would they take care of children who would put them on the bad side of the Reich after they tried so hard to mask themselves and become invisible.

But when she remembered Steve’s grim face, the knowledge that it was in fact those who escaped Europe when the war broke out, her heart sank. Most of them were adults, the ones who escaped outside of continental Europe.

If she, a child back then, could remember how friends and neighbors were dragged out, what more of them? What more of actual parents who had lost their children?

Maybe she was guilt ridden or fear from harboring a deeper haunt, Peggy drove without question and into the wooded clearing.


After a switch of shifts, they arrived at Saint Theresa.

The morning has broken and the sound that jarred Peggy to reality was the sound of laughing cheering children.

Saint Theresa was unlike the backdrop of a concrete city. It seemed more a rustic village than anything, almost half-expecting for people to break out in song and dance along the grass. It was a breath of fresh air, honestly, to see a sight like that, a land that was seemingly untouched by the atrocities of the war.

But there were children there, children with little spurts of growing hair, laughing, playing along the trails of the community square. They did not escape unscathed.

An older man, with silver hair and a round glasses came up to greet them and took Steve into an embrace. His accent rang of Europe, Poland, to be exact.

Then, there was a woman. She spoke fast, incredibly fast as she herded the children towards a mess hall and had served them their breakfast meals. “You can’t make good goulash here,” Ana commented as she piled a scoop of the meat stew on their plates. “But we make do.”

They were invited to stay for breakfast, and with empty and rumbling stomachs, they couldn’t exactly refuse.

 Steve, as Peggy already pieced together, was a regular at Saint Theresa, bringing in the children who are supposed to be euthanized for being defectives of the Reich. The usual operation was to hijack the busses bringing the children in, but the hospital security had changed their schedules and when Peggy came in, the children were already set for the gas chambers.

Most of the adults who guarded the community were Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, and Lithuanian Jewish. “I was a teenager when the Hungary had allied itself with Germany. My parents had been able to send me away from the country in time, but—” her eyes turned glassy, “—they couldn’t do the same for themselves and my younger sister.”

Ana Verbeek, effectively an orphan in the America, had been forced to uproot her life once more when the Germans bombed Washington. It was also during the rampant riot and rush to get out of the capital when a stray bullet had hit her in the stomach.

Recovering since then, Ana’s learned that she could never become a mother and, in a way, Saint Theresa’s lost and hurting children became her way of healing. While she would not become a mother, there were no doubts hordes of children who would readily claim to be her children.

While they were eating, a teenager had fetched Ana from their table. “I’m afraid there’s an incident in the nursery,” said Ana apologetically, before leaving them alone. “Help yourselves to the food, please.”

Peggy smiled at her retreating form, taking spoonful’s of goulash. “And she says she can’t make good goulash here!”

“Ana’s a great cook.” Steve muttered beside her, already plied with bowls upon bowls of goulash and loaves of bread for the both of them to share. “Her kitchen’s like magic, I swear. The only place in the Neutral Zone where you could get great meal and a decent night’s sleep without keeping one eye open.”

At that, Peggy moaned orgasmically to the taste of the sourdough bread dipped into the stew until her mind sobered up. “How did they remain undetected? Surely, by now, Saint Theresa would have been raided already by bounty hunters if not the Reich.”

Steve hunched closer to his meal and lifted his spoon up, pointing at a man seemingly out of place. “See him?”

“He rather sticks out like a sore thumb.” And Steve only grinned.

The man was around children, laughing out loud, grinning from ear to ear as the little children began running around the community grounds. But his acceptance wasn’t the only thing shocking about him, it’s his ethnicity.

“His name is Jim Morita, American mother, Japanese father—” then, as if knowing someone was talking about him, Jim had turned to their direction and waved enthusiastically before his attention was captured by a young girl who had tackled him down to the ground, followed by a two more children, “—when the war broke out, his Pa joined up the army, he died in Azzano. He and his Ma were separated when Roosevelt placed the Japanese in camps all over California. When the Japanese were splitting up America, he was detained because his Ma was killed by the Kenpetai for being anti-Japanese, ever since then, he had no real place to go.”

