Steve took a deep breath and smoothed down his shirt as he glanced at the doors in front of him. Today, he decided, was going to be the day. Firming his resolve, he stepped forward, the door smoothly sliding open before him.
"Oh, hey Steve," Darcy greeted with a small smile before turning her attention back to the machine she was struggling to shift.
Steve hurried forward. "Let me." He carefully moved the machinery to the indicated spot. If he flexed to display his muscles a bit more than necessary, well who was there to call him on it. Well other than Dr. Foster, who gave him an amused glance before turning her attention to the recently moved machinery and it's readings. He turned his attention to Darcy who was beaming up at him.
"Thanks Steve, you're a life-saver. My back thanks you profusely." She leaned against her desk. "So what brings down to the labs?"
"I, uh, I was wondering, um," Steve stammered a bit, his courage deserting him. "Somebody said something about 'crossing the beams'?" He fell back on the old standby of his lacking pop-culture knowledge.
"Hmm, sounds like Ghostbusters. You haven't seen it yet? We have to fix that. Tonight, common room, 6 o'clock. We'll watch the original two and then the new re-make."
Steve absently agreed, too fascinated by the way her eyes had lit up and the grin on her face to really say anything else. "I guess I'll see you then," he said as Dr. Foster began calling for her help. He glanced at her one more time as he started to leave. Tonight, he decided, he'd make his move tonight.
Steve nervously checked his reflection in the elevator mirror as the doors opened onto the common room. Darcy's favorite candy in hand he exited the elevator only to stop after a few steps. His shoulders slumped as he took in the rest of the team arrayed around the room.
Darcy popped out of the kitchen, several large bowls of popcorn in hand. "Hey Steve, I figured we should make it a team movie night. Always more fun to watch as a group," she explained as she distributed the popcorn around the room. She spotted the candy in his hand. "Oh, M&M's! Thanks Steve, you're the best. C'mon, sit down and let's get this show started." She plopped down on the loveseat and patted the seat next to her.
Steve smiled at her and ignored the knowing, amused glances the others sent his way. Okay, so things hadn't gone according to plan but at least they were sitting next to each other. He settled in to watch the movies and found himself enjoying it despite the others' presence, Darcy's quiet commentary adding to the experience.
He hung around afterward, helping Darcy clean up. "I had a good time," he told her as he placed the empty bowls into the dishwasher. "We should do something like this again."
Darcy smiled at him. "Yeah! Weekly movie night sounds great, doesn't it? Just got to pick a night everyone is free."
Steve did his best not to let his disappointment show. "Yeah," he agreed. "Um, you got any plans for lunch tomorrow? There's this new diner I heard about. My treat, as a thank you for all your help with catching me up." He watched her face hopefully.
"Oh, that's really not necessary. No thanks needed," Darcy laughed. "I'm just glad to be able to help." She glanced up at him, perhaps spotting his face begin to fall. "But yeah, lunch sounds great."
Steve beamed back at her. "Great! I'll meet you at the lab at 12?"
"Sure," Darcy agreed before stifling a yawn. "See you tomorrow Steve."
"Good night Darcy," he said happily. He had done it, he had asked her out and she accepted. He couldn't wait for tomorrow.
11:30 found Steve putting the finishing touches on his outfit when his phone rang. A glance showed the caller to be Darcy and he quickly answered. "Hey, just getting ready, I'll be down in a few."
"Yeah, about that. I am so sorry Steve but I have to cancel. Jane hit a breakthrough early this morning and I am swamped in paperwork. I'm going to need to stay and try to get some of this done."
Disappointment filled him. "No, I understand. Another time?"
"Sure," Darcy said distractedly. "Jane no! I'm sorry Steve, I have to go wrangle an astrophysicist."
"It's ok, go do what you have to." He sighed as she hung up on him. So much for his date.
He perked up a moment later. Just because she couldn't leave the lab didn't mean she had to skip lunch. Mood restored he grabbed his wallet and headed for the elevator.
A half-hour later found him entering Dr. Foster's lab, several bags of food from a nearby deli in hand. He noticed Tony and Dr. Foster clustered around one of the machines having a heated discussion but most of his attention was drawn to Darcy sitting at her computer, stacks of printouts spread on her desk.
She glanced up and gave him a surprised look. "Steve! I thought I called you." She frowned.
"You did. But I figured you still need to eat." He held up the bags of food.
Darcy beamed at him as she stood and accepted the bags from him. "You figured right, I'm starving. You are a life-saver," she told him, stretching up to kiss his cheek before placing the bags on a clear spot and rummaging through them.
A pleased grin plastered onto his face, Steve didn't even think to object when Darcy grabbed a sandwich and went over to Dr. Foster, waving the food in her face to get her attention. Instead he reached up and placed a hand over the tingling spot she had kissed.
