Steve was watching the baseball game, looking at the television screen with rapt attention, face still showing a touch of wonder. He and Coulson had stopped speaking immediately when she entered the room and Darcy resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She crossed the room, cutting behind the couch to grab an orange from the bowl near the bar. She gave a sideways glance at the tequila but it was only two – not really socially acceptable to start drinking. Well, unless you were Tony.
“Spoiler alert, Cap. The Dodgers moved to L.A.,” Darcy said. “You’ll have to start rooting for the Mets. Only assholes root for the Yankees.”
“I root for the Yankees,” Coulson said mildly.
Darcy spread her hands in an ‘I-told-you-so-gesture’ and Steve cracked a grin. “Don’t worry though, Cubs still suck. Nothing’s changed there – haven’t won the Series since ‘45.”
At that, Steve laughed genuinely and Darcy gave him a salute with the fruit before leaving the room. Neither noticed the look on Coulson’s face.
“How would you like a raise?”
Darcy looked up from the computer, narrowing her eyes at Coulson. “That sounds ominous.”
He shook his head, but it didn’t do much to dispel Darcy’s suspicions. He was no Fury, but Coulson made her fairly uncomfortable as well. Darcy never knew when they’d decide to MIB this whole thing and she’d end up a waitress in a diner somewhere with a giant gap missing from her memory.
“I have a job offer for you,” he said.
“I already have a job. With Jane,” Darcy replied.
Coulson frowned slightly. “We both know your job consists of playing Angry Birds, typing notes, and fetching Ms. Foster Pop-Tarts from the vending machines at regular intervals. That’s not exactly a job.”
“Touché,” Darcy said. “So what’s this offer? I do have school, you know.” She was still in school, although now at NYU since Jane had moved her operations to New York for the time being. Darcy knew S.H.I.E.L.D. had something to do with that – she wasn’t a slouch academically, but there was probably some string pulling to get her transferred in.
“You have to sign an NDA to see it.”
“You have got to be kidding me.”
“Do I ever joke with you?”
Darcy rolled her eyes at that. “Okay, let’s see it then.”
The NDA was freaking huge. Ten minutes later, Darcy was muttering “blah blah blah” under her breath and initialing each page as she skimmed through the provisions. “Seriously, if this is some job offer to turn me into a badass assassin like Natalia or Natasha or whatever her name is, I don’t want it.”
“It is not. And we’ll need to discuss exactly how you became privy to that information.”
“Well, good. And uh, Tony has a big mouth,” Darcy added, signing the last page of the agreement. She felt a small tinge of sympathy as Coulson pinched the bridge of his nose, looking like he had a migraine coming on.
“And this is the offer,” Coulson added, pulling a stack of papers from his briefcase that was three times the size of the NDA.
“No shit,” Darcy replied, actually taking the time to read what was set in front of her. It was still legalese but who only knew what they were trying to sneak in there. “You can come back in an hour, if you want,” she murmured, only half joking. It was a bit uncomfortable, having him just sit there watching her read.
“I’m afraid not. Those documents aren’t permitted to leave my sight.”
“Sorry, dude. Not a speed reader,” Darcy warned him, noticing he had started fiddling with his phone as she started to read. Forty minutes later, she sat back in her chair, feeling like she had a headache coming on herself. “It took you this much paper to say ‘show Cap what he missed in the last seventy-so years’?”
There was a quirk to the side of his mouth that made Darcy think he had almost cracked a smile. “Yes,” he said succinctly.
“Why me?” she replied, still wary.
He didn’t answer right away. “You made him laugh,” he finally admitted. “I talked Fury into this, so I’d prefer you not fuck things up.”
Darcy blinked and that quirk in the corner of his mouth turned into a small, genuine smile. “Are you like, a pod person? Because this is a little freaky,” she replied.
“Ms. Lewis,” he prompted.
“I - sure. As long as it won’t take away from me helping Jane or class.”
“We’re looking into finding an assistant for Ms. Foster as we speak. While Ms. Foster is rather invested in having you as an assistant, she does need someone with an actual grasp of her studies, particularly now that Dr. Selvig is working elsewhere.”
Darcy winced a bit at that, thinking how hard Jane had taken Erik’s move. “Um, are you going to tell Jane?”
“You will still be Ms. Foster’s assistant, at least for those things that are currently in your purview. Notes and Pop-Tarts,” he said, giving her a sardonic grin. After a moment, he added frankly, “I want you on this project, Lewis.”
“So, what, a few hours a day I watch documentaries with Steve and answer questions?”
“You’ve got quite a bit of latitude. All we ask is that you hit the highlights with a minimal amount of psychological damage. To be honest, it isn’t as if we have specialists in this sort of situation and Fury is less than pleased after their initial plans with Rogers went to hell in ten minutes,” he said. “You made him laugh, Lewis.”
