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santa, won't you bring me the one i really need

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Although Tony typically makes it a point to avoid anything that could be reasonably classified as Pepper-approved self-betterment, he will be making an exception this year in the form of a list of New Year’s Resolutions. —Well, not so much a list, exactly, it’s more like one very loud, very obvious, very critical proposition. He’s gonna write it down, put it on his calendar, say it to Jesus, and do whatever the fuck normal people do to make these things happen. In fact, even though they’re only halfway through December, it’s already emblazoned in his mind in big, flashing neon letters: STOP SLEEPING WITH EX-HUSBAND.

This is possibly an inappropriate thought to have while said ex-husband is pushing him up against his apartment door and trying to get his hand down Tony’s pants, but Tony has admittedly never excelled at being appropriate.

“Rogers,” Tony breathes, fingers tightening in Steve’s jacket as he kisses down the line of Tony’s neck. “You’re gonna make me miss my flight.”

“You can afford it,” Steve says simply, and pops the button on Tony’s pants.

The problem is that Steve is absolutely not going to be the one to stop this. Tony knows that he could show up at any time, wearing anything, requesting any weirdly-specific sexual act, and Steve would let him in. He’d gripe about it, he’d tease Tony, he’d shoot him these horrible, chest-clenching looks when they’re supposed to be luxuriating in the afterglow, but he would still always let Tony in.

So that means Tony’s the one who has to learn how to develop some form of self-restraint, which is pretty tough ‘cause he has 36 years worth of experience that tells him he’s all but incapable of such a thing.

“I believe you’ve already cost me far too much money over the years.”

Steve draws back and quirks an eyebrow. “That so?”

Tony winds a hand through his hair, tugs his head back down and resents Steve’s responding chuckle. “Uh-huh. Alimony has been an absolute nightmare.”

You decided that amount, and when I tried to go lower you threatened to sue me.”

“Mmm,” Tony says, rubbing idly at Steve’s absurdly broad shoulders. He knows he’s smiling way too fondly for a booty call, and he’s silently grateful Steve isn’t currently in a position to see it. “I did, didn’t I?”

“You did. Stubborn.”

Tony can’t help but scoff a little, even as arousal thuds in his stomach at the feeling of Steve’s teeth on his pulse. “Uh-huh. Pot, kettle.”

In lieu of a response, Steve gets his hands under Tony’s thighs and hoists him up without warning. And it’s muscle memory, the way Tony’s arms immediately circle his neck, legs squeezing tight at Steve’s waist. Tony looks down at him and feels all the oxygen leave his lungs at once — even with new wrinkles at his eyes, a hairline that pushes back a little farther every year, and hair that sorely needs cutting, he is still, without a doubt, the most beautiful man Tony has ever seen.

“Maybe I should start making good on my supposed debt,” Steve says, voice low and teeming with meaning.

“Idiot,” Tony digs his nails into the nape of Steve’s neck, mostly to offset the affection blooming at the center of his chest. “We’re too old to be doing it in the apartment entryway.”

“Point,” Steve concedes, and leans up to kiss Tony, carrying him neatly and swiftly towards the bedroom.

 


 

Tony and Steve got married in their twenties. They were too young, probably, that’s what everyone told them at the time and that’s what Tony privately thinks now, but there had been no reasoning with either of them at that age. Steve had rescued Tony from a burning building, and Tony had spent an hour and a half yelling at him in the parking lot, insisting that he was handling it just fine by himself, he didn’t need intruders in his lab, and he certainly didn’t need a post-fire investigation which would set the research process back by weeks.

And Steve just stood there and took it, arms crossed over his chest, this supremely unimpressed look on his face. Tony was still yelling from the back of the ambulance, but he was also noting the way Steve’s t-shirt stretched over his biceps, how strangely sexy he looked with ash dabbed onto the apples of his cheeks.

