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14 May 2015 @ 11:54 am
Agent Carter: The Virtues of Being Useful  
Title: The Virtues of Being Useful (1/4)
Characters: Edwin Jarvis, Howard Stark, Anna Jarvis, Abraham Erskine, some OCs
Rating: PG
Warnings/Triggers: alcohol use, references to antisemitism, swearing, era appropriate but not necessarily PC views and terms
Spoilers: Backstory for both Agent Carter and Captain America: The First Avenger, set before both
Pairings: Jarvis/Anna
Word Count 5,329
Summary: Edwin Jarvis arrives in America to start a new life, with a new wife, in New York, and attempts to find his footing with a very interesting new employer.
Author's notes: I was really interested in doing something about the first days of Jarvis working for Howard, and his adjustment period then. It's basically all headcanon, but I've tried to fold in what we know from the MCU. I've also tried very hard to keep it historically accurate, and canon to the MCU timeline, but that is a very fuzzy timeline, so I've tried to make as much sense of it as I could. I've set it in June 1941, as that seemed the most likely given events of that year both real and fictional.

When I started writing, there wasn't a Series Two for Agent Carter announced, and this very well may be AU'd into oblivion, but I'd written too much by that point, so I'm going with it.

Thanks as always to joonscribble for her headcanon thoughts and nattering with me.

Also apologies for my Hungarian. I did my best with an extremely complicated language.


PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR



DAY ONE


“Okay, so, here we are,” Mr Stark said.

He pulled up in front of a large house, with a courtyard out front and gardens around it.

“This is me,” he added.

Tyű” Anna breathed.

'Tyű' indeed. Jarvis had expected a rather large house, of course. Mr Stark was an extremely rich man. It wasn't even so much that the house was large, it was just that passing by so many in the neighbourhood as they became bigger and more elaborate added some sense of anticipation, which made the end result (the biggest, most elaborate) seem even more impressive.

Mr Stark hopped out and unlocked the gate, then hopped back in and drove into the compound. Jarvis had offered to drive, as that would be part of his duties, but Mr Stark insisted it would be easier for him to drive them now, as he knew the way. He had been adamant that Jarvis should wait until they reached America before he started acting in his capacity as butler.

“You're on your honeymoon, enjoy it,” he'd said.

Jarvis had enjoyed it. Four days on a boat with Anna was heaven itself, considering he hadn't seen her in nearly three years, and had, right up to only two days before marrying her, believed himself to be on his way to the gallows. The reversal of his fortunes had been so swift that he felt as though the world was spinning around him.

Mr Stark parked the car, and hopped out again. He was a man who moved from task to task at great, energetic speeds, and Jarvis anticipated that keeping up with him would take some stamina.

“Edwin...” Anna said, looking around with wide eyes.

“I know,” Jarvis replied.

They looked at each other and laughed. Jarvis opened the door and alighted from the car, then reached in to offer his hand to help her out.

“This is the house, obviously, and then over there is the guest house,” Mr Stark said, pointing to the outbuilding. “That'll be your place. Come on, you can take a look around. Needs some work, probably. I don't use it much. I wired ahead for it to be aired out for you.”

He sped off, and Jarvis and Anna followed him in awed silence. He unlocked the door and let them in.

Tyű,” Anna said, again.

Mr Stark leaned over to Jarvis. “She keeps saying that, is that a good thing?” he said.

“Yes,” Jarvis said. “I believe the closest translation would be 'wow'.”

Mr Stark grinned. He walked around and gestured, pointing out various doors. “It's three bedrooms, I think, and a couple of bathrooms. Kitchen's this way, morning room, then there's a formal sitting room, and a...informal sitting room?”

“Parlour?” Jarvis suggested.

“Yeah, sure, parlour,” Mr Stark said. “Telephone booth in there...dining room. Little study or office. Master's on the lower floor here, then upstairs is staff quarters. Maybe there's only two bedrooms, actually...”

