Actions

Work Header

Never The Normal Way

Work Text:

New York, February 21, 1950

“Hey Marge! Miss me yet?”

There was an audible sigh at the other end of the line. “Hello, Jack. To what do I owe this rather dubious pleasure?”

Jack grinned. He liked to think he and Peggy Carter understood each other pretty well by now. Of course, he still liked to be an ass to her for old time’s sake, but he was willing to admit she was actually pretty good at what she did. He’d never give her the satisfaction of admitting it out loud, though, and he still thought she was crazy for trying to make it in the SSR in the first place.

But - it was Carter’s kind of crazy, and she was somehow making it work, despite all of her very obvious disadvantages. 

Case in point: when he’d been shot in his hotel room in California a couple of years ago, Peggy had barely stopped at the hospital to make sure he was probably going to live before jumping at the chance to fly back East and temporarily take over his job - although, to be fair, she had asked Stark’s butler to check in on him now and then during his recovery. And to be honest, he couldn’t really fault her for it, although if Daniel Sousa had spent more time investigating and less time moping over his favourite agent choosing her career over him, they might have made some headway into figuring out what the hell that file had actually been - and who the hell had shot him for it - before the trail had gone cold.

At any rate, if Jack had been worried Carter wasn’t going to easily step back from the role of Acting Chief of the New York branch once he’d recovered, he'd had nothing to worry about - because instead of stepping back down into the general pool, she’d somehow wrangled herself the permanent Chief position in the DC office. He suspected she was working on a bit more than just keeping the DC branch itself running - everyone knew the SSR was ripe for an overhaul or maybe even an out-and-out replacement. And he was pretty sure she had an in with Phillips, having served directly under him during the war.

That artful little move of hers would have ground his gears a few years ago, but the whole mess with Vernon Masters and the Arena Club, and then almost dying in an LA hotel room, had actually given him a bit of perspective. Maybe he didn’t actually want to mess with politics after all. Maybe, in fact, he wasn’t his father and didn’t want to be. And - he had to admit, he also enjoyed imagining Carter having to smile and make nice through all those interminable DC meetings with men who had no idea what she was capable of and would almost certainly expect her to get the coffee. As anyone who’d known her for longer than 5 minutes could tell you, that kind of thing wasn’t exactly Marge's strong suit.

Which was why he was pretty sure she was going to agree to help him out on this.

“Got a favour to ask,” he informed her, the telephone cord stretching as he leaned back a little in his chair.

Peggy made a frustrated noise. “Sorry, hold on a moment,” she said, and he heard the sounds of the receiver being set down on the desk, her heels clicking rapidly across the floor, and then a door almost slamming shut. Jack raised his eyebrows. What the hell was going on at the DC office?” Well, he’d heard Howard Stark was based in DC now, and rumour had it he’d been working closely with the SSR. He’d probably blown up the third floor.

“Sorry about that,” said Peggy, coming back on the line a good five minutes later. “I had to deal with a sudden, time-sensitive situation I’m not at liberty to discuss at the moment. You said you had a favour to ask?”

Jack set down the file he’d been leafing through. “Yeah, speaking of time-sensitive situations. We just got a tip about a party in a back room at the Boulevard Club Friday night. More than decent chance it's a front for a Leviathan handoff. I need a girl who speaks Russian. Want to play hooky? I know you still love fieldwork, and I bet you’re itching to punch somebody.”

Peggy sounded amused. “Is this an official request?”

Jack shrugged. “It can be, if you want. I need to borrow a girl who can beat up six armed men in an evening gown. Got anyone in the DC office fitting that description, Chief Carter?”

“Mmm,” she said, thoughtfully. “Will all six men be in the same evening gown, or - ”

Jack sighed. “Look, can you do it? I don’t have anyone here who can.”

“Perhaps,” Peggy said, “you ought to try to rectify that gap in your arsenal, Chief Thompson.” He could hear her flipping through papers. “When, where, and for how long?”

His shoulders relaxed, which was the moment he first noticed they’d been tense. “Ha, I knew you couldn’t resist a good brawl. This Friday night at eight - just the one night, unless something goes wrong, which it won't.”

“Mmm,” she said, vaguely, and there was a short pause. “Yes, I think I have somebody who fits the bill.”

He blinked. “Not you?”

