Bruce Banner sure knew how to pick them.
The first time he met Darcy Lewis, he was sitting in the café near the ground floor of Stark tower, eating a Reuben sandwich and trying not to get sauerkraut and thousand-island dressing on his brand-new shirt. CNN was playing on the flatscreen mounted above the bakery counter, and the panel discussion about the legal ramifications of visitors from another planet held his attention.
“Has old Goat-Horns-and-Leather reappeared yet?” a female voice piped up from next to his table. Bruce’s attention swung from the television to the woman who had managed to sneak up besides him and nearly dribbled sauerkraut onto his slacks. Great, he’d just made a fool of himself in front of a beautiful young woman.
A hand materialized in front of his face, “Yo. Darcy Lewis.” He looked up at her while he shook her hand, dark brown eyes meeting clear blue ones hidden behind a pair of purple frames. “Bruce Banner.” She was wearing a soft red v-neck sweater, a black miniskirt, with black hose and knee-high black boots. She was a bit on the petite side and definitely curvaceous. Her ensemble was rounded off with a pair of big Santa earrings, a nod to the upcoming holiday. Her dark brown hair was long, curly and soft-looking. Bruce felt the Hulk rumble in appreciation and took a steadying breath to calm himself.
“So, Thor’s emo brother? He show up yet?” Bruce tore his eyes away from Darcy’s dark red lips and glanced at the screen. She pulled out the chair next to his and sat at his table.
“No, not even a peep. Nobody is sure what he’s up to. Congress seems determined to legislate for every conceivable possibility, though.” She nodded in understanding and leaned over to rest her arms on the table. This had the effect of making her cleavage more prominent. Was it supposed to be this warm in the café?
“Is it true he switched sides after the wormhole thingy opened up?” her attention was trained on his face, genuinely interested in what he might say.
“Technically it wasn’t a wor-“ Bruce stopped himself. “It’s true, he did express a reluctance to allow the Chitauri to continue with the destruction of Manhattan. From what Thor told us, he had made an alliance with a being called Thanos to give him an army so that a big enough fuss would get him back in Asgard... and I really shouldn’t have told you that.” He winced.
Darcy shrugged, nonplussed. “That’s okay, Thor and I go way back. I tasered him when he teleported to New Mexico last year. “
“It was nothing, really. My boss ran him over in the Scooby Van twice.” Bruce chuckled at the thought. The so-called demigod was a very sturdy fellow. Darcy reached over and filched one of his potato chips.
“I’m totally going to throw you under the bus, though. I graduated with my Master’s in International Politics and Public Policy, and I had an awesome GPA and now I need to find a job before the grace period on my loans runs out. I’ve been trying to apply for jobs with SHIELD or Stark Industries and I’m hoping my ability to get people to talk works in my favour. I could totes be a spy.” She made a few mock karate moves. “WHACK!”
Darcy Lewis was a very strange young woman. Bruce wasn’t complaining.
“You know, telling people you want to be a spy might preclude your ability to actually spy.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Doc. If I keep telling people I’m a spy often enough, they’ll write it off as a joke. Plus, look at me—“
Bruce was trying not to look at the way she filled out that red sweater.
“I spend half my time on Tumblr reblogging Dramione fanart and squeeing over that gifset with the hedgehog taking a bath. I’m like the Spanish Inquisition. Nobody sees me coming.”
Bruce reluctantly had to head back to work since his lunch hour was over. He didn’t get her number because, with the Other Guy, why bother?
The next time he saw Darcy Lewis, she came into his lab, one of the new secretaries for Stark Industries. She was wearing a partially sheer ivory blouse tucked into a long black pencil skirt. She tread the fine line between demure and business like and naughty secretary by the way Tony Stark leaned back in his chair when she breezed past him, his eyes trained on her swaying backside.
“Darcy, wha- hello. I guess you got a job here, after all.”
She grinned and gave a little wiggle. Tony nearly fell backwards out of his chair. “That I did. Apparently telling Pepper Potts that you tasered the god of thunder and extracted state secrets from one of the Avengers made me a shoo-in.” He blushed. So that’s why Pepper had smirked at him the last time she had come to the lab.