“Oh dear, what will we do with only two bedrooms?” Anna muttered to Jarvis. “We will never fit.”

Jarvis chuckled, and shushed her. “It's very generous, Mr Stark, thank you,” he said, sincerely.

“It's just sitting here, someone might as well use it,” Mr Stark said, with a shrug. “Like I said, it probably needs some work. If you want to change it up, feel free. It's all yours. I'll get you some keys made up.”

Anna went over and kissed his cheek, taking his hands and saying something to him that Jarvis couldn't hear. Mr Stark looked very touched for a moment, before tossing his head and saying something that made Anna giggle.

“I'll let you two love birds settle in,” he said.

“Perhaps you should show me your house,” Jarvis said. “I'll need to know my duties and where everything is, and meet the other staff members.”

“You're an eager beaver, aren't you?” Mr Stark said. “Fine. You can meet me up at the house in half an hour. At least get your luggage in here.”

“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said.

He and Mr Stark returned to the car and began to remove the luggage. Mr Stark had the most; four or five valises. Jarvis had two. Anna had a small carpet bag. Jarvis had felt very guilty when he saw that was all she'd taken with her when she'd fled Budapest. Her whole life, in one little bag.

“You forget, my life is very small,” Anna had said, when he'd apologized for it. “The war ate it up, little and little. It is not the life of before the war. I will start a new one, with some of my old one in it.”

Jarvis brought Mr Stark's bags into the foyer, but Mr Stark shooed him off before he could take them to be unpacked. Jarvis took his and Anna's bags back to the guest house. Which, he supposed, was now the Jarvis Residence.

“Look at the kitchen,” Anna said, when he arrived. “It is so big! I will make you my goulash. Do you remember it? It is my mother's recipe. I will cook for you, and be a good wife.”

“You would be a good wife even if you never cooked for me,” Jarvis said, with a smile. “But I do remember the goulash, and I look forward to having it again. I can offer omelettes in return. Cooking is not my forte, I'm afraid.”

“You can make breakfast, and I will make dinner,” Anna said.

Jarvis was hit with the sudden realization that this was all he wanted in his life, and he couldn't think of anything that would make him happier. He would have liked to articulate it, but couldn't find anything close to the right words.

“It's a deal,” was what he came up with.




Unpacking took no time at all. Ten minutes at the most. Jarvis had a bit of clothing, but not much. Enough to get him through a few days before repeating. Anna only had one dress besides the one she was wearing, one nightdress, and her underthings. She also had her wedding suit, which Mr Stark had insisted on purchasing for her. Jarvis had a running tally in his mind about how much money he owed Mr Stark, who had also bought Anna a wedding bouquet, because 'girls need bouquets when they get married'. Jarvis had politely declined his offer of getting an engagement ring for Anna. Jarvis had enough money to purchase their (plain) wedding bands, and as they had only been engaged for two days before they married, it seemed a bit silly to get a ring to commemorate it. Jarvis would save and get something nice for her later on, if she wanted one.

Aside from the clothing, Anna had brought a hairbrush, and a set of candlesticks wrapped in a fine scarf. They were for the Shabat candles, which Jarvis learned were lit every Friday night at sunset. She'd also packed the letters he'd written her, tied in a bit of the fabric of the last tie she'd made him before he'd been moved from Budapest. She blushed a little when he noticed them, until he pulled out the letters she'd written him, tied with a shoelace. Then she just laughed.

After they unpacked, they took a wander around the house to see what they had and what they might need. Jarvis made a list as they went. Clothes for Anna would be the priority. Jarvis could carry on with what he had for a bit. They had china and silverware in the kitchen, and all the appliances and utensils they needed. They would need washing soda for the dishes--as well as soap for bathing and laundry. There was no iron, but there was an electric washing machine. They would have to find out their telephone number. They would have to find a job for Anna. And of course, they would need food.

