Thanks to Barbara K Emanuele, Shonell Thakker and Earl Strickler for their help as soundboards.
Lights, Camera, Action!
1947, Los Angeles
“Well now, what am I supposed to do with this?” Agent Peggy Carter flipped the key in her hand. The key, a secret Council key that had been in Vernon Masters’ possession, now was in hers, given to her by Chief Jack Thompson
Agent Carter sighed, “I never got a chance to ask him again” she referred to Thompson, who was brutally shot in his hotel room a scant few minutes before he was supposed to head to the airport and fly to New York. His prognosis was still unknown. As it were, his condition was a bit like Schrödinger's cat
“I know you want to find out who did this” Chief Daniel Sousa, “There are other agents who aren’t so close to this” Sousa was concerned for her. They were equals, allies, perhaps something else entirely, He deeply cared about her, and didn’t want her hurt.
“So close to this? What do you mean?” she frowned at him, “My feelings toward you nonetheless, it’s my job to find out what happened”
“I know it is” but I want you to look into this” Sousa handed her some paperwork in a folder. She opened it in front of him,
“A movie production? Come off it, Daniel”
“Stark is having legal trouble. Insurance problems. They’re doing some sort of documentary—no—historical fiction he called it—anyway, it’s a movie on FDR, and it’s being shot on Howard Stark’s studio lot. I think you might really want to take this on. He asked for you by name.”
“A paltry little assignment to make sure I don’t get hurt?” the corner of her mouth turned up ever so slightly
“I can’t stop you from doing what you do best” Sousa grinned, “but yeah, so I’m human, and I’d like it if we could make it through life a little more without the chance of one of us getting blown apart”
“I’m not the one who risked life and limb to stop a zero matter rift”
“You’re the one who was first in line to save me” he countered
“Yes, I suppose so” she smiled, “Well now; you might say that makes us even”
“I’ll give you something juicier as soon as I can” he reassured her
“An assignment, not one of those silly double entendres”
Sousa forced a smile. Humor was one of the ways he covered up some of his perceived inadequacies. He’d accepted his fate, his disability, and had moved ahead with life, and life was looking pretty good right about now. He held up his hands, well, his hand. His other hand firmly gripped the handlebar of his crutch. One hand up, like a personal stop sign, he sighed, “No, none of that now” he glanced back at his desk, “I’ve got some paperwork to finish off. I’ll—I guess I’ll see you tonight?”
“Tonight” she smiled, and left the office
At the asylum, Whitney Frost stared at the newspaper that lay in front of her, The Malibu Times. The newspaper had just started a year ago. Joseph Manfredi had had visited her that day, and had brought her a news paper, but nothing else.
“She’ll only try to rip her face off” the ward attendant had warned Manfredi.
Now, she stared at the newspaper. A small article talked about Stark Labs’ breakthroughs that were to help the world, among them was mention of a young scientist, Jason Wilkes.
“Welcome back” she smiled for the first time in months, though she didn’t refer to Wilkes with her comment, but rather to what she knew as Zero Matter
Frost turned to the door, finally looking forward to Manfredi’s next visit.
Meanwhile, at Stark Labs, Jason Wilkes poured away at the calculations for the substance known as Zero Matter. The original rift had pulled in vehicles, men and foliage, but left behind the substance, which had no place on the periodic table. After the later attempts to deal with the substance, Wilkes hoped that he had a better grasp on the material, but he was no closer to recreating it than he had been earlier. He was so intent on his calculations, that he never noticed the pair of eyes that came and went outside the closed laboratory door. Nor did he see the special “A” pin that the man wore on his lapel.
Stark’s studio lot, had been done up in full force. The bland backdrops had been replaced with realistic looking building facades, streets that appeared to continue on into a foreseeable horizon. Peggy grazed her fingertips along the building structures. What looked like brick and mortar was only balsa wood and paint. Streets that looked like they’d go for miles only went a few feet and stopped at a realistically painted backdrop.
