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Perhaps Another Time

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The second time Daniel asked Peggy out for a drink it was just over a year since his initial request. He’d meant to ask her sooner, he really had, but with Dooley gone and internal investigations and department audits coming out their ears after everything that happened, it never really seemed like a good time. Peggy seemed different as well; she wasn’t quite as chained to her desk as she’d been before the Stark Case and at first Daniel had presumed she’d already found herself a fella that had her rushing home most evenings at a semi-reasonable hour.

When he’d asked her about it though she’d brushed it off almost too quickly and for a second he thought maybe he was still in with a shot. Still, when he’d approached her desk to ask her a week later she’d merely shot him one of her devastating smiles and explained she’d already made plans with a friend.

She’d sworn to take him up on the offer some other time however, and that’s how he found himself hobbling over to her desk a month later, this time swearing to himself not to take no for an answer.

He watched her slide a few files into her satchel, waiting until she’d tied the button at the front before speaking. “Hey, Carter.” He paused until she looked up. “You hear about that new place that’s openin’ down the road?”

He watched her eyebrows knit together at the question and tried not to think how pretty she looked. “The bar?” She replied finally, her tone just as hard to read as ever.

“Yea that’s the spot,” he nodded, more to himself than to her, and then took a breath before spitting out the question. “I was wonderin’ maybe if you’d like to head there for a drink?”

He didn’t even need to wait around for her response to know her answer. Her lips quirked up into a sad smile and her eyes took this look that told him in another life she’d probably have said yes a long time ago. Not in this life though, not when he had a peg leg and Captain America to contend with.

“Daniel I’m terribly sorry,” she began, simply confirming his assumptions. “I’ve already promised my friend I’d have dinner with them this evening.” In the pause that followed he could already hear her next sentence in his head. “Perhaps some other time?”

Daniel nodded. “Another time for sure.” Whoever this friend was they sure were lucky.

-.-.-.-

“It happened again,” Peggy sighed dramatically when she stepped into the kitchen and threw her bag on the counter.

Angie turned from the sauce she was mixing on the stove. “No hello dear how was your day, or oh, Angie darling that smells delicious?”

Peggy smiled apologetically and stepped around the counter, planting a quick kiss against her girlfriends lips before speaking. “Everything you make smells delicious and tastes even better,” she murmured Angie’s face still only inches from her own. “And you know I want to hear about your day, so how was it?”

Angie kissed her again quickly, tasting coffee. “I had an audition earlier,” she started, pulling away from Peggy to tend to her sauce. “It’s a pretty big role an’ all, the star’s best friend.”

“How do you think it went?” Peggy stepped around Angie when she spoke lifting the lid off the pots and pans on the stove to see what exactly was in store for her taste-buds tonight.

“They let me finish my song and listened to some of the lines I’d prepared.” Angie tried to keep the excitement from her tone, though it was rare that such a big audition went so well for her. “So y’know, fingers crossed I’ll be hearin’ about a call back in a day or so.”

“That’s wonderful news darling.” Peggy placed a quick kiss on Angie’s temple then shuffled over to a drawer to pull out cutlery for the table.

“Well y’know, here’s hopin’.” Angie tried to shrug it off; she never liked getting her hopes up for nothing. “Now anyway, what was all that talk about somethin’ happenin’ again?”

“Ugh, that,” Peggy sighed dramatically and sat down heavily at the table. “Daniel asked me out for a drink again.”

Now, Angie Martinelli wasn’t the jealous type, or at least that’s what Peggy would have told anyone that asked before they’d become an item. The past year had changed her perspectives on a lot of things though, her girlfriends possessive nature being chief among them. It probably didn’t help that they weren’t able to tell anyone about their relationship (especially the men Peggy was forced to work with day in and day out) and although Angie would never doubt Peggy’s loyalty she constantly doubted the morality of men. Not that Peggy could blame her.

“Did he now?” Although Angie was fighting to keep her tone casual Peggy easily picked up on the strain behind each syllable.

“Mhm,” Peggy hummed. “I told him I’d go on the condition he’d kiss me goodnight after,” she added, unable to resist the opportunity to tease.

“Y’know Peg,” Angie sighed, taking her sauce off the heat and turning slowly to stare pointedly at her girlfriend. “I know you think you’re funny but you make another joke like that and I’m gonna have to find this Daniel Sousa guy and snap his wrist the way you showed me.”

Peggy knew those self-defence lessons had been a bad idea.

“He really is harmless Angie,” Peggy swore, knowing if it were Thompson or any of the other idiots in her office she may have given Angie permission to practice some of the moves she’d taught her a long time ago.

“Yea, people say I’m harmless too, then bam! I’ve snapped your wrist in two and that’ll have you re-thinkin’ things,” Angie warned, and Peggy tried desperately to muffle her laughter behind her hand. “Now, you gonna help me plate up this dinner what?”

