Another prompt from sciencebroprompts on Tumblr
Prompt #10 - Rhodey
Tony introduces Bruce to Rhodey. He expects to have a great evening with his two best friends in the world, but Bruce and Rhodey do not hit it off. At all. Rhodey views Bruce as a danger and thinks he should be handed over to the army immediately. Bruce tries to leave/shrink away and is forced into getting defensive. Tony needs to figure out how to remedy the situation, fast… and it looks like the only way to do that is to pick a side.
+10 points if, while a little panicked, Bruce never even gets green in his eyes.
This one just sounded like too much fun. I never much cared for Rhodey, to be honest. He didn't seem to give a crap that Tony was trying to do the right thing by keeping his weapons out of the wrong hands and when Tony was dying, he ditched him because Tony made him look bad. So, that may have shone through a bit in this fic. If you're a Rhodey fan, you might want to skip this one! Sorry!
Ratings for language.
"It's gonna be great. We'll stay in, avoid the crowds so you can relax. And Rhodey's great. Well, he can be a killjoy sometimes but he means well."
Bruce offered a weak smile. It's not that he didn't want to meet Tony's friends, but the military always put him on edge. Although Tony had promised that no one would be touching him in the tower (well, he'd said something about anywhere Bruce might go if he decided to leave, but the doctor suspected that even Stark's resources and connections had their limit) and Bruce genuinely believed him, old habits die hard.
"So what's the plan?" he asked, trying to keep the nervousness from his voice.
"Rhodey's picking up the pizza. We'll have some drinks and catch up. Oh and don't believe a damn word he says about me. Compulsive liar!" Tony added with a smirk.
As anxious as Bruce was, Tony's excitement was contagious. If this guy put up with Stark at his worst (oh, Bruce had heard enough comments from Pepper and Natasha about Tony before the Avengers to know he'd been much worse) surely Rhodes wouldn't make a fuss over the quiet, unassuming doctor. Besides, Tony had been so kind to him that Bruce genuinely wanted to see him happy. Getting along with one of his oldest friends was the least the doctor could do.
"Sir," Jarvis interrupted Bruce's thoughts. "Colonel Rhodes has arrived."
"Send him on up," Tony replied with a smile as he pulled drinks out of the fridge for each of them: two beers and an iced green tea.
That little gesture meant a lot more to Bruce than he'd admit aloud. Tony hadn't pressed him about drinking, which surprised Banner a bit considering Stark's barely capped alcoholism. He'd just accepted that the doctor didn't drink and made sure to keep the fridges and cabinets stocked with Bruce's favorite teas. He took the tea and returned the smile.
The door swooshed open and Rhodes came in carrying two larges boxes. Although not in uniform, the Colonel carried himself according to rank. Bruce bristled slightly and fought the knot in his stomach.
"One extra large meat lovers and one organic, extra large, spinach, artichokes, broccoli, zucchini- Tony, are you dying again?" Rhodey asked as he sat down the pizzas.
"Dying?" Bruce didn't like the sound of that.
Tony just laughed. "No, the hippie food is for Bruce."
Bruce ignored the comment about hippie food and asked, "You were dying?"
"It was no big deal," Tony waved it off like he did most serious things involving himself.
"No big deal, huh?" Rhodey scoffed. "Is that why you gave Pep the company and I had to kick your ass and take one of the suits?"
Tony rolled his eyes. "He didn't kick my ass and I let him take one of the suits. A good move on my part -of course it would be; I did it- since he was useful fighting Vanko and the Hammer drones."
"Useful?! Iron Man woulda been demolished without War Machine."
Making a "yikes" face, Tony asked, "War Machine, huh? You're sticking with that?"
Bruce might have laughed at the banter otherwise, but he was still a little unsettled at the idea that Tony had been dying and from the sound of it, it had been pretty serious. The way he and Rhodey could both joke about it left Bruce a little jealous even. Another thought he'd not admit out loud or even particularly loud internally. There was still so much he didn't know about Tony.
The colonel rolled his eyes again and extended a hand to Bruce. "Since this bastard's too rude to introduce us, Colonel James Rhodes, but Rhodes or Rhodey work fine."
Bruce shook his hand with a bit of reservation and a nervous smile. "Doctor Robert Banner, but everyone calls me Bruce."
