Characters: Peggy Carter, Edwin Jarvis, Daniel Sousa, Howard Stark
Warnings/Triggers: explosions, some blood and injuries, being in a confined space, some era-appropriate terms and views
Spoilers: Basic ones for Agent Carter, but no big plot spoilers
Word Count 8,512 words
Summary: Peggy and Jarvis find themselves trapped and injured during an investigation, but it gives them plenty of time to chat as they wait for help to arrive.
Author's notes: I wanted to do something with Peggy and Jarvis being bros, and my word fairy continues her attempt to stretch the limits of LJ's entry word limit. Jarvis and Peggy both refused to freak out, so I ended up with less tense drama that I originally envisioned, and more bonding friendship.
Most of the backstory here is conjecture on my part, especially for Jarvis, but some of Peggy's comes from the expanded universe canon.
This is set a few months after the end of the mini-series, and I'm operating on the assumption that Peggy is still with the SSR for now.
First Aid here is both situation and era-appropriate but should not be attempted in real life.
Warnings for quite extensive spoilers for the Agatha Christie story Murder on the Links.
Sorry about the coding error, earlier. The story is no longer entirely in italics!
There was no unit of time quite so long as the moment between knowing something bad was about to happen and when it did.
Peggy knew she had triggered a bomb, knew how she'd triggered the bomb, knew that Jarvis was near enough to her to be in danger, and knew that there was no way to reverse what she had done, and she managed to think and process all these things before the explosion actually happened.
There was another long moment while she waited to fall after the floor went out from under her. Which she then did, hard. There was a great roar, so loud and engulfing as to smother all other sounds, making a perfect moment of silence before it all roared and cracked and shattered and banged around her.
The first sensation she had when she could think again was that her feet were wet. The warehouse was near the river and the floor had collapsed into the water below it. It wasn't deep, but it was cold, and her feet and legs were soaked. Her side was pressed painfully into some rubble and her hand was caught under a large cement chunk. She managed to pull it out. One of her fingers was bent entirely wrong. It wouldn't be any help to her like that, so she grabbed it and yanked it back into place. She was dizzy with pain for a moment, but it died away. She took stock of the rest of her body. Cuts, probably some very large bruises, but all her limbs moved and didn't hurt, and she didn't seem to have hit her head.
She carefully sat up and looked around, trying to assess how bad the situation was. Quite, would be the answer. The explosion had taken out most of the floor, and there were large piles of rubble all over the place, trapping her on all sides. Up was a long way, and she couldn't be sure any of the piles would hold. Any evidence was probably long gone. She could only hope what she'd put in her pocketbook was still intact, somewhere. She'd found some sort of little gizmo she wasn't sure the purpose of and had taken several shipping manifests.
She'd been tracking weapons smugglers and had received word a few hours earlier that she might find information at an exclusive, invitation-only party being held in the Starlight Roof at the Waldorf. She'd rung Howard Stark, who, as she'd expected, had an invitation, but was not in New York. He was happy to let her use it in his absence and sent Jarvis round with it. Jarvis suggested using Mr Stark's car and driver might help with the illusion, and she'd accepted. She wished she hadn't now. She'd only endangered him.
“Mr Jarvis?” she called, choking on the dust in the air. “Mr Jarvis?!”
There was a low moan from nearby. Peggy started to crawl toward it. She found her electric torch along the way, gave it a few smacks, and it came back to life. The glass was cracked, but the bulb was intact, and it gave a boost to the moonlight coming in from the open floor above her.
“Mr Jarvis!” she called again. “Keep making noise.”
There was another moan. Peggy continued to half-crawl and half-walk toward it, slipping and sliding on the concrete pieces. She could see a patch of tweed beneath some rubble and started to move the rocks out of the way.
“Mr Jarvis, can you hear me?” she asked. “Say something, if you can.”
“Was that a bomb?” Jarvis' weak voice said.
“Yes,” Peggy said.
“Why?” Jarvis said, in a rather insulted voice.
“I expect to discourage people from snooping around,” Peggy replied.
“Surely a sign would have done the job,” Jarvis said. “I would have obeyed a sign.”
She managed to move enough rocks and chunks to get to him. Her heart jumped into her throat at the sight. She wasn't sure where to begin to examine him, but nothing thorough could be done until she'd taken care of the massive gash to his leg. Blood was pouring from it. She quickly ripped some fabric from her evening gown and tied it tightly in a tourniquet above the wound.
“Are you all right, Miss Carter?” Jarvis asked, his face full of concern even as she tried to help him.
“Yes, Mr Jarvis, I'm fine,” Peggy said. “How about you?”
“I'm afraid I've taken quite a tumble,” Jarvis said, apologetically.
“We'll get you sorted,” Peggy promised. Blood oozed through her fingers as she tried to apply pressure to the wound. “This may seem like a callous question, but you were holding my pocketbook for me. Do you still have it?”
Jarvis tried to sit up and, when he did, she could see the deformity of his shoulder, which was well out of its socket.
“Mr Jarvis, doesn't that hurt?” Peggy asked. She'd seen military men of much stronger fortitude in screaming heaps on the floor for a less severe dislocation.
“Yes, Miss Carter,” he replied, calmly. “It's quite excruciating.”
