"Adults do that now? Really?" Steve said, doubtfully.
"Really," Tony said, seriously.
Steve squinted at him.
Clint, who had $200 riding on this conversation, held his breath.
"Well, if you say so," Steve said with a shrug.
“So you’ll do it?” Tony said.
Steve picked up a plate of turkey and stuffing and handed it to the next kid in line with a wide smile and a ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ that was surprisingly sincere, considering it was probably the 500th time he’d said it that night. “If it means that much to you, Tony, sure.”
“Right now?” Clint blurted out, and Tony shot him a glare.
"Well, there’s a huge line,” Steve said, gesturing to the queue that wound through the room. “Maybe if it slows down at some point - ”
Tony grabbed him by the elbow. “Excuse me,” he said, pulling Steve through the crowd, “pardon me, yes, hi, season’s greetings, excuse me, Captain America has something he’d like to talk to Santa about, official Avengers business, if you’ll excuse us?”
The children moved out of the way, watching excitedly as Tony guided Steve up to the front of the line.
“Tony, I don’t want to cut all these kids,” Steve argued.
“Come on, nobody minds, do you, kids?” Tony called. “He’ll just be a minute. There you go, your turn, Cap!”
Steve adjusted the shield and straightened his cowl and walked straight up to Santa Claus, fat and jolly as always in his chair at the head of the room. “May I?” he said politely.
The Santa Claus stared at him blankly. Presumably standard Mall Santa training did not cover what to do if a national icon asked to sit on your lap.
“Great,” Steve said, and perched gently on the edge of his knee. “Things going well today, Santa?”
“Uh - yeah,” Santa said, in an embarrassing character break. “Was there - something you needed, Captain America?”
“Well, I haven’t talked to Santa in a few years, but my good friend Iron Man told me you could use my help making sure any kids who were nervous to meet you know that you and I are friends.”
Beside Tony, Clint choked on a laugh. “It fucking figures,” Tony muttered.
“Well, that’s very nice of you,” Santa Claus said, remembering the role he had been born to play. “And is there anything you want for Christmas this year?"
“Oh, not much,” Steve said. If Tony had ever forgotten that the man was once a performer himself, he couldn’t miss it now; Steve had his audience’s rapt attention. The room was silent, every boy and girl leaning forward eagerly to hear what Captain America himself would ask for. “Just for all my friends here in New York to have a safe and happy holiday season.”
“Well, that’s very nice of you,” Santa said, starting to look a little uncomfortable; Steve had now been on his knee for more than the 30 seconds most children were allotted, and he wasn’t exactly light. “Anything else?”
“Well,” Steve said, “if you happen to have room in the sleigh, there is one thing I wouldn’t mind under the tree this year.”
“What’s that, son?”
Steve turned to look Tony straight in the eye and said, “A Maserati.”
And with a self-satisfied grin, Steve got off Santa’s lap and headed back to the table in the corner to hand out more turkey.
“Holy shit,” Clint said. “He played you! Steve Rogers played you! Wait, if I sit on that guy’s lap will you get me a Maserati too?”
“Shut up,” Tony muttered.
And to absolutely no one’s surprise, it didn’t end there.
“You know, Tony,” Steve said thoughtfully a week later, “a lot of kids think you’re Santa Claus.”
Tony raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”
“What with the red suit and the flying and all, it’s an easy mistake to make.”
“You’ve got to be joking,” Tony said. “Nobody thinks that. For one thing, the beard is completely different.”
“Well, there’s no accounting for taste,” Steve agreed. “But seriously. Put on a red hat and throw a sack over your shoulder and you’re old St. Nick himself.”
Tony looked around incredulously at the rest of the team. “Am I the only one hearing this?”
“He’s not totally wrong,” Clint said, because Clint was a shit-stirrer at heart.
“He is, in fact, totally wrong,” Tony argued.
“You are pretty jolly once in a while,” Natasha said slyly.
“Yeah, when I’m drunk.”
“And you could give a gift to every kid in the city, if you wanted to,” Bruce contributed, the back-stabbing son of a bitch.
“It’s just that I think it’d be kinda nice, if you showed the kids of New York that Santa is alive and well in the city.” Steve leaned back in his chair. Oh, Tony thought, he’s enjoying himself, isn’t he.
“And how do you propose I do that, Ghost of Christmas Past?” Tony challenged.
“Well, not that I’ve thought about it much,” Steve lied, “but a sleigh and eight flying reindeer might do the trick.”
The rest of the Avengers turned to look at Tony like they were at Wimbledon and it was, very obviously, his move.
“You can’t possibly think I’d do that,” Tony said.
“I mean, you thought I’d believe adults sit on Santa’s lap,” Steve said with a smirk. “Anything is possible.”
“Not some things,” Tony said.
But, curiously enough, that Friday night Twitter lit up brighter than the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree with reports of Santa himself flying around the five boroughs distributing presents at shelters, and if his reindeer and sleigh seemed powered more by repulsors than magic, well, none of the adults were going to mention it.
Three weeks before Christmas, Tony said, apropos of nothing, “I think it’s time we get a Christmas tree.”
Steve didn’t look up from the paperwork he was doing. “Okay.”
“The thing is, though,” Tony said, sauntering across the room, “I’ve really got my heart set on one in particular.”
Steve, who was clearly not paying enough attention, said, “Well, good luck with that.”
“It’s too bad they won’t let me buy it from them,” Tony said with a dramatic sigh.
“From who?” Steve said, finally looking up.
Gotcha, Tony thought. “The Palace Hotel,” he said. “Their trees are the best in the city, and I’ve always thought, wouldn’t one of those trees look amazing up here in the penthouse? Of course, there’s no reason to let me have one. I’m just a lonely billionaire with no one but my bots to spend Christmas with.”
