The first time Darcy had to sit through a Captain America lecture, she fell asleep.
It was fifth grade, okay? Fifth grade history lessons weren't exactly known for their stunning entertainment levels.
Anyway, Darcy's nap was interrupted by a loud thump from Mrs. Taylor smacking a history book entirely too close to Darcy's head.
So she spent the the next 45 minutes being thankful that the concept of color had made its way into film. Because all those men frowning and gesturing in those old propaganda films would have been far more entertaining if they hadn't been various shades of grey.
The second time Darcy sat through a Captain America lecture, her eighth grade history class had just spent two weeks discussing the contributions of women in the War. Coming off the discussions of Rosie The Riveter and Eleanor Roosevelt, the emphatically gesturing men just weren't that impressive.
Darcy was far more interested in the woman in Captain America's compass.
Unfortunately, every time Darcy tried to look up "woman in Captain America's compass," Google kept redirecting her to some weird site with dancing monkeys.
"I think it means she was actually a very covert spy, and this is a clear attempt to throw me off the scent," Darcy told Mr. Emery very seriously.
In reply, Mr. Emery simply patted her on the arm and suggested she look up the history of Julia Child if she was so interested in spies.
The third time Darcy had to sit through a Captain America lecture, she was in eleventh grade and she was much more aware of how attractive the men in the propaganda films were.
It didn't really bother her that films were in black and white; she'd spent the entire summer before with her best friend, Casey, who had an addiction to Audrey Hepburn films and who thought that Breakfast at Tiffany's was a good film (Darcy mostly felt bad for the cat at the end and she had spent much of the summer trying to explain that they had left the cat all alone in the rain and what kind of main characters treated the secondary stars so terribly?)
Unbothered as she was, and as in tune to the attractiveness of the men on the screen, Darcy did take the lunch time initiative to see if the unnamed men beside and behind Captain America would also lead her to websites full of dancing monkeys.
"men in captain america propaganda films" led her directly to Amazon pages for several books written by John Keegan, who apparently cared more about the War than Captain America himself would have, if he'd still been alive.
Well, about the men in the war at any rate, because "woman in captain america propaganda films" led her to pages with monkeys who wore different colored hats than the ones in her search for "woman in captain america's compass," but they were monkeys all the same.
Or possibly apes. Or gorillas.
Whatever, Darcy wasn't a science person.
The fourth time Darcy had to sit through a Captain America lecture, she was trying to suffer quietly (more or less) through a course that was required for her major, taught by a professor who believed that poli sci majors were "undedicated history majors."
But that had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she did want to discuss the importance of the different races and nationalities of the men who followed Captain America (John Keegan was very thorough in his research, nobody could ever doubt that; Darcy was pretty sure the man could have given a detailed list of all the bushes Cap had squatted behind during the war.)
They were perfectly legitimate questions that Darcy would absolutely have asked, even if she hadn't known that her professor leaned so far right that he made Glenn Beck look like a hippie plucked from the middle of a Janis Joplin concert while in the midst of finishing his particular drop of acid.
Apparently, her professor disagreed and dismissed her concerns as "off topic." Darcy would go on to blame the ensuing argument as the reason that she got a "C" in the class, because her papers could not have been that bad.
That "C" was the only reason she even considered the internship when she saw the flyer in the cafeteria. If she could breeze her way through six credits of an easy A, that would clearly take the sting out of the silly two credit history course.
The fifth time Darcy had to sit through a Captain America lecture, she'd already had time to eat crow about the "easiness" of her A, and time to move on to wanting her iPod back.
It came with a price.
"You have to be kidding me. I get that Jane was a little desperate for an intern, so any willing warm body would help her overlook the fact that I was really not qualified to be an astrophysicist's sidekick, but what exactly is wrong with you that you have forgotten that I'm really not secret agent material?"
Darcy folded her arms over her arms over her chest as she made her proclamation, because that had to be a better idea than reaching across the desk and ripping the iPod out of Coulson's hands.
