Characters: Edwin Jarvis, Tony Stark, Howard Stark, Peggy Carter, Ana Jarvis, daemons
Warnings/Triggers: swearing, references to alcoholism, factory accidents (very mild references to wounds)
Spoilers: Generalized for the Stark family's backstory in the MCU
Pairings: Jarvis/Ana, Howard/Maria, Peggy/Her Husband
Word Count 5, 753
Summary: A factory accident, a medical conference, and an 'indisposed' nanny adds child-minding to Jarvis' list of professions for the day as Master Tony is placed in his care. Thankfully, he gets a little help here and there.
Author's notes: This is long. Everything I write lately is long. I'm sorry everything is so long. It's one story, but it's had to be split in two due to length.
Set in December of 1972 (I started it so long ago, I can't remember why I was that specific, but I was, apparently). Tony is about two-and-a-half.
Knowledge of His Dark Materials is not required. All that's necessary to know is that, in this world, humans' souls live outside of their bodies in the form of animals. There's an excellent primer here.
The characters of Dejeni, Takeo, and Tomor (mentioned but not appearing) belong to joonscribble. Our custody arrangement allows for the borrowing of them.
For reference: Haddie (a Welsh Springer Spaniel), Dejeni (a raccoon), Takeo (a spotted hyena), Hesper (a silkmoth), Hoggan (a kinkajou)
Mentioned by not appearing onscreen: Carmel (a rose-breasted grosbeak), Prydery (a koala), and Tomor (an otter)
“Edwin, Mr Stark is coming here, I think,” Ana called, from the morning room. “He looks in a hurry!”
Jarvis set down the iron he was using to set the ink on Mr Stark's newspaper, exchanging a worried look with Haddie. It was far too early for Mr Stark to be out of bed, let alone coming to see Jarvis.
“He has Tony with him,” Ana added.
“Oh dear,” Haddie said. She hopped down from the chair she was in to oversee his ironing and followed after him as he hurried to the door.
Jarvis opened the door just ahead of Mr Stark's knock, ducking back so as not to be hit in the face.
“Jawy!” Master Tony exclaimed, from Mr Stark's arms. He held out his own to Jarvis. “Hello to you!”
Mrs Dejeni carried Miss Demira in her arms, and Miss Demira transformed from a squirming raccoon into a squirming puppy at the sight of Haddie.
“What—” Jarvis began.
“Nanny's sick again, Maria's already in Philly for the conference today, and there's been a big accident in my factory in Hoboken,” Mr Stark said, breathlessly. He thrust Master Tony into Jarvis' arms. “You're going to have to watch him. That's not a request, but pick a day you want off next week and you'll get it, no questions asked.”
Jarvis settled Master Tony on his hip, receiving a sloppy kiss on the cheek from him. Haddie took Miss Demira from Mrs Dejeni, lifting her by the scruff of her neck.
“You don't need to demand a favour when it would be given to you freely,” Jarvis said to Mr Stark. “You only have to ask.”
Mr Stark bobbed his head in apology. “Yeah, okay, sorry for being a jerk,” he said. “I'm just—fuck, I hate when this sort of thing fucking happens.” Mrs Dejeni knit her paws together at his feet.
Jarvis put his hand over one of Master Tony's ears and pressed the other ear to his shoulder. “Sir, that is inappropriate language,” he said. “Was anyone hurt?”
“God, yeah,” Mr Stark said, grimly. “I only have early reports, but at least a dozen in the hospital. What I hope is that no one was killed. I can put people back together. I can't bring them back to life. Fuck. Sorry! I'll put a dollar in the jar when I get a minute. Three dollars. Anyway, I have to go.”
Mrs Dejeni scampered away and then back again when Mr Stark didn't follow.
“How are you getting there?” Jarvis asked. “Should I drive you?”
“No, I'm going to take a chopper, get there as fast as I can,” Mr Stark said. “I'll drive myself to the airfield; Costa's going to meet me there.”
Mrs Dejeni ran away and back again.
