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Five times the Avengers tried to make Tony like Christmas. (And the one time they didn’t.)

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1)

“What do you mean you don’t like Christmas?”

Clint’s voice goes so high that it cracks on the last word. Natasha raises a single eyebrow and Clint hastily clears his throat. “I mean, what do you mean you don’t like Christmas?”

As one, every eye in the room flicks to Tony, and he feels his stomach sink. Great, just what he needs; a bout of collective interference from the team. “I mean, I don’t like Christmas,” he says with a shrug and a dismissive wave of his hand. “It’s a load of pretense wrapped up in obligation, topped with a layer of inconvenience.”

Clint’s eyes go even wider. Thor’s brow dips, like he’s either saddened or confused by what Tony is saying. Sam looks surprised. Natasha just raises the other eyebrow. Steve – actually, the disapproving frown that Tony was expecting is missing, because Steve doesn’t do anything. He just lifts his eyes away from the file he’s reading and looks neutrally to Tony before looking back down.

“But presents!” Clint protests, gesturing wildly. He’s perched on the back of one of the couches and Tony isn’t entirely sure how he hasn’t fallen off yet, and if he’s not careful he’s going to smack Steve in the face with a wayward limb. “And snow! Christmas cookies! Food! And excuses to sit on your ass in your pajamas all day!”

“Alright for you, you’ve got nothing better to be doing,” Tony says, slouching in further into the couch and pointedly staring at the television, hoping that his body language sufficiently conveys ‘not talking about it, thanks’. “In the five minutes it takes you to wrap a present, I could have made six million dollars.”

“Five minutes? Have you seen Clint try to wrap a present?” Natasha says, and Clint scowls at her.

“Hey, tape is tricky.”

“I remember the days I thought you were one of the cool Avengers,” Sam says from where he’s sitting on the floor leaning back against the cushions, eyeing Clint contemplatively.

Clint pauses. “You thought I was the cool Avenger?”

Sam hums thoughtfully. “Actually, no, not really.”

Clint points a finger at him. “I saved your Mom’s life,” he says, eyes narrowed. “Be nice.”

Sam looks at him incredulously. “You nearly crushed my Mom with your ass,” he replies, and Thor and Hulk both start to laugh.

Tony ignores the bickering, hoping that Clint’s admittedly short attention span has already turned onto other things. Jesus, it’s not like he’s a total scrooge or anything, he just doesn’t feel like getting involved with the whole Christmas spirit thing. He never has; Christmas was always one of those things that other families seemed to really enjoy, but for Tony they were like birthdays, just another point on the calendar that his Dad probably should have paid more attention to than he did-

A not inconsiderable weight drops onto the couch next to him, and he looks up to see Steve is now sitting next to him as if he’d been there all along, coffee in one hand and eyes still on his report. Tony feels a shiver run through him at how close Steve is sitting - close enough so that their elbows are pressed together and their knees are brushing - and wishes that he could lean right over into him.

But seeing as Steve has no idea about how Tony feels, and also considering that Tony would rather stick a soldering iron in his ear than let on, he doesn’t. Instead, he just sits there and waits for Steve to say it.

Steve doesn't. Tony waits a good few minutes, surprise growing with every moment that Steve just sits there, sipping his drink and reading whichever boring-ass file he’s decided on today. Starting to feel suspicious, Tony looks back to the television, back to Steve, back to the television and then gives in.

“Go on, out with it,” he sighs.

Steve just shrugs. “Just checking you’re okay.”

“Fine,” Tony says, and reaches over to take Steve’s mug of coffee from him. Surprisingly, Steve allows it, and he doesn’t hesitate before taking several large gulps, half draining the mug. Oh well. Caffeine doesn't affect Steve and Tony is pretty sure he needs it to live.

“Is Clint bothering you?” Steve asks easily, and Tony’s stomach flips at the casual act of protectiveness.  

“No,” Tony says, because it’s not really Clint’s fault that Tony wants nothing to do with Christmas.

