Characters: Daniel Sousa, Howard Stark, Peggy Carter
Warnings/Triggers: swearing, a murder, blood, discussion of war wounds (including amputations), Howard Stark being Howard Stark
Spoilers: Basic ones for Agent Carter
Pairings: Flying reference to Jarvis/Anna, some Sousa/Peggy (attraction on Sousa's part, Peggy's POV isn't explored here)
Word Count 6,393 words
Summary: Sousa and Howard team up to find Peggy and Jarvis, and Sousa and Peggy both learn about accepting help when it's offered.
Author's notes: This is a companion/sequel to A Nice Chat. When I was writing it, I suddenly wanted to see how Howard and Sousa would get on working together. As usual, it went a different direction than how I thought it would.
The story won't make a lot of sense if you haven't read the previous one as I purposely left out details and skipped over parts that I would have been retreading. This story happens concurrently and after that one.
There might be a third part with Howard, but we'll see how that goes. Backstory included is mostly speculative. Did my best with planes and Geography, but artistic license will probably have to be invoked.
Sousa swore if one more person asked him if he knew who they were he was going to start pulling out some of Thompson's interrogation techniques on them. The Starlight Roof was filled to the brim with celebrities, and Sousa had so many lawyers he would supposedly be hearing from that he might as well open his own firm.
Carter wasn't there. She should be. That was where her note said she would be. Sousa had managed to lose her in the twenty minutes it had taken for him to pull a file at the office. She'd left a note saying she was on to a lead and would let him know how it went. Then she sent a note through Rose that Cecil Hayden was going to be at the Starlight Roof that night for a party, and she'd found a way in and would let him know if it came to anything.
She had never let him know. And, after six hours, Sousa had decided it was time to get worried about that. Especially when he'd gone to the Starlight Roof himself and discovered Cecil Hayden had been murdered and Carter wasn't there.
Cecil Hayden was their best lead. He was a Hayden Steel Hayden, fourth son of Williams Hayden Jr (the head of Hayden Steel) and unlikely to inherit much in the way of Daddy's money. He was a boozer and a womanizer and reports suggested he was up to his eyeballs in gambling debts, had blown most of his trust fund, and was about to be cut off if he didn't clean himself up—and soon. Hayden Steel provided materials to a lot of weapons makers, which gave him means, motive, and connections to make an opportunity. Now he was dead, his brachial artery slashed in the men's bathroom, and Carter was missing.
The police examiner thought the wound came from a pocket knife, the kind a lot of men carried (including Sousa, who had one in his pants pocket right now), and it was probably done in the heat of a moment during an argument. Hayden was left to bleed out and he wouldn't have lasted much longer than a few minutes with that kind of wound. Whoever had killed him had to have left—arteries sprayed and everyone at the party was squeaky clean. Sousa wouldn't be surprised if Carter had a knife on her, but a wild stab wasn't her style. He doubted she had anything to do with the murder, which was probably the result of a quarrel over the smuggling or the gambling or a woman or something. Peggy would have knocked him out or incapacitated him, not killed him. Not pulled a knife on him.
She must have left before the murder happened, as the place had been locked down once Hayden's body was found by a mystery writer who, according to one of the officers, thought he was Sherlock Holmes, but at least knew how to lock down a crime scene.
So, their best lead was dead, Sousa had no information from that lead, and Carter was missing in action. He felt like she should have done something to prevent this in some way, but he couldn't think of what. Carter insisted on playing things close to her chest, even now, and he couldn't act without information. He wished she'd learn to trust them. He knew it must be hard after what they put her through during the Stark thing (though he still felt that it would have saved a whole lot of trouble if she'd have come clean sooner), but he thought things were better for her now. Even Thompson let her have free rein unless it interfered with his big plans on getting his temporary position as chief turned into a permanent one.
At least Thompson was having a good time. He was even more smug than usual, sitting pretty amongst all the movie stars and politicians, looking concerned and interested and assuring them all he was in charge of things and would see that they wouldn't be any more inconvenienced than necessary.
