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Agent Carter fic: The Spy and the Butler (1/1)

January 22nd, 2015 (08:13 am)
amused

feeling: amused

Title: The Spy and the Butler

Disclaimer: I do not own Agent Carter or anything related to the MCU.

A/N: This just happened. Because I love this show. Beta thanks to lena7142. This is all her fault anyway :)

Summary: She’ll prove Howard Stark is innocent, and she’ll prove her worth in the meantime. And if she needs a butler from time to time, then that’s a necessary means to an end.



-o-

Peggy Carter has no need for a butler.

It seems presumptuous of Howard, to ask her to help and then to leave her his butler as a means of support. As if Peggy needs her shoes shined and her linens pressed. Though, she must admit, she could go for a cup of tea most days, which seems to be about the only thing she doesn’t have time to ask Edwin Jarvis to do.

But Peggy believes in doing what’s right, and she believes that the good fight is one you undertake even when you haven’t got much of a chance of winning. In fact, as far as she can tell, those are the most important fights of all, and she didn’t make it through the war to sit idly on her britches.

She’ll prove Howard Stark is innocent, and she’ll prove her worth in the meantime.

And if she needs a butler from time to time, then that’s a necessary means to an end.

She’s made do with less, after all.

-o-

One might think, given that Jarvis is also Stark’s driver, that he would be better equipped for the task.

“I don’t suppose we could, I don’t know,” Peggy says, glancing nervously behind her. “Go faster?”

“I am obliged to comply with the full rule of the law,” Jarvis reports primly from the front seat.

“You do realize that you are actively impeding an investigation by the SSR,” she reminds him.

“I am doing no such thing!” Jarvis insists.

“At the very least, you’re an accomplice,” Peggy says. “And you did drive the getaway car after we blew up the milk truck.”

“Driving is simply part of my duties,” Jarvis says.

Peggy rolls her eyes. “Which is why I think you should go faster!” she says. “If they catch up to us--”

“And if we get pulled over by the police?” Jarvis asks. “If we receive a ticket for reckless driving? Just your very presence in this car could get us both in trouble, not to mention cost us the opportunity to keep Mr. Stark’s inventions safe while also proving his innocence.”

Peggy looks at him through the rearview mirror, gaping a little. “And here I thought you were just a butler, Jarvis.”

“Oh, I am, Miss Carter,” he says, eyes on the road. “And by driving the speed limit, no one will have reason to think otherwise.”

-o-

Of course, it’d be easier if Jarvis remembered that he was just a butler.

Instead, he’s prone to showing up whenever he sees fit, trying to help.

As if Peggy can’t do it on her own.

“I told you to stay in the car!” she says over the roar of gunfire splintering the conveyer belt above them.

“Yes, but you were going into a guarded facility full of armed and dangerous men,” he tells her, sounding only slightly rattled by the glass shattering behind them.

“And what did you think you were going to do?” she asks, incredulously. “Fold their laundry?”

“Or keep a watch out while you search for the documents,” he says. “I thought we could perhaps avoid a firefight in that case.”

Peggy raises her eyebrows, already improvising a strategy to get them out of there with the documentation and zero casualties. “How did that one work out for you?”

He blushes, duly sheepish. “I will remind you, Miss Carter,” he says. “I am only a butler.”

-o-

Other times, though, he’s surprisingly useful. He is, after all, calm and collected under pressure, and though he is entirely too preoccupied with irrelevant things, he does have a tendency to come through in a pinch.

More than that, Peggy finds that having a partner makes things a bit easier.

“I need a distraction,” she demands, eyes wide as she turns toward him in the crowded ballroom.

Jarvis furrows his brow, clearly perplexed. “I’m afraid I don’t--”

She shakes her head insistently. “It’s my boss, and if he sees us--”

That’s when Jarvis promptly leans forward and kisses her.

It’s not just any kiss, though.

He makes a scene of it, taking her up in his arms and tilting her back. He bows her deep, pressing his lips hard against hers long enough to make her lungs scream for air and stars to explode behind her eyes.

When she think she can’t take anymore, the pose shifts and his touch softens, and his hand supports her back up into her hair even as the kiss turns surprisingly gentle and encouragingly sweet. She feels herself relax inexplicably, and by the time he brings her upright, she’s breathless and pliant, staring at him in shock.

He presses his lips together, looking over her shoulder. “There,” he says. “They’re gone now.”

“That was your distraction?” she asks, blinking at him dumbly.

