Darcy doesn't really expect to get a call back; asking the Doctor to respond to messages on his answering machine is like asking someone who is bad at calling back to call back. Because... that's what you're doing.
She needs more caffeine.
Anyway, it doesn't hurt to leave a "Soo, have you ever heard of something called the Rainbow Bridge? Because it's not working and I think my boss is going to go crazy if she can't fix it. It's a 'transportation system between the realms,' as described by some dude named Thor who inspired the Norse myths. Give me a call. Hope things are going great; tell River that I'm pretty sure she owes me at least three beers by now. Okay, sweet. Be awesome," before heading into work.
Work these days is at S.H.I.E.L.D., which means she has to wear real person clothes even though she's mostly going to sit in a lab and type things up. She's thankfully got enough downtime with Jane's new assistant Larry doing most of the analytical not-making-sure-everyone-eats stuff to work on her application to transfer to a different department within S.H.I.E.L.D. Something that leaves her less time to do Bejewelled (though, she's got to admit, she loves herself some Bejewelled) and more time to use her skills. She's keen on political science (alien relevant, check!). She has pertinent experience (though can she tell S.H.I.E.L.D. that? Probably not, even if she can't remember the proper security clearances needed from U.N.I.T. to access the information. Also the Doctor would make a horrible reference. – anyway, alien relevant, double check!). She's fluent in French (relevant to French aliens? Why not!).
Also she makes a mean cup of java. That has to be a marketable job skill. Barista-ing will not have done her nothing, come hell or high water.
Her application is basically ignored for the week, which makes perfect sense to Darcy because nowhere responds to low-level applications fast.
And, well, probably what happens next doesn't have anything to do with her application.
It's a Saturday, and Jane's in the lab but Darcy's in the coffee shop, reading a book and working on an essay. Her brothers would make fun of her for writing essays even post-graduation, but it helps Darcy organize new information. She'll make sure Jane gets something to eat today, but otherwise it's the weekend.
She glances up when a bona fide hottie walks into the place, with legs in dark blue jeans and a yellow blouse on, curly black hair (shot through with a liberal dose of gray) barely held back with a ponytail. Darcy watches her order because, hey, it's a Saturday, and it's not like she'd be interested in someone as tiny as Darcy anyway.
She almost chokes on her iced caramel frappe when the woman turns to face her. This is probably a good thing, because blurting Agent Brown?? in a coffee shop inhabited by an entirely different agency might be impolitic.
"Darcy," Esther Brown says, warm and open, setting her plain black coffee onto Darcy's table as she sits.
"Yo," Darcy says, closing her laptop (relying on it to hibernate itself – a risky process, but less risky than having to leave it behind if she's being kidnapped by U.N.I.T.) and tucking it into her bag. "What's up?"
"I was in the area, and thought it'd be best to check in after we failed to make contact on Wednesday."
Darcy's eyebrows raise, mouth pulling in embarrassment. "I totally forgot to clue you guys in on my number change. Yeah, uh, my new bosses weren't too hot on me having a public one."
"Your new bosses," Agent Brown acknowledges, smiling curving the edge of her lips. All of this. All of this is way too normal for Darcy. Agent Brown wears tailor-made black suits as one of the few civilians in U.N.I.T., and doesn't smile, and sure as hell doesn't ask after her well-being unless there's just been a firefight. (Is she wearing lip gloss? It's very nice lip gloss. Focus, Lewis.) "How are they treating you?"
"Just to be clear," Darcy says, "you're not going for subtle, are you? Because if you're going for subtle, I might have to join just to have a talk with y'all about what counts as subtle."
"I'm not trying to be subtle," Agent Brown assures.
"It's pretty good. I'm hoping to transfer somewhere that has more relevance to general political science acumen." At Agent Brown's raised eyebrows, Darcy plows on. "And while I know you're always looking for poli sci majors, or whatever you're going to say next, it's really digging me already that I'm working for a giant faceless organization. I think the military might be a little too much."
"We do have civilian units," Agent Brown says, peaceably.
"Speaking of which, what do I need to know about telling—"
The door opens, and Agent Coulson walks in. Darcy sinks down in her chair, and Agent Brown turns. Darcy catches a hint of a frown at the corner of her face, before she smiles warmer than she ever has at Darcy and calls, "Phil," waving him over.
"Ah, Esther," Coulson says, walking closer. "I thought you wouldn't be in until tomorrow."
