Steve remembers the little handmade presents and decorations, he wanted to share that with Clint.
Of the two of them Steve had actually had Christmases. He remembered them. Knew what they were supposed to be like. In that time before after his father had gone, before his mother had passed. He remembers the little tree a throw away begged off a vendor on his way out of the city at the end of the season. The heavy fragrance of pine and maple from the branches. He remembered the little handmade ornaments, carved from bits of sweet smelling wood and and knitted from yarn, little garlands made from sewing thread and a bit of popcorn or hard red berries collected from the park.
Steve remembered the little presents, the small toys sewn from scraps of fabric and broken buttons and stuffed with sweet smelling straw or crumpled newspaper. The little stand up dolls hand drawn and cut out of warped cardboard. Wind chimes and sun catchers made out of bits of wire and polished metal and chunks of colored glass from broken bottles, the edges sanded down so they clinked and clicked and clattered together in soft melodies.
Steve's mother had an artist's hand. She had been made thrifty, crafty and resourceful out of necessity. She had been on her own, taking care of her boy in the leanest times of the country yet to date. She had struggled and hurt to provide for Steve herself. Collecting anything and everything her hands caught that might be needed. Bits shredded fabric saved from tailor's bins, the fluffy wool of sheep and goats caught in the wire at the feed lots, anything. And anything that wasn't used to prolong the life of their clothes or keep the little fire going in the range was turned into little sculptures or toys. Anything to make the bare and grey walls of their apartment brighter, more alive.
And she tried all the harder on Christmas, turning her imagination to making Steve the little trinkets and toys that were able to pull the boy away from his ailing body and impoverished life. It inspired Steve. He wanted to be like his mother, he wanted to have her strength and steadfast courage. And he wanted to have her artist's hands. He showered her with no end of sketches and drawings, wall papering their apartment with it, the bits of colored glass dancing the light across them.
Steve remembered sitting on the floor with her, playing games and reading stories and sitting close together to the late evening where the extra pennies they had saved made for a special dinner. A ham or a goose, potatoes heavy with herbs and butter. Tea and coffee and a special treat of sweets, cake or pie.
It didn't matter how badly the year had gone, how sick Steve had been, what hardships they had faced. It had always been washed clean on that December morning. Just Steve and his mother and the quiet of early morning Brooklyn.
It had ended when she passed. It had left the day hollow and painful. Steve had tried to ignore it but that hd made the pain of the loss sharper. He'd been spared feeling the bite of her death for too long. The War spared him that. He remembered how different Christmas had been then. Lean, hard, cold. Behind enemy lines. But always with the warmth and company.
It was his first Christmas after the War. After his thaw from the ice. He didn't have his mother and he didn't have the Howling Commandos or Howard or Peggy to spend it with.
But he had Clint.
Steve was a little unsure at first. He knew that Clint had not truly celebrated the holiday since before his parent's death as a six year old. He would tell Steve of perching on roofs in the head of the Iowan winter nights to look out over the lights on the farm homes. scrabbling together a few dollars to get his little brother a gift every year. The joke gifts passed around the LAPD SWAT Team. The infamous and nearly frightening accounts of the SHIELD Office Christmas Party.
But Clint didn't celebrate. To hear him tell it he was one of the few that often volunteered to work the holiday.
Surely Clint wouldn't this year? With Steve there with him. Hiding from the chill and ice of New York at the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. But Clint had made no effort to try and encourage the holiday, to try and coax Steve into celebration. Other houses on the street were strung with lights and on his runs in the morning Steve could see trees in the large picture windows.
Steve was fenced until Clint said that he was heading in town for the day to make sure a few things got shipped. It was Christmas Eve and Clint was working... the super soldier had for a moment felt defeated, then straightened himself up and set out to try and recreate what he remembered from his childhood. The holiday meant a great deal to Steve, it had been of those few years that were his happiest days as a boy. He wanted to show Clint that, draw Clint into those kind of memories.
The soldier had walked to the supermarket and hardware store to gather what he needed. It must have been an odd sight, to watch Steve Rogers march proudly through the neighborhood with a few bags in one arm and a small Fraiser Fir tree slung over the other shoulder.
But Steve carried everything inside and set to work. He popped popcorn and stripped raw cranberries to make garlands. He folded and carefully cut and snipped at paper to make increasingly elaborate paper snowflakes. He screwed loops into little wooden balls and painted each one carefully with soft colors and bright white designs to hang from the branches of the little tree. He diligently followed a recipe to brine and season a small turkey and carefully organized and prepped the rest of the food to be easily cooked tomorrow.
