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 4,478
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: So much headcanon...
PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR
Over the next few days, Jarvis continued to settle into his new life and arrange Mr Stark's house to his own satisfaction. He met the gardener and finished with the library. He fixed the dumbwaiter. He did the wine cellar accounts. Mr Stark seemed content with all the changes Jarvis made, though there were a few grumblings about his office being 'too clean to work in'. Jarvis saw no evidence of Mr Stark failing to work in it, so considered the point moot.
Ana arranged things around the Jarvis Residence and went out to look for work. She was turned down at the first three shops she tried. Her accent made people assume she was German, who, while not the official enemy as yet, were certainly not looked on kindly. Her attempts to explain that she was Hungarian evidently made little difference, as it all amounted to the same thing to those she spoke to, many of whom thought of Europe as a big muddled mess of countries that were all controlled by Hitler.
She was undeterred. “I have been called worse,” was her response when Jarvis offered his sympathy. “And treated worse.”
“I'm sorry about that, as well,” he said.
This was the time period in which Jarvis learned it was best to be mindful what one told Mr Stark, as when Jarvis casually mentioned Ann was having trouble finding work and the reasons for it, Mr Stark demanded to know the names of the shops.
“I'll tell them exactly what I think of their hiring policies,” he said. “Jesus Christ, this is America. This country was founded on people coming and starting over, not being rejected because they talk funny.”
Jarvis decided it was prudent to pretend not to know the names of the shops and promised he would ask Ana and return to Mr Stark with them. Thankfully, Mr Stark's attention span was such that he'd forgotten by the end of the day, and Jarvis didn't bring up the subject again until Ana had found work at the fifth shop she tried.
“It is run by a very nice man and his wife, and they are good people,” she told Jarvis, excitedly. “I will sew and help to sell, like before. Many important people come in, and they want very nice things. It will be good.”
By the end of the first week, they had food in the pantry, work for both of them, new clothing, and a beautiful roof over their heads. Far more than either of them could have asked for. It seemed almost too much, and indeed, one night, as they were listening to Benny Goodman, Ana got up and abruptly left the room in tears. Jarvis followed her, worried she was ill. She'd closed herself up in the bedroom, and he knocked and entered after her. She was sitting on the bed, sobbing.
“What's wrong?” he asked. “Are you unwell? Did I say something? Did the music upset you?”
She held up a hand and shook her head.
“Please tell me,” he said. “Even if it's my fault. I'd like to help.”
She shook her head again and mumbled something in Hungarian that he couldn't make out. He sat on the bed next to her and put an arm around her shoulders, unsure what else to do. She continued to mumble, and he finally made something out.
“Boldog?” he said. “Doesn't that mean 'happy'?”
He huffed a laugh. “You're happy, is that why you're crying?”
She nodded again. “I'm so happy, I feel sad,” she said.
“Ah,” Jarvis said, with a sigh of relief. “Yes, I think I know what you mean. You gave me quite a fright, there, my love.”
He gathered her up properly in his arms and rocked her gently until she'd calmed down.
“You have left the wireless on,” she said, with a sniff.
“It's all right,” he said. He planted a kiss on the top of her head. “Don't fuss.”
By the end of the first fortnight, Jarvis thought he had things well in hand. He'd established a routine, as much as one could with Mr Stark, who tended to be haphazard about his day. Jarvis' father had always said that the mark of a good servant was one who anticipated his master's needs and was one step ahead of them. Jarvis didn't know how to be one step ahead of a man who might get up at 8AM or might bat at Jarvis and tell him to go away and sleep until 2PM instead and then stay up all night. Or who might come home at 5PM and lock himself in the basement, only eating food if Jarvis brought it. Or who might decide to go out dancing without coming home at all and then go to one of his other residences with a young lady he'd met only hours earlier.
The women were perhaps the biggest adjustment for Jarvis to make. There were many of them, even in that first fortnight, and Jarvis marvelled at Mr Stark's ability to woo them and then simply walk away when the wooing was done. Mr Stark saw no harm in his attitude; he felt that he hadn't forced anyone to spend time with him and had made no promises or declaration of intents to them, and if they had misinterpreted his actions, that was unfortunate but not his fault. Jarvis thought that belief was more logical in theory than in practice and wished Mr Stark would take a little more care when parting ways. This somehow rapidly evolved into Jarvis parting ways on his behalf, as Jarvis had set a precedent with Miss Flossie as being 'good' at it.
