She fights her way out of Dooley’s office, barrels through the handful of agents who are too afraid to punch a “girl”, and tears down the fire escape, cursing her heels. At least she'd thought to put on trousers this morning, otherwise she'd have shown off a lot more than her fighting skills today.
She has no idea how Sousa, sweet, kind Sousa, has found her out, but now Peggy is branded a traitor working for Howard Stark.
She disappears into the city, blending with the crowd, heading to the exact place that she really ought never to return, but there are things she needs from the Griffith, things she can't do without. The photos of Stark's bad babies, for one; her guns for another.
And Steve's blood. She can't leave that behind. Not ever.
But Angie—she can't see Angie. She can't ever see Angie again, and even though they've only talked and smiled at each other and gotten the slightest bit tipsy together, her heart is squeezing in her chest as she thinks of abandoning her. But she must, for she is a danger to everyone she cares for, and right now, she cares for Angie more than anyone.
When the Griffith comes into view, she scans the entire area. There's no one either conspicuous or inconspicuous hovering nearby, which is the best possible news. The SSR wouldn't have had time to set up a dragnet; after all, it's only been ten minutes, and she's also incapacitated a fair number of the men from her office. She can't help but smirk at that.
She smoothly ascends the steps to the boarding house, avoiding the eyes of the few women she passes. Sarah tries to stop her to talk about her date last night, but Peggy begs off with a simple “oh, darling, I've absolutely got to use the loo, let's talk later, shall we?” In her room, she keeps it simple. She straps on an ankle holster first, and drops a spare .32 Colt into her bag along with as much ammo as she can invisibly fit into the side pocket. Next are the photos, which she doesn't spare a moment to peek at, along with the single shot of Steve she keeps on her night table. Oddly, she realizes it's not exactly where she left it, but she doesn't have time to worry about that. Finally, she stashes the vial of blood, wrapped in tissue, and prays that she can keep it safe.
Only then does she hear the racket coming from the stairs, and peeks out the window. There are no cars visible from this angle, but the boys have arrived, and they're not being quiet about it.
She's got one opportunity to make her escape. Out the window she goes, bag over her shoulder, onto the far-too-narrow sill. When she's steady, she looks straight ahead, never down, always forward. Looking down is the end of the road for her, because while she's not really afraid of heights, she'd damned afraid of falling to her death.
Her breath is loud; her heart seems louder. She calms herself, steadies her breathing, slowing her pulse by sheer force of will. Thompson's voice rings out, alongside Sousa's. That moment she is 100% certain that his face is the next one she'll see poking out to find her and grab her and drag her back inside.
When that doesn't happen, she realizes she has one option. She has to move. And she has to hope that Angie is still at work. If she can get to her room, she might make it to the trash chute and get out that way. Coming back to this room was a terrible mistake, but she can't punish herself for it. Everything she brought with her might help clear her name, if she's not shot on the spot for betraying her adopted country.
She inches over, farther, then farther still. In a split second of terror, the cement beneath her heel crumbles away and she nearly goes down, until she throws her weight back and plasters herself to the wall. Only inches from Angie's window, she eases herself around the brick, stretching her fingers toward the glass.
Two hands grab at her elbow, and for the second time, she nearly pitches forward into the street, but the hands are strong, and they aren't letting go. “Christ, English, I'm trying to rescue you, don't go dying on me now,” the voice whispers, and Peggy is so thrilled to hear Angie's voice, feel her strength, that she almost wilts in relief. Carefully she allows Angie to pull her into the room, and before she can even begin to explain, Angie is dragging her over to her short bureau and swinging open the door to the biggest compartment. It's barely larger than a trunk. “Get in.”
Peggy asks no questions. She curls up and makes herself fit. She's instantly covered with clothing; it's dirty laundry, mostly silk lingerie that smells of Angie's perfume and sweat and scent. It's curiously comforting. She hears the muffled noises of Angie moving about the room, and probably of the men next door tearing her home, her temporary home, apart. She shuts her eyes and waits.
She holds in her gasp when she hears Daniel's voice. “You seen Peggy Carter today?”
“Nooo! What's happening?” Peggy frowns. What the hell is that sound? Has another one of the girls joined Angie?
“Uh, listen, we need to find Peggy Carter. You're her neighbor. Have you seen her?”
There's a sob, followed by another. “I—I--I'm sorry, I haven't done anything wrong--” then she hears outright crying, almost gasping for air. Peggy's eyebrows lift in surprise. “It wasn't me, I don't know what you're lookin' for, but it wasn't me--”
“Hey, kid, what's your name?” Daniel asks, and his frustration is evident.
“Angela, Angela Martinelli, I just moved here from Poughkeepsie, and I don't know—ahhh,” she goes off on another crying jag.
“Just tell me if you've seen Peggy Carter.” His words are slow now, as though he is talking to a very stupid individual.
Peggy wishes she could give Angie an Oscar. She's hiccuping and sniffling up a storm. “She ain't here, mister. Haven't seen her for a coupla days. She's always at her job, and then she was gone for a while--” she sobs a little. “She's kinda mean, anyway. We didn't get along so good. Is she, you know, one of them reds?”
“Uh, I don't--”
There's a bang that startles her; after a moment, she images the door smashing into the wall as its thrown open. “Sousa, what the hell are ya doing in here? You're supposed to be searching the place.” Thompson, Peggy sighs. She'd been one of the boys for exactly two days before it had all come crashing down, and now he's probably enraged by the perceived betrayal. Especially after he'd shared his secret with her. There's more movement in the room then, heavy footsteps and rattling glass, until the dresser she's currently housed in shakes. Someone roughly opens and closes the drawers only a few inches away from her head.
She hears an even louder cry of dismay. “Those are my unmentionables—you stay outta there!”
“Thompson, she's not here. Let's move out,” Daniel says, followed by muffled curses from Thompson. A few moments later, all is silent.
Peggy doesn't move. She waits one minute, then two. She can still hear shouts from the officers in the hallways, and the higher-pitched sounds of the women whose rooms are being invaded because of her.
No, she reminds herself. Not her. Leviathan. Bastards.
The room is so quiet that Peggy believes Angie must have left to join the others, to put on a good show for everyone. And she is a damned good actress, better than Peggy ever would have suspected. But she should have known better—Angie is talented, intelligent, street-wise, and more. She is everything Peggy wants in a friend, and if she thinks about it for more than ten seconds at a time, she can see herself holding Angie in her arms in a decidedly unfriendly way.
She settles back in her tiny cubby and waits, wondering where she'll disappear to, and how she'll get there. How she'll get out of this ridiculous mess, and what she'll do to Howard Stark when she finds him again.
And for a little while, she considers just how incredible it is that her friend Angie Martinelli has just made herself a traitor to her country to protect someone she's only known a few months.
