Peggy guesses she would call herself a regular by now. The small diner near the office is familiar and the lone waitress, Angie, knows her order, though she never speaks to her. She’s always greeted with a smile and a nod before a cup of tea, turkey sandwich and a slice of pie are placed in front of her.
She only comes in late at night, after the files have been put in order and the lights turned off. It’s lonely, she thinks, but does nothing to change the routine. Only her routine is broken by a young man who enters the diner.
Peggy watches as he slaps the waitress on the ass when she leaves his table, her body rigid as she places his order, stands behind the counter and stares at the door. She delivers his plate and avoids his hands with practiced ease, a move that doesn’t sit well with Peggy. When she returns to her barricade she faces the wall, making coffee from the sounds of the grinder.
“Hey!” The young man asks. “Hey!” He calls louder.
Angie doesn’t turn.
“I’m calling for you, hello?” He shouts louder. When he balls up his paper napkin and throws it she turns and glares. “What is wrong with you? You some kind of retard?”
Angie flinches, gripping the ends of her apron as she slowly approaches him.
“These are powdered eggs.” He tells her.
She shrugs and turns away from him.
“I ain’t paying for powdered eggs.” He says loudly. When she doesn’t respond he stands and moves to grab her, startling her so that she falls and knocks over a chair.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” He shouts. Her only response is to shakily point to the door. He takes a step towards her but thinks better of it when he sees Peggy stand from her booth in the corner. The young man leaves, slamming the door behind him.
Peggy moves slowly towards Angie, making sure to be in her line of sight if Peggy’s assumptions are correct. She kneels in front of her, catching her eye, “Are you alright?”
Angie shrugs, moving to stand up and taking Peggy’s offered hand.
“You read lips rather well.” Peggy smiles, hoping to ease some of the tension left behind.
Angie gives her a shaky smile in return.
“Peggy Carter,” she offers her hand, “since you already know my order and I’m here often enough.”
Angie smiles in earnest and points to her nametag as she shakes Peggy’s hand.
Peggy thinks back to the lessons Steve had given her while they waited in the cold.
Nice to meet you. She signs, her motions slow and jerky.
Angie’s eyes widen and her smile brightens. Her hands move into rapid motion and Peggy takes a step back and raises a hand. “I’m afraid that’s the best I can do at the moment. It’s been some time since I’ve had any lessons.”
Angie shrugs and sits at the table with her notepad.
Thank you for helping me. Friends?
“Friends.” Peggy nods. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to view an apartment.”
Angie looks at the clock on the wall and raises her eyebrows.
“It’s recommended through a friend.” She defends, thinking of the phone call she had with Mr. Jarvis earlier in the day.
Angie begins to write furiously. The Griffith, all women, breakfast, rules are a little tight but the girl next door just moved out. She was always crying on the phone.
“Poor thing.” Peggy sighs. Angie rolls her eyes and Peggy barks out a laugh. Then she thinks of Colleen and looks at Angie. Angie who always smiles when she comes into the diner, who offers kindness even when the world pushes against her. Angie who wouldn’t hear an intruder. “I’m afraid I wouldn’t make a very good neighbor.”
Angie frowns but still pushes the paper towards her hand until Peggy takes it, “I’ll keep it in mind.” Angie smiles and points to where Mr. Jarvis has just entered the diner. “Until next time, Angie.”
It turns out that living in a building with high security standards isn’t such a bad idea. Angie beams at her as they walk towards Mrs. Fry’s office where Angie stands outside the window when Peggy walks in.
“I see you’ve befriended one of my more special charges.” Mrs. Fry tells Peggy.
“I don’t know what you mean by special, though she is rather stubborn and persistent.” Peggy’s smile is forced when she sees Angie’s eyes harden outside the window.
“She’s deaf, you know.” She says with tone and look that she senses Angie loathes.
“Yes, I’d gathered as much.”
