Characters: Howard Stark, Maria Carrera, Edwin Jarvis, Dernier, Falsworth, a few OCs
Warnings/Triggers: swearing, some discussion of sad things, lots of sex and innuendo (nothing explicit)
Spoilers: Nothing specific, but generalized for various backstories of the characters involved
Word Count 3,701
Summary: When the press starts to close in on Howard and Maria's new relationship, Howard whisks Maria off to Paris see if he can convince her to stick around.
Author's notes: Last part! Sorry about the delay. This chapter is from Jarvis' POV, as he seemed to the best person to finish it off. Thanks for reading!
PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX
Jarvis woke up five minutes before the alarm was due to go off on Sunday morning. He took those five minutes to mentally prepare himself for the day. He found going home from a trip much more stressful than leaving for one. If something was forgotten when leaving, it would still be there when Mr Stark returned home again and a temporary item could be bought in the meantime. If it was forgotten when going home, it would be lost forever. Jarvis once left a pair of Mr Stark's favourite shoes in Florence and still felt it was one of the few times he was fired with good reason instead of just pique. Mr Stark used firing as a way to show disapproval or get anger at an entirely different situation out, and Jarvis rarely worried about permanent dismissal, but losing a pair of $100 Salvatore Ferragamo shoes was certainly cause for concern about his continued employment.
Today, Jarvis would also have Miss Carrera's things to deal with. He felt he'd made very good progress in earning her trust this week, and she seemed much more comfortable in allowing him to work for her and to make requests of him. He hoped that earned trust would be useful in the future, as it well might be that this would be the end of Mr Stark's relationship with her, and thus, Jarvis'. Which Jarvis hoped would not be the case, as he quite liked Miss Carrera. And he wanted Mr Stark to be happy, and while Mr Stark's happiness might not be contingent on Miss Carrera, it was certainly improved by her.
He could only hope his suggestion of Paris in spring worked out favourably.
The alarm went off and Jarvis rose. He showered, dressed, and had a cup of tea. Once ready, he took up his list and set to work gathering items from the living areas. Mr Stark made hotel rooms his home when he was away, which meant they looked like his office by the end of the trip. Miss Carrera was only marginally better with her things, as it turned out.
When all that was packed up, he gave a knock on the door to Mr Stark's room and entered. Miss Carrera was still asleep, but Mr Stark was awake and put his finger to his lips as Jarvis entered.
“Morning,” he mouthed.
Jarvis nodded back a hello. He placed a glass of water and an Alka-Seltzer tablet on the bedside table, but Mr Stark shook his head.
“M'okay,” he said, quietly. “Didn't get that drunk, and I got most of the hangover before bed. We were up late.”
“I see,” Jarvis said, politely.
“Not like that,” Mr Stark said. “Well, a little like that. We were just...talking a little. I think. I mean, I know we were talking but...you know, it was...good talking.”
Jarvis wondered if the word he was looking for was 'communicating', which, Jarvis had observed during the week, was really something they needed to improve. They spoke about trivial things easily, in a gentle, often ceaseless banter, but both of them had expressed feelings to Jarvis that neither seemed to have expressed to the other, and, while Jarvis appreciated being trusted enough to be confided in, he couldn't be a go-between. Nor could he, as much as he would like to, say 'she's concerned that she's going to be viewed as having slept her way to the top, perhaps you should reassure her on that point' or 'Mr Stark expresses his feelings through presents and money, please allow him to do so, you're making it very difficult for him to show his affections'.
It was something they would have to learn for themselves. They were both stubborn, but Jarvis felt Miss Carrera was young enough that she might mature into it. Mr Stark would have a harder time maturing.
“I'll try to not wake her until it's necessary,” Jarvis whispered.
Mr Stark gave him an okay sign and settled back in, rubbing Miss Carrera's shoulder. Jarvis felt uncomfortable in Mr Stark's bedroom for the first time in a very long time. He'd seen him in all manner of situation, in all states of dress, and could not be shocked by anything, but this had a sort of intimacy to it that was different than if he'd been doing something more actively intimate. Jarvis kept his eyes away from the bed.
They managed to give Miss Carrera an extra half hour or so of sleep before she needed to start to get ready.
“Oh, I'm sorry!” she said, sitting up in alarm. “You should have woken me! Won't we be late?”
“You can't be late when you have a private plane,” Mr Stark said. “Any time you arrive is the time you're supposed to be there. Don't worry, Jarvis has everything in hand. He's got your bags packed up already.”
“I'm afraid I chose an outfit for you in order to save us some time,” Jarvis said, with apology.
“No, it's my fault,” Miss Carrera said. “That's fine, thank you.” She shot them both a look of annoyance. “Someone should have woken me!”
