There's nothing quiet about working with the Avengers. It's like herding a particularly elephantine breed of cat. Darcy likes to think she's getting a handle on the job now but that's largely thanks to having a mentor like Phil Coulson, who told her on her first day that two things are vital when dealing with the Avengers. The first is to remain appropriately caffeinated and the second is never to lose her cool, no matter how tempting it is roundly to bang heads together. It would be like an elaborate and intensely satisfying game of Paper Scissors Rock and she has, thus far, resisted the urge to pit Iron Man's helmet against Thor's skull, despite the provocation.
She's got both of Coulson's guidelines down pretty well, by now. She's helped by the fact that there's an actual Starbucks in the SHIELD building. The rumour is that Phil Coulson insisted on bringing the franchise in but Darcy hasn't quite mustered up the courage to ask if that's true. She's pretty sure that she's found her zen, though. Today, she could out-cool Coulson. It's sunny outside, she's playing the most chill playlist on her iPod and she's got a venti iced caramel macchiato in her hand.
Or she did, until she is thrown bodily across the foyer (or knocked to the ground and sent skidding along the pristine, shining, slippery floor-tiles). She's hauled to her feet by a particularly remorseful-looking Bucky Barnes while Steve Rogers is picking up a football. It takes a moment to catch her breath and she adopts the coolest tone she can muster (by god, she learned from the best). "Rule 832, paragraph 4: It's against regulations to play any sort of sport in enclosed areas, particularly if the perpetrators are biologically enhanced or otherwise super-powered."
Tony Stark strolls over, hands in his pockets. "Well, I for one am delighted to see that Barnes perpetrated the sport of wet t-shirt competitions."
Darcy looks down. "Ohmygod." She might actually be the last to notice the cold wet seeping through the front of her blouse. She looks up. Tony’s smirking and Steve’s looking away, his cheeks a wholesome pink, and Bucky’s passing the football from one hand to the other as he looks openly at her breasts which are rather more visible than is strictly work-appropriate. She sort of thought that all veterans of World War 2 were as chivalrous as Steve Rogers and she realises pretty quickly that that's a rookie error.
There’s nothing to do but to draw herself to her full height, to glare at the base of Bucky’s throat. Being vertically challenged is rarely an advantage when talking down wayward alien gods, mad scientists or faintly Terminator-ish ex-assassins.
“You,” she says, pointedly, “owe me a coffee.” She folds her arms, perfectly aware that it does nothing to detract from the view. “Also, a new blouse. Also, hi, look at me when I’m talking to you.”
Bucky starts. “I’m totally looking at you,” he says, dragging his eyes up to her face. Steve is hovering nearby, clearly a little concerned but Darcy’s not sure whether it’s for her wellbeing or the general lack of decorum being demonstrated by his sidekick. She considers petitioning Coulson to add another rule about keeping sidekicks on leashes. She shivers.
“Oh, shit,” says Bucky. “You must be cold - Here - “
“This is how you rediscover chivalry?” asks Tony. He grins as Bucky unzips his hoodie and, for some unknown reason, Bucky’s not wearing any shirt under the hoodie. There’s a regulation about public nudity, too, largely added for Thor’s benefit but Darcy doesn’t want to cite that one just now. Metal arm or not, Bucky is pretty nicely built.
He clears his throat. “Look at me when I’m talking to you?” he says, his voice a soft suggestion.
“You’re not talking,” she says, vaguely, before swatting him on the chest. “Gimme.” She grabs the hoodie and, because she has about the same amount of shame as James Barnes, she unbuttons her blouse, shoves it at his chest and pulls on the hoodie, in record time. Tony’s mouth drops open and there’s a slight clenching of Steve’s jaw.
“Coffee,” says Darcy. She’s not about to ignore Coulson’s rules just because of a minor accident.
“Yes,” says Bucky, quickly. “I’ll get right on that.”
She walks purposefully back to Starbuck’s and the girl at the counter looks faintly surprised to see her again so soon. “Same again?” she asks and Darcy nods before jerking her head towards Bucky. “Yeah. It’s on him.”
Bucky juggles his football and Darcy’s shirt to retrieve his wallet from his pocket and continues to look entirely unembarrassed about being shirtless in (sort of) public. They wait at the end counter and when the barista calls out, “Venti caramel macchiato for Darcy?”, Bucky grabs the coffee and plucks a pen out of god knows where and very carefully defaces the mug.
Darcy looks at it before bursting out laughing. Bucky has crossed out the ‘Star’ and added a ‘y’ and she raises an eyebrow. “Proprietary, aren’t we?” she says.
Bucky doesn’t actually answer but he offers her his arm (and a sly smile) and she takes it, out of curiosity, to see what the arm feels like and it’s smooth and warmer than she’d expected. He walks her all the way to her cubicle outside Coulson’s office and, of course, Coulson emerges just as they arrive. He looks between them, his eyebrows rising just slightly.
“Do I need to get out my shotgun?” he asks.
“I’m not asking for her hand in marriage, buddy,” says Bucky, which is apparently the wrong thing to say. Coulson clears his throat and Clint Barton appears out of nowhere (or out of a ceiling tile but it’s all the same and Darcy sort of loves that Ceiling Cat is a real live boy).
“Treat her nice,” says Clint, leaning against the doorframe, shoulder brushing against Coulson’s. Bucky looks faintly alarmed but Darcy’s grinning because she seriously loves working in this division. She pats his arm before releasing it. “Take me out for dinner and I won’t write you up for breaking, like, eighteen regs before 9am.”
Coulson turns to go back into his office. “Taking Miss Lewis out to dinner counts as breaking another regulation, Sergeant Barnes,” he says and Darcy doesn’t miss the way he briefly glances as Clint. “But one I thoroughly recommend disregarding.”
Coulson’s door closes and Bucky looks at Darcy, opening his mouth to say something but no sound comes out.
“Pick me up at seven,” she says. “And maybe we’ll figure out a few more flexibilities in the rule book.”
“I’ll show you flexibilities,” he mutters, but his smile is back, slow and lazy and sending some kind of heat thrumming down Darcy’s spine.
“Seven o’clock,” she says.
He nods but hesitates for a moment before turning to leave and Darcy tilts her head to the side to watch him go. When she sits down, she surreptitiously buries her nose in his hoodie and takes a deep breath. She smiles. She fucking loves this job.