“Them folks is touchy,” Killinger announced, in his thick Kentucky drawl. He was the junior officer who had come to replace Yauch and was green as the day was long, but a good agent and a nice kid.
“Yeah, no kidding,” Sousa said. “Have any of them seen Carter?”
“Who knows?” Killinger said. “I can't even get most of 'em to tell me their names.”
Sousa was having as much luck. Even those willing to talk weren't much help, because Sousa could say he was looking for a brunette with brown eyes, about this high, but without knowing what she was wearing, or even if she was brunette and hadn't put a wig on, he could be describing half the women in the room.
He looked down at her notes again. Aside from the two she'd sent him, he'd also found some notes on the pad by the phone on her desk. It was covered with the usual drawings she made when she was waiting for the operator to connect her and in amongst the stars, arrows, and ladders were the things she'd jotted down during the investigation.
— Cecil Hayden (son of Williams? Hayden Steel, see if connected)
- son of Williams Jr., youngest
— rumoured money problems
— lots of foreign travel (who seeing?)
— 'Leenie' something (short for what?), may be important (date?)
— Maid says left for party (where?)
— The Palmer House Hilton (Chicago), RM. 2505
The last one was a hotel in Chicago, but Sousa hadn't been able to figure out how it connected to the rest. The receptionist had only said it was rented to 'Errol Flynn' (which was obviously a fake name) and the guest had checked out very abruptly earlier. That left him with only one lead he hadn't tried yet.
“Hey, Leenie!” he yelled, experimentally.
A blonde in the crowd lifted her head up in response. Sousa weaved his way through to get to her. Her eyes were red and her face was blotchy. She was a beautiful girl, but girl was definitely the word. She didn't look much older than legal and still had a baby face with big, big blue eyes, and a small, pouty mouth.
“Hello, ma'am, sorry to bother you,” Sousa said. “My name is Daniel. I was wondering if you met a friend of mine tonight.” He described Peggy.
“Oh, Sarah!” Leenie said. “Yeah, I talked to her.”
Sousa felt a moment of pure triumph that he'd at least found some trace of Peggy at the party.
“She was real nice,” Leenie went on. “She talked to me for a long time. It was nice. Cecil always leaves me alone at parties. Makes me feel kind of stupid. Or it did, I guess. Should I use the past tense if I still feel that way?”
Okay, so definitely a girlfriend of some sort, then. Peggy would have used that to her advantage. Girls liked to talk to other girls.
“Uh, I don't know,” Sousa said, in response to the grammar question. “I think either way is fine. Do you think I could talk to you for a second?”
“I already told the police everything, again and again,” Leenie said. “I don't know anything else.”
“I'm not the police,” Sousa said. “I'm with the SSR, it's a special government agency. I'd just like to talk to you about Sarah.”
“Okay...I guess,” Leenie said. Her eyes narrowed, suspiciously. “You aren't the boyfriend, are you?”
“Sorry?” Sousa said.
“She has a boyfriend who's a jerk, too,” Leenie explained. “You him?”
“No, no,” Sousa said. “I'm just a friend.”
Leenie nodded. “Okay then, I guess we can talk.”
Sousa pulled her out of the crowd to a quieter area of the room and asked her a few questions about what she and 'Sarah' had talked about. Apparently, Sarah had a really rich boyfriend who treated her badly, too, and she knew how awful it was to be ignored like that. As Leenie described Sarah's boyfriend, Sousa felt like he'd met him, which was stupid because he didn't exist.
“She said I deserved better and I should leave him,” Leenie said. “Guess I don't have to leave him, now.”
Sousa let an appropriate thoughtful pause pass before he brought her back to what else she and Sarah had spoken about.
“We talked about how boring it is to go all these places you don't even know anything about,” Leenie said. “All the parties and the meetings and once, he took me out just to look at some warehouses on the river. Just look at them! What's the point of that?”
“Where on the river?” Sousa asked. They'd decided the weapons had been going out by boat, that might be relevant. “Where were the warehouses?”
