Natasha doesn’t even look up from her book. “No.”
Clint frowns and puts the antlers on himself instead of Natasha.
“Ooh.” Tony feels the felt of an antler and grins. “That time of year.”
“Thought you’d be having a party, Stark,” Natasha comments, her eyes flickering up to him.
Clint is only slightly insulted that she hadn’t even looked at him until finally she glances at him, the antlers, and back, with a little smirk of what he would like to believe is appreciation. “Yeah,” he adds lamely anyway.
“We are,” Tony says, then realizes how incomplete it sounds. “Having a party. A small one. You know, Avengers plus whoever you want to invite.”
Natasha nods, crosses her legs on top of the table. “It was Steve’s idea, wasn’t it?”
Tony opens his mouth, holding up a hand as if he’s going to dispute her, but he makes an odd hissing noise instead. “Yes,” he admits warily. “It was Steve’s idea. But, hey, you know me and parties.”
“Sounds fun,” Natasha tells him thoughtfully, causing Tony and Clint to stare at her. She rolls her eyes. “I like parties and I like Steve. I’m not an alien.”
“Shut up, Barton.” It sounds fond, somehow.
Steve is surrounded by about fifty cookbooks and a few tablets, too.
“Tony!” he says when he notices Stark and Tony winces. That tone of voice is one he knows. It’s the kind of tone that means he won't be getting into the lab anytime soon.
“Yes, sweetums?” he asks and hopes that he’s at his most charmingly sarcastic, enough to put Steve off from actually asking anything without making him angry. He’s been trying to perfect it.
Steve huffs, but he’s amused. “What’s your favorite type of pie?”
Tony shrugs. “The kind I eat.” He smiles, then adds, “Pepper would know.”
Steve rolls his eyes. “For a guy who knows what he wants…”
Tony snorts. “I don’t know anything. Pepper knows. Why do you think I’m with you?”
“Because Pepper said so?”
"Exactly,” Tony tells him. “Plus, Rhodey agreed with her.”
“How romantic,” Steve replies, giving Tony’s sarcasm a run for its money.
“It’s the reason you love me,” Tony explains to Steve reasonably, ruffling his hair. “Make whatever kind you like. Or I can order every kind imaginable while you and I spend our time--”
“Tony.” It sounds almost stern, but Steve is blushing. He exhales harshly. “I want to make things,” he says. “It’s Christmas and I’m surrounded by people I care about.” He pauses meaningfully. “And you.”
The teasing does not go unnoticed, but Tony only shoots him a half-hearted glare instead of clutching his chest and going on and on about how Steve has wounded him. Steve would’ve lost a bet, his expectations so shattered in that moment. Tony starts to walk off.
“Who are you inviting?” Steve calls after Tony, finding himself trapped by his cookbooks.
“Rhodey, Pepper, the state of New York,” Tony starts rattling off as he gets farther away.
Steve laughs before considering that Tony might be serious about that last one.
Steve spends days meticulously planning and baking and although Tony pretends to be nonchalant, he wastes hours trying different recipes for the rest of the party. He had told Steve that he could just order it all in, but he has this stupid, secret hope that Steve will be incredibly impressed with him if he actually does it himself.
Tony gives up rather quickly on the overly complicated, ridiculously expensive dishes, however. He figures Steve will like simple anyway, although he frowns at the thought. He had accidentally burned his way through hundreds of dollars in ingredients because he kept getting distracted. It’s just the way his brain is working. Simple is all he’s currently capable of as Steve flits between excited and stressed as he prepares for the party.
Tony knows why Steve cares so much about this particular party though. It’s not just a Christmas or “non-denominational winter holiday” party with their close friends. It’s the big reveal.
Steve has reassured him that he’s not ashamed of their relationship, but his face sometimes says otherwise. Perhaps it’s actually just Tony reading into things, but...well, he’d like this to go well. Really well.
If Tony is more anxious than Steve about the whole thing, he never lets on to anyone but JARVIS.
Tony is fairly certain JARVIS doesn’t count, to the AI’s insult.
“Is this...good enough?” Steve asks, as if he actually wants an answer.
Tony snorts and downs his whiskey. He puts his hand on Steve’s shoulder. “You made six pies.” The look Steve gives him is enough for him to admit and amend, “That’s definitely enough. Just don’t tell Thor.”
“Really?” Steve asks, and it’s stupidly earnest, but Steve can be that way sometimes.
It makes it hard for Tony to even pretend he doesn’t have a heart--which is a charade he used to excel at. “Yes,” he assures, and gives Steve’s hand a subtle squeeze. They’re waiting for everyone to get settled and just maybe a bit tipsy before they tell them about their relationship.
It would be their engagement if Tony wasn’t so scared of disappointing Steve later. He’s still surprised that Steve even puts up with him, but he’s not about to let that go. He’s had a ring for three months and they’ve only been together for four. At least no one can pretend it’s unreasonable since he is Tony Stark. He’s expected to act impulsively, isn’t he?
Steve’s set-up lacks finesse, but everything is gorgeous. All of the Avengers had taken up their part in stringing lights across the rooms and around the giant pine tree. The ornaments may be tacky, but they’re meaningful, and Steve had agreed with Tony when he’d laughably explained that the meaning is all that matters. This had led to a rather spectacular make out session that Tony remembers fondly.
There are plates and plates of food, enough liquor and cider and any beverage Tony could think of to last at least three Thors. Thor is rapidly becoming a unit of measurement in the Avengers Tower.
