There’s this guy on Darcy’s twitter feed that, well, to put it mildly, is a bit of a jerk. If Darcy were, well, not so very hard-pressed to put it frankly, she’d say he’s a huge asshat that clearly needs to be outlawed from ever having the chance to procreate and risk diluting the human gene poor even further with the chance of his offspring. It’s at the point that she doesn’t even know why she followed the guy in the first place and she definitely doesn’t know why she hasn’t unfollowed him.
One click, really, is all it would take, and he would be out of her life. Nothing but a bad memory and a bitter distaste.
But there’s a part of her, she’s estimating it to be about 10% on a good day, 45% on a bad day, that’s just truly glutton for punishment. And this guy? Pure punishment with the way his tweets can send her day in a complete 180 from how backwards and asinine the messages are.
“Oh, so we’re going to be a dick,” Darcy mutters under her breath after reading his latest message. He’s linked an article from Fox News detailing the, according to them, massive amounts of damage and cost to the New York taxpayer alone from the Avengers. Never mind the fact that Stark foots a lot of the bill most of the time. Or that, hey, a little crumbling wall is probably better than an alien overlord. At least, that’s where Darcy’s priorities lie, but maybe she’s just misguided. It wouldn’t be the first time she’s been told that little tidbit.
The asshat then follows it up with a photo of the Winter Soldier with the comment, “How much spent to make him and he still can’t clean up after himself. #robotrevolutionfailure #idlikemymoneyback”
With a huff of irritation, Darcy forces herself to not react rashly with a multitude of verbal spewage, yet it’s so damn tempting. Though his background is kept in the dark more than the rest of the Avengers, there’s enough of the Winter Soldier’s history out there to realize just how he came to be the man he is now. And all of it is pretty gruesome, in Darcy’s opinion. Clearly, the guy posting this eye-rolling nonsense isn’t even properly informed in addition to just being an asshole.
Assholes are annoying enough. But belligerently stupid assholes really are the worst.
Instead of typing out the multitude of ass-chewing and belittling comments already forming in her mind, Darcy switches away from the twitter app. She opens up the browser on her phone, mission already forming.
“Fine, if that’s the way you wanna play, let’s go,” she mutters.
Brow furrowed in concentration, Darcy starts vigorously swiping through the images in her newsfeed, looking for the one stuck in her mind that’s going to be perfect. The large majority of the images are all from the battle earlier in the day, with a few classic ones scattered in between. The battle was small scale, didn’t even manage to shut down traffic, just reroute it. But, it was enough to get the Avengers out for some prime candids.
Finally, she finds the one she wants near the bottom of the feed. It caught her eye the first time she saw it and she might have spent far too much time staring at it, but, really, it’s an amazing shot; Black Widow, and her blatantly clear lack of a normal human’s spine, is leaping into the air, performing a backflip over the head of the Winter Soldier. She’s midair in the photo, her spine bent over his head, legs about to be tucked, and his hand is reaching for one of the guns she has in her side thigh holster. His other hand, the metal one, is holding his own weapon, clearly firing at one of the assailants off to the side.
In subsequent pictures, the viewer can see the Black Widow land, sans one of her guns that’s now in the Winter Soldier’s human hand, taking out an attacker from that side, then one from the front.
In the last photo from the series, there’s a little smirk on his face as he hands the gun back to Black Widow. She takes it, her hand grasped firmly over the proffered handle, with a mixed expression of amusement and exasperation that probably comes natural when working with the Avengers.
It takes Darcy awhile to decide, scrolling back and forth as she narrows down the options, but eventually she picks the one of Black Widow mid-air with the Winter Soldier defending her while she’s vulnerable. Darcy knows she’s not being subtle when she makes sure to include the asshat’s handle in the post, along with the hashtag #AndWhatHaveYouAccomplishedToday? but, fuck it, she’s about done with idiots.
The tweet is almost immediately favorited by @buchanonbarnes. He doesn’t message much, though she likes what he does put out, and he seems smart from the few messages they’ve exchanged. Not to mention that, in those private messages, and the few comments he makes, he’s engaging with the sort of dry wit that is pretty much Darcy’s kryptonite.
Darcy figures he’s probably a fan boy for the Avengers, but of the more mild-mannered variety rather than the cray-cray version, since he started following her after she sent out the picture of Thor, Cap, and the Winter Soldier. Though, she might have to reform that opinion since, on the few occasions when they do chat, it’s never anything related to the Avengers. The private messages from him are a nice and refreshing contrast to the people who send her “OMG” and “SO HAWT” comments on the instances a new Avengers-related photo goes up.