“Ana can—” Jarvis began.
“Ana works Fridays,” Mr Stark interrupted. “She should be going soon, right?”
“Well, yes, but—” Jarvis said.
“I know I'm a crappy employer, but I do remember some things,” Mr Stark said, with a lopsided grin. “Sorry to ruin the Shabbat for you two, I know it's your big dinner tonight.”
“Ana won't be any more put out about Master Tony being here than I am,” Jarvis said. “Which is not at all. He can join us for dinner if necessary. Don't trouble yourself. Master Tony and I will have a very nice day together, won't we?”
He smiled down at Master Tony, who smiled back with enthusiasm, though Jarvis wasn't sure how much he had heard considering Jarvis was still covering his ears. He released them.
“Thanks,” Mr Stark said.
“And you're a fine employer,” Jarvis added. “Please don't be harsh on yourself for something out of your control. Whatever happened at the factory was not your fault.”
“We'll see,” Mr Stark said. He ruffled Master Tony's hair. “Be a good boy for Jarvis, okay, kid? I gotta go.”
“Okay, bye!” Master Tony said, waving his hand.
Mr Stark smiled a little. Mrs Dejeni ran back once more to pat Miss Demira on the head and then ran away again.
“Tell him about Nanny,” Haddie said to Jarvis. “We can't let this go on and on. It's past the time of being polite about it.”
“Sir,” Jarvis said, as Mr Stark turned to go. “I know this isn't the moment to broach this subject, but I've been meaning to speak to you about Nanny's illnesses. I believe she may be—”
“Yeah, I know,” Mr Stark said. He made a gesture of drinking. “Maria and I are going to talk to her about it and give her her notice, but not today. Don't have time today. Today she can enjoy being hungover.”
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said. “Good luck.”
“Thanks,” Mr Stark said.
He hurried off to the garage, Mrs Dejeni miles ahead of him, and Jarvis hoped things wouldn't go too badly in Hoboken. Aside from the human cost, these sorts of accidents hit stock prices very hard, not to mention putting production behind.
“I hope it's human error and not poorly maintained equipment or something similar,” Jarvis said to Haddie. “Something that would reflect badly on Mr Stark.”
“Yes, me too,” Haddie said. “But it isn't the sort of thing to hope, is it?”
“No,” Jarvis said, feeling a little guilty about it. “Well, I hope that the injuries are superficial, as well.”
“Yes, that's more appropriate,” Haddie agreed.
“Well, Master Tony,” Jarvis said. “What shall we do? Should we go and say hello to Ana?”
He carried Master Tony into the morning room, Haddie picking up Miss Demira again and following. Ana smiled in greeting and Hesperos fluttered his wings in delight, floating down to greet Miss Demira, who squirmed out of Haddie's mouth to say hello.
“Master Tony is going to be my companion today,” Jarvis explained. “Mr Stark had to leave suddenly.”
“Nana!” Master Tony said. Jarvis set him on the floor, and he hurried over to climb into her lap. “It's me. Hello to you! Let's play.”
Ana laughed softly and wrapped him up against her chest. “I'm afraid I must go to work, bogárkám,” she said. “But we can have a little chat, first, yes? Have you had your breakfast? You're still wearing your pyjamas, silly boy. Where are your clothes?”
“At my house,” Master Tony said. He took some toast from Ana's plate and stuffed it in his mouth. “I visit you. It's special.”
“It is special,” Ana said, pressing her cheek to the top of his head. “I wish I could stay and play with you.”
Hesper fluttered around playfully, letting Miss Demira chase him as a mischievous cat before she transformed into a silkworm and wriggled for attention.
“Yes, play,” Master Tony said. “We play, Nana.”
“Maybe later, Tony, when I come home, yes?” Ana said. “Today, Edwin will play with you and have lots of fun.”
“Yes, you and I will play, Master Tony,” Jarvis promised. “After we see Ana off on her way.”
