Mary was for mothers.
They dangled over his head when his mother kissed him goodnight: soft little pieces of fabric and pictures, sewn carefully together with a ribbon strung through them. Steve remembered reaching up and tugging at them, wondering at them.
“You know Mary,” his mother would say, showing her most-worn one.
The lines of her face, the folds of her blue mantle framing her soft, kind expression were all worn thin, faded over years and years of Steve looking and looking at it, and even more years of his mother owning it.
“Tell me the story again,” Steve demanded.
Mom smiled down at him and settled herself onto his bed. She was careful, always so careful, not to squish him when she sat with him, even though his bed was small and even his skinny frame took up most of it.
“Once upon a time,” his mother started. Her cool, dry hands ran through his sweaty hair, soothed at his hot forehead. “Your father and I got married. And it was a beautiful service with Father George, from our church. And the week after the wedding I was at the church when one of the nuns saw me: Sister Theresa. And she pressed Mother Mary into my hands, and she said 'You'll have a boy a year from now, and Holy Mother will look over you and your son. And you'll know what it is to be a mother like Her.”
“And then you had me a year later,” Steve finished the story.
Mom smiled down at Steve, hand still moving gently through his hair, combing away the sickness. “And then I had you. And I ask the Blessed Mother to pray for us every day, because having a child is letting your heart run around outside your chest.”
“But it doesn't hurt?”
Steve's mom bent down and pressed a sweet kiss to his forehead. “Never more than it makes me happy. Never more than how proud I am of you, than my love for you.”
“Love you too, Mom,” Steve replied automatically.
Mary dangled down outside Mom's dressing gown, sorrowfully sweet eyes cast down and away from Steve. They were always down and away.
Christopher was for travel.
It was the first medal Steve bought himself when he woke up, in this strange land so far away from home. After he got over the shock of the price—and living in the future was like traveling to a different country, trying to do the quick calculations in his head constantly (a nickle back then was more like a dollar today, a dollar back then was more like twenty now)—he slipped the sterling-silver medal around his neck and rested it under his shirt, next to his dog tags. Occasionally the two would clang together, but it didn't bother Steve. He could use Saint Christopher's help right now, in this strange new land.
When he found a church and went to it, a week after being unfrozen, Steve had gripped the medal in his hand as he stood and sat and kneeled his way through this strange new mass.
It was in English. The mass.
The priest was talking in English. The people were talking in English. There were some parts still in Latin—agnus dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem—but most of it was English.
Steve's tongue fumbled over the words and he felt like he was some prodigal parishioner, obvious in his long absence from the weekly mass.
It wasn't his fault, though. Mass had been absent from him, not the other way around! And apparently, in a matter of decades, a two thousand year old institution could change.
Steve couldn't even compare this to traveling to a foreign land, because even when he was in France or Germany, the mass had been the same. The mass was always the same, the world over: that was the whole point.
Steve clutched the Christopher medal tightly as he kneeled, head bowed and hands folded in front of him. It was the same movements (mostly), the same hum, the same pattern of the service. It was the same song, except forgotten and twisted, steps a little different than he might have recalled them once. And the lyrics were all scrambled up, translated into something more familiar but somehow less.
Steve had gone to the priest for confession afterwards. Even that felt too modern and... relaxed. Accepting, maybe? Which Steve supposed was for the better, of course it was, making the Church more accessible to the average person, eliminating some of the more oppressive and soul-sucking guilt.
Steve kind of missed it, actually.
But then he went out and checked out some books from the library on the Church and read all up on Vatican II and Pope John Paul the Second and what the Church was doing in the modern world. And he came to the conclusion that it was definitely for the better, for the Church to update and modernize.
He still liked the Latin mass better.
He found out a couple weeks after the “Battle of New York” that there were a couple churches that would still give a Latin mass once a week. Steve went to those while he gave himself time to screw up the courage to modernize. Saint Christopher came with him, cool and reassuring beneath his dress shirt.
The Church had two thousand years to update Herself. Steve figured he could give himself two months.
Tony didn't get it.
He asked, once. Steve thought maybe he was expecting some sort of trite answer, something like “it's about faith” or “I need to be part of something greater than myself.” Both of which were true, mind you; both of those were big parts of Steve's belief. But they weren't the full picture, and more importantly--when talking to Tony Stark--they were answers he probably already had a pithy retort for.
