On New Year's Eve Eve Steve and Angie take a bus down to New York, invited to ring in the new year with Bucky at Casa Barnes. Steve spends the ride sketching, while Angie re-reads A Doll's House, which is one of the shows the theater department is putting up in the spring. As far as lead roles go, it's between that and Major Barbara, apparently, and… well, she knows which she'd rather spend a semester thinking about. Having it fresh can't hurt.
When she first sees the city skyline rise in the distance, though, the script almost falls from her hands.
"Jesus," she whispers softly to herself, all but pressing her nose against the window.
Steve blinks at her. "Ange, have you… is this your first time in New York?"
She nods, only tearing away her gaze from the view when he puts a hand on her shoulder.
"You're gonna love it," he promises.
Casa Barnes, it turns out, is not a house at all—it's a three-bedroom apartment taking up the third floor of a Brooklyn brownstone, cramped and home-y. Introductions are a whirlwind of "Oh, no one calls me Winifred and Mrs. Barnes is way too stuffy; just call me Fred, dear," which is fine until Angie meets Bucky's dad George, and thankfully Rebecca and Hannah are used to the joke, because Bucky doesn't find it funny at all. Angie is given the choice between bunking with the boys or having the fold-out couch in the living room to herself, because Bucky's sisters already share a room and don't really have space for a third. She opts for Bucky's floor, not wanting to be in anyone's way.
She should have realized it wouldn't matter, because they barely spend any time at all in the apartment for the first twenty-four hours. Apparently the news that it's her inaugural visit to the city traveled fast, and everyone has a different opinion on where to take her and what she needs to see. It's absolutely frigid outside, but they trek all over the boroughs anyway—to museums and restaurants, bookstores and parks—trying to give her the Authentic New York Experience. (She takes lots of pictures. "For Peggy," she insists, when Steve makes fun of her.)
Thankfully, the actual evening of New Year's Eve finds them safe and warm in the apartment. Angie has a newfound awe and fear of the people who go to Times Square to watch the ball drop; having been outside while the sun was out, she doesn't even want to think of how cold it must be in Midtown tonight. Fred and George (yeah, no, she's not going to stop giggling at that any time soon) went out an hour ago to attend some kind of fancy adult party, so now it's just her, Steve and Bucky, Bucky's sisters and their friends with three large pizzas and two bottles of champagne they were supposed to save for midnight.
All in all, it's a far cry from how Angie'd be spending the evening if she'd actually gone home. Dad would have dragged them all to one of his miserable office parties, she and her brothers all starched and pressed and made to answer the same dull questions from the same dull people they do every year. ("So, what are you studying now? … Not much you can do with that in the real world, is there? Are you seeing anyone? You must have to beat off the boys with a stick, pretty thing like you…")
She checks the clock on her phone—quarter after nine. This time last year, she was going seven rounds of thumb war against Matteo to figure out who'd have to play designated driver to their parents, who were already a few gin and tonics into the evening. She'd lost, which—she should have picked Rock, Paper, Scissors, all of her brothers have horrifyingly huge man-thumbs and she'd never stood a chance—and had had to watch, frustratingly sober and so bored she could choke, as everyone else around her got to at least pretend to have fun.
This year, she's in New York City, surrounded by some of the coolest people on the planet, and Angie has no intention of ever going back to how things were.
Which isn't to say things are perfect. Steve's been a bit down since the Barnses left; they'd said something about his mom that Angie hadn't quite caught while they were talking out the door, and Bucky's been in overdrive trying to distract him, bringing up inside joke after inside joke. They're all smushed together on the couch and in the middle of a spirited and only slightly drunken debate about Fern Gully—which Becca absolutely hates for reasons Angie can't fathom but makes everyone else laugh—when the boys' phones buzz in unison. "Sam found a venue," Bucky tells Steve, having dug out his phone first.
Steve lets out a sigh of relief. "Thank God. After what Howard and Junior pulled last Valentine's Day…"
Angie frowns, shifting so Steve's pointy elbow isn't so dangerously close to her face. "What's up?"
"SHIELD organizes a speed-dating event every year on Valentine's Day," Steve says as he absently taps out what she presumes is a reply to Sam, "You know—'cause it's kind of harder for us to find people who really understand. It's a good way to meet new people even if you're not interested in joining the club. Or…"
He cuts a sudden look at Bucky, who raises his eyebrows in a oh, we're doing this now? before clearing his throat. "Or people who might not be as comfortable coming to SHIELD meetings specifically as they would events for, y'know, us gays in general."
They both look at her like they're expecting something as a response, but for the life of her she can't figure out what. "Oh. That's… nice?"
"We just thought," Steve says as Bucky makes a slightly impatient noise, "That since you're obviously not—I mean, we understand why you might feel unsafe at SHIELD after hearing about Dottie did. But we've put together a whole bunch of safeguards since then, and we were hoping that…"
He trails off again, looking this mixture excited and hesitant that reminds her of a week ago, on Christmas morning. Even Bucky's smiling at her like he wants to say yes, absolutely. "Oh," is all she can muster.
She should feel flattered, right? And loved, that they want her in an important part of their lives, that they obviously rehearsed this little proposal for her. She should feel… not like she's being backed into a corner.
"So?" Bucky asks. "What do you think? We've missed you."
And it's not that it isn't nice to hear, but the alarm bells in her head are blaring: Storm's coming, Auntie Em. She can get out of this, if she can find the right words. If she downplays it enough, she can make this go away. "I just. I don't think it's a good idea. I've got work, and there'll be auditions, and…"
"We're not asking you to come back forever," Steve says. "It's just one night."
"One night is all it took for Peggy," she hears herself blurt out.
So much for downplaying.
Steve pales. "That's different—"
"How? How is it different?" She's getting loud now, and she can't seem to stop it. "You want me to—after finding out that you've been harboring a sexual predator—come back and pretend everything's fine?"
Becca suddenly bounces to her feet. "Hannah, wanna see the new skirt I got from Anthropologie?"
"No," Hannah replies, staring between Angie, Steve and Bucky with avid interest.
"Come see my new skirt," Becca insists, grabbing Hannah's wrist. The rest of their friends quickly follow along.
"What the fuck, Angie?" Bucky hisses when they're out of sight, springing to his feet. Steve slides over to fill his space, leaving Angie suddenly bereft. "You think that's a story I want my family knowing about?"
She scoffs. "Well that's a ringing endorsement. 'Come to our Valentine's party! So traumatic, you'll be afraid to tell your family!'"
