1-December 24, 1946
“Well folks, it doesn’t look like this snow is going to be letting up anytime soon, so I advise you all to stay inside, stay warm, and enjoy your nice white Christmas.”
The radio announcer’s trailed off as the next song started to play and Judy Garland’s voice filtered into the sitting room. There was a fire crackling in the hearth and two mugs of hot chocolate cooling on the coffee table.
Peggy was standing in front of the window, watching in the snowflakes dance on the breeze outside. Angie stepped up behind her, snaking an arm around Peggy’s waist and leaning her head on Peggy’s shoulder.
“What are you looking at?” Angie asked softly.
“Nothing,” Peggy replied. She rested her cheek on the top of Angie’s head. “Just the snow. It’s rather pretty when I don’t have to be sleeping in a tent in it.”
“I think there’s a story there,” Angie murmured.
“Several actually and I’m afraid none of them are very good.”
Angie shivered in sympathy and Peggy chuckled.
Judy Garland faded into Bing Crosby and for a long minute, they both just stood there watching the snow fall.
“I’m sorry we had to miss the party at the Griffith,” Peggy said absently. “I know you were really looking forward to seeing the girls again.”
“Oh please, English. It’s not like you made it snow,” Angie replied. “Besides, this is nice too. Pretty.”
Peggy hummed in agreement and turned her head so she could press a quick kiss to Angie’s cheek. Angie giggled and ducked out of the half-embrace, grabbing Peggy’s wrist and tugging her towards the sofa.
“What on earth are you doing?” Peggy asked.
“Sit,” Angie said simply. “I need to run upstairs and get something and then I’ll be right back.”
Peggy started to protest, but Angie silenced her with a quick kiss to her forehead before hurrying out of the sitting room.
Peggy just sighed and grabbed her mug of mug of hot chocolate off the coffee table before leaning back against the overstuffed sofa. The drink was still warm and when she took her first sip, she was pleasantly surprised to find that Angie had apparently flavored it with peppermint.
The radio announcer had taken over again and was reading an advertisement for soap flakes. The light in the sitting room was low and the fire in the hearth cast flickering shadows on the walls and made the garland on the Christmas tree glitter like diamonds.
It was all so sentimental Peggy could practically feel herself melting into the sofa.
She heard footsteps on the stairs and a moment later, Angie appeared in the doorway with a smile on her face and both hands hidden behind her back. She made over her way over to the sofa and flopped down on the cushions next to Peggy.
“What’s going on?” Peggy asked, raising one eyebrow just the slightest bit.
“Nothin’. I just got you a present is all,” Angie said brightly. She handed Peggy a small box wrapped in gold paper with a red bow on top. “Go ahead and open it.”
“Right now? But darling, it’s not even really Christmas yet.”
As if on cue, the clock on the mantle chimed and the radio announcer piped in, “It looks like it’s just hit midnight, folks, which means it’s finally here. Merry Christmas, everyone.”
Angie pressed the box a little harder into Peggy’s hand. “Come on, open it.”
“All right, fine,” Peggy conceded. “But you’re not getting your present until after we wake up. It’s still upstairs and I’m far too comfortable to get up and get it now.”
Angie rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t hide the smile that crept across her lips. “Fine, English, but open that box now before I open it for you.”
“Okay, okay, I’m opening it.”
Peggy set her mug back on the coffee table and curled her legs underneath her as she took her time slitting the wrapping paper with her thumbnail. Angie was practically bouncing in her seat and her eyes were fixed firmly on Peggy’s face.
Peggy bit back a smile and pulled the lid off the tiny box to reveal a small golden locket in the shape of a filigree heart resting on a bed of white cotton. She sucked in a breath and lifted it gently by the thin chain so that she could rest it in the palm of her hand.
“Oh, Angie,” she breathed. “I don’t even know what to say.”
“You like it?” Angie asked.
“Of course. It’s beautiful.”
“It was my grandmother’s,” Angie explained, leaning back against the armrest of the sofa. “She gave it to me the first Christmas that I was living on my own and now I want you to have it.”
