Imagine: The List
Fic posted by members of Vo's Imaginings YahooGroup

Story Notes:
Eventually it'll have a tiny bit of Jane bashing for her lack of adulting, and a cute kid but not yet. Not for a while actually. Some het, some mentioned femslash, mostly all fade to black so far. That might change later.

"I swore that I would never be the sort of parent that used a nanny," Darcy said, staring at her best friend and boss. Well, former best friend and boss. Because she was now done. "I personally think that parents that employ them are kinda pathetic at the whole parenting thing." She handed the kid she'd been told was now her job back. "Sorry, boss lady, but not my field of interest." She heard a gasp and glared at the person staring at them. "Yes? You wanted something?" she asked dryly.

"You're good at it," Stark said. He stared at her. "You take care of people."

"I may be good at taking care of people but I'm not the nanny. Nor am I going to be the nanny. Been nice knowing you guys but no. That's a parent's job."

"You've probably never met a kid raised by one," Stark said, glaring at her.

She stared at him for a minute then turned to face him better. "You'd be shocked considering your mother was my mother's bridesmaid at her wedding, Stark." He stepped back, almost flinching. "For that matter, your mom was my godmother. I've seen *plenty* of kids with nannies and then those same kids with their therapists years later. Sometimes only a few years later, sometimes many years later." She stared at him. "I realize you probably don't remember too much about the group around your house and all that. I figured it was trauma. You might want to look at the funeral pictures though since you were holding my hand when they lowered Aunt Maria's casket."

"There's no way."

Darcy sighed, looking up. "FRIDAY, would you please pull up pictures from that funeral?" she asked politely. "After the service, when they were lowering the caskets?" The tv lit up with a black and white photo. "Not that one, the uncut version. It should be in the LA Times archive." It was pulled up instead. She looked at Stark. He was gaping at the picture of a late teenage him and a young girl that was holding his hand. Basically she was keeping him from doing anything stupid. He recognized the people behind the little girl as someone he used to look up to. "Want me to be more definitive?" she asked dryly. She walked off and came back with a picture, handing it over. "At my mother's funeral." She stared at him.

He looked at it. There was him, a twenty-eight-year-old him. Fairly drunk and trying to calm a younger version of the very mad woman in front of him. "I..."

She took it back. "I figured it was trauma induced," she said dryly, staring at him. "Not that it's ever mattered to me. I know a lot more interesting people than you were as a teenager."

Stark blinked a few times. "Yeah, I was kind of shy back then when I wasn't drinking or in the lab." He blinked a few more times. "Why didn't you ever mention it?" he demanded.

"Why would I?" she asked. "Unlike what *some* people think I'm not a gold digger and I'm not here to curry favors," she said dryly, glaring at one person who had been watching them. Then back at Stark. "My only concern was Jane. Frankly, I figured you had drank it all away. I never intended to stay this long but Jane needed me." She tucked the picture under her arm. "You drove me batty back then and you still do. Always have. Probably always will reading about it in the papers. Thankfully I got to meet nice people thanks to my parents." She walked off. "Give me three hours to pack and find a mover. I'll be out of Jane's hair then."

"What happened?" Clint demanded, waving a hand a bit from the doorway he was standing in. "All we heard was Darcy had quit."

"Darcy said nannies are pathetic," Jane said, looking at her child. "I have no idea what to do about that."

"She's probably known enough of them to make a full study," Stark admitted. "I don't really remember her." He looked toward the hallway. "FRIDAY, pull up any mention of Darcy please."

"Your personal files don't mention anyone, Mr. Stark," the female voiced AI said patiently. "There's a few pictures of Miss Lewis at events." She put them up.

"Freeze that one," Stark said, squinting at it. "Enlarge it." It was enlarged. "That's my coming out party and she was in the background reading a book."

"I had finals the next day," Darcy said, tossing something from the hallway at Clint. "Your t-shirt I borrowed that night after the rain storm. Thanks for the lending." She walked off.

"You knew what we were talking about," Natasha said, stopping her by grabbing her arm.

Darcy looked at the hand on her then at the other woman. "Yeah. I speak three languages, Natasha. My school demanded. It was the last years of the cold war when I was in middle school and our headmistress had fantasies of rescuing ballet boys and gymnasts so we all took at least one semester of Russian." She stared at her. "I'm not stupid, dear. You assumed. Isn't that dangerous in your line of work?"

"Your background shows nothing of that," she sneered.

"And yet again, you assumed," she said dryly. "Any little bit of unraveling near Culver's records would've noted that I had to change my name on my records my first semester due to a death threat." She got free of her. "I went back to my maternal grandmother's name of Lewis. It was safer for me." She stared at her. Then she smiled. "I wouldn't have had to take that internship if I hadn't filed that sexual harassment claim against the chem teacher who sprayed me intentionally with something to eat all my clothes in the middle of class. I was warned taking any ever again would get me flunked." She shrugged. "So I took an internship instead."

"Why political science?" Stark asked, still staring at the pictures. "You were blonde then," he said, glaring at her.

"I darkened when I was about fifteen and the rest of puberty set in," she said with a wave at her body. "I was a dark blonde before then." She looked at Natasha again. "As for why poli sci? I thought about doing something socially meaningful. Then I realized it dealt with politics and I still hated investment banking even though I'm good at it. I'm more than happy to let Uncle David do that for me." She shrugged, grimacing some. "I was going for something better as my masters but I got sidetracked taking care of Jane because she's incapable of adulting on her own for some reason."

"I would've done just fine," she sneered.

Darcy snorted, looking at her. "You wouldn't be here right now, Jane. Do you remember the little thing that happened about six weeks after I got to New Mexico?" Jane went totally pale. "Yeah, that was me that drove you to the emergency room. Otherwise you would've died in your little lab on the floor until someone checked on you for the smell you were causing. You're welcome by the way." She looked at Stark again. "Oh, for fuck's sake," she muttered. "FRIDAY, get onto my laptop's system and find the picture of my coming out party please?"

"I don't have the authorization," the AI said.

"It's my computer," she said dryly. "Go ahead." The picture popped up on the tv. Clint snickered quietly in his seat. She looked at Stark. "You made a royal ass out of yourself that night. Thankfully, the only one that still had a crush on you was Melinda and that was mostly so she could try to charm Uncle Jarvis. She did put him on her holiday wish list every year until she was ten." He gaped at her, staring hard. She stared back. Then shrugged a bit. "It was. None of us wanted anything to do with your partying lifestyle by then."

"But..."

"Yeah, but..." she said dryly, smirking at him. "I'm actually a bit surprised you didn't recognize me. The pictures from London looked almost exactly like my yearbook one and you were our year's mentor so you had all our files to talk to us about important adult matters, like careers. You tried to talk Misty into being a mistress for someone but otherwise you didn't do too badly giving some realism about life sucking. I think you had a hangover though."

He glared. "I did not. It was a bad week."

"Sure. I had those too." She shrugged. "Anything else, Stark?"

"I want everything back I gave you."

She laughed. "What do you think you gave me, Stark?"

"I upped your taser."

"No you didn't." She pulled it out to show him. "Still the same tazer it was in New Mexico. You can check SHIELD's records since they had it for a while." He snatched it then tossed it back when he figured out she was right. She tucked it back into the holster. "Before you try to claim my phone or anything, I bought them myself. It's not even Stark gear. I may have a trust fund but my mother was practical. I'd never pay that much for a phone." She walked off. "The movers are coming in an hour. They're coming up the service elevator so they can't get near anything classified." She waved over her shoulder. "Laters. Nice knowing you all."

"Oh my god, she is just like Aunt Hannah," Stark muttered. He was shaking his head. "I should've seen that."

"Was her mother a scientist?" Clint asked.

"No. Her dad's a producer for tv shows. Her mom's ...well she comes from a banking family and I don't know what she did a lot of." He stomped off to talk to her. He glared from her doorway. "I remember your mom."

"A lot of people did and you gave a nice speech at her funeral," she said quietly, not looking at him as she threw clothes into a box. "Thank you for that and for lending us Jarvis to make sure we made it through the third bout of cancer." She glanced at him. "Otherwise Dad might not have made it." She closed the closet and moved to her drawers to toss those into another box.

"Your mother would be pissed that you threw that away."

"Actually, Mom agreed that nannies were the greatest problem that most kids had. It was the dichotomy of them being considered paid help but having control of them. Most kids couldn't wrap their minds around it effectively enough to get to the point of respect." She glanced at him again. "You didn't."

"I didn't," he agreed. "Jane's all but crying."

"I'm not her nanny. I never wanted to be her nanny. Never wanted to be any sort of nanny. If you're traveling a lot or you're having a lot of problems, someone like a nanny could be helpful. She's not having those issues. Jane's kid, Jane's problems to change diapers."

"Thor considers it a position of great respect."

"Of course he does," she said dryly. "He considers it a guard for the baby though." She turned to look at him. "I might like the big guy but I made it clear I was only an aunt. That's all I wanted to be. A sometimes babysitter for when they wanted a night together to do something but not more than that. I was getting kind of satisfied learning new things. I guess that should've been a clue." She went back to packing.

He looked around then at her. "You don't have any pictures of your mother?"

"On my bedside table." She pointed. "I'll get them into my messenger bag later so I can make sure they don't break."

"Are you going to a hotel?" he demanded.

She shrugged. "Maybe. Cindy's local and said I could have her spare bedroom last month. I haven't asked yet but I might just go straight to the next college. I've been taking some classes online at night so maybe I'll move near it." She shrugged again. "Might make it easier when I don't understand something."

"You didn't have to be such a bitch," he said. "Your mother would've been unhappy."

She laughed, looking at him, leaning on the dresser. "My mother would've clapped, Tony. If she had been able to she would've stood up and cheered with pompoms. She would've hated how co-dependent Jane and I were. She always thought I'd end up caring too much and I'd end up in a horrible predicament of a marriage that way. Proved her wrong on that point at least." She went back to packing.

"What about your stepmother?"

"What about her?" She grimaced, looking at him. "She was what my father needed to grieve with. I got that. It made me mad that he took up with a whore like her but I understood why after a few months. She made him focus on other things. And when she turned bad to my father I made sure she went down for things." She smiled slightly. "That DUI habit of hers ended rather abruptly at the hands of the CHP when I called on her. My father was livid but agreed she shouldn't be drunk driving. Then he got the Mastercard bill." She smiled slightly. "I pointed out I didn't buy new clothes or an apartment for a boyfriend." She went back to her packing. "Dad was sorry about her before all that messy stuff at least."