"Everyone just calm down," Steve says, trying to sound reasonable, but he's the one who started this, and Angie doesn't want to calm down.
"Look, I left SHIELD because I know it makes Peggy uncomfortable, and I wanted to be a good friend, show my support. That hasn't changed."
Bucky's hackles go up even further. "So now we're not good friends?"
Shit, she doesn't want this. "I didn't say that," she insists, while Steve just says "Buck" like that will do anything. It won't. Angie knows there's no stopping this train.
"You did say that," Bucky says, proving her right. "We were actually there when it happened, and we didn't leave SHIELD after she did—"
"Yes, Bucky, thank you so much for reminding me that I'm not really part of your neat little family, but just because you've known Peggy longer doesn't mean—"
"That's not what Bucky meant," Steve says.
"Thanks for translating," Angie spits, unable to resist the insecurity that spikes deep into her chest at the way Steve's hand has gone to Bucky's arm, placating him. Like he needs protecting from her. "Wonder what he'd say if you'd let him speak for himself."
"I don't want to fight about this," Steve says. Too late.
"Well he clearly does!"
"I just don't get what your problem is," Bucky grits out. "It was years ago. Steve and I run the club now, we oversee everything. Howard still comes. Hell, even Colleen shows up to our events."
"Yeah, and Peggy doesn't."
"I think you're being a bit overprotective."
Angie almost laughs "Like you're one to talk? Mr. I Set My Own Alarms To Make Sure Steve Takes His Meds?"
"That has nothing to do with this," Bucky argues. "And Peggy not showing up to SHIELD anymore doesn't mean she doesn't trust us."
"Maybe she shouldn't!" Even as she says it she knows she's crossing a line, but it feels too late to turn back now. And she's right about this, she's sure she is. "I mean, who does that? Who finds out their club is a popular hangout for an attempted rapist and then stays?"
Bucky looks taken aback, like maybe he sort of sees her point, but Steve—Steve looks betrayed. Heartbroken.
"And what kind of person would I be if I left?" he asks quietly.
She feels like she can't breathe. "What are you talking about?"
"So you leave. Then what? Nothing's changed. Nothing's been made better. Maybe it's naive of me, but I feel like if you don't stay and try to make a stand, you're letting them win. Sometimes doing the right thing means saying 'I won't let this place belong to you. It's mine; get out.'"
"You're right," Angie says. "It is naive of you. Abusers aren't schoolyard bullies, Steve, they don't pull on your hair to announce themselves. They sneak in like a virus. They're liars and manipulators and they're charming as hell. You told me yourself—if Dottie hadn't tried to push the drugs off as Peggy's idea, you all would have believed her."
"Dottie's been banned—"
"The world is filled with Dotties!" Angie cries. God, she hopes Becca and Hannah can't hear them. "And—if you couldn't even stop her—if you didn't even notice, and she—Peggy is your best friend, and you didn't—" She can't find a way to end this sentence that isn't terrible, but it doesn't seem to matter.
Steve gapes at her. "So I should… what? Just give up because I made one mistake—and thanks, by the way, for really beating that in—and never try to fix it?"
"I'm saying you can't fix this, Steve." She takes a gulp of air, willing herself to stop yelling. "There's not a safeguard in the world that can turn back time, and once they're in, they're in to stay. Something like this happens, it's always better to just get out of dodge as fast as you can—"
"Like what you did with Ohio?"
The sudden question hits her in the chest like a two-by-four, and for a minute all she can do is stare.
"What," Angie says. Some part of her dimly registers Bucky standing up and leaving the room, hands raised like he's trying to give them some space, and if Bucky's bowing out, they must have really hit some kind of point of no return. "What—"
"I didn't mean it like—" Steve sighs, running a hand through his hair, "I'm not trying to make you upset, I swear, I just—"
"No," she says, backing away from him and feeling cold all over, "No, you just assumed, right? That I must've been running away from something worth fixing, because I'm not as high-minded and brave as you are—"
"I didn't mean it like that," Steve insists, "I just… you never call them, Angie, you didn't even call them on Christmas, and—you haven't said anything about calling them today—"
Angie barks out a shaky laugh. "They're not worrying over me right now, trust me."
"—and then you say things like that and I just. Sometimes you don't tell us stuff, and you really should."
He's looking at her like she's some kind of device that might explode at any second—or worse, like she's being an unreasonable child, tantruming at nothing. And if that's what he wants, then—fine. "Why?"
He blinks, taken aback. "Why?"
"Why should I tell you anything?"
His mouth works for a few seconds, like he's forgotten how to speak. "I—Christ, Angie, so we can help."
"Not everything can be helped, Steve. Believe it or not, there are problems in the world that can't be talked through or hugged out. Some things just are, and throwing yourself at them is only going to hurt. And the fact that you clearly have no frame of reference for that is just… it's…"
He doesn't give her enough time to figure out what she's trying to say. "Well maybe I've spent a long time hearing people tell me I can't do things, did you ever think of that? Maybe I'm sick of hearing that I'm too weak or helpless to make a fucking difference."
She throws her hands up in frustration, because that's not what she's talking about at all and she has no idea how to make him listen. "This isn't about your body, okay? It's just—how I deal with my family is none of your business."
"But how I run SHIELD is yours?"
"When you try and invite me back? Yes! I gave you an answer, and you wouldn't take it."
"Excuse me for wanting to spend time with you!" Steve shouts, his face turning into something ugly and unfamiliar. "But I guess that's your pattern, right? You shut people out when they get too close."
She can feel the weight of unshed tears stinging behind her eyes, but she won't cry about this, she won't. "And you barge right in whether you're wanted or not, because you're sure you know better than everyone else!" she shouts instead.
"Since when is it a crime to care about people?" he demands, voice cracking.
"It's not, Steve, but you've got to do it on their terms, not yours. You can't just—force yourself on people." She can't stop what comes out of her mouth next, it's on her tongue before she even considers it—"But I guess you can't help it; it's what they teach you in SHIELD, right?"
Steve turns white as a sheet, and Angie suddenly feels like she's going to throw up as she realizes what she's said.
Angie doesn't think about it.
Angie just runs.
She's out the door, down the stairs, and standing on the stoop before she realizes she didn't grab her coat. Hell, she's lucky she has shoes on. The tears that she'd managed to hold back inside fall hard and fast, and she can't believe how thoroughly she's managed to fuck up what had been a wonderful day.
Everything in her says go. Get down into the subway where it's warmer, hop a train, and get far, far away from the mess she's made. But no, her MetroCard is in her purse, which is still up in the apartment, just like the coat she's too cowardly to go back for. She starts walking, checking her pockets mechanically for supplies, but the only thing she has on her is… well.
