Title: Born on the Fourth of July
Authors: seanchai and elspethdixon
Disclaimer: The characters and situations depicted herein belong to Stan Lee and Marvel comics. No profit is being made off of this derivative work. We're paid in love, people.
Fandom: Marvel 616 (Captain America/Avengers)
Warnings: ... Fluff?
Summary: "So, the fireworks are really because of my birthday?"
Born on the Fourth of July
Coney Island. July 4, 1925
"So, the fireworks are really because of my birthday?" Steven asked. He bounced excited on his father's shoulders, waving his half-melted ice cream cone and dripping yet more vanilla ice cream into Joe Roger's already sticky hair.
Joe, Sarah had already decided privately, was definitely washing his hair out in the sink before they went to bed.
Another giant red sunburst exploded out over the water, casting a red glow over Joe and Steven's faces. "They sure are, sport," Joe said, reaching up with one hand to ruffle Steven's hair.
"Your birthday and America's birthday," Sarah told him, smiling to emphasize how exciting it was to share a birthday with a country. She and her family had come over from Ireland in 1903, when she was just a small child; Sarah could barely remember Ireland, mostly vague impressions of a small house with a smoky fire continually burning in the fireplace, hunger, and leaving on a big steamship from Queensford with all of their things packed into three carpet bags. Most of her childhood memories were of New York, where the fires had been smoky coal rather than smoky peat, the roof hadn't leaked as much, and she hadn't been hungry.
Back across the ocean, she could never have married Joe, a Presbyterian from Ulster whose father had been a staunch Orangeman, but this was America, and old political and religious divisions didn't matter here unless you let them.
"America's birthday?" Steven repeated, blue eyes wide and round. "I'm four." He held up four fingers proudly, dripping more ice cream on Joe's head in the process. He had been announcing this fact for the past week, to anyone who cared to listen. "How old is America?"
Joe's face took on the look of intense concentration he got when thinking hard about something, eyebrows drawing together; she could almost see him doing the sums in his head "A hundred and forty-nine," he announced cheerfully, after a long moment.
Steven blinked. "That's a lot older than four," he said, very solemnly. It was, in fact, much older than four, though for Steven, for whom any sum too large for him to count on his pudgy little fingers was very large indeed, thirteen would also have been "a lot older than four."
Another firework exploded, blue this time, followed immediately by two white ones, bathing them all in their golden light.
Cherbourg. July 4, 1944
The city of Cherbourg had been liberated four days ago, and for the first time in almost a month, Steve and Bucky didn't have anywhere to be or anyone to fight. This state of affairs was not going to last long, but Steve was planning to enjoy it while it did, especially since today was his birthday.
Mentioning this fact to Bucky, however, had turned out to be a tactical mistake, since he had promptly gone and told Dum-Dum Dugan, who had of course immediately told his sergeant, and now Nick Fury and the entire complement of Howling Commandoes (minus two who were still in a British hospital, recovering from shrapnel wounds) were determined to personally see to it that Steve enjoyed his birthday very much indeed.
Steve was pretty sure that the building they were currently occupying had not begun life as a bar, anymore than it had started out with a hole in the roof and part of a wall missing, but a bar was what it was now. They were in France, and there were American soldiers to sell alcohol to, so alcohol was being sold.
Mostly, what was being sold was wine, but Fury also had a bottle of some expensive German liquor that he had "liberated" from a German officer's quarters. It tasted like perfume mixed with honey, and Steve suspected that it contained enough alcohol to fell a moose. He also suspected that you weren't supposed to slug it back like cheap beer.
Fury claimed to be immune to hangovers. Steve planned to test this assertion by waking everyone else up at seven a.m. tomorrow morning. Possibly by singing loudly, since he'd already been treated to a dozen rounds of "Yankee Doodle Dandy," including additional dirty lyrics that he was pretty sure owed more to Izzy Cohen than George M. Cohen.
"Happy birthday!" Bucky proclaimed, cheerful and loud. He saluted Steve with a glass of the German honey-perfume. At eighteen, he was almost certainly too young to be drinking hard alcohol, but he probably wasn't old enough to be slitting people's throats with a knife and handling a machine gun either, so Steve hadn't said anything.
Tomorrow, he was going to wake Bucky up first. It would be a learning experience for him.
"Sorry we couldn't find you a nice French dame to give you a present," Dun-Dum proclaimed, pounding Steve on the back so hard that he nearly choked on his wine, "but it was short notice. You have to tell us these things in advance."
"We'll know for next year," Bucky said brightly.
"Yeah," Fury said, grinning, "an' since yer still gonna be a virgin then, it'll still be a real birthday surprise."
"I'm not a virgin," Steve lied, face heating. It wasn't as if he'd had much of a chance to meet girls over the past few years.
He had changed his mind. Tomorrow he was going to wake Fury up first.
Avengers Mansion. July 4, 199?
Steve had only been an Avengers for a couple of months, heck, had only been in this time for a couple of months. It still felt strange sometimes; he wasn't really sure how much he belonged here.
He'd expected to celebrate his twenty-fourth birthday with Bucky, and possibly the Howlers. He'd held out the hope that, if they got lucky, he'd even be able to do it back in the States.
Well, Steve reflected, he was back in the States, that much of his hopes had come true, and they had won the war, but he had lost Bucky and almost every one else he'd known during the war was gone as well, now.
