Disclaimer: Just having fun, breaking hearts.
Angie is waiting for her at the entrance to the bridge. At the foot of Brooklyn, where Peggy left her. It's a strange feeling—finding things where she expects them to be.
Hello, my darling, she thinks, but she can't yet coax her smile to stay on her face.
Angie's lips are half-cocked in a smirk but the eyebrows give her away, lifted in poorly-masked concern. "Still not sure what kinda errand needs doing on the Brooklyn Bridge alone at this hour. You sure you're done, Pegs?"
That's the question, isn't it?
She'd dropped the vial into the East River after pouring out the sample (and it's easier to call it that, the sample, and after the day she's had she's going to allow herself this). Now her fingers itch for it, empty. She takes Angie's hand instead.
"It's taken care of," Peggy says, which isn't an answer.
Angie's smile is radiant.
They're perhaps asking a lot of the other passers-by, holding hands like this. Arm in arm would be safer, easier to explain. But the sun will be down soon, and if what Peggy's heard about this part of Brooklyn is to be believed, no one will look twice at them once that happens. Soon the streets will be filled with violets.
They are, after all, in Steve's old neighborhood.
(There are many things unsaid between her and Angie—too many, she's sure—but one cannot live in New York for long without gaining an understanding of where the unsavory types go after dark, and where the line is between polite society and the rest. And Angie hadn't batted an eyelash when Peggy said she wanted to go to Brooklyn Heights, which falls quite squarely under "the rest." Peggy supposes that's a place to start.)
Belatedly, she realizes Angie is talking—has probably been talking this whole time. Peggy tunes back in mid-story about how Angie had kept herself busy since she saw Peggy last, escorted away in handcuffs.
"…and I knew the audition didn't go so great, so I cornered the producer after and let him have a little under-the-skirt action—"
"I beg your pardon?" Peggy sputters, and Angie bursts out laughing.
"Look at that, you were payin' attention after all. Sorry English, I couldn't resist."
Peggy hmphs in that particularly British way everyone's always made fun of her for, drawing another smile out of Angie. "That was hardly sporting. I caught every word of that, I'll have you know."
"Please. I've met donuts with less glaze on 'em than your eyes just had."
"It's alright. Didn't mean to bore you; we can't all have lives as mysterious as yours."
Angie says it with a shrug, but Peggy feels the sting of the accusation acutely. After everything that's happened, she's desperate to let Angie in on the whole truth, to tell her who she really is. But it's such a long story, and she's already had such a long day.
Later, she swears to herself. In the privacy of their own home. She'll tell her then.
It's getting properly dark, now, but Angie shows no interest in hailing a cab and heading back to their new abode. Peggy had thought they were just wandering, but now it seems to her that Angie has a destination in mind—she keeps subtly pulling Peggy along by the hand, navigating the busy bystreets.
"Speaking of mysteries, dare I ask where it is you're taking us?"
Angie shakes her head. "That's for me to know and you to find out."
"You're sure you know the way?"
Angie tuts. "Please. Like the back'a my hand."
They're passing familiar landmarks now—back alleys where Steve had bitten off more than he could chew and paid the price. It seems strange, that it should all look the same. She feels as though all of Brooklyn should be mourning its favorite son the way she is tonight.
"What was it like, growing up here?"
If Angie's surprised by the question, she swallows it quickly enough that Peggy doesn't see. "Well I didn't, really. I grew up in Harlem, but my dad's side of the family all lives in Bensonhurst, so we'd spend summers here, where we could pretend it got a little less hot. Spent a lot of my life carrying two different sets of cousins on my back trying to haul the ankle-biters to Coney Island."
"Did you ever meet—" Steve Rogers is on her tongue, clinging to the back of her throat, but somehow she can't pry it loose—"Bucky Barnes?"
"The Bucky Barnes? Captain America's sidekick, beloved Howling Commando Bucky Barnes?" Angie snorts. "Like, what, in line for the Cyclone or somethin'? Are you kidding?"
Peggy rolls her eyes at herself. "I suppose I am. I had only thought… well."
Angie squeezes her hand in apology, tangling their fingers that much tighter. "Brooklyn's small, but it ain't that small. That's like me saying 'Hey English—you're English. You met the Queen?'" Angie considers that a moment. "Have you met—?"
Angie bumps her hip. "You're such a pain." After a thoughtful pause, she adds, "I did know a Steve Rogers, though."
Peggy momentarily loses control over her feet and stumbles, staying upright only with Angie's suddenly iron grip holding her up. "Cobblestone," she mumbles, though they're on solid pavement. Then—"A Steve Rogers?"
"Couldn't'a been the genuine article; guy was a 98-pound asthmatic who only came up to my shoulder. Real sweet kid. Had a mouth on him, though."
