Categories > Movies > Marvel Cinematic Universe

close enough to touch (close enough to hope you couldn't see what i was thinking of)

by peitho_x 0 reviews

Peggy and Jack's no-strings relationship does not go as planned.

Category: Marvel Cinematic Universe - Rating: R - Genres: Drama,Romance - Warnings: [!] [X] - Published: 2022-12-10 - 9665 words - Complete

It was a late night at the office, a frustrating case, a few months after Daniel had left for LA. They were looking into the smuggling of potentially dangerous chemicals. Not exactly a big thing, but then again, everything seemed like small potatoes after Stark and Dottie. Jack had sent everyone else home because they were all getting on each other's nerves and not making headway. The only reason Peggy remained was because she was the only one stubborn enough to stay against his orders.

She sat at her desk as Jack stood in the doorway of his office, watching her. She ignored him.

"Go home, Carter," he said.

"I'm working," she said without looking up.

"You'll work better after a night's rest."

She turned and glared at him. "I am finally making progress on this code. Do you want me to stop now?"

He sighed and shook his head. "Have it your way. But if you make a mistake because you're tired, it's on you."

"Duly noted."

Jack remained in the doorway watching her, but Peggy paid him no mind. For some reason – likely the hour and the proximity in which they'd been working – he felt the urge to antagonize her. It was an urge that he was well aware would not necessarily end well for him. But he wanted her to spar with him, as she always did – as opposed to the other agents, who mostly just fell in line.

"Have you always been this headstrong?" he asked. "I'll bet you were a pain as a kid."

Peggy pursed her lips but kept working.

"An absolute terror to your teachers," he continued. "And your mother too, I'm guessing."

"Is there a purpose to these musings?" Peggy asked. "Or are you trying to annoy me into leaving?"

He shrugged. "Maybe I'm just curious."

Peggy put down her pen and Jack couldn't deny the slight jump in his heart rate. The adrenaline of the approaching bout.

"And what were you like as a child, Chief Thompson?" she asked. "All-American golden boy with silver tonsils to match?"

"I'm gonna take that as a compliment."

"Rest assured it was not meant that way."

"The kinda guy every girl wanted to go to the dance with."

"Poor girls. They must have been severely lacking in options if you were their best one."

"As though guys were lining up round the block to ask you out."

Peggy's jaw tensed slightly, but she said, "Only the ones who dared," with a small smile.

Jack looked at her curiously, saying nothing.

"What?" Peggy asked finally.

"I'm just trying to figure out if I'd be one of the ones who dared."

Peggy raised an eyebrow. "Don't be ridiculous." She went back to her work.

There was no way he could leave it at that, so Jack said, "What? You don't think so?"

She gave him a knowing look and for a good few seconds all Jack could think was that she knew, that she had overheard what Dooley had said that time – your crush on Carter. But she couldn't. This was just her pretending to know everything, as always.

And Jack never accepted defeat that easily.

"You know what?" he said. "Maybe I wouldn't be among the select few who dared to go after you, but admit it, you would've been curious about me."

She ignored him, which just would not do, so he approached her desk.

"Sure, you'd antagonize me in front of everyone else, but deep down you'd look at the girls I went out with and wonder if you were missing out."

Peggy's pen stilled a moment on the page, and he grinned.

"Missing out on what?" she asked, looking up at him. "An arrogant, moderately entertaining boy who didn't have the stones to ask out a girl who had the audacity to speak up for herself?"

He just looked at her for a moment. "Do you wanna go out with me?" he asked, falling back onto his reliable easy charm.

She hardly missed a beat with her response. "No."

"You sure?"

Peggy took a breath, then snapped her notepad shut and stood up. Jack expected her to give him some angry retort or maybe even hit him. But instead, she stepped in close to him, fingers dragging along her desk.

"Well," she said, dragging out the word, looking up at him through her eyelashes. Her hand came up to straighten his tie and it was like everything inside him short-circuited. Flickering sparks, a small explosion, then nothing.

When Peggy saw his blank expression, she smiled and stepped away from him. "Perhaps I should get going..."

"Wait." The word came out without his permission, just like the hand that flew out to grab her arm.

Peggy raised her eyebrows at him. "Now you want me to stay?" she asked playfully. "After you-"

He pulled her against him, ducking his head to capture her mouth with his. He felt, more than heard, her surprised gasp and for a horrifying moment he thought he might have miscalculated.

But then her hands were on him, moving up his chest to hold his face in her cool palms. She kissed him the way Jack supposed she did everything: relentlessly, determinedly, and with more force than one would expect. He could not help the way his mind wandered to how she might do other things.

In the end, he was the one who needed a respite first. He pulled away, leaning against the desk behind him, but keeping his hands on her waist.

"Winded already?" Peggy asked, hands settling on his shoulders. "Are you out of practice?"

Jack nearly laughed. He knew he was a good kisser – that wasn't arrogance, he had been told so many times – and he knew that had been a good kiss. Only Peggy would find something to criticize in it.

Instead, he just shook his head and exhaled a small chuckle. "You're a pain in my ass, Carter," he said.

"Likewise," Peggy said. "Should we perhaps move this some place more private?"

"More private?" Jack looked around the empty bullpen. "There's nobody here."

"Fair enough." Then she grabbed his tie and hauled him in for another kiss.

How they ended up on the couch in his office, Jack had no idea. But here they were, Peggy under him, brushing her fingers through is once-neat hair, mussing it up. He'd managed to get a couple buttons of her blouse open and was in the middle of trailing a path of kisses down to the newly exposed skin.

