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


Bucky woke up alone on the couch, which was interesting. He looked around as he sat up, not finding a single dog. Which was weird. "Conor," he called quietly. He got up to look on the fire escape, getting the dogs back inside with a single point and a scowl. They ran inside and into the bedroom to cuddle their cuddly humans. Bucky closed and locked the window, looking around. Two figures in black down in the alley. He grimaced. "I wonder if I can get the dog to crap on command," he muttered. Then suddenly lights went on focusing down there. Two figures in black with masks and assault rifles. NYPD officers in a car with spotlights. Pity about the guys. Hopefully they weren't good guys or agents. Bucky leaned over to watch. That's when he heard a noise behind him and turned, striking the other person in the head. He went down and Bucky got to stare at him. "Where were you hiding?" he demanded. "Darcy, problems!"

"He came in the window in here and we already knocked out two of his buddies," Kate called. "No one's answering the phones at the tower." She leaned out of the bedroom. "He got away from us but he ran into the pantry and held the door closed. We figured we could get him in a minute."

"Why didn't he wake me?"

"I'm guessing they tried to gas us," Darcy said as she came out pulling up her hair. "I woke up when the second guy came through the window and a dog bit him." She glared at this new guy, who was trying to wiggle away from them. "Hey, Scott, were you knocked out too?" she called quietly. No answer. She looked. No Scott. "Okay, so they somehow left us here." She saw the lights. "NYPD?" He nodded. "Great." She walked out there, looking at the officers.

"Ma'am, we'll have the lights off in a minute," the driving officer said harshly.

"Sure, but I was going to ask if you wanted the three douche canoes that broke into my apartment." She pointed. "Or else I can just hurt them a lot until they beg to be better people. I really could use minions after all."

An officer winced. "Do we know who they are?"

"No, then I would've just kicked their asses. Somehow we slept through them getting into the apartment, which is really weird, and we missed our buddies who were sitting with us leaving too. So, want another few bad guys? We can kick them down the stairs if you want." One of the ones in custody got free and rushed for her to kick her. She dodged and kicked him on the ass. "Don't try that."

He tried to kick her again and she backed up. The cops weren't doing anything so she pulled her tazer and got him, making him scream. "Shut up, people are trying to sleep!" she ordered. "How dare you break into their sleep! They need it to do normal people things! Now, give yourself up or I'm going to hit the trigger for longer this time." He was moaning. "Well?" He whined. She glared. "You're not worthy of even being a minion."

"SHIELD," he muttered.

"I doubt you're SHIELD, dude. If you are, Coulson will come nag me tomorrow." Bucky came down the stairs with the three bad guys, Kate following him carrying their feet so they didn't wake anyone else up. "This one got away from the officers and made me tase him, guys."

"He's obviously stupid," Bucky said, staring down at him.

"Soldier," he moaned.

"That just proved you're not SHIELD," Kate quipped. She looked at the officers, who were all looking scared. She smiled. "Don't worry, we can have them cleaned up if you can't." Darcy nodded at that.

"Do you live here?" one of the officers demanded.

"Yeah, up there," Darcy said with a point. "This guy lives up the street. This one lives a few blocks away. We were all hiding together after the incident earlier at the courthouse." She stared at him. "Usually you guys aren't so chill."

"We heard weird things about this neighborhood," he shot back.

"No, we're pretty much at peace until someone like HYDRA comes here for the guys who live on this block."

"Bro, they're fine," a male voice called from up the street. "Leave Cookie Lady alone."

The officer looked that way then at her, sneering. "Really?"

"They saved me a few times so I made them rum balls. Not like I was going to hop into their laps to thank them for saving me. I'm not that sort of woman."

"We can arrest you for the illegal weapon."

"I have a letter upstairs by the FBI saying I can have it. Should I go get it for you?"

"No, I think we can call them," he said, pulling out new cuffs. She held out her hands. He spun her around to cuff her and walked her off. "This one's mouthy."

"Nice tattoo on your neck," Darcy shot back. "How many octopuses did you kill to earn that one." He shoved her against the car and she just looked at him. "You have fun with that. Especially with cameras on the block."

"You ain't shit, little girl. Even as a debutante you ain't shit."

"Sure. Though that's bad grammar." She stared at them. The officer tried to hit her and an arrow pinned him to his car.

"We do take police brutality seriously in this neighborhood," Kate told them. She had her bow in her hand and an arrow ready but not drawn back. "That's why we're such good citizens." A few of them looked scared. "Now, anything else? I can come bail Darcy out in the morning if I must."

An SUV pulled up. Bucky stared. "We don't need that sort of help right now," he noted. Great, AIM in full decontam yellow suits and hoods. "Bishop, you got your emergency beacon?"

"Yeah," she said, pushing it once it was out of her bra.

"NYPD," one shouted, pulling his gun. "Drop it!"

"Shut up," one said, zapping him.

Darcy kicked at her tormentor. "Get me loose," she muttered. "They're going to try to kidnap me anyway." He got her free and got out of the way, letting her find something and use it from the pizza place's doorway. Their SUV went up. Their idiot minions mostly got set on fire from the explosion. The two that were walking went after Darcy but Kate got one in the ankle and Bucky punched the other one.

The mob guy stared down at Darcy. "Damn you're dangerous, Cookie Lady."

She smiled. "Only when I need to be or there's vodka." She huffed. "I hate these people. I should move to spare the neighborhood." New officers showed up. She looked at the reporter, glaring until he volunteered the footage. It was nice that Peter was local. Darcy walked out, looking at the new officers. "Am I still under arrest for having to take care of the guy that they let get free and come at me?"

The new lead officer looked at the camera replay then at that officer. "You're damn lucky. There's a protect order on her."

"I can usually take care of myself," Darcy complained. One of the new bad guys tried to get free and Darcy had to zap him again then kicked his knife out of his hand. "We don't need you guys stabbed." She stared at him again. "So am I still under arrest for using my tazer? I can show you the letter with permission from the FBI."

"We have a copy, Miss Lewis," another officer said after hanging up. "Please go back to your safe room and stay in there with Mr. Barnes and Miss Bishop." Kate looked at him. "Please? They could bring more and we'd hate to have an Avengers level battle here."

"They'd never come here," Bucky said. "They're not that stupid. The few that are, we hand over." He looked at Darcy. "Go make coffee?" She glared at him. "So you can pet your dog?" She huffed but walked up there with Kate. Bucky sat on the stoop, staring at them. "So they can't try to break in again." The officers all got out of the way and did what they had to do then fled. He looked at Peter. "Should you be out this late on a school night, kid?"

"I'm on break, it's a long weekend," he quipped back. "Also, we're watching over the area." He looked in the pizza place then at Bucky. "They didn't say a thing about the weapons."

"The Russian mob likes to think they own here," Bucky told him. "They'll complain later that she stole their weapon to use."

"Bro, since we saw her having to stab some guy in the park over twenty times, we're just respectful of the Cookie Lady," the same mob guy said. He grinned and waved. "We just love the cookies and stay outta the way, bro."

"Good idea. When did she have to do that?"

"Last month. We figure she's a crazy chick."

"Some days but only when they make her," Bucky said dryly. "Then again, she's teaching Bishop and her dog. Cutey actually bit someone in the balls hard enough to make them beg."

The mob guy nodded. "Dogs are weird, always in a crotch," he said, walking off again. This deserved a drink.

Bucky looked at Peter. "Do you really want to do this job, kid?" he asked quietly.

"Someone's got to. With great power comes great responsibility."

"Yeah, that's what Bishop said too," he complained. "And Steve." He looked at him. "You know how often we get injured?" The kid nodded, looking unimpressed. "You gotta will and stuff?"

"Yeah, I do but it's hidden."

"Good. You end up in the hospital and I'm going to send Darcy ta nag you to death. She'd do a good job too."

Peter shivered. "That's evil."

Bucky smiled. "I caught it from her when I drank out of her coffee cup."

"I didn't know evil was like herpes," Peter quipped, sitting down. "We can handle it if you want to go sleep."

"I'm fine on sleep, kid. The others?"

"Flying. Robotic. Donkeys. With. Lasers," he said bluntly.

Bucky shook his head with a sigh. "College kid with an idea?"

"Yup. One of my classmates actually." He grinned. "That makes two who've gone bad." Kate came down with coffee cups for the three of them. "Thanks."

"Welcome, Parker." She sat down on his other side. "The donkeys are holding animatronic squirrels who have lasers and are scurrying all over that orange douche yacht's building." She sipped her coffee. "I sent a message to Scott and he admitted he left a message but the dogs had probably sent it under the couch." She looked at Peter. Then at the pizza shop. "Think they have more ordinance?"

"Yeah," Bucky said with a nod, taking a sip of coffee. "They do. I think it'll be mine later though." He looked at her. "I might let you borrow."

She smiled. "I can beg prettily for something nice."

"Let me go back to lurking," Peter said, finishing his coffee before handing back the cup and walking back to hide in the shadows again.

Kate grinned at his back then at Bucky. "He's adorably young."

"He's only a year younger than you," he reminded her.

"I was young then too."

"Uh-huh. Still young, Bishop." She nudged him with her elbow. He sipped his coffee, watching for more bad things. Someone was driving up to stop at the pizza place but they spotted them and drove on. Bucky smirked and waved. "He runs an arms business out of Lebanon, New Hampshire."

"Interesting. I haven't looked into many of those yet." She sipped her coffee, talking about weapons for now.


Stark showed up the next morning with a sleepy Clint and Bobbi. Kate opened the door on her way to the bathroom so he let the two spies into the bedroom. They curled up together, Bobbi behind Clint and Clint cuddling Darcy with the dogs. Stark looked at Bishop as she came back. "What happened last night?" he demanded quietly.

She shrugged. "All I know is that we didn't wake up for some reason when Steve and Scott left. Then we woke up to someone breaking in and a few guys in the alley that the NYPD got. When Darcy went down to ask if they wanted the guys who broke in, one of the alley guys got free and tried to rush her. Darcy nearly got arrested for handling it since the officers stood there stupidly.

"Then AIM showed up with sucky timing so we were handling it, me and Bucky, before Darcy ran into the pizza shop to grab a weapon to fire off. Then we spotted the reporter watching us and had him show the new NYPD guys showing up what had happened. As of this morning I've gotten an email from the borough commissioner praising us for handling things and asking if we saw those not-officers to please report them next time." She walked around him to get coffee. "Otherwise, just a normal night. Coffee?" she asked with a small smirk.

He stared at her. "We've go to warp you, Bishop. We really do. You're turning into Darcy."

"No, I give better blow jobs." She sipped her coffee, smiling at the dog that came out to sniff her. "Let me find my sneakers and we'll go run, guys." Conor barked and ran to find his leash, which he couldn't find for some reason. Kate got them out of the go bag and put on her shoes, heading out with all three dogs. Once Cutey had peed and pooped, she put Cutey into her hoodie's hood and took off jogging with the two bigger dogs.

Stark was standing there in Darcy's apartment looking confused. Bucky came out of the spare bedroom. "What happened?"

"With Bishop? She confused you because you don't understand human dames, only robotic ones," he said sarcastically. "Last night? Apparently one last plot."

"Goons and weapons and Lewis with weapons?"

"The mob guys had a few in the pizza shop. I really appreciate them collecting for me." Stark winced, shaking his head with a sigh. "At least I know who they got them from so I can go visiting if I need more for my collection."

"Stop." He held up a hand. "Is she safe?"

"For right now. If they come back again, I'm pretty sure she's going to lose her mind and turn into Natasha. Without some of the moves or the training."

"Could be, yeah." He rubbed his forehead. "Bishop's running with the dogs. I'm going to go have a headache on Pepper." He walked off shaking his head. He spotted one of the mob guys and gave him a confused look. "Why do you even try anything near them?"

"I don't," he said. "We know they're cray-cray, bro. We know better. Cookie Lady's like a Russian woman, get her mad and you won't survive."

"Yeah, I know one of those. She's like that too. You don't have Stark tech right?"

"We'd never pay that much for anything, bro. Way too damn expensive."

"Good. Thanks. And for lending Lewis something."

"Not lended, bro. She completely stole. And was hot doing it. We need to get her an outfit like that one lady." He walked off happier.

"Lewis would look hot but she looks hotter in the pinup stuff," he told the mob guy. "Apparently there's something coming out this holiday with her in it." He got into his car and went back to the tower, with a stop for a mega sized coffee with whipped cream and sprinkles. It was a sprinkles kind of day. He ran into a reporter and held up a hand. "I have a headache. Don't even try." She pouted. "Tough."

He got his coffee and paid for the next guys, doing a good deed, then went back to the tower to hide in his room. Even his lab wasn't safe from the bad thoughts. Thankfully Pepper had slept in this morning so he could curl up on her chilly shoulder. He checked her pulse, just in case, because that would totally ruin his day. She was fine, just cold. He could fix that for her by snuggling. She'd make the headache less.


Darcy blinked awake at the feeling of someone patting her back for her. She blinked at Bobbi, who was grinning at her. "If you want to have sex with him over here, use the spare bed, Bobbi. It's comfy and less full of dog fur." She tucked her head under the pillow again and let herself drift off again.

"At least you didn't suggest it was the prelude to a threesome," Bobbi quipped.

Darcy waved a hand. "That would be touching something taken and I don't like stolen property, even if it was just loaned to me."

"That's a good thing." She got up, going to get coffee. "She's hiding under her pillow."

"So's Bucky since Kate helped him get back to sleep. Someday soon he's going to pounce her for giving him a sudden blow job." He handed her some coffee and a flaky pastry he had picked up when he was getting clean clothes.

"At least we know Kate's just playing with him. She's a nice girl. Maybe he'll teach her not to tease."

"It's not teasing if she follows through on the blow job offer," Clint said dryly, giving her a look. She grinned back. "Some girls really like those." He shrugged and sipped his own coffee. All three dogs were on the fire escape watching the neighborhood. Occasionally they'd bark at someone they knew and some of them would even wave back. Hopefully today was going to be quiet. They could all use a rest. Of course, someone tried to throw something at the dogs and Bobbi went to talk to them about it. She adored dogs and these ones were neat.


