He was the Man with the Plan, right? Or, as Tony liked to needle, The Star Spangled Man with the Plan. Damn him, anyway. Who said he could have a birthday?
Steve gritted his teeth and sighed, slumped over dejectedly on the couch that had been put into Tony’s working area. Dummy was petting his head, his servos whining in sympathy.
‘What do you get a guy who has everything? Or can make anything? This is his first birthday with us together as a couple. I want it to be just right,’ murmured Steve as he shaded in the drawing on his sketchpad. As always, he retreated to doing what soothed him when he was working out a problem in his head. The feel of the pencil in his hand and the scent of paper and graphite had always inspired him; too bad it didn’t provide him with a clue as to what to get Tony for his birthday. Or what to do for his birthday.
‘Captain Rogers, perhaps you might want to ask others who know sir. You might get ideas from them and figure out what you’d like to do,’ Jarvis suggested.
Steve smiled for the first time. ‘Jarvis, you’re a certified genius! Thanks!’ he complimented as he put the pencil into the supplies box and flipped the cover shut of his sketchbook.
‘My pleasure. I’m sure sir would be happy with whatever you decided upon. Good luck,’ said Jarvis.
Steve patted Dummy on his arm, stroking the smooth metal and grinned when Dummy bumped against his hand. ‘I’ll be back later, Dummy. I have some people to talk to for birthday ideas.’
Dummy gave his hand one final nudge which Steve interpreted as ‘good luck’ and rolled back over to the project he was supposed to be working on for Tony. Steve went out the door, thinking of who he should talk to first.
‘Aw, come on, Barton. It’s not like this is rocket science or anything,’ argued Steve as he nudged Clint’s arm.
Clint swore as his space marine died a horrible death. ‘Damn it! Look what you did, Rogers,’ he complained.
Thor chuckled. ‘He saved you from an ignominious death, my friend. I would have had you on your knees, begging for mercy when I fought you next. For you have yet to have beat me in one on one combat. I remain the victor.’
‘Gah! What did I do to deserve this? What? Was it that time I shot you in the ass, Rogers? And you went down because the arrow was tipped with one of Tony’s experimental sleep agents? Or was it the time Tony bribed me to put that little something in your milk so that he could keep count of how many times you could get it back up? You know, he said, ‘I wanna see how many times Rogers can raise his ‘Jolly Roger’’ with that cackle he has and we bet on it. I won,’ finished Clint smugly.
Steve’s mouth just dropped open. Thor chuckled again, his amusement ripening as he took in Clint’s horrified expression.
‘I...I wasn’t supposed to tell you any of that,’ he whispered, flinging both hands over his eyes. ‘Thor, buddy, hit me with one of your lightning bolts. Make it quick and merciful. I beg of you.’
Thor patted Clint’s arm. ‘Nay, good archer. You will take your lumps as is proper from our leader. I will not use Mjolnir in such a way.’ Thor’s eyes twinkled as he turned to Steve. ‘You are asking for suggestions? You wish to make Tony’s birthday a glorious thing, befitting for one such as he? That is a hard task, for he is known to indulge in many frolics and has the appetite of a true warrior.’
Clint took in Steve’s crestfallen look and said, ‘Thor...you’re not helping, here. I don’t think Steve needs to be reminded of Stark’s many appetites.’ He snickered and then yelped as Steve reached over and pinched him in the arm. ‘Ow! That hurt!’ he groused, rubbing his arm.
‘I just want to make this birthday special. It’s the first birthday I can celebrate with him, as his boyfriend. I want him to know that he...he means a lot to me,’ finished Steve.
Thor and Clint stared at Steve who blushed from the top of his head straight on down to his chest but didn’t drop his gaze.
‘OK, then. He likes music. Maybe, you know, buy him a music company?’ suggested Clint.
Thor stared at Clint in amazement. ‘I believe he owns three,’ he reminded Clint.
