15327/Potts Calling the Kettle Black

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Potts Calling the Kettle Black
Date of Scene: 11 July 2023
Location: First Floor, Avengers Mansion
Synopsis: Cap is back, at least for a time, from a walk-about around the US and catches up with Pepper over breakfast!
Cast of Characters: Pepper Potts, Captain America

Pepper Potts has posed:
"Good morning, Miss Potts."

As soon as Pepper steps through the front door of the mansion, the pleasant, masculine, British-accented voice seems to come from the heavens, the speakers hidden throughout the mansion designed to isolate the target of the response for the best possible sound quality without disturbing everyone else.

"Good morning, JARVIS," Pepper answers. The door closes on its own as she walks away from it, her red-soled designer shoes clicking against on the hardwood floors with every deliberate step. She has her purse tucked under one arm and a tablet clutched in the other. "Is Tony still in his lab?"

"I'm afraid Mister Stark has asked not to be disturbed."

Pepper laughs softly -- a tired, incredulous sound that doesn't sound at all amused. "I'm sure he has. Could you please remind Mister Stark he is, in fact, still the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar multinational company? And that I'm on my way down?"

"I'm sorry, Miss Potts. He left explicit instructions not to be disturbed. Would you like to override the order?"

Pepper sighs softly, slowing to a stop in front of the door that leads down to the basement and rubbing the bridge of her nose. She could push it, of course. If anyone ever had 24/7 access to Tony Stark it was her. The question came down to whether or not it was worth it, if he was actually invested in what he was working on.

"No, Jarvis. It's.. fine. Will you tell him I need him if he comes up for air?"

"Certainly, Miss Potts."
Captain America has posed:
Steve, has been on a bit of a .. well vacation isn't the right word, he's not built for vacations. 'Relaxing' is not something he does for more than a couple of hours at a time and that, only rarely. No.. he's been doing 'research'. Research on, and trying to catch up on, what's happened to the world in the time he was asleep.

He's been back to the mansion a few times, but largely - aside from scattered news reports and sightings of the rather famous figure - he's been off the grid and out of contact - on his bike and apparently touring the country in as 'down to earth' a way as possible. Today's his first 'official' day back, and it's _just_ now that he's making his way into the mansion from the garage where he's left the bike, the saddle bags from that bike slung over one shoulder. He's otherwise dressed in a pair of well worn jeans, work boots, a charcoal grey t-shirt, and his iconic leather shearling coat is draped over his other shoulder as he walks in.

"Good morning and welcome back Captain Rogers" - JARVIS greets the man as he arrives.

"JARVIS - how're things? Anything of note I need to be aware of?" He calls right back, perhaps surprisingly comfortable with the AI and the incredible technological differences between 'then' and 'now'.

Only as he turns the corner into the main hall does he see Pepper, who's given a broad smile and a nod, "Miss Potts - you're here early. Stark's not likely even .. what gone to sleep yet? "
Pepper Potts has posed:
Things Have Happened(tm) since Steve was gone. It was all over social media (and the news) that a little over a month ago, one of Tony's suits was stolen out of Stark Tower and used in a robbery. If he called to check in, any of the other Avengers could have told him that JARVIS wad been offline for a while (replaced with another AI called AVINA), isolated to a disconnected network, and Tony has set up a new lab -- complete with brand new suits -- in the basement of the Avenger's Mansion. Thankfully, JARVIS seemed to be back online.

Pepper had been in damage-control mode the entire time. The world was understandably freaked out about the possibility of Iron Man losing complete control of his arsenal, an army of suits free to roam the world, plundering wherever they pleased. But she was not the CEO of Stark Industries. Tony was. And there was only so long that Iron Man's assistant could keep the press (or anyone else) at bay before the strain started showing in the stock prices.

Most recently, Pepper had sent out a press release about a new foundation that Stark Industries was launching to support cybersecurity education and security-focused tech startups -- proof of the company's ongoing commitment to combating property theft, both physical and intellectual, on a global scale. There was going to be a fundraising gala for the foundation soon.

"There is a problem with the water heating unit in the west wing dormitories, and the automatic garden sprinkler system in the backyard seems to be spraying water beyond its designated area. It may need to be recalibrated to avoid water waste," JARVIS reports. "Service technicians have already been dispatched."
Pepper Potts has posed:
So, no civilization-ending alien threats or anything. At least not at the moment.

Meanwhile, the redhead turns to glance over her shoulder, a smile softening her lips from the stressed line they'd been pressed in.

/Stark's not likely even .. what gone to sleep yet?/

"I wouldn't know," Pepper answers, her tone impatient and... tired. It wasn't immediately apparent that she'd been sleeping much, herself. "Probably not. He's been practically living in that lab since he set it up." Since just after the suit was stolen. The rumor being, of course, that they hadn't figured out /how/ it was stolen. So, Tony was throwing himself into securing the suits (somebody had to), and Pepper was throwing herself into work (somebody had to).

