1963-06-15 - What's a NATO?
Summary: Captain America attempts to come to grips with losing nearly 20 years.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
uj peggy steve sam 


Sam has arrived.

*

Once Steve calmed down enough to not attack his agents, Brian took him back to the car where his driver raised the roof to give them some privacy and then drove them into Chinatown. Going down an alley, the metal gate at the end opens and they drive into a large, empty warehouse. Once the doors close behind them and the car comes to a stop, the floor begins to sink and takes them down a couple stories to SHIELD's motorpool. Getting out of the car, they get on a small electric cart set into tracks in the floor that take them to the SHIELD offices a couple blocks away.

Once the car's roof closed over them, Brian reached up to pull his hood off. Unlike Peggy, he looks exactly like Steve remembers him, not having aged a day. "Let me know when you're ready to hear what happened, Steve. It's going to be quite a shock, I assure you. Would you care for a good stiff drink to brace you? I'm bloody well going to."

*

Steve, looking a little lost, reaches up to the dashboard and pulls himself out of the sports car slowly. He gives Brian a shake of the head slightly. Alcohol hasnt worked on him since the procedure, and that was apparently a very long time ago. "We won, right?" he asks as he recognizes the similarity between this building and the one he worked in so long ago.

*

"Oh, quite." Brian assures Steve. "We won in '45." Which should be the first hint as to what he's going to be told. He leads the way to the Director's office, motioning Steve to take a seat while he goes to pour himself a drink. He's almost as resistant to alcohol as Steve is but the psychological value is still there. "I expect Peggy will be along shortly once she squares away the situation with her daughter."

*

Steve swallows hard and nods as he looks towards the cement flooring. He stays quiet, not sure how to respond. He's glad they won, of course—that's what they had all fought so hard for, what so many had died for. It's good that they had won, that was the mission.

Steve's head twists slightly, twitches really as Brian mentions Peggy's daughter. Like a bandaid, better rip it off and just be done with it. "Brian, you and I look young, Peggy looks like she aged. What year is it?"

*

While there was a HELL of a lot of clean up to be done — family wise and press wise — Peggy has never been one to mince words. A full press conference has been scheduled for later that afternoon, at least four agents put on administrative leave, six more in medical, and her daughter has been sent home with the nanny a crepe because the only one Peggy is *actually* a push over for is a grubby handed five year old with brown curls. She marches into the office from the garage, barking a few more orders, "Someone find Wilson and get him to my office. *Now*. And if anyone else even THINKS of talking to the press, they are going the way of Minelli and Case." The two agents who unwisely hid this from Peggy and now probably no longer have jobs after she completes the review. Her booming voice can practically be heard down the hall as she stalks through the offices towards her door. SHe doesn't bother knocking, it's her damn office. She storms in.

If they wondered if she caught the tail end of that (you STILL don't know how to talk to women, Steve), the arched brow sent in Steve's direction probably answers the question. And then she does a heartbeat later, half stalking around her desk to remove her jacket before she keeps slightly bleeding on it (her left hand road burned from the tackle of Steve.) "1963. Welcome back."

*

After a few panicked seconds outside, the door squeaks open again, admitting a large black man wearing a stunned expression, a pair of cracked goggles, and a layer of caked-on soot about a quarter inch thick. A muttered "better you than me" still echoes in his ears.

"The Exo-One exploded again," he says by way of defensive explanation. He looks around the room for any place he could possibly sit, stand, or lean without coating the Director's furniture in a layer of black dust, then gives up and just stays where he is, arms held out in awkward, stiff parentheses. Without making eye contact with anyone else in the room, he simply asks, "What can I do for you, Director Carter?"

