Characters: Edwin Jarvis, Howard Stark, Anna Jarvis, Abraham Erskine, some OCs
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
Word Count 6,187
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: This part is on the long side, but the other two are shorter, so it all balances out.
PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR
Jarvis woke up still holding Ana's hands. She was soundly asleep with her head dipped toward his shoulder. He thought how lovely she was before having a moment of wondering where he was and what was happening and then remembering with a jolt the events of the days before, followed by relief all was well. It was quite an intense series of emotions for first thing in the morning. He tried to slip his hands from hers, but she gripped tighter, and he ended up staying there until her eyes flickered open.
“Jó reggelt, Edwin,” she murmured, sleepily.
“Jó reggelt, Ana,” he replied.
She muttered in Hungarian, but he wasn't fluent enough to pick out more than a few words about sleep and dreams. He thought she might have said she had a good sleep. Her English was leaps and bounds ahead of his Hungarian.
“I should get up and see to Mr Stark,” Jarvis said. He brushed some hair from her face, and she smiled. It was a pleasant way to start one's day.
He rose and dressed and crossed over to the house. The front door was locked, so he tried the 'tradesman's entrance', and it was answered by a stout woman who had to be Cook because she looked like every Cook he'd encountered.
“You the butler?” she asked him.
“Yes, ma'am. Edwin Jarvis,” he said, offering his hand.
“Opal Franks,” she replied, giving it a firm shake. She resembled a Franks much more than an Opal. “Hope you know what you're in for, Mr Jarvis. He's a strange one.”
“I'm sure I'll adapt,” Jarvis said.
Cook seemed sceptical. Jarvis had a hard time getting information out of her, as she seemed to take every question he asked as a challenge to her authority or competence, but he managed to worm his way into her grace after a few minutes of complimenting the tidiness of her kitchen and her apparent skill and knowledge in the culinary arts.
“Mr Stark would like a tray in the mornings, if possible,” Jarvis said.
“Oh, he would, would he?” Cook said.
“I'll, of course, take it up to him,” Jarvis added.
Cook agreed to this plan. Jarvis left the kitchen with a tray of food and several of the items crossed off his to-do list. Quite good for half an hour's work. He found a dumb waiter, but the pulley was rusted and unusable, so he carried the tray carefully up himself. He gave a knock on the door with his elbow.
“Yep!” Mr Stark called.
Jarvis transferred the tray to rest in the crook of his arm and opened the door. “Good morning,” he said. “Oh, you've dressed already. I'm sorry, I should have risen earlier. I'll set an alarm tomorrow morning.” He'd have to find an alarm clock...
Mr Stark had a pencil in his mouth and a diagram in his lap, which he was measuring with a ruler. “MmmImmpposedtoletooessme, oo?” he asked, around the pencil.
“Typically, I would choose your clothes and lay them out for you, yes,” Jarvis said.
“Huh,” Mr Stark said. He spat out the pencil. “Do I do anything on my own, or do you just come in and hand me things I'm too important to touch myself?”
“That would really be up to you, sir,” Jarvis said. “I've brought your breakfast.”
“Swell!” Mr Stark said. “I like this already.”
Jarvis placed the tray down on the bed, and Mr Stark started into it. “Do you have an itinerary I should be aware of for the day?” he asked.
“Finestein's coming at eleven,” Mr Stark said, around a mouthful of bacon. “And I got a meeting at two in Manhattan. They want to talk to me about what I found in Europe. You know, besides you and Mrs Jarvis.”
“Should I drive you there?” Jarvis asked.
“No, they'll send a driver for me,” Mr Stark said. “You can start doing all that after you're officially on contract with me.”
“Very good, sir,” Jarvis said. “Do you have some sort of appointment book or written schedule?”
“Probably,” Mr Stark said. “I'll talk to Daisy--she's my secretary. She probably has all that stuff. You and her can work it all out.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jarvis said. He picked up Mr Stark's pyjamas, which had been carelessly tossed on the floor, and looked around for a non-existent hamper. “Where do you put your clothes that require laundering?”
Mr Stark looked befuddled. “Just...wherever?” he said. “I don't know. I leave them, and they appear again, and they're washed. I guess the maids probably do it. I got a lot of clothes, so for all I know they just throw them out, and I keep getting new ones so I never run out.”
