Characters: Tony, Pepper, Bruce, Natasha, Clint, Steve, Sam, Thor, Jane, DUM-E, JARVIS
Warnings/Triggers: some angst, mostly fluff, swearing and innuendo
Spoilers: Basically all of the Marvel Phase II movies (except for Guardians of the Galaxy)
Pairings: Tony/Pepper, Thor/Jane
Word Count 4, 711
Summary: Tony plays host to a group of anti-social superheros at the First (Possibly Annual) Avengers Christmas Party.
Author's notes: This is one story, but had to be posted in two parts, due to length. It takes place post-Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and contains heavy spoilers for each.
This Part One. Part Two is here
I had to mess the formatting of the e-mail addresses because livejournal blocks them if they're formatted properly.
From: Thunderboy@ starktower.com
To: IronMan@ starktower.com
Subject: Re: Avengers Assemble?
I am responding to your missive regarding celebrations for the Christmas holiday. Jane Foster has explained its origins and purpose to me. I would indeed like to attend. Please inform me which of the customs you will be observing, so I can participate.
Thank you for your honouring me with your invitation. Jane Foster accepts as my 'plus one' and will attend with me.
Thor, Son of Odin
From: biggreenman@ starktower.com
To: ironman@ starktower.com
Subject: Re: Avengers Assemble?
I'm in as long as we don't have a repeat with the party poppers. That was NOT funny.
From: tashinator@ starktower.com
To: ironman@ starktower.com
Subject: Re: Avengers Assemble?
This is not an appropriate e-mail address. Why I am getting e-mails to this address? When did you set this up? Why did I not have a choice?
What do I need to bring to the party?
From: hawkguy@ starktower.com
To: ironman@ starktower.com
Subject: Re: Avengers Assemble?
From: cap@ starktower.com
To: ironman@ starktower.com
Subject: Re: Avengers Assemble?
Sorry for the deli in responding, I was somewhere without cell or internet service. A party sounds like fun.
I might bring a friend.
Sent from my cell phone. Still having trouble with autocorrect, please forgive errors.
“Oh my God, what is this? What? What have you done?” Tony said to DUM-E. “What were you even trying to do? Were you trying to look at your presents? You know you have to wait until Christmas morning to open them.”
He went over to the Christmas tree, where DUM-E had gotten the garland in which Tony had decorated him for the occasion caught on one of the branches. He'd knocked a bunch of ornaments to the floor flailing to free himself and had one in his grasper, which he was trying to put back on the tree. And failing.
“No, stop—stop,” Tony said. “You're like a fucking dolphin in a fish net. Just let me help.”
DUM-E made a sad 'weep-woop' noise and hung his arm in shame as Tony freed the garland from the branch. He rolled himself away from the tree and gently lay the ornament he was holding on the branch, which promptly gave way and dropped the ornament on the floor again.
“No, no, man, just leave it,” Tony said. “You're ruining Christmas. Go over there.” He pointed to the corner, and DUM-E rolled over to it. Tony bent down to pick up the fallen ornaments and replace them.
“I don't get it, you rebuilt him after your house blew-up,” Bruce said. “Why didn't you make him better?”
“Hey, watch it,” Tony said, turning to point sternly. “There's nothing wrong with him. He's just special, okay? We don't hide our special family members in the attic, we don't send them off to be fixed like some Flowers for Algernon crap. What if you blew up and I put you back together and completely reprogrammed your brain, huh?”
“Well, there are a few aspects I wouldn't miss,” Bruce said, thoughtfully. He nodded to DUM-E. “I'm sorry. I was mean. You're fine as you are.”
DUM-E made a cheerful pip-pip noise of forgiveness, and Bruce chuckled. He was getting used to hanging around the Tower. He was starting to realize that the robots were people, too. Tony had caught him in a lengthy discussion with U the other day, responding to U's beeps and whoops as though he were using words.
“Okay, so booze, food, presents, decorations...that's all you need for a party, right?” Tony said, looking around the room. He'd mostly handled all the planning himself, except for the part where Pepper did everything.
“I don't know, parties aren't really my thing,” Bruce said.
“We had fun on your birthday,” Tony said.
