In all honesty, it starts because Clint is an asshole with too much free time on his hands, and every corner shop has mistletoe to spare if you’re an Avenger- saving the world on a weekly basis has its perks, and free Christmas merchandise turns out to be one of them.
Later, Bruce tells them that Clint followed them around for two days, complete with seven failed attempts before finally picking the right moment for them to notice.
Which sort of explains how excited Clint is when he got up from the couch after watching Ellen, sees Steve and Tony standing under the doorway discussing battle tactics and does a double-take.
“AHH,” Clint said flatly, pointing, but it was loud enough for everyone, plus Darcy, to glance over in his direction as he made a beeline for the doorway and shot an innocent smile at both Steve and Tony, before reaching up and yanking on a string that was almost melded into the door frame.
The mistletoe, bunched in red ribbon and showering green glitter on all three of them, drops down and hangs unceremoniously a few inches over their heads.
At their stares, Clint’s innocent grin becomes a shit-eating one, and he tips an imaginary hat towards them. “Don’t mind us,” he says, and takes a few large steps back so he’s standing back in the couch area with everyone else.
“Fuck you, Barton,” Tony says, because he hasn’t had his coffee yet, and swearing at Clint is still better than looking at Steve, who he’s sure is blushing up a fucking storm right now. “Did you seriously plan this?”
Clint shrugs. “Darcy and Tasha helped.”
“Thank you, Clint,” Natasha says, in a measured voice that means there will be homicide later. Darcy flips him the bird, and Clint shrugs again.
“Hey, if I’m getting pinned for this, you’re coming down with me.”
Tony scowls at the both of them and doesn’t let himself think about it before he drags his gaze back to Steve, who- yep, knew it- is flushed around his cheeks, running down and vanishing into his collar.
“Um,” Steve says, but Clint talks over him.
“Come on, guys, ‘tis the season to make out with strangers because of decorative plants. Or in this case, make out with your teammate. Either way, decorative plants are a godsend.”
“Migardian rituals confuse me,” Thor says through a mouthful of cereal. “Does this plant cast a spell on the two involved, or does-”
“It’s just what people do under mistletoe,” Bruce interrupts, and if Tony wasn’t blurry from only just waking up, he’d think he’s smiling from where he’s sitting next to Thor, reading a book on a new science theory. “Nothing’s forcing them to, but like Clint said, ‘tis the season.”
Thor frowns. “Winter?”
“Christmas,” Bruce corrects him. “Now get with the kissing, you two. We haven’t got all day, and Clint put a lot of effort into this.”
“I’m sure he did,” Steve says, sounding like he does just after he’s come back from beating the crap out of yet another evil genius, and when Tony turns to look at him again, the blush has died down a bit.
Tony blames his sweating on how high the heater is turned up in here as they make eye contact for the first time since the mistletoe had dropped down. “We don’t have to-”
“I know,” Steve says, and then stammers. “I mean- I wouldn’t, uh-”
“It’s just- the Christmas spirit, and stuff,” Tony says, and he honestly doesn’t know if he’s trying to talk Steve out of it or talk him into it at this point.
Steve nods, and his arms fold over his chest before unfolding them- a nervous tick that Tony’s come to recognize by now. “Right. Christmas. Uh, good. Christmas is good, I mean.”
“Yep,” Tony says, nodding along with him, and he can hear Natasha trying not to laugh behind them, and he’s going to get them all back for it later. See how Clint likes his arrows non-explosive.
Steve says, “So, um.” He nods up at the mistletoe, lightning-quick. “We should, uh.”
“For Christmas,” Tony says, and has to physically stop himself from nodding.
“Christmas,” Steve echoes, and then he’s leaning in, and he’s blushing, and his hands are sliding around the back of Tony’s head, and all ten fingers are splayed in his hair, and everything touching Tony right now is overheated to the point where he sucks in a breath at the hot press of Steve’s mouth.
