Work Header

Life has its little bonuses

Work Text:

The last time Darcy had been in a Chuck E. Cheese she had been twelve and celebrating her cousin Cassie’s birthday. She remembered a place filled with video games and pizza and happiness--which had been only slightly marred by the appearance of a giant costumed rodent. It was one of her favorite childhood memories.

What she saw today resembled that memory only superficially. There were still video games, of course, and she could definitely smell pizza. And, thankfully, beer, something her young mind hadn’t registered. But apparently, in her childhood, she had underestimated the creepiness of an adult dressed as a cartoon mouse, and the terror induced by unsupervised children rushing about at supersonic speeds. “I would hate to wait tables here,” she muttered, clinging tightly to Steve’s hand for support.

Steve just grinned, looking for all the world like there was no place he’d rather be. Honestly, there probably wasn’t. Though Darcy, Tony, and Clint had introduced him to the wonders of modern console gaming (and gotten soundly thrashed in Halo as soon as Steve had gotten the hang of it--holy shit, he was good) he’d missed the arcade era entirely, and he loved kids. Loved them all, even the snotty, screaming, belonging-to-other-people variety. “Good thing you don’t have to, then,” he said, squeezing her hand.

Darcy wrinkled her nose and glared up at him. “Maybe I should have let Pepper rent out the whole place instead of just the back room. We could avoid all these--” She trailed off and indicated the whole room.

He gave her his ‘I don’t believe you, but I’m going to humor you for now because I like you’ face, the one where he raised his eyebrows and smirked a little. It was one of his more infuriating expressions. “You love kids. I’ve seen you on the phone to your nephews.”

A faint blush crept up her neck to color her face. She ducked her head to avoid his gaze. “Yeah, well, they’re family. I love all my family, even the tiny, ADHD, scream-y variety. These heathens,” she said, pointing at a couple of boys wrestling on the floor over a strip of tickets, “get no such free pass from me.”

Steve pulled her close to his side and let go of her hand to wrap his arm around her waist. He pressed a kiss to her hair. “You like Marisol just fine.”

Darcy snuggled closer to Steve’s bulk, grateful for his nearness. “Yeah, well, she’s like, the Robin to my Batman. I have to like her. I’m pretty sure that’s in SHIELD’s employee manual under ‘Care and Feeding of Sidekicks.’”

What she didn’t say was that in the month since the Bank Incident--which Tony still insisted should be officially named Darcy Does Die Hard, The Time We Almost Lost Darcy, or The Reason Darcy Is Not Allowed Outside SHIELD Without An Escort, Ever--Marisol and Ana had rapidly become family. While her mom was recovering in the hospital, Darcy had spent hours helping Marisol with her homework and watching cartoons in the waiting room. Though her grandmother had travelled up from Houston to stay in with her the Martinez's little one-bedroom apartment, Marisol spent as many nights curled up with Darcy on the couch in her fifth-floor walkup as she did at home. When nightmares plagued the girl, Darcy’s voice calmed her until she dozed off again; when Darcy woke up in a cold sweat, the click of a cocking pistol loud in her ears, the sound of Marisol’s soft breathing reminded Darcy that they weren’t hostages anymore. They were both in therapy--thank you, SHIELD--but healing was a long process, and they were doing it together.

“Hi there! Welcome to Chuck E. Cheese! How many in your party?” The woman behind the podium was tall and perky with long blonde hair, and the warm look she gave Steve was far too familiar.

Darcy hated her immediately.

She was already pressed close to Steve’s side, so she tangled her fingers with his and cleared her throat. When the woman’s attention turned back to Darcy, she channelled Natasha and smiled. The hostess flinched. “We have the back room reserved,” she looked at the nametag, “Marcia. The Potts-Martinez party?”

Marcia recovered her composure quickly and nodded, making a mark on the seating chart. “Of course! A few of your guests are already waiting, and we received Ms. Potts’ special requests. Follow me.”

Darcy was grateful when the door to the private room finally shut behind them, muting the clang of bells and electronic beeps of the video games. Pepper and Tony had beat them there and they waved from the far side of the table. “I took the liberty of ordering pizzas already,” Pepper informed them as they sat down, a glass of white wine in one perfectly-manicured hand.

Darcy poured herself a beer from a half-full pitcher. “Probably a good idea. How many did you get?”