The next notification, though, sends her eyebrows practically flying back to her hairline. @CapSGRogers, which everyone knows is Captain America’s personal handle, retweets the message with the same hashtag. From there, the number of favorites and retweets spiral. Darcy is forced to turn off her notifications because her phone won’t stop buzzing and beeping across the metal lab table. Jane has started sending her annoyed, then intrigued, then downright dying of curiosity glares from across the lab.
“What are you even doing over there?” Jane finally asks, her tone exasperated.
“Just adding in some of the data,” Darcy replies nonchalantly, waving the stack of recent results as evidence. “Science, Jane. What else would I be doing while on the payroll?”
“Don’t even try,” Jane tells her with a shake of her head. She gets up from her chair and Darcy knows the other woman isn’t going to let this go now that she’s actually physically stepping away from her station.
With a sigh, Darcy pushes back from her own table so she’s facing Jane. She kicks out the rolling chair next to her, offering it up as Jane comes closer. When Jane sits, Darcy pulls up the twitter app, scrolls down to the original text from the asshat, and hands the phone to Jane.
“Not very original,” Jane hums when she reads it. “Still, what a disgusting human being. What’d you do back?” she asks, eyes shining brightly.
Contrary to any belief Darcy may have had when she first met the tiny scientist, Jane has a bit of a vengeful streak that’s only grown the more she’s shunned by the academic community. She’s managed to take back some of her own since her theories are being proven correct right and left with the appearance of Thor. It’s not enough, though, to negate the sting of years and years of ridicule.
Darcy takes her phone back from Jane and scrolls to her retribution post. She hands it back to the other woman, who is practically making grabby hands. Darcy doesn’t even bother to hide her smile, fully enjoying the moment that she can share. They’re getting fewer and farther between the more Jane gets wrapped up in her work with the full funding of Stark behind her. It’s a far cry from the time in the desert, when they would stay up late watching the stars from the roof.
“Adding this to the list of things the Black Widow does on a daily basis that would leave me paralyzed,” Jane comments when she sees the photo. “That’s a great action shot, though. They work really well together, don’t they?”
“Yeah,” Darcy says absently, looking at the photo over Jane’s shoulder.
Of course, there’s always speculation and gossip about the Avengers. And, unfortunately, as the only woman, Black Widow gets more than her fair share of who she’s currently hooking up with. Jane, obviously, with her connection to Thor, would have the inside track to the gossip, if either woman was curious.
Maybe they are, idly, in passing, but not enough to invade the privacy of someone who has so little. Especially over something that doesn’t matter to either Darcy or Jane. Jane has enough to keep her entertained with her own love life. Darcy, well, let’s just say she’s good staying on the sidelines for right now. Not that the right guy wouldn’t get her back in the game, but she’s fine on her own. Almost happier, after the disaster that was her last relationship attempt.
“Course, you and I both know how much the team trains together, so that has to help with the whole synchronization thing,” Darcy adds, waving her hand in a gesture to mimic Black Widow’s back flip. “Thor’s schedule has gotten crazy since we relocated to New York. Rogers missed his calling as a drill sergeant.”
“I caught Tony asleep in his lab the other day when I wanted him to see if he could get stupid machine he insisted on leaving, broken, on my lab table to work,” Jane confides with a glimmer of amusement in her eyes. “He had a bag of ice on each shoulder and must have had Dummy programed to replace them as soon as they melted. He didn’t account for Dummy’s pincers, though.”
“Splash?” Darcy guesses. Jane nods.
“Big splash. Lots of yelping. Girly screaming. It was wonderful.”
“Hating on the guy who pays your salary,” Darcy teases. “Look at you, going up against the man.”
Jane rolls her eyes and returns her focus back to the phone still in her hand.
“Better add a photo of Thor next,” Jane informs her suddenly, tapping the tip of her fingernail lightly against the screen to demonstrate her point. “You know he likes being your favorite, even if he won’t admit it.”
Jane starts flicking at the screen and a small part of Darcy feels annoyed at the liberty the other woman is taking, but curiosity has her waiting to see what Jane is going to pull up. With a small “aha,” Jane hands the phone back over to Darcy.
“That one,” Jane orders her. “He’ll love it.”
He will, Darcy thinks when she sees the image. It looks like it’s been taken post-battle, but the clean-up hasn’t yet started. Thor is standing in the middle of a street, Mjolnir at rest in his hand by his side. Captain America is next to him, shield hanging limply from one hand and his other hand hovering awkwardly in the air, fist closed. The image is the first in about series of photos, all detailing the confusion on Thor’s face changing to understanding, then enjoyment.
