“UGGGHHHHHHAAAAHHHH!!” Jane yelled.
“Hit the dinglehopper with the dohickey again!” Darcy yelled back, not looking up from her computer.
“What? Why would I -” Jane stopped short. “Oh that might actually work.”
Darcy tuned out after a few satisfying thuds were heard echoing through the lab.
“Duct tape fixed it the last time!” Darcy yelled, still not looking up. There was a pattern in this data, she was so close she could feel it. If she could just get the right-
Darcy nearly jumped out out of her skin at the sound of her name being said so close. “Cheese and crackers, woman. Do I need to put a bell on you? Don’t do the sneaky assassin thing, we have enough of that around here.”
Jane didn’t look apologetic at all. “What good would hitting the spectrometer with a wrench do for my taxes?”
Darcy blinked. “Uh...what?”
“My taxes. Why did you tell me to hit the spectrometer with a wrench?”
“I didn’t know you were doing your taxes. That was a ‘the sciency equipment I lovingly built with my own blood, sweat, and intern’s tears is being an asshole’ scream, not a ‘I hate the IRS and everything it stands for’ scream.”
“I have different screams?”
“Ones dealing with various government agencies usually have more of a growl to them.”
Jane stared at her. “You’ve...catalogued my screams?”
“I’m efficient that way. Record keeping is very important.”
“Huh. Okay. Moving on.” Jane dropped a huge pile of paper onto the table where Darcy was working. “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong - none of this is adding up.”
“You have three degrees and a Nobel Prize.”
“And I can’t figure out the United States Tax Code, yes.”
Darcy sighed and finally realized what the pile of paper was actually for. “Wait, are you doing this all on paper? No. No. No no no. Hand it over.”
“Jane.” Darcy glared at her boss over her glasses. “If you’d given it to me in the first place, you would have had your refund two months ago.”
Jane look wary. “You’re good at this sort of thing?”
Darcy shrugged. “I buy the software from the store. Hasn’t let me down yet. Gimme.” She made a grabbing motion at Jane, who pushed the pile of paper at her with a relieved grin. “Go do the science.”
“You’re a lifesaver, Darcy.”
“Yeah yeah yeah.”
Jane glanced at her from the scaffolding she was hanging upside down from.
“Kinda busy, Darce.”
“Yeah, no, I know. It’s cool. Just wanted to let you know about your taxes.”
“Uh huh,” Jane replied distractedly as she motioned at Bucky, who silently lifted the heavy, delicate lens into the place Jane indicated. “I love your arm. Have I ever mentioned I love your arm? And the fact that it’s non-reactive-”
“Kinda rude Jane,” Darcy interrupted. “But hey, I forged your signature so I could get your taxes in the mail.”
“Cool,” Jane said, scribbling something into her notebook. Bucky shrugged at Darcy.
“We should probably go over them at some point though. I found...well. You’re really bad at this. Like...stunningly bad. I don’t know how you’ve survived this long, bad.”
Jane hummed and continued scribbling.
“I mean,” Darcy continued, “not to freak you out or anything, but I’m pretty sure you’ve been overpaying your taxes by about $10,000 a year, every year, since 2007.”
“Uh…” a nervous looking kid stood in the doorway to the lab, glancing around.
“Can I help you?” Darcy asked, barely glancing up from her spreadsheet. Seriously, the pattern was there. It was right there.
“I’m looking for a. Uh. Miss Lewis?” The kid’s voice cracked a little at her name.
“You’re lookin’ at her.”
“Oh great!” He stepped into the lab and rushed to the table.
“Whoa there, buddy. Did I invite you in?”
The kid froze, his eyes wide. “Oh I, uh. I’m sorry, I just - the guys said you were nice and -”
“Kid.” Darcy interrupted. “I’m fucking with you. Take a breath and tell me what’s up.”
“Oh. Okay.” The kid took a few deep breaths and then met her eyes. “My name is Peter and I’m having some trouble figuring out my taxes. The guys said you were real nice and could probably help me out?”
Darcy blinked. This was so not in her job description.
