Characters: Edwin Jarvis, Peggy Carter, Ana Jarvis, Daniel Sousa, a dog
Spoilers: most of Agent Carter thus far, but nothing terribly specific
Pairings: Ana/Jarvis, Peggy/Sousa
Word Count 4,965
Summary: Peggy is about start a family, while Jarvis is quite happy with the one he's already created.
Author's notes: This was a weird one to write. I can't even remember why I started writing it, but I wrote the whole thing, decided I didn't like it. So I chopped off the second half and wrote an entire different ending, with an entirely different message, and now I like it a lot more. Editing!
I've gone ahead and assumed that Daniel Sousa is who Peggy ended up marrying. I would hope she wouldn't have another heartbreak in her life before finding her husband. This set probably late 40's early 50's? Maybe?
For reference, Hildi looks like this.
Mrs Carter lived in a crisp new bungalow, the very latest in home design. She and Agent Sousa were its first residents, as it had only been built in the past couple of years; a new little neighbourhood of suburbs not far from SHIELD headquarters and only an hour or so’s drive for Jarvis to get there from the Stark residence in New York. Or an hour’s drive for her, as it often went when they were going to have tea together. Today, Jarvis had come to her instead. At nine months pregnant, he didn’t want her to drive that far, and had, in fact, suggested they postpone their regular teatime until after the baby had arrived, and she was feeling up to it. She was most insistent they carry on as normal.
“After the baby has arrived, it will be even worse!” she’d said.
So, Jarvis was coming to her, Victoria sponge carefully perched on the seat next to him as he drove. The neighbourhood was building up nicely, with more residents than the last time he’d been to visit. More cars filled the drives, and there were children playing on fresh green lawns and jumping rope on the pavement. It was all in the new American dream style that had cropped up after the war. Everyone who was coming home had come home and were now rebuilding their lives into a peaceful existence of whitewashed walls and picket fences. Even though Jarvis knew Mrs Carter had no intention of giving up her job permanently, he was pleased she and Agent Sousa would have somewhere like this to come home to and leave the cares of SHIELD behind them with the little family they were creating.
Mrs Carter had no neighbours on either side of her still, it looked like, but curtains twitched across the street as Jarvis pulled into her drive and hopped out, sponge in hand. He scooted around a flowerbed and knocked on the front door. There was a delay in responding, but Jarvis left it a moment or two longer, giving Mrs Carter time to waddle herself over. He hadn’t seen her in a few weeks, but even then, her movement had been more penguin-like than the swift march she normally used.
His finger had just depressed the bell once more when the door opened. “Ah, my apologies,” he said, as the bell rang above their heads.
“Mine as well,” Mrs Carter said, with a laugh. “I was at the other side of the house. It might as well have been the moon these days.” She stepped forward to kiss his cheek. “Hello, Mr Jarvis.”
“Hello, Mrs Carter,” he said. “You look well.”
“I do not,” she said. “I look large and tired. But thank you for saying so. Come in, please.” She gave a friendly wave to the neighbour across the street, who backed away from her window at being discovered. “We’ll set tongues wagging. ‘Mysterious man visiting in the middle of the day while her husband isn’t at home’?” She tutted in mock horror.
Jarvis stepped through after her into the house, which smelled pleasantly of Tide laundry soap. “Is Mr Carter--Agent Sousa away?” he said. He made that mistake constantly--sometimes even to poor Agent Sousa’s face. Luckily, Agent Sousa was good-natured about it. ‘Sometimes I feel like Mr Carter’, he’d once told Jarvis, in a philosophical way. ‘But I don’t mind it. That’s the crazy part.’
“Mr Carter is at work,” Mrs Carter said, with an amused smile. “He was called in on an emergency, but I don’t blame him for running off. I’ve been in such a mood since the baby dropped. I can breathe again, and I have all this energy.” She made a circling motion in front of herself, as though it were bubbling up from inside her. “I think he was glad to get out of the house.”
“I doubt that’s true,” Jarvis said. He took off his shoes and placed them on the mat at the door.