“Don't fuss,” Anna said, as Jarvis looked down the list with dismay. “We have more than we need already. We are very lucky, and we will be fine.”

Jarvis nodded. “Yes, of course you're right,” he said.

There was a piano in the parlour, and Jarvis' first thought was that they might be able to sell it for a bit of money for Anna's wardrobe, so long as Mr Stark didn't object. However, as soon as Anna saw it, she made a squeak of delight and sat down and began to play. The piano would stay.

He left her plinking away when it was time to meet Mr Stark. The door was unlocked, and he stepped into the foyer. The bags were where he'd left them, and Mr Stark wasn't in sight. Jarvis stood for a few minutes, before going down the stairs into the foyer to see if he could locate him.

“Mr Stark?” he called.

“Yep, in here,” Mr Stark called back.

Jarvis followed the voice. He was in a billiard room, bent over to make a shot. There was a full bar along one wall, stocked well with spirits, and a gramophone played softly in one corner of the room.

“Hey there. You and Mrs Jarvis keen on your place?” Mr Stark asked.

“Yes, sir, we're very overwhelmed,” Jarvis replied. “I can't thank you enough for your generosity.”

“Yes, you can,” Mr Stark said. He straightened up and took a sip of his drink. “'Cause you have. Listen, I didn't do this for you to thank me every five minutes for the rest of our lives, so let's say we're going to accept the fact that I'm a generous guy, and you're deserving of the generosity, and we'll forget about the thank yous. Okay?”

“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said.

“Good,” Mr Stark said. “You want a drink? Long day at immigration, I needed one. Bureaucracy makes me grumpy.”

Immigration had been exhausting. Even with Mr Stark speeding things along for them, there were so many people and such a lot of waiting, and then such a lot of questions. The fact that Jarvis already had employment worked well in his favour, and Anna's sewing skills qualified her as a skilled labourer, which was another point to them. He'd still feared being rejected and sent back to England, right up to the moment they were approved.

“I'm fine, thank you, sir,” Jarvis said. “If you'd prefer to wait to show me around...”

“No, I can walk and drink at the same time,” Mr Stark said. “Come on, I'll give you the tour I give the ladies.” He strode out of the room and Jarvis followed. “I'll call Finestein in the morning, he's my lawyer. He'll figure out a contract for you, once we've decided what exactly you're going to do for me.”

“I thought I was meant to be a butler,” Jarvis said.

“Yeah, but...what exactly do you do as a butler?” Mr Stark asked.

“Have you never had a butler before?” Jarvis said. He'd assumed Mr Stark was, like so many, merely without help due to the war making servants scarce. Although, now that he thought about it, America wasn't at war, officially.

“God, no,” Mr Stark said, as though the suggestion of a butler were laughable. “No. Where I'm from, we weren't even good enough to be the servants, let alone have them. I'm that thing your countrymen hate most: a self-made man.”

“I see,” seemed to be the most appropriate response to that. Jarvis had assumed Mr Stark came from some line of American Starks, like the Vanderbilts or Astors. Old money, not a parvenu. He should evidently stop assuming things. “What made you want a butler then, sir?”

“I don't know,” Mr Stark said, his brow furrowed. “I was in England for awhile there, and I think I just liked the idea of having one while all the Lords so-and-so and Dukes what's-their-faces moaned about how hard it was to get good help these days. I thought it might make me a little more welcome if I came with staff. Make me look more legitimate, even if I wasn't.”

“You thought perhaps they'd stop making you come in through the tradesman's entrance?” Jarvis suggested.

“Exactly,” Mr Stark said, tipping his drink toward him in acknowledgement. “It's not that I care about that, but appearance is what you need in business. If it makes them more comfortable that I don't shine my shoes myself, then I can get down to business a lot faster. Here in America, we appreciate hard work more than you guys do, but we still have a Roosevelt in the White House. You should see the house he grew up in.”

Jarvis smiled. “You're very young to have acquired all this yourself,” he said.