“I broke a tree,” Bruce said.
“Yeah,” Tony said. “Exactly. Oh! Music. We need music. J.A.R.V.I.S, set the mood.”
“Yes, sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S said.
A mix of Christmas carols began to play at a comfortable volume for speaking over and mingling.
“There, all we need is guests,” Tony said.
He wasn't sure why he felt slight concern over this party. He normally would never worry about whether guests would come to a party hosted by him. People bid at charities to come to his parties. They stole invitations from their best friends. They climbed fences and crashed his parties. But he'd never tried to get a group of anti-social superheroes to come to a party before, and it seemed like there was a distinct possibility no one except Bruce would show up. And Bruce was only there because he lived in the Tower, and he knew Tony could find him and drag him down.
The elevator dinged and Pepper stepped out, looking utterly spectacular in that way that made him feel like his heart was all warm and fuzzy. He used to blame that feeling on the ARC reactor, but he didn't have that excuse anymore. This was just...love, he supposed.
“Hey, looking hot,” he said.
“Really?” she said, uncertainly. “I don't know...is it okay?”
“Um, yeah,” he said.
“I just think it's too—”
“It's not, at all. It's not too anything, it is right on point, which is you being a babe.”
“I feel like the back is weird.”
“The back is not weird. It's a great back. It should be very pleased with itself.”
Pepper laughed. “All right,” she said. “Is everything—why is DUM-E in the corner? What did he do?”
“He had a wrestling match with the tree that I so carefully decorated.”
“You put on one ornament, I did all the—”
“It was definitely more than one. I put on at least two—”
“No, I put on the lights and the garland and the tinsel. You said you were going to get a ladder, and you never came back because you got distracted in the lab with Bruce and—”
“Don't drag Bruce into this, you know it makes him upset when Mommy and Daddy fight—”
“I didn't place any blame on Bruce, I'm just saying that you did not—”
“I put the star on top.”
“There's a bow on top, we don't have a star.”
“What happened to the star?”
“There's never been a star.”
“Uh, guys?” Bruce interrupted. “What's with the weather?”
Tony and Pepper turned to look out the windows, where the gentle fall of snow had turned into more of a blizzard and was swirling and blowing about. It was a localized event; beyond their immediate area, the skies were much brighter. A crack of low thunder rent the air.
“Oh,” everyone said.
“I guess that's why he refused the car we were going to send,” Pepper said.
A figure flew out of the swirl of snow and came to a gentle, running landing on the balcony, clutching a woman in his arms.
“Well, he knows how to make an entrance,” Bruce said.
“That's some straight up Superman shit right there,” Tony agreed.
“Sir, Thor Odinsson has arrived,” J.A.R.V.I.S said, unnecessarily.
The woman was placed down with great care, and she wobbled a little as she took some steps away from him.
“She's pretty,” Pepper said.
“I prefer blondes,” Tony said, earning a sharp elbow to the stomach.
She was super, super tiny, especially compared to the Norse god she was with. Tony went over to open the balcony doors for them, wincing as some leftover snowstorm hit his face.
“Hey, we have elevators,” he called. “You didn't have to hammer your way up here.”
“It wasn't my idea,” the woman said, clinging to Thor's bicep as she made her away over the slippery balcony in her heels. “I just said traffic looked really bad and we'd probably be late.” She took Tony's offered hand to step through into the room and smiled up at him. “Um. Hi. I'm Jane.”
“I figured,” Tony said. “You know who I am already, right? Welcome to the party.”
“Thanks!” she said.
She went on to meet Pepper. Thor gave Tony a smile and a hard slap on his back that might have stopped his heart for a second.
“Merry Christmas,” Thor said, heartily.
“Merry Christmas,” Tony choked out. He closed the door behind Thor's bulk. “So, that's your girl, huh?”
“Yes,” Thor said, with a proud smile. “She is Jane Foster of New Mexico.” He nodded toward Pepper. “And this is yours?”
“Yeah, that's her,” Tony said. “Pepper Potts of...” God, where was Pepper even born? “America.”
“She is very tall,” Thor said, approving.
