R_S: A return to my previous silliness. I feel bad that I kind of forgot about these, but things are super crazed right now :/

Anyway, in this one: everyone has a formal ball they must attend in honor of some fancy science award Jane won… not my favorite, but fun.


The Award Elf
Full Cast
ThorxJane, TonyxPepper

The morning air was punctuated with squeals of excitement, the soft pitter-patter of Jane Foster thundering down the hall like an elephant escaped from the herd drifting to their ears. Nearly everyone else was in the collective favorite room of the tower, a modest (by Tony's standards) kitchen on one side and a massive television on the other, and an island and a living room couch set-up between. Thor, Tony, Bruce, and Steve were crowded around the island and stove, enjoying their respective choices of hot beverages, breakfast foodery, and newspapers, while Clint leaned against the wall of windows on the far side, enjoying the view over a cup of Joe. Darcy was cuddled up on the couch with a mug of simple home-made mocha (sometimes Bruce spoiled her, even if all it required was a bit of milk, chocolate syrup, and coffee) and looking over paperwork that was probably due three days ago… but she was Darcy, so handing things in late (even when they had been completed perfectly on time) just for the sake of being ornery was expected. Natasha looked like some form of sexy kitten, curled up in the arm chair beside Darcy's couch, with some exotically spiced tea and Russian literature. Loki lurked in a far corner away from the others, still adjusting to the team dynamic and the… domesticity of it all. Jane literally slid into the scene on socked feet a la Risky Business (albeit inadvertently), fancy looking off-white paper clutched and wrinkling in her hands.

"Oh my gosh, Darcy, thank you! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthan kyouthank-" The intern had just enough time to put her drink down on the coffee table before getting caught in a fierce hug, which she promptly attempted to wiggle out of.

"Ok, enough- Jesus, you're like an overexcited little dog. Get off me."

She did as asked, spinning around with the paper in excitement, "Thank you so much! I can't believe you did this for me! You're amazing, just too amazing." Darcy smirked and did a little hand waving bow.

"I know I am, though it never gets old to hear it… but why, exactly, am I amazing this time?"

"'Dr. Foster,'" she read, "We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected as this year's primary recipient of the Kingston-Ewing Award for Academic Excellence for your seminary research in the fields of both Observational and Theoretical Astrophysics, as well as Cosmogony.'" She looked up again, preening and squealing with elation, "The Kingston-Ewing Award, Darcy! That is an absolutely amazing honor."

Dr. Banner smiled warmly, raising his mug and looking duly impressed, "Congratulations." There were other murmurs of agreement, Thor's being particularly loud and proud. Darcy reached down to pick up her mug again, not looking at Jane and poorly feigning innocence.

"Yeah, congrats… I had no idea." She punctuated the act with an all too casual sip from her mug. Her boss gave her a disbelieving look, cocking out one hip to rest the hand that clutched her paper in it.

"Oh bull- this is an application only deal, and I know I didn't apply. You're the only one with access to my research who both can pull this off and cares to. Plus, you're a terrible liar, just like the worst." The room murmured agreement with that, too.

"Traitors…" she mumbled before answering, "Ok, so maybe I took a little extra time to put together a portfolio of your dissertation and non-classified research and field notes. If you're not going to fix your name in the good graces of the scientific community, someone's got to. You nerds are really mean, like you make nasty smart-people jokes about each other's research that I totally don't get but are definitely just the opposite of nice… I kind of see it as part of my job description to protect you from that. Plus," she added with a sneaky grin, "I do love the residual accolades I get when you win all the things I secretly enter you for."

"Well, Darce, it's well deserved, so thank you." As she finished, Pepper entered the room looking every bit as perfect as always, stalking in on legs that were a mile long and perfectly balanced on the fiercest stilettos known to man. And, of course, she was dressed pristinely and professionally, the light stack of files in her arms nearly reaching the warm smile she fixed them with.

"Good morning, everyone! And Dr. Foster, I do believe congratulations are in order."

Jane beamed back, "Thanks, JARVIS told you?" When the strawberry-blond giggled, it was something cliché like the tinkling of bells, and Darcy thought once again about how much she would hate all the perfect/sexy/adorable women in that tower if she didn't love them so damn much.

