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A Present After All

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“It’ll just take a minute.”

“Sure, I can handle this.”

“If you can’t, that’s all right. I’m just gonna tell Bucky—”

Tony huffed as he went back to the bowl of cookie batter he had been stirring. “I said: I. Can. Handle. This. Just go.”

“It might be two minutes, come to think of it.”

“Steve, if you don’t leave this kitchen in five seconds, I will fling the whole bowl at you and that monstrosity you’re wearing,” Tony said and pointed at Steve’s chest. He was wearing the mother of all Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and the worst part—he didn’t even seem bothered by it. Something about it being a present from his mother, and whatnot… but Steve still wore it—now that any kind of chance of his mother seeing him in it has flown out of the window.

There was a huge Santa Claus covering most of the front, and white fluff stuck to the beard to make it even tackier. Down the arms of the sweater were red and white stripes to make the sleeves seem like candy canes. Santa seemed to be jeering—or plotting a murderous attack—with that grotesque smile of his, Tony couldn’t be sure.

Steve’s eyes darted back and forth between Tony and the kitchen isle. He sighed heavily. “It’s a hundred and twenty seconds alone in the kitchen…”

Behind Tony’s back, Barnes stepped through the door, boots and winter jacket already on. “Are you about ready?”

“Yeah, just a second,” Steve said.

“Come on, Stevie. Nat will kill me if we don’t get the damn signal back before ‘Home Alone’ starts.” He looked around, his eyes first zeroing in on Tony, and then on the wooden ladle in his hand. “Oh, I see how it is,” he drawled, before rolling his eyes at Steve. “You know, I’m ninety-five percent sure even Stark can’t manage to die in here within a single minute.”

“Two,” Steve said and actually looked concerned with the prospect.

Tony groaned and turned around, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “I’ll have you both know that I cooked a three course menu for last Thanksgiving. I can fucking handle this.” Well, he’d at least watched while Jarvis had cooked it. And he’d flipped the potatoes in time. Which was totally legit.

“Fine,” Steve said, sighing again as he made his way to the door. “Just… Bruce is in the living room, if you need any help.”

Rolling his eyes, Tony turned around and cast a glance at the huge crock-pot in front of him. “How long did you say we keep the wassail in there?”

Steve smiled over his shoulder as Barnes edged him out of the kitchen. “Give it another three minutes, and make sure it doesn’t start boiling,” he said hurriedly, before he was shoved out of sight.

Bucky lingered in the doorway for a moment longer, though, casting Tony a long-suffering look. “You’re a lost cause, Stark, you know that? I think your pining just reached a whole new level, and that really says something.”

Tony seared him with a look. “Fuck you, Barnes.”

Barnes smirked. “That’s just proving my point.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “Jerk.”

“Whatever you say, loverboy.” A pause, and then, an exasperated but oddly serious look crossed Barnes’ face. “You realize we’re all literally stuck here, right? Probably ‘til tomorrow. Snow’s not lookin’ to let up anytime soon.”

“Yeah. And?”

“Don’t play stupid with me. Steve’s got nowhere to run and all… This might be a once in a fuckin’ lifetime chance you’ve got there. Just sayin’.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

There was a deep sigh. “And I have no idea what he sees in you.”

Tony glanced over his shoulder, raising both eyebrows. “Steve sees something in me?”

Barnes groaned. “Lost cause,” he repeated, then slapped a hand on the doorframe, as he turned around and left. “Both of you!” he yelled.

Tony leaned his forehead on the range hood, and sighed. Barnes was right, of course. Tony’d been pining for Steve since he’d started college a year ago, and his infatuation just wouldn’t let up. Steve was just… Steve. He was resolute, steadfast, ferociously independent, and that was why Tony’d fell in love with him. Well, one reason among thousands. Steve’s freakishly broad shoulders, bodybuilder abs and azure blue eyes certainly didn’t hurt either. But Steve was so much more than just good looks. He was strong and self-reliant. He never asked for anything—he was a man of doing things himself.

Steve was also just a really good guy—open, loyal and so fucking trusting, full of warmth beyond anything.And Steve was always giving. Always.

Rationally speaking, Tony knew—even if he’d never actually have a chance to be with Steve—he needed to make the most of the time they had together. Hell, Rhodes and Pepper had told him a million times how he just needed to man up about this, and Tony knew they were right, but…

But.

He just couldn’t stand the idea of Steve looking at him differently. Steve had never, not once, looked at him with anything but respect and friendship, and the mere idea that he could lose that was unthinkable. Sure, Steve knew Tony was bi—and he was fine with that—but Tony being in love with him? He probably wouldn’t punch him in the face or something, but apart from that, everything seemed possible.

God, he was such a fuck-up.

Tony had met Steve on their freshman year. He was Captain of the football team, popular, good-looking and everything Tony was not. There might as well have been a ‘Geek’ tattoo on his forehead if the way people were looking at him was any indication. And while most of the older students had mocked Tony for his age and looks—Steve’d just smiled at him, and he’d said—without an ounce of malice, “Nice to meet you. You’re our new residential genius, huh?”

Steve had changed everything. He had first introduced Tony to Bruce, then Clint, Sam, Natasha, and Thor, and—for reasons that were beyond him—Tony had become friends with all of them. Sure, physically speaking, he was two to four years younger than the rest of them—it just didn’t matter. And within a few weeks, his life had exploded into new meaning. These people—Barnes very much excluded—were the best thing that’d ever happened to him. Tony and Bruce—seeing as they both devoted almost every minute of the day to their science projects, anyway—had moved into a shared dorm just a few weeks after they’d met, and Tony already couldn’t envision himself anywhere else. It was difficult enough attempting to conjure the image of what his long scope of a life had been like before meeting these people.

Before meeting Steve.