She smiles a little. If anything, this entire experience has taught her that there are good people in the world who lived through the war, and she's been lucky enough to find one of them in Angie.
She doesn't nod off, exactly, but her hiding place is so small and tight and there's not very much oxygen flow in it. She has no idea how long she's there before the door swings wide and she practically tumbles out onto the floor. There are underthings all around her, and when she looks up, three women stare down at her with amused grins on their faces. Angie's brought company, and for a moment, Peggy wonders if they're going to pick her up and drag her to the nearest police station.
But Angie raises an index finger to her mouth. “They've left the building, but I'm not takin' any chances. There's guys in front and out back, but we've got a plan.”
Peggy searches the faces of the women, one of whom she calls friend, while the others are just acquaintances she'd bonded with briefly over breakfast. “Why are you helping me?” she whispers.
“'Cause I'd trust a nice girl like you before any of those thugs, Peggy,” Rose says in reply. “You know what one of them called me when he searched my room?”
Peggy can imagine. Dark skin means only one thing in this country.
“Us girls gotta stick together, Peggy,” Carol adds. “You're no commie, and you're no traitor.” She pauses. “Are you?”
With a grin, Peggy sits up, tossing one of Angie's brassieres back into her hidey hole. “I'm afraid not.” She's moved almost beyond words as she stands unsteadily. “I can't thank you enough—I'm--”
“You're still in a bind, English,” Angie reminds her, and Peggy nods. “You'll be okay, though. Take off your clothes.”
Peggy raises her eyebrows. “Sorry?”
“You're coming home with me. To my folks', that is,” Angie adds. “You're gonna be a guy and we're all gonna walk outta here together like we're old pals. Understand?”
“I'm--pardon?” Peggy replies, still uncertain as to exactly what's happening.
“Geez, English, did your brains get knocked outta your head since you got in my drawers? I've got some clothes for you and we're going to dress you as a man. Then we're going to Bensonhurst and you're gonna hole up there till this thing goes away, or till you can figure out how to fix it yourself. And I know you'll fix it, 'cause you're one smart cookie, and I believe in you. Okay?”
“I thought you said you were from Poughkeepsie,” she says.
Angie rolls her eyes. “I lied, dummy. In case they come back in and start looking for the both of us.” She shrugs. “I go to the movies. I know what I'm doing.”
Peggy shakes her head once, and everything clicks into place. “Of course. Right,” she replies, and unbuttons her jacket. “Excellent thinking.”
Modesty is not necessary here, but she still feels shy once her blouse lands on the floor. The other girls are assembling her outfit on the other side of the room, but Angie's right up close, and she doesn't look away when her eyes find Peggy's breasts. “Gosh, Pegs,” she says, a little breathless.
Peggy feels that odd flash of heat, despite the anxiety and the pressure, or perhaps because of it. “Angie,” Peggy sighs, and when their eyes meet, everything is different than it was before. If the other girls weren't here, she's not sure they'd ever make it out of this room. Where has this Angie been all these weeks?
Angie shuts her eyes, squeezing them, and inhales deeply. “We have to wrap you.”
Rose appears over Angie's shoulder and hands over a roll of bandages, and Peggy understands. But she's got to get this brassiere off, because there's no way it will work out with both. She turns around to face the wall and reaches back, but Angie's fingers are there first, and they linger for a moment against her skin, curious and tender, before they release the hooks. Angie starts the roll against her back and hands it forward, and quickly they trade the bandage back and forth until Peggy's breasts are compressed as well as they can be. She's been well-endowed since she was 13, and often times she's wondered what it would be like to do exactly this—to make them disappear. She's worn fatigues and uniforms and suits for her entire career, but she's never looked like anything other than a woman. Not so now.
She's startled when someone throws a singlet over her head and pulls it down; she barely gets a chance to put her hands through the holes before it's yanked into place. A man's dress shirt is thrown over her shoulders, and Carol dips under her arm to help her button up. “Ang, where's that tie?” Carol asks.
“I'll do it after we get a little five o'clock shadow on. Come on, Rosie, work your magic.”
Rose appears on her other side, armed with mascara and a brush. “Close that mouth, honey, we're gonna make you into a real pretty boy.”
Peggy does, and tries not to flinch as Rose goes to work.
By the time her make up is complete, she's wearing socks and garters, along with her ankle holster, trousers and suspenders, and Carol's pulled her hair into a bun right where a fedora will sit when they're ready to go. Finally, Angie stands before her and slides the tie beneath her collar. Peggy can smell her perfume now, and her eyes droop as she's surrounded by it. They're so close, and once more, their eyes meet as Angie slides the knot into place at her neck. Someone, Peggy doesn't even care who, drops a hat on her head, and she's gazing into Angie's face as if they're the only two souls left in the world.
Her eyes are so blue that Peggy can hardly bear to look at them.
“Ready to make your escape, English?”
“I don't know. How do I look?”
Smile sparkling with wry wit, she replies, “Like a guy I'd bring home to meet Mom.”
Peggy grins at that. “Where did these clothes come from?”
Angie rolls her eyes. “A girl never kisses and tells, don't you know that?” She brushes Peggy aside and crosses the room to disappear into the toilet.
Carol and Rose both gape at her when she turns around. “So?”
“I wouldn't know you, Peggy,” Carol says. “Let me get the jacket.” She and Rose help her into it, and when Peggy catches a glimpse of herself in the makeup mirror across the room, she can hardly believe it herself. She looks like a man, and if she saw herself from afar she wouldn't look twice.
“Crikey,” she murmurs. “Don't quite know what to say.”
Rose tilts her head. “Just say thanks, honey, and that's enough.”
Peggy smiles at Rose. “Thank you. For everything. I honestly can't explain what this means to have your trust and faith. I love this country and everything it stands for. I would never betray it, or you.” Tears form in her eyes, but she blinks them back. She can't allow her make up to run.
“Ah, don't mention it, Peggy.” Carol pats her on the shoulder. “Just don't get yourself, or us, killed, okay?”
“Okay,” Peggy breathes with a laugh, and the tension breaks as they all chuckle.
Angie emerges then, wearing a different dress. It's stunning. She looks like she's heading out for a night on the town, and she approaches Peggy with a sultry look on her face. “Hey, sailor. You ready to hit the road?” Peggy can barely find her voice, but manages to grunt in agreement. Angie snags Peggy's bag and slings it over her shoulder. “I take it this has gotta come with us?” she asks.
Peggy nods silently.
“We're all going downstairs. Fry's flipping her lid so we're in the clear to get out, but once we're on the street we gotta stay cool,” Angie says. “Everybody, stay tight around her. Anybody shouts at you don't even look at 'em. And if the coppers make a move, Peg, you run, and we'll hold 'em off. Got it?”
