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Living Someone Else's Life

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When she wakes up, it’s to a dull throbbing in her head and a sharp twinge in her leg. Her eyelids feel heavy, but once she pries them open her vision is sharp and clear.

And holy fuck, she’s been kidnapped. Kidnapped!? Is that a thing that happens to her now? Can she expect a regular rotation of Darcynapping attempts? Is it a Stark thing? Do people just like abducting Starks? Mentally, Darcy tells herself to shut up because obviously the sedative is still making her a little loopy. No one even knows about the Stark connection, so this is something else. Probably.

Whoever took her has tried to disguise her surroundings, that much obvious. The bed is large but completely bare, there are no pictures on the walls, but there are nail holes where they once hung. A heavy black tarp hangs across what must be a window and the door to the bathroom has been removed. And despite all of this, Darcy is completely certain that she’s in a shitty motel room, but the musty smell in the air and the layer of dust on the desk and night table tells her that it hasn’t been used in a very long time.

Darcy tries to remember all of the things S.H.I.E.L.D. taught her about abduction scenarios and hostage situations, which wasn’t all that much, really, because she wasn’t a field agent. She takes stock of the room and of herself (feet and hands tied, clothes intact, ouch my head) and for the most part she’s okay. There don’t appear to be any cameras, but that doesn’t mean anything. The phone and TV are missing from the room, not that she would have expected them to work.

She wonders if her phone is anywhere nearby, because if it is, Tony is certainly tracking that. She actively does not think about her mom and what might be happening to her.

Anxiously, Darcy sits up, the ropes on her limbs making it more of a disabled seal flop than anything resembling sitting up, but whatever. Up is better than down.

Carefully, Darcy hops across the room. It’s tricky because her whole leg is sore and the muscles twitch and spasm when she moves. Not seeing her purse anywhere, she gets a grip on the tarp and yanks. It comes away from the wall with a whoosh and she finds herself looking at a piece of plywood that’s been nailed up over what must be a window.

“I figured you try that,” someone says from behind her and Darcy turns to see the smug face of... she’s pretty sure she’s supposed to know that guy, but she just can’t place him.

He crosses to her, grabs her by the arm and shoves her onto the bed. He looks at her for a long minute, eyes scrutinizing and Darcy gets the impression that he’s waiting for something. When nothing happens, he sighs and says, “You have no idea who I am, do you?”

Darcy shrugs. “Am I supposed to?”

He slaps her then, the sting of it making her eyes water and her breath catch in her chest. Defiantly, she looks right back at him, and then she sees it.

“Oh, it’s you,” Darcy says. “I think I liked you better with the creeper ‘stache.”

He hits her again, this time with a closed fist and pain blossoms across her jaw, the metallic taste of blood fills her mouth. But she looks right back at him, refusing to cower. He curses and stalks out of the room.

Alone again, Darcy fumbles to her feet, searching the room for anything useful. She knows now why she’s here, though she has no idea what the former Snidely Whiplash wants to accomplish exactly. Likely, he just wants to make her pay in some way for embarrassing him in front of Tony. It’s not an encouraging scenario.

The man comes back shortly after that, a sleek black Glock in his waistband. His face is sort of red, like maybe he’d been yelling recently, but when he speaks it is with a voice so soft it sends goosebumps up Darcy’s arms.

“We have a lot to talk about.”

She has nothing of use to her, the search of the room having been unsuccessful. The way his fingers are trailing over the grip of his gun, Darcy’s stomach clenches and she wishes she had found something - anything - that might maybe have a snowball’s chance in hell of being a weapon.

“Sit down,” he tells her and she does.

“I wonder how you managed to wheedle your way into Stark’s good graces.” The man muses as he paces in front of her. “Maybe it was by spreading your little legs.”

“Gross,” Darcy can’t help but mutter.

“Maybe it’s about blackmail? Maybe you have something on him.”

Darcy scoffs. “Right. Like there’s anything Tony’s done that hasn’t been plastered across the Internet.”

The man scowls at her, pausing in his pacing. He draws the gun from his waistband and waves it around a little too close her her face. “I worked for him for six years and do you know what I got? Nothing. Every one of my designs was ignored or scrapped. Not a single one was ever taken seriously. And then in waltzes some little know-it-all bitch and everything goes to shit!”

“Maybe they would have taken you seriously if you designed things that work.”

To her surprise, the man starts to laugh. “Oh, darlin’, that airship design wasn’t a mistake.”

