12 days until Christmas
Even on his worst days, Steve knew that he had come to love many things about the twenty first century with all of his heart. The future was new and bright and full of surprises. Of course, there were times when he missed the forties with a heavy ache in his chest, and yearned for something familiar.
This was part of the reason why he was so happy about spending Christmas with the Avengers. It was a like a lingering remnant of his own past, mixed with the nuances of the new world he now lived in. He’d always loved Christmas, and now he was celebrating it again with the family he’d found in this new future.
He was currently sitting in an obnoxious Christmas sweater, waiting for JARVIS to queue up a Christmas movie for him and the team, and had him feeling warm and glowing with a low, steady hum of contentment.
Yes, he missed the forties, but that didn’t make him love what he had now any less.
The team was scattered around the room in various states of relaxation, sprawled across the couches and talking idly amongst themselves, which was a strange state to see them in, but a welcome sight nonetheless. All of them except Steve and Thor were wearing pajamas; Thor was wearing a sweater that looked like Christmas had thrown up all over him, Steve was wearing a subtler, albeit still slightly tacky, sweater with a reindeer pattern running across his chest. Natasha and Bruce had opted for Christmas themed pajamas. Steve noticed that Natasha, who was curled up next to him on the couch, had also worn socks with little snowmen on them. She kept nudging her snowmen-clad feet under Steve’s thigh, insisting that they were cold and Steve was like a space heater.
“I’ve never watched this movie,” Tony, the last one to arrive, announced as he walked into the room, wearing plaid pajama bottoms and an easy, content half smile. He gestured to the TV, which had Home Alone 2 queued for the team to watch. “In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever actually watched a Christmas movie before? Enriching new experience happening right about now.”
Clint snorted from his spot on the floor where he sat with his head tipped back and resting on Natasha’s knees. “How have you never seen this movie? It was like a staple of existing through Christmas in the 90s.”
Tony shrugged, shuffling towards the couch. “Christmas was never really a big deal for us Starks. Parents never were around for it when I was a kid so I didn’t feel the need to partake when I was older. Bucky move over, and don’t give me that look, it’s my couch.”
Bucky grunted, continuing to give Tony a look, but ultimately moved over, making a Tony-sized space next to him.
When Tony said it, it was pretty clear that he didn’t really think that it was a big deal. It was a small, innocuous detail to him, something that he’d said offhand without giving it much thought.
Steve, on the other hand, felt his heart sink with equal parts dismay and disbelief as he watched Tony settle onto the couch between Rhodey and Bucky, unceremoniously flopping into position with his head on Rhodey’s shoulder and plopping his feet into Bucky’s lap. Bucky cast him an exasperated look from the corner of his eye, grumbling something incoherent under his breath, but begrudgingly allowed Tony to leave his feet there. Rhodey’s reaction was to automatically move his hand to Tony’s head, prompting Tony’s eyes to flutter closed as Rhodey ran his fingers through Tony’s already mussed hair.
Frowning, Steve flopped back in the chair and Natasha wordlessly passed him her bowl of popcorn. He took a handful, munching on it thoughtfully as he watched Tony.
“You never got a chance to celebrate Christmas?” he asked, after a few moments. The question seemed to catch Tony off guard; at the sound of his voice, Tony cracked one eyelid open and peered over at him, very obviously enjoying Rhodey’s hand in his hair. Steve had the ridiculous thought that, if possible, Tony would be purring right now.
“I mean, kind of. There were galas around Christmas, so we went to those. Other than that, not really? Like I said, monumental, life-changing event about to happen.”
“Not unless you hush,” Natasha said dryly, jabbing Steve in his ribs with a finger. “JARVIS? Lights and hit play, please?”
“Of course, Ms. Romanoff,” JARVIS responded, the lights immediately dimming and the screen flickering to life.
“Now all of you be quiet,” Natasha warned them all as the opening sequence unfurled in front of them. “I love this movie, so hush.”
Tony mimed zipping his lips shut. Thor grinned at her in acquiesce, while the rest of them didn’t acknowledge her, but obliged. Steve leaned back against the cushions, dutifully falling silent.
It was as though Steve had seen the movie before, so it was a first for him as well. What wasn’t a first for him, however, was Christmas in general. Even at their poorest, his mother had always tried to make a Christmas happen for Steve in whatever way she could, and Steve had done the same for her as he got older. Their Christmases had always been scant and many of them, Sarah had been working most of the day at the hospital, coming home dead tired. They’d always spend time together, though, even if she was exhausted and Steve had tried insisting she go to bed.
