Darcy's always favored Autumn, and as a brand new resident of the North East, Autumn in New York City just plain sounds all kinds of romantic. The first morning in September wherein the temperature is in the 50s, she pounces on Steve like a giddy cat, waking the poor man up from a doze. "It's Fall!" She sing-songs, drowning in one of his button-up shirts and not much else. "Let's do Fall-things!" Steve chuckles, wincing, hands automatically going to her hips as she straddles him.

"Merph, what does that entail, exactly?" He asks sleepily, before yawning. Darcy tosses her hair, smiling wide.

"You're the native New Yorker here, Cap," She leans down, kissing him good-morning long and slow, her hair creating a curtain around them. Steve stirs under her, hands wandering.

"Mmmyes, but it's been a while," He reminds her, starting in on her buttons. Darcy giggles.

"Granted. I've got plans for us, not to worry."

"After this?" The shirt is suddenly halfway across the room.

"After this..."




Although it's just barely too warm outside to be wearing them, Darcy stubbornly sports a scarf and hat out and about New York, first dragging Steve to Central Park and then, of course, to the movies. By this time he's caught up on the Disney library, but the latest masterpiece how been out so long it's at the dollar show, and that's just fine by Steve, who thoroughly enjoys the ratty seats, fake buttered popcorn, and matinee crowd peppered with rowdy kids.

"And there you have it," Darcy hums happily as they wander back to the tower afterward, arms around each others waists. "From sickeningly sweet domestic Princess who ends up with a corpse snogger, to arrow-shooting ginger gal who'd rather pick her own prince," She grins, "Congrats, Rogers, you're kinda caught up on pop culture."

"Kinda," Steve laughs, taking a deep breath through his nose, "...It really does smell like fall in New York, that didn't change much...more gasoline and hot dogs on the air, is all." He notes wryly.

"Gotchya...hey, you know, this is our first actual date outside," Darcy points out, hooking a couple of fingers through his belt loop.

"You're right...I need to take you out more," The smile he gives her is downright old-school, Hollywood leading man, good grief, "Once you get used to all the lights everywhere, it aint so bad. Dunno why I've been such a recluse..." On cue, someone's camera goes off nearby, aimed at the two of them. Steve has the good humor to grin, tugging her closer, "Oh right, that's why."

"Oh man, there'll be no peace now," Darcy groans, tucking her face into his side for a moment, "The internets are already a little bored with shots of Thor and Jane." And the closer they get to Stark Tower, the more cameras seem to go off.

"Let 'em snap," Captain America is terribly light-hearted as they enter the building, kissing the top of her head. Darcy has no shame in taking most of the credit for that. It's her patriotic duty and all, making sure that Steve Rogers is the happiest man in New York. "We can always go back to being recluses."






"You're really improving,"

Coming from Natasha Romanoff, that was astronomically high praise.

Darcy's been at this for weeks now, eating better, running, and fighting with Natasha most every night that there haven't been bad guys to fight instead. She's even been cleared for sit-ups. Darcy's gotten good enough and fit enough, in fact, that Steve feels like he can watch without cringing every time Black Widow lands a blow. Her limbs might not be super-strong yet, but Darcy is discovering that she has the capacity to be fast like a freak.

"I'm good at dodging, at least!" Darcy grins, breathless as she ducks under another one of Nat's punches. Across from the boxing ring, Steve chuckles, having finished with his punching bag and weights some time ago. Now he's sitting on one of the weight benches, sketchbook on his knee, trying to capture the two of them sparring on paper.

"Do not ever underestimate that talent," Nat tells her smoothly, hardly breaking a sweat as she aims a sweep to knock Darcy off her feet. Darcy, miraculously, jumps. "Good. I will never be able to match Bruce's fists, for example. But I can always leap out of the way in time."

"Yeah I've gotta work on that," Steve mumbles to himself, and Darcy laughs, aiming a fist that rolls off Nat's shoulder. And then there's a familiar voice over the loud speaker, deep and distinct and now associated with the End of Fun.

"Avengers, assemble on the roof in fifteen." Director Fury commands in his best buzz-kill voice, "Briefing classified." Darcy sighs, going limp, and Steve grumbles as well. Natasha, of course, is as cool as a cucumber, gliding toward the exit.