“I don't know,” Leenie said. “Cecil owns them, though. Owned them? Does he still own them if he's dead or do I use the past tense?”
“Uh, I don't know,” Sousa said. “Do you have any idea where the warehouses were? Which direction? North or South?”
“I don't know,” Leenie said.
“Toward the ocean or away?” Sousa asked.
Leenie shook her head. Sousa pressed onwards and managed to piece together a vague area from her description. Cecil had taken her out in his boat, which she thought was going to be a kind of pleasure cruise, but they ended up in 'the middle of nowhere' to 'talk to a guy about steel. I hate steel!'. It sounded like it was toward the ocean and over near Jersey.
Sousa questioned her a bit more, but that was as much as she knew about it. She said she'd seen Peggy leave about three hours earlier. Which was a long time for her not to be in contact after getting a lead. Something must have happened to her. Sousa's instincts told him she was in trouble.
“Hey, you!” a voice called. “You, I know you!”
Sousa turned to find Howard Stark coming toward him. He wasn't dressed for the party, and Sousa hadn't seen him there before then. Sousa excused himself from Leenie and went to meet him, leaving Killinger to drawl charmingly at her.
“You're one of the SSR guys, right?” Stark said. “What's your name? Goodwin?”
“Sousa,” Sousa corrected.
Stark frowned. “Which one of you is Goodwin, then?”
“We've never had a Goodwin,” Sousa replied.
“Are you sure?” Stark said.
“Yeah, pretty sure,” Sousa said. “What are you doing here, Stark?”
“Looking for Peggy and Jarvis,” Stark said. “She took my invitation and, apparently, my butler, and she didn't bring either of them back.”
“Your butler is with her?” Sousa said. “The pilot?”
“Pilot's not the first adjective I'd use for him, but yeah,” Stark said. “Well, I mean, probably. Hopefully. He left with her. Hopefully, he's still with her.”
Sousa was relieved Peggy wasn't on her own but not that relieved, because it wasn't like the beanpole in tweed was going to be much help in a fight.
“She isn't here,” he reported.
“Well, where the hell is she, then?” Stark demanded. “She isn't at home, she isn't at the office, she isn't here. Jarvis doesn't just take joy rides and he left the house in a mess. He didn't even do the cellar accounts; he'd be in a state about that. Where the hell did they go?”
“She left the office and she hasn't been in communication for six hours,” Sousa said. “She was following a lead—and he's been murdered. I feel like if she could call, she would. Maybe not at first, maybe she got excited, but she'd let me know before now. She might have gone off toward some warehouses. I think she's in trouble.”
“Well, then, let's follow her and help her out,” Stark said, as though it were obvious.
“I can't just—” Sousa said, then realized there was actually nothing stopping him from doing that. “I don't know where exactly she went. Just the area.”
“Then we'll fly over it,” Stark said, still speaking like Sousa was an idiot. “Do some aerial recon, narrow it down.”
“I'll have to ask for a plane and get authorization,” Sousa said.
“We'll take my plane. We won't need authorization. I authorize it,” Stark said.
God, it must be nice to have money and no limits on your life.
“Just let me talk to Thompson,” Sousa said. “Hey, how did you get in here, by the way? The building's locked down because of the murder.”
“Believe me, I know how to get in and out of any hotel without being noticed,” Stark said, with a smirk. “Who was killed?”
“Cecil Hayden,” Sousa said.
“Ceece?” Stark said, his eyebrows raised. “Fuck.”
“You know him?” Sousa said.
“Unfortunately,” Stark said. “He's a bastard. The whole family are bastards. Williams Hayden Jr. being the biggest bastard. I came to him eight years ago to ask to make a deal for my company. He wouldn't give me the time of day because I wasn't rich or powerful enough to even shine his shoes. Six months on, I have my first million, he's beating down the door to be best friends.”
“Did you take the deal?” Sousa asked.
“Of course. I'm not an idiot,” Stark said. “But I watch my back because they're bastards.”