Also, who the hell was going around offering up her services as a free tax accountant? More importantly - who the hell was telling random people she was nice? She had a damn reputation to uphold!
“What’s the problem?” she asked warily.
Dammit, maybe she was nice. She was getting soft in her old age.
Peter pulled a thick stack of papers and laid them on the table. “So...I think I have everything filled out correctly, but...I don’t know. When I enter in my scholarship information, I suddenly owe $12,000. That can’t be right. Oh god, if that’s right, I’m going to have to give up the scholarship. I can’t afford that. And if I give up the scholarship, I’ll have to leave school. If I leave school, I’ll never get a job and I’m going to end up living in a cardboard box in an alley behind the dumpster for the Chinese takeout place.”
“Slow your roll there, Junior.” Darcy narrowed her eyes. “Peter, you said?”
Darcy reached up and pinched the bridge of her nose under her glasses. She could feel a headache coming on.
“Okay. First of all, you’re right, that doesn’t sound like it’s adding up correctly, so it’s good that you recognized that and asked for help. But two, stop freaking out. Even if you owe that kind of money - which you probably don’t - do you really think Tony Stark is going to let you drop out of school over something so meaningless as money?”
Realization dawned on the kid’s face. It was adorable.
“Fetch me coffee, Arachnid-Boy, and we’ll sort this out.”
“I hear you're the person to talk to about tax problems,” Natasha said from the entrance to the lab.
Darcy glanced up from her computer. Seriously, if people would just stop bugging her for three minutes she could identify this pattern.
“Slander and lies, all of it.”
Natasha smirked and fanned out seven identical folders on the table in front of Darcy.
“What’s this?” Darcy asked warily. She was doing that a lot lately.
“How do you think I maintain my covers?”
Darcy blinked. “You pay taxes on all your cover identities?”
Natasha smirked. “Paper trails can be very useful.”
“Huh.” Darcy flipped open the first folder. “No. No way.”
Natasha grinned at her. “Problem?”
“There’s no way this is one of your cover identities.”
“Why?” she asked, her voice innocent and fooling exactly no one.
“Because I saw all three movies she was in last year!” Darcy half-yelled, incredulous. “I know how much Avengers business you were up to, there’s no way you also did all this!”
Natasha just tilted her head and gave Darcy a small smile. “It’s amazing what you can do when you manage your time effectively.”
Darcy leaned back in her chair and gave Natasha an appraising look. “You got robbed at the Oscars, you know.”
Natasha’s expression turned stormy. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“A FLAT TAX DISPROPORTIONALLY AFFECTS THE POOR!” Steve yelled, smacking his hand on the table for emphasis.
“I KNOW!” Darcy yelled back.
“THEY NEED TO SPEND MORE OF THEIR INCOME JUST TO SURVIVE-”
“WHY ARE YOU SHOUTING AT ME?”
“-THEREFORE ARE TAXED AT A HIGHER RATE THAN SOMEONE WITH A HIGHER INCOME!”
“I AGREE WITH YOU! STOP YELLING!” Darcy shouted.
“Just...wanted to make my thoughts known.” Steve said, flushing.
Darcy gaped at him. She was seriously considering reaching into her bag for her taser to just knock the poor guy out. That might be a felony. Was it a felony to knock out a national icon?
How the hell should she know? She was just a lab manager turned accidental superhero tax accountant and was absolutely not paid enough for this shit. She silently counted to ten and reminded herself that after everything she’d seen, she was likely not employable literally anywhere else.
“Thoughts noted,” she said instead of assaulting Captain America.
Steve nodded and saw himself out.
Darcy stared at his retreating form for a few seconds. “WE DON’T EVEN LIVE IN A FLAT TAX ECONOMY, YOU DWEEB!”
Luis stood in front of her with a bag stuffed full of napkins. From where she was sitting, she could see most of the napkins had writing scribbled on them - amongst the stains.
“Thor, my man! How are you?”
“I am well! However, I am in need of some assistance, and I have been informed that you are the most qualified person I could ask,” Thor gave her a giant, genuine grin.
