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and i’ll be singing like an angel (until i’m six feet deep)

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It’s her Uncle Tom that gives her the nickname “Mockingbird.” Darcy doesn’t quite get it (she’s four) but she just likes mimicking people. Voices fascinate her. At nine, she can imitate her Aunt Sarah and all four of her cousins with such flawlessness that people start answering the phone with, “What a talent you have, Darcy, I want to speak to your (insert relative’s name here) now.” When she’s twelve, she can imitate the men in her family too, and when she’s really bored, she starts copying birdcalls and horse noises and everything she can think of, because there’s nothing else to do in the middle of freaking nowhere that is her aunt’s horse farm in Montana.

Imitation isn’t the only thing she can do with her voice (she can talk, obviously, and she loves singing, and she’s a kickass whistler) but it’s the thing she works at, because she enjoys it the most.

She’s fifteen when her music teacher insists on sending in a tape of her singing to her old professors at Julliard. Darcy’s aunt and uncle can’t afford the singing lessons that Miss Tracy insists that she needs, so Miss Tracy pays for them herself. (“I want absolutely no argument,” says Miss Tracy, when Aunt Sarah looks at the bill and about faints into her kitchen chair. “Darcy’s voice is amazing. It deserves nurturing.”) Darcy, who’s never really thought about her singing as anything other than something to do while she bakes, is thrown. Apparently she has to quit drinking soda (excuse me, what?) and juice is something that has to be watered down and don’t even think about touching milk before practice young lady and if I ever catch you with a cigarette again I’ll tan your ass (this from Uncle Tom, but whatever). It seems like a big pain in the ass at the time. It’s the day before her sixteenth birthday when she and Miss Tracy pack up their best clothes and take the bus all the way out to Nashville, where Darcy sings for a friend of a friend of Miss Tracy’s old music theory professor. She almost can’t make her voice work, at first, and then she sings Landslide, which is her aunt’s favorite song.

The room is silent for a full thirty seconds after she’s done, and then the big producer guy (he’s wearing a cowboy hat and has a mustache like Snidely Whiplash, which is all Darcy cares about) turns to Miss Tracy and says, “How much?”

By the time she’s twenty-one, Darcy has made a name for herself. (“Darcy Lewis isn’t nearly folky enough, darlin’,” says Patti, her manager, as one woman smears lipstick on her and another fusses with her hair and yet another paints her toenails; this whole pampering thing is kind of really getting on Darcy’s nerves. “We were gonna go with ‘Lucy Miller’ if you don’t mind. You’re cute as a button, it’ll work out great.”

“Lucy Miller and the Mockingbirds,” says Darcy, and then, “Goddammit,” when the woman playing with her hair wrenches like a whole handful out. Patti’s lips purse.

“That sounds a bit trite, dear, and since you’re only fifteen—”

“Lucy Miller and the Mockingbirds,” says Darcy, and sticks out her chin, "or I’m not gonna sing a damn note.”

Patti goes with Lucy Miller and the Mockingbirds.)

It’s not her name, sure, but it’s a name. She gets used to signing things Lucy instead of Darcy (she’s ambidextrous, and she likes switching hands back and forth, because it confuses reporters) and things get easier. Miss Tracy stays with her the whole time. And she’s popular, all of a sudden. She’s not sure why. Maybe it’s because of the girls (the fact that she now needs bigger bras than Patti, who is about a foot taller than her and way, way heavier, makes Patti all bitchy, but whatever). Aunt Sarah says it’s because of her voice, but Darcy scoffs a little and then mimics her cousin Mina. “That voice isn’t gonna get you anywhere in life, Darcy Luanne Lewis!” Which, clearly, is crap, but whatever.

She wins some awards. She makes money. Her aunt’s farm gets all fixed up, and Darcy gets highlights in her hair (red and blue. Patti thinks it’s patriotic. Darcy knows it’s for her family.). She sings her own stuff, and sings covers. Miss Tracy has a degree in songwriting, and she and Darcy spend a lot of time curled up over lyrics. Darcy meets Brandi Carlile, and about dies out of pure fangirl glee. (Brandi likes her songs. Brandi likes her songs. Her life is made.) She wins some more awards for her music and goes on a tour around Japan, because for some reason, the Japanese really like her stuff.