Master Tony seemed content to cuddle and pick bits of leftover breakfast off Ana's plate. Miss Demira showed off a few new forms she'd taken to of late as Hesper admired her and brushed her with his wings. Jarvis cleared the rest of the table while Ana bounced Master Tony on her knee and sang nursery rhymes to him.
“You really should be going,” Jarvis reminded her, at 7:45.
“Yes, yes, dear,” Ana said. She placed another kiss on Master Tony's head and moved him to the floor. “Now we must say goodbye, Tony. I must work. But soon you and I will spend some time together.”
Master Tony craned his neck to look up at her, his eyes very sad. “I come too?” he asked. “I help, Nana.” Miss Demira turned into a raccoon and offered her paws to assist.
“Oh, that is very kind of you to offer,” Ana said. “I'm sure you would be such a big help. But I think Edwin would like your help even more. You would have to be very helpful to him today, yes?”
“I love you,” Master Tony said, as a final attempt.
Ana gave a loud laugh. “I love you too, my sweet, but I will not be tricked,” she said. “I must go.”
She bent over and gave him a kiss. Hesper brushed up against Miss Demira, and then they left. Master Tony's eyes welled up and his face turned red.
“Oh, dear,” Haddie said.
“Now, now, Master Tony, there's no need for that,” Jarvis said, coming over to crouch down before him. “Let's not be sad, hmmm? I miss her too when she goes, but we'll see her later. Let's do something fun to take our minds off of it. I have to do the washing up; why don't you watch the television?”
Haddie nudged Miss Demira along toward the parlour and Jarvis urged Master Tony in that direction as well.
“Channel 13 for PBS,” Haddie reminded Jarvis. “There should be something suitable on there.”
Jarvis fumbled with the clicker, which Mr Stark kept 'improving' on by making it more complicated. The channel landed on some sort of puppets singing a song. “There we go. You should enjoy that, Master Tony.”
Master Tony settled himself on the floor, Miss Demira turning into a cat and crawling into his lap to watch. Jarvis found television a little disturbing with its hypnotic effects on small children. Although, in this case, he was grateful for it.
“That should last him for a bit,” Jarvis said.
“Yes,” Haddie said. “When is Mrs Stark coming home?”
“Tomorrow morning, if all goes as planned,” Jarvis said.
“Oh, well,” Haddie said, dryly. “I'm sure the time will fly by.”
Edwin turned on the wireless in the kitchen at a low level so they could still hear Miss Demira and Master Tony in the parlour. Haddie made sure to trot out there to look every once in a while to make sure they were all right. She had little experience with small children, but one lesson she had taken right to heart was how quickly they (or at least Master Tony) could get into trouble.
Edwin was hoping to hear news about the factory accident, but it took a few songs before the news report came on. Edwin turned up the volume a little to listen.
“Ambulances were called to the Stark Industries production plant in Hoboken this morning, shortly after 7:20AM. Witnesses reported a loud noise and signs of smoke. No details have been released about the nature of the incident, but company Vice President Raphael Mirandez has issued a statement saying they are aware of the incident, and that Howard Stark, head of Stark Industries, is on route to the scene. Mr Mirandez says that production will be halted until the problem has been sorted out. No word yet on number or severity of injuries.”
Edwin turned down the volume and sighed. “That's hardly reassuring."
“I don't suppose Mr Stark has notified Mrs Stark?” Haddie wondered.
“I doubt it occurred to him,” Edwin said.
“If there are any press at that conference they'll be asking her questions,” Haddie said. “She should know.”
“Yes, you're right,” Edwin said. “I'll see if I can get in touch with her. She's at the Bellevue. I'll give them a ring right now.”
Haddie wandered back to the parlour to see to Miss Demira and Master Tony. They were both still engrossed in the television programme, where a puppet named Polly introduced herself and her dæmon, Kinto.
“What's your name?” Polly asked the camera.
“Tony,” Master Tony replied. He patted Miss Demira. “De-mim-ra.”