"I decided to give myself time to settle," Agent Brown says, and Darcy can almost hear the invitation before she adds, glancing to Darcy, "Why don't you join us?"
"Yeah, actually, I've got to run," says Darcy, speedily shoving her book into her tote bag beside the laptop and grabbing her coffee. "Good seeing you, Brown, Coulson – oh, hey," she turns around, half way to the door, not really wanting to stop in case it screws up her forward momentum of getting out of here, but with a pressing question, "did you get my application?"
"I've sent it to a few departments," Coulson says, and Darcy does a victory fist-pump.
"You're the best, G-man. Okay, gotta run!" She waves and flees out the door.
It's only two days later, and Darcy is trying to get the lab coffee machine to work (because apparently in labs that are mostly computers, you're allowed to have liquids? She's sure her college would be very surprised) in order to avoid any awkward agent visits. This doesn't exactly work; Coulson walks in with a file tucked under his elbow and a cup of something made from a machine that didn't break this morning.
"She's not going to talk to you," Darcy sing-songs. "She hasn't said anything to me, or to Larry, all freaking day. I'm kind of thinking someone stole her voice."
"I'm not here to talk to Dr. Foster," Coulson says. "You did an internship with U.N.I.T.?"
"You…. could say that," Darcy says, looking up from her ministrations. Even though it's totally wrong, she doesn't add, because she doesn't want Agent Brown being angry at her. That'd be even freakier than the smiling. "Why?"
"I'm curious as to why it didn't make its way onto your resume. I'm sure you're aware that previous experience with a similar organization is relevant."
"You're not that similar," Darcy mutters, going back to her coffee machine. Ah-hah. "And anyway, I wasn't sure what your clearance level was. Or what mine is, for that matter, I –" she gives him a narrow look. "How much did Agent Brown tell you? Because the last thing I want is angry people with guns."
"I promise you," Coulson says, seriously, "there won't be any angry people with guns."
Darcy stares at him for a long moment. He seems on the level. "Sure thing, we'll just need to duck into the office. You want a refill? Because I totally fixed this."
In the end: Coulson drinks two more cups of coffee, and Darcy is hired to be his assistant; she doesn't even have to give away too much about the Doctor – apparently so I travelled the Universe with this alien guy who mostly wants to talk to people but has a bad habit of getting in trouble for a year; basically I did what I do with Jane. Made sure he got calories, made him watch cartoons with me. Anyway, he's probably not reachable for a reference is a lot more believable after an incident with Thor. And whatever U.N.I.T. told S.H.I.E.L.D.
It's Christmas 2010, and London is being attacked. Darcy knows because she's woken up at three AM by a Lieutenant Baxter saying "We haven't been able to get hold of him!" like the Doctor isn't probably in the middle of this mess already, and she promises to ring him.
"London, Christmas 2010," she says, sleepily, when the phone gets picked up. "Apparently there're living fireworks or something."
"Darcy," the voice at the end of the line says, enchanted and Darcy perks up.
"Oh, hey River. Sorry, it's like ridiculous o'clock in the morning, but U.N.I.T. wanted to clue you guys in."
"Living fireworks? Sounds like a blast," River says, and giggles, and Darcy's briefly worried about setting a drunk River on London. Nah, they can deal. She hears a mutter on the other side, and River sighs "Unfortunately, it seems like someone has already handled it."
"I told them!" Darcy exclaims. "Tell the brat I said hi, and merry space Christmas to you guys. Eat space Chinese food for me. Also, seriously, you owe me at least five beers by now. Or three girly drinks. I could settle for girly drinks."
She hears the flipping of paper. "How's Jan 7th? 2011?"
Darcy checks her mental calendar. "Yeah, that should be good. I'm in New Mexico, you got a trace on the call coordinates?"
"You know me, darling," River drawls, and Darcy grins. At least some of her friends know how to have fun. "Get some sleep, we'll catch up later."
"Goodbye, Darcy!" calls another voice through what sounds like a mouthful of food.
She laughs, and crashes.
Jan 7th, 2011 takes a lot of preparation. Getting a Zip Car, so she can go take River somewhere with a real non-governmental bar; applying for permission to leave the area; buying banana daiquiri mix and a bottle of rum for the Doctor, so he won't sulk. (She gets cowboy-themed umbrellas for it. He's enchanted.)
