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arma virumque

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"Jane," Darcy called over from her desk, "I need a word that rhymes with sculpted. Three syllables."

That was different. Darcy's usual worktime chatter was just soothing background incomprehensibility — "you speak Science," she had patiently explained one day at the beginning of their acquaintance, "I speak Pop Culture." Never before had Darcy interrupted Jane's calculations to ask for a rhyme.

Jane glanced over. Darcy was swinging back and forth on her chair and chewing on a pen. Her teeth were worrying the middle of the pen, because one end was inky and the other was topped with a cluster of neon pink feathers. Jane was never sure if the feather pens were personal taste, or a masterstroke in the subtle war for office supply sovereignty. Having once reached absently for the nearest writing implement, then found herself chewing on a mouthful of wet feathers half an hour later, she suspected both.

"Are you... doing a really weird crossword?"

Darcy rolled her eyes. "Dude. Crosswords don't care about meter."

Jane tried again. "Are you writing a rap?"

For a second, Jane thought Darcy might actually fall out of her chair laughing. When she'd recovered, she wiped her eyes and pointed the feathers threateningly in Jane's direction. "Never say that again."

"What? I have to listen to your playlists, I'm learning stuff! You could lay down some sick rhymes, if you wanted to."

The face Darcy made was somewhere between pained and that's adorable. "This must be how French people feel whenever tourists are around. It's like you're trying to speak Pop Culture, but your accent is terrible. I'm gladdened by your faith in me, though."

"What, then?"

Darcy swung back to face her desk. "Nothing," she muttered.

Normally, Jane would have left it there and gone back to her calculations, but Darcy was blushing faintly as she hunched over her legal pad, and Jane couldn't remember the last time she'd seen Darcy blush. Jane pushed back her chair and stood for a moment, stretching and twisting out the kinks in her neck, before sneaking over Darcy's way.

Like all scientists, Jane was an easy person to sneak up on. She got absorbed in what she was doing, and didn't notice the goings-on around her until stuff was on fire, or there was a surprise party, or that one incident with the custard-filled water balloons. But Jane was a fighter, too, and that meant that since she'd met Darcy, her own ability to sneak had become kind of a necessity.

So she was able to get close enough behind Darcy to read over her shoulder, and...

"Are you writing a sonnet in praise of Bucky Barnes' arms?"

Darcy gave a jump and a squeak, and dropped her pen. Ha. Never underestimate a physicist in soft-soled shoes.

"What? No!"

"You are! You totally are! In iambic pentameter!"

Darcy was really blushing now, and oh if this wasn't the best thing since traveling on a real-life Einstein-Rosen bridge. Darcy scooped up her legal pad and sat on it, as if the damage hadn't already been done.

"He has nice arms, okay?"

"Yes, Darcy, but we live with a whole team of superheroes. You said you were — what was your phrase? — oh yeah, inured to that level of hotness."

"Um, I was. I mean, I am. But I was in the kitchen the other day, and he was in there all shirtless and sweaty and," Darcy swallowed, "drinking a bottle of water." She made a face as if to indicate that this was somehow a lewd act. And yeah, Jane could imagine that.

"And I thought of that line from Romeo and Juliet, "he's a man of wax." And that got me thinking about all those ancient marble statues of hot naked guys, and that reminded me of the opening lines of the Aeneid, which made me giggle, and, well, here we are."

Jane gaped. "What?"

The look Darcy leveled her was a little bit thunderous. Jane was fairly certain she'd learned it from Thor. "I went to college, too, you know. I took that stupid Dead White Guys of Literature class they make you take to graduate. I even paid attention."

"What?"

"The Aeneid. First line: arma virumque cano." Darcy sighed impatiently. "I sing of arms and the man?"

"I didn't know you were bilingual," Jane said absently. Then, "oh. Oh. Arms and the — yeah, that is pretty funny."

The smile Darcy gave her was open and bright, and Jane allowed herself a moment to be fiercely glad she'd chosen an unqualified poli-sci major as her intern all those years ago, based solely on her taste in scarves.

"And excuse you, I speak three languages. Pop Culture, Science and Literature."

Jane grinned back at her. "But your Science accent is terrible."

"It's cute and you love it. Are you going to help me with this rhyme or not?"

"I have... important calculations to finish." Jane backed away towards her desk. And dignity, she told herself, as she very nearly tripped over her own chair.

Darcy just stuck out her tongue, and retrieved the legal pad from under her butt.

———

A little while later, Jane jolted back to reality at the sound of a throat being cleared. Leaning in the doorway was the man so recently in question, wearing low-slung jeans, a snug t-shirt and a knowing smile. Darcy made a little involuntary sound, and James stretched subtly against the doorframe. Oh yes, Jane thought, that was definitely a knowing smile. And Darcy did have a point about his arms.

"Can we help you?"

James toned it down somewhat as he turned her way. "Steve made lunch, if you ladies are hungry."

Jane had to think about it for a second or two. Breakfast had been how long ago? Too long, if Darcy's pointed look was any hint. "Yes, that's a good idea. We'll be up in a minute. Thanks, James."

He nodded at her, smirked at Darcy, and sauntered back toward the elevator. Darcy and Jane both paused to watch him walk away.

"You know," Jane said, once Darcy had picked up her pen again, "nothing rhymes with sculpted. You should go with carven. Then you can try rhymes like scarred skin or lesser men."

Darcy blinked at her, once, twice. "Yeah," she said, sounding strangled. "That'll work."