“You know – for something we foraged in the woods, this thing looks pretty good.”
Tony put an arm around Pepper’s waist as they stood taking in the giant Douglas fir that nearly reached the high ceiling of the cabin’s living room.
“Great job tree-scouting, Dad!friend,” Wade complimented as he reached out to hang a Captain America collector’s edition ornament on one of the top-most branches.
“Great job getting this thing cut down when Tony’s laser contraption malfunctioned, Dad!friend,” Steve complimented from where he was holding the ladder steady.
“Could it be,” Tony crossed his arms as Pepper laughed, merrily, “that the reason it malfunctioned was because someone threw snow at it, Douchepool?”
“Could it be,” Wade snarked back as he descended the ladder, taking Steve’s offered hand, “that it wouldn’t have gotten any snow on it if you hadn’t held it in front of yourself to fend off the terrifying snow-ball, Iron Dick?”
“Now, gents,” Peggy gently chastised as she entered from the designated present-wrapping room, her arms full of colorful boxes, “I think I heard Tony trying to compliment you on your lovely tree.”
Wade felt a tinge of actual guilt as he and Steve chorused, “Thanks, Tony.”
“Hey, Peg,” Bucky called from the open kitchen where he and Peter were busily baking in their matching aprons which had been early Xmas presents from their partners, “will you notice that Peter didn’t make the mincemeat?”
“You can make mincemeat?” Peggy asked as Wade watched Peter throw Grumpy Frown #4 at Bucky’s back. “I was under the impression that mincemeat tins grew on bushes.”
“See?” Bucky said to Peter, smugly.
“Thanks a lot, jerk-face,” Peter groused, angrily sprinkling flour on the counter.
“We’ll all be much more mature when half of us are little kids,” Tony assured Pepper.
Wade slid towards the kitchen as Pepper and Tony went to take their turn in the Wrapping Room – it sounded like his Spidey was having some baker’s anxiety, which, as he knew from experience, could quickly get out of control.
“Hey -- is that a genuine Mary Berry rolling-pin you’ve got there?” he asked, resting his elbows on the counter well out of the flour-zone.
Peter paused his rolling to give him a fond smile – baking anxiety neutralized. “Why, yes it is – my incredibly sexy gentleman gave it to me because he loves me very much.”
“Good night,” Bucky gagged as Wade leaned over the rolled-out marzipan to give Peter a kiss.
“We have to get all our grown-up feels in now,” Wade reminded once they’d pulled apart, “because you guys are about to be itty for twenty-four hours.”
Bucky frowned, thoughtfully, as he expertly tacked down a giant square of dough. “True. Steve, Peg – c’mere.”
“This has to rise for like an hour once we get it all together,” Peter said, nudging Bucky (who was now stealing kisses from both of his loves) out of the way so he could place the rolled-out marzipan on top of the dough, “and then can we face-time with May?”
“Oh, yes!” Wade clapped, enthusiastically. “Will Barbara be there, as well?”
“Probably,” Peter admitted, giving him a look (as he was still stubbornly insisting that May/Barbara was something Wade was making up as part of his weird obsession with homoeroticism among mature, single women.)
Before he could once again press Peter on his unwillingness to accept that his aunt was on a Lesbian Xmas Adventure in Italy, the doorbell rang.
“Who the hell could that be?” Bucky mused as he and Peter spooned disgusting, store-bought mincemeat on top of the marzipan.
Steve and Peggy seemed content to look curiously at the door while snagging bits of mincemeat, but Wade reached surreptitiously for On-the-Go Knives #s 5 and 11, which were almost always hidden on his person. The doorbell ringing at a cabin where like an eighth of the Avengers were collected struck him as a three-alarm situation.
As he was readying himself to violently defend his beloved and his new friends (who he realized he also loved quite a bit now that their lives were possibly in danger), he remembered they were with Tony Stark, who probably had eighty remote-controlled Iron bots ready to deploy from satellites and swoop down to defend them. At least, Wade assumed it was something like that since Tony didn’t seem overly concerned as he answered the door to find…
A park ranger.
