"No! Ugh, Tony, what is wrong with you?" Pepper's voice flowed into the penthouse ahead of her graceful steps as she exited the dedicated elevator.
"Pep, pep-in-my-step, did you want that list alphabetically or chronologically? Because JARVIS can sort -"
"Tony, no! And don't deflect," she ordered, pointing an index finger to his arc reactor. "Almost 70 years of popular culture to pull from, and we are not starting Steve's first Christmas movie-fest with A Christmas Story."
"C'mon, Pepper, everyone loves that movie!" Tony cajoled. "Cap'll love it! It'll be just like a little slice of his own childhood."
"Are you honestly trying to troll me right now?" Pepper demanded.
"Toss up, really," Tony responded. His sidelong glance at her as he walked to the wet bar indicated he was weighing which answer would get him exiled from his workshop longer.
"I hate to be the one to break it to you, Tony" Pepper said, strawberry-blonde ponytail swaying as she shook her head, "but not everything before 1980 is Steve's era."
"But-!" Tony exclaimed, leaving the losing battle of Steve-nostalgia behind. "Red Rider BB Gun! The lamp of sex!" He opened a decanter, palming the ball of the stopper, and poured himself a few fingers of a lovely scotch.
"No, Tony," she said firmly. Her delicate fingers grasped the tumbler's flared rim and plucked it from his hold. "No ironic Christmas movies, no postmodern Christmas movies," she paused for a sip of scotch, "no deconstructionist Christmas movies, no horror-but-happens-to-take-place-during-Christmas movies-" The glass in her hand turned what would have been another index-finger-to-the-arc-reactor into more of a toast, and Tony heartily approved of that sentiment, if not her words.
Despite the warming feeling in the vicinity of his imperiled heart, he continued the argument. "But, Gremlins-!"
"Tony?" Steve called from the open stairwell door. "JARVIS said you needed me?"
"Cap? Seriously? I put the elevator in for a reason. JARVIS gets sad if you don't use it."
Pepper's halfhearted, chiding "Tony" was over-ridden by Steve. "You know I appreciate you, don't you, JARVIS."
"Indeed, Captain Rogers, you have been most forthcoming with your praise."
Tony raised an eyebrow at JARVIS' blatant brown-nosing. Or Steve's. Probably both. "Steve, Thanksgiving is over," he began, "so we're trying to determine the lineup for the Christmas movie marathon to further your acculturation to the 21st century. We were thinking you might enjoy something like-"
"Like White Christmas," Pepper overrode him.
"White Christmas, Pep?" Tony shuddered theatrically. "Are you trying to send me into a diabetic coma?"
"I like 'White Christmas'," Steve said with a small smile, his blue eyes lighting.
"You do?" Tony asked. "Why am I even asking. Of course you do," he muttered. "It's probably illegal for you to not like it, right? Was it a Constitutional Amendment? Or maybe just an Executive Order? Whatever." He brushed his hand through the air as if dismissing his engineering holograms. "When did you see it?"
"Uh, Tony," Steve responded, "'White Christmas' was pretty hard to miss. You are aware that I was in Europe during World War II, right?"
Tony turned wounded eyes to Pepper. "You see this?" he asked in an aside. "You see this snark? What did I ever do to deserve Captain America snark?"
"Oh, Tony," Pepper replied with mock sympathy, "would you like that list alphabetically or chronologically?"
"I'm used to that sort of tone from you, Ms. Potts," he replied mournfully, retrieving his scotch in retaliation. He saluted Coulson and Barton as they exited the elevator, angling the tumbler in their direction before he took an appreciative sip.
"Bing used to sing 'White Christmas' pretty much every performance. The men insisted," Steve said in his light baritone.
"I remember reading that about his USO performances," Coulson agreed. Barton peeled away from Coulson and headed to the kitchen. "At least half of the soldiers would have tears in their eyes at the end of the song."
Smiling, Barton rolled his eyes. "Coulson, the World War II trivia geek," he ribbed.
"We did," Steve agreed solemnly.
"Oh," Pepper said softly after a moment.
Barton opened the refrigerator door to peer inside for snacks, and the clatter of bottles broke the moment. Tony cleared his throat. "But when did you see it?"
Steve thought for a moment. "It must've been last-" He corrected himself mid-sentence. "Must've been in late '44, I think. Mr. Crosby didn't get over there until after D-Day, but once he did, he hit the 'cow pasture circuit' hard, and got as close to the front lines as he could. It was a real treat to get to see him in person. We crowded onto every surface we could. A lot of men stood the whole show, some still holding their rifles. But it was worth it." Steve smiled softly again. "So worth it."