He sucks in a breath and breathes in Steve’s exhale, and both their eyes had closed automatically less than a second before this, and holy fuck.
Tony thought it was going to be a peck, he was going to make it be a peck, because he hadn’t been sure if he would be able to handle anything else, but he sure as hell isn’t pulling back at the soft brush of Steve’s tongue on his.
If anything, he pushes closer without meaning to, and hears Steve breathe in shakily through his nose as they fit together, his thumb stroking slowly at the base of Tony’s neck.
And Steve’s hands, Steve’s lips, are boiling against him as Tony’s hands come up almost unconsciously to grip at the front of Steve’s shirt.
Which seems to be the breaking point because Steve jerks back, only by a centimetre but still enough to stop the kiss, panting slightly, his hands still uncertainly in Tony’s hair.
Tony thinks one of them had moaned at some point, and Steve’s blush is still going strong and now he knows exactly how hot to the touch it would be.
“Tis the season,” Darcy says, sounding strangled, her eyebrows up over her glasses, and clears her throat. “I mean, uh. Wow. Christmas is my new favourite holiday.”
“You’re Jewish,” Natasha says, but she hasn’t taken her eyes off the two of them, either.
Darcy waves her hand in the general direction of Natasha. “Yeah, whatever, Hanukkah shmaunakka,” she says in a distracted voice. “Go again, please?”
Tony, managing to find his voice, tries not to let it shake as he says, “One mistletoe means one kiss. Fuck off.”
Darcy, still staring, starts hitting Clint in the shoulder. “Clint, Clint, Clint-”
“I’ll get more in a minute,” Clint says, and hey, everyone’s staring, including Thor, who looks a mix of impressed, surprised and something else that Tony really, really doesn’t want to identify that falls way too close to arousal.
They all startle when the alarm goes off, and Steve says, “Assemble,” sounding like he’s been hit over the head. Then, again, snapping from Steve into Captain- “Avengers, assemble.”
“I’ll tape the rest of Ellen for you guys,” Darcy says, reaching for the remote.
Officially, Tony doesn’t avoid Steve after they get back from kicking Dr. Doom’s ass for the third time that month.
Unofficially, he locks himself in his workshop and makes Bruce bring him down food and makes Pepper worried by not sounding ‘himself’ when he finally answers her call.
Thirty minutes into the mostly one-sided conversation, she hesitates and asks, “Is this about the mistletoe,” and Tony blanches.
“You’re in on it, too? Is this some huge fucking mistletoe conspiracy to get me to humiliate myself? Is Coulson in on it? Oh, god, he probably has booby traps, he totally has booby traps, fuck my life-”
“He doesn’t have booby traps,” Pepper sighs in that all-weary, too familiar tone. “He’s not ‘in on it,’ Tony. There’s nothing to be ‘in’ on. Clint’s just an ass.”
When Tony says, “I know, right,” he has to take a second to tell himself he meant that ironically- he did, damnit- and he doesn’t sound the least bit like a hysterical adolescent girl.
Another weighted pause. “Darcy said it was quite the show.”
“Screw Darcy,” Tony says, and might take his frustration out on an innocent piece of gauntlet that did nothing to warrant this abuse. “And I’ll have you know I am a very talented kisser, thank you very much.”
“I know, Tony,” Pepper says, and he can tell from her voice that she’s smiling. “I’ve been on the receiving end of it, remember?”
Tony huffs, and doesn’t answer for a second. “Everyone was staring.”
“I know, Tony.”
“Like, staring. It was disturbing.”
“I know, Tony.”
“I think Thor was turned on by it and now it’s weird to spar with him.”
“That I didn’t know and I was perfectly comfortable not knowing, and going to my grave never knowing,” Pepper says, clipped.
Tony leans on his elbows, still holding the brutalized piece of gauntlet in one hand and his phone in the other.