“Those are great names!” Polly said. “It's so nice to meet you. Kinto and I have a problem--hey, maybe you could help us solve it. We found this shape here, but we don't know what it is. Do you know? It has 1, 2, 3 sides, and 1, 2, 3 corners. What shape is that?”
“Tri-nagle,” Master Tony replied. Polly's expectant silence dragged on too long for him, and he repeated, more firmly, “tri-nagle!” Miss Demira nodded her head in agreement with him.
“That's right! It's a triangle,” Polly said. “Triangles have 1, 2, 3 sides, and 1, 2, 3 corners.”
“Tony is smart,” Master Tony said. Miss Demira preened at their success.
On the television, Polly began to sing a song about triangles, and Master Tony got up to dance to it, bouncing up and down. Miss Demira pranced around his feet. It was rather catchy and Haddie had to concentrate to prevent her tail bobbing along to it, as well.
Edwin joined Haddie in the doorway. “I've left a message with Mrs Stark's assistant,” he said. “Mrs Stark is in the shower at the moment. I've given as much detail as I know; hopefully, she'll be able to come up with something appropriate to respond if required.”
“Mr Stark hadn't notified her, then,” Haddie said.
“Well, he does have urgent things to attend to,” Edwin pointed out.
“He's had a phone in his car since 1943. There is no reason for him not to have left a message,” Haddie replied. “His insistence on leaving her out of everything does him no credit.”
“I think he means to protect her,” Edwin said.
“He would find her much more useful to him as a partner than an object to be coddled,” Haddie said. “We learned very early on it was best to include Ana in your exploits. She is a great support to you.”
“I don't live the kind of life Mr Stark leads,” Edwin said.
“Thank goodness for that,” Haddie said.
Edwin nudged her with his foot. “Don't pretend as though you haven't enjoyed our adventures, Hendrina."
Haddie nudged him back. “I quite prefer you to be a part-time adventurer,” she said. “Full time would be far too much for me.”
“Yes, I am in firm agreement of that,” Edwin said. “Full-time butler, part-time adventurer.”
“Occasional childminder,” Haddie added.
Edwin nodded. “I should get him dressed and properly fed,” he said. “I wouldn't want Mr and Mrs Stark to think I'm neglecting him. Master Tony, shall we go up to the big house, now? Would you like some breakfast? We'll ask Cook to make you something.”
Master Tony turned in his dancing. “Come dance, Jawy,” he said. “Fun!”
“It's not the time for dancing,” Edwin said.
Miss Demira pranced over to Haddie, lowering her front legs and wiggling her backside in the air. “Dance, dance,” she said. “Haddo dance with me!”
“You are a very fine dancer, Miss Demira, but I must decline,” Haddie said. “Go and tell Master Tony to come along.”
“No!” Miss Demira said, joyfully, and rolled over on her back.
Haddie put her paw over her mouth to hide her laughter. She nudged Miss Demira back onto her stomach and gently picked her up by the scruff of her neck. Edwin turned the television off, making Master Tony stomp an angry foot, but Edwin scooped him up and carried him away.
“Oh, Mr J,” Cook said, when Edwin arrived by the side entrance. “You're a little late to the action today, I was worried you were sick. And you've got Trouble with you, too.”
“I'm hungry, Cookie!” Master Tony announced. “Food.” Miss Demira let out an excited peep from Haddie's mouth.
“Master Tony, use your manners,” Edwin scolded. “Say 'please'.”
“Food please?” Master Tony amended. “Cookie?”
Cook smiled. “I can probably get you something, buddy,” she said. “What are you doing running around in your PJs, huh? Did you get outside again?”
“Mr Stark has had an emergency and Nanny is indisposed,” Edwin explained. “Master Tony is under my care today.”
Hoggan, Cook's dæmon, rolled his eyes. “Indisposed, huh? Is that what they're calling it these days?”
Haddie placed Miss Demira on the floor to reply. “There's no need for gossip,” he said. “Especially in front of unsettled dæmons.”
“I'm just sayin', she's indisposed a lot,” Hoggan said, unapologetically.
