“Darcy, can you please turn that noise down?” Jane asked, not taking her eyes off of the screen in front of her. Her fingers were threaded through her hair in agitation.
“It’s not noise, it’s the Sex Pistols.”
“Well, whatever it is, it’s making it very hard to concentrate.”
Darcy rolled her eyes, unseen by her boss, but she turned the volume down anyway. They were in upstate New York, at a S.H.I.E.L.D.-run observatory; as much as Tony had insisted that he was able to put a high-powered space telescope on top of the Avengers Tower, Jane had argued right back that there was no way she’d be able to get through the light pollution. Jane was taking full advantage of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s computer power to cross-check the calculations Tony had been manually doing for her. (She never asked why he chose to do such things by hand, or in the middle of the night, but insomnia seemed to be a regular thing in her new home. She was often awake and working when her haunted housemates stumbled through the halls) Darcy sat on the desk, crossing her legs, and offered a bite of her apple. Jane waved it off. “Suit yourself,” Darcy said, shrugging and eating a chunk.
“Don’t you have work to do?” Jane asked irritably.
“You’re middle-managing me, so no, not really,” Darcy replied. She was used to Jane’s temper when she was working, and knew she didn’t really mean it.
“Well, try to find something to do that won’t screw everything up and please stop bothering me.”
Darcy’s voice changed as the door to the workroom opened. “Well, maybe we’ll both screw something else up tonight… Hello, boys.”
Jane turned, and her face lit up with happiness. Thor strode up to her and knelt before her, kissing her hand. Jane let out an involuntary giggle. “Oh. Uh. Hi.”
“Hello, Jane Foster,” Thor grinned.
Jane giggled again, thrusting some hair behind her ear. Darcy ignored them. Instead, she quirked her eyebrow at James Rhodes, who stood a few feet back at a parade rest. “Hey there, soldier. Haven’t I seen you around before?”
Rhodes flashed a brief smile. “I’m a liason between the Air Force and Stark Industries. And Tony couldn’t get rid of me if he tried. Which he has.”
“You know Mr. Stark?” Darcy asked.
“We were at M.I.T. together.”
“Smart and sexy. I like it,” she smiled.
His eyebrows went up. Darcy tore her eyes off him in time to yelp, jumping away, as Jane as lifted off her seat in a passionate embrace. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! PDA! PDA alert! Warn me next time!”
Jane broke off the kiss, flushing. Thor laughed. “You have my apologies, Darcy Lewis. It has been far too long since I have laid eyes on fair Jane, and I fear I am unable to retain a gentleman’s manner near her.”
She rolled her eyes again. “It’s been what, a month?”
“Darcy,” Jane said, a hint of iron in her voice.
“I’m just saying!”
Rhodes cleared his throat. “Ms. Foster, I was sent to bring you this.” He handed her a flash drive. “Tony said he found the error you two were trying to fix and thought you would want to correct it before continuing any further.”
“Oh, gosh. I was just… Thank you, I’ve been staring at this program all night!”
Thor looked more than a little put out when she untangled herself from him and popped the flash drive into the computer. Darcy patted his shoulder sympathetically (and enjoying the feel of his muscles more than a little bit). “Never get in the way of work, big guy.”
“She is remarkably like the Lady Sif. Driven to her goals, as if the very waters of Gjӧll were lapping at her heels and threatening to take her to Hel,” Thor said, idly tracing a pattern on Jane’s back.
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she murmured, her eyes scanning the screen so quickly that it gave Darcy a headache.
Darcy beckoned to Rhodes, and walked over to the coffee machine. She started fixing it up to boil fresh. “This could take a while. What’d you say your name was?”
“I didn’t. Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes. Friends call me Rhodey,” he stuck out his hand.
She shook it. “Darcy Lewis. Helper gnome. Not as impressive as lieutenant colonel, but it gets the job done. So how does a catch like you get suckered in to working for Tony Stark?”
Again, Rhodey’s eyebrows went up. “Well, like I said, ma’am, Tony and I were at school together. When he took over Stark Industries, and the military knew we were buddies, they arranged it.”
“Oh please, don’t ma’am me. Well, outside of the bedroom,” she grinned.
“Ms. Lewis, I don’t want to presume anything, but it feels to me like you’re hitting on me.”
“Seriously, it’s just Darcy. And yeah, you presume right.”
“Are you always this forward?”
“I’ve found that nine times out of ten it gets the job done. I leave negotiations for the office.”