Pepper's five-foot-infinity height did look a little loomy against Jane's miniatureness. She was a pint-sized little bundle of smiley awkwardness. Not quite what Tony had pictured as the reason Thor abdicated his space throne, but whatever.
“You're not wrong,” Tony said. “Those aren't even her highest heels, either. Come on in. Can I take your coat and hammer? Actually, I don't like to be handed things. DUM-E, come and make yourself useful.”
Thor shrugged off his coat. He'd gone all Midgardian in his apparel since the last time Tony had seen him. It looked good, but the tailoring could be better, especially since he was royalty and all. Maybe he got an allowance from Odin that didn't stretch very far.
DUM-E rolled out and took Thor's coat in his grasper with a friendly woop. Thor went over to take Jane's coat from her, and DUM-E rolled after him, his arm out at the ready to play coat rack.
“Oh my God, it's so cute!” Jane said. “It's a little robot. Hi, there.”
DUM-E opened his grasper to say hello and dropped Thor's coat.
“C'mon, man, I gave you one job,” Tony said. “Step up your game.”
DUM-E retrieved the coats and rolled away to the closet to hopefully place them in semi-safe place, but probably to place them in a heap on the floor.
Bruce was lurking by the counter where the food was laid out, looking like a puppy unsure about coming out to play. He was a little shy around strangers.
“Hey, look, it's a fellow science nerd,” Tony called, pointing to Jane. “Come over and be Not-that-Kind-of-Doctor friends with her.”
Bruce lumbered over. “Hi.”
“Hello,” Jane said, warmly. “You're Dr. Banner, aren't you? I have a friend who knows you. Erik Selvig?”
“Oh, yeah, Erik,” Bruce said, with a nod. “How's he doing?”
Jane's smile dimmed a little. “He's...good,” she said. “He's...um, yeah, he's fiiiine.”
“Sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S interrupted. “Agents Romonov and Barton have entered the main lobby.”
“Send 'em up,” Tony said. He felt more pleased than was probably cool that more of his invited guests had actually shown up.
Natasha was looking hot in a sort of jumpsuit deal—hot enough that even Bruce's eyes checked her out for a moment before he got all bashful and looked away again. Barton looked like he always did, which was stone-faced and vaguely bored. They both had bags of presents with them.
“Stockings are hung by the chimney with care,” Tony said, directing them to the fireplace after everyone was greeted and introduced. “You can put stuff in there if you have it.”
He'd figured stocking stuffers would be the easiest form of present exchanging rather than a formal, sentimental 'round the tree thing. Pepper had filled them all with equal amounts of stuff already so that everyone would have something in theirs if the rest of the presents weren't as equal and so that the plus ones would have some stuff, too.
Natasha headed over to the fireplace and touched her stocking with a little smile. “I thought you were being metaphorical,” she said. “There are actual stockings. I haven't had one of these since I was a kid. A little kid.”
“Me either,” Bruce added.
“I have never had a stocking,” Thor said. “We don't have this custom on Asgard.”
“Well, aren't you a bunch of Misfit Toys,” Tony said. “You can take them with you if you want. J.A.R.V.I.S embroidered them, though, so don't forget to compliment his stitching. He was very excited about his sewing machine attachment. We have placemats for days now.”
“I was experimenting with my new functions,” J.A.R.V.I.S said, with polite indignation. “Captain Rogers and Airman Wilson have arrived.”
“Airman who?” Barton asked.
“Some friend or 'friend' of Cap's, I think,” Tony explained. He and Pepper had been speculating for days about who the 'friend' was, but, without a name, there wasn't a lot of dirt to be dug up. “He plus one'd for him or her. Airman is unisex, isn't it? You don't say airwoman...”
“It's a him,” Natasha said. “That's Sam Wilson. He's a friend not a 'friend'.”
“Damn, and there was me getting excited Cap might actually be getting some,” Tony said. “What's he like? Is he cool? Will we like him, or are we going to have to pretend to like him? I'm not good at that at all.”
Natasha shrugged. “He's nice,” she said, with the implication that this wasn't her highest valued quality in a person. “He's kind of a badass.”