He reached with his other arm and nabbed the strap of her pocketbook. Peggy reached over and quickly took it for herself, pulling it over. She rummaged through the bag, noting the evidence she'd placed in it was still there, and pulled out a sanitary towel, then held it to the gash.
“Oh,” Jarvis said, blinking at it. His cheeks flushed.
“It won't bite,” Peggy said.
He continued to look uncomfortable.
“Really, Mr Jarvis, you're married, I'm sure you've seen one of these before,” Peggy snapped. “Do you just close your eyes once a month?”
“Mrs Jarvis prefers a hot water bottle and my absence during that week,” Jarvis replied, a bit disgruntled. “And because I respect her, I oblige.”
There was something about being scolded by Jarvis that made Peggy feel disappointed in herself. He was just like Mr Knightley in Emma. 'It was badly done, Peggy. Badly done.'
“I'm sorry,” she said. “That was unfair to you. But catching blood is what it's made for, Mr Jarvis. And it's clean, I promise. It's been laundered.”
“I've no doubt,” Jarvis said. “It's creative thinking, Miss Carter. I apologize for my squeamishness.”
“No, I'm being churlish,” Peggy said, with a sigh. “I didn't mean for this to happen. I should have been more careful. I'm sorry.”
“No, it's my fault, I should have protested more strongly about you going in without back-up,” Jarvis replied.
“We both know I wouldn't have listened, no matter how strongly you protested,” Peggy said. “Though, next time you might actually stay in the car when I tell you to do so.”
“Next time, I believe I will stay at home,” Jarvis said.
He craned his neck up to look at the floor above them, wincing slightly. As his head turned, she could see the thick coating of sweat glistening over his face in the light of the torch and a bruise along one of his cheeks, curving up around his eye socket. Whatever his outward calm, he was in pain. A great deal of it.
“I don't suppose there's an easy way out?” he asked, hopefully.
“No, I'm not even sure there's a hard one,” Peggy replied. She checked on the gash. It still bled freely. She pressed the towel back down again. “We were lucky not to be crushed, I don't want to knock something out of place and bring it all down on us.”
Jarvis settled back against the rubble once more. His breath came in short, sharp bursts. “Well, I'm sure someone will find us soon enough,” he said.
“Who, precisely?” Peggy asked. “As you pointed out, I didn't call in back-up. I sent a note to Daniel about my suspicions, but someone will have to trace our movements from the party to here. We're in an isolated area; we can't rely on anyone having heard the explosion and calling for help.”
“Ana or Miss Martinelli will notice when we don't return home,” Jarvis said.
“And how long do you think it will take before they decide we've gone past our usual length of absence and into a worrying one?” Peggy said.
“18 hours,” Jarvis said.
“That's very specific,” Peggy said.
“That's the longest I've ever gone without ringing Ana to say hello,” Jarvis said. “I expect she would start to worry after that time.”
Peggy smiled, a little. She decided not to crush any more of his hopes for the moment. His positivity might help him in the long run as they waited for someone to come. If they came. For the moment, it was best to make Jarvis comfortable and wait. If things changed, she might have to attempt escape on her own, but for the moment, she would wait.
She lifted the pad once more. “I'm going to have to sew this closed,” she said. “I think the bleeding has slowed down enough for me to do it, but if you move it will start up again. Would you like me to do it before or after I put your shoulder back in place?”
Jarvis blinked at her in horror. “Is there a third option?”
“No,” Peggy said. “If you leave a shoulder too long out of place the muscles go into spasm and freeze, cutting off the circulation. It will die, Mr Jarvis, and you'll have to have it amputated. How are you going to iron Howard's trousers if you only have one arm?”
“Actually, I knew a valet who had lost a hand in the Great War,” Jarvis said. “He managed very well. He threaded needles with his tongue.”
“Mr Jarvis,” Peggy said, in warning.
“Very well,” Jarvis said. “I suggest you start with the leg. I imagine the pain from my shoulder will offset pain from the needle somewhat.”
Peggy pulled a small sewing kit from her pocketbook and set about threading the needle. Which she was not particularly good at in these conditions. Jarvis's hands twitched as though he longed to do it for her.
“Fold the thread over the eye of the needle and then push the fold through,” he instructed.
Peggy attempted that and managed to get the needle threaded. “You and Mrs Henry would get along,” she said, as she tied a knot at the end of the thread. “She was my Domestic Science and Home Economics teacher. I'm afraid I've rather disappointed her in my post-secondary life.”
“I beg to differ, you and Miss Martinelli run a very balanced household,” Jarvis said. “Your bills get sent to me, there's nothing frivolous in them.”
“I leave the hob on until the kettle's boiled dry, and she uses enough hot water to heat Lake Superior,” Peggy said.
“Yes, well, in comparison to the bills I usually receive for Mr Stark's residences, it's very reasonable,” Jarvis said.
Peggy removed the pad once more and pinched the wound closed. It wasn't the most sterile of circumstances, but she'd rather have him infected than bleed to death.
“I suggest a baseball stitch, I find it makes a nice seam,” Jarvis said.
“Perhaps I should embroider some flowers,” Peggy replied, a bit tartly.