"Keep up the good work Miss Lewis. See you soon, Cap," Black Widow smirks, waving.

"Sorry sweetheart," Steve approaches the ring, lifting her with both hands on her waist and setting her on the floor again. He always apologizes, and Darcy's stopped trying to make him stop. She just stands on her toes, wrapping sweaty arms around his neck and tugging him down for a kiss.

"Come back to me."

"Always do. Stay out of trouble?"

"No promises," She winks.






Like most memorable, every-day heroes, when evil attacks Stark Tower the very next day, Darcy Lewis is in the bathroom. She's just washing her hands when she hears the gunshots down the hallway, followed by the tell-tale radio crackle and barked orders that accompany SHIELD agents engaging bad guys. Her first instinct is, of course, to be stupid and have a look, but Nat's voice is practically in her ear saying "niet", and so Darcy goes with her second instinct, which is to hole up in a bathroom stall.

"Jarvis?" She whispers from her hiding place, and there's no answer. That, right there, is enough to almost undo her.

It's quiet after only a few minutes, though, and Darcy slowly crawls off the back of the toilet she'd been balancing on, slipping off her work heels and leaving them behind, padding to the door in her stockings. Opening the restroom door wide enough to peek outside is perhaps the most terrifying thing she's done since taunting a Gron. There's no one out there, though, except for a very still agent lying on the floor.

Darcy swallows. There aren't many agents stationed this high up in the tower, because above the labs is all living areas. As such, she and Jane had kind of gotten to know the faces in suits they saw daily. She crept carefully over, touching the man on the shoulder, and he groaned softly, "Agent Marcus?" Darcy whispers, applying pressure to the growing red spot on the man's chest, "What happened? Who's in here?" She looks around her. No broken glass, at least not here. They hadn't busted in like most baddies would have to.

"Agents," Agent Marcus manages to force out, before his dark eyes roll back in his head. Darcy bites her lip, hard, to keep from making a noise, to keep from choking up.

Well, shit.

She tries to remember everything Black Widow's taught her, but it's a bit of a jumble in that moment. Darcy does have the sense to take the Agent's gun from his belt, her own left at her desk in her purse, before creeping forward again.

The halls on her floor are eerily silent, and Darcy passes two more familiar faces dead on the floor before she reaches her offices. Swallowing her fear as much as she can, relying on years of building up walls around her real emotions, she takes note that they were shot with precision. The precision of a SHIELD agent. A SHIELD agent would know that the Avengers were gone on a mission today. There's a steady, sick feeling growing in Darcy's stomach.

The labs have walls of windows open to the halls, and Darcy drops to her hands and knees before chancing a peek over the solid partition.

There are five agents with guns, standing around Pepper, Jane, Erik, and a dark-haired woman Darcy doesn't know, but seems naggingly familiar. Jane seems to be arguing with one of the gunmen, and the glass is thick, thus Darcy can't make out what they're saying too clearly. The gunman presses his handgun to her head, though, and Darcy's clamping a hand over her mouth to keep from yelling. Jane begins nodding, swallowing, motioning upstairs. Upstairs, where her wormhole set-up is.

At that moment, Pepper's wandering eyes catch Darcy's from across the room. Not breaking eye contact, and with the gunmen distracted by Jane and Erik and their explanation of the lab's layout, Pepper draws something out of her pocket, waiting a moment before setting it on a desk. Then the rogue agents are forcing the whole group out of the labs, toward, Darcy assumes, the stairwell at the opposite end of the hall from where she was hiding.

Bouncing on her heels a few times, counting to five to psyche herself up, Darcy hurries around to the doors into the room, to the desk Pepper had been standing by. The object she'd left behind is familiar, the gadget almost always on Miss Potts' ear, like a space-age bluetooth that only Tony Stark could design. And there's a flashing red light on it. Clipping the device to her ear, Darcy hits the only button, whispering, "Hello?"

"Pepper?" A vaguely familiar voice asks, edged in panic.

"No, um. Darcy Lewis, Jane Foster's assistant." She realizes how frantic her whisper sounds, and takes a deep breath, "Hi."

"Col. Rhodes. Where's Miss Potts? Are you near the labs?" Darcy lets out a breath of relief, and starts creeping the way the gunmen went, describing the scene she'd just witnessed to the man.

"How did they get all the way up here?!" She asks, the sounds of sirens and men shouting orders in the background on his end.