"I...I don't remember much about him at the end."

She nodded. "Dementia. The whore kept lacing his orange juice in the morning so she could be the sole heir. She did for over a year. By the time we figured out why he was so sick, she was already in jail. She's still in jail as far as I know." She looked at him. "I made sure Dad had somewhere he really wanted to be. He refused to let me cancel college to take care of him. Said he wanted a pretty nurse to flirt with. I found one that looked kinda like Mom and explained why," she said more quietly. "She understood and at the end, he was holding her hand and calling her by Mom's name. He took his last dose of pills and did that again then it was the end.

"I got the charming call right before a history test." She held in the sniffles. "Dad would probably hate me being sniffly over that. He considered it a reasonable solution when he was lucid. He had been talking about it for years so I knew it was coming. He couldn't take being sick. Told me once my mother was so strong because she could stand being that sick and surviving it twice." She grimaced and finished unloading her dresser. She folded the boxes closed and walked around him to get her books down. They went into the reusable shopping bags.

"I didn't hear a thing about that."

"Her poisoning him made gossip circles for a few days but after that everyone just felt really sorry for him." She grimaced again, carefully putting a few books into a bigger bag. "At the end, almost no one was there. I had him cremated and buried with Mom." She looked at him. "It's what he would've wanted."

"It is," he agreed. "You could've mentioned it, Darcy."

"Why? It's not something I intend to dwell in. I wasn't here to get favors, get a job from you, anything. Frankly, I figured if you didn't recognize me that was fine. Half of everyone doesn't. Thankfully not the attempted lothario I nearly got married off to thanks to the whore either."

"She tried to arrange a marriage?"

"Yeah. Not my thing. I had no idea about anything until they invited me to dinner one night." She gave him a pointed look. "He didn't like it either then he decided I was pretty and good enough for him after all," she said blandly. "I had a long shout at my father that night because he hadn't known. Thankfully the dude killed his actual first wife and is jail. He's still got my senior year picture in his cell from what I heard at the trial. He's blaming me for not taking him in so I could make him a better man." She rolled her eyes. "The cons are welcome to straighten him out for me because I didn't ever want that piece of shit."

Tony shook his head. "I think I remember something about that."

She shrugged. "It was a quick blip on the usual gossip circle." She finished packing her books and moved to her desk. "Here, these are Jane's notes I was transcribing last night while I babysat." She handed them to him. "That way she can't claim I took her work."

Tony glanced at it then at her. "You could smooth this over."

She straightened up to look at him. "I'm not the help, Tony. I've never been the help. I'll hopefully never be anyone's housekeeper. Frankly, I thought Jane was my friend. Turns out the whore was right, women aren't friendly to each other. When they are, they always want something." She went back to packing. Someone knocked. "Who is it?" she called, going to answer it.

"Acme movers," Steve Rogers said.

She opened the door, smiling at the movers. "Thanks, guys. Did you find me a good storage area?" They handed over the notes. She called them to arrange it and let the movers pack up everything. "Not the bed or the couch, that's originally here." They nodded, getting the rest. She packed the kitchen quickly and grabbed her messenger bag to put the important things in. Her meds, her pictures, and a few things like her laptop and phone. Then she smiled at Stark. "Nice catching up with you, Stark." She followed the movers out after their last trip, going to a hotel for the night while she figured out if she wanted to move near her newest college.

Stark went back upstairs. Thor was in a rage. He looked at the prince. "What did you expect?" he demanded. "To humans, being a nanny is worse than a lot of other jobs. It's a lot of work for very little benefit and a lot of heartache because the kid becomes yours instead of the parents' and you can't do anything about that because it's the job." Thor huffed. "To humans it's not a great job of great importance or even showing you like them. That's a job you hire for, not give to a friend."

"My friends would not have minded being the baby's guardian."

"Big difference between a guardian and a nanny," Stark said. "A nanny takes care of the baby most of the time so you're free to do things."

"I had one," Thor said, glaring at him.

"So did I. I liked her a lot more than I did my parents. I realized a few years after she got fired for treating me like a human with problems that I wasn't all that fair to her and wrote an apology letter." Thor slumped. "Darcy was your friend, Thor, not your maid. She was Jane's *science* assistant, not her nursemaid. Hell no she wouldn't do that."

"It's selfish of her," Jane said with a sniffle.

"She took plenty of care of you," Stark told her. "Always. Also, here." He handed them over. "The notes she had been working on." He walked off. "Not even you guys treat the housekeeper we have with respect. Darcy sure wasn't going to put up with that sort of thing. Her mother would've come back from the dead to beat her to death if she had. Even her gold digging stepmother might've done that from her jail cell." He went back to his lab to look things up.

Natasha was looking at Darcy's history. "We did miss the whole name change."

Clint shook his head. "No I didn't." She glared at him. He stared back. "I asked her once. She said it was still the same old thing only the problems were drugs instead of budweiser. Just as many unadjusted parents who needed a swift kick only they also had fancier cars and ways of using their kids as status symbols like their boats." He shifted, looking at Thor. "Did Darcy say she'd be doing more than babysitting now and then?"

"No," Thor admitted, thinking back. "Jane..."

"Assumed," Clint said with a nod. "A lot apparently." Jane glared at him. "By the way, the baby's overflowing and it's nasty." He pointed. Jane looked and groaned, taking the baby to change. He looked at Thor. "Would you have expected your mother's friends to be done that way?" he asked. Thor shook his head. "Then why do it to your friends?" He looked at Natasha again, who was scowling at her tablet. "Find something?" he asked.

"Her mother survived cancer twice then died the third bout."

Clint grimaced. "Strong woman. Most ones don't make it through a relapse."

Natasha looked at him. "She never mentioned she understood us."

"Why would she? You apparently didn't respect her. All the nasty comments behind her back about her outfits?"

"She was drawing attention on purpose."

"She's a normal young woman. They do that," he said. "That's how they get dates in the real world, Natasha. Not everything is baiting. Even you've had days when you dress up just because you want to be pretty." She stomped off. He waved at her back. He looked at Steve.

"I had no idea," he said. "I treated her nicely when we ran into each other or she did something nice like cook dinner after we've been on missions."

"I never heard anything said otherwise," Clint told him. "I don't think you're the problem here, Steve."

"No. How did he not recognize her?"

"Her hair is darker. Plus a lot of things he probably blocked out so he didn't have to think about it." Clint looked at Jane when she came back with a crying kid. He looked at Steve again. "We'll figure it out and if you want to become her penpal, go for it. She probably didn't want to lose all her former friends." Jane glared at him. "You two were chummy."

"Yeah. Thanks, Clint."

"Welcome." Steve walked off. He looked at Thor again. "I'll see if I can find her address for you if you want it," he said quietly.

Thor nodded. "Thank you, Clint."

"Welcome, big guy." He stood up to walk off so those two could have a talk. They really needed one. Though he'd bet real money that by that weekend there'd be an Asgardian nanny on site for the little guy.

***

Darcy looked up from getting her morning coffee the next morning, nodding politely at the man staring at her. "Do they know you're alive?" she asked.

"Maybe. I'm not sure yet." Director Phil Coulson crossed his arms over his chest to stare at her. "Miss Lewis."

"The dad act doesn't work on me, Coulson." She smiled as she took her cup to sip from. "Excellent. Thank you." She walked out, smiling at the irritated agent. "I had a great dad. Nothing like Howard was."

He followed her. "What happened?"

"I'm sure you've gotten the full story from Natasha," she said dryly. "Or Clint or Steve." She paused to look at him. "Or you've got cameras up in the tower."

"I do," he agreed. "I've heard it all. So what happened?"

"I'm not the help. Not that way." She took another drink. "I'm not the mousy little thing that some people wanted me to be and I never was. I speak my mind, I take care of my own business, and I do it like my parents taught me to." She stared at him until he nodded once. "As for right now, I'm considering if I'm moving to the college or not."

"You've been taking classes again?"

"Yes, for my masters," she said dryly.

"They stalled your paperwork for your internship."

"Phil, six science credit hours doesn't require four years," she said dryly. "And I called Culver after you guys left to tell them that SHIELD was now blocking my paperwork. My advisor told someone who told someone who called Jane to get a report on what I'd been doing for her. They agreed I had earned my hours." She took another long drink. "I didn't get to walk for graduation but I did get my degree."

"You never use it."

"How would you know? You didn't even realize Lewis wasn't my real last name." She walked off. "Have a nice life, Coulson."

He scowled a tiny bit, going to look at her files. Natasha had been inputting things all night. It was odd but then again they were talking about Darcy Lewis here. He called in Melinda May. "We have a former helper to Jane Foster out and about now since she walked off yesterday when ordered to become the nanny," he noted, staring at her.

"Good on Lewis. I thought she didn't have a backbone."

"Apparently we were very wrong about her. She was quietly handling things." He let her see the files on the young woman. "If we have to make contact, you're her handler."

"Is she an agent?" she asked dryly. "It worked with Skye but I'm doubting this one can do that."

"No, but Lewis does end up being friendly with a lot of people for reasons we don't understand."

"She's nurturing. Most of the agents and the avengers could use someone in their lives who gave a damn and listened when they needed to talk," she shot back. "It's not something we see enough of these days in some women."

"If you're sure," he said blandly. "Still, you're her contact. I'm fairly certain Thor's going to have a fit. The weather's been too pretty for hm to have had it already."

"Fine. I can work up protection strategies for her if she needs it." She walked off to do her own research into that young woman. The fact that the file had been updated yesterday with a header note saying that SHIELD had missed some important information meant it was one of the idiots she used to work with who had screwed up. When she saw who Darcy really was, she was amused. The girl wasn't weak. She wasn't mousy or just simply mouthy. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and knew how to change her mind to fit her later goals. She was only goofy when she was drinking or when it was a cover for her mind working. She could be an asset to them but not as an agent. She was too unpredictable.

***

Stark, who had been tracking Darcy around the city while looking her up for a real background check, because there were a whole lot of gaps in there for someone he used to know, spotted someone he didn't expect to. He paged Pepper, getting a text message that she was out of town for the day so was it really important. He sent back a no and paged someone else. He photo-captured from the city's camera system and looked back as Barton walked in. He was the least hot headed of the group outside of Bruce. "Look who I just spotted talking to Lewis about her decisions."

Barton stared then nodded once. "I'm going to fuck Fury up," he announced. "Then that one."

