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As Real Girls Do

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Who do you want me to be?

She is not human. She is a collection of the pieces of hundreds of other little girls fitted together into whoever she needs to be.

She is Peggy Carter's lipstick, Madame Alianovna's ballet slippers, Irina's piece of bread, and a random assassin's gun.

I can be anyone I want.

She has no name of her own. She has legion. She is Ida Emke, Marie Blanc, Dottie Underwood, Ekaterina Belova. She wears the name that opens the door, that pleases her, that rattles all the right chains in her latest mark.

She stares at this friend of Peggy's, auditioning on stage with the confidence little girls used to have, knowledgeable and dangerous but without the experience of success. She is good, this Angie Martinelli. She sinks into her role with delight but with that slight edge of her reality peeking out from underneath.

This is what makes the Widows powerful, dangerous, perfect. There is no reality under the surface.

Chernaya Vdova, the Black Widow—redhead, smiling, perfect—claps in the back row as though she has every right to be here, as though she is the critic everyone thinks she is. She is the only graduate of her year. She is the pinnacle of her class, a weapon delicately hidden in a woman's white glove. She is not real. She has no name. She is not human.

She is perfect.

 

 

Who will I be next? Shall I be an SSR agent?

 

 

Peggy gets the distinct feeling someone is playing cat and mouse with her. There is a card left for her by the post.

"Thank you," but he doesn't read the question in her voice before he returns to his deliveries.

Peggy wasn't expecting anything. There is no return address on the envelope.

She waits until she is inside and has laid off her things to open it, tossing the discarded envelope on the table beside her cup of tea. She sits, weary from chasing intelligence after a ghost, a report that made her think, 'It couldn't be Bucky. Could it?' Bucky was dead. Steve was dead. She shook her head and unfolded the note.

"Your friend is a good actress. The director, however, only wants girls who are willing to go the extra steps and give more to their job. Would you like me to remove him for you?"

The note is unsigned. There is no means of reply, rendering the question seemingly unimportant. Nevertheless, it gives Peggy pause and she reads it again, feeling the rhythm of the words.

Dottie. She has been to Angie's audition.

Peggy gathers her purse and handgun quickly and heads out to find Angie. Please let nothing have happened to her.

 

 

Angie is comfortably ensconced at the diner. "Hey, English." There's that dimpled, friendly grin and wave, the usual hot cup of tea, the slice of pie.

Peggy is visibly relieved to find Angie well but keeps her eyes open and throws surreptitious visual sweeps of the location at regular and irregular intervals throughout the evening.

The Widow approves, but then she has approved of much about Peggy Carter, an equal to fight with, to work with, a colleague in the industry, and she rather hopes their next respective assignments are not at cross purposes. She does not even regret that she did not succeed in killing Carter when assigned. It's much more fun this way, more time to feel each other out, to become friends in her own way.

Peggy and Angie are real. They walk as life and circumstance dictate, personalities writ in bouncy or determined steps. They dress to please themselves. They make friends and share food without killing each other afterward.

She does regret that Peggy never shared her bread. There are memories, pieces that make up the Widow and are rearranged and slotted into order for a new weapon, a new game of roulette. She sees the way Peggy looks out for her, not expecting a black chic bob and a woman nothing like Dottie. She is one step ahead in this new game, and she wonders when or if Peggy will catch up.

 

 

"I like that Martinelli girl," she informs her fellow producers. "I like how she plays the lead."

"She has no experience. We can't give her the lead," the director sputters, the one she'll do away with eventually if he becomes more annoying.

She doesn't mind playing some men—Howard Stark is at least a good lay—but she has no interest in gracing this man's bed or ending the production with a traumatic death before she has made her point. So she becomes a producer and changes the rules.

"I like her," she says with a small pout. And because she is paying more for this production than the other men in the room, she gets her.

 

 

Peggy hesitates then says, "I don't think you should take that role."

"What are you talking about?" Angie asks as she touches up her makeup in the hallway. "It's a great opportunity. It's my first yes."

Peggy is standing in the hall just a few steps ahead of her. They have work. Peggy has reports of a ghost on her desk, words about a new effective assassin on the scene of international espionage who defies belief. Peggy would normally be at SHIELD by now.

"I received a note. From Dottie."

Angie looks up, all surprised eyebrows and wide eyes. "Dottie Underwood? We haven't seen her in ages! Is she in a ballet here?"

And that is the trouble with her life that she can only share with Angie in small doses. But trouble always finds Peggy's friends and she wants Angie to be safe.

"It was a warning, I believe. She doesn't trust that director. She says he isn't safe."

 

 

Her cover isn't blown, and she has other things to do than this, but she sighs and attends to the situation differently than her handlers imagine she will. She likes Peggy Carter. She likes sharpening her wits against her.

She waits until Peggy is leaving their designated meet and beyond the view of those who try to watch Peggy's back. She waits until Peggy is walking home and falls into step beside her. She looks like a suburban mother or aunt today, but Peggy knows her and stiffens. Peggy is ready to fight.

It thrills her. She smiles.

"You said you wanted to share intelligence," Peggy demands, clipped and straightforward, a blunt force like she is.

She laughs the chiming laugh she practiced for hours and hours when she was a teenager until it sounded carefree and natural. "She deserved the part." She smiles, waits.

Peggy's lips press together in disapproval.

"We don't have to be enemies."

"You would gladly kill me if you could," Peggy counters, not without justification.

"If my superiors required it," she agrees. Her smile vanishes. "Stop chasing the ghost."

Peggy balks. Its in the flash of fire behind her eyes, the fact that nothing will ever make her give up a righteous fight.

But the Widow knows things that Peggy doesn't. "You won't catch him," she tells her. "He doesn't exist."

Then she turns and walks away. Peggy stares after her. She could follow, and the Widow isn't even sure she'd stop her. But Peggy won't. Fighting won't gain either of them anything, and they agreed to meet under truce for once.

The Widow will continue to watch Angie—she likes her work—but she thinks she will wait a while before poking Peggy Carter again.

She wires back her message to her superiors that the message was delivered and awaits her new orders.

Everyone knows Agent Peggy Carter won't give up searching, not for answers or the ghost. They know what kind of a woman Peggy is. But they want SHIELD to keep looking, to keep walking in the footsteps of winter and realizing they cannot stop him, cannot find him, cannot ever catch him. They want America to know they are up against forces they cannot defeat.

Widows and Soldiers.

They have no names. They are not real. They are not even human. They are weapons.

They are perfect.