A/N Part three!
She's not proud of it, but Peggy's thoughts as they pile into Bucky's car at the airport—she, Steve and Angie jamming together in the backseat with her in the middle, which makes Bucky grumble about being treated like a chauffeur—mostly consist of there needs to be so much more kissing. Her body is positively thrumming with energy, truly awake for the first time in two months. All she wants to do is touch, mark, take, make up for the time she's lost.
But she can't; not yet. Howard suspecting is one thing, but making out while Bucky can watch them in the rearview is quite another. She doesn't know how they're going to explain this situation to their friends. Come to think of it, they've barely explained it for themselves. So she supposes that waiting, while currently torturous, is the right thing to do.
In the meantime, Peggy plays with the hair on the back of Steve's neck while he traces patterns on her knee with his fingertips—which is maddeningly arousing, if she's being honest—while Angie holds Peggy's other hand in both of hers, every once in a while stroking absently at Peggy's knuckles with her thumbs. They make small talk about their families and travel and their classes for spring, but none of it really registers.
After Bucky's dropped them off at Peggy's dorm and her suitcases are safely inside, they hightail it across campus to Angie's single, where their privacy is assured—no mysterious Russian suitemates, no Colleen. Just the vague threat of Sarah on the other side of the wall, whom Peggy thinks could frankly use a taste of her own medicine. Peggy's barely walked in before Steve has her up against the door, kissing her needily while she moans into his mouth. He pulls at her peacoat, undoing the buttons, but leaves the scarf when he realizes he can't get it off unless he stops kissing her. Her instinct is to get as close to him as possible, wrap her legs around his waist and let him hold her up, but he's such a wee thing—she'd probably crush him, which would rather ruin the mood.
When they break apart, Peggy looks over Steve's shoulder to see Angie sitting on the bed, winter layers off, staring at them like—like—
"Darling, what is it?" Peggy asks, because Angie is crying, and the whole point is that they're past this now, kissing Steve isn't supposed to hurt her anymore, so why—?
Angie laughs, rubbing away her tears with the heels of her hands. "It's nothing," she insists, but her voice is uneven, and it's not nothing, it's—"It's just that I'm not used to, um." She swallows, then smiles, beatific. "To getting what I want. Like this."
"Angie," Steve chokes, but Peggy is already on it: across the room and kneeling before her, hands palming her knees, stroking up her thighs and back down. Soothing. Sure.
"Always," Peggy swears as Steve sits next to Angie on the bed, wrapping her up in his arms, kissing her shoulder. "We'll always, we'll…" She doesn't know what she's promising, exactly, she just knows that if she can't get Angie to understand she'll have failed spectacularly.
"I know, I know you will, that's why I—" Angie loses her train of thought when Steve kisses her lips, instead, and Peggy is entranced. This is nothing she hasn't seen before, but for the first time she's not three thousand miles away, not five hours ahead, not trapped on the other side of a screen. There's an ease to the way their mouths move together, an implicit choreography that her kisses with them have lacked, but it will come with time. And she's more than willing to put in hours of practice, if that's what it takes.
"Gimme a sec," Steve says against Angie's mouth before pulling back to actually take off his parka. Peggy takes the opportunity to poach Angie from him, yanking her down off the bed and into her lap.
"My turn," she says, and judging by the delighted noise that comes from the back of Angie's throat when Peggy kisses her, Angie has no complaints. The weight of Angie on top of her is so warm and welcome to Peggy that she can't help but moan in return. She slips her hands into Angie's back pockets and squeezes, smirking into Angie's mouth at the way she jerks at the sensation.
"Christ," she hears Steve croak from the bed, which only makes her more smug.
He joins them on the floor, and eventually their fevered need for closeness is sated enough that they finally have their talk—peppered, of course, with the occasional lazy kiss. Or two. Or ten.
They decide that they are, all three of them, officially dating each other… though that's not something their families or friends need to know just yet, in case anything goes wrong. (Angie makes them pinky promise to remain friends over all else, which Peggy finds both adorable and disappointingly pessimistic). Mostly by necessity, they agree that pairing off is not a problem, but graduating past any "previously established physical milestones," as Peggy puts it, requires a three-person consensus—which can be provided via text as a last resort, but preferably with all of them present.