Peggy was starting to tug at his clothes too. She pushed his suspenders off his shoulders, loosened his tie and started working at his buttons. But when he tried to help her, taking his lips off her, she said, quite breathlessly, and yet with authority, "Don't you dare stop."

He murmured a low "Yes, ma'am," into her skin that came out sounding much less sarcastic than he had intended.

It occurred to Peggy, of course, that this was a terrible idea. She knew this could certainly jeopardize her newly-acquired respect if they were caught. She knew that she still had feelings for Daniel and wasn't even sure how she felt about Jack.

But she also knew that, however stupid and reckless and ill-advised this was, she still wanted it. She wanted Jack like this, on top of her, hair a mess, eyes dark and wanting, his mouth on her. She wanted his broad shoulders and strong arms and long legs.

Her skirt had been pushed up by his knee, bunched up at her waist. Jack slid a hand up her thigh and pressed between her legs, making Peggy gasp. He grinned against her skin.

"Are you going to keep teasing or are we going to get on with it?" she said, failing to keep the breathlessness from her voice.

"Will you never stop trying to boss me around?" he asked.

"No," she said, then added, slightly smugly. "And I don't try, I succeed." She looked pointedly down to where he was already undoing the button and fly of his pants.

He looked at her, annoyed, and for a moment Peggy thought he would stop, just to make it look like he wasn't doing what she told him to. "If you weren't such a looker, Marge, I swear..."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "And it's a good thing this is only physical, because otherwise that comment would give me a perfect excuse to leave."

Jack blinked, slightly surprised at Peggy's outright saying what they both knew this was. It shouldn't though, that was just what she did.

So instead he finished undoing his pants and said, "Lucky me," and leaned down to kiss her again.

When Peggy got home that night – or, rather, about five o'clock in the morning – she closed her door and leaned against it. She felt a slight blush travel up her cheeks as her mind went over all that had happened.

It had been a terrible idea and could of course never happen again. Even though neither of them had said that to each other, they both knew it. It was a one-time thing, that no one could know about.

And while Jack was an asshole who still made comments that infuriated her, she was pretty sure he would keep the rendezvous a secret. She wasn't sure why, but she did.

The next morning, Jack strode across the bullpen and Peggy took a moment to just watch him, the way his suit fit around his body – a body she had now seen without its coverings. She had always known he was attractive – and knew she was attracted to him – but had never let herself really look at him like this.

"Carter," he said, stopping at her desk. "You're in here bright and early this morning."

"Well," she said. "It is my job."

"You've been working long hours though," he said. "You sure you're getting enough sleep?" He looked awfully smug, and Peggy knew he had caught her staring.

"I assure you, if it was an issue, I'd let you know."

"Sounds good," he said and winked.

Peggy rolled her eyes and wondered if last night was worth how absolutely insufferable Jack was going to be. Then she watched Jack flick through a stack of papers with his long fingers and remembered some choice moments from last night. She decided that Jack would have to be a lot more unbearable to make her actually regret it.

It was a few days later and they were arguing about some aspect of a case. It was not very important but the summer was warm and made everyone irritable. One of the agents suggested they all get a drink to blow off some steam, but Jack and Peggy picked up the argument again at the bar.

"Oh, forget it," Jack exclaimed finally, standing up. "You're impossible."

He began to leave, and Peggy followed, but instead of continuing the argument, she grabbed him by the arm and tugged him into a janitor's closet and kissed him.

He wass surprised, but certainly not against this turn of events. He only pulled away long enough to ask, "Wait, were you just arguing with me to–"

"No, you're still wrong," Peggy said, starting on the button of his pants. "And we can resume that discussion afterwards."

"Whatever you say," he said, hauling her in for another kiss.

Doing something a second time did not mean she didn't have it under control, Peggy told herself as she slipped out of the closet afterwards, leaving Jack to do up his pants and fix his hair.

The second time was a fluke and meant no more than the first.

The third time, however. The third time could be a cause for concern, she decided, after yet another rendezvous in Jack's office.

The fourth time was in the file room.

The fifth in the back of the car on an uneventful stakeout.

And after that, she sort of stopped counting. Maybe it was a habit, but it was not necessarily a bad one. They both knew what this was, what the expectations were. They were adults. They could handle this.

Peggy glanced over at Jack's office, seeing through the window that he was on the phone.

And he was smiling, a real smile. Peggy knew him well enough to know those were few and far between for him. She found herself torn: interrupt and see if he'd let anything slip about who he was talking to and satisfy her curiosity, or leave him to it.

Before she could decide, Jack saw her through the window and waved for her to come in.

"... Sunday? Yeah, I'll try," he was saying when she opened the door. "Look, I'm working right now, I'll–" He stopped to listen to the person on the other end of the line. "Yeah, I know Charlie never misses a Sunday dinner, but his job is–" He sighed. "I'll be there, alright. Yeah, you too." He hung up the phone and looked up at Peggy.

"We've dug up some known associates of Sharpe, the man who owns the ships," she said. "Harold Murphy and Sebastian Leonard. They both have mob connections." She placed the files on his desk."

Jack flipped through them and nodded. "Thanks, Marge," he said. "I'll assign some agents to follow them, see what they get up to."

"You know, as the Chief, you're allowed to take Sundays off every now and then," she said, getting up to leave.

Jack exhaled a laugh. "My grandma wouldn't be satisfied with every now and then."

"Chief Thompson?" Agent Chen said, popping his head into the office. "I got something."

Jack waved him in.

"So we got Murphy and Leonard both staying at the Hotel Salvatore, two different weekends right after each other."

"Alright, that could be something," Jack said. "Do we know what room they stayed in?"

"That's the thing that really tipped me off," Chen said. "They both stayed in the honeymoon suite."

