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 3,811
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: Last part!
PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE
As August rolled around, Mr Stark seemed to get frantically busy. He had two projects that he worked on regularly outside of his work at Stark Industries and both seemed to be more demanding on his time than in the previous two months Jarvis had worked for him. Jarvis didn't know what the nature of the projects was. One was conducted at Columbia University, and Mr Stark referred to it as his 'very big boom' project. The other one was in Brooklyn, which Mr Stark simply called his 'Brooklyn' project. He seemed more excited about the latter than the former and successes there meant very good moods and failures meant sulking.
“Do you have any idea what it's like to know how to do something that is impossible and not be able to do it because it's impossible?” he asked Jarvis one evening. He'd stomped out of the building and thrown himself into the back seat.
“No, sir, I'm afraid I don't,” Jarvis replied.
“Well, it ain't Jake,” Mr Stark said.
“I'm sure it's only a temporary setback,” Jarvis said, soothingly.
“It's not a setback,” Mr Stark snapped. “I'm just not setting forward.”
However, by only the next evening Mr Stark was cheerful once again and assured Jarvis that everything was very much Jake. His moods were never long-lasting, no matter what the cause. He was an archetypal temperamental genius in that respect.
Despite Mr Stark's increased workload, his social life did not diminish, and Jarvis continued to take him around town to plays, parties, dinners, and functions. His quest to bed every woman in the five boroughs and beyond continued unabated, and Jarvis developed almost a script for dismissing the women in the mornings. There were a few Mr Stark carried on with for longer than a one night stand and a few whom he returned to in some sort of casual arrangement that those women seemed content with, but mostly Mr Stark's affairs were ephemeral.
“I don't get gummy about dames,” he told Jarvis, on more than one occasion.
Jarvis' cheeks and toes wished he might, however. Or at least stick to one for longer than a week. He did make a few polite comments on the subject, but he mostly accepted that Mr Stark was unlikely to change this behaviour, any more than he would learn to put his clothes in the hamper. So Jarvis put them in the hamper for him. kept a bottle of witch hazel handy to deal with cuts and bruises incurred during vacations of Mr Stark's residences, and accepted that as part of his job.
The rest of it he continued to enjoy. He was never without something to occupy him during the day and saw all aspects of New York and even travelled with Mr Stark to other cities. He enjoyed running the household and organizing Mr Stark's life. He even began to enjoy the lab, or at least lose some of his fear of it. His knowledge increased exponentially, and it was all terrifying and fascinating.
Mr Stark frequently entertained at home, and Jarvis found great satisfaction in selecting an appropriate menu and setting the table. There were politicians, socialites, and celebrities, but most often merely quiet dinners with Mr Stark's work colleagues.
As he neared the end of his third month, Jarvis began to worry a little that Mr Stark wouldn't choose to extend his employment. He'd never sensed any dissatisfaction from Mr Stark, and Jarvis would be more than able to support himself and Ana if he was dismissed, but he hadn't expected to enjoy the job so much. Whatever his flaws, Jarvis liked Mr Stark. He was an interesting, unapologetic, occasionally very kind man, who might not be very prudent or diplomatic but was nonetheless eager to change the world and showed very little hesitation in giving his time or money to do it. It was rather like working for a film character; someone Jarvis found very interesting to watch but was happy to be on the peripheral edge of his adventures. It was more stimulating work than when he was with the General, and he came home to Ana each night feeling like he'd accomplished something of use.
Ana was happy in the life they'd created, as well, and Jarvis wouldn't want to uproot her from it. She was settled at work and had a growing circle of friends to visit and have visit. She took art classes in the evenings, and they went to the theatre or the cinema on his nights off. She bought an artist's easel and sang to herself while she used it to create beautiful pieces. Jarvis wasn't sure he would have the heart to tell her they would have to give it all up if he hadn't done a good enough job for Mr Stark.
Mr Stark made no mention of the deadline, and Jarvis' vague probing only earned him 'that's a while still, don't worry', even as they were on the last few days of Jarvis' contract.
If he was to be dismissed, Jarvis' final act would be arranging dinner for Mr Stark and another work colleague who he'd not yet met. Mr Stark's only instructions were to keep it 'simple' but 'you know, nice'. Jarvis did his best, without knowing the tastes of the guest.
The man who arrived at the house looked so much like a scientist that Jarvis couldn't fathom he was anything other than one. He was an older gentleman of indeterminate years; slightly balding, with glasses, and wearing a not particularly well-tailored suit. Mr Stark greeted him warmly and introduced him as 'Dr Abraham Erskine'. Jarvis' assumption was correct; he was a scientist of some sort.