She pressed the needle through his skin. His whole body tensed and he took a sharp intake of breath, but he held still while she worked. A few peeps of pain escaped here and there. Peggy would have liked to offer words of reassurance and comfort, but she needed all her focus to manage the sewing. Skin was very different from fabric and, though she could do very fine work there if she tried, sewing wasn't her best skill. Adding in the slippery quality of blood and the seriousness of the situation, she felt she'd made quite a pig's breakfast of the whole thing. But it was closed and no longer bleeding. She released the tourniquet from his leg. There was a minor ooze of blood, but the stitches held.
“Excellent work, Miss Carter, thank you,” Jarvis said, politely.
“It's not nearly as neat as the job you did for me,” Peggy said.
“Yes, well, I was top of the class in Domestic Science and Home Economics,” Jarvis replied, with a gentle quirk of his lips. “Or I would have been if I had taken it.”
“You went to butler school instead,” Peggy said. “I think that gives you a leg up.”
“I'm a leg down at the moment,” Jarvis said.
He gave a little giggle and that made Peggy laugh.
“Now, your shoulder,” she said.
His face fell.
“You'll feel much better once it's in place,” she promised.
She moved up to sit next to him, kicking off one of her shoes and taking his arm just under the elbow. She braced her foot in his side.
“On the count of three, I'll start to pull,” she said. “It won't pop right back in, it will take a few moments of manipulation. Do your very best to relax. Ready? One, two--”
“Wait,” Jarvis said. “Are you acting on three or after three?”
“Which would you prefer?” Peggy asked.
“It doesn't matter, I'd just like to be prepared,” Jarvis said.
“I'll do it on three,” Peggy said. “One, two--”
“Wait,” Jarvis said. “Just give a moment to organize myself.”
“You're going to be doing very little, Mr Jarvis,” Peggy said. “All you need to do is relax. Just relax. One, two--”
“Wait,” Jarvis said.
“Mr Jarvis, I will do this whether you are ready or not,” Peggy said. “It needs to be done, stop dilly-dallying.”
“It's just, I'm not quite so brave as you, Miss Carter,” Jarvis said. “I don't wish to comport myself poorly.”
Peggy took her foot from his side. “Mr Jarvis, the last person I saw with this sort of injury was a 17 stone marine who was in tears and begging for his mother,” she said. “You are comporting yourself extremely well. I am going to count to three, on three I will put it back into place. You will feel a great relief and wish I'd done it sooner.”
“Yes, ma'am,” Jarvis said.
Peggy softened for a moment. “And you are one of the bravest men I have ever encountered,” she said. “There are many types of bravery. You have an iron soul, Mr Jarvis. Put it to good use.”
Jarvis nodded. Peggy put her foot back against his ribs.
“One, two...three,” she said.
She pulled gently in an outwards motion. Jarvis made a guttural moaning noise. It wouldn't go back in.
“You have to relax,” Peggy said. “I know it's hard, but relax your muscles. Think of something calming. Candlelight and rain. One, two, three...” she pulled again. This time, she felt a jerk and pop and Jarvis's whole body went limp. “There we go. Well done.” She folded his arm gently over his stomach. “I'm going to put a sling there to keep it from getting jostled too much.”
She ripped off another piece of her skirt to make a sling.
“I do apologize for the state of your frock,” Jarvis said.
“It's Angie's, actually, I borrowed it,” Peggy said.
“Oh dear,” Jarvis said. “Please send me the bill, I will reimburse her.”
“Don't bother, she wore my favourite skirt to an audition last week and fell into a mud puddle,” Peggy said. “Completely ruined it. We're even now.”
She leaned over, tying Jarvis' arm securely to his chest. He was pouring sweat and his eye was starting to swell, but he looked more comfortable.
“Miss Carter, this may be a somewhat obvious statement on my part, but you seem to have been impaled,” he said.
Peggy looked down at herself, quite certain she would have noticed or felt that.
“Your shoulder,” Jarvis said. “In the back.”
Peggy looked over her shoulder and, indeed, there was something rather large sticking out of it. “Yes, you're quite correct,” she said. She turned so he could get a better look. “How bad is it?”
“It's a rather large spike of rock,” Jarvis said. “About a hand's length, I should say. It looks deep. I shouldn't pull it out on your own.”
“No, I imagine it's stemming any blood,” Peggy agreed. “I'm afraid I don't have much feeling left in this shoulder after I was shot. A good thing, in this case.”
“We make quite the pair,” Jarvis said. “Between us, two good shoulders and three good legs.”
“That's more than enough to get us out,” Peggy said.
“Have a plan, do you?” Jarvis asked.
“Not quite,” Peggy said. “But I'm sure I'll think of something.”
She tried to make Jarvis more comfortable, placing her pocketbook behind his head and loosening his tie and waistcoat. She tied more of her skirt around her shoulder, securing the shard in place so it wouldn't be jostled.
“It's looking rather like London in here,” she noted to Jarvis. “How it looked the last time I saw it, anyway. Were you there during the Blitz?”
“Only briefly,” Jarvis replied. “I was being held at His Majesty's Pleasure, so I experienced it from a rather sturdy gaol cell. Ironically, despite waiting for court-martial, I was very safe. I didn't stay in London long after Mr Stark's intervention on my behalf, so I missed the worst of it. How about you?”