Jarvis made a mental note to get a hamper and find out who, if anyone, was taking care of the clothing.
“So, you and Ana okay over there?” Mr Stark asked.
“Yes, sir. It's a lovely home,” Jarvis said. “I don't think either of us was expecting something so roomy.”
“Room, I got,” Mr Stark said. “Kinda nice to have someone to take it up, to be honest. You need anything? Don't be shy.”
“We're still sorting everything out, sir,” Jarvis said. “I'll let you know. I believe Ana is planning on looking for work as soon as possible, and we'll need to learn our way around New York, but that's all a matter of time and practice.”
“If she needs a reference for work, let me know,” Mr Stark said. “My name does a lot around here.”
“Yes, sir, I can imagine it does,” Jarvis said. He opened the door to the dressing room again. It was just as bad as he remembered it; he hadn't somehow embellished it in his head. “Would you object to my doing a bit of rearranging around the house?”
“No, go to it,” Mr Stark said. “You're in charge of it now, do what you want with it.”
Jarvis officially became an employee of Mr Howard Stark at 12:32PM that day. Mr Finestein had a rough contract drawn up when he arrived and walked through it with Jarvis, who took his time to read it over thoroughly and ask for clarifications. He'd become very familiar with paperwork and legal documents during his time with the General and had learned to go over any and all with a fine-toothed comb.
It all seemed very much in order to him, and he and Mr Stark worked together to finalize it. Mr Stark suggested a three month trial period, and if it didn't work out they could part ways 'no hard feelings'. Jarvis felt that was reasonable. By three months, he hopefully would have saved enough to move out with Ana to what would no doubt be a humbler abode, but he would be able to support them if it came to that. In the meantime, the guest house was contractually considered to belong to him and Ana, with Mr Stark acting as a sort of landlord. Other provisions within the contract were that he would receive two weeks notice or an appropriate severance package if Mr Stark decided to terminate his employment and that Jarvis would give two weeks notice if he elected to leave. Jarvis' official duties were considered to be the care of Mr Stark's property and person. He would also have one afternoon and one evening off per week, one day off per month, and two weeks off per year.
Those changes were made, and the typist who came with Mr Finestein made a new copy. Jarvis and Mr Stark signed it in the presence of a notary. Jarvis was now gainfully employed with a salary that was extremely generous and had, contractually, a chance to rise each year he continued to work there.
Once again, he felt as though the world were spinning and righting itself from how upside down it had been for a while. He wasn't sure how long it was going to take to get used to the notion that there was very little to worry about and that Ana was safe, and he was safe. Where did you begin when you started a life over like that?
In the wardrobe, was what he decided. His first act as official butler to Howard Stark was to begin in one drawer and go from there.
“Having fun?” Mr Stark called, when he came up to change for his meeting. “Whoa, okay, I know I'm not the tidiest guy but throwing shoes at me is a bit harsh, Jarvis.”
“My apologies, sir, it wasn't aimed at you,” Jarvis said. “I'm merely trying to establish a system and that requires taking it all out and starting again.”
“Well, you can find me a pair to wear while you're at it,” Mr Stark said. “I need to look like I know what I'm doing today when I'm bumping gums with the big boys.”
Jarvis selected a pair of brown and white Oxfords that matched the suit Mr Stark had chosen. Whatever his disregard for his surroundings, Mr Stark at least had a good eye for fashion and fit and dressed himself appropriately. Jarvis brushed him down and folded his pocket square into something a little more professional and handed him a trilby. Mr Stark put it on his head, tilting it to a rakish slant.
“Hey, looking good,” he told his reflection, admiring himself from different angles. “I could get used to this being handed stuff. Almost look like the dashing billionaire I am now. Military bigwigs better be impressed, because they aren't going to be happy with what I have to say.”
He tore himself away from the mirror. Jarvis walked him down to the car waiting for him, handing him his coat and briefcase.
“Yep,” Mr Stark said, as Jarvis opened the car door for him. “I could get used to this.”
Taming the wardrobe into submission took longer than Jarvis had anticipated, as, once he cleared out the visible mess, there turned out to be even more mess behind it. Crumpled shirts and shoes lodged into odd places. Papers with sketches of planes and weapons on them. A few spanners and hammers, for some reason, tucked away in and amongst the ties and vests. Jarvis suspected a maid must have found them and not known what to do, so shoved them in a drawer.
