Natasha showed up in the training room the next morning with a cardboard cup of coffee and a cool, unreadable smirk on her face.
Sharon first noticed her out of the corner of her eye, but she didn’t even pause in her assault on the punching bag.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“Just came by to say good morning,” Natasha replied. “And to bring you coffee. Cinnamon latte with whipped cream and nutmeg.¨
¨You know my order?¨ Sharon asked. ¨How do you know my order? You never bring me coffee.¨
¨Maria told me. Said she used to bring you coffee all the time when you were in training and that you hadn´t changed your order in all the time she's known you.¨
¨Guilty as charged,” Sharon said. She put her hands on either side of the punching bag to stop it and started unrolling the gauze from her hands. She flipped her ponytail over her shoulder and caught her breath as she made her way over to the edge of the mats and grabbed the coffee from Natasha.
She took one sip and practically spit it out when she realized that it was ice cold.
Natasha grinned and dodged the punch that Sharon aimed at her shoulder.
¨Is that any way to thank the girl who brought you coffee? ¨
¨You’re the worst,” Sharon said, rolling her eyes. She took another sip of her drink. It was a little bit better. Not very much, but her need for coffee trumped the temperature. She paused and tucked a short lock of hair that had come free of her ponytail behind her ear. ¨So what do you want?” she asked.
¨Why do you assume that I want something?” Natasha asked.
¨Because this isn’t like you,” Sharon replied. “What’s up?”
Natasha crossed her arms and leaned back against the wall. “I just wanted to let you know that Maria and I didn’t find anything last night.”
“What’d you guys end up doing?”
“We just googled her for a while and looked for anything that had to do with a relationship, but we couldn’t find anything. The closest we could get was a picture of her old marriage license, but that wasn’t until the late fifties anyway. Long after that breakup letter came.”
Sharon didn’t say anything. She just took a long sip of her coffee and waited for Natasha to continue.
“We didn’t hack into her classified files or anything if that’s what you’re worried about,” she said.
“It was, actually,” Sharon said.
“Well we didn’t do that. I’m not that curious.”
“It’s just bothering me because I know that handwriting,” Natasha said. “You know that feeling when you’ve got a word that you just can’t think of and it sits on the tip of your tongue for the longest time?”
“You literally just said you weren’t that curious about it.”
Sharon finished her coffee and tossed the empty cup in a nearby trash can before heading back into the locker room. Natasha just followed and leaned against the doorframe as Sharon started to get changed.
“Well yeah, but I know that handwriting and I want to find out who it is,” Natasha said. “At least to satisfy myself and if you don’t want to know, I won’t tell you.”
Sharon thought for a moment. She pulled the elastic out of her hair and shook it out over her shoulders. Finally, she turned back to Natasha with her hands on her hips.
“I guess you can tell me when you find out. But that’s it. None of this gets back to Aunt Peggy, right?”
“Scouts’ honor,” Natasha replied, holding up three fingers.
“Uh-huh,” Sharon replied. She shot Natasha a one-fingered salute of her own and she heard Natasha laughing as she slipped out of the locker room.
Peggy wasn’t entirely sure where Angie kept getting her alcohol from, but Peggy was definitely not complaining. At least not as long as Angie was sharing.
They were both sitting on the sofa in the living room with a half-empty bottle of peppermint schnapps on the coffee table and a completely-empty cake plate that Angie had snagged from the automat. There was still a little frosting smeared around the edge and Angie giggled as she dragged her finger through it and stuck it in her mouth. She sucked the frosting off and released her finger with a small pop.
Peggy heard herself laughing, but her head felt a little fuzzy.
Maybe she shouldn’t have had that third glass of schnapps. Or did she have four? She couldn’t quite remember. But there was a glass in her hands that was still mostly full of alcohol and Angie was still giggling and practically draping herself over the arm of the sofa and really Peggy could care in the morning.
“So, English,” Angie said, once she had finally managed to sit up long enough to actually form the words. “Do you like anyone?”
“Hmm?” Peggy raised her eyebrows as she took a sip of her drink.
