Characters: Edwin Jarvis, Tony Stark, Howard Stark, Maria Stark
Spoilers: Contains characters from both Agent Carter, and Iron Man, but no major plot spoilers, as far I can see
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, I just like to take them out to play.
Word Count 1717
Summary: The Stark Christmas party is always the affair of the season. And no one need know the effort that goes on behind the scenes to make it that way.
Author's notes: This is set in 1974, so Tony is approx. four-and-a-half or there abouts. Fun fact: the period key on my keyboard broke near the end of writing this, and now there's just a big hole there. But it's working, somewhat, so I write on.
The Stark Christmas party was the affair of the season, and Jarvis wondered if any of the guests there knew quite what went into making it so. How much went on behind the scenes. The planning, which sometimes started in August. The flying in of the tree (sister to the one for Rockefeller that Mr Stark donated every year) which took ten men three days to fully decorate. The food. The hiring of extra staff.
Then there were the little hitches. Nanny Walters had contracted pneumonia and there was an urgent search to find a temporary replacement until she was well. The replacement was not quite up to the task of keeping Master Tony in line through all the Christmas season events. The zip on Mrs Stark's frock had broken, and she was currently sewn into the garment. Her inquiry as to what she was supposed to do if she needed the lavatory had been met with the response of 'don't drink too much' by the designer. One of the workers hired to clear the drive had slipped and fractured his wrist and threatened to sue until security footage made it quite clear he'd not so much slipped as thrown himself hands first to the ground in an attempt to injure himself, probably so he could sue the richest family on the planet. Mr Stark had only just made it in from California an hour before the party began due to engine problems with his jet. And Jarvis had just left the madness of the kitchen, where one of the serving girls was in hysterics over dropping a champagne flute on Mayor Beame's shoes.
All was calm within the party, however, and it was for the best if no one knew how close it was to chaos. Mr Stark liked everything to appear magical and effortless. No one need see the man behind the curtain.
Jarvis moved quietly through the crowd, no one noticing him because he was a servant and he was doing his job only if they didn't. Mrs Stark noticed him, though, and Jarvis went directly to her to see why she was looking for him.
“Tony is missing,” she said. “Miss Francis lost him. Again.”
“Oh, dear,” Jarvis said. “To be fair to her--”
“I know,” Mrs Stark said. “He's a handful, and we've thrown her into the deep end. He's not with the other children, and she's gone upstairs to look, but I'd appreciate it if you gave her a hand.”
“Of course,” Jarvis said.
Mr Stark joined them, leaving a conversation with someone he disliked, judging from the big, friendly smile on his face. “Did Maria tell you--”
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said. “I'll hunt him down.”
“I don't know why he can't just do what he's told,” Mr Stark grumbled.
“You must know,” Mrs Stark said, a wry look on her face. “You don't ever do what you're told.”
Mr Stark flicked his head to the side in agreement. “Disobedience is a sign of intelligence,” he said. “And I got a genius for a son. Lucky me. Find my kid.”
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said.
He assumed Miss Francis had covered the party rooms, and she'd gone upstairs, so Jarvis went down. The first place to look would always be the workshops and labs in the basement, as they were Master Tony's favourite rooms. Largely because they were so often off-limits to him. The door was locked tight and locked again, but Jarvis put nothing past the skill of Master Tony's hands and did a quick search. No sign of him. He returned upstairs, passing by Mrs Carter and her husband. Jarvis held his hand by his hip and raised his eyebrows. She shook her head. She hadn't seen him.
Jarvis started to search the rooms closed to the public. He was about to leave the formal dining room when something made him stop. The tablecloth was crooked. Jarvis did not allow crooked tablecloths. He lifted the edge and peered under.
A pair of large brown eyes blinked at him. “I'm not here,” Master Tony said.
“That's is demonstrably untrue,” Jarvis replied. “Come out, please.”
Master Tony squinted an eye at him. “I don't want to,” he said. “So, no.”
Jarvis wished Master Tony had inherited more of Mrs Stark's good nature and less of Mr Stark's contrariness. “Aren't you enjoying the party?” he asked. “You usually like parties.”
Master Tony shrugged. “It's stupid,” he said. “I just want to be here. I have a robot.”
Apparently having a robot should be sufficient reassurance to Jarvis that all was well. Jarvis could reach in and pull him out by his elbow but that was very much a last resort. Best to reason, if possible. Master Tony did not like to be forced, and Jarvis did not like to force. He crouched down and then, with some difficulty, sat down on the floor with his legs crossed beneath him. His hips protested. He was too old for sitting on the floor. It was very inconsiderate of Mr Stark to have waited so long to procreate. Chasing after Master Tony would be much easier if he were twenty years younger.
