You’ve Got the Love
“And you’re gonna be okay?” Rhodey asked for the millionth time.
“You mean you’re not tired of babysitting me?” Tony said into the phone, his voice straddling the line between teasing and razor-sharp.
“If anyone’s doing the babysitting here, it’s you,” Rhodey responded, and they both fell quiet. Tony pictured Rhodey on the other end of the line, sequestered off in some quiet corner of his mother’s house while his relatives laughed and danced in the other room. Sometimes he couldn’t bear to watch. Sometimes when they were together Tony would do the most mundane thing, like stretch up for a coffee mug on a high shelf or lean down to grab something off the floor, and when he turned back to his friend Rhodey was turning away, his hand over his mouth.
Tony, sitting in the quiet of his car as it idled in front of the empty Avengers compound, felt like he could finally understand that feeling, however superficially. New York had been on fire tonight, but he watched the people celebrate the incoming new year like a fish in a bowl. He had left the company party early, unable to stand it. Their happiness. Their easy companionship.
“Any New Years Resolutions, boss?” he asked, turning the car off. One thing at a time.
Rhodey, after a long moment, snorted derisively. “You know if either one of us make any we’ll never keep ‘em.”
“How about we keep it short term, then? Once we hang up, you put on your dancing legs and have fun with the family.”
“Yeah, okay. Only if you get out of the damn car and go inside. Go hug the bots or something, tell FRIDAY you love her.”
Tony swallowed hard. “Square deal, Rhodey-pie. Starting now?”
“See you next week, Tones.”
The call disconnected and he took the phone away from his ear. The lockscreen picture showing Iron Man, War Machine, and the Black Panther’s helmets stacked precariously on top of one another made him smile briefly, but it fell away with a sharp pang in his gut as he remembered the old version: Cap’s cowl, Thor’s winged helmet, and Iron Man’s faceplate, side by side.
That was a different phone. A different suit, a different team.
A different year.
“Happy New Year, Stark. You made it,” he muttered bitterly to himself, then got out of the car.