She pulls out her phone with shaking hands, dialing on autopilot.
It rings six times before anyone picks up.
"Happy New Year," she rasps, trying to keep her voice from wavering. (She amazingly fails.)
Peggy laughs. "Bit late for me and early for you, I'm afraid; when was the last time you looked at a—Angie? Angie, are you crying?"
The phone is vibrating like crazy in Angie's grip—probably Steve calling her, which she's not even remotely prepared to deal with. She shivers. "No, I…"
Yes. There's no point in hiding it; a loud sob bubbles up from her throat.
"What's happened? Are you okay?" Peggy demands, any vestiges of sleep gone from her voice.
"M'fine, I just… fuck…"
"Angie, you're scaring me. I need you to tell me what's going on."
"I screwed up, Peggy, I really screwed up."
The phone buzzes again in Angie's rapidly-numbing grip. Either he left a voicemail or he's texting her, now. Brilliant.
"Are you somewhere safe?" Peggy asks.
Angie looks around at the quiet, snowy street, then down at herself, in her cardigan. For a given definition of safe…
There's a Starbucks around the next corner, she thinks. She can hide out here. "Yeah."
"Did you get hurt?"
"Please, talk to me."
"I was—we were just talking, everything was going so well. But then they started asking me about—whatever, it's not important. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have called you, I…"
Peggy makes soothing noises on the other end of the line. "It's okay. Slow down. It's okay. Is Steve with you?" Of course, that only makes Angie sob harder.
"Oh, Angie, I'm sorry. Hush, my darling. It's okay."
But it's not okay. The Starbucks is dark, its door locked, because it's New Year's Eve and everywhere that isn't a bar is closed for business, which she would have realized if she'd used her brain for maybe three seconds. She opens her mouth to try to explain—or maybe just to cry more—but before she can, Steve comes barreling around the corner, clutching her jacket and dressed as though prepared for an Arctic expedition. He almost plows right into her.
For a moment they stand frozen, unable to do anything but stare at each other. It looks like Steve's been crying, too, Angie thinks—the red rim around his eyes makes his irises look impossibly bluer.
"Peg, I—I'll call you back," she mumbles, hanging up even as she can hear Peggy's tinny protests through the speaker. She can't have any distractions if she's going to say this next thing right: "Steve, I didn't mean it."
Hearing her voice seems to snap Steve out of whatever daze he was in, and suddenly his hands are all over her as he wrestles her into the coat and starts marching her back the way they came. "I am furious with you right now. Jesus, Ange, it's freezing outside! You coulda been anywhere, you weren't answering your phone, I thought…" Rather than telling her what he thought, he pulls out his phone and dials. "Bucky, I found her. Yeah, you can—yeah, we're heading back now." Angie just lets him yank her around as his voice washes over her, because Christ, it's been a while since she's been this stupid.
The onslaught continues once they're back inside the brownstone, and it occurs to her that he's not pushing her, he's hugging her—or trying to, anyway. She wants to pull away, but he's warm and she's so, so cold, and he's still ranting at her, only she must not be hearing him right because she thinks he's saying "I'm sorry. God, I'm so sorry."
"But you're mad at me," she points out, feeling like she's missing something.
He huffs, frustrated. "I can't be both?"
Angie sniffles. "You don't have anything to be sorry about. I basically accused you of being a rapist; I'm the one who should be sorry. And I am, Steve, I'm so sorry, I—"
Steve shakes his head. "But it never should have gotten that far. All you were trying to do was stand up for Peggy, I'm the one who made it personal. I know you wouldn't have said it unless I was seriously freaking you out."
"I screamed at you. And Bucky. In the middle of a party you were kind enough to invite me to, and god, now the Barneses probably hate me—"
Steve squeezes her tighter. "Nobody hates you."
"—and you could've been down here this whole time, spending the holidays where you belong, but you stayed at school with me and I was so selfish and…"
"You're not. I shouldn't have said anything, okay? I started this, it was my fault."
"It's just—I didn't want to talk about it, but you kept pushing, and…" She can't help but lean into his embrace, despite herself. "This is a nightmare. I'm so sorry, Steve. I didn't mean it, I swear."
"Angie," Steve says, and it takes her a second to realize the shaking in his chest is laughter. "Eventually one of us is gonna have to let the other one apologize. We're Catholic; we could out-guilt each other all night. And then Bucky will eat up all of the pizza and we'll miss the ball drop."
She nods; lets him pull away from her and wipe at her tears with his thumbs. "I wasn't sure you'd want me to come back," she admits.
"I know. That's why I chased after you."
He looks so earnest. But ten minutes ago they were at each other's throats, and she just… "We're done now, right?" she asks in a small voice.
"No more fighting," he agrees.
Steve starts leading her up the stairs; she can finally feel her fingers again. "I should probably call Peggy back; I think I scared the crap outta her."
"Yeah, well. She's not the only one," Steve says, opening the apartment door long enough for her to pass him before closing it shut behind them.
Becca immediately asks if she can do Angie's nails, which—she figures maybe Steve could use the break from her, so why not? She gives Peggy a quick call to explain everything (in broad terms) while Bucky's sisters paint her toes violet. When Bucky comes back she apologizes to him too, which he's begrudgingly gracious about, and by the time the evening draws to a close it seems like the whole thing's been forgotten.
Angie hasn't forgotten.
Steve rolls over and punches his pillow for probably the fifth time since he went to bed, the fold-away cot Bucky's mom set up for him doing a number on his back. It's got nothing to do with why he can't sleep—he keeps running through the fight in his head, over and over, trying to find the moment he could have stopped things from derailing—but he wishes he could be comfortable while he broods. If this were last night, he'd at least have the ability to look down and check on Angie, but she'd opted for the living room couch over Bucky's floor tonight… not that he can blame her.
He glances at the clock radio—it's nearing four AM.
Sighing heavily, he pulls off the covers and gets to his feet. He's being stupid. Angie's probably asleep, and even if she's not, he's sure she doesn't want to talk to him. But he still feels unsettled, and he's sick of putting off important conversations with her. This one, he thinks, shouldn't wait.
He pads into the living room by the light of the street lamps through the windows, careful to avoid the squeakier planks in the floor. Angie is curled into a ball on the fold-out, facing away from him. He watches the movement of her shoulder blades, her breathing deep and even, but—well, it's not like she'd be the first person in the world to feign sleep.
"Hey," he whispers, wincing at the way his voice still cuts through the quiet. "You up?"
