Susan and Peggy go shooting; Peter and Steve walk into a bar; Crow, Spider, and Hawk fight the Cold War; Hulk like Lucy.
Written for intrikate88 for the 2012 Narnia Fiction Exchange who asked for a Narnia crossover with the Avengers and reference to my Narnia work. Therefore, the backstory for the World War II part of this borrows lightly from my Rat and Sword Go To War and The Queen Susan in Tashbaan. Also, in those stories, King Edmund is strongly identified with crows and he is married during the Golden Age to a banker-accountant.
Thank you to Snacky for the wonderful beta!
Minor spoilers for Captain America: The First Avenger; Marvel Comics; The Incredible Hulk (2008); The Avengers (2012); Alternative Universe for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle. Contains references to war crimes and uses period-appropriate terms for race.
The Avengers' timing is a little mushy; please refer to notes at the end for (possible) handwaving.
Susan and Peggy go shooting
Mrs. Susan Caspian and Agent Peggy Carter Go Shooting
It was the second morning since Susan had trekked across the moorland of Inverness-shire to demonstrate to her instructors that she could kill a penned deer with a knife thrust. It was the closest the SOE could come to testing the resolve of an agent to kill. Susan had killed deer with knives and arrows before, so she performed the SOE task well and cleanly. Her SOE instructors didn't know that the Gentle Queen of Narnia had killed humans and other beings before and she well knew the horror of it in no way compared to killing a dumb animal.
Then it was back to Arisaig House and the usual agent guerilla training exercises – running, climbing, more running, fighting, still more running, and blowing things up. And shooting.
Susan listlessly poked her soft egg and forced herself to dip a piece of toast in it. She needed the energy and was due on the shooting range that morning.
She looked up from her dry toast at the woman who had spoken to her from across the breakfast table and immediately felt only half-dressed.
The woman who had addressed her was in a smart ATS uniform but without the badges or bars to denote her rank. Special Forces maybe? Susan had never seen her before, which meant she'd arrived last night or even that morning. Yet, even here at the SOE guerrilla tactics training camp, the woman had taken the time to style her hair and put on lipstick. Susan was embarrassed to have not done at least that but she'd gotten out of the habit since coming to Inverness-shire. Running around the highlands blowing things up was very hard on one's coif and everything stuck to lipstick.
"Good morning. I'm Agent Carter. I'm here to evaluate your firearms skills."
Agent? What was an Agent? And she had been sent to conduct a firearms evaluation? This was peculiar. The instructors had been critical of Susan's shooting (with guns), but neither was she terrible at it and she had acquitted herself very well on the deer kill challenge.
"Of course, Agent Carter." She started to push away her plate but Agent Carter interrupted her.
"Finish eating, Mrs. Caspian. I'll just get a cup of what passes for coffee."
Agent Carter went over to the buffet and nodded hellos to the other instructors. Susan had never even heard of Agent Carter before and wondered if maybe she knew her by reputation under another alias or working name.
Susan quickly ate, dabbed her lips on her napkin and discreetly tried to organize her hair.
Agent Carter returned and sat across from her at the table. She stirred her coffee, took a sip, and grimaced. "Why is it that I must be in New York to have a decent cup of coffee?"
"And you must be in England for a decent cup of tea?"
"Very true." Agent Carter took another sip and her red lipstick left a mark on the white porcelain cup.
"The good coffee was one of the many benefits when I was briefly in our New York offices last year," Susan said. "It was a very stimulating environment."
"So I read from your file," Agent Carter replied.
Susan wondered which file and if Agent Carter knew her real age. The woman was so crisp, it was impossible to tell.
"I was in America on assignment and seldom in the offices," Agent Carter said. "Before that I was working the Wheelwright circuit in Toulouse with Hilaire and the French Resistance. And now I am back here."
Agent Carter did not sound happy about the change but she didn't offer any further explanation and Susan knew not to ask.
Susan darted into the loo to freshen up before they went out to the shooting range. If Agent Carter had taken the time to look presentable, it was simply poor manners to not do likewise and being out in the middle of the Scottish highlands was no excuse at all.
They met on the front steps of Arisaig House. Strangely, they did not go to the weapons office where the students checked out the firearms they would train on for the day.
