“I love having money for restaurants,” Darcy said to Jane, beaming as she looked around the Mellow Mushroom. She loved fancy pizza. She’d missed fancy pizza. She was delighted they had jobs in DC now and could afford to go out for meals sometimes. Jane laughed at her as she hummed happily and looked at the menu. She was debating between a marinara sauce or a pizza with potatoes and bacon when the woman in the booth behind them grabbed her attention. Unpleasantly.
“Don’t you hate the way people let their kids run wild?” she complained. There was a kid wiggling his arms in the booth on the opposite side of the section. He looked like he was stimming, Darcy thought. Hardly running wild.
“Eh, he seems fine,” the man with her said. He had a nice voice, Darcy registered. Low. Gravelly. But he sounded tired. “He’s not bothering anybody.”
“Really?” the woman said, voice loud. Darcy was afraid the child’s parents might overhear and cringed. “You don’t think kids should have to behave in public?” she said.
“He’s a kid--” the man said.
“What is it?” Jane said.
“Shh,” Darcy mimed, holding her finger to her lips. She passed Jane a Post-It. I’m eavesdropping. Awful woman. Behind me. Jane nodded. They spent their meal listening to the couple. It almost put Darcy off her pizza. The woman was just awful. She and Jane texted back and forth as the woman complained about her job, said mean stuff about everyone in earshot, and was so bitchy to their waitress, the man actually apologized when his date was in the bathroom. Darcy kept hearing him sigh. He didn't seem to talk much.
World’s Okayest Assistant: I hate her.
Let’s Get Astrophysical: This is the worst first date I’ve ever heard. Ever!
Let’s Get Astrophysical: And he’s actually handsome.
World’s Okayest Assistant: Really? I can’t see his face.
Let’s Get Astrophysical: Totally. Poor guy.
World’s Okayest Assistant: Oh em gee.
Let’s Get Astrophysical: What?
World’s Okayest Assistant: I just used my phone as mirror.
World’s Okayest Assistant: Why is it always a hot person with a really miserable meanie? Why don’t the cute people want meeeeeeee?
Let’s Get Astrophysical: Ian was a tool.
World’s Okayest Assistant: This isn’t about Ian.
World’s Okayest Assistant: I’m over him cheating on me, I swear.
Let’s Get Astrophysical: Uh-huh.
World’s Okayest Assistant: Don’t you sarcasm me.
World’s Okayest Assistant: I’m over it. And neither of those two cheaters were hot. Not like this! Ahhh!
World’s Okayest Assistant: Jane, we have to save him. I’m gonna tase her.
Let’s Get Astrophysical: You can’t, we spent the bail money on the new couch.
World’s Okayest Assistant: Damn it.
They listened to the date from hell go on until they were ready to leave and their pizza leftovers were all boxed. Darcy mentally debated giving the man her business card, just to point out to him that he had other options. Normally, she wouldn’t do that kind of thing, but it was such a bad first date. So bad. “Ready?” Jane asked.
“Sure,” Darcy said. She was throwing her messenger bag strap over her shoulder when the other family got up and neared their tables. Darcy stopped. She heard the woman start to say something and--terrified it would be rude and traumatizing for the child--slid out of their booth and looked at the man.
“Excuse me. I just wanted to say something to you,” she said. Dear God, he was handsome. He was looking at her in surprise. The women turned, too. “We have been listening to you on this date all night,” Darcy said, trying to block the kid from her view, “you seem like a decent guy and it’s literally the worst first date I’ve ever heard. I hope that you know that there are plenty of other women who’d go out with you.” She exhaled. “Literally any other woman.”
“W-what?” the woman stuttered.
“You could try being nicer to kids in public,” Darcy snapped. “I don’t know how your parents raised you.” With that, she picked up her pizza box and departed with Jane on her heels.
“Wow,” Jane said. “That was very...me of you.”
“I hate seeing other people be victimized, I can’t just stand there!” Darcy said. She glanced back as they exited the restaurant. The couple was having an intense conversation. “I would have done it even if he wasn’t gorgeous,” she added.
“I know,” Jane said.
Darcy had sort of forgotten about it when she rounded a corner at work and ran smack into a well-muscled, sturdy chest. “Whoa,” she said. The owner of the chest had grabbed her elbows when she almost fell. “You’re like a wall--” she began, looking up. “Oh.”
“Hi,” the guy from the restaurant said.
“It’s you,” Darcy said. Intelligently.
“It is me,” he said. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Darcy said. He let her go gently. “You work here?” she asked. Here was SHIELD.
“I do,” he said. “Brock Rumlow.”
“Brock,” he said slowly. “My name is Brock Rumlow.”
“Oh,” Darcy said. “That’s a very, uh, masculine name.”
“Do you have a name?” he said, smirking. He had a great smirk. And a beautiful face. Brown eyes. Like coffee. She loved coffee.
“Yes,” Darcy said. “I’m Jane Foster’s assistant. Darcy. Darcy Lewis.” God, why was her brain betraying her like this? Also, her body. Her whole body wanted to crawl into his lap. Standing up. And he probably thought she was nuts.
“Hi,” he repeated. They looked at each other. “So, I’ve gotta thank you.”
“You stood up for that kid,” he said, rubbing his jaw. “And it made me realize I didn’t want to go out with Amanda again. Hearing her from somebody else’s point-of-view, that was, uh, rough...” His voice trailed off.
“Your date?” she asked. He nodded. “How many dates had you been on?”
“Oh, about two years’ worth.”
“What?” Darcy said, stunned. “So...it wasn’t a blind date?”
“Nope,” he said lightly. She stared. “I travel a lot for work so relationships are challenging,” Brock said, as if that explained something. He sounded matter-of-fact. “I just wanted to warn you--she works downstairs in legal.”
“Oh shit,” Darcy said. "Shit." He smirked again.
“I bet you can handle it,” Brock said. “You’re tough.”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” Darcy said, nodding. “I’m really tough.”
“If she bothers you, let me know,” he said. "I don't think she will, though. She's mostly mad at me right now."
“Okay,” Darcy said. He stepped away. He was walking down the hallway when she spoke. “Brock?” she said.
“Yeah?” he said, turning back. His expression had gone wry. “She bother you already?”
“Yes,” Darcy said.
“Oh yeah?” he said, stepping her way again.
“There was this guy she was making miserable and I wondered if he needed something?” Darcy asked. “Like a fun date? For the first time in years?” He smiled at her widely then--a big beaming smile that was totally unlike his other smile.
“You’re really just happy staying in?” Brock said to her. They were hanging out at she and Jane’s for their first date and waiting on delivery.
“Yeah,” Darcy said. She was happy. “I really, really missed Americanized Chinese food and Trader Joe’s,” she told him. “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
“You’re easy to please,” he said, grinning. “This is gonna be a whole new thing for me.”