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 3,780 (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: The countries of Symkaria and Latveria are fictional within the Marvel Comics universe, and I don't believe they've been brought into the MCU yet (they mostly concern the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man), so I've used them here for my purposes, especially since their fictional histories fit best in this time period. Latveria is the home of Dr. Doom (though, at this point in time, I've used his predecessor, the Baron, as the leader) and Symkaria is a peaceful country, ruled by a royal family, which earns much of its income from Silver Sable and her Wild Pack of mercenaries. Peggy goes into more detail about them later on in the story. I've also had to split her section into two to make the chapter lengths and flow better, so she both finishes this chapter and starts the next one.
For reference: Haddie (A Welsh Springer Spaniel), Dejeni (a raccoon), Takeo (a spotted hyena), Hesper (a Chinese Oak Silkmoth)
ETA: It wasn't up for long, but I did a rewrite on this chapter, and posted a version I didn't like, so I hope nobody read it. This is the right version now. Sorry about that!
“I know this is an awful situation, but I feel rather useful with fingers,” Haddie informed Jarvis. She scampered along the kitchen worksurfaces in her racoon form, plucking up the tea items and bringing them to him. Jarvis instinctively pulled back, a reflex well-established in every human when another’s daemon came close to touching them.
But she wasn’t another’s daemon, she was his. She was just borrowing Miss Dejeni’s form.
“You should have settled as a monkey then,” Jarvis said.
He reached for the pot in the cupboard, and his fingers didn’t make it to the handle. He had to stand on his toes. He was not enjoying Mr Stark’s form at all. Everything was too high, too far, too many steps away. Not to mention the amount of caffeine coursing through him, but Mr Stark’s body seemed adjusted to it, as all Jarvis felt was a strong desire to move around, which manifested itself as a persistent foot tap when he was still.
“I’d like to make a souffle,” Haddie added. “By myself.”
Jarvis slammed the pot down on the work surface. “Hendrina, this is not the time for souffle!” he snapped.
Haddie scampered back from him. “I didn’t mean right now,” she said, rather like a scolded child.
Jarvis’ foot tapped, and his hands twitched, and he now understood why Mr Stark was so tetchy when he was working; why he paced around tables and threw things. This much coffee in his system made Jarvis want to punch something. He took a large gulp of water instead, out of his third glass, in the hopes he could flush it from him.
Of course, then he’d have to deal with how precisely to use the loo when he was in another man’s body.
Which was not a crisis he ever expected to have to solve in his life.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to yell.”
Haddie patted his hand with her little paw and smiled at him. “It’s all right,” she said. “I just feel very energetic. I want to do everything, all at once!” She happily spooned tea leaves into the pot. “And I don’t know what to do first.”
Jarvis watched her scamper and wondered if she was just feeling the effects of the caffeine, or if she was acting like Miss Dejeni because she was in her form. No one knew how personality worked, why a person was the person he was. Was it carried in the body? It couldn’t be, as Jarvis still felt himself in another’s body, so there must be more to it than that. Which posed the question of how exactly one machine, no matter how advanced the person who built it, had caused such a complex thing to happen.
When he brought the tea back down to the workshop, Miss--Mrs Carter was in a similar conversation with the Other Jarvis.
“Yeah, but brains are just electricity, right?” His Other Self said. “And so, maybe if we’re just a bunch of pulses that move in certain ways, it’s possible to make another body do those pulses in the same way and recreate who we are, but in another person.”
“But how?” Miss--Mrs Carter said. “And why? Why would anyone build anything that could do that?”
“First question, I can maybe answer in a million years or so, second one, no clue,” the Other Jarvis replied. He reached for something on the table and knocked over four objects, then two more as he tried to right them. “Damnit, Jarvis, how do you get around without being a klutz?”
“Practice,” Jarvis replied. “Puberty was a very painful time for me.”
“I loved puberty,” The Other Jarvis said, wistfully. He looked down at the floor, where the Other Haddie had slumped in some sort of fugue. “Uh, do you think I can borrow Haddie? Dejeni’s not really cutting it with the spaniel paws.” The Other Haddie opened her mouth and bit hard into his ankle, making him howl. “Jesus! Okay, but I can see how the teeth are useful.” He and the Other Haddie set into some sort of fracas with one another.
