It wasn't baby Dani's first Christmas, but it was her first where the world wasn't going a little bit madder than usual, and no one was trying to arrest her dad or kill him or otherwise destroy everything they all held near and dear. So Jessica suggested a Christmas party and everyone who was anyone was there. Steve and Bucky were there, discussing the finer points of weaponized shields to the point where everyone within three feet felt their eyes starting to glaze over, and generally enjoying each others' company. Carol was there, dandling Dani on her knee until Jessica demanded she stop pampering the kid, and then doing it just a bit more. Peter had brought fruitcake that no one wanted to eat, least of all when he announced he'd made it himself. Tony, since everyone was still a bit miffed at him, had wisely stayed away, although he'd sent his greetings, along with a pile of presents that probably cost as much as the Trump Tower, all neatly labeled in gold lettering.
The Young Avengers were enjoying themselves too. It felt good to be included among all the important adult heros, no matter that Clint was teasing Kate about stealing his codename back, or Logan was cracking jokes at Billy about Northstar being a 'fairy'. Billy cheerfully threatened to turn Logan into a frog, which started a slightly inebriated conversation about green people and why nerds like them so much.
Eli watched the scene play out, nursing his cup of eggnog and letting the pleasant Christmas warmth drift through him.
"For a Super Soldier, you sure have shit tolerance," Kate said, settling next to him. "You haven't even finished that cup and you probably couldn't pass a breathalyzer."
"I'm not as think as you drunk I am," he responded, trying to decide whether he'd get punched in the arm if he leaned against her. He took the chance. She swatted his bicep and pulled away.
"We're about to give presents, idiot. Get up."
"No," Eli said, just to be contrary. But he stood up anyway, and went to dig through his bag for the presents he'd brought. They were all small boxes and envelopes, and he looked at the large pile Stark had sent with sense of chagrin. He wouldn't have been too bothered by being upstaged by a billionaire, if his pile hadn't been nearly dwarfed by Kate's.
The woman in question was sifting through her huge pile to match the correct person to the gift. Sure, some of them were envelopes, but he would bet money that they were gift certificates to places that cost more money than he would see in a year. Others, like the one she set in front of Luke, was as big as Eli himself. Luke was giving the gift the same 'what the hell is in this thing?' look that Eli felt, and his tension lifted momentarily. As did Teddy's friendly shove toward the group.
"Come on, man. We can't open gifts until you give them to us."
Eli shrugged up one shoulder and huffed out a laugh. "Why would I buy you a present?"
"Ouch! I'm wounded!"
Eli laughed and went to give out his presents too.
The gifts ranged from the silly (Carol had somehow managed to find mugs that matched everyone's costumes), to the plebian (Peter unabashedly gave out gift certificates to Barnes and Noble), to the extravagant (pretty much everything in Tony's giant pile). Still, Dani came away with the most, and the best, loot. Tommy presented her with a set of bongos that Jessica groaned miserably upon seeing, Danny offered up an experimental learning toy he called a "tesser" that changed shape and color depending on how she moved it. Eli's lopsided handmade scarf and hat seemed petty after that, but at least she liked the library card. Or, at least, Dani promptly started chewing on it, so Eli counted that as a win.
Kate proved herself the master at expensive gifts that clearly had thought put into them, a mastery that Eli resented just a touch. Luke's giant gift was a fancy stroller, Jessica got a gift certificate for super-baby proofing the house, and then there was the three-day, all expense paid vacation in one of the most exclusive hotels in the city...
"We can put your gift to good use, Eli," Jessica said, waving the book of free babysitting coupons he'd given them. He couldn't help but grin.
It wasn't the only time his gift dovetailed with Kate's more expensive one, either-- He and Teddy pooled their money to buy Billy the first issue of Blue Beetle, and Kate had apparently bought the rest of the run. The small gift certificate to a local gun shop for Misty was matched by an upgraded membership to a national gun range-- so, Kate said, she could practice somewhere besides in the field.
It was all a bit much, but after handing all her gifts out, Kate came and sat next to him, curling up to fit on the couch and leaning against his side a bit. "Finished showing me up?" Eli asked, half joking.
"For the most part," Kate said. "I still have to give you your gift." She still had one present in her lap-- a small bag that she held closed. "Close your eyes."
"Just do it." She kicked his ankle lightly, so he laughed and closed his eyes. "No peeking." Something cool slid onto his head-- a headband? What? "Okay. You can open your eyes now."
Puzzled, he tried to reach up as he opened his eyes, but Kate grabbed his hands. Something green was dangling between his eyes, and Eli went nearly cross-eyed trying to figure it out. He stopped bothering when Kate leaned in and gave him a long, slow, toe-curlingly hot kiss. He tried to slide his arms around her and extend it for a few more seconds but she slipped away from him. "Wha-? Kate?" He could hear Billy laughing and when he opened his eyes again, he looked up at the greenery attached to his head again. "Kate!" Mistletoe.
"Merry Christmas, Eli." Kate perched herself on the arm of the chair.
"I-- But-- Dammit, Kate--" Eli sputtered until the laughter proved too infectious for him, and he gave in, letting the laugh bubble up.
The rest of the evening passed calmly. Everyone coddled Dani too much, drink more than that and had a generally great time. Eli kept the mistletoe headband on until Tommy threatened to kiss him and then chucked it at Tommy's head.
They were all gathering up their coats to head home when Kate cornered him again. "Eli, about your gift..."
"It's fine. It was funny." Eli reached up impulsively to brush his fingers against her cheek. Kate tipped her head into the touch.
"No, I mean. Your real gift... I'll give it to you when we're alone." She threw her arms around Eli's neck and gave him a quick kiss-- it was shorter and shallower than the last one, but it held such promise that Eli couldn't help but blush.
"As long as you spend time alone with me, I don't care what you get me," he promised and tugged her back into a kiss until Tommy yelled at them for public displays of affection, and then a few seconds after.