“Did you make your robot?” Jarvis asked.
“Just his eyes,” Master Tony said. He pressed a button, and they blinked. “I wanted lasers.” His shoulders slumped. “Daddy said no. I put the lights on, though. The ones in the store don't have them. Just mine.”
“That's very clever,” Jarvis said. “May I see?”
Master Tony held it out to him, and Jarvis examined it.
“Ah, yes,” he said. “Quite the handsome fellow. Maybe you could show him to the other children? I'm sure they'd like to play with him.”
Master Tony made a face. “I don't like them. They're stupid.”
“I'm sure that's not true,” Jarvis said.
“Uh-huh!” Master Tony insisted. “They don't know anything good. Not about engines or robots or important things. Just silly, baby things.”
Jarvis realized it must be very difficult to be as bright as Master Tony in a room full of children with average or even above average intelligence. Mrs Stark made a supreme effort to normalize his life, but there was no normalizing it. Master Tony would always be miles ahead of his peers.
“Perhaps you could teach them, then,” Jarvis suggested. “You're very smart. I know you would be good at that.”
Master Tony shrugged. “It doesn't sound like fun.”
“No,” Jarvis admitted. “I don't suppose it does. Were they mean to you?”
“No,” Master Tony said. “They were just stupid.” He frowned, his eyebrows furrowed in the middle. “Miss Francis is not fun, and I want Nanny Walters back, and I don't want to play with the kids, and I don't like my shoes.” He folded his arms. “I'm on strike.”
Jarvis managed not to laugh, but it was hard. “Well, I suppose I'll have to negotiate with the union representative,” he said. “Let's start with your shoes. What's wrong with them?”
Master Tony stuck a foot out. “My bows don't stay tight,” he said. “I can tie them! I know how. I tied them good, but they keep untying.”
That was easily fixed. Jarvis undid the bow and retied it tightly, double securing it. He procured the other foot and repeated it.
“There we go,” he said. “Isn't that better?”
“Maybe,” Master Tony said, wiggling his feet.
“Now, I'm afraid we can't do anything about Nanny Walters. She's very sick. But she'll come back when she's well, and Miss Francis is doing her best,” Jarvis said. “She's very nervous, and you aren't treating her kindly.”
“Am so!” Master Tony said.
Jarvis raised his eyebrows.
“Maybe,” Master Tony amended.
“Do you think, if we sit here for a few minutes more and let you be quiet, you might want to go back to the party?” Jarvis said. “Sometimes all we need is to be quiet for a little bit.”
“But, I don't like being quiet,” Master Tony said.
His voice was so puzzled that Jarvis wondered if he wasn't sure why he didn't want to be at the party, only that he didn't. It was a busy month for a four-year-old boy, even one who enjoyed the spotlight as much as he did. Perhaps he was merely overwhelmed and didn't know how to say. Mrs Stark had two weeks in the Caribbean planned after the season was done, because she wasn't that enthusiastic about all the parties, either. They just had to get through a few more days.
“You could give being quiet a try,” Jarvis said. “And see how it goes.”
“Okay,” Master Tony said. He took back his robot.
Jarvis sat with him for a minute or two.
“No,” Master Tony said, eventually. “I don't like it.” He crawled out from under the table. “I want to go back now.”
Jarvis smiled. “That's a good decision, I believe,” he said. “And it's also good to know when you need a bit of quiet. But tell someone next time, hmm?”
Master Tony nodded. He put his arms around Jarvis' neck. “You're not stupid, Jarvy,” he said. “I like you.”
“Thank you. I like you, too,” Jarvis said, giving his back a gentle pat.
He struggled up to his feet and offered a hand. Master Tony refused to take it and instead ran away. Jarvis followed to ensure he went where he was supposed to, and he did. Right into Mrs Stark's arms, where she lifted him and made him giggle, even as she scolded him. Mr Stark was in another conversation he wasn't enjoying and aimed his fake smile to Jarvis for a quick nod of thanks before resuming it. Jarvis bowed his head back.
“That boy of theirs is such a cutie,” he heard a guest say, as he went in search of Miss Francis to inform her that her charge had been found. “And so well-behaved, huh?”
It would seem the magic was still intact.
And no one need know what went on behind the scenes to keep it that way.