Characters: Howard Stark, Maria Carrera, Edwin Jarvis, Dernier, Falsworth, a few OCs
Warnings/Triggers: swearing, some discussion of sad things, lots of sex and innuendo (nothing explicit)
Spoilers: Nothing specific, but generalized for various backstories of the characters involved
Word Count 2,902
Summary: When the press starts to close in on Howard and Maria's new relationship, Howard whisks Maria off to Paris see if he can convince her to stick around.
Author's notes: The lindy hop that Howard and Maria do here probably looks something like this, though not quite as elaborate. I'm not sure if the move names would have been used during Howard's day, or if they were invented to describe them when the lindy revival in the 80's happened, but to make things easier, he's using the move names. A 'sidecar' looks like this, for reference.
PART ONE| PART TWO
Howard hated flying into time zones. He much preferred to fly away from them. The plane landed at 9:52PM local time in Paris. It was only 4PM in New York. Even though he knew he hadn't slipped into some sort of portal through time, he still felt like he'd lost six hours in which he could have been doing something.
Still, Paris at night time was a nice way to be introduced to it, and Maria could get the full effect of the City of Lights as they went to the apartment.
He'd sent another plane ahead of him with the security team and the more sensitive materials on it. He didn't think a plane full of bodyguards would do anything to relax Maria. They were waiting for him in the airport apron when his plane landed.
“No sign of any press, sir,” Jarvis whispered to him, after he'd popped out to have a look. “The cars are waiting for you. If you'd like to go ahead, I'll bring the luggage in the tail car.”
“Why are you whispering?” Howard whispered back.
Jarvis frowned. “I've no idea,” he said. “Force of habit, I suppose. Most information I give you in the presence of a lady is confidential.”
“Well, the fact that we have a car isn't really a state secret,” Howard said.
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said.
Maria was fussing with her hair, which had been a little smushed from the nap they'd taken together. Only a nap, much to Howard's disappointment. Having fun in a plane was a very different experience to having fun on the ground and should be enjoyed by everyone at least once. Howard went around behind her and tucked the rogue piece of hair back into her bouffant and moved a pin to keep it in place.
“Thank you,” she said. She smoothed out her dress.
He smoothed out the back and leaned in to say in her ear, “Don't get fussy. You look great. You always look great.”
She turned her head toward him. “You haven't seen me always,” she said. “I might have looked awful.”
“I don't know, I've seen quite a bit of you now,” Howard said. “And I haven't found any part of you I think would look bad in anything at any time.”
“You clearly haven't looked at my ass hard enough,” she said.
“I have so,” Howard said. “I happen to be very fond of it, in fact.” He put his hands on her hips. “This whole area is very nice. No complaints.”
Maria laughed. “Thanks,” she said. “I better move that area and get going.”
He put his hand on her back as he led her down the stairs to the apron tarmac. The security team greeted him, and he got Maria introduced to everyone and into the car.
“Where's Jarvis?” she asked.
“He'll follow behind with the luggage,” Howard said. “Not enough room for everything.”
“Maybe if you'd only brought five suitcases instead of six,” Maria said.
“I have to look good,” Howard said. “That's part of my job. I need to have the right outfit for the right occasion. People don't take you seriously if you aren't dressed like you mean business. Trust me, I know. You should see the suit I had when I was starting out. Looked like a piker, and that's the opposite of what I wanted to look like.”
“So now you're going to own all the clothes in the whole world?” Maria asked, blinking her eyes innocently.
“Yeah,” Howard said. “Something like that.”
“And you want to own everything,” Maria went on, now just openly teasing him. “In the whole world.”
“Most of it,” Howard agreed. “Some of it I could take or leave, to be honest.”
“I think you'd still try to own that stuff,” Maria said. “Just because you could.”
Howard didn't like how accurate that assessment of his hoarding tendencies was and tried to distract her by pointing out some of the French landmarks they were in view of. Which worked, because Paris was gorgeous at night.
“That's our hotel, up there,” Howard said, pointing as they neared the Paradis.
“I thought you said we were staying in an apartment?” Maria asked.
“We are,” Howard said. “In the hotel. I booked the Imperiale Suite, and you can connect that to four other rooms to make an apartment on the seventh floor.”
“That's very impressive,” Maria said, in a voice that told him she wasn't sure if it was a good kind of impressive or not.
“Trust me, it's better than having other guests gape at you every time you step out your door,” Howard said. “All the conveniences of hotel life, none of the nosy neighbors.”
Melendez pulled up in the circle in front of the hotel, and Robinson opened the door for him, his head moving around in that bird way all bodyguards used to look for threats. Howard handed Maria out and followed her. Melendez ran ahead into the hotel, Robinson following behind Howard and Maria.
“Monsieur Stark!” Michel, the concierge greeted him. “Quel grand plaisir à vous revoir! Bienvenu!”
“Merci,” Howard replied. “Permettez-moi de vous présenter mon amie, Dr. Carrera.”
“Enchanté,” Michel said.
Maria nodded and shook the offered hand. “Merci,” she said, somewhat uncertainly.