*

Brian nods over to Peggy as she enters and looks back to Steve. "You and Bucky disappeared on your last mission, Steve. We knew you had succeeded because the drone never showed up but there was no word from you after that." he tells his friend softly, looking sympathetic. "You were both presumed lost." KIA. "Until you were found frozen in the middle of a rather large ice cube." Now he looks over at Peggy again. "Which I didn't know about till earlier when he was already here and they were attempting to thaw him out. And then, Steve… You woke up and soundly thrashed our agents. Still in top form, it's good to see." Despite everything. When the door opens, he looks over and acknowledges Sam with a nod.

*

Steve raises his eyebrows and gives one of those sour faces when you're trying to put on a good one but it just doesn't work out. He looks around, trying to think of something he should be doing, rather than be in this awkward situation, but when you've been stuck for almost 20 years, it's not like your laundry is still there for you to worry about. "Thanks," he says absently.

"Well," Steve says with a raised eyebrow after he lets Brian finish. "A guy is mighty hungry after living in an ice cube for so long. Guess they shouldn't have gotten in my way. All the burger joints have changed."

Sam provides a welcome distraction. He nods to the young man, and then after a double take, peers at the goggles. "Pardon for asking a dumb question, but what are you wearing?"

*

As the soot covered Sam comes into her office, Peggy nods to him respectfully, a slight grimace on her features as she hears about Exo-One, "It's alright. I think I have another assignment for you." Peggy states simply, before turning dark eyes back to the undershirt-clad super soldier standing in front of them. "Just sit, Sam, and listen." She keeps looking at Steve, though. It's the first time she's actually let herself *look*, long and hard, at the first man who ever turned her head. She exhales a slightly softer breath.

"…Steve, I'm… Sorry. No one told me. I… How this happened… wasn't right. I'm glad it did, but… they certainly mucked it up." She then takes in a deeper breath, and Steve's question to Sam actually, almost immediately, confirms for her what she'd suspect — that Sam's age, energy, and reliable face would be a comfort for Steve. Sam could have been a Howling Commando, if he was twenty years older. It's like going back to old times. "Steve Rogers, meet Sam Wilson, one of our top young agents. Sam… this is Steve Rogers. You may have heard of him before." She completely dead pans. She then moves to lean against the desk next to Brian, the senior agents presenting a unified face — even if Peggy is the only one who looks 'senior' in the room.

*

In response to the talk of frozen time travelers and dead men hunting down hamburgers, the sooty SHIELD test pilot only allows himself a single slow blink, one eye magnified and the other split into facets by his goggle lenses. These white people are insane, he pointedly does not say. Instead, he nods deferentially to Carter, turns to Steve and answers, "Pleased to meet you. At the moment, I think I'm wearing the two sturdier thirds of an airframe and the ashes of one of Howard Stark's worse ideas." He pauses for a second, wincing a lot more visibly than he realizes (thanks, goggles), and adds, "If you don't mind my saying so."

*

"It's a lot to take in." Brian says, watching Steve carefully. Not that he expects the man to break down or anything. Still. "I think we can provide some burgers if that's what you'd like. Or some very good Chinese food. We could even manage a shower and some clothing that fits you properly."

*

"It's not your fault, Peg," Steve says quietly before looking up towards Sam. "He's good for a lot of things, especially his gadgets." When Brian mentions that it's hard for anyone to take, Steve takes one more half moment to run his hand through his hair and take a deep breath. And now it's time to move on.

"A shower and a meal would be good. Probably a check up, too, but I feel fine. If I can get some help figuring out where I stand in the world, that'd be kind of you all. I'm not sure if I'm still a member of the military or a civilian. I'm pretty sure my apartment isn't around anymore. And I need to find out wherever they put Bucky's grave."

*

The comment about Howard's worse ideas makes Peggy slightly smirk, though it's a fond one. "Steve is… intimately familiar with Howard Stark's crazy ideas, Sam." Some things never do change, especially Howard Stark and explosions. She then, still reeling a bit herself, stalks over to the door and opens it. She yells out into the hallway, "Someone run upstairs, get an extra large order of the lo mein with extra beef. And some of the soup dumplings. NOW." The sound of dress shoes scrambling on tile floor can be heard as some still rather scared agents leap to the call. There will be food within minutes. At least it was something practical she could do.

