Title: Our Life Is a Journey
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Captain America & The Avengers (MCU)
Genre: Angst, drama
Rating: K+ / FRC
Characters: Peggy Carter, Steve Rogers (Captain America), Tony Stark (Iron Man). (Other Avengers, James “Bucky” Barnes and Howard Stark mentioned.)
Summary: There is something Steve has put off doing, so when an opportunity presents itself, will he take it?
Written for: My card on Love Bingo’s (love_bingo) Round 3 (square: “Lost love”)
Warnings: Character death vaguely mentioned.
Disclaimer: Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man and Marvel Cinematic Universe, including characters and everything else, belong to Marvel, Marvel Studios, Joss Whedon, Joe Johnston, Jon Favreau, Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. In short: I own nothing; this is pure fiction, created to entertain likeminded fans, for no profit whatsoever.
Beta: Mythra (mythras_fire)
Feedback: Very welcome.
About Our Life Is a Journey: The title of the story is from a song Lost Love by Judas Priest; an accidental discovery that became the lifeline of this story.
Story and status: Below you see the writing process of the story. If there is no text after the title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.
Our Love Is a Journey
Written for my card on Love Bingo’s Round 3. Square: “Lost love”.
Steve had learned to associate certain rough, loud music with Tony. It fit the man well, knowing his brash nature, so he was a bit surprised when he found a rather different song playing in the background as Tony lounged alone in the living room of the new Avengers Tower.
All the other Avengers were out; Clint and Natasha on a mission, Thor in Asgard, and Bruce in an undisclosed location kept secret even from S.H.I.E.L.D. – yet Steve had a feeling that Tony knew exactly how and where to get hold of the scientist if they needed him badly enough.
Tony looked very thoughtful, a pen in his mouth, fingers holding the other end carefully. His eyes were fixated on a notebook resting on his raised knees in front of his face. It was rare to see him working with a pen and paper if there were computers available – and there were plenty of those everywhere in the Tower. That combined with the rather soothing tones of the song made Steve stop and reconsider entering the room at all.
Instead, he turned his attention to actually listening to the music. Normally, if he made out a word here and there in Tony’s usual background noise, there were crude remarks and obscenities being shouted. This particular song, however, had a bittersweet tone to it, which eventually left Steve with a rather sick feeling in his stomach:
‘I can remember,
The first time that we met,
The feelings you gave to me – I’ll never forget,
I knew from that moment,
When our love first began.’
A vision from a time and life he had lost assaulted Steve, blinding his usual determination to not dwell on things he couldn’t get back. Helplessly, he followed the song to a dark, bitter abyss of memories of the woman he had so surprisingly fallen in love with, yet with such ease he couldn’t really deny it, even then.
He had thought to himself then that when the war was over and he and Peggy no longer had to dance around each other…
‘And though there were bad times,
We stood by each other,
And did what we had to get through.’
She had been there when he lost Bucky, forcing him out of his dark mood and gnawing guilt; reminding him that there was yet a war to be fought and a friend’s memory to be honored.
Peggy had given Steve something to think of – something to hope for once the war ended.
‘You live in my heart – when you’re far away,
I see you in dreams – where I hear you say,
Look up to heaven – and I’ll be there.’
That was, of course, before he had guided the Hydra plane into the icy ocean and lost all those dreams in a selfless sacrifice that had landed him here, seventy years into the future.
Tony’s voice dragged him back into the moment and he looked at the other man.
“Everything okay?” Tony asked. The pen he had previously held between his lips was now in his hand, and he was shifting it around almost restlessly.
“Yeah,” Steve replied, the single word choked in his throat.
The song changed and he turned in the doorway, going back towards the training room, his original destination already forgotten. A good session with a punching bag would put him at ease, and if not, then the one after that might.
Steve had come up with a dozen excuses since he woke up from the ice, each more horrible than the last. All of them left a bad taste in his mouth, but he feared the outcome more than he wanted to get it over with, which always left him pushing away that small piece of paper – pretending that he didn’t already know the address and phone number by heart.
However, when the Avengers were in London after a mission and were going to stay there for the next few days for repairs and recuperation, he took note of the date and could no longer think of anything to be a valid enough reason to not take the final step of admitting his past was well and truly beyond his grasp.
It was April 9th when he rented a bike and drove a little under one-and-a-half hours to Winchester, taking in the scenery as he went, attempting to envision what would happen in the next few hours. He imagined that it could go over well; he imagined the horror – or the familiar face forever changed by the years he had spent in the ice; and the biggest demon of all, that she wouldn’t know him.
He had put off calling Peggy, to let her know that he was alive. He had been unable to envision what it would have been like for her; she had lived her life, just like all those whom he had left behind. He had no right to push himself back into their lives – whatever time they had left.
When he arrived at the beautiful old building, he noted the few vehicles that were in the parking area. He wondered if anyone here had come to see her.
Not wanting to appear empty-handed, although he should have thought of that earlier, he picked a few wild-flowers from down the road in a slight panic. They appeared weak and plain in his grasp, and it was painfully clear he was completely unprepared for this meeting.
His heart pounded in his chest as he entered.
A woman looked up from behind what looked like an office desk. “Can I help you?” she asked pleasantly.
“Uh, I’m looking for Margaret Carter. It’s her birthday.” It felt odd using her full name.
