“Tony?” Steve calls out as he enters the lab cautiously, no alarms are sounding, no smoke belching out of a machine or flames reaching for the ceiling, even the music Tony plays is conspicuously absent. Stark is standing in the middle of the room muttering something to himself as he runs a hand through his hair looking vaguely lost. Two shattered coffee mugs lay on the floor by Tony’s feet. Shards of red, gold, and white swimming in a lake of coffee, wisps of steam curling in the air.
Whatever happened, it can’t be a good thing.
One of the smaller bots scurries out from behind a complicated piece of shining machinery to clean the puddle of coffee stretching out across the floor. Stark huffs at the bot, spreading his fingers wide then carefully stepping out of the way.
“What did you do?”
“Nothing! Well something, but really S.H.I.E.L.D. shouldn’t have given Bruce the artefact to examine. I mean really it was just there.”
"What did you do, Tony?”
“Technically I didn’t do anything.” Tony says. DUM-E beeps cheerfully and pulls something soft and red out from under the worktable along the back wall. “No, no, no,” pipes up a small voice. “Well, almost nothing.”
Steve eyebrows hike up towards his hairline seconds before a toddler crawls out from under the desk. A halo of dark curls spiral out in all direction, big blue eyes narrow as she pulls ineffectively at the arm of Darcy’s red sweater. The baby’s jaw sets stubbornly and she bellows out, “No. Mines.”
“Why is there a baby in here? Does Miss Potts know about this?”
“I’m working on reversing the effects of the artifact,” Tony says waving his hands about.
“We’ll get your girl back.”
“She’s not my—”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, Steven,” Tony says, rolling his eyes. Steve clenches his jaw ready to argue, and the baby, Darcy, begins to sob. “DUM-E give Darcy her sweater back.”
“Darcy?” Steve says and the baby jumps, turning to look up at him fat tears rolling down her cheeks. The baby looks from Steve to the bot, drops the sweater and and takes a wobbly step towards him. She raises her chubby arms above her head, hands clasping open and closed.
“I can fix it,” Stark says. “I can turn her back...I think.”
“Steeb,” says the baby.
“This isn’t funny, Stark,” Steve says, frowning as the baby grasps his trousers with one small hand. He kneels down and the baby throws herself into his arms, sharp little nails scratching his neck as she clings to him.
“Here,” Tony says, holding out a tablet, tapping the screen to start a video playing. The video shows Darcy entering the lab in her red sweater, two mugs of steaming coffee in her hands. There’s a grin on her face as she greets DUM-E, and Tony. She’s still holding the coffee when a bright beam of emerald light flashes across the room to envelop Darcy. The coffee cups fall from her fingers, the light grows brighter until Darcy’s completely hidden. When the light fades a dark haired toddler is standing where Darcy had been.
“Steeb,” the baby, Darcy, cries into his shirt. Steve’s stomach sinks and he carefully wraps his arms around her.
"Okay, kiddo," Steve says rubbing her back in a circle, just like Mrs. Barnes used to do for Bucky's sister when they were kids, a lifetime ago. "Stark?"
“I’ll fix it.”
"Bad bot," Darcy says, lifting her head to glare at DUM-E. The bot drops it's arm, in what Steve supposes is a show of remorse, and holds the sweater out towards them.
Tony pulls the sweater out of DUM-E’s grasp, "Sorry about that, squirt."
“Bad,” Darcy says, burrowing her face into Steve’s neck. He sighs and takes the sweater draping it over Darcy's small back. One sleeve is damp and the whole thing smells of coffee but Darcy doesn’t seem to mind. She snuggles down in his arms, her wild fluffy curls tickling along his jaw.
"What the he...ck am I supposed to do?" Steve asks. He’s not entirely sure if he’s asking Tony or himself.
“Mind the baby,” Tony shrugs, picking up a bit of machinery, Steve can't even pretend he knows what it does.
“What’s going on? JARVIS said we were needed in the lab? I don’t see a fire,” Clint says, stepping into the room. “What did you do Stark?”
“Why does everyone blame me for everything?”
“Because you are the one most likely to cause explosions in the absence of Bruce hulking out,” Steve says dryly. Darcy lifts her head to stare at Clint, his shirt crumpling in the balls of her small fists.
“That is patently untrue. I have work to do here. Take the squirt and go, Cap, Birdbrain,” Stark sniffs, tossing a spanner on the table and focusing on a string of letters and numbers projected above his head.
“Who’s the brat? Is Pepper gonna cut your b--”
“Clint,” Steve barks. Darcy slaps her hand over his mouth face scrunching up.
“Sorry, Darcy,” he says pulling her hand away from his mouth.
“Darcy? No,” Clint says, sharp eyed gaze swinging from Darcy in Steve’s arms to Tony and back to meet Steve’s eye.
“Hog-guy,” Darcy pronounces slowly.
“Oh, shi...iny metal targets.”