“It’s Christmas,” she’d say, ruffling his hair even when he was far too old for her to be doing that. “That means I get to spend time with my son.”
After that, Steve would set up the scratchy old record player they usually stashed away in a tiny closet, and they’d eat together, exchanging small gifts after they’d finished eating. At some point, Bucky would stop by with gifts and more food, and he’d stay for a while, the three of them lighting up the tiny, bare apartment with their own festive cheer. By the time Bucky left, the warm glow of Christmas would still be lingering inside of him, thrumming pleasantly through him.
Eventually, Steve would gently steer her towards her bed, and she would flop onto it without even bothering to get out of her uniform.
Tony, though. Tony’s would have had more than enough opportunities to have memorable Christmases together. Steve wasn’t completely unaware of what Tony’s childhood had been like; his parents were distant at best, and further details were masked by Tony’s plastic smile that he always donned whenever his parents came up in conversation. Perhaps it was naïve of him, but Steve had never thought that that meant Tony’s childhood lacked proper Christmases.
Steve knew that sometimes he could be too idealistic, but the thought of a younger Tony wishing for a Christmas that he’d never get, made his heart ache.
He found himself watching Tony more than the movie, the way he was sprawled out on the couch, demanding the affection of his friends with indignant noises. Steve remembered when they first met, how Tony rarely looked this content and comfortable, how he had gradually become more and more trusting and at ease with the team as time went on.
From the small tidbits he was learning here and there as he and Tony embarked on a tentative friendship, he was starting to see why Tony had been so wary and hesitant at first, and he didn’t like it one bit.
So, Steve made a decision right then; he was going to give Tony a Christmas this year, and it was going to be a damn good one.
10 days until Christmas
“You can’t put that much icing there, Clint. The roof is going to slip off and everything will fall apart.”
“Listen smarty pants, unless you have some kind of fancy degree in gingerbread house making that I’m not aware of , hush. I know what I’m doing.”
“I’m an engineer. I know for a fact that the roof is going to collapse.”
“I know what I’m doing. Shh, I’m concentrating.”
“You’re concentrating on doing it the wrong way .”
Sighing, Steve set down the piece of gingerbread he was attempting to decorate – a wall piece, he was assuming, that he was carefully covering in an icing filigree – and turned to the other end of the table where Clint and Tony were arguing about the construction of one of the several gingerbread houses scattered across the dining room table.
Gingerbread house making had been one of the first of Steve’s Christmas themed activities he thought the team should do, in the spirit of giving Tony a Christmas to make up for all the holidays that he’d missed out on. That morning, he’d purposefully made his way to Tony’s workshop after JARVIS verified that he was in there, a gingerbread house kit tucked under his arm.
Tony hardly even seemed to notice when he entered the shop, keeping his focus set on the screen he was currently squinting at, his fingers flying over a keyboard. There was a half-finished cup of coffee next to him that Steve knew had to be cold by now because he’d come up to the kitchen and filled it hours ago while Steve had been making breakfast.
He only looked up when Steve plopped the gingerbread house kit on the desk next to Tony and cleared his throat pointedly.
“Mmph?” Tony mumbled, reluctantly tearing his eyes away from the screen a moment later. His gaze went to the kit. He blinked, glanced up at Steve, arched a brow, and looked back at the kit again. “Are you, uh. Going to give me any kind of explanation?” Tony asked, “because I’m not really sure how to react to this.”
“Come make this with me,” Steve said, sinking down into a nearby chair, resting his elbow on the desk and propping his chin on his hand. “Well, not just me. The team.”
Brows still raised quizzically, Tony looked up at Steve. “You want to build a gingerbread house.”
“Yes,” Steve confirmed. “And there are at least seven more like it upstairs waiting for us, so get a move on. We have a lot of work to do.”
It only took minimal prodding after that for Steve to coax Tony upstairs and into the dining room where the other kits were strewn in disarray. Half the team was already there, talking and bantering amongst themselves when Steve shepherded Tony towards a seat and passed him a tube of icing.
Now, he and Clint were arguing about the structural integrity of the icing and sprinkle covered atrocity the two of them were working on, and neither of them could seem to come to an agreement.
“Listen, if you’re not going to let me modernize it,” Tony was saying now, leaning back in his chair as he glared at Clint across the table, “you should at least let me be in charge of making sure that they don’t collapse as soon as you finish putting it together.”
