Characters: Edwin Jarvis, Howard Stark, Peggy Carter, Daniel Sousa, Ana Jarvis, some OCs, daemons
Warnings/Triggers: swearing, body swapping, later very brief references to the Holocaust
Spoilers: None, really
Pairings: Ana/Jarvis, Peggy/Sousa
Word Count 3,370 (this part)
Summary: A forgotten artifact of seemingly Norse origin causes some unexpected side effects when Howard gets it working again. Namely, him and his butler swapping bodies. Which is rather inconvenient, considering Howard's supposed to be negotiating with the ambassador of Symkaria tomorrow.
Author's notes: joonscribble and I had a conversation, and, is wont to happen, now there is a fic as a result. I originally started this as a fun brain break from a really long fic I was writing, thinking it would be short and silly. And I actually wrote something like five chapters worth of fic, instead. Oops.
This is set circa 1949(?). POVs alternate between Jarvis, Howard, and Peggy. Each character decided on their own terminology about how to refer to the swapped people and daemons, and I hope it's clear where it should be and confusing where it should be. It's hard to write visual gags in a non-visual format. I have the whole thing almost written, but I haven't quite decided on how to split up in the chapters yet, so there will be at least four, possibly five.
I haven't seen Civil War, and won't until it comes out on home video, so I will probably be playing in this end of the canon until such a time as I can get caught up.
Thanks to joonscribble for brainstorming with me. You're a terrible person and I love you! Takeo and Dejeni are also her creations, so thank you for letting me play with them.
For reference: Haddie (A Welsh Springer Spaniel), Dejeni (a raccoon), Takeo (a spotted hyena), and Eitana (an aardwolf).
“Good Lord, he’s still at it,” Haddie said, as she and Jarvis entered Mr Stark’s lab. “I’d have hoped you’d find him passed out in a corner. At least he’d have had some sleep. How much coffee do you suppose he’s had now?”
Miss Dejeni did a somersault at Mr Stark’s feet, pounced at her own shadow, undid his shoelaces, and then tied them again.
“Several litres,” Jarvis said. He rapped on a table to announce his presence and stepped forward with the tray he was carrying. “Good evening, sir. Still at it are we?”
“I’m close, Jarvis,” Mr Stark said. “I’m going to have it working any second now. And then I’ll find out what the fuck it does. You know, provided what it does is not kill people.” He pulled his hand back for a second. “Maybe I should have goggles on.”
Miss Dejeni scrabbled up the side of a workbench and disappeared entirely into a toolbox, before emerging with a pair of glasses and front flipping off the table to the floor.
“Should you have goggles on?” Haddie wondered to Jarvis.
“I doubt it will help,” Jarvis said. “Would you like to have your dinner now, sir?”
“Nope,” Mr Stark said. “Busy. Gotta fix this. Working.” He put the goggles on.
“May I read you your messages?” Jarvis tried.
“Nope,” Mr Stark said. “Don’t care about them.”
“But, Miss Carter, I mean, Mrs Carter is--” Jarvis began.
“Shhhhh!” Mr Stark hissed. “Working!”
Haddie slumped down to her belly, chin on her paws. “Just let him be, Edwin. He’s not going to stop.”
Jarvis put the tray down and served the meal anyway, removing the platter lid and pouring some orange juice, which he hoped might balance Mr Stark’s system to a less caffeinated state. He brought the plate and cup over and stood next to him, holding it out. Mr Stark didn’t even look at him.
The machine had been discovered in the possession of some Greenlanders deep in the tundra. An anthropologist studying their traditions had found it in the early 1920s and brought it back to the British Museum. According to the lore, it was a gift from the gods, but it was very obviously a machine of modern make. It had some sort of runes on it, but though they looked Viking, they were untranslatable, the machine’s mechanisms unfathomable, and the British Museum had put it aside as a fake. A friend of Mr Stark’s had recently rediscovered it in their archives while working on a research project and thought he might ‘have some fun’ playing around with it.