The next has the Captain setting his shield on the ground, resting it against his leg, so he can show Thor how to brofist with both of his hands. His mouth seems to be moving, undoubtedly explaining the meaning behind the motion. Granted, Thor’s pretty quick to pick up on unfamiliar things in Midgard, but Darcy can see where brofisting wasn’t on the list of things to teach. Darcy’s all about the high-fives, personally. Jane, the full-body hug climb. Selvig, the manly nod of acknowledgement.
Clearly, they’ve failed their friend, though, in this regard.
Understanding dawns on Thor’s face while watching the Captain and, in the next couple of shots, there’s a slow motion capture of him setting down Mjolnir on the ground and clasping Steve on the shoulder as a brother. His hand clasped on the other man’s shoulder, leaning in with a wide grin, it’s so similar to the gesture and ease he had with the Warriors Three. Or, at least from what little she saw of their companionship in New Mexico. In the last few, he bumps his closed fist against Steve’s with his other hand with a wide smile.
“He’s settling in, then,” Darcy comments. “Making new friends? Learning new rituals for post-victory celebration? Cuz, I gotta tell you, even Tony Stark can’t fuel three day booze and feast parties each time the Avengers go out. At least not without his board and Pepper Potts eventually coming after him for their quarterly loss.”
“He is,” Jane confirms, ignoring Darcy’s quip. Jane looks down at the phone in Darcy’s hand, scrolling back up to the first photo of the series. “Though he’s enjoying his time here, he misses Asgard. More than he’ll admit.”
Darcy nods. “Don’t you think he mostly misses the camaraderie with his friends?” she points out. “They’ve spent hundreds of years together, fighting and protecting each other. I mean, I can’t even imagine the kind of bond that would bring.”
“Yeah,” Jane says quietly. Darcy wishes she could have bit her tongue because, wow, way to go on pointing out the whole thing about your boyfriend abandoning his life and everything he’s known for over a thousand years to come chill with you. Because that totally helps the situation.
“You know he’s happy here, too, right?” Darcy adds, nudging Jane with her shoulder. “We all have changes in our lives and this is a good one. Just look how many changes you’ve had in the past three years,” she points out. “This isn’t the first time Thor’s gone away, I’m sure. He knows what he’s doing.”
“Yeah,” Jane repeats, this time with more confidence. “I know. Just, sometimes I feel a little guilty about the whole situation. But, we’re supposed to go to Asgard soon, so I think that’ll help.”
“Make it feel more balanced?” Darcy offers. Jane nods. “Well, I suppose I’ll just have to take a few days off while you’re away. Rest up. Because I already know you’re going to be hauling back all the toys you can get your hands on.”
“No, you’ll need to clean so we’ll have space for all the toys,” Jane counters. Darcy rolls her eyes and starts scrolling through the photos again, trying to decide which one to pick. She’s hovering over the one where Captain America has his shield propped against his leg, both of his fists meeting each other in front of his rather impressive chest when she catches something in the background she didn’t see the first time.
“Oh, god,” she says with a grin. She enlarges the photo and shows Jane when the other woman shoots her a curious glance. “Look,” Darcy orders, pointing to the figure she missed the first time around.
“Oh, god,” Jane echoes, the corners of her mouth turning up as she catches on. In the background is the Winter Soldier, standing a distance away near the stack of buildings, but watching the interaction between Captain America and Thor intently. In this particular photo, his metal hand has started to come over his face, covering his eyes, with his other hand crossed over his chest. His head is dipped just enough to portray a certain level of exasperation, but the smile peeking out from under his hand betrays his amusement.
Darcy zooms out and goes to the end of the series, when Thor has his hand on the Captain’s shoulders, and, thankfully, the Winter Soldier is still in the background, watching. His hand is no longer covering his eyes and his stance is relaxed as he leans against a building. The corners of his lips are still tugged up and she can see the amusement and fondness sparkling in his eyes, practically screaming, ‘You guys are idiots,’ as he watches the other two men.
Darcy can’t help but note that, despite watching the other two, he doesn’t once approach them throughout the entire photo series. She isn’t quite sure what to make of that; if he was busy with other things, if he just didn’t want to intrude. Or if he just didn’t feel it was his place. Course, she’s probably reading way too much into the whole situation and assigning feelings where there might not be any.
Maybe she’s just projecting her own feelings.
Darcy pushes aside the thoughts and focuses on the images once again. She can’t help the smile when she sees the fond exasperation on the Winter Soldier’s features; it seems like an expression that’s familiar with the lines of his face, one that used to be worn with casual care. One that doesn’t get as much practice anymore, given the slightly tight lines around the one corner of his mouth. As if he’s trying out the expression like an old shirt and it doesn’t fit right. He’s trying, though, and the expression stays.