"Hey, it'll be team stress relief after earlier," Tony said dryly. "Bring him back here for that."

Clint just nodded and walked out to go back upstairs. "Natasha, Stark just found Phil alive."

She stiffened, looking over the edge of the tablet at him. "Excuse me?"

"He was talking to Darcy in a coffee shop up by Financial Row."

She put down the tablet and stood up. "Let us go find this wraith to see if he is indeed a ghoul." They walked out together. He wasn't that easy to track but she could hack the city's camera systems just as well and follow his SUV back to their originating point. They knew about that fallback base. That was very interesting. She looked at Clint. "Do we believe his death was a catalyst to HYDRA or do we believe he's in charge?"

"I can't imagine Phil Coulson being HYDRA," he admitted. "I was shocked at Sitwell and Grant but there's no way Coulson is."

She considered it then nodded. "Then we should only injure the other agents in there." He nodded, switching bullet loads to icers. They snuck in and clearly the new SHIELD was falling down on things since no one tried to stop them. They made it to the office and found one agent, Melinda May. Natasha shot her without remark then looked at the empty chair. They turned and found Coulson behind them. Clint smiled and shot him in the stomach, making him groan.

"Good, you do remember how often you nagged him to wear body armor," she said, shooting him in the upper shoulder area. He fell down this time. She and Clint carried him off blatantly. If any agents saw them, they ignored them very hard. They drove back to the tower, taking him upstairs to the common area. Steve was in there talking to Bucky on the phone. Steve paused, said I'll call back, just had a ghost show up, and hung up on his best friend. Natasha nodded at him. "Stark spotted him nagging Lewis earlier."

"Interesting. A bad choice but interesting. If he's supposedly dead he should probably stay out of the way of cameras."

"True," Clint agreed. "We would have. We all figured Stark was stressing about Lewis outing that she knew him when he was a little punk."


"Tony would be following her on the cameras to make sure she wasn't going to turn on us," Steve agreed with a nod. "Huh. Is he just unconscious?"

"I believe he's faking," Natasha said, dropping Coulson's feet onto the floor.

He winced and stood up with help from Clint. "I was not allowed to tell you. As I found out later, Fury's plot to send me out with a single problem handling team was May's idea."

Steve stared at him. "Do we know that agent?"

"His other protege," Clint said. "She got iced too. She'll probably be here tomorrow sometime." He looked at him. "May. Really?"

"I was ordered specifically not to tell you so I could be a backup plan. After DC, Nick put me in charge of SHIELD. I was his hidden ace." He stared at his two agents. "I wanted to tell you. I thought you may have heard gossip since I had been at the office more than once. Or that Melinda may have hinted at Natasha to irritate her for not being the chosen ones this time. Melinda's still working on her unreasonable irritation at Natasha." He straightened out his jacket. "You broke into my base."

"I'm going to break your jaw," Clint told him then smiled. "You more than deserve that."

"I do," he agreed. "I thought the news would have gotten back to you."

"Um, no," Clint said dryly. "All this time I thought I had gotten you killed." He stared him down. "You're going to pay for that."

Phil sighed but nodded. "I can see how I should, yes. I had no idea Nick didn't tell you."

"Fury, tell someone about his plots?" Stark snorted as he joined them. "Really?"

"He would tell agents if he thought it was important."

"Which he has never considered either of us, though we do some of the worst missions for SHIELD," Natasha said. "He has never considered us more than useful beasts of burden."

"I forgot," he admitted. "Before you ask, I was dead. Nick had some sort of alien serum that got injected into me. At one point in time I begged him to stop," he told her.

She grimaced. "I will pay him back for that later," she said quietly. "After we discuss things."

Phil took off his jacket. "We can hold any sort of discussion you want but I do need to tell the teams that I'm not actually kidnaped."

"Let's see how good they are," Stark quipped, sitting down. "We can talk after your kids there have had their talking time."

Coulson looked at Stark then at his agents. "I'm sorry."

Clint nodded. "You will be."

"We can't let you do that," a male voice said. Steve threw something at the guy, knocking him out.

"I guess a few are decent enough," Steve said dryly. "At least better than Rumlow was."

Natasha nodded. "It's not shocking that an agent so aggressive and bad at anything but aggression was picked by HYDRA." She stared at Coulson. Who walked off heading for the gym. They followed to talk to him. Stark went after them to get his time to talk too. Though he did take pictures to send to the team that wasn't there. Bruce could get mad somewhere else.

When Coulson got out of the infirmary the agents could talk to each other about how they'd never trust him again but they may be able to work together if it was that important. Their whole team could join on that talk. With Pepper because she was great and deadly in her own right.

***

A few months later, Stark opened up an email, staring at it. "A person I should check out because he's redone some of my work?" he demanded. He ran the video from Lewis, watching it with a frown. "That's not...oh, that is." He magnified it. "It's cobbled together but he did rebuild that one. Crap." He looked the kid up. Maybe he could hire him to keep him out of bad hands. Another one came in from Lewis about the strange thing at her college, which turned out was a wormhole and did he want her to report it to SHIELD instead? He considered it then told her to report it to them unless aliens were coming through. She sent him video of it. Alien ants. Really large alien ants. "Interesting." He sent that video on and told her to report it. She did that with one line about a villain being at the college teaching of all things and then signed off. He checked on that as well. "Great. How does she find those people?" he muttered.

Maria Hill, who used to be SHIELD, and really was still SHIELD in hiding, walked into his lab. "I got told Lewis sent you an email?"

"A genius kid that I need to look into and a portal that was spilling alien ants, plus a villain teaching english." He let her see them.

She grimaced. "Why didn't she report the portal?"

"To who?" he snorted. "Not like SHIELD's still around and if it was, they probably wouldn't listen to her since she left Jane's clingy side." He looked at her when she groaned. "I just wonder how she suddenly started to draw that sort of thing. She never used to."

"So you do remember her?" she asked. "The files on her say you didn't."

"I don't remember much of those years, Hill. I do remember a few events and I've checked with my personal journals. I mentioned her a few times and I do remember her mom, who was my godmother." She winced. "Let me guess, they tried to say something about it?"

"Yes."

"Well, the jealous bitches can suck it," he said, getting back to his present schematic. "I don't know what Romanoff's problem was with Lewis but I don't care either. Women are creepily mysterious most of the time and she's worse than most at it."

Hill walked off shaking her head to correct those files. Someone needed to clean things up again. It had been Lewis' job to keep down the messes but now they were having to be responsible adults. She heard the baby crying and went to look. The human nanny, the Asgardian one wasn't available for a year, wasn't anywhere in sight. She checked with security. She had left for the afternoon for a doctor's appointment. She went to check on Jane, who was in her lab. "Doctor Foster?" Jane glared at her for daring to interrupt her work. "Your nanny left for a doctor's appointment two hours ago. Where's your spouse? The baby's awake."

"I...what? That's tomorrow."

"It's today," she said. "I checked with security. We gave her a ride since one of us was heading that way on his way home." She pulled up the footage. Clint was in there calming the baby down. She looked at Jane. "I was going to find Thor to let him know since you're apparently busy."

Jane got up and huffed off. "I never get any work done."

"I'm sure you don't," she agreed, going back to her office to log in that event. She called Clint down to protect him. He leaned in a minute later. "She yelling?"

"Yeah. I handed the baby to Steve when she yelled at her for being awake and not watched over." He leaned on the door. "How much longer?"

"No clue," she admitted. "The Asgardian one won't be here for at least a few more months." She stared at him. "Is the baby all right?"

"So far. Or else I would've probably shot someone with an arrow up the ass." He walked off. "Thanks for the saving in case of screaming, Hill."

"Hold on." He came back. She printed the emails from Stark's account. "Look into him for Stark, he's doing a background check so far. The villain is teaching english and the alien ants someone has to deal with."

He looked them over, snorting but looking amused. "Great." He walked off to start that, handing Steve the alien ants email.

"That's charming," Steve decided, looking at the baby on his shoulder. "Should we respond?"

"Don't know. Hill sent them. Stark's email back said to report it."

He put it down beside him and pulled over a communal tablet to look up that college. It was presently under quarantine. "The FBI has it."

"I'm sure they're great at it," Clint shot back. "Quarantine?"

"Yes. Flame throwers too." He looked at the news, then at the baby. "You're sleeping. That's sweet." He carefully laid her down beside him on the couch, getting back to the possible problem going on.

Clint handed over the villain email. "He's hovering over his son without him knowing. Apparently the kid doesn't know he's his."

Steve looked then at him. "How does one college draw all this?"

"No idea," Clint said with a grin. "At least he's not causing problems until he catches his kid at a frat party."

"We can put him on a watch list," Steve said, shaking his head. The baby fussed and stretched but stayed asleep. "That's good, sweetheart. You nap."

"The nanny had a doctor's appointment," Clint said quietly.

"I heard. I was out here when she was yelling."

"So?"

"No idea," he admitted, looking at Clint. "Really."

"Do you want to tell anyone?"

"No." He shook his head. "They can handle it." Clint nodded, leaving it there. Steve went back to watching the news about those ants. Natasha came in and paused. "Portal spilling out alien ants. A history major already said it was less cool than the elves London had." He looked at her. She was staring at the baby. "The nanny has a doctor's appointment."

"It's nice you babysit."

"I don't but Jane was working and forgot."

She rolled her eyes but nodded. "Interesting. Lewis is still wearing a scarf. Is that a bruise?" she asked, staring at the girl walking across the campus talking to a few young women.

"Yeah," Steve said. You could see it under her t-shirt's sleeve. "I wonder what happened." He looked up the publically available police reports and nodded, letting her see one. "She protected herself and a few others."

Natasha read it, grimacing. "That was stupid. She didn't have any weapons."

"Sometimes that doesn't matter," Steve said. "The outcome could've been a lot worse."

"Point." She handed the tablet back to him. "Anything good?" He handed over that villain email. "Why?" she asked.

"His unacknowledged son is there." He grinned at her. "He's hovering."

"Charming! Just what college students need." She walked off with a huff. She decided to write Darcy an email about her lack of self defense training, still. Darcy's email back wasn't as friendly.

