A pair of goggles hid Tony’s eyes as he carefully used a soldering iron to add some new circuitry to the gauntlets. He’d thought something had been messed up during one of their fights with Hydra; it wasn’t responding right. Instead of worrying about going through a full diagnostic, he just decided to rewire them. He’d been thinking about an upgrade anyway and now seemed like as good a time as any. Things had calmed down in the last few days, but the days before had been a whirlwind of activity. Between the Avengers and his company, Tony had been very busy.
A rash of crime sprees had required the attention of the Avengers. Meanwhile, Stark International had been finishing up on the final changes before production on the high-end laptop he’d wanted to have released in time for Christmas. It was the beginning of December, and Thanksgiving had come and gone without much celebration. He’d tried to get the Avengers to dinner, but just as Jarvis was putting the turkey on in the morning, the alert had gone off, and they hadn’t gotten back to the mansion until well after midnight. (“I’m thankful for the luxurious mattress Tony provided the bedrooms,” was Peter’s facetious remark upon arriving home. Steve had laughed and agreed before heading off to bed after too long a day. In the morning, they’d had Thanksgiving dinner for breakfast.) He leaned back in his chair, dropped the soldering iron, and pushed the goggles away from his eyes. He grabbed at the thermos of coffee someone had brought down and sipped at it thoughtfully.
He was going through a checklist in his head of things that he needed to do. There was a mountain of paperwork back at the office (backlog that’d been put on hold while they finalized the SI Illumine) and the armor still needed a few tweaks. Then there was Christmas shopping that had to be done; more than money in a card with a hasty signature (because Jan would likely hurt him for that). He had to plan a party for the Avengers, buy them a tree, and decorate. He could probably get Pepper to handle most of that but... well… he wanted to be different this year.
Tony hadn’t actually cared much about Christmas, the decorating and the holiday cheer, after his mother had passed away. It was natural, because of all of the memories that would come up during the course of a celebration. But that had been before last year, before they’d pulled Captain America from the ice. It’d been in the middle of August when SHIELD had recovered him, and Iron Man had made a rather intensive study of the man since then.
Last year at Christmas time, he’d had hot chocolate with Steve in the morning, watched the snow fall outside the large windows of the Avengers headquarters, and Steve had looked like an oversized child as he watched the snow and talked about Christmas. They’d had a snowball fight, (not fair, when one person was nigh perfect at figuring out trajectories and main skill sets involving throwing things) and seeing Steve red-faced with excitement and joy that he didn’t normally see had really sealed it for Tony.
This year, he was going to go all out. If nothing else, the Avengers deserved it, and Tony wanted to make it happen. But he wasn’t ashamed to admit, in secret, that the biggest reason was because of Steve. Tony liked seeing him smile, seeing him happy, and this was no big thing for him to do. As he let his mind wander, away from the armor, and on to Christmas decorating, a plan hatched in his mind.
He planned the gold and silver theme, white lights, crystal ornaments, garland, sprigs of holly, a few well-grown poinsettias... and mistletoe. It was a perfect plan. He could kiss Steve and no one would bat an eyelash. He could gauge and see if Steve liked it and then...
Well, things could move on from there. Feeling in the Christmas spirit already, he hummed, ‘It Must Have Been the Mistletoe’ as he left the workshop behind and went to seek out Jarvis to be his partner in crime.
* * *
The unfortunate fact, however, was that Fate hated Tony Stark. So while he’d wanted to get things done in a timely fashion; it seemed like the world had different plans for him. Things at the company at least were going well, so that didn’t take much overseeing from him. Tony only had to briefly visit his production plants- to give out the holiday bonuses and engage in company-loyalty boosting events. It kept everything on that front running smoothly.
It was the wave of crime that really got on Tony’s nerves. It seemed like every single time he turned around, there was another villainous plot to break up. He was almost positive that they’d learned of his plan and they were purposefully getting in the way of it. And that, perhaps, was the most villainous thing that Tony could think of.
Then again, the villains proved Iron Man wrong as one of the things they’d wound up having to stop from happening was the Wrecking Crew going around stealing the money from the Salvation Army kettles. While Tony knew it wasn’t the greatest of charities (because their bell-ringers were paid off the top so how much actually went to charity was debatable...), he was also sure that stealing from any charitable organization was heinous.
