Disclaimer: I don't own anything, including the title, a phrase that Tony uses, or the Belgian fry place (it's on 2nd Avenue between 7th and 8th and they are seriously the best fries in the country).
Thank you for the encouraging reviews.
"I think it's about time we went on another date." She hopped up on the table where Steve sat idly doodling in the margins of a newspaper. It'd been a long few days, and he was tired. Not too tired for Darcy, though. He laid his pen down and smiled up at her.
"Are you asking me out?"
"I am. Wanna go out tomorrow night?" She swung her legs back and forth, toes pointed, and smiled coyly down at him. His fingers twitched toward her nearest calf, but he stopped himself. They were only just talking about a second date, for Pete's sake; he couldn't be fondling her leg already.
He feigned indifference. "Gee, I might need to check my calendar."
"Well, if you're too busy, I can always ask Dr. B." She slid down and made to leave, but he caught her wrist.
"I'm sure I can find time."
"Great. I've got a plan you'll love. Pick you up at six."
She leaned down and kissed him on the cheek before leaving. Steve watched her go, hoping the next day and a half would pass quickly.
Standing in front of his closet the next evening, Steve sighed. He'd been there for nearly twenty minutes, ever since he'd gotten out of the shower, and still hadn't come up with anything. He picked up his phone and made a call.
"Clint, can you help me? I don't know what to wear on my date."
"You in your room?"
"Yeah." Clint hung up unceremoniously, and Steve tossed his phone onto the bed.
Moments later Clint swung in through a window that Steve hadn't thought opened. "Nice towel," he said.
Steve glanced down at the towel around his waist. "Thanks."
"So, a date, huh." The shorter man went to the closet and started rifling through it. "Who you going out with?" he asked.
"Darcy," Steve answered slowly, staring at the back of Clint's head. Who else would he be going out with?
Clint turned, a shirt in his hand. "Then wear whatever you want, man. She won't care. What you wear isn't going to change how she feels about you."
Steve's heart thumped heavily. "But she's so much cooler than me."
"Only on the outside. On the inside she's a huge dweeb."
"How do you know?"
Clint compared the shirt he held to another one, then held the first and then the other up in front of Steve. "She does research for fun. That's dweeby. But good; coolness alone won't take you far. You've got to have something to back it up." He hung up one shirt and flicked through hangers of pants. "And I know all that because being a kick-ass assassin is a lot more cerebral than you people think. You have to observe and analyze human behavior; it's psychology. We're not just smokin' hot and wicked flexible, you know. We use our minds, too."
"You kill people using your minds," Steve said flatly, hoping Clint didn't mean it, although he wouldn't be entirely surprised.
Clint shook his head. "Nope, we generally kill people using pointy things. We use our minds to get to them and then get out alive. Like I said, it doesn't matter what you wear. She'd probably be really happy if you wore that." He gestured to the towel, which Steve clenched tighter around his waist. He threw the shirt to Steve, then pointed into the closet. "Those pants, your Chucks, that shirt. Roll the sleeves up. You'll look cooler, but still like you. Okay?"
He shook his head. "One day we're gonna have to go shopping so you can learn to dress yourself." He left (through the door) and Steve started to dress.
Darcy arrived just before six to find Tony sitting on the couch. He had his glasses on and was reading a newspaper, which seemed very un-Tony-like.
"Hey, Tony. Is Steve ready?"
He folded the paper with extravagant care and looked over the top of his glasses at her. "Not yet. That gives us time to have a little talk, young lady."
Sometimes—well, often—it was best to just humor Tony for a while. "Ooookay. What's up?"
"I understand this is the second date between you and Steven." How was he keeping a straight face? Tony applauded his masterful self-control.
"There are a few issues we should discuss before you go out again. Firstly, Steven is a good boy, so don't think you're going to take advantage of him."
Darcy's jaw dropped. "I can't believe this… Doesn't this normally happen the other way around? What's next, are you going to tell me you've got a shotgun and a good place to hide bodies?"
He grinned dangerously. "Kid, I'm Iron Man. I don't need a shotgun or a place to hide bodies. I'm kind of serious, though. I hope you don't think you're getting any tonight."
