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the morning lights

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When Darcy hears about the Battle of Manhattan, the first thing she does is laugh for about ten minutes solid into her pillow.

“You missed the Battle of Manhattan,” Jane says on the phone. “Oh my god, I can’t believe we’re friends.”

“You’re not allowed to talk,” Darcy says, “you were on an island!”

“I was sent to an island as part of a protection program,” Jane points out, “it’s not like I went and slept through it.”

“I was up really late,” Darcy says, “in my defense, there are a lot of movies that seem like a good idea when you’re as drunk as I was!”

“Like Jaws III,” Jane says, “according to one of the texts I got.”

“Oh, god,” Darcy says. “Yeah, well, and then I didn’t feel like getting dressed enough to go out and get coffee, so I ate a spoonful of the instant stuff, and then I threw up, a lot, so I drank water and went back to sleep.”

There’s a long, long pause.

“I don’t quite get why you get to call yourself a functional adult,” Jane says thoughtfully.

“Because I am the most functional adult to ever adult,” Darcy says, rolling over and getting tangled in the sheets. “Hold on a second, blanket attack.”

“Oh my god,” Jane says.

Darcy pretends not to hear her and gets her legs unwrapped. “Progress!” she says brightly, and then rolls over again and promptly falls out of bed.

“I can’t talk to you like this,” Jane says, “I keep thinking I’m going to hear this explosion and your personality will have just hit critical mass and blown up the kitchen.”

“I’m on the floor,” Darcy says, looking under the bed, “oh my god, that’s where my charger went!”

“Bye,” Jane says mercilessly, and hangs up.

“Goddammit,” Darcy says, which is why her phone chooses that moment to die before she can send Jane a photo of the dark void of terror otherwise known as under her bed.

The thing to do, obviously, is forget to charge her phone, put it in her pocket, and go out for coffee.


“What,” the barista says blankly.

Darcy sighs. “White chocolate mocha frappuccino with two pumps raspberry, three scoops java chip, whip, and chocolate drizzle,” she says for the third time. It probably isn’t even the same order anymore. It probably started out some sort of chai latte, she thinks mournfully, as the barista scribbles arcane runes on the side of a cup and stacks it on the counter.

“Right,” the barista says, and rings her up.

“That’s a little complicated,” says a voice behind her, and she nearly drops her wallet. Instead she just scrapes all the change out of her pocket, plus a piece of pocket lint, and dumps it on the counter. The barista makes a face and scrapes a handful of quarters out of the mess, plus the lint, which he returns a second later.

“Not really,” she says. Which is bullshit. “Actually, yeah, that was bullshit,” she adds, because her internal monologue has this way of escaping via her mouth, which is terrible.

“You said that out loud,” the guy says, which - case in point, really.

“I know,” she says mournfully. “But yeah, it’s pretty complicated, but a friend of mine wanted me to try it, so.” She waves her hand at him. “I had him write it down, too, because I couldn’t remember it, and then he had to add commas as well.”

“Darleen,” a barista calls.

“And there’s the fucking cherry,” she says.

“Darleen?” the guy says.

“Darcy, really,” she says, “and please don’t make the comment, okay, I am not remotely Colin Firth.”

“I would never mistake you for him,” the guy says, and then the barista (cockblocking asshole) says “Are you planning to order, or just flirt over the cake pops?”

“Hah,” the guy says, going a little pink, “right, sorry,” and turns away to order. Darcy takes the opportunity to actually drink some of her Frankenfrap, which isn’t actually that bad, though the raspberry is a bit strange, and look him up and down.

“Your hair is really fluffy,” she says through a mouthful of coffee, because her brain is a terrible, terrible traitor.

The barista and the guy both turn to her in eerie synchronization.

“Uh, ignore me,” she says, waving at them. “Go on.”

Approximately three minutes and half a coffee later, she comes to the extremely neutral opinion that -

“You’re really cute,” she says, then actually chokes on her coffee.

The guy hits her on the back really hard.

