Because I love you baby that’s no lie
People take one look at Darcy, in her patterned scarves and hipster glasses and colourful knits and usually think that she’s the sort of flighty, flaky person who goes dancing in the rain and never meets a deadline and is at least 10% less smart than she actually is. The truth is that okay, first of all, Darcy hasn’t gone dancing in the rain since she was seven and came down with the flu the next day, because rain is wet and cold and turns to mud and Darcy totally has more sense than that. Secondly, Darcy isn’t even a little flaky – she’s organised and competent and works damn hard at what she does. Even Jane, who god knows is probably the closest thing Darcy has to a best friend these days, didn’t have particularly high expectations at first.
Darcy is used to it – sometimes it feels like no one’s taken her seriously since the moment she was born; adults never listen to little girls, and once she hit puberty and grew boobs, well, the boobs were all that half the population seemed to notice after that – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t burn at her, sometimes.
Which is why when she meets Natasha Romanov, who looks Darcy up and down with eyes that actually seem to see her and says, “It’s nice to meet you,” Darcy is absolutely lost.
Okay, yes, it’s also the fact that Natasha is totally smoking hot and happens to be wearing a catsuit at the time (SHIELD personnel call it a ‘tactical suit’ but Darcy knows a catsuit when she sees one), but while Darcy is a little shallow, sometimes, she does actually have some depth, thank you very much.
Of course, the moment passes almost instantly, as Natasha turns back to the other Avengers, and Darcy is left standing there, frozen, breathing a little too fast and wondering what just happened.
Over the weeks that follow Darcy sees Natasha intermittently: while Natasha might be an Avenger now, she’s also still a SHIELD agent, and spends a lot of her time on missions. But Darcy sees her around from time to time, chilling with Clint in the media room or eating cereal at three in the afternoon in the communal kitchen, makeup smudged around the eyes and a tired, satisfied look to her.
Darcy doesn’t say anything, because what would she say? The words on her arm burn (It’s nice to meet you) in neat blue ink and Darcy knows what it means – who could possibly miss meeting their soulmate? – but that doesn’t mean that she knows what to do about it. Natasha is the super-spy, one of Nick Fury’s most trusted agents, and she inhabits a world so dramatically different from Darcy’s… What would she think, if she knew that her soulmate was a twenty-five year old poli-sci student who hasn’t even gotten around to graduating yet? Darcy’s life might not have been all sweetness and light, but that doesn’t mean it compares to what Natasha must have lived. After everything Natasha’s done, Darcy doesn’t like how she’d probably look by comparison.
…Besides, the first time they met, Darcy never said a word, and the moment that should have been so momentous for both of them passed without Natasha even being aware of it. It feels too late to try and take that moment back now.
So Darcy says nothing, but goes on with her life, watching Natasha from the corner of her eyes, and wondering if Natasha has Darcy’s own words inked on her skin somewhere.
In the meantime, Jane’s research is progressing nicely: all they need is for Thor to come back (his words are printed on Jane’s hip in something similar to Old Norse, Darcy knows, from when they got tipsy that one time and compared soulmarks, and Darcy complained about many times she was likely to hear It’s nice to meet you within her lifetime and how was she supposed to know the right one?) and Jane’s world will be close to perfect. Darcy knows that Jane misses Thor something fierce, but at least she has an understanding with her soulmate, which is more than Darcy has.
Of course, Darcy always reminds herself, she might too if she’d just screw her courage to the sticking place and talk to her soulmate, but… Well. There always seem to be a dozen reasons not to, and for the first time in her life Darcy isn’t ready to take the leap into the unknown.
“You should date someone,” Jane tells her idly, as they’re working.
“This from the woman who last dated someone what, two years ago?” Darcy asks, just as idly. It’s almost a game with them now, a sign of their friendship that they can make irritating statements to each other without feeling like the other is meddling. Darcy likes it, which is annoying, because sometimes Jane’s observations are really, really irritating. Like now.
“Yeah, but I have Thor,” Jane says reasonably. “I’m sure we’ll date eventually, once he comes back.” There’s a flicker of uncertainty in her eyes, so Darcy hurries to reassure her.
“I bet you will,” Darcy says, her tone heavy with innuendo, and Jane rolls her eyes even as she can’t keep her smile from creeping out.
“It’s just, I mean – you want to meet your soulmate, don’t you?” Jane asks, earnest and sincere in a way that hurts. “You’re not going to do that unless you’re willing to meet new people, Darcy. And in the meantime, you can practice.”
“I don’t know,” Darcy mutters. “Jane…”
Jane watches her with concerned warmth.
“What if – I don’t know that I’m cut out for this soulmate thing,” Darcy finishes.
Jane’s brow furrows.
“What do you mean?”
“What if I’m not enough?” Darcy asks, some of her desperation coming through, and she curls her fingers until her nails dig into her palms. “What if I can’t be what my soulmate needs me to be? What if I don’t even know what that is?”
“Oh, Darcy,” says Jane with ready sympathy, her eyes filling with understanding. “That’s not how it works. The whole point is that you and your soulmate are more suited to each other than anyone else, you know that. You will be what your soulmate needs, that’s the whole point. It’ll work out.”
Darcy shakes her head.
“You know that soulmates don’t always work out, Jane,” she says. “What if my soulmate bond is one of those?”
Jane gives Darcy a long, searching look.
“Darcy,” she says gently, “do you know who your soulmate is?”
Darcy doesn’t answer.
“Oh, Darcy,” says Jane again. “Just give them a chance. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
The thing is, it’s not like Darcy doesn’t, in some sense, know Natasha. She’s hacked into and read the parts of her file that aren’t under heavy encryption (ha! Take that, SHIELD!) and knows all the dry facts and figures, can read some of the colourful life that lurks behind them. More than that, she’s been living in the Tower with Natasha for a couple of months now, and she’s seen glimpses of the person behind the file: someone alive and real and wonderful.