Jarvis and Miss--Mrs Carter tried to ignore them. He took the cup of tea Haddie had poured with enthusiasm and handed it to her, along with some biscuits.
“How are you handling this?” she asked him.
“I think it would be easier if Mr Stark hadn’t drunk all the coffee in New York prior to swapping us,” Jarvis said. “I feel irritable.”
“I think you have a right to, Mr Jarvis,” she said. She studied his face, a little smile on her lips. “It’s odd for me to see you both. I know you’re you, and that he’s--” she pointed across the room. “Howard. The way you’re holding yourselves and your eyes especially, I can tell who’s who, even though you aren’t yourselves.”
“I suppose it’s nice to be known so well,” Jarvis said, and she rubbed his back, soothingly.
Mr Takeo put his nose up for Haddie to pat with her little paws, making him grin.
“There is someone else who knows me even better,” Jarvis added. He looked to the clock, as he’d been doing every few minutes for the last hour or so. “Ana is at an art class, but she’ll be home any moment now. How do I explain this to her?”
Miss--Mrs Carter grimaced. “Yes. This really isn’t covered in the marriage manual, is it?”
“Oh, did you get a manual?” Jarvis asked. “I’m afraid mine never arrived in the mail. I’m assuming it was something to do with the transatlantic move we made at the time.”
Miss--Mrs Carter let out a bright laugh. “Really? Mine arrived a week after the honeymoon,” she said. “I’m finding it very useful. Would you like to borrow it?”
“After this many years, I think I’ll just keep winging it,” Jarvis replied. “Providing my marriage lasts past the next few hours.”
She squeezed his arm.
“Okay,” the Other Jarvis said, across the room. “Dejeni and I have come to an agreement about the helping thing.” The Other Haddie glared at him, and Jarvis felt scolded by reflex. “She’s agreed that we maybe have to be creative here. So, if you’d lend Haddie out to me, we’d appreciate it. And also be really bitter about it. Jen’s pretty firm on that last point.” The Other Haddie nodded her head.
“I believe desperate times call for desperate measures,” Haddie said to Jarvis, looking stalwart. Jarvis could see Miss--Mrs Carter’s point; Haddie in Miss Dejeni’s form managed to look just like her prim self, despite her lacking any features to resemble herself. “I’m game if you are, Edwin.”
“Anything to expedite the remedy to this,” Jarvis said.
Haddie jumped from the table and scampered over to the Other Jarvis.
“Can I talk to her?” the Other Jarvis asked.
“Yes,” Jarvis said. “You’ll have to, I suppose.”
“That’s going to be awkward,” the Other Jarvis said, staring down at Haddie.
“Yes,” Miss--Mrs Carter said. “Because it wasn’t already.”
“Stop looking like sour grapes,” Howard told Spaniel-Dejeni. “It’s your fault we can’t just fix this right away. You knocked the thing over.” He looked to Raccoon-Haddie. “I need a hammer.” She scampered off.
“I didn’t mean to knock it over,” Spaniel-Dejeni said. “You’re still a human, I’m a whole different thing, remember? I thought I was hallucinating. Like that time you smoked that pipe in Egypt with the Pasha. Do you remember that? You thought you were a mushroom?”
“I was a mushroom,” Howard said. “I felt mushroomy, right in my inner essence. That was a good night. I’m still trying to remember all the good ideas I came up with that night.”
“Well, that’s what it’s like being me right now,” Spaniel-Dejeni said. “Minus the good ideas. I’m a fucking mushroom, Howard. About as useful as.” She raised her front leg and glared at it. “Who wants to be a dog, anyway? Why would Haddie even settle as a dog? I mean, I like her fine, and all, but obviously, she’s not sensible.”
Howard had a nagging feeling like maybe they shouldn’t be considering who was sensible right now.
“Well, I’m Frankenstein’s monster, so you don’t have all the bad luck,” Howard said. His fingers, Christ, what was he supposed to do with his fingers? He wiggled them, and they were like spiders on his big, dinner plate hands. “Hey, get me--sorry.”
Spaniel-Dejeni rolled onto her back and sighed.