"We'll use my guns," Agent Carter said. "I brought them with me and had one of the porters take my case up to the range." They didn't bother with jackets. It was warm enough with trousers and a jumper. Agent Carter did loosen her tie a little.
"There is a bit of a breeze, but you will never have ideal conditions in France, either," Agent Carter said. She jumped down the steps, broke into a jog and Susan followed her down the winding drive and through a narrow gap in the hedge that led to the range.
Agent Carter was very fit and didn't put a foot wrong. The shooting range was over a rise and down in a dell, otherwise empty and lonely, save for the hay bales with the targets tacked on to them and big signs warning everyone to stay away. The local Scots were stoically silent about SOE agents-in-training running about their shire shooting things, blowing things up, and generally creating quite the stir.
Someone had set up a table at the far end from the targets and there was a big silver case there and boxes of ammunition.
Agent Carter took a set of keys from her pocket and opened the three locks on her very large case.
"Goodness!" Susan exclaimed. Inside the case, nestled among rags and straw, were several pistols. Susan recognized the Revolver No. 2, a very sleek Beretta, a Luger, a Colt, and a strange pistol she'd not seen before, that looked like a long tube and little else.
"They are pretty, aren't they?" Agent Carter said, removing the lid and setting it aside. "They are far better than what staff would issue you from the weapons closet and, really, sometimes it's not the flaw in the woman but in the fact that they try to train her up on substandard guns."
"It is an impressive collection," Susan agreed. She also did not recognize all of them, which was itself curious as their training had included extensive firearms instruction and identification.
"Have you used a Beretta or a Luger before?"
"No. I've been working with British makes, mostly, and American."
"I expected as much. No point in practicing with them, then." Agent Carter took the unloaded Beretta and Luger out of the case and set them on the table. "I want to see you dry fire first. Take one and aim it at the target."
Susan reached for the Beretta. It felt cool, compact, and elegant in her hands. She raised her arm up toward the target and…
"Ma'am?" Susan asked, lowering the gun.
"You're taking it in your hands like it's an egg. It's not. It's a gun, it's metal and it's hard and you need to grip it hard, consistently, and the same way, each time. You need to grab it by the barrel, push it into the heel of your hand, and wrap your fingers around the grip, hard, equal pressure, from all fingers."
Agent Carter demonstrated with the Luger. Her movements weren't delicate. They were firm, strong, and confident.
"Like that. Try again."
So Susan set down the gun and picked it up. Again. And again. And again.
After learning to really grab hold of the gun ("It's not going to go off just because you hold it properly, Mrs. Caspian"), they worked on proper sight alignment. Agent Carter stood behind her. Susan raised the gun and Agent Carter put her arms on either side of Susan's body. "Shoulders back, Mrs. Caspian." She pulled on Susan's shoulders and then put her hands on Susan's head. "Head straight, don't dip or tilt, it puts off your aim."
Agent Carter then moved her hands down Susan's outstretched arm. "Arm solid." She squeezed Susan's upper arm almost to the point of wincing and then moved down. "Elbow locked. Locked! Tighten it up, Mrs. Caspian! Nothing limp here! You're an agent with a gun, not a girl on the dance floor! Wrist strong – do not turn your wrist!" She put her hands over Susan's, holding the gun. "Grip hard. Harder!"
Susan's grip on the Beretta was so tight, her arm was almost trembling.
"Much better. I could feel good strength in your arm, probably from your archery." Agent Carter stepped away but was staring at Susan's hand latched on to the gun. "Now, squeeze the trigger… No! Not like that! For God's sake, didn't they give you the fundamentals!?"
It was then another half an hour until Susan was able to move her trigger finger and hold everything else absolutely rigid. She was sweating from the exertion of the minute muscle control required.
Agent Carter again stood behind her and set her hands on Susan's hips. "And now, Mrs. Caspian, I want you to sight the target, settle in your stance, and take three breaths, each larger than the last, and let them out completely."
Breathing was something Susan did well.
"Good, I can tell you're filling your belly properly," Agent Carter murmured behind her, holding Susan's hips between her hands and standing completely still. "It's the swimming, I suppose. Don't nod. Don't talk. Just breathe. Now, fourth breath, deep, deeper, good and hold it, hold it, don't move, don't hesitate. Counting down, three, two, one, fire. Fire. Fire. And relax."
