Title: The Properties of Delayed Combustion
Author: HalfshellVenus
Characters: Tony Stark/Rhodey (Slash)
Rating: M
Summary: Even now, Tony Stark always manages to keep Rhodey off-balance.
Author's Notes: For the Fall Fandom Free-For-All and dancinbutterfly's request for Stark/Rhodey slash.


It's three o'clock in the afternoon when Rhodey slips through the front door of Tony Stark's mansion and starts the room-by-room inventory he knows so well.

He rang the doorbell beforehand, waited long enough for Pepper to let him, but she must be on an errand. Tony himself would never answer the door; if Tony were clued-in enough to notice a doorbell, Rhodey wouldn't be here at the house trying to drag the man's ass off to an appointment that he's late for. Again.

Having the key to Tony's house is a sign of friendship, but having to run the man to ground all the time and beg for his cooperation is something else. Something irritating, to be exact.

Rhodey tries the bedroom first, nervous until he sees that the door's already open. This time of day, Tony could still be sleeping something off—alcohol, or the aftereffects of one of his passing sexual conquests, or a combination of both. Years ago it might have been late-night brainstorming sessions on a project, like when Tony would push four or five extra hours out of a day and wind himself farther and farther around the clock until he was finally living nights and mornings backwards.

The bedroom is empty and the attached bathroom too. Rhodey checks inside the marble shower, which has space for half a football team. The bathroom's bigger than his whole damn bedroom—hell, he's had dreams where he's living in that bathroom, sofa-bed and kitchenette arranged against the walls and bookshelves climbing to the ceiling. It makes for a nicer getup than the dorm room he had in college.

Once, Tony had mentioned that it was too bad they weren't both at M.I.T. at the same time. "We could've been roomies, Rhodey—it would've been great. You and me."

But considering their age difference, Tony would've had to be some kind of slacker fuckup finally getting it together in his twenties, or Rhodey would've been one of those creepy teenaged geniuses. Doesn't matter; Rhodey knows exactly where things would have led: pizza boxes on the floor, doors blown off their hinges, and security deposits forfeited hand over fist.

Even now, he'd sign up for that ride.

"Tony!" he calls out, already tired of this tour through the chaos of Stark's lifestyle. How do I always get stuck being the man's keeper?

The job is only part of it, but it's easier than admitting he tends to protect Tony too much from the consequences of his bad choices. Better to focus on the fact that Stark Industries makes incredible machines and weapons, and the military relies on those to do its job. Rhodey's the go-between who makes that possible, though it often feels like he's Tony's handler. Half the time Tony doesn't listen to him anyway.

The kitchen's empty and the upper floor is quiet, so Rhodey heads downstairs to the laboratory. Sometimes he gets pissed off about Tony ignoring him, though lately he's been feeling guilty. That day back when Tony rode in the other Jeep—fucker called it the Funvee—instead of with him and then was taken hostage for weeks on end… Tony's been different since then (different hell, the man's a walking PTSD disaster) and Rhodey can't help thinking none of that would have happened if he'd been riding with Tony. He'd have kept Tony from being captured, not to mention half-killed and broken.

Rhodey spies Tony through the door to the lab. Two of the work tables are covered with various pieces of molded metal and Tony's leaning over something Rhodey can't quite see. Rhodey opens the door. "You have an appointment with the department brass in half an hour," he says, unable to keep the annoyance out of his voice.

"Better cancel it—I'm on to something right now." Tony adjusts a couple of dials on the test unit next to him and touches a probe to the outside of a lit-up medallion.

Rhodey looks around the room, noticing signs of random damage. "Looks like you're killing cars in here."

"Not on purpose," Tony answers. He aims the probe again and checks the readout on the test unit's display. His shoulders relax and he smiles brightly, apparently pleased with what he sees.

Rhodey hasn't seen Tony smile like that—like something real—in a very long time. When it turns his way, it makes him dizzy.

"So how've you been?" Tony puts a hand on Rhodey's arm, squeezes lightly as he guides him to a stool. The fact that Tony's actually happy to see him is almost surprising—more like old times, back when they would kick around together while Tony blew shit up and Rhodey drew prototypes of the machines Tony's inventions would live in. Back before they both got all impressive and started seeing each other mostly in relation to business instead of friendship.

Back when Tony would tease Rhodey about having such pretty eyes and how he could get away with anything with eyes like that, when all Rhodey really wanted was for Tony to make good on that promise himself.

Rhodey clears his throat, trying to put those dead hopes behind him. "So what're you working on in here?"

"Don't know," Tony says, standing close enough that Rhodey can feel the heat of him on his skin. "Could be a thermonuclear device, or just a nightlight. I haven't narrowed it down yet. Want a drink?"

"Why the hell not." The afternoon's gone, and Rhodey's plenty distracted anyway. He watches lazily as Tony goes over to the cupboard next to the sink and pulls down a couple of glasses and a bottle of scotch. By the time he thinks to phone in and reschedule that meeting, Tony's standing there next to him, sliding a hand onto his shoulder and handing him a glass.

"Sorry I got so caught up," Tony says. "You're all dressed-up and official for nothing. Though you look really good in that uniform."