He paused for tea with Ana in the late afternoon. She'd been out to explore the area and bought a few groceries. She seemed to be delighted with what she'd encountered of New York and chattered so excitedly about what she'd seen that he had trouble deciphering her accent.
“In the newspaper, I look for jobs,” she said. “There are a few listed. One is in a big department store, to help adjust clothing for people buying there. And there are others in shops to make clothing from the beginning. It is all right if I work? You don't mind?”
“No, of course not,” Jarvis said. “If you want to, that is. I think I could support us both on the salary I'll be receiving, so you shouldn't feel you have to work unless you'd like to.”
“Just to start, maybe, until we know how things will be,” she said. “I can take a bus or the under the ground train to work. It will be too far to walk because there are no shops near here. I think I will like it.”
“Good,” Jarvis said. “I'm very pleased to hear it.”
He hoped her enthusiasm wouldn't dim as time went on. It was all very novel, like going somewhere exciting on holiday. He wasn't sure if reality would set in at some point. Perhaps it was a honeymoon period that would end.
He returned to work after tea, and, after having done nearly eight hours of work that day, he closed the final, organized drawer, feeling accomplished. And rather achy from all the bending and kneeling and reaching.
He also had time to sort out the medicine cabinet in the lavatory and was working on shining shoes in the servery when Mr Stark returned home, around 7PM that evening. Jarvis greeted him at the door, and Mr Stark jumped back in fright.
“Christ! I forgot about you,” Mr Stark said, clutching his chest. “Jesus, don't sneak up on a guy.”
“My apologies, sir,” Jarvis said. “I didn't mean to startle you.”
“Not used to having someone here when I get in,” Mr Stark said. “Shouldn't you be home by now? I don't need you tonight.”
“I was just finishing up,” Jarvis said. “How was your meeting?”
“Oh, you know, boring,” Mr Stark said. “Everybody yelling at me like I'm the one who's causing all the trouble when actually I'm doing them a favour skulking around for them.”
“I'm sorry,” Jarvis said.
“No, it's fine,” Mr Stark said. He winked. “I'm a good skulker. Anyway, it's all over for now. I'm going up to change.”
“Very good, sir,” Jarvis said. “At what time would you like your dinner?”
“I ate already,” Mr Stark said. “Say what you want about 'em, but they do feed you. I'll probably get a snack later when I'm working in the lab, but I can do that myself. Cook knows to leave me something in the fridge.”
“Very well,” Jarvis said. “I'll be up shortly if you need help with your clothing.”
“I think I'm okay; been changing my clothes all my life,” Mr Stark said.
He bounced off upstairs, then, before Jarvis had even made it back to the servery to collect the shoes, Mr Stark bellowed down.
“JARVIS! I need help!”
Jarvis hurried up to the bedroom. Mr Stark was down to his vest and drawers and stood staring baffled in the middle of the room.
“Where are my pants?” he asked.
“Your trousers?” Jarvis said, because he knew Americans sometimes called them pants, and he wanted to be sure they were on the same page.
“My pants, yeah, I'd like some pants,” Mr Stark said. “Where are my shirts? And my socks? What did you do?”
“You gave me permission to organize. I have,” Jarvis said.
“I thought you meant tidy; this is more like a complete overhaul,” Mr Stark grumbled. “You'll have to dress me now. I don't know where anything is.”
Jarvis highly doubted he knew where anything was before. “You're very clever, sir, I don't think my system will tax your abilities,” he said. “I can go over the main points if you'd like.”
Mr Stark made a sceptical 'go ahead' gesture. Jarvis began his tour.
“We'll start with your sock drawer,” he said.
“I have a sock drawer?” Mr Stark said.
“I have placed your socks in a drawer,” Jarvis said. “Therefore, it is now a sock drawer.”
“Touché,” Mr Stark said.
Jarvis went through to highlight what he'd done. Everything in the proper drawer. Ties arranged by pattern and colour. All three pieces of each suit hung on the same hangar and arranged from casual to business to formal. Shoes paired, shined, and placed on the rack neatly. Hats placed on the rack in the wardrobe.
“Is that what that's for?” Mr Stark said, bemused. “Could never figure that out. All right, well, I stand corrected. This is pretty keen, Jarvis. I think you might be a bit off in the head, but it works in my favour, I guess.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jarvis said. “I've collected some items of clothing that are too damaged to be of further use to you, may I have permission to take them? They might be useful for Ana. She needs fabric to make some pieces up to show her work to potential employers.”