The woman flashed Steve a quick smile and gave him directions, which he followed and eventually led him to the right door. There was no mistaking it, although he kept pretending perhaps he should go check the others, just in case. He had put this off for too long, he realized. It wasn’t going to get any easier now.
He almost turned around and left, unable to bring himself to open the door, but then a somewhat familiar tune came floating out from the other side. His ears made out the words, even with the wood standing in between, and he frowned. It was too big a coincidence…
‘Our life is a journey,
That we took from the start,
We made all these memories together.’
Resolutely, he pushed the door open, finding a cozy little room with some hospital equipment inside, and an old woman sitting on a bed, propped up by various pillows. Beside her, in a chair, Tony Stark held his phone in his hand, the song continuing to play. Neither of them had noticed Steve come in, which left him able to study the strange scene – and to look at her.
He could tell it was Peggy. For him, it had been barely two years since he last saw her, but she had changed completely. Frail and old, her face had softened somewhat, and her hair had lost the battle against old age, yet there was something in the set of her jaw that was still the same.
“I think it reminded him of you,” Tony said as the song ended.
“I think everything in this world reminds him of what he use to have,” Peggy replied, voice a little shaky but still strong and determined. “This isn’t what he had. You should stop giving him such a hard time.” Her clipped tones were still there, clearly, and Steve belatedly realized they were talking about him.
“At least the prank phase is over; Tony found it hilarious to throw outrageous facts at me to see if I believed the lies among the truths,” Steve spoke up, making both of them look up at him. His eyes dismissed Tony for the time being, looking at Peggy instead. “Happy birthday, Agent Carter.” He sort of offered his wilting little flowers to her, then realized there was a much bigger bouquet on a table by the window. They looked expensive and fresh, and he realized Tony must have brought them.
“Thank you, Captain,” she replied, taking a moment, just looking at him.
“You okay, Aunt P?” Tony asked, a small smile on his lips, although there was a note of concern on his face.
It was strange how Steve had thought the two of them wouldn’t know each other, even when Peggy and Howard Stark, Tony’s father, had worked together during the war. It had never come up, and he gave Tony a somewhat dirty look because obviously he had been at a disadvantage; Tony should have told him.
“I am fine,” Peggy said resolutely, eyes still nailed on Steve. “Go find a vase for the flowers.”
Tony raised an eyebrow and looked at the plants in Steve’s hand.
“Anthony,” Peggy repeated, sharply, and Tony raised himself from the chair and gently plucked the flowers from Steve’s tense grasp.
“I’ll be back,” he noted from the door and then closed it behind himself.
Steve slowly let out the air from his lungs, which were burning with tension.
Peggy blinked, then smiled a little, and her eyes watered beyond her control. “Oh, Steve,” she whispered. “I’ve waited so long for this.”
She remembered him. She had waited for him.
That hurt more than he could have imagined and had prepared himself for, and Steve strode over to the bed, sitting carefully on its edge, then allowed two frail arms to pull him into her flat chest, half her tears disappearing in his hair and all of his soaking the shoulder of her cardigan, but she didn’t complain.
By the time Steve leaned back, she had mastered her emotions. At least one of them had things under control.
“I’m sorry,” Steve started.
She shook her head, as if lost in thought. Maybe she had imagined this moment, too, over and over, in a thousand different versions.
“I missed our date,” Steve went on.
“Stop,” Peggy whispered. “You’ll make me cry all over again, and it is my birthday.”
Steve nodded, then looked towards the door; it had been a while since Tony left. All he could find, though, was a tiny vase set on a shelf by the door – which hadn’t been there when he came in – the wildflowers Steve had picked set inside it in a rather tasteful arrangement.
Peggy’s hand settled on his shoulder, drawing his attention back to her, and Steve dismissed any thoughts about his teammate.
It was late when he walked back out to the parking lot. Only his rented bike and a single car remained, and Tony was leaning against the latter, looking at the darkening horizon.
“You should have come back in; we had cake,” Steve mused, stopping by his bike, sitting sideways on top of it.
“Trying to watch my figure,” Tony replied, mouth twitching before his dark eyes settled on Steve. “I’m glad you came.”
“You could have said something,” Steve noted.
Tony must have chuckled, although no sound came out. “Yeah, well, you didn’t ask.”
“Have you known her all your life?”
“Yup,” Tony nodded, looking at the house briefly. “We were… closer when I was a kid. After you popped back into the books of the living, I tried to make a habit of visiting her. I was never the one she was really waiting for to walk through those doors, though…”
Steve nodded. The anxiety of long months had disappeared, and instead he felt guilty for taking so long.
“You know, she could have called you at any time,” Tony told him. “She chose not to. She knew you knew she was still alive, but it had to be your choice to contact her.”
“Why?” Steve frowned.
Tony shrugged one shoulder and moved to open the door of his car. Rented, possibly – or bought, because Tony was Tony, forever and always. “That’s between the two of you. See you back at base.” Just like that he shut the door, started the engine and pulled out onto the road, leaving Steve alone in the empty parking lot in the darkening night, feeling warm inside despite the fact that his old life was still lost to him.
He had, however, rediscovered some things today that he had thought he’d lost forever, and that knowledge would stay with him for a long time to come.