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You Know Me Now

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Tony doesn’t usually do Christmas.  In his view, there isn’t much to do. He’ll get Pepper something (or rather Pepper will get Pepper something, and something for Happy and the rest of the staff as well, and if he remembered he used to send whisky for Obadiah but that’s kind of a moot point now) and he’ll attend the ridiculous holiday parties until he can slip away with a girl or two on his arm, and then he’ll spend the actual day holed up in his lab working, with the accomplished goal of never actually noticing it’s Christmas. Christmas had been miserable as a child, all stiff collars and stiff smiles and his mother having stiff drinks.

But this year is different: this year the Avengers have been together for eight months and someone--Tony actually isn’t sure who, but he suspects Clint-- had the horrible idea of doing Secret Santa, which of course required a private holiday party to go with. So here’s Tony at a party surrounded by people he doesn’t actually hate and who apparently don’t hate him (though it’s hard to be sure with Natasha), and that is enough to make him need to get rip-roaring drunk.

He’s making good headway by the time they begin opening the presents, which is important because Tony doesn’t want to be conscious for this. Tony hasn’t given anyone gifts in years, doesn’t have the faintest clue how to pick out something another person might like. The last time he tried was with Pepper and the strawberries and look at how that had turned out.

So he’s not really surprised when Bruce unwraps the model 5700FX StarkPhone and looks at him with his eyebrows raised in that carefully controlled manner he has.

“Really, Tony?” says Clint, and Steve is looking at him with Quietly Disapproving eyes. 

“Hey, that’s next year’s model!  People would kill to get their hands on that thing,” says Tony, gesturing with his glass.  It sloshes because it is full, and that is a problem so Tony drinks some of it.  When he finishes they’re all still looking at him, so he sighs and rolls his shoulders a bit.  “Okay, don’t give me that, I can’t take all the collective judging that is going on right here.  Honestly, none of you give me any credit.  That,” he informs them, “is made of adamantium and is 100% Hulk-proof.  Okay, 98%, but there’s only so much I can do to protect against a thousand-pound rage monster.  Go on, try it--actually please don’t, I just got these floors redone, but you can take my word for it, seriously, the dents are never going to come out of the wall.”

He isn’t expecting anyone to actually listen to him, but Bruce is turning the phone over in his hands and looking significantly more interested, and Steve is now giving Tony a Quietly Approving look and fuck he really has not had enough to drink for this. 

“Thank you,” Bruce says when he looks up again, and when was the last time anybody said that to Tony Stark that sincerely when he wasn’t in the Iron Man suit?

“Well, hey, can’t have you throwing money at the competition, it’s bad for my stock,” Tony says, and raises his glass in a toast.  “Cheers.”

And then his glass is empty and that’s all kinds of unacceptable so he goes in search of a refill.  When he gets back, Natasha is wearing a beautiful and possibly lethal new necklace and everyone looks vaguely like they’ve been waiting for him.  There’s only one present left under the (ridiculously, inappropriately large) tree.  It’s flat and rectangular and large, and Tony knows even as Thor hands it to him grandly that it’s a picture of himself, or worse, of his father, and he can feel his brow tensing before he even opens it.

It’s not a picture of his father.  It’s a painting, a portrait of a woman, perhaps in her mid-twenties, with her blond hair twisted back in victory rolls and a charming, vaguely wistful smile on her pretty face.  Tony has never seen the woman who looks like this, but he recognizes her instantly.  His father had never saved older pictures of her, he didn’t believe in sentimentalism; but Tony had always wished he’d had some, wished he could have known what his mother had looked like before he was born.  Before she was old and tired and vacant with a martini always in her hand.

He finally tears his gaze away from the painting to look at Steve--because it could only be from Steve--who had been smiling when Tony first tore into the wrapping but now is beginning to look distinctly nervous. 

