Breathe

Xxxxxx


Epilogue

It was an awkward phone call with her dad, but Darcy managed to get through it without raising any suspicions. She even asked Natasha to be there to guide her with her super awesome ninja spy skills just in case she got stuck or let something slip and she needed a way to fix it. She had a piece of paper written in front of her that she'd made earlier, filled with lies and an agenda of things she needed to tell her dad; so she didn't get lost or flustered and ramble like Darcy knew she was prone to doing.

She scrolled down and found the familiar number that she knew off by heart and let her finger hover over the screen for a moment before tapping down, the screen changed and morphed into a dialing animation and Darcy took a deep breath in, no chance to back out now, she thought to herself as she brought the phone up to her ear.

"Daddy!" She cried out with unhindered joy when she heard her father's voice answer. It really had been too long since she'd last seen him. A lot of stuff had happened. Thor... Searching for Thor... Tromso... New York... Clint... Darcy got lost in her thoughts but snapped out of it when her dad started his usual question routine.

"How are you, darling? I wasn't expecting a phone call, is everything alright?" She used to just think those questions were concerned parent questions, now Darcy could hear the underlining threat and subtle danger that lingered behind those words. Like he would hurt someone if she said no. Her father, William Lewis, was not like other dads, he was a trained killer. She would totally have won all those 'my dad's better than yours' fights she had in pre-school if she'd known back then that her dad was a freakin' spy!

"I'm fine, just wanted to chat." Darcy closed her eyes as she heard the reoccurring and haunting pop and crunch behind her eardrums that she would never forget. She pushed down a shiver and gave a huge smile on her side of the phone, it didn't help her feel better; but she knew it would help make her voice believable enough that her dad and Natasha wouldn't question it. Darcy threw a quick look at the red-headed spy, her eye brows were knitted together with concern and something else. Darcy hadn't told anyone about the lingering memories of Jackson dying, that moment when she crush- when his eyes- Darcy shuddered, she wasn't going to start talking about it now, because then she knew Natasha would never let her leave, let alone Clint... Clint, Darcy's breath caught in her throat as she remembered how hurt he'd looked those few hours ago when she told him she was leaving. No. She couldn't go down that route right now; it wouldn't end well if she did, and she had bigger fish to fry, as it were. "Are you okay to talk?"

"Always for you. Let me just turn off the stove so I can sit and talk to my favorite girl." Darcy rolled her eyes at how he had to make sure the oven wasn't left unattended for as short as 5 minutes, it seemed so unreal and domesticated now she knew what he could really do.

"Actually, there was a reason I called-" She began, tension rising in her shoulders.

"I knew it. How much do you need?" Her dad interrupted. She didn't blame him, when she was at college that was the only reason she'd ever rung him. Well, that and because she'd promised to call at least twice a week, feeling bad that he was alone in that big empty house.

"No, dad, it's not about money. Actually, I just got a bonus from work, so I'm fine." Darcy said, half telling the truth. "I was going to use some of my bonus to go on holiday, actually."

"That's wonderful. But you work too much for my liking, they over work you. You only live once and I'd hate for you to miss out on your youth because you spent too much time working." Her warm father's voice comforted her, and she felt a sad wisdom under his tone. He obviously regretted his career. He'd lost so much that he could never get back because of it and Darcy already was beginning to feel that loss. That's why she had to leave, she told herself assertively.

"That's not true. Jane is brilliant and I'm far from overworked. I love my job. Plus Jane is giving me time off for this holiday thing." Darcy lied smoothly, slipping in the holiday thing in more now, like it wasn't a huge thing.

"Still. All that crazy science, I don't like it." With good reason, Darcy thought with a smirk. "I know you love it; I still think you made the wrong choice, quitting school..."

