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Pro-tip, don't take just English classes because you will drown in books and the subsequent papers on those books. But! I muddled through and prevailed! Ish. Anyway, all the reviews warm the cold cockles of my heart. An I just realized I haven't been replying to the reviews here, and it's not because I hate you guys, it's just that, for reasons unknown, my account is linked not to my main email so I am just pleasantly surprised when I see someone post something when I check randomly here. Basically, I'm fairly sure my account predates my gmail account, or at least my transition into gmail. BUT! Know that your reviews are totes appreciated.

Anyway, oblig apology for lateness. Though at this point lateness is just the normal time now, so I guess I'm not really late. So, there you go.

Things were going. Well. Glacial. Darcy can appreciate that genius takes time (if just because Tony declared it anytime someone wearing a suit looking for answers about their progress wanders in), but. Well.


She pushes at the small puddle of water that gathered around her ice coffee and wipes her finger on a dry section of the lab table. Clint looks at her with deep, deep judgment. He gingerly pushes a roll of paper towel to her (moist) side of the table, asking, "Did they not teach you manners at Oak Ridge Elementary School?"

Darcy visibly shudders and glares at him. "I hate you."

She tears a strip of paper towel off of the roll and uses it as a makeshift coaster. "Isn't using your crazy clearance to find out factoids about my childhood, for the pure sake of creeping me out, a severe abuse of power that would make your superiors very disappointed?"

Clint shrugs, "It's all very public information. Most of it. Your facebook's not as private as you think it is. Besides, you're severely underestimating the Director's sense of humor."

Darcy blanches. She tries to act cool about finding out that the man who probably has a higher clearance level than the POTUS passes creeping on people as a sense of humor. Clint notices though. Apparently they were pretty fucking literal when they were giving out codenames that day.

He nods to himself and continues on writing down notes (because he's taking notes. About the science. Admittedly it's just to keep track of the equipment that's needed or been broken, but Darcy spies the occasional formula). He's humming some nameless tune that Darcy thinks is suppose to be comforting but all she can hear is the soundtrack to her inevitable heart attack because then he says, "Yeah, the Director's pretty funny when he gets into it. One time, he sent in these new recruits to a British compound and told them it was an old KGB nest to see if they can recognize the layout, because, you know, most Soviet architecture are pretty similar and anyone can pretty much see it a mile away. Ha, yeah. The British embassy wasn't impressed."

Darcy wants to die a little bit. She says, trying to stamp down the feeling of trepidation with forced joy, "Oh man, you guys. Such a riot."

Clint's not looking at her in a very specific way so she stares harder at the side of his face.

Oh my God. "You shit!"

She punches him on the arm, jostling his writing, which has now descended into doodles of bulls-eyes and triangles. "That's not even funny, dude. That is hazardous to my health!"

She punches his arm again because now he's grinning openly. She's gearing up for a third punch when he puts his hands up in surrender. "Woah now, hey. You're making me feel uncomfortable in my workspace. I think I'm supposed to set up a meeting with HR now. At least, that's what the seminar said."

Darcy grabs the piece of paper he's been writing on to pass judgment on his artistry. The list starts normally enough, Clint's handwriting small and tight, like the extra inches on the paper cost something, but it slowly becomes squiggles that look more like eraser shavings than words. The other half of the paper is covered in arrows pointing in various directions, numbers and equations next to them. "Did you have a stroke midway through writing this or something?"

He snatches it back before she knows what's happening and starts scribbling again once Jane's and Tony's voices rise, "It's short-hand. They started talking too fast. Aren't you getting paid to do work around here?"

Darcy would be offended if she wasn't currently doing so little. She shrugs, "I'm basically the clean up crew of the one man disaster that is Dr. Jane Foster. My work comes in after she levels the place."

Jane takes offense and glares at her, "Hey!"

"Please, you'd be more offended if it wasn't true."