(I have faith in me. I have faith in you. You saying there's something greater than my ego? Steve, I'm hurt.)
“You know how I went to art school?”
Tony frowned, but nodded. He leaned way back in his chair and threw a stress ball up toward the ceiling. He caught it easily as it fell back to him.
“What's that have to do with praying to dead guys?”
“That's idolatry,” Steve pointed out. When Tony opened his mouth to surely protest, Steve tossed his medal over to him. Tony caught it one-handed.
“Look at the words. It says 'pray for us'. Saints have... A more direct line to God than us. They've got his ear. So rather than asking God ourselves for every little thing, Catholics have these intermediaries we can go through, who have all their own specific departments of expertise.”
“Heaven's a bureaucracy?” Tony asked, incredulous. He tossed the medal back to Steve.
“Heaven's organized,” Steve corrected.
Tony laughed, face wrinkling with genuine affection. “Suddenly it's all starting to make sense.”
Steve grumbled as he tucked the medal back into his shirt. “No, that's not--I mean, yes, that's part of why I'm Catholic and not Baptist or something, but.” Aside from the fact that I'm Irish. “Hang on.” Steve waved his hands. “Back to art school.” Tony had such a bad talent of derailing arguments.
Tony just smiled and leaned back in his chair. “Fine. Back to art school.”
“In art school, they make you study the classics. Greek, Roman statues, vase paintings, that sort of thing. It seems like they don't do that so much anymore?”
Tony shrugged. “Some. Rich kids get it. Not so much public school.”
Steve frowned and mumbled “That's a shame,” before he could stop himself. Tony perked right up at that, of course he did. “I mean,” Steve continued on hurriedly, “we studied it to see the proportions, the golden ratio, the way that they were able to capture the musculature of the human form in motion so vividly.”
Tony shrugged at that, a fully-formed argument already glowing just beneath his skin.
Steve rolled his eyes and asked the obvious question: “You're not a fan of studying history, I take it?”
“Only for what not to do,” Tony replied immediately. “If they'd gotten it right, we'd be doing it. Whatever we're doing that they're not, they got wrong.”
Steve thought of about a dozen examples off the top of his head to contradict that statement, but he let it go. Not the point.
“Well, studying all that was good practice, at least. And I ended up learning a lot about all the myths. I mean, you got to, if you want to understand why that guy's holding some grapes and that lady is in that kinda pose, you know?”
Tony shrugged. “Sure, I guess.”
“Well, speaking of things we still do that they must have gotten right: I always thought it was funny how Catholicism was repurposed Greek and Roman religions, you know? The Church pounded out all the cognitive dissonance and contradictions you get with polytheism by having monotheism instead, but She let us keep all our day-to-day gods, only in the form of saints. Instead of praying to Apollo for wisdom, we ask Catherine to pray for us before a test. Instead of calling upon the muses for inspiration when writing a letter, I turn to Lucia. There's Dominic for public speaking—and oh boy did I ever ask him for his prayers back in the early days of selling bonds, let me tell you. And Gabriel for getting letters and messages to their destinations instead of Mercury, and Raphael when we're sick. Mom had a Raphael medal for me, hanging above my bed. She kissed it every night.”
Steve paused, thinking back to how when the tables were turned, when his mom was lying sick in her bed, Steve would kiss the medal for her and hold onto it tight, praying, praying, praying, asking the good archangel Raphael to convince God to relieve her of her suffering. Be careful what you wish for, he supposed.
Tony snorted, rolling back in his chair. He was staring up at the ceiling and moving away from Steve when he asked: “Yeah, but do you guys have a Mars? A war-Saint, you know?”
Steve dropped his eyes and glanced away. After a moment he replied. “Michael.” He said the name softly, not looking at Tony anymore. “Michael's for soldiers.”
Michael was for soldiers.
Steve sat on the rooftop, breath coming too fast and eyes stinging painfully. He couldn't even blame it on the smoke: he was out of the area, away from all the acrid smell of burning skin and... and...
Steve pressed his head between his knees and gasped hard, over and over again. His stomach roiled.
He wanted it to be over. He didn't want to have to keep going. Not with those memories. Not when people could do things like that in the world.
He wanted to sleep.
