It wasn’t unusual for Peggy Carter to be in a foul mood, considering the types of imbeciles she had to endure day after day. Her naturally sour disposition due to that was only exacerbated by Howard Stark’s despicable ploy. His betrayal stung deeper than she had anticipated and although Steve’s…blood…was tucked away in the wall of her room, Peggy couldn’t quite shake the heaviness in her.
She wanted to deck Howard. Clean his clock until Her Majesty could see herself in what was left of his pearly whites.
To say she woke up on the wrong side of the bed was a gross understatement and she had stomped her way down to a late breakfast and only had time to slather some jam on a lonely piece of toast before she had to make her way to work. Peggy was attempting to reign in the twitch in her left eye as she entered the lobby when a gaggle of women started cooing. Curious, she glanced over to see them huddled around Angie, Ms. Fry looking stern per usual as she hefted a large bouquet of exquisite flowers toward Angie’s arms. Angie’s head tilted back so that the tip of her nose barely peeked over the flowers.
Peggy came to a full stop, knees locking into place.
She was unaware Angie had such a serious suitor. Or any suitor at all.
Carrie or Perry or some such veritably squealed like a schoolgirl and swiped the flowers from Angie who shook her head a little from, presumably, the overpowering fauna smell. There was a card in her hands that she peered at, and then a delicate pink rose on her cheeks to match the smile on her lips, a lovely shade that matched the colour in her cheeks…
Peggy obstinately swallowed a cumbersome piece of bread.
Once she ensured she wasn’t going to choke herself, she squared her shoulders and gracefully waltzed over to Angie, taking on an unaffected air. “A missive of love?”
Angie yelped a little at Peggy’s proximity and gazed at Peggy’s arms. After several moments Peggy cleared her throat and glared pointedly at the card, to which Angie pressed to her chest possessively. “Where did you come from?”
“I live here,” Peggy retorted. “What is that,” she demanded.
Scoffing, Angie grumbled something about tenacity. Then one of those dopey, self-indulgent grins surfaced and Peggy tampered down her own. “You’re like a bulldog, English!” She paused, and that grin unfolding into a devilishly adorable smirk. “English bulldog, that’s good!”
What a goober; how did Peggy end up embroiled with these kind of Americans?
Peggy huffed and crossed her arms, to which Angie’s smirk faltered. Odd. “Are you being deliberately obtuse?”
Waving a hand airily, Angie shook her head. “C’mon, Peggy, aren’t you late for work?” She raised an eyebrow. “At the telephone company,” she enunciated slowly.
Refusing to acknowledge that she nearly pouted, Peggy squinted her eyes to intimidate her friend. The minx squinted back albeit in a way so comical Peggy had to snort in amusement to which Angie proudly beamed at her. “Very well,” Peggy pretended to dismiss the situation while beginning to scheme how to ascertain who this mysterious suitor in Angie’s life was.
As she walked off to work, in a slightly better mood, she also steadfastly ignored the churning sensation in her chest that began when Angie looked her way.
While talking to a phial of blood would be silly, Peggy could admit that she felt a sense of tranquility just knowing that a part of Steve was near. It had been quite lonely for her since…that day. The 107th had helped immensely but all things must come to an end and it had been quite pleasant to come to find a sweet friend like Colleen and after that it had been even more arduous to allow herself to open up even a sliver.
Angie Martinelli had taken that sliver and splintered it into a cavernous opening that Peggy couldn’t quite find it in herself to fill.
Naturally she was protective of those few close to her, Peggy told herself whenever she got an inkling that perhaps she was prying too hard into this affair that Angie seemed to be partaking in. She supposed she could ask her, but Angie had been particularly glassy-eyed at the diner that night, and turned down Peggy’s offer to go to the cinema the next night since Angie was off. All she got was a vague “sorry Pegs, I’ve got plans.”
“I can’t believe you actually asked me to the pictures! And of course the one time you do I hafta…” and then Angie proceeded to grumble and wipe furiously at the counter as if it were a substitute for bashing someone over the head.