It only took three more “accidental” lab fires for Tony to ask him out. After one year of the best, most intense relationship Tony had ever had, he’d worked up the nerve to propose. And things were fine — great, even, over the three years following the wedding. They had their problems, of course, they were wildly different people and sometimes that made partnership difficult, but every obstacle was so inherently surmountable, because Steve loved Tony, and Tony loved Steve, and no matter what kind of fucked up shit was happening in their lives or in the world, that would always, always be true.

And then in the same month, Obadiah Stane was arrested for embezzling funds from Stark Industries and Steve’s best friend got in a car accident that cost him his arm.

Things fell apart pretty quickly. They’d both needed each other desperately during that period, but they’d had too many individual problems and responsibilities on their respective plates, and Tony was spending more and more time in California trying to help Stark Industries recover from the damage Stane did on his way out, and Steve slept at Bucky’s place more nights than he slept at theirs.

They struggled on for another three and a half months before getting into a fight so explosive and so painful that the only solution seemed to be calling it quits. So Tony had compartmentalized his ass off, semi-permanently relocated to the West Coast, and released a tasteful press briefing about the split.

That should’ve been the end of it, but after signing the papers Tony only made it one silent, lonely month before turning up at Steve’s new apartment in Brooklyn, drunk and pleading. Steve, like the sappy asshole he is, gathered him up in a hug, held him close for hours, and kissed him after Tony had sobered up enough to consent.

And now they hook up every time Tony’s in New York — which is once or twice a month — and they text, and they occasionally talk on the phone, and they’re.. not friends, really, but they’re something. Tony and Steve. Soulmates. Lovers. Forever caught in each other’s orbit.

Tony is a certified genius, though, so if anyone can find a way around gravitational pull, it’s him. Come January 1st, he and Steve are permanently going their separate ways.

—Again.

 


 

“I’m not saying I don’t like it,” Tony murmurs, tugging gently at the soft, floppy strands, “I’m just saying you look a little like someone who lives in one of those shady Brooklyn alleyways that always smells like pee.”

“Flatterer,” Steve says wryly, pinching Tony’s hip in lazy punishment.

If Tony’s being honest with himself, this is his favorite part of seeing Steve. The sex is perfect, of course, it’s always good between them, but he really lives for the moments after, when he can leisurely run his hands along Steve’s still-warm skin with his head pillowed on Steve’s chest, legs hopelessly tangled amidst the sheets. Initially, his self-imposed rule was that he didn’t stay longer than an hour, but over the duration of the past year that has bled into a two hours, three hours, and, on one memorable evening, the whole night.

So he’s— clearly losing control. Of the terms of this arrangement. Which means it’s time to terminate it — not now, obviously, there's still a week left in December so he probably has enough time for one more hook-up before the New Year hits, but after that, it is over.

Again.

Tony sighs at his own useless, self-immolating tendencies, and shifts around on the bed, eventually propping himself up on Steve’s chest. He runs his fingers along the beard, which is mostly poky and annoying, but has also left the insides of Tony’s thighs pleasantly red and sensitive. Steve looks up at him with luminous blue eyes.

“It’s ruggedly handsome, I guess. But it’s not the lady-catching look you should be going for.”

Steve’s mouth twitches into an exasperated smile. “Oh, here we go.”

“You know I worry about you Steve, all alone in this hideous apartment—“

“Not alone. Sam, Bucky, Natasha.”

“All visiting friends! You need companionship. Steady companionship. I know how you get when you don’t have it.”

“I do just fine, Tony.”

“You don’t,” Tony mutters, something softer slipping into his voice as goes back to resting against Steve’s chest, throwing an arm around his narrow waist. “You get lonely.”

“So do you.”

Tony doesn’t argue, just squeezes Steve a little tighter. Steve returns the pressure in kind.

Tony does get lonely, but he has work to throw himself into. Every time he misses Steve’s smile, Steve’s laugh, Steve’s body, he invents a revolutionizing piece of technology that makes the feeling melt away. It also, coincidentally, means he has a reason to fly out to New York and present his new designs to the board, which, again, completely coincidentally, means he can drop in on Steve in Brooklyn.

