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After the Lovin'

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7:36am

Still only barely awake - and not particularly happy about it - Peggy nuzzles into Daniel’s shoulder as soon as she can see that he’s done shaving. She feels his soft chuckle, and when he presses a kiss to the top of her head, she can’t help her giddy little giggle.

“Smell nice,” he mumbles.

“Jus’ shampoo,” she smiles, and Daniel shrugs. His arm travels around to her waist, pulling her a bit closer, and she raises her head up and leans in to kiss him softly. She keeps her lips pursed after they’ve left his, the disbelief settling in heavier now that she’s starting to wake up more.

“Sleep okay?” she asks.

“Wonderfully,” Daniel replies, and kisses her again, this time with more force; she turns herself so that she’s leaning up against the sink, wrapping her arms all the way around his neck to keep his chest taut to hers, but a knock at the bathroom door snaps her away with a slight grumble. She turns her head to the door to respond, rolling her eyes at the gentle smirk she can feel Daniel making as he leans down and presses a kiss to her shoulder.

“Yes?”

“Good morning, Miss Carter.”

“Likewise, Mr Jarvis. What is it?”

“I just wanted to inform you that breakfast has been prepared and is waiting. Miss Martinelli has already begun to partake in her meal, but you were notably absent from the kitchen when she arrived so I thought I ought to let you know personally.”

“Thank you, Mr Jarvis. I - I will be there in a couple of minutes.”

“Yes, Miss Carter,” Edwin affirms duteously, his tone a bit anxious.

She’s quite sure why it would be.

He clears his throat, obviously having to steel himself to make mention of what she’s certain he’s about to say.

“Breakfast has been prepared for Agent Sousa as well.”

She can feel herself blushing, even though she’d realized shortly after waking that both he and Angie would have been aware of Daniel's having stayed over anyway.

“Thank you, Mr Jarvis,” she replies as strongly as she can, but Edwin’s awkward reply and subsequent departure confirm that he’d have left even if her voice had been meek.

Peggy takes a deep breath.

“Prepare to be interrogated,” she warns Daniel.

“I’ll think I’ll survive.”

Peggy furrows her brow and grumbles, making the context of the warning clearer.

“I survived Nazi interrogations, and as formidable as Angie is, I get the feeling she likes me a little more than they do.”

Peggy laughs.

“I certainly hope so.”

Daniel backs away from her just a bit, and finishes buttoning his shirt.

“So, Angie knows, obviously. How long do you think it’ll take our colleagues to notice something’s different?”

9:04am

“Too long, regardless,” Thompson’s saying as Daniel comes in; and as soon as Thompson notices him he sits himself back up in his chair - seemingly, to appear less casual, but the fact that the chair is in the middle of the bullpen isn’t going to help him any.

“Too long for what?” Daniel asks as he’s slinging his jacket over the back of his chair.

“Nothing,” Ramirez contests immediately, and Daniel sees Thompson and Wilkes give him a glare.

“Right,” Daniel pretends to concede, his eyebrows raised and disbelief obvious. There’s an awkward silence for another moment before Thompson turns towards him.

“Celebrate any?”

Daniel’s jaw clenches. With Peggy, this was one thing, but of course Thompson wasn’t going to allow him the luxury of avoiding the conversation.

“It’s just a medal.”

“Just…a medal…of honor.”

As Thompson is looking at him pointedly, Peggy strides into the room, standing as tall as ever. They meet each other’s gazes and try to remember how they normally act around each other.

“Honestly, Daniel, if even Thompson knows that you’re selling yourself short, you should take the hint,” she declares, her voice gentle but stern.

“Thanks, Carter. I think,” Thompson says uncertainly, his eyes then trailing her to her desk.

“You don’t have to thank me, Thompson. Not a word of that was for your benefit,” she sighs, taking her seat distractedly, thumbing papers on her desk even before she’s adjusted her position.

“We’ve already had this conversation,” Daniel groans back at her.

“You point that out as though it’s over,” Peggy chimes, feigning sweetness, and looks up momentarily to give him a smile that’s less for him than their curious observers. He rolls his eyes at the comment, knowing that she’s aware the gesture holds no aggression.