"You're one to talk," Peggy says automatically, head reeling.
Angie grins at her. "Quiet, you."
"So when was this, then?" Peggy asks, aiming for nonchalance. Missing it by a mile, she's sure, but Angie pays her strangled tone no mind.
"Oh, ages ago. '38? '39? I was living here in Brooklyn, bussin' tables for my Nona. I think he was in art school; he'd come in the shop sometimes and draw. Fruits and hands and things. Only ever got coffee but always left a tip. Oh, and never afraid to tell off anyone who got too handsy. 'Cept unlike some people, I don't think he ever tried to kill anyone with a fork." Angie looks at her sideways—light, teasing—and the pressure in Peggy's chest starts to slowly release.
"I never tried to kill anyone."
"Probably would've, if you thought I needed it."
That's certainly true, but Peggy doesn't want it going to Angie's head. Or scaring her off, though that seems less and less likely the longer they talk. The next question tumbles out of her mouth without permission: "Did you ever step out with him? He sounds quite decent."
Another sideways look. "I've never been one for the fellas, Peg, decent or not. Think he maybe tried to ask me, once."
It's the baldest Angie's ever been about what she is—about what's between them. Peggy smiles, lets it roll off of her like it's the kind of thing people say every day. "Maybe?" she goads.
Angie laughs in relief. "He was no great shakes at delicate conversation, it was hard to tell. But he drew a picture of me, on my birthday. Seemed like the kinda thing a sweetheart would do. I had to let him down easy."
"Do you still have it?"
"Probably. Unless Ma's cleaned out my old bedroom, the sneak." Her look is inquisitive, now. "Why?"
Because Peggy is absolutely rubbish at keeping promises, and no less than ten minutes after she said goodbye to Steve here she is trying to dig him back up again. "I'd like to see how you looked back then," she answers instead, which isn't a lie.
Angie snorts. "Not sure what you're expectin'; I've never been some great beauty."
"Well that's patently untrue."
Peggy watches with pleasure as a flush creeps its way up Angie's neck.
Angie leads them into a side alley, where a recessed stairwell half-hidden behind a cluster of garbage cans leads down to a windowless basement door.
"Is this our final stop?" Peggy asks, unable to fully remove the doubt and disappointment from her voice.
Angie lets go of her hand, which immediately feels cold and bereft. "It's not much to look at, but it's the insides that count. But look, before we go in there, I've gotta be sure."
"Sure of what?"
Angie looks at her feet, hands coming up to hug her elbows. "I… I like you, Peg. More'n I've ever liked almost anyone. And you've been real patient about me, but there's a big difference between tolerating something and… and being it yourself. So if I've been readin' this wrong you tell me now, and we'll go home and—"
Peggy has always been a woman of action, and the simplest solution seems to be to lean forward and press her lips to Angie's in a swift, bruising kiss.
If the noise Angie makes—soft and wanting—is any indication, Peggy made the right choice.
(Peggy finds out later that Angie'd taken her to a club catered more to their taste, but… they never do make it inside.)
That night, Peggy sits Angie down on the biggest, plushest couch Howard owns and tells her tale from the beginning. The start is easy enough—her volunteer work for the WAC, getting scouted by Colonel Phillips during the early nightmare of the Blitz—but her voice starts to falter when she gets to her transfer to Camp Lehigh.
Without a word, Angie takes her by the shoulders and lowers her down until her head is in Angie's lap. The words come out with less difficulty now that she doesn't have to make eye contact, and by the time she's gotten to the trick Steve pulled for the flag drill, Angie's nails are scratching soothingly at her scalp.
"Is this alright?" Angie whispers, like she's not sure if she's allowed to talk.
"No, it—" Peggy swallows. "It's lovely, actually. Thank you."
The sensation of Angie's gentle fingers in her hair is all but hypnotic, coaxing the truth out of her. Even now, there's a voice in the back of Peggy's head insisting that she shouldn't be saying any of this: that she's divulging classified material, and worse, that she's burdening Angie. But Peggy fears the illusion that she's unbreakable and her past free of blemishes was broken long ago.
Besides, even if the voice is right—if it's wrong to dim Angie's bright spirit with her own darkness, if Peggy shouldn't overstep the bounds of their already wildly inappropriate relationship—she's just so tired. She can't do it anymore, the lying and pretending. And what would be the point? Even at her best, most guarded moments, Angie's had a way of sneaking past whatever defenses Peggy's managed to put up.
The words pour out of her. Every now and then Angie will interject, either to make calming noises or to ask a clarifying question. Once she even cracks a joke—a weak "Remind me not to get on your bad side" when Peggy tells her how jealous she got when she caught Steve with Private Lorraine. But she's an excellent listener, and the hours slip by.