Then Steve turned his focus towards the gift he had been working on in secret for Clint. He knew how few photographs the archer had to look back on and Steve wanted to give a little of that to the archer. Steve had used photo studies from the internet and visited a local dude ranch every few days to work on his sketches, learning every line of muscle and mane in horses before he'd poured his attention into a canvas. Steve worked for weeks, getting every detail he could down and slowly bringing to life the image he'd hoped for. Clint and his beloved Sparrow, the Friesian mare he'd lost in the circus. The image was intimate, an embrace, the private kind of moment that Steve imagined Clint seeking out with the mare. Clint curling against Sparrow's neck and the mare holding her head protectively over his shoulders and back. The soldier would quietly admit that he had spent far more time on Clint's image than he meant to.
Steve had taken the dimensions and with help from the hardware store had glass, wood and a heavy matte board cut. Steve through it all back to the little house on the edge of the Canyon and with tiny nails and wood glue had built a frame for the canvas. Setting it into the matte and behind the glass, sealed it into place. Then wrapped it it in plain brown paper, a sprig of greenery from the tree to decorate with a bit of red ribbon.
Steve had waited nervously, making Clint's favorite coffee and sitting in his favorite chair in the small library and waited for Clint arrival. His nerves made him restless but the soldier stayed in the chair and forced himself to focus on a book. His mind wandering and growing ever more anxious.
He didn't realize he'd fallen asleep until he was rouse by the light touch of Clint's hand on his shoulder and lips on his brow. Steve blinked blearily at him, before shifting to sit up a bit, rubbing at his eyes and glancing at his watch, "It's after midnight."
Clint knelt onto the floor next to him and the chair, "I know, I'm sorry. I was stupid to try and do anything on Christmas Eve, but I needed to pick something up. It couldn't wait. Never had to work so hard to get the right thing. Least I hope its the right thing... "
The archer produced a small black box and opened it to show the contents to Steve. It was a pendant, a simple charm made of silver in the shape of a single hawk's feather, painted with a pale gold, banded in black and tipped white. Clint smiled a little sheepishly.
"I had to have it custom made. I called all over and the only place willing to smith it with such short notice was out of town... I asked them to add steel to silver. Make it a little stronger... there's a chain so you can wear it by itself but I figured you could add it to your dogtags and wear it that way. I mean if you want to wear it. At all. You don't have to if-"
Steve had laughed gently against Clint's lips, silencing the archer before carefully lifting the charm and turning it over and over too look at the work of it. "I didn't think you'd want to celebrate, give gifts... but I'd hoped..."
The archer smiled and nodded his head towards the darkened den where the majority of Steve's hard work was set on display. "I could tell. It's amazing, I can't believe you made all that stuff."
Steve smiled a little sheepishly as he reached to his throat and lifted his dogtags over his head, with his eyes on the charm he very carefully added the hawk's feather to the loop that held a little silver crucifix along side the embossed steel of his tags. "My mom and I used to make everything. She showed me how."
"She was amazing." Clint hummed. Steve ducked his head and blushed a little, nodding in confirmation as he slipped the dog tags back over his head. He smoothed fingers over the feather pendant, resting next to his mother's crucifix and warm over his heart then leaned in for a stolen kiss. Clint laughed against the soldiers lips. Steve pulled back when his hands came in contact with damp fabric at Clint's shoulders.
The soldier cocked his head in confusion, "Is it raining?"
"Snowing." Clint smiled as he stood and hand in hand they headed towards the large glass door that lead out to the back porch and over looking the Canyon. In the pale moonlight the fluff of fresh fallen snow swirled through the air and out in the darkness the ridges and lines of the Canyon were lined in brilliant white. Steve shivered a little and reflexively moved closer to Clint. The archer looped arms reassuringly around him. "Fluke in the weather, its been a couple of decades since they had any snow that stuck. Kinda fitting though. For Christmas."
It was after midnight, Christmas proper. Steve rumbled softly and looped his arms around Clint and held him close. The soft sound of snow against the glass, the soft chime of the hawk's feather pendant on his dogtags and the steady thud of their heart beating in time.
Come the next morning Clint and Steve would rise early. The soldier taking pictures of the snow capped Canyon and trying to quickly catch the vista in water color and sketches. The archer making a breakfast of coffee and fresh baked honey buns. Clint would peel back the paper on the painting and fight to keep tears out of his eyes as he thanked Steve. The soldier would open a little metal box and find a wide assortment of artist's Copic Markers which Steve broke in instantly on a new attempt at capturing the snow and the Canyon, still life of their coffee mugs and breakfast and, of course, of Clint.
For the whirlwind the year had been for him, the rapid rise and fall, the rush of the War, then the Battle in Manhattan, of learning to live in the modern day, of finding Clint, Steve truly couldn't have hoped for a better end.
A/N: HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYBODY!