The medical team arrived quickly and took Roger Dooley’s body away.
“How did you know?” Thompson scratched his head and gawked at Peggy.
“To be quite honest, I didn’t” she was candid, “but something that you mentioned made me think of just that, how much I’d missed during my investigation. Part of being a detective is looking at all the clues, however scattered they might be”
Daniel stared at her in amazement, “but you knew how to piece things together, things that most agents would’ve ignored. Things most agents did ignore!”
Peggy blushed. She turned to hide her face. It was then, while looking at the aftermath, after the security team had taken Johann Fennhoff to prison, that Peggy noticed the spherical device, which she’d thrown at Fennhoff to disarm him, had now cracked open. Rather, it had opened up via a button having being pressed on the device. Inside, lay a single test tube, It didn’t take a genius to realize what that held. She bent down and picked up the vial.
“This was the last of Steve Rogers’ blood” Peggy held the tube and explained to her fellow agents, Thompson, Sousa, and others. “It was listed as having being given to Howard Stark, and I suppose he hoped to save it to keep it from being squandered in hopes of recreating more men like Steve Rogers.
“What’s so special about it?” Jack Thompson quipped, “He’s still around. Hell, he saved my neck today. Can’t you just get more of his blood?”
“Of course they can” Daniel answered, “the files said that—“
“The files were wrong” Peggy’s voice cut through Daniel’s explanation
“But—“ Daniel began
Peggy sighed, “This blood was the last of the pre serum vials that were taken from him. There were twelve in all. I should know because I was there” she held up the vial, “After the – transformation as it were, the chemical makeup of his cells, and his blood, had irreversibly changed and it was hard to tell where the serum began and Steve ended”
“Scientists hoped that whatever made him, well him, might lead to making more soldiers like him” Daniel realized aloud.
“Quite so” Peggy agreed, “but unfortunately” she smiled wanly, “or fortunately the man that Steve Rogers was before his transformation is not something that can be taken through a syringe, or bottled up, or manufactured. That is a man’s heart; a man who dedicated his mind, his body, his life to the SSR and to this country. No one can replicate that in some test tube”
Peggy looked up to find not only her fellow SSR agents watching her, but in the back, a head taller than some, Steve Rogers.
His face was as readable as a telegraph or newspaper headline.
After everyone else had dispersed, Peggy sought out Steve
“I had to speak with you” she began, “I should’ve said this quite awhile ago”
“Yeah” he nodded, “I kind of guessed you might”
There was a pause.
“The world has changed, Steve” she began, “And none of us can go back. All we can do is our best, and sometimes, the best that we can do, is to start over”
“I guess I’ll need a rain check on that dance” he forced a smile.
Peggy glanced around the quiet office. Other agents milled about outside, working. Nobody seemed to be paying them much attention. She shut the door and turned back to him,
“We already said a week’s time. Perhaps its best we keep with our plans” she looked him over, “Saturday at the Stork Club”
“You got it” he slipped his hands into his pockets, most uncharacteristically. Being around her sometimes gave Peggy a glimpse of how the old Steve had been, confident in a crisis, but unsure of himself around her. He was like that at times, one on one, just with her, but around other people, he was completely different.
“Eight o'clock on the dot. Don't you dare be late; understood?” she instructed
“You know, I still don't know how to dance” he gestured with his hands
“I'll show you how. Just be there.”
“We'll have the band play something slow” he suggested, “I'd hate to step on your--”
“Agent Carter” Thompson poked his head through the doorway, interrupting them, “You need to fill out these papers” he began, “on how you captured the doctor after you realized what he’d been doing”
“Yes” she nodded. Here was paperwork, given to her not because she was a woman, or because she was invisible, or because she was thought to be inferior, but because she’d done her job well.
“Which one of you fellows is Jack Thompson?”
No sooner had he handed off the paperwork to her than Jack Thompson turned as someone called his name. He walked out into the hallway.
“That’s me” Jack extended his hand.
“Walt Cooper, United States Senate” the man smiled and shook Thompson’s hand, “I just wanted to come down here and personally thank you for the fine work you and your team did here”
“Uh, thank you, sir” Jack grinned.
Peggy glanced from the office and spied the scene
“A brainwashing doctor here in the heart of the city. I hear you saved thousands of lives by putting him away. The city and the country owe you a great debt” he turned to face the others in the hallway, “We need many more men like Jack Thompson fighting for freedom and security!” Cooper announced, “You’re all lucky that you work for him”
Thompson looked pained. “I just did what needed to be done” he finally replied.
Cooper clapped his arm around Thompson’s back and they walked down the hall to what had been Dooley’s office, “Why you play your cards right, and you could have a Congressional Medal of Honor out of this”
“The President wants to thank you himself” Cooper went on, meaning Truman.
Daniel hobbled in the room after hearing the conversation. He looked upset.
