A/N Just, as usual, enjoying myself.
The last SSR meeting of the semester is a weirdly competitive affair. Angie had figured people would be sad to say goodbye to each other, or maybe even be so happy to be almost done with classes that the whole thing would be a big party.
She had not pictured this.
"We did Midsummer three semesters ago, no one wants to see another Midsummer!"
"Oh, because everyone's dying to see Timon of Athens?"
"Jim, Colleen, please!" Peggy finally cuts in sharply, and Angie puts a hand on her knee—holding back a laugh when she realizes that Steve pulled the same move on her other leg. (They've had the same positions on the couch ever since that first week: a Peggy sandwich. It's nice; Angie can pretend she's on the E Board and has power.) "Daniel hasn't even presented yet. Would you let him speak so we can vote?"
Morita grumbles, but Colleen, at least, has the good graces to look abashed.
"Thanks, Carter," Dan says, getting to his feet. "So I was thinking, nobody's done a history in club memory—"
"Because the histories are boring," Howard interjects, before Peggy silences him with a glare.
"—right, they are. And I got to wondering how we could jazz up a history and make it, y'know. Something worth seeing. So the play I'm proposing would actually be a master edit of all the Henry VIs and Richard III, focusing on a single character: Margaret of Anjou. I was thinking," Dan pauses, eyes flitting nervously to Peggy before looking away, "I was thinking we'd call it Bloody Margaret."
Well. Good to know he was thinking of casting in advance, too.
The room is immediately abuzz with excitement, hands going up all over the place to ask him questions about the project. Bloody Margaret becomes the immediate frontrunner, just as much for the fact that he clearly wants Peggy in the lead as for the original thinking. Or at least, that's why Angie's voting for it.
"Alright, everyone, calm down," Peggy says after about fifteen minutes of thrilled babbling. "We have to get to the boring stuff. Daniel. I'm assuming you have a crew in place?"
"Sure, yeah. I've got Jim in the booth, Rose on costumes, and Yauch doing props."
"And your stage manager?"
"Oh!" Dan rubs his hand on his neck, looking sheepish. "I, uh. I thought you knew. That'd be Steve."
The look Peggy shoots to her right is positively murderous. Steve, never one to back down from a fight, squares his shoulders and hardly tries to melt into the couch at all.
Frankly, Angie's just impressed he managed to keep it from her.
(When they vote, support for Bloody Margaret is nearly unanimous.)
When the meeting is over, Howard lingers to help clean up, which almost never happens. Angie's so astonished that she almost doesn't notice when Steve starts ushering Peggy out the door, babbling about how they'll be late and he has no ride and suddenly Angie's alone with Howard pushing coffee tables around.
"This some kind of set-up?" she asks, holding back laughter.
Howard grins. "Yes, but not for you. I've been meaning to talk to you about this, but you know what my schedule is like. Long story short: it's an SSR tradition to hold a second little gathering, after the cast party. One just to honor the director and SM—and the rest of the crew, but we're not the ones who get surprised—with special show-related presents. And also booze. We were hoping for the first night of finals; you'll still be on campus, right?"
"Yeah." If Angie had her way, she'd stay on campus for all of break. "So what's so secret about this secret party that you couldn't just text me about it?"
"Well you'll be in charge of Peggy's present, obviously."
Angie's mouth goes dry. "What?"
"Divide and conquer. I've got Jarvis, and Steve is handling venue."
Howard shakes his head. "You ever see Colleen try and keep a secret longer than two days? She and Peggy live together. No chance."
"Right," Angie mumbles, swallowing. "Okay. I'm in."
"Perfect. Now run along, before you miss your ride."
She flips him the bird on her way out.
By the time she catches up with Steve and Peggy again they're at the bus stop, breath steaming the frigid air, locked in a spirited debate about… something or other.
"—but Eleanor's not even a queen, you don't even see her after Part Two," Steve's saying. "Elizabeth Woodville gets to survive the plays, plus you have all the underlying tension about social mobility, plus there's that scene in Richard III where she and Margaret and Anne Neville get to—"
"Curse Richard together, yes, but Elizabeth is never quite Margaret's equal," Peggy replies. "Look, I did my term paper on Margaret of Anjou for my Shakespeare class last year—"
"Of course you did," Angie cuts in, flinging an arm around Peggy's shoulder.
For a second Peggy gets a little tense; then she just shifts slightly to make herself comfortable. "My point is that no one matches the depths of what Margaret's willing to do for power except Eleanor, and queen or not, she's Margaret's equal more than anyone else. It's perfect—Angie, help me out."
"I agree with whoever buys me a cup of coffee, I'm working the late shift tonight," Angie says. "What are we talking about?"
"Who you should audition for in Bloody Margaret," Steve tells her as the bus arrives. "It's a shame Joan of Arc's never in a scene with Margaret, because—"
"As if Shakespeare's Francophobic La Pucelle could ever match the real version," Peggy says scathingly as the bus pulls up. "Eleanor of Gloucester is the way to go, Angie. Trust me."
"Sure," Angie agrees, "But the biggest role I'd audition for next semester is going to be probably… Margaret's handmaiden, or something. Or maybe just Henry's decapitated head."
There's a brief lull as they all pile onto the same two-seater before Peggy and Steve both stare at her in unison. "What?"