“Because no side would have him,” Peggy blurted out and felt an admiration for the man. “Why Saint Theresa of all places?”

Steve looked around the place, eyeing the children with a soft gaze and it dawned on Peggy. “He was defective, wasn’t he?” then, she watched the children more intently. They could easily overpower him because of a limp.

“He tried to go to the Reich, but he was sent out here. The Resistance in its first year managed to break out a few kids,” he took a deep, shaky breath. “It doesn’t matter if he’s one of the best shots in all of America, the Imperial Provinces didn’t want their race tainted, didn’t want a halfie in their ranks and the Reich didn’t want the defectives.”

Then, much more firmly, he said, “Saint Theresa’s the only home we know.”

It wasn’t lost on her that he said we.

Chapter Text

Saint Theresa – Neutral Zone

As it turns out, there’s a very good reason as to how and why Saint Theresa held out for so long maintaining its cover.

Aside from being deep in the woods of the Neutral Zone, away from any major highways and mainly removed from the two empires that ruled both the opposite coasts, obscurity wasn’t going to mean anything if it was discovered.

Saint Theresa clearly valued the importance of physical defenses—after all, Peggy notes to herself as Steve had toured her around the premises of Saint Theresa, passing by the numerous guard posts of the community, the sturdy wall that surrounds the area, and some firearms when it falls upon them to defend the community.

But it was not lost on them, however, the benefit of intelligence.

“This is our communications room,” Steve pushed the door open and Peggy immediately thought of the London base of her resistance. Most of the equipment were outdated, bulky frames and thick wiring that ran all over across the room. Four people manned the room and Jim Morita was one of them.

“How’s it looking Jim?” Steve asked as they deciphered a code.

Jim gave the message an odd look and back at their reference book. “I, uh, I don’t know what to say.”

Steve left her side and went to Jim’s, peering over at the message. “Hang on,” he said, taking the piece of paper into his own hands. “It’s not. . .it doesn’t make sense. Are you sure Dum Dum got the code?”

“What’s going on?”

“A mix-up.” Jim answers with a grumble before giving a polite albeit disgruntled smile. “One of our usual field agents had been injured from an altercation and someone got wind of her number and face and, well, we had to pull her out in case things got worse.” Peggy nodded in understanding.

“You had someone else replace her.”

Steve scratched the back of his neck. “Maybe the Turing method?” he asks hopefully but Jim shook his head.

Then, Peggy walked over to Steve’s side, holding out her hand. The message is then deposited in her hand and she admits the code to be strange, but she couldn’t help the underlying sense that it had a pattern to it. Something almost native.

 “Have you tried a one-time pad?” she looked around and found herself a clear spot and pulled a reference book to her side.

Jim nodded, looking over to her spot where she had commandeered herself a pencil and a clean sheet of paper. “I did.”

“Did you account for the message to be in another language?”

She looked over her shoulder and was greeted by an almost stumped look from both Steve and Jim that slowly morphed to one comparable to a deer in the headline. They recovered, of course, as their eyes widen in understanding—“Dum Dum’s Irish!”

“Unfortunately, I don’t speak a lick of Irish.”

“But I do.” Steve offered and grabbed another pencil lying around, his gaze switching between the reference book and the message before cracking the code.

“What does it say?”

Steve’s shoulder sagged and his teeth gritted. “We can’t leave.”

“And why ever not?” she asked sharply.

While she did not intend her words to be tame, unfriendly wasn’t what she had aimed for. But the fact still stands while she was still reeling form the rush of a children heist from a Reich euthanasia hospital, she is still on a mission.

She cannot afford anymore distractions, especially while the film reel was all the way back in her motel room.

