"I know you're up there."
There's silence, which is to be expected, but Darcy merely pulls the overly long crazy straw out of her soda, gets up on the stool they use to reach the equipment on the top shelf when Tall Paul isn't around and pokes the straw through the grating of the air vent above her. It stops short and she prods a few times before there's a grumbled, "Okay fine. Just quit that."
"Lame," Darcy pronounces, getting back down carefully and then perching on the stool as the air vent cover pops free and a pair of combat boots appear. She resists the urge to peg paperclips at the legs that follow after, mostly because they're very nice legs and she's pretty sure if they're here to kill her, paperclips won't help.
The souped-up tazer she got as a bereavement gift for her poor, pilfered iPod from Agent Coulson would though and Darcy drags her bag closer to her by a toe as hips, torso and then finally shoulders and head drop through the rest of the way.
Everything's as nice as the legs, which will be disappointing if Darcy has to zap the guy into next week. She still feels bad about doing it to Thor, mostly because Sif and the others found out and haven't let him live it down.
"You're familiar. Why are you familiar?" Darcy asks, narrowing her eyes and tapping a finger on her chin. Jane will be back in the labs in about half an hour and Darcy's hoping to rule the guy out as a threat before then because she'd really hate to have to set the place on fire.
The last time was totally an accident though.
"I'm Agent Barton," the guy introduces and he looks like he stuck between offering his hand or a salute or a wave. It's interesting to watch him freeze with the myriad of possibilities, unable to settle on one.
"Barton... Barton... nope, doesn't help," Darcy declares and turns back to her work. There's the squeak of the guys' boots as he shifts his weight from one foot to the other in indecision and Darcy smiles to herself. She's excellent at psychological warfare and she's also pretty sure he's SHIELD and therefore not a danger, so she's basically amusing herself by totally dismissing him and seeing how he'll cope with it.
"How did you, uh, know I was up there?" Barton asks finally and Darcy turns back around to him. He's looking adorably perplexed and rubbing a hand over the back of his head. He also looks embarrassed like it's probably going to be a thing that he's been busted.
"I heard there was some guy that liked crawling around the air ducts, scaring the crap out of new people. The first day I was here, I tied a bit of ribbon to all the vents. About twenty minutes ago, all the ribbons were doing the cha-cha except for that one," Darcy says, pointing up to the vent above them.
"I don't like... geez, who told you that?" Barton demands, looking offended.
"I didn't say it was you. I assumed you have some other completely unrelated reason for being in the air duct above my head, looking down my top."
Barton's face turns an instant, dull red from ear to ear and temple to chin. "I wasn't-!" he starts to splutter.
"I'm sure," Darcy purrs, raising an eyebrow.
"I mean, I couldn't not, because, but it wasn't what I was..." Barton seems to realize he's digging himself deeper because he deflates and offers a helpless gesture with his hands. "There's orders involved, I swear."
"Uhuh," Darcy says unimpressed. "Look buster," she continues and it's Barton's turn for an eyebrow raise at buster. "Jane provides you guys all her findings, and I mean all her findings. She wouldn't know how to lie about the science stuff because she's super proud of it and she wants other people to be just as jazzed, including the people that sign her checks so there's no point-"
"I'm not here to spy on Doctor Foster if that's what you're getting at," Barton says, holding up his palms against Darcy's tirade.
"You're not? So you are just looking down my top?"
"What? No! Oh my god," Barton groans, smearing a hand over his face in frustration. "I'm a professional, I swear I am." That last bit Darcy thinks Barton is trying to tell himself more than her because he says it into his hand. He gives her a desperate look with crinkly brows and puppy eyes and Darcy decides to cut him a little slack.
"So you are watching me, someone told you to, but I'm probably not supposed to know?"
Barton nods slowly, looking defeated.
"You're much better at this than I think, right?"
Another nod, this one a little sharper.
"Is this some kind of performance review? Technically I'm Jane's employee, not SHIELD's."
"That's half the problem," Barton says.
"What's the other half?"
"It's believed that you might have some kind of... ability."
"Of course I have ability. I'm really good at what I do. I might not have an official job description but that is just because I am that awesome that there wasn't one that could encapsulate me." It actually kind of bugs Darcy that she feels a little like she's in limbo. She wants to stay with Jane because that's where the action is, but with the SHIELD money and lab space also came minions who were almost as good as Darcy at fetching pop tarts and keeping Jane from face-planting in her cereal bowl when she forgot to sleep.
