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A Privilege

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“This is so undignified.”

Tony body wretched and he was thrust forward again, his knuckles white on the rim of the toilet. Rhodey looked away and winced at the sound of Tony's mostly-liquid dinner coming back up, and he rubbed Tony's back as he continued to vomit.

“Not fair.” Tony wiped his chin on his shirtsleeve. “She shouldn't be able to make me like this.”

Rhodey reached over and flushed the toilet for him, grateful when the smell just barely dissipated because of it. He'd already coached Tony through the tears and through the rebound sex, and now it was night after night of liquor and empty flirting, never bringing women home but instead just rambling at his best friend, vomiting and complaining that Pepper still had power over him even though they'd mutually ended their relationship.

“I agree,” Rhodey said, and he eased his hands under Tony's arms and began lifting him, not even asking if he was ready to go to bed. Tony protested messily, trying and not succeeding to move towards the mini-bar once they entered his bedroom. “Sorry, Tony, but 86 is your lucky number.”

Tony let Rhodey sit him down on the bed, let him remove his shoes and his shirt and his pants, and he sat up patiently while Rhodey undressed as well. Rhodey could feel Tony's eyes on him and he tried to ignore it, instead focusing on the seams of his pants as he folded them neatly and dropped them on a chair. They didn't ordinarily share the bed but Rhodey wouldn't take no for an answer after last week, when he came to wake Tony for lunch and found him passed out in a bed full of vomit.

Rhodey went to his side of the bed and finally Tony laid down, rolling towards Rhodey with a boozy sigh. Rhodey's eyes went wide when he felt Tony's hand beneath the covers skittering around, searching... “Tony,” he said, his voice firm. He'd watched Tony hit on Natasha and Clint and Steve and Thor and Bruce (wait, that's the whole team) and Coulson and even Hill over the past week, and Rhodey knew that Tony's beer goggles applied to just about everyone within a fifty-foot range when he was upset. It wouldn't be the first time Tony made a pass at him, but he calmed down when Tony's hand found what it was looking for: Rhodey's hand. He threaded their fingers together and brought their hands above the covers, resting them on Rhodey's chest.

“You're my best friend,” Tony said, his eyes closed, his voice thick.

 

*

 

“The Iron Patriot armor features many different types of ammunition,” the scientist said, and she took a breath before continuing proudly, “some of which include various high explosives, concussion bombs, thermite, tear gas, tracers, flares, smoke, anti-tank rounds, anti-ship rounds, flamethrowers, depleted uranium, and even a couple of sub-nukes.”

“Quite impressive,” responded the reporter, and he shot a look to Rhodey, almost as if for approval, and Rhodey nodded in kind. “Looks like the DOD really pulled out all the stops for this rebranding, Colonel Rhodes.” Rhodey balked slightly when the reporter held their recorder up to his face, but he tried to keep his smile steady. “What are some of your favorite features of the Iron Patriot armor?”

Rhodey rattled off some stuff about how it was lighter than the original War Machine armor and how he'd fought to keep his shoulder pack. “They really wanted to get rid of it,” he said. “Something about how it could get snagged or broken, not aerodynamic enough – I don't know. I just like it because Tony doesn't have one.”

The reporter had a good laugh at that. “I assume you mean Mr. Stark?” he asked, and Rhodey nodded, his face warm for some reason. “So you two are good friends?”

“Sure thing,” Rhodey responded, and he wasn't sure how honest he wanted to be in front of the press, but he couldn't help but grin at the memory of Tony eying his Gatling gun with hungry eyes. “We've kept a lot of the features of the original armor intact, and Mr. Stark has even added a few cool things for me, too, but those details are classified. You know, I really can't believe he came up with the prototype for this thing in a cave, but at the same time, I can. It's brilliant. He's brilliant.” Rhodey ran his hand over the red, white, and blue metal, keeping his frown minimal. He missed War Machine's brushed metal. Tony had given him that name. “The Mark 2's still under here, you know. I wouldn't let them get rid of it.” Rhodey eyed the scientist and knocked on the suit with a smile. “It's the first one he made when he got back, and he gave it to me. It's a real privilege, you know? I mean it should be in a museum.”