“Speaking of benefit,” Thompson says, interrupting their exchange, “you got ‘im to celebrate yet, Carter?”

She scoffs at him.

“Not that I’m going to tell you about. What, you boys need a gift suggestion or something?”

“Peggy, don’t encourage them,” Daniel protests, but she continues.

“Honestly, Jack, I’d think a sailor with a medal of his own would be able to rouse a bit of creativity on the matter.”

“Well, Sousa here has made it clear that he doesn’t agree with my - our…” he grumbles, gesturing blindly around the bullpen, “preferred methods of celebration.”

“What methods are those? Drowning yourself in liquor and waking up five dollars poorer in a motel bed with a cock-eyed woman you can’t name?”

“Okay, just because you like to pretend you’re a cold fish, doesn’t mean all women stay away from us with a five-foot pole,” jumps Wilkes.

“Yes, I’d imagine many women appreciate the luxury of staying farther away.”

“Carter, that’s just rude,” says Thompson, and the uncaring laugh she responds with is a bit heartwarming. Well, for Daniel - the other men remain annoyed.

“It’s not slander if it’s true,” she coos tauntingly.

11:16am

Daniel, as usual, stays in for lunch; Peggy takes down his order, and he stands by the window for a moment to watch her as she carefully waves up at the office window and gets in a cab.

As he heads back to his seat, he sees their coworkers huddled in Dooley’s office, involved in a conversation to which he’s obviously not invited. Curious even through the bit of offense, Daniel watches out of the corner of his eye. They haven’t seemed to notice that the door isn’t fully closed, but it’s not like he’s going to close it for them.

Krzeminski, leaning back against the window, has his arms crossed.

“It’s not happening, boys. I get that y’all want to be optimistic, but it’s just not gonna happen. Certainly not worth betting in favor of.”

Thompson looks up from the desk, having been writing something in one of his notebooks.

“I mean, you don’t really think Sousa’s got the nerve to ask, do you?”

Oh, Hell. He should have expected that’s the direction that would take.

Peggy had offered to file his finished reports for him - an offer he’d only have accepted from her, and she knew it - but he decides to do it preemptively, and grabs hers while he’s at it.

11:19am

“Maybe he doesn’t. Neither do most of us. But Sousa’s not the only piece at play here,” Jack challenges, but Krzeminski just scoffs, so Jack ignores him, turning to the other few agents in the office.

“Are we doing this or not?”

“I give ‘em six months,” contests Dooley.

“Really?”

“Eh, the whole Stark thing was a little divisive there.”

“Well, I say maybe three.”

Having been the only one on their recent shared night shift, Jack is the only one who suspects that something’s already happening with Carter and Sousa. They’d definitely made up since the Stark case, comfortable enough to sit at the same desk and look at files together. And Carter willingly brought him coffee and lunch. She’d still do it for most of them if they asked, but never with a smile, let alone one like the ones Sousa’d been getting out of her recently.

Whether they’d actually had a date or not, he didn’t know, but he was sure it would be imminent.

“And how sure are you of that six months?” Jack continues.

“Put me down for a dollar,” Dooley says, and Jack takes down his bet.

“Three,” asserts Krzeminski, and even Ramirez, who’d said a year, looks at him with surprise.

“You understand that means that you’re paying all of us if it happens at all, right?” Jack asks for clarification. That had been the premise of every one of their bets when they weren’t simple A and B type deals.

“Do you understand that we’re talking about a crip being the follow-up act to Captain America?” Krzeminski retorts arrogantly.

Jack thinks to challenge him - the term ‘crip’ really was a bit harsh, even when Sousa wasn’t there to hear it - but he decides not to bother, shrugs, and writes Krzeminski down.

11:46am

Most of the others - thank God - leave the bullpen for the smoke break portion of their lunch, rather than staying in. Dooley stays in his office - not only did he not smoke, but he tended not to be a major participant in the exchange of office gossip.

“Angie wants you to know that she says ‘hello,’” Peggy informs him when she comes back in, both she and Daniel not bothering to keep their affectionate smiles to themselves since they’re effectively alone. Dooley’s got his back to his office window and his telephone in his hand, so it’d be foolish to think he’d notice, well, just about anything.

