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courage teaches me to be shy

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Darcy looks at the shiny teal brochure and says, "Is this legit or is it like Tromsø?"

"Tromsø was legit," Jane says. "My talk was well-received." Darcy gives her a look and she shrugs. "Okay, SHIELD did not arrange this; it happens every year. So no, not like Tromsø."

"I'll put it on the calendar."

Darcy adds it to the calendar and creates a tickler and a few weeks later, she starts looking up hotels and airfares to Zurich. She fills out the appropriate forms and for the first time since she's worked with Jane, Jane actually reads them before signing.

"I took care of all of this," she says.

"You what?" Darcy's not proud of the way her voice goes shrill on the question.

"I took care of everything--the hotel, the flights, the conference registration." Jane beams at her. "Tony and Bruce helped." She cocks her head. "Well, Jarvis actually took care of it all. Bruce helped me write my abstract while Tony made margaritas and mocked the conference chair's headshot. I think he might have even hacked the registration website, but then there was that thing with the supersonic hedgehogs and he got distracted."

"But that's what you have me for," Darcy says before she can stop herself; normally, she'd make a Sonic the Hedgehog joke, but this is serious. She takes care of Jane's everything (well, not including that; that's what Thor's for). It's why they pay her a barely livable wage.

"You were busy. I did it while you were fighting with SHIELD about our clearance levels."

And okay, that had been a bad week. "But I could have handled it," Darcy says. "Are you phasing me out? Because as much as I complain, this is the best job ever." And she means it--she gets to hang out with her best friend, her best friend's alien god boyfriend, and the Avengers. "There will never be as much eyecandy in any other job I have."

"Yes, Darcy, I know how fond you are of ogling Captain America."

"Me and every other person on the planet," Darcy says defensively, as if that can hide the flush creeping up her cheeks.

"Sure, but most of them don't get to do it in person." Jane takes a sip of her coffee and makes a face. "Unless we're going to talk more about your crush on him, my interest in this conversation has dissipated."

"Jane," Darcy whines.

"It's okay, Darcy. Jarvis isn't going to give you away."

"No, indeed, Ms. Lewis. Your secret is safe with me."

Darcy groans, drops into her chair, and presses her forehead to the cool surface of her desk. "Tony has been a terrible influence on you."

Jane just shrugs. She's ridiculously easygoing when she's getting laid and caffeinated regularly. "How about a coffee run?"

*

Still, it's a free trip to Zurich, and Darcy's never been, so she gets over her sulk pretty quickly. She starts packing two weeks ahead of time, makes a checklist so she can cross things off and feel accomplished.

"What do you need a checklist for?" Clint asks, grabbing her clipboard and rifling through the pages. "Toothpaste? Tampons? Do you seriously check to make sure Jane packs enough underwear?"

"Someone has to," Darcy answers with a glower that doesn't scare him off at all.

"You look like an angry puppy," he says. "That might work with the lab geeks but it won't work on me."

"Out," she says, snatching back her clipboard and pointing at the door. "Now."

"Is Agent Barton giving you trouble, Ms. Lewis?"

They both look up to see Captain America--Captain Rogers--standing in the doorway looking earnest.

"No, Captain."

"It's just Steve, ma'am."

Darcy hates that she blushes when he calls her ma'am. She tased a Norse god, for fuck's sake. She should be able to handle a hot dude in a white t-shirt. She blinks. "Yes, Captain."

His mouth quirks up in a rueful smile, but he doesn't correct her again. "I was looking for Thor, but if he's not here..."

"He and Jane decided to have breakfast in bed," Darcy says. She clamps her mouth shut before she offers him the same thing.

"Oh. Well." He looks adorably awkward for a second before he turns to Clint. "You want to spar?"

"Sure, Captain." Clint exaggerates the title mockingly, with a glance at Darcy. She sticks out her tongue and swats at him with her clipboard. He jumps out of the way easily enough and then follows Captain America out the door. Darcy doesn't even pretend not to ogle them as they leave. It's a nice view, and one she doesn't get to see very often.

Then it's back to making sure Jane has a couple of new suits for her presentation and panels, and a cute dress for the cocktail receptions. It's not that she neglects her own packing, but she's good at traveling light, at making one pair of black pants and one black skirt and her boots work with whatever sweaters she takes. No one is going to be looking at her; she's just there to make Jane's life easier on these trips. She does splurge a little on a new dress and shoes for the opening reception, but only because she knows she'll be able to use them again at various Stark Industries functions Jane drags her to, which were fun the first couple of times but the shiny has since worn off.