Tony made the assumption that the athletic-looking man who exited the elevator with Steve was probably Sam. He took the seven people staring at him in stride, just giving a smile and nod before shifting his shoulders a little toward Cap as though he was making sure he was still with him. Cap looked worse for the wear like maybe he needed more sleep than he was getting. His face visibly brightened when he saw them all there, though, and his shoulders lowered a smidgen to a more relaxed posture.
“Sorry, am I late?” he asked.
“No, you're just last,” Tony said.
“Now you know what it's like to be the last person to get somewhere,” Sam said.
“Believe me, I knew before,” Steve said, with a smile. “Hey, everyone. Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” everyone echoed back.
“This is Sam Wilson,” Steve added. “He's a friend of mine. This is...everyone. It might be easier to introduce them one on one.”
“Yes, please come in,” Pepper said, switching on her hostess voice. Which was probably good; Cap looked sort of skittish. “I'm Pepper. Welcome to the Tower. I'll take your coats, and if you have any presents, you can put them in the stockings over there. We didn't know Sam's name, so his is the one with the stripes on it. Everyone can get a drink and food and settle in. Everyone's here now.”
“Yeah,” Tony said. “Let's party.”
It started off kinda awkward, but after about ten or fifteen minutes—once everyone was introduced and had a drink in their hands—the atmosphere started to get more merry and bright and conversations started up and the awkwardness was smoothed over. Pepper made sure Jane and Sam were taken care of and not left out of the pack, even as the pack gravitated towards each other on the sofas and chairs.
“Yeah, so I'd like to call this meeting of the Avengers to order,” Tony said, holding up a drink. “Let's review the minutes from the last meeting.”
“Thor's brother was a dick and we blew up New York,” Barton said.
“Correct,” Tony said, before Thor got too stormy about the slight to his family's honor. “Any business to discuss since the last meeting?”
“I blew up Washington,” Natasha said.
“I...sort of came up with the plan to do it and help execute it,” Steve said.
“I was complicit in the blowing up of London,” Thor said.
“I blew up a really big boat and a bunch of suits,” Tony contributed. “And my house was blown up, but probably as a direct result of my own actions.”
“I blew up Aït Hammad,” Barton said.
Everyone looked blankly at him.
“It's a small town in Morocco,” he said. “Some of us actually get shit done quietly.”
“I didn't blow anything up,” Bruce said.
“All right, so prize for the least amount of damage in the last eighteen months goes to Bruce,” Tony said.
There was a polite golf clap from the rest of the team.
“That's...actually kinda of an accomplishment for me,” Bruce said.
“We'll get you a trophy,” Tony promised. “So, any other business to bring forth? Thoughts for the future?”
“Let's try to blow up fewer cities and small towns,” Steve suggested.
“All right, if you're going to be boring about it,” Tony said. He raised his glass. “All in favor say 'aye'.”
“Aye,” said everyone, glasses raised. They clinked all around and drank.
“Okay, so meeting adjourned,” Tony said. “Very productive, well done. Let's open our stockings.” He called over to Jane, Pepper, and Sam. “Hey, normal people! We're gonna do presents.” He stood up and went to the fireplace to hand out the stockings to the respective guests.
“There's one left,” Barton said. “Who's that for?”
“That was for Sam if he turned out to be a girl,” Tony said. “We hedged our bets both ways. Cap was vague.”
Sam raised his eyebrows. “Is it bad I kinda want to see my girl stuff, too?”
Tony went back and retrieved it. “Enjoy your bath bombs and bubble bath.”
“Sweet,” Sam said. “Done.”
Tony sat down with Pepper in the chair-and-a-half, which was just big enough for his chair and her a half for them to squeeze in comfortably. Jane sat cross-legged on the floor by Thor, having rejected his gallant offer to give her his seat. Barton brought a stool over from the island so Sam could sit with Cap and Natasha, and they all formed a prayer circle of stocking opening.
It was nice. Most of his life since his parents had died Christmas had been a solo affair. Tony had often gone away to some remote island and pretended it was any other time of the year. There was Rhodey and Pepper and Happy, of course, eventually, and that wasn't anything to complain about at all, but this sort of feeling of having a bunch of friends together to celebrate something like regular people did was new and nice.