Darcy set down a large paper cup and a white baggie on his desk. “Here, Doctor Fluffy, I brought you your favourite tea and a cheese Danish that I have on good authority is your favourite from that bakery around the corner. “
Bruce was about to ask how she found out what his favourite tea and pastry was when he caught Tony’s open-mouthed grin and wide eyes behind Darcy. “Doctor Fluffy?” the Iron Man mouthed. There would be no living with Tony now. The billionaire put a serious expression on his face and launched out of his chair to stand next to Darcy. “Hello, there. Tony Stark, of Stark Industries, aka Your Boss. I don’t think I recall hiring you, and I would definitely remember hiring you.”
“Nah, Ms. Potts handled that. Apparently you can’t be trusted around things with breasts. And I do have a spectacular rack.” She mentioned matter of factly. Now Tony and Bruce were staring at her breasts.
“Oh.” Tony looked slightly disappointed, then he recovered.
“So, Darcy. Do my eyes deceive me or are you bringing our resident green rage-machine tea and scones?”
Bruce glared at his fellow scientist. He was grateful that Tony had no reservations about being around him and needling him, unlike most other people who tiptoed around him…but there were moments like this where he just wanted to-
“Yup. I’ve heard tea is good for soothing the inner beast and that food is the way to a man’s stomach. I figure if I ply him with tea and pastries, he’ll ask me out.” She gave him a pointed look. “I left my phone number on the cup. Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but call me maybe?” She gave him a little wave and sauntered out the lab.
Tony stared at her backside the entire time and, without looking away, smacked Bruce in the arm several times. “I gotta say, Brucey, you really know how to pick them.”
“We interrupt your scheduled programming for breaking news.” Bruce felt a shiver of foreboding as he turned to the television in his apartment. Soledad O’brien appeared on the screen, looking serious and ready to impart information Bruce did not want to hear.
“Less than a hour ago, an enormous shipment of medicine produced by GenSis, one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the United States, was reported missing. We bring you breaking news to report that the shipment of AIDS drugs has turned up in Nigeria and Somalia, directly in the hands of the clinics and WHO organizations that have already begun to administer the drugs before anyone can try to stop them or seize the shipment. We go now to Anderson Cooper who was already on assignment in Somalia-“
Bruce gaped at the news. He had an eerie feeling he knew who was responsible for this, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to shake the god’s hand or Hulk out on him. On the television screen, Anderson Cooper was reporting on the events from outside a clinic in Somalia. Behind him, hundreds of sick people were crowding the clinic while doctors and health workers worked as fast as possible to dispense drugs.
“It is clear that from the short period of time between the drugs disappearing and then reappearing halfway around the world that someone with special powers is responsible, but so far nobody has taken responsibility. Twitter has exploded with speculation, may congratulating whoever did this, calling them our modern-day Robin Hood.”
Behind Anderson Cooper, a flash of light appeared, and after it, Loki Odinson himself. Or Laufeyson, whichever. He couldn’t keep track of the family drama.
Bruce’s phone began to ring and he knew it was the call for the Avengers to assemble. He had a few minutes to get to the Quinjet, knowing that the others had to get in their uniforms. Loki strode towards the camera and the reporter, palms turned up and out to demonstrate that he was not armed. As if he needed to be armed to do damage, Bruce thought darkly. But then he caught sight of the person walking up behind the god of mischief.
“Darcy!” he gasped in horror.
She didn’t look scared or hurt. In fact she was smiling as if this was where she needed to be all along, and wearing the same secretarial outfit she’d worn the last time he saw her.
“Hello, human reporter. I take responsibility for this act and wish to address your viewers.”
With a conciliatory smile, he looked into the camera. “Greetings, Midgardians. I am Loki of Asgard, and this time I am truly burdened with glorious purpose. It is true that I once conspired to lay waste to the city of Manhattan for my own nefarious purposes, but I had a change of heart, courtesy of my brother Thor and my new minion, the latter of whom has convinced me to value human life and see that world domination was not what I was after, but rather my father’s love and respect. You see, I never felt like I fit in with Asgardian society, being given to introspection and diplomacy rather than extroversion and battle. Finding out I was not only adopted, but of a completely different race, a race reviled by the people I had grown up with…well, I was completely shattered…“
Bruce groaned. He could just hear millions of teenage girls sighing and whispering, “that Loki, he’s so dreamy, so confused…” Even Anderson Cooper seemed a bit starstruck.