The roof access door opened and shut behind him. Steve straightened up slowly, trying not to seem too obvious about his state. Footsteps across the rooftop: expensive shoes, clacking loudly on the concrete roof. The footsteps slowed to a stop as they approached him. Steve didn't turn around, waiting to see what the other man would do. Waiting to see what he himself would do. Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
Footsteps turned into shuffling feet as the man they belonged to sat himself down on the ledge next to Steve. Expensive suit fabric wrinkled and attracted dust, but the wearer didn't seem to mind. He never really did.
“Even I know that today wasn't a win,” Tony finally said.
Steve just nodded. His throat was all locked up, his eyes blind with unshed tears. He didn't trust himself to speak. He was supposed to be this group's leader—had kind of started to be, after everything. He couldn't demand respect out of his men if they saw him like this.
“Who's the saint for children?”
A sob wrenched its way out Steve's chest. He started to move, to turn himself away from Tony, to hide himself and his weakness. But Tony was right there, not letting him, arms wrapped tight around him. Grounding him.
After a moment Steve managed to collect himself enough to choke out “Maria. Goretti.” Several sobbing breaths later, Steve corrected himself. “One of them. There's. There's more than one.”
“Good,” Tony grumbled into his hair. His arms pulled tighter at Steve, tugging him into Tony's chest. Under normal circumstances Tony wouldn't be able to manhandle Steve like this; wouldn't be able to push and pull him where he wanted him to go. But this wasn't normal circumstances, and Steve wasn't exactly feeling himself.
Cast into hell satan and all evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
“Listen, I don't... I'm not exactly the best at this,” Tony started. “Is there something I can... fix?”
Steve shook his head miserably. Nothing would bring those children back to life. Nothing would get the smell out of his nose and set the world to rights again. Nothing would squeeze all the evil out of the world, once and for all. Nothing Tony Stark could build, at least.
“Uh. I hate to ask this, winghead, listen, I know it's not- Just: you're not going to do anything, are you? To yourself?”
Steve laughed haltingly and pulled away from Tony, wiping mechanically at his eyes. A sense of calm overtook him at Tony's question. At even the circumvent mention of it.
“No, Tony,” he promised. “I couldn't even if I wanted to—which I don't. It's the only unforgivable sin.”
A pause. Steve supposed it was probably tough for a guy like Tony to wrap his head around not wanting to live. After all, Tony was the epitome of loving life, of never wanting the big party to end. And he supposed even if Tony could come to understand that, he'd never understand staying alive just because he was supposed to. Just because duty and God's will commanded it so.
“Seems like there's worse sins,” Tony finally said. His tone of voice was all wrong: strangled, but forced light.
Steve shook his head. “It's not that. It's that you can't confess suicide. To a priest. So it's the only unforgivable one.”
“Don't you think that's taking your little holy bureaucracy a step too far?”
Steve shrugged. “It's in the catechism.”
They fell silent after that, looking out over the city. Steve's crummy little apartment building in Brooklyn didn't have a view of where the battle had taken place—not a real one. But he thought maybe if he strained his eyes hard enough, he could catch a tendril of smoke rising on the horizon from the collapsed buildings. Steve stopped straining his eyes.
“Why do you fight?” Steve asked after a long time, once his voice was his own again and tears weren't threatening to spill down his cheeks.
A moment of quiet as Tony thought. Steve was happy that Tony knew to take this question seriously.
“It started out because it was my responsibility. I had to try and make things right: keep my technology from hurting the innocent ever again. I got a wake-up call in Afghanistan. Knew I had to fix everything I'd done.”
“But what about now?” Steve asked. “Loki wasn't your problem. He wasn't your fault. Today-” Steve bit off the sentence, unable to think about wound so fresh and raw.
Tony saved him from having to complete the thought. “I guess because I'm the only one who can. Or, one of a few. I've got the ability, and refuse to pass the buck to someone else, so I guess that makes me responsible for... protecting people.” Steve glanced over in time to see Tony's mouth screwed up, whole expression vaguely disconcerted with himself. It was enough to bring a tentative smile to his face.
Then Tony turned and caught him looking, that quicksilver smile appearing. “What about you?” he asked, bumping his shoulder lightly against Steve's. “Why do you fight?”