He adjusts his tie. “Would you rather me have blown something up?” he asks. “That does seem rather more your style.”

She snorts. “Perhaps we could ask your wife her opinion on the matter.”

“Please,” he says, taking out a handkerchief to dab her lipstick off his lips. “I’d prefer it if she only thinks of me as a butler.”

Peggy shrugs. “Seems like rather a shame.”

He folds the handkerchief and puts it away. “Only to you."

-o-

He’s useful, sometimes.

Others, she has to admit it, she needs him completely.

She takes it for granted most of the time, that he’s there when he calls her, that he drops his laundry and his housekeeping and his wife’s attentions for her beckon. He’ll drive her anywhere, and he’ll play any part, and he’ll never leave her alone, even when she wants him to.

It’s something, after all, to know someone will back you up. To know someone will believe in you no matter what. Peggy doesn’t have much -- the memory of a mission she was once a part of, the promise of a dance she never got to have -- but she has this slipshod mission and a butler.

The only way to complete the one is to use the other.

Especially on nights like this.

“Miss Carter!” he protests. “I must object--”

“What?” she gasps, leaning heavily against the counter of Howard’s guest bathroom. “Will the blood stain the marble?”

“Possibly, but that’s sincerely not the point,” Jarvis says, looking truly vexed.

She winces, limping her way to the toilet. Her hands are shaking as she closes the lid, and she half falls on top of it. “You’ve done this before,” she reminds him.

“The bleeding was far less copious,” he says, chewing his lip worried as he peels her ruined pantyhose out of the way.

“It looks worse than it is,” she says, stifling a groan as he uses a washcloth to clear away the blood.

“I beg to differ, Miss Carter,” he said. “I saw the knife that man was wielding, and I heard your cry of pain.”

“And we both saw how you almost ran them over to get us out of there,” Peggy says, chuckling a little at the image. “You dented the bumper.”

“The bumper is the least of my concerns,” he says, brow furrowed as he peers through his glasses. “This cut is deep.”

“Then it’s good that your sewing skills are impeccable,” she says.

He looks up at her over the tops of his glasses. “You need a doctor.”

She wets her lips, rallying her strength. Because it hurts a lot, but most things in her life hurt at one point or another. Without pain, she’ll never have success. “If I go to a doctor, there’ll be a paper trail,” she says. “I can’t risk that. We can’t risk that.”

“The mission is not the most important thing,” he tells her, soft but firm. “Your well being comes first.”

“Then you should start stitching,” she says, a bit more forcefully now. “Before I bleed to death in Stark’s bathroom, and then you’ll really have a mess to explain.”

“Miss Carter,” he says, stridently now. “Need I remind you that I’m not trained for this sort of thing. I’m just a butler.”

She holds his gaze steady, jaw tight. “No, Mr. Jarvis,” she says with a short, taut shake of her head. “I believe you’re more than that.”

He looks grateful and apologetic all at once. After a moment, he gathers a breath and nods. “Very well, Miss Carter,” he says as he pulls out a needle and thread. “We’ll do it your way.”

-o-

And then sometimes, they do it his way.

“Here,” he tells her, far too nonchalant as he holds out a file folder.

She takes it, a little uncertain.

“I believe that is the file you wanted,” he says.

Her eyes widen and she flips it open. “The Roxxon file?” she asks in disbelief. “But it was moved to the office at his private residence. I thought it was entirely off the table for us--”

“For espionage, perhaps,” Jarvis says. “They were, however, in need of an extra butler for a party. As it turns out, I have had ample free time since Mr. Stark’s departure, and I have a number of friends in the industry.”

“The butler industry?” she asks.

“Miss Carter, I would not expect condescension from you,” he says.

“Of course not,” she says.

“Especially when I used my temporary position to gain access to the restricted area to obtain the very file you have been so pining after for two weeks now,” he continues.

“But won’t they suspect you?” she asks. “You do work for Howard, after all.”

“Did I forget to mention that last night my name was not Edwin Jarvis? No, last night I was just a butler, one of hundreds throughout the city,” he says. He inclines his head with a small, proud smile. “My time with you has not been entirely for naught.”

She chuckles, perusing the file again. “You do impress me sometimes, Mr. Jarvis.”

He straightens, clearly pleased with himself. “I do try, Miss Carter.”

-o-

This is how it is, then. Peggy Carter does meaningless tasks at the SSR and fights real crime at night. She’s a spy in every meaning of the word, but she’s not out to betray anyone. She’s finally finding her purpose, finally doing the good work she started with Steve, but this time she’s got nothing but a butler by her side.