“Then perhaps we should be sympathetic and not sly,” Haddie replied.
Hoggan shrugged and climbed up onto the work surface to speak to Cook.
“Well, I wished I'd have known sooner,” Cook said to Edwin, looking around the stove in dismay. “I suppose I'll finish up and put it away to be reheated later. Is he going to be back for dinner? I know Mrs S is away, too.”
“I'm not sure of Mr Stark's schedule,” Edwin said. “I'm sorry for not warning you sooner, but it's been a bit chaotic, and I don't think I would have got to you before you'd begun at any rate. If you leave the food in the icebox, I think it will do for supper, should he return tonight. You should take the day off. I'll deal with any food emergencies.”
“Sounds good,” Cook said. She smiled at Master Tony. “And what are we gonna do about you? What do you want? Why don't you have a sit and we'll find you something.”
Edwin retrieved a high chair from the corner and brought it to the island. He put Master Tony in it, and Miss Demira turned into a monkey to climb up it. Rather than putting herself in the side-car seat, she chose to crawl over the island and explore instead. Haddie couldn't see well enough to supervise and Hoggan was too busy with his pots and pans to keep her out of trouble. Haddie put her paws up on a stool and craned her neck, managing to get her eyes just high enough to get a view.
“I'm afraid I can't give you any food until Miss Demira takes her seat like a polite young dæmon,” Edwin told Master Tony. “You both know better than to play where someone is working.”
Master Tony folded his arms and sat resolutely. Miss Demira began to bang a wooden spoon on the island.
“Food!” Master Tony said.
“I'll need to see far better manners first,” Edwin replied.
Tony appealed to Cook. “Cookie, food."
“Sorry, kiddo, but he's the boss,” Cook replied. “Guess you aren't getting any of this French toast I'm making.” Hoggan gave a regretful shrug.
Master Tony put up a very good fight, but after a few minutes of being ignored, he patted the side-car. Miss Demira pouted and put her spoon away, shifting into a harassed rabbit and hopping into the seat.
“I love you,” Tony told Cook, as she placed some strips of French toast in front of him.
Cook ruffled his hair. “I bet."
“What do we say, Master Tony?” Edwin prompted.
“I love you, too!” Master Tony said.
Edwin's stern look flickered into a smile for a moment. “That's very nice, but 'thank you' is what I was looking for."
“You welcome,” Master Tony said, amiably.
Edwin chuckled. He looked down to Haddie. “I suppose that's close enough."
“Yes,” Haddie agreed. “Close enough.”
After breakfast, Jarvis took a sticky Master Tony upstairs to give him a bit of a clean-up and get him dressed for the day. Nanny, whatever her downfalls, had been very successful in potty training, and Master Tony took great offense to Jarvis asking if his nappy was dry.
“I'm very big!” Master Tony declared. “I know bathrooms.”
“My apologies,” Jarvis said, and Haddie bowed her head to an indignant Miss Demira. “Shall we just put on your clothes, then?”
“I choose!” Master Tony said, pushing Jarvis away from the dresser. “It's Tony's.”
Master Tony and Miss Demira chose a rather eclectic outfit for him, and Jarvis' suggestion of a more sartorially splendid ensemble was met with crumpled, insulted faces. He elected to leave the matter as it was and hoped no one would come by to see him.
“He's probably just playing up for you,” Haddie said.
“Yes, I imagine so,” Jarvis said. “He's had a confused morning. I'll let him indulge himself a little.”
“I think that's wise,” Haddie said.
Jarvis collected Master Tony to bring him downstairs again, pausing by Nanny's door to give it a rap.
“Nanny?” he called, softly. “Is there anything I can get for you? Would you like something to eat?”
This was met with a loud groan from Nanny and a louder sort of rolling gurgle snort from Prydery that was extremely unsettling.
“Nanny is sad,” Master Tony said, sagely.
