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22 September 2015 @ 03:13 pm
Agent Carter/Iron Man: Off-Duty Hours  
Title: Off-Duty Hours
Characters: Edwin Jarvis, Howard Stark, Peggy Carter, Tony Stark, Anna Jarvis
Rating: G
Warnings/Triggers: none
Spoilers: A few general ones for the MCU at large
Pairings: Howard/Maria, Anna/Jarvis
Word Count 6,356
Summary: Jarvis comes home from an unusual day of satisfying his employer's whims, to find a rather large surprise waiting for him. Just in time for his birthday.
Author's notes: This is perhaps the only 'normal' story to come out of the crossover memes joonscribble and I did a while back. One of the questions was about a surprise party for Jarvis, and that seemed like the fluffy goodness I enjoy. It turned out to be quite a bit harder to write than I thought, due to the amount of characters I had to juggle. I think this is the fourth version. I hope it all reads okay in the end!

Set in 1973, or thereabouts. I have no idea what Jarvis' age is meant to be, so I've avoided mentioning it, and I've also left a blank for Peggy's husband's name. Tony is about three, and everyone else is around mid-fifties, I'm guessing, except for Maria, who is late-thirties.

Jarvis' cuff links are based on a real Paul Flato deisgn, and look like this, for those curious.

Jarvis was within ten minutes of home when the car phone rang. He eyed it with trepidation. Mr Stark had been in a mood since he'd woken up that morning. Not a bad mood, per se, but a demanding one, and an impatient one. He'd had Jarvis out on a wild goose chase, seeking out items he'd suddenly needed directly, which had Jarvis running all over the city to get them. Some of them had been very specific and hard to find. Jarvis had acquired them all, and was feeling accomplished, and looking forward to his triumphant return home. What on Earth could Mr Stark want now?

He picked up the receiver and held it to his ear at the next traffic light. “Hello?”

“Oh good, you're in the car,” Mr Stark said. “I need you to get something for me.”

“Sir, I'm very nearly home,” Jarvis said. “Might it wait until the morning?”

“Nope!” Mr Stark said. “Listen up.”

Jarvis sighed, and turned on the next street to find a parking space and a piece of paper to write on.

When Jarvis finally arrived home, it was to a strangely quiet house. Normally there would be music playing, or Master Tony's leading Nanny on adventures, or the faint sound of machinery working in the basement. Jarvis listened for any signs of life, but there were none. Just quiet.

There was a note on the kitchen island, with a flashing beacon next to it, presumably to ensure it was noticed. Jarvis put his parcels on the island and picked it up to read.


We've all gone out. Take the night off.
--H. Stark

P.S I'm serious. Go home. No working.

Jarvis frowned, more in confusion than annoyance. Though he was annoyed. Half an hour earlier, Mr Stark had been in desperate need of bread from Kreine's on 2nd Avenue, and now he wasn't even home to eat it. It wasn't inconceivable for him to decide to go out and take his family with him; but it was unusual. Perhaps he'd taken Mrs Stark and Master Tony out for dinner or to the cinema. But who had driven him? Jarvis hadn't noticed a car missing. He must have called a taxi. Why hadn't he waited for Jarvis to return? This whole day had been very strange.

Jarvis supposed he'd earned a night off, and there was no point in hanging about without a family there to serve. He put away the items Mr Stark apparently didn't care as much about as he'd implied, and went home.

The house smelled delicious when Jarvis entered, but it too was very quiet. And dark. The lights weren't on. The only sound came from the radio in the parlour.

“Anna?” he called.

No answer. Perhaps she'd just fallen asleep? He turned into the parlour, by this point half-expecting some sort of criminal mastermind to be waiting there with ransom demands, and then promptly jumped back in fright as the lights went on and a chorus of 'surprise!' was shouted at him.

“Confetti!” Master Tony added, tossing some in the air.

Jarvis looked around the room, which was filled with balloons and streamers, and a pile of presents on the coffee table. Mr and Mrs Stark were there, in addition to Master Tony, and Anna, and Mrs Carter. They all wore party hats, and held noise-makers.

“Uh, this is the part where you react,” Mr Stark said, spinning his noise-maker around a few times. “I'd go with something like 'wow!' or 'what's this?!' or maybe a smile? ...Jarvis?”

Jarvis blinked at them. “What's this?” he said.

“There you go,” Mr Stark said, with a nod of approval. “I thought we broke you with our spontaneity for a second. It's a party.”

“Surprise!” Master Tony said, tossing more confetti in the air. “Surprise, Jarvy!”

“A party,” Jarvis echoed.