She then shuts the door and turns back to the room, exhaling slowly. "I…I can show you where they buried Bucky. We… never did find his body, but there is a memorial. I've been… a few times. And yes, medical will want to see you — when you are ready. I'm still tempted to clean out the whole bloody department right now but Brian or Daniel will probably talk me out of it." It seems Peggy finally got her command, after all these years. No glorified secretarial work left for her.

*

"I could also use a shower," Wilson points out, probably unnecessarily. "I can show… the Captain where they are after he eats." After a moment of skeptical hesitation, it's confirmed: he did, in fact, recognize the name. He's just a little too nineteen-and-jaded to believe in miracle men thawed out of icebergs.

As there still seems to be a bit of curiosity about Howard's latest brainwave, he elaborates. "It's supposed to make me fly," Sam says with weary resignation, picking a bit of scrap metal off of his charred flight suit and letting it dangle mournfully from between his thumb and forefinger. "I think Mr. Stark's exact words were, 'If those no-account Wrights can do it with bicycles, I can damn well do it with rockets.' The fuel they're using still runs too hot, though. Someone needs to give Mr. Stark the idea to try high-proof alcohol."

The pilot goes silent for a second, then judges it prudent to clarify: "As a fuel source. For the rocket."

*

"We can find you a place to bunk down here, Steve." Brian tells him. "Or if you prefer, you're welcome to come stay with me. I have some bedrooms that aren't in use and I'd be pleased to put you up." It should be noted that he's in his Union Jack costume sans mask and that that's not normal for here. "It blew up while you were wearing it?" he asks Sam. "You're bloody lucky to be alive then." He too is familiar with Howard's 'creations'.

*

Steve tilts his head, not wanting to barge upon Peggy's command, but not wanting people to lose their jobs because of him either. He's sort of caught in the middle. "It was sort of a crazy situation, Peg. Director Carter, I mean. Sorry." He smiles faintly.

Then he gives a nod to Sam, "I think a shower right after the food would be a good idea. Then medical. After that, I think I just need some time to sit, think, and learn."

"I don't really want to put you out, Brian." Of course, with Brian's money his place is probably gigantic. And then, thinking about that, he begins to realize he needs to ask about all his old friends. Who made it? Who didn't? As he stands back up, he asks Brian quietly, "Hey, how's Jackie?" He's referring, of course, to Spitfire—Brian's sister Jacqueline.

*

A slight smile crosses her lips as he calls her Peg. "…Peg is fine. Behind closed doors, at least. Wouldn't want the young upstarts getting the wrong idea." Peggy is only half teasing about that, considering what the rumor mill is doing already. She stares at him quietly, but with food on the way and his questions now for the men, she doesn't cut in any longer. SHe doesn't even know what she'd say. This was all so overwhelming. But Peggy Carter doesn't *get* overwhelmed. So, she stands there, stiff and straight, keeping that carefully neutral smile on her lips.

*

Turning slightly toward Carter, Sam allows one of his rare smiles, and starts demonstratively cleaning out one ear with a sooty finger. Wrong idea? This young upstart has just suffered temporary hearing loss, probably due to the explosion, and has no idea what Wrong Ideas he might be ideating.

The smile vanishes as he glances at Brian, goggles giving his dry expression a bit of a Groucho Marx cast. "The only lucky part is that the techs didn't notice the blast armor I'd bolted on when they weren't looking," he corrects the Brit. "Too much weight to get airborne, yeah, but redirecting that theoretically impossible fuel tank explosion away from the pilot turned out to be a real handy feature."

Finally, he turns to Steve, and lets that 'sit, think, and learn' line thaw out his impassivity, if only a little bit. "I've got a spare radio. Or books, magazines, today's newspaper," he offers the time-lost super soldier. "Already did the crossword, though."

