“I give up,” Tony complained, from the vicinity of Steve’s lap. “I don’t know what you want for Christmas. So. How about you give me an itemised list of three to five things? Another motorcycle? Stronger hair gel? A nicer costume in black and orange?”
Steve frowned down at him, his lips pressed thin, a clear sign that Tony had, yet again, Put His Foot In It. “That’s not how Christmas works.”
“Well it should work that way,” Tony said defensively. “It’s more efficient. Saves everyone a lot of time. Remember when you freaked the fuck out after I tried to give you a house?”
“Anyone would have ‘freaked out’.”
“Google told me otherwise,” Tony said sadly. Google tended to lie so much recently. He glanced over at the TV. Steve had been aggressively watching CNN when Tony had come by his poky little roach-infested Brooklyn apartment to confess his Christmas shopping failures. “Why do you watch CNN? It’s depressing and terrible. Other than Anderson Cooper.”
“You’ve got to stay connected with what’s happening around the world.”
“What’s there to be connected to? The world is on fire.” Tony frowned at the screen, which was depressingly predicting a Merkel loss in 2017. “FRIDAY, turn the tv off.”
“Negative, Mister Stark,” FRIDAY said crisply, from Tony’s bangle. “It’s an ancient dinosaur with no wifi capacity.”
“Good lord, really?”
“On the other hand, if you get up and fetch the remote, which is on the armchair to your right, you will burn a few calories, putting you slightly less in the red against your whisky consumption. Sir.”
Steve coughed, then as Tony glared up at him, he started to laugh. “Don’t you start,” Tony told him, scowling. “This is awful. How old is your TV? I didn’t even know that people still had tvs that don’t get wifi or bluetooth. Is this even a HD tv?”
“Negative, Mister Stark.”
“All right, that settles it,” Tony decided. “I’ll get you a tv for Christmas.”
“Aww, c’mon! It’d be a small present. It’d probably be worth less than a pair of Pepper’s shoes, even,” Tony said vaguely, with the tone of someone who had most certainly paid for said shoes before, but had never, ever had to personally buy a tv.
Steve leaned over, stretching to get the remote. Tony watched the stretch and flex of muscles under Steve’s gray shirt, fascinated, even as Steve turned the tv off and set the remote aside. “Tell you what,” Steve said wryly, running his fingers briefly over his face and his cornstalk hair. “You could just donate some money to a charity on my behalf this year. Like the ACLU.”
“That’s a terrible idea,” Tony began, then added hastily, when Steve started to frown, “I mean, sure. The ACLU, fine. I’ll write them a cheque. But. I still want to give you a present. I give people presents. It’s a thing.”
“I know you do. I just.” Steve exhaled, a little frustrated. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
Tony pushed himself up reluctantly from Steve’s lap, sitting up. “Okay. Remember the New Rule?”
Steve smiled, a little wanly. “That we’ll try to talk things through instead of causing major international incidents?”
“Seriously, if Fury hadn’t shown up out of nowhere the last time and put the fix in on everything, God knows what would’ve happened,” Tony said pointedly. “We’d have pissed off the UN. We’d have pissed off Prince Catsuit. Your faux-Soviet friend wouldn’t now be receiving treatment in Wakanda. Fury is awesome. FRIDAY, delete the last twenty seconds from your memory banks in case he ever finds out that I said that.”
“You really should stop referring to T’Challa as Prince Catsuit.” Steve said patiently. “If anything, it’s King Catsuit—” He cut himself off belatedly, reddening as Tony started to laugh. “Oh God. FRIDAY, please delete that from your memory. I’m sorry that I said that.”
“I wish I could delete the both of you from my memory,” FRIDAY grumbled.
“Why are you apologising? T’Challa’s not even here. Besides, you don’t get to distract me. Talk to me. Go.”
“You’re the one who started talking about Fury,” Steve said, a little reproachfully. “Fine. I don’t want you to buy me presents, because it always escalates, and then I’m never sure what to get you in return, since you always go ‘just get me anything’ when I ask you what you want.”
“It’s not a competition,” Tony said reasonably. “Honestly. I like the things you get me, I really do.”
“Yeah?” Steve said dryly. “What did I get you last year?”
“Negative. That was the first date, according to the gate security logs,” FRIDAY said helpfully.
“Shut up,” Tony hissed at his bangle. “Cufflinks?”
“So close,” FRIDAY muttered.
“Tie pin! No wait. A watch. Right?”
“This is my point exactly,” Steve said, folding his arms and turning into Very Serious Steve, always a bad sign. Usually it meant that an international incident was imminent. “Yes, it was a watch.”
