Darcy is 4 years old when she remembers hearing her mother tell her “You are just like your father” for the first time. And Darcy is a smart kid, but she doesn’t understand. Because her father isn’t here. Darcy’s never met him before, she’s never seen him, so how can she be like someone she doesn’t even know?
The phrase is repeated at least once a week until she’s 5 years old when she first thinks, Maybe he likes to build things? Like I like to build things? Because Darcy always hears the phrase when she’s built something new with her blocks or her books or has tried to build something new with the plates and tables and something’s been broken.
Maybe if he likes to build things like I do, maybe I’d like him. And then she builds up this image of her absent father in her head. A father who is kind and nice and likes to build things and likes to talk about the books she’s read and who loves Darcy even though he’s never come to see her before.
Darcy is 6 when she first meets her father. He’s taller than she is by far, and just about Mommy’s height. Maybe a little bit taller. It’s the first time she understands what Mommy means. The first time she gets that it’s not a good thing to be like her father. Because how could it be a good thing when Mommy is looking at him with her angry face? The face she made when she caught Darcy sneaking chocolate, even though she’s not allowed to eat it.
Her father’s name is Tony. And that’s what Mommy tells her to call him. Not Dad, not Daddy. Tony.
When he comes to introduce himself, he also tells her to call him Tony. But only after looking at the pretty red-headed lady next to him. As if asking her for advice without using his words. The pretty lady calls herself Virginia, but tells Darcy to call her Pepper. Because Tony gave her that nickname and it’s grown on her.
“Will... will he give me a nickname too?” Darcy looks over at Tony talking to Mommy and Mommy doesn’t look happy at all. Thats the face she makes when she got back from a party late and hasn’t had enough sleep and Darcy asks what’s for breakfast. Mommy always tells her to go and find breakfast because she’s a big girl and she can reach the box with the cereal bars by herself now.
“Maybe,” Pepper replies, a sad little smile on her face. Tony snaps his fingers at her and she makes her way back to him, holding Darcy’s hand gently. Darcy scrunches her nose at the gesture, something about it doesn’t seem right. Tony says he’s gonna spend some time with Darcy soon, but he wants to do some tests first. Tony takes a little of Darcy’s blood and sends it to someone named “Jarvis”. And Darcy feels very proud because she only squirmed a little bit when she saw the needle go into her arm.
A week later, Tony and Pepper come back. And by this time, Darcy has figured out the her father is Tony Stark. She didn’t catch it when he was there before, but the day after he left, there was a press conference playing on TV and he came on to talk about weapons manufacturing. Darcy could follow most of the conversation, but some of it went over her head. Even if she didn’t understand it, most kids knew about Stark Industries. Tony Stark does live not-so-far-away you know.
Tony and Mommy get into another fight where they don’t yell at each other but Darcy can tell Tony’s being sarcastic and not saying nice things because of the sharp edge to his tone and Mommy has the look on her face when Darcy tells her she doesn’t want to get dressed up, she wants to go play outside.
But Tony gets his way and even though the vein in Mommy’s forehead is pulsing, which Darcy has learned is a very bad sign, Tony and Pepper take Darcy out to Santa Monica Pier. Tony’s dressed in very casual clothes with a baseball cap to cover his head. Darcy prefers this to the expensive suit he was wearing last time because it reminds her of all of Mommy’s friends. Pepper, too, is wearing a pretty flowy skirt and a simple cotton blouse. Darcy thinks she looks prettier than Mommy even like this. And then she winces at the thought, because Mommy’s always told her, that no one should ever be prettier than Mommy.
Darcy’s never been able to put her feet in the ocean before. Mommy’s had some photoshoots at the beach before and sometimes she takes Darcy, but Darcy’s never been allowed to play. So when Tony nods and tells her to go ahead, Darcy doesn’t really believe him. Not until Pepper helps her take off her Mary Janes and they go step into the surf barefoot together.
The rest of the afternoon is spent with Tony asking what Darcy likes. And Darcy responds with “reading and building” without thinking first. She hides shyly behind her hair after that. She knows she’s supposed to say “playing with dollies” or “playing dress up”. But Tony doesn’t say anything against it like Mommy would. Only raises his eyebrow and says,
“Maybe next time I’ll bring you something you can use to build things.”
And Darcy smiles like the sun at him.
