Avengers-Peggy smile

Agent Carter fic: All In

Title: All In
Fandom: Agent Carter
Word Count: 2400
Pairing: gen (aside from background canon ones)
Summary: Jack meets Ana Jarvis. Set after season two; major finale spoilers.
Cross-posted: http://archiveofourown.org/works/6202189

In Jack's opinion, someone could have mentioned that surviving getting shot in the chest was the easy part.

The hard part was what came after: endless days of pain, exhaustion, and lethargy. He was too nauseated to eat, too weak to even hold a book, or to concentrate on it without falling asleep.

Peggy was -- though he'd never admit it -- the brightest spot in his dull, miserable, gray days. She stopped by daily, bringing news of the SSR's corruption cleanup and the hunt for Jack's shooter, chatting about her further adventures in LA (apparently Rose was teaching her to surf), or just sitting with him when he was too tired and ill to talk.

Somehow, he'd won her friendship, when he'd done everything wrong. He still couldn't quite figure out how or why.

And Sousa stopped by sometimes too -- with Peggy, hand in hand (it was still odd, seeing them like that), or just on his own, bringing news of the case or sitting with him for awhile. Things were strange between them right now: strained, but also ... different, in a way Jack couldn't quite define, and was too muzzy-headed in his current state to even figure out if the change was for the good or for the bad. They had never been friends, exactly; they didn't even like each other half the time. But Daniel kept coming back, and not merely on Peggy's behalf.

In some ways, it was a bond not unlike that of men under fire. He hadn't necessarily liked some of the guys in his unit (and he did like Sousa) but there was still that indefinable something. And this ... was similar, maybe. Daniel had been where Jack was now. And he kept coming back, even on the days when Jack was feeling like shit and was taking it out on everyone around him. By now Sousa had a lot of practice at letting Jack's snappish comments roll off him, or giving back as good as he got.

They were still keeping a guard on him, a rotating shift of SSR agents stationed out in the hall. He'd argued against it, mainly because the LA office was desperately short-staffed -- it had been even before, and now with the internal purges as Peggy and Daniel rooted out Vernon's guys, they were down to little more than a skeleton crew. But Peggy was Peggy; he had trouble winning arguments against her even when he was on his feet, let alone flat on his back, with all the local SSR agents taking orders from Daniel anyway. Peggy had also stashed a gun between his mattress and bedframe, to the dismay of various hospital staff who kept finding it in the process of changing his sheets.

But in between being pestered (in a friendly way) by visiting SSR personnel, and being pestered in a different way by nurses and physical therapists, his days passed in a haze of dizziness, pain, and drugs.

He was propped up on pillows with a paperback novel by his knees, alternately napping, watching California sunlight creep down the wall, and trying to figure out if it was worth the inevitable nausea-inducing headache to try to read for awhile, when he heard a whispered altercation in the hall outside his room.

He slid a hand down to the weapon under the mattress. But he didn't think this was something dangerous. It sounded like a couple, a woman and a man, arguing quietly. And now they were talking to his SSR guard -- and now the door was opening, and Jack kept his hand on the butt of the gun, just in case.

When the woman walked into his hospital room, Jack's first thought was: Spring.

One of his memories of childhood was a book his mother had owned, a large leather-bound volume with color plates in it. Four of them were depictions of the seasons as women. Spring had been a maiden with vivid red hair and a green dress, surrounded by flowers. Put this woman in a flower-filled meadow, and she could have modeled for it. The stripes of sunlight from the window's half-closed blinds happened to catch her in just the right way, setting fire to her hair and making her seem to glow.

Then she took a few steps closer and he registered a few other things about her: that she was limping and moving slowly; that her eyes were shadowed with a weariness he recognized, along with something that was, if not pain, then the recent memory of it.

And then Jarvis swooped into the room behind her and the final piece of the puzzle fell into place. Oh.

"It's such a long walk from the car park, you really should have stopped at the nurse's station to sit down --"

"I can sit down right here. I am not such an invalid as all that, Edwin." She gave Jack a brilliant smile. "Hello, Chief Thompson."

"Uh, hello." He let his hand drop away from the weapon. "Er, Jarvis ... hi."

He might as well not have spoken, for all the attention Jarvis paid to him. Stark's butler was busy dragging up a chair for his wife, whisking it underneath her; she nearly fell into it. She recovered and sat down as if this was perfectly normal. Possibly it was.

"Thank you, dear," she said, reaching up to squeeze Jarvis's hand.

It was weird, watching them together. Jack hadn't realized how completely he'd fallen into the habit of seeing Jarvis as Howard's manservant and Peggy's yes-man -- an automaton in a suit, someone who didn't really have an existence apart from them. But this was a completely different Jarvis, a Jarvis who had a wife and a life. It was like the world tilted sideways and rearranged itself a bit differently.

He'd been getting a lot of that sort of thing lately.

Jarvis tried to steal one of Jack's pillows to prop up his wife, and that was really the last straw. "Hey," Jack said, catching hold of it.