Darcy answered her cellphone, smiling at the nice voice. "Hey, Jen. What's up?" She listened. "Yeah, I've already started to do that and you guys can bum one if you need to. Just don't destroy anything so make sure Clay doesn't bring home a volatile chick." She grinned when Kate was giving her odd looks. "Security code's on the side of the box in braille. Yup, that piece of tape. Should be six digits, it'll unlock the door automatically, and I'll have the security code reset once you guys are out of there. It's the least I can do, Jake. Don't worry about it unless you destroy something." She shifted to cross her feet. "Hell no, I get good rent out of those. That one's not on the circuit though. Great! Let them know I miss picking on Pooch's son and feeding you and Cougar. Sure, have fun in the pool too. I don't have video camera access, only the security company does. Great. Laters." She hung up and rolled her neck around to stretch it.

"Vacation home?" Kate guessed.

"Something like that." She grinned.

"You put up a safehouse?"

"Something like that."

Kate stared at her for a minute. "Should I go hide while telling Clint you're making evil plans again?"

"Nah. I'm being a good, helpful girl." She grinned. "Very few know I have a few spare houses to hide at, Katie."

"Um, yeah, so you're making lairs?" she asked with a grin.

"No, if I wanted to do that I'd go take over the company I about half own and start them doing things." She grinned back. "I'm not doing that so I'm not fully evil yet."

"Uh-huh." She nodded to show she supported that delusion. "Sure you're not."

"You guys can rent it for a weekend or so too, Kate."

"Fine. I'll let the others know if they want to pool some money together for a vacay." She texted Clint and Stark, getting a head shake gif back from Stark. "Stark's probably moaning."

"Tell him to tell Pepper I said hi since she's the one that makes him all moany and happy."

"I don't want to go there," Kate admitted dryly. "How many do you have?"

"Six?" She shrugged. "They're all nice little vacay points."

"Um, yeah. Got photos?"

"So you can nark?" she asked with a grin. "Nope."

"Fine." She sent that as well. She got a text back from Bobbi, it had her name in the header. "Bobbi said that having safe houses is fine but renting them out was iffy since you don't screen who rents them. Because if some villain rents them they'd have to confiscate all of them." She looked at her.

"I have a security company for that," she said with a hand wave and a grin. "They look at all wanted rentals before approving them." She sent them a message about Jake and them taking up one of the houses for a bit. They sent back they had already seen it and registered it since they were on the allowed list. She sent a smiley face and let it go with that. "The security team is actively watching everything."

"Great." She nodded. "Really great. Can we just bum one for free?"

"We'll see."

"Thanks," she said with a grin. She sent that back to Bobbi, who said she'd make sure it was going to be fine and if she had to come de-evil Darcy at least it'd be fun. Kate burst out laughing, showing her the text message. Darcy took the phone to text back and agreed it'd be fun but neither one of them would be walking right for a few days and she wasn't into spanking games, body fluid games, or size queen moments. Then she added a smiley face at the end and sent it. She tossed the phone back. Kate read the return message and just handed over her phone while she got some more coffee with whipped cream. She was so spoiled. Darcy burst out laughing so she glanced back but let those two sext. It was good for Darcy and helping her stay calm and reasonable.


Stark looked at the email he got from Skye, frowning at it. "They probably came from Hammer's crappile," he said as he typed that back. "She didn't give Culver everything. He had a few houses that were 'showpieces' to show to models he wanted to screw that had nice pools and barely decorated living room and bedrooms. So Darcy probably had to do a lot of maintenance Hammer hadn't and decorate a lot since he only decorated the used rooms." He sent that email and shook his head, sending Darcy a text message about those.

She agreed that three of them had come from Hammer's crap pile of stuff. But they hadn't needed much maintenance, he'd only had them for a few years. But yeah, she had decorated the hell out of them. Frankly, she bought the whole holdings for the worth of those three houses. Then she added a smiley face. Stark shook his head and congratulated her on the deal she had gotten, then asked why she wasn't at work. She reminded him about the meeting that afternoon and event that night so she had arranged to come in for the meeting.

He sent that at Pepper, who had been complaining about Darcy not being at work. Pepper huffed and sent Darcy one herself about an earlier meeting. Darcy pointed out that wasn't Maria Stark Foundation stuff, that was Stark Industries stuff. Pepper groaned, Tony could hear it. He was staying out of that. Pepper finally agreed it was Stark Industries stuff so Darcy didn't have to attend that meeting.

When Darcy showed up later in a nice looking skirt and blouse, she stopped in the lab, looking at Pepper. "Did you want me to help you with some of the SI stuff, Pepper?"

"No." She sighed. "I forgot." She looked her over. "Why not designer?"

"They don't fit me, Pepper. Never have." She shrugged. "This looks good on me and it fits. Took a bit of tailoring down but that has to happen usually anyway." She turned to let her see. "Off the rack but real people sizes."

Pepper nodded. "It does look nice but most people would expect you to wear designer."

"Sure, when they start to design for women with breasts and hips, I might, but I'm not that sort of girl. Just look at my scarf and beanie collection." She shrugged but smiled. "I'm good with this and if someone underestimates me then that's usually to my benefit."

"Probably," she agreed. "But some charities will think you're fronting for someone, Darcy."

"Most of the ones I've seen recently knew me. Only one thought that and got horrified when one I worked with showed up and greeted me." She grinned. "I pointed out a hundred bucks for an outfit was nicer than three grand for the same thing in a different color and meant I could put more toward my charity work."

"New car?" Stark asked.

"I'm thinking. I think it'd be a pain in this city."

"Point." He looked her over. "Hose have a tear."

She looked and huffed, going to take them off in his lab bathroom. She came out tucking them into her purse but grinned. "Thanks. Stark, are you coming to the decision making meeting for the charity's yearly gifts?"

"No. Tell me," he said with a hand wave. "I can dress up or whatever when it's time."

"Fine." She looked at Pepper, who ate a few more bites of lunch then went with her. They settled in to talk about how to do the charity luncheon thing without making it look too uptight and pretentious. The board had a lot of ideas, mostly about a sit down dinner. Darcy looked at Pepper then at the group. "What about something less formal? A few meetings back one of you suggested a barbeque event where the plate fees went to the rebuilding and other charities. We could also do a picnic for those who need to eat instead. Either would cost little to throw and we'd be able to give a lot more to the rebuilding fund or whoever got decided on."

They all looked at each other. Then a few nodded. "How would you throw one of those?"

Pepper considered it. "We block off a small side street that's usually not heavily used. We set up grills and tables with food. We set up places to sit and eat. We put a five dollar cover charge for later donation purposes and then at the end we announce this year's recipients. We invite them specially so they know when to be there and give them a pass on the donation to get in. We could do a nice buffet that way, including grilled things if we wanted to."

"The people working on the clean up could come in too," Darcy agreed. "Five bucks isn't much and if they're volunteering they probably won't mind. If we put out a salad bar area and an optional take home box for say an extra dollar that may help as well."

Pepper considered that. "That's not a bad idea. Take home boxes can be gotten pretty cheap by the crate or the cheap places couldn't use them. An extra dollar would probably cover the cost of those. Any remaining food should be donated to a shelter." They all nodded and made notes. "It does make us look very socially aware of the current climate of the city and even the most rich probably wouldn't mind much. A few might try to get out of paying for their guards to eat but otherwise that's not a bad idea. Whoever had that idea it's a great one. Thank you." One of them smiled at her. "Thank you, Miranda." She looked around. "A good catering company could arrange all that easily enough since most of it wouldn't need fixed or ovens on hand."

"We could probably ask the vo-techs that have culinary programs if their students wanted the experience," Darcy offered with a grin.

"That's actually not a bad idea." She made that note. "The only thing I worry about is whether it really represents the foundation."

Darcy considered her finances then shrugged. "If you guys don't like it I may steal it for my mother's charity and you guys can do the donation at the end."

"That's..." Pepper frowned as she thought about it. "Your mom's charity works with women and children's groups," she agreed. "Plus your own educational work. That may be good for them, plus raise their profile." Darcy nodded. "It wouldn't be an expensive one. Are you due to give out gifts?"

"Yes, in about a month. I usually have most of mine ready about two days after yours. I also usually deliver them in person. Just pop in and go 'hi, here, you won me over, do more good work with it' then disappear while they're smiling at the awards."

"Then that makes more sense and we can gladly halfway do the lunch with you." Darcy smiled and they shook hands, cracking a few of the people at the meeting. "Rebuilding and what fund?"

"I was thinking maybe the pet shelters that are being overrun or the human shelters that are being overrun and have been for years."

"That's not a bad idea. Keep it local," Pepper agreed. "Do you know which ones specifically?" Darcy pulled up her short list. "Hmm. Why not the big one on eighth?"

"Because I don't want to get into the religious pissing war and they've turned away some untraditional families. Including a pregnant unmarried young woman who was seventeen. That one you can say they sent her to CPS because of her age but they've subtly turned away gay families as well. Six have noted it on their facebook page and where more tolerant shelters were. All but one of those are also full time shelters for the rest of the year too. The one that doesn't run a shelter does run a few helpful things for college kids."

"That's not a bad way of sorting," Pepper decided. "Let's do it that way." They all nodded and got down to the setting of details. Darcy did some quick looking up of event planners and catering services. Darcy had no idea how to plan an event, Pepper had only done smaller ones around the tower. The company had an event planner on yearly retainer for whatever they needed to throw. That helped a lot. They agreed to use her. Though she claimed to be busy when Pepper called her. Darcy found an up and coming one through one of the groups she worked with. They were just now starting out and needed proof jobs. Apparently she used to plan events for the teen shelter she had stayed in.


Darcy came home that night and found Bobbi on her couch eating Clint's cheetos and letting Lucky beg her for them. "Did you take Conor out?"

"Clint took him for a run because Lucky's limping." She put the bag aside, letting Lucky have the last cheeto and her fingers to lick clean.

"He's had some problems with his right front paw. I think he may have stepped on some glass or something but I couldn't find it when I looked," Darcy said, heading in to change. "What's up?"

"How did you get those houses?"

"Hammer's stuff."

"What about the other ones?"

Darcy leaned out of her bedroom without a shirt on. "I had one of those for years but didn't feel like going back. One was my former uncle's and his son said he loathes it so I'm not going to be selling it back to him. He cheered when I put it up for rent as a summer villa. The last one I found on massive tax sale because it was only half finished and the couple was getting a divorce. The vacation home was their last attempt at reconciling but she found a hotty on the beach and he found a few others. Apparently after the orgy they looked at each other and agreed it'd be for the best if they sold their stuff and split." She went back to changing into after work clothes. She came out pulling on the t-shirt over her shorts. "Why?"

"Wondering. It wasn't noted anywhere."

"Whoever's looking is probably still looking under Lewis. You can't buy real estate under an assumed name as easily, without involving a realtor that knows all that."

"Point." She watched her fuss in the kitchen. "Is Clint over often?"

"Sometimes he's bored." She smiled. "I have the better cable package."

"That figures." She looked at Lucky. "We need to have someone look at your paw, young man." Lucky hopped up to lick her, groaning some as he moved.

Darcy came over to feel over his sides, making him yelp. "Did someone kick you?" she demanded. "C'mon, we're going to see the vet. You should not be that sore." She carefully picked him up and carried him down to her stoop, where she called a cab. They weren't that slow today so they were at the vet she liked within twenty minutes. Before they closed for the night. "For some reason my friend's dog is groaning when he jumps. He's limping on a front paw, we thought he had stepped on something with his right front one, but I couldn't find anything. I checked his side and he moaned in pain. I don't know why."

"All right." The nurse went to get the vet, who took off his jacket and came back out to see him. "He's a nice looking dog."

Darcy grinned. "My buddy's got mine for a run because he was sore. Lucky's like my step-dog. I'm his off-time babysitter as well."

"That's fine," the vet said, letting her lead him to the exam room. "He is limping, isn't he?"

"I checked his right front paw, figuring he stepped on some glass or something on the sidewalk. I couldn't find anything."

"All right." He checked the paws then felt along Lucky's sides. "He is in pain. Has he been hit by a car?"

"Not since he lost the eye. His human rescued him when he was hit but that was over a year ago. He was fine three or four days ago. And mine's not showing those problems, or the other one they like to hang out with when she has to drop Cutey off for dog-sitting."

"Hmm." He checked him over. "I need to run bloodwork and x-rays." Darcy waved a hand. "It can get expensive."

Darcy looked at him then pulled out her Black AmEx card. "That's fine." The doctor nodded, taking Lucky back there to draw some blood and do x-rays. The nurse took the card to run for the first fees. The vet came back without him. "That bad?" she asked, looking scared.

"He has something in his blood. It's not chemicals that I know of."

Darcy frowned. "Are you saying someone tried to kill Lucky?"

"Perhaps. What does his father do?"

"He's an Avenger." The vet winced. "He's also my neighbor and my buddy. Is it something we can identify?"

"Not that I've ever seen. I've started him on an IV drip. It looks like we can flush his system." Clint walked in. "Yours?"

"Lucky? Yeah. What happened? My ex-wife said Darcy all but snatched him here."

She laid a hand on his arm. "He groaned in pain jumping onto Bobbi's lap to lick her and the cheeto dust."

"That explains the orange in his mouth," the vet said dryly. He looked at him. "Would someone hate you enough to try to poison or drug your dog?"

"Only if they want me to kill them." Darcy pulled out her phone to text someone. "Telling Stark?" he asked.

"Asking Bucky. He's been home for weeks again and half the time the dogs sneak over there to harass him."


"They're let free in the neighborhood?" the vet asked, scowling at them.

"No," Darcy said, shaking her head. "They sneak from Clint's building next door to mine via the fire escapes. Our friend Bucky lives two buildings up and they sneak up to his via the fire escape and the street to go bother him sometimes. Generally when we're not home for a few hours to play with them." She looked at the vet. "Everyone knows the three dogs. Even the bad elements in the neighborhood like the dogs and protect them. If one of them had gotten hurt we would've heard. Or at least I would've heard."

"The younger track suit vampires would've told you," Clint agreed. "The younger ones want to stay on your good side and the cookie habit you've given them." Clint's phone rang so he looked at it. "My brother. That's interesting." He opened the message. "I need to go yell at an agent who thought that you were the reason I hadn't come back to SHIELD." He let her see it.