//Thank you for the critique of my defense of three vulnerable young women and myself. The alternative however would've been much worse when they were raped and killed and so was I. I'll keep that in mind for later assaults on our residence hall by armed frat boys who were too drunk to do more than slur and decide to do a semi-pagan sacrificial rite in the tower square. You have a great day as well, Natasha.//

Natasha winced. That was not happy to hear. She wrote back one that she was proud she had managed to save those vulnerable young women and she'd help them find a good self defense class down there if she wanted. The answer back of 'we've all had one and that's how I defeated the drunk frat boys' was fine she supposed. You had to take what you could get. She looked up those reports. The boys were still living, it was a pity. They weren't happy and one was already out on bail. Then again, his father was a senator.

Maybe someone should have a talk with his father. Though it looked like Darcy had sent a reporter that story since there was a news bit from the day before about a local reporter badgering said senator about his son's problems and attempted assaults. The senator finally quit telling her to go away and told her that those girls were making up stories. She handed him the police report, making him wince. The fact that one young woman had been horribly tortured before being saved didn't make him happy either. Pity.

***

Stark showed up at that college a few days later, nodding at a teacher. "I'm here to look for my protege," he said at the stares he was getting.

"He's locked in a lab trying to avoid the swat team," a teacher said. "Would you know why, Mr. Stark?"

"No." He headed toward where the labs were. "Guys, can I help?" he offered when he ran into the cops.

"There's a suicidal student," one of the officers said without looking.

"Mr. Stark," another one said, blinking at him. "He's got someone in there with him but we're not sure what's going on."

"Let me go talk to him. There's a thing about science that can drive us nuts." He walked around them. "This room?"

"Next on the right," the lead officer said. "Do you have a shield or something on, sir? He could be dangerous."

Stark looked at him. "I doubt he's dangerous to me, guys. I'm his science idol." He knocked then walked in. "Hey." He looked at the 'other student'. "Couldn't stay away from scientists going nuts?" he joked.

"Not likely. It was my shift at the college suicide hotline." She was cuddling the poor guy. "He somehow hooked his mind into a computer. He's in horrified shock. We were just talking about calling someone bigger in science to help him with the problems he found."

"I've seen that sort of problem. It's overload." He came over to poke the kid on the arm. "Hi. You wrote to me."

"Mr...Mr. Stark," he stuttered, sitting up. He pushed his hair back. "I don't know what happened."

"We can look it over." He helped him up. "Science drives us nuts and thankfully you ran into someone who has experience in that." He hauled Darcy up when she started to climb. He looked at her. "What the fuck, Lewis?"

"I didn't take the time to put makeup on, Stark." She rubbed a bruise on her cheek. "Some frat boys decided to become ancient pagans so they were going to sacrifice people." She walked around them, staring at the kid. She wrote down her number. "You call me if you need me. All right?" The guy nodded. "Good." She patted him on the cheek. "You're a great guy and going to be a good scientist. Learn from Stark. Not all the lessons are in science but a lot are useful. Okay?" He nodded. She smiled at him. "Good. I'll tell the officers you're okay." She handed Tony the gun the kid had. He nodded so she left. She paused by the officers. "He's all right. He's not in shock anymore. Stark has him talking about what happened."

"His gun?" the lead officer demanded.

"I left it with Stark. He knows how some unexpected things can drive you nuts." She shifted her weight. "He managed to plug himself into the internet so his mind went for a trip without warning." The officers all winced. "He's okay now and I had him calmed down before Stark got here. He was mostly in shock. That's why he called the suicide line."

"Thank you. Should I ask about the bruises, ma'am?"

She snorted. "I'm the one that was helping remove the frat boys the other night."

"They've vowed to kill you before you can testify," one said quietly.

Darcy smiled and patted him on the arm. "Yay. I've had Dark Elves do the same thing. Frankly, I worry more about them than I do some pissy little senator's son. Because I'll gladly help ruin him." She grinned. "I am not who he wants to screw with. Now if you'll excuse me, I didn't take the time to put on makeup and I have honors sociology later." She walked off after filling out the form the officer handed her. "Have a safe and better day, guys."

"Thank you, ma'am," one of them said. "You too."

***

Darcy looked at the judge a few days later. "Your Honor, there's a problem with your summons to testify in the preliminary trial," she said, handing over a form. "I got my name non-legally changed Darcy Lewis due to a death threat. That is not my natural name."

He looked at the form, humming. "That's nice, dear. I can backdate one in your actual name. Thank you for notifying this court of that." He handed it to his stenographer. "Please swear in."

She moved to the stand, putting her hand on the bible. "Say your name please," the bailiff said.

"I am Darcy Maria Annabella DeCriths," she said. "I swear to tell the whole truth, so help me God."

The judge nodded so she sat down. The prosecutor stood up to look at her. "Miss...DeCriths, why were you at a dormitory? You're a bit above the usual college age."

"I'm rooming this semester while I figure out if I want to continue to take in person classes or online ones as I started taking," she said. "I'm the fill in residence hall advisor for the second floor and a graduate student."

"That's nice. Gives you a break on tuition?"

"I turned that down. I don't need it," Darcy said with a smile. "The girls do need someone to watch out for them though. I remember doing my undergrad and how great my RA was when I needed a shoulder."

"Interesting. Where were you when the fire alarm was pulled?"

"The fire alarm wasn't pulled until very late that night, sir."

"Just answer the question."

"The just-after-3am fire alarm meant I was in front of my computer on facebook updating a few friends I met in London about my studies and a guy I had seen earlier that night for a first date."

"That's very late."

"No one gets up for early classes unless they have to," she said with a smile. "I only have longer afternoon classes and the girls don't usually need me before nine. I was about to head to bed when that unkind fire alarm was pulled."

"That fire alarm had nothing to do with the problem earlier that night?" the prosecutor asked.

"No, it had nothing to do with the assault earlier in the evening. The fire alarm was on the third floor east and it was due to a girl having flashbacks and shrieking. She ran into it and her nightgown got caught according to the hall's security cameras. All the hall's advisors were in to watch it the next morning to go over the earlier incident."

"They had a meeting?" he demanded, looking concerned.

"Yes. So we knew how to handle it in case they came back," she said dryly. "Which one of their buddies tried the next night. Thankfully the girl he ran into was on her way back from a friendly softball game and got him with a bat when she saw his shotgun and machete."

"Strike that," the defense attorney demanded. "That's not relevant."

Darcy looked at him. "It wasn't your client that did it. He was still in jail," she said dryly.

The judge cleared his throat. "We are instructing the jury to ignore that statement about the bat. That is not in evidence yet." He looked at Darcy. "Are you militant, Miss?"

She smiled. "Only in my own safety and those that depend on me for it. Frankly, I should've killed them for that attempt." He shuddered, shifting away from her. She looked at the prosecutor again.

"Did you harm them, Miss DeCriths?"

"Who?" she asked. "Please be more specific."

"The boys who broke in while drunk."

"Did I harm them? Yup, I sure did," she said with a smile. "And I made sure they were going to consider it much harder the next time they tried something like that."

"Were you aware they could charge you?" he asked with a smile.

"Of course they could but I was acting in self defense. Beyond that, I'll take that charge. It's important enough to do time for it." He flinched back.

"Miss DeCriths," the prosecutor said. "What were you doing between your undergrad and now?"

"I was doing an internship with an astrophysicist."

"You were in London when they had that invasion?" he asked casually.

"Yes, I was. I was at that college even." She had to admit to it, it had been on international news broadcasts.

He blinked a few times. "I hadn't looked at more than summary news reports," he admitted. "Are you trained in defensive actions?"

"No. I just know what I have to do when I have to do it. It's not real hard to figure out you gotta stop the guy who's trying to kill you and rape you."

"Strike that!" the defense attorney demanded.

The judge looked at him. "That is one of the charges," he noted. He looked at her. "Be less reactionary please."

"Your honor, my webcam was on," she said dryly. "I was taping a video about the date." He groaned. "Two of them stated they were going to rape us all then kill us horribly so he'd get on Dateline. There were only three on my floor and then I helped clear the lobby of the other one down there. The two up on three got handled by a member of the judo club. It's not reactionary if it's true and they said that's what they're going to do."

"Still, this is not the time for that," the judge noted.

"Sure, I get that." She looked at the prosecutor again. "I believe it's still your turn," she said when he stared at her.

"You were involved in a gun on campus incident a few days back," he said with a mean smirk.

"Yes, I was helping a suicidal student calm down in the science hall. I'm on the hotline because I do have experience in how bad college can hurt you."

"You're what?" he demanded.

"I'm on the hotline for suicidal students to call when they need help," she said. "It's a good thing and good for the kids."

"You're not that much older."

"No, but I've had more life experience than some kid who's fresh from a small town."

"I see. You went to London we heard." She nodded. "Can you prove that?"

She pulled out her phone, turned it on, and pulled up the pictures. She held one up. "There I am in front of the changing of the guards." She smiled. "It's dated."

"You could've taken that in front of that place in Las Vegas," he said smugly.

She changed pictures. "Here I am in front of the Natural History Museum in London." She held it up. "Again, dated because it's a selfie. That one's also on my facebook page because I was having a great hair day." He snatched the phone to look at then grimaced and tossed it back at her, stomping back to his seat. "Do you want to see the ones I took when we went to Wales? The ones from Scotland are a bit more rural setting so nothing identifying. We also had a weekend in Paris and I have one picture somewhere on here of us there."

"No," he said, glaring at her. She turned off her phone and put it back into her purse. "Do you think those boys won't come back for you?"

"I think they'd be stupid if they tried," she said dryly. "I think they realize that. Even if I was warned one made a threat against my life. They now know I have a tazer and know how to use it. They also know that I have a few other sneaky things I can use against them." She smiled slightly. "I'm not the easiest prey, sir. I'm not the hardest, but I'm not an easy prey to hunt and hurt."

"Yet you're bruised."

"Yes, I fought off three guys who were bigger than me with weapons. I think most everyone would be bruised. Even heros would probably have a few."

He snorted. "Most of them are made up stories," he said dryly. She shrugged. "Do you believe them?"

"I was in New York for the last three years. I ran into a few at coffee shops."

"Oh." He grimaced. "It's nice you have heros to look up to," he sneered.

She shrugged. "I have many." She smiled. "Including a supreme court justice."

He rolled his eyes. "Are you a law student, Miss DeCriths?"

"No. My present major is public policy. My undergrad was in political science."

"Oh, I see." He sneered. "So you're going to work at McDonald's then?"

"No but I may start a charity some day."

He shook his head. "I've had enough," he decided.

The defense attorney stood up. "Miss DeCriths, why did you change your name?"