“Oh, Angie, no,” Peggy said. “This is a family heirloom. I can’t accept this.” She tried to hand the necklace back, but Angie refused to take it.
“Nope,” Angie said. “You’re keeping it. Just promise me that whenever you wear it, you’ll think of me.”
“Good. Then Merry Christmas, English.”
Angie tipped forward and pressed her lips against Peggy’s in a soft kiss that tasted faintly of chocolate and peppermint. In one fluid movement, Angie’s hands found the locket and lifted it so she could clasp it around Peggy’s neck without even breaking the kiss. Once her job was done, she sat back and smiled.
“It looks perfect on you, Pegs.”
Peggy looked down at the little gold heart that rested perfectly against her collarbone. It was light, but there was a bit of weight to it. Just enough to remind her to that she was wearing it.
“Thank you, darling, this is wonderful. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the best present I’ve ever been given.”
Suddenly the bracelet hidden in the closet upstairs didn’t seem quite as special as it had an hour ago, but maybe Peggy could come up with something else good between now and whenever she finally decided to get up which—judging by the droop of her eyelids and the yawn that she wasn’t even fully aware of until it was over—wasn’t going to be anytime soon.
She was vaguely aware of Angie giggling next to her and suddenly there were fingers combing gently through her hair.
“You tired?” Angie asked.
“Maybe a bit.”
Angie shifted on the sofa and snuggled up against Peggy’s side. “Then sleep.”
There was a very small part of Peggy—the part that remembered that sleeping in this kind of position would not treat her well in the morning—that wanted to protest and get up, but she was too damn tired to pay it any attention.
Angie was humming along to the carols on the radio and the crackling of the fire was enough to put her to sleep right there.
The last thing she was fully conscious of was Angie’s breath warm against the shell of her ear as she whispered, “Merry Christmas, English. I love you.”
2-December 24, 1948
Technically it was still Christmas Eve.
It was ten minutes to midnight, which meant that Peggy hadn’t broken her promise. She wasn’t late.
Not this time.
She kicked off her boots at the foot of the stairs and tiptoed up, being careful to keep her noise to a minimum to keep from waking Angie up.
Apparently that was unnecessary, though.
When Peggy peeked around their bedroom door, she found Angie sitting against the headboard with a book propped up on her lap. She looked up when she heard the door creak and when she saw Peggy, her face broke into a huge grin.
“You’re home!” she cried. Peggy had only a few seconds to react as Angie raced out of bed and threw her arms around Peggy’s neck. Peggy caught her easily and lifted her just enough that her toes brushed the floorboards. She buried her face in Angie’s hair, breathing in the familiar, floral scent of her shampoo and the faint undertones of her own perfume that she knew Angie sprayed on their pillows whenever she was away on a mission.
“I’m home, darling,” Peggy whispered. “I’m home.”
She didn’t even realize she was crying until she felt her own teardrops in Angie’s hair.
“Oh God, honey, what’s wrong?” Angie asked, pulling away when she head Peggy’s breath hitch. She moved her hands to Peggy’s cheeks and used her thumbs to wipe away some of the tears, but it didn’t seem to help very much, so she just guided Peggy over to the bed and they both sat down on the edge of the mattress.
“Peg, honey, tell me what’s wrong,” Angie said. She started rubbing soft circles between Peggy’s shoulder blades. “Does this have something to do with that mission that you’re not supposed to tell me about? Did something happen?”
Peggy took a few deep breaths and reached one hand up absently to play with the filigree heart locket that hung at her throat. There were about a million different emotions racing through her mind, but when she opened her mouth, only two words came out.
“He’s alive,” she whispered, looking resolutely down at the hand in her lap.
“Who’s alive, hon?”
There was a part of Peggy that told her she should still be crying, but she wasn’t anymore. She couldn’t.
Steve was alive.
When Peggy had first gotten the call two weeks ago that Howard’s team had found the wreckage, she had gotten on the first plane to DC. Two days later, they had extracted Steve. Two hours after removing him from the water, they had found out that he was still very much alive.
“He’s alive,” Angie repeated.
Peggy just nodded.
“And you still came back here?”
