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, 212
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 Two. Part One is here.
Okay, so, Tony hadn't really envisioned hardcore board gaming when he was planning this party, but he could roll with the punches, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves because they were big giant nerds like that apparently. He supposed that was the point of a party, even if there was less booze and dancing involved than a typical Tony Stark Party. Although, there was also less destruction and ill-advised sex, too, so swings and roundabouts really.
They lured Thor over to play Clue so he wasn't the odd alien out, and he picked up the rules with ease, even if he was confused as to why it was entertaining. Maybe Asgardians just beat each other up for family bonding time.
Sam turned out to be, as Natasha had put it, a nice guy, and not in the boy scout way that Steve was. Just an easy-going guy who rolled with punches and gave a few back and was generally comfortable with himself. It couldn't be easy for a mundane to walk into a party full of superheroes and gods, but he kept up and held his own. He seemed to have been in on the whole 'let's blow up S.H.I.E.L.D' stunt Cap had pulled, so Natasha's assessment of him being a badass probably held true. Someone who walked softly but carried a big stick to have your back with.
The longer they played, the louder it got, the more laughing there was, and the more people got up to get drinks or food. Then people started wandering between the different games, and more games were set-up, and it got all mingly and more party-like. Cap had seemed really tense when he came in, and Sam kept looking over as he played Clue as though he was looking out for him. But, as the night wore on, Steve relaxed and started to smile and laugh and seem more at ease. Even Bruce lightened up.
Party successful, Tony supposed.
When he got sick of all the party games, he rose to get another drink and moved over to the Christmas tree to hang up the ornament Bruce had put in his stocking. It was a little glass cube designed to look like the iron box on a periodic table, with the name, symbol, atomic number, and weight etched into it. It was nerdy and awesome.
“How'd you get this tree up here?” Steve said, coming up to join him with a soda in hand.
Tony supposed there wasn't a lot of fun in drinking if you couldn't get drunk.
“I flew it up and brought it in through the balcony,” Tony said. “I had to clear a flight path with JFK.”
“It's huge,” Steve said, craning his neck to look up at the top. Which, Tony now noticed, had a bow on it, not a star.
“Well, obviously I'm compensating for something,” Tony said. “What are you doing for Christmas proper? You got a place to go? 'Cause you can hang out here.”
Steve gave a smile as he shook his head. “Thanks, but Sam's family invited me for dinner,” he said. “Apparently his nephew is very excited about me—or more Captain America—coming, so I don't want to bail.”
“As long as you got somewhere to go,” Tony said. “Being alone on Christmas is lame.” He stepped back to admire his ornament placement. Now he'd for sure put two ornaments on the tree. “So, you and Sam are best buddy friends now, huh?”
Steve shrugged. “I guess so,” he said. “He's been helping me look...um, look for my friend.”
Oh. Yeah. That might explain the circles under Steve's eyes. Tony had read as much of the reports leaked out of S.H.I.E.L.D that he could stand and got a basic gist from Natasha on what had gone down. Including the bit about Steve's best friend being turned into a Russian Popsicle and reprogrammed to be a death machine. Which was a level of bad Tony couldn't really begin to understand.
“No luck then?” Tony asked.
“No luck,” Steve said. He looked tired and his eyes were too old for his face. “Sometimes I feel like I've been close, but, he's like a ghost. It's probably wishful thinking on my part, but sometimes I feel like he wants me to find him. And then sometimes I feel like he's doing everything he can to make sure I don't.”
“I'm sorry,” Tony said. “I mean, that's, like, not even close to what I would like to express about how I feel about it all. It's fucking—I've been through some shit in the last year, and I know what it's like to see someone you care about being hurt, but...fuck.”
Steve gave an odd huff of a laugh. “Yeah, fuck,” he said. “That sums it up. Well put.” He shuffled on his feet for a moment. “Uh, I guess, I wanted to say I'm sorry, too.”
“What are you sorry for?” Tony asked.
“I blew up S.H.I.E.L.D,” Steve said.
“I know,” Tony assured him. “I'm not a priest or anything; I can't give you absolution for that. I can, however, say 'wow, that was awesome'. Which I will. That was pretty hardcore, man.”
