A/N Only amusing myself, as per usual.


"Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate." —Alan D. Wolfelt

The first and most important lesson Angie Martinelli learned growing up is that if you love someone, you feed 'em.

There was never any question, with her Ma and her Nonna cooking up a storm in the kitchen, tenement stuffed to the gills with cousins and siblings all needing a hot meal. The cure for a scraped knee was a kiss and a chance to lick the spoon; not a single holiday, birthday or family reunion went by without a lunch and a dinner to mark the occasion. They're too skinny was often a reason for Angie not to play with the other kids in the neighborhood, like if their parents couldn't care enough to keep 'em fed they weren't the type of people Angie ought to associate with. Angie's not sure that was always fair, but it did, in its own way, seem true somehow.

So she picks up the family philosophy. She learns how to press and knead and fold, to mix and test and experiment. Three days after she's caught in the closet with Theresa Caputo in the ninth grade, Angie shows up on her doorstep with homemade pizzelles, hoping to make amends. (Hoping for a repeat performance, if she's really honest, but she tries not to be.)

'Course, they just end up splattered on Angie's window along with some not-so-friendly words, but it was the thought that counted. It only reinforces the connection, though—if Theresa didn't want the cookies then she didn't want Angie. If she had, well…

Angie doesn't make food for people outside the family after that, not even for the boys who ask.

(It's always the boys who ask.)

She tries to get hired as a cook out of high school—it's better than secretarial school, and Angie knows food—but no one's willing to take a chance on a girl in their kitchen. Waitressing's not bad, but it's not what she wants. She works until she saves up enough to move out of her parents' place in Brooklyn, gets a job at the L&L so she can justify living in Manhattan. And if working in Midtown means she's closer to her auditions, that's no bad thing.

She'd rather be a good actress and a shitty waitress than the other way around, but she'll take what she can get.

Angie develops a game she likes to play with her regulars where she sees if she can guess what they'll order, just by the way they walk in. When she gets good enough at it, assuming what they'll say before they say it, she starts putting in the orders without asking—just for certain people, of course. She doesn't want to get fired. But so long as she guesses right the tips she makes are amazing. Her own personal magic trick.

She has no idea what possesses her to try it on the attractive, mysterious woman who walks in one winter night with a fine dusting of snow on her shoulders and caught in the dark curls of her hair. (That's a lie; she has every idea. She wants to be impressive, and this is the most impressive thing she can do.)

Angie pauses for a moment to study the brunette, taking in her mannerisms as she sits—wonder of wonders—at a booth in Angie's section. "Be with ya in just a sec!" Angie calls, keeping her voice bright and friendly, only to disappear into the kitchen with her ungiven order.

What can she say? Gambling runs in her family.

The hardest part is playing for time after, trying to look busy every time the woman attempts to get her attention and fending off her co-workers, eager to poach her customer. Her shoulders literally sag with relief when Marco rings the bell and hollers for her.

"Here ya go, hon," she says, trying to appear steady and confident as she drops off the food this woman didn't actually ask for.

She gets a puzzled blink in response. "But I haven't even ordered yet."

Angie points to the coffee. "You walked in pinching the bridge of your nose like you needed a stiff drink, and seein' as we don't serve the strong stuff here a coffee seemed your speed." She points to the soup. "After you sat down you were blowin' into your hands somethin' fierce—didn't anyone tell you you'd need gloves on this side of the pond?—so I figured you were looking to get something warm in ya, and only the soups keep their heat very long in this weather. I'd'a given you the chicken noodle but Marco's only just started the new pot, and I figured better to get the tomato in you now than make you wait. As for the pie," she points to that, too, "Well. You had a sad look on and I figure pie's the best cure for a crummy day, and the rhubarb's our best."

The stranger blinks again, taken aback by Angie's monologue. Angie decides to press a little harder, pushing her luck. (Always pushing.)

"How'd I do? I figure the only slip-up was the coffee. If I'd heard the accent first I woulda gotten you tea, English."

"Peggy," she corrects, after taking a moment to realize Angie was addressing her. "Carter."

"Angie Martinelli, nice to know ya," Angie says, tucking her tray under her arm to shake hands. "So was I right? Don't tell me you're allergic to tomatoes."

The woman—Peggy—grins. She has a strong grip, the kind that says she doesn't play games about being weaker than she is just 'cuz she happens to be female. Angie can appreciate that kind of handshake. "Honestly, after the day I've had I'm glad you brought the coffee. A perfect score, Miss Martinelli."

