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The whole idea was kind of Darcy’s fault.

Thor had taken to sitting in on Darcy and Steve’s Intro to the 21st Century lessons (one of the first things Thor learned about was cockblocking). He was there when Steve made the mistake of asking what a chick flick was. Darcy had dashed out of the room with an evil grin on her face and reappeared a few minutes later with a stack of DVDs, a box of tissues, and a huge bag of popcorn. Declaring class cancelled for the day, she asked JARVIS to queue up the DVDs and dim the lights for their impromptu movie marathon.

Steve was mostly confused and wondered repeatedly why all the movies seemed to have the same story (he only stopped after Darcy hit him in the face with a pillow), but he did cry at “The Notebook” which reassured Darcy that her boyfriend wasn’t a robot.

Thor fucking loved every minute of every movie. Darcy didn’t know why she was surprised when Thor loudly declared his approval of Mr. Darcy and Julia Roberts and all the other things he found to be most excellent. Darcy also didn’t know why she was surprised when Thor went through the entire box of tissues during “The Notebook.”

Darcy started feeling restless during When Harry Met Sally and Steve’s hand resting on her thigh wasn’t helping her relax. She knew their chances of getting Thor out of the room now were next to nonexistent, so she tapped on Steve’s hand and tipped her head toward the door and he stood up so quickly he almost knocked the couch backward with Darcy still sitting on it.

Thor barely acknowledged their departure, for once not keeping them from leaving with his infinite questions and observations about everything in Midgard except, apparently, how Steve’s hand was on Darcy’s ass the entire time they tried to escape. Before she left, Darcy asked JARVIS to line up a few more movies she thought Thor would especially enjoy in case he decided to spend the night in front of the TV. The door had barely shut behind them when Steve all but carried Darcy to his room.

***

“What have you done?”

“Debauched your childhood hero all night, so nothing new,” Darcy shrugged.

She walked right past a hungover Tony Stark huddling over a mug of coffee and headed straight for the pantry and, more specifically, her box of Honey Bunches of Oats. She considered finding a bowl for about one second but decided it would be way easier to just grab a handful of cereal straight from the box.

“Way too early for that much TMI,” Tony said. He rolled his eyes but took his feet off of the chair next to his so Darcy could sit down.

He glared at her over his coffee and did a really bad job pretending he wasn’t silently mocking her. She shot him the biggest smile she could; she didn’t need a mirror to know she looked like a hot mess. She was barefoot, clad only in one of Steve’s gigantic t-shirts still sporting what Clint referred to as her “sex hair,” and she was eating cereal out of the box by the handful. She loved every part of it.

“It’s almost 10:30.”

“Like I said, way too early.” Tony leaned his chair backward so he could reach the fancy coffee dispenser and refill his mug, somehow managing not to spill a single drop.

“So now what’d I do that pissed you off?”

“You created a monster,” Tony said. He narrowed his eyes and stared her in the face.

“A little more specific please. I’m accused of creating monsters on a pretty regular basis.”

“Thor,” Tony growled. “Thor woke me up at 6:30 this morning to discuss Midgardian wedding customs because you let him watch all those shitty movies.”

“He was having such a good time, it would’ve been cruel to cut off his supply. What’d you tell him?”

“I told him to get the hell out of my bedroom and google it,” Tony grunted. “JARVIS has been logging all his searches.” He slid his tablet across the table to Darcy so she could see the list.

Midgardian marriage celebration

How to ask your beloved to join you in the eternal bond of marriage

Where to find the finest rings of engagement in New York City

What is she having?

“Someone really needs to teach him Boolean search logic,” Darcy snorted.

“Really? That’s what you’re focusing on? Thor’s ineffective googling?”

“Ohmygod,” Darcy blurted, dropping the cereal box into Tony’s lap. He cursed under his breath but quickly started to eat the spilled cereal piece by piece. “He’s gonna propose to Jane. Ohmygod!”

“There it is.”

“So what’s the big problem? Jane’s gonna die, oh my god, she might actually shit her pants. But Jane Odinsson, meh, she should stick with Foster. Oh, or, what’s her father’s name? That’d be totally legit, right? Oh my god I can’t wait to go dress shopping, she’s gonna look like a goddamn princess!”

“Are you done?”

“No,” Darcy grinned. “I can do this all day if you want!”

“Please don’t,” Tony said, closing his eyes and holding his temples.

“Fine, Grandpa,” Darcy said. She waited for Tony to give her a dirty look - which he did - before going on. “I don’t see any monsters in this situation so, please, enlighten me.”

“First of all, marriage is a sham. It’s outdated and irrelevant and completely unnecessary in modern society.”

“How romantic.”

“But this wedding in particular is a terrible idea for so many reasons, all of which I am too hungover to deal with right now,” Tony sighed. “But please don't forget about Thor’s megalomaniac brother and his tiny little grudges against Thor and the whole planet, because this would really be a great opportunity for Loki to kill two birds with one stone.”

“I’m pretty sure Loki’s not going anywhere for awhile.”

“Don’t underestimate Loki,” Tony said seriously. “He puts on a show but with the right motivation I guarantee he’d be free in thirty seconds, tops.”

“So, let me get this straight,” Darcy said. “You want to deprive Jane and Thor of their chance at eternal love and happiness and all that crap because you’re paranoid that Loki might show up?”

“Do you know how much it cost to fix this Tower after Loki’s last little tantrum?”

“Do you?”

“No,” Tony admitted. “But it was a lot and, contrary to popular belief, I am not actually made of money.”

“You,” Darcy said. “Have shitty priorities.” She stood up, grabbed back her cereal box, and put it away. “Do you think he already got the ring? Oh, I hope he picked out a good one!”

Before Tony could weigh in on the matter, Darcy’s phone started to ring. She answered and immediately held the phone away from her ear, allowing Jane’s excited shrieking to fill the room. Darcy cocked an eyebrow at Tony, who was holding his temples again.

Darcy waited for Jane to stop and take a breath, told her she’d be there in a minute, and hung up.

“Too late to stop it now,” Darcy teased, standing behind Tony’s chair. She reached over his shoulder and grabbed his mug. Grumbling, he tried to grab it back but Darcy stuck her tongue out before refilling the mug and returning it to the table.

“Not gonna be that easy to win me over,” Tony said. He took a long sip of his steaming hot coffee. “If this thing goes bad - and, come in, it’s going to go bad - it’s all on you.”

"Is that a bet? That sounds a lot like a bet to me," Darcy said. "I win, I get exclusive TV privileges on the big TV for a week. And a new StarkPhone. Like prototype new."

"Easiest bet I'll ever make," Tony snorted. "And when I win, I get to ask you 20 questions and you get to give me 20 completely honest answers. About anything."

"Ten," Darcy argued.

"Fifteen," Tony said. "Final offer."

"I..." Darcy wavered. She thought about the kinds of questions she knew Tony would ask. She thought about Steve. She thought about Steve's dignity. Then she thought about a one-of-a-kind StarkPhone. "Fine. Fifteen."

"Done," Tony said. "You better warn Rogers now, just to prepare him because I am going to win this. Seriously, Darcy, there's no way this wedding will happen without some kind of major incident. Mark my words."

“Does Pepper know what a downer you are? Or Bruce? How do they even have a conversation with you without wanting to hang themselves because you’re so fucking depressing.”

