Characters: Edwin Jarvis, Howard Stark, Tony Stark, Maria Stark
Warnings/Triggers: some crude language and humour
Spoilers: A few character details from the MCU, nothing too earth-shattering
Pairings: Howard/Maria, references to Jarvis/Anna
Word Count 5,847
Summary: Jarvis attempts to get the Stark Family out the door for a social engagement, after having making the critical error of stopping for tea.
Author's notes: No idea where this came from, I think I just wanted to mess around with some dynamics.
Set in 1984. Tony is about 14 years old here, Howard and Jarvis somewhere in their mid-sixties, and Maria around 50, maybe younger or older.
I've constructed Maria from what little we know about her in the MCU, and bits and pieces of various comic books incarnations, with a heavy dose of me Making Stuff Up thrown in.
On days of social engagements, Jarvis had to be extremely faithful to his schedule. He had to have everything accomplished well in advance of the event, as nothing would have time to be done later on. All his concentration would be required to get his employers and their son out the door and into the limo at the appropriate hour.
He was two minutes behind schedule today, and feared that would be enough to make everything come crashing down. He felt regretful that he'd stopped for tea. He could have gone without the tea and been five minutes ahead instead of two minutes behind, but without the tea, he felt it would be impossible to function at all.
At 4:32PM, he brought down a tray to Mr Stark's lab in the lower caverns of the mansion. Mr Stark preferred to eat before social engagements, but nothing heavy, so Jarvis had made some sandwiches for him. He rapped once on the door and entered.
“Hand me that clamp,” Mr Stark said, pointing vaguely behind him.
Jarvis observed the wall of clamps and the project Mr Stark had in front of him, made an educated guess as to the size required, and removed it from the holder. He placed it in Mr Stark's hand.
“The car will be arriving at 7:30 this evening to take you to the gala,” Jarvis said.
“Yep,” Mr Stark said, clamping two pieces of metal together. “Goggles.”
Jarvis raised a pair of welding goggles to his face as Mr Stark nodded to lower the helmet on his head and welded the two pieces together.
“You should go over the key points of—,” Jarvis said, when the sparks paused for a moment. They started up again and he waited. “—Your speech before the event.”
“What am I speaking about?” Mr Stark asked, during the next break.
“Providing scholarships to disadvantaged youths and encouraging them in the pursuit of the sciences,” Jarvis said.
“Do I care a lot about that or just a little?” Mr Stark asked. He raised his helmet and lifted the metal up to examine it with a critical eye.
“You are the largest contributor to the charity,” Jarvis said. “You care a great deal.”
“Okay, so passionate voice, then?” Mr Stark asked. “Or witty billionaire voice?”
Jarvis paused to consider. “If I were to make a suggestion,” he said. “I suspect something fatherly would be appropriate. Calling forth the youth and supporting them.”
“Okay, rich know-it-all with heart of gold voice,” Mr Stark said. “I'll do that.”
“Very good, sir,” Jarvis said. He placed the tray in a clear spot on the workbench and collected some of the rubbish that needed disposing. “I will remind you again when it's time to dress. I've left the notes and a light meal on a tray here for you.”
“Yep,” Mr Stark said.
Jarvis returned the goggles to their hook, and went back upstairs.
“Thank you!” Mr Stark bellowed up after him, several seconds later.
Jarvis returned to the kitchen to grab a tray for Master Tony. It had a more complete meal, as Master Tony had reached an age where all he seemed to do was eat and grow, and entire cartons of milk and boxes of cereal often disappeared overnight. He was in the playroom, which was now more of a workshop than anything else. Jarvis rapped and entered.
“Hey, Jarvis, say something,” Master Tony said.
“Excuse me?” Jarvis said.
'Excuse me?' his voice echoed back from some sort of device on the workbench.
“I need more than that,” Master Tony said. “Say something longer.”
“Master Tony, I don't have time to be mocked by an aping machine,” Jarvis said.
The device echoed it back.
“No, come on,” Master Tony said. “I need lots of different sounds. Say something! Tell me a story. Or...a poem. Or...pretend you're mad and you need to scold me.”
“I shall not be pretending soon enough,” Jarvis said. He sighed. It was oftentimes much easier to indulge the whims of the Starks than question them. “'I wandered lonely as a cloud/that floats on high o'er vales and hills/when all at once I saw a crowd,/ a host, of golden daffodils;/ beside the lake, beneath the trees/fluttering and dancing in the breeze.'”