"The honeymoon suite?"


"Huh." Jack leaned back in his chair. "One of them staying in a honeymoon suite on his own is weird enough, but two of them means it can't be a coincidence," he said. "Well, we can't tip off the hotel owner, so we'll have to send agents in posing as guests."

They both looked out the window into the bullpen.

"One of them'll have to be Carter, I guess," Chen said.


"Otherwise, it'd be suspicious."

"Right, yeah."

"And McCabe is shit at undercover work."

Jack chuckled. "Yeah, I'm not sending him." He didn't really want to send any of them with her, if he was honest – an instinct he chose not to inspect too deeply. "Y'know what? It's been too long since I've done an undercover op."

Chen nodded. "Probably best. Don't want the guys fighting over her."

As he left, Jack said to himself. "Like she'd let herself be fought over."

So, he had told Peggy that Chen had suggested they go together, and here they were, a pair of rings, suitcases, and affectionate nicknames in tow.

And Peggy was, well, he supposed he'd seen bits of her performance when she'd been working for Stark, but he'd never seen her so... not herself.

She had her arm in his as they entered the foyer. She looked around with big eyes and only just contained excitement. "Oh, darling, this place is gorgeous!"

He managed to turn his doubletake at her American accent into a kiss to her temple. "Only the best for you, baby."

Peggy looked up at him with such a loving and devoted smile that he nearly ran into a potted plant. He recovered quickly and walked them up to the front desk.

"James Cooper," he said.

The receptionist smiled and flipped a few pages of a ledger. "The honeymoon suite," she said, taking a key with a heart-shaped keychain off a hook behind her and handing it to him. "Enjoy your stay, Mr. and Mrs. Cooper," she said.

"Oh, I love how that sounds," Peggy said to him quietly, but just loud enough for the receptionist to hear, who smiled.

"Well then, right this way, Mrs. Peggy Cooper." He almost stumbled over the words, but he was sure only Peggy noticed - because her name was supposed to be Nancy.

But she just let out a girlish laugh and took his arm as he led her to the elevator. When the doors slid closed and they were alone, he braced himself for her to say something, which of course she did.

"It's a good thing the reservation was only under James Cooper, not James and Nancy Cooper," she observed, neutrally.

"Well, before today you weren't Nancy Cooper, you were Nancy Lydon."

"Not anymore, now I'm Peggy Cooper, née Lydon."

Jack sighed. "We probably won't have to use the IDs anyway." He glanced over to see Peggy smiling slightly. "What?"

"A bit rusty on undercover work, are we?"

He rolled his eyes just as the elevator dinged. He offered her his arm again. "Mrs. Cooper?"

She took it with an exaggeratedly sweet smile. "Mr. Cooper."

The honeymoon suite was, fortunately, not as cheesily decorated as Peggy had feared. It was still very pink, and floral, but it wasn't bad. Jack, however, did not seem like he was a fan, the way his eyebrows inched upwards as he looked around.

"Who would want to spend their honeymoon here?" he asked, setting their luggage down in the sitting area.

"Romantics, perhaps?" Peggy suggested.

He looked at her, amused.

"I don't mean me," she quickly added.

"Uh huh."

They spent the afternoon searching every nook and cranny of the room, looking for empty spaces under the floorboards or papers taped under drawers and the like. It was seven in the evening before they decided there is nothing for them to find.

Jack's jacket and tie were long-discarded and his sleeves are rolled up to his elbows – always a good look on men in Peggy's opinion.

She flopped down onto the bed. "Do you think Mr. and Mrs. Cooper will go down to eat, or will order in?"

"Order in," Jack said. "They're too busy enjoying married life."

Peggy arched her back so she could look at him upside down and wasn't surprised to see his grin. She rolled her eyes and slumped back down.

"C'mon," he said, standing up from his chair and looking down at her. "We did what we came to do, so we're technically not on the job. Besides, we gotta keep up appearances."

"We're not on the job but need to keep up our covers. Your logic is flawless, Chief," she deadpanned.

He sighed and walked over to the phone. "What do you want for dinner?"

"Well, we will have likely had a large lunch - leftovers from the wedding reception, so just a sandwich for me." She paused. "Club sandwich."

He smiled a little as he picked up the phone and Peggy rolled over to see him right side up.

"Hi, yeah, can I have two club sandwiches to the honeymoon suite?" He paused. "And a bottle of your cheapest wine? Thanks."

"Cheapest wine?" Peggy asked when he had hung up. "You really know how to make a girl feel special."

"The SSR will only refund me so much," he said and leaned down to kiss her, briefly and softly.

And it was far too tender for their relationship. That was a going steady kiss, a will-soon-meet-the-parents kiss.

An in-love kiss.

So Peggy did the first thing she could think of to fix it: she grabbed him by the collar, pulled him in and kissed him properly.

He made a surprised little noise and almost fell on top of her, but she was too busy making quick work of his buttons to mind. Once he had pulled off his shirt, he laid her down on the bed and climbed on top of her, both kicking off their shoes.

She wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him closer to her. He was just starting to unbutton her blouse when there was a knock on the door.

"Room service!"

Jack and Peggy pulled apart and stared at each other. Peggy looked like she was stifling a laugh when she said, "You need to get that."

He gestured at himself. "Right now?"

"Well, I'm hardly decent enough to answer the door."

Three more knocks sounded. "Room service."

Jack strode across the room, pulling his suspenders over his undershirt. He opened the door looking a dignified as he could with his hair a mess, his fly undone, and a lipstick smear on his neck.

"Thank you," he said, taking the plate, bottle, and two glasses from the slightly amused-looking lady who stood on the other side of the door.

