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Peggy never stays until morning.

Her parting kisses burn with love and fire, and she always returns to Angie, no matter what. But still, she never stays the night.

 

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The first time she kisses Peggy Carter, they’re both halfway drunk on stolen diner liquor.

It’s hardly the poetry Angie has imagined – and she has imagined this moment – but it happens anyway. It happens as they sit together on Angie’s bed, laughing and swapping stories about their days. The time has passed so quickly that the night overtakes them, and neither had thought to get up to switch the lights on or to draw the curtains.

The pale moonlight creeping in through the window illuminates one half of Peggy’s face, throwing the other into shadow, contouring her features so perfectly and prettily that Angie doesn’t stop to think before leaning forward and pressing their lips together.

It’s presumptuous and reckless, and nowhere near as cautious as Angie would normally be when making advances on someone, especially a woman.

Especially her friend.

Her friend who’s never shown even a passing interest in being anything more than that. 

But still Angie kisses her, leaning forward like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

For her part, Peggy doesn’t kiss back. Not straight away, anyway.

In fact, she goes completely still for a moment.  

Peggy always seems so poised and controlled, has always seemed so much older and wiser than Angie, despite there being only a few years between them. It’s so strange for Angie to see her flustered, which she undeniably is when their lips first meet. Peggy makes a tiny, surprised noise that catches sweetly in the back of her throat when Angie kisses her, and she hesitates.

That’s not to say that Peggy is unwilling in the end, and Angie gets the impression that Peggy wasn't half as surprised at the idea of kissing a woman, as she was at the idea that this woman was Angie.

At first, however, when Peggy doesn’t respond Angie goes to pull back, apologies about to tumble from her lips, but Peggy cuts her off. Quickly, she places a gentle hand at the back of Angie’s head, softly urging her to lean back in, taking the chance to initiate this time.

In hindsight, Angie thinks that maybe she should have wondered about Peggy’s quick reflexes, especially after she'd consumed a good deal of schnapps. At the time, however, there are more pressing matters to attend to.

Like the heat of Peggy’s lips against her own.

Peggy kisses like she was somehow waiting for this to happen, like she simply hadn’t realised that she could have Angie in this way.

Angie thinks she rather knows the feeling.

They don’t go to bed that night – that would be improper – just kiss, both slightly intoxicated as their mouths explore, mapping out unchartered territory, and after a while Angie can’t tell precisely what she’s drunk on anymore.

Peggy seems happy enough when she leaves, but she does not say a lot, just smiles and presses a furtive kiss to Angie’s lips as they stand in the open doorway.

Feeling slightly more sober in the cold light of day, Angie wonders if Peggy’s silence was a sign of her hesitance, wonders if she will want to forget that things ever changed between them. But in the morning, Peggy still sits with her at breakfast, and as they eat together she smiles at her like they’re sharing a wonderful secret. Which, of course, they are.

And it comes to be a smile that Angie recognises as belonging to her, one Peggy never seems to use on anyone else, not even on the nights when Mr. Fancy is in the diner and Angie can’t help but wonder about them from afar, still a little jealous (even though she’d never confess that to anyone, even herself).

And for a while Angie thinks everything is going to be alright.

For a while, it is.

 

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Time drifts on and they grow closer.

They settle into something of a routine. From the outside looking in, this mainly involves little more than Peggy calling in on Angie most evenings. This never deviates, and Angie never initiates their rendezvous’ at Peggy’s place instead. For a while she thinks nothing of this, figuring that Peggy finds some comfort in the structure.

Sometimes Peggy will find an ‘excuse’ to come round, speaking loudly about a magazine or book Angie asked to borrow for the benefit of others nearby.

Angie learns not to expect her every night though. She can usually tell. If Peggy isn’t at dinner, then Angie almost certainly won’t see her all evening. Occasionally, even when Peggy is present, she’ll yawn and announce that she’s tired and looking forward to an early night. Sometimes, this is a daring suggestion that sends Angie’s heart racing a little faster, and at others it’s simple honesty, but it’s always easy for Angie to tell one from the other.