“The hardest part is getting started,” Mr Stark said. “Once you've got your foot in the door, everyone wants to be your friend. Hate to say this, but the war in Europe has made me a commodity. Good timing on my part. Have you ever been a butler before?”

“No,” Jarvis admitted. “But I believe I know the basics.”

“So, you and I are both sort of virgins,” Mr Stark said.

“Yes, I suppose so,” Jarvis said. “In a manner of speaking.”

“All right, that puts us on equal footing, then,” Mr Stark said. “We'll just make it up as we go along.” He opened a set of doors at the end of the hallway. “This is the conservatory. Sometimes I have breakfast in here if I have a girl over, but otherwise I don't use it much. There's a guy who comes in once a week and does all the plants.”

“What day does he come?” Jarvis asked.

“Search me,” Mr Stark said, with a shrug.

Jarvis pulled out his notebook and wrote 'find out which day gardener comes' in it. Mr Stark closed the doors and carried on.

“This is the drawing room,” he said. “It's the room I use if I'm entertaining a group of people. I don't usually split the group after dinner, but if I do, the ladies come in here and the men go to the billiard room. The French doors go out into the back yard. There's a pool out there, and some gardens.”

They moved onwards, Mr Stark opening another set of double doors and entering the room beyond. “This is the library. I do business in here; keeps everyone out of my office.”

“This is a very impressive collection of books, sir,” Jarvis said, pausing by one of the shelves.

“Feel free to borrow,” Mr Stark said. “Someone might as well get some use out of them. I don't read.” He smirked as Jarvis looked over in surprise. “I know, I'm a genius, I'm supposed to be able to quote the Complete Works of Shakespeare and speak Latin fluently, right? I just can't get into books. I try and, about two pages in, I think about everything else I could be doing.”

“I'm sure you're very busy,” Jarvis said.

“No, it's not even that,” Mr Stark said. “It's not the time, it's focussing. I can't keep my interest on it. I think it's a thing you have to start when you're a kid. My parents weren't stupid, but they left school when they were kids, so they read like kids, you know? They weren't good at it. They read the paper and the Bible, and that was it. I think you need to have books around to like books. Just a theory.”

“I think it's a sound one,” Jarvis said. He'd been surrounded by books as a child, handed down from one sibling to the next and brought in from relatives and borrowed from the big house his parents worked in. “There's nothing shameful in not having an interest in books. But why do you have so many?”

“Looks good,” Mr Stark said, with a shrug. “And I like collecting things. And a lot of them came with the house.”

“I hope you have them insured,” Jarvis said. “I suspect you have several First Editions in here.”

“Probably,” Mr Stark said.

'Catalogue library' went onto Jarvis' list of things to do. Mr Stark went over and touched a latch on a bookcase, which opened into a door.

“This is my office,” he said.

Jarvis followed him through into what amounted to the aftermath of a bomb going off. Papers and tools and machine parts were strewn everywhere. Papers on chairs, papers on shelves, papers on desks. Bits of this and that. Nothing was in any place it logically should be.

“This is why I have meetings in the library,” Mr Stark said, looking around.

“Yes, you wouldn't want someone to sit down and never be found again,” Jarvis agreed.

“Sometimes I think 'yeah, today I'm going to do something about this',” Mr Stark said. “And then I don't. Oh well, it works fine. I know where everything is. Mostly.”

'Organize Office (!)' went on the list.

Mr Stark took Jarvis across the foyer to the lower west wing of the house, and Jarvis took more notes about Mr Stark's preferences ('I don't use the dining room unless I have company. It's huge. I eat in my office') and what needed to be done ('find out Cook's name, find out when Cook comes, find out what Cook makes, find Cook').

“That's, um, I think they call it a servery,” Mr Stark said, pointing into a room a step down from the kitchen. “I call it the staff room. That's where the maids and the cook eat and take breaks when they're here. The maids come Monday and Thursday.”

