The elevator doors opened with a faint ding and Agent Peggy Carter stepped into the bullpen off the SSR headquarters, her heels clicking with every confident step that she took – then she faltered slightly, noticing that several of the men in the office were all crowded around Jack Thompson's desk. They were listening to that infuriating, god-awful radio show and laughing uproariously amongst themselves.
"And now we return to the Captain America Adventure Show, where beautiful triage nurse Betty Carver tidies up while the men are on the front lines," the presenter said in his overly dramatic voice – though it was no way near as bad as the breathy, feminine voice that was to follow.
"What a fine day to be mending these army shirts," Betty Carver gushed though the speakers with sickening sweetness. "And my singer featherweight sewing machine with it's new button-hole feature makes stitching so fast -"
Peggy pointedly switched off the radio as she passed them, her lips set into a thin line. She ignored the snickers and hoots of her male co-workers and continued between the desks.
"Don't let it bother you," Sousa said quietly to her as she stalked passed his station to her own desk at the far end of the room, not having joined in with the other Agent's mockery.
She didn't reply – mostly because Agent Thompson had followed and she did not want to give him the satisfaction of knowing he had indeed gotten to her. "Hey Carter, I got some pants you can mend if you finish up with the filing," he said, smirking at her and clearly thinking the whole thing was highly amusing.
"Very funny," Peggy said in a clipped voice, utterly unimpressed as she primly sat down at her station.
Thompson leant casually against her desk, casting a half-grin in her direction. "Come on, take a joke," he drawled, one corner of his mouth tilted upwards.
Peggy glared up at him, about to give him a tongue-lashing, but Chief Dooley stuck his head out of his office. "Thompson, I've got a case for you," he said in his usual dry, abrupt manner, cutting off the brewing confrontation before it even started.
Jack spread his arms slightly, still staring down at Peggy. "Duty calls," he said, smug and satisfied with his position of top dog within the SSR. Departing with a patronising wink, he then followed the Chief into his office, pointedly closing the door behind him.
Sousa gave her a consolatory look and Peggy cast a small, dismissive smile his way before turning to her own work. Further down the bullpen someone had turned the radio back on and the laughter started again. She tried not to let it bother her, any of it – she had a new lead on some of Stark's missing weapons to follow up on anyway.
Jack Thompson's case had not gone well.
The Chief had given him a lead on some of the missing Stark weapons which, after some investigation, had pointed to an old, abandoned warehouse. He had gone in alone, not bothering to tell Dooley, and had not been expecting the four heavily muscled guys guarding the cache - not expecting to find a cache at all, truth be told, given the way their luck had gone on the Stark case. He had managed to draw his gun and shoot one of them when they jumped him, but the other three were quick to over-power him and he now found himself tied to a chair in the factory, his hands bound tightly behind him.
"Ve do not appreciate you American's poking your noses into our business," a fifth man said to him – he was finely dressed in a tailored suit, his tie was clearly expensive and his accent was unmistakably Russian. He stood in front of Jack, cool as you please, his gaze assessing. He had a friendly smile on his face, but it was nothing short of sinister. "Now you have caught our scent ve must take steps to protect ourselves. So ... vhat does the SSR know about Leviathan?" he asked pleasantly, tilting his head to one side as he looked down at him.
"I'm not telling you a goddamn thing," Jack said, knowing full well that he could be sealing his fate with these words.
"You see these men here?" the Russian said, gesturing to the louts that had been guarding the cache. "They vill convince you to speak ... unless you vould like to talk now?"
He knew how this would go, he had done enough interrogations of his own – he clenched his jaw tightly, not saying another word.
The biggest of the men stepped forward. His eyes were narrowed cruelly, his hand already clenched into a fist, no doubt deciding where to hit him first. He punched Jack hard in the face, sending his head snapping back as pain exploded across his cheekbone. Another punch was quick to follow, from his left hand this time, then another solid right hook.
"Ve can avoid all of this unpleasantness if you simply tell me vhat I vant to know," the Russian said mildly, watching the proceedings.
Jack spat out a mouthful of blood onto the floor. "Go to hell," he snarled, determined not to tell them a thing, and the beating continued until he lost consciousness.
When he came to he was still tied to the chair, his arms numb and his face bruised and aching all over. He shook his head slightly as he woke, feeling blood dripping off his chin from his split lip. "And now we return to the Captain America Adventure Show, where Betty Carver, triage nurse to the brave 107th infantry, has been captured by the forces of evil!" he heard a familiar American voice saying, crackling through old speakers.
