"Angie, you look like you're simply bursting to ask me a question. Might I suggest pouring the coffee first? It's just when you get excited it sometimes goes everywhere but my cup."
"Good tip," Angie replies with a grin, filling Peggy's cup almost to the brim; she knows by now that Peggy doesn't care much for cream or sugar anyway. "I always meant to ask why you don't order some fancy tea. I thought your mob were crazy for it."
"Ah." Peggy takes a deliberate sip and considers just for once giving a smidge of herself away. Wouldn't it be such a relief for once to talk of boarding school, or the early years spent here in the States? Before the war even, getting used to the caffeinated swill the Americans call a beverage? "The thing about loving a good cup of tea is that it has to be good. Since such a thing has yet to be discovered on these shores, I've always found it safer to stick with coffee. You get used to it."
"Makes sense." Angie accepts the response at face value, as she so frequently does. It makes her a very easy person to be friends with. "That wasn't my big ask though. You sure you don't want pie? It's blueberry."
Peggy makes a face. She'll never understand the obsession with those tart little things. "That can't be the pressing question, either."
"So I got this audition..." Angie trails off, leaving the appropriate space for a response. Peggy obliges with a heartfelt squeal of delight.
"That's marvelous! When?"
"Next week. Monday, unless they find someone else before. I got talking to the director in here, can you believe that? He waited for me to get my resume in back, total gentleman the whole time."
"And...?" Peggy enjoys Angie's vibrant, tangential way of telling a tale, but sometimes she needs as much verbal prodding as a Leviathan spy to get to the relevant parts.
“It’s a brand new play. My character is the daughter of this uptight fella, never forgave the kid for the fact her mom died in childbirth. Well, that’s ten of the girls on my block growing up, right there. Sure, this gal’s a bit more Henry James than Henry Street, but I swear to God I can do it.”
“I have no doubt.”
“Anyway, I fall for this charmer, you know the kind. All good intent and romance, pretending he can’t see the balance in her bank book when daddy shuffles off. I got this feeling like she knows he’s a con man but she wants him anyway. It’s only money to someone like her, and what does that matter if she gets the guy?”
“Sounds great, Angie. You must be thrilled.” Peggy drinks from her coffee again, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“It’s just, who am I gonna find to run those scenes with me? Anyone at the Griffith can play the aunt or the other empty heads, but ask them to play your beau and the giggles don’t quit. I tried asking Cesar in the kitchen, but he almost deep-fried my script on the first go-round.”
“You’re asking me to run lines with you?”
“Only if you can do it without cracking up. You free tonight? I get off here at 6 for once, and I intend on actually leaving on time.” Angie watches the door as two new customers arrive. She’ll be flitting off to serve them any moment. Peggy is delighted to be able to help for once, since there’s nothing in her diary but blank space right now.
“Come knock on my door after dinner,” Peggy tells her. “I’m happy to help.”
Trouble is, Peggy isn’t just walking out of the phone company at five like Angie thinks. Instead she’s dragged into a last-minute drop on some Leviathan hideout that looks like a bust until three chuckleheads attack her and Sousa in the alleyway.
Yet another perfectly serviceable pair of heels is the only casualty on their side. Well, apart from a moment of bruised pride for Sousa when she’d knocked all three out by herself and left him standing there, braced for blows that never landed. This time she is absolutely submitting an expense report for the shoes, because her wardrobe cannot withstand this level of abuse.
That makes it somewhere after ten when she limps up to Angie’s door. Her knock is greeted with a muffled ‘go away’, and Peggy considers for a long moment before doing exactly that. Tomorrow. She’ll make it up to Angie tomorrow.
Only Howard shows up, before breakfast and no doubt via at least one other girl’s room that he absolutely shouldn’t have been in. Peggy would sock him right in the jaw again, but frankly she needs the energy for other things.
It means she won’t have a chance to apologize to Angie until Saturday, but then she can really make an effort to help her rehearse.