“Unlike you, Jack, I’ve made it my priority to recruit, train, and regularly use a number of female agents. Agent Evanoff is fluent in Russian, and I am entirely confident in her ability to both look fabulous in an evening gown and hold her own in the subsequent fight. Fair warning, though, I’m also going to give her carte blanche to punch you if necessary.”

Jack blinked again. “You really don’t want to join me for an all-out brawl? Do I even know you anymore, Marge?”

She sounded tempted. “I can’t,” she said, reluctantly, then cleared her throat. He could almost see her squaring her shoulders. “I have to meet with two Congressional committees Friday, and they really can’t be put off.”

Jack blinked. Huh. He still had no regrets about his decision to give up on politics, but he never would have thought he'd see Peggy Carter, of all people, stepping in to take his place.

--

Washington DC, September 18, 1950

“Jack!” said Peggy, looking up from her desk. She looked like she was actually glad to see him, which made him instantly suspicious. She closed the file and gestured for him to come further into her office. “I’m glad you came to say hello. I missed you at the briefing earlier.”

He frowned. “Yeah, I was surprised you weren’t there.” He was in town to debrief on the series of Leviathan-related arrests the New York office had made, during the operation that had started with the infiltration of the Boulevard Club back in February. “Thought you’d be interested, given the subject matter.”

Peggy nodded. “I did want to be there, but unfortunately I had an urgent personal matter to attend to. I only just got back into the office.” She held up the folder. “I’m actually reading the meeting notes now. In fact, now that you’re here, I wonder if I might ask a few follow-up questions.”

“Well,” he said, “I actually came to see if you were interested in joining me for a drink or two after work. We should get caught up, Carter. It’s been too long.”

Peggy pursed her lips. “Under the circumstances, I'm afraid it's not really - I don't think it's a good idea.” She looked apologetic. “But yes, we certainly should get caught up. Are you free for lunch tomorrow?"

As she set down the folder, Jack caught the glint of something on her finger, and blinked at the ring which had definitely not been there the last time he saw her. What the hell? “Were you just undercover somewhere?” he asked.

Peggy looked amused. “No. It would be somewhat unusual at this point, don’t you think?” 

Did she - really not do field work at all anymore? That was weird. But also beside the point, because if she hadn’t been undercover, that wedding ring must be real. He stared at her. “Wait, are you married ?”

She looked even more amused than before. “I am,” she said, “I'm fairly certain it would be something of a scandal if I wasn’t.”

Jack frowned. “Really? I’d say, if anything, it makes you even more of a misfit, sticking with the SSR instead of settling down at home and making babies with Mr. - ah” he snuck a glance at her name plaque. Still Carter. Sure, why the hell not?

“Mmm,” said Peggy neutrally. “Well, I suppose I've settled down, in my own way.” She sighed. “Getting used to desk duty has certainly been rather frustrating at times, but - ”

He blinked at her again. “Wait, are you saying you’re not - allowed to go in the field?”

“Well, it’s certainly not recommended,” she said, giving him an odd look. 

Jack stared at her. “Marge, did you get hit on the head? You used to sneak out and investigate on your own all the goddamn time with only Stark’s butler for backup, and I don’t know when the hell you even slept. And now that you’ve actually got the power to deploy every agent in the DC area, including yourself, you’re just - letting them keep you behind a desk?”

Peggy gave him an even odder look. “Well, it’s not for my own sake. I realize it’s a difficult concept for you to understand, but sometimes one has to put the needs of others before one’s own desires, Jack. Especially when that other is - ”

Jack blinked. Peggy Carter was letting a man tell her she had to settle down behind a desk. Was that why she wouldn't go out for a drink with him? Because her husband wouldn't like it? What the hell?

“Have you been hypnotized?” he asked, cautiously. “Did Fenhoff get loose somehow? I’m looking at Peggy Carter, but I’m seeing - I don’t even know who the hell I’m seeing.”

Peggy stared at him and then abruptly started laughing so hard she had to reach for her handkerchief and wipe tears from her eyes.

“What?” he asked, offended. “You’re the one who’s always trying to blaze a trail for the sisterhood. I’m just pointing out that you’ve gone a bit sideways.” She only laughed harder.

“I - I do genuinely appreciate your concern, Jack,” she finally managed, wiping her eyes again. “But I suspect you may be missing a vital piece of information. Although I'm happy to see that my attempts to keep the matter as private as possible have been at least somewhat successful.”