"Gee, thanks dad." If only he knew the truth…

"Ignore me, I'm just being a grumpy old man. Tell me about this holiday, where are you planning on going? Are you going alone?" Darcy instantly froze, eyes wide at his sudden stern tone directed at her. Shit! She had not planned for that question. Fuck. He dad would totally not be okay with her going alone, not that she would be alone, Fury pretty much told her point blank that he'd have agents watching her back everywhere she went, not that she could tell her dad that either. Fuck fuck, she needed to think of someone and fast, or this gap of silence would be too long to explain. Clint? Everyone else seemed to think Clint was going with her. Could she say she was going with a man? No! This was her father she was talking to! That would only lead to waaay more questions that she didn't want to deal with. Darcy opened her mouth and turned to neck to look at Natasha who was sitting completely still; the only change in her position was that she was pointing a perfectly elegant finger at herself, her face unchanged like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Which it kind of was; if Darcy hadn't started to freak herself out like she was so well known for doing.

Oh!

"No, I'm going with a work friend, she works for the same company. It'll be a short trip, like five days to Paris, maybe stop off in London on the way back and see Gemma, you remember her? From my English class, she had glasses and a gap in her teeth until her parents paid to fix it." Darcy saw Natasha move in the corner of her eye and glanced over to see her waving a hand across her neck in a 'cut it off' motion. Darcy nodded and zipped her lip, she guessed rambling was a giveaway.

"You've never mentioned this other girl before, how can I trust she'll keep you safe?"

"Dad, I'm a big girl, you taught me well enou-" Darcy was kicked swiftly in the leg and stopped talking. "Plus, Nat's awesome. She's like a ninja." Darcy replied, rubbing her shin awkwardly with both hands while balancing the phone to her face with her shoulder. She threw a glare at the older woman and stuck her tongue out, knowing that her dad wouldn't find her slang comment unusual. "Hang on, I'm just doing something, can I put you on speaker?" Darcy asked, trying to sound casual as she pressed multiple buttons on the phone and his voice filled the room.

"You've already done it, haven't you?" He asked with a sigh and Darcy could picture him pinching the bridge of his nose, pushing his reading glasses up as he did so.

"Yep!" She called a little louder to the speaker after placing the phone on the table in front of her.

"What's her name? Nat?" His tone was just the right level of curious and suspicious that it flagged a warning sign in Natasha's and Darcy's minds.

Natasha quickly grabbed a pen and wrote on her arm 'Natalie Rushman' which Darcy quickly told him. Damn, even her penmanship in hast is better than Darcy's neatest most careful handwriting. If Darcy didn't know for a fact that Natasha could kill her, then she would be tempted to hate the woman. Who was she kidding, Darcy loved Natasha, she was practically perfect in every way, like Mary Poppin's but with guns.

"Rushman?" He asked, curious again. Natasha mouthed words that looked like 'security check' and her eyebrows knitted together as she fished out a S.H.I.E.L.D issue tablet and brought up 'Natalie Rushman's' profile on the FBI and CIA databases side by side.

"Yep." Darcy tried to stay firm, while her mind was reeling. S.H.I.E.L.D has permission to just browse the FBI and CIA records? It made sense, but was still kind of freaky to see firsthand. She wondered if she could borrow that and snoop through some people she'd met in the past… "She's always wanted to go to Paris, and I loved it when I went after Senior Year and always had plans to go back one day." Darcy tried to sound casual again, finding the lying oddly easy, considering she practically never lied to her dad her whole life. They always had such a good relationship. Darcy frowned, struck with guilt at how she could no longer be open and honest with her father but pushed it down when she remembered it was him who had caused all this trouble in her life in the first place.

"Oh, is she sensible?"

"Dad, she's a great person. Couple years older than me, but she is totally cool. She'll look after me- Not that she has to!" Darcy quickly covered herself.

Natasha placed the tablet on the table next to the phone silently and pointed at a flashing icon over her fake alias that said 'Breach' in bold flashing letters. Darcy's mouth fell open as she pointed at her phone, asking a silent question to which Natasha nodded in response. Her dad was seriously checking up on her friend? Did he always do that? Darcy was suddenly very glad she'd never had a long term boyfriend that she brought home; Lord knows what her dad would have checked up on him if she had.

"Alright… she sounds alright." The icon stopped flashing and Darcy let out a breath of air she didn't know she was holding. Had her dad really just done a background check on a S.H.I.E.L.D agent, which involved hacking into some of the most secure databases in the world? Even a week after finding out the truth, things like this were completely weird and alien to her.