Darcy preened at little at the praise. “Whatever you need,” she replied.
Thor nodded and placed a stack of papers on the table. “I’m having trouble calculating the tax depreciation for Mjolnir. It was, sadly, destroyed part way through the year, so I’m uncertain how to calculate the value of the loss.”
Darcy was fairly certain that she must have hit her head at some point and this was all a fever dream while she was drooling away in a coma in medical. They had to have her on the really good meds this time.
“Thor...you’re not even from this planet.”
“Let alone a US citizen.”
“Why are you worried about taxes?”
Thor looked confused. “Is it not a time honored custom on your planet?”
“Not really, buddy.”
“Have you figured out that pattern yet?” Jane asked.
“I probably would have if I wasn’t busy trying to do the taxes of every tights-wearing do-gooder in the tri-state.” She was a little bitter about it. Sue her.
“Hmm. You’ll get it. At least the filing deadline’s almost here.” Jane glanced toward the door. “Although I think you might have one more customer.”
Darcy turned around to see Bucky standing at her usual work table with three large brown filing boxes. She sighed, poured a second mug of coffee (with cream and three sugars, just the way he liked), and made her way over to the desk.
“You do realize I’m not actually an accountant?” she asked, handing him his mug before taking a sip out of her own.
He shrugged. “The others trust you.”
“Yeah about that,” she said, slowly, narrowing her eyes at him. “Funny how word got around so fast.”
Bucky’s expression was entirely blank. “For a building full of spies, no one can keep any secrets.”
Darcy glared at him and after a few moments he withered under her gaze. She was pretty sure that counted as a superpower.
“Peter needed the help. He’s a good kid and it just...snowballed from there.”
“I knew it had to be you. Dammit Barnes.”
He flushed slightly. “That mean you won’t take a look at…” he motioned to the boxes.
Darcy sighed. If she said no, he’d just turn the damn puppy dog eyes on her and then she’d really be toast. She made a vague “show me” gesture with her hand and he grinned in relief. He opened the first box and handed her a stack of papers.
Darcy skimmed through the first few pages. “Barnes,” she said, her tone completely flat. “Why is the date on this receipt from fifty years ago?”
“Record keeping is very important.”
“So is knowing the location of every HYDRA bookkeeper since 1963.”
She eyed him over the paper in her hands. “Do I want to know why 1963?”
“In no universe is edible underwear tax deductible.”
“My cousin talked to this guy a few weeks ago, and he was all like-”
“Please don’t finish that story, Luis.”
“Hey Darcy?” a tentative voice broke Darcy out of her haze. She’d been trying to decide if she wanted the macaroni and cheese or the enchiladas for lunch. Stupid cafeteria making all the good stuff on the same day.
“Hey Bruce,” she acknowledged. “What’s up?”
He gave her a quick smile. “Do you know if I have to file a separate return for the Other Guy?”
Darcy stared at him for a moment then turned back to the food line. She grabbed both the macaroni and the enchiladas, and a chocolate croissant for good measure. She had a sinking feeling she was going to need the energy.
A knock at the door startled Darcy out of her single-minded focus. “Dammit Barnes, I already did your taxes.”
“And you got my backpay, and my hazard pay, and my POW compensation. I could buy and sell Steve three times over, thanks to you.”
“Uh huh. And you haven’t yet given into that temptation which just raises all sorts of questions about you,” Darcy smirked. “So what’s up then?”
He slowly approached her table, pulling a small bouquet of flowers from behind his back. “It occurred to me, that it was possible none of the ingrates around here actually said thank you. So. Thank you.”
“It was also kinda my fault you ended up doing everyone’s taxes anyway, so. I’m sorry.”
Darcy took the flowers from him and stared at them dumbly. “You brought me daisies.”
“Daisies are my favorite flower.”
Darcy was touched at the gesture. Bucky was right, of course. None of their friends had explicitly thanked Darcy for her help. Not that it was needed, necessarily - Darcy knew her efforts were appreciated. But still - it was nice to have someone notice and recognize her work.