“Yeah, by all means, take 'em,” Mr Stark said. “Take anything you need from anywhere. As long as it isn't my money or my tools, I probably won't care.”
“Thank you,” Jarvis said.
“Okay, so now that I have some pants, I'm gonna put them on,” Mr Stark said. “You can get out of here. You've earned your pay today.”
Jarvis tidied up the clothes Mr Stark had discarded on the floor, folding them and putting them on a chair until he found out what went on with the laundry. They smelled heavily of cigar smoke. He took out some pyjamas and laid them on the bed and turned down the covers.
“That's creepy,” Mr Stark said, pointing at the covers as he breezed out of the room. “I don't want you tucking me in. You're not my mother.”
Jarvis returned the covers to their previous state and made a mental note not to do that in future. He took a wander through the house to turn off any unnecessary lights and made sure that there were enough on for Mr Stark to see when he chose to go to bed. He ensured the doors were locked and went home for the night.
“Look, I have found some sherry,” Ana said. “It was in a cupboard. Would you like some?”
“Is it dry or sweet?” Jarvis asked.
“I don't know, Edwin, but it is free and unexpected, does it matter?” Ana asked.
“No, I suppose not,” Jarvis said.
She poured them both a glass and they went to the parlour to drink it and listen to the radio. It was a sweetish sherry, which was not Jarvis' preferred type, but it was pleasant enough. Ana sorted through the clothes he'd brought and seemed pleased with the selection. They would have to find her some sewing supplies. Jarvis took out his notebook and made himself feel a little less overwhelmed by crossing off what had been accomplished already, instead of dwelling on how much there still was to get done.
“Don't fuss,” Ana said, without him having voiced any concerns aloud.
She came over to the chair he was in and started massaging his shoulders. Which were rather achy, and he made some undignified noises that made her laugh.
“Relax,” she said, giving his neck a kiss.
She continued with her hands and her kisses and soon they were in bed and he was feeling very relaxed. Ana snuggled into him, her eyelids heavy.
“I think we've left the wireless on,” he noted.
Ana patted his chest. “Is it going to bother you?”
“No,” he said. Then, a few moments later. “Yes. I'll be right back.”
He rose and put his pyjamas on and secured the house properly, including turning off the radio. Ana was asleep when he came back, and he had to tug some blankets over for himself. She rolled towards him and reached for his hands, and he took them and went to sleep.
“Hey, look, no clothes, “ Mr Stark greeted Jarvis in the morning. He gestured down to his pyjamas. “I remembered. You can dress me up.”
Jarvis chuckled as he handed him the breakfast tray. “Very good, sir,” he said. “What are your plans for the day?”
“Back at work,” Mr Stark said. “Holiday's over, back to the grindstone. Kind of looking forward to it, to be honest. I miss getting my hands dirty.”
Jarvis picked up the clothes Mr Stark had thrown on the floor the night before and added them to the pile on the chair. He really needed to find out about the laundry situation. He puzzled over the clothing selection for a few moments.
“Will you be in meetings or building today?” he called.
“Both,” Mr Stark called back.
“Which first?” Jarvis asked.
“Neither, I do them at the same time,” Mr Stark said.
Hmmm. Jarvis selected a business suit that leaned more toward casual than formal, which would be suitable with or without the jacket, and shoes which would stand up to a bit of scuffing about if necessary.
“So, do you actually like doing this kind of thing?” Mr Stark asked, when Jarvis emerged.
“What kind of thing is that?” Jarvis asked.
“Being a servant,” Mr Stark said. “Did you start because you had to or because you wanted to?”
Jarvis had to have a think about that, to be honest, as he wasn't sure what the right answer was. “My parents were both in service,” he said. “And I suppose it was expected of me, though I think I may have disappointed them in the path I followed.”
“Why?” Mr Stark asked.
“My parents worked at a big house, in Buckinghamshire,” Jarvis explained. “My father was the butler, and my mother the housekeeper. The master of the house, Lord Fenton, felt I showed promise. He caught me reading in his library when I was a boy, and he let me borrow books, and he taught me sums. Both his sons were killed in the Boer War, and I think he found me a sort of comfort. When I was twelve, he paid for me to be sent away to school.”