“Cecil Hayden was helping smuggle weapons out of the country,” Sousa said.
Stark's eyes widened. “Fuck,” he said, again. “Cecil's a pussy, I'm surprised he has—had the guts. None of my weapons, right?”
“No, no Stark weapons as far as we know,” Sousa said. Peggy had made sure of that as one of the first steps of the investigation for fear of history repeating.
“I keep'm pretty locked down now,” Stark said.
“Good,” Sousa said. He stepped away to go to Thompson.
“Hey,” Stark said, tugging at his sleeve. “Who's the blonde?” He nodded to Leenie, who was being consoled by Killinger's handkerchief.
“Hayden's girlfriend,” Sousa said.
Stark looked interested. “I guess she's grieving,” he said. He cocked his head back and forth, considering. “Nah, I'll wait a few days.”
Sousa suddenly realized that the reason he thought he knew Peggy's fictional boyfriend was that she had clearly been describing Howard Stark. He shook his head and went to see if he could convince Thompson to let him go looking for her.
Thompson didn't need much convincing. Using Stark resources meant that whatever he and Sousa did was basically out of his hands, so he didn't have to take responsibility for it unless it worked. It also meant he could keep working the room and help with the murder investigation while also directing the recovery effort. Win-win all around.
Sousa found himself in Stark's very nice Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith zooming off to his hangar to get a plane. He was kind of a maniac driver but in control of the vehicle. Not reckless, necessarily, just fast and impatient, like everyone around them should just know to get out of the way.
“So, are all the Haydens involved in this or just Cecil?” he asked.
“Just Cecil, as far as we can tell,” Sousa said. He winced as Stark overtook three cars and weaved through a gap without breaking a sweat.
“He was always slimy, didn't think he was that slimy,” Stark said. “Company's gonna take a hit, regardless of whether he was acting alone or not. Which is gonna affect me, too. I'm working on opening a branch on the West Coast, I better warn them. I guess it's insider trading to start selling shares. Better just batten down and hold tight.”
Sousa frankly couldn't care less about the effect this was going to have on Hayden Steel or Stark Industries and grunted in response. It seemed to satisfy Stark.
“I'll deal with all of that after we find Jarvis and Peggy,” Stark said, with a nod to himself. “That's more important.”
Well, at least he had his priorities straight some of the time.
“Hey, you still got a knee on your bum leg?” Stark asked, carrying on like this was related to anything they were talking about.
The change of subject was so abrupt that Sousa had to take a second to catch up. “Huh?” he said.
Stark pointed, weaving one-handed into the passing lane and back. “Your amputation, is it above or below the knee?”
“Above,” Sousa said. “What's that got to do with the price of eggs?”
“I can get you a better leg,” Stark said.
“The one I have is fine,” Sousa said.
“You only think that because you haven't seen mine,” Stark said, confidently. “I bet it's the same leg they gave you in the hospital, right? Some mass-produced, generic thing they give out to everyone.”
“What's wrong with that?” Sousa asked. “It works fine.”
“They're made for people who've had amputations done in a calm operating theater,” Stark said. “With a nice clean stump, sewn shut with a nice clean flap. Not for people who had battlefield amputations where it was life or death and you just got on with it. I bet it hurts when you walk, sometimes. I bet it rubs. You get rashes, sores?”
Sousa didn't really want to talk about his stump. He'd never even shown anyone his stump. Not even his family. It was just a thing that he had to deal with and there was no point in getting everyone involved in it.
“A lot of people have it worse than me,” he said. “I get along fine.”
“Just 'cause people have it worse doesn't mean you can't have it better,” Stark said, with a shrug. “My company has a program for vets. If you lost a limb or an eye in battle, we'll get you a good, custom prosthesis for free.”
“I thought you made weapons,” Sousa said.