“Oh, it is,” Mrs Carter said. “This morning I washed the whole nursery down with soap and water. And yesterday, I cleaned out the fridge and cupboards, and I made him get up on a ladder and wash the cabinets. I might be stir crazy. They sent me home from SHIELD a week ago. I’m not allowed to go in any more, not even to answer phones. Howard is crying Health and Safety. He doesn’t want me to give birth in the bullpen.”
“It’s good for you to have some rest,” Jarvis said. “And to be safe, as well. Mr Stark is right, SHIELD is no place for you right now. You’ve fought leave long enough.”
“Being pregnant is a natural state,” Mrs Carter said, folding her arms over her belly. “Women do not need to be coddled and protected. We’re perfectly capable of carrying on with our normal level of activities. My doctor even said that.”
“Your doctor believes you to be a secretary who spends her day typing letters,” Jarvis reminded her. “Not an agent who runs around with a gun and puts her life in danger on a daily basis.”
“I haven’t done that since the end of the first trimester!” Mrs Carter said. “You sound just like everyone else.”
“Perhaps we’re all right,” Jarvis said.
“Well, of course, you are!” Mrs Carter said, throwing her hands up in exasperation. “But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, does it? You needn’t be lecturing anyone, either. You’re the first to throw in on an adventure when it calls.”
“Adventure isn’t calling,” Jarvis said. “All is quite well without you.”
Mrs Carter made a ferocious face of annoyance. “I know,” she said. “How dare it be so.”
Jarvis bit his lip to avoid laughing at her, but she was already laughing at herself.
“Come along,” she said. “I’ve been working all morning and that cake looks marvellous. I’m starving.”
She led him through to the kitchen; a bold mash of yellow walls, crisp white cupboards, red work surfaces, and cherry patterned curtains. The table was suffering from an infection of baby clothes, which spread out and covered all its surface like a fungus. A basket with more clothes, these neatly folded, sat on the floor.
“I’ve already folded them twice,” Mrs Carter said, taking up a onesie in her hands. “I did it once, and I felt as though I could do a better job. And then I did it again, and I forced myself to leave them, but I just kept thinking about them, and so now I’m folding them again.” She leaned forward as much as her rounded belly would allow to confide: “I’m not entirely sure I’m not going mad.”
Jarvis put down the sponge on a free counter. “Mad people don’t realize they’re mad,” he said. “The important thing is being aware of it. Should I put the kettle on?”
“No, of course not. I’ll do it,” Mrs Carter said. “You’re the guest.”
Jarvis hurried ahead of her and snatched the kettle from the hob it was resting on. “I’m usually mother when we have tea,” he said. “Please, allow me. You should sit and rest. I came for your company, not your service.”
Mrs Carter shifted herself down into a chair, with a little wince. “You being mother is a little ironic in this situation, all things considered,” she said.
“You’ll have plenty of opportunities soon enough,” Jarvis said. “Let me have my moment.”
“If you insist,” Mrs Carter said.
He lit the hob and got the water boiling, following her directions on where to find the paraphernalia for tea making, and he soon had a pot ready to go and the cake sliced for her enjoyment. He sat down at the table with her and helped with the folding of baby clothes. Little hats, little shirts, little trousers, all in soft pastels, and so tiny that it was hard to imagine anything being small enough to fit into them. Doll’s clothes, really. Ana had made a few items for Mrs Carter, and he saw them amongst the collection--distinctive in the bright colours and patterns that so strongly made him think of his wife. A beautiful opal in a field of plain diamonds.
“The baby won’t be able to fit into some of these for months,” Mrs Carter said. “I don’t know why I’m so intent on making sure they’re ready to go. I have so much I want to do. I’ve been waiting for nine months, and now it seems as though I have no time left, and I’ll never get it all done.”
“Tell me what needs doing, and I’ll do it,” Jarvis said.
“No, you won’t,” she said.
“Yes, I will,” he countered.
“I’m not putting you to work in my own home!” Mrs Carter said.
“Mrs Carter, I’m a butler,” Jarvis reminded her. “This is my area of expertise. Consider it freelance work. I doubt Mr Stark will mind. He’s worried about you.”
“Oh, he is not,” Mrs Carter said, swatting at him with a nappy she was holding.
“Yes, he is,” Jarvis countered. “Granted, I believe his anxiety lies more in the realm of ‘she won’t be any fun any more’, but I do think, lurking somewhere deep inside, he is concerned for your well-being.”