“Do they come from an agency?” Jarvis asked, making a note of it.

“Yeah,” Mr Stark said.

“Do you know the name of it?” Jarvis asked.

“Nope,” Mr Stark said.

'Find out where maids come from' went on the list.

“The deliveries come through that door there, so I guess that's the tradesman's entrance,” Mr Stark said, with a grin.

They went down to the wine cellar, which was very well-stocked.

“I'll need to see the cellar accounts,” Jarvis said.

“The who accounts?” Mr Stark said.

“The cellar accounts,” Jarvis said. “Do you not keep a weekly inventory of the wine?”

“If I do, I don't know about it,” Mr Stark said.

'Do cellar accounts' went on the list.

They went down to the basement level next, which was surprisingly large. Mr Stark said 'this is the lab' as though it were merely another room, when in fact it ran at least half the length of the house, and had every tool Jarvis could conceive of in it, and a great more he'd never thought to conceive.

“I spend most of my time in here,” Mr Stark said. “It's where I do my work.”

Jarvis looked around, his mouth agape. “Is there anything I shouldn't touch?” he asked.

“Yeah, don't touch that,” Mr Stark said, pointing at a large vat-like object.

Jarvis made a note.

“Or that,” Mr Stark said, pointing to a large engine-like object whirring ominously.

Jarvis made a note.

“Or anything over there,” Mr Stark said, making a circling gesture.

“Sir, I believe you've just indicated the whole area,” Jarvis said.

“Yeah,” Mr Stark said. “That's about right.”

Jarvis crossed out the previous notes and merely wrote down 'do not touch lab'. He was relieved to move on from it. He was shown a vault, which he was told had many of Mr Stark's 'babies' in it. Mr Stark didn't open the door, but it was solid enough to make a very good bomb shelter, and opened with a complicated locking system.

They returned to the ground floor, and then went upstairs.

“The west wing is basically closed off,” Mr Stark said, gesturing to the left hallway. “I don't need the rooms. If I have guests staying, they use these bedrooms. There's three of them, and then there's these rooms, but I don't know what they're for.”

Jarvis peered in. “Children,” he said. “They're for children. This is the playroom or schoolroom, and the connecting rooms would be for a nanny over here and a nursery over here.”

“Huh,” Mr Stark said. “Well, no children to worry about in this place. Should make your job easier.”

“Indeed,” Jarvis said.

“And this is the master,” Mr Stark said.

Jarvis could feel his eyelid begin to twitch. Mr Stark had changed when he'd come home, and his clothes from earlier in the day had been thrown around the room. There were papers here, too, and more tools and machine parts. Bits of fabric were peeking out of drawers in the wardrobe from clothing that had been stuffed in there with no regard for folding. The lavatory's cabinet door was open and inside was a mess of objects.

“There's a walk-in closet and dressing room through there,” Mr Stark said.

Jarvis braced himself and opened the door. It was as bad as he feared. The suits that were hung weren't matched. Shirts and trousers and waistcoats were all mixed in together. The shoes were strewn over the floor, and none of them were paired. Jarvis had an near overwhelming urge to take everything out and begin entirely again. He wondered if the maid staff had at some point given up hope and left it to fester.

'Organize wardrobe (!!!!!!)' went on the list.

He looked through a few drawers and opened doors. One wardrobe was entirely filled with women's clothing. Jarvis paused here, wondering if he should comment. His employer's predilections were entirely his own business, of course, and, at this point, Jarvis owed such a great deal to Mr Stark that if he chose to wear a pinafore and stilettos, Jarvis wouldn't care a jot.

“Oh, you should take some of that for Anna,” Mr Stark called. “If she needs things. I keep that for my overnight guests, but she's welcome to any of it.”

Yes. That made more sense than Mr Stark's desiring to be en travesti. His 'overnight guests' seemed to be rather abundant, judging from the three separate women Jarvis observed leaving his cabin on the boat ride over.