“Yes,” Mrs Carter said. “It's a gathering of people in celebration of something happy. In this case, your birthday.”

“My birthday isn't until tomorrow,” Jarvis said.

“That's part of the surprise,” Mrs Stark said. “We wanted you to be able to have a full day off tomorrow, so we decided to do it tonight.”

Master Tony hurried over to throw confetti directly onto Jarvis. “Surprise!” he said. “Happy Birthday!”

Jarvis gave a laugh, and bent to smile at him. “Thank you, Master Tony,” he said. “I'm very surprised, well done.” He straightened. “You shouldn't have gone to all this trouble for me.”

“Sure, we should have,” Mrs Stark said. “You go to a lot of trouble for us on a daily basis. We wanted to return the favour.”

It had taken a few moments before the shock and oddity and confusion wore off, but now Jarvis started to feel very warm and pleased indeed. Anna came over and gave him a kiss on the cheek, brushing the confetti from his jacket.

“They wanted to very much,” she said to him. “I said it was okay.”

“It's more than okay,” Jarvis assured her. He gave her a kiss back. “Thank you, Annuska.”

“Happy birthday, Edwin,” she said.

“Come on, come in,” Mr Stark said. “We took over your house and have drinks and food.”

“And cake,” Master Tony said. “See?” He grabbed Jarvis by the hand and pulled him over to where a table had been set up at the side of the room. “Cookie made it, but I helped. Cookie put the words on.” He moved his finger. “J-A-R-V-I-S, that's your name, Jarvy. And it says 'Happy Birthday'. I can read it.”

Jarvis could see precisely where Master Tony's knife had worked on the otherwise immaculate three-tiered cake. “How lovely, Master Tony,” he said. “Thank you very much. It was very nice of you to make that for me.”

“I drew a blueprint,” Master Tony explained. “But Cookie didn't make it like that. My design was better. It had dinosaurs.” He wrinkled his nose. “Cookie put roses on. That's not as good as dinosaurs.”

Jarvis smiled. “Your cake sounds very nice,” he said. “But I do like the roses, too.”

Master Tony stood on his tip-toes to share a secret with him. “I ate one,” he said. “It tastes good. Cookie had to make a new one.”

“Master Tony, that was very rude!” Jarvis said.

“It was yummy,” Master Tony said, settling the matter, and ran away to Mrs Stark.

At a party, Jarvis would normally be serving, and he wondered if he should ask anyone if they'd like anything while he was at the table. Mr Stark stepped in before he could open his mouth, and pointed to a chair.

“Sit,” he said. “No butling tonight. Master serves the servant. I had you running your ass off today, now you get to relax.”

Mr Stark's whims suddenly made much more sense. “Did you send me out to keep me away from the house?” Jarvis asked.

“Yep,” Mr Stark said, looking as pleased with himself as Master Tony had about his rose consumption. “Sorry about that last minute thing. We were running a bit behind, so I had to delay you. How'd you make out?”

“I found every item on the list,” Jarvis said. “Though if you don't intend to use them, it's really moot, isn't it?”

“Don't be sore, I was doing nice things for you,” Mr Stark said. “You really got everything I asked for?”

“Yes, I believe so,” Jarvis said.

“But I'm pretty sure I made one thing up,” Mr Stark said.

Jarvis was hit with another bout of clarity. “I assumed you'd written it wrong, and got the closest thing I could find,” he said.

Mr Stark broke out into a huge grin. “You're a god among men, Jarvis,” he said. “I ask you to do something I know is impossible, and you do it anyway. I figured it would just keep you busy to look for it.”

“Howard, I told you to send him to do something fun,” Mrs Stark said. “Not to make him work himself to death.”

“C'mon, Ria, if I'd been nice to him he would have known something was up,” Mr Stark said. “What are the chances I'd tell him to go to the park and get some ice cream, my treat? He'd have thought I'd lost it. My being a jerk is much less suspicious.”

“That's a good point,” Mrs Carter said.

“Yes, it is,” Mrs Stark conceded.

“And, come on, you had fun, right?” Mr Stark said.

“Yes,” Jarvis admitted. He had enjoyed the scavenger hunt aspect of it, to some degree.

“See? I know my butler,” Mr Stark said, giving Jarvis a hearty clap to the back. He pointed to the chair again. “Sit down.”

Jarvis took a seat. Mrs Carter brought a cup of punch over to him, and sat down nearby. “Happy birthday,” she said.

“Thank you,” Jarvis said. “Thank you for coming. I'm sure you must be busy.”

“Never too busy for a friend,” Mrs Carter said. “We should see each other for good things, instead of just for emergencies.”

