Chapter 1: Jane.
Jane drank a lot of coffee. Like she could give Tony, Clint, and Darcy combined a run for their money if it made her hyper. instead, it just made her super, highly, extremely, efficient. Especially when combined with at least two days worth of sleep deprivation.
Okay so maybe it wasn't the healthest way for her to hit deadlines, but really. She's an astrophysist who's dating a Demigod who commutes via an Einstien-Rosenburg bridge, and wants her to meet his parents, who happen to be the King and Queen of his entire homeworld. She's allowed a certain amount of leeway.
With that aside, Jane gets most of her work done simply through letting go. Letting almost all external stimuli just slip away, until almoat all that is left is the data and her. No deadlines. None of Darcy's incredibly extensive and obsessively sorted playlists going nonestop, and she can't hear Erik muttering under his breath. None of that exists.
It's a beautiful system, one that's served her wonderfully since the horrors of high school and its attendant neanderthalian customs, but it does have is downsides. Like having to be reminded for the thousandth time that three pots of coffee, a box of pop tarts, and one of Darcy's disgusting purple energy drinks, cannot substitute for three or four square meals and two nights solid sleep when it comes to walking in a straight line to get the other marker she needs from across the room to finish color coding her reference to the hypothesis Erik was working on three whiteboards down from her. That is why they have Darcy.
Realistically, Darcy did tend to let them go a little too long between meals strictly speaking, but considering she was a Poli-Sci major who came armed with a cross referenced spreadsheet system that was pure genius coming from someone who had difficulty counting change, Jane was inclined to let it go.
Jane really liked her work. She loved the numbers, the way the theoretical and the real just combined to make beautiful equations that shouldn't strictly work, and yet they did. And she loved Thor. Like, head over heels, fairytale wedding bells in her head, loved him.
So yeah, her academic colleagues might laugh at her behind her back, and S.H.I.E.L.D. might still be interfering dicks who like to poke their noses in and interupt her everytime she's just gotten into the groove, but she was right. They were right.
The Bridge exists, and intelligent alien life exists, and nothing can take that away.
Not even a nondisclosure form twenty three pages long that requires fourteen signatures, seven intializations, and thumbprint before S.H.I.E.L.D. will leave her alone this time.
Chapter 2: Fury, Nick.
Nick Fury is one of the single most feared individuals in the Universe. He is not, however, perfect.
warning for strong language and intimidating glares.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Fuck this. Nick didn't need this. For one thing, he was Director Nick Fury, head of the single most badass secret agency in the world (barring the fucking Treadstone project, that stuff is scary as shit), had just overseen the successful rebuff of a tactical assault by extraterrestials on New York City, and he did not. Have. Time. For. This.
Seriously?! A pipe? what are the chances of a pipe bursting in his inconspicious New York apartment building, and his apartment being the only one affected? Huh? Whatever he had done in his previous life, Nick was certain it must be one hell of a story to explain his current karma.
Flooded. Repairs being put on a god damn waiting list due to the extremely more important reconstruction being done on the rest of New York City.
Unfortunately, the only people his very intimidating glare did not work on, included those such as New York plumbers, taxi drivers, and Tony freaking Stark, who come to think of it had been disturbingly unannoying in the last 24 hours. He'd have to have Hill check up on that.
In the mean time, he got to play the game of "Which SHIELD safehouse can I apropriate without calling undue attention to the fact that yes, Nick Fury does actually sleep sometimes, contrary to popular belief. With his eye closed and everything. And in a real bed, not hanging from the rafters, Barton, I'll see you in my office NOW."
I know this chapter was really short, and it wasn't very "Character Study"y, but I struggled with a way to describe Fury without resorting to the cliches and typecasting that many others have already covered, so I decided to settle with this.
*also yes, I couldn't resist throwing in the little Bourne mention, I'm so very excited to see Jeremy Renner in the new film, that I've already added it to my head cannon of "Clint Barton is also secretly William Brandt/Aaron Cross/Any other super amazing badass characters he plays including that guy in the Hurt Locker which I've yet to see but want to badly". :)
Chapter 3: Darcy.
Okay, so Darcy might have 3/4ths of a Poli Sci Degree, a Tumblr habit that bordered on addicted, and socks that almost never matched, but that didn't mean she doesn't contribute just as much as the rest of them.
Darcy is awesome. This is a universally known truth, at least as far as Darcy is concerned. Darcy is awesome, and not just for her fashion sense. She can do stuff too, like make the perfect cup of coffee, or a spreadsheet so beautiful you wanted weep. She can recite the mulitplication tables up to 13, argue both sides of the broken borders debate, and out drink a college frat boy twice her size.
Darcy's awesomeness is what made her an excellent personal assistant. She could recommend media for Steve that would educate and entertain without psychologically traumatizing him more than necessary, locate and aquire acohol is almost any situation, and blow a Juicy Fruit bubblegum bubble as big as her head while standing on one foot without getting most of it in her hair or boobs.
She also made lots of lists. Not the kind you could use to ever find anything, since her sorting system changed on a biweekly basis depending on what she was working on, and not the kind that are todo today lists, since her todo lists consisting mostly of things that would be completed absentmindedly half an hour before their deadline, stuff that she really ought to be doing but no one had noticed the missing paperwork yet so she'd get around to that later, and things that invariably languished until someone else did them.