“Thank you, sir, I'll make her aware of it,” Jarvis called back.

He returned to the bedroom, where Mr Stark was flopped down on the bed, sketching on one of the many pieces of paper.

“So, that's it,” Mr Stark said. “There's another level above this with staff quarters, but those are closed off, too. And the garage of course, but you know what cars look like, I'm assuming. Anything else you need to know?”

“What time to do you rise in the morning?” Jarvis asked.

“When I wake up,” Mr Stark said. “I don't usually do anything constructive until about 8:00, though.”

Jarvis made a note. “Do you take your breakfast downstairs or in bed?” he asked.

Mr Stark paused in his drawing to look interested. “I can get it in bed?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said. “Does no one bring a tray up for you?”

“No,” Mr Stark said. “Granted, I've never asked them to. I'm kinda sore no one's offered, now.”

“I'll arrange it with Cook,” Jarvis said, making a note. “What time do you retire in the evening?”

“When I'm tired,” Mr Stark said. “When I'm done working or my guests are ready for bed. No set time.”

Jarvis puzzled over this. “Perhaps you could just ring for me when you're ready for help with your toilet, then,” he said.

“My what?” Mr Stark said.

“Your evening routine,” Jarvis said. “I can help you undress and get ready for bed.”

“I...know how to do that myself,” Mr Stark said, puzzled. “Is that what butlers do? Take your clothes off? Did you take the General's clothes off?”

“No,” Jarvis said. “He removed his own clothing. My job would be to see that it gets properly stored for laundering, and to lay out your pyjamas.”

“Oh, okay,” Mr Stark said. He looked relieved. “For a moment I thought I was getting more service than I signed off on. Let's not do that part. Why don't you just do whatever for me when you go home for the day, and leave it for me for when I come to bed?”

“Very well,” Jarvis said, making another note. “I think that should cover most things to begin with, and we'll be able to sort out the rest as we come to it.”

“Sounds good,” Mr Stark said.

“Do you wish me to help you with your toilet tonight?” Jarvis asked.

“No, you'll start officially in the morning,” Mr Stark said. “Go to your new home and be with your new wife, and tomorrow you can start your new life.”

“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said.

“Oh, wait!” Mr Stark said. He reached over and picked up a piece of paper from the bedside table. “I'm going to advance your salary. I know we haven't decided on a salary yet, but you're going to need money to settle in, so this'll start you off.”

“Sir, please,” Jarvis said, perhaps a little exasperated. “Please stop giving me things, I'll never be able to repay you.”

“Give yourself a week with me as your employer,” Mr Stark said. “You're gonna realize that we're making a pretty even swap.”




Jarvis returned home, Mr Stark's cheque forcibly stuffed in his pocket. He was a bit daunted at all the planning and reorganizing he was going to need to be getting on with. He would have liked to start immediately, if only because the state of things kept flashing up in his mind like some sort of horrific after image.

Anna was laying down in their room when he returned, looking very tired. Not only had it been a long day, but she'd had a touch of mal de mer that had been just enough to leave her wobbly and dizzy while they were on the boat, and kept her confined to their cabin for most of the journey. Mr Stark declared this to be 'as it should be' and suggested Jarvis 'make the most of it'. They had, in fact, made, if not the most of it, at least a great deal, but Jarvis imagined she was happy to be on dry land again. Her shoes were still on, and Jarvis sat on the bed and took them off for her.

“No, don't look at my big feet,” she said, pulling her knees up to her chest and tucking her feet under her skirt. “My feet are far too large, you shouldn't see them.”

“Am I to spend the whole of our marriage avoiding your feet?” Jarvis asked, amused. “They don't look too grotesque to me.”

“They are big, too big,” Anna insisted. “When I was a girl, I used to put them in ice water to make them stop growing. It did not work.”