And here Tony was, hosting a Christmas Eve party for his friends. Sam, Pepper and Rhodey had left for home early this year, so they’d gotten to the airport before all flights were cancelled, but the rest of them would all be there. For the first time in years, he wouldn’t spend this day alone. And okay, there might be a little millennia-snowstorm involved, which had ruined everyone’s plans to spend Christmas at home with their families, but that were just details. Tony would take what life threw at him, and this, well… it was safe to say that life, in all of Tony’s short but extreme experience living it, had never been better.

This morning, Steve’d come into the dorm, bright and early, storming into Tony’s room and unceremoniously dragged him out of his bed. It took Tony a few moments to realize he wasn’t dreaming, that Steve was actually tugging him to the bathroom and barking orders for him to hurry up and get in the shower so they could start preparing the Christmas festivities. It had taken Tony half an hour to understand what was happening—what with the storm outside, and the fact that all of his friends were actually staying here.

He was too excited with the prospect to tell Steve that he should never wake him up like that again unless he wanted to die young and pretty.

Steve’s excitement had been contagious—as it always was—and the genuine want to do something with Tony shone in his eyes. It wasn’t anything grand, the day they had. There was just a very slow and long drive to the next food store, three tedious hours of shopping, another long drive home, bringing the foods inside—which had inevitably led to the snowball fight of the year—and then, a long time of cooking together.

It had been perfect.

They had spent the entire day together, and the hours were passed with conversations he’d never in a million years dreamed to share with another person.

There was a loud knock on the front door, followed by a steady pounding, combined with a few kicks here and there.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Tony yelled. He gave the cooking stove a last check-up, before moving for the living room. The entryway was dim, the multi-colored lights from the Christmas tree sprinkling across the floorboards. Tony glanced around for a moment. He was impressed. Natasha and Barnes had taken a few last-minute dollar-store items and employed them wisely around Bruce’s and Tony’s dorm. There were string lights, a few garlands, and a couple of red bows here and there. The touch was subtle, slightly silly—a fine line between tasteful and tacky—but it suited the occasion well.

Tony sprinted to the front door and flung it open. “You planning to bust my eardrum?”

Clint just cast him a shit-eating grin, and shoved a bottle of wine—decorated with a red and golden bow around the neck—into Tony’s hands. “Merry Christmas to you, too, loverboy.”

Tony groaned and looked around, checking that Steve hadn’t been anywhere near. “Can’t you people stop calling me this?”

“Not until you make a move, man, no.”

Tony sighed, taking the wine in his hands. “Where’d you even get that? Aren’t you too young to be buying liquor?” he asked skeptically.

“Yes, but Thor isn’t.”

As though on command, Thor popped up behind him with a wide, brilliant smile. “I have brought corn pudding,” he announced, thrusting a ridiculously large serving bowl into Tony’s free hand. “Seasonal greetings everyone!” he called, and walked past Tony. Next to him was a new girl—probably his new girlfriend Jane Foster. She cast Tony an apologetic smile and a small wave, as she was tucked forward.

Tony nodded at her, before his eyes fell back to the wine bottle in his hand. “Well, thanks,” he said to Clint. “Come in. Just put your shoes on the doormat. Food should be ready in—oh, fuck, I gotta get back to the kitchen.”

Clint’s eyes went a little wide. “Steve left you alone in the kitchen?”

Tony glared daggers at Clint and hurried back to the kitchen. “If I yell ‘fire’, just do me a favor and let me die.”

Five minutes and a couple of unmanly squeals later, dinner was merely twelve percent a disaster. There was no open fire, and the pot with the noodles had only boiled over half its content. Okay, well, sixteen percent, maybe—taking in the fact that the paprikas in the oven were half part brown, and half part black, by now.

Tony sighed, kicking at the counter. At least the beef hadn’t burned. A long moan hissed through his lips. “I suck at this,” he complained, whipping out the recipes Steve had brought with him. “Why did I even get myself involved?”

“Involved in what?”

Tony gulped, caught like a deer in the headlights. He kept on stirring the pumpkin soup and trying admirable not to stiffen as Steve walked up next to him.

Steve leaned over his shoulder and inspected the pans, before bowing down, staring on the paprika halves. He chuckled, then, and elbowed him playfully. “It’s fine,” he said, and nudged his chin against Tony’s shoulder. “It’s supposed to look like that.”

Tony eyed him suspiciously, intensely aware of how close their faces were right now. “Really?”

Steve smiled at him and curled his fingers around the wooden ladle—and Tony’s hand. That was… oh well… “Really. The paring needs to go dark before you can peel it off.”

Tony cleared his throat, trying to ignore how loudly his heart was beating against his rib cage. “Oh, yeah, I knew that.”

Steve snatched the ladle from his hand, grinning as he put some space between them again. “I’ll take over from here. You put on some music.”

“I don’t need to—”

“Tony, come on. You hate cooking.”

Tony raised a less-than-impressed eyebrow. “You really don’t trust me in here, do you?”

Steve shrugged, the innocence of the gesture belied by his tongue-in-teeth grin. “I have nothing but trust in you.”

Liar.”

“Well, to be fair—I have seen you cook before.”

Tony groaned. “You’re never gonna let that go, will you? You’re a terrible friend, Rogers.”

Steve chuckled and playfully bumped their hips together. “Go, Tony. Make with the merry.”

Tony chuckled and resisted the urge to lean in and just kiss the guy. “‘Make with the merry’?” he asked. “I think you’ve been spending too much time around me.”

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Steve murmured, before he spoke up again. “Would you tell the others that we’re ready in a few?”

Tony nodded, frowning at Steve’s rouged cheeks. “Sure, will do. I… I’ll put on the Christmas music.”

“Do that, just… You know that AC/DC is not Christmas music, right?” Steve asked with a little smile on his face before returning his attention to the potatoes.

Tony made a face at him and only barely refrained from sticking his tongue out. “‘Mistress of Christmas’ clearly is.”

With that, he turned and walked away before his disobedient hands could do something that would make their friendship even more awkward than it was on most days. It was hard, covering the part of him that was wretchedly in love with Steve—his broad shoulders and muscles and musky colognes and twinkling eyes and chewable lips—and just let himself enjoy his company, instead. And it took every ounce of strength he’d had left not to make a fool of himself.

 

 

* * *

 

 

“You’re being obnoxious,” Natasha said while making a face at Clint’s new camera.

Tony nodded and pointed at him. “Put that damn thing down.”

They all sat together at their dining table next to the Christmas tree that, looking at it from this angle, looked a little lopsided, after all. Barnes was chuckling at something Natasha had just whispered in his ear. Together, they slowly raised their entangled hands and pushed a doubled middle finger in Clint’s general direction.

Clint wisely chose to ignore them and… cast Tony a disapproving glance, instead. “You mean you don’t want documentation of your first non-parental holiday?”

Tony rolled his eyes at that. His whole life had been a sequence of non-parental holidays. This was definitely no first. “Don’t act like you’re doing us a favor.”

“I am!”

“You’re not,” Tony intercepted. “You just wanna play with your new toy. Now be a good boy, and put it away.”

Clint huffed and lowered the camera, tossing Steve a long-suffering look. “Steve, your boyfriend’s a dictator.”

“Hey!” Tony called, trying to kick at Clint under the table and failing miserably. The damn idiot was always too fast. Instead, he shot him a dark glare. Steve really didn’t have to be reminded of Tony’s feelings, especially not now.

Steve had stopped in his tracks, and for whatever reason, there was the faintest blush rising to his cheeks. “Shut it, Clint,” he said, shaking his head a little, before he walked around the table, and sat down across from Tony. His eyes darted over the table. “All right. I think we’re set.”

“Well, then,” Barnes announced and raised his glass at the round. “I think we all agree that get-togethers are hard, and get-togethers even harder.” He sent Steve a dirty glare. “Siblings are obnoxious and parents are, well, parents, and it’s the best thing ever that we won’t have to deal with either tonight.”

“Hear hear,” Bruce said, smiling his usual private smile. They clinked glasses, and then made to devour the foods.

Clint took a bite of the beef before making an approving sound. “Compliments to the chef.”

Steve smiled thinly. “Thanks.”

“Ah, good,” Bruce said, leaning over his still-untouched plate and taking his first bite. “So Tony didn’t cook.”

“I hate you all,” Tony said, taking a minute to glower at all of them.

Steve smiled into his napkin a little but declined to say anything—which was both good and uncharacteristic.

“So,” Jane asked the round in general, passing Natasha the bread. “What are your families doing for Christmas, now that you’re stuck here?”

“My mom went to visit my aunt. She lives in Minneapolis, too, and the snow isn’t so bad there,” Clint said.

“My dad’s working in Malibu. Mom’s somewhere off in the Caribbeans,” Tony said and pointedly ignored the pitiful gazes turned in his direction.

“They don’t know what they’re missing,” Steve said quietly, without looking at him.

“I agree with Steven. Christmas should be spent with the family,” Thor declared with an authoritative nod. “I wish I could visit mine more often.”

Clint frowned. “You have family? Siblings, too?”

“A brother,” Natasha filed in. “You do remember Loki, right?” Her tone was calm, but there was a high level of mischievousness in her eyes.

“Oh, yeah,” Clint said, and pinched his nose. “I tend to forget people that have tried to kill me.”

Tony’s eyes widened in horror, as realization hit him to what this conversation was heading to. Clint was such an ass and—No. Just no. The day had been so peaceful, and he wouldn’t let Clint ruin everything now. “And on that note,” he said hastily, raising his glass of wine, another toast ready on his lips, but it was already too late.

“What do you mean?” Steve asked, frowning. “‘Almost killed you?’ Loki only visited once and that was on…” He trailed off, eyes going unfocused with the memory, but he didn’t need to say it, they all knew well enough to which night he was referring.

Tony’s birthday party.

The party that may or may not have gone down in history as ‘The night Tony got so wasted that he’d accidentally kissed a blonde Steve-lookalike—right when the real Steve had come in through the front door, sporting a present in his hands—and thus, freaking him out so much that he threw his present on the floor and stormed right out again’.

The look on Steve’s face would haunt him forever. Granted, he didn’t remember much of that night, but he remembered Steve. The excitement on his face had slowly faded into something between horror and disappointment. All because Tony hadn’t managed to keep his attraction for Steve to himself.

To say that the weeks after that night hadn’t been easy was the understatement of the damn century. Steve’d refused to talk to him—to just see him, really. It had taken forever before he’d allowed so much as a little small talk, and even longer before things settled down to how they were now. And all the while, Tony’d replayed every second over and over again, tormenting himself over the many ways everything could have gone so differently. How this birthday could’ve played out if he hadn’t gotten drunk, and made his infatuation so blatantly obvious. If he’d simply greeted Steve and spent a nice, platonic evening together, instead of forcing Steve to see how much Tony was lusting after him.

Just one word, one gesture made differently. Instead, he’d been drowning in sorrow, and while every day promised to heal his broken heart a little more, he didn’t know if he would ever fully recover. He’d never even found out what Steve had wanted to gift him with.

“Don’t you remember Tony’s birthday party?” Natasha asked Steve with a calculating glance. “Loki’d brought a few bottles of his ‘mead’ and Tony…”

“I remember,” Steve snapped bitterly.

Thor waved a hand at Clint, obviously not quite attuned to the tension building up around him. “I assure you, my brother didn’t mean you harm. He just didn’t consider the American’s weak tolerance level concerning—”

“Excuse me?” Barnes started, but Clint interrupted him.

“Bro, I ended up hurling all over the backyard for an hour,” he said with a shudder. “And Tones here passed out while hurling all over the backyard. I think it’s safe to say he wanted to kill us.”

Thor was about to reply, when—

“You were drunk?” Steve asked numbly, as if in a haze.

“No, he was wasted,” Bruce supplied with a quiet voice.

Steve frowned at that. He turned his upper body around, staring Tony down. “You never told me that.”