"She's great. You'd like her." Darcy added for good effect before trying to move on. "Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I'm leaving tomorrow. I know its short notice!" She said before he could interrupt. "But it was a really good offer, and we couldn't say no, Jane is more than happy to let me go for a couple weeks." Darcy didn't tell him that she didn't know how long she would be traveling, thinking it would probably be easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. She was struck with the worry that maybe she'd been spending a little bit too much time around Loki with a smirk. Yep, she'd definitely been hanging out with the God of Mischief too often.

"Tomorrow? That is short notice." Even Darcy could pick up on his odd tone and Natasha started tapping on the tablet again much to Darcy's concern. "I know a couple of friends in Paris; I could email them and see if you could stay with them." Darcy struggled to find words, panic forming in her throat as she looked over at Natasha for help. "They could show you around."

She was shaking her head 'no' and pointing to her eyes with two fingers then at Darcy in the universal sign for 'watching you'. Darcy understood who her dad's 'friends' really were.

"No!" She winced at how panicked that sounded. "I don't need your friends to look out for me. I'm 23 for god's sake." She felt Loki appear in her mind for a split second then disappear when he realized there was no trouble. Another odd sensation she was still having trouble getting used it.

Darcy wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth, if a God who had infinitely more power and knowledge than her wanted to keep his eye out for her safety; then she really wasn't going to complain. It was nice to know that the man who was once so confused and angry, who felt lost and wanted to destroy and enslave humankind, now felt a connection to something and wanted to protect it was an amazing accomplishment, even if said something was her, the very thing he planned to dominate. She only hoped she didn't call out for him by accident during one of her more embarrassing moments. Not that she'd be having any of that for a while… Still, it was fun to tease him and think strange or inappropriate things in his direction, but Loki had made it clear that he could do exactly the same thing back to her if he wished, and proved it rather well when he sent the image of Thor with his arms crossed but fondling his bicep in the middle of a meeting the whole team was having. Darcy had burst out laughing, much to everyone's confusion and had to explain that Loki was sending her funny ideas and not that she was having a mental breakdown, although she didn't think it really helped prove that wrong either. Loki followed up with the picture of Tony reading Hulk a bed time story and Darcy managed to spit out half a can of Diet Coke across the meeting room table much to Jane's disgust and Fury's anger.

"Dad, I'm doing this, it's gonna be awesome and I'll send you a postcard every day, okay?"

There was a long pause.

"Okay?" She pressed a little harder.

"Okay."

"Good." Darcy said with a proud smile. Despite her dad being a secret agent man, Darcy still knew he could never say no to her. She always managed to wrap him around her finger, how else would she have the money to do a random internship in the middle of nowhere for a whole summer? "Now, how are you?"

"I'm as good as I can be, given my age."

Darcy rolled her eyes. "You're only 55. You're hardly an old man."

"Thanks, darling, I appreciate that but I've already said okay to the trip, there's no need to flatter me now."

Darcy opened her mouth to speak again but stopped. Her dad, for the first time, really sounded old. She wasn't sure if it was because he had spent too long in early retirement or whether her new knowledge of his secret life aged him, but she felt tears well up behind her eyes and had to quickly wipe them away before they fell.

"Dad?" She answered tentatively.

"Yes, darling?"

She tried again to open her mouth, hunting for something that would make everything better, but came up blank, her mouth empty. She wanted to say it was all okay, that she knew what Jackson had done and that she'd killed him, but she was ashamed of what he'd think, her father was a good man and he would surely be shocked and appalled to find out he'd raised a murderer. Darcy wanted to yell and tell him it was his fault she was kidnapped and tortured, but she could never handle the guilt that it would cause him either. Darcy shut her mouth and gave a dry swallow before trying to speak again and failing.

She loved her dad. But, she also hated him. It was a horrible feeling and Darcy couldn't stop it from building up inside her until she wanted to yell at him for lying to her; then cry over how tragic his life was. She felt Loki's presence again, and it was soothing to know he understood how she felt and was there for her. Loki gave her a gentle pull, and she knew she couldn't say anything, now was not a time for hostility. Knowing his regret for doing the same thing with his father, she learned from his mistakes and was thankful for his support.

"Darcy?" He pried, disturbed at her sudden silence.