“I make what people want and need,” Stark said. “Lot of boys out there with missing bits. A lot of my employees. I have people working on how to make something usable. Something that you don't have to just get by with. I got a Polish guy they pulled out of a concentration camp, makes the most beautiful blown-glass eyes—can't tell the difference when it's in. And for the legs, we make a mold of your stump so it fits nice and snug, and we measure the shin bone on your good leg so it's the right length, not just something they give to everyone about your height. You won't roll as much when you walk, you can swing through without getting caught. Takes a lot of pressure off your hip. You'll be able to balance better. Lightweight material, you don't have to work as hard to move it. Might even get rid of the crutch or just need a cane instead.”
Sousa realized he was serious, maybe even passionate about it. “I don't need charity.”
“It's not charity,” Stark said. “You use it, you tell us how it's working, we improve it. That's business; you're just testing out a product. Just think about it. We can't find enough people to test it out because nobody wants charity.”
“I kinda have other things to think about right now,” Sousa pointed out.
“Yeah, fair enough,” Stark said. “Just putting it out there. Men who fought for our country and got banged up should be looked after.”
Sousa appreciated the sentiment but didn't want to be looked after. He didn't want any special treatment. “I'll think about it,” he said.
Stark nodded and dropped the subject, much to Sousa's relief. It wasn't one he liked to dwell on. Best just to move forward, whatever kind of fake leg he was moving with.
With Stark’s driving, they arrived at the hangar in less time than it should have taken. Stark hopped out and ran off into the building. Sousa pulled his crutch from the backseat and went after him, only to be breezed by as Stark went outside again. Sousa turned around and was once again passed as Stark went back inside. Sousa decided he was going to stay put until Stark made up his mind.
“We'll take Betsy, she's amphibious,” Stark called. “That way we can land on the water if we need to, we won't have to find a strip and go back.”
He ran around, checking the plane, checking the radio, opening the hangar doors. No matter where Sousa put himself he was in the way and was getting sick of Stark pushing him around like freight. Finally, Stark taxied the plane out to the runway and shouted for Sousa to get into it.
“You fly before?” he asked when Sousa opened the door.
“Yeah, but not in a private plane,” Sousa said. “Do you want me in the back?”
“Nah, sit up front,” Stark said. “Just don't touch any buttons.”
“Why would I touch any buttons?” Sousa asked. “I don't know what they do.”
“The answer's in the question, pal,” Stark replied. “People like to press buttons, especially if they don't know what they do. Keep your hands still unless I tell you to do something.”
Sousa folded his hands in his lap. Stark nodded. He started up the propeller.
“And up we go,” Stark said.
They taxied and Sousa felt his body tense up as they careened toward the end of the runway. Even as the plane shook up into the air, he still felt like they were going to go right into the grass at the end of the strip. But they didn't; the plane stopped shaking and glided smoothly up into the sky.
“You might wanna breathe,” Stark said, with a grin. “It's harder up here, so you have to do more of it.”
“Sorry,” Sousa said. He let his breath out then sucked some more air in.
“I'm a great pilot and Betsy's solid as a rock. Don't worry, we'll make it to Peggy and Jarvis in one piece,” Stark said, confidently. “Keep your mind busy. You good with a map?”
“Yeah,” Sousa replied.
Stark nodded to a map next to him. “I marked our position there and that's where we're going,” he said. “We're gonna start in the center of the area and move in a spiral outwards, so keep track and make sure we aren't going over the same ground.”
“Roger,” Sousa said. He picked up the map and pen. “Is this a ballpoint?”
“Yep, Reynolds Rocket, first one sold in America,” Stark said. “I have five.”
These pens cost something like $10 each, Sousa couldn't imagine throwing away that much money when a pencil would do just fine. He tried making a line with it. It worked all right, but it wasn't exactly fancy.
“If it gets stuck, blow on the tip. The ball will move back into place,” Stark said. “They don't leak at high altitude. The RAF used them in the War. I got a Biro from an ace over there, worked like a dream.”
“Is that when you learned to fly? During the war?” Sousa asked.
“Just before it, actually,” Stark said. “Do you remember Avril Kent?”
