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The Mad Muse's Tea Party

Chapter Text

“You can’t just…drop me off on your way to ‘Nowhere'?” Darcy asked, exasperated.

“No!” Peter said indignantly, “I can’t just drop you -

“Where you headed, lady?” Rocket asked, attention drawn by the minor scuffle.

“Yes, tell us,” Gamora put in, eyeing Peter suspiciously, “perhaps Quill exaggerates the difficulty.”

“Hey! I would never!

“Arcturus IV,” she began, but was quickly cut off.

“Arcturus IV?” the green alien repeated dubiously. “It is an… unsavory place. I have been there many times,” her tone took on a darker edge as she spoke, causing Peter and Rocket to exchange a significant look. Darcy filed that one under 'galactic references', and made a mental note to ask later.

Rocket let out an incredulous snort, “Unsavory?! Ha! Arcturus IV is the friggin’ armpit of the universe! I wouldn’t drop my worst enemy off on Arcturus IV!”

“I am Groot,” the tree-alien said emphatically.

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Rocket patted one of his branches comfortingly, “You lost some real nice branches there.”

See?!” Peter exclaimed.

“But I – “

I would drop off my worst enemy on Arcturus IV,” Drax said solemnly.

Everyone turned to look at him.

“In the hopes that he would be killed,” the warrior explained. “Or perhaps merely maimed, that I might better dispose of him myself.”

Peter gave Darcy a significant look.

Fine!” she spat, throwing her hands in the air, “I’ll tag along. For now.

Chapter Text

1.  Titus does not know what his siblings do on the anniversary of his mother’s death.  Perhaps nothing.  He drinks exactly one glass of her preferred vintage (a particularly robust red exported from Arctus IV) and then spaces the rest of the bottle.

Arctus IV was part of his inheritance.  He personally lit the fire that consumed the winery’s fields and then watched it burn to ash.  He did not salt the earth, though - fits of that kind of wanton destruction are more Balem’s province.  There were roughly 1,600 bottles left after his little ‘remembrance.’  There are only two, now.

He’s not sure how he’ll remember her after they’re gone.

2.  "We’re out of Kool-Aid,“ Kiza says.

Stinger grimaces.

"And bread,” she prods.

“I’ll go,” he sighs, reluctant as always to interact with the natives of the planet they currently call home.

“I could do it,” Kiza offers, looking down and away in a fruitless attempt to hide her eagerness.

He considers his daughter carefully.  She’s always been more empathetic, more adaptable than him.  It is both her strength and her weakness.  She genuinely likes this place, these people - primitive though they are - and, he fears, one of these days she’s going to drag someone home behind her.  And then he’ll have to drag that poor someone into the wide galaxy beyond because he could never deny her anything she truly wanted.  He’s been selfish enough, keeping her with him and dragging her to this backwater for the end of her adolescence.  "Alright,“ he says after a moment, "take the truck.”

“I’ll be back before you know it,” she says solemnly, but the tension in her frame betrays her excitement.  She jumps to her feet, then falters, swaying a little.  Her hand goes to her chest, pressing against her breastbone for the briefest of moments before she jerks it away, attempting to hide the gesture.

Stinger’s blood runs cold.

3-4.  Okay, for this one I’m just going to spit headcanon at you because I can’t think of a way to tell this that isn’t at least 5,000 words long.  So, Caine didn’t have a PACK, per se, but he had a unit, right?  Four other splices that he went through training with, a grouping that they kept together because Lycantents work best in groups, but technically speaking Caine is “defective” (at least that’s the impression I got from the film) so it would have been difficult to get other Lycantents to accept him.  His unit was comprised of one insectiod splice, Lita, their scout; two ursine splices, rare twins from a single splice, Kajal and Baeja, their team leader and sniper, respectively; lastly, Pol, a porcine splice (think boar), who was their close-combat expert.  Before Caine became known as a tracker, hunter, super-badass-awesome-warrior-dude, his UNIT was starting to become known for their efficiency, their talent, their we-can-go-into-shit-situations-and-come-up-roses.

This drew Balem’s attention, and he got their unit assigned to his I’m-an-Entitled-so-I-get-a-Legion.  He then proceeded to use them mercilessly, throwing them at bigger and badder situations, simultaneously making their reputations and breaking their everything else.  Eventually, their came a mission so godawful that everybody but Caine was killed - and Caine was horribly injured.  Balem had Caine healed (because why waste a resource?), not realizing that Caine would blame him for the deaths of his unit/pack.  Stinger gets Caine reassigned to his unit *handwaves* and Caine goes on none the wiser about the fact that his whole hindbrain is primed to get Balem dead as soon as Balem gets within deading range.

Until, of course, their unit distinguishes itself and draws Balem’s attention, whereupon Caine immediately attacks Balem as soon as he’s within range.  Stinger uses a FUCKLOAD of fancy talk to get Caine out of that one.  Mainly a lot of EVERYONE KNOWS LYCANTENTS GO NUTS WITHOUT A PACK, perhaps he blames you SUBCONSCIOUSLY, I mean obviously it’s not ACTUALLY your fault, majesty, but instincts are killer (ha ha).  In my head, the only reason Caine survives is because Kalique is there to hear Stinger’s pleas and subtly judges/prods her brother into pardoning Caine because she delights in twitting him and idk, SIBLING SHENANIGANS.

Chapter Text

“Wade,” she said slowly, not turning to face him.  "To what do I owe the pleasure?“

"Well, toots, a little birdie told me you were going on a coffee run, so…”

Fucking Hawkeye, Darcy thought, shifting her weight and giving serious thought to making a break for it.  ”Well, run’s done, on my way back to the Tower, so… bye?”

“Ah, ah, ah,” he wrapped a hand around her wrist, not turning her around but certainly keeping her from bolting.  "You owe me, toots.  You lost that bet fair and square.”

At that, Darcy did turn.  ”It was rigged!” she said, voice gone high with her indignation.  ”You bet on the Sinister Six being the next to attack the city because they’d hired you to help them!  You had inside information!”

He shrugged and, even through the mask, she just knew he was smirking. “Still owe me, toots, and I aim to collect.”  He took one step forward, his broad shoulders - and the handles of the two katanas strapped to his back - filling her field of vision.  ”One date, Darcy.  I’ll pick you up at eight.  Wear something…sporty.”

Chapter Text

Darcy was standing underneath the duct, hands on her hips, staring up at the vent with an expectant look on her face. He knew that, if he continued to ignore her, she would start to sigh, then fidget, and finally (worst of all) pout. She had a really effective pout, it was positively unreal.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Clint said as he slipped down to land on the ground beside her.

She opened her mouth, shut it, then nodded, silently holding out one hand and wriggling her fingers in his direction.

He huffed a little, but entwined his fingers with hers. He felt something that had been sharp and jagged, pressing against his lungs since his last mission, smooth a little, the strain easing and all from a simple touch.

Chapter Text

“You - that - in MY TOWER?!” Tony fairly bellowed.

“Problem?” Darcy asked curiously.  She was digging her fingernails into her thighs under her desk to keep from breaking into giggles.  She’d known wearing the shirt would get some sort of reaction, but she hadn’t expected him to notice until lunch at the earliest.  She suspected AI intervention: she’d have to buy JARVIS something nice.

He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath.  ”Apple products,” he said, enunciating clearly and carefully, “are one thing.  Jobs might have been ahack, but at least he knew Linux, but THIS?!  THIS IS THE FINAL STRAW, LEWIS.”

“It’s not against the dress code,” she pointed out.

“Dress code?  Not against the DRESS CODE?  THAT IS AN ABOMIN - ”

“Sir, Dr. Banner would like me to inform you that the tests on 36381 are completed.”

Tony growled something foul under his breath.  ”This isn’t over, Lewis,” he said, fixing her with a gimlet stare.  He held her gaze for a three-count, then spun on his heel and stalked out.

Darcy waited until she was sure he was gone before yanking a small spiral notebook out of her desk and looking up at the ceiling.  ”So, I’d rate that as, like, an eight?  Maybe nine?”

“8.3, miss.”

“Right,” she said, nodding and scribbling the number down.  "So, what do you think, J-man?  Try out that Hammer-Industries Hammer time shirt next week?  Or should we do the Fantastic Foxy Four shirt?“

Chapter Text

Jane was watching incredulously as she tilted the phone away from her face to mouth, “It’s my mom,” to the petite scientist.

“But,” she sputtered, gesticulating wildly.  "SCIENCE, Darcy!“

"I know,” she said, at a normal volume, “I’ll just be a minute?”

Darcy Lee Lewis, you have not called home in OVER A WEEK!  You bet your sweet bippy we’re going to be talking for more than a MINUTE - 

She winced and went back to mouthing: “Maybe five.”

Jane sighed deeply, but continued making the last adjustments to her rainbow bridge dialing Tesseract-powered travel device.  There was, technically speaking, a shorter name for it, but it involved a few umlauts and Darcy was not prepared to attempt to wrap her tongue around those.

You haven’t been back to visit in MONTHS, you never CALL, we have NO IDEA what’s going ON in your life - 

Darcy rolled her eyes heavenward and stood up to pace.  If she focused on wending her way through the detritus of Jane’s lab, then hopefully it would distract her from what she knew was coming, the inevitable -

Your SISTER never does this to us.  Delilah always calls, you know,“ her mother continued to rant.  The tirade was so well-worn that, at this point, Darcy could almost recite it along with her.  It was frustrating, but it would have been utterly infuriating if she didn’t already know that it made Delilah just as annoyed as it did her.  Their mother only got like this on occasion, thank god, but when it happened she could be a holy terror.  She came by it honestly - their maternal grandfather was a world-class douche.

"Look, mom, I’m in the middle of something, I’ll - yes.  I will call you back.  Today, even.  Mom.  MOM.  Please just - oh my GOD, mom, seriously?!  Just let me - would you STOP?  I - ” she spun on her heel, intending to head back to her desk for a fortifying sip of coffee, when she tripped over a loose cord and -

“DARCY!” Jane shrieked.

DARCY?“ her mother hollered.

"Beeeeeeeoop,” went the rainbow device of too many umlauts.

And Darcy’s vision disolved into purples and blues.

Chapter Text

She was bound from shoulders to knees.  Actually, bound might not have been the correct word, but she wasn’t sure that the English language HAD a word that specifically covered “wrapped in mechanical tentacles and tied to a lamppost.”  They should get on that, and soon.  It would be extremely useful, especially for the people of New York, those long-suffering citizens who were regularly under attack by all manner of things, including, of course, the requisite DOOMbots.

“I swear to fucking Thor,” she muttered under her breath, trying to wriggle around so that her hand could reach her emergency aid button, “this is probably the most action I’ve gotten in months.”

There was a choked-off laugh from above and to her right.

Darcy craned her neck and saw… of course: The Human Torch, hovering about fifteen feet away and laughing at her predicament.  Because that was what she needed today, more humiliation.  Still…  ”A little help, here?”

He landed with a soft thump, walking in a circle around her and her… predicament.  ”Pretty sure I saw this on a pulp scifi novel cover when I was in middle school,” he muttered, seemingly to himself - at least, she didn’t thinkshe’d been meant to hear that tone of mingled amusement and awe.

She looked down at herself and oh.  OH.  Her shirt had torn a bit from the rough handling of the bionic coils, revealing a good deal more of the girls than she had intended that morning.  Luckily, she was wearing a rather cute bra (bright red, but that was purely a coincidence).  Her skirt had been rucked up a bit from her struggles and, all in all, she had to admit that she probably did look like the cover of a cheesy pulp novel: bust dame in distress, hero conveniently nearby.  For fucksake, really?!

"So, miss, how can I be of service?” The Torch asked, finally completing his circle and stopping just in front of her.

“You’re kidding, right?  Get these things off of me!”

“Well, I would, but,” he held up his hands and let them glow a cheery cherry red (which, she noticed, matched her bra - and this was probably NOT a coincidence).  ”Metal conducts heat, don’t want to scorch you,” he told her with a suggestive grin.

Darcy rolled her eyes.  ”You were an astronaut before you were a superhero, weren’t you?  Use your head, hotshot.”

He blinked at her, looking completely surprised.  ”I - yeah, I guess I could do that,” he said, and then continued to stare.

“Well?” she said impatiently.

“Right, right,” he said, powering down and hurrying to her side to study the central hub of the tentacoils.  "So, um,“ he muttered, frowning down at the machine, "could I interest you in dinner?  After, I mean?”

It was Darcy’s turn to blink, because what.  ”I…” she swallowed and licked her lips, studying what she could see of his face while he worked.  His expression was intent, but his ears… the tops of his ears were red.  Huh.  ”Sure,” she said.  ”Just, lets lose the kinky restraints first.  That’s a fifth date discussion topic.”

“Fifth date, huh?” he said, grinning.  "I’ll look forward to it.“

Chapter Text

Coulson was brought out of his thoughts by a soft “ahem” coming from his side.  He turned to find Darcy Lewis standing there, studying him through narrowed eyes.  He stared right back at her, taking in the bruise partially covering one cheekbone, the rumpled, torn clothing, and the dark circles under her eyes.  He was glad that his team had been able to save her and the Doctors Selvig and Foster from Cal’s latest scheme, but the fallout…

“ - LIED TO US,” he heard Tony shouting from the next room.

“IT WAS NEED TO KNOW,” Skye shouted back, her fierce defense of him bringing a small smile to his face.

Darcy zeroed in on that smile and appeared to come to some sort of conclusion.  ”I can grab you a coffee and a bagel,” she offered.  ”If…”

“If what?”

“If… you tell me what happened to my iPod.  Manly Stanley.  You ‘confiscated’,” she actually used air-quotes, “him in New Mexico, remember?”

Coulson stared at her.  ”Ms. Lewis, New Mexico was several years, two alien invasions, and one death-experience ago.  No, I don’t recall what happened to your iPod.”

She rolled her eyes dramatically.  ”You returned it, with Jane’s stuff,” she prodded.  ”It came back with about 1,500 new songs on it?  I was just wondering who added them.”

That he remembered.  ”I did.  It was an - “

“Apology?”

“ - appeasement gesture.”

“Apology.”

Coulson sighed.  ”An apology, I suppose.  We were, perhaps, a little… overzealous.”

She nodded, “Thank you for your honesty.  For that, you get the good coffee.”

He smiled.  ”Thank you, Ms. Lewis.”  A loud crash echoed from the next room and he groaned: “I think I’ll need it before this day is through.”

Chapter Text

“You kidnapped me!”

“Borrowed you,” he corrected.

Darcy’s fingers twitched towards the nearest blunt, heavy object - another book, one of the stack that had been transported with her when the shiny blue light kidnapped her from her room.  ”Borrowing without permission is stealing and stealing a person is kidnapping, you asshole!”

“Look,” Peter Quill, Guardian of the Galaxy and royal pain in her ass, raised his hands, palms facing her, and took two large steps back.  ”It’s just for a few days, okay?  There’s some shit going down in - look, it doesn’t really matter.  We just need to make sure Prince Thor doesn’t go home for a little while and if he’s looking for you he’ll be looking on Earth, so - “

She folded her arms, glaring at him.  ”And you couldn’t just ASK Thor to stick around Earth for a little while?  He’s a pretty reasonable Asgardian.”

“Not when it comes to his brother,” Gamora said solemnly, slipping into the room.

Darcy took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  ”You’d better tell me what’s going on.”

Chapter Text

There are so many questions Darcy needs answered at this moment.  Priorities, she reminds herself.  ”Who are you and what are you doing in my apartment?”

The strange man smiles, not moving otherwise.  ”Name’s Sam Wilson, I was sent here to pick you up by a, uh,” he winces before continuing, “a Prince of Asgard and his Lady of Science?”

The sound of the code phrase makes her relax enough that Darcy lets her purse drop off her shoulder to the ground.  ”All right, let me have it.  Is it Loki?  Another Infinity-thingy?  That Thanatos guy?  What’s the sitch?”

Sam’s wince becomes a full-on grimace.  ”Apparently,” he starts slowly, “publicly claiming you as his Shield Sister has had some… unforeseen consequences.  Galactic ones.  Thor is trying to sort it out, but in the meantime he wants you safe from any - “

“Kidnappings?” she asks curiously, remembering the incident with the Guardians three months ago.

“The phrase he used was ‘overzealous suitors’,” Sam corrects her.

“Oh.  Oh shit.”

Chapter Text

It is the single thing about this day (and, possibly, all of her life choices up to this point) that Darcy is not currently regretting.  She is aware that noreasonable human being could have foreseen this, but she works with a large group of highly unreasonable people.  She should be prepared for everything.  Darcy was not prepared, though.  She was not prepared for a superhero fight to interrupt her midday shopping trip.  She was not prepared for Wolverine and Deadpool to come careening through the wall and into her goddamn dressing room.

Of course, judging by the way they’d frozen (Deadpool had both hands wrapped around Wolverine’s pointy hair, Wolverine had both sets of claws stabbed into the mercenary’s torso) and were staring at her (admittedly rockin’ body), they clearly hadn’t been expecting her, either.

Deadpool wolf-whistled.  ”Hey, good-lookin’!”

Wolverine coughed, appearing embarrassed but not enough to stop staring.  ”Apologies, ma’am.”

Darcy stifled the urge to snarl, instead putting her hands on her hips (two sets of eyes dropped down to her lacy panties and hovered in that vicinity) and stared them down until they met her eyes again.  ”I am going to go to the next intact dressing room and get dressed,” she said.  ”Then I am going to go to the front counter with the nice skirt I tried on before you wrecked my shopping trip.  You are going to buy the skirt for me, because you owe me that much, and then you are going to apologize to the nice store manager, because you owe THEM that much.  Then you are going to take this fight outside, to the streets, like normal maladjusted idiots with superpowers.  Are we clear?”

“Like arctic ice, virgin and untouched.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She nodded and headed out the doorway (the door was underneath the two aforementioned maladjusted idiots) to put her plan in action.

Wolverine and Deadpool locked eyes, glaring at each other because suddenly their fight had a much different, curvier focus.  And the battleground wouldn’t be the streets…

Chapter Text

“But… how did it get in here?” he asked.

JARVIS was suspiciously silent.

Bucky squinted at the cat, which ‘mrowed’ at him, then curled itself into a tiny ball of black and tan fuzz beside his pillow.  ”I am going to shower,” he told the minuscule feline, “and then we are going to get to the bottom of this.”

The cat made a ‘mrrr’ sound and shut its copper-colored eyes.

He nodded, then went to the bathroom and showered.  By the time he got back, the kitten had migrated from beside his pillow to on it… but it looked so comfortable, was sleeping so soundly, that he didn’t have the heart to move it. Instead, he settled himself on the other side of the bed and watched the cat sleep until he, too, drifted off.

The next morning he woke up with a sound like Stark’s coffee grinder vibrating from the space between his neck and shoulder.

“I guess,” he said, not opening his eyes, “if nobody else claims you… you could stick around.”

The purring kicked up a notch.

Meanwhile, in the common kitchen, money changed hands with stifled groans from some (Stark, Foster, Wilson) and quiet smugness from others (Romanoff, Lewis, Rogers).

Chapter Text

“Bucky!  Bucky, no!  This is Darcy, she’s Tony’s assistant - “

"Excuse you,” Darcy interjected, not once taking her eyes off of ‘Bucky’ (oh shit, the Winter Soldier, she pissed off the Winter Soldier), “but I’m Jane’sassistant, not Tony’s.”  She attempted to smile at Bucky, who was looking slightly less feral now, and made a mental note to switch from her sneakers to her squeakiest pair of Converse for the foreseeable future.  ”So, mind letting me go, now?  I’m harmless I swear.  Well.  Mostly.”

"Darcy,” Steve sighed.  "She really is, Buck, I swear.“

Gradually, recognition started to show in his eyes and he took a step back, shaking his head like a dog shaking off water.  ”You sure ‘bout that, Stevie?” he said, voice rough in a way that made Darcy’s skin tingle.  He gave her a small, apologetic smile… and then followed it up with, “Those curves look pretty dangerous to me.”

Oh no he did not!

Chapter Text

Bruce smiled at her gently, “It’ll be all right, Darcy.”

“How do you know that?” she asked anxiously, trying to focus on keeping her heartrate down.  If she had known that hooking up with Johnny would result in THIS, she… well, she probably still would have done it, he was hella charming.  Still, whoever heard of superpowers being CATCHING?  “Good thing Sue’s the one with the inviso-powers,” she joked awkwardly, “if I’d caught those you’d never find me again.”

Bruce put a hand on her shoulder.  “We’ll figure this out.”

And in the meantime, I guess I’ll be expanding my fireproof wardrobe…

Chapter Text

“I suppose it makes sense,” she grumped, staring at her friend.  “I mean, you’re ridiculously hot as a dude, why would that change with a chromosome - or whatever you Asgardians have - shift?”

“Thank you, Darcy,” Thor said politely, frowning down at his - her? - bosom.  “I like this one,” he (she was sticking with ‘he’ until instructed otherwise) decided, “do you think we could find it in blue?”

“Sure.  We’ll go shopping, make a day of it.”

“My thanks.”

“You know, I noticed you’re not as weirded out by this as the rest of the team…?” she trailed off curiously.  “Did your brother ever - you know, prank you with this?"  Darcy wriggled her fingers, "A magical naughty-bits change?”

Thor shook his head, “No, I volunteered as the Lady Sif’s aid when she was attempting to master the transformative arts.  The changing of another must be achieved before a journeyman is allowed to practice on their own flesh.  She was quite determined.”

“Wait… Sif does magic?”

He shook his head, “Not any longer.  She has achieved all her goals in that arena, and no longer has any need for those skills.”

Well, that was… vague.  Darcy tabled that for later, she could always ask the warrior next time she visited.

Chapter Text

Darcy, drenched in some unidentifiable goo from the glitchy- but apparently not broken - device, glared at Jane.  “Next time,” she said, “you get to flip the switch and I’ll monitor the read-outs.”

“Purple goo,” Jane mused, not paying attention.  She reached out and poked Darcy’s arm, rubbing some of the viscous goop between her fingers and frowning at it.  “Huh,” she said.  “I would have thought there would be… more of it?  I mean, the light was pretty bright, you should be covered.”

"I’m not exactly clean, Jane,” Darcy pointed out dryly.

"No, no, I know but - ”

Both women froze at the sound of a groan coming from the back of the lab.  As one, they turned (Jane grabbing two glass beakers, Darcy her taser) and started edging their way over.  There was a second pile of purple goo, and at the center of this one was a man.

“… somebody call the Blue Man Group, I think we found their missing member.”

Chapter Text

The smile on his face was boyish and broad, lit up his eyes like nothing she’d ever seen before.  She grinned back at him, flipping some of her hair back from her face.  He was just as messy as she was, hair just as wet, and his arms - oh shit, his arm!  ”Um, Bucky,” Darcy started a little nervously.

“What?”

“You’re not gonna pull a tin man on me, are you?”

He flexed his metal arm at her.  ”No, it can get wet.  How do you think I shower?”

“I… hadn’t really thought about it?”

Bucky smirked, running his eyes over her.  ”I’d be lying if I said the same.”

She… was not prepared to deal with that.  Instead, she widened her eyes at him innocently: “You think about yourself in the shower?  Wow, Buck, that’s a level of narcissism that I thought only Tony stooped to.”

He rolled his eyes.  ”You let me know when you’re ready to take me seriously, doll.  I’ll be here.”

Chapter Text

Today was the day the last of the Avengers would finally move into the Tower and, not incidentally, learn the truth of Darcy’s identity.  She’d already met most of them through Jane and Thor, but none but those aforementioned two actually knew she was Tony’s daughter.  She’d convinced her father it was safe to let the Avengers know, and he’d finally agreed - but she was pretty sure he only acquiesced because, now that they were living in the Tower, he would be able to monitor (or JARVIS would) most of their communication.  It was an occasion, and she intended to ‘come out,’ as it were, in style.  No matter whatanyone said to the contrary.

“You know, no one was trying to convince you otherwise,” Pepper pointed out.

Darcy quirked a brow at her.

"Okay, yes, your father was, but he doesn’t count.  He stills sees you as the adorable, gap-toothed ten year old you were when he met you.”

She stretched her arms out, squeezing her boobs (displayed to magnificent effect by the scoop neckline of her royal blue sweater-dress) up and together.  Darcy glanced from her cleavage to Pepper and back again.  ”That ship sailed a long long time ago.  He’s really gotta get over it.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” Pepper sighed, reaching out and tucking an errant curl behind the younger woman’s ear.  "There’s a reason that saying about old rakes making the most protective fathers exists.  Don’t hold your breath.“

Darcy rolled her eyes, then grinned as a thought occurred to her.  ”What do you think he’ll do if I hit on Captain America in front of him?”

"Retract the offer of residence, lock you in your room, and start designs on that chastity belt he doesn’t know I know he has on file,” Pepper told her wryly.

“JARVIS has my back,” she said confidently.  "Right, little bro?“

"Always, Darcy,” the AI responded.  "Though, may I suggest, if you really wish to scandalize him, you might consider hitting on Ms. Romanova?”

Darcy grinned evilly: “Why not both?”

Chapter Text

“You know,” Darcy said, shoulders going stiff as she resisted the urge to flinch, “you could have just asked me to move.  Or, you know, waited five seconds for me to be done with the microwave.”

“But I want the peanut butter now,” Clint said, breath brushing across her ear.

She drove her elbow back, smiling when he grunted.

"Don’t be like that,” he said, leaning in and nuzzling against her neck.

“Your fingers are freezing!

"Well - ” she could feel him smirking against her skin.  "Can you think of any ways to help me warm ‘em up?“

Chapter Text

Also, that she was pregnant.  Therein lay the problem: she wasn’t sure which she should tell him first.  She wasn’t even sure how to broach the whole ‘apparently your swimmers are just as super as the rest of you’ topic.  They’d been dating for six months, sleeping together for three, and they’d had a lot of serious talks, but ‘what are your top five picks for baby names’ hadn’t been one of them.

Darcy bit her lip as Steve boarded, one hand slipping low to rest over her stomach.  Natasha paused on the threshold and turned to wave, and was it just Darcy’s imagination, or did she sort of… fumble, when she locked eyes on her.  The redhead dropped her hands to her hips and, even across the distance, Darcy could make out the exasperated manner with which she shook her head.  Not her imagination, then.  Well, that was one less person she’d have to tell, she supposed.  Guiltily, Darcy dropped her hand from her stomach and offered the other woman an exaggerated shrug.  Natasha, in turn, pivoted on her heel and called something into the interior of the plane.  A moment later, Steve reappeared, frowning.

Darcy’s heart began to race, adrenaline pouring itself into her veins.  I can’t decide if I hate or love living with super spysassins, she grumped to herself as Steve made his way back to her.

“Natasha said you have something to tell me?”

“Well…”

Chapter Text

“So it’s not a fluke?  This is actually a trufax thing that is happening?  You wouldn’t punk me with something like this, doc, would you?”

Bruce gave her a look over the top of his spectacles.  ”Darcy, do you really think I would joke about something like this?”

That… was a fair point actually.  She gave him a wince and an apologetic shrug before returning to her own incredulity.  ”I’m twenty-seven, though!  I thought this was supposed to be a puberty thing!”

He shrugged, “Sometimes it’s a stress thing.  The body doesn’t make that final push until something triggers it.  In this case, your recent… altercation with AIM.”

“Fuckers,” Darcy muttered.  She held up one hand, watching the leaping sparks of electricity dance from finger to finger.  "So, I’m a mutant, I guess.  Yay.  Why couldn’t I get a nice low-key power, like… I don’t know… talking to squirrels?  I don’t want to be big-firepower girl!“

"Do you really want to be able to talk to squirrels?”

“… No.”

Bruce smiled, “Think of it this way: you’ll never have to carry a taser again.”

Chapter Text

He gave her an exasperated look, “No matter what dirt you dig up, Lewis, I’m not helping you prank Clint again.  He’s vicious.”

“Never took you for a chicken, Barnes,” Darcy said archly.

Bucky rolled his eyes.  ”That line hasn’t worked on me since 1938.”

She sighed, deeply annoyed.  ”I just need you to distract him for five minutes.”

“Nothin’ doin’, dollface.”

Darcy narrowed her eyes at him, considering.  ”For five minutes, I will bake you one meal of your choice AND two desserts.  And I won’t make you share.”  He was trying to play it cool but he was totally interested.  ”I saw some really nice looking raspberries last time I hit up the farmers market,” she said.  ”Still have some of that chocolate Nat brought me back from her last Euro mission, too…”

He folded like Sam on poker night.  ”Five minutes.  Five.”