"If you tell Bobbi she'll probably dent him and leave him staked in the middle of our street."

"Could be. Takes my fun though." He looked up. "What was it?"

"I'm not totally sure. We think we can flush his system."

"Can we do it at home? He's got bad memories of the vet. I know how to change an IV bag."

"You can teach me that," Darcy said. "I wouldn't know how to stick one but I can change a bag. I haven't done it in years, since my father was alive, but I can do it on humans."

The vet nodded. "We can do that. We'd like to do some follow up bloodwork."

"Yeah, Doc, I've got money," Clint said.

"I paid already," Darcy said. "I can pay the rest."

He kissed her on the temple. "My dog." He looked at the vet, getting smiled at. "She's a buddy. Like a sister most of the time." She hit him on the arm. "Can we get the bloodwork results too? I want to make someone eat them."

"I can make copies. We'll need to see him to follow up in two days." Clint nodded at that.

"If he can't, myself or Kate can," Darcy agreed.

"Good. Let me go get him." He went to get the dog, bringing back the x-rays. "We did one on his ribs, just in case. He's got what looks like some air in his stomach."

Darcy looked down, nuzzling him with her nose. "Did you pick up Conor's bad habits and steal from the fridge too? I know you're smart enough to defeat the lock your daddy had to put on my fridge thanks to my doggy."

Clint snorted, shaking his head. "Her dog got into a fridge and ate a full pie."

"And a sock, and a lot of cheese," Darcy said with a small smirk. "He really hated that medicine. I've had a slide lock on the fridge for a while now. They defeated the other kinds, including a twist lock. Cutey taught them that one."

The vet smiled. "What sort of dog do you have?"

"A part herding dog. Partially an Estrella Mountain dog."

"Most of that type are very smart."

"Cutey's part Russian Terrier," Clint said. "And just as stubborn as the Russians we know."

"It's good they have friends." He showed Darcy how to connect the IV bag and got them some spares.

Clint paid for the remaining vet bill and drove them home. He had driven down. Darcy sat in the back with Lucky, letting him cuddle her. "He'll be fine. Tell me how much I owe you."

"Shut up."

"Fine." He grinned back at her. "You're going to have a huge tax bill this year."

"No I won't. I donated most of it." She grinned. "It helps a lot." He parked and she got out first, pulling the dog over. "Let me, Lucky, that way you don't pull out the IV." She turned and ran into Barney Barton. "Hey." He took Lucky from her. She got her bag and purse, locking the car and going up to undo her door. "Kate, set up a comfy spot for Lucky." She hurried to do that with the couch throw. Clint carried in his dog and Barney followed. "Clint, can I help beat the idiot?"

"Nah. I don't need the help, Darcy." He smiled at her. "Buddy, I'll be right back. Let me go get your wet food. Darcy's stuff stinks."

"Darcy bought other stuff," Kate said. "I made her." She got a tin open and brought it over, pushing Cutey away. "His food, Cutey. He's sick. Don't eat his food." She carried her dog to the shared bowl and put some in for her and Conor, who was staring at Lucky and whining. Darcy hugged her dog and he came over to curl around his buddy. Lucky relaxed and let Conor cuddle. Cutey ran over to help cuddle. Darcy put down a bowl of water too, plus moved the food some closer to Lucky's head than Cutey's. That helped. Clint was settled in to pet his dog. Kate looked at the newcomer. "Hey. Nice to see you again, Barney."

He stared at her then at Clint. "Your protege is mouthy."

"She can throw you out the window too," Darcy quipped. "Let me go tell Bucky we're back and then I'll start dinner."

"I've got some chicken pieces defrosting," Kate offered. "I was going to snatch them for my own nefarious dinner."

"Sure. I can handle that." She looked outside then jogged down the stairs and over to Bucky's apartment, finding he had a visitor. "Hey, Steve. Bucky, that agent poisoned Lucky. We're home with him but he's on an IV bag so we're having dinner. If you see the asshole, let us know?"

"Gladly. Lucky gonna be okay?"

"Yeah, the vet thinks so."

"Good. Means I can watch Clint beat him to death," Bucky decided. "Who's the other one?"

"Clint's brother."

"Huh. Okay. Yell if you need help."

"Kate's over." She smiled.

"Good. Go home. Fuss over the furry things. I'll come watch them in the morning." She nodded and left them to talk. "Clint's going to destroy someone."

"Yeah but we'll clap and make sure the guy can't run." Steve looked at him. "Why would an agent poison his dog?"

"Don't know," he admitted. "We can ask later." He got back to work on dinner for them. He head learned a few things watching Darcy cook for them.


Darcy came back, going to wash her hands and start on the chicken. "Let's pound these and make chicken cutlets or maybe chicken parm." Kate nodded, moving over to help her so she learned how to do it. "Steve was over so Bucky said he'll come watch over him in the morning."

"Thanks, Darce."

"Welcome. Need water or anything?"

"My temper to not grow," he admitted. She smiled. "I know, you guys will help if I need it. I shouldn't need much help."

Kate walked over to hug him around the head. "Lucky's my step-mutt too. Therefore I get to hit him at least once." She went back to the kitchen.

Barney watched them work then looked at Clint. "They're real protective."

"Yup." He grinned. "They're like sisters."

"I've heard." He stared at him. "This agent?"

"Dead when I find 'em." He took a picture of the bloodwork and sent it to Bobbi. A few minutes later he got an email from Simmons telling him how it worked in humans. He called the vet's number to make sure what they were doing was right. He added a med they could pick up at a local pharmacy in a few hours. Simmons also found where that agent was. He was in Philadelphia tonight. Clint could get him the next night and they'd all cheer him on.


Stark looked up as Darcy came into the lab the next morning, handing him a muffin. "What's this for?"

"For you to eat. I made too many while I was worrying about Lucky."

"What happened to his dog?" he demanded, turning to look at her.

"An agent who decided Lucky was why he didn't go back to SHIELD." She gave him a look and waved the muffin. "I can give it to Pepper instead."

"No, I like muffins." He took it to sniff. "Banana nut?"

"It took extra energy to grind the nuts and bananas." She walked off. "Happy nibbling."

"Thanks. That agent?"

"He'll be back tonight." She shot a smirk at him. "We're going to cheer Clint on." She went to her office. Bucky and Kate were watching the dogs this morning. Thankfully it hadn't been her dog, she would've shot the agent in the liver and watched him die of it slowly.

Pepper came in smiling at her. "Is Lucky all right?"

"He should be fine. We hope. The vet put him onto an IV last night and we had to give him magnesium today. Kate and Bucky are watching him for today." She looked up. "That agent is going to be limping home."

"Good!" She smiled. "Emma's somewhere hiding. Did you bring Conor?"

"No, they're babying their buddy. FRIDAY can't find her?"


"That means she's probably in a vent or in Bruce's lab. JARVIS could scan everywhere but those."

"I've already asked."

"Did she get out?"

"Not that we can tell."

"Huh." She considered it then called the cookie shop downstairs. "Is baby Thor down there?" she asked. She smiled. "Thanks." She hung up. "She's at the ice cream place downstairs. The cookie shop said she tried to talk them into giving her cookies since some day she'd be the queen of Asgard."

Pepper sighed, calling Thor to tell him that. That was a Thor level problem to solve.

"Emma is a cuddly little version of hell raising," Darcy said, smiling at her. "I'm not ready for that yet, that's why I don't have kids."

"I didn't because I had to pay too much attention to Tony," Pepper said. "Thank you for making him eat."

"I made too many muffins thanks to needing something to do while Lucky napped."

"I'd do the same thing, only I can't really cook," Pepper said. "Let me go back to my office and paperwork."

"You can hide from them in here," Darcy said with a smile. "I'm going over the next three requests for grant money." She handed one over. "That's promising but I know that they're not going to be able to do that. The neighborhood would run them out."

Pepper looked it over, grimacing. "Why would they want to do that?"

"It might help some kids."

"Vo-techs are free."

"Yeah but they have admission standards. If you've been kicked out of a regular high school can you go to one of them?"

"I don't know," she admitted. "I read that recent studies show minority kids get kicked out of school nearly three times as often as white kids."

Darcy nodded. "Yeah, at all levels, starting in preschool unfortunately." She leaned back. "A lot of us hoped that charter schools would help that but a lot of them are proving not to. Did you know one of the online schools doesn't check attendance and kids have missed whole years while being stated to be there so they could get the money?"

"I didn't. That's stupid."

"Yeah but a lot of them are only for money making. One in Florida shut down a month into the school year because they had been evicted from their building and never figured out anything. A few more shut down in the middle of the semester. Of course, the parents didn't get any sort of refund."

"Hell," Pepper said. "Some are good though, right?"

"Yeah, some are really good. Not many in this city but yeah some are good. The prep schools are mostly good but too damn expensive and vouchers to send the kids there suck money out of the public school system, which makes it worse for the remaining students. I'm firmly against home schooling for no reason but in this city it'd have to be prep school or home schooling for my kids."

"I can agree with that. Mine would probably go prep anyway."

"With Tony's attention span?" Darcy asked with a grin.

"Good point. That kid would be hell to handle. We'd have to buy their place in probably." She crossed her legs after handing that back. "The other two?"

She grimaced. "May be promising but he's not very far yet and one that's frankly bullshit." She let her see those.

"This one for breast cancer is good."

"He's not gotten anything practical done. I had another one of those I sent a 'we got your grant application and are looking it over' letter to but haven't finished looking it over for the short list." She found that folder and handed it over. "I included his prior work history because that's ambitious and he's not a PhD."

Pepper looked it over, shaking her head. "That's even more theoretical. I'd want a concrete plan of study and where you were going to start." She looked at the other one. "This one's...still theoretical. An idea I haven't seen before."

"Me either. I tend to make lists of not related to our mission, but maybe promising; promising but looks weird to me; promising for the short list, but not right somehow; and my shortlist." She let her see those. One got handed back. "I wasn't sure since that looks good, and it looks like he's got good ideas, but it wasn't covered in the mission for the foundation."

"It's not, but Tony might like that."

"I figured I'd run those by you about every three weeks. A month turnaround on grant applications is about standard, up to six weeks. Sooner if you can. I've only greenlit one donation automatically because it's one you've granted before and their files say to automatically give."

Pepper nodded. "We have a few of those but I still want to look those over." Darcy pulled it out of her filing cabinet to hand over. "Oh, them. Yeah, we greenlight her automatically. She's got some really promising research going on and she does take in interns." Darcy smiled, showing her the greenlight amount of five thousand, though she had asked for fifteen. "That's not a bad idea. Tony has to sign off on the award letters."

"I've already put those in front of him and the ones for the awards given out at the luncheon. Plus two other science ones that came here instead of to him with a post-it on the top to point that out." She grinned. He glared at me for putting papers on his desk."

"He does to me too. I'll make sure he's looked those over tonight." She handed them back. "No on those." She got into the other files, handing off a few more. "Nos."

Darcy held up one. "She's on the automatic list too."

Pepper took it back to look over. "Why?"

"I don't know. That was done before me." She pulled up their file, letting Pepper see it. She pulled another one too. "That one's further down."

Pepper looked at that first one, comparing it to the new request. "She hasn't shown any results."

"She's on the yearly shortlist too, Pepper."

"Huh. I want to look into that. We might have to visit." She put them aside and went back to it. One more got handed over for the no pile. The other long term file got read through when she came to that one, frowning. "Why did we grant them at all?"

"I don't know," Darcy said with a shrug. "They weren't more than a notation like the rest on the old worker's file." She pulled that out and let Pepper see it.

"No, we'll be visiting them too," she said. She added one more to that file. "I have no idea what they wanted it for. It's not even in geek or scientist, it's in weird language." She looked at the others, handing back a small stack. "Definitely." Darcy smiled, putting them in one pile with a post it. "Maybe. Let me look them over and if we have long term files on them I'd want to see them first." Darcy pulled the ones that had them and let her have those. So a few more yeses, two more to visit. That was a good sorting.

One just got a confused look so Pepper took it to hand to Tony. "I think this is yours, not your mom's foundation. Did you sign those grant award letters?" He pointed and she looked them over, taking one out. "One of our green light ones looks weird so I'm going to visit." She walked over to kiss him on the cheek. "Those are award letters, Tony, and two grant applications that came to the foundation instead of you." He nodded, still tinkering. "Okay, try to get them to me by tomorrow? We'll need them set up before we award them."

"I can do that, Pep. Thanks for nagging."

"Not a problem." She went back up to her office to have her assistant set up visits with those groups. Darcy had already warned them that they were going to visit and took suggestions for when, pending Pepper's schedule. It was on her desk. "That's good. I can handle all but one of those. I'll be in Japan at the expo." She had her assistant call to change the date on that one.


Darcy paid for her cab and got out, wandering over to sit with Kate and Clint. The dogs were all curled up next to them on the front stoop. "The asshole tried to get my accounts locked again," she said in greeting. "I sicced Brian on him and he had fun getting it corrected. So I'm on cash until tomorrow or the next day." They patted her on the knees. "We went to visit one of the groups that wanted grants. They had patients being kept hostage." Clint stared at her. She nodded. "Yeah. Drugged out of their minds, on experimental meds for their cancers, and supposedly in a private clinic that was filthy and horrible. Pepper called adult protective services." Kate hugged her. She hugged her back.

"We stayed long enough for the social worker to get there and nearly get shot for it. She wasn't amused. The NYPD wasn't amused. The hospital we got them transferred to wasn't amused at their treatments. So hopefully they'll still get better." She slumped, looking at Kate then at Clint. "By the way, a SHIELD agent showed up pretending to be an officer. It was that perky brunette that used to follow Jane around after you guys left in Arizona."

"We didn't leave a watcher," he said.

"Yeah you did. We spotted her often."

"Huh. I don't think we left anyone." He sent that message in. "Where was that clinic?" Darcy took his phone to type that into it then handed it back. He read the message back. "Coulson said he did not leave a watching agent there and she was a SHIELD agent so probably dirty. He will figure that out."