Rhodey's mouth goes dry in spite of the scotch still working its way down his throat. "Thought you didn't care for the military that much."

Tony laughs softly, pats Rhodey on the shoulder. "It's the attitude and the structure."

Rhodey snorts. "Like you're a stranger to having 'attitude.' Though I can see why the structure doesn't suit you. Never did." He looks into Tony's eyes, which are gazing right back at him bright and clear and not avoiding anything. "So why're you so happy all of the sudden?"

Tony sets his own drink down and puts his hands on Rhodey's shoulders, his face serious and serene. "Today was good—I can start my next project now. The tests proved it."

Rhodey hopes to god this means Tony's getting back on track, that the last few months of midlife crisis are finally over. "And here I thought you were just glad to see me." He smiles to show that he's kidding—his visits are almost always about someplace else Tony Stark is supposed to be. "So, we celebrating now?"

Tony flashes a sudden grin and laughs. "You bet." He leans down and kisses Rhodey with mock passion, like it's something he'll brush off later as a joke.

But it doesn't feel like a joke, not for a moment. It burns all the way down, a jolt of electricity that lights up every nerve in Rhodey's body as he sways under the assault, struck by how something he's wanted for years is so much better than he ever dared imagine.

He pushes right back into it, his arm slipping around Tony's waist and holding him there while he returns that kiss with all the intensity battering away inside him.

Rhodey can feel the exact moment Tony gives into it, softening for a split-second and then parting his lips to stroke his tongue into Rhodey's mouth. It's slick and hot, and Rhodey sucks on that tongue as his hands move down to cup Tony's ass and pull him down on his lap until they're wedged in tight together, rolling against each other like they just can't help it.

The stool rocks back slightly, and Rhodey sits up hard.

"Fuck," Tony breathes. "Floor, now. Before we get killed." He lifts off and stands up just long enough to lower himself down and take Rhodey with him, their mouths already connecting. "Yeah," Tony murmurs, "that's more like it."

What it's like is the feeling of cool, smooth concrete under Rhodey's hand and the muscle and heat of Tony writhing underneath him as Rhodey kisses him as hard and dirty as he can. A press of hips and a slow slide up and back again makes Tony moan, and the sound of it is porn to the power of infinity where Rhodey's cock is concerned.

Suddenly things are moving—Tony's trying to get Rhodey's pants off, and vice versa. A couple of yanks and twists and the awkward surrender of zippers, and then the two of them are groin-to-groin, hands seeking and stroking each other with unmatched intensity.

Thank god Tony seems to like the same things Rhodey does himself, or this could get tricky. Rhodey's thought about Tony—only ever Tony—for years, but he's never tried the mechanics of this with another man; there was never any point.

Rhodey tightens his grip as he pulls up over and then down again, rolling his thumb across the tip each time and feeling Tony gasp and shake as he does it. His own hips are moving in a rhythm, fucking Tony's fist in fierce, deliberate thrusts as pressure builds below the base of his cock until it suddenly spills out of him, slick and wet and Goddamn, that feels good.

It takes only a few more strokes of Rhodey's hand before Tony's breathing sharpens, hitches, and then explodes into moaning as he comes in uneven jerks across them both. Rhodey finishes him, soft and lazy as he kisses along Tony's jaw and finally slides his hand up to rub the remaining moisture into the smooth, muscled hardness of Tony's stomach.

"Told you I liked that uniform," Tony says, his voice a rumble under Rhodey's mouth.

Rhodey kisses down across Tony's neck, lapping the salt there like he might not get another chance, keeps himself from biting like he wants to. "Gonna need dry-cleaning now," he answers.

Tony chuckles, absently caressing Rhodey's shoulder. "How long've you been carrying all that around?" he finally asks.

Rhodey grins, full of mischief. "How long have you known me?"

"What, seriously? Back when you were jailbait, coming around the garage all the time?"

Rhodey's smile broadens. "Back when you were wearing the same tight t-shirts like you do now, pretending to be all bad with the booze and the women and the electrical fires always breaking out."

"I wasn't pretending—I really am that bad, and you know it."

"I still think the fires were mostly for show. Or you were really careless back then."

Tony nods as if remembering. "Maybe I was..."

Moving carries the risk of changing everything, but Rhodey's hand is asleep and Tony's restless now beneath him, so he pulls up his underwear and dress pants and sits up slowly, fastening himself up.

"Got anything worth looking at today, besides the dead cars?" He doesn't ask whether there's a future in what they just did, because there's no answer to that question unless this all happens more than once.

"Not yet," Tony says, "but that robot's starting to piss me off, so who knows? Might turn him into a toaster oven. Don't think the military'll be interested, though. Let's get something to eat."

Rhodey follows Tony upstairs, pulling out his phone and calling in to cancel the meeting and anything else he's got scheduled for the afternoon. He'd need a new suit to report back in anyway, and it's already late. He's owed a few hours off.

"Got some leftover roast, we could make sandwiches," Tony offers.

He sounds better, Rhodey thinks, like he's finally starting to get over what happened in Afghanistan.

Whatever the breakthrough is that Tony's on the verge of, Rhodey expects to be hearing about it soon.

- fin -