"Yeah, sorry. I- I just miss you. If Jane will let me have more time off, I'm coming home for a bit, okay?" Darcy tried to reassure him. "I want to see what you've done with the kitchen." She said with a sad smile, knowing how much time he'd put into refurbishing the kitchen months before hand, she found his lengthy emails and phone calls about paint and types of material for work surfaces dull and tedious at the time, but that was before Thor and now she longed for normal and boring, yet it seemed the furthest thing possible.

"I've just had a man around about the bathroom; I'd love to see what you think." He said enthusiastically about his daughter visiting or the bathroom, she couldn't tell.

Darcy ran a hand through her hair and felt Natasha's hand stroke her back lightly. "That's great!" She didn't know why this was so hard… Being normal…

"I'd never touch your room though, darling."

Darcy sighed, giving a slight laugh. "Dad, I'm grown up now, that room would be better as a gym or an office. It's useless just sitting there empty."

"Never. Because then where would you stay if you even wanted to come home?" Her dad's voice and sentiment warmed her down the phone. She felt the bitter rage towards him dripping away slowly.

"Fine! Keep it as a shrine or whatever." Darcy laughed, her attention snapping away from the phone as she and Natasha spun around at the sound of the door to her apartment opening then slamming shut behind the person with too much force. It didn't take much to guess who it was, Darcy rolled her eyes. Would the God ever learn his strength? Darcy winced at the memory of Tony throwing a vase once because he didn't like it anymore, with swiftness Darcy didn't know the God possessed, he caught it only to smash it with the sheer power of his grasp. They all laughed, but Darcy was getting a little fed up of finding broken things stashed around the apartment that Thor had wrecked then tried to hide so Jane wouldn't find out and be angry.

"Lady Darcy! Are you present?" Thor's voice was nothing less than booming.

"Dad, I gotta go. Jane's boyfriend just showed up; so she shouldn't be far behind and I should go distract him before he breaks something." Darcy covered quickly, taking the phone off loud speaker in hopes that if Thor said anything randomly about S.H.I.E.L.D or The Avengers then her dad wouldn't hear.

"The oaf?"

"That's him alright." Darcy replied with a wistful smirk. She had mentioned Thor in a couple of her emails to her dad, using an alias that S.H.I.E.L.D had made for him.

"When are you going to get a boy to bring home?" Her father asked, his intentions good, but Darcy really didn't want to think about anything like that right then.

"Dad..." She whined. "I'm too busy."

"Jane's your manager and she has time." He countered; calling her out on what was a lame excuse anyway. She knew her dad just wanted her to settle down with a nice man, and Darcy once thought she might have that luxury, but not now. She now knew what it was like to fall in love, she knew what it was like to be loved, and then she discovered the pain of heartbreak. It took a lot to break Clint's heart but hers too needed to heal. She had been in love, she still was, but that didn't come with the happy singing, dancing and birds chirping that Disney promised her it would. No, it meant she had her control taken from her by him while simultaneously gaining power over that same person. Love, it was what Tony called a 'terrible privilege' and now Darcy knew why.

"Well, there's no fit guys here anyway. Science is just full of nerds who spend all their time looking in telescopes, high strung women and then lil' old me." Darcy lied, ignoring the stab in her heart as Clint's face popped into her mind and won't leave. She wondered what he was up to, probably taking out his emotions on some poor defenseless newbies, Natasha was with her, so she knew he wasn't with his usual sparring partner, Darcy wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing. "Maybe I'll meet someone in Paris or London, and then I'll move abroad and marry them." Darcy teased, knowing her empty threat would end their conversation. It did.

William Lewis gave an uncomfortable cough down the phone and moved on.

"Maybe you should be single a little longer." He decided for her, making Darcy smirk at how easy he was to wind up.

"Agreed. Anyway, I better go. I think I hear plates being smashed. I love you." Darcy said quickly.

"I love you too, darling. I want daily emails from Paris or I'll send in the big guns to check you're alright." He said with a warm laugh but Darcy believed him wholly.

"Daily emails and postcards, got it. How will I ever have time to have fun when I'm writing all the time?" She said whimsically.

