Chapter One

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An honestly ridiculous amount of eggs sizzled cheerfully in the pan, filling the kitchen with the delectable smell of breakfast as Peggy Carter Rogers turned the page of her newspaper With her free hand, she flipped the rashers of bacon absently, far more focused on reading between the lines of the world news.

Astonishing what reporters could get wrong, these days.

"Peg-o-my-heart," Steve Rogers hummed softly into her ear, arms sliding warm around her waist. Startled out of her absorption, Peggy jumped and dropped the spatula, making him chuckle at her surprise. Smiling, she settled back into his hold, feeling his strong heartbeat against her spine. For such a big man, he could move incredibly quietly when he needed to.

"Smells good," he told her, kissing her cheek and then leaning them both forward so he could get a better look over her shoulder at their breakfast. "Ham and eggs? Must be a holiday."

Peggy slapped the hand that was sneaking toward the spatula. "It's proper bacon, you Philistine, not ham, and I'm determined not to burn it this time. Set the table, will you?"

Thwarted in his attempt to sneak a taste, Steve laid his face against her hair before pulling away and going to the cupboard. Peggy turned, letting the newspaper drop, and watched as he pulled the silverware out of the drawer.

It was all still so incredible to her, even after months of marriage. Steve Rogers was alive and married to her, and setting the table for breakfast. It was all very wonderful, everything she had dreamed of and more, and suddenly the sheer joy was almost too much to bear.

Breakfast could fend for itself for a few minutes.

Setting down her the spatula with finality, Peggy crossed the kitchen in three steps, catching the front of his shirt as he turned. Taken by surprise, he ran into the refrigerator and nearly dropped the silverware, but in the end she got her kiss quite satisfactorily. His free arm closed around her waist when she tried to beat a retreat, and he grinned a little dopily down into her face.

"Good morning to you too," he told her, sounding slightly out of breath, and she laughed up into his face. He seemed in no hurry to let her go, pulling her in for another kiss, soft and lingering.

"The eggs will burn," she finally warned, making no move to pull away.

Steve shook his head, face very close to hers, voice sinking to a rumble that she could feel in her bones. "I like burnt eggs," he told her very seriously, trying not to smile.

Peggy pursed her lips. Any other day she would be more than happy to let breakfast sit, but having eggs at all still felt like a luxury to her, and she wasn't about to let them go to waste. Mind made up, she quirked her eyebrows dangerously and pulled out the best weapon in her arsenal.

Steve did drop the silverware then, yelping at the sudden attack she launched on his ribs. The man was incredibly ticklish. He tried to twist away, laughing helplessly, and she followed, continuing her relentless onslaught with a wicked gleam in her eye.

"Wow, this is better than a movie."

Steve stopped so suddenly that she ran into him, and they both tried to gather up the shreds of their dignity. Tony Stark stood in the doorway, arms folded, watching the show with a sort of triumphant look on his face. Peggy felt herself flush a little as she reached to straighten her husband's shirt, pulled askew by her tickling.

Trust Stark to catch them romping around the kitchen like a couple of schoolchildren. Sometimes living in this tower had its drawbacks.

"Stark," gasped Steve, trying to steady his breathing. "Ah - you joining us for breakfast?"

Tony ignored the question. "Are you ticklish? Captain America is ticklish. Saturday Night Live is never going to believe this."

"Then it's a good job they're not going to find out, isn't it?" asked Peggy pointedly, stepping around the table and fixing him with a stern glare. Tony visibly reconsidered. Peggy and Pepper and Natasha had formed a very close three-way friendship, and if he bothered one of them, it was a sure bet the others would make him pay.

"Of course not." He wisely decided to play it safe, strolling across the room to look in the pan. Peggy rapped his knuckles sharply when he reached for a piece of bacon, and he withdrew with an injured air before finally getting down to the business at hand.

"Came by to give you this," he admitted, tossing a flash drive in his hand. Peggy snatched it out of the air, slipping it into her pocket as she listened to Tony prattle on. "It's everything JARVIS pulled off the servers from the last Hydra base we raided."

Steve nodded gravely. He and Peggy had a date in the afternoon, but they would go over the information later and update the team all at once if there was anything new to be gained from it.

Having delivered his data, Tony promptly took himself off, airily turning down Steve's renewed offer of breakfast and claiming a science thing with Bruce. He winked saucily as he left. "Have fun, kids."

Steve turned to his wife with a warm twinkle in his eye. Peggy refused to blush, on principle.

"You're terrible," she told him - and then Tony stuck his head back through the door.

"By the way," he said, "Is something burning in here? I think something's burning in here."

Peggy groaned and flew to save the eggs.

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"Should I pop popcorn?"

Bruce Banner looked up from his experiment. "I'm sorry?" he asked, a little confused.

"I should pop popcorn," Tony Stark decided, bouncing across the room. "It would be a crime to not have popcorn right now."

"What are you talking about?" asked Bruce in confusion, taking off his glasses and stepping around the end of the table. For answer, Tony spun around, gesturing expansively toward the large glass windows on one wall of the lab.