Then the Midwest kind of blows up with the whole mutant rights debacle. Darcy’s cousin Millie, who is a mutant (she can change the color of her hair at will), gets beaten to unconsciousness in an alleyway outside of her job. In the few days Darcy’s off her tour, one of the techs steals her hairbrush and submits her hair for testing.

The next morning, the gossip rags are screaming that Lucy is X-gene positive, and she gets her first death threat in the mail.

Suddenly, being Lucy gets a whole lot more complicated.

It’s her voice. Of course it’s her voice. She should have figured it out, to be honest. Aunt Sarah knew, and Uncle Tom had figured it out, but apparently, nobody else in her bigass, smartass family had actually put together that Darcy’s talent for mimicry meant something. (“You’d chirp at the birds when you were too little to know any better,” Aunt Sarah says tearfully. “I figured it out then. I thought you’d be safe . Voices are so much easier to hide than—than hair.” And she strokes Millie’s cheek. Darcy forgives her immediately. She can’t not.)

Some woman from New York comes down to talk to her. Darcy refuses to see her. She stays with Millie, watching her cousin breathe, and she sings in Aunt Sarah’s voice when Millie’s forehead creases with nightmares. Inside the hospital is safer than out, especially considering Patti called to let her know that people are burning effigies of her down south. The South is a hotbed of anti-mutant sentiment, for some reason. It means she’s lost most of her listeners.

Brandi Carlile (Brandi Carlile!) calls her to let her know that she and a few of the other folk singers Darcy’s spoken to over the years are all behind her. Darcy cries a little, and tells her Lucy’s gonna take a break for a while, at least until the violence dies down. Patti agrees so quickly that Darcy wonders if her label has told Patti to let Lucy Miller die a quick death in the eyes of public opinion.

Darcy packs her awards away, dons her glasses once more (so much better than contacts, those fuckers itch) and is Darcy again.

She submits her college application the week after the X-gene drop.

Culver’s great. She only tells one person about the whole Lucy thing, and that’s her advisor, Professor Jones. He’s this old black guy with a bunch of really cool stories about WWII and a lot of Captain America merch, and he’s so chill that she absolutely has to tell him the whole thing. He doesn’t make the sign of the cross when she tells him she’s a mutant, just pats her shoulder, asks her a few questions, and then they go back to talking about her political science major. Miss Tracy calls her once a week to make sure she’s all right and that she’s practicing and everything. Darcy crosses her fingers behind her back and says, “Of course, Trace-Mace, why wouldn’t I be?” and goes back to singing under her breath as she cooks.

She likes college. She likes the feeling of being one of a crowd again, the steady, predictable rhythm of classes and homework and classes again. She gets a part-time job because she wants it, not because she needs it (there are people who are trying to sue Lucy Miller for conning people out of money due to her “unnatural voice enhancements,” but there’s a whole team of lawyers pointing at pop stars with autotune and so she’s not in actual danger of losing money) and keeps tight control over her voice. It acts out in unexpected ways, though, slurring sometimes, and that she just gets used to.

She sings in the shower and goes deliberately off key until her roommate pounds on the wall to get her to stop.

When she starts working for Jane, and Jane is being a Holier Than Thou twit for having a degree in astrophysics while Darcy only has three-quarters of a degree (with honors!) in political science, Darcy uses her powers for evil, and throws Jane’s voice right back at her during a snarkfest. Jane, who is very much Not Stupid, puts it together with Darcy’s intended focus on mutant rights and her reticence to go near the Puente Antiguo general store (which has a sign in the window that says Stop the Mutant Invasion). Jane never says anything to Darcy’s face, but the next time Donald Blake, Major Dickhead, makes a quip about mutants being harvested for study, Jane throws a bowl of cold onion soup in his face. (Admittedly, this is about the same time Jane tells Darcy she’s going to break things off with Major Dickhead, but seeing long curls of onion hanging over his perfect, perfect hair just gives Darcy so many happy thoughts.)

And then Thor happens, and the quiet life of Darcy Lewis, Esq., turns into an absolute shitstorm.