Daniel nods in reply, and even though Peggy rolls her eyes at him when he stands and goes to get her chair to put it next to his, she certainly doesn’t stop him or verbalize a protest, which is slightly surprising, as she’d usually at least make a remark.

Not that she’s ever stopped surprising him, so in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not cause for concern.

Besides, the kiss that comes next is even more surprising: long, and deep, and loving, but still - in the middle of the office. There’s an air of scandal to it, especially since nobody else in the building knows, but Daniel decides against erring on the side of caution, and grabs her by her hips to pull her closer.

“What was that for?” he eventually inquires teasingly, and Peggy shrugs.

“Because I wanted to kiss you.”

“Swell reasoning,” Daniel says teasingly, and smiles.

To think that they’d reached the point where they said things like that to each other, damn…

“Oh, hush,” she teases back, taking her seat.

“They’ve got a bet on it, by the way.”

“Come again?”

“I overheard the discussion that involved our colleagues voicing curiosity as to when ‘it’ will happen.”

“No…”

“Yep. And I’m pretty sure they put money on it.”

“I certainly wouldn’t think them above that,” she says, starting to chuckle. She reaches into the take away bag and sets their respective sandwiches in front of both of their chairs.

“That all I missed?”

“Pretty much. It wasn’t a particularly eventful half hour. But it was just horrid missing you,” Daniel says jokingly. In the middle of taking a bite of her sandwich, Peggy rolls her eyes until she’s done chewing, but then she laughs again, that adorable little light coming into her eyes.

Daniel eschews caution about their surroundings, and kisses her again.

11:58am

Oh, hot damn, Jack thinks excitedly, biting his lip to keep from saying it aloud as he slinks back toward the elevator lobby.

He was right. He was very, very right. They’d already had at it. And if they were kissing in the office, who knew how serious it was? Well, not him, that was for sure, even though he had an idea.

Now...how to go back in without freaking them out.

Jack was a little confused that he actually cared, but he did. And even beyond caring how they’d react…they obviously didn’t want people to know. He couldn’t really just waltz back in there without having to explain that yes, he was actually happy for them and no, he wasn’t going to tell the other guys if they didn’t want him to.

Carter would probably make him swear it on a Bible. And Jack Thompson was a more honest man than one who needed that.

Well, sort of.

He ducks down the staircase, and waves at the New York Bell girls as he slips into the elevator from the first floor.

2:25pm

“Hey, Peggy!” cheers Barbie, all the girls in the row turning to greet her in some fashion, an assortment of waves, blown kisses, and hugs coming her way as though she didn’t see any of the girls often.

“What’s buzzin’, sugar? What can we do you for?”

Peggy pauses, leaning against the table next to Rose. The small group of girls she most often communicates with come over, the others still giving curious looks but returning to their phones.

“You all talk to the boys, right?”

Jeanine chuckles.

“What do you mean by talk, honey?”

Peggy pretends to scoff, and rolls her eyes.

“Talk,” she says forcefully, and even though there are a few giggles, she gets nods and eager expressions in response.

“This is about their bet,” says Rose, and Peggy’s eyes widen.

“Rose!” chides Barbie.

“What about it?” asks Jessie, leaning in from Rose’s other side.

“What exactly is it about?” Peggy inquires softly.

“Oh, come on, Peggy, give us a break. You know,” Valerie asserts.

Peggy rolls her eyes.

“It’s just on when it’ll finally happen.”

She’s not actually capable of glaring at any of them, but she pretends to try.

“Well, except for Ray,” Jessie adds.

“He’s certain it won’t happen at all. No optimism in him at all. He doesn’t think Daniel will take the chance.”

“Since you two don’t get on with him,” Valerie presses suggestively, “perhaps you could make a move...for the sake of proving him wrong, hmm?”

“You have no subtlety,” Peggy gasps, though she’s honestly not surprised that any of them would be urging her in that direction.

“And you, my dear, play too prudish to even get a date with the gentlest of gentlemen!”

“You say that as though it’s a character flaw not to have a boyfriend!”

