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The Eulogy of a Few Good Men

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Margret ‘Peggy’ Carter would never forget the day that Doctor Arim Zola’s train shrieked to a stop at the diverted station she and Philips had commandeered for this exact purpose. Soldiers swarmed the cleared train and a vicious kind of warmth curled at the base of Peggy’s spine.

Ollie’s monster was caught. The monster that had Ollie curled up at the foot of Peggy's cot night after night, because she couldn’t breath, she couldn’t breath and there was fire under her skin, was done for.

The monster would never hurt Ollie again.

And then, in the middle of Peggy's soft cheer of victory, there was a scream.

…***…

“Move.” Peggy demanded as she shoved unwilling soldiers out of her way. Peggy had already been moving towards the train when the scream had silenced the station, but now Peggy was running as fast as the crowd would allow. Getting off the platform was easy, the soldiers ducking to avoid Carter on a warpath, but once she hit the train compartment that things got a little complicated. It was only after she had barked the command for a second time that she realized she was trying to get past Gabe Jones. The man caught her by the shoulders, his face paler then she had ever thought possible, and shook his head once.

Peggy could almost feel her legs drop out from under her right then and there. Ollie was going to be devastated she thought. If Steve had gone over, then Bucky would have followed, and Ollie would have cursed up a blue streak, even as she completed the mission.

Because Ollie, dear stubborn and angry Ollie, would have completed the mission and then put a bullet through her monster’s head.

Ollie wasn’t going to be the same after this.

Peggy pushed against Jones’ grip, her lips in a thin line as she struggled. “You let me go this instant.” She ordered, her foot coming down on top of his boot hard enough he flinched. In a distracted way, she had to smile, because this? This was the power of high heels and velocity. But, she didn’t take the time to feel any sympathy because Ollie was behind him and there was a certain way to a woman’s grief that men simply couldn’t understand.

And no matter her dress, Ollie was a woman.

“Miss Carter.” Jones said even as Peggy pushed him aside and marched into the compartment, taking in the open wall and the silence.

There shouldn’t have been silence.

But, in some ways, what was even worse, was how Steve and Sargent Barnes hung from the grip of Logan and Dugan respectively. For the first time since Peggy had known Steve, he looked defeated, his gaze stuck somewhere on the floor. Sargent Barnes looked even worse, his gaze fixed pointedly on the broken railing Peggy had only registered in a distant kind of way.

“Ollie?” Peggy breathed as she looked at the captain in shock.

Beside her, Jones only shook his head.

…***…

As the Howling Commandos filed out of the compartment, Peggy was left with the realization that she was going to have to tell Howard.

She was going to have to tell Howard that Ollie was dead.

…***…

Her hands shaking, Peggy sank down onto one of the crates and fought the urge to scream. Clenching her teeth, she leaned forward and put her head in her hands. She wasn’t going to give the monster the satisfaction of hearing her sobs.

Ollie Bakker, the Geist, was dead and her monster sat safe and sound a few compartments over.

Desperate for a distraction, she allowed herself to be impressed that neither the Captain nor the Sargent had managed to put a bullet through Zola’s skull. Although, she supposed that was why the rest of the Commandos had closed rank around them and refused to let either leave their sight. Straightening her shoulders, Peggy forced herself to her feet and blessed the gods Ollie had sworn by, that her eyes were dry. She had a job to do and Ollie would never forgive her if she didn’t complete her mission.

As she took a step forward, Peggy’s foot collided with something metal that went spinning away. Grateful for the momentary distraction, Peggy shuffled after the sound and bent down to ferret the loose piece of metal from under a knocked over crate.

It was only when her hand closed around the hilt of a knife that the first tear fell from her eye. Without looking, Peggy stood up, gripping the knife with white knuckles. Ollie had always hated guns, she thought with a wobbly smile, even as it became apparent that Ollie had a way with the machinery. But it was the knives Ollie swore sang to her.

And it was one of Ollie's knives Peggy held in her hand now.

But Peggy had a job to do and there would be time for tears later.

…***…

Philips had begun the interrogation of the monster and Peggy had been handed the monster’s briefcase. It was almost a relief, she thought as she marched down the hall to Howard’s office, that she would be able to hand Howard something to distract himself with after she told him about Ollie.

Standing outside his office, her hand on the door handle, Peggy did her best to keep her expression neutral. First Erskine and now Ollie. What else could the war take from her? With that grim thought flashing across her brain, Peggy straightened her shoulders before she marched into the office.

“Ollie!” Howard exclaimed without looking up from where he was hunched over his desk. “Sorry about what happened the other day, won’t happen again. I can promise you that.”

It took everything Peggy had not to turn around and run. Her hand shaking on the doorknob, Peggy shook her head gently, forcing herself to stay composed. “I’m not Ollie, Howard.” She was surprised her voice didn’t shake.

Still, Howard must have heard something in her words, because he put his pencil down gently before he looked up at Peggy with narrowed eyes. “No.” he breathed, his eyes flicking to look behind her as if he was looking for Ollie. “Pegs…” he trailed off as he slipped back from the desk and stumbled into a chair.

“She was the only casualty.” Peggy managed to croak out as she shut the office door behind her. “Apparently she took Sargent Barn’s place in line for entry. It was a fluke.”

Howard’s face became set in stone and he held out a hand. “Give me that briefcase Pegs, and let’s see what Olivia died for.”

There was an edge of viciousness in his voice that Peggy wholly approved of. Slowly, she placed the briefcase on the desk and then stepped back. It didn’t escape her notice that Howard didn’t fall onto this piece of intel with a giddy sense of glee. No, this one they both stared at with trepidation and no little amount of hatred.

Howard swallowed dryly, his hands on the edges of the case. “Let’s see what Olivia died for.” He repeated slowly, even as he tipped the case open.

From her side of the desk, Peggy couldn’t see what inside but from Howard’s sudden low curse, Peggy wasn’t sure she wanted to know. For a heartbeat, Howard stared at the case with narrowed eyes before he marched to the door and wrenched it open hard enough it hit the wall with a bang. “Chuck! Get me a projector, will you?” he hollered down the hall.

Curious, Peggy leaned over the table and saw a film reel and a file tucked into the case. Easing the film out, she placed it to the side and then flipped open the file. Peggy had never learned German fluently, but she was a Bletchley Circle girl prior to the SSR, and if one looked close enough, languages were just another code.

But she didn’t need to be a codebreaker to understand what was in this file.

Howard turned around at her distressed whine and looked down at the file. “What you got there, Pegs?” he asked gently as he tried to ease the file out of her hands.

Instinctively, Peggy tightened her grip and shook her head, tugging the file back to her chest. Ollie was dead. Ollie was dead, and Peggy was never going to let anyone smear her name. Howard’s eyes softened at her obvious terror and with a tenderness she didn’t think he possessed, he slid the file from her now limp hands and looked down at the papers.

There, in black and white, lay Ollie, strapped to a table and arching in pain.

The picture hit the floor with a hiss and Peggy and Howard tuned to look at the reel in horror. Slowly, Howard shook his head. “No.” he denied, his hand tightening on the paper. “Ollie didn’t die for this.”

Swallowing, Peggy looked back at the file and immediately wished she hadn’t. For all that no one had figured out how to attach audio to film, it wasn’t hard to record it onto a record and send the results along side it. Howard had done it himself many times when he was trying to land a contract.

In between the papers, tucked away like a serpent ready to strike an unsuspecting victim was half a dozen records, each one marked with Ollie’s number.

Peggy sank down onto the chair, her hands shaking as the records fell onto the table. “Oh darling, no.” she whispered, not looking up as Howard grabbed the projector from a hassled looking messenger. “Howard, they recorded her.”

There was the sound of rustling cables and the unfolding of a tripod, but Howard didn’t come over to comfort her, and some ways, Peggy wasn’t sure if she could have handled it if he had. Instead, he came over and stared at the reel, his face drawn and pale. “You don’t have to watch this Peggy.”

“They hurt her, Howard. They hurt her, and I never asked what happened.” The words were dragged out of her throat and she stared at the man who had brought Ollie to her door in the middle of the night, crowing about the fact he had found Peggy’s perfect match.

Slowly, Howard nodded, and he picked up the reel, nodding towards the record player and the top record. “I think we owe it to her to know what she did.”

…***…

The first record was Ollie’s screams.
The second was the medical report. Howard, looking, rather sick, was the one to transcribe the monster’s musings. Peggy had snapped her pencil after the first try.

The third was an interrogation and had Ollie not been dead, the responses would have been funny. Ollie, with her own brand of dry wit, had managed to curse Zola out throughout the forty-five-minute questionnaire. Peggy didn’t think she would ever forget the line where Ollie simply began to laugh and then, quite suddenly, threw something Peggy couldn’t guess at, and whispered dry and low, “if this kills me, I’m going to haunt you for the rest of eternity.”

The sad part was, it sounded like Ollie was talking directly to her rather then the monster and for a moment, Peggy had a surge of anger. Ollie had lied. The mission had killed Ollie, but Peggy hadn’t seen her ghost yet.

…***…

In the end, going over the entire reel and all the records, Peggy and Howard realized Ollie hadn’t given away anything. In fact, she some how had managed to twist the interrogation and learn more about her captures then Peggy had in the months she had poured over reports and ferried intelligence back and forth between various camps and Underground agents. Ollie hadn’t been interrogated, she was the one doing the interrogation.

And now, she was dead.