“Yes!”

“I’m gonna regret this, aren’t I?”

Chapter Text

“He was a shitty boyfriend.  And intern,” Jane said, trying to be comforting.

Darcy snorted.  ”He was a pretty good boyfriend, actually.  Really sweet.  He always looked at me like I was - I don’t know.  Something amazing and unexpected.”  She ducked her head, sniffing, “And then he tried to kill me.  I have the worst taste in men.”

“None of us knew he was Hydra, Darcy.  Please, don’t blame yourself.”

“Yeah, but nobody knew him as well as I did.  Or, as well as I thought I did?  God.  I just - were there signs?  Things I missed?”

“I… don’t know,” Jane sighed, shrugging.  "I doubt we’ll ever know.”

“I think that’s what sucks most about this,” Darcy said moodily.  "I’ll never get to ask him why.  I’ll never get any closure.”

“Him dying in his attempt on our lives isn’t closed enough for you?”

"Too soon, Jane.  Too soon.

Chapter Text

Darcy stared at him.  ”I feel like you wanted to give me a compliment, but then your sentence made a sharp turn into asshole commentary land.  You wanna retract that and try again?”

Sam tugged her closer so he could wrap his arms around her.  ”You’re loud, blunt, opinionated, inappropriate, have the worst timing - “

“Are you trying to provoke me?” she wondered.

” - and I wouldn’t change a single thing.“

She squinted up at him.  ”Okay, one nice thing does not make up for - “

"You’re also brilliant, beautiful, you make me laugh even on the worst day, you make me feel sane even in the middle of all this craziness, and I can’t imagine my life without you.  I don’t want to.”

"Sam…”

He released her, took a step back, and dropped down onto one knee.

“Sam?!”

“Darcy, will you marry me?”

Chapter Text

Darcy watched Bucky’s face carefully, not sure how he was going to react.  To be honest, she hadn’t reacted particularly well to the news, either.  Mostly because 1) she hadn’t actually known that she was related to the metal-armed Avenger and 2) she hadn’t had any fucking clue she might be pregnant.  It hadn’t even been a possibility in her mind when she went to Bruce to see if her persistent nausea was because of proximity to Jane and Thor’s cuteness, or something more sinister - because she hadn’t actually had sex.  Ever.

“You’re… Becca’s granddaughter?” Bucky asked, breaking her from her thoughts.

“Apparently?”  Her lips twisted, “I honestly didn’t have any clue.  Looks like somebody, somewhen, wasn’t exactly… faithful.  Based off the timing, I’m probably descended from your sister’s youngest son.  We think.”

He nodded slowly, looking shellshocked.  ”And… you?”

Darcy grimaced.  ”That’s… a little more complicated.”

“This is awesome and congrats and all that jazz,” Clint said, “but I’m still not seeing why this news required an urgent team meeting?”

Bruce, who had been alternating between meditating really hard and contacting the necessary persons since Darcy’s blood tests came back, stood to address the room.  ”From what I’ve pieced together with Darcy, it looks like her last visit to the gynecologist, well…”  He blew out a breath.  ”Tony…?”

The billionaire didn’t even look up from his tablet, which he had been working on furiously.  She meant that in both the figurative and the literal sense.  Darcy had never seen anybody so angry as Tony had been when they finally figured out what had happened.  She actually sort of wondered if Bruce had found a way to channel all of his rage into another person.  After a moment, he addressed the team, eyes almost glittering with his pent-up rage: “The tech was a Hydra plant, he artificially inseminated her, she’s pregnant and somebody in this room is the father.”

“Like I said,” Darcy told Bucky as the room erupted into chaos.  "Complicated.“

Chapter Text

Which was ridiculous, of course.  There was no such thing as ghosts, or aliens, or magic.  There was a perfectly reasonable explanation for the way lights had been flickering every time she entered a room, or the way her television and car radio instantly turned to static every time she turned them on, and the murder of crows that had started roosting right outside her window.  There was a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of that, she was sure.

The incredibly tall, buff man staring at her like she was the long lost love of his life?  She didn’t have an explanation for him.

“Darcy!” he said, sweeping her into a massive hug.  "I’ve found you!“

"Yes.  Yes, you have… strange man.  Now put me down or I’m gonna scream.”

He immediately released her and took two steps back, frowning.  ”You… you do not recognize me?”

“Um.  No.”  Pretty sure I’d remember somebody as hot as you, she thought.

He scowled ferociously, “Loki…”

Darcy blinked at him, “The Norse god of trickery and lies?”

Stranger Danger nodded, looking relieved, “So you remember something.”

“Yeah, my world mythology course.”  She secured her purse a little more tightly underneath her arm and prepared to bolt.  "Look, dude, I don’t know who you think I am, but… pretty sure you’ve got the wrong girl.  Sorry?“  She really was sorry, mostly because he looked so anguished, standing there.

"I… please, Darcy.  You must believe me, I know not what world my brother has crafted for you, but it is an illusion meant to keep you from us.  From me.  Please, you must listen!”

Her brain was shouting NO, but her heart was whispering yes.  She wavered, then split the difference.  ”You can buy me one cup of coffee.  One.  In a public place of my choosing.  If you can’t convince me that you’re not crazy, then you leave and you leave me alone.  Are we agreed?”

For some reason that made him look positively wrecked.  ”I…” he stopped and licked his lips, eyes scanning her face almost desperately.  ”I cannot break an oath once taken, must you ask this of me?”

"I really must.”

“I… promise, then,” he said, bowing his head.  He looked so defeated…

“One cup, dude.  Never said how fast I’d drink it,” she told him, starting to pity this strange man who was so convinced he knew her.  She sighed, then added, “I’ll order a large.”

“I will endeavor to be convincing,” he told her, serious like the fate of the world hung in the balance.

Something flickered in his eyes, then.  Something that looked a whole lot like lightning.  Maybe she shouldn’t be ruling out the paranormal just yet.  After all, there were more things in this world than she’d dreamt of in her philosophy courses, right?  Or something like that.

Chapter Text

He helped her find a place to stay, a local boarding house for young women, which, in turn, led to her finding gainful employment as a shopgirl.  It wasn’t exactly glamorous, but she wasn’t really looking for excitement.  Darcy just needed a way to stay safe and alive until Jane figured out what went wrong with the rainbow-thingy and came to get her.  She refused to believe that Janewasn’t coming for her.  She just couldn’t accept it.

Five months in, she bought herself a bottle of cheap wine and got quietly drunk in her room.  The next morning, Darcy awoke to a horrible hangover and a new purpose: she couldn’t keep living her life waiting, she had to actually live it.  No matter what would, or wouldn’t happen, she couldn’t just gloss over her now in the hopes of something in the future.  It was no way to live.

So she got up, got dressed, and went to work with a new spring in her step.  She made friends, she went out with the girls, she reconnected with Joseph.  He was happy to hear from her, and even happier to introduce her to his friend, George.

It took her exactly five minutes in George’s company to discover he was a total charmer.  It took him five days to convince her to go on a second date.  It took her five weeks to fall madly in love with him.  It took him five months to get up the guts to ask her to marry him.

A year and a day after she fell into the past, Darcy Winifred Lewis became Darcy Winifred Barnes, and the future never looked so bright.

Chapter Text

And blood, of course.  Yeah, it was maybe not Darcy’s best choice to focus on smell, but it was currently the least-terrible option.  She couldn’t taste anything, her mouth was dry as a bone.  All she could see was the bullet wound, high on his thigh.  The only thing she could feel was the warm blood welling up beneath her hands, even as she pressed with all her might.  She couldn’t hear anything beyond his breathing, harsh and quick, as he focused on keeping an eye out for their attackers and she focused on keeping him from bleeding out before his serum-enhanced healing could kick in or reinforcements could arrive.

“Some night, huh?” Steve said.

“I’ve had better,” she managed, swallowing hard.

“D’you think, later, we might… try this again?”

How he could sound so sweetly bashful, nonchalantly disregarding the bullet wound in his leg to ask for another date, was beyond her, truly.  It was also incredibly flattering… but this was more excitement than she wanted.

“… On one condition.  Next time, we order in?”

He beamed.  ”It’s a date.”

Chapter Text

The look the other woman gave her could best be described as ‘murder’ with a side of ‘maim.’  ”Look,” Darcy said, “I just wanna pass the time.  If you’ve got any better suggestions, please, run them by me.”

“We could sit here in silence, contemplating the universe.”

Darcy blinked.  ”You’re sassy!  Now we have to become friends.”

The other woman raised a brow at her.  ”Is that a fact?”

She nodded emphatically, “It is indeed.  I need more sass in my life, I have to meet a quota.”

Her second brow rose to join the first, “And what will I get out of this arrangement?”

“Me!” Darcy said with a winsome smile.  "I’m mostly sane, a great listener, and I have one of the highest clearance levels in the building, so you can bitch to me about just about anything.“

The other woman smiled, and then looked surprised at herself for doing so.  After a moment she asked, “Will there be alcohol involved in this arrangement?”

"Only the best boxed wine,” she said solemnly.

There was a snort, and then Darcy was being offered a dainty, callused hand. “Maria Hill.”

“Darcy Lewis,” she returned.  "Now, rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock?“

Chapter Text

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Steve said, giving Sam his best ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ look.  "I really am busy, I got a date with a file on Hydra’s activities circa 1952, and I really need to brush up on my Polish.“

"Bullshit, don’t you be giving me that innocent face, Steven Grant Rogers,” Sam said, wagging a finger in the other man’s general direction.  "You’ve been avoiding the team bonding shit.  You know it, I know it, the team knows it, and - more importantly - Darcy knows it.  Problem is, she’s the only one who doesn’t know why.”

“I’ve been busy.”

“Busy wearin’ your ass as a hat,” Sam scoffed.  "But,“ he sighed after a moment, "I guess it’ll all work itself out.  Girl like that, she won’t be single for long.  You just go ahead and keep on ignorin’ her till somebody else gets her attention and then you can start coming to the bonding shit again.  ’Course, you’re gonna have to watch her with her new boy, think you can handle that?”

“… You’re an asshole.”

“I’ll let Tony know you’re coming.”

Chapter Text

Darcy watched in awe as Natasha did something that involved a whole lot of untwisting, unknotting, bending, arching, and just a touch of swaying to finally unfold herself out of the tangle she’d been in and rise to her feet.  She squinted her eyes at the other woman, “Half of that was probably unnecessary.  It’s just you showing off: you’re just trying to intimidate me with your flexibility.”

Natasha gave her a curious look.  ”Why would you find my flexibility intimidating?” she asked, not in any way, shape, or form denying the ‘showing off’ portion of the brunette’s statement.

Because it makes my mind go to dirty, dirty places and part of me is scared that Clint was lying about you not being psychic and somehow you’ll just know.  ”Um.  No reason.  Just… making idle chitchat.  I’m going to go now, let you get back to your - yeah.”  She started to back away, not taking her eyes off of the redhead until she was in the doorway of the living room.  Just as she had turned to go, Nat called out:

“If you like, I can show you how to get into that particular position,” she said, voice warm and sweet.  "I’ll warn you though, it’s pretty hands-on.“

"I…” Darcy gulped, desperately trying not to think of all the places she’d like Nat’s hands to explore, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Please, do.”

Chapter Text

She’d nearly folded over laughing at the archer, and as she moved her hair shifted and suddenly ohholyfuckingshitsticks.  She could see Bruce, Tony, Jane, and Thor behind her.  She could see behind her.  Because she now hadliteral eyes on the back of her head.  She snapped back upright so quickly that her spine cracked, then fisted her hands in her hair to part it.  The better to see you with, my dear, she thought to herself semi-hysterically as her eyes - the new set - locked with Jane’s.

The petite scientist looked appropriately horrified, and immediately started yanking on Thor’s arm.  She pulled him down to her level and hissed something into his ear.

Ears, Darcy thought, ears would have been more useful.  Possibly.

Then she sat on the ground, stuck her head between her knees (still only one set of those, thank goodness), and focused on breathing evenly and not passing out while Thor and Jane dealt with the genius loci.  It took about twenty minutes, during which she kept all of her eyes shut, thank you very much, for Thor to reach some sort of agreement with the loci.  Darcy couldn’t actually tell what they were saying, apparently All-Speak didn’t work the same with mental languages, or Thor sucked at active telepathy - she hadn’t really been paying attention to the explanation.

She felt it when the change happened this time, though.  There was a faint tingle on the back of her head as the eyes just… went away, as quickly and cleanly as they’d appeared.  Then the tingle moved from the back of her head, down her throat, and settled in her chest.  That was probably Not Good.

“The loci has agreed to alter the nature of your gift,” she heard Thor begin to explain.  "It must give you something - “

“I’ve always been a big fan of fruit baskets, myself,” Clint interjected.

“But it is not clear what the replacement gift is,” Thor continued.  "It said something about your… individual natures?  I am sorry, my friends, I was never particularly gifted with word craft.“

"Our natures?” Darcy asked.  Well, that didn’t sound too bad…

Chapter Text

What if you woke up in your soulmate’s body on your 22nd birthday?

Not everyone wakes up to coffee and toast.


It makes the papers.

It makes the national news.  Not as anything more than a footnote, a brief comment on an ongoing search originating from the Dream of a senior at Culver University.  The young woman’s family have asked that her name not be used in the papers.  The experts say that the outlook is bleak.  It’s a tragedy, a one-in-a-million chance, the sort of story that makes people hug their loved ones close and feel grateful, for a few moments, that it’s not them.  That they’re not the girl who woke up from her 22nd birthday Dream screaming and crying, shaking and shocky, chilled down to the very marrow of her bones.

Darcy doesn’t remember much of anything, a blessing, they tell her - who would want to remember that?  She knows some things, though.  She knows her soulmate was male.  She knows he was strong… but not strong enough.  She knows that he’s dead by now, because nobody could survive that sort of cold.  He’s younger than her, too - must be, since he never woke up in her body.  She thinks about that sometimes, about her young soulmate, dead before his time.

She wishes she could have saved him.

They say that soulmates are connected from birth, but the connection lies dormant until they’re ready - until they’re 22.  Nobody knows why that number is the ‘magic’ one.  Nobody knows why some people have one soulmate, and some people have more.  Darcy doesn’t do any research on the subject because she’s scared of what she’ll find.  She knows, from anecdotes, that some people have claimed that they could feel their soulmates, get a sense of how they were from them even after they woke up.  There are truly amazing stories of soulmates who have been connected across miles and language barriers, obstacles of all sorts, and those stories make Darcy break out into a cold sweat.

She can still feel that cold, from her Dream: it never completely left her.  There’s no way her soulmate could still be alive, so what is she feeling?  She doesn’t believe in ghosts, never has, but she wears sweaters almost constantly and never gets too warm.  She wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes, shivering with the cold that never goes away.

Darcy applies for every internship that’s south and, presumably, warm.  Every.  Single.  One.  New Mexico looks nice: all sand and heat and sun.  Maybe she’ll shake the cold there.  Maybe…

She meets gods, aliens, monsters, giant robots with lazers for eyes.  Nothing touches the cold that goes soul-deep.  She wonders, sometimes, if maybe this is her penance, maybe she was supposed to save her mate.  Maybe the cold is her punishment for not being strong enough for him.

Then, a little less than a year after her life was turned upside down…

She starts to thaw.

Chapter Text

“You’re not as crazy as I expected,” Tony told the diminutive scientist garbed in a frankly alarming shade of plaid.  The stripes on her shirt seemed to get even stripier as she bristled in indignation.

“You’re not as drunk as I expected,” Dr. Foster returned, scowling.

He snorted.  ”Touche.”

Seeming to remember herself, she took a deep breath and, through grit teeth, said, “Thank you.  For having me.  Here, I mean!  Thank you for inviting me to present at your expo.  Or, well, thank you for agreeing with whichever of your employees put me on the list.”

Tony raised an eyebrow at her, “And what makes you think I didn’t put your name on the list?”

It was her turn to snort.  ”You thought I was crazy, remember?”

“I like crazy,  Crazy people are never boring.”

“But I’m not crazy,” she reminded him.

“And yet I’m not bored…” he said, grinning at her.  "Wanna grab a drink?“

"You buying?”

“It is my expo.”

“Then all right, but I am not sleeping with you.”

"That’s fine, Dr. Foster, I’m interested in your brain, not your plaid.”

“My what?

"… nevermind.”

Chapter Text

“Help?” Darcy called into the seemingly deserted room.  "Paging all nerds?“  A very blonde head popped up from behind one of the cubicle walls, startling her.  "Jesus, man, I thought I was in Stark Tower - this is the worst looking IT department ever!”

Blondie grinned at her.  He was tall, broad, and built.  Not to, like, Cap or Thor levels, but definitely in the upper hotness range for mere mortals, she noticed appreciatively.  ”Most everyone in the building can fix their own issues,” he informed her.  ”We’re the Tech for Humanities division.  We get the worst coffee, least window space, and most asks.  On the flipside, we also get bribed with baked goods when crunch times roll around.”

She squinted at him.  ”Should you be revealing trade secrets like that just… to passerby?”

He shrugged.  ”Were you a humanities major?”

“Yeah…?”

“Do you have a tech issue?”

“Yeah…”

“I’ve got job security.”

Darcy blinked.  ”I can’t decide if that’s genius or insulting.”

“We work for Stark, it’s both by default.”

“… fair enough.  Now, can you help me make the Excel… excel?”

Chapter Text

Zevran: *flirts aggressively*

Steve: *ignores him in favor of commanding ~handwaves~ whatever battle Zevran was dropped into by Fade shenanigans*

Thor: *is happy to see an elf on Midgard, he didn’t think we had those*

Tony, Clint, Natasha, Bucky: *flirt back*

Zevran: *is delighted*  I think I should like to explore this strange world, learn all its… pleasures.  I promise you shall find me very ~useful.

Tony: *to Pepper*  CAN I KEEP HIM?

Zevran: *winks lasciviously*

Pepper: We’ll talk after the battle Tony, DON’T DIE.

Chapter Text

She’d met him before, of course, in passing.  All of their interactions had been powerful CEO/ head of international protective agency, though - and they hadn’t exactly been friendly interactions, either.  Now, though, seeing him looking tired, worn, but not defeated (she didn’t think Fury was was the type), Pepper found herself wondering about the man behind the mask - or eyepatch she supposed, and then mentally kicked herself because clearly she’d spent too much time with Tony.

“Are you all right?” she asked him.

He cracked a smile, “Fine, Ms. Potts.  As fine as I can be, considering.”

Considering the agency he’d worked for all his life had been found to be riddled with corruption.  Considering he’d had to destroy all he’d worked for.  Considering he was legally dead now, a ghost trying to right the wrongs of his past life.  Considering he was sitting across from her, asking for help.  Considering all of those things, yes, she supposed he was ‘just fine.’

Pepper made an abrupt, gut-impulse decision.  ”I’ll need time to consider your proposal.  Backing the new SHIELD isn’t exactly an easy choice, considering what happened to the old one.  I know Phil, I trust Phil, but SHIELD is - and will be - more than just one man.”

Fury inclined his head, “Understood.”

“While I consider it though, you are more than welcome to stay here.  We have a very nice guest suite - ”

“I’ve got a - ”

“Bolthole?  Safe house?  Hole in the wall?” Pepper arched a brow.  "Please.  Stay here, enjoy the wifi, eat the food.  You’ll be safe and have access to the world’s best, most secure, communications network.“

"Most secure?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Nick - can I call you Nick? - you already agreed to full disclosure.  If you give a little, you can get quite a lot.”

He sat back at that, studying her over steepled fingers.  After a moment he smiled again, though this one seemed a tad rueful.  ”You’re a formidable woman, Ms. Potts, I can’t help but wonder what SHIELD would have been if we’d gotten to you before Stark.”

“Thoughts for another day,” she said, cursing the complexion that meant the slightest flush showed up neon-bright on her fair skin.  "But please, stay.“

Nick nodded deciding to trust her and, though neither could know it, it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship… and not just between Stark and SHIELD.

Chapter Text

Darcy stepped onto the elevator, tapping at her tablet with one hand while she held it steady with the other.  Unfortunately, the ‘steady’ arm was also laden with her coat, purse, and a small bag of sandwiches (lunch, and possibly dinner if the gods were unkind) so ‘steady’ was a relative term.  It meant that she had to concentrate in order to hit the right keys while her arm wobbled, and it gave her something other than her terminal claustrophobia to focus on.

Right up until the lights flickered, something screeched, and everything came to a halt.

Darcy looked up and - oh no.  No, no, no, no, NO.  “Tell me we’re not stuck,” she begged the voice in the sky.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but we do appear to be having some technical difficulties,” JARVIS responded, sounding genuinely apologetic.

“J-man…” she swallowed heavily.  “I’m claustrophobic.”  Darcy slid her tablet into her bag and set her stuff down before she could drop it.  Her hands were already starting to shake.  “Please, please tell me you can open the doors.  Please.”

“You appear to be stuck just below the R&D labs, Ms. Lewis.  I could open the doors, but unfortunately, that would not provide you with an exit.”

“Not what I wanted to hear from you, JARVIS.”  Her breaths were starting to come faster now, black spots swarming the edges of her vision as her pulse spiked.  “I… if I press my panic button, will that get me help faster?”

“Help is already on the - “

Overhead, there was the soft, raspy sound of moving metal-on-metal and Darcy looked up into Clint’s concerned blue eyes.  “You okay, babe?” he asked, sliding down and landing lightly beside her.

She threw herself at him, burying her face against his neck and wrapping her arms around his neck.  “Slightly better, now that you’re here,” she said, words muffled by his skin.  “Better yet when you get me out of this tin can deathtrap.”

He hugged her back, nuzzling the top of her head for a moment before pushing her away a little to look her in the eye.  “I’ll boost you up, then we can climb to the next floor.  Sound like a plan?” he asked, giving her a reassuring grin.

“I love you,” Darcy said fervently.  It might not be the best time, but it was true!

Clint froze.  “You… what?!

“You can panic later, get me out of here now!

Chapter Text

Bucky shook his head, frowning.  He felt like something had… skipped, somehow.  He was in an alley, an unfamiliar one.

There was a girl standing in front of him.  He didn’t know where she had come from, hadn’t heard her approach.  She was wearing strange clothing, something about them - color? cut? fabric? - registered to him as off.  He shook his head, trying to clear it, there was something wrong.  Something felt - dislocated.

“I’m sorry,” she said, watching him with sad blue eyes.  “I tried to fix it.  God, I tried so hard.  I can’t though, I just - ” she hiccuped a little, halfway to a sob, “I just keep making it worse.  Every time it’s worse.”

“What - ”

“You don’t even know what I’m talking about.”  She laughed bitterly.  “I’ve explained it to you I don’t even know how many times… I can’t do it again.  I can’t do this again, I can’t watch you - ” she pressed a hand to her mouth, stifling a wounded noise.

Bucky stepped forward on instinct, taking this strange woman into his arms.  She fell apart, leaning into him and sobbing against his shoulder like her heart was breaking.  He didn’t have a clue what was happening, but something about the way she felt against him was inexplicably right.  It didn’t quite fix the strange sense of wrongness that persisted, but it came close.

The girl shoved away from him, taking several large steps back.  “NO!  I can’tdo this again!  I make your life worse!  I’ve seen it over and over and it’s always the same!  Not this time.  This time… you do it without me.”  She took another step back, and away, tears rolling down her cheeks.  “You’ll be better off, I promise.  Goodbye, Bucky.”  She turned and fled, leaving him reaching out after her.

Bucky shook his head, frowning.  He felt like something had… skipped, somehow.  He was in an ally, an unfamiliar one.

He could have sworn he knew every alley in Brooklyn.  Steve had gotten into fights in most of ‘em, after all.  He glanced up at the sky and swore, he was late gettin’ home, and Steve would be wondering where he was.  He headed out, onto the street, then paused.  There was a wet patch on the front of his shirt, small and drying quickly, and he felt like he was forgetting something…

Couldn’t be that important.

Chapter Text

“Ow!  That’s attached, you know,” Tony groused.

“Big baby,” Darcy muttered, inspecting his arm.

“I’ve performed minor surgery on myself, this isn’t a big deal, really,” he said, watching her inspect the jagged cut running down his forearm.  “Just slap a band-aid on it and let me get back to work, mkay?”

She looked up, made eye contact, and rolled her eyes extravagantly.  “Minor surgery?  Really, Tony?  How on Earth you’ve managed to live this long without minders, I will never know.”

“Ahem,” JARVIS coughed delicately.

Darcy grinned.  “I retract the previous statement.”

“You’re all conspiring against me,” Tony said disgustedly.

“You love it,” she said, smiling winningly.

Chapter Text

Binding her wings was agony, but the pleasure of releasing them was so exquisite that it almost made up for it.  Of course, it could also be that - as friends had insinuated time and again, though usually in reference to her study habits - she was something of a masochist.  Darcy knew that she was simply a hedonist.  There was something unique, noteworthy, or useful in every sensation.  The pain she felt from keeping her wings hidden was useful as a reminder: keep a lid on it, Darcy.

Hiding her true self from everyone was, she thought, a bit like walking around with your gut sucked in all day.  At first she had to concentrate on it, but after a while it was second nature.  After several years, it was instinct.  It made those times when she could relax all the more precious.

Like now, for instance.  Tonight was a rare night off, and even if there was craziness abounding with the alien (Darcy knew enough to know the guy was not from Earth, or any of its related pocket dimensions), she was still going to take advantage of the reprieve.  Besides, Erik had indicated that he was going to take that situation in hand tonight.  Okay, the last thing he had said to her was, “Thanks for the hack.  Please don’t tell me how you know how to do that, and if I don’t come back, tell Jane to run,” before he went to retrieve their erstwhile visitor, but…

Yeah, okay, it was flimsy.  She needed out, though, she needed to dance on the air and feel the heat of the day rising from the ground and mixing with the cool comfort of the night sky.  Darcy headed out of their converted diner-now-lab and, instead of turning right towards town, went left.  She walked into the darkness until the outline of the lab went blurry and indistinct, and then she stripped off her sweater and began the laborious process of unfolding her wings.  Sometimes she wondered how on Earth her feathery relatives hid it, it was hard enough for her and she’d lucked out and gotten her wings from the leathery-and-triple-jointed side of the family.  Such musings kept her entertained while she quivered and groaned through her stretches.  Ten minutes later and the full expanse of her purple-brown bat-like wings were revealed.

Darcy flexed them wide, took a deep breath, and leapt into the sky.

Chapter Text

Darcy’s ears swiveled back as she heard footsteps behind her.  They were very distinctive footsteps, and they belonged to the one individual on the ship who hadn’t grown used to wearing grav-boots.  Steve’s footsteps always started silent, then there was a sharp clop as his heel met the ground - as if the weight of boots was dragging him down.  She shook her head.  Thoughts like that were fanciful at best, dangerous at worst.  She was romanticizing him, anEntitled, and that way lay madness and heartache.  The boots were probably just stiff with newness; he would break them in and get used to them, just as he would his newfound status in the galaxy.

Darcy turned to face him, pasting on a bright, beaming smile.  “Can I help you, your majesty?”

As always, his face went through a series of complicated expressions at the reminder of his title.  Discomfort, faint disgust, and something else - the last thing, always hidden too quickly for her to be entirely sure what it was.  “Please,” he sighed, “can’t you call me Steve?”

“It wouldn’t be appropriate,” she reminded him gently.

“You did, though.  When we were on Earth.”  His jaw was firming, his expression almost as mulish as Janaya’s - and she was actually a donkey (well, at least a certain amount of her DNA had been copied from one).

“I was incognito, then.  It would have been strange, possibly dangerous for you if anyone of note was listening in.  Now you’re Entitled, with the nifty tattoo to prove it.  It’s not the same,” she insisted, grateful - and not for the first time - that her coder had chosen not to give her a tail, for it would almost definitely be lashing about and giving away her inner turmoil.

“But we’re the same people!” he burst out.  “Nothing has really changed!  Unless,” Steve’s face fell, his shoulders slumped, and he took a step back - going from the leader, the fighter, his genes said he was back to the strange, lonely man she’d first met.  “Unless it was all for show.  You were all for show.  Was… any of that real?”

I should lie, she thought, but her mouth was opening and spilling out the truth before she could formulate a believable one: “This would be easier if I had been lying.  It would be easier to say ‘no’ to you.”

