..: Where Tony wants Darcy to be his new PA, Jane is running out of money, and nobody lives in New Mexico. Alternatively titled: The One Where Jane Doesn't Trust Bureaucracies, and Tony Is Totally Darcy's Old-Man Crush :..
Darcy missed the trailer.
It had taken way more hours of self reflection than she was entirely comfortable with to identify the source of her discontent, but she'd finally done it - she, Darcy Lewis, missed the freaking trailer-bus-satellite-van thing, with its questionable shocks, rusty aluminum sides and the glitchy steering wheel that took it really really poorly when you tried to make left turns.
Totally. Darcy missed the trailer, not anything else about her life pre-Asgardian-princes.
Not Jane stumbling into her room at 4 in the morning, babbling physics like Darcy spoke her language, and then not taking it personally when Darcy didn't remember anything that had happened the next morning.
Not the way that Jane took her coffee black when she was happy, and only drank coffee-flavoured milk when the universe refused to ignore the laws of physics for her one more time.
Definitely not the way that Jane listened to her rants about the education system and immigration policy like there was a chance Darcy wasn't insane.
No, Darcy totally just missed the trailer. They had some kind of fancy… Transformer van now. It didn't hiss menacingly if you didn't keep one hand on the dashboard while driving uphill, and that was just wrong.
'Cause, really, it wasn't like she and Jane never talked anymore… They were still attached at the hip (most days), it was just… Jane had bigger things to worry about - Bifrosts and Shadowy Government Agencies That Wanted To Steal Her Research and angry Asgardians that were still a little touchy about the whole "YOU DARE BRING A MORTAL TO ASGARD" nonsense, and a boyfriend who had to spend most of his time like, saving the known cosmos.
It was enough to throw anyone off their game.
Darcy snapped her gum and flipped her pen, tipping back a little farther in her desk chair, until the much-abused fan whirring along on her desk blew a stream of luke-warm air up her neck and face.
God, Darcy really needed some ice cream. Who decided that New Mexico was a place fit for human inhabitation?
"Hello? Anybody home?" A smooth voice called from outside the abandoned air hangar Jane had been building her latest Space Scanner Thing in.
Darcy reacted to the unexpected interruption the way any self-respecting sidekick-of-a-superhero's-girlfriend would - she hid under her desk.
"Hello? Doctor Foster?" the man called again, closer to the window above Darcy's desk.
"Tony, did you not call ahead to make sure that someone would meet us here?" another voice asked, sounding distinctly unimpressed
"Why? She's a scientist, Steve, of course she's going to be at her lab."
"She could have gone for lunch! Or to a conference, or out to collect some data -"
"Steve, we are literally at the corner of 'Middle' and 'Nowhere' in Asstown, New Mexico. Nobody lives in New Mexico. Believe me, it won't take long to find her."
Darcy had snort at that. She crawled out from under the desk, staying on all fours until she was positioned underneath the window before standing up just enough to see over the window sill.
Holy shit. Holy shit. That set of shoulders could only belong to Captain America (since they didn't belong to Thor), which meant that the dark-haired 'Tony' he'd been talking to had to be Tony Fucking Stark. Holy shit.
One of them banged on the door, loudly enough that the clang of the steel door rang through the hangar.
"Hello! We're looking for Jane Foster!"
Darcy dropped back down, and started to crawl back to her desk, just in time for Jane to emerge from wherever she'd hidden herself for the last 3 hours.
She caught sight of Darcy crawling across the cement floor, and blinked.
"What are you doing?"
Darcy immediately hopped to her feet, brushing her knees off. "Jane! That's Tony Stark and Captain America outside!"
Jane didn't seem to understand what Darcy was saying to her - which often happened when Darcy spoke 'English' instead of 'Physics', honestly - because she didn't respond to the news with the proper level of enthusiasm. "What do they want?"
Darcy raised an eyebrow at her. "I'm thinking they might want to talk to you."
"Really, Tony, are you just going to stand here and yell all day?" Captain America asked, sounding a little bit annoyed. "That's your plan?"
"Uh, which of us is the genius here, bub? Trust me, even if she has the patience of a saint, I am way more obnoxious than any reasonable person could be expected to deal with. She'll come out."
Jane stalked over to the window and leaned out. "I'm not a hermit, Mr. Stark, I'm hardly avoiding you."
"Jane! Can I call you Jane? I'm half-tempted to call you 'Lady Jane', seriously, Thor never shuts up about you, and I can't say I blame the guy, you're very pretty, and it's very hot out here, can I come in?"
Darcy giggled, and elbowed Jane over a little so she could lean out the window too. Tony Stark and Captain America stared up at them, Captain America shielding his eyes with one hand.