She turns over without a word, looking up at him with wary eyes.
"Can I, uh…?" he asks, gesturing at her blankets, and at her nod he slips in next to her. He means to keep his distance, let her have whatever space she needs, but her arms wrap around him the second he's in grabbing range, Angie clinging to him like a barnacle. He chooses to take this as a good sign, and takes a deep breath. "We're okay, right?"
"We're always okay, Steve," she responds dutifully. The now-rote answer would bother him if she weren't also entwining their legs and clutching at his shirt like some kind of life buoy.
"I'm so sorry about before."
"I know you are. I am, too."
Cautiously, he reaches up and runs a tentative hand through her hair. She all but melts into him; encouraged, he starts scratching gently at her scalp. Angie has a thing about hands in her hair, he thinks, check, but now's not the time or the place. He takes another deep breath.
"Ange," he ventures, "if I ask you a serious question, will you promise to answer it honestly?"
He can feel her stiffen up. "Yeah," she says after a moment.
"The way you talked about them in SHIELD, I never thought… but you hate calling them, and you didn't want to go back to Ohio for break, and Peggy got worried, and now I'm worried. And what you said tonight, about the world being filled with Dotties and how some things can never be changed and it will only hurt to try…" None of this is a question. "Are you okay at home?"
The three seconds it takes for her to consider her answer nearly kill him. "My parents have never laid a finger on me, if that's what you're asking," she finally says.
He swallows. "There are plenty of ways to hurt people without touching them." After a moment's consideration, he snorts derisively. "I think I proved that tonight."
"Oh, Steve, no. It's not like that," she says, and her frank, almost bored tone makes him inclined to believe her. "Shit, I didn't think I was being so dramatic about it. I never wanted to make you guys worry."
"I know; you never do. So it makes it kind of hard to tell if something's really wrong."
She sighs. "I wasn't trying to be secretive, it just… never felt like something worth discussing. Like, take before, talking about Dottie. Who wants to hear about my stupid problems when Peggy's dealing with something like that?"
"I do," Steve says, with such conviction that he wrings a quiet laugh out of her as she tucks herself more fully into the crook of his neck. "So—if it's not too much to ask—would you tell me about it?"
Out on the street, a siren wails in the distance as she thinks.
"They put you in boxes, is all," she mumbles once the noise is past. Her voice is quieter now, sleepier. "And nothing bad happens if you leave the box, I guess, not really, it's just—there's everyone else in boxes, and they fit just fine and they seem real happy in 'em, and you start to wonder what's wrong with you, that you're the only one the boxes don't work for. And I thought going to college would fix it, but it was just… more of the same. More boxes."
"So you transferred."
"So I transferred. And once you've gotten out of the box, it's just… it's really, really hard to go back in. Even just for a phone call."
Steve hums in understanding. "So your problem is basically Jessie's subplot in Toy Story 2, is what you're telling me."
Angie bats him on the chest. "Now that Sarah McLachlan song is gonna be stuck in my head all night, you jerk." He opens his mouth to respond, but Angie's phone buzzes before he can, lighting up the room. She rolls away from him to check it. "S'Peggy. Guess she just woke up, and now she's like did I dream that? is Steve being nice? are you okay? Bet you got the same."
"What a worrywart."
"Should I text her back?"
"Nah. Then she'll just nag us for still being awake. We'll talk to her in the morning."
Angie settles back into her spot against him; his fingers find their way back into her curls. "I miss her like crazy," Angie admits softly.
"Join the club."
"D'you think… Is it silly of me to think that we wouldn't have fought if she'd been here?"
"Well, I wouldn't have brought up SHIELD with her around, but we probably would've found something else to fight about. We've been getting along so well; we were due."
"That's a nice thought," she says dully.
"No, I mean it. Getting into disagreements is normal. I don't want you to think you've got to hold your opinions back to keep the peace all the time, okay? People fight, they make up. But I'm not going anywhere."
Angie hums. "In that case," she says, drawing it out like she's not sure how to say what she wants to say next. "You know you can't… fix… everything, right? I mean, I see how hard you've been working to make SHIELD a safe space, and that's good. Peggy should trust you—you and Bucky both. But it doesn't change the fact that… I mean. Peggy will still never…"
"I know. But… what else am I supposed to do?"
She strokes lightly at his chest with her thumb; he wonders if she can feel the way his heart picks up at the attention. "Some things are too big for just one person. To me, it's like—if I have to choose between saving the world and being there for Peggy, I'm gonna choose Peggy every time."
"But we shouldn't have to choose," he insists, aware of how petulant he sounds.
"Yeah, well. Life's not fair."
He drops a kiss onto the crown of her head, unsure of what to say. The fight's still nagging at him; he can't get the look on her face out of his head. "Listen." He swallows. "About what you said before—"
"Oh god, which bit?"
"About, um. Not being a part of our family." She goes rigid against him, but he plows forward. "I want you to know that—that Bucky doesn't think that. Buck… Bucky knows exactly how much you matter to all of us. And you're so, so important to him."
"Oh yeah?" she snickers, pinching his chest. "I'm important to Bucky, am I?"
"Very," he intones.
"Yeah, well. Tell Bucky I'm pretty stuck on him, too."
Steve feels like his smile could light up the dark.
They quiet, after that. He can feel Angie stifling a yawn against him. "S'nice," she murmurs after a long moment. He assumes she means her hair.
"That's the idea," he chuckles.
"M'gonna fall asleep if you keep that up," she warns.
"Again: kind of the idea, Ange."
"But you should… Mrs. Barnes'll…"
"Fred's used to finding me in places I shouldn't be in this house, believe me."
"Okay," Angie breathes, and he guesses she must have been fighting it off because she's out like a light, after that.
In the morning, they're woken by the flash of Bucky's camera going off as he gathers incriminating evidence. Steve can't complain, really—the pictures of him and Angie snuggling are the only thing that gets the stream of adorably concerned texts from Peggy to finally stop.
Steve saves his favorite one as his lock screen.
Two days into the new year, Peggy's mother casually asks her, over afternoon tea, if she's been seeing anyone.
This is code, Peggy knows, for have you started dating Steve yet, because as far as her parents are concerned, that's been a statistical certainty for the past eighteen-odd months, if not longer.
This line of inquiry follows a well-established drill by this point: Mum asks, Peggy says no, Mum sighs in a delicate, understanding, yet still extremely disappointed manner (a nuance that Peggy thinks she herself will probably never achieve), and the conversation moves on. Which is why when Mum asks this time and Peggy spends an even minute choking on her tea instead of saying "no," it causes an understandable panic.
