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Cultural Exchange

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Tuesday. Third period biology lab.

Jane was acting squirrelly.

"Did I ruin the project or something?" Darcy asked nervously.

"No, it's fine," Jane told her, glancing at her work just in case. "I just was wondering what the exchange student is like, weren’t you showing her around yesterday?"

Darcy rolled her eyes. She'd already had this conversation with Jane’s beefy boyfriend Thor. "She's very nice. We had lunch together. She doesn't have a crush on anyone yet."

Jane tried to look like this information was not exactly what she had been digging for. "Of... course she doesn't, she’s only been here a day!"

Darcy rolled her eyes.


Thursday. Fifth period study hall.

"You see the exchange student?"

Darcy used her eyebrows to let Sam know how she felt about his question.

"Okay, I know you did because you've been having lunch with her, but my question is have you seen her. She's—"

"Very nice looking, yes, I know. Tony could not help but point this out to me. I have eyes and opinions of my own, thank you very much."

Sam shrugged a smile onto his face. "Does she share any of your opinions?" he asked slyly.

"My opinions that she's hot? She has self esteem, if that's what you want to know."

"You know what I mean."

Darcy sighed. "Sam, go away. Natasha wants you to help her with Trig."

"She what?" Sam spun around, searching the library for the redhead.

"Over there. She's practically screaming with the silent but sexy come-hither."

Sam grinned. "I'll leave you alone," he said, and slinked away.

Darcy rolled her eyes.


Friday. Seventh period gym.

"You suck at this."

"Shut up!"

Darcy aimed, let out a slow breath, and fired.

She missed.

"So, the exchange student..."

"Will everybody just leave me alone already about that!"

"What? You're the only one she's talking to. We just want to know—"

"It's your turn, and that's not true," Darcy interrupted, shoving the bow into Clint's hands. "She's got English class with Steve and Bucky. She talks to them all the time."

"Yeah, but she doesn't flirt with them," Clint replied, firing without looking and nailing the exact center of the target effortlessly.

"We don't flirt ," Darcy said, crossing her arms and scowling in an attempt to keep from blushing.

"Keep telling yourself that," Clint said with a grin, offering her the weapon.

Darcy snatched it out of his hands and tried again to stand like he'd tried to teach her.

She was concentrating, so of course that's when he started talking again. "You're not a thing?" he asked.

"No," she said, and fired, the arrow landing in the grass several feet from the target.

"What was that?"

"You're distracting me!"

"I don't think it's me that's distracting you," he said with a grin, and she kicked him in the shin. "Go again."

This time, he allowed her to focus enough to only miss the target by a couple of inches.

"I still suck."

"Yeah, but you should thank me for not distracting you with the fact that Steve's gonna ask your friend out today after school."

"What?"

"Yeah, he's completely gone on her. Only took a couple days. Must be the accent."

"Shut up."

Clint shrugged. "He probably wouldn't think about it if he knew anyone else who was interested in her."

Darcy rolled her eyes.


Friday. After school.

"How about that exchange student?" Darcy asked her own reflection as it stared back at her from the tiny locker mirror hanging on the door.

Then she groaned and leaned inside her locker, resting her head on the edge of the upper shelf.

Peggy was great. Darcy thought she was great. She was smart, funny, very nice, and Darcy liked the way she always had a question about colloquialisms whenever they talked. And she liked the way Peggy said her name. And the way she sometimes played with her fingernails when she was nervous. And her eyes. And the way she smiled.

But there was no way Peggy would turn Steve down, Steve the captain of the football team, Steve the sweetheart, Steve the Adonis.

Darcy shoved her math book in her bag and zipped it shut. She would go home, slaughter some dudes on Call of Duty, and ignore her homework until 7 pm on Sunday night. Then she would come to school on Monday morning and pretend to be happy for her friend while listening to her talk about her date. Because that's what she and Peggy were: friends.

She waved at Jane and Thor on her way to the door, and Jane waved back. Natasha smiled at her from behind Sam, who was leaning, too casually to actually be casual, against the locker next to hers. Tony came out of nowhere and slapped her on the shoulder; Darcy managed a smile as she shoved him back.

Darcy planned to cut across the football field, but Clint grabbed both her shoulders and spun her in the opposite direction. "You don't want to go that way," he warned. "Bruce caught wind that some jerks on the basketball team were hassling a freshman, and he's super pissed."

Darcy sighed. "Fine," she said. "See you Monday."

"Yeah," he replied, a small smirk on his face. "Later."

Darcy trudged around the corner of the building, and immediately stopped when she spotted Peggy and Steve not twenty feet away. Clint, you sneaky jerk.

"So I was wondering if you would maybe wanna go see a movie with me this weekend."

"Oh, I... really shouldn't..."

Darcy frowned. Why not?

"Why not?"

"Because I... have plans."

She did?

"You do?"

"Yes, with... Darcy!"

Darcy started. There wasn't anywhere she could hide, and in fact, Peggy had already spotted her. She abandoned Steve under the tree and rushed over, linking her arm through Darcy's.

"She's going to show me around a little," Peggy lied.

"Really?" Steve asked Darcy.

Darcy tried not to visibly wince. Lying to Steve was like kicking a puppy. "That's the plan," she said, nodding.

"Perhaps we could all go to the movies another time: you and Bucky, and... Darcy and I."

Steve nodded, his eyes flicking between them. "Okay," he said. "See you both next week."

"Bye," Darcy said as Steve walked slowly back toward the school building.

As soon as he was gone, Peggy let out a relieved sigh. "Sorry about that, Darcy, I—"

"That's not cool," Darcy told her. "If you don't want to go out with him or whatever, that's fine, just tell him that. Don't use me as an excuse. I hate lying to Steve, it's like punching a baby bald eagle."

Peggy was chagrined but amused. "Is that—"

"Oh, sorry, let me translate that into British: lying to Steve is like... giving the Queen a wedgie."

Peggy laughed. "I'm sorry," she said. "It's just... Before I left home, I ended a relationship with someone. It wouldn't be fair to them to take up with someone new right away."

Darcy figured it was something like that; Peggy had nearly said something about a 'someone special back home' on Wednesday at lunch.

"You can tell him," Darcy said. "He's a nice guy, he'd understand; plus then he'd know he still has a chance with you later."

"He really doesn't," Peggy told her, looking down at her shoes.

"Well, then, tell him that ," Darcy advised. "Just be honest. Things are always better that way."

"Really?" Peggy asked, her eyes finding Darcy's.

"Uh, yeah." Except if the brand new friend who you have a tiny crush on just told you she's still in the process of trying to get over someone else.

Peggy nodded. "All right. Maybe you should show me around this weekend, just in case, to protect Her Highness and innocent endangered birds of all kinds?"

Darcy smiled. "Yeah, we could do that."

Peggy stepped back and went to retrieve her bag. "Maybe you could start with walking me home?"

Darcy nodded.

Peggy slung her bag over her shoulder, then slipped her arm through Darcy's again.

Darcy's heart lurched as they began to walk. "Peggy?"

"Mm?"

"What did you say your ex's name is?"

Peggy smiled at her. "Her name's Angie."