"That's the point, sweetheart! I'll see you soon, I'm not going to let go of your coming home soon promise. Tell me when you land so I know you're safe."

Darcy looked around the living room, Jane had come in now and was helping Thor chop up vegetables for dinner, Natasha was sitting on the chair next to her, listening in on every word, ready to help if Darcy needed it but with a tweak in her eyebrows that Darcy had come to associate with 'support'. She felt the brush of Loki checking up on her emotional state and smiled.

"I've never been safer." Darcy said with a smile as she wished her dad goodbye and hung up, knowing it was only a matter of time before everything came to light and then she'd really have to deal with the consequences.

Speaking of which…

"Nat?" Her eyebrows pinched closer together as she bit her lip in anticipation.

"Yes?"

"Promise me you'll look after him." It wasn't a question and Natasha knew it.

"Let me worry about him, you need to focus on yourself for a while."

Darcy gave a bitter laugh, but was thankful for the older woman's support. "I'll never stop worrying about him." She admitted. "Just… I couldn't forgive myself…" She took a deep breath and closed her eyes tightly. "If he wasn't happy." Darcy paused for a long while before finding the strength to look Natasha in the eye convincingly. "Even if that's not with me." It was the final stab in her chest that she could take before cracking and admitting how lost and scared she was, how she wanted to be selfish and not leave Clint but she wasn't what he deserved.

"Darcy-" Natasha's eyebrows started doing that hypnotizing thing and Darcy had to stop it or she'd break.

"No." She interrupted the spy, which wasn't as scary of a thing as it was when she first met the S.H.I.E.L.D agent; she guessed they really were friends now. "He's so good and strong and… fragile… He works so hard and does so much amazing stuff, he's saved hundreds of people, like thousands if you think about it, maybe millions? I don't know. But that's just how awesome he is. And I can't give him anything close to that." She could hear his voice in her head, telling her that she was all he wanted, begging her to stay. It pained her and Natasha must have noticed. "Surely there's a spy here that'll be good for him? Some Olympic level gymnast or swimmer or something."

"I understand, but no. Clint is strong willed, I can't force him to give up on you. Especially, because I don't want him to." Darcy gave a weak smile and was met with one in return. Natasha was still routing for her? That was good to know. "I'll look after him so he'll be ready for you when you get back." Natasha said warmly and Darcy wanted to thank her a hundred different ways for it.

"In one piece?" She kidded, hoping to make the conversation a bit lighter, not knowing if she could take much more.

"Yes, although if you both don't immediately fall into each others beds once you return, I can't promise I won't break either of you." Natasha joined in on the joke, her long arm wrapping around Darcy's shoulders and giving her a slightly too tight squeeze, as if paying a deposit of her threat.

"Alright! Alright! Just don't snap my neck before I go! Geez…" Darcy rubbed her neck over dramatically and they both laughed lightly before heading to the kitchen area. Darcy gave a quick glance into her bedroom, her door propped open with a suitcase.

With all loose ends tied, more or less, all she had to do now was pack, she thought with a sigh. Looking over at Jane, who was analyzing a cookbook as if it was the most complicated thing in the world, Darcy thanked God that she was a much more organized person than Jane and would at least have the sense to bring the basics on her trip like her passport and not a random sneaker or a coat hanger unlike the brilliant scientist she followed 30 thousand kilometers around the world for a few months previous.

Yep, following Jane and her crazy, but often correct, ideas had led to the biggest, best and worse adventure Darcy could have ever imagined. She stole a sliced piece of carrot and popped it in her mouth, crunching on the raw vegetable, she wondered if there was a suitable gift she could get that both thanked and blamed someone for something like the past three months of her life? There must at least be a card for that…

Xxxxxx


Sequel will be up after I've finished Suspend My Disbelief (my Loki/Darcy fic, please check it out!) alone with my wonderful Beta's fic, Hide and Seek, you can find a link to both in my profile.

Thank you for all the support and continued reading of my fic, it's been such a huge part of my life and I can't thank you enough.

I hope you liked this little scene, and I promise there will definitely be more of William Lewis in the sequel, this was just a sneak peak ;-) So let me know what you think!

Reviews are not necessary but completely welcomed and appreciated!

Until next time,

Charlie