Choosing the L&L Automat her first month in New York City Peggy always figured must have been some kind of divine intervention. Out of all the automats and all the diners she could have chosen within a comfortable walking’s distance from the New York Bell Company, it just so happened to be the one that employed Angie Martinelli. And Angie Martinelli, she had quickly come to find, was irreplaceable. One of a kind.
Angie Martinelli was an aspiring actress, one who had no qualms about practicing over carafes of coffee and staring determinedly into the mirror back at herself. Having caught the end of a monologue from Romeo and Juliet the first time she’d settled into a free booth, Peggy had laughed to herself even while appreciating the acting - actresses were a dime a dozen in New York, after all, and she’d hold her full opinion until she had more exposure. That exposure, as it was, had come sooner than she had expected, Angie whirling around with a wide, friendly smile on her face, bounding over to pour her a cup of coffee even before she could ask for tea instead, chattering away as she offered a menu. However, eventually giving in to her sparkling blue eyes, Peggy made do, and didn’t bother putting up a token protest. Coffee wasn’t bad, every once in a while.
Really though, it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise as it had been that Peggy realized she kept on showing up at the automat more for the company than for the food. During the war, she’d learned how to eat whatever was given to her - to eat it and appreciate it and keep her mouth shut because it was all she was going to get. The L&L Automat’s fare, however, when not purchased from the automatic wall itself, was subpar to what she’d gotten used to during the war. And yet, keenly aware of that fact, she kept coming back. “Oh, of course it’s terrible,” Angie winked at her one afternoon after Peggy had let slip what she was thinking, “But we pay for the privilege to eat anyway. It’s free - from a free country, ain’t it? As much as I can figure, it’s that we’re paying for, more than taste.” And, shaking her head but mustering a smile anyway, Peggy had nodded, her smile becoming real when Angie left her with another wink and teasing crack about her being “too English” to fully understand.
Ten weeks into her patronage of the diner, two and a half months after settling in New York and her new job (as much as she could describe it as a “job”, being relegated to a common secretary more often than not), Peggy finally allowed herself to admit that, yes, what most likely kept her coming back was Angie’s company. The younger woman had expertly and quickly wormed her way into Peggy’s normal routine, full of good cheer and optimism and authentic interest, happy to complain good naturedly about her day as soon as she’d happily listen to Peggy’s day as well (numerous cups of coffee and snarky, witty quips invariably involved, of course). She was quick with smiles and sympathetic shakes of her head, equally as eager to slide into the booth across from her as she was leaning forward on her elbows when Peggy sat at the counter. She was genuine. Innocent. Alive. She was everything Peggy worked to keep safe.
Inevitably, the longer Peggy spent in Angie’s company, the more Peggy thought about her. When she fell into Howard’s mess, and subsequently caused the death of her roommate - poor Colleen, she’ll never forgive herself for that - Peggy didn’t want to give in to Angie’s admittedly tempting offer. The Griffith did sound perfect. It sounded wonderful. Exactly what she needed. But, watching Angie in her element, mixing waitressing with practicing lines and dramatically confronting jerks - Peggy stepping in when needed, Peggy couldn’t allow herself to potentially put her in danger. Never. Never. She’d never forgive herself if Angie got compromised.
Nevertheless, Peggy found herself moving in. Convinced from a mixture of Angie’s puppy dog eyes and having caught how sad and discouraged Peggy’s well meaning brush-offs made her, and honestly needing a place to stay that didn’t come with an automatic branding of being a Howard Stark whore, Peggy allowed the younger woman to all but drag her along with her. Meeting her after a shift at the automat, red cheeked and eager, practically dancing on the tips of her toes as she grabbed Peggy’s arm, leading her to the right subway railroad track, Peggy smiled and laughed and dipped her head and told herself she wasn’t concentrating too hard on how Angie’s everyday outfit emphasized how skinny she was, the waitress shining in casual wear. She was only following her for a place to live. Not too far from her work, easy on her budget, and practically perfect, those were the only reasons.