It ends up being totally worth it, even if she lets River drive back because demi-alien constitutions with regard to alcohol outweigh the fact that River's only ever loosely grasped the concept of road laws.
It's Jan 8th, 2011, that's the problem.
It starts with loud pounding on her front door which, when she checks the peek hole, comes from an unfamiliar face wearing U.N.I.T. insignia.
She calls Coulson. "Hey, boss," she says, "I know it's Saturday, but I might be in trouble."
"What type of trouble?"
"U.N.I.T.'s knocking on my door. Literally."
There's silence on the other side. "Don't answer it," he says. "I'll send some of the MPs over as a sound disturbance. Miss Lewis," he pauses, "does this have anything to do with your leave yesterday?"
"Probably. But we didn't do anything except drink girly drinks." And give a tipsy Doctor a makeover. She ponders this. "Unless someone recognized my friend. She's pretty noticeable, for a mostly-human. And not – exactly from around here."
"Ah. Expect to be debriefed after we speak with U.N.I.T."
"Yessir," Darcy mutters, glaring at the door and its knocking. She goes to get herself a bottle of water and some ibuprofen.
U.N.I.T. goes quiet until after the attacks on the research center Darcy was working in and the subsequent invasion of New York. Darcy's not quite sure why when aliens attack London, no one notices, but New York is super obvious.
It's probably an American thing.
She's sitting towards the back of the funeral gathering, which is emptying now, when Barton sits beside her. He's always quiet, but now his face is drawn; she wasn't really ever Coulson's friend, but she misses him – she can't imagine what it's like for someone who's known him years and years.
"There's someone looking for you. Calls herself Brown, with that British group," he says, glancing out of the corner of his eye.
"Oh," Darcy says, and rubs her face. "Um. D'you know why?"
"Probably want to snap you up before you get re-established. Want to give her a miss?"
"Yeah," Darcy says, and Barton glances up and tilts a quick signal. Beamon and Henry walk over.
"Amy's talking to her," Henry says about his wife – an analyst, super-nice and able to distract anyone about anything.
"Good. Why don't you go join her?" Barton says, and Henry nods, and turns to do so.
"Darcy and I can grab coffee," Beamon says, shifting some hair behind her ear. Her leg's in a brace from the attack on the research center, and her wrist's in a cast, but she's doing okay."I don't think I can handle being here any longer, anyway."
Barton nods. "I'm headed out, too."
Darcy glances around, and fails to catch the tell-tale sight of red hair that was here earlier; she's pretty sure she knows where Barton's going.
"Thanks," she says, standing, and Beamon pats her on the back.
"You're not just Coulson's," is what she says, and if Darcy hadn't already cried out all of her tears, she would have started again.
"So," Tony says, five months later (and it's funny to Darcy how the non-S.H.I.E.L.D. members of the Avengers use their first names. Tony, and Steve, and Bruce, and Thor – Barton and Romanoff are still, to her, Barton and Romanoff), "what's got U.N.I.T. so interested in you?"
"Tony," Steve says, warningly, glancing up from his newspaper and breakfast cereal.
"I'm just saying, if Darcy's an alien, I really think we should know, before she starts choking to death on a bell pepper or something."
"Food allergies don't make you an alien," Bruce says, staring at his omelet-in-progress.
"Shows what you know," Tony says, munching out of a box of Fruity O's, and Darcy glances over to Steve to see if he's going to step in for her on this one. Steve just returns the glance, looking politely interested, and she sighs.
"I'm not an alien, or allergic to bell peppers. I just have a lot of experience when it comes to making coffee and smoothing things over for loud personalities," Darcy says, carefully.
Tony looks at her thoughtfully. "Loud alien personalities?"
"That's where I got started," Darcy admits, and shrugs. "It's not really a big deal."
"Aliens are a pretty big deal," Bruce says, flipping the omelet. "Even assuming the majority are non-confrontational."
"How'd you get the job, anyway?" Steve asks. "I've been on Craig's List, and I've never seen anything quite like that."
"He was sitting alone in a diner at three AM," Darcy says, after a moment. "He didn't look like a homeless guy, and he wasn't eating his crepes, and he was just… sad. So I brought my textbook over to say hi. It's not like you really remember anything you learn at three AM, anyway."
"Darcy Lewis, adopter of aliens," Tony says, "why am I not surprised. Anyway, tough deal, you're ours now."
Bruce looks over to her, where she's fiddling around with a cereal box. "Do you want an omelet?"