Darcy knew at an intellectual level that it was coming but it didn’t make it any easier.
“No, that’s great,” she says anyway because she’d been prepared, had rehearsed her reaction so as not to show her own disappointment. It comes out a tiny bit stilted but she’s pretty sure not enough for Jane to notice.
Jane notices. Of course she does.
“It’s your... I’m happy for you,” Darcy insists and Jane just stares at her steadily, waiting her out in that patented patient Jane way. She should not be brilliant and also have overlarge manga eyes to break people’s will with.
It’s just unfair.
“You’re obviously not,” Jane says, always straight to the point.
She’s not unhappy is the thing. Of course she’s happy for Jane, that Jane is moving in with her fantastic demigod boyfriend and they’re going to live in a mansion amongst superheroes.
She’s just not happy on her own behalf because while again, intellectually she knew it wouldn’t last, she’d still grown to like living in the small, SHIELD provided apartment with Jane. The fantastic demigod and sometimes his demigod friends would drop by and there was always the chance of something exciting happening. While the apartment’s nice and all, it’s just not the same without Jane in it.
Darcy on her own, again.
“You’re coming too,” Jane says, surprising Darcy out of her maudlin thoughts.
“I... what?” Darcy says, blinks at Jane.
“It’s a mansion. Apparently there’s a whole wing that isn’t being used by anyone. I told Thor I’d only move if you could come with us and SHIELD were really pleased to get one of their safe houses back.”
“You... I’m coming too?” Darcy repeats, because it bears repeating.
“You sound surprised,” Jane says, looking puzzled.
“I just... never expected to be moving into a mansion without having to sleep with some old guy,” Darcy says and then it catches up to her, what’s happening. She’s moving into a mansion with Jane’s fantastic demigod boyfriend and a bunch of superheroes.
“They’re coming over to help us move on Thursday so we’d better start packing,” Jane orders and Darcy groans, because the euphoria of moving is short-lived with the prospect of packing in their future.
“Do you really need this?” Captain America is asking her, hefting her ancient television set. “Tony’s got a widescreen in every room, sometimes two.” Darcy just stares at him because Captain America is carrying her television. The thing is about a million years old, from the dawn of television time and Darcy knows for a fact that it weighs more than it looks like it does tucked under Captain America’s arm.
He’d introduced himself as Steve but Darcy just can’t get there mentally yet, she’s having enough trouble with the idea that she’s going to be living in the same house as the guy, seeing him in a t-shirt and jeans and wearing sunglasses like an every day person which he is not.
“It’s got sentimental value,” she blurts because it does. It was her dad’s television and she has real trouble letting go of things that still work like he always did, even if they were surpassed by something newer and shinier. She has an ipod because she’s actually living in this century but it was bought only under protest when her walkman gave up the ghost and could not be salvaged.
Captain America... Steve smiles at her gently like he totally understands and heads for the truck that was sent over for their stuff, Thor behind the wheel looking altogether too gleeful about it. He’s just got his license and he keeps saying how he missed controlling a mighty steed or something like that, thinks the truck with its size is a sufficient substitute.
Jane drops down beside her. She’d been trying to help but had given up when Thor had taken a box out of her arms for the fifth time. “I feel like I should object being a modern woman and all but it is fun watching these guys work,” she leans into Darcy to confide. Darcy nods as they watch Thor carry a refrigerator out like it weighs as much as a feather pillow. “Honey, I think that came with the apartment,” she calls, darts up and over to Thor to steer him back towards the apartment.
She’s back in a few moments, grinning and blushing because Thor had paused long enough to juggle to refrigerator sideways so that he could kiss her soundly. “It must be nice,” Darcy muses. “He’s not likely to ever disappoint you.”
“No, he really isn’t,” Jane agrees.
Darcy meets Natasha when they first arrive back at the mansion. She was described by Thor as deadly and beautiful and Darcy can see why. Natasha just looks at her for a moment before offering a hand to shake. Darcy takes it, expecting to get her hand crushed or something equally combative but the shake is just warm and firm.