Angie sometimes asks about the nights that Peggy doesn’t come to her room, and the answer is always the same.

“I stayed behind at the office to finish some paperwork.”

It is always in these moments that Angie is reminded of the time Peggy almost refused to move to The Griffith altogether, and sometimes all of this comes together and scares her more than she’d care to admit. 

And yet despite this, things still move relatively fast between them. Angie would like to think that this speaks to how close they were before this, before whatever they are now, and not that they are acting too recklessly. But they both find quickly that, reckless or not, there’s a payback to moving fast. It’s in the way Peggy discovers that there’s a spot on Angie’s neck that will make her come undone and presses kisses everywhere else, learning the right moment to give in to Angie’s whimpers. It’s in the way Angie knows which touches cause Peggy to cry out, momentarily forgetting the need for discretion, until she quickly – almost instantly – recovers herself, and falls quiet again. It’s in the way the way they lie together once it’s over, too warm even beneath even a single blanket, all loose curls and tangled limbs. 

Quickly (too quickly really) Angie feels herself falling. She knows it’s dangerous, especially when Peggy still seems so distant sometimes, but she can’t help herself.

 

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The first night they go to bed together, Angie falls asleep almost straight away after.

She doesn’t realise that Peggy has left until the next morning, when she wakes to finds the bed empty and cold.

It stings a little, and Angie feels strangely cast-off, but neither of them bring it up later that day, and so Angie never gives voice to what she’s feeling.

 

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One night, Peggy goes to slip away, pressing a habitual kiss to Angie’s hairline, when Angie wakes and reaches out.

She grips gently at Peggy’s wrists and it’s enough for her to still her movements, standing above the bed in the darkness. Angie can just make out the silhouette of Peggy’s hair, loose and uncurled and tumbling freely towards her shoulders.

When Angie speaks, she tries valiantly to keep her voice playful, tries to give Peggy an excuse for leaving.

Peggy has never seemed to need an excuse, but Angie wants more than anything for her find one.

“Fry isn’t going to catch us, you know,” she whispers, forcing a smile. “You don’t have to leave.” She finds that, somehow, there’s still hope buried in those words.

There’s a strange catch to Peggy’s voice as she replies sadly, “I can’t take that chance Angie.”

For a moment, it sounds as if she is talking about something else entirely.

Peggy kisses her, long and soft and loving, but a moment later she is gone, slipping away as quietly as a cat.

She always manages to leave Angie like that, feeling cherished at the same time as feeling lonely, feeling as though she has as much of Peggy’s heart as there is to give away, even as she knows that Peggy is hiding something from her.

 

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There’s a night maybe a month later, when Angie forces herself not to fall asleep as they both lie there together, sated and quiet in the darkness, Peggy’s chest pressed against Angie’s back.

Peggy is strangely good at picking up on when she is still secretly awake, so Angie works hard at evening out of her breathing, fights against the leaden weight of her eyelids after an eight-hour shift at the diner. It must work, because eventually she feels Peggy gingerly unhook the arm she had cast around Angie’s waist and scoot backwards. She moves so smoothly that it’s no wonder Angie hardly ever wakes.

Peggy dresses quickly, and Angie waits until Peggy has kissed her and crossed the room before she speaks.

“Why do you always go?” Angie wishes she didn't sound quite so angry when she asks, but she can’t really bring herself to care.

The anger only grows when Peggy leaves without a word, pretending she hasn’t heard the question.

 

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It is unsurprising, really, that there comes a night when something snaps within her. And everything changes.

After a day of dealing with the diner’s customary, charming clientele, and feeling defeated by the knowledge that the night is likely going to play out like every other one before it, Angie appears at dinner with a stormcloud over her head.

Everyone notices of course, she is usually so sunny that it makes it even harder to hide her bad mood and, although Peggy tries valiantly to engage her in conversation, Angie is sullen and churlish at worst, and completely silent at best.