Bruce knew that Loki would pontificate for a while, so he used the time to break out into a light jog to the elevators. JARVIS was able to recognize Bruce and send him directly to the roof level, not stopping for any other floors on the way unless an Avenger or necessary agent was required on the trip. Bruce nodded to Steve and Clint, the latter next to Natasha piloting the Quinjet. Tony and Thor were focused on a Starkpad with the livestream of the CNN interview.
“And now, I would like to introduce you to my Minion of Purposeful Mischief, Darcy Lewis. She has been instrumental in educating me about this world and informing me how I might begin to atone for my sins by righting the wrongs done to the weak and poor by the powerful and wealthy.” Loki bowed and conceded the interview to Darcy who looked every inch the consummate professional.
Tony was squinting at the screen. “Oh, Doctor Fluffy! Unless I’m going blind, which is an impossibility since I had a LASIK procedure last month…but isn’t that Ms. Lewis, one of my secretaries, and local Banner-whisperer?”
“She is not-“
“Didn’t you call the number she left on your tea cup? I told you to call the number she left you on your tea cup. Maybe if you had called her, this wouldn’t be happening. Do I fire her now? Or try to offer her a raise? I mean, working for the God of Mischief can’t be the most secure of careers.”
“Tony. Shut up.”
The Iron Man just snorted.
“You really do know how to pick them.”
Bruce was held back just in case the Hulk’s strength and rage was necessary while the others headed out to confront Loki. He was watching Thor walk up to his wayward brother on the CNN footage when he saw Darcy standing on the lowered ramp at the entrance to the Quinjet.
“It’s been two weeks and you haven’t called me. What gives, Doc?”
“Darcy!” he gaped for a moment. “I hardly think that’s my priority now that you’ve taken up with the world’s most wanted terrorist.”
She sighed and rolled her eyes and continued walking up into the belly of the jet.
“If you’re feeling threatened by the fact that I’m Loki’s minion, don’t be. He’s basically immortal and I’m a mayfly. Plus the whole ‘ants under the boot’ thing tends to kill the potential for romance.”
“Oh, Jesus.” was all Bruce could think to say in response. So many thoughts were flying around his head at the speed of light, his brain-to-mouth filter couldn’t catch any of them. But the maddening young woman was continuing to talk.
“I think deep down you admire some of the things we do. After all, you know just how duplicitous the military and various governments can be. I asked around and hacked into a few secret files. You worked as a doctor in third-world countries where people had barely any access to the medicine they needed while BigPharm companies like GenSis hoard their stockpiles of cheap drugs and sell them for ridiculous prices.”
He nodded, angry. But he was always angry. He began to pace the cramped quarters.
“The fact remains, you are aiding and abetting a known terrorist and I currently work for SHIELD.”
Darcy appeared to be half-listening to him, half-listening to Loki and Thor arguing in front of Anderson Cooper and millions of viewers. She waved her hand dismissively.
“Pah! The United States is still friendly with Saudi Arabia, isn’t it? And we went to war with Iraq instead. Point is, Naughty-Loki and I are winning hearts and minds of the regular folk and as long as I am channeling his mischief, nobody is getting hurt. If I steer things right, I just might wrangle a reconciliation between the wayward son and Asgard. Where I might add, I am already welcome in the event SHIELD decides they don’t want all the valuable intel I’ve learned from working with Loki. Frigga totes loves me. We have tea. I’m also trying to help her and the Lady Sif engineer a women’s lib movement.”
She moved closer to him and just as he could feel her breasts pressing against his torso, she shoved him backwards into the chair and climbed into his lap, skirt hiking further up her hips.
“It-It’s not that I’m not attracted to you, it’s just that the Other Guy tends to be a relationship-killer and me working for SHIELD isn’t very safe for anyone close to me—“ Darcy was undoing his tie and beginning to unbutton his shirt. “Funny, that wasn’t what he was saying the other night. He liked my hair, called me Soft Darcy. Loki brought us dinner. It was fun.”
Bruce tried to stop her hands from unbuttoning his shirt further, and her words almost didn’t register with him. “Wait, what? You met the Hulk? How did he not try to smash Loki like last time?” Darcy paused the progression of her lips from his chin to his neck. The Other Guy was grumbling, not liking Bruce making Darcy talk instead of kissing him.
“Yup, the Hulk was a perfect sweetheart. Loki apologized for making him angry last time and gave him food plus he told him that he approved of you courting me. That did the trick.”
