Surprise! I haven't totally abandoned this fic, though it felt like I would at times. The only excuses I can offer are one very dead computer, extreme family problems, like, police involved family problems, and some serious emotional turmoil on my part. Still, the fog is clearing, the issues are resolved, and I have a brand new laptop on which to type my stories. Huzzah!
I hope you enjoy this long overdue update. No amount of groveling or smut could make up for the length between updates, but I am certainly going to try. Again, I apologize for any and all mistakes, especially in the latter half of this chapter. I was really eager to post it, so I may have missed some things in my haste.
Darcy was pouting. There was no way around it. She had tried to deny it, she had avoided the sympathetic looks from her tower-mates, but it was getting to a point where there was no way around it.
She was going to have to buy maternity clothes.
Although it wasn't obvious she was pregnant yet, her clothes were getting uncomfortably tight around her growing midsection. Alarmingly, her breasts were not that far behind. She had always been a cup above the rest, but now her already-ample bosoms were getting outrageously big. And did she mention banging? Because they were also banging. Kinda tender, but she had gotten a lot of free things drinks at Starbucks lately thanks to the teenage boy working behind the counter.
Her generous v-necks were even more giving lately, and even her new business clothes were getting a little too sexy-secretary for the office. She didn't want to do anything to bring shame upon the Office of Stark, so it was time to bite the bullet and get some bigger duds.
She stroked a hand down the soft flannel she was wearing. Flannel wasn't usually her style, but these had a special place in her heart. Jane was still away on her research jaunt, but she always made time to Skype with Darcy. At least three times a week, Darcy was treated to Jane's tired-happy face, kind eyes, and poor lighting.
In the past two weeks, Jane casually mentioned that she had been doing a little research (shocker) and found maternity stores that had clothes that weren't completely atrocious. Darcy just smiled tightly and pulled the ratty sweater she had abducted from Jane's condo around her a little tighter. It was one of the only things that still fit comfortably. When she had gone to do her twice-weekly check on Jane's place, she had liberated some of the larger clothes from her wardrobe. Ones that Darcy was certain Jane herself may have liberated from exes and unsuspecting scientists.
"Still stealing Thor's clothes?" she asked, aiming for lighthearted and missing by a mile. Jane was swimming in a grey shirt, neckline nearly falling off her slender shoulder. "I wish I had a supersize boyfriend to steal clothes from. "
Not just any supersized one, Darcy thought.
Jane just tilted her head and gave a sad smile in return. Three days later, a package arrived for Darcy, filled with some of Jane's very own clothes, including the shirt she had been wearing that night. Jane had literally given her the shirt off her back. Darcy burst into tears. With the shirts and soft pants was a note card reading "Until you're ready".
Well, Darcy sure as hell wasn't ready, but she had little choice. She pulled out her phone and texted Jane, asking for the names of some of the maternity stores she has stubbornly refused to take note of.
Today was a day off. Usually, she had a pretty set schedule-Pepper being the queen of organization an all. She generally had Saturday and Sunday off, and usually a half day on Wednesday, since Tuesday night was usually spent chasing after Tony and forcing him to do all the un-fun, un-sciencey things he had neglected during the week, like paperwork, before his weekly meeting with Pepper on Wednesday morning. The past two weeks, since the Avengers had returned from Central America really, had been much more hectic.
Pepper and S.H.I.E.L.D were at war. Directory Fury was demanding more top secret level prototypes to be made for the agency, while Pepper countered with more (legal) access to classified material. They were at an aggressive standstill. While Pepper did battle with the world's most dangerous agency to piss off, Darcy became Pepper's stand-in. Thankfully, she was saved from doing any face-to-face meetings by Pepper's amazing ability to multitask, but for everything else, Darcy was the one to take the lead.
She had all but lived in Pepper's swank office. The first day as pseudo-Pepper she had tried to use her own office, but after having to run up the stairs for a file only kept in STARK Industries CEO's office, she just bit the bullet and made herself at home. Andrew became her assistant, and she had never missed full-caff coffee and energy drinks more in her life.
Yesterday, Pepper had returned to the office victorious, and Darcy half expected to see blood spattered on her stilettos. Darcy could feel the smugness rolling off her in waves, and she and Pepper celebrated by having cocktails (non-alcoholic for her) and very delicious steak salads brought to them straight from the kitchen of a restaurant that probably grossed more in a week than most people did in a year.
Even though Darcy wanted to do nothing more than crawl into her bed and sleep for the next 14 hours, her need for clothes that actually fit and didn't make her feel like she was suffocating outweighed her desire to indulge in some serious sloth action. It was hard to be productive when you were constantly pulling at your clothes in an attempt to arrange them into something more comfortable.
Darcy's phone beeped at her from where it had buried itself in her comforter. It was Jane. She replied with ajumble of elated faces. Darcy rolled her eyes. Yeah yeah, she thought. About time, I know.
Darcy forced herself from bed and over to her wardrobe, only bothering to pull on a pair of black leggings under the green flannel she was wearing. She looked like a saucy lumberjack. That look was in right now, wasn't it? She mashed her feet into one of her better pairs of flats and began the search for her keys.