He doesn’t tell her that he tasted Steve in his mouth the entire length of the battle, or that he was more disappointed about getting ash in his mouth and the taste disappearing than almost breaking his arm slamming into a burning building.
He doesn’t tell her that he’s been thinking about it for a while now, about their tongue sliding together, the painful press of memory that stings more than it should whenever he lets himself think about it.
His throat clicks, loud enough for her to hear it through the phone. “It’s Christmas, Pep. Can’t I have a break from my pathetic pining just for Christmas?”
“Apparently not,” she says, and again, she’s smiling. “And it’s not Christmas for another week. You still have time.”
“Time for what?”
He can practically see her pitying look. “To do something about it.”
He hears the rustle of paper, and she says, “Now shoo, I have to sign some paperwork because some moron made me CEO of a huge company.”
Tony laughs, and it’s louder than he thought it would be. “Sounds like a dick.”
“He’s actually kind of amazing,” Pepper says, simple and punctuated by the mess of pens clicking, “when you get past the fact that he’s an asshole most of the time.”
Tony doesn’t let himself linger on that first part, and instead takes a mouthful of air and says, “Why, Virginia, to whatever are you referring?”
Her laugh is bright and easy and he’s so fucking glad he has her, that any romantic relationship they tried before was crap compared to the friendship they have now, stronger than anything resembling it that they had before all of this.
This would be easier, Tony thinks, if he was still in love with her, rather than just loving her. “Bye, Pep.”
He listens to the dial tone for a while before putting the phone down, and sitting back to stretch his arms back until his shoulders pop.
Apart from Dummy, You and Butterfingers, the workshop is empty, and if it weren’t for the half-finished jam sandwich delivered by Bruce an hour before, Tony would think it was just like any other Christmas before this.
Of course, the first time he comes up in a week is when everyone’s around the TV again.
At the door, he opens his mouth to ask if anything good is on, but stops when he sees what they’re watching.
“-versary of the tragic accident that took the life of both the billionaire’s parents now 25 years prior,” the reporter is saying, and shit, no wonder Pepper called to see if he was okay, and no wonder Natasha kept checking up on him this morning, because she’s the only one who’s read his file. No wonder he’s been feeling like shit all day without remembering why, and oh, hey, look, it’s the 19th of December, and the reporter is announcing that Tony’s parents have been dead for a quarter of a century now.
Seriously, when are they going to stop playing that, they re-run it almost every fucking year, I’m forty-two, that was pre-goatee, are they ever going to get tired of that footage-
He catches Clint’s eye by accident- clear expression, eyes steady on Tony, not an ounce of anything Tony can call him out on, and here’s the thing about Clint: he knows when to glee over mistletoe, and he knows when to shut the fuck up about your dead parents.
No-one else seems to have noticed him except for Clint, and Tony stands there and watches them silently watching his nineteen year old self stand in front of the twin coffins being lowered into the ground, his arms at his side, his face blank. Obie, with more hair and less laugh-lines, has one meaty hand clasped over his shoulder.
Tony watches as on-screen Obie says something that the camera doesn’t catch because it’s too far away, and feels the words scroll in his head: Remember not to smile. But don’t look too sad, either, we don’t want them to think you’re too unstable to run the company.
An unexpected curl of fury rears up in his gut, twisted in with something else that was present along with the gravestones later, and Bruce says, “Hey, Tony,” in a careful voice that manages not to sound like he’s waiting for an outburst.
The others all look around to him, careful not-careful expressions and faux-casual postures, and none of their eyes betray anything.
Tony breathes, and thinks of pine needles prickling down his neck at age five, when Jarvis the butler had still been alive and his parents had been away on a business trip to- somewhere, god knows where- and he had been laughing and Jarvis had picked him up with both hands and spun him, over and over and around and around until he was lightheaded.
He keeps his expression just as neutral as he sits down between Bruce and Steve, keeping his eyes on the screen as he does. “You think they’d get sick of airing this year after year.”
