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L'Chaim!

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She’s choosing between brassieres when the phone rings.

As always, the call’s answered within seconds; she pauses, and sneaks over to the bedroom doorway, pressing herself into it. Edwin’s not been back through the connecting door yet, so she knows what’s been going on well enough to remain still. It was always so intriguing, seeing what Howard asked for. Anna’s been keeping a running list of his outlandish needs.

Edwin’s more quiet than usual - it couldn’t be Howard. As annoyed as he could get, Edwin tended not to hide such surface details from her. Greetings and sighs didn’t jeopardize anything.

“Yes, Miss Carter, I - yes, I will come immediately.”

Ah. So it was the elusive Miss Carter. This order of business would be difficult to discover. He’d have to let it out himself.

The water in the kitchen jerks on for another moment, then stops just as abruptly; she hears the chairs squeak against the tiled floor, and knows he’s preparing to leave. She scrambles to put the spread of unmentionables back into the topmost drawer of their dresser, managing to be waiting with a feigned casualness by the door when her husband makes his presence known with an unintentional sigh.

“Yes, darling?” she hums, moving close to him with the same urgency as always, nearly cutting off her own question with a kiss, with need and love and wetness.

Anna will never mind the postponed answers she gets any time Edwin has to leave, not when his apologies and interruptions somehow always involve the doorjamb pressing against her back as she leans into it, his hands wrapping around her slender hips or twining themselves in the curls of her long black hair, and kisses of such intensity that she has to pull out his handkerchief and wipe her lipstick off of him.

She doubts he minds the wait, either, though it’s not as though he’s giving himself time to think about how he’s going to respond to her.

“My bashert?” she prompts eventually.

“I am so sorry, my love,” he replies, a whisper tickling their lips. “A colleague of Howard’s has informed me that my assistance is needed at this moment...I will return and prepare supper as quickly as possible.”

“Worry not, darling. I will prepare supper tonight. Captain America can wait. There is only so much to play on the radio - he will come again.”

Anna presses a gentle kiss to his collar, knowing that she’s leaving a mark. He may work for Howard, they may be here, she may be free on Howard’s dime, but one of these days Howard would remember to whom Edwin actually belonged. No matter how smart he was, which indeed was very smart, his word did not overcome G-d’s.

“I will miss you while I am away, Anna,” Edwin says as his dismissal, and she wipes the lipstick from his lips.

“As I will you. Just remember to come back to me.”

“Always.”

He gives his customary gentle nod at their ketubah, and she follows him to their door, not caring that she waves at him wearing nothing but a lacy brassiere and its matching underwear as she bids him adieu, then retrieves their Joy of Cooking from the cupboard, propping it up on the counter with one of her newest tomes set behind it.

+

“Damn you, Howard Stark!” Anna yelps, and he throws his hands up in defeat as though she’d been any one of the other women recently on his property.

Well, he wasn’t that lucky today.

“Hey, I didn’t know what this would involve!”

“Oh, codswallop. You sent my husband to bloody Los Angeles!”

“No, actually, the people I now work for sent him to Los Angeles, and that’s completely different!”

Anna growls, and she sees him gulp.

Miss Carter must be quite the pistol, she thinks, if he only gets increasingly afraid of women after being around her. And I haven’t even met her yet - she must be a delight.

The phone rings.

Ugh, she hated that thing.

She nods, raising her eyebrows expectantly, and Howard creeps to the wall, answering it.

“Hey, Chief,” Howard says nervously, and Anna turns so that her entire body is facing him, watching him closely. This was Howard Stark - she didn’t mind making him sweat. Not like he could fire her, for that matter.

“Wrong - Carter thinks - yes, of course, I think Carter’s word takes precedence - what do you - yeah, I’ll be in as soon as I can.”

Howard hangs up, looking back over at Anna almost as though he feels like he needs permission to leave his own house.

Actually, he’d probably be better off if he did, to be quite honest. More than that, we all would.

“I’m going with you,” Anna declares, and though Howard opens his mouth to protest, he gives up. “I’m grabbing something from my house, and then I’ll do the driving.”

“Anna, that’s - "

“What? My husband works for you, that’s something that he does - why shouldn’t I drive?”

Howard nods weakly, and when she’s finished in her own home, he’s sitting awkwardly in the passenger seat, holding his hat in his lap.