So what if Peggy had a feeling Angie wasn’t truly blowing her off, but that those obnoxious flowers and their sender were taking precedence?
It probably wasn’t rational of her to be perfecting a disguise to keep an eye on Angie and her secretive suitor because, really, Angie wasn’t the type to be secretive, plus she had to ensure that those Angie associated with would treat her as well as Peggy would.
In any case, Peggy had to take great care in choosing her disguise. She would have to sneak out of the Griffith during the daylight which made this a wonderful challenge. She had no idea where Angie could be going so she decided that going as a male would be preferable. Many places would be easier to slip away if she were dressed more masculine.
Masquerading as a young man would not do. She was far too well-defined to pass as a pubescent young buck, whereas Angie could with her lithe frame and movements and sparkling eyes…
“Focus, Carter!” Peggy growled and jabbed a finger at her reflection. She cut a glance to Steve’s picture. “Don’t you dare laugh,” she ordered. She applied the moustache firmly, refusing to hear an echo of Steve’s laughter in her ears. She couldn’t waste time thinking about how flawless Angie looked or how extraordinary she would be in so many theatre productions and what a dashing Peter Pan she would make. It was the time to be surreptitious and she needed to blend into the crowd like the master she was.
She startled upon hearing Dottie and Angie gabbing loudly outside her door and heroically managed to bite back her curses as her knee bashed into her vanity. Angie was leaving far too early! Peggy would have to manage with a slipshod disguise if she wanted to ensure she didn’t lose her target.
Well, she assured herself as she dodged the roving eyes of regular citizens as she made her way down the storm drain, there was no possible way this situation could deteriorate.
Peggy Carter was wrong.
After nonchalantly strolling about the street after Angie for several blocks, Peggy had to whip herself behind a wall, tearing the fabric of her shirt. That was well enough— a little tear would help her blend in better due to the neighbourhood Angie was leading them to.
Peggy had some uncharitable thoughts about Angie’s suitor in that he was meeting Angie in an increasingly seedy section of the city. This was nearing a district notorious for their mafia. While Angie was far from helpless it wasn’t exactly a place one would frequent if they weren’t intimately familiar with the area. She was going to ponder that further when she peered around the edge and saw him.
Sure she couldn’t see his face, but that build and slick haircut and the way Angie clung to him as he embraced her just reeked of Howard. Peggy ground her teeth.
She fumed for several minutes as the two of them began walking further down the street. The knife she had near her ankle burned against her skin with the heat from her rage. Growling aloud, Peggy finally began following her targets.
Angie and her suitor were gaily laughing, their bodies snuggled together and Peggy dug her fists more firmly into her pockets. How very dare Howard, she seethed for the umpteenth time. Even a child had a better sense of instruction than he did. He will learn the consequences of usurping authority in a manner most fitting. Peggy began to ruminate on how exactly Howard would reap the bountiful harvest of her wrath. The scenarios were absolutely delicious, so much so in fact, that she faltered in her lumbering gait and her foot got caught in a crack in the sidewalk. She was propelled forward at an alarming rate but luckily she was near the railing leading up to one of the houses crammed on the street. Her hand shot out to grab the railing to right herself but she did not reach out in enough time to correct her spin that was required to actually latch onto the thing. This resulted in Peggy twisting in such a way that her spine cracked something fearsome and the cursed suspenders that were such a perfect accessory to her casual apathy got hooked onto the entirely superfluous inner design on the railing.
Peggy wound up a bruised and tangled heap in the railing to the gawking stares of passer-bys. She cleared her throat and mustered as much phlegm as she could and deepened her voice to growl “Whatta lookin’ at?”
By the time she disentangled herself and nearly instigated no less than four fisticuffs, Angie and Howard had disappeared. A failed reconnaissance. She was loathe to be dramatic but Angie was some sort of mastermind to shake Peggy. How the bloody hell Howard could be so duplicitous was beyond her and was making her growing headache worse.
