Disclaimer: Just having some fun.
A/N A birthday gift for dirtypetrichor! Title from Twelfth Night, because duh.
"Hey, sorry, I'm sorry," Steve says, knocking into the back of Peggy's chair in his hurry to sit down next to her. She rolls her eyes.
(It's not like it's hard work, manning a booth at the Welcome Week Activities Fair, but it's the principle of the thing.)
"Couldn't call my ride," he says, throwing his phone down on the table. Dead. "Charger unplugged itself, so I overslept, and then I had to walk to campus…"
This knocks Peggy out of her anger; she immediately checks him over for signs of fatigue. "That's a mile uphill! Did you remember your inhaler?"
Steve grins sardonically. "I'm breathing, aren't I? It won't happen again. What'd I miss?"
She slides his phone off the sign-up sheet it had been covering. "A little over a dozen signatures, but I'm hoping we'll get some latecomers once the musical theater kids get out of the way." She looks at the next several tables to their right, swarmed with people. "They see a cappella and they walk right past us."
"Punk-ass pop jockies," Steve grumbles. "Hey, what time is it?"
"Half noon; why?"
Steve groans. "I'm supposed to take over the SHIELD booth at 12:45."
Peggy's jaw drops. "Seriously? You left me here alone for an hour!"
"Blame my phone! Bucky has a meeting with his advisor, if I don't go we'll lose the table."
"Fine. But you owe me, Rogers."
"Add it to the list."
Peggy immediately whips out her phone and opens up her Notes app. Steve swats at her. She swats back.
"Shakespeare Society Rep, huh?" a new voice says, and Steve and Peggy jolt away from each other, embarrassed. The new girl, wavy dirty blonde hair held back by two clips, holds back her laughter. "You guys putting on a show?"
Peggy paints on her most professional smile. "And so much more. In addition to a play every semester, the SSR does movie nights, readings, guest lectures… are you a freshman?"
"Junior, actually. Transfer," the girl says, shifting the massive pile of flyers and free merch the Student Events Coordinators liked to hand out to one arm so she could shake hands. "Angie Martinelli. What's the play?"
Steve smiles at her energetic handshake. "Twelfth Night."
Angie squeals in excitement. "I love that one! I've never gotten to do it; all the other kids always wanted to do the tragedies. You got a pen?"
"This isn't an audition sheet," Peggy feels the need to clarify as she hands Angie a pencil. "This is to get on the club's listserv, so you can attend actual SSR meetings. Auditions and rehearsals come later. And you don't have to be a member to try out."
Angie snorts. "Like I'm not gonna join the Shakespeare club. Please. You guys theater students?"
"No, actually. Most theater students are so tangled up in department productions they don't have time for club ones like ours. Theater's one of my minors, but my major's in English. Steve's in Studio Art."
"And Art History," he adds. "Are you a theater student?"
"I am now; that's why I transferred." Angie looks out on the busy quad, filled with loud throngs of people, music, and intramural sports teams trying to draw interest by holding mini-games. "Is it always like this?"
"Pretty much. MCU tends to attract over-achievers," Steve says.
Peggy smiles. "So I'm sure you'll fit right in."
Angie blushes, brushing it off with a chuckle. "Thanks for the vote of confidence! I better get back to circulating. Nice to meet you, Steve," she says with a wave, before her face goes comically caught-out as she turns to Peggy and realizes they were never actually introduced. "English," she repeats instead, to prove she'd been listening.
Peggy laughs. "Peggy," she corrects, before turning to Steve. "You're going to be late for SHIELD."
"Oh! Right," he says, gathering up his stuff and heading off, leaving her with a hurried peck on the cheek.
"What's SHIELD?" Angie asks once Steve's fought his way past the a cappella crowd.
Peggy clears her throat to mask how flustered Steve's kiss made her. "Our campus LGBT group. Don't ask me what the acronym stands for, they change it all the time. To hear Steve tell it, that's what they spend half their meetings on, though I suspect he's exaggerating." She pauses as she considers who's actually in SHIELD. "Slightly."
"Oh," Angie says, voice carefully neutral, but Peggy notes the way Angie's eyes are suddenly carefully tracking Steve's progress, trying to find his destination. Interesting.
"You'll get an email from us soon," Peggy says gently after a few moments, knocking Angie out of her reverie. "About the place and time of the first meeting."
"Great," Angie says, before excusing herself with another wave.