“Pepper and Bruce will also understand why this is such a terrible idea.” He groaned and put his head down on the table. “You’re giving me a headache, either make me some waffles or get out of my kitchen.”

“Make your own damn waffles,” Darcy laughed. She blew Tony a kiss on her way out and grinned when he gave her the finger in return.

She basically skipped down the hall, paused in front of Steve’s door and briefly debated whether trying to find her pants was worth the effort. Then Darcy’s phone rang again and she forgot all about her pants as she hurried to Jane’s room, still barefoot and wearing only a t-shirt.

****

Thor and Jane wanted to get married before Thor was due back on Asgard, which left less than a week to prepare. Pepper sprung into action, enlisting a surprisingly enthusiastic Natasha to help her coordinate, schedule, and arrange every last detail of the wedding itself.

As maid of honor, Darcy took charge of taking Jane dress shopping. Dragging Steve along from boutique to boutique, Darcy and Jane finally decided on an elegant gown that fit Jane perfectly. Darcy also bought her own dress for the ceremony; she'd been on the fence about it but as soon as she tried it on, showed Steve, and saw the look on his face, she knew she had to have it.

It was almost dark when they finally got back to Stark Tower. Darcy dashed inside and shooed Thor away before Steve came in, arms piled high with boxes and bags and, in the garment bag draped carefully over one of his broad shoulders, Jane’s dress.

Pepper filled them in on everything she’d taken care of while they were out. Darcy didn’t need to ask who was footing the bill for everything - she still had Pepper’s black American Express card in her wallet, shoved between her debit card and a punch card from the deli down the street (only 3 more punches until a free lunch!).

Tony pulled Darcy aside before she and Steve retreated to her room; Darcy assumed it was something to do with Tony’s doomsday prophecies. It wasn’t.

Tony wanted details on the bachelorette party and, once he realized she hadn’t even thought about it, he sent her off to talk to Pepper. Looking at Steve with her best puppy dog eyes, Darcy followed Tony out of the room.

Muttering something about sneaking up on Bruce, Tony headed for the elevator and Darcy was left standing in the middle of the hall. She attempted to compose herself, because Pepper was awesome but Pepper was also really fucking scary, even when she was just hanging out with everyone on movie night. Darcy imagined Pepper at an actual desk, in one of her obscenely expensive business suits, and shuddered.

She reminded herself again that Jane was her best friend, and Jane would absolutely do this for her, and then she pushed open Pepper's door and said hello.

 

****

“Lewis!” Tony barked as he sauntered into the lounge where Darcy was watching TV.

“Shut up, I’m watching Breaking Bad.” Darcy shushed Tony without looking away from the screen.

“Walt dies.”

“Fuck you, Stark!” Darcy shrieked. “Why are you even here?”

“You do know this is my tower, right?”

“How could I forget, you labeled it. Overcompensating is one thing, Stark, I honestly never would’ve guessed you’re that insecure about your masculinity if you didn’t decide to stick your name in huge letters right on top of your gigantic ugly penis-tower. You should probably talk to someone about that before you develop a complex. I mean, it’s literally not a big deal, a lot of people like ‘em small. Or so I’ve heard.”

“Does Steve know you have such a dirty mind or do you keep that to yourself around Uncle Sam?”

“Oh, he knows,” Darcy said. Tony made a noise and she winked at him.

“Does he know about our bet yet? You should probably fill him in, unless you’re not so sure you’re gonna win anymore?”

“Too late to chicken out now, Stark,” Darcy laughed.

“Oh, I’m not the one who needs to worry. Clearly you haven’t heard about Thor’s new additions to the guest list.”

“Why, who’d he invite?”

Asgardians,” Tony hissed, leaning over the back of the couch so he was inches away from Darcy’s face.

“So?” Darcy said, pushing Tony’s face away from her. “Why can’t Thor invite his friends to his wedding? You’ve never even met them. I have and they’re pretty awesome, especially Sif.”

“Darcy,” Tony said. He vaulted over the back of the couch and sat next to her. “You were in New Mexico. You saw what happened the last time Thor invited his friends over for a playdate.”

“Pretty sure the Destroyer isn’t going to crash the wedding.”

“No, but someone else might.”

“Are you still worried about Loki?”

“When he finds out Thor invited his buddies and not him, there’s no way that little shit’ll stay put,” Tony said. “And if he gets that staff back...talk about compensating, at least my tower doesn’t spray shiny blue magic everywhere.”

"Ew," Darcy laughed.

"Fifteen questions," Tony said, standing up. "I'm already keeping a mental list of good ones."

"Yeah, well, I hope there's room in your head for my awesome new StarkPhone, since you're going to be making me one very soon."

"Keep dreaming, Darcy," Tony snorted. He walked around the back of the couch and Darcy threw a pillow at him as he left the room.

"Asshole," she muttered, turning up the TV again.

****

In the end, Darcy decided to keep the party at Stark Tower. Though the idea of a night out on the town with this particular group of people was super tempting, this was supposed to be Jane’s party and Darcy knew Jane would probably hate that plan. If Jane had her way she’d probably have her party down in the lab but even Darcy had to draw the line somewhere.

Team Science, as Darcy had taken to calling the various combinations of Jane, Tony, Bruce, Erik Selvig, and Betty Ross, were up on the roof with Thor before Darcy even woke up. When she asked, JARVIS told her that under no circumstances was she allowed on the roof until further notice. She made a face and wandered off to find Steve and challenge him to checkers.

Darcy accused Steve of letting her win the first game, which he denied, but he easily won the rematch as well. They were halfway through something like their fourteenth game (they’d both lost track before they hit ten) and Darcy was actually beating Steve, fair and square, when something above them made an enormous clapping sound loud enough that the whole building shook. Steve jumped out of his chair; his eyes were darting around the room and Darcy knew he was figuring out how long it would take him to get to his shield.

“Goddammit, Tony!” Darcy shouted at the ceiling. “I was actually winning for once!” She grunted and, out of spite, kicked at the checkers that had fallen off the table.

“Come on Darce, this could be serious,” Steve said.

“Steve, darling, I guarantee you that was the result of some idiotic idea of Tony’s, and maybe Bruce’s too,” Darcy said. She stood up and started toward the door. “Doesn’t sound like he Hulked out, at least.”

“Stay here,” Steve said, crossing the room and placing a firm hand on her shoulder. “I’ll go get my shield and head up there to see what’s going on.”

“You know I’m constitutionally incapable of minding my own business and staying out of trouble, right? Obedience makes me break out in hives, Steve, just thinking about it is making me itchy,” Darcy pouted.

“You’re spending too much time with Tony,” Steve groaned, but he couldn’t hide his half-smile. “I’m starting to wonder which one of you is my girlfriend and which one is a constant pain in my ass.”

“Why, Captain Rogers,” Darcy drawled. “I’d be happy to help remind you. I know you’re very familiar with a few of my most remarkable assets, surely we can find some way to jog your memory.”

“Darcy!” Steve exclaimed. He was blushing but a quick glance gave Darcy all she needed to know about her current approval ratings. “Not now. We still don’t know what happened on the roof.”

“Pretty sure I’m right, since the building is still standing and continues to lack any invading alien armies and the like,” Darcy pointed out. “Hey JARVIS, what’d Tony blow up this time?”

“Unexpectedly, the recent disturbance was not the result of one of Sir’s more...adventurous projects.”