Susan dropped her arm with a huge exhale and Agent Carter removed her hands from around her hips.
It was two hours before Agent Carter even let her shoot the loaded Beretta.
Agent Carter stood back, arms folded across her chest and watched as Susan emptied a magazine into the target.
"Reloading is slower on that gun," Agent Carter said as Susan struggled to smoothly remove the magazine. "It's one of the design flaws."
After several rounds with the Beretta, Agent Carter had her switch to the Luger, which after the compact Beretta felt large, heavier, and very powerful.
All that effort with Agent Carter barking orders at her and, still, Susan did not feel her performance was that much better. When Agent Carter finally told her, "Gun down. Let's see how well you did," Susan was prepared for criticism and disappointment. She was pleasantly surprised when they inspected the targets.
"Not perfect, Mrs. Caspian, but much better than I was expecting." She tapped a finger to her lips. "I know you are tired, but humour me, if you would. I'd like to see how you do with the Welrod." Agent Carter removed the gun from the case. "It's a bolt action, noise suppressed, prototype." She had to walk Susan through the mechanics of the thing, as it was all manually operated.
Though not noiseless, it was still far, far quieter than the usual pistol. It was also very difficult to aim and Susan was gritting her teeth in frustration.
"No, that's fine," Agent Carter said, studying Susan's poor handiwork on the target. "You've done as well as most I've seen. It's a prototype. I've never seen anyone hit what they intended at anything more than 25 yards with a Welrod."
"I'm not sure I could hit the broad side of a bomber." Susan was disgusted with her inaccuracy.
"At point blank range, you could, which is its purpose as it was developed as an assassin's weapon," Agent Carter said with a shrug.
"It is quiet."
After the Welrod, Agent Carter produced an even stranger prototype. It was so incredibly light, Susan did not think it could be made of metal, though it felt and looked metallic. It was even quieter than the Welrod and was virtually silent on discharge. When you pushed a button, it shot a strange beam of red light.
"For aid with targeting," Agent Carter said. "Point the light, pull the trigger, and that's where the bullet is supposed to go."
The light beam might target, but the gun could not. It was a very good thing there were no passers-by. Susan couldn't manage to hit even the target at 20 yards; Agent Carter did only slightly better when she tried the gun.
"Don't worry, Mrs. Caspian!" Agent Carter said with a laugh. "I'll just tell Stark to go back to the laboratory. This one is a dud."
They dismantled and carefully cleaned the guns. There were others in the case that had not come out that were even stranger than the prototypes she had tried. Susan wondered if Stark was someone in Churchill's Toy Shop, the group that developed the specialized equipment for the SOE like the rapid firing crossbows and the exploding dung.
"Now, I'm sure you have questions," Agent Carter said, running a rag over the Beretta and returning it to her case. "I have a bottle of whiskey in my room, so let's do our debrief there. It's very difficult to have any privacy in a training facility for spies."
The shadowy powers that controlled room assignments and one's proximity to the lavatories had allotted Agent Carter a very nice set of very convenient rooms. Susan had assumed they would be sitting on a bed in a narrow cell of a dormitory, but Agent Carter even had her on small sitting area, with a table and an ancient fainting couch covered in crushed green velvet. Access to everything, however, had its drawbacks, including a lot of traffic in the corridors, so Agent Carter was stuffing a towel under the door.
"I'd prefer if we could create some other noise in here with a wireless or phonograph. Everyone here is very nosy, which in spies, I do approve of, and everyone here is also gossipy, which I do not."
"We could hum and dance to the tune. Though jitterbugging is not conducive to conversation," Susan said as she set the glasses on the side table.
"A marvelous idea! Let's make a night of it when we are both back in London!"
"Agent Carter, are you sure about sacrificing your Glenlivet? They might not ever make any more of it." The distillery had shut down once the War started. Perhaps it would revive – perhaps not.
"Absolutely. It is no sacrifice at all. And my first name is Peggy."
"Please call Susan."
They were not to have alcohol or food in the rooms but Peggy didn't concern herself with House rules, so Susan would not, either. Peggy gave the towel under the door a final shove with her foot and joined her on the couch. Susan handed her the drink.
