On the first of December, Steve received his first Christmas present.
It confused him, not from the fact he'd got it from an unknown person, sat in front of his bedroom door, but because he'd never thought of the holiday or that anyone would be so generous and kind to even think of him. Yet, apparently, he was thought of—for the first time ever since waking up—and as much as the consideration warmed within him, it reminded him of the past; of his family, friends, and all the others he'd celebrated this tradition with.
Especially when he opened the neatly wrapped gift. He thought it bad luck, but he had a feeling he needed to.
Making sure he was alone in his room, to avoid the continuous questions—particularly from Clint and his teasing of how it was from his secret admirer or something, which this was definitely not from anything of the sort—he tore at the plain, red paper, all of a sudden his heart uncomfortably thumping in his chest, so strong it felt as if the rhythm rattled his rib cage.
He frowned, and then his eyes widened only a fraction.
It was a forties vintage radio.
Swallowing hard, the several flashbacks of when he was younger, back in time, overwhelmed his mind; his mother listening to jazz as she made tea on a Sunday morning, or when he'd hear the results of the latest game, or when the family would just need background sound, flicking the radio on, not bothered about what played. This gift was amazingly thoughtful and yet hurt at the same time, and he didn't really wonder whom it was from until he saw the piece of paper stuck to the front, the flick of anonymous handwriting reading the single word, "Steve, X"
So simple yet made this whole figuring out their identity more difficult.
He sat there for god knows how long before he gave up trying to guess, and instead plugged the radio in, switching it on.
The crackle of static emitted from the speakers, and after some searching through the stations, he found some music, and was momentarily startled by the songs that followed: his favourites, every one of them.
What startled him even more was the burn of tears, and the quick, rapid breaths now falling from his mouth; digging his knuckles into his eyes, feeling the pain as he hit the sockets, but he ignored it—God, who'd done this? He wanted, no, needed, to find out who'd done this, so he could thank them a hundred times over, and ask why in the world they'd even gone to all this trouble in the first place.
The music drifted off into another, and his head snapped up, as a band he'd heard frequently throughout the tower erupted through the speakers: ACDC.
And that was when it clicked—out of all the old, jazz and swing music that had been playing, this was the only one to be modern, and out of place—and so he knew, straight away, whispering the name, "Tony?"
He'd tried to stop thinking about the revelation by focusing on other things, but by the tenth day, these new things swarming inside of him whenever he thought of Tony overpowered him.
Well, he knew what these things were, but chose not to address them.
It worked most days, when able to distract himself with morning and evening runs, sketching in the solitude of his bedroom, or just thinking to himself about anything and everything. Though, after those few moments of peace, he faced the reality of seeing Tony—which, for such a big tower, he saw a lot of him—and he couldn't exactly avoid him due to his stubbornness and refusal to show any weakness over something so miniscule, plus the addition of Tony's sharp eye.
So, whenever he was in the same room as Tony, he let it happen, as if he weren't in an internal battle. Just like this very moment. Alone in the kitchen, Steve skimmed over the printed newspaper, not really taking in whatever the news was; he caught Tony strolling in, heading straight for the coffee pot like he always did to refuel. It took all of three seconds before he spoke,
"Still think you're in the forties, Cap?"
His gaze flicked over the top—making sure he didn't show the flinch—but his eyebrows twitched slightly, "Not right now, but it happens. Why do you ask?"
"Well," he started, apparently not noticing Steve's confession of how there were days where yes, he did believe he were still in the nineteen-forties, his time, and part of him was thankful Tony hadn't; he didn't want any complication of that. "I don't recall anyone reading prints, besides pensioners, well... you are a senior citizen, so yeah... nevermind."
His jaw clenched, was this all Tony wanted to do? Pester him, and rile him up? Steve managed a shrug. "Force of habit, I guess."
"Gets boring a little bit, doesn't it?"
"What? Printed newspapers? No, not really."