-.-.-.-

It was two weeks before Angie actually did come face to face with Daniel Sousa and all as a result of Howard Stark, of course.

(Most unfortunate things in Angie’s life were as a result of Howard Stark come to think of it, including a dishwasher he’d tried to programme to dry the dishes too only to have the machine melt a hole in Peggy and Angie’s kitchen floor, and a proto-type microwave oven that could fit on a kitchen counter that had blown out their kitchen window rather than heat the leftover lasagne Angie had allowed him to experiment with. Really she should stop being surprised at this point).

It all started on a Monday morning, when Peggy had received a call from Howard, insisting she cut her work-day short and come visit him while he was in town. Something about running through an idea he’d been developing for a new intelligence agency that he thought she may like to play a part in. Usually any offer made to Peggy by Howard Stark was something she’d turn down before he’d finished his sentence though oddly this idea seemed like something she’d quite like to hear more of, and since he was unwilling to discuss details over the phone she’d promised to go see him, informing Angie before she left that she’d more than likely be home later than usual.

Angie had the call back for that big part that day anyway so she was far too strung up to care what hour Peggy came home. That was of course until she got back from her audition to find a broad shouldered, dark haired stranger trying to break in her front door.

Well at least that’s what it looked like before she got close enough to realise this guy had a key?

“Hey?!” Angie marched up the steps startling the guy enough for him to drop the key onto the step. “Who do you-“

She didn’t need to finish her sentence though because that’s when she saw it. With one curious eye still on Angie he stooped down to retrieve the fallen key, only one leg bending for him while he was forced to extend the other to accommodate its lack of joints. Angie’s cousin lost his leg working in a rubber factory when he was sixteen and since then she’d grown able to spot the awkward manoeuvring that came along with prosthetics a mile off.

“Daniel Sousa.” It was a statement rather than a question, and one that perplexed the man crouched awkwardly in front of her until he straightened up and looked her in the eye.

“You’re that girl from the day we had to take in Carter…”

As tempted as Angie was to add that it had been her that threw them off Peggy’s sent, she refrained. “Yea, Angie Martinelli,” she reminded him instead, her stare icy. “Wanna tell me what exactly it is you’re doin’ here?”

“That’s confidential actually,” he explained, and Angie couldn’t tell if she was imagining the patronising tone because she disliked this guy, or if he actually was just as much of a douche as she liked to imagine him to be in her head.

“Yea well breakin’ into my house is trespassin’.” She didn’t bother explaining the minor detail of the house actually belonging to Howard Stark, she was too mad for detail.

“Carter gave me a key,” he explained, holding up the offending item until the sunlight twinkled off the silver.

“Yea well, Carter taught me how to break a guy’s wrist,” Angie fired back. “So you’re gonna need to explain yourself.” She crossed her arms indignantly. “And don’t tip-toe round me too much; I’m aware Peggy ain’t workin’ for no phone company.”

“Can I at least come inside?” Daniel requested. “This isn’t exactly something to discuss on the street.”

Angie considered for a second then nodded, unlocking the door with her own set of keys and letting them both into the hall. There she silently slipped out of her shoes and jacket before leading him wordlessly through to the kitchen.

“Tea?” She offered, playing hostess even though she’d rather kick him in the nuts right then and there.

“What kind?” Daniel was used to his mother’s vast collection of teas, and had grown accustom to asking the question for fear of being given peppermint.

“Earl Grey, its Peg’s favourite.” Angie didn’t mean to add that last part, or maybe she did; her own small way of hinting at Daniel to back off.

“That’d be lovely.”

Without another word Angie turned to begin brewing and Daniel was left with nothing else to do but wonder what would happen if he ever attempted to call Peggy ‘Peg’. He’d already witnessed the daggers Thompson received on the rare occasion he was feeling like enough of an ass to call her Marge, and he’d always simply imagined that anything other than Peggy or Agent Carter wouldn’t go down too well with his colleague. Then again, her and this Angie girl apparently lived together which would of course put her on a lot friendlier terms with Peggy.

Come to think of it, if this girl knew as much about Peggy’s life as she was letting on she knew then she must really be something special.

Daniel took a quick look around the room then, and although his detective skills weren’t nearly as fine-tuned as some other agent’s he knew (Peggy being chief amongst them), two things instantly stood out to him. The first was a bouquet of flowers, slightly wilted after several days sitting on the countertop, though still unmistakably a bunch of violets.

The second item was a shopping list lying next to where he stood at the kitchen counter. Most of the writing was unmistakably Peggy’s; all elegant swirls and flicks, her cursive enviously neat after a lifetime of practice. There were however small notes added in the margins in writing slightly more scratched, the edges of the lettering slightly more pointed; notes like “low fat – it’s better for us” written next to milk, or “fresh!!!!” scribbled next to the word tomatoes, or “the doughy kind I like” beside the word bread.