She takes a couple of steps and gestures vaguely towards the kitchen. "I was just going to get a cup of coffee." Judging by the bags under her eyes, she needed it. "I'll give Tony..." She glances down at the slender watch on her left wrist and sighs softly. "...twenty minutes. Care to join me? I'd love to hear about your trip."
Captain America has posed:
"Given what I heard about the theft and it's results, I'm not too surprised either. The man's driven, that's for sure." Steve replies with a nod that includes a more sobered expression. He does smile just a bit, enough to take the edge off his more serious and nearly famous 'lead the world through catastrophe' face."Coffee sounds great. I might see what's in the fridge - I _did_ have breakfast on the drive in, stopped at this great little food truck outside Whiteplains..." He pauses, his stomach rumbles - if just barely audibly, "...but a man's got to eat, as they say right?" Eat. His metabolism is pretty jacked as most might know - calories are a definite thing one needs to fuel a supe'd up body like his.

He gestures towards the kitchen in a 'lead the way' gesture, "After you, Miss Potts, and I'll tell you a bit about my trip - at the risk of me going all 'old man' rambly on you anyway."
Pepper Potts has posed:
"Oh, trust me -- at this point, I'd happily take twenty minutes of 'old man' ramblings over one more phone call about security at our Metropolis office," Pepper sighs, the bottoms of her designer heels clicking their way across the mansion towards the kitchen even as her ponytail sways in her stride.

She glances over her shoulder, though, her eyes glinting with playful mirth.

"Not that I think you ramble."

She and Tony might be virtually connected at the hip, but they didn't share /all/ the same views. It so often felt like there was this alpha-male tension between Tony and Steve, but Pepper had no interest in indulging it. Everyone knew Pepper's loyalties were to Tony, but she was also the softer, motherly voice of reason that they could come to when they needed her on their side to convince Tony of something.

Actually, for how well the two of them worked together, the world at large might be shocked to know how many times she and Tony actually butted heads. Of course, Steve and the rest of the Avengers weren't the world at large. Most were well aware that Tony and Pepper both benefited from that constant tension. It challenged them both, pushed them both to be better than they'd be without it. They might be perfect for each other if it weren't for the fact that Pepper would accept nothing less than absolutely sincere romantic affection, and Tony either didn't have it for her or had no interest in indulging it.

Pepper crosses the threshold into the kitchen and heads straight for the coffee, immediately starting on brewing a fresh pot.

"What was your favorite part? I need ideas in case I ever get anything that resembles a vacation, again."
Captain America has posed:
Following her in to the kitchen Steve's eyes watch her as a whole, in a way that's perhaps startlingly wholesome for a woman of her attractiveness and his still 'young' body and masculine nature. Sure he can't help but notice certain things, but the look is more .. evaluative, taking in her body language as hints of how she's feeling, stress, etc, versus what a _normal_ hetero man of his apparent physical age might actually be noticing. His own pace and stride is quieter and smoother than hers, due to choice in footwear and well..it's him, as he follows her in to the familiar space - heading towards the large walk in fridge while she makes her way towards the coffee.

"Want some eggs? Gonna fry up a few for myself, looks like there's some fresh sourdough on the counter there.. maybe eggs in a basket." He asks as he gathers up various ingredients in the circle of one arm before making his way towards the stove. "I've been to enough support groups as a 'guest' to know da..rned well I do _too_ ramble. Nature of the beast, I suppose. " He says on the way towards the gas range , continuing as he begins setting things out, slicing bread, cracking eggs into a container. "Metro's been having security issues? Anyone looking into it?" He asks, pausing to look at her more directly, cause .. well.. security issues and random failures aren't always just a sign of poor resources or management.

Then, as if to leave her room to respond to that as she might, he switches topics again, "There's this little place in Colorado, a hundred miles or so west of Boulder, that sits up on a cliff.. makes the most amazing french toast, all farm to table stuff, caters to Vets and is run by them. All that and it wasn't till I was leaving that they even caught on to who I was, they'd a poster of me on the wall from WW2 in that original 'costume' and.. well, the visit got a bit longer and they kept wanting to give me my money back."

He hates that. The money, the 'comps', the 'favors'. Admittedly he hates it in his own way - there's nothing outwardly apparent about it - and he's gracious about it, but he never allows things like that to go un-repaid, one way or the other.
Pepper Potts has posed:
"I'd... love some? Thank you."

That was not the voice of a woman that was used to being offered things, much less food. It seems to catch Pepper off guard at first, mid-way back to the coffee pot from fetching water to fill the reservoir.

"No, they're not," Pepper explains as she's pouring the water in. "/That's/ the issue. Ever since the incident, we're still dealing with fallout from regulatory inspections. There aren't even any suits there, but alphabet agencies still want to ensure that the secrets we're using to develop our IP are protected.. even if they don't fly around and rob banks when they get loose."

She sets out a couple of cups for when the coffee is finished brewing, and then she's anxious to leave those less pleasant topics behind to focus on something else.

"Do you enjoy it?" She's moving back through the kitchen, weaving around Steve. This wasn't even close to the first time she'd cooked in this kitchen. She'd been known to make a meal or two or ten in here large enough to feed whoever was around. "Not the comped meals, but the camaraderie?"

It might seem like an obvious question on the surface, but Steve was a more complicated man than some assumed. She wouldn't put it past him to have mixed emotions about the military he once served and the military of today.

Standing in the fridge, she glances over her shoulder. "Bacon? I can fry it while you're working on the eggs."
Captain America has posed:
There's a bit of a smile from him at Pepper's hesitation at being offered food, but he doesn't comment on it directly, mainly focusing on getting the steel griddle heated up and ready for use before he takes a moment to slice bread and cut the centers out for making the aforementioned eggs in a basket.

"So it's more a .. political/security concern from _external_ in, instead of actual additional attempts to subvert the system? " He puts some butter on the grill and adds in the bread to begin toasting, before cracking eggs onto the griddle, "Bacon _always_ goes with everything." He adds, not waiting on the answer to his question on the security end of things.

He focuses for a minute or so on the act of cooking, the expression on his face showing a mixture of some thoughtful and serious expressions before he says, "It's great to talk to people, even more so those that have some shared history and background. Talking.. just knowing there's others there, that's key for those that spend so much time on the pointy end of the stick, as they say. And finding places like that across the country is easy enough.. and the government isn't doing anywhere near enough for any of them. "

He frowns slightly, flips bread that's now toasted on one side and filled with eggs, "Politics."
Pepper Potts has posed:
"Politics," Pepper echoed, having pulled out the bacon as well as a skillet of her own. She'd moved up beside Steve to turn on a burner, and she was heating it as she listened. Just as Steve was finishing, she was adding the strips that sizzled in the plan.

It was a simple word, but it conveyed so much. It was the reason his comrades in arms weren't getting enough support. It was the reason she was spending so much of her time calming down the world. At least she wasn't the CEO, but she still had to run interference for Tony... if for no other reason than his time was better served in the lab (and even Pepper knew it, even if she sometimes wished he had more of an interest in the business side of running a business).

"I'm sure they were comforted by having you there, and you know offering to pay for your meals... it's a way to show appreciation, but it's also a way to persuade you to come back. I imagine that it must be easy to forget that you don't have to save the world to make a difference in people's lives."

Pepper takes a pair of tongs and turns the bacon, glancing up at the man beside her with an easy smile. It would be such an odd sight for most of the world -- strange and yet so utterly simplistically domestic, the red-haired woman in the designer suit cooking beside Captain America.
Captain America has posed:
Model level beauty standing next to the guy that'd like to be just the 'everyday Joe' he's wanted to be from day one, yet in some eyes might well be her equal in masculine form... in jeans and a t-shirt. The closeness of her to him doesn't seem to put Steve off, though, and he works the pair of spatulas on the egg/toast combos with a certain flair - a combo of some experience and .. super human coordination put to very down home and domestic use.

"It's part of why I went on that ... sabbatical, I think they call it now, or as the Aussies might say - a walkabout. I needed to get out of the clamor and noise, the dang 'hero worship' that seemed to be followin' me everywhere. "

Plates come out, get set on the griddle top to warm as puts one of the eggs-in-a-basket on the plate for her, and four more for him on another. "When the bacon's ready take what you want, I'll manage the rest..." he flashes a smile at that, utterly boyish in it's gluttony.

Sobering, "I don't let them do that.. pay for me for anything, even if they try and cut me outta the loop.. JARVIS and others have explicit instructions to let me know. I'm not for sale, I won't be .. a profit source ever again."
Pepper Potts has posed:
Pepper smiles. "I'm glad you got a chance to find somewhere it was quieter."

She's flipping the bacon again, nudging it around the pan to make sure it cooks evenly, and she watches him collect the plates, moving four of the slices of bread over to his own plate. Shamelessly, more out of pure jest than anything else, her eyes dip down to his stomach and back up again, lips still twisted into a grin.

"Still able to pack it away without putting on an ounce, I see. I wish I had your metabolism."

But it's the sobering reaction to the comment about paying for his meals that has her hand moving to his bicep -- a touch that was supposed to be reassuring, but that she draws back almost immediately. Not quite as sharply as if she'd been burned, but more as if the contact suddenly reminded her of propriety.