"Should we all spit into our hands and shake on it?" Angie jokes, when it's all over.
Peggy wrinkles her nose in distaste. "How vividly American."
"Admit it, you totally dig our rowdy colonist vibe," Steve teases.
Peggy hides her face in Angie's clavicle to disguise her smile. "Never." Steve laughs and settles in on her other side, and for a long while they stay like that, just soaking in each other's company.
"Hey, Peg," Steve says, breaking the silence. "Stay on this side of the ocean for a while, would ya? It's not the same without you."
"I promise. In fact—I never wish to be parted from you from this day on," Peggy says into Angie's neck.
Angie bats at her. "Oh, come on. The 'you have bewitched me, body and soul' speech? If you're gonna woo us, do it with quotes from the actual book."
"Yeah, Mr. Darcy, woo us," Steve chimes in.
Peggy huffs. "See if I try and be romantic again."
The only problem with having Steve and Peggy in her room, Angie thinks, is how empty it feels after they leave.
It's a bit of a culture shock, having classes start up again after so long away. Peggy finds herself jealous of Angie and Steve for reasons different from the usual—they, having just taken classes at intercession, hardly seem fazed by it at all.
Presiding over the first SSR meeting of the semester is a welcome relief, midway through the week. Though she'd never admit it, Peggy really does like the feeling of being in charge. It keeps her grounded; helps her focus.
"Have you finished the cut of Bloody Margaret?" she asks Sousa, once everyone has settled in.
"Yeah, the script will go out on the listserv tonight, and I've reserved space for auditions Tuesday and Wednesday next week."
They discuss logistics for a while, budgetary concerns and whether they should ask people to print their own scripts or if they should apply for a copier code at the student center again, which degenerates into an argument over whether printing out scripts at all is 'lowkey ecoterrorism.' Peggy tries to be annoyed by it, but she finds herself driven to distraction every time Angie shifts her weight or Steve fidgets. They've always sat on this couch like this, it would have been suspicious not to, but… she can feel the body heat radiating off them, and it's maddening.
"Perhaps we can ask if Cat's Meow is willing to share their copier code with us, they must need one to print their music—"
"Really, Jarvis?" Peggy asks testily, then yelps and jumps to her feet when she feels a placating hand come down on each of her knees. It's a move Steve and Angie have pulled a thousand times before, both together and separately, but she's been aching for them to touch her all night, only they can't.
And now everyone is staring at her.
"Didn't know you were ticklish, Pegs," Howard comments with a raised brow.
Peggy's mouth works, only nothing comes out. Behind her, Steve and Angie sit in alarmed, helpless (unhelpful) silence.
"You didn't?" Colleen says, perhaps two seconds too late to be fully believable. "You should try living with her. She almost punched me in the face when I 'put a blanket on her wrong.'"
"That was one time!" Peggy protests, retaking seat with a huff, and the conversation resumes.
And if Steve and Angie have each inched a few inches away, she can't say she blames them.
"Sorry, I'm sorry," she's babbling ten minutes later, when the meeting adjourns and all three of them come to the unspoken agreement that spending an hour in the same room while not kissing is more than enough, thank you. "I just—your hands, and I panicked—"
"S'okay," Steve grunts as he kisses Peggy so enthusiastically on the lips that he nearly backs her into the rack of mops behind them. "S'fine."
Peggy feels Angie snicker in the middle of… whatever she's doing with Peggy's right collarbone before she taps Steve on the shoulder. "Switch?"
He seems more than happy to oblige, and then it's Angie kissing her so hard that something or a dozen things clatter onto the floor.
There go the mops, Peggy thinks absently, and then has to bite down the urge to burst into hysterical laughter and kill the mood completely. It's just—it seems absurd that they're necking in a bloody janitor's closet like a couple of fifteen year olds. She's seen enough of Grey's Anatomy with Colleen to recognize that this is maybe just something Americans do, but honestly the concept's never been very appealing until…
Well, she supposes anything can be appealing once you've found the right partners.
"Maybe we should come up with a new seating arrangement during meetings," Steve suggests, and Peggy frowns into Angie's lips. She might never be able to stop kissing Steve, if he's going to use his mouth to say such unappealing things when she's not claiming it for a higher purpose.
