Tony drew in a deep breath, preparing himself as best he could before the elevator doors opened and he was met with the rest of the team, looking up at him with hopeful, expectant faces.
“Sorry guys,” he told them, watching their faces fall one by one. “It’s a no go. We’re roped into this one, no excuses.”
“Aww, come on,” Clint protested, slumping back into the couch cushions and pouting as he folded his arms across his chest. “But I don’t wanna.”
Nat smacked the back of his head.
Steve was the first to rally, because of course he was. “Come on, team. This is important. Like it or not, public relations is an important part of what we do.”
It might have been more believable if he wasn’t wincing like the words caused him physical pain. Beside him, Bucky rolled his eyes so hard it looked physically painful. Tony felt his lips twitch as he fought back a laugh, but of course Bucky noticed, giving him a wink that made heat flare low in his belly. The crush he had on Barnes was really getting ridiculous.
“But it’s a freaking snowman building contest,” Clint whined. “What is this, the Christmas fun fair? We’re superheroes!”
As per usual, everyone ignored him, reluctantly accepting that they weren’t getting out of this particular PR event and breaking up to do whatever it was that superheroes did on a Tuesday afternoon. For Tony, that meant brewing a fresh pot of coffee. He was leaning over the counter, inhaling the smell (it had been a very long morning) when he suddenly realized that Bucky was beside him, leaning back against the counter and looking down at him. Tony managed to keep himself from jumping, instead slowly raising his eyes to meet Bucky’s and waiting.
“So.” Bucky gave him a grin, nudging him with a shiny metal elbow. “Wanna be partners?”
Tony arched an eyebrow at him, straightening up again. “Partners?”
“For the snowman building thing. We’re supposed to pair up, right? I’m calling dibs.”
Tony fought back the pleased looking grin that threatened to split across his face. “Moi?” he said instead, fluttering his eyelashes ridiculously until Bucky snorted and gave him a gentle shove. “Kinda figured you’d be pairing up with our fearless leader there, Buckaroo.”
Bucky looked so incredulous that Tony found himself fighting back a laugh. “ Stevie ?” he asked. “Nuh-uh, no way. I know how ridiculous that idiot gets over ‘art.’”
“Snowman building is an art now?”
“It will be to him. He’ll get all particular and bossy... Nope, Sam can have ‘im.”
“Oh well, in that case.” Tony held out his hand, beaming when Bucky grabbed it and gave it a firm shake. “You’ve got yourself a deal, Snowflake. Let’s win this thing.”
The day of the competition dawned bright and clear. It hadn’t snowed in three weeks, but they’d brought in a snow machine special for the occasion. It was being held on the compound, giving the public a chance to see first-hand the private lives of their favourite superheroes, or some other public relations nonsense that had them all cringing a little. Ticket holders would get a tour of the more public areas of the compound before watching the snowman building competition and then there would be hot chocolate, cookies, and mingling inside. All the ticket money was going to charity, which explained away the sky high prices -- and, unfortunately, also explained away the number of rich, society-climbers who were attending.
Tony, however, with the help of Friday and some carefully crafted aliases, had managed to buy about half the tickets himself, giving them away to underprivileged kids from the city, with free transportation included. It made them all feel a bit better about how weirdly invasive the whole thing seemed.
Spectators had started arriving hours before it was due to start, and by the time they all trooped outside for the actual competition, they were wound up and cheering.
“Oh boy,” Tony muttered, quiet enough that only Bucky would hear as he put on his brightest press smile and waved with mitten-clad hands. “No pressure or anything.”
Bucky grinned and, when they’d turned out of view of everyone, winked. “Come on, Stark. We’ve totally got this.”
Tony grinned up at him. “Fuck yeah.”
One hundred and fourteen minutes later, he wasn’t so sure. They should have had it in the bag. Three entries down from them, Wanda and Vision were making a fucking ice sculpture, which, what the fuck? Whatever, they’d lose on a technicality -- it was a snowman competition, not an ice man competition, thank you very much. Nat and Peter had given up about ten minutes in, and Nat had spent the entire time showing Peter her favourite moves on the lopsided snow block that they’d created. Clint had ended up pairing with Bruce, who had bowed out at the last minute due to rage issues (they all knew he was faking it). Clint had built the most cursory snowman ever and then wandered off in search of a warm drink and hadn’t come back.
