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the best of life is but intoxication

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"No one's making me do anything," Darcy is arguing while Jane has a mini tantrum. Jane's tantrums are always fascinating to watch. She doesn't like messing up workspaces so she'll toss a piece of paper or knock over an empty coffee cup.

It's like a storm in a bottle.

Right now Jane is flicking rubber bands at the Avengers poster Darcy has tacked up in her cubicle. She's always had a team spirit, feels like she's being supportive if she owns merchandise. Jane carefully targets each member, except Thor. Darcy's certain it's because Jane thinks Thor would know, would be disappointed that Jane had sullied his visage or something.

Darcy just can't believe she works around people that have a poster. It's all still more than a little startling.

She also can't believe someone gave Jane a rubber band gun, these people are obviously crazy.

"You're just reciting what the Man told you," Jane accuses, aiming for and hitting Iron Man's crotch.

"There's no Man," Darcy says, knowing that Jane's going to have to wind herself down, can't actually be reasoned with in this state. She'll make the effort, but it's usually like trying to get a grip in an ice shelf. Darcy spins herself lazily in her desk chair, only stops when Jane hits her on the forehead with one of the rubber bands. "Look, most of the time your work is exciting and amazing but then there's..."

"There's...?" Jane prompts, aiming the rubber band gun menacingly.

"There's the times when stuff is... compiling? When we just have to sit and watch it all compile."

"That's exciting too," Jane says, lowering the gun and pouting.

"For you, yes. You can see the code," Darcy says, waggling her hands around. When Jane just gives her a blank look she sighs. "The Matrix? No? Wow."

"You're mine though," Jane says, still not sounding convinced.

"That's oddly possessive of you," Darcy says with a grin. "I've already told Coulson that you're my priority. I drop everything else when you need me."

"I'm your priority?"

"Of course you are," Darcy says, leaning over so she can pat Jane on the shoulder and disarm her in one smooth motion. "But all the other times there's other stuff I can do, I feel like I'm contributing."

"You like being a general gopher, gal Friday, errand girl?" Jane says, dubious.

"Just one of those terms would have been sufficient enough to properly express your disdain."

"No, it's... if you're happy, that's what I want for you. I just don't want anyone taking advantage of you."

"I promise mom, I won't do anything that makes me feel uncomfortable," Darcy says with a little salute.

*

Darcy likes having a desk of her own, was touched when Agent Coulson had gone to the trouble of setting her up near his own offices. The labs are fine, impressive actually, but everything is covered in Jane's work. Darcy had initially tried to carve out a little space for herself but it had soon been re-absorbed by papers, charts and equipment.

It also helps to have somewhere to escape to when Thor visits.

*

Darcy first runs into Captain America when she's got an armload of folders. She's not looking where she's going, he tries to sidestep her and she catches the movement out of the corner of her eye and manages to move in the wrong direction. Captain America, Steve he insists with a wry tilt of his mouth, helps her pick everything up amongst apologies even though it wasn't his fault at all.

He insists on carrying the folders for her, gets a pinched look to his face when he claims he has nothing else to do, anyway. Darcy lets him trail her, feeling self-conscious because it's Captain America carrying her paperwork but unable to find a polite way to wrestle it back from him.

Steve hovers when he carefully puts the folders down and Darcy eyes him. "Did you need something?" she asks, careful to make her tone kind rather than dismissive.

"I just..." Steve starts, kind of shrugs and says, "No, it's... I'm fine, thanks."

He turns and Darcy doesn't know why she does it, but she snags his elbow, tugs so he swivels back to face her. "Have you eaten lunch yet?" she asks.

Steve gives her a grateful smile, shakes his head and Darcy grabs her bag.

*

Turns out she's not the only one awed and a little frightened by Steve. He's a sweet guy once you get to know him, but it's the getting to know him part that proves tricky for most people. "Everyone avoids me," he laments into his chocolate milkshake.