“Yes, she is, rather,” Jarvis agreed. “We'll let her have her rest, shall we? Oh, there's the phone.” Jarvis hurried to the nearest stand and picked up the receiver. “Stark Residence, Edwin Jarvis speaking.”
“Hey, Jarvis, Nick Porter here,” the person said. “New York Times?”
Jarvis held the phone away from himself to muffle his sigh. So it began.
Jarvis had learned many years ago that one had to be extremely careful when speaking to reporters. Anything could be construed into whatever the reporter was looking for—even silence or 'no comment'.
“Mr Stark and Mrs Stark are away at present,” Jarvis said. “If you're looking for information in regards to a company matter, I'm sure the staff at Stark Industries would be the best people to ring. The phone number is 212-3212, and the extension for public relations is 23. Otherwise, I'm afraid I can't be of any help. It was very pleasant to speak to you, Mr Porter. Good day.”
He hung up the phone.
“You should turn The Machine on,” Haddie called, as she chased after Miss Demira, who was doing her best to knock a painting off the wall. “Before the furor starts in earnest.”
“Yes, you're right,” Jarvis said.
There were two phone numbers that would reach the Stark Residence: private and public. On days like today, when the public number would be ringing constantly, Mr Stark had a machine that filtered the public calls to a pre-recorded message asking them to ring Stark Industries and let the private number calls come through.
Jarvis took Master Tony down to Mr Stark's office to switch The Machine on. Master Tony toddled around with Miss Demira to look at the sights while Jarvis flipped switches and connected wires.
“Daddy's tools,” Master Tony said, patting Mr Stark's desk. “For work. Him makes big things.” He spread his arms out to show the size of Mr Stark's creations. “Me too. I build.” Miss Demira shifted into a beaver and slapped her tail on the floor.
“Yes, you're getting to be quite the builder,” Jarvis said. “You've inherited that trait, I'm afraid. Or, rather...it's good that you did. It's a fine trait to have, so long as you put it to good use.”
Once The Machine was turned on, Jarvis was at a bit of a loss of what to do. He knew what needed to be done. His list of chores had not been shortened by Mr Stark's absence. He didn't know how much he could get done with Master Tony around, however. He wouldn't know until he tried.
“How would you like to be my underbutler today, Master Tony?” he asked.“Would you like to help me?”
Master Tony nodded. “I help, Jawy,” he said. Miss Demira once again offered her raccoon paws to assist.
“Excellent,” Jarvis said. “We have a bit of tidying to do first. Won't that be fun?”
“Yes, I'm sure he'll be thrilled with that,” Haddie said. “I know of nothing a two-and-a-half-year-old enjoys more than cleaning. Especially one full of Stark and Carrera genes. Two such organized, tidy people could hardly have made a child not keen to get to work.”
“That is quite enough, Haddie,” Jarvis said. “You've made your point.” Haddie's tail swished in smug amusement. “Now, Master Tony, let's put this desk together.”
Master Tony and Miss Demira did a fine job of entertaining themselves, Haddie had to admit. They giggled as they followed Edwin and Haddie from room to room, playing hide and seek with one another and Haddie as Edwin put things away. Master Tony also seemed to get great enjoyment out of picking things up and handing them to Edwin, whether Edwin wanted those objects or not.
The billiard room was in a bit of a state today, especially the bar area. Aside from Mr Stark's usual mess, Nanny seemed to have taken Mr Stark's open bar policy to heart. Her particular brand of poison was Schnapps of varying flavours.
“Ah, yes, Barton Peach is a little on the low side today,” Edwin noted, picking up the bottle and putting it back on the shelf.
Haddie had never seen Nanny drunk while looking after Master Tony. She suspected Nanny consumed her lot after Master Tony went to bed, which was why she so often woke up feeling poorly.
A glass had been left on one of the side tables, and Master Tony went to pick it up and hand it to Jarvis, but it was too big for his hand and fell to the floor, smashing. Master Tony bent down to pick up the shards.
“Edwin!” Haddie called, then, seeing he wasn't close enough, “Miss Demira, tell Master Tony to stop that this very instant! Right now!” She bounded over to them.