Thor shows, and vanishes again. About a thousand non-disclosure agreements later, Jane moves them to Malibu to work for Tony Freaking Stark. (Darcy has no qualms. She gets paid, even if she is still called ‘intern.’) Then Tromso happens. The Avengers become A Thing About Which Darcy Is In The Know, which is like, 0.001% of Earth’s—j’excuse, Midgard’s—population. So, bonus. After a thousand non-disclosure agreements and a bad case of carpal tunnel, they shift to London (because who knows why) and then Greenwich happens.

Darcy tells one of the SHIELD cronies that she used to sign autographs for a living and she has never had to write her name this many times in a row. He cocks an eyebrow, and gives her more NDAs.

Because she and Jane are in the 0.001%, etc., ad nauseum, they’re requested (commanded) by SHIELD to come to the Tower so that “all Avengers Initiative assets are within a defensible locale.” Or something. Aunt Sarah’s a little freaked out by how often Darcy keeps moving, but Darcy just tells her it’s for work and for grad school. (Hey, she’s a college grad now. Huzzah. Plus, Columbia has the best program for personal and political advocacy, which is something she really, really, really wants to apply to mutant rights. She mentions this to Maria Hill once, and the next morning wakes up to find a box of papers that detail all mutant rights groups in the area.

Maria Hill’s a pro-mutie. Maria Hill might just be who she wants to be when she grows up.)

Darcy works on grad school, feeds Jane, and volunteers part-time at the mutant rights organization Legal Genes. She breaks up with Ian (long distance was never for her, and besides, Ian gets twitchy about mutant rights) and writes songs in the middle of the night. Apparently, SHIELD knows that she’s a mutant and it doesn’t bother them (“it’s in your file,” Maria Hill mentions the next time Darcy sees her, about three months and a lot of nuclear physics later; Darcy just accepts this as kosher and moves on) so she throws her voice a lot in the Avengers Tower. It helps that it drives Tony Stark absolutely crazy.

She’s dancing around the communal kitchen singing Last Name by Carrie Underwood and whipping cream for the pie that she’s currently baking when she realizes she’s being watched. Darcy skids to a sudden stop, choking her voice off, when she notices the shadowed figure in the doorway. There are still a few of the Avengers that she hasn’t met yet (and this dude has to be an Avenger, because no one else other than the Avengers and their affiliates are allowed up past the fifteenth floor of Avengers Tower). The Black Widow is one of them, but the Black Widow’s a woman. She hasn’t met Captain America, because he’s been off searching for the Frosty Sergeant or whatever, but this guy’s too short to be God Bless America Dude. So that makes him Hawkeye, or Hawkeye’s junior cosplaying assistant wannabe with excellent arms. Then he comes further into the light, and Darcy’s hand goes stiff around the whisk.

“Dude,” she says. “You were in Puente Antiguo. You were that guy that was always in the back of the coffee shop in Puente Antiguo.”

At the same time, Jack-Booted Thug goes, “Holy shit you’re Lucy Miller.” And then he blushes. He actually goddamn blushes like a schoolboy, and Darcy blinks at him, slowly, because she would not have pegged this guy as a folk music buff. He has a nose that looks as if it’s been broken once or twice, and pretty bluey-green eyes. (And holy biceps, Batman.) He mutters something under his breath that sounds like “knew I knew you from somewhere,” and Darcy can’t resist it. She puts her metal mixing bowl on her hip, and cocks an eyebrow.

“You been tryin’ to figure me out since New Mexico? ‘cause dude, that was like three years ago.”

Jack-Booted Thug Who Is Actually Hawkeye shrugs a little. “I had some things happen.” He studies her for a moment, and then slinks into the light and settles on one of the three-legged stools at the standing kitchen bar. Darcy shrugs and goes back to whipping cream. She’s pretty sure Hawkeye’s watching her, but then again, she’s used to people haunting her while she’s in the kitchen. When she can drag Jane away from science long enough to be aware that food is being prepped, Jane will stare. That’s unnerving. This kind of quiet observation doesn’t bother her all that much.

“Sorry,” says Hawkeye after a moment, who seems to think that she is bothered. “I just—it’s weird. Lucy Miller’s in the kitchen.”

“If the word ‘sandwich’ comes out of your mouth in the next forever I will electrocute you,” says Darcy, and puts her whipped cream in the fridge with a post-it taped to the front of it. Not for scientists, supersoldiers, assassins, or billionaires. (She may not have met Captain America or the Black Widow, but she’s woken up to find her domain ransacked due to inhuman metabolic requirements. Never. Again.) Then she cocks her head and puts her Lucy Voice on, a little deeper and smokier than her Darcy Voice. “But y’know that ‘cause of Roulette, don’t you?”