“Then what was that noise?” Steve asked, looking up at the ceiling. Darcy was pretty sure he’d never get used to JARVIS.

“Sir, along with Drs. Banner, Foster, and Selvig, successfully produced an Einstein-Rosen Bridge and are presently awaiting the imminent arrival of Mr. Odinsson’s guests.”

“Erik’s here?” Darcy exclaimed. “I can’t believe Jane didn’t tell me! Can we go up there now?”

“What guests?” Steve asked the ceiling.

“Mr. Odinsson extended an invitation to attend the wedding to several of his friends from Asgard. Ms. Lewis, Sir has granted you and Captain Rogers access to the roof.”

“Awesome! Let’s go!” Darcy grabbed Steve’s hand and pulled him out of the lounge and up to the roof. He reluctantly stepped out the door and immediately froze.

The break in the sky was much different than Darcy knew of the portal Loki had led the Chitauri through, but she realized the sight of any portal at all probably brought back some unpleasant memories for most of the people on the roof.

She squeezed Steve’s tense hand and looked up at his face; after a moment, he squeezed back and shot her a weak smile.

The whole group was very subdued, especially Tony. He was pacing back and forth along the far edge of the roof with his arms crossed tightly and his head pointed down. Bruce stood close by, telling Tony something Darcy couldn’t hear but appeared to be an unsuccessful attempt to get him to sit down.

Jane and Erik were bent over the equipment and Darcy knew from New Mexico that they were maintaining the connection and keeping the bridge open. Darcy could tell Erik was unusually rigid and tense; like Tony, he refused to look up at the portal. Apparently Jane and Darcy were the only two people out there not currently reliving the traumatic memories of the last time a space portal was opened over Stark Tower.

Steve was staring at the sky, eyes wide and mouth gaping, and Darcy was about to tug him back inside when another loud clap broke the communal silence. Thor emerged from the portal first and, as he stood by beaming, Sif and the Warriors 3 followed.

“My friends!” Thor exclaimed, throwing his arms wide. “It brings me such joy to witness such a coming together of Asgard and Midgard.” The Warriors 3 agreed enthusiastically and took turns clapping Thor on the back.

“Allow me the honor of presenting--”

“Can we close the fucking portal already?” Tony snapped, spinning around to face Thor. Thor visibly startled and looked to Jane with confusion. Tony had caught sight of the portal and was transfixed, and Darcy could see his hands shaking from where she was standing. As soon as Bruce saw him, he immediately put his arm around Tony’s shoulder protectively, whispered something in his ear, and gently turned him away from the portal.

Thor watched Tony and Bruce and, after receiving a small shrug from Jane and no response from Erik, he turned to Sif, then the Warriors 3, all of whom were just as confused as Thor was.

“Yeah, the whole opening a portal to another dimension on Tony’s roof? Considering the audience, probably not gonna be a huge hit,” Darcy said. Thor apparently hadn’t noticed she was even there, judging from his surprise at her words. “Just, you know, historically.” Thor’s eyes went wide with understanding.

“My deepest apologies,” Thor said. “Yes, close the bridge.” Jane and Erik sprung into action and the hole in the sky disappeared within seconds. Thor was speaking to his friends quieter than Darcy thought he was capable of; from the little she could hear, he was explaining what had just happened.

As soon as the sky cleared, Tony shot across the roof to the door. Darcy and Steve quickly stepped aside to let Tony, followed closely by Bruce, storm through the door and off the roof.

“Should we…” Steve wondered, looking with concern at the door.

“Nah,” Darcy answered. “Bruce’ll take care of him. Besides, it’s not just Tony…” She looked to the center of the roof where Jane and Erik were standing by Jane’s equipment. Jane was talking to Erik but he was barely responding and she kept glancing over at Thor lingering a few yards away.

Darcy looked up at Steve and he nodded. She strode toward Jane and Erik, only stopping to mirror the Asgardians and clap Thor on the back.

“Darcy, I thank you for correcting my grievous oversight. I was foolish to overlook the impact of Loki’s madness upon this very group of honorable warriors who defended Midgard from my brother’s treachery. I only hope my thoughtlessness may be forgiven.”

“Hey, it happens,” Darcy shrugged. “They’ll be okay. I mean, Tony’s probably already drunk but it really doesn’t take much for that. Don’t beat yourself up, especially you, just imagine the self-inflicted damage those could cause!” Darcy poked Thor’s arm and he smiled.

“Pretty sure Jane can’t restrain herself much longer, so you better get over there and help her out.” Thor nodded briskly and waited for Darcy to take the lead toward the center of the roof. Jane gave Darcy a tiny grin and let Thor scoop her into an embrace, leaving Darcy and Erik alone.

“You know, I’m starting to think you don’t like me or something because you never ever call when you’re in town. Not even a text! And I know you’re on Facebook, don’t forget I set up your page in the first place. There are literally like ten different ways to get in touch with me but, no, I had to find out you were here from Tony’s robot house.” Darcy elbowed him lightly. “Not cool, man.”

“Darcy, you know how busy--”

“Shush,” Darcy said. “Excuses suck. Water under the bridge or whatever, I don’t know. Just sayin’, kinda feeling neglected by my favorite non-Jane scientist. I mean you, by the way, but don’t tell Bruce and Tony.”

Erik shook his head and started laughing. Darcy beamed and linked arms with him.

“C’mon, I heard Tony was trying to convince Bruce to Hulk out and wrestle some Asgardians. My money’s on Hulk but Steve thinks he’ll get his ass kicked. I told him that wasn’t a very good way to instill team morale which is, like, Steve’s favorite thing in the world, like sometimes I’m even jealous, that’s how devoted he is to team building bullshit. I can’t believe I’m dating such a huge dork.”

They reached the door and Darcy was glad to see Erik was still smiling and even seemed to be relaxing a little bit. They went downstairs to find out the status of the Hulk-Asgardian Showdown (sadly, Tony hadn’t managed to talk Bruce into it), and Darcy made sure Erik was close by all afternoon. She was determined to cheer him up in time for the wedding - especially when she found out Thor asked him to be his best man.

A SHIELD Quinjet touched down on the roof around 4:30 and JARVIS announced its arrival in time for Steve to rush up to the roof to greet Clint, Natasha, Coulson, and Betty who had come over straight from SHIELD. Pepper turned up about an hour later, still in her business suit and clearly in a hurry, but she stopped briefly to fuss over Coulson.

“Gentlemen,” Tony announced, sauntering into the room. “Tear yourselves away from these lovely ladies if you can - looking at you, Banner - and prepare yourselves for a night to remember. Actually, anyone who remembers tonight is doing it wrong.” Tony waggled his eyebrows at Bruce, who was leaning against the wall doing something on his tablet. Bruce rolled his eyes and went right back to his tablet.

“Have fun,” Darcy smiled up at Steve. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“That doesn’t rule out very much,” Steve grinned.

“Hey, never heard you complaining.” Darcy pinched Steve’s ass and he blushed.

“Never said it was a bad thing,” Steve said, sweeping Darcy into his arms and kissing her like they were always doing in those old movies which Darcy always pretended to hate but actually really loved.

Darcy waved goodbye to Erik and then the guys were gone. Darcy wandered over to Betty and Jane and mostly just listened to them talk excitedly about science for the next few minutes.

