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Floodlights Are Calling (Just Not For Me)

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They had a good thing going here, her and English. Sure, how they got to this good thing wasn’t all that great, but hey, Angie’d take losing her job and getting kicked outta her place in the same day any time if it meant she’d have what she had now.

And what she had now was Peggy. And everything Peggy had, too.

She never thought herself one of those girls, you know, kept women—wantin’ to make house and raise babies and watch a guy build her a picket fence from scratch. But here with her friend, they’d somehow set up a life that was sorta just like that. Sans the babies, because jeez, no. At least, not yet.

They had routines, and a schedule of sorts, and a’course Angie had her own things and lord knows Peg had hers too, but at the end of the day they always, always came home to each other, and Angie’d come to treat that certainty as her lifeline. If the way Peggy always greeted her with a genuine smile, and an affectionate hand to her shoulder, or arm, or forearm, or even her own hand was anything to go by, then, well, she’d bet the feeling was mutual.

Somehow over the past two months of making a home in one of Howard Stark’s love nests—and oh, how her mother’d had a coronary when she’d told her that—her life had inexplicably mixed with Peggy’s, wholly and completely. Well, she still kept her as far away from her super secret spy work as she possibly could, but Angie knew enough now, and it didn’t sting anymore now that she recognized it as Peggy’s way of showing her she cared. She could overlook the secrets if it meant the other woman still came home to her everyday.

She wanted that more than she could really say why. It’s what best friends did, right? Angie never had one, but she thinks this must be what it’s like. Always wanting the other person around, wanting them to be safe, wanting to spend all your free time together—sure sounded like a best friend to her. And if she couldn’t help always wanting to be in contact with her friend—linking arms as they walked, squeezing her hands when good news came around, friendly bumping of shoulders, hugs after long days—well, that was fine too, wasn’t it? She’d seen other gals be touchy like that. Peggy sure wasn’t complaining, it seemed. Angie’s always been a tactile one, anyway, and it didn’t mean she was a violets kinda girl, or anything like that. So it was normal for them; ain’t like she wanted to be Peggy’s fella or anything.

Then again, she’s never had a fella, either.

But anyway, Angie decided it didn’t matter a long time ago, because she’s never had a friend like Peggy, and she’s sure Peggy hadn’t ever met someone like her, and what was between them was sure different than her other friendships, so she figured they could make it all up as they went along. It seemed to be working out real swell so far, anyhow. The things she’d gained from the second she met the other woman were more than she’d ever thought she’d get in her life, and her mother’d raised her well enough to know she shouldn’t count her chickens before they hatched. Or somethin' like that.

Who’d’a thought, little Angela Martinelli from Italian Harlem, born with nothin’ even close to resembling a spoon in her mouth (much less a silver one), runnin’ around with digs like these to call her own! It’s not just putzin’ around with millionaire genius Howard Stark and his crowd she’s talking about, or havin’ pow-wows with the real Howling Commandos in her own backyard, cuddled up in front of a bonfire with Captain America’s best girl—the real life Betty Carver (and don’t you let Peggy ever hear her say that again; the first time she’d called her that the Englishwoman about had an aneurysm)—no, those things are all just icing on the best damn cake Angie’d ever had. And by cake, she means Peggy Carter.

Angie’s never been much, never had much to offer, and been told that more times in her life than she’d been totally able to shrug off. She’d about been resigned to waitressing in a crappy automat in midtown for the rest of her life until a soggy day in early summer had Peggy wandering in. Prim and proper with not a single brown curl out of place, lips as red as sin, back ramrod straight—she had Angie’s attention so completely she’d tripped over her own Mary Jane’s and nearly sent a whole carafe of coffee careening into a wall. And then it seemed the stock she’d built up of good Catholic prayers had all been cashed in at once as Angie’s near desperate whispering for the woman to sit in her section was heard. A deep breath, a resolute tap of her pencil on the counter, and she strode over with her best show smile, ready to blow away the storm clouds she could almost see swirling over the woman’s head with some sunlight of her own.

Peggy’s eyes met hers, and somehow, some way, four months later, Angie’d done just that.

Every day that her friend opened herself up just a little bit more to her was a success in Angie’s head. Every time she got a genuine smile, her heart skipping a beat at those dimples because gosh, did they get her goin’—she felt herself get a little somethin’ in return, a little bit of gee, maybe I am worth something after all, a little reassurance that y’know what, stuff it, I can make it just fine! Peggy gave her confidence, support, and most of all, she believed in her, and really that was all Angie’d ever wanted from anybody anyway.