"Great. Just a bit weird." She looked at Kate. "Is my apartment a mess or something?"

"No. We just wanted some fresh air." Darcy nodded and they settled in to wait for a bit. That agent was back to sneak around the neighborhood as their watching agent. Bobbi had sent him back. Clint smirked and handed over his phone as he got up to go talk to him.

Kate looked when it rang. "Bobbi said she wasn't sure," she called.

"Yeah, I am." He smirked at the agent. "You poisoned my dog. Even HYDRA hasn't been that low. Even *AIM* wasn't *that* low." The guy flinched and took a swing at him. Clint punched him back. And kept punching.

One of the mafia guys came out of the pizza place and looked at them. "Bro, is he a problem?" he called.

Kate smiled and waved. "He poisoned Lucky because supposedly the dog was why Clint didn't go back to SHIELD."

The mafia guy waved a hand. "You have fun, Bro. We know you're like Cookie Lady and nearly psychotic over your dog. Just don't make a mess we'll have to clean up." He went back inside. A few more were watching the fight but it was just entertainment.

"Clinton Barton!" Miss Elizabeth called as she walked out. "Why are you beating that stupid young thing?"

"Miss Elizabeth, he poisoned Lucky," Darcy called.

"Well, fuck him then. Don't get no press and no cops here. We don't need that tonight. It should be quiet tonight." She went back inside to tell the neighbors. More people came out to watch the fight.

Clint smirked at him. "I'd never kill you. Over too soon. You've got *years* of paying back for hurting my dog." The guy tried to crawl away but he wasn't going anywhere. Clint stomped on an unbroken leg, breaking it in two places. "Seriously, you thought I was as shittily trained as you are?" The agent was pushing his emergency button. "If you think your buddies will come help you, I'd be shocked if they were allowed to. Bobbi knows you did it." The guy was sobbing like he was being tortured. Clint smirked. "Now, let's talk like men. So far you haven't been able to yet. Maybe I should break a few more bones?" he asked when all he got was sobbing. An officer pulled up the street and stopped, standing up in his car's doorway. "Don't worry, Officer. This agent tried to poison my dog." He grinned. "We're having a talk."

"Take it out of the street, Hawkeye."

"I don't want him to bleed in my apartment. I'd have to clean it up." He looked down at him. A single agent walked up the street. He stared at him. "Coulson," he said with a nod.

He nodded back, looking at the agent. "Explain yourself," he said quietly and calmly. The guy sobbed while telling him what he had done. "Nice confession. Officer." He pointed. "The FBI will be coming for him soon as we use their Internal Affairs people." He looked at Clint. "Is Lucky going to be all right?"

"We think so."

"Good. Go pet your dog, Clint." He spotted someone. "I heard he was alive. Let me know if he's a problem as well." He stared at Clint. "Do try to behave," he said quietly. "I'll allow it this time."

"If there's a next time I'll bury 'em."

"Granted. Try to calm down, Clint. Before you catch Darcy's evil mood." He walked him back there. "Darcy, your funds are once again unlocked. Your lawyer is nearly a super villain." She grinned. "I'm impressed with that man. I need to offer him a job." He walked off. "Though questions were raised about why you had off-shore accounts."

"For this very reason," she said dryly. "The same as I keep cash in my personal safe for that reason."

"Excellent." He waved. "He'll be paying you both back for the vet bills, Clint." He went back to his car and drove off. The agent was crying on the officer, who was getting him removed to an ER first. The officer filed a report and the higher ups just said 'you don't mess with someone's pet'. So it was good.

Clint petted his dog, smiling at him. "You'll be just fine, Lucky." Lucky lapped him and put his head back down. "Please don't need the vet's again, okay?" Lucky whoofed and went back to sleep.

Darcy rubbed his arm. "If so, we'll make sure he's honored," she said quietly. He nodded, sitting down again. "Though if we have to, we'll ask Thor if he knows how to heal dogs." He grinned and relaxed. Conor got up with a stretch and got petted by all them on his way to pee in the alley then he came back to lay with Lucky again. It was making their buddy feel better. Cutey was letting Lucky lay his head on her side so they were going to take care of their friend. Darcy looked back then at him. "Are you taking him tomorrow?"

"I brought him in today because Cutey pulled his IV line. The vet was pleased that the other two weren't ignoring him, felt it'd help him more. He said he's getting better but it'll be at least a week before he's stronger again." She rubbed his arm again. "I have no idea what I'm doing otherwise."

"Ask Thor, maybe he knows something about animals?"

"Yeah, maybe." He petted the dogs, paying special attention to his. Lucky didn't wake up and he nearly panicked but Lucky glared at him after a few more pets. "Just checking."

"He can come back to my place, Clint. It's bigger."

"I can host the dogs, Darcy. They can sleep with me."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm good. Thanks though." She grinned. Lucky shifted and Clint got him up, taking him to the alley to pee. Lucky couldn't stand up on his own and Clint was mentally wincing but they'd handle it. Darcy got up and went up to get them some food, bringing it back. She had picked up some on the way home from a pet store. "For sick dogs?"

"Yeah. I went to one of those hipster pet stores. It's grain free and has good, light proteins for easy digestion. They usually suggest it for older dogs. He also suggested we give him filtered water in case."

"I've bee using bottled stuff so it's already filtered. Did you tell them everything?"

"Just that a jealous asshole had poisoned your dog." She put down a bowl for the other two. They let Lucky eat first then ate their own. Conor nudged Lucky's neck a few times, earning a tired sounding bark but they ate. Lucky slurped some water, then climbed into Clint's lap to cuddle. Clint hugged him, petting him while the other two got their own humans for now.

Bucky walked over and looked. "Is he getting better?"

"The vet said so."

"That's good. They'd miss their helper." He petted Lucky, getting a gentle lap. "You're a good boy, Lucky."

"He's a very good and smart boy," Kate agreed.

"He is," Darcy agreed. "A very good boy." Lucky wagged his tail but kept himself on Clint's lap. "Is he chilly?"

"No, not that I can tell." Clint looked at his dog. "You'll get better. Kate would miss you pouncing her." Lucky lapped him and he petted him again. "Good boy." Lucky settled in to suck up attention. Darcy got up to get the next IV bag and change it out for Clint since he was so comfortable. "Thanks."

"Not a problem." She sat down beside her dog, getting puppy cuddles too. "It'll be okay, Conor."

Bucky looked at her then at Clint. "Let me know if you need me to watch over him again."

"I'm home tomorrow so it should be okay unless we get an attack. If so, we'll figure it out."

"Good with me." He sat on a lower step, getting his hair lapped by Cutey. "Hi to you too, dog." He petted her, which meant she jumped down to sit on him instead. He shook his head but petted her. Kate was smiling but she was young.

Clint looked at Lucky, who lapped him again. "Yeah, she's in love with his arm." Lucky barked and cuddled in, sticking his muzzle into Clint's shirt. "Sure, you do that. The alley smells today."


Darcy came in late the next morning, with Lucky. "Sorry, Pepper," she called into her office as she carried Lucky past it. She put him into her chair then set out the stuff in her bag, giving him a nice resting spot beside her. "There you go, Lucky, and your daddy will be back in a few hours." She petted over his head, making him pant and wag in happiness. "Good boy." She got some of her bottled water into a bowl she brought and set out a bowl of food too. "There. You nap there and I'll fuss over you while I read stuff. Okay?" He barked. She settled on the floor near him to read him the files. He liked that.

Pepper came to the door, staring at them. "Why are you on the floor?" She pointed at the blond dog. "Aww. Is he still sick?"

"Yeah. It's probably going to be a few more days before he's back to perky." She looked up. "Everyone else is fighting. Conor and Cutey ran off as soon as they came in and one of the guards said they'd bring them back. They went for Emma."

"That's fine." She leaned on the door frame. "Did he find out who did it?"

"And beat the living fuck out of him." She smiled.

"Good." She came in to pet Lucky, getting a gentle lap back. "You're a good boy." He barked and laid back down, letting Darcy pet him while she read. "Will you be able to handle it?"

"Yeah, I can change IV bags." She pointed at it. "We're good at it now. If not, his vet is about sixteen blocks away."

"That's fine. He's never been any problem, or the other dogs." She looked. "Doggy diaper?"

"He's not really able to walk right to go pee outside." She grimaced. "I've had to clean up some nasty messes thanks to Conor getting into the fridge. His won't be a problem."

"Okay. Let me know if you need a break. We have some dog loving people who'd probably be willing to pet him."

"Thanks, Pepper." She smiled, looking at Lucky. "See, everyone loves you." She heard a bark. "Cutey, in here." She trotted in with a piece of torn clothes, presenting it to Pepper, before wiggling her way under Lucky's head. He lapped her but used her as a pillow.

Pepper smiled. "That's so adorable." Conor came jogging in and flopped down behind Lucky to rest his head on Lucky's shoulder and nap there. "Very nice, Conor." She looked at the fabric. "I wonder who that belongs to. FRIDAY?"

"The smaller dog bit someone trying to get near Emma," the AI said.

"Her name's Cutey," Darcy said, looking up. "The bigger one is mine and named Conor, after the myth, FRIDAY."

"That's charming. Cutey bit someone who was staring down at Emma and sneering. Emma was sniffling so Cutey launched herself at them and bit their arm. He ran off screaming. Cutey just huffed and sniffed the girl before coming down to present her trophy. Conor guarded her from the human coming closer."

"She's a good dog." She petted all three of them. "Very nice to protect Emma, guys."

Pepper smiled. "That's a very good job." She got up. "I'll be back in a while." She went to find Jane, who was talking to her daughter. "Who was it that the dog bit?"

Jane stared at her. "An agent who was glaring at her for wandering."

Pepper smiled. "The dogs are highly protective."

"He's vowing to get that dog."

"I'm pretty sure Bishop can protect her own dog. If not, Darcy can." She hugged Emma. "You can visit with the two dogs later. Lucky's sick so he has to nap."

Emma nodded, looking serious. "I'll be really careful around them."

"Good girl. Let me find that agent and yell at them." She went to find Hill to talk to her about it. She held up the piece of fabric. "Sneering agent?"

"Kicked out of the tower," she said, taking the fabric. "Cutey's very protective of her."

"We taught all three dogs to protect Emma. They're all in Darcy's office."

"Of course they are. She's two of them's stepparent."

"Lucky's really sick."

"Ooh. That's bad."

"An agent poisoned him."

"So that's why that one got beaten." She smiled. "He did a good job getting that idiot for it." She held her earpiece. "We have two agents downstairs to threaten Darcy for some reason." She got up to go talk to them. "Yes, gentlemen?" she demanded.

"Are you Darcy Lewis?"

"No, I'm Maria Hill, head of Stark security." She smiled. "Why did you want to talk to Miss Lewis? The tower is presently in a locked down state due to the Avengers level battle going on by Holyoke."

"We really must demand...."

"Unless you have a warrant, you have no right to demand anything," she said bluntly. One held up a paper with a smirk. She took it to look over. "This isn't legal, gentlemen."

"We say it is," he sneered.

"Six months ago I was the senior agent and second-in-command of an agency. It's not legal. It's not signed by a judge. Therefore it's not legal." She handed it to the guard behind her. "I'll be calling your supervisor later, gentlemen. For now, you have no right to access the tower."

Darcy came down, stepping off the elevator and over to Maria. "Let's just settle this now, Hill. If they want me that much, they can tell me why." She looked at them. "Then I'd expect it to be a closed issue. I have shit I gotta do today."

"You're wanted to answer questions about your buying spree," one sneered.

"Not like I can't buy anything I want, gentlemen. I do have money."

"You're an intern, Miss Lewis."

"My proper title is actually Lady d'Avelon," she said dryly. "They decided to give it to me instead of my cousin due to his stepmother's problem causing." She smiled. "Also, Lewis is a use name, gentlemen. My actual name is DeCriths." One stepped back, looking horrified. She smiled at him. "Now, what did you want to know about my generous gift to Culver University?"

"What?" the other one demanded.

"Most of the properties I bought from the auction of Hammer Industries went to my alma mater, Culver. For their new engineering program." She smiled. "That way they can do better in that field. Why are you questioning it?"

"You have no idea what you're messing with, little girl."

She hit him. "I'm not a little anything, pissant. I don't play these games. I'm sure as fuck not scared of you non-agent people. If HYDRA doesn't scare me, why do you think you would? Hell, I've seen tougher gang kids and tutored them. Now, anything else?" She smiled slightly. "Otherwise I have to take my dogs for a walk." That one got up and took a swing at her. Darcy pulled her tazer and zapped him, making him scream as he fell down. "Didn't do any research on me, did you? I'm well know to use my tazer. So who sent you?"

Hill took their pictures and sent it to someone. "They're privately paid and are working for a group that wants Hammer's things for themselves. I don't know why since he had nothing."

"He was all show and nothing sturdy to hold it up," Darcy agreed. "Hell, half those houses he only put furniture where he went. The rest of the house was bare." She looked at the other agent as she discharged the cartridge on her tazer and put it back with a new cartridge. "So?"

"I... You can't prove that."

"I'm pretty sure if Maria Hill says it's so, she'd know." Someone strolled over. "Hey, Clay." She smiled at him.

"Darcy. Are these former Rangers annoying you?" He smirked at them.

"Slightly but I got to zap one." She looked him over, adjusting his collar. "I've got to go get the dogs to walk them if you wanted to talk to me."

"I can do that. Jensen found a new price on your head from Hammer."

"I doubt he'd be able to pay for it considering he had to sell off everything but one car and one house to pay his legal fines." She walked off. "Let me get them." Clay followed her, making her smile. "Lucky's really sick so I've got to carry him but Cutey and Conor have leashes."

"That's fine." She got them from her office and took them down to pee in the parking lot. He looked at Lucky. "He's really weak."

"He got poisoned by an agent."

"That sucks." He petted the dog. "You'll be fine because otherwise she'll cry. That'd be a wreck." The dog barked and sat down, staring at his human stepparent. She smiled and petted him. Clay stuck her with something. He let the illusion fall as he smirked. "Let's see what happens now." A gun bumped his skull. "I doubt you want to do that."