He doesn’t bother looking closely at her, since he already knows he hasn’t a chance in anyone’s Hell, and now he knows she's angry enough to rumble along the route to the SSR which he navigates for her, so Anna knows he doesn’t notice that she’s tucked her husband’s spare pistol into her skirt.

+

Pathetic, Dottie thinks, sipping from her drink before groaning internally at the realization that she’ll have to go back outside to purchase more.
She was already booked here under a name, perhaps dialing the desk would allow her to ask for some brandy to be brought up to her? Fancier hotels did that. If she’d managed to keep Stark out of this long enough, she’d be in a fancier hotel.

At least the SSR was buying the idea that she’d gone cross-country.

It was a little disappointing that Agent Carter would, but she’d always known she couldn’t get everything she wanted. She had escaped a fight against her, though, but that had been more of a strategic decision than one otherwise. She could have gone to find Carter again, she held up well enough against the vehicle she'd landed on - but with the other agents around, that was a risk she'd been trained too well to take.

But now, all Dottie had to do was wait, and she hated waiting, so she was drinking. If nothing else, she'd either find someone with whom to commiserate, or forget about the state of things long enough to only come to by the time Carter had given up and returned to New York.

+

“Carter, can you tell your…friend to back off? We really need to talk about this actual case,” Thompson grumbles, and Edwin’s close enough that Peggy can feel his hair standing up like he were a dog getting ready for yet another fight, or in this case, far-too-polite pissing match. Peggy groans aloud.

“Well, Jack, if you hadn’t sent us in the entirely wrong direction…”

“You can’t say entirely wrong, Carter. We don’t know where she is! We just know that -"

“There’s no trace of her anywhere that you so very strongly believed she would be. Yes, I’m aware of that part. Also, that Daniel and I are the only ones who’ve stood a chance against Dottie in a fight. There’s also that.”

“Carter…”

“What is it, Chief? Tired of having your authority challenged? Try doing something that warrants being taken as proof of authority.”

Peggy sighs.

“She isn’t going to be anywhere we could expect her to be. And yes, that only narrows our search field a tiny bit, but it’s something. Considering, again, that I’m the only female secret agent involved here other than Miss Underwood, it appears that as usual my thoughts bear some validity.”

Next to her, Edwin’s still playing unhappily with his wedding ring. Espionage really hadn’t been a good career choice for him, damn Howard.

+

Anna sinks into the barstool.

Who did the jerks think they were, sending her off like that? Well, the jerk, the one in charge. She was Edwin’s wife! He had no right to deny her the knowledge of his whereabouts or wellbeing. What rubbish!

The bartender is a gentleman, from whom she procures a drink without having to open her purse; she’s surprised to see a woman at the end of the other end of the bar watching critically as he goes about his movements.

They’re the only two left after a couple of hours, and Anna needs some company. She never has enough company, and now her husband isn’t even home to love her. Even with late-night missions, her light sleeping allowed the possibility of her waking up whenever he returned home. Most of those weren’t nights to make love, but kisses and cuddling were never wasted moments.

The woman, a brunette with hair only slightly lighter than Anna's - she only realizes it's brown because a blindingly bright overhead light is shining on it - notices her glances, and turns her body to be facing her before nodding at Anna’s ring.

“Husband problems?” she asks, obviously needing company just like Anna; she seems to be trying, but she doesn’t quite manage, to hide a Russian accent, but that's not her fault - Anna had long since known how to hear one.

“Husband’s boss problems,” Anna says, making sure to be speaking with the accent of hers closest to her husband’s. She glances down at her chest, making sure her star of David necklace has not peeked out from within the frontmost ruffles of her blouse.

“My apologies,” the brunette nods, and urges the bartender to serve both of them again. Anna finds it odd, but especially with the close eye that this woman keeps on the process, who would she be to refuse another free drink?

Anna shrugs. “And you?”

The brunette pauses.

“My father’s just been arrested.”

Anna startles as the next drink is set down by her elbow, but nods at the bartender in thanks.

“I’m so sorry.”

It’s the other woman’s turn to shrug, which she does before joining Anna in a silent toast preceding her first, lengthy sip of her drink.

“I’m Anna.”

“Ida.”