"Ladies," JARVIS interrupted. "Ms. Potts requests that all attendees please get ready and assemble in the 34th floor lobby at precisely 6:30."

Back in her room, Darcy quickly hopped into the shower, then dried off and started drying her hair. Pepper had talked her into buying a new dress for the party (she didn't need to do very much talking) and Darcy had picked a dress that, with her figure, straddled the line between sexy and slutty which was exactly what she was going for.

Dress, shoes, hair, makeup, and a quick selfie to Steve later, Darcy realized she had about a minute left to get downstairs. She took off her shoes and carried them as she dashed down the hall and rushed into the elevator.

"Okay, can we all agree that there has never been a sexier group of people in all of human history than this one?" Darcy said. She was barely exaggerating - everyone looked amazing. She almost didn't recognize Sif, who had apparently borrowed a dress from Natasha and looked very different - but just as badass - than she did in her usual Asgardian outfit.

"Hear, hear," Betty agreed. "Let's get a picture for the boys, just in case any of them are tempted to run off with a stripper."

"JARVIS?" Pepper asked. A second later, a blank wall lit up and they posed in front of it. They took a few pictures with different poses and expressions and JARVIS sent all the pictures to all of their phones.

"Who wants to send it?" Darcy asked. "I'd do it but I already sent Steve a solo shot when I was upstairs, so it won't be as fun."

"I'll do it," Pepper volunteered. She typed something into her phone. "To Tony. I think we'll get the best reaction out of him."

Everyone agreed and Pepper sent the picture. She hadn't even put the phone back in her bag when it buzzed. She looked at the screen with a knowing smile and rolled her eyes before passing the phone to Natasha.

Tony: Nobody's allowed to change until we get back.
Tony: Everyone's cool if J records your party, right?
Tony: So I'm thinking we should start having sexy dress parties every week.
Tony: Clint almost choked on his beer when he saw this. His death would have been for a noble cause.

Darcy laughed and passed the phone to Jane. She realized her own phone was buzzing and she pulled it out.

Steve: Can I come home now? I've suddenly lost interest in this party for some reason.
Steve: Tony just told me to tell you that you're hot and I'm too dorky for you.
Darcy: Tell Tony to shut the fuck up.
Tony: Just saying! You know where I live if you ever decide to upgrade.
Darcy: You know my boyfriend can kick your ass in like five seconds, right?

"Ladies," JARVIS announced. "Dinner is served."

Darcy gasped as she followed the group into the ballroom. She'd been in this ballroom before but it was completely transformed for the party.

Everyone settled in around the table and drinks soon appeared in front of them. Darcy was sitting between Jane and Betty and she chatted with them while also texting Steve under the table.

Darcy knew the party was catered but that was about all she knew. Pepper had volunteered to take care of the food and entertainment and Darcy had gladly let her. Pepper had run through the details with her but all Darcy remembered was that the food was from some obscenely expensive restaurant.

Darcy liked to think she would have remembered if Pepper told her the waiters were all going to be naked. Pepper must have left that part out.

The food was phenomenal and so was the booze, and soon everyone was chatting like old friends. They took turns toasting to Jane and, before dessert came out, they found themselves doing exactly what they would later deny: they talked about boys.

"One time in college, Bruce and I got drunk and sat up on the roof of the chem building and looked at the stars all night. We actually fell asleep up there and our advisor found us in the morning, I thought I was going to die right there," Betty laughed. "Of course, that was before...sometimes I forget how different everything was before Bruce's accident. He was...I mean, he was the same. But. Also different."

"I feel bad for him," Jane volunteered. "Because he's so fucking smart and he's such a nice guy and stuff and he should be, like, a really big deal. But he can't and that sucks."

"Bruce is..." Natasha started. "I don't think I've ever met anyone else like Bruce."

"Me either," Betty said.

"So, what is the deal with you and him?" Darcy asked.

"Darcy!" Jane shrieked. She slapped Darcy's arm.

"Me and Bruce?" Betty asked. She was smiling. "I love Bruce. He's my best friend. And, yeah, at one point I thought he was the one, you know, we were gonna be together forever. But, uh, that didn't work out and when he had to leave, I moved on. I had to. I couldn't spend my whole life waiting in case he came back from wherever he was. He understood. But I still love him and I used to feel so guilty, I used to tell him he needed to move on too, for his own sake. He didn't, of course, but...I think he finally did. Living here, with you guys," she nodded at Pepper, who smiled. "He's so Bruce, the Bruce I knew, and...I'm so happy for him."

Betty had tears in her eyes and, to Darcy's surprise, so did Pepper.

"Your turn, Darcy," Betty grinned. "You and Steve, fess up."

"I'm pretty sure everyone here knows we're dating," Darcy said. "I mean, we're not exactly subtle about it."

"No, I mean, what's it like?" Betty said. Then she snorted in laughter. "Not like that, oh my god. I mean emotionally or whatever, you know, like how do you feel about him?"

"I..." Darcy started. "Steve is...like nobody I've ever met. He's special and he's so good and, like, yeah, he's Captain America and yeah I fell in love with his ass the first time I met him but even with all the shit he's been through...he's still this genuinely good guy. What he's doing with me, I have no idea, but I'm not gonna question that. And, uh, a whole lot of people don't know it but he's also just a normal dude, like, Captain America is perfect and innocent and doesn't ever fart or whatever. Trust me, he farts. And he swears and touches my boobs and likes watching stupid dude TV shows with Clint and he wants to fuck, like, all the time. He's normal. And he's special, at the same time."

"Darce, remember the time we went to that buffet in Queens and Steve and Thor decided to have a farting competition in the car on the way home?" Jane giggled.

"Oh my GOD," Darcy shrieked. "I totally blocked that out, I honestly thought I was going to fucking die in that car. I had my whole head out the window even though it was freezing cold and raining."

"And then-and-" Jane was laughing so hard she couldn't talk. Everyone was laughing and Darcy was in tears. "And when we got back I almost fell out of the car and Clint-"

"OH MY GOD, YEAH," Darcy shouted. "Clint was waiting for a car and as soon as we got out he got in before we could warn him and like 2 minutes later my phone rings."

"WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO IN HERE?" Jane shouted in her best Clint Barton impression.

"He's one to talk," Natasha snorted, rolling her eyes. "He doesn't need a farting competition to stink up an enclosed space, he does it all the time. For fun."

"Oh god, Tony too," Pepper groaned. "Sometimes he gets Bruce in on it too, it's terrible. I finally told JARVIS to give me an air quality report every time I go down to the lab. It was either that or Tony was buying me a gas mask."

Darcy was laughing so hard she could barely breathe and, after Pepper's latest story, Darcy ended up sticking her hand in her mouth to silence her giggling. Pepper was about to tell another story when her phone rang.

"Speak of the devil..." Pepper said after she looked at her phone's display.

“Yes, Tony?” Pepper smirked, shaking her head. Then any trace of amusement vanished off her face and she stood up.

“Who got arrested?” Betty groaned.

“It’s JARVIS,” Pepper said, holding up a hand to silence the quiet chatter filling the room. She lay the phone on the table.

“You’re on speaker, JARVIS.”

“As I informed Ms. Potts, the gentlemen have encountered a situation and appear to require assistance.”

“What kind of situation?” Natasha asked, suddenly steely-eyed.

“Unfortunately, Agent Romanov, my sensory input on the scene is limited to the Iron Man suit which, due to its current location, is not helpful.”

