Tony had been trying to propose to Steve for months.
He'd thought of it one day, a rather unspectacular day, when they were sitting curled up on the couch, with Tony resting his head on Steve's shoulder while they watched The Lion King for the third time (Steve had sworn that he wouldn't cry again, but of course he did). Clint was flaked out on the floor in front of them, head resting against Natasha's knees, who was leaning on the other side of Steve. Bruce was curled up at the end of the couch next to Natasha, and Thor was laying on his stomach in the middle of the floor, staring up at the screen with rapt attention.
Steve had his arm around Tony, his hand braced lightly against the bare flesh of his arm, and Tony had one hand resting against the warmth of Steve's thigh. They always sat like that, for the entire year that they'd been together, with Tony all tucked up into a little ball next to him whenever he could (it turned out, Tony was an aggressive cuddler, and took every opportunity to have those massive tree trunk arms tight around him), and Steve holding him safe and close against his side.
It was that, the fact that Tony felt so safe in Steve's arms, that got him. Tony had never liked to consider himself to be a weak person, he could take care of himself. He'd been scared before, yes, many times. He lead a dangerous life, fear wasn't optional, but the stubbornness ingrained into his personality didn't allow him to let anyone else try to take care of him. He didn't like being coddled, and even when he craved it, he turned it away. He didn't like feeling weak, he didn't like feeling soft and like he needed someone to look after him.
With Steve, it was different. He wrapped those arms around him, those strong, muscular arms that were far more gentle than was to be expected considering their brute strength, and he felt protected, but not weak. He was Iron Man, he knew Steve knew that he was more than capable of taking care of himself. Steve was his teammate, his leader, his confidante, his best friend - he knew damn well that Tony was capable of taking care of himself.
He didn't make Tony feel safe because he didn't think Tony had the capabilities to function, he didn't protect him because he was a commodity, he didn't make Tony feel like he was being too greedy by taking his comfort and warmth. Steve gave himself willingly to Tony because he wanted to. Because he loved him.
Tony didn't mind being held when it came to Steve. In fact, he thought that he'd happily spend a lifetime in that man's arms.
That's what started it.
Sitting in the common room of the Avengers tower with a team of superheroes lounging in the pajamas, watching children's movies while they lived permanently on call for the safety of the world, he realized that this was the most content he'd ever been in his entire life, and damned if he was going to let that slip him by.
He had the ring made in the morning, and started planning right away.
See, he never had a moment of doubt about asking Steve to marry him once he decided that he was going to. Once he decided, that was it. He was going to ask.
The problem was; how?
He took Steve on an absurd amount of dates spanning the next couple months; spontaneous trips to Paris that Steve insisted were far too extravagant, entire restaurants reserved for the two of them to have a nice night alone, he even tried to cook once. That had been a disaster, he'd almost jabbed Steve in the eye with a fork, and he got tomato sauce on the ceiling. It was his first and last attempt at cooking.
Then there was the time where they had a picnic in his workshop, and because of Dummy (he was on clean-up duty for a week after that), the sprinklers went off. They, and the food that Tony had carefully picked out by Steve's taste, were completely soaked. Granted, any opportunity Tony got to see Steve laughing and in a drenched white t-shirt that clung to his muscles deliciously, he wasn't going to complain about. He was more than happy to take advantage of relieving Steve of that pesky wet shirt, and what followed was more than a little bit enjoyable.
Still. He'd been trying to propose, not bang his super enhanced boyfriend.
So he tried over and over to pop the question. He was almost down on one knee more times than he could count, but it never felt like the right time. Whether it was an interruption that threatened the end of the world, or a near blinding experience, or him simply deciding it wasn't the perfect moment and ending up pretending he needed to tie his shoe, something always getting in the way. He planned it a dozen times over, he had a speech planned perfectly in his head, learned it word for word to the point where he was sure that he was saying it in his sleep. He was so prepared. He planned it more times than he had ever planned anything in his entire life. He figured, Steve was worth the effort. He was more than worth it.