Angie shrugs. "Transfer student, remember? I have to start making a name for myself in the actual drama department, or I'll never catch up. And even if I don't get cast in any of the shows, it's kind of an unspoken rule that I'll tech."
A beat. "Well," Peggy says, rallying. "Well, I suppose that's… reasonable."
"You'll still come to meetings, right?" Steve asks. "And rehearsals? I mean, not all of them, but… if you have the time?"
"Of course I will," Angie promises, and really, what else is she supposed to say when they've just spent ten minutes arguing over what role is worthy of her? And seeing them deflate simultaneously upon realizing that she wouldn't be around as much…
It's nice. She's never been missed like this. She's never been…
The bus jerks to a halt in front of Steve's apartment. "Hey," Angie says, blinking when Steve doesn't budge. "Your stop."
He shrugs. "Nah. Cup of coffee before your shift, remember?"
Peggy looks over them both and nods. "We'll keep you company."
Peggy and Jarvis have a tradition that goes way back to freshman year, even before Steve, when they were both hapless strangers in a strange land—an appointment with each other every Sunday at the L&L, where they do nothing except drink tea and… well.
Talk smack about the strangers around them.
(Now that Angie works there, sometimes she joins them and makes up these ludicrous stories that all have to do with some kind of baby animal, and Peggy always ends up going along with it, but that's neither here nor there, really.)
She's in the middle of humming in agreement to something Angie said about a very small goat when Jarvis leaps a foot into the air and yelps.
"—you blow a whistle and the cute little thing just falls over, like—Jarvis? What's wrong?" Angie asks.
"Oh, nothing at all," Jarvis replies, his voice at least an octave higher than usual. "Say. Say, isn't that Colleen?"
Peggy squints at where he's pointing. "Looks like. Who's with her?"
"Anna Heygi," Jarvis supplies immediately, before leaning very casually against the table. "Or—or, I believe so."
Beside her, Angie stifles a giggle. "Okay then. Jarvis?"
"Might wanna get that elbow of yours out of the butter dish before your crush comes and joins us."
"She isn't my—that is—"
"Colleen!" Peggy calls, waving her roommate over.
"I am not dressed properly," Jarvis has time to hiss before Colleen waves back, pulling her friend along.
"You're in a three-piece suit on a Sunday morning, how dressed do you have to be?" Peggy asks, before she sees the pile of posters Colleen seems to be holding. "Oh, Bloody Nora."
"Hello to you too," Colleen tells her, throwing herself down on the seat next to Angie. "You guys know Anna? Anna, Peggy, Angie, Jarvis."
"Nice to meet you," Peggy and Angie chorus, before Jarvis stands up and actually bows.
Anna laughs. "Edwin. I did tell you to call me Anna, didn't I?"
Edwin? Peggy mouths to Angie, who mouths back, Nora?
Jarvis clears his throat, swallows, and then clears it again for good measure. "You did," he allows, looking pained and distinctly pink around the ears.
"What're you guys up to? Brunch?" Colleen asks.
"Just Peggy and Mr. Fancy here," Angie says, getting up. "You're probably my cue to get back to work—Anna, go ahead and take my seat. You guys want anything?"
"Oh, we're not staying. Just here to hang posters for our show." Colleen waves the stack of cardboard under her arm for good measure.
"Show?" Angie asks, pointedly ignoring Peggy's throat-cutting gesticulations and desperate looks made behind Colleen' turned head.
"Our a cappella concert," Anna supplies. "Last Cat's Meow show of the semester. We can count on you all to be there, right?"
"Of course!" Jarvis says, voice strangled but certain, before anyone can get a word in edgewise. "Wouldn't miss it."
"That'd be a first," Colleen says, smirking at Peggy. "Tickets are five bucks at the door, but only three if you get them at our table in the student center at lunch this week."
"Then we shall buy them at the door, to ensure your maximum profit," Jarvis promises.
Anna smiles. "You're so sweet! We'll put some aside for you; wouldn't want to sell out and have you miss it."
"No," Peggy agrees through her teeth. "That would be terrible."
A week later, Angie's cursing her high heels as she stumbles into the lobby of the concert hall, a good five minutes late. Peggy and Steve are already there, waiting for her, and she has to fight down a laugh as she watches the two of them not pace so much as attack the marble floor in unison. Really, at this point she doesn't even want to know what their beef with a cappella is; just watching their dislike in action is enough entertainment on its own.
She makes her way to them and has to fight down another laugh as they instantly straighten up at the sight of her; Peggy even smooths the front of her dress. "You guys ready?"
They both stare at her like they're attending a public execution, and then nod. Very slowly.
"Okay! So let's…" She moves to actually go into the auditorium before she realizes that Steve and Peggy haven't budged. "Or not?"
"My tie's crooked," Steve mutters, fiddling with it so it gets even more crooked until Peggy huffs and straightens it for him.
There's another pause where Steve and Peggy just kind of glare gloomily at the closed doors while Angie stares at them, tapping her feet.
Finally, Steve opens his mouth. "I cannot believe," he says to Peggy, "That you agreed to this—"
"For the last time," Peggy interrupts, "I did no such thing. It was all this one—" she points at Angie, "goading on Jarvis' bloody ideas until I'm freezing my bloody knockers off because I'm in formal wear for an a cappella concert in the middle of bloody winter—"
"You know that normal people don't go all semi-formal for a cappella concerts, right?" Steve says to Angie now. "We're gonna look stupid. We're gonna look stupid, for a cappella people."
