Peggy blames Wednesdays. Well, after herself of course. Wednesdays were the cause of this, obviously, everything was fine until last Wednesday when they got the call.
She did her best to keep it together, truly she did. She tried to hide the fear behind her scarlet smirk, hide the tremble in her accented speech. But it was there, they all noticed it.
Jarvis, of course caught her in- or rather forced her into a moment of weakness, damn his caring atmosphere! It had plagued the air last Thursday when they met for their usual bit of tea and complaints over Howard.
Angie was away at the Automat, bright as ever as if the world hadn’t just dropped from beneath Peggy’s feet. Peggy swore she saw her skipping. Skipping! In that state! Bloody hell, Peggy could barely drag herself from her restless sleep, let alone skip. She had mentally added that to her long list of causes.
Skipping she had scoffed.
Jarvis had come in raving politely over Anna’s new recipe he just had to bring for her to try, while she’d busied herself with the kettle and then the cups washing and rewashing them...something about Jarvis’ presence making it hard for her to look in his eyes. He has honed a fatherly air, the kind that one look could cause the already brimming tears to force their way out.
She would not cry, she’d promised herself.
But that wouldn’t be the only promise she’d broken.
“Ms. Carter?” Jarvis had questioned, tone cautious in concern
“Yes, Mr. Jarvis?” Peggy replied after a moment, clearing her throat
“Is everything alright?”
And damn it all, the flood gates had broken.
She found herself pulled into a tight, comforting hug as her body shook with quiet sobs, the volume being the only thing she could find the strength to control. The embrace lasted until the kettle blew, causing Peggy to work on regaining her control, for god sakes she was in a war! Get it together! Her thoughts had tried to break through.
She had gone into the sitting room, at the insistence of a following Jarvis. As it turns out crying and sitting silently staring at your tea will worry a person, who knew?
“Ms. Carter, what’s happened?”
“Wednesdays.” She answered a heartbroken laugh erupting in her chest
The quizzical look from Jarvis, and his remaining questions were halted by the opening and closing door, followed by the sounds of Angie’s jacket being hung.
Once Angie had appeared it was as if a switch had been flipped, Peggy’s eyes doing their best to look normal, while her smile though dulled with hurt still shined slightly for the woman. Though they all could see her pain, no one dare mention it; Jarvis out of confusion, and Angie out of...well Angie knew, she felt it to.
All of those producers who said she’d never make it were obviously wrong, keeping the light air and conversation going...no one could deny acting was her gift.
Jarvis didn’t find out until Saturday, and surprisingly not in the way he would have assumed, not that he could have, not that any of them would have.
Peggy was a fighter. That’s what she knew. Everyone knew it, everyone accepted it, but only one person still alive and with a glutton for punishment (some might say) ever truly felt that wrath.
Howard Stark was the bearer of this honor.
Now, she’d like it to be acknowledged that no, Peggy does not get drunk. Tipsy, maybe. But drunk? Never.
So on Saturday night when Jarvis rushed to the lab, hearing slurred yells and crashing noises, she was definitely not drunk, just possibly a smidge over tipsy. (Howard would beg to differ, “full on hammered” he had claimed; Jarvis would rather not answer that, he hates lying…)
“Ms. Carter!” Jarvis had announced his presence to the room loudly, sufficiently pausing her assault on his boss. “What is going on?”
“This- this- he can fix it but he won’t!” Peggy had finished, punctuating the sentence with a flying test tube just barely ducked by the man in question.
“Fix what, Pegs? I can fix anything it’s the Stark way!” Howard tried to placate from his crouched position
“You said there wasn’t a way, you arsehole. What’s the good of you if you can’t fix it?”
“What are you-” A look of realization had crossed Howard’s face his stomach suddenly dropping, “Cancer?”
Peggy’s eyes flashed with anger, another beaker flew through the air -this time slightly off target, the blur of tears proving as a disadvantage.
“Peg’s who is it? Do you- you don’t- do you?” He asked frantically, “I don’t know a cure, but depending on the stage we can get the best doctor, I heard their advancing! Maybe I can make a surgery device? I’m sure I can!” Howard rambled, as he jumped from his crouch into a studious pace.
“Maybe you should sit down, Ms. Carter.” Jarvis had instructed, his mind reeling as he found comfort in the niceties of things he understood, like proper names and offering seats. Before he could get around to offering food, the tears began to fall down her cheeks again, this time without her stubborn resolve.
“It’s not me.”
That was all she had said, three words and the duo knew, though maybe they always knew; Peggy put her life on the line everyday, no fear, no tears, but this, this had her broken, had her drunk, had her crying.
“I promised I’d keep her safe.” Peggy whispered, her emotions not allowing for much more, “I’ve failed her.”
The group unknowingly agreed to the silence which enveloped them, each finding comfort in what they knew. Howard in his studies and mechanics, Jarvis with his niceties, and Peggy, well Peggy was lost in images of bright eyes, peach schnapps, the past few years of waking up to and falling asleep by the woman she loved; if she cried, well, they all were crying in their own way weren’t they?