“You used the wrong dimensions on purpose?”

“It was all a ploy. I was going to prove that he was unfit to head R&D, that he didn’t even so much as look at the designs, that his little hero act was making his company fail. But then you ruined that. That’s when I started to notice you. I saw you using the private elevators and sneaking off with that hired muscle that’s always around the building and coffee dates with Dr Banner. You’re just working your way through them. It didn’t take a genius to figure out you’ve implanted yourself pretty solidly with these people.”

Lovely. She’s been hoisted by her own petard.

“But I have other prospects now,” he continues. “There are people who appreciate my brilliance, who can see the potential of my ideas. And they pay better too.”

“Oh... Oh!," Darcy says, having just managed to put two and two together and get an algebra problem. “You made that device that shut down Tony’s suit!”

“Of course I did,” he says proudly.

“And you sold it to Azazel?” She can’t keep the insulting and disbelieving tone out of her question and he smacks her across the jaw again for it. Her face explodes in pain, the area already tender.

“We’re going for a drive,” the man says, apparently done talking.

He manhandles her into a standing position and Darcy makes it as hard as possible out of spite. Twice she topples over on purpose and takes some small satisfaction in the way it clearly annoys him.

He drags her out of the room, but her feet are tied too tightly to really be able to walk at all, so she has to hop, which is murder on her leg and when she falls in the hallway it isn’t on purpose.

“You dumb bitch,” the man says, lifting her up roughly, his hand tight around her throat. “Unless you want this to be much worse for you, you better start behaving.”

“Look, buddy, unless you want to run a one legged race here, having my legs tied is counter productive.”

With a curse, he draws a knife out of his pocket and slices through the rope. She sighs and stretches her legs out, rolling her ankles around.

“Keep moving,” he says and pushes her forward, the muzzle of the gun in her back.

She does a mental run through of some of the hand to hand Clint showed her, considers which moves might be useful, and curses herself because not once did those lessons end in a way that wasn’t sex. Stupid sexy ninja moves. Stupid weak willpower in the face of a sweaty sexy ninja.

They emerge from the motel into a very dark parking lot. There is no moon and the only light she can see is coming from the car that he’s left running. The trunk is open and Darcy sends up a plea to the universe that he puts her in it. For the first time in a long time, the universe doesn’t tell her to suck it and the man instructs her to climb in. She puts up an argument, tries to sound convincing, and whimpers when he forces her inside anyway. As soon as the lid shuts, she gets to work.

Too dark to really see, she wasn’t able to get a good a look at the vehicle, but she’s pretty sure it’s a mid nineties Ford sedan. A Taurus probably, judging by the size of the trunk, but she’s not positive. It’s easy to pull up the carpet and find the trunk release cable, but she’s in the middle of nowhere and jumping out of the trunk only to be shot in the back doesn’t sound like any fun at all. So she waits.

They drive for a while, maybe twenty minutes, Darcy’s trying to count, but it’s hard to be sure with the way her heart is pounding. The car slows to a stop, before accelerating again. Stop sign. The next stop sign comes again soon and then a third. They must be nearing more populated areas, she thinks. Cautiously, carefully, she tugs the cable, keeping a tight grip on the edge of the trunk lid so it doesn’t fly up and give her away. There are lights now, she can see a few houses dotting the landscape and off to the right there must be a town, because she swears she can see a McDonald’s sign. The car turns toward the town and Darcy’s heart races even faster. As they get closer, she can hear the rush of traffic from a nearby highway and when the blinker goes on and the car starts to slow, Darcy knows this is it. There is no way she’s sticking around for the cross country trip. She has to go now.

As the car rolls to a stop, Darcy inches the lid up. She keeps her grip on it, and slides out of the trunk, her feet hitting the ground unsteadily. She trips and falls, but manages to bring the trunk lid down as she goes. It latches closed as she faceplants onto the concrete and the car pulls forward, making the turn and merging onto the on ramp.

Aware that she’s in the middle of the road and thankful that there are no cars careening toward her, Darcy climbs to her feet and sets off in a dead run for the nearest anything, which turns out to be a gas station. There is a truck parked at one of the pumps, but the owner must be inside the mini mart, because there is no one around at all when she rushes up to it. Educated by many a horror movie, Darcy does not calm to a walk nor does she feel relieved simply by being within sight of the place - that’s when the bad guy jumps out at the last minute and slices you to tiny pieces, because you had the gall to think you were safe. She knows.