“Of course,” Peggy said. She finally looked up and met Angie’s eyes, wide and blue-green and tired like she hadn’t slept since Peggy had left. “I promised you I’d be back before Christmas, didn’t I?”
Peggy didn’t miss the way Angie’s gaze flickered to the bureau where they both know that a photo of the man in question was hidden in the uppermost drawer.
“Steve is still heavily sedated and will likely remain that way for at least the next few weeks while Howard’s scientists run extensive texts to check his physical condition,” Peggy explained almost mechanically. “Howard promised to call me with any updates. And besides, I had a promise to keep.”
Angie didn’t say anything. She just leaned her head against Peggy’s shoulder and wrapped her arms around Peggy loose enough that she could slip away if she wanted, but tight enough that Peggy could feel her there.
They stayed like that for a long moment, just sitting there on the edge of the bed, comfortable in their silence.
Finally, though, Angie whispered, “I know I’m no Captain America, but thanks for coming home to me.”
Peggy laughed for what felt like the first time in two weeks and rested her cheek on the top of Angie’s head.
“Darling,” she said. “I love you. There is no way I would ever just leave you.”
“Not even for Captain America?”
There was a teasing edge to Angie’s words, but Peggy could hear the genuine insecurity hidden underneath. She sat up straight and looked directly into Angie’s eyes again.
“Angie, darling, listen to me. I am in love with you and that is not going to change just because Steve’s alive. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I can promise you one thing and that is that I have no plans to leave you anytime soon.”
Peggy took Angie’s hands in her own and squeezed gently. Angie’s lips twitched and her cheeks turned a faint pink color. She fixed her eyes on her own lap, but Peggy just used two fingers to lift her chin back up.
“Merry Christmas, my darling,” she whispered as she pressed a hesitant kiss to the corner of Angie’s lips.
“I love you, Pegs,” Angie breathed.
“I love you, too.”
Peggy kissed Angie’s forehead before standing up and stripping out of her dress. She changed quickly into her nightgown and crawled back into bed as Angie held up the blankets. When they were both cozy against the pillows, Angie cuddled up to Peggy’s side and hummed contentedly.
“G’night, English,” she mumbled.
“Good night,” Peggy replied.
The bed was so soft and warm and it felt like the first time Peggy had been able to fully relax since she had first gotten Howard’s call. Her mind was finally still and the emotions wreaking havoc on her heart had finally stilled as she lay there with Angie at her side.
Another minute and she, too, was fast asleep.
3-December 24, 1950
Peggy had never been to Church before.
Well actually, that wasn’t entirely true. She had been to a few Anglican services with her parents when she was young, but she had never been to a Catholic Mass before and she had to say, she was rather impressed.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral was a huge gothic building that dominated the block and stood out against the cloudy sky. The light leaking out through the stained glass windows and spilling from the open doors illuminated the snowflakes swirling overhead. People were hurrying up the steps through the huge door just as the bells chimed midnight.
“Come on, Pegs, hurry up!” Angie insisted. She grabbed Peggy’s hand and practically yanked her up the steps. Her coat flapped around her knees and she had her free hand on top of her head to keep her lace veil from flying off.
The inside of the church was warm—almost stiflingly so—and it was so packed with people that there weren’t any open pews left. Angie and Peggy were forced to stand in the back near the doors. Angie laced her fingers with Peggy’s and frowned.
“Your hand’s freezing,” she whispered. “Are you cold?”
“I spent the past week slogging through Siberia, darling. A little snow isn’t going to hurt me, I promise,” Peggy replied.
An older woman in front of them turned around and pressed her finger to her lips.
“Sorry,” Angie whispered, but the moment the woman’s back was turned, Angie stuck out her tongue and Peggy had to bite her lip to hold back her laughter.
The bishop was speaking now, chanting something in Latin and the congregation responded in perfect unison. It was constant and almost soothing in some bizarre way and Peggy didn’t even realize she had been staring at the flames on the Advent wreath until she felt Angie squeeze her hand just the slightest bit.
