“Stark-Industries, Mr-Stark’s-office-good-afternoon-how-can-I help-you?”
Daisy gave Jarvis a wave as she chanted the oft-spoken line into the phone at her ear. Jarvis smiled back, and they did a well-practiced pantomime as she listened to the caller, him inquiring as to whether Mr Stark was in, and her responding that he was in his office, and Jarvis could go in, no need to knock.
“I’m-sorry-Mr-Stark-isn’t-available-right-now-may-I-take-a-message?” Daisy chanted, as Jarvis slipped past her desk and opened the office door, with a brief knock before he entered.
In the office within, the Stark family were having lunch together. Nanny’s request for the afternoon off had been allowed, and she had dropped Master Tony in to see his parents, with the intention of Jarvis picking him up and minding him for the afternoon. The remains of an elaborate meal were strewn around the room, and Mr Stark was on the phone, pacing around his desk. Master Tony sat in the chair that was much too big for him, looking as important as his four-year-old self could manage (which was quite important). Mrs Stark sipped at a cup of coffee, and gave Jarvis a warm smile.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before,” Mr Stark said. “Don’t give me excuses, I know you’re bullshitting me.” He took out his wallet, and removed a dollar from it, handing it to Master Tony. “Put the new kid on it. Stane. He’s good. I don’t fucking care--” he handed Master Tony another dollar. “--if Johnson will be upset, if he wanted to run the team, he should have done it better.” He stopped his pacing and sighed. “Okay. Thanks, Richards. Sorry, I know I’m being an asshole.” He handed Master Tony a third dollar bill. “Yep, thanks. Okay, bye.” He hung up the phone, and turned on Jarvis. “You’re late!”
Jarvis looked down at his watch. “I’m five minutes and fifteen seconds early.”
“What Howard means is that you weren’t here at the precise moment he wanted you to be,” Mrs Stark said.
“I see,” Jarvis said. “My telepathy must be faulty today. What did you want me for?”
Mr Stark’s finger remained pointing in accusation, even as his expression faltered into uncertainty. “I can’t remember,” he said. “But I was annoyed.”
“I’m terribly sorry, sir,” Jarvis said. “I’ll be sure to say several Hail Marys in penitence.”
“Don’t get smart,” Mr Stark grumbled. He stalked around to his chair, and yanked it away from the desk. He might have sat right down if Jarvis and Mrs Stark didn’t warn him urgently to stop. He looked down at Master Tony, who smiled up at him. “Hey, kid, that’s my chair.”
“No. I’m the boss!” Master Tony declared, crossing his arms.
Mr Stark’s mouth twitched upwards at the corners. “Not yet,” he said. “I’ve still got a few years in me. Get down.” Master Tony gripped the arms of the chair, and Mr Stark rolled his eyes, and lifted him up, tugging until Master Tony was giggling and dragging the chair behind him. “Come on, you’re not allowed to overthrow the company until you’re at least fifteen.”
Master Tony lost his grip, and hung upside down, cackling in delight. Jarvis could see Mr Stark was losing his patience, and Mrs Stark was laughing too hard to be of assistance, so he stepped in, helping Mr Stark flip Master Tony upright and put him on the floor again. Mr Stark flopped into his chair, and propelled it back in place with his feet.
“I made you a blueprint,” Master Tony said, pointing to a piece of paper on his desk.
“Thanks, kid, I’ll take a look later,” Mr Stark said. He put it aside, carefully laying it in his inbox.
Master Tony’s lower lip trembled in disappointment.
“Are you ready to come with me?” Jarvis asked him. “We’re going to spend some time together. Did you enjoy your lunch?”
“We had a lovely lunch, didn’t we?” Mrs Stark said. “It’s nice when we can all get together for a meal.” Her barb was aimed at Mr Stark, but it missed, as he was distracted. “But now we have to go back to work, I’m afraid.” She rose, and came over to hug Master Tony. “Thanks for joining us, cutestuff. I’m going to do extra good work this afternoon because I’m so happy from seeing you.”
Master Tony smiled, and hugged his mother. He waited for Mr Stark to say something, and when he didn’t, he dealt with the matter directly. “Bye, Daddy.”
