Darcy accepts the offer of a full-time job when Jane's project gets absorbed by SHIELD, though she doesn't expect the position to put her on the admin team for the Avengers Initiative. She goes from transcribing data she doesn't understand out in the desert to helping Coulson ride herd on his superhero boy band in the middle of New York City. It's different from what she expected--a lot more exciting, for one (she's pretty sure even the epic academic hissyfits she's heard about probably can't rival Loki's tantrums when he's on a roll)--but she likes it.
Coulson assigns her to catch Captain America up on pop culture and recent history, and so she meets with him every morning at ten.
"What's on tap for today?" he asks, when she knocks on the door of his quarters. It's kind of depressing that he lives in SHIELD headquarters, so she tries to get him out as much as she can, even though technically he's not supposed to leave without permission.
She gives him a conspiratorial smile. "I thought we could go on a field trip."
He smiles in return. "A field trip?"
"A Fury-approved field trip?"
"Not exactly. Though I'm sure he would approve if he knew."
"No, but sometimes it's better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission." She taps the doorjamb impatiently. "Come on, soldier. Let's go."
He's grinning when he shrugs on his jacket, and she feels the same kind of thrill she used to get from sneaking into the house after curfew.
The trip down to the East Village is quick on the subway, and she enjoys the look on his face when he recognizes not just where they are, but where they're going.
"I used to come here sometimes," he says, holding the door to New York Central Art Supply open for her. "When I had some extra money." For once, he looks happy instead of sad while talking about his past. Darcy feels a little warm glow about that, too.
"I figured." She'd hoped, anyway. If he hadn't, well, Blick's isn't too far away, and it was the other possibility she'd found. She might take him there anyway.
They spend a good forty minutes wandering around, and he ends up with a new sketchpad (recycled paper, of course), a set of charcoals, and some mechanical pencils.
Darcy adds a sixty-four pack of crayons to their haul and he says, "Wow, we only had the eight basic colors when I was a kid."
"Welcome to the future, Steve." She pats the box happily. "It has its very own sharpener."
Steve takes notes sometimes during their sessions, but he has a pretty sharp memory, and a better grasp of human nature and politics than she'd have expected, though she supposes it's her own fault for expecting Captain America to be a simple, jingoistic jerk just because he's from the Forties, so a lot of the time he starts out taking notes and ends up sketching things while they talk--her, a lot, at first, which is kind of disconcerting in a nice way; people he remembers and tells her about; the skyline; people they know. He gives them to her sometimes, and she tacks them up on her cubicle walls, amused at the fact that they're probably worth as much as anything hanging in a museum.
She keeps the box of crayons on her desk, and she occasionally colors the drawings in while she's on hold with the Pentagon or DOJ.
He finds her doing just that at her desk one morning about a week later when she's late for their usual session.
"Oh," she says, moving the receiver away from her mouth in case someone on the other end actually picks up and ends the eternity of bad hold music tinkling in her ear, "I hope you don't mind."
It's a picture of the Empire State Building, which means she's basically wearing down the grey crayon on it.
"No, that's fine. It looks nice."
She laughs, and of course, that's when the person on the other end of the line finally picks up, so she sounds like she's snorting in his ear. She gestures at Steve to hold on for a second and wraps up the call as quickly as she can; she's pretty sure she'll be back on hold with him in two days, rescheduling a meeting Coulson doesn't want to have in the first place.
When she turns back, he's holding out a crayon drawing of her on the phone looking off into the distance, fingers twined in the cord; it's quick and kind of raw and yet there's something about it that makes her eyes prickle.
"I'm gonna have it framed," she says, and she means it.
He ducks his head and smiles.
Darcy gets back to her desk later that afternoon to find Dr. Banner waiting for her. She hasn't had much to do with him yet--Jane says he's brilliant but troubled, and having seen film of him as a raging twelve-foot tall green monster, Darcy would have to say that's an accurate, if understated, assessment. He's got a folder in his hand and he's looking at the pictures she's tacked up on the cubicle walls.
"Dr. Banner, what can I do for you?" She smiles, and tries to hide the fact that he makes her nervous in ways none of the others--not even Natasha, who she's sure could probably kill her with her pinky--do.
"Please, call me Bruce. Are these yours?"
"Steve's. He's very talented."
"I can see that." He taps the box of crayons. "May I?"
He sets the folder down--it's a purchase requisition for Coulson's signature; he usually sends them interoffice, so it must be something that requires an explanation or a rush--and picks up the box. "I always liked the smell," he confesses.
"Yeah," she says. "Me, too." She gestures towards the folder. "You need Agent Coulson's signature?"
"Yes, please. The sooner, the better. Call me when it's signed? I'll send someone up."