When Tony finally had the time to decorate the mansion and was able to put his plan into motion, it was a week before Christmas. But it had been worth the wait, Tony decided, as he and Jarvis stepped back to examine their handiwork. The irritation that had been welling up in him over the last few weeks vanished. It’d been a while since Tony had gone through such elaborate decoration that hadn’t been professionally done for Stark tower. The tree, of course, was left undecorated...
After all, it was tradition that the family decorated it together.
But otherwise, it was absolutely fantastic looking. White lights wound around the staircase, along the trim of the walls, and silver and gold garland draped along the ceiling, hung with crystal ornaments that glittered with pinpricks of cool blue lights that were wrapped around the garland. Between the ornaments there were sprigs of holly and a beautiful poinsettia with crimson petals sitting near the tree.
On the chair by the tree there were boxes of decorations, multicolored lights and bulbs that would soon go on the tree. And Tony, for all the deviousness of his plan, had put a sprig of mistletoe almost anywhere it didn’t look too suspicious. In doorways, by the steps, and one in the center of the room, but that was more wishful thinking.
Not that Tony Stark was overly romantic, but in the center of the room, surrounded by the lights, he couldn’t think of a better place to share a first kiss. He assumed, at least, that Steve was a little more old fashioned and would not exactly want to be dragged to bed after a first kiss. Because were that the case, he could think of better places to have a first kiss.
Jarvis wandered off to prepare some hot chocolate while Tony sat down in one of the chairs and stared at the room. The other Avengers were sure to be back soon (because they’d gone out shopping, as opposed to having any villainous plans to stop), and Tony couldn’t help but feel excited. He was really getting in to the Christmas spirit now.
And true to Tony’s thoughts, the Avengers weren’t long.
“That totally wasn’t even fair,” Peter complained, quite loudly, as they stepped in to the hallway, their voices carrying into the living room. Tony listened to the faint sounds of people knocking snow off of their boots and removing coats and shoes. Tony felt a brief bit of frustration, hearing the whispers of a conversation in response to Peter, but not being able to make out full sentences.
“You can’t blame me,” Steve was saying as they headed in to the living room. “You’re supposed to have...” Steve trailed off as he entered the room. Tony almost cheered in response. He sat up straighter, paying close attention to Steve’s reaction.
“Supposed to have?” Peter prompted. He seemed rather unfazed by the decorations. Of course, Tony supposed that Peter was used to grandiose decorations. He’d never met Peter’s aunt, but he imagined that she was quite the traditionalist about things like this. Tony was grinning from ear to ear because Steve’s reaction was everything he’d hoped it would be. He looked rather surprised, but also awed and happy, a smile lighting up his face as the confusion took a backseat.
“It’s beautiful in here.” Steve said, seeming to forget that he’d been in the middle of a conversation. Peter rocked up on to his tiptoes to peer over Steve’s shoulder. He looked around for a minute then nodded in agreement.
“It looks great.” Peter said, “Tony really outdid himself, compared to last year, at least.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it.” Steve mused, quietly. His blue eyes were lit up like the Christmas lights, a flush on his cheeks from the cold outside, and a giant smile on his face. Tony found himself smiling back even wider, so wide his cheeks were hurting. But it didn’t matter. Because Steve liked it.
“Merry Christmas.” Tony said cheerfully as Jarvis came in with hot chocolate for the others. Tony and Steve’s gazes met for a moment before Steve was jostled around by Jan and Logan coming in. He focused on getting his gifts out of danger and then focused on the treat that Jarvis had made.
Tony took a mug of his own and curled back up in his chair. He was feeling an upswing. This could not possibly go wrong.
* * *
Over the next several days, Tony was trying his damndest to get Steve underneath the mistletoe. It shouldn’t have been hard considering exactly how much he and Jarvis had hung. But things just seemed to not entirely be working out for him. The first day, he’d had the unfortunate luck to be stuck under the mistletoe with Logan. It’d have been fine, except Jan was right there and was giving them a look. Like there would be consequences if they broke the rules of mistletoe.
Logan didn’t seem to care and was going to walk away, but Tony leaned forward and kissed his cheek and then shook his head. It didn’t matter, really, that Tony hadn’t wanted to do it either; Logan’s horrified expression more than made up for any unpleasantness that Tony had felt doing it.
And when Ororo had come in from a date with Thor while Tony had been heading out to deal with a bit of a problem at a factory nearby, she’d kissed him before he could even realize that there was, indeed, mistletoe over the door. Tony laughed a little.
“I always wondered what that felt like.” Ororo informed him. Tony just grinned at her.
“While any time you want...” Tony trailed off with a lascivious smile. Ororo rolled her eyes at him and headed back into the mansion.