So yeah, Peggy was the best darn thing to happen t’her since…well, ever. And now Angie’d never been one to doubt her people skills—came with the job, y’know; that or havin’ to fight for attention in the middle of several hundred loud Italians growin’ up had given her just enough volume to make herself heard over all the noise—but she’d like to think she gave Peggy some of those things in return; maybe a sense of comfort, or at least the sense that she could rely on her, no matter what. She’s pretty sure she proved that last one the day those suits came bangin’ on her door to arrest her friend, and boy wasn’t that an adventure. Maybe it wasn’t much, but Peggy knew she could always trust her, and y’know what, after all the crazy times, Angie thinks that maybe that’s exactly enough.

Well, there’s all that stuff, and then the aforementioned several hundred Italians that came with ‘er.

Angie thinks maybe she should’a mentioned her incredibly large, unbelievably loud, questionably sane Italian family and their penchant for adopting strays. That didn’t only include puppies, either. Because it was only a couple of days—Angie and Peggy were still half living outta their suitcases—after they moved in that a loud knocking and what sounded like the muffled voices of an entire infantry team came from behind their front door. Peggy’s hand shot to her hip—where she now knew the agent kept a small handheld at all times, night or day, dressing gown or suit and skirt—but the alarm written all over her friend’s face melted into confusion at the cringe that crawled over hers.

“Uh, did I mention my folks sorta have this bad habit of showin’ up outta the blue, without any sort of warning whatsoever?”

Peggy’s eyes went wide then for an entirely different reason. “No, no you most certainly did not.”

They both rose from the breakfast table to head over to the foyer. “Yeah, y’know the whole ‘no men above the first floor’ rule back at The Griffith? Didn’t only keep away any unwanted suitors, if you know what I mean.”

Angie had given her friend an apologetic smile, hand going for the door handle, and had to fight the coo that wanted to escape her at how Peggy quickly tugged her clothing straight, flicked back a stray curl, and cleared her throat, all in a panicked effort to make herself presentable for Angie’s family. She lost the battle enough for that apology to turn into endearment, which Peggy had met with a glare and a flustered, “Yes, well, first impressions and all that.”

Gosh, woman after her own heart. But no, she really wasn’t a violets kinda girl. Really.

Stifling a giggle, she had given a last look to her somewhat terrified friend and finally pulled open the door. It was pretty much a whirlwind of people and noise and food after that, because in they came, what seemed to be a wave of over-exuberant Martinelli’s, flooding their house faster than actual flood waters. Angie had watched helplessly as her mother swooped in—parting the tides of her siblings and uncles and aunts and cousins and second cousins and goddamn did she have a lot of cousins—pushing a tray of something in her hands, all the while berating her with so many rapid-fire questions, half-English and half-Italian, that she honestly didn’t know how to respond t’half of ‘em.

And then, without waiting for an answer, she descended upon Peggy—poor, wide-eyed Peggy—maybe forgetting that the Englishwoman didn’t actually speak Italian herself what with her half-and-half chatter, until she did, and Angie’d swear on her Nonna’s grave that her mouth had never dropped open faster. Because Peggy regained her composure in an instant, smiling genuinely down at the small Martinelli matron who had taken her hands in that no-boundaries-whatsoever sorta way she always did, and replied to every single one of her questions in perfect Italian. Veneto dialect an’ everything.

Angie had never seen her mother be shocked into silence like that, but there ya go. She guessed there really was a first time for everything. A booming laugh had the three of them jumping until Angie saw her Pop step into the house, clapping a heavy hand on her friends’ shoulder with a big smile.

“I like this one!”

Angie had grinned then, catching Peggy’s eyes. “Me too, Pop.”

Apparently that was that, and her mother beamed, sandwiching the woman between her husband and herself, and it was the last she’d see of the three of them for hours as her mother proudly paraded around the newest addition to their lives, the crowd of Martinelli’s swallowing them whole.

When said crowd finally spit her out again, Angie had been in the drawing room, standing off to the side and watching a ridiculously rowdy game of chess between her brother and her cousin. Honestly, who used that many curses when playin’ chess? She had given Peggy’s slightly disheveled form a once over as the other woman greeted her with a breathless hello.

“Aren’t you just full’a surprises, with all the Italian you never told me you could speak.”