Jane looks like she wants to argue but Erik shuffles her over to Dr. Banner's lab table. The news of Erik's resurgence brought several people out of the woodworks, from other scientists that worked on the original PEGASUS field site (When Darcy asks about the name, Tony snorts and says derisively, "Because they wanted to fly away to other dimensions. Who knows. It should've been called Project Let's Fuck with Alien Technology Beyond Our Ken. No offense A-Ha." Erik glares at him.) to the ever elusive Bruce Banner, previously hidden in the other side of the building, nary a scientist approaching his corner. As far as Darcy saw, the feeling was mutual, with Dr. Banner doing pretty much everything but locking down his lab to keep other people away. But more often than not, he strayed into their lab, first to reminisce with Erik then to complicate Jane's equations.

"Jesus, I remember those Intro classes. And all those freshmen," Dr. Banner said during one of their lunch breaks in the lab.

Erik laughed mirthlessly, "I remember those. They were enthusiastic. At 8 in the morning. It was…painful."

Jane threw in, "At least you never had to teach an Expos Writing class. God, the things I had to do to get through grad school."

Erik snorted and gave up on his chopsticks and rummaged for a fork in the plastic take out bag, "My dear, two hundred students with only three TA's. That's a nightmare."

Bruce nodded and they all silently agreed on the terrible nature of freshmen. Darcy was enraptured by the display, it's like seeing your math teacher in Shoprite and realizing that they probably ate food and had lives. It was like being allowed to look in the Teachers Lounge. It was fascinating.

Darcy's imagining Jane sift through horrible essays when she realized, "Hey!" She points at Jane with her fork, "I was in one of your Intro classes! That's the whole reason I'm here!"

And it's true. At the end of the semester with Darcy barely scraping a B+ on General Physics, Dr. Jane Foster informed Darcy's class that there was going to be an internship that wasn't necessarily science-intensive available for six credits that will fulfill Culver University's Gen Ed requirements. All Darcy heard was six credits aka two classes worth of credits aka two classes she won't have to take in the fall aka where does she sign up.

But that was three weeks ago and by now, they've managed to coax Dr. Banner into their lab, which led to Tony pouting when he found out because, "You were my science buddy! We were going to make a TARDIS! You know what. Fine. Fine, if you wanna play with these squares (You heard me, Foster), go right ahead. I'm gonna open my own wormhole." He usually storms off in a huff or just scuttles to the other side of the lab and glares at the rest of the room.

Clint surveys All from his own corner of the lab, near enough to hear their squabbles for equipment but far enough not to get caught in it. Darcy stops by when the Science Masses are huddled by the ever-expanding rows of white boards, regularly scoffed at by Tony. She's taking whatever conversation that didn't involve astrophysics or crazy alphabet math except Clint is apparently down with that part of the crazy.

Darcy pulls a little at the paper Clint's writing on and points at the small diagrams littering the other half of it. "What is that?"

Clint huffs at her movement, which left whatever he was writing to become even more incomprehensible squiggles, and pulls the paper even closer to him. He drawls, "My job."

"It's your job to draw arrows?"

His grin reaches shit eating levels and says slowly, "Well. I am an archer."

Darcy stares at him blankly. And he sighs and hunches his shoulders in a way that he should have grown out of around the same time he turned 15. "Because. Draw. Like a bow."

Darcy responds, dryly, "So. Punny."

He sniffs delicately, "Sorry your plebian tastes can't handle my shit."

"You're worse than Stark," she says turning away to go toss her now extremely watered down iced coffee.

"Wow, ouch. That's offensive. Oh, fine. Come here."

He snatches the cup from her hands and shoots it over-hand into the trashcan nearest them, sinking it and not even touching the edges of the bin.

"That's disgusting," Darcy says with more than a little awe in her voice.

"That," Clint says, hands still up in the air at the release position, "is what I'm doing."

"Throwing stuff from across the room. Really."

He wipes his damp hands on the sides of his pants and pushes the piece of paper between them. He taps at one of the diagrams, little arrows drawn in curves or diagonally, "It's all about trajectory."

He looks like he's gearing up to start explaining the Origins of the Bow to her so she intercepts, "Cliffnotes, por favor."

Clint deflates a little bit and Darcy almost feels bad, but listen. She lives with Jane and a line has to be drawn on exactly how much she has to be talked at about things she barely has a grasp on. He's still pouting a little bit when he continues, "Fine. You're missing out, though."

She waves him off, Get on with it.

