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I wanted to write some New Years themed fic and Rhodey got in on that at the ground floor, so Iron Maiden AU continues it's domination of my journal for now. XD

Title: Tradition
Fandom: Iron Man Movieverse (Iron Maiden AU)
Rating: PG
Summary: Pre-movie canon, Iron Maiden Universe. Rhodey plays Toni's date to the Stark Industries New Years Eve party in 1999.


This was exactly where he ended up every year it seemed.

It's New Years Eve, and he's back in Malibu because he can never say no to her when she calls him up and insists that she NEEDS him to come and keep her company. He has to be there to give her a 'real' conversation while Obie networks and Pepper organizes and the rest of the guests schmooze about shit she's not interested in.

She hasn't seen a movie in a theatre since the Star Wars Trilogy re-releases in '97. She totally called the prequels out as schlock from the first trailer and gave up on movies in general from that point in. (If even George Lucas can fuck up this much there's no hope for anyone else!) She tells him she's not 'in touch with pop culture anymore' based on her movie-viewing record alone.

"It's all my employees and all my employees' frigging housewives. You know what wives are like at company parties! They gang up on the single girl and want to go on about books and films and their kids! What am I gonna talk about with other women at a party when I haven't seen a movie in three years? Quantum fucking mechanics? Seriously Jim. My brain will bleed out my ears if I have to listen to them talk about knitting like at the picnic. I need a date for this one."

So he picks out a suit and drives down to Malibu, because he's her 'go-to guy' and that's just how it is.

Now the ball is about to drop, and here she is on his arm in a beautiful black dress that's covered in tiny beads, from the sultry halter neckline to the hem draped around her ankles that would be too long except for her three inch heels.

There's one wide ribbon of smooth satin just under her breasts and that's where his hands are resting as they sway together. His arms wrap around her a little more as she tries not to trip over her fancy shoes. She puts her head on his shoulder, pressing her forehead to his collarbone, and he reluctantly moves one hand away to open the door behind him and lead her inside.

"Toni if you puke on this blazer I'll kill you."

"I'll buy you new-un..." she mumbles, slurring only a little bit against his collar.

"Jesus, it's not even midnight yet you know."

It's been like this since college, he thinks. Even the very first party they attended together was exactly like this.

Her on his arm, her getting into the scotch too hard for anyone but especially for someone with her body mass, and then her bent over a toilet with him holding her hair and putting her to bed like she's an overgrown toddler. Then she'll call him in the morning (as soon as her hangover is under control) to apologize and tell him what a life-saver he is and promise to take him out for an amazing breakfast to make up for it.

And even though her apology is honest he'll feel empty.

He should know better than to expect a change in tune at this point in their little song and dance, but she's still unaware and he's still hoping (if only out of his habit and her inescapability) so he offers himself up for a partner anyway.

He props her weavy body against the sink and examines her face, rosy and pretty with her dark hair falling against her cheeks and neck. She has the dreamy if slightly worried smile of someone very drunk who can't quite remember why they should be concerned about being so drunk.

"Rhodey, you look mad." she mumbles, reaching up to touch the side of his face. Her manicured nails trace the shape of his ear lightly and he ducks out from under her touch to keep from shivering.

"I'm not mad." he replies, trying to gauge whether it would be better to dampen her flushed face and get her to drink some water in the hope that she won't start throwing up for another hour or so or just put her in front of the toilet right now as a pre-emptive strike.

She takes hold of his arm in that vice-like grip that stunned the shit out of him the first time they shook hands and pulls him closer against her, resting her head back on his shoulder and her arms around his waist.

"Yeaaah, you're mad." she says, and pats him on the back in the apologetic 'I'm here for you way' - the firm comfort of a fellow soldier's brief embrace more than the soft contact of a woman.

"M'sorry Rhodey, I didn't mean to get all.... bartender is out to get me. I think he's been pouring me doubles."

Rhodey bites his tongue against the 'Yeah, cause you TOLD him to!' that wants to come out of his mouth because he knows it won't do any good. Instead he rubs her back a little, inhales the smell of her hair and says, "It's okay. I'm used to it."

She nods against him, then lifts her head as the voices out in the party room pick up.

10... 9.... 8...

"They're counting down without us. We should go back."

"You're gonna fall over if you take two more steps."


"Who the hell am I gonna kiss at midnight if I stay in here?"

He fishes his mouth open and shut, feeling neglected and insulted in one shot.


She pauses in the silence he's left hanging, then eyes him up as if she's only just realized that it's a man she's standing in the room with. (A man who's a perfectly good kisser god-dammit!) She seems to register, vaugely, through the alcohol haze and her usual friendly disconnection from how other people feel, that that last thing she said might have been sort of insulting....

Then she grasps the lapels of his coat with that cheeky gleam in her eye that makes his knees go weak at the best of times. Her breath smells like scotch as she pulls him down to meet her.


"You'll do."


He wants to love this. He wants to pull her in close and kiss her with hunger. He wants to push her back against the counter and touch her everywhere she'll let him and make her understand why he always comes running when she asks...

She's a fantastic kisser, even when she's so drunk she can't walk in a straight line, but all he can taste is alcohol and her lipstick and the sour empty tang of all his longing dying in the space of a moment.

Physically she's as close as she can get, but her heart is far away. Affection, surely, but not love. And for all that he's hoped and waited and wanted, he can't bring himself to kiss her back.

When she pushes him away a minute later with that pale look of impending nausea on her face he's grateful he didn't invest himself.

The party noise is a dull roar through the walls of the bathroom. Toni stays on her knees in that gorgeous dress for the first fifteen minutes of the new millennium while Rhodey holds her hair and makes sure she doesn't crack her head open on the porcelain.

He tries like hell to make a new years resolution of it (Don't be here next year, for god's sakes!) but he knows that's a joke, just like his 'no more beer' resolution or his 'paint the apartment' resolution or his 'stop fucking falling for Toni Stark' resolution of years gone by.

It's not the first time and it won't be the last. He'll drag her to bed and tuck her in like a child, he'll get a cab home, and he'll accept her apology when she calls him the next morning still half-hungover and they'll go out for waffles and eggs.

He's her 'go-to-guy' and that's just how it is.
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