And if Peggy happens to keep an eye on her as she moves through the throng, accepting a free Sno-Cone from an overeager Student Council kid, well… she just wants to make sure Angie gets to Steve's table all right. If indeed that's where she's going.
Peggy can see the way the syrup paints Angie's lips candy apple red in the late August sun, even from across the quad.
"Steve! Wait up!"
Steve slows down, allowing Angie to catch up to him. "Hey, that was fast. Have another question about the SSR?"
"Uh, no. About SHIELD, actually."
Steve's smile broadens as they fall into step together. "Sure! What would you like to know?"
"Oh, um, jeez. Well I guess my first question is, what does it stand for?"
The guy manning the SHIELD booth laughs as they draw near, having heard the question. "Stupid Homophobic Idiots' Eventual Let Down," he says.
Steve bats him upside the head. "Shut up, Buck. Right now we're working with Sexual Health for Identities Esoteric, Leftist or Downtrodden, but we're voting on it again when we reconvene. There's been some fuss over whether or not 'downtrodden' is offensive. Anyway. Angie Martinelli, meet James Barnes."
"Call me Bucky," he says as he starts shoving things in his backpack. "Thanks for covering for me, Erskine'll kill me if I'm late."
"Yeah, thanks for waiting around and giving me a ride this morning, jerk."
"You were asleep!" Bucky hollers over his shoulder. "How was I supposed to know?"
Steve shakes his head as he swings himself into Bucky's abandoned chair. "Exes, right?"
Angie hisses through her teeth. "And you still live together? That sounds rough."
"We decided we were better off friends. So far, it's been true. So—what do you need? Pamphlet? Sign-up sheet? Condoms?" He shakes a wrapper-filled bowl at her.
"Let's stick with the sign-up sheet for now," Angie laughs. "Why call it SHIELD, if it doesn't even have the letters you want?"
"It's been the name of the club since the 90s. Back then it was Student Homosexual… something something, shit, I used to know. The terminology has changed a lot since then, but now it's just our name. And anyway, I like the imagery, you know? Protective. It's nice."
"Nicer than my last school, that's for sure."
Steve frowns. "Why? What'd they call it?"
"They didn't. Cuz there wasn't one."
Steve winces as she walks away.
Angie's first week at MCU seems to fly by. Neither Steve nor Peggy are in any of her classes, but she did spot Bucky across the hall in her massive Econ lecture (stupid non-transferable math credits), and resolved to sit near him next time. It's pretty lonely, being a transfer student, and she wants to make friends as fast as she can. Which is why she signed up for all those clubs in the first place.
Everyone else on her hall is a transfer student, too, each with their own single. They're fine, but she can already tell none of them are best friend material. Mary's pre-law, Evelyn is a vocal performance major, and Sarah… well, she hasn't actually talked to Sarah, just seen her name scrawled on the friendly construction paper frog on her door, but they share a wall, so. Angie can definitively say that, if nothing else, Sarah's kind of a slut.
Angie wouldn't mind if the noise weren't keeping her up all night.
Which is all to say that she's been really, really looking forward to the first meeting of the SSR.
"Angie!" Peggy cries when Angie walks in, waving her over happily, and it's like half the stresses from the week just lift off her shoulders.
"How ya been, English?" she asks as she takes the offered seat next to her on the couch.
"Peggy," Peggy reminds her, as though she's unsure if Angie remembers her real name or not. (It's adorable.)
Angie shakes her head. "Nope, too late. It's ingrained now. I've imprinted. Besides, it fits too well."
"Ah, never heard that one before," Peggy grumbles, but even that, in her crisp British vowels, sounds cultured. Angie stifles a giggle.
"Hey, we getting started or what? Some of us have places to be," says one of the members Angie doesn't know. He smoothes out his mustache, as though the act of waiting has started to make it wilt.
"Just waiting on my Vice President, Howard," Peggy says, even as Steve walks in carrying plastic bags from the campus convenience store.
"Sorry, sorry, I was getting supplies," Steve says as he upends one of the bags, dumping snacks onto one of the coffee tables in the lounge they'd reserved for the evening. He then takes the seat on the other side of Peggy, wordlessly handing her a to-go salad and a Naked juice from the second bag before taking out a sandwich for himself. For a second, Angie feels creepy for watching them—their movements so thoughtless and intimately synchronized she wonders if she's intruding. But then the moment passes, the spell lifting as two dozen college students all lurch for the same food.