“Howard” she found her friend going through auditions with potential actresses for what looked like the part of Eleanor Roosevelt.
“No, no, no” Stark massaged his eyebrows, or rather his sinuses, “She can’t have a lisp. She just can’t”
Edwin Jarvis stood behind Stark, visibly stifling his laughter
"This cannot be how you're spending your days" Peggy looked at him incredulously
"Hardly" Stark grinned, "Wilkes and I are working to recreate Zero Matter"
"Are you mad? After all that Frost did with it, after everything, why would you want to make it again?"
"Money, Peg" pat came the reply, “With this whole insurance problem,” he winked, “I have to have something to keep me busy”
“And filming movies wasn’t enough?”
“Jarvis” she turned to the butler, “How are you? And how is Ana?”
“I’m quite well, Ms. Carter, thank you” he seemed pleased, “Ana is--” he paused momentarily, perhaps in thought, “she’s well” he was his regular self. Peggy couldn’t see how Ana could be well after everything that had happened, but she didn’t press the issue.
“This one is worse” Howard groaned, “The one time I don’t want her to look like a starlet.”
One of the assistants mumbled something, and Stark looked animated, “No no, don’t send her away. I’d like to – give her another chance, privately, once we’re done with this round of auditions”
“Mr. Stark” a second assistant arrived at the scene, “You’re needed at the Oval Office set”
“I’m in the middle of something” he looked visibly annoyed
“It’s quite important, sir” he replied, and then whispered something
“Right away” Howard nodded, dismissed the other actresses, and stood. He turned to Carter, “Peg, you’ll want to see this. Jarvis, you, too”.
The group hurried across the lot, appearing to rush past Western saloons, space age vistas decked in purple and magenta hues, and through the President’s Oval Office
“Stop, hold everything!” an officer pushed the group back. Already, a small throng of onlookers had gathered
“This is my studio” he panted upon reaching the commotion, “I’ll be privy to whatever is going on here”
“Mr. Stark” the first officer turned to him, “A man was shot to death, and we were merely keeping the public out of the way”
“I see” Stark wheezed, catching his breath. He straightened up, “Still, there’s no reason to push aside a lady” he motioned toward Peggy
Howard shoved past the group, and Peggy followed him. Jarvis held back. He didn’t seem too keen to jump headlong into danger today
She looked down, and came face to ashen face with apparently Kent Gabel, one of the top grossing actors of the time, and unfortunately for Howard, the principal actor of the film. Gabel lay flat on his back, unresponsive, as would be expected, with a bullet hole in his forehead. Instant death.
Behind her, the local studio police had begun cordoning off the area
“Step back, people” an officer shouted at onlookers. Another officer pushed Peggy back, away from the body, “Easy now, darlin’”
Peggy was just about to ease back and punch out the officer when she heard Howard’s voice
“I wouldn’t do that” he gave Peggy a knowing look. The warning was for the officer, not Peggy.
“Sorry, sir” the officer pursed his lips and moved on
“Peg” Howard forced a smile, especially with the circumstances, “Can you help me out here. Death is bad for the morale”
“Howard” she sighed, “Excitement seems to follow me” she looked around, still trying to find the shooter, but the set’s dressings looked empty. There was no one seen from behind the Oval Office facade that stood on the artificial street set. Suddenly, Jarvis’ words from the desert came back to haunt her, “And yet everyone around you dies”. She stopped a moment and only came back to reality when she felt Howard’s arm around her shoulders.
“That’s what makes you the best girl around” Howard grinned friendlily at her
Peggy shrugged his arm away, “I know” she forced a smile, “How can I get any investigating done when the police are doing everything they can to sweep this away”
“You got me there” he shrugged, “All I can do is worry about how much this is costing me, not to mention losing one of our best stunt men” he sighed
“I thought this was your leading man”
“This is—was Pollock Stone, one of our seconds, who would have handled times where FDR has action scenes”
“Action scenes, really?”
