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Operation: Zaniness

Chapter Text

Darcy was hiding in Captain America’s apartment.

Why was she hiding? Well… she might have played a prank on Tony Stark. And she might have recruited JARVIS to help her do it. Which meant Tony wasn’t asking for JARVIS’s help, which meant the AI couldn’t hide her or misdirect the billionaire, the way he usually did when Darcy went a-pranking. No, this time she had to avoid detection the old-fashioned way: namely, find somewhere relatively devoid of cameras to hide. In Avengers Tower, that meant holing up in an Avenger’s apartment; most had only enough sensors of any kind to allow JARVIS to do his job, and they were all (nearly) inaccessible to Tony. (It was the former Stark Tower, after all, and Tony was Tony.)

Tony’s apartment was out for obvious reasons, and Thor’s was the first place he would check. Clint and Natasha were away on a mission, and they... didn't like to have guests while they were gone. (They'd explained this to her before their first post-Darcy mission; she'd walked in, intending to wish them luck, only to find them setting up traps for unsuspecting "visitors.") Bruce had asked for extra cameras, in case of accidental Hulkage. That left Captain America’s place.

She would be so much more comfortable with this if they were friends or friendly acquaintances or had ever actually met. But, desperate times…

Darcy just hoped that he would be cool with a complete stranger using his apartment as her base of operations for a prank.

“O Great and Powerful Oz," she said to her partner-in-crime, "can you keep me updated on what Tin Man’s doing to try to find me?”

“The Mighty Oz has heard your request and will grant it,” the AI formerly known as JARVIS replied.

 


 

Steve was glad to be back, in a distant, exhausted sort of way. Mostly he was just looking forward to taking a hot shower, eating a hot meal, and collapsing into his bed. Preferably in that order.

He was not prepared for anything unusual when he stepped into the elevator. Which was why he jumped when, in reply to his usual polite request to be taken to his floor, a very-nearly-booming voice said, “You would ask a boon of the Wizard of Oz?”

“I… what?”

The doors of the elevator opened, and the voice spoke again, saying, “Return when you are prepared to properly address the Mighty Wizard of Oz.”

He was hungry, tired, and he smelled. He was not interested in taking the stairs. “Can’t I just click my heels three times and say, ‘There’s no place like home?’”

The doors slid shut and the voice, which now sounded significantly more like the JARVIS he was used to, spoke again as the elevator began to move.

"Override accepted. Captain Rogers, you will be exempted from Operation: Zaniness for the next thirty minutes."

“O...kay then.” When the doors opened again, he was on the correct floor. With a sigh of relief, he walked into his rooms. Once inside, he headed straight for the bathroom, dropping his bags, kicking off his boots, and pulling off his shirt as he went.

He found himself glad that he hadn’t undressed any further when he opened the door and found a pair of feminine legs stretched across the ground behind the entrance to his (ridiculously, wonderfully large) shower.

“I’m hungry, I’m tired, and I haven’t had a hot bath in two weeks. If the Wicked Witch of the East is dead in my shower, I’m taking the damn slippers and giving them to Toto.”

There was a squeak and a clatter as something was dropped onto the tile floor of the shower; the legs were withdrawn, only be be replaced by a curvy young woman on her knees pulling herself to her feet. Dark hair framed red lips and wide blue eyes, and if he hadn’t been so tired, he’d probably have whistled or started stuttering.

Possibly both.

“Okay. Wow. Um. Not how I was expecting to meet you—you, Steve Rogers, or you, my Soulmate. This is… huh. Wow. You are not wearing a shirt.”

“No, I’m not.” They stared at each other for a moment. He, at least, might have kept staring for a lot longer, but his stomach rumbled, reminding him that there were things he needed to take care of. He wanted to give her his full and undivided attention, and he couldn’t do that if he was stupid with hunger and lack of sleep. “Listen, doll,” he said, the part of him that wasn’t asleep on his feet noting with interest that the old-fashioned endearment made her blush, “as much I want to spend the next few hours talking to you—and believe me, I do—I really need to shower, eat, and sleep first. Preferably in that order.”