"You're looking awesome," Angie corrects, "Because we're here to support Colleen, who is our friend, and to support Jarvis, who is like, hopeless around Anna. He just wants us to look nice, now come on."
She glares at the both of them until Peggy heaves a great sigh. "Fine," she says, staring at the ceiling. Steve looks betrayed.
"Can't believe I'm sweating in polyester for punk ass pop jockeys," he mutters.
Peggy scoffs. "Sweating. I would love to be sweating!" She starts grumbling under her breath about unfair fashion standards and how men have things easy, but is interrupted by Steve shrugging his suit jacket off and shoving it in her face.
"There. Now we both look stupid," he says.
"Good thinking, Steve," Angie says, even as she takes them both by the shoulders—ready to physically push them through the doors if she has to. "Can't let those knockers go unprotected."
And really, the concert is adorable. Colleen sings Call Me Maybe, and Anna does the ridiculous guitar solo from I Believe In A Thing Called Love with just her voice, and every song has its own cute little dance number. Angie doesn't know what Steve and Peggy are so pressed about, but they don't let up—it's like going to a concert with the two old guys in the balcony from The Muppet Show.
She has the time of her life.
The last day of classes feels more like a whimper than a bang, and finds almost everyone hanging out in the dining hall talking about their plans for winter break instead of studying for finals. Howard's just finished up a ridiculous story about what happened last winter break when he flew out to join his parents in Majorca when Colleen turns to Angie and asks, "What about you, Ange?"
Angie groans. "I haven't even bought a plane ticket yet; my parents are gonna kill me."
"What are you waiting for?" Peggy asks, brow knitting in a frown.
"I don't know. A reason not to go? I have to be back in January for intersession anyway. It just seems like a waste of money. I'd stay here if I could, but they close the dorms down."
"Wait, you're taking a J-term class?" Steve interrupts. "Why didn't you say anything? I am, too. I failed out of Figure Drawing freshman year because I had too many absences, and I figured now was the best time to retake it, since Mom's away."
"Jeez, even for Christmas?" Angie knew, in the back of her mind, that Steve's mom started working for Doctors Without Borders once he moved out, but she'd still kind of assumed they let you come home for the holidays.
Steve shrugs. "I was gonna go back to Brooklyn and just crash at Casa Barnes, but—if it would help you out, you could stay with me at the apartment."
Bucky gasps. "You're skipping out on latke flipping duty and offering up my bed in the same breath? What did I do to earn this knife in the back?"
"Steve, no," Angie protests, heart pounding. "I couldn't ask you to—"
"It'll be fun," he says, gently but firmly shutting down her rebuttal. He grins. "We'll take my dad's Invisibility Cloak out for a spin and play wizard chess."
The unexpected Harry Potter reference naturally gets all eyes on Peggy as she—probably for the millionth time—fields questions about what King's Cross Station is like and whether she really says Happy Christmas. Angie takes a breath, glad for the distraction until her phone buzzes in her pocket.
It's a text from Steve: If you want to talk about the whole not wanting to go home thing, I'm all ears. Or all my good ear, anyway. Everything ok?
She shoots him a smile in lieu of a response, which he seems to accept. And honestly, it's not like there's some big dramatic story as to why she'd rather not be in Ohio for Christmas. Her family is fine.
It's just that she transferred for a reason. That's all.
"It worries me, when she says things like that," Peggy says later, when it's just her and Steve. He'd intended to walk her and Colleen back to their suite before heading out, but the cold air had done such a number on his lungs that they'd had to stop halfway across campus and duck into the Student Center. Colleen had a test first thing Monday, so she decided to peel off, but—to be honest, he hadn't tried hard to get her to stay with them. "What does she have to be afraid of?"
Steve twists the styrofoam cup of tea in his hands, watching it steam the air. "I don't think it's fear, necessarily. She talked about it a bit, back when she, uh—at SHIELD meetings. She came out to her mom and it didn't go great. You'll grow out of it, that kind of stuff. So she never tried with anyone else. I think some of her brothers know. But it's…"
"Hardly comfortable," Peggy finishes.
"But you're certain they're not… She's never said…?"
"I've never gotten that impression. And—she would tell us." Probably. He thinks. Private as Angie can be sometimes, she wouldn't hide it from them if something were really wrong.
Peggy exhales slowly, and Steve can literally see it as some of the tension leaves her shoulders. "Well. Good."
Steve smirks. "You wanna invite her to study with us tomorrow night; keep an eye on her?"
"…I think that would be best."
Peggy makes the most amazing indignant faces when he laughs at her.
"In contrast to critics who claim that Romeo and Juliet belongs more in the realm of emotional melodrama than tragedy, Ruth Nevo states—states…"
Peggy groans and flings her notebook across the room. Steve rolls his eyes. "Peg."
"I'm not moving," she mutters, burrowing deeper into the side of her couch. "Ruth Nevo is stupid, and Romeo and Juliet are both—really bloody stupid, and I'm not moving because I am tired."
"Can't blame them, remember?" Steve says, nudging her. "Tragedy of happenstance, that's what Nevo states."
