"Indifferent," Rhodes repeats, because this is important, okay? He's not pouting. He's not being a 'sour patch' (and who the hell calls anyone that, anyway? seriously) because Tony's made him wait for three hours, even if he feels he would be kind of completely justified in being pissed off about that, except that he's not. Honestly.
Tony smiles and reminds Rhodes of all the reasons not to get drunk with him. "Come on. Lots of places in the world, it's well past five - or whatever time it is you can stop working and start having a drink."
"When I'm with you, I'm always working." Or trying to, anyway.
"Okay." Tony winces. "Ouch." He's faking it, of course he's faking it.
"I didn't mean it like that," Rhodes says. "You know I didn't mean it like that, Tony."
Tony cocks his head. "I don't know - it pretty much sounded like that. And hey, you know what? It's all right. It's fine. Don't worry about it."
Fuck. If there's one thing Rhodes likes even less than trying-to-get-him-drunk-Tony, it's I-am-alone-and-completely-unloved-and-perfectly-okay-with-that-Tony. "No, really, I like you. I do."
Tony looks not entirely skeptical. "It just annoys you when I'm late."
"Yes!" Rhodes says eagerly, before his mind helpfully starts replaying the start of this conversation. "No!"
"Getting some mixed signals here," Tony says. "You know what I think would be a good idea? Some hot sake to go with this sashimi."
Between half an hour of trying to convince Tony Rhodes does, in fact, view him as a friend (if nothing more than that) and having one lousy drink, Rhodes figures it's obvious which is the better option.
"Being stood up," Tony repeats, maybe five minutes later. Or maybe it's been half an hour; Rhodes hasn't really been checking his watch lately - doesn't seem much of a point to it. They'll get there when they get there, and no matter how much he's had to drink, Tony will come out walking straight and talking a good talk. It's a Tony thing. "That's how you experience it when I'm late?"
"Yes!" Rhodes says, happy that Tony sounds like finally maybe he's sort of getting it.
"Oh." Tony looks surprised. "Oh. Wow. Honestly, I had no idea."
Rhodes nods - he knows Tony doesn't act irresponsible and like the spoilt rich genius he is on purpose. It's just - well, he's Tony Stark. Got to cut the man some slack.
"So first with the - " Tony gestures. Rhodes isn't sure what he's being cued for. "The award thing," Tony says. "And then, again, with - well, with this. That's pretty bad, huh?"
Rhodes tries to think of a way to agree without hurting Tony's feelings. "Well, it's not good."
"No, I really suck. You can say it. I annoy you. I stand you up. I make fun of you. I'm a bad friend."
"You're a great friend," Rhodes says, because he recognizes a drunken wallowing-in-self-loathing when he hears it coming, and he really doesn't want that kind of thing happening in a place like this, without anybody around to remind him that yeah, they're just two perfectly straight guys having a drink together. "I mean it, Tony. You're great. Remember that watch you got me for my birthday?"
"Pepper picked it out," Tony swirls his drink and stares at it. "You wore it, that was the first time I saw it."
"Don't do this, Tony." As if telling Tony not to do something has ever worked. "You want me to come over there and give you a hug?" Threats do work. Occasionally.
"Why not?" Tony throws back the contents of his glass. "Let's hug it out."
He'd forgotten about the stripping stewardesses. Not that anyone's clothes have come off yet, but the promise is there, and Tony seems perfectly fine with that. Not that he's actively encouraging them or anything; it's just that there's a pole and sexy dancing and Tony slouching on a convenient couch, half-watching the show and half-listening to Rhodes telling him important things.
"Yes, absolutely," Tony says, when Rhodes is just taking a moment to catch his breath and take another sip from his drink - talking some sense into a half-listening Tony Stark is thirsty work, and okay, make that a not-listening Tony Stark, because the point was making right before the break was ... well, it wasn't anything too important. Probably.
Rhodes sighs. "You're not listening to me."