Tony felt himself blushing, feeling exposed. It was ridiculous that they were discussing this in front of all of their friends—now, of all times they could’ve done this. “What’s the difference? It doesn’t change anything.” Drunk or not, his feelings for Steve were always the same. “Besides, you never gave me the chance, Captain Passive-Aggressive.”

Steve scowled at that and turned away. From the look in his eyes, though, Tony could tell he was making an effort not bolt out of the room.

This was going to end so badly.

Next to Steve, Barnes and Natasha exchanged a long look. Barnes rolled his eyes, pointing his thumb at Steve as he was about to open his mouth, which earned him a sharp shove in the side from Bruce.

Natasha cleared her throat. “So, are we still doing New Year’s Eve at your mansion, Tony?”

He nodded with a thankful smile. “Sure. No one will be there, anyway.”

“It does seem to be the most beneficial location,” Thor agreed.

Clint arched a brow. “And your butler won’t mind us barging in even if he’s not there to keep us crazy kids under his watch?”

“Nah,” Tony said and waved at the round. “He’s just gonna love the idea that I’ll have to clean it up.”

“That’s because he knows the mess you usually live in,” Bruce observed quietly, biting into a piece of bread.

Steve rubbed his forehead, obviously trying to take the change of topic for what it was. “I’m still surprised he doesn’t come by for weekly inspections.”

“Well, you never know. It’s only been a few months, shnookums.” The word was out before Tony could do anything about it. Months ago, Steve hadn’t minded Tony’s many pet names all that much. It was a friendly game between them, something to laugh over. But now that he’d just been reminded of how much it wasn’t a game for Tony—it was definitely the wrong thing to say.

“At least, he usually manages to keep his workshop clean,” Clint supplied weakly, but the deed was done. Steve stared into distance like someone had just emptied a bucket of ice on him… again.

Barnes glanced down at his plate, and coughed conspicuously. “Lost causes.”

A pause.

“I told you to leave it be Bucky!” Steve yelled, and actually slammed a hand down at the table so hard that a few glasses toppled over.

“I didn’t say anything!” Bucky protested with raised hands. “Not a thing. And I certainly didn’t say that you still have one of Stark’s shirts in your damn closet.”

Steve’s gaze darkened. “Bucky…” he warned.

Tony rolled his eyes. “Shut it, Barnes. That’s bullshit,” he stated, because the prospect that Steve would ever do something like that was completely ridiculous.

However… Steve’s cheeks had—again—turned a bright red. Come to think of it, Steve had been blushing a lot around him lately, and usually, Steve was a pretty laid-back kind of guy.

Tony blinked at the new information, unable to really process its meaning. “Steve?”

Natasha rolled her eyes at them both. “James is right. You’re both hopeless.”

“I really don’t understand this,” Thor said wistfully, stirring his spoon in the wassail that only he and Steve seemed to be enjoying. “Isn’t this holiday supposed to be about being with the ones you love?”

“Honey,” Jane said cautiously. “We talked about this… remember?”

“Yes, we did. That doesn’t mean it makes sense,” he argued. “They just need to tell each other how they feel.”

Tony blinked. What?

“Never thought I’d say this,” Barnes started with a sigh, “but Tall ‘n Blonde is right. This kindergarten-bullshit you’ve been playin’ for a year? It’s messin’ with my head. You both need to talk this through, like yesterday.”

Tony shook his head. Because… what?

He cast a confused glance at Steve’s hand. It was trembling slightly where it was gripping the fork. “Can we please just finish dinner,” Steve asked the round in general.

Tony bit his lower lip, nodding. “Sure.”

 

 

* * *

 

 

By the time they had finished dinner, the tension in the room was so thick one could cut it with a knife. Eventually, Steve stood up, and took three plates with him. No one else made any motion to help him, and after a moment, Tony got two firm kicks at both of his legs. When he looked up, there were five pairs of eyes firmly pointed at him.

“Go,” Natasha said swiftly, waving in the direction of the kitchen.

“I will carry you if you don’t,” Clint agreed with a dead-serious expression.

Tony whined and let his forehead fall down on the table. “I don’t even know what’s going on. And he didn’t look like he wants to talk about it.”

Clint pushed the lense of the camera in Tony’s direction, saying as he pressed on record, “You will go in there and put Steve and yourself out of your misery. I think I’m speaking for everyone in this room when I say: We cannot stand looking at both of your puppy dog eyes any longer.”

A murmur of universal agreement.

Barnes leaned forward, clicking a finger against Tony’s head, making him look up. And his face was so serious it was freaking Tony out. “I’m goin’ to do you a favor now, Stark. Don’t get used it to it, this is a one-time thing. Steve likes you.”

Tony shook his head in denial. “But he was repulsed when I kissed this guy…”

Barnes laughed, almost maniacal. “Rep—Are you mental? He wasn’t repulsed, he was jealous for fuck’s sake.”

Tony couldn’t have been more surprised if he’d been slapped with a trout. “Really?” he breathed and completely drowned out the laughter that followed.

Bruce nodded at him, smiling. “It was very obvious. You just didn’t want to hear it.”

“Fuck,” Tony said and control fell away in a blink. The shackles around his heart collapsed and the love trapped in his chest ripped toward freedom. With hope surging through his heart, he stood up and made his way to the kitchen, only barely noticing Thor’s suggestion that now this problem was solved, they should conclude the evening by watching a seasonally appropriate movie.

Steve was hunched over the counter, gripping the ledge so hard Tony was surprised that it didn’t crack.

“So, that was awkward,” Tony said quietly, as he walked up behind Steve—trying his hardest to reign in his excitement just in case Barnes had played the world’s worst joke on him.

Steve tossed him a skeptical look over his shoulder. He looked so frightened for a moment, a look Tony surely had never seen on him. Then, he sidestepped to one of the shelves and picked up a popcorn packaging, mindlessly playing with it. “Yeah…”

“But everyone seems to enjoy themselves.”

“Sure.”

Tony sighed and licked his lips. He felt as if he’d been brought to the pearly gates for judgment. Whatever it was that Steve felt for him, this would change everything between them.