Pouting petulantly wouldn't get her tossed into a federal prison, for one.
"The fact that you tasered Thor himself into unconsciousness not reason enough to overlook the otherwise lacking qualifications?" Coulson asked.
"Hey, there is no proof of that. All you have is Jane's word, and I would like to point out that she ran over him more times than I allegedly tasered him," Darcy pointed out, because it was never a good idea to admit to secret government agents that you've made someone unconscious. Or even semi-secret government agents.
"Is there some reason I should doubt Dr. Foster's word?" Coulson inquired, and the quirk of his eyebrow was enough that Darcy began to consider that he was getting thoughts about those federal prisons, after all.
"No! No, no reason to doubt her at all. Plenty of reason to continue to let her have her research," Darcy assured him, choosing not to point out that one of those reasons included the big apparently-not-homeless-person who could fly who had returned, after all, and probably wouldn't take the news that SHIELD hadn't held up their end of the bargain very well. "...And to give me back my iPod. Just saying."
"Oh, we have no plans to disallow her research," Coulson answered. "But your internship is almost over, so I would think you'd be more concerned about your future plans than hers. The G.P.A. is pretty good, but you've switched your major twice, and your internship has nothing to do with your academic field at all. What are your future plans, exactly, Miss Lewis?"
"See, you might be a scary government agent, but this kind of argument is one I reserve for my mother and my mother alone."
"This conversation worked a lot better with Morse," Coulson said with a sigh. But Darcy didn't have much time to question what that was about before Coulson, who apparently saw more humor in stolen iPods than Darcy did, smiled at her and leaned forward, with her iPod still gripped firmly between his hands. "The bottom line is this. We have a man out of time on our hands who needs introduced to the 21st century. You're young, you have an obvious affection for this century's culture and technology, you're already aware of our organization. You also have no obvious plans for the future. We're both in a position to help each other out."
"Don't you people have Tony Stark on speed dial?" At Coulson's look - which spoke volumes about federal prisons - Darcy hastily added, "That's the rumor on tumblr. And if you do, why can't you just call him up? He had obvious affection for your technology, too. And probably culture. In case you missed that. Pretty sure you can catch up on YouTube, if you did."
"Would you want to be introduced to the 21st century by Tony Stark, Miss Lewis?"
"Well... no. As epic as I'm sure the parties would be, no."
"Then why would we subject our national treasure to that? Never mind the questionable definition of ... culture that Stark has," Coulson pointed out with what was not an invisible shudder. "Besides, if you go along, you might finally get the story behind those dancing monkeys."
"Wait, SHIELD is behind those web pages?"
"You could say that," Coulson agreed. "What do you say, Miss Lewis? Your iPod and the answer to one of your most frequently searched terms on Google, second only to 'jobs for political science majors.'"
"The whole spy thing? Really creepy and not anywhere near attractive when you're not Karl Urban or Helen Mirren," Darcy informed him.
And it was true, but she said yes, anyway.
The first time Captain America sat through a Darcy lecture, she felt the need to assign blame where it belonged.
"I'm just saying, if I hadn't written that paper on your team, I probably wouldn't have gotten C, which means I wouldn't have been searching for an Easy A, which means I wouldn't have taken that internship," Darcy informed him while she set the materials between them. "And you know, no big, insanely cut homeless guy."
Steve tilted his head, and Darcy bit her lip to keep from telling him that the new costume really did look like he had snuck some paint into Tony Stark's lab and gone crazy. "Big, Insanely Cut Homeless Guy?" Steve repeated slowly.
"Thor was cut when he came to Earth the first time? Is that why they locked him in a hospital?"
And okay, Darcy laughed a little. "No. It's an expression. It means he was really ripped...no, you wouldn't know that one, either, probably. It means he had a lot of muscle, and usually is a way to express that the person making the statement thinks they are attractive."
"Oh. It means you think they are taller." Darcy started to correct him, because it didn't mean that at all, but the way he glanced down at the table top made her think better of it, for reasons she wasn't really sure about.