 


 

A month later in New York, Tony tried to sneer at Bruce when he sat Tony's takeout on top of his copy of Popular Mechanics, the only magazine he bothered to read in print anymore. He'd read it all the time as a kid and in college – Rhodey had even gotten him a subscription for Christmas during his last year at MIT, when they lived off campus together and spent the holidays at Rhodey's house in south Philly. That was thirty years ago, and Rhodey still renewed Tony's subscription for him every year.

Bruce's grin was amicable at Tony's little growl, and he moved the box of ribs and mashed potatoes and continued to read the feature on Iron Patriot.

Having piloted the War Machine armor for two years now, Rhodes has grown attached to certain features and refused to let the Department of Defense do away with them. Citing that his shoulder pack quite possibly inspires jealousy in Tony Stark, he also mentioned insisting that the Mark 2 armor beneath the Iron Patriot addition remain intact. “It was the first [suit] he made when he got back, and he gave it to me,” Rhodes said as he touched the armor almost reverently. “It's a real privilege, you know? I mean it should be in a museum.”

Rhodes is right. The world is still processing the idea of a single man – a brilliant one, but still just a man – building a flying suit of armor out of bomb scraps in a cave, but the idea isn't so hard for him to grasp. “He's brilliant,” Rhodes said lightly.

 


 

Rhodey was walking out of a meeting when his phone vibrated. It was a text from Tony.

I am NOT jealous of your shoulder pack. Butthole.

He responded quickly. Yes you are. I can see it in your eyes.

How's my mom? Been missin' her.

Rhodey blinked a bit then smiled. It had been a year since Tony had visited south Philly with him. She misses you, too. Veteran's Day is coming up – bbq with us?

 

*

 

Rhodey sat on the couch with his niece, a ten year old tinkerer who'd made the tie-wire doll she held in her hands. It's joints were articulated. She'd also rewired the motorized scooter that Tony was fixing for her across the room – Rhodey had helped a bit, but girl's precocious nature couldn't be denied. Tony wanted to send her to space camp, kept talking about drafting her a letter of recommendation for MIT as soon as he got home.

Tony had come to Philadelphia for the Rhodes family's Veteran's Day barbecue, but right now he was replacing the wheels on her scooter with some he'd fabricated back in New York. He'd had Rhodey send him the specs for her scooter after mentioning how bumpy the damned thing rode, and though she was good at electronics, she still didn't own a lathe. He was also upping the power supply – but not too much, Rhodey had insisted, as she was only ten. Tony worked across the living room from them while Stella leaned over Rhodey's phone, slowly swiping through pictures of Tony's suits. There were seven on display in his garage, and about fourty-two total.

“This is the first one he made,” Rhodey said. He remembered seeing it in pieces in the sand, Tony's skin burning hot from the sun when they finally touched for the first time in three months. He remembered the way Tony slumped against him in the chopper on the way to base, his good hand curled into Rhodey's, not caring who saw. “Yeah, it was kinda heavy, but it got the job done. Saved his life.”

“I like the other one,” she said. “The shiny one.”

“Me, too. That one's mine.” Rhodey laughed when her eyes went supernova. “Yeah, it's under the Iron Patriot.”

“That's sooooo cool. Can it go into space like his?”

“No, and honestly, his can't either. He just did it anyway.”

It was quiet for a while. “That's scary,” she finally said.

“I know,” Rhodey said. “He's really brave, huh? He did that for all of us. I'm real proud of him.”

The noise across the room had ceased and Rhodey looked up, and immediately Tony went back to work, focused on the task at hand.

