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Still Here

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This was a man who'd seen him at his absolute worst, Tony thought. Rhodey. He'd seen Tony at his worst.

He'd seen Tony casually blowing off a hundred responsibilities, seen him swan through life as though the things he invented didn't kill a hundred people a day. He'd seen Tony, battered and burned and with the blood of a good man on his hands (and a couple of dozen not-so-good ones, too), staggering out of the desert. He'd seen Tony drunk off his ass, irresponsible and dying and self-destructing so spectacularly that it actually took an alien invasion to make some people forget it. He'd seen Tony in all his irresponsible, arrogant, vengeful, self-destructive glory, time and time again. Rhodey had seen ... all of that.

Tony thought about that, as he watched Rhodey come in for a fully-armoured landing on Stark Tower. As he watched Rhodey pull off the helmet and stalk towards him, already yelling about: "Leave you alone for five minutes, Tony, and you're flying nukes into space, does the phrase 'stay out of trouble' mean nothing to you?".

He thought about it, as Rhodey stomped to a stop in front of him and reached out with a heavily-armoured hand to grip his shoulder, to yank him in so he could press their foreheads together. Mostly, as far as Tony could see, so that Rhodey could growl at him from point-blank range, and make sure Tony was getting all of it.

Leaning into that armoured grip, smelling metal and oil and ozone and Rhodey, watching the annoyance and humour and pained, desperate relief in those eyes only inches away, Tony thought: This man has seen me at my worst.

And then, behind it: This man is still here.

"I swear to God, Tony, I am getting ulcers because of you. Consultant, you said, consultant my ass. For fuck's sake, they didn't even know whether to list you as a KIA or a civilian fucking casualty if you died, Jesus, Tony. Do you think for once you could ..."

"Rhodey," Tony interrupted. Grinning, a little, but sort of lopsidedly, reaching up to grip the heavy metal arms and rocking his head to tap their foreheads together. Still here. Both of them. Still fucking here. "I missed you too, man."

There was a second, while anger and disbelief swarmed upwards, where Rhodey honestly looked like he might punch Tony, and then ... then the metal grip shifted from Tony's shoulder to the back of Tony's neck, and Rhodey pulled him all the way in. Into the smell of metal and armour and the things Tony'd built for him, into a biting hug like that fucking sand dune all over again. Rhodey reeled him in, wrapped around him like a suit of armour, and Tony thought it. Closing his eyes, holding tight. He thought: Still. Fucking. Here.

"Please," Rhodey murmured, soft and exasperated, his fingers tight on the nape of Tony's neck. "Give me at least a month before you get yourself killed again, will you? Ten days. Hell, I'll take a long weekend. Do you think you could do that much for me?"

Tony grinned, soft and lopsided into the crease of his armour, working his fingers into the metal seams along Rhodey's back. "I love you too, baby. Love you too."

And it was funny, he thought, how much Rhodey's snort of disgust sounded like agreement.