‘Oh. Well, I don’t know. I make the man happy by whining about needing new types of arrows. And bows. And explosives. He does love his explosives.’ Clint smiled, clearly remembering the different types of arrows he’d tested out for Tony.
Thor patted Steve’s shoulder. ‘My friend, the fact that he loves you and knows you love him is gift enough. I am sure he’d be happy with dinner and a movie. Even dessert.’
Steve smiles. ‘Thanks, Thor. I appreciate the input. I’m going to talk to Natasha. Where is she?’ he asked Clint.
‘Down in the gym,’ said Clint.
Natasha was doing bicep curls when Steve came into the gym. She had to have been doing an exercise routine for a while before he came down as her hair was plastered against her neck and sweat stains could be seen at the small of her back and down her front. Steve took time to marvel anew at the fact that even when she was at her sweatiest, she still was one of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. She was also one of the most deadly women he knew and her beauty along with her skills was a one two punch to the senses.
She smiled up at him as she carefully set the bar back down, and then grabbed the towel next to her and began wiping her face and arms off.
‘Hey, Natasha...got a couple of minutes?’ asked Steve.
‘Sure! I need a rest, anyway. What can I do for you?’ she asked him.
‘Well, Tony’s birthday is coming up and I...I’m trying to figure out what to get him. I want to make it special...it’s our first birthday together,’ he said to her.
‘Ahhh...that’s sweet. He will be a happy Iron Man,’ she said.
‘What can I get him? I mean, he has...well, everything,’ Steve finished with a pained smile on his face.
Natasha was silent for a moment. ‘He likes it when you bake things. Perhaps a cake?’ she suggested. ‘Pepper would know his favourite flavours and icings, I bet.’
Steve grinned. ‘That’s a great idea! Pepper might have other ideas, too. Thanks a lot, Nat. I appreciate it.’
Natasha nodded her head, putting down the towel and picking up the bar again. ‘He’s lucky to have you, Steve,’ she told him.
Steve blushed and she laughed softly. ‘Good luck,’ she said as she started another set.
‘Thanks,’ he said as he left the gym.
Steve called Pepper and made an appointment to see her because he knew how insanely busy she was and he didn’t want to add to the stress. On the day of the appointment, he went straight to her office and knocked on her door.
Pepper smiled at him happily. ‘Hi there! It’s been a while. How have you been?’
Steve hugged her, being careful not to wrinkle her suit, and shrugged. ‘I’m doing alright. Sorry I haven’t seen you lately. We’ve been busy doing Avengers stuff and I know you’re caught up with Tony’s latest thing.’
Pepper snorted laughter. ‘“Latest thing” indeed. That’s a good way to describe it. I swear, I should have Jarvis block the tech sites from him but we both know that would end poorly. Would you like something to drink? Some tea? Water?’ she asked as she made her way to the mini bar in the corner of her office.
‘I’ll take some water, thanks,’ said Steve. He thanked her as she gave him a glass filled with ice water and she sat across from him, her attention on him.
‘Tony’s birthday is coming up and I really...I want to get him something special,’ Steve said. ‘Natasha suggested I bake him a cake and I can do that. I know he likes chocolate. But she thought you would have other ideas.’
Pepper’s eyes softened as she studied him. ‘You’re good for him, Steve. He’s happy. I know he still has...issues...with relationships and trust...I would know better than anyone, right? But...he’s happy and I know it’s because you make it work with him. I haven’t thanked you for that. I didn’t want to have you feel I’m being condescending or presumptuous, either. And I wanted to give you both time to get used to being together. But now? Now, thank you, Steve. I still love him in my own way. I always will. But please know that I wouldn’t get between you and him. My time with him is done. It was great but I wasn’t the one for him. And I’m ok with that. I don’t want you to feel as though you have to worry.’
