Dance Me To The End Of Love
Tony is breathless. Every once in a while, the Avengers throw a party for friends and influential people to mingle with them. Well, Tony throws the party and makes sure it becomes a success because the only other person on the team who knows how to entertain people is Natasha. The rest are more or less only good at one-on-one talks or shuffling around in the corner failing at not looking overwhelmed.
These are, admittedly, grand affairs. Steve, at least, should be used to them. The USO threw parties where he was the glittering guest of honour, and propaganda does not work half as well when the mascot does not follow the tune.
Tony was even holding back. The Avengers parties are orderly and dignified. He has organized wilder things from his dorm room without the funds and influence he has available to him today.
It does not matter much. People are happy talking to their heroes even if they appear too shy to get dragged onto the dancing floor or get drunk just for the fun of it. Natasha surely uses the evening to gather intel on every important guest, and Tony has seen Bruce discussing business with several other scientists. Barton looks like he would prefer crawling around the air shafts, although he should be used to the attention as a former circus performer. Steve sits next to him, nursing his champagne as if he is in any danger of getting tipsy from it.
While he is leading the wife of one of his shareholders over the dance floor, Tony sees Rhodey sitting down at the Avengers table, looking satisfied enough that he must have found someone to tell his stories too.
When the song comes to an end, Tony bows with a dazzling smile and delivers the woman right back into her husband’s hands, exchanging the needed compliments before he excuses himself. He needs a break and a drink – and possibly an excuse to sneak out of here. Parties are nice, and his parties are the best, but there are places he would much rather be.
Not stopping on his way despite several people trying to get his attention, Tony makes a beeline for the Avengers table and lets himself fall into the seat next to Rhodey with a long-suffering sigh. Without comment, Rhodey hands his glass over, which Tony drains gratefully.
Already far more content, Tony sets the glass down and grins up at Rhodey. His mere presence has him more relaxed.
“Are you jealous, buttercup?” Tony asks, nodding at the dancing floor as if he has done a great feat out there.
Rhodey’s expression becomes playful as he leans closer. “I have the feeling you want me to say yes.”
In a way, that is exactly what Tony wants. Then, they could make up an excuse and he could show Rhodey just why he does not have to be jealous and why Tony thinks he is the luckiest man alive.
Tony is happy to continue the banter, but in his single-minded mission to get back to Rhodey, he forgot that Clint and Steve are still present too.
“Why would Rhodes be jealous of you?” Clint drawls, his frown contrasting with his smirk. Contrary to their dear Captain, he is well on his way to being drunk. “There’s plenty of good-looking women around. And some of them are even unmarried, unlike the ones Tony is apparently going for.”
Tony has been dancing with a never-ending line of women, but he has not yet seen one that would be desirable for him.
“Her?” he asks and shrugs dismissively. He has already forgotten what she looked like. “Never. She spent the whole dance telling me about some old lady’s society. I didn’t get a single word in.”
He has not actually tried to, mostly because his thoughts were elsewhere. Worse than simply nodding at the right places would be to offer a comment on a completely different ttopic than whatever she was droning on about. Tony has learnt that the hard way.
Clint guffaws in disbelief. “Because you’re so shy when it comes to talking up?”
Turning to look at Clint, Tony schools his impression into something very unimpressed. It does get tiresome to have his virtues doubted constantly, although he should take it as a compliment for his acting skills.
“Depends on who I’m talking to,” Tony says, almost a snub. “I definitely would’ve said something if she had wanted a second dance.”
It already feels like he has danced with everyone in the room except for the one he actually wants to. That is a thing he knows by heart, however.
Clint’s frown deepens. “Then why the jealousy thing?” he asks, almost like he thinks Rhodey needs someone to protect him. From Tony. That is hilarious in its own right.
Feeling his grin broaden, Tony throws a glance at Rhodey, silently asking for permission. Rhodey appears just as amused, just as ready to mess with the Avengers a bit.
“I was asking whether he was jealous of her,” Tony says slowly, carefully intoning each word to make sure his friends understand him correctly.
Thankfully, Clint takes the bait. Behind him, even Steve looks interested, taking his eyes off the party around them to watch the spectacle right here at their table.