"You're a national icon," Darcy says, sympathetic. "It's kinda hard to walk up to you and say, dude, what's up, y'know?"

"You did," Steve points out, giving her the toothpaste smile that she's seen him dazzle people into submission with.

"Hey, once you've hung out with a demigod, everything else is cake," Darcy says with an imperious lift of her eyebrow and Steve chuckles.

*

Steve's not supposed to leave SHIELD headquarter without being accompanied by an agent, but Darcy thinks she qualifies and argues with Coulson until he agrees. "He's climbing the walls," she says. "I mean literally. He saw a parkour video on youtube and he's been scaring the crap out of people."

"It might be prudent to offer him some kind of distraction," Coulson grudgingly agrees.

"Your agents have better things to do than babysit someone who can punch through walls," Darcy presses and Coulson relents because it's the logical thing to do.

Entertaining Steve is relatively easy. Darcy sticks to activities that would keep her nephews occupied and in love with her. The zoo, the aquarium and the park mostly. Steve seems happy with it all. She's sure he's just ecstatic to be given even a modicum of freedom so she gets permission for him to stay over at her apartment after some of the outings. On those nights he usually eats a vast amount of pasta and fudgesicles and then passes out.

Pretty much exactly like her nephews.

*

Darcy's sorting through expense sheets when someone very pointedly clears their throat behind her. Darcy spins in her desk chair, sees an impeccably dressed man with a very impressively neat patch of facial hair but still takes a moment to recognize that it's Tony Stark because he's standing in her cubicle.

"Um, hello?" she says, surprised.

"You're Darcy?" Tony asks in a tone.

"That's me," Darcy agrees, reaches for her spiral notebook and a pen. "What can I-?"

"You're Darcy," Tony repeats. He looks around, sniffs and then says, "You look young."

"I...thanks?" Darcy says, can't really get a read on what Tony is driving at because his eyes are hidden behind mirrored sunglasses even though he's indoors. She can't tell whether he's angry, curious or about to tell her he's her long lost father which would be a long-shot but incredibly awesome all the same.

"Darcy that..." Tony makes a gesture Darcy doesn't know how to interpret. He frowns, but it seems to be more at himself than her. "That Steve..."

"Oh, Steve, yes," Darcy says, smiling. "He's a sweetheart."

"Right," Tony says flatly and now she's sure he's angry. She's getting increasingly concerned because she has no idea what's going on here. "Drinks," he suddenly blurts, a little loudly because Darcy hears Marta in the cubicle next to hers drop something and curse.

Darcy waggles the notebook. "You want me to order some for a meeting?"

"What?" Tony says, blinks a few times and then shakes his head. "Um, no, I meant you should, with us?"

"You're really going to have to make an actual sentence for me," Darcy says when Tony just continues to look strangely flustered.

"You should come for drinks, with us," Tony says, overly slow this time like she's dense which is pretty rude.

"Us who?" Darcy watches Tony resist the urge to be rude again, she's fascinated it's so evident on his face. He finally huffs a breath and says, "With us," jabbing a finger in the direction of the poster on her wall.

"What?" Darcy barks out a laugh, but when Tony just stares at her, she swallows hard. "You're not kidding?"

"You and Steve have gotten close?" Darcy hesitates before nodding. "He really likes you," Tony adds, grimacing like it pains him.

"I like him to," Darcy says when Tony seems content to leave it at that. "I'm not really sure about the whole drinks with the Avengers though."

"Come, we're fun," Tony says and he loses the stare that's frankly starting to creep her out and pastes a smile on which is oddly more discomforting than less. "I should... I mean we should get to know you... because of Steve."

"Alright," Darcy finally relents, even though she's not sure fun will be the theme of the night. She plans to be mostly terrified.

*

"Yes, if you stop tugging on my arm I will come with you," Jane says, extricating herself. She'd tried to blow Darcy off by claiming she had work to do but Darcy can be insistent.