Susan raised her glass and took a sip. The smoky, rich fifteen-year-old liquor was wonderful on her tongue. "This is lovely. One forgets how good the real thing is."
"It was nice to have access to the rum and tequila in America, but there's nothing to compare to good Scotch whiskey," Peggy said, leaning back in the seat. "There's very little food in France, by the way, but you should be able to enjoy the wine. The French have hidden their best vintages from the Nazis."
"Assuming I am assigned there, of course," Susan replied diplomatically.
"Of course you will!" Peggy said and patted Susan's shoulder. "And do not think that my coming here to train with you reflects a perceived lack of competency, Susan."
Susan appreciated that Peggy had waited until they were well away from the prying eyes and ears of other agents and instructors to say so. "It did occur to me," she admitted.
Peggy shook her head. "We all know that guns are your weakness. Baker Street wanted my assessment. I assure you that even if you couldn't hit the broad side of a bomber, which, by the way, you can, there will be a place for you if you earn it on other skills. And I speak from experience in saying that."
The confidence was heartening. "Thank you, Peggy."
"I didn't explain earlier deliberately as I wanted to see how you managed the uncertainty. Your ability to perform under pressure has been a very consistent and commendable observation during your training and I wanted to see it myself."
"I really should have guessed that." Susan exhaled a small of huff of exasperation. The SOE trainers were brilliantly devious in their methods for testing agents. "So, did I pass?"
"This wasn't a pass-fail, up, or down and out. However, I'm not recommending you for training armed units. Simply put, you don't like guns and that distaste shows. A woman has a hard enough time and being hesitant around guns will make them think you are weak, which you are not."
Susan felt irrationally distressed that she wasn't able to do everything superlatively even if she had come to the same conclusions herself. Susan didn't even want to be out in the camps training the Resistance. She knew her strongest skills would be better deployed elsewhere. She took another sip of her whiskey. With Peggy's support and recommendation, this could lead to a very good assignment.
"You do have a sniper's eye and patience and I think that sort of position, among many others, would suit. I had wondered, too, if the noise at discharge bothered you. That's why I wanted to see you with the Welrod as it is so quiet."
Susan couldn't very well explain that she'd managed accurate shooting with a bow in the noise and stress of battle. She just nodded. "Possibly."
Peggy swirled her drink with a manicured finger tip. "I'm going to recommend they outfit you with a De Lisle. It's a sniper rifle and very quiet. It will play to your strengths and I want you to get proficient in it."
"Thank you, Peggy. I appreciate that support very much." It was very generous and the assertiveness with which she made the promise bespoke her own authority to see it done. The De Lisle was not a standard issue weapon and it was flattering that Peggy would use her influence to get Susan access to one.
"Also, whenever you can practice on your own, I want you to try two-handed, both hands on the revolver, rather than one."
"Really? I've not seen that before."
"Two-handed is becoming faddish in some limited circles. I've met a marksman or three who swear by it." Peggy set down her drink and put out both arms in front of her, with her hands clasped together as if holding a gun.
Susan did the same.
"Yes," Peggy said. "Like that. Up little, though." She put her hand on Susan's outstretched arms and guided them to a higher position.
"You'll need to be discreet about practicing it," Peggy said. "If a man tries it, it's innovative, but if a woman starts shooting two-handed, everyone will think she is weak."
They both lowered their arms and reclaimed the drinks.
Susan nodded. "I understand completely." Narnia had forever altered her thinking in that regard. Among many Birds and Beasts, the females were larger, or had to fend for themselves and their young, lived alone or in matriarchies, or cooperatively hunted alongside the males. "It's not enough to be as good as a man in this business. We have to be better."
Peggy raised her glass and shook her head. "So true. And so absurd. Obviously if you are alone in the field, the Nazi you are aiming at won't care if you shoot one- or two-handed. I want you to practice both, one and two-handed, and right and left.
"I will do that. I so appreciate your time and advice, Peggy. I do feel I learned a great deal."
"I'm a good teacher. You're a good student, Susan. I will stay a few more days to make sure you are on the right course. Let's plan on meeting in London before you are deployed. And within the year, I think you and I will be drinking and dancing in a liberated France."