He tried to be gentle and to treat each of them with dignity and respect, but it was his least favourite part of his job, and he couldn't help but feel that this was perhaps one of the areas in Mr Stark's life in which he was not very generous at all.
Jarvis' own love life was another adjustment that had to be made. Going from scattered letters with increasingly long durations between each to a terrifying silence to suddenly being married and established in one's own residence was quite a turnaround. Jarvis had a slight fear that it would all go wrong; that there would be some fundamental incompatibility they didn't know about due to the nature of their courtship, or that he simply couldn't make her happy. Fortunately, there were only a few areas which needed some tweaks to achieve domestic bliss. Jarvis learned not to touch Ana's clothing, that it was in no way helpful of him to attempt to move it or iron it or fold it. She brought in an extra blanket for the bed so that he didn't have to unwind her from the cocoon she made when he was coming in late. They were all little things; the fundamentals worked well, and the little things could be changed.
“Now that we are set at home, you should invite Mr Stark for dinner,” she said, one morning, as they neared the end of their third week in America. “We can make him food, and he can dine with us so he won't be alone always.”
“He's hardly lacking for company,” Jarvis pointed out.
“That is different,” Anna said. “You can be with people and still be lonely. He should have dinner with us. You will ask him?”
“I will ask him,” Jarvis said.
He broached the subject on a morning where Mr Stark was cheerful and hadn't had a late night.
“I know it's a bit irregular, sir,” he said. “But Ana would like you to come. And I would, too, of course.”
Mr Stark was delighted. “Sounds swell,” he said. “Tell me when; I'll bring the wine.”
They selected the Sunday night, and Ana spent most of that day hard at work cooking and cleaning. Jarvis had taken his afternoon off that day, but, aside from setting the table, his help was not wanted, so he ended up reading in the parlour unless directed towards another task.
“I really don't think he's going to judge us too harshly,” he tried. “He's not that sort of man.”
“He gives us nice things, he should see that we use them and like them,” Ana replied, with a sniff. “When you receive a gift, you always write to say how much you enjoy and use it, yes? It is the same here. We have this house, he should see we use it. We must thank him.”
Jarvis decided it was best to let her indulge whatever it was she felt she needed to do. Mr Stark arrived at the appointed time, without Jarvis having to go over and remind him as he'd expected to have to do. Mr Stark often grew distracted on his way to do something and needed gentle nudging to send him on his way again.
“Hey! Smells like home in here,” he said, when Jarvis invited him in. “This is what the old neighbourhood smelled like every Friday night. Takes me back.”
“What neighbourhood is this?” Ana asked.
“Lower East Side,” Mr Stark said. “Big Russian and Ukrainian population. Lots of Eastern European Jews, too. Money was tight, but the food always smelled good.”
Ana smiled. “We care very much about our food.”
“Don't I know it?” Mr Stark said. “Couldn't go anywhere without the baleboste trying to feed me up. That's where I learned all my Yiddish, too.” He said something Jarvis couldn't understand, but Ana let out a loud laugh.
“Mr Stark, that is not an appropriate thing to say to any woman but to a married one it is very bad,” she said, with a mock look of scolding.
Mr Stark just grinned and held out a bottle of wine in his hand.
“For the hostess,” he said.
“Thank you,” Ana said. “Please come and sit, dinner is ready.”
She handed off the bottle to Jarvis and went into the kitchen. Jarvis escorted Mr Stark to the dining room and made sure he was comfortable before he went off to find a corkscrew. He'd brought a nice vintage of wine, something that would have cost close to $15 in a restaurant, Jarvis estimated.
“You've done the place up nice,” Mr Stark said, looking around.
“It was hardly a sty before,” Jarvis said.
“No, but it looks like people live here now,” Mr Stark said. “Looks like a home.”
“It feels rather like one, too,” Jarvis said.
“Good,” Mr Stark said.
Jarvis uncorked and decanted the wine, distracted by Mr Stark's sneaky 'c'mere' gestures at him.
“Uh, how do you two do praying before meals?” Mr Stark asked, in a low voice. “Does Ana do the 'baruch atah adonai' thing, or do you say grace? Or do you just eat?”
“Ana usually blesses the meal,” Jarvis said. “Which is indeed the 'baruch atah adonai' thing. And then we eat.”
Mr Stark gave him an OK sign.
“Although, if you'd like to say grace, I'm sure neither of us will mind,” Jarvis added.
“No, I bet God'll be plenty pleased with her efforts,” Mr Stark said. “He doesn't need me bothering Him, too.”