Steve went over to a map. A large chunk of it had been Saint Theresa. Four distinct corners of the area was marked. “The Marshall and his men are combing the woods.” He says tightly. “Dum Dum’s reporting over a dozen men patrolling almost 15 clicks away from the west and north-west points of the camp.” He looks over to her direction and this time, head bent low, he frowned. “I’m sorry.”

“How long until they’re clear?”

Steve scanned the paper and his face lit up. “There something here about a turnover of shifts sometime around 2100 hours. That will buy us enough time and cover to get out of camp undetected and go back to Sabra before nightfall.”

“And what are we supposed to do?” she asks, almost desperately, because she can’t standby, not when she’s so close to finally fulfilling the mission that Michael had left her behind.

Jim stood up, arms held up in the air. “Hey, I get it.” He interjects, garnering their attention. “You have to do something, everyone does—but you’re no help when you’re dead on your feet.”

Steve nodded in agreement. “Jim’s right.” He exhaled, letting his gaze fall towards her shoulder. “There’s an infirmary here in the camp, it’s not much but we have pain meds and it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

“Yeah, and if you want,” Jim says with an apologetic glance, “if you want, Saint Theresa’s got a nice, soft bed and long, hot bath.”

Unable to deny the exhaustion that had already seeped into her bones, she wordlessly nodded and followed Steve out into a brick building and lead her into a small room. It was quaintly decorated: a singe bed pressed into the corner, a nightstand and a lamp.

“It’s not much,” Steve scratched the back of his neck sheepishly as he deposited the linens and pillows he had secured from the inventory. “There’s hot water—”

She had been listening by then and let a stray tear streak her face.

“Hey, no. What’s wrong?”

Peggy was minutely aware of the fact, despite her every fibre being wracked with sobs that left her chest heaving in pained gasps, Steve took her in an embrace. “Hey, come on, what’s wrong?”

And that’s the thing.

Everything was wrong.

Just a week ago, she wasn’t even supposed to be here.

She’s an initiate in all of a week, not even five minutes in and her brother was killed and she was sent on a goose hunt to find a film that he had died for, a film that she didn’t even more what it held.

A week into it all and she hadn’t even grieved properly because there was no time to grieve for him.

And now, now that she’s out of danger or not running for the sake of her life, now she has nothing to face but the grief she’s kept pushing down. In everything that has happened, in the mess of it all, she’s forgotten that she’s supposed to be grieving.

Steve kept her in an embrace, his arms seemingly holding her up.

“It’s okay.” He says quietly. “Whatever it is, whatever you need to let out, it’s okay.”

She shakes her head with a grimace. “No, I don’t think it will be okay.”

“Peggy, I—”

“I’ve lost, Steve.” She says with a finality, one that was far heavier than anything else she’s said to him since the first time they’ve met.

“We all lost.” And it was true, in a world where they were already silenced and bullied down for not being one or the other, they’ve lost. But in the moment, when left his hold to plop down on the edge of the bed, she stared up at the ceiling and shook her head.

“Yes, but I had a brother.” She inhales shakily, trying to remember him only to find, with a grave realization, that she will begin to forget him. At first, it will be the small details, but soon she will have forgotten him. “I had a brother and now he’s gone and I’m alone.”

“You’re not alone.” He says, voice gravelly. “I had a brother, too.”

She met his gaze. Steve was still standing by the other end of the room.

“His name was Bucky—James Buchanan Barnes.”

Peggy’s eyes lit up in recognition. In the mess hall, before they left for the communications room, one of the older families had went by to greet Steve. She still remembered the names.

“When I was young, I had nobody. Ma Winnie and Pa George took me in and raised me like their own.” There was a ghost of a smile tugging weakly on the end of his lip. “He’s. . .he was my best friend and when I lost him, I felt like a limb had been torn away from me, like someone had clawed into my chest and pulled out my lungs.”