"That is so not up for group discussion." She glared. It was an impressive glare, but Tony had been glared at by the best of them, and he wasn't bothered.
"I'm just saying. Don't hold your breath. And whatever you do, don't break his heart."
"Remember that time you told me you're terrible with emotional stuff? Thanks for the proof." Darcy flashed him a thumbs up and a sneer.
"For the second part, I don't know how much money you make, but it's not as much as I do. So here." He handed her a small pile of bills, folded over. "I hope you have a good time."
She opened her mouth to protest, then shook her head. "I don't know whether I should punch you or hug you."
"I get that a lot." Behind the flash of Tony's smile was genuine sentiment. Darcy shoved the money in her purse as Steve emerged.
Tony saw Darcy's face light up when Steve came in the room. It didn't happen all at once; it started as a spark in her eyes and a tiny indrawn breath, and then the spark jumped to her lips and spread. Tony looked down at the paper on his lap, hiding his own smile.
"Hey," she said, her voice just a bit husky. "You ready?"
"Yep. Sorry to keep you waiting."
"No prob. Tony kept me company. Thanks," she told Stark, eyes flicking to her purse to tell him that she wasn't just thanking him for the talk. As usual, he dismissed it with a wave.
Steve offered Darcy his arm, and they headed for the door. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do," Tony called after them. She spun around and blew him a kiss, and they were off.
Darcy led them down the street to the subway and they took a train heading downtown. Steve acted like such a tourist on the subway; he studied the route map intently, and read all of the ads, and checked out the people around him. Darcy was pretty sure it was equal parts childlike curiosity and alertness to threats. It was obviously very cute.
They emerged at Second Avenue. In the minute it took Darcy to orient herself, Steve asked, "Where are we off to?"
She pointed north and took Steve's hand as they crossed the street. "The East Village. Have you been there yet?"
He shook his head. "If I have, it was before it was called that."
"Part of it's the Bowery. I know that existed back in the day." Darcy wondered idly how much he'd be traumatized by watching "Gangs of New York." Probably not too much; he'd been in a war, after all. Even if he wasn't traumatized, though, it didn't mean he'd like it.
His grip tightened fractionally on her hand. "That was a rough neighborhood back in—back then."
"It's gotten better." She squeezed back. "Don't worry; I know you'll take care of me."
"We'll take care of each other."
Their destination was a record shop. He hadn't known what to expect, but this wasn't it. Once inside, Darcy turned to him, excited.
"Here's how it's gonna go down: You pick five albums you think I should hear, I pick five albums I think you should hear, we buy them and listen to them."
It sounded like a good plan except for one thing. "But what if I don't know any of the bands?"
"I think you'll find some you know. If not, pick them based on the horribleness of either the cover or the band name." She grinned. "That should make it easy."
"How long do we have?" Steve looked at his watch, all business.
"Half an hour. Ready? Go!" She scampered off into the depths of the store, and he chuckled and followed.
Darcy hadn't exactly cheated; she'd just known what they were going to do, and therefore had an idea of what records to keep an eye out for. Her mental list included Elvis, KISS, and Madonna, among others, but of course it all depended on what was available. She'd already grabbed a Johnny Cash album with "I Walk the Line" on it. If Steve didn't like "I Walk the Line," Darcy didn't know what she'd be forced to do.
She snuck a look at him where Steve was flipping through a rack intently. She'd known that giving him some kind of mission would be a winning plan, especially because he looked so hot all focused like that. She felt glad that there weren't a lot of other people in the shop at the moment; if anyone had tried to hit on Steve while they were on a date, Darcy didn't think she could reasonably be held responsible for her actions. Not that she could blame anyone who tried to hit on him. She didn't know where he'd been hiding that navy blue shirt, but the way he looked in it with the sleeves rolled to just below his elbows made her feel incapable of forming complete sentences. Even better than how gorgeous he was was the knowledge that he wanted to date her. It was enough to make her shiver.
Steve looked across the shop at where Darcy was browsing. She bit her lower lip as she pulled a record from the rack and held it up, reading the label. She had her glasses on and she looked studious and almost innocent, which he knew from experience she was anything but. His mind wandered yet again to their previous date, which had ended with kissing her goodnight outside her apartment for longer than was strictly proper. He couldn't help looking forward to that part of the date. He shook his head and tried to focus on the albums arrayed in front of him.
