Avengers-Peggy in cafe

Agent Carter/Highlander fusion: Little Deaths

I wanted to write something for [community profile] fusionfest (it's an open challenge for fanfic fusions - that is, there are no signups, you just write a fusion and submit it to the collection) and ... this happened.

Title: Little Deaths
Fandom: Agent Carter
Pairing: all the canon ones
Word Count: 2300
Summary: Highlander fusion. Peggy dies in the war ... but for her, that's only the beginning. (Spoilers through the end of Agent Carter season two, but not beyond that.)
Cross-posted: http://archiveofourown.org/works/6716452

This fic draws upon a few of the more esoteric elements of Highlander canon (beyond the "some people are immortal and fight each other with swords" part that most people know even if they haven't watched the show) so here's a quick primer for anyone who hasn't seen it:

• Immortals become immortal if they die violently (as opposed to aging and dying normally), and are stuck forever at whatever age they died. They can only be permanently killed via beheading or something similar.
• Immortals can sense each other when they're in close proximity, so they know instantly if another person is Immortal or not. They can also sense people with the potential to become immortal (not all of whom will end up actually end up as Immortals, since an unnatural death is a prerequisite).
• The Watchers are an ancient, secret organization who spy on Immortals and collect information on them. They're not supposed to reveal their existence to Immortals or to the normal human world. Each wears a tattoo on the inside of the wrist.





The shell blew Peggy off her feet and threw her through a wall. She didn't have time to think. One minute she was chambering a round in her rifle, and the next, there was a tremendous shock and an instant of blinding agony.

She woke up aching, with an awkward crick in her neck, covered in blood and the shredded rags of her clothes, with Sergeant Barnes bending over her. "So," he said, with something that was more like a grimace than a grin. "Now you know." He shrugged out of his jacket and passed it to her. "Here. C'mon. There's a cow trough and a couple of walls back here that you didn't manage to knock down with your head. You can get changed and I'll tell you what's happening, because you probably have questions."

For the next twenty minutes -- while Peggy washed off the blood and put on the clean set of men's fatigues that Barnes passed her to replace her destroyed clothing -- she was treated to a crash course in the secret war that she had been unwittingly drafted into.

"I'm not going to run about whacking off people's heads with a sword, Sergeant," Peggy snapped, scrubbing fiercely at her intact and undamaged skin. "This is madness."

"You don't have to. A lot of us don't bother playing the Game. Others might come after you, but you'll feel them coming, so just avoid them and get to holy ground if you can. You'll be safe in a church or whatnot."

"Feel them how?" she asked. This was all coming too fast; it was too much.

"Like you can feel me. You do feel me, right?"

"I feel ... something," she admitted.

And she felt it later that evening, as the scattered 107th regrouped and Steve came back from patrol. Peggy was still slightly dazed, trying to absorb the impact of everything Barnes had told her -- she would have disbelieved him, except the ruined state of her wardrobe and her fragmentary memories bore testimony to the lethal nature of the shell impact that had driven her through the wall. So, by the time that she realized what she was feeling from Steve, Barnes had already hustled her away from the campfire.

"Forgot to warn you about that."

"Steve --"

"Yeah, he's one of us. He just doesn't know yet. And he might never. Shockingly enough, he survived not only twenty-some years of being Steve, but also Project Rebirth, so it's not like anything short of a direct missile strike is going to kill him now." The look he gave her was sharp, and there was a threat in his tone. "And you're not going to tell him."

She let that go. There had always been a wary uneasiness between Barnes and herself, which she had thought was Steve-related, but it made a little more sense now that he'd explained about the Game and the Quickening. There was a concrete and valid reason why he hadn't been sure if he could trust her.

But he trusted Steve.

She wondered if Barnes was as young as he looked: if he'd truly grown up with Steve as she'd always assumed, if he'd met his death in some Brooklyn alley or on a battlefield early in the war. Or was he much older than that? Either way, she didn't think he was going to tell her.

"What about Steve?" she asked. "Can he sense us, the same way we can feel him?"

"Could you? Before?"

"No," she admitted.

"There's your answer, then."

"But we can tell," she pressed. "You knew with me, before I died."

"Yeah. And you might sense others too, as you go through the world. Immortals who don't know they're immortal yet."

Six months later, both Barnes and Steve were gone, a few weeks apart. Peggy knew that her insistence on continuing to search for them, for Steve in particular, looked like a grieving woman's irrational inability to let go of the dead. And even she wasn't sure if they were truly alive. Immortals could be killed, after all, if the conditions were right.