“But it’s not?  Easy, that is,” he said, and everything about him sharpenedsuddenly, pulling out of that slump and -

Oh, she thought, somewhere between impressed and annoyed, he’s learning subterfuge more quickly than I had anticipated.

“Steve,” she said warningly, and his grin told her that using his name was a mistake.  “We can’t do this.  It’s not done.”

“If we do it, then it’s a thing that’s done,” Steve said practically, taking a step towards her.

“We’re not going to do it!”

“Um.”  Clint’s confusion was very loud in the sudden stillness that had followed Darcy’s shout.  “Should I leave you two alone?”

“No,” Darcy said quickly, “his majesty and I were finished anyways.”  She turned and stalked from the room, ears laid back and then -

“This isn’t over, Darcy,” Steve said, and her skin prickled, just a little, because for a moment he sounded exactly like his forebear - like the Commander.

She wasn’t sure what it meant, that she brought out that side of him.

Chapter Text

“I’m fine,” Clint said.

Darcy stared at him.

“Seriously, he barely grazed me.”

Darcy stared at him harder.

“Would you stop!  With the looking!  God, you’re almost as bad as - “

Coulson walked in, took one look at Clint and sighed.  It was his ‘I am unhappy about your choices, you make me sad’ sigh.  It was very effective.  “You didn’t go to medical,” he said.  It was not a question.

“I don’t need to!” Clint insisted.

Darcy reached out and poked his side.

The archer immediately yelped, jumping away.

“Clint…” Phil said.

“But…”

Darcy and Phil were both staring at him now, wearing nearly identical looks of concern, tempered with fondness and faint chagrin (and there was a little apology in Darcy’s, probably for the poke).  “It’s not okay when you gang up on me,” Clint grumped.  “And I’m fine, really.”

“Then your trip to medical will be brief, and you can come back shortly.”

“I’m not going to share those cookies my mom sent if you don’t,” Darcy told him, perfectly willing to be the stick to the agents honey.

“Fine, fine, I’m going.  Happy?”

“Ecstatic,” Phil said.

Darcy just grinned.

Clint left, grumbling, and barely flinched when Natasha stepped out of the faint shadows by the door.  “How long were you listening?” he asked, resigned.

“Long enough,” she said, the corners of her mouth twitching.

“Out with it,” he said, leading the way to the elevator.

“You shouldn’t make mom and dad worry so much,” she said primly, grin turning sharklike when Clint flinched at the nicknames.  “You’ll age them before their time, and dad’s only got so many left.  Fewer, now that he’s finallyhooking up with mom - she’s going to wear him out.”

“What will it take for you to never call them that again?

Natasha just smirked.

Chapter Text

She woke up in a small room with two slits for windows high up on opposite walls.  There was a door in a third wall, and a man lying on his back beside the fourth.  She sat up slowly, wincing as her body let her know in no uncertain terms that it did not appreciate the hard surface she’d been lying on for…  Well, she had no earthly idea.  She didn’t know where she was, she didn’t know what was happening, and she - she thought furiously, trying to find something,anything to latch onto.  Gradually, things started coming together in fragments and wisps: she was Darcy, but she wasn’t sure if that was her first, middle, or last name.  She remembered a fire, an explosion, maybe?  There had been pain.

That was it, that was all she remembered about herself.

She stood and walked over to the man, making sure to stay out of arm’s reach.  He looked like he was unconscious, just as she had been, but there was no way of knowing for sure.  Something urged her to be cautious, be wary.

She - Darcy? - went back to the corner she’d woken in and inspected herself. Two arms, two legs, all the requisite digits, soulmark high on the outside of her left hip: “I don’t know, but we’re gonna find out.”  She wondered if she’d met them, and if she had - were they looking for her?

There was a soft rustling.  The man was waking up.  Darcy held still and kept quiet, watching him.  He seemed much more aware than she had been when she woke up.  He sat up immediately and looked around, eyes finding her in a fraction of a second.

“Hi,” she said after a moment, “any idea what we’re doing in this cell?”

His voice, when he spoke, was low and had a little bit of a rasping undertone, but that wasn’t what made her jaw drop and her eyes go wide.  “I don’t know, but we’re gonna find out,” he told her.

“Okay,” she said.  Then, after another moment or two during which he started inspecting their cell, “I think we’re soulmates, by the way, but you might want to check.”

His head turned so quickly that she winced in sympathy for his neck.  “What?”

“You know, soulmates?  Words and nifty tattoos?  Shit like that?  You should check.  I’ll turn around so you don’t have to worry about the naked thing, I mean, who knows where yours is, mine’s on my… and you probably don’t care.  You check, I’ll just - “ she turned to face the wall.

After nearly a minute, during which Darcy tried to recite prime numbers and got far enough that she started wondering if she was some sort of scientist when she was all together, there was the soft sound of moving cloth.

“Jesus,” the man said.  “Wonder what my life was like, growing up with that.”

“Well,” she said, still not turning back to face him, “you look like you’re a bit older than me, so it wasn’t exactly all your life.”

There was a weighty pause.  “You calling me an old man?”

“Do you remember what your face looks like?” she shot back.  “I don’t.”

Two hands on her shoulders turned her and then she was facing up, up close and very personal.  His eyes, dark brown and intense, were studying her face. “You’re beautiful,” he said matter-of-factly.  “Big blue eyes, full lips… gorgeous.  You look like you’re about twenty.”

She frowned, “I don’t feel twenty.  But, I mean.  I might be?”  She studied him in turn.  “You’re really hot,” she told him.  “You’ve got brown eyes, brown hair, and I think you’re about… thirty?  Maybe?  Definitely older than me.”

It was his turn to frown.  “I’m not thirty,” he said firmly.

“So we’re both younger-looking than we think we are.”  Darcy wrinkled her nose, “That would probably freak me out if I actually knew enough about what my face was supposed to look like to have a comparison, but right now I think we should focus on the whole - “ she gestured to their environs, “ - cell thing.”

He nodded, though he still looked troubled.  “Priorities.”

“Exactly.  Um, do you remember anything?”

“A… flag?  A symbol of some sort with a… skull, I think.”

Darcy raised her eyebrows.  “Like a pirate flag?”

He shrugged.

“I’m going to call you ‘Crossbones,’” she decided.

He raised an eyebrow at her.  It was a very eloquent eyebrow, she approved.

“Well, it’s better than calling you ‘Skull’,” she told him.

Chapter Text

“… not that worried, really, ‘cause this looks like a nice hotel room, so even if you are a total sleaze, at least you’re a rich sleaze?  My priorities might not be real person priorities, but if you’re rich then that means you should be able to, like, hire somebody to figure this shit out.  There are specialists for this sort of stuff, right?  I mean, there are specialists for everything.  I think.  General knowledge is sort of there, but fuzzy?  Muted?  This is so freakin’ weird.”

He woke to the sound of a woman rambling.  After a second or two, he actually started to pay attention to what she was saying and sat up.  There was an extremely beautiful woman lying beside him, a sheet tucked up under her armpits while she watched him with curious look on her face.  “What?” he asked.

“What’s my name?”

“I… don’t know?”

She slumped back down on the bed, “Well, shit.  Guess you were pretty wasted last night.  Makes sense, you do kinda smell like a bar.”

He surreptitiously sniffed his own arm and, yes, she was right.  “I don’t think I was drunk last night?”

“What makes you say that?”

“I feel fine this morning.”

“Maybe you just have a good constitution.”

“And I don’t remember my name, either.”

“Oh, well fuck.  There goes that plan.”

He frowned at her, then lifted the sheet a little to peek under it.

“Hey!” she squawked, yanking it closer to her and swaddling herself even more tightly.  “Not cool, man.  Not cool.”

“I’m naked,” he told her.

“Good for you, sport.”

“And you’re naked.”

“Well spotted.”

“Did we…?”

“All signs point to ‘yes’, and that’s not all.”  She reached out and wiggled her fingers under his nose.  There was a shiny gold ring on her left hand.

He lifted his own left hand and saw a (matching?) ring.

“Well, shit,” he said.

Chapter Text

Darcy didn’t even have time to yelp before a hand was encircling her wrist in an iron grip and she was being yanked into a small alcove.  She was released as soon as she was somewhat shaded from view by one of the big potted plants that dotted the restaurant, which left her free to face her sister.

She would have preferred a firing squad.

“You’re not tapping that,” Mina said with absolute certainty.

“How do you know?” Darcy objected weakly.

“You have a face,” her sister explained, waving a hand.  “You have an ‘I’m in a fantastic relationship face’ and a ‘god I wish I was in a fantastic relationship with THAT PERSON’ face.  The first one is very happy, the second one is very mopey.  What I want to know if why you’re making the mopey face at your super hot girlfriend.”  Mina frowned, “Something’s wrong.”

Darcy tried to look opaque and nonchalant like Natasha (her super hot not-actually-hers girlfriend).

Mina gasped, “Oh.  My.  God.  You’re faking it.  You bitch!”

“What?  No!”

“You are!  You are faking a relationship with the super hot redhead you - wait.”

Oh shit, Darcy thought.

“Is she that redhead?  The one you’ve been talking about for months?  She is!  Honey, honey, what are you doing?  Why are you - mom and dad aren’t thatbad!”

Darcy just looked at her.

“Okay, they are.  But, Darcy.  Dee.  Honey.  This is so stupid.  This close quarters thing is just gonna make it worse, I know you.  I know how you work.  You didn’t get over Jane until Tromso!”

“Shut up!  You’re not supposed to know about Tromso,” she hissed.  “And this isn’t the same.  We’re not as close as Jane and I were, we’re barely friends and oh my god.  I’m an idiot.  This is awful.”

Mina pulled her baby sister into her arms and patted her hair.  “Sweetie…”

“In my defense, I wanted to bring someone else.  He had to go see a man about a dog, or something, and Nat volunteered to replace him.”

“Oh?”  Something about Mina’s tone pricked at Darcy’s brain, but she was too busy feeling sorry for herself to pursue it.  “She volunteered?”

“Yeah, she’s a lot nicer than she lets on.  I mean, I’m gonna say she’s a kitten under all the grrr, but she’s… she’s a good person.  I wish I didn’t like her so much, god, getting over her is going to suck.”

Mina watched over her sister’s shoulder as Natasha’s mouth dropped open into a little ‘o’ of surprise.  Natasha’s surprise quickly turned to determination and she gave Mina a small nod before turning on her heel and heading back to the table.  “There, there,” Mina said, trying to keep the smug out of her voice, “I’m sure this will all work out somehow…”

Chapter Text

Jane was not, generally speaking, a big fan of large gatherings of people.  When she only knew roughly half of the people at the gathering, it was worse. When the gathering was a wedding, it was excruciating.  She supposed that it wasn’t entirely accurate to paint all weddings with the same brush; she had a relatively small sample pool, after all.  Still, she had yet to attend a wedding and not get 1. booze spilled on her, 2. asked when it would be ‘her turn’, or 3. awkwardly propositioned by an idiot who thought all women at weddings would be hot to trot because they hoped monogamous romance would be catching.

Like a disease.

She didn’t have a problem with monogamy, per se.  Jane had a problem with society and what society said a romantic relationship should be.  She didn’t have time for that kind of relationship, and the kinds of men that she’d met who valued their independence and solitary pursuits as much as she did hers tended to be assholes.  Or heroes.

This wedding, the wedding of Pepper Potts and Natasha Romanoff, was full of heroes.  Maybe, Jane thought, this wedding will be different.  She’d gotten through the ceremony and the opening of the reception with no mishaps, after all.  There was still -

“What’s a pretty little thing like you doing sitting on the sidelines?”

Nope.  Weddings sucked.

Jane’s fists clenched as she prepared to turn, but then -

“I’m almost tempted to watch her tear you into teeny tiny pieces and spread them across the galaxy, but Nat asked me to make sure the fighting was kept to a minimum and, frankly, you aren’t worth the effort,” came a second voice, a lazy drawl that made Jane’s skin pebble and the hair on the back of her neck rise.

Clint Barton.  Hawkeye.  She finished turning and watched the hero fold his (impressive) arms, hidden under his formal wear but she knew that they were there.  And seeing Clint in formal wear wasn’t exactly a punishment.

The other guy, the idiot, looked like he was gearing up to try again.  He looked vaguely familiar to Jane, but she was pretty bad with faces.  He looked a little like Steve, actually.  Which was a bit weird.

“Don’t,” Clint said.  “Really.  She’s so far out of your league it’s laughable.”

Idiot rolled his eyes, but left to find some other ‘pretty little thing’.

Jane hoped he would try that line on Wanda.  Or maybe Sif.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” Clint said, giving her a small smile.  “Didn’t mean to steal your thunder - “

“Ha ha,” Jane said, rolling her eyes.

He grinned at her, “I was serious about the bloodshed thing, though.”

“I wasn’t going to hurt him.  Probably.  I probably wasn’t going to hurt him.  What was that about the leagues thing, though?  Isn’t he some kind of hero?”

“Well, yeah, but you’re - “ he waved his hand.  “You’re like Tony, or Bruce.”

“…a narcissist with questionable fashion choices or a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?  Gee, thanks.”

“You’re brilliant,” he clarified.  “You shouldn’t have to deal with idiots like that.”

Jane watched him for a moment or two.  “Do you want to get a drink?” she asked abruptly.

“What?”

“Alcohol, comes in glasses, gets you drunk?”

“I know what it is, I - “

“Drinking, with me, yes or no?”

“Sure, I - “

“Great,” she grabbed his wrist (much thicker than hers, as were his fingers, hmm…) and tugged him along after her.  “Just don’t spill anything on me.  I have a thing.  Weddings, you know?”

Chapter Text

Darcy enjoyed the staccato clicking sound her heels made on the linoleum floors of the hospital.  It was the only thing she enjoyed about the hospital, really.  Her mother had lingered on for months, trying to hold on to see Darcy graduate from high school and the memories of that time… bright smile fading, lively eyes going still, everything about the vibrant mom she loved slowly being sapped away by the ongoing fight…

She didn’t like hospitals, not one bit.

But!  She was here for a reason, and that reason was her new employer.  Pepper Potts was a freaking boss, and the only person Darcy had ever met who might get a “How high?” response from her if they asked her to “Jump!”  If Pepper wanted her to go to DC and pitch an idea to Captain Steve Rogers America, she’d do it.  She might’ve preferred to visit DC under slightly less fraught (terrifying) circumstances, but it would probably be months, if not years, before the city would be completely recovered from the SHIELD/Hydra reveal.

Darcy flashed a smile and her badge (all Stark-like and official) at the policemen outside the Captain’s room and headed in, keeping the smile but dropping the badge.

“You lost, miss?” asked Sam Wilson, the one the press was starting to call ‘The Falcon.’  He hadn’t moved from his seat, but his posture screamed ‘military’ and ‘ready for action’ and a dozen other things that might get her bruised if he was easily startled.

“This Captain Rogers’s room?”

“Yes.”

“Then nope,” she said, giving the ‘p’ an exaggerated pop.  She turned to the blond in the bed, who was watching all with a curious look on his face.  “Hello, Captain, I’m Darcy Lewis - PA to Ms. Potts - she sent me down with some of what you asked for, and an offer.”

He nodded, “Lets hear it.”

Darcy moved forward and slid a tablet onto the edge of the hospital bed, not directly into his hand (oh great, Tony was giving her habits already) but within easy reach.  “Here’s all the info that JARVIS could dig up.  It’s… not pretty.”

“You read it?” he asked, eyebrows raised in surprise and - disapproval?

She shrugged, “It was a boring plane ride, and Ms. Potts believes in full disclosure.  Ok, that’s a lie, she believes full disclosure to the people who need to know.”

“And you needed to know?”  Ah, skepticism, lovely.

“Uh… Steve?” Sam said, and Darcy looked over to see the other man staring at a smartphone with wide, startled eyes.  “She’s on The List.  She… tazed a god?”

Darcy grinned.  “Yes, I did.  We’re friends now.”

Steve gave her an assessing look.  There was nothing romantic about it, though it did make her heart hop to a slightly accelerated beat.  This was a look of evaluation, one purely for the sake of upgrading her from ‘civilian lackey’ to ‘possible asset.’  He surprised her, though - when his eyes got back up to her face he suddenly looked a little abashed.  Maybe it was her raised brows.

“Done?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am.  Uh.  I’d be happy to hear Ms. Potts’ offer now,” he said, and was it her imagination, or was there a slight flush along his cheekbones?  She shook off the notion and launched into the spiel she’d memorized about ‘pooling resources’ and ‘international funding’ and ‘Stark wouldn’t be working directly with you unless the circumstances were dire, we promise.’

And never once noticed Sam gleefully texting away:

Think I found someone our boy might not object to…

Chapter Text

Darcy stared at the test, eyes wide and breath starting to hitch.  “JANE!”

The door slammed open and the scientist was by her friend’s side in an instant, snatching the pregnancy test from her hands (uncaring of the fact that it was a pee stick, because friendship such as theirs transcended pee).  “Positive,” Jane said, somewhat unnecessarily, in Darcy’s opinion.  “Okay, so, first - “ she dropped the stick into the sink and wrapped her arms around the slightly taller brunette, hugging her tightly.  “I’m with you all the way, Dee, whatever you wanna do.”

“Thanks,” Darcy murmured, hugging the other woman back and blinking rapidly to forestall tears.  “I guess… the first thing I should do is tell them?”

“Only if you want to.  And, I mean, if you’re not going to keep it, then you don’t really need to tell them.  It’s none of their business.”

“I…” she sniffed.  “I don’t know?  This wasn’t exactly - I mean it was clearly a one night thing, you know?  And then they were off on that mission in Calcutta.  We haven’t really talked since they got back, so.”

Jane pushed Darcy away enough to look her in the eyes.  “Whether or not you’re in a relationship with the dad.  Dads?  With the man who donated sperm?  Whether or not you’re in a relationship with the sperm donor, the choice to have a kid is yours.  You don’t need a man to raise a kid, though.  You’ve got me, and Thor, and people.  You’ve got people.”

“It takes a village?” Darcy said, smile more than a little weak.

“Exactly.”

“I don’t… I don’t want to make a decision right now.  Right now I want ice cream and musicals.”

“Okay, you get the movies, I’ll get the ice cream.  Do you - Thor’s in my apartment right now, want me to grab him?”

Darcy made a face.  “How does Asgard deal with unwed mothers, or unwed ladies deciding not to be mothers?”

Jane considered that for a moment, then grinned.  “Sif, has definitely been in a relationship with one or all of the Warriors at various points.  Pretty sure Asgard is a little more advanced than we are, socially.”

“Then yes,” she said, nodding.  “Thor gives good cuddle.”

Chapter Text

Darcy walked into the kitchen, waved at Steve and Sam, and headed for the coffee.  The instant she got within a three-foot radius of Sam, she froze, tilted her head back a little, and inhaled deeply.  Her eyes slitted and she looked up at the man with a scowl on her face.  “Were you going to tell me?”

Sam’s eyes went wide and he looked at Steve with a betrayed expression, “You said it wasn’t noticeable yet!”

Steve shrugged, looking only slightly sorry, “My nose is stronger than most other Betas, but I guess it’s just not quite up to Alpha standards.”

“I call bullshit,” Sam muttered before turning back to Darcy.  “I was going to tell you.  Soon.”

“You’re pregnant, and it’s - it’s mine, right?”

He nodded slowly, watching her carefully.

Darcy took a step towards him, then another, reaching out a hand slowly.  “Can I?” she asked, darting a hopeful look up at him.

He looked amused, “There’s nothing much to feel yet, but… sure?”

She took that final step closer and pressed her hand against his stomach, rigid with muscle, but there was life behind it.  A life that she had helped create.  “Are you keeping it?  Can I be involved?  I would like to be involved, I would like - please?”

Sam was suddenly looking much more sure of himself.  “You wanna go on a date?  A real one?” he asked curiously.

Darcy was nearly vibrating with her, “YES.  SO MUCH YES.  I would have asked you before but you were always hanging out with Bucky and he seemed pretty - you know - and then we were drunk and there was touching and I never meant, I mean, I wouldn’t have done this to you on purpose but - “ she took a deep breath.  “Yes, Sam, I would love to go on a date with you and, um, I know I like it, and am not opposed to putting a ring on it.  Literally or metaphorically.”

Steve was laughing in the corner, but Sam was smiling at her, and that was all that mattered, in the end.

Chapter Text

“You didn’t tell me he’d be here,” Darcy hissed into Nat’s ear, trying (and probably failing) to keep a happy look on her face while she dragged the redhead to a corner of the room.  “Seriously, Nat, you promised!”

“Did I?”  Her raised eyebrow was shockingly eloquent.

“Not in so many words, but it was implied.”

“Was it?”  Now she just looked amused, great.

“But why is he here,” Darcy whined.  “It’s just going to be so awkward, oh my god, can I leave?  I should just leave.  I will cede the party to him and go get out of this ridiculous dress - “

Nat’s hand clamped down on the brunette’s wrist with surprising force.  “Don’t you dare,” she breathed, smiling at a passing couple.  “Do you think that I enjoy this sort of thing, Darcy?  People I don’t know, parties, even if they are -supposedly - celebrating Sam and I?  You and James are both my friends, even if you are ridiculous idiots.  I need you here for me.”  She nodded at an older woman who was watching them suspiciously.  “I need you to distract me  and keep me entertained.”

She squinted at the older woman.  “But I know you, Nat, and nothing will keep you as entertained as watching me avoid Bucky all night.”

“You dumped him, remember?  If anyone should be avoiding someone, he should avoid you.”

“C’mon Tasha,” came a familiar, low drawl that had Darcy’s spine stiffening and her head whipping around.  “You know that’s not my style,” Bucky said, grinning and coming closer to wrap the redhead in a swift hug.

Darcy quickly stepped away from her friend to avoid coming in contact with him, something he clearly noticed from the way his lips twisted a little.  Something in her belly felt squirmy at that, and she looked away, hoping to see someone she knew.  No luck.  The party was full of Sam’s friends and Sam’s family, the few people Natasha counted close scattered few and far between.

“It’s good to see you Tash.  You too, Darcy,” Bucky said, releasing Nat.

“You look - “ even hotter, “ - good,” she told him carefully.

He grinned, giving her a slow once over.  “So do you.”

I am in t-r-o-u-b-l-e, Darcy realized, recognizing the heat in his eyes and the corresponding goosebumps racing over her skin.  So much trouble.

Chapter Text

Darcy is wearing the yellow bracelet, even though Candace volunteered to be their “designated Domme.”  The others teased her a little about being overly cautious, but she shrugged it off.  They’re all freshman, it’s their first week of college, and she doesn’t really fancy the idea of becoming a statistic.  There’s plenty of time to fool around and experiment, she doesn’t need to rush into anything.  The clubs aren’t exactly going anywhere and she’d prefer to have a good eye for the lay of the land before she picks up a likely looking Dom (or Domme, she’s not picky).  She’s willing to keep her options open, which is why she didn’t opt for a red, like Candace, but she doesn’t want to go home with anyone, not tonight.

Julian, Paula, and Morgan split as soon as they get in the door, heading for the dance floor.  Darcy and Candace exchange amused looks and head to the bar.  Neither of them can legally drink, but soda sounds nice and the bar area is a little quieter.  It’s got a bunch of nooks and crannies for people to sit in and establish rules and boundaries before heading out to the floor, or to one of the back rooms.  Darcy’s planning on dancing, but she wants to know what Candace’s plans are first.

The other girl shrugs, her braids clacking a little as the motion disturbs the beads worked into the ends.  “I’m gonna hang out here for a bit, probably dance,” she tells Darcy.  “I’ll stick to the edges of the crowd so you can find me.”

“Thanks,” Darcy says, scanning the crowd.

Whiplash, the club they’re currently in, seems to cater to a varied bunch.  There were a good number from the college (not that she recognized them, but the age range was right), some white collar types, and even a few she recognized as clearly military.  There was an army base not too far away, so that made sense.  One of the military men (the haircut was a dead giveaway) was leading a perky-looking blond dude towards the back rooms.  It seemed like a good crowd, all things considered.  There were scattered tables and groups, only about ¾ taken this early in the night.  Darcy let her eyes flicker across the crowd and then -

Her eyes locked with a stranger’s sitting at a table across the room and it was like every story her mother and father ever told her.  It was like something had snapped into place: a puzzle piece slotted home, filling an empty space she didn’t even know was there until it was gone.

“Candace,” she murmured, never taking her eyes off of the man, the Dom.  HerDom.  Holy shit.  “Candace,” she said again, grabbing the other girl’s shoulder and still not taking her eyes off of him.  “I just Matched.”

“You what?”

“I Matched,” Darcy repeated through clenched teeth.

“… What do you need me to do?” she asked, looking at Darcy steadily.

“Walk me over there?”  Darcy held out her wrist.

Candace quirked a brow.  “Traditionalist?”

Darcy shrugged.  “Kind of?  I know the talk, but I haven’t walked the walk.  My folks never pushed it on us, but yeah.  They’re… yeah.”

She nodded, encircling Darcy’s wrist in a firm grip that instantly soothed her, before beginning to lead her across the room.  He’s watching them come, not moving a muscle, and she’s reminded of those big cats she used to love to see in the zoo, lying in the sun and preserving their energy for when they’ll really need it.  He’s still waiting when they reach him, but that’s protocol.

“I am Candace Jackson,” she introduces herself, doing that eye-lock/nod thing that Dominants do when they first meet.  In the old days, and in certain circles, it’s to figure out who’s the more Dominant - now it’s more of a greeting, an acknowledgement.  She tugs Darcy forward to stand level with her.  “This is Darcy Lewis.”

She ducks her head a little, but never takes her eyes off of him.  This close, she can see that his eyes are brown, dark and warm looking.  He’s got close-cropped black hair and a muscular build - definitely military.  Definitely older, too.  He’s got to be thirty, at least, and he’s got that settled energy that she associates with older Dominants, the ones who no longer feel like they have anything to prove.

“Brock Rumlow,” he says, and his voice makes Darcy’s knees tremble.

Candace raises Darcy’s wrist (and her own eyebrows), waiting until Brock acknowledges the yellow bracelet with a nod before smiling.  “I’ll be at the bar.  Fuck with my girl and I will raise unholy hell like you’ve never seen before.”

That makes Brock crack a smile.  “Noted.”

Boundaries established, Candace leaves them alone.

“I’m not into pain,” Darcy says abruptly.

“I’m not into giving it,” he tells her.

“I don’t want a Daddy.”

“I’m not in the market for a little girl.”  He sits up, out of his slouch, and she can feel his focus like a touch on her skin.  His eyes go from the top of her head to her feet and back, slowly.  “You look like a Princess to me,” he tells her, and his voice has gone low and soft.

Chapter Text

He saw his prospective ‘business partner’ almost as soon as he entered the restaurant.  She said she’d be wearing electric blue, and there’s only one person wearing an eye-bleeding color.  He can tell even from the doorway that she can’t be more than 20, maybe 21.  The girl is watching him through narrowed eyes that nearly match her shirt.  The look is purely evaluative, and he found himself pausing in his approach to the table and raising an eyebrow at her.  “You want me to do a turn?” he asked.

She doesn’t even flinch.  “Yes, actually.”

Clint, bemused, did a slow turn before seating himself across from her.

She folded her hands together and leaned in over them, a position that pushed her breasts (really, truly magnificent breasts) up and out in a very distracting manner.  Clint checked them out through his peripherals, but kept his focus on her face.  Judging by the glint in her eye, he just passed some sort of test.

If we come to some sort of an agreement, I can guarantee really good food.  My ma’s family is Polish Jew - expect latkes.  My dad’s family is all-American mutt, so there will be some tweaked recipes, but the Lewises have been in the restaurant business for generations, so they’ll be delicious.”

“Sounds good,” he told her cautiously.

However,” she continued, and this must be the other shoe about to drop.  “You will be pinched, on each and every cheek.  You will need to be polite, even in the face of crazy, and I mean crazy.  I don’t want you hitting on anyone, or pretending to get drunk, both of those may lead to physical violence, and I don’t want any of that either.”  She fished a folded piece of paper out of her bag and slid it across the table towards him.  “Here is a list of approved possible conversation starters that will drive everybody up a wall.  If you do not think you can speak convincingly about at least half of them, then I will happily pay for your beverage and we can part ways now.”

Clint frowned down at the list.  It was… not what he had expected.  At all.

1.  Tony Stark is a godless heathen, and may possibly be the antichrist.
2.  Magic/aliens aren’t real.
3.  Country music is the only true American music.
4.  I never want to have children.
5.  Cream cheese is disgusting.
6.  Elvis is definitely dead.