When he got under the mistletoe with Bruce, that felt almost a bit awkward. So it was actually a good thing no one else was around when it happened. Bruce just shrugged a little and headed off, muttering to himself about never talking about it again, if his life depended on it.
With Peter, it was like kissing your kid brother, and Peter actually looked a little star struck as he informed Tony about meeting Cap under one of the many mistletoes placed around. Tony just grinned and kept the intense jealousy behind the smile. No reason to think that someone else wouldn’t be able to get Cap under there.
He also managed to kiss both Hank and Jan, at the same time, when they were canoodling under the mistletoe and Tony had distractedly wandered over there in the middle of reading a report.
So while Tony had kissed many, many Avengers- he had yet to kiss the one he actually wanted to.
* * *
Tony was frustrated. The night before Christmas and he still hadn’t managed to catch Steve beneath the mistletoe. Not for lack of trying, of course. Tony had even tried to lure him there, it wasn’t like them walking and talking was unusual. But there always seemed to be something that required either his or Steve’s attention before he could get there. Tony’s spirits were dampening though he tried very hard to hide it.
He was sure Steve noticed, because sometimes during meetings, Steve looking at him oddly. But Tony also noted that Steve didn’t say anything. Maybe he just assumed it had something to do with Tony’s past. After all, Tony had talked about his family to Steve. Not often, since it was still painful to think about but enough to where it was easy enough to assume that Steve just figured Tony was not really a holiday kind of guy.
Despite his plan mostly failing, Tony was in a decent mood. The SI Illumine had had great sales; he now knew what most of the other Avengers kissed like, including some of the reserves. Christmas was tomorrow and Jarvis had planned a huge holiday dinner that Tony was looking forward to. He’d gotten his shopping and gift wrapping done. Besides the purpose being to snag a kiss from Steve without consequence, Tony wasn’t at all regretful of doing things this way.
It’d made the Avengers feel more like a family. Tony was rather glad to know that they were all growing so close. He couldn’t feel too bad about anything. Tony was frustrated he’d not managed to kiss Steve, but he was genuinely feeling content for the first time in a while. It wasn’t what he’d been looking for exactly but he couldn’t deny that, all-in-all, the end result had been quite pleasant.
He watched the clock tick over to midnight and he shrugged. There was always next year, anyways. Tony decided to call it a night early, and he shuffled off to bed, a small smile on his face.
* * *
It felt like he’d only just fallen asleep when he was being woken up, by pounding on his door. Tony blinked awake and oriented himself, glancing at the clock with incredulity. It was a quarter after four in the morning. He checked to make sure he hadn’t missed an Avengers alert, and he scowled a little. He was about ready to ignore whoever was knocking and go back to bed.
“Tony.” Peter’s voice whined through the door, drawing Tony’s name out over many, many syllables. Tony resisted the urge to pull the pillow over his head and ignore him. But why in the world was Peter waking him up this early anyway? Annoyed, Tony frowned.
“What?” Tony grumbled back.
“It’s time to open presents.” Peter said. Tony wrinkled his nose. The pillow was still looking very tempting and he was about to tell Peter to go back to bed when he heard another voice. He couldn’t make out the words, but it was Steve. And if Steve wanted to wake up in the way too early morning to open presents, then Tony wasn’t going to begrudge him that.
“Alright, I’m up.” Tony complained, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. He heard Peter and Steve move on from the door, and he yawned and stretched frowning as he realized he’d agreed to get out of bed. It looked cold outside, but Tony knew that it’d be perfectly fine in here. He kept the mansion hot in the winter. Tony sighed and finally got out of bed, throwing on a robe and headed towards the kitchen.
Presents to be opened or not- there was still coffee to be had first. As he headed down stairs, he heard Jan and Peter singing Christmas carols at the top of their lungs. Steve was sitting drinking his coffee with a bright smile on his face, Ororo was drinking tea and looked amused, Bruce looked as though he’d fallen back asleep slumped over the table, and Logan was glowering at them like he was restraining the urge to murder the two of them.
“Merry Christmas boys and girls!” Tony said, loud enough to be heard over Jan and Peter, in his best impression of Santa. Logan switched the target of his anger and Steve laughed, while Jarvis handed Tony a cup of coffee, already prepared how he liked it.