“Wait, your parents were pissed because you learned stuff?” Mr Stark asked.
“No, they were happy for me to have an education,” Jarvis said. “But...I think they were worried it would give me ideas above my station.”
“God, is that still a thing?” Mr Stark said.
“In my parents' generation, it very much was,” Jarvis said. “I think for them being useful is the highest virtue, and they didn't feel reading the Classics and learning Latin was being useful. They were much more comfortable when I started serving the General than when I was at university.”
“What did you study?” Mr Stark asked.
“English,” Jarvis said.
“Geez, no wonder you gave me such a dirty look when I told you I didn't read,” Mr Stark said.
Jarvis felt his cheeks flush. “That wasn't a judgement on my part,” he said. “Just surprise.”
“Mmmhmm,” Mr Stark said, sceptically.
“Anyway,” Jarvis said, attempting to steer them away from the rocks. “To answer your question, I do 'actually' enjoy all this. I don't regret going to school, even if I didn't continue on that path. I enjoy being useful, as much as I enjoyed learning. It gives me pride when I feel as though I've been of service or made something better than it was before. I suppose it's hard to shake off your upbringing.”
“No kidding,” Mr Stark said. “My dad used to say 'work hard, don't expect things to be handed to you. You're a clever kid, Howard, you can use it'. If I don't use it, I feel like a failure.”
“You're hardly a failure,” Jarvis said.
“Still feel I could be better,” Mr Stark said. “But hey, you're pretty useful, so I guess we turned out okay.”
“Indeed,” Jarvis said. He laid out the clothing on the bed. “Would you like me to drive you today?”
“Sure,” Mr Stark said. “But I'll sit up front and direct you until you know where you're going so I don't have to screech at you from the back like a fishwife.”
“Very good, sir,” Jarvis said.
He helped Mr Stark get ready for the day. There were a few awkward moments where they both reached for the same article of clothing; Jarvis with the intent to hand it to him and Mr Stark with the intent to put it on. Then they both backed away and both reached again, which Mr Stark seemed to find very amusing.
“We should take this on the road,” he said. “We're better than Laurel and Hardy.”
Jarvis took his first trip to Stark Industries under Mr Stark's occasionally distracted guidance. It sat in a large, squat factory building with the logo emblazoned on the front.
“This is the second building we've been in,” Mr Stark said. “Well, third if you count my fourth-floor walk-up on the Lower East side which I pretended was a big HQ for a while when I was trying to sell myself at the start. We're gonna have to find somewhere bigger again, soon. Especially if things keep going south in Europe. I'm gonna get busy.”
Jarvis came in with him and received a tour of the building. There was a business-like reception area done up in a sleek Art Deco style and equally sleek offices for Mr Stark and his associates. Beyond those, it was all industry, with large rooms for planning and drawing and a huge floor for building and testing. It was impossibly noisy, and Jarvis couldn't hear a single thing Mr Stark shouted at him as they looked down from the catwalk. There was a growing line-up to speak to him, so Jarvis took his leave and left Mr Stark to get to work.
Jarvis stopped in the office to speak to Daisy the Secretary on the way out. She was an attractive young woman in her early twenties with an unfortunate squint in one eye, and Jarvis immediately liked her because she seemed to be very on top of things.
“I'm so glad to meetcha,” she said, in a thick New York accent that made Mr Stark's seem mild in comparison. “I could really use another hand to keep Howard on track. He's never where I want'm to be and always where I don't.”
“I'll do my best to steer him,” Jarvis promised.
She gave him a copy of Mr Stark's itinerary for the week, typing it in a few minutes as she continued to chatter away to Jarvis. She also wrote down directions so that he could find his way back to Mr Stark's house on his own, as well as giving him the names and addresses of Mr Stark's favourite restaurants and clubs and all of his other residences, which Jarvis had not been aware existed. It was quite a list of flats and penthouses and suites scattered throughout the city. He wondered what state they were in and how long it would take him to get them all in shape.
'Don't fuss', he said to himself, in Ana's voice. One thing at a time.
New York wasn't too hard to navigate through, especially in comparison to the warrens and mazes of London. The American term 'a couple of blocks that way' was extremely descriptive, as New York seemed to be made solely of blocks of straight roads intersecting with one another. Jarvis did a bit of exploring and found some shops to buy the things he and Ana needed and made it successfully back to Mr Stark's house. He bestowed Ana with a sewing kit and left her happily set to work on taking apart Mr Stark's cast-offs and putting them together again.
