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If it had been anything other than the new department they were expected to deal with, Peggy would have stayed in the office. It was a beautiful spring day, and Jersey was finally turning green here in a lovely little suburb with small houses that had surprisingly large lawns. It was an innocuous Tuesday, and children were still at school and everyone else seemed to be off at work, and here she was, skulking around Su's front door and loathing the need to ring the bell.

Nothing for it, just get on with the matter. One quick press to the bell, which clanged inside loud enough that she could hear it.

And nothing else. Susan had sworn that she was out of touch unless the world was ending – not quite, but picking up one folder of critical papers really could make all the difference – but if that happened she would be at home. Drunk. It was her Tuesday, dammit.

Peggy was considering the stupidity of trying to pick the lock – her assistant's lock, her assistant who was just as skilled as she was in skullduggery, and if that particular brand of stupidity didn't say rather a lot about her level of desperation for a simple, ridiculous two inches of Classified material -

Ffft. Thwok.

Wait. That was out of place.

Ffft. Thwok.

God bless Su's archery obsession. Peggy marched over to the tall white slatted gate and jiggled the handle. "Susan? I'm coming in."

"Sod off." Ffft. Thwok. "I'm not working today." Ffft. Thwok!

"I can't. I need that file on Zed's ridiculous alphabet soup mix. You have our only copy."

Three more arrows were rapidly released to slam into some sort of target. After a long moment, there was a heavy sigh. "I need this day, Peggy. I haven't had it for years. I just... can't I get one day?"

"I could just break in the front door."

"Then I'll be spending the rest of the day seeing you in the hospital." The pause that followed was not gently humorous, but somehow pained. "Oh, bugger it." There was the sound of two swift (unsteady?) steps, then locks on the other side of the gate disengaged. It opened to Susan turning away - yes, unsteadily - and returning to a ground quiver that looked as it it held at least a quarter of every standard target arrow she had.

At least another quarter were studding art that was carefully hung on two targets down at the other end of the backyard. The one on the right was of some graceful, wave-tossed ship that looked to have some viking background, what with a dragon figurehead up front. The other was somewhat simple art of a lion - that, however, had not a single arrow on it, but rather surrounding it, giving the poor beast an odd outline of weaponry.

"I didn't realize you were taking the day off to go hunting," Peggy declared dryly, eyeing the lion. "You do realize one normally hits the center of the target?"

Susan flinched, lowering the bow and leaving a fresh arrow notched but held loosely. "I wouldn't." Her voice was strangely pained, her face even more so with such a conflicted, almost wounded expression. "I've never. I just... I need the reminder. I need to do something, and I wouldn't fire at him, but I can't just let the anger consume me, so I shoot... around him. If I'm drunk enough to get close, it means I'm done for the day. I remember how he looked, how they - I wouldn't!" She kept staring morosely at the lion, eyes dark and rimmed with bags from sleeplessness. She was dressed simply, in slacks and a pale t shirt, and not a lick of makeup to hide she was very, very drunk, and that was clearly exacerbated by too little sleep.

Fuck work, Peggy decided. "Susan, this is not a day off. This is-"

"Stop." She'd never heard her assistant - her friend - sound like she was both ordering and begging someone for something. "I know you have an annual date to go dancing, and I know you've never gone while we've been working together. Even if you're not physically present, there's a time and place you have to be at, a, a thing you need to do, a way to mourn, and Pegs, I know I'm wasted, absolutely trashed, but you need to understand!" Susan dropped her weapon, stepping away from it without the slightest care for the condition of her treasured bow. She walked over to the lion, reaching out with fingers that shook only slightly - her hand lingered near its mane, but did not touch. After an agonizing moment, Susan's hands curled into fists and she brought her arms around her stomach, dropping to her knees almost as if she'd been punched. "I keep hoping, Peggy." Her head hung down, her hair hiding her face but not the tears that fell. "I keep hoping one day he'll talk to me. I know I lost Narnia, I know I lost them, he always takes away what he gives, just...." She finally looked up, not at her friend but at the lion, her teeth bared in a weeping grimace and so much lost rage Peggy was beyond confused. "Why has he always expected me to be a tame Queen?!" She glared away only to see her abandoned bow, and her face crumpled again.

"Inside," Peggy finally declared, picking up the bow and gently putting the arrow back in the quiver. It gave her shaking hands something to do, a way to gain her own control even as Susan gathered an almost inhuman dignity around her as she slowly, painfully got to her feet. With both thus fortified, Peggy made the only logical decision. "We need some tea."