Breakfast was a simple affair. Jarvis had made cinnamon rolls and they were fresh from the oven, oozing cinnamon and melted frosting. Made with extra cinnamon and with raisins in the dough, it was perfect. It reminded Tony of his childhood a little bit, and he pushed the sadness away. He wasn’t alone anymore, he had a family as good as (better than?) the one that he’d been born in to. He wasn’t going to let those memories overshadow the new ones.
Firmly, he was trying to push himself back into the holiday spirit.
It was mid-way through breakfast, before presents could even begin to be opened, when the Avengers alert sounded. Tony frowned a little and swore under his breath. But no one tarried, no one complained, and they all geared up and headed to the Quinjet.
* * *
Tony was exhausted, he finished taking off the armor down in the lab and started a diagnostic running, as he wondered if he had the energy to make it all the way up to his bedroom. Tony decided he did, and he sighed stretching and feeling bones pop. Tiredness made his limbs feel heavy. He’d been up for...
He glanced at the date.
Almost three days straight, not much time for sleep in between. Dr. Doom and a whole host of the Avengers’ enemies coming out to play for Christmas. From silly and easily interruptible ploys, to a full scale Doombot assault on New York, there’d been plenty to do.
Tony sighed in dismay when on the way up, he noticed that Jarvis had removed all of the decorations except for the Christmas tree, where their presents were still stacked. He’d worry about it later though and start planning for the next holiday.
Tony was pretty sure it was tradition to kiss when the ball dropped on New Years, he’d just have to position himself so he was standing next to Steve when that happened. With another sigh, he took the elevator up to his bedroom, drifting in and out as he took the ride up.
Tony made it to his room and was busy getting into his pajamas when there was a knock on his door. He groaned in frustration. If it was Peter, he was going to knock him in to next week. He didn’t want to open presents right now, he was feeling distinctly un-spirited.
“What?” Tony said, more annoyed than he’d meant to sound.
“Can I come in, Tony?” Steve’s voice drifted through the door. Tony sighed a little, trying to decide if he really wanted to deal with him right now or not. He rubbed at his eyes and finished tugging on his pants.
“Yeah, of course.” Tony said and he watched the door knob turn and Steve entered. He looked tired too, Tony immediately noticed. Not that he had dark circles under his eyes like Tony did but, there was just a certain weariness in his eyes and his stance. Steve shut the door behind him.
Tony sat down on the edge of his bed, and Steve stood there, somewhat awkwardly for a minute, before he moved over to where Tony was and sat down next to him. Steve was still in costume except he’d removed the cowl. He set his hand on one knee and the other on Tony’s shoulder.
Tony really hoped this wasn’t going to be a speech.
“Everything okay, Steve?” Tony asked. The tone was meant to be nonchalant, but it came out more tired than he’d meant for it too. Steve smiled at him and nodded.
“Perfect. Look, I know it’s a little late, but close your eyes, I have a surprise for you.” Steve said and he looked extremely amused, something glittering in his eyes. Tony frowned a little at him. He was too tired to play games, but also too tired to protest, so he let his eyes fall shut.
For a moment, it seemed like whatever Steve was doing was- nothing. He just felt the other man wiggle a little, probably getting something out of his belt pouches. There was another pause, and then he was aware of Steve stretching, over him.
“Okay, look up; then open your eyes.” Steve instructed him. Tony repressed a sigh, and did just that. He tilted his head back and opened them. Then frowned. Was that mistletoe? Tony looked away, suspicion in his eye. He was going to ask Steve what the big idea was, but before he could get even a single word out, Steve’s lips were on his.
For a moment, Tony was too surprised to respond. But when he figured out what was going on, he had to resist the urge to whine about it. He was kissing Steve! Steve had started it, but he was too damned tired to make it anything more. He responded and Tony was a great kisser, but it was all muscle memory, just warm lips and dampness.
Steve pulled away, grinning like it was perfect. Tony blinked at him a few times and tried to find some words.
“Merry Christmas, Tony.” Steve said quietly. Tony was still staring for a minute. Then, tired or not, Tony leaned forward and grabbed the mistletoe from Steve, and held it above them again, and then kissed Steve again, barely resisting the urge to crawl in to his lap. And this time, he did more than just respond.
He felt Steve’s breath catch as he kissed him and yeah- this was so worth it. Even worth the wait. And after a brief thought that maybe Christmas wishes do come true, Tony pulled back, hand on one of Steve’s leather clad knees. “You should get changed then come back.” Tony said. Steve smiled at him and stood.
“And Steve?” Tony said, when he was at the door. Steve paused and Tony grinned. “Merry Christmas.”