Waking up to a bruised and battered body was nothing new to Peggy but the utter failure she was presented with simply seemed to spiral everything else into a groggy state of mediocre. Such a simple tail: no one was going to shoot her, nothing was probable to explode and she wouldn’t be branded a traitor so all the usual pressure was off. Still she had floundered.
Peggy flopped down at her vanity and idly toyed with her brand, lipstick that had never betrayed her. This was ridiculous, she huffed as she began to apply her make-up. Steve wouldn’t have made such a situation…she paused and lightly laughed. Yes, he would, she fondly imagined as she readjusted the photo. Resolved, Peggy nodded firmly to herself and went down to breakfast.
She would simply ask Angie about her suitor and they would talk and it all would be decent and simple.
And then she would exact her vengeance upon Howard.
Preying on her Angie, and after he told her to spend more time with Angie! And Jarvis too, they were both peas in a soon to be bruised pod.
She heard Angie before seeing her. The other woman did have an uncanny ability of popping up out of thin air and being all up in Peggy’s space. She turned to her left and schooled the instant grunt of agony that threatened to spill out when Angie bumped in her bruised ribs, almost as if she knew exactly where to position her scrawny elbow. “Sorry Pegs. Didn’t see you there.”
Abort. Salvage. Evacuate.
Somehow Angie knew. Peggy gulped and scrambled for a preservation tactic. She attempted to slip away but was pinned by a rather dirty glare by Angie. Carol blithely inserted herself into Peggy’s space, shielding her from Angie. Bless the brave woman. “Hi, Angie, Peggy! Did you gals want to join our bridge tournament tonight?”
Angie continued to shoot Peggy the stink-eye. “No thanks, I’ve got big dinner plans.”
“Ooh, someplace fancy?” Carol gushed. “With the fella that gave you those flowers?”
“Yeah.” Angie answered and turned her nose up a bit at Peggy. “A super fancy Italian joint because he knows so much about me.”
Peggy clamped her jaws shut. She knew a lot about Angie! Her favourite restaurant was precisely 3 blocks west of her parents house. It was almost a daring invitation for Peggy to crash Angie’s plans.
She wouldn’t, of course.
She would crash one of those exquisite plates over Howard’s thick skull for daring to lay a hand on Angie and be casually strolling about in public when he’s a wanted man.
“Yes, well, that sounds lovely,” Peggy responded airily.
“Doesn’t it though,” Angie retorted and resumed glaring.
Carol glanced back and forth between the two of them and slowly backed away.
This time Peggy’s disguise was flawless. She had another fantastic blonde wig and a dark satin dress that had attracted many lingering gazes as she made her way to the bar. Angie’s favoured restaurant was a magnificent building on the outside and surprisingly ornate on the inside. The paintings were exquisite and the ambiance matched the soft colours of the interior design. Peggy found herself entranced by the mahogany of the bar, a lovely section cordoned off from the restaurant.
It had been approximately 47 minutes since she entered the establishment and she hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Angie. She was beginning to think she was baited and the thought soured her mouth.
A hand on her shoulder whirled her around and Peggy nearly swung a fantastic right hook. Good thing she didn’t because Angie Martinelli was glaring down at her, fierce and determined. Peggy gulped for several reasons. “Angie! How did you recognize me?” She stammered and attempted to flip her hair but miscalculated due to the wig length and only wound up entangling her fingers in the cumbersome thing and cursing lightly.
“As if I wouldn’t recognize your legs!”
Angie flushed prettily and puffed out her cheeks a little before hovering over Peggy like some sort of menace. “Don’t play dumb with me, Peggy Carter! I’ve noticed you’ve been tailing me! It’s a good thing you work at the phone company because you’d be one awful spy.” She crossed her arms and huffed. Peggy was sure that her eyes couldn’t leap out of their sockets so she took solace in that.
