Avengers-Peggy smile

Agent Carter fic: 4 Times Peggy Tried to Run Away

Continuing with the reposting of my SSR Confidential fic ...

This one went up for pinch hit and I nabbed it without ever letting it see the light of day, because one of the recipient's requests was for Peggy & Michael as kids, and I had been wanting to write wee!Peggy & Michael fic for ages.

Then [personal profile] frith_in_thorns did an absolutely stellar job of Britpicking my hopelessly Americanized version of Peggy's childhood; if this fic is any good, it's mostly down to her. Thank you!

Title: Four Times Peggy Tried to Run Away (and the one time it finally worked)
Fandom: Agent Carter
Word Count: 3300
Pairing: gen
Summary: What it says on the tin.
Crossposted: http://archiveofourown.org/works/7073476


1.

Michael was not quite sure what woke him, but he woke with a nagging sense that it probably had something to do with his sister.

Michael's parents had always been very clear that he must Watch Out For his baby sister, because she was Small and Helpless and In Need Of Protection. It was his responsibility as an older brother, and he took it very seriously ... even though the small helpless being in question had turned out to be unexpectedly slippery and speedy. It took the combined forces of both parents, Michael, and Mrs. Hardwick, the charwoman who came in during the afternoon, just to keep track of her, and they were only successful part of the time.

Michael lay awake for a little while and then got out of bed. He went to the window, looking out across the moonlit lawn, and his attention was immediately caught by the sight of a tiny white-clad figure making a beeline for the hedge.

She must have climbed down the trellis.

An old hand at trellis-climbing himself, Michael pushed open the window in haste and scrambled after her. He half-climbed, half-fell to the dew-soaked lawn, and raced after her just in time to catch her before she climbed the garden wall. When he picked her up, struggling and kicking, the little bundle she was carrying spilled to the lawn.

"Michael!" she wailed. "Put me down!"

"What are you doing?" Michael held her at arm's length and took in the sight of her. She'd put on her shoes, which showed unusual foresight and planning for a four-year-old, the buckled toes peeking out under the ribbon-decked hem of her nightie.

"I'm running away," she announced.

"Yes, I can see that, but why?"

"To join the circus."

While he was taking that in, she managed to kick him in the stomach and squirmed out of his grip. "You made me drop Miss Minnie," she snapped accusingly, squatting to pick up the scattered items.

Miss Minnie was her favorite doll. The rest of Peggy's running-away kit seemed to consist of random pieces of cutlery, a ball of twine, and a smashed piece of cake that she must have somehow hidden away at tea.

"Peggy, you can't run away and join the circus."

"Why not?" she demanded, scowling up at him while gathering spoons.

"Because ..." Michael's seven-year-old imagination faltered at trying to come up with a believable reason. "Because they don't take people who are four."

"Is it like school?" Peggy wanted to know. "Do you have to be five?"

"I ... uh ... yes. Yes, you have to be five."

"Oh," she said, crestfallen.

"Are those Mum's silver sugar tongs?"

"No," Peggy said, stuffing the offending item under her skirt.

Michael helped her pick up the rest of it, wrapping it all in a corner of his nightshirt, and led her back to the house by one small, damp hand. They went back to Michael's room first, where he claimed one-half of the cake as his reward for not ratting her out (the larger half) and then he took her back to to her room, only just beginning to lose the name of nursery, where he tucked her in.

"When I'm five will you help me run away?" Peggy whispered as he pulled the counterpane up to her chin.

"Cross my heart," he promised, hoping only after the words left his mouth that she wouldn't remember. She was four; what were the chances?

"I'm going to be a knife thrower."

"Good for you."

"Maybe a lion tamer."

"I'm sure Mum will be thrilled."

"Will Daddy let us have a lion, Michael?"

"I doubt it, but you can ask."





2.

"You said you'd help me run away," were the first, petulant words out of six-year-old Peggy's mouth.

"What time is it," Michael mumbled into his pillow.

"I don't know. Come ooooon." Peggy prodded him, then took hold of his hand and tried to pull him out of bed. "We have to hurry. It's a long walk to the docks."