Steve shrugged. “Before the serum, I wanted to fight because there was a war on. Because evil was stomping its boots all over Europe and I couldn't let that sit. After the serum... well, I guess for a long while it was the same.”
Steve sighed, hands folded loosely into each other between his legs.
“Now, I guess it's because... like you: I got a gift no one else on earth has. And since I got this gift that God gave me, I gotta use to for the good of everybody. It would be a sin not to, to turn in the cowl and get a job as a milkman.”
“Don't really have milkman anymore,” Tony mumbled. “But yeah, okay, I get it.”
A pause, and then:
“But you know, science gave you your gifts. Not God. I know you knew Dr. Erskine. Him and... and Howard,” Tony sounded like he was spitting bullets, being forced to say his father's name, “they made you into what you are.”
Steve waved an easy hand. He wasn't going to try to draw Tony into another theological discussion. “Technicalities. It would still be a sin.”
Another pause, a little longer this time. And then a strong hand was running down Steve's back, drifting close to his ass. “Well, I see what you mean: total sin, to waste this body.”
Steve snorted and shoved his shoulder into Tony's, almost overbalancing the poor guy. But Tony was laughing, and Steve was smiling back.
He'd get through today. He always did. Some days were just harder than others, sometimes.
Anthony was for lost things.
Steve had yet to figure out if that was ironic or sad or nothing, now that he had a real live Anthony in his life. He wondered if Howard had thought about the Saint his son shared a name with before naming him.
Probably not. Howard was never much for religious observance. Always the Christmas-and-Easter type, only.
Tony himself wandered in on Steve trying to defeat one of his new training programs, ducking and weaving and working without the shield today, trying to hone his hand-to-hand combat skills in the event that he found himself separated from his shied in battle. Steve noted Tony entering, feet vaguely unsteady and eyes clearly rimmed red even from across the room, but then returned his focus to the simulation. It took him another two minutes to defeat the scenario, by which point Tony was sitting over against one of the clear glass walls of the room, legs spread obscenely in front of him, whole body listing lazily to one side.
Steve grabbed three water bottles and went over to Tony, dropping down to the padded flooring next to him. He passed one of the water bottles off to Tony, who took it but didn't drink.
“Who's the saint when you lose something and you need it back?” Tony asked without preamble.
Steve ducked his head, hiding a grin. “No: Saint Anthony. When you lose something.”
Tony's head dropped low to his chest, and his shoulders started to shake. Steve thought maybe he was laughing, in some sort of drunken haze of giddiness, until the sounds of sobbing hit Steve in the gut like a ton of bricks. Oh.
“You think I'd be happy, that it was me. Anthony. Just gotta ask myself. Ego trip. Except I can't... I lost her.”
Steve's mind silently whispered oh as he realized what Tony must be so broken up about.
As gently as he could, he pointed out: “Anthony only really helps you find lost things. People don't fall under his purview, so much.”
Tony shook his head and pressed the untouched water bottle to his eyes. “Well there you go: there's my whole fucking problem right there, isn't it? Treating people like things I can get back, I can find again, if I only figure out the right passcode. That's what she'd say, anyway. Probably.”
Steve listened quietly as Tony explained what happened over Christmas, filling in the gaps in information from what Steve had gathered from the news and SHIELD records. Tony ended with his voice cracking over how Pepper hadn't been able to deal with it all, in the end. That as soon as Tony had taken the Extremis from her she had turned tail and run—though that was an unfair characterization of her. She was a civilian, a businesswoman. She didn't sign up for kidnap and torture and body-altering experiments. They could be disconcerting even when you signed up for them: Steve was pretty familiar with that.
“I'm sorry to hear that,” Steve said finally, at the end of it all. And he was, he really was, but the biggest thought in his head that he just couldn't shake was “What an odd way to spend Christmas.” From what Tony had said, it hadn't even sounded like him and Pepper had been planning on going to mass. Which, okay, he knew Tony wasn't religious, and supposed Pepper was probably a lapsed something-or-other, but wasn't that the whole point of Christmas? Going to church? Why even celebrate Christmas if you didn't go to mass?
It must be what he heard people complaining about, all the “commercialism”. Folks had complained about that even in his day, but really: Christmas without mass was just... Foreign. It reminded him how much he was still very much a stranger to this new world.