“I was in New York with the SSR,” Peggy said. “It was over when I returned to London. I avoided it all together. My parents were there for the whole thing, though. I used to get letters from my mother-- lovely, cheerful reports about playing cards with my father in the Anderson shelter and how she'd planted flowers around it and won the contest for the most beautiful garden in the neighbourhood. One time, she wrote and told me they were getting a new sink installed, and I asked why in my letter back. It turned out half the kitchen had been taken out by a bomb a few weeks earlier, but she hadn't told me because 'it didn't seem very important in the grand scheme of things, Margaret, and I didn't want to worry you'.”
Jarvis smiled. “Was she aware what you were doing during the war?”
“Good heaven's, no,” Peggy said. “She thought I was working as a secretary. She was never sure why I had to be in New York to do it, but she was always grateful I was out of harm's way in America. I'm rather grateful she didn't know how much I was in it.”
“And now?” Jarvis asked.
“She thinks I work at the phone company,” Peggy said.
“That's a shame. She should know what you've done for this country, and the world,” Jarvis said, sincerely.
“I think I've learned my lesson about recognition,” Peggy said. “And I'd rather her think I spend all day patching phone calls than what I really do.”
“Do you go back often?” Jarvis asked. “To England?”
“No,” Peggy said. “I haven't been back since the end of the war. It's a long boat ride. I haven't had the time.”
“Mr Stark assures me commercial transatlantic air travel is close at hand,” Jarvis said. “Apparently the planes will have dining and sleeping compartments, just like a train. You'll be able to get there overnight.”
“Sounds lovely,” Peggy said. “Have you been back?”
Jarvis shook his head. “Not entirely welcome, I'm afraid,” he said. “And very little to go back to. Ana is happy here and so am I. I write, sometimes, but I don't receive very many letters back. My family aren't terribly approving of my life here, with the exception of a few members.”
Peggy cocked her head in sympathy. “Because of Ana?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, his chin setting in that hard way she saw whenever someone dared to suggest anything negative about her. “The general consensus was that we're all very sorry about what happened to the Jews but that is no good reason to go about marrying them.”
Peggy sometimes idealistically thought that England was a more tolerant place than America, but she supposed it was the same wherever one went. There were people who only saw differences and people who saw none, and those who had bias were just as firm in their positions as those who didn't. She'd always admired that about Steve, that he saw people as people and thought nothing of a woman in charge or a coloured or Japanese man in his unit. He knew a thing or two about being judged by surface alone, she supposed.
“You've never regretted it?” she asked. “All that you went through--the court-martial, having to leave? No, I'm sorry, I'm prying. I'm being very nosy. You don't have to answer.”
“I don't mind,” Jarvis assured her. “It was very much worth it. She's worth it. I was worried, at the start, that she might not feel like I did, that she felt she owed me something. I told her she didn't have to marry me, that I would understand. And she was worried that I felt obliged to her in some way, that I might have acted hastily and got myself in over my head, and said that I didn't have to marry her out of some sense of selflessness. Which was quite unfathomable to me. I always thought I had been very selfish, causing so much trouble just because I loved her.”
Peggy found Edwin Jarvis' romantic heart rather a sweet contrast to his fussy sense of propriety.
“Love brings out the best in us,” she said. “If it's the right love, anyway. And you did marry, in the end.”
“Yes,” Jarvis said, a silly smile on his face. “Mr Stark told us to shut up and that, if we weren't going to get married, then he'd marry Ana, because he'd really like someone to make him goulash and sew his shirts. We were married that day. Nearly five years ago. Next week, actually. Monday. Do you think we'll be out of here by then?”
“Yes, Mr Jarvis, I assure you I have no intentions of being here for four days,” Peggy said, dryly. “Now that I know we have a celebration to get to, I'll do my very best to see that you make it. What anniversary is five?”
“Wood,” Jarvis said. “Traditionally.”
“Very well,” Peggy said. “I suggest you start to plan your carving, Mr Jarvis. I promise I will have you home by tomorrow evening at the very latest.”
The most sensible thing to do was to wait for some form of help to arrive. Peggy found waiting a difficult thing to do. She worried about Jarvis, whose eye was starting to swell shut, and who may well have internal injuries that she couldn't see. He needed to get to a hospital and she knew he wouldn't tell her if he felt worse, she'd have to judge for herself.
“Blast!” he said, suddenly.
“What? What's wrong?” she said.
“I didn't wind the clocks this evening,” Jarvis said, in consternation. “I was meant to. They'll lose.”
Peggy let out a deep sigh of relief that his worry was entirely unrelated to the situation they were in. “Mr Jarvis, I don't think that's really very important at the moment.”
“They are antique and finicky, it's crucial they be kept in good health,” Jarvis said. “Some of them may stop entirely.”
“Howard wears a watch he very proudly informed me is the most accurate in the world,” Peggy said. “If needs to know the time, he can look at that. Put it out of your mind, Mr Jarvis, it won't help us here.”
“Yes, Miss Carter,” Jarvis said. He looked pained. “I didn't take the cellar accounts, either.”
“Oh dear, Mr Jarvis, the house will surely fall to ruin,” Peggy said.
Jarvis gave her a sour look. “It may seem very silly to you, but I have my duties and I take them seriously.”
'Badly done, Peggy'.
“It isn't silly,” Peggy said. “I'm sure you're very good at your job, but you can't do it here, so there's no point in fussing.” She looked around her. “I think it may be time to be a bit more proactive.”
“Please don't do anything foolish,” Jarvis said.