“The aviatrix?” Sousa said. “I think I remember her. She flew around...Africa? In the '30s. Sort of a stunt, the newsreels tracked her journey.”
“That's her,” Stark said. “Her and me, we...well, we were friendly. She took me up, let me press the buttons, I got hooked and decided I'd learn how to do it on my own. So, I did.”
“Must be nice to just do whatever you want,” Sousa said.
“It is,” Stark said. “There's a lot of things to see and do in the world. I don't see why I should limit myself on which ones I get to experience.”
Sousa supposed if he had the money Stark did, he might be inclined to do whatever he wanted, too.
“Maybe you should cut down on the experiences and try doing something a little more productive with the money you'd save,” Sousa suggested. Stark gave a soft laugh. “What?”
“Nothing, you just remind me of...” Stark said. He shook his head. “Nothing. So, you and Peggy an item?”
“What? No,” Sousa said, quickly. “Why?”
“Just getting the lay of the land,” Stark said. “You wanna be, though, right?”
Sousa did want to be, as a matter of fact. He liked Peggy. A lot. He liked her as a friend and maybe something more if she'd give him a chance. They'd been out for drinks a few times and he thought they'd had fun, but he couldn't tell if she thought of it as friendly or a date. He figured he'd made the overtures and she'd let him know if she wanted to accept them. Maybe he could check in once in a while until he got a firm answer one way or the other, but he wasn't going to nag her about it.
“Don't blame you,” Stark went on. “She's a firecracker.”
“Were you and her ever an item?” Sousa asked.
He'd never been able to sort out what parts of Peggy's stories had been real or not. Sousa wasn't sure if he really wanted to know, actually.
“Nah,” Stark said. “I tried a few times, but she wasn't having any of it. I kissed her once, though. She threw me in a river.”
Sousa grinned. That part of her story was true then, at least.
“Probably for the best,” Stark said. “We wouldn't have been good together. She's not really my type. She's the kind of girl you keep, and I'm not a guy who keeps girls. Start in with a keeper, you get all sorts of stuck.”
“What's wrong with being stuck?” Sousa asked. “You don't wanna get married, have kids?”
“I dunno, maybe someday,” Stark said. “But I don't think I'm the marrying kind. There's guys like Jarvis, he's a man made for marriage. Him and his wife are adorable, you just want to punch them in the face. But me, I like being free to play the field. Plenty of field to play.”
Maybe if you were Howard Stark. Not if you were Daniel Sousa. Girls either seemed to be nervous of him or wanted to look after him. He just wanted one he could be easy with. He was probably the marrying kind of man.
“What happens if you fall in love?” Sousa asked.
“Hasn't happened yet,” Stark said. “I don't think, anyway. I don't really know what love is supposed to feel like, but I think I'd know if I was in it. I haven't found a girl yet that I couldn't live without. Anyway, Peg is more like a sister now. Not that I'd kiss my sister. If I had one. Which I don't...She's all yours.”
Sousa shook his head as he noted their current position on the map. “I don't think she's anyone's,” he said. “I think she's her own.”
Stark gave him a sudden big grin. “If you get that, you have a good a chance with her as anyone,” he said. “Maybe better.”
“I just hope she's okay,” Sousa said.
“Peggy's tough as nails,” Stark said, confidently. “She can hold her own. And Jarvis isn't bad in a crisis. Cool as a cucumber. We'll find 'em, and we'll bring 'em home. Then we'll yell at 'em for being damned fools.”
“Amen,” Sousa said.
Stark was a guy who didn't shut up. He wasn't capable of sitting in silence, his mouth just moved and moved. He was the sort of guy who you'd think would be easy to interrogate, but Sousa suspected he'd be a nightmare because he had words and words and he could talk forever without saying anything. He went over and around and back through and used four or five where one would do. He liked the sound of his own voice, or maybe he just didn't like silence. Either way, as they went in slow circles over the search area, Sousa got a deluge of anecdotes and nattering he couldn't have cared less about. Women and inventions and trips and food just tumbling out of Stark's mouth. Sousa wondered if he got that many women by talking to them until they slept with him to shut him up.