"Peggy! What's—Peg, darling, are you alright? Is it that Underwood girl again, did you—Alistair! Come—"
On cue her father strolls in, looking extremely worried; which is to say, he's frowning slightly. "What's wrong, my darling?"
"Mum," Peggy admonishes, batting away her mother's errant hand. "I'm perfectly fine, really. I was just… I was startled."
Of course that only piques their interest. "Startled?" her father says, raising an eyebrow, "By your mother's routine interrogation?"
"You are seeing Steve now, aren't you?" asks her mother, positively beaming; when Peggy shakes her head, the expression immediately turns back into concern. "Or—is it the Underwood girl again? Darling, your father and I promised to give you some space, but I know you haven't told us everything about—"
"I am not back with Dottie," Peggy snaps, her heart suddenly speeding up. "That's—that's never going to happen."
There's a long pause in which she doesn't look at either of them. Then her father clears his throat. "We trust you, Pigeon, but after your first year, we—well, anybody could tell that you were… ah…"
"It wasn't just heartbreak," her mother picks up, right on cue. "It was—you… whatever happened, and I am not asking, Peg, you'll tell us when you're ready. But whatever happened should have never happened and I—we want to make sure that it will never—we want you…"
"Safe," Dad rumbles, and Mum nods emphatically.
"I know," Peggy says quietly, "I know. And I promise that it's nothing like that, I'd never—it's just complicated, is all, but not in a bad way. I just—"
Of course Harry chooses to barge in at that moment, hair sticking on all sides like he'd been running. "What happened? I heard something about 'Underwood'—Peggy, did you—"
"No," Peggy and her mother say in unison.
"Oh." He exchanges a glance with Peggy, and when she shakes her head again just shrugs. "Who are you shagging, then?"
"Nobody," Peggy tells him very firmly before turning back to her parents. "Absolutely no one. We haven't—Steve—it's complicated."
"So Steve is involved?" her father asks, and there goes that eyebrow again. "I thought you said—"
"I said I wasn't—we haven't—stop that!" she says, the last bit addressed to her brother, who has started humming Get Lucky. Peggy takes a deep breath, not sure how to end this conversation now that they've locked themselves into the cycle of denial. She doesn't want to lie to them—she's had quite enough of that, thank you—it's just that… for now, there's nothing to tell. Nothing they could understand, at any rate. "Steve is…" she begins, don't lie, don't lie, "encouraging me to explore certain options I hadn't considered before. He's been very supportive, and an invaluable guide, but we aren't dating."
Yet, she doesn't add.
"Unexplored options?" Dad repeats, sounding intrigued. "You already like boys and girls, what other options are there? Is there someone—Em, what's the phrase?"
"Non-binary, darling," Mum supplies, sipping her tea.
"That's the one. Have you met someone like that?"
"No, Dad," Peggy murmurs, but her heart is full to bursting all the same.
With all the excitement of the holidays, Angie almost forgets that the reason she stayed behind in the first place hadn't been to have tension of all kinds with Steve.
Which is to say: she does forget, until Steve pokes his head in her room (Bucky's room, Bucky's room, she has to keep reminding herself) one day and says "I'm heading to the campus bookstore. Wanna come? Or you can just give me your list."
Her phone abruptly slides off from where it had been balancing on her nose and clatters onto her forehead. "Ow! I mean. Yes. I mean. The first one."
Steve, to his credit, only laughs at her a tiny bit.
("They have textbooks for Figure Drawing?" she asks as they make their way to campus.
He shakes his head. "Nah, I just need a fresh sketchbook. But I figured you'd need yours for Bio, so…"
Honestly, she doesn't know why she asks him questions. He just turns them into ways to charm her, the jerk.)
In the first week of intersession, Angie almost doesn't see Steve at all. Her Bio class is on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule, and Figure Drawing is on Tuesdays and Thursdays—and both classes go for hours at a time, to make up for the shorter schedule—so it feels like they're always saying goodbye to each other.
On Saturday, at least, they get to hang out… once Angie's done cleaning the apartment, anyway. It's still on the ridiculously domestic side—him clacking away at his laptop while she rereads the first chapter of her textbook for the fifth time, trying to make the information stick—but at least they're together for it. It was her idea, actually: getting everything out of the way so they can really relax tomorrow. Of course, now that she's in the thick of it, it doesn't seem quite so brilliant.
"Oh no," Steve laughs, unexpectedly interrupting the quiet, and Angie looks up from her homework.
"I just got what might literally be the most awkward e-mail of my life. Lorraine, our model for class? She got mono and won't be able to keep coming in. And now Brandt's all 'hey, if you have any friends willing to strip naked for work-study credit…'"
Angie puts her notebook down. "You get work-study credit?"
Suddenly, Steve's not laughing. "You're serious?"
"As the grave. I didn't think I'd need to take a J-term class; credit hours are expensive, Rogers. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do."
"But you wouldn't be—I mean, that is to say—" Steve swallows thickly. (Whenever he gets like this, Peggy or Howard always say the word 'fondue,' which only makes Steve sputter more. It's an inside joke Angie will never understand, but after nearly five months of friendship she'd like to think she's pretty adept at recognizing fondue-face.)
"I'm a theater kid, Steve, I ain't shy." She strikes her best pin-up pose. "Draw me like one of your French girls."
He gives her his professor's email address, and within hours it's all sorted—she has to drop off some paperwork at the Student Employment Center to make it official, but she'll start Tuesday.
"You sure about this?" he asks again anyway, hours later.
She grins at him. "I've got nothing to hide. So I guess the real question is—are you?"
Okay, she really, really didn't think this through.
Volunteering to be a nude model—sure, fine. She stands by it. The money's more than decent and it's a fun resume item.
Volunteering to be a nude model in January… slightly less sound logic. She could have planned that better.
Volunteering to be a nude model in January for a class including her sort-of kind-of boyfriend, covered in goosebumps that have nothing to do with how cold it is because Steve keeps looking at her through his lashes, gaze smoldering, before his eyes dart back to the charcoal in his busy, callused hands?
She's an idiot. She's an idiot who doomed herself with stupid Titanic jokes, because she let herself forget: Leo's never been hotter than he was in that art scene, and the way he was looking at Kate can't even hold a candle to the way Steve's looking at her now.
(Honestly—thank the lord there are a dozen other people in this room for her to focus on, because if not she'd be wet by now and that… would probably be really inappropriate for an accredited college course. If she had to guess.)