“I’m sure I treasured it very much,” Tony said, as firmly as he could.
“Actually sir, you took it apart on your workbench and used bits of it in the MKX a month ago,” FRIDAY corrected.
“All right, that’s it. Deactivate, Code: Stark.” The new AI sometimes still went on the fritz. If only he didn't have to move JARVIS to the new Triskelion...
“Affirmative. Going on standby,” FRIDAY said, sounding reproachful even as it did so.
“I’m not mad,” Steve said quickly, as Tony opened his mouth. “Look, I’m glad you got some use out of it. And it was a bit of a dumb present anyway. I just wasn’t sure what to get a man who has everything, and. I uh, Googled it, and google said that engineers like watches, so I bought a watch that had good Amazon reviews.”
“Wow,” Tony said, fascinated. “Amazon reviews? Google? Sam deserves some kinda award.”
“I’ve been out of the ice for years,” Steve reminded him. “It just all seems so unsentimental. Like we’re just exchanging presents because it’s expected for the season.”
“As though we’re the kind of people who’d do things just because they’re expected,” Tony said dryly. “All right. Maybe I see your point. But I like giving presents.”
“Usually when you’re sorry about something.”
“Someone’s been talking to Pepper, I see. And yes, fine. Maybe I’m sorry about something. Now that Fury’s back in SHIELD, we’ve been rushing the new project in the Triskelion rebuild and—”
“I know, Tony,” Steve said gently. “And I’m busy too. I understand. But I don’t want you to feel bad about that. Or buy something excessive for me just because you feel bad. There’s really only one thing I want for Christmas, but I’m on call, and so’re you, so. Can we just not do presents this year?”
“What’s this one thing?” Tony asked, frowning. “Pretty sure Fury gave you back your shield, after he yelled at you for an hour.”
“It’s really, well kinda another old-fashioned… I’d rather just—”
“No, really. Tell me. Please? Or I’m going to seriously piss you off by bugging you about it, and this time, the President will probably have to intervene, which is just gonna depress me further, because it’d remind me that he’s only gonna be President for a few more weeks.”
“God, don’t remind me,” Steve pulled a face. “It’s crazy. I spent years of my life before getting frozen fighting Nazis, and years after I wake up, it feels like they’re everywhere. CNN was just talking about it.”
“Stop watching CNN. Seriously. Just read Al-Jazeera online or BBC or something. And c’mon. I’m really going to bug you about it until you give in or something else gives in.”
“All right, fine.” Steve muttered. “What I want for Christmas is to have Christmas. You, and me. Just us. Somewhere. No work calls, no last minute SHIELD briefings, no labwork, or Avengers business, or emergency board meetings, or all the million things that tend to pull us everywhere but home. But we’re busy people and that might even be selfish. I get that.”
“… Okay,” Tony said, blinking. “I didn’t expect that.”
“And I don’t expect you to humour me,” Steve said quickly. “I just thought it would be nice. But since it’s pretty much just going to be any other day for us, I’d rather not have something that we’d end up fighting over.”
“I wasn’t going to start anything,” Tony protested, which got him an unearned Frowning Steve. Hastily, he said, “But all right. I see your point. That’s fine. We can have a presents ceasefire this year.”
“All right. Good.” Steve relaxed.
“But we’re going to try to do The Thing,” Tony decided firmly. “Christmas. At your place. No wait, my place, this apartment is a death trap. I’ll get FRIDAY to take us both off-grid except for serious, fabric-of-reality-is-under-attack sort of emergencies. We can watch dumb reruns and order in. Or. Something,” Tony said lamely, when Steve just stared at him.
“Won’t you find that boring?”
“Me? No. ‘Course not,” Tony said, as confidently as he could. “I mean. This is what normal people do, right? And we’re. Normal. Kinda. Technically.”
“This is a terrible idea,” Steve predicted, though he was grinning, puppy-like, the first rare, genuine grin of boyish joy that Tony had seen from him since the Prince Catsuit International Incident. “All right, yes. I’ll love to.”
“Come over on Christmas Eve,” Tony said, still projecting confidence. This was fine. There was no need to panic. Pepper would know what to do.
Across her impressively neat desk, Pepper shot him an unimpressed look. As the CEO of Stark Industries, Pepper’s resting face had gone from Militant Secretarial Calm to something that Tony thought of as Aggressive Stress Mode, a look that was heightened by Pepper’s sharp cut suit and pale cream blouse. “You want me to. Write you a schedule. For Christmas.”
“And Christmas Eve too, just in case.”