“Angie,” Peggy greets her over undercooked egg and half-cremated bacon in the Griffith dining room on Saturday morning. “I’m so very sorry, let me explain.”
“Angela,” Angie corrects her. “See, only my friends call me Angie. And a friend wouldn’t disappear two nights running without so much as sticking a note under my door. You have a nice day, now.”
“Wait!” Peggy calls out after her, drawing the attention of half the room but not Angie herself, who dumps her breakfast plate and strolls right out through the foyer.
Saturday is lost to introspection and inspection alike, as Jarvis manages to get her access to a records office that’s otherwise closed for the weekend. It’s their newest lead on embedded Leviathan spies, and somewhere there has to be a pattern of arrivals that Peggy can trace back.
As she flips through manila folders containing minimal information about thousands of arriving immigrants, Peggy finds her thoughts drawn to Angie at the flimsiest excuse. An Italian surname? Angie. A Brooklyn address? Angie again. It’s not remotely professional, and Peggy hasn’t had this much of a time trying to concentrate on paperwork since … well, since Steve.
Which is not the same thing at all and frankly… oh. Except for that twinge a certain somewhere below the waist. Heavens, hadn’t she gotten that out of her system at boarding school?
When it comes to Angie Martinelli, her kind smile and her volcanic little temper, Peggy’s traitorous mind and body have decided that the answer is distinctly no. After all, how many times has Peggy ignored a fleeting thought about wiping flour from Angie’s cheek with her thumb? Or licking just the faintest trace of sugar where it’s caught on her wrist from clearing tables? It was purely a practical assessment of Angie’s waitress uniform that caused Peggy to dwell on the height of the hem and exactly how many inches of perfect, slender legs were exposed to prying eyes. Of course it was.
If Jarvis has any inkling of her inner monologue, he makes no indication. It’s one of those times she’s grateful to work with him. His gentlemanly reserve is an oasis after the minefield of fielding off boorish inquiries into her every sashay through the SSR office.
Returning to the Griffith when everyone is spilling out in twos and threes for double dates and evenings of dancing, Peggy isn’t entirely surprised to see that she’s missed Angie once more. She almost considers breaking into her room to be absolutely sure this isn’t just the New York equivalent of being sent to Coventry, but the prospect of tea, a good book and an early night is far too seductive when the rare opportunity has presented itself.
Tomorrow, though? Peggy has the beginnings of a plan formulating, as sure as the Lady Grey brewing in her pot. She’ll win Angie’s friendship back, and perhaps push that teasing little line a tad further, and find out if those lingering looks Angie gives her are intentional or simply careless.
The life of a spy is in the details. Peggy’s been told that countless times, not least because every Tom, Dick and Irving thinks he’s the first kindly fellow to explain it to the little lady. They usually assume she’s wandered in from the typing pool, at least until she slams them face-first into a piece of furniture.
Details creep in almost without her noticing. Angie sleeps in every Sunday, rising only to catch the girls returning from the nearest Catholic service to get a précis of the sermon. It means when her mother calls at exactly midday, she can’t catch Angie out when she lies and says she attended like a good, devout girl.
The window between that 12 o’clock call in the downstairs telephone room and whatever plans Angie might have for lunch is all the time Peggy has to pounce. The finishing touches on her plan came to her around midnight as she drifted back into a dreamless sleep. She reaches for her red lipstick - not the sleep-inducing variety - but decides against it at the last moment.
She’s supposed to be in character, after all.
At a quarter after 12 there’s a familiar footfall in the hallway, and Peggy jerks open her door before she can reconsider it.
“Why Miss,” she says, affecting her deepest Midwestern drawl. “Aren’t you Angela Martinelli, the actress?”
“What’s it to ya?” Angie’s eyes narrow in suspicion, but she stops to take in the hopefully-not-too-ludicrous sight of Peggy before her.
