Now, Darcy Lewis was a sensible girl. Had been all her life. Mostly. There had been a few exceptions, usually arising from circumstances beyond her control – which in turn generally had her fixating on her music so that she was able to cope with whatever weird stuff was happening. But anyway, Darcy Lewis was a sensible girl. As a sensible girl, Darcy didn't actually give her girly parts much thought... until boys started giving thought to her girly parts.
Considering how... considerable her boobs were, that was perhaps surprising late in her life – at least, as far as the stereotype stretches. Glasses and a predisposition to random but large books during high school kept her firmly in the 'nerd' and/or 'geek' camp, and therefore her having big boobs and (miraculously) no acne trouble was cancelled out completely. Then she entered college, found a part-time job to help pay for her rent, food, student loans, clothes and music – and learned that the college guys are more than willing to give her boobs their full and undivided attention, regardless of how much of a nerd/geek she was – because a fair few of them were nerds/geeks as well. Worse, a large portion of the male college populous were determined to have keggers, frat-parties, and octopus hands.
Darcy bought her taser a week into college life, now very aware of her girly parts at times other than when she was shoving a tampon into them – simply because sex jokes were just about the only kind of jokes that got made on campus. She bought pepper spray too, but it was kept in her pocket for when it was too late to get her taser, which she kept in her bag. She was a student of law, sociology, was a political science major, and more than that she was a nerd/geek. She knew her rights backwards and in Spanish.
It was kinda the second major language spoken in the US. It was useful.
Of course, these precautions didn't stop her from taking advantage of the shy breed known as the uber-nerd-geeks and learning how to hack from them. It was a great way to learn the ins and outs of how the government really worked. All in exchange for taking her lessons in a close-fitting v-neck t-shirt and giving them a few tips on what constituted a bad pick-up line. And yes, referencing her being qualified in first aid and CPR ("Do you know CPR? Because you just stole my breath away.") was a bad pick-up line. It was actually worse because she did, but other girls who didn't have that qualification on their records probably wouldn't like it any better.
In her second-last year of college, her room-mate (well, her then-current room-mate, they changed) called her a prude for still being a virgin, bought her a dildo (and a six-pack of vodka cruisers) for her birthday, and introduced sensible Darcy Lewis to "the wonders of self-gratification". Darcy did not immediately become a sex-addict as her then-room-mate had likely hoped, nor did she drunkenly allow one of the unwashed frat-boys to pop her cherry.
She did, however, request a change in room-mates and revised the list she'd made back in grade six that detailed what she wanted in a man. Top of the list was 'must be a man, not a boy', because she'd heard stories about what the frat-boys got up to, and she didn't want to be with someone who thought that was a good time. She'd also heard stories of what the frat-boys got up to with the sorority girls, and she was fairly sure she wasn't interested in that either.
Half-way into her final semester (and she was so looking forward to graduating!), Darcy got an email from her student advisor. What it boiled down to was that she needed another six credits, and that being an intern for someone looked good when the time came that she would be applying for jobs. It was annoying, but there it was. Worse, the only people offering positions for interns at the moment were physicists. Well, there were others, but only the physicists would provide Darcy with those six important credits. Those more relevant to her major some were offering two credits and a small wage, or three credits and exposure to good connections for possible later employment.
Darcy kinda needed those six credits now. Honestly, she wasn't worried about connections and possible later employment. She had that covered. She just needed to graduate. So she looked over the available positions and put those lessons from she shy uber-nerd-geeks in how to hack to use.
Not necessarily good use, and certainly unethical use, but put them to use all the same.
Darcy picked an astrophysicist based out in the middle of nowhere and re-directed the woman's emails to filter through Darcy's inbox. Yes, it was unethical, making it look like she was the only applicant for the position. In all fairness though, neither of the other two applicants were studying astrophysics either, and were probably sending her their applications for the exact same reason that Darcy was. After all, why else would a language major and an indigenous studies major want to be out in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico? Really, Darcy probably could have let their applications through, and she still would have got it, because she knew how to drive, and she knew how to not only work a computer, but how to repair one when it started spewing smoke as well.
The shy, pimply uber-nerd-geeks were very accommodating in exchange for a little cleavage viewing without having to worry about getting slapped and/or reported for it.
Once Darcy was given the position, she undid her re-rout. After all, it wasn't like it was needed any more.
Darcy was a sensible girl. We've established this. Perhaps not the most logical in the world, but sensible. She was not going to die for six college credits. It would really have defeated the purpose, after all. She also was not a girl who had nerves of steel, so when a tall, clearly muscular man started talking crazy she acted sensibly: she put him down with her taser. She'd bought it for dealing with frat-boys, but Darcy figured that if this guy went to college, he was probably a frat-boy – and probably there on a football scholarship.
They took him to the hospital, and Jane was embarrassed about having 'grazed' (hit!) the guy and deflected – quickly – that Darcy had been the one to tase the drunken, crazy, football-scholarship frat-boy (if he was still in college, which he possibly wasn't, considering the beard) claiming to be Thor.
"Yes, I did," she said with pride, lifting her chin and looking away from her boss and the receptionist both. Pretending now that he hadn't genuinely scared her with the way he'd been going on before she'd fired her taser.
And she was proud of herself too. She'd held it together despite her fear and downed the potentially dangerous guy without getting hurt herself. That was something to be proud of. Most of her shooting practice was actually done with nerfs or paint-ball guns – she'd been part of the recreational gun toters club at college every year – but that was a controlled environment with weapons that didn't deal any more damage than slight bruising or a bit of a sting. That had been the first time she'd ever actually used her taser. The pepper spray was a bit more relevant on campus, just making a guy back off when he was getting hands-y, rather than making him comatose.
The next morning – after Darcy had taken film from the previous night to be developed (and gotten it back) and while Jane was explaining her theory to Erik – Darcy spotted something in one of the pictures she'd pinned up that she hadn't noticed while she was doing the pinning.
This in turn sent Jane back to the hospital to collect the crazy man Darcy had tased the previous night. Objective achieved, albeit in an unconventional manner (Jane hit him with her van again), Darcy was momentarily impressed that Jane had had an ex, to say nothing of deeply surprised that the woman had kept some of the guy's clothes. But, Jane was older than her and clearly not as afflicted with the whole nerd/geek look that Darcy had going on. Jane didn't have boobs as big as Darcy's, but she also didn't have glasses to hide her pretty face behind, and wore slightly lumber-jack-ish clothes than scientist clothes or frumpy layers of stuff that was bought because of some pop-culture reference that it could be linked to.
So the guy (who still called himself Thor, proving that either he was crazy or his parents were unkind) was dressed, and then he finished off their poptarts and had to be taken out to the diner to be properly fed... He created a scene, like he'd been raised without any understanding of manners and social niceties... except that after he marched out of the diner to go to 'reclaim his property' and they all chased him the guy kissed Jane's hand like she was a princess. Jane, like just about any girl who's hand just got kissed by a handsome man (and yes, Thor had a very nice body underneath that borrowed shirt he was wearing), got a bit giggly over that.
Thor bowed to Darcy and Erik too, and while Erik hesitantly bowed back, confused about the whole thing, clearly, Darcy curtseyed (badly) in her mini-skirt and leggings with a smile on her face. Hey, she didn't need to know she was laughing at him in her head, because seriously, who bows these days? And then he and they parted ways.
And then a black truck drove past, with Jane's equipment in the tray. Now, as the astrophysicist had neither intention of moving nor given anybody leave to touch - let alone move – her stuff, and as she was on the verge of understanding something fantastic (she was always on the verge of understanding something apparently world-changing, but this was possibly a bit more 'verging' than Darcy had seen from her temporary boss before), Jane was, naturally, upset to see lots of men in suits packing up her stuff.