“I noticed you don’t have any pictures of--of your family around, and I thought you might... like one.”  When Tony says nothing, he looks even more distressed and continues, “If it’s inappropriate, I apologize, I shouldn’t have presumed--”

“No, no, it’s, um.”  Tony clears his throat.  “It’s good.  Thank you,” he adds belatedly.

Steve’s relief is palpable.  “I hope the likeness is all right.  I had to paint it from memory and I only met her a few times.”

Tony stares at the picture again.  “It’s perfect,” he hears himself say.  He stands, the painting wrapped under one arm and his drink clutched in the other like a lifeline.  “I’ll just go... put this, uh, somewhere safe.”

He’s going to need a million more drinks to deal with this.

+++

By eleven, Tony is a little wobbly as he returns from the bar to reclaim his spot just to the left of the kitchen door.  There is mistletoe dangling from the doorframe, and Tony has spent the better part of the last hour positioned just out of sight, ready to pounce like a ninja.  A kissing ninja.  It sounds like something Natasha ought to be, but Tony has been having pretty good luck with it himself. 

He’s already caught Thor (an amazing experience that also made him fear for his life), Clint twice (Clint was horrified both times, which made it even better), and almost Natasha, but she’d narrowed her eyes at him and he’d decided it wasn’t worth the risk of bodily harm. Bruce has been pointedly avoiding the mistletoe, which Tony thinks is probably wise--he wouldn’t want to be responsible for Bruce getting upset.

So he’s pleased when it’s Steve who walks past next, returning from the kitchen with a fresh drink in his hand.  Tony reaches out a hand as he passes and grabs him by the lapels of his green plaid shirt (the most Christmassy shirt he had, he’d said, and Tony thought it was very noble that he hadn’t laughed in his face), reels him in and plants one right on his mouth.  Steve very nearly drops his drink in surprise.  But Captain America is nothing if not a good sport, and he clearly remembers the mistletoe, because instead of freaking out he opens his mouth to Tony and slides his tongue along Tony’s lower lip, and wow, Tony did not know they kissed like that in the forties.  He tightens his grip on Steve’s half-open collar, trying to pull him closer, and becomes vaguely aware of wolf-whistles on the periphery of his consciousness. 

Right: mistletoe.  He catches Steve’s lip with his teeth before he finally breaks away, turns to their audience, and bows, listing slightly to the left. 

Steve looks embarrassed, but not as utterly mortified as Tony might have expected. He feels strangely relieved by this.  On the other hand, if Steve were properly enjoying the party, he wouldn’t be embarrassed at all.  Clearly this needs to be remedied.

“Steve!” Tony announces.  “I bet I can get you drunk.”

Steve shakes his head in that placating way of his.  “I can’t get drunk, Tony.  We’ve been over this.”

Tony waves a dismissive hand. “You just haven’t been drinking enough. Try and keep up with me, that’ll get you trashed.” To prove it, he tosses his current drink back and holds out the glass for another. Clint, ever efficient, fills it for him, then takes a swig right from the bottle.

Steve looks vaguely horrified, though whether by Tony’s proposition or Clint’s manners, Tony’s not sure.  “Tony, no,” he says, removing the glass from Tony’s hand and making it vanish somehow.

“Fine, then.  Not me.  Try and keep up with Thor.”

“Now that is a true challenge, my friend!” laughs Thor, and he claps Tony on the back so hard he almost falls over, if not for Steve’s hold on his arm. 

Steve sighs, but he looks at Tony, and Tony gives him his most winsome smile.  Steve sighs again and turns to Thor.  “Do you even have a liver?” he asks wryly. 

“I know not,” Thor booms, “but if this is something that can be determined by drinking, I am more than prepared to find out!”

Steve lifts his glass, which he has by the miracle of the super-serum managed to retain without spilling a drop.  “I’m going to regret this, aren’t I,” he says, and downs the whole thing. 

