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She knew she was prone to...let’s just come out and say it..gawking when it came to her crush, but Darcy couldn’t seem to stop herself, even though it made her feel like she was fifteen again. It wasn’t even the first time this week she’d made an excuse to head for the Avengers’ gym with a frivolous reason just to be able to watch, even though it hurt a little bit (oh no, it hurt a lot) to see them together.

But the team needed sports drinks, right? Had to keep up their electrolytes. She banged the 12-pack into the mini-fridge and went back to the bench facing the sparring ring.

Well, Darcy thought miserably, it’s not like it mattered anyway; nobody would notice her hanging around, since Clint and Natasha clearly only had eyes for each other. Darcy had eyes too, and she could see how well they fit together, like puzzle pieces. The perfect couple.

“Caught you staring,” Tony said from beside her, one hand on the bench back, the other hefting his water bottle.

“Bleurgh,” Darcy replied, intelligently, she thought. “No, I wasn’t...”

“Sure you were,” Tony scoffed. “No denials, Lewis. How can you not gawk at an ass like that? I know I take every opportunity to memorize each curve and valley. Poetry in motion.” Tony punctuated that thought with a couple of hip thrusts that were more about pornography than poems.

“Oh, you,” Darcy said.

“Filthy, dirty me,” Tony confirmed.

Darcy’s eyes flicked back to the ring as Natasha flipped Clint and he jumped back up like a very fit jack-in-the-box, laughing.

“Lucky shot, Widow!”

“No luck involved, Cupid.”

“Oh it’s on,” he challenged, and within seconds, Natasha was the one flat on her back.

“Does he know?”

Darcy jumped. “What?” Oh, that would be mortifying. Dude. God. No.

Tony gestured at the ring with his bottle. “Does he know you like him?”

“I don’t like him,” Darcy said flatly. “Not like that.”

“Uh huh,” Tony nodded with a disbelieving eye-roll as he sauntered away.

Darcy shook her head.


Darcy brushed donut powder from her fingers in the break room and picked up her pen again. She was hunched over a requisition document from Bruce and Jane listing all of the stuff they needed for the lab that wasn’t part of Tony’s contract with various chemistry firm suppliers, so she’d head out and pick them up in the city. Stuff like sponges and kitchen tongs and the bags of charcoal pellets Banner used for god-knew-what. As many hours as Jane worked in the lab next to Bruce’s, she didn’t go through as many supplies as he did; but she liked the sham-wow-knockoff things from the market for cleaning lenses. When she got back from Asgard with Thunderpants she’d appreciate the new supply.

“Hi there,” Clint said, nudging the back of Darcy’s tall stool with his hip. The tick mark she’d been in the middle of adding went awry across the page as the ink smeared under her hand.

Darcy turned to the side. “Hey, man.” Okay, it hadn’t been like she was avoiding verbal interaction with Clint, but just being in his presence made her feel guilty. He and Natasha were a couple. It wasn’t cool of her to feel this way, not at all.

“One of those donuts have my name on it?”

Darcy took off her glasses and tried to sound nonchalant.“Yeah, help yourself.” Clint did, pulling up a barstool next to her, setting down his coffee and chowing on a raspberry-filled.

“I had a little talk with Tony,” Clint said, and Darcy closed her eyes.

Fuck, she thought. “Oh?” was what she said aloud.

“And look, you know, I’m really, really flattered.”

Darcy groaned inwardly. Great. Thanks, Stark. Awesome moves. She opened her mouth to speak but Clint went on.

“Yeah, I mean, you’re a very attractive girl; you’re smart, you’re nice. You’ have a hot figure. You have a lot going for you...”

Oh god.

“...but I’m in a pretty serious relationship with somebody. It’s not personal at all.”

“Oh, I know.” Darcy felt heat spread over her face, but forced herself to turn again and look him in the eye. “I know you are. There’s been a big misunderstanding, though. Tony’s kind of assumed--” and she stopped, because clearing this up wouldn’t fix anything. It would make this a million times worse.

“So please, don’t feel weird,” Clint said, and standing up, actually patted her on the head before leaving, coffee in hand.

Well, that was beyond awkward, Darcy thought. She slumped forward and placed her cheek against the cool, polished stone of the breakfast bar.

It wasn’t like it mattered anyway, that Clint (and Tony) had this all wrong. Like Clint had said, he was in a serious relationship, and it probably would have been worse to hear the words from Natasha. No, screw that, it definitely would have been worse. She’d just let him assume.

