"So the internet has decided you're my father."
Tony dropped the coffee Darcy was handing him, splattering it everywhere. He didn't seem to notice. "Excuse me?"
Darcy looked down at her outfit with a pout. "Dude! I like these jeans!" Behind her she heard a quiet laugh, and she turned to flash a bright smile at Dr. Banner.
Tony waved a hand distractedly. "Not the point! The point is- the point-" he stalled, then spluttered, "Father?"
"I can see it," Bruce said thoughtfully with a wink at Darcy. "The ages are about right."
Tony threw a screw at him. "No! I will not have such talk! First of all, I am in the prime of my life. Barely. Barely in the prime of my life! And you-" he waved a wrench in Darcy's direction. "You are entirely too old to be the daughter of a young, virile specimen such as myself. I mean, look at me."
"Actually, sir, you are twenty years older than Ms. Lewis, which is a perfectly reasonable age difference for you to be-" Jarvis began.
"Lalalalala I'm not liiiiiistening," Tony sang, holding his hands over his ears until Jarvis stopped. When he finally uncovered his ears, he glared at the ceiling. "Traitor."
"You programmed me to be accurate, sir," Jarvis said, sounding rather put out.
"Doesn't matter, don't care. Revealing my secrets! For shame." Tony turned back to Darcy, only to find her holding out a new coffee. "How-?"
"Seriously? This is Stark Tower. You probably own more coffee machines than Starbucks. Like, the company. Collectively." Tony made grabby hands for the coffee cup, but she waggled it out of his reach. "Drop this one on me and so help me, I'm telling Thor about the marshmallow incident."
"Low blow, Lewis."
"Would you prefer the taser?"
"You see this?" Tony asked Bruce, ignoring Darcy. "Ingratitude, that's what this is. Rank ingratitude!"
"What can I say?" Darcy smirked. "I'm going through my rebellious phase. You're not my real dad!"
Tony whirled back to her. "Ugh, no, none of that. I am not father material! Can you imagine?"
Darcy cackled. "Oh my Thor, the looks on people's faces-"
Bruce stopped, and groaned, and dropped his head in his hands. "Oh, no."
"Oh, yes," Tony said gleefully.
"You should not be encouraging this," Bruce said tiredly, to neither of them in particular.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Darcy said airily. "Trolling the internet is an important part of a balanced superhero diet."
"Jarvis, new file," Tony ordered.
An empty page unfolded in blue in the air in front of him. "Name, sir?"
"Operation: Who's Your Daddy," he said, looking excessively pleased with himself, then waved at Darcy. "Lewis! Get over here! We have trolling to plan and time's a-wastin', chop chop."
Bruce rolled his eyes and turned back to his microscope. "This is a terrible idea," he told them.
"We work with you, Big Green," Darcy reminded him. "What's the worst that could happen?"
"I really wish you hadn't asked that."
Once she'd changed into coffee-free jeans, Darcy and Tony spent the next three hours curled up in lab chairs as Jarvis scrolled through various fanfiction on the screen in front of them. "How do people even come up with this?" Tony asked when they'd finished item seventeen. "Does fact checking mean nothing to these people?"
"Hey, don't look at me," Darcy shrugged, "you're the one rocking the whole media ducklings look, aren't you used to it?"
"This is different," he said, aggrieved. "This makes me feel old."
"Thor save us all," Darcy deadpanned. "How will you live."
"Revenge, obviously. Revenge, plus lots of youth-affirming sex with Pepper."
There was a groan from Bruce's side of the room. "Jarvis, rule six," Bruce called.
"Of course, Dr. Banner," Jarvis agreed.
Darcy elbowed Tony in the side. "So, what do you owe her this time?"
"I think it's shoes this week?" Tony said, brow furrowed.
"Handbag, sir," Jarvis corrected him.
"Yeah, yeah, close enough. Go for it, J." Tony bent back over his tablet and flicked to the next story. "How did you even find this stuff, Lewis?"
"Um, by reading fanfic? Because fanfic is the best thing since sliced bread. Sliced bread with shirtless men. Really hot shirtless men with muscles that say 'come to mama'," Darcy replied dreamily.
"Gross," Tony wrinkled his nose at her.
"Oh hell no. Rule six, dude. You require a rule about discussing your sex life in front of people."
"...touché. Let us never speak of it again."
"So, what's the plan, boss man?"
"Escalation," he declared. "Teasing them with hints, then- wham! They won't know what hit them."
"I'm getting kinda a maniacal evil villain vibe, here. Me likey," Darcy nodded approvingly.
"I almost feel sorry for the internet," Bruce remarked. "You two are a menace."
Tony's face fell far too quickly to be natural, and he leaned over his desk in Bruce's direction to flutter his eyelashes sadly. "Brucie! I'm hurt. You're supposed to be on my side."
Bruce laughed. "I said almost!" Tony just looked at him skeptically and kept pouting.
"Boys, boys. The bonds of Science! will forever unite us," Darcy said piously. Tony high-fived her, and she bounced over to Bruce to get one from him too. "Score."
Once they had the beginnings of a plan hashed out, Darcy left Tony's lab with a skip in her step and a box of Poptarts in hand for Jane (and Thor. Realistically, mostly Thor.) She was whistling and preparing a coffee to go with the Poptarts when a throat cleared behind her shoulder. She yelped but managed not to drop the coffee. "Dude, warn a girl!" She turned to come face to face with a suit and tie. She sighed internally. Agent iPod Thief.