“Howard, your son is saying goodbye,” Mrs Stark said, when Mr Stark didn’t respond with more than a distracted grunt.
Mr Stark’s head whipped up and over. He blinked, and then found Master Tony, giving him a smile. “Good to see you, Tony. Thanks for the working lunch. Your ideas for improving the company are going to be real useful.”
“Chocolate milk,” Master Tony said.
“Chocolate milk,” Mr Stark agreed, with a snort. He returned to his reading, and Jarvis led Master Tony out of the office.
“Bye, Daisy!” Master Tony said.
“Bye, kiddo,” Daisy replied. She picked up the ringing phone on her desk. “Stark-Industries, Mr-Stark’s-office-good-afternoon-how-can-I help-you?”
Master Tony decided he’d like to sit in the front with Jarvis, instead of the rear. Jarvis was just as happy to have him where he could see him, and helped him in.
“What are we going to do?” Master Tony asked, as Jarvis ensured he was buckled in properly.
“We’re going to run some errands, to start,” Jarvis said.
Master Tony’s nose wrinkled. “Is that going to be fun?” he wondered.
“Yes!” Jarvis said, with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. “We have a list, see?” He pulled it from his pocket. “And when we do the things on it, we’ll cross them off. It’s really very entertaining. You’ll enjoy yourself immensely.”
Master Tony plucked the list out of his hand, and looked at it. “It doesn’t say ‘buy toys’,” he said.
“No, indeed it does not,” Jarvis said.
“I think it should,” Master Tony said. “I have money!”
He pulled a handful of dollar bills from his pocket, the fruits of Mr Stark’s foul mouth, no doubt. Jarvis wasn’t sure that money was the best way of deterring him. Mrs Stark might do better to withhold drink or sex for each offense, but Jarvis could hardly suggest that.
“Once we do our errands that are on the list, perhaps we could treat ourselves to something pleasant,” Jarvis said.
The bargaining that followed might have worked with others, but Jarvis remained firm in delaying gratification, and they set off on their way, Master Tony talking with great enthusiasm about nothing in particular, and keeping himself entertained with the sound of his voice. Jarvis commented where appropriate.
They crossed the first two items off their list not as quickly as Jarvis would have on his own, but he’d seen his fair share of children being dragged around to do the shopping, and Master Tony had none of the whining or stomping of feet of them. On the contrary, he was extremely interested in the novelty of day-to-day life, and had questions about his surroundings and what they were doing, and wanted to be helpful and select items and carry them. He introduced himself to clerks, and stood on tip-toe to examine displays, and spent some of his money on a balsa wood aeroplane, which he assembled in the car, and was then disappointed by because it wasn’t as impressive as he’d hoped.
“This is not a good airplane,” he declared. “It doesn’t even have an engine. I could make a better one.”
Jarvis had noticed a car that seemed to be following them, and wondered if it was paranoia on his part, but by the time they left the third location and the car followed, he was certain of it. He identified the driver, and was relieved when he realized the man was a photographer, and not anyone inclined to hurt or take Master Tony. He must have followed them from Stark Industries. There were always paparazzi hanging about there. Jarvis elected to ignore him, but Master Tony had noticed him as well.
“Is he a good photog or a bad photog?” he wondered.
“Is there a difference?” Jarvis said.
It was a rhetorical question, but Master Tony was perhaps too young to understand that, and answered him. “You can wave at good photogs,” he explained. “Because they don’t make Mommy mad. Bad photogs we don’t wave at, because they didn’t ask permission.”
“Ah,” Jarvis said. “I’m afraid he’s a bad photographer, then.”
“I won’t wave,” Master Tony decided, and stuck his tongue out instead.
Jarvis had to stifle his laughter as he scolded him.
Despite both their resolutions to ignore him, the photographer didn’t let up, and grew bolder, standing closer and peering through shop windows at them. Jarvis stood so Master Tony was shielded, but it grew increasingly hard to go about his tasks, and Master Tony started to get upset, and he wasn’t as cheerful about the errands as before.
“Could you wait in the car for a moment?” Jarvis asked.
“Can I have a cookie?” Master Tony asked.
“Yes,” Jarvis said. “You may have one.”
Master Tony considered himself capable of waiting in the car. Jarvis made sure he was locked securely in, and approached the photographer, who was changing the film in his camera.