“He didn’t leave the suit in the car again, did he?” Pepper muttered. “That idiot. What about Bruce, is he okay?”

“At present I have no indication that Dr. Banner has released the Hulk.”

“We’re on the way,” Pepper announced. “Keep me updated, JARVIS, and forward me your coordinates.”

“Of course, Ms. Potts.” The call disconnected with a click.

“Just curious,” Darcy said, raising her hand. “What kind of situation can incapacitate all those Avengers all at the same time and, more importantly, what the fuck are we supposed to do about it?”

“Well, we’ve gotta do something,” Jane said. “We can’t just stay here.”

“Clint’s not answering his phone,” Natasha said, her voice raspy and tight. “Pepper, send me those coordinates and let’s go.”

“Shotgun!” Darcy whooped.

“Darcy, you’re not--”

“You’re not my mother, Jane!”

“No,” Pepper said. “We don’t know what kind of threat we’re about to face so we need to prepare for anything. We're all going."

"Shouldn't we...change? Quickly?" Betty asked. Darcy looked around and realized how absolutely inappropriately they were all dressed for a rescue mission.

"5 minutes," Natasha grunted. "If you're not on the roof in 5 minutes I'm leaving without you."

"Got it!" Darcy shouted, kicking off her shoes and running down the hall. She got to her room and realized that her only clean jeans were in Steve's room. Cursing, she pulled on a pair of leggings, a long shirt, and her sneakers (which wasn't much different than what she wore when she was training with Natasha, but it seemed way less glamorous to wear out in the real world instead of just in Tony's gym). Her phone barely fit in the shirt's tiny pocket and, as she was leaving the room, she realized she was forgetting something. She grabbed her taser and shoved it down her shirt and into her bra.

On the way to the roof she called Steve once and texted him twice. She didn't get an answer to anything and, for the first time, she realized she might need to worry.

****

“Are we sure this is the right place?” Betty asked, climbing out of the Quinjet. Nothing seemed amiss; in fact, the only unusual thing about the club, besides the SHIELD Quinjet currently parked in the parking lot, was that it appeared to be completely empty.

“Their car’s around back,” Pepper said. “They’re not in it.”

“Could they still be inside?” Jane asked. She had her elbow linked around Darcy’s and Darcy could tell she was nervous.

“Only one way to find out,” Natasha said. She crept toward the door, gun at the ready, and assessed the situation. She pressed her ear against the crack between the door and the wall and shushed everyone while she tried to listen. Apparently hearing nothing, she made a face, turned back to the group, and shrugged. “Nothing.”

Sif broke away from the group and strode toward Natasha. She too held her ear to the door, but unlike Natasha, she didn’t seem to like whatever she heard.

“There is magic here,” Sif said, laying her hand flat on the door. “All is not as it appears.” Nobody seemed to have anything to say about that, so after a moment Sif pushed the door open and they filed silently into the club.

“Ew,” Darcy said, looking around at the deserted club. “Not touching anything in here without gloves and a bucket of bleach. I’m pretty sure I’m currently contracting a disease or seven just from breathing in here.”

The club was seedy in the same way as most other strip clubs were, meaning it wasn’t hard for Darcy to imagine the variety of disgusting substances that were undoubtedly permanently adhered to everything in the room.

“This looks like their table,” Pepper announced from the other side of the room. Then her voice dropped. “And wherever they are, they didn’t leave willingly.” Darcy craned her neck to see what Pepper was pointing at and her stomach dropped when she saw Mjolnir still sitting on the table. A second later, Jane caught up and gasped in Darcy’s ear.

“Pepper, do you know if they rented out the whole club tonight? Or were there other people here?” Betty asked, crossing her arms.

“As far as I know, they were just planning to show up at a random club,” Pepper said, her voice tight. “They didn’t even have a reservation.”

“It looks like this place cleared out quick,” Darcy said, looking around at the mess of knocked-over chairs and personal belongings left behind.

“Sif,” Natasha asked sharply. “You said you felt magic outside.”

“There is magic here, dark magic not often seen, even in Asgard,” Sif said slowly. “Unfortunately I am unable to identify its source, nor what has become of our friends.”

“So what are we--” Natasha cut Jane off with a hiss and glanced quickly over her own shoulder. Her whole body immediately tensed and Darcy quickly turned to see what had startled Natasha.

Darcy almost didn’t see the woman standing in the shadows at the back of the stage, leaning against the wall. Jane clung even closer to Darcy’s side.

“Who are you?” Natasha hissed, holding her gun aloft. “What happened here?”

The woman took her time, slowly stepping away from the wall with an eerie grin on her face. She raised her eyebrows but remained silent when Natasha jumped onstage, quickly followed by Sif and Pepper. The trio advanced on the woman, nearly reaching her when she finally spoke.

“I’m not the one you’re looking for,” she said. Her voice was as eerie as her smile, high-pitched and affected with an unnatural accent. “I cannot say anything more.”

“Where are they?” Pepper snapped, “What did you do to them?”

“Surely I don’t know what you mean.”

“Cut the crap,” Betty hissed, joining the group onstage. “You know where they are.” Apparently deciding her handgun would be overkill in the face of Natasha’s gun, Sif’s sword, and Pepper’s intimidating stare, Betty put the gun back in her pocket and strode to the back of the stage, heading behind the back curtain, but she froze with a jolt and fell to the floor before she got there.

“I don’t think so,” the woman taunted as Pepper rushed to help Betty. She seemed slightly dazed but was otherwise unaffected by whatever she’d run into. The woman laughed and Darcy couldn’t stand to just watch anymore. She jumped up onstage and helped Jane up behind her and together they joined Pepper and Betty while Natasha and Sif slowly circled the mysterious woman.

“What have you done with them?” Sif asked, holding her sword closer to the woman.

“Oh, they’re here,” the woman sang directly at Sif. “They never left. But I’m afraid you’ll have quite a job finding them.”

“For some reason, I don’t think you’re actually all that afraid,” Darcy said. “Looks to me like you’re having a blast fucking around with us here.”

“I’d hold my tongue if I were you, child,” the woman snapped. “You know not of what you speak.”

“Darcy,” Natasha said, still circling the woman. “Remember what I showed you the other day?”

“Yeah!” Darcy exclaimed, in her excitement momentarily forgetting why Natasha was asking. “Should I-”

“Not yet,” Natasha said. “You’ll know when.” Darcy was about to ask how she was supposed to know when the mysterious woman disappeared from between Sif and Natasha.

“What the fuck?” Betty asked, looking all around her. Natasha’s brow was furrowed as she examined the floor for any kind of trap door the woman might have vanished through.

“I don’t think she’s anywhere in here,” Jane said. Her eyes scanned every corner of the room, floor to ceiling, and came up empty. “She’s gone.”

“She will return,” Sif said. She was clearly frustrated and Darcy had a feeling she’d spoken more to reassure herself than anything else.

“Well, while she’s gone,” Darcy said. “She said the guys are still here, right? Let’s go find them.” She crossed the stage with long strides, headed for the back curtain.

“Darcy! You’ll get shocked!” Jane yelled.

“The electrified barrier was most likely tied to that woman,” Sif said. “Without her enforcement passage is almost certainly safe.”

“Besides, Betty didn’t get hurt, right Betty?” Darcy asked. At Betty’s nod, she smiled. “How else are we supposed to find them?”