The church was pleasantly warm, much warmer than a campfire in Siberia, that was for sure, and Peggy felt like she could breathe freely for the first time in a week. She was still bruised and sore and she had added a new bullet scar to her collection—this one on the outside of her left thigh—but they had done what they had gone there to do.
They had tracked a ghost and brought him home safe.
Steve had wanted so badly to come to Mass with Peggy and Angie when he had heard that they were going, but Peggy had been the one to put her foot down.
Bucky or the asset or whoever he was now was going to be waking up at any moment and Peggy, Howard, and all the scientists on the team had agreed that the best thing for him would be for him to be greeted by something—or in this case someone—familiar in order to avoid a scene like they had encountered with Steve.
Captain America breaking out of a recovery room and racing through downtown DC had caused quite a stir. A former Soviet assassin would mostly likely do the same, but with much different reactions.
Peggy felt Angie squeeze her hand again. She shook her head and turned to find Angie looking at her questioningly.
“Sorry, what?” Peggy whispered.
“I’m going up for communion. You okay waiting here?”
Peggy nodded and leaned back against the wall to make it easier for Angie to pass.
There was a large crowd of people making their way to the front of the cathedral, all waiting their turn to kneel at the communion rail. With everyone bent, Peggy finally had her first clear view of the huge alter draped in white and gold fabric and the bunches of poinsettias and wreaths that decorated the front of the building.
It was beautiful and Peggy could appreciate why Angie had been so adamant about Peggy’s first Mass being the Midnight Mass. And she could see why Steve had wanted to come so badly. There was a feeling of belonging in the air, even if just for a moment and it was unlike anything Peggy had ever felt before. She absently started toying with the heart locket around her neck.
Next year she’d make sure that Steve could come with them too.
Angie came back a moment later and took Peggy’s hand again. The rest of the service passed rather quickly and before Peggy knew it, she was following Angie back out into the swirling snow.
“Thanks for coming with me,” Angie said as they waited at the curb for a taxi. “I know it was probably really boring and all, but it means a lot.”
“Anytime, darling,” Peggy replied with a genuine smile. “I actually rather enjoyed myself. It was nice.”
“I’m glad,” Angie said.
A cab pulled up to the curb and they both slid into the back seat. Peggy gave the driver their address, but apart from that, they rode in silence until they were almost home.
Their hands were still joined and Peggy squeezed gently to get Angie’s attention.
“Merry Christmas, Angie,” Peggy said quietly.
“Merry Christmas, Pegs,” Angie replied.
They smiled at each other in lieu of a kiss, but the sentiment was still there.
4-December 24, 1952
There were footsteps coming fast down the hallway.
Peggy recognized them at once and against both her doctor’s orders and her better judgment, she pushed herself up against the headboard of the hospital bed.
That really wasn’t a good idea. Her head swam with the sudden motion and the stitches in her side pulled so painfully that she was pretty sure she must have ripped at least one. Maybe she should really start listening to her doctors more. She winced and bit her lip hard to keep from swearing in pain.
Of course it was that exact moment that Angie appeared in the doorway.
“Oh my God, Peggy,” Angie breathed.
“It looks worse than it is,” Peggy said quickly.
She could tell by the look on Angie’s face that she wasn’t buying that for a second.
“You look like shit,” Angie declared. She stepped into the room and dropped her purse on the hard plastic chair next to the bed.
“Lovely to see you too, darling,” Peggy replied.
She was trying to keep the mood light, but it clearly wasn’t working. Angie was standing at the side of the bed with her hands on her hips. Her eyes were wide and she looked so scared that it practically broke Peggy’s heart. She slowly did her best to shift over a little at a time to make more room on the bed. She patted the mattress, but Angie didn’t move.
“You can’t keep doing this to me, Peggy,” Angie said. Her voice was low and shaky and she looked almost like she was going to cry. “You were supposed to be home three days ago.”
“I’m sorry,” Peggy whispered.
“That’s not good enough this time.”
Peggy’s hand moved to her throat out of instinct, but then she remembered that the locket wasn’t there. It was sitting in the plastic bag of her personal effects that was tucked in the drawer under the nightstand. She dropped her hands in her lap and started picking at a loose thread in the itchy blanket covering her.
