When things between Tony and Pepper end, the only one who seems honestly surprised is Steve. He keeps shooting Pepper nervous glances like he expects her to break out in tears, and he furrows his brows in a mixture of concern and disapproval whenever Tony wanders across his field of vision. Tony is either oblivious to it or a fucking genius at pretending he’s oblivious. Darcy can’t quite tell which one, but she’s reluctantly impressed with the levels of obliviousness anyway.
The whole show lasts for about two days, until Pepper pulls Steve into an empty office one morning and they have a private conversation. Afterwards, Steve does his best to act normal around them and it doesn’t take long until things actually go back to normal.
About two months later, Happy walks in during their Girls’ Breakfast on Tuesday morning. He grabs a coffee and absently kisses Pepper’s cheek on the way out.
Darcy lets her mouth fall open. “Pepper? Spill!”
Jane looks up from her tablet, oblivious to the events of the last few seconds. “Someone need a paper towel?”
Natasha smirks, but seems otherwise unfazed, which leads Darcy to believe that this is not news to her. That sneaky assassin spy.
Betty smiles encouragingly at Pepper.
Pepper blushes. “There’s not much to tell. Happy and I are dating. It’s not a big deal.”
“Congratulations,” Betty says.
“It’s totally a big deal,” Darcy says, “Happy’s cool. In fact, Happy’s awesome. Go you!”
“We should celebrate,” Jane suggests.
Darcy points at her. “You have the best ideas! We should celebrate. Tonight, the usual place. Yes or yes?”
The others agree.
After a few minutes of companionable silence, Natasha says, “We should invite Maria.”
“Agent Hill?” Pepper says.
“You think she’d be interested?” Darcy asks, “I mean, she’s cool and all, but she seems kinda... professional,” she finishes somewhat lamely.
Natasha raises her eyebrows. “And how do the rest of us appear like?”
“Well,” Darcy hedges, “I mean, we’re all professionals - apart from me probably but I am getting there, don’t you think? I own a suit now and all - I just meant, we know each other and,” she pauses, replays the words she’s just uttered in her own head and pulls a face. “Yeah, ok. I’m being an ass. Ignore me. We should totally invite Agent Hill to this little outing. Please don’t kill me in my sleep, Natasha.”
Natasha pats her hand. “Don’t worry. You’re still young and capable of learning. I will cut you some slack.”
“Plus we’re friends?” Darcy likes to live in hope.
“Friends are allowed a certain degree of stupidness in their behaviour,” Natasha admits.
“So that’s why Clint’s still alive,” Jane says.
“Among other things.”
“Hey, that’s my boyfriend you’re talking about,” Darcy objects. She throws a napkin at Jane for good measure.
They meet at their usual bar, a small venue not too far from the Avengers Tower at eight o’clock that night. Darcy’s the first there and she goes for the good stuff straight away. It’s a celebration, there should be alcohol en masse. She might have been spending too much time with Tony lately.
When Natasha arrives, she brings Agent Hill with her. Darcy does her best to appear nonchalant. Truth is, though, Agent Hill scares the crap out of her most days.
Darcy lives with a bunch of superheroes, all of which have personal issues piled high as the sky, and she doesn’t even bat an eyelash. Not even when Bruce turns into a giant green rage monster to save the day. But Agent Hill is scary in a different way. It’s the you-won’t-see-my-BAMF-coming-until-it-hits-you-in-the-face kind of scary and it’s just creeping Darcy the fuck out. At least Coulson has the decency to be all darkly brooding disappointment that is visible from a mile away.
Darcy knows she’ll get over it eventually, especially if she actually gets to know Agent Hill a little better. There just hasn’t been a good opportunity as of yet. Well, no time like the present. Darcy decides to grab the metaphorical bull by its horns. The alcohol definitely helps - lowered inhibitions and all that.
She slides into the booth next to Agent Hill when Natasha gets up to get them both a drink. “Hello Agent Hill, nice of you to join us. We’re celebrating the happy hooking up of Pepper with the lovely Happy Hogan.” Yeah, ok, she might be a little bit drunk.
“So I heard,” Agent Hill smiles. “Congratulations, Pepper. And please call me Maria.”
“Thank you, Maria,” Pepper says.
An unspecified number of drinks later, Darcy pokes Maria in the shoulder. “You’re cool, dude. Not scary at all. Well, maybe a little scary, but in a cool way.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
“You should come ‘round more often. Join us for breakfast or something. Tuesdays.”
Maria gives her a pat on the head that somehow manages to not be condescending. “I’ll consider it.”
“You really should join us,” Betty says earnestly.
“Totally,” Jane agrees, the word slightly slurred.
Darcy props her head on Maria’s shoulder. “Say yes?” she says into Maria’s hair.
“If you get any handsier with my girlfriend, I am going to have to rethink my friendship with you,” Natasha says conversationally from Darcy’s other side.
“Mmmh?” Darcy asks, then it clicks. She grins broadly. “That decides it! You’re definitely going to join us for breakfast next Tuesday. No excuses!”
Maria laughs. “Alright, next Tuesday it is.”
Darcy punches a fist into the air. “Girl Power!” she crows victoriously.
It turns out that getting Maria to join their breakfast club was a very good idea.
Fury gets it into his head to order them all to do some team-bonding exercises - and yes, for some reason he includes any and all boy- and girlfriends into this crazy idea, not even Coulson knows why.
Maria very efficiently takes the planning of this team-bonding event into her own capable hands, soothing Fury’s concerns in a way that Darcy can only admire. She books the bar around the corner from the Tower and after everyone’s finally arrived - Tony being dragged in by Steve only about half an hour late - she grins at them, opens her arms wide and declares:
“Open bar on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s expenses. Do whatever you please, but please don’t leave the premises.”
When Pepper raises her eyebrows questioningly, Maria shrugs. “We’re perfectly fine as a team. I figure we hang around here for the next 24 hours, I bill Fury for the team-building equipment the way he expects and everyone’s happy.”
Maria, Darcy decides, is the best.