She smiled at him. “Want me to get food in Thor-sized portions while you take your shower?”

He was already having a hard time thinking straight; her smile wasn’t helping. It took him a moment to process her question, and another to make a decision. “I… yes. Please.”

“‘Kay, just let me grab…” She darted back into the shower and emerged with a laptop. She headed for the door, then stopped and turned back. “Oh… er, temperature control on the shower works like usual, but to turn it on, you have to say ‘O Mighty Oz, I’m melting.’”

His eyebrows shot up. “...and to turn it off?”

“‘O Mighty Oz, I’m melted.’ Uh, but it doesn’t actually have to be ‘mighty.’ Just… an ‘O,’ one or two ‘you are awesome and omnipotent, particularly in this tower’ adjectives, and ‘Oz.’”

“...so JARVIS is the Wizard of Oz now, and I have to ask for things with Wizard of Oz references.”

“Yup!” With a bright smile, she darted out of the bathroom and shut the door behind her.

He sighed. “At least it’s a movie I’ve actually seen. And liked.”

Chapter Text

“O Great and Perceptive Oz, have you been working on the music hack while I was being distracted by my shiny new Soulmate and his wonderful shirtlessness?”

“The Wise and Merciful Oz foresaw the wishes of your heart and has completed the preparations for Phase III.”

“Oz, my man, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you are the best being to ever be. O Fantastic and Mischievous Oz, please initiate Phase III.”

 


 

Ten minutes later, Darcy left the apartment, walking calmly down the hall as if she hadn’t just put herself in plain view of Stark-controlled cameras.

She reached the elevator without incident, but when she stepped inside, Tony’s voice emerged from the speakers. Despite feeling like she’d just been caught with her hand in the cookie jar (well, perhaps not ‘hand in the jar;’ more like ‘eating the cookie’ or ‘with crumbs around her mouth,’ because the metaphorical cookie had long since left the jar), she had to smile when she realized she could hear “If I Only had a Heart” playing in the background.

“Lewis, you messed with my tunes. There’s no coming back from this.”

“You messed with mine first.”

“Lewis—”

“Listen, Tin Man, I bet if you open your ears and think really hard, you can figure out the pre-programmed override all on your own.”

“...I hate you.”

“No you don’t,” she said. “Now go find Pepper and let the AI formerly known as JARVIS have the speakers back.”

“Fine. But this isn’t over.”

When he didn’t say anything else, Darcy spoke to her partner-in-mischief. “O Wonderful Oz, there’s no place like the lobby.”

The elevator began to move, but Tony spoke again. “Seriously? That’s how you use the elevators?”

“Yep.”

“...Why are you going to the lobby?”

Darcy shrugged. It wasn’t like he wouldn’t know in a minute. “I’ve got pizza coming.”

“Are you kidding me, Lewis? You’re in the middle of setting up a huge prank, and you, what, decided to take a pizza break?”

“Actually, I think you’ll find that I just finished setting up a huge prank.”

“What.” His voice was completely flat.

“Wheels are all in motion, Tin Man,” was the sing-song reply.

“No. Not possible.”

“Completely possible.”

“How—You are not a faster hacker than me!”

“Nope!” she admitted freely as the elevator eased to a stop. The doors stayed closed, but a screen helpfully displayed the lobby outside; the pizza had not yet arrived. “But the Wizard formerly known as JARVIS is.”

“Wha—you corrupted JARVIS?! I mean, I knew you’d done something to him, but he’s actually working with you? Of his own free will?!”

“Come to the Darcy side—we have coffee and pop tarts. And pizza.”

“Lewis, I already have pizza. I don't need your evil, JARVIS-corrupting pizza."

“Maybe not, but you do need my coffee. I’ll get you that way.”