“I won't,” Peggy said. “I'm going to see if I can climb out. If I can get to where the floor is intact, I might be able to crawl free.”
“By what definition is that not foolish?” Jarvis asked.
“Mine,” Peggy said, with a smile. “I have to try. Sitting still is not my style.”
She took the torch and made her way over to where the hole in the floor above them was. There were piles of rubble that reached it or came close. None of them looked very sturdy. She chose the one that seemed the most solid and took a tentative step up on it.
“Please be careful,” Jarvis said.
“I will,” she said.
She discovered that there was perhaps more of an injury to her shoulder than she had assumed. It had seized and was hard to move. She also had sharp pains in one side as she reached upwards. She might have bruised or broken a rib or two in the fall. It was nothing excruciating and she worked around both issues, climbing carefully.
She only made it a few steps up before her foot slipped and she fell.
“Miss Carter!” Jarvis called.
“I'm fine,” Peggy said. She reassessed the path and took a different route up. She made it further this time, but the bit of rubble she was holding fell out and down she went with a harder fall. “Ouch!”
“Miss Carter, this is foolish,” Jarvis said.
“I'm fine,” Peggy said.
She got up and took another go at it. She couldn't find a place to put her hands this time; anywhere she grabbed the rubble shifted. One attempt brought down a large pile close to her head.
“Miss Carter, that is quite enough,” Jarvis said.
“Damn, blast, and hell!” she said.
She realized there was no way out by this route. She put her hand on her head and wiped away the sweat forming there. This was one of those moments where she wondered why she couldn't live the sort of life where she would be at home on a Friday night--listening to the radio and darning socks--and be content with that. Why did she have to throw herself into situations where bombs and imminent death was the norm?
“I'm sorry, Mr Jarvis,” she said.
“There's no need to apologize, you gave it a very good go,” Jarvis said. “Now, come and sit down and save your energy.”
Peggy returned to him. His eye was swollen half shut now. He looked pale under her torch.
“I wish I could offer you something to make you more comfortable,” she said. “I suppose I could kiss you.”
Jarvis lost some of his pale as his cheeks flushed. “Miss Carter...”
“My lipstick, Mr Jarvis,” Peggy said. “It has a sedative compound in it. Depending on the passion of the kiss, it can do anything from disorientate to put you completely to sleep. It might take the edge off.”
“No, I think I'll keep my faculties, thank you,” Jarvis said. “I'm fine. I've been worse off than this.”
“Really?” Peggy asked.
Jarvis opened his mouth and then closed it again. “No,” he admitted. “No, I haven't, now that I think about it. I've certainly been more uncomfortable, however. I once had to oversee the eviction of one of Mr Stark's lady friends who insisted on remaining nude through the entire packing of her things. And, as she an unfortunate habit of borrowing objects not belonging to her and failing to return them, I had to remain in the room the whole time. That was far more uncomfortable than this.”
As much as Peggy loathed Howard's womanising and felt his treatment of his 'lady friends' was disgusting, the thought of Jarvis turning redder and redder as he carefully observed a naked woman to ensure she didn't steal any spoons was rather comical.
“Has it ever occurred to you to let him clean up his own messes?” she asked.
“It has, as it happens,” Jarvis said. “But, I fear he wouldn't anyway. He'd leave the young lady waiting and wondering. I feel it's somehow kinder for me to make a clean break of it and see her safely on her way.”
“I don't suppose recent experiences have taught him any sort of lesson?” Peggy said.
“No,” Jarvis said, with a resigned look on his face. “Not really. His one resolution is to keep them away from the house so they don't have access to anything sensitive. And I believe he pays closer attention to their wrists now, as well.”
Peggy shook her head. “He's incorrigible and not in a way that's endearing,” she said.
“What baffles me is how so many women, many of them very kind and intelligent, all think they might be the one to change him,” Jarvis said. “They must know his reputation. The blame is very much on him, of course, but surely they know going in that it won't last?”
“Howard Stark has a way of making every woman feel like she's the only woman,” Peggy said.
Jarvis nodded. “I know he's lacking in many areas, quite lacking,” he said. “But he is a good man, in many others. He wants to be a good man. His intentions are good. If he could focus them and not get distracted by all the other nonsense, he could do great things.”
Peggy thought this was a naïve, idealistic version of Howard's character but didn't feel it right to burst Jarvis' bubble. He was right, even if it was a bit rosy-tinted. Howard could do great things and had. But, unfortunately, the same qualities that made him capable of great things also put him in a position to fail just as greatly.
“Perhaps he'll surprise us both, one day,” she said.
“I continue to hope,” Jarvis said.
Peggy knew from experience that a little faith in you could go along way. She hoped Howard would take it and run.
“Miss Carter, I don't wish to add to our worries,” Jarvis said, after a few moments of contemplative silence. “But I think the water level is rising.”
Peggy looked over to where the small puddle of water she'd fallen in had, in fact, grown to be noticeably bigger. “The tide,” she said. “The tide will be coming in.”
Damn, blast, and hell.
“Oh, good,” Jarvis said. “I thought we might starve to death, but it seems we'll drown instead.”
“We won't drown,” Peggy said. She pointed to the wall behind him. “That's the high tide mark, we'll have room to breathe if it comes to that. I believe tides take some time to come and go. You might be a bit less comfortable, but you won't drown. Do you know how to swim, just in case?”