It didn't really matter if Captain America grasped the correct modern way to say some guy was hot at the moment.
"So, yes, without me trying to be lazy to make up for my professor being a dick - erm, a jerk? - we wouldn't be here, right now. So in a way, all your fault. You should keep that in mind, when you start to get frustrated with Introduction to The Twenty-First Century 101 with Professor Darcy Lewis."
And okay, it wasn't like he was the one changing schools and cities, so any criticism should really have been kept to himself, in Darcy's not so humble opinion.
He glanced up from the counter top and gave a quick smile. "I will keep that in mind, ma'am."
"Good. Now, since S.H.I.E.L.D. likes to play games, I am figuring that their whole goal is to use me to introduce you to cultural stuff, because honestly, they have a whole department of people who are not Tony Stark who are technological gurus. And I am not one. So our technology is going to be more of that, and less of How To Use a Laptop 101, because I already sat through that with my grandma and I am not explaining LOLcats or memes to you."
He just listened to her talk, so patiently, and Darcy suddenly felt very foolish for rambling on. It wasn't the first time that she felt that way - it was amazing how ridiculous a room full astrophysicists could make a girl feel - and she waited for the feeling to pass before she cleared her throat.
"So we're going to start with a coffee maker."
"Coffee is an important part of American culture?" Captain America asked.
"Oh, wow. They haven't explained Starbucks or coffee shops or free internet, or anything like that?"
"Hawkeye and Iron Man tell me that the Internet is for pornography," Captain America said gravely, "Though I have seen Miss Potts with a cup from Starbucks almost every day."
"Okay, we obviously have a lot of work to do, because S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers want you to stay in 1945," Darcy huffed indignantly. "And the Internet is for porn. It's also where most of the world's crimes take place these days. Name a crime, and it's probably being organized on the Internet."
"Then we should start with the Internet," Captain America said insistently.
"Not my job. It's S.H.I.E.L.D.'s job," Darcy answered. "We are going to start with a coffee maker, because yours truly is not a hacker."
"What's a hacker?"
"I'll tell you, after you master the coffee maker," Darcy promised.
It only took him a half an hour to master the coffee maker - mostly because he kept asking questions.
It took two additional hours at Starbucks, over a chai latte and a boring black coffee, to explain what a hacker was.
The second time Captain America had to sit through a Darcy lecture, he was an hour late.
"The only reason I'm here is because Pepper Potts called on your behalf," Darcy informed him as he walked through the door.
"Miss Potts? I didn't call her," Captain America answered.
"No, but apparently Tony Stark did. Who would have thought, Tony Stark being more considerate than Captain America?" Darcy said, with mock-sadness heavy in her voice.
"I'm sorry. But I'm usually late," Captain America told her, and Darcy would have kept up her ruse, but he sounded entirely too sad about it.
"I'm not really mad. I mean, I haven't tasered you or anything yet, have I?" And to be fair, she wasn't sure whether a taser would work, or if his shield would let her get close enough to try it out.
But that wasn't the point, anyway.
Captain America tossed something that looked suspiciously like a smirk in her direction. Except, of course, that everyone knew that Captain America didn't smirk. "No, ma'am, and I'm very glad of it. Thor tells me it's quite a painful experience."
"You keep that in mind, Mister." Darcy stood up and began to head over to the refrigerator. "Wash your hands and have a seat at the table. We're going to eat. You're probably hungry from the battle, I imagine?"
She glanced over her shoulder as she asked the question, and she paused in that position long enough to watch him remove his cowl and gloves.
Yeah, the old black and white propaganda films had really missed a lot of detail. A lot of very attractive detail, Darcy was not at all embarrassed to note.
For example, the warm blush that spread over his cheeks following a battle - that was something that that the old propaganda films had definitely missed. Which was too bad, because that detail would have made her history classes so much more interesting. At least, the ones after she'd gone through puberty.
"Last week you gave me coffee and this week you you're giving me food?" Captain America asked.