When the day is over and they have eaten dinner, Tony buys Darcy one last thing. A small bag of rock candy, he jokingly calls Crack Rock but Darcy doesn’t get the joke. Darcy tells him she’s not allowed to eat candy, but he and Pepper both swear that it’ll be their secret, just the three of them.
So Darcy puts back her white socks on and her clean Mary Janes and hides the rock candy in the bag filled with new fantasy books Tony bought her. When she gets returned back to Mommy, she hides the rock candy in her never-used dollhouse filled with never-used dolls.
Darcy doesn’t see Tony again until her birthday in the summer, 6 months later. And Darcy’s a little bit angry with him. Because it seemed like a dream that she got her father, and even Pepper too, but then the dream ended. So the day after the party Mommy threw for her, but only all of Mommy’s friends came to, Tony arrives. He tells Mommy that he’s taking Darcy out for her birthday. Mommy’s not feeling too good from drinking too much alcohol the night before, so she lets him take Darcy without too much of a fight. But Darcy can still see the lines around Mommy’s mouth that show up when Mommy’s not pleased with something. Like when she sees Darcy reading and not playing with her dollies.
Tony and Pepper take Darcy out to the pier again. And again, at the end of it, a bag of rock candy is shared between the 3 of them.
This time Darcy hides it in the present bag he’s given her. She waits until Mommy’s asleep before she opens the box inside the bag. Inside the giant box is not a new party dress, or perfume, or kiddy makeup, or any of the other things Darcy got as presents from Mommy and her friends, but a tool kit with the Stark Industries logo on it. It’s filled with essentials like wrenches and nuts and bolts, but it’s even got metal parts in it for Darcy to build something. Something simple, yes. But it’s the first time she’s been encouraged to indulge. And Darcy thinks that maybe Tony is better than the dad she tried to imagine up.
This is how their tradition starts. Because for the next couple of years after that, the only time Mommy lets her see Tony is on her birthday. When Darcy made the mistake of asking why she couldn’t see him more often, Mommy’s vein throbbed and the slap she gave Darcy stung for days. Mommy tried to apologize by letting Darcy eat sweets more than once a week, even though she got that pinched look around her mouth when Darcy did eat any, but Darcy knew no amount of ice cream would ever make up for it.
It’s not until she is 10 that Darcy raises a fuss and asks Tony this time instead of Mother. Her present that year is a simple StarkPhone equipped with Jarvis so she can always stay in touch with him. And a court order that allows Tony custody and visitation rights. Darcy is now allowed to stay with Tony one weekend a month. (How they kept it out of the papers, Darcy will never know. But then again, Pepper always works miracles.)
It’s hard, having to commute in the dead of night to visit Tony. But he always stays up late to greet her. And more often than not, Pepper stays up late too and the three of them drink the most wonderful hot chocolate in the world with cinnamon and mint and lots of marshmallows. Sometimes even Happy and Rhodey join them, but it’s mostly just the three of them.
After that, she gets into more fights with Mother. Darcy doesn’t want to dress up and be paraded around like a lapdog. She doesn’t want to hide her intellect and her growing passion for math and engineering. She wants to stop dumbing herself down in class. She wants to be able to choose for herself.
She calls Tony “Dad” in one of these fights and it earns her another slap to the face. This time Mother doesn’t even try to apologize. So Darcy takes it as a sign and starts using “Dad” more often around the house.
The next time Darcy visits Tony though, she forgets to check herself and calls him “Dad” to his face. He looks startled at first but brushes it off, saying he kind of likes it. Maybe he’ll get used to it. In return, he jokes about how, if they’re not going to be civilized people and refer to each other by their first names anymore, he should just call her “Kid”.
And finally Darcy gets her nickname.
It takes a little bit of time, but Barbara finally lets Darcy start being smart instead of just feeling smart. Darcy finishes the last two years of middle school in 1 and starts high school by 13. Her favorite classes are English and Theater and Engineering.
Pepper guides her through puberty with a sure hand, teaching her how to put on make-up, handle her period, and how to talk to boys. Barbara also tries to teach Darcy these things but it feels like an afterthought and includes insights such as “Be careful who you sleep with. It could ruin your future.”
Darcy skips straight to sophomore year, but even though she devours everything and is still bored with the curriculum, Barbara puts her foot down. Darcy isn't allowed to skip more than one year of high school. Barbara's daughter won't be some "geeky genius freak" like her father.
Senior year is when she meets Charlie Bartlett.