“That's another good way to put things,” Steve said, with a smirk. “I just...I know that your dad...I kinda blew up his life's work. So—”
“You can't say sorry to him so you're gonna say it to me?” Tony said.
“Maybe,” Steve said.
“Listen,” Tony said. “I've kind of had some time to process and—okay, my dad was an asshole—” He held up a hand to stop Steve's protests. “No, I'm an asshole, I'm allowed to say that, it's part of the privileges. He was a heartless bastard who maybe had more going on than I knew about, but he certainly could have done better at not being a crappy dad.
'But, whatever his flaws, what he was trying to build was good. He wanted to do good. And he sacrificed a lot to do good. What S.H.I.E.L.D was when you blew it up wasn't good anymore. It was rotten. It didn't work. And one thing he taught me—one of the only things he taught me—was that if something doesn't work, you don't just say 'oh dear'. You fix it. And sometimes fixing it means taking it apart piece by piece, salvaging what you can and starting again. He got that. I get that. I mean, maybe you coulda started with some, like, downsizing instead of going straight for the explosions, but I get that there was sort of a crunch. I'm not mad. My opinion isn't worth much, but I think you did the right thing.”
The tension in Steve's shoulders suddenly disappeared. “I...thanks.”
“Actually, you know what did piss me off? The part about it that actually bothered me?” Tony said. “You didn't call me. You didn't call any of us. You have a bunch of superhero friends, and you did it all by yourself. That hurt a little.”
“I didn't have time,” Steve said. “Everyone was trying to kill me. I didn't know who to trust, I didn't want to drag anyone else in.”
Pepper had pointed that out when Tony was ranting about it to her. “I sort of get that,” Tony said. “Just remember you don't have to go at it all solo all the time.”
“I'll try,” Steve said.
Tony nodded. “Hey, you ever thought about sending a message to your friend? Let him know you're looking for him?”
“I don't know where he is,” Steve said. “If I could talk to him, I would.”
“Well, it doesn't have to be face-to-face,” Tony said. “We have newspapers, radio, television, internet. If you could think of something he might see—spray paint it on a wall, skywriting, whatever. Doesn't have to be obvious, it could just be something you two would understand. Maybe he just needs to know you want to talk. He probably doesn't know who to trust right now, either.”
Steve cocked his head to the side. “I'll think about it,” he said. “Thanks.”
“Yeah,” Tony said. He gave him a slap on the back. “Good talk. Now, this is a party, so lighten the hell up and enjoy yourself. Stop walking around with that puppy dog face.”
“Sorry,” Steve said.
“No, no more sorry,” Tony said. “You can't get lit, but eat some chocolate or something. Live a little. Have a cupcake.”
“They're from Magnolia. Try the hummingbird ones.”
“There's cheesecake, too. Have you had red velvet? I'd go for the red velvet.”
“Or pie, there's pie. Apple pie, you must like that.”
“Okay!” Steve said, laughing. “I'll go eat some junk food.”
“Good,” Tony said, satisfied.
He excused himself to deal with the next issue, which was that Bruce had disappeared. Tony's inquiry earned a shrug from Natasha, and Pepper shook her head with no information for him. Maybe he'd just gone to the john, but Tony thought it was best to make sure. Bruce tended to flee when he thought he was going to Hulk out, even if most times he never did.
“Hey, there you are,” he said, when he found Bruce in a hallway outside the kitchen. “S'up? You okay?”
“Yeah,” Bruce said. “I just needed some air. I was—there's a lot of people in there. Lots of noise.”
“Making you a bit antsy?” Tony asked, wiggling his fingers.
“I'm not great with crowds,” Bruce said. “It's not like I feel like I'm going to—I'm just...worried that I will.”
“J.A.R.V.I.S, what's Bruce's heart rate?” Tony asked.
“117 beats per minute,” J.A.R.V.I.S reported.
“Well, you're good then, right?” Tony said. “A bit high, but nowhere near danger levels. You're good. You and me will hang out here until you want to go back in.”
“You don't have to stay out here with me,” Bruce said.
“I know,” Tony said. “When have you ever known me to do something that I had to do?”
Bruce smiled. “I just need a minute,” he said.
“Knock yourself out,” Tony said. “Or don't. It's a bit early in the night to be unconscious.”