Angie, however, is smiling into the kiss. "Does that mean I get to be in the middle?"
"You're not even an officer," Peggy protests. "And I like being in the middle."
"I dunno, maybe we should try it," Steve says, and Peggy gasps as suddenly Angie's pushed that much closer to her, Steve's weight pressing Angie into her from behind. He starts kissing at the back of Angie's neck; Peggy actually feels Angie's knees go weak, and redistributes their weight to catch her on her thigh. "There are some bonuses to an Angie sandwich," he concludes.
Angie squeaks in protest when Peggy bypasses her face entirely to kiss Steve over her shoulder instead.
"Drink it, drink it, drink it, drink it!" Colleen cheers, and Angie watches with amusement as Peggy gulps down the last of her coffee. She shouldn't really be hovering over their table so much—even if the L&L is never that busy before 10 AM, because most kids don't want to get up early for a sit-down breakfast before class, it's the principle of the thing.
But hey, Peggy's leaving. Angie'll move in a sec.
"Six minutes to get across campus. Wish me luck!" Peggy says, wrapping her only half-finished bagel in a napkin and standing to leave. "Have a good shift, darling."
"Have a good class," Angie echoes back, and they stare at each other for an awkward moment, wanting to kiss goodbye but unable to do so in front of Colleen. Peggy smiles instead, giving Angie a wink before darting out the door.
Colleen sips at her own coffee. "Ten bucks says she slips on ice and tries to act dignified about the bruise."
"I see that bet, and raise you five that she'll still make it to class on time if she does."
"Oh, you're so on."
Angie looks over her shoulder to make sure her shift manager's not watching, then slips into the booth to take Peggy's spot. "Oh man, sitting. I'm only an hour into my first shift of the year and I've already forgotten what it's like to sit."
"Better get used to being on your feet, hon. The footlights won't strut themselves."
Angie groans and puts her head on the table. "Don't remind me."
"You're not excited for open auds?"
She is! … kind of. The theater department, rather than splitting auditions by production, saves time by having all the shows going up pick from one pool where everyone tries out, writing down their play and role preferences on their sign-up sheet. In theory, it's more efficient this way… but it also means you only get one shot to look good in front of everyone in the department. And if you screw that up…
"I'm gonna end up in someone's sound booth, I just know it."
"What? Don't talk like that. You came into SSR auds last fall a complete stranger, and you walked out with Viola. Don't sell yourself short, Ange. You're a great actress."
"That was different. You guys welcomed me in like family. The kids in my theater classes, though? They'd slit my throat and step over the body if they thought it'd get 'em closer to top billing."
"Good thing they're not the ones casting, then," Colleen says, putting on an encouraging smile.
"Angie!" her boss hollers from the kitchen door, "people are waiting to be seated; what are you doing?"
She scrambles to her feet. "Crap! See? I'm missing cues already."
"You're such a drama queen!" Colleen laughs at her retreating back.
Normalcy sneaks up on the gang despite their best efforts. On the bright side, it only takes a week of classes to realize everyone's schedules intersect on Tuesday afternoons—and only Tuesday afternoons—just long enough that they can have lunch together at the dining hall.
"How was the first meeting of SHIELD?" Howard asks as he drops his tray. "Sorry I missed it; I lost track of time in the lab."
Angie's eyes flit to Peggy automatically, but she doesn't seem at all affected by the topic of conversation.
"It went about as well as any first meet," Bucky says, pinching the bridge of his nose. "We're renaming the acronym."
The table fills with groans. "What, again?"
"Show 'em, Steve."
Steve digs out his notebook, flips it to a page and holds it up for everyone to see. In hilariously official-looking letters, he's made a new logo:
So, Het Isn't Exactly Legit? Discuss.
"It… it's beautiful," Howard gasps, putting a hand in front of his eyes as though he can't stand the majesty.
Bucky cuffs him lightly on the head. "Oh yeah? Beautiful enough to tempt you away from lab next week?"
Howard responds with his most winning smile. "Aw, Buck—I knew you cared. Though," his expression suddenly turns calculating, "If all you lovely people do want to spend more time with little old me, there's always—"
"No," everyone around Angie says in emphatic chorus. She blinks.
