|What: With help, Rhodey picks out a new Force Works facility. One that he'll be sharing.|
When the five story three-business building next to her goes up for sale, Bethany is hard pressed not to just buy it on the spot. It's way too big for just her needs anyway. She still loves it. It's spare and practical and industrial and it's got multiple car elevators and freight elevators and massively reinforced floors and exposed utilities... maybe Rhodey would have a use for some of the space. So, she leaves him a message to come by and directions and tells Sal to let him in and put him in the security system when he shows up. Then she dives back into her paperwork.
As always, Rhodey was pleased to hear from Beth. He's happy to have an excuse to get out of the house, but there's more to it than that. He's dressed in his business-as-usual civilian flight suit, but it's ironed just a little more crisply than usual. And he's whistling in the elevator on the way up. Whistling.
When the bell DINGs and the door slides open, he steps out and strides up to the door. He gives a quick rap, waits a brief, polite moment, then lets himself in. "Hey," he says, waving and smiling crookedly. "How's it going?"
Bethany is nearly lost behind a stack of Janes' volumes piled on her desk. "We have a damn lot of paperwork for a 'paperless' office, that's how." Her office looks like an academic's, perhaps; nothing like a business person's office. There's piles of books, bookshelves, maps papering the walls, weapon prototypes in pieces here and there, two go-bags, a rack of clothing, and a weapons locker the size of a modest corner shower stall.
"Glad you're here." She closes her computer and stands up to give Rhodey a smile. Oddly, she's stripped down a sports bra, black jeans, and boots. Her shirt and a protective vest meant to be worn under it are draped over one of the chairs facing her desk, though. "Lemme grab some things."
Rhodey lifts two fingers and gives her a brief, lazy salute. He's decent enough not to stare, but he's human enough that he has to take one good look at Bethany before he busies himself with exploring her office. He doesn't take any pictures with his prosthetic eye, either. Sorry, Tony.
"Take your time," he says as he makes his way toward the weapons locker to see what sort of shiny toys are hiding inside. "Man, your office looks an awful lot like my old one in Dubai. I feel right at home."
"I miss Dubai," Bethany says as she considers the vest--she's just going across the street--and tosses it aside. "I love it there, for all its flaws." She tugs the shirt, a thin black hoodie, on and then grabs her gun to clip the holster to her belt under the shirt.
"I miss the Middle East in general, though. It was terrifying and honest, even when it was corrupt and ugly. And I love my staff in the M.E.," Bethany adds wistfully. "The most horrible moments of my life were over there but I wake up and look at New York and I just want to go back. Not that there aren't some good things here." She gives Rhodey a smile that doesn't quite wipe away her wistful sadness. "Want a coffee before we head over?"
"I'm good, thanks," Rhodey replies. A sea of memories are swimming in front of his eyes. Some of them good. Some of them bad.
"I got blown up in Dubai, so I have some mixed feelings about the place." He smiles and shrugs half-heartedly, then changes the subject. "So tell me more about this building we're going to see. The only facility I have in New York is a corporate office, believe it or not. I could use some actual workspace."
Bethany doesn't hug Rhodey or anything, though she does want to comfort him. She slips her hand into his and gives his hand a little squeeze. That's it's not an average hand doesn't change anything at all.
"Come on. The only way Sal is letting me out of here on my own is if I have an escort and you're the best one I can think of," she says, leading Rhodey back down to the elevator, her hand still in his. She can't fix things but she can just be there, and be a little closer even, when things come up.
As always, Rhodey takes Bethany's hand carefully. It's not that he's incredibly strong, but he's hard. Unyielding. He's learned the hard way that he has to be gentle. He glances at their joined hands, then back up at Bethany. The smile on his face looks a lot more genuine now. "Sounds good to me," he says. "But if I move in next door, you're never getting rid of me. Just so we're clear."
"Oh, please, old man." Bethany leans back a little gives Rhodey a hard look. "If I wanted to be rid of you, you'd never see me coming. You being next door just makes it easier." She -almost- makes it through that without cracking up but loses it on the last words. She leans back in and hugs Rhodey's arm, resting her head against it as she laughs helplessly. The idea of getting rid of Rhodey is ridiculous.
This is comfortable. Familiar. Rhodey leans in against Bethany, soaking her up. It's not the same for him, but he can feel her presence more keenly in some ways than most people ever will. Body heat. Pulse. Respiration.
With a blink, he shuts off all of those sensors. Anything that might tell him something about her she doesn't want to tell him herself. "Sorry," he says, smiling when he realizes he's been standing silently for a moment. He punches the appropriate button on the control panel and the elevator starts to descend. "Had to shift around some programming. Anyway, I hope this place is as suitable as you made it sound. I'd like being neighbors with you."
"I'd like that, too." Beth would say more but then the doors slide open too soon and Sal is standing right there. He's not very big. He's older. He wears glasses. And he's standing there like he's the size of Rhodey in full suit.
"Vest?" Sal gives Bethany a glare. "I'm not seeing a vest."
"Ugh, SAL." Damn it, Sal. Embarrassing her in front of her cool friends like her father never did. "I'm fine. I have Rhodey and those assholes couldn't hit the side of a barn."