Chapter Text

The hardest part of the day wasn’t watching the reel, Peggy realized as she pulled on the red dress Ollie had scrubbed the blood off all those months ago. The hardest part of the day was the realization that there was no body to bury. Ollie had been the perfect spy material. She had no family, no connections, and aside from Peggy and Howard, no one knew her real name. It should have been a blessing that Peggy could simply sweep the woman under the rug and make her disappear, but Peggy couldn't find it in herself to be grateful.

They were back where the Howling Commandos had been formed, the very same base at the very same town. Except, Peggy looked out the window, her heart sinking low behind her ribs, the streets were war torn. One of the blitz had managed to do damage and for all that Peggy wouldn't allow herself to break down, she rather thought it was fitting that city looked as wrung out as she felt.

Still, Peggy had gotten the message that the Howling Commandos had disappeared from the base and were sitting in the burned-out shell in silence. Peggy hadn’t wanted to go, not when everywhere she looked had a memory of Ollie hidden under the faint sight of dust.

She didn’t have the strength to read the letter on the dresser, not yet, and Ollie would have wanted her to wear the dress. The other girl had handed it back to her with a hard smile, “Don't worry, most people won't notice the blood until its too late.” She had muttered as Peggy had commented about the faint smell of blood and bleach still clinging to the skirt.

So, a half hour later, Peggy walked into the bombed out bar, gingerly stepping over the rubble. There, in the middle of the room, where they had been gathered all those months ago, sat the Howling Commandos. From the looks of things, Dugan and Logan were pretty far into their cups. Steve and Barnes hadn't managed to get to the same level as the other drunkards, although Barnes looked devastated about that fact.

Steve looked up at her with bloodshot eyes and lines around his mouth Peggy never wanted to see again. “I can’t get drunk.” He spat, his hands tense on the table. “I can’t get fucking drunk.”

Beside him, Barnes raised a glass in a mock salute before knocking it back. His face twisted, and his nose wrinkled but after a moment he shook his head. “Me either.” He whispered.

The floor dropped out from under Peggy’s feet and the urge to curl up and sob crawled at her throat. Ollie had made the same complaint, her mouth curled into a parody of a smile as she stared at the liquor bottle with utter betrayal. “Erskine had thought that might happen .” She eventually managed to croak out as she stared at Barnes in horror.

Ollie had lied. She hadn’t run away with Barnes, Peggy realized a little hysterically. Ollie had smuggled Barnes away from the Germans after he had been given the same serum Ollie herself had been given. Ollie had kept her best friend safe from the Allies and their questions. Peggy herself had done the same for Ollie, and with a brief flash of insight, Peggy had to coincide that Ollie had probably done the right thing for Barnes. And Peggy would do her best to honour that.

Barnes looked at her in shock even as Steve let his head hit the table with a groan. “He was a rumrunner.” Steve said into the table, his voice muffled. Beside him, Barnes tipped his glass into Logan’s without a word. "I thought he'd appreciate the irony of raising a glass in his name."

There was silence in the bar after that, and as one, the rest of the Commandos raised their cups and clinked them together, a soft murmur slipping into the background. Peggy bowed her head, her hands itching to grab the bottle and stumble away to to grieve in private. Yet, before she could drag up the courage to grab at the bottle on the table, Jones rubbed at his eyes before looking up at Peggy. “I’m sorry we didn’t bring him back.” He murmured, his voice rough. “I know you two were close.”

Mortia snorted into his glass, his eyes glazed. “Say it like it was Gabe, we lost Union Jack’s lover.”

Even as silence fell over the table, Dugan and Logan began to laugh so hard they fell out of their chairs. Shocked, Peggy could only watch as the Howling Commandos all stared at the two buffoons on the floor. In a distant kind of way, Peggy could only think that Ollie had to put up with this daily. No wonder the woman had begged for missions on occasions. But Jones looked so heartbroken on her behalf, that Peggy found herself clutching her purse as she shuffled closer. “Darling, Ollie and I weren’t,” she trailed off, unsure how to phrase what, exactly, they were.

It was Jacques of all people who saved her. “We all know you would have said yes had he asked.” He slurred, his eyes crossed as he stared at his now empty glass.

And really, would she have? It would have been safer in some ways. Ollie was always looking for a fight and Peggy could have sent a lot of men her way if Peggy had ever said she was taken. On the other hand, Ollie had always made it very clear to anyone who had ever shown any interest in Peggy that they’d have to go through her first. Not because, Peggy realized, Ollie thought Peggy couldn’t handle herself, but because Ollie hadn’t wanted Peggy to be pressured as one of the few women on base.

Because Ollie was a true gentleman, no matter how good she looked in a dress.

Ollie tried to give as much protection as she could to everyone, Peggy figured Ollie wouldn’t mind the deception going on a little while longer. “Had a ring picked out and everything.” Peggy hiccuped, thinking of the knife Ollie had slipped under her bed one night, for ‘just in case there isn’t an umbrella close by’.

Steve and Barnes looked devastated.

Peggy couldn’t find it in herself to care. Olivia Bakker was one of the most brilliant woman Peggy had ever had the privilege to know, and Peggy had only known Ollie for a short time. But, Peggy had known her well enough to understand that Steve and Barnes would -could- never know about Olivia. A slow bitter anger curled around her ribs and Peggy had to hold herself back from marching straight out of the bar. Those two boys had lived with a girl who had sacrificed everything for them, and they never even knew her name.

There was a reason, Peggy thought as she took a seat at the table and poured herself a drink, that Ollie had called herself a ghost.

…***…

Peggy was standing with the Howling Commandos two days later in Philips’ tent. The general’s head was down without a word, he handed an envelope to Bucky, and then another to Peggy. “This had better be the last time.” He muttered as he shook his head slowly.

Peggy didn’t need to look down to know that Chester had just handed her Ollie’s KIA letter. But, even as her hands shook around the letter, she kept half hoping that Ollie would pop into the tent with a laugh, as she had the last two times she had been declared dead. When a few moments passed and nothing happened, Chester scrubbed a hand down his face before he looked out over the camp. “One has also been sent out to the Bakkers as per his wishes.” He paused, his lips twisting up into a pained grimace, “They denied any knowledge of the, and I quote, ‘bastard child who dared take up their name.’”

There was a low growl and Peggy looked up to see Steve holding back an enraged Barnes. Peggy didn’t bother to ask what was wrong, not when her own broken rage was beating against her ribs and whispering into her ears. Philips shook his head again and when Barnes finally managed to calm down enough for Steve could him go, the general pinned Peggy with a look. “Could you take Bakker’s place?” the question wasn’t meant to be harsh but Peggy knew what he was really asking.

Ollie was more then the support unit of the Howling Commandos, she was Peggy’s informant and a key player in the Underground. Philips couldn’t afford to lose Ollie’s intel and the Howling Commandos couldn’t afford to go without support.

There was a reason, after all, that the Howling Commandos thought Ollie hated blood. The woman was never with them in the beginning of the mission, she always joined half way through. After she had taken out everyone behind or in front of them. Ollie was a damn good sniper, but she was also a terrifying scout. It was only because of her own wishes and the fear of a security leak that Ollie’s true job was kept quiet from everyone.

But of course, Steve interrupted the question wrong. “Peggy’s already a part of our unit.” He insisted, even as the rest of the Howling Commandos closed rank around Peggy.

But it was Barnes who hadn’t moved. With his fingers still wrapped around the envelope Philips handed him, he licked his lips and caught Peggy’s eye. For the first time, Peggy wondered how much he knew. “This is about Ollie’s other skill set, isn’t it?” He paused, grimacing as Steve shot him a surprised look. “This is about the Geist.”

The blood froze in Peggy’s veins and she suddenly wondered what Barnes had seen. What had he seen that put the haunted look in his eyes? But, to her eternal surprise, Barnes shook his head. “This is about the fact Ollie tagged teamed with her isn’t it? Ollie always called Olivia when things got bad, and then the next day Geist’s count went up.”

Beside her, Dugan and Logan swore under their breath.

For a moment, Peggy considered taking Ollie’s place, she had taught Ollie after all. Yet, there was a slight problem. Peggy could hold her own, but she wasn’t a sniper, and the Geist was known for the longshot. Even though, when Barnes got on a tear with Ollie about the long shot, they’d argue over instinctive shooting and planning out the shot. Both snipers were instinctive, but Ollie shot like she had just done the math. She had higher rate of error then Barnes and one day, when Howard had walked in on the argument, he had asked both to do the math for the last shot they had done. Ollie had rattled off a string of numbers and variables only Howard had seemed to be able to keep up with, while Barnes had simply shrugged and said bang.

That conversation had ended the argument.

In the end, Peggy had shaken her head and kept her eyes on Philips. “Olivia won’t come in without her cousin. She won’t leave her kids behind.” So, with Ollie’s KIA letter in her hand, Peggy was forced to lay the Geist to rest with the realization that Ollie had left her kids behind. She had left Steve and Bucky standing on the train, watching, as she fell to her death.

…***…

Philips’ hadn’t dared argue with Peggy when he saw her strapping Ollie’s arsenal to her body when Steve made the call to go after Schmidt. As much as everyone tried to deny it, this was a revenge mission and if Ollie couldn’t be there in person then Peggy was going to give her the honour of trusting her tools to bite into the fist of Hydra.

No one had dared to argue with Peggy, not when she had a silver ring flashing on her finger. It had taken quiet a few drinks and more courage then she’d like to admit, but Peggy had finally been able to open the envelope on her dresser. Inside, had been a plain silver ring and a note.