+++

It turns out that Steve probably can get drunk but it would require more eggnog than even Tony Stark has on tap.  Steve calls it quits when they run out, citing responsible drinking and also if you think he’s going to drink that paint thinner you call booze, Mr. Stark, you’re sorely mistaken.  Thor has no such qualms, although he declares repeatedly that Asgardian mead is a significantly better brew than Tony’s premium imported vodka and also at least four times as potent.  Tony thinks this is an unfair comparison, and also just unfair.

At any rate, Steve is looking vaguely flushed around the edges and Tony would posit that he’s at least a little tipsy.  He keeps shying away when Tony tries to talk to him, or staring at the blue glow of the arc reactor just visible above his collar where he’s loosened his tie and top two buttons.  Tony can tell he wants to touch it. Everybody does when they’re drunk.  Or tipsy, whatever.  And he’s no longer pulling hilarious faces of dismay at the music, which is Clint’s mix of the trashiest Christmas carols known to mankind. 

Tony, meanwhile, is definitely more than a little tipsy.  He’s at that point where the hours begin to blur, and he has absolutely no idea what time it is or how long he’s been sprawled on the sofa.  It doesn’t really matter--he’s not sure why he would want to be anywhere else.  It’s very comfortable here, and he can see the whole living room and most of the kitchen.

Tony surveys his domain, feeling something strangely akin to pride.  Thor is singing karaoke loud enough to make the windows rattle; Bruce is (despite Thor) passed out under the Christmas tree (Natasha, a ninja even while drunk, has managed to affix a large red bow to his head; at least, Tony assumes she’s drunk since she’s had nearly as much to drink as he has, but he can’t actually tell, except for that bow on Bruce’s head; she must be drunk).  Clint and Natasha are now... actually he doesn’t know where they are, which probably means he doesn’t want to know.

He’s so very comfortable that it takes him a moment to register why it feels like something is missing.  Where’s Steve?

Getting up takes effort, so he slides sideways on the sofa and tips his head backwards over the arm so he can see the hallway upside-down.  The perspective makes everything look strange, so when he sees a light go on in the room across the way, he has to think about it to remember that that’s the coat room.  Wherever Clint and Natasha are, he doubts they would turn on a light, so it must be Steve.

It takes a few attempts, but Tony manages to leverage himself off the sofa and hobble into the hall.  He’s having trouble staying upright; maybe his leg fell asleep or something.

Steve is pulling on his ugly brown jacket, the one Tony hates because it hides the sharp lines of Steve’s body and that is a crime.  Tony has tried to explain this on numerous occasions, but Steve insists he doesn’t care.  But perhaps he does: when he sees Tony standing there, he stops and looks vaguely guilty.

“I was going to... go for a walk,” he says, by way of explanation.

“But, baby, it’s cold outside,” says Tony, and Steve looks both embarrassed and confused before he manages to place the reference.

“Seriously, Cap, it’s cold out there, like really cold, you know, snowing; you don’t want to go out in that.”  Tony gestures wildly out the window where it is decidedly not snowing.  “And it’s dark, did I mention dark?  And by ‘walk’ you mean ‘jog around the whole of Central Park,’ I know you do.”

Steve shrugs.  “That is a walk for me.”

“But--cold!  And dark!  And muggings--you’ll get mugged!”

“You think?”  Steve actually looks hopeful.

“No,” says Tony firmly.  “No mugging.  I forbid it.”  He tries to push Steve back and he shouldn’t actually be able to because Steve is built like a nuclear bunker, but Steve takes a step back.  Tony takes a step forward and then realizes he doesn’t actually know if he’s herding Steve in the right direction.  He looks up to get his bearings and they’re under the mistletoe again, so it only makes sense to kiss Steve.

Steve pulls back in surprise. “Tony, what--”

“Mistletoe,” says Tony, pointing vaguely upwards.

Steve looks up. “Tony, that’s a lightbulb.”

Is it?  Oh.  Tony shrugs and leans in to kiss him again.

