Darcy looked up as her computer pinged softly, alerting her to a new email. Opening it, she frowned at the message she found there. To the casual observer, it wouldn't look like anything to raise alarm, but since she knew who it was actually from, she shook her head at the missive. "J, you crazy man. You're gonna get caught one of these days," she said under her breath. Quickly tapping out a reply, she returned her attention to her work.
"Talking to yourself again, Ms. Lewis?" Coulson asked from behind her.
She was beyond the weeks where she squeaked every time Coulson snuck up behind her, but she still jumped a little. Rolling her eyes, she tried not to slam her hand down on the desk. "No, Coulson. I wasn't. Did you need something? I just sent the latest reports to your inbox and hard copies are incoming."
"Did we get AARs from everyone involved in the Norway incident?" he replied.
Darcy racked her brain for a minute before remembering that the initials stood for after action report. "Yes. They're all accounted for now."
Coulson nodded and turned to go into his office, asking over his shoulder, "And who will be accompanying you to meet Corporal Jensen tonight?"
"How do you do that?" she demanded.
He made a motion for her to follow him and she scrambled to make it before the door swung shut. "You know the parameters of your agreement, Darcy. If you meet with the corporal, someone has to accompany you or we shut your meeting place down."
Darcy glared at him. "It's not like Jake's gonna hurt me. And between him and my Taser and whoever he brings with, I'm in no danger."
"Those are your rules. You shouldn't even be allowed to fraternize with him under the circumstances."
Darcy threw up her hands. "They didn't do... Oh you know what not even getting into it. Okay fine but I'm not taking a MIB."
Coulson frowned, but nodded. “I’ll see if Thor or Agent Barton is available then.”
Darcy fidgeted, looking down at the floor and then back up at him. “I don’t want Cli…Agent Barton accompanying me this time. And I’d really rather Thor didn’t go either.”
“That severely limits your options. And I don’t appreciate you dictating terms.”
“Well I don’t appreciate you dictating how I’m able to see my friend so I guess we’re even,” Darcy shot back.
“Doctor Banner and Mr. Stark are not options for this type of assignment,” Coulson responded, ignoring her insubordination. “For various reasons.”
“Like I’d want Mr. Ego accompanying me. Jake’s got enough of an ego on his own.”
“And Agent Romanov is on assignment. Which leaves Captain Rogers. Do you think the two of you can manage not to embarrass the Captain too much?”
She rolled her eyes. “We’re meeting at a bar, not a strip club. Yes, I think we can manage to refrain from changing his skin color to a permanent red.”
“Fine. Keep your cell phone on you. I assume you have projects you need to complete before the end of the day?” At her nod, he indicated the door. “Make sure you get your work finished. Captain Rogers will be waiting for you when you’re ready to leave.”
Having gotten used to Coulson’s version of a dismissal, Darcy took the out he offered and left the office. For the rest of the day, she split her time between watching the clock and working through the stack of work she had on her desk. Normally it was more than enough to keep her occupied, but the knowledge that she’d soon see Jensen was making her anxious for the day to end.
She was just shutting her computer down, locking the files under passcodes and logging out of the email and inter-office system, when Steve presented himself at her desk. Greeting him with a sunny smile, she asked, “Ready to get your drink on, Captain?”
Steve glanced at the other assistants, who were all watching with varying degrees of interest and suspicion. “I wasn’t aware that my assignment was to…” he paused as if evaluating her words, “get my drink on?”
Darcy’s smile widened at his attempt at slang. “Nice. We’ll have your slang caught up yet. Your assignment isn’t. Exactly.” She grabbed her shoulder bag and then her Taser, which stayed in her desk during the day. “Come on. I’ll tell you about it on our way.”
As they hit the street, Steve held his arm out to her, but Darcy stepped far enough away that he realized she wouldn’t accept it. He was still trying to reconcile how much more independent women were in these days. While he had known some women like Peggy who stood on their own, most of the women he’d known in his time had been happy to have a man to lean on. Nowadays women didn’t want men to lean on; they wanted to be their own person. He was still learning what was and wasn’t appropriate to offer for support. Darcy, at least, didn’t make him feel like a fool when he miss-stepped.