Tony, wearing a pair of dark sunglasses and one of his ubiquitous band tee shirts, snorted. Pepper raised one eyebrow at him. “Twelve larges with various toppings, and three with just cheese,” she answered. “And I informed the waitress that we may need more. I’ve seen you people on movie night at the Tower.”

Darcy tilted her head to the side, acknowledging the point. She narrowed her eyes at the wineglass. “I didn’t know Chuck E. Cheese served wine, let alone one that you would approve of.”

She smiled. “They don’t, but they let me bring in my own. It seems that when you tell them that the CEO of a Fortune 500 company wants to have her niece’s birthday party at your restaurant, including pre-purchasing a couple hundred dollars worth of tokens, they fall all over themselves to help you, and if that includes bringing in a couple bottles of wine...” She trailed off and shrugged.

“You say that like you’re surprised,” Tony said, leaning over to press a kiss to Pepper’s cheek, beer sloshing dangerously close to the rim of his plastic cup. “I already told you I’d buy the place if it would make you happy.”

Pepper rolled her eyes but leaned into him. “Like I need another bunch of children to worry about. Between running Stark Industries and keeping you from accidentally blowing Bruce and yourself up, I’m far too busy to manage a restaurant.”

The cute moment was shattered when the door to the private room slammed open, framing the aforementioned Bruce, Thor, Jane, and a very flustered looking Marcia. “Friends!” Thor announced, flinging his arms wide. “We have arrived at this most auspicious event!”

Darcy rolled her eyes and waved them over, pouring Jane a beer and setting a full pitcher in front of Thor’s seat. She’d come to the conclusion that some things weren’t worth the energy to explain to Thor; the idea of him sharing the “large mugs of ale” was one of them. Steve stood and greeted Thor and Bruce, while Tony raised his cup in a bastardized salute. “Where’s the guest of honor?” Jane asked, settling in next to Darcy at the table.

“I sent Happy to go pick Ana and Marisol up,” Pepper answered. “They should be here soon.”

“And the rest of them are on their own,” Tony said as Bruce sat next to him. “If a pair of super-assassins and their handler can’t make it across New York alone, I’m afraid SHIELD’s hiring practices have slipped beyond saving.”

A few moments later, Clint, Natasha, and Phil arrived, escorting Marisol and Ana, who was still moving gingerly. The little girl launched herself at Darcy as soon as she came into view, and Darcy scooped her up into a tight hug. “Hey there, girly. I see you met some of my friends already,” she murmured into her dark hair.

Phil smiled. “We saw them stepping out of Stark’s town car and made our own introductions. I hope that’s quite alright.”

“Just makes my job easier, boss-man,” she quipped, disentangling herself from Marisol. “How about you sit next to me and your mom can sit next to Jane,” she said, glancing at Jane, who nodded and nudged Thor down two more seats. He was happy to oblige, his pitcher already half-gone. “The pizza ought to be here soon. And then we’ll go play the games. Pepper got tokens already.”

Ana sat between Jane and her daughter while Coulson, Natasha, and Clint made their way around the other side of the long table. As if on cue, the doors opened again, and a parade of servers entered, each carrying a pizza in each hand. Marisol’s eyes widened at the quantity, and even Darcy was a little impressed. She thought she saw at least three of the servers more than once; whether that was out of necessity or whether they were gawking at the motley assortment of superheroes in their midst, she wasn’t quite sure.

It always seemed that the arrival of food turned the group of superheroes, geniuses, and gods into squabbling children, and today was no exception. Thor and Steve both started out by loading their plates with six pieces of six different pizzas, and Clint risked his personal safety by grabbing a slice of the Hawaiian pizza before Natasha. Darcy leaned back and waited for a break in the action before loading up her own plate, glancing over the top of Marisol’s head to catch Ana’s eye. She was gaping a little bit. “If you’re wondering, they’re usually worse than this. I told them to be on their best behavior.”

“I resent that remark,” Tony said around a mouthful of pepperoni. “I’m a perfect gentleman.”

Bruce shook his head and grabbed a slice of cheese. “No you’re not. You have the capability, but you rarely exercise it. Case in point,” he added, pointing at Tony’s face, “you’re talking with your mouth full. You should try to be a better role model.”

“I’m a great role model,” Tony argued. “I graduated from MIT at 19, run--”

“Co-run,” Pepper corrected.

“Co-run a multinational corporation, and am one of the foremost advocates for green, renewable energy.” He swallowed and washed down the pizza with a swig of beer. “Plus, I make things that explode.”

“I like when things explode,” Marisol said, her mouth full of pizza.