"Miss Foster, I'm Agent Coulson from SHEILD," greeted the suit-wearing man who, due to his approximate middle-age-ness and lack of any lifting being done by him was probably the guy in charge of this little operation.
"Is that supposed to mean something to me?" Jane returned sharply.
It meant something to Erik, as he tried to take Jane aside and get her to let the matter go.
It meant something to Darcy as well. Hacking government files for deeper learning purposes – not copying anything, not taking anything, not even leaking anything. Just reading everything that she could. That was her M.O. when she was hacking – and she had read about the Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Division. As they were being rather upfront and blatant about who they were and what they were doing, Darcy ruled out 'espionage logistics' on the possible list of reasons why they could be there. Which kinda left 'strategic hazard intervention'. Which meant that Jane's research was a hazard that needed to be strategically intervened with.
Then the name registered, and she looked again.
"Uncle Phil?" she yelped.
All movement and conversation in the lab screeched to an abrupt halt.
"Darcy?" Agent Coulson – her uncle – replied, blinking in shock as he looked back at her.
"Uncle Phil!" Darcy repeated, this time happily, and bounced up to him, in his suit and clearly working and all, and gave him a hug. Then she let go quickly as she remembered - "Oh, right, you're working. I shouldn't have done that," she babbled softly.
"No," he agreed, with a slight smile on his face. "But it's done now."
"I'll... just pretend I didn't recognise you and go stand over there..." Darcy offered, pointing over her shoulder to the corner of the room, deciding that discretion would be the better part of valour, and pulled out her iPod as she scurried to her corner. She was just about to turn it on when a slightly calloused hand covered hers and gently tugged at the small Apple product.
"Really?" she asked, looking up into the (admittedly handsome) face of the man who was taking her iPod from her. She didn't fight him. He was an agent, his nicely muscled arms were actually on display. She knew perfectly well that (without taser or pepper spray) she wouldn't win a fight with this guy, and if she got either of those out, he'd probably be able to disarm her faster than she could blink and would then use her own weapons on her. After all, if she drew them now, she'd be the one provoking action, since he hadn't made a violent move yet. He'd be within his rights.
Besides, he clearly answered to her Uncle Phil, and she'd already screwed up enough there for one day.
"Sorry miss," he said. He seemed genuinely apologetic.
"Can I get a receipt for it?" Darcy asked, not really expecting a positive answer.
"Sorry miss," the agent said again as he shook his head.
Darcy bit her lip. "Can you or Uncle Phil hold onto it personally so I know who to get it back from when you guys are done holding everything hostage?" she implored.
The guy smiled. He had a nice smile. "That I can do," he told her.
Darcy gave a relieved sigh. "Thank you," she said. "Oh, Darcy Lewis, by the way. The intern."
"And Agent Coulson's niece," he added pointedly, but he was still smiling. "Agent Barton," the man supplied, smile going crooked around the introduction, as he pocketed her iPod and extended his hand for her to shake. "The security detail."
Darcy smirked. "The muscles and the callouses kinda give it away," she told him as she shook his hand. "You're no egg-head desk-jockey."
Agent Barton's crooked smile became a charming smirk with barely a twitch, a light of mischief twinkling in his eyes for a moment, but then he was being called by Agent Coulson. "Nice to meet you, Miss Lewis," Agent Barton said, then gave her hand one more shake before he released it and went to climb into the passenger seat of the black car that would escort the vans carrying Jane's equipment.
Darcy went to hug Jane in a gesture of comfort.
"Darcy," Agent Uncle Phil called. "I think it would be a good idea if we had a talk."
"Yes Uncle Phil," Darcy demurred, and released her light hug around her temporary boss.
He gestured for her to get into the same single car among the vans, which she obediently slipped into the back seat of before he went around to climb into the driver's seat.
"Yeah, sorry about Jane. She's passionate," Darcy apologised, breaking the silence that had descended over the car since they'd started moving.
"What the hell are you doing here Darcy?" Phil Coulson demanded, harshly, as he drove. "I thought you were in college!"
Agent Barton's eyebrows had shot up when his superior swore.
"I am!" Darcy answered quickly. "Kinda. I'm Jane's intern. When my internship is over I'll have the six credits I need so that I'll be graduated by June," she explained.
"With an astrophysicist?" Phil asked, confused. "What happened to doing a political science major?"
"It's six college credits Uncle Phil," Darcy answered flatly. "The relevant internships wouldn't have given me enough credits to graduate in June, that's all. Besides, learning a bit of the science-babble can't be a totally bad thing, can it?" she countered.
Phil sighed. "No," he agreed. "No, it's not."
"Question," Agent Barton interjected. "How did a poli-sci major even get an internship with an astrophysicist?"
"If you ask Jane, she'll tell you it's because I was the only applicant," Darcy answered.
"And if I asked you?" Coulson asked dryly.
Darcy smiled coyly. "Then I'd be forced to confide in my favourite uncle that I'd hacked her email account and prevented the other two applications from reaching her," she answered with false innocence. "Though to be fair, I think I'd probably still have gotten it anyway, just because I know how to drive and how to fix a computer, which the other two applicants didn't."
Phil Coulson sighed deeply. "Alright," he said, forcing himself to relax behind the wheel. "Have you been keeping up with the exercise regime I gave you?"
"The one you said I'd have to maintain as a minimum if I wanted to work for you when I graduated?" Darcy checked rhetorically. "Of course I have. I don't look this fit because I diet, Uncle Phil. Tae Bo, Tai Chi, capoeria, parkour, and all the nerf and paint-ball wars of my college days as a bonus even. Advanced classes for the ones that are held as classes, and reigning queen for the others."
"Good girl," Phil said proudly, a small smile on his face. "How much longer does your internship last?"
"End of the month," Darcy answered easily. "Like I said, graduate in June." It was May.
"I'll start running the paper work. As soon as your internship is over and you've graduated, you'll be a SHIELD agent," Phil informed his niece. Then he smirked. "Bob won't be happy with me."
"Dad can suck it," Darcy answered with a near-matching smirk. "He's not the reason you haven't been to see us in ages, is he? Me telling him I wanted to be just like you and started my poli-sci major."
"No, Darcy. Bob has nothing to do with me not having time at holidays to visit."
"Damn. I wanted another reason to tell Dad to suck it. Oh, and you're going to have to watch out for Thor," Darcy advised as she suddenly recalled the big guy having decided to go after the 'satellite' that the 'government' was keeping the locals away from.
"Who?" both men asked at the same time, even as Phil pulled the car over and parked it next to all the other black vans that had been driving in front of them.
"So, what parts of your story aren't highly classified?" Darcy asked Barton as they sat in 'his trailer' while Phil saw to the running of everything. Barton was her babysitter for now, as well as still being on general security detail.
"Orphan, ran away to the circus with my brother, we parted ways when I found out how rotten the circus was and wanted nothing more to do with it. After the circus I joined SWAT, where I lost most of the hearing in this ear," he added, gesturing to the ear opposite the one he had his comm unit attached to.
Darcy grimaced in sympathy. "Can't have been enjoyable."
Barton shrugged. "Wasn't at the time," he agreed. "Makes for a good story these days though. Just not over meals," he added with a gesture to the sandwiches they were sharing.
"Why'd you leave?" Darcy asked when she'd finished giggling at the almost-promise of a getting a gory story at an unspecified later date.
"SWAT kicked me out after a couple of years there when I saved a woman's life by shooting her captor in the head," Barton answered.
Darcy frowned in visible confusion.
"My bullet tore through the woman's hand on the way through, and all the splatter ruined her very expensive dress," Barton explained dryly. "She decided she wanted to sue."
Darcy winced and pulled a disgusted face – disgusted with the woman who was suing, rather than with the agent across from her though, and it was very clear. "Right. So, after SWAT?" she prompted.