Mrs. Susan Caspian a/k/a Mademoiselle Jeanne-Louise Lambert and Peggy Carter a/k/a Mademoiselle Marguerite Caron Shoot at Bigger Things
There were over one hundred thousand Allied troops pouring into France over fifty miles of Normandy coast. In the shadow of the Caen Canal Bridge to celebrate the liberation of France and his home and café, Monsieur Gondrée had dug up the bottles of champagne he had buried in the garden 4 years ago when the Nazis marched into Normandy. The café owner was offering glasses of France's finest for any Allied soldier who came to the seized Bridge. He also spared a glass for the lone British spy inserted into the French Resistance to report on the Bridge in the run- up to the invasion.
Against all odds, one of those commandos who had crashed by glider into the Caen Canal Bridge, and captured and held it, was Susan's own brother. And now, job done, Peter's Company was marching out to rejoin their Battalion.
Peter kissed her one more time – not the last time, Susan told herself firmly – shouldered his gun and, with a wave of thanks to Monsieur Gondrée for the champagne, he ran back to the bunker and the rest of his Company.
Aslan watch over him.
Susan looked around, trying to assess this very limited view of the war zone. She was not certain where she would be best deployed on the day of the largest invasion the world had ever seen. She had helped the Resistance provide the information that now enabled the Allied forces landing on the western flank of the invasion to advance deeper into France over the intact Bridge. The intelligence part of her initial mission was done, and very successfully. She had already killed two snipers but it was too dangerous to continue her hunt. Peter's Company had shelled the water tower she had been climbing and she had been lucky to escape with only a thorough drenching. Should she try to get a message out to her handler in England? Perhaps someone in the landing force had orders for her? The Allies would be marching on toward Paris. Perhaps she should attach herself to one of the advancing columns?
"Jeanne!" a woman's voice called, using Susan's cover name. She turned around.
"I have found you, at last," the woman said, speaking French in a strong Provençal accent. She was wearing a hodgepodge of men's uniforms, British RAF trousers, a stained Italian Army shirt with the sleeves rolled up, an American helmet, and German hobnailed boots. She had a Luger on her belt, a Schmeisser machine gun over her shoulder, and an ammunition pouch slung across her chest.
"Pardon?" Susan began then stared in shocked recognition. Peggy?! "Marguerite!?" Susan was so glad they had shared their covers and working names back in England.
They embraced and kissed on each cheek. Monsieur Gondrée bustled up with two glasses and a bottle of champagne.
"Are you surprised to see me?" Peggy asked.
"I would have been more surprised if you had not been here," Susan replied.
"You know me too well, Jeanne!"
"I know you well enough!" They kissed again and clinked their glasses in a toast to the RAF planes doing barrel rolls overhead.
"I am so glad I found you!" Peggy said. "But why are you sopping wet?"
"The snipers," Susan replied. "There was one on the water tower, which I took care of, but then D Company started shooting at me with their anti-tank gun."
"Idiots," Peggy said with a snort. "Of course those German shells are armour piercing. They shot right through the water tank?"
Susan nodded. "And nearly took me with it."
Madame Gondrée handed her a towel and Susan tried drying herself off; all the camouflage paint Peter was wearing had rubbed off on her and was now dirtying up the towel.
"This is what you get for kissing the soldiers, Jeanne," Peggy said. "They've smeared you with their camouflage paint."
"He was my brother, Marguerite!"
"That is what we all say!" Peggy took the towel. "Here, allow me. You still have some on your face."
"How did you come to be here?" Susan asked, submitting to the brisk rubbing. She had not seen Peggy since they had gone out for dinner and dancing in London before Susan had left for Caen. Peggy had also come to the SOE training facility and schooled her in the De Lisle sniper rifle and they had snuck off to a private range Peggy had access to and practiced the two-handed shooting style. They'd nearly finished the bottle of Glenlivet.
"I parachuted in with the 7th Battalion. We were scattered all over the place. Terrible planning, that. I have orders to collect whoever I can and fly out immediately."
Peggy looked her over critically, nodded with satisfaction, and handed the towel back to Madame Gondrée. "Better. Don't you wish we could dash into a loo and freshen up before we move out?"
"It is a waste of perfectly good lipstick if all you are doing is jumping out of an airplane."
Peggy laughed. "True."
"I was just wondering what I should be doing and here you are! What are the orders?" Susan asked.
"I'm taking a team to Toulouse to find Hilaire."