Her present from Pep that year had been red lipstick. Fire truck red. Rose red. 40’s pin up girl red. And since Darcy’s figure had turned into a pin up almost literally overnight, it seemed appropriate. Dad wasn’t happy about it at all. Barbara wasn’t either, but for different reasons. (Darcy’s too short, too curvy, too much and not enough at the same time)
So on the day that Charlie Bartlett walks into her school with a briefcase wearing a blazer, Darcy is wearing her red, red lipstick.
The two of them find common ground. He also skipped a year so he’s 16-turning-17 to her 15-turning-16. And they get closer.
But this is her first serious boyfriend. Her first boyfriend at all. And Dad’s not happy about it. It becomes their first fight, ever. Over a boy.
Over a boy who is kind and sweet and makes Darcy feel better about herself even when the world feels like it’s crashing. And he’s there for her. Every day. Whenever she needs him. Not just once a month. Darcy doesn’t know what love is. Not after watching man after man walk in and out of Barbara’s life and bed. Not after watching Dad and Pep dance around each other for nearly 10 years. But she thinks, maybe, she could love Charlie Bartlett.
So she gives herself to him. Even though she knows Dad is terrified of how Charlie’s been kicked out of every private school in the area. And how he’s now become the face of student protest in their school. And now he’s in trouble with the law for prescribing medication to students. But she thinks she might be able to fall in love with this boy, so she gives herself to him.
And she tells him the truth about her dad.
Charlie’s a pseudo-psychologist, so Darcy tells him her deepest darkest secrets and he gives her his in return. He tells her about his dad in jail and she tells him about hers in his glass mansion. He tells her about his mother, sinking into her grief and trying to be her buoy. She tells him about her mother, who's not as young as she used to be so she’s getting less offers and has been trying to become someone’s trophy wife for the last 15 years. They tell each other, they’ll be there to keep the other strong.
And then everything goes terribly wrong. She hasn’t introduced Charlie to her dad yet, but she has gotten permission to have him pick her up from his place after her weekend stay. Charlie comes round the side way, away from any prying eyes of reporters, hidden by tall trees and the cliffs. But she doesn’t take into account Dad watching from the window as Charlie brings her her prescription from the pharmacy, driving his fancy sports car.
“Darcy! What’d he just give you?”
Darcy whirls around at the sound of his voice, “What?”
“What’s in the bag?
“Oh that’s just-” Charlie tries to appease Tony, but he’s a little flustered at the question and because this is the first time he’s meeting Tony Stark in person. An angry Tony Stark, completely different from the playboy persona he gives to the public.
“Shut it. I’m talking to my daughter. What is in that pharmacy bag?”
“None of your business.” Darcy’s face is contorted with embarrassment and anger at the unspoken accusation. Over Tony’s shoulder, she can see Pepper rushing out to them.
“Oh, c’mon Darcy. You really think I don’t know what’s in the bag?”
“Tony!” Pepper’s finally reached them.
“Yeah, I really don’t think you know.”
By this time Jarvis has made his way out through a remote robot.
“Darcy Lewis, you tell me what’s in that bag right now! On the count of 3.”
Darcy, at this point,is nearly the shade of her lipstick.
“What makes you think you have any control over me!”
“I don’t think, I know! 1.”
“Do NOT make me choose between the two of you right now, Tony.”
Charlie and Pepper can only look on in shock at the fight between father and daughter. Tony grinds his teeth at the use of his given name.
“Shut it, Jarvis. I am your father! 2.”
“You’re a man I see once a month, if I’m lucky.”
Tony reels back. His face looks like how Darcy felt when Barbara slapped her the first time. And even though the guilt rushes up thick and oily, she turns away, clasping Charlie’s hand.
“3. That’s it.” Tony reaches out and grabs Darcy’s elbow
“Hey, don’t touch her.”
Time slows down for Darcy after that. She can see Charlie’s hand at her dad’s shoulder trying to break his grip. Dad viciously strikes down, breaking Charlie’s grip. And the only reason that Charlie’s next move, a punch to Dad’s face, isn’t blocked is because Dad never saw it coming. Never would have expected a punch from a skinny kid like Charlie.
“Sir, are you alright?”
“Shit, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to do that!”
And Darcy can’t make a sound. She can only look into Tony’s eyes as he wipes away the little bit of blood trickling from his nose. It’s not broken. It wasn’t a hard punch. But the look of betrayal he gives her feels like a knife in Darcy’s gut. She throws down the pharmacy bag at his feet before grabbing Charlie’s arm and dragging him off to the car. She turns back just in time to see him rip open the bag and hold up the box that holds her new inhaler. The new inhaler to replace the empty one she’d been prescribed when she’d contracted bronchitis 2 months before.