"My apologies, Ms. Lewis," Agent Coulson said, not looking terribly sorry. "Do you have a moment?"
"Do I have a choice?" she asked with a glower.
"You're plotting with Tony Stark," he told her mildly. "That's the sort of thing that causes SHIELD agents to appear and ask questions."
She made an undignified squeaking sound. "How-!"
Coulson raised an eyebrow at her. "Ms. Lewis, the idea that I wouldn't find out about this is laughable. And, frankly, a little insulting."
"It's been like ten minutes!"
"Tony Stark just posted a picture of you on Instagram- in the lab, I might add, which violates a number of security protocols. And it's captioned Kid's a world class science wrangler. Your previous interactions with Mr. Stark have been limited to," he checks a clipboard that she hadn't noticed before but of course he had, "feeding him and bullying him into occasionally sleeping at Ms. Potts' request, but the majority of your time is spent with Dr. Foster. And suddenly you appear on his Instagram. Surely you understand our concern."
She managed not to smirk when he brought up Tony calling her kid, but only barely. "...no?" she tried.
"You've spent more time in Mr. Stark's lab today than you have in the last three weeks. Combined."
"He's very impressed with my kickass cooking and felt compelled to memorialize it?"
"Your competition is a robotic arm that makes smoothies out of motor oil."
"He likes to chill with us spectacularly normal people sometimes instead of the Men In Black and/or Tights?"
Coulson didn't even respond to that one. He just stared at her. Darcy stared back. Intimidation tactics, so what? She'd tased Thor, damnit. Bring it, iPod Thief. Okay, maybe she squirmed. A little. But just a little!
"Very well." He tucked his clipboard under his arm and shook his head with a sigh. She got the strange feeling he wasn't being disapproving, it looked more like- concern? "Just remember, Ms. Lewis, you can always come to me for help."
And okay, that was a little worrying.
The photo didn't exactly go viral; Tony Stark could only post so many pictures of attractive coworkers before the internet collectively ceased to care. But in the particular corner of the internet Tony and Darcy were most interested in, speculation was rampant. Later that night Darcy got a text.
Dance, my pretties, dance!
She put the coffee down in front of Jane and tapped out a quick reply. OMG RIGHT? THIS IS THE BEST I need popcorn.
Jane took a sip of the coffee and spluttered indignantly. "Darcy, is this decaf?" she asked, sounding betrayed.
"Nuh-uh, those puppy eyes don't work on me," Darcy told her, unimpressed. "You haven't slept in almost 24 hours. I'm cutting off your caffeine."
"I know, I know, but I'm so close to getting this calibrated, I just need another hour, maybe two? You see, if you line up these two fields, then-"
"Jane, the calibration isn't going anywhere," Darcy said patiently. "We can talk about it in the morning."
Jane started to object again, but Darcy's phone started to ring. She cut Jane off with a wave of her hand. "Bed, boss lady. And I mean to sleep, not the Sexy Funtime Opera performance, capiche? Mama Darcy needs her beauty sleep for once. And possibly brain bleach." She hit Accept Call as she rounded up Jane's papers from under her. "Sex Bomb, Tony? Seriously? What did I say about hacking my phone?"
"That it's awesome and I vastly improve your life with my genius?"
"Okay, so I love Cap's blush when Star Spangled Man with a Plan plays as much as the next warm-blooded American girl, but no points for originality. Disappointing, dude."
"You're just lucky I changed Natasha's back before she heard it. Death wish much?" She swiped the last of Jane's papers and used them to lure her friend towards the lab exit. Sometimes Science Wrangler was a surprisingly literal job title.
"Killer Queen is a national treasure and you should be ashamed of yourself," Tony said in her ear.
"So you'd let me tell her you're the one who changed it?" Darcy asked, narrowing her eyes at the phone. In her distraction, Jane made a grab for her papers and almost got them away, but Darcy spun away and held Jane off with one hand. (Honestly, it didn't take much effort. She loved Jane and all, but the woman would blow away in a stiff breeze. Which she was not turning into a dirty joke about Thor, thanks very much, brain.)
"...on second thought, you are a wise and loving friend whose advice I should take to heart."
"Well duh, always." Darcy locked Jane's papers in a drawer and glared at her until her shoulders slumped and she headed for the elevators. Not trusting the sudden acquiescence, she looked at the nearest ceiling camera. "J-man? Can you do your thing?"
"Of course, Ms. Lewis. Wrangler Protocol is now active. Dr. Foster's access to the lab will be suspended until she has slept for a minimum of four hours."
Darcy gave the camera a thumbs up with her free hand, then turned back to the phone, which was squawking. "Yeah?"
"You were ignoring me!" Tony complained.
"Don't sound so shocked, dude. Jane has dibs on me. This Is Known."
"You work for me!"
"Technically I work for Pepper."
"Worst fake daughter ever," Tony grumbled.
"The internet disagreeees," she hummed.
"I know!" he agreed, instantly distracted. "It's great, right? It's so great. I haven't had this much fun messing with people since Majorca!"
"Oooh, what's this? What happened in Majorca? Spill!" Darcy ordered as she plopped down at her desk. Powering up her laptop took only a second as she went rooting for the latest Darcy Stark theories.
"Little of this, little of that, forms were signed, vows of secrecy were made, but it may have involved an elephant, three royals and a bedazzled speedo."
"Oh, we are so using this for Operation Who's Your Daddy."