Steve nods, seeming to accept the answer readily enough, for which Tony is grateful. “You look tired,” Steve comments. “You should get some rest.”

“I should get away from all this,” Tony says vaguely, and he hands Steve his coffee back and stands up, missing the warmth of Steve at his side the moment he’s upright.

Steve frowns. “Get away from what?”

“The talk about Christmas,” Tony says, and dammit, he didn't mean to say that, because now Steve’s expression is turning thoughtful, and Tony knows him well enough to work out that that look is one step away from action.

“Why-” Steve begins, but Tony is already turning away, waving a hand over his shoulder and talking over him.

“Going to the lab, see you later,” he says easily, walking away with his heart thudding strangely in his chest, because he can practically feel Steve staring at him.

He’s almost at the stairs when Steve shouts, “Go to bed,” after him, and Tony feels a flicker of relief that the whole Christmas thing has been dropped.

Only if you come with me, Tony’s brain says, but he manages to keep his mouth shut. He holds his breath all the way to the elevator, only letting it out with a woosh of air when the doors are closed and he’s leaning back against the mirrored wall.

“Jarvis, please tell me they aren’t still talking about Christmas.”

“My apologies, Sir,” Jarvis says, sounding weary. “They are in fact now placing wagers on who can get you into the Christmas spirit. There is a small debate over whether this includes singing carols, wearing Christmas-themed sweaters or just giving and receiving gifts.”

Tony groans. “Kick them all out, Jarvis.”

“I’m sorry, Sir. You signed the contract which allows them to stay, and I don’t think ‘kicking them out’ would quite be in the spirit of the season.”

Tony folds his arms across his chest, glaring. “Traitor.”

"If it is any consolation, I will not allow them to play carols over the speaker systems as is currently being suggested.”

“Small mercies,” Tony sighs. “Don't spoil their fun, Jarvis, but do whatever is needed to keep Christmas away from me.”

There is a slight pause, and then Jarvis answers with “Yes, sir.”

In hindsight, Tony should have paid more attention to that pause.


 

2)

Throwing himself into his latest project - improving the durability of the Quinjet rotor systems - Tony almost forgets about both the holiday season and the wager. He’s vaguely thinking that maybe they’ve let it go, when he wanders onto the communal floor a few days later to find a ten-foot green monstrosity standing in the lounge, and he’s not talking about Hulk.

He stops. He stares. He considers throwing Hawkeye from the roof.

“What is that? And what is it doing in my lounge?”

It is a Christmas tree,” Clint says, adjusting his grip on Natasha’s ankles as she leans forward to hang a delicate glass bauble from a branch. He’s wearing both a bright red Santa hat and a cocky grin. “And don’t you mean our lounge? This isn’t Stark tower anymore, you know.”

“We’re just decorating the tree,” Steve interjects quickly as he continues untangling the seemingly endless string of Christmas lights. He’s sitting cross legged on the floor in sweatpants and a plain T-shirt and he looks so at ease and happy that it makes Tony’s chest ache.

“There is a giant tree in the Rockefeller Center that is enough for all of New York,” Tony says, looking away from Steve and folding his arms across his chest. “Won't that do?”

“Where is your Christmas spirit, Stark?” Natasha says as she turns and crouches down atop Clint’s shoulders, reaching out to accept another bauble from Hulk before straightening up again, as easily as if she were standing on solid ground.

“I left it somewhere in the eighties,” Tony says dismissively. “You do realize that putting delicate glass decorations on - well, on anything in this tower is pretty much asking for trouble?”

“No-one is allowed to break Christmas decorations,” Hulk says. “Not even me.”

Steve shoots Hulk an amused look. “It’s just a tree, Tony,” he says. “No harm done.”

Tony scowls. “Trees belong outside,” he says pointedly. “Have you any idea how painful pine needles are if they get trapped in my suit?”

“Then don’t put them in your suit,” Clint says without looking up. He’s now let go of Natasha’s ankles and is instead tossing a bauble from hand to hand.