*

Everything goes pretty well--the traffic to the airport isn't awful, they're in first class because Jane doesn't know any better and Jarvis is used to making arrangements for Tony and Pepper, who've probably never flown coach in their lives, if they even ever fly commercial at all.

And maybe that should make Darcy suspicious; maybe alarm bells should be ringing about how perfectly the whole thing has gone off, because it's never quite like this when she plans things (or maybe she just knows how much energy she expends to make things look this effortless and she doesn't trust it from the outside, not even knowing the miracles Jarvis is capable of when it comes to finding cheap fares that don't require three stops in Bumfuck, Iowa to get anywhere).

But she laughs and enjoys the free champagne in first class and the way the bellmen swoop in to take her luggage to her room, and it's not until she's unlocking the door that she notices there's only one keycard in the envelope with her little check-in folio. She makes a mental note to retrieve the second keycard from the front desk later, because it's always good to have a backup, and pushes open the door to the room.

It's not a very large room, smaller than she expected actually, or maybe that's just because there's a giant, king-sized bed sitting in the middle of it; even the tastefully muted green and gray striped comforter can't make the thing look less than gigantic.

It's so distracting that until the bathroom door opens, she doesn't even notice that in addition to a ginormous king-sized bed, it also apparently comes equipped with its own Captain America.

Darcy's not proud of the little, "Eek!" noise she makes before she says, "Captain America!"

"It's just Steve, ma'am," he says, the way he does every time, though he sounds as startled as she does. He doesn't seem to know what to do with his hands; he rubs them on his thighs (oh God, she thinks, his thighs) and then shoves them into his pockets. "Can I help you with something?"

Darcy glances around the room, waiting for the moment Tony or Clint or Jane jumps out and yells, "Surprise" or something, but no, there's just the giant bed, the superhot superhero, and her.

"Maybe you could tell me why you're in my hotel room?" she says encouragingly.

He blinks. Which just makes his stupidly long lashes flutter like he's some kind of Disney princess and Darcy gets lost for a few seconds imagining him as Aurora to her Prince Phillip, except she's never been good with horses and also Maleficent is fucking terrifying, but then he's talking and she realizes she has to pay attention. She tunes back in to hear him say, "--your room?" He pulls a keycard and folio out of his pocket and when they compare, it's a twin to hers--room 2307, Rogers, S. and Lewis, D.

"Huh," he says.

She gives him a tight smile. "Give me a moment, won't you?" she says in her best imitation of Pepper.

He nods. "Of course."

Darcy goes down to the front desk, because she's a lot more charming in person than on the phone, but the only thing she gets from the clerks there is a headache and a lot of smiling refusals.

"This is how the reservation was made by Mr. Jarvis," the first clerk says.

"The hotel is sold out," the reservations manager tells her when she escalates her complaint. "There's no other room to put you in."

Darcy doesn't have a direct line to Jarvis outside of the tower, but Jane is right there, sitting in the bar, drinking cosmos and making physics jokes with a bunch of scientists.

"Excuse us," Darcy says, wrapping her hand around Jane's wrist and yanking. "We have a bit of a situation."

Darcy drags her around the potted plant that sits in front of the little alcove leading to the restrooms and says, "Why was there a Captain America in my hotel room, Jane?"

Jane shrugs and looks completely unsurprised by this shocking turn of events. "Thor insisted we have a protection detail since he couldn't join us, and, well, Steve's a sweetie and he speaks some French and some German and he wanted to come. I don't think he's been here since, you know." She flutters a hand.

"It's one thing to have him come along," Darcy says, "but another to book him into a room with me."

"The entire city is sold out," Jane says, completely failing to look sorry.

"You're telling me they can't find a hotel room for Captain America?" she whisper-shouts at Jane, who makes hushing gestures.

"He wasn't supposed to get here until tonight. He must have used the Quinjet."

"Jane!"

"You were supposed to have had a few drinks, be in a good mood, amused at the 'mix up,'" Jane says, making quotey fingers around "mix up."

"That is so unfair, using drunk confessions of a personal nature against me this way," Darcy says, crossing her arms over her chest so Jane knows she means business.