"Of course." He turns to walk away, and some impulse makes her say, "If you come back and get it yourself, I'll share the crayons with you." She lowers her voice, as if confessing something scandalous. "Steve and I color sometimes when we're supposed to be working."
Dr. Banner--Bruce--raises an eyebrow and nods as seriously as if she's just told him some kind of state secret. Of course, given that Captain America is involved, possibly she has. But there's a twinkle in his eye when he walks away, and the next time she and Steve break out the crayons, she gives a call down to the lab to see if he's available to join them.
Bruce looks uncomfortable when he arrives at the conference room, and Darcy feels bad that she feels uncomfortable too, and resolves to get over it. It helps when Steve shows up--he's one of the few people Bruce seems comfortable with, maybe because Steve doesn't try to rile him the way Thor (unintentionally) and Tony (totally on purpose) do.
"I, uh, my psychiatrist suggested some art therapy, but I can't even draw a straight line without a ruler, so I bought these," he says, placing some coloring books on the table. "But I felt kind of silly, so I haven't really done anything with them."
"My Little Pony!" Darcy squeals. "I totally call dibs on that one." Then she clears her throat and says, "Unless you wanted it."
"No, no, it's all yours," Bruce answers, smiling.
Steve does his own drawing at first, but the Looney Tunes coloring book proves to be a bit of a draw for him, while Bruce has one that's all about dinosaurs.
"Dinosaurs are also pretty cool," Darcy says. "Maybe you can tell Steve about recent discoveries in paleontology so we can pretend we're actually working and Coulson doesn't fire me."
Bruce has a nice voice for lecturing, and it's possible Darcy even learns something, but mostly, at the end of an hour, she has several perfectly colored pictures of Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, and both Bruce and Steve seem a little more at ease with each other and with the world.
When Darcy meets Jane for lunch a few days later, the first thing she says is, "Thor's feelings were hurt that he had to learn about your little coloring parties from Clint."
"Clint just showed up," Darcy answers. "I didn't invite him. I think he followed Natasha." Jane gives her a knowing look, and Darcy's cheeks heat a little. "She brought sandwiches. Little peanut butter triangles with the crusts cut off! How could we refuse that?"
"She's terrifying, but she does have lovely manners."
"I know, right? Clint couldn't stop stuffing his face. It was pretty hilarious. And he made fun of My Little Pony, but I think he's secretly a brony."
Jane makes a face that Darcy's pretty sure she's usually on the receiving end of, one that says, I have no idea what you just said but I'm going to smile and nod anyway, and then she actually says, "Well, Thor would like to play, if you'll have him."
"The god of thunder is totally welcome to come and color with us if he'd like. And how weird is my life that that is a thing I actually just said?"
Jane laughs. "I'll pass on the invitation."
Darcy buys a few more coloring books--Thor and Clint bicker over the Justice League one--and another box of crayons, because Clint's already broken the sharpener on the original box.
"I heard this was where you all disappeared to," Tony says, "but I didn't believe it." He places his own box of crayons--the hundred and fifty colors version, of course--on the table, and opens it up. "I even have the eight discontinued colors."
"Of course you do," Darcy says. "Do you want a coloring book?"
He gestures with a pad of graph paper. "I brought my own." But he still takes the Batman book when he thinks she's not looking, and before Clint can get hold of it, and tucks it under his pad of paper.
She pushes the plate of sandwiches towards him. "Natasha cooked."
He glances over at Natasha, who sits up and gives him a smile that would make a lesser man pee his pants. He grabs a bready triangle and starts chewing with his mouth open. Natasha sits back, satisfied.
Tony draws complicated schematics and chatters like he's actually a caffeine-addicted five-year-old, but since he's actually discussing the invention of the transistor and all of the things that have resulted from it, Darcy doesn't interrupt. Learning is, after all, what these sessions are supposed to be for.
"Darcy, could you step into my office for a moment?"
Darcy grabs her notebook and a pen and stands in front of Coulson's desk. Her heart lurches a little when he gestures for her to sit down in one of the guest chairs and then closes the door, because she is so not ready to lose this job, not after she's actually started to make friends, and closing the door is never a good sign.
"I wanted to thank you for the work you've done with the team recently," Coulson says, leaning a hip against his desk. "There's been less fighting and the insults have started to become almost friendly." He reaches over and picks something up off his desk and hands it to her. It's a stack of Avengers coloring books. "They're not available to the public yet."
"Oh, they're gonna love this," she says, clutching them to her chest in an effort not to seem like she was terrified of losing her job a minute ago.
"Don't let it go to their heads." He moves behind his desk and she gets up to go back to hers. "Oh, and Darcy, this is for you." He hands her a box of glitter crayons. "Try not to make a mess in my conference room, okay?"
Darcy grins and tosses off a salute. "Yes, sir."
She settles back in at her desk and squees silently to herself. Her life might be weird, but she kind of likes it.