First, Peggy has everyone go around and introduce themselves, old and newcomers alike. Angie finds that she's one of only five new recruits, and the others are freshmen so dewey-eyed she feels ancient sitting near them. She learns that Peggy is the President of the SSR, with Steve as her Vice and that guy Howard as the Treasurer.
"If you have any questions about the club itself, or suggestions for fundraisers or activities, always come to me or to one of the officers. If you have a question about Twelfth Night, however—" Peggy pauses to let people hoot their appreciation, "Don't bother me, bother our director. Jarvis?"
At that, a gangly kid hops to his feet and starts stuttering a mile a minute about their production schedule, starting with auditions. Angie glances to her side, noting that while Peggy's paying Jarvis rapt attention, Steve has started doodling in his notebook.
"So what kind of name is Jarvis anyway?" Angie asks after the club had disbanded for the evening, feeling no rush to leave the couch with Peggy and Steve on it.
Peggy smiles. "Oh, his first name's Edwin, but when we all got here as freshmen there was already an Edmund and an Edgar—" she pauses to let Angie guffaw, "I know, in this group, it was too much—so Jarvis he became. They've both graduated now, but I suppose it's stuck."
Steve's phone jingles before Angie can respond. He looks at his texts and groans. "Bucky's outside with the car, I gotta go now unless I feel like walking home. Angie—see you tomorrow?"
It takes her a second to realize what he means: the first SHIELD meeting. "Yeah. Looking forward to it."
He gives her a lazy salute. "See you then. Night, ladies." He's halfway out the door before he adds, "Get her number for me!"
Peggy waits until he's out of the room to turn on Angie. "That sounded juicy. Are you flirting with Steve?"
"What? No!" Angie yelps, even as she's handing Peggy her phone so they can trade contact info. "He's… not my type," she adds, realization dawning on her that Peggy not knowing what Steve meant by 'tomorrow' is only further confirmation that Peggy isn't a part of SHIELD, because Peggy is, obviously, straight as they come.
"And what does your type tend to be?"
You, Angie doesn't say, because she might be a walking disaster half the time but she's not stupid. "I go where the winds take me, English. So, are you more of a Viola or an Olivia kind of girl?"
Peggy turns red momentarily. "I beg your pardon?"
"Oh! I'm not, actually. I promised Jarvis I'd stage manage this semester. I'm on the proposal, I can't back out." She raises an eyebrow. "Why? What kind of girl are you?"
Angie shrugs. "I guess we'll find out."
Angie's fifteen minutes late to the SHIELD meeting. She'd been on time—she'd been early, even, getting to the student center—but the Queer Resource Center, where all SHIELD meetings are held, is nestled in a back corner of a labyrinthine sub-basement of a sub-basement, and Angie'd actually walked past the door three times before she realized where she was.
When she walks in, the group in the midst of a spirited argument about—as Steve predicted—the word "downtrodden."
("I still vote we change the D to Dissentious." "Just because you think your queer identity is political doesn't mean it's a political statement to be gay, Juniper!")
As Angie suspected, Peggy is nowhere in sight. She swallows down her disappointment and takes a seat near the back.
Steve lets the debate go on for nearly a half hour before forcing them all to table it, then goes around the room and makes introductions—name, orientation, and preferred pronouns.
She can't be sure, but the way Steve smiles when she says she's bi seems a little bit triumphant.
Things start to settle into a rhythm. She has a standing lunch date with Bucky after Econ now, where they take turns mocking Professor Dooley's utterly banal lectures. She learns that Peggy lives in a suite with a girl named Colleen—another SSR member—and two Russian foreign exchange students they never speak to, who only agreed to room with them to get a better number in the housing lottery. She also gets to visit Steve and Bucky's apartment off-campus, which is well-kept but still reeks vaguely of dude.
It's more socialization in two weeks than she had in her first two years at her old school, and when Angie thinks about it too hard she feels so lucky, so grateful, she could cry.
Steve's not really sure why he decided to audition. Normally, it's him stage managing while Peggy acts—he really should show Angie the video from last year of Othello, Peggy's take on Iago literally made the show—but he's not really close with Jarvis, so it made sense that Jarvis would want Peggy to run crew. She's good at it, too. But then it seemed like the obvious choice to just switch, and now…
"Thanks, Gabe, that was wonderful," Jarvis says. "Who's next? Jim?"
Steve compulsively rolls the printout of his monologue in his hands, curling the paper. He's supposed to have it memorized for the audition—and he did!—but having the paper with him is soothing. Just in case.
