Written for the prompt: Tony takes Steve to his cabin home in Canada for Christmas.
It was really weird to write a Christmas fic in July. Please review! I'm still trying to get a good grasp of the characters and this relationship and would love some feedback on it.
Tony Stark has come to the conclusion that people did not flirt in the 40s. And if they did, Steve Rogers was not one of them.
The progression of Steve and Tony's relationship has gone as follows:
- two weeks of outright hostility
- one extremely awkward mutual apology and "Let's try to get along" from Steve ("for the sake of the team" heavily implied)
- three weeks of shaky friendship until one day Steve sits down next to him in his workshop and asks "What's that?" and actually honest-to-God listens as he rambles and spews engineering jargon that flies right over Steve's head, and then Tony walks into him in the kitchen late at night when everyone else is asleep and sits quietly while Steve explains Peggy and Bucky and doubts and confusion over a cup of coffee that grows colder the longer he talks
- and then one month of steadier friendship and understanding looks across the table during debriefs and little smiles pulling up the corners of their mouths until that becomes
- over thirteen months of the closest friendship Tony Stark has ever had, counting Rhodey who's stuck by him since college and beyond and Pepper who he honestly couldn't live without
And then a sudden thought (helped along by an exasperated Pepper, bless her) that maybe Tony might actually like Steve. Like-like.
Or not, because like-like is for middle schoolers and immature tweens and it implies feelings which Tony doesn't dare touch with a ten-foot pole, thank you very much.
So not like-like (or anything above and beyond that, whatever Pepper says), but perhaps an attraction. Not surprising. Tony's never let gender limit him and Steve is a perfect example of well, everything.
The tricky part of it all is this: Tony Stark gets want he likes and takes what he wants and doesn't much care for the aftermath of those choices. As he's never looking for a long-term relationship (or even a short-term one longer than one night) he usually doesn't worry about the consequences. Seduce, enjoy, dump. Cut the strings and move on. File a restraining order if necessary - ah the perks of being famous. Doesn't matter if you'll never see them again, that's just how he likes it.
Except he might actually want to see Steve again. All the time. For the end of his life maybe. (Shut up Pepper, that doesn't mean anything.) This whole Superpowered Boy Band thing has turned out to be one the greatest things in his entire life - a network of support and friendship and god, love even, that Tony had resigned himself to never having. And Steve of course, Captain Fucking America who is every inch the miracle he read about in comics, except maybe more because he fumbles with microwaves and gets confused by TiVo and becomes as excited as a child when he watches his first Disney movie.
Steve is important to him - there, he'll admit it - and at this point, Tony may have made the mistake he sworn not to: given a little too much of himself away and let Steve in a little too close, right up into his inner wiring and all the things that make him tick, to the point where he's not sure what would happen if Steve pulled out of his life. He might just topple over, like a building with one of it's main supports taken out.
Confession: Tony doesn't want to trick Steve into his bed for a night and then lose him in the morning.
He wants Steve in his workshop reading a book as he works. He wants Steve squished up against his left side because there's not enough room for them all on the couch during movie night. He wants Steve to bring him food while he tinkers with new arrows for Clint and remind him to sleep. He wants to take him to old 40s style diners and watch his eyes light up. He wants Steve to send him texts that look like letters, all formal and old-fashioned and signed Love, Steve at the bottom. He wants Steve fighting him over what show to watch on tv.
(He wants Steve to be the first thing he sees when he wakes up every morning.)
So outright saying it? Not going to work. Not like every other person in his long list of lovers. No, this requires flirting, and a much more subtle much less crude version than he's used to. Which Steve turns out to be oblivious to. In every single way.
It's frustrating, and at this point, Tony's fairly certain the rest of the team has figured it out, if the jokes from Clint, the knowing smiles from Bruce, the booming laughs from Thor, and the little smirks from Natasha are anything to go by.
And Steve, brilliant strategist and tactician that his is, remains clueless. Friend-zoned, Tony thinks bitterly, a brand new concept for the great player Tony Stark.
Christmas nears and a small (or not, nothing Tony owns is small) cabin comes to mind. What could go wrong? A warm fire, snow to keep them inside, the twinkling lights of Christmas trees, and perhaps a few sprigs of mistletoe.
