Pretty sure Dum Dum clocked Howard one as soon as he’s heard.
See, once the war ended, the Commandos would’ve been disbanded. They could’ve all gone their separate ways, but I don’t think they did. I think they all needed a purpose, something else to fight for. Maybe had Steve been there, maybe had Bucky still been there, they would’ve made different choices. But they all felt it their duty to stick together, help Howard and Peggy, see the fight to the end. Because they imagined that’s what Steve would’ve done, and if the Sarge was around, god rest him, he’d go after Steve if only to bitch him out. So they work with SHIELD - they become the very first training officers. They are the only ones alive who have had experience fighting an outside force such as Hydra, and they’re invaluable.
And when, a few years in, they learn that Zola has been pardoned and he’s going to be brought in to work with the rest of the German scientists? I can just see it— Howard in his lab, tinkering with something potentially deadly, when Dum Dum storms in like an angry bear and punches him in the face, the Commandos hot on his heels, demanding a motherfucking explanation. Monty didn’t even raise his voice, it wasn’t proper, but the flatness of his tone brokered no doubt that he was absolutely livid.
For his part, Howard defends the program. They need scientists and it’s not them pardoning Zola, it’s the United States Government. Isn’t it better, Howard said with an edge to his voice, that they have control over what Zola does as opposed to leave him in the wind? Would they rather the CIA have him? Or god forbid, the Army?
Dernier doesn’t want to fight. On a very basic, purely logistic level, he understands what Howard’s saying, but he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t feel comfortable, he says, working for an agency who would pardon anybody connected with Hydra in general and Zola in particular. Howard’s losing his temper, a frozen steak hiding his blossoming black eye, and snaps irritably that they are still at war, the war is very far from won, and Russia is going to beat them, and they can’t allow that. They need to use whichever resources they have, for better or worse. Dum Dum snarls, they deserve better than this, Sarge deserves better than this, the Cap’tn deserves better than this, why is that vermin even alive?
And Peggy… Peggy hides her own hurt pretty damn well. There’s steel in her voice, mixed with a touch of gentleness, that reminds them they’ve all have lost something, and they all must move on and take the necessary steps to make sure it never happens again. Better that Zola be under SHIELD’s thumb, where they can contain him, than out there in the wind.
Gabe just laughs, and laughs, and laughs. Of course, the good of many outweighs the good of the one and Gabe knows better than anyone on his team - with the exception of Morita - where they stand in the pecking order. He blames himself for still being naive enough to think that maybe it’d be different this time, considering who they were talking about, considering who they’d lost because of Zola.
Morita’s the only one who actually has the balls to tell her, if Steve were still — if Steve was…. you wouldn’t even be considering this, much less go ahead with it. And that’s when Peggy tells them to get the fuck out of her office. She’s had to make more than a thousand hard decisions in the years she’s been Director, this is just one more hard decision, one more call she has to make where she has to put her own personal feelings aside and look at the bigger picture.
It’s the right call. That’s what she keeps repeating herself. She can’t let her heart dictate what she does in her job. This is the right call. It has to be.
Headcanon is so goddamn perfect. I mean, I’m still bitter that they dragged Peggy and Agent Carter into this quagmire which will almost certainly get her hands dirty in a way Steve and Coulson don’t ever have to, but I also really love how she and Howard are just broken enough that they go along with Operation Paperclip. I love love love that Gabe and Jim are the ones who understand it best, who feel the betrayal most, because it’s an attack against their very skin, against their families, their people.
In this AU, presumably Dum Dum never becomes Deputy Director of SHIELD.