“I might start taking offense if you don’t like my Christmas tree,” Natasha says carelessly.

Tony’s jaw drops open. “You brought this in here? Oh no, come on. I didn’t think you would get all stupid over Christmas."

Natasha smiles at him as Clint tosses up the bauble to her. “Face it, Stark; if I can get into the spirit, you might as well join in.”

“You’re faking it,” Tony accuses.

“I’m actually not,” Natasha says, and she drops down so she’s sitting on Clint’s shoulders, heels bumping against his ribs. Clint grins up at her from underneath the fluffy white edge of his hat, and Tony privately thinks he’s the bravest man on the planet to be able to stand there with his neck between Natasha’s thighs without showing fear.

“Do you want to choose what goes on top?” Natasha asks, and she takes Clint’s hat by the white bobble on the end and pulls it from his head, setting it atop her own. “Clint wants an angel with a bow and arrow, Hulk wants a unicorn, Steve wants the gold star.”

Tony turns away dismissively. “None of the above,” he says, already walking out of the room and calling over his shoulder as he goes. “Take the damn thing down.”

He stalks away, feeling irrationally angry. Yes, it’s only a damn tree, but that’s not the point. Jesus, he can't ever remember decorating a tree with his family, actually sharing Christmas with someone. And to see Natasha of all people happy and laughing and smiling, able to let go and lower her defenses for once, hits him strangely painfully. He’s nowhere near as secretive and distant as she is and he still can't bring himself to just let it go.

And Clint. The expression on his face when he’d looked up at her, ridiculously grateful and happy that she was indulging his stupid obsession with Christmas.

Well, that just reminds Tony that the one person he could be willing to get into the spirit for won’t ever look at him like that. And he knows he could spend Christmas with Steve as a friend, but he’s selfish enough to keep his distance, knowing how much being that close would hurt.


 

3)

The Christmas tree in the lounge stays up – and it looks like Steve won the argument about the decoration on top, and Tony has to be grudgingly grateful that it’s a gold star up there and nothing worse – so Tony decides that until Christmas Day has passed, he’s going to stay well out of the way.

It works for two days, until he walks into his lab and stops dead in the doorway, narrowing his eyes at Sam who is sitting there on his chair, wearing a holiday sweater and holding a box in his hand. A box that’s wrapped in bright red, snowman-adorned paper.

“Traitor,” he says. “And you, Jarvis. You let him in.”

“I weighed up the options, and decided that keeping one small present away from you would greatly impact on Mr. Wilson’s happiness,” Jarvis says. “And you did tell me not to spoil the fun.”

“Spoil all the fun,” Tony immediately says. “Now you are to keep Christmas away from me with extreme prejudice.”

“Aw, come on, Tony,” Sam says, pleading. “It’s just Christmas. And these are special Christmas cookies. Mom baked them specially for you.”

Tony sighs. “Don’t, Sam.”

Sam is nothing but determined, and he’s quite clearly spending too much time taking lessons in earnestness from Steve. Either that, or he’s got a lot riding on the wager. “We want you to come join us, it’s not the same without you.”

“And I appreciate that,” Tony says. “But it’s just not my thing, Sam. And no amount of cookies is going to change that.”

Sam looks down at the box in his hands, then up, curiosity all over his face. “Why do you not like Christmas?”

Tony draws in a breath through his teeth, sharp. “Just never got into it, I guess,” he says lightly.

“Well, now's the time!” Sam says bracingly. “We’re going to marathon terrible Christmas movies later; you should come and help us make fun of them.”

“Thanks, but no thanks,” Tony says.

“Tony-”

“I said, no, Sam,” Tony says abruptly.

Sam sighs, but he stands up, finally getting the hint. “Maybe I’ll try you again later when you’re less cranky.”

Tony ignores him and he hears him leave. The moment he’s alone, he groans in frustration, slumping down in his chair.

“They’re not just going to let this go, are they?”