"Okay everyone," Brandt says, cutting through the quiet symphony of scratching, "let's take five."
Angie breaks her pose with a sigh of relief and stoops to shrug on her robe. "Hey, Professor? Can we turn up the heat a little?"
Behind her, Steve stifles a laugh at her unintended euphemism.
Without turning, she casually flips him the bird.
Angie's neck should not physically be possible.
Steve has studied anatomy. He has been thinking about this for the past half hour, mentally comparing her neck to all the other necks he's seen before, in class and out of it. And he's pretty sure Angie's neck is just not allowed.
Granted, he now has other, equally strongly-felt convictions about the rest of her. Hard as he's been trying not to.
He hasn't ever had to struggle like this before—has never been attracted to any of the models in his classes. Which isn't to say they haven't been beautiful, but in the context of the studio, with his charcoal in his hands… he's always been able to turn that part of himself off. To study the human form as a series of interlocking shapes, the three-dimensional poetry of musculature, fat, and bone gorgeous to him in a way that never had anything to do with sex.
But when he looks at Angie's body, he doesn't see a body. He sees Angie.
He doesn't know why this—this situation, this intersection between Angie and his art—suddenly feels so weird. It's not like he didn't just pour weeks into designing a comic book that was all about her; not like even before that there hadn't been little sketches— quick, intimate ones of her just working, or reading her lines, when he thought he could get away with it. Hell, it's not like he's never imagined Angie naked before this either. But there's just something about her being in this room, laid bare, that…
Angie chooses that moment to twitch and then sneeze, which doesn't help at all. "Sorry? Sorry."
Steve gives her a pained smile before focusing on his easel again, willing himself to work faster.
Angie manages to tamp down her curiosity for a respectable ten minutes after class is over and she's dressed before aiming a swipe at Steve's sketchbook. "Lemme see."
Instead of doing something more—well, more normal, he stares at her blankly for a full five seconds before giving her a slow smile. "Oh. Um… here."
"That bad?" she jokes before she finds the page and her mouth falls open a little. Angie's no artist—the greatest drawing she's ever done was probably an "Amazing Dogs" poster board for third grade. Still, she can feel a strange intensity just looking at this drawing of her that goes beyond just appreciating anatomical correctness.
"They're not finished yet," Steve says as she flips from one drawing to the next, and Angie feels her face heat up from the sudden shift in the timbre of his voice—like he's showing her his favorite pieces at the Met all over again. "I mean, for class they are, but I thought I could…"
"Oh, I think this one really captures me," she snorts, finding a rough doodle of herself giving him the finger that he must have drawn during their break.
He turns to the next page for her, urging her back to the serious poses. "I think they all do," he says.
Angie stares down at his work again. She's beautiful—he drew her beautiful.
"They're not finished," Steve repeats, tugging the sketchbook gently out of her hands.
"I love them," she tells him, but when all she gets in response is another distracted smile the appreciation is unsettled a little. "Hey, Steve… Was I—I mean, did I do okay?"
He stares at her, confused. "What?"
"I mean. Not that I was—fixated on what you were doing or anything, but your eyes kept kind of doing this shifty thing, a-and I know I'm not supposed to move and I sneezed, and I've never done this—"
"Angie!" Steve grabs her hand and gives it a squeeze. "Angie, you were great, you were—amazing. You don't need to worry."
She blinks at his widening smile. "Oh. Amazing, huh?"
"Because I was wondering, could we put 'amazing' on my business card? Or maybe 'professional muse?'"
Instead of teasing her back, Steve just smiles again and—to her surprise, kisses her on the cheek. "'Professional muse' sounds just fine to me."
It's a bit ridiculous when Peggy thinks about it—though she and Jarvis both live in London, they don't see each other at all until he invites her on a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon.
"Remind me again," Peggy asks when they meet up at Marylebone, "Why exactly we've decided to do precisely the starry-eyed tourist rubbish we hate to see in others instead of going somewhere more sensible?"
Jarvis brings his steaming mug of tea to his mouth as if to drink before wincing and blowing on it a little more. "I require a sample of Anne Hathaway's mint," he replies primly.
"They're plants that happened to have sprung up on a lot where her garden may have been," Peggy corrects, "Hardly the heir of some great horticultural legacy."
"A team of gardeners painstakingly maintain the site, plants as exquisite as those mints did not just spring up," Jarvis says, actually puffing up in indignation before meeting her unimpressed gaze. He wilts immediately. "And I did think—given that we belong in a Shakespeare society—that this would be appropriate."
"There's plenty of Shakespeare within reach without having to jump for the nearest tourist trap," Peggy mutters.
"I have every faith that we will not be obnoxious enough to be mistaken for Americans."
"They aren't so bad," Peggy says, utterly without thinking.
Jarvis pauses in the middle of trying to sip his tea again, raising a pointed eyebrow.
"That's—I just mean," she stutters, "Of course as tourists they're usually awful, but in other cases I think… it'd be nicer if London were as enthusiastic and—unconventional."
"Hm. And I suppose you appreciated America's unconventional turn as Viola and Sebastian in our production of Twelfth Night?"
She kicks him, scuffing his wingtips on purpose. "How is Budapest this time of year, Edwin?"
Her comment doesn't really evoke a satisfactory response; instead of pouting Jarvis looks absolutely crestfallen. "Well. I wouldn't know, would I?"
Well, the sad and slightly-lost expression on his face is really unfair. Peggy slumps further down next to him on the bench they're sharing. "She has called?"
That at least makes Jarvis brighten a bit. "Absolutely. We Skype and call at least every day, and she sends me the most lovely letters. Still, I… it's not really the same."
Peggy bumps him gently in the shoulder. "No," she agrees, "It really isn't."
Jarvis lets out a slow breath, and then musters up a smile. "At least I didn't need to embark on an overwrought metaphor to express my affection. Of course, nothing in Hungary is worthy of Anna, but—"
She huffs. "See if I ever commiserate with you again."
He just laughs at her, and after a few moments Peggy laughs with him. She has missed Jarvis, ridiculous quirks and all; she's missed Colleen, too, and all of SSR—even perhaps Howard. Before this year, the way she divided her attention among her friends during breaks had been far more… democratic.
"We should do this more often," she says, "Not—go to outrageous lengths just to secure a mint, but maybe… RSC's doing the Henriad, we could catch a show before term starts."
"Shakespeare within reach?" Jarvis asks, still smiling.
"Naturally," she replies, before her phone rings and rather ruins the moment. "Oh, it's Steve. I should probably—"
"By all means," Jarvis says, shifting to a smirk.
