Johnny dropped his tray down beside hers with a clatter; completely on purpose, because his jealous inner-four year old wanted her attention on him.
Startled, Darcy yanked her eyes away from the attractive ninety-year-old superhero and raised an eyebrow at him. "Hey Fire-Crotch, how's it going?'
His eyebrow ticked up and his lips quirked. "I'm going to go with flattered and focus on the fact that you immediately thought of my junk when you saw me."
She blinked at him. "Anyway…" She turned her head back around and her lips spread in an appreciate smile.
"Here, I got you extra Jell-O," he told her, taking a seat and dropping the bowl of jiggly red gelatin on her tray. "If Sue were here, she'd applaud my attempt at being selfless."
Darcy snorted. "Yes, it must've been excruciatingly hard for you to smuggle me an extra Jell-O." She turned her eyes up and lauded dramatically, "My hero…"
He nodded, his eyes wide for emphasis. "They're crackin' down on Jell-O thieves, Darce. I basically risked my neck for you." He stabbed his fork through three fries and, before he filled his mouth, said, "That deserves at least a kiss… if not an entire afternoon of naked fun."
Amused, she looked back at him. "I'll pass, but thanks for the offer; I'll add it to the mountain high bunch I've already not-so-subtly denied." She leaned back in her chair and eyed him. "Is there a reason you're all dressed up with nowhere to go?"
Johnny looked down at his Fantastic-Four jumpsuit; usually, at least around SHIELD HQ, he wore clothes over it, but this morning he decided he needed to break out the big guns in the form of a skin-tight suit that showed off how awesome he was from head to toe. Since apparently, Darcy missed the memo. Not cool, especially given she was a personal assistant; memo-getting was probably one of those top priority things.
"What? You don't think it brings out my eyes?" he asked, leaning in close and staring up at her, eyebrows wiggling for emphasis.
Darcy merely rolled her eyes. "I think you're distracting me from my favorite lunch-time ritual of people-watching."
"I think you mean Captain-stalking," he argued, but turned in his seat, lips pursed as he stared across the room at the blonde superhero, who somehow made eating three trays of food look natural and not completely bizarre.
"Don't judge. This is a no judge bubble," she told him, waving a finger. "I didn't make fun of you when you were drooling over Natasha!"
"Shh!" He waved his hands at her to shut-up and took a quick look around. "Are you trying to get me killed?"
"It would make my Cap-watch a lot quieter," she muttered. When she turned back around and found her eye-candy missing, she groaned and let her head fall back. "You are so lucky I like you just enough not to have Black Widow crush your windpipe with her thighs!" Plopping her chin down on her fist, she rested her elbow next to her tray and poked her Jell-O with a fork. "Lunch is ruined… Now what am I supposed to spend the rest of my day reflecting on with a completely healthy dose of lust?"
"Me?" he suggested, offering a grin. "I humbly submit myself to your fantasies." He perked up. "I can pose if you want to." He winked . "Clothing optional."
Darcy scooped up some of her Jell-O and filled her mouth before shaking her head. "Gold star for trying, firefly."
Johnny sighed, rolling his eyes back in his head and slumping in his seat. "You're a hard woman to charm, Darce."
She snorted, standing from the table with just her bowl of Jell-O. "Pretty sure that's why you keep trying, Johnny-boy." She patted his arm, pausing to stroke it a bit and adding a hum. "Not bad," she offered.
He answered with a smirk. "Are you really surprised?"
Eyebrow arched, she looked him up and down. "Subtlety, Storm. Google it."
With that, she turned on her heel and walked away.
Head turned, he watched her go, the sway of her hips and the tight fabric of her jeans cupping her ass made him hiss in appreciation. "I like a challenge, Lewis!"
She wiggled her fingers over her shoulder in goodbye.
"And you are presenting a very difficult one," he muttered under his breath, smirk fading.
Steve was trying very hard to ignore the man glowering at him. Truth be told, since he woke up, he'd been met with one of two reactions; either he was admired for his previous accomplishments or he was ignored and dismissed. But since he considered the Fantastic Four team to be fellow soldiers in the fight for good, he was more than a little surprised that Johnny Storm was showing him disdain.