Without hesitation, she uses the retweet button and adds the image to her feed with the same hashtag she used earlier. Might as well make it a thing, right? Besides, Darcy likes seeing the human side of the Avengers, especially when they have these little goofball moments. She likes to think others do, too. She then puts her phone back down on the desk, facedown, and gives Jane a pointed look.
“Can we get back to work now? There’s science to be done, after all,” Darcy informs the other woman, making her tone as haughty as possible.
Jane snorts and rolls away on her confiscated chair back to her station.
At the end of the day, the tally for her tweet is astronomical. So astronomical, Darcy can’t stop staring because, Christ, how is this even a thing right now?
#AndWhatHaveYouAccomplishedToday? is a trending tag.
Not just a trending tag.
The top trending tag.
When she clicks on it, Darcy can see there are hundreds of tweets and pictures, most of them with positive messages. There’s support and excitement, words of encouragement and gratitude and personal stories. All with her hashtag.
She feels like she’s on the top of a rollercoaster, looking over the edge, about to race down, her heart is beating so fast. Darcy can feel the adrenaline running through her body, high on the fact that she did this, this was her. She’s practically shaking, a constant hum in her body as she scrolls through image after image, message after message. Her thumb, when she isn’t using it to scroll, won’t stop twitching with the nervous energy.
It’s insane in the whole sense that it’s really freaking exciting to have this many people respond to something she did, but it’s also fucking terrifying. Especially when she sees the number of new followers she’s now obtained.
Darcy thinks she might be sick, if the sudden and heavy drop in her stomach is any indication.
On top of it all, there’s a private message in her inbox from @TheWinterSoldier, official. It’s one word.
It’s silly to feel fluttery about it, but, dammit, she does anyway. And, funny enough, that one word is enough to settle the nerves that had started to cramp up her stomach when she saw the new follower messages.
Instead, his one word message makes her all the more determined to wield this little bit of, probably fleeting, influence while she can. This guy shouldn’t have to worry about fighting his demons, fighting his past, and fighting some damn asshat on twitter. He should know that, while he probably has friends for an immediate support network, there are also people in the world who are willing to do the good thing by him.
He should be able to get some of the good since, clearly, he’s already getting a lot of the bad the world has to offer.
With that idea in mind, the photos start to become a thing for her. Whenever there’s a battle, or if there are shots of the Winter Soldier in gear and doing good after the battle, she finds the images, retweets them, and adds the hashtag.
Her personal favorite is when some enterprising individual managed to snap a quick shot of the Soldier down on bended knee.
He is in front of a boy who couldn’t be more than five years old, at the most, holding up what appears to be a battered and worn Captain America bear for the Soldier’s appraisal. The Soldier still has the mask covering the lower part of his face, hiding his expression, but that doesn’t mean his emotions are hidden. Far from it, in fact, with just how damn expressive his eyes are; their vibrant blue depths do nothing to hide the multitude of emotions and feelings on display for anyone who knows how to look. His head is bowed, reverently, as he places the part of his mask hiding his lips to the top of the bear’s head.
Darcy knows he must have said something to the child, because the boy’s expression is so full of wonder and enjoyment. It’s a perfect moment, one that she feels torn sharing for all the private emotions that are in the image, but one she also feels needs to be shared so people can see there’s a softer side to this man. He’s still a human and, in Darcy’s opinion, it’s all too easy for the public to forget that.
Still, she hesitates an entire day before putting the image on her feed. Even after she’s posted, she almost goes to delete it. When she has her finger hovering over the button, though, she gets the notification that it’s been favorite. Unable to resist looking, she refreshes and sees it’s her old friend, @buchanonbarnes. She feels a little bit better about the photo since, though she doesn’t know the man behind the handle, she knows enough to trust his judgment. And if he thinks it’s worth sharing, Darcy thinks it’s worth keeping on her page.
What Darcy didn’t realize, however, is that when she started her defense, she would be starting a movement. She figured the uptake in traffic would be a brief blip, then everybody would go about their normal business, swiftly jumping to the next big thing.
Instead, it grows, like a mythological monster.
The hashtag stays at the top of the trending list, day after day. Week after week. More and more people are not just retweeting the images she finds and shares, but are also adding their own. It isn’t just the Winter Soldier anymore, either, though he’s the majority of the attention. It’s also Hawkeye, Thor, all the Avengers; even one daring individual has taken to catching images solely of Black Widow in action.