Peggy opens her mouth to protest, but the two other faces nod sternly. “Let's do it,” Rose declares. “I want to get one over on that mook.”
So Peggy finds herself with one arm looped with Angie's, and the four of them silently, carefully descend the steps of the Griffith. Head down, she barely notes that there are clumps of women hovering in the lobby, and if any of them look her way, she can't tell. They keep moving, not too fast, not too slow. Cars line the street in front of the hotel; there are police officers and agents swarming the area. Somehow, no one stops them. Twenty seconds after exiting the hotel, there's a shout, and footsteps race toward them, and as Peggy's heart is about to explode in her chest, the steps pass their little group by. “Is that her?” the man yells, heading for a dark-haired woman who looks absolutely nothing like her.
Angie tugs her, and they steer away from the ruckus, glancing toward it but not paying too much attention. Ignoring it entirely would be far too obvious a tell. “Where are we going?”
“59th and Lex. Rosie and Carol are gonna peel off in a coupla blocks, and we'll catch the IRT to Atlantic Avenue. I got it from there. Just act natural, okay?”
Peggy nods. She's very good at “acting natural.” She's just surprised that Angie is too.
The train is nearly full when they board it, so they stand in one corner away from the doors. By the time they get to Wall Street, the car is so crowded she's certain people are going to notice that she's a woman dressed as a man. She's startled when Angie squeals and turns around, smacking the arm of a man who looks non-plussed. “Keep your mitts off me, mister.”
Normally Peggy would have made the man very sorry, but instead she just turns Angie into the circle of her arms and keeps her hat pulled low. “I've got you,” she murmurs into Angie's ear. Angie's bottom presses into her hips, and she holds tight to the strap that's keeping her upright as the car lurches and turns.
Angie nudges closer, one hand grazing Peggy's thigh, and Peggy tries to concentrate on not falling more in love with this girl than she already is. Angie's making it very difficult.
They exit at Atlantic, before Angie's assailant does, and he looks away as they depart. If only, Peggy thinks. They walk through a long stretch of tunnel to transfer to the West End line, and their next car is far less crowded. But Angie stays close, so close that Peggy can feel the heat of her skin as they sway together. It feels indecent, and thrilling.
At 79th, she follows Angie out the doors and is amazed that they've spent more than an hour barely speaking. In all the time she's known Angie, this is probably the only experience she's had with her when they were silent. She puts her arm through Peggy's and when they emerge into the sun, she says, “If anybody on the street says anything to us, just keep your head down. Otherwise we'll never make it to the house.”
She's tempted to ask, “What do you mean?” but instead follows directions. She tries to enjoy the feeling of strolling down a sunny street with a girl on her arm, the prettiest girl around, but she can't forget.
It becomes clear once they reach 81st street; everyone in the neighborhood knows Angie Martinelli. Boys, girls, men, women, grandmas and grandpas, and even a dog tied up outside a florist who yelps in recognition—they all wave and shout her name and grin like they haven't seen her in years. She waves back every time, and Peggy can't help but appreciate that everyone is taken in by Angie. Something about Peggy made Angie want to be around her enough to get her to live nearby, so that makes Peggy feel special. Even more than the fact that Angie and her friends just saved her arse twice over.
She chuckles to herself, and Angie looks over. “What's so funny, English?”
She peers up at Angie from beneath her hat, and watches blue eyes travel all over her face. She puts on her best Bogart and replies, “Not a thing, sweetheart. Not one damned thing.”
Angie's answering grin makes her feel like she's going to get out of this mess just fine.
A few blocks later, they come to a house three down from a butcher shop on the corner. “This is it. So listen, I haven't figured out what I'm gonna tell my ma. She's – well, let's just go in. And don't tell her your real name. I'm gonna call you English, but she'll know right away you're a girl--”
“Tell her I'm training for a role. I'm an actress up for a part in--” Peggy racks her brain for a moment-- “a modern telling of 'Twelfth Night.' I'm up for the part of Viola, who dresses as Cesario after the ship wreck. And you'll be my Olivia.”
Angie brightens. “That's real good, Pegs. That's perfect.”
They climb the steps and Angie pushes open the unlocked door. “Ma, you home?” Angie shouts.
A woman steps into the dark hallway, wiping her hands on an apron covered in flour. “Angela Martinelli, how many times do I haveta tell you to shut the door behind you. Were you born in a barn?” As Angie turns to close the still open door, the woman tilts her head as she gazes at Peggy with a surprised smile. “And who's this? You brought a boy home, baby? Oh my God, it's a miracle! Thank you Holy Father!” Hands up in welcome, the woman moves closer.
Peggy doesn't want to put on the facade any longer, removing her hat to reveal her hair. “I apologize, Mrs. Martinelli, Angela and I were just training for a part in a play. My name is Molly, Molly English. Angela and I are neighbors, and we're both up for parts in a show.” She's using her American accent now, and can feel Angie's curious eyes on her.
Mrs. Martinelli puts a hand on her cocked hip and shakes her head. “What kinda play puts a girl in a man's clothes?”
“Shakespeare, of course. 'Twelfth Night, or, What You Will.' Have you ever seen it performed?”
Mrs. Martinelli is still gazing at her with suspicion. “Can't say as I have.”
“Well, it's quite magical if I do say so myself. It all begins with twins on board a ship, which is wrecked because of a terrible storm, and then Viola has to dress as her brother, Sebastian--”
“Sounds like one o' those Sturges pictures, if you ask me. Mistaken identity, right?”
Peggy's eyebrows rise. Mrs. Martinelli's as smart as Angie, with that same protective streak, and that puts Peggy on edge. She'll have to watch out for this one. “Exactly. Only with, well, men's clothing.”
“Hmm. Not surprised to hear my Angie's going out for that one,” Mrs. Martinelli quips, and waves them into the kitchen. “Come get yourself a 7up if you like. I've got the sauce on, and you can help me make the meatballs.”
Which is how Peggy finds herself, still in tie and braces, in Angie's childhood kitchen, covered in breadcrumbs and grated cheese and ground meat almost up to her elbows on a Wednesday afternoon.
Later, after the sauce and the meatballs are simmering on the stove, Mrs. Martinelli shoos them both upstairs “to get yourselves presentable for supper.”
In a couple of very short hours, Peggy has learned a few things about Angie that she never would have suspected. Number one by a great margin, Peggy has deduced from a few barbed comments that Angie's lack of male company is a disappointment to the family. Two, the Martinellis might not have mafia connections, but from proximity alone they have friends in high and low places, and Peggy might need to take advantage of that. Three: there's a telephone box across the road near the butcher shop at the corner, and she needs to use it as soon as possible. She can't stay here, putting Angie's life and the lives of her family in danger, no matter what.