“When Howard called and said Steve and Bucky made it back without you, I was sure you were dead,” Angie said. “I thought you died just before Christmas.”
Peggy didn’t say anything.
Angie sat down on the edge of the bed and ran her fingers through her own hair. “I hate always having to worry about you,” she said. “Especially this close to Christmas and thinking I was going to have to spend it alone, I—“ Her voice cracked and she took a shaky breath before she tried to speak again. “It’s stupid, I know, but—“
“It’s not stupid,” Peggy said, taking one of Angie’s hands in her own and stroking it gently. “But truth be told, I don’t think you’ll have to worry for very much longer.”
“What are you talkin’ about?” Angie asked. She narrowed her eyes and studied Peggy’s face.
“Well truth be told, I had wanted to save this news for tomorrow, but I supposed now’s as good a time as ever to tell you.” Peggy pushed herself up straighter against the pillows. She hissed as her stitches tugged again and Angie started to help her, but Peggy just waved her off.
“I’m fine,” she insisted. “Just give me a moment.” Peggy adjusted her position and then clasped her hand over Angie’s again. “Howard actually stopped by here just before you and he made me an offer of sorts.”
“Define ‘offer’,” Angie said.
“He wants me to go to DC with him. He’s working with Colonel Phillips and a few other government higher-ups that I apparently don’t have the clearance to know yet to create an intelligence organization that he thinks can outstrip the SSR and he wants my help running it.”
Angie didn’t say anything for a long moment. She looked down and hers and Peggy’s joined hands. Peggy was wracking her brain trying to think of something else to say until she felt a teardrop hit the back of her hand.
“Oh, Angie, darling, don’t cry,” Peggy said, squeezing Angie’s hands. “It’s a big decision and if it’s going to upset you, I won’t do it, but I—“
“Shut up, English,” Angie said.
In one fluid moment, she turned and tipped forward to press her lips against Peggy’s, gentle and soft and careful not to hurt Peggy any more than she already was. It lasted only a moment before Angie pulled back just the slightest bit and met Peggy’s eyes.
“I’m the opposite of upset right now,” Angie whispered. Her breath was warm and tickly on Peggy’s lips. “Pegs, that would be amazing. Why on earth would I be upset about it?”
“Well, I mean it would mean moving to DC most likely permanently and traveling away from your family, but that’s only if you really do want to come with me, of course. I don’t—“
“Peggy, are you going to be called off on missions at the drop of a hat with no idea of when you’ll be back or if you’ll be okay?”
“Well no, but I—“
Angie pressed her index finger against Peggy’s lips.
“Are you going to turn up shot or hurt or dead?”
“I can’t really come home dead now can I?”
“You know what I mean,” Angie insisted, sitting back so there was a little bit more space between the two of them.
Peggy just rolled her eyes. That was a bad move as it made her head spin again, but she forced herself to swallow down the sudden nausea and instead give Angie the barest hint of a smile.
“Yes. It would mean that I’d be out of active duty for the foreseeable future.”
“So I wouldn’t have to worry about something happening to you every time you leave for work.”
“English, you just made my Christmas.”
Before Peggy could say anything further, Angie was kissing her again, a little bit longer this time and with a little more feeling.
“Merry Christmas, darling,” Peggy murmured.
“Merry Christmas, Pegs,” Angie replied, running her fingers through Peggy’s hair. “And here’s to many, many more.”
5-December 24, 1953
The apartment in DC was small.
Well, it was smaller than the mansion that Peggy had gotten rather used to living in over the past six years. Comparatively speaking, it was so large that it barely qualified as an apartment. It had three bedrooms, a kitchen that could somehow still contain Angie’s extensive collection of pots, pans, and utensils, and an entire room that Peggy had lined with bookshelves and claimed as both her office and the makeshift library.
Angie, however, had taken to the apartment right away. She was particularly enamored by the huge windows along the south wall of the main room that let in plenty of natural light and offered a nice view of the city.
Plus—and possibly most important to Angie—the smaller space was much easier to decorate than the mansion had ever been.
