Fanfiction Fridays: The Hustle by anamatics

She doesn’t even hear the bell ring at the door until the cook clears his throat loudly and Angie looks up.  Her breath catches and she has to swallow down her blush.  Her hands still, she forces on her best smile.

“English,” she whispers.  It comes out a hoarse croak.  Peggy Carter’s right eye is a livid black and blue, and she’s got a bandage around her hand that looks nasty and is still a bit stained with blood. She hasn’t been home the past few days, telephone conference in DC, she’d explained loading up her suitcase while Angie leaned against her open door and watched her movements with the lazy appreciation that a gal sometimes has for a friend.  “What happened to you?”

Peggy slumps down into Tito’s vacated stool and Angie turns and collects the tea things without a word.  She sets the milk and sugar that Peggy usually turns away down before her and gives her a look, the kind that Angie’s got to remember for auditions.  The one that brooks no argument at all.  “Thank you,” Peggy says weakly.

Tea softens her.  It makes her seem less brittle, less like she’ll fall apart if Angie touches her.  Peggy’s shoulders hunch forward and she holds the tea before her, two sugar cubes deposited in when she thought Angie wasn’t looking and far more milky than it usually is.  Angie fists her hands in her apron so she doesn’t reach out and press her fingers to Peggy’s temple and smooth her hair into something less bedraggled looking.  Anything to make her look less like she hasn’t lived through a war and a half, and that she’s still fighting.

“You gonna tell me what happened?”

“You know I can’t.” Peggy replies, her eyes shifting down, guilty.

“Won’t here or you ain’t gonna?”

“At home, Angie, please.”

Angie’s missed her.

It’s been a solid six months since the last time we recced a Cartinelli fanfic, so I feel totally within my rights bringing you all another one. The Hustle is set in those glorious post-Season-1 Angie-and-Peggy-in-domestic-bliss days—except their domesticity isn’t exactly as blissful as anyone hoped.

Steve and Bucky aren't the only ones who think Peggy looks fine in a red dress.

Spoiler alert: Steve and Bucky aren’t the only ones who think Peggy looks fine in a red dress.

At least, things started off well, but Angie’s suddenly in trouble. One of her cousins—an asshole, but still family—lost a lot of a loan shark’s money in a pool hustle, and got beat pretty terribly to boot. Although she’s loath to pull Peggy into her family’s issues, Peggy is insistent on helping. With cousin Tito in the hospital, though, someone’s got to make up the money he owes. Good thing it was Angie that taught him how to shoot pool in the first place, right?

However, with limited savings and no intention of being beholden to Howard Stark, there’s only one place she’s sure she can hustle up the money—a “women’s club”, basically, an old timey gay bar. (This is a not-so-subtle kick in the teeth to her cousin, who is deeply hateful of Angie’s lesbianness, and at fault for her own self-hatred.) Despite the locale, though, Peggy still wants to help her out. This means that we get to have my absolute favorite fanfiction trope of all time—fake dating—as a major part of this fanfic! I was worried at first that the “fake/pretend relationship” alluded to in the tags was Angie dating a guy as a cover, but nope, Peggy and Angie pretend to be together. I could go on for probably years about how much I love the fake dating trope, but suffice it to say it is the best thing to happen to me in twenty-five years of life.

agent carter angie peggy

you know they’re both into each other but they don’t know and there’s pining and gentle touches and making out to keep up their cover and somebody help me

If you do check out this fic, though, please take the warnings in the tags seriously. The story does a great job of portraying the era’s homophobia, but Angie’s internal monologue, her references to her “corrective treatment”, and the way some characters treat her may be upsetting or triggering. And while it may also be upsetting, I think this fic is actually remarkable in that it gives us unrepentant familial homophobia. What we often see in fanfiction is the deeply gratifying ‘fuck you’ moment, where those with bigoted opinions are rejected and shut out of the life of the person they’re opressing. However, it isn’t always that cut and dry in real life, and Angie continues to love her family despite how they’ve hurt her. Indeed, the premise of this fic is that she cares so much about the asshole cousin who outed her to her mother and got her institutionalized as a result that she’s willing to put her life on the line to help him.

The Hustle is satisfyingly long at around 20k, but I certainly wouldn’t say no to a sequel (and it seems like the author hasn’t said no, either—they left the ending pretty open for more). Read The Hustle here at the AO3 and, when you’ve read it and loved it, let anamatics know you’re in the market for part two.

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