“Marisol!” Ana tapped her on the top of her head. “Chew first, talk second.” Marisol rolled her eyes but shut her mouth and chewed.

“See!” Tony pointed at her, grinning at Pepper’s exasperated expression. “Fantastic role model.”

Marisol smirked. “But Captain America is still my favorite.”

“Hmph,” Tony muttered, disgruntled. “He can’t even fly. He just throws that shield around like a giant frisbee. I can fly.”

“I can also fly,” Thor said around a mouthful of pizza. “It is quite exhilarating! If your lady mother would allow it, I would take you flying one day.”

Marisol turned and smiled at Thor, ignoring her mother's horrified expression. “You can be my third favorite, then. After Captain America and Darcy.”

“And where does that leave the rest of us?” Clint asked, trying to look nonchalant. For a spy, he was surprisingly bad at it, Darcy thought as she tried to hide her own grin.

“Mmm,” Marisol said, swallowing the last of her pizza with a quick glance at her mom. “The Black Widow is cool because she taught Darcy her sweet moves, and Iron Man can fly. And the Hulk is pretty cool too, ‘cause he smashes stuff.” She slammed her small fist on the table, rattling some of the plates, and Bruce blushed.

Clint cocked his head to the side. “What--what about Hawkeye?”

Marisol shrugged and reached for another slice. “He’s kind of lame. Who uses a bow and arrows anyway?”

The rest of the table burst into laughter at Clint’s shocked expression. “I am NOT lame! I am the opposite of lame! Kid, I am going to show you just how NOT lame Hawkeye is. Pepper, where are those damn tokens?” Pepper rolled her eyes but shoved the nearly full plastic bucket toward him. He practically leapt out of his chair, scooping two handfuls of tokens into the pockets of his cargo pants. “Come on, you.” Marisol bounced out of her chair, leaving her barely-touched pizza on the plate, and was halfway to the door before she turned to look at her mom with an expectant grin. Ana rolled her eyes but shooed her on.

The room was quiet for a moment in the aftermath of Clint’s mini-tantrum and his exit with Marisol. Darcy turned to Natasha, a smirk on her face. “How long do you think it’ll take for him to realize he just got played by an eleven-year-old girl?”

Natasha shrugged. “He’ll probably figure it out about the time she’s holding the biggest prize they have. Clint can get a bit... competitive.” Coulson snorted, muttering something about ‘understatement’ under his breath.

Steve reached for another slice of pepperoni. “She’s been planning that for a while, you know. She asked me if she thought Thor or Clint would be better at skeeball.”

Thor frowned. “What is this ‘skeeball’? Some type of Midgardian sport?”

Jane and Darcy shared a grin, with Ana giving them both strange looks. “Something like that, babe,” Jane finally said, standing up and tugging Thor to his feet with her. “But I think there are other games you’ll enjoy more.”

Darcy leaned into Steve and pressed a kiss to his cheek as he finished the crust. “Come on, Ana, let’s find out what kind of trouble your kid is getting Clint into.”

Ana laughed, then winced, pressing a hand to her midsection. “I think it might be better if I stay here,” she said, somewhat reluctantly. “The doctors said no strenuous activity, and I believe chasing my daughter around an arcade would be very strenuous.”

“She is quite energetic,” Darcy conceded with a wry smile.

“Well, the rest of you get out of here and use up these tokens,” Pepper said, pushing the bucket into Darcy’s hands. “I actually wanted to talk to Ms. Martinez about something.”

She and Jane split the remaining tokens relatively equally between Natasha and themselves after Bruce declined graciously, citing obnoxious children and anger management; Phil said he spent enough time herding cats at work; and Tony claimed he’d built better video games when he was five. Darcy rolled her eyes but didn’t push since there really wasn’t much point. “Well fine, party poopers, more games for me.”

Steve dragged her to the skee ball lanes first. “Every summer when we were kids, Bucky and I would save up a little money and spend a day at Coney Island,” he explained, grinning. “I always loved skeeball because it’s not about strength, but accuracy.” He tossed the first ball, which bounced off the top rim of the 50 point hole and dropped in for just 10. He frowned. “Overshot it.”

“You’ve got a bit more oomph than you used to, old man,” she said, tossing her own ball. It dropped in for 30 points. “Score! I bet I beat you.”

He turned and wrapped his arms around her waist, grinning down at her. “And what’s the forfeit?”

Darcy bit her bottom lip and smirked. “To be named later,” she said.