When she turns to look, he's giving her a lopsided grin that makes something flutter low in her stomach, something that can't be butterflies, and really—this crush thing is very crap.
(It isn't, it's just finals week and she doesn't have time.)
She quashes down whatever that something is by giving Steve what she thinks is probably a passable impression of Angie's puppy dog face. "Steve, darling."
He stares flatly at her. "No."
"You don't need to stand up," Peggy tries. "You can just—roll towards it. I'd do it myself but you're in the way, and—it'd hurt."
Steve's still shaking his head, the bastard. "I don't want to move any more than you do. Angie'll be here any minute, she can grab your notebook on her way in."
Peggy blows an errant strand of hair from her eyes. "I sup-pose. In the mean time…" She looks at Steve expectantly.
He sighs and tosses his notebook at her. "Help me go over Oleanna?"
"Oleanna is asinine," Peggy mumbles, flipping idly through his notebook. She's always found Steve's notes fascinating and beautiful—jumbled words and inverted letters scrawled with a kind of haphazard confidence spiraling into doodles, sketches.
Steve nudges her again. "So is Romeo and Juliet, apparently."
"No, Romeo and Juliet is stupid," Peggy corrects, "It's a play of terrible circumstance that leads to tragedy. Oleanna is—is…"
Her hand freezes over the last page of Steve's notes on Romeo and Juliet; it's a small segment on MacKenzie, and then a full page drawing of… her.
Or—not, her, precisely; the woman on the page looks a few years older, her face more mature and expression more sure than Peggy can ever imagine herself to be, but everything else she recognizes as her own.
On the bottom right corner Steve had written, with uncharacteristic care: she doth teach the torches to burn bright.
"Well, don't keep me hanging like that," Steve says, "Oleanna is…?"
Peggy closes his notebook. "Steve," she says, feeling the waver in her voice travel down before she's grabbing the front of his shirt and pulling him closer to her.
When she daydreams about kissing Steve (embarrassingly often, and quite vividly), Peggy always imagines fireworks, tasting some kind of sting; it's probably terribly unoriginal, but honestly, he was born on their Independence Day. Really kissing Steve—and, some far off part of Peggy's mind notes, she is really kissing Steve—feels rather different: oddly quiet, and almost obvious. Like certainty.
What passes for his five o'clock shadow tickles, and he tastes like the menthol from his medicated lip balm, along with some dessert from the cafeteria. Rhubarb pie, she thinks.
Steve keeps his eyes closed for a moment after they break apart, lets out a long, slow breath. "Oh," he says softly.
Peggy opens her mouth to say something clever, something like this is what Oleanna is not, but then from the doorway she hears, even softer than Steve: "Oh."
They both turn. "Angie," Steve says. For there she is.
For a moment Angie is quiet and still, regarding them in wide-eyed shock. "The door was open, so I…" She clears her throat. "God damn it."
Peggy's heart drops into her stomach. "Angie—"
"Now I owe Howard twenty bucks!"
"Hold on," Peggy says, feeling as though she's been quite suddenly thrust into a play without ever being shown a script. "There was a betting pool about me and Steve?"
"You didn't know about the betting pool?" Steve asks, looking almost impressed.
"No!" Then—"You did?"
"Well yeah. They… weren't exactly subtle about it."
"Peggy," Angie interjects, "why is your notebook on the floor?"
"I threw it. It angered me."
"Do you want it back, or…?"
Peggy sighs. "Yes, please."
Angie carries the notebook over and then settles herself on the floor in front of the couch, using the coffee table as a desk. She's close enough that Peggy could run her fingers through her hair, if she wanted, which is a ridiculous thought to be having two minutes after kissing Steve for the first time. Unsure if she should be relieved Angie's not upset or upset that Angie's not jealous, Peggy resigns herself to Ruth Nevo and starts studying anew.
"You never finished telling me what Oleanna is," Steve points out after a long moment of silence.
"Oleanna is disgusting," Angie says from her spot on the floor.
Peggy high fives her.
He and Peggy exchange at least five sneaky panicked glances at each other during their study session, but really, Steve doesn't understand why Peggy's so worried when he's the one who has to leave at some point, with Angie.
Angie, who's been kind of quiet all night, jokes about the betting pool aside, and—okay, maybe they don't have to leave together? Maybe they can just kind of stagger their departures to avoid any… awkward…
He's being an idiot. This is Angie they're talking about—things have never been awkward with her. That's the whole miracle of her; she takes these situations and somehow just makes them… softer. Easier to swallow. In fact, he doubts Peggy would have even kissed him tonight if it hadn't been for Angie. They're all so much closer now, so much braver than they'd been. He doesn't know how she managed it. It was never any secret, how he felt, but he'd have let Peggy dance around it for years. Then here Angie comes, making them both feel…
Making them both feel…
Steve slams his notebook closed. (It's a little too ratty and worn down to make an impressive noise, but still.) "Think I'm done for the night. Angie? Wanna head out?"
Angie looks a little startled, but shrugs. "Sure."
Behind her, Peggy shoots him a look that closely resembles absolute horror. Steve tries to smile reassuringly back, tries to convey don't worry, I've got this, but from Peggy's mute response he thinks it might have looked more like he was about to throw up.