“That would make a pleasant change,” Jarvis agreed. “How are you? How is your family?”

“We're all quite well,” Mrs Carter said. “They all send their love. I'm afraid {Husband} couldn't make it, he had to work. He's regretful not to be here, though.”

“I quite understand,” Jarvis said. “Please give him my regards.”

“I will,” Mrs Carter said.

Master Tony came over to join them, a biscuit in hand. “I'm at your house, Jarvy,” he said.

“Yes, indeed you are,” Jarvis said. “That's very nice, isn't it?”

Master Tony nodded. He explained to Mrs Carter, “you just go to Jarvy's house when it's special,” he said. “His house is just for him and Nana. They live here.”

Mrs Stark worried about Jarvis' privacy, and had instilled stricter rules than Jarvis felt was necessary about when it was appropriate to visit, and when Jarvis and Anna should be left alone. Jarvis didn't mind a visit here and there, but he understood that it was important to set boundaries, as well.

“I see,” Mrs Carter said. “Well, today is a special day, isn't it?”

“Uh-huh,” Master Tony said. “It's Jarvy's birthday.”

“Did you help plan the party?” Mrs Carter asked.

Master Tony shook his head. “It was a secret,” he explained. “I didn't know. Nobody told me. I can be quiet!” He looked very cross about this slight to his character, then brightened once more. “I made you a present, Jarvy. I knew about that. It's a good present.”

“I'm sure it's an excellent one,” Jarvis said. “I'm glad you decided to come to my house.”

Master Tony bounced on his toes for a moment, and played with his shirt. “I came before,” he told Mrs Carter. “For the passover. Mommy and Daddy came, too, and Jarvy and Nana. I asked the questions. I'm important.”

Mrs Carter's eyes danced with amusement. “I heard about that,” she said. “How important you are. Your daddy was a bit annoyed, because he didn't get to ask the questions this year. He felt put out by that. He likes to be important.”

“Mr Stark was the closest we had to a child for many years,” Jarvis said. “But Master Tony has usurped that role, I'm afraid. He's grown up enough to be able to ask the questions.”

Master Tony gave a proud smile, but then his attention was drawn away from them, and he wandered off to explore whatever it was that distracted him. Both Jarvis and Mrs Carter kept their eye on him until Anna stepped in as minder. Master Tony could get himself into trouble in a heartbeat if left unattended.

“I made you a good present, too, as it happens,” Mrs Carter said, when their conversation could safely resume. “Well, that's a lie. I bought it.”

“You didn't have to do that,” Jarvis said.

“Of course I didn't,” Mrs Carter said. “But, as odd as it may seem to you, I wanted to.”

“Well, thank you,” Jarvis said, rather bashful about it nonetheless. “This is all quite a lot of fuss.”

“Mr Jarvis, I suggest you sit back and enjoy it,” Mrs Carter said. “Because we're going to fuss rather a lot more before the evening is done!”

Jarvis managed to get himself into a state of relaxation after a little while of chatting to Mrs Carter. They were able to catch up with one another, which was always nice, and increasingly less frequent as time went on, unfortunately. Mrs Stark joined them, putting her hand on Jarvis' shoulder to push him back down as he rose to greet her.

“Sit, Jarvis, you're off duty,” she said, taking a seat nearby.

“Yes, ma'am,” Jarvis said. He looked around at the room at how much he could be doing if someone would let him. “It's very hard for me.”

“I know, and that's why we love you,” Mrs Stark said.

Mrs Carter nodded in what seemed to be solemn agreement, and got to her feet. “I'm going to spoil my appetite,” she announced, and left for the table of food, joining Mr Stark, who had been working at that task already.

“I hope this is okay,” Mrs Stark said to Jarvis. “Howard got it in his head, and you know what it's like when he's decided on something. You can't disarm, you can only contain.”

Jarvis was painfully aware of that. The fact that Mrs Stark had once or twice managed to completely dissuade Mr Stark from doing something was a remarkable feat on her part. Jarvis' usual method was to attempt to put enough obstacles in Mr Stark's way that he had time to reconsider himself.

“Mr Stark is very kind,” Jarvis said.

“That's one way to put it,” Mrs Stark said, with one of her lovely smiles. “He's been really stressed at work, and I thought planning this might be a good distraction. I did get him to tone it down. Otherwise, we'd have three hundred guests and a fire eater.”

Jarvis knew that was hyperbole, but the thought was still a sobering one. “This is just the right size,” he said.

“Good,” Mrs Stark said. “I feel like I've lost some sense of proportion since I married Howard.”

