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Things You Learn In the Kitchen at Night

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She had always wondered who ‘Goddamn Foster’s going to kill me’ would be. The golden words were written in sharp handwriting down her sternum, right between her breasts and stood out starkly against her pale skin. It was a strangely intimate place for the words of a platonic soulmate. The other set of golden words, ‘Hello, I’m Dr. Foster’ had always at least made sense. The red words, her romantic soulmate, were written on the bottom of her foot and had terrified her parents when they first saw it, ‘Ma’am, you’re going to want to run about now.’ Darcy thought that her platonics were much more comforting. When she had first met Jane at the interview for the internship, she had smiled and she was shoo-in for the internship (Jane had ‘I have always appreciated your straightforwardness’ on the ribs of her right side). She and Jane had gotten along well from the get-go, which she loved. So when Jane was moving into the Avengers Tower, she had it written into her contract that Darcy Lewis was allowed her own room on the premises, right next to Jane’s.

Of course, while Darcy appreciated the thought, she appreciated it significantly less when it was three in the morning and she heard unsettling noises through the wall. She was fairly certain she actually heard the bed crack at one point. With a sigh, Darcy threw the covers off of her and slid on pajama pants, padding out into the common room. All of the Avengers—except Tony—shared a floor, their apartments arranged in a horseshoe around the large group of couches. The kitchen was at the open end of the horseshoe, full of the latest technology and a very sturdy dining table. And, at the moment, full of one Tony Stark, in his boxers and using the foot-portions of the Iron Man suit to hover high enough to reach the top shelf of the cupboard. Darcy grinned and said,

“You know, there’s a stepstool in the pantry for occasions such as this.” Tony lost his balance in the air and returned to the ground with a thump. He spun and when he caught sight of Darcy, shook his head,

“Goddamn Foster’s going to kill me.” Darcy felt her eyes bug.

“Shit.” she said. Tony nodded and rubbed the back of his neck. Darcy shrugged and walked into the kitchen, opening the fridge and pulling out the milk. She turned to Tony, “Milk and cookies?”

“Yes please.” He expected Darcy to go for the cupboard full of cookies and other sweets, but instead she started pulling out flour and sugar. He frowned, “What are you doing?”

“I’m making cookies. Jane and Thor are having the kind of fun that breaks furniture and I can’t sleep. You can stay and watch me bake.” she said, grabbing the chocolate chips. Tony pulled up a bar stool and poured two glasses of milk. As Darcy started measuring ingredients, she asked,

“So who else are you tied to?”

“Bruce and Rhodey are my other platonics, and Pepper is my soulmate-soulmate.” he said. Darcy nodded and mixed the dough,

“Jane and you are my platonics and my soulmate is as-yet MIA.” Tony nodded and took another sip of milk before he said with a grin,

“Alright, so where are they?”

“Jane and Mr. Ma’am?”

“No, my words on you.” Darcy rolled her eyes and pulled down the neck on her pajama top, revealing the start of his words in gold. Tony’s grin widened,

“I feel honored.”

“And that’s the closest you’re ever going to get to these. I’ve seen your peripheral appreciation.”

“I can’t say I’m sorry.” he said with a shrug. Darcy shrugged back,

“Eh. You’re human. No judgement; you never really leered.”

“Plus one point in the decent-human-being column.” he said. Darcy grabbed two spoons, dipping each in the dough, and handed one to Tony, eating her own sample. Tony rolled it around in his mouth a bit and swallowed before saying, “That is delicious and I will absolute be using platonic privilege to con more cookies out of you.”

“In which case, I want a Tesla electric car and the iPod 8.” Tony flinched at the mention of Apple products,

“Yes to the car, no to the piece of Steve Jobs trash. Do you actually have to bake the dough, or can we eat it now?”

“Yes, we do have to bake it. And I want an iPod. Not a Stark MP3, but a bona fide iPod, the biggest newest shiniest one on the market.” Darcy said as she grabbed a scooper out of a drawer and put parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Tony sighed,

“Won’t you just settle for an island in the Pacific?”

“Save it for my birthday. Oh, before the rest of that, for the love of Thor, soundproof my room or move me a room away from any established couples.”

