After the news conference, Tony fended off the press and Pepper and Coulson and drove away, leaving all of them in the dust. The panic of what he’d just revealed to the entire world was starting to set in. Instinctively, he ran to safer ground.
He thought he needed the quiet and security of home. Right before the turn-off to the coast, though, he changed his mind. Instead, he drove to his condo in the city.
Tony’d had the apartment for the last fifteen years. It was a bolthole, somewhere even Pepper didn’t know about, somewhere to go for the utmost privacy. The condo had seen his lowest moments, and some of his highest, because only one other person had ever been there with him.
He shook those memories out of his head, though. The past was the past, and he had to look forward to the future, now. In the last few months, Tony’s world had changed entirely. Maybe the whole world had changed. And while he needed home territory right now, what he needed more was a chance to not be the Tony Stark. To take a breath, before entering that brave new world.
The neighborhood was quiet. Tony pulled his car into a private garage and entered the house through an interior door. The other two unit owners knew him and had been bribed appropriately to ignore his presence, but he didn’t see them as he headed up. He reached his apartment and locked the world out behind him.
The place was just as he’d left it eight months prior after breaking up with Amara. At the time, he’d thought she was the one, and he’d stayed here for a few nights to bounce back. The last time he’d come before that, it was getting over another round with Ty. He’d stayed here for a week, begrudgingly spending each day less drunk than the one before.
But there were good memories here, too. Older ones. They’d called them ‘boys’ weekends.’ Those were private times, days stolen from responsibility and filled with decades-old in-jokes and castles in the sky. Acting like they were teenagers again. Acting like they could have the adult lives they’d always wanted. Dreaming.
And now one of those dreams had become reality, and it had toppled Tony’s world. He let out a deep breath, trying to force the memories away again. It was harder, here, to pretend that he didn’t miss those days with his whole heart. Harder to remember that he’d be moving forward without that relationship, that support.
The kitchen was kept stocked by a service, so he tossed a frozen pizza into the oven and started a pot of coffee. He flicked the TV on, caught a flash of ‘Iron Man,’ and changed the channel to some cartoon.
‘Iron Man.’ Proof that someone was paying attention.
Tony opened a new bottle of bourbon and toasted the TV with it.
Two hours later, he was slumped in front of the TV in a light doze when a key turned in the front door lock. His heart pounding suddenly, Tony sat up, watching the door like a deer caught in headlights.
Rhodey entered, pristine in his dress blues. He noticed Tony on the couch and held his gaze as he wheeled his suitcase inside the apartment and locked the door behind him.
“I had to give a press conference about you, Iron Man, ” he said in lieu of a greeting.
Tony relaxed somewhat. If Rhodey was teasing, it couldn’t be that bad.
“Yeah. You like it?” he said pointedly, raising an eyebrow.
Rhodey laughed while he took off his coat and hung it in the closet, then stepped out of his shiny shoes. “I am so far from ‘liking’ it. I’m gonna need a big glass of alcohol before I even hit ‘comprehending’ it.”
“I thought you’d be happy,” Tony protested.
Rhodey stopped short in the entryway. “What? Why would I be happy?”
“You leaked the name!”
Shaking his head, Rhodey went into the kitchen.
Tony slumped back into the sofa, sulking. A soccer game was on. That explained why he’d been hearing Spanish for the last hour.
A few minutes later Rhodey came over to the couch with a plate of microwaved pizza and a cup of soda. He poured bourbon into it, ignoring Tony’s reflexive sneer.
“I leaked the name because I wanted Iron Man to be known for what it was,” Rhdoey explained. “Not because I wanted your name tied to it like this.”
“Who else could have invented it?”
“You know what I mean.” Rhodey took a bite of pizza and washed it down with a long sip of his drink. “I didn’t want anyone calling my masterwork, like, Metallico or some shit.”
“Technically, I was the one who created him, so I think—”
Rhodey turned on the sofa and glared at him so hard that Tony didn’t even finish the joke.
“Okay! Okay, Iron Man was your baby, I’m sorry. You planned him, you drew up the blueprints, I just made the power source.”
“Damn right.” Rhodey turned back to the game.
“And, you know, literally smelted him like a blacksmith in the side of a mountain with tools CalTech would scoff at—”
“—and coded the commands on a system from, like, the eighties—”
“ Tony —”
“—so I think that makes us, at the very least, co-parents.”
Rhodey tried to hold the angry look, but Tony saw his mouth twitching, and then he broke down laughing. He threw an arm around Tony’s shoulders and dragged him in until Tony smiled, too.
“You’re crazy,” he accused.
“And yet here you are.”
“Yeah.” Rhodey sobered. His arm tightened around Tony. “I’m here.”
Tony swallowed, pretending he wasn’t leaning into Rhodey’s warmth, the familiar scent of him, the crisp feel of his starched white shirt.
“I’m sorry for not listening to you before,” Rhodey said, looking Tony dead in the eye. “I brushed you off when you needed me. That was wrong.”
Tony shook his head. “I know you were under a lot of pressure, I screwed things up—”
“You’re supposed to come first,” Rhodey interrupted softly. “Always.”
He leaned forward the last few inches between them and drew Tony in for a kiss.
Tony gasped into Rhodey’s mouth. Rhodey stroked his face with his thumb and Tony flinched in shock. Rhodey pulled back, looking Tony up and down quickly as though he might be hurt.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. His eyebrows formed a V of concern.
“Nothing,” Tony choked. “I just—you still—”
He shook his head and turned away, scooted to the edge of the couch and tried to take a deep breath. It wasn’t coming easy. He grabbed his drink—straight bourbon—with a shaking hand and took a gulp.
Rhodey hadn’t kissed him in years. He’d thought Rhodey would never kiss him again. And now, in the middle of everything else?
He wanted it, of course. He always wanted Rhodey. But he’d just been starting to accept that he couldn’t have him. He was going to get a migraine from all this whiplash.
When he’d calmed down enough to look behind him, he saw Rhodey’s expression. It was both mournful and a little bit pissed: not an unfamiliar combination. “You thought I didn’t want you anymore?”
Tony had to turn away again. It felt like his every hurt and hope was showing on his face. He took another drink.
“No, I just… I don’t know, you haven’t asked for a weekend off since 2003, what was I supposed to think? Maybe you got a better offer? Someone you don’t have to hide? I thought you just wanted to be friends.”
“That was right before you started dating Sunset,” Rhodey accused. “You were with her for two years, what was I supposed to do with that?”
Tony spun around. “We’ve had weekends while we’ve dated people before!”
“Not when we get serious about someone!” Rhodey countered.
“I’m serious about you!” Tony shouted.
The unusual level of sentiment pulled everything to a screeching halt. Tony felt a blush rising on his cheeks, opened his mouth to stutter something uncertain.
Rhodey was kissing him before he could second-guess his words. Tony climbed onto Rhodey’s lap, pulled by warm hands clamped around his face, holding them together. He tore Rhodey’s shirt open and went about touching all the places he thought he’d never get to touch again.
“Tony, Tony,” Rhodey was murmuring into his mouth. “I’m here.”
“We’re here,” Tony agreed. “Now let’s be in the bedroom.”
“Sounds good,” Rhodey agreed. He stood up, picking Tony up in one majestic hip-thrust.
Tony threw his head back and laughed. He hugged Rhodey around the shoulders while Rhodey carried him to the bedroom.
He finally felt like everything was going to be okay.