“Excuse me,” Jarvis said.
The photographer glanced up. “Oh, hey,” he said. “You’re the butler, right?”
“I am a butler, yes,” Jarvis said. “I work for the Stark family. I wondered if I might ask you to refrain from taking any further pictures.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not interested in you,” the photographer said. “It’s the kid I want.”
“It’s the child I’m concerned about, not myself,” Jarvis said. “He’s entitled to his privacy. His parents are not present, and have not consented for him to be photographed, and this is not a public event.”
“Hey, it’s a free country,” the photographer said. “Howard Stark controls a lot, but not me. It’s not my fault his family is big business. I got exclusive on this today, and that’s a lot of money for me. I ain’t waiting for the next time he decides to dress the kid up and parade him around.”
Jarvis took a deep breath to still his tongue. “Tony Stark is a four-year-old boy, who has not chosen to be in the spotlight,” he said. “He’s not an exclusive. He’s a child.”
“Aww, it’s sweet that they pay you to care,” the photographer said. “But I’m just looking to make a few bucks and sell newspapers, buddy.”
“The President has recently resigned amidst scandal, the Turks have invaded Cyprus for a second time, and neo-fascists are bombing Italian citizens,” Jarvis said. “Surely you could find something in any of those more worthy than sneaking photos of a young boy out running errands.”
The photographer shrugged. “I’m just looking for what sells. It’s nothing personal.”
Jarvis could see he wasn’t getting anywhere, and started to leave.
“You could just pose the kid for me,” the photographer said. “Save all of us time and energy. I just want a few clear shots of him being cute.”
Jarvis turned back. “Under no circumstances would I ever consent to that,” he said, politely. “Good day.”
“I’ll pay you,” the photographer said. “The amount of money I’ll get off this, I can afford to slip you a fifty.”
Jarvis once more turned, and took a step closer. “Under no circumstances would I ever consent to that,” he repeated, crisp and clear.
He left before the photographer could infuriate him further.
“I made my airplane better,” Master Tony reported, when Jarvis slid back into the driver’s seat. “It makes noise now.”
“That’s very clever,” Jarvis said, forcing a smile. He frowned at the crumbs in Master Tony’s lap. “How many cookies did you eat?”
“One,” Master Tony said, defiantly.
“And how many cookies would I find missing if I were to check?” Jarvis asked.
“I dunno,” Master Tony said, with a shrug. “Probably four.”
Jarvis shook his head, and put the car into gear. The photographer’s car followed his as he drove off.
The last stop of the day was the butcher’s, and Jarvis resolved to merely get through and get Master Tony home, photographer be damned.
“Ah, Mr Jarvis! Welcome,” Mr Milich, the butcher said. “It is good to see you today. How is your wife?”
“Mrs Jarvis is very well, thank you,” Jarvis said.
Master Tony rose up on the balls of his feet, and looked up at Mr Milich. “Hi, I’m Tony,” he said.
“I am Bogdan,” Mr Milich replied, reaching over and offering a hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Tony.”
Master Tony shook his hand, delighted at being treated so formally. “You have lots of dead things here,” he said. “It smells funny.”
“Master Tony,” Jarvis scolded, as Mr Milich chuckled. “That’s rude.”
“It’s true,” Mr Milich said. “You get used to it, Tony, when you do this as long as I have, but I know it smells funny to others. What can I get you today, Mr Jarvis?”
Jarvis had the week’s meal plan from Cook, and pulled out his list to read off her specifications. Some of her requests were unavailable, and some of them Mr Milich didn’t feel were up to snuff this week, so he and Jarvis discussed other options and substitutions, and they conversed as they always did, and had since Mr Milich first opened his shop there in 1956, after leaving Croatia. Jarvis wasn’t watching Master Tony like he should, and it was something he’d later pinpoint as the reason it all went so horribly wrong in such a short time.
They were debating which sausages might be best, when Jarvis heard Master Tony’s imperious voice from the back of the shop.
“No! Go away! Jarvy says I don’t have to wave.”
Jarvis looked down to where Master Tony should have been, which, of course, he knew wouldn’t be where he was now, and then turned to the sound of the voice. A kind of shushing whisper was now going on. It came from behind a large stack of shelves. Jarvis hurried around, dread filling him.