 

*

 

Rhodey watched Tony eat an entire rack of ribs all by himself that day. He slept it off in Rhodey's room while everyone left, and when he woke up they went out, taking a cab downtown to visit Tony's favorite sparkly bar. Tony rubbed elbows with the bartenders and regulars while Rhodey stared into his beer like it might wake up and talk to him, and eventually Tony walked over and threw an arm around his shoulders. He sat Rhodey's beer down and led him outside, never speaking, just smiling, and he walked up to a taxi parked on the curb and opened the door.

“Take me out,” Tony said as they climbed into the cab, and Rhodey rolled his eyes. “Come on, let's go where you wanna go.”

So Rhodey took him to the shittiest bar he could think of, a bar so shitty that the owners once kidnapped a reporter who called them shitty. Rhodey had never been there before but he'd heard plenty about the place, and the bartender, a skinny blond, was screaming at a homeless man when they walked in. There was a bum asleep in one of the booths as well, but other than that there was no one present. They sat at the bar and ordered Manhattans, but once it was clear that the bartender didn't actually know how to tend bar, they got beers.

“I heard what you said to your niece,” Tony said, and Rhodey just shook his head. “Nah, it's okay, I can keep pretending that you don't notice anything awesome that I do. But thanks.”

“You know I'm not one to feed your ego,” Rhodey replied with a grin. “I figure with all these people kissing your ass all the time, you don't need me hopping in line. But I meant what I said.”

“And what was it that you said, exactly?” Tony asked. Rhodey laughed out loud at the oblivious look Tony was trying to pull off, but his grin gave him away. Rhodey thought about playing it off, arguing or something, but instead he just dropped a large hand onto Tony's shoulder, the metal of the Brass Rat catching on the folds of his friend's suit as he rubbed warmly.

“I'm proud of you, Tony,” Rhodey said, and he clinked their beers together. “Mom is, too.”

 

As soon as the bartender figured out who they were, she suddenly knew how to make every drink in the world. They downed Sidecars and Old Fashioneds and Mint Juleps and Rusty Nails and Martinis and Jack Roses, and the bar quietly filled up with patrons that matched the neighborhood, but they were remarkably respectful (or maybe just drunk) and let Tony and Rhodey talk at the bar. Tony asked about the niece and offered her a scholarship to space camp, and of course Rhodey accepted on behalf of the girl's parents.

“I wanna get her to build a body for JARVIS,” Tony said. They were in the alley out back and Rhodey was peeing, laughing at Tony's statement all the while. “Nah, seriously, in ten years I think she will totally be able to do that. I mean, she rewired that entire fucking scooter, Rhodey! With what looked like shit from a Nissan or something. She's ten.” Rhodey finished and walked up to Tony, who was leaning against the wall.

“You built your first engine at six,” Rhodey said.

“Yeah,” Tony replied, “which means we gotta get Stella to space camp so she can catch up.”

Rhodey laughed heartily and placed a hand on the wall behind Tony, letting himself lean forward. Tony smelled like liquor and smoke, barbecue still on his breath even after all those drinks. Tony brought a hand up to the back of Rhodey's neck, not pulling but just holding him there. Rhodey was too unguarded to do anything more than just feel Tony's warmth, enjoy it, and be thankful for it.

“You still need to go?” Rhodey asked. “Not sure why there were rocks in the urinals, but...”

Tony kissed Rhodey. He leaned forward and pressed their lips together, his hand tightening it's grip just a little at the back of Rhodey's head, and Rhodey felt weak when Tony's lips parted, felt like he had been sucked in when he found his tongue in Tony's mouth. Rhodey bent his elbow and rested his weight on Tony, who promptly slumped back against the wall, his hands squeezing at Rhodey's sides and their mouths moving independent of themselves.