“No, don't go so fast,” Master Tony said. “Say it like a normal person.”
Yes, stopping for tea had been a horrible idea. The whole operation was in jeopardy thanks to the 2nd Earl Grey. Jarvis imagined his valet had a much easier go of things.
“'Continuous as the stars that shine/and twinkle on the milky way,/they stretched in never-ending line/along the margin of a bay:/ten thousand saw I at a glance,/tossing their heads in sprightly dance,” he recited the next stanza, using his best vowels and crispest consonants.
“Cool-city,” Master Tony said, happily. He began to fiddle about with some dials. “I'm teaching Bob how to talk.”
“Bob?” Jarvis asked.
“Box Of Bolts,” Master Tony said. “B.O.B.”
He gestured to a small tape recorder device housed in the stomach of a friendly, if primitive robot. It had a smiling face, but much of its inner workings were visible and Jarvis found that somewhat distressing. He wasn't sure if it was because the robot looked injured or just because it was naked, and Jarvis found how pleased it looked about either possibility unsettling.
“I see,” Jarvis said. “You couldn't use your own voice?”
“I'm not a grown-up,” Master Tony explained. “If it talks like me, no one will take it seriously. And your voice is cool. You sound important, because you're British.”
That was a notion most Americans had. Jarvis wondered if he'd returned to the country of his birth if anyone there would find him very important. Probably just jumped up and tedious. He also wondered if the Americans would find him as important-sounding if he used the accent he was born with, which was not nearly so posh. That was something he'd picked up during schooling and his time in the big house where he'd worked as a youth.
“I've brought you some supper,” Jarvis said. “You should eat it before you go out this evening so you don't ransack the servers later on.”
“Where am I going?” Master Tony asked.
“There is a charity gala event tonight, at the Waldorf-Astoria,” Jarvis said.
“How big?” Master Tony asked.
“Sizeable,” Jarvis said. “I would say between five-hundred to seven-hundred guests.”
“Okay, that's not too bad,” Master Tony said. “What's it for?”
“The Starlight Project,” Jarvis said. “It provides scholarships and opportunities to low-income children who are interested in science.”
“That's cool,” Tony said. “I can talk about that if people ask me. Sometimes I just make stuff up, because I don't really know what they're talking about.”
Jarvis smiled. “I'm sure that's a skill that will stand you in good stead,” he said. “I believe there will be some of the children who have benefited from the project there, so you could perhaps help them feel more at ease. You're very personable, and I'm sure they'll be overwhelmed.”
Tony nodded. “Yeah, be a good boy, I gotcha,” he said.
“You have about two hours before you should begin to get ready,” Jarvis said. “Please keep that in mind before you get too heavily into your project.”
“Yep,” Tony said, already not listening.
Jarvis placed the tray next to him, which was set upon immediately. “Master Tony, do not use your hands,” he said. “You are not a barbarian.”
“I know, there are children in Biafra who don't have forks who wished they did,” Tony said. He picked up the fork and shoved some food into his mouth, then smiled brightly at Jarvis and went back to work.
Jarvis left, trying to muffle his laughter. It would only encourage him.
Mrs Stark preferred not to eat before social events. Unlike Mr Stark and Master Tony, she was not brought up to be at ease amongst the wealthy elite, and while she had adapted well due to her intelligence and natural kindness, Jarvis suspected it was still rather an effort for her to charm and mingle. She did much better when working hands-on with a charity than promoting it at a function. He made some toast with butter for her, and brought it to her laboratory, pausing before he entered to see whether the danger light was on over the door, which would require him to put on a mask. Sometimes, he suspected Mrs Stark put on the light merely to discourage interruption, but he held no ill will towards her for that.
It was off today, so he knocked and waited to be given permission to enter. He was trained never to ask for admittance unless entering a bedchamber, as that would entail quite a lot of effort on his employer's part to be constantly giving permission, but after spending the first several months of her marriage startling Mrs Stark on almost every occasion that he entered, he had adopted a policy of waiting for acknowledgement.
“Come in!” she called.