"So," Tony said as he sidled over to him. "You going to finally work up the nerve to ask her out?"
"Stay out of it Tony."
Tony spread his hands. "Hey, I'm just trying to offer some advice. You're not going to get anywhere if you don't make it more obvious that you're into her. And the pining is getting ridiculous." Steve glared at him. "Seriously Cap, you need to get laid already so man up and ask her out."
"Stark!" Steve grit out between his teeth before noticing Darcy standing nearby, a strange look on her face. Oh God, how much of that had she heard?
Darcy schooled her features a moment later, stepping over to them and thrusting another sandwich at Tony. "Leave Steve alone. Eat or no Science!" She ordered. With a grumble he did as he was told. Darcy sighed and turned to Steve. "Sorry about him, he's been pestering Jane all day."
Steve waved her off. "Don't apologize for him. Trust me, I know how Tony can be."
Darcy gave him another small smile. "Anyway, thanks again for the food. I really appreciate it," she said as she started back to her desk and the food and the pile of work waiting for her.
"Any time," Steve told her sincerely.
Darcy glanced down, then reached into a bag of food and offered him a sandwich.
Steve smiled. It wasn't what he had originally planned, what with Tony and Dr. Foster in the background arguing a point and Darcy splitting her attention between her work and her food, but he was enjoying himself anyway.
Still he made a note to ask her out again and hopefully manage to leave the lab next time.
But Steve didn't seem to have much luck when it came to asking Darcy out. It seems Dr. Foster really did make a big discovery because Darcy didn't seem to have a spare moment. She always smiled apologetically whenever Steve tried to ask her to lunch or dinner, and he felt bad for disturbing her in the lab when he saw all of the work piled up on her desk.
He told himself it couldn't last like this much longer, the workload would have to lighten up eventually.
Exiting one of the R&D labs where several of the lab techs had been demonstrating a new material they wanted to incorporate into his suit he stopped to examine a painting hanging in the hallway. Surely that couldn't be a genuine Jackson Pollock, he thought. Ms. Potts would not allow such an valuable and expensive painting on an R&D floor where it could be damaged in an explosion or other mishap.
Voices further down the hall drew his attention and Steve perked up as he recognized Darcy's voice.
"I really don't think-"
"C'mon, you need to lighten up a bit Lewis."
Steve turned and felt his blood begin to boil as he took in the scene down the hall. One of the male lab techs had Darcy backed against the wall and was looming over her. Darcy looked uncomfortable, clutching a pile of folders to her chest with one arm as the other slowly inched down to her side where Steve knew she kept her taser. He began to quickly stride toward them.
"Not interested Mike," Darcy grit out.
"I'm just asking you out on a date, what you think you're too good for me?" Mike's face twisted up in anger at the rejection.
"The lady has already stated her refusal," Steve spoke up as he reached them, glaring at Mike until he backed off. He noted with satisfaction that the other man had paled drastically.
Mike raised his arms up in surrender. "Was just trying to be sociable," he said before scurrying off.
Steve made a note to track him down later and have a firm discussion with him on boundaries and taking no for an answer. But he had more important concerns at the moment and turned his attention to Darcy. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Darcy promised, giving him a slight promise. "Thank you for that. Not that I couldn't have handled it but I really don't want to have to deal with security and HR if I had tazed him."
"He would have deserved it and more. You should report him for harassment."
Darcy shook her head. "He wasn't that bad but I will if it happens again. He was just being a lot more persistent than I'm used to. Most guys I can brush off easily or use the excuse of too much work and they'll back off." She sighed. "Speaking of work, I need to get these files to Tony for approval. Thanks again Steve, I'll see you around." She waved as she left.
Steve was too distracted to really acknowledge her words of parting. Her previous words were echoing in his head. Most guys I can brush off easily or use the excuse of too much work and they'll back off. Darcy had been extremely busy lately but was it just an excuse? It had started after that first failed lunch date. He was reminded of the look on her face when Tony had been encouraging him to ask her out. He hadn't been able to place the emotion she displayed but it could have been a sign of discomfort. If she really had overheard him and Tony, and didn't feel the same about him as he did her-
Steve's shoulders slumped as he realized he had been making her uncomfortable with his continued attempts to ask her out. Despite what the others hinted at he promised not try any further. He didn't want to risk their friendship. Still, he decided, it would probably be best if he avoided her for a few days to give her a chance to relax and realize he wouldn't be pushing her for more any longer.
With that decided a dejected Steve headed for the gym to work out some of feelings on a heavy bag.
