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 3,990 (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: Unrelated to the story, but I've changed the font to be more comfortable to read on on my journal. Also the smart quotes in the old font were ugly, and I couldn't take them any more.
For reference: Haddie (A Welsh Springer Spaniel), Dejeni (a raccoon), Takeo (a spotted hyena), Hesper (a Chinese Oak Silkmoth)
PART ONE | PART TWO
Peggy and Takeo brainstormed over what to do about Howard’s meeting with the ambassador, but the only solution they could come up with was either that Howard and Jarvis returned to themselves or pretended to be one another for the length of the ambassador’s visit.
“Neither of them can pull that off,” Takeo said. “You’ve seen Howard try not to be himself. He broke the minute a pretty girl looked his way.”
“Yes, but I’ve also seen him pretend to be Jarvis on the phone to not have to speak to a woman,” Peggy said. “And his impersonation was solid. And I’ve seen Jarvis mimic Howard enough, albeit sarcastically. Howard isn’t who we have to worry about. Jarvis is the one who would really need to pull it off. Jarvis has been undercover with me before, I know he can play a role.”
“A role of varying degrees of Edwin Jarvis,” Takeo argued. “He’s not Olivier.”
“He doesn’t have to be Olivier, he has to be Howard Stark,” Peggy said. “And no one knows Howard Stark better than him. I don’t think even Howard does.”
Takeo’s tail swished in indecision. “I suppose it’s our only option,” he said. “Go and ask them.”
‘No’, was the one-word answer of Jarvis. Howard’s hands came up in front of him, crossed over themselves, and spread outwards, like an umpire declaring a baseball player safe. Haddie made the exact same gesture with Dejeni’s arms.
Howard’s response was equally terse: ‘Eh, sure’, with a shrug of Jarvis’ shoulders, while Dejeni nodded her head and didn’t look away from the machine.
“Mr Jarvis, we have no other option,” Peggy said. “I wouldn’t ask you if it wasn’t important. Latveria is an absolute dictatorship; we have no eyes or ears in there, and we have no idea what the Baron is up to. Symkaria is on good terms with them. If they’ll let us place some agents in Aniana, we might be able to get some intel. We need to convince the royal family it’s to their advantage to align themselves with us, and Howard Stark is our best chance of doing that. We need him.”
“Surely there’s someone else better suited to do this,” Jarvis said.
“Better suited than you, who is currently occupying Howard Stark’s body?” Peggy said.
Haddie pulled on Jarvis’ trouser leg, and he looked down at her.
“I think you can do it, Edwin,” Ana offered. “You always make me laugh with how good you are when you tell me stories of Mr Stark. I know you can do it.” Hesper fluttered his wings in utter confidence.
“Hey,” Howard said, turning away from the machine. “What do you mean he makes you laugh? What stories is he telling?” Dejeni cocked her head to the side, brow furrowed.
“Oh, only good ones, Mr Stark,” Ana said, straight-faced. “I laugh in awe of how wonderful you are.”
Howard smiled Jarvis’ smile and then chuckled to himself, while Dejeni bristled. “Yeah, I’ll bet,” he said. “Go ahead, Jarvis, let’s hear your me.”
Jarvis's cheeks turned a faint shade of pink, which was an unsettling phenomenon to see on Howard's face. Peggy didn’t think she’d ever seen Howard blush in all her years of knowing him.
“Sir,” Jarvis said. “Please.”
“Come on,” Peggy said. “Just introduce yourself to me. Greet me like we’ve never met.” She stepped forward, hand outstretched. “How do you do?”
Jarvis groaned, but he put an easy smile on Howard’s face and headed toward her. He took her hand in his and clapped the other over the top. “Hey there, good to see you,” he said, in Howard’s quick, New York patter. “Howard Stark. How was your trip? You look good--I like your hair. Can I get you a drink? Jarvis, get the lady a drink. What will you have?” Haddie gave Takeo a come-hither nod.
Ana erupted into giggles, and Takeo lost character and guffawed into the back of Peggy’s legs.
“Just water, please, Mr Stark,” Peggy said, carrying on the roleplay.
“Water?” Jarvis scoffed. “Come on, you’ve been on that plane for hours. You want something stronger than that. Don’t be shy, I won’t judge. Jarvis, get me a scotch, and one for her, too.” Haddie clicked her fingers toward Howard.