"I use my maternal grandmother's name due to a death threat during my first year at Culver. I used it since then just in case the bitch tried something. She's still in jail for poisoning my father but you never know who she might meet in there. Jails are often recruiting space for more horrible crimes."

He blinked at her. "That's an urban fantasy."

"Tell that to the two attempted murderers they caught in New York after someone they served time with paid them to kill someone for him," she shot back. "Or the two that came after me but were stopped. Thankfully Culver had agents on hand in those days and they stopped both knife attacks."

"Oh." He blinked at his client then at her. "So you go by your maternal grandmother's maiden name?"

"Yes."

"Do your parents mind?"

"My mother died of cancer when I was fourteen," she said firmly but quietly. "My father died due to the dementia the poisoning gave him and he decided he couldn't take it any longer. It saved him another two years of suffering according to the doctors. His mind was at the place where he didn't recognize what a dog was, much less who he was." The attorney shuddered, shrinking away from her. "I believe both of my parents would mostly be proud of how I lived my life. They might not have liked how much I partied now and then but they would've said I was young and stupid and best to get it out of the way then." She smiled slightly. "I have no doubt my mother would've paid to have my name fully changed and me hidden from that problem if she had been alive."

"Who was that threat?" he asked.

"My stepmother. My father needed a reason to go on and a focus in his life that wasn't his grief before he followed her into the afterlife. He found one but she was a whore." She smirked a tiny bit. "I didn't do more than dislike her until I found out she was poisoning him."

"What if you come face-to-face with her?" he asked smugly.

She smirked back. "She's not due out until I'm sixty something, if she makes it that long. If they let the whore out, I'll gladly be there waiting on her. She had better not try to come near a single person I know. And everyone who knows me knows that. I got three different letters from former friends when they moved her trial date so I'm pretty sure I'll be told if she gets out by some act of some stupid politician."

"Oh." He grimaced. "Are you trained in defense?"

She smiled a tiny bit. "That was already asked but no, I'm not formally trained. I have taken a few boxing classes and the like."

"Then how did you bring down those hypothetical assailants?"

"Well, one I got with the door because he opened mine. Apparently he heard me talking to my webcam. One I got with his machete. Then I threw him out a window. The first one I pulled to the stairs and threw him down them with some help. The third one I ran after to pounce into a wall, giving myself a slight bruise on the forehead." She pointed at it. "Then I threw him out the window and incidentally onto their started fire. I didn't intend that landing spot but hey, it helped." She smiled. "Then I ran down to help after telling my girls to lock themselves in their rooms while calling to check on their buddies who hadn't been bothered.

"Thankfully it was a long weekend so a few of the girls had gone home. We only had ten of the sixteen on my floor in residence that night and only three awake. After making it down to the first floor, I kicked one of them as I came off the stairs in a cool move I learned off a movie. He got knocked into a fire extinguisher. I used my tazer on him because he tried to get back up. Then we shoved him outside while the head of the residence hall called 911 and we did a head check. They tried to get back in as the police were pulling up so we had to defend the doorway against them. The nice officers pulled me off one I was going to maim for life."

"Was my client there?"

She looked then nodded. "Yes. He was the guy I threw down the stairs." She pointed. "That one behind him is the one that I tased." She looked at him. "I don't see the third one right off."

"Thank you. No further questions." He looked at the prosecutor.

The prosecutor looked at her. "Why do you have a tazer?"

"Because being a woman in today's world is dangerous," she said bluntly. "Plenty of men think that pretty girls are ownable and want to be petted even if we say no. I've only had to use it a few times but a few more were scared off by the note that I was going to introduce them if they didn't scurry off like the unbathed rats they were."

"You got it in New York?"

"I got it in my undergrad," she said dryly. "Culver's in lower Virginia. We had plenty of trips to DC and the like."

"Oh." He sat down. "No further questions."

"You may go," the judge said. "I'll make sure any future summons have your correct name, dear."

She smiled at him. "Thank you, Your Honor, but please no pet names." She picked up her purse and walked off. She smiled at the residence hall director waiting to testify. "Maybe I should run for office."

She laughed. "You'd hate the politics, Darcy."

"Probably," she agreed. She sat down. "They're both pushy toward them being boys," she said quietly.

"Of course they are. They're guys," she agreed. "Most of them are like that." She patted her on the hand. "Go back to the dorm. You got tests too."

"Oh, I know," she said dryly. "Thankfully this gave me an extension on one test." She headed down to her car, going back to the campus. She found an officer outside the dorm, pausing to stare at him. "Huge problems? I'm one of the RA's," she said with a smile.

"Are you Miss Lewis?"

"Yes."

"You have illegal weapons on campus, ma'am."

She pulled out her wallet and held up a small card. "I have the original upstairs, Officer. Would you like to see it?"

He took the card to read, grimacing. "I did not know that."

"It's on file with the college." She smiled. "You can come up to my room to see it." She walked inside and took the stairs, smiling at the girls staring from the hallway. "Did they do a general search?" They shook their heads. "They didn't know I have permission for my tazer."

"That's because some of them think women should be helplessly crying when things happen," one of the girls said. "I wasn't that sort when the village I was working in got raided. I'm not now."

"Long live the Peace Corps, sister," Darcy said, high-fiving her. "I'm not that way either." She walked in and the officer in there sneered. "I didn't know you needed to rip apart my underwear to search for a tazer. It's not that small," she said dryly. "But let me take pictures." She smirked at him then at the campus officer. "You have the letter on file."

"We got told to ignore it, miss," the campus officer said quietly.

"I'm well aware one of the attempted rapists has a daddy that has power. He's really gonna hate me since I'm worth more than he is." She smiled sweetly. The campus officer shuddered. She pulled out her copy of the letter. "The original's in a safety deposit box with the one from the FBI." She handed that one over as well.

The officers looked, one glaring at her. "How did you get this?"

"I had a prior death threat," she said bluntly. "I was also helping defend against the Dark Elves in London. It was caught on the news," she said dryly. "Some of us aren't damsels." She pulled out her tazer and handed it to the campus officer. "You can examine it for alterations that would make it illegal. They're not illegal in this state. I also carry pepper spray." She pulled it up to hold up. "Did you need to check it too?"

A few of the girls outside laughed at that. "A girl's gotta protect herself from leeches who think with their dicks." A few more laughed. "Not like you guys are all that fast. Your office is five minutes from here and it took you nearly thirty to answer when we needed you. How nice that was." The main officer pulled out his cuffs. "You do that," she said, holding out her wrists. "We can argue about it in front of a judge."

An agent walked in. "Miss Lewis."

She smiled. "I am. Why did you show up?" she asked.

"Because the director wanted me to since this blew open your original identity."

"Yes but nothing of my past few years has come out beyond London, which was on the news."

"Fine." She looked at the officers, holding up her official ID. "Give them back, leave her alone." They handed them back and the campus officer was backing away slowly. "Yes, that senator is having a problem."

"Yes he is," Darcy agreed happily. "Including that I've put out that attack on all the progressive and liberal media sites. Especially how he got bail when others didn't." She smiled at the campus officer, patting him on the arm. "I know college's live on grants and they probably threatened it. I don't blame you." He nodded, hurrying off. She stared at the police officer.

"I can be evil," she said finally when he was still glaring. "I can be so evil. I can destroy whole lots of people being evil. Hell, I can make Loki purr in happiness at the evil." Agent Melinda May shuddered. "But I'm trying not to be. I'm being a nice, normal young woman who's finishing her masters degree. Then I'll probably go work with charities. Until then...you have a great, safe day and I hope like hell you never have to answer another call like we had here that night." He huffed off. She glared at the agent, kicking her door shut. "Way to blow my cover of being normal," she said quietly.

"You did that on the stand."

"No one on this coast probably knows a thing about my parents."

"Outside agents," she corrected.

"Even they didn't. Natasha called me a gold digger to my face in Russian more than once. She didn't realize I spoke it slightly."

"Oh, damn it," Melinda muttered. "Coulson's worried."

"I'm fine. If they show up here I'll be mean. I'll channel Banner and be extra super mean." She smiled. "I've got to protect the girls."

"They could use it. The senator's son hired some thugs earlier."

She nodded. "Let me call up a bodyguard then." She did that, she had one she knew about. They'd send someone over in about an hour. She hung up. "An hour."

"I can pause." She stared at her. "You didn't have to tell them about the name thing."

"I did or they could've thrown out my testimony upon appeal."

"Point I suppose." She grimaced. "Your stepmother's still in jail."

"I know. I have someone who gives me reports each year." She sat down at her desk. "Open the door?" She did that. "Now relax for a bit while I take pictures of the mess then clean it up." She did that and made copies on her computer, sending them to someone. That someone was her lawyer, who was more than happy to sue people. Though she didn't blame the college. They had to worry about money.

Melinda watched it, smiling some. "Vindictive looks good on you."

"Thank you." She grinned. "Sometimes I have to be a mean girl." She looked out in the hallway at a squeal. "Did someone see a mouse?" she called.

"Oh my god, it's an Avenger!" one of them shouted. "He's on campus!"

"He's recruiting someone," Melinda called. She looked at Darcy. "Barton. I saw him when I parked."

"He's good at recruiting. He's got a finely tuned bullshit monitor." She grinned. "If he wants to see me he'll pop off a text message or something."

"True. You are hiding."

"Yes I am. How's Jane's spawn?"

"Better. They fired the first nanny for daring to have a doctor's appointment. She tried to sue but Stark paid her off." Darcy rolled her eyes. "He was really generous and it came before the lawsuit got filed. Their new one is a bit...strong willed. Like a German shotput thrower is." Darcy giggled a bit. "Thor doesn't like her much."

"Sorry but I'm not a nanny."

"No you're not." She cleared her throat. "I have the feeling if something happens you're the stepmom though."

Darcy grimaced. "I'm not sure how I feel about that. I really wish Jane would name someone else. I'd love the little one. She's sweet and loving, I adore her, but I'm not ready for momhood yet."

"Hopefully it won't happen soon," she said. She looked outside at the new squeal. "They're happy girls."

"That's a great thing," Darcy said with a smile. "Happy and normal and ready to become full women who maybe do good things."

"It is a goal," she agreed. Someone knocked then leaned in. "Barton," she said with a nod.

"May. I saw the official SUV. What's happened?"

"Death threat," Darcy said. "Same punks that tried to break in here. One's daddy is a senator." She grinned. "He tried to get them to rescind my tazer authority. Then again, the prosecutor was of the opinion that they're *boys*."