Steve leaned down and brushed his lips against hers. “Minx,” he whispered before he pulled back.

“Is that a yes?” she asked, eyebrows raised.

Steve grabbed another ball and rolled it in for 20 points. “You’re on,” he answered.

After that, it was a race to see whether Steve’s memory would catch up with his new body before Darcy’s middling talent racked up enough points to pull away. In the end, Darcy won handily, though Steve’s final ball dropped in for 50 points without even touching the sides. Grinning, she collected both their strips of tickets and pocketed them. “Best two out of three?” he asked hopefully. She couldn’t quite hide her goofy grin as she fed in two more tokens.

Half an hour later, with Steve up twelve games to eight and Darcy’s pockets bulging with tickets, Marisol bounced up to them, flinging her arms around Darcy’s midsection. “Guess what I got?”

“What you got, you little sneak?” Clint grumbled from behind a giant teddy bear. “I was the one who won the dam--dang thing!” He set it on the ground and glared. “She tricked me!” he accused. “She tricked me into winning this for her!”

Laughing, Darcy bent down and scooped Marisol up into her arms. “Excellent job, my padawan! These skills will stand you in good stead in your fight against the Galactic Empire. And Clint, shame on you. You fell for it, hook, line, and sinker,” she scolded and cuddled Marisol closer. “Aren’t you supposed to be some sort of super-spy?”

Clint narrowed his eyes, and she could hear Steve stifling laughter. “She’s good. Too good. Don’t let her hang out with Tasha; they’ll probably try to take over the world.”

Darcy shrugged. “Their reign would be a benevolent one, and they both like me, so I’m not too worried.” Clint sighed, exasperated. “Okay kiddo,” she said, prying herself loose, “you ought to go in and see how your mom is doing. I bet there’s pizza left. And take these,” she added, handing her all the tickets she and Steve had won. Marisol thanked her and put them in her pocket.

Clint reached down and wrapped one arm around the teddy bear’s neck and offered the other to Marisol. “I didn’t even get to finish my pizza. I hope there’s still a slice of Hawaiian left.”

As Darcy watched them go, Steve slid his arms around her waist from behind and leaned down to press a kiss against her hair. “Phil’s going to try to recruit her now, isn’t he?” she asked.

“Mmmm, maybe,” he answered, tugging her backward until they were in a shadowy nook behind a bank of games, hidden from the children and their chaperones. “It could be worse,” he said as he spun her around so they were face-to-face, his large hands warm on her hips. “Tony could try to convince her to be his sidekick, build her a tiny Iron Man suit...”

He trailed off as she reached up to wrap her arms around his neck. “I don’t want to talk about Tony,” she murmured, tugging his face down to hers. “I don’t really want to talk at all.”

She threaded her fingers through his hair and kissed him, his lips soft and warm. Steve groaned softly and pulled her even closer, tucking his hands into the back pockets of her jeans as his tongue worked its way into her mouth. Darcy’s eyes fluttered shut as he pulled away from her mouth to press butterfly-light kisses down her neck and across her collarbone. “Steve,” she whispered, a breathy plea, and he captured her mouth again, harder this time, teeth nipping as he nudged her back against the wall, one of his hands sliding out of her pockets to slip up under her shirt.

His fingers skimmed up to trace the underwire of bra, then after a moment’s hesitation, he wiggled his hand up so he could cup her bare breast under the satin. Darcy bit back a needy whine as he rolled her hardening nipple between his thumb and forefinger. “You like that?” he whispered. Her only answer was a pleased hiss as he bit gently on her earlobe. “I like that too. I want to see you, Darcy. All of you. Tonight.”

She couldn’t stop her surprised gasp at that admission, cupping his face in her hands to force him to look in her eyes. “You’re sure?” she asked. Steve was definitely old-fashioned when it came to sex and dating, and they hadn’t gone past second base yet. Darcy didn’t want to push, but goddamn, the past weeks had been the most sexually frustrated of her life and she was ready to climb Steve like a tree.

He laughed a little and leaned down to lick a hot stripe up her neck and her hands fell to his broad shoulders. “I’m sure. I’m really, really sure,” he repeated, and bit down at the spot where her neck met her shoulder.

They pulled apart reluctantly when they heard someone calling their names, Steve cursing under his breath and Darcy laughing silently into his chest. His eyes were dark and glassy, and his cheeks were flushed; she thought he’d never looked sexier. She couldn’t resist going up on her tiptoes to kiss him again, fingers skating up his neck to card through his hair. He grabbed her ass, pulling her close enough that she could feel his erection through his khakis. “If you don’t stop that,” he muttered, his voice low and dangerous, “I’m not going to be able to hide this.”