At least now Jane looks genuinely contrite. "I didn't think you'd mind, and he's a good sport." Jane bumps her arm. "It's not like you were ever gonna make a move yourself."

"This is going to be so awkward."

Jane pats her arm. "Maybe you'll finally be able to stop calling him 'Captain' after you've seen him in his underwear."

"Oh my God," Darcy wails. "I need a drink." She gives Jane a severe look. "You are paying for all my drinks on this trip, and for therapy from any alcohol-related trauma that might ensue."

"Fine," Jane says. "I'll expense it. It'll make Tony and Pepper laugh, anyway."

Darcy just buries her face in her hands and orders a vodka gimlet.

She can't stay at the bar forever, though. She has to head back upstairs to change into her dress for the cocktail reception.

He's still there, hunched over the desk with a laptop, hunting and pecking at the keyboard. She takes a moment to admire the stretch of his blue Oxford across his shoulders before she says, "The city's sold out, so it looks like we're stuck, at least for tonight."

He gives her that little rueful quirk of his lips again, and she bites back the cooing noise that rises to her lips. "It's fine," he says. "I've bunked down in worse places."

She sniffs, insulted. "Okay."

"And with worse company," he adds, and that shouldn't make her feel as lightheaded as the two vodka gimlets she drank downstairs but it does.

"I'm gonna have Jarvis look into it while we're at the reception," she says. "And unless you need the bathroom, I'm going to get ready now."

He clears his throat and looks over her left shoulder when he says, "That's fine, ma'am. I'll just get changed and wait for you."

Darcy grabs her dress and flees into the bathroom, which is decently sized, thankfully, and tries not to think of him getting undressed while she's doing the same thing. It's more difficult than she expects, or maybe the alcohol and the time difference are having an effect, because she feels a little giddy and a little turned on as the silky material of her dress slides over her skin.

She takes a deep breath, adjusts her cleavage, and opens the bathroom door. She sees her reflection in the mirrored closet doors and relaxes slightly--she looks fine. Better than fine, honestly, but then she gets a look at Cap--Steve--and she knows nobody is going to be looking at her. His suit is charcoal gray, and she's no expert but it looks like it was tailored to fit him perfectly and probably cost more than she makes in a year. He's got a dark blue shirt on that makes his eyes pop and Darcy maybe stumbles a little when she looks at him, which she totally blames on her new heels and not how good he looks.

"Did little doe-eyed cartoon animals help you dress?" she asks to cover the awkwardness.

His forehead creases in confusion. "What? I mean, excuse me?"

"Disney? Cinderella?"

The confusion clears. "Oh. Oh, I haven't seen that one yet."

"I own the DVD," she says. "I can lend it to you."

"Or we could," he does that throat-clearing thing again, "watch it together?"

Darcy blinks and takes a few seconds to process that. She tries not to read anything into it, fails, and smiles anyway. "Yeah. Yeah, we could." He's totally asking her on a date. A Disney-watching date, but still. She thinks it counts. She's going to count it and she's the one who matters, right? She clasps her hands together to stop herself from doing victory arms and gives him a lingering once-over, enjoying the fact that for once, he looks as awkward as she usually feels around him. "You look nice."

"You too. Better than nice. Gorgeous."

"Thank you." She preens, basking in the compliment.

He holds his arm out and she takes it, hoping her sweaty palm won't leave any marks on his beautiful suit.

"Armani?" she asks.

"Yes? I think?" He swallows and tugs at the collar of his shirt. "Is that important?"

Darcy thinks of Jane and her rumpled, gravy-stained sweaters and ripped jeans. "With this bunch? Probably not."

*

Everyone's dressed to the nines for the reception, of course, but Steve easily outshines them all. Jane hurries over, a martini in her hand, and says, "There are some people I'd like to introduce Darcy to. You don't mind, do you, Steve?" Her fingers are cool and strong as they close around Darcy's wrist.

"Of course not. I'm going to find the bar."

Darcy looks back at him as Jane leads her away. "Get me a vodka tonic, please?"

He nods and smiles, and Darcy stumbles again. It's totally Jane's fault for yanking at her. She braces for Jane's teasing, but Jane just says, "I thought you might want to meet some of the people we've been working with."

The next hour is a blur of faces she tries to match to the names on articles and emails, but then Jane gets distracted by science and Darcy's free to head towards the bar, where she's got a tall drink of water waiting for her, and hopefully, he's got her vodka tonic.