*

"Unless you'd truly prefer staying here, I'm afraid I must insist Steve." Brian states firmly. "You'll be more comfortable and the view is quite nice." Once of the best in the city in fact. "And when you're ready, we can fix you up with a proper wardrobe. Jackie is quite well as is my father. They'll both be shocked and overjoyed to hear you're alive."

*

"That'd help, Sam, thanks. And, I've never been much good at crossword puzzles anyways," Steve says with a smile. After a quick nod to Peg, he lets the subject of what to call her drop. He's still a bit rattled by the rush: together with her hours ago, to him, and now she's moved on, presumably married, and now has a child. It's a lot to take in, Brian said, and he's right.

"Well, if you insist," he says with a smile towards Brian. "I figure I've been out of the light a little too long already."

*

Nothing to really presume — two rings rest on Peggy's left hand as they speak, an understated engagement ring and diamond crusted wedding band. She's also just a *touch* softer around the edges, not that she was ever a spare woman before, but having a kid does things to people. She gives a quietly thankful look in the direction of Brian and Sam — the two guys have pulled together on this better than she could have ever asked — before gazing back to Steve. "Well, it… It seems you gentleman have everything in hand. I know you've got to have more questions, Steve, but…" And then there is a tentative knock and Peggy turns, opening the door to accept the large container of noodles and beef. It does smell heavenly. She takes the bag from the agent and nods a dismissal.

"Well, maybe there is some time for questions while you eat. Food is important. And the best in the city." She sets the containers down before him, a worried smile still on her lips. "…I should have ordered for all of us. I didn't even think. But then, I should be in Washington right now, so… it's been one of those days."

*

"I'll get them boxed up for you, sir," Sam says to Steve with a crisp nod that only dislodges a little bit of soot. Once Sam filters out the academic ornithology articles and the negro interest periodicals, Cap will find that his personal library leans toward news magazines, pulp adventure novels, and a lot of Audobon Bird Guides.

The pilot holds up a hand and shakes his head when Peggy starts talking about feeding all of them. He looks mildly uncomfortable at the very thought. "That's not necessary, Director, although I appreciate the offer." Carter has looked out for him since he arrived at SHIELD, and not everyone in the organization likes that. He doesn't want to think how they would react to him taking meals in the office with her and a couple of superheroes.

*

"I do insist." Brian states firmly. "It'll be like old times." Just like when the Invaders were using Falsworth Manor as a base. "You're welcome to stay as long as you wish." And that's settled. "If you need to go to DC, Peggy, I can take care of things here." The agents behind this mess would surely appreciate the reprieve. And speaking of which, he steps over to Peggy's intercom and presses one of the buttons. "Find the Captain's shield and bring it up here. If it wasn't with him, discover exactly where he was found and send a team to comb the ocean floor until they find it." Sentimentality aside, the shield was one of Howard's few unqualified successes.

*

"Washington?" Steve says as he reaches for the food. "Sounds important." He doesn't quite get how big things have gotten to this point for the organization. To have real food after 20 years actually has the opposite effect. Eating should make him full, but the taste only makes him more hungry. So he scarfs.

"I appreciate that, Sam. I figure I'll have a lot of catching up to do on reading and the radio. Maybe go see a few movies to unwind."

"The shield?" Steve hadn't thought about it yet. He wasn't even sure if he should still be qualified to wield it, given he's not even sure what role he has in the world. Is it the government's'? But when a couple of agents come through the door with it, as well as the remnants of his old uniform and helm, he can't take his eyes off it.

*

Dark eyes loft from where they've been half stuck on Steve's features up to the clock on the wall and Peggy sighs, "The meeting is in an hour. I'll never make it. It… it will be what it is. Truthfully, most of this is coming from NATO anyway, and when NATO says jump, we still need to ask how high." Peggy explains gently to the room, but there is a certain tension behind her eyes that most of the men in the room know her well enough to recognize — whatever it is is bad. Epically. Something bad enough to make Carter uncomfortable and people didn't think that used to exist, really. She sighs and shakes it off.