Howard went to get what he needed himself, which was on a shelf. Which he could reach now. Without getting on his toes. And boy, there was a lot of stuff at the back of it. All sorts of stuff he thought he’d lost. That Jarvis had told him he’d lost. He pulled out a metal ball.
“Hey, it’s my sonic grenade!” he said. “You said it got lost on one of our moves from coast-to-coast.”
Jarvis-Him was the picture of innocence. “I don’t recall that.”
“Did you put this up here?” Howard demanded. He looked over the shelf again. “Did you put all this up here where I couldn’t get it?”
Jarvis-Him tugged on his ear. “No,” he said. “Of course not. I take great care and respect with all your things.”
“He’s a lying bastard,” Spaniel-Dejeni called. “And he’s sneaky for using his height against you. Fire him.”
“I can’t, I need him for when I’m him again,” Howard said. “Then I’ll fire him. Sneaky bastard.”
He made a note to come back and regain all his stuff, but for the moment took the tool he needed and went back to work. It was going to be slow-going; the fall had done a number on the machine, which had been hard enough to get going in the first place. Nothing about it was like anything Howard had seen before, except for some of the higher end Hydra tech, and he’d done it by feel, assuming that part was like a wire, or that part was like a battery, and reverse engineering it in his mind. He hadn’t written it down, though, so now he was starting from scratch, and even worse off, because the machine had at least been in one piece when he’d started, even if it wasn’t functional.
If he’d been paying more attention to the rest of the world, he might have noticed Ana Jarvis coming down. He kind of registered she’d called hello, maybe, and said something about noticing Peggy’s car in the drive and hoping everything was alright. Then she waltzed her colorful self into the room, Hesper fluttering around her head.
Howard and Jarvis-Him looked at each other, neither of them saying anything. Howard hadn’t factored Ana into the equation.
“Hello, Mrs. Jarvis,” Peggy stepped in, Takeo hurrying to block Ana’s path. “How was your class?”
“Very nice, thank you, Mrs. Carter,” Ana replied.
She smiled at Howard, and he smiled back, but maybe he shouldn’t have, because she came over to him, Hesper flapping down to land on Spaniel-Dejeni’s belly.
“Mrs. Jarvis--” Peggy tried. “Could you wait a moment, I need to--”
But Ana was already kissing her husband hello, or trying to. Howard realized he was about to let her, but then something kicked in when her mouth was half an inch from his, and he grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her away from him, right to arm’s length, which was pretty fucking far with his Jarvis-arms. And pretty fucking decent, because he wasn’t a guy who normally stopped a girl who wanted to kiss him.
Ana’s face was horrified. “What’s happened to you?” she demanded. She reached for his face and stared at him. “No, you are not right.” She looked to Peggy. “What’s wrong with him? He’s hurt or sick. He’s not right.”
“Ana,” Jarvis-Him said, in a placating fashion. “I’m fine.”
But that didn’t help. Ana jumped back from Howard and nearly knocked into the table with the machine on it, but Howard pulled her away from it. He didn’t need that happening twice today. She wrenched her arm from him. Hesper dodged out of the way of Raccoon-Haddie’s reaching paws and hid in Ana’s hair, wings trembling.
“Mrs. Jarvis,” Peggy said. “Please calm down. Something very...odd has happened, but it’s all fine. Mostly. I promise. You’re safe, and your husband is safe. It’s just rather complicated to explain. Why don’t you take a seat? Mr. Jarvis, get her a cup of tea.”
Jarvis-Him went at that as though his life depended on it, and Raccoon-Haddie raced over to help him. Spaniel-Dejeni trotted up to Howard.
“Did you kiss Ana?” she asked.
“Uh…” Howard said. “I don’t think so? I think I stopped her.”
“Hesper tickled my nose. I felt like a pervert,” Spaniel-Dejeni said. “And not in a good way.”
“I didn’t kiss her,” Howard said. He called to Jarvis-Him. “I didn’t kiss her!”
“Be quiet!” Jarvis-Him and Peggy both yelled. Takeo bounded over to cuff Spaniel-Dejeni in the head, and she ran around behind Howard’s legs.
Howard decided to shut up.
