“That’s enough for today,” Jack says soberly, turning to the pair of agents.
“Same time tomorrow?” inquires Daniel.
“That’s when I’ll be here.”
Jack turns off the light of their office, scanning the room, eyes pausing at the stark contrast between the caution tape and the city night behind it, and ushers the others out.
He heads straight to his car. Daniel starts to head off as well, but realizing that Peggy remains lingering by the door, he backtracks his few steps.
“You don’t have anywhere to go, do you?” he asks gently.
“I suppose I’ll just take a walk, see if any hotels have an open room.”
Her voice comes out sadder than she’d hoped, and she isn’t spared Daniel’s notice of that.
“You could come back with me.” Daniel gestures back towards his car.
“Daniel-” she starts to protest, but he cuts her off.
“I got a guest room and New York’s best recipe for tortellini. It’s getting late; you can look for a hotel room another night.”
“Well, who am I to refuse New York’s best tortellini?” Peggy accedes with a soft jest. Daniel offers his hand as he turns back around, but she gestures instead for him to lead the way.
She swirls the wine around in her glass, watching it far too closely. A wonderful dinner indeed, but now that their conversation had idled, it had segued to an awkward period of silence at Daniel’s table for two.
“You could have come to me,” he says softly, almost out of nowhere, and she doesn’t tear her eyes away from her wine to look up at him. “You could have told me you knew Stark was innocent.”
Peggy scoffs, practically to herself.
“And what would you have said, Daniel? If I had come to you proclaiming his innocence, with no evidence but my own gut, which this entire agency seems to believe is directly connected to another part of my body entirely? If I had asked you to go against what the chief said to try to put the pieces together?”
She pauses, taking a deep, sad breath.
“I may have been wrong to keep all this from you, but that does not change that you would not have helped me.”
“I could have tried! I could have at least known why.”
His voice fades quickly from harsh anger to gentler hurt, and his glass scrapes against the wood of his table as he sets it down.
“Maybe I wouldn’t have helped you prove his innocence then, but I guess we’ll never know what I would have done, will we? Because I never even got the chance to choose whether to help you or not.”
“What? You didn’t want to get me wrapped up in all that business? You wanted to protect me? Something like that, is that what you’re going to say? You did a damn fine job of it, too.”
“You’re not honestly going to imply you’d risk imprisonment for a man you didn’t even believe to be innocent?”
“No! No, I’m not. Because I wouldn’t. But you know what? What you seem to be missing is that I would do it for you.”
There’s nothing she could possibly say to that, nor anything that would stop her heart from racing or her breath from growing shallow or her tears continuing to gather at the creases of her navy-lined eyelids, so his voice lingers in the air of the room until he pushes himself up from his chair a few moments later. He sets his empty wine glass on the counter, and heads through the living room towards the hall. Peggy watches him out of the corner of her eye, until he stops at the beginning of the hallway and speaks again, and she turns her gaze back to the table.
“You should be able to find anything you need, but if you can’t, you know where my room is.”
She forces herself to look up at him.
“Good night, Daniel.”
He nods, and starts down the hall, but stops again.
“For the record, Peg…you’re still on that pedestal.”
He walks away, and she pours another glass of wine, presses her eyes shut, listens to him crutch against the carpet, and lets herself cry.
“What in God’s name is this?”
She startles when she hears Daniel’s voice at the entry to the kitchen, having expected to have heard him coming well before that.
“Breakfast. What does it look like?”
“Am I not allowed to cook for you?”
“You certainly didn’t have to, but I won’t say I’m opposed. Surprised, maybe,” he answers casually.
“What, too domestic?” she replies playfully as she’s pouring a second coffee into a second mug.
“No, no, this is a lovely level of domesticity, actually.”
He walks up behind her and snatches a strawberry from the bowl of fruit at her left. Reflexively she thinks to slap his hand away, but she stops herself and simply shoots him a disapproving look, which he returns with a light chuckle.
“Did I ruin everything?”
“Not everything, no,” she says cockily, and turns around to set a plate of scrambled eggs down at the end of the table where Daniel had sat the night before. She gestures for him to sit, and he complies without a word, though not before grabbing two sets of silverware from the respective drawer. He leans his crutch against the counter in the center of the kitchen, and waits for Peggy to sit down before beginning to eat.
When the energy of their banter peters out, they eat mostly in silence, sharing pages of the morning paper across the table. Daniel finishes a moment before Peggy does, and before she can offer any protest he’s taken their plates and silverware to the sink. However, once he’s nearly done washing them, she grabs the closest dishrag and goes to stand at his side and do the drying.
“I’m sorry,” he says soberly as he’s returning the plates to the cupboard, and his hand inches a bit closer to hers. “I should have gone to you first. Trusted you. Known that you weren’t- I was hurt, and jealous, and you deserved better than that.”
She can feel her brow furrow for barely a second before the words sink in.
“About Howard?” she asks weakly, and he nods, and she’s grateful he’s not looking right at her because she can feel herself blush. However, a light chuckle does escape her.
“I’m not really a swoon-easy, week-long fling, diamond-and-gold bracelet sort of woman, Daniel.”
Dozens of unanswered questions linger in the air for what feels like far too long.
“And what sort of woman are you, Peggy?”
“Let me know when you figure it out,” she says with a tone of annoyed jest, and they share a short, nervous laugh.
“Here’s hoping,” he replies, mimicking her tone and seemingly meaning to convey a teasing answer - but when he puts a hand on her shoulder and excuses himself a moment later to warm up his car, Peggy finds it hard not to smile.