“That is not remotely normal. Tony, this isn’t hard. You’ve lived through at least fifty Christmases.”
“The first bit of my life involved the kinda glitzy dress-up parties that my mum liked but which I know scare the hell out of Steve, and the remainder usually involved random supermodels or labwork,” Tony admitted.
Pepper seemed torn between exasperation and sympathy, and seemed to settle reluctantly on the latter. “Okay. Okay. Look. Just take it easy. You’ve spent days with the Captain before, haven’t you? Just do the same thing.” When Tony was thoughtfully silent, Pepper narrowed her eyes. “Don’t tell me… Tony. You’ve been… haven’t the two of you been dating for a year? At least a year?”
“I don’t think we’ve actually ever spent an entire day together.” Tony thought back quickly. “Unless it was Avengers business. And even then. We’re both busy,” he said defensively. “And you’re giving me that look again.” He gestured jerkily at his face. “That scrunched up nose look. That God Tony You’re An Idiot look.”
“This is partly why it didn’t work out between us,” Pepper said gently. “Relationships are about connecting with people, Tony. And you can’t really do that if you don’t have the time for them. Should work both ways, too.”
“… So,” Tony said uncomfortably. “No help then?”
Pepper sighed. “I’ll get our people to prep some stuff that you can reheat in the kitchen without burning the place down. And. Wine and eggnog and a tree and such. What about a present?”
“We’re having a ceasefire this year. Apparently previously trying to give him a house was a bad thing.”
“Only you, Tony.”
He woke up abruptly when he was lifted into the air, flailing instinctively for a moment before he realized, blearily, that it was Steve. Yawning, Tony went limp as Steve carried him out of the workshop. “Wha’ time is it?”
“Two in the morning, I think.”
“Hmm? Aren’t you meant to be elsewhere?”
“Op finished an hour ago.” Steve frowned at Tony, still in his Captain America gear. “Sleeping on the floor of the workshop is really bad for your back.”
“I didn’t mean to. Also. Getting carried around in a princess carry at my age is really bad for my ego,” Tony said, though he grinned.
“Fireman carry then?” Steve hefted Tony’s weight in playful warning, and God, the reminder of his superhuman strength, the easy flex of his muscles…
“Mm no, that one makes me feel like throwing up. Wait. If it’s two in the morning. It’s two in the morning on Christmas, isn’t it? Happy Christmas?”
“I think it’s ‘Merry Christmas’,” Steve said, though he kissed Tony on the forehead as they nudged into Tony’s bedroom. “Good try, though.”
“Only ‘good’? There’s a tree downstairs. There’s also a very big, cooked dead bird in the oven, which I presume used to be a turkey. Possibly ham somewhere. Whoever stocked the fridge presumably thought we were trying to survive a zombie Christmas apocalypse.” Tony lay on the bed, watching greedily as Steve started stripping off his uniform. “You tell me that there’s a ceasefire and yet here you are, unwrapping my present.”
Steve laughed, pulling off his boots, then he climbed up over Tony to get a real kiss, a lingering one. Tony’s clothes were easier to shed, and as they toed his underwear off the bed, Steve made a low, hungry sound in his throat, grazing kisses over Tony’s cheek. “Tired?”
“Only if you are.”
“This isn’t a competition,” Steve told him, amused, though he kissed down, lavishing attention on Tony’s throat, his shoulders, further down, kissing pebbling nipples. Steve obligingly twisted around when Tony tugged impatiently at his hips. He was already hard, thick and long, and Steve hissed as Tony leaned up on his elbows for a taste. It was a competition, at the end, both of them trying to get the other to the finish line first. Tony had his fingers curled over Steve’s hips, probably tight enough to sting, but Steve pressed into it, moaning eagerly, his mouth on what he could fit and his fingers on the rest of Tony’s cock.
It was close, but Tony was an old hand at these kinds of games, and at the end, he was grinning as he curled against Steve. Small victories, small pleasures. Steve snorted, though he pulled Tony closer and pressed another lingering kiss on his mouth.
“So,” Steve said, after they’d cleaned up. “What’s the plan for today?”
“To be as normal as possible, I thought?”
“Tony,” Steve said wryly. “I don’t actually want ‘normal’. I thought it was obvious that it wasn’t possible for people like us. And I don’t care. I just wanted to spend the day with you. As you are.”
“Definitely a terrible idea,” Tony warned, though he smiled, a little sheepishly, as he leaned up, nuzzling Steve’s neck. “Now if nobody tries to destroy the space-time continuum later or something, we’ll be all set.”
“Don’t jinx it.”