"Okay then," he says, and then winces. Way too loud. "Good night, Peggy."
Angie choruses him, and after a little pause Peggy smiles at the two of them. "Night, you two. Get back safe."
The bus stop is completely deserted, and Angie's gone completely quiet now, so Steve clenches his jaw. Nothing to it, then. He'll just… say his piece.
"Thanks for waiting with me."
She smiles a little. "Well, I gotta admit—it's not completely selfless. I'm hoping he'll let me off down campus."
He nods. God, this is excruciating. He should just rip the band-aid off.
"Nice night," he says, and then waves lamely at the sky. He's the worst at this, the absolute worst—
Angie spares him a look. "Yeah. Cold."
"I'm sorry," he blurts out, before he can stop himself.
And now Angie looks completely lost. "What?"
"That Peggy kissed—well, I'm not sorry that she kissed me, because it was really great, but I'm sorry that you had to. Um. See that? Because I know that you—and Peggy—and me too, so I'm—sorry that we kissed without really talking about what's been going on, with the three of us—"
"Steve," the look of concern on Angie's face is almost Bucky-like. "Breathe, and then words. Maybe in an understandable order, this time."
He's not sure he can do that, and still explain. He tries a different tactic. "Are you sad?"
"What?" Angie laughs, and she's staring at him like he's completely lost it.
"I mean, aren't you? That we—that you found—"
"Oh, Steve, no. I'm… I could never. You guys are my best friends in the world. You wanna hear sad, I can tell you sad. One time, my cousin Ralphie—"
"Angie," he says, barely a whisper, but her jaw snaps shut all the same. "I'm trying to tell you that it would be okay, if you were. I mean. Not that—I don't want you to be sad, obviously. But you'd have reason to be. It's not all in your head."
Angie sniffles, then tugs her scarf up higher around her neck, like it was the cold that did it. "Why are you saying this? Please—please don't. Okay? I don't want to make trouble, I just want you guys to be happy, I…"
Unable to stop himself, Steve surges forward, hand reaching for her as he presses his lips to her forehead; he can hear the way her breath hitches. He pulls away before he lets himself get any ideas, gently rucking up Angie's scarf once more as he does. "You make us happy."
She looks near tears. "I have a three hour Econ exam tomorrow morning. You're doing this now?"
"I didn't want to let this night end without saying something. You've gotta know. We didn't… no one's chosen… I'm sorry, I'm fucking this all up."
"What you're talking about," she says, after taking a deep breath, "It's not—people don't do that."
"Forget people. I'm talking about us." In the distance, Steve can see the headlights of the bus rounding the corner. He curses to himself; he needs more time.
"Well, it's a… Jesus. It's a very sweet offer, Steve, but until I'm hearing it from both of you you'll forgive me if I can't exactly take it seriously."
"Angie," he starts, but the bus is coming to a stop and she's turning away from him, "Hey, come on, wait. Weren't you going to try and bum a ride? Like you said—it's cold out."
She shrugs. "Like you said—it's a nice night. I think I could use the walk."
The bus driver's glaring at him. "Kid, don't make me hold the door open. Come if you're coming."
"We're okay, right?" Steve asks instead, insistently. He'll never forgive himself if he's ruined this by bringing it up right now.
Angie gives him a ghost of a smile, but it pulls at her eyes like she means it. "We're always okay, Steve. G'night."
"Night," he mutters back as he steps onto the bus.
"Jeez, pal, what happened to you?"
Angie is startled out of her reverie by Howard's voice in her ear, her fork clattering to her plate. She barely slept at all the night before—which did her no favors on her final. The whole morning has been a blur. All she'd wanted to do was eat some lunch in peace and then hide in her room for the foreseeable future, but of course that's too much to ask. "Econ happened to me," she says, hoping he'll accept it. It's not a lie, per se. It's just not the whole truth either.
"Nah, I don't think so. The circles under your eyes and the air of defeat? Sure, that's Econ. But I've never heard of Econ making anyone sad."
"Of course you haven't, Howard, you're rich."
"You're avoiding the question."
She blows her hair out of her eyes. "I am not sad."
Howard throws himself into the chair across from her, raising his eyebrow.
"Okay, I might be a little sad."
Angie immediately clamps her mouth shut.
Howard lets out a low whistle. "Oookay then. Girlfriend trouble?"
She throws her napkin at him. "Can't you go bother some other co-ed? One who actually finds you charming, maybe?"
"So it's both?" This time Angie throws her fork at him, but he just snatches it out of the air. "Plannin' to eat salad with your fingers?"
"Be worth it if it got you to leave me alone," Angie mutters.
"Fine, fine, I won't pry," he says, and then when she glares, "…anymore than I already have. I just hope this drama isn't gonna make it hard on you at the party, because—"
Angie slaps a hand to her forehead. "The party! I completely forgot."
Howard stares at her. "Forgot the party? As in the party today? As in, forgot the present that I said you were in charge of like a month ago?"
She lets out a laugh that isn't panicked at all, nope. "It was like two weeks ago, and don't get your Prada boxers in a twist, Howard—of course I have her present already. I do!" she insists, at his skeptical look. "In—in fact I can promise you that it's an amazing present—basically unbeatable!"