By the time they reached the bar, Darcy had explained to Steve why he was with her and who they were meeting at the bar. He seemed leery about meeting someone who was wanted by the law, but once she’d explained that it was part of her SHIELD contract that she was still allowed to have contact with Jensen, he relaxed a little. “Besides,” she was explaining as they pushed through the semi-crowded bar. “They were totally framed and I only meet him in public. And I always drag someone along with me. You just happened to get…” She let out a squeak as someone grabbed her off her feet, hauling her into the air. “Damn it, Jake!” she yelped as she was spun around. “Put me down!”
“Kewpie!” the man exclaimed as he disobeyed her demand and continued to twirl her. He noticed Steve standing behind her, an uneasy look on his face. “Hey. Who’s big, blonde, buff, and overly steroided?”
Darcy pounded ineffectively on his shoulder, but Jensen did finally set her back on her feet. “J, that’s not even a word.”
“Sure it is. It means um…” He made a motion that clearly indicated Steve. “Well, that.”
“No. It’s really not. And stop trying to confuse my friend,” Darcy answered. “Just.” She shoved Jensen towards the booth he’d been sitting in. “Go sit down. Did you get us beers?”
“Yes, I got beer. And oh my god. Real beer. And not the piss water we’ve been drinking for the last month. You should see what they call beer in…” He slid into the booth.
“J! Focus. One topic!” Darcy snapped. She rolled her eyes. “Seriously. I’m gonna limit your word count.”
Jensen turned sad eyes on Steve. “She’s being mean to me. Please don’t let her limit my words.” Turning his pout on Darcy for a moment, he waited until she shook her head at him and grinned before turning back to Steve. “Jake Jensen. I don’t think we’ve met before.”
Steve accepted the hand the slimmer man held out to him. “Steve Rogers. What did you mean sterioded?”
“Steve…Rogers?” Jensen paused, then glanced at Darcy. “Rogers? Rogers? Seriously, Darcy? You know…” He actually seemed to realize his voice was rising and lowered it. “You actually know Captain America?!”
“Okay. Number one. I did not ask you to meet me so you could fanboy over my co-worker. Two.” She reached across the table and smacked Jensen on the shoulder and then when he leaned over to avoid it, across the head. “Stop! Hacking! Into! SHIELD!” She punctuated each word with another slap as Jensen ducked and tried to avoid them. Darcy sat back as he whimpered and said, “You’re gonna get caught, Jacob. And nothing I say is gonna stop them from going after you guys. And I don’t want that to happen.”
“But but.” He waved at Steve who was watching them with something between horror and fascination. “It’s Captain America!”
“And this is Jake Jensen being the biggest, dorkiest fanboy ever,” Darcy said with her hand over her face.
“I’m honored?” Steve ventured.
“Don’t. Please don’t get him started,” Darcy begged. “Because I did actually have a reason for wanting to talk to him. Other than to make sure he was in one piece still.”
Steve sat up straighter at that. “Agent Coulson just said I had to escort you here. And make sure you weren’t in any danger. Do you want me to sit elsewhere while the two of you talk?”
Darcy looked around the bar, trying to peer over the heads of the people around them. “Hey. Where’s your better half?”
Steve went on alert, scanning the bar as Darcy put a hand on his shoulder and tried to lift herself higher. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“Relax, Cap,” she replied. “Just looking for Jensen’s partner. Threat level…well for us, zero.”
“What’s he look like?” Steve questioned.
“Thin. Shoulder length dark hair. Cowboy hat,” Darcy answered as she continued to scan the bar. “Bingo.” She found him in the back of the bar and grinned as he tipped his hat at her. “He planning to join us, J?”
Jensen shrugged unconcerned. “It’s Cougs. He’ll do what he feels like.”
Darcy flopped back on the bench. “There is that.” She gave Steve a pat on the shoulder as he looked at her in confusion. “Think of Cougar like Clint. He does the lurky thing. Just…a whole lot more on the strong and silent. He’s not going to do anything unless someone threatens Jake.”
“If he’s watching you…” Steve looked at her for a minute. “I’m not sure how I feel about leaving you alone.”
“J won’t hurt me. And…” Darcy tried not to look too awkward. “I’d really rather you didn’t hear this.”
“Now I’m really not sure about leaving you alone,” Steve said.