The five of them watched from the kitchen as Tony chatted briefly with the ranger, then pointed toward the kitchen gesturing specifically at Wade and Steve. The park ranger said something else to Tony, and Tony looked back at them, motioning them over with a somewhat panicked expression.
Steve and Wade looked at each other, then moved to join Tony at the door, but Wade was stopped by a hand on his arm. Peter, a pan full of mincemeat in one hand and the other holding his elbow in a death-grip, was looking at him with wide eyes, and Wade knew he was afraid that maybe Deadpool had an outstanding warrant with the national park service. Bless him.
“Stay,” Wade instructed as he gently removed Peter’s hand from his elbow and went with Steve to bail Tony out of whatever the fuck he’d gotten himself into.
“Guys,” Tony said in a slightly strained voice, “this nice park ranger is very interested in your tree.”
Your tree? Steve and Wade both barely had time to stare daggers at Tony before the park ranger asked, “Was this tree cut down in the park, gentlemen?”
“In the park?” Steve repeated, kind of halfway between charmingly innocent and impossibly stupid.
“Yes,” said the park ranger, who gestured in a relaxed manner to the woods all around them. “These woods are all national park land.”
“Oh,” Steve said, glancing at Wade, “we thought the park started a few miles in. Huh.”
“So you did cut your tree down in the park,” the ranger said, her manner totally relaxed and professional, which made her somewhat terrifying.
“This tree?” Tony chimed in, looking behind him at their beautifully-decorated tree which Wade suddenly wished was a bit less full and majestic-looking. “Oh, didn’t – didn’t you guys bring this tree with you? From home?”
Jesus Christ, Tony.
The ranger tilted her head to the side. “You drove this tree up? With your Audis?”
Tony, Steve, and Wade looked out at the Audis Tony had rented for them, which were parked in the driveway in front of the ranger’s very rugged Jeep. Goddamn Tony and his obsession with Audis.
“Oh, right – I guess not,” Tony laughed, awkwardly. “I uh – I don’t think I introduced myself, Tony Stark. Of Stark Industries. Also Iron Man.”
The ranger looked at Tony’s outstretched hand as if she was from a culture where they did not shake hands, ever, and Wade would have found that hilarious and really really liked this ranger if he wasn’t so afraid she was going to take them to federal prison on Xmas Eve. “Do you have an ID on you, Mr. Stark?”
Tony had to get his from the kitchen, where Bucky and Peggy were trying to casually roll up the dough for the couronne while Peter watched the scene at the door, eyes still wide, looking like he was ready to spring up and yoink Wade to safety with a moment’s notice. Wade tried to wink at him reassuringly.
Steve handed the ranger his ID, and she actually looked back up at him after reading the name. “As in Captain America?”
Wade nearly bit through his lip not laughing at the look of utter indignation on Tony’s face. “Yes, ma’m,” Steve said, a bit hopefully, but the ranger just nodded and looked expectantly at Wade, who handed her his. To her credit, she’d gotten a pretty good look at him and hadn’t yelled in disgust or even recoiled as far as he could tell – perhaps one saw some fucked up shit in the national park system.
“Wad Wollman?” she said, looking up at him from his carefully-crafted ID.
“Yes, that’s me,” he said with what he hoped was a winning-yet-contrite smile.
“Wad Wollman?” Tony hissed once the ranger had gone to her rugged Jeep to run their IDs.
“Oh I’m sorry Mr. I-Haul-Pine-Trees-With-My-Audi,” Wade returned, “but Wad Wollman is not wanted for various adventures in multiple countries.”
“Hey,” Cap said, looking at him with a somewhat desperate expression, “Wade, you know about stuff like this – can’t you, uh, do something?”
“Hey, yeah!” Tony said, brightly.
