"Captain Rogers," says Darcy, "you have created battle plans. I have seen those battle plans; I had to study them at university. They're brilliant." She slaps down a small sheaf of papers on the kitchen table. "This, on the other hand, is only three pages long. It has boxes to fill in. How hard can it be?"
Steve Rogers looks at her, quiet misery in his pretty blue eyes. Darcy adjusts her thick black smart girl! specs and looks back at him.
"Uh, I think you'll find," says Tony Stark over her shoulder, "that not even JARVIS can fill out an X22-AR5 correctly. That form is eldritch."
"Oh it so is not," says Darcy. "You want a do-over, Mr Stark?"
"No time!" he says airily. "I have important patent-making things to do in the basement. Seeya Miss, er, Agent, uh... Paperwork Girl... Person."
Darcy usually quite likes Mr Stark, even if he can never keep her name straight. He's sharp, and witty, and has cool toys, which he lets people play with, a lot. Right now, though, she just wants to tase him into the linoleum and use him as a footrest. She waves him goodbye grudgingly, sends Captain Rogers after, and settles down to the small bureaucratic nightmare the Avengers team has left her with.
There's the doctor's illegible scrawl, and Roger's pretty cursive writing that seems so apologetic about the mess it makes of the form. Mr Stark's hand-in claims that Pepper will do it! which is true, but Miss Potts won't be back from Massachusetts until the weekend. Thor always asks Jane but, really, there's a reason why Jane used to keep Darcy as a paperwork bunny. She sighs with relief when she gets to the bottom two, filled with awkward, brutally clear printing.
She glances up and jumps a little. Barton has come down from wherever he usually keeps himself and is sitting across from her, in black pants and a plain grey t-shirt, quietly slicing an apple into pieces with a sharp little knife.
"What's your secret?" The man quirks an eyebrow.
"How do you turn this," she holds up the Documents of Shame, "into this?" she points at the other two. "... Help?"
"Probationary Staff Member Lewis," Barton says levelly, "people can do something well for several reasons. Maybe they're naturals, maybe they like it enough to practice a lot, maybe it's very important to them." He puts the half-apple and the knife down on the table and spreads his hands flat. "And sometimes they do it right first time so they will never be asked to do it over."
"You do it for Natasha."
"I've bled on Natasha," he observes mildly.
Darcy almost says something, but subsides. Barton retrieves the apple, and the silence stretches out, broken only by the sounds of slicing and chewing.
Eventually Barton rolls his shoulders, hands Darcy the last slice of apple, and says, "Make another pot of that coffee with the eggs in it, and I'll see what I can do."
It isn't until that evening, when Darcy is buried in the background reading that SHIELD gives its rookies in an unsubtle attempt to make their eyes bleed, that it occurs to her that Barton really isn't a hand out process documents and run cheery training workshops kind of a guy.
It's a cheerful sunny morning washed clean of sin when Darcy blows back into the A Tower, but she doesn't appreciate it, still holding as she does a headache from last night's reading. The tower is oddly quiet, and there's a haze in the air that smells like cordite. What?
She finds her way to the kitchen, where a lot of Avengers business gets settled in an informal kind of way. The only one there is Dr Banner with a newspaper, eating toast and drinking tea poured from a silver pot. Without looking up he pours tea into a delicate flowered cup and slides it towards her.
Darcy takes her usual seat and finds a folder in front of her, full of completed X22-AR5 (Suspected Temporal Loop, Type B) forms.
"It has been suggested," says Dr Banner, still looking at his newspaper, "that making the lives of support staff more difficult than they need to be is, in general," he turns a page, "a 'dick move'."
Darcy closes the folder. "I haven't asked someone to fight my battles since I was three," she says flatly. "I feel like such a twerp right now."
"Don't," says Dr Banner. He takes off his glasses and his eyes are warm and friendly as the tea. "That's what team-mates are for."