"Ugh. Fine. Marksmanship isn't like using a camera. You don't just point and shoot, you know. There's things to consider like wind and the angle of the shot and a whole list of things that are so very out of my control most of the time. That's where math comes in," he taps at the little variables by each arrow. "It helps me calculate all this so I can get a clear shot."

"Woah, woah woah. You're telling me," she says, "that I have to know math to shoot shit? That, basically, I don't have a chance of surviving the zombie apocalypse? Then what the hell have I been doing with my life?"

"Sorry your life's been meaningless."

Erik lives somewhere SHIELD approved or more commonly understood as, not with the civilian consultants. Darcy never presses for information because Emily Post seemed to have skipped Etiquettes in Alien Mind-Control: The Proper Way to Handle Such Dreary Things part of her lessons. Working seems to be a good way for him to deal with, though. When he and Jane get caught up with the research, it's almost like they're back in New Mexico, still trolling the desert for anomalies.

But they're not.

Instead, she's in the lab at fuck o'clock in the morning trying to put all the scraps of paper three separate geniuses have been scribbling on in some sort of order so she can scan it and let them deal with their own chicken scratch. She'd ask Jane for help except she's pretty much down for the count after being hit with a cold and dose of Nyquil.

It's only her, Erik, and Dr. Banner, with Clint away doing "spy stuff, stuff that spies do." Dr. Banner looks pretty deep into whatever he's doing that includes fire from a Bunsen burner and Erik is having a pretty hard staring contest with the white board. She's pretty much all but ready to beg Erik for help because she can no longer tell if that thing on the corner of the paper was part of the notes or cilantro from lunch when Erik pushes the white board into the wall with a loud clang, growls something Nordic, then stalks out, looking like a caged animal.

Darcy and Dr. Banner make eye contact and Darcy's frozen between flipping pages because Erik doesn't do violent anger; he does wry contempt and condescending hatred, but Darcy has literally never seen the man angry. Dr. Banner stands and points vaguely to the door, "I'm gonna – uh. Yeah."

He shuffles out and goes, Darcy assumes, to wherever physics professors let steam out.

She tries to continue flipping through the notes but her hands are shaking. Probably from that third cup of coffee. Yeah. Definitely that.

She's on her sixth when Agent Romanoff walks in the lab.

Darcy sees her walk in and follows her path to the front of her desk but she still can't help but jump when the other woman raps her knuckles gently on the black top of the table.

"So. That was. Weird. You live on top of a guy for a whole summer and you think you know 'em then you turn around for a sec and then they go all Naomi Campbell on a whiteboard."

Agent Romanoff looks slightly amused so Darcy's taking it for a win. She asks Darcy, "Where's Dr. Foster?"

Darcy's been out of it long enough that she blanks out and panics for a second because what if some other fire-breathing-giant-robot got Jane and then she remembers: cold, Nyquil, blanket fortress in their apartment.

Darcy looks at her suspiciously, "You probably know when we go pee."

"I don't. Not personally. Maybe someone in Surveillance," she shrugs like that's something totally normal.

Darcy is too high on exhaustion and caffeine to be properly horrified so the information kind of just rolls off of her and she nods, "Cool. Cool, cool, cool."

"That was a joke."

Darcy nods knowingly and goes for one of those empty phrases you tell people when you've no idea what is happening, "It sure was, champ."

Then Agent Romanoff is all up in her face making intense eye contact, "You don't look like you have a concussion."

Darcy rolls her chair back on its wheels a bit, "I probably don't?"

"Is that a question?"

"Well, I mean if I did will I remember it? What if it caused amnesia? Oh my God, what if I've had bouts of amnesia my whole life and I just never remember it because, you know, amnesia. Wait. Is that a thing? Fuck, I was just kidding, please tell me that's not a real thing."

"It's not. Probably not. I'll check with Medical."

Darcy looks at her through squinted eyes, "That's not funny."

Agent Romanoff shrugs, "I take what I can get."

She raps her knuckles on the black top again, effectively ending the conversation and says, "Come."

Darcy's already following her before she asks, "Wait. Where are we going?"

Agent Romanoff slows down a bit so they're walking side-by-side, "It has been brought to our attention that neither you nor Dr. Foster has been properly debriefed about Dr. Selvig's condition."