She wiped away a tear and fixed her gaze on a spot on the wall. “That’s how I felt, when I saw him.” Then she shudders. She thinks, with a heavy heart. No one should go through that, identifying what’s left of the mangled corpse of their loved one.

Steve’s face gone dark, one of horror and guilt eating away at him. But it was also of a steely determination that she feels, the longer she looks at him, is one she recognizes in herself when she first took on this mission. “Bucky dying. . .that’s what keeps me going. I’m not going to stop until all of this is free.”

She nodded grimly, constantly reminded of the pain she’s felt every since the day she was called in to identify her brother. “You won’t be alone.” This war had gone on for too long.

The German Reich and the Japanese Empire needed to fall.

But even then, in the moment as they tempered their anger, Peggy couldn’t just help but feel the exhaustion of it all. She gave a loud sigh, one laced with a tearful snuffle and fell back against the wall. She raised her arms and embraced herself, wishing, thinking it was Michael.

“I miss him.”

Steve nodded sympathetically, nodding in his own memory. “Me, too.” He sniffs, and she realizes that he, too, had been crying. “You know, I’d die for this cause. A hundred or a thousand times, it doesn’t matter because I’d lay down my life if it meant setting us free. But when I lost him, when we lost Bucky. . .”

He trailed off, not finishing but she knew what he meant and nodded. “It’s hard to go forward.”

“Exactly.”

“But we have to. Or else their deaths are in vain.” She thinks of Michael, again, idealistic and optimistic, working for a future that he now will never get to see. “I can’t have that happen.”

“You’re right. We can’t.”

Then seemingly out of nowhere, Steve produces a flask from his pockets and offered her a swig of whatever liquor was inside. Taking it, she swung her head back and hissed. It was strong.

“To the ones that haunt us.” She said hoarsely.

Steve looked mighty impressed. “You’re one tough dame.” He says with a small smile peeking at his lips.

“Let it never be said that I couldn’t hold my liquor.” He took the flask and raised it in the air.

“To the ones that haunt us.”


When Peggy woke up, the sky was already dark and it was nearing their time to leave.

She had just gotten out of the shower and had her fill in the mess hall when she heard a faint sound of laughter coming from just the heart of the wooded areas of the camp.

There the children were, rounded up around the fire, roasting marshmallows as they cheered at Jim as he held the lid of a garbage bin that was painted with a scheme of red and blue with a white star in the middle.

Unable to help herself, Peggy let her feet carry her towards the sound of laughter and spotted a familiar silhouette by the side of the campfire. “What’s going on?” she asks, not at all startling Steve as she stood by his side.

“It’s, ah, a tradition here.” Steve explains readily, crossing his arms as he points with a free finger at Jim. “To keep up morale with the kids, help them forget. Camping night helps with everyone, too, if you want a roasted marshmallow.”

She chuckled at the offer but shook her head. “You’re buzzing with energy.”

Steve nodded. “Just drank a cup of coffee. Ana and Ma Winnie’s stocking the truck with some supplies for my trip and Pa George is checking the engine, just to be sure.”

Unable to pry her eyes away from the children, she almost wishes, wants to stay here. It’s been so long since she’s last seen this, a community. “When will we leave?”

“An hour. Dugan sent a message. The Marshall’s men are just finishing the rounds, we’ll be free to leave then.”

Peggy nodded, satisfied with the answer. A round of bright laughter caught her attention once more as Jim thrust his fist in the air, he eyes now just peeking out of the slits of his helmet. “Just answer me this, yes?”

“Yeah?”

“Who’s Jim supposed to be?”

At that, Steve laughed. “It’s usually Dugan who does story time at camp nights.” He recounts with a breathy chuckle, but even in the warm light of the fire washing over them, she could see just the faintest spots of red flushing at his cheeks. “Jim’s playing Captain America.”

Her own voice rose, incredulously and amused at the name. “I’m sorry—Captain America?” she echoes, stifling her laughter.