“Soundproofing it is.” They clinked their milk glasses together and Darcy slid the tray of cookies into the oven. If this was what being platonics with Tony Stark was like, she could very easily adjust to this life.

“So what are your and Pepper’s words?” she asked him. Tony pulled down his shirt and just above his glowing arc reactor was the words ‘Will that be all, Mr. Stark?’,

“Pepper’s are ‘That’s all, Talking Teapot.’”

“A Disney reference? Really? That’s what Pepper has tattooed on her?”

“Hey, if I knew how it would all turn out, I would have been much smoother. C’mon, your turn. What’re your soulmate’s words?”

Darcy sat down in the chair beside him and put her ankle on her knee so Tony could read the words. He stared for a moment, then shook his head,

“Un-fucking-believable.”

“What? Do you know who it is?”

“Kid, there is one person who I have ever heard call someone ma’am the first time they talk.”

“Who?” asked Darcy. She’d always been afraid of not only the circumstances of their meeting, but also for her soulmate. Old people said ma’am. Old people were called ma’am. Would her soulmate be an octogenarian? It wasn’t common, but it happened. Would she not meet them until she had a walker and fake teeth? Tony shook his head,

“Oh no. I’m not spoiling this.”

“Tony!” Darcy whined. The oven dinged and Darcy pulled out the tray, setting it on some pot holders. Tony reached over and grabbed a couple cookies, despite the fact that they were still steaming. He grabbed the milk carton with his other hand,

“’Night Darcy!” Darcy shook her head as he disappeared into the elevator. That fucker.

Chapter Text

It was only when JARVIS turned down the music that Tony realized he was no longer alone. He stopped welding and pushed his mask up. He knew it was somewhere after 4 AM and before 6 AM, which meant if someone was visiting, they had a damn good reason. Sure enough, Darcy Lewis stood in the doorway to the lab, hair braided to one side and wearing pajamas printed with cartoons of the various Avengers. She also looked like she’d been crying. Tony frowned at her,

“You’re not supposed to be up.” Well, no one had ever said he was exactly tactful at some unknown wee hour of the morning. Darcy wrapped her arms around her torso,

“Can I hang out here? Just for a bit.” In that moment, Tony was hit by just how young she was, dwarfed by pajamas too big and with a blanket draped around her shoulders. Somehow, despite it, she still looked cold. He shrugged,

“Pop a squat.” Darcy dragged over a beanbag he had entirely forgotten about and curled up on it, keeping the blanket wrapped tightly around her. DUM-E came rolling over and draped a fire blanket over her. Darcy smiled weakly at the robot and wrapped it around herself. It looked huge over her. Tony didn’t start welding again, but instead pulled up his hologram screen and started fiddling with things. He didn’t know that he’d ever had someone in his lab who wasn’t yelling at him to sign or eat something. It was weird. It was also the longest he’d ever heard Darcy be quiet. He sighed and looked over at her. Her eyes were vacant and some caretaker instinct made him walk over to Bruce’s station and start heating a mug of tea. When the microwave dinged, he poured the hot water into a mug and brought it over to Darcy. He put it on the floor beside her,

“Drink that.”

“I’ll let it cool first.” said Darcy, still not looking at him. He plopped down beside her on the spare space of the beanbag and nudged her with his shoulder,

“Nightmare?”

“Yep.” she said matter-of-factly. Tony was at a loss. He’d never gotten great at comfort. This was something Pepper would handle much better. But Darcy was in his lab and Pepper was upstairs sleeping, so he had to wing it.

“Wanna talk about it?”

“Fiery robot of death. Burning up everyone I like. Can’t move. Typical nightmare stuff.” she said. Darcy pushed him back until Tony was laying on the beanbag. She lay beside him and put her ear over his heart. Tony didn’t even try to move her. This, he understood. The need to remember and be reminded someone was still alive. He put his arm around her and scratched Darcy’s scalp. She made a sleepy noise and threw an arm across his chest, effectively turning Tony into a giant teddy bear. In seconds, Darcy’s breathing had evened out. Tony said quietly,

“JARVIS, please save my work and dim the lights. DUM-E, bring us an actual blanket.”