“I won't be unconscious at any point in the night,” Bruce said. “I've had my one drink, and I'm done. Me and Steve will be the designated drivers.”
“Be sure to take pictures, they'll be awesome on Facebook,” Tony said.
“You don't need anything else on Facebook,” Bruce said. He wiggled his shoulders. “Sometimes I wish I smoked, it would give me something to do.”
“You could start,” Tony said. “I mean, you're indestructible, what's it going to do to you?”
“You're supposed to stop friends from doing stupid things,” Bruce said.
Tony was a little pleased Bruce just called him 'friend'.
“Sorry,” he said. He assumed a bad acting monotone. “No, Bruce. Smoking is wrong. You should set an example for the little Hulk boys and girls.”
“It's their own fault for using me as an example,” Bruce said. “Did you ever smoke?”
“Nah, that was the one vice I really never partook in,” Tony said. “My dad smoked. I figured it was something douches did. Hey, marijuana is legal now in Washington. You could get some weed. We could go on a road trip.”
“Yeah, because paranoia and hallucinations are definitely what I need,” Bruce said.
“Okay, that's fair,” Tony admitted. “I didn't think that through. I'm not really good at that.”
“Do you know, I've noticed,” Bruce said.
“Did you?” Tony said. “I thought I kept it pretty well-hidden.”
“Yeah, that's definitely your secret weakness,” Bruce said. “It's only because we're such good friends that I've discovered it.”
Tony grinned, and Bruce laughed. The sweat on his brow was drying up. Tony thought he'd be good to go in a few minutes. Tony figured getting sweaty was one of the preludes to the Other Guy making an appearance, so Bruce tended to freak when he got hot, even if it was un-Other Guy related. Being in a room full of people made for a lot of heat. Maybe Bruce had the two confused.
“Okay,” Bruce said, after another two or three minutes of zen. “I'm good.”
“You good?” Tony said. “Yeah? Good? Okay.”
He came back into the room with Bruce in tow. The party games had broken up now, and most people were just lounging and chatting. Cap had a slice of cheesecake on the go. Thor and Jane were looking out one of the big windows, Jane's hands fluttering as she pointed toward the sky and nattered. Tony recognized the signs of a fellow nerd being enthusiastic about something. Thor watched her more than the things she was pointing at, a little stupid smile on his face.
“Hey, do I look at Pepper like that?” Tony asked Bruce.
“Nah,” Bruce said. “You look like much more of an idiot. You always look at her like she's the answer to a problem that you've been working on for days.”
“That's really romantic,” Tony said. “You aren't such a cynical bastard as I thought.”
“Don't tell anyone,” Bruce said. “It's my secret weakness.”
“Man, what they say about Russians is true,” Tony said to Natasha, as he met her at the bar. “You aren't even tipsy yet, that's impressive. You're tiny, too, so that's pretty much a sort of superpower.”
Natasha tipped her beer toward him. “I have skills,” she said. “You're one to talk.”
“I'm German, Irish, and Italian,” Tony said. “I come from a long line of excellent drinkers.” He dropped some scotch rocks in a glass and poured a finger into it, then a very generous portion of soda. “Besides, I cut down on the drinking now that I have to worry about other things stopping my heart than the shrapnel.”
“How's that going?” Natasha asked, putting a hand on her chest and nodding towards his. “Is it weird not having it in?”
The biggest adjustment, aside from the tightness where the skin was healing over the socket that was still fused to his sternum, was waking up in the night without the thrum of it and having a few terrifying moments where he thought his heart was going to fail before he remembered the reactor wasn't there anymore.
“It was,” Tony said. “But I think I'm better off. I can sleep on my stomach again. And, you know, I don't have to worry about some asshole ripping it out of me and letting me die. Both bonuses. I can still use it for the suit, but I'm not the suit anymore. I'm me again.”
“And what's it like being you?” Natasha asked.
“Not as bad as I thought it would be,” Tony said. “Better than it was before I had the reactor in.”
“You're better than you were even after you had it in,” Natasha said. “You're less of a dick than you used to be.”
“I know, right?” Tony said. “How the fuck did that happen?” Natasha shrugged, and Tony shrugged back. “What are you doing for Christmas? You got big plans?”
“Me and Clint have a tradition,” Natasha said, cryptically.