And he pouted, just the tiniest bit.
Steve raised his eyebrows. “Are you serious?”
“As serious as you were about kids thinking I’m Santa Claus,” Tony said pointedly.
“Unbelievable,” Steve muttered, and went back to his paperwork.
And the very next night at dinnertime, the elevator doors swung open to reveal a massive, fully-decorated Christmas tree, complete with twinkly lights and rows of ribbon and a Swarovski-bejeweled star at the top that just barely cleared the elevator door from where it was balanced on Steve’s shoulder.
“What in the name of all that is good and holy is that?” Clint said.
“Seems like it’s pretty obvious,” Steve said, grunting as he set it down, ornaments and all, next to the fireplace. “It’s a Christmas tree. From the Palace.”
“Did you steal it?” Bruce asked.
“No!” Steve said. “I didn’t steal - look, those nice hotels have plenty of trees in their lobbies, they can spare one. And I figured they might - you know - do a favor. For me.”
“You used being Captain America to get the Palace to give you a Christmas tree?” Natasha said.
“And they even thanked me for my service,” Steve said, looking a little smug.
Clint whistled. “God bless America.”
“For the record,” Clint said to Thor, “Christmas isn’t traditionally celebrated through a steadily escalating series of dares.”
“I heard that,” said Tony, who was carefully attaching a snowmaking machine to the back of the Mark XXV.
“Yeah, that was the point,” Clint said.
“Do you think it’s too big?” Steve said, frowning down at the atrium of Stark Tower.
“I was actually picturing bigger,” Tony said, feigning disappointment.
“You were not,” Steve scoffed.
“No, obviously not, it’s massive. Jesus, Cap, how many pounds of gingerbread did it take?”
“A lot,” Steve admitted, wincing as a gaping Stark Industries employee eased his way around the completely excessive, totally-edible gingerbread house in the middle of the lobby. “And for the record, gingerbread is heavy.”
“What the hell are we listening to?” Clint said suddenly, looking accusingly at Tony.
“I don’t know,” Tony said innocently.
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, came his own voice through the speakers, in a blatant contradiction of his previous claim.
“Did you record a Christmas song?” Clint asked, with obvious horror.
“They’re saying it might make the Billboard Hot 100 by Christmas Eve,” Steve said, as if he had nothing to do with it at all.
“This? Has gone too far,” Clint said. “Is that - am I hearing repulsor blasts instead of bells?”
“It’s called artistic license, look it up,” Tony said.
Clint threw up his arms. “Is nothing sacred anymore?”
“I don’t think Jingle Bells was ever really sacred,” Steve said.
“Do you think maybe this whole thing is a bit... much?”
There was a pause. “What do you mean?”
“It’s just,” Tony said, “this is gonna take a lot of wrapping paper.”
Steve looked around Clint’s room, which was about halfway through the process of having every item in it covered in wrapping paper. “You mean you think I should have bought more?”
“I mean I think we’re both going to wake up with arrows in places that arrows are not meant to be.”
“I think it’s very festive,” Steve said defensively. “Pass the tape?”
To everyone’s relief, Christmas itself was quiet.
Except, of course, for the mid-afternoon delivery of a dark blue Maserati with red and white interior. It even had a bow on top.
“Be sure to follow the speed limit,” Tony warned when he tossed Steve the keys. “Cops keep an eye on cars like that.”
“Don’t worry, I’m used to all the attention,” Steve said, and winked.
“Where’s your party hat?”
Tony took a swig of champagne and raised his eyebrows. “You really think I’m gonna mess up my hair with one of those things? Dream on, Capsicle.”
“Come on, it’s New Year’s Eve,” Steve said. “Even Thor’s wearing one.”
“It does create quite the tonal contrast with the cape,” Tony said. “But I think I’m good.”
“I could always dare you to do it,” Steve said.
“Pretty sure you wouldn’t waste a dare on that.”
“That’s true,” Steve said. “Especially considering I do have another idea.”
Tony sighed. “All right. One last dare for the year. What’ll it be? Want me to steal the ball from Times Square before they drop it?”
“Hadn’t even considered it,” Steve said, like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth even if he wasn’t frozen.
“Fireworks, then,” Tony said. “I can probably whip up something that looks like the shield in the next two hours - I could have used a little more time, but what’s a little pyrotechnics between friends - ”
“Nope,” Steve said.
“Am I going to have to dance on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve show?” Tony asked, resigned. “Because if it’s that, I need to open another bottle of champagne immediately - ”
“As fun as all of those sound,” Steve said, “I was thinking that maybe I’d dare you to kiss me at midnight.”
Tony opened his mouth, then closed it. “And what if I say no?”
Steve shrugged, and anybody else would have thought it looked casual. “No harm done. We never set any consequences, after all. Totally your call.”
“Huh,” Tony said. “All right. Well, in that case, I think I’m going to have to decline.”
“Right,” Steve said. “Totally reasonable. It’s been a good run, anyway, no need to, uh, mess things up - ”
“Aren’t you curious why?” Tony said, lifting an eyebrow. “I haven’t turned anything down before now.”
Steve smiled, and Tony tried not to swoon. “I think it’s pretty obvious, Tony. Hey, I’m going to grab a drink, do you - ”
“I’m saying no because it’s - let’s see - well, it’s only, 10:13 pm, and the thing is, I don’t think I want to wait until midnight,” Tony said.
Steve blinked. “Oh.”
“So I guess you’ll have to win this round,” Tony said, and cupped Steve’s cheek in his hand. “Congrats, Cap.”
“No hard feelings, I hope,” Steve said, a little breathlessly.
“None at all,” Tony said, and leaned in.
"Midnight already?" Natasha said mildly from across the room.
"Eh, they're overdue," Clint said, and popped a bottle of champagne. "They can skip the countdown."