"I took some time out, did the professional archery circuit while I looked at options, got married, got divorced a month later when the woman not only stood by and let someone die, but actually deliberately tried to killed me for my meagre savings, then I joined the army. I was a sniper sometimes. Bomb squad other times. Always made my squad and superiors nervous when I was diffusing bombs though," he recalled with an almost wistful smile.
"Why?" Darcy asked, curious. She even leant forward on her chair, the very picture of someone eager to hear a secret or the punch-line of a joke.
"I didn't mind wearing the five-inch-thick padding and gear and shit for moving the bombs," Barton said, a smirk on his face. "But I figured that if I was going to die, I was going to die comfortable, so I always took the protective gear off before I started. When my tour was over, Agent Coulson picked me up, and I've been a SHIELD agent since." He took a bite from his sandwich, then changed the subject. "I get the impression you don't much like your dad?" Barton half-asked, half-commented.
"Not really," Darcy agreed with a chuckle. "I mean, I love him, because he is my dad, but he's a stick and much easier to love if I don't interact with him much. Between him and Uncle Phil, I'll go for Uncle Phil every time."
"Something happen?" Barton prompted.
"Well, he didn't much like the idea of me doing a poli-sci major for one thing," Darcy said, "but it was more than just that."
"What did your dad want you to do?" Barton asked, brow furrowing in confused curiosity.
"Study accounting like the rest of his family," Darcy answered, rolling her eyes. "And don't get me wrong, I did do it so he'd stop nagging about political science not being a field of study I'd likely be able to get a job from straight up," she added, dropping her voice and adding an accent where she was clearly quoting her father. "But I still knew what I wanted to do and no amount of nagging from Dad was going to deter me. Being able to run my own numbers comes in handy sometimes though. But like I said, not so much one thing," Darcy said.
Barton smiled. "Give me another example?" he asked.
Darcy shrugged, took a bite of her sandwich as she thought about it, then nodded and launched into another anecdote.
"When I was in high school, the boys didn't notice me and everybody was always asking what we wanted to do when we graduated. Standard teenage angst stuff. Dad's response to all this was to tell me I was just a late bloomer, and accounting was a good solid profession. Uncle Phil, on the other hand, told me that boys are stupid, I was beautiful, and that whatever I wanted to do with my life, he'd support me."
Barton blinked. Yeah. He could see which of those would earn greater loyalty from a kid. "Dare I ask your mother's response?"
"Ma? She said to ignore Dad and that a girl with my brain – and my tits when they started growing – could do a hell of a lot better than accounting," Darcy answered with a chuckle. "And that if any of the pimple-face, unwashed dicks at my school so much as thought of touching me, she'd set the dog on them. We had a big bull mastiff back then. His name was Slasher."
Barton barked out a laugh at that.
Darcy hummed her amusement as well. "Course, Slasher's died since and Dad brought home a chihuahua to replace him. Horrid little yappy, ratty thing, but Dad says the rat is easier on the budget than Slasher ever was."
"Slasher probably ate three times the rat's weight in food every day," Barton offered with a chuckle.
Darcy chuckled too. "Yeah, probably," she agreed with a smile. "Ya know, it just occurred to me. You've only been introduced to me as Agent Barton. For all I know, 'Agent' is your given name."
Barton chuckled. "It's Clint," he supplied.
Darcy was returned to the lab with a great big pile of contracts for her to read through and sign, but not her iPod (yet), at about the same time as Erik came back from the library . He settled down at the main table with one of the books he'd brought back.
"More astrophysics?" Darcy asked.
Erik nodded. "And a book on Norse myths," he added with a gesture towards the other book he'd brought back with him. "Wanted to show it to Jane so that she could see how silly the whole thing is."
Darcy shrugged. "Well, myths are part of human cultural history, which makes it my kind of reading material," she decided, and lent passed her inches of legal jargon to open the book to a random page. Seeing what lay within, she wrinkled her nose. "You deliberately got it from the children's section," she scolded. "Rather than getting a proper text on the subject."
Darcy grumbled, dropped the cover back, and returned to the stuff she had to sign so she could work for SHIELD. The rest of the afternoon passed with the only sound being the turning of pages and the occasional scratching of a pen. She eventually finished wading through the contract and, over-simplified though she knew it would be, she picked up the thick children's book on Norse Myth, with its simple illustrations on every other page, and started reading.
A roll of thunder distracted both of them from their books a few hours after.
"It's going to rain?" Darcy asked incredulously of nobody in particular. "Ya know, if I had my laptop, I'd be looking up the last time it rained out here. See if it's a once-a-year-if-that phenomenon or if there's a 'rainy season'..."
"I'm fairly sure it's the former," Erik replied with a chuckle.
Then his phone rang.
"Who is it?" Erik asked when he picked up.
"Hi Erik, it's Jane."
"Where are you?"
"I did exactly what you told me not to, so if you could come pick me up from the crater I'd really appreciate it."
Erik sighed. "On my way," he said tiredly.
"Jane?" Darcy asked.
"Jane," Erik confirmed. "She's out at the crater, took Thor. I gotta go pick her up."
Darcy nodded. "If she took the van, you'll need another person to drive it back," she offered and stood up.
"Thank you," Erik said with an appreciative nod.
"Not a word from you until we get back to the lab," Erik informed Jane firmly as he pulled her off the ground and started dragging her towards his car.
Darcy took Jane's keys from her and climbed into the driver's seat of the van.
"The things I do for six credits," she grumbled as she followed behind the car with two astrophysicists inside.
Once they were back at the lab, Darcy strategically opened the kid's book on Norse myths to the page on Mjolnir and set it on the table silently and listened to Jane's ranting, Erik's rebuttals, and towards the end (when Jane said that if there was a working Einstein-Rosen Bridge then there could be an advanced culture on the other end that could have crossed it) added in her own two cents worth.
"A primitive culture such as the Vikings could have worshipped them as deities," she offered neutrally.
Jane seemed to take it as support though. "Yes! Exactly! Thank you!"
"Mm-hmm," Darcy hummed back absently.
Erik sighed. "Alright," he conceded. "Darcy, you're the political science major. You're going to help me get him back from the government agency."
"What?" Jane asked, confused.
"Sure," Darcy said with a shrug.
"What?!" Jane repeated, turning on her intern. "Actually, when did you get back?"
Darcy raised an eyebrow at her temporary boss. "While you were apparently escorting a strange but attractive man off to cause trouble for the super-secret government agency people," Darcy answered. "One of whom happens to be my uncle. Jane, I know my rights inside out and back-to-front in two languages. I'm a Political Science major. Working with covert government agencies is more or less what I want to do with my life," she explained to the older woman. "Uncle Phil is my favourite relative, whatever you think of his having requisitioned your gear for a while."
Jane gave Darcy a pitiful, doe-eyed look. "You're sure you can get him out?" she asked quietly.
Darcy rolled her eyes. "No, but I'm your best bet," she answered.
"Let's go Darcy," Erik said, and hauled himself out of his chair.
"On your six Doctor Selvig!" Darcy cheered tiredly as she also pulled herself up and followed him out.
"You're a dangerous person, Miss Lewis," Agent Barton said even as he sent one of the egg-heads to fetch Coulson. "I knew we shouldn't have let you out of our sight."
"Me?" Darcy echoed, blinking innocently behind her glasses, a mischievous smile tugging at her lips.
"Oh yes," Agent Barton affirmed with a 'cheeky boy' smile. "You."
"So... Where are you guys keeping Thor?" she asked curiously.
"That depends on if you filled out all that paperwork I gave you before I had Agent Barton drive you back," Coulson answered as he walked up.
Darcy handed over said pile of print with a smile. "Just so ya know, Jane, er, Doctor Foster really wants Thor back please. Emotionally invested, very passionate, all that stuff."