"Like you said, must have just been Agents, clearance and all," Rhodes sounds as offended as Darcy feels, "They got up to the labs and then sealed everything off. Hell they even knew how to cut Jarvis' systems."

"That'll have Tony alerted," Darcy notes in a whisper, tucking her own gun into her waistband to join the spare, as she passes her desk and moves toward the other exit, near the stairwell. She's not sure where her nerve is coming from, this isn't nearly as abrupt a scene as the last time she dared some thrilling heroics. She just knows she has to see what's going on, that she can't leave her best friend on her own again.

"There's a good chance the mission the Avengers are on was a diversion," Rhodes divulges, and Darcy swallows, her courage rising. The good guys might be there any minute. "If what you're saying is true it's even more likely, whoever is behind this might just be out to get themselves a wormhole."

"So I get why hijack Jane and Erik then, but why Pepper and that other woman, though?" Darcy asks in her whisper, trying not to echo too loudly in the stairwell, eying it up and down. It looks clear enough to her. Rhodes is quiet for a moment, murmuring off the phone with someone nearby.

"...Missing since thursday?" She overhears. And then he's back, "Miss Lewis, describe that woman again?"

"Um...long dark hair, huge blue eyes, tall...kind of looks like an elf?" She tries her hardest to open the door to the second floor of the labs quietly. "I can get you a better description, hold on, I'm following them..."

There's another pause, and Darcy overhears him repeating her own name to that same someone off the line. And then, "Miss Lewis, do not, I repeat do NOT engage, do NOT let yourself be seen, find somewhere secure and HIDE." At that moment, peeking into the second set of labs, Darcy places that woman and her face, turned fully to where she's hiding, eyes wide. Pepper squeezes her arm, subtly telling her to look elsewhere.

Darcy knows that face from a blurry photograph that stands, framed, on Bruce Banner's desk.

"Oh, hell no," Darcy murmurs into the communicator, yanking both guns out of her skirt, "If someone's going after the girls, Rhodey, the girls won't be going quietly." Over his protesting, Darcy raises her voice, as much as she dared, "If the stairwell was blocked before, it looks cleared now, they're all up here, be awesome and send people in." And then she begins gathering her nerve.

Rationally, she knows they're not really expecting anyone to be left up here. The Agents downstairs died because they were more than likely caught by complete surprise, their own turning on them (at least, she hopes so). No one knows she's here. Taking a deep breath, and turning off Pepper's blue tooth, Darcy creeps in through the open door to the labs, slipping behind a desk, and watching.

Jane and Erik are adjusting the dials and knobs on the wormhole generator, casting silent glances at each other and, Darcy can tell, trying to figure out if there's any way for them to sabotage the whole thing. Pepper and, Darcy recalls the name now, Betty-something, are standing stock-still with guns at their backs, and it's this fact that's likely kept the two scientists from doing anything stupid yet.

Darcy looks at the agents...yes, they're a little familiar, probably from downstairs where she hardly spends any time unless she's going to the gym, but...she squints. Their eyes are all wrong. Like how Erik described himself and Clint when Loki had taken them over, only they're not blue, it's much more of a yellow-white glow in their faces. And the way they're standing...oh yeah, they're brain zombies at the moment. But still, zombies with good aim.

"It's warming up," Jane backs away from the machine slowly, her voice wavering, and Darcy knows by her crumpling expression that her boss couldn't think of a way to fuck up these drones' plans. And they're all getting dragged along, to wherever that wormhole leads. Darcy swallows. Her time's almost up.

Natasha had praised her thus far for her ever-improving aim with a gun, and her ability to dodge. Darcy prays to Thor-almighty and his whole weird family that they're enough, reaching into the pocket of her skirt once and touching the abused, crumbled, but still whole sketch that never leaves her person. "If this fails, I'm haunting Fury," She vows to the cosmos and to her picture of Steve, and then raises her glock, resting it on the edge of the desk, and taking aim at the agent just behind the most cool-headed person on the floor, Pepper.

The bullet takes him in the shoulder, just below the collar bone, and the man crumples like a ragdoll. Darcy finds herself recalling all the weak points in SHIELD standard armor, she wasn't even aware that shit had sunk in. Pepper is, of course, on top of things, grabbing the gun he drops and yanking Betty with her, shuffling backwards under a desk while the other four agents are distracted, looking around wildly. But Darcy's already moving, behind boxes and desks and crates, so not being careful about making noise anymore.