He opened the door and passed through the isolation area into the lab proper. She had her eye to a microscope and didn't look up as he entered. He'd managed to convince her after about a year of her marriage to Mr Stark that stopping what she was doing to greet him was not only unnecessary but distressing to him, and she'd taken it to heart. It was his job to be as unobtrusive as possible in his employers' lives.
“Is it time to get ready?” she asked.
“No, some time yet, ma'am,” Jarvis said. “I thought you might like a bit of something to eat before then.”
“Oh, that's thoughtful, thank you,” Mrs Stark said.
She held out a Petri dish. Jarvis waited for a moment, uncertain as to what he was meant to do, then placed the toast on the workbench, grabbed a latex glove to shield his hand, and took the dish, hoping it didn't contain some strain of Spanish Flu or a deadly toxin.
“The beautician will come at six to help you prepare,” he went on. “The event is black tie.”
“Oh good, that's my favourite tie,” Mrs Stark said, dryly. She looked up from her microscope and stared at his hand. “Why are you—did I give that to you?”
“Yes, ma'am,” Jarvis said.
She gave one of her barking laughs. “I have no idea why I did that,” she said. “Sorry. Here, I'll take it back. Don't worry, it's just seaweed.” She chuckled again and put the dish aside. “I hope you're planning to have a nice evening while we're all out. You should go to the movies or the theatre. I'm sure we could get you tickets for something last minute.”
“I'd much prefer to stay in, ma'am,” Jarvis said, truthfully. “Although Master Tony is still very insistent that I 'have to' see Terminator, perhaps this would be a good night to go to the cinema.”
Mrs Stark laughed. “God, he and Howard are obsessed with that movie,” she said. “They've seen it three times already. It's nice that they have something like that.”
“Yes, ma'am,” Jarvis said. “It is.”
Master Tony and Mr Stark were very often at odds. It was sad, as they were so similar in personality that Jarvis thought if they could learn to communicate, they would be good friends.
“I hear 'La Cage Aux Folles' is very good,” Mrs Stark said. “I'm sure we could get you rush tickets.”
“Thank you, ma'am,” Jarvis said. “But I'm really quite happy to stay in.”
Jarvis spent the next hour doing small tasks to help prepare for the evening. He selected Mr Stark and Master Tony's attire, and ironed it, and placed it on their beds. He shined their shoes. Women's clothing had never been his purview, so he merely ensured Mrs Stark had a selection of gowns to choose from and that the dressing room was tidy enough for the beautician to work in. Mr and Mrs Stark shared a dressing room, which meant that what started out perfectly spotless at the beginning of the week was usually quite disastrous by the end.
Once that was done, he went down to collect Mr Stark's tray, and asked a few surreptitious questions that confirmed that Mr Stark had not gone over his speech, and politely reminded him to do that. He went to collect Master Tony's tray and discovered B.O.B was now speaking like Jarvis and saying phrases Jarvis had not said, with Master Tony having somehow spliced together various sounds from the recordings he'd made of him.
“It sounds weird because the emphasis is wrong,” Master Tony said. “But he can say a few things now. Pretty cool, huh?”
“It's very clever,” Jarvis said, finding the whole thing rather off-putting.
“Eventually, I want him to be able to respond in real sentences that make sense,” Master Tony said. “Like, if you type in a message or something, he'd respond. Or even if you could talk to him, but that'll take even longer to figure out, so I'm just working on the 1.0 version now.”
“It sounds very promising,” Jarvis said. “But I'm afraid you'll have to take a pause to start to get ready, soon enough. It will likely be a late night tonight, you might wish to lie down before you go out.”
Master Tony rolled his eyes. “I'm not five any more, Jarvis,” he said. “I don't take naps. I'm up late all the time.”
Yes, and he was quite irritable as a result, on occasion.
“People of your age require more sleep than other stages of life,” Jarvis said. “It's not a comment on your maturity, merely your hormones. Speaking of which, might I suggest that you shave before you go out?”
Master Tony stroked his chin, which only had a few stray, but noticeable hairs. “How often do you shave?” he asked.
“Every day,” Jarvis said. “Twice, if I'm using a safety razor and not a straight one.”
Master Tony looked defeated. “I only need to shave, like, once a week,” he said. “It'd be easier at school if I had a beard. I'd look older.”