“Everything looks good, Tony,” Rhodey tells him with a grin, popping some sort of toothpicked hors d’oeuvre into his mouth. “You and Steve--”
Tony shushes Rhodey, backing his best friend into the wall. He’s really trying not to screw this up now.
Rhodey rolls his eyes. “You and Steve really went all out on this party,” he says, quite purposefully. It implies nothing and Tony has enough dignity left to blush.
Pepper says nothing--to Tony--in words about the whole thing, but everything is said in the raise of her eyebrow as she makes small-talk with the others. Tony’s pretty sure there’s approval in there somewhere. He needs there to be, at least.
Thor invites Jane and Darcy, although he and Jane have called it quits. It’s unfortunate for Jane that Bruce has forgone their party to spend time with Betty as the two would’ve had splendid conversations about science, despite the differences in their specific fields. Darcy keeps texting their intern and Clint makes an odd, vaguely disgusted face when he peeks over her shoulder to read her messages.
Clint has invited Kate Bishop and he tells everyone that she's his niece, although there seems to be no factual evidence of this. She spends a great deal of time explaining why she’s the better archer and Clint doesn’t look offended in the slightest. To be fair, he does roll his eyes a few times, but it’s clear the two are close.
Natasha had stated that she would not subject any of her other friends to the likes of Tony Stark, but she’s happy with Clint and Kate.
Per Steve’s request, Sam and Bucky are both there, although Sam is less outgoing than the Avengers remember him being the last time. He seems to have been appointed Bucky’s guardian and he takes the job very seriously, but the two look like they’re having a good time anyway.
Steve smiles at Tony and it’s warm and happy and everything is going pretty damn perfect.
Which is when, of course, Loki comes crashing through the roof--down three stories and into the fucking middle of the party.
Everyone is ready for a fight and Loki looks extremely disheveled, but just as devilish as they all remember. There’s tension in the air and everyone must be picturing blood and violence and chaos, if the looks on their faces are anything to go by.
“Get the suit!” Steve shouts and scoops his shield up from under the coffee table. No one so much as bats an eye as Natasha has two guns trained on the Asgardian god of mischief and Clint and Kate have each managed to ready a bow. The civilians, if they can be called that, freeze in place, in wait. Even Sam and Bucky seem unsure whether or not they should be making a move.
Suit on, Tony’s mask is about to slot into place when Thor’s booming voice interrupts.
“Brother!” His face lights up with the broadest of grins and he runs to embrace Loki, who collapses into his arms right there. Darcy is looking up from her phone to aim a wave in Loki’s direction while Jane looks somewhat shocked. It isn’t as if it’s the first time Thor has thought his brother to be dead. “You’re alive,” Thor adds, and it’s probably meant to be a whisper, as he cradles Loki in his arms and begins rocking him.
This prevents some very creative murder.
“It’s a reunion,” Clint tells everyone, and it's almost as if he’s been assigned the responsibility of reassuring guests and Avengers alike that no harm will come to them. That it’s Clint, of all people, is likely the reason no one is quite as assured as he’d like them to be. After all, Clint has more reason than most to go after Loki. He also, apparently, has more holiday spirit.
Steve and Tony share a look. Now is, quite apparently, not the time, although the party goes on.
Former villains who have been granted temporary forgiveness--at least for the holidays--tend to take precedence over certain romantic entanglements.
It’s three days later when Tony realizes they should’ve just gone for it at the party.
Tony can almost--almost--not believe that they’re spending Christmas eve opening presents with Loki, of all people. Not that Loki is particularly involved in the process, but he is there, and it makes things just a little bit awkward.
“So, uh,” Tony starts. “There was something. Hmm.” He’s very good at being blunt when he wants to be. He can be pretty damn clever, too. The problem now is explaining things in the way he knows Steve would want them to be explained. And doing it fast because his gift is going to give away their little secret much sooner than later.
Steve had knitted a scarf for Tony and that had been vaguely embarrassing, but sweet. It isn’t necessarily a boyfriend present. Tony’s gift, however, will become highly inappropriate in the wrong context.
Steve is staring at Tony now, and so is everybody else.
Tony clears his throat and ignores the way Rhodey fervently whispers, “Really, Tony? Now?”
It’s Natasha who becomes rather impatient, however. “Get it out, Stark,” she tells him. “We haven’t got all night.” She’s at the point in the holiday in which one drinks straight from the liquor bottle, so Tony can’t blame her. Really, she’s very sober, all things considered.
Tony looks at Steve. Steve looks back at Tony.
Tony is trying so hard to think of the right way to phrase it. “I’m banging Captain America” might be true, but it doesn’t really have the right sentiment to it.
“Cap and me,” Tony starts, then bites his lip. “Steve.”
“We’re--” Steve begins, to fix things for him, but it’s Tony whose words ring out loud and clear.
“Will you just marry me already?”
It isn’t what he meant to say.
Everyone goes silent to stare at Tony and, in his peripheral vision, Tony is certain that Pepper is there grimacing, but then all he sees is Steve.
Steve, whose smile could light up the entire universe. “Yeah, Tony,” he says, then clears his throat. “Yes.”
Tony has to scrabble around to find the ring before Steve opens a gift that may or may not be a dildo.
The ring is on and the two kiss and, thanks to Darcy, the whole thing has spread across any and all social media by Christmas morning.
Like the most unexpected of miracles.