“No, they are not,” Jarvis tells him. “Though I do believe that an explanation about your aversion to the holiday season might dissuade them from attempting to force you to cooperate.”

Tony grimaces. “Tell them why I hate Christmas? No thanks, Jarvis. I think I’ll stick it out for another - how many days until Christmas is over?”

“Christmas Day is in nine days.”

“Nine days,” Tony says grimly. “Shouldn’t be too hard to do.”

“I think you are underestimating the team,” Jarvis points out. “So far it has only been the collective efforts of Hawkeye, Widow and Falcon.”

Tony groans. “Steve, Hulk and Thor haven’t even been trying?”

“Not yet,” Jarvis says ominously, and for a moment Tony thinks that maybe it would be easier just to admit defeat.




4)

Tony wakes one morning a week before Christmas day to find that it’s snowing outside and that someone has replaced all of the coffee in the tower with a Christmas-pudding flavored variety.

Tony takes several deep breaths, barely keeping his temper in check because it’s one thing to have the others trying to get him to enjoy Christmas, and it’s another thing entirely to try and force his hand by taking advantage of his need for caffeine.

This has Hawkeye written all over it, and Tony vehemently regrets not following through on his thought about throwing him off the roof back when the Christmas tree appeared.

Frustrated, he slams the cupboard door shut, repeatedly telling himself that there is a Starbucks less than five minutes away, and that coffee takes precedence over revenge.

When he gets there, he bitterly regrets leaving the tower as he’s served by an overly-cheerful man dressed as an elf, who is enthusiastically determined to get him to try an eggnog flavored latte. It’s crowded and busy and they are playing carols and he’s willing to bet that secretly everyone here hates it as much as he does, but they’re too concerned with playing along to actually admit it.

He trudges through the snow, dodging past battle-hardened Christmas shoppers and happy couples who seem to think that just because it’s Christmas they can walk hand in hand at a glacial pace, stopping every four seconds to look at a festive window display.

He’s halfway back to the tower when his phone rings. He pulls it out and see’s it’s Steve calling; his stomach drops because the last thing he needs after this stunt is to have Steve join in and get on his case about Christmas. Steve has been suspiciously quiet on the Christmas front, and if Tony is honest it's his interference that he's least looking forwards to. 

His thumb hovers over the screen, an oval of bright blue shining atop the ‘answer button.’

He shakes his head and shoves his phone back into his pocket. Everyone else he can disappoint as much as he likes, but he can’t quite stomach doing it to Steve.


 

5)

And because the universe hates him, Tony finds himself being woken on Christmas Eve by the emergency alarm. It's not the alarm itself that has him convinced that the cosmos is out to get him; it's the fact that by nine am he’s fighting giant, man-eating snow men in Central Park, courtesy of a wannabe super villain who seems to hate Christmas spirit more than he does.

Not that he feels any sort of solidarity with the guy though, because come on. Giant man-eating snowman.

“I hate Christmas,” he snarls as he blasts one straight in the face with his repulsors. The snowman wobbles dangerously, stick arms windmilling frantically for a moment before there's a flash of red white and blue and the shield appears to knock it clean over with a resounding crash.

“Oh, give it a rest already,” Clint groans. “Flaming arrow, coming in hot!”

There’s an unholy shriek from one of the snowmen as the arrow vanishes into what would be its ass, and it starts to melt from the bottom up.

“This is most enjoyable!” Thor laughs, zipping past Tony and smashing the melting snowman straight in the face with Mjolnir. “I greatly enjoyed crafting snow creatures such as these , but destroying them is just as fun!”

“Crafting snow creatures?” Tony asks in disbelief.

“We went to the roof to build snowmen,” Clint says. “Well, everyone but you, Scrooge.”

“Cut the chatter,” Steve says over the comms. “Hawkeye, the last one is bearing down on seventh, you hit him at the bottom, Hulk take the top and we’re done.”

“Got it,” Clint says. “Hey, you think we can get this guy to animate our snowmen?”