“I didn't start shaving until I was sixteen, you're already ahead of the game,” Jarvis assured him. “However, until you begin to sprout enough for a beard, I suggest you shave and look the age you are.”
“Fine,” Master Tony said. “But I'm not having a nap.”
Small victories. Better to have an overtired teenager than one with pictures in all the papers with little hairs over his face making it look as though he hadn't washed it.
“Very good,” Jarvis said. “You have half an hour, then you should start to prepare.”
He took the tray back to the kitchen, and let the beautician and his assistant in to set-up for Mrs Stark, then went down to the workshop to once again encourage Mr Stark to take a look at his notes.
“For Christ's sake, Jarvis, I've given a million speeches in my life, I can do it on the fly,” Mr Stark said. “I'm not going to forget how to read—do NOT mention Munich.”
“I believe it's in my contract to never mention Munich, sir,” Jarvis said. “However, it might be best to know the subject you're going to speak on before you have to give interviews and soundbytes for it.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Mr Stark said. “Give me five more minutes.”
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said.
He returned to Mrs Stark's lab to notify her of the arrival of the beautician. “I'm almost done, can you give me five more minutes?” she said.
“Yes, ma'am,” Jarvis said.
He went back downstairs to the workshop. Mr Stark waved the notecards at him when he arrived.
“I'm reading! Look, I'm happy to be here, I'm very proud of the effort the organizers have put in, I feel very passionate about the cause,” Mr Stark said. “Joke, joke, hahaha, modesty; I'm on top of it. Go bother someone else.”
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said.
He went back up to the lab. Mrs Stark was just stepping out and gave him a wave before hurrying off toward her room. Jarvis looked down at his watch. He had lost a further minute. It was going to be very touch and go.
Jarvis rang the garage to verify the driver and car would be arriving at 7:30 as arranged. Additions to the family over the years had made it prudent to have other drivers instead of just him, and his increasingly poor night vision made a younger driver the best choice for late night functions. He wasn't resentful, but he sometimes felt a little unnecessary when his duties were reduced, even if he recognized those decisions were made with affection and with his well-being in mind.
He pried Master Tony away from B.O.B and sent him off to his ablutions, then went back downstairs to make the first of what he estimated would be three attempts to pry Mr Stark away from his project. It took four attempts, but eventually Mr Stark was upstairs and showering. Mrs Stark was reading a science journal as the beautician blow dried her hair, and Master Tony had made it to his bedroom, but not his shower, so Jarvis provided encouragement. He returned fifteen minutes later and helped him deal with the nicks to his face, as Master Tony's shaving skills were not up to par yet.
“How do you use a straight razor and not die?” Master Tony said, as Jarvis applied the styptic pencil to his wounds. “Ouch!”
“A good deal of practice,” Jarvis said. “And that fact that I have often shaved other men's faces, and killing them would have been highly frowned upon.”
“Did you ever really hurt them?” Master Tony wondered. “Did you ever get Dad?”
“Only once,” Jarvis said. “He was very jittery, so we were both at fault.”
“Why was he jittery?” Master Tony asked.
“He was getting married,” Jarvis said, with a smile.
Master Tony grinned. “Mom said he was a complete mess,” he said, sounding very pleased at the thought.
“He was rather nervous, yes,” Jarvis said.
That had only cemented Jarvis' opinion that Mr Stark was indeed in love with Mrs Stark. If she meant less to him, he wouldn't have been nervous. He wouldn't have cared how it went, or if he was making the right decision, or if it would last. Mr Stark only lacked confidence when failure meant something other than a loss of money or status.
“Were you nervous when you married Anna?” Master Tony asked. His brow furrowed. “Is it okay that I talk about her, still?”
“Of course,” Jarvis said. “Talking about people we've lost is the best way to honour them.” He dabbed again at a particularly deep nick. “I didn't have time to be nervous. We were married very quickly, in a civil ceremony, with your father as the only witness. I was more nervous when we weren't married, as we were pretending to be and I was afraid someone would find out.” He stepped back from Master Tony and looked for any further wounds. “There we go. Brush the pencil powder off before you put your clothes on, and you'll be right as rain.”
“Thanks,” Master Tony said. He looked at himself in the mirror. “What did you do when you cut Dad's face? How did you cover it up?”