Steve put his hand over hers, squeezing gently. ‘Thank you, Pepper. I never thought there was anything to worry about. You are an amazing person and Tony is so lucky to have you as his CEO and ally and friend. He cares about you and I know he loves you. It doesn’t bother me,’ he said and stops and they both think of a beautiful brunette woman with red lipstick and gorgeous eyes. ‘Love is everlasting. And there’s enough of it to go around,’ he told her.
Pepper’s eyes filled with tears. ‘Oh, God. Now I know why this works,’ she said to him, with a watery chuckle. She wipes her tears away with her thumb. ‘OK, then. This is awkward and I don’t mean for it to be...the ex meeting the current person. I’m sorry,’ she said.
Steve said, ‘You have nothing to be sorry about. It’s probably weird because of me. I don’t always find the right words to say, sometimes.’
Pepper laughed. ‘I think you do just fine, Steve. OK, then. Cake flavours, right? And icing and stuff?’ she asks him.
Steve gives her hand one last squeeze. ‘Yeah. Let’s talk cake,’ he says with a grin and she returns it to him, her eyes and smile bright.
Steve gets back to the tower, feeling happier than he had been in a long time. He was going over cake ideas in his head when he bumped into Coulson who had been berating Clint over the latest arrow incident. Steve shook his head. He thought Clint would have learned by now that he couldn’t keep anything hidden from Coulson but Clint kept trying and he kept relearning that pulling the wool over Coulson’s eyes never worked. Ever.
‘Sorry, Agent Coulson!’ he exclaimed.
Coulson smiled at him. ‘That’s ok. Everything OK, Captain Rogers?’ he asked.
‘Everything’s fine. Do you know where Tony is?’ asked Steve.
‘He’s with Director Fury right now. They’re wrangling over some tech that R&D was working on and Tony says were taken from his lab. He’s probably going to be grumpy when he comes back,’ warned Coulson.
Steve groaned. Tony would be on a tear when he came back and would disappear into his workshop. The music would start up and he’d work off his steam by designing something bigger and better. That and he’d call Pepper to have her start paperwork to block whatever it is SHIELD was trying to replicate. It was a routine that they all knew by heart, every step.
‘I appreciate the warning, Agent Coulson. I’ll see where he’s at when he gets back. So since he isn’t here, I have a question for you,’ he said and grinned as Coulson raised his eyebrows at him in curiosity.
‘Sure. What can I help you with?’
‘Tony’s birthday is coming up...and...I’m getting ideas for presents and what to do for him. What do you suggest?’ asked Steve.
Coulson gave him the biggest smile he’d ever seen from the man. ‘A taser. And the first season of “Super Nanny.”’
And Steve, after staring at him for a few seconds, laughed until tears came into his eyes.
Coulson was correct; Tony was beyond grumpy when he came back. He muttered, ‘Goddamn pirate, trying to take my treasures!’ sounding a little like Gollum, that odd creature in the movie that Steve’d watched last week during movie night. Tony stormed his way down to the workshop, pausing only to give Steve a peck on the lips. ‘Let me work for a while,’ he told him. ‘I need to just...work. OK?’
Steve gently pushed him towards his workshop. ‘Go on, then. I’ll bring dinner down later,’ he said.
‘Yeah...yeah...that sounds good. Later,’ Tony mumbled, his mind already fixed on something else.
Steve sighed and then went to call up Director Fury on the video screen in his and Tony’s bedroom.
Director Fury stared at Steve for several seconds without saying a word. His face twitched slightly and Steve figured that was his normal reaction when he heard the name, ‘Tony Stark.’
‘You’re asking me?’ Fury finally said, his voice incredulous.
Steve shrugged. ‘I figure I should talk to the least biased person around and other than Justin Hammer, you’re the one.’
Fury stared at Steve in silence again and then, to Steve’s astonishment, broke out in low chuckles. ‘That’s good...and true....alright, soldier, you want me to put my thinking cap on?’
‘You want to think this over?’ asked Steve.