"No, I've known for a few days now… so has the rest of the team." A smug smile tugged on Tony's lips, while the rest looked either sly or bashful at the admittance and Jane looked around at them all in surprise.

"Seriously?! And you didn't say anything? Even you, Tony?"

He shrugged, "Didn't wanna ruin the surprise. Anyway, since Stark Industries is posing as your benefactor for S.H.I.E.L.D., we get to find out ahead of time in order to start the paperwork on the additional grant. Because, y'know, funds are just so short for your research."

"Yes," Pepper nodded, continuing as though she had not heard Tony's bad joke, "we actually have the responsibility of accepting for you. A lot of bureaucratic nonsense, but beside the point… though, I really wish you had told me you were applying. It's fantastic, and you definitely deserve it."

"I wish I'd known I was applying, too." She shot a sideways glance at the girl looking guilty but self-satisfied on the couch and pretending to be absorbed in her work.

"Ah, I see. Well you can be certain to thank the sneaky little elf that did it when you and Tony accept the award at the gala." Tony made some quip bemoaning the fact that the elf didn't make him any shoes, but no one paid him any mind.

"Oooh, that's right!" Jane fell onto the arm of the couch, poking her gofer to get her attention, "There's this expensive formal soiree for me to meet the beneficiaries of the award and talk to them about what their inheritance is funding for when they write it off on tax returns." She hopped up and hugged Thor tightly, realizing that he had been trying to do so since the announcement of her success.

Pepper nodded, "Yes, and the entire team will be there to support you, since the last ball in which the Avengers were in attendance ended regrettably." The look she gave Loki was pointed but teasing, and his was mild in response.

"Wow, sounds really cool. I hope you have fun." Darcy said earnestly, turning back to her paperwork. The fall of Jane's face as she stopped flapping around was instantaneous and almost heart-breaking to everyone watching.

"What do you mean, aren't you coming? You have to come; it won't be the same without you. I know you don't realize it, but you really helped us get here- so much."

"Jane, I really appreciate the sentiment, but do I really look like I belong at some big, fancy ball?"

"But everyone's coming, even Bruce and Steve…"

"Yes," Pepper teased, "and right now the boys outnumber us 2:1. We need you to even out the odds- Tony's the trouble of 2 dates on his own, and Jane needs one arm to be man-free for hand-shaking obligations.

"Besides," the scientist said, "we can go dress shopping together- like gal-pals!"

Darcy shivered theatrically, "Please never use that phrase again." Before she could continue, Pepper cut in again, strutting over from the counter where the guys were listening to the banter amusedly.

"Actually, I'm taking you girls shopping. You can't show up wearing just any old thing off the rack from Macy's," she winked lightly, "I'll get us all into something perfect and couture."

"Oh ok, cool, let me just make sure I stop at my magical money tree before we go. I'm happy for you, Jane, really I am, but I just can't afford to go to this thing. Sorry."

"Don't be silly, Darcy- Tony's paying." From across the room, the man in question made some sort of strangled choking sound mixed with a startled exclamation through a mouth full of eggs, but he was silenced by one of those 'I'm Pepper Potts and I own you' looks.

He swallowed the food loudly and waved a finger at the young brunette intern, "As a reward for this, I expect you to make sure she wears something slutty." Darcy didn't answer, instead turned and honed her gaze in on Natasha while Pepper rolled her eyes and began bickering with him in that oh so loving way.

"If I'm being forced into this estrogen bonding session, you're coming to suffer with me. I won't be made to deal with the excited shopping squeals alone."

"And miss a chance to spend more of Stark's money?" She smirked into her cup, "I wouldn't dream of it, doushenka."(1)


So, that was how Darcy found herself wandering awkwardly into some high-end boutique (because this was not a store, it was a boutique, where they would give you complimentary champagne and act like you were picking out a freakin' wedding dress... it occurred to her that boy was Pep gonna go all out if Tony and she ever got married) that she felt she had no business being in, given that she hated flashy expensive anythings. She was donning her alma mater's sweatshirt and some old jeans that made her ass look damn fine, if she did say so herself, so at least that gave her some confidence. But still, this place was just so not her. Even if she wanted to be that girl that got all the haut-est clothes and was never photographed in the same thing twice, she still thought she would look out of place in the elegant waiting area. But she was there, and Daddy Stark and Mama Pep were buying her something pretty to wear so she could support Jane, so she might as well make the best of it. Chin tilted slightly up, she walked with impressively faked confidence to the nearest clerk.