With a swift movement, he snatched the popcorn bag from Steve’s hands and opened it. “Okay,” he said, arching an expectant brow at Steve. “We gonna talk about that elephant?”

“I thought you didn’t want me,” Steve blurted, staring pointedly at the floor.

Jumping right into the thick of it. That was so much like Steve. God, he loved the guy so much it hurt.

“Well, that’s the greatest bullshit ever.”

Steve’s gaze snapped up, eyes flooded with cautious relief. “Why didn’t you say so? When I saw you kissing that guy, I—”

“You wouldn’t talk to me for weeks,” Tony snapped. “What was I supposed to think? I thought you were dissappointed with me. I thought you hated the idea that everyone knew I felt for you this way…”

“And I thought you were making fun of me—”

Tony slammed the popcorn into the microwave and activated the instant-pop. “I didn’t make fun of you. I was a nervous wreck the whole damn night and you didn’t even turn up before midnight…”

Steve sighed, his shoulders slumping awkwardly. “I was still working on your present—”

It was somewhat disconcerting to see Steve get nervous and flustered when hey, that was so his role. And yet, there wasn’t even one part of Tony that didn’t warm up in adoration.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t know that, did I? All I knew was that you were standing me up on my fucking birthday. And then there was Loki and his damned mead, and the next and only thing I remember is you standing in the doorway with your huge fucking eyes staring me down, and I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t know you were hurt, I thought you were angry. And if I could change one thing, it would be this. I never even knew that guy’s name…”

Steve’s hands shook, but he didn’t say anything.

Tony took a deep breath. It was Christmas, after all. Maybe honesty was the way to go. He’d been keeping this for himself long enough. “I can’t even tell you how much better you made my life, Steve. You’ve been so damn wonderful all the time, and I fell for you so fast it wasn’t even funny.” The silence between words was deafening. It was hard to maintain eye contact, but he managed. He needed Steve to see that he was serious. “That night, on my birthday, Clint made me promise to just tell you how I feel, and I got so nervous, Steve. Just the idea that maybe you liked me back was too much. When you didn’t show up, I thought—”

Steve’s eyes flashed meaningfully, as he made a step in Tony’s direction. “And if I do?”

“Do what?” Tony echoes dazedly.

“Like you back.”

Tony swallowed, almost choking on a sob when Steve rested both hands on his shoulders. “Please don’t play with me,” he pleaded quietly.

And suddenly, Steve was right in his space, leaning down on him. “Not playing,” he whispered. “I like you back. I like you so much I was going crazy with it.” He smiled self-deprecatingly. “Even Bucky can’t stand my pining anymore.”

Tony just kept staring at Steve with wide eyes. His heart was beating so fast it might as well be bursting out of his chest by now. God, he needed to hear it. “And with ‘like’, you mean…”

“Love,” Steve said, swallowing thickly. “I love you.”

Tony’s breath left him, and he gripped the counter as his arms started to shake. Steve’s face was inches away from him now, his lips coming nearer. Oh God, this was happening. This was really happening.

“Tell me?” Steve said and now there was a pleading tone to it.

Tony’s heart thundered even as his eyes fluttered closed. “Yeah, yeah, you big lug, I love you, too.” He felt Steve’s breath on his lips, and God, this was so much better than his fantasies. “I’ll probably have to learn a lot about what it takes to be a good boyfriend to you…”

Steve’s nose brushed against his sweetly. He smiled. “What you don’t have to do is prove anything to me. I love you just the way you are.”

“I’m not trying to prove anything. I just want to be the sort of person who… isn’t too emotionally stunted up to pull you aside and give you sloppy kisses in public and say what I’m feeling when I feel it. I want to be good for you.”

He felt Steve beaming broadly against his cheek. “You are. I’m gonna kiss you now, okay?” he asked him belatedly, his fingers digging into his hips, pulling Tony flush against him. This was one moment out of a million, and it would be one to always remember.

Mind hazed, Tony leaned in as best he could, his fingers digging into Santa Claus’ fluffy beard. “Trust me, you won’t hear me complaining.”

Steve’s eyes darkened. “Good,” he said. It was amazing how weightless Tony felt. And then Steve’s lips were on him and the world melted away. Steve was kissing him. Oh fuck, Steve was kissing him. He didn’t know what he’d done to deserve this, but he didn’t care because Steve’s hands were on his cheeks and his perfect, warm lips were on his. There was the curve of a smile pressed against Tony’s mouth—the hint of wine, and then God, Steve’s tongue. He practically slumped against Tony, sucking his tongue into his mouth without awaiting invitation. Not that Tony would have stopped him—not that there was a single part of him that wasn’t already Steve’s.

Jesus. He was a goner. A complete and utter goner. His nerves were buzzing. Being in love with Steve from afar was one thing, but this—this was a whole other world. Steve’s hands were entangled in his hair, rubbing his cheeks, and stroking his throat. And Tony… well. Tony was getting a boner while fisting both hands in Santa Claus’ fluffy beard.

Not the weirdest thing he’d ever done, though.

When they pulled back eventually, Steve’s brow nudged his, his eyes shining with joy, panting lightly. “Steve,” Tony murmured, his hips moving in a way that had to be subconscious, because he sure as hell hadn’t planned to immediately start rubbing his erection against Steve. There was probably an unspoken rule about not doing this on a first kiss, Tony was ruining this already, and—

“Don’t stop,” Steve murmured heatedly. He gripped Tony’s hips and pulled him even closer—because Steve was awesome and he would be the best boyfriend ever, hands down.

A moment later, they were kissing again, and none of the rest mattered. Let Steve see what he did to him. Long, wet, heated kisses followed—the type that stole minutes, hours, half days for the want of something more. Tony moaned aloud and grasped at Steve’s head. God, he needed him in his room, naked and beneath him. He wanted to pepper kisses down his stomach and put his mouth on his cock, lick him up until he became so unwound it would take days to piece him back together.