The problem was that Tony kept getting distracted. Barnes’ pants seemed extra tight today, or maybe it was just the cut of his new ski jacket, but either way his ass looked phenomenal today. On more than one occasion, Tony had had to shake himself out of a temporary, butt-induced stupor. And, like most super soldiers, Bucky had a tendency to run hot. Hot enough that at some point he’d stripped out said ski jacket, leaving him in that tightly fitted red Henley that featured in many of Tony’s favourite fantasies, biceps bulging as he lifted heavy mounds of snow.
Not that ogling Barnes’ butts and biceps (and thighs, and back, and face…) was a bad way to spend an afternoon necessarily. But while Tony had been distracted, Team WinterIron’s (Bucky’s idea, but Tony had to admit the name was growing on him) snowman had come out looking kind of… aggressive. He had a frown, with angry eyebrows, and Tony was pretty sure that Bucky was putting the finishing touches on a gun belt around the snowman’s waist. It looked especially bad next to the all-American Christmas scene that Sam and Steve had built beside them, complete with a bald eagle, because Sam thought he was hilarious. (He kind of was, but Bucky wouldn’t let Tony give Sam the satisfaction of knowing that.)
Tony frowned at their entry speculatively, trying to figure out if there was anything else they could do in the six -- no, five minutes remaining. “It looks like it could kill someone,” Tony announced, poking at it haphazardly.
Bucky shrugged, offering him a grin over the top of the snow-ssassin’s head. “That’s kinda what I like about ‘im.”
“No!” Steve wailed behind them. “That line has to be at 45 degrees, Sam. Fourty. Five! Not fourty six!”
Tony caught Bucky’s eye and the two of them burst out laughing.
They lost, because of course they did, but it was hard to feel too bad about it. They’d had a great afternoon, laughing and throwing snow at each other, and Tony at least had all but forgotten about the adoring public watching their every move. Sam, on the other hand, looked ready to punch Steve’s teeth in, and had spent the afterparty thus far studiously avoiding the other man. Tony would take Team WinterIron’s second place standing in a heartbeat.
The party was, at least, going better than Tony had expected. They’d been able to avoid the most annoying of the donors by hanging out with the kids the whole time -- nobody could really call them out on it unless they were an irredeemable asshole, and while there were one or two of those present, a stern lecture from Captain America on the reason they were all really there had been enough to deter them from making a fuss. There were Christmas trees and lights decorating the area, and Pepper was an absolute angel who’d managed to arrange for a Santa Claus to come and give out gifts to all the kids. Even Clint had warmed up to the event, and they all seemed to be actually having a good time.
Tony had slipped away for a breather and was standing half hidden behind a Christmas tree, sipping on warmed apple cider, when he felt someone looming up behind him. Lips curling up in a smirk, he glanced back at Bucky.
“You’ve gotta stop sneaking up on me there, Bucky Bear.”
Bucky grinned back at him. “But where would the fun be in that?”
Tony rolled his eyes. “So, did you get a chance to see Santa? Tell him what you want for Christmas?”
There was an odd tone to his voice, and Tony glanced at him to find… was he blushing ? He blinked at Bucky, who bit his lower lip and seemed to steel himself.
“All I want for Christmas is you.”
Tony stared at him a minute, and then he started to laugh, pleased and delighted. “Are you…Is this a joke?”
Bucky shrugged, looking shy but hopeful. “Delivery, maybe,” he admitted with a crooked grin, voice a little hoarse. “But not the sentiment behind it.”
Tony beamed at him and then, after a quick look to make sure nobody was watching them, he darted forward to plant a quick kiss on Bucky’s lips.
At least, it was meant to be a quick kiss. Bucky’s hands came up faster than he’d expected, gripping his waist and pulling him in close, deepening the kiss. They were both breathing a bit harder when they pulled away.
“Yeah,” Tony admitted, having to clear his throat when his voice came out a little more high-pitched and giddy than he’d intended. “Yeah, that sounds like a good Christmas gift to me.”
Bucky positively beamed at him, giving him another quick kiss, a little more needy this time. Tony hummed softly, and was just wondering how long they’d have to stick around before they could reasonably slip away, when another thought occurred to him.
“Wait, aren’t you Jewish?”
Bucky just shook his head and laughed. “Shut up, Stark.”