—But he’s going to stop that. Next year. Self-restraint and all.

“I’m going to find you a woman,” Tony declares, breaking the warm, gentle silence in the worst way possible. Practically an instinct, at this point.

“I would really prefer you didn’t,” Steve sighs, but his eyes are already drifting closed, so Tony decides it’s not a serious rejection.

 


 

They nap for a bit, but Tony eventually forces himself to stumble out of bed, put his pants on, and duck into Steve’s bathroom to steal a little of his aftershave. Sometimes it hurts to go back to California smelling like him, but Tony still can’t bring himself to stop. He stands in front of the mirror and tells himself he’s not pathetic. He also tries, mostly in vain, to trample his sex hair into something vaguely professional-looking.

“Hey, Tony?”

Tony pokes his head out of the bathroom, and the sight of Steve with bare feet and low-slinging sweatpants is so perfectly domestic that it makes him want to jump out of a window. It takes him a probably noticeable amount of time to finally say, “Yes, beloved?’

Steve’s mouth quirks in a smile, but his eyebrows are drawn together, concerned. He nods towards the TV. Tony squints at the screen.

The Brrrfect Storm Hits New York: Thousands Find Themselves Snowed In - the headline moves in a persistent ribbon along the bottom of the screen, while New York's favorite ditzy weatherman, Thor Odinson, prattles off the best ways to stay safe in such treacherous conditions. 

Tony fishes his phone out of the back pocket of his jeans, heart sinking as the text on his screen confirms what he'd already suspected: his flight has been delayed. Indefinitely.

He glances back at Steve, who is looking increasingly nervous and has started wringing his hands in a way he probably thinks is subtle. It’s kind of a funny sight, paired with his He-Man beard and edgy long hair. It’s also, unfortunately, very endearing, and does nothing to stave off the highly potent “I’m in love with you” feelings swirling around Tony’s brain.

“Well,” Tony says faintly.

 


 

Tony makes his way to where Steve is reading the paper on the couch, plopping disruptively between the V of his legs and completely ignoring Steve’s ‘hey, I was doing something’ grunt. He discards the paper moments later and settles his hands on Tony’s hips, so Tony figures it’s fine either way.

“What about her?” Tony balances his tablet on his knees and flips through photo after photo of a pretty blonde girl from Steve’s (very seldom updated) Facebook friend list.

“Are you cyberstalking my contacts?” Steve asks casually, clearing some of Tony’s hair away from his temple and pressing a sweet, absent-minded kiss there.

“Just look at her, Steve, it says she’s single and interested in men!”

“She lives in Wyoming.”

“You can borrow the jet!”

Steve makes a funny snorting sound and Tony sighs, rolling his eyes and going back to Steve’s profile in search of his next potential hopeful.

“Is this what you plan on doing all day?” Steve asks, and Tony can feel the low vibration of his voice where his spine is pressed against Steve’s front. “Acting as my own personal yenta?”

Tony slumps a little in his arms, resting his head against the crook of Steve’s neck. “Maybe. If you’re difficult about it.”

“I’m difficult about everything. That’s why you divorced me.”

“No,” Tony insists, petulant, “that’s why I married you.”

Steve smiles fondly and kisses Tony’s temple again.

Over the span of the next half hour Tony goes through about fifteen different people of various gender identities, and Steve makes up increasingly flimsy excuses for his aversion to each of them. By the time he gets to ‘she wears blue shoelaces, who does that?’ Tony has to turn around and give him a reprimanding glare.

“I’m starting to think you’re not taking this seriously, Rogers.”

Steve tilts his head, eyes an infuriatingly innocent blue. “Pretty slow on the uptake for a genius, huh?”

“I need a snack if I’m going to put up with you all day."

“Keep all the Christmas food in the cereal cabinet.”