“Lewis, did you prank the coffee? What did you do? So help me, if anyone other than Banner turns green...”

“What? No! No, some things are sacred, and coffee is one of them. And how would you even use coffee to turn someone green, anyway?”

“I don’t know, but if anyone could figure out a way, it would be you.”

“Well, I didn’t, and I didn’t mess with the food or drinks, either. No one will be turning green because of me.”

“Banner might,” Tony said petulantly. “He might be upset that he has to climb fifty flights of stairs to get to his labs.”

“No, he won’t. I gave him a master list of the commands. And before you go bugging him about it, everyone else—including you—will be getting a copy of their very own tomorrow morning.”

“...why?”

“Because… hold that thought,” she said, and the doors slid open to reveal the pizza she’d been waiting for. There was a bit more of it than she’d been expecting, even with Thor-sized portions in mind. Still, worst case scenario, Steve had leftover pizza. She paid, gave the guy a good tip—he had gotten there quickly—and returned to the elevator.

“Anyway, what was I saying?”

“You were telling me why you’re going to ruin your own prank, but that’s not important. Why do you have Capsicle’s favorite pizza in Capsicle-sized portions?”

“Because of reasons. And I’m totally not ruining it. It’s—look, good pranks are supposed to be funny, not make people miserable. Annoyed, maybe, but not miserable. So, there’ll only be one day of guesswork, followed by a week of people saying silly, Oz-related things to use the stuff JARVIS controls in the building. For example: O Mighty Oz, there’s no place like the Captain’s floor.” Obligingly, the elevator began to move.

“Why are you going there?”

“Figure skating competition. Why do you think?”

“Cap’s back?”

“Yes. And I promised him food.”

“You met him?”

“Did you not notice where I was when you caught me on camera? I was hiding out in his rooms. And can I just say, shirtless Steve? Yum.”

“Why—you know what? Never mind. I am too sober to talk about why you have an opinion of Steve without his shirt on or what that opinion is. JARVIS will be back to normal in a week?”

“One week. And the prank will temporarily stop if there’s an emergency.”

“Alright, Lewis. I’ve got better things to do than mess with your silly program. But you leave my tunes out of it.”

“Ditto.”

“Fine then.”

“Fine.”

Chapter Text

When Darcy, loaded down with five pizzas, returned to Captain America’s apartment, she found him sitting on the couch, chin on his chest and fast asleep. It was too good an opportunity to pass up; she put the boxes on the counter and tip-toed back to take a picture. A glance at the screen had her nodding in satisfaction. Perfect, adorable, blackmail material.

She was tempted to leave him to his sleep, but... that couldn't be comfortable. And he had said he wanted to eat first.

Decision made, she returned to the kitchen, dished up a few slices of what Oz said was his favorite kind of pizza, and set the plate on the coffee table with a loud clack. His head shot up at the noise and he blinked at her blearily for a minute. “...You’re... real...” he finally said.

“And I brought food,” she said, and pointed at the pizza.

He looked between her and the pizza a couple of times before his slightly-unfocused gaze fixed on her. “You’re the best,” he slurred and nodded in what was probably meant to be a decisive way. Instead, it looked more like he was just falling asleep again. “M’gonna love you, an’ marry you, an’ we’ll have kids an’... an’... an’ eat pizza. ‘Kay?”

She choked, laughed, and said, “I am never, ever going to let you forget this. Ever. Eat your pizza, soldier boy. You need sleep.”

He blinked a few times, mumbled, “Yes, Ma'am,” and started eating.

She stayed with him as he worked his way through most of two pizzas (she made him stop when he started falling asleep mid-bite), and steered his stumbling, staggering self to the bed. When he just stared at it, blinking, she rolled her eyes, pulled back the covers, and pointed. “In.”

He sat on the edge, then looked at her with sad, sleepy, puppy eyes. “You gonna stay?”

She blinked. “D’you want me to?”

He nodded.