At the front of the theater, Jim gets up on stage and starts in on Duke Orsino's opening speech. Steve swallows hard.
Angie nudges him. "Stop worrying so loud. You're making me nervous," she whispers.
"I can't help it. I've never actually done this before."
She gives him a cockeyed look so elastic and muppet-ish he has to stifle laughter. "You run the club, Steve."
"Yeah, on like. The administrative end. I send emails and stuff. But I'm not really an actor."
She reaches over to squeeze his hand. "You'll do great. I'm sure of it."
He wants to believe her, but his hands are shaking as he makes his way onto the stage when Jarvis calls his name. He wipes his palms on his jeans, but the room suddenly feels very warm, and very airless, and oh god, he can't have an attack, not now—
"Breathe," he sees Peggy mouth at him, urgently. Making eye contact with her seems to jumpstart his lungs, and he doesn't look away for the entirety of his monologue.
Peggy's vision starts to blur as she stares at the script in front of her. In theory, she shouldn't even be looking at Twelfth Night yet—Jarvis still hasn't finalized his cast list. But designing a run sheet somehow still seems more palatable than writing a response essay on Hemingway's women (excuse her while she vomits) or finishing the seven trillion pages of Borges she has to read (which is enjoyable any time before midnight).
After a while she'd gotten sick to death of the same four walls, which is why she'd decided to come to the L&L, the only place open on campus 24/7. The food's not great—there's a time-honored tradition of calling the place Lousy and Lukewarm, rather than Late n' 'Licious as it's, disturbingly enough, actually called—but they have coffee, and chocolate chip pancakes, and at the moment Peggy is a woman of simple needs. Even if she can barely keep her eyes open.
"Yikes. Rough day, English?"
Peggy's head shoots up and—sure enough, there's Angie, wearing her school-issued L&L polo shirt and holding an order pad.
"Angie! How did I not know you work here?"
"Guess we've been missing each other; I'm only here three nights a week. Work-study. It's part of my financial aid."
Peggy nods. "I'm familiar. Steve shelves at the library."
"My parents graciously, if stupidly, decided they'd rather I pay more later than feel too busy now, and told me not to worry about it."
"Doesn't seem like it's helping," Angie points out, gesturing to the piles of books and papers haloed out on the table.
Peggy laughs. "No, I suppose not. Is your schedule flexible?"
"Well, just—three nights a week. We'll have to get you to rehearsal somehow," Peggy says, feeling sly.
"Don't tease me, English. What do you know?"
"Nothing! Casting is entirely up to Jarvis. But I can't imagine you wouldn't get in. You were fantastic."
Angie's smile breaks over her face like a sunrise. "You mean it?"
"You were there, Ange. Nobody got more laughs than you."
Angie shrugs, faux-modest. "Well, it's a gift. Can I get you anything, hon?"
"Oh! Um. Coffee. Lots of coffee. And chocolate chip pancakes."
"Coming right up," Angie says with a wink.
Peggy chooses to blame how flustered hon made her on her sleep deprivation.
To her utter shock, Angie gets cast as Viola.
She thought, after Peggy said the thing about being funny, that they'd make her Maria, Olivia's sassy lady in waiting. She would have been fine with that. Being cast as the lead in her very first production with the company, totally new to this group of friends… it's a massive vote of confidence. And also a terrifying amount of pressure.
Steve gets Sebastian, which suits him fine—it's a small part, all considered. Angie never thought they looked particularly alike, but now that she's examining him more closely, she kind of sees it: similar height, similar coloring. With the right wig and good makeup, she could look like Steve, for sure.
Peggy won't stop giving them intense looks from across the room every time they stand next to each other, and Angie hopes she's not getting jealous. There's nothing between her and Steve.
Besides. That would be twincest now, right?
"Guess we're gonna have to get acquainted, huh?" Gabe Jones, who's playing Orsino, jokes, sliding in next to Angie and throwing an arm around her.
Colleen, their Olivia, squawks from across the room. "I saw her first!"
Steve rolls his eyes. "Thirty seconds into Twelfth Night and it's already gayer than SHIELD."
"So, whaddaya think?" Steve asks as he opens his laptop. "Something we've seen? Something we haven't? Or we could keep going with the Parks and Rec rewatch."
In lieu of an answer, Peggy stretches herself out on his couch, throwing her legs over his lap and getting comfortable. Fondue Nights with Steve are a rare luxury—even if they are a tradition borne of a rather embarrassing misunderstanding with Howard—and all she really wants is to eat things that are dripping with warm cheese and cuddle with her best guy.