Especially when faced with the possibility of a night out alone with a billionaire and a bunch of his superhero buddies.

"Doesn't Thor usually ask you?"

"Repeatedly," Jane says with fond shake of her head. "He's not as annoying if I say no as you are."

"We can go for an hour and then you can claim we have an emergency back at the lab, I promise," Darcy wheedles because even though Jane has said yes, Darcy can see her wavering.

"Fine, alright," Jane huffs. "Why would Steve want to go drinking anyway? He can't really..." Jane tips her hand to her mouth and then staggers around a little.

"I have no idea," Darcy says with a roll of her eyes. "I'm sure he's going because someone's called it a team bonding exercise and besides, he only gets to leave here on missions or with me. It must be a nice change of pace."

*

"You're Darcy?" Clint Barton says when Darcy's done shaking Natasha's hand who is as scary as Darcy thought she would be but in a welcoming way. Before she can respond to this, Jane herds her to a waiting table and deposits her between Thor and Steve.

Darcy shrugs to herself once she's seated, tries to ignore the way Clint is glaring at her from the bar and Tony's glaring at her from the opposite side of the table.

She tries but she can't. She thinks maybe she should just use the lab emergency excuse early, but then Natasha presses a drink into her hand which magically refuses to empty no matter how much she drinks from it and Darcy starts not really caring about anything.

Jane disappears an hour in, as advertised, but leaves her because she's a traitor. Darcy's well on the way to being drunk enough not to mind so it works out. She ends up with her cheek mashed against Natasha's shoulder and her feet in Steve's lap. She's arguing with Steve about how wrong he is about something, she can't remember what it is so she's trying to make up for her forgetfulness with vehemence, when Tony calls it a night.

"Hey drunky, want me to take you home?" Steve asks her, scooping her up like she weighs nothing and that's fortunate because her legs seemed to have stopped working at some point.

She lets her head go, watches Tony and Clint continue to glare at her but from upside down which is different at least. Darcy feels a kiss dropped on her forehead and she smiles groggily at Natasha, secure in the knowledge that at least one scary person likes her.

*

Steve staying over is fun but he's a big guy and her ancient couch is starting to develop a definite lean to it under his repeated visits. "I'll buy you a new one," he says as they both look at it with their heads tilted.

"You can't just buy me a couch," Darcy scoffs, returning to her eggs Steve made, guessing correctly she was the ravenous kind of hung over instead of the queasy one.

"Tony gave me a card thingy," he says. "He told me to go nuts but I don't really have anything to go nuts on."

"I don't think Tony would want you spending his money on me," Darcy says.

"Why not?" Steve asks, looking puzzled. He's dishing up his own eggs, he needs a whole pan for the portion he makes himself. The guy is a machine.

"I don't think he likes me very much," Darcy says. She's not really worried, she's never been the type of person to let things out of her control stress her but she knows it would probably be important to Steve for his friends to get along.

She's right because Steve frowns at his plate. "Why wouldn't he like you?"

"I have no idea," Darcy says with a grin. "I'm adorable and charming."

"That's very true," Steve says, pointing his fork at her. She knows he probably won't drop the subject completely, but nothing too embarrassing should come of it.

She's of course very wrong.

*

Tony's money does buy her a new couch, and Tony is accompanying Thor and Clint when they bring it over to her. Tony's looking about as contrite as Tony Stark can probably ever look. "The place you bought it from doesn't deliver?" she asks, a little startled by his choice in delivery people.

"They do, but Thor takes any opportunity to show off his muscles."

"I would love him to show off his muscles by lifting his end up," Clint complains, wedged awkwardly in the door as they try to force the too-large couch into Darcy's too small apartment.

"Let me try..." Darcy has spotted where they're hung up and squeezes in beside Clint, reaching up and trying to waggle the corner of couch free. Clint kind of huffs and she realizes she's leaning her whole weight against him, pressing her boobs into his arm. She quickly retreats and the couch chooses that moment to pop through her entryway. Thor, who'd probably taken Clint's insinuation he wasn't doing his bit personally, was pushing a little too enthusiastically because the couch hurtles straight for Darcy like a projectile.