"Excuse me, ma'am, perhaps you could help me. I'm meeting a few friends here to pick out dresses for an upcoming gala."

"Sweetheart," the woman gave Darcy a condescending once-over, "perhaps you'd be a little more comfortable in the next store over, where things are ready to wear… or a consignment store."

Like magic, Pepper appeared beside them, "We're in a bit of a hurry, Stephanie, Mr. Stark expects me back for a board meeting, so perhaps things would go a bit quicker if you picked up some dresses and dropped the attitude you're using with my close associate, hm?" When Jane and she appeared to flank Pepper, Natasha looked especially deadly.

The woman in question blushed, looking mortified, "Absolutely Ms. Potts, terribly sorry for the misunderstanding. Please, allow me to fetch you some champagne, on us."


"I can't believe you made us late because you didn't like the suits they were wearing." Clint griped, clearly annoyed. Tony had forced Happy to make a pit stop for an 'emergency fitting' for Steve and Bruce, deciding the non-designer suits they had deemed to wear were unfit to be seen around him. Obviously he was more than prepared for one of the events, and Clint had been on his fair of missions that required a certain state of dress. Thor and Loki had been fitted in advance to ensure the former had something big enough tailored to fit him.

"It had to be done."

"Debatable." Bruce amended, also peeved, "I hope you realize that we missed Jane's acceptance speech and have an apology ready."

Tony waved them off, "I already contacted both her and Pepper to let them know we had to make a pit-stop due to ill-fitting suits. It was generally accepted that it was better for the individuals representing Stark Industries to be late but well-dressed than looking moribund."

"I think 'moribund' is more than a bit of an overstatement."

"Oh hush, Brucey, and help me look for the girls… do you know who Fury sent to babysit us?"

Loki inclined his head, "I would assume it is the unhappy looking agent that is approaching our party right now."

"Agent Hill," Tony greeted with a mock solute as she arrived, "you clean up well." Maria looked uncharacteristically feminine in the long (and shockingly bright) burnt umber dress, its shoulders capped with jeweled sleeves, and tastefully simple jewelry, but unsurprisingly her make-up was simple and her hair pulled back tightly. She only glared at him in response and brushed past, having confirmed that they had arrived and implying that she would be monitoring their behavior for the rest of the event.

"Well hello to you too, ma'am." Clint quipped when she was out of earshot, "So where are our lovely lady escorts for the night?"

Bruce snorted, "Maybe we took too long and got replaced. I think Pepper can do a lot better than Tony, don't you?"

"Oh hardy-har-har… Evidently not, because look-… here she… comes…" Clint whistled lowly as Tony trailed off, like a speechless teen in love. Only Pepper ever had the ability to do that to him, and she did look exceptionally stunning that night. The dress was slinky, dripping down her curves in a cascade of green sequins to slide across the floor. Its front dipped sensuously low to just above her belly button, strategically hugging her form so that only the middle of her chest and barest hint of breasts were visible. A simple knot of pearls at her neck was the only embellishment on an already intense dress, and her strawberry hair hung straight and simple.

She smirked, "Darcy talked me into it."

"Remind me to buy her something nice." He murmured, before shaking it off, "Oh right, I already did… you look like the little mermaid." When she looked like she was about to get reproachful at his little quip, he cut her off, "But prettier, and definitely sexier- much sexier. Really, Pep, you look amazing." A gentle hand on the small of her back pulled her to him in a quick kiss, and that earned him a little lovesick smile.

"Well don't you gentlemen all look so handsome," she turned address the brothers and Steve, "how are you boys adjusting to modern Earth formalwear?"

The blush that was already painting the soldier's face as a result of the dress only deepened, "It's, um, really not all that different nowadays, ma'am, so there's not much of an adjustment… you look lovely." She smiled warmly at him and patted his arm.

"Thank you, Steve. Just wait until you boys see what we've done with little Jane. And Darcy- you'll want to lock her away in a tower." She winked at them all before pushing to the Asgardians, "Thor? Loki?"