"Well there you go, I already know ya better'n I thought I did."

Angie's gamble plays out in the short term—Peggy leaves a helluva tip—but Angie couldn't have imagined how well it would work out in the long run. She doesn't just get a new regular; she gains a friend.

So for the next few months, she makes it her mission to learn more. She learns Peggy likes her sandwiches dry—no butter, no mayonnaise, which she says is because England is still rationing and she can't break the habit, but Angie secretly suspects is because Peggy's just a pickier eater than she likes to admit; takes her coffee black but her tea with cream and sugar (two bags because one is never strong enough); loves mashed potatoes more than any adult human has business doing, and abhors black pepper—even the scent of someone shaking it onto their food across the automat is enough to make her wrinkle her nose.

Peggy starts dropping in so often that when Angie goes a shift without seeing her, she gets worried. Every once in a while, Angie'll come in for the lunch rush only to find a mug with a tell-tale crimson lipstick stain by the sink waiting to be washed, letting her know she missed Peggy at breakfast, but most of the time there's nothing. No trace—not even for Angie's ever-sharpening eyes, used to doing a lot more noticing now that there's someone to notice. And sometimes, after those missed shifts, Peggy'll come in bruised or limping, only proving Angie right to have been concerned.

All Angie wants to do is take care of her.

Asking her to move in… well, she didn't really mean to say it, but it's not like she was gonna take it back.

She never really expects Peggy to come to the Griffith. But she's tired of being on the outside looking in, tired of only feeding Peggy when she's been asked to when she has so much more to give. Actually getting what she wants is just an added bonus.

So she starts pushing her luck again, showing up at Peggy's door with pie and schnapps. Even if Peggy doesn't want 'em. Maybe even especially then, because that's when she needs caring for most. Eventually, Peggy stops fighting her off.

In fact, Angie realizes as a knock on her door startles her out of a post-shift stupor—eventually, Peggy starts seeking her out.

"I hope I didn't wake you," she says quietly when Angie lets her in. It takes a second for Angie to find her voice, because Peggy's in that black and red silk dressing gown Angie loves so much, and she's taken off her makeup, and it's just… a lot for Angie to take, is all.

"Um, no—no, not at all. Can I get you anything? Tea, or… I think I snagged some rolls from breakfast…?"

"Actually, I brought enough to share," Peggy says, holding up a bottle of whiskey.

"You're a girl after my own heart, English," Angie laughs, closing the door behind them. Peggy's made herself comfortable on Angie's bed, and Angie has to swallow hard before joining her. "Rough day?"

Peggy groans. "You don't know the half of it. Honestly, the only thing that got me through it was promising myself I could have this after," she says, raising her mug as she pours to indicate the room, the bed, Angie.

Angie can feel herself starting to blush. "No kiddin'?"

"Not at all," Peggy says, holding out the mug to Angie before pouring a second one for herself. "In fact, I've been meaning to thank you."

"Me? What for?"

Peggy stares at the floor, looking uncharacteristically ashamed. "For not letting me push you away. I'm not a very easy person to be friends with, I know, and… I want you to know I'm very, very glad to have you. Even if I have a poor way of showing it."

Angie smiles weakly, putting a hand on Peggy's thigh to get her attention. "The way I see it, the biggest mistake a girl can make in this lousy world is tell herself she's alone in it. You just needed to be reminded, is all."

Peggy hums in agreement. "Cheers to that, then."

"Cheers," Angie echoes, and they clink glasses before drinking.

(Peggy's never offered her anything before, not like this. Just this once, just for the evening, Angie lets herself wonder if this is Peggy's way of saying it back.)

Then Peggy disappears.

Then Peggy reappears outside Angie's window, promptly gets arrested, and asks Angie to come live with her.

Moving into Howard Stark's penthouse is, frankly, terrifying. Angie's never seen things so nice in her life, let alone owned 'em, and she's pretty sure her entire tenement building could fit inside this one apartment. The first few days she barely leaves her room, certain that if she touches anything or breathes on it wrong it will crumble in her unworthy hands. To make matters worse, having Peggy as a roommate feels completely different to being her next-door neighbor; no more closed doors, no more places to hide, the number of buffers in place to stop Angie from doing something stupid getting fewer every day.

Honestly, she's still getting used to the idea that Peggy isn't going to get sick of her when Peggy comes into the kitchen one morning and her face falls when she sees Angie already in her diner uniform.

"You have the breakfast shift today?"

Angie shakes her head. "Nah, lunch. If it were breakfast I'd already be gone. That a problem?"

