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Say it aloud (break the night into the day)

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“What?” Darcy says, “Shut the front door.”

“You still look like you belong in college,” Agent Hill repeats, very slowly, arms akimbo. The Avenger common area is vacant, well, as vacant as it can be with JARVIS and people who are very good at sneaking around, but Darcy thinks that most of the Avengers are out.

“Did you come over to the Tower from the Helicarrier just to compliment me?” Because, while I’m flattered, I don’t think a relationship would work between us, as hot as we both are. I don’t really like girls, except for that time freshman year where I got really drunk and needed to make out with someone, and the only option around were a bunch of Pikes. And that was not happening.”

Agent Hill is not amused. Actually, Agent Hill is staring down Darcy with a glare that could put any from Director Fury to shame.

“We need someone that can still look and act like they are in college.” Hill says.

“Don’t you have agents for that sort of shit? Because I’m pretty sure my skill set is far more suited to hero-wrangling than secret agent.” Darcy has been a junior handler assigned to the Avenger Initiative for the past year, because while she was a good lab assistant for Jane; she has a sixth sense for knowing when the more talkative Avengers were about to break their covers.

“Actually, we mostly need you to audit a class or two, attend a few parties, and befriend this young man.” Hill turns her tablet around and it auto rotates on a surveillance photo of an unassumingly handsome, if obviously geeky-awkward young man.

Darcy raises her eyebrows and dips her head in appreciation. She is so down with this plan.

                                               *

The best part, in her opinion, of this whole she-bang, is being able to slip right back into her college wardrobe and get brand new school supplies on SHIELD’s dime. She doesn’t really have much of a dress code when she’s working normally, but over the past year she’s slowly been removing holey jeans and plaid shirts from daily wear to weekend wear, because this adult thing kind of blows.

They’ve moved her into a run-down studio apartment near Empire State University where this kid goes and Hill says they are moving her handler into the apartment across the hall and that he should be there shortly. She’s looking over a mission briefing, her course schedule and the dossier on one Charlie Tigner, a senior in the Biological Sciences who has come to the attention of SHIELD as a genius with artificial intelligences. Darcy’s mission is pretty much evaluative; is he someone that SHIELD should continue their interest with and start actively recruiting?

Or really more to the point, “Is this someone that Tony Stark will eat alive and leave without a soul?” which ….has happened before. Poor Dr Liu.

She’s registered into a half-semester philosophy seminar, and  contemplates asking about the need to do her own homework or if she can pawn it off on her handler when there is a knock on the door. “Yeah coming!” she says, stashing the briefing under a pillow on her thread worn futon. Did SHIELD go to a thrift store to furnish her place or did they just raid the science labs hiding space?

She’s actually surprised when it’s Clint, “You’re my handler?” she asks, “Because there went having my handler do my homework for me.”

“Very funny, Darcy.” Clint says. Clint’s pretty much the Avenger she has the least read on. He doesn’t usually need much protecting of his cover, just a little maintenance work to keep it up to date. If he didn’t come out of the woodwork whenever she got the urge to bake cookies and then steal a half dozen before they even cooled, she’d probably deny even knowing the guy outside of field reports and collecting arrows from around incident sites.

“Do you want to do homework and papers relating to…,” she goes back to the couch, pulling out the dossier, “The Mind and the Machine, an intensive look at approaches to the human brain”?  Because I really don’t. I still have to do our database work in addition to this, even if I delegated everything else downward. And since when do you handle field assets?”

“I don’t think I understood what all those words mean together, so no, you can do that. Or I will find someone. Is there anyone that you’d like to punish back at SHIELD?”

Darcy smiles goofily, and Clint laughs at her dreamy sigh. That brings her back to what he didn’t say, “So…handling?”

Clint rolls his eyes, and she loves the way that he can occasionally be a little five-year-old in that controlled body of his, “Cross-training. Vision doesn’t last forever.” He says the second part a little quieter but continues, “And they figured you’d respond well to someone who knows you.”

“You’ve never handled before, I’ve never done the spy thing before. Oh this is going to be lovely.” Darcy takes a few steps over to the seriously tiny bathroom and mutters about getting hazard pay for work above and beyond her pay-grade because seriously, she loves her apartment on the permanent administration residential floor of the Tower. This bathroom sucks. But covers are covers, and must be thorough. She fusses with her hair for a moment, finally deciding that a messy bun is easy enough to do, and looks at her face in the mirror.

Darcy is trying to decide who she’s going to be here. She’s ditched most of the oversized sweaters she wore at Culver, going for more a more fitted v-neck instead. But it’s makeup that gives her pause.

“What are you doing, Darcy?” Clint says leaning on the futon frame that’s like two feet away and she already hates this studio.

“Figuring out how much acting I want to do. This,” Darcy holds up a lipstick just slightly rosier than her lip color, “Is what I wear most days, and what I wore through college. This,” she holds up the bright red, “Is what I always wanted to wear as a kid, and what I wear when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and need a layer of protection against the world. But it’s actually more than that, because if I need to befriend this guy, I have to decide how to do it.” She takes a couple of steps and puts them one in each of Clint’s hands, “One says I’m approachable. I’m just another girl, another student. The other makes me intimidating, a challenge. I’ve read and re-read this guys file and the work already done on him and just can’t figure out which he’s going to respond to. So tell me, as my handler, what do you think?”

She doesn’t miss the way that Clint drops his gaze, looking her over, and settling on her mouth. He hands her back the more natural one, “You might be approachable, but you will never be just another girl.”