She collects her bag and hat, positioning it carefully in front of the hallway mirror, as Angie looks on behind her shoulder. “Not bad, Molly.” Her smirk is contagious.
“I've got to make a call,” Peggy tells her in her normal accent, low enough that Mrs. Martinelli—first name still unknown—won't hear. “Won't be a moment.”
“Be careful,” Angie says. “I mean, okay. I'm upstairs, second door on the right.”
Outside, there's a short line for the phone, and Peggy tries not to fidget. Fortunately, it only takes a few minutes for it to become free, and no one is behind her. She closes the wooden door—unlike the others who went before her—and drops her coins into the slot.
When Jarvis answers, his frantic greeting is enough to tell her he knows what's happened, and he's worried. “Don't say anything,” she says, cutting him off. “I'm fine. Is the line clear?”
“Of course. Mr. Stark made sure of that. But more importantly, are you safe?”
“Yes,” she says, glancing over her shoulder. There's nothing suspicious at all in the area, and she pulls her hat lower on her head out of habit. “I'm in Bensonhurst. There's a pier at the end of Bath Beach not far from here. I'll need a boat.”
“As much as I'd like to collect you now, we'll have to do it after dark. I'll alert Mr. Stark. We can be there at half past ten tonight. Can you remain invisible until then?”
“Yes. I'll likely be dressed in men's trousers and a fedora, so don't be surprised.”
Jarvis sighs over the line. “Well done. Did you have help?”
“I'll tell you later, just in case. And Mr. Jarvis—thank you.”
“No need. Remember, half ten sharp.”
There's a click, and the line goes dead.
She leaves the phone box as another man goes around her to make a call. Checking her watch, she notes that it's barely 3:00. She has to survive another seven and a half hours in the Martinelli home without breaking cover. She can do it, and she's done it before. But she's never had Angie at her side, distracting her, drawing her near.
It's going to be a long evening.
Upstairs, she visits the lone bathroom in the house and washes the makeup from her face until she finally feels clean. She finds Angie in a room of pink curtains, pink bedspread, floral wallpaper. The door is slatted like a shutter, allowing a minimum of privacy. Her friend is seated at a small vanity, staring into a mirror with a blank expression on her face. She has no idea that Peggy's there.
“Hello, darling,” Peggy says softly.
Angie starts and glances down at the table, where half filled bottles of perfume remain lined up beneath the mirror. “Hi.” She pauses, swallowing, before asking, “You on your way out?”
Angie turns around. “I figured your Mr. Fancy'd be here in a heartbeat, what with you in trouble and all.”
“Ah,” Peggy says, slipping into the room and closing the door, however flimsy it might be. “He needs time to prepare, and we'll wait till dark.”
Angie nods. “Think you can make it through supper with my crazy family? My dad will be home soon, and chances are my two brothers and their wives will be right behind him. They're always moochin' off my parents and Ma doesn't know how to cook for less than twelve people. I think it's an Italian thing.”
“I shall endeavor to survive. I've been in worse spots, I can assure you.” She glances around the room. “Very pretty.”
Angie snorts indelicately. “Yeah, right. Looks the same as it did since I was 12. Pink's not really my color, but I didn't get much choice.”
Peggy sees her opportunity, and seizes it. “What is your color?” Before Angie has a chance to answer, she adds, “Lavender?”
Angie's startled, and her frown speaks volumes. “Don't know what you mean, English.”
Peggy hopes her smile is a comforting one. “I quite like lavender myself.” She stands and approaches a set of shelves, filled with photos, ribbons from school, small figurines that a child would keep. “Where did you find the clothes I'm wearing?” she asks lightly. Earlier that day she'd wondered if Angie, or perhaps one of the other girls, had a man visiting out of the reach of Fry's watchful eye, but the shirt and trousers fit her too well. In fact, the shirt is too small if anything, and if her breasts weren't compressed, she wouldn't be able to button it.
“A guy left 'em with me this one time--”
“They’re yours, aren't they,” Peggy finishes for her. She turns, and Angie's face is ashen. “How on earth did you get around Miss Fry wearing them?”
Angie caves in on herself then and stares at the floor. “I'd bring them with me and change at Grand Central. There's a ladies that doesn't get much foot traffic at certain times of night if you know the train schedule.” She covers her mouth as if to cry, but instead clears her throat. Her voice is only a little wobbly when she adds, “I only got a few chances to wear 'em after I found this bar in the Village. One of the girls I met there tailored them for me, but I never got caught. Till now.” The tears come then, and she looks pleadingly up at Peggy. “Please don't tell, Pegs, please--”
Peggy crosses the room and kneels, taking Angie's hands in hers. “Never. I would never reveal your secrets, not to anyone. But you don't have to be afraid, or ashamed with me. I promise.” She wants to kiss this girl right now, here. She's kissed a girl before, in school, and it was fun. Part of the fun was keeping the secret after, but this secret doesn't feel that way. This feels like a burden that Angie's been carrying alone for far too long. “I want to--”
There's a shout from downstairs. “Angela!”
Angie jumps a few inches, wiping the tears from her eyes as if her mother could see them through the floor. “Yeah, Ma?” She sounds completely normal.
“Put that Molly in some other clothes before your father gets home. I don't even wanna think about what he'd say if he saw her.”
The moment's gone now, and Angie gets up and goes to the door, shoving it closed and jamming a stopper beneath one corner before fastening a tiny bar lock that Peggy could break with a very gentle push. “The lock's just for show—the stopper's the only thing that kept my brothers from barging in at all hours,” she explains. She's talking fast now, surely out of nerves. “I've still got a lot of stuff here, and it's out of fashion but it will work for supper at least. You want a nice skirt and blouse?” She reaches into the closet and brings a completely out of character blouse to her chest. “No, not this one, it's not you at all. It wasn't even me.” She tries again, this time with a white, high-necked monstrosity that looks like nothing either of them would have ever worn. “Nope, um, let's see,” she says, flicking through a few more before settling on a simple cream option with a tiny keyhole at the neck. “This'll work. And I've got a skirt to match it. Should fit you, so you know, here you go. I'll leave you alone--”
“Angie!” Peggy interrupts, and Angie finally looks at her. Her eyes are as blue as the night sky, and Peggy gets lost for a moment. “Could you help me with everything? I'd like you to stay.”
Angie blinks in surprise. “Even--” she swallows nervously, “even after I told you, ah, everything?”
“Okay. Um, I'll hang up your jacket since you'll probably wear it out again tonight. After dinner, they always like to listen to Captain America, and--”
“Oh good lord no, not that rubbish again. I can't get away from it.”
“Hey, they like that program, and aside from Arlene French, it's not so bad.” Some of Angie's sass is finally returning, and Peggy is grateful. “Ya know, I never did hear exactly why I was getting you out of hot water today. What the heck have you been doing that a bunch of guys are chasing you down for some trumped up treason charge?”