In the end, although she refused to drop the search entirely, she had to move on with her life.


***


You might sense others, Barnes had said. She had wondered if she'd be sure, without Barnes to confirm her impressions, but she needn't have worried -- she definitely was sure the first time she walked into the SSR's New York bullpen. It was the same soft buzz she'd felt from Steve, the feeling of an Immortal who hadn't had his first death yet.

Of course, if she was going to meet another of her kind after losing the only two she'd ever known, it would have to be ...

Well, at least if I have to chop off that particular head, it won't be a terrible loss.


***


She noticed the tattoo on Daniel's wrist during a case. Normally it was hidden under his watch and the edge of his sleeve. She didn't think too much of it; plenty of men had tattoos as relics of various misspent bits of their youth, especially after their tours of duty in the war.

And then came the day when she caught a glimpse of a similar tattoo on Jarvis's wrist.

After that, wild horses couldn't have stopped her from learning what was going on with those tattoos. It was Jarvis she eventually managed to crack, prying the secret of the Watchers' existence out of him.

"If each of us has one Watcher assigned to our case, why do I have two?"

"I'm not here because of you, Miss Carter," Jarvis said, and that was all he would say.


***


The instant Peggy's eyes met Dottie's, in the hallway of the Griffith, a sharp spark of tension leaped between them. Miriam Fry's cheerful introduction faded before she managed to resume. Even Angie seemed to catch the tension in the air.

After making polite noises, Peggy retreated hastily into her room and locked it, all too aware of Dottie watching her flee. The night's explorations had become a distant second to the worry consuming her. She lifted her mattress and pulled out a carefully re-knotted seam to slide her sword out of its makeshift hiding place.

She had never used it in earnest before. She'd practiced with Barnes whenever they had a free moment in the field, so she knew some basic swordcraft, but she had never had to fight for her life with it before.

After some deliberation, she took her pistol from her purse. It might be against the rules as Barnes had explained them, but Peggy believed in fighting dirty when she was fighting for her life.

With both weapons tucked under her silk robe, she peeked out into the hall. No one was there. Quickly she padded down the hall -- 3F, wasn't it? She tapped lightly on Dottie's door, then pulled away, flattening herself to the wall.

The door burst open, revealing not a female Fury with a sword, but Dottie's wide eyes and bright smile. "Come in, come in!" she exclaimed in a loud whisper. "I can't believe it! You're like me! I never knew there were others! Oh, please come in!"

It soon came clear that Dottie Underwood, of Corn City, Iowa, had only experienced her first death a year ago. She'd never met another Immortal, couldn't use a sword, didn't know about the Game. She begged Peggy to teach her.

Of course, much later Peggy would learn that Dottie had known what she was for a long time -- culled from the street with other foundling girls who bore the telltale signs of immortality, raised to fight, killed deliberately upon her eighteenth birthday that she might rise again to fight for Leviathan. And she was very, very good with a sword.


***


After Dottie, the next Immortal she met was Ana Jarvis. She'd assumed Jarvis was keeping tabs on Dottie. But she'd been wrong; as Daniel told her later, the Watchers had had no knowledge of Leviathan's Immortal-related activities.

Meeting Ana was a very different experience from meeting Dottie. There was a sharp intake of breath on Ana's part, a moment of stillness on Peggy's, and she found herself checking the vicinity for edged weapons. Then Ana threw her arms around Peggy, who staggered, startled.

"Edwin! Why did you not tell me?"

"I didn't think it was my secret to tell, my dear."

"Come, come." Ana pulled at her. "We must talk! You are young, yes?"

"Not that young," Peggy protested.

Another bright laugh. "But you have had your first death recently. Perhaps during the war. Am I wrong?"

"No, you're right, it was the war," she had to admit. "How can you tell? I haven't known very many of, uh, of us. Is there something else I should be looking for?"

"I do not think it is something that can be taught. You begin to see the signs of youth when you've lived as long as I have."

"How long have you lived?" Peggy couldn't help asking.

"Perhaps someday I will tell you," Ana said archly. "For now, let me show you how to sew a sword pocket into a skirt."


***


"How do you live with it?" Peggy asked Ana, after Jason's death (before she learned that he'd discovered his own kind of immortality). "How can you love Mr. Jarvis as you do, knowing that his life will be only an eyeblink to your own?"

Ana's face turned serious, and she sat beside Peggy.

"Because the alternative is to become one of those poor creatures who thinks of nothing but taking their next head," she said gently. "I have loved many, and lost many. And I love them still, though their bones are dust. Edwin will die someday. I cannot bear to think of it. But it will happen, and I will survive, and weep, and love again. You must learn to do that, too."