“I've never known you to be unduly extravagant,” Jarvis assured her. In fact, he felt the reverse had happened to some degree--that Mr Stark wasn't as fanciful since he married someone for whom it was pointless to show off.

“Thank you,” Mrs Stark said. “I'm sorry for taking over your house, but I thought you'd be more comfortable here than at our place. Anna said it was all right, and we have cleaners coming in the morning, so they'll clean up the mess we've made.”

“You didn't need to do that,” Jarvis said.

“Jarvis, we came into your house, messed up your kitchen, decorated your living room, and used all your dishes,” Mrs Stark said. “You're not spending your actual birthday cleaning all that up! Keep your ass in that chair and let us love you.”

“Yes, ma'am,” Jarvis said.

Mrs Stark chuckled, and patted his hand. “I'll make you enjoy yourself, even if I have to order you to,” she said.

“I'm already enjoying myself,” Jarvis said. “No orders necessary.”

Anna had slipped out of the room earlier, Master Tony prancing at her heels, and now returned. She opened her mouth, but Master Tony was ahead of her, and threw his arms in the air to announce that supper was ready.

“My goodness, Tony, you're better than a dinner bell,” Anna said, giving his hair a ruffle. “Dinner is ready, please come and eat.”

“Hey, Jarvis isn't wearing a hat,” Mr Stark said. “Someone put a hat on him.”

“Must I wear a hat?” Jarvis muttered to Mrs Stark.

“Yes,” Mrs Stark said, sternly. “That's an order.”

Master Tony's utter delight in putting a hat on Jarvis took away some of the indignity of having to wear it.

“You look silly,” he said, in glee, and giggled. “I like that.”

No one would let Jarvis help with bringing in dinner, so he instead helped Master Tony get settled in his seat at the table. Mr Stark had built a booster seat that was portable, and assembled itself with a flick. Jarvis secured it to a chair, and helped Master Tony into it.

“A gentleman puts his napkin in his lap,” Jarvis told him, assisting him with removing the ring. “And we put our napkin rings to the top-left of the setting. There we go.”

Jarvis took a seat at one end of the table. Mr Stark took care of the wine, and the food was brought in by the women.

Anna had made all of Jarvis' favourites, which were especially appealing due to the fact Jarvis had skipped tea in favour of hunting down the very specific pen refills Mr Stark had demanded.

“Yummy,” Master Tony said, in approval. “I like Nana's food.”

“Me, too,” Jarvis said, with a smile to her.

Once Anna had blessed the meal, the food was passed and everyone settled in to eat. Mr Stark held court, as he always did at any gathering, but the conversation was interesting, and everyone else took a turn to chat with Master Tony as the rest of the table spoke about more grown-up topics. Though Master Tony sometimes tried to join in on those as well.

“What's Vietnam?” he wondered.

“It's a place where bad people live,” Mr Stark said.

“That's not true at all,” Mrs Stark objected. “It's a place where lots of people live, and some of them are nice and some of them aren't, just like everywhere else.”

“But the not nice ones are bad people, and we're trying to stop them being bad,” Mr Stark countered.

“Because they believe different things to us, and that makes us nervous,” Mrs Stark said.

“Because we're trying to keep this country safe,” Mr Stark said, his voice rising slightly.

“By going over to another country that has nothing to do with us and doing not nice things ourselves,” Mrs Stark said, matching his tone.

Mr Stark glowered at her, with annoyance but no real hostility. The subject of Vietnam had never been one they'd agreed on, and Jarvis knew Mrs Stark had some trouble keeping her thoughts to herself in public, where they might be reported and reflect badly on Mr Stark.

“But,” Mrs Carter said, breaking into the silence smoothly. “It's very far away from us, Tony, and so we're all very safe here, aren't we?”

“Yes,” Mrs Stark agreed, smoothing Master Tony's hair back. “It's a very far away place.”

Master Tony returned to his nokedli, content with the answer.

“What are your plans for tomorrow, Mr Jarvis?” Mrs Carter asked.

“I haven't any, really,” Jarvis said. He wondered if it was polite to say that the most wonderful thing about a day off was that he didn't have to do anything at all.

“I have taken the day off,” Anna said. “Yes, I should have taken the day off, drágám, don't start.”

Jarvis closed the mouth he was going to object with. He hadn't known she was going to take the day off. It was sneaky of her.

“We're going to the theatre,” Anna went on.

This was also news to Jarvis. “That sounds nice,” he said. “You'll have to tell me what we're seeing.”

Anna laughed. “I thought maybe 'A Little Night Music',” she said. “I have heard good things about it.”