Mostly they were stuff she wanted to remember, stupid things that encompassed the insanity wrapped in bacon and dipped into mojitos that was her life at this part of her existence. The time Tony and Bruce teamed up to convince Steve to do the Cinnamon Challenge, and Natasha stole the resulting footage to use as blackmail next time she wanted someone to go get coffee for her at the crack of dawn. How Clint was unsuprisingly an excellent poker player, but he also had a soft spot for Scrabble, a game Natasha was still terrible at even after all those years of speaking English more often then her mother tongue. (whatever that was. Darcy was torn between Binary, and Martian, because if anyone could be an undercover alien or android sent to take over the earth from inside it would be Natasha).
Darcy knew all about the Google Bias, deteriorating memory capacity and flexibility that came with age, and the one and a hundred excuses for why some of the most important moments are the ones you can't remember without a little help. Like the time that Bruce spent an entire rainy wednesday afternoon teaching her drinking songs in Swahili instead of working because she'd been bored, or the time Tony had gotten smashed while Pepper was in Bejing and Bruce and Jane were at a Science Convention in Germany, and had given her a tour of Manhattan. From 4,000 feet up. While blasting Journey.
Darcy wrote everything down, because if the day came that she needed to be reminded of what had happened, she wouldn't have to rely on someone else's interpretation of things. She could just trust that if she fell, someone would always catch her, before chewing her out for being so reckless.
I love love love Darcy, and wanting to write her chapter was my whole excuse for writing a sequel to Stronger As A Whole, so I hope you enjoy! This chapter is dedicated to Science!Bros, which has inspired and entertained me for the good week and a half they've existed. Go check em out! http://sciencebrosassemble.tumblr.com/
and you can read up on the Google Bias here; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/8639443/Internet-search-engines-cause-poor-memory-scientists-claim.html
Chapter 4: Bucky.
Deja Vu is business as usual for Bucky by now. A ghost who died seventy years ago? Not so much.
Bucky, formerly Sgt. James Buchanan 'Bucky' Barnes of the Howling Commandos, and lately "Winter Soldier" and a hundred other temporary names he'd rather not think about right now thankyouverymuch, had seen a lot in the last seventy years. Granted it was closer to twenty or thirty, once you accounted for the unnumerable years he spent 'on ice' and the months and months spent here and there in with his brain on the 'gentle' cycle of the machine known as Soviet Russia's "Reconditioning Program", but that was nether here nor there. Point was, he'd never woken up to a ghost before. Let alone one that appeared to be deep in a lively hushed debate with a women Bucky would swear had been his prodigy, once upon a time and a thousand memories ago.
Natalia had grown all big since then.
And Steve looked exactly the same.
"Well, fuck". Bucky stared some more. Ghost-Steve had seemed startled at his announcement, and was now staring back at him, mouth half open the way Real-Steve's used to hang when he wanted to say something, but he wasn't quite sure what. Natalia continued shuffling the pack of cards she was holding, deliberately not looking at him in a way that made Bucky feel like she was seeing more than she ever let on.
Natalia stood up. "He's real, you know. Your Steven. And so am I." Natalia set the deck softly on his bedside table, and with that just walked out of the room as if she had somewhere to be. Somewhere other than here.
Steve kept staring at him all wide eyes and slack jawed.
Guess some things never change.
Yes I have been terrible about updating this, but I blame Holiday and Family. As usual, this was not the next chapter I planned to upload, but this was what I was inspired to write. I blame fluffy little thought bunnies for hiding in the fields of my subconsious. Enjoy! (and for Bucky's first words, in my defense that would be my exact reaction the the same situation. Plus or minus some entirely undignified whimpering.)
Chapter 5: Pepper.
Pepper is regal grace and consummate patience all bottled up in a well dressed redheaded container. Sometimes.
Pepper is incredibly patient. It's one of her best attributes, right after her ability to seize upon a project and not let go until it was done the right way, and completed on time and within budget. Projects that ranged from winning the contract for a new power plant that would power half of Bejing at a third of the cost, to making sure Tony Stark arrived on time and appropriately dressed at his next publicity event.
Between the both of you, wrangling Tony into a suit was the harder of the two.
What most people didn't know, was that Pepper also had the worst temper in existence when it came to her personal life. Patience and grace where all well and good when they directly effected her image and career, but when it came down to who had stolen the last of the coffee and not replaced it (Tony), or had left wet towels on the bathroom floor AGAIN for her to step on (Tony) she blew up with the best of them. Really. The first time poor Steve got caught in the path of her fury, he turned bright red, started apologizing for stuff he hadn't even done, and conference called his entire contact list in his panic to get some other than him down there to deal with her.
It was kind of funny in retrospect.
In any case, Tony was well aware of her hideous temper, and other than deliberately annoying her occasionally for amusment, took it in stride. The rest of the team learned to alternatively tiptoe (Steve), sympathize (Bruce), and back away slowly (Thor and Steve) as needed. Clint managed to mysteriously vanish every time she felt her last nerve fraying, and Natasha just loftily ignored it.
Most people would blab about internalizing anger not being healthy, and about how outbursts can ruin relationships, but really. When you're the CEO of Stark Industries, girlfriend of Tony Stark, and occasional liason between Stark Industries and various secret goverment agencies that shouldn't strictly exist, unhealthy coping mechanisms become the least of your worries.
Besides. Screaming at the top of your lungs occasionally can be extremely carthatic. Just ask the Hulk.
so I may or may not have neglected this collection for two months and then decided to write and publish a new chapter at 2AM while battling insomnia. I admit to nothing. Enjoy :)