it’s within edwin’s first month of employment that he gets his taste of an
inebriated stark. howard’s a cheerful, bumbling wreck, his palm warm on
his butler’s neck as they stagger down the hallway together. his entire
weight is on the other man’s gangly frame ( why in god’s name is he so
tall? ) and he truly likes that someone is taking care of him. on the way to
the bed, he schemes up a proper thank you, desperate to ensure his employee’s
understanding: no one’s been nice to him like this. no one’s wanted to
help him like this. and it’s great, and kind, and wonderful, and it never once
occurs to him that edwin is simply doing his job.
deposited on the bed, howard begins to sing five minutes more while edwin
unlaces his shoes. calloused fingers still play with his hair. he doesn’t seem to mind,
and it’s all the encouragement howard needs.
edwin looks up and howard lays on one him.
"—thank you, mister jarvis."
the shoes are off and there’s not one complaint.
after realizing that a drunken kiss will not send edwin to the press nor out of
his company, howard takes it upon himself to bother the butler by toeing the
line of appropriateness. he does it incessantly. perhaps it’s his love of danger,
not certain if edwin will turn him over to the authorities for his perversion, or
maybe he wants to see how far this commitment goes.
he cuts his hand on a piece of machinery and edwin tends to it by the fireplace.
howard winces and jolts ( likes it when edwin asks if he’s alright ) when fingers
prod the red skin.
the first kiss is a thank you for the taut bandage. the second is to feed his light
edwin jarvis is a very loyal man, it seems.
a meeting at the offices goes awry and edwin listens diligently to every detail
by the car. howard has to make it through the story before they can take a step
inside, and by the end, he demands a cigarette from edwin’s pocket. the kiss is
quick and heated and on the end of howard’s nerves. he realizes belatedly that
he’s done it at all, but no opposition arrives.
they smoke in silence.
it becomes a habit. a secret exchange.
when they’re alone and manners are required, howard shapes his gratitude
into affection. even trivial duties earn a brush of his lips.
howard needs help settling on a tie color, having decided to change it three
minutes before the commencement of an important interview. edwin selects
the blue and howard rolls onto his toes to press the reward to his mouth. as
he turns for the door, his sleeve catches in the butler’s fingers
"sir— your tie isn’t straight."
howard is late when he finally meets the reporter.
it’s four in the morning when edwin peeks his head into the workshop. howard’s
in the far corner, cradling his head between oil-smeared palms. the exhaustion
has halted his ideas, fingers no longer filtering his inspiration. it doesn’t take much
to pull him from the seat and steer him, bleary and unaware, to the master bedroom.
edwin completes the bedroom routine save for tucking the grown man in, even leans
down to accept the cheek-kiss. he doesn’t, however, anticipate the strength of a tired
engineer, but resisting the broad arms seems… futile.
sometime after the tangle of limbs and comforter, edwin kisses him to see the sleepy
smile tug at his employer’s lips.