"Sam, I'd like to reasign you to helping Steve get… Acclimated. Brian will nominally be in charge, but… whatever Captain Rogers needs." Then she's looking back to Steve and she steps closer to actually sit on the edge of her desk so she's close to him, looking him almost eye to eye. "Steve… a lot has changed. And you are still your own person. I know they made you do a lot of hoop jumping when all this started, but… we're not like that any more. You, when you are ready, will get to choose how you go forward. Agent. Captain. Retired. Whatever you like. There is no pressure and well handle the public. Just… take the time you need, alright? No more press tours. I promise." She gives him a weak half smile, remembering those dance boots.

*

Steve isn't the only one staring at the shield as it passes into the office. Sam Wilson peels his goggles away from his eyes, jaw going just a bit slack. Some half-dressed Aryan-looking guy showing up and claiming to be Captain America — that's one thing. But the shield? Its physical presence in the room? For a second, Sam Wilson is a toddler on an Air Force base again, listening to the wireless for news of his dad's squadron, reveling in every embellished tale of Steve Rogers socking it to the Nazis. A kid with two stolen cans of paint, a trash can lid, and a dream.

Reality intrudes before too long, of course. He shuts his mouth and clicks his heels together when Carter addresses him, nodding first at her and then at Cap. "Of course, Director," he answers. He's worked as a personal attaché for higher-ranking officers before. This might not be any different…maybe.

*

"The security at the Eldorado is quite good." Brian puts in. "No one will bother you there." The Eldorado being one of the most expensive apartment buildings on Central Park West since it was built in the early 30s. When the shield is delivered, he just watches Steve.

*

As the shield is handed over towards Steve, he looks at it almost nervously. "Sam and Steve, out on the town. They'd better get the red paint ready."

Steve slides the shield up on his arm and grips it tightly, looking almost relieved. Any thoughts of retirement, or even civilian life, fall by the wayside. What was he going to do, draw comics for a living? He's a soldier, and it's about time to get the soldiering on.

"I think that'll be nice, Brian. To have somewhere to get away from it all. But I'm not ever going to get re-acclimated by hiding. We should probably let the military and people who care know that Captain America is back."

And then, as if he forgot to ask something before, Steve makes a face and asks, "Who's Nato?"

*

"NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization. We signed in 1949, and it ended up putting SHIELD into place — run by Howard, Philips, myself, Brian, and a few of the others, officially in 1953. We're… somewhat what the SSR became, but with less agenda, internationally focused, and with some immensely level headed people running the game." No, she's not bragging, it's the truth.

Well, and maybe a bit of bragging.

"Shower. Rest. I'm giving a press conference shortly and if you want to talk after, I'm sure we can set up another one. But… You don't have to perform for the world any more, Steve. Take the time you need to recover. Please." Peggy reaches out, actually touching him for the first time since she tackled him. A squeeze is given to his shoulder. She gives him one last smile then fully stands. "I…should get ready for that conference. You gentlemen know how to get him settled in. We'll all speak again soon." And with that, she turns to go. She then pauses and looks around, realizing something. "…This is *my* office! Go. You're all dismissed. I'm not going anywhere!" She half laughs. It's one of those laugh or would cry kind of laughs. it's been that kind of day.

*

"Her Majesty decided that she wants her fingers in all of the pies so made my inclusion a condition of Her approval." Brian notes dryly. That's right, Steve. Britain has a Queen now. "Let's go to my office. You can eat while I change back into civvies. I have some paperwork to finish while Sam here shows you around and finds some towels and a set of fatigues to wear for now."

*

Steve chuckles and shrugs his shoulders, "I think we're getting kicked out boys." He stands and nods to Peggy, while he begins to follow Sam and Brian out of the office. He's happy to be alive, bewildered as to what to do next, and anxious as all get out.

*

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