“Snow people,” Natasha says. “And did you miss the part where these are man-eating snowmen, Hawkeye?”

“Well obviously I wouldn’t ask for the man-eating part,” Clint says, and over the comms Tony hears another shriek, a tell-tale roar and the sound of several tonnes of snow being scattered over lower Manhattan. “Last one down! The snowmen are snow more, Cap.”

There's a collective groan as Clint snickers, far too pleased with himself.

“Awful,” Tony says. “Take that back.”

“I’ll take it back if you at least try and like Christmas.”

Tony ignores him, circling around and looking for a familiar flash of blue. He spots Steve down on street level and drops down next to him, relieved to see him unharmed.

“Good work,” Steve says as Tony straightens up, and Tony gives him a thumbs up just as Thor lands next to them, cape dotted with melting snowflakes.

“This season is most enjoyable,” he says with satisfaction.

Irritated as what he’s sure is a jab at him, Tony folds his arms over his chest. “Oh yeah, fighting giant man eating monsters in the cold, that’s brilliant.”

“Well, the monsters maybe not so much,” Thor concedes, and then he does turn to look right at Tony. “But the rest of it. You should stop complaining so much, my friend. It grows irksome.”

“Irksome?” Tony replies in disbelief. He flips the faceplate up so Thor can see the look on his face. “You know you wouldn't be finding my attitude irksome if you just left me out of it?”

“You are our friend,” Thor says, unperturbed by Tony’s anger. “We wish for you to join us in celebration.”

“You’re only celebrating because you don't know any better,” Tony snaps, and Thor is about to reply when something hard hits Tony in the back of his helmet. He jerks forwards, surprised, and Steve whips around, shield raised defensively.

“That’s it!” Clint shouts, already crouching down and balling up another handful of snow. “I’ve had enough! You can be as miserable as you want, but stop ruining it for the rest of us!”

Guilt rises in Tony’s chest, but it’s not enough to mask his anger. “Like I said, I wouldn't be ruining it for the rest of us if you weren't trying to force me to do something I’ve made it quite clear-”

He slaps the faceplate down, barely quick enough to stop the next snowball hitting him in the face. He curses, trying to brush the snow away so he can see.

“Hawkeye, stand down!” Steve shouts, sounding annoyed. Dammit, Tony didn’t mean to wind Steve up as well, he was just trying to get them to back off. He curses under his breath again, going from angry to deflated quicker than that last snowman melted.

“Make him stand down!” Clint yells, and hurls another snowball, hitting Tony in the chest. “Tell him to suck it up and do Christmas properly!”

He raises a fourth snowball, and Tony doesn't wait for it to hit. He takes off and soars back to the tower, turning his comms off so he doesn't have to hear another damn word.


 

+1)

 

Christmas day dawns cold and bright and sharp, and Tony is awakened by the door to his bedroom opening, footsteps padding across the carpet. 

He groans, the memory of the day before all too fresh in his mind. Without bothering to lift his head from the pillow, he shouts at the intruder, voice muffled. “Whoever you are, go away.”

“That’s not nice,” Steve’s voice says mildly, and Tony freezes for a moment, before lifting his head from the pillow and rolling onto his back. He glances at the clock and sees that it’s already noon.

“I’m sleeping through Christmas, leave me alone,” Tony grouches.

“You know, for someone who doesn't want to do Christmas, you mention it an awful lot,” Steve’s voice says, sounding contemplative.

“I don’t want to do Christmas,” Tony says, and he's well aware of just how pleading he sounds, but he doesn't care. This whole month has been nothing but miserable, and yesterday just proved exactly why he should stay away from everyone else. “And I’ve managed to fend you off for a whole month, don’t ruin it now.”

There’s a pause. “That’s why you’ve been avoiding me?” Steve asks. “You thought I was going to join in with the others and try and get you to join in with Christmas?”

Tony sits up. “Wait, you’re not?”

“Of course-” Steve begins, sounding exasperated. “Tony, come out. I’m not having a conversation with you when we’re in two different rooms.”