Tony sipped of his coffee, his other hand making several random gestures as he spoke, "Not even the money, having to go out to buy one, oh, and let's not forget the annoying black ink dirtying everything up. The amount of times dummy has to clean your fingerprints off the work surfaces is more than even I can count."
He forced back the urge to roll his eyes at that. "You're concerned about money?"
Pausing, "No. If you need money then by all means you're free to take some of mine."
Steve folded his paper, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. "Like charity?"
"Hey, you're the one implying it as charity, I never said the word." He shrugged. "Consider it a loan to a friend."
Okay, when and how did they even get onto this topic? And it was the first time Steve had ever heard Tony refer to them as friends—causing a slight tightness in his chest—but he let it pass, as addressing it would only make it all the more hard to suppress what Steve felt, and what he was starting to want between them.
"Thanks for the offer, but no thanks."
"As you wish." Tony held up his hands. "But back to what we were talking about: y'know, you're not unfamiliar with TV sets, are you? It would save you hassle and… exercise?"
Steve shook his head, rubbing his temple. "I'm fine with paper, Tony."
"Never gonna change from old school?" When Steve shook his head again, Tony continued, "Well, if you ever change your mind, or decide to be really daring—" He looked straight at Steve then, a slight glint in his eye that meant, "—you could go halfway and use that new radio of yours."
Now, that caused all words to freeze in his throat, not even gesticulating the confusion was happening, as wild and shocked they'd turn out to be if he could. Surely, saying that proved he was the one who sent the radio, of course; Steve didn't need to be a genius to figure that out, but why was Tony hinting at it? He must be baiting him, waiting for the big reaction of amateur dramatics, just as he liked: a fantastic, theatrical performance.
Yet baiting him for what?
This whole radio conspiracy—well, shouldn't have been anything of the sort, but for Tony to suggest it, in a tone of hidden meaning only convinced Steve more that this radio was a message, something either he'd have to find out himself, or wait for it to unfold. He wasn't sure which he could handle.
He chose to not go into it too much, not to even ask how he'd even known of the radio—if he in fact wasn't the one who'd bought it—but that theory would need evidence. His heart thudded beneath his chest, and he nodded once, standing, "That's a good idea."
"Of course it was, it's my idea."
The remark fell on deaf ears, as by then Steve was already out the door.
Over the next few weeks, he didn't touch the radio. He kept it at a distance on his bedside table, watching it, thinking—which took up most of his spare time—and only on the day before Christmas Eve did he come to the conclusion of what to do with it.
"I can't take this," he said once he'd reached Tony's desk, setting the radio down. "It's a nice gesture, but I can't take it."
Tony slowly looked up from his work, a smirk playing on his lips as he crossed his arms. "You should. They're worth a whole lot."
"That's not the point of a present—" He shook his head, sighing. "It doesn't matter. What does is that you've bought me an expensive present as it is, and as kind as that is, I can't accept it."
Nodding, Tony stood, circling the table, wandering like he always did, like a predator. Whenever he did this, Steve prepared himself for a battle of trying to veer off track of the subject at hand, instead of it taking a different path, which Tony aimed to do. When first meeting him, Steve couldn't stand the man, so blinded by his ego and importance.
Yet, of course, it all changed when Steve started to have feelings for Tony.
Really, it begun at the inconvenient moment after they'd defeated Loki's army and saved the world, right when Steve was ready to go off on his own, continue on with his life yet ready for any more Avenger calls—which evidently happened, due to moving into Stark Tower—and it hit him unexpectedly; seeing Tony plummet from the worm hole, to willingly sacrifice himself, it changed Steve's view of him all together. It was consistent, these feelings, growing and growing the more he saw of Tony's selfless deeds and how he became a better man.
He just hadn't noticed until now, when there had been a trigger: the radio.
"No, you're right," Tony finally said; the same sarcasm seeped through his words. "The point of presents isn't about selling them, they're about returning them, of course."
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Steve groaned quietly. "I just don't understand why you'd give me a present. It's too much."
