Peggy Carter waits in line for her coffee with mounting frustration. After the war, she’d gone right back to work, hoping that it would keep her too busy to notice the gaping, Captain-America sized hole in her heart. That turned out to be a fat load of wishful thinking, though. Most days, all she did was answer calls, dispatch messages, and get coffee for the guys back in the office – it wasn’t exactly the kind of work that kept a person too busy to think.
Telling her friends and acquaintances that she worked as a telephone operator became less and less of a lie as the days wore on. What’s more, the ungallant, oversexed louts at the SSR (just the thought of Agent Thomson and his smug smile made her skin crawl) were so unlike Steve that they served only to remind her constantly of him. She’d finally stopped crying silently into her pillow at night, but sometimes she still dreamt of plane crashes, static, dancing, the war, and what could’ve been.
Today, exactly six months after Steve’s death – not that she’s counting – Peggy’s in a fouler mood than usual, and the fact that she has been forced once again to act as some kind of low-wage errand girl doesn’t improve matters at all.
It’s nearly nine when she finally collects her coffee and stalks back out into the street. She rounds the corner with such haste that she doesn’t notice the other woman sprinting straight toward her. Peggy’s eyes widen almost comically as she sees the coffee cups in her hands collide against the young woman’s light green waitress uniform. She grabs at the cups in a vain attempt to avert the disaster, but even her reflexes aren’t fast enough to prevent the inevitable. The brown stains spread like multiple gun shots to the chest. Peggy blinks and forces the image out of her head. “I’m so sorry,” She says, laying a hand on the other woman’s shoulder to steady her. “Are you okay?”
The woman laughs. “I’ll survive.”
“Well then, I’m sorry about the dress,” Peggy says. She pulls out a handkerchief from her pocket and hands it over.
“Aw, don’t worry ‘bout it – this uniform’s already so hideous that a coupla coffee stains ain’t gonna hurt.” She gives the dress a brief swipe, then tosses the handkerchief back at Peggy. Her gaze meets Peggy’s for the first time; her light green eyes are so beautiful that Peggy nearly forgets how to breathe. She shakes the thought out of her head (since when does she even notice other people’s eyes?) and forces herself to concentrate on what the woman is saying. “’Sides, this coffee is so bad that it’s practically transparent anyway. Next time, drop by L&L Automat instead. We have real coffee there.” She winks at Peggy, then raises a hand in farewell. Peggy just blinks in response.
It takes Peggy almost a minute to regain her senses. She tosses the now-empty cups into the trash and starts walking. “Real coffee,” She scoffs. “There’s no such thing as real coffee.”
She's almost halfway back to the SSR Headquarters when she realizes that she has to buy another round of coffee to replace the ones she’s spilt. “Oh bugger,” She says, scowling and retracing her steps.
The woman recognizes her the moment she steps in. She gives her a smile brilliant enough to power the entire city. “Hello there. Wasn’t expecting to see you so soon – not that I’m complainin’ or anything. What can I get you?”
“Actually, it’s not for me – I don’t drink coffee – but the geezers at my office are apparently too fat and lazy to get their own.” Peggy says.
“You don’t drink coffee?” The waitress shakes her head and stares at her like she’s just said something blasphemous. “You’re English, aren’t you?”
Peggy nods, rather baffled as to where this particular conversation was going. “I did grow up in Britain, yes.”
The waitress pauses to give Peggy a once-over, then bustles into the kitchen like she’s on an urgent mission to save the world. She comes out a few moments later with a cup of piping hot double espresso with a splash of cream.
Peggy groans. “I really don’t have the time-”
“What, you can’t spare a minute to save yourself from eighty years of miserable, coffee-less existence?”
Peggy sighs and caves in. It wasn’t like she had better things to do in the office, anyway. “Alright, but don’t be disappointed. I’m really more of a tea person.”
“We’ll see about that,” the woman says smugly, pressing the cup into Peggy’s hand. Peggy shakes her head wryly and takes a sip. She blinks, swallows, and takes another large mouthful, nearly scalding herself in the process - not that she even notices. She looks back up at the waitress, both incredulous and wonderstruck. “I don’t- this is-” She gives up on words and fixes the waitress with a rare, fleeting smile that goes right up to her eyes.
“Told you so, English,” The woman says, grinning back at her. “Now – what shall I get for the office geezers?” Peggy rattles off the order she knows by heart – a depressing waste of brain capacity, she thinks – and the waitress passes the order on to the kitchen while Peggy stands by the counter and savors her drink. They chat a little while waiting, and when the order’s ready, the waitress takes the empty cup from Peggy’s hand and hands her the rest of her order. “Don’t go spillin’ this all over the next unsuspectin’ gal now.”
Peggy smiles and thanks her. It’s only when she reaches the SSR headquarters and finishes handing out the coffee that she notices that on the inside of one of the now-empty paper bags, the waitress has left her name. And below that, scrawled inconspicuously and almost as an afterthought, are the words, “come back soon, English.”
Peggy’s lips curl up into a small smile in spite of herself.
As it turns out, she does go back to the Automat three days later. It’s the end of a long, grueling week of mind-numbingly boring work, and Peggy finds herself heading back to L&L in the hopes that a cup of coffee and a brief, ten-minute rest would give her the energy needed to drag her sorry self back to her apartment.
She pushes open the door and takes a corner seat, still feeling like she's somehow betraying her Queen by being publicly seen drinking coffee twice in a week (and enjoying it, too). Angie spots her from across the Automat and comes hurrying over, a huge, shit-eating grin plastered to her face. “English!” She bends down and pulls the woman into a tight, brief hug.
When Angie finally pulls away, Peggy isn’t sure what she’s more concerned about – the fact that this waitress doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of personal space (of which she herself places great importance) or the fact that she actually finds herself enjoying the said invasion of personal space. She clears her throat. “I have a name, you know,” she says. “It’s Peggy. Peggy Carter.”
Angie smiles at her cheekily. “Alright then, Ms. Peggy ‘I’m more of a tea person’ Carter – what should I get you today?”
Peggy smiles. “Same thing, please.”
Angie punches her playfully on the arm. “Nah, c’mon, let me fix you something else. You’ll love it, I promise.” She winks at her and all Peggy can do is shake her head in exasperation.
The waitress comes back with the drink a few moments later. Peggy tries it and sighs. “This is really good too,” she admits ruefully.
Angie just grins at her. “Stay for a while," She says, and Peggy can't find it in herself to refuse - not when the other woman's staring at her like that. Besides, it's a Friday night after all, and a few more minutes wasn't going to hurt anybody.
Business is slow at that time of the night, and Angie makes it a point to slip into the seat opposite her whenever she has free time. She’s easy to talk to – funny, honest and remarkably kind. Peggy isn’t much of a talker, less than ever since the war, but somehow Angie’s got a way about her that makes her feel light, comfortable, and safe. Time slips by like honey and before she knows it, it’s closing time and she’s biting back a yawn. Angie laughs and pushes her gently out of the door. “Have a good night, English,” is followed by the most lascivious wink she’s ever seen from a decent-looking lady, and Peggy finds herself shaking her head once again as she steps out into the cold night air.
Wink or not, Peggy leaves the restaurant feeling happier than she’s been in weeks, months maybe, and needless to say, the nights at L&L after work become a fairly regular occurrence. Peggy assumes it’s the coffee – and not the beautiful blonde waitress who supplies it – that has her coming back every night, but there’s really no way of hiding the smile that spreads involuntarily in response each and every time Angie Martinelli smiles at her.