Or so he thinks, and when things begin to go wrong, Tony asks himself why he didn't see it all coming, and then takes note of how everything goes completely un-according to plan.
1. Steve fails to realize it is a romantic getaway
Sure, Tony thinks, it's perfectly normal for two guy friends to head out for a week of camping. All alone. In a nice cozy expensive cabin mansion. In the northern woods of Canada. Where it's cold. And they might need to huddle up on a couch together to stay warm, their legs tangled, chests touching, a fire lighting their faces in rosy, romantic hues.
Sure, friends do that.
But it's Christmas, and there was a reason why Tony stressed that it would be just the two of them and not Clint or Natasha or Bruce or Thor or Coulson or Pepper when normally Christmas was a time for family and friends and lots and lots of people.
But instead of blushing or smiling shyly or any of the preferred responses, Steve just grins wide (he could totally do toothpaste commercials if the whole Captain America thing ever fell through, Tony thinks) and says, "Sounds fun. And it's a nice idea to let Clint and Natasha have some alone time."
"What?" Tony asks dumbly, wondering how "would you like to come with me to my mountain home for the holidays" turned into anything having to do with Natasha and Clint.
"Well, you know," Steve begins to explain, and no, Tony doesn't actually, "Bruce was going to catch up with Betty and Thor planned to spend Christmas with Jane and Darcy and Dr. Selvig. If we're gone, Clint and Natasha can have some time alone in the tower, since normally they don't have a lot of time for dates with all the Avengers and SHIELD work. It's a great gift for them, Tony."
"Sure," Tony says. "That's me, Mr. Thoughtful."
2. Steve is not impressed by his wonderful, amazing, fantastic mountain home. Not even a little. In fact, he seems to dislike it.
"What?" Tony asks, and if his voice is defensive it's only because Steve is looking at him with something like disappointment. Disappointment. As he's standing in front of one of the nicest buildings he's probably ever seen, minus the Malibu Mansion. Steve was not supposed to be looking at it in disappointment.
Steve huffs, crossing his arms over his chest. "You said we were camping," he accuses.
Tony stares at him in confusion, looks at the house in front of them, down at the bags by their feet where they stand on the driveway, back to Steve, and then eloquently asks, "Huh?"
"This," Steve waves a hand at the building in front of them, "isn't camping!"
It's a house in the middle of the woods, Tony thinks. AKA camping. "Of course it is," he argues.
"No, it's not," Steve insists, turning his disappointed look from the house to Tony and ouch, that kind of hurts. "Camping requires roughing it, staying in a tent, sleeping in sleeping bags, and forging in the woods for food. This," he motions back towards the house, "is like staying in a five star hotel."
The longer Tony listens to Steve complain, the more confused he becomes. Did he look like the sort of guy to enjoy sleeping on the cold, hard ground with no technology or modern connivances close at hand? Did Steve know him at all? Clearly he hadn't watched Tony pack, because Tony had not brought any of the necessary things for hard-core camping; he didn't even know what you needed for hard-core camping.
"I said we were staying in a cabin."
"Yes, a cabin. Not a mansion."
Steve was not supposed to sound so frustrated about staying in a mansion. Nobody was supposed to sound that frustrated about staying in a mansion, and certainly not one owned by Tony Stark.
Steve must catch sight of Tony's expression - something like anger, distress, and aggravation all mixed together - because his annoyance softens. Still obvious in the set of his shoulders and the twitch of his eyes, but softer, muted. "I'm sorry; it's rude of me to kick a gift horse in the mouth. I'm happy you let me come, honestly, I just expected something a little different."
And Tony only nods, because really what can he say to that when he was expecting "wow, Tony, your house is beautiful" or any of the other normal responses.
Steve hefts his bag up onto his shoulder and follows Tony into the house, mouth tightening in annoyance when Tony uses a code to enter rather than a key.
3. Steve is appalled when Tony mentions ordering take-out for Christmas dinner.
"But it's Christmas, Tony!"
"Yeah? I'm not saying Chinese take-out or anything, I'm talking catering. I know a place that will cater a full out Christmas dinner, ham and cranberries and all the works."
"...fine. JARVIS, pull up some recipes."
4. In direct correlation with #3, Tony destroys the homemade Christmas dinner.
Steve should have been prepared for this. Honestly. When in his life had he ever seen Tony cook?