His eyebrows rose as he skimmed a little further down the list (there were at least 25 different bullet points) and saw, 15.  The Three Stooges > the Marx Brothers.  “This will start fights?”

The girl slumped down on the table, bracing her chin on one hand.  “You haveno idea,” she said bitterly.  “My uncle nearly threw my last boyfriend out when he had the nerve to say that he didn’t like cheesecake.  He didn’t even get a chance to explain that he was lactose intolerant,” she said mournfully.

Huh.  “Latkes?”

So many latkes.  If you can ride that line between he can never come here again and, you know, actually getting thrown out, then I can probably even make up a care package for you to take home.”

Clint nodded.  “You’ve got yourself a fake boyfriend, miss…?”

“Lewis.”  She stuck out a hand across the table, beaming.  “Darcy Lewis.”

“Clint Barton,” he replied, giving her hand a firm shake.  “Lookin’ forward to doing business with you.”

 

Chapter Text

“Milady,” Fandral nods to Jane with a small smile, then turns to -

“Heeeeeey, fancy!” Darcy says, grinning.

He blinks, taken aback, then slants his eyes Thor’s way (whilst holding veryvery still) when the brunette reaches up and tweaks his mustache.

The Prince looks a mite sheepish.  “She wished to try some of my mead.”

“You’re so pretty,” she coos, moving on to patting his hair.  “All golden and - and coiffed.  Like a lion!  Or a - whatsitcalled, Jane?  The bird with the - ” she takes one hand off his hair to make an arcane gesture over her head.

“A cockatoo?” Jane asks, quirking a brow.

“Yeah!  That’s it!  A cockatoo!  But… prettier.  You are very pretty,” she tells him sincerely.  This close, her eyes are a brilliant, albeit slightly drink-glazed, blue and Fandral sways a little closer to her before realizing what he’s doing.

“Perhaps,” he says, carefully taking her wrists and clasping them in front of him (she pouts, making her plush lips seem even more inviting).  “Perhaps the lady Darcy should lie down for a time?”

Darcy squinted at him, then smiled slowly, dangerously, and edged closer to lay her temple against his chest and grin up at him.  “What?  You suggested reclining, this is as close as I can get right now.  Well, I could probably getcloser, but you’d have to let go of my hands…”

“Stop tormenting the poor man,” Jane said, her scold sounding more amused than anything else.  “I don’t know if the men of Asgard are sturdy enough to handle your kind of teasing.”

“Pity,” she said, that arresting pout making an appearance once more.  She sighed deeply, and Fandral gulped as her bosom made a brief acquaintance with his arms - still between them.  She took a step back and he released her hands.  “Lead on, Janey, I think I oughta take a break before I break anyone.”

The two women continue on into the palace, the one steering the other, and Fandral stares after them, quite bemused.

“Do you know, I don’t believe I’ve ever had my honor impugned in quite that manner.  I feel almost challenged,” he informed Thor, casting a sidelong glance at his eldest friend to gauge his reaction.  If he causes offense, then he will not pursue, even if the potential quarry is all but daring him.

Thor merely grins, clapping him on the back.  “Be warned, should you give chase you run an equal chance of being caught.  The lady Darcy might very well be your match, Fandral.”

He smiles, eyes alight with anticipation.  “We shall see.”

Chapter Text

“He didn’t deserve you, doll,” he says, voice so quiet she nearly misses it.

“Yeah, well,” Darcy turns away from the window, where she’d been watching her newest, most recent, ex walk to his car.  “According to you, nobody does,” she says, trying to keep her voice light.  There’s a wobble that betrays her and, when she turns, she can see from Bucky’s expression that she’s not fooling anyone.

“Darcy…”  He reaches out, translucent hand coming within a hairs-width of her face before stopping.  She tilts her cheek into the caress, used to the odd, static feel of their near-touches.  “Darcy, you deserve the best.”

“I know, I know, I’m beautiful and perfect and full of moxie.  I was just born in the wrong decade, I guess.”

He grins and sticks both hands in his pockets.  Today he’s wearing a work shirt and slacks, boots on his feet.  Sometimes he’s in uniform: a brown one that looks formal, or a dark blue one that looks a little more functional.  Sometimes he flickers in and out, like a radio between stations - on those days he seems to be wearing black, and there’s something wrong with one of his hands.  “Oh, sweetheart,” he says wistfully.  “Girl like you?  Wouldn’ta given me a second look.  You woulda been too smart for me, doll.”

“I guess we’ll never know,” she says sadly.

Chapter Text

“Did you get the glitter?” he asks.

“Do you have the salt?” she returns.  At his nod, she grins.  “Okay, this is shaping up.  Now all we need is - ”

Bucky silently holds up a bag of plastic slinkies in a veritable rainbow of colors.

Darcy beams.  “Perfect, what would I do without you?”

He considers this for a moment.  “You’d probably team up with Clint.”

Darcy nodded, “Probably.  But the fringe benefits wouldn’t be anywhere near so nice.”  She leaned in and smacked a kiss on his cheek, grinning at the near-perfect print of her lips that was left behind.

He raised an eyebrow at her.  “Kissing me is a ‘fringe benefit’?”

“A really nice one.  Priorities, man.  Now, lets get Operation Starkburst going!”

Chapter Text

25. librarian/avid reader au… AH! SO CUTE!


SLAM!

Bruce looked up to find a pretty brunette scowling down at a stack of books.  The stack that she had just dropped onto the intake desk.

“Look, I’m not saying that your argument is weak and your ideas are bad, but - oh.  Oh crap, you’re not Loki!”

“Ah, no.”

She stared at him for a moment, a flush rising in her cheeks and spreading down her throat.  “… Sorry, I’m just used to running into Loki in here.  We have a bit of a…” she paused, biting her lip and clearly searching for words.

“An argument?” Bruce offered.

“A debate,” she said firmly, “we have an ongoing debate about the merits of… nevermind, I don’t want to bore you.  Um.  Are you new?”

He shrugged, reaching for the book on top of the stack (”Race to Romance: Going for the Gold”) and scanning the barcode.  “I’m not really ‘new’ but I did switch shifts recently.”

“That explains it.  I would have remembered you,” she told him.

Bruce tried not to read into that.

“You’re too fluffy to be forgettable.”

He paused.  “Excuse me?”

“Your hair,” she gestured.  “It’s very - poofy.  Not like Loki’s, which - did he read the character descriptions of Severus Snape and take them as fashion advice?  Who slicks back their hair like that anymore, really?”

“I - ”

“Rhetorical,” she interrupted, holding up a hand.  “Sorry, my filter is less filter-like and more fishnet most days.”

“Do you ever catch anything?” he asked before he could think better of it.

She grinned at him.  “Sometimes… been a while since there was something Iwanted to catch, though.”

Bruce was not sure if they were talking about words anymore.

“I’ll see you around, Fluffy,” she told him, then - with a wink and another smile - she grabbed her (now empty) backpack and left.

The night shift was already more stimulating than he’d been expecting.

Chapter Text

“I hate you,” Darcy whispered fiercely.

“No you don’t,” Jane said absently, scanning the room.

“No, I do.  I really, really do.  I would have been happy to never see any of these people again, Janey!  Really, really happy!  Incandescent with freakingjoy, even!”

“On, I’m sure there are a few people you’d like to see again,” she said lightly.

“Drawing a blank here.”

“Archery team?  Art club?  Those ringing any bells?”

“Dirty pool,” she hissed.

“Look,” Jane sighed, “you know I’m only here for Reed.  I just want to smash my doctorate in his face.  Just a little.  Give me five minutes and we can split, okay?  I will even spring for dinner, since the buffet is… lacking.”

Darcy groaned.  “Fine, but make it fast.”

“I’ve already spotted him,” she said, smiling evilly.  “I almost didn’t recognize him at first: he’s going gray.”

“Well, they do say that living well is the best revenge.”

Jane smirked, likely thinking of her super-hot husband.  “Vengeance is mine,” she said, coming frighteningly close to outright cackling.  She tugged her arm from Darcy’s, straightened her shoulders, and marched across the room.

Darcy sighed, “Now to find that open bar…”  She turned to go look and ran smack-dab into what felt like a brick wall.  “Hey!  Watch where you’re going you big - Steve?!”

“Hi, Darcy,” he said, smiling.  “You look fantastic.”

“You look - holy shit, you’re huge!”  He was at least a foot taller than he’d been the last time she saw him, and he looked like he’d put on at least 60 lbs of muscle.  All of which was nicely displayed by the suit he wore.  Darcy swallowed hard, then mustered up a grin.  “It’s nice to see you, Steve.  Although kind of weird to see you without - ”

“Hey, babe, long time no see!”

Darcy let out a shriek as she was lifted and twirled by none other than - “Clinton Francis Barton, you put me down right this minute!”  She scowled up at him as he set her on her feet, looking from one man to the other (and their near-identical grins) and feeling all the emotions she’d repressed through four long years of being their friend come roaring back.  “It’s nice to see you,” she admitted grudgingly.  “Are you two still…?”

Clint nodded, beaming, “Beating the stats and still going strong?  Oh yeah.”

“I’m happy for you,” she said.  It was the truth.  She was happy.  She knew that she’d never had a chance with either of them, though both were bi.  They’d been happy together for as long as she’d known them.

“You?” Steve asked.

Darcy paused, waiting for the rest of the question.

“What he means to say is, what about you?” Clint asked, glancing down at her hands and then around the room.  “Is there a Mr. Lewis wandering around?”

She snorted, “Ah, no.  Still waiting for Mr. Right, I guess.  I came with Jane, actually.  We weren’t planning on staying long.”

“That’s a shame,” Clint said slowly, exchanging looks with Steve.  “We’d really love to catch up.”

“We’ve missed you, Darce,” Steve added, giving her one of his trademark heartbreakingly sincere smiles.

“Well, I… I guess that would be nice.  I’ve missed you too, both of you.”

“That’s good to hear,” Clint said, grabbing her hand and tucking it into his elbow.  “Allow me to buy you a drink.”

“It’s an open bar, dumbass.”

Steve took her other hand and emulated his partner.  “Makes it a little easier on Clint’s pocketbook, then, doesn’t it?”

Darcy chuckled.  “Yeah, guess so.  Lead on!”

Shorter than both of them now that Steve had finally hit his growth, she never noticed the look they exchanged over her head, and completely missed the matching smiles that spread over their faces as they glanced down at her.  They might have missed their chance with her in high school, not confident enough in themselves or each other to attempt a relationship so outlandish, but that had changed - even if their feelings for Darcy hadn’t.

Chapter Text

Bucky looked down at the note he had found taped to his door and frowned.  The instructions were clear: Room 1508 @ 1730.  The writing was Sam’s, so it probably wasn’t a trick.  Bucky rolled his shoulders, checked the clock, and headed for the elevator.  He might as well check it out.  Knowing the Falcon it could be anything from a surprise birthday party to an intervention.  There seemed to be a lot of both at the Tower, though - he supposed - having more than one birthday party a year was definitely surprising.

1508 was one of the office floors of the Tower, and Bucky braced himself accordingly.  Most of the people who worked in the Tower were used to the Avengers, but Bucky wasn’t really used to all of the people.  He tended to avoid their gazes and always try and look like he was going somewhere important.  He was going somewhere, but he had no idea if it was important or not.

He knocked on the door, waiting until a female voice called out a quick, “Come in!” before opening it and entering.  When he did he found… well, it looked sort of like a party.  The conference table had been shoved against one wall and all of the chairs were in a circle in the empty space they’d left behind.  There were drinks and snacks on the table and several people sitting in the chairs.  He recognized Sam, Pepper, and Natasha, but there were two brunette women he couldn’t place.

“Melinda,” one of them said gruffly when she caught his eye.

“Hi,” the second one chirped, standing and moving towards him with an outstretched hand.  She waited till he took it and then grinned, giving it a single pump.  “I’m Darcy, welcome to ‘Friends and Teammates of Idiots Who Don’t Know How to Take Care of Themselves Not-Really-Anonymous!”

Bucky grinned.  

Chapter Text

The first time Tony was sent sprinting from their bed not by nightmares, but by an urgent need to vomit, Pepper wanted to write it off as food poisoning.  She had a niggling feeling that that wasn’t it, but she was comfortable living in denial.  Tony seemed to feel the same way, too, judging by his marked silence on the topic.  She noticed that he stopped drinking the next day, but neither of them brought it up.

Two weeks of the early morning vomit alarm later, and Pepper was waiting with the light on when he dragged himself back to bed.  “Tony…”

He collapsed onto the bed beside her, face first, and groaned into the pillow.  Once he had exhausted all of his breath, he rolled to stare at the ceiling.  “So,” he said, “I’m pretty sure I’m pregnant - ”

“Yes, I - ”

“ - knocked up - ”

“ - gathered that, what - ”

“ - up the duff - ”

“ - do you want to do - ”

“ - which, weird, doesn’t that stand for - ”

“Tony.”

“ - Designated Ugly Fat Friend?”

Tony,” she said again.

He scrubbed at his face.  “I think I want to keep it,” he said flatly.  Then, after a moment of silence, rolled to face her, “… This is where you talk me out of it.”

“What I don’t want to talk you out of it?” she asked hesitantly.

Tony stared at her, a myriad of expressions crossing over his mobile face before he settled on determination.  “We… we should contact the Alpha.”

“Darcy,” Pepper corrected.

He grimaced, “Right.”

“Tony…”

He rolled to the side and got out of bed.  “You do that,” he said, flapping a hand at her over his shoulder.  “I’m going to go shower.”

Pepper watched him leave, chewing her lip.  She knew why he was upset, just as she knew why it wasn’t warranted.  But to tell him, she’d have to reveal… not a lie, but an omission.  To be fair, at the time she hadn’t thought it would matter to Tony, but she’d underestimated his feelings and - to be truthful - her own…

She held still as she felt the sheets rustling, the sound of someone moving.  Keeping her breathing even, she opened her eyes a fraction, watching as Darcy untangled herself from Tony and rolled to her knees between them.  She let her lashes hide her eyes as she stared up at the Alpha, who was glancing back and forth between them with a melancholy look on her face.

“Don’t do this to yourself, Darce,” the Alpha whispered, her eyes shutting tightly and her fists clenching where they rested on her thighs.  “Save them the trouble of kicking you out.  You knew what you were signing up for.  Don’t bethat Alpha.”

Under Pepper’s watchful gaze, Darcy sighed, then opened her eyes - a determined look replacing the sadness.  The brunette twisted her hair in one hand and leaned over, pressing a soft kiss to Tony’s forehead.  Then, in a move that would have made Pepper start in surprise had she not been keeping such a tight reign on herself, she moved to do the same to the redhead.

Pepper shut her eyes, not wanting to reveal that she was awake as the Alpha moved closer.  It took all of her strength not to tremble, not to let her breath stutter, at the feel of that tender kiss.  By the time she opened her eyes again, Darcy was gone.

The next day, Jane packed up and headed off to London again, as planned…

Pepper had had many thoughts and feelings about the reputation she and Tony had developed - both as individuals and as a couple - over the years.  She never would have thought that their status as the poster couple for non-traditional bonding would chase away the one Alpha they could agree on.  Then again, she never would have thought they could agree on a third, especially not an Alpha.

Darcy changed everything, though.

Pepper waited until Tony came back, knowing the shower would calm him down.  “Do you want her involved?” she asked him bluntly.

“I - ” he froze, obviously caught off-guard.  “Do you want her involved?”

“I asked you first.”

Tony scowled, “I don’t like it when you use my arguments against me.  Ugh.  Fine.  Yes, I - maybe.  If she was in, I’d want her in - you know?  I… Pep, I liked her.  I like her.”

Pepper tilted her head to one side and smiled.  “I like her, too.  Now, Tony, let me ask you something,” she said briskly.  “When was the last time you saw something you wanted and actually let it go?

He blinked, opened his mouth, shut it, blinked again.  “Just… just to make sure we’re on the same page here, are you giving me tacit permission to woo Darcy Lewis into being our Alpha?”

She crawled over the bed to grab him by the shirt collar and drag him down to her level.  “I - ” she looped her arms around his neck, “ - am giving you explicitpermission to get Darcy Lewis back in wooing range so we can convince her to be our Alpha.”

Tony tackled her onto the bed, pressing kisses to her face, neck, and shoulders.  “I love you,” he said fervently.  “You are the best.”

“Tony - I want her, too.  We do this together - ”

“Or not at all, got it.”  He grinned, “She’s not gonna know what hit her.”

Chapter Text

Bucky and Steve are in each others’ pockets from the word ‘go’ - very little changes from what we see in the films.  Sometimes they wonder why they keep looking at other people when they already have each other, but they don’t dwell on it.  When Bucky falls from the train, every single one of the remaining Commandos make a pact with each other to get Cap through the war alive.  When they fail (or think they do) they pass on the story of the deep and abiding love Cap shared with Bucky.  It becomes part of the Cap legend, though there’s a shitload of academic debate over whether or not their bond was platonic or romantic.

Natasha is born in the year *coughmumble* and it’s only after several years with the Program that she realizes that her handlers are wrong: she does have a soul.  And soulmarks!  Her soulmarks are difficult to see because they only JUST vary from her natural skin tone.  She’s not sure what to do with the knowledge that she has two matches out there who are perfect for her.  Who would want to be hers?  Then the third mark comes in, color bleeding across her skin before her very eyes and she knows she has to find a way out.  The Red Room has taken much from her, she won’t let it take this.

Sam is born with three marks: one in Russian, two in English.  He’s not sure what to think about: “Sorry I tried to kill you,” but “On your left” is somewhat promising - if a little confusing.

When Steve wakes up to two new marks (one in a Cyrillic script), at first he’s just numb.  It’s one more blow on top of a heap of them.  Then he meets Natasha, and he’s not sure what they are or will be - they’re feeling each other out, and he knows that if Bucky were here he’d say they were circling like two cats who weren’t sure if they oughta be fighting or fucking.  There’s something about her that keeps him from letting loose his frustration at the universe for giving him two more soulmates - especially in her presence.  She was just soshocked when she realized he was hers.

He knows that she’s got other soulmates aside from him, but they’re not close enough that he feels like he can ask yet.  He hopes that “Don’t you say it!” will be as understanding.

Chapter Text

“What’re you scowling at, doll?” Bucky asked as he crossed to the fridge.

“Language requirement,” Darcy groaned, letting her head fall forward to hit her textbook with a loud thump.

“Oh?  What language?”

“Russian,” she mumbled.  After a second she lifted her head, giving him a speculative look.  “You speak Russian.”

“Uh-huh,” he nodded.

“You could help me.”

“Nuh-uh,” he shook his head.  “’m not the best teacher around, go ask Nat.”

“But you’re here,” Darcy pointed out.  “Right now.  C’mon, just… let me know if I’m completely screwing up the pronunciation?  I’m on, like, short sentences, and they’re those awful textbook sentences that nobody actually uses, but…”  She gave him her best puppy-dog eyes.

“All right, all right, put away the big guns.”

“Thanks!” she chirped.  “Okay, so…”  She grimaced, frowning down at her book, then looked up at him and tentatively said: “Обрежьте фитиль.

The change was instantaneous.  Bucky snapped up from where he’d been slouching against the counter, shoulders straight and spine stiff.  His eyes had gone blank and cold, and he wasn’t smiling anymore.  He set the water bottle on the counter and walked around the table to stand before her, settling into parade rest just a few feet away.  “Ваш солдат, сэр,” he rasped.

“… JARVIS?” Darcy called, keeping her voice even and calm.

“Ms. Romanova is on her way.”

“Oh.  Good.”  She shut her eyes, closing out the sight of Bucky, lacking everything that made him Bucky.  “’A little learning is a dangerous thing’,” she muttered, a bitter twist to her lips.  Then she groaned: “Cap is gonna kill me!

Chapter Text

Darcy heard a crash, then rustling, cursing, and finally - silence.  She paused, head cocked to one side for a moment or two, then returned to her book.  A few seconds later the rustling started up again, quickly followed by more cursing.  She sighed, shut her book, and stuffed it into her purse.  With one hand on her taser and the other firmly gripping her bag, she followed the strange sounds to their source: one very large tree in the middle of her favorite secluded nook in the park.  The ground below was littered with several broken branches and, when she looked up, she could see shiny metal.

She walked forward until she was just beside the trunk and saw that there was a dude stuck up there, wedged in tightly by something metal coming off of his back.  “Um.  Hey,” she called.

The dude’s head whipped around, orange goggles obscuring half of his face.

“You look pretty stuck,” Darcy said.  “I’m… pretty sure I’ve got some pliers, and maybe a bolt cutter in my bag.  Want some help?”

“You carry bolt cutters in your purse?”

“Well, just the one, but.  Yeah?”

“My hero,” the strange man said, sounding a little in awe of her.

Darcy blushed.  “Just… give me a sec to climb…”  She slung her bag over her shoulder and shimmied up the tree until she was on a level with the strange - “Oh holy shitballs, you’re the Falcon!”

“On my good days,” he agreed.

“And on bad days?” she asked, squinting at the backpack-looking thing that housed his wings.  Darcy was pretty sure she could get him out of there, and without destroying anything vital!

“Well,” he sighed, “today I appear to be a damsel.”

“Happy to play knight for you anytime - oh god, I mean - ”

“No takebacks.”

“Oh.”  Darcy gave him a small smile, “I can live with that.”

And she did.  Happily ever after…

Chapter Text

The first time it happens she doesn’t realize the significance of what she’s done.  She’s in the living room and contemplating a snack - maybe she’ll bake something?  She has the place to herself since Jane and Thor are out doing some sort of interview with a host of Stark PR people to assist, and Erik is doing wacky portal science things with Ian.  She’s walking to the kitchen when she trips over something solid.  The hammer.  Thor has a habit of setting it down by the couch.  It’s not in the way, per se, but it’s there and her foot catches on it and sends her stumbling against the table, barking her shin and making her scowl.

“Fucksake,” Darcy mutters, then grabs the handle, planning to drag it over to rest against the wall.  The instant she touches it she feels a strange tingle run from her hand, up her arm, and set the hair on the back of her neck prickling.  “Static electricity,” she tells herself firmly, and slides the hammer over to the wall.

When Thor returns, he frowns at Mjolnir, but doesn’t say anything.

Darcy forgets all about it, until the next time.

(Sometimes her palm seems to itch, and she gets a headache.  Stupid London weather, she thinks, and doesn’t notice the tiny blue sparks that are dancing across Mjolnir’s surface.)

Chapter Text

Watching Steve adjust to this new, alternate-universe Peggy was kind of painful.  It had taken him a while to separate the Peggy he had known, and could have loved, from the Peggy who was… visiting.  Darcy privately wondered if nu!Peggy was maybe exaggerating some of her mannerisms and behaviors in order to expedite the process.  After all, what better way was there to ensure that the universe-counterpart to your lost love didn’t attempt to rekindle something than flirting with someone else right in front of them.

So Darcy didn’t take it too seriously.  Flirted back some, but always with an eye on Steve - if he was present, and he wasn’t always - to make sure it didn’t go too far.  She thought that they had a good thing going, the same kind of easy, friendly/flirty acquaintanceship that she shared with Clint, or Bucky.

Boy, had she read that one wrong.

“Look,” Peggy said, flipping a chair around to fold her arms over the back.  Even straddling a chair, she looked like such a friggin’ lady.  It was ridiculous.  “Darcy,” she asked, watching her intently, “are you interested?  Even a little?  Or are you just having a bit of fun?  I’m all for fun, mind you, but it’s nice to know if everyone on the field is playing the same game.”

“Um.  What?”  Darcy stared at her, Pop-tart frozen halfway to her mouth.

“I like you,” she said forthrightly.  “I would like to take you out sometime, go eat somewhere, perhaps take a walk in the park?”

“A date?” she asked tentatively.

“Yes, Darcy, a date,” Peggy said, keeping her eyes fixed on the younger woman.  She smiled softly, but there was something a little sad in it, “If you’re not interested, just let me know.  I’ll be happy to continue as we have, I’ll just know not to… hope, I suppose.”

“You’re serious.  You’re - ” she huffed out a breath and set the pastry down.  “Really?” she asked.  “Wait, that’s not what I… I mean - ”

Peggy moved very quickly, which Darcy should really stop being surprised over, since she was almost used to living with supersoldiers and superheroes at this point.  The brunette curved her hand along the side of Darcy’s face, thumb brushing over her cheekbone.  “I think you’re lovely,” she said quietly.

“Okay,” Darcy breathed, trying not to be overwhelmed by those big brown eyes or the way Peggy smelled or a hundred other little things she’d noticed, but hadn’t let herself note.  “I - yeah, let’s go out.  It’s a date.”

Chapter Text

Steve is aware that he’s being followed and he’s spent the last fifteen minutes trying to figure out what to do about it.  He doesn’t know who it is, exactly, they’re good at what they do.  Steve’s confident that, in close quarters, he’s better.  He’s been wandering towards his old stomping grounds: they’re still his even if half the alleyways he was once beaten up in are now gone.  Steve’s not sure if it’s stupidity or some strange nostalgia that makes him wander down the dark alley, then turn to face whatever comes.

He’s poised, prepared - he thinks - but he’s not expecting what he gets.

“Took you long enough,” a piping voice says, from behind him.

He spins and looks down to find a girl, can’t be more than ten, staring up at him and looking singularly unimpressed.  “I wasn’t aware that I had an appointment,” he says, half his attention on the girl and half devoted to figuring out what the source of his unease had been.  It couldn’t have been this kid, could it?

She’s frowning at him, pursing her lips, and looking far too hard in the face for a kid who can’t be more than ten.  “I hope she knows what she’s doing,” she says quietly - he doesn’t think he was meant to catch that but, well, supersoldier - then, “Come on,” a bit louder.  She turns and trots off, heading further into the alley.

Steve follows, nonplussed.

Fifteen feet in, the kid hangs a sharp left around a dumpster and he hears her say: “He’s here, but are you sure about this?”

“Mm-hm,” a second voice says.

The other speaker, Steve sees as he rounds the dumpster, is also a kid.  Even tinier than the first, though that might just be because she’s all folded up on the ground, curling her arms around bent knees.  “Ah, hello?” he says.  “You were expecting me?”

The little girl looks up at him with big blue eyes, smiling a gap-toothed smile.  “Uh-huh,” she tells him.  “We’ve been expecting you.”

“I’m not the psychic,” the first girl snorts, kicking at the ground.

“I am not a psychic!” the second snaps.  It has the tenor of a well-worn argument between friends, or sisters.

“Girls,” Steve interrupts and then is interrupted in turn by -

Skye,” the first one says, glaring up at him with her big brown eyes.

“I’m Darcy,” the second one says, “I’m a soothsayer.  Means I see the future.”

That… is a new one for Steve.  “You see the future, huh?  What have you seen?” he asks gamely, expecting something cute like fame and fortune, or some sort of production like the psychic at the old fair he and Bucky used to go to.

She sits up and shuffles till she’s cross-legged.  Her gaze slides down and to the right, and she starts to sway a little, and then Steve’s standing straight, hands fisted at his sides as he stares at her because her eyes start to glow.  Her head tips back, the light from her eyes casting strange shadows on the fire escape above.  “Warm house family couch.  Dinner light smiles laughter.  Flashes noise anger danger.  Learning woman knives helper,” her voice echoes oddly, going deeper and higher by turns.  She stops, shaking and gasping for breath, and the other girl - Skye - is by her side in an instant, supporting her and rubbing her back, giving soft reassurances and -

Abruptly, viscerally, reminding Steve of how he and Bucky were, years ago.

“She gets it wrong sometimes,” Skye says, looking up at him.  “But… she said you could help.  She said you could - you could keep us safe from the people who wanna use us.  We don’t wanna be used.”

“I saw family,” Darcy says, sounding ragged.  She’s still slumped against the other girl, who is clearly supporting most of her weight.

“Yeah, well,” Skye bites her lip, expression going pinched.  “You keep being the optimistic one, I’ll keep being the realist.”

Steve looks from one to the other and makes a decision.  “Come with me to the Tower.  If nothing else, Thor knows a lot about magic.  I’m sure he could find some way to help you, or explain things to your parents.”

Skye snorts.  “We don’t have parents.  And it’s not magic.  Probably.  This isn’t something we were born with,” you idiot is left unstated but implied, and then she says something that makes Steve’s blood run cold: “It’s something that was done to us.”