Peggy explained what was going on, in the calm, soothing, British voice that all good Englishmen and women were taught at birth to use when everything was going horribly wrong and they had to talk about it. Ana kept looking between Howard and Jarvis-Him.
“So, you are Mr. Stark?” she asked Howard, when Peggy was done.
Howard gave a wave.
“And you are Edwin?” she said to Jarvis-Him.
“Yes, that’s right,” Jarvis-Him said.
Ana gave a nod. “Yes, I see,” she said. “I understand, now. Thank you for explaining, Mrs. Carter. I had quite a fright.”
“Uh…” Howard said. “You’re just going to accept that? No questions? Peggy tells you we’ve swapped bodies, and you say ‘okay’?”
“Mr. Stark, I have seen many strange things since I came to America,” Ana said. “Is this any stranger?”
Howard reflected back on their time together and agreed it was about par for the course.
“Besides,” she said. “You are not Edwin, I can see that. I knew that right away, when I--” Her eyes widened, and Hesper buried himself further into her hair. “Oh, dear, I tried to kiss you!” Then she looked really disgusted, which was rude. There was nothing wrong with kissing him. “Thank you for stopping me.”
“Yes, that was...noble,” Jarvis-Him agreed, reluctantly, though Raccoon-Haddie’s fur was all on end; she was puffed out to three times her size and looked ready to spit nails if Howard tried anything. The one thing you never did to Edwin Jarvis was mess with his wife. He could take a lot of crap and did, but woe be to you if you messed with Ana.
And Howard had an unbreakable rule that he didn’t mess with Ana Jarvis, out of respect to Jarvis himself, but also to her. Because she was a swell girl, top class, and she put up with a lot. Like her husband and his boss swapping bodies.
“I hope I didn’t hurt you,” Howard said. “I kinda shoved you there. I don’t do that to girls. I’m a bastard, but not that kind.”
“No, I am fine,” Ana said. “Well…” She looked between them again. “As fine as I can be.”
Jarvis-Him reached for her hand, and she flinched back, but then she looked up into his eyes. She gave a big smile and hugged him, and Jarvis him stuck his face in her hair, and it was weird for Howard to see himself do that, but also really sweet, too, in a way, that they could love each other, even if one of them literally wasn’t himself. Raccoon-Haddie took Hesper gently between her paws and touched her nose to his wings.
“That’s nice,” Spaniel-Dejeni said.
“Yeah,” Howard said.
“Are you having really indecent thoughts about things, too?” Spaniel-Dejeni asked.
“Yep,” Howard said. He had to admit there were possibilities here, whatever his respect for the Jarvises.
“I think you should go back to work,” Spaniel-Dejeni said. She walked into the table leg and fell over.
“You should probably ring Daniel,” Takeo told Peggy. “It’s been a few hours now; he’ll be worried.”
Peggy was surprised it had only been a few hours. It seemed like much longer, though everyone had managed to settle into a good workflow now. Howard was at work, using Jarvis’ body to do it, with Haddie in Dejeni’s body to assist, and Dejeni in Haddie’s body to...well, mope, mostly, but it looked as though she were offering suggestions. Howard had got her a chair to sit in so she could see.
Ana Jarvis, who was dealing with the situation admirably, was looking over the diary of the anthropologist who found the machine originally. Howard’s friend had sent it with the machine. Howard hadn’t bothered to read it.
“What do I care about some stuffy British anthropologist who stole artefacts from some guys at the North Pole?” he’d defended himself. “God, have you seen what they write like? It’s worse than those reports Hawkins sends from the Middle East.”
Hawkins’ reports from the Middle East were the most excruciating pieces of writing Peggy had ever read, but whatever the diary’s similarities to them, Ana was making headway, with Jarvis, the one who looked like Howard, helping her with any words she didn’t know. They were rubbing along all right together. As Takeo had pointed out to Peggy, they’d been through far worse than this.
In between helping Ana, Jarvis helped Howard out or paced. Those were his three occupations. Peggy didn’t think the pacing was out of worry or nervousness. It was the sort of pacing Howard did when he was thinking or excited, and it was as though Jarvis were channeling that energy from him. While Howard, the one who looked like Jarvis, had grown calm and collected and measured in his movements. Because when he moved fast, he couldn’t control himself and knocked things over or dropped them.