It’s as unexpected as it is successful, and she finds their time together productive. He knows how to make her tea just right when they’re plotting, and he’s mastered the art of the getaway car with surprising aplomb. He’s even learning to defend himself a bit more in conflict, which is useful since he insists on coming to her aid when she explicitly tells him not to.

They might just pull this off, the two of them. They might prove Howard is innocent, and they might stop a lot of bad people in the process.

“Oh, no!” Peggy exclaims as they finish lunch and their latest planning session.

“A complication with the security clearance?” Jarvis asks.

“No,” Peggy says. “I spilled sauce on my jacket.”

Jarvis comes closer, bending to look closer.

“That’ll be a bother to get out,” Peggy says. “And I have to get back to work--”

“No bother at all,” Jarvis says. “Remove your jacket.”

“Mr. Jarvis--”

“You can borrow one of the spares upstairs,” he says.

“And you intend to do what with mine?” she asks.

“Get out the stain, of course,” he says.

She scoffs. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m more than capable--”

“Certainly,” he says. “But I have the time and the inclination--”

“I don’t need your help--”

“And how many times have you said that?” he asks pointedly.

“About as many times as you’ve ignored it,” she counters.

“Please,” he says, hand extended. “I am still a butler, after all.”

She looks at him for a long moment, prim and proper before her. “Okay,” she says, slipping out of her jacket as she concedes his point. “But only because I think you’ll actually enjoy it.”

He takes it from her readily. “A task that requires my skill but does not involve the risk of death, danger or deportation,” he says. “I am positively giddy.”

-o-

Then there are times she remembers why she wanted to work alone.

The men are holding Jarvis at gunpoint, which seems a bit like overkill. The butler is barely standing as it is, held up by two goons who seem indifferent to the obvious injury Jarvis has sustained.

And the injuries are obvious.

Jarvis has been beaten badly, with bruises on his face and mottled down his chest. His clothes, which are normally impeccably pressed, are nothing but tatters now, and his hair is bedraggled on his head, matted awkwardly with dried blood.

It’s hard to believe, of course. Not just the amount of damage that’s been done since Jarvis went missing from his lookout post no more than an hour ago, but that they’ve ended up here at all. Edwin Jarvis has a remarkable knack for avoiding trouble, almost as much as Peggy seems to have an inclination to get into it.

What’s most surprising, however, is how it makes her feel.

Because she’s been looking out for him since the start, since the first time she told him to leave her alone to the time she put herself in line for ridicule to get him out of an interrogation room. She told him from the start that she wants to work alone, and she’s made every effort to put him off because she doesn’t need help.

She doesn’t want help.

But mostly, she doesn’t want this.

It’s like seeing Colleen lying dead in the bed. It’s like seeing the list of men who fell in battle during the war.

It’s like waiting for a promise to dance and hearing nothing but static on the radio.

People around Peggy Carter seem to end up dead.

Except this time, there’s something she can do about it.

Holding her gun steady, she smiles coldly. “Come now, boys,” she cajoles. “What do you take me for?”

“A dumb broad, mostly,” the main one grunts. He waves his gun absently before poking it at Jarvis again. “Hand over the documents you took, and we’ll let your boyfriend here go.”

Peggy shrugs, refusing to notice Jarvis’ hollow grunt of pain at being jostled. “Boyfriend?” she asks. “Please, he’s just a butler.”

Jarvis’ face is downturned, thankfully, so she doesn’t have to see his reaction.

The man’s face darkens, and he presses the gun to Jarvis’ temple. “Then it won’t matter if we just end this, then,” he snarls. “Will it?”

Peggy’s heart clenches, and her stomach goes cold. It’s all she can do to keep an even face. “Do you want to test your theory?” she asks.

The man hesitates, the tip of the gun dropping just a little, just enough. “You can’t be unreasonable--” he starts.

And never finishes.

Because Peggy puts a bullet between his eyes.

It’s fast and it’s violent and it’s really not Peggy’s style. She likes to keep her casualties at a minimum, and though she’s never been opposed to force, she understands that she cannot pretend to be judge and jury and still effectively be an agent of the greater good.

That’s what had made Steve so special, after all. Not that he was willing to kill Nazis, but that he’d gone out to protect others. The shield was a defense first.

But it was an offense second.

And Peggy’s not afraid to pull that trigger, not when the cause matters.

It matters now.