Peggy at least had the decency to look sheepish after that. “It never came up.” She cleared her throat at Angie’s flat look. “Your mother is a lovely woman.”

“You still think so, after all these hours of her paradin' you around like a show horse?”

Her friend’s smile had grown dimples—damn, would those things be the death of her!—as she moved to bump their shoulders together. “Of course. After all, she reminds me of you.”

Angie had given her a single chuckle to try and hide the red creeping into her face. “What, all pushy n’ loud n’ such?”

“More like kind-hearted and just, excitable, I’d say. It’s some of the very best things about you.”

Angie ducked her head, quiet for once in her life as she avoided her friend’s teasing eyes. Peggy’d kept their shoulders pressed together, and she’d be damned if she was first to move away, the touch anchoring her down in the chaos, ‘cause God bless ‘em but that much time in close quarters with that many Martinelli’s was awful hard to handle. Even for her.

“Sorry about all this, Peg. I didn’t think she’d bring the whole of East Harlem with her when she finally came t’visit.”

Peggy had just shaken her head. “You have a wonderful family, Angie. You’re lucky.”

Something about the wistfulness in her voice had Angie twining their arms together, squeezing to get her friend’s eyes to meet hers. “You realize they’re your family too, now, don’t’cha English? With all the time my Ma just spent makin’ sure the whole clan knows you, you’ll never get rid of us now.”

It was that moment Angie realized she’d—completely on accident—given Peggy somethin’ she needed maybe more than all the trust and support they had between ‘em. She had watched the last of those storm clouds leave Peggy’s eyes, and realized that this, the promise of family, of bein’ included in Angie’s family, finally meant forever. It was finally enough to convince her stubborn English that she wasn’t goin’ anywhere, no matter what.

Or at least, she’d thought it was enough.

Which brings her back to the present. She sure thought they had a good thing goin’ here, her and Peggy. So she’d like an explanation, please, on why her friend’d been avoiding her for a solid week straight. Gone were those nights spent chatting about their days, gone were the shared breakfasts before work; the comfort of coming home to Peggy’s warm smile and open ear was a thing of the past, and Angie couldn’t for the life of her figure out why.

So here she is, chewin’ through her lip, prowling around their drawing room in twitchy consternation like a cat with a bad case of the mange. Was she too nosey? Angie knew Peggy was the real private sort, but she’d already explained the reasons for all those brush-offs she’d given before they’d started makin’ house, and since then Angie’d done her darn best not to be too pushy. Maybe she was too noisy? But it wasn’t like she could help needin’ to run lines out loud or practice her scales—besides, Peg had said she enjoyed her voice, thank you very much. Her mother’d always said a mouth like hers would get ‘er into trouble one day but what did she expect, growin’ up with three rowdy older brothers? But nah, couldn’t be that either; she’d heard Peggy swear like a sailor on a good day; it’d be mighty strange for that to be the problem.

So what in the Sam Hill was it?

At this rate, Angie was gonna end up pacin’ a trench so deep in Howard’s fancy Persian carpets that even the army boys woulda been impressed.

It’s about time for her to start pulling out hair when she hears the heavy front doors open in the foyer, and the soft clack of heels on wood floors. Her eyes catch the grandfather clock in the corner of the room. Six o’clock on the dot.

Never let it be said that Peggy Carter was anything but punctual.

The clacking stopps near the stairs, and Angie wants to cry and roll her eyes at the same time. She can hear Peg’s hesitation a mile away, feel it comin’ in and wrapping around her neck like a noose all the way from the other room. She swallows it loose, and that’s when the anger hits.

Fine. If her friend wanted t’play some twisted version of hide n’ seek, well then by God Angie would seek. Like a missile.

She tries and mostly fails to keep her feet from making too much noise as she stomps over to their entryway, catching Peggy standing at the stair’s landing, eyes distant, frowning. She swallows down the lump in her throat, one more time for good measure, before she breaks the silence.

“Peg.”

Watching the other woman jump maybe a mile outta her shoes probably shouldn’t be as satisfying as it is, but getting the drop on her wasn’t an every day thing, so Angie’ll take what she can get.

“Angie. Ah, hi. I didn’t realize you were home.”

Angie crosses her arms, leaning a shoulder against the wall. “Yep. Sure am.” And like with everything else she does in her life—suddenly and without any sort of preamble—she blurts, “Gonna finally tell me why we aren’t friends anymore?”