Darcy would like to get to know that person better, the want heavy in her heart as she lies alone and awake late at night, thinking of what could be.
When Darcy turns on the TV one evening, the Avenger’s latest battle is all over the news, and Darcy watches, heart in mouth, as the tiny red-headed figure of Natasha is sent flying by the monster of the week, and doesn’t get up again. Darcy swears and throws on a coat and hurries downstairs to catch a cab to the hospital.
All the way there Darcy thinks over and over, I hope I’m not too late, and I hope she’s okay, please let her be okay as the cab navigates its way to the hospital. As soon as it gets there she shoves a handful of cash at the driver and takes off.
The receptionist is reluctant to tell Darcy where she can find Natasha at first, but as Darcy is leaning over the desk and arguing vociferously a surprised voice asks, “Darcy?” and Darcy spins around to see Steve standing there, looking surprised and puzzled.
“Cap!” Darcy exclaims, and latches onto his arm. “Can you tell me where Natasha is?”
Steve looks down at where Darcy is attached to his arm with some alarm, but says, “Sure.”
So Darcy follows Steve through the hospital to Natasha’s room.
When they get there Bruce is dozing in a chair with his head at an angle that’s going to give him a crick in the neck, like no one had the heart to wake him, and Clint – who Darcy knows a lot better than Natasha after spending so much time creeping around trying not to talk to her soulmate – is sprawled in another chair, watching Natasha.
Natasha is unconscious, her face bruised and half of her in bandages, and Jesus, she looks terrible. Darcy lets out a little appalled gasp, something in her heart breaking at the sight.
“I’ll see you later, Darcy,” Steve says, nods at Clint, and leaves. Darcy stays where she is, staring at Natasha. When she finally tears her gaze away Clint is looking at her, his gaze disturbingly intent.
“Why are you here?” Clint asks, his gaze peculiarly penetrating, and Darcy can see, for once, why they call him Hawkeye – his eyes are as bright and as sharp as a hawk’s, and seem to see right through her. “I didn’t think you’d even spoken to Natasha.”
“Once,” says Darcy, and rolls up her sleeve. “But it was a very important once.” She lets him see the handwriting on her forearm, neat and precise and distinctive.
Clint sucks in a breath, then fills the air with intense, whispered swearwords. He finishes up with, “Jesus Christ, Lewis! Does Nat even know?”
“I don’t know,” Darcy says, and adds with depressing truth, “I really, really doubt it.”
Clint closes his eyes and shakes his head, like even he wouldn’t think of doing something so stupid. Which is insulting, but probably deserved, Darcy has to admit.
“Well, you should tell her,” he says. “As soon as she wakes up.”
“I will,” Darcy promises.
She falls asleep in the extra chair near the door, head lolling back against the wall as the hours creep slowly by.
When she wakes up she isn’t sure where she is, at first, or why she’s so still and sore – then it all comes back to her, and she looks around, looks straight at Natasha –
– and finds Natasha looking back, her expression inscrutable and her eyes curious.
“Hey,” Natasha croaks after a moment, and Darcy takes a deep breath.
“Okay, so I’ve been kind of a coward about this, but my name’s Darcy Lewis, and I’m your soulmate,” she says, aiming for as cool and composed as possible, but nonetheless it all comes out in a rush.
For a long, breathless moment, Natasha only looks at her, but then she cracks a smile, small but genuine, and Darcy’s breath comes out in a whoosh, she’s so relieved.
“I was wondering how long it would take you to say that,” Natasha says, and the expression on her face is everything that Darcy has ever dreamed of.
“But wait–” Darcy says, realisation dawning, “My first words to you were my name – that means–”
Natasha’s smile turns mischievous, and she attempts to shrug as Darcy glares, and winces as the shrug aggravates her various injuries.
“I figured that you needed some time. But I thought you’d talk to me eventually.”
Darcy buries her face in her hands, because God, this is mortifying.
“So you’ve known all this time?” Darcy asks, her voice muffled by her hands, and Natasha is still smiling.
“Since we were introduced,” she confirms, and Darcy groans.
“I feel like such an idiot,” she says.
“Don’t,” says Natasha, suddenly serious. “I can understand that you needed time to adjust – I know I’m not…” she trails off, and Darcy thinks that she isn’t imagining the internal self-judgement she can see in Natasha’s face.
“Are you kidding?” Darcy blurts. “You’re amazing! I was afraid I wouldn’t be… good enough, I guess.”
The look Natasha gives her is doubtful and incredulous.
“You thought you wouldn’t be good enough for me?” she asks. “Zaichik, I have done terrible things. I have nothing but blood on my hands.”
Darcy drags her chair closer, so that she can sit by Natasha’s side. Natasha’s eyes follow her as she goes.
“You’re amazing,” Darcy says firmly. “And don’t ever think otherwise.”
After a moment of searching Darcy’s gaze, Natasha gives her an uncertain smile.
“Alright, as long as you don’t think otherwise of yourself, either.”
“We’re both amazing, okay,” says Darcy. “Deal.”
They smile at each other.
Then after a moment Natasha says, “Kick Clint in the leg for me, I want him awake so he can go get a doctor to tell me how I’m doing and how soon I can be moved to the Tower,” so Darcy does.
As they watch Clint leap to his feet, arms windmilling as he tries to simultaneously catch his balance and work out where he is, Darcy exchanges a glance with Natasha. Natasha looks equally amused, and quite suddenly, Darcy has the feeling that things are going to work out just fine.