Miss Demira jumped in fright and, much to Haddie's relief and surprise, immediately did as she was told. Master Tony backed away and looked at Haddie with wide eyes. Haddie smiled an apology for yelling.
“It's very dangerous,” Haddie explained to Miss Demira. “He might have hurt himself. If you see broken glass, you should always tell Master Tony not to touch it.”
Edwin was there now.
“Sorry, Jawy,” Master Tony said. “I broked. I can build back.” He pointed to the shards. “I fix.”
“No, it's fine, Master Tony,” Edwin assured him. “You were very kind to try to fix it, but we have plenty of glasses in this house. There's no need. We'll just clean it up and dispose of it. Stay back.” He used his handkerchief to gather the shards together and put them in the bin. “Well done, Haddie. Very quick action.”
Haddie tried to relax. “This is why child labour was outlawed."
“I'm hardly working him to death,” Edwin said. “Though perhaps we should leave the tidying for today. Maybe while he's having a nap later we'll get a chance to finish up.”
“When does that happen?” Haddie wondered. “The nap?”
“Erm, in the afternoon, I believe,” Edwin said.
Haddie looked at the clock. It was 9:48.
“Perhaps I should work on the correspondence for now,” Edwin said.
“Yes, I'm sure Master Tony would be a great help to you there,” Haddie said.
“He might enjoy licking stamps,” Edwin said, with a smirk. He turned to Master Tony, who was watching Miss Demira play on top of the record player turn table.
“Music, Jawy?” Master Tony asked. “Make music?”
“Would you like to listen to some music?” Edwin said. “That could be arranged. Why don't you come with me, and I'll put something on for you while I read some letters?”
Haddie flipped through the records with her nose for something Master Tony might enjoy. She found an album from Sesame Street, which boasted 26 songs—one for each letter of the alphabet—spread over 7 LPs. That should keep Master Tony entertained for quite a while.
Edwin set up the portable LP player in the library and gave Master Tony and Miss Demira some paper and pencils to draw with if they grew tired of dancing, then set about dealing with the mail at his desk in there.
“Ah, there's an invitation here for opening night of Miss Martinelli's new play,” Edwin said.
“For Mr and Mrs Stark?” Haddie asked.
“Yes, and for Ana and I as well,” Edwin said. “We're to reply if we're interested. It's opening in the New Year.”
Miss Demira bounded up to Haddie. “Come dance now, Haddo,” she said. “Please?”
Well, she was using her manners. Haddie consented to at least bop her head along with Miss Demira's bouncing steps.
“By the New Year,” Edwin said, thoughtfully. “I might very much enjoy a night out at the theatre.”
“Cookie, Cookie, Cookie starts with C...” Jarvis sang, softly. He sighed and looked down to Haddie. “Please help me.”
Haddie gave him an innocent look. “Whatever for, Edwin? You have a lovely singing voice,” she said. Her tongue lolled out of her mouth in a big grin.
“I'm going to have that tune stuck in my head for days,” Jarvis said. “You chose the album.”
“Master Tony quite enjoyed himself,” Haddie replied, primly. “It was an excellent choice.” She nudged his elbow to direct him back to his task.
He was trying to arrange a seating plan for Mrs and Mr Stark's dinner party the following week. Mr Goodfellow, the gardener, had Master Tony with him in the conservatory as he tended to the plants. Jarvis had gone to ask him about what kind of flowers he might be able to procure for the party. Miss Demira decided to assist Carmel with her rose tending, and Mr Goodfellow offered Master Tony a pot of dirt and a spade, and everyone, including Mr Goodfellow and Carmel, seemed content with that arrangement.
Jarvis and Haddie worked for nearly an hour and finally managed to arrange everyone to some semblance of ideal placement. Seating arrangements were great big puzzles of who could sit near whom, and who must never sit near whom, and whose dæmon needed room to sit, and whether or not the server could move around them if they were placed there. Jarvis knew there was no way to control what one's dæmon settled as, but he couldn't help but feel people with large dæmons were inconsiderate.
