Well, he used to spend his birthdays doing the usual Stark routine: Drinks, parties, ruckus, waking up in the morning with no idea where he was or what'd occurred.
Between Fury's… ah, furious reprimands about keeping a 'clean' image – whatever the hell that was supposed to mean – and the rather funny, judgmental glares of the – cleaner, he guesses – side of their team, he's stuck to doing more subdued things.
He doesn't stay sober though, of course. That's the great thing about compromise. You don't gotta give up everything, just cut the fat out of it. Leave the important bits for him to enjoy.
Most of the time, now, when March 3rd rolls around, he spends it with Pepper. Because, if the past few years have taught him anything – and he'd hate to be one of those cliché heroes that goes on and on about how friendship is magic and the suit's changed him so, so much – it's that one, he's come too close to dying, and two, regardless of that he's still running on borrowed time, and he needs to make it count.
He needs to live it out with the people he cares about. And that's Pepper Potts.
Because – and this might be the truest thing to have left his mouth in years – he does need her. He really does, truly and honestly. Because she knows his social security number, she knows what he needs – which is different from what he wants – and she's not afraid to tell him how it is, to his face.
She's what he wants – that's true – but more than that she's what he needs.
So when March 3rd comes and passes, he takes the time out of his daily life to just sit and relax and be, with Pepper Potts.
Bruce doesn't really do birthdays.
If he's willing to put a reason to it, he might've said it began at childhood. With his dad, and his mom, birthday parties just didn't happen. When his special day came, he just marked it off as another day on the calendar. Nothing special, just one more day. It didn't make him feel any older – at least not until he was older – so it didn't really matter.
Which makes it, actually, a little funny when Tony finds him in the lab and puts a little Styrofoam box on the edge.
"Cake." Tony had said. "I didn't know what kind you liked, so I got chocolate. I kinda had a fork-full of it." And he shrugged. "Hope you don't mind, but it's awesome. Got it from this really weird bakery that just opened up a few blocks down. Crazy stuff. The owner mighta been some voodoo witch doctor."
"Oh." Bruce had said. Just that. Oh. He hadn't realized at first. "What for?" And Tony is just looking at him, a little confused.
"Your birthday," Tony replies, eyebrows raised. "What else, Bruce?"
Bruce laughs, pulls off his glasses, "Yeah, I forgot. Not much of a birthday guy, you know? Never had time for them." But inside, his heart's sinking because he can't remember the last time anyone had ever gotten him cake, and maybe the last time had been from Betty, all those years ago, before—
"You don't do birthdays?" Tony asks, like he's amazed. "That's… that's just not done!" And he edges the box over, closer to him. "Hell, I'll go get some candles if I have to."
And Bruce stammers, "Y-You don't have to do that, no really—"
But Tony's already at the door, and when he turns, he's grinning, "Everyone deserves a birthday party, Mr. Jekyll. 'Sides, you're my friend. Least I can do."
And for the first time in Bruce Banner's history, he blows out the candles on a birthday cake.
He knows the wish he's made will never come true, though.
Steve Rogers had a pretty idyllic childhood. He grew up in a house with a nice, white picket fence. Had a mother and father that loved each other, and a sister who was nearly a decade older than him. And he had birthday parties. Small, family-oriented ones.
So it was weird, he guessed, when his birthday came. The first one since he'd gotten out of the ice. A lot of things had been pretty weird since then, though, but he'd actually forgotten about it until the day had come.
He'd woken up, in his SHIELD-assigned bed, and remembered, with his face still pressed against the pillow.
Just, oh it's my birthday.
The last one he'd spent with Bucky. And that had been decades upon decades ago. At least he didn't feel any older, he supposed. That would've been bad, but maybe he could've been a real-life Rip Van Winkle.
Steve pulled himself out of bed, did his morning stretches, ate breakfast, had a shower and continued with his normal routine. He'd figure out what he wanted to do later on, if he did anything at all. Because, maybe, like a lot of things, that tradition could just die with Bucky, and everything else from decades ago.
So it was a surprise, when he'd returned from the training room, covered in sweat, to find the main room in the headquarters completely and totally submerged in darkness.
It was even more of a surprise when he'd flipped on the switch only to hear, along with see the blinding lights, "Surprise!"
He'd stood there, and thought how funny seeing the rest of the Avengers pop out from behind furniture actually was. He was shocked, to say the least. Rooted to the spot.
And stammering out thanks.
The cake, which depicted an extremely lewd version of Captain America, from the erotic bakery – courtesy of Tony Stark – was a little too much though.
Natasha is like Bruce – she too, isn't a birthday person.
They differ however, in that she does celebrate, but only on her own time. Her own time being a small, dark corner with a drink, while she reminisces on the past.
She wonders if the people she's killed would have loved to have celebrated their birthdays again. And when she does, she takes a long drink and tries to drown out the thought.
Natasha celebrates the fact that she's made it to another year of being alive. That the fact that this day has come means she's still breathing, she's still around.
Any other day, she would have forced the past out of her mind. It's this day – and only this day – that she chooses to wallow in the past. In mistakes. In life. In death.
And when Clint finds her, when they talk – and they talk about a great deal – she lets him kiss her.
Because even if today she chooses to linger on the topic of death, she chooses to live for tomorrow.
"Happy birthday, Tasha." Clint tells her.
Sometimes they're not happy at all.
On Asgard, they're called name days.
And they just pass. There is no real celebration. There is acknowledgment, sometimes nostalgic words spoken in passing, mostly of what his younger self got up to. But other than that, it is quite simply a normal day.
The others tell him the day is often spent with family, and is celebrated not with some grand feast, but with cake. Thor likes cake. Many of the pastries on Midgard are wonderful, but cake is not his favorite.
When his name day comes, Thor quite simply asks if his birthday may be celebrated with something other than cake.
No, what Thor wants is something made of Pop-Tarts.
The Man of Iron had scoffed horribly when he said that, had nearly laughed himself to tears.
"Friends! I wish to celebrate this day with those I consider as close as family!" Thor had said. "But please, if I am to… make a wish on such a day, as is custom, I would like that to be my wish."
The Widow had told him it might be a little difficult.
"Nonsense friends! We have fought countless strange beasts, gone on adventures others would consider impossible! Surely the creation of a… ah, Pop-Tart Cake would not be too difficult!"
And somehow, somehow they'd managed it. Melting pop-tarts and fusing them together. They'd had to lose the candle idea, however.
But Thor had enjoyed it, nonetheless.
Clint celebrates his birthday with the people he considers his teammates.
When he was in the circus – and damn, he hates to think of it – he spent his birthdays normally, with the rest of the circus... freaks, he guesses you could call them. Cake, candles, the whole shebang. Back then, he hadn't really felt like he fit in, like an extra finger on a hand.
Nowadays, it's with the Avengers.
It's pretty different these days, though. 'Cause now, he feels like he fits in perfectly. A weirdo among weirdos.
He won't admit it, too.
Clint Barton really fucking likes them.
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