“Look, kid, just let me take the damned picture,” the photographer hissed.
He was crouched down near Master Tony, who stood in fury and fear nearby. Jarvis hadn’t seen him enter, and cursed himself for not paying better attention to the situation.
“Get away from him,” he said, firmly.
The photographer glanced up. “Come on, it’s just a picture,” he said. “I just want one fucking picture. I need this, okay? This is a tough business. I need the money. It’s not going to ruin his charmed life to have one picture taken. He’ll look good. He’ll look normal, it’ll reflect good on the family. Cute rich kid doing normal kid things, people will eat it up.”
“Sir, if you don’t step away right now, I will make you,” Jarvis said.
It was becoming very hard to keep calm and cool, and his stomach burned with anger, the kind that led to those white-hot moments when he lost his temper and acted rashly. It was what caused him to forge papers to get Ana out of Budapest, and what had on so many occasions made him step in on Mrs Carter’s behalf. He was not a man prone to temper, but he never acted so foolishly as when someone threatened the people he loved, and he never knew whether that was a good aspect of his character or his biggest flaw.
He supposed the photographer didn’t know any of that, though. He raised his camera, and Jarvis’ hand shot out and took it from him. That was all he intended to do, and would have given it back once the photographer had left the shop, but the photographer took it as much more of a threat, and rose swinging. Jarvis had been swung at before. He dodged it, grabbed the man’s arm, and pulled it around behind his back.
“That is enough,” he said. “I have asked you politely on more than one occasion, and I suggest that you--”
The photographer jerked his head backwards, and clocked Jarvis in his nose, and then what followed was somewhere between a tussle and a brawl. Jarvis was a more experienced fighter, but the photographer was not a gentleman, and managed to land a few wild hits before Jarvis swiped his legs out from under him, and got him in a tate-shiho-gatame pin on the ground. Mr Milich stood over them both with a ham boner raised in defense, and Master Tony peered around his protecting legs with wide eyes.
“Call the fucking cops!” the photographer yelled. “This guy jumped me!”
Mr Milich looked to Jarvis, who was coming out of his rage to find his nose bleeding, and his far-too-old-for-this-nonsense body protesting.
“I must call them, Mr Jarvis,” Mr Milich said, apologetically. “It is the right thing to do.”
“Yes, of course you must call,” Jarvis said, panting. “I’m very sorry to have caused a disturbance in your establishment.”
He rolled off of the photographer, and touched his nose. “Master Tony, are you alright?”
“Uh-huh,” Master Tony said. He stood staring, and for an awful moment Jarvis thought he was afraid of him, but it was only admiration and worry. He looked down at the photographer, who also bore some injuries, and who seemed to be playing them up for all they were worth, moaning and groaning. “You’re an asshole.”
“Master Tony!” Jarvis said. “Do not use that sort of language.”
Master Tony stuck his tongue out, and jumped over the photographer to wrap his arms around Jarvis’ neck. “You’re a good fighter, Jarvy,” he said.
“Fighting is not the answer,” Jarvis said. He felt a little woozy and blinked a few times. “It was very foolish of me to do it.”
The photographer rolled up onto his knees, and then made the most pained noise Jarvis had heard from him. “My camera!”
Jarvis' vision cleared, and he found the photographer’s camera, dropped in the tussle, was in pieces. Not broken. Systematically disassembled, film and all.
“Did you do that?” he asked Master Tony.
“No,” Master Tony said, defiantly.
“And if I were to check to see what had happened to it, what might I find?” Jarvis asked.
“I dunno,” Master Tony said, with a shrug. “Probably I took it apart.”
Jarvis had found it best over the years to always be polite and helpful when being arrested. There was no point in being difficult. Mr Milich offered him a frozen piece of meat to tend to his nose, and he sat and waited for the police to arrive. Master Tony was made a salami sandwich, and given a tour of the backrooms to keep him out of the way. The photographer cursed and tried to put his camera back together, looking up every once in awhile to inform Jarvis about what a bastard he was. Jarvis did not rise to the insults, which seemed to make him angrier.