“Yeah, Captain America. He’s the Reich’s worst enemy. Clad in stars and stripes—” Steve recites the description and Peggy now understands the silly uniform that Jim wore, filled with the bright and patriotic colors of the old American flag. “—the captain is something like a myth, a legend in the resistance. He only comes out when there’s a big mission. He’s kind of like the face of the resistance. The kids say he's a superhero.”

“Have you ever met him?”

He chuckled and bent his head low, “I got to say, I never had the pleasure of meeting the good captain.” Then, he chances a glance at the children, cheering at Jim as he tells them of the tale of Captain America.

Jim weaves a tale effortlessly—many of his stories includes Captain America fighting the Marshall and his men or raiding the euthanasia clinic to save children, but all of them end with a same conclusion.

When the war is won, one day, he will take off his mask and let down his shield for the next hero of the next generation to stand up for what the American creed holds true.

But he will never stand for tyranny, for oppression. And if that meant fighting for the little guys, then he'd gladly do it for as long as he can.

“Is he real?” she asks with a smile and Steve gave her a thoughtful look.

“I think he is. He lives in all of us. We want the same thing, after all.” And at that, Peggy agrees. This Captain America fellow, masked and star-spangled as he is.

And in a rare moment of silence, thankful that they’re shielded away form the children who watches Jim in growing anticipation of his next tale of Captain America, they listen to the cackle of wood cracking under the pressure of the fire.

Steve’s body emits a warmth and a feeling of safety that she melts into and when she looked up, she sees him staring at her.

“What?” she asks, schooling her features to a calm so that nothing betrays her.

There was a moment, a brief second, where she allows herself to just stare as he gravitates towards her, deeper and closer until—

“Steve!”

They snap back into their reality and to their places when a voice from behind clears up, footsteps sounding behind them. They turn around and see a graying, older man. “Pa George!” he says with affection and a fondness that almost made Peggy feel like intruding.

“My boy,” he says, responding in like, “the truck’s all set, your Ma Winnie’s got you all packed. I think Gabe wants to see you in the garage though, something about the next supply run.” Steve went ahead, leaving her alone with the older man.

Peggy stepped forward and held her hand forward. “Thank you for everything.”

George clasped both hands on hers and says warmly, “My dear, we should be thanking you for keeping our Steven some company.”

She shook her head. “If anything, I should be the one thanking him. He’s saved my life.”

Then, with a seriousness that she did not expect, George shook his head. “No, believe me when I say that you helped him more than we ever could,” he says, almost with an aching sense of loss that she couldn’t decipher. “Your helping him with the kids at the clinic, well, it’s been a win our little family here’s been needing for a long time.”

A long time echoes in her mind. “Oh.” She says out loud. “Bucky, you mean.”

George smiles sadly and she understands that sadness all of a sudden. “Yes, Bucky.” The ma in front of her was the famed George Barnes. “My son’s death had been hard on us all, but Steve, I think, took it the hardest—he was there, when it happened.”

“I. . .well, that’s why we’re fighting. We’ll make them proud.”

“My child, you already are, helping Steve like that.” Then, he cleared up his throat. “You take care out there. You’ll always have a home and a family here at Saint Theresa.”

Steve marched back to their place. “Truck’s ready to leave.”


With goodbyes and thanks said to everyone she had met, Peggy climbed unto the truck and started their long drive back to Santa Fe.

The trees, inevitably, ran out and the open road and field was seen instead.

Soon, when the backdrop of Santa Fe had faded into its buildings. Steve had parked across the motel. “So, where are you going to next?”

Steve glanced around and spotted a phone booth. “Well, I’ve got to do a supply run  for Saint Theresa. And after that well, I have explain to the coffee machine company why their truck was rammed into the side of a Reich operated euthanasia hospital.” Peggy gave a low whistle.

“Well, good luck on your part.”

“And yours, too. I hope you finish your mission.”