He wracked his brain trying to think of what he might've done, but he came up empty. For the most part, they were cordial. Or, as polite as he supposed Johnny could be. From what his sister Sue had told him, Johnny was more like Tony, always interested in having a good time and hamming it up for the cameras. While it wasn't his style, he'd long learned from working with Stark that his personal preference had little bearing on others and it was best to just accept them as they were and let the chips fall as they might.
"Johnny, is there something you needed?" he finally asked, bracing his hands on the desk he was standing in front of and looking at the younger man questioningly.
Johnny scoffed. "I don't get it…" He frowned. "Where's the appeal?"
"I believe there's a list going around," Natasha said, appearing at his side, her arms tucked behind her back. Her face was expressionless except for a slight furrowing of her brows. She tipped her head and observed Steve but spoke to Johnny, "I assume this has to do with Darcy."
Steve's eyes darted away in confusion. "Miss. Lewis? Agent Coulson's assistant?"
Johnny threw his hands up in aggravation. "See?" He shook his head. "What's he got that I don't have?" He rolled his eyes. "I mean, besides his v-card..."
"Humility," Natasha offered.
"Who needs to be humble when they look like this?" he asked dismissively, waving a hand at his face.
She raised an eyebrow at him. "He's also kind, and from an age when opening doors for women was natural and not inconvenient. While it is not a trait I care for, perhaps Darcy likes her lovers to be a little more chivalrous."
"I've saved the world," he argued. "I'm chivalrous."
Her eyes moved back to Steve, who was looking between them, having gone a little pink at 'lovers' and still a little behind on the subject matter. What did this have to do with him? He'd hardly spoken to Miss. Lewis. He'd seen her in Coulson's office, but the agent always seemed to have a sense for when he'd arrived and so conversation with his assistant was rare.
"There are shades of chivalry; those who use it for a camera op and those who do it because it is engrained in them… Others because it's simply their duty." She raised her chin. "Perhaps when you know better who you are and where you stand, you'll understand why you're not the person attracting Darcy's attention… Despite the fact that you and the Captain share a remarkable and telling physical appearance."
With that, she left, her words hanging in the air.
Steve turned, his head cocked, and looked at Johnny with new eyes. Despite a difference in hair color and that Johnny was a little leaner than him, their faces did bear a striking resemblance.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Johnny's eyes narrowed.
"Natasha's right. We do look pretty similar."
He scoffed. "Uh no, let me stop you right there… This—" He waved down at himself. "—is not replicable! It's one-of-a-kind!" He grinned rather proudly. "Collector's Edition, if you will."
Steve smiled wryly. "If you say so…"
"I do." He walked toward the door as if to leave, only to pause and turn around, frowning at him as he added, "And FYI, Miss. Lewis, or Darcy as she likes to be called, is a lot more than just Coulson's assistant…"
Offering no more than that, he finally left, leaving an extremely confused Steve Rogers in his wake.
Her tray dropped down besides his, drawing his eye.
Johnny paused in tearing off a bite of his panini; spotting her, he continued. "Hey," he said, through a mouthful of chicken and melted cheese. "Jell-O?" he asked hopefully.
Rolling her eyes, Darcy dropped an extra bowl on his tray and wrinkled her nose when he grinned, showing off chewed food. "Attractive, Storm, really…"
He wiggled his eyebrows at her before swallowing, licking his lips, and arching an eyebrow. "So, what brings the princess over to my table? Usually you're already set up with your binoculars and a notebook to write down every facial tick the Cap has."
She snorted, grabbing up her chocolate milk and peeling open the spout. "The team's out of town; no Cap sighting today." She shrugged. "Figured sitting with you was better than Terry… That guy tells really weird jokes, repeatedly, until you're forced to laugh so he'll stop."
"Wow, I don't think I've ever felt so good about myself as right now…" he drawled. "Stop, please! My ego can't possibly take any more of your stroking!"
She grinned. "Whatever. I brought you Jell-O, didn't I?"
"And it's appreciated." He shaved off the top half with his fork and scooped it into his mouth, making his left cheek bulge out. "So I've been rethinking my approach," he told her.
"On?" she wondered, licking at her chocolate milk mustache before wiping her face with the sleeve of her shirt.