The police arrived and questioned everyone present. The photographer, who gave his name as Miles Brant, attempted to spin a tale of Jarvis being some sort of out of control monster who went wild the moment Brant entered the shop, and had verbally abused him earlier in the day. Jarvis admitted he’d fought with him, denied the abuse allegations, and reported that Brant had been following him most of the afternoon, and was upsetting and threatening his charge. Mr Milich backed up his story, insisting that Jarvis was not at fault, and Master Tony also confirmed that Brant was a ‘stupid mean man’, who ‘was mean to Jarvy’ and ‘I don’t like him’.
It was clear that the police favoured Jarvis’ version of events, but they required him to be taken in anyway, and Jarvis obliged, with the request that he at least be allowed to pass Master Tony into someone’s care first. His request was granted, and Jarvis rang Ana.
“This is not a laughing matter,” he scolded, after he’d informed her of the situation.
Her laughing continued through the phone. “No, no, of course it’s not,” she said. “It’s very serious. I’m sorry.” She snorted into a giggle. “Ahem. You are hurt?”
“I’m afraid my profile has taken something of a beating,” Jarvis said, touching his very sore nose again.
“Oh dear, poor Edwin,” Ana said. “You go on, I will see to Tony. Don’t worry. Have fun.”
“In jail?” Jarvis said.
“You have been there enough, my love, I think you must enjoy it a little bit!” she said, and dissolved into giggles again.
Jarvis felt his lips going up at the edges, but tried to keep himself stern. “I may need someone to bail me out after the arraignment,” he said, and was rewarded with another flurry of giggles. “Ana Jarvis, behave yourself.”
“Yes, sir,” she said. She pulled herself together. “It will all be fine. Don’t fuss. I am coming to the rescue right now. I have my purse, and I am on my way.”
Jarvis hung up the phone, and let Master Tony know what was going on. “I’m afraid you’ll have to stay with the policeman until Ana gets here,” he said. “I have to go to, erm, talk to another policeman...elsewhere.”
“Are you in trouble?” Master Tony asked, worried.
“No, not at all,” Jarvis lied. His fingers twitched and he had to force himself not to touch his ear. “It’s just very important to talk to the police when they ask you to.”
“I’ll tell them not to be mad at you,” Master Tony declared.
Jarvis patted his indignant head. “Thank you, Master Tony,” he said. “Ana will be here very soon, and I want you to behave yourself for Officer McCloud. I will know if you don’t.”
Master Tony nodded, scuffing his toe on the floor. Jarvis didn’t like leaving him there, but he did trust the officer and Mr Milich to look after him. He just didn’t trust Master Tony to allow them to.
He was taken to the station, and went through the familiar rigmarole of being interviewed, had any personal items considered dangerous taken from him, and was put in a pen to await either his granting of a desk appearance ticket, or the scheduling of his arraignment. He suspected a DAT would be unlikely, as his record was not exactly long, but certainly...present from his years helping Mrs Carter with her investigations. His companions in holding were a young hippie very high on cannabis, who regaled in vivid detail all the psychedelic visions he was having, and a very sweaty man who was in for exposing himself to a horse in Central Park. Jarvis hadn’t been aware that was an offense.
There was no sign of Brant, but Jarvis supposed they wouldn’t put them together anyway. He suspected Brant would play up the incident for all it was worth. He might not have a clear, exclusive photograph of Tony Stark, but he now had a very lucrative story of ‘Stark Butler Goes Mad, Attacks Photographer’ that would earn him a great deal of cash if played right. Jarvis scolded himself for letting his temper get the better of him once more.
He was only left to wallow for two hours or so, before an officer came to tell him he had been granted a desk appearance ticket, which surprised Jarvis. He was free to go on the agreement he would return on the date on the ticket. He agreed, and was given his personal items back. He found a payphone outside the station, and rang home.
“Tony is back with Nanny, he is fine and thrilled with his adventures, I have brought the car home, all the purchases are put away, and Mr Milich will deliver your order tomorrow, since you could not finish it today,” Ana reported, before Jarvis could ask any of those questions. “Mr and Mrs Stark both know what has happened, and Mrs Stark is home from work now. Mr Stark is still there, I think.”
Jarvis cast about to see if she’d missed any information he wanted, and came up empty. “Thank you,” he said.