When Steve pulled his lips away, Tony shuddered at the passionate gasp that tore through his body. “Steve,” Tony panted, their eyes meeting. “If we don’t stop, I’m gonna—”

The microwave pinged. Loudly. And then there were footsteps moving towards the kitchen.

They were pressed chest-to-chest, and they were damn well staying that way, given Tony’s current situation. Of course, it was Clint padding into the room, camera in hand and pointed in their direction. He gave them one gleeful look over before whooping, obviously pleased with himself as he collected the bag from the microwave.

“They’re making out!” he called over to the living room. At first, there was a deep muttering and then, loud laughter, and cries of ‘Fucking finally’ and ‘About time’.

“Irritating people,” Tony said with a breathless laugh, while dropping his forehead on Steve’s shoulder.

“Whom you happen to adore,” Clint said. He cast them both a shit-eating grin, making another photo.

“I adore you a lot more when you don’t make fun of my love life.”

“Aw, Tones, but you give us so much to make fun of…”

Steve pulled Tony closer, and kissed his forehead. “Go away, Clint.”

Clint snorted, giving them a last look-over, before leaving the kitchen.

“You can both thank me later,” Bucky called.

Steve snorted, raising his voice. “Shut it, Buck.”

A pause. Tony leaned back to look at Steve with a raised eyebrow. “Can we… do you want to, uh, take this to my room?”

Steve just smirked, as he looked down on the bulge in Tony’s pants. “We better.”

They marched determinedly through the hallway, hands entwined, waists awkwardly turned away from their friends and thus bumping once into the coat-rack, but everyone was too busy laughing at their expense to even notice.

“My friends,” Thor said conversationally, offering a wave and a bright smile. “Congratulations!”

Clint groaned. “Of all the things you could’ve teased them with… that’s what you came up with? ‘Congratulations’?”

“Stop it, Clint,” Steve repeated through his teeth. Then he made an abrupt halt, probably realizing that there wasn’t a lot of distance between Tony’s room and the living room. “Could you guys… well, I don’t know how to say this politely… get the hell out? Tony and I are… we’re busy.”

Barnes huffed and immediately made to stand up. “If you think for a moment that I’m gonna be here when that bomb’s droppin’, you’re nuts.”

Clint nodded agreeably and grabbed for his jacket. “We can watch the movie at mine. Just kindly keep it in your pants until we’re very much gone. Steve, Tony… it’s been… mortifying.” He offered an awkward wave, then walked out the front door.

“See you tomorrow, boys,” Natasha said with a little pleased smile, before she turned and calmly left the dorm. Bruce just gave them both one of his honest smiles, and then was gone, too. After Thor and Jane had left, too, it was just Barnes, who calmly collected Clint’s bottle of wine from the table.

Steve sighed, hooking his chin over Tony’s shoulder. “Buck,” he said shortly. “Can we… tomorrow…”

“Pretend this never happened?”

“That’d be nice.”

“Oh Stevie,” he said with a kind smile, patting Steve on his shoulder. “Not for a Million dollars.”

Steve huffed in annoyance, as he watched Barnes leave.

“Well,” Tony said, glancing at Steve with an uncertain expression. “I’m just gonna… lock the door.”

“Good thinking,” Steve said, and rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.

Tony turned the key around and slowly made his way to Steve again. He smiled at his uncertain expression and cupped his cheeks, kissing him softly. “Now, where were we?”

The second their lips met, the mood was reclaimed in a blink. Tony’s right hand dipped lower until he was squeezing Steve’s dick through his jeans. “So. I have this great bed…”

“I know your bed, and it’s not all that great,” Steve breathed and grabbed Tony’s hips, looking at him with barely contained lust. He twisted Tony in his arms, as his lips consumed him again. He devoured Tony completely, his tongue exploring every inch of his mouth and how they ever made it to Tony’s bedroom, he would never know. Their lips remained stubbornly fused together, which made for an interesting combination of bad balance and coordination and naturally resulted in a good amount of inelegant stumbling.

Tony groaned. Sure enough, the next thing he knew, they were both shirtless—Steve’s ugly sweater somewhere near the trash bin, he hoped—and Steve was hard as nails on top of him. This was new. All of this was so new. The feel of Steve nude, and trembling in his embrace.

His fingers grazed Steve’s perfect chest gently. There were simply no words for how gorgeous he was. And yet, he tried. “Wow.”

Steve smiled, albeit a tad self-consciously, which only made Tony love him more. “Yeah?”

Tony nodded dazedly, his eyes slowly trailing upward until he was drowning in Steve’s blue ones again. “Definitely.”

“You’ve seen me naked before.”

That was true, of course. The shower rooms in the dorm weren’t a place for modesty. Tony shook his head as his mouth dropped to sample Steve’s skin. “This is different,” he replied softly, brushing a soft kiss over Steve’s left nipple.

His reaction was sharper than he’d imagined. Steve melted into a moan, his hips jerking forward so that his erection was rubbing against Tony’s, desperately seeking friction. “Oh God,” he gasped.

Tony chuckled against the nub. “We just started.”

“I know,” Steve groaned and his head rolled back when Tony’s tongue lapped at him again, but to his disappointment, he reined in control long enough to capture Tony’s face in his hands.

Steve kissed him hard, then, grabbed both of Tony’s legs at the back of the knee and hoisted them up and around his waist. Tony moaned when Steve rolled his hips forward. He slid his hand down to Tony’s ass, and then, a cautious finger softly teased over Tony’s entrance through the fabric of his pants. “This okay?” Steve asked.

Tony sucked his earlobe into his mouth, and tugged at Steve’s belt, shamelessly spread wide beneath him, giving him a full view of how much he wanted this.

“Yeah,” Tony said, pulling at Steve’s zipper. “Very much.”

Before Tony could get Steve out of his pants, though, Steve grabbed his wrists and jerked them up to hold them in place over his head, making him gasp in surprise. “I don’t think that’s how we’re gonna do this,” Steve said and grinned down at him. One hand secured Tony’s wrists and the other ghosted over his chest, down his stomach, until he reached the hem of Tony’s pants. Tony was wriggling and arching beneath him, desperate for his touch. “Look who’s worked up,” Steve said smugly.