“We must always look out for those, less fortunate than ourselves. Those who are more able.” Peggy notices the way she puffs out as she says this, as though she’s doing Angie a favor.
“I’ve found her quite capable, actually.”
Mrs. Fry studies her before going into a long list of rules that Peggy mostly ignores. She thinks instead of the way everyone around Angie speaks loudly and slowly, like she’s a child being scolded. The way Mrs. Fry calls her special with a hint of pity. Angie is special, but not for the obvious reasons; she is exceedingly kind and caring, befriending Peggy before she knew what was happening.
“-I think you will find The Griffith to be a safe haven.” Mrs. Fry finishes, looking at Peggy expectantly.
“Yes, thank you.” Peggy signs her name and receives her key.
Angie leads the two of them to the third floor and gestures to her own door right next to Peggy’s.
Peggy sets her two cases down and embraces Angie, pulling away so she can read her lips, “You are a life saver.”
Angie smiles and blushes, pulling out her own key and holding up her hand 5 minutes.
“Take your time.” Peggy unlocks her own door and surveys the small room. It will do her just fine. Most of her clothes are put away by the time Angie knocks on her door. When she opens it, Angie holds two glasses and a bottle of peach schnapps. “I get the feeling that you have your own way around the rules.” Peggy smiles, letting Angie in.
Angie’s only response is to shrug and pour the two of them large glasses.
Peggy raises her glass, “To, to new friends and new beginnings.” Angie smiles and clinks her glass against Peggy’s, taking a large gulp of the alcohol and sitting on Peggy’s bed.
“How long have you lived here?” Peggy asks, closing her now empty suitcase and sliding it under the bed.
Angie holds up seven fingers.
“Seven months?” Angie nods. “Does everyone treat you like that woman?”
Angie gives her a strained smile and wavers her hand. Some. Peggy takes it to mean most.
She finds that being Angie’s friend has more benefits than she realized. No one pays attention to her. Most think her dumb, incapable. So she gets away with just about anything. She sells smuggled bottles of alcohol above the first floor and hides late night visitors for the few who know her to be rather clever. An old tenant had rigged up a crude doorbell hooked to a light bulb for her. A going away gift for helping hide her fiancé in a pinch.
She was an electrician during the war, real sweet gal. Her fella sent me a bunch of flowers the next day. Confused a lot of people.
Angie smiles as Peggy reads from the notepad and starts to laugh.
“Any man would be lucky to have you.” Peggy says and watches the tips of Angie’s ears turn pink. And not for the first time she wonders if her inclinations lie elsewhere.
The silence that follows isn’t heavy and Peggy doesn’t feel the need to fill it with more questions. Angie sighs and leans back against the wall, her eyes flitting from one surface to another, taking everything in.
Peggy breaks the silence she sits in and turns to Angie, “How did you learn? I mean, I didn’t think signing was taught to children. At least I know they don’t in England.”
Angie studies her for a moment and begins writing on the pad again. My parents found a teacher when I was three. The doctors said nothing could be done for me so they started looking on their own. One of our neighbors had a deaf cousin who taught me how to sign when the teacher only wanted me to read lips.
“Did your whole family learn?” Peggy asks.
My brothers did and so did Ma. Pop not so much, he doesn’t like to talk about it. He still looks at me like I’m broken. Maybe he did something wrong for me to be like this.
Angie shrugs at the look on Peggy’s face.
He’s the one who pushed me to read lips. Makes me seem more ‘normal’ I guess.
“You’re brilliant.” Peggy nearly shouts, the schnapps having gone to her head.
Angie smiles and a blush spreads across her face.
When their glasses are empty, Angie stands and signs something Peggy doesn’t know.
“Good night?” She guesses. Angie nods and beams when Peggy repeats the motion. Leaving Peggy alone in her new room.