+

“You don’t honestly think she’s still in New York, do you Carter?” Thompson says jeeringly, and Peggy scoffs.

“Well, as far as she knows, that’s where I am, isn’t it? If she’s trying to kill me, it honestly makes a great deal of sense.”

“So, you want me to get the two of you back to New York because she wants to kill you? Because that doesn’t make sense.”

“Yes, it does, Thompson.”

“Under what conditions, Carter? You having a death wish?”

“I can handle myself, in case you haven’t noticed.”

Peggy had thought Edwin had finally drifted to sleep, but she hears another phone in their hotel suite being picked up.

“And I have a wife to return home to, Agent Thompson,” comes Edwin’s drowsy, sassy remark.

Thompson grumbles again, this time with a bit of a laugh, which is left entirely unexplained until Daniel and Peggy are the only two who remain on the phone line.

“She came in with Stark, demanded to know where her husband was. Might’ve been the only one, but I got to wondering what it’d be like to set her loose on Hydra.”

Peggy chuckles.

“Yes, from what I hear, she’s quite a pistol.”

+

“So, a hotel room?” Anna inquires, although it doesn’t look that poor a place.

“Yes, I don’t actually live around here,” answers Ida, turning back to face her in the middle of reapplying lipstick.

“But you’re not married. Why do you no longer live with your father?”

Anna doesn’t mean the question harshly, but she knows women too well for Ida to truly hide the desire for avoidance of the topic in her expression of reticence, so Anna apologizes before the other woman feels too much pressure to answer her.

Just another thing about her that’s odd, I suppose. Perhaps she’s widowed, or needed to be divorced, or perhaps she escaped here from Russia proper. Perhaps I’ll find out if she stays in the city long enough. I haven’t had any real girlfriends since we moved here; Edwin will be excited to hear about this! I should see if she’d accept a place from Howard; surely he could pay for something better than this small room she’s holing herself in.

Ida’s heels clack on the wood floor as she turns herself back around, and Anna meets her eyes.

“I’m just going to go use the little girls’ room, then we can see if there’s something we’d like to go to tonight! It’s a brilliant idea you’ve had about seeing a show! Just…make yourself at home in the meantime.”

“I’ll be here. Don’t fall in!” Anna giggles, indicating that she’s all right being left by herself. She’d better be - she was left with her own company so often…Ida would never know...

After only a couple minutes, Anna regrets taking a look around, and realizes that she hasn’t made a real girlfriend after all.

The first drawer she slips open holds handcuffs, newspaper clippings about Howard, and a single paper with a hastily-scrawled message on it: Kill Peggy Carter.

+

Anna flies into her husband’s arms as soon as both he and Miss Carter (at least, the woman whom she assumes is Miss Carter) have stepped off the plane; she may be the happiest to see him she ever has been. She’s not surprised nor disappointed that his own tears of joy wet the shoulder of her sheer blouse, though she probably shouldn’t have worn it out in public.

Well, she figures, perhaps it’ll keep him cognizant of the marital duties he’s to fulfill as soon as we maneuver ourselves from the SSR’s grip tonight.

Not that he ever isn’t cognizant - the hands that only naturally cradle the small of her back when they touch each other evince the truth of that - but it was nice to know there were things she could do consciously to make him even more so.

Not before Edwin’s lips are stained redder, but before Agent Thompson gets the chance and the gall to pull them from each other again, she rummages through her purse and hands him the paper with Ida’s address, announcing what it is without giving any of the agents a moment to inquire. The men are speechless, but it’s Agent Carter, as much the pistol as Anna had hoped, who plucks it from her boss’ hand, and thanks her.

+

It’s during Captain America that the next call comes, and both Anna and Edwin, tangled together on their couch, groan loudly enough that either of them alone might drown out the ringing. Neither of them answer it, and they distract themselves from the next with kisses so light and loving they tickle each others’ skin.

At the third call, Anna pushes herself up from the couch, and yanks Edwin back to their room. She doesn’t need to shove him into bed or seat herself atop him to have her own pleasures attended to, but she insists on doing so regardless. His exploring tongue rather enjoys itself, though it's known her too well to have any proper exploring or discovery to do, and his thick hands, which originally insist on traversing her skin, have to grab hold of her hips and backside to keep her from falling over the side of the bed.

Practically at the moment that the fourth call comes, so does she.