Fury waved his hand negatively, slowly. ‘No. I don’t need to think it over. That was a rhetorical question. Stark likes parties. Throw him a party. Add alcohol. Music. People.’
Steve was shaking his head ‘no’ before Fury was through. ‘Tony actually abhors those functions. I want him to feel comfortable. I want him to feel like...he’s with friends.’
Fury’s eyebrows raised. ‘Hates them, huh? Hides it well,’ he commented.
Steve looks him right in the eye. ‘Yes, he does. And I’d not take advantage of that, if I were you. If he’s magically invited to attend more mandatory get togethers than he already is, you might find Thor and Clint along with him, just to make sure things are on the up and up.’
Fury winced. ‘You know just where to hurt a man, don’t you? We’re still dealing with the last time Thor came to a public soiree. Not to mention Barton is just itching to tranq someone in the ass for no good reason.’ A deep sigh and then, ‘You don’t have to worry about anything, Rogers. The man is safe. So, no big party, then? Well, have a small get together. Just his closest friends. A few associates. Where he feels comfortable yet he’s given recognition. He might like that.’
Steve nodded his head. ‘Thank you for your input, Director. It’s much appreciated. Expect an invite.’
Fury winced. ‘I should have seen that one coming a mile away.’
‘Hey, you wanted the strategist, you got him. Pay the piper,’ teased Steve.
‘Not sure I like this particular tune, Rogers. But send it to me. Is Stark still running around, doing a poor imitation of Banner on an off day?’ asked Fury.
‘He’ll calm down. It really wasn’t smart of the R&D department to ask his opinion on those specs but they’ll learn, eventually,’ said Steve.
Fury shook his head. ‘I wonder. Later, Rogers,’ he said.
Steve nodded his head at him. ‘Later,’ he agreed and cut the connection.
Speaking of Banner, Steve went to the floor where Bruce had his own special lab. Tony had helped Bruce design a lab that went beyond his wildest dreams. He was hoping to concoct a cure for the Other Guy. That and he was involved in a dozen projects that ate up his time yet kept him blissfully content. Steve wondered if Bruce recognized his life, anymore. No more needing to run. No more hiding. It explained, perhaps, why he was so in control of the Other Guy now. He was safe and maybe...maybe the Other Guy felt safe as well. Finally. There hasn’t been an incident in over a year of Bruce hulking out beyond his control. He’d been able to choose to let the Other Guy out. And, when the need for his help was done, Bruce transformed back, panting yet heartachingly hopeful that he was a step closer to being done forever.
‘Dr. Banner!’ called out Steve as he entered the lab.
Bruce raised his head from a bench a few feet away. ‘Come on in! How are things?’ he asked.
‘Good. Well, mostly good. Tony had a meet and greet with Fury again,’ explained Steve as Bruce looked at him, questioningly.
Bruce rolled his eyes. ‘I’m sure that went well for the civilized world. Wait. Should I be panicking?’ he asked, half serious.
‘At ease, doctor. Tony’s playing in his workshop right now and I am taking the opportunity to come ask you a couple of things.’
Bruce spread out his hands and leaned back in his chair. ‘Ask away,’ he invited.
‘Great! Thanks,’ said Steve and then explained his mission for making Tony’s birthday the best one he’d ever had. Bruce listened intently, his eyes never leaving Steve’s face. When Steve was done listing out all the ideas everyone else had (and Bruce had chuckled at Thor and Clint’s contributions), Bruce was quiet.
Steve waited patiently. He knew Bruce needed time to think things over and he wasn’t in a hurry. He checked his watch. Nope, dinner wasn’t for a couple of hours yet and since Coulson was making his famous casserole, Steve wasn’t worried about it being inedible. The one time Thor made dinner was an...interesting...experience.
Steve shifted his thoughts to look at Bruce as he cleared his throat before preparing to speak. He wondered what Bruce would have in mind.