“Well, it seems I do have plans then,” Jarvis said. “I just hadn't been informed of them.”

Anna tossed her head, unapologetic. “Boys who only say 'oh, nothing' when you ask them what they want for their birthdays have to put up with what is chosen for them,” she said. “And do what they are told.”

“Everyone is being quite despotic about my birthday,” Jarvis said. He turned to Master Tony at his right hand. “What do you think I should be doing? You're the only one who hasn't offered an opinion.”

Master Tony was trying to build something with a bread roll, and he looked up when the attention was focused on him, but hadn't been following the conversation.

“Is it time for cake yet?” he asked, hopefully.

There was a chuckle around the table.

“Don't play with your food,” Mrs Stark scolded, taking the roll away from him. “And you'll have to wait for cake.”

Master Tony pouted. “Jarvy wants cake,” he said. “Right?” He looked over to Jarvis for back-up.

“I do,” Jarvis said. “But not quite yet.”

“Yes, you want it now,” Master Tony insisted.

“For the record, I am perfectly capable of knowing my own mind,” Jarvis said, to the table at large. “Everyone can stop telling me what I want and what I should be doing.”

“That's your job,” Mr Stark said. “That's what you get paid to do--what we say.”

“Yes, sir, but tonight, I have been informed, I'm not on duty.”

Master Tony had rather the wait for cake, as dinner lingered on with coffee afterwards. Mrs Stark had come well-prepared with activities to keep Master Tony busy, but Jarvis eventually took pity on him, and suggested it was time for dessert. Anna brought the cake in, now filled with candles--a depressing amount if Jarvis was being honest, and he wasn't even sure if there were enough to match his age.

The “Happy Birthday” chorus was very enthusiastic, but no one was as excited as Master Tony, and Jarvis had to wait for several moments for his final note to finish before he blew out the candles.

Jarvis wished that everyone remained healthy and happy, and blew out as many candles as he could in one breath. A few remained, and Master Tony got on his knees to help him with the rest.

“I'm not even sure where to begin to cut something this large,” Jarvis said, eyeing the three tiers critically. “We'll have leftovers for weeks, at the very least.”

“How is that a problem?” Mr Stark asked. “I'll take it if you don't want it. What flavour is it?”

“The top tier is white cake with browned-butter buttercream,” Mrs Stark said. “The middle is red velvet with cream cheese, and the bottom is white chocolate and raspberry. Cook said to watch out not to remove the supports, or it will all fall over.”

“That's good advice for life in general,” Mr Stark said. “Here, send it my way. I've got a degree in engineering, I can cut it without it collapsing.”

“You don't have a degree in anything,” Mrs Stark said, with a raised eyebrow.

“I have 26 honorary degrees,” Mr Stark said. “That is exactly the same thing, considering what I could have learned at an actual university--which is nothing I didn't already know. Don't be such a snob with your Ph.D., Dr Carrera. Some of us had to work in our youths.”

Jarvis pushed the cake down the table, and it was in turn pushed by Anna, Mrs Stark, and Mrs Carter to reach Mr Stark, who eyed it as though he were disarming it, and set to work on the top tier.

“What flavour do you want, Tony?” Mrs Stark asked, as Mr Stark carefully began to slice.

“All of them,” Master Tony said, throwing his arms wide.

“Perhaps you could have a small slice of each,” Anna suggested.

“That sounds like an excellent plan, Mrs Jarvis,” Mrs Carter said. “That's the approach I shall take as well.”

Everyone agreed that this was the only way to eat the cake.

“Sure, make it harder for me,” Mr Stark said. “Someone give me their napkin ring, I gotta make a brace.”

Mr Stark performed a feat of engineering with the available materials, and managed to get sections of each tier out for everyone while keeping the cake upright and stable.

It was delicious, and there was a sudden lack of conversation as everyone dug in. Master Tony finished his cake covered in icing, from his hands to his hair. Mrs Stark looked at him with a helpless expression, but Mr Stark just laughed. Jarvis hoped Nanny wouldn't be too put upon by her sugar-charged charge when the party was done.

“Now you can open your presents, Jarvy,” Master Tony said, a smile on his messy face.

“Yep, present time,” Mr Stark declared, rising from the table and throwing his napkin on it.

Master Tony jumped down from his seat, and scampered to the living room.

“Anthony Stark, come back here and wash your hands!” Mrs Stark said, hurrying after him.

“No, I'm busy!” Master Tony called back.

Mrs Carter nudged Mr Stark. “You've never told me how you managed to clone yourself,” she said. “It's really quite a remarkable likeness.”