Darcy gets knocked sideways and she trips over a bag, last night's boots and then her coffee table and ends up on her balcony through the sliding glass door she'd left open. Momentum takes her straight over the railing and Darcy feels gravity do the rest as she tips into empty space.

She stops, caught on something and Darcy looks up to see it's Clint. He's staring straight into her eyes with a firm grip on both her arms and she realizes he went head-first over the railing after her, probably didn't even think about it. They're only both not dead because Thor has caught Clint by one ankle.

"My friends, are you alright?" Thor calls.

"We'd be better if you could pull us up!" Clint yells, not taking his eyes off Darcy.

Thor does, making it look easy which Darcy will be impressed by when she's a little less freaked out. Thor sets Clint on his feet then catches Darcy up and hugs her so hard she thinks she's in danger of maybe surviving one near death experience only to be crushed. "I would not have forgiven myself if I had caused you harm, dear Darcy," he rumbles into her hair and she goes lax because once he eases up on the terrified grip, the hug is kind of a nice one.

"I really didn't mean to come here and nearly kill you with furniture," Tony says, looking all the way contrite now.

"I'm fine, no harm done," Darcy says, eying Clint who is now looking everywhere but at her.

He'd gone over after her head first.

*

Darcy doesn't scream when she turns around to find Clint hovering behind her, but it's a near thing.

The guy is quiet.

"I uh... I noticed you had a poster," he says, scratching at the back of his head with one hand and holding something behind his back with the other.

"Is that creepy since I know you guys now?" Darcy asks, grimacing and Clint blinks at her for a moment before he smiles. It's the first time she's seen him do it and he's got a hell of a nice one, all crinkled eyes.

"Not at all," he says. "I've got one in my locker. It's like a family photo with costumes and air brushing."

"I like your costume," Darcy says because she does, thinks Clint looks probably the most badass except for Natasha. Steve looks like a comic book character come to life, Tony is in the suit so you can't see him at all and Thor is... Thor.

"Thanks," Clint says, sounding pleased.

"Did you need something?" Darcy asks, reaching for the ever-present spiral notebook, flipping the top cover over quickly. She's trying to look professionally interested instead of just interested because it's occurred to her Clint is cute and she's not sure how she didn't notice it before.

"Ah, no," he says, brings out what he was holding behind him and offers it. Darcy takes the small box, flips it over and then squeals because it's miniature Avengers action figures. "If you keep it in the box it'll be val-" Clint starts to say but Darcy is too busy ripping the packaging apart to hear him.

"Oh my god, this is amazing," she says, wrestling all of the tiny Avengers out of their twist ties and then setting them carefully up along the edge of her desk. "I didn't think these were coming out for months."

"They aren't," Clint says. "I have connections."

She looks up at him and he's smiling at her in kind of a strained way she can't really interpret. "Are you alright?" she asks slowly and he seems to shakes himself, his grin flipping back to casual in the blink of an eye.

"Don't make me make out with Barbie or anything," he says.

"Are you kidding? Look how teeny you are, she'd be like Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman," Darcy says, holding up the Hawkeye figure and waggling it. She touches the tiny bow he has slung across his back, charmed. "I might have a troll doll which is the perfect size for that."

"I changed my mind, I'm taking them back," Clint says, reaches for the figure in her grip and Darcy curls it into herself.

"I'll be good, I promise," she says. "There might be some action figure theater in your future but I promise only wholesome, family entertainment, nothing to sully your action figure rep."

Clint just narrows his eyes at her for a second before he laughs and nods. Darcy turns around to deposit all the little figures onto her second shelf between two folders where they'll be safer and when she spins back, Clint is gone.