"Sure I am, sweetie."
Still half-listening, then, given that Tony never calls anybody except Rhodes 'sweetie' or 'honey' or, oh yeah, 'sour patch'. Not within Rhodes's hearing, at least, which might not prove that much.
"You're not looking at me." It might be the wrongest possible thing to say. Then again, steady hands and voice or not, Tony's pretty drunk by now.
"This is true," Tony says. "I mean - " a gesture in the direction of the stewardesses "- them or you? No offense, honey bear. You're plenty good-looking, too. Tell anyone Tony Stark said that."
Crazy but true: as a pick-up line, Rhodes thinks it might even work. On someone who is, you know, completely drunk, irresponsible, easy, not Tony, and of no interest to him whatsoever.
"The word we're looking for here is 'distracted'. I mean, I'm distracted, and you're not, and that - that's a problem. Okay? We should look into fixing that. I should look into fixing that, obviously, since it's my plane and those lovely ladies over there, yes, I know you can see them, those lovely ladies over there are working for me. Well, not right now, obviously, since that would be - you know, I'm not even sure if it would be illegal, given that I'm not sure whose jurisdiction we're in right now, but never mind."
Rhodes thinks he could probably let Tony take this one. No need to say anything, really; Tony can come up with theories on Rhodes's lack of distractedness just fine.
Of course, there's always the one-in-a-million chance Tony might get it right. "Just tired."
"No," Tony says, and Rhodes wonders how Tony can sound so completely sure. They've played poker; Tony's not that good at spotting tells. "That's not it. Wait. It will come to me."
"Whatever you say." It would probably be good to lie down, get some sleep.
"Tell me," Tony says. "Wrong hair? Wrong type? Wrong music? Is there a future Mrs. James Rhodes out there I know nothing about? Will I get an invitation to the wedding?"
"Try wrong gender." Rhodes doesn't really mean to say it out loud. It's just - Tony is his friend, and they're both drunk, and Tony's supposed to be this supersmart genius and, okay, also kind of a jerk, but that doesn't mean it's okay if he just keeps on making all these assumptions about Rhodes.
"You're gay." Give the man a prize. Oh, wait, it's Tony 'Too Cool to Show Up for His Own Award' Stark. "Okay, that's ... new. To me, I mean. That you've told me, I mean, because obviously, I knew all along." Tony takes a larger than usual sip of his drink. "So."
Rhodes isn't sure if he should be relieved yet. "So."
"I can pole-dance. Did I ever tell you? I mean, I'm not really good. I'm actually great."
Rhodes focuses on the mental image of Tony tripping over his own feet and getting a head injury. It's safer than any of the alternatives. "I'm sure you are."
"Yeah," Tony says. "Or I could just - if you want me to. Obviously, only if you want me to."
Rhodes isn't sure what Tony is offering, but he's pretty sure Tony is very, very drunk. He might be able to deliver a fine lecture on arc reactors or what-have-you, and he'd probably manage just fine to seduce a beautiful (and sober) woman. "I don't think so."
"You only love me for my brains. I knew it. Or is it my money? It's not my money, is it?"
"Okay, you found me out. I love you for your money." Rhodes makes sure to smile while he's saying it.
"Thought so." Tony empties his glass (again) and puts it down on the table. "Normally, I wouldn't bother with this, but how about I promise you right here, right now, that I'll still respect you in the morning, or afternoon, or whenever, and then you can promise me you're not going to act all possessive or whatever because sex with with me is better than sex with anyone else, and we'll just go on being friends, after? Win-win, I think. Probably a bit more win for you than for me, actually."
"Actually," Rhodes says, "you're drunk."
"Actually," Tony says, "you're drunk, and you love me, and now you're just being silly about it, so come on, sugar pop. Let's get you to bed."
"To sleep, Tony. We're going to bed to sleep."
"Did I say that? My bad. Clearly, we're not going to go to bed to sleep."