Fury and Dum-Dum were still around, of course, but Steve planned to avoid them today, because he had the uneasy suspicion that if he encountered Fury today, the man would have a French prostitute ready and waiting for Steve, as per his promise on Steve's last birthday, and nevermind that it had been fifty years.
He didn't have to worry about anyone else trying to "surprise" him, because Fury and Dum-Dum were the only people left who even knew when his birthday was.
Yet more evidence that he was out of place here.
Steve shook himself out of his melancholy, and went down to the Avengers' kitchen for breakfast. It was still the fourth of July, and he'd always liked celebrating that, too.
When he entered the kitchen, he found it empty save for Jarvis, who was making waffles, his back to Steve.
"Good morning," Steve offered.
"Good morning, sir," Jarvis said. He turned around, and presented Steve with a large, fluffy waffle, liberally covered with powdered sugar. There was a candle in the middle.
Steve blinked. "What's this for?"
"Mister Stark mentioned that today was your birthday. I thought you might appreciate a treat of sorts."
Steve found himself grinning. He shrugged, rubbing at the back of his neck, both pleased and slightly embarassed by the attention. "Thanks. How did you know I like waffles?"
"It's been my experience that everyone does," Jarvis said dryly. "Though I suppose you could call it habit; it's what I always made for Tony on his birthday, when he was a boy."
'Tony,' Steve noted, not 'Mister Stark,' this time. Not for the first time, he wondered what it was like to grow up with your own butler.
"Thanks," Steve repeated. "This will be great." He glanced around the kitchen, which was empty save for the two of them. "Where's everyone else?"
"Still asleep, I'd wager. I'm afraid you're the only early riser on the Avengers' roster." Jarvis sounded disapproving, but Steve could tell from the faint, amused crinkle around his eyes that it was more for forms sake than anything else.
Stege shrugged. "More waffles for me, then."
He took his birthday waffle over to the table and sat down, only then noticing the white card sitting beside his usual place. "Wow, Jarvis, you didn't have to go to so much trouble."
Jarvis glanced back at him, raising one eyebrow. "Oh, I had nothing to do with the card. It's probably from Mister Stark."
Steve nodded, and opened it, feeling a flush of gratutude towards Tony Stark for making the effort to try to make him feel at home -- he must have had to go through old military records to find out the date of Steve's birthday.
Except... the card wasn't from Tony Stark.
"Happy birthday to 'a real live nephew of Uncle Sam'. --Iron Man."
Just when he'd been feeling sorry for himself, it was nice to get a reminder that, even if the people he'd once known were gone, there were new people who cared enough to make fun of him on his birthday.
Steve grinned, and took a bite of his waffle.
Broadway. July 4, 200?
"So how did you like the play?" Tony asked the question casually, as if the answer was unimportant.
Steve was faintly embarassed to admit how much he had enjoyed two and a half hours worth of people singing about the Declaration of Independance. "How did you like it?" he asked instead. "I still can't believe you got the tickets; I didn't think 1776 was the kind of show you usually went in for."
Tony shrugged. "Stark Enterprises is one of the production's financial backer, so I got complimentary tickets to the Fourth of July opening night. I figured you'd like it, so I took them."
And of course, the fact that it was one of Steve's favorite musicals being performed on his birthday hadn't played a role in Tony's decision to back the production at all.
There were times when it was slightly intimidating to have a lover wealthy enough to essentially buy you a Broadway play.
"So what now?" Steve asked as they left the theater. "I don't I've properly demonstrated my appreciation yet."
"Now," Tony said, "we have dinner reservations at Bouley in half an hour."
"Wow," Steve said. That was... very fancy. Bouley was one of the top restaurants in New York. "And to think I used to celebrate the Fourth with hotdogs and ice cream at Coney Island." He hoped that hadn't sounded as wistful as he thought it might have. He didn't want Tony to think that he didn't appreciate all the trouble he'd gone to.
Tony hesitated for a moment, coming to halt in the middle of the sidewalk. After a few seconds, he seemed to come to a decision, and started walking quickly in the opposite direction, pulling Steve along after him. "Come on," he said. "They can give our table to someone else."
Steve blinked, nearly tripping over his own feet. "What about dinner?"
Tony grinned at him. "Coney Island still has hotdogs."
The fireworks were considerably fancier then they had been once upon a time, but they were still just as pretty as they'd been when he was four.
The red and gold light of the fireworks made Tony's skin glow; his tie was hanging loose around his neck, and he had unbuttoned the collar of his shirt, but had stubbornly kept his shoes on, insisting that whatever the claims that the dumping of medical waste into the river and harbor had stopped, he wasn't going barefoot on the beach as long as Roxxon Oil still had chemical plants in the area.
The base of his throat was visible, washed in red glare, and Steve could see the dip between his collarbones. "Happy Fourth of July," Steve said, grabbing the loose ends of Tony's tie and pulling forward into a brief kiss.
More fireworks exploded overhead, and Tony's grin was clearly illuminated. "You taste like ice cream," he said.
Steve kissed him again, longer this time. Tony didn't need to get him expensive presents, he reflected. He'd always found that having someone to spend your birthday with was more important than any gift they could give you, and this had been one of his best birthdays yet.