Tony didn't reply for several seconds, but just stared at Steve—eyeing him, searching—and it was slightly unnerving, but if Steve was actually unnerved, he didn't show it. "Y'know, we've completely skipped over the most important question, too busy with all this unnecessary chat about modesty, but how did you come to the conclusion that I sent you this?"
"Well, you did, didn't you?"
"Yes." He held his hand up, backtracking, "Well, technically, Jarvis found it, but I bought it. I'm no expert in vintage stuff, so I let him do the work. For an AI, he has great taste—but anyway, yes, I purchased it."
"Just answer the question, Cap."
Steve shrugged. "That band, ACDC came on, the one you listen to."
It was always played at night, down from Tony's workshop, so the whole tower could hear. Steve was a heavy sleeper, so most noise rang on deaf ears; for the rest of the guys, he wasn't sure, but there were one or two times when he'd heard Natasha storm from her room, followed by the sharp cut-off of the music. He guessed she'd ripped from the wall.
"So you assumed because one of my favourite bands played, that I was the one who sent you the radio?"
Crossing his arms—a habit when either frustrated or nervous—he asked, "You made it play, right?" That was how it worked... he thought. "You called up the radio station?"
"I know what's happening here," Tony said, another smirk on his lips, only wider. "But, do you?"
"Well, I'm trying to return your gift. I don't know what you're doing."
"The song was a coincidence, and yet you used it as a connection to me as an excuse to cover up the real reason why you wanted me as the key suspect, whenever you found something related to me, you came running—oh, there's on need to look so stunned, these things happen, I suppose."
That wasn't exactly how it went down. Steve honestly thought Tony had arranged for the song to be played, so he'd connect the dots, but if he hadn't, then it must've been done subconsciously, in the parts of his mind only addressed now… at the worst moment possible.
Yet, by saying that, it meant Tony was hinting that he knew of Steve's feelings, of course. What with the sudden close proximity, a smile that blatantly said he knew secrets, and the somewhat teasing proved it. Was there a point in lying? No, probably not, as it wasn't the right thing to do. If he did, then the likelihood of it coming out anyway was high. So, when he spoke, it came effortlessly, in a different way than he would've planned, but it still happened before he could take it all back,
"I—look, if you know something and this is your way of telling me, then I'd prefer if you'd just straight out say it instead of manipulating the situation—"
He was cut short from the hard, bruising kiss Tony struck him with; it caught him off-guard, partly because a man half his size managed to seize him by the hair and wrench him down, bending over from the sheer strength. It was hot, frenzied, and for a split second Steve kissed back, allowing the sensations to consume him.
But then he pulled away, hair mussed and cheeks red, swallowing, before walking from the room, leaving a silent Tony to watch after him.
He had not been expecting that.
It was Christmas Eve, a day since Tony had kissed him.
He could still feel the tingling buzz of his mouth, every so often his fingers would reach up to press against his fingers, stuck in the surreal moment of if it really happened. It did, no matter how it tried to prove himself otherwise. And—what he'd only admit to himself right now—he wanted more, but he didn't know if he could cross those lines.
The thing was he wasn't entirely sure if the kiss was supposed to happen. A heat of the moment, an accident.
Sighing, he pinched the bridge of his nose, the distance celebrations now muffled background noise. The roof was the only place he found the least suffocating. Thor was in the kitchens vacuuming up all the party food, Clint and Natasha were probably having a drinking game, whilst trying to encourage Bruce to join, and as for Tony... well, he was the host, so it wasn't rocket science to know he caused the most damage. He may not be the Tony years ago, but he was still a partier.
Steve had slipped away five minutes after the celebrations had awakened, and he didn't think anyone noticed—
"Thought you'd be here."
He flinched, turning to see Tony standing a few feet away, hands in his pockets. Steve tried not to look too long at his suit-clad body, and hid the increasing heat on his face by looking down. "How'd you know?"
Tony stopped beside him, shrugging, "You always come up here when you need to think... or sketch. Though I suppose they're both the same thing, seeing as sketching requires thinking so—"
"What are you doing here, Tony?"