Mr Stark had been trying to fix it for nearly three days straight. The first two days, it had merely been a simple distraction for him. Now, as he began to make sense of it, it was an obsession. Whoever built it, he insisted, was hundreds of years ahead of their time. It was ancient and futuristic at once. Like the cube Mr Stark had recovered in the Arctic during his search for Captain Rogers.
“Sir, please at least--”
“I said shut up!” Mr Stark snapped. Miss Dejeni pawed at his leg, and he gave Jarvis a brief glance with a nod of apology in it. “Sorry. I’m just close, and I can’t stop.”
“I’m concerned for your welfare,” Jarvis said.
“Go away, Dad, I’m busy,” Mr Stark said, playfully. Miss Dejeni gave an insouciant grin.
Jarvis and Haddie exchanged defeated sighs. She’d been right; there was really no point in trying to care for Mr Stark when he wasn’t in a mood to care for himself. Jarvis put the plate down and instead tidied up the workshop for the fourth time in twenty-four hours. It was like bailing out a sinking boat with a spoon, but if he didn’t try to keep it tidy, it would all pile up to such a state that they all might be smothered beneath it.
“I got it!” Mr Stark shouted, several minutes later. Miss Dejeni was now directly on top of the machine, her nose stuck to the large glass ball that made up its centre. “Look!”
Jarvis felt Haddie’s cheek on his shin as she peered around him, using him as a safety barrier. The ball in the centre of the machine was starting to glow. Miss Dejeni hopped to Mr Stark’s shoulder and then his head, clapping her paws in excitement. The ball of light grew until it shone blue and bright, making all the tools in the workshop cast ominous shadows on the walls.
“What is it doing?” Jarvis wondered, taking a step closer to look. If he was to list his flaws as a person, right at the top of the list would be ‘stepping closer to look at things I have no business wanting to be closer to’. Haddie bit his trouser leg and tugged him backwards.
“Uh…” Mr Stark said. “No idea. But, obviously, it’s on now, right?”
“Do you know how to turn it off?” Jarvis asked.
“Well, I didn’t actually turn it on, so I don’t think there’s a switch…” Mr Stark said. He bent over, giving it an up-close look. “There’s an indent here, though, looks like you’re supposed to--” he placed his fingertips on it.
Then the light flashed so bright the world went white, and Haddie barked in fear, and Jarvis felt himself falling, but he never felt himself hitting the ground.
He had, however, hit the ground, as when his eyes cleared he was on the floor. And not where he’d been before. He was right in front of the machine, which now glowed in a soft blue hue again. And he felt wrong all over. As though he were Alice who had shrunk down in Wonderland; he felt like the world was a little bigger than it had been moments before. His heart pounded wildly. His upper lip was itchy. And he was starving.
That wasn’t the biggest problem, though. The biggest problem was that he was staring at himself. Another Edwin Jarvis was where he’d been previously, only crumpled on the floor, and Haddie was sprawled out beside him. She sat up and shook her head, and looked at him. And then her eyes widened, and she looked next to her at the other Edwin Jarvis, and she howled in alarm and scrabbled around, legs wobbly, almost as though she didn’t know how to use them. She bumped into the leg of the table. And then she danced away from it and slammed into the other leg.
Jarvis wanted to tell her to calm down, but his teeth felt wrong in his mouth, and his tongue was wrong, and everything was wrong and confusing and horrifying, and all he could do was watch her hit the leg for the third time. Then the machine tumbled off the table and smashed on the floor beside him. And, his second biggest flaw was that, instead of backing away, he reached for one of the pieces. But it wasn’t his hand that moved. It was his hand, in that it was moving and he was telling it to, but it wasn’t his hand. It didn’t look like his hand. It was browner, and scarred, and calloused and--
It was Mr Stark’s hand. Somehow, he was controlling Mr Stark’s hand.
“Edwin?” Haddie said. But it was her voice behind him, not from where she was now collapsed in a confused heap under the table.