“Sorry, Dad.” She murmurs before getting into the seat, surreptitiously wiping away the tears trickling down her face.
They don’t speak for the next few months. Sometimes she gets updates from Jarvis and, once in a while, from Pepper. But she leans on Charlie and he leans on her when everything goes to shit at school.
They stay strong for each other.
Somehow, Charlie works his magic. He goes to Dad and gets his forgiveness and when she raises her head up during graduation, she can see Dad in disguise with Pep sitting next to him. When the ceremony is over and everyone else is taking pictures, Dad comes over and gives her a hug. Darcy can’t remember Dad ever giving her a hug before.
Just this moment makes up for everything. When Dad has his arms around her and tells her he’s proud of her for graduating and he’s proud of her for choosing to go to Stanford to pursue Business and Engineering.
It makes up for every bit of abuse and neglect Barbara’s ever inflicted on her, including not coming to her graduation today.
And then Dad does something even more miraculous, and shakes hands with Charlie. He tells him that he’s alright and to take care of his Kid.
But even though she thinks she loves Charlie, because he’s as kind as he’s always been and he makes her feel strong, their idyllic relationship doesn’t last. They spend a perfect summer together. And then they part ways in the fall. Darcy goes upstate to Stanford and Charlie moves out to NYU to start an internship with a famous psychiatrist.
She loves him, she loves him, she loves him. And she tells him so. And he tells her he loves her back. So when they both pack up in the fall, they don’t say goodbye. Because even if they aren’t a couple anymore, they still love each other and they will always stay strong for each other.
Darcy dedicates the next two years of her life to working her way to Stark Industries. Barbara hasn’t spoken to her since her graduation and that’s fine by Darcy’s standards. Dad and Pepper still come to see her once a month and calls at least once a week.
Two years pass by in a flash. Darcy enjoys Stanford, she adores it. Dad worries that she’ll turn into a party animal like he is, but Darcy knows when to tone it down. She works herself hard in order to finish in two years. Appealing to take way more units than she should take in one quarter and working through the summer as well. It’s a good thing she got around to finishing her GER’s in high school behind Barbara’s back.
She’s graduating Stanford at 17.
But then, Stanford’s got this special program she elects to apply to, co-term. It means if Darcy really applies herself, she gets her Master’s Degree in 1 year.
Darcy takes it.
Days after her 19th birthday and Darcy is sitting at home in Malibu, enjoying some champagne Dad begrudgingly let her drink. In one hand is a champagne glass and in the other is a stick of rock candy.
“So what’s the next step?” Pep sits across from her with a matching glass in her hand. Dad leans into the corner of the couch with a glass of scotch and his own rock candy stick.
“I’m gonna go to Culver. And get an undergraduate degree in Poli-Sci.”
Dad chokes on his drink. Ooh, that must burn.
But Darcy looks at Pep with happy eyes and Pepper knows why. Culver is Pep’s alma mater. And Poli-Sci was one of Pep’s degrees, along with Communications. Because Darcy is following in Tony’s footsteps, but she wants to follow Pep’s too.
"Okay then Miss Future CEO of Stark Industries. What's your plan for the future?"
"Besides making Stark Industries completely equal opportunity for both genders? Shutting down the Weapons Manufacture Division."
"I'm sorry, what? Kid, our industry is built on Weapons Manufacture Division. Everything you see here? Funded by the Weapons Manufacture Division."
"Yeah but, Dad, come on. Do you really want our legacy to be the body count we rack up?"
"Oh to be so naive and hopeful once more."
There's no heat in any of their words. It's an old argument between the two of them.
"Ok then Oh Wise One. What would you redirect the majority of our funding and R&D then?"
"Arc reactor tech."
Dad laughs out loud.
"The arc reactor? Darcy, Kid, the arc reactor is just something for publicity. Yeah it does well but it's not cost effective."
"I'm sure if you put your mind to it, you'd come up with a few breakthroughs. Or maybe I will." Darcy smiles up a Tony, bright as the sun. "You watch Dad. Arc reactor tech will be the future of SI."