*

Steve turns up to her desk with an envelope. "Tony really wasn't trying to kill you," he says, offering it. Darcy takes the envelope, a little warily. "It might've seemed like it but he really was trying to be nice."

"I believe you," Darcy says, using a knife Natasha left on her desk as a letter opener. "Mostly because it made a really inefficient assassination attempt."

"He's nice once you get..." Steve falters a little, probably because a lot of people who get to know Tony Stark find him intolerable and he's aware of it.

"Past the prickly exterior and playboy smarm?" Darcy finishes for him, kindly. She really does want to get along with Tony because it seems like it's important to Steve, like Tony's important to Steve. "A Stark party, really?" she adds, flapping the invitation she's holding with excitement.

"It's at the mansion, I've been told his parties are..." Again Steve hesitates, finally rolls his eyes and says, "Off the hook."

"Yeah, you really can't get away with saying that," Darcy says with a laugh and Steve nods, grinning himself.

"You'll come though?"

"Does he know you invited me?"

"I swear he doesn't hate you," Steve says, frowning, correctly guessing the reason behind Darcy's hesitation. "I'm not really sure what's going on there. You can help me question him when he's drunk."

"Wow, sneaky," Darcy says, giving Steve an impressed pat. "I never knew you could be so devious."

"I have layers," Steve says.

*

Darcy drags Jane to the party against her will again but loses her to Thor soon after they arrive. Darcy finds Natasha holding court with a bunch of enamored males and lets herself be reeled into Natasha's side.

She's handed increasingly worryingly colored drinks through the night and is feeling no pain by the time Tony bumps into her. Tony is listing to the side, uses her to lever himself upright and peers at her blearily. "Oh, it's you," he says and that is it.

"Look, I don't know what your problem is, but Steve's important to me and so I need to get along with you for him. If you could just let me know whatever it is I've done to annoy you so I can stop doing it then I would really appreciate it."

Darcy thinks she may be slurring a little but Tony's about as drunk if not more so than her so she believes he won't notice.

Tony's eyes widen through her whole rant and he puts up hands, then grasps her shoulders and shakes her back and forth a little. "You're Meeting Girl."

Darcy can definitely hear the capital letters in that title but it doesn't make any sense regardless. "I'm what?"

Tony indicates a nearby, vacated couch and Darcy follows him to it. When he drops, he tugs her off balance too and she half-falls onto it and him. Tony laughs and helps her right herself before continuing. "Clint kept going on and on about how cute Meeting Girl was and how he hoped she wasn't a temp but he couldn't find her in the admin office and then it was... you." Tony flails his hands, indicating the whole of Darcy's person.

"Clint thinks I'm cute?" Darcy says, a pleased smile creeping over her face. When Tony just scowls at her, she says, "What?"

"He was crushed when he found out it was you."

"Why?" Darcy demands.

"Y'know, because you and Steve..." Tony flails his hands again, a gesture lost to Darcy because he ends up hitting himself in the face and swearing.

"Are friends?" Darcy prompts, unsure as to why that would be an issue.

Tony just gives her a narrow-eyed look. "Not because you're friends."

Darcy gets it, suddenly and completely, everything slotting into place. "Oh my god, you guys are morons," she groans, slapping a hand to her forehead, or trying to but she misses. She pushes up off the couch, levels a pointed finger at Tony. "Morons!"

"I happen to be a genius," Tony grumbles and Darcy grabs the nearest object which, luckily for Tony, is a cushion and hits him over the head with it.

"Is this a tradition I am not aware of?" Thor booms from behind them. "Are we to show our gratitude to our host by beating him with soft objects?" Thor unseats a couple from a much larger and more solid floor cushion and makes for Tony with it.

Darcy retreats, happy to let him handle that one.

*

Darcy finds Clint in the kitchen, slumped against the industrial-sized fridge like someone's propped him there. He lets out a damp snore and Darcy realizes he's asleep.

Standing up.

With his eyes open.

