After the fourth round of tinkering, Rhodey put the supports on and walked a one-inch stripe along the floor twenty feet and back, and he didn’t even have as much of a wobble as you’d get if you were doing it with a boring ordinary human spinal cord. Tony granted himself a double fist pump of victory. “What did I tell you. Back in business. Once again, I amaze even myself—”
“Your best audience,” Rhodey said, picking up his legs one at a time and shaking them out.
“Hey, the doctors told you six years, I promised you ten weeks, it’s been less than that, I don’t see a lot of room for argument here,” Tony said, moving in a circle around Rhodey, watching the servos move, all the readouts going on the edges of his glasses. Everything was looking good, as it should have, since Tony had literally sunk the entire output of his brain for nine weeks and four days into these things, which was more than anything in his life had gotten, including the Iron Man suit, since the model of the Millennium Falcon he’d built out of toothpicks when he was seven. “Everything back to normal.”
“Yeah, it’s okay,” Rhodey said.
“Oh, excuse me, Mr. Roboto. What’s missing? I even put in the A/C!” Rhodey was doing squats like he hadn’t pulled off since he was twenty, Tony was willing to bet. “You are now one hundred percent fully functional—”
Rhodey threw him a flat, unamused look.
“What?” Then Tony got it. “Oh, you’re kidding me.”
“Yeah, well,” Rhodey said, and sighed.
“Okay, don’t worry,” Tony said.
“Uh,” Rhodey said, eyeing him as if, for absolutely no justifiable reason whatsoever, particularly in this moment, he had some kind of doubt about Tony’s abilities.
“Relax, I’ve got it covered, I’ll handle it,” Tony said.
“You know what, Tony—”
“No, no,” Tony said, pointing at him. “I said I’ll handle it—”
“I don’t want you handling it!” Rhodey said. “I don’t actually even want to think about what you handling it would mean, in this context, or what you would come up with—”
Rhodey didn’t make any move to take it. “I’m not touching that.”
“Come on, you have to work with me here,” Tony said.
“I’m not—no,” Rhodey said. “No, keep back, don’t even—” He raised his hands, backing away.
“Excuse you, this is legitimately amazing technology here—”
“You made me a cock ring,” Rhodey said.
“Certain design elements are classic for a reason.”
“Funny how it looks a lot like an arc reactor.”
“Branding!” Tony said.
“You know, I can walk again now, meaning I can walk over and punch you in the face,” Rhodey said.
“Look, just think about this: do you never want to have sex again?” Tony said, because he’d thought about Rhodey never getting to have sex again, and he’d found it completely unacceptable.
“I don’t know who exactly you think is going to be having sex with me while my dick looks like Lobot,” Rhodey said.
“Don’t be such a nerd, and anyway how is that not a turn-on?” Tony said. “Seriously, in five years we’re going to be selling these for three hundred bucks a pop, I’ve already got the marketing people on it. The sleeve also functions as protection, and by the way, you’re welcome.”
“Oh, well, that’s definitely going to be a selling point,” Rhodey said. “Look, Tony,” and his voice was going gentle.
“No!” Tony said. “No, this is not ‘look, Tony’ time, what the hell, you haven’t even—”
“You’re asking me to put this thing on my dick!”
“I would like to point out that your dick, along with the rest of you, has been inside many things of mine before now.”
“You know that thing you do where you make things worse,” Rhodey said.
Tony shoved it at him. “Shut up and go put it on.”
Rhodey groaned and shut his eyes and held his hand out for it. He went behind the screen, and Tony leaned against the wall, arms folded, waiting impatiently for the glorious moment of vindication—
“HOLY SHIT,” Rhodey yowled, and five seconds later it came sailing over the screen and smacked Tony in the head, and he instinctively fumbled to catch it, only belatedly realizing where it had just been, and dropping it instantly. “TONY I SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD—”
“I’ve made a few adjustments.”
“I am never, ever, in a million years—”
The whole left side of Rhodey’s face was scrunched up, obviously with admiration for Tony’s genius and also devotion.
“Well?” Tony said.
“Yes?” Tony prodded, after waiting a minute.
“It’s—all right,” Rhodey said. “It’s working.”
Tony scowled. “There’s got to be more than that.”
“No, Tony, there’s that,” Rhodey said. “That’s what I’ve got.”
“No, see, if it’s actually working, there would be more than that,” Tony said.
“I’m really not discussing this with you any further,” Rhodey said, and the supermodels were arriving in ten minutes, so Tony decided he could let it slide, he’d make Rhodey tell him about any necessary adjustments afterwards.