“But enough about me,” Tony hiccuped. His expression made it seem like he was trying to say the words lightly, was trying to joke, but no fiber of his being was succeeding at it. “How'd you spend your Christmas?”
“Mass,” Steve replied immediately, since he had been thinking about it. Then he flushed, because he didn't want to make himself seem high-and-mighty, or make Tony feel guilty. Or, since he guessed Tony wouldn't feel guilty even if Steve did lay on the good old-fashioned Catholic guilt, Steve didn't want Tony to think he was trying to make him feel guilty.
“We always did midnight mass on Christmas,” Steve explained. “I tried it out at Saint Patrick's, this time.”
“How was it?” Tony asked.
Tony laughed, listing drunkenly against Steve's side. What was funny was Steve couldn't even smell that much alcohol on Tony's breath. He was probably more emotionally exhausted than anything else. Steve wrapped a gentle, hopefully non-caging arm around Tony. He did want him feeling claustrophobic and turning tail to run. It seemed like something Tony might do.
But Tony just relaxed into him some more, body loose and easy. Steve thought maybe Tony had cried himself free of all his tension at this point, and was just left feeling sad and empty. At least, that's how it went in Steve's experience.
“Was it good, though?”
“Yeah,” Steve reassured Tony. “It was beautiful. But I think next year I'll do it at my church instead of the cathedral. Less people that way.”
A pause, a short little silence stretching between them. Steve stroked Tony's shoulder without even realizing what he was doing.
“You could come with me for Easter,” he said.
“You could come over for dinner, then.”
That got Tony's attention, at least a little bit. “You're cooking?”
Steve shrugged. “I just... I don't really have anyone to cook for, or share all these old rituals with. My mom used to cook the Easter dinner, and then... after, I cooked for me and Bucky. During the war we even managed to scrape one together, with the Howling Commandos.” Steve shrugged again. “Just. I'm going to end up cooking an Easter dinner out of habit and then bringing the whole thing over to my old neighbor across the hall if you don't come over and eat some of it.”
“If you lived in the Tower you could cook it and leave it in the kitchen. It'd get eaten that way.”
“If you promise to sit at the table and eat it with me, I'll cook it in the Tower.”
Just the sound of the air conditioning flowing quietly through the gym, the ceiling fans moving almost silently.
“Do you make deviled eggs? Or is that a new thing?”
“I can make deviled eggs.”
A short pause, and then Tony warned him: “You're going to have to cook a feast. The other guys will all somehow know to show up. They've got a sixth sense like that, all of them.”
Steve shrugged. “I can do that.”
Tony seemed a little less lost when Steve left him for the shower a half hour later. Steve tucked a St. Anthony prayer card into Tony's wallet next week, though. Just in case.
Catherine of Siena was for sexual temptation.
Tony was stretching in the living room of the Tower. Doing. Something. He had called it “yoga” but Steve knew what yoga was and was pretty darn sure that whatever Tony was doing? Wasn't yoga.
For one thing, Steve was certain yoga didn't require you stick your perfect, round ass out as much as Tony had managed during his ten-minute routine. For another, Steve didn't recall anyone in yoga moaning and groaning and make all those obscene noises that Tony was making. Honestly, the man had no shame.
And it was going to kill Steve one of these days, because Steve was a good guy who wasn't about to jump one of his closest friends a month after his girlfriend dumped him.
Steve was better than that.
Tony moaned and stretched his arms above his head, spine bowing backwards, shirt riding up. He tilted back until he was looking at Steve, long line of his neck extended seductively, hair mussed and ruffled like he had just woken up. Tony winked when he caught Steve looking, upside-down smile cocksure and inviting.
Saint Catherine, pray for me.
Saint Catherine must have been on break that week, because two days later Tony jumped Steve in the gym, and Steve had gone to the mats with absolutely no resistance. Not even a token “we shouldn't be doing this.”
Even Tony had seemed surprised by how easy it was.
Well. Your prayers couldn't always be answered. God's plan and all that.
Jude was for lost causes.
Bucky had come back, and then gone, and that was who Steve kept asking to pray for Bucky. It was the first saint who came to mind, and it felt like the right one. Bucky was good, Bucky was brave, Bucky had been through so much.