Carter, keep yourself safe.

The ring hadn’t left her hand since.

…***…

It was Howard who taken Steve and Barnes to the side and shown them Ollie’s motorcycle. Ollie and Howard had worked on the bike for weeks. Ollie would run a mission and come back with a complaint on her tongue. The bike wasn’t fast enough, it couldn’t take corners well, it didn’t have any tricks. That bike was Howard and Ollie’s baby, it was fitting that Steve would use it to ram down the front doors of the Hydra base.

…***…

Peggy threw herself up the stairs to the command tower and stared as Mortia all but tossed a mic at her. “We got them on the radio.” His eyes were set on the ring on her finger rather then her face. “Talk down your idiotic brothers-in-law will you.”

“Peggy, Schmidt’s dead.” Steve’s voice was tiny but Peggy could hear him clearly, as if he was beside her.

In the background, she could hear Bucky shout, “Steve, the fuck is that?”

Before Peggy could ask, Steve was talking over her. “The planes’ full of explosives. Philips was right, Schmidt was going to kill everyone.”

“Peggy, get a pen!” Bucky screamed, “I’ve got our coordinates!”

It was Philips who pushed the pen and paper into her hands, his face set into a scowl. Peggy couldn’t find the strength to do more then smile at him in thanks. “Where are you?” she asked into the sudden silence, her heart stopping dead in her chest.

“Goddamn you Rogers, how the hell could you trip and break the one wire that we need?” Bucky yelled in clear frustration, “Why the fuck did I agree to marry you?”

Behind her, Howard choked even as Peggy watched Logan and Dugan exchange a handful of bills. “I told you.” Dugan murmured, his face pale even as he managed to twitch his mouth into a parody of a smile.

“Peggy, the dumbass broke the radar. We’re flying blind and I don’t think I can put the plane down gently.” Bucky choked out over the radio. Peggy could almost see his expression of frustration mixed with desperation.

“Don’t you dare.” Peggy muttered into the radio. “Sargent James Barnes and Captain Steven Rogers, don’t you break your promise to Ollie. You still owe us a dance at the reception.” She had to keep them talking. She had to keep them talking.

If they were talking, then they weren't dead.

There was only silence over the radio and the cackle echoed low in her ears.

Peggy put the mic down with a slight shake in her hand.

…***…

When Howard managed to pry Peggy away from the control board, Peggy wondered if she had left something behind, frozen in that chair, listening to the radio silence. It hadn’t even been forty-eight hours and all three men were dead. There was a phantom weight of Ollie’s arm over her shoulders even as Peggy staggered down the steps. Around her, the Howling Commandos closed ranks and Peggy threw a hand over her mouth as the first keen ripped through her teeth.

She could see the holes where Ollie and her boys were supposed to be.

…***…

Oddly enough, Howard hadn’t gotten drunk at all when he heard the news. Instead, he and Peggy huddled in her room and stared at the crystal shot glasses Ollie had pocketed time after time, forcing Howard to buy set after set. Howard had reached for the bottle twice, but each time his face went white and he pulled his hand away with shake of his head. It was well after two a.m., when Howard finally spoke, his hands playing with one of Ollie’s knives. “Pegs,” he started, his voice cracking, “I did the math. With the changes Zola made to the serum, Ollie would have bled out on impact.” His hand spasmed and the knife hit the ground with a clatter. “But Steve and Bucky,” his hands sought out hers and he gave her an imploring look, “we might be able to find them. If only to give them the funeral we can’t give Ollie.”

…***…

Three days later, Ollie’s knife slipped from Peggy’s fingers and hit the man who had been following her dead on. There was a low curse, and Peggy’s heart dropped to her stomach when Logan stepped out into the streetlight, pulling the knife out of his arm with a grimace. “You know,” he began, taking no notice of the hole in his arm, “Ollie did the same thing when I snuck up on her the first time.”

It took a moment, but Peggy had to force herself to breathe when she realized Logan had used feminine pronouns for Ollie. The man gave his usual unsettling grin and gestured to his now healed arm with the knife. “Ollie and I worked well together, and she once told me that if she disappeared, to go to you and tell you that you had to make her into a Geist.”

Logan shook his head and he flipped the knife around, so he was holding the hilt out to her. Peggy was still stuck on the fact Logan knew Ollie was female, let alone that he had already been healed, when he began to speak again. “There was a reason Ollie and I preferred to work support. Please Carter, let us disappear, the world isn’t ready for people like us yet.” His voice was low, and if Peggy didn't know better, she'd say he was ready to bolt.

“The serum?” Peggy finally managed through crack lips, the words tasting like ash.

Logan shook his head, his face set into a gentle kind of heartbreak. “Ollie and I, we were born like this, and I’ve been hunted before.”

“You’re asking me to destroy her legacy.” Peggy croaked, her thoughts spiraling.

Logan gave hoarse laugh as he pulled a cigar from his pocket. “I’m asking you to safe lives.” He corrected as he lit a match, his voice muffled around the butt of the cigar. “Ollie was very good at being a ghost, don’t you think this honours her more?”

Peggy couldn’t find a good response to that, instead, she watched as Logan inclined his head to her, turned on his heel, and walked away.

…***…

Logan had been declared AWOL two days later.

The Howling Commandos didn’t say a word.

…***…

One night, Peggy stumbled into Philips. The general sat on a bench beside a small trashcan fueled fire and was staring into the flames with something akin to humour. For a second, Peggy could only stare, then she slipped onto the bench and sat beside him, her gaze fixed onto the fire as well. “What happened to Bakker’s files?” she asked, almost afraid of the answer.

Philips smiled, his teeth flashing in away that reminded Peggy of Ollie. “Classified.” He rumbled. Peggy didn’t answer as the man picked up a file and tossed into the fire. “Highly classified.”

The next file into the fire was tossed by Peggy herself.

Chapter Text

The war was over, Howard was somewhere in the artic looking for Steve and Barnes, and Peggy was in her rundown apartment glaring at the ring on the table. Ollie had been dead for two years and Peggy wasn’t sure she would ever forgive Ollie for not letting Peggy find and bury her body. But, with two years having gone by, Peggy had the distance now, to understand why Ollie had wanted to disappear from the records. Everyone knew about Steve. Some people knew about the Howling Commandos.

No one knew about Logan.

And no one knew about Ollie.

Peggy had to sit through the lunchroom conversations of the SSR, listening to men praise Union Jack, never knowing that their glorified secretary, Miss Union Jack herself, was two seconds away from stabbing them through the eye with Ollie’s knife. On those days, Peggy found herself wishing Philips had wiped her from the records too.

But, when she went to the parties thrown in the Howling Commandos honour, as their liaison agent, never as Union Jack, of course. She could at least remember that Ollie would have killed the men too. Bucky would have given her the rifle first, and then took the pot shot himself. Steve would have killed himself laughing as he watched Peggy smash them into the dust.

But what Peggy could never understand was how Ollie had willing let herself be called a man.

Peggy could never understand how Ollie could keep her mouth shut when the men began to smear the names of the women who had helped in the war.

…***…

It was two years too late, but Peggy had finally managed to track Bethany Collins nee Smith. Ollie had never mentioned her outside of that one conversation with Philips, but Peggy figured with the amount of secrets Ollie kept, it had to be important. Keeping with Ollie’s wishes, Peggy had written out a letter saying practically nothing.

It is our sincere condolences to announce the death of one Oliver ‘Ollie’ Yacob Bakker. He died defending Captain Steven Grant Rogers and his unit the Howling Commandos. His body was never recovered.

Standing in the hall of the apartment building where Ollie had grown up, Peggy’s courage skittered away like the rats she could hear in the walls. Closing her eyes, Peggy was just about to knock on the door, when someone smashed into her legs. Stumbling backwards, Peggy looked down to see a young boy scrambling back up to his feet with a blush across his face.

“Sorry Ma’am, I was trying to get away from my brother.” He sputtered as he took a glance around, as if expecting the mysterious brother to appear from no where.

Peggy could only manage a sickly grin. “Are you Mr. Collins?”

The boy paused, his hands coming up as if to pacify her. “Whatever it is you heard, I didn’t do it. I’ve got a twin brother and it was probably him.”

Blinking away her amusement, Peggy shook her head as she offered Ollie’s KIA letter to Bethany’s son. “You make sure this gets to your Mum, alright?”

The boy nodded and with one last smile, ducked into the apartment.

It was some sick form of morbid curiosity that kept her standing in the hall, waiting to hear Bethany’s reaction. She had expected to hear sobs or maybe nothing at all. What she hadn’t expected was the exact replica of Steve’s cry of pain when the train had rolled into the station.

It was two years too late and Ollie was still dead.

…***…

Ray Krzeminski was a bastard, Peggy thought as she shoved his feet off her desk. But bastards, she unfortunately, had to live with. Sometimes, she could admit that she wished it was still the war, when she could shoot them, or at least punch them like she had Private Hodge. Krzeminski was protected by the fact he was her co-worker and the fact he had a wife.

Peggy would let the mistress and the wife take the man out. It would at least provide entertainment.

Krzeminski stumbled his way to his feet and glared at Peggy, before waddling over to Jack. Krzeminski then flopped down into the chair Jack kept just for him and rolled his head to the side. “Hey,” he drawled, “anybody remember that couple that pulled the Bonnie and Clyde act throughout the war. The pair of snipers who tag teamed into the camps?”