"Howard, we've been over this a million times," Peggy says, "We're not interested in whatever—outrageous scenario board game you've come up with, and—"
"I didn't come up with DnD," he protests, looking outraged, "I mean, I wish I did, but even I don't have that gift. Probably. It's a form of gaming that's been codified for almost two decades now, and today at lab I came up with an awesome campaign—"
"—we haven't the time," Peggy finishes.
"I have the time," Howard points out mulishly. "And I'm taking four lab classes. And doing grad research."
"…Fine. It's not a priority for the rest of us, then."
"I tried playing and I died," Gabe interjects, "Party of six, and of course the black guy gets capped first."
Howard whirls on him. "I don't control the dice, Gabe!"
Angie raises her hand, partly to diffuse the tension—it seems like Gabe is raring to argue more. "Wait, so—people actually play Dungeons and Dragons? In real life?"
Everyone around her groans while Howard beams at her. "Angie, I'm so glad you asked."
It takes Steve a while to re-orient himself back into stage manager mode; technically, this is what he prefers to do, but after spending the whole of last semester on a stage, letting himself sit and watch other people act feels a little strange.
"Thank you, Janet," Daniel says from his right. "Next is… uh, Howard?"
Caught in the spectacle of Howard somehow managing to moonwalk onto the stage while carrying a prop-hump bigger than he is, Steve almost misses Angie sliding into the empty chair on his left. "I miss anything good?"
"Just Janet's Anne Neville," Steve replies, frowning. "I thought you were working on your Nora monologue?"
Angie shrugs, eyes fixed on Howard as he starts in on his rendition of Richard III's opening soliloquy. "Got antsy, didn't want to skip out on… well, this."
She gestures at Howard, who's practically bouncing off the floor in an effort to chew as much of the imaginary scenery as possible.
"Uh huh," Steve says, exchanging a wry look with Sousa, "This, by the way, is why he's usually in the sound booth."
"You kiddin' me? Most people have to pay for entertainment this good."
"He wouldn't actually be bad if he dialed it down a notch," Daniel murmurs, and then winces when Howard tries for a particularly low and menacing growl only to end up coughing. "Or...maybe twelve notches. Nice one, Howard!"
Howard bows—of course he does—and exits the stage with remarkably little fanfare. Steve breathes a sigh of relief. "Right. Next is…?"
"That would be me, actually," Peggy says, trotting onto the stage.
Steve turns to look at Angie suspiciously. "Antsy, huh?"
"I've never seen her act before; so sue me," Angie shrugs.
Peggy stands stock still at the center of the stage, shoulders back, looking tall and steady and somehow venomous. Ready to strike.
"Whenever you're ready," Sousa prompts, and her eyes snap open.
"Brave warriors, Clifford and Northumberland, come, make him stand upon this molehill here—"
Angie's jaw drops.
Steve keeps his focus on Peggy's performance—honestly, it's hard not to, the way she utterly commands the stage—but he can't help but smirk at the look on Angie's face he keeps catching out of the corner of his eye. He's never seen her so thirsty.
Angie actually gasps when Peggy manages to get a laugh from the crowd—the right inflection as she references that valiant crook-back prodigy on the heels of Howard's off-the-wall recital comes off supremely clever. Sousa just looks smug as hell, and Steve can't blame him. They let her do the whole thing, the crowd whooping when she steamrolls past the line limit Sousa had asked for—the paper crown—and finishes the monologue with a vicious, unexpected cackle.
"Jesus Christ," Angie mumbles under her breath.
"How long do you think we can keep this up?" Peggy asks quietly that night.
Steve frowns at the question; Angie, for her part, mumbles a little in her sleep.
After auditions, the three of them had gone back to Peggy's suite, ostensibly to do their homework. That had lasted only until Angie stretched out on the couch and put her head down in Peggy's lap and Steve, through some enthusiastic gesticulations and silent mouthing, had gotten Peggy to start running her fingers through Angie's hair. Peggy could see why—almost immediately, Angie'd gotten what Peggy's parents have always called 'the long blinks,' her lids drooping and struggling to stay open, her contributions to the conversation becoming increasingly nonsensical and fewer and farther between until she drifted off. Peggy wonders just when over winter break Steve had learned this particular party trick; wonders how many other little facts about each other they're all storing away.
"I didn't realize you were thinking about us with an end date," Steve says carefully, and she shakes her head.