“It sells” he was business again, “Nobody wants to see a movie where it’s all talk and there’s no fighting”
“Fighting is sometimes a necessity” she explained, “not part of an adventure” her words to Jarvis in the desert came back to her
As if on cue, Jarvis was next to her, “I do believe that Ms. Carter is correct. It’s something that I’ve had to come to terms with”
She turned to Jarvis, “I’d appreciate your assistance in this impromptu mission” she looked at the butler
“With all due respect, Ms. Carter, I may find it easier to stay as an aid to Mr. Stark, if I may” he was thinking back to the result of his earlier “adventures” that had cost his wife the ability to bear children.
“Of course, Mr. Jarvis” she understood perfectly, “though, if I may” she reciprocated his politeness, “the offer is still open, and I’ve learned that as the adage goes, no one is an island”
“Quite true” Jarvis agreed. He hesitated with his next words.
“Well” Peggy went on, leaving Jarvis with his thoughts, “upon first appearance, I can’t see where someone could have shot him, but this set does have plenty of places to hide”
Howard Stark began walking back to where the auditions had been taking place, but Peggy grabbed his arm, “Howard, I need to know more about this idea you had to recreate the Zero Matter”
“Well, it’s quite simple, actually” he talked animatedly, “Just because Whitney Frost had decided to use it for something horrible, doesn’t mean that the rift that was created couldn’t be used for something far, far greater”
“Do you realize what you’re talking about?”
“Wilkes and I are working on the ramifications, well he is” Stark seemed nonchalant about the potentially life altering decisions he was making
“Suppose someone else finds out about it?” Carter surmised
“Please, nobody’s concerned about that”
“Ms. Carter, do you think that either Joseph Manfredi or Whitney Frost might make an attempt for this recreated Zero Matter?” Jarvis pondered aloud
She started at him as though he’d grown a third eye, “You have just told one of my greatest nightmares” she looked visibly concerned
“How would Frost even know, now that she lacks the Zero Matter and has no perception regarding anything about it” Howard looked quizzically at Carter and Jarvis
Whitney Frost stared at the copy of the Malibu Times that lay in front of her. Joseph Manfredi had brought it for her the last time he had shown up for a visit. The article that caught Frost’s eye alerted the public to a murder that had taken place on the Howard Stark movie lot in Hollywood. A stunt man had been shot dead. Local police were baffled.
Frost smiled. The optimal time was nearly here.
Back at SSR, Peggy walked into Daniel Sousa’s office
“Tonight came a lot sooner than I’d expected” he smiled
She reciprocated his smile, but got straight to work, “Daniel, there was a shooting at the studio”
“Are you alright?” he was visibly concerned
“I’m fine” she barreled on, “I was discussing things with Howard, and” she paused
She inhaled to calm herself down, “This wasn’t some a random shot”
“I know” he was quiet
“We wanted to keep an eye on Stark, just to be safe, but this might be a warning. If there’s a next time, they might succeed in shooting someone closer”
“Like me?” her mouth twisted into a wry smile
“I –“ he started
“Daniel, you’ve got to be objective. I’m more than capable of taking care of myself”
“I know you are” he smiled, knowing exactly what she meant, “You can’t fault me for being concerned” he sat down and she took the chair in front of his desk. “Let’s look at the facts before we jump to conclusions”
“Fine” she was professional, “A stunt man was shot today, the day I was sent to check on the set”
Daniel opened his mouth, but Peggy held up her hand to stop him,
“Daniel, if you are even thinking about pulling me off this case, do put that thought out of your mind”
“You’re just concerned, worried that I’ll be hurt. You know what it’s like to spend your days taking lunch and dinner orders, shuffling paperwork around when you know that you’re made for so much more”
“Sure” he felt self conscious
“If you pull me from the case, and have me doing something safe, like paper filing, or sandwich orders, how is that any better than what I was doing earlier?” she didn’t have to explain herself. Sousa knew exactly that she referred to her work at the New York SSR office.