Thankfully, he wasn't a guy who needed a response, and Sousa put in some grunts when the rhythm dictated and kept track of where they were, looking down out of the windows for anything out of place below.
It was late at night (or early in the morning, technically), so he was looking out for activity at any of the warehouses along the water. Boats, cars, lights on, anything that would show something was going on in one of them. It wasn't impossible someone was doing some late night work, but unlikely. Anyone out this late to work was probably doing something shady.
“You getting dizzy yet?” Stark asked, as he banked the plane around again to widen the circle.
“No, but I'm surprised you aren't,” Sousa replied. “You must be out of breath by now. You ever shut up?”
“Just trying to keep spirits up,” Stark said. “You don't do much talking, thought I'd fill the gap.”
“I try not to talk unless I have something to say,” Sousa said.
“Yeah, well, I grew up in a rough neighborhood,” Stark replied. “Talking kept people from punching me in the face.”
“That's funny, it's having the opposite effect on me,” Sousa said.
Stark gave a hearty chuckle. “You keep talking, you keep people paying attention to you,” he said. “Direct their focus to where you want it. People didn't want to listen to me when I started out, so I kept talking until they did.”
“Em boca fechada as moscas não têm entrada,” Sousa said. “That's what my Avó used to say.”
“What's that mean?” Stark said.
“I don't know, but she always said it when we were talking too much,” Sousa said. “I figure it's about shutting up. Something about flies. My Portuguese is rusty and it was never good.”
“My mom used to say something about having two ears and one mouth and listening more than you spoke,” Stark said. “But I can't remember it exactly. I probably wasn't listening.”
He gave a cheery grin and Sousa chuckled in spite of himself.
“We're at the end of the spiral,” he said, his mirth dying away pretty fast.
“Then we'll go back to the center and do it again,” Stark said, banking sharply.
“It won't matter how many times we do it if they aren't here,” Sousa pointed out.
“They are here,” Stark said. “Peggy follows her nose. If she heard that this was the place to be, this is the place she went. And I'm not giving up after one quick look around, how about you?”
“No,” Sousa agreed.
“Good,” Stark said.
They agreed on a third loop after the second, just to be on the safe side. And Sousa had the impression Stark was going to be looping until the plane ran out of fuel, but thankfully, he didn't have to.
“Wait, stop,” Sousa said.
“Uh, can't really do that, pal,” Stark said. “Kinda pisses off gravity if you just stop.”
Sousa felt suitably embarrassed. “Sorry, stupid,” he said. “But someone's sending...yeah, it's definitely a message in Morse.” He grabbed his pen and started writing on the map, but all he got was a blob of ink. “No, this is not the time to—” he angrily blew on the tip to get the ball back in place. “Okay. S...O...S. It's S.O.S. And...h..e..l..p. Then repeated. That's gotta be Peggy. Go back, can you go back?”
“That, I can do.”
“Carter, get in the ambulance.”
“I don't need an ambulance, I'm fine.”
“You have a piece of rock sticking out of you and your legs look like someone took a baseball bat to them. Get in the ambulance and get checked out.”
“I can be far more use here, Daniel. This is my lead, I want to see it to the end.”
“No, I'm going to do that because it was supposed to be our lead. I'm just as qualified. I'll keep you informed, I promise. But you are getting in the ambulance and you're doing it now, and if you don't I'm...I'll...”
“I don't know what he's going to do,” Stark interrupted them. “But I'm going to kick your ass, and don't think you being a girl is going to stop me. Get in the ambulance, Peggy Carter.”
Peggy looked thunderously between the two of them. “I'm fine,” she said. “I don't need an ambulance. I could go by car. You shouldn't have called for one for me, we only needed the one for Jarvis.”