“How can you just sit there and take that?” he sounded frustrated, “I’m going to tell that senator what really happened” he turned on his crutch and was ready to head out the door when Peggy held him back,
“It really doesn’t bother me”
“Well it bothers the hell out of me!” Daniel glared at her, “you deserve that medal. Hell, you deserve to run this place. You’re the best we’ve got”
“Daniel” she looked at him, and then at Steve, “I don’t need a Congressional Honor. I don’t need Agent Thompson’s approval or the President’s” she looked contemplative, “I know my value” she explained, “anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter”
With that, she walked out of the office, down the hall and back toward her desk.
In the office, Daniel and Steve looked on as she walked away.
At the Stork Club, it was Saturday night, and the place was really jumping. A big band was playing, and the club was packed with patrons. Peggy watched as Steve slowly walked around the dance hall. Flashbulbs popped in his face and he winced in response. She had no way of knowing that for him, momentarily, he saw the flashes of light as fire from rifles. Peggy smiled as she eyed a foursome talking, However, to Steve, the pair of men looked like they were going to fight, pushing each other back and forth in anger, but when Steve looked again, he saw them hug each other with love as their dates looked on warmly. Peggy noticed Daniel sitting a few feet away, alone at a table, then she turned back to Steve, when another camera flashbulb popped in his face, he seemed to only see a man down on the floor, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the chest, his friend kneeling over him. Steve rushed to help the fallen man, but stopped short. The man on the ground was laughing, his char having been knocked backward. The man kneeling over him patted at the red stain on the fallen man's chest, which was visible as merely red wine. Steve shook his head in disbelief as Peggy looked worriedly at her dance partner. What was happening to him?
Meanwhile, Ray Krzeminski sat down across from Daniel.
“Told you” Krzeminski smirked, “a shield for a crutch” he laughed.
“Yeah” Daniel sighed, “So, who did you bring here tonight, your wife or your girlfriend?”
“Har har” Ray frowned, “maybe you should hope she has a friend for you”
“No thanks” Daniel shook his head, “Anything that finds you attractive has to be missing a few bricks short of a load”
“She likes my load just fine” Krzeminski laughed, “Here she is now” he glanced over to where a woman was heading toward the table, “This is my gal” he smiled, “Dot”
The blonde smiled demurely at Daniel. Daniel just sighed and grunted in response.
On the dance floor, Peggy sighted a nurse from a few feet away and flagged her over.
“My friend is having some sort of attack”
“Shell shock” the blonde nurse responded, “I was visiting a friend who’d moved from California, and was honestly hoping for a little break, but I guess a woman’s work is never done”
“You have no idea” Peggy gave her a knowing look
Steve sat down in a chair and the nurse checked him over.
“Ok, watch my finger” she moved her index digit from one side to the other as Steve’s eyes followed it.
“Thanks” he nodded absently, “Uh—“
“Violet” she smiled
“Violet” he repeated
Peggy looked on. Steve Rogers had wanted to be a solder so badly, and then he got his chance. Now he was a soldier, and as Peggy turned the events over in her mind, she realized that perhaps that was all he could be now. As much as Dr. Erskine had hoped that Steve would remain the good man that he was, and to be truthful, Steve had remained one, but the man she knew, the man she loved, was somewhere else, replaced with –
“A good soldier” she sighed.
“Ms. Carter” a staff member at the club tapped her on her shoulder, “There’s someone here to see you at entrance”
“Oh” Peggy looked blankly at the attendant, “of course”
At the entrance, she was surprised to see her four friends standing there.
“Howard” she lightly admonished him, “Fancy meeting you here”
“I heard so much about this place that I had to come by” he laughed
“And I see you’ve brought a date”
“Hi English” Angie smiled
“Something like that” Howard grinned
“And Mr. Jarvis, it is good to see you again”
“Likewise, Ms. Carter” he smiled good naturedly, “and you remember my wife, Ana”
“Of course” Peggy nodded. The women hugged.
“She’s a hugger” Jarvis noted.
“I have to get back to – my” Peggy stumbled over the words. She couldn’t understand why this was difficult for her to say.
Angie gazed over the crowd and saw who Peggy was alluding to, “Captain Rogers is here” she smiled, “I saw him once at a USO show in Passaic, you could eat him with a spoon”
“Thanks for the tip” Howard joked.
“We’re at a table there. Please everyone, join us and make yourselves comfortable” Peggy smiled, “I’ve got something I have to take care of”
She made her way through the tables and found the one she was looking for.
“Uh, hey” Daniel smiled, “I was going to grab a drink. Want to join me?”
“I do” she smiled back, “but first I want you to come sit with us”
“You and Captain – “ he began
“Come sit with my friends” she corrected, “I’m sure you’ve got a lot in common with them, and with me” she continued, “and” she took his right hand in hers, “I do hope you’re in the mood for a dance. I’ve been looking for the right partner” she squeezed his hand in hers.