In the fall, Darcy goes to Culver, downplaying her other degrees, pretending she’s a first year student from Malibu who took a year off. Darcy doesn’t know why she keeps Stanford a secret, but she doesn’t want to have to explain why she’s here. Not when it’s tied up so intrinsically in Dad and Pep and she’s still a secret to the public, minus Charlie. But she gets through. And along with Dad’s monthly visits, she gets to see Charlie much more often too. Virginia’s not as far from New York as California after all.
But then everything changes when Dad gets captured. And everything is a mess because it’s midterms and she’s knee deep in 25 units for her first quarter and she’s trying to finish her degree in one year.
But Dad is missing. And she somehow gets through midterms and then finals and then 3 months have passed and she’s started her second quarter, eyes red and she’s falling apart.
He wasn't there for Christmas. Or New Years. She spends the majority of those holidays sobbing into Charlie's shoulder or putting on a brave face for Pep.
She’s trying to be strong for Pep and for Rhodey and for Happy. The brief moments when she sees Charlie, not nearly as often as she’d want to, are the only times when she doesn’t have to be strong. Because he helps keep her strong.
Suddenly, Dad escapes from Afghanistan, from the Ten Rings and he’s back and even though she can’t be there for him publicly, it’s enough to know that he’s back and he’s alive, even though he’s got a mini-reactor in his chest.
She flies out immediately to see him, overjoyed. Dad reached out and crushes her in his arms. Holds her for a long, long time.
None of them are happy for long though. Dad’s more secretive than ever, even though she knows he’s got something up his sleeve and the Board of Directors is trying to take over the company. Darcy will bet every dollar she has that Obediah is the one behind it all. She's never liked him. His oily attitude always creeped her out. But she's at Culver in Virginia and she can't keep flying back and forth with her course load.
Pepper keeps her updated as best she can. It's not very much. But it's enough to know that she's not the only worried about the arc reactor that's serving as the only thing keeping her father alive.
When she gets the news of the official takeover and Obediah stepping in as CEO, Darcy throws a vase at her wall, terrifying her roommate.
It's the morning of her last final before Spring Break when she gets the news that SI's giant arc reactor blew up.
Obediah is dead.
He tried to kill Dad.
Dad’s making an announcement that he’s a superhero who built his own super suit.
Oh look at that, arc reactor tech. Someone's finally listening to her. It only took multiple near death experiences.
Darcy doesn't even remember taking her last final but she must have.
The test, the rushed packing, getting into Dad's private jet waiting for her, the drive to the Malibu mansion. It's all a rush.
The last 6 months or so have been the most stressful that Darcy’s ever faced. But she’s gonna enjoy her Spring Break. As soon as she goes home, she takes Dad and Pep out to Santa Monica Pier. More disguised than ever of course, with a wig and big glasses and everything. They have root beer floats and funnel cake and rock candy and go home to stay up late and drink hot chocolate with cinnamon, mint and lots and lots of marshmallows.
Darcy enjoys her free week as much as she can and goes back for her last quarter, even though she suspects something might have shifted between Dad and Pep. Already missing home, she sees a flier for an astrophysics internship. She’s never really been interested in the subject, but even though she’s listed as a poli-sci major, she’s got a steady background in physics. It shouldn’t be anything too strenuous. Besides, it’s only for six weeks. And it’ll get her a couple extra credits she doesn’t need, but whatever.
It'll keep her occupied during the summer while she figures to what to do next. As much as she wants to go home, she know if she does, she'll attach herself to Dad's hip and smother him. She doesn't want to do that, so she makes the difficult decision to leave him again. Just for a little bit.
Then she’s graduated (again) and she’s back home for the start of the summer and her birthday. It’s a wonderful time, but she can tell something is wrong with Dad. His skin is pale, he’s not as energetic and he’s been acting very weirdly around Pep. Darcy immediately regrets signing up for her unnecessary internship. But she's the only one who signed up, she can't back out now.
And besides, Dad is busy having just had the Stark Expo and all of those meetings with the Senate about the Iron Man suit.
She leaves for New Mexico apprehensively and with a warning to Jarvis to contact her if anything goes wrong.
The next thing Darcy knows is that Dad’s replaced Pep with a new, younger assistant. Still a redhead but many shades darker. And she finds out he’s not getting rid of Pep, but making her CEO of Stark Industries. Darcy spends a good hour yelling at him in a private area away from Jane, but he looks even more tired than before and Darcy is scared for him. Maybe even more scared than when he was missing. Because then she wasn’t there to see him suffer.
Something is wrong.
She's been with Jane just about a month. Two weeks left. She just has to stick it out for two more weeks.