"Peg?" he prompts.
"Let's watch She's the Man," she decides. "For research."
"A wise choice. Channing Tatum and Amanda Bynes? Bi five."
She high fives him.
Forty-five minutes later, Viola is telling Duke that if he has trouble talking to girls he should just ask them if they like cheese, and Steve is licking fondue from his fingers, and Peggy's pretty sure that if she could do just this for the rest of her life, she'd never have a thing to complain about.
SHIELD, Angie finds, is a much lower commitment than the SSR. For a bunch of people who consider themselves activists, they don't really do much—when they're not arguing over the acronym, they mostly talk about their favorite TV shows. Angie doesn't mind the break.
She now knows the lower levels of the student center like the back of her hand, and is surprised to see a newcomer lurking outside the QRC a few minutes before a meeting a few weeks later.
"Hey, you looking for SHIELD?" she asks the seemingly-lost girl, whose confused face blooms into a wide smile.
"I sure am! What's your name?"
"I'm Angie. Are you—?"
"What the fuck are you doing here?" Steve's voice cuts in, hard as flint, and like magic the new girl's friendly face turns ice cold.
"Making friends, Steve."
"Get the fuck away from her. You know you're not allowed to be here. Get out. Now. Before I call campus security."
He's staring the girl down now, which is a little ridiculous as she's nearly a foot taller than him. Angie's intimidated all the same.
"Fine, I'm gone," she says with a wave of her hand, like Steve's boring her, before disappearing into the stairwell.
"Did she hurt you? Are you okay?" Steve asks, rushing to her and grabbing her by the arms. His hands are like firebrands, his intense gaze doing nothing to calm the hummingbird patter of her heart. "Angie?"
She finds her voice. "I'm fine. I'm—What the hell was that?"
"That," Steve grits out, "was Peggy's ex-girlfriend. Dottie."
Angie's world tips suddenly on its axis. She has a lot of questions—is he sure Peggy's not straight? Why didn't she know about this? Why isn't Peggy a member of SHIELD?—but the rage Steve's barely keeping contained has all but the most crucial of them silenced. "Wh-what happened? What did she do?"
Steve looks left and right. Not trusting the empty hallway, he pulls her into the QRC and closes the door behind them. "She fucking roofied her," he hisses.
"It was this big SHIELD-sponsored dance freshman year. One minute they were on the dance floor, next minute… Colleen found them in the girls' bathroom, and Peggy was just gone. She could barely stand up, she was so out of it. And then Dottie said Peggy wanted to take it, that it was her choice, but you tell me—does Peggy seem like the recreational GHB type to you?"
Angie can't even speak. She shakes her head, reeling.
"Thank god Colleen found them, nothing happened, but like. Because nobody had any proof Peggy didn'ttake it on purpose, it was all she said/she said, so the administration wouldn't take disciplinary action. Best we could do was get her banned from the QRC for harassment."
"Jesus Christ. And that's why…?"
Steve nods. "Peggy hasn't dated since, and she sure as hell won't come to SHIELD events." He snorts derisively. "Some shield."
Angie knows that, in theory, this is common knowledge, but she can't help but feel like she's betrayed Peggy somehow—violated her trust. "That's insane."
"Dottie's graduating this year. Believe me, it can't come fast enough."
"I…" Angie has to sit down. "Should I tell her? That I know?"
Steve throws himself into the chair next to hers. "We'll tell her together. She won't mind that you know, but I think it might really freak her out that Dottie was targeting you."
A chill runs down Angie's spine. "You think she was?"
"Maybe I'm just paranoid, but. Felt like it to me." He runs his hands through his hair. "Fuck it. I'm texting Bucky; he can run the meeting. We should go talk to her."
Really freak her out, it turns out, is both not quite accurate and an extreme understatement.
"I'm going to murder her," Peggy announces, like that's just a thing people say. Steve and Angie watch from her bed as she paces her room, frantic and furious.
"Pretty sure they'd expel you for that," Steve says mildly.
"Well they should expel you for being a fucking attempted rapist," Angie and Peggy say basically in unison, only Peggy says bloody instead of fucking which makes both of them laugh. Some of the tension in the room deflates.
"Sorry, I'm just…" Peggy gesticulates, but can't seem to explain what she just is. She gives up. "What did she say to you?"
"Honestly, nothing. She wanted to know my name. Steve found us before we could really talk."