"No, last week we conquered the coffee maker, and this week you are going to conquer the dishwasher," Darcy corrected, as she turned back to the refrigerator and began filling her arms with the pizza that had arrived seventy minutes ago.
"The one in my apartment has been going to waste so far," Captain America acknowledged as he turned off the sink.
"The one in this one never does," Darcy said cheerfully. "There's milk in the fridge, or water from the faucet if you can stand it. I had to do a little digging to find out what you liked on your pizza, since I forgot to ask last week. Which, as it turns out, was pretty good, since otherwise, Pepper wouldn't have known that I was waiting on you and wouldn't have given me a heads up."
"Digging for information about me, Miss Lewis?" Captain America asked, and Darcy was not too busy dishing out the food for them to correct him.
"It's just Darcy. You don't have to call me 'Miss Lewis' or 'ma'am,' or whatever. Just Darcy."
"As long as you'll call me Steve," he answered. She glanced up at that, a little surprised, because it's not every day that a living legend requests that you call them by their first name.
"I'll try to keep that in mind," she promised, and she didn't laugh as he sat down and set the milk glasses down for them both. She did, however, tip her soda in his general direction, in a mock toast.
"That's what most people say when I tell them that. I usually end up getting called Cap instead," Steve answered. "Which I don't mind at all, but it would be nice if someone in this time period actually called me by my real name."
"Then I'll make you a deal. I'll only lapse into calling you Cap when you starting calling me 'ma'am' or 'Miss Lewis,' okay? And I hope you like the pizza. Pepper said you ate pepperoni without complaining, but that's not a good indication of whether or not you like it," Darcy said as she bit into hers.
"I'm from Brooklyn. I'm pretty sure I have to like most pizza. I think it might be a requirement," Steve replied.
Darcy nodded. "But she also said you're not much of a picky eater. She made it sound like a compliment, and I guess it probably is, once you're dealing with Tony Stark on a daily basis, but I told her it was probably just PTSD from living through the Great Depression." She paused when Steve raised an eyebrow at her, and for a minute, considered whether that was really insensitive of her, before she realized that, "Oh, wait, did they call it PTSD yet in 1945? Maybe it was still Battle Fatigue. Or - "
"I know what you're talking about. I'm not sure what it has to do with the Depression, but I know what you're talking about. The first week I was thawed out, Fury and his group of secret agents spent their whole time trying to determine if I had it."
"That's pretty awful. Sounds like them, though. At least they didn't steal your shield. That's also something they would do."
Steve didn't dispute the point, proving his wisdom. "Sometimes I think maybe that's what you're trying to do," he said slowly, proving that maybe he wasn't so smart after all.
"And I'm doing that with pizza? Please, you'd think they'd at least give me a gun for that."
The third time Steve had to sit through a Darcy lecture, he showed up right on time, and in civilian clothes for the first time.
"Pepper said you were thinking a movie, and I didn't think my costume would be appropriate," Steve began, and it sounded an awfully lot like an apology.
"It would have been weird, and quite possibly awkward," Darcy agreed. "Of course, it would have been even more inappropriate if we were going to go out to watch a movie."
"Oh. Then I guess I could have just worn my costume."
"You could have. But it's okay that you didn't. You know that, right? Because the phrase 'uncomfortable in your own skin' is coming to mind, and that's really something I thought we might have to deal with two weeks ago, but I thought we were past it now. Unless you're still thinking I'm working on my top secret S.H.I.E.L.D. mission of probing your mind to see if you have secret PTSD issues."
He just looked further embarrassed, which really hadn't been Darcy's goal.
"No, it's not that." He gave a shrug that was supposed to be nonchalant, and maybe would have been, if the tightness of the t-shirt didn't emphasize every single super-soldier enhanced muscle's tenseness.
It occurred to Darcy that she was in a good deal of trouble at that moment, because that was a little too specific to be the kind of thought she should be having about a "national treasure," but she allowed Steve to continue to fumble over his words while she took the time to mentally freak out.