“This is Jarvis,” Mr Stark said.
“Pleasure to meet you,” Jarvis said, with a slight bow.
“He's British,” Mr Stark added, as if that should be an explanation for something.
Dr Erskine shook Jarvis' hand. “Congratulations,” he said, with a quirk of his lips. He had some sort of European accent. “Pleasure to meet you, too.”
“Thank you,” Jarvis returned.
He took Dr Erskine's coat and Mr Stark dragged him off to the drawing room until dinner was ready. Mr Stark was already mid-rant when Jarvis brought in pre-dinner drinks and didn't pause at all during the whole time Jarvis was in the room. Nor had he seemed to have stopped when Jarvis returned to announce dinner was ready.
Jarvis was in and out of the dining room to serve and remove plates, and Dr Erskine did seem to get some words in throughout the evening, but Mr Stark's technical discussion of topics well above Jarvis' head dominated. Dr Erskine listened with amusement in his eyes, as though indulging a child.
“You keep acting like I do not agree with you, Howard,” Jarvis heard him say, at one point. “I do agree. You do not need to convince me, I am convinced! It does not change the feasibility of it.”
Jarvis decided his accent was German, which was a bit surprising, but Jarvis elected not to judge. He hated when others did it to Ana. He refilled the wine glasses.
“It's not about feasibility, it's about your dragging your heels, Abe,” Mr Stark retorted. “I'm gonna have it done, and you're still not gonna have anyone to put in it.”
“It must be the right person,” Dr Erskine said. “If you make a machine with bad parts, you will make a bad machine. If I use a bad man, I will make a much worse man. You are permitted the best parts. Let me have the best man.”
“You're going to have to start looking harder because time's moving forward and we aren't,” Mr Stark said.
“You are not finished yet, Howard,” Dr Erskine said. “Don't get ahead of yourself. There is still time. It will be worth the wait.”
“I hope so,” Mr Stark said. “Because things are gonna get worse before they get better.”
“I know,” Dr Erskine said, with a sad smile. “They always do.”
Mr Stark and Dr Erskine retired to the library after dinner and were there well into the late hours. Jarvis popped in every so often to see if they needed anything, and, around one in the morning, he found Dr Erskine standing in the hall outside the library looking a little lost.
“May I help you, sir?” Jarvis asked.
“I said to Howard, 'no, no, I will see myself out, I know the way,” Dr Erskine replied. “And then I got out here and I realize I don't. Howard's very excellent wine is not helping. I'm a little beschwipst, I think.”
“The house is a bit of a maze,” Jarvis said. “I'll show you the way. May I drive you home?”
“No, in America, I have men who drive me,” Dr Erskine said, with a bit of an ironic smile. “I am important here, apparently. I always have people around to see me safe.” He fell into wobbly step with Jarvis, who moved slowly so as to allow him to keep up. “Mr Stark tells me you and your wife are new to America, too.”
“Yes,” Jarvis said. “Only a few months.”
“I am sorry for what my countrymen did to her country,” Dr Erskine said.
“You did nothing to her, I'm sure,” Jarvis said. “You have nothing to apologize for. She's safe now, anyway.”
“Yes, Howard made sure to tell me the thrilling tale of her rescue and his heroic eleventh-hour appeal for your life,” Dr Erskine said, with a smile. “You are a very brave man, I think.”
Jarvis tried to gently step around that, unsure of how to respond. “I'm very grateful to Mr Stark for his help.”
“I'm sure you are, but I am speaking of you, not him,” Dr Erskine said. “Howard risked nothing. You went in thinking you might die, but you did it anyway. That is brave.”
Jarvis shook his head. “I'm not sure what I was thinking,” he said. “I just knew I had to do something or wouldn't be able to live with myself.”
This wasn't the sort of thing he'd go about telling a stranger, but Dr Erskine had a manner that invited confidences, and Jarvis didn't feel the usual shame he felt when talking about his actions. He didn't regret what he'd done, but it wasn't anything to be proud of, either, and he'd prefer if people didn't know, and Mr Stark didn't go about telling tales of it.
“The world needs more men like that,” Dr Erskine said, thoughtfully. “Howard is lucky to have you around. I hope you will stay to look after him. He goes in too many directions at once. He needs a friend.”
“Mr Stark has many friends,” Jarvis said.
“He needs a friend who cares,” Dr Erskine clarified.
Jarvis helped him into his coat and made sure he was safely put in the car waiting for him. Dr Erskine gave his hand a good shake and thanked him for excellent service that evening. Jarvis wished him well and saw him on his way, then returned to the library to see what state Mr Stark was in.
