Bury your voice, is the first thing they tell her. Bury your voice and dye your hair and forget who you are. Lock yourself in tight and learn to be a lie. Americans notice the nails that stick out and hammer them down into the wood. Be inconspicuous. Be normal.
Choose a name, they tell her.
Angelina, she tells them.
Angeline, they offer back.
Angie, she compromises.
Martinelli is their choice. For slipups, they say. Just in case. An explanation. A small dent in the wooden board of postwar America.
She waits for mission orders but they only give her one real command: wait. Wait and watch and learn.
She follows her orders. She settles in [to America! home of the free and land of the brave and two small world-crushing bombs] to an apartment and a job and a encrypter hidden behind her desk.
Angie watches the Americans come into her diner. The Americans order short stacks. The Americans tip. The Americans leave. Angie watches; Angie waits.
Then the girls start coming in, girls with strong arms and calloused fingers, asking with honey in their voices and steel in their spines if any positions are available. Every time, her manager says no, and the girls leave, their flats slamming against the tile in righteous indignation. Weeks and months pass, and angry shoes turn into sloped shoulders until the girls stop coming altogether.
It takes her a long time to realize that Peggy Carter is not one of these girls. That she will never be one of these girls and that there is no way in high hell Peggy Carter would ever be fired from doing something she loved.
[More like: Peggy would stick her resignation notice into a table with a knife, tip her hat, and storm out of the phone company, followed by a mass of adoring girls]
It takes Angie Martinelli even longer to realize that Peggy Carter does not, in fact, work for a phone company.
“You’ll be my neighbor!” she says because Angie Martinelli is almost real, and Angie Martinelli genuinely likes this girl. This Peggy Carter, another dent in America with her English accent and bright red hat amongst an endless sea of gray suits and snobs. Peggy Carter, tone deaf and legs, legs everywhere. Peggy Carter, who never orders tea [I like to make it myself!] and watches all the male customers with sharp eyes and an even sharper smile.
And Peggy does. Does become her neighbor, spouting off bullshit like “Just until I’m married!” and Angie can barely stifle a laugh because this is a thrill she doesn’t normally feel; something racing up her spine and tickling her lungs and rushing into her head with all the adrenalin of a high speed chase on horseback.
She could get used to this.
First: she thinks Peggy doesn’t want to talk to her.
Second: she thinks she was wrong; some people just take some time to unwind.
Third: she knows this can’t last. This is good, too good for her ilk and too happy for her reality. She does not really work at a diner. She does not really live in a girl’s house in New York. She isn’t really falling for her neighbor and friend. This cannot last because it is not real.
It doesn’t last.
There’s someone in her room.
There’s someone in her room.
She goes from zero to full speed in the time it takes to open her eyes, her heart racing, her ears cataloguing, every muscle ready to snap into action. She keeps her breathing slow and steady. The intruder is standing next to the open window- cold breezes rush across her exposed skin, but a large section is blocked. The intruder bends, their coat rustling, and begins rummaging through her desk. They [he? the bulk suggests a man] ignore anything of worth, closing the drawers in which she keeps her wallet, her keys, her jewelry, and instead begins trying to unlock the slim bottom drawer, nearly invisible. She hears the unmistakable flick of a lock pick.
She slides one of her hands underneath the bed frame and unpeels the tape before pulling up the knife and turning in the bed to throw it into the intruder’s shoulder. They stumble, gasp, and fall, and in the moonlight streaming through the window she can see them reaching into their coat, but she’s already pulled her gun out from behind the headboard and shoots. The silencer does its work. The bullet does its job, and the intruder falls against the wall with a thump.
She gets out of bed and pulls open one of the floorboards underneath her bed. She takes out a larger knife and another gun, which she sticks into her waistband.
Her mission has been compromised. That much is crystal clear. The identity of the intruder, their motives, their numbers, the danger she has placed on this house- that is yet a mystery.
She hears thumps coming from Peggy’s room that she would normally interpret as wild sex, but it’s Peggy, it’s three in the morning, there are rules, and there’s a dead spy or thug on her floor. She glances briefly at the open window, the curtains fluttering in the breeze, before realizing that she has no choice, not really, no matter the stakes. Rescuing Peggy will leave more of a trail; it is a bad decision to go help her. If her superiors learn that she has sacrificed whatever mission integrity remains for a girl who works at a phone company, they will be displeased.
Angie doesn’t give two shits about her superiors at this moment.
She throws open the door to her room and breaks down the door to Peggy’s by throwing everything she has into two kicks. After the first kick, the noises inside cease abruptly and the thought strikes her that maybe Peggy is having wild animal sex in there. But she kicks it a second time and bursts in.