No one kept Jane from going mad scientist like Darcy though and also Jane loved her so she'd actually ended up with a salary which was awesome. Not so awesome was that the other minions called her Dumbsy behind her back. So what if her degree was in political science instead of space science. It didn't mean they could look down on her and steal her mug and break all her pencils.
Honestly, it feels like she's stuck in grade school all over again.
"No, uh, an ability."
"Are you one of those people that believes that saying nonsensical stuff slower will make someone understand?"
"They think you're psychic, Miss Lewis. SHIELD does."
"What?" Darcy blurts.
"You were called a mind-reader," Barton continues and he gets points for looking like he thinks it's about as absurd as it sounds.
"Wait a minute," Darcy says slowly. "That was Jane, to me, when we were in the lab by ourselves and I handed her a coffee because she looked like she needed it." Darcy blinks at Barton and thinks it bears repeating that, "We were alone."
"The contracts you signed allow for a certain level of monitoring when you're on SHIELD property."
"Monitoring?" Darcy says flatly.
"There's also the issue of your citizenship."
"I was born in Ottawa but my parents are American. I have dual citizenship."
"I'm sure it's just an administrative screw up."
"You're saying that you're watching me because SHIELD believes I'm a telepathic Canadian?"
"Who did you piss off?" Darcy asks and is amused when Barton doesn't even have to ask what she means by that.
"Agent Coulson," he answers crisply.
"Okay. Well, that is the first thing you've said that makes sense."
"Thanks, I think."
"What's your name?"
"C'mon. I'm not part of the system and I'm not calling you Agent Barton, ye gads."
"Do people actually say ye gads out loud?"
"I say a lot of things out loud most people don't."
"Fair enough. Clint, my name's Clint."
"Phil, in the real world, when friends catch friends spying on each other, they apologize and promise never to do it again, not be angry that friends-"
"Getting a little away from you, huh?" Clint says from behind her.
"Shut up," Darcy grumbles.
"It wasn't my call, if that makes you feel any better," Phil offers.
"It would only make me feel better if you could call it off."
"There's a set term for these things. A protocol that needs to be followed."
"I don't need a flowchart, I need a fricken break," Darcy snaps, smacking a hand down on Phil's desk. Phil doesn't look impressed, but then again he never does unless it's about his boyhood crush Captain America, so Darcy flops back in his visitor chair, disgruntled. "He followed me to the bathroom."
"Not inside," Clint interrupts, stepping forward and throwing a glare at Darcy when Phil's eyebrows go up.
"How do I know you weren't hiding in the vent?"
"You made me sing Spice Girls at the top of my voice so you could hear where I was."
"Yeah, I'm thinking we need to invest in a bell for you. It would make things a lot easier."
"Miss Lewis," Phil says, because she's never Darcy in the office. She's only Darcy when they're drinking margueritas and watching terrible reality shows about Housewives with too much money and time on their hands. "You have to put up with an agent escort until such time as we confirm that you are not going to be deported-"
"Deported?" Darcy splutters.
"-or can read people's minds."
"You don't really believe that, do you?" she asks, frustrated.
"That you're Canadian?"
"That I'm psychic."
"Not in the least," Phil says, dismissive.
"Can't you talk to someone? I mean, I didn't know there was anyone above you but can't you talk to whoever that guy is?"
"I've already put a glowing letter into your file vouching for you personally. As I said, there's a-"
"Protocol, fine," Darcy grunts, then cranes back to look at Clint who's retreated to the door of Phil's office again. Darcy's never, in her life, met someone better at embodying the word lurking. "Take me to lunch."
"I'm your escort, not your date."
"Tom-ay-to, tom-ah-to," Darcy says, sweeping past him.
Before Clint follows her, she hears him start to say, "Look, sir-"
"You know what you did," Phil says crisply and Darcy hears Clint heave a weary sigh before he appears in the doorway.
"What did you do?" she asks, interested.
"You will never know that."
"I know one way. I'm pretty sure that's enough."
"You're supposed to entertain me-"
"I'm really not."
"-not be a huge downer."
"Did you really expect someone assigned to shadow you would be a good time?"
"You could at least stop with the murder face. I think our waitress isn't coming back, like, ever."
"It's not a murder face, it's just my face."
"Really? What do you look like when you are going to kill someone?" Clint doesn't do anything except tilt his chin down a tiny bit. Darcy snorts and says, "Oh yeah. Completely different. How wrong I was."