He blinked at her, irritated. “Okay, what am I missing?”

She pushed her chair back and stood up, and his jaw dropped. She was pregnant. And not just a little pregnant. Holy shit. She looked like she might have a four year old in there. “Oh my God, Carter.” He finally managed to tear his gaze off her belly and back to her face which was, he realized now, maybe a little fuller than it had been the last time he saw her. “What the hell are you doing here ? Shouldn’t you be at the hospital giving birth?”

“There was some concern that perhaps I would be, earlier today,” she confessed, sitting back down, “but happily, it all turned out to be a false alarm.” She squared her shoulders. “But - no, I do realize I’m enormous, but the actual blessed event should still be nearly a month away.” Jack shook his head. Of course she’d come back to the office after - whatever had happened, instead of lying down with her feet up or her legs crossed or whatever the hell women were supposed to do in this situation. Yeah, that jibed with the Peggy Carter he knew. She’d probably punched the doctor for good measure.

He blinked as he did the math. “Wait, is that why you didn’t come with me to infiltrate that party at the Boulevard Club back in February? Because you were knocked up?”

Peggy raised an unimpressed eyebrow at him. “As you know, Chief Thompson, a large part of a chief’s job is to delegate, and Agent Evanoff, by all accounts, did a fine job.” She relented. “But yes, as much as I would have enjoyed a good brawl, I didn’t want to take any chances with the baby. And quite frankly, I wouldn’t have been much use to you anyway, at that point. I couldn’t keep a thing down.” She laughed. “I believe I had to leave you hanging partway through that conversation, didn’t I?”

“Wait, your sudden, time-sensitive situation was that you had to puke?”

She shrugged. “It was, indeed, both sudden and time-sensitive. And was really none of your business.”

Fair enough. He’d been happier imagining Stark blowing things up anyway. “So - when the hell did you get married?” he asked her. He leaned forward. “Wait, was it a shotgun wedding?” Maybe that was how the guy had managed to tie her down. 

Peggy gave him an unimpressed look. “The wedding was a year ago yesterday, as a matter of fact.”

“Huh,” Jack said, shaking his head. “I have to say, Marge, I didn’t think I’d ever see the day. Didn't you tell Sousa you were married to your career, back when you jilted him to take over my job?”

She rolled her eyes. “I did nothing of the sort. I told him I was unwilling to give up the chance to take up the position I’d been offered. He was the one who felt that a three hour time difference might as well be a lifetime.”

Jack snorted. “Yeah, I knew you were too much for him to handle.”

Peggy’s eyebrows met in the middle of her forehead. “Oh, Jack. Every time I think you might not be so bad as I remembered, you seem determined to prove me wrong.”

“That’s rich coming from someone who is, for some reason, oddly close to Howard Stark,” Jack said, and she didn't do a very good job of hiding her sudden grin.

“Well, you’re right, at any rate,” she told him. “Daniel and I never would have worked in the long run. He's too - ” she looked like she was struggling to find the word, and then just gave up and forged forward. “As a woman in this field, if one wants to be married and particularly if one wants to start a family, one truly needs to find the right partner. And I have,” she said, and God, he’d never seen her look like that before, all soft and happy and in love. He hadn’t known she was capable of looking like that.

“Huh,” said Jack. And then, because things were getting a bit too sentimental, he gave her a deliberately annoying smirk. “Gotta say, I never thought you’d actually find someone to measure up to Captain America.”

Peggy didn’t take the bait. “Yes, well,” she said, serenely. “Every so often life takes a very unexpected turn.”

--

Washington DC, September 28, 1950

As it turned out, Jack was already back in New York by lunchtime the following day, having been called back in the wee hours of the morning to deal with a sticky situation between the SSR and the FBI. But he was in DC again the following Thursday and Friday for some hush-hush meetings regarding the future of the SSR and the planned transition to the new, as yet unnamed agency. Peggy wasn’t there, but he didn’t fool himself into thinking she wasn’t involved in this up to her eyebrows. Hell, she was probably going to be Director at this rate, he thought with a snort. He’d given up on trying to predict what the hell she'd manage to pull off.

As he left his last meeting on Thursday afternoon, he was intercepted by a chubby blonde he was pretty sure he recognized as her secretary - and who was, therefore, probably not nearly as innocuous as she looked. “Chief Thompson,” she said, handing him a slip of paper. “Message for you.”