Darcy held her breath as she crossed behind the curtain but, just as she’d hoped, nothing happened.

“Darcy?”

“I’m good, Jane. C’mon back, help me look!” Darcy’s eyes were adjusting to the darkness, but not enough that she could find a lightswitch. Cringing at the thought of searching by groping her way across the wall, she pulled her phone out and used it as a flashlight.

“Aaah!” Darcy yelped, blinking rapidly at the sudden change in light. She rubbed her eyes and shook her head. Jane, Betty, and Pepper were standing in front of her. “Too bright,” she laughed, rolling her eyes to look at the ceiling. “So what’s the plan?”

“Natasha and Sif are still searching for that woman,” Pepper explained. “I had JARVIS research this place as soon as I knew the address. The building has three floors, one above us and one below, but I’m not sure if either of those are currently in use. Still, it’s a big place with lots of rooms and places to hide. I think we should split up into pairs.”

“This is the way, like, 85% of horror movies start, you know that, right?” Pepper rolled her eyes and paired up with Betty; moments later, Jane was back at Darcy’s side and the teams started to search. Behind the stage, they found a long hallway with doors on both sides. Deciding to stick together for now, they began to search every room for any sign of the guys or the mysterious woman.

Most of the rooms were apparently only used for storage and, after her third consecutive face full of dust from old boxes, Darcy coughed, then sighed and kicked the closest box.

“This is pointless,” she said. “They’re obviously not in here and neither is the Wicked Witch. We’re just wasting time and, you know, I bet that was her plan the whole time. Throw us off track.”

“There’s only three more rooms on this floor,” Betty said, sticking her head out the door to count. “I say we check those before we start talking about a new plan.”

“Fine,” Darcy said, trying not to actually pout. She was trying not to be worried about Steve but every empty room they wasted time searching made her anxiety rise. She followed Jane out of the room and into the next one which was just as old and abandoned as the last. They quickly searched, found nothing, and were about to move on to the next one when Pepper’s phone went off.

“It’s Natasha,” Pepper said, not looking up from the phone. “She thinks they found something that could tell us where that woman went.”

“What’d they find?” Betty asked.

“I don’t know,” Pepper said, quickly typing a response and putting the phone away. “I’m going to find them.”

“Finally, something exciting,” Darcy sighed.

“You’re staying here,” Pepper said. “All three of you. We still don’t know what we’re dealing with but so far back here seems to be the safest place. Finish searching the rooms while I’m gone.” Not waiting for a response, Pepper slipped out the door and rushed down the hall.

“Two more,” Betty said, sounding bored. She reached into her pocket and produced a coin. “Heads, door on the right. Tails, door on the left. Jane?”

“Uh, tails,” Jane said. Betty flipped the coin, looked at it, and smiled.

“Door on the left it is! Lead the way, Bride-to-Be.” Jane pushed open the door and gasped. It wasn’t another storage room at all - this room was more like some kind of office, decorated with bright colors and, after Darcy hit the light switch, ample light.

The three women took their time circling the room. They found no visible signs that the men had been there but they kept looking anyway - at least it was more interesting than boring dusty boxes. Darcy wandered to the far side of the room, away from Betty and Jane, and almost didn’t notice the cage pushed up against the wall. She knelt down to investigate.

“Oh my god, little mice!” Darcy squealed. Betty and Jane looked up from whatever they were doing but stayed where they were. “Pet mice, in a cage, they’re so cute!” Darcy sat on the floor and poked her finger through the cage which, in retrospect, was probably not a great idea, but the mice were adorable and Darcy needed some cheering up.

There were 10 mice in the cage, crowding around and climbing all over each other, but a few of them seemed interested enough in Darcy’s finger to detach themselves from the pile.

“What’s up, dudes?” Darcy giggled at the mice crowding around her finger. One mouse began squeaking loudly and Darcy imagined he was trying to answer her.

“Oh yeah? That’s awesome,” she laughed, trying her best to pet the loud mouse with the tip of her finger. She looked closer and saw that this mouse had a marking on its chest that looked suspiciously like a star.

“Huh, that’s weird. I don’t know what your name is, buddy, but I’m gonna call you Steve, at least until I get the real one back.” The mouse squeaked again and Darcy smiled. Of course a little mouse in a cage was a poor substitute for her boyfriend but if it was the best she could do for the moment, well, at least Steve the mouse was almost as cute as his namesake.

Darcy thought it was weird how strongly mouse Steve had reacted to his name, and to Darcy in general. She thought about the star on his chest and, almost unconsciously, started counting the other mice again. Her heart sank as she counted because she couldn’t be sure but she had a feeling that Steve the mouse was Steve himself, transformed somehow. The rest of the mice were pretty nondescript and Darcy was starting to wonder if she was just going insane until she saw the mouse in the corner of the cage.

One mouse wasn’t crowding around the rest but was sitting by himself in the dark, back corner of the cage. Darcy knew he was there but couldn’t really see him at first. When she got a close look at him, her terrible suspicion was confirmed; the mouse in the corner was about three times the size of the rest of the mice and its fur was tinted green.

“Guys…” Darcy trailed off, still crouched in front of the cage. “Good news and bad news.”

“Good first,” Jane said, making her way to Darcy.

“I’m pretty sure I found them!”

“What? Where? Where are they, Darce?”

“What’s the bad news?” Betty asked suspiciously.

“You better come see for yourselves…” Darcy stood up and let Jane, then Betty peer into the cage.

“Darcy, these are mice.” Jane said, gently laying a hand on Darcy’s shoulder.

“No, Jane, I think she might be right,” Betty said. She was still looking at the mice and she beckoned Jane over. “See the one with the star right there? I think that’s Steve. And that big yellow one, that’s gotta be Thor.”

“That’s not…” Jane said, but her voice faded when she saw mouse Steve squeaking at Betty like they were having a conversation.

“I think that one’s Tony,” Betty pointed. Then she gasped. “Oh, and that’s...Bruce? Or...Hulk?” She leaned in close, waiting for a response from the big green mouse. She gasped again when the mouse grunted and squeaked at her.

“How did this happen?” Jane said, shaking her head.

“I dunno, but I’m more interested in how we fix it,” Darcy said. She pulled out her phone. “I’m telling Pepper we found them except as mice, not people.” Darcy started typing a text to Pepper but she almost dropped her phone when the door slammed shut, making her jump.

“What the hell…” Jane muttered. She walked to the door and tried to open it again. Nothing happened. “It’s stuck, the door won’t open!”

“Let me see that,” Darcy said. She tried to open the door, then she tried again, and then, after her third try, she started to panic. “What the fuck, what the fuck. We’re trapped in here, I’m gonna die right here in this room and the last memory I’ll have of Steve is him as a mouse.”

“We’re not trapped,” Betty said, typing something on her phone. “The wind probably blew the door shut and these places are really old, I bet the doorframe is warped and that’s why it’s stuck. I texted Natasha, they’ll come get us out and then we can figure out this mouse problem.”
“Interesting theory, I’ll admit. Even I might have been convinced if not for the wind.”

Darcy, Jane, and Betty all screamed at once and Betty drew her gun. Her hands shaking slightly, she held the gun out in front of her as her eyes darted around, looking for the source of the voice.

“Your weapon will do you no good here,” the mysterious woman said, appearing in front of them from seemingly nowhere.