“The process is really simple, but it takes nine months to deliver the product,” Mr Stark said. “And the container gets really unstable during that period.”

“I can hear you!” Mrs Stark said, as she passed by, with a squirming Master Tony in her arms.

“It's true,” Mr Stark said, loudly, so she could hear. Quieter, he added, “Jarvis will back me up.”

“Mrs Stark is always very charming,” Jarvis said, in spite of the fact that he would confess those nine months were not the most enjoyable for anyone involved.

“Yes, Maria is a lovely lady,” Anna added.

“Hey, I knew you two first,” Mr Stark said. “You should take my side.” He pointed to Jarvis. “You especially. I'm sorry I got you a nice present now.”

“How awful,” Jarvis said. “I hope you can return it.”

“Nah, it's custom made,” Mr Stark said. “You might as well have it.”

“Thank you, sir, and I'll try my best to deserve it in future,” Jarvis said.

Mr Stark's ire was gone as soon as it came, and he gave a hearty chuckle as everyone headed to the living room, Mrs Stark and a now clean Master Tony joining them.

Mrs Stark put Master Tony in her lap on the couch. She took his hands in hers and hugged her arms around them both, a technique Jarvis had seen her use many times at public events or photoshoots, to keep Master Tony from fidgeting and causing mischief. It was effective, and Master Tony tucked his head under her chin, and kicked his legs. Mr Stark joined them, fumbling for a cigarette, and Jarvis took a seat in the chair he was directed to.

“Sit down, Anna, please, you don't need to serve me,” Jarvis said.

“This one is from me,” she said, handing him a present. “You can open it, and then I will sit.”

Jarvis removed the wrapping paper, but not fast enough for Mr Stark.

“Rip it! Live a little!” he complained. “God, it's not a virgin, you aren't going to scare it if you move too fast.” Mrs Stark shoved her elbow into his side, but was stifling her laughter in Master Tony's hair. “Ouch!”

Jarvis moved his fingers faster to get the wrapping paper off, and the box within opened. Inside was a trench coat, in a stunning herringbone tweed.

“Did you make this?” Jarvis asked, recognizing the neat stitching on the lapels, and some buttons he'd picked up for Anna on a trip.

“Yes,” Anna said. “This fabric came in, and I said 'that is something for Edwin', and I hid it away so no one could use it but me.”

“Anna,” Jarvis scolded.

“I paid for it, it is no matter,” Anna said, with an airy wave of her hand. “The blue will look nice with your eyes, and it will keep you very warm in the winter, when you take Mr Stark to his fancy parties.”

“He's not allowed to wear it, he'll show me up,” Mr Stark said. “I want one.”

Anna turned and raised her eyebrows. “All the fabric is gone now,” she said, with without any apology. “I'm sorry.”

Mr Stark grinned as he blew some cigarette smoke out. “Annie never says 'no', she just has a reason why not,” he said.

“That is good for business,” Anna said.

“I know,” Mr Stark said. “That's how I know you're doing it. No one bullshits better than me.” He glanced down to Master Tony. “Uh, sorry. I owe you a dollar, kid.”

Jarvis tried the coat on, because he knew Anna would want to see it and eye what adjustments she might have to make. Which were few; her tailoring was impeccable.

“You look very handsome,” she said, with satisfaction.

“Thank you,” Jarvis said. He gave her a quick kiss, which Master Tony said was 'yucky', and Anna took a seat now that her present had been received.

“That one's mine,” Mrs Carter said, when Jarvis was settled with his next present.

Jarvis opened this one fast enough for Mr Stark, and discovered a pair of gold cuff links inside. They were shaped like a screw and nut, with the nut piece used to hold it in place.

“These are Paul Flato,” Jarvis said. “I had a pair similar to them once, I believe.”

“I know you had a pair like them once, because, if you recall, I am the reason you no longer have them,” Mrs Carter said. “And now I've finally made that up to you.”

Jarvis thought back, and now recalled the incident in question. His cuff links had been just the right size and shape to keep a rather nefarious machine from doing a rather nefarious thing.

“That was over twenty-five years ago, Mrs Carter, I hope you don't think I ever held a grudge, let alone for a quarter century,” Jarvis said.

“No, but I've certainly felt bad for that long,” Mrs Carter said. “The number of objects that you've had destroyed at my hands, I'd like to at least replace one of them!”

“Wait, I got you those,” Mr Stark said. “What the heck did you two do to them?”

“Nothing,” Jarvis and Mrs Carter said, together.

Anna rolled her eyes, and muttered in Hungarian about adventuring husbands.