Darcy bursts through the doors into the too bright store, hands still tied and covered in dirt and grime and blood and panting heavily. “I need a phone,” is the first thing she manages to say.

The men in the store stare at her, unsure of what to do or unable to process what exactly is happening. No one moves and then quite suddenly, a woman shrieks and runs at Darcy, grasping her around the shoulders and leading her to a chair behind the counter.

“What the heck is wrong with you two?” The woman says. “Call 911, for Pete’s sake!”

The younger man, a tall gangly guy of about Darcy’s age, jumps to attention and digs his cell phone out of a pocket.

“Are you okay?” The woman asks, inspecting Darcy’s face. “Jim, give me your knife.” With Jim’s knife, the woman cuts the rope from Darcy’s wrists. “Hon, what’s your name? I’m Nancy. That’s Jim.”

“Darcy. I’m Darcy. Can I use the phone?”

“Yeah. It’s right here.”

Nancy hands her a clunky old cordless phone. Darcy’s fingers shake with the effort of hitting the right buttons and she considers that maybe she’s in shock. Maybe she’ll get one of those neat shiny blankets. And aren’t you supposed to elevate a person’s feet if they’re in shock? Or is it that they’re supposed to be in the recovery position? Should she be laying down?

“Do you want me to dial for you?” Jim asks, his tone heavy with concern.

“Okay,” Darcy says, letting him take the phone and telling him the numbers. Jim dials and then holds the phone up to Darcy’s ear for her and that’s when she realizes that she’s clutched Nancy’s wrists in her hands in some sort of death grip. She can’t seem to let go.

“Barton,” he says, clipped and tight.

“Clint.”

“Darcy? Jesus Christ, where are you?”

She can hear the utter cummotion that erupts in the background on Clint’s end of the line and she kind of wants to laugh, but somehow all that comes out is a sob.

“Darcy, where are you?” He says slowly, calmly and she wants to answer, but she can’t, she doesn’t know.

“Where am I?” Darcy asks Nancy.

“Leisure, Pennsylvania,” the woman answers with maybe too much softness, like she’s holding back her pity and failing. “The Chevron station on Hyde Street.”

“Okay, Darcy, it’s okay,” Clint is saying. “We’re on our way. I’m not hanging up, okay?”

“Yeah. Okay.” She pries her hands away from Nancy and clutches the phone to her head, like maybe that can magically transport him to her. “It’s been a bad day, Clint.”

He huffs something like a laugh and she can hear him moving around, getting ready to leave. “Been more than one day, babe. You’ve been gone nearly thirty-six hours.”

She lets that sink in, tries not to think about how worried he must have been, how worried they all must have been. “My mom...” She doesn’t know how to finish that so she just sort of leaves it open, lets the words hang.

“She’s here. I’d say she’s fine, but between your vanishing act and Tony’s wrath, I don’t think fine is the right word.”

“Oh god. Has he been terrible?”

“I’m not the person to ask. I’ve been in agreement with him on every count so far.” Clint pauses a minute, says something to someone else that she can’t make out and then he’s back on the phone. “I’ve gotta ask, Coulson is going to take the phone away in a minute if I don’t. Do you know who took you?”

“Yeah. Guy from SI R&D. Used to have a creepy mustache. He designed a shitty hover craft.”

There’s more commotion in the background and then Clint huffs. “Yeah, we know who you mean. Where is he now?”

“No idea. I made a run for it when we stopped at a stop sign and he kept going.”

“He didn’t try and bring you back?”

“Clint, can we not talk about this right now?”

“Yeah, sorry. Work mode. It’s keeping me from going crazy.”

Darcy smiles a little at that. “You weren’t worried, were you?”

Clint doesn’t respond for a long minute and she worries that maybe the connection was lost, but then he says, “Thor and Tony are going to beat me there. I have to go silent while we lift, but stay on the line okay?”

“Okay.”

Things happen sort of quickly after that. The local police show up a minute later, followed by an ambulance that looks like maybe it should have been retired twenty years ago, but the EMTs are nice and they do give her a shiny tin foil blanket, which is pretty neat. The cops want to drag her off to the station and the EMTs want to take her to the hospital, but Darcy wants to stay right there and wait for her cavalry. She’s right in the middle of telling the cops that no, she will not go anywhere, because her friends are going to be here any minute and it is very important that she wait for them, when the air crackles and lighting splits the sky. There is the immediate rumble of thunder and Thor drops to the ground.