He borrowed a phone to dial the number, and it rang four times before Peggy herself answered. “Yes, hello Jack,” she said, a bit breathlessly. “I’m glad I caught you - we missed our chance to catch up over lunch last week. Things have been rather hectic, what with one thing and another, but I was wondering if you might be free for dinner tonight?”

Jack shrugged. “Sure. I could go for a good steak.” He frowned. “You’re feeling better, right? You’re not going to upchuck on me?”

“Unlikely,” Peggy said dryly, “but, I suppose, one can always dream.”

“Well, you’re the one who’s in a delicate condition,” Jack said, magnanimously. “You pick the place.”

There was an oddly hesitant pause. “Would - you like to come to my house?” she asked, sounding like she couldn't quite believe the words coming out of her own mouth. “I can’t promise steak, but Grant has got a roast in the oven, and he’s quite good with potatoes as well.” 

Jack blinked. Yeah, he was definitely never going to be able to predict what Carter was going to do, and until just now he would have said that inviting him to her place for dinner was one of the more unlikely possibilities. Although, having a man - presumably her husband - cooking the dinner did sound like something she would do. Wait, what was Stark’s butler’s first name? Was he Grant? Maybe she’d borrowed him for the evening.

“Sure,” he said, and then a bit belatedly, “...thanks.” He had to admit he was insanely curious about the mysterious Mr. Carter. And - well, whoever Grant was, at least Peggy herself wasn't cooking. For all Jack knew she could cook like a dream, but he wasn’t sure he entirely trusted her not to poison his meatloaf.

“Wonderful,” she said, giving him the address, still sounding a little like she couldn’t believe she was doing this. “We’ll see you around six.”

--

When Jack knocked on the door, it was opened by a tall, broad-shouldered, bearded blond man wearing, incongruously, horn-rimmed glasses and an apron.

“You must be Jack Thompson,” he said, holding out his hand to shake. “I’m Grant Carter, Peggy’s husband.” 

“In the flesh,” Jack confirmed, looking around as Grant took his hat. Peggy was nowhere to be seen, and at her current size, she was hard to miss. “I guess if anyone could convince a man to take her last name, it would be your wife,” he said conversationally, although it somehow came out far more politely than he'd intended it to. He couldn’t get a read on this guy. The last name, the glasses, the apron said one thing, but - the guy was huge, muscular and athletic, and his handshake had been so firm that Jack’s hand was still smarting. 

“It wasn't necessary,” said Grant, equally politely, “because we both had the same last name to start with. Carter isn't quite Smith or Jones, but - well, I guess it's probably a bit like Thompson. You've probably met a few others you aren't related to.” 

Jack found himself wondering where and when the hell Peggy and Grant had met, but as a good investigator he knew the value of biding his time. He was going to be here at least through dinner, after all, and - if nothing else, that roast did smell pretty damned good.

“Peg! Company's here!” Grant called as he ushered Jack into the living room, and Peggy’s voice floated back from somewhere else in the house.

“Yes, I’d gathered. We'll be out shortly. Neither of us are quite decent at the moment, I’m afraid.”

Jack blinked, sat down on the sofa, and accepted the drink Grant offered him. “They’ll just be a minute,” said Grant, giving him exactly no new information.

“Who - will just be a minute?” asked Jack cautiously, not entirely sure he wanted to know.

Grant gave him an odd look, then another of sudden, very amused realization. He grinned. “Peggy and Jane. Peggy was sure they'd be done long before you got here, but Jane has just been insatiable today. I have to admit, this whole thing is so new that none of the three of us really know what we’re doing.”

Jack nearly choked on his drink, and Grant looked even more entertained. Jack blinked at him. What the hell had he just walked into? Wait, no, he had to be missing something.

“She was finished eating in plenty of time,” Peggy said from somewhere behind them, “but unfortunately, after a nappy disaster that's best not discussed further, she and I both needed a change of clothing.” Jack turned, and his jaw dropped.

She’d had the baby.

“Shouldn’t you still be in the hospital?” he asked, staring at her and the sleeping bundle in her arms.

Peggy laughed. “They certainly kept us in for far longer than I thought necessary, but they did eventually let us go. Jane was perfectly healthy despite her early arrival, and I’m fine as well, although rather tired.” She sat down at the other end of the sofa and readjusted the baby. “She's ten days old today. Born about four hours after you saw me last - as it turned out, it wasn't a false alarm after all. It was all terribly dramatic. She clearly takes after her father.” She gave Grant a fond look, and he grinned.