"Why should we release him?" Agent Coulson asked. "He made our detail, some of the most highly-trained professionals in the world, look like a bunch of minimum-wage mall-cops. He hasn't told us how he did that yet."
Darcy winced. She knew that SHIELD agents were well-trained. She'd been working pretty much all her life towards becoming one. First because, as a little girl, she wanted to be like her 'cool Uncle Phil', and then as a teenager because her uncle Phil was cool and because she knew it was possible that being like him meant a job that wouldn't bore her to death with numbers... Not relevant. Getting the hunky but stupid blonde back for Jane was the task right now.
"He was distraught," Erik interjected.
"Yeah, we got that from the way he just gave up when he couldn't pick up the hammer," Barton quipped.
"Look, if the guy thinks he's Thor, or if he really is Thor, then he'd probably study all sorts of fighting privately, right?" Darcy suggested. "Lots of people, ordinary civilians, do that all the time. It is within their rights to do so, so you can't really object to that. Yes, he then used that skill-set to cause you guys grief, I get that that's a problem. But he's stopped now, and he probably won't be trying again in a hurry. Please?" Darcy asked, making big eyes at her uncle and clasping her hands together under her chin.
Agent Coulson held her gaze unwaveringly for a ten-count before he 'relented' – an act, just like her making big eyes at him.
"Very well," he said. "Doctor Selvig can take him."
Erik relaxed a little where he was standing beside Darcy.
"However," Coulson said quickly.
Darcy's smile stretched just a little and her eyes danced in the dim light.
"I expect you to taser him again if you even suspect him of pulling something like this again, is that clear?" Coulson asked, his question very clearly directed at Darcy.
"Yes Uncle Phil, er, Agent Coulson," Darcy corrected herself, and pulled a face. "That's probably going to be the hardest thing to get used to."
Phil chuckled at her, and escorted her and Selvig to where Thor was being kept.
Darcy allowed herself to move through the following morning mostly in mild shock – and her hand never more than a couple of inches from her taser.
First, Thor had served breakfast. He hadn't cooked it – he couldn't cook. Jane did that – but he'd also done the washing up after. Then his friends had shown up. All dressed like they were going to a mad renaissance fair and carrying definitely live weapons. Finally, some giant robot with no clear way of actually being able to work appeared in town and started blowing stuff up. Very not cool.
Very terrifying as well. Once it got close anyway. The whole 'running away' bit and helping evacuate people who were in line to get blown up actually went very calmly, since the Asgardian robot was still some way off.
According to Thor's friends (as Thor himself was somewhat dumbstruck from the revelation that his brother had lied to him about the death of his father) it was called 'The Destroyer'. Apt. Alright, so Darcy felt that 'Pyro-bot' would have been better, since it was essentially a walking flame-thrower, but there was a certain ominous thing that went with a name like 'The Destroyer'. Asgardians. Meh.
Oh, and Thor was back-handed and landed on his head. Probably dead, except that suddenly his hand snapped up and caught a massive hammer and then he was all wearing armour and dealing even more damage to the town by calling down crazy weather. He won. He destroyed 'The Destroyer', but... a third of the town was essentially flattened. Whole lot of rubble all over the place, and Jane (who could spot one star out of place in a whole night sky of them) was too busy being distracted by how Thor looked in his armour to even notice that.
Darcy was honestly relieved when a bunch of shiny black cars rocked up and her uncle stepped out of one of them.
"Looks like he might not be crazy," Barton quipped as he got out of another car and walked up to stand by Coulson's shoulder.
"Know this, Son of Coul," Thor said, pointing his hammer at Coulson. "You and I, we fight for the same cause: the protection of this world. From this day forward, you can count me in as your ally. If you return the items you have taken from Jane."
"Stolen," Jane interjected fiercely.
"Borrowed," Coulson corrected. "Of course you can have your equipment back," he said, addressing Jane directly. "You're going to need to need it to continue your research."
Darcy – unnoticed by Jane as she was behind her temporary boss – shifted her gaze to Barton and raised a curious eyebrow.
He smirked back and stuffed a hand into his pocket. It came out again holding her iPod.
Darcy grinned, then blinked as a dust-cloud kicked up and suddenly Thor and Jane weren't there any more and Coulson was yelling up at the sky about a debriefing.
"Miss Lewis," Barton said, holding out her iPod, a roguish smile on his face.
"Secret Agent Man," she countered with a coy curl to her lips as she accepted her property back, then slipped her hand into his and followed him to the car.
She rode in the back seat while her uncle drove and Barton rode shot-gun.
"Anything new since last night?" Coulson asked.
"Apart from 'Lady Sif and the Warriors Three' showing up, Erik taking the initiative to evacuate people, and 'The Destroyer' making a mess of the place?" Darcy countered. "No, not really. I'm a little disturbed that all that happened within the space of just one hour though."
Barton chuckled. "She's gonna fit right in, Boss," he said.
"Yes," Coulson agreed. "Agent Romanoff will love her."
Darcy couldn't help but think that was slightly ominous.
As promised, when her time as Foster's intern was over, Darcy enjoyed the benefits of nepotism and got a job in SHIELD. Her uniform was just like her uncle's: white collar shirt, black suit pants held in place with a black leather belt, a black suit jacket, a tie (colours and patterns were at her own discretion, but blue was preferred by the brass), and a pair of shiny black shoes. Except that her shiny black shoes were actually combat boots that went all the way up to her knees underneath her suit pants. She'd been assigned as her uncle's 'apprentice' until further notice. Not too bad an entry position, as far as she was concerned.
Now that she was appropriately suited up, Agent Coulson escorted the brand new Agent Lewis to a training room – and began teaching his niece how to, as she liked to call it, 'ninj'.
It started with a review of all the stuff he'd set her as minimum fitness requirements... and then the hard stuff. After a very intense period of physical activity (with instruction to practice each one for at least two hours every week, more often if she could fit it in around her duties as a SHIELD minion), psychology, gathering and sorting intel, social networking with the influential and powerful, and proper filing techniques was a drastic change. Slight of hand was brought into the mix in sparring sessions as well. Learning how to strike as fast as a snake had been one thing, but learning how to do it without the target feeling the strike until too late? Yeah, that was totally another.
Of course, while Agent Coulson was the one who instructed Darcy in all of that, he wasn't her only sparring partner. He was, after all, a middle-aged man who was starting to get a little bit thick around the waist-line and stiff in the joints. He was a handler and a superior these days, no longer the spry field agent of his youth. He was a hell of a fight when he was her sparring partner, but the age thing was why she was his apprentice: he was aiming to retire, some time kinda soon-ish.
That was how Darcy was introduced to Agent Natasha Romanoff.
"Shouldn't it be Romanova?" Darcy had asked when they met the first time.
"I'm impressed. Not many people know that who aren't Russian," the female agent had said. Then she'd smirked. "It's on purpose. Don't think on it too much."
Darcy shrugged. "Okay." And that had been that.
Agent Romanoff ("Call me Nat," she'd said after their first spar as she helped Darcy up onto her feet) had introduced Darcy to a lot of other things when Agent Coulson ("You can't call me 'Uncle Phil' while we're working Darcy.") had been busy. Such things included knife work, how to fight when tied to something (chair, pole, column, etcetera), how to interrogate people (from positions of power and weakness both), and ballet. The ballet was probably the hardest. The interrogation built on the psychology she'd already been learning, and the knife work mostly was adding a blade to how she already fought. Ballet was tough.
And there was still paper work to fill out and file in between all this training. Coffee to fetch, science-babble to translate into briefings for the agents who would need to know what the hell they were going to have to deal with (she knew being Jane Foster's intern would turn out to be good for more than graduating and meeting handsome men in the middle of nowhere), and a series of weapons-handling tests to pass.