“I’m already sick of it and I’ve only seen it twice,” Natasha says from the floor, eyes on the screen. “The lack of goatee is eerie.”
Almost everyone hums in agreement, and Tony snorts. “I totally pulled it off.”
“Unshaven you is creepy,” Clint says, and pauses to swallow his popcorn. “Seriously, man. You look like a toddler.”
“I looked hot. I was sexy as fuck.”
“Whatever you say,” Clint says, holding up his hands in mock-defeat.
They watch as onscreen Obie and onscreen Tony- seventeen, grieving and now taking a long drag from a bottle of whiskey- continue to stand at the graves as the pastor continues to talk.
When Steve says, “That’s Obidiah, right,” he says it like he’s asking about the weather, and it comes out completely normal except for how his jaw clenches over the name, a muscle fluttering like he’s pushing his teeth together, hard.
Tony says, “Yep,” and briefly wonders how much editing they did about that in his file. His hand is over the arc reactor, but everyone pretends not to notice.
Steve says, “Okay,” and doesn’t react for another thirty seconds, watching quietly until onscreen Obie’s hand comes to rest at his shoulder again.
Steve jaw flexes, his shoulders shift, and Tony doesn’t realize he’s sliding his hand over Steve’s until it’s too late.
I’m okay, Tony doesn’t say. I’m okay now. That’s all over. It happened and it sucked, and I’m okay.
Steve barely glances down, but he stills for a second before turning his palm up and squeezing his hand, nearly too tight.
Another minute passes, and Bruce says, “I think they’re airing last year’s Doctor Who Christmas special on the other channel.”
Natasha wordlessly flips down the channels until she gets to it, and Tony watches Matt Smith stand up, covered in soot and grinning, and instead of the ghost of Obie’s hand on his shoulder, there’s Steve’s palm underneath his, solid and warm and blocking out anything else that tries to get past.
The next day passes blissfully mistletoe-free, even though Tony thinks he catches Clint signalling to Darcy on one occasion and Natasha two other times.
He’s stopped avoiding Steve now- officially and unofficially- but things still aren’t back to normal, especially after the sort-of-hand-holding thing in front of the TV, which left Tony feeling more confused than anything else.
Lunch starts out uneventful- it’s late due to sparring, it’s nearly two-thirty and most of them are sweating, except for Thor, who was absent.
Natasha sits down next to Tony with a bowl of noodles, a sheet-clad Jane gives Tony and Steve the side-eye as she makes her way over to the toaster, and Steve raises his eyebrows at her as he finishes his blueberry muffin and starts on his sandwich.
After five minutes of Clint and Darcy talking under their breath next to the shelves, Tony says, “You could at least pretend you’re looking for something.”
Clint gives Darcy a meaningful look before he turns to Tony and says, eloquently, “Shut up, Stark.”
“Hey,” Darcy says, straightening up and putting her hands on her hips. “Guys, didn’t we have that thing? With Jane? The thing?”
Tony is pretty sure he hears Natasha mutter something in Russian, and with his limited experience in the language, he thinks it’s close to ‘oh, for fuck’s sake.’
“What thing,” Jane says, just as Thor talks over her. “Indeed we do! Come, my beautiful Jane, we must make merry and drink eggnog and- and- other festive- things.”
He tugs Jane out of the room, and Bruce says, “Oh, right, that thing,” and follows, pushing his glasses up his nose.
Tony supresses a sigh and says, “What, pray tell-”
“Nothing,” Darcy says, at the same time that Clint says, “You wouldn’t like it, bye,” and Natasha says, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to agree with these idiots. See you two later.”
She walks out with Darcy and Clint on her heels, which leaves Steve and Tony on opposite sides of the kitchen table, both blinking at the door.
Steve takes another bite out of his toast and says, “Huh. Watching Thor trying to be subtle is like watching a brick try to swim.”
“It was kind of pathetic,” Tony agrees, trying to resist the urge to tap his leg, to fidget with his phone, anything to keep his limbs from doing something else other than launching himself across the table at Steve.