“Come to the Tower,” he says again, only realizing he’s using his command voice when Skye glares at him.  “Please,” he amends.  “I - we can help you.”

“I know,” Darcy says, smiling.  “And I told you so, Skye.”

“Yeah, well,” Skye shrugs, still eyeing Steve suspiciously, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Darcy smiles up at Steve, full of so much hope and excitement that he can’t imagine disappointing her.  “I know.  I’ve already seen it.”

Chapter Text

“I swear it was an accident,” Steve says, staring down at his hands with unseeing eyes.  His shoulders are hunched like he’s bracing for a blow.

Darcy rolls her eyes and flops over so her head lands on his thigh and she can look up at him.  “Steve.  Stevie.  Steve-o.  I believe you.  I do not actually think you blew out the end of the condom on purpose.”

“I didn’t even know I could do that,” he says miserably.

She, with great effort, holds back all of the supersoldier and supersperm jokes trying to leap off the tip of her tongue.  “S’ok, Steve, really.  This is why we run the redundancy plan, for just-in-case shit.  We’ve still got the spermicide andthe pill.  What are the odds that your swimmers are gonna get through all of that oh god.  Oh god, I just jinxed it.  Shit.”

Steve stares down at her with almost comical disbelief.  “Darcy, I can’t believe you just - ”

“I know!”

“You were on the comms the last time Tony said it was too quiet!”

I know!

“You know what happens - ”

“Yes, Steve, I do know!”

He sighs.  “So, what do we do now?”

Darcy shrugs.  “Hope for the best and, um, start picking names just in case?”

Chapter Text

It got Erik first.  Nobody noticed since he was already kind of off.  Then Jane started to get sick.  It started as a fever, dizzy spells, she was sleeping for longer and longer periods of time.  They still hadn’t made the connection between the two scientist’s conditions and they didn’t until Erik and Jane just stopped waking up.  Bruce got them hooked up to monitors while Tony swept their lab areas, trying to figure out what had happened.  Darcy and Ian looked on, confused and - though neither wanted to admit it - both wondering if they might be next.

Both Jane and Erik were dreaming, or at least something was happening with their brains, though nobody knew quite what.  Tony started to theorize that it might be a virus, the light of discovery brightened in his eyes when small pieces of old Chitauri tech - thought harmless - were discovered amongst Erik’s things.  A virus, perhaps, Tony said, and disappeared into his lab to figure it out.

JARVIS was the one who told them that Tony had started running a fever but the man himself issued his own quarantine.  “Don’t worry, Pep-my-love,” he said, grinning, “I’ve been slacking on the lab time anyways.  Bruce can help me figure it out.  We’ve got three known cases - ”

“Four,” Darcy said quietly, drawing everyone’s attention.  She held up her phone.  “Ian texted me about a half hour ago.  He’s in his rooms.”

Tony nodded, “He should stay there - OR! - he can come play with me.”

“I’ll ask,” she said, glad to have something to do.

In the end, Ian joined Tony in the labs and one week later both of them joined Erik and Jane in the med wing.  Bruce was the only one in or out and he assisted the bots Tony had designed specifically to aid in the sleepers’ care.  Darcy didn’t want to call it a coma.  She refused to call it a coma.

“It’ll be all right,” Steve told her, pressing a kiss to her hair.  “Bruce is working on it and he’s been able to pull in a few old contacts.”

She nodded, but said nothing.  Thor had gone to Asgard to ask for aid three days ago and they’d yet to hear word from him.  She wanted to hope, but she just had so much time to think now.

“Give me something to do,” she told Pepper the next day.  “I’m going nuts.”

“All right,” the redhead said slowly.  “I’m sure I can find some things for you to do.”  She set Darcy a few smaller tasks, then more and more as she realized the younger woman’s potential.  “You know,” she said one day, “you could keep working for me after they wake up.”

Darcy loved that Pepper always said ‘when’ with such confidence and not ‘if’ like the brunette was starting to feel, in her heart of hearts.  “I… maybe?” she said.  “I mean, I’ll think about it, after the mandatory two months of Jane time that I need to catch up on.”

Pepper nodded, “I know what you mean.”

She didn’t come in the next day, called in for one of her rare sick days.  The day after that, Darcy was called down to the medical ward to see her friend smiling wanly at her from behind a thick sheet of Stark-designed glass.

“It makes sense,” Pepper said, shrugging stoically.  “Tony and I were sharing a bed right up until he got sick.”

“But I - ” Darcy bit back the words with a great effort and wrapped her arms about herself instead.  “What do you need me to do?” she asked.

“I’ll give you a list.”

Darcy came down to visit her every day for five days before Bruce was the one to greet her instead.  “The… virus has mutated,” he said, looking tired.  His hair stood out in about eight different directions and a small portion of Darcy desperately wanted to comb it back into some semblance of order.

The larger portion of Darcy was desperately focused on not screaming.

Bucky was waiting for her in the kitchen when she went back upstairs.  “Hey,” he said, pulling her into his arms.  He didn’t say anything else, just held her and rocked her a little until she didn’t feel so raw and she could push away to grab some breakfast.

“Maybe you should go visit your family,” Bucky suggested.

She nodded, poking at her yogurt.  “I’ll ask Bruce is he thinks it’s okay.”

“Why would you need to - Darcy.  You’re not gonna get sick, doll.”

“Why not?  Everyone else from the labs has!”

“Not Bruce,” he pointed out.

“No,” she slumped down a little.  “You’re right, Bruce is still fine.”  She sat up and nodded.  “I’ll ask him in the morning.”

She left the next day, stayed home for a week soaking up sunshine and warmth and what felt like enough fresh air to shore up the weakest immune system.  When she returned, Steve and Bucky were waiting for her.

“Who?” Darcy asked, seeing their grim faces.

“Clint,” Steve said heavily.

“And Nat,” Bucky added, sounding like he wanted to punch something.

“Bruce thinks that whatever it was… it started with the Tesseract,” Steve told her hesitantly.  “Some sort of leftover energy or something woke up the Chitauri tech enough to pass on this… whatever it is.  He said something about a ‘neural link-up to a mainframe that doesn’t exist.’”

“So I’m safe because I’m not genius enough?” Darcy asked, only half kidding.

“Hey, don’t talk that way about my girl,” Bucky scolded, poking her.  “Bruce is still fine, isn’t he?  Can’t figure out who it’s hitting, or why yet, but we will.”

“Thor passed on a message,” Steve said, and this time he was the one to pull her into his arms.  “He… the All-Father won’t let him come back until this is resolved.  He was able to pass on some of the information they have on the Chitauri but - ”

“Decoding Asgardian is apparently a bit of a challenge,” Bucky finished wryly.

The Tower was eerily quiet now.  Darcy found herself gravitating towards the boys more and more, which made their relationship develop at a faster pace than they’d been working on up till then.  It wasn’t long before she was sleeping in their bed with them, though it was just that - sleeping.  Darcy wasn’t really in the mood for that sort of distraction, and doubted she would be so long as she was stuck feeling this creeping anxiety, this pervasive dread.

It felt like they were in a holding pattern.  Steve and Bucky were off on missions every so often, relying heavily on Falcon and War Machine to pick up the slack for their absent teammates.  Darcy drifted.  She couldn’t stand not being busy, but she couldn’t shake the fear - illogical though it was - that if she got too close to someone, they’d get sick too.  Steve and Bucky were fine because if they were going to get sick, it would have happened by now.  The serum was probably keeping them safe.  That would make the most sense, and it would explain Bruce’s immunity, too.

Of course, there was the possibility that the serum only altered the virus’s effects instead of granting immunity… but they didn’t think of that until it was too late.

Darcy woke up one morning and was surprised to find both of the boys still in bed with her.  They were usually up well before her, heading off for a run or an early morning sparring session.  Sometimes they’d shower and sneak back into bed with her, but they would usually read.  She poked Bucky, then Steve.

“Up and at ‘em, guys.”

There was no response.

“Guys…?”  She sat up and grabbed Steve’s shoulder, shaking him.  “Come on, this isn’t funny.”  Bucky would sit up and wrap his arms around her any second now, tell her it was a joke - a dumb one - but once a jerk, always a jerk, right?

Except he didn’t sit up, he didn’t wrap her in his arms, he didn’t say a word.

There was no sound in the room but their quiet breathing as they slept.

It was the most horrifying thing she’d ever heard.

“Come on.  Steve.  Bucky.  Please.”  She knelt between them, a hand on each of their shoulders and shook them roughly.  “You need to wake up because I can’t do this without you.  I can’t.  Please don’t make me - don’t leave me alone.”

“Miss,” JARVIS said quietly, “I have alerted Dr. Banner.  He will be coming with the bots shortly.”

Darcy nodded.  “Okay,” she said, glad that the AI wouldn’t call her on the fact that it was half-speech, half-sob.  She sat on the bed between the boys until Bruce came in, trailed by half a dozen of Tony’s Dummyfingers.

Darcy,” he said when he saw her face.

“What?” she asked, then jerked a little as something wet fell on her hand.  She reached up and - “Oh.”  She’d begun to cry at some point, impossible to tell when.  She was surprised, in a distant sort of way, that her body had decided to settle on ‘sad’ as a reaction because she felt completely numb.  “Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked steadily, ignoring the tears that continued to fall.

“No, I - we’ve - pretty much got this down,” Bruce said.  He gestured the bots forward and they quickly placed Bucky and Steve on stretchers and carried them from the room.  “We… Darcy, maybe you should - ”

“There’s no guarantee I won’t get sick, I’m not leaving the Tower.”

“I wasn’t going to - ”  He sighed.  “Maybe,” he said gently, “you should go back to your old room.”

Darcy looked around: at the array of nicknacks scattered on the dressers and bedside tables, at the mixed pile of clothing in the corner, at the assortment of pillows that decorated the bed - all bearing the touch of the three of them.  “No,” she said, “I think I’ll be fine right here.”

She laid back down as soon as Bruce left and breathed in the smells of Steve and Bucky and the three of them together.  She wondered how long it would take to fade.  Darcy didn’t leave their room for three days.

On the fourth, she started to feel a little clammy.  She ignored it.

On the fifth, she staggered on her way across the room, black spots dancing in her vision.  “JARVIS,” she called, feeling a strange mixture of resignation and relief.  “You’d better call Bruce.”

He was clearly distraught, but there was a grim determination on the scientist’s face that she had never seen before.  “Betty and I - we’ve worked out some possibilities - ”

“A cure?” she asked eagerly.

“No.  Maybe.”  Bruce grimaced.  “Probably not, but testing it - ”

“You could use me…?” Darcy suggested tentatively.

“Darcy…”

“I, Darcy Lee Lewis, being of sound mind and body, give Dr. Banner full permission to try and fix my illness using whatever treatment he deems necessary.”  She watched him take that it and, when he still seemed to be wavering, added, “I could go dig up a Bible and swear on that if it would make you feel better.”

He rolled his eyes.  “Good luck finding a Bible in Tony’s Tower.”

“Steve has one,” she said absently, glancing around the exam room.

“Ah, right.”  Bruce sighed.  “If we’re going to do this… there’s a possibility that this cure we’re working on could stop the virus in its tracks.”

“If you’re asking if you have permission to do this while I’m still awake, the answer is yes,” Darcy said immediately.

He nodded and turned away to ready a needle.

Suddenly, she felt exhaustion sweep over her like a wave and swayed in her seat - “Darcy?  Darcy, can you hear me?!” - her vision flickered for a moment, going black-bright-black again - “She opened her eyes!  Maybe it’s working!” - she gasped, and instead of smelling the sterile sick room she was swamped with the smell of lightning and Old Spice, Jane’s smell - “Wake up, Darcy!  Come on, you’ve got to fight this!” - and then Bruce was holding her up by the shoulders, frowning down at her with concern written across his face.

“Darcy?  You don’t have to do this…”

She blinked rapidly, shaking her head to dislodge - something.  Something feltoff in a way she couldn’t describe.  Darcy snorted, things had been ‘off’ since Thor fell from a Rainbow Road and landed in front of Jane’s van.  ‘Off’ was her normal.  “I’m ready,” she assured Bruce.  “Let’s do this.”

Chapter Text

“ - at’s stupid, you’re stupid,” Nat heard Bucky saying before he practically slammed his things down opposite her at the table.

She looked up from her book and raised an eyebrow.  He was scowling at his own hands, so she leaned over and grabbed one of them.  “Everything all right?” she asked quietly.

“Yeah, s’fine,” he said, not very convincingly.  “Where’re the guys?”

Natasha narrowed her eyes at him but let it go.  For now.  “Sam booked the Quidditch pitch for extra practice this morning and Steve is still working through his Saturday morning detentions with Fury.”

Bucky frowned thinking.  “Wait, still?  Over that whole thing with Pierce?  I didn’t think it was such a big deal.”

“That’s because you spent most of that ordeal in the hospital wing,” she said testily.  “Trust me, from the outside, it was very much a ‘big deal’.”

“Hey,” Sam said breathlessly, sliding into place beside Bucky and pressing a quick kiss to the other boy’s cheek.  “What’d I miss?” he asked, grabbing at several of the nearest plates in order to fill his own.

“Bucky downplaying the Pierce incident,” Nat said.  “Again.”

“Whar?  Hell no!  What he said - what he did - was not okay!” Sam said, practically vibrating with righteous Gryffindor rage.  He slung an arm around Bucky’s shoulders and yanked him closer, eating with one hand while he continued to mutter curses and imprecations against the Pierce line under his breath.

“Do you mind?” one of Nat’s housemates said huffily.  “I am trying to study.”

“And we,” Nat said, turning and giving the girl her best glare (it was a good glare), “are trying to have a conversation.  If your concentration is so damaged by simple speech, maybe that explains your Potions grade, hmm?  Perhaps consider going elsewhere for your early morning study session, Raina.”  She turned back to the boys, both watching her with matching fond expressions.  “What?”

“Nothing,” Sam said.

“Just enjoying the rare sight of your Slytherin side,” Bucky teased.

“Hush, you.”

“Did I hear someone singing my song?” Steve asked, slipping into place beside Nat easy as breathing.  The two of them sort of melted together until it looked like there was a two-headed, four-armed, Ravenclaw/Slytherin tangle sitting there instead of two different people.

“Just Nat being subtly threatening,” Bucky said.

“Aw, really?”  He kissed the corner of her mouth.  “I love watching you do your thing,” he said, sounding sad to have missed it.

“Just wait a little,” she returned, sinking into his embrace with a soft sigh that belied the glare she was casting about the room.  Several people seemed to suddenly find their pumpkin juice absolutely fascinating.  “The idiots seem to be out in force today, and it’s not even eleven yet.”

Steve shrugged when he saw what she was doing, as ever unbothered by the staring.  When she asked, he usually told her, “I don’t care what they think, I care what you think.  If it bothers you, just say the word and I’ll be bothered too.”

Bucky was of a similar mind when others’ thoughts on their unusual relationship were brought up.  “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind,” he’d said with a soft smile and the air of someone quoting something.  “I know what’s really important,” he’d continued, flicking at her with the end of his Hufflepuff scarf.

Sam was the only other one to care, as she did, but - much like her - it bothered him only inasmuch as he wanted to be sure that neither of the other boys was ever bothered by unkind words or deeds.  He had most of Gryffindor thoroughly charmed, and the majority of them thought him brave (if extremely foolhardy) for attempting to juggle three paramours from different houses.  He’d tried to explain that there was no juggling if it was four people trying to make something together instead of one person trying to keep three things going but… he’d settle for wary admiration if he couldn’t have understanding.

Natasha slumped down in her seat a little and hooked one ankle around Bucky’s foot, the other around Sam’s.  “Let’s go do something,” she said.

“Fly?” Sam suggested.

“Head down to Hogsmeade?” Bucky offered.

“We should go sit by the lake,” Steve said decisively.  “It’s gonna be a beautiful day.”

She nodded, wanting nothing so much as to settle down with her boys far away from the eyes and ears of Hogwarts.  “Yes, lets.  After breakfast,” she added, pointedly nudging a plate in Steve’s direction.

“Oh, right,” he said sheepishly, and began to pile things on.  Sam and Bucky quickly joined in, sneaking food onto Steve’s plate until he realized what was going on and a small fork fight began.

Life, as ever, went on.

Chapter Text

There is a cold nose poking at Derek’s ankle, managing to hit that spot where pants ride high and sock rides low every single time.  He briefly considers kicking out but Stiles is one of those ‘any attention is good attention’ types when he’s in fox form, so it would only encourage him.  Derek flips a page in the book he’s reading, ignoring the fox making the occasional grumbling ‘yip’ beneath the table.

“You could always go join the others,” he suggests the next time the nose slips over his ankle bone, making him shiver.

Somehow Stiles manages to make a scoffing noise come out of his fox throat.

“Or grab a book,” Derek says pointedly.

There is a faint prickle against his skin as Stiles sets his teeth around Derek’s ankle, just brushing his flesh with the delicate - and sharp - points.

Derek sighs and shoves away from the table.  Stiles is instantly there, climbing up his legs and into his lap, bracing his front paws on Derek’s shoulders and yipping happily in his face.  “What do you want,” Derek grumbles.

Stiles scrambles down and drops into a play bow, amber eyes sparkling.

“No.”

Stiles’s tongue lolls out and his tail starts to twitch.

No, I want to read!”

Stiles whines and lets his head droop, looking pathetic.

Derek pinches the bridge of his nose.  “One hour,” he grits out, looking at the ceiling so he won’t have to see the fox’s triumph.  “You get one hour and then you’re putting on your human skin and finding some other way to occupy your time.”

Stiles yelps agreeably and then trots to the door.

Derek follows him, stripping his clothes as he goes.  Three steps out the door, he cracks his neck and lets the shift take him and then there is a gigantic wolf standing there in the green grass, a brilliant orange fox dancing beneath his nose.  You’re a menace, Derek says through the pack bond, but he cannot lie through their connection so his frustration is tinged with fondness.

Whatever, you love it, Stiles crows and dances off towards the trees.

Not for the first time, Derek shields himself from the bond long enough to sigh and acknowledge - even if only to himself - Yeah, probably.  He stretches his legs and then sets off after Stiles.

Chapter Text

“I think we should kill him,” Alistair declared, frowning down at the elf assassin who - having finished telling his story of woe - now lounged on the ground before them.

Darcy rolled her eyes.  She had grown fond of the redhead during her travels with him - it was like Clint’s good intentions and Steve’s earnest do-good heart had created an adorable, bumbling knight - but his suspicious nature was almost a joke to her at that point.  “You think that about everyone, Alistair.  I’ll bet you told Cousland to off Morrigan and me when we first joined up.”

He had the good grace to blush, looking down at his boots.  “Maybe.  I stand by half of that suggestion!”

She punched him in the exposed joint near his armpit.  “Good thing it was crazy old Flemeth who found me wandering the Wilds and not you,” she said, sticking her tongue out at him.  “What would you do without me to keep Morrigan from setting your bedroll on fire?”

He snorted, “I would - ”

“Fascinating though this is,” the assassin cut in, smiling genially, “I would very much like to know my fate.”

Cousland sighed, looking to his trio of companions.  “Thoughts?”

“Do we really want an assassin at our backs?” Alistair asked skeptically.

“Isn’t an assassin the best person to watch our backs?” Darcy argued.

“Does it truly think I care whether or not another squishy tags along?” Shale inquired, sighing dramatically.

“Well then,” Cousland said brightly, leaning down and offering the elf a hand.  “Welcome to the team, Zevran!”

“’Zevran’,” Darcy said, nose wrinkling.  “That’s quite a mouthful.”

In a flash the elf was before her, gently lifting her hand to his mouth.  He paused just before his lips could brush her skin, smiling up at her from beneath his eyelashes.  “Indeed, my lady,” he all but purred.  “You would not be the first to say so.”

She gaped at him.  She could hear Alistair spluttering, Cousland chuckling, and Shale sighing (again) behind her, but all she could do was stare into those twinkling hazel eyes as she realized: Oh shit, he’s hot.

Chapter Text

“Have you been good for grandma?”  It’s the first thing Darcy asks every time they reunite.  Hopefully this will be the last time she has to ask, hopefully she will never be separated from her son for any length of time again.  College was a necessity, and she came home for every break.  Then came Jane, and SHIELD’s stupid NDAs that read like indentured servitude contracts.  She couldn’t exactly drag her son all over Europe (well, she could, but she didn’t want to do that to him) so grandma’s was the best option.  Up till now.

“Of course!” he says, indignation slightly muffled because of the way his face is buried in her hair.  “I’m always good!”

She pokes him in the side.  “Lies.”

“Okay, well, I was good this time.  I barely got in any trouble at all!”

Darcy hums low in her throat and holds him even closer.  “Your grandma told me about your little… adventure?  With Tony Stark?  That doesn’t sound like ‘barely’ any trouble to me!  I’m proud of you for helping him out, but next time a crazy man breaks into the shed run like heck, okay?”

He pushes away and gives her his best innocent face.  It’s pretty good, if she does say so herself, but she’s the one who gifted those genes to him.  It won’t work on her.  He adds a little lip-wobble and then huffs when she rolls her eyes at him.  “It didn’t work on Tony either,” he grumps.

“Tony Stark is probably the king of bullshit mountain.”

“Mom!”

“Don’t even with me, Harley.  But that… um.  Did you… like Tony Stark?”

“He was pretty cool.  He gave me some neat stuff, I’ve gotta show you - ”

“How would you feel about living in Stark Tower?”

“…mom, is there something you wanna tell me?” Harley asks, looking down at her wrist, where ‘There’s always room for a buxom brunette!’ is written out in a sprawling cursive.

“Oh my god, no, Harley!  Just.  No.  Jane is moving the operation to New York, and I’m on her contract, with a salary and everything.  You could…” she bites her lip, trying to hide how hopeful she is because she doesn’t want to pressure her son, and if he wants to stay with his grandmother she’ll let him.  “You could come live with me, if you wanted?”

Harley’s blue eyes go wide, his shock and hopefulness genuine this time, and not a ploy.  “You mean it?”

“I mean it.”

He tackles her, knocking her from her knees to the floor.  “YES, YES, YES!  Of course I want to live with you in Stark Tower, mom!”

Darcy beams up at the ceiling.  “I’m not sure if you’re more excited about proximity to me or the science, but I’ll take it.”

He crawls up until he can make eye contact.  “Can’t I be happy about both?”

Chapter Text

Bucky grew up with Steve, he was always just… there.  He didn’t take Steve for granted, per se, he just couldn’t - didn’t want to - imagine a life where Steve wasn’t an integral part of his existence, his every day.  They lived on the same street, went to the same schools, played on the same teams when Steve’s asthma allowed for it.  When they graduated high school, that was when things started to change because Steve was going to college.

Bucky was joining the army.

“Don’t,” Steve asked, mouth grim and eyes serious.  “Bucky, you don’t - ”

“C’mon,” Bucky said, clapping him on the shoulder.  “College isn’t for me, not yet at least.  Maybe in a few years.”  It went unspoken that his ma, his sisters, needed the money.  That the scholarships Bucky had earned wouldn’t cover enough, that the loans they could take out wouldn’t be worth it.  That even if he could take out the loans, he wouldn’t be going to the same school as Steve.  Steve, who got into some fancy-pants art program, a full ride.  They were going to be separating no matter what, and it hurt.

“You come back, you hear?”

Bucky nodded, “Save me a spot on your couch, will ya?”

“Always.”

And he did.  They did.  Bucky came back and Steve always had couch space for him.  Bed space, sometimes, when he didn’t have a couch.  There was always room for Bucky in Steve’s life, literally and metaphorically.  That would never change.  That was life for three years: Bucky did what the army told him (go here, guard this, shoot that, train them) and then he bounced back to the states.  He caught up with his ma and his sisters, then he visited Steve, then he was back to serving his country.  Didn’t feel much like he was serving his country.  Felt like a job, and not one he liked.

“You gonna re-up?” Steve asked once.

“No,” Bucky said immediately.  Then, “No,” again, more softly.

Steve tugged Bucky over till he was leaning on his shoulder (much firmer and broader than it had been when they were still in school together) and he never asked again.  He was just there, Bucky’s constant.

The last year of his enlistment, when Bucky bounced back before his final tour, Steve wasn’t alone.  There was a Girl.  She wasn’t like the other girls Steve had dated, or the guys.  There was something a little more vivid about her, and she made something in Steve light up like Bucky had never seen before.  Her name was Darcy, and Bucky couldn’t look at her for too long, scared that something would show in his face.  That he wouldn’t be able to hide the way he wanted to soak up her warmth.  She was like sunshine.

He slept on the couch and he gave Steve a carefully-regulated amount of shit for living with Darcy, for being “domesticated.”  He watched them, and he was happy with how happy Steve - they - were.  Steve seemed to be going out of his way to leave Bucky alone with Darcy, trying to get them to bond, make sure Bucky approved?  He wasn’t sure.  He smiled, did all the right things, said all the right stuff at all the right times, but Darcy’s smiles weren’t as shiny for him.  That was how it should be, he knew that, but that didn’t stop it from making something in his chest twinge.  Maybe she noticed the way he held himself a little more stiffly when it was just the two of them, maybe she noticed his reticence… maybe.  Bucky befriended her, but he didn’t - couldn’t - let her into that corner of his heart he reserved for Steve.  He didn’t - couldn’t - think of her as someone separate from his best, oldest friend, because it he did, if he let himself…

He pushed those thoughts out of his head and prepared to head back to base.  Between now and when he came home (for the last time, because he never wanted to leave again) he needed to figure out what to do.  He sure as shit couldn’t hang around on Steve’s couch anymore, even if that had been the plan.  Even if Steve’s couch turned into a guest bedroom, like he was planning.  It wouldn’t work anymore.  Bucky was confident that he could figure it out, that he could find a way to preserve the status quo and not fall too far in love with his best friend’s girl.

Then came a road, not fully vetted.

The bomb.  The explosion.  The shrapnel that took his arm.

His tour ended early, honorable discharge.  His ma couldn’t care for him, not and keep food on the table for his sisters.

But Steve… Steve had a spare room, a college student’s schedule, and a steady income from commissions.

Steve said, “We can make this work.”

Darcy said, “You’re welcome, Bucky, always.”

And Bucky… Bucky had no good reason to refuse, except for his heart: hurting every time he looked at her, looked at him, looked at them.

Chapter Text

What if it only goes up if someone ~worthy presses the button?

So Steve and Thor are dicking around and, basically, holding the elevator up because it only moves when Thor pushes the buttons and then suddenly it starts moving without Thor doing anything… and at the other end is another character, scowling at the elevator all angry until it FINALLY ARRIVES and then:

“Who the hell left this replica Thor hammer here?”
*picks it up, sets it down on a table or something*
*rides the elevator down*

*Thor and Cap burst onto the floor, having sprinted via the stairs*
*both look around*
*see the hammer sitting there*
*exchange wide-eyed looks*

“I must find this soul and meet them.”

“I’ll second that!”

Chapter Text

“Let me get this straight,” Lois begins, and Clark is already holding back a wince because that is her pancake-flat, desert-dry, ‘you’re such a goddamn moron but, sadly, I am no longer shocked by your stupidity, I’m just resigned’ voice.

She’d been the one to label it as such, not him.

“You,” she continued, “were supposed to take this course to prove you had the photog skills necessary to be your own photographer in the field, so as not to 'burden yourself’ and be free to 'report in the moment’. Your final project was so impressive, your instructor went behind your back to a friend in the business and got you a showing. All this is fine and dandy, except you didn’t ACTUALLY get your main subject’s permission, no consent forms were signed, so, essentially, what have we learned from this? You can take great photos but, whoops, you failed the ethics bit, THE ENTIRE POINT of the course, so they won’t even be usable! Great, Clark, really. I’m sure Perry will be impressed!”

“It’s not SO bad, Lois, I just need to find her and ask,” Clark defended.

“Easy as that, huh?” she said skeptically.

He smiled, “Have a little faith.”

“Faith I’ve got,” Lois retorted, turning back to her desk. “You know what else I have? A uterus. I can tell you right now, no woman is going to react well to finding out she was photographed crying in the rain after what looks like the worst break-up in the history of all break-ups. Let me know how it goes.”

“Hi, may I sit down?”

It took Darcy a minute or so to realize she was the one being addressed. She blinked down at her book for a moment, then squinted at the well-worn jeans she could see at her side, finally she looked up. And up. And up. And UP, holy cheese was this guy tall, into a handsome face with big, bright blue eyes and a jawline so chiseled it would give Mount Rushmore a complex.