Except they weren’t. Angie was down the hall. The all-female occupancy was refreshing. Though she had to keep herself always decent and perfectly made-up, Peggy relished it. As much as she shouldn’t have boxed herself into an “impossibly impenetrable” hotel, and shouldn’t have doubly locked herself into an almost daily ritual of Angie knocking on her door and barging in offering alcohol and sweets, having to send her away lying through her teeth, Peggy still appreciated it. Angie didn’t give up. No matter how often Peggy unintentionally gave her reasons to surrender and walk away, she didn’t. No matter how often Peggy felt horrible that she’d even allowed herself to make it so Angie could call on her only to be sent away, it didn’t make a difference. Angie still smiled at her during meals and at the automat.
Letting Howard crash in her room was a low point in her secret agent life. As successful as she had been able to separate her normal life as “Peggy Carter, telephone company employee” with what she was doing after hours, having Howard in a place she barely had any control over… It had sent her almost into a tailspin. Smiling widely, practically inanely at Angie when she stepped out of her room, immediately closing and locking the door behind her, she accompanied her down to dinner, dominant hand clutched tightly around Angie’s arm, incredibly interested, beyond the norm, in the other woman’s day. As much as she honestly wanted to know, she hoped Angie couldn’t tell just how much she was faking it, too. In fact, she hoped Angie never found out how much she was faking. Ever.
Leaning back, hands splayed, grasping as tightly as she could to the brick face, Peggy could barely breathe. Heights, more than anything else, had always chilled her bones and sucked the air out of her lungs. Heights mixed with imminent danger…? Peggy was surprised her heart hadn’t yet combusted in her chest. Still, inching, pausing, and inching some more towards Angie’s room, the faintest hint of optimism flickering in her chest, Peggy almost sagged before she caught herself when Angie opened her window, practically accusing, “Peggy? What are you doing?” right before loud, insistent fists sounded on her apartment door. Breathing in, wide eyed and almost hopeless, Peggy could barely believe it as, taking in her blurted, “They’re here for me,” Angie paused, nodded, closed her windows, and took care of Thompson and Sousa. Helping Peggy in minutes later, wide eyed and excited, accusing, “I knew you didn’t work for the phone company!” Angie, while obviously anxious and confused, was everything and more than Peggy had ever hoped. Organizing a ride for her, even, Peggy wished, after the fact, that she’d done more than hugged the courageously strong actress goodbye after promising a, “Someday.” Yes, she thought, becoming unconscious minutes later after Dottie kissed her with her lipstick, she should have done more. She should have kissed her. …She should have kissed Angie.
Ironically, it was Angie who found her again, and not the other way around. Demanding to be let into the New York Bell Company, knowing it was as much an actual telephone company as powdered eggs were actual eggs, Angie had apparently been in the neighborhood when Dooley had sacrificed himself. Terrified, full of gumption and spunk, she wouldn’t leave the front office, fists curled at her waist, chin up, advancing on the elevator doors even as Rose reached for her hidden gun. “I don’t care if ya shoot me,” she bit out, “I’m here for Peggy. She’d get ya back more than I could.” (“That was complete posturing,” Angie admitted later, words hot and breathy and close to tears against Peggy’s neck as she embraced her in the SSR bathroom, arms wrapped tightly around her, “I’d hoped your reputation had preceded you.”) And, “Angie!” Peggy snapped, immediately dragging the younger woman away as soon as she walked into the bullpen, towards privacy, “You brave, brave, foolish woman.” “Hey,” Angie sniffled, flicking Peggy’s hand before catching it up, lacing their fingers together, leaning up to press her lips softly to Peggy’s before dissolving into tears, shoving her head against Peggy’s sternum, “Forgive me for thinkin’ the woman I’d given my heart to was kaput!” And, pulling Angie in tight, against her chest, kissing her forehead and squeezing her as if she never wanted to let her go, the only person who needed forgiveness, Peggy thought, drinking in how Angie felt against her, allowing, at least for a moment, thoughts of the future, was her. Her.