‘I like the idea of a small get together. And cake. And music. And Tony getting gifts from us. Maybe we could see if Barton would shoot some arrows into the air with firecrackers strapped onto them or something. I could come up with a chemical compound that would do a great job, actually. That would make him and Tony happy. Explosives, indeed,’ he said, shaking his head with a rueful smile.
‘Here’s the most important thing, Steve. I’ve hung around Tony for a while now. Science bros and all that, yeah...but I’ve had time to watch him. He...he’s needy. He needs attention and time. He needs affection. He needs validation. I know you knew his father and I don’t want to cast a shadow on the man but something happened there when Tony was growing up. Something happened and he doesn’t think he’s good enough. For anything. Or anyone. He hides it. He hides it really well. The arrogance and the selfish boy behavior is a good smoke screen.’
Steve nods his head. He knew Bruce would get it and have some insightful thoughts and observations. ‘Yeah. He does a good job of hiding it. When I first met him...when we had that fight on the helicarrier....’ Steve’s voice trails off and he winces. That wasn’t a proud moment for him or for any of them, really. Barton was compromised, everyone else save for Thor was sniping at each other. Thor was being a little too smug and Bruce...well, yeah. It was when things fell apart and sometimes, Steve felt cold all over when he thinks of how close it came to them throwing it all away. His mind snapped back to what Bruce was saying.
‘So you know. And he invited us here to live. And we got to know him. Now, he still can be an insufferable child at times. And he has flashes of that old arrogance and hubris that is breathtaking in its breadth. But....he’s changed. He’s starting to think that we will stick around. He’s starting to believe that we’re here for him. He’s always going to have whatever inadequacies that haunt him do their level best to trip him up. But he has you. And he has us. And...I think...us giving him that validation, us giving him affection and time...he will want that more than any gift any of us could buy him. He craves it, Steve. He loves you. I know he does. It’s how he looks at you and how he talks about you. It’s in the way he leans against you during movie night and how he teases you still, but without that nasty edge to it.’
Steve’s eyes had tears in them when Bruce paused. His shoulders relaxed for the first time and that awful tension he’d felt eased. Every word that Bruce said rang true. Tony has always only wanted to be loved for who he is, despite his faults and his faultlines...and that was something that Steve could give, no questions asked.
‘You’re a good man, Dr. Banner. A hell of a man. Thank you. You’ve helped more than I can say,’ said Steve, gratefully. He shook Bruce’s hand and watched the man light up at the trust and the touch of another human being.
‘I’m glad to have helped. Let me know if you need anything else. And let me know when the party is. I’ll be there.’
Steve exchanged grins with him and turned to walk away. Bruce’s voice stopped him and he half turned.
‘Oh! And tell Barton to get his pyromaniac little ass down here. We have some compounds to test before the big gig,’ said Bruce with a small smile.
Steve’s own smile was so big, his mouth ached at the corners. ‘In that case, you better have Coulson along, too. I know Barton would appreciate it. Mostly.’
Bruce laughed and waved good bye as Steve turned again to leave.
Steve looked around the tower. Over in the corner, Pepper was talking to Darcy while nearby, Coulson stood with Fury and kept a close eye on Barton. Thor and Barton were sitting in the couch, xbox controllers in hand, fiercely trying to outdo each other in one on one combat. Thor had earlier set a barrel of mead on the counter, explaining to a bemused Tony that it was a gift from his mother to celebrate the day of his birth. Tony had given Thor a wobbly smile and his eyes were over bright when he had insisted on being the first to sample the gift.
Bruce was eating at the breakfast bar, enjoying the food choices while Jane sat next to him, chatting with him about some scientific thing, Steve was sure. She had a cup of coffee at hand, sipping from it and smiling at whatever points Bruce was making.
Steve and Coulson decided that their gift would be to make the food for the party. They put together a list of sure fire favourites and grocery shopped together, enlisting Thor and Clint to play bag boys and to help haul the food up to the tower. They spent all morning making casseroles and salads and other food that everyone liked. It was effort well spent; most of the food was now in everyone’s stomachs and was well received. Compliments were given to Coulson who ‘aw, shucked’ them aside and to Steve who blushed red in acknowledgement.