With the main goon down, the other two spring into action. They release Jarvis, but they’re too slow in their counterattack. Peggy knocks one on his backside with a kick to the groin, before finishing him off with a heel to his temple. The other manages to pull his gun in time for Peggy to slam it in his face, and he crumples to the ground accordingly.

She stops to breathe, but only for a moment, because in the carnage there are four bodies. Three of which are acceptable.

One of which is most definitely not.

Rushing forward, she steps around the other men. “Mr. Jarvis?” she asks. “Mr. Jarvis!”

He’s on his side, but when she eases him to his back, his eyes flutter open. “Miss Carter,” he croaks with a ragged inhalation. “It is such a relief to see you.”

“You know,” she says, doing her best to smile. “We will have to review what it means to be a lookout.”

He hums a little, eyes drifting shut for a moment. “Perhaps, so,” he murmurs, his split lip leaking blood. “You were right, though. I am just a -- just a butler after all.”

His voice trails off at the end, his body going slack beneath her. He unconscious, but she slips her fingers to his pulse point just to be sure. He’s alive, at least.

She looks at him, though. Badly bruised and bloodied, all on her account.

Just a butler, she thinks.

That probably would have been easier.

But, as she gathers him up to drag him back to the car, she decides it wouldn’t have been better.

-o-

She can’t take him anywhere but to Howard’s place, and even that proves to be a trial. She trusts that he’s already made excuses to his wife for the evening, and though Peggy feels like she owes the other woman an explanation, she knows it’s not her place.

As it is, it’s awkward enough to rummage through Jarvis’ pockets to find his keys, and dragging him up the stairs is more than she can handle. She settles him instead in the parlor, before setting about to cleaning him up.

He rouses when she starts to clean his wounds, which is fortunate since it feels improper to undress him without his consent. He’s stoic while she works, mouth pressed in a firm, thin line when she tends to the worst of the cuts, and gritting his teeth together as she binds his battered ribs.

By the end of it, he’s pale and shivering but upright and conscious. “Thank you,” he says.

“Nothing you haven’t done for me,” she says, hoping to sound nonchalant. She hesitates. “What will you tell Anna?”

He winces. “I’ll figure that out in the morning,” he says haltingly. “For tonight, I believe I may stay here.”

“Well, I’ll stay with you,” Peggy offers.

“That’s not necessary--”

“I can’t go back to my place anyway,” Peggy says. “I missed curfew.”

Jarvis collects a tender breath. “Miss Carter--”

“Peggy,” she blurts.

He looks up at her in surprise.

She shrugs. “Given the number of times we’ve saved each other’s lives, it seems like we should be done with our formalities.”

He studies her, brow furrowed. “Need I remind you that I’m just a butler, Miss Carter?”

“Mr. Jarvis,” she says unflinchingly. “Need I remind you, that after all you’ve done, you’re so much more than that?”

He looks almost surprised, and for the first time in their partnership, she’s taken him well and truly off guard.

The funny thing is, she’s taken herself off guard as well.

She can’t save everyone, she knows, but for tonight, this is enough.

Jarvis is alive and he’s going to be okay.

For tonight, that’s enough.

“Come on,” she says, helping him to his feet. “Let’s get you to bed.”

“I haven’t turned down the sheets in your room--” he starts, sounding truly distressed.

“Well, for tonight, let me be the butler,” she says with ginger steps.

“But the linens--” he protests.

“Mr. Jarvis, please,” she says. “Just for tonight. Tomorrow you can go back to buttling all you like.”

He swallows hard and takes a breath as he winces over another step. “Well,” he relents. “Maybe just for tonight.”

-o-

Peggy Carter has no need for a butler.

When it comes to a partner, however, she can see the advantage.

And in terms of a friend, Peggy can’t imagine life any other way.

Comments

Posted by: Ann (just_ann_now)
Posted at: January 22nd, 2015 03:23 pm (UTC)
Cloud Atlas: A Letter

Wonderful! Your character voices are excellent. I enjoyed this very much!

Edited at 2015-01-22 03:23 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 27th, 2015 12:56 am (UTC)
iron man

I'm always a little surprise anyone still reads my LJ! But thank you! I get anxious posting in new fandoms, so it's a relief to know things seem right :)

Posted by: doubleyoudotcom (doubleyoudotcom)
Posted at: July 28th, 2015 05:24 pm (UTC)
<3

This is absolutely GORGEOUS! Thank you for sharing! :D

3 Read Comments