Mrs Carter gave a smile. “Perhaps I won’t be fun any more,” she said. “I will be awfully grown-up, being a mother. I have spent many years running around playing pretend. This isn’t a role I’ve ever played.”
“You’ll be marvellous,” Jarvis assured her. “You’ll be a wonderful mother.”
Mrs Carter swiped some jam from the cake and licked it off of her finger, looking forlorn. “I don’t know. I’ve seen the mothers in the neighbourhood,” she said. “I don’t think I can be like them. I’ve never been like them.”
“You needn’t be like them,” Jarvis said. “You’ve always been in a category of your own. You only need to be who you are. Any child will benefit from that.”
Mrs Carter reached out and gave his hand a squeeze. “Thank you, that’s reassuring to hear from someone who isn’t my husband,” she said. “I’m just quite sick of waiting for him or her to come along. I want to get at it.”
“You’ve never been one to wait for back-up,” Jarvis teased.
“No,” Mrs Carter said. “That will be a skill baby will be learning from Daddy, won’t you?” She gave a little wince. “Ooph, lots of activity today. I think he or she is as anxious to be out as I am to get him or her out. We’re already two days past due. I know it’s normal to be later than expected, but it’s certainly not enjoyable. When I first felt the kicks, it was amazing. Now, I feel like a punching bag.”
Jarvis knew very little about pregnancy, having never had cause to learn. He had a younger sister, but he’d been small when she was born, and his memory of his mother at that time was hazy.
“It can’t be much longer,” he said.
“Let’s hope so,” Mrs Carter said.
“Have you decided on names yet?” Jarvis wondered.
Mrs Carter groaned. “Oh, please don’t ask that,” she said. “Because the answer is no. If it’s a boy, we’ve settled on Michael. That’s an important name to me, and Michael Sousa sounds nice, doesn’t it?” Jarvis nodded an agreement. “No middle name, yet, we have to agree on that. Howard is still hoping for Michael Howard, but he’ll be hoping in vain. I’ve told him to have his own child to be a namesake.”
A very unlikely scenario, Jarvis thought. Mr Stark showed no signs of maturing into a loving partner as he aged. Maturing a little, perhaps, but not in that regard.
“Mr Stark wants everything to be named after him,” Jarvis said. “He’s still sore we didn’t call our dog Howard.”
“Your dog is female,” Mrs Carter said.
“He insisted she wouldn’t mind.”
Mrs Carter gave a merry laugh. “You missed an opportunity there,” she said. “Wouldn’t you have loved to scold and punish Howard, even by proxy?”
“That did cross my mind,” Jarvis admitted. “But in the end, Mrs Jarvis and I thought it might bode ill for her future temperament. We took ages to come up with her name. I imagine it’s much worse for a child. At least Hildi can’t complain about how much she dislikes it.”
“Yes, precisely,” Mrs Carter said, her nose wrinkled in worry. “Do you like your name? Do you like being an Edwin?”
Jarvis’ nose wrinkled in return. “I’m resigned to being an Edwin,” he said. “But I wouldn’t say I had strong feelings one way or the other. It’s never caused me any harm, but, should I have chosen my own name, I might have picked something stronger. Edwin sounds flimsy, doesn’t it?”
“Does it?” Mrs Carter said. “I don’t know. Perhaps it’s your perception of it. I consider you to be a very strong person, Mr Jarvis, and so I think Edwin is a strong sounding name.”
Jarvis mulled over the people he knew and wondered if that were true. ‘Peggy’ had always conjured images of little girls in pigtails, until he’d met Mrs Carter, and now it certainly meant something else to him. And the name Ana was all beauty and colour and loveliness now, like a rainbow on his tongue. Perhaps there was something to that. Although, he didn’t consider himself to be a strong person. Resilliant, perhaps, but not strong.
“Do you know what Edwin means?” Mrs Carter asked. “My mother-in-law sent me one of those books of meanings, and I looked up everyone’s names in it.”
“I hope it’s nothing embarrassing,” Jarvis said. “I know ‘Jarvis’ means ‘spear’, but it would be my luck for Edwin to mean something like ‘one who tends goats’.
“No goats, don’t worry,” Mrs Carter said. “Edwin means ‘rich friend’.”