"Not this, us. This… this. Sneaking about," she clarifies, with a pointed look towards Colleen's closed door. Their pose is tame enough to be excused as platonic, and at the volume Colleen tends to play music while she works there's little chance of being overheard, but they're hardly into February and Peggy already feels the strain.
"I dunno. As long as we feel like we have to, I guess. I was thinking about, um. Doing a seminar on poly stuff, in SHIELD. Or at least pitching one to Bucky, see how he reacts."
"Not a bad idea, but I know I needn't remind you that not all of our friends would go to such a thing, even if you did make it happen."
"I know, I know." He picks at a loose thread in the carpet. "I thought I'd be more fun. Having a secret. Instead it just feels dishonest."
Peggy brushes back Angie's curls. "She seemed to think having too many people know too fast would put pressure on us."
He chuckles. "She also seemed to think that we're in imminent danger of not being friends anymore if someone's feelings get hurt, so maybe we shouldn't have let her be the deciding vote."
"You guys talkin' about me?" Angie slurs sleepily, not even bothering to pick her head up.
"Only good things, darling."
"M'awake, y'know. I can… hear ya…" she adds, burrowing her face deeper into Peggy's thighs. Peggy blushes at the sensation, glaring at Steve when he catches her out.
"Of course you are, darling."
"…Got hearing like… bat… fox… powers… an'… an' my… duck."
'Her duck?' Peggy mouths at Steve, baffled.
He reaches out to sweep some hair away from Angie's closed eyes, trying ineffectually to get her attention. "Matt Murdock, baby?" he guesses. Peggy feels a tiny thrill down her spine—Steve almost never uses pet names. It's… more attractive than she thought it would be.
"Duh," Angie says, and they laugh so hard they wake her up.
Both Peggy and Steve are busy during her audition time later that week, so Angie's really not expecting anyone she knows to be actually present—which, hey, doesn't have to be a bad thing; at least they won't be there to see her monologue fall flat.
When she walks into the auditorium, though, she sees two familiar faces anyway. "Bucky? Colleen?" she asks, wincing when she's immediately shushed by several observers. On stage, a freshman is stuttering her way through an excerpt from The Vagina Monologues.
Bucky shrugs from where he's leaning against the wall, whispering, "Steve told me to come, give you moral support."
"And Peggy sent me," Colleen agrees dryly, tapping at her phone, "Their explicit instructions were for us to support you together, and not to make it weird."
"Gee, I feel so loved," Angie deadpans.
Colleen shrugs. "I don't make the rules. Any support I might have wanted to show you by myself is, apparently, immaterial. I am only a Peggy-proxy."
"The accent could use work."
"I'm not the one auditioning."
Bucky rolls his eyes at them and gives Angie a nudge with his elbow. "Hey Superstar, you'll miss your turn."
Angie startles and makes her way towards the front, checking her watch as she goes. She's still early for her bloc; she's got some time to settle in and prepare herself.
"Looking good, Angel."
Angie tries and fails to suppress her groan. "How many times, Thompson? Don't call me that."
People in the audience shush her again. Embarrassed, Angie throws herself into the closest seat available… which unfortunately is right in front of Jack Thompson's.
Her back is to him, but she swears she can feel his smirk. "You know the deal. You call me Jack, I'll call you whatever you like. 'Course, it'd be easier to call you if you'd give me your number."
"Smooth," she mutters through clenched teeth. Thompson had been a lowkey nightmare in her Movement class last semester—a little too handsy, but all protected under the umbrella of being part of their assignments. She'd hate him less if he didn't have the talent to back it up, but he's the theater department golden boy for a reason.
She should have realized he'd be here.
He waits until the freshman on stage finishes, then leans forward when his voice can be masked by the lackluster applause. "So what show are you going out for?"
"A Doll's House," she says, knowing there's no use in lying to him.
"Hey, me too. Who knows; maybe we'll get cast together."
That would be just her luck.
To Peggy's delight her class ends early enough that she can grab a coffee (well, two) and wait for Angie in front of the Drama building. She figures she's ready for pretty much any Angie to walk through the doors: celebratory Angie, distraught Angie, anxiety-ridden Angie…
The Angie that exits the audition catches her off guard, however; she just seems… preoccupied. "Angie!"
