(for you, athenasdragon <3)
Jack Thompson reclined in his seat like a king on a throne, the agents gathered around him his fawning vassals. Sousa had to admire the way the man could command attention, even if he didn’t always have to appreciate it. For the moment, though, he was content to let Thompson have all the attention and admiration his heart desired (which was a hell of a lot of attention and admiration, in Sousa’s personal opinion). They were here to celebrate Thompson. It was Thompson’s moment. For once, Sousa felt no particular inclination to deflate the man’s ego. It was his own little gift to their new chief.
The clinking of a fork on a glass brought his attention away from Thompson, his gaze turning instead to Agent Marks. The man was getting to his feet slightly drunkenly, placing his hand on Thompson’s shoulder to steady himself. Sousa noticed Thompson shooting that hand a very unimpressed look. “I’d like to make a toast,” Marks declared. “To Jack Thompson. He’s finally made chief, just like he’s always deserved, and we as an agency and as people will flourish under his leadership. He was born to lead, and we were born to follow him. This man is the stuff legends are made of, the kind of hero that songs are written about. To Jack!” he cried, raising his glass in the air. Some of its contents sloshed out, but Marks paid it no heed.
The other agents cheered appreciatively, but it was more for Marks’s drunkenness than for the new leadership they were going to flourish under. Thompson gave the hand Marks had rested on his shoulder a shove, sending the man staggering sideways. “Sit down,” Thompson said. “You’re embarrassing everyone.” Marks collapsed obediently back into his seat, looking a little disheartened and very drunk.
“He’s right though, Jack,” Agent Boudreau piped up. “You do deserve this. We’re all happy to have you as our chief.”
“Thank you, Boudreau,” said Thompson, raising his glass to his lips. “I look forward to seeing you all flourish.”
The revelries continued, the group of agents growing increasingly louder and more boisterous as the night wore on. Sousa sat back and nursed his drink, not feeling particularly inclined to join in their antics; tonight he was content to simply observe. And his object of observation for the night was Jack Thompson. The man could hold an audience when he wanted, but Sousa noted that as time went by, Thompson seemed less and less inclined to do so. Just as he could command attention, he was equally capable of relinquishing it, letting himself fade into the background. Sousa had never seen that side of Thompson. He always seemed perfectly happy to be the centre of attention – thrived on it, even. And it would have been easy to stay there on this occasion, considering the entire night had been planned explicitly for the purpose of placing the spotlight on him. But as Sousa watched, Thompson slowly let himself drift to the sidelines, his easy smile gracing his face less frequently, his eyes growing ever more distant. That latter fact might have had something to do with the whiskey. Sousa noted Thompson hadn’t exactly been holding back on that.
A particularly enthusiastic and entertaining story about a whale that Agent Heinz was relating drew Sousa’s attention away from Thompson for a moment, and when he turned back he found the new chief’s eyes locked on him. It was a little unsettling. Thompson’s gaze was very intense. And it seemed undeterred by the fact Sousa had noticed it. In Sousa’s experience, most men, when caught staring at another man’s face, would look away. Apparently Thompson hadn’t gotten that memo.
After a few – increasingly awkward – moments of this, Thompson got out of his seat and moved around the table, pulling up a chair beside Sousa and sprawling into it. “You’re awful quiet tonight, Sousa,” he remarked, taking another sip of whiskey.
Sousa shrugged. “I figured I shouldn’t insult you on your big night.”
“And you’ve got nothing to say if you’re not insulting me?”
“It does take up an inordinate amount of my time.”
Thompson chuckled. “I’m not sure if I should be flattered or offended.”
“Definitely offended. If you start getting flattered it defeats the purpose.”
“The last thing I’d want to do is take the wind out of your sails.”
“Yeah, I know how much you hate stepping on other people.” Sousa glanced around. “Isn’t Peggy supposed to be here?”
“She is here. We just don’t see her because she’s not getting us our coffee or our lunch orders.”
Sousa shot Thompson a disapproving look. “Not funny, Jack.”