Peggy went to ring Daniel, who must have been sitting on the phone, as it only rang once, barely, before he answered it. Peggy did her best to explain the situation, which proved harder over the phone without Howard and Jarvis there to demonstrate their identity crisis.
“No, they’re actually swapped,” she reiterated. “Jarvis is Howard and Howard is Jarvis.”
“Acting like each other, you mean,” Daniel said.
“No, actually each other,” Peggy said. “This machine, whatever it is, it managed to make their...selves switch. Howard’s body has all of Jarvis’ personality and memories and vice versa for Jarvis’ body. And Dejeni and Haddie are the same.”
“They didn’t swap?” Daniel said.
“No, they’re the same as in they did swap,” Peggy said. “Dejeni is a dog and Haddie is a raccoon.”
“So, they’ve shifted? Like they were unsettled.”
“No! They’re the same, but their--oh, never mind,” Peggy said. “Just trust me when I say that Howard and Jarvis are each other, in all essence. And, at present, we can’t switch them back.”
There was a long confused silence on the other end of the phone. “Why would anyone build a machine to do that?” Daniel said. “And how? That can’t be a thing that anyone can do. It’s impossible. We don’t have that kind of technology yet, not even Stark. We don’t even know how the brain works. If we did, we’d be able to treat crazy people and cure epilepsy.”
“We know for a fact that a whole dimension filled with nothing but oily goo that wants to take over the world exists,” Peggy said. “Are we really going to question anything being possible any more? The more we know about science the less we know about anything. Maybe someone, somewhere, some time figured it all out and died before they told anyone. Or didn’t think we were ready for it yet. Or was killed because people didn’t understand it.”
“I guess you’re right,” Daniel said. “It’s kind of stupid of me to say anything’s impossible. But, you have to admit, it’s pretty farfetched.”
“As farfetched as putting a sickly, tiny man in a box and having him come out looking like a god?” Peggy said. She then winced at her phrasing.
“Good job, Peg,” Takeo muttered. "Go ahead and tell him how gorgeous your previous love was."
“Okay, I see your point, but let’s move on,” Daniel grumbled, good-naturedly. “Wait. Jarvis is Stark, right?”
“Yes, Daniel, I’ve explained that,” Peggy said, rolling her eyes at Takeo. Honestly, how hard was it to process that Howard and Jarvis had swapped brains?
“Stark’s meeting the ambassador of Symkaria tomorrow,” Daniel said. “The one who will only speak to him because of the money he gave to them for humanitarian aid after the war? The one who we need to cooperate so we can see what’s going on in Latveria?”
Oh. Peggy had forgotten all about that in the midst of the crisis. “Can we put him off?”
“He’s come especially for the meeting, Peg, I don’t think he’s going to look kindly at being told to go home and we’ll call him back,” Daniel said. “Even a straight flight has to be something like 16 hours, not including refuelling. We’re looking at days of travel if he’s stopped over somewhere.”
“Don’t panic yet,” she said, to herself as much as him. “Howard might have the machine fixed by tomorrow.” She heard a loud crash from the other room that sent Takeo to the door to investigate. “Or I’ll find another solution. We can always say he’s sick and offer to put the ambassador up until he’s well enough to meet him.”
“It’s taken months to get him to come,” Daniel said. “It’s delicate. Stark’s the only one who can pull this off. We need him. Actually him.”
He was right, of course. Peggy hated when he was right.
“I’ll find a solution,” Peggy said. “I promise.”
“Do you want me to come over?” Daniel asked.
“No, we’re too many cooks already,” Peggy said. “Howard made the mess, he’s going to have to solve it. You might want to give Col. Phillips a head’s up, though.”
“Sure, make me do it,” Daniel grumbled. “I already lost one leg, Peg, I hope I still have the other tomorrow.”
Peggy smiled into the phone. “I’ll love you even if you have no legs or arms.”
“Ditto, Tiger. Okay, be careful. I don’t want you swapping with anyone. I love you, too, but if you and Stark swap bodies, it’s gonna be a real test on my part.”