“I’m sorry I’m so late,” Peggy continues, leaning against the door jamb with feigned nonchalance. “The uh, the producer, -” She winces at the oooh sound she has to make in that word. “Sent me over. Said you needed a guy to rehearse with.”
“That was the other day,” Angie folds her arms in polite defiance. “Maybe I’m all ready to go for tomorrow.”
“I understand.” Peggy straightens up as best she can, her uniform jacket as crisp as the day it was issued. She’s proud of that, and perhaps she should be. She’s had to remove her treasured SSR pins, but stopped short of replacing them with any of Steve’s medals, the only ones she’s been given despite her service. Ridiculous, for a woman who effectively held the rank of Lieutenant, and in wartime no less. There are moments, fleeting moments, when these hundreds of little slights make her weary. “I mean, if you’re sure you don’t need no more practice.”
“Oh, come in!” Angie throws her hands up in the air, before retrieving her key from her pocket. “You sound like a reject from a Jimmy Cagney movie with that voice, English.”
“I can do others!” Peggy replies. “Perhaps an English officer is more what the part requires, what?”
“Get in here,” Angie drags her by the arm. “You’ll have old Miriam up here to evict you for being a fella if you don’t.”
It works, then.
Peggy preens a little in her heavy pants, the color not quite a match to her jacket but damned near close enough. The boots have been thoroughly cleaned and polished since their last outing, in the sewer system no less. The cap is part of her disguise stash, easy to hide her curls under. There’s a false mustache or two in there somewhere as well, but that felt a little like overkill.
“I’m here to audition for the role of your suitor,” Peggy tells her. “I know it’s a few days late Angie, but please forgive. Sometimes work is just a nightmare for getting away on time, and I have this dear friend, I mean cousin who causes me no end of trouble. I really do want to help you get this part.”
“He’s not a soldier,” Angie points out, lifting a well-worn set of script pages.
“It was the best option I had to go masculine,” Peggy retorts. “I thought it would convey my seriousness. About wanting you to forgive me.”
“You’re forgiven, you loon,” Angie sighs, slumping into her armchair with a dramatic sigh. “Not that it matters when there’s no way I’m ever getting this part. I mean, do you really see me as some society heiress?”
“Depends on the society.” Peggy hedges her bets as politely as she knows how. “Do you want me to read with you, or…?”
“The words don’t even make sense to me anymore. I read them so much my eyes are crossing,” Angie complains. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to actually move, or act, or anything!”
Ah. Just as well Peggy did get her act together. She’s seen this hopelessness in 20 assets at least. The drama before the actual storm, as it were. Always the day before they’re required to really get something done, too.
“What will help?” Peggy asks, reverting to her own voice again for a moment. “I can read the script with you, or maybe you can try that improv thing you were talking about. You took that class last month, didn’t you?”
“More like three months ago,” Angie snorts, but she looks back at Peggy really quickly, almost like she’s impressed. “Who knows if that even works, right?”
“You said you’re playing an heiress, correct?”
“And I’m the ne’erdowell after your sizable fortune?”
“And my body. I mean, she’s not some glam movie star this girl, but she’s young and I like to think there’s something desirable about her. No guy can fake it that convincingly, can he? There has to be something.”
Peggy bites her tongue on the many and varied ways two people can lie to each other, and smiles in agreement instead. This is her one chance to be a little bit closer to Angie, without follow-through or consequences, and she’s not going to blow that in a hurry.
“So here I am, lusting after your body,” Peggy advances on Angie, her voice deep and American again, as measured as her steps. “Don’t let’s talk about all the money your daddy’s gonna leave you, Miss …?”
“Catherine,” Angie squeaks, mesmerized as she leans all the way back in her chair. “My name is Catherine.”
“What a beautiful name,” Peggy murmurs, placing her hands on the arms of the chair and looming over Angie a little. “Catherine sounds like the kind of girl I’d like to make an honest woman of.”