"Enjoy!" she said and Jack was certain she didn't mean the food.

When he closed the door, Peggy burst out laughing and he honestly wasn't sure if it was for the sake of the woman outside the door who could certainly hear her, or if it was just her.

"Well," she said. "I'd say we're certainly maintaining our cover." She got up from the bed. "Now let's have some of this top-shelf wine you've gotten us."

And he just kind of looked at her, hair a mess, shorter than usual without her shoes. He had seen her dishevelled before – after fights, after sex – but not in this way. It was a very familiar dishevelment, and he got the feeling not many people ever got to see her like this.

So he decided to just stay in this moment a little longer. He was looking forward to the sex, to be sure, and they would get to it, but he was afraid that if he didn't take this chance now, it would never present itself again.

He poured two glasses of wine and held one out to her. "What should we toast to?"

She took it – their fingers brushed – and smiled. "Our wonderful friends, Mr. Sharpe, Murphy, and Leonard for making this all happen."

"To the bad guys we'll catch after we're done fooling around in this hotel room our work paid for," Jack said and they clinked glasses and took a sip.

Peggy refrained from making a face after tasting the wine, but he could tell.

"It's not very good," he said.

"It's not," she agreed. "But fortunately, that's not it's primary purpose." Then she downed her glass and held it out to him, raising her eyebrows: a challenge.

Jack chuckled and refilled her glass. "Alright, then!" He finished his glass nearly as quickly and as he was refilling it, he saw Peggy fiddling with the record player.

"What are you–?" A loud, jazzy song began to play.

She grabbed him by the arm and pulled him into the open space in the room so quickly he nearly spilled his wine. "Come on," she said.

He downed half his glass – dancing with Peggy seemed like one of those things you would need a little liquid courage for – and set it down on the table before placing a hand on her waist and taking her other hand in his.

"You never struck me as the type who liked dancing," he said as they turned around the room.

"Yes, well." Her smile wavered a moment. "It can be difficult to find a partner who is... adequate."

"Adequate," he said slowly. "We're still talking about dancing, right?"

She rolled her eyes and hit him in the shoulder. "Only one thing on your mind, I swear."

"No but I mean–" Not sure why he was about to bring this up, he does it anyway. "Sousa."

She frowned a moment, then took a sip of wine. "Daniel is... complicated."

"Complicated? He seems like the simplest thing ever, and I mean that as a sincere compliment."

Peggy was quiet for a moment and Jack was beginning to think he had crossed a line when she said, "For months after Steve died, I thought I would never get over it. I wanted to throw myself into work to distract myself, but administrative work doesn't exactly keep the mind off things."

"So you decided to work for Stark."

"I never worked for Howard," she said quickly. "He asked for my help, and I helped him. Because he was my friend. And also because it gave me some purpose, so I could stop wallowing in it all."

Peggy avoided showing weakness – or even acknowledging that she ever was weak – Jack knew that. He first thought it was just a way to get ahead at work, but now he was sure it was more than that. Which was why he couldn't believe they were having this conversation. That she was telling him all this.

"And then you all found out, and Daniel was–" She shook her head. "Furious."

Jack remembered. Dooley had rarely before let Sousa take such a big role in an important interrogation. And it was partially because he had been the one to put it all together, but Jack was sure it also had to do with the rage that fairly rolled off of him. He was certain Dooley had looked at him and thought he could use that to break her. He was wrong of course.

"And I knew it would be different with him, more of a betrayal, because we were actually friends."

"And cause he had a thing for you."

"But it made him sloppy, and cruel," she continued. "He couldn't see past the fact that I'd lied to him. He saw me as some poor, innocent, overlooked girl, and the moment there was a crack in the image, his whole perception of me shattered." She looked at him. "But you– You could tell there was something more going on. Maybe because we weren't as close and you could be more objective, but..."

He couldn't exactly tell her that wasn't true. "It didn't make sense," he said. As much as he didn't like thinking about that time, that was when he finally got her. He'd gotten a glimpse in Russia, but it hadn't clicked until she gave up Captain America's blood.

He thought that maybe he should tell her that, or at least a part of that. He should tell her something.

But then the record skipped and seemed to shake Peggy out of her divulgatory mood. She kind of laughed and took a sip of wine. "I'm not sure where I was going with all that. What I meant to say is, through all of that, I realized that it wouldn't work, Daniel and I." She shrugged. "Which is probably a good thing, because I don't want to be the girl who goes off chasing after a man. And I like New York."

"Cheers to that," Jack said, swiping the wine bottle off the table and clinking it against her half full glass before taking a long swig.

"You had better leave some for me," she scolded.

"C'mon, let's eat before we get too full on wine."

And the conversation lightened considerably as they sat down to eat their nearly-forgotten sandwiches.

They settled back into their familiar surface-level banter. They flirted and they teased and they acted as though the conversation never happened.

They finished the bottle and debated ordering up another one before getting far too distracted with pulling each other's clothes off as quickly as possible.

They were both far past tipsy and on the precipice of drunk, but they were supposed to be newlyweds, right? They were allowed to make a bit of a ruckus, laughing and moaning and accidentally falling out of bed.

That said, their neighbours were probably grateful when they passed out in a tangle of naked limbs and floral sheets around two in the morning.

It was the first time they had spent the night together. Also the first time they had had sex in a bed.

And when Peggy woke up, she looked over to see Jack's sleeping face, much softer around the edges than she was used to. She felt a sort of warm feeling creep into her chest and, oh.

Oh, no.

This was worse than habit, or reliance, or even comfort. Far, far worse.