"I didn't mean to suggest that you were taking them," she assures. "Just that.. you should keep in mind why they're doing it. They just want a way to be able to show their appreciation. Maybe you could consider setting up a charity. If they were feeling particularly generous, they could contribute to it.. or you could match whatever they give you. If they pay for your coffee, you put a few dollars towards the charity. JARVIS could help you keep track, and it might make it easier -- and less abrupt -- than outright refusing their offer."

There's a little shrug of her shoulder, then, and a small, appeasing smile as she raises her hands (tongs included) in 'surrender.' "Just a thought."

She sets out a napkin, moving the cooked bacon to it to blot the grease before transferring a couple of rashers to her plat and putting the rest on his.
Captain America has posed:
"It was good. Had to jump into a few things while I was out, but mostly I got to be .. not Captain America for a while and see a bit of what we're all supposed to be protecting." Steve says, reaching down to turn off the griddle after giving it a good scraping off with the spatulas and some water that turned pretty quickly to steam.

Steve is used to people reaching out to touch him - complete strangers - with a variety of actual reasons behind those attempts. Could he have dodged? Sure. Does he flinch or move away? No. Is he .. surprised? Yes...and he looks at her hand for just a moment with that surprise evident in those blue eyes of his before, well, not commenting on it at all - even if it does appear that he appreciated the gesture.

"I know...I even thought about the charity thing, but .. there's issues there as well. So much politics. Easier, and .. gets a message across some times.. if I'm just blunt about it."

He reaches down to pick up both their plates, carrying them around to the long bar height table in the room off to one side with its high backed 'stools' and sets them down, "I can't ever remember where they put the silverware..."

"And, yeah, seems that I can't feed this souped up body of mine enough calories, silly enough as that sounds. Get funny looks when I order a whole box of donuts...just for myself."

A pause.

"Thanks, Pepper - for understanding."
Pepper Potts has posed:
"I may not understand -- or ever even be able to -- but I'll always try. And I'm always here if there's something I can do to help." Beat. "Even if you just need to vent."

There's sympathy in Pepper's eyes, but if anyone understood how truly helpless it felt to acknowledge that there was a limit to how much she would ever be able to help, it was her. She stops by the coffee pot and fills both of the cups, carrying them over to the table just behind Steve and setting them down.

"I'll get us silverware and napkins. Would you like any cream or sugar for your coffee while I'm up?"

More clicking of those heels against the kitchen floor as she goes straight to the drawer the silverware is kept in. She takes a couple of forks and knives out, then draws a couple of cloth napkins from a nearby drawer. She folds them on the way back -- neat rectangles with little pockets for each of the utensils, placed next to each plate with the knife blades facing away from the plates.
Captain America has posed:
"Black works just fine.. got used to it , well a while ago. Don't know that I could manage to keep straight the orders everyone's making at Starbucks these days. " Steve says with a chuckle, encircling his cup with one hand and lifting it to take a sip as Pepper steps away for the silverware and the like. By the time she's back he's pulled out her stool and waits - ready to scoot it in for her on her return, his cup back on the table next to his seat.

Once she's seated, he takes his own seat, and then smiles again at her with that all too famous smile, "It's probably best you don't _truly_ understand, Pepper. Walking around in my shoes is .. well its more than I sure thought I was getting into back then. I just wanted to do my part. " A pause, "_But_ your _willingness_ to, and the compassion? That's irreplaceable. That's what the thanks are for - which I'm sure you don't get enough of."

He settles his napkin on his lap, but again waits for her to get settled and choose to start eating before he does - manners, they're apparently a thing.
Pepper Potts has posed:
Pepper, too, seems perfectly content to drink her coffee black, and some of that careful reservation in her smile falters to something more broad and at the sight of him waiting next to her chair.

"Thank you."

She steps in front of it and slides up onto it once Steve's settled it behind her legs, hooking one heel into the lower rung and crossing one thigh over another. Once comfortable in that seat, she collects the silverware, setting them on her plate and folding her napkin across her lap.

The mention of getting enough thanks? That draws her eyes up at him through her lashes, an almost accusatory smirk touching one corner of her lips. It might have been genuine concern from Steve. Or, knowing their on-and-off tete-a-tete, it might have been a jab at her boss while his back was turned. Either way, the smirk seemed to say /I'm not going anywhere near that statement/. But then, loyalty like Pepper's couldn't be bought.

"Thank you for making breakfast. This is a treat. I honestly don't remember the last time anyone cooked for me that didn't involve a delivery driver." That smirk lingers on her lips until she takes her first bite and lets out a soft sigh while she chews.

Once she's swallowed, she wipes her mouth with her napkin. "And I needed this. Dinner, last night, was a review of patent rejections for decisions on resubmission."