“I am not a strong swimmer, but I do know the basics,” Jarvis said. “You?”
“Oh, yes, I was champion four years running at St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls,” Peggy said. “Helen Powell came in from India and took my title for my final two years, though. It was vexing. She was the rival hockey captain, too. And she beat me in track.”
“She sounds horrid,” Jarvis said, wryly.
“She was!” Peggy said. “She was very pretty, as well. I hated her. I haven't thought about her in years, though. I wonder where she is now?”
“Hopefully warm and dry and not down a hole,” Jarvis said. “Or, perhaps, not hopefully. Perhaps we want her down a hole.”
Peggy laughed. “At one point I might have wanted that, but I think I've grown in maturity since I left school,” she said. “I hope she has a lovely life filled with many medals and trophies.”
“Were you always very athletic?” Jarvis asked.
“Yes,” Peggy said, thoughtfully. “I suppose so. I never liked to sit still. I always liked to climb trees and play cricket and kick a football around. I was always the girl with the holes in her stockings and the plasters on her knees.”
“Well, you've certainly grown out of that,” Jarvis said, with a raised eyebrow.
Peggy looked down at her torn skirt and bruised legs. “My mother once said we don't change as we get older, we just get more like ourselves.”
“I'm not sure if that's reassuring or very dreary,” Jarvis said.
“Yes, my mother has a way of being both,” Peggy said. “A little rain cloud with a silver lining.”
“Rather a sensible way to go through life,” Jarvis said. “My mother is rain cloud only. The sky is always falling for her.”
Peggy realized she knew very little about Jarvis' family or life before the war, which came as a surprise to her. She then noted that she had only known him a few months, which came as just as much of a surprise. She'd known people for much longer who she didn't trust half as much as him. He'd been open with her as they sat trapped here, but she wondered how much of that was a willingness and how much came from a giddiness from the pain and fear. She didn't want to take advantage and have him regret or be embarrassed by it later on.
However, as they continued to wait for help while the water continued to rise, they had to talk about something and she learned more about his likes and dislikes if little more about his life before he came to America. He enjoyed Benny Goodman, he disliked Harry James. He could recite reams of Tennyson poetry from memory. He and Ana enjoyed going to the theatre, but Ana found Shakespeare or heavy dramas taxing on her ability to understand English, so they preferred musicals and comedies. He and Peggy had a long argument on the merits of Agatha Christie. He enjoyed her, Peggy found her very snobbish and disliked how the young woman always ended up falling in love with the dashing, roguish man whom she suspected of being a murderer not five pages earlier.
“And Captain Hastings runs off with a circus performer he's met twice and thinks is a murderer right up until the very end of the story,” Peggy pointed out. “He doesn't even know her proper name! It's completely unrealistic. Not to mention that the other young man in the story completely abandons a young woman for a prettier one and then transfers his affections right back to her after he realizes the prettier one is a murderer. Then the first woman takes him back without question.”
“You seem to know quite a bit about these stories for someone who dislikes the author,” Jarvis pointed out.
Some of the wind went out of Peggy's sails. “Well, there's nothing wrong with the mysteries,” she said. “I just dislike all the silly women.”
“Miss Carter, I say this with the utmost respect to you and your sex,” Jarvis said. “But there are a great number of very silly women in the world, just as there are a great number of silly men. I have met many examples of both.”
“They needn't all be silly,” Peggy argued.
“They aren't,” Jarvis said. “What about Miss Marple or Miss Lemon or Tuppence Beresford? They are all remarkably clever.”
“Two of them are nosy spinsters and the last would get in a good deal more trouble if her husband didn't stop her,” Peggy said.
“Yes, and he would get in a great deal more trouble if she didn't stop him,” Jarvis replied. “I would say that's a sign of a healthy marriage.”
Peggy let out a snort of laughter at the absurdity of arguing the literary relevance of Agatha Christie while trapped down a hole. Jarvis gave an odd little giggle in reply, and they both had a good chuckle.
“Perhaps we should agree to disagree,” she suggested.
“Very well,” Jarvis said.
He turned the tables on her after that and they spent the next little while talking about her life and interests. They debated the merits of Jane Austen. Jarvis found her mocking and insulting, Peggy thought she was witty. They agreed to disagree on that as well. They fell on the topic of Steve, and she told some stories--how he didn't know what fondue was and thought her and Howard were an item, and how he had so much trouble getting the hang of how big he was after the serum and bumped his head on doorways he would have cleared easily a few months before. Jarvis seemed to be only familiar with Captain America as Howard perceived him, and Peggy felt it was important that she kept Steve Rogers' memory alive as well. The Steve he was before he was Captain America and, indeed, remained even after.
She forced herself not to look too often at her watch because it was disheartening to know how long they had been there. It was easy to keep track of time by how high the water was getting and how much Jarvis' eye had swollen shut. They had to move to higher ground, which was not nearly as comfortable as the niche they had established where Jarvis had fallen.
They were about four hours into the ordeal when the rubble suddenly began to shift and tumble about. Peggy threw herself over Jarvis to prevent him from further injury and several rocks bounced off her back without doing any lasting damage other than what would no doubt be some nasty bruises.
“The water must be making the foundation soft,” she said, when she sat up again. “It's shifting.”