Jarvis looked behind him. Miss Dejeni looked back. “Haddie?”
“Oh, dear,” Miss Dejeni said, in what was clearly Haddie’s voice.
Okay. Okay. So...okay. So...No...that wasn’t what...that was impossible? No, nothing was impossible, that was Howard’s strongest belief. Anything was possible. So, technically, if we were going to be open-minded about things, it was possible that Howard was looking at himself while not being inside himself. Which meant...what? Nothing good. Out of body experience. That could happen. People had those. So...was he dead? Or unconscious? He seemed pretty conscious. He was moving and stuff. He could see himself moving. And Dejeni was there, and she was moving too. Haddie was going nuts, though, not far from him. Where was Jarvis? He looked around. And around. And around.
And...no. He was Jarvis. Yeah, that made sense. He could see himself because he was Jarvis.
Except, of course, that was impossible.
But nothing was impossible, so it was a little possible. In the category of ‘unlikely to happen, but let’s not be firm about these things’.
“Paws,” Haddie said, and Howard could hear her clearly speaking. He shouldn’t be able to do that. Not as clear as day as it was. “Paws! I have paws. What’s going on...paws.”
No, that was Dejeni. Dejeni was talking, that’s why he could hear her. Except she was Haddie. That made sense, if he was Jarvis.
Except, for the part where that wasn’t possible.
Other than that, though, it all made sense.
“Jen?” he said.
“Ahh!” Haddie yelped and jumped back.
“It’s okay, it’s me,” Howard said.
“Ahh!” Haddie said again. She tried to come to him, but she was like a baby deer and flopped down again. “Ahh!”
“Shut up,” Howard said. “I’m trying to think.”
“Paws,” Haddie said. “I have paws. Paws. My fingers are gone. I have paws. I don’t know how to use paws. Paws.”
Howard reached for her, and Jesus Christ, look at his arms. His arms went on forever and ever. Seriously, he was a goddamned spider. How was he even supposed to use them? And his legs. Spindly, useless, twiggy legs that never ended. He reached for Haddie again and then stopped. He couldn’t touch Haddie, could he? You didn’t touch another person’s daemon. Or was she his daemon now, since he was Jarvis?
Except that was impossible.
“Jarvis?” Howard called to himself.
“Yes, Mr. Stark?” Himself called back, in Jarvis’ plummy vowels.
“Don’t panic,” Howard said.
“With all due respect, sir, this, of all times in my life so far, seems the most appropriate time to panic.”
Howard shrugged Jarvis’ goddamned bony shoulders. “Yeah, you have a point.”
Himself got to his hands and knees. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“While you’re doing that, I need to ask you something,” Howard said.
Himself tucked his head to his knees. “Yes, go ahead.”
“Can I touch Haddie?” Howard said. “I need to figure out what’s going on. Dejeni’s with me, but she’s in Haddie. Do you have Haddie in Dejeni?”
“Yes,” Himself said.
“Okay. So, we’ve swapped. The machine swapped us. Does that make sense?” Himself looked over, and Howard now knew what he’d look like if he could make his face as Britishly sarcastic as Edwin Jarvis’. “Okay, dumb question, but approaching it from a scientific point of view, that’s pretty much what had to have happened.”
“I suppose so,” Himself said.
“So, I wanna touch Haddie and see if she’s mine now or if she’s still yours,” Howard said. “And then I’ll know how much we’ve fucked this up--”
“Ahem,” Himself tutted.
“How much I’ve fucked this up,” Howard amended. “Thing is if she isn’t mine, you’re going to feel...well, I don’t know how you’re going to feel, but by all accounts, it’s going to be awful.”
“At the moment, I doubt I’d notice much of a difference,” Himself said.
“Howard, this is a bad idea,” Haddie said. “Don’t do it. Have Jarvis--you--Jarvis-You touch me--Haddie-Me. You shouldn’t make him feel it. You fucked up.”