She laughed. "Okay? And how's that going for you?"
"Well, so far I'm one step up from unfunny-Terry and you beat me to the punch on the Jell-O front, but the day is still young…"
"Don't you have anything better to do? Like drag racing or testing one of Tony's prototypes while he's not around to stop you…?"
"Nah, he locks those up since that one time I took that flying-squirrel suit out for a test drive…" He grinned widely, his eyebrows hiked. "I mean good thing I can fly, or—" He made a dropping-whistle noise and then clapped his hands. "Johnny pancake."
"Unfortunate," she agreed sagely, waving her fork at him.
"Right?" He nodded. "It's cool though. I mean, I set a Stark prototype on fire, but…" He shrugged. "That was expected, right?"
"It wasn't unexpected," she admitted. "We had some pretty specific paperwork drawn up way before the incident…"
He turned in his seat to face her better. "So anyway, since my schedule's all free up and the world doesn't currently need me to save it…" He raised an eyebrow. "We can do this the hard way or the easy way…"
"And the easy way would be…?" She shook her head questioningly.
"You just giving in to your natural urges… It's okay, I'm practically doctor prescribed." He grinned suggestively. "Johnny Storm; recommended for women over eighteen and preferably frisky."
She snorted a chuckle. "A glowing rec, Comet. But I eat an apple a day, so the only advice I take is my own, which pretty clearly states I should stay away from the Storm bandwagon."
"Hard way it is then," he decided, before arching a brow. "Unless you want to rethink your own advice and just agree to dinner?"
"Mm, no." She shook her head. "I have plans with my microwave tonight that just can't be cancelled." She sighed, shrugging her shoulders high. "I mean, I've already cancelled twice, I don't want it to think I'm a flake."
"All right, but don't say I didn't warn you…"
Amused, Darcy reached over and scooped up the last bite of his Jell-O. "I'm reasonably sure I can handle anything you wanna dish out, Fawkes."
He grinned slowly. "Did you just call me a fox?" he asked, looking smug.
She rolled her eyes. "Instead of wasting your time wooing me, why don't we hit up a library and I'll introduce you to J.K. Rowling?"
He frowned. "Is J.K. a woman's name?"
"If you keep talking and making me weep for your lack of Harry Potter knowledge, I'm never going to share Jell-O with you again," she warned, pointing a finger at his face.
"Fine, but quid pro quo. You can tell me about Harry Potter and I'll introduce you to something I like…" he suggested.
Her lips twitched. "We're not having sex."
"Are you propositioning me?" he asked loudly, purposely drawing attention. He pressed a hand to his chest and feigned shock. "I was told sexual harassment in the work place wasn't something they tolerated here!"
She glared at him witheringly. "No more Jell-O." She stood from the table, tray in hand.
"Aww… come on," he called after her, smiling. "Things were just getting interesting!"
She fingered him over her shoulder.
Reed sighed, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose before finally turning to acknowledge Johnny, who was sighing every thirty seconds and spinning in an office chair.
"Isn't there something you could be doing?" he suggested.
"Yeah, I'm doing it," he said, kicking off with his feet to spin his chair faster.
"Johnny, this is a work place, you can't—"
"How do you woo?" he interrupted.
"Woo," he repeated. "How do you woo women?"
Reed paused, blinking a few times. "I… I would guess you'd know better than me…" he said slowly. "You've dated nearly half of New York's female population."
"Slept with," he argued, still spinning. "Dating is so…" His face screwed up like he had a bad taste in his mouth. "Final."
"I'm fairly sure dating isn't the final part. It's more like… a beginning or an in-between."
Johnny rolled his eyes, coming to a stop, slumped in the chair.
"Does this have to do with Coulson's assistant?" Reed wondered, eyeing him suspiciously. "The snarky brunette you keep forcing the kitchen staff to make Jell-O for?"
"Jell-O's awesome; I don't see what the big deal is."
He sighed. "You stocked an entire shelving unit with cherry Jell-O, Johnny… On SHIELD's dime."
He smirked. "Yeah…"
Shaking his head, Reed cocked an eyebrow. "So? Does this have to do with her?"