Bucky was a soldier, but Bucky wasn't anymore, and Steve didn't feel like Bucky needed a soldier's prayer. He needed to be found again. To find himself again. Bucky needed light to find him in his dark places, needed to find his own path out of a valley nearly no one else had ever been through.
It seemed like a task for Saint Jude. It seemed right.
And sometimes, late at night, Steve would listen to that “Hey Jude” song by the Beatles band, and he'd think maybe it fit Bucky just right. And that the Beatles probably knew their saints, when they were writing the song (Steve didn't find out Jude was John Lennon's son until maybe a year later. Even then, he still liked to think the religious symbolism was there. Even if it was just for him).
Steve couldn't do anything to make things better for Bucky, couldn't do anything to help him through that dark valley. He sent him letters, wrote to him about life at the Tower and the mass he went to in Brooklyn. Asked him if he'd stepped foot in a church since... everything. Not that he needed to, if he didn't want to, but it might do some good to go through all the familiar steps (even if they were in English, now). But then again, maybe Bucky had had enough of falling into line, of rote memorization and regurgitating mantras that others put into his brain. Steve understood, if that was the case. And so he asked Saint Jude to pray for Bucky some more, because Bucky might not be able to find comfort in the mass like Steve had.
And somehow, slowly, as the spring turned to summer and the summer marched toward fall, Bucky seemed to be returning to him, piece by piece. Steve would get a postcard from South America one week, with no message scrawled on the back but a beautiful picture of the rainforest or some bustling metropolis he had never heard of splashed across the front. On the fourth of July he received a lumpy little envelope with an American flag messily scribbled onto the back. Inside was a cheap little souvenir from Budapest: a Greek Orthodox icon of the Virgin Mary. Scribbled inside the envelope was a note that said “Reminded me of Sarah. Happy Birthday.”
Steve tucked it into the corner of the framed photo of his mother he kept by the bed. When Tony slipped in alongside him that night, he noticed it and asked.
“From Bucky,” Steve told him.
And that was. So nice. To have Bucky send him trinkets, and to tell his boyfriend about it so easily. It was like everything was fitting into its place. It also served as proof, in Steve's mind, that there was no such thing as a lost cause. Not if you had Saint Jude's ear, at least.
“There can't be a saint for everything.”
“You are messing with me. I know you are, Rogers. Don't even try me.”
Steve smiled into his book, but didn't give Tony the satisfaction of looking up and across the lab at him. He was sure what sight would greet him, anyway: Tony squinting angrily at him, all narrow-eyed suspicion, gesticulating wildly with some tool or another.
A beat, then: “JARVIS?”
“Captain Rogers is correct, sir.”
Steve bit down on his lower lip and tried to concentrate on reading, and not on laughing in Tony's face.
“JARVIS, I better never catch you praying to that saint... Macarena.”
“Macrina,” Steve corrected. “And we don't-”
“-pray to saints, yadda yadda, got the memo the first time around. Genius, remember?”
Steve kept his eyes firmly on the page in front of him. Absently he mumbled “Sometimes I wonder...”
“Don't you even...” Tony started to grumble. Then he changed tacks. “Astronauts.”
“You've got to be kidding me.”
JARVIS' voice helpfully supplied: “Saint Joseph of Cupertino was a Franciscan friar known for his feats of levitation-”
“Yeah yeah,” Tony cut him off. “I get it. There's a saint for everything.”
Finally taking pity on him, Steve set his book aside and looked up at Tony. He was pouting mightily at Steve.
“Would you like to hear a secret?”
Tony hesitated. “Is it an insult to my sexual prowess? Because I swear, the other night-”
Steve grinned. “No. Absolutely not. Everything is... more than good, there. You know that.”
“Okay then: shoot.”
Steve leaned forward, smirking like a little kid caught eating candy in mass. “Sometimes, I make up my own saints.”
Tony gasped, appropriately mock-affronted. “Steve. That's blasphemous.”
“Well, hear me out before you email the Pope on me.” Steve thought about that for a second. “Does the Pope have email?”
“And a twitter.”
Steve frowned. Oh. He... Didn't like the idea of that. It seemed almost... tawdry.
In any case. Steve shook himself and refocused on the subject at hand.
“Saints are at their core just good people whose example we follow to live better lives. They're people who lived, who were human, and who were good above and beyond the expectations of society.”