Darcy’s follower count starts to climb through the roof and gives her a mild panic attack at the thought that all these people are following her. She’s a nobody and she has no idea what to do with this, this whole thing. It’s overwhelming and intimidating and just, well, too much. Each new follower notification that pings to her phone manages to send a shot of adrenaline and excitement from her heart to her limbs, immediately followed by the sinking cold feeling of dread.
And the dread, well, it’s merited.
Some of the new followers are assholes, basically trolling any and all images she puts up, and it wears on her. Darcy blocks them, and tries to ignore the scuffles that happen in the comments when others come to the defense. Each venom-filled messages makes her heart clench tight in her chest. Knot after knot builds in her throat until she has a hard time swallowing around them.
The nice messages, ones that she used to take joy in, the ones that made her believe there was good out there and that people care, are cast into shadow. Instead, they’re overlooked for the ones that, well, manage to cut to the quick. They make her feel defeated, bitter and jaded in how skewed and vicious people can be to others; people who they’ve never even met can influence the attitude and outlook of some stranger, with little regard or consequence.
Some days are so bad, Darcy’s tempted to delete the entire account and retreat back into obscurity because, though she feels she’s an outgoing person, sometimes she doesn’t have the walls built up around her emotions enough to even read through what people say to her. Or about her.
And then she remembers that what she’s getting is just a taste, a small sample of what the Avengers, what the Winter Soldier, in particular, probably have thrown in their faces constantly. So, though the urge is still strong to just walk away, Darcy puts her head down and continues. Some days, it’s easier than others. Some days, it costs her a lot of tears, from frustration and anger and hurt feelings, but she’s stubborn enough to keep going.
“Why do you keep doing this?” Jane asks one day when she catches Darcy scowling at her phone before tossing it aside. “If it bothers you that much, why don’t you just stop?”
“I,” Darcy starts to say, then stops, realizing she has no idea where to even begin her argument. How to formulate the jumble of thoughts in her head into something even remotely coherent. Because all the arguments she can come up with, while they might sound sane to her, basically amount to silly stubbornness to an outsider.
She takes a deep breath while Jane waits, patiently, because that’s the great thing about Jane; she knows that sometimes it takes a bit to get the thoughts organized, that a person’s mind can run away from them. She doesn’t press Darcy, or force her to stumble out some half-assed explanation so Jane can put the whole thing aside and get back to work.
Instead, Jane turns off the monitors to both of their computers and refills their mugs from the coffee pot in the corner of the lab. Of course, all the mugs in the lab are Iron Man merchandise, thanks, Tony. Darcy’s mug, the one where she took a sharpie to draw a rather villainous and overly ridiculous moustache on Iron Man’s helmet, is probably the most distinguished of the modifications.
Jane drew horns on Iron Man’s helmet for hers. Zero points for creativity, but ten points for the amusement factor when Tony saw Jane drinking out of the mug.
“You could have just written your names on the bottom, like normal people,” Tony grumbled on the rare occasion he was in Jane’s lab.
“We’re not normal,” Darcy told him, pointedly holding up her own mug in a cheers so he could see her own modifications before taking a drink. “Besides, this isn’t kindergarten.”
Tony gave her a dry look as he held up yet another mug with some creative modifications. “The stick drawings would indicate otherwise.”
The next day, a set of Captain America mugs and a fresh pack of sharpies arrived in the lab. The look on Tony’s face when he saw that the only modification had been names neatly been printed on the bottom of each mug made it pretty much worth missing out on any art endeavors.
Jane sets the mug and the creamer down in front of Darcy before taking a seat and crossing her legs, tucking them under each other in the chair.
“I know it started as a whim,” Darcy finally says. “But, it feels like something I’m actually, finally, good at.”
Jane scowls. “You’re good at a lot of things.”
Darcy waves her hand, immediately dismissing the words. She knows that if she pushed it, if she called Jane on her words, to give examples, it’d all be related to the minion stuff Darcy does for the lab. Which, yeah, she can correlate data like mad.
Jane, well, Jane is great at a lot of things. Darcy? She’s good at a few things, managing to squeak by where needed. She’s the follower, going under the direction of others to get stuff done. She never really takes the role of leader and it’s a heady feeling to finally be the one making the decisions, to be answering to herself, in a sense.
“Besides,” Darcy adds, “there’s good things, too. It’s not all bad. I’m getting messages from people that really have nothing to do with the whole Avengers thing. They’re just, well, they’re nice. They tell me how something will make their day, make them laugh. How seeing someone stand up to the assholes gives them confidence. How it makes them be a better person. So, that’s good, right?”
Jane nods. “It’s good,” she confirms. “So long as it outweighs the bad.”
Darcy’s pretty sure it still does. Sometimes.