Tests which meant time with Agent Barton got added to Darcy's already packed time-table. He was the weapons expert after all. He loved his bow and all his fancy arrows, but that didn't make him any less of a perfectionist with all the other armaments that SHIELD kept – and they kept at least one of everything. Even if just for the purposes of training their agents to be able to recognise what the enemy was using.
Never knew when using a weapon stolen from the enemy could save your life, after all.
Darcy blinked when she opened the door of her bunk in SHIELD to find Agent Barton standing there with a smile on his face. She looked over her shoulder back into her room. Yep. Her iPod and laptops (she'd been given a new one as a 'welcome to the fold' present from her uncle, but she'd kept the old one with all her dirty hacking history on it as well) were both on her desk. He hadn't stolen them from her as a gag. She turned back to face him
"Alright handsome. I give. Why are you smiling at me like that?" she asked, folding her arms over her clean white shirt and navy Firefly tie (not that anybody in SHIELD recognised it for what it was, as the only signifier was "I Can Kill You With My Brain" written in small type, in black, so that it was almost invisible in certain lights and looked more like a pattern than a famous catchphrase).
Barton's smile became a smirk.
"You're mine today, Lewis," he informed her happily.
Darcy cocked her head to one side as she thought what he could mean by that, and then a smile spread slowly across her face as well. "Toys?" she asked.
Barton's smirk grew teeth. "Toys," he confirmed. "Don't bother grabbing your jacket. You'd just have to take it off again when we get to the firing range."
Darcy nodded in acceptance and stepped through her door, pocketing the key to her bunk once she'd locked the door behind her, and happily fell into step with the ex-SWAT, ex-army, very yummy man who was going to test her on her ability to fire real weapons.
"We'll start small," Barton said as he let himself and Darcy into a private firing range. "Pea-shooters you can hide in your purse."
"I don't carry a purse," Darcy countered absently. "I have a wallet, and I have a satchel. Call anything I own a 'purse' and I'll tase you."
Barton snorted in amusement. "Yes Ma'am," he replied, putting on a bit of extra – false – twang for the sarcastic answer (that he would, none the less, stick to). "Guns about the same size or smaller than your taser though. We'll work our way up to the bigger guns with the bigger kick-back, and I want to make sure you don't blink when they go bang too."
"Cool," Darcy agreed, then unbuttoned the cuffs of her sleeves, and rolled them up to her elbows.
Barton presented her with a pair of ear-muffs and clear perspex protective glasses, and slipped on a pair of each himself.
"No reason to risk becoming blind or deaf because of an accident in a controlled environment," he stated in response to Darcy's curiously raised eyebrow and unspoken question. "Even if I'm part deaf in one ear already."
She nodded and donned the gear.
Barton picked up the first gun in the line-up. He'd set up as many different guns in each firing cubicle as would fit on the bench, with the intention of working his temporary student down along the line. He handed it to her, and then stepped behind her. He didn't need to nudge her feet into the correct stance – small arms like these didn't need that – but he did check her grip and the way she held her upper-body.
"Relax," he instructed into her hair near one of the ear-muffs, so as to be sure she heard him, "and squeeze the trigger as you breathe out."
Darcy's first shot hit just off-centre of the target.
"Good," Barton declared and stepped back. He moved to watch her from the side. He needed to know if Darcy did blink when she fired. "Again," he ordered. Then he smirked.
She didn't blink. Not on that shot or any of the others as she emptied the clip.
He'd still check that with every new gun. The bigger they got, after all... and the kick-back might have an effect.
Each gun was fired six times, then cleaned before they moved on. Barton only had to adjust Darcy's grip and/or stance a couple of times: when she finally left behind the small-arms for the big guns, and when she went from manual weapons (like shot guns) to semi-automatic weapons (some of the rifles) to fully automatic weapons.
"Not a bad day," Barton declared when they'd cleaned up the last of the guns. "That just leaves the anti-tank stuff and sniping lessons."
"And archery?" Darcy questioned with a quip and a smile as she helped pack all the guns away back into their lockers. "It apparently does nice things for your arms."
Barton smirked. "Yes it does," he agreed. "But I'm not letting you try my bow. It's custom. Get yourself a standard job and I'll teach you though. Do you want to learn how to build and disable bombs instead? Fly any of SHIELD's aircraft?"
"Well, if you're offering," Darcy answered with a cheeky smile and a flirty cant to her head.
Barton laughed. "Sure," he agreed affably. "Why not? I'll even teach you to walk a tight-rope, juggle, and any other carny tricks you're interested in," he offered.
Darcy's whole face lit up with eager anticipation. "You're never going to get rid of me," she informed him happily. "You'll be teaching me everything you know until we are both too old and creaky to be able to do this stuff. What's worse is that I have no idea how to return the favour."
Barton blinked, twice, as he processed that. Then he laughed. When he stopped laughing, he lay a hand on Darcy's shoulder and looked her in the eye. "You can help me with my letters and numbers," he said quietly. "Orphanage and then the circus, I didn't get much standard learning, and the army didn't care as long as I could do my job," he added by way of explanation.
Darcy smiled softly. "Sure," she agreed, and patted Clint's hand that rested on her shoulder. "Still doesn't feel like enough though."
"So," started Natasha Romanoff as she slid onto the bench opposite Darcy in the cafeteria. "You and Clint?"
Darcy blinked, several times, rapidly, in surprise. "What?" she asked, caught completely flat-footed. She was glad she hadn't had a mouth full of food or drink at that moment. She probably would have done a spit-take.
"Lewis, I owe the man big and we dated a while back. It was a train wreck, but it was fun while it lasted. Not the point. You and Clint," Natasha repeated, her tone flat and clinical throughout, like she hadn't glossed over a whole relationship in a bit more than a single sentence. "Lewis, Clint doesn't just offer to teach any girl everything he knows. Especially not in exchange for lessons in penmanship."
Darcy blushed, but didn't look away.
"Not even if that girl is Coulson's niece," Natasha added lowly, so that no one would hear.
Most of the other people in the cafeteria didn't have the clearance to know that Coulson had any family, after all, let alone that a member of said family was apprenticing with him to take over when he retired. Those who'd witnessed the family reunion back in New Mexico had been informed they knew highly classified information, and that if they spoke of it to anyone, then they wouldn't wake up the next morning.
Then Natasha smirked. "So," she said, and she seemed to visibly slip into 'girl talk' mode. "You and Clint. I want full disclosure, Lewis."
Darcy floundered for a moment, but recovered soon enough. "If it's not because of my apprenticeship to Agent Coulson or my agreeing to help him with his paperwork, then I can only guess he enjoys staring at my rack while he teaches me," she answered at last. "Not that he does, which is odd. Maybe it's the banter?"
"More likely to be the banter," Natasha decided with a nod and a raised eyebrow.
"Even if the number of women in SHIELD could be counted on one hand with left-overs?" Darcy countered, an eyebrow raised. "Because, really, let's face it. There's you, me, and Hill. That's it. If there are other women in this organisation, they're masquerading as men."
Natasha chuckled softly. "True," she allowed, an amused curl on her lips. "For this base anyway. There are a few more in other bases. But like I was saying, Clint and I were a fun train wreck. So that's me off the list of women he can really take an interest in. It was a mutual split. We're still best friends, and partners in the field when assigned together. Hill..."
"Wears her uniform like a prude and has very little noticeable figure when wearing it," Darcy finished. "As well as being completely married to her work with a possible aside for the Director, if you believe the rumour mill."
Natasha nodded. "And we've established that there aren't any other women around here. So... You and Clint?" she asked again.
"Ugh!" Darcy grunted with despair as she rolled her eyes. "Dog with a bone, you are. Why do you care anyway?"
"Actually, I don't," Natasha said simply. "He does, but Clint knows how much training you've been put through in the nine months since you joined up, and is not only shy but rightfully fearful in the event of a bad reaction to asking you on a date. So, I'm asking for him, to clear some of the debt I owe."