Steve doesn’t pull away this time; he moves into it like he can’t quite help himself, opening his mouth to Tony, hands creeping to his waist of their own accord.  His grip holds Tony steady as he deepens the kiss, nothing about him hesitant until Tony starts undoing the buttons on his shirt.

“Tony,” he mumbles, and it sounds like a half-hearted protest, so Tony needs to reassure him.

He cups Steve’s jaw in his hand and tries to stroke his lip with his thumb, though he ends up more just poking Steve in the mouth. “Good Steve.  Nice Steve,” he says.  He realizes he might be more than a little drunk for this.

“You’re going to pass out and I don’t think you realize how unfair that is.”

Steve is pouting and really that just shouldn’t be allowed.  “Hush, taking advantage.”

“I think technically I’d be the one considered to be ‘taking advantage.’”

Tony barks out a laugh, because there is nothing more hilariously ludicrous than the idea of Captain America taking advantage of anyone.  Captain America probably couldn’t even take advantage of discount vouchers, or tax deductions.  And certainly not Tony.  Tony is a master of, of advantages.  Advantages, like... He shoves his thigh between Steve’s legs and rubs up against him, enjoying the delicious way Steve’s breath catches between his teeth. 

“Tony,” Steve groans.  “Tony, you’ll never remember this in the morning.”

Nonsense, Tony thinks.  How could he ever forget this, the feeling of Captain America on his lips, against his cock.  Steve’s neck is exposed, and he licks a stripe down the long line of his throat and then bites and sucks at the spot right at his pulse, leaving the most vibrant mark he can.  “I’ll remember that,” he purrs in Steve’s ear.  He can feel Steve’s reaction against his leg.

Steve groans and closes his eyes.  “That’ll be gone in twenty minutes.  Superhealing, remember?”

Tony presses closer.  “Then put one on me,” he says.

But Steve pulls away.  He puts his hands on Tony’s shoulders and holds their bodies apart, but he rests their foreheads together and laughs a bit.  It’s the first time Tony’s ever heard him sound the slightest bit out of breath.  “No, Tony,” he says.  “Not tonight.”

“Okay, fine, but ‘not tonight,’ though, that means future, right?  How ‘bout tomorrow, I’m gonna hold you to that, okay, don’t think I’ll forget.”

Steve smiles at him, and it’s warm, but Tony thinks it’s also a little bit sad, like Steve doesn’t really believe him.  “Sure,” Steve says, “Tomorrow.  Just say the word.”

Tony opens his mouth to reply, but Steve lets go of him and steps back, and that’s when Tony discovers that he doesn’t actually remember how to stand.

+++

Two Advil and a glass of Tony’s favorite hangover remedy are sitting on the bedside when he wakes up and his head feels like ground glass.  This is why Pepper is his favorite.  “Pep, you’re m’favit,” he mumbles into his pillow. 

“Actually, sir, it was Captain Rogers who brought the remedies for you,” replies JARVIS as Tony forces himself upright and dry-swallows the pills.  “Twenty-six minutes ago.  If you will recall, Ms. Potts is in currently in Los Angeles for a board meeting.”

“Steve did this?”  Tony eyes the glass warily.

“I instructed him in how to prepare it, sir.  I believe it will meet your exacting standards.”

Tony gives it another suspicious glance and figures it can’t possibly be worse for him than everything he put in his body last night.  He chugs the whole thing, and it does seem to taste the same as usual.  Perhaps even a little less bitter. 

He leaves the empty glass on the bedside and throws back the covers, and every nerve in his brain protests.  Tony ignores them.  He’s had worse.  He’s definitely had worse, and gone to press conferences afterwards.  Nothing that coffee and a pair of sunglasses won’t fix.  Tony is pretty much the master at functioning through hangovers.

There is a painting of his mother staring at him over the foot of the bed, exactly where he’d left it. “Oh shit,” he says, “Ohshitohshitohshit.”.