Steve and Bucky had come down to visit over Thanksgiving and their week-long stay had ended with Angie convincing them to help her get a Christmas tree up three flights of stairs and, after much trial and error, standing it up in the corner of the main room.
After that came the lights and the garland and the ornaments that Angie had collected from friends and family over the years. Next was a huge wreath dotted with red berries that hung proudly on the front door.
And last but not least was the mistletoe.
Angie had taken to hanging some in almost every doorway and even attaching a sprig to the headboard of their bed. Peggy had no idea where she kept getting it all, but damn if she wasn’t enjoying it just the slightest bit.
Christmas Eve was dark and there was only a light coat of snow on the ground that didn’t quite fully cover the pavement, but it was Christmas.
There were carols playing on the radio and Peggy could smell the hot chocolate Angie was making in the kitchen. Peggy absently touched the filigree heart at her collarbone and looked around at the modest pile of presents under the tree all wrapped in bright paper with sparkly bows. Angie had wrapped almost everything save for a couple of smaller boxes that Peggy had attempted to wrap.
It was really amazing how much nicer a bow could make a present look.
“What are you doin’, English?” Angie asked.
“Oh, nothing,” Peggy replied. “Just looking, I suppose. This is really nice.”
Angie appeared in the doorway with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate, each with a candy cane melting in it. She set them both on the coffee table and wrapped her arms around Peggy’s waist, leaning her chin on Peggy’s shoulder in a motion that she had practiced countless times before.
“I love you,” she said softly.
“I love you, too, darling,” Peggy said. She kissed the top of Angie’s head before leaning her cheek against it.
“So what time are Steve and Bucky supposed to get here tomorrow?” Angie asked.
“I think their train’s getting in at nine a.m., so we can pick them up after breakfast,” Peggy replied. “And they’re staying through New Year’s.”
“So this is the last time we’ll get alone for a while, huh?”
“Well then what the hell are we doing out here?” Angie asked.
“What are you talking about?”
“I think there’s a sprig of mistletoe over our bed that we could put to good use before company gets here if you know what I mean.”
Peggy lifted her head and raised her eyebrows. Angie just grinned.
“Well then lead the way, darling,” Peggy said.
Angie grabbed Peggy by the wrist and pulled her towards the bedroom.
Neither of them paid any attention to the mugs on the coffee table that were sure to go cold.
+1-December 24, 2002
It may have been Christmas Eve, but the triskelion was as busy and bustling as ever.
The dormitory hallway was wide and bright and filled with chatter that filtered out from the open doors of young agents staying at the base over the holiday, but there was one door at the end of the hallway that was still closed. It was this door that Peggy was walking towards.
Most of the recruits fell silent as she passed and a few of them even saluted as the former director stalked by.
Howard’s multitude of experiments with Steve’s blood in the years before his car accident had yielded some pretty impressive results and even despite being just this side of eighty, Peggy was still a commanding presence. Her stance, her face, even the persistent brown in her hair that refused to yield to the streaks of grey that had started appearing over the past few years were all traits of a younger woman. Not much younger of course—science could only do so much—but it was enough to keep the fear of the founder running strong through the veins of the young agents.
Peggy nodded at them and as she passed, the chatter resumed behind her. She kept going, though and when she reached the last door on the left side of the hall, she knocked twice and waited.
The door opened a moment later and a single grey-green eye appeared. It scanned Peggy up and down and then the door slowly opened all the way to reveal a short girl with bright red hair still damp from a recent shower. She was wearing a pair of SHIELD issue sweatpants, a black t-shirt, and a distinctly unamused expression.
“Director Carter,” the girl said.
“Ms. Romanoff,” Peggy replied.
“What brings you here at this hour on Christmas Eve?” Natasha asked, crossing her arms and leaning casually against the doorframe.
“I’m here for you, actually,” Peggy said. “Angie and I are having a bit of a Christmas party tonight and she—we were wondering if you’d like to join us.”
Natasha raised one eyebrow just the slightest bit. “You’re inviting me to a Christmas party,” she repeated.