Darcy lost her keys so often that Tony had joked about putting a voice recognition chip into them so she could just shout for her keys and they would beep at her until she found them. At the time, Darcy had given him Death Glare #2 and continued to kick pillows over in the living room, looking for her lost keys. Now she wish she had let him.
She finally found them tangled in her sheets and forced herself out the door, juggling her personal and work phones as she made her way to the kitchen. She was going to need some serious fuel to get her through a day of acquiring an entire new wardrobe.
It was still early, so the kitchen was quiet when she entered. Darcy was able to fix herself a cup of decaf coffee, make fruit salad, and poach an egg, before she even heard stirrings from the Avengers.
Steve ambled into view, perfect as ever. His hair was deliciously mussed from sleep, and Darcy felt her libido explode into overdrive. It was really getting out of hand. He gave her a smile and poured himself some orange juice.
"Good morning," he rasped.
"Morning. You're up kinda late."
Steve nodded. "Tony had me up testing some kind of drone, in case of another Loki-scale invasion. I left the lab at four, but Tony and Bruce were still going strong. I'm pretty sure they just passed out over their keyboards."
Darcy groaned. "He is going to be impossible to deal with this week. Pepper is going to kill us both."
"Sorry," Steve said, grinning around his rueful grimace.
Darcy waved hand at him, stuffing the last of her toast in her mouth. "Not your fault. I swear, Tony does this stuff on purpose." She swallowed and shook her head. "Who am I kidding? He totally does this on purpose."
"Yeah. He probably does."
Darcy shook her head, annoyed. "Whatever. I'll get him up when I get back. I can't deal with him right now."
The last time Tony had been up late testing products over the weekend he hadn't done a lick of paperwork, and they had been over two hours late to their meeting with not only Pepper, but the entire board she had set up for the pitch.
It resulted in the one and only argument between her and Pepper to date, and while Tony couldn't give a rat's ass about making the board wait, he actually felt bad about upsetting both Darcy and Pepper. For once, Tony had become the mediator, diffusing the situation that Darcy may have accidentally been mostly Darcy's fault.
Not one to scream, Darcy had lashed out at Pepper's uncharacteristically less-than-professional criticism of her ability to handle Tony. Although she and Pepper were fine, both cooling down and refocusing their assault on one Mr. Stark, Darcy still hadn't forgiven Tony for causing the situation in the first place.
Steve sat down across from her, sipping his orange juice and eating a truly massive bowl of Cheerios. Seriously, did he use an entire gallon of milk in there? And did his shirt have to cling to his biceps so perfectly?
"What? Huh?" she sputtered. "I'm sorry, did you say something?"
Steve smiled. "I said 'What are your plans for the day?'. You mentioned getting Tony up when you got back."
"Oh," she said, mentally berating herself. With her energy returning and her libido steadily rising, Darcy was becoming increasing distracted by the perfection that was her baby daddy. And any other virile-looking gent in the area, but mostly good ol' Captain America-and he's been dressing out a lot lately. Apparently, public relations went a whole lot better with the Star Spangled Man. Seriously, that costume did wonders for her own, more personal, solo missions.
"I have to give in and go buy some maternity clothes. Mine just aren't cutting it anymore. And since I have it on good authority that I am only going to get bigger..."
And seriously, was there anything more fucking pointless. Clothes for her to wear, what? Six months? And then sit in her closet, because she couldn't bear to throw them away. Ugh!
Steve chuckled. "Wouldn't you know, I've heard the exact same thing."
Darcy smiled and moved to clean up her breakfast dishes. Steve quickly stood and pressed her back into her chair. "Let me," he said.
Darcy's pulse raced, acutely feeling every point his fingers touched on her shoulder. Though it would be easier for her to take her dishes to the sink and head out the door, she allowed herself a moment of pseudo-domestic bliss. She'd take what she could get.
She slowly sipped her remaining decaf coffee and subtly glanced at Steve as he ate his cereal and read the paper. An actual real paper. Tony had digital subscriptions to papers all over the world, but Steve insisted on reading and actual paper copy of the New York Times every single day.
It was nice. Cozy. But she was kidding herself. It was nothing more than friendly; a routine, and Darcy happened to be there for it.
Regretfully, she finished the last of her coffee and stood. "Well, I should get going. I know that pregnant clothes are kind of a niche market, but I am pretty sure the same general shopping rules apply."
"Want some company?" Natasha asked, voice coming out of nowhere.
Darcy jumped and dropped her mug, shattering porcelain all over the kitchen floor. She slumped against the kitchen table, closing her eyes and pressing a hand to her chest. She opened them to see Steve going for the broom, giving Natasha a salty look, while the red head looked unrepentant. She turned her grin on Darcy.
"Sorry. I thought you heard me come up the elevator."
And wow, Darcy really needed to get her act together and keep her head out of the clouds. She sighed and reached for her purse, gripping it in suddenly leaden arms.