They eat in silence for a minute, before Tony clears his throat. “So, uh. What do you think that was about?”
Steve takes a second to chew his sandwich- because he chews his food thoroughly like a good Catholic boy, Jesus Christ- before putting it back down on the plate. “Remember Clint and Darcy talking over by the shelves?”
“Remember my super-hearing?”
“Yeah,” Tony says, his mouth curling upwards despite himself. “Wow, that was dumb.”
“Mm,” Steve says, and he’s smiling along with him. “They locked the door.”
Tony doesn’t even bother looking around at it as he takes another sip of his coffee. “Genius strategists they aren’t.”
“Mm,” Steve says again, and breathes in, so the next sentence comes out on the rushed exhale. “So, I like you.”
Tony stares, white-knuckling his coffee cup, and is opening his mouth just as Steve continues, “I thought I’d be straightforward, because I don’t- I mean, I’m not- good at this,” he says lamely, and Tony’s favourite blush is back, baby, running down his neck.
“I’m not, I’m really, tragically horrible at whatever this is, and if you want to just forget about this and keep being friends, then I’m fine with that. I mean, I’m not, but I’ll- I’m fine with it,” Steve blurts, his hands braced against the table in a way that reminds Tony of pulling off a bandaid, or pulling out a shard of glass: quick and painful, but you have to get it over with.
“I’m not trying to push you into anything,” Steve says, and Tony thinks he’s going to break the mug he’s holding, because Steve is still freaking talking. “And again, I’d be fine if you want to put this all behind us. But it’s- it’s Christmas, and I think I’ve watched too many Christmas movies, I’m half-convinced the idea of Santa is actually probable and that we’re the grumpy skeptics who get their faith in Christmas back at the end of the movie thanks to the happy-go-lucky twelve year old who never gave up hope-”
“Anyway,” Tony prompts him, and Steve’s flush is brimming his hair.
“Anyway,” Steve says quickly, “Apparently too many Christmas movies can make you believe in those kind of things. Impossible things, like flying reindeer and a fat man who somehow gets around the entire world in twelve hours.” His swallow is shaky, and he keeps breaking eye contact, but he looks right at him as he says, “And, uh, you.”
Tony wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t blinked the entire time Steve had been talking.
Steve swallows again. “So, I was wondering if you’d like to have dinner with me. Sometime. If you’d like.”
For a good six seconds, Tony just stares. Then he peels his fingers off of his mug- thankfully not cracked- and flexes his fingers. “I’m an impossible thing?”
“You said I was an impossible thing.”
Steve lips twitch. “You are kind of impossible, Tony. In a good way,” he adds hastily.
“Not always in a good way.”
Steve huffs a laugh. “Fair enough.”
Tony thinks distantly that he should probably do something other than staring. Like answering, maybe.
“You’re a fucking moron,” is what he says instead, straight-faced, and it’s almost comical how much Steve wilts, his smile fading.
“Oh,” Steve says. “I. Um. Okay, then, I’ll just-”
He looks around; starts to get up.
“Still a fucking moron,” Tony says, and stands up just as Steve does, reaching across the table to fist one hand in his shirt, the other bracing against the table as he drags Steve in.
He kisses him open-mouthed and sloppy, and Steve’s hands come hesitantly to cup his face, sliding through his hair again, and it’s enough to make Tony’s knees weak.
And, because the universe hates him, the Avenger alarm goes off and they spring apart.
“Motherfucker,” Tony yells to the ceiling, hand still in Steve’s shirt. “Come on! God forbid me and him ever have sex, Dr. Doom will probably set off a fucking doomsday device three seconds pre-penetration!”
The words are out of his mouth before he can do something sensible, like staple his mouth shut, but Steve only misses a beat before yelling over the siren, “As opposed to the doomsday devices he tries to set off every fortnight?”