It was Thursday, which meant he also met the maid staff. There were five women. Three of them were called Mary, and Jarvis quickly assigned them the epithets of This Mary, That Mary, and the Other Mary in his mind. This Mary seemed to be in charge, and he found her eager to please and happy to tell him about their work schedules.
On Monday, they did tidying (with the exception of Mr Stark's office and basement; they were both off-limits), dusting, and changing of the bedsheets. The laundry truck came to take the clothing away to be laundered. On Thursday, they did the windows and floors, and the laundry truck returned, and the laundry was put away. Once a month, they turned the mattresses, aired out the rooms, and did the polishing of the fixtures.
“Mr Stark's really nice to work for,” This Mary said. “He's not the cleanest guy, but he stays out of your way, and he gives lots of tips if you do a good job.”
Jarvis took down notes and then let them get on with their work. Whatever Mr Stark's rules, he intended to put the office to rights. That was today's goal.
This wasn't quite as Herculean task as the wardrobe had been. Merely a question of glancing at the papers and putting them in piles to be filed. He tried not to glance too thoroughly, as he didn't know how much Mr Stark trusted him to know about his work. If it looked like business it went in one pile, drawings and diagrams went in another, bills and invoices in a third, invitations in a fourth, and personal correspondence in a fifth. He tidied the desk and the drawers and returned supplies to appropriate places. The maids seemed to have cleaned the office by dusting around what was there, so Jarvis asked one of them to go through now that it was free.
“Wow, I've never seen the desk before!” The Other Mary said, running her hand over it. “It's nice. Don't you love when things are really polished?”
“Yes,” Jarvis said. “I find it very satisfying.”
He popped home for tea with Ana and admired the work she'd done. She'd taken some of Mr Stark's shirts and turned it into handkerchiefs, with neat rolled edges and an 'S' embroidered in some of the corners.
“You will give some to Mr Stark,” she informed him, placing the 'S' ones in his hand. “To thank him.”
Jarvis agreed that he would and went back to work. He decided the library was the next order of business. It was in a sorry state; not well-loved at all. The only books that seemed to have been actively read were the encyclopaedias and other reference books, which had been shoved back in without any regard for keeping the sets together. Jarvis began to go through shelf by shelf and see what was there and what needed to go elsewhere. Surely if one had a complete set of Dickens novels, they should all be on the same shelf?
He was in the middle of gathering up the H.G Wells to reunite them when the telephone rang. Mr Stark had telephones all over the house, and it made for an experience of being circled by bells. Jarvis nearly fell off the ladder he was using to try and coerce 'The War of the Worlds' out of its spot on a top shelf.
He climbed down and hurried over to the phone, then wondered if it was his place to answer. He decided it would fall within his duties.
“Stark Residence, Edwin Jarvis speaking,” he said.
“Hey, I like that,” Mr Stark said. “That sounds real fancy. Keep answering the phone like that.”
“Very good, sir,” Jarvis said. “How may I be of assistance?”
“I'm just calling to tell you I'm gonna be done here in about an hour,” Mr Stark said.
“I'll come to pick you up then,” Jarvis said. “Do you have any plans for this evening?”
“Yeah, I'm going out to dinner at 21,” Mr Stark said.
“I'll lay out some clothes for you,” Jarvis said.
“Sure, whatever floats your boat,” Mr Stark said. “Talk to you later, Stark Residence.”
“Yes, Mr Stark,” Jarvis said.
“Sir, may I speak to you about something?” Jarvis said, as he handed Mr Stark his trousers later on.
“Yep,” Mr Stark said. “And in the future, let's just assume I'm always going to say yes because you asking me if you can speak seems like a violation of your rights as a human being. Just speak.”
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said. “I was tidying up your office today, and I took a look at some of your financial papers. Were you aware that nearly $350 was charged to your account at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel while you were in England?”
Mr Stark shook his head but didn't seem very surprised to hear it. “Nope, news to me.”
“If you were in England, who precisely was acquiring bills in New York?” Jarvis asked.
“Um...I think her name was...Flossie?” Mr Stark said. “I was seeing her just before I left. She has expensive tastes. Nice girl, though. Great legs.”