"She must have seen us together," Peggy sighs. "On campus somewhere. I used to know all the routes to avoid her, but our classes are so different now… I let my guard down."
"You're allowed to move on with your life," Angie says forcefully. "Don't let her make you scared all over again."
"But she went after you. She risked going near the QRC to talk to you. If she—she could hurt you, to get at me—"
"Peggy, no one's going to let that happen," Steve says, but it falls flat. They all know it's an empty promise—after all, it already happened once.
"Fuck," Peggy says once, quietly, rubbing at her eyes with the ball of her palm to wipe away the tears she wouldn't let fall.
Unsure of what else to do, Angie gets up and pulls Peggy into a tight, clingy hug, which Peggy falls into gratefully. It's not the first time they've hugged, but everything before this was—quick, casual. One-armed hellos and goodbyes, or brief embraces out of enthusiasm. This is different. This is… holding, and being held.
Angie feels Peggy take a deep breath through her nose, the air tickling the base of her neck, and shivers.
("What scares me," Steve says later, when he's walking Angie back to her dorm, "is that it only worked out because she was a good little sociopath and tried to say Peggy did it to herself. If she'd said that she just found Peggy that way, that someone else had spiked her drink? God. We would have believed her. In a heartbeat, we all would have believed her.")
Angie stops going to SHIELD. She just doesn't feel the same about it, after that.
Steve doesn't mention it.
Rather than dealing with her feelings, Peggy throws herself into rehearsals. Right now it's still largely Jarvis's show—none of the blocking is finalized, and she's still in the process of buying and renting props—so she occupies herself by stalking Howard in the booth as he plays around with lighting designs, barking at him if he presses too many buttons at once.
She only does this because she doesn't want to yell at Steve, who's been spending Sebastian's considerable offstage time quietly painting set pieces, and because if she's not yelling at someone she'll have to actually watch rehearsals. Which is not an option.
Normally, Peggy loves watching rehearsals. Watching her friends become other people—watching her friends infuse themselves into the greatest characters in literature—is why she joined the SSR in the first place.
But that was before Angie.
Angie, who has more talent, life, and enthusiasm in her pinky finger than Peggy probably has in her whole body. Angie who shows up to every rehearsal off-book and with character notes, often staying after everyone else has left only to then work a full late-night shift at the L&L. Angie who has started surreptitiously dropping behind the rest of the group any time they go out so she can follow Bucky, learning to imitate the way he swings his hips when he walks.
("Shouldn't you be following me?" Steve asks, when he catches her at it. "Viola's supposed to be doing a Sebastian impression, isn't she?"
Angie laughs. "Yeah, but when you're trying to look tough, you walk like Bucky, too.")
The way Peggy feels is—is unprofessional, and inappropriate, and almost certainly unwarranted. And she can't blame Angie for wanting to be closer to Steve. Peggy's half in love with Steve herself, some days.
… She's probably due to check on Howard, anyhow.
October hits, and with it, cold weather; suddenly people start dropping like flies. Steve—prone to illness even in the best circumstances—catches the bug going around campus immediately, and manages to spread it to half the cast.
Jarvis, in an attempt to prevent further calamity, cancels rehearsals for the week. It gives everyone room to either get better or get caught up on sleep and homework, and nobody puts up any arguments.
Unfortunately, that doesn't stop Peggy from ignoring the tickle in her throat on Saturday night that turns into laryngitis on Sunday and moves into her chest and sinuses on Monday morning. But she has her Jane Austen class at 10 am, so she drags herself out of bed and goes to the L&L for breakfast anyway.
Peggy knows that she's running a fever. Her head is swimming; the urge to just put her head down on her table and close her burning eyes is overwhelming. But then she'd just fall asleep, and she doesn't have time for that. She can power through. She'll just have to ask Angie for some orange juice, as well as her usual coffee. Orange juice is what you're supposed to drink when you're sick, right? Vitamin… something?
"Peggy? You don't look so good."
It sounds as though Angie's talking to her underwater, which—when did Angie get here? Angie never calls her Peggy. She blinks blearily, trying to keep Angie in focus, but suddenly staying upright feels like a challenge. She sways in her seat. "I'm fine, darling. I just—I need to—"
Everything gets spectacularly fuzzy around the edges, and then there's nothing.
"I can't believe I fainted," she grumbles, fifteen minutes later. With some help from Tim Dugan, the other waiter on shift, Angie'd managed to half-drag, half-carry Peggy to her single, where Peggy is now being fussed over and tucked into bed like some sort of errant duckling.