“Sticking plasters and some of your mother's foundation,” Jarvis said. “Rather good work, if I say so myself. You can't even see it in the pictures.” He looked down at his watch. “You have half an hour before you need to start getting dressed. Are you sure you don't want to lie down, just to rest?”
“Hey, I shaved,” Master Tony said, pointing to his face. “No going back on deals.”
“Of course,” Jarvis said, with an apologetic nod. “You're a man of honour, I should have known better.”
“Jarvis, where's the alum block?” Mr Stark bellowed, from his bathroom.
“In the medicine cabinet, left side, third shelf, beside the talcum,” Jarvis replied, from the bedroom. There was a loose button on Mr Stark's shirt and he was sewing it more securely, more out of precaution than actual need.
“Okay, yeah, got it,” Mr Stark said. “Some day I'm going to ask you where something is and you're not going to know, and I'm going feel very smug.”
“On that day, sir, I intend to retire and go and live in a home for the senile,” Jarvis said.
“I'll visit you,” Mr Stark said. “I'll bring you kippers.”
“I don't like kippers, sir,” Jarvis reminded him.
“I know, but you won't remember,” Mr Stark said. “And I'll get to see what happens when you actually eat one.”
Jarvis chuckled. Mrs Stark came through the connecting door from the dressing room, wearing a robe, her hair styled, and all her make-up save her lipstick applied.
“What colour is Howard's cummerbund?” she asked.
“Royal purple,” Jarvis said, holding up the matching bow tie.
This new fashion of coloured accessories wasn't his favourite, but it so vastly improved on the hideous coloured tuxedo fashion of the previous decade that he felt wrong to think ill of it. He'd always felt vaguely sick dressing Mr Stark in pastel, even if it was au courant.
Mrs Stark narrowed her eyes in thought. “I'll just wear black,” she said, decidedly, and went back into the dressing room.
Jarvis secured the button to his satisfaction and took the shirt to iron out the wrinkles he'd inflicted in the sewing process. He went to check on Master Tony, who was now halfway dressed and promised to be fully dressed after he finished drawing something 'super important'.
Jarvis let the beautician and his assistant out now that they were done, and took the shirt back upstairs. Mr and Mrs Stark were exchanging words in the dressing room, and he attempted to engage his selective hearing so as not to intrude on their privacy. They had always communicated largely through bickering, in a way that was more affectionate than hostile, but over the years, Jarvis had noticed less light-heartedness in the banter.
“No, I don't need to hear about this again,” Mr Stark said, his voice raising as he came toward the bedroom, so that Jarvis picked it up without meaning to do so.
“I don't want to have to say it again,” Mrs Stark said.
“Then don't,” Mr Stark said.
He came into the bedroom and Jarvis smiled and held out the shirt for him to put on. Mr Stark snatched it and muttered something under his breath that Jarvis purposely didn't attempt to make out.
“Sometimes I'm an asshole and I don't mean to be,” Mr Stark said, with a sigh.
“That's unfortunate, sir,” Jarvis said. He handed him his trousers.
Mr Stark laughed softly. “When you're senile, I'm going to ask you what you really think of me,” he said. “And you won't remember to be British and it'll be a real eye-opener. Isn't there a thing? 'No man is a hero to his valet'?”
“I believe that is the idiom, yes,” Jarvis said. “However, I'd like to think it refers to the closeness of the relationship and being able to think of him as human and not as a god, like other servants might. The kitchen maids at the big house I worked at were terrified of the lord of the manor. I've never been terrified of you.”
Mr Stark gave a little smile as Jarvis fastened his cummerbund. “You know, that's really a nicer answer than if you'd given me some bullshit about respecting me,” he said.
“I do respect you, sir,” Jarvis said. “But I am quite aware you are a human being as well.”
Mrs Stark came into the bedroom as Jarvis handed Mr Stark his tie.
“Whoever decided bows should make a comeback should be drawn and quartered,” she said, holding her arms out wide to show off her dress. “I look like Minnie Mouse. This is a designer dress. Someone made this dress with high quality fabric, and sent it down a runway, and built it to my exact measurements and no one along the way said, 'maybe we should take the giant tumour bow off'. And now I can't take the bow off, because it would be insulting to the designer. And next week's People will have a picture of me in this bow and the readers will think that this is a good thing because Maria Carrera Stark is wearing it, and I will have unleashed bows on the population of America like some sort of plague.”