"I don't wear Prada's boxers, that's just douchey," Howard corrects. "And whatever this 'unbeatable' present is, I hope it's wrapped already, because—oh, hey! Peg, Jarvis! You guys all set?"
"All set?" She hisses at Howard as Peggy and Jarvis make their way to her table, Peggy visibly lagging a little behind. "You just decided to meet up here?"
"It's a dining hall, Ange. Not like I was expecting you to mope around here when I made plans with them two weeks ago, like a responsible friend—"
"I am a responsible friend!" she says, so loudly everyone in the dining hall turns around to stare at her. "My present's gonna knock your socks off, Howard Stark, and you'll regret you ever doubted me—"
"Erm," Jarvis says, raising his hand a little. "Are we… interrupting?"
Howard immediately jumps up. "Nope! Just debating the finer points of economics. Let's go, Jarvis."
Angie watches as he all but drags Jarvis ahead, leaving her with…
"Hi," she and Peggy both say at the same time.
Peggy clears her throat. "How—how was the exam?"
"Oh, it was…" she's not looking at Peggy because she really needs to finish this salad. "You know, it was economic."
"I… see. Well, I should…" Peggy gestures vaguely at where Howard's waiting with Jarvis—still within earshot, the jackass.
"Yeah! Have fun. Wish I could come, but you know, I have…" Angie mirrors Peggy's vague gesture. "Stuff. Exams."
Peggy nods, and then musters up a tiny smile. "Good luck?"
"I'm not the one going out for drinks with Howard," Angie points out, but she's smiling back anyway—or at least, until Peggy turns to join Howard and Jarvis.
Then she's dumping her salad into the trash and sprinting out of the dining hall. Knock your socks off and unbeatable, right? She can probably find something like that in the next couple hours.
"Two Patrons," Howard tells the bartender when they arrive at his "favorite" bar in town; it looks overpriced yet simultaneously sleazy, so Peggy's inclined to believe him. "Jarvis, Miller Lite for you?"
Jarvis grimaces. "Perhaps a screwdriver for the occasion. We're celebrating the end of term, aren't we?"
"We're doing shots?" Peggy asks incredulously, "In the middle of the day?"
"Live a little," Howard tells her. Then he lowers his voice. "After all, this might be the last time you get to use the fake I gave you."
"You say that like it's some great tragedy," Peggy replies as the bartender hands back said fake ID. She eyes her picture with disdain. "It's been three years and I still fail to comprehend why it was necessary for me to dress up in a disastrous nurse costume to get my photo taken for this."
"Artistic integrity," Howard says airily. "And come on, don't pretend you're not going to miss being Betty Carver. Cheers!"
"I'm not pretending," Peggy grumbles, but she throws back the shot of tequila all the same.
Next to them, Jarvis takes a very delicate sip of his drink.
"…nor no man ever loved." Jarvis finishes with a flourish, then drains the last of his screwdriver. "Well? How was that?"
Peggy and Howard exchange a glance with each other. "That's… fantastic, Jarvis," Peggy tries, "Except, um. Have you considered that maybe the reason this...original sonnet sprung so quickly into your mind, fully-formed—"
He beams at her. "Miraculous, wasn't it?"
"—is that it was actually written by someone else?"
"What?" Jarvis stares, and then turns to Howard to stare some more. "What?"
"Shakespeare, pal," Howard says. "Sonnet 116?"
"But it's very impressive, that you can recite all of it," Peggy quickly says. Jarvis looks crestfallen. "I'm sure Anna would be very pleased."
"No, I—that won't do. I have to… excuse me, bartender? Do you have any more napkins?" He digs out the fountain pen from his pocket again. "Back to the drawing room. What rhymes with 'lady?'"
"Baby," Howard instantly supplies. Peggy groans, beckoning the bartender over for another drink.
"I kissed Steve," Peggy announces apropos of nothing, sometime around shot five. Or maybe four? She finds that she doesn't particularly care, which probably means five. At least five.
"I hate you, you lucky bastard," Howard blurts out, face turning an impressive purple in the span of half a second. "Wait. Is that why—"
Jarvis chooses that moment to break into an amazingly off-key rendition of Jason Mraz's "Dear Anna."
Peggy squints at the line of shot glasses in front of her. She's trying to count how many drinks she's already tossed down, but for some reasons the shot glasses aren't staying put for long enough.
Somewhere in the now very poor-lit part of her brain, she wonders if this is some kind of—mathematical impossibility, that glasses could stroll around the bar of their own accord. Then she shrugs. She's not a science major.
Though, speaking of: "Howard," she says, and absolutely does not drag out any syllable of his name, "How many have we had?"
Howard looks up from where he's trying to console a distraught Jarvis, who declared five minutes ago that he was "doomed by love." "One for each year we've lived. Obviously."
"That's…" she frowns. "That's too many."
He pats her arm. "We split it, remember? Shared the load."
Another shot slides towards her. "Oh, good," Peggy says, picking it up and throwing it down. Then she winces at the sickly sweet taste. "This is schnapps."
"We promised to lay off on hard stuff after shot seven," Howard reminds her, but Peggy's not listening anymore.
"Angie likes schnapps," she informs Howard. It seems like pertinent information.
"No," then she frowns again. What? "Angie's not sad."
"Is too. She told me."
"Didn't," Peggy says, trying to inject as much authority as possible into her tone. "I'm Bloody Margaret, I'm right."
