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Challenges 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Challenges 3
Agent Carter/Percy Jackson crossover: Peggy Carter meets Bianca and Nico di Angelo (admittedly, the timeline on this one is a bit wonky) for Anon
---
(NB: Nico's timeline is confusing, to say the least. Much more confusing than I thought before trying to set this. RR gave one birthdate, then contradicted in BOO, plus there's working it in with the beginning of the war and how old they appear to be and… Sigh. Upshot: I'm taking the BOO birth year of 1932. They were in Europe as far up as 1938, and it only felt like a few months in the hotel, which they were sent to (according to the scene) right after Maria died, but that doesn't fit with them being little kids at that point and… Sigh. Further, someone was not strong in math with Peggy's birth year, which Marvel set at 1921, but she's an officer with a fairly high rank in the camp when Steve shows up for training in 43 or 44? I am hopelessly confuddled. Also, Wunderground weather history doesn't go back far enough. It's vaguely possible, nay, probable, that I have the weather wrong. ;p)
---
One more day in the bloody hotel, and Peggy Carter thought she would go mad.

It was summer, but it was raining outside, and the streets were muddy, and her shoes were wet from her walk to the bus from Senator Palmer's office. She felt absurdly cold, given that it was a solid seventy five degrees. She was in a foul temper.

And of course, the meeting itself hadn't exactly been stellar. Colonel Philips and Dr. Erskine had butted heads again about the serum, and what sort of person it should be tested on. That, of the two of them, only Erskine had the slightest idea what the serum did or how it should be administered made no difference, because Philips was a colonel. And an American. Erskine was neither. Peggy was neither. She was only a Lieutenant, and Philips seemed to think her rank was some sort of a gift, given her sex and age, so she didn't even get the respect that ought to be accorded that far. Senator Palmer knew better, of course. He'd been Dad's friend for years, and he knew how hard Peggy had worked to get her school records, and how those had translated to officer training and a spot in British Intelligence, but any protest he made on her behalf earned a not entirely hidden implication that his interest in her was not military.

Which was disgusting.

She'd gone up to her room to put her feet up and read the New York Times in bed, but by the time she'd got halfway through the article about the Vichy -- the cowards! -- dropping any pretense of fighting in Syria and Lebanon, she was furious and pacing around. Before she knocked something over and broke it, she decided to retire down to the lobby, where the presence of other people might forestall something of a tantrum.

Ambassador di Angelo's daughter seemed to have had the same idea. She was sitting on wing chair, her nose in the paper, grimacing at the news.

"Mrs. di Angelo," Peggy said, by way of greeting. (She was called "Mrs. di Angelo," as she had two children, but no husband had ever been named, and no name other than her father's had accrued to her. Officially, she was listed as a widow of the Ethiopian front. In polite company, this wasn't questioned, despite the fact that it made no sense.)

She looked up. "Oh, dear, Lieutenant, call me Maria, please. We see each other every day." She smiled warmly.

Peggy nodded. "All right. Maria. Then you must call me Peggy."

"But I like calling you 'Lieutenant.' I like the idea of a woman officer."

"I do, too, but in the hotel, I'm Peggy."

Maria smiled and waved at the paper. "This nonsense in France…"

"I should join the resistance," Peggy said. "Just drop all of this political business…"

Maria's smile turned to a grimace. "They should do something about him."

"About who?"

"Who do you think? Hitler. He should have been stopped long ago, but no, they left him alone. They must make their own decisions, he says! Foolishness. How many will die for letting this imbecile make his own decisions?"

"Who said that?"

Maria started to answer, then brushed it off impatiently. "All of us. Free will. A lovely theory until someone evil comes along. I will not raise my children to think they have the right to do evil. I will never allow such a thing, never let them believe such a thing. No woman who wishes for a child should wish for one from such foul reason!"

Peggy wasn't sure what to make of it. She supposed that Maria had met with some difficulty over her Italian roots, but she seemed to be internalizing it and taking it very, very personally, if she thought her children needed particular lessons on the subject.

As if on cue, little shoes clattered down the marble stairs into the lobby, and Maria's face lit up. Whatever her situation was, her children were clearly the light of her life.

The girl, who was older ran up to the chair. "Mama, can we go outside yet?" She had a slight trace of an accent, but Peggy guessed she'd been around English speakers her whole life, because it was barely noticeable.

"It's raining, Bianca."