“Oh, right,” Peggy replies, supposing she might as well tell at least part of it. “I'm an agent with the Strategic Scientific Reserve. The job at the telephone company is just a cover. I've been helping Howard Stark, who is innocent of his own charges, mind you, and somehow my work has been compromised. I haven't figured out how, but I'll handle it, and whoever is responsible.” She loosens her tie and pulls it from around her neck. “Hang that up too?”
Angie's knees seem to weaken, and she stumbles over to the bed. Peggy allows her time for the information to sink in. “That's why you've got a gun around your ankle, and another one in your pocketbook?”
“There was some other weird stuff in there. Sorry I looked while you were gone, just to make sure. Not that I didn't trust you, 'course, but it's my mom downstairs and all. This is my neighborhood. My people.” She pauses, thinking. “I bet I could get you outta town if your guy can't do it.”
That's an interesting thought. “Oh?” Peggy asks, unbuttoning her shirt.
“Yeah. Angelo down the block, he, ah, knows some people. They get guys, and sometimes girls, outta jams. You could be in California in two shakes if you know what I mean?”
“Yeah. He was sweet on me in high school, but he's married now with a coupla kids. He's got connections.”
“I can't imagine any boy not being sweet on you, Angela Martinelli,” Peggy says, dropping her shirt on the desk. Standing there in her tight sleeveless top, she imagines what it might have been like if they’d been in school together, and Angie had been the one she'd kissed in the coat closet. She may never have wanted to stop kissing her if that was the case.
“Geez, Pegs, keep sayin' stuff like that and I might get the wrong idea,” Angie replies, clearly flustered. She looks away but stands to hang Peggy's shirt up next to the jacket, and by the time she turns back around, Peggy has pulled the undershirt off and is standing before her in trousers and a tight bandage and nothing else. Angie actually gasps as Peggy drops the shirt to the floor.
“This is the part I think I need the most help with,” Peggy says, biting her bottom lip. She's going to make Angie understand how she feels, right now. “Can you unfasten me?”
Peggy lifts her arms, and Angie begins, finding the end of the bandage where it was tucked in and reaching around her to unwrap her. They're practically embracing, and Peggy's heart picks up speed. Slowly, so slowly, more skin is revealed, and Angie is so careful not to peek, staring at the ceiling in the most innocent way. And when the bandage falls away and Peggy's body is revealed to her, Angie looks instead into her eyes.
Finally, Peggy watches understanding dawn. “Oh,” Angie breathes.
“Exactly.” She places a hand on a soft cheek and draws her closer, until their lips meet. The kiss is so sweet as Peggy's heart races faster; she spares only a moment to think of the last kiss she shared with someone she loved before that thought floats away like the sweetest of memories. Then Angie makes a sound in her throat, so filled with something that Peggy wants to devour that she grabs Angie around the waist, and the kiss turns from chaste to passionate instantly. Arms come around her tightly and their mouths open to one another, tongues meeting as fingernails score Peggy's back. She lifts Angie into her arms, gasping as legs part and twine about her hips. The wall near the window is good for leverage, and she walks to rest her against it, still learning the taste of Angie's lips.
This girl knows how to kiss. She's already moving to the rhythm of Peggy's tongue, knees squeezing and releasing, as one hand winds its way into her her hair. In seconds the pins are pulled and it comes down around both of their faces. Angie pulls back to take a breath. “Oh, hell yeah,” she mutters before going back in for more.
Peggy's holding her thighs, all slender muscle, and she wants to make love right now, no waiting, no wasting more time. She doesn't know how long she has—she could be shot and killed the moment she leaves this house tonight. Or even before, if somehow she's given away. But she has to think of Angie first. Always Angie.
“Darling,” Peggy says, Angie's breath hot on her lips as she pants.
“No, don't stop,” Angie says, squirming in her arms. She hitches her legs just a little higher, and Peggy's left hand finds a patch of smooth skin on the back of her thigh. “Geez, please don't stop.”
“Your mother's just downstairs,” Peggy reminds her.
Angie rolls her eyes and whispers, “Think I don't know that?” She kisses Peggy firmly, tongue flicking elegantly against her teeth. “Think I care? 'Cause I don't. You're all I've wanted for all this time, Pegs. I got it so bad for you, and having you here, even for one day, is more than I ever dreamed of. See?”
Peggy does see. She doesn't want to turn away from Angie, because this could be her last chance. If she has to disappear into the mist tonight, it could be weeks, or months before they see each other again. If she's lucky.
If she's unlucky, this is her only shot.
“What if I go to prison?” Peggy asks, because she has to. “Or worse—I could be executed. Will you look back on this moment and ask yourself--”
“I'm gonna look back on this moment and think, 'I'm the luckiest gal that ever was to have you in my arms, Peggy Carter.” Her eyes lose focus, and a little line forms between her eyebrows. “Huh, you know I never noticed how much that sounds like--”
Peggy doesn't let her finish the sentence. This kiss means business. She lets Angie's legs fall to the ground, and she can barely hold herself up for a second until she finds her balance. Peggy works the belt at her waist, followed by the button of her trousers. Angie's as eager as she is, and they grin madly at one another before Angie remembers to shut the window and pull the shade. The holster at her ankle takes the most time to remove, because her hands are trembling, but Angie's bare skin is at her back, and she rips the thing open and drops it on the nightstand, just next to a little statue of a girl with hands folded in prayer, looking up to heaven.
When she turns and finds Angie's nude form against the creamy sheets, Peggy thinks this is the real heaven. Her almost lover's got long legs, with thighs sculpted from hours dancing in clubs and studios and on stage. Her calves slope into narrow, strong ankles, and lead up to elegant knees a bit scarred, perhaps from playing in the streets as a child. Her breasts are small and firm, her flat belly muscled and rippling as she watches Peggy take her in. Before Angie has a chance to become even slightly inhibited, Peggy dives for her, pulling the lithe form atop hers, reveling in the feeling of their bodies pressed together for the first time. Their lips meet again, and Angie starts to laugh as Peggy grabs her bottom.
“What's so funny, gorgeous?” Peggy asks.
Angie glances around the room. “Never thought I'd get to do this here. But I always wished I could,” she adds. “Swear you'll tell me more about this 'agent with the SSR business' after, okay?”
“Sure, darling, whatever you like.” And she means it. She'll tell Angie, after. But now, she wants to touch and taste, and she turns Angie on her side. They lie next to each other, running fingers over skin, tangling their limbs together until Angie is impatient and pushes Peggy onto her back. She straddles her and kisses everything she can reach, inching down to her breasts till she's holding her not inconsiderable assets in two hands, and slides a nipple in her mouth. Peggy gasps, arching, wrapping her legs around narrow hips. “Angie,” she breathes.