“Okay, stand up routine about the seventies. That practically writes itself,” Darcy replied, gesturing as if she were checking something off the list.
Coulson shook his head, his face showing more humanity than Darcy had ever seen. “He’s a hero, Lewis. A real hero. He deserves more than a mindfuck.”
Darcy nodded slowly. She’d heard the gossip about how things had gone down when Steve awoke. She hadn’t realized Coulson cared so much. “I’m in,” she added after a moment, taking the pen to sign her name on the last page.
Coulson took the papers from her silently, arranging them back in his briefcase before pulling a small file from it and handing it to her. “Captain America’s file, for your reference. Redacted for your security clearance, of course.”
“I have a security clearance?” Darcy echoed, looking at the cover of the file. “I - thanks I guess? I mean, this isn’t really a Captain America thing. My concern is basically Steve.”
Coulson had that crooked grin again. “You’ll be perfect, Lewis,” he said, giving her a nod before leaving her alone in the lab.
She’d shoved the file into her bag, deciding to deal with that whole issue later. Instead, she found a blank notebook and went hunting for Steve. Given that half the tower was cut off to her due to whatever security clearance she didn’t know she had, this actually took more time than expected, since she kept having to go down to the first floor to change elevators. Half an hour later, she finally found him, pounding the shit out of a punching bag in the basement. “We have a real gym, you know,” she said, taking a seat on the edge of a table off to the side.
He looked over at her before giving the bag a more emphatic punch. “I know.”
“Dodgers lose? Or is this about the whole L.A. thing? Because dude, you’re going to have to get over that.”
Steve turned from the bag, cracking a smile at that. “No, they won. Are the Cubs really cursed?”
Darcy nodded. “Something to do with a goat – don’t ask,” she said with a grin. “Not that I can say much, being a Reds fan, but at least we had the Big Red Machine. Yeah, you don’t know what that means, I know. We’ll get there,” she added.
“Do you watch baseball?”
Darcy shrugged. “Ehh,” she replied, drawing the sound out. “It’s fun in person.”
The silence stretched between them for a moment and Darcy could see Steve shifting awkwardly from foot to foot, as if he had no idea what to say to her. She fished her notebook from her bag and uncapped her pen. “Okay, so I’ve been nominated to play tour guide and get you up to speed on everything you’ve missed. Other than baseball, what do you like?”
Darcy looked up from the page where she had been jotting down a few notes. “I’m not going to just sit there going over dates and names, that’s boring as hell for both you and me. What do you like? I mean, we’ve got baseball, but there’s bound to be other things you liked to do. They had movies and stuff back then, yeah? Uh, drawing a blank after that, not going to lie, but I’m sure I can think of other things my grandparents talked about if I need to come up with stuff.”
Steve winced at that, although he hadn’t quite gone back to that melancholy expression he’d been sporting for the past few weeks. “Uh, art. I like to sketch,” he said.
Darcy smiled. “Great. Okay, so maybe a few trips to the museums. What else?”
“Movies are good,” he added.
“Got it.” Darcy said, jotting down a few more notes. “What else?”
“Well, the USO shows were always fun,” he said, a small grin on his face.
Darcy couldn’t help but smile back a bit, although she gave a self-deprecating laugh. “No clue what those were like, so I’m going to put Broadway down,” she said. “You so do not fit the whole meathead mold – Art? Broadway? Are you just fucking with me?” she asked.
He shifted uncomfortably at that and Darcy realized he was reacting to her language. “I - sorry. You were in the army. I thought you’d be used to people dropping the F-bomb. Well, and you’ve dealt with Fury for a few weeks now.”
That got a laugh out of him, although he seemed to be having an issue putting his thoughts into words. “Uh, not really women, though. Not that you need to stop talking how you like. Uh-“
Darcy laughed. “Sorry. Really. No promises, but I’ll try to keep it clean for you, gramps.”
He reddened a bit. “Please don’t call me that.”
Darcy gave a more genuine smile; he seemed to be getting more uncomfortable in her presence than less. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m just teasing you. Kind of default mode for me.” She recapped her pen, shoving it and the notebook in her bag. “Okay, so we’ll hit the history highlights, see a few movies, listen to music. Maybe hit up a show or the museum once we clear a decade or so. Sound good?”
He nodded, still looking a touch uncertain.
“Cool. All right, 1945 tomorrow. Nine a.m.?”
He nodded again. “Sure, that sounds good.”
Darcy hopped off the table she’d been perched on. “Great.” It didn’t exactly feel great. She had no idea what the hell she was doing. She’d seen that Qwik-Mart video. Coulson would murder her if she screwed this up. There wouldn’t be anything left for Fury to deal with. She had a feeling she’d be Googling for at least half the night for this one.