“Darcy!” He says, arms and smile wide.

She scrambles to her feet, phone still clutched in her hand, and launches herself at him, feeling safe for the first time since she woke up in that motel room. He wraps his huge arms around her for a minute and lifts her off her feet, his laugh is loud and boisterous, and Darcy smiles into his chest.

“Thor’s here,” she says in the general direction of the phone.

“I noticed,” she hears Clint say.

Thor places her back on the ground, but Darcy keeps her face buried in his chest, unwilling to let go.

“Now, you must tell me,” Thor says drawing her to arms length and crouching so he can meet her eyes. “In which direction did you last see this man go?”

She points to the highway and she describes the car, but then he’s swinging his hammer and she is suddenly terrified of being there without him, without something familiar to see and touch and hear.

“Wait,” she says, a little surprised and maybe ashamed of how frantic her voice sounds. “Will you stay until the others get here?”

But he doesn’t have to answer, because just as he’s about to, Iron Man lands with a deafening crunch. Thor squeezes her shoulder one last time, nods at Tony, and disappears into the dark sky.

“Tony’s here,” she says into the phone.

“Go easy on him,” Clint says.

Iron Man’s faceplate slides up and Tony meets her eyes, his face is drawn and sallow and he looks like he hasn’t slept in days. And there they stand, staring at each other, saying nothing. She bites her lip, unsure how to react, unsure what to say. Probably she should have some great emotional reaction (Or maybe he should?) but that’s not really how she (They?) do things and all she can think is that he looks like shit.

“You look like shit,” Darcy says, still sucking at self-censoring.

Tony laughs. “No sleep for the wicked. You’re looking spectacularly terrible, yourself, Lewis.”

Darcy inches slowly closer so she doesn’t have to keep living this metaphor quite so acutely. He is so tall in the suit and she has to look up, something she’s not really used to. “Well, I’m not sure you’ve been briefed, but I was kidnapped. By one of your employees. I’m going to sue.”

“No point, really,” Tony says, off the cuff, and then keeps talking, rapid fire, typical Tony. He turns toward the cops and the EMTs and Nancy and Jim and that skinny guy. “You missed a lot, Darcy. I was on TV again and Pepper picked out a very nice photo of you for the missing posters, not that there were any actual posters, because, who uses paper anymore, but there were advertisements. And a press conference.”

“Oh no. You held a press conference?!” Darcy chases behind him, as he descends upon the poor hapless cluster of people.

“Of course I held a press conference. You were kidnapped. Was I supposed to just cross my fingers and ask god to bring you back? Although, I did ask the only god I know to help so maybe that counts.”

The idea of a press conference and Tony’s spotty history with press conferences is making Darcy’s stomach turn. “What did you say?” She asks, knowing that he can see right through her to the question she is too afraid to actually ask.

Tony doesn’t answer, just stares down at the small collection of people huddled near the back of the ambulance.

“Which one of you is in charge here in this little Mayberry? And how, honestly, how did you not realize that this is the same woman who's been plastered on every news program in the country?”

No one answers, but it isn’t because they have nothing to say, it’s because there is the sudden bang-ping of bullets lodging into the side of the ambulance. Everyone dives for cover while Tony turns and starts unleashing hell.

Darcy scrambles around the back of the ambulance and crouches by the tire, the cops are edging around the front, their guns drawn. She doesn’t know where Jim has gotten to, but Nancy is next to her, shaking and shrieking.

“Hey, Nancy, it’s okay. “Iron Man’s got this.”

Nancy nods, takes a breath and thankfully stops squeaking.

There’s a mighty boom and then the night falls silent. They wait a moment, and Darcy’s half expecting something to blow up or go whizzing past her head, but when nothing happens, she peers around the back of the ambulance. Tony’s hovering near the convenience store and the quinjet is setting down in the field behind it.

“Come on,” she tells Nancy and they crawl out from behind the vehicle. There’s a lump of bloody person on the ground and Jim and the skinny guy are clearly visible through the broken windows of the store. They are both wielding fire extinguishers and smoke is wafting out of every opening.

“Hon,” Nancy says. “When you say cavalry, you aren’t kidding.”