"Not until next semester," Howard points out. "Anyway, why do you think you're even here avoiding your other friends? You kissed Steve, and now Angie's sad. Granted, I'm sad too, but—"
"She isn't, I asked Steve and he said she said she wasn't," Peggy says, frowning at the unexpected tongue twister. "He said she sai—yes. That's right." She starts digging through her purse. "I'm calling her."
Howard laughs. "You're gonna drunk-dial your sort-of-maybe girlfriend because you kissed your sort-of-maybe boyfriend? Good call."
She swats him in the arm. "You hush. It's ringing. Angie? Angie, I'm sorry. I kissed Steve and then you were there and I wasn't planning on you being there, I wasn't planning on you at all and really, it's very unfair that Steve got to act with you and I'll have to wait for a whole semester if I'm lucky and I'm sorry that you're upset and that's probably why you're not here with me, and—"
"Peggy," Angie interrupts, and then there's a little crackle over the phone that sounds like laughter. "Peggy, what are you talking about?"
"Howard—Howard said…" Peggy glances over, where Howard has a death-grip on the bar to keep himself from keeling over because he's laughing so hard. "He said you told him you were sad."
Angie's definitely laughing now. "He did, huh."
"I am going to kill him," Peggy promises. "There's—there's a wooden spatula hanging behind the bar that looks like an appro—appropr—it looks like a good murder weapon. You're very sure? That you're not sad?"
"I'm not," Angie says, "I was just—surprised. But not sad, English, not for the two of you."
"Good. Howard Stark is—is the most useless bisexual inventor that's ever been—invented."
"Pretty small field, Peg. Hey, I don't suppose you can tell me what bar you're at, can you?"
"And he's a terrible friend," Peggy continues. "And I—I meant to kiss the both of you, at the same time, but that seemed like it would be physically uncomfortable, or maybe impossible even—like, when two of my shot glasses wandered off by themselves earlier?"
"English," Angie says, and then sighs, and then Peggy thinks there are whispers coming from Angie's end. "Just—um, stay on the phone, okay? Bucky and I are coming to get you."
Angie feels her shoulders slump a little in relief when she finally spots Howard, Peggy and Jarvis in what's probably the most expensive bar in their whole town. She hadn't been too worried, but given what Peggy's said about Dottie…
"There they are," she tells Bucky, pointing.
Bucky grunts. "Lucky number seven. Knowing Howard, we shoulda come here first."
"Just listen to me," the subject in question slurs into his phone, "I have thought about this, Steve. A lot. A lot! You 'n me. There's a slick—a comfortable looking pool table right in this corner… you can pretend I'm Peggy, we have the same build—"
"You do not," Bucky says, intervening. "Party's over, kids—you're coming with me."
Howard brightens. "To your place?"
"You're taking Jarvis to your place, you've done enough for today." He points at Peggy, who's slumped over her stool, still shaking with suppressed laughter. "Go get Lady Drunktown up, Angie. I'll handle these two clowns."
At this, Peggy straightens up. "James," she says, "James. We've only had one drink. We are perfectly capable of making our own decisions."
Her attempt to sound perfectly sober is somewhat ruined by the fact that it's followed by her practically sliding off her stool.
Angie grabs Peggy's shoulder. "Whoa there, English—you don't want your ass on that floor, who knows what else has been on it?"
"This floor is perfectly clean," Peggy grumps, before seeing Angie's face and brightening. "Angie!"
Angie grins back. "Right in one."
"Angie's here," Peggy announces to the room at large, before being reluctantly dragged towards Bucky's car.
They drop Howard and Jarvis off at Howard's apartment with orders to shower, sober up, and report back in two hours, and then it's a straight shot back to Bucky and Steve's place with Peggy asleep on Angie's shoulder.
(Which: pretty nice, even though Peggy had gone and gotten herself passed out drunk in the middle of the afternoon.)
"I got her," she tells Bucky, who just nods and heads into the house—to monitor the progress on the streamers, probably.
For a minute she just… lets herself enjoy the privacy, before aiming a nice hard poke into Peggy's side. "Come on, up you get."
To her credit, Peggy makes it out of the car and three steps towards the apartment before plopping onto the snow covered grass. "I need one minute to rest."
Angie chuckles before kneeling down next to her. "Alright, one minute."
"That's because you're sitting on ice, hon."
Peggy looks up blearily at her, and then smiles. "When we kiss," she whispers, "It's going to be brilliant."
Angie feels herself flush, because Peggy's awful close to her right now and if she just leans forward a little more Angie could—
Peggy does lean forward, a lot more—which is to say, she sags completely into Angie.
"Peg?" No response. "Aw, hell. Bucky? I changed my mind."
They help Peggy into Steve's old pajamas and dump her on the Illnest that Angie suspects might never stop being a Illnest, what with how often they have to use it. Steve looks questioningly at Angie before settling himself next to Peggy, and Angie nods and feels her lips twist into a weird grimace, because she'd been telling the truth to Peggy, she's not upset about their kiss, but—
Well, it's like Steve said. It'd be nice to have a conversation about… whatever's going on with all three of them, soon. She thinks she might be ready.
In the meantime, she follows Bucky into the bathroom as he hunts for Advil. "She'll be fine," he tells her, maybe feeling her mood. "Nothing my couch-nest hasn't been able to solve yet."