When he finally did it though, it was in a completely impulsive moment, and he was pretty sure he'd nearly given Steve a heart attack.
They'd just been called out, bleary eyed and groggy as they were dragged from their beds on Christmas Eve to save New York for the fifth time that year, a lovely Christmas present from a scorned Loki who escaped from his prison in Asgard just in time to give planet earth a nice little gift for the holidays. They'd been in such a rush to get out the door when the signals went off that Tony ended up putting on his suit in a pair of Captain America boxers, and for some reason, Steve was wearing a Santa hat for the majority of the battle. He only realized he was wearing it when the press started taking pictures and Thor ever so kindly complimented on his magnificent head gear.
Tony almost expected Steve to turn as bright red as the hat as he pulled it off, but instead he plucked it from his head with a laugh, and handed it to the nearest reporter. He certainly made her Christmas; she plopped it on her own head and finished the rest of her interview with the dopiest expression on her face. Tony was pretty sure she was going to take it home and kiss it before she went to sleep every night.
Well, Tony didn't exactly blame her. It was Steve after all.
So they saved the world again, everyone was grateful, and Christmas was salvaged from the wreckage after all.
But, Tony may or may not have been in the doghouse by the end of the battle.
See, it wasn't really his fault. There had been an attack, an energy blast that could've been potentially fatal, and it had been fired right at Steve. Tony knew they could pack quite the wallop, and Steve had had his back to it, fighting off another alien creature by battering it with his shield, and if Tony hadn't swooped in at the last minute, it would've struck him square in the back.
When it came to Steve's safety, there was never even the slightest moment of a second thought. So, of course he leapt in front of the blast, he didn't even need to think about it. Of course Steve was grateful, profusely grateful. However, Tony was in the doghouse because when he leapt in the way of the attack, he ended up with the energy blast right in the center of his chest. A direct his to the arc reactor, and he'd gone down like a sack of bricks.
The world had gone a little bit foggy, there was this immense pain in his chest as the suit flickered somewhere between functional and non functional. He ended up on his back on the debris in the street, and his ears were filled with the sounds of Steve's frantic shouting and his hands on his shoulders, shaking and trying desperately to communicate with JARVIS.
All and all, it wasn't that big of a deal. He'd had much, much worse, and he was in near perfect condition not long after. Hardly any damage done, he'd just given Steve a mighty scare when the suit shuttered and went out of commission for a moment.
So, of course, he wasn't too impressed.
It wasn't really any different from normal. They always fought about this; Tony did something reckless and Steve reamed him over it (sometimes in more way than one, angry sex was sort of a hobby of theirs). It was a regular thing, and when they all tumbled into the tower after debrief, the sun was setting on Christmas Eve to the sound of Steve and Tony arguing. Loudly.
It was normal, they did this often. They'd have a near death experience, fight it out, and then move on. They didn't shy from bickering, they'd long since accepted it as a part of their relationship.
What wasn't normal, was when Steve said;
"You have got to stop risking your life for me, I don't want to live a life without you in it Tony," his eyes blazing and his mouth set in that familiar stubborn line, and Tony just deflated a bit.
Yeah. That, instead of all the stupidly perfect planned out dates he'd put together, was the right moment to propose.
It was then, when Steve said those words with his face drawn tight with emotion, his voice raw and crackly, that it clicked.
It just figured that the right time to propose happened to be when they were sweat stained, bruised and bloodied. Tony should have know. He should have expected as much, with the lives they lead.
So with all the planning, all the careful thought and waiting for the perfect night to ask the question, he ended up blurting it out in the middle of the communal living room, surrounded by a team of battle weary superheroes.
"Marry me," he said. It was a little too loud, the words tumbling from his mouth like they couldn't stand being inside of him for a moment longer. He felt a little frantic, actually, looking at Steve standing there in his hero regalia, with grime and blood streaked across his face, and he just had to. He needed this man for forever. "Steve, marry me?"