"I can't believe you got dressed today," Angie counters. "You're sick as a dog, Pegs, you should be home in bed."
"I have class."
"People miss class."
"You have work."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm goin'," Angie grumbles, gathering her keys. "Comfy?"
"Got everything? Tissues? Water bottle? Cell?"
"Okay. My shift ends at noon sharp. If I get back here and you're not asleep in that bed, there'll be hell to pay, y'hear me?"
"Yes, ma'am," Peggy says with a salute. Angie gives her a one-fingered salute of her own before departing.
Peggy's last thought before she passes out is that she'd probably be able to smell Angie's shampoo on the pillow, if she could breathe through her nose at all.
Peggy wakes up in the backseat of someone's car.
"What on earth—?" she yelps, sitting up with a jolt, which only makes her dizzy.
Bucky laughs from the driver's seat, and—oh. That makes sense. "Calm down, Carter. We're almost there."
She blinks, feeling lost. "Did you carry me to the car?"
"I helped!" Angie chimes in, and Peggy recalibrates again as she realizes Angie's riding shotgun. Spatial relations aren't her strong suit at the moment.
"Angie held doors open," Bucky corrects.
"Yes. Which was helpful."
"Where are you taking me? I'm not—I don't need to be hospitalized, it's just a cold for chrissakes."
Bucky snorts. "Who said anything about a hospital? We're taking you back to my place and putting you and Steve on lockdown before you can infect anyone else."
"But what about you?" Peggy asks.
"I'm like an ox, Steve never gets me sick. And Typhoid Mary here thinks she's immune to whatever's going around."
Angie makes an offended noise. "I'm just saying, everyone else got sick and I feel fine. That's gotta mean something, right?"
Peggy closes her eyes and lets their bickering wash over her, dropping back into slumber with ease.
Angie has to cover her mouth to stifle her laughter when she walks into Steve and Bucky's apartment. Apparently, the protocol for when someone gets sick is to push the two couches together so the armrests meet and create an elevated nest, which Steve is currently curled up in amongst a half-dozen blankets.
Bucky dumps Peggy into the couch-nest unceremoniously.
"And stay there," he says, disappearing into the kitchenette.
"You too?" Steve says sympathetically, offering Peggy some blanket.
"Grrrungh," Peggy says.
Despite their protests, Angie ends up in the Illnest (her word). She waits until Bucky leaves for class, because he's strong enough to pull her right back out again, then climbs in and nestles herself between Steve and Peggy.
"But we'll get you sick," Peggy mumbles weakly, even as she curls into Angie's side and rests her head on her shoulder. "Steve, tell her we'll make her sick." (With all the congestion, it sounds like Steeb, which is possibly the cutest thing Angie's ever heard.)
"Lift your arm," Steve says instead, so he can have better snuggling access. Angie obliges.
And okay yes, admittedly, Angie starts sneezing a few hours after getting Peggy to the apartment, and yes, by the end of the night she's feeling pretty crummy.
But in the meantime, she got to lay around with two of her favorite people on the planet, watching a Star Trek: The Next Generation marathon on BBC America. They decide that Peggy is Picard, which obviously makes Steve Riker, and after some debate, they settle on Angie being Guinan. Angie thinks she's pretty obviously the Worf of their friend group, but whatever.
("Could you hand me a tissue, darling?" Peggy had asked, two hours into the cuddle session.
Both Steve and Angie had reached.)
"Do you have any nail polish I could borrow?" Steve asks Angie at rehearsal the next week. Jarvis is blocking a scene with Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, leaving both of them with a bit of free time.
She grins at him. "Why? Got a hot date?"
"Nah, art project. I've already done oils and water colors, and I'm kind of bored. I'd ask Peggy but she pretty much only has shades of red and redder. But you…" Steve trails off, looking down at Angie's fingernails, which are currently a chipped sky blue.
"Yeah, sure, I can hook you up. I've got all sorts of old stuff I don't use anymore. Especially if you want green."
She shakes her head. "Sally Bowles."
Later, she takes him back to her room for supplies before following, curious, to his studio space. His easel is already set up, blank canvas ready for him.
He gets to work.
The Steve she knows is scrappy, sure, but undeniably frail—better suited to running lines than building sets. Peggy won't even let him near the power tools.
But here, in this space, he seems colossal, confident, sure. She thought it would look silly, a guy like Steve using itty bitty nail polish brushes on canvas, but instead she finds herself captivated by the way he uses his hands, lines and curves shaping themselves into—oh.
