Steve never had a birthday party.
Part of it was the era he'd grown up in. People didn't have the money to spend on things so trivial. It was a struggle to scrape together enough money for the essentials; the idea of throwing lavish parties just for living another year wasn't really something that was done, especially not in the area of Brooklyn Steve grew up in.
Bucky bought him a piece of candy from the dime store every year, and when his mother had been alive she took him to see the fireworks. Steve, no matter how old he got, had always liked to pretend they were his. He knew they were for Independence Day, knew the fireworks people didn't even know it was his birthday, but he still liked to pretend. It was special and wonderful and his, and it was all he'd ever needed out of a birthday.
He hadn't seen fireworks in at least three years. Between the war and sleeping for nearly seven decades, Steve had just stopped counting birthdays along the way. They were unimportant. When he was young it had been a miracle he ever made it out of the house, much less survived another year, but now it just seemed sort of pointless.
Many things were different in this century, though. Steve had been here almost a year, but as with most things, there was always more to learn. He'd been defrosted in June of last year; he hadn't even noticed his birthday coming and going back then, too busy burying himself in punching bags and history books.
As he flipped his calendar to July and marked off the first day, however, he caught sight of a mark on the fourth. It was a picture of his shield, and above it was "Capsicle's Birthday" in sloppy, cramped handwriting.
He recognized the handwriting easily; he spent too much time watching Tony work not to, and if Tony knew, everyone wasgoing to know soon enough. It wasn't that Tony couldn't be trusted with a secret—Steve trusted Tony with his life, and the man knew more about him than anyone else alive—but he probably didn't consider it something he should keep to himself, and the last thing Steve wanted was some big party.
It did warm him to know Tony remembered his birthday, though. It was silly, of course, but Tony was just so busy all the time. He was always off running StarkIndustries or in the shop developing something new for the team, and though they saw each other often, Tony's mind was always in a thousand places at once at any given moment. The idea that he'd made room in that genius brain of his for something as trivial as Steve's birthday was…well, it was nice.
Honestly, that Tony was so go go go all the time was something Steve loved about him; he didn't feel put upon to make small talk, or entertain Tony. People expected a lot from The Great Captain America, when a lot of the time Steve was just a kid from Brooklyn trying his best to be unobtrusive. He'd never been a great socializer, never learned how to keep people entertained for long.
He'd been worried, when he and Tony had first started hanging out—Tony was a wealthy celebrity businessman, he all but oozed charm. Steve had thought Tony would expect the same charismatic razzle dazzle from him, but Tony had never seemed anything but pleased that Steve wasn't like that. They worked best when they weren't talking about anything of importance, when they were just bickering and teasing and messing around; Tony fiddling with something in the shop, Steve sketching or reading a book on the couch down there.
Being with Tony was just so easy.
Which was no excuse for falling in love with him, but there wasn't much Steve could do about that.
Steve quickly dressed for the day and went in search of Tony, hoping to convince him to hop off the birthday train before he got the others onboard. It was good to know Tony had remembered, but really, Steve didn't want a party. He'd never had one before, and he certainly didn't need one now; he was twenty-seven in a few days, not to mention a grown man. It was unnecessary, and—
"—that, but are you sure we should do the fireworks?" Bruce was pointing his spoon at Clint as Steve entered the kitchen.
"You don't want Clint around fireworks." Natasha shook her head. "He's not just flammable, he attracts flame."
"Ignore her, we totally have to do the fireworks, it's the best part!" Clint insisted, and Steve was about to step forward, tell them they shouldn't do anything much less fireworks, but Clint kept speaking, "It's the fourth of July, we have to have fireworks!"
"He's right." Tony nodded, sipping his coffee. "It's kind of tradition. I'm doing fireworks that night whether we have a party or not."
Steve felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment. Of course Tony didn't remember. He could've doodled it months ago, that didn't mean he remembered now. It was ridiculous to think he would've. Tony had a million things going on in his life at any given time, Steve's birthday hardly warranted remembering.