“Ria, it's Sunday. It's the Lord's day. We have the whole day to get home, and no one is going to leave without us,” Mr Stark said. “I mean, we have a checkout time, but I can just pay for an extra day if we're a little late. Relax, honey.”
“Don't call me--oh,” Miss Carrera said. “No, I guess you can call me honey. I don't mind that as much.”
Mr Stark grinned very widely. “I'm not giving up 'babe' just yet,” he said. “Because it suits you. But I'll work on adding a few other words in there.”
“Hey, Edwin, where is--”
“By the front door, Mr Melendez.”
“Jarvis, have you seen my--?”
“I believe it's in your briefcase, sir.”
“Stop reading my mind. You know that makes me feel weird.”
“My apologies, sir.”
“Sorry to bother you, Mr Jarvis, but do you know what happened to the notes that were in the study?”
“I've put them in your attaché case, ma'am, I hope that's all right.”
“No, that's fine, I just didn't want to forget them.”
Jarvis crossed another item off his list and moved onto the next as everyone continued to move about and be in his way while trying to be helpful. It was much better when Mr Stark was out while Jarvis packed. He could do it far faster without anyone there to do things improperly. And Mr Stark had a terrible habit of wanting things that were already packed, just slightly after Jarvis had put them away.
“Sir, the third bag is packed and I will not open it again!”
Mr Stark froze and raised his hands as though Jarvis were pointing a gun at him. “Okay, relax,” he said. “You're going to have a coronary one of these days, Jarvis. As it happens I don't want anything from the third bag. So there.”
Jarvis refused to apologize because it was a logical assumption. He merely raised an inquisitive eyebrow instead.
“Geez, you're so touchy when we have to go anywhere,” Mr Stark said. “I just want to know if you got the thing I asked you to get yesterday.”
Jarvis had a brief moment of panic because he could not think of what he'd been supposed to get the day before and worried he hadn't got it at all.
“For Maria?” Mr Stark asked, in a lower voice.
“Oh!” Jarvis said, relieved. “Yes, sir. Yes, I have it. It's in my quarters, with my bags. Do you want it now?”
“No,” Mr Stark said. “But I want it on the plane where I can get it.”
“I'll make sure it's in the cabin storage,” Jarvis said.
“Do you think she'll like it?” Mr Stark asked. “Do you think it's okay?”
“You should know better than I, sir,” Jarvis said. At Mr Stark's worried face, he added: “But I think it's very fitting.”
“Okay,” Mr Stark said. He shifted on his feet. “Good. Do you know where my moustache comb is?”
“...Is it in the third bag?”
“Can I have it?”
Mr Stark opened his mouth to argue and then closed it. “Sometimes, Jarvis, I don't think I'm really in charge at all."
“I have no idea why you would think that, Mr Stark,” Jarvis said. “Now, go and put your shoes on and sit down until we leave.”
“Mr Jarvis, did you just cross 'get on plane' off your list?” Miss Carrera asked.
Jarvis, who had done that very thing, put his pen and notebook away. “Yes."
Miss Carrera bit her lip around her smile, in an attempt, Jarvis suspected, not to laugh outright. “Do you think you're going to forget?”
“With Mr Stark, ma'am, I prefer to leave nothing to chance,” Jarvis replied.
“Have you ever forgotten him somewhere?” Miss Carrera asked, eyes big and innocent in her teasing. “Failed to pack him?”
“No, but he once very nearly failed to pack me,” Jarvis said. “And once bitten is twice shy.”
Mr Stark looked over from his examination of the weather report Mr Costa had given him. “That was not my fault,” he said. “I told you we had to leave fast, and I thought you were with me. If you weren't running, you can't blame me.”
“Do you recall as to the reason we had to leave so quickly, sir?” Jarvis asked.
Mr Stark squinted, obviously finding it difficult to remember. Then his eyes returned to normal, and he gave a nod. “Okay, that was my fault,” he said. “But I didn't know she was engaged.”
“Sir, she was a princess and you were at her engagement ball,” Jarvis said.
Mr Stark shrugged. “There were a lot of princesses there, Jarvis, how was I supposed to know which one we were celebrating? She didn't say anything until Prince What's-His-Face came at me.”
Miss Carrera rolled her eyes and held her arms out to her sides as though questioning the universe, a sentiment Jarvis echoed with his own sigh and shake of his head.
“Hey, you're not allowed to disapprove in stereo,” Mr Stark said. “Take turns.” He handed the weather report back to Mr Costa. “Let's get out of here, Manny, before they kick me off.”
“Yes, sir,” Mr Costa said, with a smirk. “Ready when you are.”