“Thank god,” Natasha says simply. “Other women.”
Darcy grins at her, likes her immediately, more so when she discovers Natasha has a secret shared passion for bad karaoke and good sushi.
Tony Stark proves more elusive, it takes a full week before Darcy even so much as glimpses him, another before he finally gets around to surprising her in the kitchen. “Do I know you?” he demands, sliding sunglasses down his nose at nine at night inside the house. Darcy was only looking for cookies, didn’t expect an inquisition. She looks self consciously down at her threadbare slippers and the robe that was also her dad’s.
“I’m kidding,” he says, serious face evaporating into a cheeky grin. “Darcy, right?”
“You don’t sound sure,” he says, far too amused.
“Don’t bother the poor girl,” Steve says, appearing behind Tony’s shoulder and Darcy offers him a relieved grin. She likes Steve a great deal, he’s sweet and nice in the same way Thor is, just a way about them both. “You always scare new people.”
“I’m completely charming, don’t lie,” Tony scoffs, holds his hand out across the table and Darcy takes it, uncertainly. “Especially to beautiful young women.”
“Oh please,” Steve groans, smacks a hand over his eyes.
“You don’t happen to keep double-stuffed oreos around, do you?” Darcy asks because what the hell, she’s in her pajamas, an old robe and slippers that have been better days, no use trying to be suave.
“A girl after my own heart,” Tony says with a genuine smile, hooking his glasses off and reaching for a cupboard behind her head. “Movie?” he asks, when he’s retrieved an industrial sized box that makes Darcy’s eyes go round.
“Anything with zombies would be good,” Darcy says and Tony’s smile widens.
“You can definitely stay.”
Darcy meets Clint Barton because she nearly sits on him.
Okay, she does sit on him, but the guy is really quiet and still and she’d started just assuming he was everyone’s imaginary friend because she’d never actually seen him in person. Darcy’s got her nose in a book and thinks she’s alone when she enters the living room closest to her bedroom and squeals when hands touch her waist right before her butt touches down on the expected couch.
Darcy flails sideways and winds up half on, half off the couch, being held off the floor by who she assumes is Clint because he’s the only one she hasn’t met yet. “Um, hi,” she manages as Clint levers her back up onto the couch. She sees the television is on but it’s muted.
Clint notices her attention, says, “Sorry, I was practicing lip reading,” in this way that means he thinks it’s a completely normal thing to be doing on a Saturday afternoon. “I thought I was home alone.”
“Me too,” Darcy says, waves her book in the direction of the lap she nearly sat in. “Obviously.”
“I’m used to startling people,” Clint says, shrugging. “I mean I didn’t intend to this time.”
“It’s okay, I should know to check before I sit anywhere. You guys are all, like, ninjas after all.”
“I can’t jump backwards into a tree, I swear,” Clint says. When Darcy just raises an eyebrow at him he kind of shrugs, says, “Okay, maybe once but it was a total fluke.”
“Ninja,” Darcy says, waggling a finger at him. Then she notices what’s actually on the screen. “Wait, you’re trying to lipread muppets?”
“I like a challenge.”
Darcy watches the Avengers’ exploits on TV just like everyone else. Just because she’s living with them doesn’t mean she has a ringside seat to any of the action. She’s actually surprised to find it’s relatively easy to separate who she sees on the news with the people she lives with.
Captain America really is just Steve when he’s at home and at ease. Without the uniform he’s an overly polite but sweet and shy guy. Natasha is definitely scary but in a way that comforts Darcy rather than alarms her. Bruce is interesting, uncertain and twitchy when he’s himself and completely away from her when he’s otherwise which is probably safest.
Tony Stark is the exception because he seems less real in person than he does on CNN.
Clint is hard to get a read on since he’s not as flashy as the rest. There’s rarely footage of him, only ever a blur in the background when the action starts. Darcy starts trying to spot him, makes it a hobby that eventually evolves into a drinking game with Jane. The first three months she’s in the mansion she hardly ever sees him.