"It's okay. I was just, I dunno, spacing. Not really looking forward to this." She shouldered her bag. "I'm not a big shopper."
Natasha grinned. "Well, I definitely am." Which, huh.
"Wouldn't have guessed.'
Darcy shrugged. "Sure. As long as you don't mind the preggo shopping, that would be great."
Natasha shook her head. "Let me change. I'll just be a second." And with that, she was gone.
She and Steve shared a look. "Who knew?" he said. "At least you won't have to worry about getting mugged, with all those bags."
Darcy laughed. "Right?"
"I was going to offer before you left...," Steve began.
"Thanks," she interjected. "Really. There are all sorts of crazies out there, and I definitely would have been easy prey."
Steve chuckled without amusement. "Natasha will probably do a better job than I could have hoped. She'll be able to tell before they go for your bags."
Darcy patted Steve's arm. "And you would have gotten them back; no doubt."
He nodded and put the broom away, floor once again free of broken crockery. He shut the pantry and leaned against the closed door. "Are you going to be gone all day?"
She twirled a dark curl around her finger. "Much as I hate to say it, yeah. I don't see how this is a quick trip." She had put it off way to long. "Why? Did you need something?"
Steve pursed his lips and gave a half-hearted shrug. "If you weren't busy tonight, I was going to ask if we could talk? Just... have a few things I wanted to discuss."
And fuck if that didn't sound ominous. Darcy wanted to say she was too busy, if only to delay whatever it was that warranted scheduled discussion, but she was a grown-ass woman with a baby on the way. It was time to nut up.
"I'll definitely be home around dinner. There is no way I am staying out later, maternity clothes code red or not."
Steve nodded at her declaration, the barest hint of a smile on his lips. "I'll make something, if you want."
Darcy arched a brow. "I'd never miss a chance to get Captain America to cook for me."
"It's not like I cook in the uniform," Steve replied, rolling his eyes.
To her immense surprise, Steve blushed. She felt glee rise within her. "Oh my God," she giggled. "You totally have one. Oh my God, where is it? I have to see."
"Maybe later," he said, finally finding his words. Darcy was willing to put good money on the fact that SHIELD had made it so a Cap approved apron appeared in their cupboards upon his moving in. Come to think of it, there was a real possibility that Natasha had a hand in its appearance. Maybe she'd be brave enough to inquire on their shopping adventure.
Probably not. Natasha still intimidated her.
The spy in question glided through the door, looking sleek and svelte and every perfect inch of her felt like a slob in a plaid muumuu. Darcy girded her loins and braced herself for the most devastating shopping trip since she'd had since her sophomore homecoming fiasco, when her she felt like an intruder in her own radically changing body.
"Ready?" Natasha asked.
Darcy did a quick purse check and nodded. "Yup yup. Let's get this show on the road." She turned to Steve and sighed. "So, six o'clock or so?"
"Six o'clock," he parroted. "Good luck."
Darcy groaned. "Thanks. I'll need it."
Steve and Natasha both chuckled at her look of dread. He gave her his best Captain America salute and a wink. "God speed."
Darcy outright laughed and whirled toward the elevator. Natasha was grinning and shaking her head. She pressed the button for the garage and turned to Darcy. "Where are we headed?"
"Hell," Darcy deadpanned.
Finally, Natasha broke and laughed the first real laugh Darcy had heard from her. "Do you really hate shopping that much? Or is the maternity aspect?"
Darcy sighed. "I-I don't know. I know I'm being petulant about...everything. I don't know why I am having such hard time with this. With all of this."
Natasha clucked her tongue and rubbed her arm sympathetically. "Hey, this can be difficult for people that have actually planned on starting a family. I think you're doing well, all things considered."
The doors opened and Natasha guided her toward the spy's own SUV. "I don't want to be doing well 'all things considered'. I just want to be doing well."
Darcy hopped into the car after Natasha, the latter in the driver's seat. She paused before putting her seatbelt on. "I just can't screw this up. I've screwed so many things up, and it was okay, because it was just me, and it worked out in the end-but I can't screw this up. I can't."
Natasha looked over at her, hands on the wheel. "I know I'm not Jane," she began. "But if you ever need a another woman-"
"I don't need you to be Jane," Darcy interrupted. "I have a Jane. But I could use a Natasha."
Natasha looked blank for a moment, and Darcy worried that she had overstepped. Then, Natasha's face softened and she gave Darcy a soft, almost-sad smile. She wondered when the last time someone genuinely wanted to befriend the Black Widow.
Darcy felt an prickle in her eyes and cursed the abundance of spawnlet hormones coursing through her body. She cleared her through loudly, making a show of dabbing at her eyes. "That's quite enough of that," she declared.
Natasha laughed and playfully dabbed at her own eyes. "Wouldn't want to ruin my reputation."
"You're secret's safe with me," Darcy quipped.
"Better be," Natasha said with a wink. "Now, where to?"
Darcy couldn't believe it.
She was in heaven.