"It is a little less ornate than that to which we are accustomed in Asgard," the darker of the two spoke slowly, as he often did since joining their company, clearly choosing his words not to offend, "however, the traditions are not without their charms and loveliness, such as yourself." He bowed lightly, and Pepper appreciated the princely sentiment.

The blond brother grinned openly, "Indeed, the celebration is most festive! But I do wish to see Jane and congratulate her once more on this great success."

"Of course, right this way." Pepper led them through the throngs of people, she, Bruce, and Tony offering greetings and quick exchanges with familiar faces they passed along the way. It took only a few moments before they came across her finishing up a conversation with a woman so old they wondered how she hadn't collapsed into dust.

"There she is," Bruce announced warmly as she turned to regard them, "the woman of the hour."

Jane, in all her excitement and pretty dress, looked more adorable than sexy but still beautiful. Her make-up was simple and natural, knowing Thor probably wouldn't appreciate anything too intense, with her hair done up into a bun. She wore no jewelry, and her gown was simple, bright pink and strapless with a cinched train. It folded over to be reddish at the top and gathered slightly at the waist. Her entire face lit up when she saw them carefully rushing aside while trying not to look too eager.

"Jane," Thor's voice was low and warm, "you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen." Her eyes watered slightly, as she embraced him, whispering something sweet into his ear and parting with a chaste kiss.

"Dr. Foster, you look just darling- like an adorable little Barbie." Pepper smacked Tony's arm at his teasing, but no one seemed to mind as the two shared a friendly embrace. Similar welcomes were shared all around (Steve much less flustered by her significantly more conservative dress), and her unparalleled joy was so intense that Loki even received a perfunctory cheek-to-cheek kiss usually customary for a 'brother-in-law' figure. It was the first time any such camaraderie had been shown between them, Jane still wary of his past actions, and the pause that followed as she slowly pulled away was uncertain. But when Loki offered a warm smile and a soft murmur of congratulations, the brunette pixie beamed up at him shamelessly and squeezed his hands before moving away.

"Thank you guys so much for coming- really, it means the world." The smile she was giving Thor made it clear that he was really the one she was excited for, but they didn't doubt she was happy to see them, too.

"Of course! Sorry we're late though… it's this one's fault." Clint jabbed a thumb toward Tony, who feigned an innocent 'who, me?' type gesture.

She giggled, mood unable to be dampened, "I heard, wardrobe malfunction. Don't worry about it- I'm no good with speeches, so it's probably for the best you didn't have to go through that."

"Nonsense!" Thor insisted, "You will retell your victory tale as soon as we return home this evening, and we shall drink to its success!"

"And it was probably best not to try and keep this one quiet." Jane added, offering him another chaste kiss.

Natasha appeared out of nowhere some time during the conversation and received the least attention regarding her appearance- it was expected that she would always look so good other women oozed green with jealousy. Tonight only highlighted that simple fact as her simple but vibrant cherry red dress just barely dusted the ground, the tightness accentuating her curves. The loose waves of her red hair did not clash (because nothing would dare clash with the Black Widow), and the fish-like scalloping train that might have looked ridiculous on someone else only seemed even more elegant on her lithe frame. Her entire aura was electric sexuality as she slunk around, catching eyes and disappearing. Even most of the Avengers had to admire the view- not Tony, though, which did not escape their notice (because really- it was Tony Stark). He was too busy grinning softly at the air ahead.

"And why are you smiling like a proud father?" Bruce teased, finally feeling a bit less cranky about the night.

He nodded his head in the direction ahead of him in response, "Cuz our little girl's all grown up."

They couldn't see what he was looking at initially, but then, as though it was a movie, people parted in opposite directions to bring Darcy into view, looking mature and elegant in a dress they couldn't believe. The mix of classic and daring was perfect for her, black and strapless with a dangerously plunging sweetheart neckline. It was mostly simple, just decorated with layering and subtle puffs of chiffon, and its only embellishment was a single rhinestone blossom perched on her right hip. There was no fancy jewelry or elaborate up-do, just curls coaxed into gentle spirals that surrounded smoky eyes and cherry-red lips. Her big blue eyes fell on them from across the room, and she waved, offering a shy smile and momentarily disregarding the young man who so clearly wanted to further engage her in conversation. It was only Tony who crossed the distance, smoothly excusing her from the conversation and pulling her out into the center of the dance floor. She resisted half-heartedly, more making a show that she didn't want to dance than anything, before being easily drawn into a careless sway with him. The group watched him laugh and move with her, leaning down to tell her something and grinning widely. The scene was warm and eerily domestic, and watching was almost uncomfortable, like they were intruding on a private moment. (2)

It was Natasha who broke their silent observation, "She really is his daughter, isn't she?" The others glanced over at Pepper and her in shock, disbelief written across their faces as the blond smiled a soft, wistful little smile and nodded.