Steve intentionally kept the party small. He invited all of the Avengers, of course. He also invited Nick Fury and Phil Coulson. Darcy and Jane were there because Jane was still dating Thor and everyone liked Darcy and wanted her there. There was one more person he’d invited and as of yet, he hadn’t shown. Steve wondered if he would be able to make it.
Tony came to stand at his side, his stein filled with another helping of mead. His eyes were bright and he looked sublimely happy. Steve hadn’t seen this look outside of his workshop. ‘Was this your idea?’ Tony asked him.
Steve shrugged. ‘It was all of our ideas. Everyone contributed,’ he told Tony and his ears perked up as music started playing. Natasha had commandeered the stereo system and Jarvis and her were choosing music selections.
Tony’s foot starting tapping in time to the music, his features blissing out. ‘It’s been....wow...it’s pretty nice, Rogers. Not too bad for a man who was frozen in ice for 70 years. Who’d a thought you’d come up with something like this gig?’ he teased.
Steve rolled his eyes but was saved from answering when a voice roared, ‘I’ve come for the spankings!’
They both turned around to see Rhodey grinning at them like the madman he is. Tony’s look of astonishment was all the thank you Steve needed; this was when being Captain America worked in his favour. He had to pull a few strings to try and get Rhodey back stateside. It appears that he succeeded.
‘What the hell??!! Spankings my ass,’ spluttered Tony as Rhodey strode over to give him a hug. Tony squawked as Rhodey pinched his butt. ‘That’s doing it backwards, of course. But hey, a pipsqueak like you needs more than one pinch to grow on,’ said Rhodey.
Everyone gathered around to greet Rhodey, even Thor and Clint who had abandoned their game to get another helping of mead. Thor had thoughtfully brought over a stein of mead for Rhodey who took it with delight, thanked Thor, and then drained half of it immediately. Thor roared in approval; everyone covered their ears at the sound.
In the tumult, Steve left and came back, nodding to Natasha who slipped away to the stereo again. The music came on and Steve was carefully holding a cake that had a dozen candles blazing merrily on top.
Everyone started singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Tony who had the look of a child at Christmas who discovered he not only got the pony he wanted but a brand new bicycle as well. He swallowed hard and looked at all his friends standing there.
Steve took his hand and squeezed it reassuringly as he said, ‘And now, the birthday boy has to blow out the candles.’
Clint looked at the cake. ‘He’s not twelve,’ he said, knowingly.
‘Isn’t he?’ riposted Pepper and everyone laughed and hooted in agreement as Tony crumpled his features into a pout and then started smiling ruefully.
‘Let me say...let me say this. I wasn’t expecting any of this. I’ve been to parties and this isn’t the type of party I’m used to. I am usually bored out of my mind and half drunk and here...you guys...I can’t...let me blow out the damn candles before Jarvis gets nervous and starts dousing us with water,’ he ended. ‘And thank you,’ he added softly, squeezing Steve’s hand.
‘Blow out the candles so I can handle your ass!’ yelled Rhodey and Tony flipped him the bird before bending over to blow out the candles with a flourish.
After that, it was utter chaos as Rhodey grabbed Tony and grappled with him, Barton yelling encouragement and Thor booming laughter. Rhodey finally managed to flip Tony upside down and was whacking at his backside enthusiastically. Tony was yelling, ‘Et tu, Brutus!’ and flailing about. Darcy was video recording it on her phone and whooping as well. Pepper and Natasha were snickering in the far safety of the room.
Jane and Bruce watched with identical grins of scientific observation and amusement. Coulson and Fury were shaking their heads in amused resignation. Steve thought Coulson’s hands were twitching slightly; he was probably ready to take out his taser.