But of course Clint would tell Natasha about this. Probably. No definitely. Oh my god, what if Natasha wanted to kick her ass? What if she employed trip-wire? Or a garotte?

“Are you crushing on my man?” Natasha would demand, one lethal finger poised at Darcy’s throat, ready to deliver a death...poke. Or maybe she would say something else. But she probably had a death poke.

“Ugh. Fuck my life,” Darcy muttered into the cool surface of the bar. “Seriously.”


“I have to admit,” Natasha said, artfully taking an olive off the two speared on her toothpick. “I was a little disappointed to hear the news.”

“The news,” Darcy echoed, then almost choked on her drink. Oh, well, of course. Natasha was disappointed in her. Fab. Now she was in for the death poke. Probably.

“Look, I don’t...”

“Clint’s taken,” Natasha said bluntly, and Darcy couldn’t even look at her.

“I know. I’m so, so sorry. I would never...please don’t think that--”

“He really does have a nice ass, though. I don’t blame you one bit for looking,” Natasha said, almost kindly, before striding over to Bruce’s table.

Okay. Death poke averted. She should have known by now that Natasha was secure enough not to threaten someone as inconsequential as Darcy must seem. It wasn’t like she was competition compared to someone who was so...gorgeous and amazing and who could beat Clint up; she wouldn’t put it past an Avenger to be into that. They were all a little weird. Except Natasha, who was...okay, you know...maybe she was a little bit weird, too. But awesome. She sighed and took another sip.

Natasha Romanoff was out of Darcy’s league in about 5,000 ways, and that wasn’t counting the ways in which she was lethal.


JARVIS (who was, after all, intelligent and learned from prior data) informed Darcy where Natasha was without her having to ask as she arose. “Thanks, JARVIS,” she muttered. “Nice to be so transparent.”

“Just anticipating your customary requests, Ms Lewis,” the AI intoned, and she swore she could detect a digital smirk. Darcy wondered again if JARVIS wasn’t just a little bit more of a sardonic smartass than his creator. Or was that proof that Tony was the king of sardonic smartasses, since he was the creator? This was getting too existential, so she decided to grab a cappuccino before heading down to the gym again, because Natasha was there alone, and probably wearing (oh heavenly god) spandex, and the team probably needed more sports drinks, right? Sure.

But when she stopped in the team kitchen for a java fix and a box of Gatorade, she wished for a little eye bleach, too.

Clint. And Agent Coulson. Kissing. Agent Coulson’s ass was pressed up against the refrigerator, with Clint’s hands tucked between it and the appliance, and they were sucking face like pros.

Darcy clapped a hand over her mouth to hold in a squeak of shock and backed out unnoticed, or so she hoped. Which would truly be a feat given Hawkeye’s powers of observation.

She made her way down the hall quickly, turned two corners and pressed her back up against a wall. “Oh my god,” she murmured, heart in her throat. Clint and Coulson?

Wait, though. Maybe they were in an open...maybe they had an understanding? But no, because Natasha had warned her off kinda fearsomely. A threesome? Well. Maybe? But Darcy couldn’t imagine the Black Widow wanting to share her man with their handler either, really.

So, yeah. Clint was stepping out on Natasha. Should Darcy tell her? Would that result in bloodshed? Possibly. But if her boyfriend was seeing their boss on the sly, Darcy would want to know.

But like, maybe if Darcy filled her in, she’d appreciate the heads-up. If Natasha broke up with Clint, she would then be um...single. And then maybe she would need someone’s shoulder to cry on or something or...

Yeah, that was super likely. “And that would also make me a total asshole,” Darcy whispered to herself.

Where was her phone? “JARVIS, please dial my phone,” she pleaded quietly, and her pants pocket began to play The Pierces. “Thanks, bro.”

Wait, who could she ask about this? Darcy wished mightily that Jane was here. Balls. Tony was out of the running, clearly, since he couldn’t keep his mouth shut about anything. Bruce? No, he was a sweetheart, but she always felt like she was bugging Bruce when it wasn’t something charcoal-pellet related, and they didn’t talk much about personal stuff. Captain A? Well...maybe? He was a standup kind of person and probably gave good advice. Steve Rogers it was.


“I have this problem,” Darcy began. Steve folded his hands in his lap and looked at her attentively.

“Is it work-related?” He asked, a crease forming between his eyes. “Maybe you should talk to Agent Coulson...”

“Oh, no...not Coulson...” Darcy said quickly. “Not really work-related, even. I mean, it kind of is since it’s an Avengers thing, but it’s not an Avengers thing. Okay it is. Sort of?”

The wrinkle deepened. “Is Tony giving you a hard time?” Steve asked. “Because I can definitely have a word with him.” He looked as if he might enjoy that.

“No,” Darcy said, miserably. “Nothing like that. It’s a relationship problem. I guess I need advice.” She waited, and realized when she looked up that Steve was waiting for her to continue. Darcy exhaled. “Okay. See, I saw something, between two people. An intimate...moment.”

When she looked up again, Steve nodded for her to go on. “And...and one of the people is involved with another person.”

“Are you sure about what you saw? I mean, I’ve certainly made assumptions that turned out to be wrong.”

“There was tongue! And there were hands..everywhere. Hands on...asses, even,” Darcy exclaimed. “I mean, I saw what I saw. Just not sure if I should tell um...person A. Did I assign them letters in this story yet?”

“Right,” Steve nodded thoughtfully. “No. But I understand.”

Darcy crossed her legs and reached for a handful of candy from the bowl on Cap’s desk. It would have been choice if they were Werther’s or those Necco rolls that tasted like antacids, because hey, old man candy, but no, he was into Hershey’s kisses.

“Back...back when I was young,” Steve said, though of course he was young now, “...this was back before the serum, my best buddy Bucky had a gal, but he didn’t seem too serious about her. I was at a lunch counter and overheard her talking to her friend about wedding dresses and what she planned to wear and how she’d better get something fast and get married right away, because in a couple of months the one she saw in the window at Rose’s Bridal wouldn’t fit.” Steve took a deep breath.

Darcy raised her eyebrows and whistled. “Racy.”

“Yeah, well,” Steve ran a hand over the back of his hair. “I ran home to talk to Bucky about it -- we shared a place -- and he flipped his lid. He was pretty sure his girl’s-- uh, girlfriend’s pop would be around with a shotgun that afternoon, but of course he didn’t come around. And three weeks later she married Billy Wilcox.”

“Oh. Well.” Darcy said, wadding up a piece of foil.

“Not before Bucky made an ass of himself and Billy Wilcox gave him a black eye, though. So you just can’t always be sure you know the whole story, Darcy,” Steve said, leaning back in his chair. “Sometimes it’s better to keep these things under your hat.”

“Don’t you want to know who this is about?”

Steve looked at his hands, and then back up at Darcy. “I really don’t.”


Darcy decided to put things out of her mind for a while (hands on asses...yikes) for a while and finish the requisitions paperwork before turning it into Agent Coulson. She was mostly successful at it, and a few hours later she emailed the file in, stretched, and headed for her room.

She made it halfway there before a screeching alarm sounded and the lights went out in the corridor. The emergency lights flickered on and she felt someone rush past her before grabbing her hard around the waist and yanking her into the nearest doorway, throwing her away from the entrance and closing the door.

“Get down,” Natasha hissed in the darkness.

“I’m down!” Darcy replied. “You threw me down! What’s going--”

“Shh!” Natasha ordered, then quietly delivered a situation report through her comm before the siren stopped blaring. The lights, however, stayed out. Darcy found herself huddled against something firm and solid, so she slid her hand against it and decided it must be a leather chair. She felt a presence nearby, and realized Natasha had crouched down next to her.

“Are we being attacked?” Darcy whispered, and Natasha’s hand swiftly covered her mouth. A loud banging noise rose from what sounded like the floor below, and the sounds of running footsteps echoed in the hallway outside. Darcy could feel her heart race, and it had absolutely nothing to do with Natasha’s cool fingers pressed over her lips and the barely-there scent of her perfume, which was something gingery and mysterious. Natasha moved her hand away, and Darcy leaned closer. “I have a taser in my bag,” she whispered, and she could feel the huff of Natasha’s breath against her cheek, as her eyes began to adjust to the lack of light.

“I have four Uzis,” Natasha informed her in a low voice.

“Uh, I could use one?” Darcy asked. She realized that she probably sounded pants-wetting scared, but figured it was understandable, considering there was some kind of attack going on.

“You will not,” Natasha whispered. “We are standing down until the fight comes to us.”

Darcy shuddered suddenly, and wished she’d been stuck with Cap. Natasha would probably think she was a wimp. She tried to press her side to the chair to stop herself from shaking, but Natasha’s arm came around her shoulder and gave her a squeeze. She focused on trying to breathe. Because there was a siege, and Natasha’s arm was around her shoulder. She huddled there, shaking, as they waited through what was now total silence, barring the occasional creak of Natasha’s leather boots against the chair.