The first time Peggy sets foot in Angie’s apartment she is returning the now clean glasses Angie had left behind two nights before. She’s surprised to find how tightly packed it is with novels and sketchbooks. Worn copies of classics line her shelves and pencils cover almost every surface.
“You draw?” Peggy asks, pointing to a stack of filled sketchpads.
Angie shrugs and opens one to show Peggy a sketch of the empty diner.
“Angie, this is beautiful.” She flips through a few pages, all of them filled with the diner at different moments. A patron sipping coffee, light filtering through the shades, the fry cook whistling to the radio, and even one of herself sitting alone in her corner booth. In the sketch, she is cradling a cup of tea, eyes closed against the frustrations of the day, but for the first time she sees herself how Angie must see her. And her cheeks flush slightly. “Where did you learn?”
Angie finds an empty page and begins to write. A friend from a long time ago used to sketch all the time. He was real scrawny, sick a lot. But he lived in my building and didn’t make fun of me.
“He sounds like a good friend.” Peggy smiles.
He got recruited for some secret military thing. Died somewhere in Europe.
In that moment several things click into place for Peggy.
“How is it that you know sign language so well?” Peggy asks, warming her hands around the tin of fresh coffee.
“Friend of mine was born deaf. She’s small but pretty mighty, tried beating up a few kids who were picking on me. I think I was the only person outside of her family who didn’t treat her like she was stupid.”
“You formed an alliance?”
“Sort of. She packed a pretty mean punch for someone her size, and no one was really willing to hit the deaf kid. But she’s the smartest person I know. I taught her how to sketch one winter when it was too cold to go out.”
“And she taught you how to sign?”
“That and her brothers helped keep some of the bullies away. Sort of a thanks for looking out for her. Not that she needed looking after, much.” Steve chuckles, thinking of how often Angie uses her deafness to her advantage.
“I should like to meet this mischievous friend of yours.”
“You’re going to love her.” He smiles.
He wasn’t wrong, Peggy thinks. She finds an old photo next to a cup of pencils. A very young Angie next to who must be Steve sitting on stoop smiling with Angie’s arms wrapped tightly around him. She takes a breath, steeling herself against the flood of emotion at finding this new part of him. Finding this connection between these two extraordinary people.
“Is this him?” Peggy asks, though she knows the answer. Angie nods. “He looks kind.”
He was. She signs slowly enough for Peggy to understand.
"You must miss him." Peggy signs back, her hands unsure.
Angie just nods. Peggy had never realized who Steve was leaving behind, though he had no blood relations left, her certainly had family. Family who clearly didn’t know the good he’d done.
One day, Peggy thinks. One day she’ll show Angie the Project Rebirth files. Today she’ll let Angie sit her in the light of her window so she can sketch her. She wonders for a moment, what it would have been like to let Steve sketch her. Would he make the same concentrated face as Angie? Would his eyes look as bright as hers? Would she feel as nervous as she does now?
Howard is an idiot. An idiot who is going to get her killed or arrested for treason.
“You cannot stay here.” Peggy tells him, hands on her hips.
“But Peg, where else am I supposed to go?” He whines, rubbing at his black eye.
“I don’t care.”
“How about your lovely neighbor? The deaf one.” He asks, “She seems nice.”
“You will stay away from her.” Peggy says, backing him up towards the ledge he climbed up.
“I can probably fix her.” He shrugs, scratching the back of his neck.
“She does not need fixing, Howard.” Peggy moves towards him again, forcing him to start climbing out the window and back into the alley below. “And even if she did, I wouldn’t trust you to do it.”
Howard looks hurt, but doesn’t say anything as he begins climbing down to the street. Moments later she hears a knock at her door.
Angie stands there, arms crossed and an eyebrow raised. As soon as Peggy closes the door behind her, Angie jumps into rapid-fire movements that Peggy cannot possibly keep up with.
Peggy holds her hands up, “You know I can’t understand you when you speak that fast.”