“Heeeey!” he greeted Jarvis, from his position half out of an armchair by the fireplace. “It's good you're here. I want to go build stuff, but I don't know where my shoes are.”
“If I'm not mistaken, I believe they're on your feet,” Jarvis said, with a pointed look down.
“No, I don't want these ones,” Mr Stark said, kicking them off. “I want the ones I want.”
“Perhaps it might be best to go to bed, sir,” Jarvis suggested. “You probably shouldn't be operating machinery right now.”
“I'm not drunk,” Mr Stark said. “I just took my shoes off. I couldn't do that if I was drunk, could I?”
“No, of course not,” Jarvis said. “But it's late; aren't you tired? You shouldn't work on complicated things when you're tired.”
Mr Stark made a face. “Yeah, okay,” he said. He looked down at his feet. “Hey, where are my shoes?”
Jarvis retrieved them and gently helped Mr Stark up onto his feet, cajoling him toward the elevator. It wasn't used very often, but Jarvis didn't like to risk the stairs when Mr Stark was drunk. There were so many, and the drop onto the marble flooring would be rather horrifying. None of the Marys would be able to get the blood out.
Mr Stark flopped down on the bed, and Jarvis helped him out of his jacket and waistcoat. Mr Stark fumbled with his shirt buttons, and Jarvis crouched to remove his socks.
“Me and Erskine are doing something big,” Mr Stark said, with a great, happy smile. “It's gonna be really good, Jarvis. You're going to be impressed. It's going to be really, really good.”
“I've no doubt, sir,” Jarvis said. He took Mr Stark's shirt and handed him his pyjama top. “Dr Erskine seems like a nice man.”
“Yep,” Mr Stark said. “He's really smart. Hitler shouldn't have pissed him off. Peggy got him out of Germany. He's not a bad Kraut, he's a good one, so she went and got him. Do you know Peggy?”
Jarvis shook his head. “I don't believe so,” he said.
“She's keen,” Mr Stark said, appreciatively. “Nice chassis. But scary. And not in a fun way. She's British, like you. You'd like her. You should have tea. Hey...don't touch my pants! I can do it.”
“Sorry, sir,” Jarvis said. “Please feel free.”
He put Mr Stark's clothing in the hamper, one of the rare occasions they would get there without being thrown on the floor first. Mr Stark was still determined not to use it. In fact, Jarvis suspected he enjoyed putting his things anywhere but the hamper and especially enjoyed putting them directly next to the hamper as some sort of joke.
Mr Stark had managed to remove his trousers and was looking with puzzlement at his pyjama bottoms. Jarvis took them, rolled the legs up, and held them for Mr Stark to step into.
“See, I told you I could do it,” Mr Stark said, triumphantly.
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said.
Mr Stark gave him an affectionate pat on the shoulder. “You're swell,” he said.
“Thank you, sir,” Jarvis said. “Get into bed.”
“I am getting! Don't rush me!” Mr Stark said. “I'm the boss.”
Jarvis stood patiently until Mr Stark finished pulling his sheets down enough to get under them.
“Hey,” Mr Stark said, tugging on Jarvis' sleeve. “Mirandez is coming in the morning for...something. I have to talk to him.”
Jarvis internally winced at the train wreck that would be Mr Stark hungover and Mr Mirandez, who was pathologically busy, climbing the walls. “Should I serve breakfast for you both?”
“Yep,” Mr Stark said. “And...there was another thing. What was it? I was gonna tell you something. It was...about...oh! You need to get Finestein over, because of your contract.”
“Right,” Jarvis said. He felt a little jolt of nerves in his stomach. “I'll ring in the morning.”
“You're gonna stay, right?” Mr Stark asked, very earnest. “You're not gonna quit?”
Jarvis let out an involuntary sigh of relief. “No, sir,” he said. “If you're willing to keep me in your employ, I will stay.”
Mr Stark grinned. “Good,” he said. “You're really...” He gave a nod, apparently satisfied he'd completed the sentence.
“That is a lovely compliment, sir,” Jarvis said. “Thank you.”
Mr Stark banged his face into his pillow a few times and settled in. Jarvis pulled the covers over him and placed a glass of water and a pair of aspirin on the bedside table for the morning. He shut off the lights, secured the house, and went home to bed.
Ana was curled up in her cocoon, so he used the extra blanket for himself. She rolled over and into him, putting her arm over his stomach and her face into his chest.
“Mindent rendben?” she murmured.
Jarvis gave her a kiss on her head. “Everything is fine.”