"Nico's bored."

The little boy, who had wide brown eyes and a shock of black hair, nodded enthusiastically. "We could splash in puddles," he suggested.

"You will catch your death. I don't want you below the ground."

Bianca tried again. "Mama, we could go to the soda fountain. We'd only be outside a little bit. They have a radio. They're going to play another Thin Man story tonight."

Maria looked over at Peggy. "The world in shambles, and they must listen to radio stories. Children."

"Mrs. di Angelo?"

Peggy and Maria both looked up. The desk clerk smiled awkwardly. "There is a man on the telephone for you. He claims to be a friend, and he wishes to speak to you. He told me to say that he intends to be well-behaved."

Maria pursed her lips. "He'd best not be asking again about…" She waved again. "Peggy, would you be so kind as to see to it that my children do not catch cold by running outside?"

Bianca, who clearly thought herself old enough to be in charge, rolled her eyes hugely. Nico watched her for a moment, then imitated the gesture.

Maria went to the phone.

"Well," Peggy said. "I can't say I have any experience with children. I'm a soldier."

Bianca abruptly lost her disdain. "You are? I mean, you're… well, a girl. You can be a soldier?"

"I can, and I am. I can't fight on the front lines. But I can shoot and I can do one-armed push-ups and I even know how to fight with a man bigger than I am."

Bianca sat down at the edge of the lobby's hearth, her elbows planted on her knees. Nico sat beside her, at first in the same pose, though when he noticed Peggy looking, he deliberately shifted positions. "I'd like to be a soldier," Bianca said.

"Me, too," Nico agreed. "I'd fight against everything evil! I'd beat all of the monsters!"

"Monsters?" Peggy asked. "What sort of monsters would you fight?"

"Sea monsters. And cow-things. And men with wings!"

"I see."

Bianca gave him a furious glare, then said, "We had games when we were little in Venice."

"There are monsters!" Nico protested. "And heroes, too. I'm going to be a hero." He turned to Peggy. "Are you a hero?"

"Well, not yet, but I think it a fine goal."

"See, she knows," Nico said. "Where there are heroes, there are monsters. Otherwise, why do you need heroes?"

"I never thought of it quite that way. I'd say I'd make the trade and have no heroes if it meant no monsters, but I suppose the monsters would come anyway. They're quite rude about agreements."

Bianca smiled. "That's funny. Did you ever see a monster?"

"Quite a few."

"Then you are a hero!" Nico said. "Only heroes can see them properly."

This earned him another glare from Bianca, who was apparently fed up with her brother's fanciful metaphors. "My brother is very young," she said loftily. "What do you do in the war?"

"Well, at the moment, I'm hoping to help recruit heroes."

"I could be one!" Nico jumped up, then looked down miserably. "Only, Italy's on wrong side."

"There are many fine Italians fighting for what's right. For Italy as much as anywhere else."

"Could I fight?"

"Oh, I hope this war is over before you're big enough for that." He seemed crestfallen, so she added, "But there are things you could do for the war effort. You could collect metal. That's important. And… well, living in the hotel, you couldn't have a victory garden, but perhaps I could find one for you to help in."

He shook his head. "No. There are no monsters there. I'll never be big enough."

Maria di Angelo came back, looking irritated. "I hope the two of you have not been overwhelming our friend Peggy."

"Not at all," Peggy said. "We've been discussing heroism."

"And monsters," Nico added.

"You and your monsters," Maria said fondly. She sighed. "I wonder sometimes what the difference is. Heroes and monsters. Then I remember: It is in the nature of their dreams. A monster dreams of destruction, a hero of protection. I do not worry about my children's dreams." She looked at Bianca. "Come now. Go upstairs and get your umbrella and your rain boots. I will take you both to the soda fountain to hear great adventures of your detective hero." She turned back to Peggy. "Thank you for speaking kindly to them. They haven't enough friends."

She gathered them, and guided them upstairs.

A monster dreams of destruction, a hero of protection, Peggy thought. And that was the sum of it, wasn't it? The sum of what Erskine had been arguing from the start. They didn't need to search for someone who was already powerful. The serum would grant power. What they needed was someone who dreamed of heroism.

Someone who dreamed of battling monsters.