And it seems that Peggy understands enough to realise that she is the source of Angie’s low mood, because that night she does not come to her door at all.

It’s strange how Angie finds that she doesn’t know how to fill her time now, her hands feel empty and restless, palms cold without the heat of Peggy’s skin to warm them.

Sleep comes even less easily to her that night, and she lets herself cry into her pillow. She cries in frustration at the whole sorry situation, cries at the way she feels as though she is at fault for tonight (even though, deep down, she knows that this is simply not true). She cries until a noise from outside catches her attention and brings her tears to a sudden and jarring halt.

She’s lived at The Griffith long enough to know when someone is scaling the drainpipe and inching their way along the window ledges. She listens, trying and failing to hold in her tear-shaky breaths, but the sound of the window opening is unmistakeable anyway. It is the window next to her own. Peggy’s window.

Angie listens to the sound of someone hauling themselves inside, clearly unassisted from the other end, and eventually the window slides shut.

She jumps to the worst conclusion, and her fresh tears are so hot she’s surprised they aren’t burning their tracks into her cheeks, and for a moment she’s too preoccupied to notice that something is wrong next door.

Heavy, uncontrolled noises are audible in Peggy’s room, and Angie briefly wonders if she’s drunk. She sniffs delicately, about to deride the sounds of wild, stumbling footfalls when suddenly, there’s a loud clatter as something falls from a worksurface, followed by an unmistakeable cry of pain, and Angie is out of bed and at Peggy’s door before she realises what she’s doing.

She knocks, rather too boldly to be appropriate given the hour, and whispers Peggy’s name so loudly she just as well shout it.

“Peggy? Are you alright?”

Angie presses her ear to the door, fingers gripping at the cool metal of the handle, listening for a response. There’s only silence from within, however, more terrifying than the sounds from before, until –

“It’s not locked.”

Peggy sounds like she’s choking, like she can barely breath, and Angie’s terrified at what she might see when she opens the door.

What meets her is almost anti-climactic and for a moment the buzz of adrenalin within her simmers down. Peggy’s room is unlit and Angie can’t see anything at all. Eventually, however, she picks Peggy out, no more than a dark shape sat upright on the floor by the bed, and Angie’s heart starts racing again.

“Peggy?” Her whisper is truly quiet this time, barely audible as it catches in her throat, and she hesitates, unsure of what she should do.

“Angie,” Peggy’s voice is pained, her breathing laboured, and she sounds gravely sincere when she says, “I’m truly sorry to ask this of you, but I need your help.”

“What can I do?” Angie asks quickly, as though this is another situation she can fix with a bottle of schnapps and half a rhubarb pie.

“Can you come inside and lock the door? And when you put the light on, please don’t…yell or anything.” Peggy sounds so weak and defeated that Angie tamps down an urge to joke about why she would ever cry out. When the room floods with light, however, she understands exactly why Peggy saw fit to warn her, and she has to bite her cheeks together to stop herself from doing or saying anything at all at the sight that meets her.

Peggy is half-sat, half-slumped against her bedframe, dried blood flaking in huge, sickening patches across one side of her face. There’s a tear in the overalls she’s wearing, and Angie can see a cluster of blue bruises blooming across Peggy’s shoulder like cornflowers in a meadow.

Most worrying, however, is the alarming quantity of blood seeping through Peggy’s clothes from the top of her right leg.

Angie stands, frozen in panic and taking everything in. She can’t move, she can barely find the voice to ask Peggy what happened to her.

“I’ll…explain that later, I promise. First, I need to stop this bleeding, can you help?” Peggy looks down at her leg, slightly helpless from her position on the floor.

It takes a second or two, but something changes within Angie as Peggy tells her where to find a medical kit and spare towels in her washroom, and Angie springs into action, bringing them over and leaving them at Peggy’s side before rushing to fill a basin with warm water.

