In the year between her internship with Jane, and Thor’s emo-rock song of a little brother going all Godzilla on New York, Darcy managed to finish her BA. It wasn’t for lack of trying.
If Darcy had had her way she would’ve stayed with Jane and forgotten all about that pesky college degree. Or rather she'd have "taken a leave of absence" from the university in order to appease her mother. But once the initial grant funding ran out, S.H.I.E.L.D. was extremely reluctant to pay for an assistant with a mostly finished degree. And more importantly, Dr. Mom (Ph.D experimental physics, tenured professor. It was hers, Jane’s, and, evidently, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s little secret) refused to sit by and let her daughter drop out of college (she saw straight through that little leave of absence appeasement. Darcy should've known better. She hadn't gotten anything passed her mom since she was two.) And despite hours spent over multiple phone calls first promising her mother that she wasn’t dropping out of college, she was only taking a year off to do some research and then pleading to let her stay like a cranky six-year-old, the drama only ended when Dr. Armstrong (maiden name) showed up in New Mexico a month before the semester began and strong armed Darcy into returning home to prepare for the new semester. Because even though Loki threw an epic temper tantrum that destroyed Puente Antiguo, no one can scare her into submission like her mother. No one.
“So … I’m apparently going back to school after all.”
“I'm kind of suprised it didn't happen earlier.”
“You thought I’d actually abandon you?!”
“No, your mother had a long talk with me before you started the internship. Now, I know she's your mother and you love her, but … she made me wish I was in front of my supervisory committee defending my dissertation again, rather than talking to her. We both know the minute she showed up here, you were going home.”
Darcy’s final year of college was half spent long-distance babysitting Jane over the phone, half working on her senior thesis (The Ramifications of the Modern Superhero and the “Privatization” of World Peace on International Relations), and half-heartedly taking the remaining classes she needed to finish the degree. (For some reason, college wasn't all that exciting after meeting the Norse god of thunder and witnessing the complete destruction of a small town.) Jane’s junior researchers lasted about a week before they called Darcy begging for help before someone committed murder and/or suicide. It took a couple of days for them to obtain the prepackaged food and decaf coffee, but Jane quickly crashed from her latest science frenzy due to the combination lack of sleep and caffeine. The efforts of the other scientists were supplemented with Darcy calling to “check in” with Jane every few days, allowing Jane to rant and rave while Darcy made appropriately soothing noises. During the more fun calls, Jane and Darcy started making plans for when Darcy had graduated.
And then Loki decided he just had to conquer the world, and Jane was whisked off somewhere classified and unreachable before being planted in New York where S.H.I.E.L.D. could keep a closer eye on her. All while Darcy was in the middle of her freaking final exams, as if she needed the extra stress! And to add to all of that joyous fun, thanks to all the clean up and study of the event, Jane wasn’t able (read allowed) to come to her graduation and get completely wasted with her, which someone was going to pay for dearly. (Apparently Eric was traumatized or had a mental breakdown or something. No one was giving her a direct answer about why they needed Jane.) The cherry on top of the neon colored sundae was how Jane’s unexpected relocation ruined her post-graduation plans! Now instead of joining Jane at her boondocks research station, she actually had to find a reason to be in New York, and she was going to join Jane in the Big Apple, even if it meant taking a job at some skeevy diner with tacky uniforms.
Darcy’s first brilliant idea was, as newly minted college grad, obviously she should work towards a postgraduate degree (it would make mom so proud!) That lasted all of five minutes until she realized that a. she hadn’t taken the GREs yet, b. most of the school had admission deadlines that had already passed, or she’d have to start the next year, and c. she had no idea how she was going to pay for school without having to pay off loans for the rest of her life. Thankfully, right in the middle of her massive freakout in one of the many coffee houses that populated her college town, S.H.I.E.L.D. called with a job that she was supposedly requested for. Apparently, Agent “He Even Took My Ipod!” managed to get injured when New York decided the hot new craze was to look like the aftermath a summer blockbuster, and the higher ups decided that in his current state of health he would be unable to handle his responsibilities to the best of his ability. So Darcy Lewis, recent college graduate and infamous taser of Thor (apparently Thor had shared the story with the Robin Hood wannabe, and now everyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. knew), was hired to assist him.