Darcy chuckles, but she’s distracted, looking around the quinjet for Clint. He was probably piloting so she figures he’ll be out last, but one by one, the team files out and no Clint. Cap is on the ground first, jumping out of the hatch before the blades have even slowed. Natasha is right behind him and while Steve heads for Tony, Natasha makes a beeline for Darcy. Bruce ambles to the ground once the blades are still and Coulson is right behind him, phone plastered to his ear. Several moments pass and no one else emerges.

“Are you okay?” Nat asks, looking her over. At Darcy’s nod, she seems satisfied, but doesn’t move away and doesn’t stop making that serious spy face, which is actually just a blank expression, but whatever, Darcy’s gotten semi-adequate at reading her non-expression expressions.

“Where’s Clint?” Darcy asks Natasha and she knows there’s a hint of fear in her voice.

Natasha rolls her eyes. “Making a grand entrance.”

“What does that mean?”

“There were some... extenuating circumstances,” Nat says. “He had to get creative.”

“Darcy!” Tony calls. “I found your wandering parakeet!”

Darcy looks around to find Clint repelling down the side of the tall building across the street, bow slung over his back. He drops the last several feet and Darcy fights the urge to run across the street and tackle him. Instead, she crosses her arms and waits.

Nat huffs a laugh and pats her on the back, muttering something about them being disgusting, before jogging over to talk to Bruce.

“Took you long enough,” Darcy says, arms still crossed.

“So much traffic,” Clint replies, smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “And your dad was horrible the entire drive. No more road trips ever; that guy’s just a dick.”

“I heard that!” Darcy hears Tony bellow through Clint’s earpiece.

Clint smiles wide and steps in close, his hands coming up to frame her face, thumb tracing gently over the bruises on her cheek and jaw. He’s got this expression that’s maybe relief and maybe anger and maybe something she’s scared to name. “Darcy, I...” He starts, but then she leans in and cuts him off with a kiss.

“Me too,” she says softly, after a moment.

He doesn’t say anything, chooses instead to lean in and kiss her again. It’s gentle at first, soft and sweet, and then the reality of the situation hits her and she can’t get close enough; she just wants to crawl under his skin and live there. She bites his lip, slides her hands up the back of his neck, fingers carding through his hair, pressing her body against his, squeezing so tight she might have bruises.

Finally, she pulls away and smiles sardonically. “It’s your turn to get punched in the face now.”

“I... uh... We should go.” Steve says from behind them, his face roughly the same shade as a lobster.

“What Captain Chastity here is saying is that you two are breaking public decency laws and it’s disgusting,” Tony adds. "Also, I changed my mind. You may continue seeing each other."

Clint opens his mouth to reply, but Thor takes that moment to land right next to them with a thundering crack. He has a man dangling over his shoulder. Thor stands him up in some floppy display, as though he’s reenacting Weekend at Bernies, and props the man’s head up by yanking on his hair.

“Is this the man that apprehended you, Darcy?”

It is. It absolutely is, but Darcy has a moment of sheer hilarity, picturing Thor dashing off and bringing back unconscious, dangling men, one by one, until he happens across the right one.

When she manages to nod and say that yes, that’s him, Thor hoists the man up again and delivers him to Coulson, smiling his broad golden retriever grin.

***

They manage to limp back to the tower, Bruce poking and prodding and being generally doctory the entire time. Somehow - probably due to the sharp drop in adrenaline - Darcy falls asleep before they make it back to New York.

It’s daylight out when she drifts back into consciousness. She’s alone in her bed and wearing her pajamas, but there’s a dent in the pillow next to her, the top sheet is twisted into a messy knot and there is a lone sock in a ball at the end of the bed - all signs that Clint has been there.

Throwing on a robe, Darcy makes her way to the kitchen where breakfast smells are making her stomach grumble. Clint’s making bacon and pancakes and her mother is fussing over a pot of coffee.

“Hey,” Darcy says, her voice scratchy.

“Oh my god!” Vanessa exclaims and launches herself at Darcy, hugging her tightly, fussing over the bruises on her face. “Are you okay? I was so worried!”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Face hurts, but I’m fine.”

“We made breakfast,” her mother says, like maybe that will make everything right in the world.

“We?” Darcy shoots Clint a look, but he just shrugs.

They eat and Vanessa calms down the more they talk. It’s an effort not to say too much to her mother, because Clint’s right there and she wants to tell him everything, but Darcy keeps to vague descriptions and broad explanations. It’s better this way; the less Vanessa knows, the better.