“We’re just going to eat it anyway,” Clint said. He plucked a gumdrop off of a snowman cookie and popped it into his mouth. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, Tony. Relax.”
“I think we should let Stark bedazzle all of the houses,” Bucky piped up, waving a tube of icing in Clint and Tony’s general direction.
“Shut up, Bucky,” Clint grumbled, just as Tony flashed Bucky a grin.
“See, Terminator is on my side,” Tony said gleefully. “Who else is up for working lights on their gingerbread house? Steve?”
“You can’t eat a gingerbread house with wires all over it, Tony,” Steve answered. The combination of his enhanced appetite and notorious sweet tooth were making him regret this activity in some distant place in the back of his brain. He was spending most of his time wishing he was eating the stuff instead of putting it together.
Tony snorted. “Yeah, well, I wasn’t planning on eating anything that eight people have been pawing at for hours anyways.”
“Great,” Steve said, grinning. “That means I can have yours.”
Tony shrugged, unconcerned. “Also, you didn’t exactly say no to the working light fixtures, so…”
Steve sighed. “Tony.”
Tony threw his hands in the air with a huff. “Your loss,” he grumbled. “Taking all the fun out of everything.”
Now it was Bucky’s turn to snort and say under his breath, “we’re the ridiculous ones, he says.”
Steve elbowed him sharply in the ribs. Clearly, Bucky had spoken low enough for Tony not to hear, because instead of responding, Tony turned back to his gingerbread house, batting Clint’s hand away as he mumbled under his breath incoherently.
By the time the evening had finished, everyone’s house was finished and decorated, except for Sam’s and Clint’s, who both had large chunks missing from the backs of their houses. Both of them claimed that there was no point in making them if they couldn’t even eat any of it.
Later that evening, when everyone had disappeared into their own corner of the tower and Steve was returning to the kitchen for something to drink, when a faint twinkling light on the other side of the room caught his eye.
With a disbelieving smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, he approached the line of gingerbread houses that was set up on the counter, drawn to his own in particular. Unlike earlier when he’d placed it there, it was now decked out in tiny little lights that were strung around the roof. Sitting in the bed of icing Steve had used to mimic snow was a tiny, miniature DUM-E. In addition to that, there was a gingerbread man with a shock of yellow icing for hair all over his head, wearing what was clearly supposed to be Steve’s uniform.
Grinning and shaking his head, Steve reached out to pick up the note that had been left there beside the gingerbread contraption in Tony’s familiar handwriting.
Technically, you didn’t actually say NO to the working lights.
I added a miniature DUM-E and a gingerbread Steve. You’re welcome.
- T. S.
Two things about this made Steve’s grin stretch wider across his face and a quiet laugh bubble pleasantly in his chest.
First, the fact that Tony actually owned miniature DUM-E figurines was delightful and utterly unsurprising. Second, Tony had clearly taken the time to meticulously create a gingerbread Steve.
Well, three things, actually. Based on this, Tony was already enjoying the Christmas-related activities. Steve considered that a success.
8 days until Christmas
They were halfway to the skating rink when they got the call to assemble.
Steve was driving of Tony’s cars, one that was far too ostentatious for Steve’s personal taste, since Steve knew Tony would be too cold to cling to the back of his motorcycle, and Steve felt the need to decline Tony’s offer to fly them there in his suit. Partly because it was ridiculous, and second, he wanted this to be a superhero-free day. Just the two of them, being normal friends, heading off to a skating rink together in one of Tony’s absurdly expensive cars.
Also, Steve wanted to keep it a little bit of a surprise where they were going. All he would tell Tony was that he would like it, and they would have fun.
But, of course, supervillains decided that that day was the best to start wreaking havoc in the city, and Steve and Tony’s alerts went off at the same time. Steve pulled over with a sinking feeling of disappointment sitting heavily in his stomach, crunching to a stop on the gravel at the side of the road so they could see what the alert was for. Tony already had his phone pressed to the side of his face, listening with a careful, attentive expression to what Steve assumed was Fury’s voice on the other end.
“Well,” Tony said as they came to a halt, clapping his hands together as he tucked his phone back into his pocket. “Looks like Richards set something loose on Manhattan again. Why am I not surprised?”
“Portal?” Steve asked, running a hand over his face. Well, that was one way to ruin his plans for the day.
“Yup,” Tony said, his voice high and faux cheerful. “Fury says it’s not vital that we come back to the city, the rest of the team could probably handle it on their own, but…”
“We can’t just opt out,” Steve finished.