Scrambling, Peggy attempted to explain herself. “I honestly thought your suitor was my, er, uh, cousin. I explicitly told him to stay away from you—“
Angie slammed a hand on the bar top and things became far too silent for Peggy’s liking. Alarms blared, red flashed and danger scrolled across her eyelids. In her panic, she almost didn’t notice the way Angie’s mouth tightened and she gave a slight nod of her head and a glance to the bartender and all the patrons around her scattered. “Listen here. I can handle myself and I know that you know that. If you have an issue you can just talk to me instead of poking around in some stupid show of subterfuge like one of those paperback novels!”
“But you didn’t say anything when I asked you straightaway!” Peggy protested. She tried to get Angie to divulge her secrets but was denied.
She scoffed and leaned against the bar. “You know how those girls gossip about and I don’t need Fry sniffing around me trying to get a whiff of man.” Her face relaxed a bit and Peggy felt she was slowly getting out of the danger zone. “That man being my brother.”
A gallon of ice water being dumped on her head sounded refreshing to Peggy at that moment.
Leaning forward once more, Angie lowered her voice and Peggy moved to meet her and wished for more of that frigid water because her cheeks suddenly flared at the proximity. “Yanno I had to throw my weight around to make sure nothing happened to you. The way you’ve been lurking about and the ruckus you made yesterday nearly got ya a new pair of cement shoes.” She tossed her hair with grace and finesse and then shyly brought her hands to the edges of Peggy’s wig. Her heartbeat was loud in her ears to go along with the gushing of her blood. Angie slipped the wig off Peggy and ran her hands through her hair, fluffing it out and making it presentable. “My family is kind of a big deal.”
So Angie was part of the mafia.
Peggy was impressed. A little intimated. And more than slightly aroused.
She cleared her throat innocuously. “If that’s so…”
“…we all have our dreams, English,” Angie sighed and finally stepped back and sat on an adjoining stool. “Why are you so upset about your cousin, anyhow?”
The temptation to deflect right back was high but Peggy knew she ought to offer a modicum of truth to Angie, especially considering all the lies she has to keep as it was. “He lied to me about someone I…in the war.” While it didn’t hurt so much to think of Steve or see his picture, sometimes speaking his name was too much still. It was getting easier though, more than she thought it would and part of her feels ashamed of it, but those thoughts dissipate when Angie places a hand on hers.
“I’m sorry, honey. There are things we want to forget and wounds that won’t close up, like my cousin Vinny’s leg when he got clipped by a car. Not gonna lie though, he kinda had it coming, especially after he ripped off my great-uncle’s daughter-in-law’s grandma’s store…”she began to trail off into some ludicrous story and Peggy let her mind and gaze wander.
“Indeed,” she managed when Angie looked like she was finished.
Angie stood and looked down imperiously at her. Peggy bit her lip at the sight of it. “You ruined my dinner. So you’re gonna have to make it up to me.”
Wait. “What?” Peggy gaped.
Leaning on the counter and affording a view which Peggy briefly partook in, Angie spoke slowly and deliberately. “Dinner. Tomorrow. 7. You’re gonna take me to that new French place all the critics are raving about.”
“The one that’s booked solid for the next half year?” Peggy incredulously inquired.
“Yes, we already have reservations.” With that Angie twirled on her heels and sashayed back to the dining portion of the restaurant, leaving Peggy feeling light-headed and very grateful she was sitting down.
Peggy was reluctant to admit to herself that it had been a long time since she gone on an, outing? Or was it a date? It was likely a date, Peggy firmly told herself. Then the implications set in and her insides knotted like so many nooses did when the war was declared over.
A fish out of water seemed an inappropriate metaphor to describe Peggy’s feelings.
She stared at Steve’s picture. Let herself be reminded of what he represented not only to the world but to her. What he would’ve wanted. What she wanted.
Peggy could do this.
First she needed to prepare. This was to be a glorious night and she would emerge victorious. She didn’t acquire her rank by anything other than sheer skill and tenacity and she would apply that same determination and drive to her…date.
Still made her head a bit fuzzy to even think it.