"From Hampstead? I should think." Michael gave up on trying to sleep and sat up, rubbing his eyes. "Why do we have to go to the docks, again?"

"To get on a boat."

"Right, yes, I gathered as much. A boat going where?"

Peggy looked thoughtful. It seemed she hadn't thought that far ahead. "Australia?" she suggested.

"You're going to join the circus in Australia?"

"That's baby stuff," Peggy scoffed. "I have a whole entire plan now. I'm going to work as a charwoman like Miss Brown." Miss Brown was Mrs. Hardwick's successor, who came in the afternoons to do the laundry and watch the children. She was young, unmarried, and wore her hair in a close-cropped flapper style. The children had caught her smoking behind the shed, and she'd bribed them with sweets not to tell anyone. She also could drive a motorcar and was being courted by an actor. Peggy adored her.

"You know you need a reference to get hired as a charwoman, don't you?"

"What is a reference?" Peggy asked dubiously.

"Something no one in their right mind will give a six-year-old."

"Oh," Peggy said. She drooped, and then rallied. "Then I'll sleep under hedgerows. I know how to sleep rough. Chicken Bob told me all about it."

"Who or what is a Chicken Bob?" Michael asked, his train of thought clunking off the rails.

"He's the nice tramp that comes round to the back door every Wednesday. I've been giving him leftover cakes from tea, and he tells funny stories."

Oh God. "Yes," Michael said, deciding to focus on one alarming thing at a time, "I suppose you could do that, but that doesn't explain why you've decided to stow away for Australia at two o'clock in the morning."

"Because no one here likes me and school is awful and they'll be sorry when I'm gone." She lifted a bundle wrapped in what looked like one of Mum's scarves. "I'm all packed."

"Are those the sugar tongs again?" Michael demanded, catching a silvery glint peeking out of the bundle. Peggy hastily shoved them back in. "What are you going to do with silver sugar tongs while sleeping under hedgerows?"

"I need them for my tea."

"No, you like them because Mum only lets us use them when we have company." He pulled her into his lap on top of the coverlet. "Pegs, what do you mean you don't like school? I thought you couldn't wait to go. How many times did you try to follow me?"

"That's before I found out it was awful," Peggy wailed. "I thought it would be different from home but it's not. They never let me do anything and I have to copy letters all day even if I already know them and they won't let me read any of the interesting books. And Clarence Downey called me a stupid girl and he put a frog down Mary Miller's dress because he knows she's scared of slimy things, so I hit him in the head with a dictionary and I'm the one that got in trouble. It's terrible and I hate it and I'm not going back."

She was crying into the front of his nightshirt. "Shhhh," Michael murmured, stroking her hair. "You'll wake everybody up."

"You promised," Peggy whimpered.

"Shhh," he whispered. "C'mon, don't blubber, Peg."

He rocked her until she calmed down, and then realized she'd fallen asleep on him. She had probably been up all night working on her preparations.

Michael sighed and pulled the covers over both of them. When Peggy was smaller, she used to climb in bed with him when she had a nightmare. It had been awhile, but he'd definitely sleep better if he knew exactly where she was all night.

In the morning he helped her sneak into the dining room and put the sugar tongs back.





3.

Michael really should have been more surprised when he was called into the headmaster's office to find his ten-year-old sister sitting, very composed, in the hard straight-backed chair in front of the headmaster's massive desk. A small valise rested under her dangling feet, and she was wearing gloves and a hat -- in fact, she was wearing all her going-out-for-holiday clothes.

"Michael!" she cried in delight at the sight of him, and then clapped a gloved hand over her mouth at the headmaster's glare.

"Mr. Carter, is this your sister?"

"Yes, sir." Michael scowled at Peggy, who looked innocently back at him. "Sir, may I ask --"

"You may not, Mr. Carter. She was found at the railway station and insisted on being brought here before she would tell anyone the names of her parents."

"Are my parents on their way here, sir?" Michael asked in abject despair.

"They are indeed, young Mr. Carter. They are indeed."

Michael and Peggy were sent to await their parents' dread arrival in a receiving room. "What are you doing here, Pegs?" Michael asked quietly as they sat side by side, trying not to squirm.

"Visiting you, of course."

