a/n I don't know why I keep writing author's notes on these, it's just that with FFN formatting the fic seems empty without them.
As it turns out, hang the audition was perhaps not the best decision Peggy could have made concerning a serious mission.
And now, she's reaping the consequences.
"I wanna do this, I can do this," Angie insists. She's bouncing on the balls of her feet like an amateur boxer; Peggy half expects her to start growling lemme at 'im. (It's not an unwelcome mental image, if she's being honest. Angie's about as intimidating as a kitten—it's adorable.)
"I'm sure you could," Peggy says carefully, "but I can't ask you to, darling. It's not safe."
Angie stops bouncing long enough to give Peggy a look. "Sorry for sayin' so, Peg, but you ain't exactly the paragon of perfect safety yerself."
"Yes, but I've been trained."
"So train me," Angie shrugs. Like it's that simple.
Peggy had been so preoccupied by her and Angie's 'dancing lessons' that they'd neglected to get around to the part where Angie actually taught Peggy to dance. As a result, Peggy had made a disaster of her audition before Joe Carmine. With a bit of fast thinking, she'd set a small fire in the basement to clear the building and get the rest of the auditions postponed, but what would it matter, if Carmine already knows her face?
Unless—as Angie has just pointed out—she goes in on Peggy's behalf. Which is unacceptable.
"Angie, you don't understand. I trained for months before I was allowed near even simulations of covert operations. You, on the other hand, have until tomorrow afternoon. I wouldn't dare send you out… how did you put it? 'With your gun half-cocked and your boots on the wrong feet?'"
Angie waves her off. "But from what you said, it doesn't even require anything dangerous. I do a little dance, I'm in, I'm out, lickety-split. Unless you were lying to me so I wouldn't worry, but you wouldn't do that to me, would you Pegs?" she asks, her voice getting sharp by the end.
"Then there you go. Nothing to worry about."
"But if you were to get caught…"
"I won't get caught. I'm sneaky," Angie says, proving it by darting forward and stealing a kiss. It's incredibly distracting.
"But—darling—" Peggy mumbles against Angie's mouth, losing her train of thought when Angie starts nibbling on her bottom lip.
Angie laughs, pulling away. "Look, we can at least ask, can't we? Like you said: I'm not trained, it's dangerous. What are the chances your fathead coworkers'll want to take a chance on me?"
"I don't see a problem with it," Thompson shrugs. "Let's get her in for briefing."
Peggy's jaw drops as Angie pumps her fist in triumph. "Sir—!"
"Sir what? Look, we're done talking about this. We have a need, your friend volunteered, that's it."
"So we're just going to start drafting random citizens any time circumstances are less than ideal? I'm sure I don't have to point out, Chief Thompson, that if I were not the sole female operative among our ranks, we wouldn't be in this predicament."
"Yeah, and if you'd done your job right when I asked you to, we wouldn't be having this conversation at all, would we Marge?"
Peggy's cheeks burn, because he's not wrong.
"Hey, lay off her, would ya?" Angie says with a frown, springing to Peggy's defense. "If she hadn't had the smarts to set off the fire alarm you wouldn't have a second chance at all."
Thompson ignores her. "Carter, we'll talk about your tendency to discuss details of ops with civilians some other time. In the meantime—"
Peggy glares. "But you just said—"
"Jesus, am I talking to myself? Briefing! Now!"
The first order of business—Angie actually getting selected for Carmine's dancing corps—goes off without a hitch. Though it makes Peggy's insides twist with concern, she can't help but be proud of Angie. She deserves to be recognized for her talents.
Angie exits the audition with a garment bag in hand and a smile on her face, with instructions to report to rehearsals the next day. With the party less than a week away, she's actually forced to cash in all of her time off at the automat—between keeping her cover at rehearsals and the hours spent at the SSR getting ready for the mission, there will be no time left for shifts at work.
The second order of business is seeing Angie in her chorus girl outfit, which will determine both what kinds of bugs they might be able to sneak in on her as well as how she's to smuggle any materials she discovers out. Peggy stands guard outside the changing room as Angie tries it on, glaring at anyone who dares pass.
