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Targeted Persuasion

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“So I set you up with Janet this Friday.” Tony took a bite of his eggs, made an appreciative noise, and moved another egg from the pan onto his plate. “You’re taking her to see Swan Lake. Not the most original choice, I know, but some classics are classic for a reason.”

“Back up,” Jim said, rubbing a hand over his face. His brain always took a few minutes to reboot after orgasms, which was probably why Tony had blown him when they first woke up. He should have known it was a trap when Tony voluntarily surrendered the first cup of coffee. “Who’s Janet, and why does that sound like a date?”

“It is a date. What?” Tony said, at the look Jim gave him. “You’re not leading her on, trust me, you’re not her type. She’s a friend.”

“Why are you setting me up on dates with your lesbian friends?”

“You’re a healthy, attractive, successful man in his 40s, it looks weird for you not to be in a serious relationship.”

“I am in a serious relationship.”

Tony waved his hand dismissively. “I mean one you can go public with. The van Dynes are old money, Janet is well-established on the New York society circuit, and she’s involved in something long-term with a married couple in politics, so she knows the score. She’s good company, too, she’s got all the society gossip you could ask for. Plus she’s done great research on hyper-elastic polymers. You should see the things she can do with the fabrics she designs, she literally flew into the Met gala last year.”

“It’s very sweet of you to recruit your friends to be my beard, Tony, but if I’m going to be in a public relationship, it’s going to be with you.”

“Honeybear, be reasonable.”

“What’s unreasonable about that?”

“You’re going to be President.”

“So?”

“You’re going to be President, so you can’t be in a public relationship with me,” he said, like he was reciting e=mc2, like this was just another mathematical inevitability, Rhodes+Tony=lost election.

“Why not?”

“Why not.” Tony snorted, like he thought Jim was joking.

“You don’t think you’d help my chances?”

“Me? No. My money going to a variety of super PACs, yes. The incredibly sophisticated algorithms JARVIS and I will build to tell you where to do campaign stops and direct ad dollars, yes. But publicly claiming Tony Stark as your gay side piece? That’s not going to do you any favors, not unless you’re trying to alienate anti-war progressives and homophobic social conservatives at the same time. It’s like the most efficient way possible to commit political suicide. Are you mad? You look mad.”

“I’m furious,” Jim said calmly. He wiped his mouth on a napkin, stood up, and snagged Tony’s elbow. “Come on.”

“Okay?” Tony let himself be towed back into the bedroom. “I’m confused, is this angry sex, is that’s what’s happening now, because I could be into that.”

Jim opened Tony’s most formal closet and started pulling out tuxedos. “Put one of these on.”

"Why?”

“We’re getting married.”

Tony froze. “No, we’re not.”

“Oh yes we are.” Jim tossed three tuxedos onto the bed. Three was a good number of options, enough for Tony to make a choice, but not so many that he’d get lost analyzing the ramifications of navy pinstripes vs. charcoal paisley. Tony did best with clear, specific expectations rather than an unlimited universe of possibilities that he would inevitably filter through his neuroses and obsess over, and Jim was really kicking himself for not considering that, oh, ten years ago when they’d first started this, but there was no point in beating himself up about it now when he could put that energy towards solving the problem instead. “You brought this on yourself, Tones. Pick a damn tux.”

Jim kept his eyes on the bow ties he was sorting through, but after a second he heard the sound of fabric shifting. “Is this because I called myself your gay side piece?”

“That’s certainly a factor.”

“You don’t have to–”

“Tony.”

“It’s not–”

“Anthony Edward Stark.”

“Jesus Christ, fine, I’ll pick a tux. Just so I know what colors to coordinate with, what are you wearing to our hypothetical, extremely ill-advised wedding?”

Jim let hypothetical go for now. “Dress blues.”

“Oh, of course, let’s bring extra attention to how just being seen holding hands with me would have gotten you kicked out of the Air Force not so long ago.”

“Those days are gone, Tony.”

“Yeah, and the brass is still full of people who wish they weren’t.”

“Is that seriously why you’ve been keeping this quiet? For the sake of my career?”

“I’m not mad about it, if that’s what’s gotten you all hot and bothered,” Tony said defensively. “It makes sense. You could do a lot of good as President, and you don’t need any extra obstacles in your way.”

“Tony,” Jim said, and waited until Tony looked at him. “If I’d known you were keeping this quiet for my sake, I would have gone public the day DADT got repealed.”

Tony stared at him for a few seconds, then whipped the ties out of his hands. “Navy stripe, seriously? Are you trying to shanghai me into a wedding or a wake? This is yet more evidence that you haven’t thought this through.”

“You’re right,” Jim said. “We need to call Pepper.”

 


 

“Good morning, gentlemen.” Pepper adjusted the angle of her laptop and smiled into the camera. Her eyebrows raised as she took in Tony’s tux and Jim’s uniform. “What’s the occasion?”

“Rhodey’s gone nuts.”

“We’re getting married.”

“Congratulations,” Pepper said, without missing a beat. “Do you have a license?”

“That’s why we’re calling.”

“Pepper, you’re sensible,” Tony tried. “Tell him the many reasons why this is a bad idea.”