Darcy's initial blush had faded when Natasha had demanded details. It returned then with a vengeance.
"Uh... yes?" Darcy tried. "I've never been on a date. I mean, I swapped a view of my boobs and pick-up-line advice for lessons in hacking while I was in college, but... I've never had a guy actually being genuinely interested in me before..."
Natasha's smirk dropped and her face fell into an expression of mild shock. Which meant she was completely floored. She shook if off quickly enough. "I'm going to suspend disbelief because it's your life and you'd know best. On the subject at hand though: you like Clint? He's safe to ask you on a date? He was muttering something about tasers and pepper spray when I asked him why he didn't just ask you himself."
Darcy smiled. "He's safe from me," she confirmed. "Not sure about how Agent Coulson will take it though."
"How I'll take what?"
The two women looked up in surprise to find Coulson standing there with his lunch tray in his hands.
"Mind if I join you?" he asked politely.
Darcy shifted over in clear invitation.
"Barton's got it bad for your girl, Sir," Natasha reported, in answer to Coulson's first question, once the man was sitting down.
"Director Fury wants someone for guard duty on a top secret project. A total black-out project. Agent Barton will be out of contact as of tomorrow," Coulson said in his usual soft, professional tones. "Not sure how long the detail will last, but definitely a few months. Take that time to think about it," he advised Darcy.
She nodded silently, and picked up her plastic fork to shift some of her salad around her plate. "I really like him, Uncle Phil," she said softly. "I don't know if I love him," she added, directing her gaze to Natasha. "But... I probably could."
Natasha smiled. "Should I tell him, or will you? Or will it wait until after this top secret project?"
"I'll tell him," Darcy answered. Then took a deep breath. "After lunch."
Darcy Lewis the Sensible wasn't a girl who was used to receiving positive male attention of the romantic sort. Lecherous, yes. Romantic, no. She knew when a guy was talking to her boobs instead of her face, but she didn't count that as positive attention. Heck, she was a never-been-kissed nerd/geek who now knew how to cause a person excruciating pain/death a hundred different ways with a click-y pen. Details which significantly reduced the likelihood of her attracting said positive romantic attention from the male of the species that were actually worth attracting.
... And Agent Clint Barton, former carnie, ex of SWAT and the army, married once and divorced, Secret Agent Man... was apparently romantically interested in her. Not in her boobs. Her perv alarm never went off around him (unless there was another guy around who was perving, but being her uncle's apprentice, as well as hanging out with Natasha a fair bit, seemed to ward off the other pervs fairly well). He never talked to her boobs – not even to make a joke about them being in the way of whatever he was trying to teach her, which they had been more than just a few times.
Darcy ran all of that through her head as she left the cafeteria after lunch to find the man in question for her archery lesson. Archery was hard. Not like firing a gun at all. It was doing wonders for her upper-body strength though.
"Hey," Clint greeted with a smile. "How was lunch?"
"Tasty," she answered easily. "You should try eating in the middle of the day too," she advised wryly.
"I do," he answered. "We had sandwiches in my trailer back in New Mexico, remember?"
"Our first date," Darcy agreed with a smile and a nod. The smile became a smirk when she noticed Barton go stiff where he stood. "But that was nine months ago, Clint. I've enjoyed the light flirting, the friendly teasing, the lessons... Especially the lessons, that's all sorts of cool stuff you're teaching me, but when are you going to ask me out to lunch again?"
"Well... you've had lunch today already, so how about dinner tonight?" Clint offered, voice a little husky.
"Eating out? Or dining in?" Darcy asked.
"I'll cook," Clint answered. "SHIELD provides small apartments with kitchenettes for their more paranoid agents," he added by way of explanation. "And I am deeply suspicious of the cafeteria fare."
"So that's why I never see you in there," Darcy declared, pleased to finally have that minor mystery solved. "Do you tell me what time to show up, or will you collect me from my room?"
"If we were going out, the latter," Clint said. "But if I'm cooking, I don't want to chance anything I might have going on the stove."
Darcy nodded in understanding. "Alright," she agreed, and then she leant in and planted a light kiss on Barton's cheek. "It's a date."
If Agent Barton had a silly grin on his face for the entire archery lesson, and it stayed there even after as he walked the halls of the base into a briefing room, no one made any comment. Especially since he wasn't smiling quite so broadly when he came out again.
After a simply divine steak dinner and chocolate saucy pudding dessert, Darcy kinda, maybe, accidentally got caught up in how fantastic her first real date ever had gone (joking about their first date being in New Mexico in his trailer notwithstanding), and with a little wine (red, very high-end, not the cheep, boxed wine she knew other students who had gone in for wine had 'enjoyed')... well, she may have gotten a little bit caught up in the warm feelings that Clint was inspiring in her as they snuggled and kissed on his couch.
Then again, he hadn't acted like a man expecting to get any when they'd taken a breath in the middle of their very heavy make-out session, which was, from her point of view, hopeful for future relations. If she failed to mention that she was still a virgin, and was working her way up to that sort of thing at that very moment by just massaging Clint's muscles through his shirt... well, nobody needed to know.
It was a good thing his uniform came with an at least semi-high neckline, because, frankly, nobody needed to know about the hickeys that Darcy had given him either. Especially Coulson and Fury. They really didn't need to know about they many love-bites peppering both his neck and Darcy's the next morning.
"Loki," Darcy greeted the prisoner neutrally as she stepped up onto the platform around the cage where he was being kept.
"They're really sending some random, faceless, nameless agent to question me?" Loki returned with a mocking smile.
Darcy smiled back. Loki had no idea who she was. He had no idea just how high she was in the food-chain around here. He had no idea that she was Phil Coulson's niece and Clint Barton's girlfriend.
She dropped the smile and turned her attention to the iPad she had brought with her. "When was the last time you ate?" she asked.
"Alright, how about the last time you slept?" she continued as she touched a few spots around her screen.
Loki's brow furrowed in confusion.
Darcy made another note. "When was the last time any of the people under your control ate or slept?" she asked.
"What does all that matter?" he countered.
"Well, in your case, because you're currently a Prisoner Of War and we have rules about that," Darcy explained. "As for why I'm asking about Selvig and Barton and the rest, that's because it would be useful for us to know what sort of condition to expect them to be in when we get them back."
"When," Loki repeated with a chuckle. "Don't tell me you think you can defeat me, little agent?"
Darcy smirked. "I personally knocked out Thor with one finger," she said, then paused slightly for drama. "Before I joined this agency," she finished. "Yes, Loki, I think we can beat you."
Loki blinked in surprise.
"Now," Darcy said, resuming her business-like demeanour. "You don't seem to know what eating is, the concept of sleep confuses you, and you fail to understand that these are both things that humans need to operate at optimum levels. Let's try a question you should be able to answer," she suggested.
Loki narrowed his eyes at her.
"Why do you want to rule Earth?" Darcy asked.
"Because you were made to be ruled," Loki answered her.
Darcy rolled her eyes. "Yes, and we've got several rulers in charge of different parts of the world. We've got that covered, in fact," she replied drolly. "How about this? Who was in charge of your army before it became your army?"
"Thanos," Loki answered simply, though his voice was a bare whisper and his blue-green eyes were wide in his face.
Dacry made a note. "I don't suppose you'd be interested in sharing your plan of escape?" she asked. "Maybe gloat a bit at your brilliance as compared to human stupidity?"
Loki grinned nastily. "Who better to get me out than one who knows every procedure for putting the prisoner in?" he asked.
"Barton to the rescue?" Darcy guessed.
"With a little mayhem and chaos on the side, I think," Loki answered happily.
