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Sleepless in S.H.I.E.L.D

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"Ms. Lewis."

Darcy jerks up from the desk she fell asleep on. "I didn't touch anything! God, what time is it?"

"I believe Oh Dark Early is the usual designation for this time of day." The guy is big and black, where 'black' also acts as a descriptor of his clothes and could be additionally supplemented by the word 'leather'. He's got an eyepatch – an actual eyepatch – and a goatee and if he didn't sound so amused, Darcy would already have gone for the taser.

On the other hand, this guy looks dangerous enough that the taser shock might just make him giggle.

Then again, it took out an alien god, so maybe it would--

"What are you doing here, Ms. Lewis?"

"And he knows my name," she mutters.

"I know a lot of things. Among which is that you haven't answered the question. What are you doing here?"

She figures she should just go for broke and go for the truth. "I was wondering if any of these computers have Facebook."

Leather Coat chuckles - or makes what Darcy imagines is the nearest he gets to a chuckle. "You'd have to get in there first, and if you could, we'd already have you on the payroll."

"You have a payroll?"

"I do. Would you like to be on it?"

"Whoa up a minute. You want me to be on your payroll?"

It's late. Her thoughts are drifting. She doesn't know where Jane is, and she's basically Jane's keeper since Mr Hot Thunder God landed in front of the car Darcy was driving and turned Jane's understanding of the universe - and, incidentally, Darcy's life - upside-down.

Now, she's sitting in one of the myriad SHIELD offices having just been woken up by The Leathered And The Eyepatched after drifting asleep while Jane did some number-crunching that she assured Darcy would only take a minute, and she could swear she's just been offered a job.

"I didn't think it was a particularly existential question, Ms. Lewis. I'm not asking for the meaning of your life, the universe, and those pictures on your iPhone. I'm asking if you want to be paid to do work that's meaningful to you."

Darcy snorts. "Doesn't everyone?"

"So that's a yes?"

"It's an 'I'm thinking about it'. Are you even authorised to offer me a job?"

He flips an authorisation card at her. His face, bald and piratic, stares out of the ID photo. Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.

"Whoa. I'm being headhunted," she says. "By the director of SHIELD. All right, so, why me?"

"Why not you?"

"Jane's a physicist. Okay, so she's got a hot alien boyfriend, but she's still a physicist. So's Doc Selvig who you've stashed away somewhere to do whatever it is that he does. You've already mentioned hackers. What do you want with me? I'm just a poli sci major."

"And you don't think that SHIELD needs someone with an eye on the organisation?"

He answers a lot of questions with more questions. Darcy's starting to find it annoying.

"You've got plenty of big fish around here. I'm small fish."

"But I need to know who's pissing in my pond." He smiles, but Darcy has the feeling he doesn't find it amusing. "And maybe you're small fish, but it's the small fish who feel the changes first."

It's not a bad offer, but it's a bit daunting at this time of the morning. "Uhuh. Do I get to think about this? Or is this offer, like, gonna self-destruct in five minutes?"

"You can think about it."

"Can I get a contract? And look at it without signing any extra privacy clauses."

"It could be arranged. We'll contact you by the usual channels."

"Meaning your agents drive up, hand over the paperwork, wait for me to sign it, and then drive off? Not always in the same car they arrived in, I might add."

"That sounds about right."

"As long as they don't drive up, take me, and drive off."

"I can make it an order."

"Please." Darcy thinks this conversation has gotten just about as weird as it can get. "So this is the 'have your people contact my people and we'll do lunch' part of the conversation done with?"

"I think it is, Ms. Lewis."

"Great. I'm going to go find Jane."