“God, Steve, don’t tease me. Not now. I just need to—” He broke off, whimpering when Steve’s middle finger slid over his crotch.

Steve smiled. “You like that?”

“Duh…” Tony grunted and closed his eyes, his mouth dropping open to let out an almost silent cry when Steve did it again, harder this time. Eventually, Steve released the grip on Tony’s wrists, but he remained still, nevertheless. He would give Steve everything he wanted. Everything. And then, oh God, Steve grabbed Tony’s pants and boxers at the waistband, and tugged them both down to his knees. Tony swallowed and glanced up, slightly unsure of being laid bare like this, but once Steve reverently traced the outlines of his cock with the tip of his thumb, all worries flew out the window.

“You’re so beautiful,” Steve whispered, rubbing tight circles over the head of Tony’s cock, down his shaft. And just as Tony leaned up on shaking elbows, something warm and wet surrounded his cock. “Oh, fu—ck!”

Steve’s pink lips closed around his cock, and he could only stare, panting, trembling when a wet tongue smoothed over the underside on its way back up Tony’s length. “Oh God, Steve… I can’t—”

“Mmm,” Steve hummed, smiling as he sucked on the tip hard.

“Oh, God! Oh fuck—oh fuck—oh f—” There was no stopping what was to happen next—just the image of Steve doing this was too much for his young and impressionable brain. And all Tony could do was stutter and babble on about how much he loved Steve, feeling the tendons in his balls pull taut as he let out a long cry. The wetness around his cock was too insistent, the suction too overwhelming to do anything against it, and then, he felt his cock spill down Steve’s throat. Winded, buzzing from the afterglow, and weak in the knees, Tony collapsed back onto his back and tried catching his breath. “Shit, I’m so sorry,” he panted, swallowing a gulp of air. “I didn’t want to—”

“It’s okay,” Steve said with a light chuckle. And the sight of Steve’s tongue licking over his lower lip to catch a few droplets of come would stay with Tony for-fucking-ever.

Then, Steve leaned down and kissed the tip of Tony’s softening cock, and—okay, wow—it made a valiant effort to get hard again and seemed to succeed with it. “Oh God,” Tony groaned heavily.

“Impressive,” Steve said, looking down at him with a little smirk.

Then, he sat up a bit and looked at Tony with a steady firm gaze. This was Steve’s ‘We need to talk about this-face’.

“Have you ever done this before?” Steve asked with a quiet voice and not-so-subtly glanced at Tony’s rear.

Tony tried to hide his insecurity behind a fake snort. “Not… all the way,” he whispered, afraid the words would bring an end to everything happening here. “You?”

Steve kissed the dip beneath his right hip bone, then the left, and then he smiled at him so beautifully Tony almost felt as if he’d blasphemed when he let out a moan of approval. “Me neither,” he admitted and didn’t seem flustered by it. He cleared his throat. “You know… I’m not going to leave, or anything, if we don’t do this now,” Steve said. “I love you. We can take our time.”

“Steve…” Tony touched his cheek, turning his face to look at him, trying to convey a fraction of what he was feeling in his expression. Steve opened his mouth, but Tony stopped him, “I don’t feel forced to do this, okay? I want us both to do what feels good, and I really want your dick in me, because I might’ve been fantasizing about this since I was fourteen.”

Steve smiled. “That’s not all that long ago.”

Tony rolled his eyes at him. “Long enough, now come on.”

The next thing he knew, Steve surged down, and attacked his mouth with his. And God, his arms were around him, holding his body to him as his tongue explored his mouth. He’d never been so turned on by a simple kiss before. He was grinding himself into the hardness that pressed against him, swallowing Steve’s whimpers with his own as they finally pushed Steve’s pants down together.

“Tony,” Steve whimpered, breaking away from his lips to lick at his throat. “Really?”

“Really,” Tony said, staring down to where their erections were grinding against another. And—yup, Steve was beautiful all over, no surprise there. “Lube’s in the night stand.”

Steve swallowed at that, and leaned over to open the top drawer. It took him a few seconds to locate the little bottle, and once he had, he seemed to have a hard time opening the lid. His fingers trembled somewhat, his brows hunched together in frustration, and Tony fell in love all over again.

“Here, let me,” Tony said with a little smile. At least his fingers were slightly less shaky as he opened the bottle and poured some of the liquid on Steve’s palm. Steve rubbed it between fingers, mesmerized. Eventually, he put his hand on Tony’s ass and pushed one finger in, and after a few minutes, another.

It was so fucking weird, having someones fingers in there, and it probably didn’t even take all that long, but for Tony, it seemed like hours were passing while Steve stretched him. His body was moving on autopilot, overwhelmed with the feel of Steve’s tongue occasionally lapping at his cock, and locked-in to the motion of his finger inside him. He was completely unable to do much more than pant and squeeze around him. He lay on his back, looking down at Steve, watching him lick and suck, and his knees started to tremble and quake with the strain.

“I’m ready,” he told Steve softly. He laid his hand over Steve’s, whispering, “Please,” looking right at him with wide, love-struck eyes.

“Okay,” Steve said quietly, pulling his fingers out.

His balls tightened dangerously, as Steve rolled on top of him, and he was too close to the brink to do anything but lie there. He felt one of Steve’s hands on his ass, guiding him upwards, while he tucked Tony’s feet up over his shoulders. He grabbed for one of the condoms he’d pulled out of his drawer with the lube, and slid it over himself.

Then, Steve kissed him again before—God––beforehe started to slide into Tony. It was too much sensations at once, and Tony was aware that he was groaning like he was in pain. Steve’s movement was slow, though, and he cupped Tony’s cheeks and kissed him again and again, while cautiously pushing further. His eyes darkened as he pressed down on Tony, nipping at his lips. “I love you,” he told him hoarsely.

“I know.”