Darcy was right about being able to find things he knew. A familiar title caught his eye and he pulled out a recording of Cole Porter's Anything Goes. She'd point out that even though the show had been written in the '30s, the lyrics were still entirely applicable today. He hoped she wouldn't be scared by the song "You'd Be So Easy to Love," even if he privately believed it was true about her. "I Get a Kick Out of You" was just as true, and less serious. He stuck the record under his arm and glanced up to see Darcy peeking at him. She wiggled her fingers in a flirtatious wave and he winked, surprised but pleased to see her blush.
When the half-hour was up, they met in front of the register. Darcy hugged her five albums to her chest so Steve couldn't see them. "Isn't it going to be kind of expensive, buying all these albums?" he asked as she handed them to the cashier. "I don't want you going broke just for one date."
"You're worth it," she said, perfectly serious, and Steve felt his heart jump, even if she was only talking about the cost of a few records. "But I must admit, Tony gave me an allowance. I considered turning it down on principle—as an independent woman, I don't and shouldn't have to rely on a man for financial support and all that—but then I didn't." She shrugged, pulling money out of her purse and handing it to the cashier. "It's how he shows he cares."
"He does like you a lot," Steve said, ignoring the stupid tickle of jealousy in his gut. He took the bag of records from the cashier and they left the store.
"He likes all of us a lot. I'm so lucky. I was just looking for an internship so I wouldn't be bored, and I ended up meeting Thor and then all the rest of you. It would be enough to know Thor, and get to be friends with him, but I get everyone else, too. And then I get to date you on top of all of it." Darcy shook her head in disbelief at her own good fortune. "I don't deserve any of it."
He put his hand on the back of her neck. "It's a good thing we don't get what we deserve. Otherwise I wouldn't be here with you."
She took a step closer and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him, but at the last second he turned his head. Darcy huffed next to his cheek. "You just ruined a perfectly good moment."
"Darcy, I don't think we should do that in public." He took his hand away and stuck it in his pocket, no longer meeting her eyes. She leaned back and crossed her arms.
"Uh, it's a little late for that. Remember Central Park? That was so public there was practically a neon sign."
"I know. And before you jump to conclusions, I don't regret it." Her expression softened marginally at that. "But it might be a good idea to be a little more, ah, circumspect. I don't know how many people recognize me as Cap, but in case anybody does, I have to make sure I'm not doing anything that can be criticized. For better or worse, I'm a role model."
"You say you want to be all stealthy, yet we're having this conversation in the middle of Second Avenue."
He ignored the interruption. "And more important is keeping you safe. If bad guys don't know you're my—you're someone I care about, they can't try to hurt you. I know you can take care of yourself," he hurried to add, "but it's better to keep you out of harm's way to begin with."
Darcy sighed. She had to admit that it did make some sense, though she wasn't about to tell him that. She pursed her lips and stared over the top of her glasses at him. Steve's expression was earnest; he really wanted to keep her out of trouble. Darcy mentally considered that that might be more difficult than he expected, something he really ought to know by now. But she could at least try to make it easier for him. He had enough to worry about without her adding to it.
"Fine," she said, and Steve's relief was obvious. "But I'm going to keep track, and you're going to owe me kisses later. And you will pay me back." She poked him in the chest.
He grinned mischievously. "With interest."
"Oh, shut up, you jerk, it's already hard enough to wait." She couldn't manage to look properly annoyed. "Are you ready for dinner?"
"It's nearby, which is good, because I'm starving." Unlike some girls, Darcy didn't pretend she never ate, and she wasn't shy about eating in front of him. Steve liked that; it was just another thing that made her so real. She must have been the realest person he'd ever known. "I hope you like fries. I also hope there's a place to sit."
Steve liked fries as much as the next guy, which was good, because that was all the place served. There was a wide selection of sauces, though, and they took their time choosing those, both not-so-slyly avoiding the ones with lots of garlic or onion. Luckily the two tiny tables in the back were empty, and they settled in the corner with their cones of Belgian fries—frites, the place called them—and cans of Coke.
