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Hold The Line

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September 2016

Peggy sighs, looking at herself in the mirror.  Her civilian disguise, to say the least, had been better. She needed to recolor her now chest-length (officially the longest it's ever been, too) hair, most certainly. Peggy's natural brunette was coming back, mixing with the red dye remaining at the bottom in an ombre of indifference. Her fingers trail through one of her curls, wondering how Steve had been faring after all this time. 

They were meeting, ironically, just outside of Berlin, on one of the many streets they had fiercely fought HYDRA in nearly a lifetime ago. The street was now reduced to graffiti and overflowing trash, but there was something welcoming about the closeness.

Granted, anywhere where Ross didn't have jurisdiction was - in Peggy's opinion - a better place to be. Nat kept a casual watch at the end of the alley as Peggy waited for Steve, almost shamefully eagerly.

Besides the rare encrypted message they'd send back and forth, she had little contact with him. Peggy had missed Steve terribly, savoring each and every word he’d send her. It was a lot like those early days of the war, the longest weeks ever keeping them on what felt like different planets.

It had been...too long since she'd last seen him. They had little time before their group needed to split up, Nat and Peggy going west while Steve and Sam would go north, and those last moments of togetherness felt more like a final goodbye. 

She squeezed his hand one last time. "This isn't goodbye. We'll see each other soon."

"Yeah. Yeah, we will. I'm not leaving my best girl behind for long," he pressed his forehead to hers. "I love you," he whispered.

"I love you more, my Darling."

“Last time I was here,” a hushed voice bounces slightly off of the brick walls, “the US government didn’t hate me yet.” 

Peggy pushes down that biological and marital urge to run to him, shouting his name while wrapping herself around his waist. Instead, she walks slowly towards the figure, obscured by facial hair and sunglasses, “I also believe you were wearing spandex too.”

They meet with a quick kiss, lips pressing into each other lightly as they make up for nearly eight months of lost time.

“Your hair’s different,” His warm hands trail through her curls once they separate.

“You have a beard and you didn’t consult me,” Peggy returns jokingly, eyebrow raised. She didn’t know how she’d expect him to look with facial hair, but she wasn’t expecting him to look this good, the rugged look seemed to really be doing something for him.  

He runs a hand through his beard, “What, you don’t like it?”

“Oh, I never said that,” she whispers as she runs a hand through his hair, her lips just an inch from his. “I think it looks quite good,”

Their lips meet in a passionate kiss, the hair of his chin tickling at her face while his hands grasp at her hips. She doesn’t want to stop, but knows that she needs to-- at least to save Nat from second-hand embarrassment, “Nat’s got a room at a hotel three streets over,” she says between heavy breaths, “we can… catch up there.” 

He’s gone by morning, leaving Peggy in the queen-sized bed with nothing more than some wonderful memories and a slight soreness between her legs. He had treated her like a goddess that night after discussing their next few months over dinner. Nat had taken the night watch that evening, pretending not to hear the muffled cries of passion coming from inside the hotel room. 

"Nice hickey," Natasha comments the next morning as she and Peggy were already on their way to a hideout location just west of Prague.

Peggy says nothing, a small smile on her face. 

“Were you two… careful the other night?” Nat asks.

“Were we what?”

“Jeez, Carter, I know you two are pushing 100, but were you two careful ? Wrapping the sausage or whatever.”

Peggy gulps. “I can’t remember.” 

“Alright, we’re making a pit stop. You’re going to go to the pharmacy and ask for a plan B. Buy it and take it as soon as you check out.”

November 2016

Soon enough, Peggy gets suspicious enough to buy a pregnancy test.

Peggy hovers over the toilet seat in the bathroom of the drug store, Nat standing protectively close behind.

“I’ll be damned.” She whispers, looking at the innocuous two pink lines. 

“You two are super-soldiers,” Nat replies.