“You feel so good,” he murmured, turning his attention to where they were joined. He swallowed hard. “Tell me if it’s too much.”

Tony nodded, his fingers digging just a little deeper into Steve’s big forearms. His body trembled as Steve finally shoved home. God, he was completely lost. Steve felt so big and Tony felt his walls strangle him, clenching and squeezing hard at the foreign intrusion.

“God, you’re tight,” Steve gasped, resting his brows against Tony’s. “You sure this is okay?”

“I’m good,” Tony said, his voice strained.

Steve peppered his face with small kisses. “Gonna move now,” he said, phrasing it as a question. Tony nodded dazedly, while Steve kissed the pulse at his throat and began thrusting in slow, tempered strokes.

“God, the way you look right now,” Steve murmured, leaning over him, panting heavily.

A whimper tore through Tony’s throat. God, he couldn’t possibly be so close again already. But sure enough, his muscles contracted around Steve with every thrust. His skin buzzed and his blood hummed. Steve’s movements rippled through him, while gasping breaths for air reverberated through Tony’s body.

Steve looked up and found Tony’s probably very desperate eyes. “It’s okay,” he said, watching Tony reverently as he moved against him with rolling motions. “I won’t take long, you can let go—”

With a relieved whimper, Tony arched upwards and came once again. Steve groaned against his throat, suckling him up, murmuring sweet nothings that offset his need as he drove into Tony with a few erratic movements, before he tensed in his arms. Time seemed to suspend as Steve shook apart above him. The events of the day were slowly becoming real around him, and Steve was there to catch him when he fell. And with his arms around him, Tony felt he could face anything.

They collapsed together as the world came crashing back, their mingled pants coloring the air as they curled in a twist of limbs on the bed.

Tony had no idea how long they remained like that. Steve breathing hard against him, his face buried in his shoulder, his hands clutching him snugly.

“I love you,” Steve mumbled.

Tony smiled. “Love you.” He closed his eyes and shifted slightly. Steve was still inside him—and right now, he didn’t want him anywhere else. The feel of finally being one with Steve was too wonderful to give up yet.

Tony moved sideways to kiss Steve’s temple. Because he fucking could. “I know it’s been said many times today, but… Merry Christmas.”

Steve’s eyes remained closed, but he let out a little, almost relieved sounding laugh and curled his arms even tighter around him. “Merry Christmas, Tony.”

 

 

* * *

 

 

A little while later, Steve and Tony sat next to the Christmas tree, watching the last half hour of ‘Home Alone’. The film wasn’t exactly fitting, given what just happened, but it was a classic, and had them both laughing numerous times. The dorm settled around them and Tony was warm in Steve’s embrace. It felt like he’d been running on fumes for weeks; and Steve had finally given him a genuine reason to seek solace. To simply hold onto peace as it was given.

“You know, when I was little, my mom used to let me open one ‘Christmas Eve Present’,” Steve said. “I have one for you.”

Tony smiled. “Admit it, you just can’t wait for tomorrow.”

“That, too.” Steve chuckled before scurrying off for his bag in the hallway. When he returned, he held a small box in his hand—and Tony knew that box. “It’s kind of redundant now, since we already, well, declared ourselves, but…” He leaned in and pressed a little kiss to Tony’s cheek, before he sat down next to him, once more. “Belated happy birthday.”

Tony raised his eyebrows at that, and felt a rush of excitement, as he understood. This was the present. The one he’d never got to open. He attempted to be delicate and patient while unwrapping it. It didn’t last. He ripped at the paper, uncovering… a little toolbox—and there was still a ‘Happy Birthday’ card stuck to its front. His heart swelled.

“It’s nothing special,” Steve continued as Tony flipped the card around.

You always complain how your father’s screwdrivers feel too small in your hands. You deserve something that fits perfectly. Happy birthday. Love, Steve

Tony smiled, looking up at Steve. “You know, in hindsight, you were being pretty obvious.”

Steve chuckled. “I guess I was.”

Tony looked down on the screwdriver set. It looked sort of vintage—what with the dark wood of the handles, and the little carvings around the middle section. They were well designed, of course, and while they had an unusual shape, Tony already knew they would fit in his palm like a glove.

“You made them?”

Steve nodded. “Well, the handles. I wanted them to be sturdy and built for the toughest jobs. Bruce helped me pick out the tips. They’re removable, so you can use different tips with every handle.”

Tony beamed, already knowing how much he’d love working with those. “This must’ve taken you a week.”

“Two.” Steve smiled. “Worth every minute, although I guess I should’ve stopped fiddling with it until your party was almost over.” He paused then. “So you like them?”

“I love them.” He drew Steve into his arms and kissed him lightly on the lips. “No one’s ever done something like this for me. Thank you. Best Christmas Eve Present ever.”

Steve’s eyes became sad for a moment, hugging Tony like a pillow. “You’ll get one every year from now on,” he promised.

They were watching the rerun of ‘Home Alone’ and at some point, he felt Steve’s fingers lace between his. He started to mindlessly massage the palm of Tony’s hand with his thumb as he hummed in thought. Then, he raised his hand to his mouth, kissing the spot his thumb had just warmed up. “You know, I’ve been wanting to do this for so long. Just… be able to touch you whenever I felt like it.”

Tony’s toes curled together as a physical representation of his insides. “You’re going to turn into a huge sap now, aren’t you?” he asked. And God, he loved this, the laughing, the easy conversation, knowing they could probably keep doing this for hours without any awkward silences.

“Yeah, probably,” Steve admitted, not very loud, while his lips were on the inner crease of Tony’s arm, breath tickling him. “I love you,” he said, his eyes shining, as if saying this simple phrase meant as much to him as it did to Tony. And with every utterance, Tony’s heart seemed to stop for just a second.

He smiled. Couldn’t help it, really. Resting his head against Steve’s, he took his hand and squeezed. “Back at ya.”

Together, their eyes drifted shut, fingers entwined, and for the first time, and after many lonely Christmases, Tony truly felt loved.

He would have to get Barnes a present after all.