What she had thought was going to be an absolutely miserable experience had turned into a day of pure ecstasy. Skirts that didn't stretch tightly over her almost-bump! Deliciously soft and swirly dresses! Blouses and tee shirts that had room for her boobs!
And jeans! Darcy thought she would be waving goodbye to her skinny jeans for the duration of her pregnancy, but the elastic band and kangaroo pouch of elastic on the tummy let her slip comfortably into her favorite slim-fitting denim.
Shopping with Natasha was also a dream. Whether it was Super Spy Observation Skills, or just something innately Natasha, her new red-headed friend presented her with armful after armful of clothes to try on that were nothing short of perfectly sized and tailored to her taste.
"I'm kind of jealous," Natasha said, after viewing a few outfits. She enviously ran her hand down the length of Darcy's bump-approved pencil skirt. "They need to make more women's clothes like this."
"Right?" she replied. Darcy might not be so quick to give up the pregnancy jeans she was initially so hesitant to purchase. "This is much easier than I was anticipating."
Natasha smirked. "What exactly were you expecting? Clothes designed by Loki?"
"Something like that," Darcy deadpanned. "Designed constrict my unruly flesh."
Natasha tsked. "You're flesh isn't unruly; it's pregnant."
Darcy raised her eyebrows and gestured to her dangerously bouncing bosoms.
"Well," Natasha amended. "Most of it isn't unruly, but pregnancy had little to do with that particular problem."
"Yeah, they're a handful."
"I'm jealous of that, too."
And Darcy lost it, right in the middle of A Pea in the Pod. She laughed so hard she had to sit on the changing bench, while Natasha threw her head back and shook with silent mirth. When Darcy wiped her eyes she noticed another pregnant woman and what must have been her mother giving them the stink eye.
Let them, Darcy thought. For the first time in a long time, she was in a great mood. Jane would be coming home soon, she had made new friends in Pepper and Natasha, and her energy was returning to normal.
Not to mention she was getting pretty kickass at her morning yoga. Apparently her pelvis was loosening up to pop this peanut out in a few (way too few) months. Her downward facing dog was unreal. Speaking of which...
"Yoga pants," Darcy said. "I need yoga pants. Or maybe leggings? Some kind of workouty clothes."
Natasha looked pleasantly surprised. "Yoga?" she asked. "Do you need them for yoga, or are you just looking for clothes to work out in?"
"Yoga, actually. Bruce and Dr. Grimm both recommended it for me, so I figure I better listen to at least one of them."
"Do you like it?"
Darcy nodded as she ran her hands over sinfully soft yoga gear. "Yes, actually. Well, at least I think I do from what I pick up on YouTube."
Natasha made a dismissive noise. "That's only going to get you so far. Have you thought about going to a class?"
Darcy pursed her lips and absently patted her stomach. "I dunno...," she said. Darcy may be getting more comfortable with the whole pregnancy, but she had never liked fitness classes. She didn't need a room full of nubile fitness bunnies to judge her rapidly rounding form as she struggled to remain upright.
Natasha caught her introspective funk and thinned her own lips sympathetically. "What about a pregnancy yoga class?"
"They have those?"
"In New York?" Natasha drawled with a flick of her eyebrow.
Darcy heaved out a sigh. "True. This is the Land of Uptown Maternity. They probably have classes for like, organic basinet weaving."
Natasha nodded her head in agreement. "Without a doubt."
"Still, I don't know...," Darcy said.
"I could show you," Natasha offered.
"You do yoga?" Darcy asked, incredulous.
Natasha laughed and gave Darcy a playful push on the shoulder. "Why is that surprising?"
"I dunno," Darcy shrugged. "It just seems so boring for you."
Natasha shook her head. "Surprisingly, espionage requires a certain level of flexibility; personally and physically."
"That's actually not that surprising," Darcy replied.
Natasha chuckled. "I suppose not."
Darcy finally reached the checkout counter, with both she and Natasha carrying a mountain of clothes. She plopped them down on the counter and the saleswoman began ringing them up at lightning speed. Like most stores, there was an array of knick-knacks to entice you into spending just that much more.
Most of the stuff was just an explosion of pink and blue, and Darcy had to roll her eyes. The further into her pregnancy she got, the more annoyed she was by pink and blue anything. It seemed to be taunting her. She was going to use different colors out of sheer spite.
However, there was one thing that caught her eye. There was a small boxed kit to take a clay imprint of your baby's foot and hand, with room in the middle for a picture of said babe. It looked like a picture frame, with three separate sections for each part of the keepsake. After a moment, Darcy reached over and slowly added it to her swiftly disappearing clothes mountain.
She meet Natasha's eyes and the agent gave her a slow, supportive smile. "That'll be really nice."
"Yeah, I'm a sucker."
Natasha rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Now, about that yoga."
Darcy dug around in her massive bag and handed over her credit card with a grimace at the total. "Well, what do you mean?"
"I'd be happy to show you some more poses that might not be on YouTube. Besides, I'd like a workout partner that doesn't periodically disappear to climb ropes or solely focuses on hitting things really really hard."