"That is your old circuit! What needs doing?"
"The 2d Panzer Das Reich division is quartered around Toulouse and Rommel is surely going to order them here, toward the Normandy beaches."
Susan immediately saw the urgency of the orders. The Das Reich tank division had a fearsome reputation.
"The Resistance has orders to harry the advancing tank columns as much as possible between here and Toulouse and they need support – snipers and saboteurs."
Susan hefted her Big Joe crossbow. "I'll need something more powerful against a panzer."
"That's the spirit! I know you like the crossbow and I asked Stark about rigging bolts for anti-tank capability. I also brought a De Lisle for you; Stark's got all our equipment on the plane and other supplies for the Resistance."
"Thank you, Marguerite. That will be very useful." What a thoughtful gift. Custom-made, armour-piercing, explosive crossbow bolts and a sniper rifle.
"It will be a pleasure to see you use it, Jeanne. And I'd love to watch you stop a tank with crossbow bolt."
With a jerk of her head, Peggy started toward the bunkers where the commanders had set up their temporary base. Susan fell in step with her.
"We need to make a report to Colonel Pine-Coffin or General Gale if we can find one of them," Peggy said. "D Company has a working radio in the trench, so we'll borrow that. Then I'll call up Stark and we'll fly down there immediately."
"Fly?" There were shells the size of jeeps being fired inland at Caen from the big Allied naval guns just offshore.
"Stark is the best civilian pilot in the Allied forces. He'll find us and get us there."
So maybe they would be jumping out of an airplane. Definitely no lipstick, then. "We'll need to hurry," Susan said. "Toulouse is, what, maybe four days away?"
"Probably only three. And then the 2d Panzer division will roar down onto the Normandy beaches and wipe out the Allied landing force, just when we're bringing reinforcements ashore."
The invasion could end before it could take hold. They could lose France before they had won her back.
Susan clapped her hand on Peggy's arm. "We may not be able to stop Nazi tanks, but we can certainly slow them down. Let's get down there and start shooting."
"And after that, I think you and I will need to make our way to Paris, Jeanne."
"You did promise me drinking and dancing in a liberated France!"
"It's a date!"
They linked arms, darted around the sandbags, and dashed toward the bunker. There was still a War to win.
Peter Pevensie and Steve Rogers Walk Into A Bar
London was hot and crowded. There were barrage balloons overhead, sandbags on every corner, spotters on every roof, and green, tan, brown, and blue uniforms everywhere. Most lowly Corporals didn't merit so much as a glance from the old men of the Home Guard, the smart, young WRENs, and the children with toy guns and tin soldiers. But as soon as people saw Peter's Pegasus shoulder flash of the 6th Airborne and the Oxf & Bucks cap badge on his maroon beret, they knew. They assumed (correctly) that he'd been part of the D-Day assault on the Caen bridges and they weren't going to let him go without a kind word.
Usually Peter was gracious about it, accepting the thanks on behalf of the rest of D Company who were still fighting the pitched battles, hedgerow by hedgerow, on the long, slow crawl to reclaim Paris. He should be there. His unit was there. Susan was there, somewhere. Instead, he was here.
He slipped by a shopkeeper offering a congratulatory handshake with a muttered, "Sorry, in a rush, must be off," and pushed on, yanking off his beret and stuffing it in his pocket.
He'd endured months and months of the best training the British Army could provide, and had been fired to a fevered pitched readiness. His company had seen the first action of D-Day in a daring coup de main. They'd crashed into a defended bridge by glider, seized it, intact, in 12 minutes, and had held it against Rommel's Panzer division until relieved. Then D Company had moved out to rejoin the rest of the unit and Peter had barely lasted a week. He'd taken shrapnel to the shoulder outside of Escoville and that was that. He'd been promoted to Corporal, evacuated, admitted to a Surrey hospital, stitched up, discharged to recuperate with mum in London, and now was kicking his heels, waiting to get back into the action, somewhere.
The offer had been so good. He was perfect for it. He knew he was perfect for it and the commanders interviewing him had agreed. He'd gotten in. Colonel Phillips, an American, had said so, and had given him the papers approving the transfer to some special Anglo-American commando unit. The ink from the stamp hadn't even dried on the orders and then Philips called him in again and took them back. Just like that.