She shivered and bit back a needy whine. “Fine,” she breathed, pushing him away so she could get some air. “I’ll go buy you some time.” She reached up to fix her hair, trying to smooth the curls into some order. “How do I look?”

Steve groaned. “Beautiful. Gorgeous. Fantastic.” He looked like he wanted to reach for her, but shoved his hands into his pockets instead. Darcy smirked and smoothed her hands down her sides, winning a pained sound from Steve. “Damn it, Darcy, that’s not helping,” he griped even as his gaze followed her every move.

She rolled her eyes. “All right, all right, I’ll quit teasing you. For now,” she added, winking. “But after we send the kiddies home, I reserve the right to try again.” She laughed and skipped out of the shadows, leaving Steve alone in his misery.

Everyone else was gathered back in the party room when she walked in. Thor was extraordinarily proud of his high score at the strongman game, in spite of Jane’s refusal to let him use Mjolnir. She sighed and rolled her eyes, but Darcy could tell that she was happy. “I told him that even if it wouldn’t destroy the machine--which it definitely would, Thor, don’t argue--it just wouldn’t be right. Since the kids can’t pick it up, it would be an unfair advantage. Everyone has to use the same equipment or the high score doesn’t count.”

Thor nodded, agreeing with her assessment. “I would not want to subject the children of Midgard to that sort of iniquity. And I did acquire many tickets in my quest for greatness!” He pulled out a strip of tickets that was almost twice as long as he was tall, and Darcy gaped.

“How long did you play?”

A faint blush colored Thor’s cheeks. “I did not secure the highest score for some time,” he said, looking almost ashamed. “I was not used to the heft of the toy hammer they provided.”

She looked at Jane, who smirked. “Twenty minutes. He was pretty pissed. It was awesome.” Her grin grew a little wicked as she took in Darcy’s still-flushed cheeks and messy hair. “And what were you doing, hmm?”

Before Darcy had to answer, Marisol appeared in front of them so suddenly, it was almost unnerving. “I’ll take those,” she said, hand held in front of her, demanding Thor’s tickets. “I need fifty more to get the purple squirt gun.”

Thor knelt and pressed them into her hand. “Indeed, Lady Marisol, take these and use them to purchase your weapon.” He winked and jerked his head toward Clint, who had planted himself in the chair next to Coulson and was balancing precariously on two legs. “And then we shall be allies in a righteous battle against our enemies!”

“Oh Christ,” Darcy muttered as the two of them started making plans for an epic battle. “This can’t end well.”

Ana came up beside her to observe the impromptu war council. “Thank you for doing this for Marisol, Darcy. It means so much.”

Blushing, Darcy shrugged off the praise, tucking her hair behind her ear self-consciously. “It’s nothing, really. I promised her, is all.”

Ana touched her arm and Darcy turned to meet her gaze. “It is not nothing. We have all been through something horrible, and you have taken it and created something beautiful. If you hadn’t been there, or if you had abandoned Marisol after we were all safe...” She trailed off and pressed her lips in a thin line, and Darcy could see tears shimmering in her eyes. “Not everyone would have done what you did, and even fewer would be okay with a little Mexican girl following her around everywhere. So, gracias, thank you. Thank you for being my daughter’s hero.”

Darcy swallowed hard and blinked back tears of her own. “I... I’m not...” She shook her head and hugged Ana instead of trying to find the right words. “She’s a good kid,” she mumbled, careful of Ana’s still healing wounds.

“And you are helping make her a good young woman, Darcy Lewis.” She pulled back and smiled. “You and all your very special friends.”

That made Darcy laugh. “They are pretty special, aren’t they?” She reached up and wiped away a stray tear. “Really, weirdly special.”

“Hey! I’m perfectly normal, thank you very much! Not like the rest of the superhero freak show,” Clint called out, then yelped when Natasha slapped him in the back of the head. “Okay, maybe freak show was a little harsh, and anyway I didn’t mean you, Tasha, obviously you’re practically perfect in every way, like a Russian Mary Poppins...”

Darcy rolled her eyes, grateful that Clint, as always, could be counted on to break the tension. “What did Pepper want to talk to you about earlier?”

Ana blushed. “It seems she found out that I had to drop out of nursing school when I got pregnant with Marisol. She said I should apply for one of the Stark Foundation’s scholarships if I wanted to go back and finish.”

“Well, are you going to?” Darcy couldn’t keep the excitement out her of voice. “I mean, let’s be honest, I have a feeling you’ll get one, seeing as you know the boss. Both the bosses,” she amended.

“I think I am.” She looked at Marisol, who had returned with Thor and the squirt gun, and was showing him how it worked. Thor was fascinated, though Darcy couldn’t tell how much of that was feigned for Marisol’s benefit. “When I was in the hospital, my boss at the hotel hired another person for my job. I didn’t lose it,” she hurried to say, effectively cutting off Darcy’s indignant protest, “but they needed someone while I was gone. And now, I go back, my hours are less, and... She deserves the best I can give her. I don’t want her to think the best she can be is somebody’s maid. I want her to go to a good college, maybe be a doctor. I want to be a good role model for her.”

“You already are. And now she has a bunch of real life superheroes to look up to, so your job ought be a lot easier,” she joked.

Ana smiled. “She has you, Darcy. You make my job easier.”

“Oh,” Darcy said, feeling wholly inadequate. She blinked a couple of times to keep the tears from falling. “I don’t think... I don’t know how to...”

Ana rested a hand on Darcy’s shoulder, stopping her babbling. “Don’t worry so much. You’ll be old before your time.”

“And that would be a tragedy,” Steve said, coming up behind her. “This relationship only has room for one old fart.” His hand was warm on her lower back, his fingers tracing just above the waistband of her jeans. “By the way, Ms. Martinez, I think your daughter has a future with the Avengers if that doctor thing doesn’t work out.” The three of them turned to look, and Steve was right: Marisol was perched on Thor’s shoulders, using her high vantage point to attack Clint with her now-full squirt gun. Her aim was quite good, even with Thor jogging around to avoid Clint’s counter-attacks. The three of them were shrieking with laughter, and everyone else was smiling indulgently and trying to stay out of her line of fire.

Ay dios mio,” she muttered. “Marisol!” Thor, his passenger, and Clint all froze and turned toward Ana, identical sheepish looks on their faces. “What are you doing?”

Marisol flushed and ducked her head. “Playing.”

“With?” Ana prompted.

Marisol pulled a face. “A squirt gun.”

Ana arched an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed with that answer. “And have we discussed playing with squirt guns in the house?”

She huffed an annoyed sigh. “Yes, but we’re not in the house! We’re at Chuck E. Cheese!” she offered, triumphant for a moment, before Ana’s unchanging expression cowed her. “I’m sorry, mama.”

“Now thank Mr. Thor and Mr. Barton for playing with you and start gathering your things. It’s almost time to go.” Ana turned away from the three of them, confident her instructions would be followed to the letter. “Thank you again for doing this.”

“Any time,” Darcy said. “I was thinking, maybe dinner next Tuesday, if you’re not working? I make a mean pasta puttanesca.”

Marisol hurried up, her arms barely circling the neck of the teddy bear Clint had won for her. “Alright, mama, I’m ready. Thor and Clint--”

“Mr. Thor and Mr. Barton, Marisol,” Ana corrected.

She sighed. “Mr. Thor and Mr. Barton said we would...” She screwed up her face in concentration, and repeated, “‘Continue our valiant battle at a more appropriate time, and on a more forgiving battleground.’” She frowned. “I think he means we should go to their place.”

Darcy laughed. “I think that’s exactly what they meant.” She knelt in front of Marisol. “You call me anytime, okay? Even in the middle of the night.” Marisol nodded and let got of the bear to throw her arms around Darcy’s neck. “Be good for your mom, and I’ll see about finding a good time to continue your, uh, valiant battle. And make sure you’re doing your homework, because I’m going to check with your mom.” Marisol sighed but nodded. “Good. Now grab your prizes and we’ll take them to the car.”

Steve carried the stuffed bear to Tony’s waiting towncar, though Marisol wouldn’t let go of her squirt gun. Darcy hugged Ana and Marisol once more before they left and waved to them as Happy pulled into traffic.

“That went better than I expected,” Steve said, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her close. “Nobody broke anything or mentally scarred a child for life. But I think you and I have some unfinished business.”

Darcy snuggled up against him. “Mmm, I agree. So, what are you doing for dinner, Captain?”

“I can think of a few things,” he murmured, and dropped a kiss against her hair. “My place or yours?”