Then Peggy gives him a look. She could ask him to join her. The mission she was on, it could just be the revolution to start the end of the Reich and the Empire’s tyranny. But then, she remembers George Barnes, or Ana Verbeek and Jim Morita.

Though they may fight the same war, he was much more needed here.

“Thank you, Steve, for everything.” She leans in for a hug and lingers, more than necessarily needed. When they broke apart, he blushes profusely. She smiles to herself and exits the car with Steve.

“Hey,” he calls out, on his way to the phone booth. “I’ll see you around.”

Smiling, she nods.

She crosses the road and into the entrance to the motel and that was when she notices something was wrong.

The glass was thrashed, lots of small pieces of glass had lodged itself upon the ground and there was the tiniest on the ground.

“You!” a voice said from behind her. “Get out!”

The motel owner scowled and pushed her out of the door.

“Wait. . .what happened?”

“Get out, leave and never return! I don't want to see your fucking face ever again!" he yells as she runs towards her room, a feeling of dread filling her when she reached the door. Her heart came to a stop when she found the room trashed. The cabinet and drawers were upturned, but what was most noticeable was that her belongings are gone.

The case was gone. The film.

“No. . .” Blood pounded in her ears. “What happened?”

“What do you think happened?” the man sneered unkindly. “The Marshall ransacked the place.”

“Did you see what they took? Where they went?” she rambled, because she couldn’t lose that. Not the film. Not that.

“I don’t owe you answers. Get out,” he brandishes a gun, “Get out of here and never return before I change my mind and shoot you instead.” 

Peggy, shaking from the loss, walks out of the room with no film. She spots the truck across the street and ran towards—

“Steve!”

Steve turned around, pleasantly surprised at first until it dawns upon him her distress. “Peggy. What happened?”

“The Marshall, he took the film. Steve, he took the film.”

Chapter Text

Santa Fe, New Mexico - Neutral Zone

Santa Fe, in the span of five days, did not change at all.

 The haunting smell still lingered in the air and knowing what it was, what it represented made her sick to the stomach no matter how hard she tried to ignore this.

But above all, as she took the same window booth of the diner where she and Steve first really began to understand each other, it is both ironic and fitting that she found herself there once more, only this time the film reel is nowhere to be found.

She pales at the memory of the motel room—thrashed and ruined, the glass panes of the window had been smashed in, the dresser near the bathroom had caved in with a kick to its top board, but what haunted her the most was the distinct splatter of red across the walls of the room.

Peggy shudders to think of what happened there in its entirety. She hopes, prays that nobody lost their lives, but it is the Neutral Zone and it is the Marshall—in the short span of her stay in the stretch of land in between the Greater Germanic Reich and the Japanese Pacific Imperial Provinces, she knows mercy is a luxury around these areas.

Steve is outside, visible form her point of view, and she sees him deep in conversation. As of the last hour, he busied himself in contacting people in his side of the resistance, calling for help. But each call that ended with another number dialed, another rejection.

And as much as she hates it, she understands.

The portfolio on the Marshall is not lacking in detail—a bounty hunter with connections to both the SS, friends high up the political party, he and his men will not be so easily taken down.

In the end, when Steve came in, looking more red in his time spent under the sun, he gave a dejected look and sat down from across her.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, head bowed down. “If I didn’t—”

“Steve?”

He looked up, meeting her gaze, “Yeah?”

“Did you force me to come with you?”

He blinked, once and then twice. “No, I think,” he says slowly as she nods at him.

“Then it’s settled: you have nothing to apologize for.”

He balked, his mouth hanging open, and if the situation wasn’t so bleak, she’d tell him to shut his mouth lest he catch flies. “But,” he sputtered, “I lost you your film.”

“Do you regret saving those children?” she asks him without preamble and he was caught off-guard.

Steve honestly looked like he didn’t know what to do, what to say, but with a sigh, he shook his head. “I don’t.”