Peggy did not really believe in God but as she looked over at Jack, she was certain someone up there had it out for her. There could be no other reason for this to happen besides someone wanting a laugh.

Because they were both rational adults who should be able to navigate a relationship like this without catching feelings.

She knew she should stop staring before he woke up, because the last thing she needed was him holding this over her. So she extricated herself from the sheets, grabbed her clothes, and retreated to the bathroom.

Staring her in the face as soon as she entered was a picture frame with the embroidered words, I love you for sentimental reasons on it.

"Oh, sod off," she told it.

She put herself together, all the while telling herself that she was a professional and she would do this job properly, no matter what she may – or may not be – feeling.

Jack woke up alone, which was fine.

He rolled over to murmur, "Good morning," but found Peggy's side of the bed empty, which made sense. They didn't spend the night, they didn't sleep together. They had sex. They were coworkers who had sex, and nothing more.

Or, perhaps a little bit more.

After last night, Jack would say that they were probably friends. Work friends, at the least.

He sat up and saw the light on in the bathroom and heard movement inside. He sighed and got out of bed. As enjoyable as it was, this op had been a bit of a bust. They had not learned anything more about the chemicals being brought into the country.

"You almost done in there, Marge?" he called. "You know they only serve breakfast till nine, and since it comes with the room, I'd like to get my money's worth."

"Your money's worth?" She opened the door. "I thought this was a business expense."

Peggy looked good. Which she generally did. But there was something different about her this morning. He wondered if she had done something different with her hair or her make up or something.

Jack stared at her blankly for such a long moment that Peggy wondered if he was hungover. Surely, he wasn't that much of a lightweight.


He blinked. "Right. Lemme just get dressed and we'll go."

As they headed down for breakfast, Peggy caught Jack stealing glances at her when he thought she wasn't looking. Which she wasn't, of course, but she could see him out of the corner of her eye, squinting at her like he was trying to figure something out.

Then the elevator dinged and he was James Cooper, doting newlywed, once more. They did not keep their hands off of each other while in line for the buffet and as they filled their plates. They whispered to each other and shared not-so-secret smiles. Peggy was almost certain that Jack was keeping meticulous track of every touch since he seemed to kiss her cheek at least once every sixty seconds.

Peggy was certain the whole dining room was already sick of them by the time they had grabbed food and sat down.

"Not really keeping a low profile, there, Thompson," she said in a low voice.

"What? Am I making you uncomfortable?" It was a challenge and Peggy knew it.

"Not at all, darling." She let her real accent slip through, just to see if he would react to it. He did, shifting in his seat and looking away before regaining his composure.

He tilted his head, looking at her for a moment, before reaching across the table, taking her hand in his and gently pulling it forward so he could graze his lips ever so softly across her knuckles and the ring. His eyes never left hers and there was already a secret thrill thrumming through Peggy's body when he said, softly, "You'd better be careful, Peggy, I could charm the pants off Harry Truman himself if I wanted to."

It was a comment that should have made her laugh – a few weeks ago it would have. But now she realized that while his charm may or may not be effective when it came to the current president, it was when it came to her.

And Peggy knew that it was probably very stupid to play what was essentially affectionate chicken with a man she was starting to develop real feelings for, but she had never been able to resist a challenge.

So she ducked her head, looked at him through her eyelashes like she was going to play coy, then said, "Charm the pants off?" She reached her free hand under the table and ran it from his knee up his thigh. "Don't give me any ideas."

Jack appeared to choke on his breath for a moment but managed to clear his throat. "Maybe you're right," he said, letting go of her hand and focusing on his plate. "Maybe we're getting too much into the cover."

She pulled her hand back from his leg, surprised and a bit confused by his sudden change in demeanour. Had he not been the one who just teased her about being uncomfortable? "Right," she said, picking up a piece of toast. "Of course."

Jack stole a glance at her and while she had always been good at hiding her feelings, he had been around her long enough to see the way she had deflated a bit. He did feel kind of bad about saying it, but they needed to make sure the lines were clear, right? It wouldn't do to have one of them get a false idea of what they were to each other.

But Peggy was nothing if not a professional. She smiled at him like an adoring wife and only he could tell it was fake. So he played along and they gott through breakfast.

And they played along in the busy elevator and the hallway to their room, where they packed up their things and hardly spoke to each other. And they played along and they played along and Jack got the sinking feeling that they were through. That he had somehow crossed a line at breakfast that he didn't even realize was there until it was too late.

He looked over at Peggy, who sat beside him in the back of the taxi, her hand in his. "Are you alright?" he asked.

"Of course, my love," she said in her fake accent with fake love in her voice. "I've never been better." And she kissed him on the cheek and he just wanted her to answer as herself, to tell him the truth because he was getting the feeling that when they arrived at work and the charade was truly over that she would never really talk to him again. Not about anything real at least.

But he just smiled and looked ahead again, playing with her hand in his because god help him if this was the last time he got to touch her.

"Here we are," the taxi driver said, pulling onto the side of the street. "The New York Bell Company Office."

Jack reached into his coat for his wallet and Peggy stepped out without a word. She took her bag from the trunk and headed inside.

"She's a bit hot and cold, your old lady," the taxi driver said.

"You have no idea," Jack said.

Peggy was already chatting with the lady who replaced Rose – he could not remember her name – when he caught up to her.

In the elevator, they were quiet for a moment until Peggy said, "About what you said at breakfast."

And Jack was ready to apologise, almost willing to tell her how he really felt, but she continued before he managed to get the words out.

"If you would like to terminate our sexual relationship due to the complications it causes in our working relationship, I understand."

