"With my..." Steve broke off a moment, the word wife sounding a little strange on his tongue in regard to himself, especially since it hadn't happened yet. He supposed he'd better get used to it. "With my wife." There was that moment of brief hesitation again before he continued, the mind behind the intelligent blue eyes considering how much to tell the Director and how much to ask of him. "Does Peggy know I'm still alive?" he finally asked, bluntly.
Again, there was a moment of introspection before Fury spoke, a moment of consideration over which facts to share. But Steve had a good record, and he was owed more than the basic facts. "A communiqu? was sent to England when you were fished out of the sea," he told Steve. "It was left to our agents' discretion as to how much to tell Ms Carter. I believe she is aware that you have been found and are alive, but not that you are as you were when you went to sleep. That in itself is a tough nut to crack, even for someone as formidable as Ms Carter."
Steve considered that information as carefully as the rest. He didn't want to give Peggy a heart attack by visiting and had to know if the rewards outweighed the risks. He was doing it more for her than for himself. Would she want to see him after seventy years? He knew that if he was in her shoes, he probably would, if only to close the chapter at last that had been opened all those years ago, but he wasn't Peggy and he couldn't think for her. Women were, at best, an enigma to him, even now. "In your opinion, is Miss Carter well enough to handle the shock of seeing me as I am, or would it be better to leave well enough alone?" Steve knew that Peggy had retired and was no longer being referred to as Agent Carter, but the title of Ms. had gone straight over his head, not yet familiar with that form of address. He did notice that it seemed she had never married.
"I believe Ms Carter to be in robust health for her age," Fury told him, noting the use of "Miss" and wondering at it before letting his thoughts move onward. "She is certainly robust enough to cope with seeing you again, I understand, and meeting her nieces, should they choose to venture out on that limb. Not all at once, though. Best to be safe."
"Duly noted," Steve replied, wondering how he was going to finagle that. There wasn't much point in bringing Lucy along if he had to lie about who she was. "Does Peg... Agent... Miss Carter know about her nieces?" Steve continued, for some reason, faltering for the first time since his conversation with Fury had began. He'd read a little of Peggy's file and knew she was retired and where she was living, but he didn't know much more than that, as yet.
"I believe she knows the circumstances of her niece's death, but not that the children survived," Fury clarified for him, glancing at the clock on his desk. His time was running out, unfortunately. "I understand it was deemed unnecessary to disturb her with the information, since at the time of Elizabeth Carter's death, Ms Peggy Carter's sister-in-law was still alive and thought capable of caring for the babies. That, in hindsight, was a bad decision."
"Her sister in law? I'm not following," Steve asked, not knowing enough about Peggy's family to know who Fury was referring to. Obviously, something had happened that had prevented Peggy's family from taking the twins, but Steve had no idea what that was.
Fury frowned, wondering just how small the detail was in Steve's mind when it came to a woman who, by all accounts, had been his first real awakening into the world of the female mind. "Elizabeth Carter's mother, Captain," he clarified. "The wife of Peggy Carter's brother. It was she who had the children left at the local church. If she had not died a year later, leaving a codicil in her will pertaining to Lucille and Olivia, we would never have known where they had ended up."
"Why the hell would she..." Steve broke off, checking himself before the outburst got too far out of hand. Once again, he knew getting upset about it was pointless, since nothing could be done to change it. Had he survived and he and Peggy had married... Steve had to stop himself from continuing that train of thought, as there was a good chance he might have ended up being Lucy's grandfather had he lived and not her future spouse. It was almost enough to make his head spin. A long moment passed while Steve tried to absorb and digest this bit of information. The more questions he asked, it seemed the more he prompted, but he was confident all would become clear before long, and it was almost more than he wanted to know, at this point.
"I believe there was a question of respectability," Fury offered by way of explanation, though his own frown proved how stupid he considered that when weighed against the lives of innocent newborns. "Children born out of wedlock, the product of adultery. Elizabeth Carter's mother was very strict in her religious observations, I understand."
"Respectability, of course, because that's so much more important than..." Once again, Steve broke off before he got too far, clenching his jaw to contain the flare of anger before it got out of hand. He possessed a pretty even temperament, which was one of the traits that had been considered when choosing him for the super soldier serum. "I understand," he replied quietly. Not having to glance at a clock to know they were nearly out of time, he moved to his feet. "I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, sir. I know you have more important matters to tend to than this."
"Not at all, Cap, this has been a pleasant diversion." And he actually seemed to mean that, as well. "I'd appreciate it if you could convince your bride to be that feeding me my own eye patch would be hazardous to her health, however." Again, a flicker of amusement crossed his face as he rose with Steve. "Arrangements will be made to move Dr Broderick's belongings into your apartment, captain, as will the arrangements for your trip to another dimension. I believe you would be more comfortable if the responsibility for your transport to and from the portal was given to Agent Croft?"
Steve chuckled a little at Fury's remark regarding Lucy's temperament, which was exactly the opposite of his own. Maybe that's why they got along so well, because they balanced each other out. "I'm sure she didn't mean that, sir. You know, there was a time when Peg... Agent Carter took a shot at me. Fortunately, I had the shield at the time." The memory of that no longer seemed to bother him, for some reason, though he still didn't quite understand her motive. Women were confusing, even on a good day. "I'd appreciate that, sir," he replied in response to the man's congenial offer, a slightly embarrassed smile at the mention of Croft. "I think Croft would appreciate that."
"You're a brave man," Fury mused, no doubt still considering the volatile nature of Howard Stark's elder children. If only Olivia had shown some of the same spark, he might have been able to meet a Stark who didn't annoy the hell out of him within seconds of saying hello. "I'm sure Croft would appreciate it. Make your travel arrangements through him in the morning, and extend your mutual decisions on the wedding details to my office before you leave. The sooner you two are married, the easier my life will be." He paused, and added, "You and Lucille, that is. Not you and Croft. I think his wife might object to that."
Steve actually chuckled, almost relieved to see that even Nick Fury had a sense of humor beneath the tough exterior. "Maybe I'll give him an autograph. It seems I could almost make a living doing that, if I ever wanted to retire." Though retirement was unlikely any time soon and the furthest thing from his mind. "I trust you'll keep the Stars and Stripes safe while I'm away. It's a bit too flashy to wear on a trip through the portal." He was referring to the uniform and shield that, when worn, made him recognizable as the icon known as Captain America.
"Locked up safe and sound," the Director promised him, though it was hardly necessary. No one but Steve could get into the locker without his personal permission, and the codes were changed weekly. He waved a hand toward the door. "Go on, Cap, get back to your quarters before the doctor wakes up and comes looking for you. You are officially off-duty."
"Thank you, sir. Give my regards to the Council." The mysterious Council, who Steve had yet to meet but who he knew held sway in all official matters and without whose authority, S.H.I.E.L.D. would be nothing more than a rogue operation or a pipedream. He snapped off a salute, ever the good soldier, and back his way toward the door.
Director Fury offered him a somewhat more sedentary salute in answer, his mind already turning to the meeting ahead and the information he had to share. With Steve dismissed from mind, he turned to the screens on the wall, watching as they automatically activated themselves, showing the faces of the Council representatives as the door clicked shut behind Captain America. And he allowed himself a very small smile. Marriage to a Stark was going to be very good for that young man, he could tell. Though he might put in an order to have their quarters given thicker sound-proofing. Arguments and making up should be kept private between man and wife.
((As always, my deepest gratitude to my wonderful partner for indulging me in the above scene, which was enormously huge fun. And thanks to anyone who might be reading!))