“They should really upgrade prison security,” Tony says, and Steve laughs, leaning in again to press a quick kiss to his closed lips.
“And yes, I’ll go to dinner with you,” Tony says against his mouth. “Fucking moron.”
He feels Steve’s grin on his lips more than he sees it.
It turns out to be a false alarm, which pisses Tony off to no end. He rants for ten minutes on the Helicarrier, until Coulson unsheathes the tazer from a suspicious-looking thigh holster and Tony shuts up.
In fact, he manages to shut up for an entire ten minutes, at which point Steve leans over and says, “So, I was thinking we could try that new place that just opened up near Rockefeller center?”
Tony is going to have to focus on not grinning stupidly in public whenever Steve is around. Fuck.
“Sounds… adequate,” he says.
“Adequate,” Steve repeats teasingly.
“Glad my dinner plans are adequate, then.”
“Good. You should be.”
He got asked out by Steve. This is a perfectly legitimate reason to have his head turn into brain soup. That’s his excuse, and he’s sticking to it.
It’s getting dark by the time they get back, and Tony is totally blaming indigestion when he gets something that resembles butterflies in his stomach when Steve says, “You ready?”
Tony has to bite on the inside of his cheek to stop his smile from getting out of control. “Lead the way.”
The new place happens to be a Chinese takeout, and Steve offers to try a more glamorous place before being shoved lightly by Tony.
“Fuck fancy places. I had to learn the name of every single fork by the time I was eight.” He shudders for theatrical effect. “I still have nightmares.”
Steve looks at him with some unnameable warmth in his eyes, and Tony- could definitely get used to this, given time. He could get used to how Steve smiles at him nowadays, how he looks at him like he can’t look anywhere else, like he doesn’t even want to.
“Takeout, then,” Steve says, and his voice is soft.
Tony nods, and he’s so incredibly far gone he’s having trouble getting a hold of anything. “Takeout it is.”
Their order gets made faster than everyone else’s- superhero perks, Tony never gets tired of them- and Tony slips the guy a few hundred dollars as a tip. He hears the guy make a strangled noise on their way out.
They eat on a park bench, talking comfortably and looking up at the Christmas tree standing hoisted in the middle.
“It’s beautiful,” Steve says, the light reflecting heavily in his eyes. Then: “It’s a lot bigger than the ones they used to put up.”
Tony swallows his mouthful of chicken. “They had the Rockefeller tree in the forties?”
“Thirties,” Steve corrects him, and he doesn’t have that faraway look he always used to get when he talked about it- he’s very much here, on a park bench with Tony next to him.
He smiles, and it’s hazy in the lights. “I think I went to the first one they ever put up.”
It doesn’t hurt as much to think about it, Tony knows- it’s been two years, and even though there will always be a twinge, it’s not as bad as it used to be.
Tony says, “Yeah?”
“Pretty sure.” Steve digs around in his carton with his chopsticks. “I was a kid, though, so it might have been the second. I don’t know.”
“That’s…” Tony pauses, his mouth ticking up. “Impressive.”
“It’s impressive I grew up in a time where computers weren’t invented yet?”
“That one I still pity you for,” Tony says, and Steve laughs.
They eat in silence for a minute or so, finishing off the carton and leaning over to bin them, chopsticks and all, and Tony sits back, wiping his fingers on the napkin.
“Hey, Tony,” Steve says, and when Tony looks at him, he pauses, but then says, “What did you used to do for Christmas? Before the Avengers, I mean.”
Last year, Tony had been pretty scarce; only showing up on Christmas day and then going for a business trip after, and he still remembers Steve’s, you aren’t staying?
He remembers the surprise at how disappointed Steve had sounded, even with the keys to a new car Tony had given him in his hand.
After that, it had taken Tony a while to realize that they didn’t just want him for his gifts. It still hasn’t completely sunken in, but it’s getting there.
Steve looks nervous at Tony’s silence, so he clears his throat. “Uh, post or pre-car crash?”