“Bad,” Rhodey said suddenly, right into Tony's mouth, and immediately it felt like the wrongest fucking thing he could have done, but he'd never forgive himself if he didn't say what he was thinking. He wanted to be wrong about it. “This is bad, Tony – we're drunk, and you're all...” Rhodey trailed off but he didn't move away, actually leaning forward and pressing their foreheads together.

“Jim,” Tony said, and Rhodey felt himself go still, even his breath. Tony never called him that. “That is not what's going on right now.”

They went back inside and Tony ordered water, then coffee.

 

*

 

Tony ended up signing a $500 contract with Paddy's to endorse something called Kitten Mittons. (Seriously, that's how it was spelled on the napkin that the janitor gave him to sign.) He ended up doing it for free.

 

Tony wanted to celebrate his new endorsement deal because why not, so he got a private box and took Rhodey to a Sixers game. It didn't matter that they sucked nowadays because Rhodey would always be a huge Dr. J fan – he even wore a throwback Julius Erving jersey, and Tony wore a Larry Bird one just to be a smartass. Tony showed him a text from Happy during the game, his bodyguard enraged that he was in such a public space without security and also because he was wearing a Larry Bird jersey at a Sixers game on national television. Rhodey stretched an arm across the back of Tony's chair and hugged him every time their team scored. They drank just a little at the VIP bar in the Wells Fargo Center after the game, and Tony asked if Rhodey wanted to go back to Paddy's but he declined. They got cheesesteaks and Tony ate his while they walked.

“Where are we going?” Rhodey asked. They were in the nicer part of south Philly, still near the park and the arena, walking on the waterfront and not in the direction of his mother's house.

“Wanna get a hotel room?” Tony asked, his voice entirely too casual as he wrapped the rest of his cheesesteak back in it's paper and dropped it into the bag with Rhodey's. Rhodey opened his mouth to say yes, but then Tony held up a hand. “Nope, no. That is not what's going here, okay?” He stopped walking and looked into Rhodey's face, and Rhodey returned the gaze. He'd known Tony for thirty years, had known that face for even longer, a face he'd watched sag and age beautifully over three decades, the lines of Tony's smile so deep now that they were there even when he was angry.

“I'm cool if you're not into it,” Tony said, “seriously, I am. We've been friends forever and nothing's gonna change that. It's just that you're the best man I know, okay, and you're proud of me and so is our mom, and if we go back to her house I worry she'll walk in on us making out, and I really don't want that.” Rhodey laughed and Tony smiled, a grin that put Rhodey's mind at ease. Tony reached out with his free hand and hooked a finger into Rhodey's belt loop. “I mean the main thing is that I want you to kiss me again.”

“So let's get a hotel room.”

 

They took a cab to the Hyatt and Tony got the top-floor suite for the night, where they ate their food and watched SportsCenter recaps of the game. They made out in their jeans and socks, both of them kneeling on the bed and ignoring the commentary that filled the room. Tony's ass was round in Rhodey's hands, softer than he'd thought it would be, but he wasn't disappointed at all. He crushed their groins together with a flex of his wrists and Tony's nails bit at his skin, a rough groan peppering their kiss as Tony dragged his hands around and up Rhodey's chest. He squeezed Rhodey's shoulders, pulling at them as if they could get any closer, and now his hands were suddenly at Rhodey's fly, unbuttoning and then unzipping.

“Lie down,” Tony murmured against his mouth, and for a moment Rhodey felt overwhelmed. Thirty years couldn't be considered “moving too fast” but only twenty-four hours had passed since their first kiss, and Tony was his best friend, and -

“I want to,” Tony breathed. His hands were still now, and even though Rhodey's pants were unfastened he was still safely tucked away inside of them. “Please, Jim, I've wanted to.”

