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The Big Scary Unknown

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The day that Darcy had told Nick Fury that yes, she agreed to be liaison between SHIELD offices and the Avengers, she had pictured (somewhat nebulously) that she would be sitting in a swanky room with some kind of super-awesome Stark-equivalent to Bluetooth in her ear and doing Minority Report things with touchscreens, coordinating schedules or something. And possibly sipping a martini. It seemed to her that spy-like things should involve martinis. She blamed years' worth of James Bond marathons on New Year's Day.

This was pretty much nothing like that.

She stood in the middle of her unfurnished apartment, in her pajamas at three-fifteen in the morning, trying to make sense of what whoever was on the other line of that call from SHIELD was currently telling her. "Do what?" she asked blearily, trying to run a hand through her hair and getting it caught in a snarl.

"Director Fury wants to meet with you first thing in the morning," whoever was on the other line said again, slower and louder. "At the NYC SHIELD facilities. And, I quote, 'dressed like an adult.'"

"I dress like an adult," she said sulkily, finally untangling her hair and looking for something to sit on. There wasn't much besides the floor and her bed just yet. And a pile of cardboard boxes that she hadn't had time to unpack because of shit like this, shoved off to one side and looking pathetic, but she didn't want to sit on those for fear of finding the one breakable thing that would inevitably be in there and destroying it with her ass.

"I'm only repeating what I was told," the SHIELD flunky on the other line said, sounding smug. She was certain he sounded smug.

"Couldn't he have emailed me this at like, an hour when normal people are awake?" she asked.

"I couldn't say. Seven a.m. sharp," the asshole said, hanging up.

Darcy could have thrown the phone across the room in frustration if a) it wasn't entirely too much effort considering she'd had like three hours of sleep before she'd been woken up and b) the phone was shiny, new, and awesome and there was no way she would go begging back to Tony for a new one just a week after getting this one.

It was now a question of whether she wanted to stay awake for the remaining few hours until she had to be at SHIELD headquarters for whatever weirdness Fury had in store, or whether she wanted to try to grab another two and a half hours of sleep. A whole three, maybe, since Thor was in town and if she did puppy eyes she might be able to convince him to fly her there. But probably not, since that would ruin her hair, and...

Crap. "I thought I left all-nighters behind when I finished college," she said to the empty air and stomped over to the Avengers-only elevator.

"Should I take that as instruction, or just a complaint?" came JARVIS' ultra-polite voice from one of the extremely well-hidden speakers.

"Is anyone up right now?" she asked.

"Captain Rogers is awake."

Right. The guy who seemed to have chronic insomnia and made lots of cracks about how sleeping for almost eighty years meant he had plenty stored up. She grabbed her terrycloth robe and nodded. "Yeah. I'll go up there, then. Thanks, JARVIS."

"Of course, Ms. Lewis."

Steve looked up from the open kitchen of the main floor when the elevator door opened, and Darcy raised her hands defensively. "Whoa there. It's just me. The butter knife can go back to making whatever weird food you're craving."

"It's just peanut butter and banana," Steve said.

"The Elvis special," Darcy said, nodding sagely and making her way over to the couch. "Yeah, nothing weird about that one. Just don't deep-fry it. You don't mind the company, do you? Apparently I'm supposed to have a meeting in a couple of hours and it doesn't really seem worth it to go back to sleep."

Steve looked around--for who, she didn't know, there wasn't anyone else hiding in there that she could see--and shook his head. "No."

"Awesome. Keep me awake, okay? I mean it. I'm not going to meet with Fury looking like I just got run over by a bus."

The super-fancy TV wall screen was on, turned to early morning History Channel programming. She watched it for a while, feeling her eyelids droop. "Supposed to be keeping me awake, Rogers," she said.

"Sorry," he said, seating himself at the other end of the sofa with a small stack of peanut butter and banana sandwiches on a paper plate. He looked at them, then at her. "Did you want one?"

"This early? Nah. But thanks."

He set to work devouring all of the sandwiches--all of them, and it was kind of scary--and she watched, since it was mildly more interesting to her than a history of tanks or whatever the hell was on the TV. She found herself remembering him sitting right about there, looking haunted, telling her, I found out he was a fan of mine, did you know that?

He. Phil Coulson. The man who stole her iPod and Jane's research in New Mexico, whose job she had taken just a couple of days ago.

Who wasn't so dead as everyone else seemed to think he was. The deception sat wrong in her stomach. She couldn't imagine one of her friends lying to her about something like that. It was bad enough finding out that one had lied about her ass looking fat in those jeans or yes, I did sleep with your boyfriend when I said I hadn't but you guys were totally broken up at the time so it's okay, right? Little deceptions like that hurt bad enough after the fact.

A big one like this didn't even bear thinking about.

"Are you okay?" Steve asked, bringing her back to herself.

"Do the huh?" she asked, jerking upright.

"You were just looking at me and frowning. Are you okay?" His eyebrows creased slightly. "Do I have something on my face?"

"Nah. Just thinking." She grinned, though it felt more than a little forced to her. "Has anybody ever told you that it's like watching a whale inhaling krill when you eat?"

Steve looked slightly pained.

She arrived at NYC SHIELD headquarters on time. Early, even, which she thought spoke well of her and her competence.