"Spread out!" One of the agents shouts, the sound still kind of hollow and robotic. Darcy's already circled to just behind the generator though, standing up long enough to send a bullet through the knee of the female agent guarding Jane and Erik.

"It's the Cap's!" She groans, clutching her leg. Her gun is right by Jane's feet, the scientist now crouching low, eyes following Darcy's path around the edge of the labs.

"Don't kill her! He wants 'em all!" the first agent shouts again, and for all his talk, gunfire still crackles over Darcy's head.

"Shit!" She yelps, tucking into a roll that would make Black Widow proud. As she comes up, she manages to take out a third agent by hitting him in the leg as well, leaving just two standing.

Pepper chooses that moment to rise again, gun trained at the back of one's head, and Jane follows just a half-second after her, aiming for their apparent leader. Darcy finds herself right in the man's crosshairs, nothing left to hide behind, the generator bright and blue behind him, the windows to the city lit up behind her in the afternoon sun.

"...Not as useless as he described, then," The agent notes in that hollow, creepy tone that says there just might still be a real human in there, somewhere, while something talks through him. Darcy swallows, not lowering her gun. With Jane behind him, and his associate handing his gun over to Pepper, they're in a good place, she knows, her arms and legs shaking. There's still a fucking gun aimed at her.

"Wh-who?" She gulps, annoyed at how decidedly un-badass she sounds. The man just grins, inhuman and zombie-like, and moves his finger. Behind her, Darcy hears the unmistakable sounds of a man with an arc-reactor in his chest in flight, and she does exactly what Nat would've told her to do.

Darcy dodges.

The gun goes off wild, the windows shatter, and a brain-washed SHIELD agent gets blasted into unconsciousness.






"Hold still," Steve's grinning as she fidgets, looking at her over the top of his sketchbook.

"I'm terrible at being still, you know this," Even so, Darcy relaxes against the ropes at the edge of the boxing ring, resting her elbows on them, her hands in her boxing gloves, "And I've been sitting here for an hour. I'm a hero Steve, I've got hero-type things to get up to!"

"I'm almost done, -Agent- Lewis," He bites his bottom lip in concentration, and damnit, it's sexy as hell. Darcy's expression goes predatory, pursing her lips and looking at him from under heavy lids. He looks up at her sharply, his own gaze rather heated, and she grins wide. "...All right, s'just shading now, you can move." Darcy laughs, hopping down from the ring and stretching, in her tank top and high-waisted, far-too-short boxing shorts. Steve is almost successfully distracted. Almost.

"So, any word yet on who did the brain-washing?" Darcy asks, shaking out her hair. Not missing a stroke of the pencil, Steve shakes his head.

"According to Thor, his brother's still imprisoned in Asgard," He sighs, "But apparently that doesn't rule him out completely. Whoever it was, they'll try again."

"Once word gets out in the bad guy community what Jane's got up here, I think we'll have a few people trying again," She plops down next to him, trying to get a good look at the nearly-finished sketch. "Woah. I'm smokin', Cap." It's a fine little pinup, Darcy has to admit. She looks curvy, leggy, and a little bit like she could fuck up your day. He's gotten her eyes just right, too.

"I draw what I see, sweetheart," He murmurs, leaning over and kissing her neck, the arm around her waist more possessive than ever. It's funny, though. After what happened a few days ago, he's clingy, but also proud, awed. No one's really helpless in this relationship, not anymore, and defying death together has him far less guilt-ridden, and far more...well, randy. Darcy isn't easily distracted this time, though, looking herself in the eye, seeing the toughness there, the sarcasm, and the sex.

"...You see all that?" She asks, her voice an unguarded whisper. He nods against her skin. "Damn..." She grins, "Should frame it, to remind myself."

"Nope," Steve says decidedly, shutting the pad, grinning, "This one's staying with me. It aint fair that only one of us gets a good luck charm." Darcy laughs, long and happy and full, and then sighs dramatically, leaning over and taking his face in her hands.

"Oh Cap, I fear I've turned you into a hopeless romantic." She laments, kissing him softly.

"Mmm, must've been all those Disney movies..."