“Well, it’s not really a party. It’s really just us and Captain Rogers and Agent Barnes and Tony Stark and our nieces, Sharon and Maria. You’ve met them all if I remember correctly, right?”
“Yeah, I’ve met ‘em,” Natasha said. “I met Sharon and Maria when I was staying with you two last year.”
“Yes, that’s right,” Peggy said. “My memory’s not always as reliable as it once was you know. Anyway, Angie and I wanted to extend the invitation, but if you’ve got other plans for this evening…” Peggy trailed off as she eyed Natasha’s sparse room. There was a long pause and Peggy started to turn away, but Natasha stopped her suddenly.
“Wait,” she said.
Peggy turned on her heel and raised an eyebrow in question.
“I’d actually really like that I think,” Natasha said slowly. “Give me a minute to change?”
“Of course,” Peggy said. “I’ll be waiting right out here when you’re ready.”
Natasha’s lips twitched up a hint of a smile and her door swung shut again. Peggy just smiled and leaned against the wall next to the door to wait.
By the time Peggy and Natasha got to the apartment, everyone else had already arrived and there were Christmas carols playing on the radio. Steve was sitting on the couch sketching the Christmas tree and Bucky was sitting next to him just watching.
Tony was in the armchair tinkering with a string of Christmas lights plugged into the USB port of his laptop. Maria and Sharon were sitting on the floor with a plate of cookies between them and a book of Christmas-themed Mad libs that they were passing back and forth.
“This is your idea of a party?” Natasha asked.
“I did say ‘of sorts’ didn’t I?” Peggy asked.
“English, is that you?” Angie called from the kitchen.
“Yeah, we’re here,” Peggy replied.
Angie rounded the kitchen doorway, wiping her hands on a dish towel. She pulled Peggy in for a one-armed embrace and pressed a quick kiss to her cheek. When she saw Natasha standing there in the doorway, she smiled brightly and squeezed her shoulder.
“I’m glad you decided to come,” she said. “Go ahead and make yourself at home. I think the girls took the cookies hostage, but help yourself and if you want anything else, just let us know.”
“Thanks,” Natasha said.
She headed over to the living room and when Sharon and Maria saw her, they quickly beckoned her over.
“Did it take a lot of convincing to get her to come?” Angie asked once Natasha was out of earshot.
“Not really,” Peggy replied. “I think Nicholas was right about her. We were the first real home she had after she defected. Maybe the best thing for her is to keep giving her that for as long as she needs.”
Angie leaned her head on Peggy’s shoulder and glanced out over the scene in the living room.
Bucky had managed to distract Steve from his sketches with a kiss and Tony had somehow managed to sync the string of lights to flash in time with carols he was playing from his laptop. Sharon and Maria were laughing, Sharon spraying the carpet with a mouthful of cookie crumbs. Peggy didn’t miss the way Maria nudged Natasha’s shoulder and Nat’s face broke into a small but genuine smile.
“I remember back when Christmas Eve was always just the two of us against the world,” Angie mused.
“That was always nice,” Peggy said.
“And look at us now,” Angie said. “We’ve got our little family now.”
“Of sorts,” Peggy said.
Angie giggled. “Of sorts,” she repeated.
“This is nice too,” Peggy said.
She reached up to play with the locket at her throat and pressed a kiss to the graying hair around Angie’s temples. “But I daresay after everyone else goes to bed, there’s some mistletoe in our room that might make it just a little bit nicer.”
“English, you didn’t,” Angie said, her eyes widening suddenly.
“Oh, darling, I most certainly did,” Peggy replied. “It’s become a bit of a tradition after all.”
“Well you can’t argue with tradition, can you?” Angie asked.
“No you most certainly can’t.”
Angie wrapped one arm loosely around Peggy’s waist and leaned her head on her shoulder again. The snowflakes were dancing on the breeze outside, but inside was warm and cozy. Judy Garland’s voice was filtering through the room in much the same way it had filled the sitting room nearly sixty years ago.
Everything had changed, but then again, maybe nothing really had.
“Merry Christmas, English,” Angie whispered.
“Merry Christmas, my darling,” Peggy replied.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too. With all of my heart.”