Clint drums on the table a moment while Darcy cuts her pasta into manageable pieces, a completely normal thing to do but Clint didn't seem to think so, before he says, "It wasn't just the mind-reader comment."
"Wha?" Darcy's manages through a mouthful of pasta. She's in carbohydrate heaven after Clint had grunted out a stern no to the divey noodle bar she'd tried to take him to and instead steered her to an equally divey Italian place that ended up being amazing.
"The psychic thing. It would be pretty flimsy, even for us, for that to have been the only reason."
"I just figured Coulson wanted you out of the field and made up a bogus assignment."
Clint's mouth drops open, but he quickly recovers and narrows his eyes. "See? That right there."
"It's not a bogus assignment, but I wouldn't normally have shadow duty. Coulson's benched me because I won't fill out those stupid four-oh-two forms and my last three PVT reports are late and he's trying to annoy me into doing paperwork. There is no way you'd know that."
"I'm just observant," Darcy says with a shrug. Clint had let her stop off at a 7-11 for a Big Gulp on their way to lunch and apparently the owners of the Italian place didn't care that she opted for someone else's post-mix. She drags the massive drink to her now, looks over it and can only see the top of Clint's head which has wrinkled in annoyance.
"You're in Doctor Banner's office every time his stats start to red zone."
"You monitor him?"
"Just his vitals. Heart rate, temperature, perspiration levels. There's a certain giveaway when the big guy's going to make an appearance and we like having enough warning to evacuate the building and lock down the lab area. You're always there when we start to worry. You distract him."
"You ever notice that I'm always there at the same time?" Darcy asks slowly.
"What? No, that's... really?"
"Every third Tuesday at two. I'm not sure what it is about that particular time and day and I wouldn't ask him because it's none of my business, but the first time was an accident because Jane sent me for a book she lent him and he asked if I wouldn't mind dropping in at the same time every few weeks."
"That can't be right," Clint grumbles, pushing a heel of garlic bread around his plate to mop up his leftover sauce.
"Maybe stop being so concerned about his heart rate and listen to what he says."
"You're still probably Canadian," Clint grunts finally and Darcy throws a balled up napkin at his face. He flicks it aside without even looking.
"That's my new kitty Princess Puddle-pants. I couldn't leave her at home because she's not toilet trained yet," Darcy says without looking up from her data sheets. Eleanor Revin, the person she is pretty damn sure coined the unflattering nickname of Dumbsy, looks over her shoulder from her own desk and rolls her eyes. Darcy pokes her tongue out and Eleanor makes an exaggerated tsk noise and goes back to her work.
"Hmmm," is all Jane says, but she also squeezes Clint's biceps with her small hands and he just watches her do it, amused. Darcy wishes she could get away with stuff like that by being tiny, elfin and innocent looking instead of having a face that apparently spells trouble. "He could probably erect things so I guess he can stay."
"He can certainly erect-" Darcy starts to crow but Eleanor cuts her off by heaving out a very put-upon honestly.
"I'm sorry, was anyone talking to you?" Darcy demands. She's never been one to ignore other people's bad behavior. She might not be the quietest mouse in the house, but Eleanor had decided to hate Darcy with a passion before she even did anything to warrant it, so she's basically been more, well, her around Eleanor in retaliation.
She's perfectly capable of being quiet and professional if the need arises but the need has not arisen in quite some time.
"Be good," Jane says absently, because she's really not someone that should be in charge of anyone, ever.
"You need help with something?" Clint asks good-naturedly, probably because he's insanely bored. About an hour ago Darcy had watched him fashion a tiny bow out of pencils and rubber bands and then shoot a paperclip that hit Eleanor right in the middle of the back. By the time she turned around to glare at Darcy, all evidence that Clint had even moved had been gone.
Darcy's only denial had been that if it were really her, she would have aimed for Eleanor's head.
"Not right now. Why are you here again?" Jane asks. Instead of answering, Clint just hooks a thumb at Darcy. That seems to be explanation enough for Jane because she makes another, "Hmmm," and moves away to the large circular table that takes up most of the space in the lab.
"What are you guys making?" Clint asks.
"Aren't you a sniper?"
"Doesn't that mean you can sit quietly for hours or maybe even days without doing anything?"
"You're choosing not to right now, aren't you?"
"Why is that again?"