His grip was kitten-weak, but even that was enough to make Jarvis finally notice that someone other than his wife was in the room. "Chief Thompson," he said, and straightened up -- as if he, too, was trying to settle back into Butler Mode, and reassert normality. "How are you feeling?"

"Peachy," Jack said. "Can't you tell?"

He tried to struggle a little higher in the bed, so he was at least approaching vertical, instead of propped up on a mound of pillows and forced to look up at people. A sharp hot pain popped in his chest and the room wavered around him as a wave of dizziness nearly swamped him. Stupid ... damned ... body.

"Edwin," Mrs. Jarvis said, catching his hand. "Didn't we agree that I was going to visit with Chief Thompson, while you do the shopping?"

"Yes," Jarvis said, "but --"

"No buts." She pressed his hand against her cheek, a gesture so intimate that Jack suddenly felt like an intruder in his own hospital room. "I will be fine. There are many people here to bring me things. And you can come back and collect me when you are done."

"Remember, no bending, no twisting --"

"I will not even so much as stoop," she promised.

"Right. Yes." Jarvis collected himself. "I shall be back on the dot of three, no later."

"Take your time. I am sure I will not be bored."

Jack was considerably less sure of that, given his tendency to fall asleep in the middle of conversations lately. It was her funeral, though.

Jarvis paused in the doorway, looking back. "Chief Thompson, it's good to see you looking well."

As opposed to what? Jack thought. He'd seen himself in the mirror while a nurse helped him shave, and if he looked any worse, he'd be dead. "Uh, thanks. See you?"

Jarvis left, taking most of the awkward in the room with him. His wife turned to Jack, and smiled.

"He is a very dear man," she said. "But I have been pampered and cosseted until, if I see another hot-water bottle or have another blanket wrapped around me, I believe I will scream."

Jack managed to remember just in time that, as he'd learned the hard way, laughing was an extremely unpleasant experience these days. "The nurses aren't quite that attentive, Mrs. Jarvis. I don't know whether to be sorry or glad."

"Please, you should call Ana."

Ana, right. She had a first name. "Well, call me Jack, then."

"Jack, yes." She reached out and squeezed his hand. He nearly flinched from the unexpected pressure of her small, warm fingers wrapped around his. "I brought you cookies, but they told me you were still on a restricted diet of mostly liquids, so the cookies have been delivered to the nurses instead."

"I'm sure that'll make you very popular around here."

"I wanted to thank them anyway for taking such good care of me. I hope they're taking good care of you."

"You ... were shot," Jack said slowly, dredging up details from his drug-hazed memory. "By Whitney Frost."

"I was." A shadow crossed her expressive face. "But I am doing much better now, no matter how Edwin fusses. And how are you doing?" Her firefly smile flashed again. "Now that Mr. Jarvis is gone, you may speak freely. I know how men are, all that macho posturing."

"At this point I haven't got much macho left to posture," Jack admitted. "I'll be okay, though. I mean, the docs say so, and I guess they'd know."

"I am told they haven't found who shot you yet."

Told by whom? But he could answer that question immediately: there wasn't a whole lot Peggy got up to, it seemed, that Jarvis didn't know about, and Jarvis apparently couldn't keep secrets from his wife. Something Jack told himself he was going to need to keep in mind, for future matters of SSR security. Still, it was hard to resent it right now, with Jarvis's wife looking at him with infinite warm sympathy, holding his hand in hers.

"No, but it's nothing to worry about," he reassured her. "There's a guard right outside, see? And I've got a gun under the bed. You're not in danger."

"I am not worried about me," she said. "I'm worried about you being in danger."

And he could see in her eyes that she really was. You don't even know me, he almost said, and also, Where does Peggy FIND these people?

But the answer was that Peggy seemed to collect them, and more than that, she seemed to have an uncanny talent for bringing out the better qualities in people around her. Jack liked to think that, without Peggy, he'd have drawn the line eventually at the things Vernon was asking him to do. But he didn't know, for sure. Would never really know.

If he'd been shot over that damned M. Carter file -- and its absence from his luggage seemed to suggest so -- it was only his sins coming back to haunt him.

"I'll be okay," he said again. "I've got Agent Carter and the whole SSR out there watching my back. Can't go wrong there, right?"

"Yes, you are right." She squeezed his hand and let it go, and leaned down very carefully to pick up her handbag. "Do not tell Mr. Jarvis that I am committing an act of stooping, please."

Jack stifled another unwise laugh. "Your secret's safe with me."

"I brought a book, thinking I might read to you, if you were not up to conversation. Though I see you have one already." She found what she was looking for, and held up a deck of cards. "And, if you have the energy, I brought these. I remember how dull it can be in hospital."

"What kind of card games do they play in, uh --" He floundered, realizing that he couldn't remember off the top of his head where she was from, despite having read it in Jarvis's file back in the days when Ana had been nothing to him but a tool for getting information out of Stark's butler.