Rhodes' eyebrow peaked at that but he didn't comment on it. "Nice to meet you Bruce. Tony's had nothing but great things to say about you."
A hand immediately went to the back of his neck as Bruce shied away. "He uh- overestimates my assistance."
Tony, already digging into the pizza scolded playfully, "None of that. Bruce keeps up with me on his worst day and he actually gave me a run for my money with the research on the Chitauri for Shield. I can't wait to get him working on in one of my medical R&D labs."
"You know, narcissism and inability to play on a team aside, the real reason Shield didn't want you involved was the fact that classified is missing from your vocabulary." Rhodes seemed unamused but Tony didn't seem to care. Turing his attention back to Bruce, the colonel asked, "So, you work for Shield then?"
Bruce opened his mouth but Tony answered for him, "Not a shot! Shield lost their chance at the doc's genius when they couldn't keep the army off his trail."
That knot in his stomach twisted tighter as Bruce tried his best to keep his responses casual. "Well, they did after India but I still don't think Fury will be welcoming me back to headquarters anytime soon." His laugh tinged with anxiousness, he continued to rub the back of his neck.
The shift in Rhodes' whole demeanor cut through any attempt Bruce could make at staying calm. The colonel shot a quick glare at Tony and demanded, "Tony, is he who I think he is?"
As to be expected, Tony didn't flinch. "If 'who you think he is' is a genius, a hero and one of my best friends, you're spot on."
It didn't seem possible, but Rhodes stood up that much straighter. "Don't play games with me, Tony. Is he the fugitive that was spotted during the invasion?"
Bruce backed up only to find himself up against the bar.
"Spotted? He was spotted?" Tony scoffed. "Bruce, here, fought as one of the Avengers- defended this city- saved my life. He's a hero. Or did you uniforms miss that?" He was up in the colonel's face by that last statement but despite the anger seething behind his dark eyes, Stark's voice remained level.
Rhodes' voice countered every ounce of calm with just as much rage. "Have you lost your goddamn mind? You've seen first hand what he can turn into and you bring him in here? With all these people?! I'm not just going to stand by while you risk all their lives, Tony, while you threaten the safety of this whole city so you can play lab buddies!"
In that instant, Bruce knew he needed to leave. It wasn't as though he hadn't heard all these fears voiced out loud before, but it had been a while and certainly not since the battle with the Chitauri. That time had worn down the doctor's defenses. "I should just go," he managed, his gaze having fallen to the ground. The sound of a solid hit and a body falling back into the table brought his attention back up.
Rhodes clutched his nose as blood trickled, the shock on his face making clear that this was a first. Although they'd fought before, it must have never been outside of the suits.
"You can apologize to Doctor Banner now, Colonel." Tony glared at his long time friend, his voice deadly serious.
For the first time since they started fighting, Rhodes looked at Bruce. A few years ago, the threat promised in that glare would have been enough to bring the Hulk rumbling to the surface, but now, not even a hint of green touched the doctor's soft brown eyes.
Without taking his eyes off Bruce, Rhodey responded, "I walk out that door, Tony, I'm not coming back. You really willing to throw away all those years on this monster."
"Yep," Tony answered without a moment's hesitation.
Although Bruce couldn't swear to it, he thought he caught a brief flash of doubt in Rhodes' eyes, or maybe it was hurt. Whatever it was, the colonel quickly replaced it with the cold professionalism of a military man. He turned and left in silence.
Before he could blink, Tony was at his side, apologizing, "Sorry. I should have guessed he'd be an ass about this. Don't listen to that crap though. That's all military bullshit. Ross's doing. He's not stupid enough to try to take you. Even if he was, I'd stop him. You're safe here."
"Tony, I'm so sorry," Bruce apologized, refusing to look him in the eye. "I should have just left. You shouldn't have had to choose."
Tony scoffed. "Like it was even a choice." He tossed his arm around Bruce's shoulder and smiled. "Now, how awful is this hippie pizza you're always getting?"
And just like that, Tony's enthusiasm returned, as if nothing had happened. They finished the whole pizza while talking about the near death palladium poisoning and Tony's rediscovering and synthesizing vibranium. Tony drank a little too much and laughed a little too hard. Bruce let him and kept a smile on. That was just how Stark dealt with loss and, as the doctor helped him to his bed after one too many drinks, Bruce decided that Tony would never have to go through this alone again.