Steve receives homemade baked goods in droves during the Christmas season — either from grateful rescuees at the fire station, the parents of the art class for toddlers he teaches on Saturdays, or just old ladies in his vicinity who are magnetized to his buff, calming presence. Tony privately thinks Steve’s haul is consistently better than the absurdly expensive Godiva Gold Collection box three of his trustees get him every year, so he’s grateful for the opportunity to raid Steve’s stash.

Tony pushes past the cereal and easily fishes out some intriguing shortbread, a couple heart-shaped jam-filled cookies, and a bag of Steve’s weird healthy Terra chips. He’s about to gather up his hoard and head back to the couch when he spies an unassuming little tin wedged in the very back of the cupboard, cartoon reindeers dancing around the rim. Attached to the bottom is a simple tag with the word ‘enjoy’ scrawled in slightly murder-y handwriting. Intrigued, he reaches inside and pulls the tin out completely, popping the lid with his thumb and surveying the brownies inside.

Tony glances up at the sight of Steve approaching the entryway to the kitchen. When he gets close enough, he stops in his tracks and squints at the box, features slowly settling into a funny sort of recognition.

“Tony those are—“ Steve coughs, tucking a smile into his fist. “Those are Clint’s.”

For a quarter of a second, Tony doesn’t get it, because whatever he can just pay Clint back in imported Belgium chocolate brownies later, but then he takes in the slight raise of Steve’s eyebrow and the cryptic attached message on the tin.

“Oh my god,” he says, surveying the brownies with renewed interest. “That’s— Jesus. Did he make them?”

“He did. Bucky says they’re very potent.”

“Barnes had one?” Tony’s mouth nearly drops.

Steve only hums in assent, slowly reaching to extract the tin from Tony’s grip. Tony, on instinct, moves back a little, clutches it closer to his chest.

“Hold on a minute, Campus Police,” Tony says, plucking a brownie out of the box with his free hand. “I haven’t been entirely convinced that this is a bad idea.”

Steve’s eyes widen a little, and, god, there’s still nothing Tony loves more than throwing him off-kilter. “You can’t be serious,” he says, folding his arms over his chest.

“Why not?” Tony demands. “It’s perfectly legal in the state of New York, Steve Rogers.”

“Why not?” Steve repeats, sounding thoroughly scandalized, as if Tony suggested they go outside and start kicking random people’s puppies. “Maybe because we’re not twenty-somethings at a liberal arts college trying to ‘find ourselves’.”

Tony grins, but takes a quick bite of the brownie before Steve can snatch the tin back.

“Oh my god,” Steve splutters.

“Come on, baby,” Tony says, knowing full well what the pet name does to Steve. He takes another small bite of the brownie, much to Steve’s dismay. “You’re not gonna make me do this alone, are you?”

Steve hesitates, and glances nervously at the tin.

 


 

“I don’t feel anything,” Tony frowns, “I think my tolerance is really high.”

Steve squints, then tilts his head skeptically. “Why do you have so many Christmas ornaments down your pants?”

“Is that a euphemism, Rogers?”

“No, Tony, there are literally several Christmas ornaments down your—“

 


 

Time goes syrupy-slow after that, and Tony fills it by making out with Steve on the couch like they’re horny teenagers.

“Good golly,” Tony sighs, slowly dragging his nails down Steve’s back. “I sure hope we finish before your parents get home.”

Steve snorts a little, tugs him back down for another kiss, hand traveling up the hem of Tony’s dress shirt. Tony keeps meaning to take it off, but he gets distracted by Steve’s hair, Steve’s eyes, Steve’s mouth.

Nothing about the moment seems particularly urgent, anyways, not like it usually does. All of their hookups thus far have been nuanced iterations of tearing each other’s clothes off and going at it for an hour before Tony disappears to the other side of the country. As much as Tony may joke about it, he never actually misses his flight. And there’s a reason for that.

But it’s not like that, now, it just can’t be. With Steve laid out in front of him and a quarter of an edible at the pit of his stomach, there’s nothing to do but take his time and get reacquainted with all the perfect imperfections of Steve’s mouth-watering body. Steve is so easy for it, too, just spreads out and lets Tony do whatever he wants, kissing him with sweet, searching lips and breath that tastes like chocolate.