“Okay,” Tony said, “so there needed to be some more vetting involved—”
“Tony, whatever universe you live in where you can just invite a woman over to sit on your untested cyborg dick—”
“That would be this universe.”
“For you, maybe,” Rhodey said, and sighed. “Look, never mind, that’s not even the point, I’m not even—I’m not into that anyway, all right?”
“What?” Tony said. “Since when?”
“Since I got to be closer to forty than thirty and decided to behave like a grown-ass man!” Rhodey said.
“Wow, that’s—that’s depressing,” Tony said. “Also that’s bullshit, when was your last serious relationship. Come on, give me a start and end date, I don’t even believe—”
Rhodey looked away, his mouth tight, and then he said flatly, “It ended about twelve weeks ago,” so in other words—
“Well, that’s fucking cold,” Tony said, trying to keep his voice steady.
“Step down, Tony, I ended it,” Rhodey said. “We’d only been dating nine weeks, I wasn’t going to ask her to stick this out unless I was ready to throw in a ring, and I wasn’t.”
“Wait a second, you were dating someone for nine weeks and I didn’t know about it?” Tony said, because Rhodey sounded like he’d thought about it, like he’d been that close to signing on the dotted line and handing himself over to some total stranger without so much as a consultation—
“You did know about it.”
“I did not. I definitely did not know—”
“Tony, remember how you asked me to go to M.I.T. with you, and I said I couldn’t because Juliette and I had tickets to an Orioles game?”
“I remember you said you wouldn’t go with me,” Tony said.
“And remember how I asked you four times in the month before that to come out to dinner and meet my new girlfriend,” Rhodey said, and okay fine, Tony did remember now, but like he’d wanted to waste time meeting some random woman who was trying to steal his best friend and who wasn’t going to be around long anyway. Juliette Reynolds; in fact, he’d just made the call to his staff to do a full background check on her.
“While we’re on this subject, I’d like to point out, look who did stick this out,” Tony said.
Rhodey rolled his eyes. “Look, man, the point is, we’re done, okay? We’re good. If it needs some more work I’ll—I’ll let you know when the occasion arises.”
“You know what, we’ll try it out right now,” Tony said.
Rhodey stared at him.
“I mean us,” Tony added. “You and me.”
“Yeah, I got that,” Rhodey said. “Nine weeks, Tony. I dated a woman for nine weeks.”
“Look, this is just a prototype, I need—”
“To completely monopolize the time and attention of any human being you care about to the maximum extent they will allow.”
“—feedback,” Tony said. “So that I can improve the functionality of—”
“No,” Rhodey said.
“Oh, come on,” Tony said. “Like you’ve never wanted to shove it up my ass.”
“Many times, and the answer is still no.”
“Why does this keep happening to me,” Rhodey said, staring up at the ceiling. He had his hands spread out to either side of him on the bed, carefully not touching.
“I’m fairly sure right now this is primarily happening to me,” Tony said, staring with equal determination at the wall behind the bed where he’d mounted a display so he could watch the diagnostic output.
This had seemed like a much better idea before he’d actually had a solid inch of dick inside him, and also he’d made a mistake in the cost-benefit analysis of the available positions, because it turned out his thigh muscles weren’t going to give him all that much control in this situation after all, or even keep holding him up for much longer. He definitely shouldn’t have blown off his personal trainer about the extra leg work.
“You know, maybe we should just—”
“No,” Tony said. “No, I’m good. Hey, Dummy, grab those straps and get over here.”
“Oh, no,” Rhodey said.
“Relax, just hang out a minute,” Tony said. He got the straps rigged under his arms and handed Dummy the top strap. “Okay, let’s do this, nice and slow, and don’t even think of dropping ME,” he finished saying, just as Dummy indeed dropped him, unceremoniously, to slide directly down onto the rest of Rhodey’s dick. “Nnngaahhh.”
“Oh Jesus,” Rhodey said loudly, grabbing at Tony’s thighs.
“You useless Erector set reject, I am absolutely decommissioning you for that,” Tony wheezed. “Holy shit.” He rounded his mouth and blew out several huffing breaths.
On the bright side, he could definitely give a thumbs up to every choice he’d made about the materials design for the sleeve, in particular the nanometer-sized lubrication channels laced over the entire surface. Beneath him, Rhodey had gone glazed and appalled and turned on at the same time, which was a look Tony had seen on him a few times before, albeit never in this particular context.
“So,” Tony said, panting, “how is this working for you? Normal range of response—?”
“Tony, my dick is up your ass, please shut up.”
Tony took another deep breath. He was starting to adjust. “Speaking of which, could I get an assist, here? Anytime, really.”