Peggy accidentally stapled the desk.

In some ways, Peggy thought as she began to pick at the staple, this was worse then listening to rant about Union Jack. Beside her, Daniel Sousa gave her a concerned look and Peggy waved him off as she pulled out Ollie’s knife to pry out the staple. The widening of his eyes gave Peggy a certain amount of satisfaction that made the hassle of carrying Ollie’s knife worth it.

In front of her, Jack laughed at some comment she had missed. “No, but can you imagine a pin up of that Bonnie?”

The next thing Peggy knew, Ollie’s knife was an inch deep into Jack’s desk, millimeters from his fingers. The fact Jack was on the ground, sputtering something intelligible gave Peggy no satisfaction. “Darling,” Peggy purred as she wrenched Ollie’s knife out the desk, despairing over the fact she had nicked the blade. “The Geist was one man.”

Jack scrambled up to his feet and tried to loom over her. “You’re crazy Carter.”

Peggy didn’t bother to get up from where she had perched herself on Jack’s desk. The fact he was trying to intimidate her was laughable and she could almost see Ollie decking the bastard before offering Peggy the gun to shoot the man herself. With that beautiful mental image, Peggy found herself able to grin and beam innocently at Jack. “The Geist held one of the highest kill counts in the entire war and he, alone, was the support unit for the Howling Commandos.”

Krzeminski hadn’t moved from his chair the entire time, and while chomping obnoxiously on whatever his wife had given him for lunch, gave Peggy a glare. “What do you know Carter?”

For the first time in years, Peggy held out her hand, letting Ollie’s ring flash in the light of the office. “Oliver Bakker was my fiancé.” She purred, enjoying how the man’s jaw slowly flopped open, “and yes, I was there when he died. So, no, don’t tell me the Geist was a woman, because my dear Ollie could kick your ass.” It took a lot to keep the giggles from bubbling out her throat as she stood and flounced her way to her desk, picking up her purse as she did so. “And by the way, that radio show where I am supposed to be head over heels for Captain Rogers?” she injected a bit of a shiver into those words, thinking of how Barnes had gone after Lorraine for crawling into Steve’s lap. “He was Ollie’s best man.”

Knowing she wouldn’t be able to stay after the incident, Peggy marched through the office and out the door, ignoring the slow clapping from the women outside.

…***…

“Peggy,” Sousa began, his gaze fixed on Peggy’s mother’s house, “I know you love Ollie, you don’t have to marry me to appease something your mother wants from you.”

Peggy threw the car into park and kept her hands on the steering wheel. “The war was full of secrets,” she murmured before she put one hand in Sousa’s. “And the worst one was that Olivier Bakker and I were in love.”

Sousa jerked backwards, his head wiping around to stare at her in shock. In heaven, Ollie had to be laughing along side Steve and Barnes as Peggy struggled to find the words to explain the situation. Sighing, Peggy sank back into her seat, her gaze still fixed on the house she hadn’t seen since the end of the war. “You have to understand that Oliver wasn’t a coward, but she,” Peggy paused, letting herself smile as Daniel mouthed the pronoun, his eyes wide, “she understood that the world could live with an Oliver far easier then an Olivia. When she died, she willed to me a ring. When she had been alive it was easy to march around base, telling everyone to bother my husband rather then punch my way through everyone who objected to my presence. After her death, I had no protection. The ring at least gave me a buffer as I fought through my grief of losing all my friends in less then three days. After a while, I grew comfortable in that protection and it was the only thing I had to prove she wasn’t a ghost.”

Sousa stared at her, his mouth open as he shook his head, trying to muddle through his thoughts. “She?” he asked weakly.

Helplessly, Peggy began to laugh. “Olivia Devera Maria Bakker was so highly classified; the generals only knew her as Geist, the Howling Commandos knew her as Oliver, and I recruited her as Ollie. After the war, I was ordered to destroy all records of the Geist.” She twisted in her seat and stroked a loving hand down Sousa’s cheek. “I didn’t love Bakker, but she was my best friend, and her ring is the only thing left that proves she was alive.”

Sousa fell silent for a moment, before he reached out, grabbed her hand, and slowly kissed her knuckles, his lips touching both his and Ollie’s ring. “Thank you.” He breathed.

Chapter Text

Howard threw the pad of paper onto the table, startling Peggy out of the wedding dress catalogue she held on her knees. “I figured it out Pegs!” he chattered excitedly as he bounced around her and Sousa’s living room.

Peggy didn’t bother to look up. “Darling, how did you get in here?” she sighed, fumbling for the pad of paper with one hand as she placed a finger over a dress, jotting down the number before she looked up. The easiest way to get rid of Howard, she had learned, was to go through the conversation as quickly and succinctly as possible. Any deviations from that plan, and Howard would never leave her alone. As she waited for him to respond, she hazarded a glance at the paper, one eyebrow raising as she took in the writing. “What on earth is the ‘Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate’?” she demanded stumbling over the mouth-full.

Howard twisted his wrist as she spoke. “SHEILD for short.” He explained, his eyes still burning with excitement as he all but threw himself onto the couch. “You keep complaining about the SSR, why not make a new one?”

The catalogue hit the ground with a dull thump and she sprang to her feet, dragging Howard up with her as his words dawned on her. “You are a genius!” she declared as she threw herself into his arms, laughing. Howard spun around and for the first time since the war, there was a clear goal Peggy knew she wanted.

If the SSR wouldn't bend to her, she'd simply build a new one.

…***…

Sitting at her desk at the newly minted SHEILD office, Peggy stared at the pile of papers in front of her. Had she known there was this much paper work involved in running the agency, she would have let Howard have a bigger leadership roll. As it was, her husband, Daniel Sousa – wasn’t that a thrill to say,- was sitting across from Howard, who was nattering on about some new device he was making. It had taken much longer then she thought and she had to pull in nearly every favour she had earned in her career, but she had done it. She had created SHEILD.

She rather thought Ollie would be proud.

Turning a thought around in her mind, Peggy put down the paper she had been reading, and looked over at Howard. “What do you think of…” she trailed off as Howard looked over to her with pride in his eyes. Swallowing, she forced herself to take a deep breath and tried again. “What do you think of posting Steve and Bucky as SHEILDs first fallen agents?”

Howard paused, his hands falling out of the air to land on his lap. “What about Ollie?” he asked, his voice low as he flicked his gaze over to Sousa.

Turning Ollie's ring around her finger, Peggy held her breath for a moment. Ollie hadn't wanted any records and Peggy knew Ollie wouldn't want the recognition of a posted memorial, but there was one thing Peggy thought Ollie would have liked. In a manner Peggy thought Ollie would have wholly approved of, she leaned back from the desk and crossed her arms over her chest, a small grin crossing over her face as she flicked her gaze to her husband. “Daniel, your main complaint about the recruits is that they can’t do any research, or simply don’t try. How about we put them on the hunt for a ghost?”

Howard’s sudden laughter was all the approval she needed.

…***…

There was a kind of tragedy about the scene, Peggy thought to herself as she slumped in the seat and pulled her hat a little lower over her eyes. At the front of the room, Sousa flicked her an annoyed glare, his hand twitching as yet another fresh recruit questioned him. It was unfortunate, but anyone who looked at her husband, immediately thought: cripple, useless, and easy target.

Peggy knew the right words were: loyal, trustworthy, and intelligent. She wasn’t expecting the students to fall in love with her husband, that was her job after all, but she was expecting them to see more then the label. SHEILD was first and foremost, an intelligence unit, it was in the name, and if the recruits couldn’t use their god given smarts, then SHEILD had no use for them.

It was only when yet another soon to be agent called her husband a liar, that Peggy stood up, took off her hat, and walked to the front of the room. In some ways, it was amusing how the recruits suddenly fell silent, their mouths dropping open in horror as Peggy dropped a quick kiss onto Sousa’s cheek before turning and glaring at the room.

Peggy didn’t even have to say anything; their expressions spoke for them. However, no one ever said Peggy Carter didn’t take glee in being spiteful. “Today was the day you were supposed to be told you had passed.” She started in a conversational manner, her eyes narrowing as a few gentlemen in the back crowed in delight. “However, I have decided to give you one additional project.” She intoned, biting back a smile as the men sank into their seats with a grumble. The women at the front quirked smiles at each other and leaned forward, ready for the challenge. “Tell me about the Geist.”

The room fell silent as everyone exchanged a fugitive look with each other, a furry of raised eyebrows, tilted heads, and flicks of fingers, passed messages up and down the room. Peggy didn’t bother to look into what was being said aside from the usual ‘what the hell?’. “You have one week. You cannot ask established agents, Mr. Howard Stark, Agent Sousa, or myself, for hints or information. Depending on the answer you come up with, will depend on if you are eligible to become an agent.”

Silence smashed into the room with the finality of a judicial hammer and Peggy found herself fighting to hide her smirk. “Good luck.” She said as she turned on her heel and strode out of the room.

The chaos that erupted behind her, Ollie would have revealed in.

…***…

A pile of papers was dropped onto Peggy’s desk with a heart stopping thud. Jumping, Peggy slid Ollie’s knife from under the top of her desk and only missed her husband’s hand by an inch. To his credit, Sousa didn’t flinch, instead the man shot her an apologetic wince as he dropped into the chair across her, his crutch leaned against her desk. Recognizing his frustrated look, Peggy cautiously put aside her notes and pulled the papers he had tossed down, towards her. “Darling, what’s wrong?” she asked quietly, taking in the fact he had closed her door behind him.

