"Wake up, Caaaaapppppppssssiiiiccclllllleeeee! It's Chhhhrrriiisssstttmmmmmaaassssss!"
"Ugh, shut up." Steve rolled in the sheets, pressing his face into his pillow and kicking the hot sheets away from his feet.
Toni gasped. "Guys! Captain America just cussed at me! Somebody call someone! Call the president! Call the army! Call the..."
"'Shut up' is not a swear word, Stark. So just...be quiet."
"It's Christmas morning, Cap! We've gotta open presents. You're the only one still in bed; everyone else is waiting for you."
He groaned. "My alarm was set for 6:30."
"Well, it's 6, so...basically the same thing."
"Fine. Just wait a minute."
Toni squealed, darting out of the room. "He's waking up, guys! You said if he would get up, you'd get up too, so come on! I want you guys to see what I got you."
Steve chucked, scraping himself up off the bed. She was so much like a child, and her excitement was infectious.
"Ooo, and this one's for you, and this one is for you and this one is for y...ohp, nope, it's for Point Break..."
Shockingly enough, Toni was the only one who was awake enough for presents-aside from Steve.
He couldn't help but wonder how much time and money she'd put into this Christmas, to make it special for them all.
He knew that most of the others hadn't had much of Christmas growing up (he doubted Natasha had any sort of holiday at all), and here was Toni, who'd never had much of a Christmas herself, getting them all gifts. It was...inspiring, for lack of a better word.
"Here, Captain Sparrow. Pep wanted me to give you this."
Blinking owlishly, he carefully took the badly wrapped package. "What?"
"Captain Jack Sparrow? Pirates of the Caribbean? C'mon, it's one of the best movies of all time."
Steve smiled lightly and shook his head.
"Movie night! But seriously, just open it. I want to see what she got you; she wouldn't tell me. But, she did tell me that it was for...I don't remember exactly, I think it was helping me find the others in that creepy pine tree maze last week."
Slipping his index finger under one side of the tape, he grinned. "Tell her thank you."
"Yeah, sure, whatever, ohmigosh, what is that?"
He held up the hideous maroon and puke-green striped sweater up.
A sinking feeling gripped his chest. It would fit.
Toni burst out laughing. "Oh, man, that's just precious! It matches my scarf!"
Clint's head appeared from around the Christmas tree. "What's happenin' over there...what is that?"
"It's a sweater Pepper knitted." Toni managed to gasp out between bouts of laughter.
"Don't tell her that! It's sweet that she went through the trouble. And she must have done it in a hurry. It's not so bad."
"How you manage to say that with a straight face is beyond me."
"Are you sure that you want that new Starkphone? It was customized, but that's something that is so easy to fix..."
"I'll just shut up now."
Clint stuck his tongue at her before ducking back behind the tree.
Toni turned to him with a somewhat ferocious glare. "Don't you dare comment on that ugly sweater, Rogers. Pep went through a lot of trouble and more than one all-nighter to pull that off. Wear it and enjoy it. She's coming over for dinner later today, and I want her to see you wearing it."
Steve held up his hands in surrender. "Alright, alright. I wasn't planning on anything less. It was very kind of her."
"She's trying to see if she approves of you."
"I thought she already did."
"Mmm. Who knows what goes on in Pepper's head?"
Dinner went as well as one might expect.
Thirty minutes in, Clint threw his mashed sweet potatoes at Toni (he claimed they were a radioactive mush, and that Toni was trying to kill him-never mind that it was Steve who'd made them), and disappeared up the vents. Natasha had ended up trying to choke the life out of Rhodey when he'd suggested that Clint was being a little too sensitive-they'd both left soon after, Rhodey stomping out the front door and Tasha just...vanashing in that unnerving way of his. Bruce had disappeared into his lab after a near hulk-out. Thor was still in New Mexico, spending the holidays with Jane (which was a blessing-if he had been there, he either would have started a brawl, or ended up crying his eyes out). Pepper and Happy left almost immediately after Bruce, pleading other engagements. In those exact words.
Then, it was just Toni and Steve, sitting at a mess of a table.
They stared at each other, then glanced down, then started at each other again.
Tears welled in Toni's eyes, and she placed her napkin carefully on her messy plate. He immediately knew what she was going to say before the words left her mouth; she was too proud to cry in front of anyone. "Well, I think I'll go down to the lab and clean this up in the morning..."
"No way." Steve growled-honest to goodness growled. "You hid out in your lab all day yesterday. This may not have worked out the way you wanted it to, but I'm still here and you're still here and we are going to do dishes together and have a great time."
Her voice held a broken note as she choked out his name. "Steve."
He shook his head with grin, standing and offering a hand up. "C'mon. It'll be fun."
She gazed up at him, blue eyes hurt and watery. "If you say so."
It was the 'awkward tree decorating mess' all over again.
"I can't believe we're doing this. I have a dishwasher bigger than most people's closets."
"You want a proper Christmas dinner, you have to handwash the dishes."
"I'm not sure that's how it works..."
"Toni. Don't argue."
He kept his eyes on his stack of stained plates, trying to ignore the delicious way she nibbled on her lower lip. "Um...could you pass the dishsoap?"
Steve scooped up the bottle of thick blue liquid, eyeing it contemplatively. "I dunno...I kind of think that I'd like to hold onto it."
"What?" she gasped out with a laugh.
"Well, this shade of blue matches your eyes."
"Hand it over, Romeo."
He sent her (what he hoped was) a mischievous grin. "You're sure?"
Crossing her arms huffily over her chest, she held her palm open in a demanding gesture. "Positive."
Faster than the eye could blink, he'd flicked open the lid and squirted a generous amount into her hand. "Here you go."
She gaped at him, a slow grin spreading over her shocked features. "Oh, you totally did not just go there."
He grinned back. "I totally did."
"Well, you're going to live to regret it. You know, for all your 'man with a plan'-ness, you really did think that far ahead because I am the queen of bubble wars."
He cocked a brow at her. "Really?"
"Mhmm. Just ask JARVIS." She turned, slipping her hand into the warm water tumbling down from the tap and rubbing her hands together to work up a nice lather.
Steve began backing away. "Now you just stay there and..."
With a impish grin, she began stalking towards him.
"Now, Toni, let's be reasonable, we're both adults here..." He held the dirty plates in front of his chest, as if it could protect him from the genius's wrath.
"Well, you started it..."
"Yeah, okay, maybe I wasn't thinking..."
She let out a mock-battlecry, hurtling a ball of bubbles at his face.
The plates didn't help.
Two hours later, they were settled in a giggly heap in the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen, sopping wet and covered in fluffy dishsoap bubbles.
Toni stared at Steve; Steve stared back.
Her chest heaved quietly, fighting for breath. "I must admit, good sir, you are a bubble master."
"You're not so bad yourself." he whispered back.
"Bubble queen, remember? Outranks master every time."
"Oh, I'm not so sure about that."
"Hmmmm. Thank you, Steve."
His heart gave a little lurch at the sound of his name on her lips. "For what?"
She gazed at him with those fathomless blue eyes. "For making this the best Christmas I've ever had."
He smiled softly. "You're welcome."
A slight swish drew his attention to the ceiling above. "Look."
"What?" she sighed, voice soft and sleepy.
"Mistletoe." He leaned forward.
She met him halfway.
From inside the sterile white of the vents above the pair, Clint and Natasha exchanged smirks. "Operation 'Stoni' complete."
"Pepper will be so proud."
Whelp, hope you liked it. Reviews are love!
Happy holidays! :)