“My vision is a bit poorly, Miss Carter, but it looks like it might be a good thing,” Jarvis noted.
The rubble near the opening in the floor had tumbled, and how it had arranged itself looked climbable. Peggy got to her feet to test it out.
“Be careful,” Jarvis said, in a resigned tone that said he had given up hopes that she might.
She managed to climb up to the warehouse and pulled herself up onto what was left of the floor. She shined the torch around, but couldn't find any way out from there, either. There was a skylight that was too high up to reach, the door from the office they were in had collapsed and been blocked, and the only window was covered by rubble except for a spot only big enough for her hand. She couldn't get the rocks to move to make it bigger.
“Damn, blast, and hell!” she said. She came over and leaned off the edge of the ledge to look down into the hole at Jarvis. “I'm sorry, Mr Jarvis, we're still stuck. I'm going to keep working on it, though.”
“I had no doubt,” Jarvis said. “Please--”
“Be careful,” Peggy joined in. “I will.”
She started to move as many of the smaller pieces of rubble around the window as she could in hopes of making some of the larger pieces collapse and give her enough room to crawl through. She also paused every once in a while to shout down to Jarvis to make sure he was still conscious. He was starting to sound weak.
After a full hour of this, she'd made a hole big enough for her head to get through, but nothing more. It did allow her to get a good look outside, though. And hear it, too.
“Miss Carter, that's a seaplane!” Jarvis yelled up.
Peggy was impressed he could distinguish that from another type of plane. “Yes, I can see it!” she said. It was flying fairly low over the water.
“Can you signal it somehow?” Jarvis said.
Peggy flashed her torch into the hole in the window, sending out a distress message in Morse. She repeated it over and over until the plane was gone from sight.
Damn, blast, and--
“It's coming back!” she shouted to Jarvis. “I think it saw me.”
She continued to flash her torch and the plane skimmed down to land on the river. There was a dock outside the warehouse and the plane came up to bump against it. A figure jumped out, and Peggy couldn't quite make out details in the darkness, but as soon as the crutch hit the dock, she knew who it was.
“Carter?” Sousa called. “Carter, you here?”
“Daniel!” Peggy shouted back. She used the torch to smash more of the glass out of the window. “Daniel, I'm here!”
Sousa moved quickly up to the dock toward her. Another figure hopped out of the plane.
“You find'm?” he called up to Sousa.
“Howard?” Peggy said, recognizing the voice.
“Peggy!” Howard called back. He pushed past Sousa to jog up to the window. “You got Jarvis with you?”
“Yes, he's here as well,” she said. “What are you doing here? I thought you were in Chicago.”
“I decided to come home early. Or, uh, my presence wasn't really welcome any more,” Howard said. “Turned out to be a good thing. What the hell do you think you're doing kidnapping my butler? I gave him to you to save me, that deal's over now, you can't just take him whenever you want.”
Peggy rolled her eyes. “He's not your slave, Howard, and he volunteered.”
“You okay?” Howard asked, some of his worry showing through.
“I'm fine,” Peggy said.
“Is he okay?” Howard asked.
“He needs help,” Peggy said. “Nothing immediately life-threatening, but he needs a doctor.”
“I'll radio for an ambulance,” Howard said.
He turned and pushed past Sousa again. Sousa paused and tensed for a moment as though collecting his patience together, something Peggy recognized from her own efforts to collaborate with Howard in the past.
Sousa took Howard's place at the window to scold her.
“What the hell, Peggy?!” he said. “What the hell were you thinking? You don't have to sneak around any more, you have people you can trust to back you up. Some damned vague note isn't keeping me informed. I shouldn't have to play detective to get to you!”
“Yes, you're right,” Peggy said. “I'm sorry, Daniel. I was trying to move quickly and the warehouse looked abandoned. I didn't check carefully enough. I should have let you know and waited for help.”
Sousa's mouth was stuck open, ready to scold some more, apparently not expecting her to give in so easily. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, that's right.” He nodded to reiterate the point. “What happened, exactly?”
“The door to the office was rigged with a bomb,” Peggy explained. “The floor gave out. I managed to get back up here, but Jarvis is still trapped, and there's no way out that I can reach.”
“That's why you wait for help!” Sousa said, in exasperation, before he switched to problem-solving. “Stark's got some rope, is that any use?”
Peggy looked around. “If you can get to the skylight, I might be able to climb out that way, but Jarvis won't,” she said. “His shoulder was dislocated, and he has a leg injury. I might be able to get him up here, but it would be touch and go. He certainly can't shimmy up a rope.”
“Can we tie to him and pull?” Sousa asked. “Make a sling of some sort?”
“That might work,” Peggy said. “I'll see if I can get him up to this level, and we'll go from there.”
“Roger,” Sousa said.
“This may be very rude of me, but might I borrow your crutch?” Peggy asked. “I think it might help him.”
Sousa pulled his arm out of it and slid it through the window to her.
“Thank you,” Peggy said.
She climbed back down the ramp of debris to Jarvis. “Sousa and Howard are here,” she said to him. “Help has arrived.”
“Mr Stark is in Chicago,” Jarvis said, looking lost and confused.
“Not any more,” Peggy said. “Do you think you could climb up? I'll help you and we'll go slowly. We may have a way to get us out, but not from down here.”