Jarvis retrieved them and put them in his lap, rubbing them as he examined them. “Hmmm...no, I'm afraid I'm not horrified,” he said.

She made some rather appealing noises as he hit her arches with his thumbs, and the after images in his brain were replaced by something more pleasant for a few minutes, until he'd worked away the knots in her feet. She gave a happy sigh, and wiggled her toes at him.

“What is the house like? Is it very fancy?” she asked.

“Yes,” Jarvis said. “Extremely fancy. Extremely disorganized as well. I have a lot of work ahead of me. I've no idea how he's managed to build his company up to this level if this is the state he lives in.”

“He is a very big man,” Anna said. Jarvis wasn't sure if she meant 'loud' or 'important'. Either would apply. “People who are big and good at something are allowed to be messy.”

“I suspect it's going to be an entirely different experience from working for the General,” Jarvis said.

“Will you be sad that it's different?” Anna asked.

“No,” Jarvis said. “I think it will be rather an adventure, though.”

“Maybe it will be a fun adventure,” Anna said, optimistically. “And you will have so much enjoyment making his house organized, and putting all the things in their little places.”

Jarvis laughed. “Yes. If I don't go mad in the process.”

Anna rose up and crawled over to him. “I will keep you sane,” she said, giving his cheek a kiss.

“Thank you, Annuska,” he said, resting his head against hers. “Are you hungry? We should have something to eat.”

“I'm...what's the word...” Anna said. “Is it ravishing?”

“You are ravishing,” Jarvis said, with a smile. “But I think you're looking for 'famished'.”

“Yes, that's it,” Anna said. “There is a basket of food in the kitchen, with a card to welcome us. We can eat from there tonight.”

Jarvis was a little dismayed at having yet another thing to add to his tally owed to Mr Stark, but at the same time delighted that they could stay in and not have to find something for themselves. He wanted to eat and go to sleep, and start his life fresh in the morning. It was certainly going to be interesting, but he thought it was going to be rather enjoyable as well.

There was bread and fruit in the basket, as well as cheese, and Jarvis and Anna did very well for themselves, and put the rest in the icebox. They went out to the parlour afterwards, and listened to the wireless for a while, until they both agreed that they wouldn't mind getting ready for bed. Anna went to have a bath, and was in there for so long that Jarvis knocked to see if she'd fallen asleep.

“No, I am just very happy!” she called back, and he could hear her splashing around.

She finally emerged, and he went in to wash, and changed into his pyjamas. She was sat on the bed when he returned, her hand over her eyes, and murmuring reverently. He went around to his side of the bed quietly so as not to disturb her prayers. She'd told him that she didn't pray as often as she should, but it was more important now. Jarvis understood that. One had to cling onto what one could when they were trying to tear everything away.

He'd asked her if she wanted him to convert, but she was very definite that he shouldn't.

“You don't ask me to do it, I won't ask you,” she'd said.

He'd pointed out that his religious convictions weren't quite as deep as hers, so it would be less to give up. He didn't pray as much as he should, either.

“Then what is the point in converting to not do it as a Jew?” was her response.

He agreed that there was very little point in it.

Anna finished her prayers and pulled down the covers. He climbed in on his own side. She rolled over to face him, and took his hand. He turned the lamp off, and rolled to face her and put his hand over hers. Those first couple of days, before they were married, they'd fallen asleep like this, talking quietly for hours at a time. It had been so long since they'd seen one another that just talking face to face was lovely. It had seemed much easier to say what he wanted in the dark.

“Thank you for giving up so much for me,” he said, tonight. “I promise to look after you.”

Her lips found his, briefly. “We will look after each other,” she said.

He smiled, and closed his eyes.

“Edwin, are you still thinking about Mr Stark's mess?” she asked, after they had lain there for a while.

“Yes,” he admitted.

“Go to sleep, csilligom,” she said. “It will still be there in the morning.”

“Yes,” he said. “That's very much what I'm afraid of.”




PART TWO-->