Jarvis offered her a room for the night, but Peggy refused to spend it away from Angie. Instead, he dropped her off around midnight, squeezing her hand as she reached for the car door, earning a tight lipped smile and nod in return. He watched her walk up the steps and pulled away from the curb as the shadow of a long lasting hug filtered through the door’s stained glass.
A little less than a week has passed now, tonight being the night of their Friday “family” dinners. It was a tradition they’d started once Tony was born, a day a week to get Howard out of the lab, and the aunts and Jarvis the time to fawn and play with the child. (If it also allows him to see healthy relationships and the amount of love he will grow up with, that’s just an added bonus...definitely not a preplanned event after the announcement of an upcoming Stark child).
Once the guests arrive, Tony is one of the first to pick up on it, or perhaps the only one with enough childhood innocence and bluntness to speak it.
“Auntie Peggy, what’s wrong?” He asked, as he climbed into her lap
“Nothing, Darling, nothing at all.” She had answered, reluctantly moving her arm away from Angie’s waist to secure him
“You look sad.” He accuses, tiny eyes squinted in confusion
The adults in the room freeze unsure what to say, all at least somewhat understanding of the situation (Anna and Maria only hearing what their spouses were able to divulge).
The silence lasts a bit longer, until Angie paints on her usual enthusiastic smile reaching over to tickle the five-year-old’s sides.
“You think too much, little man! You know how Auntie Pegs gets, always silently brooding that one.” She exclaims with an exaggerated sigh, “I’m sure she just found out about our secret projects and wants in.” Angie finishes widening her eyes in mock honesty
“Really?” At his aunt’s nod he bounces on Peggy’s lap, “Well, we can tell her can’t we? I don’t want her to be sad.”
“Me either, hun.” Angie nods, taking Peggy’s shaking hand for a moment, “Why don’t you go upstairs and show her so she won’t be sad anymore? The more the merrier right?”
The little boy nods quickly, jumping off her lap and trying to pull his aunt up in his excitement to both show the projects and stop her sad eyes. He never knew his aunt liked dress up that much, or he’d have invited her sooner!
Peggy was reluctant to move for her part, she had yet to veer from Angie’s side for anything more than necessity since the night of her non-drunkness (though to be fair, she still sees beating up Howard for not having a cure to be highly necessary). With some coaxing from Angie, and the pleading look from Tony, Peggy finally stands and follows the boy, only letting go of Angie’s hand once the distance between the two became too much.
Once she was gone, Angie turned to the two couples remaining in the sitting room.
“I want to talk to you before, well I guess you all know.” Angie says leaning forward with her elbows on her knees, eyes dulling slightly as her exhaustion causes her to drop the facade.
“Whatever you need, you know we’re all here for you and Peggy.” Anna offers, smile wavering a bit
“I do have some, uh, things I’d like to know are taken care of.” Angie says blinking a bit to hold back the tears, “Or rather you know one thing, Peggy. Peggy’s not going to be okay.”
“Don’t ta-” Howard tries to stop her
With a wave of her hand Angie silences him, “My mom had the same thing, they caught it fast just about the same age as me, but we lost her. I know things are better now, but if something should happen, I need to know you can do these things for me.”
Silent nods are exchanged prompting Angie to continue.
“Okay, well I made a list,” She says shakily grabbing a folded piece of paper from her dress’ pocket
“First, and foremost you have to promise you’ll check in on Peggy, even when she says she’s fine...you know how she gets.” Angie shakes her head with a bittersweet smile, wiping the escaping tear from her eye, “Stubborn woman.” she whispers softly
“I was thinking, you could keep up with these dinners. Peggy will try to pull away, we all know that, but please make sure she doesn’t. She’ll need you guys.”
“Of course we will.” Jarvis reassures her, knowing trying to pretend everything would be alright was futile at the moment.
Angie nods folding the paper a bit, “Good, I figure you can take her out to some plays or something. She gripes, but she loves musicals almost as much as I do, don’t let her trick you.” She takes in a steadying breath before she continues, “Jarvis, Howard, please don’t let her get hurt, lord knows she won’t have the best nurse in the world to patch her up anymore. As much as I’ll miss her, I don’t want her missing out on this, on Tony’s life and her own.”
She looks up from the worn paper, seeing the wetness in her family’s eyes. Forcing herself to finish she picks back up at her final point, “Speaking of the little munchkin… I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish these projects with him, and if worst comes to worse I won’t be here to teach him to throw that curveball I promised, when the weather warms. You have to be there for him, more than you already are, Anna I’ve seen your curve ball do you think you could take my place?”
“Of course, you’ll have to help though.” Anna replied wiping her eyes with her husband’s handkerchief
Angie nods with a small smile, “Sounds good to me. I told him I’d take him to my play’s opening as my date, I had hoped you would go with him? Bring Peggy of course, it’ll be hard but I hope it’ll help some.”