“You know,” Angie said. “Do you like anyone? Any of those beefcakes you work with catchin’ your eye?”
Peggy practically choked on her drink and had to set her glass on the coffee table to keep from spilling it. “Lord, no,” she said. “No of course not, I would never even think about any of them like that.”
“Okay, well then what about girls?” Angie asked.
Peggy felt her cheeks flush before she could even open her mouth and Angie grinned.
“You do!” she exclaimed. “You like a girl! Who is it? Do I know her?”
“Of course not,” Peggy scoffed. She pulled her feet up underneath her on the sofa and tried to keep her face from going any redder. “I don’t fancy anyone, I just—“
“Yeah right, you can say it all you want, but for a super spy, you’re awful at lying,” Angie said. She was giggling again now and she ran her finger through the frosting on the cake plate and swiped a glob of it onto the tip of Peggy’s nose. “At least tell me what she’s like?”
Peggy thought for a moment. “She smells nice.”
“You like a girl just ‘cause she smells nice?”
“That’s not the only reason,” Peggy said defensively.
“Well then what are some more reasons?” Angie asked.
Angie rolled her eyes and flopped back against the arm of the sofa. “Are you kiddin’ me?”
Peggy just shook her head—a little too hard, she realized, as the room started to swirl around her like she was looking through a kaleidoscope—and started to reach for her drink, but she felt herself start to tip off the sofa and had to brace her hand on the edge of the coffee table.
“You okay, English?” Angie asked.
“I don’ know,” Peggy replied. Part of her brain was aware that she was starting to slur her words and she half-wondered if maybe she had had more to drink than she thought. Either that or the time she had spent sober since the end of the war had really lowered her tolerance. “Maybe I should go to bed.”
“Aw, come on, I’m just messin’ with ya,” Angie protested, but Peggy just shook her head again. “Come with me?”
Angie rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically, but she got up, swaying just a little bit and took Peggy’s hand to pull her to her feet. They stumbled over to the stairs and made their way up to the bedroom where Angie flopped facedown on the bed without even bothering to change. Peggy briefly debated getting her back up to at least make her wash her face, but Angie was already asleep and Peggy didn’t really have it in her to disturb her.
Peggy headed into the bathroom and washed her face in record time. She slipped into her nightgown and gently pushed Angie over so that she had enough room to slide in. She pulled the blankets up over them both and curled up on her side.
Maybe it was just the alcohol clouding her mind, but for the first time in the month since they had started sleeping in the same room, Peggy was highly conscious of the space between them.
Peggy’s meeting only lasted about an hour—which was much shorter than she had expected given that her meetings with the World Security Council tended to last at least twice that long—and by the time it was over, Peggy needed another cup of coffee.
By the time she made it back to her office, she was already halfway finished with her cup and still no closer to staying awake than she was when she got out of the meeting.
She paced the length of her office a few times, dodging the boxes that were stacked all around to be moved down the hall over the next few days. She didn’t even realize that she had practically fallen into a trance until she heard a knock at the door.
She jumped and turned so fast that she had to brace herself on the corner of her desk to keep from falling over.
“Agent Carter, are you okay?”
Sharon was standing in the office doorway with one hand on her hip and a concerned frown on her face.
“Hi, darling, yes, I’m…I’m fine, thanks,” Peggy said. “I just didn’t sleep very well.”
“You look terrible,” Sharon said. It suddenly seemed to dawn on her that maybe that wasn’t exactly the right thing to be saying. Her eyes widened just a little bit and her cheeks flushed. “You don’t look like you should be here today.”
“Nonsense,” Peggy said, waving her hand dismissively. “Is there something I can help you with?”
“I just thought I’d come by and see if there’s anything else you wanted me to help you pack up, but I guess you’ve got it pretty much covered.”
“Yes, Agen—Director Fury came by last night and boxed up the last of it. He’s going to help me bring most of it back to my apartment and the rest will be moving down the hall.”
“Huh.” Sharon crossed her arms and nodded vaguely at the boxes scattered around her.