“Right, because you've never been dramatic a day in your life.”

“What?” Jack stared at her. Had he - really almost had to deliver Peggy Carter’s baby?

Peggy snorted. “Jack, rest assured that, had I been forced to give birth at the SSR, you would have been my very last choice of midwife. However, as it happens, we made it to the hospital just in time. I was rather preoccupied at the time, but the experience may have taken a few years off Grant's life.” She smiled at her husband again, just as a timer of some sort went off in the kitchen.

Grant stood up and excused himself to go check on dinner. “The roast smells fantastic, darling,” Peggy told him as he passed, and he leaned down and kissed her on the lips. Jack stared at them, and then at the baby in Peggy’s arms. Peggy also looked down, smiled, and dropped a tiny kiss on the baby’s fluffy head, with a look on her face that he’d never seen on her before, and had never expected to see on Peggy Carter of all people. She looked like - well, she looked like a tired mother in love with her baby.

Oh God, Carter was a mother. 

“Are you really coming back to work?” Jack asked bemusedly, watching her smile at her baby. Peggy raised her head and gave him a look, and yeah, there was the Marge he was used to.

“I assure you, my intentions haven’t changed in the past ten days,” she said, fiercely. “Keeping the world from harm seems, if anything, far more - more personally important now.” Her voice cracked a little on the last three words, and she took a slow breath, clearly annoyed with herself. Normally Jack would have seen that as a sign that Peggy was subject to the usual feminine weaknesses after all - except that he could somehow picture her beating him up thoroughly even while sobbing.

Anyway, he was still trying to wrap his head around this entirely different side of Peggy. “And who’s going to take care of the baby? Stark’s butler?”

Peggy’s eyebrows met in the centre of her forehead, a much more familiar look on her. “While I’m confident Mr. Jarvis would perform the job admirably if called upon,” she said, “we certainly couldn’t afford to hire him away from Howard, even if we wanted to. But there's no need. I’m not Jane’s only parent, you know.”

Jack nearly spat out his drink. “Wait, your husband is going to stay home and take care of the baby? Grant. The big guy in the kitchen?” He stared at her. “Oh my God, Carter, you keep your husband in the kitchen.”

Peggy blinked at him. “He’s in the kitchen because the roast was going to burn. I certainly don’t keep him there. He’s far too tall to sleep on the countertop.”

Something that sounded a lot like a hastily-suppressed snort of laughter came floating out from the kitchen, although Jack didn't think Grant could possibly have heard her. It had probably been a sneeze. “The roast is ready!” Grant called. “I’ll just get everything on the table and we can eat. Hopefully before Janey wakes up again.”

“She only seems happy if one of us is holding her upright,” explained Peggy, glancing down at the baby again with a slightly less blissful look, then back up at Jack. “I suppose,” she said, her lips twitching a little, “you're wondering why we’ve invited you over at a time like this.”

Jack shook his head. “Marge, I’ve given up wondering anything, ever, about why the hell you do anything.” He had been wondering, though. Sure, he and Peggy had come to understand each other better over time, and had even developed a kind of grudging respect for each other, but - he wouldn’t exactly call them friends. And he didn’t know a hell of a lot about babies, but he did know that this one was awfully young. He was pretty sure most people didn’t invite random colleagues over for dinner at this stage of the game.

“I needed to talk to you in private,” Peggy said, “away from the SSR. I was hoping to do it before the baby was born but - well, as you know, that didn't quite go to plan.”

“Okay,” Jack said, cautiously. This was a lot more like the Peggy Carter he knew, but - this was also clearly where he was about to get drawn into one of her side investigations. “Don’t you have enough clout to just open up an official investigation by now?” he asked her. Sure, everyone had to report up the chain, and everyone sometimes got orders handed down from on high, but an SSR division chief had mostly free rein over the investigations undertaken by his own branch. Surely Peggy Carter, of all people, had the skills to keep one of hers quiet enough that it wouldn’t be interfered with.

“I do,” Peggy said, leaning forward a little and adjusting the baby in her arms, “but - ” she took a deep breath. “Jack, you and I have always had our differences, but I know that when it comes down to it, you are a good man who is willing to risk himself and his career for what is right. You've always made the right choice in the end, despite the clashes we've sometimes had on the way.”