“Well...yes, but…” she trails off, her brows furrowed. "I wasn't…" she laughs humorlessly. "This really is some timing we have." she can feel tears of frustration brimming in her eyes. If this was a year ago, Peggy would be nothing but overjoyed.

"I guess you two weren't so careful," Nat says, and then adds with an almost forced lightness in her tone of voice, You're going to be alright, Peggy. I promise."

"Yes, yes," Peggy says, and then looks down at the little test still clutched in her fist. Determination sets in her voice. “It’ll be alright.”

March 2017

Peggy paces back and forth in the motel room, biting her lip as the minutes tick on. 

“He’s going to find out at some point, Carter,” Nat hands Peggy her jacket, “it’ll be a lot easier for both of you if it’s before the kid’s here. We’ve got a 20-minute window to see Rogers, and I’m going with or without you.”

Peggy sighs, tucking the one sign of normalcy-- hell, of hope-- underneath her coat. Stiffening her spine, Peggy makes her way out to their most recently borrowed car, Nat driving with determined speed to the coordinates Steve had sent through a burner phone weeks ago. 

Their meet-up spot is nothing more than a shopping mall, busy shoppers running past Nat and Peggy as they wait for Steve. Peggy tries to fight the sudden urge for a cinnamon sugar pretzel when she hears Steve’s voice behind her. 

“We don’t have much time,”

Peggy turns to face him, pulling her coat closer to her body. 

And then they’re kissing, Peggy's hands run through Steve's hair and she feels the love that burns so bright within her as if it were a flicker of an oil lamp in the dark, and she’s holding on so tight to it. 

“What happened to the long hair? I thought that was your disguise while I had this.” Steve runs his hand through his beard; a little longer and browner than the last time they had seen each other.

“I…I don’t need it anymore,” Peggy pulls off her coat slowly, feeling Steve’s eyes drift to her rounded midsection. 

“That’s… incredibly convincing,” Steve laughs, “where’d you get it?”

Peggy guides his hand under her shirt, allowing him to feel the absolutely real skin underneath, “Six months ago. A particular night with you, if I’m not mistaken.”

She watches as Steve’s lips twitch quickly from a smile to a frown, his other hand cradling the bump as well, “Peggy, if I had known…”

“This isn’t convenient, I know, but it’s been nice keeping this piece of you with me at all times.” For the first time in what feels like forever, Peggy lets out a happy cry, tears dripping down her cheeks. They stand there for a moment, forehead-to-forehead.

Steve clears his throat, “No more running.” 

“But if we stop, then we admit that Tony is right. And I don’t particularly want to have our child in a prison.” her mind races to the scenario she's had nightmares about. No doubt, the baby would be immediately taken and turned into a lab test subject, or perhaps even worse. 

The words " our child “ should be enough to make him smile, knowing damn well this is what he’s wanted with her for nearly forever, but Steve remains indifferently serious, “I don’t want that for you either, but I also don’t want to not be with you any longer. I bet you haven’t even seen a doctor during this whole time either.” 

She doesn’t answer, her eyes fixated on the flashing lights of a neon sign across from them.

“Peggy,” Steve sighs, “you can’t do this to yourself. To either of you.”

“Then tell me what we should do, Steve.” Peggy pleads, her happy tears mingling with those of frustration.

“We hide. Together. Go somewhere no one will find us. Try to live that normal life Sam’s been telling us to try out.”

“But… the Sokov…”

“Nat can handle it,” he shoots a glance to where Nat is currently sipping at her bottle of water, “I don’t want to be away from you for another six months.”

“I…” she trails off. “Wouldn’t it be too conspicuous if we were both together?”

“Truthfully, Peggy, I don’t care.” 

With help from Nat’s friend Rick Mason, Peggy and Steve move into a small cottage outside of Edinburg. It’s inconspicuously conspicuous, Peggy and Steve making good acquaintances with the neighbors two miles down the road while etching out some semblance of normalcy.