“Um. Sure,” she said, blinking some more as tall, dark, and handsome gave her a boyish grin and settled across from her. She waited a beat, but he was still looking at her instead of at the tablet in his hand, so she prompted, “Did you need something?”

-Like my number?-

“Uh, actually…”

She braced herself. She knew he was too good to be true.

“This is kind of embarrassing,” he continued, starting to fiddle with his tablet.

Darcy started scoping out an exit path.

“I’m in this photography class - ”

“Let me guess,” she interrupted, scowling, “you need a model, right? And you’re probably about to tell me it’s some sort of life modeling, so, gee, it’ll need to be nude! No thanks, buster, run along.” She flicked her wrist at him dismissively and turned back to her book, trying not to grind her teeth.

“Do people really - you’ve - I’m so sorry - ” he sputtered and, when Darcy looked up, he seemed genuinely distressed on her behalf, almost stricken.

“Yes, people really,” she said shortly. “So if it wasn’t that, what DO you want.”

He went white, then red, and his grip on his tablet tightened. “I - I don’t know that I want to bother you with it anymore - ”

“Sucks to be you, then 'cause now I’m curious. Spit it out, buster, what did you need?”

“Permission,” he said miserably, to use some photos I already HAVE.“ Before Darcy could do more than frown, he shoved the tablet across the table at her, "Here, just, know that I am very sorry, ma'am.”

“Probably not as sorry as you’re GONNA be,” Darcy muttered, reluctantly drawing he tablet closer.

It was open on a folder of photos labeled 'life art - blue’. She started with the first and her shoulders stiffened as she immediately recognized her ex’s place. Ian’s apartment building had been painted a shade of blue so vivid it looked like something out of Greece. As she scrolled further she saw several views of the building, most focusing on the gardens and the birds gathered there, but then there was one with a blurry, out of focus lump of greenish blue on the building doorstep and Darcy sucked in a harsh breath through her teeth as she recognized the pose, the subject, and the circumstances of the photo.

“Oh my god,” she said, flicking through the photos faster and faster as the camera caught in and focused on its new subject, her. It had been a rainy day, she’d been wearing her raincoat which was a sort of tealish blue. She’d also been wearing blue jeans and her favorite violet blue beanie so, really, she could see the appeal if he’d been doing a 'blue’ focus, but he hadn’t stuck with side shots or just her silhouette, no, he’s gone and highlighted the only blue natural to her: her EYES.

The final photos were a study in misery. Darcy was crying in all of them, the silent, endless tears that come after you’ve sobbed out all of your energy but still can’t stop crying. Her face was red but it looked like he’d done some sort of filtering (she glanced up and noted his thickly-rimmed black glasses and plaid shirt, 'Hipster lumberjack,’ she decided, and went back to her perusal) that faded it out a bit. She could admit, in an abstract sort of way, that the photos were kind of… pretty? She didn’t look BAD, for all that she was clearly miserable. He’s managed to make the pictures look dreamy, almost, instead of just flat-out depressing.

“You’re good,” she said after a minute.

“Thank you.”

“Still creepy, but good. So,” she took a fortifying sip of her coffee, “what did you want to use these for?”

“I didn’t,” he blurted. “I mean I already passed the assignment with them, it’s just my instructor took them to a friend of his and now he… wants to do a showing of my work.”

“So tell him you’d be happy to do it, but you’ll have to use other photos since you didn’t get my permission.”

He sighed, then muttered something.

“Sorry, what?”

“It was a journalism photography course,” he said a little louder.

Darcy blinked at that information, then snorted. “Wow, you really screwed the pooch on that one, huh?”

He nodded sheepishly.

Darcy sighed, then flicked through the photos again. “Just showing, not selling?”

“Yes. I mean no! No selling, I promise.”

“In that case, sure, what the hell.”

“Thank you, thank you SO much,” he exclaimed, reaching into his satchel and pulling out a small bundle of papers. He passed them to her and she chuckled at the waiver heading.

“Daily Planet, huh? Neat. So whatcha gonna call it? The show, I mean.”

“Uh, I think they went with 'The Beauty in the Blues.’”

Darcy winced as she flicked through the papers, reading the form (wasn’t a moron, just a sucker for pretty blue eyes and broad shoulders in plaid). “At least they didn’t go all Tswift 'teardrops on my guitar’…”

“'Tswift?’”

“You’re kidding, right? Geez, what planet are you from!” Darcy was looking down, and therefore did not see the eu his eyes widened just the slightest bit at her question.

“Kansas,” he said.

Darcy slid the papers back to him with a solemn nod. “I’m from Iowa. The Midwest is totally its own planet, I feel you.”

Chapter Text

“You have an atrocious singing voice.”

Darcy spun, heart starting up a fast gallop at the sudden speech. “Jesus!” she exclaimed, seeing Creepy McCreeperson, he of the brilliant blue eyes and the unnervingly steady stare. She spared a moment to glare down at Brutus, who was panting happily at her feet and weirdly not bothered by the stranger before him. Great protector. She scowled at Creepy, “Make some noise, next time!”

“Next time?” he asked, smiling faintly.

“It’s a figure of speech. And also, there is nothing wrong with my singing voice, thank you very much, but if it bothers you, you can go to a where that is else.”

“I could, yes,” he agreed amiably, still keeping up that intent stare and the faint smile. “One problem though. You see that house?” He pointed and, sure enough, Darcy could make out a building through all the trees. “I live there.”

She blinked. “And?”

“My family owns this land.”

Darcy tilted her head to one side. “Your family owns the entire forest?”

“Most of it,” he agreed with a smirk.

She squinted at him, “I’ve been walking Brutus here,” she jiggled the leash in one hand, “along this same trail for months, since I came here. Why is it a big deal now?”

“Maybe we haven’t noticed prior to today.”

Darcy snorted. “Really? So you just happen to follow after me almost every single day without noticing? Fat chance.”

Creepy looked surprised briefly before his stare went from lazy and faintly amused to sharp in a fraction of a second.

“Dude. You follow me every day. I mean, usually you keep a minimum of fifty feet between us, so it’s not really bothersome. Creepy, but whatever. Not gonna object to you using the same path as me. Not so long as you cree - do your thing from a distance.”

It was his turn to tilt his head to one side. “Interesting. Regardless, I am going to have to ask you to refrain from walking… ‘Brutus’, was it? Here for the next, say, week or two.”

“Oooookay,” Darcy drawled. “Fine, I’ll switch to the park.” She liked the forest, mostly for the (relative) solitude, but she supposed the local park would be fine. Maybe she’d even grow to prefer it. “Well, okay then, that’s settled. I’d say ‘see you around’ but you did just disinvite me from the entire forest so,” she shrugged and turned to walk away.

“What’s your name?” he called after her.

She flapped a hand at him over her shoulder, but continued walking as she answered: “If you don’t know already, I’m not going to tell you, Creeper,” she muttered that last in an undertone.

He watched the intriguing, annoying girl walk away, then turned back to the house. “Stop laughing,” he called to his sister, who had shamelessly eavesdropped on the entire encounter. “You sound like a hyena.”

“She called you ‘Creepy’ three times, Peter,” Talia chortled. “You’ve got your work cut out for you with that one. I told you you should just introduce yourself!”

Chapter Text

Hardison didn’t usually hit up Eliot’s bakery between jobs. For one thing, he saw enough of Eliot at work - their real work - he didn’t need to see the man at play. For another, the damn place was only open from six in the morning till noon, ungodly hours if you asked him.

Which, Eliot had pointed out when Hardison complained, he hadn’t.

It had been a few months since he’d seen the place, so he wasn’t sure what surpised him more when he pushed the door open and walked in: Eliot, standing behind the counter and fairly vibrating with tension while he glared down at the register, or Parker perched on the glass case beside him.

“Come on now, man,” Hardison cried, “you ‘bout broke my fingers gettin’ my hands away from the glass and I was just pointing, but Parker gets to sit on it? How’s that fair?”

“Shush!” Parker exclaimed.

He spared her a confused look, drawing closer. “What’s going on?”

“Shush,” she said again, more insistently. “She’s almost here.”

“Who - “

The chiming of the bells above the door (Hardison was about 99% sure they were some stolen antique from Parker’s stash, gifted to Eliot as a show of support) interrupted him, and he turned to see a short, stacked brunette entering the bakery. She didn’t look at the counter, or their little cluster at the back of the shop, instead she drifted around the room, inspecting the tables and chairs, the walls and the art.

Hardison turned back to Eliot and Parker with a frown, about to ask what was going on, but the words died in his throat when he saw the looks on his two friends’ faces. The last time he’d seen Parker this excited, she’d been about to do something spectacularly dangerous. Her bright eyes were darting back and forth between the woman and Eliot and, if she’d been anyone besides Parker, he would have expected to start hearing giggles of glee any second. Eliot, on the other hand, looked about as frustrated as Hardison had ever seen him, and that was no small feat. He was staring at the brunette with a scowl on his face, flour-spotted hands clenched into fists at his sides and a nostrils flaring with every deep, very controlled breath.

“The hell,” Hardison muttered, glancing back at the woman.

She’d drifted closer and was now looking at the pastries, still ignoring them. She slowly made her way from the edge of the glass case near the wall, to the center, where they stood. She paused before the sample tray, where mocha-chocolate cheesecake muffins were pieced out into small, bite-sized chunks, and took a deep breath. “Mmmm,” she sighed, eyes sliding shut in pleasure at what she smelled.

Hardison gave serious thought to asking if she needed a cigarette.

She opened her eyes a moment later and finally looked up at them, or - to be more precise - Eliot, for the first time. She didn’t say a word, just gave him a lazy smile, a nod… and then turned and walked right out the door.

“Goddamnit,” Eliot snarled as soon as the door shut behind her. He whirled and punched the doorframe, which creaked very faintly under his abuse, and then stormed back into the kitchen.

“The hell…?” Hardison muttered.

“She’s been coming in every day for weeks,” Parker informed him as she dragged the sample tray off its pedestal and into her lap. She inspected the muffin bites carefully before selecting one and popping it into her mouth. “She never buys anything,” she explained around her mouthful. “Just comes in and smells. Drives Eliot nuts.”

“And you found out about this how?”

“Sophie told me before she left for that thing in the place with the guy. Wanted me to keep an eye on the situation and let her know about any developments.”

“And?” he pressed. “Has anything developed from this? Besides an ulcer for Eliot?”

“Not yet, but it’s just a matter of time. Pot’s only getting bigger.”

“There’s a bet? And you didn’t tell me?!”

“I’m telling you now,” she pointed out. “My money’s on maiming.”

“And Sophie’s?” he asked, grabbing a muffin sample for himself.

“Marrying,” Parker said succinctly.

Hardison choked on his muffin.

Chapter Text

Darcy looked around the room, smiling at the tops of just over a dozen bent heads. She hadn’t thought this arrangement would work but, like with many things, Professor X had been right. Of course, it helped that she had the best, most dedicated students in the world.

She might be a little biased, though.

“Okay guys,” she said, clapping her hands to draw their attention back to her. “Time’s up for today. Remember, I’m here for the rest of the week, so if you have any pressing questions that can’t be communicated via Skype, phone, email - “

“We get it!” a girl with short orange-red hair called, grinning.

“ - telepathy, smoke signal, or howl, thank you Rahne, then make sure you grab me before Sunday, okay?”

They dutifully nodded, then began the mad scramble for the exit. Darcy watched them go with a faint smile, then turned back to pack up her things. Since the course was primarily taught online, she didn’t have many accoutrements to drag along, but she always left the classroom with more than she brought in. Her students were always giving her things. Sage had quietly slipped a souped up iPod charger onto her desk a few days before. Amara had gifted her with a small metal sculpture that twisted in on itself. Today… she smiled down at the brilliant red apple, so perfect looking it seemed almost a shame to eat it. Sam was a sweetheart, and one of her best students.

“Ah, cher, you’re a sight for sore eyes.”

Darcy jumped and spun to face the man now taking up way more metaphorical space than was physically possible. “Lebeau,” she returned evenly in greeting, then finished gathering her things and started for the door, hoping to slip past him.

“Is that all the hello poor Remy gets?” he pouted, lounging against the doorframe and somehow taking up even more space.

Her path blocked, Darcy sighed. “Hello, Lebeau. How nice to see you. It’s been so long. This has been great. We should really catch up sometime. I have to go wash my hair now. See you around,” she delivered her entire brief speech in a flat monotone, keeping her eyes focused somewhere just over his left shoulder. Lebeau was the kind of dramatic that craved a reaction, and Darcy was clinging to the hope that not delivering would, eventually, cause him to lose interest in bothering her.

She had been clinging to said hope for almost two years now, but likely would have given up at this point had she not had the benefit of spending ninety percent of her time away from the Mansion and him. She honestly had no idea why he was so intent on bothering her. His flirting was a touch too aggressive for her to think he wanted to be friends, but he flirted with everyone so she doubted it was at all sincere. She just flat-out didn’t get him.

And, Darcy reminded herself, I don’t want to get him.

Lebeau didn’t respond, but he also didn’t move. Sighing deeply, Darcy finally made eye contact, struck once again by the exotic beauty of his red and black eyes. He was gorgeous all over, really - and Darcy knew gorgeous. She spent ninety percent of her time surrounded by the buff, beautiful, and superheroic, and Lebeau could easily hold his own in all three categories.

Finally he sighed and straightened up a little, just enough that Darcy could squeeze by but not so much that she was not forced to brush close by as she passed through the door. Darcy very firmly ignored the part of her brain that noted that he was pleasantly firm in all the best ways.

“Your students, they miss you when you’re gone,” he said, falling into step with her as she walked down the hallway. “They always give you these things when you return?”

“Not always,” she said.

“My students, they give me smiles, I do not get apples,” he said, sounding sad.

Darcy debated for a moment before holding out her hand in his direction, not looking at him or stopping. After a moment she felt his fingers curl down the length of her palm as he took the offered apple, sending a rush of tingles up her arm to her brain.

UNNECESSARY TOUCHING, she shouted in her head. SERIOUSLY, WHY THE FLIRT? Darcy kept her frustration to herself for five more steps, then nearly jumped when the apple was returned, minus one bite. She stopped then, looking from the apple in Lebeau’s outstretched hand to his face and back again. Gingerly (and WITHOUT touching him) she took the apple and lifted it to her lips for a small bite.

By chance, she happened to make eye contact with him just as her lips touched the fruit. He was watching her intently and, for the first time, Darcy understood why some had likened his eyes to hellfire because they were certainly burning at the moment.

The apple was crisp, riding the perfect line between sweet and tart. She licked her lips to catch the juice and tried desperately to suppress a blush as Lebeau’s seemed to flare brighter as he leaned closer. She held out her hand with the apple in it to halt him.

He took it gently, this time his fingers brushed over her pulse. He kept his eyes locked with hers as he lifted the apple to his mouth, turning it so he could bite over the same spot that she had.

Darcy knew her face was probably nearing the same shade of red as his eyes.

He slowly drew his thumb along his lower lip to catch some stray juice and Darcy felt her breath stutter in her chest. “Merci, cher,” he said, voice husky.

“Y-you’re welcome, Leb - “ she cut off with a squeak as he pressed the index finger of his free hand to her lips.

“Remy,” he corrected, stepping closer. “First names, much more polite, no?”

Darcy did not want to call him by his first name. Darcy wanted the formal distance of his last name. Darcy wanted him to move. Darcy wanted to be fifty miles away and five feet under some cold water, maybe that would be enough to cool the heat he seemed to be kindling with his bright eyes and warm hands.

He took another small step closer and dropped his hand, watching her expectantly. Standing so close, face tilted down towards hers, he was all she could see, and Darcy was feeling rather overwhelmed.

She didn’t think he was going to let go of this, so she cleared her throat. “Remy,” she said and oh fuck, crap, shit, his name came out on a breathy sigh and the flames in the Cajun’s eyes flared even brighter. “Hair!” Darcy burst out, jumping back. “I was going to wash it! Now! I’ll talk to you later bye now Remy,” she said, backing away slowly.

He matched her step-for-step, free hand darting out again to twist a lock of hair between his fingers. He tugged gently, halting her, leaned down and took a deep breath. “Y’smell sweet enough to Remy, cher.” He wound her hair around his wrist, tilting her head back.

“Remy…” she said. It seemed that now that she’d used his first name she couldn’t stop. “I - “

“But I wonder, how do you taste?” He leaned down the scant few inches remaining between them and covered her lips with his.

Chapter Text

“Hey! Darcy!”

She froze, spine stiffening at the sound of that voice. Sighing, she pasted a smile on her face and turned to greet - “Dr. Petunia.”

“Please,” he said, smiling brightly as he came up beside her, “call me Jake!”

“Jake,” she amended. “So…”

“We’ve got some new kittens,” he told her excitedly. “Poo - uh, Jones, Jones brought them in the other day. He found them under an overpass. Can you believe people? Anyways, we’re looking for homes for them, do you - “

Darcy sighed. “Dr. - “

“Jake!”

“Jake, everyone I know who is willing to own a cat currently owns at least one cat. At least half of them are kittens that you tried to foist off on me. I like cats, really, but I have told you - I can’t have any more pets. Thor is trouble enough and, really, I can only keep Jane because my landlord is willing to turn a blind eye.”

“He is surprisingly lenient for a guy named Fury,” Jake said thoughtfully.

“So,” she continued, “if all you wanted to talk about was kittens…?” She trailed off, trying not to look hopeful as she waited for his response. Jake Petunia was hot, nice, and a friend to animals. If he had given her even the slightest indication that he was interested - and she was looking for something a bit more concrete than “please adopt some kittens” - she would have jumped him in a hot second.

He faltered under her gaze, a dark look passing over his features for a moment before he shook his head, pasting that stupidly attractive smile back on. “Nope,” he said cheerfully, sticking his hands in his pockets. “Just kittens. Sorry, Darcy, I’ll let you get back to your shopping.”

She nodded, trying not to let her disappointment show. “Right, well. See you around, Jake.”

Jake watched Darcy go with a wistful look on his face, too used to the other man to jump (much) when Cougar suddenly appeared beside him.

“Stupido,” Cougar muttered, reaching up and lightly cuffing the blond’s head.

“Gotta agree with Cougs,” Pooch said, sidling up on Jake’s other side. “That girl is almost as beautiful as Jolene, not crazy, and somehow finds your particular brand of weirdness endearing.”

“But Max,” he objected.

“We’ll get him,” Pooch said, “but you gotta live your life in the meantime, or else it’s not worth fighting for. Go on, man, remind yourself why this world’s worth saving.”

Jake looked to Cougar, who gave him a single nod. “Hold my fruit,” he said, shoving his half-full basket into Pooch’s hands, “I’ve got a date to make!”

Chapter Text

Darcy glared at the gray hand being held out in her general direction. “It’s not even a very large city, like Orlais was, or even Redcliffe,” she pointed out. “It’s a town! One you’ve already cleaned up! There are no more Templars or scary demon things!”

“That we know of,” The Iron Bull pointed out, continuing to hold out his hand.

“C’mon, Darcy, just take his hand. You know the Chief’s as stubborn as a…” Krem coughed, rubbing the back of his neck and looking pained at the almost-pun. “The Chief is stubborn,” he finished.

She folded her arms and glared up at the Iron Bull. “This is ridiculous, I can take care of myself, I don’t know why you’re so - “

Cole chose that moment to pop up beside Darcy, grabbing both her hands and pulling her close to him so he could whisper in her ear, “Blue-green light flashing and then she’s gone and maybe she won’t be back this time can’t let go, it hurts but I can’t stop it, can’t stand this helplessness - “

“Oh,” she breathed, looking past the spirit’s shoulder to Bull with wide eyes.

“What? What did he say? He did that thing, didn’t he? Damnit, Cole, you know I hate that freaky demon shit!”

Chapter Text

Darcy walked in the door just in time to get hit in the face with a wadded up ball of paper. “See,” she said, catching it as it fell, “this is why you should start living in this century and just write on a tablet like a normal person!”

“This century is overrated,” Bones grumbled on automatic before his good ol’ country politeness reared up. “Sorry about the paper,” he said sheepishly, “I wasn’t expecting you.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “What time is it?” she asked him slowly.

Bones blinked twice, very visibly steeling himself before he looked over at the clock and winced. “I missed dinner?”

“And lunch. And that thing at Chapel’s. Have you eaten anything today?”

“I, ah - “

Darcy sighed and began picking her way across the room, bypassing numerous piles of paper and assorted discarded coffee receptacles. “You know, for someone so good at taking care of others, you sure suck at taking care of yourself. You’re a human, not a rock: you need food! Water! Sunlight! Human company!”

“When I finish this chapter,” he said, tunneling one hand through his hair distractedly. “I’m - it’s just so - “

“Nope,” she said, snatching up his pen. “You’re going to shower, eat, and sleep. Then, maybe - just maybe, I’ll consider letting you write.”

“Letting me, huh?” he asked, quirking a brow.

“Yeah,” she sneered playfully, “letting.”

Bones sighed deeply, then rose and headed for the bathroom, stripping his shirt as he went: grumbling the whole way.

Darcy waited till the door shut behind him before letting her breath whoosh out as she slumped into his recently vacated seat. Even disheveled, ill-tempered, and sleep-deprived, Bones was sexy to her. She had a problem, and it was shaped like six-foot-something of southern charm.

Chapter Text

Darcy had seen a lot of things in her time on the squad but she didn’t think she’d ever get over the idiocy of college kids, or their impressive ability for wanton destruction and mayhem.

“You realize,” Bernie pointed out idly when she said as much to him, “that you’ve only been out of school for a year, right? You’re barely out of college.”

“Semantics,” she said, flapping a hand at him. “I am an old soul.”

“Right.”

“Seriously, though,” she said, looking around the building. “We’re in a freaking aquarium. How? HOW?!”

“It’s not exactly a mystery,” Bernie said, the bulky padding of his yellow fire uniform making it difficult - though not impossible - for her to see when he shrugged. “Kids acting dumb, piss off the wrong person, who turns out to be a supervillain in disguise, supers get pulled in and mayhem results. You could always ask the college kids how it all started. Pretty sure they stuck around, even after the supers took off. You could ask if you wanted.”

“I think I will,” Darcy decided. So saying, she started heading back towards the door. The fire had been out by the time they’d arrived. Hothead, one of the city’s newest supers, had been quite the boon to the local fire departments… when he wasn’t starting the fires, that was.

She blinked up at the bright sun as she emerged from the building. It was the work of a moment to sort out the ‘culprits’ from her crew. The cluster of college-aged kids was pretty obvious against the backdrop of red trucks and yellow uniforms.

“You,” she said, starting toward them and addressing the closest, a brunet boy with floppy hair, “how did this all start?”

“Well, I - “ he stuttered, looking alarmed. He glanced sideways to a girl Darcy could only assume was his significant other, based on the way their hands were entwined.

“We were just minding out own business,” the redhead said, easily jumping in. “We noticed something was a little off with one of the patrons - “

“What was off, exactly?”

“She was muttering to herself and cackling. Loudly,” a gothy-looking girl interjected. She looked bored with the proceedings.

“And who noticed?” Darcy asked.

“Well, Warren did,” the redhead said, tilting her head in the direction of another boy… actually, boy didn’t really work for this one.

Of the entire group, he was clearly the oldest, and he looked it. He had made that transition from boy to man and Darcy very firmly reminded herself of her professionalism when she turned her gaze to him and was met with gorgeous brown eyes. Eyes that were oddly familiar…

“Do I know you?” Darcy asked suspiciously.

“No,” he said flatly.

“Warren,” the redhead hissed. “Be nice!”

‘Warren’ shot the girl a dark look, then turned back to Darcy. “I was standing by the clown fish, that’s why I noticed the villain.”

“Right, and the fire started… how, exactly?” Was it her imagination, or was he starting to blush?

“The fire didn’t start until Hothead showed up,” he said, every word sounding like it was being dragged out of him.

Darcy sighed, “Figures. Can’t decide if I love the guy or hate him.”

“Oh?” the redheaded girl asked, eyes sparkling. “You’ve met him?”

“Hothead shows up at most fire events. He’s a pretty handy guy to have around when he’s not the one causing the fires,” Darcy explained.

“It’s not like he’s going around causing destruction for fun,” Warren said, scowling at her.

“No,” she said, drawing the word out, “I know that, but it’d be nice if he was a little more circumspect with his fireballs. I haven’t had a quiet Saturday in almost a month. The guy needs another hobby. Or a girlfriend, assuming he doesn’t have one.”

“He doesn’t,” the redhead said quickly.

Darcy frowned at her.

“Or so I’ve heard! But that’s a good idea. The dating one. On a completely unrelated note, do you happen to have a significant other you wish you were spending your Saturdays with?”

“Um…”

Warren made a soft sound that Darcy was tempted to term a growl.

Chapter Text

Dyson stared down with alarm at the woman sprawled out in front of his motorcycle. She had darted out just as he was pulling into the space near Trick’s, coming at an angle so that he hadn’t seen her until just it was too late. He had managed to turn so that he only clipped her with his elbow instead of hitting her head-on, but it had still been enough force to send her to the ground.

“Dude,” she said, staring up at him wide-eyed, “you hit me!”

“Grazed,” Dyson corrected. “Barely.”

“Dude,” she said again, this time the disapproval was thick in her tone. “That is not okay. You need to watch where you’re going.”

“I - ” he started, indignant, but was cut off by a shrilly squealed -

“Darcy!” Kenzi came charging down the street, not even pausing before she threw herself onto the woman on the ground. “You’re here!” she shrieked before burying her face against the other woman’s neck, causing whatever she said next to be muffled.

“Kenz. Kenz, get off!” ‘Darcy’ commanded, voice sharp but eyes lit up with happiness. Dyson couldn’t help but notice that she had a lovely face. She rolled the (slightly) smaller woman off of her and sat up. “Good to see you too, but remember that not all your friends are immortal super healing sex beings, ‘kay? I just got hit by a car.”

“It’s a motorcycle,” Dyson growled, “and I barely - ”

“You hit Darcy?” Kenzi said, rolling onto her back to look up at him. If he hadn’t known better, he’d have thought she looked impressed. “Whoa, D, I’m almost hurt, you didn’t try and kill me for months.”

Dyson blinked down at the two of them, mouth opening and closing for a few moments before he shook his head, wheeled his motorcycle up to the curb, and prepared to ditch them for the Dal. He was not drunk enough to deal with Kenzi’s particular brand of madness after the day he had had and her friend looked to be of a similar bent.

“This is that D?” Darcy asked. She gave him a look that started at his boots and ended when she made eye contact. “Huh,” she said appreciatively.

“Oh no,” Kenzi said. “No, no, no, no, no, I know that sound, D.C.”

“I’ve been struck!” Darcy said dramatically, shooting Dyson a wink.

“Bananaballs,” Kenzi groaned, flopping down on the pavement.

“Struck by Cupid’s motorcycle!”

Dyson was definitely not drunk enough for this.

Chapter Text

Darcy kind of regretted her decision to study abroad. It had been much more difficult to make friends than she had expected it would be. She had, truth be told, chosen to apply for the program in the hopes that it would force her out of her shell, but… really, it had only turned her into more of a recluse. She’d even overheard some of her schoolmates talking about her, how disappointed they were that she was nothing like they’d seen on the telly. So quiet, so boring. Nice, but boring.

At least I’m nice, Darcy thought to herself. Better than ‘that creepy girl who sits in the corner.’ Which was more of what she’d gotten in America. She was improving a bit, she supposed. Just not enough to make any real connections.

Which was, ultimately, why she was here, at the bakeshop on Saturday morning doing her homework. It was a nice place, quiet and homey, with friendly proprietors who never bothered her (mostly because she ordered tea and scones on a regular basis). Perfect for homework… and people watching. Darcy had to admit, though, that it was a very specific ‘people’ that she came to watch.

Which made her sound like some kind of stalker.

Ugh.

She couldn’t help it, though, they all seemed so nice.

Every Saturday, a group of seven kids descended on the park to read and play and generally hang about. They were related, judging by the fact that the majority had red hair and similar features, and ranged in age from a young man who was perhaps a little older than Darcy to a pair of little girls (one of which was blonde, the only non-ginger in the bunch) who couldn’t have been more than eight.

Darcy liked to watch them, even if she felt like a total creeper for doing so. She liked watching the two little girls waking about hand in hand, the redhead usually leading the blonde around until the blonde dragged her more animated friend down on the ground to stare up at the sky. She liked watching the twin boys alternate bounce between playing with their younger brother and teasing their elder (who always brought books to the park, even if his siblings only allowed him to pull them out about half the time). She liked watching the oldest, and the way he looked after them all. She liked their family, and it made her wistful, because watching them was the best argument against having a single child that she’d ever seen.