"Oh, wow, I think I've had wet dreams that started like this," Darcy blurts, because she, apparently, has no brain-to-mouth filter.
The captain looks really confused, but Stark grins.
"I like her. Think you can let us in so I demonstrate my proper appreciation of all that is wonderful about you before I spontaneously combust?"
Darcy skips off to let them in, ignoring Jane's belligerent scowl. She will never pass up the opportunity to be appreciated by billionaires.
Tony Stark is a horrible, horrible, outrageous flirt, and by far the strangest person Darcy has ever met (and she's best friends with Jane, who is dating Thor), and Darcy adores him with all the hysterical indulgence one does a destructive puppy that can't stop walking into walls. She demonstrates this deep and abiding affection by flirting back and feeding him cookies.
Both Jane and Captain America keep shooting the two of them looks like they think they're insane, but they just don't understand. Darcy is pretty sure that Tony is her totally-platonic bro-soulmate (only because he's old enough to be her dad, or she'd climb him faster than a monkey up a banana tree).
Eventually, Captain America (he keeps telling her to call him Steve, and she will, once the novelty of addressing Captain America wears off) must get tired of Frowning Disapprovingly, because he lures Jane off with whispered sweet nothings of 'looking at her research' and 'showing him how the equipment works'. Darcy's surprised it's not Stark trying to get all up in Jane's science, because he's, like, maybe the smartest person ever, and so is Jane, and Darcy has been to enough Nerd Conventions to understand how the intensely cerebral tend to band together.
Tony turns to her, and his smirk has shifted into something wider and sharper, and Darcy feels her spine straighten in response. Tony has been planning something, and she and Jane have played right into his hands somehow.
For the first time in far too long, Darcy takes a second to consider what exactly Iron Man and Captain America are doing in New Mexico.
"What do you people want with Jane now?" she demands, hoping to put Stark on the defensive, but he just grins lazily, kicking back in his seat and putting his feet on the desk.
"To recruit her, obviously," he drawls, picking up his glass of lemonade and putting a handful of ice cubes out of it into his mouth.
"Oh, fuck you," Darcy cries, leaning forward to glare at Stark, waiting for him to meet her eyes. "You can just run along home, back to your stupid fucking contracts, and national security, and research thieving organisations, and tell SHIELD that I want my goddamned iPod back!"
Tony just rolls his eyes. "I'm not here for SHIELD."
Darcy blinks. "What?"
Tony sighs and sits forward, planting his feet on the ground again and bracing his forearms against his knees. He looks up at her through his lashes, and Darcy almost laughs, because that look is just so goddamned calculated, and who exactly does he think he's trying to fool?
(She also curses herself a bit, because it's totally working and she can feel her resolve crumbling.)
"Look, Darcy…" he trails off, sighs again, scrubs a hand through his hair, "Jane's got a decision she has to make, and she can't afford not to for much longer. She's running out of funding, because she won't take money from any corporations she feels are large enough to want to interfere with her work. Which is a totally valid decision. Like, totally her call. But it's very bad for everyone, because Jane's work is important. Her findings are huge, her equipment is expensive, and she's not getting grants that are nearly as big as they need to be, because she can't accept them, not if she wants to remain autonomous."
Darcy doesn't say anything, but she's thinking about all the nights Jane freaked out about the exact same thing, about ripping up letters unopened, shredding cheques uncashed.
"And, where are all the students?" Tony continues, making an abortive gesture around the empty hangar. "The grad students, riding Jane's glory wave to their own PhDs and Masters, the undergrads to do all the crap, grunt work? No offense Darcy, I'm sure you're lovely and I will do everything in my power to steal you away from Jane, but she needs more than you and the occasional contribution from Dr. Selvig.
"Her work is amazing, and famous, so really, she should have students. I have graduate students, God knows who decided I could be trusted with them, and I'm not even affiliated with one specific university. She's had hundreds of applicants in the last 3 months alone, but she can't accept any of them either, because she's trying to keep Thor and Asgard and the Bifrost safe for as long as possible. She can't let just any old shmuck in here, and she doesn't have to resources to check them out thoroughly enough.
"Jane needs money, and workers, and better equipment, and more importantly, a moral support system," Tony explains, swiping his hands through the air. "Darcy, she can't keep doing this alone."
Darcy sighs. "Yeah. I know."
Tony slides closer to her, looking her dead in the eye. "Steve is here under orders to recruit her for SHIELD. So am I, I guess, technically. But I want her for Stark Industries."
"And how is that better? Your company and SHIELD must be practically living in each other's pockets these-" Darcy breaks off when Tony lifts his hand.