"No," Jack said, a little too forcefully. "No, I just meant that while undercover it's easy to get carried away."

Peggy nodded. "Right, yes. Very good."

The elevator doors opened before Jack was able to ask anything else.

"Hey, lovebirds!" Chen called out. "How was the honeymoon?"

"Not as informative as we hoped it would be," Peggy said. She shed her undercover persona as easily as she took off her coat, getting straight to business.

Jack watched her slip the ring off her finger with a distinct feeling of loss.

Peggy didn't realize she was being followed until she stepped out of the subway car at her usual stop. She should have noticed the tall man in a trench coat earlier but she was preoccupied thinking about the undercover op. And Jack.

He was on her mind a lot these days, and not just in a 'when can I get his skin on mine again' sort of way, but in a soft morning, eating breakfast together sort of way.

That was what she was thinking about when she saw the man step onto the platform and realized that he had been standing outside the office when she left it as well. And now, as she made her way up the stairs to street level, he followed her.

The last thing she wanted to do was lead him to her home, where she could endanger Angie and all the other girls, so she went the opposite way, hoping to lose him in the busy streets.

But no matter how many alleys she slipped through and stores she ducked into, he was always there behind her. And she found herself in a less busy neighbourhood where it was more and more difficult to blend in with the crowds.

By now, he must have known that she knew she was being followed, so she decided the best thing to do was find a place to stand and fight. She stopped at a pawn shop, pretending to look at the wares in the window while glancing over to see the man awkwardly hanging back at the corner of an alley. She turned and walked right past him into the alley. She heard him begin to follow, somewhat uncertainly, and she quickly turned, landing a kick to his gut that tore at the seams of her skirt. Peggy bloody Cooper née Lydon and her adherence to fashion over practicality.

However, the kick surprised him enough that she was able to knock him out without too much fuss.

She didn't see the second man until his bullet tore a painful path through her jacket and blouse and side. She cried out, tripping back as she pulled her gun from its holster. She stumbled behind a dumpster, leaning against the wall as she listened for him. He approached slowly, dragging his feet like he had never been taught the basics of moving around quietly.

Peggy took a steadying breath, ducked down and barrelled into him. A shot rang out but hit the brick wall behind her. She tackled him to the ground and his head hit the pavement so hard he was knocked out. Peggy stood up shakily, looking around. If there were two, there could be more, and she was in no state to fight more.

So she shoved her gun back into her jacket, pressed her hand against the bleeding wound, and ran.

Peggy didn't stop to get her bearings until she was sure there was no one chasing her. Then she stumbled into another alleyway, pain blooming from her abdomen as her adrenaline faded. She leaned against a wall and took a look around, relieved to find that she did know where she was.

Unfortunately, it was nowhere near anyone who she could pop in on at this time of night with a gunshot in her belly.


She sighed. Of course. Of course she would get chased right into the neighbourhood where Jack lived.

A part of her wanted to risk trying to get back home, just to spare her pride. But she could already feel the wooziness coming on and knew she was being ridiculous. So she pressed her hand hard against the wound and began to make her way down the street.

She was pale and trembling by the time she was at the apartment building. She fumbled inside and leaned against the door frame as she knocked on the door.

Then she remembered it was about one in the morning and pounded harder on the door.

Finally she heard footsteps. "Who the hell is it?"

"Thompson, it's me." Peggy found her voice hoarse and sticking in her throat, but somehow he heard her. He opened the door and she nearly fell inside.

"Jesus, Marge," he said, catching her in time. "What the hell happened to you?"

"Sharpe's men, I'm guessing" she managed to get out. "Followed me."

He led her inside, closing and locking the door behind them and deposited her on a chair in the kitchenette. She heard water running and then he was pressing a glass of water into her hand.

"Got anything stronger?" she croaked but gulped it down.

He was already off grabbing a med kit and she watched him, head still woozy. He knelt at her side, unbuttoning her jacket and blouse and gently peeling them away from the wound.

Jack sighed in relief. "It nicked you," he said. "Pretty deeply, but it didn't go through."

"Well, I could've told you that," Peggy said. "I'm the one who got shot."

He looked up at her with the most disbelieving smile. "You are one of the most aggravating people that I have ever met, you know that?"

One of her hands moved to his face, her fingers sticky against his temple, leaving bloody fingerprints on his skin. "You have lovely eyes," she murmured before her eyes closed and her head slumped down.

"Shit," Jack said, surging up to grab her shoulders and shake them. "Carter! Carter, wake up!" When she didn't, he slapped her face, once, then twice.

She took a shuddering breath and her eyes fluttered open. One hand gripped his arm tight as she looked around the room.


"It's okay," Jack said. "Hey, hey, Peggy, it's alright. You're in my apartment."

She relaxed, though her grip on his arm remained. "Right, yes." Jack was still very close to her face and she got the fleeting urge to kiss him, just because it would be comforting.

Then he sank down again, focus on the wound. "I'm gonna patch you up now, alright?" he said, hands working deftly to clean it up.

Peggy shifted her gaze from his hands to his face, tight with worry and concentration. His hair, still a mess from bed, and the bloody fingerprints on his temple. If she blurred her eyes, they kind of looked like lipstick marks. The idea made her smile a bit, Jack and her after a late night out, stumbling home, his hair a mess from how many times she had run her fingers through it, her lipstick smudged and leaving marks on his mouth and face and neck. Falling into bed and passing out in each other's arms. Waking up in the late morning hours, only to stay in bed and fool around.

She managed to stop her imagination there, as difficult as it was with Jack's hands so gently touching her, putting her back together.


Jack looked up at her. The bandaging was in place and he was asking her something.


He smiled softly. "You should lie down," he said.