“No. You’re going to ambush me with baubles and ugly sweaters.”

“Get out here. That’s an order.”

Sighing, Tony gets up. He hitches up his pajama pants as he slowly walks to the door, unsure as to what he’s going to see when he gets there-

He stops in the doorway. Steve is sitting on his couch wearing black sweatpants and a black t-shirt, feet bare and stretched out in front of him. No ugly sweater, no santa hat, nothing. All there is in his hands is a pizza box, with a DVD case stacked on top.

He looks up at Tony and smiles. “Come on. Lunch.”

“What, no turkey?” Tony asks warily.

“No, just New York pizza that I paid an obscene amount for,” Steve says. “Come on, sit.”

“What about the others?” Tony says, still somewhat bewildered. “How come you’re getting away with not doing Christmas?”

“We already did,” Steve says easily. “We got up early, swapped gifts, had Christmas dinner and now they’re watching Christmas films and napping.”

“And no-one tried to make me get up and join in?”

“I told them not to,” Steve says simply. “You didn’t want to join in, so I told them they had to respect your choice and leave you alone.”

Tony stares at Steve. “You did that?”

“I did,” Steve confirms. “I’ve been trying to fend off Christmas attacks since the whole Christmas tree thing, but I think a few got past me.” He tips his head back against the couch cushions, and his brow creases. “Clint doesn't mean to be an ass about it,” he says. “He just - I don’t think he had good Christmases growing up, so he wants to do it right now he’s got people to do it with.”

Tony stays silent. He didn't actually think of that, and he guiltily thinks that maybe they all should have been a bit more honest about their pasts and their feelings.

“I ruined that for him,” Tony says, trying to keep his voice light. Steve shakes his head dismissively.

“He didn’t respect your boundaries,” he says. “I think he just very much wanted everyone to be happy, and didn’t think that you would be happier not joining in.”

“I should have-” Tony begins, about to say he should have explained to them all, but the words stick in his throat. He's spent so long not talking about it that he's not even sure he can. 

“How about we say you were both as bad as each other,” Steve suggests with a faint smile. “Come on, he’s got Natasha wearing a sweater with a Christmas pudding on it and you get to not-celebrate with me, so everyone’s a winner.” He pats the space next to him. “Come and sit down. I brought Die Hard to watch.”

“That’s a Christmas film,” Tony points out, but he’s walking over already, stomach rumbling at the smell of the pizza and not quite able to deny himself time spent with Steve, no matter the motivation. He collapses down next to Steve, reaching for the blanket that’s on the back of the couch and tossing it over his feet as he pulls them up.

“Barely,” Steve says and hands over the pizza. “Now stop complaining.”

He gets up to put the DVD on, and Tony sits back feeling a little out of sorts and almost like the damn grinch, heart doubled in size and pressing hard against his sternum. He can’t believe what Steve has done for him, that Steve is choosing to spend part of his Christmas with Tony, and without any expectation that Tony actually even acknowledge that it is Christmas.

They settle back to watch the film, both curled up on the couch. Twenty minutes in and the pizza is gone - and how has Steve managed to put away half a pizza when he’s just eaten Christmas dinner with Thor in charge of portion sizes? Thirty minutes in and Steve is slumped against Tony, head on his shoulder. An hour in and they’ve somehow ended up sharing the blanket, Tony leaning back against Steve's shoulder.

It’s good. It’s so good that Tony can't quite believe that it's actually happening. Silently, Tony thinks that he would happily tolerate a month of torment at the hands of Clint Barton and the team for just an hour of this.

When the film finishes, Tony expects Steve to leave and go back downstairs to continue Christmas with the others. What he doesn’t expect is for Steve to point out that the DVD is actually a quadrilogy boxset and that he’s not about to flake out on Bruce Willis.

Tony laughs and doesn’t object, and he feels pleasantly warm when Steve sits back on the couch after changing the DVD, sliding under the blanket and pulling Tony up against his side. Tony goes willingly, though being so close and sharing such a moment with Steve is admittedly a little bittersweet.God, he's so far gone for Steve it's not even funny, but he can't bring himself to put the usual distance back between them.