Thompson smirked. “A little funny.” He reclined back in his chair. “She had somethin’ to do first – some night out with Martinelli, I think. Said she’d be along later.” His gaze was fixed on Sousa’s face again, watching his every move. “Lookin’ forward to finally gettin’ that drink with her, agent?” he asked.
“Shut up, Jack,” Sousa muttered, taking a sip from his own glass, mostly so he could have a reason not to meet Thompson’s eye. The other man continued to watch him, and Sousa shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. Jack Thompson was an ass, and Sousa wanted more than anything to punch him right now. But there was something else – some other feeling that Sousa couldn’t quite put his finger on – that kept twisting its way through his gut whenever Thompson looked at him like that.
“Just a question,” Thompson drawled. His eyes still hadn’t moved from Sousa’s face. “Still got that thing for her, or was rejection enough to extinguish that torch you’ve been carrying?” Sousa’s fingers tightened around his glass so tightly his knuckles turned white. Before he could speak, Thompson slung an arm around his shoulders and gave him a little shake. “Aw, lighten up, Danny. I’m only teasin’.”
“Maybe you should work on your social skills,” Sousa muttered. But Thompson’s arm was still around his shoulders, the heat of the other man’s body pressed against his side, and he was finding it hard to keep hold of his anger.
Thompson didn’t get a chance to reply. At that moment, they noticed a sudden silence descending upon the bar, and they both glanced up, trying to pinpoint its source. It wasn’t hard to spot. There in the doorway stood Peggy Carter. Her hair was curled. Her makeup was done to perfection. Her lips were painted a bold scarlet, and she wore a dress to match. It was the image of elegance and class, but there was something in the cut of the neckline and the way it clung to every curve of her body that could chase all respectable thoughts from a man’s head. Everyone watched in silence as she crossed the room.
“Lookin’ good, Carter!” one of the agents called finally. It was enough to break the awed quiet that had seized the bar, and the other agents were quick to throw out their own appreciative comments.
Peggy ignored them. Her eyes were on Thompson and Sousa, and she angled straight for them, pulling up a chair beside Sousa and seating herself without ever acknowledging the other agents even existed. She smiled. “Hello, boys.”
“You look real nice, Peggy,” Sousa managed to get out. Her appearance and her proximity and the fact that her attention was focused almost exclusively on him made it a little hard to form words.
“Thank you, Daniel,” she said, flashing him another smile that made his heart skip a beat.
“That was a hell of an entrance, Carter,” said Thompson. He didn’t seem to have any problems forming words, though he seemed affected enough to have forgotten the fact that his arm was still draped over Sousa’s shoulders. Sousa wasn’t about to remind him. The closeness of Thompson’s body and Peggy’s smile and the liquor in his belly were all making him feel very warm and comfortable, and he wasn’t quite ready for the feeling to end.
Peggy rolled her eyes. “You have no idea how often this happens to me,” she informed Thompson. “It’s absurd, truly. It’s like some men have never seen a woman before.”
“Maybe just not a woman like you,” said Thompson. His voice was low and rough, and it sent a thrill through Sousa’s body. It gave Sousa some satisfaction to know that Peggy was having an effect on Thompson too.
Peggy snorted. “Please, Agent Thompson, flattery doesn’t become you.”
“Chief,” said Thompson.
“Ah, yes,” said Peggy. “That will take some getting used to. But I will endeavor to do so, Chief Thompson.” Sousa could feel Thompson take a particularly deep breath at the sound of this name rolling off Peggy’s tongue, and he raised his eyebrows. Apparently Thompson was more affected that he’d thought. Peggy smiled brightly. “I suppose I owe you congratulations, chief, and a drink.”
“At least one,” said Thompson.
“I don’t think you need any more than that, Jack,” said Sousa. “You’ve already had plenty.”
“I’m going to take advantage of all the free whiskey I can get,” Thompson said. “Wouldn’t want it to go to waste.” His arm tightened a little around Sousa, and Sousa leaned into him slightly in response.
Peggy arched an eyebrow at them. “You boys seem comfortable,” she said.