A part of her will be saddened leaving the petite scientist. Jane needs someone to watch out for her and Darcy is well versed in handling prickly scientists who think they need less sleep than they actually do.
However, Dad's more important.
Dad’s birthday comes up, but Darcy only hears about the party the next morning, the waste and the destruction. Dad’s never been this bad before and Darcy knows she’s bothering Jane with her unwarranted (in Jane’s eyes) anxiety.
She wishes she'd been able to go back, but she couldn't just leave Jane. She has to watch from afar, again, as Dad's life spirals out of control.
But then everything seems to happen all at once. The government takes away the Iron Man suit, Dad's in another death defying fight but this time with Rhodey, Erik Selvig shows up, and then Thor happens.
Super cut guy falls out of the sky, she tazes him, and all of a sudden Jane's equipment is being taken away. And her iPod.
Her iPod with it's upgraded Stark tech and Jarvis. She bought it as a joke to mess with Dad's head, really wanting to do some research on her own about the competition and make some plans for similar Stark tech.
She takes a risk making Thor that fake ID card and contacting Jarvis through her phone when the shady government guys have her iPod, but she can't just let the guy stay captured.
Hey, isn't that Coulson guy in the suit the one she saw talking to Pepper couple of times? She'll think more on that later. More important things take over Darcy's mind than some shady government guys possibly having a concrete connection between her and Dad.
Like the fact that Jane's getting super cozy with Thor over by the fire. She leaves them alone for the night, taking the time to check in with Dad. Make sure that he's really ok. Apparently he's getting another medal for saving everyone from the Iron Man version of Skynet.
And he finally kissed Pepper!
Of course everything goes to shit the next morning when Darcy finds out she somehow stepped into an Asgardian soap opera and the town starts being attacked by a fire breathing robot.
Okay, Dad being taken hostage? Fine. He built a super suit to help protect himself from it ever happening again? Great. She's got an inkling there's some massive PTSD repression going on there but she'll call Charlie and see what he can do about it. Everyone is trying to kill Dad for his inventions? Not anything new but it's never been so blatant before.
This is officially breaking Darcy's weirdness tolerance scale.
Darcy has her gazer and she's been trained in various martial arts forms in order to protect herself but nothing has prepared her for protecting herself against what Loki sent to kill Thor.
Luckily his awesome friends are there to help and Darcy takes advantage of their distraction to try and empty out a pet store, handing away the little puppies and kitties and gerbils to passerbys running away.
Thor gets hit and Darcy feels sick watching Jane cry over his body. Erik holds her back as it looks like they're saying their goodbyes.
But then Thor has a super hero transformation that's worthy of any Saturday morning cartoon and he uses his God of Thunder powers to beat down the robot and whisk Jane away to the Rainbow Bridge site while they follow in the car.
Darcy watches sadly as Jane and Thor share a steamy kiss before he and his friends travel back. She gets a flirty wink from Fandral before they leave and Darcy lets herself feel flattered by it for a second before she goes over to comfort Jane.
Her last week and a half of her internship is spent going over what SHIELD returned (not her iPod dammit) and connecting that to what Jane now knows from what Thor told her.
When everything is finally over, when everything has died down, then Darcy returns home for a little bit. Yells at Dad for not telling her that he was dying. And tries to pull a few strings with Stark Industries (she does know the new CEO after all) to get Jane set up in a nice lab with some good equipment.
The only good thing that came out of this, as far as Darcy’s concerned, is that Dad FINALLY kissed Pep. The two girls have a long emotional talk about that which ends in hugs and tears and a trip to a massage parlor.
A week after she's returned to Malibu, Darcy ends up meeting Director Fury, who says SHIELD already knows all about her. She knows it's somehow supposed to be intimidating, but it only makes her grit her teeth and say,
He grins at her challenge and then re-introduces her to Agent Coulson, who’s come to return her iPod. Dad groans at the sight of it, calling it “Her one bit of rebellion. Well, minus the Bartlett guy.”
She also gets introduced to Natasha, the woman who’d posed as Dad’s assistant and then Pep’s for a awhile, and Clint, the archer who’d been in New Mexico during the Thor fiasco. While she really wants to be angry at the woman for being a spy and tricking her dad, Darcy kind of adores Natasha. There's a little resentment there but she can respect the fact that she was doing her job in keeping an eye on Dad. Her issue is that she let Dad's sickness get so bad before they did anything.