“Hmmm,” Jarvis said. “Does that mean I shall be inheriting great wealth at some point, or does it mean rich as in ‘deep and varied’?”
“Perhaps it means ‘friend to one who is rich’,” Mrs Carter said. “That would be prophetic.”
“Oh, good Lord, I suppose so,” Jarvis said. Though, were he and Mr Stark friends, really? Jarvis certainly cared for him, but he wasn’t a friend, he was an employer. There had to be boundaries set somewhere. “How about Margaret, what does that mean?”
“Pearl,” Mrs Carter said. “Which is far too delicate for me, I expect. Daniel is ‘God is my judge’, which is very ominous. Ana means ‘grace’.” Jarvis gave a nod of approval at that. “And Howard means ‘hardy of mind’, which is suspect. But meaning doesn’t help me pick a name, does it? If it’s a girl, we’ll be right up the creek. Daniel and I can’t agree on anything.”
“I’m sure when you meet her, if it is a her, it will be easier to know her name,” Jarvis said. “Not that it’s the same, but Hildi became much more of a Hildi once she was romping around eating my shoes.”
Mrs Carter folded the last of the clothing and placed it in her overflowing basket. She eyed it, and for a moment, Jarvis was certain she was going to start over again, but she just pushed the basket under the table with her foot. “There’s something I would like to talk to you about,” she said, folding her hands together in a businesslike fashion.
“Yes, of course,” Jarvis said.
“Now that the baby is almost here, Daniel and I have had to rewrite our wills,” she said. “Especially given our professions, we want all contingencies planned for.”
Jarvis nodded. “Yes, that’s sensible.”
“One of the decisions we have to make is whom might look after the child or children, should something happen to us,” Mrs Carter went on. “And we’ve both agreed that we couldn’t think of anyone who would do a better job of that than you and Mrs Jarvis. Now, I know that it’s a lot to ask, so don’t answer hastily. And I understand if children are a...sensitive subject, considering your situation. So please don’t feel you--”
“Mrs Carter,” Jarvis interrupted, putting his hand on top of her businesslike ones. “I will have to speak to Ana, of course, but I’m sure we would both consider it a great honour to have that responsibility. Although, I would hope we would never have to fulfil the obligation.”
“Oh, me too!” Mrs Carter said, with a laugh. “But I know you would provide an excellent home if it came to that. I’ve always trusted you with my life, and I would certainly trust you with any future lives I create.”
Jarvis’ hand squeezed hers while he gave himself a moment to find his voice, swallowing down the lump that had suddenly taken over his throat. “I shan’t let you down,” he promised, with a firm nod.
She smiled at him, and then said: “I’m terribly sorry to interrupt our moment, but I have to go the lavatory.”
Once Mrs Carter’s call of nature had been answered, Jarvis put himself to use, insisting she tell him what needed doing. He spent most of the afternoon doing those tasks--washing walls, washing ceilings. Her main concern was the nursery. He took down curtains so she could wash them and washed the windows while they were down. He hoovered the floor. He cleaned the underside of the cot, as Mrs Carter hadn’t been able to get down there herself on her cleaning spree. He recalled his mother’s pregnancy, when she’d decided to launder every clothing item in the house, including what he’d been wearing. The memory of being sent outside to play in only his union suit was vivid in his mind. His sister had been born the following day.
Mrs Carter directed him, only semi-aware that she was being overzealous. She sat in the rocking chair in the nursery, wincing as the baby continued to move around and bother her. Once Jarvis had the curtains dried and back up once more, all the energy seemed to drain out of her. She looked around the nursery and smiled in satisfaction.
“You are a marvel, Mr Jarvis,” she said. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to come in on a permanent basis?”
“That I’m afraid Mr Stark would object to,” Jarvis said. “There’s a non-compete clause in my contract. And I’m afraid the pay is quite good, I doubt you could afford me.”
Mrs Carter laughed. “No, I don’t imagine I could,” she said. “Oh well, I appreciate this taste of your work.” She gave him a firm hug. “Thank you for being patient with me.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Jarvis told her, squeezing her gently back. There was a sudden pop to his stomach as it pressed up against hers; a soft poke to his gut. “My goodness, was that young sir or madam?”