“I'm not sure if those are original or replicas,” Mrs Carter said. “But I saw them at a jumble sale for the Salvation Army, and I thought they were perfect.”

“They're lovely, thank you,” Jarvis said. “Evidently I'm going to be a vision of sartorial splendour on my next outing!”

“Do my present now!” Master Tony said, squirming in Mrs Stark's lap. “Now!”

“Shhh,” Mrs Stark said. “Be patient, Tony.”

“I can't be patient because I'm excited!” Master Tony declared.

Jarvis chose that present next, but that only increased Master Tony's excitement, and Mrs Stark could barely keep him still as Jarvis removed the wrapping paper. The box inside contained...something. Jarvis pulled it out, but even then found no enlightenment. It looked like a metallic spider of nuts and bolts. Jarvis made some comments to the effect of how thoughtful it was, hoping someone would clue him in.

Master Tony became too excited for Mrs Stark to contain, and she let him go. He ran over to Jarvis and took the spider.

“It's for you,” he said. He put it on the floor. “I made it.” He reached into the box and pulled out a drawing. “I drew the blueprint.”

This offered some enlightenment, as it was labelled in Mr Stark's hand, with things like 'motor' and 'switch' and 'legs' and 'duster arm'. Jarvis looked to Mr Stark, but he seemed to be enjoying Jarvis' floundering, and just smiled back.

“You can use it,” Master Tony said.

“I'm sure I'll use it a great deal,” Jarvis said, still stalling for time.

Thankfully, Master Tony showed him how it worked, and Jarvis was given enough information to make sense of it. It appeared to be a device for dusting surfaces. One put the feather duster in a little holder, and the spider crawled along on its legs, and dusted the area in front of it. It had a clip at the bottom to hold it to the edge of a table or bookshelf, as well.

“You don't have to clean,” Master Tony concluded. “So you can play!”

“That's very considerate,” Jarvis said. “Thank you very much.”

“Daddy helped,” Master Tony said. “He used the big tools.”

“It was all his idea, though,” Mr Stark said, his pride obvious. “And he came up with the design. I just put the pieces together.”

“Tony is a very smart boy,” Anna said.

Master Tony nodded to agree with this assessment of himself, and Anna and Mrs Carter shared a chuckle. Master Tony had no further interest in the present opening now that his present had been received, and sat at Jarvis' feet to play with his invention, which was fine with Jarvis. The thought put into it was very touching, and obviously Master Tony and Mr Stark had had fun creating it together, which was nice to see.

Jarvis finished up with his presents from Mr and Mrs Stark, which were as lovely as they always were--and as expensive. Mr Stark had a generous heart when it came to this sort of thing, and threw money around with abandon, but Jarvis had learned not to object. Mr Stark didn't speak directly, he gave, and so for Jarvis to complain about the expense of a present was a rejection of friendship, which hurt the feelings Mr Stark pretended not to have.

Most were trinkets and objects--pens, money clips, things with Jarvis' monogram on them--along with a few books Mrs Stark had thought he might enjoy. The final present was a photo album.

“Oh, that's from me,” Mrs Stark said, when Jarvis took the paper off. “I've been going through the photos lately. I've been making sure we take lots of pictures for Tony to have when he's older. Stuff that isn't a photoshoot or press clippings. Howard doesn't have any pictures of when he was a kid, and I don't want Tony to be like that--not having any family photos.”

“We couldn’t afford pictures,” Mr Stark said. “We didn't even have a camera.”

“I know,” Mrs Stark said. “But all the same, it's sad you don't have anything to help you remember.”

“I'm not that cut up about it,” Mr Stark said, with a shrug.

“Anyway,” Mrs Stark said, giving him a confused look. “There were a lot of pictures with you in them, Jarvis, so I thought I'd put them together for you.”

Jarvis opened up the photo album, Anna joining him by sitting on the arm of his chair to look. There were more pictures that Jarvis would have imagined--although in the vast majority of them, it didn't seem like he'd been aware a picture was being taken. There were birthdays, and Christmases, and Easters, and Passovers, and pictures of Anna and Jarvis together, and Jarvis and Mr Stark laughing together, and Jarvis and Mrs Stark talking. Jarvis helping both Mr and Mrs Stark get ready on their wedding day, and Jarvis and Anna dancing at the reception. There was a picture of Jarvis and Mrs Carter at the hospital, with her holding a newborn Master Tony. Master Tony a bit older, and crawling after Jarvis. Using Jarvis' trousers to pull himself up when he was learning to walk. Chasing after Jarvis with a duster in his hand to 'help' clean.