"It's ... strange, being back in civilian clothes. I know it probably sounds weird to you, but I spent the entire war either in army clothes or my costume or ... the other costume - "
"The chorus girl costume?" Darcy interrupted, because it was much better to focus on that - what better way to tell her hormones to shut up, really, than to focus on that very unattractive costume? - than to focus on what she had been focusing on.
Steve stopped looking self-conscious long enough to smile at her. "I prefer to call it the dancing monkey costume," he informed her.
"You know about the dancing monkeys?" Darcy demanded indignantly. "All this time, and I've been pretty patient, too, and you've known about the stupid dancing monkeys? S.H.I.E.L.D. let you in on it, didn't they? Oh, I see. You tell me that I'm the one who might be spying on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s behalf, but you knew about the monkeys the whole time."
"Darcy, I really have no idea what you are talking about," Steve said slowly.
"You might. It might be a S.H.I.E.L.D. trick. You know, I really do wonder if that taser would work on you. I know it would work on Coulson. Are you going to put that in your report, too, Captain?"
Because oh, Darcy could be vindictive. It wasn't her best trait, probably. But considering that she'd been led around like a complete moron for three weeks by a completely ridiculous government organization that liked to steal iPods and set up websites about dancing monkeys, she figured she deserved a little viciousness.
Steve took the time to pinch the bridge of his nose. "The last time I fought with a woman like this, she shot me. So if you really want to use your taser, it would be pretty much in keeping with my experience with women."
"Was she a Nazi? Because I was pretty offended before, but I'm pretty sure I can reach a whole new level of being offended at this stage. If you're comparing me to a Nazi."
"No." Steve's voice was very firm when he answered her, which didn't really match the gooey-soft look on his face, in Darcy's opinion. Gooey-soft in the same way her Aunt's cheeseball went by January 31st, just before it grew the kind of mold that made eating cheese bad. "No, Peggy was the second real friend I ever had, and the best woman I've ever known. When I say that you remind me of her, I couldn't be giving you a bigger compliment, Darcy."
"Oh." A horrifying feeling of realization came over Darcy at that moment, and she smacked herself firmly in the forehead. "Peggy was the woman in your compass, I take it?"
"How do you know ...?" And he looked pained enough that Darcy flopped down on her couch and sighed at herself.
"The propaganda films they made during your day? They lasted a long time," she answered. "They've been part of every history class I've ever had. Gotten me into trouble a few times. Got me that C, too."
"Is that why you're mad at me?" It was such an earnest question, and Darcy didn't really think that was fair. If the serum was going to give him muscles to make Thor jealous (well, okay, at least Loki, who was also an Asgardian, so it was close enough) and if he was going to be ridiculously earnest in a way that made it feel like kicking a puppy for licking your hand, the serum should have done something to balance it all out. Like give him pimples or something, to distract from the incredibly-peaked-in-every-way-possible-and-oh-maybe-she-shouldn't-follow-that-thought-through.
"No. I'm mad at you because I briefly had a crazy delusion that you were a Black Widow type spy for S.H.I.E.L.D." At Steve's eyebrow, she laughed. "It's a compliment, really. Woman is scary. She'd probably shoot you, just like your Peggy."
"She likes your skill with a taser, too," Steve said amicably, and Darcy decided to go with aw, that's cute that Black Widow respects my skill rather than yet another sign S.H.I.E.L.D. is fucking creepy and knows everything about everyone. "And her name was Peggy Carter. Well, Margaret, technically. They tell me she was one of the founders of S.H.I.E.L.D., along with Howard Stark."
"I kept trying to research her. I mean, you boys were cute, but - " It occurred to Darcy that she'd just told Captain America that he was cute to his face and under the sheer force of her mortification, the words simply stopped coming out.
Well, it was a nice job while she was getting paid for it. Now all she had to do was turn in her two weeks' notice and go find a nice rock to crawl under.
"Okay, you had best leave the smirks to Hawkeye, because people who have had too much botox do a better impersonation than you do."