Rhodey groaned. “I swear to god, Tony.” He put his hand on Tony’s dick.
“Huh,” Tony said after a moment. Rhodey was surprisingly good at that, or possibly not so surprisingly, what with the whole combat pilot thing—joysticks and whatnot—and also his hand was incredibly strong, and interestingly enough that was proving to be a major turn-on. “That’s—hmm. Do you work out with those grippy things?” He put his hand over Rhodey’s, and shut his eyes as they stroked over his dick together. God, this was good. Wow, even the dick up his ass was good. In fact—his breath was coming quicker—why hadn’t he— And for that matter—
“Don’t even think about it,” Rhodey said flatly.
“Slightly inescapable at the moment,” Tony said.
“Okay, Tony, just—”
“I thought you wanted to be a grownup,” Tony said. “Serious longterm relationships—”
“And you can’t tell me this isn’t working for you,” Tony said. “I can see the readouts right here.”
“I knew this was a terrible idea,” Rhodey said, fatalistically.
“More like an—an amazing idea, Jesus, Rhodey—”
Rhodey groaned again and got hold of Tony’s sides and rolled up. Tony went over backwards with a gasp. “Impressive.”
Rhodey gave him a half-reluctant grin, the one Tony was always after, the one that meant okay fine I’m letting you talk me into doing the awesome thing, and then he hooked up one of Tony’s legs and started to fuck him, spectacularly.
“Okay, yeah, this is all right,” he said, a little breathlessly.
“Yeah?” Tony gasped.
“Yeah,” Rhodey said. “I like that pulsing thing.”
“What pulsing thing?” Tony craned his head up to see the screen over Rhodey’s shoulder. “Oh, shit.”
Rhodey paused and said levelly, “Tony?”
“I hate to ruin the moment, but you should probably pull out and take it off,” Tony said. “No rush, anytime in the next 45 seconds is good—”
“Goddammit, Tony,” Rhodey said two minutes later, as they crouched on the other side of the bed peering over to watch the ring sparking and hissing and popping as it skittered around on the floor, the sleeve flopped over and melting down into a hard small lump like a shrinky-dink.
“If it’s any consolation, this hurts me at least as much as it hurts you.” Tony said.
“I really don’t think it does.”
“Just a minor design flaw. I’ll have it fixed by tomorrow. See, aren’t you glad I insisted on additional testing?” Rhodey turned a deeply unamused look on him. Tony cleared his throat. “Obviously, under the circumstances I need to insist on being involved with the next round. For your safety.”
“Yeah, for my safety, sure. Man, I should’ve known I was in for it the minute Pepper dumped your ass.”
“I object to that characterization of the situation,” Tony said. Pepper had not dumped him, Pepper had—set him down as gently as possible, and she’d said, “Tell me I’m wrong,” but she wasn’t wrong, she was Pepper, of course she wasn’t wrong, and Tony had done his absolute best to lie to her but he couldn’t look her in the face and do it, or at least not well enough to fool her, and then she’d cried about it, which had made him feel like even more of an asshole. So he’d finally just admitted to them both that no, he wasn’t going to get out of the superhero business, pretty much for the rest of his life, which was likely to be significantly shorter as a result, as well as having certain potential knock-on effects on the lives of his nearest and dearest, which was exactly why a relationship with another superhero was obviously the perfect solution—
“Uh huh,” Rhodey said. “Dumped you, on account of how you are literally an insane person—”
“Sorry, how many combat missions was that you said?”
“—and moved to another goddamn country, because she got wise to putting up with you any longer, and now you want me holding the bag—”
“Can I kiss you or what?” Tony demanded. “Let’s just cut to the chase here.”
“You absolutely may not,” Rhodey said.
“Aw, come on!”
“I am unquestionably the most brilliant human being on the planet,” Tony said. “I mean, before now I might have accepted an argument on the subject, Foster has a decent claim, but oh, yes, holy cow, wow.” He shut his eyes and rounded his mouth and panted as Rhodey came surging back into him, lifting Tony up onto his toes, the warm and now-intentionally pulsing ring at the base firmly up against his ass, sending these incredibly fantastic shivering waves through him, and meanwhile he had Rhodey’s dick completely inside him, and Rhodey’s hand around his own, and Rhodey had his forehead resting between Tony’s shoulder blades and was panting desperately and not even arguing with him a little bit. Tony couldn’t resist poking at him. “Your assessment, Colonel Rhodes?” he panted out.
“Oh, God,” Rhodey groaned, the same way he had that night they’d jumped off the roof of the Green Building in the glider they’d built, senior year.
“Yeah, see, that’s what I thought,” Tony said.