After breakfast and about a million reassurances that she’s okay, Darcy and Clint leave her mother in the apartment and go upstairs for the debrief. They arrive in the common room early and Darcy goes straight to the wet bar. It isn’t nerves, exactly, more like jitters. She’s jittery. And it doesn’t have anything to do with retelling her ordeal, because, yes that was terrible, but she’s pretty proud of how she handled herself. Darcy will tell that story with satisfaction and probably sound effects. The thing that’s got her heart rate up has been bugging her since last night.

Everyone wanders in shortly after and Tony makes a beeline for the bar right along with her. He clinks his glass against hers with an approving nod.

“I know you told,” she says in a low voice just in case she’s wrong. “They’re all being way too... I don’t know, but I can tell.”

Tony pulls a face like he’s just been insulted. “I would never.”

“Oh, god it’s worse than I thought. Who else did you tell? Coulson? Fury?!”

But Tony doesn’t answer, he just raises his eyebrows and wanders away.

“Okay,” Coulson says and everyone sits and makes faces like they’re paying attention. They get right down to brass tacks and Clint sits close, but not touching, while she goes through everything she can remember about the last few days. She’s grateful that Clint isn’t the type to hover, because she’d probably slap him if he thought he needed to be the supportive man. She thinks she might have Natasha to thank for that.

As soon as she’s done speaking, she slugs back the rest of her drink and lets the conversation wash over her.

They’ve identified the man who took her as Greg Kellogg, who is currently rotting in a cell on the helicarrier. The man who attacked them at the gas station, however, is another story altogether.

“So,” Darcy says after the explanations have been doled out. “Bad sniper guy was with AIM? And he was just trying to cover Kellogg’s tracks when he started blowing holes in the gas station?”

“Right,” Coulson says. “Kellogg had promised AIM one of the same electromagnetic pulse devices -”

“I thought we had already explained that it isn’t actually an EMP,” Tony interrupts.

“But when he couldn’t recover the one that Clint blew up -”

“You’re welcome.”

“He was given a small window in which to create another. When he couldn’t do it, AIM sent someone to put the pressure on and keep them from being linked to Kellogg. Kellogg became desperate to get the first one back. He didn’t know Clint had blown it up -”

“You’re welcome again.”

“Because obviously he doesn’t know Clint,” Natasha says with a stern look.

“Hey!”

Coulson continues: “Kellogg resorted to grabbing you with the intent of trading you for the not-just-an-EMP.” He pauses a moment and then forges on and Darcy gets the feeling she’s not going to like what comes next. “But then we made the huge mistake of failing to stop Tony from holding a press conference and the terms changed, but that ended up being moot, because you escaped.”

Darcy looks around the room, scrutinizing everyone. Steve won’t meet her eyes, Natasha is actually smirking, Bruce has a resigned sort of look on his face and Thor is grinning ear to ear. She hazards a look at Tony and he’s intently watching the ceiling.

“God damn it, Tony! It’s public knowledge now?!”

Tony manages to look sort of sorry and says, “No! Not exactly. You know how I am with press conferences. I just say things. Things just get said.”

“What did you say?!” Darcy is definitely not yelling.

“Don’t yell at me,” Tony says, his tone drifting over to scolding. “I may have sort of implied that you are very important to the team and the media may have run with that in an entirely unexpected and unholy direction.”

Darcy glares at him a minute and finally just says, “Ew.”

“But,” Tony follows up rather quickly. “Everyone here knows the truth.”

“I think it’s wonderful,” Thor adds.

“Yeah,” says Natasha. “Now you know where to go if you ever need a kidney.”

“To her mother?” Bruce asks. He points at Tony. “Because those kidneys are of no use to anyone.”

“Thanks,” Tony says dryly.

Darcy pinches the bridge of her nose and fights the headache that’s developing behind her eyes. She looks at Bruce. “Remember when I said I wasn’t telling? See? This is what happens.”

Bruce just shrugs.

“Worse things could have happened to you in your life than this, you know,” Tony says patulantly.

Darcy grins very widely and crosses over to where Tony is sulkily leaning against the wall. She stands on tiptoes and kisses him on the cheek. “Nope. You’re the very worst,” she says with a wink.

Tony smiles broadly back.

They finish up with the debrief and Natasha offers to take Vanessa to the airport tomorrow and instill in her a firm understanding of what the words confidentiality agreement mean.

And Darcy, well, Darcy makes for her bathtub where she intends to stay for the rest of the day. And if he’s lucky, Clint might just get an invitation.