Well, the smile that flashes across her face when she sees Peggy—that has to be a good sign. "You ditched class just to get me coffee?"
"Fry let us out early," Peggy says, handing Angie her to-go cup and taking Angie's messenger bag in return, throwing it over her own shoulder. She ignores Angie's pointedly amused glance and starts walking them in the direction of Angie's dorm. "How was the audition?"
There's that preoccupied look again. "Oh I mean, it was…" Horrible, Peggy guesses. Amazing. Enchanting. I tripped over an umbrella stand. "I think it went okay—the director said he 'liked the undercurrent of subservience,' whatever that means, but… better than I thought I'd do."
"Exactly as well as I thought you'd do, then," Peggy says, bumping Angie lightly on the shoulder. She frowns when Angie only offers her a faint smile. "So what's wrong, then?"
"Nothing, just…" Angie sighs, and then takes long sip of her coffee. "You know Jack Thompson?"
She can almost feel her blood pressure rise. "That utter wanker who kept harassing you last semester?"
"He didn't harass me, he was just…" Angie sighs again. "He auditioned for Torvald, just now."
Angie nods glumly. "Did. Nailed it too, if his little smirk's anything to go by."
"He can't have been the only one, certainly."
"I guess not, but now I can't stop thinking about it. Like. Do I even want to be Nora, if it means spending every day with him?"
Peggy abruptly stops walking. "Don't say that."
"It's an honest question."
Peggy wants to reach out, to grab Angie by the chin and make her look her in the eye, but they're surrounded by people and it's just…
She claps Angie on the shoulder instead. "You cannot allow yourself to think that way. You deserve this. The way you're doubting yourself, how you're considering taking yourself out of the running? That's what he wants. You mustn't let him win, darling."
"You sound like Steve."
"Yes, well. I suppose there are worse people to sound like," Peggy says with an indulgent smile.
Angie takes a deep breath, and tries to return it. "You're right. He might not even get a callback, right? I'm worrying over nothing."
They keep walking, their conversation turning to lighter topics. Peggy follows Angie past the entrance to her dorm, up the staircase and all the way to her room without thinking about it.
"Hey Peg, you wanna hand me that back?" Angie asks as she unlocks her door, nodding at the bag on Peggy's shoulder.
Peggy flushes. "Oh! I'm sorry. I was just… I suppose I assumed…"
"I didn't mean for it to be a hard question," Angie teases, as Peggy blurts:
"I had rather hoped that I might come in."
For the first time all day, Angie beams at her.
Steve's working the front desk at the library when his phone starts buzzing. He's not supposed to have it on when he's working—hell, he's not supposed to have his phone on in the library at all, technically—so he ignores the call from Peggy and lets it go to voicemail. If it's important, he figures, she'll text him.
Instead, his phone just starts buzzing again.
Worried now, he looks around for one of his coworkers, cursing to himself when none are in sight. As his phone vibrates once more, he scribbles a hasty back in five minutes sign and practically sprints to the men's bathroom.
He finally answers on the fourth ring of the sixth call.
"Can I sleep over with Angie?" Peggy says in a rush upon hearing him pick up, so quickly he doesn't even have time to ask who's died.
His brain short-circuits a little at the question, suddenly flooded with a slideshow of decidedly not safe for work images. "I—what?"
"Oh hell, that came out all wrong, I only mean to—to—darling, please, I'm talking," Peggy moans, and Steve's pants get a little tight as he realizes Angie must be right there, using her mouth, or maybe—"With our clothes on, Steve, I promise, it's only that I never got to and…"
"I thought we agreed you didn't have to ask for permission for stuff like that. I've shared a bed with Angie before; why shouldn't you?"
"Well yes—I mean no—no, yes, but…" Her breath hitches the way it always does when someone starts sucking at her neck. "When I was in England you were always so good about letting me call the sh—the sh—the sh-shots."
If he doesn't get off the phone soon he's going to have an embarrassing situation on his hands. "Yeah, but the rules are different now, remember?"
"Make her hang up, Steve!" he hears Angie shout in the background. "I'm in the middle of something, here!"
"Hang up the phone, Peggy," Steve orders dutifully, sighing in relief when she drops the call.
Not safe for work, indeed.