Sometimes, when she was feeling particularly lonely, she wondered what it would be like to be a part of that family. She could never decide exactly where she might fit in. Darcy wanted to watch clouds with the youngest girls, play pranks with the middle brothers, and sit with the oldest. She felt an inordinate amount of affection for them all, considering she’d never even spoken to any of them.

Of course, Darcy, being a lonely sixteen year old girl and rather caught up in her own head, would never have guessed that while she was watching them, one or two of them might have been watching her back.

“She’s doing it again, Fred,” one twin said to the other.

“I noticed, George,” said the second. “But is she watching us, or is she watching Bill?”

“I think - ”

“What’re you on about?” Ron asked, plopping down beside his brothers.

The twins exchanged a look, shrugged, then said, “The muggle girl - ”

“The one in the shop - ”

“She’s always watching - ”

“But - ”

“We’re not sure who,” they ended together, turning from their brother back to their study of the interesting Muggle as soon they’d finished.

“Oh, well that’s easy,” Ron said. “She watches all of us.”

Fred - or it might have been George - wrinkled his nose. “What, really?”

Ron nodded, too young to catch the implication. “I think she’s lonely.”

The twins, having never been alone in their entire lives if either could help it, frowned at this. “Oi, Bill,” George - though it may have been Fred - called out. “Fancy a spot of tea?”

Chapter Text

Darcy sat in the car and pulled out her phone rather than watch Jane watch the sky. The big weird glowy light thing had disappeared about five minutes ago, and now Jane was just… waiting. Erik was doing something sciencey on the ground with the big circular glyph that had appeared when the Asgardians disappeared. The Agent (and there was no way he wasn’t an Agent with a capital ‘A’) was on the phone with his Superior, hopefully organizing the return of their stuff.

Darcy quickly pulled up her recent messages, trying to figure out how to word her latest escapade. ‘So I may have done something a bit dangerous.’

Almost immediately, her phone made a soft ‘beep.’

‘What did you do, Darcy?’

‘Technically I didn’t do it. I just reacted to something someone else did.’

‘Darcy.’

‘I may have been involved in an incident that may or may not appear on the news in New Mexico. Maybe. It depends on the cover up.’

There was a brief pause, then:

‘Are you injured?’

She bit her lip to stifle a smile, feeling a bubble of warmth at his concern, as always. ‘Bumps and bruises, doc. Nothing time and ice cream won’t fix.’

“Who are you texting?”

Darcy jumped and shrieked at the appearance of Agent at her elbow. “My doctor,” she blurted, then winced. Her phone beeped, but she ignored it.

The Agent didn’t even blink. “A psychiatrist?”

“No.” She decided not to address the fact that he immediately jumped to that kind of doctor. “I’m texting my old Pediatrcian.”

The Agent raised a single brow.

“We’re friends. Kind of. I was like, seventeen when he joined the practice and he was fresh outta med school. He got kind of sick of treating me for sprains and broken bones and stuff.”

The Agent’s second brow rose to join the first.

“I am accident prone,” Darcy enunciated as her phone beeped two more times in rapid succession. “Trust me, he checked on the abuse angle, he’s super protective.”

“And you’re friends,” the Agent didn’t quite ask.

“Yeah.” The phone beeped again, but she didn’t take her eyes off the Agent, half-convinced he was about to take her phone away just like he’d taken her iPod. Another beep, then a buzz as her phone lit up with a call from ‘Sawbones Sam.’

“You’d better get that,” the Agent said, offering her a small nod.

Darcy frowned after him, then slowly lifted the phone to her ear. “Hey,” she greeted, trying to project a smile into her voice.

“Are you all right?” Samuel Cornick, her former doctor and current overprotective texting buddy, demanded.

“Pft, I’m fine. I didn’t even break a bone.”

“Are you bleeding?” he pressed.

“Only internally,” she joked.

“Darcy,” he practically growled.

“Relax, Sam, I’m fine. Scout’s honor.”

He snorted, “You were never a scout.”

“Oh yeah? I’m giving you a salute right now. Guess how many fingers?”

Sam made a soft huffing noise that was as close to a laugh as she ever got out of him. “So, what happened?”

Darcy eyed the Agent standing a few feet away, giving her privacy but not too much privacy. “I… don’t think I can tell you that, Sam. Pretty sure they’re gonna make me sign a shitload of nondisclosures before they let me go?”

“Nondisclosures?” he asked, the growl coming back. “Who’s ‘they’?”

She hummed a few bars of the theme song to ‘Men in Black,’ then said, “There are more things in heaven, Horatio…”

“Darcy…” Sam started, sounding worried.

“Text you later,” she promised. “Gotta go for now, though.”

He sighed, clearly not happy. “You’d better, or I will track you down, Darcy Lewis, and check on you in person.”

Chapter Text

Darcy jolted a little in her seat as the table shifted. She lowered her book to narrow her eyes at the person who had chosen to sit across from her, but was distracted from her annoyance by the engaging grin being thrown her way. The man who had settled across from her had an open, friendly face, warm green eyes and a bright smile.

“Hello,” she said slowly, pointedly eyeing all of the empty tables around her.

He didn’t seem to notice. “Hi,” he said happily. “So, you like dinosaurs?”

Darcy lowered her book, a battered copy of Malcolm’s ‘Chaos and Creation: the Doom of Man.’ “Those things at the park,” she gestured with her book, “are not real dinosaurs.”

If anything, the stranger’s grin got bigger. “Really?”

“Well, no,” she said, actually setting her book down. “I mean, they’re hybrids, right? They had to fiddle with their genes to get all the missing bits patched, and then they threw in some extra stuff to make sure that critters that were wildly outside their natural habitats, temporal zones, and ecosystems, could survive. They’re related to dinosaurs, but they’re like the weird kooky step-cousin-slash-awkward relative everyone knows is somehow connected to the family but nobody wants to invite to the reunion.”

“So you think Jurassic World…?”

Darcy bit her lip. “Well…” she hedged.

“Come on,” he cajoled. “Be honest.”

“I think it’s all going to go horribly wrong, but I would really love to see those things before they inevitably break free, rampage, and possibly irreparably damage the bioengineering fields with bad publicity,” she admitted.

He nodded, putting on a serious face, “Completely understandable.”

“What about you, you like dinosaurs?” she asked, slightly more predisposed to like him since he hadn’t judged her or called her out for her hypocritical - in her eyes, at least - opinions.

“Me?” He grinned at her, “Well, lemme introduce myself: my name’s Owen, and I work at the park, so… yeah, you might say I like them.”

Darcy took a second to process that, then asked, “If I buy you coffee, would you be willing to tell me all about your job and how much like the original park the new one is?”

Owen tilted his head to one side, making a considering face. “If I let you buy me coffee, will you let me take you out for dinner tonight?”

She blinked, startled, then narrowed her eyes at him. “Do you use your job to pick up women very often?”

He narrowed his eyes right back, “Do you think I run into beautiful women reading books about theoretical philosophy and dinosaurs very often?”

Darcy felt a flush creeping up her neck and into her cheeks. Judging by the delighted look on Owen’s face, he hadn’t missed it either. “I - well… ahem. In that case, how do you like your coffee?”

Chapter Text

Darcy did not know what Klaus Michaelson’s problem was, but she knew what it was going to be: serious dental work if he didn’t stop grinding his teeth every time she went within five feet of his person. She had no clue what his issue was with her, but she knew that A) it was definitely her and B) it was definitely NOT just in her head because the Michaelson siblings had noticed.

Boyhowdy had they fucking noticed.

She was used to being gal Friday for Kol, it was what she’d signed up for with this internship, after all. The dude might be fucking nuts, but he was a genius photographer and she was eager to learn as much as she could. Granted, she had about as much interest in his usual models as a baby had for theoretical physics, but the dude could take a wicked photo - and that was with (what Darcy considered) shit subjects. What he could do with a real subject could make baby angels weep.

Real subjects like, for instance, his siblings - all of the stupidly gorgeous, genetically superior bastards. It was unfortunate that Klaus, the most stupidly gorgeous and superior of them all, had decided to take such a strong (and strange) dislike to her. He was pretty awesome in his own way, the jack-of-all-trades of the family, he’d dabbled in each of the disciplines his siblings made their own and was equally as excellent in them all.

But seriously though, she didn’t know WHAT his damage was. Why such a mad-on, and why for her specifically?

“Darcy,” Kol called, “coffee for me. And the models.”

She nodded reflexively and stifled a wince. Today’s ‘models’ were Bekah and Klaus and Darcy just KNEW that Bekah was in on whatever-it-was that made Klaus twitch like a junkie and glare like a repressed Republican at a Pride Parade whenever she went near him. Ugh.

Darcy darted off to raid Kol’s “special stash” of coffees rather than brave the “plebe” table. The irrational ire of one Michaelson sibling was more than enough, she had no desire to risk offending her boss or his clothing-designer sister if at all possible.

“Darcy, is it?” Bekah all but purred when Darcy handed her her coffee. “Wherever did Kol find you?” she asked, humming appreciatively after her first sip of her drink. “You’re far more competent than his last assistant, what was her name? Vana, Verity, no - Vicki!”

“Technically, I’m an intern, not an assistant,” Darcy said, pasting a smile on her face.

“Really?” Bekah arched a brow. “You’re not even being paid?”

“Just in experience.”

“Hmm… perhaps I shall have to steal you away,” she said, eyeing Darcy in a way that made the brunette feel oddly naked. “I have a few designs that would look simply ravishing on you - “

“Whoa, whoa, here to learn to take pictures, not to have pictures taken of me.”

“The best understanding of the camera comes of being on both sides of it,” Bekah said, beginning a slow circle of Darcy. “I think - yes. Klaus, the black from my new Decadence line?”

Klaus scowled and - yup, there went those jaw muscles - “Absolutely not, Bekah, leave the poor girl alone.”

“The ‘poor girl’ would be far less poor once I was done with her,” Bekah said, grinning toothily.

Darcy perked a little at that, she did have loans after all. “This Decadence line, it’s… what, ball gowns?” Bekah was known for her lush collections, a bit of a return to Old Hollywood Glamour.

“Oh no, dear, lingerie - and I’m certain you could set the collection off to perfection. Can’t you picture it, Klaus?” Bekah asked, circling behind Darcy and twisting a handful of the shorter woman’s hair in one hand to mime an updo. She used her other hand to pull one of Darcy’s shoulders back, poking and prodding her until she was posed as Bekah wanted.

Darcy would have objected, but she’d grown inured to Michaelson weirdness after the second week on the job (Kol was the end-all and be-all of odd, and the less said about his food choices, interview questions, and late night phone calls, the better). She sighed and waited for Klaus to offer a verdict, expecting something scathing, but then -

“Picture it,” Bekah demanded. “The black lace, those old antique golden lamps… Doesn’t Darcy have lovely skin?”

Darcy could practically SEE the artist in him engage and begin to consider his sister’s words. She watched Klaus’s eyes glaze over and turn dark and then… his jaw worked silently for a moment before he nodded. “I can picture it,” he said, voice gone low and a bit rough.

“I know we talked about you doing the shoot for it, but I’m sure Kol would - “

“I said I would do it,” Klaus interrupted.

“Yes, you did,” Bekah agreed, a world of satisfaction in her tone.

“Um,” Darcy interjected, “that’s great and all, but I never said I’d do it.”

Bekah scoffed, “Why wouldn’t you? We will pay you of course, and Klaus is a genius. An arse, but a genius. Wouldn’t you like to see him work?”

Darcy thought that over. It was true that it would be great to see how another (arguably more sane) Michaelson photographer did his thing, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was an entire other conversation going on on a level she wasn’t privy to. Something between Klaus and Bekah that directly involved her.

“I…”

“Say yes, Darcy.”

What did she have to lose? “Sure,” Darcy sighed, “I guess your people can call my people.”

Chapter Text

Darcy had not been one of those poor souls (mostly Omegas and Alphas, a few Betas) who had had to seclude themselves during finals time in college. She didn’t quite want to say she prided herself on not Throwing Scent, mostly because that was kind of a dicky attitude to have. It wasn’t as if people could help how their bodies worked. Still, having a low threshold was a pain in the ass. She would never forget the sight of her sophomore roommate, Juniper, dousing herself in body spray and scent neutralizer in order to get a few uninterrupted hours of library time.

“My body might think I need Recalibrating, but my brain knows I need to study,” she would insist stubbornly. “Do you have any idea how fucking hard it is to cram when you’ve got half a Circle purring at you?”

Darcy had not envied Juniper the added stress of worrying about being too stressed, but she would admit to a smidge of curiosity about the utter contentment Juniper radiated after a Recalibration.

Still, it wasn’t in her nature to be a worrier, and she wasn’t really predisposed to Throw, so she doubted she’d ever experience it. So when the AI she’d been introduced to barely an hour before let out a soft ahem and let her know there was someone at her door (The door to her suite. In Avengers Tower. Where she now lived. What even.) she was not expecting what she found.

“Hi,” the short (relatively, dude was at least four inches taller than her), stocky Alpha said, a smile on his lips and his pupils blown wide. “I’m Clint, it’s nice to meet you, wanna come with me?”

The thing that threw Darcy for a moment was that it was actually a question. She was used to college Dynamics, which were, she supposed, a bit more primitive since people were figuring themselves out. It wasn’t something she’d had to put much thought into the last few years while following Jane around.

“I - no?” she said, confused.

He cocked his head to one side, and this time Darcy noticed (later she would realize it was because he let her notice) his nostrils flare as he took in her scent. Or, more accurately, Scent. “I’m asking,” he said slowly, “but as soon as your scent gets out of the corridor, you’re gonna have others coming and not everybody in the Tower has a full Circle.”

Darcy blanched at that: she’d take a full Circle over a loner any day. “Can I - can I grab a bag?” she asked, rapidly running through everything Juniper had ever told her about Recalibration. She could use her iPod, probably, maybe a magazine. Food would be taken care of, so would any necessary blankets and such.

“Sure,” he said, and something about the set of his shoulders seemed to relax a touch at the promise of her acquiescence. “I’ll just wait here, yeah?”

She nodded and darted back into her apartment, grabbing her whole purse rather than worrying overmuch about the contents. She knew the basics were there, at least. She strapped it over her chest and turned to the Alpha, Clint, and gave him a sharp nod. “Ready.”

He nodded back, looking amused, and headed down the hall towards the elevator. She gamely followed him onto the elevator, texting Jane as she went: Am apparently stressed enough to Throw Scent, am being kidnapped by Alpha named Clint. Send help if no word heard within an hour.

U ok?

Is Clint good people?

Ya

Is his Circle good people?

Thor says ya

Then I should be fine, right?

Jane sent her a thumbs up.

Clint shifted, drawing her attention. “Almost there.”

“Where are we going?”

He grinned, “You’ll see.”

The elevator doors opened to a whole lot of silver and white, which Darcy quickly recognized as - “A lab?”

Clint smirked and headed past her towards a door that looked distinctly scifi and techy. “J, let us - “ the door opened before he could even finish his thought. “Thanks, J. Yo,” he called as he strode through the doors, “we got a live one! You’re up.”

Darcy cautiously entered the room to find two brunet men blinking up at Clint (and then her) with matching dazed expressions that she recognized as variations on Jane’s SCIENCE face. She took a deep breath and got a whiff of Omega, a scent that always made her think of smooth cloth and soft cellos. The one closer to the door sported a goatee and goggles, which he pushed up to -

Holy fucking shitballs.

“Why is there Scent in my lab?” Tony Stark asked, looking confused. “I’m not running test on Scenting this week, I thought that was you, Brucie.”

The second brunet, Bruce Banner was taking deep, even breaths and looking exasperated. “I told you about this last week, Tony, we’re - “

“Wait, waitwaitwaitwait, are we a Circle? Official and everything?!”

“Multiple Omegas living in harmony with a collection of Alphas and Betas… yes, we do kind of fit the definition,” Bruce said after a moment, not looking particularly happy with the prospect.

Clint was sporting a shit-eatting grin. “You mean you didn’t realize?”

Tony looked torn between pleased and annoyed. “No, wait, who’s - “

“Nat, me, you, Bruce, probably everyone - eventually.”

“And this - “ Tony made an oblique gesture in Darcy’s general direction and she fought the urge to make herself smaller because this was Tony Fucking Stark’s Omega Circle that she’d just been brought to and what even was her life?!

“This is Darcy, Dr. Foster’s assistant - “

She gave a brief wave, trying not to look as nervous as she felt. Or Smelled.

“She’s like. A test run,” Tony said thoughtfully, stroking his goatee and leaving behind three streaks of something black and shiny. It made him slightly less intimidating. Slightly. “Alright then,” he said, seeming to come to a decision, “get over here.” He set down his own tools and dragged two chairs over to Bruce’s station, sitting backwards on one and pointing her towards the second. Darcy slowly made her way over and settled in, trying not to feel like a bug under a microscope. Bruce sighed but, after a kick to his ankle from Tony, grabbed his own chair and sat.

Clint hoisted himself up to sit cross-legged on an empty lab table, watching them all with calm (though still much darker than normal) eyes.

“So,” Tony chirped, “what seems to be the trouble?”

Darcy stared at him. “Um.”

“Your Scent is quite strong,” Bruce said, slightly more diplomatically. “Is this normal for you?” he asked, his air of detached and somewhat doctorly concern made Darcy settle a little.

“Not really,” she admitted, tucking some hair behind her ear. “I think the last time I was like, eight?”

Clint shifted at that. “You didn’t at Puente Antiguo? Or London?”

“No.”

“Damn,” he said, eyebrows raised.

“You’re that Darcy,” Tony said, making an ‘ah-ha’ noise. “Wait, so you can get through alien invasions - multiple, I really mean that ‘s’ - but moving into my Tower - “ Bruce coughed, “Avengers Tower, as sponsored by Pepper Potts, makes you Throw? Huh. I’m not sure whether to be offended or flattered. Don’t worry, we don’t bite.”

“Speak for yourself,” Clint said.

“Hush, you. But really, what’s the trouble?”

Darcy stared at him, not really sure where to even start -

“It’s either talk to us or cuddle it out with Legolas,” Tony interrupted her thought process. “Your call, kid.”

“Talking is fine! Really!” she assured them all. She was nowhere near a Fugue and had no desire to be cuddled into calmness by Clint. Well. She surreptitiously eyed his biceps out of her peripherals: she was fine with cuddling, but maybe not in that particular context.

“Would it help if we - “ Bruce made a vague gesture with his hand.

Darcy considered and then nodded, watching him as he moved slowly over towards her and lifted a hand to rest against the back of her neck. She felt a wave of calm sweep over her instantly as his scent closed around her like a blanket, muffling her anxiety. She took a deep breath and then let it all just… spill out:

“I’m terrified. I never thought I’d be following Jane for this long and I mean I love Jane, really, she’s family at this point and I’d follow her wherever she wanted but I never expected HERE and I just. She doesn’t really need me. I know she wants me here but she doesn’t need me and I don’t - I don’t need to be needed but I need to be useful but what use am I here? I’m a polisci grad with more practical experience with crazy machines with very specific and limited functions than with my actual degree so what am I even qualified to do in this city besides bum off of my brilliant friend? And I don’t want to do that but I also don’t want to leave her so where… where does that leave me?”

All three men were now staring at her, which did not exactly make her feel better.

“First, and most importantly… was that all in one breath? Kudos, kid, great control. Really, that was impressive. If all else fails, you may have a career in deep sea diving. The kind they do without machines, although I’m betting I could build something that - not the point.”

“Nowhere even close to the point,” Clint muttered.

“Hush, you,” Tony chided.

“What do you want to do?” Bruce asked.

“I don’t - “ she shrugged helplessly.

He curled his fingers over the curve of her spine, more a pet than a caress. “Yes, you do,” he said calmly. “You can tell us, this is a safe space.”

“Minimal judging,” Tony chimed in.

Clint sighed in exasperation, but it all was making Darcy feel better in an odd sort of way. She laughed a little.

“I guess,” she said, “if I could do anything, I’d want to keep working with Jane but… I want to be more useful? I want to be better at it. Coding and shit. I’m a decent hacker, but building code and breaking it’s not all the same so. Yeah.”

“You don’t want to do anything with your degree?”

Darcy rolled her eyes extravagantly, “I have a tumblr and a two blogs, I do fuckloads with my degree.”

Tony looked like he had something to say to that but Bruce spoke first:

“Feeling better?”

She took stock and, “Yeah, actually. Wow.”

“You sure?” Clint asked, a teasing smile on his face though his eyes still had that intense Alpha-defending-Circle focus.

Darcy shrugged, “I could probably use a hug.”

He was across the room and wrapping himself around her in barely a heartbeat. Darcy held herself stiffly for a moment, then relaxed into it and started smiling when he legit started purring. It was every bit as awesome as Juniper had made it look: like two shots of good whiskey, a hot shower, and a belly full of comfort food all combined.

“Aw… that’s adorable. And disturbing. We’re a Circle, Bruce - do you know what this means?”

Darcy heard Bruce sigh deeply, sounding very tired. “More than you do.”

“Buck up, Green, we haven’t fucked up too badly yet. And she’d kinda cute, in a do-gooder, achieving sort of way. Can we keep her?”

“Ask Pepper. And Jane.”

Chapter Text

Darcy attributed a lot of her liberal views, her love of justice, and her distrust of the government to growing up the child of two prominent Second Wave Omegaists. She attributed a lot of her insecurities to the fact that she bucked all expectations and trends and Presented as an Alpha.

It was hard to feel really loved by your parents when you knew there was this thing, this incontrovertible fact of your existence, that they really DIDN’T like.

It didn’t help that Darcy grew up to look like a fetish model. There was quite the market for porn featuring Alphas who looked like walking Omega stereotypes, and Darcy had inherited both her carrier’s lush figure and her sire’s expressive face.

High school was a living hell.

College wasn’t much better, up until she took her second Omega Studies course. The first one had been a travesty, the professor clearly somewhat affronted at the idea of an Alpha, even a female Alpha, daring to partake in debate. The second course, though…

“Darcy Lewis?” The professor had said, letting out a small snort. “I take it your parents were fans?”

She sighed and debated momentarily before admitting, “James Darcy and Margot Lewis ARE my parents.”

The reaction that garnered was not quite what she’d expected. Instead of gushing or fawning, something that would not have surprised Darcy considering two of her mother’s books and one collection of her father’s poems were in the syllabus, Dr. Waters only gave her a small smile. “That must have been interesting, I’m sure you’ll have a different perspective on how a lot of these ideologies are lived.”

And Darcy blossomed.

Chapter Text

Darcy first felt something strange about six months after she’d been dropped into Tolkien, the Blightening. She did some fast math on her fingertips and realized that yup, her injection was wearing off. She briefly considered her options, looking around the camp, before finally settling on Wynne. Mostly because although she knew Morrigan better and she might have good advice, Darcy just didn’t have the patience to deal with the mocking that was sure to accompany it. Darcy was genuinely trying not to freak out because RUT in THEDAS. How the fuck did people deal? She knew there must be something they did, since none of the others had had to take off to work through their individual cycles. So there WAS a solution of some sort.

But of course, just her luck, not one that was available to her.

“If you had told me sooner, we could have avoided all of this,” Wynne said, a disapproving look on her face.

“I didn’t KNOW!”

“You don’t know your own cycle?” Wynne asked, disapproval increasing exponentially.

“Where I’m from,” Darcy began haltingly, “It’s just. Not an issue. I had things I could take but that’s not an option here.” It was very weird to talk around the whole ‘I’m from an alternate universe’ thing, so far she’d been sticking with the Anderfels story with everyone but Morrigan and Alistair.

“Well, the potion is only effective if taken the entire month preceding your cycle,” the Mage sighed, lips twisting. “There’s no other option, you’re going to have to seek… Help.”

“What.”

Wynne gave her a Look, then tilted her head towards the campfire, where Alistair and Zevran sat with the rest of their compatriots. The former two were the only Omegas of the group, and therefore the only options if Darcy was going to -

“Maybe Cousland will be okay with a detour,” Darcy said desperately.

“We must return to Redcliffe as soon as possible, you know this.”

“Yeah, I just - ” Darcy but her lip.

Wynne pursed her lips, “I could ask for you, let them decide amongst themselves.”

“Yes! That would be - yes, thank you.” Because somehow having the old lady Mage ask one of her friends to volunteer to be her rut partner was a thousand times less awful than trying to figure out how to ask them, face to face, with eye contact.

Darcy took a deep breath and winced.

“What is it?”

“Could you ask… Soon? They’re starting to smell really good…” she said miserably. Alistair smelled like apples and cream normally, now there were notes of vanilla and something oddly salty that made her mouth water. And Zevran… she still wasn’t sure how to take his flirting, but his smell was as smooth and rich as his voice, all caramel and whiskey and - “Really good,” she repeated. “It’ll be soon. I - I don’t think stopping at a town will be an option,” she admitted.

“I’ll see to it,” Wynne assured her, concern taking the place of her earlier judgment.

“Thanks,” Darcy said again, turning away from the fire and facing herself towards the woods. A wave of homesickness swept over her, and helpless anger at her situation.

It could be worse, she told herself. There could be no friendly Omegas around at all or, even WORSE, what if Morrigan was an Omega?

Yeah, could definitely be worse.

Chapter Text

When Darcy got to the office it was quiet, suspiciously so. She opened the door slowly, letting out a sigh of relief when she saw Foggy sitting hunched over Karen’s desk with his earbuds in. She shut the door a little harder than necessary, just to watch him jump.

“Jesus! What - oh, hey Darcy, what are you - oh.”

She raised both brows at him. “It’s Thursday,” she said.

Foggy’s eyes flickered over to the clock and he winced. “We…forgot?”

Darcy sighed, “It’s okay, Foggy, it’s not on you to remember.”

“He’s just. Caught up?” He sighed, rubbing his fingers against his temples, “We’re honestly not even getting anywhere right now, at this point Matt’s just being stubborn. He’s in the zone, Darcy, I don’t think he’s gonna be any use to you tonight.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’ll give him five minutes, if he doesn’t surface by then, then I’m going in after him. Where’s Karen?”

“Coffee run, machine’s busted again.”

Darcy stifled a groan and slumped into the chair they kept for waiting customers. Assuming, of course, that they would ever have enough at once to form a queue. It hadn’t happened yet, but hope sprung eternal. She dug out her iPhone and started putting together a new playlist, titling it “Frustrated with Matt.” At first she was just adding her usual angry music, but then it was stuff with a good, solid beat, and from there it turned into a whole different kind of frustration.

She felt her eyes glaze over as she thought of the way he’d made it up to her the LAST time he’d been late, held up at work. He’d been all soft apologies and sweet, light touches - at first. They hadn’t even made it to the bedroom that time, lucky she had such a comfy couch. He’d perched her at the edge and spread her knees wide and -

Darcy’s eyes darted over to Foggy, but he was caught up in his work again and completely oblivious. She sank a little lower in her seat, continuing to absently scroll through her music while she thought about all of the ways Matt could make up for tonight. This time she wanted to be in charge. Wanted to make him sweat and pant, test that lovely self-control. Matt looked so good when he was restrained, and whether those restraints were material or metaphorical made no real difference.

She flushed as she realized that her thoughts had had a very particular effect on the state of her underclothes. It would, perhaps, be a good idea to freshen up in the bathroom before she collected her boyfriend. Darcy stood to do just that, then jumped when she saw Matt in the doorway to his office, face turned towards her.

He had both hands clenched on the doorframe, white-knuckled with his grip. His jaw was clenched tight and his nostrils were flared. He was taking deep, even breaths, almost like he was counting them out.

She frowned, “You all right?”

“Fine,” he said hoarsely. He swallowed and slowly released the door. “You ready to go eat?”

“Yep,” she said, grinning and bouncing on her toes a little. “And I’ve got all sorts of ideas ‘bout what you can do to make up for making us late.”

Matt nodded and turned back to grab his cane, muttering something that sounded an awful lot like, “So do I.”

“What?”

“I said ‘lets get some pie’.”

Chapter Text

It was the only place within a five block radius of Stark Tower that sold the funky tea that Bruce liked, and Darcy liked Bruce, so she ended up going no less than three times a week. It wasn’t a bad shop, Darcy liked the little cake-things: they might be small, but man, were they filling. The problem was the coffee, which was bad. God, so bad. It was tragic, really, because Darcy could taste some really nice beans under all the burn.