“Does it involve killing and death?” Tony asked.
“Sometimes,” Natasha said.
“Sounds like fun,” Tony said. “You can drop in here if you need medical treatment.”
Natasha tipped her beer towards him again. “I'll keep it in mind,” she said. “What are you doing?”
“I'm gonna try not to create an international incident,” Tony said. “That's this year's goal. Other than that, I dunno, maybe eat some turkey and open presents. Rhodey's gonna come. Bruce'll be here.”
“Sounds cozy,” Natasha said.
“We'll see,” Tony said. “Like most of my plans, there is potential for awesomeness and disaster.”
“Let me know if you need back-up,” Natasha said. “I'm not a bad sniper.”
Tony tipped his glass toward her. “Will do.”
She moved away with her beer. Thor came up and looked over the bar with a furrowed brow.
“What are you looking for, Big Guy?” Tony asked.
“Jane wishes to switch to non-alcoholic beverages,” Thor said. “Which is which?”
Everything had gotten mixed together over the course of the evening. so Tony could see why he was confused.
“What does she like to drink?” Tony asked.
“Pepsi,” Thor said.
“Here, I'll make her a Roy Rogers,” Tony said. “It's a mocktail. My mother used to give it to me at parties when I was a kid so I'd feel important. Girls like girly drinks, you'll look thoughtful.” He grabbed the grenadine syrup and the cola. “Enjoying yourself?”
“It's very different from the feasts of Asgard,” Thor said. “But I'm enjoying it, yes.”
“Good,” Tony said. He used a swizzle stick to mix up the drink. “First Midgardian Christmas, want to make a good impression. You can go home and tell all the other gods what an awesome party we throw.”
“This is home now,” Thor said, simply.
Man, everyone was sappy tonight. “You digging it?” Tony asked.
“Yes,” Thor said. “I am digging it.”
Tony grinned. He dropped a cherry in the drink and handed it to Thor. “On the house for the pretty lady,” he said. “And for Jane, too.”
“Thank you,” Thor said.
He left, and Pepper arrived.
“Sorry, bar's closed,” Tony said. “But I am available for private parties if you're not busy later.”
“I'm very busy,” Pepper said, with mock regret. “I have—I have a thing.”
“A thing, huh?” Tony said. “Damn. Well, maybe next time. You're really cute, we should totally try to get together when your thing is over.” He came around the bar to meet her. “I guess I'll just have to woo you now.” He took her hand and pulled her out into more open space, then pulled her in to dance.
“What are you doing?” Pepper asked.
“Wooing,” Tony said.
“We have guests,” Pepper said.
“I'm sure we aren't going to shock their sensibilities,” Tony said. “I mean, if you're worried about that, I could think of a few funner things we could try.”
Pepper fell into sway with him. “No, this amount of wooing is perfect,” she said. “Let's stick to this.”
Her eyes kept glancing over to the others, self-consciously. Tony could never figure out why she was always so nervous in public. She was always the most beautiful, sexy, intelligent girl in any room.
He gave her a little spin and brought her back in. Thor rose from the couch and gave Jane a courtly bow. She shook her head frantically, but he pulled her over and they tried to work out Midgardian dancing, which they managed after some stumbling and giggling. Tony could see Steve raise his hands in objection to Natasha's inquiring eyebrow.
“I don't dance,” Bruce said, when she looked to him.
“You know I don't dance,” Barton said. “Not after St. Petersburg.”
“I dance,” Sam said. “Y'all are nuts. Beautiful woman asks you to dance, you dance.”
He and Natasha joined the floor, falling into a more friendly stance than the other couples had going on. The music livened up to a jazzy, swing version of 'Baby, it's Cold Outside' after a while, and Tony stepped up his dancing to a foxtrot. Pepper, despite all of her perfection, did not possess the best of coordination, and she struggled.
“Let me lead, you never let me lead,” Tony said.
“Because you always do steps I don't know,” Pepper said.
“I am relaxed!”
“Yeah, that's the sound of a relaxed person.”
“You make me nervous when you try to—slow down.”
“If I slow down, we won't be on the beat. There we go—there, see, not hard at all. Keep that up, Ginger.”