Angie hums an assent. "Greatest invention known to man."
"Yeah." He grins. "Steve and I used to do all the time as kids, just push two couches together, even when we were—uh, sleeping together—it felt right, to do it there instead of on an actual big bed."
His smile fades and he busies himself with the medicine cabinet again. Angie watches him. "You don't talk about him."
Bucky snorts. "Who, Steve? 'Course I do. Pint-sized brat would probably die of an asthma attack if I didn't talk about his inhaler with every random guy I met on the street."
"Yeah, but you don't really… you've been friends forever. Hell, you dated forever, and mostly you talk about him like he's… some kind of ward of yours. Like you gotta constantly take care of him, and that's all."
"He does need taking care of, doesn't he?" Bucky shoots back. Then he sighs. "And being his—caretaker or whatever, and being his best friend, and being his boyfriend, it all felt the same anyway. Not much to talk about."
He strides out of the bathroom again before she can ask if that's why he broke it off with Steve. "We're out of Advil—I'll go get some."
Angie watches him go before she heads back to the Illnest. "Got room for one more?"
Steve's head shoots up. "Yeah, of course."
Peggy grumbles a little as Angie slots into her right. Then she opens her eyes, and sees their decorations. "There's balloons," she tells them, blinking sleepily.
"For your party," Steve says, "It was supposed to be a surprise."
"I'm surprised," Peggy mumbles, before burrowing deeper into Angie's side. "You know," she says after a long moment, "You never did give me a straight answer about your exam."
Angie laughs. "Of course that's the first coherent sentence you get out all day."
Peggy, undeterred, headbutts Angie gently on the shoulder in response. She seems to regret the decision, however, eyes screwing shut as she whimpers, "Nnngh, spinny."
"That's what you get. And—it went kind of shitty, to be honest."
Steve makes a worried noise. "What? Why? You studied your ass off."
"Yeah, well. I found myself distracted for some reason."
He has the good graces to look abashed. "Shit, Ange, I'm sorry."
"Why are you sorry?" Peggy asks, then, belatedly, reads the feeling in the room. She turns back to Angie. "Why is he sorry? When did—what did he say to you?"
"Last night, waiting for the bus. Same kind'a stuff you said out on the lawn."
Steve sits up. "The lawn? What'd she say on the lawn?"
"Oh my god," Angie groans, turning over and burying her head under the pillows. It's like the world's most agonizing recital of Who's On First?, only about threesomes. Or something.
"Peg, I told you we talked," Steve says.
"You told me she wasn't sad. You lied."
"I did not lie! Angie, tell her what you told me."
Angie just groans more into the cushions.
Peggy rubs Angie on the back in a way that would probably be soothing if she were sober enough to be coordinated. "We've upset you," she concludes carefully.
"I'm not upset, I'm just… you two really do a number on me, y'know?"
"Maybe we should talk about this later," Steve suggests. "When all parties are, y'know. Fully present."
"Was that directed at me?" Peggy demands, outraged. "I may have had a few drinks, but I am fully capable of—I have every ability to—to, er…" She frowns, searching for the right word. "Advocate," she finally says.
"Advocate for what?"
Peggy looks chastened. "I've forgotten what we're talking about."
Luckily, Peggy manages to sober up a little by the time their guests arrive—helped along by copious amounts of water and Bucky's newly-bought painkillers.
It's a little awkward, at first, seeing as both guests of honor and the self-appointed MC (Howard, of course), pre-gamed so enthusiastically, but it doesn't take long for the other SSR kids to start to catch up. Even Steve has a solo cup of some concoction Howard calls "the Serum" in hand, but Angie's decided to stick with soda for the night. Someone's got to keep a clear head.
Besides, Peggy's present—currently burning a hole in Angie's back pocket, where she keeps checking to make sure it hasn't fallen out—is already playing with her mind. It's another hour before Howard stands up on the coffee table and announces it's time for gifts. (Bucky promptly grabs him by the waist and lifts him off.)
"For Edwin Jarvis, our illustrious director," he announces with a flourish, "A mug covered in Shakespearean insults!"
"Meticulously selected from our campus bookstore, I'm sure," Jarvis mumbles. He scans the mug. "Ah, yes—'I do desire we may be better strangers.'"
"And for Margaret Carter, our tireless stage manager," Howard says, taking no notice of Jarvis' less-than-enthusiastic response, "Angie?"
"Angie is my present?" Peggy blurts, and Angie's so flustered she drops her hopefully-unbeatable offering as she holds it up to the light.
Olivia's ring spins gently on the hardwood floor for several seconds, rattle-rattle-rattle-rattle-drop. Angie swears it's the only thing anyone can hear.
The line comes to her lips before she can stop it: "If it be worth stooping for, there it lies in your eye," she recites. Part of her is almost impressed that after cramming her brain full of Econ, she can still remember Malvolio's part just as well as her own. The rest of her is terrified of how Peggy might react.
Thankfully, Peggy does move to pick the ring up. "You—you took this out of the prop box?"
"I know, we'll lose our deposit if not everything is returned. I'll pay for it, I promise. I just—"
Angie can't finish her sentence, because Peggy's hugging her so tightly the air has been quite thoroughly removed from her lungs.