“You’re right” he smiled, knowing her strengths
He reached out his hand across the desk and took hers in it, “Take care of your-” he began
She squeezed his hand and stood up, letting it remain on the desk, “I always do” she smiled, “I’ll come back” she knew what one of his fears was
At Howard’s pool cabana, Peggy sat across from Jarvis, and Howard as they put their heads together to understand more of the threat at hand
Peggy started the discussion, “What do you mean an article was published in a newspaper?” she flapped the copy of The Malibu Times in her hand
“Hey, publicity is good, right?” Howard put his hands up in a gesture mean to imply “what can I do?”
“Not like this” she scowled at him
“Perhaps Ms. Frost or Mr. Manfredi haven’t read of it yet” Jarvis suggested
“As wonderful as that would be, it’s not something we can really bank upon” Carter replied, “We may have to give a preemptive attack. If there’s a chance that it is one of them, we have to make sure they don’t try to take control of the Zero Matter again”
“Well” Howard put in, “what if it’s something else, entirely?”
“Another power trying to get the Zero Matter?” Peggy shuddered at the ramifications, “Do you realize what that could mean?”
The men looked at her blankly
“The Council of Nine, gentlemen” she frowned, “They may be after the Zero Matter”
“Perhaps we should go to the proper authorities” Jarvis suggested
“We are the authorities” Carter was firm
“Maybe we should call that boyfriend of yours” Howard referred to Daniel Sousa
“You mean the Chief of the SSR” she corrected him. The good thing about the move to Los Angeles was that she wasn’t simply or only known as Steve Rogers’ girlfriend here, and she didn’t want the sole title to come back with a vengeance, regarding Daniel, either.
“Fine” Howard corrected himself, “contact the Chief”
“Because I’m a woman and can’t handle this myself?” she fumed at her friend
“No” Howard swallowed, “because this could be more than any of us could solve, even you, Peg”
“I have to confer” Jarvis agreed, “It might be most imperative to bring in more assistance. You know, power in numbers, and all that” he turned to Carter, “you have said yourself, this isn’t a game or an adventure. It’s quite literally a matter of life or death”
“You know, if your boyfr—if the Chief can’t fix this, there is something I wanted to talk with you about, maybe having something bigger than the SSR, and I was hoping you’d help me be in charge there” Howard suggested
“If we can keep from destroying the world, I’ll gladly look into your offer”
The threat of the Zero Matter going into the wrong hands, coupled with the death of someone at the studio seemed to be at cross purposes, but Peggy wasn’t about to let this threat go unchecked. She could handle things just fine, without any man helping her. She was sure of that.
At the asylum, Manfredi made his weekly visit
A newspaper lay open on the bed, open to an article about a murder at Stark Labs. A scientist had been found stuffed in a maintenance closet, stripped of his lab coat and paperwork.
“I don’t know if I could bring you this” he clutched a small box of chocolates in his hand. They had been hidden in his coat pocket
Whitney stared at the box, or rather, at the foil that covered it. She may be captive in the asylum, but her mind, though ravaged by the effects of the Zero Matter, was still as doggedly focused on acquiring more of the substance.
“Thank you” she smiled, not at him, but at the foil covered box
At SSR, Peggy tried to convince Daniel to further investigate the threat of The Council coming after the Zero Matter
“Look at the facts,” she drew a map of events, “How many people knew that I was looking at the studio, and now, with the newspaper article circulating, and the death of the stuntman at the studio”
“I know, but a threat by The Council?” he sounded as though he didn’t believe her
“Trust me on this” she searched his eyes for some hope
“I do” he looked up at her, “but we haven’t even finished investigating them”
“But—“ Peggy began to refute
“Which is why” Daniel continued, “I want you to look into them first, before we go in all half cocked”
Peggy smiled. Daniel believed in her, as he always had.