Tony nods, looking up at the tree, at everyone looking up at the tree, at the lights like stars between the buildings. “It’s not really date conversation.”
Then he stills, because this is a date, right, he didn’t just screw it up- but then there’s a hand on his and squeezing, reassuring him like he had done to Steve in front of the TV.
“I don’t mind,” Steve says, and Tony is gone, gone, gone without a goddamn chance of ever coming back up again.
“Uh,” Tony says again. “Before they died, I think they were actually there at Christmas… twice? Three times? I think twice, and the other one was a fever dream. I never asked.”
Steve is sitting quietly, waiting patiently for him to go on, and it’s then that Tony realizes that he’s never told anyone this before, employee or otherwise.
“I had this butler- Edwin Jarvis, I named the AI after him. He, uh. My parents would basically get me a credit card and maybe get the maid to buy me something, and do a photoshoot for the press, but Jarvis was always there, every year.”
He threads his fingers through Steve’s, still squeezing, and there’s a small moment of quiet until Steve says softly, “What happened to him?”
Tony turns to look at him, finally facing away from the tree. “He was in the front seat when my parents crashed. He was driving.”
Steve says, “Oh,” and Tony nods, though he isn’t sure why.
“That year, I don’t remember much. Like, I remember bits of it- the funeral, sort of, and some flashes of the workshop, and then I woke up and I had missed New Years and it was halfway through January and Obie was knocking on the door and asking if I had signed the papers yet.”
His free hand flexes on his knee, and Steve takes that, too, linking their fingers and squeezing without needing to be asked.
“Uh,” Tony says, and swallows, and swallows, and swallows. “After that, I either locked myself in my workshop and didn’t look up until January or I went to a continuous stream of parties until I passed out from exhaustion or alcohol poisoning.” He might be avoiding Steve’s eyes, but he trying to not pay attention at this point. “Mostly it was exhaustion, though, so I didn’t need to get my stomach pumped nine years out of ten.”
Steve nods, his throat working, and it’s a few seconds before he asks, “What did you do last Christmas?”
“Worked, mostly,” Tony answers, automatic. “Then I dropped in to see you guys.”
Steve’s thumbs are both stroking gentle lines up and down his wrists as he says, “You looked tired.”
“I was,” Tony says. “I think. But that whole month was pretty much me seeing how long I could last without sleep. I think I got two good nights of sleep throughout all of December, what with the new buildings and the paperwork I had to do.”
Steve snorts, but it’s soft. “Tony Stark, willingly doing paperwork?”
“Pepper threatened a homicide-suicide,” Tony says, smiling as he remembers. “There was way too much for her to handle on her own, so I generously pitched in.”
“You’re so kind.”
The telltale flash of a camera makes Tony stiffen, and looking around, he notices that the guy who it had came from isn’t the only one with a camera pointed in their direction. That, and pictures of Captain America and Iron Man holding hands on a park bench are going to be all over newsstands by tomorrow morning.
“It’s fine,” Steve says before Tony can open his mouth. “I don’t care. Do you care?”
Tony does open his mouth this time. “Not even a little.”
Steve’s smile undoes him, makes him dumb and makes his mouth dry, and if villains could harness this into a gun he’d be theirs for the taking, no questions asked.
“Okay, then. We should give them something to really fuss over.”
Tony almost laughs, because Steve is the only person he knows that can say the word ‘fuss’ without being looked at funny, but then Steve’s mouth is closing over his and he tastes just like Tony does, like the Chinese they had just eaten.
And there are cameras going off like fireworks now, voices rising like tides, and Tony hears his name and Steve’s somewhere in there. But Steve’s hands are soft on his, along with their mouths sliding together, and Tony imagines, just for a second, that they’re the Christmas tree in the middle of the square: lighting up from the inside and dragging everything with it, blinding and warm and blazing and completely, utterly, impossibly bright.