There was a moment of complete silence, Tony could feel all the eyes in the room turning to them and staring, and it was like all the breath had been sucked out of the room. Steve was staring at him with eyes wide as saucers and his mouth gaping open just the slightest bit, like he'd forgotten to breathe or he wasn't sure how to get his mouth working again. All the concern and anger had drained out of his face, completely forgotten, and in place of it was utter shock.
Tony would be lying if he said that he wasn't scared in that moment, in that moment of dead quiet, when all the noise in the room disappeared and left behind a silence pregnant with shock. It was terrifying. He was pretty sure that he could hear his heartbeat drumming wildly in his ears, and his already limited lung capacity felt like it was being depleted at a rapid pace. He was sure that his face looked just as shocked as Steve's; hell, he hadn't expected himself to blurt out his proposal in the spur of the moment, either. He's surprised himself almost as much as he probably surprised everyone else.
So, yes, he was scared. But he wouldn't have taken it back for anything in the world.
"What?" Steve asked, his voice low and quiet, the word just the tiniest whisper, as if he dared not speak any louder, for fear of shattering the moment that had fallen heavy and thick over all of them.
"What?" Clint repeated, his voice just a tad squeaky. "Stark did you just- ow." There was a thump, and Clint's voice just dropped off with a disgruntled noise; Tony assumed that Natasha had most likely jabbed him in the ribs or something to shut him up. It didn't matter, Tony didn't pay them any attention. All he cared about was that Steve was looking at him like he was on the verge of falling, and Tony had just asked him to marry him.
Tony cleared his throat, gathered the very slimmest glimmer of courage he had left in his bones, and stepped forward. He reached out one hand, and found Steve's with his own. Steve willingly curled his hand around Tony's as he tangled their fingers together, but other than that he didn't move.
"Steve, I love you," Tony told him, and his voice sounded so raw and scratchy, but he didn't care, he didn't care. "I love you so damn much, marry me."
"Are you being serious," Steve asked, his tone cautiously hopeful, but Tony knew him; behind the frozen calm on his face, he could see something brimming behind his eyes, demanding to be set free.
Tony let out a laugh that felt dry and sharp in his throat, a little bit giddy. God, his head was spinning. "I've never been more serious about anything."
"I…" Steve swallowed hard, seeming to be slowly coming back. "Come with me," he commanded, and his fingers tightened around Tony's hand.
"Sure, great. Okay," Tony agreed shakily, and all of a sudden he was being dragged along by a very determined super-soldier. Before he was pulled out of the room, he saw all the wide, shocked eyes staring at him, and if he didn't feel like his heart was just about to jump out of his chest, he'd probably had laughed at the sight. Even Natasha looked a little bit dazed. He'd have to remember that; the day that he'd managed to shock Natasha Romanoff.
Steve didn't release them until they were standing in the kitchen, and he walked over to the window. He stood with his back to Tony for a moment, his hands resting on the table that was tucked into the little breakfast nook there. His broad shoulders were loose in his uniform, and Tony ached so badly to walk up and run his fingers over the hard ridge of his shoulder blades, let his fingers fit into the crook of his neck like he knew Steve loved. He wanted to touch him so badly, but he thought that maybe Steve just needed a moment. A moment to process. So he stayed still.
Finally, Steve turned, first with a glance over his shoulder with eyes bright and sharp with something that made Tony's stomach curl. Then, with his full body, and he leaned back against the table as though he wasn't able to hold himself up without the support.
"God you're…" Steve broke off and shook his head in disbelief. Tony wondered if he should be concerned, but he hadn't run away yet, so maybe this was okay. Maybe it was alright. "You're really proposing to me?"
"Yes," Tony confirmed, and grinned at him, wide and bright. "I've been trying to propose to you for months, actually."
"Months?" Steve demanded a little breathlessly.