“Remember Christmas three years ago?” Tony asks.

Steve, despite being high enough that he forgot his own middle name a half hour ago, breaks out into a cheesy smile, cheeks flushing pink. “When you bought the…” he starts laughing a little, and, Jesus, he’s beautiful, “the…”

“Sexy Santa Costume,” Tony finishes helpfully, leaning down to nip playfully at Steve’s lips. “And sent it to you at the station.”

“God, I was so embarrassed. Thought I was gonna spontaneously combust.”

“Mmm,” Tony grins, rutting slowly against Steve’s stomach, right at the exposed swathe of skin where his shirt has ridden up. “You were so cute when I got home that night, all pouty and sullen over dinner, pretending to be mad—“

“I was mad—“

“Oh shut up. I blew it better.”

Steve snorts again, hooking his hands around the backs of Tony’s thighs and pulling him impossibly closer. “Well, you always did get sentimental around the holidays.”

“Only for you,” Tony teases, arousal rushing in from the sudden pressure of Steve’s hips.

They get lost in the kissing for a little while longer, until Steve loses his shirt and half of Tony’s gets unbuttoned. It’s so nice that Tony can’t even be bothered by crick in his neck and the ache in his thighs from movement in such a cramped space.

“You know,” Steve says thoughtfully, looking up at Tony with mirthful blue eyes. “I think I still have it.”

“Have what?”

“The costume,” Steve reminds, raising one meaningful eyebrow.

 


 

“Put on the hat!”

“No, I will not.”

“Please?”

Steve considers the appeal, heaves a resigned sigh, and disappears back into the closet.

He emerges seconds later with the hat tugged over his head. He leans against the doorway of the closet a little shyly, lashes fluttering, hands fidgeting with the coat.

Tony grins.

The ensemble is simple, but classic. Santa pants that sling tantalizingly low on Steve’s hips, a red coat left open with no shirt, and a Santa hat with Steve’s name carefully stitched along the fluffy white brim.

That’s right. It was custom.

“I look ridiculous,” Steve laughs, a little breathy as he glances down at his semi-naked form.

“Yes,” Tony agrees, sitting up and reaching into his back pocket for his cell phone. “But I also want to lick you.”

“You always want to lick me,” Steve points out, slowly advancing towards the bed. Tony’s gaze rakes hungrily over his frame, but before he can point his camera at Steve’s perfect, glorious abs, Steve’s putting a hand on his wrist, making him lower the device entirely.

“No pictures. If you want to see me in this,” Steve drops a knee onto the bed, moving so he’s straddling Tony’s thighs. “You have to come all the way to New York. And you have to be very nice.”

“Why?” Tony smiles, eyes clouded with desire as he runs his hands up Steve’s bare torso, “‘Cause naughty boys get punished?”

“You’d like that too much,” Steve reminds, properly settling into Tony’s lap and resting his hands on Tony’s shoulders. Steve is a full body blusher - his cheeks, his neck, and his chest are all colored a perfect, faded pink. It’s satisfying, in a primal sort of way, that the beard and the dark hair make him look so tough and rugged but he can still be this for Tony - shy, soft, eyes downcast, willing and pliant.

Tony looks up at him and feels so blindingly, terrifyingly in love.

But, in spite of this, come the New Year, he’s going to... he’s going to stop—... fuck, what was he going to stop doing?

He runs his thumb along the line of Steve’s jaw, then unceremoniously flips them over. Steve makes a little ‘oof’ sound, but he’s laughing too, wrapping his arms around Tony’s waist as Tony settles comfortably between his legs.

“I love you,” Tony sighs, leaning down to kiss his forehead.

Steve cranes his neck to bring their mouths together, loosing a small, contented sigh as Tony leans down to meet him. He pulls back after a moment, brushing a little hair off Tony’s forehead. “I love you, too.”