How about some Eowin and Faramir? for Anon
---

The gardens of Ithilien bloomed once again. Fair blooms of roses, rushes of heather, the fine and delicate smell of life returning to the land. Yet among all this bounty, none could compare to the Lady Eowyn, astride her horse, standing against the sunset on the bank of the Anduin. Her golden hair was caught in the evening breeze, rippling like the very water she stood by.

In front of her, carefully secured in the sort of harness known by any parent in Rohan, was Elboron. He was a fine boy, with her golden hair, and the noble eyes of his father, Faramir. As any lady of Rohan would, she'd begun to take him riding on his second birthday, after he'd received his first haircut. It was a gentle sort of teaching, held close in his mother's arms, as he learned the sense of the creature who carried both of them. He would certainly ride his own pony before he could read, though Faramir was making a fair effort to at least keep the timing close.

The Lady turned suddenly, her hand going to her sword hilt, hearing a sound so faint that less protective ears would have missed it. Many Orcs had missed it in the years of the war, when Faramir's light tread had kept him hidden in these hills. But Eowyn was of stouter stuff than an Orc, and she was, after all, guarding her greatest treasure.

She'd unsheathed her sword before the shape of her husband became clear in the sun's glare, and she looked at him, amused, over the blade. "And what strange visitor treads over Ithilien, Elboron?" she asked the child. "It wears a crown, but otherwise is marked as a gardener."

"A fitting shape for the prince of a garden," Faramir said, going up to the horse. "I've been turning the earth in the south," he said, reaching for the baby.

Eowyn undid the ties on the harness and handed the child down. "No word of enemies?"

"The king's troops have cleared the area of danger." He kissed Elboron's head. "But surely, soon, we will be protected by our fair prince!"

Eowyn slid down from the horse's back and slipped her arm around his waist. "Well, he's very near to winning the battle of the bladder and bowel, so complete victory is obviously near at hand."

"According to Master Gamgee, it would not be amiss to turn some of his unconquered issues into the soil." Faramir looked to the south.

"Is that why you called a courier to the Shire? I imagined you were writing to Meriadoc."

"Oh, I did, but he passed my letter to Master Gamgee. Meriadoc knows something of gardens, as most hobbits have them, but for damage like we've seen here in Ithilien, the damage that's resisted growth, he deemed it wise to consult a real expert. Samwise has restored the damage in the Shire."

"As I understand it, there was magical assistance."

"He was quick to point that out, but there have been other troubles over the years, and he and his father have gathered a store of knowledge. The soil has gone barren in many places. It will need a few seasons to catch up, even if we are careful with its nutrients."

She laughed. "I never believed I would stand beyond the Anduin, talking to my husband about how to feed the dirt."

"How did they take care of the soil in Rohan?"

"It needed little care." She considered the subject. "Then again, if matters of bladder and bowel help to feed the earth, then our horses must have been its great wet nurses."

He laughed and sat down on a rock overlooking the river, Elboron balanced contentedly on his knee. "And how have the days passed in Emyn Arnen this week, as I've acquainted my hands with the soil?"

"I've taken on a new handmaiden," she said. "A girl who wandered in from the East."

Faramir paused. "The east?"

"From the shores of Nurnen. She was a slave. The war freed her, but she had no place in the world. She is… her mother was…" Eowyn shuddered. "There were ways the Orcs controlled slaves."

"Oh."

"But she is a dear thing, who was unwanted by her own people. I would not have our kingdom allow an innocent to be an outcast."

As I so often felt I was in my own kingdom, she did not say, but Faramir heard the words anyway.

"If you are certain of her innocence, then I am satisfied with your judgment."

She nodded. "If I were not, she would not be in our home. I do still have a good sword arm, my love."

"I neither forget nor doubt the matter."

"Our hall of healing is quite full again," she said after a moment. "People wandering in with old injuries. Their lives aren't threatened, but many are blind or deaf or scarred. People are missing hands and even legs. There is an elf who means to go west, but he can't get there. His eyes were burned in the battle of the Tower."

"And there is nothing to be done?"

"Not about the blindness. It's too late. But there are things to heal beyond the body's scars. I've been helping him learn his way around the castle. When he is steady, I will teach him to ride a horse, and trust the animal's eyes. Will they take him, in the west? The elves are not known for forgiving disfigurement."

"The lady of Lorien is in the west. She will know more accept the idea of outcasts than you will."

"There is a man of Minas Tirith who lost one leg at the hip, and the other at the knee. He crawled to us yesterday. I know not what to do for him. What sort of life can he have in his home, with its many steps and terraces?"

"You need to discuss it with the king, don't you?"

She looked away. "I had hoped you would do so on my behalf."

Faramir looked across the river. Somewhere, beyond the plain, the white towers of Minas Tirith rose to the sky. "I refuse you little, my dear. But on that matter, I must."

"You would have me revisit my humiliation?"

"I would have you cease to be humiliated." He shifted the Elboron in his arms and thought about what he meant to say. "You are a brave woman. And you've grown to be a good healer. You have learned all you can from my books. You know that you must go to the king for any other training; he is a gifted healer."

"He doesn't heal just by poultices."

"No. But he does understand the subject. He has asked you to come learn, and you have refused. Reclaiming the kingdom, bearing Elboron… all good reasons. But you are honest with me about the real one."

"Yes."

"Aragorn is our thain, and our friend. It is time for us to feel comfortable in his presence. Both of us."

She looked down. "It is a difficult thing you ask, husband. I thought once before that the humiliation had passed, but I still dream of the fool I once was. I fear that will never be forgotten."

"I admit it to be likely. But it need not be forgotten to be tempered in the memory, to be a source of warmth and shared experience instead of a dreaded wall between Gondor and Ithilien."

She gave this long thought, then said, "The child is weaned, Faramir. There is no longer a part of his care that you can't do, should I make the journey to Minas Tirith. Are you prepared?"

He grinned. "Well, it's certainly the most perilous mission I've been asked to undertake."

"Do you mock it?"

"I absolutely do not."

"Very well," she said. "I would have a week with you, my husband, with neither of us running about. Then, I will set off on the journey."
8 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 12th, 2016 06:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Sunset in the Garden" is what I always wanted to imagine about Eowin and Faramir postwar, being happy with each other and rebuilding other people's lives along with their own. I love that you have them co-parenting and healing the world.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2016 01:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I was just settling into it when I remembered how well she liked healing, and it seemed to be a good shape for the story. It's been a while since I tried formal Tolkien-speak!
redrikki From: redrikki Date: January 12th, 2016 07:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wonder sometimes what the difference is. Heroes and monsters. Then I remember: It is in the nature of their dreams. A monster dreams of destruction, a hero of protection. I do not worry about my children's dreams. Best summation for the divide I think I've ever heard. It's especially true in the MCU where often times the dividing line is razor thin. I mean, look at Tony's entire arc, or Bruce's, or Nat's or Thor's or, well, you get the idea. I think Steve, Sam, Peggy, and Clint are the only ones who never went through a questionable/villainous phase.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2016 01:48 am (UTC) (Link)
I think it's the whole crux of the MCU -- though it's not actually MCU, the "WIth great power" speech seems to sum it up. Heroes are the ones who take responsibility. Villains have great power -- in Marvel, it seems to generally be the exact same power as the villain -- but are only answerable to their own desires.

And of course, Nico and Bianca are the children of Hades, and another child of Hades -- born presumably because he loved death, more than... whatever reason Maria had -- is at this point in the timeline destroying Europe. Maria needs to assure herself that her children are not going to go that route.

You might like this:


Edited at 2016-01-13 01:54 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 13th, 2016 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't follow those fandoms from the first one (though I think I get the gist), but I thought it was excellent! The conversation between the lieutenant and the little boy was such a charming conversation for an adult to have with a child, although I gather they weren't talking about exactly the same thing - cleverly done! And perhaps important implications?

~ Karen, who has been an unforgivable lurker and resolves to do better
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2016 01:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Neat that it works without knowing the fandoms!

There are some implications -- Peggy picks up the idea of the moral character of the hero, which will figure into Captain America: The First Avenger, and Nico gets a little reassurance that it's possible for him to be a hero, despite his questionable connections, because of his own moral character (though he later denies such a thing exists in his own head, it's clear form his actions that he actually is quite concerned with right and wrong).
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: January 13th, 2016 03:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love that I could enjoy the first one without having seen any Agent Carter episodes (they are all on the DVR, languishing, since my husband and I want to watch together and we are barely at home and awake at the same time these days). And now for some reason I want Peggy to meet Rick and Louis from Casablanca.

Always love Faramir and Eowyn.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 13th, 2016 08:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked your Maria and her insights into heroism :)

And thanks for mentioning Wunderground, I've been looking for a website with historical weather accounts for quite some time :D The site is awesome!
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