“Who the hell are you?” Jane demanded, stepping forward toward the woman. “What do you want with us?”

“I’m just having a little fun, nothing wrong with that. I see you’ve found your friends, though much earlier than I intended.” The woman laughed. “Returning them to their human forms will be much more of a challenge for you.”

“This is all a game to you, isn’t it?” Betty spat. She stood defensively in front of the cage, blocking the mice from the mysterious woman with her body.

“Of course it is,” the woman laughed. Suddenly, she was interrupted by loud banging on the door.

“Darcy! Betty! Jane!” Natasha banged on the door harder as she called their names.

“Their hands will break from knocking before they get through this door,” the woman said casually. “As will yours if you try to escape.”

“Who are you?” Darcy spat. She and Jane were standing with Betty in front of the cage, shoulder to shoulder shielding the mice from the woman.

“It matters not who I am, only that I know of you.” The mysterious woman looked from Darcy to Betty to Jane and she started smiling that creepy smile again. “And especially of you.”

Darcy reached for Jane’s hand but, before she could grasp it, Jane jerked away as though she were being pulled by an invisible rope.

“Don’t touch her!” Darcy shrieked, throwing her arms around Jane’s waist to hold her back. Betty grabbed onto Jane too, but the woman’s power was too strong and Jane was easily ripped out of their hands. Screaming, she flew across the room and ended up pinned to the wall about five feet off the ground.

“Jane!” Darcy tried to run but she couldn’t even lift her foot, let alone take a step. Whatever force was keeping Jane on the wall was also freezing Darcy to her spot, and a quick glance at Betty confirmed that the same was true for her as well.

“Let her down!” Betty shouted, still trying valiantly to move from her spot.

“In time,” the woman mused. She almost looked bored except for a twitch at the corner of her mouth. “But first, we play.”

Behind Darcy, the mice were protesting loudly; she swiveled her torso far enough to see the cage and she wasn’t surprised to see mouse!Thor climbing up the inside of the cage trying to get out.

“Jane Foster. Dr. Jane Foster. Tell me, Dr. Foster, what do you know of the world beyond your own? What do you know of the stars?”

“I...I…” Jane stuttered. Tears were streaming down her cheeks and she was shaking while still stuck to the wall. The sight of her almost made Darcy cry, too.

“Answer me, girl,” the woman snarled. “Do not defy me.”

“You’re...I…”

Darcy was so transfixed on the horrible scene playing out in front of her that she barely heard Betty hissing to get her attention. She tore her eyes away from Jane and looked at Betty. Betty’s eyes were bright and her smile was defiant and she had her hand on her gun in her pocket. She looked from Darcy to Jane, then nodded slightly. Darcy nodded back to indicate her understanding.

Betty’s chance came a moment later, when the woman was far enough away from Jane that Betty didn’t have to worry about accidentally shooting her too. Just as they’d suspected, whatever hold the woman had over them broke when Betty’s bullet pierced her skin. Before Darcy could even move, she was lunging forward, ready to catch Jane as she fell from the wall.

Darcy didn’t count on the mysterious woman still standing strong after getting shot. The bullet went through her shoulder on an angle, toward her chest, but the woman was somehow able to shrug it off as though it were a mosquito bite. Sneering, she elbowed Darcy out of the way and knocked her on the ground as she rushed to help Jane. The woman grabbed Jane, hard, and lifted her off the ground; she let go and Jane stayed up in the air, hovering in place. Darcy stood up, brushed herself off, and looked helplessly around her. Betty was trying to get the door open again, but even shooting the lock out didn’t help. Natasha, Sif, and Pepper were apparently still right outside the door and were trying just as desperately to pry it open.
You’ll know when.

Natasha’s words suddenly rang in Darcy’s ears. Darcy thought about everything Natasha had taught her, every kick, every punch, every defensive and offensive move she could remember from their regular training sessions. She thought about the last thing she’d mastered and how eager she’d been for a chance to try it out.

She took a few deep breaths.

The mysterious woman’s attention was split between Jane, still hovering, and Betty, now trying to kick the door down. Darcy nervously stepped forward, creeping up the best she could on the mysterious woman, paused for a moment, and then delivered a roundhouse kick to the back of the mysterious woman’s head.

The kick sent the woman sprawling on the floor with a shriek and Darcy would’ve been proud of herself if the circumstances of the kick were different.

“That was awesome, Darcy,” Betty grinned from the still-closed door.

“How did I not know you could do that?” Jane asked. She stepped over to the mysterious woman, lying in a heap on the floor, and poked her with her foot. “Looks like she’s out cold for now, at least. We should get out of here while we still can.”

“We will if we can get the goddamn door open,” Betty said, sounding frustrated.

They immediately fell silent when the mysterious woman made some kind of noise from her pile on the floor - maybe a groan, maybe a muffled scream, Darcy wasn’t sure - and then started twitching, slow at first, then speedier and speedier.

“Betty…” Darcy muttered, staring at the figure on the floor. She held a protective arm in front of Jane. The figure made the same noise again, twitched some more, and began to glow a bright, gold light. Darcy backed up in a hurry, pulling Jane alone with her, and their backs were against the wall by the time the gold light intensified, then dropped off completely, revealing the actual identity of the mysterious woman.

It was Loki.

Darcy could almost hear Tony’s tiny little mouse voice shrieking “I told you so!”

“You little shit,” Betty spat, once she realized who the mysterious woman really was. “Change them back.”

“Oh, not unless you make me,” Loki sneered. Betty spat at him and he dodged the spray before it hit him. “Now the real fun begins.”

“What the…” Darcy asked, but was cut off when she realized she was now floating a few feet off the ground. She reached for Jane and they grabbed hands but couldn’t pull any closer to each other than they already were.

“Loki, put us down,” Jane commanded. Loki ignored her request, instead focusing his attention on Betty. Darcy tried to get herself down to the ground and then, as a last resort, tried to swim through the air toward Betty, but she barely moved an inch.

“I’m not finished with you yet, Dr. Foster,” Loki said, keeping his back to Darcy and Jane. “You can thank your little friend over here for the intermission, she’s quite mouthy and we just can’t have that, now can we?” Betty rose up off the floor just as Jane had and Loki laughed at Betty’s fear.

“Let her go!” Darcy grunted, wiggling and struggling to escape the curse holding her in place. Her effort was as useless as it had been all night but it made her feel even a little better just to try.

“Silly girl,” Loki said, rolling his eyes. “You can be next, if you’d like. You’re even mouthier than this one.” Loki dodged Betty’s spit again, but this time he was very obviously pissed off. He whipped around to face Betty. “You are making it very, very difficult to stop myself from destroying you.”

But before Loki could so much as move his arm, a huge crashing noise distracted everyone and, seconds later, Iron Man burst through the wall and landed with a thud in the middle of the room.

“You,” Loki sneered. “Iron Man.” He took a step toward Iron Man and was greeted with a repulsor at the ready. He backed off.

Realizing she was once again free to move, Darcy backed up toward the mice again, mostly to see how mouse Tony had escaped. She counted the mice three times and came up with the same result each time - Tony was still among the mice. Which meant that, right now, Iron Man was…

“Are you guys okay?” Pepper asked as soon as she lifted the faceplate. Loki was on his knees at her feet, only staying put because Pepper was aiming one of Iron Man’s guns at Loki’s head.

