At 7:34 a.m. on a random Tuesday in October, one enraged Pepper Potts interrupts Steve Rogers' and Tony Stark's simple eggs-and-toast breakfast.
"Really?" Pepper half-shouts as she enters the kitchen, storming up to the rectangular island. Steve startles and his swallow of hand squeezed orange juice goes down the wrong pipe; Tony, unsurprised and probably used to Pepper's ire this early in the morning after so many years, thumps him on the back. "Tony, do you remember the amount of damage control I had to do the last time one of your sex tapes came out?"
Tony doesn't take his eyes off the eggs he's overcooking and replies calmly, "I remember there was an all expenses paid vacation to that beach resort in the Maldives."
"Which was lovely, thank you," Peppers vents waspishly before she continues in the same, irritated vein. Steve's eyes water from the force of his coughs. "Do you even understand what an absolute clusterfuck this is?"
Ignoring Pepper's rant, Tony turns to Steve, more chipper at the early hour than most humans find possible, and asks in his deceptively sweet voice, "You like spicy foods, right? These eggs need a little love—can you grab the Tabasco sauce out of the fridge—no, the other bottle—yeah, that's it, thanks honey."
Steve, still a little red in the face from coughing, smiles fondly at Tony. He plants a dry kiss into the curve of Ton's throat and his blunt fingers brush over the wild mess of Tony's hair, still rumpled from sleep.
"The two of you sicken me," Pepper mutters. Then, "Our public relations firm is ready to commit mass ritual suicide. Did you pause to think of the consequences before you uploaded your homemade porno onto the internet—and don't even try to pretend this doesn't have your signature all over it, Tony, there is no feasible way there was such a massive breach in security. You and I both know that this house is more secure than the Pentagon. Also, multiple camera angles?"
Tony throws a leer in her direction as he takes the eggs off the burner and turns the gas off. "So you watched it, then?"
"I sincerely doubt I could have avoided seeing it," Pepper snaps, vehemently ignoring the tiny flush that creeps into her cheeks. "Christ, Tony, you're a superhero now. And while the public knows you're not the paradigm of moral value, you had to go and drag a national icon into this mess? I know you and Steve planned on coming out to the public—get married in New York—rescue a dog from the shelter—maybe put a white picket fence around the mansion—but a sex tape? There are more gentle and PR friendly ways of declaring a relationship!"
In the moment Pepper gives herself pause, Steve sets a cup of coffee down in front of her. She recognizes the roast by the smell; it's those outrageously expensive beans Tony insists on stocking his pantry with even though she and Steve are the only ones who like it. Steve has even poured the coffee into her favorite mug—the tall red one with a ridiculous amount of sentimental value and a chip in the handle—and topped it with a splash of cream. Her hands have curled around the ceramic before she can help herself.
"Thanks," she mutters; Steve smiles disarmingly at her and quips, "My pleasure, Miss Potts!" His grin is wide and boyish, the one that sold war bonds back in the forties and still manages to make Pepper's insides melt even though she knows better. Despite the migraine that has begun to form behind her eyes, half of which is Steve's fault, most of her irritation vanishes. Tony smirks at her knowingly after she's taken a sip.
"Don't think this means I've forgiven you," she tells Tony with a pointed look and a raised eyebrow. "I still need statements from both of you before noon."
"Dictator," Tony sniffs, as though deeply offended. Then, "Eggs, Pep-a-doodle?"
"No," Pepper replies, wrinkling her nose. "I've had food made by you before, and I have too much to do without another trip to the emergency room."
"You slay me," Tony deadpans, and scoops the eggs onto two plates. He sets one down in front of Steve, who has taken residence next to Pepper on one of the bar stools, and begins to liberally add salt to his own. He shovels a large amount into his mouth and, a moment later, tries to discreetly shovel the rest into the trash compactor. Pepper almost misses the look of disgust that passes over his face because Steve raises a tentative hand beside her, like a sheepish school boy trying to catch his teacher's attention.
"Yes?" she says.
"I'm sorry to interrupt," he begins politely, and Pepper can't help but smile, "but if you don't mind, could you explain what a 'sex tape' is?"
Pepper takes another sip of her coffee and makes a show of setting it back down on the island's granite countertop. She clears her throat, crosses and uncrosses her legs, and pushes errant strands of her hair back into place. After a minute or two, she finally turns to Tony and says, in that reliable and trademark manner which promises future evisceration, "Tony, I swear by all that is good and holy, if you do not take full responsibility for this debacle, I will kill you in the most painful way I know possible."
She levels him with a stare.
"And take responsibility I shall," Tony responds with a mock salute, before he leans across the island countertop. He catches a confused Steve's hand with both of his own, rubs a thumb across Steve's knuckles with a tenderness most people thought him incapable. He ruins the moment by winking saucily at Steve, who blushes honestly, and purrs, "Don't worry baby, I'll show you once Peps leaves."
"I don't know why I even bother," Pepper mutters into her coffee. "It's not like you're ever going to learn."
Tony smiles roguishly at her, and Steve begins to eat his eggs with the fortitude and stupidity of a man in love.