Mr Goodfellow arrived in the library around noon, a very happy but dirty Master Tony in tow.
“Look, Jawy,” Master Tony said. “I maked a flower.”
He showed Jarvis a pink carnation in a mason jar filled with water. Miss Demira was a proud ladybird sitting on top of it.
“What a lovely flower,” Jarvis said, with a smile. “Would you like to put it on my desk, with the blueprint you made me?”
“No, it's Tony's,” Master Tony said, pulling the jar back as though Jarvis might take it from him.
“Ah, I see,” Jarvis said. “Perhaps we should put it in your room, then.”
“No, it's Tony's,” Master Tony said, more insistently. He ran away from Jarvis.
“Is he going to carry that around all day now?” Haddie asked.
“Let's hope not,” Jarvis said.
He thanked Mr Goodfellow for his help and bid him goodbye for the day. Master Tony had no interest in being cleaned up after his gardening escapades and Jarvis literally chased him from one end of the library to the other before he managed to catch him under the armpits and hoist him into the air. Master Tony giggled and screeched, kicking his legs about and enjoying himself thoroughly.
“Come along,” Jarvis said, trying not to laugh as well. “You can't run around looking like a little tinker child.”
Miss Demira turned into an opossum and climbed up onto Haddie's back as Jarvis took Master Tony upstairs to get washed. Haddie trotted around and bounced her, ignoring the scolding look Jarvis gave her for being silly.
Jarvis managed to get Master Tony washed and his clothes changed into something that matched and a fresh nappy on, after a bathroom trip. He felt accomplished until he checked the time and realized it had taken nearly forty-five minutes to take care of all that. Childcare did not aid in productivity in any way shape or form. Perhaps if he were more practised at it.
“I suppose we should have some lunch now,” Jarvis said.
“Hot dogs!” Master Tony yelled, jumping up and down with an excited Miss Demira.
“We shall see,” Jarvis said. “I imagine Cook is gone by now. We'll take a look and see what we have, shall we?”
He took Master Tony down to the kitchen and perused the fridge. Master Tony still carried his flower with him. Jarvis had trimmed it and stuck it in the pocket of his dungarees to make it more easily portable.
“There's the phone again,” Haddie noted.
Jarvis closed the fridge and hurried to the phone on the wall. Master Tony scampered after him and began to tickle him.
“Stark Res-hee!-Ahem, Stark Resi-DENCE, Ed-mmm-Ed—” Jarvis tried to answer the phone, reaching down to push Master Tony away from him. “Ed—Jarvis speaking.”
“Mr Jarvis, are you drunk?” Mrs Carter asked, sounding amused.
“No, Mrs Carter, I am most certainly not,” Jarvis said. Haddie's tail started to wag at the mention of the caller's name, and she looked up with interest. “I am just a little distracted. How may I be of assistance?”
“I'm looking for some files,” Mrs Carter said. “I think Howard might have taken them home last night.”
“I'm afraid Mr Stark isn't here at present,” Jarvis said.
“Oh, of course. I should have known that,” Mrs Carter said. “I heard about the accident, but I wasn't thinking. Any news on that? We're getting very scattered reports here.”
“If you know anything you know more than me,” Jarvis said. “I've not heard any news since he left. Perhaps I could look for the files for you? Or, you're welcome to come yourself, if they're sensitive.”
“It's not a great emergency,” Mrs Carter said. “In fact, the business at Stark Industries is the most exciting thing going on today. I was just looking for something to keep myself busy. Maybe I will come by and invite myself for tea, if that's amenable?”
“You're welcome to come for tea,” Jarvis said. He made a grab for Master Tony, who had decided to get lunch for himself and was attempting to crawl into the fridge. “But I'm afraid I have care of Master Tony today, so if you're looking for a quiet visit, it might not be the best time.”
“Luckily, Mr Jarvis, today quiet is the opposite of what I'm looking for.”