Oh well. He supposes he can let himself enjoy it just for today, considering it’s Christmas and all that. 

He turns his head to look at Steve, thoughtful. Steve hasn’t even mentioned Tony’s whole avoiding-Christmas thing since he came in, and Tony’s starting to get a little antsy about it, waiting for Steve to drop the question on him without warning.

He lasts a whole ten minutes before he decides that he isn't okay with waiting for the hammer to fall.

“So,” he finds himself saying. “Are you really not going to make me talk about it?”

Steve hums thoughtfully, eyes still fixed absently on the television. “No,” he says. “On one condition.”

Tony narrows his eyes. “What would that be?”

The corner of Steve’s mouth curls up. “You let me do one Christmassy thing with you.”

Tony huffs, but he can’t exactly refuse, not after everything Steve has done for him. And besides, it’s Steve. It’s not exactly like he can refuse him anyway.

“Alright. One.”

Steve looks pleasantly surprised by the lack of resistance, and Tony shivers as Steve's eyes flick over his face, earnest and almost excited. 

“Okay, close your eyes."

Tony groans. “You got me a present, didn’t you?”

“Close your eyes,” Steve repeats, insistent.

Tony pulls a face but obliges. He expects to feel something pressed into his hands or set on his knee but there’s nothing, and after a few seconds Steve speaks again, voice soft.

“Okay. Open.”

Tony opens his eyes, and his brain promptly turns off because Steve is still sitting there, and he’s holding a sprig of mistletoe up between them, grinning at Tony.

“Oh would you look at that,” he says, all mock seriousness. “I was going to buy you a hand knitted sweater covered in snowflakes, but maybe this should count as the one Christmassy thing instead.”

Tony’s mouth falls open, and his brain is going at ten thousand revolutions a minute and he can’t stop it.  He stares at the mistletoe. “Are you serious?”

“Always,” Steve says, though there’s a spark in his eyes. He looks down for a moment at the mistletoe in his fingers, a faint flush appearing on his neck that Tony can only see because they're sitting so close. “I always knew, you know. I guess I thought you’d get over whatever it was holding you back, but I think I’m done with waiting.”

He lifts the mistletoe up so it’s over their heads. “What do you say?”

"Oh my god, how corny can you get Rogers," Tony says, but before Steve can even think about being offended, Tony reaches forwards, grabs Steve’s shoulders and kisses him.

Steve is laughing against his mouth, dropping the mistletoe and pulling Tony into his arms, right up against him. He’s solid and warm and Tony can’t quite believe what’s happening. He pulls away to look Steve in the eye, breathless and ridiculously happy.

"Okay?"

"More than okay," Steve says, and he leans in and kisses the corner of Tony's mouth, then down his jaw over his beard, fast little presses of his mouth like he's trying to map as much of Tony as he can as quickly as possible.

"This just a Christmassy thing?"

"Nope," Steve says, kissing Tony on the mouth , pulling back and then seeming to change his mind, leaning in and doing it again, pulling Tony even closer. Wow, he looks as happy as Tony feels and why have they not been doing this since the day they met?

"Thank you," Tony says against Steve's mouth, and Steve smiles, breathless.

"You're welcome," he says, and he nudges Tony's jaw with his nose. "I think I understand."

Eyes closed, Tony breathes out through his nose and presses a gentle kiss to Steve's jaw. Steve shifts against him and Tony slides his arms around Steve's neck, pressing close enough so that he can feel Steve's heartbeat against the arc-reactor.

“I’ll tell you all about it, after the kissing?” he says, and Steve grins.

"You will?"

"Yeah," Tony says, shrugging and trying to appear casual. "If you want."

“Kissing and you voluntarily talking about emotions? Well, Happy Christmas to me,” he says, and all Tony can do is roll his eyes, leaning in to kiss him again.