Clint grimaced, shaking his head. "No, they're psychos."

She grinned. "Definitely. Want a seat?" She pointed. "I have a few."

"Why are you on campus?"

"Lack of housing," she admitted. He came in to sit down. "The nearest good one I could find, meaning had no bugs or rats, was about an hour away. The few that were nice enough but in the middle of nowhere I'd never be able to get to class some days and the grocery store was even farther." She looked around then at him. "I might switch back to online classes again."

"The girls would probably miss you," Clint said. "We do. Bruce gave us food poisoning."

She batted him on the arm with a grin. "That happens even when I cook."

"Yeah but you warn us it didn't turn out right. He didn't." She laughed. He nudged her knee with his. "Natasha's sorry."

"That she got caught being bitchy or that she misjudged me?" she asked. "Or that she didn't look?"

"Mostly, that she didn't look so misjudged you."

Darcy nodded. "That's fine. I expect to be underappreciated. Especially since I was just a science intern. Thankfully I took out the one that wasn't just a science intern back in London."

"We heard." He stared at her. "No one told Jane."

"No, I didn't feel like telling Jane." She shrugged. "She didn't need to know that."

"Fine." He looked around then at her. "Bit messy."

"The senator's trying to rescind my tazer rights." She grinned. "So they did a search. I sent pictures to my lawyer."

"That's sweet of you," he said dryly. "Did you have to admit to your real name?"

"Yup and the prosecutor didn't recognize it. Or the judge."

"That's good at least." He knee nudged her again. "Are you satisfied here?"

"Not fully but it's cool. I'm too old to party and all that stuff. So this is me growing up a bit more into a mature career focused sort of woman." She shrugged with a grimace. "It happens and I'll handle it."

"Good. It's good that you're okay," he said. "You could write."

"I have." She smiled. "Twice."

"I didn't get those. I'll have to see why." He stared at her. "Some of us miss you."

"I miss you too, Clint. You were always fun to hang out with. You and Steve both." She patted him on the wrist. "I just couldn't take being the help anymore."

"I get that," he promised, putting a hand over hers. "Barnes is MIA."

She winced. "Is he okay?"

"Not sure. He may have had a super flashback and lost it."

"Okay, well if he comes here, I'll call."

"Thanks, kiddo." He kissed her on the head. "Send me cookies?"

"When I'm sure you'll get them." He smirked and winked, heading out to talk to the girls who were waiting on him. They had all sorts of questions but only a few about how he knew Darcy.

She looked at Melinda. "Stark?" she guessed quietly.

"I'm pretty sure it's Romanoff," she admitted.

"Huh." She nodded. "That's fine." She leaned out at the sudden quietness. "If that's my bodyguard, ladies, let him in."

"No, it's not," Clint called. He closed the door and they could hear a fight.

Darcy came out to look then pulled off her shoe to hit the guy on the head. He yelped and went down to Clint hitting him. She dropped the shoe and stepped back into it, wiggling her foot some. She looked at him. "Unlike many young women, I'm not helpless."

"You're nothing," he sneered.

Darcy smiled. "Actually, I'm not. Trust fund kid I might give you but not worthless." She smirked. "You have no idea who I actually am." He was staring in horrified awe. "Yeah, you stumbled into something huge." She walked off. "Ladies, let's let the senator be arrested for bringing weapons onto the floor," she said, making shooing motions. "The cops will be here in a minute. Those of you taking pictures make sure it hits media sites so they can share it everywhere on the web." They started to take film and pictures if they weren't. When the cops showed up magically all those phones disappeared into pockets.

"You're an Avenger," one of the officers said, staring at Clint. "Why do you know anyone here?"

Clint grinned. "Darcy used to be Jane Foster's intern so I was checking on her. She makes great cookies."

"Um, this Jane Foster," another officer asked.

"Thor's sweetie," one of the girls called from up the hallway.

"Oh, shit," one said.

Darcy grinned at him. "Though I've left Jane's side, and because of reasons that weren't fully pretty, I did make friends. I made a lot of cookies. Most of the team have a sweet tooth." Clint nodded.

"You said on the stand you ran into some in coffee shops," one complained.

"Darcy used to live on coffee," Clint said. "So do some of us. She ran into most of us at the nearest coffee shop many times." Darcy nodded. "So she minimized it to cover herself and us protectively, just in case someone comes for her for knowing how we like our cookies."

"Oh," one officer said, sounding weak. "Wow."

"It's nothing, guys. I was a lab assistant. Not anything near the team."

Clint nodded. "She was a great lab assistant. We used to try to prank the science teams a lot."

The lead officer cleared his throat. "What brings you up here, Senator?"

"And why are you carrying weapons?" Clint asked dryly. "Did the girls up here invite you up to see your weapons?"

The senator was now crying. "They're going to ruin my whole family."

"No, that was *your* doing," Darcy told him. "You didn't raise your son right. You didn't take care of your obligations. You fucked up. If you had raised him to be a *man* he wouldn't have been in here. The only thing affecting you is you're trying to cover up for him instead of going 'yeah, he fucked up and now he's gotta take responsibility and pay for it like a man would' and leaving him to handle it."

She walked off. "Ladies, let's get you out of harm's way please." They went back to their rooms to share those photos and film. She looked back at the senator. "By the way I named you in the lawsuit earlier since it was your actions against me that led to the officers conducting an illegal search. They had no reason to rip up clothes looking for a tazer, especially not while fondling my panties." She shot one of the officers a look. Then she went back to her room. "Have a great life, man. I've got to post to the Daily Kos."

"Oooh," Clint said with a wince. "Progressive media site. Bummer for your career." He hauled the senator up, handing him over. "He actually tried to attack me before I did anything more than stand in the hallway answering the girls' questions," he said with a grin. "He's really dumb." He went to talk to Darcy again. "Do you have any cookies?" he asked from the doorway. She tossed him a tupperwear container with some. "Thanks." He settled in to nibble until the bodyguard got there and the cops took their senator with them.

***

Darcy came back from a new job interview, finding someone eating fries on her apartment couch. She had moved off campus after that first year and was now about halfway between that and the town. "Hey, Clint."

"Bad day?" he asked, looking her over. "Were you channeling Pepper?"

"No, I had a few interviews today with some charities I like to support. I got a lot of 'are you donating' and 'can you use your name to help us' instead of 'what can your degree bring to us'." She went into her bedroom, kicking the door mostly shut. "I'll be out in a minute."

"Sure." He went back to watching her tv.

She came out in jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers. "I was going to hit a bar for dinner but it looks like you already did." She flopped down, staring at him. He grinned. "So what's up? Did you just need breaking and entering practice?"

"Not that hard with your door."

"I turned off the alarm."

"Thanks." He ate another bite but tossed over a few envelopes.

Darcy took them to look at. "Thor or Jane?" she asked, waving one.

"Thor."

She nodded, opening it to read. She sighed and put it aside, reading the one from Pepper. She had been nice to her when she had been a lab assistant. Her 'I hope you're doing well' was a nice thing. She looked up at him.

"Stark's fishing for information without doing it himself," he agreed.

"That's fine. It's nice of them to ask." She put that letter aside too. "So what else is going on?"

"We found a rogue HYDRA unit nearby."

"Yeah, I met one at the bar. He was shit at flirting and I noticed the tattoo on his upper chest," she said dryly. "Apparently it was a new one because it was scabbed over and it was covering a tiny surgical scar that looked newer."

Clint paused in his chewing, staring at her. "Really?" he asked with a grin. She smirked back. He swallowed. "Did you get anything on him?"

"Unless his name was actually Jack Lewis, it was a cover and I'm not real skilled in how to pickpocket. I wasn't about to follow him back to his base when I walked away from him. I did report it to SHIELD."

"That's how we got it," he decided. She grinned. "Are you actually safe here?"

"About as safe as I was at the tower if they showed up."

"Point." He sighed. "Jane's a miserable bitch."

She nodded. "I'm sorry about that. I really am. I'm still not her nanny."

"No, you're not," he agreed. "Though we've all had to do some babysitting."

"What happened to the German nanny lady or the Asgardian one Thor's probably had coming?"

"The German lady fled from Stark after he got roaring drunk one night after a science bender." She winced, shaking her head. "The Asgardian one hated that Thor wouldn't let her bring the baby back to her own home to raise her properly as a princess should be. Fandaral is sending a female friend of his someday soon."

"I hope it works out for them. The baby's a sweet little kid. She deserves the best and her parents."

"Thor's a playing dad but he's horrified at diapers."

"Yeah, probably not something he noted in his life too often," she agreed. "I've only babysat a few times myself before the kiddo came. I had no idea how to do most of it."

He nodded. "Neither do we. We mostly play with her when she's fussy."

"If she's like her mom, she probably needs some quiet time by herself sometimes."

"She gets some. Usually we hear her when she's screaming that she's bored."

Darcy smiled. "Sounds like she's like her mom."

"We think so but she's blonde like Thor."

"Well, maybe she'll have her mom's brains and her dad's height."

"Could be," he agreed. "So now what? Since you're graduating soon but don't have a job?"

She smirked. "I don't know yet. There's other charities I can go work for that've never heard of me. I shouldn't have went to former friends to see if their charities needed help. Even though one's hiring most of the year."

"Peace corps?" he guessed.

"Maybe but I'd rather focus on problems here." She shifted to put her feet up, using one to shift the letters out of the way. "How about you guys? Everyone good?"

"Mostly," he agreed. "Natasha sprained her ankle the other day." She nodded at that. "I'm healed again." She grinned. "Thor's fine, Steve's angry that Bucky's an asshole who told him to get a girlfriend and a life since he was being a bit clingy. Stark's...Stark."

"That figures."

"We confused the new guys the other day by mentioning you. Thor was moping."

"Aww. How confused did I make them?"

"They had no idea Jane ever had a helper. Her lab looks like a tornado happened."

"She could get another intern."

"Stark's given her two. They've both ended up crying after a few weeks and got moved to someone else."

She grimaced. "It's not hard work."

"Jane's turned into a bitch, Darcy. A total bitch."

"I'm sorry."

"No, you did what you needed to do. We all agreed with that." She shrugged some, slinking down in her chair. "What about SHIELD? You could work with them clearing up their image problem."

"If I found out some of the bad things I'd have to stop it," she reminded him. "I'm not going to sit by and let horrible things happen."

"True. So government service instead?"