"No, that's not creepy at all," she says and one of his hands snaps out, grabs her wrists and twists up and around until she's forced up on her toes and into an awkward choke-hold pressed against him. "Ease up!" she squeaks and Clint kind of snuffles and then goes rigid, lets her go.

Darcy stumbles a little, knocks a bowl onto the floor and has to grab the wooden island in the middle of the kitchen to stop herself from ending up on her ass. "What is it with you guys?" she grouses, rubbing her neck and Clint looks both startled and horrified.

"Sorry... reflex..." Clint manages and kind of waves his arms around.

"How are you trashed and still lethal?"

"Training," Clint says, reaches for a cup by his elbow and frowns when he finds it empty. "I think someone drank my punch."

"It was probably you," Darcy says as Clint manages to focus on her again. "How much have you had anyway?" Darcy feels downright sober next to Clint.

"Dunno," Clint says. "How much does it take to drown feelings?"

"Quite a lot," Darcy says, takes pity on him and offers her arm. "Want help getting to a bathroom? I can guarantee you're going to need it soon."

"You're nice," Clint says when he has an arm over her shoulder and Darcy's steering him through the remaining revellers. "Why are you so nice? S'not fair."

"We're going to have a conversation, but it's going to be tomorrow after you're done puking and regretting your life choices," Darcy says, smiles as she lowers Clint to the tiled floor of the first bathroom she finds. She's sure even if she sat him on the lip of the bath or the stool by the sink, he'd end up on the floor anyway. She digs a marker pen out of her pocket and writes on Clint's forearm. "I'm going to send Steve in to make sure you don't die."

"Steve sucks," Clint says, pouting and Darcy shakes her head.

"Morons," she says, rubbing a hand through Clint's hair.

*

"You guys have sleepovers," Tony is saying. He's wearing his ever-present sunglasses but this time it's to cope with the monumental hangover he has going on. At least, that's what Darcy assumes since she's dealing with one herself.

She wasn't expecting him to turn up to her apartment the morning after his party and invite her to breakfast. She'd had a busy schedule of hanging out on her new couch and not moving but eggs and a mimosa were almost as good.

"Steve sleeps on the couch," Darcy says, munching toast happily. Food always helps her the morning after but Tony had looked a little green when she'd offered him her plate and was resolutely sticking with coffee. "We watch movies or go to dinner or just talk."

"He's basically your... girlfriend," Tony finally says, biting on his lip and looking far too amused. Darcy levels a strip of bacon at him and narrows her eyes.

"Look, he's stuck at SHIELD whenever you guys aren't working. Have you seen the little room he's in, it's depressing."

"I've asked him to move into the mansion," Tony says.

"Did you actually ask him or did you kind of hint around in a non-specific way?" she asks.

Tony looks a little hunted, says into his mug, "The second one, probably."

"You need to ask him, otherwise he'll think he's imposing or that you're just doing it because you feel sorry for him."

"Does the guy really need a written invitation?"

"Yes," Darcy confirms and Tony huffs, starts shredding a napkin in front of him. "Y'know, Natasha and Clint are stuck in tiny, depressing rooms too."

"Oh no," Tony says, holding his hands out. "I'm not starting a dangerous kind of frat house."

"Steve would probably feel less weird about it if you invited the others."

"But-"

"Pepper says you basically live in your workshop anyway. Your whole house is practically empty."

"I don't-"

"You'll have Steve right there," Darcy says, grinning.

"Why do you think that's a selling point?" Tony asks, slipping his sunglasses down his nose.

"Oh c'mon. I know you weren't jealous about me, dude."

Tony huffs a laugh and shrugs, apparently perfectly fine with being transparent.

*

Darcy's only back from breakfast for about ten minutes when there's a gentle tapping on her door. She opens to a very sheepish looking Clint who's holding his arm out, Darcy's message still in place.

Call Darcy :)

"I didn't have your number," he says.

She grins, grabs him by the shirt front and yanks him inside.