“So...what? This is some moral crusade? Sweetheart, you have needs.”

“Oh, my goodness. We are not having this conversation.”

She starts to walk away, but Barbie jumps at the lever that locks and unlocks the elevator, and Peggy knows it’d be futile to continue trying to leave, so she turns back around with a sigh. Jeanine comes forward and grabs her hands, talking to her maternally.

“They got a point, you know. All o’ them. I mean, maybe you don’t see the way he looks at you, but everyone else in this building does. And some part of you has gotta know you got a different kind o’ smile when he’s the one gettin’ it outta you. You can’t just avoid this forever, honey.”

“I’m not avoiding anything!” she protests, wrenching her hands out of Jeanine’s.

God, had it really been that obvious?

Peggy can feel her face getting redder.

“Honey…” Rose urges gently.

Peggy takes a deep breath, and closes her eyes for a moment.

“I can’t believe I’m about to do this,” she moans before opening them again.

“Can you all promise me that you will not say a single word to the boys about what I’m going to say next?”

She hadn’t expected anything but a chorus of enthused nods, but she still has to steel herself.

“I’m really not avoiding this. My…feelings for Daniel.”

She winces.

“Daniel and I…are already together.”

The collective gasp fills the room, and she continues to grimace, even though their responses are joyful.

After the excitement at her news has started to settle, Peggy notices that Rose seems to be smirking.

“What is it?”

Rose chuckles.

“Every last one of ‘em has lost that bet by a long shot.”

7:49pm

“You know what you two should do?” Angie muses, pausing her work of washing their dishes and glancing at both her dish-washing partner Peggy and the wine-retrieving Daniel, and Peggy raises her eyebrows inquisitively.

“And what is it that we should do?”

“You should toy with them,” declares Angie.

“Come again?” Daniel asks, just seconds before the cork pops off the bottle he’d brought back to the table, flying over the table’s edge and onto the floor. Peggy gives a little wave, and tells him she’ll get it in a moment, and they both look back at Angie.

“Play around with what they see, you know. One day, be joined at the hip, totally in sync. Another, stage an argument - a big one. Show up in real fancy clothes, tell ‘em you’ve got a date, come back the next day in the same thing. Stuff like that.”

Peggy grins.

“That sounds amusing,” she says, nodding at Angie and then turning to look at Daniel, who seems interested, albeit a little more skeptical.

“Oh, it’ll be fun. They’ll all be wanting to know exactly when we’ve gotten together, and we can just play along with their fabrications, taunt them. Watch how Krzeminski starts to react when he starts to think there might be something to what Thompson’s saying…they’ll all probably be saying all sorts of annoying little remarks, pointed questions, trying to get us to admit various things. We’re going into that knowing what they’re angling for, and we’ve got the phone company girls on our side, which means we’re able to dangle it in front of them...like people do with pet cats.”

Daniel laughs.

“That…that makes it sound like even more fun than it did to begin with. Where should we start?”

9:51pm

A wider smile creases Daniel’s face as soon as he enters Peggy’s room, before he’s even entirely sure why, but it only takes a couple of seconds for him to realize what his…body is reacting to.

“You’re wearing that shirt again,” he says as he goes over to his suitcase on the couch, glancing up at her as she stays standing in front of the mirror; his tone conveys more of his still-resonant disbelief than his glee.

He sees that she’s slowly buttoning it, but he wouldn’t be all that surprised if she was just admiring herself. There was a lot of beauty to take in, more than someone could in, well, any amount of time, really.

“Oh, do you want me to take it off?” Peggy replies, her voice holding anxiety, and he’s almost as surprised by the comment as he is of its context.

“Ideally, yes, but I am far from having a problem with you wearing it,” Daniel answers lightly, and her consequent smile brightens her eyes - Hell, it brightens the whole room.

He sets the clothes he’s picked out for the following work day aside on the couch, and changes his undershirt. He’s just starting to consider how exactly he’ll finish undressing when Peggy decides she’s brushed her hair well enough and comes over to him, pressing her chest against his and letting her hands settle tightly around his belt buckle before she leans forward to whisper in his ear.

“I bet...that you could use a couple of helping hands.”