She was right. Howard offered this solution, but Jarvis-Him wasn’t having that, and they argued, and it was really weird to argue with yourself, in a literal, non-metaphorical fashion.
“How about we do it together?” Jarvis-Him suggested. “On three? We’ll share the experience.”
“Okay, deal,” Howard said. “On three, not after. Okay?”
Howard counted them in. He braced himself and reached for Haddie. Jarvis-Him reached for a trembling Dejeni. Howard touched Haddie’s fur and...nothing. It was like touching Dejeni. There was no pain, no weirdness, no feeling wrong like he’d heard it described.
Dejeni leaped into Jarvis-Him’s arms, and Jarvis-Him hugged her to him. Howard got that because he flopped over, and Haddie rubbed her face on his in relief.
“Hey,” he said. “Thanks for not leaving me.”
“Naw, we’re always stuck together,” Haddie said. “But Howard?”
“I have paws.”
Peggy and Daniel looked at one another as the phone rang. ‘You get it’, was what their looks said. They were reading the newspaper on the couch, Takeo and Eitana curled up together between them, with Eitana tucked in a little ball under Takeo’s chin. If Peggy had an image of what married life would be like, this was it. Calm and peaceful, together, but not in each other’s pockets. Two months in, she was still blissful in her newlywed status, and she knew whoever was on the phone was going to be breaking that calm and peace.
“Not it,” Daniel blurted out, one second ahead of her.
“Damn,” Peggy muttered.
Takeo lifted himself up, nudging Eitana gently and leaping over her as Peggy got up to get the phone.
“Carter and Sousa Residence,” she said, into the receiver.
“Ah, Miss--Mrs Carter,” Jarvis’s voice replied. Or, she thought it was. It sounded like him, but...not quite. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, Mr Jarvis, how are you?” Peggy said. “Are you ill?”
“No, I’m...erm, fine, why do you ask? Everything’s completely normal,” Jarvis said, in one of the more obvious lies he’d ever told her.
“You don’t sound like yourself,” Peggy said, and was rewarded with a mildly hysterical giggle. “Mr Jarvis, what’s wrong?” She held her hand out to Takeo, who was straining to hear, warning him not to panic yet.
“I think it’s best explained in person,” Jarvis said. “Would you mind terribly coming to the Stark Residence? At once?”
“I suppose not,” Peggy said, unease filling her. “How much should I be worried, on a scale of one to ten?”
“...Seven?” Jarvis said.
The last seven was when Howard magnetized himself and was stuck to one of his cars.
“I’ll be right there,” Peggy told him. “Should I bring back-up?”
“No,” Jarvis said. “I’d rather this stay private for the moment, please.”
“Very well,” Peggy said. “Hold tight.”
She hung up.
“What’s Howard done now?” Takeo asked.
“Jarvis wouldn’t say,” Peggy replied. “But it’s a seven on ten, so I’d best leave now.”
She had a hard time convincing Daniel not to come with her, and Eitana tried to block the door, pulling herself up to her full height and glaring down Takeo.
“We agreed all fives and up we go together,” Daniel insisted. “Buddy system, right?”
“Jarvis wouldn’t ask me to come alone if he thought I needed help,” Peggy pointed out. “He’d be the last to suggest that.”
“What if it isn’t him?” Daniel said. “You said he didn’t sound right; what if it’s someone pretending to be him to get you there?”
Peggy and Takeo looked at each other. “I hate it when he makes a good point,” Takeo grumbled.
Peggy hated it more. “He called me Miss Carter and corrected himself,” she said. “That’s Jarvis. He still hasn’t got the hang of Mrs yet. Someone pretending to be him wouldn’t know that. They’d call me Miss and not correct themselves or Mrs off the bat.”
Daniel relaxed a little. “Yeah, that’s true,” he said. “Okay. But take your panic button, and don’t be stupid. And don’t let either of them make you do something stupid.”
“Yes, sir,” Peggy said. She gave him a kiss, and Eitana left her post at the door to nudge at Takeo.