Grimacing, Tony nodded.
“Sorry about this,” Tony said, which was ridiculous; it wasn’t his fault and the outing was partly for him anyways. “We can reschedule?”
“We can figure it out later,” Steve agreed, putting the car in gear and quickly turning around. “Don’t worry.”
Tony nodded, still looking unhappy with it.
Fighting back an irrational wave of disappointment, Steve headed in the direction of the city again.
“Out of curiosity,” Tony said a few minutes later, breaking the silence in the car. “Where were we going?”
Well, Steve figured there wasn’t much point in keeping it a secret now, anyway, since it was off the table for the day.
“Ice skating,” he answered, glancing over briefly to give Tony a small smile. “You’ve never been, right? I thought it would be fun.”
Tony’s expression was unreadable when Steve turned away and looked back to the road. He was quiet for a long moment before speaking again.
“Yeah,” Tony said quietly. “I’ve never been ice skating before. That would’ve been nice. Thank you, Steve. For the thought at least.”
“Anytime,” Steve answered, meaning it completely.
They spent the rest of the ride in relative silence, which left Steve plenty of time for trying to assure himself he wasn’t missing out on too much by this outing being interrupted.
Then, he remembered when Tony had proclaimed he had no idea how to skate a few weeks back, which meant that Steve would’ve gotten to see Tony stumble on the ice like a newborn deer and that Steve might have needed to hold Tony upright at some points. With that thought in mind, he realized that, yeah, he really was missing out on a lot.
He tried to tell himself that he was disappointed mostly for Tony’s sake, but in some tiny corner of his mind, Steve was fully aware that that wasn’t true.
He just very stubbornly was refusing to admit that to himself.
6 days until Christmas
One particularly freezing afternoon, it started snowing. Soft, cold flakes floated down from the sky, sticking to the pavement and fluttering against Steve’s face as he returned to the tower after a run. Pausing for a moment before going inside, he tilted his head up to watch the flecks of snow coming down, admiring the way that the faint sunlight glinted off each snowflake as the sun began to slip below the horizon and daylight faded into early evening.
He loved the snow, he always had. As a kid, asthmatic, frail and generally prone to illness, winter had always been something to be terrified of. He couldn’t leave the house without an absurd amount of clothing, and even then he was always at risk. He missed out on all of the snow related activities; snowball fights were one thing that he still remembered with a dull ache as something he was always excluded from. He remembered hearing the other kids screeching happily, coming inside with dripping hair and cheeks rosy with cold and laughter, and feeling like he was the only one in the world who had to miss out.
Of course, then there was Bucky, who often skipped out to keep Steve company, despite Steve’s protests. “Not missin’ much,” Bucky would say when, with an ache in his stomach, Steve would tell him he should go outside and play with the other kids. It wasn’t that he wanted Bucky to leave – in fact, it was the opposite. He just didn’t want to be the reason Bucky was cooped up and miserable just like Steve.
Steve would press on a bit more at first, insisting that Bucky go have fun, but when it came to their friendship, Bucky had been a match for Steve’s stubbornness right from the beginning. “Rather be in here with you, Stevie,” he’d say, and Steve would eventually give in with a heavy sigh, partly because his chest hurt from talking so much. Then, Bucky would flash him that charming smile he had at eight, twelve, nineteen, and Steve would give in with a rush of relief.
They’d gotten to know each other a lot during those times, so perhaps that was why, even with the bitter memories, he still loved snow. There was something about it that made him want to have his hands around something hot, to be warm and safe while the snow fell around him. Someone he cared about, that made his chest glow with warmth and contentment.
He stepped into the tower with the shadow of a nostalgic smile on his face.
Without even really noticing it, he found himself walking towards Tony’s shop, not even heading up to his own room to shower and change first.
When Steve found him, Tony was standing in the middle of the shop, holding up a gauntlet and staring at it with narrowed eyes.
“Do you think I need a new color scheme?” Tony asked as Steve stepped into the shop, not looking away from the gauntlet as he spoke.
“You tired of the red and gold?” Steve asked, flopping down into the nearest chair. He quirked a brow at Tony. “Isn’t that your thing though?”
Tony shrugged, setting the gauntlet down and bringing up a screen with the armor specs on it. “Change is good,” he said. “Stagnating is the worst thing you could ever do. Especially when your shtick is being an innovative futurist.”
“Right,” Steve said. “What colors did you have in mind?”
