This is just a simple, not-exactly-canon/not-exactly-non-canon, Holiday One-shot. A little fluffy, possibly sappy. You've been warned.
PLEASE NOTE: I deliberately use an English spelling of the Russian form of Nat's name that has a Y instead of an I.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or any affiliated characters, and make no profit from this story.
PEPPERMINT & MISTLETOE
"Oh, what the hell have I just walked into?" Tony pulled off his shades, staring around the overly-large living area of Avengers Tower.
Steve, Bucky, and Sam were seated around the conference table, each nursing a cup of what the tech genius strongly doubted was coffee. And said living area . . . .
Oh, sweet Jesus. It looked like a random mall Christmas display had thrown up in here.
Slapping his hand to his forehead, he let his palm slip down his face before he asked, "Do I want to know . . . ?"
"Wanda was talking about never really having a big Christmas growing up," Steve said, sighing into his mug. "Well, she said any Christmas, if I'm being completely honest."
Bucky frowned, arching a brow as he shook his head slow. "So, Natalya decided she was going to make up for that now. Then Pepper walked in."
"We tried to help." Sam shook his head, staring into his mug with a wide-eyed deadpan, as though all the horrors of war loomed inside it. "And that's how we all ended up sitting here."
Inhaling through his nostrils, Tony smiled mirthlessly and nodded. Pepper Potts and Natasha Romanoff had teamed up. Again. He wasn't afraid to admit that was the first girl-girl dynamic that had ever scared him.
"All right, that's enough of this," he said under his breath. He could feel the gazes of the other three men weighing on him as he descended the short flight of steps to the lower level.
If he stopped, he'd think over the fact that two of the people the women had already chased away were honest to God super-soldiers. And given Falcon's traumatized countenance, he wasn't sure he wanted to imagine what had gone on when they'd gotten under Nat and Pepper's feet one time too many in their attempts to help.
As he crossed the floor, he saw neither of the women in question, but he did spot Vision hovering in a corner. It always amused him to see the cyber-man with a perplexed expression on his face.
In leu of finding Nat or Pepper to pester, he sidled over to stand before Vision. "So . . . something happened while I was out, I take it?"
His face creasing in a thoughtful frown, Vision met his creator's gaze. "Mr. Stark, I am . . . uncertain how to describe the chain of events which transpired."
"Let me try and break it down, and you tell me if I'm right or wrong."
Tony glanced at the almost unnaturally massive tree dominating the center of the room. "Someone noticed the date on the calendar and mentioned Christmas."
"Wanda asked if we were going to celebrate it, didn't she?"
"Nat went overboard, and when Pepper came in and saw what was happening, rather than stopping her, she joined in."
"She ordered the tree, Mr. Stark."
His eyes drifting closed in a pained expression, Tony hung his head. He'd never been a big fan of Christmas. Pep knew this!
"In Miss Romanoff and Miss Potts defense, they voiced a desire to offer Wanda and myself our first—as Miss Potts phrased it—real Christmas."
Shit. He had his problems with the holiday, but Wanda was still a kid in so many ways. She deserved to experience something like this. Puffing out his cheeks, Tony exhaled loudly. "Fine. Fine."
"No, no!" Pepper's voice cut across the room. Just stepping back inside, she'd clearly missed her fiancé's concession. "You," she said, her voice stern enough to make the candy cane she pointed in his direction seem a threatening weapon, "out, Ebenezer!"
Tony held up his hands, ignoring that he glimpsed what he almost swore was a genuinely shocked expression on Vision's face, as he backpedaled toward the steps. "All right, all right. I'm going."
He wasn't even certain he wanted to know what the stream of fast-spoken Russian Nat shouted at him from the other side of the door translated to as he retreated to the table to find out what the other men were sipping.
And, more importantly, if they'd be willing to share.
Though Vision had watched the entire process, Natasha and Pepper had insisted Wanda stay in her quarters until they were finished, so she would be properly surprised by the transformation of Avengers Tower. What felt like days later, rather than hours, Nat led the younger woman into the living area, hands over her eyes.
Only when they were in front of the massive tree, gleaming like a star beneath the artfully draped silver and gold tinsel icicles, did Nat drop her hands. Wanda kept her eyes closed for a few seconds longer, finally opening them with a hint of reluctance.
Her eyes widening, the Sokovian girl clamped her hands over her mouth, stifling a gasp. Shaking her head, she mumbled something only Nat seemed to catch.
With that crooked smile of hers creeping across her lips, Nat nodded. "You're welcome. Merry Christmas, Wanda."
Sniffling, Wanda nodded, wandering away from the other woman. She moved forward on almost shaky footfalls, examining the magnificent tree more closely.
Nat grinned in spite of herself. She'd never had much of a history with holiday celebrations, either. She hadn't just done this for Wanda and Vision . . . but that was okay, she'd let everyone go on thinking this had been a totally selfless act for a few more hours.