“It’s nothing ba-ad,” Darcy told him. “Just…okay I can’t say girl talk cause then J’ll get offended pink shirts or not. But you’ll be embarrassed if you stay here…sooo…can you just pleeeaaase go sit by the bar where you can see me? And I promise to stay right here and not cause any trouble.” She almost hit her head on the table as she realized she sounded not unlike Jensen. “And now I’m babbling as bad as J.”
Steve slipped his arm around Darcy’s shoulders, hugging her to him for a moment as he kissed the top of her head. “All right. If you need me for anything, you just need to say my name. I’ll be listening.” Darcy wasn’t sure if it was a reminder for her or a caution for Jensen, but she nodded anyway.
After Steve had walked away, Jensen turned his attention back to Darcy. “Ya know…I don’t know if I should be creeped out or flattered that I look like him. I wonder if it’s part of a secret government cloning program.”
“Okay one, J, if you are part of a secret government cloning program, I’m sure the world would know about because you cannot keep your mouth shut and two, I’ve filed that under ‘things I try not to think about’.”
“Hey at least you have nice eye candy,” Jensen responded.
“Have you seen the Avengers? I mean, seriously. I think they require models to apply for SHEILD. It’s a good thing I don’t suffer from low self-esteem. It’s like babes in playland most days.” She waved a hand almost knocking over her beer mug. “They’re all sooo preeeetty.”
Jensen propped his head on his chin. “So tell me, Miss Darcy Lewis, which pretty, pretty princess caught your eye? Cause I know you didn’t send tall, blonde, and muscly away because you wanted to see how I was doing.”
“Well I do want to know how you’re doing,” Darcy started, “but you’re right, I had ulterior motives.”
Leaning back in his seat, Jensen spread his hands. “I’m doing fine. We’re…well, we aren’t making progress with Max, but we’re working on it. And Cougar and I are gonna take a run up to see Jennifer and Bethie in the next day or so.” Reaching across the table, he tapped Darcy’s hand. “Now. Spill.”
“That hasn’t worked since I was fifteen,” she pointed out.
He snorted. “That didn’t work when you were fifteen. Now come on, tell Uncle J what’s going on.”
“Yeah, cause that’s not disturbing,” Darcy commented. She sighed, toying with the mug in front of her. “I might kinda have well…I want to put the moves on one of the guys I know,” she finished in a rush.
“And you need advice from me on how to woo him? Oh, I’m so happy! I can’t believe my little Darcy is growing up!” The manic gleam in Jensen’s eye actually grew at the thought of giving her advice.
“First off. Don’t ever call me ‘my little Darcy’ again. Or I will hurt you. Very, very badly. Second of all. Jake. I don’t want to hear anything about your actual wooing techniques. Or your ideas of your actual wooing techniques. I’ve seen you try to pick up girls. And we both know your actual wooing of Cougs consisted of massive amounts of tequila and then him kissing you to shut you up because no one wanted to listen to you anymore. I’ve heard that story more than once. And since I’m pretty sure that even if we didn’t consider body weight, Clint could drink me under the table…no. Just. No.”
Jensen pouted at her in response and it was all Darcy could do not to start giggling. “So if you don’t want my wooing advice, what do you want?”
Glad that she wasn’t going to have to waste time trying to stroke his ego, Darcy explained, “He’s a sniper, not quite the same way Cougar is, but I thought you might be able to give me some ideas into his mindset. And one of the things I want to do is make him a couple of playlists for his iPod. He’s always bitching about the music in the gym and I also thought maybe something to relax him for sleeping when he’s home…”
“So you trust my taste in music, but not my wooing?” Jensen asked. “I think I’d be offended if I didn’t want to give grace you with my knowledge.”
“J, your technique isn’t so much wooing as its get him so drunk he can’t resist you. So no. I don’t want that. I’d like him to be able to consent to a relationship, not pass out in the middle of a conversation.”
“But you wake up in such interesting positions when that happens,” Jensen protested.
“Jake. I still have Jennifer on speed dial,” Darcy warned.
“Music, right. What kind of music does your friend like?” Jensen quickly changed the subject back to what she’d requested.
“I’m not sure. Exactly. But that’s okay. I want to give him some music he might not ordinarily listen to in addition to some things that might be favorites. He’s about Cougar’s age, maybe a little younger. And like I said he’s a sniper. Just a little bit different.”
Jensen eyed her suspiciously. “How’s he different?”