 


 

Two and a half hours later they are painfully sober and sitting on the floor of Steve’s kitchen in their underwear.

Steve, in a faint, questioning voice, speaks first.

“So when you said—“

“Uh-huh,” Tony cuts in, head leaned back against the oven.

“Did you actually mean—“

“I did.” Tony opens one eye.

Steve is blushing again, but now it’s an anxious, troubled red. He runs a hand through his hair and looks somewhere to the left of Tony’s head. In a faraway voice, he says, “Yeah. Me too.”

 


 

“You ran away! The second things got hard, the second you thought I might be leaving you, you tried to leave me first! You ran away!”

“That’s not even a little bit fair, Steve, and you know it. I needed to be in Malibu, the people I could trust were in Malibu, and I thought if I could just—“

“Why didn’t you take me with you? To Malibu?”

“Are you kidding me? Because you never would have come! You never would have left Bucky, you still wouldn’t leave him, even though he’s better and—“

“Can you work out of New York again?”

“I—... what?”

“Can you work out of New York again, Tony?”

“What does— what does that have to do with anything?”

“—Maybe this conversation would be easier if we had some clothes on!”

“Yeah, maybe!”

 


 

They put shirts on, and then Tony gets hungry, so Steve makes him a grilled cheese. For a while, the only sounds are the sizzle of Steve’s favorite infomercial frying pan and the insistent whistle of the wind outside. The near-silence is somehow fraught with sexual, romantic, and angst-driven tension all at once.

“I bought you a Christmas present,” Steve says, still turned around and seemingly preoccupied with the grilled cheese.

Tony raises an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

“Yeah—“ Steve glances over his shoulder, quick, tentative. “I wasn’t sure if that— if we were still allowed to—“

“What is it?” Tony interrupts, voice rippling with curiosity.

Steve hesitates again, then steps away from the stove and moves toward the sink, reaching for the highest cabinet in the kitchen. His shirt rides up a little in the process and it’s a cliche, but Tony eyes his exposed hip with interest.

He retrieves an old cookie tin, pops the lid, and draws out a small velvet box. Tony suppresses a smile at the (totally unnecessary) secrecy; Steve always got… almost childlike, around Christmas.

He tentatively approaches Tony, like a scared, skittish little bunny, and slides the box across the counter.

“It’s just something small,” Steve starts, shrugging as Tony tips open the box. “I know you’ve already got a thousand, but I just thought...”

Resting on a little velvet hill are a pair of cufflinks, immediately recognizable as monochromatic 2D replications of DUM-E,  three-pronged claw raised in interest. Tony feels a wave of affection rise and break in his chest, and he knows Steve is waiting with bated breath for his review, but he’s struggling pretty hard to find words other than “marry me again, please?”

“It’s okay if you think it’s silly,” Steve laughs, rubbing the back of his neck. “It is kind of silly, but— well, with all this revamping of Stark Industries going on, all these critics coming after you in those fancy tech magazines— I just thought.. I don’t know, DUM-E was the first thing you ever made, right? At seventeen. You were brilliant before any of those assholes gave you the time of day, and you’re still brilliant now. Obviously.”

Tony doesn’t know what to say, because for someone so supposedly brilliant, it really only takes one besotted rambling from Steve Rogers to undo him completely.

“Thank you, Steve,” he says finally, and it feels small and insignificant against how much he loves the gift. “It’s perfect.”

“You’re welcome,” Steve returns softly, offering Tony a smile that’s somehow kind and tortured in equal measure.

Steve goes back to the grilled cheese and turns the stove off, carefully flattening it further with the spatula, just the way Tony likes.

“Why don’t you have a Christmas tree up? Or any decorations?” Tony asks, fiddling with a string at the hem of the sweatshirt he borrowed from Steve. It’s big and warm and it smells like Sandalwood. “You love all that crap.”