Finally, four chirps were heard from the siren -- the all-clear -- and then JARVIS’s calm, clear tones were heard over the intercoms. “Exercise concluded.”

The lights flickered on, and Natasha stood quickly, offered a hand to Darcy, then nudged her gently backward into the chair. Natasha clicked her comm. “Civilian asset is safe,” she said,

“Wait, that was just an exercise?” Darcy asked, blinking. “I mean, obviously, but it would have been nice to know that before I panicked like a teenager reloading Ticketmaster before a One Direction concert.” She pressed a fist to her racing heart.

“Not in this case,” Natasha said. “You were playing the role of a civilian visitor. Though technically you’re a SHIELD asset, you’re still a civilian employee.”

“Oh,” Darcy said.

“Or you might have been an infiltrator posing as a visitor, in which case you might have fought me and I would have had to neutralize you.”

Darcy made a little strangled noise.

“Not permanently!” Natasha added, seeing her alarm. “Unless it wasn’t an exercise. Are you an infiltrator planning on taking the team down from the inside?”

Darcy squinted at her. “No? Unless papercuts are my weapon of choice?”

“You could poison our sports drinks,” Natasha said. “But I’m slightly insulted.”

“Um,” Darcy said, feeling like an utter idiot. Here it was. “Okay.”

“Do you think I wouldn’t be able to protect you if it hadn’t been a drill?” Natasha rolled her eyes. “Pfffft.”

Darcy shook her head vehemently. “No, of course you could.”

“Thank you, by the way. For the drinks. You’re always so efficient.” Darcy felt herself actually blush, and it grew deeper when Natasha continued. “Even though I know the reason why you’re always in the gym when we’re sparring.”

“Natasha...” Darcy started to protest, but Natasha plunked herself down on the ottoman and scooted in front of her. “I understand that I overstepped my--”

Natasha waved a hand. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “I came on too strong when we spoke earlier. I’m just overprotective.”

“Well, you have a right to be,” Darcy cleared her throat. “Clint’s your--”

“We’re best friends,” Natasha said.

“That’s -- that’s really good to hear. It’s great when you can say that about your--”

“Partner. Yeah.” Natasha blew stray hair off her forehead and laughed, and Darcy started to relax. She wasn’t going to be killed by terrorists infiltrating the tower and Natasha was in a good mood. “You should have heard me talk to Coulson.”

Darcy pressed her lips together for a moment. “Coulson?” She asked.

“Yes. God, I gave my handler the shovel talk, if you can believe that.”

“Touch my boyfriend, and I’ll bury you?” Darcy lifted a brow, because she must have the saying wrong, and Natasha leaned forward on her perch.


“” Darcy hesitated. “Don’t know what I’m talking about?”

“I told him that I would break his fingers if he hurt Clint.”

“Ow,” Darcy whispered faintly. And wow, it was nice of her to share.

“But I’m not threatening you, am I?” Natasha smiled at her. “I think you’re smarter than to try to get between those two. And besides, Clint really doesn’t swing your way. Though you’re lovely,” Natasha added.

Darcy raised her hands even as she blushed. “Wait. I think there’s some kind of confusion here,” she said. “Let’s back the truck up.”

Natasha cocked her head at her, waiting.

“I don’t have a crush on Clint,” Darcy said. “I, well...” she could feel the wash of heat over her face again, but she didn’t have to continue, because she could see Natasha’s disbelieving expression. She got it, of course she did. “But you know, it’s okay. I understand. I can act professional.”

Natasha shook her head, very slowly. “I cannot believe that I didn’t realize.”

“I thought you did,” Darcy murmured. “I mean, duh. Super surveillance skills. I figured you could read me like a book.”

“Shoddy intel,” Natasha said with a sniff. “Misinformation campaign. Deliberate lack of disclosure.”

“Okay!” Darcy said, brightly, fixing her eyes somewhere north of Natasha’s uniform collar, where a swath of titian hair curled around the edge. “Yeah, so, easy mistake! I should go. Thanks for saving my civilian life from invisible infiltrators, and...” She wanted to get up, but Natasha was sort of in her way, and she had her hand on Darcy’s knee, so there was that.

“You like me,” Natasha said softly, and Darcy swallowed past the nervous lump in her throat and nodded.


“Well, aren’t you going to ask me out?” Natasha waited while Darcy desperately willed herself to inhale and exhale before actually making herself look up at her. Natasha was grinning; a real grin, with her eyes shining in that way she had. Not even messing with her head, then.

“Yeah, I guess I am,” Darcy said, and took another deep breath before she smiled back.