"I don't," Maria Hill said. "Nor do I think I'd care about it afterward even if you were Colonel Clay." She called in and her guard team came out. "You'll have to carry Lucky, he's sick." They got the dogs and Darcy upstairs. They fought to get near the human until they let them surround the human in the elevator. "On your knees." He went down, hands going behind his head. "Jensen, thank you for that head's up." He strolled over with Cougar, looking smug. "Where is the real one?"

"Evacuating a debutante who goes to school by the battle." He hauled the guy up and walked off with him and Cougar. "We'll handle it, Hill. You won't have to get messy." He shot her a grin. "Darcy's special and we like to protect special ones." The guy was groaning but oh well.

Hill went inside to check. Darcy was on her floor near the dogs. Lucky was back on his blanket nest and Cutey was with him while Conor was on his human's chest staring at her head. "Has a medic been in yet?" she asked the guard.

"Not yet. On their way, Hill. Who was that?"

"Minor level assassin pretending to be Colonel Clay. He's probably livid that the guy pretended to be him but two of his team got the guy to talk to." She got out of the way of the paramedic. "They gave her some sort of shot."

"I heard, Hill." She looked at the dog. "I need to check her over." The dog was growling.

"Conor, down," Hill ordered. "Pepper, come get Conor please." Pepper came up the hall. Conor was still growling at the nurse. "Conor," Hill said. "Let us help your human."

Pepper leaned down to get nearer to the dog, who licked her. "Can we check Darcy? Make her feel better?" The guard came closer and Conor let him but not the nurse. "Interesting. Do you have dogs?" she asked. "He doesn't usually react to their scent, or to cats or turtles he's met in the building."

"I have no idea." Lucky got up and limped over to growl at her too. She backed up. "Sure, I'll send someone else." Cutey was now growling. She walked backwards into the hallway. "I'll send a nurse they might like more." She rushed off calling that in.

Pepper looked then at the guard, who shrugged. "That's not normal. Hill?"

"That wasn't," she agreed, getting more guards on their way. Unfortunately their guard set off something to knock them out. She hit her emergency button on the way down.

The guard shook his head. "That won't be good." He looked at the dogs. "You give me shit and I'm killing you all." Cutey lunged at him and he smacked her into a wall but she came back. Then there was a problem behind him. There was Thor. Who was mad. Very, very mad. He hit the same wall.

Thor sneered. "You will not harm those animals or Lady Darcy." He looked down. "I will guard her, dogs. You rest. Lucky, lay down. It was very noble but your human comes soon." Lucky barked and laid down again, groaning some. Thor came over. "Tell me where it hurts and I'll have it checked over." Lucky barked at him. "Ah. That's normal. I can get a warming blanket to help with that stiffness." He looked at the guards showing up. "Lucky requires a heating pad for his hips. They ache. Cutey got hit into a wall but is feisty like her human. Darcy was apparently knocked out and that guard did the others as I appeared."

"We can handle that, Lord Thor," they agreed, calling for help.

"Does anyone know what vet Darcy uses? Or Barton?"

"There's one a few blocks up," a guard said. "I think he goes closer to home though."

Thor looked at the IV, pointing at a tag. "Would that tell you?"

"No but that medicine bottle would," one said, taking it to look at. "Peres. Sixteen blocks up. Take all three." They all wanted Darcy so he looked at Conor. "I'm going to take care of her. You're going to be safe. She'll kill me if you get hurt. So go with the guard." He whined, pawing at her. "I know. It'll be okay." He got their leashes on and let the guard take them all. Another one carried Lucky since he wasn't walking very well and the IV plus medicine bottle. "Okay, let's get Lewis, Potts, and Hill up. Then we'll clean up that idiot." They got them taken to the tower's infirmary and then the not-a-guard got taken in to be talked to.

Darcy gasped awake. "Conor! Lucky! Oh, shit Cutey, where are you!" she yelled.

"Calm down," a nurse yelled as she walked toward her. "They're with their vet. Cutey's a bit banged up for trying to protect you. Lucky's good, the guard said that the vet took them in immediately and will call you later. Calm down."

Darcy panted, holding her chest. "I thought I'd wake up and have someone shooting the dog in front of me."

"No, we'd never do that. It's stupid and that's HYDRA, not us here in Stark." Darcy looked at her. "It's not."

Darcy looked at her. "Good to know." She blinked. "The others?"

"Next door." She pointed. "With Mr. Stark. Are you awake and aware to answer questions?"

"I think so." She pushed her hair back. "I need my phone to call the vet."

"It's probably still in your office. It wasn't on you when you were brought in." She walked off. "Mr. Stark, she's awake."

A guy walked in and stared at her. "What happened this time?"

She stared at him, licking her lips. "I've known Tony Stark since I was a little kid," she said bluntly. "Your mask came from an earlier picture last year." The man sneered at her. "I don't care what you want. You can torture my ass."

"We can shoot your dogs."

"I doubt that." Someone outside shot something that yelped. "That wasn't a dog. Or a child." She stared at him. "So what do you think you'll get from me?"

"We have what we want, Miss Lewis."

"Uh-huh. I doubt that."

"We can do what we want with you."

"I doubt that as well. I have a daily check in with a few people and if I don't, they'll release information. A lot of information. Including on my tracking device."

"We removed that."

"Um, no you didn't. You didn't do major surgery to do that." She smiled slightly. "Sorry. I got hit with a chemical tracker."

"We can still weed that out and block anyone from finding it." He walked off. "You'll do what we want."

"I doubt that. I haven't any other time someone like you tried stupid shit."

"It's not that hard to kill you, which is what we want." He smirked. "That way no one can enact that plan of HYDRA's."

"Well, gee, I'm not the only one it'd work with and I wasn't going to go along with that anyway. I'm not into that. So let me go. Now."

"No. You're where we want you." He laughed as he walked off.

"Stereotypical jackass," she muttered, checking herself. Her bra was missing. That sucked but she could handle it. She still had her underwear on but they were backwards. She switched them around and put them back on. She also checked herself. No one had touched her internally. So that was good. She listened. No Pepper or Hill that she could hear. Someone female screamed but she couldn't help them so she had to push it out of her mind for right now. She calmed herself, concentrating on the area.

It was a hallway with cells. There was a forcefield around the entryway. The curtains hid the walls between cells. She shifted to stretch her neck and arms because they were sore but she could handle this. That chemical tracker should work. If the team was already done it'd be a miracle. So she had to be a self rescuing princess again. That same woman screamed again, closer this time. They were dragging her or something. She looked out the doorway, seeing it was Hill and they were dragging her while something was eating at her back. "You sick fucks," she said. "Wow, I thought HYDRA was bad."

"She is HYDRA."

"She was not HYDRA. You're just sick fucks who like to torture."

"Shut up unless you want to be next."

Darcy smirked at him. "Try it, asshole." He moved toward her and when he deactivated the forcefield she kicked him and moved to free Hill from the other guy. They had missed a very tiny knife in her hemline. It went into the guy's eye and the other one grabbed it from her but Hill was aware enough to grab it and stab that guy for her. "Pepper?" she asked, looking at the device.

"Haven't seen her." She looked around then at Darcy. "Go. You can escape."

Darcy nodded. "We can escape."

"No! I'm not that good right now."

"Okay." Darcy picked up something off a nearby desk and threw it at her then headed off with the small knife. Hill smiled at the letter opener. It was a bigger knife. That would work. Darcy made it into another hallway and looked then up. She took the cover off the vent and climbed up before anyone could grab her. She crawled off.

"We can gas that," someone yelled. Then they screamed. Darcy found a lit spot and looked then frowned. Pepper. On a table. Awake and fighting. Two guys, a girl, and a machine. Darcy kicked the vent and hopped down, taking out the lady and kicking the guy. She sliced one of the wrist restraints, cutting Pepper a bit but it released her. She got the other one that was calling for help. She and Pepper escaped together and headed for fresh air. And found water.

Someone clapped. "Very good. You realize now you can't get free."

Darcy looked at Pepper then at the window. She knocked. Pepper winced but lit up her hand and broke the window. They were flooded back but they could both swim out. They made it to the air before they passed out from lack of oxygen but that was fine. Darcy panted, looking at her. "Hill had some sort of machine on her back that was eating into the muscles. They tried to tell me Hill was HYDRA. They told me they were going to kill me so HYDRA's plan wouldn't happen." She sucked in another deep breath. "This totally sucks and I need to go kill someone."

"Calm down. We'll get rescued," Pepper ordered. The water wasn't ice cold but it was slightly chilly. Ocean temperature. It was salt water so a good indication of where they were. She held up her wrist and pushed on her bracelet, letting whatever was in it go off. "That'll summon Tony." She nodded. "We'll be okay." A boat came near them. "I have no idea who that is." She turned to look. "Might be Coast Guard."

"Not if we're in international waters," Darcy reminded her. "They only do the US waters." She glared at the guy in the boat who was smirking at them. "Really, HYDRA? Right the fuck now?"

"It's a good thing we were wondering and watching this area to see what they were doing. I can save you both," he said smoothly. "For a fee."

"Sure, get me up there," Darcy said dryly, earning a dirty look from Pepper. "What? I can take him out."

"No!" She glared. "I doubt you're needed."

"They're coming, ladies."

"Yeah and they hate you guys," Darcy quipped. A bubble popped up near them and opened to show an inflatable boat. "Charming day today," she told Pepper, who nodded. When the inflatable one came near she poked it with the knife. It punctured and the guy screamed and ranted as it went down.

"They really should know how to swim if they work underwater," Pepper quipped. She looked at the guy on the boat. "Go away."

"Fine, I'll leave you to them. Not like it'll hurt anything in our plans." He strolled off. Pepper grabbed on and climbed up, shocking everyone on the boat and throwing them overboard. She hauled Darcy up, getting a hug. The guy moaned in the water. "How dare you! How did you do that!"

Pepper looked at him. "Sorry, that's need to know." She walked off. "I have no idea how to drive a boat."

"I know a tiny bit but not much," Darcy said. She went up to the wheelhouse, stripping off the wet skirt and shoes. "That's nicer." She set the auto pilot and pointed it at the nearest landmass on the map. "That should let us run into something within a few hours, Pepper."

"That's fine, Darcy. Maybe by then someone nice will rescue us."

Darcy came out with the bat that was in the wheelhouse area, hitting the guy menacing Pepper in the head with it. Then she heaved him overboard. "Fuck 'em. They need to be eaten by sharks. All good villains have sharks," she called, waving at the guy. "That proves you're worthless." The boat moved as soon as she hit the engine button and they didn't exactly speed off but close enough. They sat on the deck and dried off for now while their clothes dried next to them.

Pepper kept looking around. "There's another boat."

Darcy hopped up, waving at them. "Hey! Help! SOS!" The boat changed to come near them. She put back on her damp shirt and Pepper was getting redressed too. "We had to rescue ourselves and we don't know how to drive a boat," she called over, smiling at the Coast Guard guys. "I set the auto pilot to hit the nearest land mass. It was a labeled button."

"All right," the officer said. "We're coming aboard."

"Thank you, God," Pepper agreed, doing up her shirt. They moved out of the way and the guy headed for the wheelhouse, stopping the boat. Pepper sighed, leaning on Darcy's arm. "Oh, good, we're saved."

The captain of the other boat came over. "Ladies, what happened?"

"The only thing we know is we woke up in an underwater lab and had to break out. This boat belonged to a guy who came to taunt us so we took it from him after throwing him overboard, and one of our friends was in the lab still because we couldn't get her free," Darcy told him. "I have no clue who they were or why they were, but damn I still want to go back to kill them and rescue Maria."

"An underwater lab?" the captain demanded. "How did you get free? And why were you naked?"

"We broke a window," Pepper said. "We swam up." The captain sighed. "We can prove it. If you can find out where we were, we might be able to go save Maria Hill."

The captain stared at her. "The lady from SHIELD?"

"Yeah, she's the head of Stark Security now," Darcy said. "And this is Pepper Potts."

"Oh, crap. There's been a call to find you." He went back to his boat to make that call.

His officer came over. "Sir, their system does map. It's set up for noobs to use it."

"Thankfully," Darcy agreed. "Because we don't know how to drive a boat. Or fly."

The officer looked at them then at his captain. "There's been a distress call from an underwater research laboratory down there that's supposedly studying sea life." The captain huffed. "They reported they rescued six people and one body that got thrown overboard by some boat thieves."

"Hey, arrest us for it," Darcy quipped. "We can argue about self defense if we have to."

"Right now, just calm down," the captain ordered. "We have to go check on that one."

"Maria Hill has some sort of machine stuck to her back that was slowly burning her muscles," Darcy told him. "She sent me off to escape since she couldn't."

"Fine. We can check on her." He called that in and got another ship to help. This one was bigger and had medics. And a flying guy in a robotic suit. "That's not Iron Man," the captain muttered.

"No, that's Rhodey," Pepper said calmly. She waved and he landed on their boat. "Rhodey." She hugged him.

He put up his face shield, hugging her. "You're good. That's all that matters. Lewis," he said with a nod.

"Rhodes. Thanks. They still have Hill."

"My suit can go partially underwater but not too deep," he noted, looking at the captain.

"We have suits that can onboard, sir. Who're you?"

"Colonel Rhodes, AKA War Machine."

"Fine. Stay with them and keep them calm."

"I can do that. We'll stay right here while you go check." The captain nodded, calling that in. He looked at Pepper. "You're shaky."

"I blew the window," she said, looking up at him. "It came back."

"Oooh. Okay. We can handle that." He looked up. "Yes, Tony, that's what she said. She's fine. Just damp and shaky. Lewis too. No, they said Hill had some sort of machine attached to her and told them to go." He pointed. "Sit, Lewis." She sat down, curling up around her knees. He huffed. "Stark said to tell you all three dogs are all right. The vet's highly overprotective until Kate stomped in wearing her uniform and bow, and they're all good. Cutey's just bruised, Conor's worrying over them, and Lucky's getting extra meds to help him heal faster." She nodded, then went to throw up over the side of the boat. "Sure, you do that. That's a great thing after an emergency," Rhodey agreed. He put Pepper down, making her sit. "You rest, let me look at the boat." He stomped off to check the boat over. He came out with a pitcher of water, letting Pepper have it first. Darcy took it after her. "Lewis, any injuries?"