Rhodey finally let Tony go, wheezing laughter and slapping Tony on the back, staggering him against Steve.
Steve held him against his chest, smiling into his hair as Tony grumbled about payback. He kissed Tony’s neck and whispered, ‘take a look outside.’
Tony looked and then laughed, pulling on Steve’s hand to follow. Everyone followed them and then laughed when they saw what Tony did.
Thor was outside, holding Barton who had his quiver of arrows and his bow in hand. He had one hand around Barton’s waist, the other holding Mjolnir up. ‘This is our gift to you, friend and fellow warrior,’ boomed Thor. Barton cringed but nodded enthusiastically. Somehow, in the midst of the wrestling match Tony and Rhodey were engaged in, Thor and Clint had gone out onto the balcony without anyone noticing them.
‘Now?’ asked Thor to Clint.
‘Now!’ agreed Clint.
They both soared into the air, higher, and Clint took a bow out with a big grin, notched it, and then let it fly into the air. It flew through the air, growing smaller and smaller and then...
BOOM!!! The sky lit up with red and gold and everyone gasped and then cheered.
Clint sketched a bow in Thor’s arm, and then fired another arrow. This one exploded with the colours of blue and silver, raining down like small stars.
‘And that is my gift to you, Tony,’ said Bruce, a satisfied smile on his face as the next arrow exploded in a burst of green and gold.
‘And it being safe and Clint not exploding as well is my gift to you, ‘added Coulson, dryly. Fury chuckled.
Darcy whooped as the next arrow turned into hearts. She had her phone up again, recording it all. ‘That’s sweet,’ she cooed as the hearts faded in the night sky.
‘You all know how to have the best birthday parties,’ said an admiring Rhodey. He tipped his stein to Tony. ‘Happy birthday, Tony. May this be the beginning of many more happy days,’ he said, softly.
Rhodey and Tony exchanged a long look. ‘I hate to say this but I think you’re right, Rhodey. Thank you,’ he added to Steve. leaning back against his chest with a sigh.
‘You’re welcome. I wanted this to be your best birthday you’ve ever had. It’s the first one I get to share with you. But not the last one,’ Steve promised. He tipped his head down and turned Tony so he could kiss him.
The sky lit behind them in a final kaleidoscope of colours; the grand finale was taking place. Steve wasn’t paying attention. He closed his eyes and kissed Tony again and again. Tony sighed softly and kissed Steve back.
It had been the best birthday Tony could ever remember. His team (team!) and friends (friends!) had gotten together to celebrate with him; to let him know that he was important to them. Tony didn’t know what to say. This was outside his experience. Pepper had remembered his birthday, of course. Every year, she let him know with a card and a small gift but this party went way beyond that and he was speechless with gratitude and emotions that swelled his heart and brought a lump to his throat.
As Thor and Clint landed to applause and acclaim from his friends, Tony broke the kiss with Steve to come over and put a hand on each of their arms. Thor looked at him, his blue gaze clear and knowing; Clint had cocked his head like the bird he was named after, and grinned at him. ‘Thanks, guys. That was great,’ he told them. Thor put his hand over Tony’s and squeezed gently.
‘You are most welcome, my friend. We enjoyed it very much as well. Even though Clint has gained a few pounds from Coulson’s cooking,’ Thor teased.
‘Oh, low blow there,’ muttered Clint as Coulson’s mouth quirked upwards.
‘Whatever was in those arrows was fantastic. I’m going to need that recipe, doc,’ said Tony, turning to Bruce. ‘I think it’d be a great way to distract people if needed. Or as a diversion,’ he added. Bruce nodded. ‘I’ll send you the notes,’ he said.
‘Thanks again, everyone. It was...it was amazing,’ said Tony.
They stood there, enjoying the shared warmth and watching the last remaining sparkles fade into the night sky.
Tony wrapped Steve’s arms around his waist and leaned up against him again.
It was the perfect end to the perfect evening.