Sousa made an aggravated sound as he pinched the bridge of his nose. “Peggy, when you gave out this assignment, I don’t think any of us thought about the fact I’d have to read all the papers.”

Peggy paused, her eyes widening as she realized the recruits had typed up their notes and submitted them rather then giving a verbal response. Slowly, she licked her lips and leaned back in her chair, refusing to look down at the papers. “Was anyone correct?” she was almost afraid of the answer.

Sousa gave her a soft smile, one hand reaching over the desk to grasp at hers. “Love, I didn’t know Ollie.”

Oh.

The proverbial penny dropped, Peggy realized, her heart thudding slowly in her ears as she forced herself to look down at the papers. No one knew about Ollie and knowing the foolish recruits, they would have all gave some form of a bullshit response.

This, Peggy mused shakily, was even worse then the speculation of Union Jack.

Sousa squeezed her hand once, his gaze flicking to where he knew she kept Ollie’s ring on a silver chain around her neck. “Love, I can’t read them and tell you who to pass.” He told her gently, his thumb running over the back of her knuckles.

Peggy was going to be sick.

…***…

The next week, Peggy walked into the room where Sousa taught the recruits and stared at the class. “You have all failed the assignment.” She said flatly, her hands clasped together to hide the minuet trembling. The class reared back, the gentlemen in the back Sousa had been complaining about for the past month, scowling at her in anger. “However, Agent Sousa has the list of those who passed. If he does not say your name, leave the room.”

Nodding once to her husband, Peggy turned and marched out the room, Ollie’s ring burning a brand into her chest. It wasn’t until she was half down the hall that she heard a quiet, “Ma’am!”

Peggy slowed to a stop, tilting her head enough to be able to see a young woman jogging down the hall after her. “Ma’am.” She gasped as she slid to a stop. “Ma’am, I didn’t hand in the assignment.” She explained, her hands clasped out in front of her as she gave Peggy a small uncertain grin. “We are an espionage unit after all and there was no other assignment given where our notes were requested. We were asked to explain our thoughts but never were we asked to give our informants.”

Peggy quirked an eyebrow, surprise blooming sweetly under her skin. This little thing wore ill fitting clothes, had dirt scuffed under one eye, and her fingers twitched at her pockets. But she didn’t drop her gaze under Peggy’s glare. Slowly, the girl licked her lips and straightened her shoulders, her hands falling together in front of her as she stared straight ahead. “From what I can tell, Geist was either two individuals working together or a very pretty man who was able to pull of being a demure woman. He,” she winced, shrugging as she said the pronoun as if unsure, “or they, followed the Howling Commandos missions quiet passionately. I say they, because Geist was known for the longshot but also for minor skirmishes.” Either the girl was ignoring Peggy’s silence or simply hadn’t noticed it and continued with an inquiring expression. “If it wasn’t for the fact Agent Sousa is certainly not a sniper, I might have given him as my answer.”

The girl tossed her a small smile and for a heartbeat, Peggy swore she saw Ollie. Then the girl shuffled in place and Peggy shook herself out of her shock. “What is your conclusion?” She could only be grateful her voice didn't shake.

The girl’s twisting fingers stopped as her face froze in surprise. Peggy almost expected the girl to turn and bolt, but the girl surprised her again by scowling and shaking her head. “Ma’am, I don’t have one. I have some ideas but no hard proof.”

Peggy nodded once, a small smile playing at the edges of her mouth. “You have made an honest attempt at the assignment.” The girl winced as if expecting harsh words to follow but stood there as Peggy loomed over her, for that alone, Peggy had to give her some credit. “You pass. However,” Peggy put one finger up to stall her next words, “you tell no one what you have found.”

The girl’s eyes were wide but Peggy didn’t stay to hear her thanks as she spun on her heel and pretended that she wasn’t fleeing from the memory of a ghost.

This was all just a ghost story. It was just one big ghost story and Peggy wasn't sure she was liking the results.

Chapter Text

It was with great trepidation that Peggy walked towards Howard’s office long after SHEILD was supposed to have been done for the day. Sousa had called her, saying Howard hadn’t been seen in twenty-four hours and, could you check on him? The interns are all terrified of the man and we can’t afford to replace them so soon. That in itself wasn't too odd. Howard had a bad habit of chasing people off and being more annoying then was was generally accepted. But this time, this time Peggy was worried. Howard always made sure to check in with Peggy. Always. Without fail. But Howard hadn't walked into her office once in the past week. The last time Peggy had heard something similar, was two days before Ollie died and she wasn’t grateful for the reminder in the least.

“Howard?” she called as she walked into the office, noting that the lights were off. Cursing softly, Peggy slipped Ollie’s knife from the holster she kept under her belt. It had been years since Peggy had been attacked in her agency, but paranoia had never done anyone any harm, besides she didn’t dare pick up her gun, not with the possibility of unstable material scattered around the office. While Howard had conceded proper safety procedures in his labs and work spaces, for Peggy's safety if nothing else, Howard didn’t seem able to understand the idea of general safety and security when it came to his own office.

Before Peggy could call out anything else, the light on the desk flickered on. Frazzled by the light for a moment, Peggy instinctively slid back against the wall and held out the knife, attempting to track movement. When nothing jumped out at her, Peggy heaved out a soft sigh and slid the knife back into her belt. One never knew what was in a Stark office, Peggy had learned that very quickly during the war. Either way, Peggy was both relieved to see Howard sitting at the desk and concerned about the lack of life in his eyes. “Pegs.” He breathed, his hands shaking as he pushed them against the top of the desk to stop the trembling, his voice cracking. “Pegs, I don’t know what to do.”

Immediately, her hackles rose, and she flicked her gaze around in a quick sweep of the office, suddenly cursing the fact she had already put away her knife. “Howard, what’s wrong?” her thoughts spiraled, thinking of the last time Howard had sounded this bad. It had been during that whole debacle with the SSR and the Red Room. For Howard to sound that broken, then whatever happened must have been earth shattering. When Howard refused to answer, Peggy slipped forward to the chair in front of his desk she had demanded be put there so they could meet in places other then her office. “Darling, I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.” She prodded gently.

Something in her voice made Howard jolt and for the first time in years, since Steve and Barnes crashed the plane, Howard looked frightened. Peggy could see the whites of his eyes as he stared at something just over her shoulder, Peggy resisted the urge to turn around. “Did I ever tell you what Ollie told me the day you,” Howard trailed off and looked at his hands flat on the desk, his eyes glazed with the memory, “I…” he made a soft noise of frustration, before looking at her with a pleading look on his face. “Ollie told me that she feared for my future wife.” The way he spoke, it was almost as if he expected Peggy to deny the words, to tell Howard he had misunderstood.

Something in Peggy's chest cracked as she realized she couldn’t give him that relief. Ollie had never been anything but brutally honest, which was ironic considering the amount of secrets that she had kept from everyone. And with with a growing sense of horror, Peggy watched as Howard came apart at the seams. “I’m not a good man, Pegs." Howard was all but begging her to deny him. "I’m not a good man. I will never be a good man, but Ollie. Ollie thought I might make a good father.”

The air was stolen from Peggy’s lungs, he couldn’t have been saying what she thought he was saying. Surely the gods wouldn’t be that cruel.

Howard seemed not to notice her frozen expression and, without a word, he opened up a desk drawer and placed a bottle of whiskey on the desk in front of him. “Ollie smashed every single bottle in the room that day.” There was an almost unnoticeable quirk of his lips and Howard somehow managed to transition his voice from a rough whisper to something more recognizable. “Told me that the day I found out I was going to be a dad, I had to remember that a rumrunner smashed them to pieces.” Howard ran a hand through his hair, and for the first time, Peggy realized how disheveled he looked. “In truth, I haven’t touched a drop since Ollie fell.” Howard scrubbed at his eyes, his smile a broken little thing. “The worst part about that conversation? Ollie honestly thought I might hurt my kid, and I think that scared me more then anything.”

“Darling.” Peggy’s voice broke and for the first time, she had the urge to take of Ollie’s ring and hurl it against the wall. It was nearly thirty years since Ollie had died and she still found a way to haunt them. “Darling, you don’t need to do penance for this. We were at war and we knew each other at our worst.”

Howard gave a choked sound in response, his gaze still stuck on the bottle. “There’s this woman. Maria. I got her pregnant.” Peggy closed her eyes, the words washing over her even as Howard kept on talking. “I’m going to marry her. She’s nice, kind, and wants this kid more then anything.” There was silence for a little while, before she felt Howard’s hand slip into hers. “I want you to be the Godmother.”

Peggy sucked in a breath, her teeth clenched. “You don’t have to do penance.” She whispered in response.

The laugh Howard gave was low and rough. “Peggy, you’ve kept me on the straight and narrow for years. I want you to do the same for this kid.”

Peggy could only swallow in response, her hand tightening around his. “Who will be the Godfather?”

There was silence and then Peggy saw the small Cheshire cat grin that twisted across Howard’s face. “Ollie.” He said, an air of amusement in his tone. “I figure that’s enough pay back for her. She can yell at me from heaven and I don’t even have to duck flying objects.”

And really, Peggy thought as the office once more dissolved into silence, what else was there to say?

What was there to say?