“Thanks,” she says, echoes of Does he need CPR? I totally know CPR bouncing around her skull.

“Bruce,” the long-suffering barista calls, and practically throws the coffee at them in his haste to get them out of his immediate blast radius.


“So you’re Bruce,” Darcy says, “and you do science.”

“Don’t say Batman,” Bruce says, warningly.

“I wasn’t going to,” she says, making horrific loud noises with her straw trying to get the last bits of whipped cream. “So what do you do? Make things glow in the dark, flying monkeys, that sort of thing?”

“Not really,” he says, “I’m doing a lot more physics now -”

Hisssssss,” she says, holding up two crossed fingers. “It burns.”

“Oh, come on,” he says, laughing. “Physics isn’t that bad.”

“Yes it is,” she says, in a tone that brooks no argument. “Physics is terrible.”

She’s about to go on her spiel about how physics consists of using the mass of an orange to find the radius of the sun, but something beeps. Bruce pulls his phone out. “Sorry,” he says, “duty calls, odds are I won’t get there before Tony blows up the lab, but then.”

“No problem,” she says, grabbing his arm and pulling a Sharpie out of her bag. “Let me just -” and she writes her phone number on his arm, plus her coffee order. “In case you get curious,” she says, grinning at the ambiguity. “Try not to burn your arm off.”

He’s already in the cab before she realizes - “Tony?” she shouts after him, but of course by then he’s halfway down Park and the only thing to do is call a cab and go after him.

“Follow that cab,” she says to a supremely bored driver.

“You have no idea how often people say that,” he says, turning up the Edith Piaf, and floors it.


So it has come to this,” she says, bursting into the smoking remains of the tenth-floor lab she’s never actually visited before.

“What,” Bruce says, and recovers admirably.

“Look who’s here,” Tony says, “you got Bruce so distracted that he accidentally used the fire extinguisher on me instead, and isn’t that something I’m used to.”

“It suits you,” Darcy says a little snippily.

“How do you even know him,” Bruce says.

“Jane introduced us,” Darcy admits. “New Mexico SHIELD had a hell of a lot to say about you and the West Coast.”

“Fair enough,” Tony says, wiping away at the foam on his jacket. “This is ruined, so either I test the emergency shower or strip off -”

“Shower,” Bruce says.

“Show- well,” Darcy says, and amends it to “I’m pretty sure you’re naked enough as it is, so shower.”

“He got you good,” Tony says, and wanders off through the debris, “everyone else says yes.”

“Natasha hung you upside down from the balcony,” Bruce calls, which is obviously still a sore subject, because Tony flips him off and disappears around a corner.

He and Darcy stand and stare at each other for a moment.

“So,” she says, “were you, uh, planning to tell me that you double as a -”

“- giant green ragemonster?” Bruce says. “I wasn’t going to let it get to that point, you know, you seem really nice, you probably deserve -”

“- genius scientist superhero who saves the world while I sleep off hangovers?” she finishes.

“- better,” Bruce says, “wait, what?”

“Bullshit,” Darcy says. “I mean, the lab was - whoops, is on fire -” she steps back a bit from a flame pocket which is showing signs of reemerging - “and you seem to be doing fine, so I’d say - not really. Don’t sell yourself short.”

“I literally just met you,” Bruce says.

“And this is pretty crazy,” Darcy says, deadpan, and points to his arm. “I’m not proposing, but - here’s my num-”

“Stop right there,” Bruce says, “labs on fire are nothing compared to that.”

“See?” she says, grinning. “So I’ll help you reroute all the cold water to the emergency shower, and you’ll help me hide from Tony, and we’ll get coffee tomorrow, same time, same place, yes?”

“All right,” he says, tossing the fire extinguisher aside. “It’s a date.”

“Great,” she says, and crosses to the wall panel, prying it loose with - the battery of her dead cell phone. Whoops. “I’m going to need a prototype for a while,” she says, “until I can prove to Maria that my cell phone is literally dead beyond recovery.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Bruce says, and grins, taking the rest of the phone and throwing it at the fire pocket. There’s a whoomph and a cloud of black smoke and then a sad clatter as the melted remains of the phone fall to the ground.