Pepper had picked out the majority of the stocking stuffers, but Tony had done all of hers based on suggestions from J.A.R.V.I.S, who was much better at remembering what she liked and needed and wanted. She watched everyone else open theirs without opening hers, which, while all sweet and altruistic and stuff, was annoying because Tony wanted to see how his stuff flew with her, too.
“Come on, I put effort into this,” he said, nudging her. “Start fawning over my thoughtfulness.”
“In a minute,” she said.
“Oh my God, Rogers,” Natasha said, pulling out a bundle of knitwear tied with a bow. “You actually made me a scarf.”
“I told you I could,” Steve said, with a wry shrug. “You thought I was lying.”
Natasha undid the ribbon and rolled out the scarf, which was red with ribs running down it and an actual scarf that looked like a scarf and not just something someone knitted who was giving it a go for the first time.
“Why do you know how to knit?” Bruce said, asking the question on everyone's mind, judging by the stares.
“Everyone knit,” Steve said. “For the war effort. If you weren't at war, you knit. I couldn't be a soldier, so I made scarves for the soldiers. I learned at the Red Cross. Knit 4, purl 4, knit 4, purl 4, knit 2, repeat until it's fifty inches long. It's not that hard.”
“I did not realize you were a little old lady in addition to being a grumpy old man,” Tony said.
“Oh, believe me, I have been on road trips with him,” Sam said. “He is both. Y'all haven't heard him complaining about gas prices yet.”
“They are very frustrating,” Thor said, unexpectedly incensed. “They fluctuate without any rhyme nor reason.”
“Yeah, exactly,” Steve said. “You can go from one gas station to one around the corner and there's a five cent difference in an hour!”
What followed was a very entertaining discussion by two people who had not been living in the United States of America in the modern day for very long. Thor's innate sense of fairness and honor (combined with a general but surprisingly accurate knowledge of how economics worked) met Steve's shell-shock over the fact that it now cost two dollars for something that used to cost him 18 cents. It made for a hilarious interlude.
It came to an abrupt close at Bruce's sudden exclamation of 'oh my God!', made ever so much more of an exclamation due to the fact that exclamation marks rarely punctuated anything he said.
It was followed almost immediately by Barton's 'what the Hell?!' and Steve's 'what is this?'
Tony figured they'd made it to his gifts for them.
“This is a doll of...,” Bruce said, holding out the little green crocheted stuffed Hulk. “Where did...why is there a doll of...?”
“Do you like it? I ordered it specially,” Tony said. “I have one, too, see?” He pulled out the Iron Man doll from where he'd stashed it in his own stocking. “Everyone has one.”
Jane turned and grabbed Thor's stocking to pull his doll out with a delighted laugh. “Oh my God, look at it! Look at your little helmet,” she said. “Look at your little cape. Look at your little hammer.”
“Hey, watch it, no guy likes to hear about his little hammer,” Barton said.
Jane held up the tiny crochet Mjolnir and hit Thor's knee with it, making thunder noises. “I'm keeping this, you can't have it.”
Thor was obviously confused, but pleased by Jane's delight in it, giving her a goofy smile.“Is this a custom on Midgard?” he asked.
“Sorta,” Tony said. “If you're famous, people make dolls of you. We're totally famous.”
Natasha played with the red yarn of her doll's hair. “Where did you even get these?”
“Etsy,” Tony said.
“Who's Etsy?” Steve asked. He manipulated his doll to be holding his shield, and Natasha made her doll punch it with a comic book 'foosh' noise. They both giggled like kids.
“It's a website,” Tony explained. “People sell homemade crafts. Someone asked me to sign one of me a little while ago, so I checked it out. They sell the patterns for them, too, so if you want to get your knit on, you could manufacture little yous.”
“I think I'm good with just the one,” Steve said.
“Yeah, this is plenty terrifying without there being multiples,” Bruce said. He put his on the arm of his chair and stared at it without expression for a few moments, as though he expected it to get up and start smashing things.
“I, personally, I think it's a pretty strong resemblance,” Tony offered.
A crochet arrow hit the Hulk doll off its perch from doll!Barton's crochet bow, which real!Barton had somehow managed to make work.