"Look at this!" he declared dramatically, and Bruce made a mental note to check Tony's sugar intake. "We're in the middle of one of those mushy cuddly movies that Pepper likes, and we don't have any popcorn."

Following Stark's eyes, Bruce finally realized what he was talking about. Steve and Peggy were visible through the glass, apparently getting ready to leave the tower after the morning's work. They were always very professional in front of the others, but anybody could see how they stood closer together than absolutely necessary, brushing each other's fingers, smiling suddenly for no reason at all.

Steve was incredibly happy these days - happier than any of them had ever seen him, and the proud, sweet look in Peggy's eyes when she glanced up at her husband was so intimate that Bruce cleared his throat and looked away, nodding quietly. At least one Avenger got to be in a stable, loving marriage. Steve deserved all the happiness he could get.

Behind him, Stark kept talking. "I mean, guy likes girl, guy loses girl, guy gets girl back with the help of his amazingly brilliant and talented friends, guy and girl get married - it's like one of those movies. We need popcorn."

"Exactly which friends are you talking about?" asked Bruce dryly. Tony ignored him with the ease of long practice, still studying the couple on the other side of the glass. Picking up a pencil, he held it out at arm's length and squinted past it as though he was a painter getting perspective on his subject.

"They're doing it wrong," he suddenly announced, dropping the pencil with a clatter. He was unusually tightly strung today, and Bruce regarded him thoughtfully before taking a second look at the couple outside. They looked fine to him. "Doing what wrong?"

"Marriage," Tony answered shortly, rubbing his chest. "They're doing marriage wrong. Now that they're married, they should be fighting about the color of their drapes or something. Why aren't they arguing?"

Well if that didn't say something about Tony's parents, Bruce would eat his slide rule. "Tony…"

"I don't even remember what color their drapes are," Tony interrupted. "Do they actually have drapes? JARVIS, does Cap have drapes?"

Bruce tried again. "Tony, that's - "

"Captain Rogers currently has blinds installed," the voice of the AI announced imperturbably, as though the interior design preferences of the tower's inhabitants was not an unusual topic.

"Blinds." Stark threw his hands up despairingly. "See, somebody needs to educate them about the way these things work. They're still all gooey-eyed over each other, and they've been married for how long?"

Bruce frowned, taking his friend in. Tony had been erratic all day, fidgeting in and out of the lab, and more than once sending things crashing to the floor. Now, rubbing his chest absently, he was scowling into thin air, apparently thinking hard.

"Tony," Bruce started cautiously, "they don't have to argue in public to be healthy. Actually, they're probably the happiest married couple I've ever seen."

It was the truth. His own childhood had been damaged by dysfunctional parents, and he had never quite been convinced that happy marriages were actually real. At least, not until Steve Rogers had claimed Peggy Carter as his bride, and they had made their home in the tower.

Through the window, Peggy turned to get her hat, and Steve followed her with his eyes, grinning bashfully when she turned around and caught him at it. Laughing, she said something, and he rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.

"What if you argue and make out?"

It took Bruce a minute to realize that Tony was talking about his own relationship with Pepper. Suddenly the man's concerns made a lot more sense. If there was one thing Iron Man was afraid of, it was vulnerability, and Pepper Potts was a very tender spot for him. Uncomfortable, Bruce took refuge behind the computer screen again, perching his glasses back on his nose. "Not that kind of doctor, Tony."

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The sky was bright and blue, with just a handful of puffy, white clouds sprinkled across it, and the weather was surprisingly warm for autumn. Steve Rogers stretched his legs as he stepped over a row of seats and settled down next to his wife. "Hot dog?" he asked, and Peggy poked at the rustling paper in his hands, selecting the one without ketchup. She preferred mustard - American ketchup just didn't taste right to her.

The stands weren't full - this was very late in the year for a baseball game, and it wasn't a major league. Still, it was baseball, and that fact alone was enough to make Steve gleefully break out his cap and sunglasses. His wife wore sunglasses too, but she'd drawn the line at a baseball cap, opting instead for something wide-brimmed and fetching that made him want to kiss her every time she put it on.

Peggy leaned up against his elbow, and he shifted to put his arm around her, tucking her up against his side as she unwrapped her food. She had been sensitive to cold ever since being thawed out, and could get quite chilly even on a warm day.

"Player eighteen," she pointed out, taking a bite and gesturing with her chin. "That's Mildred's grandson."

Interested, Steve followed her gaze to where the young man stood, swinging two or three baseball bats to limber up his muscles. They didn't know him personally, but his grandparents were in the weekly veterans lunch group that Sam Wilson had talked them into joining.

Ostensibly they were here to see their friends' grandson. In actual fact, they were there because Steve hadn't been to a baseball game in an age, and this gave him an excuse to ask his wife on a date. The last time he'd bought tickets for a game, the discovery of a small Hydra cell in the basement of the Denver mint had forced them to miss all but the very end of the last inning.

"So, where is the wicket?" Thor asked, biting into his own hot dog, and squinting at the field. Dressed in a plaid shirt and an obligatory baseball cap, with his long hair pulled back, he looked more like a giant lumberjack than anything else. Stark was probably going to call him 'Paul Bunyan' for a week.