Sam and Natasha were doing a lot better with a less formal kind of dancing. Tony had no idea what Thor and Jane were attempting, but he assumed they were failing at it. They were cute though. Kind of sickeningly cute. He hoped him and Pepper were at least semi-sweet and not saccharine.
“So, I think we did good,” Tony said. “No one's died. Nothing's blown up. I mean, as far as my parties go, I think we've nailed it.”
“It is pretty tame,” Pepper admitted. “For once. You've been a very good host. I'm proud of you.”
Tony liked when she was proud of him.
That was probably a little saccharine.
The party broke up around midnight, which was alarmingly early for one of his parties, but not bad overall. Big shock (not), it was Cap who got everyone on the idea of leaving, mentioning it was late, and he should probably get going. Then everyone else thought that they should get going, too. Tony let them know that anyone who wanted to stay the night had apartments waiting for them, but no one took him up on the offer. Everyone insisted they had a place to stay or somewhere to be, and Tony made J.A.R.V.I.S order cabs and put a temporary forcefield device over their keys to make sure no one tried to drive. No one was out and out drunk, but there was a good level of tipsiness happening even amongst the most hardcore of drinkers. Except for Cap, of course. Tony let him keep his keys without obstacles attached. Bruce was also sober, but he wasn't going anywhere so Tony didn't have worry to about that anyway.
“Thanks for inviting me,” Steve said, as they parted in the lobby. He shook Tony's hand.
“No problem. Uou're always welcome here,” Tony told him. “You should come and hang out more. If you need a place to crash in your travels, you've got your place here.”
“Okay,” Steve said, and Tony thought he might not be humoring him this time. “Thanks.”
“Nice to meet you. Thanks for the loot,” Sam said. He leaned forward a little. “Good job getting him to lighten up.”
“Herculean task, huh?” Tony said.
“You have no idea,” Sam said.
“I can guess,” Tony said. “Glad he's got some company.”
“He's actually not bad company, once you get past the starch,” Sam said. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” Tony said.
He waved them off and got a hug from Natasha and a handclasp from Barton. They both had their stockings in hand. Everyone had taken the stockings in addition to the loot. Tony hadn't anticipated that it would mean that much to them. He figured he'd be tossing them in a box for next time.
“Have fun with your tradition,” Tony said. “Don't kill anyone I wouldn't kill!”
“Don't blow up anything we wouldn't blow up,” Barton returned.
“Deal,” Tony said.
Jane was perhaps the lightest weight there, and she was quite handsy when she was drunk judging by the huge hug around his middle that Tony received.
“Hey there, Thumbelina, you have a good time?” Tony asked her.
“It was really fun,” Jane said, with a nod. “Thank you for inviting me to your very big tower.”
“No problem, thanks for coming,” Tony said. “Look after Muscles.”
Thor extracted Jane from Tony, and they did a heroic forearm grasp of soldierly solidarity or something. “You are a most generous host, Stark,” Thor said. “Thank you for your hospitality. I hope to return the honor one day.”
“Okay, cool,” Tony said, because that was a little too Beowulf for him to have a proper response. “Good to have you. Don't be a stranger.”
“I won't,” Thor promised.
He bowed his head, and Tony bowed back, and then everyone who was going was gone. By the time Tony had turned around, Bruce was headed for the elevators, and Pepper had her heels off.
Yep, they were big partyers around here.
DUM-E was trying to clean up when they arrived back upstairs, putting all the garbage in one pile and all the glasses in another. Tony gave him a pat on the head as he passed by on the way to the couch. He flopped down on it, and Pepper followed, lying down with her head in his lap. Bruce helped DUM-E by picking up the glasses and taking them to the counter. DUM-E modified his plans, bringing each glass he found to Bruce instead of piling them up.
“Aww, look at them, cleaning up,” Tony said. “We have such nice kids.”
Pepper reached up and played with the stubble on his chin. “We have weird kids.”
“Awesome kids,” Tony corrected. He smiled down at her. “So, what do you think, First Annual Avenger's Christmas party? Or just a one-off?”
Pepper put her hand over her eyes. “Ask me in February. Or March.”
“But, still better than last year's Christmas, though, right?” Tony said.
“Yes. Yes, I can say it is definitely better than last year's Christmas,” Pepper said, with a smirk.
Tony grinned. “Just wait until New Year's.”