"I'll explain after the movie," Darcy promised, patting the couch beside her. "Sit. We have to get from The Wizard of Oz to Harry Potter to bring you up to pop culture standards, and that's a lot of film to get through."
"I've seen The Wizard of Oz. Bucky and I saw it together," Steve explained, sitting down next to her. "The theater was three blocks from the alley where I got beat up the most."
"Captain America getting beat up by neighborhood bullies? There's a story I'd love to hear."
"Really?" Steve asked, as though Darcy was the first person to say that. Which was silly, because Darcy was sure that Thor would have loved any good story about punches over pancakes, and Jane had even gotten Thor to quit all his annoying pancake-related habits.
Plus, Pepper had to listen to stories about vomit and alcohol hijinks, so Darcy was sure she would have listened with great enthusiasm to Steve's nostalgia trip of getting pummeled. Pepper didn't technically count as an Avenger, but really, they couldn't have existed without her.
"Of course. You could tell me more about Peggy Carter, too, if you'd like."
Yep, that smile was definitely going to get her into trouble.
The fourth time that Steve had to sit through a Darcy lecture, it was actually a pretty brief lecture, and she did take time before the lecture to praise the ease with which he used the laptop.
"I knew S.H.I.E.L.D. was going to get you a separate laptop tutor so that we could focus on movies and dishwashers," Darcy said smugly. "Now, go to the bookmarks and click 'The Top 100 Movies of the 20th century' link."
"Is the one with the AMC Database next to you it?" Steve asked. "And technically, it wasn't a S.H.I.E.L.D. tutor. It was Miss Potts."
"Yes, and ... really? She doesn't have enough stuff to do?"
To his credit, Steve did look embarrassed when he looked over his shoulder at her. "She does, but the S.H.I.E.L.D. tutor they gave me really wasn't helpful. I'm sure Dr. Pym is very smart, but - "
"But he has social skills to make Tony Stark seem like Captain America? Yeah, Jane told me," Darcy answered, and she wondered if the guilty grin that Steve got whenever she insulted Tony Stark was ever going to go away.
She kind of hoped it didn't - and she liked Stark. Or at least, she liked the stories that she'd heard through S.H.I.E.L.D., Jane and The Extremely Buff Homeless Guy Who Was Only Kinda Homeless.
But she liked that grin more.
"So Miss Potts took pity on me and showed me a few tricks. The phone might be a lost cause, though." Steve shrugged a sheepish shoulder in her direction. "My fingers are way too big."
"Steve Rogers, did you break Pepper Potts' iPhone?"
"No! Of course not." There was barely pause enough for Darcy to consider whether or not Captain America had just lied to her, before he followed it up with "I broke my iPhone."
"Well, that's an important distinction."
"I think you might be the only one who thinks that, Darcy."
"That's me. All my opinions are pretty unique and special."
"They really are." Sitting there on the couch with Steve, Darcy was acutely aware of how long it had been since she'd gotten laid. In fact, sitting there next to Steve's earnest blue eyes and ridiculously tight t-shirt that could only look modest on him, Darcy could probably have counted down to minutes since the last time she'd had sex.
It had been on the couch they were currently sitting on, for the record, and there hadn't been nearly enough room for them both.
She and Steve probably would fall off the couch, which was the exact type of comment that nobody needed to have in their head when they were trying to have a rational discussion.
"Darcy, are you alright?"
"Hmm...yes. Yes. I'm fine." And anyone saying "Yes, I'm fine" was a great indication that they weren't, but maybe Darcy would get lucky and that wouldn't have been the case in 1945. "What movie are we up to?"
"The Wizard of Oz, but I already saw that, so I guess we're up to Schindler's List?"
"Nope, we're skipping that one. Pretty sure you don't need to be reminded that World War II was a shitty time where a lot of people died."
He gave her the same look he always gave her when she cursed, and she gave the same look of faked innocence in return. "What comes after that?"
"To Kill a Mockingbird."