"Darcy," he offered. "And don't let your head bloat; I'm not coming to you for girl advice because you're some guru… I'm coming to you because Sue isn't here and you somehow managed to convince my sister to marry you."
"Are things with this Darcy already progressing to that point?" he wondered in surprise.
"What? No!" He snorted. "This guy isn't getting married!" He pointed at himself with his thumbs. "This guy just wants to woo a snarky, beautiful woman away from Captain America."
Reed blinked. "So… I—I'm confused. Is this about Darcy or Steve?"
He frowned. "Darcy. Steve is just… competition."
"So you like Darcy because Steve likes Darcy or Darcy likes Steve and you don't like the idea that a female of your approximate age might like someone other than you?"
Johnny's brows furrowed. "Are you trying to give me a psych eval?" He sat up. "Because I cheated on the last one and I haven't prepared for this one…" He stared at him searchingly before finally shrugging. "Look, Darcy likes the Cap and I like Darcy and the Cap likes some chick who died like forever ago, so I'm not even really worried about him. All I know is he's humble and Darcy likes chivalry and I've never had to try this hard to get somebody to date me." He waved a hand. "So? Solution?" He frowned. "And you better have one, because Rockslide is next and I still think he's using hypnosis to keep Alicia interested…" His eyebrows knotted. "How would that work with the blind thing, do ya think?"
Reed took a deep breath, searching for patience. Finally, he rested his elbows on his knees and leaned forward, staring at Johnny thoughtfully. "If you're not interested in this woman for anything besides an ego boost, keeping your record of bedding every woman you meet intact, then I think maybe you should let this one go… If it's just the chase that you're after, you're not really being fair to Darcy…" He nodded. "You should think about it."
"I will," he declared. "Along with rethinking why I ever thought coming to you for girl advice was a smart idea." He heaved himself up out of his chair. "You and Ben should get together and watch Dr. Phil sometime, brush up on your skills." He started for the door, calling back, "Let Sue know I'm looking for her!"
Shaking his head, Reed turned back to his papers, pushing Johnny and his dating problems out of his mind.
Darcy reached for the door leading to her office only to be nearly bowled over.
"GOT IT!" Johnny shouted, yanking the door open for her to walk through.
She looked up at him, confused, her brows furrowed. "Uh, good for you?"
He grinned back, waving her through the door.
"Thanks…" she said dubiously, walking through and toward her desk. She glanced at him over her shoulder. "Did you need something? Got a meeting with Coulson? 'Cause I didn't see it on the books and, Jell-O partner or not, I'm not letting you in without one…"
"Nope." He crossed his arms over his chest. "What, a guy can't open doors for a girl anymore?"
"It's not frowned upon, but last I checked, my arms worked just fine..." She gave her arms a shake and said, "Yep! Still got circulation in all ten fingers; it's a miracle!"
"You're gonna gimme a complex, Darce," he sighed. "I do a good thing, you put me down. I do a bad thing, you put me down." He threw his head back and groaned. "You should just carry a rolled up newspaper with you."
"When have I ever put you down for doing bad things? Half the time, I approve your sneaky, sneaky ways!" she argued, focusing on a thick orange folder in front of her, licking a finger and using it to flip through papers.
He threw a hand up and rolled his eyes. "Totally missing the point."
She smiled indulgently at him. "Catch me up, Jerry Lee Lewis, what's the issue here?"
"Really?" he asked, looking unimpressed. "A Great Balls of Fire reference?"
She grinned toothily. "Thought you liked it when I referenced your junk," she said, motioning to his lower half.
"Back on topic," he muttered. "I was being chivalrous." He waved at the door. "I opened it for you."
"Okay…" She shook her head, not getting it. "Good deed done? Do you want me to mark it on the good behavior board or call Sue and tell her you're behaving?"
"No, I…" He frowned, dragging his feet as he walked over and fell into a chair across from her. "I want you to like me better!" he complained.
"Better than who?"
"Just in general…" He shrugged. "But also better than Capsickle."
She raised an eyebrow. "You want me to like you better than Captain America…? You don't think you're setting the bar kind of high?"