“Is there anything else?” Peggy asked suddenly.
“Um, no I think that was all.” Sharon paused and then finally looked up and met Peggy’s eyes. “It just won’t be the same without having you in the corner office.”
“Oh, darling, come here,” Peggy said. She set down her coffee cup and opened her arms, gesturing for Sharon to come closer. Sharon met her halfway and Peggy wrapped her arms around her.
Peggy chuckled. “You know I’m going to be just down the hall, right?”
“I know,” Sharon said. “But it’ll be weird. You’ve just always been here since the very beginning and I know things have to change at some point, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it just yet.
“No,” Peggy replied, letting go of Sharon and taking a step back. “No, I suppose it doesn’t.” She started to reach behind her for her coffee, but ended up swaying again and practically fell into the edge of her desk. She caught herself just in time and frowned. “And speaking of things that should end, perhaps this day really is one of them.”
Peggy grabbed her purse off and jacket from the back of her chair and sucked down the rest of her coffee in a single gulp, tossing the cup in the trash can as she walked by.
“I’ll see you soon, alright, darling?” she asked, resting her hand gently on Sharon’s shoulder as she passed.
“Yeah, of course,” Sharon replied. “I’ll walk you outside.”
Peggy just nodded and flicked off the lights. As she and Sharon headed silently towards the elevators, she found her mind already wandering to just how nice her bed was going to feel when she got home.
When Peggy got back to her apartment all she barely even had the energy to kick off her shoes and take off her jacket before she collapsed facedown on the couch. The cushion was scratchy against her cheek and the couch itself was so narrow that one of her arms was hanging down, her hand brushing against the rug which could really use a vacuum now that she was thinking about it.
She closed her eyes, but sleep refused to come.
Peggy groaned and rolled over on her back and tried again, but even though she was exhausted, she couldn’t seem to get to sleep.
“Oh for the love of…”
Peggy trailed off as she got up and padded into the kitchen. She put the kettle on to boil and pulled a mug out of one of the upper cupboards. She dropped a bag of earl grey tea into it and leaned against the counter as she waited for the water to boil.
The box of letters was still on the edge of the counter where she had left it that morning.
Peggy crossed the kitchen and took out the lid. Without even looking, her hands settled on one particular yellowed envelope. She pulled it out and unfolded the letter inside. She already knew the words by heart and she had since the first day she had gotten it, but she could still feel a slight smile tugging at her lips as she read it.
July 8, 1950
California seems to get hotter every single day. At least it’s a dry heat so it doesn’t make my hair as frizzy, but it’s still so hard to get used to. It’s beautiful though. Of course you’ve seen the palm trees and the beaches and everything, so I’m sure you remember, but the city itself seems so much brighter than New York. But don’t worry, this is still only temporary. I’ll be back for Broadway soon enough!
I wish I could say so much more, but I’ll see you again soon enough. I can’t wait for you to come out and see the set! It’s so amazing and I still can’t believe it’s all real!
Love you with all my heart,
P.S. The bed’s really too big for just one person.
Peggy’s finger traced around the bubblegum pink lipstick stain on the bottom corner of the paper and maybe it was just her exhausted brain making things up on her, but she swore she could almost still smell a hint of that floral perfume.
The tea kettle started screaming and Peggy jumped. She quickly shoved the letter back into the envelope and slammed the lid back on the shoe box before she yanked the kettle off the burner.
She poured hot water over her tea bag and stirred it gently.
When her mind was this tired, it was almost easy to pretend that she was still as happy as she had been the day she had gotten that letter.
Peggy carried her tea into the bedroom and set it on her nightstand. She crawled into bed, pulling the blankets up over herself and reaching for her mug to take a few sips.
She set the mug back on her nightstand and her last conscious thought before she fell asleep was that her bed was really too big for just one person.
“Angie, I need some advice.”
Angie was standing at the stove stirring a pot of what smelled like chicken cacciatore and she didn’t even look up when Peggy came in. “On what?”