Peggy thought again of Steve. Was he dead, truly dead? Even Howard had broken off the search. But she knew the secret that Howard did not.

Still, she couldn't live her life on hope. Maybe she would see Steve again: perhaps tomorrow, perhaps a century hence. Or maybe she never would. In any case, she had to get on with her life, and trust that he was doing the same, if he still lived.


***


"We're not allowed to do this," Daniel protested. The door to his office was closed, and there were few people in the office today; with the cleanup of the Vernon Masters situation in full swing, the majority of the West Coast SSR's remaining agents were out in the field. "I'm not even supposed to be talking to you; I should never have gotten this close --"

"What about the Jarvises? They're breaking the same rule."

"They're walking a tightrope that could snap under them at any moment. He's managed to get special dispensation for the relationship on the basis of gathering inside information about Immortals, as long as she doesn't learn what he is."

Peggy thought back to her conversations with Ana. Of course Ana knew. But if the Watchers believed otherwise, she wasn't going to be the one to tell them.

Which meant keeping secrets from Daniel as well. She hated that. But he was a Watcher and she was an Immortal. There would always be secrets between them.

Because of the nature of what she was, there would always be secrets between Peggy and everyone that she loved. Howard didn't know the truth; neither did Jason or Angie. But chances were still worth taking. Love was still worth it.

Ana's words rang in her ears. The alternative is to become one of those poor creatures who thinks of nothing but taking their next head.

And so she took two steps forward and captured Daniel's mouth with her own, before he had a chance to protest again.


***


The telephone interrupted them later in the afternoon, in the middle of a very pleasant interlude. Peggy reluctantly peeled herself out of Daniel's lap. And then she watched him pale, listened to him murmur a few words in the receiver. He turned to stare at her, shocked.

She reached out to touch his arm. "Daniel? What's wrong?"

"Thompson's been shot. He's .... dead." He shook himself a little, snapped back to agent mode. "They don't know who did it. We need to get over the hotel --"

But Peggy's mind was already leaping ahead, making connections, thinking about contingencies and what needed to be done. "We need to go somewhere else first. Where is his body? Have they taken it to the morgue yet?"

"Does it matter?" Daniel asked, reaching for his jacket.

"Daniel ... there's something I need to tell you about Jack."


***


Jack Thompson woke with a gasp on a couch in the Stark mansion. He stared at the ceiling for a moment, then pushed himself up on his elbows and squinted with bleary suspicion at Peggy, sitting on the arm of the couch, and Daniel, leaning against the wall with his crutch beside him.

"What the hell happened?" Jack touched his bloody shirt. "The last thing I remember ..." He shook his head. "No way. They must have ... missed?"

"They didn't miss," Peggy said gently.

"We stole you from the morgue," Daniel added.

Jack had been fingering the edge of the bullet hole. Now he froze and looked up at them. "... You what?"

Peggy held out a hand and helped him sit up, thinking as she did so of Barnes, and her own first view of the new world she'd been reborn into. "We have a lot to talk about. Tell me, Jack ... how are you with a sword?"


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ISN'T IT GREAT. :D I think if I were setting this up for CA instead of for Agent Carter, I would've had the exact roles of the characters shake out a little differently (specifically, for a CA one, I don't think I'd have Steve be Immortal himself, but rather have accidental immortality by way of the serum -- actually, you could do AMAZING things with the supersoldier serum and its origins in a world where Immortals are a thing). It's very fun to think about, though.
OMG! That is a fantastic idea. I think I'm in love right now. I've always loved the worldbuilding aspects of the TV Highlander 'verse, and you're right, mixing that with the supersoldier serum would make so much sense, particularly with what that serum can do in the comics. I loved your idea in this fic that the Red Room specifically recruited pre-immortals, which works perfectly for Natasha, too! *flails*
I loved your idea in this fic that the Red Room specifically recruited pre-immortals, which works perfectly for Natasha, too!

Ohhhh man, it DOES, doesn't it? There's so much you could do in this 'verse!

(And don't let me stop you if you wanted to write Immortal!Natasha, either ...)
I've never yet managed to actually finish anything in either fandom - somehow, they both seem to be fandoms I can't write.

But it would be great if you wrote Immortal!Natasha ... :D
oh this is awesomeness! And I love the trickiness of the situation with Jarvis and Ana, whooha :D Oh does that mean Natasha is also immortal?! Where is the next story in this 'verse, where?!?
Thank you very much! :D Yes, Natasha definitely would be. *contemplates possibilities*