"Yup," Tony said, "I even have - oh. Hold on." He held up one finger, suddenly remembering the most important part. "I have…"
He trailed off, dropping his hand to dig into the pocket in the under armor, the one where he'd kept that precious piece of metal safe and close to his skin since he'd had it made.
He found it with relieved, frantic fingers, and pulled it out. The weight in his hand was comforting as he drew it out and brought it out into the light, glinting faintly blue from the arc reactor.
He took a deep breath and stepped forward until he was standing in front of Steve, his golden hero, and slowly dropped down onto one knee. He actually heard a murmured 'oh my god,' and really, he couldn't blame Steve. He could hardly believe he was doing this either, but he was acting on impulse. That’s what Tony did, threw himself into everything head first recklessly. It seemed that even when he took the time to plan, his impulsive nature won out.
He held the ring up to Steve, and oh god he was shaking wasn't he. He could do this. He could. This was Steve, his beautiful and valiant Steve with the heart of gold who had chosen to be with the absolute mess that was Tony Stark and he had saved him in so many ways. Steve had done so much for him, the least Tony could do was get through a half decent proposal.
"Steve," he began, his voice catching on the name. "I've been carrying this around for months, but I've wanted you for longer than I can remember. We live such dangerous lives, and almost on a daily basis I'm scared of losing you, and I don't want to waste another moment not being married to you. God, I would marry tonight if you'd have me, I'd marry you right this second-"
"Yes," Steve cut in, the word sharp on an exhaled breath. Tony felt his heart constrict. "Yes, god yes. I want to marry you. I'd marry you right this second, for goodness sake, Stark, stand up and kiss me damn it."
Tony was smiling so hard his cheeks hurt when he vaulted to his feet, and he was still smiling when their lips crashed together, and he felt Steve's laugh skirt across his mouth, and they were kissing like they had thousands of times before, but this time it was while they're engaged.
Steve's hands were in his hair, on his back, cupping the back of his neck, and Tony was leaning into him like his legs didn't know how to hold him up anymore, and he just couldn't stop smiling.
He kissed Steve with everything he had, and never wanted to stop.
Finally, they broke away with laughter on their breath, and Tony thought Steve right then, happy and dazed, was the most beautiful thing in the world.
And he was his.
"Well," Steve said, his voice still giddy and happy, but the slightest bit teasing. "Are you going to put the ring on me, or what?"
"I'll definitely be doing that," Tony laughed shakily, backing away just enough so that he could reach between them to take Steve's hand in his own. With fingers trembling, he held that ring and pushed it onto Steve's waiting finger.
"It's from the first reactor," Tony told him, "the one I built in the cave. I had this whole speech prepared about how it saved my heart for you, but I went and blurted it out, so."
"It's beautiful," Steve murmured, and he looked so happy it made Tony's insides hurt.
"Yeah," Steve said, and then he bent down to kiss him. "Perfect," he whispered against his lips.
"You better have said yes, Steve, I swear to god," Bucky's voice rang through the room, and they broke apart, "that man's got money pouring out of his ears, be his damn kept man if you have to."
"Shut it, Buck," Steve shot out, but it sounded amused more than annoyed, and he was still smiling, not taking his eyes off of Tony.
"No he's right," Clint's voice joined in, "I'd marry Stark myself if he wasn't such an asshole."
With a sigh, and one last kiss to Tony's lips, Steve reluctantly turned to the doorway, seeing as it seemed like they'd been followed and currently had a nosey audience.
"You know we left the room to be alone, right?" Tony grumbled to the whole team was standing there, squished together as they spilled into the room. They were all grinning at them, especially Thor, who looked like his face was about to crack.
"I must congratulate you on your engagement," Thor exclaimed, striding forward with his arms spread wide.
"Oof," Tony said as the air was pushed out of his lungs when he and Steve both were swept up into Thor's arms. He crushed them both against his chest, and Tony squirmed indignantly while Steve just laughed.