"Just, hear me out, Darcy, please?" He stares at her earnestly until she nods. "She'll report to me, as Head of the Research and Development department, and Pepper, because Pepper is my boss and likes to make sure that I'm not letting the scientists do anything illegal. She'll have a budget that she can spend however she deems fit, and she'll send applications for more money to me, not a Board of Directors that don't understand science or how much it costs. Plus, my Board of Directors are the most chill ever, seriously, they've had to deal with me for decades, they are the best group of pompous assholes anyone could hope to know. She'll have access to an entire Engineering department to help build her machines, and fix them, and get excited about building her new ones.
"Jane has to choose eventually. I want her to choose Stark Industries."
"Why are you telling me this?" Darcy asks, after taking a minute to digest what was clearly a rehearsed, but still heartfelt, speech. "Shouldn't you be talking to Jane? Steve is. If you don't watch out, he'll sweet talk her into taking SHIELD's contract with his baby-blues and fabulous pectorals."
Tony leans back, sprawling into his chair once more, and waves her statement away. "Exercise in futility. If I'm right, and we can pretty much just assume that I am, Jane already knows everything I just told you, and everything's Steve's telling her now. Jane's smart, she can tell which way the wind is blowing. Right now, for her, this is about choosing the lesser of two evils, not about who can offer her the most perks."
"And you want me to convince Jane that Stark Industries is the lesser of two evils," Darcy concludes, crossing her arms.
Tony grins at her, one part charming rake, and one part genuine friend-of-her-friend's-boyfriend.
"Not quite. I want to convince you that Stark Industries is the lesser of two evils. Because what Steve and SHIELD seem incapable of understanding is exactly what is important to Jane."
"Jane's work is important to Jane," Darcy points out; for some reason, this makes Tony laugh.
"Darcy, baby, Jane can science anywhere in the world - in fact, her life would probably be a lot easier if she had stayed in Europe. But I feel very secure in the judgement that there is only one of you in the whole world. So all I need to do is convince you that New York is the place that will make you and Jane honestly happy, and then I can be viciously satisfied forever and ever that I am better than SHIELD."
Darcy is inclined to reward the impulse to stick it to the man. There are absolutely no other reasons why she's considering Tony's offer.
"It sounds like you're kind of going out of your way to get Jane on your team," she says, eyeing him narrowly, "This is a lot of hassle just to stick it to SHIELD-"
"There is literally no limit to the things I would do just to annoy Fury," Tony interrupts, but Darcy ignores him.
"Why do you really want Jane in New York? Stark Industries has offices in New Mexico, I've seen them. Why move her across the country?"
At this, Tony's face loses all traces of facetiousness, and he just looks... sort of tired, actually.
"The Avengers Initiative... Well. You know who's idea it all was in the first place," Tony says slowly, not quite meeting her eyes.
Darcy nods, feeling the sucking-chest-hole sensation she feels whenever she remembers that Coulson is dead now. Sure, the asshat had stolen her iPod, but Thor had said he was good people.
"Yes," she says hoarsely, and then smiles tightly, "Son of Coul."
Tony smiles too, just a little bit. "Yeah. He was... He was the one who believed that a team of super-special people could be something better if they could work together. And we were, we were awesome, but... Well. All good things must come to an end, right?"
"So... What has this got to do with Jane?"
Tony continues to stare pensively into the distance. "Nobody in their right mind would think that I could contribute helpfully to any sort of team dynamic, except for Agent. I figure the least I can do for him is to try and keep us together."
Darcy nods. "And where Jane goes..."
"Thor is sure to follow." Tony smiles at her again, and it seems a little less pained this time. "Dude lost his brother. As much as I hate the evil son of a bitch, family is family. I just think the big guy deserves to have another shot at having a home."
Jane sits in her desk chair, reading carefully over every inch of fine print in the contract Steve and Tony had presented to her (and the contract Tony had slipped to Darcy when Steve wasn't looking); she passed the pages down to Darcy - who was lying on her back with her legs stuck straight up and leaning against the desk - as she finished with them.
They both seemed pretty legit to Darcy (who was finally getting to flex her PoliSci muscles with all this legal jargon - she'd aced her Contracts and Agreements class), though the SHIELD contract obviously had a lot more "Hide yo children, hide yo wife, 'cuz if we get wind of you so much as breathin' a word o' yo' research to any non-SHIELD bros, da men in black be comin' for ya" (Darcy wasn't quite sure why the SHIELD contract read like 'gangster' to her, but it made for much more entertaining internal monologuing).
They finally finish both, and just kind of sit there for a minute to let it all sink in.
"What do you think?" Jane finally says, and Darcy pretends to think about it.
"SHIELD pays more," Jane argues, "And, they have more specialists in astrophysics in their employ that I would be working with."
"Stark pays less because his budget is larger. And, he's offering you room and board in the Tower. And he won't be constantly breathing down your neck, you can have grad students and lab assistants that aren't vetted by SHIELD, and he'll let you have independent patents."