He opened his eyes blearily, immediately taking note of his surroundings – two of the goons were guarding the main door and one was standing beside him, no doubt waiting for him to wake up so that the beating could continue. Meanwhile the Russian was sitting at a small table, where the decrepit radio sat, nursing a scotch and cigar – none of them had noticed him regaining consciousness yet.
"Oh no, I've been captured by Nazis!" Betty Carver wailed pathetically as Jack tested his bonds. "They've got me all tied up!"
Thompson suddenly noticed Peggy Carter of all people standing in the doorway of the warehouse – what the hell was she doing there? Surely Dooley wouldn't have sent her in after him, Dooley didn't even know he was going to the warehouse. Even if he had known, he wouldn't have sent Peggy into the fray – god, if they were willing to beat him to a pulp, what would they do to a defenceless woman?
He yanked hard on his ties, but to no avail. "Oh, if only Captain America was here to save me!"
"Hey -" one of the goons said, noticing Peggy – he was cut off when she swung her handbag right into his face, twisting around to punch another soundly in the temple and making him drop like a stone – and Jack's aching jaw fell open in surprise.
"Don't worry, Miss Carver, I'll save you!" the drawling, confident, masculine voice of Captain America said through the crackling speakers.
The other guy was quick to recover from her assault, though she sent him sprawling with a swift kick to the solar-plexus, followed by the heel of her hand jabbed up into his nose. When he teetered off balance she shoved him hard into a wall face first. He collapsed to the floor, his head covered in brick-dust from the new dent in the wall.
The Russian was pulling his gun, taking aim -
"Peggy, on your left!" Jack shouted in warning, absolutely stunned by her fighting ability. She was quick and scrappy, all sharp elbows and swift punches, her curled hair flying as she whirled around.
"Oh! Hit 'em again, Cap!" Betty Carver gushed worshipfully from the radio speakers.
Carter grabbed the Russian's arm, twisting it at an unnatural angle and the gun fired at the floor. Meanwhile her elbow flew up into the nose of the third guy that had been guarding Jack, who had been about to grab her from behind, sending him reeling backwards.
"Had enough yet?" Captain America asked in a goading fashion, followed by more sound-effect fighting.
Peggy used her weight to shift the Russian's centre of gravity and flip him to the floor. He landed hard on his back and she kicked the gun from his hand, pivoting to deliver a knock-out punch to the third guy who was about to attack her again.
The Russian groaned and made to crawl for his gun, but Peggy delivered another stunning punch to the temple and he was out like a light. All four of the heavily muscled, armed thugs knocked out by a woman in less than fifteen seconds with nothing but her handbag and her bare hands.
"That's what you get for fighting against freedom, you Nazi scum!" Captain America said, satisfied that he had defeated the enemy.
Thompson was staring at her with his mouth hanging vaguely open in complete and utter shock and, he hated to admit it, admiration – he'd had no idea what Peggy was capable of.
She looked at him, barely even out of breath after the fight. "You alright, Thompson?" she asked coolly, walking over to where he was still tied to the chair, her heels clicking smartly with every step.
"... Yeah," he said faintly, closing his mouth.
"Oh Captain, you're my hero!" Betty Carver prattled adoringly from the radio, absolutely elated to be rescued.
Peggy's fingers were light on his chin, tilting his face to the meagre light. "You look like hell," she observed, frowning at him, never one to mince her words.
Jack winced at the painful movement. "Easy on the jaw, Carter."
"Don't worry, Miss Carver, you're safe now." Captain America assured his hapless sweetheart, followed by the sound of several smacking kisses of gratitude.
"Here, I'll get your ties," she said, seemingly un-judgemental of the fact that he had been detained by the thugs that she had just managed to single-handedly wipe the floor with. She moved behind him and he felt the cool touch of her fingers brushing against his skin as she started on the ropes with a small, practical knife that she drew from her purse.
"Thanks" he muttered embarrassedly, testing the cut on his lip with his tongue. There was blood streaking down his chin and staining his shirt from where it had dribbled down. He would not be surprised if was sporting a shiner and a fat lip tomorrow as well – and it wasn't like he had an impressive story of bravery to tell the other guys at work.
"Oh Captain America, what would I do without you?" Betty Carver cooed lovingly to her brave rescuer, just as Peggy finished sawing through the knots and straightened up.
"Hey Carter?" Jack said as he pulled his wrists free, rubbing them to try and get some feeling back into his numb hands, feeling the beginnings of embarrassment and shame creeping up on him for his earlier mockery. He hesitated, wondering what he could possible say to her - how he could apologise for his earlier words, for his criticism and disrespect. Unable to find the words, he simply jerked his chin towards where the radio was still playing. "Turn that shit off, would you?"