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Breathe In, Breathe Out

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“Do I look okay?”

Darcy took a deep breath and waited while her best friend and best friend’s big blond arm candy looked her over as she did a slow spin in her totally casual first date, probably-not-even-a-real-date-why-am-I-so-nervous outfit.

Lucky jeans with a hidden pocket that saved her from that thing in that bar that time?


Lucky wrap sweater in even luckier blue cashmere from that overnight with Barton when he foiled a robbery in progress and Darcy got to play his badass backup over the loudspeaker in his truck like a boss?


Lucky ankle boots that don’t scream “trying too hard”?


“Darcy, are you ... nervous?” Jane asked, mouth agape, more than a little incredulous.

“I…” Darcy looked down at her skinny jeans and fave sweater, swallowing past the sudden lump forming in her throat. “Yes?” She glanced up at her two closest friends in the world and all the Nine Realms.

“It’s only a movie, honey. If you want—” she glanced over her shoulder at Big and Bulgy, “Thor and I can come along, make it a fun, low pressure double, right?”

“That’s…” Darcy rolled her lips, chewing on them a little as she weighed the pros and cons. She blew out a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “That’s really nice of you, but I… I think I got this. If I can’t get through one date…” She shrugged, never more insecure than in the moment before her date knocked on the door to pick her up. It happened every time, but this time was worse. If it didn’t go well, they’d still see each other all the time, every day, day in and day out…

“I should… I should just cancel.” She panicked and started pawing through the jackets hanging by the door, looking for her phone in the pockets.

“No, no, hey.” Jane grabbed her by the shoulders and forced Darcy to look her in the eye. “Nerves is a good sign. You want it to go well. You’ve got a lot riding on this because you’re emotionally invested. Thor and I will go change really fast while you text a quick message that we’re coming along for a fun, double date. That’s all. No canceling.”

Darcy found herself nodding and tapping out Jane's words almost verbatim into her phone when she finally found it in her peacoat.

Jane cocked her head, looking Darcy over carefully. When her eyes widened, Darcy’s heart sped up again, anticipating the worst, but—

“Lucky socks?” her best friend checked.

“D’oh!” Darcy bolted for her bedroom at the end of the hall, pawing through the piles of clean clothes on her bed until she found them—the Golden Gate socks from her Route One road trip with Janie back in the early days after Greenwich, when they still lecture-toured in the RV instead of being chauffeured all over the country for short day trips with Stark’s head of security, Happy Hogun. Darcy kicked off her boots and pulled the socks on, carefully arranging them so they appeared as one panoramic image of the famous suspension bridge across both of her shins.

“Better?” Thor asked from the doorway, pulling a fresh T-shirt over his head.

Chagrined, Darcy met Thor’s eyes, but could only twist her lips and lift a shoulder in dismissal. “You must think it’s stupid, huh?”

“Nay, Lady Darcy,” he assured his young, human friend. Entering the room, he approached the bed and waited until she gave a brief nod before lowering himself to take a seat at the bottom corner. “The first time Sif agreed to attend banquet with my brother, he changed tunics no less than a dozen times, until he found an older, well-worn tunic that felt to him like second skin, when all he wished to do was crawl out of his own. Whatever makes you comfortable cannot be wrong, so long as it harm none.”

“Could you…” She shifted uncomfortably, pulling her boots back on.

“What is it, sister?”

“Is there like a good luck blessing or something on Asgard?” Her fingers twitched and she tugged at the hem of her jeans to straighten them and settle her nerves. “Or, like, a tea for a bad case of butterflies?”

“Butterflies?” Thor’s brow furrowed at the new idiom, failed once again by the Allspeak’s limitations.

“Nerves?” Darcy laid a hand on her belly where those butterflies danced madly for attention.

“Ah.” Thor seemed to ponder that for a moment, or maybe the deeper meaning of a bellyful of insects. Reaching across the haphazard stacks of clothes, Thor took Darcy’s hand in his own and touched her palm, sending a quick zing of something shooting along her nerves from head to toe. The warmth of his hand, the comfort of a friend, whatever magical hoodoo Thor just laid down on her like a blanket of fuck-yeah tranquilizers … all of it combined to make for a much more chill Darcy when the doorbell chimed and she rose to her feet to go greet her date.

“Darcy,” Jane hissed, running down the hall in time to yank loose the pair of panties stuck to the back of Darcy’s sweater by static. She shoved them in her own pocket as the door clicked open. “There. All set.” She gave Darcy’s butt a little “good talk, Coach” pat and retreated to the living room to wait and see.

But Darcy only had eyes for her date.

In the foyer, looking like electric sex and all the best bad decisions in black cherry leather and dark denim, Natasha smiled just for Darcy and asked, “Ready to go?”