Her brothers used to get all sorts of injuries as kids, and they’d always come to her to patch them up so that their father didn’t find out what they’d been up to. She tells herself that this is just the same, just another scraped knee to pour ointment on, just another cut finger to bandage up. She collects up some cloths, dropping them into the basin and carrying it carefully over to where Peggy is attempting to undress, unabashedly but with a large degree of difficulty.

“Peggy I don’t know how much I can do for you, I think maybe you should get this looked over at the hospital. I’ll come with you, if you like?” She’s only trying to help, but it is clearly the wrong thing to say as, for the first time, panic flashes across Peggy’s face.

“No!” The syllable is rushed and sharp, sitting between them before Peggy can catch herself. “No, it’s fine,” she amends, dropping her gaze to her hands, still wrestling with her overalls. “Sorry.”

“Okay.”

Angie's hands come up to cover Peggy's where they rest at the bottom of her throat, lacing their fingers together and halting Peggy's attempts at undoing her buttons. Gently, Angie begins unbuttoning Peggy’s overalls instead, sliding the fabric over her shoulders, careful to avoid all the bruising.

“Okay,” she whispers again. “No hospital.” She’s not sure why she says it, but it feels right, almost as though it’s a prayer, a prayer that they’re going to be all right.

Angie’s fingers dance over the cuts and bruises all over Peggy’s ribs as she pushes the overalls down to her waist, gesturing for Peggy to stand and offering out her hands to help her up.

Peggy hesitates. “Angie you don’t…”

But she does. Of course she does. She loves her, if Peggy would stop and notice.

Angie allows herself a wry smile. “Just stand up, English.”

This earns a grin from Peggy in return, but it quickly turns to a grimace when she rises. Somehow, though Angie’s not sure how, Peggy stands long enough for the two of them to remove the rest of her outer clothing, before sitting down heavily on the edge of the bed and pressing a towel over the jagged, gaping wound on her leg.

The two of them work in silence, moving in synchronicity. Angie cleans the blood from Peggy’s face and finds, to her relief, that the cut itself is only small, tucked right up in her hairline. It will probably be invisible when Peggy styles her hair tomorrow.

There’s not much Angie can do about the bruises, though they look painful. Peggy barely suppresses a flinch when Angie eases her nightshirt over her head and shoulders, leaving it to pool at the tops of Peggy’s legs. As she does this, Angie wonders what it is costing Peggy to let Angie see her like this, to see her weak and vulnerable. Peggy normally plays all her cards close to her chest, has, in the past, hesitated to let Angie help her when she has the flu.

For a painful moment, Angie considers what this means, what it means for her to care for Peggy without balking and demanding answers, what it means for Peggy to sit there and let Angie patch her up without turning her away.

Angie thinks she knows the answer for it but can’t seem to speak the word. Each letter seems to stick to the roof of her mouth even as she wills herself to sound it out. So, instead she asks, “what about your leg?”

“I can stitch it up,” comes the reply, as habitual as a remark about the weather “You don’t have to stay for this part if you don’t want to,” Peggy tells her, her tone kindly rather than ungrateful.

“You’re going to do what?” Angie demands, unable to stop herself.

Peggy bites back a smile, but doesn’t reply as she fishes a needle and a small bottle of alcohol out of the kit Angie had fetched earlier.

Both horrified and transfixed, Angie watches as, slowly and with obvious discomfort, Peggy stitches herself up like a ragdoll. As though she has done this a hundred times before.

Angie’s mind drifts to the strange, suspicious scar on Peggy’s shoulder and suddenly she realises that Peggy probably has done this before. And just like that, Angie suddenly feels incredibly stupid. Stupid and naïve and small.

When Peggy has finished and Angie can’t bear the silence any longer, she breaks it in the only way she can think how.

“Peg, you gotta tell me what’s going on.” She thinks she has an idea, but it seems crazy, impossible even.

Peggy sighs, as though this is something unpleasant, but not entirely surprising and, for the first time since she heard the window slide open earlier, Angie feels herself growing defensive.