“I need you so bad,” Angie tells her, “Aw, God, Peggy, I need you.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” Peggy affirms, running her fingers through the curls that tickle as they move down her body. She imagines what might be coming—fingers, mouth, tongue—and she wants all of it at once. “Don't make me wait, darling, we don't have the time.”
And while Angie's biting her hipbone, Peggy parts her legs and covers her mouth when two fingers slip through the wet and nudge inside. She breathes silently, moving against the sweet ache. Angie's muffled hums of pleasure force Peggy's attention down to watch, and it's intimate and sexy and utterly delicious. One of Angie's hands creeps up to hold a breast, and Peggy covers it with her own, plucking at it in concert with Angie's movements. It won't be long till she peaks, not with all this stimulation after absolutely nothing but her own hand for so long. When Angie opens wide, sucking so sweetly, Peggy comes, holding Angie’s head against her, lips closed tightly against the cry that wants to emerge. She rides the wave until it crashes, and she collapses against the scratchy sheets. She realizes she's clutching Angie's other hand far too tightly. “Oh bloody hell, that was good,” she breathes quietly, her heart filled with joy. It feels so easy here, not awkward or uncomfortable or strange, considering she'd only experienced sex with two men previously, neither of whom had known much (or anything) about the female orgasm on the first try. She'd helped them learn, naturally, but Angie knows on her own.
“Damn,” Angie groans, head pillowed on one thigh. “Double damn.”
“Come here,” Peggy murmurs, pulling Angie up. She turns over with Angie in her arms, cradling her, stroking her hair.
A stunned smile and wide, questioning eyes greet her. “It was okay?”
Peggy dips her head, and they're kissing again like they did against the wall, tongues meeting and sliding against each other. She sucks Angie's bottom lip into her mouth until they're practically rutting against one another. “Yes, sweet darling,” she says, and reaches between Angie's legs. Normally she would linger, learning and memorizing, but this will have to do. It's so wet that Peggy catches her breath, meeting Angie's eyes. “What do you like?”
“I don't know. Just--” She reaches down and presses Peggy's fingers against her. “That, whatever you want to do to me, English, just do it fast.” So Peggy does, spreading her and dipping only slightly inside as Angie writhes around her, knees coming up so she can get leverage. “Oh damn, damn, damn,” she curses, and Peggy thrills at the sound of it. She kisses a breast and hears Angie's sharp breath. Then she uses her teeth, and sees a hand smack the mattress, fisting the sheet between her fingers, and it's all she needs to know which way to go. Back and forth between her breasts, pulling and nipping in a way that she doesn't care for herself, but it's definitely working because Angie is wild in her embrace. She's still working her hand, but almost lazily, until she hears the desperate, “More, Pegs, I gotta have more.”
Never let it be said that Peggy Carter can't follow directions; she sits up and bends down, mouthing where her fingers have been playing, using her tongue, circling with pressure until Angie arches, jerking almost out of control against her lips. She doesn't make a sound, but she's so tight around Peggy's fingers, pulsing and pulsing until she falls back to the bed. Slowly, Peggy kisses her way up, pausing to nibble her ribcage, her collarbone, her left earlobe. “Sweet darling,” she whispers, and only then does she notice that Angie's got tears rolling down her cheeks. “Oh bloody hell, what is it? Have I hurt you?”
Angie shakes her head furiously. “I wasn't gonna do this, I didn't mean to,” she says so softly Peggy can barely hear her. “I just—I—you're the only girl for me, English. I don't want you to run off and die tonight. So you make sure you come back to me or I'm gonna be real mad, okay?”
Peggy takes her hand and kisses it. “I will.” She doesn't promise. She can't. But she will come back, no matter what it takes.
They dress quickly, washing up in the toilet and keeping the giggling to a bare minimum. But it's difficult to keep their hands to themselves as they cover up what's been such a revelation. “I'm never gonna be able to look at that quilt the same way again,” Angie says, her eyes bright with glee.
“I'd like to take your little angel from the night table with me,” Peggy adds. “I think it might bring me good luck.”
“Anything you want,” Angie says, kissing her soft and slow, till there's a banging on the door.
“Hey, Ang, I gotta get in there!”
“Who's that?” Peggy whispers urgently.
“My brother Francis. He's got the worst timing.” She calls out, “Give us a sec, Frankie, be right out.”
“Girls,” Peggy hears Francis groan, smacking the door one more time. “Hurry up. Besides Ma's about to put the bread out.”
They each fix their lipstick, and Peggy hopes that the brassiere she's wearing (not hers) won't look indecent, because she absolutely does not fit into it. “How do I look?”
Angie glances up and down at her, and that look is in her eyes again, the one that says she wants to take everything off and do what they'd gotten up to earlier again. Instead, she says, “Good.”
“All right. Ready to face the family?”
“I am. Hope you are,” Angie quips, and swings the door open. Francis is waiting, taller than Angie by a head, and twice as broad.
“Hey, Ang, and heyyy, who's this?” he asks, holding out a hand. “I'm Francis Martinelli, Angie's brother. What's your name?”
“Molly English,” Peggy replies dutifully, American accent back in place. “Nice to meet you.”
“We're neighbors,” Angie adds. “Molly's gonna be an actress, like me.”
Francis hasn't let go of Peggy's hand; he’s staring. “I understand your wife's also joining us for supper?” Peggy asks, nearly ready to yank her hand out of his.
“Oh yeah,” he says, releasing her, as if only just remembering that he's married. “Rosanna's setting the table. Ma's already complaining that you stopped in to visit then disappeared upstairs, so get ready to hear her moanin' and groanin'.”
“I can handle it,” Angie replies, flouncing off to her room.
Peggy follows with a “See ya later,” and leaves him to it, following Angie down the hall.
Once they get downstairs, there are people everywhere; Peggy counts four children under ten making quite the racket, alongside the rest of Angie's family and in-laws. There's Vinnie and his wife Sofia, plus Francis and Rosanna, four children between them with one more on the way. Angie's father Vincenzo Sr. is home too, and his booming voice and open, welcoming demeanor remind her far more of Angie than her mother does. Peggy still doesn't know Mrs. Martinelli's name; everyone in the house, including Vincenzo, calls her either Ma or Nana.
They all settle in around a huge table that takes up most of the dining room, passing around incredibly delicious homemade bread and meatballs and pasta and cheese. If Peggy was worried that she'd be subject to some sort of interrogation, she is sorely mistaken. She can barely get a word in edgewise, nor does she try very hard to contribute to the conversation. The volume of the voices is excessive as they talk over one another, but the love in the room is obvious. It's a caring family, generous and boisterous, and Peggy can imagine visiting here from time to time with Angie.