"I don't think I want to live in Stark Tower," Jane grumbles, "It feels too much like… being owned by Stark."
Darcy shrugs. "So don't. We'll get a place together in the city. It's not like you won't be spending all of your time with Thor in his suite when he's Earth-side anyway."
Even from this angle, Darcy can see Jane's wide grin. "True."
"Plus, it'll really piss SHIELD off if you start working for Stark Industries instead of them. And you know Stark's going to give them the run-around about getting their filthy bureaucratic hands on any of your findings."
"Darcy," Jane laughs, "You're not still bitter about the iPod thing, are you?"
"They didn't even offer to replace it!" Darcy cries, outraged. Then she smirks, "If you take the Stark Industries contract, Tony promised to build me a custom music player, with none of this bullshit about not being able to transfer iTunes files to non-Apple products."
Jane tips her head over to look down at Darcy. "Is that why you want me to take the Stark Industries contract?"
And Darcy can feel it in her gut, this, this is the reason Tony came to her, because she can hear what she's going to say next, and she can see Jane caving and taking the SI contract, and she can practically hear Tony in her head whispering 'Atta girl'. She thinks through all of this, and says the thing anyway.
"I'm just scared that if you take the SHIELD contract, and you find something important, or dangerous, or something they don't want getting out, they'll just swallow you up and I'll never see you again."
Jane's eyes get even more doe-like, and her whole face softens.
"Okay," she says. "Okay."
"I'll design an entire floor of the Tower specifically for you."
"I'll pay your rent in whatever apartment you choose for the rest of your life."
"I'll build you a car."
"Nobody drives in New York, Tony."
"I'll build you a flying car. Seriously, I can do that, my dad had this shit figured out in the fourties-"
"I will… buy you a life-time supply of double stuffed Oreos."
"I will have Pepper take you on a shopping spree in Paris. Or London. Or Madrid. Or all three."
"Ha!" Tony cried triumphantly, thrusting both fists in the air as he spins himself in a circle on his bar stool, "So you can be bought!"
Darcy crosses her arms and glares at him, though the effect might be slightly ruined by the smile fighting at her mouth. "You are an awful human being, trying to seduce and corrupt helpless lab assistants. Is this what corporate espionage feels like? I feel so… objectified."
Tony leers at her. "Oh, baby, you would know if you were being seduced."
"I suppose you expect me to be flattered."
"Aren't you though?" Tony teases with a wink, "Even just a little bit?"
"Oh shut up," Darcy says, sticking her tongue out at him, like the mature twenty-something she is.
She and Tony have been taken over by conspiratorial giggles when Jane and Bruce wander onto the common floor together, talking to each other in numbers and mysterious hand-waves; Jane is practically bouncing along behind Bruce in her excitement, and even though Bruce appears better-contained, his face is flushed and he can't quite stifle the broad grin stretching his cheeks. The Science Gods must be with them today (or for the last three days or so, as the dark circles under their eyes would indicate).
The lack of sleep isn't enough to stop Jane from peering at Darcy and Tony suspiciously, as though she's able to suss out impure thoughts by sight alone (Captain America might be; Darcy has been testing this hypothesis religiously - in the name of science, of course!). Jane doesn't trust incorrigible flirts around Darcy (who has often been accused of being both incorrigible and a flirt, so really, this is an impossible thing to expect of her), and Tony Stark very definitely checks both of those boxes.
"Help me, Jane!" Darcy cries, still laughing, "Tony is trying to steal me away from the all-important position of Acquirer of Caffeine to be his PA! I can feel my soul starting to rot already!"
Jane, bless her petite scientist soul, is entirely sincere in her actions when she wraps an arm around Darcy's head and pulls her into her side, glaring at Tony. "No," she says flatly, petting her hand soothingly over Darcy's hair.
Tony rolls his eyes. "You two spend way too much time together."
[Hey everyone, thanks so much for reading, and commenting, and favouriting, they honestly mean so, so much to me!
I've put these chapters together more because they're related than because they're connected... (and I wanted y'all to be able to find them) Though there is a general story arc, in that Tony tricks/kidnaps/bribes everyone into moving into the Tower, and then makes them all be friends... So, this story is going somewhere, just not, y'know. Quickly.
If everything goes to plan (HA!) we have one more set-up fic in which Tony is collecting strays, and then one big (as in multi-chapter... I haven't even tried to start writing it yet, so I really have no idea how long it could end up being) fic in which lots of team bonding and shmoop happens. (This is super weird to organize on this site, let me tell you. really needs a 'series' option :P)
That being said, I'm pretty open to requests, for fics or even just scenes (literally, I've written pieces from two lines of dialogue that got stuck in my head), if anyone out there has something they really want to see!