''Tones - Tony! Wait up!''
Tony stumbles on, blinking wetly into the snow falling into his face. The frosty wind snags at his open jacket and manages to whip inside, knocking him off course. He flounders for a moment, the drinks he had at the party making him so very wobbly on his legs, and only manages to stay upright due to Rhodey’s hands grabbing him by the elbows.
''Get off,'' Tony grumbles, shaking himself free and staggering off again, tugging his jacket back around himself.
It’s late, the strike of midnight rapidly approaching. The sky is a strange mixture of hazy red and inky black, blurred by the snowflakes swirling in the wind. The snow has been coming down for hours, covering the ground in a layer so thick that the wetness from it is seeping into Tony’s jeans.
It’s not a far walk from here to the apartment, but being drunk and nearly crying makes for a hard journey, even more so with Rhodey now dogging his steps, the scent of smoke and alcohol from the party drifting off him and mixing with the crisp scent of ice.
Tony’s mad. So, so mad. More than mad really, especially because going to the party had been his idea.
''C’mon, honeybear,'' he’d pleaded, draping himself over Rhodey as he ate breakfast at the small kitchen table. ''It’s Christmas, let’s have some fun!''
''We already had Christmas,'' Rhodey grumbled. ''Remember? Cheeseburgers for dinner? You giving me a new hoodie and then stealing it for yourself an hour later?''
From Rhodey’s lap, Tony had grinned up at him widely. He hadn’t said as much, but it had been one of the best Christmases he’s ever had. When Tony had quietly mumbled that he wasn’t going home this year, a result of a recent fight with Howard, Rhodey had decided to stay too, claiming that this was the year that his Great Aunt Mildred was visiting and he couldn’t stand the woman, so really, Tony was doing him a favour by giving him an excuse not to go home.
''I’m telling you, man,'' Rhodey chuckled that night as they chowed down, a couple of empty beer bottles already lining the table, ''she’s awful. She sits plucking her moustache at the dinner table and wears these...these...I don’t even know what you’d call it but it’s ugly as hell.''
Tony had laughed until he cried, a vibrant kind of warmth filling him up with all the strength of a summer heatwave, and then they’d exchanged gifts over glasses of eggnog - a new hoodie for Rhodey and a softer than soft blanket for Tony, along with a cuddly pink platypus - and Tony had become resolute in his plans.
This year would be the year that he told Rhodey how he felt, the year that he finally did something that would turn their friendship into something more, something golden and fierce in the way that only love could do.
So yes, he had a plan.
New Years Eve. The midnight countdown. Classic, cliche and totally perfect.
Except it wasn’t. It was a complete disaster.
The night had started off well. The music was good, the drinks had flowed and a few familiar faces here and there had made for fun conversation in between all the dancing and eating.
Then, with only half an hour to go until midnight, Tony had tottered off to get another drink for himself and Rhodey, grinning from ear to ear with giddy excitement. He returned moments later to find Rhodey with his back against a wall and the tongue of Freddie Bannerman from the football team down his throat.
Tony had stood there for approximately ten seconds, his grip on the beer bottles he’d swiped from the kitchen growing so harsh it was a wonder they didn’t shatter, and then bolted.
The frigid air had slapped him harshly across the face as he stepped outside, his leather jacket doing nothing to protect him from the cold. It had somehow made him feel more drunk and it was as he abandoned the beer and tried to fight his way further into his jacket that Rhodey managed to catch up with him.
The anger is twisting into something else now, much sharper and vicious and it stabs at him like a jagged blade. There’s a swift churning motion in his stomach, and for a horrible moment he’s sure that he’s going to throw up as Rhodey grabs at him again.
''Tony! Come on, man, talk to me! What happened? Did someone upset you?''
''Upset me? Wow, honeybear, am I that transparent?''
His words come out slightly slurred, high in frustrated pitch, making Rhodey frown at him.
''Are you mad at me? The hell did I do?''
''What do you think? I didn’t go to the party to watch you make out with some guy you barely know!''
Rhodey’s face scrunches in confusion. ''Okay, first of all, I do know him - we know him! Freddie's a good guy, he was just drunk and being dumb. He threw up all over himself about thirty seconds after I told him I wasn't interested. It didn't mean anything,'' he explains, eyes narrowing suspiciously. ''And secondly, since when do you care who I'm kissing?''
''I don’t care,'' Tony snaps, waving his hand dismissively.
''Yeah, sure looks that way.''
''Whatever,'' Tony mutters. ''Think what you like. I’m going home.''
''Why does some guy kissing me bother you so much?''
''I told you, I don’t care - ''
They’re standing close together, one of Rhodey’s hands tucked into the crook of Tony’s elbow, the snow washing over their faces as the wind whirls around them. There’s anger in Rhodey’s eyes, but it’s confused, tinged with something frustrated and protective. Tony looks away, feeling a fresh sting of tears in his eyes that rapidly escape down his cold cheeks.
Hands suddenly frame his face, chilly but somehow warming, and a pair of thumbs swipe away the tears. The gesture draws a hitched breath from Tony’s chest, and Rhodey’s gaze is soft now, brown eyes sparkling against the canvas of white snow and hazy darkness, and maybe it’s the booze making him do it but suddenly Tony just can’t stop himself.
''Midnight,'' he blurts out, hands reaching out to dig into Rhodey’s coat, a desperate attempt to anchor him there. ''Kissing. You and me at midnight. I wanted - I wanted to tell you how I feel but that seemed like a better idea, I’m not even sure why now, and I know I’m a piping hot mess but you’re the thing I can’t live without,'' he goes on, panic mixing in with the heartfelt strength of his words. ''You’re my best friend, my only friend, Rhodey, honeybear, and I love you - didn’t even know what that even meant ‘til I met you but trust me, I do, I really - ''
''You love me.''
Tony stops, mouth hanging open as he stares at Rhodey, at the unreadable expression on his face. ‘’I...Maybe.''
''Tones - ''
''Yes. Yeah, yeah, I love you. A lot. Probably too much - ''
His words vanish as Rhodey tugs him forward and kisses him - kisses him deep and strong and sweet, making his toes curl and his heart stutter in his chest. He groans in relief, in surprise, in sheer utter joy, and grabs Rhodey tight, kissing him back with equal passion because this is it, this is all he’s been dreaming of, better than any movie moment of eyes meeting across a crowded room or everyone bursting into songs of euphoria -
''Stop thinking,'' Rhodey murmurs against his lips, thumbs knocking against his jaw.
''Bossy,'' Tony whispers, kissing him first this time.
A soft beep comes from Rhodey’s watch, marking a new hour, and then there’s voices coming from somewhere nearby, traces of Auld Lang Syne moving with the snow, wrapping around their moment and turning it all the more sweeter.
Tony smiles into the kiss as he feels Rhodey’s hands move, one curving around his waist and the other intertwining with one of his, and then they’re dancing. Just little steps from side to side, a slow twirl that only seems to press them closer together, their lips still ghosting together as they look at one another.
It’s more than Tony could ever have hoped it to be. He can feel it, the certainty of this, of Rhodey, melting the hardness within him and turning everything bright. He knows, crazy as it may seem, that this is it, the start of something that will pave the way for sunny days and starry nights and the kind of love that won’t break his heart.
Because if there’s anything, anyone, that he’ll ever be able to rely on, it’s definitely Rhodey.
They kiss and dance and kiss some more until somehow, the sound of birdsong is creeping through the window of Rhodey’s bedroom along with the first rays of morning light, and the cold has vanished from Tony’s fingers and Rhodey’s shivering for an entirely different reason in Tony’s arms.
''You know,'' Tony mutters sleepily into Rhodey’s shoulder, ''as far as romantic moments go, I’d say we outdid all the greats. Roman Holiday’s got nothing on us.''
Rhodey chuckles, nosing lazily into Tony’s hair. ''Audrey Hepburn, eat your heart out.''
''Damn straight,'' Tony sighs, tipping back into the pleasant dream he can feel approaching. ''Always thought you were way prettier than her anyway.''