Steve turns around, gently emptying the grilled cheese onto the plate in front of Tony. “Landlord doesn’t allow real Christmas trees in the building. She hates the sap. Couldn’t really bring myself to get a fake one.”

And that just— that just gets to Tony, wriggles underneath his skin and sets his teeth on edge in a way nothing else they’ve discussed this evening has managed to. He carefully sets down his grilled cheese and wipes at his mouth with a paper towel.

“Can you come here?”

Steve raises an eyebrow. “Can I...?”

“Steve, can you just— come here. Please. Right now.”

Steve continues to look skeptical, but pushes out of his chair and gradually makes his way towards Tony’s end of the table. Tony, though not great at dispensing meaningful physical affection while 100% sober, rises and wraps Steve up in a tight, slightly handsy hug, tucking his face into the crook of Steve’s shoulder. Steve melts into it immediately, brushing a kiss at the top of Tony’s hair.

“This is why I worry about you,” Tony sighs, fingers tightening in Steve’s t-shirt. “You’re not— you’re not doing you things. You’re not trying to make yourself happy.”

“I’m okay, Tony,” Steve says quietly, and pulls back to look Tony in the eye. He kisses the center of Tony’s forehead, because he knows that’s where all Tony’s anxieties condense and eventually manifest into a series of migraines and/or self-destructive tendencies.

I want you to be better than okay, Tony thinks but doesn’t say.

A small silence settles in the minimal space between them, and then—

“What if I worked out of New York again?”

And Steve is sporting a rapidly spreading blush as he stutters out a “what does that have to do with anything”.

Tony smiles.

 


 

They fall asleep on the couch, playing that silly post-divorce game where they talk about everything and nothing with reckless disregard for the consequences of said conversation the next morning. Tony wakes up to the sound of a newscaster saying the storm has passed and travel is safe again.

“I have to go to work,” Steve sighs, absently pushing his fingers through Tony’s hair.

“How can there be fires,” Tony yawns, arms tightening minutely around Steve’s narrow waist. “There’s so much snow.”

Steve flashes Tony a lopsided smile. “Mm. There’s that genius brain of yours.”

Tony gives a noncommittal grunt in response and Steve indulges him for a couple moments longer, running a soothing hand down his spine and rubbing sweetly at the sore muscles in Tony’s neck. Tony’s still half asleep but that doesn’t stop the rising ache in his chest, the reminder that he used to have this every day and he somehow lost it. Fuck that.

“Okay,” Steve says, gently disentangling himself from Tony. Tony lets him go, but curls around Steve’s mismatched assortment of throw pillows. “I really gotta head to work. You can let yourself out whenever, and of course you’re welcome to anything in the fridge."

“Coffee?” Tony croaks, opening one eye.

“Third cabinet left of the sink,” Steve leans down to press a chaste kiss on Tony’s mouth, immune to morning breath because of course he was. “No more brownies, though.”

“No more brownies,” Tony sighs in agreement, and falls back asleep to the sounds of Steve getting ready for work.

 


 

As he ascends the six flights of stairs leading to his apartment, Steve Rogers contemplates the pros and cons of taking a bath.

On the one hand, Sam once described the practice as ‘marinating in your own dirty sweat juice’, which pretty much put him off baths for a good half a year. On the other hand, the muscles in his back are sore from work, and his skin would smell nice afterwards, and maybe he could watch a movie in the tub, though probably not anything overly romantic or he’ll inevitably end up thinking nonstop about the person that necessitated the relaxing bath in the first place.

He pauses on the landing between the fifth and sixth floor and heaves a sigh.

Maybe he’d stayed so long at the station because the thought of coming home to a Tony-less apartment — especially when he’d spent an entire day and night there, in Steve’s clothes, no less — was absolutely gut-wrenching. Steve didn’t understand why he’d gotten such a potent taste of what their lives might be like if everything hadn’t gotten all twisted up in recent years. It was clearly a form of retribution from Mother Nature stemming back to that one time he’d been too lazy to wash out and recycle his yogurt cup.