"Are you okay in there?" Peggy asks the door after a while. Inappropriate thoughts start to gather at the back of her mind. "Do you need help with a zipper?"
"M'fine, Pegs," Angie calls back, laughing nervously. "Just, uh. When I pictured myself goin' undercover, I guess I thought I'd be under a bit more cover than this."
Oh, lord. "Why? Is it—"
Angie emerges from the changing room before Peggy can finish her question, which is fine because honestly Peggy's having trouble stringing words together anyhow. Angie's dance outfit is little more than a glorified two-piece, the bustier done up in feathers and rhinestones, the bottoms made hilariously "modest" by a completely sheer tulle skirt. Inch upon inch of Angie's bare skin—her long legs, her toned abs, her cleavage—is on full display.
"Carter? Are you—holy smokes," Sousa stutters as he enters the hallway, before spinning on his crutch to turn his back to them, giving Angie at least the illusion of privacy. "Guess she's not wearing a wire, huh? Nowhere to put it."
"Did you have something to tell us, Agent Sousa?" Peggy asks sharply, regaining the use of the tongue.
"Just, uh, that Chief's getting antsy for a report on the outfit. Guess I'll tell him no dice."
"See that you do," Peggy orders.
Angie scurries back into the changing room.
The amount of preparation Peggy puts into her own missions is nothing compared to the way she preps for Angie's—and makes sure her coworkers do the same. Blueprints are procured, self-defense techniques practiced, the contents of Carmine's desk hypothesized and prioritized, escape routes traced and retraced, then redrawn and traced again.
"At this point, I think I know Carmine's penthouse better than I know Howard's," Angie complains dizzily at one point. Peggy only gives her a brief smile and continues to quiz her.
(And maybe she's being a bit harsh, a bit paranoid, but she can't help it. The last time she sent someone in to do a mission she'd disqualified herself for was 1944, and that person had been Steve Rogers. Angie is woefully undertrained and painfully precious, and if the only thing Peggy can do is plan and prepare for her then plan and prepare she will.)
The night of the operation comes all too soon.
They set up camp in an unmarked van a block down from Carmine's building, outfitted with enough remote surveillance materials that Peggy and Sousa—the only partner she'd consent to—can keep an ear on the party, and a twitchy accelerator in case a quick getaway is required.
Angie, for all her previous bravado, looks very much as though she's about to be sick.
"Alright, darling?" Peggy asks, running her hands up and down Angie's upper arms in an effort to warm her. She's wearing an overcoat to cover her dancing outfit, but it doesn't seem to be doing much to keep out the chill considering the way Angie's shaking.
(It's not the cold, and they both know it, but pretending helps.)
Angie smiles unevenly. "Me? Never better."
"It's not too late to change your mind, you know."
Sousa clears his throat. "That's not, uh. Entirely true. Exactly."
"We'll find some other way," Peggy goes on, talking to Angie but glaring at him, "if that's what needs to be done."
"What kind of girl do you take me for, huh?" Angie jokes weakly. "I may be violets but I ain't yellow."
Sousa chuckles at the pun, only to shrink away and pretend to do something else when Peggy fixes him with a sharp look.
"I do a little dance, I'm in, I'm out. Right?"
"Lickety-split," Peggy echoes, hoping her smile is fortifying.
Having to sit on the sidelines while Angie goes in by herself is torture. Peggy paces the length of the van, feeling like a caged animal. The weak radio signal from the listening device they'd installed on the building opposite Carmine's apartment plays nothing but the hum of conversation and the tinkling of piano jazz in the background.
"I won't tell, you know," Sousa says, watching Peggy prowl from his seat.
She stops moving long enough to appraise him. "Tell whom what?"
"Y'know. That you and Angie…" He makes a sheepish twining motion with his fingers. "That you, uh…"
"Fondue?" she supplies, taking an unfair amount of satisfaction at his confused expression. "I wasn't worried, Daniel—I had expected the bare minimum of human decency from you."
He blinks. "Thanks, I guess."
A half hour into the party, the music picks up and the crowd starts cheering—a sure sign that the chorus girls have started their routine. Peggy listens hard, but she can't pick out Angie's voice through the static. They perform three numbers and then take a bow to loud applause, causing Peggy to grip the receiver with white knuckles. Either Angie made her move before she started dancing or she's doing it now.