“It was,” Mrs Carter said. “He or she is very unhappy today.”
“You should get some rest,” Jarvis told her. “Please have a nap, maybe the baby will sleep if you do. You’ll both need lots of energy soon enough. I can see myself out.”
Mrs Carter didn’t object, which was sign enough of her fit of mania having subsided. She gave him another hug and a kiss on the cheek and trudged along to her bedroom. Jarvis did the washing up of the tea things before he left and checked in to find her napping comfortably. He felt as though he’d been of use, which was always a pleasant feeling.
Ana was in the garden when he arrived home, Hildi romping at her feet but bounding up to Jarvis when she saw him, tiny little howls of greeting rumbling out of her. She was a puppy still, and the breeder had told them that Bernese Mountain Dogs stayed puppies for longer than other breeds. Jarvis had finally come through on his promise to get one for Ana, one of the many he’d bargained with when she was fighting for her life. He’d wanted to make sure she was completely healed first, both physically and mentally, but Ana needed something to love, and Hildi was so lovable. It was a good match. Love at first sight for both of them.
“Hello, my dear,” he said, bending down to give Hildi’s head a pat. “Are you at work today? How are the petunias doing?”
Hildi put her little paws on his shins and panted up at him so that he picked her up and received her kisses on his cheeks. Jarvis didn’t like to admit it, but he rather loved her, too.
“Hello, Edwin!” Ana called. “How is Mrs Carter?”
“Erm,” Jarvis said. “She’s well, I suppose. But she’s rather...odd. On a cleaning spree. I helped out.”
“She is making a nice home for her baby,” Ana said. “Like a bird makes her nest nice. It’s not odd. Many of my friends did things like that. Mrs Orr told me she took apart the whole vacuum and washed all its parts in the middle of the night. Mothers do strange things.” She shrugged, gesturing with her spade to indicate the vagaries of motherhood. “If she is not hurting herself or the baby, there is no worries, right?”
“Yes, I suppose so,” Jarvis said. “She made a request of me, and I need to speak to you about it.”
Ana pouted. “Serious face,” she said. “Nothing bad, I hope?”
“No!” Jarvis said. He put Hildi back on the ground, and she went to dig up a flower Ana had just planted. “No, it’s just, she’s requested that we be the guardian of her children, in the event of something happening to her and Agent Sousa. We would be named as such, in their wills.”
Ana didn’t say anything for a moment, going to shoo Hildi away. She looked over her shoulder at him. “She wants us to be that?” she said. “You and me? Even though we don’t…”
“Yes,” Jarvis said. “You and me. She said so very clearly and has absolute faith in us.”
Ana’s face went hard like it did when she was trying to hide something from him, and he wondered for a moment if the request had upset her. But she blinked and smiled so happily that he realized she was just as touched as he’d been. “What a nice thing to ask,” she said. “That’s a nice thing to be trusted to do. I hope you said yes!”
“I said I’d have to speak to you,” Jarvis said. “But, then I went ahead and said yes, anyway, really.”
“Good boy!” Ana came over and kissed him full on his mouth, putting her arms around his neck and leaning all her weight on him to dip him down to her level. Jarvis lost all sense of the universe, even now, after this many years of marriage and this many kisses. He was still reeling when she pulled back. “Come see, I have made Hildi a harness, so she can pull her little wagon around like big Berners do. She likes it.”
Ana waltzed away into Ana-land, where all was bright and sunny, and he stumbled after her, watching as she put Hildi into a leather strap attached to a child’s toy wagon. Hildi bounded along the property, delighted with herself.
Jarvis reflected that perhaps it wasn’t only mothers with human babies who were sometimes strange.
The phone rang early the next morning, as Jarvis was having his first cup of tea of the day and supervising Hildi’s use of the outdoor facilities. She’d taken great exception to a leaf that had dared to land on the lawn and was giving it a stern talking to in her little puppy barks. Berners made good watchdogs, the breeder had told them, but they shouldn’t expect her to protect them, as they were a breed who loved strangers. And indeed, Hildi was quick to notify them of any action in the area but would romp up to visitors with tail wagging.