“Was there any word on Thompson?” she was genuinely concerned
“He’s still unresponsive” Sousa was grim, “but we’re hoping for the best”
“If only he could tell us who had shot him, we’d be that much closer”
“Nothing seemed to be missing from his hotel room” Daniel looked over some notes
“Hold on” Peggy glanced at a photograph of the bed, “Let me see that a moment”
She looked at the photograph. It showed the bed, made, with an opened suitcase with some clothes, and other toiletries packed. What she noticed wasn’t what was there, but what wasn’t there. The largely redacted files that Thompson had alluded to were missing. The shooter had taken them; there was no other way to go about it.
"The Arena Club knows what is happening because they're making it happen."
“You can tell that from a photograph?”
“Consider it an educated guess” she placed the photo back down on his desk
“They’ve seen you there, twice, and they’ve seen your friend, Jarvis”
“They haven’t seen you” she smiled
“I—uh—come on, Peggy”
“You can see if that key works somewhere. There has to be a reason that Jones kept it on his person” she referred to Hugh Jones
At the asylum, Whitney reached up to touch Joseph’s face. Manfredi smiled. For the first time, she was acting like how she used to, the girl he fell for. She smiled back at him. The chocolates had been opened and the foil box lay in shambles, pieces torn away.
Manfredi’s jacket lay on the bed.
“You are kind” she cooed, looking up into his face
Joseph couldn’t believe his good luck. He was busy looking into his beloved’s eyes, and never felt the cut of the sharp foil cut against his neck, behind his ear
“Minor arteries are so lovely” she cooed, when Manfredi lay on the floor, blood collecting around his head
She slipped on his jacket, knowing full well that it wouldn’t hide her properly, but would be enough for her to ease away from the room, until she could find a better way to leave.
Whitney opened the door, and was out of the room.
At the Arena Club, Daniel Sousa, armed with false papers and the Arena Club Pin on his lapel, walked through the carpeted halls. He wore thick eyeglasses, and an expensive suit, courtesy of SSR’s budget.
“Daniel, can you hear me?” Peggy Carter sat in a dark van parked a street away from the Arena Club.
“Yes” he cocked his head slightly so the ear bud wouldn’t fall out of its resting place in his ear canal.
“You wanted to be in the thick of a mission; well, you’re getting your chance”
“There’s a million corridors to this place; how am I supposed to figure out which one it is?”
“You’ll want to go down the hall to the farthest right” she instructed him, “There was a passage behind a bookshelf, and—“
Her voice fizzled into static for a moment
“—next to that is the ---“
“—and then you should be at the meeting room. Did you get all that?”
“Most of it” he bluffed
He turned a corner, and made his way down the hall. Another club member bumped into him, his mind engrossed on the newspaper he was reading. Sousa’s disguise eyeglasses fell off
“Sorry” the man mumbled, bent down and handed Sousa his glasses back, “The war?” he glanced at the crutch
“Quite so” Sousa put on an accent.
Satisfied, the man continued up the hallway, away from Daniel.
Sousa hobbled down the hallway until he reached the library. He slipped in, but before he could get to any secret passage, he heard two men discussing information ahead of him,
“Those G-Men were getting into our business”
“You should’ve taken them out when you had the chance”
“It was just one, and besides, that stuntman owed me, owed us”
“Let’s hope we can kill two birds and scare them away”
“Ha, from what I hear, that broad isn’t scared of nothing”
“She won’t be, the way you’re shooting”
“Eh. Next time, I’ll give it to her, good”
“Yeah, and why don’t you shoot her, too?” he laughed and his colleague chimed in
Sousa peered from behind a bookshelf. The men pulled wore pins, like the one on his lapel, and in moments, they held keys, but to what was still anybody’s guess.