"That's not what your own report says." Sal puts a hand out to stop the elevator from closing. "You got lucky. THREE times. I'd even give you a pass on one and three but yesterday the only thing between you and a pine box was that kid from SHIELD who stopped ogling your chest long enough to catch some light off a scope. VEST."
"They were aiming for my head," Bethany retorts. "Should I get a hat as well?"
"Sal," Rhodey says, holding up his free hand disarmingly. "I promise."
He doesn't specify. He doesn't have to. Somehow, he's managed to put an awful lot of weight into those three words. He looks the smaller man in the eye for a moment and then nods respectfully.
"Makes me feel a lot better, knowing he's around," Jim says, giving Beth's hand a squeeze. "Somebody has to look after your skin, since you don't ever seem to."
"Fine. But Yael's on the roof anyway and we've secured the next building." Sal gives Rhodey a dire look. "Three times. Week and a half."
"I look after myself enough to sign the paychecks," Bethany protests weakly. "I'm going to take care of it. The neighborhood is secure, but with all the construction uptown, there's no way to secure all the vantage points. Thanks, though." She tugs Rhodey toward the door. "It's just really expensive to get someone to make a shot from that far out."
As soon as they're away, Rhodey shoots a sharp glance at Beth. "So. You wanna tell me what he was talking about? Three times? Week and a half?"
His training is too good for paranoia to take hold, but an unpleasant shiver runs through his metal body as he considers this information. "Sorry," he says, cutting off his own question. "I know you're a big girl. I just don't want to see you get hurt."
"The ex-husband of a client. Guy's a crime lord in Madripoor now," Bethany says quietly. She stays in the shadow of Rhodey's body on the way next door, then takes out the key card she talked the agent into letting her keep. She opens the small pedestrian door into the first of the three portions of the building. It's huge, open, empty space. Industrial. It had been something like a pawn shop for cars.
Inside, Bethany exhales slowly and then leans on Rhodey, closing her eyes. "I know I give Sal shit, but it's starting to get to me. It's not just me in danger, a lot of people were put at risk the last two days. I'll take care of it. It'll take me a couple days, me and Ling. I just... his wife went back to him and now she's in on it as well and they have a kid. I was hoping he'd give up and go away." But that's not happening and she's got to look after herself.
This is definitely news to Rhodey. His eyes widen visibly and his mouth opens, but just a fraction before he catches it. "Holy crap," he mutters, wrapping his arm around Bethany and giving her a squeeze. "Well... let me know if there's anything I can do, yeah?" It's not an offer to handle her problems for her. He's not trying to rescue any damsels in distress. He's just trying to be a good friend.
Then he turns his attention to the space. Oh, the space. "This is perfect," he breathes. "Open. Empty. It's like a blank canvas. I already like it. Man, look at the lift. It's huge!"
"There's two more sections." Bethany give him a squeeze and then backs up, her face lighting up almost as much as it usually does. "You could take the walls out and have all the way to the end of the block from here." That'd make a hell of a firing range or test area. "Five floors. And look at the structure." She points up at the big beams. "It's made to take heavy machinery. This is all automotive shops and storage down this end of things. I don't know what I'd do with all the space alone, but... "
"So you're asking me to move in with you," Rhodey says, his voice light and teasing. He smiles down at her and chuckles warmly. "I think it sounds fun. We can have slumber parties, make popcorn, test-fire weapons we barely understand. Run into each other coming out of the shower, that part'll be awesome." Gently, always gently, he scoops Beth up and twirls her around in a circle, still laughing as he does.
"Yeah, I am." Bethany kisses Rhodey's cheek. "It'll be great. You have all these weapons, I have all these agents. I need more room to train them since I have even more of them coming in... we'll work it out. I am not letting -any- of them near Tony before I have a chance to brainwash them completely. And then you'll have company if you want it." She hugs Rhodey tightly. "Me, Sal, everyone... they're good people who are used to the shit war does to people. Rhodey. When they look at you they'll see you, just like I do."
"I like Sal," Rhodey admits. "And I like you. Count me in."
As simple as that, an enormous building is going to be purchased, then packed full of deadly equipment and personnel. The thought makes him grin like a schoolboy. That might have something to do with Beth's kiss, though. He gives her another affectionate squeeze. "It'll be nice having people around. It's been... pretty quiet at my place lately. Except for the explosions, of course."
"Well, explosions are great but they won't keep you warm at night. This is going to be so much -fun-." Bethany is genuinely excited. It makes the prospect of dealing with her real problems so much less daunting. "I like the idea of having you around more. I can sneak over and look over your shoulder whenever I want. So. Let's go look at the other floors. And play with the car elevators. Because they're so big." Twenty-eight is still pretty young when it wants to be.
"You know, that sounds nice. I like it when you visit the shop. I think a whole different way when I have your opinion to keep me sane. So. Anyway. Race you to the elevator! Winner gets to smooch the loser!" Apparently, the normally stoic Rhodey has a soft spot.
Grinning, he takes off toward the lift at a dead sprint. This is a race he wants to win. He does glance over at Beth and give her a wink, though.