Hawkeye stares at her, in an unnerved way this time. “Shit, that’s creepy.” His voice is appreciative, though, and Darcy drops him a wink as she checks the timer on her pies (nine more minutes). She thinks he’s gonna mention the whole hairbrush debacle, but after a moment, all he does is cock his head and says, “Can you mimic Stark on a bad day?”

She does. Then Hawkeye gets a shit-eating grin, and drums his fingertips together like a Bond villain. “Iiiinteresting,” he says, and Darcy guffaws.

“You,” she said. “I like you. You can stay.”

He grins, and he’s not anybody’s definition of pretty, but in that moment he’s kind of really fucking hot. Her whole belly turns over into mush.

Yeah. She’s all for this Jack-Booted Hawkeye thing.

Confession time: Darcy’s affairs usually go in three distinct stages. First stage— you’re hot, I’m hot, let’s go explore this equivalency. Second stage— ew, morning breath. Third stage— I’ll call you later never. She’s never been friends with a guy and wanted to kiss him at the same time, unless you count Ian, which she kind of really doesn’t. Ian had been a blip on her radar until the whole sudden “oh look I saved your life” thing, and he’s less than a blip now that they’d broken up. Honestly, she just hasn’t met a lot of guys that she genuinely likes talking to. Out of the Darcy Lewis Venn Diagram of Guys, Clint Barton is the only one to fit neatly into the intersection of hot, would mack and cool, would spend time with. It freaks her out a little. Especially because, well, it’s Clint. Because even though most of the Avengers don’t know it, Clint Barton is a nerd .

He’s kind of hopelessly behind the times (“Doctor Who? You mean that dorky B-movie show from the seventies?” “Oh my god you did not just say that to me.”) and his taste in country music can sometimes be truly awful (“You shut your mouth about Chesney, Lewis”) but he’s actually a total fanboy. Darcy kind of loves it. She gets him to watch Firefly with her and doesn’t inform him until after they’ve finished the box set that there isn’t a second season; he petitions Stark to nag FOX until Stark bans the words “Whedon” “Kickstarter” or “Fillion” in his presence. And don’t even get him started on his bow thing, because she asked him once, and six hours later she was down at the range and he was fixing her stance and she was kind of more focused on how his hand felt on her elbow than what he was telling her, which was the pros and cons of graphite vs. trick arrows in regards to aerodynamics. (Honestly, Darcy really likes the trick arrows better, just because they mean things go ‘splode.)

But Clint’s a nerd as well as seriously fucking built and really fucking smart, and has a mouth to match hers, and half the time she’s kind of so tangled up about whether she wants to kiss him or punch him in the face that she just has to laugh.

She meets Natasha Romanoff about a month after Clint comes back from whatever deep-cover mission made him miss the past year or whatever. Darcy’s scared shitless of her for the first week, until Natasha finally corners her in the kitchen and informs her that she will be cooking for once and Darcy will be watching, and then proceeds to make the best damn stroganoff that Darcy’s ever tasted. She’s too busy asking about spices and cooking times to realize that the woman across the counter could actually kill her with her pinky. So, barrier broken. It kind of scares the unholy god out of Clint, which is a bonus. They get coffee once a week, or used to. If Nat’s not too busy, they talk about food. It’s kind of great.

“You know,” Darcy says one night, curled up into the edge of the couch. They’re watching Jurassic Park, but she’s seen it so many times she can mouth the script by heart. Clint turns to look at her, cocking his head to the side the way he always does. “If I didn’t know how much of a dork you actually were I’d’ve never pegged you for a folk guy.”

Clint goes still for a moment. He searches her face. It’s not his sniper look (she’s seen his sniper look, on one extraordinarily memorable occasion when some guy who worked for the Red Room once upon a time decided it was high time to get revenge on the Black Widow and snatched Darcy  out of her favorite coffee shop; he was marching her to the trade-point [Darcy for Natasha] when there was a pop, and he fell to the ground with half his head gone. Clint had had sniper eyes. She’s still not sure how to quantify them other than holy shit.) but it’s an intense look all the same, and it makes her blood fizz. Finally, he lifts one shoulder in a shrug.