“Since Captain America’s been out of the picture, it’s been smooth sailing”
“Yeah, now we only have to take care of his girlfriend” he laughed
Sousa backed away, out of the library, and took cover behind a doorway
“What did she see in that nothing anyway?” the men clipped their pins to their lapels and walked back toward the entrance
“No, that crippled G-man she’s with”
“She must really pity him—hey, that’s him over there!” he noticed Sousa’s crutch
Sousa pulled back behind the wall, and waited. The men rushed out of the room and into the hallway. It was that moment of potential surprise that Sousa needed. He leaned against the wall and used his crutch as a baton. One smash to the face took a club member by surprise. The second saw what was coming, but Sousa leaned on his crutch, and shoved the other member with his right hand. The member’s gun discharged but was a mile off, figuratively. The two members were getting up when Sousa whacked them both with his crutch again, taking a moment to stomp them both with his good foot. Before other members arrived, he ducked into one of the rooms along the hallway and leapt out a window, closing it behind him.
Sousa hobbled away, while more club members came to the aid of their fallen brothers.
On the way back to the van, Sousa played back the members’ words in his mind, “the crippled agent”, “pity” were words that came up again and again.
Could it be true, could all she feel for him was pity? But that kiss they shared, and everything that had transpired between then and now.
Still, she’d been with Captain America. That fact alone threw Sousa into confusion.
“After everything he did for me, I couldn’t—it wouldn’t--” his thoughts churned together as he headed for the van.
At the asylum, Whitney Frost killed a nurse with the tools she, the nurse, was transporting for a doctor, dragged the body into a coat closet, and wore her uniform. She deftly made her way out of the asylum, since nobody noticed a pretty, blonde nurse who walked out of the building, her shift apparently over.
Frost hailed a cab and made her way directly to her destination,
“Where to, cutie?” the driver asked
Back at SSR, Daniel and Peggy were deep into an argument, which reached a climax once they were inside Sousa’s office
Daniel slammed the door closed behind them.
“Come on, Peggy” Sousa spat the words at her, “Once you’ve been with Captain America, why would you waste your time with me?”
Carter was livid, “Waste my time? Honestly, Daniel, quit being such a git” she fumed, “You’ve got more in common with Steve than you realize”
“Sure” he gave a curt bark, “I’m just like Steve Rogers” he was sarcastic, “That’s a lark” he laughed derisively
Peggy turned and aimed herself at the door. She thought about storming out. It would feel good. There was no reason to bother staying here and putting up with Daniel’s childish behavior. She deftly marched across the room.
Her hand was on the doorknob
“Leaving won’t bring him back from the dead” Sousa called out
Her mind flashed back to the first time that Daniel had stood up for her, in New York, and how she’d lashed back, citing her autonomy and capability. How different he was being today.
Daniel was being unreasonable, but there was a reason for that, small as it was. Daniel didn’t deserve to be walked out upon. He deserved to know the truth, the truth about him, and the truth about Steve
“What, no witty comment?” he quipped
“As a matter of fact, there is” she turned and faced him, “What do you know, really know about Steve’s strengths? I know you think that he’s just Captain America, that whatever he and I had was because he was --- whatever you think he was” her words tumbled out, “I loved him – but loved him for the man he was before he took the serum. I didn’t love him because he was some super solider. I loved him because he was brave, courageous and selfless long before he became Captain America.”
Daniel leaned on his crutch and stared - stared her down,
“It’s easy to love him. You barely had a dance together and then he was gone. He’s just—just a fantasy for you. It’s a lot easier to love a super human dream than to live with reality”
“A fantasy? Steve Rogers was a one hundred, ten pound man whose full height was five foot, seven. Does that sound like a super human to you?”
Sousa eyed her from across the room. One arm was folded across his chest, his other arm was plugged into his crutch for support.
“And after his --- what did they call it- his transformation?”
“I fell in love with Steve, maybe not exactly the way the world wants to remember it, but I know that what we shared more during that car ride to his treatment, was more than the world cared to focus on his physique after that treatment”
Daniel gripped the handle of his crutch. He looked up at her. He was livid, so angry he could barely speak.
