Steve remembers the morning that he screwed up very clearly. They were at his house, and Phil had slept over, like she was doing more and more. She left at four, which was also very familiar; he'd seen her to the door, just like always, but they'd lingered just a bit longer than usual, long enough that Sitwell honked at them. There was no harm in it, not when the paparazzi didn't usually turn up before daylight- at least, that's what Steve thought at the time.
And then Steve gets a text message from Tony, and he clicks the link, and even on the tiny screen of his phone he knows it's bad, bad news.
The photo is better quality than Steve expected, which is somehow weird; these things are supposed to be grainy and salacious, not just regular old pictures. Not that this is a regular picture, not when he and Phil are heavily engaged in kissing, especially not when the headline of the article says CAPTAIN AMERICA AND ASSISTANT GET PERSONAL.
Steve texts her, and she doesn't text him back.
More uh oh.
So his next move is to go up to the Helicarrier; there's no telling what's going to happen when he gets there. He's definitely going to get chewed out, though it's not clear yet who by. Fury he could probably actually handle better than Phil. Fury will just yell at him about compromising his agent; Fury knows what fake contrition looks like and won't stand for bullshit, but Steve is actually sorry, which might soothe his wrath at least a little.
But if Phil does it, Steve isn't as sure that he can handle that. He doesn't really want to know what she's going to say, what she's going to accuse him of; she's the epitome of level-headedness, but this is a very special situation.
He heads for the bridge first; thankfully, Fury is nowhere to be found, so Steve walks down the steps, looking for someone with some answers.
Sitwell holds his hands up. "She's at the range, I don't know anything, and I don't want to know," he says.
"Thanks," Steve tells him, clapping him on the shoulder, and he sighs as Steve leaves.
At the range, Steve waits for a cease fire before going down to Phil's station; when she spots him, she takes off her earmuffs, though she doesn't look entirely happy to see him.
"Captain," she says, the same blandly affable mask on her face that she's so very good at. "We don't see you out here much."
"I didn't really come to shoot," Steve says, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Then you're in the wrong place," Phil tells him, which is the most efficient 'screw you' he's heard from her in a long while.
"Uh, so I take it you saw," he says.
The muscles in Phil's shoulders tense. "I'm aware of the situation, yes."
Steve is getting the very strong urge to head for the hills. "I just, uh, wanted to know how you felt about it."
"It's a security breach," Phil says. "Measures will have to be taken."
"That's not really what I asked," Steve points out, which he realizes after it's left his mouth is kind of like poking a badger with a stick.
Philippa's hands ball into fists. "I graduated from college when I was nineteen," she says, and her voice is just like normal, except with something very dangerous behind it. "I have a masters degree in foreign relations. I was in the Army and the NSA. Nick Fury recruited me personally for SHIELD. I am a major reason why Manhattan is not a smoking crater, and they thought I was a personal assistant."
"Oh," Steve says, nonplussed.
Phil raises an eyebrow at him. "Oh?"
"I didn't think of it that way," he admits. "I thought you were embarrassed. Of me." He clears his throat. "Of being caught with me."
She shakes her head. "Something is wrong with you," she tells him, but she sighs when she sees his expression. "Nothing is wrong with you. I am annoyed by the press coverage. I am angry that people assume I get your coffee. I am upset that people know we're dating, because that is personal. But I could never be embarrassed of you." She smiles, and Steve feels intensely relieved. "Briefing's at three."
"What briefing?" Steve asks, confused.
"We need our stories straight. I'm not a very good personal assistant if I don't know where you get your dry cleaning done, Captain Rogers," she says, and there might even have been eyelash batting. She smirks. "You didn't think I was going to miss a chance for a new cover, did you?"
Steve stares at her. "You're so sneaky."
"If you hadn't figured that one out, then I really am embarrassed." The cease fire ends, and she picks up her earmuffs, putting them on. "Now go away or I'm going to shoot you."
He decides to try his luck, leaning down and pecking her on the cheek, and she smiles.
Then she picks up her gun, and Steve gets the hell out before she makes good on her promise.