“Messieurs Melendez and Robinson come earlier to see your rooms,” Michel said, switching to English politely. “All is ready for you and your friend. I hope you enjoy your stay very much and please let me know if I can do anything for you.”
“Thank you,” Howard said. He accepted the keys from him and took Maria down the hallway to the private elevator that accessed their suite.
“I didn't know you spoke French,” Maria said.
“Yep,” Howard said. “Learned during the war. German too. Though, that's not really as sexy as the French.”
“I didn't say it was sexy,” Maria said.
“Yeah, but you're thinking it,” Howard said.
“You don't know what I'm thinking, Mr. Stark,” Maria said. "That is very often your problem."
Howard couldn't argue with that. Maria was easier to understand than most women, and he'd never felt any desire to take her apart to see how she ticked like he did with a lot of girls. He just liked watching her tick, because she ticked right along with him and kept up. But he still felt like they were speaking two different languages sometimes.
He stuck the key in the call button for the elevator and turned it, making the doors jump open. Everyone piled in and rode up to the seventh floor. The elevator opened directly into the lobby of the Imperiale Suite.
“Are you impressed yet?” Howard asked.
“Yes,” Maria admitted. “You're doing a very good job.”
Howard unlocked the door of the suite and let her in ahead of him. Melendez and Robinson followed behind him, and then made themselves scarce. Howard let Maria wander around and get a good look at the place. He was hoping this would show her some of the good things in life she could be experiencing if she decided to stick it out with him. The press was a downside of his life, but there were plenty of perks, too.
“Howard. There's a library,” she called, from down the hallway.
“Yeah, I know,” Howard called back. He went to get himself a drink from the bar.
“Why?” Maria called.
“I don't know. Some people like to read, I guess,” Howard said.
“But, we're on vacation,” she said, sounding confused. “Why do we need a library on vacation? We could not have a library and be fine.”
Howard grinned into the glass he was pouring. “Don't use your logic, babe, logic doesn't apply to luxury.'
“Don't call me babe!” she called.
Howard grinned wider. She came in and out of the living room as she continued to explore, wondering who had twenty guests to a hotel room that they needed a full dining room. She liked the breakfast nook and the balcony, though.
“You could sleep fifteen people in our bed,” she added.
“Well, if that's what you're into,” Howard said.
She pointed sternly at him. “Don't start."
She took the Pink Squirrel he'd made her and sipped at it as she looked out the windows at the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Jarvis bustled in with two bellhops that he commanded like a general.
“No, those go in the Master Suite, please, and those need to be placed in the second apartment. Do not shake that, it has glass in it. I'd like it placed in the kitchen; it needs to be kept cold. If that bag was meant to be folded, I would have given it to you folded. Please mind yourselves.”
Maria watched him with interest. “He's a little scary,” she whispered to Howard.
“Only when order is in peril, the rest of the time he's a kitten,” Howard said. “He's got a real sense of duty, and you can't mess with it. If you've ever seen the look on a scolded puppy's face, that's what he looks like if you tell him he's messed something up for you. I hate to do it. And Christ, he punishes himself so well you don't even have to yell, really. He basically sends himself to bed without dessert.”
Maria chuckled. “You and him are pretty close, huh?”
“Yeah,” Howard said. “He's probably my best friend. Or the most loyal one, at least. I know I can depend on him. It counts for a lot.”
“I bet it does,” Maria said, thoughtfully.
Jarvis came to the living room. “Miss Carrera, is it all right if I unpack for you?”
“Oh, I can do--” Maria began. She clamped her mouth shut. “Thanks, Mr. Jarvis, that's very kind.”
Jarvis bowed his head and left the room. Maria looked troubled and took another sip of her drink. Jarvis came back in a few minutes later.
“A couple of your frocks need ironing, Miss Carrera, I'm going to press them if that's all right?” he said.
“You don't have to--” Maria began again, and then closed her mouth. “Please, that would be really nice.”
Jarvis left again, this time with a little spring in his step.
“See, he loves being helpful,” Howard told her. “You're making his day. Look how happy he is.”
Maria still looked dubious about it, but not as guilty. Howard went over to the LP player and put something on, hoping to distract her from Jarvis' servitude. He came over and took her drink from her, putting it down so he could pull her into a clear area to dance.
Maria was normally a great dancer, but when he tried to start them off this time, she stumbled around.
“Ack, what are we doing?” she said. “I don't know what we're doing.”
“You don't know how to lindy?” Howard asked her.
“It's a little before my time, Howard,” she said.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot you're a baby,” Howard said. “What year were you born? '40?”
“'36,” she corrected. “But thanks for aiming low.”
“Always go for at least four years younger when you're guessing ages,” Howard said. “And two inches smaller when guessing measurements. Here, I'll teach you to lindy. It's not hard. It's all based on a triple step.” He took her up in the right hold. “See, step, step, step-and-step. Step, step, step-and-step. Now go backwards...step-and-step, and come with me...step-and-step. Now, come out toward my right shoulder, step-and-step. There, you're a natural. Keep real low in your knees. It's not about being pretty, you just want to move fast.”
“Oh, I know this, I think,” she said. “It's a swing. I can do this...”