“That works,” Darcy says, and twists the handle controlling the hot water. There’s a muffled, furious scream from around the corner. “Your turn,” she says, crossing her arms, and Bruce grins and -

“Oh my god,” Darcy says.


“How did you end up on the top of the Chrysler Building,” Natasha says, leaning out a window a good three stories below.

“Technically it’s on top of the eagle on top of the Chrysler,” Bruce says.

“Did Tony leave you there?” she asks. “Is this the superhero version of Seven Minutes in Heaven or something?”

“Tony doesn’t know,” Darcy calls, “which was sort of the point.”

Natasha crosses her arms, which shouldn’t actually be possible while leaning over that far backwards out a window that is approximately seventy miles above the ground. “Spill,” she says, “or I leave you there until we call in a flier for you.”

“We turned off the hot water,” Darcy says, because she has principles, but they can wait for a time when she isn’t, oh, on top of the Chrysler. “And Bruce’s half of the deal was to make sure that Tony didn’t catch me, so.”

“The other guy did a good job, in my defense,” Bruce says, shivering, “uh, do you have a shirt down there or something?”

“You’re all idiots,” Natasha informs them, and disappears back inside presumably en route to the roof to prevent hypothermia.

The shirt says I’M WITH STUPID.

“You wear this when you’re out with Clint, don’t you,” Darcy says.

“My lips are sealed,” Natasha says, and smiles enigmatically, and takes them all down via the fire stairs, because she believes revenge is best served cold.

“My legs,” Darcy moans.

“I’d carry you,” Bruce says, “but we just got out of that mess, so - probably better not to.”

“Next time you end up on top of a skyscraper I’m leaving you for the pigeons,” Natasha says, which is really answer enough.


Against all odds, alien invasions, robot attacks, and so forth, they actually manage to get coffee.

“I think we’re past the awkward stage,” Darcy says, “so I’m going to ask you a really, really important question.”

“Right,” Bruce says, fidgeting a little.

“Do you like avocados?” she says.

“I -” he says “- watch out!”

And Tony Stark, genius playboy billionaire asshole, dumps a bucket of iced water over her head, right there outside Starbucks.

“I’m wearing a white shirt, jackass,” she sputters, and goes for her coffee, which - really looks a million times better splattered across his face.

“I don’t know you guys,” Bruce says, and Darcy grins and bounces a little for his benefit, watches his gaze drop and his cheeks flush. He looks back up and goes even redder.

Tony wolf-whistles and Darcy tackles him into the fountain and it’s all perfect until Fury turns up.


“For the record,” Bruce says, “I actually do like avocados.”

“Right answer,” Darcy says, grinning and leaning on his shoulder.

“What the fuck,” Fury says, “we’re in a disciplinary meeting, can you not wait until you get home or something?”

“Nope,” Tony says, and pushes his chair back, swinging his hips and taking his jacket off slowly.

“Agent Romanoff,” Fury says, getting up, “please administer disciplinary action as you see fit,” and the door slams behind him.

“Oh yes please,” Tony says, “oh god no no no no no-”

They have to get him down from the top of the Chrysler.


“I’ve seen enough of the top of this building to last a lifetime,” Bruce says, standing miles above the city as Natasha manhandles Tony back down the stairs.

“It’s not so bad,” Darcy says, wind lashing them, and smiles up at him, and -

“If you don’t kiss her, I will,” Tony calls, “you’ve got the perf- AUGH.”

“I’ll give you some privacy,” Natasha calls, and from Darcy’s limited vantage point it looks as if she’s dangling him upside down again.

The fire door slams.

“Uh,” Bruce says, “do you-”

“Okay,” she says, grinning, and leans up to mash their faces together.

It isn’t perfect; the angle is a little off, and they’re both wearing glasses, which is probably something she should have considered, but.

“We’re on top of the Chrysler,” she says, when they pull apart, “give me a little credit.”

They get the second one dead-on.