"Okay!" He leaned forward and stabbed a finger at her desk. "What is it? What makes him so much better than me, huh? 'Cause some people think we actually look alike!" He shrugged, shaking his head. "Obviously I'm the better looking long-lost twin, but still, there's some merit there." He frowned. "Cap opens doors, I opened a door…" He looked up at her. "What am I missing?"
Darcy half-smiled. "Johnny, it's not that Steve is better than you… He's not better looking, and," she eyed him, musing, "you guys actually do look a lot alike now that I think about it…"
"So what then? Is it the nice-guy speak? With the 'dames' and the 'swell' and all that?" he wondered.
She shook her head. "No, he's just… I don't know… Genuine."
He paused, eyes darting away. "Wait… What?"
"He's genuine! He is who he is! Even in a world where technology probably mind-fucks him on the regular, he's just a wholesome guy from Brooklyn…" She shook her head. "Being a good person, being nice and chivalrous, that's engrained. It's how he was raised. I like that he doesn't change it for anyone. I mean, he doesn't even know he's doing it half the time…"
"So… I still don't get it. I—I own my shit… I'm Johnny Storm, 24/7; good, bad, ridiculously attractive. I'm as genuine as it gets!"
"Yeah, you are," she agreed. "And I like that. I just… don't want to date it."
He reeled back, looking for the first time a little hurt. "So what, because I'm not some ultra sweet virgin who's just naturally nice and kind to everybody I'm not good enough?" His jaw ticked. "Wow. Suddenly regretting how much Jell-O we shared."
"I don't want to date you because it wouldn't really be dating," she explained. "You're all about the chase, J-Man…" She sat back in her chair, hands stacked on her stomach, adopting an emotionless mask similar to her boss's. "We would have fun, the sex would be awesome, but then you'd get bored and you'd be chasing the next adrenaline high…" She shook her head, her tugging at a loose curl and watching as it wrapped around her finger. "And I'd just be another name on your list of over eighteen and frisky." She half-smiled. "And hey, don't get me wrong, I went through that phase, it was fun while it lasted… But I'm over it. I…" She shrugged. "I want a real relationship, with someone who genuinely wants to be with me… Weirdness and all." She nodded. "I want strings, Johnny, and you? You're stringless."
"So… Everything with Cap?"
"A fun little fantasy to keep my mind off the fact that dating sucks and wanting more is harder than I expected, especially on the SHIELD payroll where they suspect everybody of foul play…" She shrugged. "Steve's awesome; he's practically flawless, it's why it's so easy to want him. But it's all surface crap; something pretty to look at."
He nodded, his brow furrowed. Silence reigned for a long minute as he thought about what that meant. About how Captain America wasn't really his competition. That Darcy didn't want to date him because she wanted commitment. And then he thought about what Reed had said, about letting it go if dating her was only about the chase. And what Natasha said about understanding himself and what he wanted before he'd really understand what Darcy saw in Steve rather than him.
His whole life, Johnny just wanted the next big high; the next rush to keep him going. Sitting still wasn't an option; he liked to move, to run, to teeter over the edge and see how far he could get before falling. And women, they were just a fringe benefit to the fun. Some of them joined in, some of them just got to help enjoy the climax of him coming off a new high. But nobody ever really kept up and even if they had the ability on a full-time scale, he never stuck around to find out.
Darcy was the first person he befriended when their team joined SHIELD and made friends with the Avengers. It wasn't a superhero, whether they had fun little million-dollar gadgets or not. It was a snarky personal assistant to the stone-faced Agent Coulson.
The first thing she said to him was, 'Hey, Sunburn, welcome to iPod Stealers 'R Us; please check your mommy and/or daddy issues at the door and keep an eye out for a fluffy green giant, he gets a little smashy around strangers!'
And something just… clicked.
Whatever free time he had, and there was a lot because playing well with others and actually working for a living wasn't really his style, was spent chasing Darcy down and playing tit-for-snarky-tat. And when he couldn't convince her to play hooky from work, he mostly just played pranks on Ben and tried to convince Stark (or more aptly, Sue and Pepper) that he would make an awesome guinea pig for any and all of his death-defying prototypes.
It wasn't until she started paying more attention to Steve than him and his antics that he realized he was pulling her ponytail and she didn't really seem to care. And sure, that bothered him on a base level; he'd always had luck with women, it came naturally to him. But more than that, there was also the fact that he genuinely liked Darcy and she just didn't seem to share those feelings.