That was how Jarvis felt on the matter of grace as well and was surprised to hear someone else say it so succinctly.
Ana brought out some challah and a liptauer spread to go with it. She blessed the meal and invited Mr Stark to partake as he pleased. He didn't hesitate to dig right in. Jarvis let the wine breathe a little before he served it and took some of the liptauer for himself. It was a sort of cheese spread filled with the paprika Ana seemed to put into everything she made. Jarvis' palate rapidly needed to adapt to a wider variety of flavours than his British upbringing had previously exposed him to, and it wasn't doing well at the challenge.
“So, how's Mrs Jarvis liking New York?” Mr Stark asked.
Ana's face lit up. “It is very good!” she said. “It is a very busy place, and I like it very much. It is very nice to...” She seemed unsure if she should continue. “I can go where I want and am allowed to work. That is nice.”
Jarvis felt that little flicker of anger in his stomach that he had whenever she mentioned what she'd been through in Budapest. It sometimes flared into a much larger ball of anger if he thought too hard about it. Mr Stark's face reflected the same thing for a moment before his smile returned, if a bit forced-looking.
“I hear you're in at Galante's,” he said, cheerfully moving the subject along. “That's a pretty high-brow place.”
Ana looked to Jarvis, questioning.
“Posh,” he supplied, as an alternative word. “Or, elite?”
“Oh,” Ana said, with a nod. “Yes. It is for moneyed people. In the back, there are many fabrics, all lovely.” She looked dreamy. “So much, all rolls and rolls in many colours. I can make very nice things.”
Mr Stark grinned. “Sounds like me in a hardware store.”
Jarvis poured the wine, and Ana brought out the cabbage rolls and goulash after they were done with the liptauer. Mr Stark happily served himself both.
“You two been to the theatre yet?” he asked.
“No, not yet,” Jarvis said. “We plan to, though, soon. We've been using our evenings to get settled.”
“I guess I keep you pretty busy, too,” Mr Stark said. “You should see Arsenic and Old Lace on one of your night's off. It's over at the Fulton, on West 46th. I sometimes have to sit through things to be polite, but that one's good. What else have you seen? Have you been to the Empire State Building yet? Chrysler Building?”
“I have seen, but not been,” Ana said. “I do not like high things.”
“How'd you get by in my plane, then?” Mr Stark asked. "You know, the one loverboy stole to rescue you? Betcha that flew pretty high, right Jarvis?"
It was only teasing, but Jarvis still shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Mr Stark's insistence that Jarvis had 'borrowed' the plane had been a great help to Jarvis' defence at his court-martial, even though it was a lie. 'I would have let you if you'd asked', had been his response when Jarvis later spoke to him about it. 'It's not perjury if it would have been true.'
“I had no choice but to be brave,” Ana said. “It would not have done anything of use to be frightened. He needed to concentrate. I just was frightened inside.”
Mr Stark smiled. “You've got a firecracker here, Jarvis.”
“I know,” Jarvis assured him.
Mr Stark continued to suggest things they needed to see in New York and the surrounding areas, waxing on very lyrically with the passion and familiarity of a man who had been born and raised in the city. Little delis and shops, restaurants in back corners, places to buy the best sausages.
“Mr Stark, we have only been here for three weeks,” Ana reminded him. “We have a whole lifetime to look around. First, we need to find our feet.”
“Well, after you do, start with Kreine's on 2nd Avenue,” Mr Stark said. “Best pastrami in New York.”
Jarvis and Ana exchanged smiles.
“I'm sure that will be our first stop,” Jarvis promised.
Mr Stark was a charming, personable man, with a great many stories and a talent for telling them and the evening passed pleasantly. Jarvis couldn't help but feel that his parents would be disapproving of having the master for dinner, but Jarvis had a good time. His parents weren't approving of a lot of things he'd done of late. Jarvis had a hard time regretting them, whatever their opinion.
Mr Stark drank more of the wine than Ana or Jarvis did and was a little squiffy by the end of the meal. Nothing too dramatic, but more delighted with the world than he might have otherwise been.
“That was very geshmak,” he told Ana, as they parted.
“Good, I'm glad you enjoyed it,” Ana said.
Mr Stark kissed her warmly on both her cheeks and, for a terrifying moment, Jarvis thought he was going to do the same to him, but he went for a sturdy handshake instead, with a clap to Jarvis' arm.
“You're okay, too,” Mr Stark informed him.