“Somehow I don’t think you have much room for negotiation, working with Ms. Foster. I’ve heard she’s very straight-laced,” Rhodey said.
Darcy caught on that he wanted to steer things into more neutral territory. Disappointed, she followed his lead. “This is my night-job. S.H.I.E.L.D. has me working for them during the day. I was in political science at school. As much as the Einstein-Rosen theory is fascinating, I’d rather put my talents into an area that I studied. Not that I don’t love Jane, cuz I do. It’s fun. But a girl’s gotta have her passions.”
They talked about how she’d come to work for Jane initially as the coffee finished brewing. She took two cups over to Jane and Thor as Rhodey dumped loads of sugar and cream into his. “It’s plastic, big guy, so if you want to demand another, you go right ahead,” she teased. He smiled, a bit embarrassedly.
She and Rhodey talked for what felt like hours, covering just about everything. They were able to debate a little about international politics, between her undergrad studies and his military experience, and they both agreed that the current peace in the Middle East brought about by Tony wouldn’t last for more than a few years without some serious changes. They had similar tastes in music, judging from the way his face lit up every time her iPod changed songs. He even gave her a few band recommendations. She griped about the secrecy surrounding S.H.I.E.L.D. (including the last time Maria Hill had read her the riot act about updating her Facebook page with the locations feature turned on) and he reassured her that he knew exactly how she felt; there were more secret military bases than she could imagine, and he’d been to at least a dozen of them. Darcy had also grown up in a military family, and around a pro-gun father, and could keep up with Rhodey at ease; he even let her inspect his handgun when asked, and she told him she’d seen more firepower at a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. They were so engrossed in a debate about the benefits of non-lethal defense weapons that Jane spent five minutes trying to get Darcy’s attention before giving up and leading Thor back to their temporary housing.
It was a full half hour later before she looked around and saw that they had left. “Well, of all the…”
“I think they tried to tell you it was time to go,” Rhodey said, the corners of his mouth twitching. “You waved them off.”
“I did? Oh. Weird.”
“Maybe we should turn in. I understand you and Ms. Foster are here for another week or so, but I have to fly back tomorrow.”
“Oh, wow, sorry about that. You should have said… I mean, this was fun, but if you’ve gotta like… fly some plane…”
Rhodey laughed. “Nah, I take the backseat these days. It’s cool, don’t worry. This was nice.”
Darcy grinned, taking the keys that Jane had left. She locked the doors to the lab on their way out, and then to the observatory itself. Even though they were in the middle of nowhere, they were still the only ones using the facility at the moment. “There’s a spare room at the house they gave us. I don’t know if you brought earplugs, but I recommend something, if Jane and Thor are going at it.”
She couldn’t see his face in the dark, but he sounded like he was smiling when he said, “I’m very used to Tony and Pepper at this point, and I don’t even live with them. I think it’ll be alright.”
“Whatever you say, man. It’s your sleep. Or lack of.”
Surprisingly, it was quiet when they got back to the house. She showed him the spare room, and where the bathroom was (“I’d apologize for all the girl crap everywhere, but frankly I’m not that sorry.”), and then as she turned to go to her own room, he said, “Hey, Darcy. About earlier… I uh, I didn’t mean to make you think I wasn’t… I’m just not used to... Well, you’re kind of like Tony. Very forward with what you want and you’re not apologetic about it. And that’s not something I’m used to being on the receiving end of, so I’m sorry if I set you the wrong way.”
She blinked at him for a moment, and then her eyebrows shot up. “Oh! Oh that, seriously, don’t even worry about it. Like I said, nine times out of ten. If you’re the tenth time, then it’s cool. I’m still rockin’ a great batting average.”
“Well, what I really mean to say is I’d like to take you to dinner sometime, when you and Ms. Foster get back to the city,” Rhodey told her.
Darcy quirked her eyebrow up. “Not often that I get wined and dined, I’ll tell you that much.”
“Then that’s a mistake I’d like to rectify.”
She grinned. “You’re on then. We head back next week.”
“The next Friday, seven o’clock.”
“You know where I live.”
They smiled, and she turned on one heel, a bit more bounce to her step than usual, as she went to her room. She did look back once to ask, “Are you sure you want the spare room still?”
He gave her a look. “Dinner first. Rectifying that mistake.”
She closed the door behind her and grinned to herself. “Oh yeah. Still got it.”