Angie chimes in too, holding her own with her brothers and kissing her nephews on the cheeks and making them squeal whenever she gets a chance. They lock eyes occasionally, and Angie shrugs as if to apologize, but Peggy enjoys the dinner a great deal, especially because the food is superb.
There's fruit and coffee for dessert. There's also a crumb cake (“We always have cake,” Mrs. Martinelli assures her, “Even during the war we had cake,”) that convinces Peggy she'll be back for a return visit. She puts away two pieces, and that, of all things, seems to win Angie's mother over.
“What a nice girl, you brought over, Angela, why don't you bring her around again?” Mrs. Martinelli demands as they clear the table. From the kitchen she calls, “She eats. I like that in a girl.”
Peggy is careful to control her features as Angie murmurs, for her ears only, “Me too.”
The sisters-in-law take on the dishes in the kitchen along with Mrs. Martinelli, so Angie and Peggy join the rest of the family in the living room. The radio is on, playing tunes that have the kids up and dancing, while Vincenzo reads the paper and reclines in his wing back chair. The brothers debate who's going to make the baseball playoffs, and she and Angie sit quietly together on pillows near the fireplace. It feels like home, and Peggy turns to Angie and asks, “Why do you live at the Griffith when you could be here?”
Angie's smile is only a little sad. “I'll tell you later.”
A few minutes later, “Stardust” comes on the radio, and Peggy feels an overwhelming melancholy settle over her. She remembers she's on the run, and that she has to leave this little bubble of family and kisses and love, and prays that she doesn't die in the process. Thoughts of Steve have always run through her mind when she's listened to this song in the past, but now thoughts of Angie join them, and she finds herself gazing into the fire and wishing she could have a different, simpler life.
Their minutes together are disappearing, and there's no way to stop time.
Soon she hears the telltale horns that signify a new episode of, “The Captain America Adventure Hour,” and Peggy winces.
“Wanna go upstairs and paint our nails?” Angie says, right on time.
No one pays much attention as they depart, but Angie pats her father on the shoulder once and he touches it in response, nodding at her with a gentle smile. Peggy likes him, as she does the whole family.
Angie's room looks different now, with its little girl lamp lit on the night table. The door is shut and stopper tucked beneath it, and they lie together on the quilt. Angie brushes the hair from Peggy's face, and kisses her cheek, her nose, her eyelids. Finally, she whispers, “You knew Captain America, didn't you.”
Peggy keeps her eyes closed.
“Betty Carver, Peggy Carter. It only just occurred to me today.” She strokes Peggy's mouth, kisses her eyebrow so softly as if she were fragile as a china doll. “He's the one you lost in the war.”
Peggy nods, pushing her head against Angie's neck, not wanting to look into her eyes.
“I'm so sorry, Pegs. He must’ve been one helluva guy.”
She wants to crack open now, spill all her secrets to Angie, but she holds it in. She is already a burden to this girl, and she won't make it worse. “It was a long time ago.”
“Not really,” Angie replies, stroking her hair. “And somethin' tells me you're no Betty Carver. Not by a long shot.”
Peggy laughs then, reminded how easily Angie can lift her spirits. She looks up, wipes her eyes, and kisses her. “I am indeed nothing like Betty Carver.” After another kiss, she asks, “You said you'd tell me why you left home?”
Angie turns on her back then, sighing. “I couldn't stay in this bedroom forever, with my mother goin' on and on about how I didn't have a fella. So when the war came it was a good excuse. My brothers went off to fight, and I got a job, and I always sent some extra money home. Still do.” She squeezes Peggy's hand. “It's better than taking the train to the city every day. I can almost always make my auditions on time, plus I have my freedom, and I can visit here when I'm in the mood, or I need a little home cooking.”
“And you can live your life as you like it.”
“Yeah.” Peggy rests her head near Angie's heart, holding on tightly. “Now, what's the story with this 'I don't really work for the phone company' job?”
Peggy glances at the clock over the desk in the corner. She's got time, so she keeps her story short, only touching briefly on her Air Force career, her time in the SAS, then her move to the SSR. Project Rebirth remains classified so she talks around it, and only explains that she met Captain America and worked closely with him during the war. Mostly, though, she talks of Howard, and Mr. Jarvis, the treason charges and her colleagues who are mistakenly chasing her. “You saved me, Angie, from falling to my death at the Griffith, and from being taken in before I can prove my innocence. I owe you my life.”
“You don't owe me a thing, English, except to come back home when you can.” She squeezes Peggy once. “You gotta take care of yourself, since I won't be around to do it for you.”
They're quiet then, as Peggy watches the clock. When it's ten, Peggy takes the deepest breath she can. “I've got to go now.”
She feels Angie nod. “Wish I could come with you.”
“You hold down the fort, all right? And don't let Miss Fry throw out all my things.”
“Not a chance.”
Together they dress Peggy in her suit and tie and suspenders, putting up her hair and tucking her ankle holster where it belongs. “You can probably sneak out the back door. I'll tell them you left real early in the morning—they'll never know you were gone tonight.”
“No need. I'll go out the window.”
“You kiddin' me? You'll break a leg!”
“I won't. There's an eave right outside, and from there it's a short drop. It's better this way, darling. Give my apologies to your parents, all right?”
Angie seems flustered, looking around the room frantically. “Do you need some snacks to bring with you, or a first aid kit or something? And make sure you have all your stuff—here, let me wrap up the clothes from earlier in case you need to change, all right?”
Peggy considers that, and nods. It's a good idea to be prepared. Angie rolls the blouse and skirt up tightly, along with the stockings and the brassiere that doesn't quite fit. She leaves the shoes, since there's no room. Once she's ready, she asks Angie a favor, one that’s been weighing on her. “Angie, don't cry till I'm gone, all right?”
Angie laughs, and it's a nervous titter, unlike her normal laughs and giggles. “Cry? You gotta be kidding me, Pegs. I'm not gonna cry. You can handle yourself. You survived a war and who knows what the hell else. This? This is nothing, right?”
“That's right. That's just right.” She stands, and at the last minute, she slips the little praying figurine into her bag before Angie can catch her being sentimental. “I'll be back soon, soon as I can.”
“Maybe we can make a date then, for a night out at my club. They have great music there, and I wouldn't mind showing off a little, dancing with my girl. What do you think?” Angie asks, her eyes shining in the dim light.
Peggy's stomach turns over in longing. The words are out of her mouth before she even thinks about it. “We'll have the band play something slow,” she says, and nearly falls apart right there.
“Yeah,” Angie says, and kisses her goodbye.