“Well I was thinking red, white and blue, but then I realized that people might get me mixed up with another Avenger,” Tony grinned.
Steve let out a little laugh and rolled his eyes. “Right. You’d look like Iron Patriot.”
“That is not his name,” Tony retorted. “Iron Patriot -- Steve how could you… he’s War Machine. I made the suit, I get to name it.”
“Fine,” Steve relented. “War Machine, then. You’d look like him.”
“That is a problem, isn’t it,” Tony said, moving his fingertips to his chin in a thoughtful gesture.
“Still, you’d look good in it,” Steve said, meaning it. Though, Tony tended to look good in just about everything. Even now, grease-stained and tousled, he was lean and handsome. The kind of man who was just undeniably attractive, and Steve wasn’t above noticing and admitting that.
“Hmmph,” Tony huffed, waving a dismissive hand in Steve’s direction. “Anyways,” he said, swiftly changing gears. “Did you need something? If you broke another motorcycle, Steve, I’m docking your allowance I swear to God–“
“I didn’t break a motorcycle,” Steve said quickly, interrupting Tony before he could go on another rant about Steve’s carelessness with his vehicles. “Promise,” he assured Tony when he gave Steve a skeptical look. “Really. I just wanted to ask if you wanted to get coffee, actually. It’s snowing out and I was thinking it’d be nice to go to a café and try one of those holiday coffees I keep seeing everywhere.”
Tony quirked a brow. “I thought you didn’t drink coffee.”
Steve shrugged and slipped on an amiable smile. “I wanted to try one of those new- fangled Christmas latte do-hickeys.”
Tony barked out a laugh and gave him an amused smirk, paired with a roll of his eyes. “Steve, we all know that you’re playing up the old man shtick. It’s not gonna fly with me.”
Innocently, Steve widened his eyes in surprise. “I have no idea what you’re talkin’ about,” he said, purposefully letting his voice slip into the familiar drawling accent of his youth.
Tony snorted and jabbed a finger at him. “Not fooling anyone, Steve. You can’t distract me by bringing out the endearing Brooklyn boy accent. Not going to cut it.” He closed the screens he was working on and stood up, stretching his arms overhead.
“You’re imagining things, Tony,” Steve said, flashing him his best smile. For that, Steve earned another eye roll.
“Yeah, yeah,” Tony grumbled, stretching one last time and shaking his head at Steve before making his way to the door of the shop. “You can knock it off now, you convinced me, I’m coming. But remember, I’m coming because there’s potential for coffee involved and not because of the doddering old man act. I see right through you, Steve.”
Fighting back a satisfied grin, Steve followed Tony out of the shop.
They ended up going to a café that Tony claimed was one of his favorites. It was a few blocks away, tucked into a little corner of a snowy, lamp-lit street. When they stepped inside, the warm, cinnamon-scented air welcomed him in like a gentle embrace, wrapping itself in warm tendrils around his hands as he pulled off his gloves. It was lit dimly, the room filled with the low hum of conversation. It was cozy and welcoming; exactly what Steve had in mind when he asked Tony to join him.
“So,” Tony said as he freed himself from his bulky jacket. Steve noted with delight that, paired with his hat and gloves, the jacket made him vaguely resemble a marshmallow. He pulled off his hat to reveal ruffled hair, which he raked a hand through, clearly in an attempt to smooth it down. It didn’t really help much, as his hair was still tousled and sticking out in several places. Steve had a strange urge to run his fingers through it as well – to fix it, of course. Not because it looked absurdly soft and he wanted to know what it felt like to have it under his fingers.
“Steve?” Tony said, an amused smile on his face. His tone indicated that it was not the first time he’d said Steve’s name.
“Hmm?” Steve answered, shaking himself alert. “Sorry, what?”
“I asked what you wanted to drink,” Tony repeated.
“Right,” Steve said. Handing his coat to Tony, who was holding his hand out to him so he could hang Steve’s coat on the nearby coat rack, he looked over at the menu above the baristas’ heads. All of the words were unusual combinations of words he knew, strung into phrases that he didn’t. “I have no idea what any of these things are,” he admitted. What on earth was a Frappuccino?
After depositing their coats, Tony stood beside Steve, smiling warmly as he knocked his shoulder against his. “That’s alright. You like sweet stuff, right?”
“Great. How do you feel about peppermint? Caramel?”
“They’re both great,” Steve answered, pausing for a moment to think about it. “Caramel is better, though.”