Rubbing her palms on her skirt (when did they become so sweaty? The date hadn’t even begun!) she made her way down to the lobby, thankfully not seeing Angie but having the misfortune of being accosted by Dottie who was attempting to regale her with tales of pickles for some odd reason. Peggy not so gently brushed her off and meandered over to the telephone.
Now she sure wasn’t going to abolish any of Howard’s transgressions against her but she was going to milk his and Jarvis’ guilt for all Howard was worth. And he was worth a lot.
“Oh, Miss Carter!” Jarvis sounded positively delighted to hear her voice and Peggy steeled herself.
“Procure your finest vehicle for me.”
“I would be delighted. When would you like me to pick you up?”
“I will be doing the driving myself, thank you.”
There was a suspicious silence on the other end of the line. Peggy stopped herself from frowning at the device. “Do you have a special evening planned?”
“What I do in my own time is none of your business,” Peggy stated primly. “You will drop off the vehicle at precisely 6:50 P.M. I will return at exactly 9:00 P.M. so that you may retrieve the vehicle at your leisure. Actually, I expect you to be here so I can give you the keys. And then you may be on your merry way. Good afternoon,” she rambled and hung up.
She didn’t have time for anything else; she had to get ready.
Her lipstick colour was striking, her dress was fabulous, her hair perfectly coiffed and she was an utter vision.
She impatiently tapped her heels against the pavement as 6:55 rolled into 6:56. Angie would be down in precisely four minutes and Jarvis was nowhere to be found. He will rue this moment for the rest of his days if he didn’t turn up.
Finally she spied the most singularly expensive car available to the public turning the corner and slowly rolling up to the curb. With grand effort, Peggy managed not to stomp over to the door and haul Jarvis out into the street.
“Ah, Miss Carter, apologies, you see it took longer than anticipated to acquire the vehicle and then the crème brulee simply wasn’t working out well enough—“
“I don’t care about your delicacies!” Peggy hissed as she furtively glanced over to see if Angie had exited the Griffith yet. She turned and began to walk over to get the keys from Jarvis but her walk had mutated to a stomp and the first fall of her heel onto the pavement cracked the heel itself clean off and she stumbled and bowled into Jarvis, collapsing against the hood of the vehicle.
“Oh, bloody Nora!” Peggy pushed herself off Jarvis and bent to inspect her shoe.
At the sound of Angie’s dulcet voice, Peggy snapped straight up and turned to look at Angie and reminded herself it was unbecoming to stare. She may be a vision but Angie was like a glimpse into paradise itself. It was lovely. She was lovely. Her dress was a magnificent cut to accentuate every lovely detail of her body, the dark blue to match the night sky and pronounce the lighter shades of her eyes. Her hair fell in soft ringlets against her neck and Peggy found her mouth quite dry and pulse an alarming high.
“Yes, yes of course! I was just obtaining this vehicle for our sojourn,” Peggy rambled and snatched the keys out of Jarvis’ hand. She adopted a confident smirk towards Angie and began to twirl the keys. Peggy couldn’t even complete a single revolution of the keys before they flew off her finger and smacked her in the face.
“Geeze, Peggy, you didn’t get your eye, right?” Angie’s concern wafted off her like a wondrous perfume and Peggy shook her head and picked up the keys and went to open the passenger side door when her foot gave out because she had forgotten she was missing a heel. Angie stepped forward to place a hand on her back to steady her and Peggy was ready to jump out of her skin. “You got another pair of shoes to go with that dress?” In an undertone and with slightly more pressure to Peggy’s back, “You look like a million bucks, English.”
“Yes, as do you,” she managed to squeak and hobbled gracelessly back to the Griffith to obtain a new pair of heels.
After that embarrassing spectacle, Peggy managed to regain her senses and shoo Jarvis away from Angie who was seemingly making him uncomfortable. She properly escorted Angie to the restaurant, where the reservations were suspiciously under her name, and pulled out the chair for her all without incident.
Her confidence restored, Peggy managed a few remarkable quips about the patrons of the establishment that earned her a few giggles from Angie which segued into Angie practicing her acting by creating whimsical lives for random people which set Peggy in stitches several times.