“Really, Mr Stark, we can’t mix alcohol with business,” Peggy said.
“Business should always be mixed with pleasure,” Jarvis replied, and gave her a wink.
Peggy dropped out of character. “Well done, Mr Jarvis!” she said.
Howard’s cheeks blushed red again, and he was suddenly Jarvis as clear as day. Haddie gave him a round of applause on her paws and smiled up at him.
“Do I really sound like that?” Howard said.
“Yes,” said Jarvis, Ana, and Peggy in unison.
“Huh. Well, I don’t move like that, though,” Howard said. “I don’t walk like I have a stick up my ass, like you. That would have got me beat up when I was a kid. Walk like anyone messing with you better think twice about it. Walk like you know you’re better than anyone else and they better know it, too.”
“I didn’t know you felt so strongly about perambulation,” Jarvis said. He looked down at his feet and tested out a different style, Haddie observing with a thoughtful expression.
“We can work on a walk,” Peggy said. “You’ve got the basics down. Howard, let’s see you have a go at Jarvis.”
“C’mon, Jarvis is easy, I don’t need to practice,” Howard said. He straightened his shoulders and put on Jarvis’ accent. “Oh, yes, sir, right away. Do put down that object, it looks most dangerous. Eat this food, you’re going to pass out. Why don’t you have any trousers on?”
Jarvis raised an eyebrow at him. “I sound nothing like that.”
“No? That’s what you sound like to me,” Howard said, with a shrug.
Dejeni trotted a circle around his feet, putting on a walk that show-dogs used, mimicking Haddie’s normal gait but exaggerated. Haddie scowled in response.
“Mrs Carter?” Ana called. “Would you look at this? I think I’ve found something.”
Peggy left Howard and Jarvis glaring at each other to join her at the table. Hesper was dancing over a passage in one of the diaries. Takeo put his paws on the table, stretching himself up to look with Peggy.
“This is where Dr Penfield talks about the machine,” Ana explained, running her finger along the words, Hesper riding on her hand. “He says it was used to settle disputes amongst the villagers. People who had quarrels with one another would put their hands on it and instead of telling their complaints, they would have to tell the other person’s side of the story, as though it happened to them and they were the other person. For example, if Mr Stark and I were fighting over what happened earlier, I would say something like ‘today Ana Jarvis came into my workshop and tried to kiss me, so I had to push her to stop her from doing it’, and Mr Stark would say something like ‘today I came into the workshop to see my husband and tried to kiss him, and he pushed me away to stop me’. Does this make sense?”
“I think so,” Peggy said. “A sort of role-playing exercise, allowing people to see the other person’s point of view. But they didn’t swap bodies, I’m assuming.”
“No, it was a symbol, I think,” Ana said. “To represent being the other person.”
“What if it did work in the past?” Takeo suggested. “What if Howard’s right and someone more advanced than us made it and gave it to them, but they didn’t understand it because it was so complex?”
“So they made something simpler to explain it?” Peggy said. “Yes, that might be true. Or it might have broken, and because it didn’t work, the story got muddled as it went down the line of generations.”
“Dr Penfield says it was very good for resolving the disputes,” Ana went on. “Rarely afterwards did people demand more justice. They were able to resolve it themselves without going to the elders for a ruling because they understood each other better. Dr Penfield writes that he thought it would be good for other, more ‘civilized’ people to implement a system like it. He thought it might help people who are very different be more nice to each other.”
“Just because I’m sensible doesn’t make me boring!” Howard yelled, suddenly.
No, Jarvis yelled? Howard’s body, and Howard’s voice, but...it had to be Jarvis. He and Howard, the one in Jarvis’ body, were nose to chin with each other, screaming, as Haddie and Dejeni stared down one another on the floor.
“No, it makes you predictable! I always know what you’re going to do, Jarvis, because you do the same damn thing, day in and day out!” Jarvis yelled. Or Howard? He had Jarvis’ body and Jarvis’ voice. “You come in, you boss me around, and you go home to your little house with your nice, pretty, delightful wife and drink your sherry, and wash, rinse, repeat!”
“Are they staying in character while screaming at each other?” Takeo asked.