"You like it?" he asks, standing aside to let her get a better look.
It's Olivia's ring, the bright colors of the nail polish making Steve's blown up version look a thousand times more precious than the actual prop Peggy found.
A ring in chase of you.
"It's great," she says, mouth dry.
Sarah's having sex again. Which is isn't a problem, good for Sarah, but Angie really wants to practice her monologue.
"I left no ring with her, what means this lady?" Angie grits out under her breath, trying to picture Colleen-as-Olivia, trying not to think about Steve and his hands, or Peggy and her lips, or the bodies next door. "Fortune forbid my outside have not charmed her!"
The moaning suddenly stops. Angie sighs in relief, but too soon—instead, the groaning and smacking-flesh noises are replaced by the rhythmic pounding of Sarah's headboard against the wall. Ca-THUNK, ca-THUNK, ca-THUNK…
… iambic pentameter.
Angie keeps practicing, matching her speech in singsong lilt to the pornographic metronome next door.
"How will this fadge? My master loves her dearly… and I, poor monster, fond as much on him. And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me!"
She is not thinking about sex with Peggy and Steve. She is absolutely, positively not—
"Ugh, yes, harder!" Sarah cries, and nope, that's it. Angie's taking a shower.
A loud, high-pitched whine, and then finally blessed silence from next door.
"O time, thou must untangle this, not I," Angie finishes as she takes off her shirt. Not thinking about Steve and Peggy. "It is too hard a knot for me to untie."
Opening night kind of sneaks up on all of them.
Tech week is hell, as all tech weeks are, but sometimes Angie feels like she's only just got here, and now the semester's almost over. She's not worried about drifting away from anyone after the show—there's still a month of school left before break, and people are already putting together proposals for spring plays—but she'll miss Twelfth Night. She'll miss Viola, who, for all her flaws, always knows exactly who it is she wants to be with. (Lucky bitch.)
She'll also miss watching Dan Sousa hit on Steve every night as Antonio, because it's literally the gayest thing she's ever seen.
But the curtain comes down on Friday, as it always does, and after the cast party tonight she can count the times this particular group of people will have to be together on one hand—Saturday's performance, Sunday's matinee, and strike.
She doesn't feel ready to say goodbye.
She blames the amount of schnapps she drinks on that, rather than any other lingering personal problems she might be dealing with.
They all meet up at Howard's off-campus apartment, because it's massive, and soon there's music going, a game of beer pong in progress, and a rowdy Mario Kart tournament getting organized over by the massive TV. Angie watches from the couch, red Solo cup in hand.
Of course, Peggy manages to find her.
"Why're you hiding over here?" Peggy asks, settling in next to her, and she's still wearing those black skinny jeans she only uses when she's on crew, and it's too much.
"I," Angie says, drawing out the syllable, "have a case of ennui."
Peggy's (red, red) lips fall into a frown. "Sounds serious. Is it terminal? Can anything be done to save you?"
"Just gotta take my medicine," Angie shrugs, downing another gulp of her drink.
"That is the saddest thing I have ever heard in my life. Put that down and dance with me," Peggy says, plucking the cup from Angie's hands and placing it on the coffee table.
Angie's not stupid enough to disobey an order from her stage manager.
She wishes she could say they danced close, the kind of hip-hugging sexy dancing you always picture at times like these. But someone put Jim Morita in charge of music, so he's been playing "Never Gonna Give You Up" on repeat like three times already, and there's pretty much only one way to dance when you're getting Rickrolled: like a fucking idiot. So Angie does her best classic mom dance moves, and settles for making Peggy laugh instead of pulling her closer.
"Where's Steve?" Angie shouts as Jim finally lets the music change—to "Everytime We Touch." As per the rules of civilized society, Angie starts bouncing.
"Being Bucky's lucky charm," Peggy shouts back.
Angie looks over to the beer pong game, where indeed, Steve is blowing on the ping pong ball like dice before Bucky's tosses.
"Well he should be dancing."
"Steve doesn't dance."
"What do you mean he doesn't—" She turns to Steve, then, redirecting the question: "Steve! You don't dance?"
He shrugs. "Never seemed like the right time."
"Well what're you waiting for?" she hollers over the music.
"The right partner?"
Angie's not sure who turns first, but suddenly she and Peggy are making eye contact, communicating with only a glance, and then they're reaching for him.
Angie grabs one hand, and Peggy grabs the other, and together they drag Steve onto the dance floor.