"Okay, I would like to point out that this list is pretty depressing," Darcy said with a sigh. "Maybe we need to deviate from this list and put in Star Trek. Are you up for another space movie yet, or are you still traumatized from Star Wars?"
"I liked Star Wars," Steve reminded her. "Though apparently not the right parts."
"Steve, nobody is supposed to like the prequels. They sucked."
"They were a tragic depiction of a good man struggling to remain good and ultimately losing that battle."
"Tragic is a very good word for it, yes."
Steve gave her a look that would have translated to rolled eyes if he'd been anyone else. Darcy lived in hope that he'd just give in and actually do it. "I don't see how they're any worse than the later three movies."
"Steve, the prequels had a woman who died of a broken heart. The real Star Wars movies had Princess Leia. Really, there shouldn't even be a competition."
"I'm not sure there needs to be," Steve said quietly. "They both were strong in the ways that they could be. Queen Amidala might have been quieter and softer around the edges, but she still fought for her home, even when people told her she shouldn't. Princess Leia might have been rougher around the edges, but she was absolutely fighting the same fight that the Queen did, just in a different way."
"I think I read that paper, in my Women's Studies class. I disagreed with it then, too," Darcy said bluntly, and she was just beginning to think that she was being too harsh when Steve laughed.
"That was supposed to be a metaphor," Steve informed her. "It turns out I'm still not any good at talking to women."
"Never mind. It was silly."
"No, did I just get compared to the infamous Peggy Carter again?"
"That was what I was aiming for, yeah," Steve admitted, and Darcy ignored the light flutter in her stomach at the confirmation.
She wasn't in high school anymore, and despite his verbal fumbling, this had to be a very platonic metaphor.
But platonic or not ... "I better get to be the one rocking the gold bikini in this scenario."
Making Captain America blush was its own reward, but it was followed up with "I'm sure Peggy would have agreed to that."
"Good. So now that we've sorted out that Star Wars is not actually terrible, are you ready to give Star Trek a try? I'm not sure how you'll feel about Kirk. I don't think you'll like him, but I didn't think you'd like Han Solo, either, so who knows? What is that face about, Steve? It looks like a no face."
"There were four alien invasions while we watched Star Wars."
"Yeah, making it the longest marathon ever," Darcy agreed with a sigh. "Fine, you can be superstitious. To Kill a Mockingbird it is."
After Steve successfully started the DVD, he settled back into the couch next to her.
And oh, Darcy was way past worrying about the trouble that smiles were going to cause at that point.
The fifth time that Steve had to sit through a Darcy lecture, S.H.I.E.L.D. had finally approved the purchase of an iPod - really, red tape was one thing, but taking nearly six months to approve the purchase of a $300 product was another.
"It's one of those things I am going to use in my campaign when I run for office," Darcy announced to Steve while they browsed the used CD store for music to convert, because if there was one thing the iTunes store wasn't good for, it was old music.
"When you run for office?" Most people asked the question in an amused, right-like-that-is-going-to-happen kind of way, but Steve's question sounded more like the kind of appreciative awe that Darcy would have liked everyone else to use.
Okay, so Steve's appreciative awe was mostly related to Hey, they let women help run the country now, without being married to the president! Cool! But Darcy was still chalking it up to a win.
"During my presidential campaign for my second term," Darcy continued, "when people are arguing with me about my spending measures, I will say, 'And this is the type of old guard governmental policies that delayed Captain America getting an iPod by six months.'"
"I don't think that will help you get elected," Steve said, this time with actual amusement in his voice as he turned over a Frank Sinatra CD.
"You underestimate the importance of an iPod in the collective America consciousness, Steve. But it's okay. Once we get these converted and fill up your iPod, you won't make that mistake anymore," Darcy informed him solemnly.
"Maybe so," Steve said doubtfully. "Speaking of, we should probably be on our way. Are you ready to go?"
"Are you sure there's nothing else you want to look at? No wild and unexpected purchases inspired by spending six months listening to the Avengers' music collection between meetings?"