They’re Lizzie and Grant Derwin here, and they’ve moved to Scotland so that Grant can find a new muse. During the day, Steve works as a cashier at a grocery store to keep up appearances despite the constant flow of money Nat is sending.

Peggy feels utterly useless at this point, her days spent tending to her bump and worrying over the cleanliness of their home. If her mother could see her now, Peggy thinks, she may for once be happy. 

“How are my two favorite people?” Steve comes home with a pint of that chocolate ice cream Peggy has been unable to get enough of.

“Hungry,” Peggy smiles, kissing Steve on the cheek. Upon the sudden contact of Steve’s stomach against hers, the baby kicks, “and antsy, it seems.”

Steve sniffs the air. “Something smells good.” 

“Don’t get your hopes up, darling, it’s one of those pre-made meat pies you brought home from the store.”

“No wonder the house isn’t on fire.” Steve laughs. 

For a brief moment, life feels simple and easy. A cheerful and domestic moment that Peggy had dreamed of since the very beginning of the war.

“Howard, we aren’t going to be able to land this thing,” Steve glances at Peggy in the seat next to him, his voice wavering, “Schmidt is gone, but even I can’t land this without causing collateral damage.”

“Are you sure, Steve...? Just-- damn it, give me one more minute and I can find your location.”

“It’s fine, Howard,” Peggy answers, her voice more firm, “Just remember us. That will be life enough for the two of us.” Her hand hovers over the switch, cutting off the comms system. 

“I’m sorry there’s no Stork Club,” Steve says solemnly, “No house in Brooklyn with a yard full of kids.”

Peggy grabs Steve’s hand, “I have you, and that will forever be enough.” 

She should cut him off with a kiss, “I spend all day slaving over a microwave oven for dinner and this is the thanks I get? Really, Grant, how very 20th century of you.”

“You’re right, Lizzie. I’d be a fool to not realize how good I have it.”

The baby is born on that fateful foggy morning on June 21st, it’s just before the sun rises, casting a shining ray of hope on their ultimately dim lives. Peggy gives birth back at the cottage, too afraid something may go wrong at the hospital. Steve continues to be a dutiful husband, helping to deliver the baby as well as clean both mother and child up afterward.

It was a girl, and they took no time in choosing Sarah Natalia as the perfect moniker for the child with Steve’s blonde hair and Peggy’s smile, down to the dimple.

“She’s perfect,” Steve whispers, stroking the newborn’s cheek.

“Without a doubt.” 

The baby cries softly in Peggy’s arms, bright blue eyes staring intently back at her mother.

“I’m sorry this is the world we’ve brought you into, little one,” Peggy speaks softly, “But Mummy and Daddy love you very much.” 

Sarah grows strong and healthy with each passing day. She is without a doubt advanced, due to her parents’ own superior bills of health and ability, but Peggy and Steve have no reason to say a word. She’s under the constant eye of Peggy and Steve, worried within reasonable doubt that someone would notice and find her. 

She's already starting to speak, her vocabulary still somewhat limited. So far, the words she could say consisted of, "Hi", "Yes" and her own name, among a few other small, simple words. 

“Mammmm.” Sarah bounces excitedly at the sight of her mother one morning, “Mamm, Mamm, Mamm.”

Peggy beams at her daughter’s new skill, sweeping the child into her arms, “you’re a wonderful little girl, Sarah. Now we just need you to learn how to say ‘Dad’.”

Peggy watches as Sarah bites at her little lip, clearly trying to understand her mothers request.

“Mamm?” Sarah repeats unsurely.

“Don’t you worry about that now, Sarah Bear. Let’s get you dressed so that we can go out on our walk and show Daddy your new trick.” 

Holding Sarah close in her arms, Peggy makes her way into the living room, watching the intense frown on Steve’s face.

“Is everything alright, darling?”
“It’s Nat,” Steve drops the phone from his ear, “we need to get to the compound now. ” 

Peggy's face falls. “But what about…” 

“Pack what we can for her, and grab your suit. This is going to be worse than we think.”

