betaed by the lovely Allie, title from Punch Brothers.

Darcy doesn't believe in heroes, and Bruce doesn't believe that he is one.

She says, "this isn't easy."

He says, "I know."


They're both civilians in a building full of soldiers. Natasha and Clint are assassins; there is no way to get around the fact. Steve is Steve, Captain, United States Army. Thor may be reclassified as a warrior, but in the bone, in the muscle, it is the same. Coulson is a SHIELD agent. And Tony grew up around war, even if he wasn't necessarily trained for it. Tony made weapons. Tony's iron is stained with blood.

Darcy got involved with this because she wanted college credit, and she kept being involved because Phil Coulson decided she was too valuable an asset- she'd seen too much- to give up. Bruce got involved because of someone he tried his best not to be.


(Darcy 8:42 PM): stop beating yourself up about friday
(Darcy 8:42 PM): it wasn't your fault

(Bruce 8:48 PM): I'm not beating myself up about Friday.

(Darcy 8:53 PM): lies
(Darcy 8:53 PM): you are lying, dr. banner, I will bet you real money
(Darcy 8:54 PM): or a round of drinks.

(Bruce 9:06 PM): I'm not buying you whiskey this time.

(Darcy 9:08 PM): yeah dancing on tables again probably won't help my career much


Almost everyone who lives in Stark Tower goes to bed late and gets up late.

(Except the assassins. They get up early.)

Darcy figures that once Tony got to Steve, it was a lost cause; no one would ever eat breakfast before ten again.

It always surprises her when she sees Bruce at the coffee shop on the corner, the one that she goes to with the metal blinds and brick walls painted canary yellow. After a while, she thinks, maybe it shouldn't surprise her.

He always, at this coffee shop, inexplicably gets tea and an almond croissant. It's one of the few unhealthy things she sees him eat.

Darcy gets coffee and a carrot muffin with cream cheese frosting- "your early morning cupcake," Bruce says- and sometimes they sit together and eat, quietly. Sometimes they don't.

One morning Steve finds the coffee shop, and even though there's nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with Steve, they end up walking several blocks west, companionably, until they find a new place.

It's too far, especially in the winter, but Darcy goes anyways.


She loses eight pounds her first month at SHIELD.

"It gets to you," Natasha, who is all beautiful, deadly angles, says when she finds Darcy sending strange, confused looks at her ribs. "Stop mainlining caffeine and sleep more and you'll be fine."

Darcy blinks at her through the mirror, a slow sweep of her lashes. "I-"

"Everyone deals differently," Natasha says. "Maybe find yourself a punching bag or two."

Bruce says she's welcome to join him at yoga, and the offer makes her feel better even as she turns it down.

("African dance, then," he says thoughtfully, "or ballet-" and Darcy laughs so hard she doubles over, out of breath.)


(Bruce 9:15 PM): How are the bruises?

(Darcy 9:17 PM): better.
(Darcy 9:18 PM): well, significantly grosser looking. which I assume means they're getting better.

(Bruce 9:22 PM) Stop poking at them.

(Darcy 9:26 PM): did gamma radiation make you psychic too?

(Bruce 9:28 PM): No, but you're easier to read than Tony is.
(Bruce 9:29 PM): Also, you kept distracting my lab assistants by lifting up your shirt and poking at the one on your hip.

(Darcy 9:33 PM): yes well it is *impressive*.


"You're confusing," Tony says.

"You stole my scone," Darcy retorts.

"Those two things are unrelated," Tony responds, tapping at the shiny, expensive table with long fingers. "Though it's a delicious scone. Did you make it?"

"Bruce made it for me," Darcy says, and reaches out. "Dude, you could afford to buy Magnolia Bakery and force them to mass-produce scones for you. Give."

"Bruce made it? Huh." Tony turns what remains of the scone over in his hand. "Well, I guess it's debatably chemistry."

"It was a present," Darcy says, and crosses her arms, "seriously, what is your deal?"

He sets the scone down on the counter, eyes darkening. "I'm curious."

"About?" Darcy knows defensive when she sees it, and she meets his glare levelly. "Scones?"

"No, about you and Bruce. You're sleeping together."

She doesn't deny it.

"Don't fuck it up," Tony says quietly. "And I know- based on recent developments in my love life-" Darcy mentally categorizes them: slept with Captain America, freaked the fuck out, went to Malibu for far too long, currently avoiding the good soldier like the plague, a progression that is very Tony and makes him very melancholy- "I'm not the most qualified to give advice, but I have a hell of a lot more experience than you. Or Bruce, for that matter."

"I wasn't planning on it," Darcy responds, and takes her scone, and leaves the room.


"Tony knows about us," she says, and takes off her shirt. It's a risky manuever. Stark has cameras everywhere, and probably the multiple screens and evil cackle to boot.

"Yeah," Bruce says. "I disabled the camera in my room- which apparently Clint and Natasha did not do, I am so much more considerate- but he's probably seen you going in and out at all hours of the night."

Darcy yawns. "Sometimes I need a midnight snack." She steps out of her pants, dropping them on the most convenient chair. "You haven't kissed me all day."

"Huh." Bruce steps forward, frames her face with big, callused hands. "Guess I should fix that."

"It's only polite." She yawns against his mouth, giving herself a few moments before turning it into a real kiss. "Come on, I even remembered matching underwear today."

"Noted and appreciated," Bruce says, and slides his hand down her back, careful to avoid the flowering burst of purple-grey-blue on her hip.


She knows that if she told her friends from college what she was doing, they wouldn't believe her.

It's okay, because sometimes she doesn't either.


(Darcy 2:32 AM): I can't sleep.

(Bruce 2:35 AM): You're still having nightmares?

(Darcy 2:38 AM): are you?

(Bruce 2:39 AM): Yes.
(Bruce 2:41 AM): Since I said it first, will you fess up?

(Darcy 2:43 AM):
(Darcy 2:44 AM): but I sleep better when I'm with you.

(Bruce 2:46 AM): I can come to your place if you want.

(Darcy 2:46 AM): you don't have to do that.
(Darcy 2:49 AM): actually
(Darcy 2:49 AM): yes, please.

(Bruce 2:50 AM): ok.


"You have glitter," Bruce says, and brushes his thumb over the soft skin underneath her eye. He's silhoutted by the pouring rain, the orange glow from the streetlights reflecting off the pavement. It's thundering, and absently, he wonders if Thor's in a mood.

Darcy leans against the doorjamb, movements slow and choreographed. "Yeah, Jane wanted to go out, but then Thor wanted to watch- I think it was Mary Poppins?- so she left at like 11. We didn't really do much. And I couldn't find my eye makeup remover."

It's silver pigment against the tan of his skin. "I like the way it looks," Bruce says finally. "Can I come in? I brought pizza." He gestures vaguely to the bag at his size. "With olives."

Darcy steps back. "I'll make you that weird grass tea you like, you know how well it goes with mozzarella," and he ducks his head and laughs and closes the door softly behind them.


"Who do you think gets married first, Barton and Romanov or Banner and Lewis?" Nick Fury asks.

Phil Coulson is not not a betting man, but his voice is wry as he answers, "sir, I couldn't even tell you anything if I tried."