"What card am I holding up?" Clint produces a deck of cards from out of somewhere and holds one between thumb and index finger, card face turned away from her.
"Oh my god."
"People are trying to actually work here," Eleanor hisses. There are only two other people in the room apart from Jane and Darcy. Eleanor herself and Sebastian who's one of SHIELD's interns and very clearly has Facebook up on his monitor.
"What is your problem?" Darcy asks, not for the first time.
"You are my problem. I've worked very hard for this opportunity and you swan in-"
"Swan in? I was nearly immolated by a giant death machine from another galaxy for this job. There was no swanning."
"No one believes that," Eleanor dismisses with a curled lip.
"Yeah, it's not true," Clint says and Darcy turns on him, gaping in betrayal. "It was a death machine from an alternate dimension, not another galaxy."
Clint just sits on his stool, hands clasped in his lap and completely benign expression on his face as Eleanor fish-mouths at him. Darcy fights the urge to hug him around the neck because she's never seen Eleanor speechless before.
Eleanor stands stiffly, gathers up her papers and her laptop and announces, "I'm working in Doctor Astor's office for the day."
"Yes, fine," Jane says with a wave, not even looking up.
"How did you know about that?" Darcy asks when she's gone.
"I was there," Clint says with a shrug.
"I can actually be stealthy."
"Did you let me bust you on purpose?"
"Absolutely not," Clint says, wearing the same bland expression and Darcy can't read him at all and it's infuriating and fantastic at the same time.
Phil turns his whole body on the couch towards her, looking horrified. "Don't tell me that."
"Why not? You're my confidante."
"How did that happen again?" Phil asks.
"I'm persistent and also extremely charming."
"I'll give you the persistent part."
"If you have a crush on Agent Barton, I have to reassign him."
"I'm pretty sure it's unrequited?"
"That doesn't make a difference."
"This is a safe space, remember? I'm telling Phil, not Agent Coulson."
"I don't get the distinction."
"There's Agent you, and then there's Thai-eating, couch-blanket stealing, secret Coldplay fan you."
"That is not a rule."
"It should be?" Darcy tries, then makes a low, pathetic whine at Phil and clasps her hands under her chin, giving him huge, puppy eyes. "He's pretty and he stood up to the evil lab harpy for me. You can't take him away now. Not when it's all your fault."
"There's an evil lab harpy?"
"She writes her name on the two percent in the communal fridge. It's a communal fridge and the milk is company bought. E-V-I-L."
"You've got to understand that SHIELD has some very entrenched hierarchy and you've basically leap-frogged it."
"Why do people keep saying that? I nearly died and worse, lost my iPod for this job."
"Your priorities worry me a little."
"You're just lucky I see Agent Coulson and Phil as two separate beings, otherwise I'd be pissed at you right now for having me under surveillance."
"I know it's completely out of your nature, but can you please just grin and bear it for once? I promise, it'll all make sense eventually."
"You say that like there's going to be some kind of plot twist I don't know about," Darcy says, narrowing her eyes and Phil looks her in the eye very steadily with a completely bland expression, which means he's hiding something.
Darcy subsides, because she knows better resourced, much more determined people than her have tried to get information out of Phil and failed. She just needs to bide her time, keep her eyes peeled and her ears open.
"Fine," she says and Phil's immediately suspicious of her capitulation so she says, "But-"
"Darcy!" he groans.
"I can keep Clint?"
"For now. Just, don't do anything that'll scar me when I have to review the surveillance tapes later."
Darcy doesn't like it when Jane is mad though, because the last time Jane was this hopping angry, Darcy lost her iPod. "What's going on?" she asks. Clint had been mysteriously absent that morning. She'd gotten used to him meeting her at the security check in and it was a little sad traipsing down to the labs on her lonesome. Darcy can't help but think that the two events are linked.
"Be careful with that!" Jane yells at a guy in what looks like a full-on hazmat suit. Darcy gets a hold of one of Jane's arms and tugs, because maybe they shouldn't be in the lab if people are wearing breathing equipment and full-body protection.
"Maybe we should-" Darcy starts to propose but Jane cuts her off.
"I'm not leaving these guys unsupervised. We know what happened last time."
"I don't think SHIELD would come and steal their own equipment," Darcy says, going for soothing but when Jane turns blazing eyes on her, she amends quickly. "Your equipment. This is all your equipment."
"They could get rid of the whatever it is without touching everything else," Jane says loudly.