…***…

Anthony Edward Stark was going to be a hellraiser, Peggy thought with a bit of spite towards Howard, as she blurrily peered down into her paper cup of cheap coffee. She didn’t mind getting woken up in the middle of the night, being a director of the largest security force in the country tended to weed that out of you. Peggy was used to working on little to no sleep and, as she glared at her husband slumped over asleep in the chair beside her, she could practically fall asleep anywhere. What she was objecting to, was the fact little Anthony had decided to come in the middle of the night on today of all days.

This night was Peggy’s night off.

And she rather thought she deserved it.

However, she had to admit the sight of Howard Stark, anxiously pacing the near empty hospital corridor was amusing. Howard had been kicked out of the birthing room. In fact, he hadn't even been allowed near the door. Peggy rather thought it was amusing to see Howard so lost for words, especially since it was the little Italian five-foot-nothing nurse that had firmly hauled the man out into the hallway, cursing him until even Peggy's ears turned red. Mr. Jarvis, had been the only one allowed into the room, mostly due to a case of mistaken identity from the doctor. Edwin had been so flustered; the doctors had just assumed Maria was his wife. So, it was Peggy, Sousa, and Anna Jarvis who kept Howard company while they waited for news.

Anna had yet to stop giggling.

“I am much too old for this.” Peggy sighed as Howard did his best to pace a track into the floor.

…***…

Anthony Edward Stark was a miracle, Peggy decided when she was finally able to hold him. He had ten perfect little toes and ten perfect fingers. Peggy herself had never had children and she knew Howard hadn’t wanted one but looking down at what was the best thing her friend had ever created, Peggy swore she’d keep the child safe.

On May 9th, 1970, in the early hours of the morning, Peggy Carter had the honour of meeting a child that was being born into a history of blood but had a future all of his own. Pressing her lips against his forehead, Peggy did her best to hold back the sudden tears. “Your Godfather would be so proud.”

Chapter Text

“Aunt Peggy?”

At eight-years-old Tony, (as he insisted he be called), was doing his damnedest to give her a heart attack, Peggy thought as she controlled the urge to shoot the little gremlin that had snuck up on her. How an eight-year-old could be quieter then half the agents Peggy had personally trained, Peggy would never know. Peggy had never done well with surprises and her job had only heightened that problem. Yet, this still was her godson, and she still had to explain anything that went wrong to his mother. That thought alone had her lessening her grip on the gun that was strapped to the underside of her desk.

“Yes, darling?” she asked, one eyebrow quirked as she looked down to see the boy nearly tucked into the side of her desk.

The boy gave a quick glance to the door of her office, as if he expected his father to burst in at any second. Honestly, Peggy couldn't blame the boy. Howard had never seemed to grow out of the habit of bursting into Peggy's office with enough flair he should have been up on the stage. Had Peggy not trained her secretaries to send it a quick alert that Howard was coming up, Tony would have been without a father years ago.

“Can you tell me Captain America?” Tony asked, his lip set into that stubborn line Peggy remembered clearly from Mortia’s own child when he was Tony’s age. Still, that wasn't a question Peggy would have expected from Tony, not when the boy was usually asking about spies and explosives.

Peggy’s hands stilled mid-signature and she twisted in her seat to look down at Tony in mock sternness. “Have you been listening to stories again?”

The boy nodded eagerly, his hands grasping the side of her chair as he climbed up into her lap. “Uh huh!”

Peggy just about rolled her eyes, Howard, the idiot, couldn’t figure out how to pick up a storybook even if he tried. Instead, the man reworked most of their adventures into scenes (mostly) appropriate for children and worked from there. The end result was that Tony thought Miss Union Jack was a larger then life figure and Peggy was able to bully Tony into eating his vegetables with a single glare, so the trade off wasn't too bad.

Settling back into her chair, Peggy absently wrapped an arm around Tony's waist and thought about the soldier who never seemed to learn when to stay down. “Well, first, his name was Steve. Captain Steven Grant Rogers…”

…***…

“Good Luck.” Peggy cackled as she walked out of the room of fresh recruits.

Somewhere along the line, it had become a tradition. All recruits were asked to ‘Tell Director Carter about the Geist’. Aside from the girl in the very first class, no one had ever come close to the answer. Every year, Peggy was swamped with German definitions, cold war theories, and some truly awful conspiracy theories. The lack of Ollie’s name in any paper or verbal report had stopped hurting a long time ago and instead, turned into something like a personal joke.

However, that didn’t explain why a nine-year-old Tony Stark was holding up the family cat in her office. The cat had to be an even twenty pounds and that wasn't including the puffed up fur that seemed to be stuck to every part of Tony's clothing. The cat had somehow curled right into Tony's stomach, and from the fact there were no claw marks covering Tony's arms, Peggy had to wonder how the boy had managed to bring the cat up into her office. Pursing her lips to keep herself from collapsing into laughter, Peggy sank down to kneel in front of the startled little boy. “Tony?” was as far as she got before the cat was all but stuck in her face.

She wasn’t sure who was more surprised, herself or the cat.

Ignoring the hissing, Peggy leaned around the almost docile creature and stared at the squirming Tony. The boy gave her a smile. “Can I join SHIELD now?”

Peggy’s heart dropped into her shoes. Tony was not going to join SHIELD. Howard would murder her if Tony joined SHIELD. Somehow managing to keep her expression blank, Peggy placed a hand on his knee and asked, “Pardon?”

Tony shook the cat, “Well, dad said that whoever got your question right, could join SHEILD.” At Peggy’s blink, Tony shook the cat a little harder. “This is Rum.”

Peggy slowly nodded, remembering when Maria had become infatuated with the thing and Howard had camped out in her office because the ‘devil’ had taken over his bed. It was only when she realized Tony was still talking that she shook herself and tuned into the boy’s ramblings. “Rumrunner smashed dad’s bottle. The one he kept on the china cabinet? And dad said that Rum had to be an Oliver, but, Rum’s a girl, and when dad got real sick last year, and Rum slept on his chest, Dad kept saying Rum was a ghost, or, rather, a Geist.” The boy licked his lips and dropped the cat onto his lap. Rum, the little bastard, swatted at Peggy’s shaking hands with a loud yowl. “Shh, Rum, I’m trying to talk.” He scolded the thing, even as Peggy recoiled away from the beast. “I’m not stupid enough to say that Rum’s the Geist because you’ve been asking everyone FOREVER, but, Rum?” He pointed at the cat, his head tilted to the side.

For a moment, Peggy wasn’t sure if she was going to cry or laugh. So, instead, she did a little bit of both. Settling onto the couch, Peggy pulled her godson into her side even as she kicked off her shoes and curled up, Rum settling onto her ankles with a quiet meow. “Tony, you can’t join SHEILD yet.”

In her hold, Tony puffed up indignantly and tried to squirm away from her. Peggy sighed into his hair and hugged him a little tighter. “You’re nine Tony, when you’re older, sure, but I think you could do so much more then work with an old lady like me.”

Tony grumbled something under his breath before he twisted in place to look up at Peggy with wide eyes. “But Aunt Peggy!” he sputtered, his cheeks flushed, “You’re not old!”

Such a flatterer, Peggy thought with a twitch of her lips, and definitely his father’s child. Slowly, the boy settled down and with a certain amount of flair, Peggy tickled the boy’s sides until he was shrieking with laughter. Rum, was not impressed by this and shot off to hide under Peggy’s desk, hissing as she went.

The cat really was like Ollie, Peggy thought with amusement.

Cuddling the boy close, Peggy reached forward and plucked a picture frame off the low coffee table. Before Ollie fell, before the war really caught up to any of them, the Howling Commandos had stood for one picture. Peggy and Howard had the only copies.

And it was the only picture Peggy had ever thought captured the Howling Commandos perfectly. Ollie had her arms thrown around Steve and Barnes, while Peggy wacked her in the back of the head with a rolled-up newspaper. Logan was passing Dugan a coin, and the rest of the men cheered as Ollie had stood there, utterly frozen in surprise.

Peggy held the frame in one hand. “Tony, do you know who your Godfather is?”

The question hurt, but the answer hurt more.

“No.” Tony muttered, his head tilted as he peered at the picture, his eyes wide. Peggy knew the boy hardly ever got to see pictures from his father’s war and Peggy had always respected that. “Dad always said that my Godfather can’t show up for my birthday like you do, because he’s out on a mission trying to keep me safe.”

Peggy’s eyes closed for a moment, the air in her lungs caught in her throat.

Penance.

This was their penance.

Kissing the top of Tony’s head, Peggy broke a promise she had been keeping for longer then Tony had been alive. Her finger tapped Ollie’s surprised face briskly. “This, Tony, this man is your Godfather. His name was Oliver Bakker and he was my first husband.” By now, the lie rolled off her tongue easily and Peggy rather thought Ollie would have liked her godson to know how much of a hell-raiser she really was. “His name was also the Geist.”

Tony spun around in her arms and stared at Peggy in disbelief. “Geist?” he questioned, his head swiveling between Peggy and the picture. “But Uncle Danny is your husband!”

Peggy had to withhold the laughter than sprung up from Tony’s betrayed shout. “Darling,” Peggy whispered, the lowered tone of her voice catching and holding the excitable nine-year-old. “Ollie’s dead. He died protecting Captain Rogers.”

Tony looked to the picture and ran a finger beside Ollie’s frame, absently tapping both Steve and Barnes. “Do you miss him?” he asked innocently, his head almost smacking Peggy’s chin when he tilted his head.

Peggy lifted a hand to fiddle with Ollie’s ring, “Sometimes.”

The picture frame was set back onto the table with a reverent kind of gentleness and Tony settled onto the floor, watching the picture as if it would suddenly move. “Can you tell me about him?”

