Peggy knows her way around the bass. She’s had one instrument or another in her hands since childhood, but the bass is her favorite, the one she comes back to no matter what.
She knows her way around men, too. Men are like music, easy to read, but better when she’s following her instincts.
Steve, her latest singer after a long line of duds, is easy to read. He’s got a crush on her, no question. He’s a beautiful man and could get dozens of girlfriends, but it’s pretty obvious he lacks experience. She thinks it has to do with a sense of honor, however misplaced.
Once, at the garage where they held their practice, she dropped her pick, and without thinking, bent down retrieve it. Her pencil skirt, still on after a hard day at her desk job, would’ve left quite an impression on him, but instead he shot past her, grabbing the pick before she was able, offering it to her while still on one knee. Instead she was the one thinking about him, long after he’d stood up, dusted himself off, and started singing again.
The Howling Commandos are going to win the battle, she can feel it in her soul, and Peggy Carter wants to win this. The Battle of the Bands is the first step towards domination of the pop culture landscape— record deals, sold-out arenas, and rap remixes.
One day, Ellen will be tweeting pictures of their band.
She’s been dreaming of this, in one way or another, since her mother first taught her how to play piano— moving to America, playing the songs she writes, and finding artistic success (and financial success, mustn’t forget).
Lately, though, at the corners of those dreams, at the edges, barely worth mentioning: a golden haired man in a tight little t-shirt, singing those songs with her, to her even.
Peggy Carter’s determined to conquer America, and by extension, Steve Rogers.
Their set is a smashing success, and Peggy can feel the victory spreading hot in her veins. The room, which is mostly people there at the bequest of other bands, still loves the Commandos.
Peggy high-fives everyone on stage and off.
“That was amazing,” Steve says to her while they’re both carrying gear off the stage. “I feel so alive.”
“I predict we’re moving to the next round,” she tells him. She takes charge of packing Gabe’s van, making short work of it.
By the time she gets back from parking the damn thing, the next band’s already up. She knows should be networking with the earlier performers, but instead she orders another whiskey, neat, and sits at the bar.
“Hey, you’re the one this guy can’t stop talking about. Nice.”
Peggy turns to find Steve’s roommate. It takes her a moment to recall his name. She never forgets a face, but ridiculous nicknames are quite another thing.
“Come on, Bucky,” Steve says, hurrying out of the shadows. “Say hello to Peggy, like a human might.”
Instead, Bucky gives her a lascivious smile. “Great dress.” Instinctively, Peggy smooths it, running a hand over the red silk.
“I’m afraid Bucky really must be going,” he says, putting a hand on Bucky’s shoulder.
“Dude,” Bucky says. “No sudden movements. The floor’s already spinning.”
Steve’s a nice guy— not a Nice Guy (TM) with all the baggage, but a genuinely good guy— so of course he’ll take Bucky home.
Instead, he returns a few minutes later. “I had to pay the Uber driver extra, in case Bucky—”
“Of course, no need to go into details,” she says.
He smiles at her, a shy smile that sends victory through her veins again.
She grabs the end of his t shirt and pulls him closer.
He looks mildly scandalized.
She crooks a finger at him, and he leans down towards her, smelling like the mountain air despite being hours away from the nearest one. She has to steady herself on the stool.
“How about we get out of here?” she whispers.
“What will the other boys think?”
“Jim and Gabe are perfectly fine to represent the band should we place,” she says firmly.
“That’s not what I meant,” he says seriously.
She hooks a calf around his knees. “I know.”
His kisses are fast and sloppy, like he’s worried she’ll slip away. But he’s eager and he’s sweet and he looks at her like she’s hung the moon.
She takes off her dress, and he blushes, pressing the coolness of the back of his hand against his cheek.
He removes his shirt, draping it over the back of the chair, but she gets him out of his jeans, touching every inch she’s been wondering about for months now.
She pulls him to the bed and crawls on top.
“How does a man get to be like this—” she smoothes a hand over his sculpted chest, enjoying the baby-fine hairs that tickle her palm— “without the sort of romantic or sexual experiences inherent in the rock and roll lifestyle?”
“I was sick as a kid,” he says simply. He rolls over to the bedstand, grabs his wallet, and pulls out a tiny photograph, the type of posed picture children take in grammar school.
She studies it carefully. He was a tiny child, pale and anemic looking, but with that same kindness in his eyes.
“Why America?” he asks her. “Why not some other country?”
“I thought about it.” And she had, seriously. “Denmark, maybe. Or Japan. I took my gap year in Brazil.”
“But here you are,” he says, his eyes wide. “In the best city in the world.”
“I could hardly afford Manhattan,” she says. He looks askance. “Kidding!” She sits up, sheet carefully tucked around her. “I came out here to visit a cousin during university, and— I knew where I had to be. That this could be home.”
“And I suppose today, when I’ve bedded the most American American I know, that makes it official.”
“The most American American you know?”
“Like sleeping with a bald eagle. Or freedom, in some nebulous humanoid form. Or a president.”
“More like Jimmy Carter.”
“That’s all well and good, but can President Carter do this?” Steve rolls over on top of her, sliding her sheet aside to cup a breast.
This time, he kisses her slower, certain she’ll stay. He twirls a bit of hair around his fingers, peppering her cheeks and collarbone with kisses.
She reaches between his legs, but he tells her ladies first.