There was a quiet pause, smashed by Tony's yelp when he half-turned and nearly crashed into Natasha. "Don't do that! I'm almost certain I have rules against using your super-ninja stealth skills in the Tower. Don't I, JARVIS?"
"Yes, sir. I believe you alluded to a bell, and then digressed into speculation about who would have the required intestinal fortitude to 'bell the cat'."
Natasha retained the expressionless mask that scared her victims more than any amount of snarling.
Barton turned from the 'fridge, half-assembled sandwich in his hands, and hip-checked the door closed. "You are making zero points right now, Stark. Quit before you dig yourself in any deeper."
Natasha gave Barton a coolly approving nod and Tony took the opportunity presented to return to the topic at hand. "No but when did you see the movie, Cap? It came out in... Help me out here, JARVIS?"
"Nineteen fifty-four, sir," the AI replied.
"Fifty-four," Tony reiterated, "so you must have seen it sometime in the last few months? When?"
Steve shook his head slightly. "Seen what?"
"I just told you," Steve said patiently. "Saw him in '44."
Tony's forehead crinkled. "Wait, who?"
"This is like 'Who's on First?'," Steve murmured. "What are you talking about?"
"What's on second," Coulson and Barton deadpanned in unison.
"Thank you!" Steve grinned at the other men. "You're talking about a movie, Tony? I saw Holiday Inn in Brooklyn when it came out in '42. That's got 'White Christmas' in it."
"If I may, sirs, ladies," JARVIS interjected, "the source of the confusion is that the song 'White Christmas' became the centerpiece of the eponymous film in 1954, clearly too late for Captain Rogers to have seen it."
"Eponymous, JARVIS? Really? I did not teach you to use language like that! What strange computers have you been talking to? Do I need to call some server's mother?"
"Yes, sir. I believe you will find that I learned it from Schwartz."
"This," Tony said, waving his hand in the empty air to somehow indicate JARVIS and all his works. "This is what I have to put up with."
"Indeed, sir, your cross is a heavy one to bear," JARVIS responded dryly. "Fortunately, Dr. Banner is approaching and will no doubt take your side."
"JARVIS, please alert Thor that movie night is about to happen," Pepper requested.
"Yes!" Barton fist-pumped with his empty hand. "Who's ordering? We could have Thai by intermission, easy."
"You're making me watch a movie long enough to have an intermission?" Tony moaned. "That's got to be against the Geneva Convention."
There was another pregnant pause, interrupted this time by Pepper. "I don't even know where to start with that statement, Tony. All your griping, and you haven't even seen the movie?"
"Sure I have," Tony defended. "Lots of times. You couldn't miss it during the 70s and 80s on TV. Every Christmas season, every station - all three of them - over and over." He shuddered. "Channel one - oooh, look, that blue dance number. Channel two: Danny Kaye's holding his arm again. Channel three: why in the name of all that's holy are we watching beatniks dance for Christmas? Channel one: rhapsodizing about snow." He made a face he normally reserved for Dummy's more creative green smoothies "I have a horror of white-trimmed red velvet hooped dresses to this day."
"I would've thought TV was too lowbrow for a Stark, Stark," Barton said, after struggling manfully with both his disbelief and his bite of sandwich.
Tony gave him an sour look.
"The staff, including my predecessor, Edwin Jarvis," interjected JARVIS, "kept a television in the kitchens."
"And I used to run all over the house, back and forth, in and out," finished Tony.
"So, to clarify," Coulson began mildly, "you have seen bits and pieces of the film, possibly in random order, over the span of years, and you believe that this actually qualifies as having watched the movie?"
Tony paused, mouth open, and seemed to consider his retort. "Maybe?" he offered. "I mean, when you say it like that it sounds stupid."
The others collectively and generously avoided agreeing with this statement.
"Romanov, beverages," Coulson ordered crisply. "Barton, takeout." As the elevator opened on Bruce, Coulson turned his attention to him. "Dr. Banner, you're in charge of popcorn. JARVIS, please direct Thor to the theater in the common level. Ms. Potts, if you would be so kind as to continue your tenure as head Stark-wrangler?" At her nod, Coulson concluded, "Let's meet downstairs in ten, people."
"Captain? If you would come with me?" Coulson requested, gesturing for Rogers to walk with him to the stairs. "You may be interested to know that another young man from Brooklyn was in this picture..."