Tony's hands stroked fondly up and down his back, callouses probably leaving pale scrapes behind on his skin. Rhodey brushed his lips along Tony's before kissing them, long and soft, and he let himself be eased back onto the bed. Tony deepened the kiss as his hands moved down Rhodey's stomach, slipping beneath the waistband of his pants and into his underwear. He gasped at the feeling of such a large hand on him, a hand that wasn't his, and he had never known he could want something like that so fucking badly in his life. Tony kissed his cheek, jaw, and neck, trailing down to his clavicle and letting his tongue trail down to the top of Rhodey's jeans, and he pulled them down along with Rhodey's underwear, his erection slapping his stomach as it was finally exposed. Tony took it in his hand and swept his tongue across the slit first, and Rhodey's breathed hitched as Tony began to suck the head, letting his lips slip down inch by inch until his nose brushed dark pubic hair.

Rhodey rose up on his elbow to watch Tony, and he showed his appreciation through choked moans and soft touches along Tony’s shoulders and neck. Rhodey was too amazed to make words right then – he only felt aware of the succulent heat that enveloped him, two strong hands on his hips. Rhodey’s head dropped back against the mattress and he sighed heavily, bucking sharply at the feel of the back of Tony’s throat bumping the tip of his leaking cock, lips tightening, moving faster and harder.

“Oh,” Rhodey breathed, hiccuping, his words not coming yet again. Tony looked up and smiled wickedly, and when he eased up Rhodey met him halfway in a shaky kiss, his eyes fluttering as Tony persistently stroked his cock. Rhodey moaned against the their kiss and he let his eyes shut, it was almost too much, and he finally breathed when he felt Tony move away. He was barely able to open his eyes before he felt slick heat envelope him again, sucking hungrily, and his hips threatened to wriggle right out of Tony’s hands as Rhodey’s orgasm approached with frightening speed.

“Oh,” he mumbled again as he fell back against the bed, “I – Tony…” and with that he pushed his head back into the mattress, crying out as he emptied himself into Tony’s waiting mouth, which sucked and swallowed eagerly at him. He twisted and writhed at Tony’s touch, mumbling wordless pleas and praises as his orgasm slowly subsided. Tony eased back onto the bed and was immediately pulled on top of Rhodey and into a crushing kiss, rolling on their sides, and Rhodey was immediately aware of the thick erection pressed hard against his hip.

He released Tony's dick from his pants to find it rock hard and leaking at the tip. Rhodey wrapped his hand around Tony's dick and he pressed his face into Rhodey's neck, whimpering and thrusting his hips slightly. Rhodey found a pace that was firm but not too quick, his blood hot beneath his skin as Tony let out stilted puffs of air against his neck. Rhodey's thumb slid over the head and Tony gave a loud moan at that, his face burning against Rhodey's skin as his hips moved in time with his fist.

“Rhodey,” he stammered, and he looked up at Rhodey then, “Oh, I ” – he was barely able to blurt it out before it happened, hot and messy all over Rhodey's hand and his hip, but he was too focused on Tony, on his beautiful fucking face to even really notice. He kissed Tony's trembling mouth as he just squirmed and groaned, making things messier with each pull of his hand, Tony's body twisting with the rhythm of his stroke. Tony's breath was warm against his face and even though he'd already come, this might have been the best Rhodey had ever felt.

Eventually Tony settled beside him like a wet rag, just panting while Rhodey quietly wiped them both clean. SportsCenter was still on and would probably be on until four in the morning, but it didn't matter because both of them had their eyes closed, hands twisted together between them, Tony's forehead on Rhodey's cheek. He wasn't sure what was to come after this for them or even what he should do next besides mute the television and fall asleep, but Tony was his best friend, the best man he knew, too, and he was happy to lay like this with him, to share his family with him and be part of his new legacy as War Machine (a much better name). He'd happily get rid of the Mark 2 armor if it were to go to the National Air and Space Museum. That's where it belonged. It was a national treasure, and it was Rhodey's. He almost couldn't believe it sometimes.

So Rhodey just muted the television and relaxed into the mattress with his best friend, the greatest man, someone he was privileged to share this moment with.