"Yeah, the absolute light of his life… It's a secret, given the possible bad press and safety related repercussions."

"Who knows about this?" Clint asked, partly shifting into spy mode.

"Less than half a dozen people before now- myself, obviously, along with Happy and Colonel Rhodes. I would be surprised if Fury wasn't aware, despite the lengths that both Darcy and we have gone to. She absolutely refuses to live like a privileged little princess, but she's her father's daughter. I think he's happiest when it's the two of them."

"And Darcy?" Thor asked, uncertain what to do with this new information. Pepper glanced over at them and smirked, quirking a single eyebrow.

"Are you watching the same thing I am?" She turned back, "Darcy worships the ground he walks on." Tony spun her around simply, earning a laugh they were too far to hear, her head tilted back and mouth open wide as her curls fell carelessly behind her. When she was back safe against his chest, she stared up at him with wide, adoring eyes as she asked him a question, and he mimicked the look back down at her, tucking an errant lock of hair behind her ear. After a moment, Darcy shifted her position, locking her hands behind him and resting the side of her head against his heart, eyes shut placidly.

"I doubt it will be a secret much longer, though. They never got to spend much time together while Darcy was growing up, and since her move here, they've been making up for lost time. It's becoming abundantly clear how much they adore each other." As Tony moved to tighten his hold protectively, Pepper slipped away from the rest to head over, ostensibly to keep the pair from being too obvious in public. She reached them just as daddy gave daughter a sneak attack kiss on the nose. The trio stood there looking picture perfect, all smiles and laughter, with Darcy sandwiched between the two older adults and looking happier than a kid on Christmas.

"They look so happy," Jane commented, wrapping her arms around Thor's waist and pulling in close, "like a real family." He nodded wrapping one arm around her and placing a solid hand on Loki's shoulder.

"Friends, we will all have a family and a joy like theirs someday."

Steve smiled warmly, "Honestly- I think we've already got one." Clint mumbled something about their family being fucked-up and dysfunctional, while Tony, Pepper, and Darcy were making their way off the dance floor and toward the group. They arrived looking happier than the Avengers thought they had ever seen them before.

"Ok," Darcy grinned, "I'm pretty sure I was promised two dates." She held out her arms expectantly. When none of the guys took her up on the offer, she chose for herself- one arm linked through Steve's, the other through Loki's (it was Jane's night, and trying to maintain conversation with her estranged brother-in-law was something she could be spared from a little longer). She was shameless in leading them away, shooting the others a wink in light of her bravado. Tony chuckled and carelessly fetched a drink- though he'd be lying if he said he hadn't kept at least a bit of an eye on the trio. After all, he had been known for a few threesomes in his day, and he did not want his baby girl following down that road.

Then he needed a drink, to erase the images of Steve and Loki in a threesome with anyone.


(1) Russian term of endearment meaning 'little soul,' cuz Darcy's sure as hell got soul!

(2) In this part, I don't know why but for some reason I always imagine the beginning 50s- ish sounding part of Ariana Grande's cover of Only Girl (In the World) to come on… just go with it. And look it up on youtube, cuz it's crazy good.

Dresses:
Cobie Smulder's NY Avengers Premiere
Gwyneth Paltrow Bambi Awards 2011
Natalie Portman 2012 Golden Globes
Scarlett Johansson 2006 Golden Globes
Kat Denning's character Max's formal attire in the first season finale of 2 Broke Girls

R_S: I don't know how Tony ended up being her dad in this, it just kinda happened… I can see the scene with Darcy and him dancing SO clearly in my head, it's crazy.

Sooo yeah, reviews make me more inclined to update :p