Susan trailed after her, sitting listlessly at the table as Peggy went through the steadying motions of putting the kettle on and arranging cups, until she set the steaming mug before her friend. Susan finally went from staring off into the distance to looking at her mug as if she'd never seen such a thing before, but after a little bit she took it, cradling the mug and slowly taking cautious sips.

Their silence was not comfortable in the least. Susan seemed to be searching her tea leaves, holding it close as if it were a shield between her and her pain.

Peggy hated not knowing what to say or do. She was used to soldiers under fire, or afterwards, and coaxing them back to a world that she could convince them that she, personally, could and had and would hold together for them, just for them, always -

She knew it would be useless here. But what was going on was a mystery.

"I was twelve." Peggy turned towards Susan, who was still studying her mug. Her voice was soft with sorrow. "We'd been sent away from London, to live with an old Professor out in the country. He didn't really know what to do with us. My sister, Lucy - she was eight."

Please God, let this not be what I think it is.

Susan swallowed. "She went exploring one day." She looked up, and something wild and fierce blazed in her eyes. "If anyone ever talks to you of Narnia, prepare to have your heart broken."

Dammit God. Do not! Peggy raised a brow and brought her voice under control to its driest. "You're clearly talking about it. Before you go any further I think we need to confirm that happened long before you came into my life."

Su's bark of laughter was mostly surprise. "I suppose that's fair. You really must tell me all about that one of these days." She looked away and sighed. "Lucy found an old wardrobe, tucked away in an unused room." She took another deep breath, then met Peggy's eyes. "It intermittently worked as a portal to another world, a land called Narnia."

Peggy blinked several times and replayed the sentence in her head. Well. Thank you, I suppose. "I... see." Her voice was blatantly neutral, neither disbelieving nor mocking.

Her assistant, well trained and coming to the job with similar skills already under her belt, gave a tight, wry smile back. "Intermittent, of course, so it took us awhile to prove it. In the end...." Susan's eyes went distant again. "We left war-torn England for a land of fantasy, caught under the thumb of a witch - yes, that kind of witch - who had made it winter for years and years." Her face twisted in a sad, not-quite smile. " 'Winter, but never Christmas.' They - the people of the land - were waiting for a prophesied set of humans, two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve. We defeated the White Witch. We set up our rule in Cair Paravel, the only humans for leagues around, and our subjects were centaurs and nature spirits and talking beasts."

"Including lions?" She couldn't quite help a touch of skepticism in her tone.

Su snorted. "No. Aslan - he was the only one. He... He was not a subject. He was a ruler in his own right." Susan took a deep breath and met Peggy's eyes again. "My word, as Queen and friend, I saw him slain right in front of me, killed in a ritual upon a sacrificial gallows, and he rose the next morning, alive and whole. Aslan was not someone we ruled. He was far too great a being for that."

...God, was all Peggy's mind could whisper, and she wasn't sure if it was a stunned curse or the whimpering attempt to categorize what Susan refused to say. And damn it, when her assistant saw that the message was accurately received, she dropped her eyes back towards the mug.

"Fifteen years. We ruled together, and Narnia prospered, and then - " Her voice broke. "He sent us home. No one, no thing could possibly have the power to do it but him. We - we had done what he had brought us there to do, and we found a strange passage, and we went through it and like that we were tumbling out of a wardrobe, in the countryside of England -" Susan's face twisted, and she set her mug down slowly and deliberately with all the tightly leashed rage that should have shattered it against the far wall. "I was twelve again. It wasn't as if I didn't know what I had been, it wasn't as if I didn't remember growing up, and lessons and all the pains and joys of fifteen years of life! And we were children. We had to do it all over again. And in the meantime who would care what simple kids said, or did, and we had been rulers in our own country and to find that no one, not one person took us seriously -" She finally came to a shuddering halt, leaving Peggy to hesitantly reach out, not quite daring to touch her shoulder.

"I suppose it was meant as a blessing of some sort. Children are more adaptable, or some such claptrap." Peggy's hand landed on her shoulder, and Susan clearly forced herself to look up. "But we got to go back."

She thought she was braced this time. Of course she was wrong.

"A year later, we were... pulled back by - Caspian."

It was only the slightest hitch of breath, but Peggy knew that, knew the tone of utter control that made it clear one was absolutely broken over a man.

Well... fuck.