"I suppose not, I was just… well. No offense, but I don't exactly go to the L&L for the quality of the food. I can't say I relish the idea of enduring another ham and cheese sandwich or soggy slice of meatloaf without you there to keep me company."

Angie bites her lip. She shouldn't offer, she shouldn't, but that's a heck of a nice thing Peggy's said, and it just comes out. "I mean… I could always make dinner. Here."

Shit.

"Oh, would you? That would be incredible, Angie, thank you."

"No problem, English."

Well, now she's committed.

It's the first time she's cooked for another woman since Theresa and the pizzelles, and Angie's maybe a bit more nervous about it than she should be. So it's possible she goes a bit overboard—lasagna from scratch, noodles and all. She'd been a little surprised to find a pasta machine in Howard's cupboard, but there's also all sorts of high-tech gadgets in there she doesn't have names for, so she can only assume he bought one just to say he has one of everything.

(She tries out some of the fancier-looking tools while she waits for the water to boil, but the only one she manages to both identify and master is a can opener.)

Peggy laughs when she comes home and sees the spread on the table. "When you said you'd make dinner, I thought it was implied it was dinner for two."

When she says it like that, it almost sounds like a date. And Angie can't afford to think like that.

"Just wanted you to have somethin' good to come home to," Angie mumbles.

Peggy beams at her. "Well you're here, aren't you? I'd have had that anyway."

Peggy really, really needs to stop saying things like that.

(Angie shouldn't have worried about a repeat of the Theresa situation, at least. At the first bite, Peggy makes a noise in the back of her throat so positively indecent Angie dreams about it for days. Then she eats three helpings.)

After that, it's just sort of a given that Angie will cook unless she's taken the closing shift at the L&L—and even then, Peggy often goes to the automat for dinner on those nights anyway, so it hardly makes a difference. The early days of checking mugs for lipstick stains seem like a lifetime ago; now it's rare for Angie to be unaware of Peggy's whereabouts for even a few hours.

So Angie can't help but be a little put out when she works an entire evening shift without hearing from Peggy at all, let alone seeing her. She really could've used her, too—Table 8 was filled with four handsy good-for-nothin's who didn't take no for an answer and stayed for ages. Angie's sure that if Peggy'd been there they would have mysteriously made themselves scarce, but instead they got themselves familiar with her ass and finished the evening by barely leaving thirty cents in tips between 'em, the jerks.

Usually when Peggy skips dinner at the automat it's because she's working late, so Angie doesn't really expect Peggy to be at home when she gets there.

She also doesn't expect to smell smoke, but apparently it's that kind of night.

"What the—?!" she gasps, legs carrying her to the kitchen without a second thought, and she enters just in time to see Peggy douse the oven—her beautiful, custom-made, Stark Industries original oven—in a jet of flame retardant from the fire extinguisher.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I…" Peggy babbles helplessly, and Angie finally gets a good look at her: a bit scorched around the edges, hair frizzy and out of place, a smudge of flour on one cheek. She looks both desperate and desperately adorable.

Angie can't help it. "What did you do?" she cries, but the admonishment is undermined by the fact that she's started laughing. She's never seen anything more ridiculous in her life.

Peggy clears her throat in a useless attempt to regain composure. "I was—well I actually got off of work early this evening, and as I was on my way to the automat I started thinking about the number of times you've simply made my day with a well-cooked meal, and I've never told you, and… er. It occurred to me that I haven't been holding up my end. So I thought I'd come back here and make a casserole for you, only apparently half the devices in Howard's kitchen drawers explode if you don't operate them properly, and I don't know why that surprises me because it's Howard, and—"

"Peg, Peg, take a breath. You were—jeez. You wanted to cook dinner… for me?" Angie asks slowly, sure she's misunderstood.

Peggy smiles sheepishly. "I'm afraid I've made a literal mess of it, but yes."

Every rule about girls Angie's ever had flies completely out of her head as she closes the space between them in three quick strides. "If you don't want this, tell me now, or—"

It would seem that Peggy does want it, seeing as rather than let her finish Peggy instead draws her into a passionate, enthusiastic kiss. For several long minutes they stand together in the kitchen, exploring each other.

"You were gonna cook for me," Angie mumbles happily between kisses, still not quite able to believe it.

To her delight, Peggy blushes. "I—I wanted to show you how much I care for you. Even if I'd been too cowardly to say it."

"You don't gotta explain, English," Angie laughs, kissing her again. "I get it."

After all, it's how Angie's been saying I love you since the day they met.