“Well, it’s a Friday, so the line at the courthouse is going to be pretty long,” Pepper said apologetically. She was already typing. “I’ll see what I can do about the waiting period.”

“I’m fine with waiting,” Tony said. “We could wait until, say, 2028, when your second term is over.”

“We’ve been waiting ten years. I’m done waiting. Pepper, be my best man?”

“Of course.”

“Hey!” Tony said, indignant. “Why do you get Pepper? I knew her first.”

“You get Happy.”

“Oh, God, you want to put Happy through this? He’ll cry the whole time.”

“Tears of joy.”

“License problem resolved,” Pepper broke in smoothly. “You have an appointment with Justice Martinez at two-thirty. Give me a couple hours to finish up here and I’ll meet you at the courthouse.”

“Thanks, Pepper.”

“This is entrapment.”

“You’re welcome,” Pepper said serenely. “Should I wear lavender?”

“Go with jewel tones,” Tony said, deeply disgruntled. “We’re not big on pastels.”

“Amethyst it is. I’m so happy for you both,” she said, and hung up before Tony could respond, because Pepper was a very smart woman.

 


 

“Okay, seriously,” Tony hissed as they jogged up the courthouse steps. A few heads were already turning; Tony was never more recognizable than when he was in evening wear, in the same costume the public had seen under headlines like ORGIES AT STARK TOWER: AVENGERS ASS-EMBLE?? “I cannot screw this up for you, you cannot let me screw this up for you, you’re supposed to stop me from pulling this kind of shit, I’m not up to the responsibility of being the restrained half of this partnership.”

“Where’s your tie?” Jim asked mildly. Tony was swinging around behind him like a tether ball being nosed back and forth between two corgis. Now that they were actually at the courthouse, Tony was realizing Jim was truly, genuinely, completely serious. This would be the final push.

Tony reached into his breast pocket and handed him a bow tie. It was patterned with a deep blue tartan that matched the color of Jim’s dress uniform interwoven with vibrant cobalt and the soft graphite of Tony’s tux. “You have a plan, you’re eighteen years into a twenty year plan, it’s a good plan, you’re going to do great things, and I absolutely cannot handle being the one who derails that.”

“What, you don’t think I can win if you’re my husband? Like that’s going to stop me. Chin up.”

Tony argued with the ceiling while Jim knotted his tie. “Of course you can still win, but don’t tell me it’s not going to be harder if you’re married to me than if you’re married to a leggy blonde socialite with an impeccable record of charity work.”

“I’m not marrying a leggy blonde socialite whether you marry me or not, so it’s a moot point. And if you don’t think I lost the anti-war progressives during my twenty-year military career, I don’t know what to tell you.” Jim stepped back and smoothed Tony’s lapels down. It hit him anew how much older Tony looked now than when Jim had first met him, back when he’d been a teenage prodigy who spent half his time creating off-hand miracles and the rest hungover and throwing up in Jim’s bathtub. He looked better now, even with all the wrinkles and the gray in his hair. More settled. Clearer-eyed. Jim had always liked his eyes.

Tony glanced to the side rather than hold his gaze. “There’s a difference between honorably serving your country and selling weapons to terrorists.”

Jim made a mental note to find the time to piss on Stane’s grave sometime soon. “We’ve had this argument before, Tony, and we can have it again on our honeymoon if you want, but you’re not derailing me with another round right now.”

Tony blew out an explosive breath. “As your campaign manager–”

“You’re not my campaign manager,” Jim said, and waited until Tony opened his mouth to cut in with, “you’re my future First Husband.”

Tony blinked twice. “Wow,” he said finally. “That sounds incredibly wrong.”

“Imagine the Breitbart headlines,” Jim said, and saw glee kindle in Tony’s eyes. “Yeah, there you go. Trust me, Tones, this is going to be fun.”

“That’s usually my line.”

“So get on board, already,” Jim said, and held out a hand.

Tony sighed and took it. “You’re doing this to get back at me for the grand gestures, aren’t you? I knew you weren’t over the rabbit thing.”

“That’s most of it. A little bit is just because I love you.” Jim held the fingers of his other hand a half-inch apart. “Little bit.”

“Well, if you want to get mushy about it,” Tony said, squeezing his hand tightly. “I realize we’re already dressed for it, but you know we don’t actually have to get married in order to go public, right? You have your own fabrication unit in my workshop and you gave me an hour-long foot rub for my birthday, we can’t get any more married than that.”

“But what about my political career?” Jim asked solemnly. “Won’t the focus groups want a candidate who’s in a stable, long-term marriage? Think of the voters, Tony.”

Tony was finally smiling, his crows feet deepening even as he rubbed a hand over his goatee to hide his lips. “Fine. I agree. On one condition.”

“Name it.”

You’re the one who tells your aunts we got a rushed courthouse wedding.”

Jim considered this. “Fuck.”

“Yeah,” Tony said, sympathetically. “Maybe they’ll forgive you by your inauguration.”

“If I can get them seated near the Obamas, they’ll forgive me for anything.”

They held hands until the clerk called their names, and walked into the justice’s chambers side by side.