"Sod off," she mutters to him before accepting the call. "Steve?"
The voice that answers is breathless and almost panicked. "Peg. Peggy, you've gotta come back right now."
"What?" Her mind flashes instantly back to New Year's and Angie's phone call. "What's happened now? Are you two alright?"
"No," Steve says, before pausing. "What? I mean, yes, we're both—technically fine—but Peggy, it's…"
"Steven Grant Rogers," Peggy threatens, "If you don't clarify what the hell you're talking about this instant, I will go back to the States and shove my foot so far up—"
Beside her, Jarvis gives a polite cough that is definitely a laugh.
"Angie signed up to be a nude model in my Figure Drawing class," Steve gets out all in a rush, "And for some reason I let that happen because I'm an idiot, and now she's—she's—"
It takes Peggy a moment to process what those words actually mean, sure she'd misheard him. But Steve is still sputtering, and Angie is apparently very much indeed a nude model, and Peggy is so envious she could scream.
So she does, a bit.
"You ungrateful prat! Do you think me being all the way across the ocean is a laugh? Why are you calling me to complain about—"
"She sneezed in the middle of a session," he interrupts.
"Oh yes. Most adorable thing you've ever seen."
Peggy groans. "She didn't."
"Like a kitten," Steve elaborates, "And it was—she's so—I wanna be a gentleman about all of this, Peg, but seriously? Seriously?"
"Well, what do you want me to do?"
"Come back," Steve says, sounding like he's grinding his teeth, "Or—or get her to stop."
"That's like trying to get the Atlantic to dry up," Peggy replies, feeling all kinds of… she doesn't know. Frustrated, jealous, confused? Vaguely pleased that Steve decided that having her back would fix whatever's going on? "I'm going to hang up now."
"Nope," she interjects, "Whatever—crisis of cute you're arriving at right now, you can handle it yourself. I've got another engagement, thankyouverymuch."
Steve sputters more, but before he can summon up anything coherent Peggy ends the call. Jarvis is still smirking terribly, so she pushes any thoughts of Steve and Angie (or naked Angie) away for the moment and smirks back. "So. Where were we?"
Routine falls once again upon Angie and Steve, without their realizing. Angie can no longer sleep late, and Steve no longer finds himself compelled to sketch—his arm and wrist often sore after class, his creative juices run dry—but beyond that, their weeks are just as predictable and familiar as before. Steve still isn't half the cook Angie is, but he tries to take care of her on the days when she comes home from Bio and marches straight into Bucky's room, intent on finishing her homework by night's end so it's gone and done. He makes sandwiches, mostly, or the occasional Amy's frozen dinner, when he doesn't have the energy. And when her lack of procrastination pays off and they find themselves with whole days spread before them, they Skype Peggy and watch season after season of America's Next Top Model.
It's easy to pretend things will be like this forever, so they do.
"I do hope you think of me, when you're together," Peggy says. It's late for her—nearing 2am—and she's just punchy enough that the question no longer seems forward. They've been talking for hours, Angie sitting on Steve's lap to stay in frame, as has been her custom lately. Peggy didn't notice when they stopped sitting side by side; she feels as though she should have.
Angie gives her a tender look—purposefully, dragging her eyes up to the camera instead of at the screen. Doing her best to look Peggy in the eye, across an ocean. "Of course, English. You're our missing Musketeer."
Peggy knows it's foolish to ask, that even the best case scenario will just leave her sexually frustrated, but—"What's it like?"
"A little repetitive, actually," Steve says with a laugh. "I think we're starting to get cabin fever with just the two of us."
Peggy smiles, catching his drift. "Perhaps you need a third, then."
"I've been sayin' that for days. I think Howard's back in town by now; we should invite him over," Angie says, turning to address that last to Steve.
Peggy's jaw drops. "I beg your pardon?"
"I don't have the spoons for Howard," Steve argues. "I'd rather just wait for Bucky."
"Sorry, Pegs," Angie says, clearly amused at how worked up she's getting, "But you can't expect us to ignore every other option until you get back to the States."
"And why on earth not?"
"Hold on," Steve says, brow furrowed. "Peggy, what are you talking about?"
"Being your—third Musketeer. What are you talking about?!"
"I—oh my god. Peggy, nothing's happened between us. Is that what this is about?"
Peggy looks back and forth at the two faces on her computer screen, reading the baffled embarrassment there like a book. "Do you honestly mean to tell me," she says slowly, already knowing it to be true, "that you have been drawing Angie in the nude for over a fortnight, now, and you've not—you haven't—?"
"Of course not!" Angie says, turning red as she climbs off Steve, like she's trying to prove the point.
"We'd never, Peg. Not without you," Steve agrees.
"Good lord," Peggy stutters, flattered and flustered and, honestly, a little bit annoyed. "Have you even kissed?"
Their guilty looks answer the question for her. Merciful heavens, does she have to do everything around here?
"That's it. I'm taking charge. The two of you are kissing, right now."
"English, you can't just—"
"Oh yes I can. Steve?"
Steve, thankfully, is already on it, lifting up a hand to turn Angie towards him.
Obviously there's no way to truly measure it, but Peggy is pretty sure she can see the exact moment that the two of them forget they're being watched. The pad of Steve's thumb comes up to brush against Angie's cheek, her lips part slightly as he pushes his hand back to tangle his fingers in her hair, and—there it is. Pure, unselfconscious connection, right before they meet.
Peggy watches greedily as one kiss becomes two, then three.
"Enjoying the view?" Angie finally asks, smirking against Steve's mouth. "We can hear you breathing, you know."
"Yeah Peg, stop breathing so loud," Steve adds.
"Oh, hang up already and enjoy yourselves," Peggy grumbles, not feeling rejected in the slightest when they listen to her orders.
She has some things she'd like to handle privately, anyway.
The next day, Angie shows up to Figure Drawing with an unmistakable hickey on her clavicle. Steve had assumed she was going to cover it up with concealer or something, but instead she accepts the catcalls from the guys, the giggles and high-fives from the girls with a savage sort of smugness, and she doesn't look at Steve for the entire duration of class, not once.
(They don't even make it back to the apartment, after. She backs him up into an empty classroom and makes out with him until he can't see straight, then takes a selfie of the two of them—kiss-dizzy and rumpled—and texts it to Peggy.
They get a string of angry emojis in response.)
The problem with being given permission to kiss Angie is that now Steve has a hard time convincing himself it's worthwhile to do things that aren't kissing Angie.