…***…

In the past fourteen years, Maria Stark had never been in Peggy’s office. The woman had never found a reason to go to SHIELD and, in all honesty, Peggy was rather glad about that. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Maria, in fact she, Anna, and Peggy had often gone and had a girl’s night out without the boys. But SHIELD was Peggy and Howard’s brainchild, not Maria’s. Yet, there on her couch, was a fourteen-year-old Tony, shaking and cuddled up beside his mother. In the background, Howard was doing his best to pace a hole into the floor.

Her eyes on Tony, Peggy finally asked the question that had been bothering her since Sousa had dragged the shell-shocked family into her office. “Howard, what the hell happened?”

Maria didn’t bother to glower at her because of the language, and if that wasn’t an indicator of how bad the situation had become, then Peggy didn’t know what was. Slowly, Howard came to a stop, and he absently stroked a hand through Tony’s hair. “Had a bit too much to drink Pegs and we didn’t make the corner. I guess we’re all a bit shook up.”

Peggy’s eyes narrowed as she stared at Howard. The man had used his fake stage voice and that hadn’t worked on Peggy of years. Deliberately, Howard shook his head and flicked his gaze towards Tony. Getting the message, Peggy settled back into her chair. The conversation she desperately needed to have, would wait.

Yet, Peggy still found herself pinning Howard in place with a glare. “Was this about SHIELD?”

Howard shook his head even as he prodded his wife into standing up, Tony doing his best limpet impersonation with his mother. Watching them walk out the door, Peggy could only think she had missed something. But Sousa had given her the report. Howard’s car was found nose first in a ditch, the front wheel blown out. No one had been hurt but they were all shaken.

It wasn’t until a few hours later that Peggy remembered Howard hadn’t touched a drop in years.

Chapter Text

The last time someone had ambushed Peggy in her office, she had shot him, and she still had the bloodstains on the ground to prove it. Fortunately, Peggy’s secretary had been able to give Peggy at least a two second warning this time, which lead her to this point. A puny little recruit, smiling, and holding up a DVD, while Peggy held a gun upside his head. “I know who the Geist is!” he beamed happily, practically bouncing out of his suit.

Half wondering if a cat was going to be shoved in her face again, Peggy looked to her couch on the off-chance Tony would be sitting there with Maria’s cat. Instead, she did a double take at the realization there was a projector and a DVD player set up on her coffee table. How someone had managed to set the devices up without her knowledge or even getting her approval, warranted at least a moment of her time. Curious, Peggy step sided the young man and sank into her seat behind her desk. “You’ve got ten minutes.”

The man beamed again and shoved the disk into the DVD player. After a moment of fiddling with the controls, the man pointed at the portable screen with a quick grin. Amused, Peggy tilted her head to look at the screen.

There sat Ollie, her back against her motorcycle, her hat tipped down to cover her face. Peggy, herself, sat on the bike, her legs crossed, dressed as Union Jack, forever frozen reading a book. The picture disappeared and one of the videos Peggy vaguely remembered from the morale week appeared. Steve and Barnes were working together over a map, bickering over something about an impossible shot. In the background, Peggy saw herself and Ollie, wearing a dress, waltzing quietly in the corner. Ollie looked up, saw the camera, and bolted, leaving Dugan to sweep in and continue the dance. In a distant sort of way, Peggy had the realization that the scene in her memory finally made sense. Ollie had always been paranoid about appearing on camera. The next video was of Steve and Barnes sparring, the Howling Commandos partnered off in the background, and again, there was Peggy and Ollie chasing each other around the training grounds, knives flashing in the dull sunlight.

Behind her desk, Peggy could only watch with her mouth agape as the recruit flashed through dozens of photos and films. Each one showing either a limb or the outline of Ollie and Peggy. Never was there a full shot of either of their faces, nor was there more then a blur in any of the pictures aside from the first. Peggy’s hands dropped onto the desk and she stared, seeing more of Ollie than she had in decades.

Slowly, the recruit paused the DVD, and pulled up the picture of Peggy and Ollie at the bike. “Ma’am, the Geist is two people, the support unit of the Howling Commandos. One is a sniper,” he pointed to Peggy in the photo, causing her to jolt, “and the other is a close range combatant.” He pointed to Ollie. When Peggy didn’t respond, the man lowered his head, “I don’t have names, but I know that Union Jack and Geist switched clothing on occasion. So really, I could have it backwards.”

“Where did you find those photos?” Peggy eventually managed to gasp, her hand tightening on Ollie’s ring in reflex.

The man blinked, his gaze flicking to the projector nervously. “Around?”

All Peggy could do was laugh. Forty-four years after Ollie had fallen and the only three people to guess who Ollie was, were: a dock worker, a nine-year-old with a cat, and a recruit who seemed to have managed to bug, the Howling Commandos. Because, there was no other way, those films or photos were in any public record.

Peggy had destroyed them all.

“What’s you name?” she drawled, a smile quirking onto her lips as she stared at the photograph frozen on her wall.
The man straightened, playing with the cuffs of his suit nervously. “Phil. Phil Coulson.”

Peggy smiled and nodded to the picture, something in her chest unknotting for the first time in years. “The woman you pointed to, the one with the book? She’s not a sniper. That’s Miss Union Jack, also known as Director Carter.” It never got old, seeing how young men panic at the realization Union Jack, was a girl, let alone their boss. “The girl propped up against the motorcycle? That’s my secretary, Geist, also known as Oliver or Olivia Bakker, or Ollie for short.” Peggy let go of the ring and leaned back in the chair as Phil spun around and stared at three infamous pictures beside the door.

Everyone knew that Peggy kept a small wall dedicated just for the fallen in her office. No one besides Howard, Sousa, Tony, and now Phil, knew that the first picture was of Ollie, the day she had been recruited by Stark. Peggy had never dared put a name plate under her picture, not when Ollie had wanted to disappear. And it was open secret that the agents of SHEILD had a pot going just to find out who the unnamed agent was on the wall.

Almost unwillingly, Peggy unhooked the necklace from around her neck and held it up for Phil to see. “Ollie and I were forced to join as men. She died not even Forty-eight hours before her best friends downed a plane in the artic. You might know them as Captain America and Sargent Barnes. You might better know Ollie as my first husband.” Peggy grinned at the star struck expression on Phil’s face. “We were never married, in fact, it was all a joke. Being a Howling Commando meant nothing when you tried to go drinking in a bar and men couldn’t take the word no as an answer.”

Phil sank down onto the couch, his gaze switching between Ollie’s picture on the wall, Peggy and Ollie on the projector, and Peggy herself. “I trust,” Peggy stated, her voice low and soft even as she glared the boy into submission, “that this will go no further.”

The boy practically choked he agreed so fast.

…***…

Peggy had retired earlier in the year, when she realized she wasn’t as fast in a draw as her own directive stated. Instead of being forced out, she had retired with grace. Director Fury, had taken over smoothly, Phil Coulson at his left hand and Alexander Peirce at his right.

Still, even in retirement, Peggy was not kind to those who woke her up. Even if, they were two scruffy, underfed, and utterly exhausted, teenagers. The boy, had been asleep on her couch, cuddling up to a bow and a half full quiver. Now, Peggy was the queen of improvised weapons, but a bow was not one she could ever admit to having used, let alone had shot at her. The arrow in the middle of her mother’s grandfather clock, she didn’t appreciate, even if it should have been in her head instead, had she not seen the movement and ducked.

The girl was on her coffee table, knives in both hands and her hair falling down her back like a firebrand.

Peggy had blinked once, then leaned out into the hallway. “Love, what did you bring home?”

From the kitchen, Sousa waved a mug. “Would you like tea, dear?”

Peggy stared at the wall that separated her from her husband as she mentally ran through the list of reasons she had married the man. Before she could shoot back an answer, Sousa leaned around the wall. “Before you kill them, please ask the boy why he felt the need to shoot my crutch.”

The teenagers were still frozen in the living room, their poleaxed expressions making Peggy raise an eyebrow. This was either the best or the worst assignation she had ever faced. Sighing, she sank down into her chair and crossed her legs. “Alright, let’s hear it.” She voiced as she tried to figure out which agency could have sent them to her. Then a sudden occurred to her and she tilted her head, appraising the two teens. “I am retired, you know this, correct?”

The boy lowered his bow. “Shit.”

The girl wacked him upside the head, careful not to hit his ear, Peggy noted in surprise. “What did I tell you?” she hissed, her eyes never leaving Peggy’s face.

“Oh, right.” He muttered, raising the bow back up with a shrug. “Sorry Ma’am, orders.” He explained as he nodded to Peggy.

The girl slowly flipped both of her knives around as she got off the coffee table and placed them hilt first towards Peggy. The boy pulled a face but didn’t argue. Slowly, the girl stripped a minor arsenal off her body and with each weapon that hit the table, Peggy’s admiration for the girl’s hiding places grew.

Some those, she wouldn’t have even thought of.

The girl eventually stepped back from the table, her hands folded in front of her and her head bowed. “Olivia Devera Maria Bakker, is the Geist. She fell from a train in the Alps fifty-five years ago.” There was a soft ringing in Peggy’s ears and her hands gripped the armrests of the chair as she forced herself to stay still and listen. The girl seemed not to notice her distress because she kept talking. “Where she was picked up by a rouge Russian unit, that carried her back to their base. They were unable to salvage her right arm and instead attached a prototype full motion prosthetic. I don’t know what happened after that, but I can tell you that the Geist trained me in the Red Room. And then she got me out and told me to find you.”