"Uh, no I'm pretty sure we were. You were there. Jane was there. I was there. That suit was there, then Jane made him cry."

"I have it under good authority that Agent Robinson did not cry at that junction."

"Yeah, but he definitely sniffled a little bit. Jane is scary. I mean, not like you, scary. Not that you're scary. I mean. Um. Your hair looks really good today, Agent Romanoff."

Agent Romanoff picks at her nails, flicking off dirt (Darcy resolutely does not think BLOOD, SHE'S CLEANING DRIED BLOOD FROM UNDER HER NAILS FROM FACES SHE PROBABLY PUNCHED AND THROATS SHE POSSIBLY RIPPED) and says, "There is a certain currency to being feared and I cash in regularly. She's a bit subtler about it, but so does Dr. Foster."

Darcy wants to say, I don't know what that means, but she's seen Jane in front of grant committees, squeezing out as much as she can because duct tape shouldn't be the permanent solution to equipment falling apart and because she thought Darcy was underpaid (she totally was, because being classified as an intern translates to being the bottom of the barrel when it comes to compensation). When Jane gets on a high horse, it's one that comes with spikes on its hooves.

As far as choices for role models go, it's probably not that healthy, but it's pretty fucking awesome and Darcy's not known for going with healthy instead of awesome (See: Funnel Cake Debacle, Age 8 in which she ate an inhuman amount of funnel cakes at the dinky carnival her school had every year to prove to Matt Park that, "Nu-uh, I'm way better at stuff than you!").

They stop in front of an unmarked door and Agent Romanoff is reaching for the knob when Darcy speaks up, "Wait. Seriously. Debrief me about this debrief because going in blind is not something I like doing when it comes to these kind of things. Also, you hair actually, totally looks bitchin' today."

"We're just going through Dr. Selvig's situation. There's nothing you need to worry about," she opens the door and ushers Darcy in. She's already three steps into the room when Agent Romanoff calls out from behind the closing door, "By the way, it's Natasha."

The door's already closed by the time Darcy processes she's on a first name basis with an assassin.

She's still trying to adjust to this when she surveys the room. Jane is looking bleary-eyed, swaddled in flannel and sweatshirts sitting on a loveseat, seemingly confused as to where she is and how she got there with Erik on an armchair next to the loveseat.

She shuffles towards the loveseat next to Jane and smiles brightly at Erik who looks at her apologetically. She pokes at Jane, who doesn't even react, "Should you be vertical right now?"

Jane looks at her quizzically, "I went Nyquil when I think should've gone Dayquil?"

Darcy reaches to put her arm around Jane when she coughs one of those chest-cavity rattling coughs and Darcy's seriously rethinking relocating when a harmless looking man in a suit comes in with a kind of serenity on his face that Darcy's learned to recognize as Not At All Harmless. He's hugging a leather portfolio case to his chest with one hand and adjusting his glasses with his other. He smiles benignly, "Miss Lewis, Doctor Foster, Doctor Selvig, good afternoon. I'm Agent Sitwell. It's come to our attention that we haven't fully explained the situation that we threw you in. Or give Dr. Selvig an opportunity to explain, at the very least."

Jane looks as alert as she can be, "Situation? We're in a situation?"

Erik coughs a little and Jane looks at him a little bewildered, like she forgot he was there. Darcy wonders exactly how much Nyquil she took.

Erik coughs again and starts, "There has been… side-effects after my, uh, possession. It's, uh, it's nothing serious, I don't think. We, I, wasn't sure to the, I suppose, extent of the Tesseract's influence after, well, after."

Jane's reaching over to comfort him, but stops short of climbing over the arm of the couch, "Are you alright? They said that you were all right! Jesus, I'm not doing this without you and if you don't think you're anything but ready. Well. Government contracts can kiss my ass, I hear they still want me in Tromsø." At this, Jane looks pointedly at Agent Sitwell who sighs a little bit, he looks pointedly at Erik who is already placating Jane.

"Jane, listen to me, this is nothing-"

"The hell it is! They told me you were fine-"

"-I am fine. There's just some lingering-"

"-and unless I missed the collective agreement of changing the definition of fine-"

"-effects. Listen, this is something I need to deal with and working on the Einstein-Rosen Bridge is actually helping."