The sound of pattering and voices increasing in clarity and volume interrupt the meeting, Angie slips the paper back into her pocket, brushing the tears away just as the others did. Once Tony and Peggy cross the threshold the only hint at the pain invading the family, is the red eyes and slight tremble the sorrow has caused.
The night commenced with Peggy’s hand glued to Angie’s, laughter and stories abound while the undercurrent of uncertainty nestled in the pit of everyone’s stomach, even Tony felt a rock sinking his down.
As they said their goodbyes, everyone was sure to give both Angie and Peggy tight squeezes meant for comfort, but they only succeeded in forcing their tears closer to the surface.
As Angie ushered them out the door, Peggy glued to her side, she slid the paper to Anna in the hopes she would remember and be sure to enact her promises.
Watching as the group make their way to Howard’s car, Peggy wraps her arms around Angie’s waist pulling them close in the soft light from the porch. Nestling her head in Angie’s shoulder, Peggy breathes in the scent that is uniquely her Angie. Fresh tears spring up in her eyes, all of which she fights down, Angie doesn’t need to deal with her sorrow she has her own; Angie is what matters not her.
Funny the way love works, they each felt the same about their sorrows.
“Come on, hun. Let’s get to bed, I have a feeling I’m gonna coax you into reading to me some more tonight.” Angie says leaning back slightly into Peggy before twirling around.
“Oh do you?” Peggy says, trying to take on the banter they loved so much
Quirking an eyebrow, Angie leans up placing a tender kiss on Peggy’s lips, hand cupping her cheek. It’s thorough and sweet, living on borrowed time makes for more of these moments; every kiss may be the last so gone are quick pecks, every love making may be one closer to the end so why waste them, why waste the chances they have when they may be gone so fast?
“I think I just did, I’m thinking Much Ado About Nothing for tonight, with the voices!” Angie exclaims, pulling Peggy toward the stairs
“I’m going to need another kiss if I have to do Benedick’s voice, darling.” Peggy says stopping a stair below Angie pulling her into a more equal heighted kiss.
“I can do you one better than that, English.” Angie replies, barely pulling back from the kiss
Waiting rooms are not meant for Peggy Carter. Waiting is not meant for Peggy Carter.
Perhaps, happiness is not meant for Peggy Carter.
She stares at the scribbled and crumpled note Anna had given her, hours before, after Angie was wheeled into surgery. Peggy sits in the chair, not registering anything, not the tick of the clock, the annoying squeak of the nurse’s shoes, nor the radio blasting Captain America Adventure Hour in the corner. No, her eyes are focused on following the curves of Angie’s delicate script, doing her best not to break at the words the lines create.
The hours pass as a blur, a cycle of faces Jarvis and Anna with containers of food, Stark, Maria and Tony with their liveliness, through them all she couldn’t bring herself to grasp onto much of reality. Reality was unacceptable. Reality was Angie lying in a hospital bed, rather than their own. Reality was waiting, and crying and cancer and dying and…. reality was unacceptable.
Instead she escaped in her mind, to the first time they kissed (an argument gone too far, but, well, just because they weren’t dating did not mean Angie could just date someone else!) Before she knew it a slide show of the last few years was erupting non-stop through her brain, Angie’s laugh, the bad cake attempt last Valentine's day (who knew sugar and salt looked so similar?).
Everything. Everything came flooding back.
Hours passed with Peggy locked in her trance of memories, Jarvis and Anna stayed through the waiting, nudging food under her nose and watching as the tears continuously fell from her unfocused eyes.
Using her nearly perfected American accent, Peggy was able to be lead into the room after surgery as her cousin, the nurse’s voice the only thing able to shake her from her state.
Walking down the corridors, Peggy leaves Jarvis and Anna behind the one visitor rule as well as her need to be alone with Angie combining in keeping them back. Her mother would call her selfish, but her heart couldn’t bare sharing Angie for the moment.
“She’ll be asleep for awhile, a few days at most unless…” The nurse cuts off, eyes glancing around the hallway unwilling to say the word. But Peggy knows it, has known it all along, a few days at most unless she doesn’t wake up. The thought strikes a tailspin in Peggy’s chest but before she can get too drawn in the nurse stops outside the room, pulling the door open with the soft utterance that “we have her monitored so if anything changes we’ll know, visiting hours end in at seven.”
Visiting hours have no meaning when you’re Peggy Carter.
Peggy finally sees the eyes she loves on a Wednesday, two days after her surgery. They fog with confusion, but her hand clenches Peggy’s as she wakes.
“Is it over, English?” She breathes out, after the doctor’s finish checking her over
“It is, my love, it is.”
The smile they share lights up the room, weeks of sorrow finally erasing.
Maybe Wednesday’s aren’t so evil, Peggy thinks cuddling up with Angie as close as the hospital bed and chair combination would allow. They kiss with the intensity of before, hope and happiness flooding between them.