Take off went smoothly. Miss Carrera looked marginally less terrified than on their way to Paris and once again, as soon as they were in the air, she relaxed. Overall, she was much more comfortable than she had been a week earlier. She moved around the plane and interacted with Jarvis with more confidence, as though she belonged there. Jarvis noticed a different atmosphere between her and Mr Stark, too. Mr Stark wasn't trying so hard to impress her, and Miss Carrera was therefore not trying so hard to not be impressed.
Perhaps that boded well.
It was hard not to eavesdrop in a plane, even the one the size that Mr Stark travelled in. No matter where one went, sound tended to carry, and, short of locking himself in the lavatory for the full eight hours, Jarvis had little option but to hear what was being said.
Not that it was terribly intimate conversation. There was much discussion of work--projects and what they would be getting back to the next day and agreeing that it was nice to get away but that they were both looking forward to going back to work. They were both very enthusiastic about it all, but to Jarvis, despite his vast improvement in scientific knowledge over the past 25 years, it all sounded like another language.
There was also discussion of current events, with Mr Stark translating items from the French newspapers he'd bought.
“They're protesting at Berkeley again,” he said. “30,000 people. Fuck. Bunch of slacker activists there who don't have a fucking clue what they're protesting. Entitled brats who reject everything their parents fought for them to have. Fuck Berkeley.”
“I went to Berkeley,” Miss Carrera said, mildly.
“Well, that explains why you're a pacifist then,” Mr Stark replied.
“I'm not a pacifist,” Miss Carrera said. “I just think there are better things to do than go over to another country and fight with them when we have things we could be solving here. Like sexism, and racism, and poverty.”
“You work for a damned funny company, then,” Mr Stark noted.
“I can be anti-war and not anti-military,” Miss Carrera said. “I don't want any of our men to go to war, but if they do have to fight, they should be equipped for it. Besides, you do plenty besides make weapons. I've worked on a dozen drugs since I started at your company, and a lot of your inventions get used in everyday life or in medicine. I'd like to think I'm helping to keep young men safe, whatever the reason they were in peril. Bringing a few more brothers home alive and maybe helping the world while I'm at it.”
Mr Stark's face flickered with something sad for a moment, but it settled into an admiring look. “You're still an idealist,” he said, making it a clear insult. “Did you learn that at Berkeley, too?”
“Yes, I took Idealism classes between Rabble Rousing and Undermining the Previous Generation,” Miss Carrera said.
“Fuck, am I the previous generation now?” Mr Stark said.
“I think so,” Miss Carrera replied.
“Well, at least I still have my hair,” Mr Stark said, running his hand over his locks.
“Yes, and that is what's going to keep me from having an affair with Gene Kelly,” Miss Carrera replied.
They both started to laugh, and while Jarvis hadn't fully followed the flow of conversation, he thought they were, at least, communicating a little better.
Jarvis did some flying on the way home, taking over when Mr Costa wanted a break. Miss Carrera and Mr Stark were very focussed on one another, and Jarvis felt it best to let them have the time.
Landing was as smooth as take off, though Mr Stark was starting to look apprehensive. Jarvis wasn't sure where his relationship with Miss Carrera stood, but he assumed Mr Stark still had some hope, or he would have been in a much fouler mood. Jarvis went ahead to see the lay of the land in regards to press. The security team's plane had left ahead of Mr Stark's, and Mr Melendez was waiting for him.
“Hey, Edwin,” he said. “We got a throng of reporters at the edge of the field. Don't let Howard out until we're sure all they're pointing at him are cameras.”
Jarvis thanked him and went back in to relay the information to Mr Stark in an undertone.
“What's going on?” Miss Carrera asked.
“Nothing, just a bit of a delay,” Mr Stark said, dismissive.
“Howard,” Miss Carrera said, in warning.
“Security is just being cautious with the press,” Mr Stark amended. “We have to hold off for a bit.” He jumped to his feet. “Hey, I have something for you while we're waiting.”
Miss Carrera's eyes followed him, worried. “What sort of something?”
“A good something,” Mr Stark said. He opened one of the cabin storage compartments and pulled out a box wrapped in brown paper. “You'll like it.”
“Howard, I don't need anything else,” Miss Carrera said.
“It's a thank you,” he said. “For coming with me.”
“You're giving me a thank you present for coming with you on a trip you paid for?” Miss Carrera said.
“Yep!” Mr Stark said, cheerfully. He put the box next to her on the couch. “You should have a souvenir.”
“I have the dress,” Miss Carrera said. “The one worth more than my university tuition?”
Mr Stark shoved the box closer to her. “Would you just open it?”
Miss Carrera pulled the box into her lap and began to take the paper off. Jarvis could see that Mr Stark would be much happier if she ripped it. His hands curled up as though resisting the urge to do it himself. He always told Jarvis not to treat all presents like a 'goddamned lady you're seducing, just get in there!'.