"Not that I'm aware of. Thanks." She settled in to rest.

Rhodes answered the radio. "This is Colonel Rhodes." He listened. "Agreed. She's to be taken to Stark tower as soon as you can arrange it please. I've got these two. No, I can only fly one at a time. Yup, sure." He winced as Stark said something. "Stark said he's sending a helicopter for the spare one. That's fine. She's here. Rhodes out." He walked out there. "Pepper, we need to evacuate you now. Just in case." Darcy looked at him. "Stark's sending a helicopter."

She nodded. "That's reasonable. Pepper's more important and she's got to handle the stuff that broke the window. Leave me the water?" Pepper handed it back. "Have a good fly, Pepper."

"You rest, Darcy. Don't get hurt. I'll see you in an hour or so." She let Rhodey pick her up and fly her off.

Darcy sipped some of the water and calmed herself down. She was in the shade so she didn't get more sunburned. She could handle this for an hour or so. As long as there weren't any sea monsters, she'd be fine until someone rescued her. The Coast Guard got there before the helicopter, making her get up to wave at them. "Did you find her?" she called.

"She's been airlifted from the bigger ship, ma'am," the officer that had stopped the boat said. "Come over." Darcy nodded, climbing up on the railing to jump over. He caught her and pulled her onto the boat. "Are you all right?" He rested his wrist against her forehead. "Have you had any water?"

"Some. A few good gulps but I was going slowly so it'd last. I stayed in the shade. Am I burned?"

"Not a lot. Let's get you to the head so you can clean up." He walked her down there. He guarded the door until she came out looking a bit more put together. Still dehydrated but better. "Did they redress you?"

"Yeah, they did. They put my underwear on backwards and took my bra." She followed him to where she could sit and sip some more water, resting in there. They got back to the port and she hugged each of them and thanked them then she got escorted over to get a statement taken. They let her go to an ER, which got her treated for the burn and the dehydration, then released after a few hours to go home. She stepped out of the ER, looking around.

"This is going to suck," she decided. "My wallet's probably back at work." She walked off, patting herself down. She bummed a dollar from the security guard and headed to the bus. It'd get her closer at least. The right borough. Her shoes were still damp and ruined and hurt but she'd deal with it. She had dealt with worse in the past while she and Jane were in the desert. She could handle hiking home in bad shoes.

She got near her neighborhood and found one of the mob guys giving her an odd look. "I don't care," she said, holding up a hand. "I had a shit day. I nearly drowned. All I want is my dog and some valium, and a nap." She was not going to cry. She wasn't that sort of woman.

"Let us get you home, Cookie Lady. Your dog's with Arrow Man's dog again. " She nodded, letting him walk her off. He looked at her feet then at her. "What happened?"

"Someone took me out of the tower with Potts and Hill. I woke up underwater and had to swim up and steal a boat. Which neither of us knew how to drive." She looked up at him. "I..." He nodded, waving one of their guys over. He took his keys and got her home, walking her upstairs and letting her get into her apartment. "Thank you," she said quietly.

"You rest or throw stuff, whatever you do when you gotta do it. It's gonna be real quiet today." She nodded, going inside to shower. She could break down in there. It'd help her feel better too. He walked over, going to Arrow Guy's place. He knocked and stared at Kate. "Cookie Lady could really use her dog tonight."

"Darcy sent you to get the dog? She could call."

"She's not in any shape to call, little one." Kate stiffened. "Plus probably doesn't have her phone since she was nearly drowned. She could really use her mutt though." He walked off. Let them straighten things out.

Kate slammed the door. "Darcy nearly got drowned?" Clint looked confused. She looked over there. "Her lights are on but I don't see her. Her bathroom light's on too." She tried to call and got the voicemail. Kate grimaced, going over there. Darcy had the full security system on so no one could use the code on the door. She climbed around to get to the window that the dogs used to sneak over, getting inside and walking into the bathroom. "Hey, Darcy?" Darcy shrieked and backed away from her. "Oh, hey, no, it's okay. It's just me. It's just Kate." She moved closer slowly, hands up. "It's just me." Darcy panted, nodding at her. "Hey, you okay? You're wearing a hospital bracelet. What happened?" Darcy fell apart, hugging her. "Okay, we can do this." She turned off the water, letting them sit down. "It's all right. We'll figure it out and handle it." She got her calmed down. "C'mon, let's get you into bed."

"I need to dry off. I hate being wet."

"Okay. We can do that." She grabbed a towel, helping Darcy up and dry off. She was clearly sunburned greatly. "Did the hospital see the burns?" Darcy nodded, drying herself off. "Good. Did they send you with meds?" She shook her head. Kate looked her over, noticing the needle mark. "I see the IV mark. Okay, let's get you into bed. Want to go over to Clint's?"

"Not tonight. I...."

"Nope, you don't get to be alone. I can be as cuddly as a puppy is. You know that." She got Darcy into bed and curled up next to her, texting Clint. He sent back an agreement and said he'd figure out what happened and tell her. It took over an hour but he finally texted her what happened in a short report. She grimaced. "That sucks. We'll fix it," she said quietly, petting down Darcy's hair. Clint came over with the dogs and they all cuddled around Darcy. Conor laid on top of his human to sniff her for now. Lucky was right behind her head so that was close enough for the dogs to take care of him. "Seriously?" Kate hissed. Clint nodded, laying behind the dogs and Darcy. "Anything we can do?"

"No. Not yet. Stark's hovering over Pepper."

"He should. She's his and had to use stuff she usually can't." She looked up. "Is Hill all right?"

"She's fine, Darcy. They've already fixed her back up and she's on a rip with the security team." He stroked over her hair too. "I'm told that it'll all be covered up soon."

"No!" She shook her head, sitting up some. "No, it's not going to be covered up."

"It's to protect Pepper," Clint said quietly. "So no one knows that she could do that."

"So we're just going to let them get away with it?"

"They got arrested quietly. Everyone's fine so far." Darcy got up and headed back to the bathroom. "Shit."

Kate looked at him. "I'd be on the news in the morning." Clint winced, nodding and going to talk to her. She petted the dogs. "It's all right. It's just a stress point. We'll handle it." Lucky barked and tried to get up. "Hey, you, lay down for a bit. You know that. The animal doctor said to stay laying down for another few days." She petted him until he flopped onto her chest. "Sure, you snuggle the boobs." He groaned at her petting but he fell asleep pretty quickly. Clint led Darcy back out and she was still unhappy, she was scowling, but she climbed in to pet the dogs and spoil the with some kisses.

Clint laid behind her, cuddling her since she had the dogs. "I agree, it sucks ass. I wouldn't hide it either if it didn't mean Pepper could be attacked for it. They're all arrested or dead. Everyone will be fine. Darcy's staying home tomorrow because she's in no shape to go back to work." Darcy nodded, yawning some. "We'll handle it for now and then deal with shit. Okay?" Kate grimaced but nodded. "Good." He petted his own dog. "You're very spoiled but you deserve it." Darcy smiled and nodded, petting him. "Rest, Darcy. You need to rest." She yawned again and fell asleep petting Lucky and Conor. Cutey was laying above her human's head snoring into her human's hair. So that was a good night.


Clint got up in the morning to knocking, going to open the door. He stared at Stark then punched him as hard as he could. Then he slammed the door and went to make coffee.

Stark was working his jaw when he let himself inside. "Is Darcy all right? I sent someone to rescue her."

"You might want to thank the Coast Guard then," Clint said, staring at him. "By the way she's off work for a few days to combat the extreme sunburn and dehydration she's got." He sipped his first cup of coffee. "Her phone's still there and her wallet so can you send them over?"

Stark stared at him. "It wasn't intentional, Barton. You would've cared more about your wife too."

Clint stared at him. "You could've rescued them both." He took another sip, staring at him. "I have never seen that woman cry," he hissed, moving closer to him. "I did and Kate said she did earlier last night. You'd better be damn glad that the Coast Guard came back to check on her and that boat. Now, it's not the time for this. I had to tell her why we couldn't yell at you about Pepper going first last night. You still nearly left her out there to die, Stark."

Tony was shaking his head. "Yeah, you did. Get the ER records." He flung the hospital band at him. "I don't want her to see you this morning. She doesn't need the stress. It's not often that she has to kill someone to get free." Stark winced. "So just go. Send her phone and wallet please. She'll be able to go back to work in about three days."

"Fine. We'll talk about it in a few days." He left, slamming the door.

Clint got Kate a cup of coffee and Darcy some water, bringing it in. "Here. No coffee yet."

"I know. They told me no salt and no caffeine today." She sat up carefully and drank the water down in one gulp. "Damn. I..." She sighed. "I don't want to talk to Tony, you're right."

"I figured I was." He grinned. "Let me get the dogs outside to pee." He poked Lucky, getting a bark back. "Outside time." They all slowly, the other two going with Lucky, went out to the fire escape and peed off it. Then they trudged back inside together to curl up on a chair. It let them fuss over Lucky some more. "That's a good sign." Clint went to make breakfast.

Kate looked at her. "If you want to quit, we'll help you pack the things in your office."

"I don't know." She got up, going to shower again. She itched. It sucked and she itched.


Darcy made it back to work with her dog four days after getting back home. She handed over her medical excuse when she walked past Pepper in the hallway but went to her office to get to work. Not like she hadn't done a lot of things from home but she had gotten a nasty email yesterday from Stark.

Pepper came to the doorway. "You were in the hospital yesterday?"

"Yeah. The dehydration wouldn't end." She looked up. "Not that I wasn't working from home but yeah, the dehydration wouldn't quit. I ended up back on an IV last night." She logged into her computer and pulled her files over to look at. Her phone was still there. So was her wallet. They got put into her purse.

"He did send...."

Darcy held up a hand. "I was there for another three hours, Pepper. No, he didn't." She stared at her. "I would've probably realized it. Even on the ride in with the Coast Guard." Pepper winced. "So frankly, I'd rather not see him right now. Though it was nice he didn't even send me my phone and wallet as Clint asked him to when he showed up the next morning to defend himself." She stared at her. "I see we have a visit planned this afternoon. Is it still on?"

"Yes." She walked off, going to talk to Tony. "Did you send someone to pick Darcy up?" He threw his pen and stared at her. "She was there for three hours, Tony."

"I ordered someone to. That's not my fault. I was more concerned about Maria and you."

Pepper handed over the medical excuse. "Three hours?" He glared. She stared back. "The Coast Guard got her off that boat, Tony. How many more hours would it have been?"

"She was safe."

"She's not safe now." Tony sat down, looking petulant. "Seriously. She's still sick, and sunburned." She stared at him, eventually moving over to kiss him on the forehead. "I'm glad you evacuated me before I did something that would've killed me. I'm glad you got Maria out of there fast enough to heal her too. But if I was Darcy I'd be mad too. She could've died out there before the ship got back. For that matter, she could've left me there. Hill told her to escape by herself. She found me on the way and saved me." He slumped. "You forgot her."

"I didn't."

"FRIDAY, when did Tony tell someone to get Darcy off that ship?"

"After Maria Hill was out of surgery, ma'am," the AI said quietly.

Tony looked up. "I shouted at one of the guards to get her before then. Or Rhodey could've."

"He was out of his suit almost as soon as they landed and the guard you told that to was walking away. He didn't order any such thing, sir." Tony shook his head with a groan. "When you finally turned your attention to anything else, it was nearly seven that night."

"In the condition Darcy was in, would she have lasted that long?" Pepper asked.

"Don't answer that," Tony ordered. "I don't want that guilt on me." He stared at her.

She hugged him. "You have to make some amends, Tony. She doesn't want to talk to you and she was frosty to me. She was back in the ER last night with another dehydration problem. They didn't want her here today." He stared at her. "I don't know what to do but I think you need to apologize."

"I can do that."

"Miss Lewis is not in her office," the AI said. "She's been escorted down to the security office to go over what happened with the agents who were debriefing Maria Hill, sir. She'll be back in a bit if you wanted to make an appointment. Though it is recommended that she eat before the visit to the charity this afternoon. Her vitals are still off."

"Why are they still off?" Pepper asked. "Does she know that?"

"Yes, she is paying attention to it and drinking tea today instead of her usual amount of coffee," the AI said.

Pepper sighed as she got up and headed down to the security office. An agent got in her way. "Move. Now. This is my building and you are in my way."

"It's a private conference, Miss. I can't allow you in there." Stark walked around her and hauled the agent off. "Sir, let me go before I arrest you."

"Shut up and get out of my building, pissant. Now. Before I have you shot." Natasha walked up the hall in the other direction. "Shove him out a window, Natasha."

"Gladly," she said, grimacing at him. He was glaring at her. She hauled him off.

Stark walked into the security office, finding Hill in her desk chair and the other agent begging on the floor. "If you had called, I would've shoved him out a window as well." He looked at Darcy. "I thought I told someone."

She glared at him. "I...not right now, Tony. I'm really not in the mood for it." He slumped but walked off. She looked at Hill. "We could've come back for you."

"Shut up," Hill said. "I bought you time to escape. I can handle that better than you can, Darcy." She stared at her. Darcy glared back. "Seriously, I can. I'm trained to. You're not. We all hope nice young women like you never have to go through torture. It's better that I take it and you get away to send help than the other way around." She stared at her. "Are you going to forgive him?"

"Not right now. I'm still healing and I'm not really pleased with a lot of things," she admitted. "This totally sucks and I should've just tried to get you free and we all escape."

"You can't always do it."

"No but me leaving someone behind doesn't sit well with me either." She sipped her tea.

Hill stared at her. "No coffee?"

"Still dehydrated."

"Why? Did they find you had been dosed?"

"Not that anyone's said." She shrugged. "It's part of the sunburn stuff."

Hill stared at her. "Peters." He leaned in a moment later. "Take Darcy to our infirmary to run bloodwork. Tell them what happened and after four days she's still dehydrated."

"I was in the ER last night," Darcy told her. "On an IV. I'll be fine."

Peters looked at her. "I don't argue with the boss, Lewis. C'mon. Let's see if they gave you something that's trying to kill you." He helped her up and to the infirmary. One of the nurses came out and Darcy flinched away from her. "Okay, not her," he agreed. Another person came out when the nurse huffed off. "Doctor, I'm sure you've heard about Miss Lewis and what happened?"