Wade stared at them both, mouth fallen open in utter shock. “I am not murderizing Badass Park Ranger Lady on Xmas Eve, you filthy hypocrites!”
“No no no,” Steve waved his hands, placating, “of course not, but can’t you, I dunno, make this all – go away or something?”
“Yeah, like,” Tony searched, “neutralize the situation or whatever you mercenary types call it?”
“I am not the mafia – how did this even happen?”
“Some neighbor,” Tony gestured out at the other cabins that dotted the hillside, “saw us dragging a giant Xmas tree out of the woods and called the park service.”
“Why would they do that?” Steve asked, incredulously.
“They probably heard you all having sex,” Tony suggested, indicating Steve, Wade, and Peter and Bucky and Peggy who had surreptitiously come to stand with them.
“So our tree is illegal?” Peter asked.
“Don’t you worry, baby-cakes,” Wade said, slipping an arm around him, “nobody’s taking our tree.”
“Hey, what if we all aged down and begged her not to take our daddies to jail?” Tony suggested.
“That might scare her away,” Bucky admitted.
Steve shook his head. “She doesn’t seem like the type to scare.”
“She?” Peggy perked up, looking out to catch a glimpse of the ranger.
“Yeah,” Tony crossed his arms, “and she’s not a fan of Iron Man, either.”
“She doesn’t seem impressed by Avengers in general,” Steve reminded.
“How wonderful,” Peggy said, gazing admiringly in the direction of the ranger and her Jeep, “should we invite her in for cocktails?”
“Yes, Peg,” Steve said dryly, “if she doesn’t arrest us, we’ll invite her in for cocktails.”
“Hey now, that’s an idea,” Wade chimed in, whispering so as not be overheard by the ranger who was making her way back up the drive, “we could offer to give her to Peggy. Y’know, for the evening.”
Peggy raised an interested eyebrow as Steve gapped. “What?” he whispered indignantly.
“It’d work on me,” Peter confessed, and Tony and Bucky both nodded.
Peggy looked at Steve expectantly, and he had to shrug. “I mean – me, too.”
“Well, gentlemen,” the ranger said, returning their IDs, “did any of you remember how you got your very large Xmas tree while I was gone?”
There was a small pause. “This is Peggy,” Peter blurted.
The ranger looked at Peggy, who gave her one of those Peggy Smiles that made people’s insides go all quivery (or at least that’s what they did to Wade) and the ranger did give her a small smile back, but then grew serious again. “The tree, folks? Did you cut it down in the forest?”
“Yes,” Steve confessed, and Wade considered poking him with On-the-Go Knife #5 but then realized the truth was probably their best bet since this ranger was obviously a fucking pro. “But we didn’t know it was national park land, I swear.”
“So you thought it was, what, privately owned forest?” she asked, eyebrow raised.
“I didn’t,” Steve faltered, “I thought it was still okay to go into the woods and cut down a tree.”
“He was frozen for much of the last century,” Wade said, helpfully, and Peter nodded in support.
“Oh, right,” she said, looking at Cap. “Well, I’m afraid it’s still pretty illegal to do either of those things, so –“
Just as Wade felt them all bracing for the axe to fall, for either the tree or the Dads to be carted away to prison on Xmas Eve, Pepper appeared from the Wrapping Room. “What’s going on? Oh – hello.”
They all glanced at Pepper and then returned their attention to the ranger who was about to announce their doom, but – Ranger was looking at Pepper with a distinctly star-struck expression. “Are you – you’re Pepper Potts.”
“I am,” Pepper moved to the front of their little pack, and the others let her through, “is something wrong?”
The ranger stared at Pepper for another moment, then shook her head as if coming out of a dream. “No, I’m sorry, I just – I’m working on my MBA, and I’m actually, I’m writing about you for a project and I’ve been doing all this research, and I just – um, well, I admire you a great deal.”