Sorry, soldier, the positions are all filled. Better luck next time.
Peter needed to get by himself and walk off his anger before he hit something, and it wasn't working. Every person he tried to ignore and walk past wanted to congratulate him. He saw a group of WAAFs cross the street, purpose in their step and one of them was putting on a coat of lipstick.
He darted into the nearest pub, wanting a beer and spoiling for a fight. There were plenty of uniforms inside – they were only a few streets away from the War Office where he'd met Phillips. Other soldiers knew that sometimes a man wanted company and sometimes he just wanted to find a dark corner by himself and get pissed.
The barkeep was older and Peter could tell from the limp and the hard look that the man had seen the trenches the last time England had liberated France. The man's eyes fell on the Pegasus flash and the red Oxf & Bucks shoulder title.
"Injured, arm, I'm guessing?" the bartender asked.
"It's a trial, lad, to be here when you'd rather be there." The bartender set the pint on the bar. "The whole world owes you a beer, so first one's on me."
"Thank you, sir."
Peter took his drink and pushed through the crowd to a table in the back. He was only a Corporal but the High King knew how to clear a path and, while his rank didn't win him respect, the shoulder decorations did. He captured a table, put a boot up on a stool, put his elbows out, and took a long pull on his beer.
He was half-way through the first pint before he bothered to notice who he was sharing the pub with. At the table across from his there were five men talking low. It was loud so he couldn't hear them. There were several Americans in the group, which usually put his back up. There'd been an American base in Tidworth, near Bulford where his Battalion had trained and the Americans were always strutting around in their nice uniforms and stealing the Tommys' girls with their money, chocolate, and stockings.
These blokes were different. They were rougher looking, had definitely seen action, and, something Peter had never seen before in American units, they were mixed race. There was a Negro and a Jap and, while that wasn't unheard of in British ranks, American units were segregated, so Peter couldn't figure what they were doing here, together.
There was a Brit there too, Army Lieutenant; he was wearing a cap badge that from the angle he was sitting at, Peter thought was special forces, maybe even Popski's Army, which meant explosives and demolition. Having spent ten days killing Germans there, Peter was sure the fourth man in the group was French. The fifth, a big American, was, against all regulation, wearing a bowler hat.
Special Forces, Peter decided, collected for talent, by someone with enough rank to pick who he wanted on his team and didn't care about the U.S Army's segregation policies. It was small for a Commando unit, so maybe they'd had losses or it was something else entirely. From the easy way they were talking, their CO wasn't there.
The Brit Lieutenant saw Peter's notice of the group and gave him a nod which Peter returned.
Peter went back to his beer, pondering the options. He was still in the Airborne – but Glider Corps – maybe he should get his jumps in and qualify as a paratrooper, maybe a Pathfinder. After crash landing gliders in occupied territory and pranging onto Nazi-occupied bridges, going back to regular infantry had been hard, almost boring – though getting shot tended to colour one's view of things.
He'd just finished his pint and was getting up to go to the bar for another when a group of young American fliers swaggered into the pub with girls on their arms and coin in their pockets.
Seeing trouble brewing, half-hoping it would, and knowing where he would stand if it did, Peter sidled up to the table of five he'd noticed earlier. He glanced in the direction of the American fliers at the bar and muttered to the Englishman, "Excuse me, Lieutenant, sir, but a lot of the white Americans don't like sharing British pubs with Negro Americans."
And whatever might have been done to stop the brawl went straight to hell when one of the American fliers shouted something ugly at the Negro and the five commandos all rose as one with a roar, Peter with them.
Peter never threw the first punch in a bar fight, but he could be counted on to throw one of the last. He took an upper cut to the jaw from one of the American Airmen and then got hit in the stomach. He doubled over but pulled himself up and landed a one-two that dropped the man to the floor.
It felt great to let some of his frustration out on the flesh of stupid, bigoted American boys who'd piss in their boots at the first return fire. He'd learned to throw American Army privates and corporals for distance out of Shrewsbury pubs. Peter grabbed an Airman by the belt and, with a shout, the British lieutenant had the door open and Peter launched the floundering flier into the street.