“Certainly, sir.” said JARVIS as he dimmed the lights until Tony’s arc reactor was the only light in the room. DUM-E came whirring over, bringing a blanket from the couches in the next room over. Tony tucked Darcy in as best he could and snuggled closer to her. Their bond was still in the fledgling stage, but he trusted it. Darcy was going to be important. He saw the top of his words glittering just above the neckline of her tanktop started. They seemed to glow with the light of the arc reactor. Tony pulled her a little closer.

When Pepper came down in the morning, she somehow wasn’t surprised to find Tony and Darcy still snuggled on the beanbag, Tony snoring softly and Darcy’s fingers clinging tightly to his shirt. She readjusted the blanket over them, kissed Tony gently, and walked back out of the lab.

Chapter Text

As Tony got to know Darcy better, he discovered that his schedule hardly changed. He still spent a lot of time in the lab, went out on Avengers calls, slept with Pepper when they were in the same city. On the one hand, nothing much changed. On the other hand, everything was different.

What Tony was discovering the longer he was around Darcy was that she was a very tactile person. If they were walking down the hallway, she’d bump him with her shoulder. If they were watching a movie, her side was pressed up against his. Darcy had very little concept of personal space. At first, Tony hadn’t known what to do with that. For years, any touch he received was either sexual or from a medical professional. When he and Pepper had matched, he’d gotten a little better, able to hold hands and sleep in the same bed. But that was Pepper, and Pepper wasn’t an overly tactile person if one of them wasn’t dying. She didn’t abhor touch, it just didn’t come naturally to her, which Tony totally understood.

However, touch came very naturally to Darcy. Which meant that if she and Tony were in the same room, she couldn’t go ten minutes without high-fiving him, hugging him, or jokingly punching him. And Tony loved it. He hadn’t realized just how much he liked casual contact until Darcy was there, shoving up against him to fit four people on a three person couch or trying to drag him away from his projects at four in the morning. Soon he came to seek out touching Darcy. One time, when they were watching a scary movie and Darcy was burying her head in his shoulder and his arm wrapped around her, Pepper walked in and sat on the couch on the other side of Tony. Darcy peeked out from under Tony’s arm,

“Do you mind that I’m using your boyfriend as a meatshield?” she asked. Pepper shook her head and leaned back as Tony put his free arm around her shoulders,

“Not at all. I think it’s good for both of you.”

“Thank you.” Darcy replied in a small voice as she went back to hiding.

 

A week later, she ran into Sam in the kitchen. She and Sam had met a while ago, him having returned for a quick break from trying to hunt down the Winter Soldier. She was staring pensively into a bowl of cereal when he sat beside her,

“What’s up?”

“Is it weird that Tony and I touch so much?” she asked, looking up, “I mean, none of it is sexual. I just figured with his shitty childhood and Pepper out of town half the time, he might need human contact. And I wouldn’t press it on him if he didn’t want it, but he seemed to adjust pretty quickly and now I don’t know if I can stop.”

“I think it makes total sense.” said Sam, “Lord knows that guy needs all the human contact he can get. And platonic relationships can take all kinds of forms. I know a friend where they’ve never even met their platonic in person, they just message each other online. You and Tony, you guys couldn’t do that. As long as you’re both okay with it, do what works for you.”

“Thank you, o wise relationship guru.”

“Hey, if you have Captain America and the Black Widow as your platonics, you learn pretty quickly that there aren’t a lot of universal rules for this kind of stuff.”

“What about you and your romantic? How do those rules work?” asked Darcy, putting another scoop of corn flakes into her mouth. Sam shrugged,

“Wouldn’t know. I’m aromantic. No red words.” he said. Darcy nodded through a mouth through of cereal. Sam continued, “You find your romantic yet?”

“Nah. Still waiting on him to get his act together. Or her, for that matter. I’m not picky.”

“Waiting can be a bitch.” Sam said sagely. Darcy nodded. Just then, her phone dinged. Darcy read the text and grinned, replying quickly. Sam waited patiently before asking,

“So who was that?”

“Mom. My cousins from Sheboygan are visiting Mom and Dad this weekend. I get to go home!” Darcy said with a grin. Sam smiled,

“Good for you! So where’s home at?”

“Back in Montana. Tiny little nowhere town. You have to fly into Billings and drive a couple hours. I gotta go; I have to pack. It was good talking to you! And thanks.” said Darcy, giving Sam a quick hug before running off. It was already Thursday and she knew the flights home always left absurdly early in the morning on Friday.