“Dunno. My brother was into it. And I grew up on the road in the Midwest, we poured bad banjo music into the trucks instead of gasoline. Worked just fine.”

She curls her toes into the edge of the couch. Clint watches her for a second or two, and then stares at the TV. Velociraptors are decimating a cow. “I was on leave in Mississippi when I heard your stuff, though. I remember thinking, Damn, she has a voice, and when I googled your name you were only seventeen. Scared the shit out me.”

She can’t help it. She’s curious. “What’d you hear?”

“Cover of Delta Rae.” He lifts one shoulder in a shrug. “Heard you two went on tour together later. Must’ve been right before I went to Budapest. Then I was off the grid for a while. Didn’t hear about you quitting until…a year after it happened, probably. Damn shame.”

“I didn’t quit,” Darcy says. “Well, I don’t do the circuit anymore, but I still sing and compose and stuff.”

He blinks. “Wait, you do?”

“Well, yeah. You’ve heard me singing in the kitchen.”

“Yeah, but—” oh my god, his eyes are fucking shining. “I didn’t know you still wrote.”

“Shit, Barton, turn off the puppy face.” She’s half laughing. “I have some new stuff. Really shoddy, but I mean, I was thinking—once I get my master’s squared, I might go back into it. The music thing, I mean. I can’t let bigots scare me off. And I want to go back to it. I don’t want to be an intern forever, you know?” He nods eagerly, and draws his feet up into the lotus position, or as close as he can get with his weird knee. Darcy reaches out with her foot and knocks him in the shoulder. Clint makes a noise like a kitten being knocked off its feet and gives her a look, and she snickers. “Groupie. You’re just excited you can get free signed merch.”

“Well, yeah. But I mean, it’s easy to tell how much you miss singing, Darcy. You get this look on your face sometimes when you’re listening to your iPod, like you’re searching for something you can’t find. That’s why you’ve been more chipper lately, if you’ve been writing again—what?” he says, because she’s staring at him, lips slightly parted. She hadn’t had a clue he’d been watching her that closely.

“Nothing,” she says, but she nudges him with her toes again. He catches her foot in one hand and braces his thumb against the arch. She’s not ticklish at all, but the touch still sets her hair on end. “You’re just a dork, that’s all.”

He squeezes her foot. Half an hour later, Darcy sticks both her feet into his lap. When Natasha comes in looking for Steve, she gives Darcy a cat-that-found-the-cream smile, and Darcy flips her off from behind the sofa.

Natasha knows. Of course Natasha knows. Natasha knows everything.

Lucy Miller and the Mockingbirds reopen on a Saturday at the Vox Populi Café on 34 th Street. It takes a while to get her old partners back (Marissa, her guitarist, and Danny, her banjoman, have departed for areas unknown, but Steve , of all people, finds her replacements. Leo, her drummer, is all for it, and he’s living in Boston, so it’s not too big a deal for him to come up anyway), and she very explicitly does not tell Patti that she’s doing it. She invites Miss Tracy, who she hasn’t seen in years. A month beforehand, she starts a rumor on the internet that Lucy Miller is on her way back into the folk music scene, and the old messageboards she used to crawl through as a teenager fucking explode . She also lets Legal Genes know, and half the supervisors there come to watch her perform.

Darcy sits in the back booth of the Vox Populi (behind Clint, because he’s super intimidating; people seem to think he’s her bodyguard) and fixes her hair at the last minute, because why did she think she could do this again? She’s put the old streaks back in, but they’re purple this time, and Clint’s eyes went all soft when he saw what she’d done. He’s been touchier lately, a hand on the small of her back as they walk through doorways, fingers on her ankle when they lounge on the couch watching movies (she very rarely does not put her feet in his lap now; he’s hella good at the foot massage thing), fingers brushing hers on countertops and when he passes her cooking utensils. Natasha’s there too, in a blonde wig and sunglasses even though it’s nearly 9pm, and she has a very smug look on her face. Steve’s not here (he’s off in Romania or something) and neither is Tony (because folk music is so not his thing) but Jane came, and so did Erik, and that means more to her than she can say. She checks her reflection one last time in the mirror, and lets out a breath. “I think this is about as good as it gets.”