"The whatever it is?"
"Apparently there's some kind of listening device in here. In the milk," Jane says, dismissive.
"What?" Darcy blurts and there is indeed another faceless SHIELD person placing the two percent with Eleanor's milk, do not touch into a padded box with actual tongs. "Oh my god," Darcy squeaks.
"I do, y'know," Clint says from right by her shoulder and Darcy flails, only managing to not clip him in the nose with a startled hand because Clint grabs it.
"Do what? Scare me to death?"
"I listen to what people say," Clint clarifies and raises his eyebrows pointedly at the SHIELD agent handling the carton of milk still oh-so-carefully.
"This isn't just because I said she was evil, is it?" Darcy asks in wonder as the agents in the lab clump together to have a small debate over something, before filing out, most of them shying away from where Jane is standing, tapping her foot in impatience.
"Partly," Clint says and when Darcy gives him a horrified look, he grins and adds, "Although it's mostly because she was part of an embedded Hydra cell."
"You guys must feel pretty silly watching me when this was happening..." Darcy starts to say, but trails off when Clint ducks his face. "Wait a minute! Was I just a distraction?"
"We needed a way to have someone in the lab without making Revin suspicious."
"I can't believe it. I'm a stooge."
"You weren't a stooge. You were involved in a very complex sting operation to protect Doctor Foster's work."
"Without my knowledge."
"Believe it or not, you were integral. We'd swept the lab for recording devices but we were always doing it overnight and had no idea that one was being brought in in the morning and being discarded at night. Phil told me what you said about Revin writing her name on the carton and it got me thinking."
"Is she in handcuffs right now? Did you have to take her down?" Darcy asks, eyes gleaming.
"She's in one of our holding cells and no, you cannot go and gloat or make blowfish on the one-way glass."
"Spoilsport," Darcy grumbles.
It was just convenient that Thor had teleported in that day.
"It's not teleporting," Jane corrects her. Her head is pillowed on Thor's bicep and considering said bicep is bigger than Jane's head, it looks extremely comfy.
"Please don't try to explain again how it really works," Darcy says, burying her own head on her arms, because she's deprived of a nicely formed bicep to use. "I think I got a nose bleed last time."
"I have now seen Star Trek and I believe the comparison is an apt one," Thor interjects and Jane raises her head to poke him.
"Don't encourage her."
"I still think the Italian place is better," Clint says, pulling up a chair from the empty table next to them and then smiling mildly at Darcy when she just blinks at him.
"What are you doing here?" Darcy asks, quick to add, "Not that it's a bad thing," when Clint's mild smile starts to falter a little.
"Apparently you were pining," Clint says. He has laugh lines that carve deep around his eyes when he smiles properly and Darcy is so screwed and-
"Wait, what?" she splutters, sitting up and nearly knocking her glass of water clear across the table. Thor catches it deftly and sets it aside, then prudently tugs her bowl of noodles away from her and any stray cutlery as well.
"You shouldn't tell Phil anything. He can't keep a secret to save his life," Clint says, looking way to amused.
"His job is to keep secrets. He is all about the secrets. I'm sure he has kept some to save his life."
"It's Agent Coulson's job to keep secrets. Apparently Phil is a different beast entirely."
"Nuts. I knew that was going to come back to bite me," Darcy grumbles.
"You're here though, so...?" Jane prompts, grinning and reaching over to tug on Darcy's hair happily.
"I know better than to tell Phil when I'm pining, but he knew anyway," Clint says with a shrug.
"Reciprocated pining. Excellent," Thor enthuses. "Jane, we must leave these two and find this Italian place Clint speaks of. I like Midgardian pasta very much."
"Isn't this usually more difficult?" Darcy asks, screwing up her face as she turns in her chair to face Clint. He drops his hands on her knees and leans forward to kiss her.
"I have enough difficult in my life. I have to deal with Tony Stark on a regular basis."
"So we're going to skip all that and go right to the making out part?" Darcy says as Clint ducks down to press his lips against her throat, twisting her hair around his fist to both move it out of the way and also just to hold it, firm but nice.
Darcy could get used to this.
"I tend to be a jump first kinda guy, sometimes literally," Clint says into her collarbone.
"But?" Clint says, raising his head and concern starting to shadow his features.
"I mean, if we ever have kids," Darcy starts, fights the urge to bust out laughing at Clint's expression. "What if they're... Canadian?"