Jarvis gave a stiff smile. “Well then, it would seem needs must,” he said. “I'm certainly not going to live down here for the rest of my life.” He braced a hand against the wall and slowly got to his feet, wincing the whole while.
Peggy handed him the crutch. It was a bit short for his height but gave him something to brace himself with.
“Put your good arm around me,” Peggy said. “And lean. I'm very sturdy, so don't be shy about using me as support and use the crutch to help you balance.
It took several minutes. Jarvis was in a flop sweat and panting so hard Peggy thought he might faint, but they managed to get him up into the office. His leg was bleeding again--not badly, but he'd lost so much blood already that he couldn't afford to lose much more. Peggy took another strip off her skirt and tied it over the one already there. She passed the crutch back through to Sousa at the window.
“Hey there intrepid explorers, head's up,” Howard called, from the roof. He tossed a rope down and then a moment later slid down it. “Christ, you look like hell, Jarvis. Did I say you could have the day off to go and blow yourself up? I had to drive myself home from the airfield.”
“Forgive me, sir, I didn't know you would be home yet,” Jarvis muttered.
“How did you know we were missing?” Peggy asked, as she worked to tie the rope into some sort of seat for Jarvis. “Did Daniel call you?”
“No, I called him,” Howard said. “Like Jarvis said, I wasn't due home yet, so I wasn't that surprised he wasn't waiting for my call, but when I got in, half the clocks in the house were off. Took me a bit to figure out how I kept losing ten minutes going between rooms with me not even being drunk, but I noticed it eventually. Jarvis doesn't let that happen. I mean, maybe one or two of them--”
“Ahem,” Jarvis said, insulted.
“But all of them? No, he wouldn't let that happen,” Howard went on. “He wouldn't put on his glad rags and go dancing and leave the clocks wrong. Something must be off. Ana said he'd gone out to take the invite to you and hadn't been back. I called you, and your little roommate said you weren't there, so I called your office and everyone there was out looking for you at the party. I went there, and I offered my services. Sousa'd heard from a cute blonde there that you might have gone in this direction, so him and me took a plane over to see if we could find anything weird, and he spotted your message. And here I am to save the day.”
“See, Miss Carter, I told you the maintenance of the clocks was imperative,” Jarvis said.
“Yes, Mr Jarvis, I won't doubt you again,” Peggy said. She looped the rope into a sort of seat and tied it in a few firm knots.
“Uh, Peggy, were you stabbed in the back?” Howard asked, casually.
“I was impaled, yes,” Peggy replied, tugging her knots to make sure they would hold.
“Okay, just checking,” Howard said. “I thought that might be something to be concerned about, but apparently we're gonna ignore that. Suits me. Who's first out of here?”
“You. You can help Daniel pull,” Peggy said. “I'll help Jarvis down here, and then I can come after him. Daniel! Howard is coming up now, are you secure?”
“Yeah, it's not going anywhere,” Sousa called back.
Howard's climbing technique involved more of being hoisted up by Sousa than moving under his own power.
“Fuck, I never that I'd have to do this again after PE,” he muttered, as he lifted his knees to his chest and pulled himself a few inches higher up.
He managed to get to the roof. Peggy helped Jarvis get seated in the loop she'd made for him. Howard and Sousa pulled him up slowly and helped him down from the roof. She followed, getting hoisted up as well once she realized her shoulder wasn't going to be any use. She got down from the roof herself and took in deep breaths of fresh air.
“Here, there's some sort of device I found. I don't know what's it's for,” she said to Howard, handing him her pocketbook. “Take a look.”
“Swell,” Howard said, happily, and dove in.
Peggy could hear the ambulance sirens wailing in the distance and Sousa went to wave it down from the front of the building.
She joined Jarvis on the dock. He'd been laid out on the boards, with Sousa's jacket under his head and Howard's jacket laid over him like a blanket. Now that the ordeal was over, he seemed to have given up trying to put on a show and he looked poorly indeed.
“I am sorry,” she said. She sat down next to him and stretched her bruised legs out. “I didn't mean for this to happen but it's still entirely my fault. Daniel was right, I should have been more trusting. I should have known better. I have allies now, I should have used them. I'm too used to being ignored and having to do it all myself. It was foolish of me.”
“Miss Carter, I was under no notions that you invited me to this warehouse to try to trap me in it,” Jarvis said, giving her hand a little pat. “Please do not punish yourself. You forced me to do nothing. I am your ally, you didn't act entirely alone. And, we had rather a nice chat, didn't we?”
Peggy smiled a little. “Yes, we did.”
“I hope we won't go so long until the next time we see one another,” Jarvis said.
Peggy was surprised he could even think about seeing her again after this night. “Perhaps somewhere a little quieter, next time,” she said.
“Tea?” Jarvis suggested. “I could host. We could make it a regular thing if you'd like.”
“Yes, I would,” Peggy said, realizing she would like that very much. “That sounds like an excellent plan, Mr Jarvis.”
“Good,” Jarvis said, content. He closed his eyes. “But, and I hope you won't think it rude of me, I must ask you to leave the explosives at home.”
“I thought I might bring a Victoria sponge, actually,” Peggy said.
“I prefer Battenburg cake,” Jarvis said.
“Well, Mr Jarvis, I'm afraid we may have to agree to disagree about that, as well.”