Darcy gets comfortable which she never thought she would in this environment. She goes out for drinks with Thor, Jane and the warriors, meets Natasha at increasingly sketchy karaoke bars, watches Steve and Tony dance around each other in a fascinating way that has a pretty inevitable conclusion even if neither realize it yet and then...
Then there’s Clint.
“What are you looking at?” Darcy asks, finding Clint by himself in the kitchen which is pretty close to miraculous. The large, well-appointed kitchen in the mansion, the only one of three actually used and central to the house, always seems to have at least two or more people in it. Darcy learnt that late night foraging for cookies was not something she was ever likely to be able to do alone again.
Clint’s got a number of glossy magazines in front of him and his expression could best be described as tortured.
He looks up at her, tries to be subtle about covering the magazines with an admittedly very nicely formed arm and drops his head into the other hand. “Hi, good morning.”
“You don’t have girlie mags on the kitchen table do you?” Darcy says with a grimace and Clint’s scandalized face is priceless.
“What? No!” he splutters, quick to hold up an IKEA catalog in the face of Darcy assuming it’s something far more embarrassing.
“Homewares, huh? You don’t strike me as the sort,” Darcy observes, sneaking another of the magazines out from under Clint’s elbow. She flicks through, sees page after page of picture-perfect rooms that have always given her the creeps.
“I stripped my room out of all the... Tony and there isn’t much left,” Clint says and Darcy can certainly understand the compulsion. She’s done the same, filling her space with treasures from jumble sales and flea markets. Jane often retreats to Darcy’s room to rest her brain from the opulence of Thor’s, who’d taken it upon himself to recreate Asgard on earth, at least in his bedroom. They’d had to have a bedroom on the top floor because Thor apparently couldn’t live without a giant fire in a sunken pit inside.
Darcy suspects it’s an Asgardian version of a nightlight.
“Don’t you want something a little more... solid?” Darcy says, flapping the magazine in her hand in a disappointed way.
“I’ve never really had to... decorate before,” Clint admits after a pause. “Last few years I’ve been in barracks or varying degrees of temporary accommodation. That didn’t actually require me to hang any pictures or choose lamps.”
“Bed and bare walls type, right?” Darcy guesses and Clint pulls a face.
“I’m not... I didn’t really have a choice but now I don’t exactly know what I like. Tony keeps complaining about my room being depressing.”
“Why does he see inside your room?” Darcy asks with a raised eyebrow. Maybe she’s been wrong about Tony and Steve.
“What... oh no,” Clint says, sounding so horrified that Darcy laughs. “Just from the security feeds.”
“I got the security feeds to my room cut,” Darcy says and when Clint just stares at her blankly, she rolls her eyes. “It’s your room, you can do that. It’s called privacy.”
“I guess I’m not used to having that.”
“You’re allowed to have a sleeping bag on the floor in your room and nothing else if you want,” Darcy says gently.
“I guess...” Clint says, sounding painfully unsure.
Darcy takes pity on him and also seizes the chance to get to the know the most elusive member of their odd little household. “Do you want some help maybe?”
Clint looks surprised by the offer, says, “Um... sure?”
“Great, it’s a d-” Darcy nearly says date but stops herself just in time. “It’s an appointment for the future,” she amends awkwardly but Clint looks so relieved to not have to be dealing with catalogs and decisions about bedside tables that she’s pretty sure he doesn’t notice.
There’s trapdoor access to the mansion’s roof and a small, pebbled area with chairs and and a table set up. Darcy’s not sure why she thinks she’s alone in this discovery since there’s furniture but she’s still surprised to find Tony seated with a tablet on his lap and a jug of what looks like lemonade and smells like rum in front of him when she goes up there for the one cigarette she allows herself a month.
“Darcy my dear, what brings you up here?” Tony asks, pushing the ever-present sunglasses onto the top of his head.
“Thor’s serenading Jane,” Darcy says, which is actually a very good reason for escaping the main part of the house. “No matter what room you’re in you can still hear You Light Up My Life.”
“Does he have a good voice at least?” Tony asks with a wry grin.