"You just want to set things on fire." Natasha rolled her eyes.
"How long have you known me?" Tony grinned. "Of course I do, no surprises there."
"Fireworks, huh?" Steve spoke up, stepping into the kitchen and letting his presence be known.
"Clint wants to throw a Fourth of July bash at the Tower." Tony raised his coffee in greeting. "Just wait til you see this century's fireworks, Cap, they're something else."
"I imagine." Steve made himself smile.
He tried to remember that he'd come down here to tell Tony not to celebrate his birthday in the first place. He shouldn't care if Tony remembered his birthday or not, it was silly; Tony barely remembered to eat something other than coffee without a reminder, why would Steve's birthday be any different?
He ate his breakfast unobtrusively while the others made their plans.
"Come on, you can't hole up in here all night," Tony wheedled, "Just come to the roof with me, the fireworks are worth it, I promise—"
"I'm not a party guy, Tony, you know that." He leaned against the doorframe of his room with a sigh. "And I'm not so sure anyone should go up on that roof. That many people, someone's bound to fall off."
"There's not, uh." Tony fidgeted. "It's just a few people, y'know, cool people, you'll like them, no falling off the roof, I promise. Just give me ten minutes to prove it?"
"Really, Tony, I'm okay." Steve shook his head. "Don't worry about me, I've got a book calling my name. You should get back to hosting your party."
The shindig was huge; despite being last minute, they were New York's favorite superheroes after all, and the guest list was miles long within hours. Now, there were people all over every inch of the public floors. Steve recognized a couple SHIELD agents, Thor's girlfriend, Jane, and he was pretty sure he'd caught sight of Pepper at some point before she'd disappeared into the crowd, but other than that, it was just a sea of strangers. It made him feel more alone than anything else, which was why he'd strategically retreated to his floor in the first place.
How Tony had even known he'd left, Steve couldn't fathom.
"That thing?" Tony waved a hand dismissively. "That's Clint doing, all I need to host is the bill. Come on, do it for America, you love America!"
"Steve, will you just—" Tony ran a hand through his hair. Steve realized with a frown that was the third time in sixty seconds he'd done it. He was anxious about something. "I swear, you are so freaking stubborn sometimes."
It wouldn't kill him to spend a minute or two at the roof party, he supposed.
"Give me a minute, I'm not wearing any shoes."
"You won't regret it, I promise!" Tony beamed, and that, Steve thought, was entirely worth going.
"What're you so fidgety about, anyway?" Steve eyed him as he laced up his shoes. "Have you managed to set something on fire already?"
"No." Tony made a face. "You have no faith in me whatsoever, do you?"
"Not around explosives."
"Fair enough, that's probably a good idea." Tony snorted. "But lucky you, I'm not setting these ones off, I just set them up."
"You set them up?" Steve raised an eyebrow as they headed into the elevator. Tony tended to pay people for those sorts of things. "What for?"
"You'll see." Tony hedged.
Steve watched him in suspicious silence for a moment. Tony just whistled innocently.
"You know I don't like surprises," Steve said eventually.
"You're such a buzzkill sometimes." Tony elbowed Steve playfully as they stepped out of the elevator. "I don't know why I put up with you."
"I like to think I keep you sane."
Steve glanced out at the cityscape, taking in the night air and bright lights. There were fireworks, but they were off in the distance. He expected there to be people like Tony had said, jostling crowds and rowdy party-goers, but the rooftop was empty with the lone exception of a table, something glowing atop it. What was that, a candle?
"Steve, if I ever even approach sane, it is entirely because of you." Tony smiled at him.
"What is this?" Steve gestured out at the empty rooftop. "I thought you said we were joining the party."
"A private party," Tony corrected, nudging Steve forward towards the table, "See, this is a much better party, because it's for a much better reason."
Sitting on the table was a single cupcake: red velvet—Steve's favorite—with white and blue icing and a gold star in the center, the lit candle flickering.
"Tony, did you—?"