Peggy had no problems speaking, “You want to think that you’ve got to be some sort of super man to win me like a prize? Is that it? Then, you’re no better than Thompson,” she scowled
Sousa opened his mouth, “I’m no better than Thompson? The man was derisive to you at every turn, barely trusting you any farther than he could throw you”
Peggy sighed. She hadn’t meant to sound so rude, so hurtful, but she wouldn’t stand for anyone acting as if all she saw in Steve Rogers was a chiseled physique and dashing good looks, nor could she honestly say that Sousa had been anything like the chauvinistic Thompson.
“Steve respected me, as someone who could do anything. That’s what drew me to him” she paused, “That’s what drew me to you. You’ve respected me, supported me, and didn’t feel threatened that I can beat the tar out of anyone better than any man”
Sousa cracked a smile
“Do you honestly think that I want you to be more like Steve? Can’t you see how strong you already are, Daniel? That’s why I love you. That determination, that inner strength, even with something every day, like your -- injury” she sighed. And the changes in how society treated you, she thought, “You’ve accepted that things have changed. I’m not like that. I can’t just sit there and accept how people behave around me, especially if they act like I’m there to be their secretary or waitress”
Daniel sighed. He wasn’t feeling ashamed, or embarrassed, he just wasn’t sure how to respond. Everything she was saying was true. Their assignments, or lack thereof, had drawn them together, well; it certainly drew him to her. More than anything, he suddenly felt self conscious.
“I think that’s what different about the two of us” she concluded, “You accept things in life, and I can’t. Maybe we’re just too different” her hand was back on the doorknob
“I can’t stop you from leaving” he opened his mouth when the door was half ajar. She froze in her tracks. “But we still have a chance to be – to be good together. Don’t throw it away on a dream, on something that could never be” he referred to Steve Rogers’ death.
Peggy turned around.
She’d never done this. She’d never had a job, and had a relationship, at the same time, and certainly not when both were so intimately intertwined. How do people work in dangerous situations with somebody that you care about?
She looked at him. Here was a man who had stood by her when nobody else at SSR would have. It had taken the rankest accusations of treason for him to even begin to look at her with something remotely akin to hatred, and once the perceived duplicity had been allayed, he’d been right up again, with what his colleagues had said was his “carrying a torch for Peggy”
“I know we do” she looked right at him. They did. He respected her and admired her, and supported how brilliant she was and how good she was at her job, and wasn’t threatened by that. His words cut her down, but she had to admit that they were true. Was she really giving up a chance to have something again, just because she couldn’t let go of Steve? She closed the door and walked toward him.
Daniel smiled and walked toward her.
The phone rang, and cut into their moment. Sousa dragged himself back to his desk and picked up the receiver; he forced out a greeting. He listened for a few moments, nodded and replied, “We’re on our way”
He looked at her, “I wouldn’t want anyone else on my side, or by my side” he smiled at her, “so, let’s go”
“Where, exactly?” she opened the door once again, this time so they could leave the office together.
“Frost escaped the asylum” he looked grim.
She gave him a look of horror at the realization of what that meant. No words were needed
She knew where Whitney was headed. There could only be one destination.
Peggy and Sousa arrived at Stark Labs, only to find Jason Wilkes waiting for them. Unfortunately, he wasn’t alone
“Don’t even think of trying anything” Whitney pressed her pistol into Wilkes’ neck
“Killing him won’t solve anything” Carter shouted from where she stood behind the open car door
“Will it? I saw how he looked at you. Maybe you’ll know how it is to have someone ripped from you, Agent Carter”
“Stay here” Carter instructed Sousa. She walked to the front of the car.
“You’re right” she told Frost, “Jason and I were close”
Sousa winced, in spite of what he thought that he knew
“But I didn’t love him the way that Manfredi loved you”
“He’ll live” apparently Joseph Manfredi’s wounds weren’t lethal
“You don’t need Wilkes” Carter told Frost, “Let him go. He doesn’t have the Zero Matter anymore”
“Ah, but Wilkes can always recreate it” she grinned, “I might not be able to make a rift, or create more Zero Matter, but I can always find someone else who can for me”
“It’s too late for that” Peggy withdrew her pistol from her purse, “You’re too smart to waste anyone’s life like this”
“I am smart” Frost’s eyes widened, “Brilliant in fact. Remind you of anyone?” she brandished the weapon at Wilkes, but speaking about Carter, “You and I”
“We are the same, Agent Carter” Whitney shouted, keeping her pistol drawn on Jason Wilkes
“You don’t need a hostage, I’m right here” Peggy shouted back, her gun trained on Frost
“You’re skirting around the question” Frost shook her head, “Two brilliant, strong women, kept down from their destinies by weak, single minded men, isn’t that how you see your colleagues at the SSR?”