"Hmm," Darcy hummed thoughtfully as she fiddled with her iPad some more and apparently absently turned on the spot and headed towards the door. "Nice to meet you, son of War," she farewelled without looking over her shoulder at him.
Loki chuckled softly at the moniker. "Son of War," he said softly. "I like that."
When the ship rocked with an explosion, Darcy's immediate reaction was to check that she was carrying. She was always carrying, but knowing the what of what exactly she'd strapped to herself that morning without even paying attention as she was part-zombie from sleep deprivation at the time was good.
Just as she confirmed that she was packing her taser that day (among other things), Darcy spotted Clint marching through the hall – towards her.
"Hey baby," she greeted as she drew and he got nearer. "Miss me?" and then he was in range and she fired.
That had to be painful. She'd got him square in the chest and he was standing on a metal walk-way – which he seriously thunked his head on when the voltage stopped and his legs gave out from underneath him.
More tenderly than she'd dropped him, she hauled the unconscious archer over her shoulder and carried him to one of the rooms where the bed came equipped with straps to prevent escape or self-harm from the person put there. As soon as she'd got him settled, she reached for her earpiece.
"Agent Barton is recovered and unconscious," she reported. "Does anybody copy?"
"Good work Lewis," Fury himself answered her. "Fight isn't over yet though, and you may want to get down to the prisoner."
Darcy was on the move even as she confirmed. "On my way Sir," she answered, "but wasn't Agent Coulson headed that way?"
"Lewis, you know he hasn't been properly in the field for a long time. I don't like the idea of him down, in this situation, without back up," Fury answered. "You get your extremely well-trained butt down there, and don't get killed."
"It's a situation I always try to avoid Sir," she replied.
Darcy arrived in time to see Loki shove his spear through her uncle's chest from behind, while a second Loki faded from view where it had been standing by the controls to the prison that... Thor was trapped in. She resisted the urge to face-palm and summoned medical.
"Agent Coulson is down in the detention area. Needs medical attention now," she said dangerously into her ear piece. Then she marched up to where her uncle had fallen and grabbed the massive gun that was in his lap.
She didn't try to give orders, further announce her presence, or threaten in any way. Loki had just shoved a spear through her favourite uncle's chest. She picked it up, pointed, and fired with extreme prejudice.
She honestly didn't care if she interrupted Loki's monologue to his trapped brother.
She gave the massive, experimental weapon back to her uncle and marched up to the control board, where she pressed the right buttons to let Thor out again, and then didn't even bother to look his way as she continued to march towards where Loki had been flung from the shot of said experimental weapon.
"Lady Darcy," Thor greeted in surprise as he stepped out of the cage. "I was not aware that you had joined SHIELD."
"I'd have said 'hi' when you showed up, but I was kinda busy. The whole Loki situation has everybody on high alert," she answered. "Damn," she grumbled. "Where the fuck did he go?"
"What?" Thor asked, confused as he came up behind her. "He's gone."
"Noticed," Darcy quipped. "Though I am seriously confused about how," she added with a grumble. A grumble she felt was justified. She had barely taken her eyes off the spot where Loki had been blasted to, and he should have been in no condition to get up and sneak off. Yet he had.
Frustrated, she turned on her toes and went to check on her uncle.
"The god rabbited?" he asked softly.
Darcy nodded. "Sorry Sir," she said, just as softly. "You gonna be okay?"
"I'm clockin' out," Phil answered wearily. "I heard you got Barton back though."
Darcy blinked back tears. "I did," she confirmed.
"He's a good pick Darcy," Phil told her. "A good agent, good man. I mean, he's no Captain America, but -"
Darcy cut him off with a shock of slightly wet, hysterical laughter. "Did you get him to sign your trading cards yet?" she asked.
"I got him to agree to," Phil answered. "Things got busy though. Cards are still in my locker. Hey," he said gently, and reached up to cup her face. "You know you get everything, if this is what does me," he told her.
Darcy shook her head. "I'd rather have you than everything, Uncle Phil," she whispered.
"Sorry kid," he said with a smile. Then he closed his eyes, and stopped breathing.
Then the medical team arrived.
Thor gently pulled Darcy away from her uncle and escorted her up to the bridge.
Every 'Avenger' save Bruce Banner and Clint Barton was assemble there, along with Director Fury and Agent Hill.
"Agent Lewis, what's the situation?" Fury demanded.
"Despite our best efforts, Loki has escaped," she announced. "No idea how. I'd just shot him through a wall, and when I looked next he wasn't there."
"Well... fuck," quipped the ever eloquent Tony Stark.
"And Agent Coulson is down," Darcy added. "He'd stopped breathing when medical arrived. They might be able to save him, might not. He does have a whole straight through his chest after all."
Jaws around the table tensed. Everyone knew Phil, and he was damn hard not to like. After the initial meeting anyway. Initial meetings usually had him pissing someone off because of orders.
"So..." Fury said lowly.
"If my uncle dies, Director Fury," Darcy said firmly, a combination of words that saw eyes widen in faces – Stark's, Rogers', Hill's. Not one of them had known that Phil Coulson even had family. If Thor or Banner had still been there, they would probably have been shocked too. "If my favourite uncle dies," she repeated with emphasis, "then he will have died still believing in the idea of heroes. Heroes who, so far as I've seen, are more interested in fighting each other than the common enemy."
Fury sighed. "Yes," he said, and he was directing whatever he was about to say to Steve. "SHIELD did try to make weapons from the Tesseract. I never put all my chips on that idea though because I was backing a much riskier idea. Stark knows about it. It was an idea called 'The Avengers Initiative'. It was meant to bring together a group of extraordinary people, people who could do the things that we couldn't do, to fight the battles that we never could."
"Is the Agent Lewis part of this initiative?" Stark asked.
Fury raised an eyebrow at the billionaire. "Are you kidding me?" he asked. "Phil Coulson may believe in heroes, but his boss or not, he'd still have my hide if I put his favourite niece in that kind of situation."
"He doesn't get a say right now," Darcy said firmly. "Loki has taken enough from me. I want to take something from him."
"Well I suppose Agent Coulson can't object to that," Fury allowed.
"Especially if he doesn't make it," Darcy quipped with cold fury and red-rimmed eyes as she refused to cry.
"We still have to figure out where he's going though," Natasha pointed out.
"I'll go ask Clint if he knows," Darcy answered, and excused herself.
Clint didn't know, but that was okay because Tony – the annoying genius that he was – figured it out with a little psycho-analysis, right off the cuff. Darcy geared up just like the rest of the team... kinda. Okay, she was still in her fancy MIB-type suit, rather than swapping it for the bullet-proof skin-tight catsuits Natasha and the Captain were wearing, or anything more battle-field appropriate like Clint's bullet-proof vest and dark cargo's with pockets that had back-ups and minor first-aid gear stashed in them, and she sure as hell didn't have any armour.
She wore her carefully pressed white shirt, her carefully pressed black slacks, her dry-clean-only black suit jacket, her shiny black shoes and her tie (which that day, appropriately enough, had MIB as the subtle design printed across it). Darcy also strapped on a pair of guns and a whole lot of ammo. It kinda ruined the business-like look, having cartridges of bullets strapped to her thighs for quick re-loads, but that was war for you. No consideration to fashion.
When they took one of the quinjets, Clint and Darcy took the controls without a word to each other or anybody else. Clint had been teaching her this stuff before it all went to hell after all, and she'd gotten her final accreditation with the craft not long after he'd been put on the Tesseract detail.
Tony beat them to New York by a good few minutes (of course he did), while Thor arrived at about the same time the jet did, maybe a little before. Then they had to make an emergency landing after Loki shot at them with his magic stick.
"I'm really beginning to hate that thing," Darcy grumbled as they went down.
"Maybe we can set it on fire together after everything is over," Clint answered her. "There," he added, and jerked his head towards a space that was open enough for the jet to be landed in.