Angie huffs and hands over a notepad with her looping handwriting. Sometimes she’s too clever for her own good, Peggy thinks. Knowing that Peggy wouldn’t understand her at first.
Why was Howard Stark here? He said he was your cousin but he is a terrible liar. Is this because of your not a phone operator job?
Peggy stares and Angie flips the page for her.
I’m not stupid, Peggy.
Peggy laughs, “Of course you aren’t.” Peggy sighs and sits, “He’s an old friend from the war and he’s gotten himself into trouble. I’m trying to help, though he’s making it much harder to do.”
He’s just another fathead. She signs, this time slower.
“Yes. Yes he is.” Peggy sighs, “But when he isn’t being a moron, he’s a good man.”
How often is he not a moron?
Peggy barks out a laugh, “I’m sorry if he was rude to you.”
Angie shrugs. He mostly whined to himself about his manly charms not working.
Peggy laughs again and pulls Angie in for a hug.
Asking Angie to move in with her is simple and she beams when Peggy shows up to collect the rest of her things. Most of the residents stare as Peggy and Angie leave and pile their belongings into the car waiting outside in the rain.
When they arrive at the penthouse, Angie’s jaw drops as she stares at the building. She looks to Mr. Jarvis and then to Peggy, both of them nodding for her to take the first step inside.
“You’ll find Mr. Stark has installed a similar doorbell system that Miss Martinelli had in her old room. Each room has been equipped with it’s own system, and the main bell rings in key rooms.” He says, following the two women into kitchen where Angie’s eyes widen.
“You should say it again, let her read your lips Mr. Jarvis.” Peggy tells him, tapping Angie’s shoulder and pointing to Mr. Jarvis so he can repeat himself.
Angie nods and smiles when he points to the red light bulb in the center of the room.
Mr. Jarvis leaves them after he’s deposited their belongings in their chosen rooms. Peggy doesn’t tell them that she’s chosen the room next to Angie’s in case of an emergency. Or that she just wants to feel close to her.
She doesn’t realize that one of her worst nightmares is a very real possibility.
They settle into the apartment quickly. Peggy is always awake early, going through her morning routine before making her way to the kitchen for a cup of tea. Angie usually stumbles in a little later, hair mussed and eyes bright as she sets about making breakfast.
Peggy learns that Angie loves to cook, though she makes a mess of the kitchen when she does.
“How do you work out the timing?” Peggy signs with Angie correcting her slightly. Peggy still speaks as she signs, getting gentle corrections as she goes.
Smell, mostly. My Ma taught me and found I could smell it before she would show me the timer.
“Clever.” Peggy smiles.
What about you? Angie asks, mixing ingredients in a large bowl.
“I can boil just about anything.”
Angie scrunches her nose and shakes her head.
“I know, I know.” Peggy laughs. “How did I ever get on without you?”
Angie blushes, taking the pie dough out of the bowl to start rolling it out. She’s determined to make a savory pie for Peggy, though her first two resulted in dinners of cheese and crackers by the large fireplace in their favorite living room.
Peggy watches, wondering not for the first time how lucky she is for having Angie in her life. She’s been nothing but supportive in Peggy’s time between jobs. Offering to fill the hours with walks around the cooling city and bouncing ideas around for a new way for Peggy to use her not a phone operator skills.
The Project Rebirth files sit locked away in Peggy’s safe, she still doesn’t know how to tell Angie about their shared connection. How to tell Angie about her affections without either of them feeling the betrayal of Steve’s memory. He’d want them to be happy, Peggy tells herself.
She catches Angie watching her sometimes; while she reads the paper, while they sit by the fire sipping the wine Angie found in the large cellar. Whenever she’s caught, Angie blushes furiously and averts her eyes.
Peggy wishes that Steve had told her more about their shared childhood. She tries to remember anything he might have said about her.
“Tell me more about this friend of yours.” Peggy says. They’re walking through the woods, sweeping the area for traps.