Peggy's only halfway through her time trailing Leet Brannis when the grandfather clock in the corner chimes three.
"Okay, English, I'm cutting you off," Angie says, sleepy and teasing.
Peggy blinks. "But we're not through."
"And what, you'll forget it all when the sun comes up?"
"I'm beat. You can tell me the rest in the morning, okay?"
Angie's already standing up, leaving Peggy without her human pillow, and the "Okay…" Peggy echoes back sounds more than a little lost. Angie laughs at her.
"Well? You comin'?" she asks, waiting by the hallway.
Three months later, Angie takes Peggy uptown to meet her parents.
Peggy has to admit, it's a nice change of pace for Angie to be the nervous, unsure one when it comes to this sort of thing. She can't stop readjusting her blouse and smoothing her skirt as they stand on her parents' stoop.
"With the fuss you're making, one would think you'd never done this before," Peggy whispers, laughing a little.
Angie stares at her. "I haven't."
That rather changes the timbre of the afternoon.
It becomes clear within two minutes that Mr. and Mrs. Martinelli have no idea about their daughter's proclivities, and that Angie has no intention of clearing it up for them any time soon. Peggy does her best to come off as polite and neutral, but it's a relief when the vegetables have been chopped and the sauce is on the stove, and the girls are dismissed for a few hours while the gravy simmers.
Angie locks her bedroom door behind them and throws herself onto her childhood bed with dramatic flair. "We're halfway there, English," she declares to the ceiling.
"I didn't think it was a race. I…" Peggy frowns, trying to find a diplomatic way to say what she means. "We didn't have to do this. If you feel I rushed you in some way…"
Angie waves her hand dismissively. "It's not you. I dunno if I'm ever gonna feel ready, but—I want them to know you. You're important."
Peggy smiles and goes to join Angie on the bed. "So do I get the tour?" she asks, looking around the tiny bedroom.
"Sure. Closet, desk, bed," Angie says, indicating each with a sweep of her arm. "That concludes our tour."
"I'll work on it. Although—" Angie springs up, seats herself at her desk chair and starts digging through drawers. "Oh my gosh, here it is."
"What?" Peggy asks, sitting up straighter as Angie carefully slides a heavy piece of stock paper out of the drawer.
"It's that drawing," Angie says, and the weight of the words nearly knocks the wind out of Peggy. How could she have forgotten? She tries to find her breath as Angie looks over the sketch with a groan. "Oh jeez, I'd forgotten about the pigtails. No makin' fun, okay? We all had Wizard of Oz fever, everyone was doin' it."
She hands over the drawing with a grimace, and tears spring instantly to Peggy's eyes, quite beyond her control.
She doesn't need the crisp SGR scrawled in the corner to know this is a Steve Rogers original—she'd know his style anywhere, having watched his steady hand from across the room or over his shoulder a thousand times in the war. The piece is done in charcoal, and she can even convince herself she can still make out the whorls of his fingerprints embedded in some of the smudges.
But that's not why she's crying.
She's crying because every line and angle of Angie Martinelli's face has been preserved on this piece of paper as carefully—as lovingly—as it would be if Peggy had drawn it herself. Everything from the twinkle in her eye to the way her teeth catch on her lower lip when she's not sure if she's supposed to smile. And the idea that Steve had met her and seen her as Peggy sees her is… a gift she'd never dreamed of.
"Hey, c'mon," Angie jokes weakly, and Peggy startles before rushing to wipe the moisture from her cheeks. "It's not that bad, is it?"
Lost for words, Peggy pitches forward until she's wrapped in Angie's familiar kiss. Angie reaches out to cup Peggy's jaw, holding her up with two callused hands. She wipes away the last of Peggy's tears with her thumbs, then rests their foreheads together as Peggy tries to catch her breath.
"Sorry I razzed you, Peg, I didn't think… I'm sorry."
Peggy shakes her head, but Angie refuses to let her pull away. "No, it's—it's quite alright. Truly."
Peggy doesn't know what happened to the leather-bound notebook Steve used to carry with him everywhere. She can only assume it was confiscated along with everything else when they declared Captain America M.I.A. Suddenly all she can think is the chaplain had already trashed my footlocker. Still missing half my stuff, can't find my leg anywhere—and she wonders how many Steve Rogers originals are left in the world. Wonders if she's holding the last.
"May I keep this?" she asks on shaky breath.
Angie's lips quirk up. "'Course, Peg. Knock yourself out. What'm I gonna do with it, throw it back in my desk?" She gives it another look. "Still think my hair looks stupid, though."
"Stop that. It's beautiful. You're—"
Angie kisses her again before she can finish.