"I'm not really into working out," Darcy warned. "This yoga thing is kind of a surprise, and I think that's because it feels more like stretching than exercising."
Natasha winked. "We'll ease you into it. You're pregnant; I'm not about to ask you to run a marathon with me."
"That's a relief," Darcy drawled.
"Now, after you've delivered the baby...," Natasha trailed off. "Well. We'll see."
Darcy gathered up her purchases with Natasha's help. "After I pop this thing out, I might want you to make me run a marathon. A 5k at the very least. Get me back down to 'fighting weight'."
"I'll hold you to that."
"Hey, I didn't say I would."
Natasha turned and pushed open the door with her perfect backside, enigmatic smile in place. "Sure you didn't."
The rest of the day went by in an enjoyable haze. Darcy was sure that she would want to cry when it was Natasha's turn to try on outfit after flawless outfit on her insane body, but that couldn't have been farther from the reality.
Sure, jealously roiled like writhing snakes in her gut at how well Natasha pulled off even the most simple outfit, but the undertone of shame she had been expecting was completely absent. And Natasha knew a surprising amount of swanky-but-not-hoity-toity shops to hit up.
Since she had finished her preggo-preparation, she got to spend the rest of the day lounging on plush couches set up outside elegant waiting rooms, sipping on sparkling water.
As it turns out, she and Natasha actually had a lot in common, you know, if you took away the spy/assassination aspect of things.
"I started young," she admitted. "Maybe too young, but it's what I knew."
"Do you ever get tired of it?" Darcy asked. "I can't imagine that it's something you wake up looking forward to."
Natasha sighed. "Of course I get tired. More and more tired all the time."
"But it's pretty kickass, right?"
The redhead turned around in the cream colored figure hugging dress with her best man eating grin. "Totally kickass."
"Awesome," Darcy breathed.
Natasha turned around and looked over her reflection in the mirror. "I wouldn't mind a little settling down, though. Some actual downtime."
"Yeah, I imagine vacation days don't really mean anything if Egypt is being attacked by Transformers."
"Not so much, no."
Darcy leaned back on the blood red couch and watched herself pat her stomach in the reflection of the mirror. "You can try getting pregnant. It did wonders for getting me to commit to some downtime."
Natasha laughed and nodded in sarcastic agreement. "I'll keep that in mind for a later date."
"You should," Darcy jested. "And you should also get that dress. I can see you waffling."
"It's just so impractical," she sighed.
"For what?" Darcy asked. "To assassinate someone in? I know a way to take blood out of just about any fabric."
"And how would you know that?"
"What? I've been in my share of scuffles. And I was in a sorority for a semester. You wouldn't believe the amount of catfights they had."
"No," Natasha said, slipping back behind the luxurious changing curtain. "That I'll believe."
When Darcy finally shuffled back into her room, her new-friendship/new-clothes buzz had faded, and she was flagging fast. Still, she had made it home with an hour to spare before her dinner appointment with Steve.
She had managed not to think about what he could possibly want to talk about all day, but now that she was home, and that she could smell the delicious smell of something amazing homey coming from the kitchen, all her nerves returned to her.
Natasha had seen her to her room, helping schlep her bags, and left with a promise to collect her in the morning for some yoga in the living room.
To resist freaking out, Darcy occupied herself with packing away the parts of her wardrobe that would be making a swift exit for a few months, and replacing them with all her shiny new purchases. To her surprise, she spent the next forty-five minutes in an enjoyable trance.
Her phone beeped at her to let her know she had fifteen minutes left until her appointment with Steve. She had been very careful not to think of this as a date-it wasn't. It was exactly as she said; an appointment. An appointment with a friend, sure, but an appointment nonetheless.
She pulled on a pair of her new jeans and a grey v-neck and ran a quick brush through her hair. Finally she slipped on a pair of fluffy, knitted brown socks and made her way to the kitchen.
Sadly, as she peeked around the corner, Steve wasn't in an apron; at least, he wasn't anymore. It appeared that the deliciously mouthwatering smells she had noticed earlier was a hearty look beef stew and some crusty bread.
Darcy felt her mouth water and some of her anxieties melt away. Stew wasn't a pull-out-all-the-stops-because-I-am-going-to-upset-you meal. Stew was a comfort meal. Hopefully she wouldn't need a more comforting than the stew could do.
Steve looked up at her and smiled. "Right on time!"
Darcy grinned in return and allowed herself to be pulled into a truly excellent hug. She closed her eyes and let herself cling for just a moment before letting go.
Steve pulled out her chair for her and served her first and she felt herself relax, despite all the anxiety that should be churning inside her. "This smells amazing," she said. "Like, wow. Pat yourself on the back."
"Thanks," he said, cheeks pinking slightly. "It, uh, it's my mom's recipe."
She whistled. "You were a lucky boy. My mom can't even boil water."
His grin turned bittersweet and Darcy wanted to kick herself. Open mouth, insert foot.
"Yeah," he said. "I was pretty lucky."