That sounded a bit ominous, even for her. “Maybe that's because you often start your investigations by sneaking around behind everyone’s back,” he pointed out.

“Perhaps if people had taken me seriously from the start, and avoided being swayed by their father’s political cronies when they knew perfectly well that my judgement was sound, I would never have been forced to conduct my own investigations in the first place,” she countered, giving him the kind of look that made him glad she was holding a baby.

He held up his hands. “Okay, fine. You've been right before. What are you asking me to trust your judgement on this time?”

“Well, it's - ” she started, then broke off abruptly to bend her head down and make a soft, soothing noise at the baby as it started to fuss. She patted its back and readjusted her hold before returning her attention to Jack. “Look,” she said more quietly, swaying gently as she talked. “Grant has - well, he’s done some investigation and confirmed something rather disturbing. The timing isn't ideal, but it’s got to the point where we need to start gathering people we can trust.” One corner of her mouth turned upwards. “On the bright side, being on personal leave with a new baby is the last time anybody will expect me to be conducting any sort of investigation.”

Jack snorted. “Unless they've met you.” Yeah, of course Grant wasn’t just some guy. Which actually made it even stranger that he seemed to be happy about cooking dinner and staying home with the baby, but - well, Jack had already decided not to ask too many questions about that. Maybe it was all a cover, although the baby seemed real enough, and he’d never seen Peggy look at anyone the way she looked at both Grant and the kid.

“I realize you fought in the Pacific,” she said, still bouncing the baby, “but I’m quite sure you’re aware of the battle that those of us in Europe conducted against Hydra.” Jack nodded. That had been Captain America’s whole thing, and since Peggy had clearly fought along with him, she had probably been in the thick of it.

“Well,” she said. “As every Hydra soldier seemed so fond of saying, if you cut off one head, two more shall take its place. It - appears that we may not have managed to cauterize all of the heads. I have very good evidence that Hydra is alive and well and has managed to infiltrate the SSR. I’d rather like to take care of that before we get the new agency off the ground.”

Jack blinked. He would have said she was crazy, but - she usually wasn’t. “Wait, Hydra? Really?”

Peggy nodded. “Yes. As I'm sure you can appreciate, we need to keep this investigation very quiet for now, until we’ve determined exactly what we’re dealing with. And why I needed to talk with you in private, outside of the office.”

“Right,” said Jack. “So, who else knows?”

“Grant, obviously” she said. “And I suppose Janey’s been eavesdropping on most of it.” She smiled down at the baby, then turned back to Jack, all business. “Howard Stark. Edwin and Ana Jarvis. Colonel Phillips. Daniel Sousa. Rose Roberts. The Howling Commandos, who have been quietly working on - another angle, in Russia.”

“Stark's butler? Really?” asked Jack, raising an eyebrow, and Peggy nodded.

“Yes. His help has proven invaluable in the past, and he and his wife are absolutely trustworthy - although I certainly intend to keep them both well away from the front lines.”

“Okay,” said Jack, shaking his head, just as the baby started crying for real. By the time Peggy and her husband had managed to get it to clam up (Grant had been right about one thing at least, Jack decided - they really didn’t seem to know what they were doing), the roast was a bit cold, although Jack had to admit it was still pretty damned good.

Peggy, who'd never exactly been what you could call a dainty eater, scarfed down half her plate like she hadn’t seen food in a week, then accepted the baby so that Grant could take a turn eating. “So,” she said. The baby was fussing again, and she had to raise her voice slightly. “Can we count on you, Jack?”

Jack nodded, his mouth full. “I wish you wouldn’t keep uncovering and then dragging me into these things, but - yeah. I’m in. What’s our play?”

“Well,” said Peggy, and then yelped in surprise as the baby regurgitated all over her. “Well, I expect you feel better now,” she said, gingerly holding the kid away from her shirt. “And you seem to have missed yourself entirely, so perhaps you can sit with your father again for a moment.”

Jack set down his forkful of mashed potatoes, having temporarily lost his appetite. God, were all babies this revolting? “You sure she's not Hydra?”

Peggy rolled her eyes at him and stood up. “Quite certain. Although, I’m afraid it’s time for yet another change of wardrobe. Excuse me a moment.”

Jack and Grant eyed each other across the table, Grant swaying a little to soothe the baby, who was drifting off to sleep again, curled up like a frog on his chest. “So,” said Jack, his eyes narrowing. “You’ve been investigating Hydra? How did you and Peggy meet, anyway?”