“How beautiful,” Anna said. “Look at them all. This is very nice, Maruska. What a nice thought.”

“It's wonderful,” Jarvis agreed. “Thank you, ma'am.”

Mrs Stark gave them a smile, and nodded back. “You're very welcome.”

Master Tony got on the other side of Jarvis to see what the fuss was about. “Who's that baby?” he asked, pointing to a picture of his Christening.

“That's you,” Jarvis said. “When you were very little.”

“No,” Master Tony said. “I'm not a baby.” He pointed to another picture, a group one with everyone by the Christmas tree in the foyer. “That's me, Jarvy. I look like that.”

Jarvis pretended to look closer. “Yes, you're right. That's you right there, isn't it? I must be confused,” he said. “Thank you for the correction.”

“That's old age creeping up on you,” Mr Stark said. “Better watch out, Jarvis.”

“I'll keep an eye on it, sir,” Jarvis said.

Mr Stark rose from his seat, and went to fiddle with the LP player. There was only so long he could sit still when attention wasn't focussed on him. He came back for Mrs Stark after the music started, and pulled her away to dance. They were soon smiling and laughing together as they swayed. Jarvis continued to look through the photo album, Master Tony peeking on one side and Anna on the other.

“How old are you, Jarvy?” Master Tony wondered.

“Very old,” Jarvis said.

“That's not a real answer,” Master Tony complained. He looked to Anna. “How old are you, Nana?”

“That is a very rude question to ask a lady, Tony,” Anna said, in mock huffiness.

Master Tony tried Mrs Carter now. “How old are you, Peggy?”

“I beg your pardon, am I not a lady?” Mrs Carter said, good-naturedly. “I'm fifty-four years old, if you must know. How old are you?”

“Three,” Master Tony said, puffing his chest out in pride. “I'm very big. Are you older than Peggy, Jarvy?”

“Yes, I am, sadly,” Jarvis said. “And tomorrow I'll be even older, on my real birthday.”

“Are you going to have a real party on your real birthday?” Master Tony wondered.

“Oh, good heavens,” Jarvis said. “This fake party has been quite an affair, Master Tony. I don't think I could handle a real one!”

“You are a very lucky boy,” Anna said, smoothing his hair and smiling.

Jarvis looked around at his guests, and considered himself to be very lucky indeed. He also couldn't help but see the mess. A mess made by people who loved him enough to make it. Which was nothing to complain about, and he could ignore it for the moment.

After all, he was off duty.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on September 25th, 2015 12:14 am (UTC)
It's so nice to see our musings inspired you to write this awesome fic!

I loved all the random details like Howard being miffed about being kicked out of his Passover duties and his truly hilarious and perfect child-friendly Vietnam argument with Maria.

Nobody told me. I can be quiet!”

No, Tony. You can't be quiet. And you'll never learn even as an adult.

Your baby!Tony is perfect. I can so hear the future echoes of what he'll be like as an adult from him saying he's busy to him saying he can't be quiet when he's excited. It's so very Tony.

Great job!
The Writer They Call Tay: Dresden: Harry magickingawanderingbard on September 25th, 2015 12:39 am (UTC)
It's so nice to see our musings inspired you to write this awesome fic!

Thank you! Thank you for all your musings, you're always very inspiring! Jarvis' hat wearing dismay totally came from our musings about Haddie having to wear a hat. In the daemon version of this, I can totally picture Dejeni scampering around in her hat, and Haddie sitting with dignified horror as she puts it on her. I also picture Mim in very excited hummingbird form, buzzing around and poking everyone in enthusiasm.

I loved all the random details like Howard being miffed about being kicked out of his Passover duties and his truly hilarious and perfect child-friendly Vietnam argument with Maria.

There was originally a bit more in the Passover section about Tony hunting down the afikoman they had hid, and Peggy wondering if they did that for Howard, too. I'd like to think that at some point Anna and Jarvis had a very wry conversation of whether they should do that for Mr. Stark.

Jarvis: Mr Stark is not THAT much of a child, Anna,
Anna: That is questionable, Edwin.

Thanks for reading and commenting! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Edited at 2015-09-25 12:46 am (UTC)
aelfgyfu_mead: Peggy Carteraelfgyfu_mead on October 14th, 2015 01:32 am (UTC)
"My being a jerk is much less suspicious.”
Heavens, yes!

I love the cufflinks, and the idea that Jarvis had to use the originals in some dangerous situation is hilarious.

I'm afraid Howard would see the Vietnam War that way.

It's nice to think of Jarvis having a day off and being fussed over instead of doing all the fussing, even if it feels odd (and maybe a little embarrassing) to him.