Steve chuckles, “I used to eat at her house a lot, her Ma makes enough food to feed an army. Which I guess her family is, six brothers and then her. She can read lips like she’s plucking the words right out of your brain. So when her brothers don’t want her to know what they’re talking about they cover their mouths.” Steve clears his throat, trying to hide his blossoming smile. “Well, she hates that. And she’s got great aim with bread rolls.”
Peggy laughs, imagining his childhood friend lobbing bread rolls across tables in an adolescent rage.
She smiles, remembering the story. She can imagine it now, Angie’s mouth hardening in a line as she throws food across the table. The feeling of fondness that blossoms in her chest no longer makes her feel sad or guilty.
Peggy is awake instantly. The sound of something heavy falling from Angie’s room has her grabbing her nearest gun and running to Angie’s bedroom.
The window is open, curtain billowing in the wind. As the lighting flashes she sees someone straddling Angie’s flailing body. Their muscles tense from the way they grip at Angie’s throat.
At the next flash, Peggy pulls the trigger. The intruder’s body falling on top of Angie as they begin to bleed out. Peggy runs to push the body off of Angie and sees that her eyes are wide as she gasps for breath.
“It’s okay.” Peggy tells her, though it’s too dark for her to read Peggy’s lips. She says it mostly for herself. Angie is trembling when Peggy turns the lamp on, dark bruises blossoming at her throat. “I am so sorry.” Peggy says, holding Angie’s arms, “I am so so sorry.”
Peggy holds her close, feeling the way Angie’s breaths are deep and labored.
She pulls away from Angie to sign, "I’m so sorry."
Angie chokes out a painful sob and falls into Peggy’s embrace again. She lets Peggy hold her close, running her hands down Angie’s back and cradling her head. Peggy hasn’t heard Angie cry, she hardly ever makes a sound, choosing to smile instead of laugh in most cases. So when her cries pierce through the sounds of rain, Peggy’s heart breaks.
Only when Angie has calmed and her breathing less labored does Peggy pull back slightly, “Let me draw you a bath, and then I need to make some calls.”
Angie nods and allows herself to be led not into her own bathroom, but into Peggy’s, away from the body of the man who was probably trying to kill Peggy. She fills the large tub with warm water, pouring in the oils she had just purchased to help Angie relax.
“I’ll be right outside.” Peggy signs, squeezing Angie’s hand.
She phones the SSR, though she no longer works for them. Thompson assures her they’ll send agents over immediately to remove the body and set up a patrol to watch over the building. Peggy leaves a note for Angie when she hears the doorbell ring through the penthouse.
It doesn’t take them long and Peggy is grateful to return to her bedroom where she finds Angie sitting on her bed. She looks rightfully upset, though not for the obvious reasons.
“I’m sorry.” Peggy signs again and Angie nods. Peggy holds Angie and takes a deep breath, “Who I work for, used to work for, has made me a great deal of enemies. I am not a safe person to be around, in fact I tend to leave a trail of innocent bodies in my wake.”
Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Angie signs slowly.
“I wanted to keep you safe.” Peggy laughs at herself darkly, “Or maybe I didn’t want to scare you away.”
I’m not a child.
“I know, I know you’re not.” Peggy takes one of Angie’s hands and laces their fingers, “You are important to me, and I wanted to keep you safe.”
Angie nods, a blush coloring her cheeks.
Peggy pulls gently on her hand, “We should try and get some sleep.”
Can I – can I stay with you?
Her hands shake slightly and her eyes flit from Peggy’s face to her lap. Instead of answering, Peggy pulls the covers aside and helps Angie under them. Doused in darkness, Peggy feels Angie curl into her side and wrap her arms around Peggy’s waist.
“I love you.” Peggy whispers, kissing the top of Angie’s head.
Angie falls asleep curled around Peggy, waking several times from nightmares. Each time she wakes, Peggy holds her close and runs her hands down her back and through her hair, helping calm her until she falls back to sleep.