“Yes, I believe they are,” Peggy said. “Well, in accent at least.”
“I do my duty, which is more than can be said for you!” Howard or Jarvis replied. “Skipping work. Up all night. Breaking women’s hearts and leaving me to repair them. Trying to kiss other men’s wives!”
“But I didn’t kiss her! Do you know how hard that was?! Give me some damned credit, Jarvis!”
“I think I give you quite enough credit, all things considered!”
Dejeni pounced on Haddie, and Haddie flung her away, sending her sliding across the floor. Or Haddie pounced on Dejeni, and Dejeni flung her away. One or the other.
“I think,” Ana said, thoughtfully. “Dr Penfield was perhaps too optimistic in his predictions.”
Miss--Mrs Carter left around midnight to go home after she felt Jarvis was trained enough to successfully be Mr Stark the following day. Jarvis didn’t like her going home on her own at night and offered to drive her back or let her stay the night, but she insisted she was fine, and that she needed a proper sleep in her own bed after what had transpired that day.
“I can’t blame her for that,” Haddie said.
Ana retired too and asked, kindly, that if Jarvis was going to bed that night, he use a guest room.
“Just until you are you again,” she said. “It is too strange right now. I know you are Edwin, but you look like Mr Stark. And I just can’t share a bed with him, even if we are only sleeping in it.”
That was oddly reassuring to hear, especially after the almost-kiss earlier. Seeing his wife and what was essentially Howard Stark nearly kiss one another was something of a worst nightmare coming true. A genuine nightmare. He never worried about it all during the day, but he had had the occasional dream of Mr Stark stealing Ana and running away with her.
“We will switch back,” Jarvis told Ana. “Believe me when I say I will not remain like this forever. Even if it takes me forever to find a solution.”
“If it takes that long, I will adapt,” Ana told him. “I can love you, no matter who you look like. It will just take time!” She flinched when he bent in to kiss her, but then he took her hand and kissed her palm, and she smiled.
Haddie and Hesper had no qualms about embracing and caressing one another, but Jarvis supposed it might be easier for them to adapt. They were once creatures who took all forms, after all, and stayed the same inside. Haddie certainly wasn’t having much trouble learning to be a racoon, while Jarvis was dizzy from the world not being at the right height and the heaviness of the weight gain. And he wanted to shave desperately. This moustache was ridiculous to wear. And he kept being alarmed by his missing wedding ring, worried he’d lost it.
He was also exhausted. Tired down to his bones; heavy and weary. The caffeine was gone, and Mr Stark hadn’t slept last night and possibly not the night before. Maybe Mr Stark could go on like that, but Jarvis couldn’t. He tried, until around two AM, but then Haddie fell off the table twice trying to help the Other Jarvis, and the Other Haddie plucked her up in her mouth, and carried her to the couch where Jarvis was sitting, just like the real Haddie often carried Miss Dejeni to bed when Mr Stark was intoxicated.
“Get some sleep,” the Other Jarvis barked. “That couch is comfy, and you can probably fit on it now.”
He could. He laid down and closed his eyes, Haddie at first trying to sleep like she would if she were still her Welshie self, but then crawling in under his arm like when Jarvis was at boarding school as a child, and she had to fit in his narrow bed with him. Jarvis slept as though he hadn’t slept in years.
At least, until he woke to himself screaming.
For a moment, he’d forgotten what happened and screamed back at the sight of himself without him in it, but then every horrible detail came back, and he was up to see what was happening.
The Other Jarvis was making a series of screaming moans that sounded like ‘ggrrrAAAH!’ as he clawed at his legs. The Other Haddie was twisting on the floor in obvious pain, her back legs rigid and unbending while her front ones bicycled in the air.
“Cramp,” Haddie said to Jarvis. “I bet it’s cramp.” She ran over to the Other Haddie and began to massage her back legs with her paws.
“Do you have cramp in your legs?” Jarvis asked the Other Jarvis.
“GrrrrAAAAH!” The Other Jarvis replied. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. What is happening? What is this? I can’t move my legs. Your legs. What’s wrong with your legs? I’m dying.”
“It’s cramp,” Jarvis said. “I get it quite often. Take off your socks and shoes and walk on the cold floor, it will help.”