Initially confused, Steve turned a suspicious look on his wife and caught the barest hint of a smug smile before she looked innocently up into his face. He knew that look - she had used it on everybody from Colonel Phillips to Director Fury, and it usually worked. They knew each other far too well, though.

"Peggy?" he asked, and she blinked solemnly over the tops of her red-rimmed sunglasses.

"I haven't the least idea where he picked that up," she informed him, voice dripping with false sincerity, and then took a long, deliberate drink, teasing him with her eyes.

"Cricket has wickets," Steve tried to explain to a confused Thor. "It's a different game, a British game. Baseball has bases." He had invited Thor to come along, hoping to get the big alien interested in the game. It would be nice to have somebody to play catch with - someone who wouldn't get killed if he forgot and threw the ball too hard.

The man on home plate swung the bat experimentally and then sank into the traditional batter's pose, waiting for the pitcher. Thor watched with interest.

"They have a unique stance before hitting the ball. Is it tradition?"

Steve didn't answer for a moment, watching closely as the pitcher wound up. The ball whizzed past the batter, slamming into the catcher's glove.

"Kinda," he finally answered, distracted by the game. "Lets the batter get a better angle on the ball."

The batter swung wildly at the second ball, and Steve shook his head in disgust. Thor took another bite. "He needs more practice," the alien prince decided, "and perhaps a better club. What is that one made of?"

Steve promptly launched into a very involved explanation of wooden and metal bats, as well as the respective pros and cons of each. Thor nodded attentively.

"Metal is better," he decided. He had left Mjolnir at the Tower, but was beginning to have serious second thoughts. This game looked to be good fun, but he wished he could go down and show them how a ball ought to be hit.

Peggy tipped her head back against Steve's shoulder, watching his face fondly as he earnestly argued the finer points of baseball. "Well, it depends. It's all in the swing, see. Babe Ruth used a wooden bat."

"Babe Ruth played for the Yankees," Peggy reminded him slyly. Steve had always been a baseball fan. She distinctly remembered him organizing a game during the war. The team had been made up of a mixture of French, English and American troops, with a handful of German POWs to even out the sides. There had been an incredible language barrier, and a ferocious argument over whether cricket or baseball pitching rules should be followed. The whole effort had ended when Steve accidentally hit the ball out of sight, and one of the POWs had unwisely tried to escape.

Steve tightened his arm around her. "Don't rub it in," he joked ruefully. Growing up in Brooklyn, he had hated the Yankees as a matter of principle. Then he raised his eyebrows. "I didn't realize you followed baseball."

"Well, someone very important to me happened to like it," Peggy commented airily, neatly crumpling her empty hot dog wrapper into a little ball. "I'm more of a cricket fan myself."

"You're so British," Steve chuckled, and she pursed her lips, trying not to smile back at the wonderful warm look in his eyes. "Really? You only just now noticed?"

He kissed her then, a little bolder in public now than he had been in the early days of their marriage, pulling down the brim of her sun hat to hide their faces from intruding eyes and trusting to the anonymity hats and sunglasses provided. Peggy dropped her empty wrapper to lace her fingers around the front of his jacket and pull him closer. Their happiness was still so new, so sweet that they couldn't help but treasure every moment together.

Thor beamed and looked away, back at the game. The two little children in the row ahead stared up at him with wide eyes over the backs of their seats, and he nodded cheerfully.

Naturally, that was when Steve's phone started to buzz.

"Cap?" It was Natasha. "We've got a tip on some gun-runners in Chicago with Hydra connections. Extraction in five minutes; get to a clear area."

"I don't suppose you could wait until the next inning?" Steve asked regretfully, but he was already checking the ground around their seats for anything they might have dropped as Peggy collected their empty wrappers. "My team's up to bat."

"Funny, Rogers." Natasha's voice was dry. "We've got your uniform in the quinjet. Five minutes."

Out on the field, Mildred's grandson hit a home run. Steve cheered the loudest, retreating backwards up the stairs after the others, watching the game for as long as he could.

Maybe one of these days, he thought as he folded Peggy's hand inside his and kept pace with Thor from the stadium to the nearest open area for extraction, I'll manage to stay for a whole game.

It seemed unlikely.

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Note: Peggy is cooking British-style bacon, which looks very different from American bacon - or Canadian bacon, for that matter. To the uninitiated, British bacon can be confused for ham, which is what Steve does.

Hello, lovely people! Bet you all thought this story was a myth, didn't you? To be honest, I'm more terrified to start posting this than anything else I've ever posted, lest it not measure up to your expectations.

I do have a good excuse, though. This story stretched me more than I'd realized it would, and I've spent the last eight months doing research for it. Seriously, I have an honest-to-goodness bibliography for this thing. It got to the point my friends thought I was studying for my thesis. And the funny thing is none of you will even notice any of it, because it's all background stuff.

What you will find in this story: 30+ chapters of Steve and Peggy, the Avengers, happy life events, sad life events, a fair bit of cuddling, and the events of Age of Ultron (though that's not the primary focus). I don't own the rights to anything except the stuff you don't recognize.