True to his word Steve did his best to avoid Darcy for the next three days and ignored all of the frowns and pointed looks directed his way by the rest of his friends and teammates. He only wished that his avoidance of Darcy didn't seem to be having the opposite effect on her than intended. The few glimpses he had had of her showed her to be more upset each time they ran into each other. That only made him feel worse and so he spent a lot of time in the gym.
It was as he was heading toward the common kitchen after one such workout that things came to a head. A distracted Steve walked through the doorway just as someone walked out carrying a tray of coffee. He hissed as the steaming hot liquid splashed over his front and with a strangled oath he ripped his shirt off before the liquid could do more than leave a red mark on his chest.
"Oh my God! Steve, I am so sorry! I didn't see you, are you alright?" Darcy fretted as she dropped the tray and hurried to his side only to freeze a moment later, her wide-eyed gaze fixed on his sweaty, naked chest. One hand rose as if to touch before freezing in the air inches from his skin.
"It's alright Darcy, I wasn't watching where I was going either. I'm fine," Steve reassured her. He glanced down and saw the red was already fading. Darcy made a strangled noise, drawing his attention back to her. He frowned. "Darcy? You okay?" She continued to stare at him, a blush rising along her cheeks. He felt a bit flattered and tried to extinguish the small hope he felt that maybe she did like him as more than a friend after all.
Suddenly she blinked and groaned. "Oh God," she moaned, lifting her hands to cover her face. "I'm so sorry. Can we please forget that happened?"
"Darcy it's okay, it was just an accident and no harm was done."
"Not the coffee, though yes I'm sorry about that too. I'm talking about me staring at you like a ravenous wolf staring at a hunk of beef. You get enough of that already, you don't need me adding to it. I swore I wouldn't be one of those women the day I met you," Darcy explained into her hands.
"I don't mind if it's you doing the staring," Steve said, surprising himself.
And shocking Darcy into lowering her hands in order to gape at him. "What?"
That small hope began to grow. "I like you Darcy. A lot."
"But you're you! You're amazing, funny, kind. Not even counting that you're Captain America. Any girl would be lucky to have you. What could you possibly see in me?"
"You're beautiful, kind, funny, brave, loyal, smart. You don't take crap from anyone. And you treat me like a person instead of treating me like Captain America all the time. You see Steve Rogers," he told her, staring into her eyes to convey the truth of his words. "You have since the day we met."
Her blush from earlier returned in full force as his words of praise sunk in. "Because I heard those other women talking about you like a piece of meat and saw your face, so resigned to it, like that was all anybody saw you as. And you seemed so lonely. I figured you could use a friend instead of another person who just wanted you for your body."
Steve smiled at her. "And that just proves what I've been saying. Nobody else has looked at me and thought something like that. So while I was attracted to you from the moment I saw you, it was getting to know you and your friendship that really made me fall for you. I just thought you were trying to let me down easy when you kept putting me off when I asked you out."
Darcy's eyes widened even further. "You were asking me out, like on dates?"
He slumped slightly. "I know I'm bad at this but I thought it was obvious that I liked you and wanted to go out with you. Everybody else saw it."
Darcy reached out and place a hand on his arm. "Probably my fault. I didn't think you could be interested in me so I purposely told myself you were just asking as a friend. Then I heard Tony encouraging you to ask someone out and figured you'd found someone else, especially with how scarce you've been recently."
"No, I'm gone on this gorgeous brunette lab assistant who I thought was uncomfortable with my awkward attempts to ask her out, so I've been spending all of my time working out in the gym."
Darcy smiled up at him. "So maybe you should try asking her out again, this time making sure she knows it's a date?"
Steve grinned down at her. "Good idea." He cleared his throat. "Darcy, I really like you. Would you go out on a date with me?"
She beamed up at him. "I like you too and would love to go on a date. Is now a good time?"
"Now's perfect," he told her and reached out to take her hand. He froze a moment later as he recalled his shirtless state. "Though perhaps I should get a clean shirt first."
Darcy laughed. "Don't bother on my account, I'm enjoying the view," she told him.
Steve raised an eyebrow at her. "Is that so? Well far be it from me to disappoint a lady." He gazed into her eyes as her laughter tapered off and her breath hitched. He swallowed as her eyes darkened. "Can I kiss you?" he asked softly.
"Please," she breathed out.
A moment later his hands cupped her face as he leaned down and brushed his lips against hers, then pressed them together again more firmly. Some time later, a few seconds or a few hours for all the difference he could tell he pulled away from her. "Date first," he told her.
Darcy nodded. "Yeah," she agreed breathlessly. "And I changed my mind about the shirt. This view is for me only."
"Good, 'cause you're the only one I want looking at me like this." Steve brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "Give me 5 minutes and I'll be ready for our date." With her agreement he hurried to his room, a wide dopey grin on his face. The future was looking much better than it had this morning.