Agent Coulson has a very polite smile, Darcy notices. For someone who spends more than ten hours a day wearing sunglasses, he’s not actually that impersonal.
He even gives all their equipment back, including Dr. Foster’s laptop and the miles and miles of electrical tape that Jane uses to hold everything together. He has his men put it all back in place, and somewhere between the backup drives and the paperwork he throws in a few pads of graph paper and spare pens, the nice type that smudge all over if you aren’t careful.
Darcy goes digging through the tub of wiring, which is also apparently where Coulson put anything he couldn’t categorize elsewhere and, for some reason, a paperweight consisting of a fossilized sea urchin. None of them remember it being there before the whole..
The whole what? Darcy thinks. Act of God? Gods? Norse mythology?
She shakes her head a little. And I didn’t even get to try out my CPR.
Halfway through the bin, the tabletop begins to look like a snake pit, errant wires and plastic ties littered among the coffee mugs and stacks of paperwork. The paperweight is still sitting there, though it’s only a matter of time before it takes a nosedive into Jane’s coffee, and Darcy decides that it could stand a little tannin anyway.
“Hey,” she says, “where’s my iPod?”
Coulson looks over to where she is, wrist-deep in twist ties and cables. “It must have gotten misplaced. We’ll reimburse you.”
Darcy doesn’t want to be reimbursed. She wants her weather-coordinated playlists, dammit.
She pulls her hands out of the bin, flicking a spare cable across the tabletop. It hits the paperweight, which succumbs to gravity and lands in the mug, splattering coffee on the surrounding manila file folders.
There’s no way they’re keeping it, she thinks. What the hell would they want with it anyway?
Barton tosses the iPod from hand to hand.
“Your new assignment,” Coulson says. He knows that I have no idea what he means, Barton thinks. He just does it to screw with me. A minute goes past in silence that neither of them is willing to break before Coulson gives in.
“They were involved in the recent New Mexico crater site… incident,” he says, and Barton is still enjoying the brief glow of triumph, perhaps too much so to note Coulson’s careful choice of words. He supposes that “act of Norse God” isn’t really a description that S.H.I.E.L.D. uses often, or ever, come to that.
“You are going to shadow them,” Coulson says, and before Barton can protest, he goes on, “I’ve given them the S.H.I.E.L.D. satellite codes, so they need to be monitored. And since you have prior experience in this case, and you’re the highest ranking agent related, there you are.”
Barton never has a chance to say anything, like I’m a sniper, or an archer, not a babysitter, because Coulson of course sees it coming and cuts him off again. “Any problems? No? Good.”
One day Barton swears he’s going freelance.
This isn’t so bad, he thinks, after initiating first contact. The brunette insists on dragging the others out to a bar - to “lighten up,” she says, and the professor looks like he agrees. Miss Einstein-Rosen Bridge, on the other hand, looks perfectly content to spend the rest of the night in the lab.
“Your loss,” Brunette says philosophically. Barton likes her already.
“No,” Professor says. “You have to come. You will drive the more incapacitated of us home.”
Three hours and innumerable boilermakers later, the professor - Dr. Selvig, apparently - passes out, and Einstein-Rosen drives him home while Brunette stays to chat up the bartender.
Two hours after that, Brunette finally gets tipsy. Barton follows her into the parking lot.
“Need a ride?” he says, trying to look as normal and un-creepy as possible, and failing completely, to judge by her reaction.
She swings around and tasers him.
“Do you do this to all the guys you meet?” he asks, an hour and a half later from the couch in the lab.
“Only the ones who don’t get hit by vans,” she says.
“Guess that makes me special,” he replies, gingerly bending his legs. He’ll live.
“Please,” she says. “I give the special ones CPR.”
Two days later he finally finds out her name.
It’s only because he steals her cell phone to check in with Coulson. It’s a huge breach of protocol, monitoring witnesses in plain sight, but at this point anything goes. After all, not much is surprising after a Norse God Incident.
“Darcy?” he says. “Isn’t that like - “
“I wouldn’t,” Einstein-Rosen says, passing by. Jane, sorry. “Last time someone did that, she hit them. With her thesis.”
“That doesn’t sound so scary,” Barton says. Brunette - Darcy - holds up a book the approximate thickness of his arm. “On second thought,” he says. “That’s a completely original name and I’ve never heard it before.”
The thesis hurts like a bitch.
“Why are you so defensive around me?” Barton demands. “I mean, I never hit you with an encyclopedia. Or tasered you. Or threw coffee at you. Or pencils.” He could go on, but he doesn’t think it would be conducive to the conversation.
“It wasn’t an encyclopedia,” she retorts from behind the - whatever it is. Matter printer. Coffee maker. Same thing. “It was my thesis. It was a work of fricking art.”
“Thesis, shmesis,” he says. She throws a damp filter at him.
Coffee maker, then.
“You know, most psychologists agree that aggression is just sublimated sexual attraction,” she says.
“Bullshit,” he says. “That’s like saying that a marshmallow is a s’more waiting to happen.”
“No it isn’t,” she says. “A marshmallow has the inherent potential to take control of its own fate and become whatever it wants.”
By the time they finish talking about the marshmallow, he finally notices that it washer who brought up sexual attraction as an explanation of her constant attempts to disable, kill, incapacitate, and otherwise distract him from his work.
Of course, by that time she’s in the library, another area full of projectiles just waiting to happen.
He decides that that conversation can wait for a while.
Later that day he drops by her work area, which is basically the coffeemaker (with which she has eloped to her desk) and the surrounding ten feet of floor, which are all covered with paperwork.
“I brought you something,” he says.
“Don’t distract me,” she says, and her hand hovers dangerously near the thumbtacks.
“Nonononono,” he says. “Look.”
She takes the box and opens it. “S’mores?”
She isn’t stupid. She can see a metaphor ten miles away, Barton prays.
“I’m not stupid, you know,” Darcy says. “I can recognize a metaphor when I see one,” and Barton is almost scared of what happens next, because this isn’t just the assignment any more.
He sits down beside her watches silently as she eats her way through a layer of s’mores.
“Oh,” she says, and he knows she’s found it.
“You didn’t have to bring it back, you know,” she says, pulling the iPod out of the layers of paper towel.
“Well, you know,” he said. “I took my internal inherent potential and used it to take control of your iPod’s communal fate or something.”
“Oh, god,” she says, “shut up, that doesn’t even make sense,” and she kisses him. She tastes like chocolate and sublimated attraction, whatever that is, and he thinks he could learn to enjoy this. Especially since she can’t throw things at him when her hands are on his chest.
Sublimated attraction tastes like marshmallows.
Barton thinks he likes it.