“Like my very own radiator,” said Sousa, patting Thompson’s arm. Thompson chuckled, and Sousa could feel the sound rumbling in his chest. The chief reached his hand up to ruffle Sousa’s hair, then released him, the sudden withdrawal of the arm leaving Sousa feeling cold and a little exposed. But he couldn’t complain. He knew the moment had lasted far longer than it should have been.
“You missed Marks’s toast,” Thompson informed Peggy, throwing back the rest of the liquor in his glass.
“Oh what a shame,” said Peggy. “I hate to miss anything Marks has to say about you. What songs of praise did he have to sing this evening?”
Thompson shrugged. “The stuff legends are made of. The usual.”
“We’ll flourish under his leadership,” Sousa added.
Peggy snorted inelegantly and shook her head. “I need a drink,” she decided.
For the rest of the evening, Sousa couldn’t tear his eyes away from her. Peggy Carter was the most lively, vibrant drinker he had ever met. She laughed and told stories with the agents. She joked and swore with the bartender. At one point she even tried to hit somebody with a chair, but Sousa was quick to intervene. A brawl would only have ruined a perfectly lovely evening.
Sousa was dimly aware of Thompson drifting off into the background again. But it was only a vague thought in the back of his mind. The majority of his senses were consumed by Peggy. Peggy touching his arm. Peggy laughing at his jokes. Peggy smiling at him like he was the only person in the room.
It was after one particularly well-delivered line about a kettle that Sousa noticed something change in the air between them. Peggy didn’t laugh – a little rude, considering it was the best joke Sousa had made all night. Instead, she tilted her head to the side, examining him with a strange look on her face. “Are you alright, Peggy?” Sousa asked, concerned by this sudden turn of events.
“I… I am,” she said. She cleared her throat and looked away for a moment, before turning back to him a little hesitantly. “I was just thinking – if the offer is still on the table – that I might like to get that drink with you sometime,” she said.
Sousa’s face broke out in a grin. “Saturday work for you?”
Peggy beamed at him. “I’ll clear my schedule.”
Thompson chose that moment to get abruptly to his feet. “I’m calling it a night, kids,” he said. “Don’t have too much fun without me.” He drained his glass and headed for the door, swaying slightly.
Sousa sighed. “I’m going to make sure he gets in a cab before he gets hit by one,” he said, standing and shooting Peggy an apologetic look.
She nodded. “Please do.”
Night had fallen while they were in the bar, and at some point a downpour had begun. Sousa was instantly drenched as he stepped outside. He peered through the night and the rain, only just able to make out the figure of Thompson moving a little unsteadily towards the street. Hurrying forward, Sousa placed a steadying hand on other man’s arm. Thompson started slightly and blinked at him in confusion. “What’re you doing?” he asked. “Shouldn’t you be inside with your girlfriend?”
Sousa sighed. “Just making sure you get home safely, Jack.”
“I’ll be fine. The rain’s very sobering.”
“Maybe. But I’ll feel a lot better once you’re safely inside a taxi.”
Thompson didn’t reply. He was staring a Sousa again, that strange, intense look in his eyes, this time mixed with a touch of something desperate. And before Sousa knew what was happening, Thompson was grabbing him, pulling him forward into kiss. Sousa’s heart lurched in his chest as his senses were overwhelmed by the warmth of Thompson’s breath, the taste of whiskey on Thompson’s tongue, the scrape of Thompson’s stubble against his face. And then it was over. Thompson pulled back, clutching at Sousa’s jacket and fixing him with that same, desperate gaze. “Come home with me, Daniel,” he said. His voice was husky and pleading, and Sousa was overcome by a sudden urge to take Thompson in his arms and kiss him again.
Instead, he shook his head. “I can’t, Jack,” he whispered. “I can’t.”
Thompson took a step back, letting the fabric of Sousa’s jacket fall from his hands. “Goodnight, Sousa,” he said. He went to hail down a cab.
Sousa was left standing in the rain, his body numb, his mind consumed by thoughts of whiskey and lipstick.