For the first time in possibly ever he was doing all the chasing and it wasn't just for show, a tease before they wound up in bed. She seemed to completely dismiss him from her prospective dating pool and it kind of stung. Especially since his dating pool had shrunk to a party of one; her, and she didn't want to swim.
But now here she was telling him exactly what she wanted. Commitment. A word that generally made his skin crawl. Tying him down was never an option; he didn't want it to be an option. His life had never been equipped for that and he'd never second-guessed how well it worked.
He'd known some really, truly beautiful women in his life. Like legitimate Victoria's Secret lingerie models. He'd met gorgeous, exotic women who didn't speak the same language as him except in bed. And Darcy, with her milky white skin; her mischievous grin; her big, steel blue eyes; her amazing body; and her incredible sense of humor, outshone them all, on a level all her own.
And knowing all that, getting what all of that meant, prompted him to take that last step.
"Let's say I wanted to do serious…" he finally said, watching her face.
She stared at him blankly.
"What happened to the no-judging bubble?" he exclaimed.
Her eyes widened. "I didn't say anything!"
"Your eyes were doubting me!" He pointed at her. "They were silently calling bullshit!"
She scoffed. "Your track record isn't exactly a shining endorsement," she reminded, rolling her eyes.
"So you'll be different." He shifted to the end of his seat and stared at her sincerely. "Darcy, I'm serious…" He bowed his head and stared up at her. "What if I wanted to try strings?"
"What? And give up all of those fangirls?" She fluttered her eyelashes teasingly, but it was obvious she was just offering him a way out.
"I'm sure the fanclub's going to send a few letter bombs," he conceded, before grinning. "But what's a little permanent scarring in the face of true love?"
She rolled her eyes. "You don't think you're getting ahead of yourself?"
"It's what I'm good at. Jumping into things without thinking them to death; it's practically my motto."
"I'm pretty sure it's actually 'fuck the consequences, this looks like fun.'"
He tipped his head. "You think I could get that copy-written?"
She snorted, trying and failing to stifle a smile. "No. I think Tony tried last year."
"Fine…" he sighed, before perking up. "Great idea though: me, you, a date to cheer me up over my recent loss." He weighed his hands up and down. "Little champagne, some drunk grinding, yadda yadda yadda, his and her sinks, matching bathrobes, an off-white wedding in Vegas, etcetera etcetera…" He nodded, raising an eyebrow at her. "I like where this is headed…"
She laughed. "We haven't even been on a date, how do you even know you want a relationship with me?" she argued, shaking her head.
"I know everything I need to know." He sat up straight and spread his arms out. "You like cherry Jell-O, you watch way too much reality TV—" He arched an eyebrow, "Seriously, Darcy? The Bachelor?"
She turned her eyes up in a glare. "JARVIS, you traitor!"
"You swear when you're scared," he continued, ticking it off on his hand. "You secretly like my suit because you're hot for my bod!"
She snorted, lips twitching.
"You think your boss is a ninja—" He looked past her to Coulson's door and whispered, "Which he probably is…"
"And you have an unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter, which—" He held up one finger, "I started reading yesterday… Because I like you and even before I knew what I really wanted out of all this…" His voice softened sincerely, "You made me want to try…"
She stared at him a long moment, her doubt fading and something that looked almost hopeful appeared. "One date..."
He smiled slowly and jumped out of his chair. "You won't regret this." He leaned over her desk and kissed her cheek. "Promise." He started for the door. "I'm leaving before you change your mind, but I'll pick you up at five!" He waved a hand back at her and told her seriously, "Wear comfortable clothes!"
She frowned, eyeing him warily. "Why?"
He grinned back at her and then winked before walking out the door and making his way down the hall, doing a very random, but altogether necessary, little dance of accomplishment, not caring that a number of SHIELD agents had cracked their emotionless mask to gawk at him.
Johnny was floating on cloud nine. Which, he laughed to himself, was kind of ironic, since he planned on taking Darcy skydiving for their first date… Who said he couldn't get an adrenaline rush and the girl? Multi-talented was his middle name!