When the gray light of morning filters through the curtains Peggy wakes to find that she and Angie are almost nose to nose. Her eyes roam Angie’s face; the pale freckles that dust the bridge of her nose, the way her lips part slightly as she breathes. She sees the bruises along her throat, now dark and angry where the intruder’s hands had tried to squeeze the breath out of her. Peggy came so close to losing her, to losing yet another important person in her life.
The surge of emotion is what causes the next few moments. She gently brushes Angie’s hair away from her face, she’s careful of the tangles as she rests her hand at the back of Angie’s head. Peggy brushes her nose against Angie’s, watching the way her eyes flutter open and the lazy smile that starts until she realizes how close she is to Peggy and that she is waking and no longer dreaming.
Peggy brushes her nose against Angie’s again, smiling gently as she slowly moves to kiss her. Angie is startled for a moment, unsure of what to do until she relaxes and presses closer to Peggy, kissing her back with an inexperienced eagerness that makes Peggy smile against her lips.
Angie sighs happily, pulling away just enough to study Peggy’s face. She traces her features lightly, smiling when Peggy kisses her fingertips as she passes over her lips.
“I do believe I’ve gone and fallen in love with you.” Peggy says quietly, watching Angie read her lips and then stare into her eyes. She looks like she doesn’t believe her. “You’re incredible, and stubborn, and one of the kindest people I’ve ever known.”
Angie's face scrunches like she's about to cry and Peggy realizes too late that she is. She gently wipes the tears that are tracking down her face when Angie sits up and faces away from Peggy on the bed. She rests her palm on Angie's back, willing her to turn around and tell her what's wrong.
Peggy grabs for the notepad on her bedside table and writes What's wrong? and rests it on Angie's lap. She shakes her head, pushing the notepad away and letting it fall to the floor. Peggy moves from her place on the bed and kneels in front of Angie. Each time she tries to catch her eye, Angie shakes her head and squeezes her eyes closed.
Peggy sighs, standing and cupping Angie's face to press a gentle kiss to her forehead. She leaves a note for Angie and leaves her to calm on her own.
An hour or so later Angie enters the kitchen where Peggy sits with a cup of tea and the Project Rebirth file. She slides it across the table with a note on top, He cared for you a great deal.
She leaves Angie alone to read through the files of Steve’s life during the war. Choosing instead to sit by the fire and wait for Angie to come to her. She does, Peggy's lost track of the time but notices when Angie lingers in the doorway.
How long have you known? She signs, standing in front of Peggy, tears still wet on her face.
“A while.” She breathes, “I didn't know how to tell you, the time never seemed right.”
Did you love him?
The question takes Peggy by surprise, but she doesn't want to lie to Angie, doesn't want to hide. “Yes. Though our time together was short.”
Angie nods her understanding and takes a deep breath, though she winces as soon as she does.
Why did you say that?
“Say what, darling?” Peggy sits on the edge of the sofa, wanting to touch Angie but afraid of scaring her off again.
That you loved me.
“Because I do.” She shrugs
Angie shakes her head, tears brimming. But I'm deaf and-and queer. I can't give you anything. She wipes at the tears on her face with the back of her hand, averting Peggy's face.
“Do you love me?” Peggy asks, holding her breath as soon as the words slip out, her hands moving along out of habit.
Angie stares and nods slowly.
“Then that's all I need.” Angie only stares back. “You have been nothing but exceedingly kind and patient with me and well, those affections have simply grown.” Peggy stands from her place on the sofa and takes Angie's hand. She places a kiss on her palm and rests it against the bare skin where her heart beats. Peggy waits for Angie to look at her, “the rest is just details.”
Angie studies her, bringing her own hand to brush along Peggy's cheekbone. She nods, moving closer until her lips brush lightly against Peggy's, waiting for Peggy to close the distance.