“Well, he never shuts up for one thing. Except when he’s on site. I mean I don’t know that for certain, but that’s what the others tell me. I know around the office he never shuts up. And he uses a bow instead of a gun.” She grinned. “It’s kinda awesome. The man never misses.”
“Holy shit.” Jensen’s blue eyes widened. “Are you talking about Barton? Darcy, are you crazy?”
“Jake, I will Taze you again. I don’t have an issue with it. And no one is really going to question me if I say you got handsy.”
“Cougar,” he started.
“Would be on my side,” she pointed out. “Now are you gonna help me or not?”
“Damn it, he would. Fine. Yes. But seriously. Barton?”
“Yes. Seriously. Barton.” She shook her head. “Clint. What’s your problem with him?”
“He’s…Darcy, I know you don’t believe everything about Bolivia because you know me and you know Cougs, but…people like us. Like Barton. We’re not always good people,” Jensen tried to explain.
“Hey.” Darcy reached across the table and grabbed his hand. “I know you. You are a good person. That other stuff? That’s what you had to do. All right? It’s the same with Clint. Trust me.”
“I do or I’d be sending him to Antarctica,” Jensen informed her.
“J, if Clint gets some weird assignments in the next few weeks, I’m coming after you.”
He grinned in response. “Only if you can find me.”
“I’ll send Tony Stark after you and it won’t be in a fun way or to recruit you,” she threatened.
“Music you said?” Jensen reached for the notebook she’d set on the table. “So I might have some ideas.”
Jensen spent the next few minutes scribbling down words and Darcy was very glad she’d learned to decipher his handwriting years ago because otherwise she’d have no hope of ever figuring it out. When he was moving at a normal pace, Jensen’s brain worked faster than his hand, but when he was moving quickly (as he was now), it was virtually impossible to slow him down. Finally he finished, turning the book around and sliding it across the table towards her. “There. Try those.”
Darcy’s eyes skimmed down the page, picking out the songs she knew, and rolling her eyes at the one very familiar ones. “Don’t Stop Belivin’? Journey? Really?”
“Hey. You can never have enough Journey,” Jensen protested. “And there’s other stuff on there.”
“There is at that,” Darcy said. “But you’ve got three…” she broke off as a figure appeared next to their booth.
“Time to go, Jensen,” the dark haired man said.
“What? Now? I’m not…” Jensen protested.
“Apparently I have to…” Jensen stifled a yelp as Cougar pulled him out of his seat. “Okay. Okay. No need to get rough, Cougs. There’s a time and a place to get rough and this is neither. Now if you wanna discuss…”
“Stop right there, Jake. I don’t need to know.” Darcy slid out of the booth, holding out her arms. “Hug.”
As Jensen engulfed her in his arms, she inhaled the unique scent that belonged to him; fried circuits, gunpowder, and something that was just Jensen. She stepped back as he released her, but he pulled her back in and hugged her tightly as if he didn’t want to let her go. “Is something wrong?” Steve asked from behind them.
“No,” Darcy answered, wiping her eyes as she finally convinced Jensen to let go. “They just need to go.” She turned to Cougar, giving him a brief hug. “You guys take care of each other, okay?”
“Si, pequeña muñeca,” Cougar assured her and she rolled her eyes at the nickname. “We need to leave.”
“Bye, Kewpie.” Jensen gave her one last hug. “Let me know how it turns out, okay?”
Tentatively Steve put his arm around her shoulders as the two slipped out of the bar. “Are you all right?” he asked.
Darcy wiped her eyes again, refusing to let the tears she could feel gathering fall. She’d promised Jensen a long time ago that she wouldn’t cry when he left her; that she’d keep her head up no matter what and she would honor that promise. It didn’t make it hurt any less. “Yeah. Just…let’s get out of here.”
“Do you want to get some ice cream?” Steve asked when they reached the street and were headed in the right direction.
“Ice cream?” Darcy questioned. “Why would I want ice cream?”
He shrugged. “I just thought it might make you feel better.”
She smiled. “You really are too good to be true, you know that, right?”
“You’re welcome.” She stepped towards the curb, hailing down a cab. “Come on, let’s head home. I got what I needed from Jensen.”
“What did you need anyway?”
“Trust me, Steve. You really don’t want to know the answer to that.”
Si, pequeña muñeca—yes, little doll