"I did," he agreed, looking her over. "Do you usually burn that way?"

"No, but it was a good few hours on the boat. I got to the ER once I was rescued and again last night for dehydration when Clint thought I was going to pass out." She put down her tea mug. "I'm being good, tea instead of my usual coffee, lots of water, cooler baths. Loose clothes."

"Okay, so let's run some bloodwork. Where did you go?" She handed over both hospital bracelets. "You carried these?"

"Clint tucked them into my purse this morning in case I needed it to go with my medical excuse."

"That's fine. How long ago?"

"Four days."

"Hmm. That's worrying." He set her on an exam table and got things to draw blood. "I'm going to be invasive and nosy." He stared at her until she got the hint he had given.

"I was clearly redressed and searched but I couldn't find any evidence of them touching me sexually," Darcy said. "My underwear was on backwards and my bra was missing."

"Okay." He made that note. "Any noticed shot marks?"

"I wasn't really paying attention. At first, once we stole that boat from the HYDRA guy, we both stripped down so we weren't in wet clothes but we stayed out of the sun when we could. I know Pepper would burn, she's a redhead."

"She did," he agreed. "She told me that same thing as well." He checked her eyes and mouth. "You're drinking water?"

"Two gatorades so far this morning, three bottles of water. One mug of green tea to fight off the caffeine withdrawal."

"Good. Though in the future you may want to try powerade instead. It seems to be received better."

"The local store doesn't sell it or I might have. I had to drink blue gatorade."

"That's fine." He watched her yawn. The first bloodwork results came back. "You were dosed with something. There's no way that value is normal." He let her see it.

She looked at him. "Hormone birth control shot and pills. Just in case."

"Interesting. Did your GYN agree?" She nodded. "When did you get your last shot?"

She looked at her phone, frowning some. "Last month on the sixteenth." She looked up.

He thought about it. "Still too high."

"They said they were going to kill me so the breeding plan I was fighting against would never happen."

"Did they say why they did that to Agent Hill?" Peters asked.

"One of them thought she was HYDRA. I protested and they told me I was stupid and they were going to kill me anyway," Darcy said. "I found Pepper on the way out through the vent system."

The doctor nodded. "Okay. How long was the swim?"

"I was about to gasp a breath no matter what. The water was dark medium blue around us and a lot lighter on top if that helps."

"So probably at least twenty feet," Peters said. "Probably deeper. How long can you hold your breath?"

"Not too long. I never trained to do that."

"So probably not over fifty feet," the doctor agreed. "Hmm." He got the other results, frowning at them. "Your body is greatly out of whack, young lady." He looked over. "Lay her down." The guard moved to lay her back, making her moan and hold her head. "Is that why you went to the ER last night?" She nodded slightly. "Dizzy? Room spins?"

"Room spins definitely. It's like I drank a crapload of tequila without food first but I know I'm not drunk."

"No you're not." He checked her ears and eyes again. "Let me run one more blood test." He ran that one and came back to listen to her heart. "What did they do last night?"

"IV fluids. They shot something into it they said was vitamins," she said quietly. Her arm flopped over her eyes. "This sucks. The room's still spinning."

"I can tell that. Let us know if you need to vomit, that way we can get you onto your side." She nodded slightly. He got the new results back, frowning at it. "Someone dosed you with something," he decided. "I have a whole lot of wrong in my hands." He scowled. "I'm going to start a new IV." She pointed at her arm. "I can stick you there. It'll be just simple fluids." She nodded slightly. "Anyone I should notify?"

"My dog's in my office."

"He followed us down here," Peters said. "He's sitting outside the room staring at us."

"I remember hearing him growl at whoever took us," Darcy said. "And Cutey."

"By the film, even Lucky got up to growl at him, IV and all," Peters said.

The doctor looked at him. "Why was the dog on an IV?"

"An agent poisoned him," Darcy said, blinking up at him by moving her arm. "He goes to Dr. Peres about sixteen blocks away. Something about magnesium and he needed to flush his system."

"That looks familiar. Let me call that veterinarian to see what sort it was." He walked off to look that one up and call. The vet had to call Barton to get an okay to release that information but he got it and told him what it was. The doctor took a finger stick to run a single drop test and came up. "You got the same thing the dog did." Darcy blinked at him. "It looks like it's more recent than the dog's." She groaned. "I'll let Agent Barton know in case it relates back to his dog's poisoning." He went to look up that poison, finding Banner and Natasha waiting. "Sick?" he asked them. "If not, I need the book of poisons behind you." Natasha handed it over. "Are we ill?"

"What did they give her?" Natasha asked.

"It appears to be the same thing the dog got."

"I'll make sure they tested her dog and Bishop's dog for it," Natasha said. "Did they give it then or earlier?"

"I have no idea," the doctor admitted. "Find out for me, will you?" He walked off looking up that poison. "Looks like we need to do the same thing for you. Magnesium and fluids." Darcy was clearly out cold. "Did she pass out?" The guard nodded. "All right. See if you can tell if they gave it to her before they removed her."

"I've called in. They gave her some sort of sedative. We had to haul her and the dogs back inside. No other druggings noted."

"That's good to know. Did they know what it was?"

"They took blood."

He went to find that and came back nodding. "It was in there." He looked at the source again then went to add something to her IV. "She's staying tonight."

"I'll let Agent Barton know so he can gather her dog."

"Thank you." He watched the guard go report that to Hill and make that call. "You've had a hell of a month, young lady," he told Darcy. "You'll get better faster than the dog because we can force fluids faster with you." The doctor went to make notes and list other people he wanted to test for that poison. By the time he went back to check on Darcy one of them was sitting on the foot of Darcy's bed staring at her. "Arm, young lady?" She looked at him. "She got the same poison as the dog." Kate took off her top and let him have her arm vein. "You may want to have that redesigned so we don't have to strip you down to take blood."

"This isn't my uniform top, Doc." She smiled. "It's just cute."

"Even better." He went to have it run. Clint stomped in so he grabbed him to test his blood then let him go. He came back after they ran. "Neither of you have it." Clint sighed, nodding.

"How long?" Clint asked. "After my dog?"

"Four to five days?"

"So after my dog. I wonder if I get to kill that agent this time." Hill limped in. "Shouldn't you be in one of these beds?" he asked her.

"Shut up, Barton. What happened?"

"Same poison as my dog. Can I kill him this time?"

"He's still in the jail so it wasn't him. I'm wondering if those idiots were the same people." Darcy moaned. "I'm going to send an agent down there to look through that lab. Is she staying here tonight?" The doctor nodded. "That's fine, I'll send her dog's friends up."

"Cutey's probably on Natasha or Bruce," Kate told her.

Hill nodded. "Natasha locked her out of the gym so she's staring through the window at them sparring." She went to get the dogs. "Cutey, Lucky, the humans need you in the human vet place." She pointed. "Darcy's sick." Cutey stared at her. She picked her up and carried her down there, Lucky limping after her. She slowed down to make sure Lucky didn't have to catch up. She liked that dog, it was plucky and kept Barton out of her hair. Lucky growled and tried to get into a chair to get onto the bed. Clint put him onto it. He laid down on his step-human's chest. Conor rushed in and laid down on her side, staring up at her. Cutey got free by wiggling and settled in her human's lap on the foot of the bed. She also looked up and barked at the doctor, sniffing him.

The doctor stared at her then nodded. "They're good dogs and we heard rumors about dog'vengers." He walked off shaking his head.

"They're good at it," Clint agreed.

Hill nodded. "There's plenty of days I'd want Lucky as an agent instead of half of the ones I used to know." She limped off. "Don't forget to eat."

"I won't." He sat down, staring at the body and dogs. Kate was settled in her spot. They could trade later. A nurse came in and Cutey barked and kept barking until she walked backwards out of the room. "Sorry but I don't know why she hates you."

"Me either," she agreed. "I have her IV replacement." The doctor strolled in to grab the bag and look at it then take it back to put back. He brought in another one, letting it be hung up since Clint was on that side. The nurse sighed but walked off. The doctor smiled.

"I can change them. I did on Lucky's for days."

"Thank you." He left them to watch over Darcy. He remembered Barton from the SHIELD infirmary. He was peaceful and not trying to get away or injure nurses so they'd let him do pretty much whatever he wanted to do. Bishop was probably about as bad so that was settling them down nicely. They even took turns getting up to take the dogs out or to get things like coffee and food.

They needed Lewis back during their SHIELD days to keep people calm in their infirmary.


Darcy woke up to a furry weight on her chest, blinking at her dog. "I love you too, Conor. You know why? You can get mommy coffee." He barked and licked her until she had to groan and push him away to cuddle him. "I love you too, barks a lot." He snuggled in and let his human pet him. She looked around. "Did they take your buddies home?"

The doctor leaned in. "They're being pet sat upstairs by Romanoff while you wake up." He grinned. "Still dizzy? Room spins?"

"Really thirsty."

"You have two more days of IV fluids to rinse out your kidneys."


"Tea," he said smugly.

She grinned. "Please?"

"Gladly. We need to draw more blood. You can have some then." He came in to do that. "Good news, you'll heal. You'll need a few more IV's but you're going to be fine."

"That's great," she agreed quietly. "What happened?"

"You got the same thing the blond dog did." He grimaced. "Barton's went on a vendetta to find out who did it and refused to let anyone help him do it."

"Wow, he was way mad. Do I get to kick them?"

"Not sure," he admitted. "You can ask him when I let him back in, after a shower and some real food." She frowned at him. "He hasn't really moved except when it was his turn to walk the dogs." She smiled but drifted off again. He put a warming mug of tea next to her and left to run the blood. When the next Avenger came in it wasn't one of the usual ones. He recognized him but still. "Mr. Altman?"

"Bishop asked me to watch over her until she got back with Barton, doctor. Is she awake?"

"Not at the moment. When she does, she can have the tea beside her." He nodded, settling in a chair to read on his tablet. The dog sniffed at him but let him sit there so apparently it was all right. He had asked the security team to reclear anyone the dogs barked at. They had found a few snakes in his infirmary.

Natasha strolled in with Lucky limping beside her and Cutey walking ahead properly on a leash. She put the dogs on the bed, making Conor bark at them and snuggle with them. "Good boy, Conor." She petted him too. "You are an excellent boy to guard your human that way." She looked at Altman. "Bishop?" He nodded with a grimace. "That's reasonable." She sat on the foot of the bed. "They have done a good job training the dogs. Cutey even acts like a normal dog most of the time." The young man laughed, getting up to give her time to sit there. She looked at Darcy, sighing a bit at the end. "You really must wake up, Darcy."

"She did for a few minutes," the doctor called. "Have her drink the tea when she gets up again."

"I will do so." She stared at Darcy, willing her to wake up again. Usually it worked faster but she did get a response in about a half-hour. She smiled at the blinking she got. "Tea beside you."

"You're sitting with me?" she asked.

"Yes. Clint asked. Kate asked one of her teammates as well." She pointed. "Tea." Darcy looked then pulled it over to drink. "The dogs are the most amusing thing, even Emma says so." Darcy grinned, settling herself down again. "I have been asked by Bruce to talk to you about Stark."

Darcy held up a hand. "I don't think I can yet."

"I understand the reasons but he's upset as well and wants to apologize."

Darcy looked at her. "Is he actually sorry?"

She tipped her head. "I would assume so. No one can make him apologize if he wasn't. Not even Pepper has that power over him." She stared at Darcy. "Would you listen?"

"Maybe. I'm still sick."

"We can tell. You're not spunky like usual." She stared at her. "I don't believe he would have left you there."

Darcy stared at her then shook his head. "Should I believe that after three hours?"

Natasha sighed but nodded. "That was a long time," she agreed. "Were you in danger?"

"Why did the Coast Guard come back?"

"To claim the boat. Their report said they were shocked you were still there. They did not airlift you."

"We were within an hour of the harbor. They got me to an ER instead. Then I had to bum a buck to get the bus closer to home. One of the mob guys gave me a ride when he spotted me. I'm guessing he went to tell Clint I needed my dog."

"I can see how you were disappointed and upset," Natasha said. "I still do not believe he would have left you out there. As you were that close, the Coast Guard probably would've run into you again."

"An hour is nearly in international waters," Darcy told her. "If the ship had drifted, it would've went that way with the tides."

"I did not think of that." She slumped, staring at her. She considered it. "I would be mad but would you listen to an apology to keep the peace?"

"Stark would hate that. It'd like being babied."

"True. I had not considered it." She stared at her. "You know he's probably heard all this."

"I'm guessing he might if he was paying attention but that's up to him, not up to me."

"Good point." She stood up, putting Cutey up beside Darcy's head. "Do try to get better."

"I'm hoping I do. I'd hate to be in bed for the rest of my life, Natasha."

"That would be sad. You'd miss out on much." She smiled at her. "Try to rest." Darcy nodded and let herself drift off again. Natasha went upstairs, finding Clint and Kate gulping sports drinks in the kitchen and Stark staring at the tv with the infirmary's picture on it. She looked at Clint. "Your dogs are down there. I let them pee in the atrium about a half-hour ago."

Kate smiled at her. "Thanks, Natasha. Is she better?"

"She's been awake a few times. We just talked. The dogs are all cuddling her. The vet should check Lucky's back hips. He's still limping."

"He's got some muscle aches and enjoyed my heating pad," Clint said. He put down the empty bottle. "I'll go watch over her. Kate?"

"Yup. I'll let Teddy go home." She walked off, heading down there. She was sweaty but that was fine for now. Clint followed.

"Hawkass," Stark called quietly, getting Clint's attention. "Let me know when I can come down to talk to her?"

"Yeah, I can do that. Probably be late tomorrow by what Lucky went through as he healed."

Stark nodded, letting him go back to his bedside seat. Tony sat there drinking coffee while watching. It was clear they thought of Darcy like family. Maybe a bit more in Clint's case, but still family. The only one Clint fussed over more was his dog. Natasha sat down near him on the sectional couch, getting a look. "Does he fuss over you that way?"

