Don’t move. Not-moving currently seemed like an excellent survival strategy, the best one available to Tony in that present moment, because Rhodey was mad. Furious, in fact, if that careful, quiet tone in his voice was anything to go by. He held his breath and waited.

"Tony?" Rhodey asked. "Tony, are you serious? I’m on the phone. I know you’re there. Ignoring me isn’t going to make this go away."

Seriously, don’t move.

Maybe if Tony waited long enough Rhodey would find this whole thing funny and endearing.

"I will find you," Rhodey warned. "I’ll get on a plane right now and come over there to kick your ass. Don’t think that I won’t."

"It really, really wasn’t what it looked like." Crap, he’d forgotten the ‘no moving’ strategy. Tony swallowed. "Complete press fabrication."

"There were photographs." Red alerts flashed in Tony’s brain. Rhodey had that I’m-not-angry-just-disappointed tone in his voice. "Fabrications?"


"They fabricated your hand onto that girl’s ass?" Ouch. "Really?"

"Um…." Tony quickly weighed up his options. Lying had rather more negative consequences than he wanted. "No, not fabricated, but it was really more of a graze than anything else."

Even through the phone line, he was certain he could feel the waves of Rhodey’s disappointment. “We’ve talked about this,” Rhodey said.

"I know. And I get it. I am so on board with the whole monogamy thing." It didn’t fit in with his lifestyle, with the playboy image he projected and quite happily lived up to, but this was Rhodey. He meant everything. If Rhodey said that he wanted a straight-laced relationship, picket fence and all, Tony could give it a try. "I swear. Media manipulation. Photo magic. It’s not as bad as it looks."

Rhodey’s sigh was laced with years of frustration. “I’m going to be back in town tomorrow night,” he said. “We can talk then.”

"Yeah. Lots of deep and meaning conversations. It’ll be great." Tony’s hands jittered nervously, and he bounced on the balls of his feet. When Rhodey got back into town, he mostly wanted to do non-talking things, but maybe that was going to be off the table. "You’re not mad at me, right?"

No answer. Bad sign.

After a small pause, he could hear the intake of breath as Rhodey collected himself. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow,” Rhodey promised, before the phone call was over.

Tony swallowed in the silence and took a deep breath. Oh, yeah. This meant trouble.

Tony stood up because it seemed like he should have been standing up for this sort of thing and he tugged at his shirt and felt awkward standing in front of Rhodey when he hadn’t ever really felt awkward standing in front of anyone in years and definitely not since he became Iron Man. “Pepper thinks we’re dating.”

Rhodey laughed.

It was like fission down his spine the relief and the disappointment that couldn’t settle which was the more powerful. Tony shifted on his feet with a smile plastered on his face and shrugged with a short lift and fall of his shoulders. “You never stopped looking for me.” And Rhodey went quiet. “You probably should have. I don’t even know what it must have cost you—ten years worth of favors? Money? Rank? I don’t know anything that means more to you than your job, than your country and—”

“You’re my friend,” Rhodey said.

“Yeah,” Tony agreed. “Your friend.”

“We’re not dating,” Rhodey said. “I can’t—I won’t date you.”

He let that burn down his spine for a minute and then smiled with a little snort of breath out through his nose. “Rhodey,” he said with both hands on Rhodey’s shoulders, pulling him close enough to smell—he never noticed before the way he smelled so fucking good, how he tensed and relaxed when Tony touched him, how he leaned in close to hear him talk. 

“Pepper never stopped hoping,” Rhodey said like he was cutting him off.

“You found me,” Tony said, “and we’re dating.”

“No we’re not.”

“Yes we are.”

“No we’re not.”

“Yes we are. We are because I said we are.”

Rhodey laughed, “that doesn’t work in relationships Tony.”

“You said relationship, I didn’t say that. We’re dating; US Weekly says we are. According the National Enquirer you’re pregnant with our second child.”


“I’m just that good,” Tony said and Rhodey looked aghast while Tony laughed at him and squeezed his shoulders. It was awkward in the dry air between them because he wanted to wrap his arms around him and crush their mouths together—drag him backward to the couch or bedroom and spend a few hours learning his body and he couldn’t and he wasn’t ever any good at not doing things. “We’re dating. We’re going on a date right now, change this—wear something nice. I’ll wait here.”

“Tony,” Rhodey said.

“Go,” he said. He must have looked serious (or pitiful) because Rhodey nodded and started unbutton his jacket as he headed back toward his bedroom.

- Courtship (caught in the rain) by cards-slash

"So what do you think?" Tony asks, as the sun beats down upon them.

Rhodes looks around at the sandy strip before them. Behind them, the small island is green and fertile. From above it had looked like Eden itself. “What do I think of what?” he asks.

"The island. I bought it."

Rhodes has been friends with Tony for so long that nothing he says should be able to shock him any more. He should be able to take it in his stride without any surprise.

His eyes widen anyway. “You bought it?”

"Sure. I have money. That’s what people with money do. We buy things."

"Things like islands," Rhodes says. He’s still reeling with that idea.

"Things like islands, yes," Tony agrees, talking slowly as if he’s trying to communicate with a child. Rhodes looks around once more and shakes his head in disbelief. "So you like it?"

"It’s a tropical island. Yeah, I like it. It’s good." He shakes his head in disbelief. Tony is still watching him as if he’s waiting for something. "Well done."

Tony grins, that dangerous grin that Rhodes can never understand. “Great. It’s yours.” Before Rhodes can even begin to process that, Tony turns and starts to walk back inland. “You have got to see the lagoon.”

"Tony, wait a second," Rhodes says – he has to jog to catch up with him, his mind spinning.

How exactly do you explain to a multi-billionaire that a tropical island is an inappropriate birthday gift?