“Of what?” Clint asks, and it would not have surprised anyone had he added full offense to it.
Tony opens his arms a bit, almost presenting himself up for inspection. “Getting her hands all over me,” he says like it should be obvious. “She definitely got a feel in.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Clint mutters, then turns towards Rhodey. “I don’t get how you can stand this guy.”
“We make do,” Rhodey says. He is still smiling, but there is a dangerous edge to it that neither Clint nor Steve seem to notice because they both nod like it is reasonable to do so. “For the record, I’m always jealous when someone’s touching my husband when I’m not.”
While Tony’s smile brightens immediately like it always does when Rhodey calls him his husband, their audience takes a little longer to realize what has been said.
“That’s not –” Clint starts before he breaks off abruptly, eyes bulging. “Wait, what?”
In turn, Steve leans forward, the mild amusement on his face replaced by puzzlement. “Husband?” he asks as if he has difficulties fitting his tongue around the word.
Never once taking his eyes completely off his friends, Tony turns towards Rhodey, just barely suppressing the urge to take his hand. “Way to spring the news, platypus,” he drawls, seemingly unaffected.
They do not need to know that his heart is beating wildly as he hopes this will go over well. A lot of people have disapproved of Tony in his life, but very few know of his relationship with Rhodey. Pepper, Happy, Rhodey’s family. Jarvis did. And now the Avengers. It is none of their business, but Tony values their opinion nonetheless.
“You didn’t tell them?” Rhodey asks mildly as if he did not know. This is mostly a ploy to give Clint and Steve some time to mull this over. And to subtly make it clear that Tony did not trust them with his secret.
Tony shrugs. “Don’t tell me I should have.”
That probably says all about how long Tony expects this whole hero thing to last. How secure he feels in his place among the Avengers. How much he allows himself to trust them off the battlefield.
Steve has the decency to look slightly ashamed, even though the confusion has not completely disappeared from his face.
“Can we go back to when Rhodes called you his husband?” Clint speaks up. He does not sound accusing but more like he has smelled blood and wants to make the most of it.
“What of it?” Tony asks, sounding a bit snappish. “It’s been some decades. The official timeline varies, since we’ve had several ceremonies.”
Rhodey takes initiative then and reaches out to take Tony’s hand. They are practiced in hiding this under tables, but for Clint and Steve it is a very obvious gesture.
“Tony is fond of vows,” Rhodey explains solemnly, eyes gleaming with amused fondness. “He’s cried every single time.”
That he has, and he is not ashamed of it. Family has always been what Tony longed for the most, and Rhodey gave him that despite all evidence that he would be better off without a trouble magnet like Tony in his life.
“As if you’ve been any better,” Tony shoots back, squeezing Rhodey’s hand where nobody can see. He has half a mind to relocate this age-old argument to somewhere they are not watched. Surely, they have been sociable enough for the evening.
Rhodey squeezes back, which Tony interprets as a call for patience. They cannot tell such news and then disappear to leave the Avengers to deal alone with the aftermath.
“I didn’t cry during the Vegas ceremony,” Rhodey argues, as if this one time could make up for all the others.
Turning to him, Tony raises his eyebrows, trying to keep in his laughter. “But only because you were too worried about someone barging in.”
“The police were chasing us,” Rhodey drawls as if Tony could ever forget that fact. “Of course, I was worried.”
That was a glorious day. The priest had been very disapproving, interpreting their undue hurry for youthful ignorance instead of the very real worry of getting arrested. Well, that and the fact that Tony paid a whole lot of money for him to ignore that they were two men.
“And nothing happened,” Tony shrugs, still feeling that same exhilarating relief whenever he thinks back to that night. “Apart from wedding number three.”
“Four,” Rhodey counters without missing a beat.
That startles Tony enough to wholly face Rhodey instead of watching Clint and Steve, still waiting for an unfavourably reaction. “What?”
With a small, devilish grin, Rhodey explains, “I totally count your emotional breakdown during finals when you were clinging to me and demanded I promise to never leave you.”