Pepper was so gracious to the ranger (whose name was Nadia, turned out). They chatted about contemporary corporate management styles, and about the challenges of being a classy lady in the gross world of international business, and Peggy was able to chime in then which made her very happy. The men folk casually receded back into the kitchen where they finished assembling the giant pastry as quietly as possible. Soon, Peggy and Pepper were waving Nadia back to her Jeep.
“So?” Tony asked once the door was closed.
“Well, we’re still being fined,” Peggy informed, “but the tree gets to stay.”
“We’re being fined?” Tony whined as everyone else sighed with relief.
Pepper waved away his concern. “I’m lumping it in with a big donation to the national parks service.”
“I’m so sorry about that, everybody,” Steve apologized, looking very responsible and handsome.
“Hey, not your fault, Dad!Friend,” Wade comforted, “I figured we were on national park land and just, you know, didn’t give a shit.”
“It’s my fault for wanting to cut down a stupid tree,” Peter offered, looking miserable. “Tony offered to have one helicopter-ed in.”
“Now now,” Peggy said, putting one arm around Steve and one arm around Peter, the Guilty-Conscience Twins, “everything turned out all right, and Pepper and I got to flirt with Nadia. Any chance of Nadia getting, say, an internship at Stark Industries? Where we might see her around occasionally?”
Pepper grinned, holding up a small piece of paper that bore a phone number labeled “Nadia” with a cute little smiley face drawn next to it. “Possibly.”
“Oh, May – it’s too fabulous.”
“Yeah?” May Parker smiled brightly at him on the laptop screen, as did Barbara who was seated next to her (right next to her). “And it’s got one of those cute little pockets for your lip gloss, ‘cause I know you said you had to go fishing for it in your everyday bag.”
May opened the gorgeous Italian leather purse that was Wade’s Xmas present which she’d been too excited about to wait to show him. Wade squee-ed and clapped his hands. “And,” May continued, excitedly, “it’s also got a pocket for, well – self-defense things. Pepper spray and what not.”
May glanced at Peter, who gave both her and Wade an affectionate stink eye because he knew she meant she’d bought Wade a purse with a dedicated Knife Pouch. “It is perfect and you are perfect,” Wade said, sincerely.
“Well, we’ve got reservations at the restaurant downstairs,” May said with a significant glance at Barbara, “but we love you boys so much!”
“We love you,” Peter said, “have fun and be safe, okay?”
“Okay, Mama,” May said with a wink. “You, too. Merry Xmas!”
May and Barbara waved happily at them before the screen went blank. Wade sat for a moment, waiting patiently. Finally, Peter sighed. “Okay – you’re totally right, they’re in love and doing sex.”
“I know!” Wade cried, tackling Peter as he groaned into his hands. “Why don’t you want your Aunt to be happy with her BFF-turned-lover?”
“I do,” Peter insisted as Wade lovingly gnawed on his shoulder, “it’s just – I’ve known Barbara since I was, like, three years old!”
Peter smiled at him, resignedly. “You’re right. It’s awesome. I’ll get used to it. I’m so excited for your new purse!”
“I may have to tranquilize myself the first time I carry it so that I don’t explode with glee,” Wade mused.
Peter kissed him in a very grown-up way, then jumped to his feet, pulling Wade with him. “Let’s get the couronne in the oven – I think Tony said he’s going Little at sundown, and I know I’ll probably go the second he does. Unless you changed your mind and want to give Ellie-Belly a call.”
Wade shook his head – he didn’t want to infringe on Ellie’s Xmas eve with Preston and fam. He could wait until their Xmas with Ellie in a few days. Peter gave him an understanding look and slipped an arm around his waist as they left their bedroom.
Wade squeezed Peter’s tiny, adorable hand as they made their way downstairs. “I can’t wait to tell our grandkids about the Xmas Eve That Almost Wasn’t But Then Was Saved By the Power of Lady Love.”
Peter laughed, squeezing back. “Me, either.”