The drive to the Stark Residence was a good forty-five minutes. Peggy made it in thirty, Takeo half-heartedly warning her off when she sped and then encouraging her to speed when she slowed down. She had a key that let her through the gates, and there was a note on the door, telling her to use her code to get in and go down to the lab.
“Be careful, Peggy,” Takeo said. “It’s not like Jarvis not to meet you at the door.”
She took her weapon out to be on the safe side and crept through, trying to notice if anything was amiss. The house was intact; nothing was out of place. No signs of a scuffle or someone being attacked. She made her way down to the lab, calling out as she went.
“Yes, we’re here,” Jarvis called back.
She came upon an unusual scene. Howard was sitting on a stool, clutching a cup of tea in a trembling hand as Dejeni picked up various objects and put them down again, in the way a child might after discovering how to do a new trick.
Jarvis was standing at a workbench, goggles on, and staring at pieces of something with utter focus while Haddie held a screwdriver in her mouth, dropped it, batted at it, chased it, picked it up, and brought it back.
“Ah, Miss--Mrs Carter, hello,” Howard said, in Jarvis’ voice and accent.
“Hey, Peg,” Jarvis said, in Howard’s voice and accent.
“Maybe you should have brought Daniel after all,” Takeo muttered, and lowered himself down to a pouncing position, eying the scene suspiciously.
“Start explaining very fast,” Peggy said, keeping her gun out.
“Put a machine together, turned the machine on, machine made me and Jarvis swap bodies,” Jarvis said, in Howard’s voice.
Takeo and Peggy looked at one another, and he shook his head in bewilderment.
“All right, start explaining, but slower and in more detail,” Peggy amended.
“Mr Stark acquired a machine of unknown origin from a friend of his in London,” Howard said, in Jarvis’ voice. “He’s been trying to repair it for the past few days. Approximately 90 minutes ago, he was successful in his repairs and was investigating the machine when something happened. We both lost consciousness and, when we awoke, we were as you see us. Switched. Miss Dejeni and Haddie are likewise reversed.”
“Bloody hell,” Takeo said.
“Good God,” Peggy agreed. “Is that even possible? What--how...what?!”
“I’m guessing it’s the same tech Hydra had,” Jarvis said, in Howard’s voice. “Similar design, I’d say similar age. Whoever built that thing knows a lot more about science than us. Whoever built this does, too. So, yeah, it’s possible because it happened.”
“Is it April Fool’s today?” Takeo wondered.
“No, it’s August,” Peggy said. “But this has to be a prank.”
“Jarvis wouldn’t cooperate with it,” Takeo said.
“He might if Howard forced him to,” Peggy said. “Howard would find this funny.”
“But they aren’t pretending to be each other,” Takeo said. “They have each other’s voices. It’s not a mimic of accent and speech pattern; the timbres match.”
“Not exactly,” Peggy said. “They both sound off.”
“Not off enough.”
Peggy started to get angry at being led out here, taking away from her happy domestic moment, just to be made a fool of. She watched them for several seconds, waiting for one of them to break. But neither did. Dejeni sat with her hands folded on her stomach, looking politely apologetic. Haddie still gnawed the screwdriver, almost desperate. Was it really possible they had swapped? No, of course, it wasn’t. But still…
“Howard, look out!” Peggy yelled, urgently.
Jarvis threw himself under the table, hands over his head, and Haddie slid underneath him. “Hey, what’s the big idea?” he said, in Howard’s voice, a moment later. He banged his head on the underside of the table and swore loudly. “This is no time for pranks, Peg, we’re in trouble here.”
No matter how well they’d practised being one another, no one could teach themselves to reflexively respond like that. Not without intensive training, far more than Howard would be willing to put into making a joke.
“Bloody hell,” Takeo muttered.
“Good God,” Peggy agreed.
“May I get you a cup of tea, Miss--Mrs Carter?” Howard asked, in Jarvis’ voice.