"Tell me what happened," Peggy breathes, setting Sarah down on their bed. 

"Vision was attacked by someone who's looking for the stones. Sam and Nat were able to scare them off for now, but... they've got Tony. And Strange, and that Spider-Kid." 

"Dada?" Sarah asks, her tiny voice interrupting the conversation.

"Did...did she just say…?" 

"Dada!" Sarah chirps again, grateful for the recognition.

At that moment, all Steve wants to do is stop and smile. His daughter's voice takes him away from all of his worries, to a world where no one is breathing down their necks, and it's just his little family's simple life. 

“Steve,” Peggy snaps him from his train of thought, “what can we do?” 

“We need to get to Wakanda. Find Bucky, take down this threat. Save Tony and the others.” 

“Dada.” Sarah pleasantly repeats to herself.

“Do… do the rest of them know about,” Peggy motions to Sarah on the bed, grabbing at her toes while cheerfully repeating her new words.

“I think Nat told them.” Steve nods, “she says that some of the Dora Milaje can watch her while we stop this guy.” 

Peggy closes Sarah’s suitcase, scooping the little girl into her arms, “She’s going to be alright.” her words seem less certain than she implies. 

“She will, Peggy, she will.”

 Bucky vanishes within an instant, crumbling to no more than dust before Peggy and Steve’s own eyes. As do Wanda, Sam, and T'Challa.

“Sarah,” Steve whispers, echoing exactly what Peggy was thinking. 

They sprint back to where Sarah was supposed to be in an underground lab, under the watchful eye of two Dora Milaje. 

A powerful sense of terror for Sarah’s wellbeing, pure dread, and maternal protectiveness has the adrenaline coursing through Peggy’s veins, more so than when they were just fighting Thanos and his army. 

Sarah was fine, unaffected. She was alive . The Dora with her was shaken but alive (one could only guess the other had vanished into dust).

Sarah smiles brightly upon seeing her parents, offering Peggy a handful of slobbery cheerios. 

Steve and Peggy both laugh tearfully. Steve picks up Sarah, hugging her tightly as Peggy joins in. Sarah was alive. Sarah was okay , and they couldn’t be more thankful. 

“Dada?” Sarah asks, grasping at Steve’s beard, her innocence at the entire situation that just happened to be mildly comforting. 

“What has happened?” The remaining Dora asks, fear plastered across her face.

“We lost,” Peggy whispers, “we’ve lost so much.”

Staying in Wakanda is too much of a reminder, so Peggy and Steve return with Sarah to the cottage, trying like hell to hold on to that last bit of normalcy they had established.

They’re nothing but quietly contemplative those first few weeks, Sarah’s unknowing and cheerful attitude the only thing keeping their small home from being as silent and remiss as a mausoleum.

They’re open about who they really are now, the reactions from their neighbors much more muted than one would expect. Steve and Peggy can’t blame them though, a sense of imposter syndrome wrapping around the two heroes who had failed their mission of keeping the world safe. 

In an attempt to ease the situation, they both try to give back. Steve leads a support group at the community center for those who are struggling with the losses of the snap, every Wednesday talking for hours with others, and, more importantly, listening. Peggy, never really good at explicit emotional appeals, gives back in her own way, teaching self-defense to women who don’t feel safe in the empty streets of the town.

“Dada, Mamm, play?” Sarah bounces excitedly in the living room, holding a stuffed rabbit in her chubby hands.

Peggy stays silent, her head buried in her hands. This is selfish of her and of him, creating life while everyone else is gone. It was a foolish evening right after everyone vanished, tender cries of sadness turning into intimate moments while the baby slept. She supposes there should be a part of her that is happy, voices from those departed telling her that this is alright, but those voices seem a million miles away.

“Play?” Sarah repeats frustratedly.

“Give your Mommy a moment,” Steve says, taking the baby in his lap, “it’s been a long day.”