The girl bit her lip and finally looked up. “I don’t know who the Geist was to you, but I can tell you Olivia isn’t coming back. Hydra shot her before she made it to the check point where she was supposed to meet up with me.”

The world had decided to waver under her chair, Peggy realized distantly as she stared at the girl who looked at her so earnestly. “Ollie died.” She croaked out, refusing to even think about the Red Room and the implications of that word.

The girl’s eyes hardened, and she leaned over the table. “214781.” She hissed, tapping her left arm meaningfully. “Geist wasn’t good with words, but she certainly knew her numbers.”
The words hit Peggy with the full weight of the realization, Ollie had lived.

Howard had been wrong.

Ollie lived through the fall.

Ollie, the best of them all, hadn’t died on impact.

And instead of being found by allies, she had been found by enemies, and Peggy had failed. Peggy had failed the only promise that had mattered. When Ollie had curled up on her cot and screamed into Peggy’s pillow, Peggy had sworn to never let Ollie be captured alive again.

Here, she failed twice.

“It was unwilling you know?” the girl said, her hands fluttering over the weapons with a nervous expression. “Geist hated Hydra, hated the Red Room, but was damn good at keeping us all alive.” A small smile flicked over the girl’s face before disappearing behind an uncaring mask Peggy was growing to hate. “Even when she couldn’t say your name anymore, I don’t think she ever gave up hoping that someone would come get us kids, even if they weren’t coming for her.”

Peggy was frozen in the chair, one hand covering her mouth as her shoulders bowed. If it weren’t for the fact the girl had managed to provide the one secret that even the Howling Commandos didn’t know, Peggy would have thrown her out on principle. Ollie had hated the numbers on her arm, absolutely loathed them. Howard and Peggy had been sworn to secrecy, unable to even explain to Steve and Barnes what had happened to Ollie.

From the doorway, Sousa leaned on his crutch. Had it been any other day, the arrow with purple fletching sticking out of the back of the grip, would have made Peggy collapse into giggles. As it was, the man held a cup of tea and stared at Peggy with a devastated expression on his face, his gaze flicking to the chain hidden under Peggy’s blouse. “I’ll call Stark then.” He eventually murmured.

And with that, Peggy finally began to cry.

Chapter Text

Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton ate like starving wolves, Peggy noted absently as Howard collapsed onto the chair beside her. Sousa had yet to stop putting food onto the table and the teens had yet to stop eating. In some ways, she absently wondered if this was what Howard meant by teenagers can eat you out of house and home. However, it was somewhat gratifying to know that someone else appreciated her husband's cooking, because god knew, if Peggy had to try to feed them, everyone in the room would receive food poisoning. For a woman that could take down rival agencies and had build SHIELD from the ground up, it baffled her that cooking was not a skill she had managed to hone.

But the two wolves sitting at her table was not what held her gaze.

Her eyes burned and Peggy was positive if she looked in the mirror, she would find tear tracks on her cheeks and red rimmed eyes. For years Howard had assured her Ollie had died quickly and painlessly. Howard had assured Peggy that Peggy's promise had been upheld. That Ollie hadn't been captured. That there would never be another video of Ollie screaming. That, that chapter of the war had been closed and shoved into the far back corner of her skeleton filled closet. Ollie was dead. the Geist was nothing more then a nightmare to frighten young children into their beds, and Olivia Bakker was a war hero that had become a fairy tale legend.

But that fairy tale was obviously a lie, because there, sitting at the far end of the table, was a red haired firebrand that used Ollie's signs and codes. There was product of the Russian Red Room sitting at Peggy's table and if that wasn't a horrible thought, then the realization that Ollie. Stubborn, fierce, and cocksure Ollie, had been broken and used in the Red Room.

That Ollie, the girl who had given up everything and lost so much more, had trained girls to become the very thing that Ollie hated.

Liars and thieves who couldn't be stopped and never learned the definition of surrender.

“Howard.” Peggy whispered, her hands flat against the table to stop the visible shaking. “Did you know?”

And god help the man if he had kept this quiet.

The man who had been her best friend for over four decades, flinched. “Pegs.” He begged, his hands reaching out for hers.

Peggy drew her hands back from his. “You knew?!” she hissed, wanting to do nothing more then reach out and claw at the man she had trusted above all others. She had supported him in finding Steve and Barnes. She had stood beside him when he was considered a traitor to the state. She had done everything for the man, and he had kept this quiet?!

He had lied to her?

She didn't realize she was standing until Daniel had placed a hand on her shoulder and nodded towards the two wolves who were staring at her in interest.

“No. Pegs. I…” he trailed off. The famed silver-tongue of the Stark family failing him in the face of her fury. “I suspected but…” he drew himself out of his slouch with a deep breath, “I think Ollie tried to kill me when Tony was fourteen. We were driving home and,” his hands shook, his gaze becoming distant, “the front wheel was shot out. I put us in the ditch, and before I knew it, the front door was torn off. Tony screamed as a gun was put against my head, and then, as I twisted to protect both Maria and Tony, all I heard was you’re lucky you didn’t hurt the boy, Howie.” Howard paused, his head shaking in disbelief even now. “It sounded just like her. But Peggy, I did the math, Ollie’s dead.”

For a moment, the kitchen was quiet. Daniel's hand was still on her shoulder and if it wasn't for his warning, Peggy was sure she would have leaped over the table and beat Howard within an inch of his life, father of her godson be damned. Tony had always liked her more, she was positive he wouldn't be too mad. Besides, Tony knew whenever Aunt Peggy yelled at his father, it was generally for a good reason. When she hit him, it was time to pop popcorn and hide in the security room to place bets with Uncle Sousa and the other security guards.

Natasha looked up from her sandwich, her eyes narrowed. “Ollie lived. 214781 lived through the fall.”

Peggy had never seen the blood drain out of Howard’s face so fast. “No.” he whispered, his hands shaking as he stared at the two teens at Peggy’s table.

Natasha nodded once but it didn’t escape Peggy’s gaze that the girl had reached out to grab at Clint’s shirt. “Ollie wanted me to tell you, 885018, 623481.”

Howard gave the girl a look. “And what does that mean?” he asked snarkily, obviously thrown.

The girl shrugged as she took another bite of her sandwich. “As I told Union Jack, Ollie wasn’t good with words, but she was damn good with numbers.”

…***…

Peggy sat on her porch, knitting nettles in both hands, a white scarf thrown across her knees, and a gun in her hand-basket. The twenty-year-old Agent Natalie Romanoff of SHIELD was crouched on her front steps, half hidden in the dying light of the evening. The clacking of her nettles had been a constant companion for the past few hours and it was only due to the cracking emotionless mask on Nat's face that Peggy felt she could finally ask the question that had been bothering her for years.

"How did Ollie die?" The question was a whisper that cracked in the dry fall air.

On the steps, Natasha curled further into herself, her gaze fixed on something in the distance. "You don't want to know."

Peggy didn't look at the girl, instead she fixed her gaze on the falling leaves in the front yard. "I'm an old woman, child, and I've seen more then you can imagine. Tell me how my fiancee died."

There was sharp intake of breath and Peggy nearly snuck a look at the girl, when Natasha slunk further up the steps, looking for all the world like a skittish kitten. "They hurt her." she whispered into her hair, her fingers playing with the loose string of the scarf. "Sometimes she came out of the стул not knowing who I was, or who she was, and sometimes she simply came back," she hesitated, her teeth playing with her lip, "дикий."

The girl tugged on the scarf, not looking at Peggy. "We spoke in sign and numbers, and sometimes the memories would come back. Sometimes they wouldn't. Ollie helped me escape and she told me to run. She was going to go back and get the others. I was to meet her at our checkpoint. Except," the girl curled her hands back into her stomach, her lips white and bleeding, "Ollie came stumbling out of the woods, torn to bits, and she signaled for me to run. I didn't. I was scared." By this point the words seemed to be dragged out of her throat, her eyes glassy. "Ollie got halfway to the front door, and then they shot her."

Peggy closed her eyes, the knitting nettles settling into her lap.

At least Ollie died free.

Only, the girl wasn't finished. "The woman who got back up? That wasn't Ollie. That was the Giest. That was the Red Room's Winter Soldier." The girl stood, her hands fisted at her sides, the pain and frustration clear on her face. "Without a reason to remember?" she placed a hand on her stomach, where Peggy knew she had been shot protecting a renown scientist, and smirked, the edges wobbling. "Ollie died and the Giest walked away, willingly, back to the Hydra."

Peggy stared at the girl, ice crawling through her veins.

Natasha shivered as she stood, turning to walk down the steps with hunched shoulders. "Ollie died and now a monster wears her skin."

...***...

Eight years after that fateful night when two scrawny teens appeared in her living room, Peggy sat and stared through the observation glass at the two super soldiers curled up around each other on the bed Howard had thrown them into with a crow of excitement.

And she thought that the world was cruel. The universe had sent back two good men, but kept one great woman.

Beside her, Natasha had sunk down onto her knees, muttering rapid fire Russian when Peggy had finally broken down and told her who the men on the bed were. Behind Natasha, Clint kept one hand on her shoulder, but even he had a quirked smile on his lips.

Natasha put one hand on the glass as she finally looked up, her eyes red. “Ollie helped us fund Uncle Steve and Yasha.” There was a vicious little grin on her lips. “She found them first.”