“Exactly. You and I, we saved lives that night, and I can never regret that. Do you respect me, Steve?”

And without hesitation, meeting her gaze again, he nodded, firmly and with trust that even she found startling. “I do.”

“Then give me the dignity of my choice. I chose to go with you, to save those children, and while the consequences aren’t desirable, we did a lot of good and we can’t ignore that. The best we have to do is move on, go on from there.”

Steve gave her a quizzical look, one that had the ends of his lips quirking upwards. “I guess, we did, huh?”

“We did.” But the fact remained, the film is lost. “How about your contacts in New York, are they able to help?”

“Against the Marshall?” he shook his head with a grimace, “No. They’re in tight with the SS and moving against an ally of theirs, it would only blow their cover.”

Peggy cursed under her breath. She thinks of calling her father but that in itself would no doubt set off the SS, outing her and perhaps her own branch of the resistance and Steve’s to the SS and that is the last thing they need.

“Do we have any intel on the Marshall? On the film?”

Steve took out a notebook, and while he flips through the pages, she sees several sketches, some short and quick, almost hurried in nature while others were far more detailed, having taken care in each stroke or shade.

“Ah, here!” he slid the notebook to her side. She recognizes it as code, cracked down in familiar Turing. “It’s from Dum Dum,” fortunately this time, the message is encoded in English instead of the Irish one sent to Saint Theresa yesterday.

“A hand off to the SS,” she whispers in hushed tones. “In a month, why is that? Why not now, when we don’t have the power to find it, get it back?”

Steve mulled over until a grim look crossed his face. “I know why.” He stares out the window and into the sky, she follows his gaze to the cloud of smoke and the realization dawns on her as well.

“Oh, yes. I see.”

In a month’s time, the SS will deliver to the euthanasia hospital nearby a batch of genetically defective children.

Peggy scrawls down what she remembers from the reel, the etched words upon its casing.

The grasshopper lies heavy. Space.

“Hey,” Steve called out, his actions growing more electric as he leaned in. “Peggy, do you know what that means? The grasshopper lies heavy?”

There was nothing in Chet’s dossier that would have prepared her for that question. The film an the tag had been all her clues.

“Well, you know how we get in the resistance here?”

“I’m assuming a burning desire for freedom and removing the colonial powers have something to do with it.”

Steve shakes his head. “Wait here.” He shuffles out of his side of the booth and she watches him as she sprints out of the restaurant and into the truck. When he returns, his head is bowed and his head is hidden inside the flap of his jacket.

“See anything familiar?”

He hands her a book. The—

“The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, by Stephen Strange.”

Steve nods. “Yeah, it’s, uh, it’s a book about an alternate reality where the Allied won the war. It’s about the trial of those who were involved in the war, including Hitler.” Then it dawns on her.

“It’s illegal in the Reich.”

“Not here, and not in the Pacific States.”

There was a gleam in his eyes, one that spoke of fear and hope. “Steve, what are you planning to do?”

“Peggy, what if I told you there might be someone, a group of people, who could help us take down the Marshall and take back the film reel?”

Then, he tore off a piece of paper from the napkin and fished a pen from his pocket. He scribbled down in quick, efficient, but neat handwriting before he slid down the piece of paper.

The moment she understood the message, she dropped the paper as if it had burned right through her skin and to the bones.

“Well?”

“I think you’re mad.”

He stares down at the paper. She wonders what is going on in his mind, if certain death was one of those thoughts, “Yeah, but I think it’d work.”

Peggy remembers the flask she had been given before leaving Saint Theresa. She dipped the tip into their cups and filled them halfway. With a flourish, she raised hers and emptied it with one, swift drink. If this is their plan, then she is going to need more whiskey.

“I guess we’re going to the Japanese Pacific Imperial Provinces.”

She stares down once more at the piece of paper and wonders if this is a deal worth the film:

Get the Yakuza.