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live from new york

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The studio laughter is surprisingly loud and long for what’s got to be the last sketch of the night.

Bruce has no idea who’s hosting SNL (in fact, he’d been perfectly happy not knowing who Channing Tatum was until Tony had to go and ruin things—and nothing was wrong with the first 21 Jump Street anyways, also, going to see that male stripper movie wasn’t good team bonding, seriously, they still haven’t shown Steve Return of the Jedi, this is not an effective use of their limited free time) but he can tell it’s the show, watched enough of them in college to recognize the ending scene, the burble of people laughing and waving on stage.  The sound is tinny, coming from laptop speakers in the kitchen, so it’s not Tony, then, and definitely not Steve or Thor.  Clint and Natasha are more Stewart and Colbert people; they watch the shows together, back to back and breathing practically in sync, and if sometimes Natasha’s foot brushes up against Clint’s, Bruce can pretend not to see it.

He takes a couple more steps and sees Darcy’s dark head, hair pinned up in a messy bun.  Okay then, Bruce thinks, and goes into the kitchen.

She looks up when she hears him approach, smiling, face open.  It’s not too late, not yet, if the show is just ending, and he takes it as an invitation.

“Where’d you get a streaming link for that?”  Bruce asks.

Darcy waves a hand, her movements loose and relaxed.  “Tony has his ways and means. And I can be very convincing.”

“I don’t doubt it,” he responds.  “We all saw what he did to the SHIELD firewalls and almost everyone’s personal emails.  Although you asking Tony for help… it does beg the question of why you’re watching SNL on your laptop in the kitchen when there are stupidly high-tech tablets and TVs all over the place.”

“But where there’s TVs there are people, and I just—you know?  It’s like college, but with people who can kill you.”  She pulls her knees closer to her chest.  “It’s a space thing.

“They wouldn’t,” Bruce says automatically.  “They would never.” 

She shrugs.  “I know that.  But it’s not only—well.  Dorm life gets old.  I already lived through it once, I didn’t realized that signing up for the super-secret military organization meant I was getting into it again, too.”

She’s tucked up onto the chair, and still wearing those same old orange socks.  They’re threadbare at the heel, fabric worn thin.

“My freshman roommate was a DJ,” Bruce says, and then amends it.  “Well.  He was a wannabe DJ.  I don’t know if he ever made any money from it.  Mostly he was trying to, ah, ‘party off the hook, my man’ late at night on Tuesdays.  Or very early on Wednesdays.  It depends on how you look at it.  This is, of course, how I came to take multiple physics tests after staying up for 50 hours straight—never a good idea.  Some of those diagrams look utterly implausible on no sleep.”

“A lot of those diagrams just look implausible, always,” Darcy says. 

“Yeah, well,” Bruce says, rubbing a hand through his hair.  He reaches for the chair next to her.  It screeches against the tile, and he sinks into it, elbows landing on the table, head propped on a hand.  “So it was a funny episode?”

“What?  Oh—yes.  Actually, it was.  I was surprised.”  She grins.  “Though I miss Andy Samberg already.  It’s not quite the same without him.”

“He’s the one who did the weird videos,” Bruce says.  Darcy nods, eyes a little wide.

“You don’t know who Andy Samberg is?”  She blinks.  “Wow.”

“It’s not, like, pop-culture osmosis, you know?  I’ve kind of had a thing the past few years.  A couple of things.”

“Right,” she says, closing the laptop.  “Sorry.”

“You don’t need to apologize,” he says.  His voice is quiet.  “Really.  It’s nothing to do with you.”  She nods, looking up at him. 

“Okay,” Darcy says.  “It’s a deal.”

She has a briefing packet about Bruce, and it says a lot of things: dangerous, and temperamental, and anger management issues.  Don’t aggravate, it says.  But Darcy’s heard from Natasha that Bruce has pretty ironclad control.  It’s more of an egotistic junior agents trying to provoke the Hulk to prove themselves kind of thing.

Natasha had followed that up by muttering under her breath about the lowering of SHIELD hiring standards and the sudden, ridiculous amounts of legal documents she now was stuck sifting through, despite a veritable army of lawyers, and Darcy had nodded, smiled in commiseration, and made some excuse to dart away to a safe corner.

The briefing packet had become a mandatory Powerpoint presentation after that particular incident.  There was a lot of emphasis on certain slides.

“You know,” she says.  “We could watch some old episodes on Netflix streaming.  I, uh, acquired Tony’s account, and there’s decades of them on there.  Skip the really bad episodes—oh god wait until you see January Jones, she was the worst—and then we can fast-forward through the lame skits, soak in the up-to-date funny, you know?”

“You acquired access to Tony’s account,” Bruce says flatly.  “Um.  I’m not sure I want thhe details.”

“I was only going to fill his queue up with, like, children’s cartoons.  Steve likes them,” Darcy grins.  “JARVIS thought it was an excellent idea.”

“I’m not touching that one,” Bruce sighs.  “Just, staying away from ill-advised prank wars with mad billionaires who like to make things go boom.”

“You’re his science buddy, you wouldn’t end up a casualty,” Darcy winks.  “Well.  Most likely.  Tony is capricious and I’m pretty wily, or at least I like to think so.  Anyways.  SNL?  Yes or no?”

Why the hell not.  It’s not too late—the others are probably still awake, but they’re unlikely to be disturbed; any midnight snacks would have been dispensed an hour or so ago.  “Sure,” Bruce says, stretching his legs out in front of him.  “I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep, anyways.  Let’s catch me up.”