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Pepper’s at the end of her rope, which means Rhodey’s here in Tony’s workshop, casually stepping over metal piping and the smouldering piles of debris that are apparently part of Tony’s latest series of experiments and breakthroughs, trying to have an argument with a man who won’t look him in the eye.

Tony keeps walking away, which Rhodey’s used to because that’s just something Tony does when people try and confront him with something he’s not ready to deal with. He walks away and Rhodey has to follow him around like a damn puppy, snapping at his heels for attention, and he may be used to it but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t piss him the hell off.

But it’s his turn to try to coax Tony out of the latest manic phase of science and explosions and Iron Man upgrades, because he’s been out of the country for the last month and Pepper’s had to hold down the fort on her own, which just isn’t fair.

“- And you’re just here to pick a fight, which I would have been perfectly happy to do over the phone, just FYI,” Tony is saying, his back to Rhodey as he bustles around, picking up and setting down tools, determinedly looking as busy as possible.

“I’m not picking a fight,” Rhodey insists, even though he kind of is. At least by Tony’s definition of the phrase, because Tony believes that anybody trying to talk him out of acting crazy and refusing to take care of himself is automatically picking a fight. “I’m here to have a discussion, that’s all.”

“A discussion that’s going to feel an awful lot like a fight, right?” Tony shoots back.

And Rhodey knows how this goes, he’s done this often enough. Tony’s moodswings may not be predictable, but his patterns are, and this particular pattern involves squabbling in circles and Tony not listening to a damn word he says, because he’s too jumped up on coffee and that shitty cheap Schnapps he favours when he hasn’t slept for more than a few hours for the better part of a week.

Thing is, though, that Tony’s not the only one who hasn’t gotten enough sleep. Rhodey drove here straight from the airbase, still in his uniform, which is getting covered in a fine layer of the dust that’s drifting down from the hole in the ceiling that he’s not even going to ask about. He’s jetlagged, he’s got a headache starting right between his eyes, and he’s in no mood to let Tony dictate the terms right now.

He hops over what looks like a gnarled piece of grating, jagged metal edges just an accident waiting to happen once Tony hits his delirious stage, grabs Tony by the shoulders and forcefully spins him around into the nearest wall.

Tony’s eyes go a little unfocused for a second, glassy and dazed, before he snaps right back into being an asshole. “If this is the part where you try to slap some sense into me, I’m feeling we should probably establish a safeword first,” he drawls, still not looking Rhodey in the eye.

Rhodey breathes out heavily through his nose, wondering if Tony knows just how tempting that idea sounds.

“Maybe ‘petunia’, something like that,” he keeps babbling. “Or should we just go by the classic red-yellow-green method, because that’s probably easier to remember, wouldn’t want to overtax you -”

Tony’s mouth abruptly stops running away with him when Rhodey shoves his hand down the back of Tony’s sweatpants.

The silence is fucking glorious.

Tony’s head thuds back against the wall with a dull sound as Rhodey gets a firm handful and squeezes. Hard.

“Enough,” he hisses, and Tony’s finally looking at him, lips parted and throat working. “I don’t want to hear it, all right?” He palms the swell of Tony’s ass, fingers sliding between the cheeks, running up the cleft and making Tony shiver. “We are getting out of this workshop and going upstairs to your bedroom. Okay?”

“Works for me,” Tony manages in a somewhat less arrogant voice.

“And when we get there, you are going to strip down and get on your bed and do exactly what I tell you,” Rhodey grits out. He lets the pad of his index finger brush against Tony’s hole, rides the buck of his hips. “If I tell you to get on your hands and knees, you do it. If I tell you to bite down on the pillow and hold yourself open for me, you do it.”

“Yes, okay, yeah,” Tony mutters, blinking very fast, shoulders rubbing back against the wall as he squirms.

Rhodey growls, pushing, working just the very tip of his finger inside, feeling Tony’s muscles give around him, the quiver and then the clench. “If I tell you to shut your damn mouth, if I tell you to lie there and take it as I fuck you hard and slow and deep, that is exactly what you are going to do. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I, understood,” Tony gasps, hips flexing and trying to push back, trying to chase the feeling of Rhodey’s finger opening him up.

“Good,” Rhodey rumbles, and the helpless noise Tony makes when he withdraws his hands makes Rhodey’s cock pulse under his uniform. “Now do as you’re told and get going.”

Following Tony’s back as he crosses the workshop isn’t quite so frustrating this time, or maybe it is, just in a different way, watching the sway of his hips, the curves of his ass. But he knows what comes next, already hard and aching for it, because that’s the thing about knowing the cycles of Tony’s behaviour, knowing all his patterns.

Rhodey knows all the very best ways to break through them.