He goes looking for Steve.  Well, he goes looking for coffee, but the intent to find Steve after coffee: the intent is there.  Unfortunately he finds them not quite in that order, as Steve is already at the coffee machine and effectively blocking Tony from getting coffee without acknowledging him first.

“Hey, Tony,” Steve says too cheerfully.

“Um, hi,” says Tony, hesitating in the doorway.  He tries to look around Steve at the coffee machine and wonders if he can get to it without initiating conversation.  It must be obvious, because Steve makes his I’m-only-kind-of-laughing-at-you smile and brings over Tony’s giant mug, which he has already poured.  The coffee is perfect (of course it is, JARVIS makes it) and Tony drinks half of it in one go.  Then, because he has his coffee and Steve is here, he decides he may as well kill two birds with one stone.

“Listen, about last night--” he starts, and suddenly Steve looks incredibly guarded.  But Tony has to keep going; he’s always been unable to shut up when he should, and in this case, he’s pretty sure, he shouldn’t.  “You probably think I’m a total jerk--and, I mean, that’s fair, I am a jerk quite regularly, but not always, and I really didn’t mean to be last night, not that that’s an excuse, but intent, I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to count for something--”

“Tony,” Steve says, in that tone he always uses when he wants Tony to get to the point.

“Right, sorry, just, you caught me off guard, nobody ever--they always remember my dad, always talk about him like he was the height of human achievement, but nobody ever remembers my mother.  I think... I think half the time he didn’t remember her.  So I just... Thank you, you know.  For the picture.”

“Oh,” says Steve, “The picture.”

“The picture,” Tony agrees.  He rocks on his heels a bit; talking about feelings always makes him feel like he’s going to break out in hives.  “It’s... maybe the nicest thing anyone’s ever given me.”

Steve looks a bit stricken by that, like he doesn’t know whether to be flattered or heartbroken.  “Well, I... you’re welcome.  I mean, it’s really the least I could do.  For a friend.”  Then he coughs and looks away, like there’s something more, like he was expecting something else.  Tony runs through the conversation in his head, trying to figure out what he might have done wrong.  And then he sees Steve’s eyes flick upwards, and he remembers that they’re standing in the kitchen doorway, which is still hung with the mistletoe of last night.

“Oh,” says Tony, “that.  I don’t think we really need to talk about that, do we?” and leans in to kiss him.

It’s so much better than the half-remembered sensations of last night.  Steve kisses like he fights: determination, focus, skill, but also a degree of reserve, like he knows that if he doesn’t hold back he could seriously injure someone.  Tony can’t decide if it’s the restraint or the potential that makes it seriously hot.  He keeps pulling the kiss deeper and deeper, and he’s panting a little when he finally breaks them apart. 

“You promised ‘tomorrow’ but it was definitely after midnight at the time.  Are we working on a military date-time standard, or can I cash that promise in now?  Because I gotta be honest, I would prefer now.”

Steve huffs a surprised laugh.  “I’m amazed you remember anything of that.”

“Years of practice,” says Tony.  “Also I checked the security footage.”

Steve shoves him, albeit lightly, to which Tony retaliates by pulling him in for another kiss.  This one moves more slowly and Steve settles against him like he fits, one hand sliding down to rest on the plane of his hip; the other rescuing Tony’s forgotten coffee mug from his fingers and transporting it to the nearby counter without mishap.  A multitasker, Tony thinks.  He wonders how far that ability can extend; what he’ll have to do to gain Steve’s complete attention.  Steve’s never been distracted in battle, never seemed overwhelmed by too much data--and given how much has been new to him in the past nine months, that’s pretty incredible.  But Tony Stark is nothing if not up to a challenge.

“You were right, though,” Tony says, biting at Steve’s lip.

Steve hums in response, which is vaguely adorable.  “Mm, yeah?”

“It was completely unfair of me to pass out.”  Tony grins wickedly. “Think I can make it up to you?”