“I’m a secret agent, working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve. I’m also secretly working to help Howard Stark. And tonight…it did not go well.” Peggy says it without preamble, in a way that seems to suggest that she at least respects Angie enough to tell her straight. Any impulse that Angie might have felt to laugh at such an announcement sticks somewhere around her sternum.

And strangely, she doesn’t disbelieve Peggy for a single second. Many things make perfect sense now, in fact.

“I’m sorry, I never meant to deceive you.” Peggy looks as though she is working hard to keep her emotions in check, and she sounds as if she truly means this.

“Is this why…” Angie pauses and when she speaks again she isn’t asking Peggy anything, she’s telling her. She’s accusing. “You didn’t want to live here. You never tell me where you go. You never stay with me.” She knows how she probably sounds, but she can’t seem to stop herself.

It’s okay, I know a brushoff when I see one.

“Angie – ”

“I thought it was me. I thought you didn’t…” All of a sudden she feels young again. Young and silly and childish. This woman is a secret agent. What must Angie look like to her?

“Angie, I’m sorry. I just…I can’t let myself get too close to anyone.”

Before Angie knows it, her feet are carrying her to the door. She feels numb, but more from shock than from anger, and it occurs to her that Peggy doesn’t know this. Angie pauses at the door.

She could stay, they could be honest with each other. But she can’t deny that, just for once, she wants to be the one to leave.

She hates herself for it, but she does it anyway.

She wonders if this is how Peggy feels when she goes.

 

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Peggy isn’t at breakfast the next morning, and Angie doesn’t really know why she bothers going downstairs herself. She barely eats a thing.

Carol notices her sitting there, her plate empty and her eyes distant.

“You okay, Angie? You look sick. Here,” she slides a a rack of toast towards her, “try eating some of this. You’ll feel better.”

Obediently, Angie reaches for the butter, but she doesn’t make much headway on eating anything once Gloria offers her some strawberry jam.

It glistens in the jar, a deep, shining red that reminds Angie of the way the blood dripped over the curve of Peggy’s leg last night, falling like raindrops onto the waiting towel.

 

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Angie forgets her lines for her audition that morning, absurdly consumed with worry at the idea that Peggy might have deteriorated in the night. Realistically, she knows that’s not true.

But Peggy had looked so pale and tired as she watched Angie leave.

 

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Just as it's getting dark, Peggy walks into the diner, sporting a hat to cover the cut on her head, as well as a noticeable limp.

With a degree of difficulty, she sits herself down at the counter, and when Angie comes over to her, Peggy slides a scrap of paper over the table-top before Angie can even ask her if she wants her usual.

“What I said last night was thoughtless in that context. I didn’t mean that I don’t care. I meant…this.” She nods at the paper as Angie picks it up and reads.

Colleen Deirdre O’Brien, 24, of New York City died suddenly in her bed on Tuesday night….

“She was shot. They were looking for me. ” Peggy’s jaw is clenched and her voice is wet as she explains. “And they found her first.”

Angie’s stomach clenches suddenly and fills up with guilt.

“Oh Peg…”

“I won’t let that happen again.”

 

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Peggy sometimes stays the night.

There are times when sleep evades her and so she stays by Angie’s side, sweeping her fingers gently through Angie’s hair and watching her rest peacefully.

Angie always sleeps deeply and she smiles when she dreams. Peggy hopes that means that she dreams of sweet things. The risks of staying scare her, but sometimes, the rewards are worth it. Angie always takes a few minutes in the morning to process that, for once, she isn't all alone. But when she does, she smiles so brightly at Peggy that it’s like sunshine.

Some nights, Peggy still leaves. She has to.

Angie never asks where she goes.

Peggy’s parting kisses burn with affection and fire, and she whispers love in Angie’s ear. But still she goes.

Angie sometimes pretends to sleep, so that she can feel how Peggy kisses her and hear what Peggy says. Usually, it’s enough.

She understands now, but she wishes Peggy would stay all the same.

The hope that things might change still burns bright in Angie’s chest. Small and young and naïve.

It’s just a tiny flicker, but she holds the candle anyway.