To be fair, “Tinuviel’s” was primarily a tea shop. Darcy had gotten the impression that they served coffee only grudgingly. The guy at the counter always looked faintly disdainful when she tacked on her customary black coffee to the end of her order. His lip would curl just the slightest bit while his eyebrows drew down a smidge. It was a very eloquent look. Not that she was staring! Okay, she totally was. It wasn’t just fondness for Bruce that drew her back there. The server was a stone cold fox with bright gray eyes and white-blond hair so damn gorgeous it put the ladies in shampoo commercials to shame.

Darcy would admit to having some rather detailed fantasies about that hair while she sipped her (awful) coffee and waited for him to brew Bruce’s tea.

Alas, she suspected that it was not to be. The tea guy had grown increasingly impatient with her over the last two weeks. It wasn’t obvious, really, but she noticed the way his nostrils flared when he passed her her coffee, and the way his movements were just that little bit sharper, more brusque, when he made the tea.

She suspected that he had finally grown tired of having a bean-lover enter his leaf-juice domain. Darcy had resigned herself to the necessity of a long hunt to find some other shop that sold Bruce-approved tea. However, when tea guy next spoke to her, it was (to her surprise) not to tell her to leave and never darken his door again.

“You don’t like coffee,” he said, staring down at her from his lofty height (at least 6′5″) as if daring her to contradict him.

Which she was more than happy to do. “I love coffee,” she assured him.

He raised a single brow.

“Good coffee,” she amended.

The second brow rose to join the first.

“You are clearly a tea person,” she said, trying to be diplomatic. “You love tea, you make great tea if my friend Bruce is any indicator. I am a coffee person, I would never try to make tea.”

“Are you trying to say that I should not make coffee?” he asked slowly.

Darcy’s eyes widened because, oh shit, that was basically what she’d implied. “Um. Maybe?” she hedged. “Or you could just learn how?”

“Hm,” he said, studying her through narrowed eyes. “All right, I accept.”

“What?”

“I accept your offer,” he clarified. “I close up at 8PM on Thursdays. You can come here and show me how to make ‘good’ coffee. I will, of course, provide refreshments.”

“I…” Darcy blinked rapidly. Is this a date? No. It can’t be. You’re overthinking things. Worst case scenario, he starts making better coffee. Best case scenario - “Sure,” her mouth said without her brain’s permission, “It’s a date.”

He did not object to her term, instead his mouth curled into a small smile and sweet baby Jesus, Darcy was not prepared for the radiance of his smile. Her brain did not fully come back online until she reached the Tower, sank into her chair and it finally sank in that she had a date with hot tea guy, alone in his shop, after hours, and it sounded like the start of a bad porno.

Well, her brain piped up, worst case scenario -

“SHUT UP, BRAIN.”

“Sing it, sister,” Jane said from somewhere in the lab.

Chapter Text

Their hands met just as they both reached for the single remaining carton of ice cream in the store. Darcy was instantly surprised at the warmth emanating from that hand, but she did not allow that surprise to divert her from her purpose. It was the last ice cream left in the store, and it was hers, damnit! No matter how warm, or - she locked eyes with the owner of the unusually warm hand - make that fucking hot, the competition was.

“Pardon me,” the man said, smiling with near Tony-levels of charm, “but I need this ice cream.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes,” he said, taking a step closer to the freezer, as if he was planning to muscle her out of the way.

Darcy moved closer too, not at all perturbed at the thought of shrinking her personal bubble in order to defend her ice cream rights. “Is that so? Well, I saw it first.”

He blinked, then snorted. “Really? Can you prove that?”

“Can you prove I didn’t?” she returned.

“Miss, I’m sure you can find ice cream elsewhere - “

“At four in the morning?”

“This is New York - “

“Without having to go home and change out of my pajamas?” She was kicking herself the instant those words came out of her mouth, as Mr. Hot Hands immediately gave her attire a once-over. When his eyes met hers again, he was grinning, nearly smirking, and Darcy was seriously considering pounding her forehead against the freezer door once for every time she’d regretted her life choices.

She should not have shown Johnny Storm that novelty shirt site. She should not have accepted the gift he gave her from that shirt site. She should not have worn her pajamas in public. She should not have worn THAT SHIRT, the "tracts of land" shirt, in public, even if Monty Python was hilarious. At least she was wearing a bra.

To his credit, he did not go for the obvious joke. “Do you even like,” he squinted at the container momentarily before turning back to her, “Rum Raisin?”

“I like raisins and I like rum, stands to reason I’ll like this,” Darcy said staunchly.

“Fili? Where are you?”

They both turned to see another man come barreling down the paper products aisle, straight for them… and then past them. “Here, Kili,” her opponent ‘Fili,’ called out.

Kili turned on his heel and raced back. “Did you get it?” he asked urgently, all but wringing his hands and sounding a mix between hopeful and terrified.

“I’m trying,” Fili replied, “but this appears to be the last left in the store and, well - “

Kili turned to her and Darcy was faced with the biggest, most hopeful big brown puppy dog eyes she’d ever seen. “Please, miss,” he said, “we need that ice cream. Our uncle and his beau have had a row.”

“Again,” Fili muttered.

“So the ice cream’s for your uncle?” Darcy asked.

“No, it’s for Bilbo, uncle doesn’t deserve ice cream - it was his fault.”

She sighed, waffling between her desire for ice cream and sympathy for their (rather unusual) plight, and was won over by the brunet’s sincerity. “Fine,” she said, retracting her hand from the freezer and seriously considering sticking it under her shirt to try and get it warm again.

“Here,” Fili said and grabbed her hand, rubbing it between his own. He was seriously warm, and it felt fantastic.

Darcy could feel herself flushing as part of her brain started wondering (quite loudly) if he was that warm all over, and what that might feel if they were to - hey, said another part of her brain, he’s still holding your hand. Strike that, he’s still rubbing your hand - he’s ~flirting with you! And if she’d thought his hands were warm, the look in his eyes was smoldering.

“Thank you!” Kili said happily, reaching between Darcy and Fili to grab the ice cream. “Ooh! Lucky, it’s his favorite!” he chirped, seemingly oblivious to the rising tension between the two.

By this point Darcy was feeling positively overheated.

“Well,” she said, clearing her throat, “um, thank you. I guess you’ve gotten what you wanted, so… I’ll just be on my way.” She tugged on her hand lightly, but Fili drew it closer pressing a light kiss to her knuckles.

“I haven’t gotten everything I wanted,” Fili said, smiling. “I must repay you for your kindness - how about dinner?”

“One carton of ice cream does not equal a dinner,” she pointed out.

“Coffee?” he immediately suggested.

“Ice cream,” she countered. “It’s only fair.”

“It’s a date.”

Chapter Text

Darcy honestly, truly, really wasn’t even that big a fan of the Brotherhood anymore. Sure, she still dug their music and their message (mostly), but they were a little too heavy for her. She was more into jazz lately, but she’d been a teenager once (not that long ago), and there was no way her inner sixteen year old goth would let her pass up a chance to meet Erik Lehnsherr.

It was that train of thought that had led her here, somehow.

Darcy looked from the frazzled stage manager to the zebra. “What?”

“Could you just. Keep an eye on her for a bit,” he didn’t quite ask. “I’ve got to - Larry, what the fuck do you think you’re doing with that - “ he ran off before he could fully explain what ‘keeping an eye on the zebra’ entailed.

She eyed the zebra, the zebra eyed her back… with eyes that were a little too amused to belong to your average, everyday equine. Darcy squinted, putting two and two together and coming up with mutant: “Mystique?”

The zebra, also known as Mystique, the lead bassist for the Brotherhood, made an odd braying sound that Darcy took as assent.

She was not exactly sure how one was supposed to interact with a zebra-shaped human being. She supposed that she should just act like she was dealing with a human-shaped human being. “Wanna give me a tour?” she asked. “It’s getting kinda crowded here.”

Mystique nodded (almost taking out a passing techie) and turned. Darcy trotted along (hah!) to one side of her instead of following behind. She had vague memories of a field trip to a farm and being told not to walk directly behind a horse. Most of the reasons for that advice did not directly apply here, but she thought the general idea was still probably pretty sound.

“This is a lot more trippy than I was expecting,” she said contemplatively. “I mean, your sets are all actually darker than the tv specials make them out to be. How often does tech support trip all over each other? The number of forms I had to sign in order to come here was ridiculous too, like, at one point I was half certain I was signing away all rights to my future unborn children. Those forms left me with high expectations, Ms. Darkholme. I expected my life to be in danger or something.”

That brought Mystique up short and she turned her head enough to fix Darcy with one large, yellow-brown eye.

“If you’re wondering why I still came after all of that…” Darcy grinned. “You wouldn’t know it to look at me now, but I was a total goth hellcat in high school. Shitkicker boots and torn fishnets and everything. Your song, Darwin Was Right, was like, my religion for a whole year.”

There was an odd ripple and then, faster than the eye could comfortably take in, the zebra was replaced by a woman with vibrant blue skin, a red mohawk, and piercing black-and-gold eyes. “Are you a mutant?” Mystique asked bluntly - not rudely, per se, but with an air of interested curiosity.

“No, total flatscan,” she said, smiling lopsidedly.

“Pity,” Mystique sighed, then hastened on before Darcy could even consider being offended: “If it wasn’t for that, you’d be just Erik’s type.”

“Um. What?”

Chapter Text

They’d been in the Tower for about a week and Darcy was still getting lost in the labs.  It didn’t help that all the hallways were identical: white walls, white tiles, impressionistic art every dozen feet or so that was so soft and pastel that Darcy could not for the life of her tell one painting from another.  She hovered just outside the door to Jane’s lab before sighing and turning to the right.  She would have to reach an elevator eventually, right?  Right.

She had walked up three corridors and passed two additional labs before she pulled up short at the sight of a splotch of color in the otherwise blank view.  There was a lump on the ground about twenty feet down the corridor and, for a moment, Darcy considered backtracking and leaving the lump alone because this was a Stark lab.  The lump might, like, explode or something.  That was a thing that could happen.  Probably.

Then the lump twitched and Darcy realized it was a person.

She took a few steps forward and realized that the person wasn’t twitching, it was shaking.  She drew closer and saw that it was a man, curled up in so tight a ball that it looked painful.  He was staring at the wall opposite him with what could only be described as a “thousand yard stare” and he was definitely, 110% in the middle of a full-blown panic attack.

“Shit,” Darcy muttered.  She edged around until she was in his field of vision and then moved closer, trying not to freak the guy out more but unwilling to leave him alone when he was in such a state.  She knew he’d noticed her because he’d gone suddenly and unnaturally still.  “Hey,” she said.  “Breathe.  Come on… breathe, please.  It’s easy, I promise,” Darcy said, pulling a silly face.  She sat down cross-legged about two feet from him and exaggeratedly mimed breathing.  She started a count: seven in and seven out, trying frantically to remember if there were actual things one was meant to do to help out a person in a panic attack.  Jane was usually easily derailed by shifting her focus.  Darcy hadn’t ever actually experienced one herself, so she was really only guessing.

It seemed to be doing the trick, though.  The man was slowly uncurling from the tight ball he’d been in and mirroring her pose.  His hands - encased in black gloves that looked like leather - were clenched into fists on his knees, but he was breathing along with her.  It took another minute or so before his eyes lost that “horrors untold” look.

His face was unreadable as he made a quick study of her.

“You okay now?” she asked.

“’Okay’ isn’t really in the cards for me,” he told her, smiling humorlessly, “but I’ll survive.”

Darcy gaped at him.  “Well,” she said after a moment, voice gone high-pitched and more than a little shaky, “I hope you’re better at walking people through panic attacks than I am, ‘cause I’m pretty sure I’m about to have one!”

Chapter Text

The first person Darcy saw was Clint, looking worried.  “Hey, kiddo,” he said, sinking down to kneel beside her.  He put one hand over hers where it was pressed to her side and used the other to push some hair back from her face. “Looks like you had an eventful evening.”

“They took Jane,” Darcy said carefully.  It was hard to talk through the pain and she’d been gritting her teeth for so long that her jaw had gone stiff.

“Thor’s on it, he took Tony and Bruce.  Nat’ll be here in a second.”

Darcy eyed the thing - too thick to be a normal arrow, too thin and short to be properly called a spear - that was pinning her to the ground.  “I finally get to meet your better half and here’s me, not fit for company.  I think this might be beyond even her capabilities,” she said, trying to smile.

“Luckily, I brought along a couple of fossils with battlefield medicine skills.”

“Foss - ?”  Darcy tried not to flinch as two other people suddenly appeared, hovering over her and Clint.  She recognized Captain America and the Winter Soldier, but - as with the Widow - she hadn’t met them in person yet.

“How long has that been bleeding?” the brunet asked.

Of fucking course, Darcy thought, shutting her eyes and trying not to cry.  “I’m not really sure, I kind of lost track of time.”

There was a soft shushing sound as both soldiers inhaled sharply.

She opened her eyes to two identical stricken expressions: James looking at her and Steven looking at James.  “Yeah, so, this sucks,” she said plaintively.  “I was really hoping your words were gonna refer to a paper cut or maybe a really poorly-timed period joke.”  Darcy swallowed hard then turned her head away from the frozen supersoldiers and toward Clint: “What’s the verdict?”

“Well, good news,” he said with forced cheer, “is that it looks like that thing has been holding most of your blood in.”

“And the bad news?” Steven - no, that was definitely Captain America talking right now.

“We’re gonna need to move fast when we get it out of you.”

“We can do that,” James said.  “We will do that.  You’re going to be fine.”

And Darcy found, to her surprise, that she believed him.

Chapter Text

Steve was methodically going down the rows of cells, feeling more and more anger well up at the sight of each body: most were singed, some were barely more than scraps of cloth and scorched meat.  He’d long grown used to the smell, but he thought it likely he’d be attempting to go vegetarian for a while - difficult for a man with his metabolic needs, but not impossible.  He was listening in on the team to track their progress through the lab, but there was none of the friendly banter that usually sounded over the coms during their missions.  Clint and Natasha were quietly demolishing everyone they could find.  The twins had been put on file duty, and were working on finding out who these people were.  Tony had had nothing to say since they’d discovered Pepper had been taken.  And Thor…

There was a soft rumble that grew into an ear-splitting roar and Steve turned, racing toward the sound.

Thor had been, quite literally, crackling with electricity since they’d found Jane’s workshop ransacked and both her and her assistant missing.  It was clear from the scorch marks and bloodstains that there had been a struggle.

Steve rebounded off a wall to give himself the momentum needed to jump over the rubble that had fallen to block his passage.  It took barely a minute to reach Thor but it felt like forever.  He rounded a corner to find the Asgardian cradling a slight brunette woman.  She was trying to reach up and touch his cheek, but her whole body was shaking too much.  Red light was flickering under her skin continuously.

Jane,” Thor said, voice full of so much agony that Steve winced.

“Hey,” she said, “I’ll be fine.  There’s a stabilizing agent.  Stark figured it out.  I just have to h-hold it together till then.  I can do that.  I’ll be okay.  We just need to find Darcy.”

Thor looked up at Steve, obviously torn.

“I’m on it,” he said.  “Do you have any idea where they might have taken her?”

“There’s a second lab.  They had something else.  Something new they - “ the light flickering over Jane seemed to move faster and glow more brightly as she spoke.  “I can’t - “ she gasped, steam rising from her cheeks as tears evaporated from her skin.  “I can’t,” she said again, curling into Thor’s chest.

“Steven,” Thor said, and it was both a warning and a plea.

“We’ll find her,” Steve promised, and turned striding down a different hall.  “Quicksilver, Scarlet, there’s a second lab and a second set of experiments - get me everything you can and tell me where to go, now.”

“These firewalls - “ Scarlet cursed softly.  “If Vision were not in Asgard - “

“We gotta make do with what we have.”

“There is something.  Keep going the way you are going, Captain.”

“Convenient,” he muttered to himself, and sped to a trot, trying to check for another prison block as quickly and thoroughly as possible.  After another fifty feet or so he came across a door with a small window and a blue light flashing rapidly within.  “Well, this doesn’t look good.”  He pushed the door open carefully, shield held up and at the ready.

There was a metal column in the center of the room and securely harnessed to it was a woman in a hospital gown.  She was suspended a few feet off the ground, arms bound so that they were held out to either side of her, legs the same.  She was the source of the strange blue light and she was staring straight at him.

“Ms. Lewis?  Can you hear me?”

Her eyes were blank, glazed, and glowing.

“Ms. Lewis?” he moved closer.

Suddenly her body spasmed, the light that shone from her seemed almost to detach,surrounding her in a whirling corona.  She screamed, a high, shrill sound that set the hairs on the back of Steve’s neck on end.  The light sucked back into her skin so quickly that it left him blinking at the suddenly much dimmer room.

The woman was gasping for air, eyes screwed shut.  When she opened them, they focused unerringly on Steve.  “It didn’t hurt this much at first.”

Steve didn’t even have time to react before she went rigid, spine straightening and her head snapping back as her mouth opened in a silent scream.  Light poured from her open mouth, her eyes, and then her skin, growing brighter and hotter until Steve had to throw up his shield to block it.

When he opened his eyes and lowered his shield, his soulmate was gone.

Chapter Text

Darcy had a fantastic memory for faces.  It was nice, because it meant that she was never stumped when people greeted her in public - she always knew right off the bat whether or not it was someone that she actually knew or just a lame pick-up or just plain mistaken identity.  She thought it would probably be pretty useful in politics, one of many reasons she’d chosen that field of study.  Another reason being that she just genuinely liked people, wanted to be around them, enjoyed humanity in a way that she found hard to describe.  Darcy took people watching and had elevated it to an art form.

So when she saw Mr. Nice Arms Perpetual Smirk wandering around the halls of Stark Tower, she immediately recognized him from New Mexico: he’d been one of the not-quite-guards that the Suit had stationed with Jane for the remainder of their time in the small town, probably as some sort of advance warning system in case the Asgardians came back.  They’d never spoken, but she’d watched him and he had totally watched back.  It had been his job, after all, but they’d shared the odd eyeflirt (like an eyefuck, but way less serious).  Darcy recognized his face, more than that, she remembered him - and the man she saw now was a good fifteen pounds lighter than the one she’d known and he looked like he’d aged at least five years.

Darcy made a study of him over the next few weeks.  He would come into the lab area every so often, usually making a beeline for Stark but occasionally stopping to chat with Banner for a few minutes.  His face was always serious, always tired looking.  Darcy didn’t know what she wanted more: to sit him down with a nice meal or shove him into a bed and make him sleep.

It took her longer than she wanted to admit to get up the nerve to approach him.  Eyeflirting was one thing, actually talking was quite another.  She told herself that she was just waiting for the Opportune Moment.  Of course, when the moment came, she nearly psyched herself out of it.

He’d gone over to talk to Banner, but Stark had called the other scientist over to show him something.  He was standing by Banner’s current project, flipping an odd-looking rock over and over in his hands and frowning at nothing.

Darcy took a deep breath and started making her way over to him.  She had run through about a dozen different openings from “Remember me?” to “Nice arms, wanna share your problems?” but the moment he looked up and saw her, they all fell away.  She stopped a few feet from him and blurted, “What did they do to you?”

He stared at her.

“The goons, I mean - the Suits?  They must have - you - “ she gestured helplessly, unable to come up with adequate words.  “You look like you got dragged backwards through a hedge and then down several miles of bad road,” she finally said.

“Well,” he said slowly, “you’re not wrong.”

“Oh fuck,” Darcy said.

“100% with you,” he responded, one corner of his mouth lifting a little.

“Well,” she continued, even more determined, “what did happen?  And how do we make sure it never happens again?”

That caused a full-blown smile.  It drew her attention to his nose, which had clearly been broken a few times, and the little crinkles at the sides of his blue eyes.  He had definitely been on the losing end of a few fights, but the laugh lines at the sides of his mouth said he was probably a good sport about it.

Darcy was instantly and irretrievably charmed.

“Lunch?” he said suddenly.  “We can talk and eat.”

“Are we going to talk about what’s been bothering you?” she asked suspiciously, slowly coming forward and taking the arm he oh-so-gallantly extended.

“Nope,” he said, giving her another one of those crinkly smiles.  “But I’m feeling better already, promise.”

Chapter Text

If anyone in Darcy’s friend circle was going to be kidnapped, dressed like a one-off love interest in a classic Star Trek episode, and sold to the highest bidder, her money would have been on Tony.  The man inspired a lot of rage, but she’d noticed it tended to be of the “I will MAKE you shut up” sort, not the “kill you dead” sort.  Hammer’s obsession wasn’t all tech-based, in her opinion.  Plus, he had other skills that would probably make him a prime target for kidnapping.

Her?  Not as much.

Which was why she was still caught somewhere between bemused and terrified when her “buyer” entered the room.  He was your typical sleazy toady: short, greasy, and had the squinty eyes and mincing demeanor of the professional bootlicker.  He spared her only a momentary glance before nodding, “You’ll do.”  Then he turned on his heel and left the room.

Darcy was too frightened to be bored.  She’d been stripped with brutal efficiency some time ago, then bundled into a bathroom and told to wash.  The lack of door on the bathroom had put paid to any thoughts of escape.  The outfit they proceeded to give her was actually worse than being naked.  It was, essentially, a pair of boy shorts and a bustier, but there was funky metal detail work to give it shape (and support) which made itincredibly uncomfortable.  On top of that, she was now chained to a chair in a very fancy and official-looking office.  Her hands had been tied in front of her, which should have given her some sort of advantage, but they’d stuffed her hands into these weird black mitten-like things beforehand and she couldn’t even wiggle a pinky.

She knew, she knew, that the Avengers would come for her.

She was just worried they might be too late to prevent the worst.

There was a soft creaking sound and then the door opened, revealing Mr. Obsequious Toady and the person he toadied for.  The second man was tall, with curly brown hair and impatience carved into every line of his face.  He gave Darcy a quick once-over, then turned back to the Toad with an incredulous, “This?  This is your ‘gift?’”

Toad blanched, “We thought she might amuse you while we waited for - “

“Marcus,” the second man said pleasantly, “I wanted results, not a lame attempt at a distraction.  Did you really think you could trick me with this?”  He sighed, and then he was holding a gun and then the gun went off and Darcy was spattered with little bits of blood but she was holding it together.  Barely.

She managed a whimper when he turned to her again.

“Are you useful?” Mr. Goddamned Terrifying asked her curiously, the gun held casually at his side.  “Or did he just pick you for your, admittedly nice, assets?”

Darcy licked her lips, then instantly blanched at the taste of blood - Toad’s blood.  Oh god, that was not hygenic.  “I think I was just picked out for my looks,” she said, fear making her honest and verbose.  “Which is new, actually, last time I was kidnapped it was for my best friend.”

“Explain.”

She froze because she couldn’t trade on her relationship with Jane, could she?  She’d had training, a little at least, in how to withstand interrogation, but she’d never been told what she could - and should - divulge if she was in a situation where she needed to survive.

He huffed.  “I will shoot you,” he reminded her, tapping the gun against his knee absently.  “Why am I wasting time on this?” he asked himself, raising the gun.

“I’m Jane Foster’s assistant,” Darcy blurted, then winced.

He paused.  “Really?”  Terrifying took two steps forward, looking her over more carefully.  “Ms. Lewis,” he said, “I didn’t recognize you without your glasses.  Or the beanie.”

Darcy was not really sure which absolutely horrifying part of that sentence should be addressed first.  She didn’t have time to decide before his free hand struck out, oddly stiff fingers grabbing her wrist and jerking her forward so he could look more closely at the words that followed the path of the most prominent vein in her forearm.

“Interesting,” he said softly, “and unexpected.  Well, Ms. Lewis, it’s been a treat, but I have things to do and a business to run, so I must go.”  He turned and started for the door.

Some imp made her ask, “You’re not going to kill me?”

“Not today,” he said.  “It probably wouldn’t take, and I like to do things right the first time.  Don’t worry, Ms. Lewis, those words on your arm are practically a guarantee that I’ll be seeing you again, although you may not necessarily see me,” he told her.  The smile on his face made goosebumps break out all over her skin.

He left and she was alone with her thoughts and the corpse of Toad.  She managed to keep from vomiting by trying to count as high as she could with prime numbers.  Then by going through as many of the states as she could remember.  She had just started on the constellations (and the stars that made them up) when she heard a ruckus.  Shooting, explosions, all of the sounds that meant violence and death and - if she was lucky - rescue.

The door slammed open, and Darcy found herself faced with three people she’d never seen before in her life.  One, a man, immediately turned away from her and started scanning the room.  The second, a woman, gave her restraints a brief sneer of disgust, then headed for the safe in the far corner.  The third offered her a small smile that was, she thought probably meant to be comforting.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

She stared at him.  “Did you see what they did to me?”  Out of her peripherals, she saw the other two spin around and stare at her.  She ignored them, lifting her still bound hands against the small amount of slack she had and shaking them pointedly.  “You think I dress in bondage gear for kicks?”

He stared at her, seemingly gobsmacked.

“Now I know two things that’ll make you shut up,” the woman said.

“Damn,” said the man, “and I thought my meeting with Jolene was awkward.”

Darcy looked down at the words on her forearm, the blue script was small and spiky, but she’d always liked it.  The red dot dancing along underneath it was new, though.  She had about half a second to think, Oh, that’s what Goddamned Terrifying meant, before there was a soft crack as the window shattered, and pain, and then nothing.

Chapter Text

When Darcy walked in the door the first thing she noticed was the confetti.  So much confetti.  Literally every kind of fancy confetti she had ever seen before in her life, and several dozen that she had not: wedding, graduation, birthday, new license, bar and bat mitzvah, divorce, kids are out of the house, midlife crisis - Jesus Christ, there were a lot of different kinds of confetti!  It was covering everything.  Ev-ver-y-thing.  The floor, the walls, the tables, the experiments.

Oh god, the experiments.

Darcy raced into the room as fast as she could considering she was trying not to slip on all of the freaking confetti.  She found Jane pretty quickly, the petite scientist was almost exactly where Darcy had last left her: hunched over a display.  Only, instead of clutching a notepad and paper, furiously scribbling, she had an empty bottle of Jaegermeister in one hand and was… quietly drooling.

“Well, that’s… okay then.”  Darcy backed away quietly, then went looking for the other scientists because Jane was many things, but a solo drinker was not one of them.

It took a few minutes, but eventually she hard the sound of soft beeping and followed that to Tony, Bruce, Dum-E, and two strangers she recognized from Thor’s stories as Steve Rogers and James Barnes.  The picture the five of them made was, quite the picture, actually.  Tony and Bruce were curled under and around a workbench like a couple of sleeping puppies.  Dum-E was perched beside them, beeping what must be a lullaby and alternating between gently stroking Tony’s and Bruce’s hair.  Barnes was sprawled out beside them, wearing a shiny new arm with a decal of Captain America’s shield on the shoulder and clutching the old arm to his chest like a kid with a teddy bear.

Steve Rogers was standing over them, face caught somewhere between concerned and hopelessly fond.

Darcy sighed, alerting him to her presence.  “Can you tell me what happened?” she asked, closing her eyes against the headache that was starting to form and pinching the bridge of her nose.

Silence was her answer.

She opened her eyes and found that Captain America was staring at her.  As was James Barnes, who was clearly awake now and, judging by the alert (and oddly delighted?) look on his face was definitely a morning person.

“You,” she said, addressing the ex-assassin, “please explain what made my scientists get their drank on.”

“Last night’s party was to celebrate my new arm,” he told her.  “Tonight’s party will be for Stevie over here, and you.”

Darcy shot him a quizzical look.

James kicked Steven in the ankle, hard enough to send the blond stumbling.  “Saysomething, you lune!”

“What do I - ” he said to James, then he gulped and turned to her, wide-eyed.  “You’re - fuck, you’re gorgeous.  Oh shit, I said fuck.  Goddamnit!”

James was laughing so hard that he wasn’t even making a sound, just helplessly gasping as his whole body shook.  Steve on the other hand was clearly completely miserable, and for a man as large as he was, he could make himself look shockingly small.

“Hey,” Darcy said, stepping closer to him and laying a hand on his arm (Holy fucking muscles, her id purred, and they’re all mine…).  “I grew up knowing my soulmate was gonna think I was gorgeous, and that was pretty awesome, so thank you.  Of course, I also wasn’t allowed to wear short sleeves, like, ever - so you can start making that up to me anytime you want.”