Two weeks later, the rain falls heavily in the streets of New York. Peggy has a terrible case of jet lag, but she has a new mission. Two, in fact, and neither of them has anything to do with Howard Stark. With her name cleared as well as his, she’s going to try and reclaim her semi-normal life, except at least now the boys of the SSR have some modicum of respect for her. She’s still gainfully employed, in any case.
Begging off work for a day or two of recovery is a well-deserved reward, and the boss grants her request. She doesn’t want to be in the office anyway, what with Thompson sulking in the corner and Sousa trying to ask her for a drink tonight. “To show there are no hard feelings,” he’d said.
“Another time,” was her reply.
Now, she picks up four bouquets of flowers at her favorite shop, and allows Mr. Jarvis to deliver her to the Griffith Hotel before he heads home to Anna. She won’t be bothering him for a few days, though she’s quite sure she’ll need his services again soon. Howard will see to that.
She finds Rose and Carol at the breakfast table with lots of the other girls, and they welcome her back with open arms. As she delivers her saviors the two spring bouquets, she discovers that even more of the girls had been involved in leading the police off her trail than she’d known.
“We knew you weren’t guilty, Peggy. Not you. Maybe Evelyn, but never you,” Gloria says with a laugh, and the rest of the girls join in.
“Thank you, truly. I’m relieved the whole thing’s been cleared up. Can you imagine them confusing an employee of the phone company with some sort of secret agent?” she asks.
Rose raises an eyebrow at her, but says nothing. Neither does Carol, who’d helped her fasten the ankle holster that fateful day.
After dropping the lie that she’d gone to see family in Canada after making her escape, she asks, “Is Angie already gone for the day?”
“Yeah, she had the early shift,” Evelyn offers.
“Oh well, I’ll find her later,” Peggy says, the last part of her plan falling into place.
For her next mission, she discovers Miss Fry in her office, glasses on, glaring down at paperwork.
“Hello Miss Fry, I’ve returned to reclaim my room. I do hope you’ve kept it available?”
Miriam Fry’s gaze would have frozen a lesser being, but Peggy is unfazed. “To you, Miss Carter? I think not.”
“But of course you must have seen the news that I’ve been cleared, and confused with another individual. I am most certainly not a traitor to this country.”
“That may be, but you put a hole in the wall of 3E, and that above all, is an unforgivable sin.”
Peggy pulls out the big guns now. She hands her third bouquet of mums and daisies over, and Miriam watches with disinterest as they land on her desk. “Have you rented the room to someone else?”
There’s a long pause. “Not yet. The police wanted it vacant in case they needed to return to search for more… evidence.” She winces as if she has a bad taste in her mouth.
“Good. I’ll take it, and I won’t ask for a 10% reduction in rent as I deserve. I know you’re charging me more than some of the other girls, but I shall do you this favor, so we know where we stand.”
Miss Fry stands, ready to blow up in Peggy’s face, but she has one more bomb to drop.
“And as a further show of good faith, I will also not call my friends at the Internal Revenue Service, and request an audit of the past, let’s say, five years?”
Miss Fry’s mouth opens, and her eyes narrow. “I keep impeccable records, Miss Carter. I would be perfectly comfortable with an audit.”
Peggy laughs. “I’ve no doubt. But you know, it’s surprising how often an innocent person is accused of a crime when false information is planted in the authorities’ hands, wouldn’t you say?”
“You wouldn’t dare,” Miss Fry hisses. She’s starting to panic, Peggy can tell. All those years of interrogating fellow spies has taught her a thing or two.
“Oh, of course I wouldn’t. But you can never tell about some people. Not everyone is as trustworthy as you or I.”
Their stand off lasts another thirty seconds of direct eye contact before Fry looks away.
After she spends some time in her old room cleaning up the mess that Thompson, Sousa and the rest of the agents made, she relaxes. She lies down for a quick nap, which turns into a much needed four hour rest. She can’t complain though; she’s certain Angie isn’t home yet, and now she won’t accidentally drop off to sleep during the middle of their “reunion.”
She takes her time in the bathtub, relieved to finally wash off the grime of the trip back to the states. Finally, she dresses in a pair of soft trousers and blouse, rarely worn but comfortable, with just the hint of sexiness. The blouse is a little sheer for public consumption, which is exactly what she’s aiming for. Gathering her supplies, she sets off for Angie’s.
In ten seconds she’s picked the lock, pleased that she’d been spotted by no one on the floor. Inside, Angie’s room looks the same as always, with the exception of a bottle of Peggy’s perfume on the nightstand near the bed. Peggy places the vase of roses, red as blood, on the counter. She plucks three of them and pulls their petals to spread on the bed that will be barely large enough to hold the two of them, but they’ll figure out a way to make it work. Then she turns on the radio, very softly, and waits.
She estimates it’s near five when the key turns in the lock, and Angie stumbles in. Once the light is on, Angie drops her pocketbook on the chair, turns to face the bed, and stops dead in her tracks. She puts a hand to her mouth but otherwise makes no sound.
“I’m home,” Peggy says, and watches the tears come; perhaps they are the same tears that Angie’s been holding back since the night she left. In a moment she’s off the bed and in her lover’s arms, clinging tightly as Angie presses her face to Peggy’s neck.
Angie laughs through her tears. “Damn, English, you scared the hell outta me, but I am sure glad to see you. Took you long enough.”
“Not so long, sweet darling,” Peggy says, and kisses her. It’s the first time she’s been able to properly kiss her without the weight of imminent danger and fear looming, and it makes it all the better. “You seem well.”
“I am now,” she replies. “I’ve been worried about you. I saw the news about that guy Stark getting cleared, and they mentioned your name but there wasn’t a picture. Said it was some weird mistake and that you were just a phone operator who got sucked into the case.”
“Indeed. It’s part of my cover, although it may be a while until they send me on any missions for a time. I want the furor to die down a bit before putting myself out there again.”
“Well, you won’t get any complaints from me.” Angie leans in for another kiss. “I missed you so much, Pegs. I hope that’s okay.”
“Of course it is. It’s more than okay. I missed you too. I thought of you all the time.” She had, far more than she’d anticipated. Fantasies of Angie had filled Peggy’s days and nights, not to mention her dreams.
“You did?” Angie almost seems surprised when Peggy nods. “That’s nice. You know what I thought about most while you were gone?”
“That dance you promised, and when I’d get to have it.”
Peggy strokes Angie’s cheek, then kisses the same path her fingers take. “I don’t know that I’m up for a dance out in the city, but I wouldn’t mind taking a turn about the floor right here. We’ve got a radio, and I brought some bread and cheese and a nice bottle of wine.” She swallows. “We can stay in for the night.”
Angie’s breath is unsteady in Peggy’s ear. “That sounds real good, English. You sure know how to plan ahead.”
“I always do.”
Peggy reaches back and turns the radio up. The song is nice and slow, so they dance.