To earn her forgiveness, Darcy demands that Natasha keep in touch and give her some self defense lessons. She would love to learn how to take down a guy in 3 seconds like she heard Natasha did to Happy.
Clint is kind of charming in a brooding Disney Prince kind of way. Until he cracks a grin at her and dubs her Baby Stark. Darcy calls him Birdbrain and he ruffles her hair. She tries to bite at his hands and he laughs at her until she pinches him.
They're going to be great friends.
Fury rolls his eye and tries to get them back on track.
It turns out that she doesn’t have to pull a few strings with the Stark CEO after all. SHIELD is offering to fund them from the shadows, even taking Erik for some shady operation. Normally Darcy wouldn’t take a deal like this. Especially since it’s not really her call to make, it’s Jane’s. And what he’s offering her sounds too good to be true. But she knows that if she refuses, SHIELD could take away all of Jane’s equipment again and this could be so beneficial for the petite woman who’s become Darcy’s friend.
Darcy doesn’t have that many friends. So she does what she thinks is right for Jane and she takes SHIELD’s offer, on the condition that it can be terminated whenever Jane wishes. There is an implicit understanding that if Jane or Darcy have any issues whatsoever, then Stark Industries will be right there to take Jane in.
Dad tries to convince her to stay. Get an internship with SI as Pep's assistant. But Darcy just can't leave Jane.
It kills her to make the choice, but Dad is happy and healthy with Pep. With Erik being picked up by SHIELD, Jane needs her.
It’s hard for Darcy because she thought that she’d be closer to home, working at Stark Industries. Even though she’s finished with all her schooling, Jane thinks she’s finishing up her undergraduate courses online even as Darcy follows her around the country, chasing lightning storms and trying to find out a way to open up the bridge. Darcy occasionally sneaks away to visit Dad and Pepper. Charlie calls every so often. He’s kind-of, sort-of got a new girlfriend now and Darcy’s so, so happy for him.
She even gets infrequent updates from Son of Coul. It should surprise her, but it doesn’t because he talks to Pepper too. He’s a cool dude.
Almost a year passes. Darcy finally becomes legal to drink, even though she’s been stealing drinks from Dad’s liquor cabinet since she started dating Charlie. But now she can buy her own alcohol without having to use the fake ID she had Jarvis print out for her. It's a much better quality than the five mint hack job she managed to print out for Thor the year before.
She and Jane are in New York on her birthday and after they go out for celebratory drinks, Darcy sneaks away to the new Stark Tower Dad's been building. She's not as wasted as Jane thinks she is and Dad and Pep are there with rock candy, hot chocolate with mint, cinnamon, and marshmallows, and a gigantic birthday cake.
It's been almost 15 years since Dad found her, and Darcy's unfailingly grateful that he did.
Then something big happens. She doesn’t know what, but it’s got Coulson giddy. And then it’s got Coulson worried. And it sucks Dad into the Avengers Initiative. Something she and Pep aren’t technically supposed to know about, but of course they do anyway.
Pep gets flown out to do Stark Industries business and Dad is whisked away on a giant helicarrier. Darcy fights tooth and nail to be let on as well, since SHIELD knows her parentage anyway. But Erik was one of the abducted, along with Clint, and they want to keep Jane as safe and far away from any potential action as possible. So Darcy goes with Jane to Norway and keeps her out of trouble and comforts her when the Battle of Manhattan is being broadcasted.
Seeing the live footage of the fighting and Dad flying around makes Darcy nearly come undone. Having to stand idly by, just sitting there, as Dad goes into the wormhole with that bomb nearly makes Darcy come undone. She wants to yell. To scream. To throw things.
And she can't. Because Jane doesn't know and Darcy doesn't think this is the time to tell her.
Oh, yeah, by the way? That's my Dad. I'm the unrecognized daughter of Tony Stark. And he might have just died saving us from aliens while he was fighting alongside your wayward alien prince boyfriend. Surprise!
But then Dad's falling back through the hole and it looks like Hulk caught him. Darcy clutches at her heart in relief.
Norway is six hours ahead of New York, so Darcy waits a few more hours until Jane's gone to bed to break down. She sobs quietly into her pillow in relief, rocking herself in comfort and making sure she's stable before calling Dad and Pep and then Charlie.
When they’re allowed to return to the US, Darcy meets up with Dad and Pep in the newly rebuilt Stark Tower. It’s the third time in her life Dad’s given her a hug. And the longest. Even longer than when he'd just come back from being captured. He even presses a kiss to the side of her head that makes her cry a little.