 

That Sunday evening yielded a snowstorm that shut down the Billings airport. While Darcy was safe and snug in her parents’ house as the storm blew outside, she had a very concerned Jane on the phone,

“Jane, no, I’m fine. It’s just a snowstorm, they happen all the time.”

“But are you safe?” the woman asked for the tenth time. Darcy rolled her eyes,

“Yes, Mother Foster, I’m safe. I’m just fine. The storm is just fucking up flight plans and the snowplows always take a while, so I might not be able to get back until Monday or Tuesday. I wanted to let you know so you wouldn’t think I was dead in a ditch somewhere.” Jane was silent and Darcy sighed, “Are you now thinking that I’m going to end up dead in a ditch?”

“…yes.”

“Don’t. I’ll be fine. Push comes to shove, I hang out here for a while and you get unlimited access to caffeinated beverages. I’ll be back soon.”

“Fine. But be safe. Text me when you know when you’re flying out.”

“Yes ma’am.” Darcy replied.

“Alright. Love you.”

“Love you too.” No sooner had Darcy hung up that her phone rang again, ‘Iron Man’ blasting from its tiny speakers. She took a deep breath and Darcy answered,

“Montana State Police, how can I help you?”

“Cut the crap kid. I can get you home in two hours if you can get packed.” Tony said. Darcy sighed,

“Tony, I’m fine here. I get to spend more time with my family and you get to spend more time teaching DUM-E how to not use a fire extinguisher.”

“An hour and a half.”

“Tony, leave it.” Darcy said firmly.

“Darcy—“

“Tony, I want to be able to hang out with my family. I don’t see them much and this makes me happy. I’m not miserable trapped in a house with my parents or anything like that.” She said. Tony was silent and then he spoke, his voice quieter,

“I miss you.”

“Welcome to human interactions.”

“But if I got you on a plane and back to New York, I wouldn’t have to miss you.” He said, as if explaining to a child. Darcy shook her head, even if he couldn’t see her.

“Nope. I haven’t seen my family in six months and my cousins in longer. I appreciate that you miss me and it’s a good sign that you aren’t throwing a ‘yay Darcy’s gone’ party, but I’m going to chill out here. I should be back by Monday or Tuesday.”

“Stubborn ass.” Tony mumbled. Darcy laughed,

“Absolutely. We can talk tomorrow, but right now Mom just finished making pancakes and hers are the best I’ve had, so I gotta go. Talk to you later.”

“Later.” Tony said as she hung up and Darcy was fairly certain that she wasn’t imagining the pouting tone in his voice.

Monday was a mess, her cousins racing around the house trying to get everything packed. The plows had actually worked really fast, clearing the road and her cousins were eager to get back so the kids wouldn’t miss so much school. The airport kept texting her, telling her that the plane would leave at noon, then 3, then 4, then 7, then 11. In reality Darcy left for New York at one in the morning on Tuesday, asleep before the plane even started to taxi out. In the mess of it all, she forgot to call Tony.

Almost seven hours later, Darcy’s plane landed in New York. She honestly didn’t know if she was surprised to see Happy in the airport holding a sign with her name on it. She smiled tiredly at him,

“Sorry Tony’s such a worrier.”

“Not a problem, Miss Lewis. But you might want to call him.”

“Shit!” said Darcy, pulling out her phone and switching it on. Yesterday, after the airport had texted her for the tenth time, she’d put it on silent and then she’d put it in airplane mode before takeoff. Sure enough, as soon as it connected Darcy’s phone flooded with texts and missed phone calls from Tony and Jane. The text messages went from ‘hey’ to ‘DARCY MARIE LEWIS YOU TEXT ME BACK THIS INSTANT OR SO HELP ME I WILL OPEN A PORTAL AND APPEAR IN FUCKING MONTANA’. Darcy leaned back in her seat and fought off the urge to fall back asleep. She set up a conference call with Tony and Jane. Tony picked up first, though Jane was right behind him,

“Hey guys!” said Darcy, trying to play it off like they hadn’t been freaking out for almost 24 hours.

“’Oh, we’ll talk tomorrow, no worries!’ Ring a bell, Lewis?”