He hadn't had this problem with Peggy—but then, circumstances had been different. They were worried about pushing Angie away, and then the semester was basically over and he had to shove her on a plane. Angie, however, is here—distractingly so. Frowning adorably as she does her homework on the couch; chopping, grating and stirring with confident hands in the kitchen; dancing around in her sports bra cleaning the apartment every weekend, smirking at him as she sings along to whatever bouncy classic she's got playing.
It's not like she minds him kissing her in these moments—or at least, he hasn't heard any complaints—but god, it's distracting as hell.
It would be one thing if it were any easier on the days when she has class and he's got the apartment to himself, but… even before the other night, he'd tended to spend those afternoons napping in the living room.
If… by napping… you mean laying on the couch with a hand in his shorts, thinking about the girls.
Now that he's tasted both—now that he knows the way Peggy's breathing speeds up when she watches him touch Angie, now that he's intimately familiar with every inch of Angie's naked body thanks to Figure Drawing—he pretty much depends on these hours of privacy if he expects to be any company to Angie at all when she's actually around, instead of a hormonal mess.
Which would be fine, you know, if Angie's professor didn't let her out early on Monday afternoon.
He hears her key in the lock, but there isn't enough time, he can't—
"Steve? I'm—eep!" Angie yelps, letting out a few more squeaky noises as she slams the door closed again, hiding herself in the hallway. After a few moments, he hears her add "…I'm home," meekly through the door.
He groans, head falling back against the armrest in shame. "I noticed."
"I'm just—I'm gonna—I think I'll take a walk around the block," she stutters.
"Sounds good," he says, voice strangled.
She doesn't come back for a half hour, which would be considerate if it weren't mortifying. They don't talk about it, thank god, but he can see the way she keeps looking at him out of the corner of her eye.
(That night, he dreams that instead of leaving she'd opened the door again, biting her lip, face nervous but hungry. "You know," Dream Angie says, "If you want, I could help you with that…"
He wakes up hard, aching for a hand that isn't his own.)
Peggy lays on the couch in the sitting room, listlessly scrolling on her phone through all the pictures Steve and Angie have sent her since she left—the sheer volume of which has become so great they've earned their own folder in her photo app—trying not to feel sorry for herself. The end of break is finally in sight, she'll be back within the week, but… it's been hard, having to watch from a distance.
"Whoa, Steve and Angie are dating?"
Peggy nearly falls off the sofa, she startles so badly at the sound of Harry's voice behind her. "Bloody hell! Where did you come from?" she demands, clutching a hand to her heart.
He shrugs, vaulting himself over the back of the couch to sit next to her. "Same place as you; Mum's womb."
"I should get you a collar with a bell on it."
"You'd have heard me if you weren't brooding," he says, with an insufferable smile. He nods to her phone. "How long has that been going on?"
"It's… quite new," she says, honestly still adjusting to the fact that the name Angie came out of his mouth. It's not like they've never spoken about her, and he follows Peggy on every social account she has, so of course he knows what Angie looks like, but… it's the first time he's said her name in Peggy's presence, like she's just a normal, casual part of Peggy's life, and the fact that he did so while pointing out something that is both completely true and utterly false is… a lot to take in.
He makes a sympathetic face. "I'm sorry, Pegs."
"What on earth for?"
"I really thought you'd have snatched one of them up by now. Guess they got tired of waiting and snatched up each other."
Though she knows she should be uncomfortable at how close he's getting to the truth, Peggy finds herself rather touched at her brother's thoughtfulness. "Yes, well. I'll find a way to survive. Don't tell Mum, alright? She'll be heartbroken."
"Sure. Mum will," he sighs, before getting up patting her awkwardly on the upper arm. "Chin up, shoulders back—that's the Carter way. I'm sure you'll find someone, eh? Plenty of fish and all that."
"I'll try not to waste away," she calls to his retreating back.
He laughs. "That's the spirit!"
It's harder than Steve thought it would be, moving Angie back into the dorms.
Physically transporting her and her stuff isn't the problem, even if she does give him a heartbreaking look before he goes—like she's a puppy he's been visiting at the pound and now he's leaving without adopting her. But then the face falls away and she beams at him, like it's all just play-acting, and he lets her think he believes it.
But the ghost of her follows him around for days afterwards. He finds himself making trip after trip back to campus—because she left behind her iPod charger, or Bucky found her hairbrush on his dresser, or one of her socks ended up in Steve's laundry. Steve doesn't mind running these errands; he kind of likes the fact that she'd felt comfortable enough to sprawl.
It's the things he can't give back to her that get to him. The plastic cup she'd been using at the bathroom sink; strand upon strand of coppery hair sticking to the couches, clinging to his clothes, tickling the insides of his elbows like she has the power to tease him across time and space.
Bucky, when he cleans, does it to The Strokes—and he keeps his shirt on.
It's what Steve's used to, but it's no longer the same.
Peggy's not apprehensive on the ride back to the States, she's not; the strange mounting compulsion to throw up is because of the turbulence and nothing more.
If she were feeling nervous, though, it'd be because there's really no—protocol, really, for how to greet two people who you very much want to snog, one of whom you have kissed quite thoroughly and one of whom you haven't, particularly if the two of them have also in the mean time kissed each other thoroughly, and often.
In front of you, at your own insistence.
No, there's no code of conduct for that at all.
It occurs to Peggy suddenly, as she guzzles down yet another cup of ginger ale, that what she's feeling might not be so much apprehension as it is insanity.
The plane touches down in what feels like no time at all, only the trek back through customs and across the airport makes up for it—queues upon queues. Finally Peggy gets past security and down the final escalator, and Angie's there, in flannel pajama pants and what looks like one of Steve's T-shirts with the words WELCOME HOME, PEGGY written on in glittery puff paint. Peggy starts running.
"English!" is all Angie has time to squeal out before Peggy decides oh, to hell with it and kisses her full on the lips.
Angie's startled laugh turns into something softer as she kisses back without hesitation, cupping Peggy's cheek with one hand while her free arm winds around Peggy's waist and honestly, why had they waited so long, again? Angie kisses the same way she does everything else—enthusiastically, tenderly, thoughtfully. Peggy gets lost in it, hearing a distant thud that she belatedly realizes was her luggage hitting the floor. No matter. She wasn't carrying anything fragile… she thinks… or…?
"Aw man," a voice says from behind them, and when Peggy breaks the kiss and turns there's Steve, wearing a shirt just like Angie's. "I missed it."
Angie punches him lightly on the arm. "Told you not to take that bathroom break."
Peggy laughs, throwing her arms around both of them at the same time. "Hello, my darlings."