Darcy spooned a mouthful of stew into her gob before she could stick her foot into it again. "Whoa," she said in awe. "Like, whoa. Why aren't you cooking all the time, again?"
Steve laughed, melancholy evaporating. "Because cooking for the Avengers is an even more daunting task than taking on the Chituari."
"Ain't that the truth," she agreed. "Why do you think Bruce cooks with rice so much?"
"Um, because he's a vegetarian?"
Darcy snorted. "It super filling and super easy. Don't let the exotic flavors fool you." She took another bite. "God, this is so good. It's exactly what I wanted and I didn't even know it."
"I'm glad," Steve said, digging into his own food.
Dinner passed in a blur of comfortable conversation and Darcy had to remind herself to not be so comfortable as to lick the bowl clean.
She leaned back and rubbed her stomach in contentment, stretching her legs out in front of her. "Yum, " she breathed.
Steve grinned and cleared there bowls away, and Darcy almost forgot that there was another reason for this dinner than Steve stuffing the future mother of his child with healthy, hearty cuisine. Then Steve turned around with a manila folder of papers in his hand and her heart seized.
"Uh-oh," she said. "Serious time."
Steve grimaced and nodded. "Sorry."
"Don't be," she said, waving her hand and sitting up. "What's on your mind, Cap?"
Steve stared at the papers in his hand, face serious, before turning to her. "Dying."
Darcy sputtered and shook her head incredulously. "Excuse me?!"
"It-I'm not dying," he stuttered.
Darcy exhaled gustily and leaned her elbows on the table, cradling her face in her palms. "Jesus, Steve."
"Sorry, I don't know why I said it like that."
Darcy breathed in shakily. "It's fine. Just-what are you talking about? Dying?"
Steve looked at her, face somber. "What I do is really dangerous," he began.
"No shit," Darcy muttered. Steve caught it, expression unimpressed.
"Like I said, what I do is really dangerous. What the Avengers do is really dangerous. Beyond dangerous. It's...it isn't safe. For me." His face softened. "For you. For both of you."
A vice tightened around Darcy's heart. She mmhmmed tensely, eyeing the folder with trepidation. What the hell was in there, because this sounded dangerously close to backing out to her. For their own good and whatnot.
"Every time I get called out," he said. "It could be my last. The things that are out there, they're crazy, and impossible, and there are times when I don't know how we can possibly overcome it. I used to worry before, of course. No one wants to die, not really.
But after you told me you were pregnant, things changed. When we were in South America dealing with this last problem, all I could think about was what would happen to you... to the baby, if I died. "
"Steve, where the hell are you going with this?" Darcy finally blurted.
He sighed and opened the folder, pulling out a thick sheaf of legal looking forms and handing them to her. She snatched them from his lax grip and scanned over the content hurriedly.
"Steve?" she asked after a moment."Is this a life insurance policy?"
He nodded. "Yes. I had the papers drawn up right after I got back."
"I," she began. "This is...way too much."
"No," he said. "It's not enough."
"This is a ridiculous amount of money. And why am I on here?"
"Because if I die, I want you and the baby taken care of," he said, slowly, calmly, like it wasn't absolutely ludicrous.
Darcy shook her head. "Steve, you aren't going die."
"You can't know that."
"You aren't going to die," she repeated, voice strained.
"You. Can't. Know that," Steve said, voice gentle.
"No." she said. "No. This is completely unnecessary."
"Darcy," he said softly. "Just because you won't sign these papers doesn't mean that I can't die. And signing these papers doesn't mean I will. It's just a precaution."
Darcy realized she was twitching her leg so hard that the table was shaking when Steve reached over to still her erratic movements. "Darcy," he began.
"I know," she said. "I know. I know you're right. I just don't-"
"I know," Steve replied. "I don't really want to think about it either but... I can't stop."
Darcy exhaled shakily. "I'll look it over. Then we can go sign it together or get it notarized or whatever we have to do."
"Thank you, Darcy," he said, reaching over to squeeze her hand.
Darcy squeezed back and didn't bother letting go. "Thank you." She sighed, hanging her head in the hand not occupied. "I guess we should think about guardians too, huh? And I should also draw up some of the same papers. Working for STARK Industries isn't exactly worry-free."
Steve nodded, lips thinning. They looked at each other for a long time, not speaking, and if Tony fucking Stark hadn't walked in at the exact moment Darcy felt her resolve to not kiss Steve completely dissolve, Darcy would have disgraced herself. As it was, Darcy couldn't decide if she wanted to gut the inventor or to lay one on him instead.
Tony, noticing the serious mood in the room, stopped his trek into the kitchen. "I'm interrupting something," he declared, looking distinctly uncomfortable. "I'm just gonna..."
And with that he slinked out of the kitchen.
"Tony is not on the short list for guardians."
"No," Darcy agreed. "I love him, but no. Beloved eccentric uncle he shall remain."
Steve pushed himself away from the table. "Would you like a cup of tea?" he asked, running his hands through his hair.
"I would love a cup of tea."