“How am I supposed to get them off?!” The Other Jarvis howled. “Or walk?! I can’t move! Why is this happening?!”
Jarvis knelt down and helped get his shoes and socks off. “My goodness, my feet are enormous,” he noted, as he saw them from a new perspective.
“Stop bragging about your dick size and help me!” The Other Jarvis moaned.
Jarvis decided not to dignify that with an answer and placed one foot on the cement floor of the workshop followed by the other and pressed them down firmly with his hands.
“Pinch your philtrum,” Jarvis said.
“How does that--Jesus, I’ll try anything,” The Other Jarvis said, and pinched his upper lip firmly.
“Now, when you begin to relax a little, try stretching your legs gently against the cramp,” Jarvis advised. “Pull your toes up toward your shin. There you go. Is that helping?”
“Yeah,” the Other Jarvis said.
Haddie patted the Other Haddie on her head.
“Now, your legs will feel a little like jelly, so be careful if you’re going to--”
The Other Jarvis came tumbling to the floor in a heap. “Ouch,” he said, and rolled onto his back with a moan. “Fucking fuck, Jarvis, what the fuck was that?”
“Cramp,” Jarvis said. “A family curse. I get it when I’ve been busy and haven’t had enough to drink, I think. Especially if I’ve been up and down stairs. My father had it, too, after long days at the big house. He used to put a bar of soap at the foot of his bed, under his sheets, and swore it warded them off, but it never worked for me.”
“Probably because it’s horseshit,” the Other Jarvis declared. His chest rose and fell in great panting breaths. “Were you that busy yesterday?”
“Not any more than usual, I shouldn’t think,” Jarvis said. “Let’s see...well, the maids did come in, so I supervised them, and then I had to go to market, so I was out about the city to some degree, maybe three hours or so, in and out of shops. Oh, and I had to let Miss Chadsworth know your affections were no longer forthcoming and the lift was out in the building, so I had to do six flights of stairs up and back down again.”
“On very sore toes!” Haddie added, to herself.
“And then in the afternoon--”
“You did all that in the morning?” The Other Jarvis said.
“Yes,” Jarvis said. “And then in the afternoon, I went to the tailors because the crotch of your new blue suit wasn’t double stitched on the seam, and I knew it would come undone before long. And there was dry cleaning to be picked up, and then you wanted me to pick up some cheese, but then you decided you didn’t want that cheese, so I went back to get the cheese you wanted at that moment. Which you didn’t eat. And I was up and down the stairs to the workshop to speak to you over the day. But I wouldn’t say I did more stairs than usual. Maybe up and down twenty or thirty times.”
The Other Jarvis’ head lolled in his direction. “Jarvis, I don’t go up and down stairs that much in a month. How often do you get this cramp thing?”
“I don’t know, once or twice a week,” Jarvis said. “I’ve been working hard at trying to drink more.”
“Why didn’t you drink yesterday?” The Other Jarvis grumbled.
“Because I was in your body, and you didn’t drink in mine,” Jarvis said.
“Oh. Yeah,” the Other Jarvis said. “Okay, good reason.” He reached out and stroked the Other Haddie, who had rolled her way over to his supine form. “Still, that wasn’t fun.”
“No, it never is,” Jarvis said. “If it makes you feel any better, I have rather the headache. I don’t usually get headaches.”
“Really? I get them all the time,” the Other Jarvis said. “My ma said it was from hunching so much over my stuff. I did a lot of hunching yesterday. Stretch your neck side to side and loosen up the muscles.”
Jarvis tilted his head around, and Haddie mimicked him with her own neck. The headache wasn’t relieved, but Jarvis did feel less stiff.
“Massages are good, too,” the Other Jarvis said. “My ma used to rub my dad when he was sore from hauling the fruit around. She rubbed me, too, and Aeolus--he was a groundhog--he walked on Jen’s back. Ma had good hands. Had to, all the work she did with them. I think I get mine from her.” He held up his hands, and then frowned, as they weren’t his own. “Anyway, that’s why I get my monthly massage. Keeps me nice and loose.”
“Ah,” Jarvis said, not having known any of that about Mr Stark. He hadn’t even known Mrs Stark’s daemon’s form or name before. Mr Stark didn’t speak freely of his past. “I thought it was for another purpose you enjoyed them.”