“Thank you, sir,” Jarvis said. “Would you like some help getting to bed?”
“No, I can do it,” Mr Stark said. “I'm okay.”
Jarvis walked with him as far as the drive, at least, and watched to make sure Mr Stark made it safely into his home. Later on, he would go up and ensure all the lights were off and the house was secure. For the moment he returned to help Ana with the washing up.
“He is a very big man,” Anna said. “He does everything very big.”
“He's American,” Jarvis explained.
“He will do very big things,” Anna said. “Good things, I hope.” She smiled. “We will have him back for dinner more, yes?”
Jarvis nodded. “We will have him back to dinner more, yes,” he said.
At halfway through his trial period, Jarvis had all of Mr Stark's properties to rights and his finances arranged such that Jarvis could monitor the bills and pay them or investigate them if they seemed irregular. Mr Stark spent money freely on almost anything he liked but had more than enough income and capital to make that acceptable behaviour. Jarvis merely ensured that all of the purchases made in Mr Stark's name were done with his knowledge.
Jarvis and Ana continued to settle into New York until they had favourite spots to go and the butcher's and shop owners knew them by name and sight. Mr Stark's generosity tapered off somewhat, much to Jarvis' relief. He felt as though he could go to Mr Stark to request anything and it would be granted, but the onslaught of gifts and bonuses and 'helpful' items slowed down to a near stop. Jarvis thought of it as Mr Stark doing some sort of 'wooing' of him in a manner of speaking, and, like all of Mr Stark's other wooing, once Jarvis had been wooed, Mr Stark lost interest in it. However, unlike his other wooing, Jarvis wasn't dismissed and, in fact, was given more and more responsibility and trust as he continued to work for him.
He grew much better at anticipating what Mr Stark would do or need and knew which flowers he would want on the table, and when it was time to go to the jeweller or florist, and when Mr Stark wanted out of a situation and when he was hoping for an excuse to remain in one. Jarvis ended up in the lab quite frequently and rapidly picked up knowledge of Mr Stark's inventions as they were explained to him in a voice far too cheerful for what some of them did. He had to confess most of what Mr Stark said made little sense, and it could all be magic for all Jarvis knew. Jarvis still remained wary of the lab and what it contained, but he was gradually given permission to tidy it and touch certain items in it, and he started to find names for the tools and what they were used for and could give them over when Mr Stark held out his hand for them.
“I got a telegram for you today,” Mr Stark told him, one evening. “You were having your afternoon off, so I answered the door. I put it in my pocket to give to you and then I forgot until just now when I took my jacket off. Sorry about that. Busy day.”
Jarvis retrieved Mr Stark's jacket, which had been tossed on the floor of the lab, and fished in the pocket. He pulled out a handful of pearls from a string that had broken.
“Oops,” Mr Stark said, without any abashment. “Like I said, busy day. I should get those back to Gracie. My fault they broke.” He gave a wink.
Jarvis rolled his eyes behind Mr Stark's back and looked once more to find the telegram. There it was. Jarvis glanced over it.
Eddie (Stop) Home on leave (Stop) Heard about wedding and all (Stop) Congrats to you and Mrs (Stop) Glad you're safe. (stop) Bertie
Jarvis felt his heart warm a little. “My apologies, they must have confused the address.”
“No problem. No skin off my nose,” Mr Stark said. “Who's it from? Took all my willpower not to look. Well, okay, I looked, but it meant nothing to me. I figured out 'Eddie' must be you, but I didn't know who Bertie was.”
“One of my brothers,” Jarvis explained. “Bertram. My family sometimes calls me Eddie. I've been trying to get them to stop since I was seven.”
“Yeah, I hear that,” Mr Stark said. “Took 'til I was sixteen before my mum stopped calling me 'Howie'.” He shivered in apparent horror. “How many brothers do you have?”
“Two,” Jarvis said. “Both are much older than I. I have a sister between them and myself and another one a little younger than me. She and I were afterthoughts, so to speak.”
“Wow, that's a brood,” Mr Stark said. “Your house must have been spotless if they're all like you. Must be nice to hear from home, huh?” He looked over when Jarvis didn't respond right away. “Or not...?”
Jarvis shook his head clear. “No, of course, it's good to hear from him,” he said. “He's serving in the war. I'm pleased to hear he's safely home for the moment. I sent a telegram shortly after I arrived here to let my parents know I was safe. I had hoped to hear back, but I haven't received word yet. I suppose I expected it to be from them, but of course, it's nice to hear from anyone.”