“Yes, of course,” Ana said. “Do you want me to come to pick you up?”
“No, I believe I should speak to Mr Stark as soon as possible,” Jarvis said. “I owe him a very large apology.”
“Do not be too hard on yourself, Edwin,” Ana said, her voice softened out of its usual wry humour. “Mr Milich says you were only defending yourself. I know you would not be violent unless it was necessary. You were not to blame, no?”
“I don’t know,” Jarvis said. “I should have handled it differently, I expect. I’ll be home after I’ve seen Mr Stark.”
“Yes, okay,” Ana said. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Jarvis replied.
“Godspeed, Mr Jarvis,” Ana added, once again being her usual, irreverent self.
“Thank you, Mrs Jarvis.”
“Geez, what does the other guy look like?!” Daisy exclaimed, when Jarvis arrived at Mr Stark’s office.
He’d only had a glimpse of himself in the cab’s rear view mirror, but he expected he looked a sight. A few cabs had driven right by him before he found one that stopped.
“I both hope and fear much worse,” Jarvis replied. “Is Mr Stark in?”
“Yeah, he’s here,” Daisy said. “Go on in, hon.”
Jarvis gave a rap, and then entered the office. Mr Stark looked up from paperwork briefly.
“Hey, they let you out,” he said. “Good. I asked them for a DAT.”
Ah, that explained the leniency.
“It was granted,” Jarvis said. “I’m to report to the judge next Thursday at 10:30AM.”
“Okay,” Mr Stark said. He frowned at his papers and wrote on them.
Jarvis stood in front of the desk, waiting for reprimand. Perhaps Mr Stark wanted an apology first?
“I would like to apologize sincerely for my actions today,” Jarvis began. “I behaved appallingly, and I should not have put Master Tony in that sort of situation. I’ve reflected poorly on the family, and I am extremely ashamed of myself.”
Silence followed, then Mr Stark glanced up once more. “You done?”
“Yes,” Jarvis said.
“Huh, that wasn’t as maudlin as I was expecting,” Mr Stark said. “The guy must have really deserved it.” He wrote some more on the paper. “What’s the name of that place I like? The place with the food? And the...walls?”
“Lillianna’s?” Jarvis guessed.
Mr Stark’s fingers clicked. “That’s it,” he said. “Christ, you think I could remember that earlier? Can you make me reservations there for Tuesday? I got a business contact whose ass needs kissing.”
“I can do that, yes,” Jarvis said. He once again waited, but Mr Stark carried on with his reading. “Sir, are you going to say anything?”
“About…?” Mr Stark said.
“What happened today?” Jarvis said.
Mr Stark put his pen down. “The guy’s an asshole, most photogs are,” he said. “I’ve punched a few in my lifetime. The butcher says you were acting in self-defense. Tony says the guy was after you all day, and was threatening him. I mean, in his little brain, you’re Batman and the guy was a supervillain, but under all the embellishment he’s put on it, it’s pretty clear you were looking after him.”
“I should not have engaged in violence,” Jarvis said.
“Did you punch first?” Mr Stark said.
“No, but I aggravated him,” Jarvis said. “I should have ignored him. I should have taken Master Tony home when I saw it was a problem. I shouldn’t have taken him out on errands in the first place.”
“The kid has to see something of the world, Jarvis,” Mr Stark said. “It’s not like you took him out there with the purpose of baiting a pap to clock.”
“But the newspapers--” Jarvis said.
“Won’t hear shit about it,” Mr Stark said. “Because I’m going to point out to him that guys who approach little boys in shops and ask them to do things they don’t want to do aren’t going to come out the hero in this story. I’ll buy the guy a new camera, and he’ll see sense. You aren’t even going to get in front of the judge. Don’t worry about it.”
Jarvis had no doubt of the truth of that, but felt it was an abuse of power on Mr Stark’s part. On the other hand, it would be a great relief not to have to worry about that for the next week.
“I should pay for the camera,” Jarvis said.