"No. It's not what I really want. I hate politics. Plus that one senator would pop up to try to ruin me."

"Most thinking people would consider that a good thing."

"Then the reporters would get news from New Mexico and all that."

"Oh, yeah. That's still classified." She smiled. "Have you had to talk about that?"

"No. A few people noted London but not New Mexico. Or Antigua."

"What happened in Antigua?" he demanded, shifting so he was facing her better. "I remember a battle there."

"I remember spring break there," she shot back. "I'm the one who called you guys and defended that orphanage."

"Oh." He blinked at her. "Seriously?" She nodded. "Steve didn't mention he saw you."

"The other orphanage."

"Oh!" He winced. "Stark told us they were safe."

"Yes they were." She nodded. "I was on the nearest beach when the portal started to form. I saw a few of them going for the orphanage up the street from me so went to warn them and ended up defending them against the idiots. Then they went to the easier targets, which was when you guys got there."

"Wow."

Darcy smiled. "It happens sometimes."

"Only around you."

"No, I go through most of my life without drawing that sort of attention," she said dryly. "Outside the idiot HYDRA guys apparently. Any idea why?"

"No. We think maybe it's your former job."

"Huh."

"They captured a few actresses too."

She frowned. "Why? Half of them are airheads and the ones that aren't hide their brains because only the airheads get work."

He laughed. "That's so mean."

"So true though. Smart women in Hollywood usually hide it until they're higher up the food chain."

"I can see why." He shifted again, pulling his feet up. "Are you sure you're good at all this stuff?"

"It's nothing exciting but I didn't want to go into archeology and become Indiana Jones," she said dryly. "I thought about that as my undergrad." He grinned. "I know, I really just wanted the hat and whip, but I would've been okay at it."

"Lots of long hours of dusty, dirty work in low water countries," he countered.

"Which is why I mostly didn't. I love it but not that much."

"What about museum work?"

"Specialized degrees and a lot of politics for grants. My name would've been used there. I talked to one of the art curators in high school about that sort of work. I don't *love* art but I like history. He said I'd be bored my whole life."

"Figures." She grinned. "You seriously weren't going to cook?"

"I haven't been grocery shopping in a week."

"That happens."

"Yeah, it does," she agreed. "Especially during finals."

"It's finals?"

"Just passed," she said with a smile.

"Huh." He nodded. "Did you pass?"

"Of course."

"Honors?" he teased.

"Not likely. I had a major argument with a teacher over her dislike of aliens and how they weren't real." He groaned, shaking his head. "She knew about Jane and London so she ragged on me all semester. So the final day I told her she was welcome for still being alive and around. So no, I almost flunked that class. She couldn't give me below a D without a challenge to the grades and her teaching methods. Thankfully it was an optional class. I learned more from the book than her."

"That's good then. What about graduation?"

She shrugged. "I'm walking but it's nothing huge."

"You're graduating college, Darcy. It is huge."

"It's not, Clint, but it's sweet you think so." She smiled at him. "I figured I'd walk this one since I didn't walk my undergrad."

"You took time off for that."

"And I never made it out of the city since you guys had the city locked down due to an incident."

"Oh. Sorry."

She shrugged. "It's not a huge thing," she told him. "It's not like my parents are flying in," she finished sarcastically. "It's just for me."

"What about boyfriends?" he teased, trying to lighten it up again.

She snorted, waving a hand. "I'm not a cougar so I'm not dating college boys and I'm not dating teachers because it's a problem. I've had a few dates but nothing too serious. Most guys don't like women who can protect themselves. They consider us too hard to be soft enough to fall for their weaknesses."

"Seriously?"

She nodded. "Yeah. Got into a talk in a bar with a guy who was complaining his girlfriend wanted to take self defense lessons because it meant he couldn't protect her anymore. It was ruining his macho vibe. I had to point out she wasn't handcuffed to his side so she had to do some things by herself and he couldn't always be there to protect her. Plus sometimes you needed to protect yourself from your guy. He got horrified and told me how strong women who handled things on their own were what was ruining the male rhetoric and history of macho endeavors. I told him how the real world worked and how macho rhetoric was why most guys were single." He burst out laughing.

"He got all huffy and his professor wrote me a dirty letter saying I was ruining men. I kindly wrote him one back, with research included, that proved him wrong. He huffed and complained that the women on campus were all men haters. We had to reply to his huffy boy fit about not hating men, just their stupid times. I even got the sororities involved in fighting back against that. The campus had a good talk about gender roles and expected behaviors and how things were changing now."

"You are in a slightly conservative area," he said dryly, smirking at her.

"Oh, I know. I got accused of having California liberal ideas more than once by teachers." He smirked and nodded. "I pointed out that the rest of the world was moving that way. Even Saudi Arabia was making changes to give women rights. They didn't like that comparison."

"Guys like them never do."

"It let us up the abuse help center from a table to an actual staff member and the suicide hotline got upped too."

"Stark said you were working there."

"Yeah. The kids are young. They're untried, they have no idea about most things in the real world. College isn't as safe as home in most cases. You get a lot of kids that get in over their heads. Some recover, some don't, and some nearly get lost."

"It's a good thing," he said more quietly, smiling at her.

"Thanks." She grinned back. "They're mostly good kids."

"That's always a good thing. So now what?"

"I'd suggest dinner but you probably don't want to be noticed by anyone. I can order a pizza."

"I'm good with going out with you."

"Clint, one of the local frats has your picture up as a macho ideal," she said dryly. "They're all out partying right now to celebrate the end of the semester. You'd be recognized."

"Ashamed to be seen with me?"

"No, I didn't think you'd want the press attention."

"I'm fine with it."

"Okay." She stood up and grabbed her wallet and phone, nodding at him. "Let's go. I'm hungry, I missed lunch due to traffic." He followed, letting her lock the door before taking him down to her car. She saw the look at her car and shrugged. "I'm a college student. I'm not going to drive a brand new car and this one's good on fuel efficiency."

"It's not exciting but it's a good, safe choice."

"It is. Including in crash tests, which was one worry around a college campus." She let him in, walking around to drive. She took them to a small bar she liked and inside to a back table so they could talk and she could eat. He got a burger too. They talked about things going on in New York and how she was handling not being in a huge city. A few people stopped by to fawn over Clint but he just grinned and mostly chewed through them. He signed a few autographs then got back to eating. One of them gave Darcy an odd look but she just shrugged and sipped her drink. She looked at Clint once that guy had moved on. "Apparently he wanted to blow you for status," she said quietly.

"I get some of that," he agreed. "Not too much though. Natasha gets a lot of those."

"Yeah. That action suit of hers is really tight and she's pretty."

"Do all women get that?"

"Sometimes. Especially pretty ones. We learn to brush it off. Mostly because they're not real flattering when they're talking to your boobs."

"I get some that feel up my arms," he said.

"Same thing." She smiled. "Only they don't get arrested if they grope your arms."

"Point." He ate another bite. "This is a really nice place," he said when he swallowed.

"The bartender's a really nice guy and his sister's in admin up at the college. He's good to the decent students and throws out asshole ones personally."

"That's really good." She nodded, finishing her drink.

He finished up and they relaxed again. "So now what?" he asked with a grin.

She smirked back. "I'd suggest some clubbing for stress relief but the closest good floor is in the next town and I'm not dressed for that." He snorted, looking amused. "It's a quiet town."

"Bit boring?"

"Yeah, sometimes, but you put up with it to have less traffic."

"True, traffic is great here compared to New York." She smiled and nodded. "Did you have a car in New York?"

"No. That's a stupid idea up there. Huge insurance due to car jacking rates. Problems with parking, traffic, and other issues. Taking the subway is easier. So are cabs."

"Point."

"I'm a practical bitch."

"That's a good thing," he agreed. "Going back west?"

"Not sure. I could but I'm really not sure. I think LA would drive me nuts."

"Probably but there's other cities out there."

"True." She nodded. "Or I could go to New Hampshire and work with a charity that helps rescued slaves. It's heartbreaking work but important."

"That's a tough choice. You could still work for SHIELD in the admin areas."

"That'd require me having to determine what people were doing, Clint, and I don't want that sort of responsibility."

"No, there's admin that has nothing to do with missions."

She stared at him. "Did the big C send you? I know if I say his name he'll magically appear."

"Not exactly but May suggested it'd be a good position, plus safer for you."

"I'm not that unsafe."

"Darcy, you nearly dated a villain last year," he said dryly.

"Well, yeah, but he was a good kisser. Then someone sent me an email and we talked about it. He agreed I should do charity work, it was good for everyone, and he started because things were unfair and wrong. He just ended up on the wrong side of the strength equation."

He shook his head with a sigh. "You're welcome for the email."

"I figured it was you or Steve," she said with a grin. She kicked him under the table. "Speak of the devil and it appears."

"Him?" he demanded, looking back. "Oh, Coulson. You're right, you talk about him and he appears." He shifted over when he got to their table, letting his former handler sit next to him.

"Miss Lewis," he said with a nod and a slight smile.

"Director," she said with a grin. "So far I'm ignoring the pointed hints I should come handle your PR problem."

"We have a PR person but they're half the problem," he admitted.

"Yes, but if I heard about things like South Korea, I'd have to do something so it couldn't happen again," she said bluntly.

"That wasn't us."

"I'm aware of that," she said dryly, staring at him. "So why show up tonight?" she asked with a smile.

"We're tracking an agent who was trying to follow you earlier."

"Yeah, I turned him down in the bar." She nodded a bit. "Two of the guys he was hanging out with came in but they're at the other end of the bar." She pointed. "And they haven't even looked this way so I guessed they hadn't spotted us."

"We don't think they have," he agreed. "They could attack Clint for his job though."

She pointed. "I was going to show him the emergency exit behind us behind the bathrooms."

Clint shifted up to look that way then sat back down. "There's only two."

"There's about fifteen in their base," Coulson told him. "It was dangerous to come here, Clint."

"I was looking in on Darcy," he said, glaring at his former handler. "She's a buddy. I warned her about them earlier. Though she made him himself when he flirted with her."

"He had the tattoo over a new surgical scar," she said with a small shrug. "It's not like most people would get that as a tattoo."

Coulson stared at her. "Surgical scar?"

"About fingertip long on his upper shoulder." She pointed at the spot. "There."

"Interesting."

"New tattoo, still had scabs. Just a black and white outline so he may have been getting it colored in later."

"I can't think of anyone who'd get that tattoo," Clint agreed.