"Thank you," Michael said, gloomily anticipating the thrashing that was going to result when his father had finished talking the matter over with the headmaster. No one was ever going to believe he hadn't encouraged her. "Thank you very much for that. How did you get here, though?"

"I bought a train ticket."

"What ... on your own?"

"Of course on my own. I took the money from Mum's handbag."

In spite of himself, Michael was impressed. She'd stolen money for the ticket, sneaked out of the house without being noticed, somehow made it all the way to the railway station, bought a ticket (to the right destination, no less) and rode the train by herself without being caught, at least until she reached the stop. Still ...

"Our parents are going to go up the wall, Peggy. And I don't blame them. You must have given them a terrible fright. Why would you do this?"

Peggy's air of sophisticated maturity collapsed, and her chin wobbled.

"Because it's awful without you, Michael. Everything is deadly boring and everything I do is wrong. Nothing is fun anymore."

"You've just got to tough it out, Peggy." A sudden stroke of inspiration hit him. "Pretend you're observing the quaint customs of the locals. Do you still have that notebook you used when you were investigating the milkman?" Peggy had recently spent a few months in earnest training for a future career as a World-Famous Detective after reading Sherlock Holmes, and, most particularly, Agatha Christie's The Secret Adversary; Peggy seemed to have developed a case of hero worship for Christie's young female detective Tuppence.

"I suppose," Peggy said dubiously.

"Well, that's your new assignment. Observe everything and take notes for ... your ... future application to be a ..."

"Detective?" Peggy suggested, bright-eyed. "Ooh! Spy! They had lady spies in the war. I read about it."

"Exactly. But you have to impress them. You need to show them you're thorough and attentive to detail." He hefted the valise; it rattled. "Speaking of details, what do you have in here, anyway? It's heavy as the devil."

Peggy's grin peeked out. She unclasped the valise and opened it so he could see the silver gleam inside.

"That's the entire good silver set," Michael said, boggling. She hadn't stopped at the sugar tongs this time. "You not only ran away, but you stole the silver too."

"Mother says when I'm married, it's to be mine anyway, so I can take it if I want to," Peggy argued. "And it's all solid silver, so if I needed money on the train, I thought I could find someone to buy them, a what do you call it, a fencer."

"A ... fence?"

Peggy nodded.

"What kind of books are you reading?"

"Reading improves a young lady's mind," Peggy said in a tone which suggested she was quoting their mother.

Michael was fairly sure Mum had no idea what Peggy was actually reading or she'd never have said that, but he wasn't going to be the one to deny his little sister the adventures she craved, even if they were only in her head. "Can I give you some advice?"

She nodded, attentive.

"Make sure you carry your valise on the train home, don't let Dad carry it, and try to get all of that back where it belongs before they see it. Or you might find out at what age they consider a young lady too old for a good hiding."





4.

It had been a long, exhausting day of field exercises. Michael slogged wearily past a row of parked Bedfords, covered with mud, as the grey drizzle intensified into a light rain. All he could think about was food and sleep, not necessarily in that order ...

"Psst! Michael!"

And now he was hearing things, because that sounded like his baby sister's voice.

"Michael!"

The canvas flap covering the back of one of the transport vehicles drew back, and a slender arm beckoned him urgently from inside.

"What the --" Michael hurried over and clambered in, leaving clods of mud and wet handprints on the rear bumper.

"Michael!" Peggy cried happily. She started to hug him and pulled back with a frown. "Michael, you're all over mud."

"And you're in the middle of a military base. What are you doing here?" But even as he said it, he knew what the answer was going to be.

His teenage sister smiled at him, shy and dazzling at once. "I came to see you."

"Yes, I assumed so, but Peggy, you're not allowed to be here." God, they wouldn't shoot her if they caught her, would they? Also, the idea of the sort of trouble his sister could get up to surrounded by hundreds of nineteen-year-old boys gave him chills. He sat down wearily on a crate. "Didn't you learn your lesson the last time you took off to find me?"

Peggy laughed and sat down across from him. "Don't remind me. I was shut in my room for a basic eternity. You got off easy -- you didn't have to deal with Mum and Dad!"

"No, just had my backside tanned with the headmaster's rod."