Bucky cleared his throat and shifted slightly. “Did you ever figure out that pattern you’d been looking for?”
“Hmmm?” Darcy looked up at him, finally tearing her eyes away from the sweet-scented flowers.
“In your dataset?”
“Oh. No. Not yet.”
He fidgeted with a stray paperclip on the table, not meeting her eyes. “You might want to think about re-entering the last part of the set.”
She scrunched her nose in confusion. “Why?”
He shrugged. “Jane’s writing can get a little sloppy when she’s excited.”
Darcy gave him a critical look. “I’ve been transcribing Jane’s notes for years-”
“The page was upside down,” he interrupted, his voice strained.
That would explain a lot, actually. Darcy was an idiot.
But if Bucky was able to recognize her mistake, even given his limited time in their lab...
“You didn’t actually need help with your taxes, did you?” Darcy asked, realization dawning.
Bucky flushed. “Not exactly,” he muttered.
"You told everyone in this damn building that I could do their taxes!”
“You told people I was nice!”
“Do you realize that’s a strange thing to be upset about?”
“Do I care?”
“But you are nice!”
“To you, maybe. Although I’m starting to reconsider.”
A flash of inspiration hit her like lightning and she gently set the flowers on the table. “You like me,” she said, ignoring his last statement.
“I tolerate you,” he replied, but there was no real heat in it.
“And the history books had the audacity to call you smooth,” she teased.
“To be fair,” he sighed, “a lot has happened between then and now.”
She got up and walked around the table to stand in front of him. “You like me like me!”
He sighed again and the flush in his cheeks spread to his ears. “Thought that much was obvious,” he muttered.
She grinned at him. “This mean you’re gonna buy me dinner, moneybags?”
“You tell me, smarty-pants,” Bucky shot back.
“I think this means you’re buying dinner and dessert.”
They grinned stupidly at one another for a moment.
“Get a room, nerds!” Jane yelled from the other side of the lab.
“Janey, I’m taking the rest of the day!” Darcy called. “After you, good sir.”
“Oh no, after you, milady. I insist.”
He held the door for her and leaned in to whisper in her ear. “You realize Tax Day is going to be our anniversary, right?”
“You are very confident that your amazingly organized and ridiculously detailed receipt filing system is going to continue to light my fire,” Darcy deadpanned, enjoying the butterflies his statement let loose in her stomach.
“I told you - record keeping is very important.”
“You are such a nerd.”
He pressed a quick kiss to her cheek. “Your nerd?” he asked hesitantly.
Darcy paused to consider her friend - her friend who suddenly had the potential to be so much more. Maybe later she’d take a second to consider what it said about her that this incredibly nerdy attempt at flirting was what finally opened her eyes to what had been right in front of her all along, but for right now -
She leaned in and lowered her voice conspiratorially. “Maintain that filing system and you’ll be filing a joint return sooner rather than later.”
Bucky’s eyes lit up, but he quickly schooled his features. “Is that a fact?”
“Are you auditing my statement?”
Bucky couldn’t contain the chuckle that escaped him. “No ma’am. I believe you.”
“Ugh. Manners. Gross.”
“Darcy! Just the woman I wanted to see!” Clint exclaimed.
“Tax shop is closed - Darcy’s busy,” Bucky grinned, leading Darcy away.
“Aw, taxes, no,” Clint muttered, his shoulders slumping as he started to pout.
Darcy sighed and turned back. “File for an extension and I’ll take a look next week,” she called, her voice flat with resignation. Clearly, her job description had permanently expanded to include superhero tax services. Dammit Barnes.
Clint brightened. “Barnes said you were nice!”
Darcy spun around with an anguished, angry gasp. “How dare-”
“And we’ll be going now - see you after you file that extension, Barton!” Bucky shuffled Darcy out the door.
Clint opened his mouth to yell after them, but stopped himself and looked down at the folder in his hands. He looked back up and glanced around the lab. “Hey Foster - how do I file an extension?”
“So, Short Stack-”
“Oh my god, you have an entire floor of accountants, Tony! Go away!”