Mr Stark’s eyes might have fallen right from his head from the force with which he rolled them. “Jarvis, shut up. Today, the guy was a photographer, but one day it might be a guy with a gun or a guy who wants to take my kid and hold him for ransom, or something a hell of a lot worse than take a picture, and some nights I lie awake and I worry about that. But you’ve proven that you’re not going to let that happen to him. That’s worth a fucking lot more to me than the price of a camera. Loyalty is, and you have that, and you always have, and I’m always grateful for it, because God knows why you think I deserve it.”
Jarvis smiled, slightly. “I’m not entirely sure myself, sir,” he said.
Mr Stark grinned. “Stop being a Fussy Butler,” he said. “It happened, it’s over, and it’ll all be fine. I mean, don’t do it again, but really, it’s fine. Say some Hail Marys, and we’ll call you punished.”
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said. “Thank you.”
“I’m actually pretty impressed you kicked his ass that well at your age,” Mr Stark added.
“So am I,” Jarvis said. “Erm, I mean...of course I’m hardly proud of myself, but it is a little reassuring to know I’m still capable in some way.” He rolled his shoulders. “I expect I’ll feel it tomorrow.”
“Take the day off, if you need it,” Mr Stark said.
He returned to his work, and Jarvis took his leave.
“Hey, Jarvis,” Mr Stark said.
Jarvis turned back.
“You were there when I would have wanted you to be,” he said. “Thank you.”
Jarvis smiled and nodded. “You’re welcome, sir.”
Despite Ana’s flippancy earlier on, she treated Jarvis as though he’d returned from war when he came home, fussing over his wounds and filling him with tea and goulash. She recounted the tale as she’d heard it from Master Tony, and Jarvis couldn’t help but smile at the Brave Hero he’d become in his keen imagination.
“I threw a few punches, and did a takedown and pin,” Jarvis clarified. “It was hardly a duel to the death.”
“You’re still a dashing hero,” Ana said, batting her eyelashes at him. She kissed his cheek, and then wrinkled her nose. “But you smell of marijuana and urine. You must have a bath.”
Jarvis had been given the evening off in exchange for his minding Master Tony, and even though he’d felt he’d failed at that task, he’d already accomplished all his chores in preparation, so there was nothing to do after the bath but put his pyjamas on and sit in the parlour. Ana wouldn’t let him help with the washing up, and, when a knock on the door came, she ran to answer, ordering him not to get up.
“I’m not an invalid!” Jarvis complained, even though his muscles were now protesting quite strongly over what a fool he’d been. He had raccoon eyes, a large bruise around his right ribs, and a gash over his right hand knuckles.
He heard Ana greet Mrs Stark, and then Master Tony appeared quite suddenly into the room, leaping into Jarvis’ lap. “Hello! I’m here to see you,” he said. He handed Jarvis a glass bottle. “It’s a present for you.”
Jarvis untangled himself and took the bottle, holding it up. “Chocolate milk,” he said. “What a thoughtful present, Master Tony. It looks an excellent vintage.”
“It’s yummy,” Master Tony explained. “It’ll make your face feel better.” He poked at Jarvis’ nose, and Jarvis’ eyes watered. “You look cool.”
“No, I do not,” Jarvis said. “I look like a person who did a very bad thing and is paying for it.”
“It was a cool thing!” Master Tony insisted. “You’re really strong.”
“I’m not,” Jarvis said. “I am wiry and quick, though, I have to admit.” He put the bottle aside. “You must know that fighting is not the answer, and I was wrong to do it. I feel very badly about it. We shouldn’t fight with anyone, unless the circumstances are very dire.”
“But you kept me safe,” Master Tony said. “You’re my friend.”
Jarvis smiled. “I am,” he said. “And I will always keep you safe, to the very best of my abilities. I promise you that.”
“That’s okay then,” Master Tony declared. He switched subjects with his usual alacrity: “My airplane is really good now, want to see?” He ran out of the room, and came back in with his balsa wood plane, now sporting a small engine and a remote control.
“Perhaps not in--” Jarvis said, but the aeropplane was already circling the room, threatening the vases as Master Tony chased it around and explained his modifications.
“Master Tony, did you put weapons on there?” Jarvis asked.
“No,” Master Tony said, defiantly.
“And if I were to look at it, what might I find?” Jarvis said.
Master Tony shrugged. “I dunno,” he said. “Probably just some missiles.”
Jarvis chuckled, and got up to get a glass for his chocolate milk.