“Is this some sort of cruel and unusual punishment for you, because you had the gall to almost die while trying to stop the bad guy and save the world?”
“You left out almost disobeying a direct order from the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. And while your personality and mannerism allow for some colorful moments, Miss Lewis, you cannot compete with Agent Barton. Now, as you are well aware, S.H.I.E.L.D.has kept an eye on Dr. Foster’s research after the Puente Antiguo incident. This, of course, includes your interactions with Dr. Foster and her research staff after your mother convinced you to complete your studies. Your skills in managing Dr. Foster’s activities along with your rather thoughtful honor’s thesis made you more than qualified for this position.”
“With the Avenger’s Initiative recently reactivated, I have been placed in a position to manage communications with the team and provide the resources and backup necessary for its members’ endeavors to be successful.”
“So you’re the superheroes’ babysitter, and because you’re recovering from your nearly fatal injury, I get to be junior babysitter.”
Her orientation at S.H.I.E.L.D. provided her with most of the tools she needed as junior babysitter to the Avengers. This included a brand new taser, and after she'd bonded with the bossman over the (mostly) nonlethal weapon, Phil provided her with the personal phone number of Tony Stark’s former PA/CEO/girlfriend, the legendary Pepper Potts. He flat out told her that “Ms. Potts is to be contacted in the event that Stark becomes an uncontrollable nuisance.” Darcy was proud of the fact that she’d only needed to call Pepper once to put Stark in a time out so far, but she had a sneaky suspicion it was only because Stark saw her as a part of Phil and didn't feel the need to exert any effort with her. They had a formula for those initial interactions. He’d greet her with something tempting sexual harassment suit, she’d make a snappy comment such as how he’d need Viagra to keep up, he’d try to get in to see Coulson, and she’d stonewall him until Phil was annoyed by their banter and interrupted.
Darcy’s first real social interaction with Stark didn’t come until a month after she started. The first time they met outside of their little sketch routine was for a team dinner/bonding experience/Stark-imposing-on-everyone’s-personal-time-because-he’s-bored-and-is-actually-making-an-effort-not-to-create-tabloid-fodder for once. Everyone came because they either had nothing better to do (Darcy), or they decided it was best to just give in to Stark and forgo the migraine that would result from his whining and wheedling until they finally caved in (practically everyone else.)
So the team dinner was the first chance Darcy had to observe Stark outside of his public persona, Iron Man, and the occasions he decided to come annoy Phil face to face. And it was also the first time she could observe Ms. "please call me Pepper" Potts and Stark as couple instead of ... employer/employee? co-workers? nanny/hyperactive toddler? They were adorable with how they used snarky banter as flirting, and the dynamics totally did not fit her expectations which was awesome. Darcy knew, as the night went on, she’d had a few too many glasses of wine with dinner and the shots of vodka that came after didn’t help control her verbal filter. So she really couldn’t help the fact that when she commented how surprised she was to see Stark in a healthy, seemingly successful relationship, it came out loud enough for Stark hear. Across the room.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Dude, you used to scream crazy, self-destructive. My friends and I had this pool going about how exactly you were going to get yourself killed. Admittedly, no one picked a terrorist attack in Afghanistan, and I know you didn’t actually die, but we thought it was only a matter of time before your body was found. So then we were going to donate the money to some charity, but we decided you would rather we use the money to get drunk in your honor instead. And that’s all that can be said about that night, cause an oath was sworn and all pictures were deleted.”
“And how old were you again?”
“Does it really matter? It’s not like you’re the poster boy for drinking responsibly.”