Steve turned to brew their tea, and Darcy took a moment to look over the documents again, now that she wasn't having a nervous breakdown and was almost startled when Steve placed a mug of tea in front of her.
"Thanks," she murmured, inhaling the strong scent of the decaf tea she'd picked up. Even the smell comforted her before her first sip. "So," she said, pushing the papers aside for now. "Guardians. Did you have anyone in mind?"
Darcy nodded. She'd had one in mind for weeks now. "Jane," she said easily. "She's-she's amazing. "
"She is," Steve agreed. "You'll find no complaints from me. I think she's a great choice."
Darcy smiled. "I still have to ask her."
Steve looked at her skeptically. "Like she's going to say no."
"Well!" she exclaimed. "You never know! It's a big responsibility to accept, even though it's an unlikely one they'll ever even have to assume. Until very recently, if someone had felt close enough to ask me, I don't know that I could have said yes because I would probably lose them in the black hole that is my room! "
Steve smiled at her as she absolutely did not rant. "Don't laugh at me!" she said, unable to hold back her own giggles. "I'm serious!"
He held up his hands in surrender before reaching for his own tea and taking a long sip.
"What about you?" she asked again. "Who did you have in mind?"
"No," she drawled. "Lie to me."
He rolled his eyes and flicked the back of her hand. "Okay, smartass."
Darcy feigned shock and placed a hand against her chest as if to steady herself. "Captain America, such language. And in front of the mother of your future child, no less. For shame."
"I'm sorry to offend your delicate sensibilities," he mocked.
Darcy flicked his hand back. "But seriously, who?"
He sighed. "Would it be weird to ask Natasha?"
Steve grimaced. "It would be weird, wouldn't it?"
"Heck yes it would, " Darcy agreed. "Do it."
"Between Jane and Natasha, that kid would never have to worry about anything. Jane would my him super smart, and Natasha would teach him to kick so much ass. And he would have two godmothers. Guardians. Whatever. Stickin' it to the man! It's a win-win-win situation."
"Win-win-win," Steve repeated fondly. After a moment, Steve spoke up again. "Him?"
"Oh," Darcy said, mentally replaying their conversation. "Did I say him?"
"Oh," she repeated. "I dunno. I guess I kind of imagine a boy. I kinda feel like I would be better with a boy. But whatever, as long as they're healthy."
"As long as their healthy," Steve agreed. "Only... when do we find out? Um, the gender, I mean.,"
"Uh, not for a little while yet. I mean, I've read some conflicting stuff. Some say as early as twelve weeks, depending on the ultrasound, and some say twenty weeks. I... probably should have asked that at the OB/GYN."
Steve just shrugged. "Just curious. I would love either. My friends all just had to wait and see when the baby was born, or trust whatever wives tales they believed. It's amazing that you can tell so early."
"Do you want to be surprised?" Darcy asked. "We can do that."
Steve shook his head. "No, actually. I-I can't wait to find out."
"Guess we better start thinking about names, huh?"
Steve nodded. "We've only got five or so months to decide."
"I'll probably need them," Darcy said. "When I was a kid, it took me so long to name my cat that she ended up being called 'Little Cat', because it took me too long to decide, and that's what I called her in the meantime. 'Baby' isn't exactly a great name for a kid."
"Maybe not," Steve replied, grinning.
Darcy rolled her eyes. "So why Natasha? " she backtracked. "Not that I have a problem with that; I just didn't know you guys were that close."
He nodded. "After SHIELD...defrosted me, I guess, she was there all the time, along with Coulson. It was easier for me to talk to her than it was Coulson, at least for a while. I spent a lot of time in the gym, and so did Natasha, so it was only natural that we talked while we worked out.
She's... she's is nothing like what I expected. Not because she's a female spy, but because she reminded me of things I didn't think I wanted to think about."
Darcy bit her lip. "Peggy?"
Steve nodded. "But it didn't make me feel sad, it only made me happy to know someone like that again."
Darcy grinned slyly, remembering something Natasha had said earlier. "Are you the workout partner that focuses things on hitting things really hard?"
"I break a punching bag a few times, and she never lets it go." Steve said in fond exasperation.
"Well, I thought she was talking about Thor, so," she said with a shrug.
Steve laughed, but before he could reply, her phone's alarm went off with an insistent beep. She grimaced apologetically and quickly swiped the screen. "Sorry," Darcy said. "Skype date with Jane. We're supposed to be talking about what kind of hypothetical baby shower I might like. Since, you know, the mother isn't exactly supposed to plan it."
"Baby shower?" Steve said, almost wistful.
Darcy gathered up the papers in front of her and carefully put them back in the folder. "Yeah, but don't worry, I'm not going totally traditional. A ladies-only affair would be pretty boring. And small."
Steve flushed attractively and Darcy couldn't help but rub a hand over his bicep. His deliciously taut bicep. "Hey," she soothed. "When you said all in, and I agreed, I meant it. All in. It's your baby too. Why wouldn't you get to celebrate it?"
"You're amazing," Steve said.
