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Santa's Helper

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“Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!”

The last of the children disappeared through the community center doors, heading out into the evening cold with their parents or guardians. Steve waited until the door had closed firmly behind them and one of the center volunteers had started locking up before he flopped backwards onto the enormous old armchair that had been his place of honor for the last seven hours.

“I didn't think I was going to make it,” he said to the ceiling.

Tony's familiar laugh came from somewhere to his left. “Don't tell me the mighty Captain America was almost done in by a horde of grade schoolers?”

“Who knew kids had that kind of energy?” Steve certainly hadn't, not as a child. He'd always assumed Bucky was some kind of aberration.

“Children are basically like Chihuahuas that can talk back,” Tony said.

Steve turned his head and couldn't bite back a grin for the fiftieth time. Tony had been cast in the role of 'Santa's Helper' and was dressed in a red sleeveless tunic with a thick green belt and tight-fitting red and green-striped leggings with little red booties. It almost looked ridiculous except that it was just barely too small, which meant that the soft, worn material pulled taut across several key pieces of Tony's anatomy. Like his chest and shoulders and thighs. And probably places in-between if Steve was brave enough to look, which so far he hadn't been.

Look, there were times and places to risk being uncomfortably aroused and a roomful of kids was not one of them.

Anyway, the hat Tony was wearing killed some of Steve's naughtier thoughts. It was the typical elf's cap, pointy and with a jingle bell at the end, but the hat – made of the same material as the pants, and trimmed in faux-fur – dangled all the way to Tony's knees and swung back and forth behind him when he moved. Steve had been waiting all day for one of the kids to latch onto it, but Tony's evil eye was apparently quite effective.

“I see that smirk,” Tony said. He planted one hand on his hip and arched one perfect eyebrow. “A man with a pillow shoved down his pants shouldn't be in any position to judge the sartorial decisions of others.”

It was true. The padding that had lent his Santa costume a degree of authenticity had shifted around a bit. “Santa needs to hit the gym.”

Natasha came by, wearing a costume identical to Tony's except instead of a hat she had red and green ribbons woven into her hair. “Santa and his helpers need to start cleaning up,” she said pointedly. “This is a public space. The community center volunteers will be here all night unless we chip in.”

“But I haven't gotten to tell Santa what I want for Christmas!” Tony crossed his arms. “Tasha! All the other kids got a chance!”

She pursed her lips and rolled her eyes at him. “You realize that you just compared yourself to a child.”

“I am aware and accept the consequences of you using this against me in the future.”

She tossed her hair over her shoulder with a smirk. “Fair deal. Little boy, would you like to sit on Santa's lap?”

“Oh, come on,” Steve said.

Little?” Tony said.

The smile quirked over Natasha's lips so quickly it might as well have never been there. “Such a big boy. My, Santa's going to have a real lapful.” She cast Steve a sideways glance, her eyes sharp and green and entirely too knowing.

“You're terrible,” Tony said. “Honestly, why do I even tell you things?”

“Giving her permission to treat you like a child probably wasn't the best move,” Steve said.

Both of his teammates gave him identical disbelieving looks.


Natasha heaved a heavy sigh. “I'm going to go light a fire under the boys. You two should behave.” She marched off toward the back of the room, where Clint was stuffing snowflake-shaped cookies in his pockets and Bruce was going through a checklist of children's names and ages that he had been collecting all night. Thor, Jane and Pepper had left with the children, escorting those who had come without adults so no one had to walk home in the dark alone.

“This was a good thing,” Steve said. He unbuttoned the reed velvet jacket of his Santa suit and tugged the pillow free. “I'm glad you suggested it. I just wish we could do more for these kids.”

“Oh?” Tony tossed the jingle-bell of his cap over his shoulder. “Like what? The Maria Stark Foundation is open to suggestions on how to improve this next year.”

“It wasn't a criticism,” Steve assured him. He sat up straight in the chair. “It's really great that you do this every year. I just – I felt bad, asking these kids what they wanted and seeing them get so excited when most of their families won't be able to afford presents at all this year.” Some of the families, foster or otherwise, that had come to meet Santa that day had been so poor that food and clothing weren't even guaranteed. Clint had been handing out gift certificates to a local grocery store to the adults on their way out, but even that would only do so much.

Tony tipped his head. “Steve. You know those lists Bruce has been so meticulously keeping all afternoon? He got every kid you talked to today. As soon as we pack up for the night the list gets scanned to one of my assistants and she takes a team of interns and a company credit card to FAO Schwarz or wherever else she needs to go. Every last one of those kids is getting their wish by Christmas morning.” He grinned, looking both sheepish and painfully pleased with himself. “He even got intel on most of their older brothers and sisters. The adults are coming back on Christmas Eve to pick up the wrapped gifts, and Stark Industries will deliver presents to anyone who can't get here in time.”

Steve shook his head. “That's amazing.”

“You didn't know that?” Tony grinned at him. “Steve, you really don't listen to anything I say, do you?”

Steve wanted to object, but he really hadn't been paying much attention when Tony had originally run this by the team. It had sounded like a photo op, and by the time Steve realized it was community service, he'd apparently missed several important details. “I listen enough.”

“Apparently not. I said I wanted to sit on Santa's lap and I'm still standing all the way over here.” Tony spread his arms apart to indicate the entire three feet separating them.

“And what does the man who has everything want from Santa?” Steve joked.

“A kiss.”

Steve blinked. He stared at Tony, afraid to respond in case he'd misheard, but Tony was staring back, shoulders braced, back straight, chin up. He looked proud and defiant and a little bit worried. Steve licked his lips. “A kiss?”

Tony nodded. “A kiss. From you.” He smiled a little, just a quirk of his lips, and his cheeks were flushed a dusky red. “But only if you want.”

“Want,” Steve echoed, as if that was in any way in doubt. “Yes, I can. Yes. Tony-” He didn't have time to figure out how to finish that sentence because his arms and lap were suddenly full of Tony. He was heavy and warm and his back was muscled beneath Steve's hands and his beard scraped against Steve's nose and his mouth – his fucking mouth.

“You've been eating the candy canes off the tree,” he said when they finally stopped.

“Your beard itches, Santa.” Tony pressed his lips against the side of Steve's throat. “I can't wait to take you home and rip that thing off.”

Steve slid his hands down to grip Tony's hips and pulled the man up against him. “Is that the only thing you want to rip off me?”

“Oh, Santa,” Tony said.