"Morning, Rose," Daniel Sousa said, stepping through the door of the talent agency. The cheerful redhead was on the phone, but she held up a finger for him to wait. He stood there for a moment, awkwardly poking around the objects on her desk; mostly paperweights, gifts from admirers and Hollywood hopefuls.
"Thank you. You have a nice day!" Rose said, hanging up the phone. "Hi Chief!" she said brightly. "Got another message for you." She handed him a slip of paper with the words "Peg called" on it. He read it, frowning, and a sigh escaped his lips. Rose stared at him over the rims of her glasses. "Are you going to return her call this time?"
"Because you know, it's not too late," she said, a small smile on her face.
Daniel laughed a little nervously, rubbing the back of his neck. "Peggy made it pretty clear where our relationship stood. Colleagues at the very least and at best...friends."
"Everybody's gotta start somewhere," Rose said, shaking her head. "Why don't you give friends a shot?"
"Rose, you know I-" He stopped, looking over his shoulder. This is not something he wanted anyone else to hear. He stepped closer to the desk and lowered his voice. "You know why I can't call her. I can barely think about her without my chest tightening. It's not enough just being friends."
"One of these days, you're gonna have to face those feelings, Chief," Rose said, leaning in towards him. "And the more you try to push them away or mask them, the harder it's going to be. And I know it seems like an easy thing to go out and find another girl who's sweet and kind, and who'll love you till the day you die. But in your heart, Daniel, you'll know that you're just settling. Sure, you love her, but it's not the same-it's not a deep, passionate love." She had his gaze, but he quickly averted his eyes, a pained expression on his face. "And then you'll always wonder what could've been with that other woman, the one who keeps you awake at night, the one who sets your heart on fire."
"You've been reading those romance novels again, haven't you?" Daniel gave her a sad smile. "I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm in Los Angeles now. I've got a new life, a promotion, and I'll probably never see Peggy Carter again." He grabbed the slip of paper and stuffed it in his pocket.
Rose sat back in her chair, defeated. "What do you want me to tell her if she calls again?"
Daniel rubbed his forehead, shifting his weight to his crutch. "I don't know. Just make some excuse about setting up the office, or dealing with all these new recruits. They all need a serious amount of training, so it's not really a lie. Please, Rose."
She nodded. "Yes, Chief."
"Thanks, really. I owe you." He turned to head further into the office, but stopped halfway to the door. "You know if you need something-anything-just ask."
"Sure, Chief." She smiled, but he knew she disapproved. He uncrumpled the slip of paper and smoothed it out on his desk. Messages: Peggy called. He put his hand on the phone, then in jerk of a movement, pulled it from the cradle. "Rose?"
"Yes, Chief? How can I help?" her voice rang out clearly on the other end.
"Uh…" He felt his cheeks warming. What was so hard about this? It was just Peggy. She was probably just checking in. No big deal. He could do this. "Uh...it's the damnedest thing." He chuckled, more out of nervousness than anything. "I can't remember what I called for. Sorry about that." He couldn't do it.
"Uh-huh. Sure thing, Chief." He waited for the click on the line, closing his eyes and shaking his head. He slammed the phone down into the cradle. "Damn it."