Jarvis had to admit that the bow at the waist was rather large.
“It's nice,” Mr Stark said. “It's not that bad. It accentuates...” He seemed to be at a loss.
“If you say my ass, you are dead,” Mrs Stark said, with a stern point of her finger.
“There is nothing wrong with your ass!” Mr Stark said, in the voice of a man who had spent the last eighteen years reiterating the point. “I like your ass.”
“I have my mother's Italian ass,” Mrs Stark said.
“Yeah, and her ass was nice, too,” Mr Stark said.
Mrs Stark let out a disbelieving guffaw that turned into proper laughter. “Which shoes?” she asked, gesturing down to where she wore two different ones on her feet.
“Those ones,” Mr Stark and Jarvis said together, but pointing at a different foot.
Mrs Stark removed Jarvis' selection with apologetic look to him. “Howard knows about women's shoes,” she said.
“Knowing about women's shoes gets you women,” Howard said. “Dames love it when you know about their shoes.”
Mrs Stark raised an eyebrow.
“Some women, who are not dames, enjoy when a man who is single and not, as I am, happily married, takes an interest in their footwear in a kind and respectful manner, if they too have an interest in footwear, which is neither a sign of stupidity or intelligence,” Mr Stark clarified, quickly.
“It amazes me how fast you can pull that out of your ass,” Mrs Stark said, with a shake of her head.
“Babe, at my age, I have years of backtracking experience,” Mr Stark said. “And by Babe, I of course me, my darling, intelligent, non-objectified wife.”
“Babe is shorter,” Mrs Stark said. She went back into the dressing room, her gait lopsided from only wearing one shoe.
Jarvis held out Mr Stark's jacket and began to brush him down after he'd shrugged it on. He folded his pocket square and put it in, then decided he didn't like the fold he'd chosen and tried once more with a fancier fold, which also didn't look right, so he took it out once more.
“This is a stupid tie and it won't tie!” Master Tony announced, arriving in a cloud of frustration, holding the tie ahead of him as though it were an enemy. “It keeps slipping undone.”
“Yeah, the coefficient of friction on this silk is zero,” Mr Stark said.
“I know! That's not even physically possible and you're right!” Master Tony replied.
Mr Stark held out a hand. “Here, I'll show you a trick,” he said.
Master Tony stomped over and handed him the tie. Mr Stark put it around his neck and fumbled a little.
“I never have to do this for someone else,” he said. “Move around so you're in the mirror.” He stepped behind Master Tony and reached around his shoulders. “There. So, you know the basics. One side longer, that goes through the back, toss the long end over your shoulder, fold up the short end, toss the long end over the middle there, fold the short end like a taco, pull the long end through the hole in the back. Now, put your pointer finger in here and pull it until it's equal, but don't let go, just give one side a little...twist...there, and that'll keep it from slipping.”
“It gives more surface area under the knot so the coefficient of static friction is greater,” Master Tony said, enlightened. “Cool.”
Mr Stark gave a brisk nod. “Looking good, kid,” he said.
“Thanks,” Master Tony said.
Jarvis put Mr Stark's pocket square in, and decided it was acceptable. He took Master Tony's out and folded it properly; Master Tony didn't have the patience to do anything but stuff it in. Jarvis brushed Master Tony down. They were now approximately five minutes away from when the family should be leaving. He looked them both over to see if he could find anything out of place and was satisfied. They both looked very presentable, and in fashion, and tomorrow's papers would be filled with pictures of them and Jarvis would not be ashamed of their appearances, at least. Their behaviour was out of his control.
“If you go down to the front hall, I'll be down presently to help with your coats,” Jarvis said.
“You know, I think we can put on our coats,” Mr Stark said.
“I dunno, it's really hard to figure out which arm goes in which sleeve,” Master Tony said. “I always put mine on backwards. Maybe we should wait for Jarvis.”
“Yeah, you're right. Better be on the safe side, what if one of us gets killed?” Mr Stark said. “I mean, we can't lose another Stark to a freak coat incident. You're our only heir.”
Jarvis remembered fondly the days when he only had one Stark sense of humour to deal with. Master Tony's grew increasingly like his father's as he grew-up. It was nice to see them having fun with one another, though, even if it was at Jarvis' expense.
“If you're quite finished,” Jarvis said, pointedly.