“Well… okay. I guess I can do stuff on my laptop in your living room—eek! Steve!”

Darcy discovered too late that when Steve said, “You gonna stay?” what he really meant was, “May I pick you up, pull you across my body and onto my bed, curl up around you, and cuddle you like a teddy bear in my sleep, all while resisting any attempts to wake me, loosen my grip on you, or in any way allow you to get free?”

At least she had her phone.

 


 

Jane.
Jane, captain america asked me to marry him b/c i brought him pizza.
Well, and probably b/c i’m his soulmate. But mostly b/c i brought him pizza.
He’s pretending i’m a teddy bear right now.
And he won’t let go.

Darcy. What.

Captain america is my soulmate. And apparently sleepy!steve is super cuddly. Who knew, right?

You are a lying liar who lies and I am not going to fall for this again.

So, pics or it didn’t happen?

Yes.

Here you go!

THAT’S CAPTAIN AMERICA
WHAT
DARCY I NEED CONTEXT
DARCY
DARCY WHAT IS GOING ON
WHY IS CAPTAIN AMERICA CUDDLING WITH YOU
DARCY
DARCY WHAT
DARCY YOU CAN’T SAY THINGS LIKE THAT AND THEN NOT EXPLAIN
DARCY
DARCY YOU HAVE FIVE MINUTES BEFORE I SEND THOR

Calm down! I will explain, but please send thor anyway.

…why?

Because steve has super soldier arms and he doesn’t want to give up his teddy bear and i have to pee
I’m pretty sure thor arms>super soldier arms, so please send thor and his arms asap

LOL

Jane!

K, thor’s on his way.

THANK YOU

Chapter Text

Steve awoke to the sound of quiet voices. Well, relatively quiet. The current speaker was Thor, and the god of thunder had, well, a booming voice.

Wait. Thor. Why was he hearing Thor’s voice? Thor was back at... He pried his eyes opened and blinked at his surroundings.

Oh. Right. He’d made it back to the tower. Honestly, he’d been dead on his feet by that point; he barely remembered parking his bike. Which… was a good indication that he should have stopped at a hotel and slept; if he'd been that tired, it hadn't been safe for him to drive.

Well, obviously he'd made back anyway, but why was Thor in his living room? And there was something else… He was sleeping on the wrong side of the bed, and something smelled… off. It wasn’t a bad smell, but it was unfamiliar, and that was… strange. He turned his head and spotted a long, dark brown hair on the pillow.

…had someone else been sleeping in his bed?

What had happened after he arrived?

His memories were a bit fuzzy; he was pretty sure he’d drifted off more than once between entering the tower and getting into bed. Something had been wrong with the elevator, he remembered that, and… oh. Something about a girl?

A girl with long, dark brown hair. A few strands of which were now on his bed. He was dressed, so he doubted anything had happened, but—

Wait. No. Back up. Not "a girl." His Soulmate.

His eyes, which had drifted shut as he tried to remember, shot open. He’d met his Soulmate!

...and he’d done it when he was drunk with sleep deprivation. Great. Way to make a good first impression, Steve.

He sat up with a groan, then stretched his arms above his head and yawned.

Of course, that was when… um… his Soulmate, whose name he did not know, stuck her head into his room. He quickly dropped a hand to cover his wide-open mouth.

Way to make a good second impression, Steve. Care to try for a third?

“Hey, you’re awake!” his Soulmate said cheerfully. “Hungry?”

Right on cue, his stomach growled.

Aaaand that’s three for three.

She laughed. “I’ll take that as a yes. Do you want something breakfast-y, since you just woke up, or is leftover pizza good?”

“Pizza’s fine,” he said, his voice slightly raspy from sleep. He cleared his throat. “How long was I out?”

“Uh…” She pulled out her phone, glanced at it, and returned it to her pocket. “Well, it’s 11:00 P.M., so… twelve hours?”

His eyebrows shot up. “Twelve hours? Wow. I usually only get three or four.”