“Well, there’s that, too,” the Other Jarvis said, with a grin. “Who says you can’t have both?” He moaned and struggled to a seated position, the Other Haddie draping her chin on his knees. “You should try it for your legs.”
“Perhaps I should,” Jarvis said.
The Other Jarvis shook his legs out and attempted to get up. Jarvis stood up so he could offer a hand.
“You know what else I feel?” The Other Jarvis said. “It’s weird, it’s like...heavy and...fuzzy. And...like...I dunno. Like I want to lie down.”
“Is...is he describing being tired as though he’s never felt it?” Haddie asked.
“Yes, I believe he is,” Jarvis said. Surely Mr Stark must get tired? Though, it would explain so much if he didn’t.
“And my eyes hurt,” the Other Jarvis added, putting his hands up to cover them.
“You should wear your glasses while you’re working,” Jarvis said.
“I don’t wear glasses.”
“I wear glasses. For close work. There’s prescription goggles on the hook there, and you have your--my reading glasses in your pocket.”
Mr Stark took them out and placed them on his face. “I can’t see shit.”
“They’re for close work,” Jarvis repeated. “To read with.”
Mr Stark shrugged and took the glasses off again.
“Don’t bother, he won’t wear them,” Haddie said, as Jarvis opened his mouth to object.
“My ears are hot, too,” Mr Stark said, now just grumbling like a child.
“My ears do that when I’m overtired,” Jarvis said. “I suppose they would continue to do that, even if I wasn’t there.”
“Fuck, this is weird, huh?” the Other Jarvis said. “Sorry, you know. I obviously didn’t mean to do this, but it’s still my fault. So, sorry about it.”
Jarvis nodded but didn’t feel he needed to be let off the hook yet. Or possibly ever. “We’ll make do,” he said. “Any progress on the machine?”
It was in fewer pieces than before. Far fewer. Haddie hopped up to take a look, the Other Haddie jumping on a chair to oversee it as well.
“I’m back to where I was yesterday morning, just about,” the Other Jarvis said. “So, logically, I should have us back home by tomorrow night.”
“Which means I’ll have to meet the Symkarian ambassador tomorrow,” Jarvis said.
“Yeah. Sorry about that, too,” the Other Jarvis said. “You think you can do it?”
“I’ll give it my best,” Jarvis promised, not confident at all. “But you should get some rest. I want my body back in good shape when we’re ourselves again, if you please.”
The Other Jarvis yawned and stretched himself out. “Yeah, okay. A nap wouldn’t hurt,” he said. He went over to the couch and flopped down on it. His legs dangled over the end of it, and the Other Haddie couldn’t fit up there with him, so she had to flop down on the floor.
“Tuck your knees to your chest,” Jarvis advised.
The Other Jarvis curled himself into a ball. “You’re a freak, Jarvis,” he grumbled.
Then he drifted off to sleep. Haddie scampered back over to Jarvis and smiled up at him. “It’s almost breakfast time,” she said.
Jarvis looked down at his watch--or Mr Stark’s watch. Too full of dials to be useful. “In a few hours,” he said. “Not yet.”
“Let’s make a cheese souffle for breakfast,” she said. “I’ll help.”
She looked so hopeful, Jarvis agreed to the plan. He could practice being Mr Stark while they were at it. He was confident in his abilities to play Mr Stark enough to fool the ambassador, but he didn’t know if he’d have the chops to do the negotiating required. Miss--Mrs Carter had suggested he have an earpiece, with a microphone on Mr Stark so he could help out if Jarvis tripped up, like Cyrano De Bergerac did for Christian. Only, in this case, they weren’t seducing Roxanne. They were seducing the Symkarian ambassador.
Mr Stark was adept at seduction. Jarvis had only ever seduced one person in his lifetime, and in that case, she’d done most of the work for him.
“Very well, Hendrina,” he said. Then, in the spirit of practice: “Come on, Jen, let’s go crack some eggs.”
Haddie chuckled and assumed Miss Dejeni’s casual swagger. “Sure thing, boss,” she said. She bounded forward, looking even more like Miss Dejeni. “I’m very excited! I haven’t cracked eggs since I was unsettled.”
At least one of them was enjoying this experience. Jarvis imagined it was going to get worse before it got better.