Grant smiled. “It’s classified.”

Jack sighed. Of course it was. “So, what’s the plan?” he asked, instead of pressing, because this guy was almost certainly going to be as tight-lipped as Peggy herself.

“Well,” said Grant, in a voice that sounded like he was talking to the baby, although his words were clearly aimed at Jack, “Once Peggy gets back and has a chance to eat a bit more, I’ll take Janey into the bedroom and give you two a chance to talk. This is Peggy’s op.”

Jack looked at the guy. “What about you? Didn’t she say you were the one who brought her the intel in the first place?”

“I did,” said Grant, nodding. “But - well, things have changed a bit since then.” He smiled down at the baby. “And if one of us has to stay home for a while, It makes a hell of a lot more sense for it to be me.” He made a face. “Shit! Language. I mean darn. It makes a heck of a lot more sense. Gah.”

Jack snorted. Peggy looked more obviously exhausted, but he didn’t think this guy was getting a lot of sleep either. “Yeah, I don’t know anything about babies, but I think your kid’s a bit too young to pick up any bad words just yet.”

Grant shrugged, a slightly sheepish grin playing around the corners of his mouth. “Well, it doesn’t hurt to get in the habit. Although, if she gets into trouble at kindergarten for swearing like a sailor, I’m going to blame her mother.”

Jack shook his head and took another bite of potato. “Your funeral, pal. I’m not sure if you’ve seen how hard Marge can punch.”

“Oh, I have,” Grant assured him, carefully balancing the baby against him with one hand so that he could get back to eating. He grinned. “First thing I ever I saw her do was lay a guy out flat for being an ass. A jerk,” he amended, with a glance at the baby. “I've been hopelessly in love with her ever since.”

Peggy scoffed as she came back into the room wearing a new shirt and holding a manilla folder, although she also gave Grant a pleased look and leaned in for a kiss which went on long enough to make Jack feel uncomfortable. He cleared his throat pointedly. “Well,” Peggy said, reddening a bit as she seemed to remember he was there. “Perhaps you and Jane can both get a little sleep, darling,” she told Grant. Grant shoved a last mouthful of potatoes into his mouth and stood up with the baby, and Peggy turned to Jack and held up the folder, all business. “Once we’ve finished eating, we can start going through these.”

Jack shook his head. Yeah, leave it to Peggy Carter to plan what amounted to a coup at her dining room table, with a ragtag group of co-conspirators that included - among others - her truly baffling husband, an eccentric millionaire, a one-legged SSR chief she’d definitely at least kissed, a butler, and a baby. Under normal conditions he would have excluded the baby, but since it was Peggy’s baby, all bets were probably off.

And - God, if Hydra was really still in play, they might have just caught a lead on who the hell had tried to snuff him out in California after all. It still rankled him that Sousa had been too busy mooning over Peggy to figure out exactly what had actually been going on with that file on M. Carter, which had, naturally, disappeared along with his shooter.

Well, he thought with a sudden grin, reaching his hand out for the folder, Sousa was definitely going to have to get over Peggy now. She was well and truly out of reach.

“Danny Boy know about your husband and kid?” he asked curiously, opening the folder.

Peggy sighed. “No. I - well, we’ve been trying to keep Jane’s existence as quiet as possible.” There was a well-timed, very loud wail from the direction of the bedroom, and both of them laughed, although Peggy’s was considerably more rueful. “And I - I didn’t quite know how to bring up Grant over the telephone,” she said, after a moment. “It’s not Daniel’s favourite form of communication. I suppose I've been putting it off.”

“Yeah, I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to use his favourite form of communication anymore, now that you're married to a different guy,” Jack informed her helpfully.

Peggy hit him, although not very hard. “Oh, shut up. Daniel and I were hardly even a couple. And he was the one who ended it. I was willing to give long distance romance a try.”

“Well,” said Jack, glancing around her house, “looks like it all worked out for you in the end.”

Peggy gave him a rare genuine smile. “It did,” she said simply, and although he'd never seen her look so tired, he'd never seen her look so happy either.

There was another loud wail from the bedroom, and Jack snorted, settling in to read through the file, “Well, I say better you than me, Marge.” It was time to find out exactly what the hell Peggy Carter had gotten them all into this time.