He approaches his front door with tired eyes and tireder hands, carefully pushing the key into the lock and tugging it open.

The sight that meets him is not even remotely within the realm of what he was expecting.

Because there, at the center of his apartment, stands Tony Stark, a real Christmas tree, and what appears to be about fifty different garbage bags. In addition to this, there is a string of (mostly broken) Christmas lights draped haphazardly over his mantle, a truly absurd amount of mistletoe hanging from every obvious archway in sight, and a dancing Santa Figurine doing the Macarena on Steve’s kitchen table.

Tony is wearing the sexy Santa costume, but the pants are a little big on him, so he appears to have tied a shoelace around his waist in an effort to prop them up. He is holding a very tangled popcorn and cranberry garland and looking at Steve with this adorably befuddled, slightly deflated expression.

He drops his shoulders. “I thought you were at a party or something! It’s Christmas Eve Eve!”

“I just stayed late at work,” Steve leans against his doorjamb, grinning like a complete idiot. “What are you doing?”

“Confessing my love to you,” Tony frowns at the garland in his hand, and looks back up at Steve, eyebrows drawn together. “It’s not going so hot, I’ll admit.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. First of all, getting this fucking clandestine tree up to your 6th floor apartment was a godforsaken nightmare. I had to bribe this little kid from the third floor not to tell the landlady and she got fifty bucks out of me. And then! All your Christmas lights are broken. So I went to the corner store next door to restock, and lo and behold half of those Christmas lights are also broken. People keep ripping me off today. —And, I think I might be allergic to mistletoe, because I put it up everywhere and I just kept sneezing? But that also might have been from the dust that’s, like, in every hard to reach place in your apartment. Seriously, baby, we need to talk about getting some professional cleaners in here, because you can’t possibly keep…”

A small pensive pause, before Tony’s expression twitches into a wince.

“Um… wow. I just said— a lot. That was a lot. This is too much."

“That’s okay,” Steve says gently, tilting his head in interest, “I like it.”

“Weirdo,” Tony accuses, then regroups a little, taking a deep breath. “Anyways— the situation is, obviously, I love you. I did this very weird, very embarrassing, very— ugly set of things because I love you. And I want you to be happy.”

Steve thinks he might be crying.

“Right! Also, I’m kind of thinking maybe you could… be happy with me.” Tony shifts in place, his shoelace belt giving a little and sliding down his hips. “Like maybe we got the timing wrong, before. But it’s time to try again. Because I miss you. I can’t keep— spending every day thinking about you. Counting down the moments until I get to visit again.”

Some part of Steve knew this was coming from the second he stepped into the apartment, but it still makes his breath catch in his throat. Even after he’s spent half a decade memorizing everything about Tony Stark, he still has the ability to pull the rug out from under Steve, to completely sweep him off his feet.

“You can work out of New York?” Steve asks, voice traitorously hopeful.

“I could work out of New York,” Tony nods, shoulders falling in a helpless sort of shrug.

It’s only one, two, three beats of silence before they’re coming together like magnets, coincidentally right beneath one of the many mistletoes strung up in the apartment. There is something brutally honest in the press of Tony’s lips, like he’s saying ‘here I am, every fucked up thing about me laid on the table, please love me anyways’. Steve can only hope that he’s adequately conveying the following response: ‘I never, ever had a choice’. Tony wraps his arms around Steve’s neck and Steve wraps his arms around Tony’s waist and it feels— it feels perfect. It feels like coming home.

Tony’s pants fall down to his ankles.

“Ugh! “ he exclaims, looking down at them with an expression of utter betrayal, “Is it your ass? Is your ass that much bigger than mine?”

“I love you,” Steve breathes, smoothing his hands down Tony’s neck.

Tony’s momentary outrage melts into fondness. “I love you, too.”

 


 

As it turns out, Tony’s one and only resolution does hold fast in the New Year. He’s not sleeping with his ex-husband anymore — he’s sleeping with his partner, his best friend, and the love of his life.