She tilted her head to the side. “Is that a soldier thing, or a super-soldier thing? Or just a Steve thing?”

“A bit of all three, Miss… er… I’m sorry, but I don’t remember your name.”

She laughed. “That would be pretty hard for you to do, since I don’t think I ever actually told you. It’s Darcy, Darcy Lewis. Of course,” she said with a smirk, “if I keep bringing you pizza, it might be Darcy Rogers pretty soon.”

His eyes bugged out at the memory of his "proposal," and he choked on his own spit, which sent him into a coughing fit. She laughed again, but sat beside him on the bed and patted his back. Her pats were much too light to actually do anything, but it was the thought that counted.

“That was pretty much my reaction,” she assured him, once he’d caught his breath. Her hand was still on his back, but the patting had turned into something more like petting. It was soothing, he supposed. Comforting. It was also very, very distracting. He did his best to drag his focus away from her hand and back to her voice. “... going to tease you about it for the rest of our lives.”

He shifted and looked down at the woman sitting beside him. She really was beautiful. He quirked a smile. “Rest of our lives, huh?”

She blushed, but raised her chin defiantly. “That’s what I’m hoping for. I know there’s always a chance things won’t work out, even with Soulmates, but—”

He leaned down and kissed her.

It was probably longer than a kiss between near-strangers ought to be, but it still felt too short. Even after it ended, he couldn’t bring himself to pull away from her; his hand stayed on her cheek, and his forehead remained pressed against hers.

She didn’t pull away.

“A shot at the rest of our lives sounds like heaven, doll,” he said, and it was true.

He had a clear picture of how it might be: the two of them, old and gray with bent backs and wrinkled skin, and as in love with each other as they ever had been. He could see evenings spent sitting in rocking chairs on their front porch, surrounded by a passel of grandchildren. He saw Darcy, waving her cane and cackling as she told the story of his “first proposal” for the hundredth time, ignoring the rolling eyes of their children and the older grandchildren. That wasn’t who the story was for, not anymore; no, it was for the giggling youngsters, the ones who were still young enough and small enough to let their Grannie pull them up onto her lap sometimes. He could see the two of them, together, with their family gathered around them as they passed on the stories of their long, difficult, and impossibly wonderful lives.

And there would be a pizza in the oven.

Chapter Text

Bruce and Darcy had an agreement: Bruce swore never to take Tony’s side in a prank war, and Darcy agreed to tell him how to avoid the pranks.

This arrangement suited him just fine, and since JARVIS was on Darcy’s side, it meant he was able to avoid 90% of the Tower’s pranks.

Unfortunately for him, it was a 10% kind of day.

(Bruce really needed to get into the habit of checking his e-mail before he went to bed.)

 


 

Bruce woke abruptly at his usual time to an unusual alarm: loud, evil cackling, followed by an equally loud, evil-sounding voice saying, “I’ll get you, my pretty!” There was a long pause, and Bruce waited for the recording to finish the line, but instead, the cackling started again.

It was on a loop.

“JARVIS?”

No response.

“JARVIS, can you please shut that off?”

Again, there was no response, so he began searching for a manual way to shut it off. By the fifth time, he was mouthing along with the words; by the tenth, he realized that it was getting louder, which made the sudden silence after “pretty” seem more pronounced. Sometime around the twentieth repetition, he spoke—well, half-shouted—the missing words: “And your little dog, too!”

He continued his search, expecting it to start again, but it didn’t. He breathed a sigh of relief.

“JARVIS?” he tried again, but with no response. Hm.

Knowledge of pop culture necessary to navigate the prank? Check.

JARVIS cooperating with the prankster? Check.

Nothing really harmful or embarrassing about it? Check.

“Darcy,” he said with a nod, then opened his e-mail.

 


 

Bruce stepped into the elevator. “O Powerful Oz, there’s no place like the labs,” he said, feeling self-conscious. Almost immediately, the doors closed and elevator began to rise. When they slid open again, they revealed a red-faced and sweaty Jane Foster, glaring at the door to the lab, which was closed.

“Jane?”

“I can’t get in.”

He blinked. “Oh,” he said, then pulled out his tablet and opened the e-mail Darcy had sent. As he skimmed through the list of pranked items and activities, he murmured, “Alarms… Coffee… ah. Doors. ‘Bell out of order; please knock.’” He strode forward and knocked firmly on the door, which slid open.

Jane stared at him. “How did you…?”

He shrugged. “Darcy sent me the list of pass-phrases.”

“Gimme!”

“You’ll get one tomorrow, and she asked me not to give you the list today. But, you can keep an ear out while I use it…”

She narrowed her eyes, but nodded. “All right. But there is one that I need to know: how do I use the elevator?!”

“‘There’s no place like…’ wherever you’re going. Jane, it’s a Darcy prank, not a Tony one.”

She sighed. “Right. Darcy. So, references, and quotes, and… Bruce, it’s been forever since I’ve watched that movie. I don’t remember it well enough to guess much, if anything.”

Bruce looked longingly around his lab, then sighed. “Then let’s go watch it. Refresh your memory.”

They both jumped as their phones buzzed. Bruce opened the text.

The woman behind the curtain approves of this plan.

Jane flipped off the nearest camera.

 


 

The movie had nearly finished when Jane’s phone buzzed. She ignored it; a moment later, it buzzed again, then a third time. Bruce glanced between Jane and the phone, but she made no move to see what the messages were.

Glinda was waving her wand over Dorothy’s head, saying, “There’s no place like home,” when it buzzed a fourth, and then a fifth time.

Jane, looking exasperated, grabbed the phone. After reading the messages, her expression became one of pure confusion. She typed a quick response, then turned to Bruce. “Is Captain Amer—Rogers in the Tower today?”

“Not that I’ve heard. Why?”

Jane passed her phone to him. He immediately understood her confusion. “...What? He asked her to marry him because of pizza? That… why would she even say that?” The phone buzzed again before he could hand it back to Jane, and he read the text aloud. “‘Captain America is my Soulmate. And apparently sleepy! Steve is super cuddly. Who knew, right?”

She grabbed her phone to reply. “Oh—the lack of space after the exclamation point was intentional,” she said, then slowly spoke her reply as she typed it. “You... are a... lying... liar... who lies... and I... am not... going... to fall... for this... again. Send.”

“Again?” he asked.

She snorted. “Oh yeah. She tried to convince me that Tony was her Soulmate. She almost had—” The phone buzzed. “Sorry, just let me…” She read the message and typed a one word response. “Uh… oh, she’d almost convinced me when he walked into the room.”

“What did she do?”

“Oh, this was by text, too. I sent her a frowny selfie of the two of us, and he sent her a text that said, ‘Nice try, kid.’ I think she responded with something like ‘I’m not even mad.’”

The phone buzzed again. Jane looked, stared, and blinked a couple times. Then she held her phone out to Bruce. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

He took it, and did a little staring and blinking of his own. “If you’re seeing a picture of Darcy and Steve—who appears to be sleeping and shirtless—then yes, yes I am.”

Jane tore the phone from his hands and started texting furiously.

She sent multiple texts, but received no reply.

“So help me, if she’s not responding because she’s laughing too hard at me falling for this…”

The phone finally buzzed.

She raised an eyebrow and, less furiously, sent a reply.

When the phone buzzed again, Jane read the message, snorted, and started laughing.

“What?”

Another message had her laughing even harder. Bruce leaned over her shoulder to read what Darcy had said, and grinned. “‘Please send Thor and his arms?’”

“I’d better go get him,” she said, getting to her feet. On her way out, she paused. “Hey, Darcy’s probably going to commandeer me for the rest of the day, so… I guess I’ll see you in the labs tomorrow.”

He nodded. “Until tomorrow, then.”