Peggy has never been a religious sort, but she finds herself praying anyway.
"We've got movement," Sousa says from his seat up front; Peggy moves to the other side of the van to watch with him. The dancers exit the building in ones and twos, some walking while others flag down taxis with help from the doorman.
Angie is not among them.
"I don't think she's the only one left up there," Sousa says after several long moments, choosing his words with care. "And it's common practice for Carmine to pick out a few of his favorites to, uh… mingle."
If anyone at that wretched party tries to mingle with Angie, the next thing they'll be mingling with is the business end of Peggy's Smith & Wesson.
"Hey, can you guys hear me?" Angie's voice suddenly sounds from the radio. Peggy makes an incredibly undignified face that Sousa politely ignores. "I'm literally shoutin' from the rooftop, so I sure hope you can. Things almost went sideways but I got out by taking a leaf outta Peggy's book—now I just gotta find my way down. If those blueprints were right there should be a door to the service stairs up here. I'll be out in a jiff… probably."
Peggy moves to get up. "I'm going to get her."
"Hey, hey, hey," Sousa stutters, scrambling to catch Peggy by the shoulder. "Like hell you are. They know your face, remember? If Carmine's security team catches sight of you, it's all over."
"She's made it this far without you. If she's not out in five minutes, we'll both go in, okay? Guns blazing."
Peggy stares hard. "Three minutes," she announces as her counter-offer.
"The building's thirty stories tall; what is she, an Olympic sprinter?"
"…Five minutes," Peggy agrees with a sigh, reluctantly retaking her seat.
Luckily, Angie emerges from the side alley adjacent to the building with twenty-two seconds to spare, overcoat abandoned and a promising-looking bundle in her arms.
"How fast can you drive?" she gasps as she throws herself into the back of the van.
"You're talking to a man with a literal lead foot," Sousa grins, already gunning it.
Peggy climbs back to check Angie over, breathing easier when no wounds are immediately visible. (And considering how little Angie's wearing, injuries have been left with very few places to hide.) "Darling, you were marvelous."
"I'll say!" Angie laughs, though it comes out a bit manic. "I found all sorts of things in his desk; his combination was his mother's birthday, just like you thought. And—"
"You can tell all of us back at the office," Peggy says soothingly, taking Angie's package of ill-gotten gains from her hands and setting it aside. "What I want to know is, why on earth were you on the roof?"
Angie flushes with pride. "Well it's like I said—I heard 'em coming so I asked myself, what would Peggy Carter do? His paperweight wasn't really heavy enough to do damage if I hit anyone with it, so I decided to go out the window."
"And unlike you, I didn't have the world's longest-suffering would-be girlfriend waiting to catch me if I fell. (You're welcome, by the way.) I got it closed from the other side just in time—they musta thought I got out some other way, because I was sure they'd be on the roof waitin' for me otherwise. The door to the stairs was locked, but I jimmied it open with one'a my hairpins, and—"
"Wait, slow down," Peggy says, holding up a hand to stop Angie from saying anything more. "I didn't teach you to pick locks." Which was a glaring omission, in hindsight, why didn't any of them catch that, they could have gotten her killed—
"Nah, my cousin Artie did when I was in the third grade. 'Course, he ended up doing time upstate on account of those itchy fingers of his, but the lessons sure came in handy. Pa never did figure out how we kept getting into his liquor cabinet."
"In the third grade?" Peggy asks weakly, feeling as though she's somehow missed some very important details in the last few minutes.
"No, later. Jeez, we were some rowdy kids, but not that rowdy."
"Of course," Peggy mumbles, lost.
Angie beams at her; for all Peggy knows, the van's moving at a million miles an hour. Angie sure is. "Told you I was sneaky," she says, and the wattage of her smile could light the whole of Broadway.
"Jeez, Carter," Sousa calls from the front. "Sounds like if you're not careful, she's gonna put you out of your job."
"I think," Peggy says, jumping in before Angie can have a chance to agree, "that one mission is more than enough for Agent Martinelli."
Peggy hadn't thought it was possible, but Angie's smile only gets brighter.