"God no, you give me way too much credit." Tony snorted. "I did try, but Bruce thankfully took over before I burned the kitchen down."
"You tried to bake me a cupcake."
"Tried being the operative word, yes."
"Birthday." Tony smiled genuinely, clasping a hand on Steve's shoulder.
"You remembered," Steve murmured. "You don't remember anything."
"I know you're from the forties and all, but it's actually still considered rude to insult people who attempt to bake you birthday cupcakes—"
"No, I didn't—I just mean, you never…" Steve was too flustered to be polite about it. "You forget everything, Tony. You never eat and you rarely sleep and you forget allergies and appointments and birthdays and that genius brain of yours has you all over the place and I just, I didn't think you would actually—"
"Steve." Tony stepped forward, closer into Steve's space than he was used to, and for a moment Steve forgot to breathe. "I remember everything about you."
Steve moved forward. He didn't mean to, didn't even think about, just took Tony's face in his hands and pressed his lips to Tony's like he'd been aching to do for months. Endorphins flooded through his system when Tony reciprocated, urging him for more more more, to taste and touch and savor everything about this moment. Tony's hands fell to Steve's waist to pull him against him, and Steve ran his tongue over Tony's bottom lip, searching for permission.
Tony opened to him without hesitation, folding into Steve's embrace like Steve was the only thing holding him up. Steve wondered if this was what if felt like to be in a movie, to have everything fall into place so perfectly. He'd never had anything come easily, had always been taught that anything worth having was worth fighting for. Steve caught himself worrying, caught himself anxious about if that meant there would be trouble in their future, but found that it didn't matter.
If there was, he'd deal with it. He'd fight for Tony without question, and he had an inkling that Tony felt the same.
"Hey, uh." It was a long moment before they parted, and when they did, Tony had the faintest hint of red on his cheeks. "So that's not how this was supposed to go."
"No." Tony stepped out of Steve's embrace, and Steve had to actively remind himself to let go. His arms weren't very on board with that plan. "See, first, you were supposed to make a wish and blow out the candle."
He plucked the cupcake off the table, holding it up in offering to Steve.
"You want me to—?"
"Play along with me for a minute here." Tony smiled, and Steve knew there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for that smile. He closed his eyes to wish, leaned forward, and blew out the candle.
"Then I would ask you—" Tony replaced the cupcake on the table, turning back to Steve. "—what you wished for."
"You," Steve answered, honest and immediate.
"I was expecting you to be a little more coy about it." The bright smile on Tony's face said he didn't dislike the honesty though. "But I was hoping you might say that. Look up."
Tony nodded his head at the open sky, then pulled his phone out and tapped something.
Happy birthday Steve lit up the sky in red white and blue.
"You…how did…" Steve gaped at the fading lights. "Tony, that's amazing."
Tony just grinned, stepping back into Steve's arms, looping his own around Steve's waist. "And this is the part where I was going to kiss you."
"No sense in wasting a good plan." Steve advised, leaning in for another kiss.
"Wait, quick question." Tony paused him. "I have a bet going, how would you have reacted to me jumping naked out of a cake?"
"I suppose I'd be curious how you got in."
"That would be your response to me presenting my glorious, naked body to you as a birthday gift?" Tony wrinkled his nose, affronted. "Wondering how I got in the cake?"
"It's a valid concern. So is how you'd get all that frosting off."
"Thanks a lot Captain Practical, now I owe Bruce a new pair of stretchy-pants—"
"I don't know about practical. The way I was thinking of getting all that frosting off you isn't very practical at all." Steve hummed innocently. "I've got a hell of a sweet tooth, you know."
Tony's immediate reaction was to pick up Steve's cupcake, swipe a fingerful of frosting, and smudge it across his lips.
"Oops," Tony said innocently.
"You stole my frosting," Steve accused, though the smile that all but split his face probably didn't do much for his accusatory tone.
"Come and get it then." Tony looped his arm around Steve's neck, dragging him into a sugary kiss. "Next year, you are so getting naked me in a cake."