She barely dodges the object cutting downwards towards her right shoulder. She turns to the side, ducks under the intruder’s now wide open guard and pushes them against the wall. She pushes the knife against the soft skin of their throat. “Italiano?” she asks harshly. “Pусский? Deutsch?”
Too late, she realizes that the intruder has pressed the cold metal barrel of a gun against her left temple. “Who-?” the intruder asks before reaching out to the side, to the light switch [she should have realized she should have realized smaller and slighter and the soft cloth of a nightgown] and the light comes on and Angie is looking at Peggy Carter with a cut across her lip and a gun at Angie’s head.
She is a fool. A fool on foreign soil with enough evidence in her room to put her away for several lifetimes. She is a dead fool.
Oh shit fuck.
“Angie?” Peggy asks, looking just as surprised as Angie feels.
“Sorry, English,” Angie says, the nickname slipping from between her teeth before she can stop herself [this is what it’s come to]. She headbutts Peggy [always had a thick skull, her momma always said] and then runs out the room, out the hall, through the hallway window, onto a roof, and into the night.
[She makes a detour, just steps after leaving Peggy’s room because she knows enough to figure out that neither she nor her superiors have done anything to compromise her mission and so therefore; she is an accident. Peggy was the target tonight, the man in Angie’s room an assurance that they would not miss their prey. Logically, there is one in Carla’s as well. She shoots him and then tries not feel like she’s running away.]
Angie curses herself for being so blind as she digs through the garbage behind the bakery, viciously stabbing three day old bread.
It is morning number three, and she has yet to make contact with the several agents on the east coast who could report back to her superiors. She does not quite know why [that is a lie: she knows but does not want to give voice to that thought]. No wanted posters pop up; though she has already taken care to dye her hair and chop off long lengths of it. Large stolen hats shield her face; her clothes were carefully stolen from lower class shops. She looks poor and dirty, not of any note in this neighborhood, just another woman trying to work her way through the world in the post war fabric of America.
“Is there something I can help you with?” a stiff British voice says and she whirls around before she realizes he’s male and his accent is not the same is Peggy’s. She’s about to dismiss him when she realizes that his pants are far too crisply pressed for this neighborhood. His jacket fits impeccably. “Well?” he asks when she doesn’t respond. She narrows her eyes at him. There’s something off here but she can’t quite put her finger on it. Something that makes the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
Too late, she realizes Peggy has approached her from behind. The SSR agent sprays something on Angie’s face, drops the bottle, and grabs her wrists in one hand as she passes out.
She wakes not in an SSR cell, as she had expected, but handcuffed to a chair in the middle of an abandoned warehouse.
“Who do you work for?” Peggy asks sternly. She has to look up and blink fiercely several times before her vision clears.
“Why are you in New York?” Peggy tries.
I’m not telling you anything, she means to say, but it comes out “Immnoyellinuanethin.”
“I’ll come back.” She walks away, heels clicking on the floor.
She takes the time to clear her head and dislocate her right thumb. Sure enough, Peggy comes back five minutes later. “Are you ready now?” she asks crisply. There’s a gun tucked into her waistband.
Something must give her away when she looks up, because Peggy reaches for the gun when they lock gazes. She breaks her right hand free of the handcuff and whirls the chair at Peggy’s calves, forcing her to the ground and the gun out of her hand. She smashes the chair against the ground as hard as she can and it splinters, allowing her to pull the chain off of the chair leg and run unhindered toward the door. She relocates her thumb while she runs.
She’s almost made it when Peggy screams “Stop!” and fires a warning shot at the door. “I can’t let you go,” she says, stumbling, readjusting her shoe with her foot and looking like a forlorn greyhound. Her face is an open book, but Angie can’t read it.
“You can try.”
Peggy’s voice grows in strength. “Who do you work for?”
“Not an enemy.” It’s the best truth she can give.
“What were you trying to accomplish when you asked me to be your neighbor?”
She shrugs and buries what could have been, what they could have had. That thing was already buried in its grave before it even began. “I was lonely,” she says, and it must be the right answer because Peggy lowers her gun. Encouraged, she continues. “Ours isn’t the kind of work that makes friends.”
Peggy Carter smiles wryly. “I have bigger fish to catch than you, don’t I?”
Her heart pounds in her chest [they could have had it all, Peggy Carter from the phone company and Angie Martinelli from the diner] but she wraps it in iron and smiles back, small and serious. “I suppose you do.” [she’s done some poking in the three days she’s had and doesn’t like what she’s dug up, dead agents and dead witnesses and strange weapons and milk trucks]
Peggy pauses. Agent 45 [Codename:Rattlesnake] holds her breath. Peggy inclines her head, decision made. “Goodbye.”
Angie Martinelli salutes the first friend she’s had in a very long time and walks out the door, free.
[she always drinks the brand of tea peggy liked, no matter how far she has to go to find it]
[she also keeps the handcuffs]