It was a small insignificant kind of thing to notice, though it was tradition in the Sousa household that every time a son got married off they had to host Thanksgiving dinner with their new wife. Last year it had been the turn of his brother Andrew, and due to unforeseen circumstances involving Thompson actually acting like he possessed a heart Daniel had gotten enough time off work to drive out to his brothers place early – early enough for him to witness his sister-in-law, Sarah, sitting at the kitchen table making all her little revisions to the shopping list Andrew had drawn up. “I have to remind him of the little things” she’d explained when Daniel asked why she needed to write down a detail as small as the size of the block of butter they’d need. “Head like a sieve that brother of yours, yet he insists on doing the shopping every week so I’ve one less thing to worry about. I could never let him know it stresses me out more sending him out to get the big tub of butter than it would if I just got it myself.”

Daniel realised then it was the little things like shopping lists that constituted true love. Not grand gestures or bouquets of 100 roses. Not even his brothers willingness to do the shopping every week, but rather his sister-in-laws willingness to allow it; week in and week out having to suffer through him coming home with bags full of incorrect items and all because she loved him too much to tell him he was awful at grocery shopping.

He smiled at the thought of Peggy being unable to navigate a supermarket, yet doing it anyway to try and please the woman in front of him – a woman who was now turning towards him with a cup of Earl Grey extended in front of her.

“So,” she hummed, leaning back against a counter and staring at him intently as she brought her own mug to her lips to blow lightly on the steaming liquid. “Spill.”

Daniel sighed then pointed to the briefcase he’d set on the kitchen counter when he’d come in. “Delivering files. Carter told me thismornin’ she needed to skip out after lunch to follow up on a lead or somethin’ vague like that, but Thompson’s been on some kinda egotistical rampage recently, acceptin’ cases left right and centre.” Angie hummed at this though didn’t interrupt; she’d heard Peggy complain on more than one occasion that Thompson may want to consider hiring someone new before he upped their workload like this. “But see he’s started givin’ us new cases every evenin’ at five. His way of makin’ sure we don’t take long lunches that turn into long dinners. So Peggy asked me if I’d drop by whatever new cases he gave her seeing as she doubted she’d be back in time. Thus the files.” He pointed again at his case. “And thus her giving me this spare key.” He held it up in the air again.

See, all Howard Starks fault.

-.-.-.-

It was a whole month before Daniel asked Peggy out for drinks a fourth time.

“Hey Carter.” Peggy almost sighed, almost rolled her eyes, but instead just continued putting files in her bag. “You up for a drink?”

She almost felt bad, almost. Instead she turned to him, a tight lipped smile stretched thin across her face and contorted awkwardly as she tried to feign sympathy – at this point any emotion other than annoyance was damn near impossible.

“I can’t I’m afraid.” Here she paused; she didn’t actually have an excuse, not a viable one anyway.

She didn’t have time to think of one anyway before Daniel was speaking again. “Come on Carter, I want you and Angie to meet this girl, Diane, I started seein’.”

“Angie… I… pardon?” Panic flared in the pit of Peggy’s stomach and her eyes darted frantically around the almost entirely deserted office.

He knew; Peggy knew he knew. He’d kept an oddly formal distance since the day she’d asked him to drop off files in her apartment; seemed almost cold at first with his not so subtle longing stares being replaced with awkward glances, and his lopsided smiles that accompanied his greetings being replaced by stiff tilts of his head and a muttered hello. Even the way he smiled at her now with knowledge twinkling in the corner of his eyes; knowledge Peggy had a sudden urge to slice his throat for right then and there – he couldn’t know.

The respect she’d managed to scrape from her colleagues in this office couldn’t be torn down, not by Daniel and not like this.

“C’mon Carter,” Daniel continued, and if he was aware of the fear that rooted Peggy to the spot he didn’t show it. “Three nice lookin’ gals on my arm. With a leg like mine it’s not every day that happens.”

Peggy opened her mouth then closed it. Her heart pounded so hard against her ribcage she was sure she’d pass out. Her hand curled into a fist and she dug her nails into the palm of her hand. She knew it was coming, the jibe or harsh remark, the threat to out her, to destroy her career, to ruin her life.

It was almost a full minute before she realised Daniel’s cold, calculated words weren’t coming.

Another few seconds before she realised his smile was inviting and the twinkle in his eyes was that of acceptance. Again she looked around the office, just as quiet as it had been before. She took a breath, uncurled her fists, smiled slowly.

“You’re sure you wouldn’t mind Angie tagging along?” Her question was wary. “I didn’t think you knew her that well?”

Daniel looked relieved, like it should have been him worried that his subtle support wouldn’t be recognised, rather than Peggy worried that it wouldn’t be support he was offering at all.

“Carter, a friend of yours is a friend of mine.”