She tried to stand but got dizzy just thinking about it. Jack stood up, slipped an arm beneath her legs and around her shoulders and easily picked her up and carried her – bridal style – to his bed. She leaned against his chest, feeling his heartbeat against her cheek. It was steadying.

He placed her on the bed, leaning down to gently take off her shoes, and then proceeded to tuck her in – something she would protest against if she were not in her condition. And the bed smelled like him and it brought her back to the hotel, to waking up next to him – and that feeling of maybe I want to do this forever.

It was somehow less terrifying now.

"I'll be right over there if you–" He began to turn away, but Peggy rallied the last bit of strength she had left to reach out and grab his arm.

"Stay," was all she could say, heavy eyelids drooping closed, but he understood. She felt his weight beside her, the careful way he positioned himself so he could hold her without hurting her. She drifted off with her fingers tangled with his and some partially-formed thought trying to make its way from her heart to her mind.

Jack didn't fall asleep quite so easily. He looked down at Peggy, her usually perfect hair a sweaty mess. He could not deny the panicky feeling in his chest when he first saw her at his door, nearly passed out, blood seeping between her fingers, eyes desperate. He could not deny what that did to him – just like he could not deny why.

It was a bit of an anti-climactic epiphany, and he knew it didn't really matter anyway. She was always the one who made sure it was clear that whatever it was they had, it was only physical. Besides, he knew he was not her type anyway. She went for the good guy, the nice guy, the Steve Rogers and Daniel Sousas of the world. And she was right to. They were the only ones who came close to deserving her.

So he held Peggy, staying vigilant in case she was followed and someone tried to attack her in this rare vulnerable moment. And he knew that, just like this night would end and she would leave his bed, so would this whatever-it-was end, and he would lose her. So he was not gonna miss a minute of it.

Peggy woke up to the smell of coffee and a sore everything. For a moment, she was confused about where she was, until she breathed in Jack's scent on the pillow and relaxed again.

"Jack?" she murmured sleepily.

"Good morning, sweetheart," he said and she rolled over to see him come over with a steaming cup of coffee, which he set on the bedside table, beside the med kit.

She started to sit up, winced at the pain in her abdomen, and before she knew it, Jack was knelt on the ground, helping her sit up. He looked up at her, searching her eyes to see if she was okay and Peggy could not get enough of how he was looking at her. Not like she was fragile or broken, but like she was not indestructible. She had never thought of Jack as anything even close to tender or gentle, but here he was, looking up at her like a devoted acolyte.

As she drank her coffee, she took the chance to look around Jack's apartment. Since they had a strict no-staying-over policy, she had never really had the time to.

It was a bit bare, and she wondered how long he had lived here. There were a few pictures on the walls and shelves, and a few books, but not many other personal items.

There was also something else odd that it took her a few minutes to pinpoint. Most homes she spent any time in had some sort of war medal or other commendation displayed somewhere, since almost all the men she knew had served.

But of course, Jack's Navy Cross would not be displayed with any sort of prominence. She imagined he kept it in the bottom of a drawer somewhere.

For the millionth time, Peggy wondered why on earth he had ever told her about that. It was not as though they had been particularly close back then.

Peggy looked over at him. He sat at the small table, pretending to read the paper, but glancing at her every now and then.


"Yeah?" he said, immediately putting down the paper and getting up.

She hesitated. "Nevermind."

He looked like he wanted to insist on it but changed his mind. "How are you feeling?" he asked instead.

She shrugged. "Alright. This isn't the first time I've been shot."

"I don't doubt it." He pulled up a chair to the side of the bed, reaching out a hand to pull back the sheets and then stopped. "Can I...?"

"Yes, of course," Peggy said, setting the now-empty mug back on the side table.

He pulled back the sheet and carefully peeled away the bandage. He nodded.

"What's the verdict, doctor?" Peggy asked.

"Eh, you'll live," he said, applying disinfectant before bandaging it up again.

"Oh, good," she said. "So I'll be spared the scandal of dying in a bachelor's apartment."

He looked up at her.

"People would talk," she said.

Jack chuckled and shook his head.

Against his protestations, she insisted she was fine to go back to her apartment after lunch, but he did insist on driving her, which she appreciated, but didn't tell him.

Angie was just coming home from her shift as they arrived and helped Peggy up to their room, Jack hovering behind them the whole way.

"Make sure you replace the bandages every–"

"Jack," she interrupted. "I do believe you and I received the same training. I am perfectly capable, and Angie will help if need be."

Angie scrunched her nose. "Don't count on it. I'm not good with blood."

Jack looked like he wanted to use this as an argument against her, but before he could, Peggy said, "I'll see you at work, Jack."

"Not for a week at least," he said.

Peggy glared at him.

Jack sighed. "Please, just take it easy for like two, three days."


He turned to Angie. "Make sure she doesn't do anything too... Well, just try to stop her from doing things in general."

"Aye aye cap'n," Angie said, looking between him and Peggy curiously.

Jack gave Peggy one last nod and then left the apartment. As soon as the door closed, Angie turned to Peggy. "Oh my god, is that the no-strings coworker?"

"Yes. Yes it is."

"You described him as 'one of the worse ones,'" she said. "But he seemed positively sweet."

"Oh, believe me, this is a far cry from his usual behaviour."

Angie nodded. "So, are you allowed to tell me how this–" She gestured at Peggy's abdomen. "–happened or is it classified?"

"Well, the wound is a result of someone shooting at me."

"Gee, thanks, Peg, very enlightening." Angie rolled her eyes.

Jack managed to not visit Peggy for a full two days. Then he showed up at her door with a bottle of scotch and a bouquet of flowers. This time Angie was just leaving as he arrived.