Jarvis assumed it was Mr Stark ringing to make some request to be done before breakfast, so he made no rush to get it, wanting to see how Hildi’s standoff would turn out. She seemed to feel as though she’d made her point, as she stopped barking at the leaf and turned to strut away with her nose in the air. Jarvis chuckled to himself as he went in for the phone.
“Jarvis Residence,” he said.
“Hey, Jarvis. Sorry, I wasn’t looking at the time; it’s really early. I hope I didn’t wake you.”
It wasn’t Mr Stark. Mr Stark would never apologize for the time. “Agent Sousa?” Jarvis said.
“Oh, yeah, sorry, it’s me,” Agent Sousa said.
“Is everything alright? You sound turned about.”
“I am, a little. I’m at the hospital. Peggy asked me to call you, to tell you we--she had the baby. It’s a girl. We had a girl.”
Excitement bubbled up in Jarvis like a fountain of champagne in his chest. A girl! How perfect. A boy would have been just as delightful, of course, but Jarvis rather liked the idea of a little girl growing up with Mrs Carter as her role model. Ready to take on the world and everyone in it.
“My goodness! Congratulations! When did this happen? I saw her only yesterday, that was very fast.”
“She was probably already in labour when you saw her,” Agent Sousa said. “I got home about two hours after you left and her water broke about twenty minutes after that. She said she thought labour would be more painful, so she didn’t know she was in it. I reminded her that she said the same thing when she broke her foot and walked around on it until she was nearly septic.”
“Mrs Carter’s pain tolerance is an envy to us all,” Jarvis said. “Are she and Miss Sousa all right?”
“Both perfect,” Agent Sousa said. “Angie was with her during the delivery, said she handled it like a champ, but she’s pretty tired now. But the baby is perfect. She’s beautiful. Healthy and beautiful. And she doesn’t have my ears, so I’m happy.”
Jarvis chuckled. “Any names yet?” he asked.
“No, we’re still fighting about it,” Agent Sousa said. “Do you like Alice?”
Cautious of being pulled into the middle of something none of his business, Jarvis made a sound that could be construed as either ‘oh, what a lovely name’ or ‘hmm, not really my style’.
“Yeah, me too,” Agent Sousa said, and Jarvis couldn’t tell whether he was positive or negative on it, either. “Anyway, Peggy wanted you to know, and she’d like you to tell Stark. He’s going to be sore, he had five hundred bucks on tomorrow in the office pool.”
“I’ll break the news gently over breakfast,” Jarvis said. “I hope he’ll be able to keep me on after such a hard hit to his fortune.” Agent Sousa’s laugh was longer than was warranted and a little giddy sounding. “Please give my love to Mrs Carter, and my very deepest congratulations go to you Mr Ca--Agent Sousa.”
“You know they called for Mr Carter in the waiting room after the baby was born,” Agent Sousa said. “I hopped right up, like God himself was calling me. I’m gonna be outnumbered now. Carter women all over the place. At least she’ll have my name. We just need to find a couple others for her.”
“I’m sure you’ll do an admirable job,” Jarvis said. “Please let me know when you’re up for visitors. Mrs Jarvis and I would love to see your new arrival, but of course, we wouldn’t want to impose. Let Mrs Carter get some rest, first.”
“I’ll give you the all clear,” Agent Sousa agreed. “I have to get back to arguing names with Peggy. My ma’s on her way in, and if we don’t have something by that point, she’ll end up naming her for us.”
Jarvis let him go with another congratulations and hung up the phone, still smiling. A little girl. How lovely.
He pulled himself out of his reverie to remember he had duties to attend to. Ana would be awake any moment, and Jarvis should get onto breakfast, or he’d be late getting to Mr Stark. He opened the door for Hildi, who arrived with a gardening glove in her mouth.
“Hildegard Jarvis, what are you doing?” Jarvis scolded her. “That is unseemly behaviour. That doesn’t belong to you.”
Hildi paid him no mind. She trotted away to the bedroom, where she used the stool Ana had placed so she could get on the bed and went over to give the glove to Ana’s sleeping form, wagging her tail and hoping Ana would praise her for it. After a moment, she put her paw on Ana’s shoulder, but that didn’t rouse her either. Then she gave up and lay down on Ana’s pillow, snuggling in against her hair.
Jarvis reflected that one didn’t have to be father to a human child to think they were perfect, either.