"I met some racist assholes who got burning cross tattooed on," she told him.

"Huh." Clint nodded once. "I've seen some rebel flags and the like. So yeah, that could've been that sort of I agree tattoo."

"Still not the sort I want to flirt with," she said dryly. "I'm very open minded but not that way."

"Ever dated a girl?" Clint asked with a smarmy grin.

"Yeah. She's really cute and has three kids now. It was a high school fling."

He blinked a few times. "Really?"

"Yup." She smiled. "Married a male cheerleader from USC. Two girls and a little boy. She's on facebook."

"Huh." He looked at Coulson.

"That was in her background check," he admitted. "The one we had to redo."

She smiled. "You missed the name change too?"

"We did," he admitted. "It wasn't legally filed so we did miss it." She shrugged but grinned. "We are a bit worried that they may be coming after you because you do keep in contact with a few members of the team."

"Not really. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one on facebook that has a few people on it."

"No," he agreed. "You're not but if they found out about your former job it could become worse for you."

She stared at him. "I was a science intern, Coulson," she said quietly. "Not a hero in spandex."

"Kevlar," Clint corrected. "It's bulletproof."

She shot him a look then looked at Coulson again. "I hold no strategic value to them just because I have a few facebook buddies that I used to hang out with. I haven't seen anyone but Clint in a few years. Not since I saw Melinda May due to that frat boy problem."

"Point but they're not that smart," he said.

She smiled. "I doubt they want me for that. If so, there's some fans in the midwest who are in more danger than I am."

"They're not heirs."

She shrugged. "I gave myself a trust fund so I couldn't be a kid like Stark."

"Which probably made a lot of sense," he agreed. He stared at her. "What about politics?"

"I really hate politics. I've thought about it but I'd be a fierce bitch about women's rights, education, and a few other things that would get me huffed at. Do I really want to live my life in a spotlight?"

"Probably not," he agreed. "It could do a lot of good."

"Possibly," she agreed. "I'm also on two groups that're working against Stark's agenda right now. He sent me an email saying he hated me for that and I didn't understand why. I sent back how wrong it was. He told me I sounded like Steve."

"You do," Clint said with a nod. "A lot at times." She smiled. "We could get Steve into politics."

"He'd hate that," Phil said. "Battles would get worse."

She stared at him. "Your ploy is a bit see through, Coulson."

He smirked a tiny bit. "I figured it was but being underhanded with you often gets opposite results. That's why we nearly lost funding one year."

She smirked. "You're welcome."

He rolled his eyes. Clint was staring at her. "That expose was you?"

"No. That expose was a friend I met in London." She grinned. "I didn't tip her off. She was snooping in my computer during a visit. Happened onto the same group against Stark's agenda for the list."

"Crap," he said. "That got us all a lot of attention." She shrugged a bit but grinned. "So she got into your charity network?"

"Yeah. That group tracks SHIELD and Stark's things for crimes against humanity. Which they consider the list to be." She shifted, popping her neck some. "Two of them might've been on the list but they refused and went further underground."

Coulson stared at her. "Are they still part of that group?"

"No comment." She smiled. "And here they come." Clint got kicked and she pointed behind her. "Go." He slid out and headed for the bathroom. One of the guys paused then casually started that way. She got up to get in his way, smiling at him. "Hi. I remember you from the bar." The guy glared at her. She smiled back, patting him over the tattoo, making him wince. "It's still artwork."

"That's...." She shrugged. "Damn bitch," he said. "Probably Romanoff in disguise."

"No, I'm a former geek intern. Sorry." She ducked his blow at her head. "Not nice, dude." He tried again so she tased him. He yelped as he went down. She stared at him. "Really?" She sat down and paid the check, smiling at Coulson. "I'll think about going into politics some year soon," she said quietly. "But probably not. It's just not something I can see myself doing." She got up and walked off, handing the money and ticket to the bartender. "Some HYDRA guy who hit on me at the bar," she muttered, making him huff but shake his head. "My friend was about to be bothered. He escaped."

"Thanks, Lewis."

"Welcome." She went back to her apartment to shower, relax, and think about her options.

Coulson had probably snuck out after making sure he had pictures of the agents. He could do that, he was Coulson.

***

Darcy was kicked back in her jammies a few days later when a video chat request came up. She accepted, staring at the guy on the other side. "What's up, Stark?" she asked. She sipped her coffee.

"You're not coming to my event. It's for charities."

"I'm not working with any right now. I'm still looking for a job," she said. "You should honor the ones already doing the work."

"You could network, maybe find a nice job," he said. He stared at her. "A few people want to see you."

She stared back, then grimaced. "I'm trying really hard not to get a job on my name, Stark. I've already avoided that so far. And I've got a few leads."

"I know about the group you're part of already," he said.

She smiled. "Someone's got to protect people from good intentions gone wrong." She finished her coffee and put her cup down. "I don't really want to go. Graduation's the day before that."

"So? You're just coming up and putting on a pretty dress."

"It's never that easy for women. Besides, why would I want to cause strife?"

He paused. "Yeah, Jane's going to be there," he agreed. "But we can keep you two apart."

"There's others that probably don't want to see me."

"It's important."

"It is. I've already sent up reward monies to add to yours for three of them in my mother's name."

"I saw that. Pepper asked why."

"Because they're ones I believe in. One of the others being honored I could do without but they do work which is important."

He stared at her. "Snobby?" he asked with an evil smirk.

"No. They're the sort that demand women who've been raped carry the kid. I can't personally stand that viewpoint."

"I didn't know that. That's not the focus of their charity."

"It's not, which I support the main focus of. I just can't support that charity itself."

"I guess that's a point. You could still come up for a few hours. You haven't been back to New York. There's a charity meeting at the UN the next day."

"I know. I'm going to be there interviewing with a group that works with people who were taken as slaves."

"There are?" he asked.

"Yeah, there are," she agreed.

"Oh." He looked behind him then at her. "Then you can come up for the party. You'll be here anyway."

"I'll have jet lag, Tony. I don't want to go to a formal stuffy event with jet lag. Or really at all."

"My events are more fun," he said impatiently.

She stared at him. "Yeah, if they get robbed. Otherwise they're a bunch of stuffy people in a room with too much cologne and perfume talking about things that no one cares about. Beyond that, don't have a formal gown."

"You can buy one anywhere."

She gave him a dirty look. "Stark, formal gowns don't fit women with curves. They fit skinny, tiny boobed women like Pepper. That's the fashion ideal and the reality of it. Anything I buy that way has to be altered. Usually a lot. Or else I look like I'm going to the porn star awards. I don't have a gown and don't have time to get a gown."

"Why don't you have a gown?" he demanded.

"Because I don't go to formal events," she said dryly, staring at him. "It's not my thing. The charities I support don't hold formal fundraisers. Most of them work behind the scenes. Half the ones that do hold formal events are shams and smoke and mirrors so I'd never go to those. The rest are only attended for honoring them awards. The only one I'd go to would be the annual Peace Corps event in DC but I'm not a member so I just send them money."

"You could do that," he said.

"Yeah all but the FBI has my passport locked in case someone comes for me."

"Why?" he demanded. He looked so confused.

"For the same reason that I saw Coulson the other day and he was trying to convince me to join politics."

"Oh. So you can't travel."

She shook her head. "Not without prior authorization."

"That sucks."

"Yes it does. That happened after spring break at least. I at least got one in."

"You didn't in your undergrad?" Pepper asked, coming into view.

"No, I spent my first two spring breaks recovering and sleeping. My third one I was in the hospital with the flu, and the fourth I was on my way to New Mexico."

"Oh. That's a shame," Pepper said. "Those are young people things that no one can get away with when they're thirty."

"Oh, I can go party but it'd hit the news," Darcy said dryly with a smile for her. "You look nice today, Pepper."

"Thank you, Darcy. Are you coming?"

"No." She smiled and shook her head. "I'm not prepared for a formal event and I have no need of going to it. I sent thank you money."

"I saw that. Do you want noted?"

"No. It's in the envelopes."

She smiled. "That's fine. Are you coming up for the UN meeting?"

"I am. I'm interviewing with an anti-slavery charity that afternoon."

"That's good," Pepper said with a smile. "That's a hard field though."

"Yeah, but it's an important one. Unfortunately too many people end up there every year."

"They do," she agreed, smiling at her. "Thank you for Tony's birthday card."

She shrugged. "He's doing an important one." Tony snorted but looked pleased. "Sorry about the event, but even if I had a gown ready, it's just not my thing."

"No, I get that," Pepper agreed. "You're right. A lot of the charities that do throw formal fundraisers aren't worth supporting. Or they're political."

Darcy nodded. "I made the mistake of going to one of them and they tried to latch onto me for not only exclusive money but a lot more than I was willing to give. I had to tell him I was there mostly about his wife's charity work. He was disappointed and pouty all night."

"You do have a wallet," Tony said.

"Yes but I gave myself a trust fund on purpose."

"That's a good idea," Stark agreed. "Means you can't spend yourself poor before you have kids."

"If, Stark. If. Kids aren't looking too soon in my life right now. I can't even find a guy to date."

He looked at her. "You could."

"No, I really can't down here."

"You could come back up here."

"Or I could go to Florida."

"Point," he agreed. "But you'd hate the beach culture."

She stared at him. "Stark, I rock a bikini like no one else does," she said dryly. "I can do the beach and all that easily. I know I don't fit into the stick figure ideology but that only bothers shallow little twats who can't remember to wear panties."

Pepper laughed, nodding. "True, it does. No one seems to realize you're you." Darcy smiled. "Are you going to have to come out?"

"I don't know. I might if something too huge comes up. The lawsuit and court case from that dorm thing didn't out me too much. I got some more facebook friends from high school." Stark shook his head with a sigh. "Some of us are meant to be in the spotlight and some of us are meant to do things behind the scenes. I learned it from Dad." She waved and hung up. "Have a better day."

Up in New York, Tony looked at Pepper. "She's insistent."

"She is, but she had some good points. She's got the figure that would mean major tailoring for designer gowns. She doesn't want to deal with stress and hell." He nodded at that. "She's making good decisions."

"I guess. Still boring."

"Yes but Darcy wants a bit more boring."

"Point." He grimaced. "We can send her an invitation anyway, just in case."

"We can," she agreed. She went to do that and make notes for her speech that night. Looking at the notes included in Darcy's thank you money envelopes led her to a name to look up just in case she wanted to note it. Her mother was a good woman apparently.

***
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