Maria had a great sense of rhythm, and he soon had her doing swing outs, circles, and dips and spins under his arm.
“How did girls do this and not flash their panties everywhere?” she wondered.
“They didn't,” Howard said. “That was part of the fun. Especially on the flips. Do you want to flip? I can flip you.”
“No, I do not want to flip,” Maria said. “I just learned how to do this five minutes ago, I'm not ready for flips.”
By the time Jarvis was done arranging the place to his liking, Howard had at least shown her how to frog jump and convinced her to do a sidecar. Jarvis watched like a nervous dad, waiting to step in if Howard dropped her. Which he didn't. She landed safely with her legs around his waist and he spun around, letting her frog jump to the ground. Howard held out his hands for some skin, and she slapped them.
“You'd have been a good little bobbysoxer, Carrera,” Howard said.
Maria put her hand on her stomach, breathing heavily. “It's a bit more energetic than the frug."
“You dance very well, Miss Carrera,” Jarvis said.
“Thanks!” Maria said. “Do you dance, Mr. Jarvis?”
“Sometimes,” Jarvis said. "Mrs. Jarvis is a very good dancer. I try to keep up."
“He cuts a pretty good rug,” Howard admitted. "Kinda creepy to see him limber like that, though. Like someone remembered to oil him for once, right, Jarvis?"
"I can't say as I've watched myself dance, sir," Jarvis replied. "Nor do I wish to."
Howard plucked Maria up again to pull her in for a slow dance. This one she fell into easily.
“I've unpacked all your suitcases,” Jarvis went on, after an apologetic clearing of his throat. “And put away your clothing. Miss Carrera's dresses have been pressed and hung up in the wardrobe. The samples you brought have been placed in the cold storage unit you brought. Your paperwork is in the office. You have a meeting set for 10:30 tomorrow morning, so I've set your alarm for 9AM. I think that's all...is there anything else you need?”
Howard gave Maria a spin and pulled her back in. “Nope, I think that's it,” he said. “Go and relax. Thanks, Jarvis.”
“You're very welcome, sir,” Jarvis said.
He went off into his own set of rooms, and Howard pulled Maria in closer to him.
“Do you do anything yourself?” she asked.
“Not if I can help it,” Howard said. “But I am CEO of a multibillion dollar corporation, and I do millions of dollars worth of charity work, and I travel around the world to do both.” And he also headed a secret organization designed to keep the world from blowing up, but he couldn't tell her that. “And I entertain beautiful women. Well, just one woman at the moment.”
Maria smiled up at him. “Not a beautiful one, though, huh?” she joked.
“No,” Howard said. “More gorgeous. Sexy. Smart. Really smart, actually. So smart that I got distracted and didn't realize how beautiful she was for a while. Which is weird, because it usually goes the other way around.”
Maria's cheeks were now flushed. She didn't always take a compliment well. Howard had never had that problem, but he found it cute in her. “Well, it sounds like you have your hands full, so I'll let you off the hook,” she said. The tune switched over on the LP player, and she made a happy noise. “I love this song. This is my favorite song.”
It took Howard a moment longer to identify it. 'You Were Meant for Me'. “Really? I'd have thought you'd like something more modern,” he said.
“It's from Singin' in the Rain,” she said. “I was seventeen when that came out, and I haven't seen a movie since that I liked better. I love Gene Kelly. I wanted to marry Gene Kelly. Gene Kelly is a very good dancer.”
“I'm a very good dancer,” Howard pointed out.
“Yes, I know,” Maria said.
“And I have more hair than him,” Howard added. “He wears a hair piece, you know.”
Maria chuckled. “Are you jealous of a film star I've never met?”
“No,” Howard said, not sure if he was lying or not. “I'm just saying, I've met him and my hair's better.”
“Was he nice?” Maria asked.
“Yeah,” Howard admitted, grudgingly. “And married.”
“I wasn't planning on running off with him,” Maria said. “Though, I might if he offered.”
Howard glowered at her, but she was unapologetic.
“'For I'm content, the angels must have sent you, and they meant you, just for me,'” she sang along. “I wore my record out. It's my favorite.”
Howard brought her into a foxtrot for the rest of the song. He ended with a dip, and then the LP needed to be turned over to the B-side. He didn't bother, though, and went back and got her drink for her to finish, along with his own.
She looked down at her watch, and then at the clock. “I'm all turned around,” she said. “Should we be in bed?”
“We could be in bed,” Howard said.
“But it's only 5:30 back home,” she said.
“If you think you can't sleep, I'm pretty sure I could find something for us to do that would make you nice and relaxed,” Howard offered.
“Is it a bath?” Maria asked. “Because that's what I'm planning on doing.”
“It isn't a bath, actually,” Howard said. “I had other plans.”
“Well, they'll have to wait,” Maria said. She headed for the bedroom. “I'm having a bath.”
“All right,” Howard said.
“You are, too,” she added, looking over her shoulder.
“Am I?” Howard asked.
“Yep,” she said. “It's a big tub. I think we should save water and share.”
“Well,” Howard said. He knocked back the rest of his drink and followed her. “I can't argue with a girl with the environment on her mind.”