"Sorry about that," she says, smoothing down her dress and taking the drink he hands her.

"It's fine," he says, "you're here for work. And it gave me a chance to do a little recon."

"Recon?"

"I'm supposed to be working, too. Thor asked me to keep an eye on Jane since he couldn't be here."

"Right." Darcy takes a sip of her drink. "Most of these people are just really brilliant, but I suppose there could be a mad scientist or two in the bunch." She nods at one woman with a coronet of blonde braids who's scowling at a man with a neatly trimmed goatee as she bawls him out. "She looks like she might be whipping up a death ray even as we speak."

Steve laughs, and Darcy thinks she'd like to make that happen again. They spend the rest of the reception together. Darcy gives Steve the background on the scientists she knows and they make up outlandish soap opera backgrounds for the ones she doesn't. He takes out a pen and does some sketches of people on the cocktail napkins, the ink from the felt tip smearing a little, and Darcy wonders what those long, deft fingers would feel like on her skin. That's when she puts her drink down and switches to club soda for the rest of the evening.

Still, the drinks helped; she's feeling much more relaxed and less likely to swallow her own tongue around him, but that's only as long as she can forget that she's going to be climbing into bed next to him in a couple of hours.

And it's not like she hasn't slept beside (and slept with) hot guys before, but this is Captain America, the whole reason she majored in history (before she switched to poli-sci) in the first place. And now she knows he's actually a good person in addition to being a superhero and stupidly attractive, to boot.

At least she's managed to start thinking of him as Steve instead of Captain America in all caps with an exclamation point. At some point she might even actually manage to say it out loud.

Shortly after that, Jane comes over and says, "I'm going to the bar with Hisako and Sven. I'll see you at breakfast, okay?" She grins. "Have a good night."

"Night," Darcy says, waving. Then she turns to Steve. "That means we don't have to stick around." She yawns and stretches ostentatiously, only partly for show. Steve is riveted; his gaze is palpable, warm against her skin. "I'm ready for bed."

"Yeah," he says, his voice a little rough. "Me, too."

*

Darcy feels good--tired and a little buzzed, but totally on top of things--right up until they're back in the room with the giant bed in the foreground. She ignores the return of awkwardness by rummaging around in her suitcase. When she's composed enough to face him again, she turns to find him waiting on the other side of the bed, looking a little sheepish. He's rocking back and forth on his heels with his hands shoved into his pockets.

"I can sleep on the couch," he says.

Darcy glances at the little loveseat and back at the six feet of perfection that is Steve Rogers and says, "No, it's fine. It's a king-sized bed. We'll fit."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," she says firmly. "Look, it's awkward. You're--Captain America and I'm--Jane's assistant." He opens his mouth but she holds up a hand to stop him. "Steve. You're Steve. I know. I just--You were the reason I majored in history."

That doesn't make him look any less uncomfortable. "I thought your degree was in political science."

Darcy cocks her head, surprised that he remembers that. "Yes. Eventually. But at first I majored in history. And then anthropology, and then sociology before I settled on poli-sci. I kind of worked my way through the social sciences, which is why it took me a few extra semesters to graduate. But the point is, you were--are--one of my heroes, and it turns out that on top of being a national icon, you're an awesome, cute guy, and it's just a little overwhelming, okay?" She's the one blushing now and she hopes the light is dim enough to hide it.

"You think I'm cute?" He looks so hopeful that it makes her grin.

She laughs. "Right now, I think you're kind of a jerk."

"Darcy." His voice is low, cajoling.

"I'm joking. Yes. I do. And now before I incriminate myself any further, I'm going to change into my pajamas." She whirls away and stalks to the bathroom, because she knows how to make an exit.

She washes her face and brushes her teeth and pulls her hair up into a ponytail. She wishes that she'd brought some pajama pants with her, because her faded UNM t-shirt suddenly seems way too short to be appropriate. She pulls on her red fuzzy socks, takes a deep breath, and heads back into the bedroom to find him standing next to the bed in a pair of sweatpants that are a little too short--his ankles are surprisingly skinny--and a tight white t-shirt that is probably illegal in thirty-seven states.

"Do you need a toothbrush?" she asks. "I always pack an extra because Jane forgets sometimes."

"No, I've got it."

"Okay then." She takes a few steps closer to the bed. "I sleep on the right," she says, "if that's okay."