“Kinda like God's Avengers.”
Steve grinned and blushed. “I think that might be blasphemous. But maybe. The point being: you know I believe in the divine part of religion. The miracles, the existence of God, the transubstantiation of the Eucharist.”
Tony scowled at that. There had been a long debate after Tony had willingly tagged along with Steve to mass Easter Sunday and Steve had refused to let Tony take part in the Eucharist.
“Are you even baptized?” Steve asked, scandalized that Tony would even ask for such a thing.
“Dunno. Probably? Mom probably made it happen.”
“Are you even Catholic?”
“It's the body of God, Tony! You can't just-”
“What if I told you I could prove it wasn't. With science.”
“If you even try I will knock you out cold, mister. This isn't a joke to me.”
“Alright, alright. Keep your magic bread to yourself.”
“I believe in all that,” Steve continued, “but I know intellectually that Saints are just a new way of doing polytheism, or an old way of doing superheroing. I know it's all part of the same... the same zeitgeist.”
“So who do you make up? Am I one of your saints? Patron saint of sexiness?” Tony tried for a sexy growl, but it only made Steve laugh.
“No. But... Kant is one. He's my patron saint of duty. When I'm feeling low, or don't want to be as good as I could be, I think about Kant and what he would say, and I send up a not-exactly-prayer asking for him to pray for me.”
“Pretty sure Kant was Protestant,” Tony pointed out. Steve rolled his eyes and didn't reply to that.
“And Ray Bradbury.” Steve shook the book he was reading at Tony. “He's my patron saint of summer and wonder. Asimov's my patron saint of robots and new technology.”
“I'm deeply offended by that.”
“You're a lug.”
Tony snorted before pushing away from the worktable he'd been seated at, chair rolling across the epoxy floors before coming to rest in front of Steve. He gazed down lustily at him.
“Do you have a patron saint of sexiness? Can I call dibs on that?”
Steve rolled his eyes. “For some reason, I don't feel the need to have a saint for sexiness.” Something churned low in his gut and a flush dotted Steve's cheeks. “Also I feel pretty guilty for even saying that.”
Tony snorted. Then he pushed himself off from his chair and slid sensually into Steve's lap. Steve's hands automatically came up to hold at his waist as Tony slipped his arms loosely around Steve's neck.
“That old Catholic guilt rearing its ugly head?”
Steve shrugged. “Not really. But maybe we could stow this discussion about saints until after I'm done making love to you?”
Steve knew that Tony's scoffing and bluster at the term “making love” was just that: bluster. Because as he picked Tony up and laid him back down on the couch, body caging Tony's in easily, he thought maybe he saw the slightest darkening of a blush on Tony's olive skin. And when Steve bent his head to capture Tony's lips in a kiss, there was no resistance or snarkishness to be found.
“You don't need a saint,” Steve explained between tender little kisses. “You're just fine the way you are: being my Tony.”
“Well you're my patron saint of cheesiness.”
Biting his tongue, Steve slipped down Tony's body and rucked up his shirt. He placed a kiss just above Tony's jean's waistband, while settling his hands on the button and zipper. Tony's breath caught, his body arching up slightly in an open invitation. Steve stopped, raising one eyebrow up at Tony.
“What was that?”
With a groan Tony shoved playfully at Steve's head and squirmed his hips meaningfully.
“I mean sexiness. And blowjobs. Definitely blowjobs. I'm sure I'll be chanting your name by the end.”
Steve's nose crinkled up at the blasphemy. “Okay, okay: but you really need to stop talking about saints when I have your penis in my mouth.”
Tony's snort turned into a groan a second later, and even though he didn't exactly shut up, he stopped talking about saints for long enough for Steve to enjoy himself. And make sure Tony enjoyed himself too, of course.
For Christmas that year, Tony bought him—or had Pepper buy him—all sorts of extravagant things. But his favorite was a little present Steve had opened on Christmas Eve—“One present on Christmas Eve, Tony. One!” It was a Saint Stephen medal on a chain, from Tony.
Tony just shrugged and rubbed at the back of his head. “He was the first martyr, you know. And you were the first Avenger. I thought. You know. Seemed right.”
Steve climbed into Tony's lap and made sure to express his gratitude for the thoughtful present thoroughly that evening.