“He’s usually good at everything so you’d think so but... sadly not. He’s very... enthusiastic though and Jane’s smitten so she can’t tell him he’s terrible.”
“You could,” Tony points out.
“I could but for a demigod he gets oddly hurt by criticism.”
“We all have our weaknesses.”
“What are you doing?” Darcy asks, feeling bold. She sits, looks out over the wide stretch of grass and trees that Tony calls a backyard and then looks back at Tony. “Oh my god, you’re perving,” she accuses.
She can see in Tony’s face that he’s contemplating denying it, before he rolls his eyes and says, “Yes, fine. As I said, we all have our weaknesses.”
They’re looking down on Steve and Clint sparring on the wooden deck overlooking the grounds. The two men are both only wearing loose workout pants and undershirts. It must take Darcy too long to tear her gaze away from the sight because when she looks back at Tony, he’s smirking.
He doesn’t say anything, just produces a glass from somewhere and pours her a healthy belt of whatever it is in his jug and slides it over.
“I was going to go back in and watch the Wife Swap marathon but... this is better,” Darcy observes.
Tony offers the jug and Darcy clinks her glass against it.
Darcy drags Clint to a little place close by she’d discovered by accident that specialises in estate furniture. Darcy doesn’t think Clint is especially old fashioned, but he does seem the type to like things with weight, with presence.
Nothing machine made in a factory would suit.
They pick out a heavy chest of draws in a dark wood with some fascinating imperfections and a large, brass-based lamp that Darcy catches Clint swinging like a blunt weapon. She raises an eyebrow at him and he shrugs, blushing and says, “You never know.”
“You’re not allowed to pick stuff based on whether you could smash someone’s skull with it,” she says. “Just go for things you like.”
“I like it and not just because I could totally brain someone with it,” Clint promises and Darcy nods, smiling.
They get a chest that will make an excellent but unobtrusive weapons locker from a large open warehouse where most of the furniture is covered in dust and then enough material to make dark green curtains that will still match the dark wood but isn’t black which was Clint’s first instinct. “Green is a mentally stable color,” Darcy says.
Next is a bookshelf which Clint is dubious about because he doesn’t own any books but, “You will,” Darcy assures him. “When you’ve settled in a place, books just happen despite your best efforts.” They find a model motorcycle made from what looks like the inner workings of a clock and Darcy pats Clint on the shoulder with a grin, says, “Look at that, your first official knick knack.”
They return to the mansion with sore feet but pleased with their loot. Clint looks hesitant before he leans forward and kisses her on the cheek.
“Thanks for today.”
“Any time,” Darcy says.
Sunday morning sees Darcy up on the roof again with Tony who has brought coffee this time. Clint is teaching Steve how to use his compound bow and Darcy and Tony agree that it’s way sexier than it should be.
“Wait, is Clint trying to seduce Steve?” Darcy asks, a little worried because Clint has lined himself up along Steve’s back to show him the proper hold.
“Nah, don’t worry. They know we’re up here.”
“What?” Darcy splutters, breathing hot coffee into her nasal passages and choking on it. Tony offers her a glass of water and she gulps it down, eyes streaming.
“Funny thing about super-soldiers and snipers, they’re pretty observant guys,” Tony says like it doesn’t phase him in the least. “They don’t know why we’re up here though but they’re showing off just the same which is adorable.”
“Are you and Steve...?” Darcy starts because she had thought that hadn’t actually happened yet.
“No, but we’re getting there,” Tony says with a smile that makes the lines around his eyes dig deep. “How about you and Barton?”
“No!” Darcy yelps, a little too loudly because Steve and Clint crane their necks around, look straight at them. Tony sketches a little wave and they both wave back uncertainly.
“Hey Barton, when are you taking this wonderful creature out on an actual date?” Tony calls and Darcy punches him in the arm, Tony shuffling sideways with an, “Ow, holy crap woman!”
“Friday?” Clint calls up, one hand shielding his eyes from the glare of the morning sun.
“Friday good with you?” Tony asks her, grinning and Darcy nods mutely, startled into silence. Tony leans further over the roof’s edge and offers a thumb’s up.