“Darcy, you said you’d text me when you were leaving. Then I turn on the news and it’s still snowing like crazy in Montana, cars are pulled off in ditches along the highway and people are being warned not to leave, and then you just decide to not let me know you’re alive?!”

“Fuck, guys. We talked 26 hours ago. It’s not like I announced my home address to a terrorist group or travelled to a different fucking planet.” She said. There was grumbling from both parties but she knew she had them there. She continued, “And next time, don’t make Happy wait for me in the airport. Poor guy needs sleep, unlike you two science-dwellers. Have either of you actually seen sunlight since I left?”

“No.”

“JARVIS has a program to simulate artificial light.” said Tony. Darcy shook her head,

“Guys, I’m fine. The world is a good and happy place. Go look out a window and I’ll be back soon.” She hung up before they could complain or worry any more. She spoke to Happy,

“Sorry he made you wait so long.”

“Not a problem. I’m used to working irregular hours.”

“Still. Swing into the next Starbucks, we’re both going to need ventis.”

“Right you are, Miss Lewis.”

 

It was an hour after her phone call that Darcy walked through the Tower’s front door. Tony and Jane were both sitting in the lobby, Jane pacing and Tony tinkering with something small and probably explosive. They looked up when she walked in and Darcy set her coffee on the counter before facing them. Jane ran to her first, hugging Darcy,

“Next time, text me. Or call JARVIS and have him tell me or something. Don’t pull that on me.”

“Yes, because you have NEVER left without telling me where you were going. You’ve NEVER left me in a British lot as you disappeared to another planet. Yes, clearly I am the ONLY ONE to ever lose contact for a couple hours.” Darcy said, mustering up as much sarcasm as she could. Jane rolled her eyes,

“Extenuation circumstances. Next time, talk to me. ‘Kay?”

“Alright, yes, mother hen. And I’m sorry I forgot to call. Hey, are you free tonight? Because we should totes do girl’s night. Grab Natasha and Pepper.”

“Sounds good. I’ll see you in the lab?” asked Jane. Darcy nodded,

“Yeah. Be there in a sec.” Jane nodded and walked back to the elevators. Tony was sitting on the bench, having put down the metal thing and he’d crossed his arms, staring at Darcy with a furrowed brow. Darcy crossed her arms and stared right back at him,

“Is this the part where you chew me out some more, or did Jane do it justice?”

“An hour and a half. I could have had you back in New York in an hour and a half.”

“Fun fact, Tinman: Sometimes people don’t do what you want them to.”

“You said you’d call.”

“Things got hectic. I was tired. I’m sorry.” Darcy said. Tony seemed to sag a little at her apology. She stepped forward and put her hands on his biceps, pulling him up from the bench. She uncrossed his arms and stepped close, hugging him. Tony wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in tightly, leaning down so that his nose was on her shoulder. Darcy held him a little tighter, getting concerned, “Hey, dude. You okay?”

“You fucked me up, Lewis.”

“Say what now?” said Darcy, now completely confused. Tony’s voice was muffled but Darcy had a feeling pushing him away to hear him better wasn’t going to happen, not with the octopus impression he was doing.

“You keep touching me and then when you’re not touching me, it’s not good. I don’t like it.” He said. Darcy took a second to try to pull that apart, then she said,

“Hold up. I got you so used to human contact that now the stars are out of alignment if I’m not hugging you?”

“Yep.”

“Well shit.” Darcy said, blowing out a breath. Her heart broke a little bit for Tony Stark in the moment. He’d gone at least twenty years of his life without any real touch outside of handshakes and meaningless fucking, and all it took was two weeks of Darcy hugging and touching him and suddenly he couldn’t handle not having that. He must have been touch-starved for years without realizing it. She rubbed his back a little, “The girls and I aren’t getting together for hours. I need a nap and you probably do too. I vote sleepover in the lab.”

“Deal.” Tony said. Darcy was glad that she had already stocked a closet downstairs with pillows and blankets, preparing for the inevitable times that Tony fell asleep at his desk or some scientist need a quick nap. As they went downstairs, Tony already yelling for JARVIS to cue up The Great British Baking Show, Darcy bumped his shoulder,

“I missed you too.”