"Sure. I'm gonna--" He points his toothbrush--and she doesn't know how she missed that he was holding it the whole time--at the bathroom.

"Okay."

Still, he waits for her to walk around to the right side of the bed and climb in before he goes into the bathroom. She lies there and listens to the water running. She checks her email and deletes the I hope you're having athletic and patriotic sex with Captain America text from Jane, and also the one that asks if he tastes like America, though she has to resist the urge to ask what America tastes like before she does. She puts her phone on the night table and curls up on her side.

And then Steve comes out of the bathroom. He looks as off-balance as she feels as he walks to the bed. He slips under the covers and turns out the lights, and then, holy shit, she, Darcy Lewis, is in bed with Captain America. And she's all too aware that he's a living, breathing human being who looks ridiculously hot regardless of what he's wearing.

She's too wired to sleep, despite the three vodka tonics she'll probably regret come her six am wakeup call. She rolls onto her back and stares up into the darkness. She can hear him breathe softly but there's at least a foot of space between them. Her hair is already coming out of its elastic but she doesn't want to move to fix it, in case she jostles him or something.

The silence stretches unbearably, broken only by the sound of their breathing. "Steve," she says, trying it out in her mouth, the way it feels on her tongue, somehow easier in the darkness. "You still awake?"

"Yes," he answers immediately. He sounds kind of relieved.

She thinks of all the sleepovers she went on as a kid, staying up all night, sharing secrets in the dark. And then she thinks that this might be the first time since those days that she's slept beside someone without having at least kissed them first.

"You wanna make out?" She means it as a joke. Well, ninety-eight percent as a joke, and two percent ridiculous hopefulness that he'll say yes. He did ask her out on a Disney-watching date, after all. Truth or dare is her backup plan.

She feels the mattress shift as he rolls over onto his side, head propped up on his fist, close enough for her to see him in the darkness. "Are you serious?"

"Yes?" Darcy doesn't mean for it to come out as a question. "But only if you want to."

He moves again, quick and easy, as if he's afraid of startling her, and tucks a lock of her hair behind her ear. "I do."

"Good," she says, "because I really do, too."

And he leans in and kisses her, soft and sweet and close-mouthed, at first, until she sighs and opens her mouth, and he touches his tongue to hers, setting her whole body alight. Darcy clings to his shoulders like he's going to keep her safe, even as she feels like she's going to drown in his kisses.

He doesn't taste like America, whatever that means, unless America tastes like spearmint, which is entirely possible, and the part of her brain that isn't melting because she's being kissed by Captain America--who is also a really cute guy named Steve who is really into kissing her--is wondering if there's a marketing opportunity someone missed, because if this is what America tastes like, nobody would be able to resist.

He presses her back against the pillows and she tangles her legs with his, swallowing down his gasp as she arches up against him. She can feel his erection against her hip and it sets another wave of heat rushing through her. She runs her hands over his shoulders and then down beneath his waistband to grab his ass and he yelps, startled.

"Sorry," he says, burying his face against her neck. "I've never--I mean, I wasn't expecting--Sorry."

Darcy moves her hands up to the middle of his back and hugs him. "Hey," she says, "it's okay. Look at me." He shakes his head, his lips warm against her neck, the sweep of his hair tickling her skin. "Steve, come on." He raises his head, and she holds his gaze even in the darkness, brushes her fingers in the short hair at the nape of his neck and then squeezes gently. "It's okay. I've never been anybody's first time. We can be that for each other."

"I'd like that," he says, the words sending another fizzy thrill through her. Darcy's never thought of herself as the kind of girl who'd find sincerity a turn-on, but clearly she was wrong.

"Me, too." Darcy captures his mouth again, breathing in whatever else he was going to say. They make out until she's dizzy with it, breathless and tingling and so turned on it aches, but when he wants to stop they stop. It takes her a while to fall asleep afterward, but she manages it eventually, with his body a solid wall behind her and his arm draped over her hip.

He wakes her up with kisses about fifteen minutes before her scheduled wakeup call and this time not only does she get her hands up under his t-shirt, he gets his hands up under hers and they almost don't make it to breakfast.

While Steve's getting seconds at the buffet, Jane looks meaningfully at the small line hickeys on Darcy's collarbone and says, "So?"

"Spearmint," Darcy answers with a smile, "and awesome."

end