“Just pretty shaken up,” Jane said.

“They’re the mice, Pepper!” Darcy said. “The guys. They’re the mice.”

“What?” Pepper gasped. She didn’t move from her spot, not wanting to give Loki the chance to try anything, but she peered at the mice with wide eyes. “Where are Natasha and Sif?”

“Outside,” Betty said, pointing at the door. “This asshole barricaded us in here. They’ve been trying but nobody can open the door.”

“Hmm…” Pepper mused, pondering the door. “Sif, Natasha, stand back!” At their acknowledgement, Pepper raised her arm and, clumsily, used a laser of some sort to cut through the door. It worked and Natasha and Sif climbed through the hole in the door seconds later.

“Loki,” Sif sighed. She looked at Pepper. “You may release him, if you wish. There exist few people in any realm that might have some control over Loki and I am among them.”

Slowly, Pepper pulled her hand away from Loki’s head and he stood up. He did not seem the least bit surprised when, about half a second later, Sif’s sword was at his throat. To Darcy, it seemed like Sif and Loki shared some kind of secret code, because suddenly he was laughing and she was grunting and they both were staring at each other with a mix of revulsion and affection.

Betty and Natasha were leaning over the cage and neither seemed to notice when Darcy squeezed in next to them. Behind them, Pepper walked across the floor with a loud metallic clanking noise and talked to Jane about something too quiet for Darcy to understand.

“Change them back,” Natasha said, leaning over Loki.

“You’re going to have to try harder than that, you know.” Loki laughed.

“Loki,” Sif hissed. “Change them.”

“In due time,” Loki grinned.

Natasha and Loki went back and forth, with Sif occasionally interjecting to support Natasha’s side, and the more they argued the more Darcy’s head was pounding. All she wanted was a warm shower and a warm bed and a warm non-mouse version of Steve to snuggle with.

Betty and Jane wandered to the other side of the room, talking about science, and Darcy was alone with the mice again. She absentmindedly played with the lock on top of the cage, hoping against hope that Loki would change them back soon, and almost didn’t realize when it clicked and opened.

Grinning, she stuck her hand inside and let mice crawl all over it. Steve climbed all the way up her arm and sat on her shoulder, and she gently patted him on the head.

“Loki,” Darcy heard Sif say patiently. “Surely you did not come all this way simply to be the trickster. What was your purpose here?”

“My fool of a brother,” Loki spat. “When I discovered he was planning to partake in a Midgardian wedding ceremony I was appalled. How dare he besmirch the good name of Asgard with such Midgardian foolishness, he the son of Odin.”

“Absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you weren’t invited, right?” Darcy shouted from across the room. She recoiled slightly at the glare Loki shot her, but mouse Steve on her shoulder squeaked quite incessantly at Loki and she relaxed.

Darcy turned back to the mice as Pepper rounded in on Loki and she was soon sitting cross-legged on the floor with mice all around her. She was half paying attention to the mice and half to Pepper lecturing Loki, which was kind of amazing. After a few minutes of lecturing, Natasha and Jane joined Darcy on the floor and the mouse equivalents of Clint and Thor, respectively, went straight to them. Betty hung back but finally got down on the floor. Mouse Bruce sniffed her knee, then decided she was safe and curled up on her leg. The mouse Darcy assumed was Selvig did the same to her other leg.

“Fine, fine,” Loki groaned, cringing. “I’ll change them back.”

“Now,” Pepper commanded.

“Now,” Loki repeated, weakly. “The spell will take some minutes to wear off, 5 at most.” After he reversed the spell, Sif dragged him out to the Quinjet to wait for everyone else.

“Did you really just lecture him into changing them back?” Darcy asked Pepper as she came by to claim Tony-mouse and Bruce-mouse (who had wandered from Betty’s leg and seemed eager to find Pepper and Tony).

“More or less,” Pepper hummed. Tony ran up and down the suit, showing off even in mouse form, and Bruce watched Tony as he ran.

“That’s impressive,” Darcy said. “Legit. I’m impressed!”

“Thanks,” Pepper laughed.

Fandral and Volstagg were the first to change back, followed almost immediately by Hogun and Thor. Clint was next and, just as Steve started twitching, Pepper gasped, scooped up her mice, and ran out the hole in the wall the best she could while still wearing the suit.

“What’s wrong?” Darcy called through the hole.

“I don’t know if Bruce is coming back as Bruce or as Hulk,” Pepper answered. “I figured I should probably take him outside just in case.”

“Good call,” Darcy said, but she was giggling by the end because Steve was back to being a person again and he scooped her up into his arms as soon as he could.

“Darcy, you were amazing.”

“Duh, we knew that,” Darcy laughed.

“LEWIS!” Tony bellowed from outside the hole.

“Oh shit,” Darcy muttered. “Steve, baby, so this is entirely Tony’s fault-”

“Most things usually are.”

“And, well, it’s a long story, I don’t even know where to start…” Darcy explained the bet to Steve as Tony clambered in through the hole, followed by an exhausted and scruffier-than-usual Bruce and a de-suited Pepper, and even though all Tony seemed to want to do was gloat, Steve took it in stride.

****

In the end, the wedding was a success. Jane looked beautiful, Thor looked handsome, the ceremony was short and sweet and the reception was more fun than any wedding reception had any right being.

Thor ended up getting his wish; Loki was at his wedding (albeit in chains and with Sif's sword never more than an inch or two away from his throat) and even though Loki clearly wanted no part of anything that happened, Thor was just happy to have his brother there for his big day.

Everyone danced with everyone else at the reception - Darcy alone danced with Steve, Thor, Erik, Fandral, Coulson, Jane, and Tony, and some people (Tony) danced with even more partners than that.

"Can I cut in?" Tony butted his head between Darcy and Steve, who were dancing together. Steve looked at Darcy, who shrugged, and let Tony take over, leaving him with an apologetic-looking Pepper as a partner. Darcy blew Steve a big kiss before Tony waltzed her away.

"Okay, question one."

"Already?"

"You already lost, why not?"

"Whatever, fine."

"Question one. Does Steve refer to his dick as "Captain"? Does he ever wear condoms that look like his shield?"

"Seriously? Seriously?" Darcy barked. "That's two questions and they are both terrible."

"It's one," Tony said. "And you don't get to judge them, just answer."

"No and no," Darcy said.

"That condom thing is a really great marketing idea, don't you think? You know, Captain America's shield as a shield?"

"You're insane. There's something wrong with you."

"Yeah, it's called genius," Tony said, spinning Darcy around. They finished the dance and Darcy went back to Steve pretending she didn't hear Tony's countdown of remaining questions.

The next day, Thor and Jane went on their honeymoon. Thor wouldn't tell anyone where he was taking her which made Jane even more excited than she would have been in general. Before they left, they were up on the roof to say goodbye to Sif and the Warriors 3 as they escorted Loki back to Asgard.

Once again, Darcy woke up after Jane had already disappeared up onto the roof. Untangling herself from still-sleeping Steve's arms, she quickly stumbled to the bathroom and was headed for the door in search of breakfast when she saw a small box sitting on Steve's dresser. It had her name on it so she opened it and grinned - it was, of course, a brand new StarkPhone, made exclusively for her.

Sometimes Darcy was convinced she had the weirdest life ever, but at least she never doubted her life was anything less than awesome.