"He was the true king of Narnia - oh, it was all very Hamlet, with a usurper uncle and whatnot. But - you must understand, he wasn't our successor. He was crowned Caspian the Tenth - because it had been centuries since the golden age of High King Peter and his siblings."

"Centu- Oh. Oh, Su."

"He took us home, but over a thousand years too late. Cair Paravel was in ruins, we knew no one besides Aslan, and Peter and I learned that when we went back to England, there would be no returning for us, though the others would get an opportunity. Oh yes, and we had another war to fight, if you please."

"Is this Aslan always a lion?" Peggy didn't mean to sound quite so acerbic, but she could barely comprehend the level of arbitrary cruelty in the name of some cause - though with religion involved, who knew?

Su let out a rough giggle. "Not always, but close enough. Please don't crusade to punch him or what have you."

"I do hope you don't blame me for wanting to."

"I... Peggy..." She sighed. "No, I suppose not." The younger woman folded her hands around the mug and went back to staring into it. "When... when Lucy and Edmund went back, it was with our cousin - he'd been right beastly, until he got himself sorted out in Narnia. That time, it'd been one year for us, about three for them. Luce - she told me he had - they ran into Caspian and some of our friends, from the last visit, and they were sailing past known shores to - oh, never mind, a quest is a quest!" Her face crumpled again, and she shook her head. "Luce told me he had a portrait of me in his cabin. He tried to pretend it was nothing, just art, but - "

She had no idea how her younger friend was not screaming through tears. Royalty sat in an ordinary kitchen, clutching a mug as a lifeline, and somehow channeled all that pain, all those tears, into something approaching serenity. Susan took another breath and let it out slowly. "I couldn't do it anymore. The others always talked of home, of how things were, and I just started pretending it had been a game that we'd had, a silly childish thing of no importance. I simply had to, to choose, to live in the now rather than what had been, because if I didn't-"

"I know." Peggy moved closer, finally daring a bit of a hug. Some of it was entirely for her own benefit as she fought off tears, and memories.

She stopped as Susan finally broke completely, heaving broken sobs against her shoulder. "They died because of it! They all met up together, the Friends of Narnia as if it were some little book club, and Mother and Father were going to meet the train and he took them too! He left me alone again...."

"Shh, you're not, not anymore." Peggy held her tighter and let Su feel the tears dropping down upon her hair. "I tell you what. You tell me where the good booze is, and I'll tell you about Steve Rogers."

"Captain America? Why - " Susan pulled back with a gasp, eyes huge and still emotion-wrought but now with a tinge of hysterical awe shining through. "His girl - that was you?!"

Peggy Carter didn't have to force her smile. "I wasn't his, thank you." She even smirked. "No one tames me." Ah, and there it was, it hit Susan just the right way, and for a moment they shared a fierce smile. "But he was... important to me. So. Booze. I make myself look like a ninny in front of you, and then you get me the file on Zed's alphabet soup so we have something to accompany us through our hangover tomorrow, all right?"

Susan smiled and gave her a gentle hug. "You're never a ninny. But thank you." They clasped hands for a moment, sharing strength before she went off to find the alcohol.

Peggy leaned back in her chair, studying the kitchen ceiling trim. She hated talking about Steve - the way so few people bothered to remember the man he had been before the icon.

For once, she was actually looking forward to it.

"I'll be just a tick; still a little too drunk to..." And Susan faded into inaudibility.

Peggy stood slowly, smoothing down her skirt before marching to the back door. She opened it quietly, and glared at the painted cat surrounded by arrows. "I am not amused." It most certainly did not slant its ears back and return her glare. "Questioning is not a lack of faith, but being practical instead of blind. You can sacrifice all you want, but if you know you're special and it won't take, you're no hero. Do not. Hurt her. Again."

The lion's ears did not pin back, and there most certainly was not a growl rumbling through the air. She was venting, much as Susan had, only Peggy preferred words (or bullets, but she was off-duty and that would be ridiculous and melodramatic not to mention quite cruel to Su) to arrows. "She's not in your world anymore. And while it's clear she will always have at least one foot in it, the rest is ours. You made your choice."

And the lion bowed his head, just the tiniest bit. Peggy gave a minute, satisfied nod before wheeling back to the kitchen. With the door closed, she marched back to her chair, and then collapsed into it.

Well. One did what one must.

Nonetheless, she was relieved when Susan returned with a lovely vintage and two clean glasses. She most certainly would not let her friend run the gauntlet of confessional alone.