To her horror, Darcy drew her had back and gave Steve a bro-punch to the shoulder. "You're not half bad yourself, champ," she said, like some terrible 1950s baseball coach had assumed control over her mind and body.
Thankfully, Steve only laughed and pushed away from the table, gathering their cups. "Tell Jane I said 'Hello'," he said. "I'll see you in the morning, Darcy."
"See you," she repeated, scurrying back toward her room.
As she burst through the door she could hear the sound of a waiting Skype call. She slid across the carpet on her socks and hit accept, plopping into her chair seamlessly and making her grin widely as Jane's face appeared.
Jane grinned at her back. "That's a happy face!" She exclaimed. "I thought I was going to be treated to Grumpy Darcy, after all that maternity clothes business."
"It was great, actually," Darcy replied. "Like, weirdly great. I forgot what comfortable clothes felt like. And Natasha came with me. I had, dare I say it, fun?"
"Natasha!" Jane said, voice scandalized. "Are you cheating on me?!"
Darcy nodded somberly. "Yes. I'm sorry to tell you like this, over Skype, but it's for the best. I am trading you in for a possibly-younger model."
"Definitely a more lethal model," Jane said.
"Right?" Darcy said. "I have never felt safer while shopping in New York."
Jane nodded. "I can imagine. But, in all seriousness, I'm glad you had a good time. I was so worried that you'd be upset."
"Nope, not a tear or hissy fit to be found. And I got a ton of clothes. That you are not allowed to steal, Dr. Foster," she said sternly, loving the guilty, lip-biting smile Jane gave her in return. "Not yet, anyway. Maybe after I've finished incubating this egg of mine."
Jane had given up trying to get her to call her little pea anything resembling the word "baby". Darcy was kind of disappointed. She thought Jane would hold out until at least week eighteen. Here she was, fourteen weeks, and not a correction to be heard.
"But you are totally going to want to steal this stuff," she said, smoothing her hands over her jean-clad thighs. "They are hella comfy, even the business stuff."
"Well, I hope you got a party dress," Jane said, segueing beautifully.
Darcy nodded enthusiastically. She'd optimistically bought a few, to be honest. Jane was coming home soon, and she was looking forward to some outings with her lady scientist.
"Now," Jane said, pulling out a legal pad covered in notations. "Let's talk about themes."
Darcy shrugged. "Surprise me. "
Jane clicked her tongue in annoyance. "That's no fun! I wanna talk about it with you. Tell me!"
Darcy smiled at Jane's excitement. "Nothing 'retro'," she clarified. "Might not go over well, you know?"
"Shoot," Jane said, quickly slashing an item off the list. "I'm glad you said something. I didn't even think about that."
"What did you just cross out?"
"Oh," Darcy said. "That's actually pretty cool."
"I know, right?" Jane agreed, all but giving herself a round of applause.
Darcy rolled her eyes. "Alright, Dr. Modest, let's hear what else you've got."
Darcy was impressed. That certainly had potential. "Also good. Keep 'em comin', Foster."
"Bakery theme?" Darcy questioned.
"You know," Jane said. "For 'the bun in your oven'?"
Darcy hung her head. "You and your puns disgust me."
"Whatever, Lewis. You love it, and I have a million. Frog theme, for your little tadpole. Or alien themed, for our very own Mothership. Shall I go on?"
Darcy was beside herself with laughter. "I suppose I gave you a lot of ammunition for this, huh?"
"Only a bit," Jane answered. "But seriously. Thoughts?"
Darcy sighed, pulling her hair into a loose ponytail. "I don't know, and I don't care, as long as it's fun. I don't want any seriousness, or sadness, or anything like that. Or sports. None of that."
Jane shook her head. "Seriously? Those are your criteria? No seriousness, no sadness, and above all, no sports."
"If I even see the hint of a baseball, I will throw it at you," Darcy promised.
"Oh, what, soccer balls are okay?"
Darcy patted her barely-bumpworthy stomach. "Only the one it's going to look like I am smuggling under my shirt."
"Noted. Now, as long as you really do want to be surprised...?" Jane trialed off.
Jane grinned happily. "Well, then we can move on to what I really wanted to talk about."
"Ugh," Darcy groaned, slouching in her chair. "More serious stuff."
Darcy grabbed the manila folder and held it up. "Life insurance. That was a fun talk with Steve."
"Yeah," Darcy said. "Smart. But awkward."
Jane nodded. "I bet."
"How awkward is this one going to be?"
Jane's image froze for a moment, her face unpromisingly remorseful. "I don't know that 'awkward' is the right word...," she said.
"More like...?" Darcy asked.
"Stressful," Jane finished.
"Yeah," she said. "We've kinda touched on it before."
Darcy sighed. "Okay. And?"
"It's just...after the shower, right?"
"Right," Darcy parroted.
"Then you have all this baby stuff. For a baby."
"Darcy," she said, tone strained. "Where, exactly, are you planning on putting this baby once it arrives?"
And lo, Darcy thought. The end to my perfect day.