"Well, you weren't upstairs. I wondered where you were." He shifted on his feet, hesitating, "And I came to find you to apologise... for last night, and that maybe I went a little too far."
Steve turned to him. "Maybe?"
"Okay, okay." He held his hands up in surrender. "Did go too far."
Sighing again, Steve's face softened. "Yeah, you did, but that isn't to say..."
"That I didn't like it."
For a man who'd initiated the kiss, looked surprised, his eyebrows nearly disappearing into his hairline, and his voice came out slightly husky, "You did?"
Inhaling deeply, he shoved a hand through his hair, finally forcing himself to confess everything, because he could no longer restrain it. "I just—I don't know what you're doing, Tony. Are you intentionally trying to confuse me? Is messing with my feelings a purpose of yours? If your kis—if last night was a bet, or some kind of joke, I don't appreciate it—"
"Shut up," he said, a little too harshly, but he continued, lowering his voice. "Ever since you gave me that radio, it's woken these feelings I never knew I even had for you. Maybe they've always been there and I never noticed, but it came so suddenly that I wasn't prepared. This is all hard to understand, and so for you to hint at it, and do what you did last night, is preventing me from knowing what I really want." He shook his head. "Do you even know what you want?"
"Then tell me instead of trying to communicate through something else—"
"I want you."
Steve froze. "What?"
He moved closer, inches away. "Look, I'm not good at showing how I feel. Good at knowing what I want, and sometimes showing it, but this was different. I've always been afraid of commitment, that'll turn me into those fucking housewives that wear flowery aprons—but anyway, I nearly made it with Pepper, but that failed, and now, I wanted a second chance. With you." A small smile made it onto his lips, almost sad. "I'm willing to turn into a housewife for you, bake cakes or whatever."
It was a struggle to grasp what was happening. For so long, well, it felt that way, despite it only being a month, he genuinely believed Tony didn't want commitment, and yet here he was, telling him he wanted just that.
Swallowing hard, "So... what you did before, the hinting that you sent the radio... that was your way of flirting?"
"Sort of... not really flirting, but saying I want you." He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "In hindsight, that was possibly the worst expression of fancying someone ever done. I knew you'd open the gift as soon as you saw it, and I wanted it to drive you towards confronting it—I mean, I wanted you to have the present, really, I want you to keep the radio—but I also did it in hopes what we felt would come onto the table. Only it was the other way around."
Steve blinked. He'd wanted this, ever since the first of December; it was coming true, and yet of course, he didn't want to jump straight into it, as much as he'd like to, because this relationship—if that's what Tony was implying—was a whole new boundary he was breaking past. It was utterly terrifying, but also held an excitement he felt for the first time.
Without letting Tony speak, he leant forward and kissed him; for once, he dropped his guards, forgot all worrying thoughts and acted on his feelings, roughly crushing his lips to his. It was an awkward start; the impact caused their noses to bump together, and lips lapped clumsily over each other, but the rush of past sensation overwhelmed it. He wrapped his arms around the smaller mans waist, holding him to his chest, moaning into the kiss.
The onslaught assaulted his senses, tasting the faintness of vodka and mint, caused a haze to cloud over his mind. He didn't care, as it was the best thing he'd ever experienced so far, and he hoped he'd have it more and more times.
It was Tony who broke away, hands still wrapped around Steve's neck. "Yeah, I feel the same, by the way, in case you didn't get that from before."
"No, no, I got it. I think," he said, breathless. "I'm new to this, so can we not rush things?"
"Of course, we've all the time in the world, starting now."
Steve raised an eyebrow. "Don't you have a party to host?"
"Yeah," he said with a shrug of his shoulders, checking his watch, "but I think I'd rather have a quiet night in for once. Oh, and Merry Christmas, Steve."
Beaming, Steve captured his lips with another kiss, lingering, and heard the explosions of colourful fireworks as the clock struck midnight. "Merry Christmas." He kissed him again before pulling back, murmuring with a hint of amusement, "So a housewife, huh?"
Tony chuckled, crinkles forming in the corner of his eyes. "Only for you, honey, only for you."