“I, um…I need your help with…well, there’s a woman and I—“
Angie tapped her spoon on the rim of the pot and set it on top before turning around with her hands on her hip and a wicked grin on her face. “Pegs, are you asking me to help you woo a girl?”
Peggy’s cheeks turned a bright pink and her eyes fell to the floor, but she nodded.
“Well geez, all you had to do was say that then.” Angie wiped her hands on a dish towel and tossed it in a crumpled pile on the counter as she stepped closer. “You’re still not gonna tell me who this lucky gal is though, are you?”
“Not just yet,” Peggy said. “But I promise that if she says yes, you’ll be the first to know.”
Angie smiled. “Okay, well the first thing you gotta do is talk to her. Just strike up a conversation with her so that you’ve got her undivided attention.”
“And then the next thing is to pay attention to her,” Angie explained. “Watch her eyes, her lips, her hands. Pay attention to how she moves and what she does. You can tell more about a woman by her eyes than just about anything else.”
Peggy watched as Angie’s eyes fell to her lips for the briefest of moments before they quickly flashed back up again.
“And then what?” she asked.
“And then it’s really a judgment call,” Angie said. “If you think she really likes you, then you can just put your hand on her shoulder like this.” She took Peggy’s hand in her own and guided it to her shoulder. “And then if she doesn’t move away, you can touch her waist like this.”
This time Peggy’s hand moved before Angie could reach it and she wrapped her arm gently around Angie’s waist, her hand on the small of Angie’s back pulling them ever so slightly closer together.
They were so close now that Peggy could feel Angie’s breath warm against her lips and she could smell the sweet traces of her perfume still clinging to her pulse points.
“Is that it?” Peggy asked.
“Yeah. If you make it that far, I think you’ve got her,” Angie replied.
“So did it work?” Peggy asked again.
“You’re damn right it did.” Angie’s voice was barely more than a husky whisper.
“Can I kiss you?”
This time Angie didn’t have to speak. She tipped her head up just the slightest bit and met Peggy’s lips in a soft, gentle kiss.
Peggy was the one who pulled back first. Her cheeks were nearly as red as her lipstick, but she was smiling just the same.
“You know, you can be really romantic when you want to be,” Angie said with a smile and only the faintest trace of a blush on her cheeks.
“What can I say?” Peggy asked. “I have a fabulous teacher.”
Angie looked like she was about to say something else, but then she sniffed the air and whipped around to grab her wooden spoon again. The cacciatore was steaming and Angie started stirring it again, but she turned back to look at Peggy.
“How about after I get this dinner done, we pick up where we left off,” she suggested.
Peggy just smiled and wrapped her arms around Angie’s waist, resting her chin on Angie’s shoulder.
“Or this is nice too,” Angie said. She moved her free hand down to rest on Peggy’s and started rubbing small circles with her thumb.
Peggy hummed in agreement.
“I love you, Pegs,” Angie murmured.
“I love you too, darling,” Peggy said. She pressed a soft kiss to the side of Angie’s neck and smiled. “I love you too.”
Sharon was having a pretty good night.
She was sitting on her couch with a half-empty bag of tortilla chips and a completely empty bowl of chili on the coffee table in front of her. There was another three hours left in the impromptu Say Yes to the Dress marathon that she had been sucked into and she sighed as she pulled a throw blanket up over her legs.
Then her cell phone started to ring.
It was Natasha.
Sharon rolled her eyes and muted the TV before unlocking her phone.
“What do you want?”
“Well hello to you too,” Natasha said.
“Hi,” Sharon said. “What do you want?”
“I wanted to tell you that I remembered where I know that handwriting from.” Natasha said.
“And you couldn’t just text me about this why?” Sharon asked.
“You wouldn’t believe me.” Sharon could almost hear her smirk through the phone. “You need to get over here. I need to show you this.”
“Yeah, why? You got a hot date or something?”
“No, but I—“
“Good, then get over here,” Natasha said. “Maria’s already on her way. I really think you need to see this. Besides, weren’t you the one who said just this morning that you wanted to know when I found something out?”