Jane pauses, "You're not just saying that, right?"

"You know I'm not. I'll have you know, I'm a selfish old man who does what he wants."

Jane smiles a little, then remembers that she's worried about Erik, "Fine, but I need to know you're gonna step back when you start feeling anything less than optimal."

"So, uh, earlier, that was you not optimal?" Darcy doesn't want to break the conga line of love right now, but this debriefing has so far been the opposite of informational.

Jane's back to alert and bewildered, "Wait. What? What happened earlier? This is why I don't sleep!"

Darcy looks at her incredulously, "No, you don't sleep because you're a weirdo hoping to reach science nirvana through sleep depravation." While Erik looks apologetically to Darcy and says at the same time, "I am sorry you had to see that."

And then they're talking over each other like they're back in cramped RV, Jane asking (and being ignored) what she missed, while Darcy and Erik played the 'Really It's Alright' 'Are You Sure' game. They're basically on a verge of a group hug if they were the group hugging kind of people when Agent Sitwell politely coughs from his corner of the room.

Erik mutters something about 'Jack booted thugs in a suit,' but continues with his explanation, "Right. Side effects. I suppose I'd have to try to explain the Tesseract's power and, well. It basically opens your mind to knowledge; it showed me what I needed to know, it showed me everything. When Thor said magic and science were the same, they really are." He pauses, struggling with his words. His hands move, trying to recreate some unseen force, trying to mold it into something tangible with the air around him. "There's just. Something. That is blocking our minds from grasping the concept. I can't. I can't properly explain it, not now anyway."

Darcy leans forward, "Woah, you basically had google for your brain."

Jane squints at Erik, "The Bridge then, you saw – you understand how it works? To open it?"

"Maybe. I saw a lot of things. I learned a lot of things. But now. After," he lets out a sound of frustration. "I know I know things, but that veil that stops us from seeing beyond our laws. It's back. And I can't – it keeps slipping from me. But your equations. Jane, when they're going in the right direction, it's like a revelation. The knowledge, it just comes back to me. It comes in these bursts where I can taste the Bifrost. And then it stops. The wall is back up again and I don't know which equation will lead where or do what."

He looks carefully at Darcy, the apology back in his face, "That's what this morning was. We were making so much headway and everything was making so much sense and then. Nothing. And I suppose it's frustrating, to have all that taken away in an instant. And. Well, I don't think I can apologize enough for scaring you like that."

Darcy wants to say 'It's okay, I'm totally cool with random bursts of violence!' But, well, she wasn't. At the same time she understands that Erik's going through pretty much the definition of shit and she was a big girl. So she reaches across Jane and pats Erik's clenched fist lightly, "We're gonna get through this. We're gonna open that rainbow bridge and make a buncha dead white dudes proud! Yeah! Team science!"

She has a fist to the air before she realizes it and Jane is looking at her fuzzily, like she's not sure if she's dreaming this while Erik smiles fondly. Their Three Musketeers vibe ends when Agent Sitwell (who was still there, being polite and non-lethal) clears his throat, "Well, I think that clears most of any confusion of your situation. If any other mediation is needed, please fill out the proper paperwork to schedule such a meeting with me or any other agent with proper clearance to the subject."

He's still smiling blandly and Darcy can read the, 'Please get out of my office,' pretty clearly on his face so she ushers Jane, and her mass of sweatshirts, then Erik out the door, who nods thankfully to Agent Sitwell.

Both are out in the hallway, shuffling towards the general direction of the lab, when Darcy stops by the door. Agent Sitwell looks at her with a frighteningly pleasant face. Darcy pulls up her big girl pants and says, "Listen, I don't know how to do this because this is pretty much out of the scope of experiences, so, uh. Thanks for this. The whole mediation thing. I guess. I don't know how to end this so, uh, that'll do pig."

She shoots him her (un)patented finger guns and closes the door to his (incrementally) amused face.

I hope Selvig's situation wasn't too convoluted. I'm sure there are levels of trauma hidden somewhere there, but I wanted to know where all that information went. Still in his brain apparently (for me anyway).