"Poor thing." Peggy patted his arm with exaggerated sympathy. "I'm quite sure you never suffered such indignities at any other time. You were a perfect angel."

"That's entirely beside the point."

"Besides, I most certainly did learn my lesson, Michael Carter, I'll have you know. I covered all my tracks this time. Our parents think I'm at boarding school, and the headmistress thinks I had a sudden family emergency with my great-aunt and had to leave for the weekend. My dormmates know all about it and promised to cover for me. With luck I'll be back by Monday and no one will ever know I was here."

"With our kind of luck, they'll get together and compare notes, and you'll get back to find a reception committee consisting of Mum, Dad, Nana, and all your teachers."

"If I'm going to be in trouble, I might as well have a nice weekend then, don't you think?" Peggy asked. She clasped her hands in the folds of her skirt between her knees. "Tell me about being a soldier, Michael!"

"So far, it's mostly mud, rain, and terrible food. Speaking of which, I'm not going to get any food at all if I don't hit the chow line."

"Forget about that." Peggy pulled on his arm. "Let's go to town. There's a town right near here; I saw it from the back of the van."

If German spies were as resourceful as sixteen-year-old girls, they were all in trouble. "It's actually a village of about fifty people, and the height of the local night life seems to involve pub fights over someone's cow breaking down someone else's garden fence. Also, leaving the base without permission is called going AWOL, and they shoot you for that."

"Michael --"

"No, listen, I'm going to go and eat, and then ..." He sighed and closed his eyes wearily for a moment. He was going to regret this. "I'll ask for a pass to go into town. I'm on my CO's good side and he'll probably give me one if I promise to do a week of kitchen duty when I get back. Do you think you can get out again without being caught?"

Peggy nodded vigorously.

He was still terrified she was going to get herself in trouble a lot more serious than being disciplined for schoolgirl pranks. Still, from some of the tales he'd heard of her boarding-school exploits, she was actually better at nocturnal excursions than Michael and his friends had been. "I'll meet you in the village, then, and maybe we can find somewhere for you to spend the night, and in the morning, you're on the next bus back to school."

"I don't mind sleeping here."

"What, in the back of a Bedford van full of crates of tinned beans? Mum would kill me. I have to eat first or I'm going to pass out, though."

"I'll meet you in the village," Peggy announced cheerily. She pulled her coat around herself and stood up.

Michael made an exaggerated show of looking around the dim shadows among the crates.

"What?" Peggy asked.

"Just looking for the enormous sack with all the school's valuables in it, just in case you needed spending money on the way."

She punched him in the arm. There was some real force behind it.





5. ... and the time she did it for real.

Peggy's father had offered to drive her to the train station, but she told him she'd take a cab, unable to admit that a car was being sent round for her from the SOE.

Her parents were lost in their own world of mourning anyway. The goodbyes had been said, tearful and strained on both sides, and now she stood at the bottom of the drive, suitcase clutched in her hand, waiting for her ride. It seemed that she should have found more things she wanted to take with her, but when she'd packed, she had looked around her room and none of it seemed to matter anymore. Michael was dead, the world was at war, and all else was nothing but stuff. She walked out of her old bedroom with a suitcase filled with practical dresses and spare underwear, leaving the rest behind. Even the sugar tongs ... not that she hadn't considered, for a whimsical instant, stuffing them into her suitcase. But that had been a private joke with Michael, and it didn't seem funny to her anymore.

Still, as she stood beside the road, she couldn't help taking a long look back at her childhood home. There was no way to know if she would ever see it again. Michael surely had not expected her engagement party to be his last sight of --

But no. She would not think of Michael now.

Even if she survived what was to come, some insight beyond her nineteen years told her that she would never know this house in the same way again. It would never again be home, and she would never again be the person standing here, looking back with a mix of nostalgia and eagerness to be gone.

The crunch of tires alerted her to a sleek black car pulling over to the kerb. Peggy resolutely turned her face forward, put on her bravest smile, and stepped into her future.

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Headcanon!
Still one of my top favourites in this fandom. I love your Peggy because she's the show's Peggy.
Wee Peggy is adorable, Michael is an awesome brother .