Sharon sighed. “I guess so.”
“So then get your ass over here soon. I’m pretty sure I know who wrote those letters and you’re not going to believe it.”
“I’ll be there in ten,” Sharon said. She ended the call before Natasha had a chance to say goodbye.
Sharon stood up, stretching her arms high above her head as she did. She rolled the rim of the chip bag down, switched off the TV, grabbed her jacket and keys, and headed out the door.
She and Maria just so happened to reach Natasha’s door at the exact same moment.
“Did she explain anything to you on the phone?” Maria asked.
“Nope,” Sharon replied. “You?”
“Of course not. Do you have any idea what could be so important that it couldn’t wait until morning?”
“There’s nothing coming to mind.”
Before either of them could say anything else, though, the door opened and Natasha appeared in the doorway in a hoodie and sweatpants that made her look even smaller than she was.
“Good, you made it,” she said. “Get in here.”
Sharon and Maria exchanged glances before stepping into the apartment. Natasha shut the door behind them and moved back over to the couch. Liho was sitting on the cushion, but Natasha shooed her away and grabbed her laptop off the side table.
“You guys need to come over and sit down,” Natasha said. “Because you’re not going to believe this.”
“Nat, we don’t need to sit, just show us,” Maria said, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Yeah, come on,” Sharon said.
“No, I really think you guys should sit down.”
“We’re fine,” Sharon snapped.
“Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Natasha said. She brought up a new window on her screen and held it up. There was a picture of a handwritten note on the screen and even without reading it, Sharon could tell that it was in fact the same handwriting as they had found on Peggy’s old letters.
But that wasn’t the only thing about it that caught her attention. The signature on the bottom made her reach for the doorknob to brace herself.
“Holy shit,” she breathed.
“Is that—?” Maria started.
“Told you,” Natasha said with a smirk.
“No way,” Sharon said. She shook her head a few times to try to clear it. “There’s no way she actually wrote those letters. Aunt Peggy would have mentioned that at some point or something.”
Maria was silent.
Nat was just looking back at her computer. “I ran it through some of the matching software at SHIELD and it checks out,” she said. “Angela Martin was exchanging letters with Director Carter.”
“Are you watching me?” Peggy asked.
“If I was, could you blame me?” Angie replied.
Peggy just rolled her eyes and went back to washing her face. There was lipstick and mascara smudged all over the washcloth she was using and she wrung it out under the tap until it all swirled down the drain in a single gray stream.
She set the clean cloth on the counter to dry and stepped back into the bedroom where Angie was laying across the end of the bed, propping herself up on her elbows so she could see through the open en suite door.
“You know, you’re cute without makeup,” she said.
Peggy raised an eyebrow in question as she ran a brush through her hair. She briefly debated doing her regular pin curls, but it really wasn’t worth the effort at the moment and she just set the brush back on the bureau and padded over to the bed.
“I mean, you’re beautiful all the time, but I like seeing your freckles,” Angie said. She sat up and scrambled up towards the pillows so that Peggy could pull the blankets back and climb into bed with her. Once Peggy lay down, Angie reached out and traced the pad of her thumb across the spray of light freckles across Peggy’s nose.
“Well if I had known that was all it took to impress you, I’d have just taken my makeup off earlier,” Peggy chuckled.
Angie didn’t say anything else. She just pressed her lips lightly against the tip of Peggy’s nose and smiled.
“So I suppose this means I won’t be moving back into the other room anytime soon then, doesn’t it,” Peggy said.
Angie giggled. “Not on your life, English.”
She got up on one elbow and reached over Peggy to turn off the light. She flopped back down and smiled to herself as Peggy started to roll over.
She curled in on herself like she had always done, but this time, Angie did something she had never done before. She scooted a little closer and pressed her body gently against Peggy’s. She wrapped her arms around Peggy and smiled as Peggy relaxed against her.
“Good night, Pegs,” she whispered. “I love you.”
“Love you too, darling,” Peggy replied, already almost asleep. “With all my heart.”