Master Tony and Mr Stark left the room with matching grins on their faces. Jarvis rapped on the door to the dressing room and entered.
“Is there anything I can do to help you, ma'am?” Jarvis said.
“Is that Jarvis for 'please hurry up'?” Mrs Stark asked.
Jarvis pulled on his ear. “No,” he said. “Not at all. You have plenty of time.”
“If you could help me with this necklace, that would be great,” Mrs Stark said.
Jarvis fastened it around her neck, and did her bracelet as well. “You aren't wearing your engagement ring, ma'am,” he said.
“Oh, crap,” she said. “Could you grab that? Thanks. Good eye.”
Jarvis went to the jewellery box and found the ring. Mrs Stark found it cumbersome to wear in her work, but shortly after her engagement, she forgot to put it on when going out and was photographed without it and weeks of speculation followed about the status of her relationship, so now she always put it on if she was in public. Mr Stark had been aware that the ring wouldn't work with her latex gloves, but choosing something more modest would have, quote, 'made [him] look like a cheap bastard', due to the amount of funds at his disposal.
Mrs Stark put on the ring and took a step back to look in the mirror, turning her head from side to side and biting her lip. “Do I look okay?” she asked.
“You look beautiful, ma'am,” Jarvis said, with the utmost sincerity. Mrs Stark was a stunningly beautiful woman, she could go out in a paper bag with no make-up and still be one of the most attractive women in the room.
“Thank you,” Mrs Stark said. She picked up her clutch. “Let's hit the road.”
Jarvis opened the door for her, and followed her down to the front hall. Master Tony and Mr Stark were waiting, but seemed to be at odds about something, judgeing by Master Tony's defensive posture.
“No, I'm not saying it's a bad idea,” Mr Stark said, as Jarvis approached. “It's a solid idea. I'm just saying that you're working backwards from the end result, not forwards from the start. You're trying to reverse engineer something before you've invented it, that's making it more complicated for yourself.”
“But that's what inventing something is,” Master Tony argued. “Having an end result and coming up with how to get there.”
“No, but you're trying to work with the next level of something that doesn't exist,” Mr Stark tried to explain. “You can't build something that needs something before you've built the something that you need to build the...something...”
Master Tony looked at him blankly.
“I just think you need to rethink,” Mr Stark said. “But I like the idea.”
Master Tony seemed slightly mollified.
“You look so handsome!” Mrs Stark said to Master Tony, touching his cheek affectionately.
“You always say that,” Master Tony replied.
“You always look handsome,” Mrs Stark said.
“Hey, over here,” Mr Stark said, gesturing down the length of himself. “Maybe I need an ego boost, too.”
“If I boost it, we'll never get it in the car with us,” Mrs Stark said. She pulled on his moustache. “You look very nice.”
“Yeah, I know,” Mr Stark said, satisfied.
Jarvis held Mrs Stark's wrap for her, then hurried around to open the front door and was relieved that the car was waiting outside, as he hadn't had time to verify the arrival. The driver hopped out and opened the door.
Master Tony got in first, and Mr Stark guided Mrs Stark out and manoeuvred the layers of her skirts for her as she got in, so they wouldn't get crushed.
Jarvis hadn't expected Mrs Stark to be anything more than a fling for Mr Stark when he first began seeing her, but Anna had decided right away Mrs Stark was special because 'look at the way he looks after her, look at his hand on her back, the way he holds her hand on stairs, like she is made of glass'. He still treated her that way.
“Don't wait up,” Mr Stark said to Jarvis. “I know it's pointless saying that, because you will, but we can let ourselves in and get to bed without you.”
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said. “Enjoy yourself. Oh! Do you have your speech? I'm terribly sorry, I should have checked that earlier.”
Mr Stark felt in his pockets. “No, fuck,” he said. “It's downstairs. Can you—” He took the cards Jarvis offered. “What's this?”
“A back-up copy,” Jarvis said. “In case you left yours somewhere.”
Mr Stark gave a wry smile, and tucked the cards into his breast pocket. “Have a good evening, Jarvis,” he said.
“You too, sir,” Jarvis said.
He waited until the car had left the drive and ensured the gate was closed. He checked his watch once more. He'd gained two minutes back, so they were exactly on time.
He felt that deserved another cup of tea.