They had tried to make it together, splitting the responsibilities between the two of them, Tony heavily relying on JARVIS's guidance and Steve humming some Christmas carols as he worked. But Tony had been annoyed that the cabin mansion and everything else so far had been met with disappointment; he was desperate to impress Steve and had insisted that he alone make the ham.
"Well," Steve says finally, breaking the silence. "We could umm, I mean this side isn't too, er..." He pokes the charred ham with a set of prongs, turning it this way and that as he looks for some part of it that might still be edible.
Tony reminds himself that bashing his head against the wall in frustration won't fix dinner.
So through all this, the lack of amazement, the charred ham, the toppled Christmas tree, the shipment of mistletoe that was delayed by a snowstorm and a million and one other WRONGs and NOs and DEAR GOD WHY ISN'T THIS WORKING, Tony's reached the point where he's just about ready to scream "I WANT TO BE MORE THAN FRIENDS" right in Steve's face. Then a little thought wriggles its way into his head and sits there among his other thoughts, that perhaps Steve is not interested in Tony that way and is trying to let him down gently. Cap's a nice guy - Tony thinks you be hard-pressed to find a nicer guy anywhere - and he would do that, wouldn't he?
Cue Tony's spiraling into doubt and the fear of rejection until he contemplates sitting back and being content with their friendship, leaving it at that. Steve in his life as a friend only is better than living a Steve-less life, after all.
There's a very high possibility, a 93% chance, that it would have ended that way, Tony packing away the romance and flirting, pulling the self-sacrificing hero act and jeopardizing his own happiness to keep from driving Steve away, until an unexpected development comes into play.
Steve doesn't like the cold.
Which in retrospect Tony supposes he should have predicted that one. 70 years in the ice might make you a bit resentful of anything cold, and he's seen Steve walking around the tower in thick sweatshirts when it's even remotely chilly.
The soldier has explained it to him before, over the late night coffee sessions that have become nearly routine (Steve has nightmares and can stay awake and alert and fully functional for a long time thanks to the serum and Tony just never goes to sleep). He's told him that he doesn't actually remember being trapped in ice. But he can remember the first few minutes: the crash, a flash of light and heat and force until the cold crept up over him, his body fighting between hypothermia and healing, the forces in constant war with each other until he simply couldn't handle it and lost consciousness.
Every few nights he relives it in dreams, wakes up in a cold sweat, heart pounding. The nights are becoming fewer and far between as he adjusts to the future and his new roommates and comes to realize that the Avengers have his back forever and always. But it doesn't take it away completely, and when Steve feels cold, he flashes back to it, goes into a daze full of fear and loneliness, thoughts all scrambled and focused on waking up lost, alone, and afraid. Post traumatic stress disorder. (That's okay, Tony understands. There's a reason he doesn't go swimming anymore.)
So maybe Tony should have considered that when he told Steve to go out in the cold blizzardy air of northern Canada.
Explanation: the storm had come out of nowhere; the blizzard had knocked out the electricity which normally would be no problem because Tony had a back-up generator in all of his houses. Problem: he hadn't actually been to the house in Canada in ages, years even, and the back-up generator had been damaged in a previous storm. Or something. Tony's not sure, it could have been a rogue alien attack for all he knows, but the point was the back-up generator was out as well.
It didn't take a genius to realize that no electricity in the middle of a blizzard would eventually become a very, very bad thing.
They managed to get it fixed and running again, but the house had dropped several degrees and the blizzard continued to rage outside, ice creeping up over to the windows to hide it from sight. Tony's digging through his DVD collection to find a good movie to watch when he notices Steve shivering. He pauses, sets Kiss Kiss Bang Bang down on the carpet, and turns around to face Steve fully.
Steve is shivering, seated on the couch, the fabric gripped tight in his fists. Cloudy blue eyes stare at nothing. It's all familiar to Tony, who sometimes wakes up and mistakes the dark of his bedroom for a cave.
A thick red blanket lays draped across the end of the couch opposite from Steve; Tony grabs it and wraps it around the man's shoulders, eyes narrowing in worry when Steve, normally fully aware of his surroundings and equipped with lightening-fast reflexes, doesn't react.