“Of course,” Tony chuckled. “Hot or cold?”
“Hot?” Steve said, uncertainly. He hadn’t been aware cold was an option. Wasn’t coffee always hot?
“Gotcha,” Tony said. He gave Steve a gentle little nudge in the direction of one of the free tables. “Save a table for us. I’ll get you something you’ll like.”
Steve frowned. “I asked you out. I’m paying.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “Steve, come on,” he said. “We don’t have to have this argument every time we go somewhere together.”
“It’s not an argument,” Steve said stubbornly. “I asked you to come out with me, I should be the one paying. That’s how it works.”
“I’m changing the rules.” Tony crossed his arms over his chest, his gaze steady on Steve’s, an amused smile curling around his mouth. “When you’re a billionaire, you get the pleasure of buying your friends as much coffee as they like.”
“Steve.” Tony cut him off, emitting a small sigh. “I want to, okay? I can afford a cup of coffee. I mean, not that you can’t. I’m the one who signs your paychecks, so unless you’re blowing all that on god knows what, you can definitely afford a cup of coffee, but this isn’t about affording, I wan-“
“Steve.” Tony said back, mimicking Steve’s tone. “Look, let’s make a deal. Next time, I’ll take you somewhere and you can butt in and pay for mine. I’ll even promise to let you do it with minimal complaining.”
Steve narrowed his eyes, holding Tony’s gaze. Not budging, Tony stared back.
Finally, Steve relented with a sigh and held both hands up in a gesture of defeat. “Fine,” he yielded. “I’m not gonna forget about next time, though.”
“Of course you aren’t,” Tony grinned. “I wouldn’t expect anything less. Now go. Save us a seat.”
Obliging, Steve chose a table – one tucked into a corner near a window so that they could look out at the snow fluttering down onto the street, glimmering faintly in the glow of the streetlights.
It wasn’t long before Tony was returning with two rather large white mugs, one of them looking like a normal cup of coffee, the other piled high with what looked like a mountain of whipped cream, topped with chocolate shavings and a pale, golden syrup. It looked more like a dessert than a coffee.
Tony set the dessert looking concoction in front of Steve. “Here,” he said flopping into the chair opposite Steve, nodding at the mug. “Try that. It might satisfy your absurd sweet tooth.”
Steve wrapped his hands around the mug, feeling the warmth glow pleasantly against his skin. “Yours is plain?”
“Yeah. I’m more of a boring, black coffee kind of guy myself,” Tony answered.
Steve nodded. Before drinking, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, opening his camera with deft fingers and snapped a shot of the coffee.
“Uh,” Tony deadpanned. “What are you doing?”
Steve flipped to the instagram screen, not looking up from his phone to answer. “I’m posting my coffee to instagram.”
There was a pause on Tony’s end. Steve looked up once the picture started loading. He’d captioned it with "perks of the twenty first century - you can drink dessert", then finally looked up, tucking his phone away again.
Tony was staring at him with one eyebrow arched, a faintly amused smile curling the corners of his mouth. “I had no idea I was actually out with a teenager. Wow.”
“Hey,” Steve said, jabbing a cautionary finger in Tony’s direction. “There’s nothing wrong with social media.”
“I didn’t say there was,” Tony grinned. “I just implied that taking pictures of one’s coffee is behaviour I would normally expect from a sixteen year old. Not Captain America.”
Steve grunted. “I’m Steve right now, who happens to think social media is cool.”
“Uh huh,” Tony said, still smirking at him.
Steve reached out and carefully removed Tony’s coffee cup from him — with some difficulty, considering he held on with an iron grip and whined a little before releasing it — and set it down next to his own. He whipped out his phone again and snapped another picture, this time making sure to capture Tony’s disgruntled expression in the background.
“What are you doing now?” Tony whined, reaching for his coffee again. Steve let him as he leaned back to flip to instagram again. This one he captioned with “coffee for two with @tonystark!! genius billionaires get grumpy when you take their coffee away.”
“Nothing,” he said. He set his phone down on the table, smiling innocently.
Tony glared. Well, it was more of a disgruntled pout, and it was more endearing than intimidating. He took a grateful sip of his coffee before speaking again. “Don’t do anything that will cause Pepper a PR-induced headache,” he warned.
Steve opened his mouth to say he would never, because he wouldn’t, but Tony cut him off with a wave of his hand.
“Yes, yes, I know you would never, shut up, you’re a perfect little angel, I know . Spare me the speech, Captain Perfect, I live with you, remember? I know you swear at video games and that you threw a pizza crust at Bucky’s head last week, so watch it Mister. Now hush and drink your damn coffee, you snapchatting teeny-bopper.”
Despite his words, Tony’s tone was light and airy, steeped in amusement. The disgruntled bit was probably an act at this point. Steve was about to notify Tony that he wasn’t snapchatting, he was instagramming , and it was a big difference, but then he decided otherwise and obligingly lifted his mug to his lips.
He paused for a moment, and then took a cautionary sip of the steaming liquid.
Well, tried to was more like it. His first mouthful was a hundred percent whipped cream, light and sweet on his tongue, accented with the rich, darker flavor of chocolate and the sticky, sweet flavor of the syrup. Caramel, he decided. He licked a speck of the cream he felt clinging to the corner of his mouth before trying another sip.
This time, he got a mouthful of hot, sweet warmth. It swept over his tongue in a flash of warm sugariness, filling his mouth with a melody of flavors, each of them melding together as they blossomed and unfolded over his tongue. It was sweet, yes, unbelievably so, but it was also delicious; the taste of coffee hanging delicately just underneath the thick, syrupy taste of caramel, leaving an unexpected taste on his tongue.
Not quite meaning to, Steve found himself closing his eyes and letting out a soft, contented groan.
He heard Tony laugh quietly. “That good, huh?”
When he opened his eyes again, Tony was smirking.
“This is coffee?” Steve said, incredulous and delighted all at the same time. Hell, if he’d known that this was what coffee tasted like in the twenty first century, he would’ve started drinking it a long time ago.
“Coffee is a charitable way to call it,” Tony explained. “It’s more sugar and syrup than anything, but there’s some coffee in there. I think. They say there is, at least.” Tony shrugged. “Like I said, I’ll stick to my black.”
Steve opted for taking another long, glorious sip instead of answering. This time, he managed to refrain from making any noises.
Tony looked delighted as he watched Steve experience his coffee. “There are so many sugary monstrosities on the menu, I wasn’t sure which one you’d like the most. Then I remembered you eating almost half of that caramel cake at Thor’s birthday party, so I thought this one might be a safe bet.”
Steve set his mug down carefully. “There are more of these?”
Tony laughed, the sound low and rumbling, completely delighted. God, Tony looked so pleased. Even now, he had a soft, barely-there smile hovering on his lips, his eyes glinting happily, bright in the dimness of the room. Somehow, Steve seemed to be amusing him to no end, and Steve was okay with that, if it meant that Tony looked that happy over something so small; his eyes all bright, his shoulders relaxed, his smile sweet and content. He wanted Tony to keep looking like that, even if it was at his own expense.
Not that Tony was making fun of him, of course. He just seemed absolutely thrilled at Steve’s reaction. He’d take it.
“Yes, there are plenty more,” Tony informed him. “A whole menu of ‘em.”
“Amazing,” Steve mumbled into the rim of his mug.
“We can come back and try other ones sometime,” Tony said. “Here—“
Tony leaned forward, reaching out with one hand extended to Steve’s face. Unsure what he was up to, Steve stilled as Tony swiped a finger over the tip of his nose.
Drawing his hand away, Tony held up a finger to reveal a dollop of whipped cream that he’d clearly acquired from Steve’s nose.
Oh. He hadn’t even noticed.
“Thanks,” he mumbled as Tony wiped his finger on a napkin.
“Mmm,” Tony hummed, leaning back in his chair. He knocked his foot lightly against Steve’s under the table. “I know it’s good but you don’t need to stick your face in it, you know.”
“Shut up,” Steve said, flashing him a grin.
With a self-satisfied smirk, Tony continued drinking his coffee. Steve did the same, an unnatural and pleasant warmth spreading steadily through his chest.
3 days until Christmas
“What about this one?” Steve asked, pausing in front of a tree that towered over his head and had thick, full branches. Tony had said he wanted the best one, and “best” seemed to be synonymous with “as big as possible,” based on how unimpressed Tony was with all of the options they’d looked at so far.
This was the third Christmas tree lot they’d visited, so they’d seen quite a few trees at this point. None of them were up to Tony’s standards.
Not that Steve minded; he was thoroughly enjoying Tony’s company. The two of them were all bundled up in hats and gloves and scarves, and Tony had a thermos of black coffee for himself and had managed to convince a barista at Starbucks to fill another thermos with the gingerbread latte, so they were warm and comfortable and Tony was rosy-cheeked with the cold. Absentmindedly Steve looked over at Tony at one point while he’d examined one of the trees with a focused expression. He thought that Tony looked endearing in his swaths of winter clothes, with his tousled hair that peeked out from underneath his hat and the soft pink of his cheeks.
It wasn’t an intrusive thought, and Steve didn’t bother shaking it off because, well, he couldn’t really see how anyone could think otherwise. Tony looked adorable, and all Steve was doing was noticing that very obvious fact.
It was a non-issue, he assured himself. Tony was a good-looking man, and he was stuffed into several layers of fabric, running around the lot with an almost child-like joy. Steve would have to be blind to not find the image charming.
So, they’d been out looking for hours, and Steve didn’t mind one bit. This was for Tony, anyways; he was just happy that Tony seemed to actually be enjoying himself.
Tony came up beside Steve wearing a thoughtful expression.
“Hmm,” he hummed, crossing his arms over his chest, vaguely resembling a penguin in the way that it made his jacket puff up.
“It’s really big,” Steve pointed out. “And it’s even all the way around.” He’d checked.
“Did you check?” Tony asked as he began to do just that, circling the tree and peering at it skeptically.
Steve bit back a smile. “Yes, I checked.”
Tony’s head peeked out around the tree. “Hey,” he accused, “don’t mock. This is an important choice. I’m not getting a half-assed tree for my first.”
His head disappeared then, and at this point, Steve was completely unable to hold back the smile. He was lucky he was out of Tony’s line of vision because he was certain he looked like a complete idiot.
“I wasn’t mocking,” he called out after him.
“I heard you laugh, Steve,” Tony called back. His head emerged from behind the tree, followed by the rest of his body. “And I can hear you smirking all the way over there.”
“Firstly, I don’t think I need to explain to you how impossible that is. Secondly, I wasn’t,” Steve assured him. “It’s just…” He trailed off, pausing for a moment while he tried to find the right way to describe what he was feeling. Tony watched him, brows raised expectantly.
Eventually, he just shrugged, glancing aside. Suddenly, the thick, green boughs of the tree Tony was standing next to seemed like a better place to look than Tony’s face as he said what he said next. “It’s just nice seeing you excited about it,” he said simply. “I like seeing you happy.”
When he looked over at Tony again, his cheeks were even rosier than he remembered. Should he make a run back to the car for more coffee? He didn’t want Tony standing out in the cold if he was freezing like this.
Come to think of it, his own cheeks were feeling flushed as well. Which hardly made sense because he wasn’t cold, per se. It was just his cheeks that were inexplicably warm.
Clearing his throat, Tony turned away. “Yes, well,” he said, his voice sounding a little rough. “This is the one.”
“You sure?” Steve asked.
Tony nodded, eyeing the massive, full bodied fir. “You’re a beauty, aren’t you,” he said to the tree. “How are we going to get you out of here?”
Just then, an employee who had been not-so-subtly following them around for the past twenty minutes, came up from behind them. “You two decide on this one?” he asked. “It’s a big one.”
“We wanted a big one,” Tony said decisively, flashing the guy a wide grin. “The biggest and the best and I think that we’ve finally found it.”
The employee grinned back and clapped his hands together, looking delighted. Steve couldn’t blame him; it was probably the most expensive tree on the lot. “Excellent,” he said, “I’ll just get someone to pull the tractor around and we can…”
“No need,” Steve said, stepping forward and assessing the tree with a long look. Tony had managed to procure a truck big enough to accomodate their massive tree, but it wasn’t much good unless they could get it over to the truck in the first place.
Strength wise, Steve was certain that he could carry it over. The only potential problem was the awkwardness of the of the tree, and the fact that Steve could very well accidentally whack something or someone.
“Tony, spot me,” he said, before reaching down and carefully removing the tree from the stand and maneuvering it over his shoulder.
“Uh,” Tony said, sounding a little bit breathless. Turning around very slowly, Steve found Tony and the employee standing there with matching shocked expressions.
Absently, Steve thought that it was a little strange for Tony to look all wide-eyed and flushed like that; but now wasn’t the time to think about it.
“Thank you for your help,” Steve told the employee, who was openly gaping at him. Steve could hardly blame him; at times, even he was baffled by his own strength. “Tony, make sure I don’t hit anything?”
There was a long pause before Tony spoke. “Yeah,” he said faintly, then cleared his throat, his voice steadying as he continued. “Yeah, I got you. Let’s go.”