“But my father!” Angie protests, eyes sparkling as she leans towards Peggy, buying into the little skit wholeheartedly. “He wouldn’t approve of you making these … these overtures before we’re even engaged.”
“That’s the beauty of it,” Peggy tells her, enjoying the scent of Angie’s shampoo and floral perfume. They’re both terribly sophisticated for someone as young and idealistic as Angie, but Peggy remembers one of their first chats, where Angie had reliably informed her that you had to dress for the life you wanted, not the one you had. Right down to the costume jewelry that imitates the real thing, and perfume that blows out half of your meager savings in one bottle. “Why, if we’re already together he’ll just have to let us get married. What we might call a fait accompli.”
The French, as Peggy hoped, makes Angie shiver in delight. Her eyelids actually flutter for a moment in sheer, unguarded reaction. Perhaps she’s as great an actress as she hopes to be, because Angie certainly looks like someone giving in to a seduction.
“That does make sense.” Angie sits up straighter, bringing her face perilously close to Peggy’s own. “It just doesn’t seem like the behavior of a lady.”
“Being a lady,” Peggy murmurs, lost in the searching look Angie is subjecting her to. Character? Genuine curiosity? Or simply caught up in the moment. Peggy can’t recall the last time Angie stepped out with some guy on a Saturday night, come to think of it. “Is overrated.”
Angie agrees, apparently.
At least judging from the way she presses her mouth against Peggy’s and good lord it’s impossible to see it as innocent, not when Peggy responds with the same level of fervor, their lips moving as though directed by an invisible force. The illusion of stagecraft ends when Peggy parts her lips, ever so slightly, and Angie barely hesitates before teasing with her tongue in gentle, darting flicks.
“Damn, English,” Angie says when they part, before erupting in the most delightful snort of giggling. “You didn’t need a costume to plant one on me.”
“Nah. You didn’t notice I’m this gorgeous and don’t have a boyfriend? I know you spend your whole day listening to other people’s lives, but I didn’t think it would take you this long to work out mine.”
“So you weren’t mad at me for skipping Thursday?” Peggy asks, completely flustered in a way she never usually allows herself to be. Maybe it’s that Angie is still so close, or that she’s squeezing Peggy’s shoulders through the stiff wool of her regulation jacket.
“Oh, I was fit to be tied,” Angie replies, eyes hardening for just a moment. “But you think I’d be that way if any old friend couldn’t make it? So much for your fancy education, huh?”
“Listen, you’re not the first girl at the Griffith to get carried away with the no boys allowed policy. I understand if you really were just trying to rehearse with me. But girl, you kissed me back like you meant it.”
“I did,” Peggy admits, struggling to regain her composure. “If we’re going to do it again, though, might we shift positions a little? My back is killing me bent over like this.”
“Sure, you can move,” Angie decides, pressing down with the grip she already has. “On your knees, officer. Kiss me as good as you did just then and you might just get to peek beneath this skirt of mine.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Peggy responds, her excitement building rapidly. “Angie, if you’re not sure about-”
“You’re sweet, English. That damn chivalry of yours is gonna get you in trouble some day, though.” Angie has no idea. “So instead of talking your way out of something we both want, why don’t you get to making this the best kind of Sunday afternoon, hmm?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Peggy might be repeating herself, but it’s absolutely the best course of action.
She keeps her mouth busy, all the better not to say something foolish.
Angie certainly has no complaints about the treatment, particularly when enthusiasm trumps finesse at certain moments, letting Peggy give in to certain baser impulses. The trouble with hidden strength is how rarely she gets to display it, gets to impress with a flex of a discreet muscle. Perhaps she manhandles Angie just a little. Certainly in getting the bra that might well be soldered shut out of the way. Less so when it comes to her girdle a few minutes later, the suspender straps shorting Peggy’s brain quite spectacularly. If Howard could bottle that reaction, that power, they might be able to defuse every weapon in the world.