“Well, the ambulance is here,” Sousa said. “So you might as well use it.” Peggy looked torn. Sousa touched her arm. “I'm going to finish the case, Peggy. Killinger's on his way with a team. We're going to look through the rubble. We have your evidence. Stark is looking at that thing you found. You did it wrong, you went about it wrong, but you did what we needed. You found out where it was going down. If you'd had someone with you, maybe it would have gone better or maybe we all would have been down the hole, but the point is that you found the information and you did your job. Now let me do my job, and let someone look after you. You have help now, Peggy. It isn't me thinking less of you, it's me being a friend.”
He could see she was on the verge of relenting. “I'm used to doing it all on my own,” she said, somewhat apologetically. “And I did very well that way, for the most part.”
“Just because you have it okay doesn't mean you can't have it better,” Sousa said.
Stark made a smug noise beside him and Sousa realized he'd echoed a lot of what he'd said to Sousa earlier about his leg. Sousa ignored him.
“Please get in the ambulance,” Sousa said. “And as soon as I know more, I'll send a note. A real one. With information that's detailed.” He gave her a smile to let her know it was teasing and not scolding.
“All right,” Peggy said. “Thank you.”
Sousa took her hand to boost her up into the back of the ambulance and let the medic take a look at her. He closed the door behind her and watched it drive off.
“She's stubborn,” he said.
“Yep, that's why we like her,” Stark said, with admiration. “Tough as nails. I guess I better get my plane back home. Can I keep this thing?” He held up the device Peggy had found. “I think I know what it does, but I want to see how it works.”
“What does it do?” Sousa asked.
“It sends out a signal,” Stark said. “A radio signal. If I'm right—and I'm usually right—it has a sort of friend that sends a signal back. It goes 'where are you?' and the little friend says 'here I am'. My theory is, because this is how I would do it, if I were smuggling weapons—which obviously I wouldn't, but—”
“Stark, I'm not going to punch you in the face, just say what you mean,” Sousa broke in.
“You have crates of weapons. You're going to give some of them to the bad guys to take out of the country,” Stark said. “What's the easiest way to know which is which without marking them so people might notice? Put the friend in the crate. You bring this up to the crates and say 'where are you?,' if the crate says 'here I am,' you take that crate. It's a game of hot and cold.”
“That makes sense,” Sousa said. “I think. We better keep it. I'll get the science guys on it. It's evidence, I can't let you take it.”
“Yeah, all right,” Stark said. He took a pen out of his pocket and aimed it at the device. “I'm taking pictures, though.”
“That's a camera?” Sousa asked.
“That's a camera,” Stark replied.
He handed the device over and put his pen back in his pocket. “Okay, I'm off.”
Sousa walked him out to the plane. “Thanks for your help.”
Stark shook his offered hand. “Peggy and Jarvis would have done the same for me in a heartbeat,” he said. “It's not charity, it's just...”
“Friendship?” Sousa suggested.
“Yeah,” Stark said. He opened the door to the plane. “I'm gonna put you on the list for a new leg. You can refuse when it comes up, but I don't think you should. Just think about it.”
“I will,” Sousa said.
Stark climbed into the plane and scooted across the seats to the pilot's side. Sousa made to close the door behind him.
“Oh,” Stark called. “Peggy likes camellias.”
“What?” Sousa asked.
“Camellias. If you wanted to buy her flowers, I'd go with camellias,” Stark said. “Just putting it out there.”
Sousa shut the door on him and was not unhappy to see him go as he started up the propeller and glided across the water into the air. Sousa shielded himself from the spray of mist he left in his wake and went back around to the front of the building to wait for back up to arrive. He wasn't exploring the warehouse on his own. He took a look through Peggy's pocketbook, which she'd left with him so he could see the evidence she'd collected.
The shipping manifests were exactly what he needed. He'd been working on connections while she was at the party and this was the missing link. He could put it all together now, whether or not they found anything else in the warehouse rubble. They made a good team. Or they would make one if she'd let them be. He just hoped she'd realize she needed a little help sometimes.
Maybe they all did.
He decided he'd think about accepting Stark's offer. And when he went to see Peggy in the hospital, maybe he'd bring some camellias with him.