She also managed to impress Angie into a starry-eyed state while pronouncing all the items off the menu in French.
“That’s real fancy,” Angie sighed dreamily while tracing the top of her wine glass with her finger. “English, you pick those skills up in the war?”
Mesmerized, Peggy nodded an affirmative. “Yes while I was stationed as…er…a telephone operator,” she floundered and Angie gave her a frank disbelieving look.
Just like that their personal ambiance that was so carefully and naturally crafted dissipated.
Bollocks, Peggy deflated. She cannot fathom just how dreadful she is at…whatever this is. Date and friendship amalgam. Unused to the sensation of appearing utterly foolish (which is slowly becoming a trend around Angie, Peggy noted,) Peggy attempted to sip her wine. For some God-awful reason she was unable to properly grip the glass and wound up sloshing a good several ounces down the front of her dress.
“Hey, Jitterbug, you gonna make it?” Angie inquired as she leaned across the table with a napkin and boldly dabbed at Peggy’s chest before letting Peggy take over cleaning herself up.
“I’m afraid I’m making a right mess of things,” Peggy sighed and pushed away the lingering tingles Angie’s touch evoked.
Angie sighed sympathetically. “I know what it’s like to bungle all the things up. But we all have things inside us that just are waiting for the right time to come out.”
Peggy looked up at that. “Someday,” she solemnly stated.
“Someday,” Angie echoed with a fond look in her eye that melted Peggy’s heart a little. She reached across the table and lightly stroked the edge of Peggy’s hand before glancing away and drawing away entirely but kept a sweet grin on her face as their food arrived.
This was it. Her chance to strike.
Angie jumped so hard the table shook. Her face reddened and she glanced around furtively before glaring at Peggy. “What’re ya tryin’ to do, English? Break my shin?”
Peggy’s brows furrowed. She was sure she executed that maneuver flawlessly. Perhaps she aimed to high.
“I’m dreadfully sorry, Angie, I didn’t mean to bring my heel down on your toes.”
Angie scowled and then her face transformed into a wicked grin. “Ah, I see now.”
Those warning bells began their familiar trill as Peggy scooted back into her seat. Somehow Angie’s foot had hooked around her calf and it was…
Arriving back at the Griffith at nine on the dot, Peggy gallantly escorted Angie back up to her room, alight with an optimism and joy she hadn’t felt for quite a long time.
“Thank you for the evening, Angie. It was lovely.” Peggy glanced down the hall and lowered her voice and moved closer. “You were lovely.”
Angie’s smile was brilliant and Peggy couldn’t help but sigh a little. “You were too, English. Besides, I think it all worked out well.”
Peggy cocked her head. “How do you mean?”
Laughing, Angie reached into her purse and dug out a little card. The card she was looking at the other day when she received the flowers from her brother.
Peggy yanked the familiar card-stock out of Angie’s hand. “’Did you know that Peggy Carter can do 107 one-armed push-ups? Reservations at that posh joint you told me about under Peggy’s name.’” Affronted, Peggy’s lips thinned into a line like the one she longed to—
Angie had suddenly sidled up into Peggy’s extremely personal space and was breathing deeply into her ear as she was pressed up against her body. “So is that with your dominant arm?” Peggy shivered as the words caressed the shell of her ear and was in a daze as Angie planted a lingering kiss at the edge of her lips.
“Later, English,” she murmured as her door softly clicked shut behind her.
Peggy was vaguely aware she was gawping and unsteady on her feet for a prolonged period of time. She was played with a most delectable hand and the defeat was as stunning as its victor. A grin that grew from the spot Angie kissed worked its way up to her eyes. Peggy could get used to this.
What she couldn’t get used to was the vacuum left in her common sense from Angie so she neglected to open her door and instead slammed her shoulder into it so loudly Angie ran back out of her room to inquire about Peggy’s well-being. It wasn’t dislocated, Peggy assured, but Angie insisted on coming in for a more thorough inspection.
Peggy couldn’t possibly deny the logic in that.