A bit of crazy handling, and they were set down without causing much damage. A bench got landed on and a light-post got a bit dented. Perfect landing otherwise, and with one engine not working properly.
"I have a score to settle with Loki," Thor announced when he joined them.
"Get in line," Clint and Darcy both told him flatly as they checked their weapons. They'd had a minor altercation with a battalion of aliens by the time Thor came down from his personal fight with his adopted brother.
"Save it," Steve ordered them.
Then Banner putted up on an old motorbike.
"Well... this all seems... horrible," he said conversationally when he'd parked the bike and was walking up to them.
"I've seen worse," Natasha answered.
"Sorry about that," the doctor apologised.
"No, we could use a little 'worse'," she said quickly, sincerely.
"Stark, we got 'im," Steve called into the communication unit he was wearing under his cowl.
"Just like you said."
"Then tell him to suit up. I'm brining the party to you," Stark announced into all of their headsets – and then he rounded a building and came into view, a massive... thing chasing him through the air.
"Welcome to the party Doc," Darcy said drolly as she checked her weapons. "Where the few laws of physics I learned during my internship don't seem to apply any more."
"I don't see how that's a party," Natasha quipped, eyes a little wide in her face as she took in the alien monster.
Banner chuckled softly, and turned towards the thing.
"Doctor Banner," Steve called. "Now might be a good time for you to get angry."
"That's my secret Captain," Banner answered over his shoulder as he walked away from them and towards... it. "I'm always angry."
"No wonder he looks so much older than his DOB would peg him," Darcy commented to herself as she watched the generally pleasant doctor become big, green, and successfully violent. Successfully, because with one fist he crushed the skull of the flying alien monster thing into the road.
"None of this is gonna mean a damn thing if we don't get that portal closed," Natasha said as she sagged against an abandoned car – they had a momentary lull in the fighting in their area. It wouldn't last.
"Our biggest guns couldn't touch it," Steve answered her.
"Not everything is about guns," Darcy declared as she rolled her eyes – and spotted the aliens on flying chariots overhead. "Gimme a lift. I'll see what sense I can get out of Erik."
"You sure about this?" Steve asked as Darcy backed up to take a running jump.
"No," she answered simply, but charged on anyway. She caught hold of the rear-most flying chariot without a problem, and pulled herself up. Step two was to dispose of the armed alien that was riding the thing. Step three – take the helm.
It was already headed for Stark Tower, more or less. But the chariots in front split off and circled around towards where Thor and the Hulk were making a mess of their foot-soldiers. Darcy kept going straight, and tried to get the thing to go higher. She would, after all, have to be higher unless she planned on crashing through a window and taking the elevator.
She was fairly sure the elevator would take too long.
Darcy jumped down from the alien chariot once she was over the softest-looking part of Stark's roof. Hesitating was bad right now, so she didn't. She moved straight for the fallen-over computer and hauled it upright, then sped-read her way through what she could see.
"The sceptre," Erik said softly from where he lay on the ground behind her.
"Right," Darcy agreed. "Hey Erik," she greeted with a quick smile as she moved past him and down to where Loki had dropped his sceptre on Stark's balcony. She'd made a note of its position as she'd flown over it because she'd liked Clint's idea of them burning it together when everything was over.
"Director Fury, it's possible to close the portal," Darcy reported into the private channel on her comm unit as she moved.
"I wish you'd told me that ten seconds ago Agent Lewis," Fury's voice answered her. "I could have used it when I was refusing to follow the Council's orders to order a nuclear strike on New York."
"They've gone over your head, haven't they?" Darcy asked as she picked up the pace.
"If they haven't yet, it's only a matter of time," Fury confirmed unhappily.
"Stark! There's a nuke headed our way!" Darcy snapped into the public channel as she ran down the stairs and into Stark's apartment – and past Loki. "See if you can't rearrange its trajectory into the portal!"
"On it!" Stark answered quickly.
Darcy grabbed up the sceptre, turned on a dime at top speed, and headed back to the roof – she made sure to step on Loki (in a very delicate spot) as she made the return dash. "They've been invading us, now it's our turn to return fire into their camp," she grumbled as she finally came out onto the roof again.
"Stark, don't be an idiot. You've got it pointing in the right direction. You can let go of it now!" Darcy yelled at him as he flew up towards the portal, holding the nuke at the back of his IronMan suit.
"Oh, right," he said, like he'd forgotten that he could do that, and released his hold on the very large weapon of mass destruction just before he would have gone into the portal with it.
Darcy shoved the sceptre into the workings of the machine that was holding the portal open once Stark was definitely clear, and the hole into the vacuum vanished into pleasantly blue sky.
"Well, I'd say that worked," Stark noted. "The alien army is down."
"Great. Now I suggest we get everybody into your apartment where Loki is wheezing in pain in his very own crater," Darcy declared with a grin.
"There's a Loki-shaped crater in my floor?" Stark demanded.
Darcy shrugged. "Looks to me like the guy suffered a bad case of Hulk-smash," she answered.
She heard Clint chuckle at that over the comm lines. Yeah, it was a pretty satisfying concept.
"Darcy?" Clint asked, a smirk on his face and amusement in his voice as he (and everyone else) congregated around where Loki was curled up in his crater, clutching his groin and making tiny, high, pained mews. There was, however, a tiny amount of sympathy in his face. The instinctual kind that rears up in a man any time he sees another in that kind of pain.
"He was on the floor and between me and the door when I was fetching this," she answered vindictively as she twirled the sceptre before she passed it to Natasha.
Thor visibly winced, and Steve and Tony weren't looking entirely comfortable either. Bruce's big green alter-ego seemed to be okay with it though.
"...Do we get him some ice, or just bundle him up and put him in the cooler?" Tony asked eventally.
Thor frowned and opened his mouth.
"It's slang for put bindings on him and put him in a prison cell," Darcy cut across before the blonde-in-more-ways-than-one Asgardian could ask.
"Do we even have anything to do that with?" Natasha asked.
Darcy winced. "Yes, but it will ruin my professional look," she said. "Take my jacket please Clint?" she asked as she pulled it off.
Clint accepted the jacket and stared at it. "How the hell did you manage to keep it clean in that fight?" he asked.
"The Coulson Ninj Gene," she answered. She then pulled a knife from Natasha's small stash on her thigh, and sliced off one of her shirt sleeves. She handed the knife back with one hand, while the other (holding her cut off sleeve) pulled the tie loose from around her neck.
Hands were pulled away from anatomy, the sleeve was pulled over one hand, Loki was rolled over onto his stomach, fingers were forcibly laced together behind his back and the sleeve was pulled over the hands, then Darcy finished it up by tying it all tightly together with her tie – with a knot that would take two hands to undo.
"Thorough," Natasha complimented.
"Thank you," Darcy answered as she stood – on Loki's back – and took her jacket back from Clint to shrug it back on.
"And you're dating her?" Tony asked Clint quietly.
Clint smiled goofily at the reminder. "Yeah," he agreed.
"Speaking of," Darcy said, having heard that. She grabbed hold of the strap of Clint's quiver that went across his chest and yanked him forward until their faces clashed at the mouth. "Clearly you can't be let out of my sight. Your options are to accept me taking over as your handler or marry me, so I can keep an eye on you after hours as well," she informed him when they separated.
Clint grinned. "I don't get to pick who my handler is," he pointed out.
"You'd better marry me then."
Clint kissed her again.
"I hear you want to marry my niece," Coulson said when Clint came to visit him in the medical bay.
"Yes Sir," Clint answered. "I know better than to object when a woman like her tells me to marry her."
"If that's how it is," Coulson said. "Then yes. And in my condition," he said with a gesture towards the bandages around his chest, "I'm hardly in any position to object to her either."
~Really The End~