"I don't allow anyone to hover that way. It annoys me." She watched them. "The dogs are very good to them."

"They are. I've never met a dog as smart as Lucky. Or as fussy as Cutey."

"Conor does a good job fussing over her," Natasha told him. "He's always protectively hovering over her."

"True. How many more days did the doctors say?"

"At least two more of IV's." She looked at him. "Were you going to talk to her about moving jobs then?"

"No, if she wants to keep her job, she's got it. Pepper said she does a great job there. She had nightmares about her and Darcy fighting. Darcy's got a job, Natasha."

"Good. That will make her happier probably. Though I'm not sure what she wants to do about her apartment being all the way in Bed-Stuy."

"I think she likes it out there. It's a nice neighborhood. If she has problems they'll help. She likes her neighbors. Really, if she bought a real, nice house she'd probably have others moving in with her so she wasn't all alone." He shifted. "Why did she buy the vacation homes?"

"Three were in Hammer's properties. One has been hers since she inherited it from her uncle. The other two...I'm not sure when she bought them but they're in nice places." The phone on the table rang and she answered it. "Darcy's in the infirmary, Jensen, what's wrong?" She listened. "No, she and Clint's dog both got poisoned by someone. She's fine but healing for a few more days."

She listened, getting comfortable. "That's weird but I do not believe she's interested in selling them back to Justin Hammer. I'd wonder where he got the money from as well. He had to sell everything to get the money for his legal fees." She frowned as she listened. "No, you can tell him she refuses and her legal representative is here in New York. Refer him to them. Yes, that one."

"Tell them to search for hidden safes," Stark said. "Hammer doesn't care about things like houses, they're not that hard to find."

"Stark said to search for safes in the house. That Hammer wouldn't be more than embarrassed to lose a house. Of course. Let us know if you need help figuring out anything you find." She smiled. "That's fine. I'll tell her you said to get better. No, Lucky's fine as well. She got poisoned after Lucky actually. Yes, that day. We're not sure if it was in that shot or from the later kidnaping. No, they managed to rescue themselves and she's fine now, Jensen. No, you can't really help unless you can do underwater exploration."

She smiled. "I didn't think so, you seem very land based. I'll let her know. You all rest. You deserve it after what I heard of last month and send Hammer screaming for his life. We'd all enjoy that." She hung up and called the infirmary. "Clint, the next time she wakes tell her Jensen said to get better faster, he's missing her funny emails, and Hammer tried to talk them into selling the house they're borrowing back to him. I told him to tell Hammer where her lawyer was and to send him screaming into the ocean." Clint clearly said something funny, she laughed. "That's good. Be safe and remember to feed the dogs, Clint." She hung up and put Darcy's phone back in front of them. "He'll tell her."

Kate strolled up a minute later and took the phone. "I miss talking to Jensen. He's the sort of guy I need to flirt with. Before I pick up another guy like Clay." She strolled off, going down there once she had gotten the dog food and bowls from the kitchen. They had some bottled water down there so that was fine.

Stark shook his head but he was smiling. "That's so cute."

"She could use a man like Jensen or Pooch, or even Cougar," Natasha said. Stark nodded. "Maybe they'll introduce her to someone nice."

"Maybe," Stark agreed. "She won't get it around here or with her team."

"Her team all need better taste in who they date," she agreed. "We should find someone to introduce them to." He nodded but ended up shaking his head and smiling. "Go work. I can watch over them." He nodded, going to hug Pepper again. He had nearly lost her. Natasha settled in, splitting the screen with the infirmary's camera and the local news station.


Colonel Clay showed up that night, looking less than amused that Jensen had come with him. He looked at Jensen in the elevator. "You go visit with Lewis. I can do this."

Jensen smirked at him. "You got kidnaped and nearly cloned. We all took a vote and you're not allowed to do anything alone for a while. I'll go hug Darcy in a bit." They came off to team dinner. "Hidey ho, people."

"Hey, Jensen," Clint said with a wave. "The infirmary kicked me out so just Kate's down there."

"I'll go hug her in a minute." He smiled at Natasha, handing over an envelope. Clay was giving one to Stark then sitting down in a free chair. He winked at her.

She opened it, moaning in pleasure. "You found treason. That's so pretty, Jensen." She smiled at him. "Very nicely done."

He handed over another envelope. "On the people who were going to clone Clay. Would you like them too?" He grinned. She snatched it to read, moaning for different reasons. "We pretty well destroyed their lab and Pooch did blow up their sample vault after we took those pictures." She looked at them and held one up to Stark, who snatched it to look at.

Stark looked at it then at him. "Who?"

"We think AIM," Clay told him. "The other reason Hammer wanted that house back. Pooch kept tripping on a spot so we found that floor vault. It lists his buyers list and what they were buying." Stark took it to look over, frowning at it. "I figured it was code."

"Oh, so code," he agreed. "Thankfully he uses a simple code that's easy to break because he can barely do math. He probably has a code sheet he has to use to write notations." He tipped his head a few times then smiled. "Unless I'm wrong, General Ross was going to use Hammer to update the Hulk experiment." Bruce stole the book to look at. Then he growled. Stark took it back gently. "If so, we'd stop him, buddy." He flipped through the pages. "Well, that's nice. He was supplying some of HYDRA until they found out his stuff was pieces of shit."

"You're more worried about that than someone trying to clone you?" Natasha asked him.

"Everyone wants a piece of me," he shot back without looking up from the book. "I figure it's a given I was already on the list."

Natasha looked at the last photo then sighed. "And your child?" She held up that picture. Stark slowly stared at her. She handed over the photo. "Two vials. A son and a daughter."

"We blew that vault so high it nearly flew," Jensen quipped with a grin for him. "We made sure all the vials we could find were broken. That way your son with Pepper has to come the natural way and your future daughter with Darcy wouldn't be a dick tease forever."

Stark swallowed. "Thank you," he said with a slight smirk. "That's a great service, Jensen. Are the people who did it alive?"

"We locked them in an empty outbuilding and called Agent May. To get in or out they have to take the explosives off the doorway," Clay told him. "Before they had my kid come into being."

"Did someone take Darcy's eggs?" Natasha asked.

"You can technically make an egg cell or just do a nucleus switch," Bruce told her. "It's not that far off what we can normally do so someone like AIM would have people who could. So all it'd take was a few sample skin cells."

"Which they got when she fell in the shower," Clint said. Bruce nodded he remembered. "Did they have one of me?" he asked the two commandos.

"Apparently they misinterpreted how great you are," Jensen said. "You only had one, they were going to breed you to Skye." Clint shook his head with a sigh. "Probably to harness her gifts."

"Fuck 'em, they're obviously stupid," Clint said. He stuffed his mouth.

Natasha smiled and patted Jensen's arm. "It's good you blew them up for us. It saves me much work." He hugged her around the head and handed over a single picture, making her burst out laughing. "Thank you for that as well, Jensen."

"I figured it'd make your week." He winked. "Let me go cuddle the Darcy." He went down to the infirmary and walked in.

"Captain," a nurse said with a nod.

He grinned. "I'm Jensen, not a Rogers." She gaped. "We know. People always wonder if he's my clone because I am that great." He went into Darcy's room, hugging Kate, making her cuddle back. "Hey, dogs." They all stared at him and Conor barked. "I sure am here to cuddle your human. You guys want to take the Kate kitten outside for walkies?" They barked at Kate and Cutey got up to bounce around her human on Darcy's hair. Kate picked them up and put leashes on them, taking them all outside to pee in the parking lot next door. Jensen sat on the foot of the bed, patting Darcy until she woke up. "You owe us cookies for taking out the sample vault that had your kid with Stark in a vial."

She blinked at him. "Seriously?" He nodded with a grin. "Can I kill 'em?"

"Too late. Maybe."

"Good!" She groaned as she sat up, letting him help by pulling her up. She hugged him. "Thank you for taking out the mean DNA tampering sorts for me."

"You're welcome." He cuddled her. "Are you okay?"

"I'm really nauseous." He laughed but cuddled better. "And I think I need a drink."

"Hey, nurse, the IV's empty," Jensen called. "And can she have some water?"

"Of course. She can drink as much as she wants," the nurse said, coming in with a bottle of water that was opened and the new IV bag. The doctor came in to check the bag before putting it up.

Jensen sipped the water then grimaced, looking at it. "Wow, that's chemicaled." The doctor took it to sniff then run in the lab. Jensen looked at her, shrugging some. "Good thing I'm paranoid."

She cuddled him. "You're sweet and I do owe you guys fudge and cookies and stuff."

He kissed her on the top of the head. "You're a neat girl sort." She snorted but grinned at him, laying back down. "Pooch and the baby said hi. Jolene got jealous that you made us cookies then heard who you were so she's not jealous unless her son likes you more than her."

"I'd never take her son or her man. Little Pooch is much too young to do more than cuddle. He definitely couldn't club with me. And Pooch is safe because he's kinda uptight. Kate might flirt with him, she could use a guy like him, but he's too tense for my type. I need more fun in my life."

"Yes you do." He winced, holding his head. "Wow, pretty colors. Hey, doc, we've got pretty colors from that bottle of water."

"Yes you should," he called back. "It'll be finished in ten minutes. Lay down with her if you have to."

"Sure." He settled in to cuddle her, making her grin and snuggle in. "She's a great cuddly thing." He let her fall back asleep, looking up as Clint came in scowling. "I tested her bottle of water and got dizzy with pretty colors. I'm not poaching even if she is a great cuddly thing."

"She is a great cuddly thing, yeah." He looked at the doctor as he came in. "What was the nurse of questionable talent trying to dose her with this time?"

"Drugs." He held up the scan so Jensen could read it. Jensen snorted but snuggled in better. "We can get you your own bed."

"Clay will come get me in a bit and he can make sure I don't try to fly off a balcony again. The last time I knew I could fly. This time I just want a hug." The dogs ran in and Lucky barked at him. "I'm sorry I took your spot but you can have it back in a few minutes. I'll cuddle you too if you want. The nurse made me feel icky." Lucky huffed but laid on Darcy's chest, getting petted by Jensen too. He shifted over to flop against Jensen's stomach, belly up, and that was happy for them both. Conor got his human's chest again and Cutey got her lap area. That suited her, it had a natural dent to curl up in. Clint petted her so she barked at him but just lapped his hand.

He grinned. "Sure you nap there and protect her from people touching her." Cutey laid her head back down and went to sleep pretty fast. Lucky and Conor were getting sleepy cuddled and they liked that. Clint sat in the chair, stretching out to watch over them. "So drugs, doc?"

"I've already fired her, Barton. She was dragged out of here begging that she really needed the money AIM was going to pay her for genetic material, especially eggs if they could harvest some." He walked off shaking his head. When a guy he didn't know stomped in he stared at him. "Who're you?"

"Clay. Jensen's boss. I'm assuming he's still annoying Lewis."

"No, he tested her bottled water for her and got drugged. He said last time he nearly went flying, this time he's just cuddly."

Clay moaned, staring in the room then at him. "Which one?"

"You can tell him," Jensen called. "He'll just laugh and I'll pout and set him up on kinky websites again for it." Clint laughed. "I do. The female bears club site really loves him. All those really hairy women think he's sweet and just their sort of man."

Clay looked in there and groaned, looking at the doctor, who was trying not to laugh. "He's young and bouncy. We put up with him for years as a commando but I'm about to take Pooch's suggestion and marry him off to someone. Maybe his future kids will be normal soldiers with his genius."

"No genius is normal, Clay," the doctor said. "I deal with them all day long. There's not a single normal genius who would do military things, or normal things. His kids would probably start a cult."

"Probably," he agreed. "We had to stop Jensen from doing that twice with gifted kids overseas. We would've hated to come back in twenty years to take them out when they took over the Middle East." The doctor walked off laughing. Clay walked into Darcy's hospital room, staring at her then at Barton. "Can we bum her place tonight?"

"Sure, she won't mind. She's not going to be home for two days at least." Darcy blinked at him. "Can they have your place tonight?"

"Sure. Why not, they've slept in my bed in the vacay homes." She grinned. "There might not be any food but the mob guys run a great pizza and chinese place for being Russian."

"We'll keep that in mind," he said. "Keys?" Clint handed his copy over and a note about the code. "That'll work. I'll bring 'em back on the way out tomorrow." He poked Jensen on the leg, making him wake up. "C'mon, we're going to stay at Darcy's tonight." He nodded, kissing her on the temple before getting out of bed and following him. Lucky had to move but he only huffed and cuddled under his step-human's arm again. "Feel better, Lewis."

"You too, Clay and Jensen." She almost waved but fell back asleep, mumbling something.

Clint grinned. "Sure, I'll tell the mob guys not to expect cookies from them," he promised. He texted Bucky that they were showing up to use her place for the night. "Bucky's on the block so it'll be fine, Clay."

"Thanks." He walked Jensen out, taking him to their rental car and through the heavy traffic to the neighborhood area. It was a nice neighborhood. Pooch and Jolene would probably like to live somewhere like this. He nodded at Barnes as he got Jensen out. "He tested the water they were going to give Lewis and got drugged."

"I'm going to beat that nurse," Bucky said. "Got the code for her door?"

"Clint gave me a code."

"Hit it then put in the keys." He nodded and walked Jensen up there. Bucky looked at one of the staring guys. "They're housesitting for Lewis tonight since she's back in the infirmary."

"Her landlord was looking for her earlier."

"I'll talk to him." He went to knock on his door. "Darcy's in the Stark infirmary for being poisoned like Lucky was. It'll be days before she gets home. Want me to pass on a message?"

"She's still got rent due."

"I'll tell her or Clint tomorrow. He can find her checkbook."

"Thanks. She good?"

"Lots of IV's to flush the poison. She's got friends staying over tonight."

"Fine. What's that guy that's been hanging around Barton doing?"

"His brother? No clue. He doesn't have one either." He shrugged. "I'll let them know."

"Good, last month's got put on hold."

"The orange asshole tried to lock her accounts twice recently. She's gotten it free both times so it shouldn't be held."

"I'll check with the bank then." Bucky nodded, walking off texting Clint. He went back to his own apartment, sending his own email about her not being here right now because she was sick. Someone really wanted her to have to move out of this area.

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