Miss Carrera opened the top of the box and looked in. “Howard,” she said, in a rather flat voice. “Did you buy me a microscope as a souvenir of Paris?”
“That, Carrera, is precisely what I did,” Mr Stark said. “Well, Jarvis bought it, to give him his due, but I was very specific about what to get. You said you thought yours was looking kind of cheap in comparison to the dress, so I got you one to make the dress look cheap. You wouldn't let me buy you the Mona Lisa. I had to improvise.”
“That is...” she began, and Jarvis held his breath, worried how the sentence was going to end. “Really thoughtful.”
“Ouch,” Mr Stark said. “You could have said that with a little less surprise, Ria. I am sometimes thoughtful.”
Miss Carrera pulled the eyepiece out and held it up to examine it.
“It's an SEM, best you can get,” Mr Stark said, and then continued on to list the specifications with the same diligence a sommelier listed the characteristics of fine wine. “And...it's yours. For work or home, whatever you want.”
Miss Carrera suddenly broke out in a big smile, which was, in Jarvis' opinion, one of her most attractive features, and Mr Stark visibly slumped in relief.
“Thank you,” Miss Carrera said. “Thank you, Howard. This is wonderful.”
Mr Stark nodded and shrugged, trying to play off his anxiety about it. “Well, you match then,” he said, and went to get a drink from the bar.
Miss Carrera smiled down at her microscope, and then over to Jarvis. “Thank you."
“It was entirely Mr Stark's idea,” Jarvis assured her. “I merely executed it. I'm glad you like it. It's not my usual purchase, I do hope it's all to code."
“Are you saying Howard Stark has never bought a girl a microscope before?” Miss Carrera asked, her eyes dancing with mischief.
“That is precisely what I'm saying, Miss Carrera,” Jarvis said.
Miss Carrera smiled again. “I should thank you for a lovely week, as well. I've had a very nice time, and you were great. It's been nice to get to know you better.”
“Likewise, ma'am,” Jarvis said. “Forgive me, but is this a goodbye? I should like to do it properly if it is.”
Miss Carrera looked over to Mr Stark, who was now putting a record on the LP player. “No,” she said. “No, Mr Jarvis. Not a goodbye. I think I might stay around for a little longer.”
The LP player made a loud scratch as Mr Stark fumbled with the record. Perhaps Miss Carrera's intentions were news to him. He looked over and then tried to fix the record, but it still screeched twice before settling in to the groove.
“I'm very pleased to hear that, ma'am,” Jarvis said, trying to bring her attentions away from Mr Stark's inelegance.
Miss Carrera moved the box from her lap and stood up and hugged Jarvis, who was not expecting it at all. He returned the hug, patting her back until she let him go. She gave him a merry kiss on his nose, as well, and Jarvis felt his cheeks turn warm.
“You're a very decent fellow, Mr Jarvis,” she said.
“Thank you, Miss Carrera,” Jarvis replied.
“Hey, don't feel up my butler,” Mr Stark said. He held out his hands to her. “Come over here and feel me up instead. You're frightening him. He's British, he doesn't do physical contact.”
Miss Carrera retreated and shook Jarvis' hand instead, then went over to Mr Stark. Jarvis made sure the microscope was with the rest of the bags that needed to be removed from the plane and began to transfer the luggage to the waiting car before anyone else tried to lavish unnecessary affections on him.
Mr Stark pulled Miss Carrera into a close foxtrot, and they murmured to one another while Jarvis worked, quiet enough that Jarvis didn't hear and didn't strain to try.
“Hey, Jarvis, you're gonna take Maria home,” Mr Stark said. “Give it about half an hour after I leave. Hopefully, the press will chase me down and ignore her.”
“Very good, Mr Stark,” Jarvis said. He wished he'd known that before he'd started packing one car, now he would have to split Miss Carrera's luggage off.
“And later this week,” Mr Stark went on. “Maria thinks she'd like to come with me to the Red Cross charity thing.”
Jarvis tried to appear less pleased about that than he was and retain some professional distance. He wasn't sure if he succeeded. “I'll make arrangements for that."
“Thanks,” Mr Stark said. He gave Miss Carrera a spin and pulled her back in.
Jarvis went back out to split up the luggage, and while he was there, he rang Ana to let her know when to expect him.
“Did everything go well?” she asked him. “Is all well with Mr Stark and his lady?”
“Quite well, I believe,” Jarvis said.
“Oh, good!” Ana said, delighted. “I'm so pleased. He likes her so much, and she is a lovely girl. Paris in spring worked for him, yes?”
“Yes, Paris in spring worked perfectly,” Jarvis said.
“Just as you said it would,” Anna said.
Jarvis nodded into the phone. “Just as I said it would.”