Turning away from the Witch and her robot-man as they went everything over together, she looked toward the upper level. Sam seemed content to still hide behind his mug that was probably filled with more rum than actual eggnog, anyway. Steve was making that odd smile of his that was a combination of the goofy-looking kid he'd once been, and the proud big brother he tried to be to the entire team. Lifting his mug, he nodded to her. Her own grin widening, she nodded back.
Then, her gaze fell on Bucky. He was sort-of smiling, but the mirthful expression didn't reach his eyes. Her own smile faltered in response, fading incrementally until they were simply staring at one another.
They were still both so uncertain what they'd been to one another—what they were to one another—that she had no idea how to really feel toward him. It was a notion which he seemed to share. They remembered bits and pieces, both of them, enough to know they'd been something, once, but not much more than that.
She could never forget the way he'd looked at her when he'd come out of stasis that second time—as though he knew something she didn't. Nor could she forget the sweet shiver that had danced up her spine at the way he'd dropped his voice to that same gravely pitch he effected whenever he spoke Russian as he called to her. Natalya Romanova. Were he anyone else addressing her by that name, she'd have punched them in the throat, but him?
It was all she could do to keep from melting on the spot. Even now, he still called her Natalya. And she couldn't say she was unaware of the possibly threatening look she tossed at anyone who tried to correct him.
Nodding, he too, lifted his mug in a toast to her. Nat let out a trembling breath as she nodded back. She swallowed hard, putting more effort than seemed should be necessary into tearing her attention from him.
Pivoting on her heel to face the tree, she quickly located Wanda and Vision. Hurrying over the couple, she looped her arm through Wanda's and started leading them about to point out every detail of the decorations.
Someone's first real Christmas was a big deal, and she didn't want them to miss a thing.
She didn't know if it was the ungodly amount of rum in the eggnog, or that they were still experiencing that strange peace-time none of them really knew what to do with, or if her and Pepper's efforts had really wowed everyone. But, everybody was happy. Laughing. Even Tony was joking around, chasing her partner-in-crime about in an apparent attempt to cover the strawberry-blonde in tinsel.
Nat thought perhaps she was in the grips of a sugar rush, as she'd barely touched the eggnog, and yet she felt a bit euphoric, herself. Though, she might've helped herself to another holiday treat.
All of that treat that had been in the Tower, in fact.
Everyone seemed to be having so much fun, she felt a little swelling in the center of her chest. They were all smiling, and she had made that happen.
With a wistful sigh, she thought maybe she should call it a night and leave them to the festivities, since she was really just standing around, watching everyone else enjoy themselves.
As she stepped through the doorway that led to everyone's private quarters, she nearly collided with Bucky. Backpedaling a step, she pressed a hand over her heart and forced a breath.
"Barnes, you startled me."
He could tell by the ring in her voice that the laugh she uttered had been strained. God, they were never going to get past this awkwardness until they remembered more, were they?
"Sorry," he said with an uncertain half-grin.
That was when she remembered . . . . This doorway . . . . Looking over Bucky's head, she felt her shoulders droop. "Oh."
"Huh?" His brow furrowing, he turned his head, following the line of her gaze. "Oh," he said, unconsciously echoing her as he spotted the mistletoe hanging above them.
He was surprised to find the Black Widow blushing, just a hint, as he returned his attention to her. Her green eyes were huge and it looked like she'd forgotten how to breath.
"Um, we don't—we don't have to if—"
"No, no." Her eyebrows shot up as she schooled her features. "It's okay. Tradition, and all that." Though, she couldn't honestly recall if she'd ever kissed someone beneath the mistletoe before in her life.
Frowning thoughtfully, Bucky shrugged. "Tradition, and all that," he repeated.
Though, she knew she'd never done the mistletoe thing before, there was a familiarity in the way he crooked his right forefinger beneath her chin. A definite sensation of having done this before as he lifted her face and leaned toward her.
A practiced feel to the way she stood on her toes to close the distance between them.
And she was positive she remembered this feeling as his mouth brushed hers. It didn't seem much of a kiss, at all. Yet, as she was about to pull away, he inhaled, drawing the breath from her.
Shuddering, she opened her eyes to find him smirking down at her, a curious gleam in his eyes.
Though he still held her chin, and she'd had yet to lower her heels to the floor, she asked, "What?"
Bucky snickered as he said, "So you're the one who ate all the candy canes?"
Nat's teeth sank into her bottom lip as she shrugged. She could at least pretend to be abashed about it. "I have a thing for peppermint."
His smirk widened into a grin.
"What?" she asked again, her brows pinching together.
He was silent for a moment, his gaze sweeping over her features before returning to her eyes. "I think I remember that."
She liked this. She liked being this close to him. Yes, for now, this was enough. "Merry Christmas, Barnes."
His expression turned oddly serious. "Merry Christmas, Natalya," he said as he leaned down for another kiss.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE!