Angie's staring at herself in the mirror. She's sitting on a bench that cost more than a month's rent at the Griffith and staring at her reflection in a mirror with an honest to God gilded frame. Her hair's done up. Years on Broadway has her able to do a twist without thinking.
"Classy," is what the rags call it. Especially paired with all the pearls and sapphires and satin gowns.
Classy Angie Martinelli.
Only they don't call her that anymore.
See the thing is, years ago, in 1946, Angie fell in love with a girl. Not just any girl. She fell in love with a secret agent. A high flying daring do kind of girl you see in the pulps but never meet in real life.
And this particular girl stole Angie's heart like it was a packet of secrets smuggled out of Russia. Then she went and tried to keep Angie alive by running off by herself to fight the good fight all alone.
By the time Angie woke up, stole a coupe from Howard Stark's garage, and got back to the Griffith, Peggy Carter was dead. It was a big fire. Took half the building. She and Dottie Underwood were seen "helping" on the third floor.
Neither ever made it out.
That's what the cop told her. A guy in a suit with a limp and a crutch. "Were you close," he asked, eyes narrowing with empathy.
Angie hadn't known what to say. Because they'd been as close as two people could be, but then Peggy'd gone and left her and if you're close to someone you don't leave 'em. Even if death is knocking at your door.
You stick around.
She cried a lot after that. Losing her home, her best friend, and the only girl she'd be mushy enough to say she'd love was rough.
A week later Mr. Jarvis showed up at her mom's place with his hat in hand and asked if he could come in. "Sure, that's okay," she'd said.
And when he'd come in and sat down he'd tried to be nice. Tried to console her. "I know you and Ms. Carter were close."
She'd glared at him and he'd cleared his throat and then finally he'd told her what he'd come all the way out to South Brooklyn to tell her. "She cared about you. I think all she wanted to do was keep you safe."
"Pretty steep cost don't you think?"
"For some…for heroes like her…no cost is too steep." Which was a shame for him to say because Angie herself wasn't a hero. She was a lousy actress from South Brooklyn with an affinity for robbing banks and stealing cars. Sacrifice was nice and all when you were remembering soldiers on Victory Day. Not when the only girl you've ever really connected with has gone up in a barbecue of glory trying to save your stinking life.
But Mr. Jarvis had ignored how stricken and angry she'd looked and leaned in close. "And it worked," he'd said. "Any suspicions held towards you have been eradicated."
She'd said something like "Bully me," and wiped tears out of her eyes and ignored the offered handkerchief.
She'd held onto all that grief when she'd gone to the callback she'd nearly forgotten about that afternoon. Peggy Carter had been on her mind as she sang a song about loss and wept through a hokey piece of script about how "she'd never love another."
She got the job.
And the next one.
And when she got the call for Hollywood and the suits-dressed just as drabbily as those fellows who'd once tried to kill her-told her she'd have to change her name to something less "ethnic" she'd thought of Peggy again. All British and reserved and a "right bastard" if Angie was ever gonna know one.
"Angela Carter," she'd said immediately.
So now Angie's Angela Carter, and she's getting ready for a big movie premiere. Her first since that Oscar three months ago.
Someone knocks on the door. It's Tab. The good looking kid they said she needed on her arm for the premiere.
"People will talk," her agent had said very politely.
"They'll think you're queer," the studio suit had growled.
So she steps out into the hall of the hotel with Tab on her arm and smiles.
"You ready Ms. Carter?"
After pistols and tommy guns aimed at your head, flash bulbs and screaming fans are a piece of cake. Angie walks the red carpet real smooth.
Until she sees a face in the crowd. Standing in a throng of teens and housewives.
She shakes her head. Focuses on the person with the pen and pad in front of her. Someone asks when she and Tab are getting married and he blushes and she laughs.
It's a cultured laugh.
She learned that when she came to Hollywood. "This isn't the sticks," they'd said. Like Broadway and her Tony award were all done up in some barn in Pennsylvania. "It's the real thing Carter. So laugh again."
She did. She laughed. She cried. She worked with diction coaches who worked the New York out of her like wrinkles in a dress.
A fan thrusts an autograph pad in her face and she signs. Looks up and sees Peggy again, talking to a cop at the edge of the red carpet.
She shakes her head again.
"Maybe," she says to the next kid who asks if she's getting married.
At the end of the red carpet that Peggy who can't be there smiles like she heard what Angie said.
Tab takes her by the elbow, "You okay," he asks. His breath smells like cigarettes.
"We're almost through." He has to say it into her ear. Has to lean down. Can't let the cameras catch it. They can read lips if the want to.
America's embroiled in a non-war with the USSR and it'd be done in half a day if they put entertainment rags on the case.
They go inside and Angie see's her again, climbing the staircase. No one else must see her. No one's saying anything. No one's gasping and pointing.
"Captain America's girlfriend!"
"She went down on Angela Carter for twenty minutes and didn't even need air!"
Like Peggy's a ghost. Haunting Angie all alone.
Someone takes her hand and pumps it up and down like water's gonna spout out of her mouth and she has to focus again. Has to smile and be gracious.
The way to their seats has gotta take an hour. There's pause after pause. Smiles and jokes and never letting her voice get too loud. They don't like it when she's loud. "Makes you sound coarse," they say.
She'll show 'em coarse.
Tab smiles too.
And glances at her.
Usually when she thinks she sees Peggy moving through the crowd.
When they're finally settling into their seats his voice is real low. "What's going on with you?"
"That Captain America movie they're hot to have me in."
"Betty Carver," he asks surprised. "That's what your thinking about?"
It's gotta be.
Now that she's said it is makes sense.
They want her playing a gross caricature of a woman she could have loved given time. So she's seeing her ghost.
Some kind of guilt thing.
Like a heart beatin' under floorboards.
"It's an awful script," she confesses.
"But this one's good right?" It's a western. Her obligatory one.
"Yeah." She pats his knee and smiles.
A quarter of the way through the movie someone starts coughing and it isn't the good kind.
The good kind is phlegm. It's something in the throat trying to get out.
This is the fake kind that rankles her as bad as talking while she's up on the stage.
She tries to ignore it.
Finally she turns to tell them to shove it where the sun don't shine.
Peggy grins, hand falling away from her lips-still red as sin. The people around her are glaring at her like she's Satan but Peggy is definitely just smiling for her.
So Angie turns around and tries to watch the movie.
Up on screen she's covered in dust and chasing after Stewart Granger as he goes off to slaughter indians to save her life. They can't be together though.
They think they're brother and sister.
She'd hoot about how awful it all was but she's just had a ghost razzing her movie with coughs.
So she stares real hard at the screen. Her dress is too tight and she wonders how they got it past the censors. She's pretty sure if she squints she could see the outline of a nipple.
Behind her people grumble and there's shuffling and swishing.
When she glances back again Peggy's seat is empty.
She's not gonna say she's frantic, but Angie does look hurriedly around the rest of the theater-there. The ghost is standing at the exit and staring straight through Angie like she's made of glass. She gulps.
Turns back around.
Stewart Granger's been hurt slaughtering indians and she's got his head in her lap and is stroking his hair.
"Excuse me," she mumbles to Tab.
He's confused when she has to swish past. So's the director. And the suits. And Stewart.
"Go before you come," he advises as she slides past him.
She moves quickly towards the exit, bottom of her dress in hand and head down.
No one mumbles or mutters. As bad as the film is (and it's a doozy) it's still entertaining.
The lobby is less entertaining. It's empty.
Not even an usher with a flashlight.
She thinks she hears a door shut so she heads towards the noise.
Of course. The women's restroom.
Only inside is empty. No Peggy. No one looking to relieve themselves. Not even a bathroom attendant. She walks all the way through to be sure. Even peers under the stall doors like a creep. Nothing.
Which is how she finds herself staring at herself in another mirror. She's leaning on the sink and trying to get her bearings.
It's got to be the stupid Captain America movie. It's got her thinking about a woman dead since '46. She's got her on the mind.
She turns the faucet on and stares at the water running out.
Wouldn't be good to splash her face. Her make up would run and people would talk.
God, she's going crazy.
She pulls water in her hands and sips it.
She's gonna cry. She can feel it.
Big crazy tears that'll get her carted off to the looney bin. She tries to laugh it off and that makes the threat of sobs even worse.
The door opens and she straights up and schools her face into something neutral. "Sorry," she immediately apologizes. "I just had a…"
"Successful film premiere by the looks of it."
Peggy smiles like she's not dead. When she steps closer her heels clack on the tile like real heels. She's dressed in a tasteful gown. Hair down. Makeup perfect.
Older. Because time isn't gonna wait around.
A sob just bursts out of Angie and she has to cover her mouth.
"I believe," Peggy's real careful, like Angie's a skittish animal, "You once likened us to a disaster. Which makes sense. Our careers and sexuality. Disastrous."
"End of the world," Angie mutters. She's not quite sure she's existing in reality with the rest of the world.
"When I left I had hoped it would keep you safe. And I wanted…I didn't want a disaster."
"Good for you."
It must sting because Peggy winces. "But I've…I've lived a life that's more appropriate for my line of work and I've watched you be extraordinary and…"
Angie takes a step towards her. "What?"
She shrugs. "A world I can't share with you is miserable."
"Yeah, I know."
"And I'm tired of being miserable." Peggy's not the only one.
"So what then?"
It's the crooked smile. Not that she's standing in the washroom with a lookout on the door and being nervous. It's that smile.
"End the world with me Angie Martinelli?"
Anything Angie ought to feel goes right out the window.
Because there's something she's learned. Something important. When an opportunity presents itself you seize it.
Instead of being mad Angie kisses Peggy.
"The war over then," she asks against those lips she'd given up on years ago.
Peggy's holding her close and her hand's on Angie's cheek and it feels awfully right. "No," she kisses her again, "but if the world is gonna end in disaster I'd like to end it on my own terms."
Didn't like the ending? Or you wanted more? Or you want to punch me? YOU'RE IN LUCK. A psuedo-sequel is coming. Because what if Peggy showed up in that bathroom and Angie thought her request was the biggest load of bunk she'd ever heard? And then Peggy had to spend a whole fic wooing her while engaging in a Cold War with Leviathan, battling the Winter Soldier, and driving through Europe with the top down. That'd be pretty great yeah?