He spun about and saw a beautiful woman in a British ATS uniform land as sweet a punch as he'd ever seen on the Airman who'd started it. The man went down like a sack of dung. Recognizing rank and authority even (and especially when) a woman wore a uniform, Peter grinned at her and saluted.
There was shouting, chairs scraping on floors, and people scrambling for the walls and doors. Peter felt something move behind him. He pivoted, hauling his fist back …
And met a solid wall of American Army Captain who had Peter's wrist in a vise. Peter had fought Nazis, Giants, Hags, Werewolves, and all manner of Fell Beasts; he'd been trained by the Mad Bastard Major John Howard, and by Satyrs and Dryads and Centaurs before that. The Captain's strength that was immobilizing Peter's right arm wasn't Human.
"Easy there, Corporal," the Captain said. Peter was big and tall but the Captain looked right over his shoulder. "Dugan, Farnsworth, get the rest of them out of here. Jones, you alright?"
"Fine, Captain!" the Negro, Jones, said. The Frenchman was giving Jones a hand up from the floor.
Peter felt a trickle of blood on his chin. He relaxed his arm and the Captain released him. Peter quickly wiped the blood away. It was just a cut and didn't feel deep. He worked his jaw; it would be sore but wasn't broken or dislocated.
"You waded into a fight that wasn't yours, Corporal," the Captain said. "You should be saving it for the real enemy, not your allies."
The Captain was American, which mean he was under the same segregation that had started the fight. On the other hand, he was obviously the CO and the five mismatched men in the pub were his unit, which meant he didn't give a damn about where they were from or the colour of their skin.
"I don't like racists, sir. And begging your pardon, but a soldier should be able to enjoy a drink with his unit and not hear from his own countryman the same hate we're fighting from Hitler."
The Captain's face twitched into grin. Peter had the feeling he should recognize the man. He seemed familiar. "Why aren't you with your unit, solider?"
"Injured, sir, in France, two weeks ago."
"If that's how you fight injured, what do you do when you're fit, Corporal…"
"Pevensie, sir, and the docs cleared me." He almost said he'd had worse, but Narnia didn't count. "I'm waiting for reassignment."
"Pevensie…" The Captain said, frowning slightly. "You tried to join my Commandos. You interviewed with Colonel Phillips."
Peter swore under his breath. Of all the rotten luck. "Sorry, sir. Yes, sir. I got the orders and then Phillips pulled them. He said you already had a team."
Peter looked around and saw it all fit into place with a thud of disappointment. Jones, the Frenchman and the Japanese man were righting the chairs. The English Lieutenant, Farnsworth, and Dugan, the man with the bowler hat, were buying pints and probably laying down some money for the damage, which by the standards of the other fights Peter had been in, wasn't much more than a broken stool. This was the commando team he had been admitted to and then booted from and he'd just waded into a bar brawl with them. At least he'd picked the right side.
"Good men," Peter said. Thinking that sounded more arrogant than he meant, he added, "It was an honour to fight with your team, sir."
"Even in a bar?"
"It's the principle of the thing."
The blood was trickling down his chin again and Peter angrily wiped it away.
"Need something for that?" the Captain asked.
"No, sir, it's nothing."
Jones came up and offered his hand. They shook. "Thank you, Corporal. I appreciate the gesture, though I wish it hadn't been necessary. The Howlers and I would like to buy you a drink."
Peter looked to the Captain for permission. He'd already been rejected once. This was his unit and Peter wasn't going to cross him. There was something really different about the Captain. That strength Peter had felt in him wasn't normal.
The Captain kicked out a chair. "Sit, Pevensie. Join us. If Dugan's buying, best take advantage of it. And then, depending on what my team says, maybe you and I will go visit Colonel Phillips and straighten out your paperwork."
"Sir?" He couldn't believe it. The heavy hand to his shoulder pushing him into the seat decided it. This wasn't an invitation he could or wanted to refuse.
"I already have a team, Pevensie. But there might be room for one more."
Marvel timeline notes:
Captain America: The First Avenger places Steve and Peggy in Italy during the USO tour though the Allies didn't invade Italy until September 1943. The Marvel wiki says that Peggy Carter was in the French Resistance and that Captain Steve Rogers is hurled into the North Atlantic in 1945 in a confrontation with Baron Zemo.
To follow, Chapter 2: Crow, Spider and Hawk fight the Cold War