In Tony’s defence, that was a dark time. They were nearing the end of their college years, so Tony was naturally afraid that Rhodey would go off and forget all about him. The alcohol might have made him overreact a bit.
Tony thinks about arguing, but then he shrugs. “That’s probably fair,” he says, “but that was before the first wedding.”
Looking even more amused, Rhodey nods. “You made up for it with your vows.”
No one can say that alcohol steals Tony’s eloquence. What he remembers from that night is a very heartfelt speech and a never-ending litany of love confessions. He is a romantic at heart.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” Steve says, keeping Tony from continuing the argument, although he has a dozen examples of Rhodey being even cheesier than him.
As one, they turn around to look at Steve, who is looking back like they are something fascinating, a never before seen species.
“We are married, Capsicle,” Tony says shortly, wondering whether he has miscalculated and this will be a problem. “Even officially by now. Did it as soon as it was legal. Been together since MIT.” Smiling back at Rhodey, he adds, “Best decision of my life.”
“But you’re –” Clint gestures at Tony like his hand is going to make his point for him. Well, you.”
That is always the argument people bring up once they are over the fact that Tony Stark is apparently bisexual. Who would settle down with him? Who would suffer his insanities and moods? Was there not someone better available, even with the money and the company?
“I know,” Tony replies sharply, tightening his hold on Rhodey’s hand. “I realize I’m very lucky Rhodey took me. That’s why we’re renewing our vows every year.”
Steve still looks lost, glancing at Rhodey. “And you’re –”
“What, Captain?” Rhodey straightens, his face losing its smile. He means business now. “What is your problem? That we’re both men?”
Tony would love to watch Rhodey tear into Steve, but they are still in public, still have a party going on around them. They do not have time for a scene.
“No, platypus,” Tony argues sweetly, shifting slightly to block the direct line of sight between Rhodey and Steve. “I think he can’t get his head around someone wanting me.”
That is the easiest way of diverting Rhodey’s attention back to him. Anyone doubting Tony or talking ill of him might land directly on Rhodey’s shit list, but his fist priority will always be Tony’s well-being.
“That’s very short-sighted of him,” Rhodey says with a definitive warning in his voice even while he looks only at Tony. “You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
They are playing it up for their audience, the smiles and sickly sweet voices, but they also mean every word they say. Tony has given up on doubting Rhodey’s love at some point during their third year together. It is easier this way, and much more fulfilling.
“What about Pepper?” Steve asks, not yet done with making things worse for himself.
Sighing quietly, Tony turns around. “I asked her to marry me about a month after she started working for me,” he says and leaves it at that, knowing they will not hear anything beyond this for now.
“So you’re like –” Clint asks, pointing between the two of them and Pepper who is across the room, talking to some of the guests.
“We love her,” Tony says firmly. “Platonic soulmates and all that. Marrying her would’ve been a good alibi, but then buttercup and I could do the real thing instead of just promising our eternal love in the secrecy of our dorm room.”
Pepper had been very gracious about the whole thing. She does love them. They are all part of the same family. They are all much happier like this, however.
“Why does nobody know?” Steve questions, still a stranger to secrets.
This time, Clint looks at him with disbelief too. Naivety does not become the leader of the Avengers.
“Military, remember?” Rhodey replies with just a hint of an edge to his tone, almost as if this has not given them so much grief over the years. “It’s easier if nobody knows.”
There are more questions ready to fall from Steve’s lips, but Tony is done with the topic. There are advantages to getting the secret out there so that Rhodey and he do not have to hide in their own home anymore, but he could do without the interrogation.
“Anyway, good talk,” Tony exclaims, showing too many teeth with his smile. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to take my husband for a spin.”
And they do dance. Wild enough and then close enough to turn heads, although nobody seems to interpret the love on their faces for what it is. This is just another normal night under Tony Stark’s roof. They have done this for years, hiding themselves in plain sight.
Since the Avengers know now, they might at least not have to be all secretive at home anymore. Tony is tired of sneaking around, and since Rhodey just clued them in, he probably is too.
It is a good thing because they have made a bet ages ago of how quickly they can make Captain America go red with embarrassment by making out in front of him. Their weekend plans just got all the more interesting.