Really, that’s most of the luxury: being able to really look. No furtive glances here, now, between them. Gazes and even outright staring at some points, because how ever many dance classes Angie dragged herself to have been worth every dime and sore muscle.
With Angie practically stripped while still lounging on the chair, Peggy is meticulous and surprisingly patient in unbuttoning her jacket, and the starched khaki shirt beneath it. Angie takes that opportunity to bend forward, her kisses peppering Peggy’s neck and collarbone with a certain hunger that has Peggy in an even more heightened state of arousal.
“Say,” Angie drawls, her hand flat on Peggy’s stomach and traveling slowly south. “What are you packing, Lieutenant?”
Peggy doesn’t even mentally correct the “loo” to “lef”. When in Rome. Or when in Manhattan, with Angie, and at her mercy. The training for disguise is to be thorough, to make the deception more than one layer deep in case of further inspection. It’s why Peggy abandoned her own bras in favor of a chest-flattening bandage. As for the contents of her knickers, well, a second pair is bundled up to give her a bulge where she lacked it. Something Angie’s trailing hand is uncovering as she unbuttons Peggy’s military-issue trousers and retrieves the damp little bundle.
“I think I’ll keep these,” Angie decides, tossing them across the room to land in the center of her dresser. “You don’t seem the type to leave anything but memories, officer. And I’m not that kind of girl.”
Her hand returns a second later, deft fingers parting Peggy’s wet lips and pressing delicately in one spot and then another, bringing Peggy alive on a frequency she’s almost forgotten how to tune. She kisses Angie then, lunging a little and desperate. Embarrassed by showing such need for another person, Peggy retreats slightly as Angie’s fingers stroke with increasing strength, before the first one presses inside.
Peggy cries out, despite her best intentions. She attempts to muffle the sound against Angie’s breast, but to no avail. Her choked little sob at a second finger is audible despite how Peggy starts to suck on Angie’s hard pink nipple, alternating each suck with a trill of her tongue that draws curses under Angie’s breath.
With her hands free, Peggy is able to press them against Angie’s inner thighs. Running her fingers up with firm presses against sensitive skin, she reverses the move by dragging short nails, and Angie’s hiss of approval feels like a ticker tape parade.
“Can’t get enough of you like this, English,” Angie complains, and truthfully Peggy isn’t sure how to get at everything she wants to without giving up her own kneeling pleasure (or spraining Angie’s wrist). “There’s a damn fine bed right over there.”
“How did you get a queen when we’re all stuck in twins, anyway?” Peggy demands, mourning the loss of Angie’s touch as she gets up off her knees. Extending a hand to Angie, she’s grateful to have it taken so keenly. That those are the fingers still wet with Peggy’s own juices certainly doesn’t hurt. “Don’t tell me you’ve got Ms Fry at your beck and call, too?”
“It’s actually two twins pushed together,” Angie explains, as though it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “I put a brace on them to stop anyone falling through the middle, too. So you’re safe with me.”
Peggy smiles and hopes it isn’t too wistful. Safety is nothing more than an illusion these days, but she’ll be damned before she’ll drag Angie into a world of thinking that way. After Colleen, Peggy’s one duty is to protect Angie, and there’s no doubt in her mind what she’ll give to do exactly that.
“You’ve thought of everything,” Peggy agrees, shaking off the moment of gloom and kissing Angie with a whole new exuberance. “Next you’ll be telling me this room is soundproofed.”
“Not quite,” Angie answers with a grin. “Is that your way of saying you’re a screamer?”
“That’s for me to know, and you to find out,” Peggy tells her, dropping carelessly on top of the comforter and half-pulling Angie down with her. “I don’t think this is going to help with your play, though.”
“I’m an actress,” Angie reminds her. “I can make them believe anything tomorrow. This? Let’s call it stress release before the big day. It’s better than calling you Morris during, right?”