Peggy’s jaw pops open in surprise, and the panic that takes over her face only feels somewhat like guilt, and mostly like triumph.

“What on earth are you—of course we’re still friends!”

Angie shrugs, looking for all the world like the most nonchalantly kicked puppy and she knows it. For bein’ an (aspiring—she’s still working on it, alright?) actress by trade, she’s always been cruddy at hidin’ her own emotions. And right now a kicked puppy is exactly what she feels like.

“Coulda fooled me, what with all the ways you’ve been runnin’ away from me all week.” She starts ticking them off on her fingers. “Gone before breakfast, back after dinner, makin’ sure in between that we’re never home at the same time—they teach you all those fancy things at spy school?”

The Englishwoman at least has the wherewithal to look like another kicked puppy. And Angie’s really gotta stop thinkin’ about puppies. And kicking. Now’s not the time.

“Angie—”

But she’s on a roll now, the rejection she’s had swirlin’ in her belly like vinegar all week finally turning sour. “I mean, you could at least be decent n’ tell me what I did to make you…” She can’t finish her sentence, because to make you not like me anymore sounds too playground, and to make you hate me would take more courage for her to say out loud than she has right now. So she settles for trying to get rid of the stinging in her eyes as she asks,

“You want me to move out?”

No!”

Peggy’s instant response as she darts toward her comes so loud and vehement that they both startle. Angie’s pretty sure the other woman didn’t mean for it to come out like that, what with the way her hands are wringing the heck outta the air in front of her like a wet tea towel, but it makes that weird knot in her chest loosen just a bit all the same. She feels her body uncoil completely, arms dropping as her temper does, and her voice sounds tired even to her own ears.

“That what, Peg?”

Her friend looks away, uncharacteristically fidgety. “I’ve been…promoted. At work.”

Angie huffs. “That’s it? You’ve been avoiding the hell outta me because you got a promotion?

Peggy fiddles with her fingers, still avoiding her eyes. “Well, no—I mean, yes, partly, but—”

“Margaret Carter, if you don’t spit it out in the next five seconds, I swear—”

“I’m moving. To Los Angeles.”

With that, Peggy manages to suck all the air out of her lungs, out of the whole room, and Angie isn’t sure she’ll ever be able to take a full breath again.

“…You’re leaving…?” You’re leaving me is what she really wants to say, but she isn’t sure it’d go over very well.

Because maybe she is a violets kinda girl. And the way her heart just breaks right there in her chest is too painful for her to pretend otherwise.

She isn’t sure if it makes her feel better or worse, the way Peggy looks like she’s feeling the exact same thing.

“Were you even going to ask me?”

Peggy’s eyes jump to hers, surprised, hopeful, and it makes all the pieces of her broken heart clog into her throat. “I didn’t think—”

“That’s right, you didn’t. Damnit Peg, how’re you gonna know what my answer is if you won’t even ask?

“Angie…” Her voice is soft as she stepps forward. “…but what about your friends, your family? Surely you can’t fault me for thinking you would want to stay near them.”

Angie, for her part, just rolls her eyes. “Do you not remember me tellin’ you that you’re apart of my family now, English? What makes you think I don’t wanna stay near you?

The other woman doesn’t say a word, doubt still knitting her brow, uncertainty still clouding her eyes. But underneath it all Angie sees something, something she knows had been simmering between them maybe the whole time they’d known each other. And, finally, she saw a chance.

Ah hell, screw it, she decides. It was now or never; she could either act on this thing between them or she couldn’t, but either way it seems she’ll end up losin’ Peggy to somethin’, so may as well throw caution to the wind. She’d always been a go-getter, anyway. So she laces their fingers together, fixes her with a look, and brings them so close to each other their noses brush. That fact that she hears Peggy’s breath hitch just spurs her on further.

“Ask me.”

“Angie…” The low, breathless way her name comes out then rolls over her in a wave, rippling beneath her skin.

“Ask.”

Peggy’s dark eyes are glittering into her own as she touches their foreheads together.

“How would you feel…about perhaps trading the floodlights of Broadway for the limelight of Hollywood?”

She gives a cheeky grin then, sliding her hands up her friend’s arms to wrap around her shoulders. “When do we leave?”

And Angie can’t help her sigh as the other woman just laughs, relieved and free, and pulls them flush together, burying her head into her neck.

Yeah. Definitely a violets kinda girl. But that’s okay, ‘cause her violet was, too.