“I see,” Jarvis said, not sure if he saw at all. “So, are you and Miss Flossie...in some sort of arrangement?”
Mr Stark's laughter went on a little longer than Jarvis felt was necessary for a simple and--in his opinion--not very humorous question. “Are you trying to ask me if she's my bit on the side, or if I'm her sugar daddy?” he said. “I can't tell because you're being so British about it.”
Jarvis bit down on the urge to respond to the vulgarity in kind and instead tried to maintain a level of discretion about it. “Do you allow her to use your funds for her own purposes, or is she doing it of her own accord?” he clarified.
“When I was seeing her the funds were hers,” Mr Stark said. “But I broke it off before I left. I guess she didn't get the message--or decided to carry on anyway.”
“And you intend to let her carry on?” Jarvis said. “Shouldn't the message be given more clearly?”
Mr Stark shrugged. “It was just a fling, Jarvis. We weren't betrothed,” he said. “I don't think I need to write her an agonized letter about it.”
“But you should tell her, definitively,” Jarvis insisted. “You're losing money.”
“It's a bit of money,” Mr Stark said. “I don't linger with girls. I move on. She will, too.”
Jarvis could barely conceive of a world where the loss of $350 wasn't worth doing something about. He decided it wasn't his money, and he should leave it alone for the moment.
“Ana made you these,” he said, bringing the handkerchiefs over. “From the clothes you donated. She wanted you to have them as a thank you.”
Mr Stark looked more touched than Jarvis would have expected. “That's sweet,” he said. “My mum used to do that. She took everything apart and made it into five or six different things before we chucked it.” He took one and stuffed it into his breast pocket.
Jarvis removed it and folded it so the S was visible, then returned it, discarding the pocket square he'd selected earlier. He brushed Mr Stark down and tidied up his bow tie.
Jarvis had looked up the 21 Club on a map so that he knew how to get there. Mr Stark was able to ride in the back, but that did not slow down his stream of conversation. Jarvis' 'yes, sirs' and 'no, sirs' weren't doing the job, so he broke protocol to respond in a more thorough manner, and Mr Stark didn't seem to mind him doing so.
“I'll probably be here for a while,” Mr Stark said. “You can go home, I'll call you when I'm ready.”
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said.
Mr Stark met up with a man outside, giving his hand a jovial shake, and entered the club with him. Jarvis moved along so as to not block traffic. He'd noticed on his way in that the Waldorf-Astoria was only around the corner. He decided to pay a visit to Miss Flossie.
She was in a suite at the top of the building. Jarvis gave a knock, and a young woman appeared in a silk nightgown with a dressing gown over it. Jarvis had to resist the urge to look at her legs to see if they were worth $350.
“Good evening, ma'am, my name is Edwin Jarvis,” he said, politely. “I work for Mr Howard Stark. I was wondering if I could speak to you for a moment?”
Miss Flossie's face lost some of the colour in her rosy cheeks. “Oh, crap.”
Mr Stark rang around midnight. Ana had already gone to bed, and Jarvis was in the library, continuing to sort out the book situation. Mr Stark was gently tipsy when Jarvis arrived and flopped himself into the back seat before Jarvis could get out to open the door for him.
“No, no, don't worry,” Mr Stark said, when Jarvis apologized. “I know how to open doors.”
Jarvis chuckled. “Yes, sir,” he said. He started off home. “How was your evening?”
“Good,” Mr Stark said. “Good food, good company. Could have used more dolls, but you can't have everything.”
“Indeed,” Jarvis said. “Speaking of, erm, dolls, I spoke to Miss Flossie this evening. I hope you don't mind my taking the initiative.”
“No, initiative is good,” Mr Stark said. “I don't like wishy-washy people. What happened?”
“Miss Flossie is unapologetic about her spending but is content to vacate the premises and stop using your account,” Jarvis said. “I've allowed her forty-eight hours to make other arrangements and agreed that she can keep what she bought or was given. Is that amenable?”
Mr Stark's mouth fell open. “You mean...she just left?” he said. “You said 'go away' and she went?”
“Not in quite those terms, but yes,” Jarvis said.
Mr Stark's hand reached over the back seat and patted Jarvis on the head. “You're swell,” he said. “You're very useful.”
Jarvis smiled. “Thank you, sir.”