Peggy’s fingers dance over Angie’s hipbones as they lie facing each other. Angie in turn is already cupping Peggy’s breasts, bending her head to kiss each one in turn. It’s actually sort of reverent, and Peggy might giggle if it didn’t feel so nice. “Morris?” She squeaks as Angie’s teeth graze a nipple.
“That’s your character’s name. Well, you know what I mean. Do you really care right now?” Angie asks, nipping more forcefully with her teeth this time. Peggy moans and arches into the touch. One thing she’s never been able to confide about her double life is that the part no one expects her to be capable of - the violence and absorbing of pain in return - is actually something she can enjoy very much, given the right circumstances for. It’s why after so many fights she doesn’t crawl home to lick her wounds. She’d rather go another round and leave the licking to someone else entirely. The latter sentiment, at least, is one that Angie agrees with. She twists and teases with her tongue until Peggy is breathless with want, her breasts heavier and tight with wanting, and the rest of her body responding in sympathy.
They trade these kisses, these licks and bites and shifts in position for what might be five minutes and honestly, might even be five hours. All Peggy knows by the time she finally gets to delve between Angie’s thighs with her fingers, receiving the same treatment in return, is that they’re both soaked and quite dangerously tensed.
Maintaining eye contact is hard, since Peggy’s instinct is to blink slowly and focus on sensation alone, but Angie grips her chin and insists on it, between breathless kisses at least. For once, Peggy is the first to come, and the force of it stuns them both a little. Her whole body goes as taut as any hunting bow, before unleashing a climax that Angie does her best to silence with more open-mouthed kisses. Peggy can’t bring herself to care if the entire city block heard, and the moment she can think clearly again she resumes the motion of her own hand to give Angie her own little series of explosions that leave her sobbing and cursing against Peggy’s shoulder.
“Well,” Peggy announces, removing her fingers from Angie only when her hand starts to cramp. “I’m beginning to see the appeal of the theater, Ms Martinelli.”
“You’re an idiot,” Angie sighs, rolling away but reaching out to pull Peggy into big spoon duty. In that easy embrace they gather their thoughts and catch their breath. “Showing up out there dressed like that. You had to know on some level that I’d been looking at you. Hiding those curves from me left me like a kid on Christmas morning, English. How could I do anything but unwrap you, huh?”
“Good point, well argued,” Peggy grunts, feeling sleepy in the coziness of Angie’s downy bed covers and the warmth of the contact between them. “I should go back to my room at some point, I …”
“Ssh,” Angie tells her in no uncertain terms. “I get the feeling you’ll run out on me again. Maybe more than once. But not right now, okay? Let me have this, Peggy.”
“You must be serious to use my actual name,” Peggy snorts. “And that’s Officer Peggy to you, ma’am.”
“You make a lousy American,” Angie tells her, wriggling around to face Peggy, laying a tender hand on her cheek. “That’s okay, though. You don’t have to be anything other than what you are. You know that, don’t you?”
“Of course.” Peggy nods. That she stops the threatening tears at that simple declaration might well be the performance of her career, if not her entire life. What might it be like, she wonders, to really be just the things that Angie sees in her? To live this simpler life, well, with its own complications?
“Oh, you got your secrets, English. I’m not the dumb waitress you always take me for, but I know you’ll share it when you’re ready.”
Peggy swallows, hard. Telling means leaving, and right now that’s the last thing she ever wants to do.
“Thank you,” is all she says. She owes Angie the dignity of avoiding an outright lie in a moment like this.
“Sleep, if you want,” Angie says, pressing a kiss to Peggy’s forehead and the tip of her nose before capturing her lips for a moment. “I know the hours you keep. You should never say no to an extra few minutes of shuteye.”
“Will you stay?” Peggy asks, surprised at how rasping her voice is, suddenly.
“You know it,” Angie tells her, wriggling back around to be the little spoon once more. “Where else could I possibly want to be right now?”
Peggy smiles against her shoulder, and lets her eyes slip closed.