Steve looked pained at the very idea. "No, I think we'll be skipping their taste in music. Oh, that reminds me. What's a flyover state?"
"Okay, I missed a transition there, I think."
"Clint has very ... odd taste in music," Steve answered, as though that explained everything. And really, if some of Pepper's stories were true, it probably did.
"A fly over state is all the boring states in the middle that you have to literally fly over to get to the interesting states, like New York and California," Darcy explained and she held up a hand to stop the protest she knew was coming. "Yes, yes. They're all important. But that's what the word means."
"I don't think I like it," Steve said, as though there was any doubt that he would hate it.
"I don't think Captain America is allowed to like calling most of the country useless," Darcy agreed. "But take a good look at say ... New Mexico. Most people who aren't you or Kind of Homeless Gods or scientists performing possibly illegal experiments would agree that it is a less fun place to be than say, Manhattan."
"I don't know. I think I'm pretty appreciative of what New Mexico has contributed." Steve reached over and gave her hand a squeeze. "And I'm not talking about Thor."
Was that ... flirting? Genuine flirting from Captain America? Darcy was almost certain that it was and she wasn't quite sure how exactly to respond. This was a little different than trying to decide if the semi-drunken frat boy was sober enough to get it up long enough to be of any real use.
Technically, Darcy knew people who could relate to the whole "how do you flirt with a genuine hero" thing. But she didn't know Pepper well enough to nose around about her private life, and also, Pepper was dating Tony Stark (if you believed the tabloids.) Tony Stark was ... not Captain America.
Then there was Jane, who was dating Thor ... who was not actually from Earth.
So, pretty much, Darcy was going to have to figure this one out on her own.
It wasn't the first time they'd agreed on anything, but considering how long Darcy had shopped for just the right present, it was by far the most important time.
"Do you like it?" Darcy asked, which wasn't ever really a polite question when you were giving someone a gift, but Steve had been so quiet for so long, turning the compass over in his hand, that Darcy needed him to say something.
Steve looked up then, genuine surprise on his face. "Of course I do."
"Are you sure? Because you know, I wanted to get you something to celebrate the whole 'six months in the 21st century' deal, because the iPod was all on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s bill, and I knew your compass didn't quite survive the crash - "
"No," Steve answered, thankfully breaking up the rambling that Darcy was doing. "For some reason, a cheaply made compass from 1942 didn't hold up over several years in ice."
"Not everything from the Forties can be as sturdy as you," Darcy answered and as soon as she said it, Steve's eyebrows went up, and oh, that would have been a good time to have random disappearing powers.
"I guess they can't," Steve replied with a smile, and he curled his fingers around his compass protectively, making Darcy much less stressed about whether it had been a good present. "You didn't have to buy me anything, but this is a wonderful gift, Darcy. Thank you."
"Least I could do. I tried to get a picture of Peggy Carter for you to put inside it, but you know. Still getting directed to dancing monkeys because S.H.I.E.L.D. thinks they're funny."
"Actually, I think that's more of a case of Peggy's humor than S.H.I.E.L.D.'s," Steve corrected gently. "And I have a picture of her at home, actually. On the bookshelf in my living room, right next to Bucky."
Probably S.H.I.E.LD. helped with that, and probably they knew better than to give him pictures of dancing monkeys. Well, good for S.H.I.E.L.D. for finally having some sense, Darcy supposed. "That's good. If you wanted, I could help you make a smaller version digitally, so you could fit it into your compass."
Steve ran his hands over the compass for a moment before he answered. "Every day, I say hello and goodnight to those pictures, of Bucky and Peggy. I'm never going to forget them, and I don't think I'm ever going to be able to stop missing them. But a compass should be used for finding your way forward, not for getting lost in the past." Steve slipped the compass into his pocket and extended his hand towards her. "And I think I've been in the 21st century long enough to start doing that. Don't you agree, Darcy?"
The time that she'd spent agonizing over the right present had apparently been enough hesitation, because Darcy reached out and took his hand in hers immediately. "Yeah, I agree."