Peggy stared down Whitney, but inside, the thought bore hold. She’d spent her life being easily as capable, often more, than the men she worked with.
“You got Manfredi to shoot that innocent stuntman?” Carter wanted to keep Frost talking
“Joseph would have done anything for me” Whitney smiled, “But no, I didn’t need him for that. I had more important things to deal with”
“Like killing Wilkes?”
“Could we keep that option off the table?” Jason was obviously terrified
“Fine” Frost thrust Wilkes towards the car. Carter caught him and pushed him behind the open passenger door
“It’s just you and I” Frost aimed her pistol at Carter. Carter aimed hers at Frost.
The two women stared each other down; eyeing each other’s every move.
From where Sousa and Wilkes sat in the car, the two women appeared to be engrossed in a macabre dance of sorts
Frost fired first, hitting Carter’s pistol, knocking it away from her.
Unarmed, Carter was in deep trouble
“Any last words?” Frost smiled at her nemesis
“Yes, look out” Carter swept her leg and knocked Frost down. Frost’s gun clattered along the pavement.
Carter reached out for her pistol, but it was too far, nearly at the car’s bumper by now
“Peggy!” Sousa did the unthinkable. He pulled up his left pant leg.
Wilkes thought Daniel was going to throw her a pistol from an ankle holster.
Sousa unstrapped his prosthetic leg, an ashy structure that barely bore a passing resemblance to a calf and foot, still wearing his shoe
Sousa heaved the leg towards her.
Frost managed to locate her pistol and aimed it at Carter
Peggy caught the prosthesis
The bullet found its target, but in Sousa’s leg
Peggy slammed the prosthesis into Frost’s face, knocking her unconscious
From the car, Sousa smiled at Peggy.
Later, with Frost in custody, Wilkes back at Stark Labs, and Carter and Sousa back at SSR, the pair sat down over paperwork
“Not bad” Daniel signed off on the papers in front of him
“Quite so” Peggy smiled
“Now you’ve seen a bit more of me than before” he looked up at her from his seat
“I suppose I have” she leaned on the desk
“Maybe we could talk about something a little more permanent” he opened his desk drawer. The jewelry box inside shifted as the drawer was pulled
“After all that’s happened, maybe that’s a fine idea” she agreed, “You know, Howard Stark was talking to me about a proposition”
“He wanted me to head off a project that he had been working on”
“If anyone should be in charge of things, I can’t think of anyone better for the job than you”
“It may be a conflict of interest for us to continue working together while we’re – well,” she alluded to the fact of their being a couple
“I guess.” Sousa didn’t like the idea of not seeing her daily, but if what he hoped for came true, that wouldn’t be a problem
“I do like what we have, Daniel” she smiled at him
“I know. I do, too. That’s why I wanted to ask you some--”
The phone rang, and Sousa slammed the drawer shut. The box jostled inside the drawer. It would have to wait
“Sousa” he answered the phone. He frowned, and handed the phone to Carter, “It’s for you”
“Who is this, and how did you get this number?” Peggy asked quizzically
“Peggy? It’s Angie” her friend from New York spoke
“Angie, are you alright?”
“I’m in trouble, and I didn’t know who else to call. I spoke to Mr. Jarvis and he told me to call you, here”
“Could I come down there, just for a bit, until this dies down?”
“Until what dies down? What’s happened? Tell me everything”
“How much time do you have?” even in danger, Angie was quick with a comment