Natasha takes off her sunglasses as Clint begins to slide out of the booth. “Maria told me to give this to you,” she says, “as a sorry that she couldn’t be here,” and then she pulls a whole fucking T-shirt out of her teeny-tiny purse. It’s off-white and baggy, something that normally Darcy wouldn’t wear at all, but there’s an absolutely gorgeous pattern of a mockingbird over the front, and on the back it says Give ‘Em Hell. Her eyes fill with tears, and she makes a mental note to make Maria pie as soon as possible.

Natasha winks and sidles off into the crowd to talk with the security people. Darcy stands (her awesome sexy wedge-heeled boots make her taller than Clint by like two inches, boo-fucking-ya) and straightens the T-shirt. Her palms are all sweaty.

Clint looks at her. The corners of his mouth turn up, and he reaches out, tucking a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. “You’re gonna kick ass, Lucy Miller.”

“Damn straight I am,” she says. Then she leans forward and kisses him on the mouth, because what the hell. He tastes like the black coffee he ordered earlier, and there’s the sharp bite of cinnamon from the cinnamon roll they shared on the way over. Clint lets out a breath and slides a hand up into her messy hair, cupping her face in his other palm. He has calluses on his fingertips from shooting and on his palms from who knows what, and he kisses like it’s his whole goddamn purpose. Like there is only her. All of that focus she remembers from sniper!Clint and nerdy!Clint is now directed entirely at her and it’s enough to make her knees go weak. Finally, he breaks away and grins at her, much wider this time. She’s left some of her lipstick on his mouth.

“Kick ass,” he says again, and she presses another kiss to his cheek.

As soon as she steps onto the stage, the café goes quiet. Darcy lets out a short, shaky breath, and leans forward towards the microphone. She can see Miss Tracy sitting at the coffee bar, and it looks like her old music teacher is actually crying. “Hi,” she says, in her Lucy Voice. “Um. It’s kinda been a while, so I’m a little nervous. No prob, right?”

There’s a low rumble of laughter through the crowd. Natasha’s leaning against the wall, watching. Darcy tugs on her new shirt again, to straighten it, and then fixes her guitar strap.

“So all of you know who I am, otherwise you wouldn’t be here,” she says. “Who I used to be, I mean. Lucy Miller. I guess what’s more important is that all of you know what I am, and that’s a mutant.”

The café goes very quiet.

“Yeah, I have the X-gene.” Darcy twirls a strand of hair around her finger. “And yeah, it kind of gave me a kickass voice. I’m not denying that. I’ve kind of been owning that since I was, like, six years old, even if I didn’t know what I was until all that info hit the gossip pages. Still, I’m not ashamed of it. It’s what a lot of you want to know, right? If I’m ashamed of being a mutant? I’m not, and never will be. My voice is as much a part of me as my hair, or my boobs.” There’s another trill of laughter from this. It’s from Jane. She sounds a bit shrill, and she slaps a hand over her mouth to hide her giggles. Darcy can’t help it. She grins. “So, yeah. I guess I just wanted to say that.”

We love your boobs!” cries someone in the far back, and she drops them a wink.

“Thanks, compadre.”

Miss Tracy buries her face in her hands, her shoulders shaking with helpless laughter.

“Music was always my voice,” Darcy says. “When I didn’t know how to speak, music helped me find the words. It’s in my blood and bone. Now, I hope that I can use music to help others find their voices. To show them that no matter who they are or where they came from or what they were born to be, they are not and will never be alone.”

Clint is next to Natasha, all of a sudden. He sends her a smile over the heads of the crowd, and Darcy smiles back. Then she looks into the crowd again.

“Y’all have probably noticed the name change. We’re the Mockingbirds, because Lucy Miller isn’t better or worse than any of you out there. Because I’m no better or worse than any of you out there. I am what I am. Mutant,” she says, “and proud of it. All proceeds tonight will be funneled directly into Legal Genes, a mutant rights advocacy organization in Chelsea. On that note, I really hope y’all enjoy the show.”

There’s a moment of pure ringing silence. Then Miss Tracy starts to clap. The applause makes her feel like she’s made of champagne, all popping bubbles and joy. She glances over her shoulder at Leo the drummer, and nods at him.

She sings, and just like that, she feels like she can fly.