Jarvis had the afternoon of December 7th, 1941 off. He was attempting to get his clothing organized for the week, laundering and ironing, and Ana was in the kitchen, cleaning up the remains of lunch and singing softly to herself. 'The Last Time I Saw Paris', from the sounds of it.
There was a sudden pounding at the door. Not a knock, but a full, urgent slamming of a fist. Jarvis abandoned the iron and went running to answer it.
“Get me a car,” Mr Stark said, when Jarvis opened the door.
“I beg your--” Jarvis began.
“I need you to drive me to Brooklyn, now,” Mr Stark said. His face was blanched white, and he trembled slightly.
“You're upset, what's--” Jarvis tried.
“Do it now!” Mr Stark yelled. “I need to go now, goddammit! Just come. Do something when I tell you to!”
Jarvis found his coat being handed to him by Ana, who looked worriedly at Mr Stark.
“What has happened?” she asked him.
“The Japs,” Mr Stark said, through gritted teeth. “That's what's fucking happened.”
“Sir, do not use that sort of language in front of my wife,” Jarvis said.
Mr Stark bobbed his head in apology. “Sorry, Annie,” he said, without much regret. “Would you move?! I don't have time!”
Jarvis shrugged his coat on and murmured an apology to Ana, who shushed him and sent him on his way, looking concerned. Mr Stark made a beeline for the garage, and Jarvis realized he genuinely intended to leave this moment.
“Sir, you have no coat or jacket on,” he said.
“Don't need 'em. I need to get to Brooklyn,” Mr Stark yelled over his shoulder.
Jarvis jogged after him and grabbed the keys for the car closest to the exit. Mr Stark bounced impatiently beside it, waiting for Jarvis to unlock it, and grabbed the keys from his hand when he approached.
“Sir,” Jarvis tried again. “You must tell me what has you so agitated.” He took the keys back. Mr Stark was still trembling and not accomplishing anything.
“The Japs bombed Pearl Harbor,” Mr Stark said. “Fucking sneak attack. No warning. They sunk the fleet. No official number of casualties, but it's bad. We're at war. This is...it's war. We're in now. FDR can't let it slide. We're going to have to join.”
Jarvis felt the bottom fall out of his stomach, the same way it had on the day the King gave his speech on the radio, saying England was at war with Germany. Back then, one might have hoped it wouldn't be a long conflict. Now, it seemed it would drag on forever and suck more and more young men in it to die.
“I need to get to Brooklyn,” Mr Stark said. “I have to finish--I have to do something. I can't sit around. I need to do something. Now.”
Jarvis managed to get the door unlocked, and Mr Stark threw himself into the back seat. Jarvis closed the door and went around to the front. He didn't remember putting the car into gear or leaving the garage. They both sat in stunned silence as Jarvis made his way to the Brooklyn Project's headquarters.
“Is it common knowledge yet?” Jarvis asked, after a few minutes.
“No,” Mr Stark said. “I got a head's up from an insider in Washington. Won't be long though. People are gonna know soon.”
Jarvis hoped he could get back to Ana before then and tell her himself. For six months, they had lived largely outside of the war. Now it seemed they would be in it again. There didn't seem to be a place to go to hide from it.
“Sorry for being a jerk,” Mr Stark said, after another few minutes of silence.
“No, I understand,” Jarvis said. “It's an urgent situation.”
“Yeah, well, it's not your fault,” Mr Stark said. “I shouldn't have yelled at you. Or Ana. Tell her I said sorry.”
“I'm sure she'll understand as well,” Jarvis said.
“I don't think I've ever been this angry before in my life,” Mr Stark said. “Kinda don't know what to do with myself. Well, I know what I wanna do. And what I gotta do. I hope I can do it.”
It was rare to hear Mr Stark express self-doubt. This had him rattled. Jarvis couldn't blame him. It was awful to the point of being hard to believe. How terrible that the whole world could change so instantly. In just one moment.
“If there's any way I can help, please let me know,” Jarvis said.
“There's going to be a lot of phone calls coming in,” Mr Stark said. “You might want to stay at the house and be ready for them.”
“Of course,” Jarvis said.
“I probably won't be back tonight, or late if I am,” Mr Stark added.
“Just give me a ring, I'll come and get you,” Jarvis said. “Please don't concern yourself about the time.”
“Thanks,” Mr Stark said.
There was another long silence before Mr Stark broke it once more.
“Glad you're here, Jarvis,” he said.
“I'm happy to be of service,” Jarvis said. “In whatever way I can.”
“Good,” Mr Stark said. “Because I really think I'm gonna need someone useful around right now.”