"Hey, English," she called into the apartment. "Your not-boyfriend is here to see you!"

"Colleague or bothersome acquaintance would be just as accurate, you know," Peggy called from inside.

"Or extremely handsome work friend," Jack suggested.

Angie narrowed her eyes at him. "Maybe I'll just go back to fat-headed male co-worker."

"Whatever floats your boat," he said as she left.

Peggy was sitting in a chair by the window, open book in her lap.

"How're you doing?" he asked.

"I am somehow managing to survive without your help," she said, regarding him and his gifts curiously. "Are you here to wish me better, or are you a particularly scandalous prom date?"

Jack smiled. "Oh, are you rethinking our conversation about our high school selves?"

"Most certainly not," she said. "Morbid curiosity does not necessarily equal attraction."

Jack shrugged. "It can." He placed the flowers and bottle on a side table and sat across from Peggy. He took a deep breath and looked at her like he was about to say something but appeared to change his mind. Then he rose abruptly and went over to the window, looking out at the city.

Peggy just watched him, a little amused.

He turned back to her. "Peggy," he said, then hesitated again. "Do you want to go out with me?"

Peggy was quiet for a moment. "Is this another callback to that conversation?"

"No," Jack said quickly. "I mean, yeah. I mean, enjoy the whiskey." And then he was out of the apartment before Peggy could say anything.

She wondered when she let it slip that she liked whiskey. She wondered why the hell he remembered.

Peggy returned to work the next day, not necessarily because she felt entirely up to it, but because Jack's behaviour yesterday was so intriguing, she couldn't not appear unexpectedly just to see how he'd react. When she entered the bullpen, he was in his office and didn't notice her, so she simply sat at her desk and began to go through her notes, waiting.

The door to his office opened and Peggy looked over at him. His jaw clenched slightly.

"What're you doing here, Marge?" he asked. He sounded tired.

"I work here," she said.

"I told you to take at least three days off."

"You actually said two or three," Peggy said. "And also you can't tell me what–"

"I am literally your boss," he interrupted.

No one was actually watching them, but Peggy knew that the other agents were listening intently while they pretended to work. Jack seemed to notice this as well.

"In my office, now," he said.

Peggy waited until he had turned away before standing up, determined not to let him see her wince as she did so. It would not help her argument.

"Do you get off on disobeying authority?" Jack asked, when she had closed the door behind her.

"Do you want a serious answer?"

He sighed. "Go home, Peggy."

"I will stay at my desk and do paperwork, I swear."

"Believe it or not, we can get stuff done without you," he said. "Don't need you getting into trouble when you're not at 100%."

"I don't see how I will get into any trouble at my desk."

"I'm sure you'd find a way."

Peggy crossed her arms. "Is this about me getting followed, because that could have just as easily been you."

"You said yourself you should've noticed him. You were obviously distracted."

"Distracted?" She was surprised and a little offended at the suggestion.

"Yeah, our whole thing was messing with you."

"Well, I wasn't the only one, James Cooper."

"Only one? I knew it!" Jack exclaimed.

"Knew what?"

"You have feelings for me too."

"I don't see why you should be so triumphant given you just admitted it yourself."

He stared at her, shaking his head. "C'mon, you've gotta go out with me now."

"I don't believe that falls under your authority as chief, so I don't need to do anything."

Jack sighed. "You're–"

"Impossible, yes, I am aware," Peggy interrupted.

"No – well, yeah, you are, but I don't care."

She tilted her head to the side and raised her eyebrows.

"Yes, you're the most frustratingly stubborn person I've ever met, but I–" He saw Peggy try to hide a growing smile. "You know," he said.

"Know what?"

"Do you need me to spell it out for you?"

"I would prefer to avoid any misunderstanding."

"If I do, will you go home until you're recovered?"

"I will consider it," she said, and when Jack frowned, she continued. "What? You didn't think I'd start listening to you just because I'm in love with you, did you?"

Jack's response caught in his throat as her words sank in. Peggy smiled. "Jack Thompson at a loss for words, I wish I wasn't the only one seeing this." She patted his arm. "I may find the need to go to the file room later, where you can find me once you have recovered."

Jack watched her go, her words bouncing around his mind like a pinball machine. It took him a few minutes, but eventually he found his way to the file room, where Peggy stood with her back to the door, an open box in front of her. She turned when she heard him.

"It's about ti–" she began to say, but Jack closed the door and grabbed her and kissed her in one fluid motion. He pulled her close – careful to avoid her wound – and pressed her against the table. Peggy winced but grabbed the lapels of his jacket tightly, matching his determined energy.

When they finally broke apart, foreheads pressed together, Jack said, breathless, "Go out with me."

"Is that an order, chief?" she asked.

"Would that make a difference?"


"Didn't think so."

"I will go out with you," she said after a moment. "On one condition."

"Anything," he murmured.

"You stop calling me Marge."

He pulled away. "It's a nickname, a term of endearment."

"I'm sure."

"Is that your only condition?"

She thought for a moment. "Yes."

"Alright, fine."

The door opened suddenly, and they heard Chen begin to say, "I knew you two–" before Peggy had him pinned against the wall.

"If you tell anyone, I will ensure you regret it," she said. "Do you believe me?"

He nodded, eyes wide. She let him go and he hurried out of the room.

Jack whistled. "Guess I don't have to worry about threatening guys who hit on you. You'd have murdered them before I got a chance."

"If you threatened a guy who hit on me, I'd beat you up myself," she said with a smile.

"Baby, don't threaten me with a good time," he said, pulling her close again.
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