Naturally, she'd made an effort to wear something obnoxiously youth culture-y because damned if she was going to let Nick Fury goad her into wearing a pantsuit. Anyway, it wasn't like he had any right to call people out on how they dressed. She was pretty sure Matrix coats had gone out with the early 2000s unless you were cosplaying. (Or unless you were Nick Fucking Fury, who she had to admit totally rocked that look.)

He didn't seem at all surprised or perturbed or anything by her defiantly non-professional appearance, which was both completely unexpected and somewhat disappointing. Darcy had been looking forward to using that Matrix jab since she'd thought of it at five in the morning. "Ms. Lewis," he said, sitting behind his still impressive and mostly bare desk.

"Mr. Fury," she said, leaning back in her chair with her arms crossed, trying to match his tone. He'd had years of practice so it was no contest, but she could still try.

"It's been a week," he said without so much as a good morning, how are you? "It's time you got into the swing of things, as it were. You're getting your first real assignment as Avengers-SHIELD liaison."

"Wait, what?" Darcy uncrossed her arms and sat up straighter. "What have I been doing all week, then?"

If Fury had been anyone else, she had a feeling that he would have smirked. As it was, he gave her a flat look. "Easing in," he said. "Part of Agent Coulson's duties--" He couldn't have missed the way her fists tightened at the sound of that name, but he didn't react-- "were to assess anyone who ended up on SHIELD's radar and could either be a threat or asset. And since you've been taking initiative on that yourself..." He raised an eyebrow at her. Probably a disapproving eyebrow. She still wasn't sure where exactly he stood on her push to add Spider-man to the team, even as a part-time guy, and she had the sneaking suspicion lately that her former roommate Jessica's stint as Jewel was probably on SHIELD's radar as well. "It seemed like the perfect first big assignment for you."

"So, what, I go out, say hi to people, ask them if they plan to use their powers for good or evil?"

Fury's smile was tight. "Something like that." He slid a stack of files over to her. "Some homework for you to look over," he said.

"Oh boy." She took the files, hesitant to look at them. "And then what?"

"And then I'll let you use your discretion." He went back to whatever papers he'd been looking at before she'd walked in, effectively dismissing her.

She snorted. "So you had someone wake me up at the ass-end of the morning, had me brave rush hour traffic to get here on time, and you just spent five minutes giving me a folder and telling me to 'use my discretion'?"

"That's all, Ms. Lewis," he said, just starting to sound annoyed.

Darcy took the hint and left. In her short experience with him, any meeting with Fury where he didn't yell at her counted as a win.

The first thing she did when she finally got back was to grab a nap. Stupid morning meeting, messing up her schedule.

The second thing she did was look over the information in the folders. Lots of names, some photos clipped to them, and some brief descriptions of observations and incidents that had presumably brought them to SHIELD notice. She did her best to study them, she really did.

"So how the hell were you guys recruited?" she asked, wandering into the main floor and still rifling through the papers.

Bruce looked up from a mug of coffee and Natasha raised an eyebrow over whatever she was currently reading on her shiny awesome tablet. Probably work related. She was dedicated like that. "What?" Bruce asked.

"I'm supposed to like, go talk to people," Darcy asked. "And I have absolutely no idea how this works. It was one thing when it was, you know, my boyfriend. But I don't think, 'Hi, I hear you have powers, want to talk about it over dinner and a movie?' is going to work with everyone on this list."

"There's a list?" Bruce asked before shaking his head with a rueful smile. "Of course there's a list."

"You didn't think the people in this building were our only priorities, did you?" asked Natasha.

Bruce sipped his coffee. "I'm usually too preoccupied to give it that much thought, actually."

"So," Darcy said, hopping over the sofa and crossing her legs. "Any advice? Pointers? What worked for you?"

"Don't shoot first," Bruce said thoughtfully.

Natasha pursed her lips and nodded. "Yeah. That about covers it."

"Seriously. That's your advice. Don't shoot? I don't even have a gun."

"It worked for me," said Natasha. "The rest of the details are all classified way above your clearance level."

"Hey, I'm totally cleared to know stuff now," Darcy said. "I'll probably find out at some point."

"I doubt it," said Natasha.

"I think you're on your own," Bruce said, turning toward the elevator. "You're a people person. I'm sure you'll figure something out."

"So good to hear," Darcy grumbled. "So, seriously. What do I do? Normally I find this shit out completely by accident."


"Well... you know. With Peter." She didn't mention Jessica coming to her rescue out of literally freaking nowhere, or bringing home a guy who'd been advertising his superhuman-ness on Craigslist and banner ads. Even though SHIELD, and therefore probably Natasha, probably knew about them anyway. Stupid all-seeing secret organizations. And it wasn't like Craigslist and banner ads were discreet, anyway. She'd have to mention that to Luke the next time she saw him. "And I did just kind of stumble into Thor, and therefore everyone else here, completely by accident."

"The way I heard it, you hit Thor with a truck."

"A, it was a van, and B, Jane hit him the second time. And she totally tried to take the wheel the first time, so that was probably her fault, too."

Natasha graced her with a small, controlled smile that seemed to be the kind favored by super-spies. "And yet you wormed your way into the good graces of everyone here not Thor or Parker."

"So dragging them--" she waved the folder like a fan-- "out for frozen yogurt and going on long walks could potentially work, is that what you're saying?"

Natasha shrugged and returned her attention to her tablet.

Darcy looked down at the folder. "Well, shit," she said. "At least I can get frozen yogurt out of it."