Mr Stark's brow furrowed. “Been a while not to hear back,” he said. “I didn't see any bad news in the telegram when I looked it over. Are they okay?”
Jarvis forced a smile. “I'm sure they are,” he said. “Someone would have sent word if they weren't.”
Mr Stark gave a slow nod. “Okay.”
“Do you need anything else this evening?” Jarvis asked.
“No, I'm good. Go home and cuddle with Annie,” Mr Stark said. “Tell her I said hi.”
“I will,” Jarvis promised.
He took Mr Stark's discarded jacket to his room to place it in the laundry hamper, then took care of the lights and locks and went home. Ana was in front of the wireless, sketching in a book. She smiled up at Jarvis, then frowned.
“Something is wrong,” she said.
“No, nothing is wrong,” Jarvis said.
“Yes, it is, you have little lines in your head,” she said, pointing to his brow. “Like when your trousers are wrinkled.”
“No, I'm fine,” Jarvis said. He held out the telegram. “My brother has sent his congratulations to us.”
Ana looked over the paper, smiling. “This is good,” she said. “How nice of him.” She gave Jarvis another searching look. “But your parents, no?”
“No,” Jarvis said.
“I'm sorry,” Anna said. “This is my fault.”
“No, it's not,” Jarvis said.
Ana gave him a gentle smile. “Yes,” she said. “It is. They are not pleased because of what you did for me. You do not have to be sweet with me about it, I know it.”
Jarvis could forgive his parents if he felt it was merely the treason charges they were upset about. Being charged for treason was hardly something which one hoped their son would aspire to do. It was certainly not being useful. But his parents had never approved of Ana. They did, initially. When Jarvis wrote and told them about her, they thought she seemed a nice girl; a good match. Until he mentioned she was Jewish. Then, quite suddenly, it didn't seem feasible. Surely he couldn't expect her to move for Jarvis after the war? She wouldn't like England. She would be lost there. She would be much better off with a Jewish boy. It would be awkward, wouldn't it? What about children, how would they be raised? Jarvis felt it wasn't so much that they disliked the Jews or held any ill-will toward them, but that they felt that people should stick amongst their own kind and not intermingle. He'd very naively thought at the time that they would come around to the idea, and indeed, they might have. But Ana's religion was a large factor why he needed to commit treason for her and that did nothing to help his cause.
“It doesn't matter,” Jarvis said to Ana. “You know I don't regret anything. All I need or want is you.”
“I'm sorry you had to choose,” Ana said, her voice small and her eyes cast down. He hated to see her so upset. She had such a happy countenance to her that when it dropped even for a moment, it was though she took all the sunshine with her.
"I'm not sorry. I don't regret anything," Jarvis said. "I would have been proud for them to know you. They chose. Poorly, in my opinion." He tried to gather himself so as to not upset her further. He took the telegram back. “At least we have some support. Bertie seems pleased for us, and I know Agnes approves. She told me so, while I was waiting for trial.”
“Perhaps in time...” Ana said.
“Yes, perhaps,” Jarvis said, with forced positivity. “I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything.”
“No, you must always say things,” Ana said, sternly. “Always tell me what your worry is, even if it is my fault.”
“It's not your fault,” Jarvis said. “Don't fuss. We shouldn't fuss.”
Ana rose from her chair and put her hands on his cheeks. “Edwin,” she said. “This time, it is all right for you to fuss.” She stood on tip-toe to kiss his lips. “Szeretlek.”
Jarvis kissed her nose. “Téged is szeretlek,” he replied.
Ana bit on her lip and then snorted, before starting to giggle.
“What?” Jarvis said. “What's so funny?”
“Who else is it that you love?” she asked him, her eyes dancing with mirth.
“I beg your pardon?” Jarvis said.
“Téged is szeretlek makes it sound as though you say 'I love you and also someone else',” she said. “I thought I was your only one, Mr Jarvis.”
Jarvis chuckled. “You are, it was merely a grammatical error,” he said. “I've never understood why you have to change all your topics around for emphasis, it makes things very complicated.”
“It makes sense to me,” Ana said, primly.
“What is the right way, then? Szeretlek is?” he tried.
“No, that means you love me and also do something else like you hate me,” she said.
“Well, that's categorically untrue,” Jarvis replied. “Let's try this way: szeretlek.”
“Én is szeretlek,” Ana replied.
“Én is szeretlek,” Jarvis repeated.
Ana gave him another kiss. “I love you, too, too.”