“I like it,” Barton said.
Tony felt his gifts had the biggest reaction of the night, which pleased him. They might not have been the most positive reactions, but he'd definitely made an impression. Everyone seemed to like what they got. Jane squealed over a little telescope necklace Thor had given her. Bruce dug the little test tube tea infuser Pepper had put in his stocking for his green tea addiction. Barton seemed pretty pleased with the swish throwing knives from Natasha because, apparently, assassins liked to give each other killy things for special occasions. Pepper oohed and aahed sufficiently over her stocking when she finally got around to it, and Sam looked pretty impressed with both his boy and girl stuff. Thor was taken up with the Barrel of Monkeys game Pepper had thrown in as a gag gift. Everyone had some sort of puzzle or game in their stocking, but Thor definitely had the most fun with his.
Steve by far had the most stuff. He kept getting redder and redder and murmuring more and more apologies as slowly everyone else finished up with their stockings and he kept going. The thing with Steve was that everyone had an idea of what he'd missed out on that he should experience or something that would have been around before he turned into a Popsicle that he might miss, so he was really easy to shop for. There was candy and music and books and children's toys. Even Thor got in on the action, having put a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring in there.
“It was published while you were in your Sleep, Captain,” he explained. “Darcy Lewis recommended it to me, and I enjoyed it. I thought you might also. It's the first of the trilogy.”
Steve smiled. “Cool, thanks,” he said. “It's on my list. I read The Hobbit when it was published, so I'm sure I'll enjoy this, too. I have a lot of reading time on my hands right now.”
He reached back into the stocking for yet another present, and Sam directed the attention away from him.
“Is this your first Christmas on Earth?” he asked Thor. “Man, that's a weird question to ask...”
“It's my first Christmas on any planet,” Thor said.
“Yeah, I guess you guys don't have Christmas,” Tony said. “Not having Christ and all. Do you have something else? Like, do you have your own holidays? Helmet Day? Big Hammer Day?”
“We have Jul,” Thor said. “It has similarities to Christmas.”
“Like Yule?” Bruce said. “Like yuletide?”
“It's basically Christmas,” Jane said. “According to our myths about the Norse Gods, it's where a lot of our traditions come from. His dad is basically Santa Claus.”
“On Jul, my father leads the Wild Hunt,” Thor explained. “And the children of Asgard bring hay and sugar for Sleipnir, his steed, and he gives them presents to repay them. It takes place on the shortest day on Asgard. It's also said the souls of the dead in Valhalla walk the planet, but that's superstition.”
“So, Hallowe'en and Christmas rolled into one,” Natasha said.
“Yes, I suppose so,” Thor said.
“He gets his own holiday, too,” Jane said. “Thurseblot. It's a feast for him.”
“I want a feast for me,” Tony said.
“No,” Pepper said, succinctly.
Steve reached once more into his stocking, and his hand came out empty, much to his obvious relief. “That's it,” he said. “I'm done. Thanks, everyone, that was...really amazing. Thank you. Sorry for holding everyone up.”
“Yeah, you really hampered our strictly scheduled fun,” Tony said. “Now we won't have time for charades. We're just going to have to stick to musical chairs now. Who knows if we'll get to Scrabble.”
“I have Scrabble,” Bruce said, holding up the travel set Pepper had put in his stocking.
“I like Scrabble,” Natasha said.
“I'd play Scrabble,” Jane said.
“Me too,” Steve said. “I know—I've played it. I know about Scrabble.”
“Oh my God,” Tony said, exasperated. “No. No, we are not playing Scrabble at my part—no, don't set up the board, do not set up the—come on, this is a party! What are you guys, twelve?”
“I got Clue, anyone up for Clue?” Barton said.
“I could do Clue,” Sam said.
“I'll play,” Pepper offered, ignoring Tony's betrayed look.
“You guys are the most boring people on the planet,” he said.
His thigh turned cold as Pepper left the chair and took her body heat with her. Jane was already explaining Scrabble to Thor, who seemed interested in watching her play. Barton laid out his Clue set on the coffee table.
“Fuck it,” Tony said. “I want to be Colonel Mustard.”