“Okay, but Darcy, this is serious. You’re a human, and you’re dealing with aliens that are unbelievably powerful. What kind of game do you think you’re playing that won’t end badly for you?” He clutched her hands in his, looking right into her eyes, pleading for her to see reason.
Darcy sighed and leaned backwards a little more. Her lipstick was hopelessly smeared.
“We’ve got demigods from another world landing on Earth, a Voldemort-wannabe planning a major attack, and we’re just a planet with tons of different countries with their own separate government and a serious imbalance between the poor and the handful of powerful dudes making decisions that benefit themselves.” She explained in a low voice. “And we’re supposed to rely on SHIELD, an American military organization, and trust the people in government who run it and arm it with weapons that, if used on human populations, would make things exponentially worse? Didn't you listen to the opening montage of The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring? Point is, the Avengers can’t be all that there is. We don’t stand a chance unless the world itself changes. And how else will we keep Odin and Asgard from running roughshod over us without some kind of leverage? That’s where Loki comes in, he sees things differently than the All-father and he has the power and ability to help equalize the negotiations. Plus, I always wanted to be famous and travel the world. Only now I get to travel the worlds.”
Bruce was slack-jawed. “My god, Darcy. That’s…you’re brilliant. Terrifying, but brilliant.”
She hummed in agreement while a red-tipped fingernail traced an invisible line through the curly black hair peeking out of his button-up. “You see now? I’d be wasted on fetching coffee at SI or filing things in triplicate for SHIELD.”
She hadn't been kidding when she had said nobody would see her coming.
“You’re super smart, and you can turn into a giant, green rage monster that’s capable of kicking Loki’s leather-clad ass. I think this is his idea of giving his approval. So, what do you say, Dr. Fluffy? Wanna go steady?”
Bruce was often a very sensible man, but in the years since the gamma radiation changed his life, he had learned to roll with the punches. What the hell?
“Well, I can’t say I don’t admire your ambition and single-minded focus. Plus you did find out my favourite tea-and-pastry order. How did you do that by the way?” He tugged her closer so that he could capture her lips between his in a hungry kiss. Long moments later, Darcy broke away for oxygen. “A girl’s got to have her mysteries.” Bruce grinned and was about to kiss her again, but she wiggled her way out of his lap and straightened her skirt.
“Nuh-huh. Becoming Loki’s minion has raised my confidence levels like you wouldn’t believe. He was going on about courtship and ‘demonstrations of respect’, so now I expect to be wooed. And if what I felt under my butt was any indication, the Other Other Guy really wants to woo me too.” With a wink and a jaunty sway to her hips, she sauntered down the ramp of the Quinjet.
Bruce watched her backside the entire way, but this time he was smiling. He wouldn’t be smiling when he had to explain his rumpled appearance, replete with several damning lipstick stains to the other Avengers when they returned from a very strange conversation with the god of mischief.
Four days later, while Loki was taunting the Avengers by making all the stuffed animals and toys in the Children’s wards of several New York hospitals come to life, singing and dancing, the Hulk dropped down next to Darcy’s hiding place with the entire bakery counter from Darcy’s favourite pastry shop with a dark grin.
Darcy squealed as she slid the window open and pulled out a cheese Danish. “My favourite! You are awesome!” The last bit was muffled by the huge bite she took. Looking at her companion, she finally remembered her manners. “Torry, vwan wun?”
He practically ripped apart the cabinet and ate three-quarters of the pastries inside. Oh well, it was the thought that counted.
“Oop! Look at the time, I really gotta get going. I have big plans for the Master-bator that involve humiliating the Supreme Court into not overturning Obamacare.”
“SOFT DARCY SMALL BUT MIGHTY.”
“That’s right, Buster, and don’t you forget it.” She winked and clicked her tongue at him.
“Oh! Before I forget” She rifled through her bag and pulled out a black permanent marker. Tongue sticking out of her teeth, she scrawled something on the Hulk’s big green forearm. “There, that’s my phone number. Make sure Tony Stark sees this, he’ll save the number for you when you turn back into Doctor Fluffy. I’m pretty sure he ships us. We just might be his OTP. Okay, up please!”
She raised her arms so that the Hulk could lift her closer to his face. She placed a little peck on his cheek, leaving a bright red lipstick stain. He grumbled happily and set her back down.
Darcy waved goodbye to her new boyfriend.
“Have a nice day, honey! Go scare away the puny god.”
The Hulk really did know how to pick them.
And that was honestly a compliment.