The three of them send out for food and rock candy for dessert. Then Dad tells them about what happened. And how they lost Coulson. Darcy bites through her lip to keep from crying, but even the blood trickling down her stinging split lip can’t distract her from the pain of losing Son of Coul.
She had really liked him.
Dad tells them that he’s gonna renovate some of the rooms here at the tower for the other Avengers. Bruce is gonna stay here, Steve’s gonna explore a bit, Thor went back home (ooh Jane will not be happy to hear that) and Clint and Natasha are God-knows-where at the moment.
Speaking of SHIELD agents: Dad doesn’t trust them. Not even the tiniest bit after this. His graciousness extends to the two spies who stood beside him and fought with him and to the man who gave up his life for them, but that’s it. He especially does't trust the one-eyed eagle running the show. So he’s stealing her and Jane away from SHIELD. They have an official offer to join Stark Industries.
Jane is suspicious of the offer, but when Dad shows her the shiny new lab she gets to play in, she accepts. The biggest snafu is having to refer to Dad as “Tony” in front of Jane. It’s something she hasn’t done since that fight with Charlie 5 years ago.
Also, Jane gets super suspicious over the fact that Darcy’s living in an apartment taking up one whole floor of a building by herself. Darcy tries to blow it off as a mistake and luckily Jane’s too busy tinkering in her lab to really question it. But now with Jane busy, what does Darcy do? She settles herself in, paints the walls, decorates, and curls up with a good book to relax for the first time in what feels like forever. She calls Charlie and lets everything out because even if he’s seeing someone else, she still loves him and he still loves her and they keep each other strong.
And then she tinkers in her own lab, set up by Dad especially for her. And she can build to her heart’s content, something she’d missed when she’d been studying and traveling with Jane. First things first, a new and improved mini taser disguised as a pen. Gets a range of 40 feet, which is better than any other commercial taser being sold.
Eventually she'll officially accept the job offer to be Pepper's PA, but they're waiting for the current PA to finish out the year. He knows he's being replaced but he'll get a nice severance package/end of he year bonus.
So then Darcy starts amusing herself with cooking. Experimenting, Allowing herself a freedom in the kitchen she’d always wanted but Barbara had always banned. The only times she’d been able to indulge in the past where her weekends with Dad and Pep.
But now she’s free. And even though Barbara's voice will always be in her head, will always be the darkest and ugliest part of her, Darcy doesn't want to let it cripple her anymore.
She starts with dessert. The surplus inevitably goes down to the worker grunts working down in the lower levels, and then to Jane, and then to Dr. B.
She likes him. He’s a little Clark Kent-ish but he’s got a dry wit that reminds her a little of Dad.
She starts bringing him sweets every day even though he tells her she doesn’t really need to. But then it turns into tea drops and then afternoon tea at 3 every day with Dr. B. They start exploring the globe through tea and lunch and dessert. And she really likes the guy. Thinks he’d be a good friend for Dad. Dad needs more friends.
But now something’s wrong with Dad again.
They get a few months of relative peacefulness before the Christmas season is upon them and Dad’s PTSD kicks into high gear and the Mandarin threatens all of them. Happy is sent to a hospital and Darcy is ordered to keep as far away as possible.
It hurts to think that Dad doesn’t want her around, but she understands that he’s still trying to keep her and Pep safe above all else.
So she stays in the glass tower her dad built for her waiting as he goes into another dangerous mission and almost loses his life again. But this time, they almost lose Pepper too.
Darcy is worried that her own heart is going to start having some problems with all of the stress.
Then, almost abruptly, it’s over. The bad guys are gone and Dad and Pep are alive and Dad blew up all the Iron Men. And he’s taking the arc reactor out his chest.
Darcy seals herself in her room, curled in front of the fireplaces on her giant beanbag and tries to process the emotional whiplash of the last few years.
Hopefully they can have a little more peace and quiet before the world decides to blow itself up again or a sociopath with violent tendencies tries to kill them all.
Christmas is over. New Years has passed.
But Darcy’s kind of excited.
Because instead of going out to see him, Dad is coming to New York to see her. With rock candy. So maybe now the three of them can sit and relax and drink hot chocolate with cinnamon and mint and a bunch of marshmallows. They haven’t done that in a while.
Yeah, Darcy thinks, this is gonna be a good year. I'll make sure of it.