"Put us down, Thor," Tony demanded, because his feet were no longer touching the ground, and he was so not okay with that.
Thor obliged, still grinning at them jubilantly, while the others gathered around them. Bruce patted Tony on his back, quietly wished him well. Bucky grabbed Steve by his neck in an affectionate headlock, while Natasha jabbed at his ribs.
"Congrats on not choking on your tongue, Stark," Clint smirked at him, but he slung an arm around Tony's shoulders and he looked massively pleased, so Tony knew that in his way, that was actual well wishing.
"Shall we begin with the festivities post haste?" Thor asked enthusiastically.
Tony frowned at him. "What do you mean?"
"We heard you speak of marrying before the night is out. If that is to happen, we must begin immediately," Thor explained.
"Thor," Natasha said gently, "I don't think that's what they meant."
"Yeah." Tony clapped a confused Thor on the back. "Not sure how you do things back in Asgard, but for us mere mortals, it takes a little longer than that to plan a wedding."
"Why is that?" Thor asked, looking equal parts confused and curious.
"Cake, flowers, venue, guests…" Tony trailed off with a shrug. "We're talking months in the future, bud. Be patient."
"Plus, Tony's going to need to get his outfit hand sewn in the finest silk in all the land," Bucky said flatly, and Clint snickered.
"Funny, Barnes," Tony said, and he was about to get a retort back, but then Steve was talking.
"Tony," Steve said slowly, turning to him with that expression on his face that Tony knew meant the gears were turning in his head, fine lines creasing in between his brows. "Do you want all of that?"
"All of what?"
"The…" Steve gestured with his arms wide. "The big wedding."
Tony shrugged. "Don't you?"
Steve looked at him carefully, his lips thin and his eyes were clouded with thought. "I don't know," he confessed. "I did once, maybe."
"And now?" Tony asked, not quite sure where Steve was going with this.
Steve seemed to think hard for a few moments, everyone in the room watching him carefully, and then he took Tony's hands in his own.
"I know you Tony," he said firmly, fixing Tony with that focused gaze, "and I don't need that. Like you said, I'd marry you right this second if you'd have me."
There was a beat, and then; "Where are you going with this?" Tony asked suspiciously.
"Maybe not tonight," Steve reasoned, "but what about tomorrow? Sam will be here, and so will Rhodey and Pepper… who else is there to ask?"
Tony blinked. "What?"
Steve's smile grew. "Actually, now that I think about it, it would be perfect, getting married on Christmas Day."
"I…" Tony didn't finish. It was his turn to stare stupidly in shock.
Steve squeezed his hands, and he was smiling, he was smiling so bright like the sun, his eyes were dancing and Tony thought that he might melt under his gaze. "Tony, this is my family - our family - and we have everything we need right here. We'll all be together, and I don’t want to spend a moment longer than I have to not being married to you."
He stopped talking then, and squeezed his hands tightly. He was smiling softly, hair still streaked with soot and hanging limply over his forehead, and there was a cut carved into the high arch of his cheek. He looked tired, he looked like he'd been sent down to hell today and had crawled back on his hands and knees. His uniform was torn in a few places, revealing half healed wounds that peeked out from underneath the fabric. He looked tired and beaten, just as did the rest of the team, and Tony was sure he looked the same. It was hardly ideal, or romantic, and not at all what Tony had planned, but Steve was looking at him like he'd managed to capture the essence of life in the form of one person, and he couldn't believe that he'd be lucky enough to find to find him he had better not ever let him go.
No one had ever looked at him like that, and he knew he was looking back at Steve the same way.
He wanted forever with this man, right now.
It wasn't even a question.
"So a Christmas wedding it is, then?" Tony said faintly. Steve looked like he'd swallowed the sun, and suddenly there were lips on his own, it only took a moment before Tony was kissing back with all of his might.
In the back of his mind, he wondered how he could have possibly managed to end up this happy.