"Hey, Uncle Sam, doing alright?" Steve doesn't answer. "Shit." Tony grabs the ends of the blankets, pulling it tighter around Steve's shaking form, bundling him up as tight as he can. "Hey, c'mon, Cap, stay with me. You're not in the ice," Tony says slowly, trying for soothing and comforting. It's in a complete different solar system than the billionaire's comfort zone; he treads forward cautiously, hoping he's saying the right things. "You're in one of the most amazing houses you've ever seen, in the company of the most amazing person you will ever have the fortune of knowing." Steve blinks slowly, eyes slowly coming into focus. Huzzah, Tony thinks, watching him wraps his large hands around Tony's on the blanket and look up at him.
"You want some hot chocolate, Cap? I might not be able to make a Christmas ham, but boy, can I make a helluva good hot chocolate. I mean, I usually spice mine up a bit, but I'll leave the alcohol out of it this time, just for you." Carefully slipping his hands out from under Steve's, Tony starts to move around the couch and towards the kitchen. Steve grabs his wrist.
"No, stay," Steve says, and it's clear by the way he blinks up at Tony that his mind is still caught somewhere between 1943 and 2012, struggling to make sense of things. Cave, Tony thinks; water, gunshots, and darkness, Tony thinks. And understands.
"Stay. Alright. I can do that." The couch dips as he sits beside Steve, pulling them closer to each other, Tony with his eyes locked on Steve, watching him closely. The temperature is starting to rise and Steve has the blanket wrapped tight around him, but he's still shivering. Now, Tony is not a patient man; sitting still for long periods of time is not one of his many skills. He starts to fidget, playing with the hem of his jeans, drumming the chorus of Highway to Hell onto his thigh.
An idea sparks.
"Hey, Steve," Tony says quietly, watching Steve turn to look at him. He runs the probability of success and failure through his head, concludes the most likely worst case scenario is that Steve continues to think of him as a friend only, and decides to go forward with it. He scoots closer to Steve's side until he's pressed up against him; grabbing the blanket, he wraps part of it around his shoulder.
Steve's expression clears up a bit, enough to raise an eyebrow at him in confusion. "Body heat," Tony coughs out, eyeing the floor rather than the man beside him. No way in hell he's going to look up into those perfect blue eyes at this close a proximity and be tricked into blurting out everything. Nope. Ground. Nice ground. Good ground. Totally-not-Steve ground.
There's something bouncing around in his stomach that feels suspiciously like butterflies. Fuck, Tony is not supposed to be this nervous. He is no longer a blushing virgin; he can't call unicorns to him on a whim. His list of lovers is far too long and his experience level too high to be feeling like a high school student forced to speak with his crush. But right now, pressed up against Steve's side and feeling like a human-sized burrito, he feels more nervous than he's felt in a long time.
It's sort of ironic, he supposes. This entire trip out here had been a last ditch effort to turn his friendship with Steve into something more romantic and now that the first remotely romantic thing has taken place, he hasn't a clue what to do. His mind is blank. Well, actually it's not, not even close - it's running probabilities and calculations and even some possible new schematics to improve the Mach VI's speed, but as far as Steve-related information is concerned, its depressingly unhelpful.
Maybe I should just sit here and let him decide, he thinks. Well, Steve, the ball's in your park, now; run with it.
There's a sudden pressure sneaking around his back and onto his side; it takes Tony a moment to realize that it's Steve's arm, freed from the blanket and pulling Tony into an even tighter embrace. The super soldier has stopped shivering by this point, but he won't let Tony go and Tony gladly takes advantage of that, leaning into him.
"Thank you," Steve whispers, his breath tickling the back of Tony neck. He shivers at the feel of it, before turning around to look up at Steve face to face.
There is no way Steve thought this was platonic is the only thought he has as he pushes up and kisses Steve on the lips. There's a heart stopping moment when Steve doesn't react and Tony almost pulls back and away, almost flees to the workshop built into this mansion that he had avoided since arriving. His mind whirls, throwing around thoughts like he didn't want this and he doesn't like me romantically and oh my fucking god I'm such an idiot abort abort god damn it until suddenly Steve starts kissing him back, running a hand through Tony's hair, the other clutching at his back.
Well, not exactly according to plan, Tony thinks, before he shuts off all thought and just rolls with it.