He stabbed some fries and stuck them in his mouth, instantly regretting it when they burned his tongue. Darcy giggled at him. To give the fries a chance to cool, he asked, "Do you even have a record player?"
"Not yet, but Tony does. Or he should; I asked him if he did and he said he'd get something worked up. That's actually kind of scary if I think about it; there'll probably be lasers involved somehow. I should text him and see if it's ready. Not in the middle of dinner, though," she added primly.
"I'm impressed. You haven't checked your phone this whole time."
She speared a fry emphatically and shook it in his face. "I'll have you know that I am not a slave to technology. Besides, who am I gonna want to talk to when you're right here?"
Steve transferred his plastic fork from right hand to left. They ate the rest of their meal holding hands under the table.
They decided to get a taxi back to the tower, and wandered vaguely uptown to find one. Every time Steve walked close enough for their arms to touch, Darcy skipped away, tutting at him to be a good role model.
"You're not going to let me forget that, are you?" he sighed, resigned.
She cocked her head. "I think you know the answer to that."
He managed to catch hold of the strap of her bag and tugged her a bit closer. "I can't talk to you when you keep twirling around like that. We've been on two dates now."
"This one's not over yet, but we'll count it."
"How many do we have to go on before I get to call you my girlfriend?" Darcy stopped and he did too, one finger still hooked through the strap and head ducked down shyly. With one finger she lifted his chin until he met her gaze.
She couldn't help smirking just a little bit, but her voice was soft as she answered, "You can call me whatever you want, whenever you want. I'm all yours."
He bit his lip, trying to contain a delighted smile, and leaned forward. Then he remembered himself and looked at the busy street around them, scowling. "I owe you another one now."
Tony texted back that the record player was on the eighth floor. When the elevator doors slid open, paper arrows posted on various worktops and bits of machinery led to one corner of the room. A small space had been turned into a little nook with a table holding the record player, a lamp, and two mismatched armchairs. Darcy felt bad for whoever'd been shanghaied into moving furniture on their behalf; she had a feeling it was Dr. B, and resolved to think of something nice to do for him. And maybe Tony.
As Steve examined the record player, which appeared to be a fairly normal turntable with lots of wires trailing away from it, Darcy picked up a note with her initials on it from one of the chairs. The inside read Hope this set-up works for you. Remember: No sex in the Champagne Room (by which I mean this or any lab, ever). TS. She wondered if Tony ever did something nice without cancelling it out by doing something dickish. No thank-you present for him.
"Ladies first," Steve said, sitting down, and Darcy picked one of her records at random so she wouldn't overthink her choice. It was Madonna's Immaculate Collection. She suddenly freaked out; he wouldn't like any of it and he'd wonder what kind of person liked music like this and then he'd decide he didn't want to go out with her anymore. She swallowed hard.
"Madonna was really big in the '80s and '90s. She's still around now, but less relevant. Um, now that I look at it, I'm pretty sure you won't like any of these songs. But they're a huge part of recent music and the cultural vernacular now, so here's 'Material Girl.' Please don't judge me." Darcy carefully lowered the needle into the first groove on the B side and sat in the empty chair as the song started.
He leaned over from his chair and grabbed her hand. He didn't say anything, just held her hand and gazed at her with quiet acceptance, and Darcy felt her nerves subside.
A few albums later, Steve stood and flipped the Glenn Miller record over. He swung the arm over and let the needle drop into the groove. Darcy tried to fix in her mind how he looked, one arm reaching down to the turntable, the warm lamplight shining on his golden hair, the contented expression he wore, the shadows falling in the folds of his shirt. He thought himself a man out of time, but to her he was timeless.
He held out his hand. "Dance with me," he said quietly, and Darcy took his hand and let him pull her up.
One hand in his, the other on his shoulder, and she murmured that at least she remembered that much from the lesson. Instead of resting on her waist, though, his right hand pulled her closer, then settled at the small of her back. She adjusted by sliding her hand to the nape of his neck. And then she turned her head and laid it against his chest, and felt his cheek rest against the top of her head.
"This is my new favorite song," she sighed, and he agreed, holding her close and swaying gently.