"Hungary," she supplied. "Oh, I can play all the usual games that one plays at garden parties and the like. But I was hoping you might teach me poker. I don't know it, and Edwin won't."

He was still a little slow on the uptake. "You ... want me to teach you ... poker."

"I am sure you know how to play. All you tough men do."

"Well, yeah, but ..."

Jarvis's wife wanted him to teach her poker. Something Jarvis would almost certainly have an objection to. A slow grin spread across his face, and very carefully, trying not to use his chest muscles, he pushed himself up a little higher in the bed. Ana smiled and got carefully out of her chair -- "Do not tell Edwin about this, either" -- and located the lap tray that the nurses used when they fed him. It was clear that she knew her way around a hospital room.

"We're going to need something to bet with," Jack said.

"I have a tin of mints in my bag."

"That'll do."

Ana placed the open Altoids tin neatly on the edge of the tray, and then shuffled the cards with quick flicks of her hands. She had good fingers for card playing, deft and quick. Jack had an uneasy feeling that she was going to be a natural. He parceled out some mints as a starting stake.

"Okay, so first let me show you the different hands you can get, and the order they go in."

Jarvis was going to kill him, he thought gleefully, laying out the cards face-up on the tray. And possibly Peggy too ... or, no, Peggy would probably just take Ana under her wing and teach her some of the dirtier card-playing tricks she knew.

Jack wondered if the West Coast SSR had their own version of the New York branch's Friday night poker games, and if so, whether he could turn Ana loose on them once she had the hang of the game.

Sousa would hate it.

This was going to be amazing.

"Okay, so, starting at the bottom, you can have a pair of the same card, or three of a kind ..."

It was, he thought, a great time to be alive.

This entry is also posted at http://sholio.dreamwidth.org/1068357.html with comment count unavailable comments.
ww ♥ the story. Ana conspiring to learn Poker behind Jarvis back. Love reading Jack's perspective in this like his self doubt regarding Vernon, Peggy and Jarvis.
Thank you very much! :) I love writing Jack's viewpoint; he's so fascinating.
I left you a properly-worded, grammatically-correct and detailed comment over at Ao3 (because I think comments/reviews beget more reviews and they definitely beget more stories from writers *nudges you as if you actually need nudging*), so here I shall do what I really want to and simply keyboard flail over the wonderfulness that is this fic.

Your AO3 comment is WONDERFUL and I will answer it soon (the bit about hugging the monitor, heeeee!), but this comment is also lovely and I really appreciate getting comments in both places! ♥ I JUST WANT TO WRITE ALL THE FIC ABOUT THESE ADORABLE BABIIIIEEEEES. :D :D

But Peggy was Peggy; he had trouble winning arguments against her even when he was on his feet, let alone flat on his back


Ana, right. She had a first name.

Jack, you idiot. I totally see him thinking this!

"At this point I haven't got much macho left to posture," Jack admitted.

PERFECT. Jack being honest is slightly strange to see. Nice change, though.

You don't even know me, he almost said, and also, Where does Peggy FIND these people?

OMG THAT'S SO TRUE!!! All these excellent generous human beings somehow surround Peggy and form her backup and it's so awesome.

Jarvis was going to kill him, he thought gleefully, laying out the cards face-up on the tray.

(tbh the entire part about Jack teaching Ana how to play poker). THIS IS COMEDIC GOLD HOW DO YOU DO IT. Ana would totally be brilliant at poker!
eeeheeheeeeee thank you! :D Heh, I had some trouble figuring out what Ana and Jack could do together, that they'd both enjoy; they have so little in common. But then I thought of poker, and all of its attendant trolling possibilities. :D
Oh, this was so much fun!! And so, so wonderful to read!

You don't even know me, he almost said, and also, Where does Peggy FIND these people?

But the answer was that Peggy seemed to collect them...

LOL! Yes, she does seem to, doesn't she?! :D

Jarvis was going to kill him, he thought gleefully, laying out the cards face-up on the tray. And possibly Peggy too ... or, no, Peggy would probably just take Ana under her wing and teach her some of the dirtier card-playing tricks she knew.

This is just brilliant, I love the whole idea of teaching Ana to play poker, and the total glee in doing so!! :D :D I'm sure Peggy would teach her some tricks too, to Jarvis' despair!
Thank you so much! Yes, Peggy probably knows all the tricks. :D

Edited at 2016-03-10 07:15 am (UTC)
I love it! Jack begins to find even more actual human beings around him; I like his trajectory in the series, but he still has a long way to go. He gets a little closer here.

I love how Peggy has such an effect on him and the story without even appearing in it.

But of course Ana is the star of this one. I expect by the time Jarvis gets back, she'll be whipping Jack at poker already.
What a lovely story ♥ It was so much fun to see Ana and Jack interact. I also love the little insights Jack had into Peggy.
Thank you! :) It's really fun to have a chance to write a meeting between these two, since they never got a chance to interact on the show.

Edited at 2016-05-27 07:48 pm (UTC)